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Title:      "C. I. D." (1932)
Author:     Talbot Mundy
eBook No.:  0500281.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          March 2005
Date most recently updated: March 2005

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Title:      "C. I. D."
Author:     Talbot Mundy





Contents

I.  "There is no such person.  There is no such country."
II.  "I am sent by Soonya"
III.  "Isn't that brute dead yet?"
IV.  "This is from the fat babu who ate your dinner"
V.  "I need a new knife, sahib"
VI.  "The trouble with impossibilities is that they so
   often happen"
VII.  "You should have been the Unknown Soldier"
VIII.  "It happened thiswise, sahibs"
IX.  "Talk with one another"
X.  "Whoever it is, is as scared as I am"
XI.  "How about a permit?"
XII.  "The devil quotes scripture, sahib"
XIII.  "Let us hope you have no conscience"
XIV.  "We nibblers at the thread say nothing"
XV.  "Not yet!"
XVI.  "I kiss feet, Heavenborn!"
XVII.  "Sappier and verbier than you guess!  Hurry! Hurry!"
XVIII.  "I know devils when I see them!"
XIX.  "C.3 meant to do that, if he did it"
XX.  "It will probably be something!"
XXI.  "What are good guys for?"
XXII.  "You shall drink with it to your own health, you devil!"
XXIII.  "A tiger comes quick as a punch in the eye!"
XIV.  "Simple!  Since they wished it, why not?"
XV.  "Accept my humble praises, sahib"

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


"C. I. D."



Chapter I.

    "There is no such person.  There is no such country."


It was typical south-west monsoon weather, about as bad as Noah's
deluge.  Due to choked drains and innumerable other troubles,
some parts of the single track lay two feet under water;  and it
was next thing to impossible to see through the driving rain, so
the "up mixed" reached the terminus three hours late.  It crawled
dejectedly and grumbled to a standstill in Naraha Station, with
curtains of water drooling from its eaves.  The drum of the rain
on the iron station roof seemed to add to the gloom of the lamp
-lit platform.  Stanley Copeland stuck his head out through a
first-class compartment window and received not less than a
gallon of water on the back of his neck.  Cursing all things
Indian, he opened the door then and jumped for comparative
shelter--simultaneously with a very obese Bengali babu, who was
traveling second and apparently possessed no other luggage than a
black umbrella.

"What chance of getting a porter?" he asked the babu.

"None whatever, sahib.  Haven't you a servant?"

Copeland had not, but he had a smile worth money.  He had to
pitch his voice against the splash of torrents from the eaves,
the crash of thunder and the scream of the engine's safety
valve; but his voice was sonorous, not harsh:

"Some one was to have met me, but apparently he hasn't.  If
they tried to auction India--"

The babu interrupted him.  He chuckled amiably, pointing to the
railway dining-room.

"You go in there and order dinner for us both," he said, "and
whisky pegs in two tall glasses;  those are most important.  Do
you see those elephants?"

Three huge brutes loomed and swayed in lamplit shadow on the far
side of the platform.  One had an awninged, nickel-plated howdah,
dyed tusks and vermilion paint around its eyes.

"There is a royal personage on this train," said the babu.  "He
monopolizes all the porters.  Is your luggage labeled?  How many
pieces?  How many more in the compartment?  Very well, my servant
shall attend to them and I will supervise him.  I am good at
watching other people work.  Go in and order dinner."

As he spoke, a dish-faced, coppery-hued fellow in a dirty turban
and a ragged cotton blanket left off talking to a pair of yellow
-smocked, ascetic-looking pilgrims by the door of a third-class
carriage and ran to receive the babu's orders.  Rather fascinated
by the pilgrims, Copeland stared at them.  To him they seemed
more interested in the crowd than most such pious people are,
when they have sworn a vow of poverty and set forth with staff
and begging bowl in search of some religious rainbow's end.
However, they walked away and the shadows swallowed them.
Copeland, finding himself alone, made tracks for the gloomy
dining-room, sat down in the farthest corner at a fly-blown
tablecloth beside a window, and ordered dinner from a bare-foot
Goanese who knew enough to bring the drinks first.

He had to wait for the babu.  He had swallowed one drink and
ordered another when a dark-skinned man in a blue European suit,
a raincoat, and a turban, entered.  He glanced at Copeland
shrewdly and then took a seat as far away as possible, but sat
facing him.  He had keen eyes and a look of self-assurance, but
there was something sinister about him.

His gestures were those of a conjurer "with nothing to conceal,"
and his very shapely hands were too conspicuous;  a ruby, that
perhaps was genuine, in a ring on the middle finger of his right
hand suggested a danger signal;  and Copeland was not prejudiced
in his favor by the fact that he wore a gold chain-bracelet on
his right wrist.  His stare was lynx-like when the babu entered.
He appeared to suspect, if not to recognize him, but the babu
took no notice.  A cane chair creaked under his weight as he sat
down with his back towards the other man and swallowed, almost at
a draught, the long drink that awaited him.  Then he plunged
into conversation:

"It will be a rotten dinner, but you will learn that without
my telling you.  What is the use of your talking to me, unless
I tell you what you can't discover for yourself?  I am a
reprehensible and graceless babu named Chullunder Ghose
--investigator;  don't, however, waste your time investigating me,
for there is no such person.  Out there on the platform you were
about to speak of India.  There is no such country."

"Where, then, have I spent the last six months?" Copeland asked
him.  "The visa on my passport calls it India."

"If I should call myself a surgeon," said the babu, "would that
prove it?  India speaks more than fifty languages, but can't
explain itself.  It has a hundred heavenly religions, and is
going to the devil.  It has two hundred governments, no two
alike, and more misgovernment per square mile than a colony of
monkeys in a madhouse.  India is misunderstood by itself and by
every one else, the same as you and me, but would like to be
understood, the same as you would;  I, myself, however, pray that
nobody may ever understand me.  If I understood myself, I should
inevitably die of boredom.  You, sir, are a surgeon.  Don't deny
it.  I know all about you."

"Why should I deny it?" Copeland answered.  "There is nothing to
know about me.  I'm a specialist from the neck up--eye, throat,
nose, and ear.  Just now I'm studying cataract, if you know what
that is.  I came here because I heard that the next State,
Kutchdullub, is full of it.  I operate on any one who'll let me."

"So does that man," said the babu with a backward motion of his
head, "but sane people don't let him."

Copeland glanced at the man at the far corner table.  "Does he
know you?" he asked.

"Not yet."'

"He'll remember the shape of the back of your head!"

"He shall remember more--much more!" the babu answered.  "If only
other people had longer memories, he might not now be drawing
such a fat retainer as the medical wizard in charge of the Prince
who came on our train.  Even wealthy Indian Princes are as silly
as peasants and lots of other people;  they will listen to and
pay a charlatan, but send a reputable doctor to the devil.  Do
you find it easy to get patients?"

Copeland smiled reminiscently.  He had merry eyes and almost
comically large ears, but a studious face and an unself
-assertive manner.

"I've had better luck than I expected," he answered.  "Lots of
Mohammedan patients, and some Hindus.  In the hospitals I've had
no difficulty with the Hindus--even women.  However, if I
understand the situation, now I'm up against State rights.
Narada seems to be the jumping-off place into ancient history, as
well as railroad terminus and border-town.  The Rajah of the next
State doesn't even answer letters."

"Perhaps, if he were sober--" said the babu.   "Oh, is that
the trouble?  I was told he has religious prejudices against
modern medicine and surgery."

"Prejudices!" said the babu.  "The religious member of that
family is the Rajah of Kutchdullub's cousin.  It was he who
arrived on our train.  It is he who would inherit if the present
Rajah should die childless.  The present Rajah inherited because
his elder brother did die childless.  I am an investigator.
_Verb. sap._"

"I should say, then, that the cousin would be wiser not to cross
the border.  Why does he do it?"

"And in this weather!  There are always seven reasons for
everything that anybody does.  I know three:  politics, health,
religion.  And the greatest of these is human nature!  That is
not a reason, but a good joke.  His political adherents in
Kutchdullub aren't so sticky that it doesn't pay to see them now
and then and spread more tanglefoot.  He has a country villa
where his medical adviser, whom you see behind me, tells him that
the medicinal springs are curative of ulcers of the stomach.  As
the hope and ewe lamb of the high church party, it behoves him at
certain seasons to be sacramented by the priests.  The other four
reasons are what I am here to find out.  But why are you here?"

"Me?  I'm hoping," said Copeland.  "I want to see Kutchdullub,
and I want to shoot a tiger.  There's a small dispensary in this
town, and the Sikh in charge of it has offered to let me hold a
clinic.  So I'll stay here for the present.  What did you mean by
saying there is no such person as yourself?"

"Am dead just now, as happens frequently.  Was mixed up in
a case near Quetta, and some murderers were hanged.  But
certain other murderers and friends of same were not caught,
it being out of the question to catch and hang the total
population;  because no government is wise or reasonable;
they always compromise: Therefore the C. I. D.--you have
heard of it?  Criminal Investigation Department--had me
murdered and cremated as a precaution against revenge, and
then removed me to this sweet solitude for a vacation."

"Taking chances, aren't you?"

"No, I never take them.  One of them will take me some day.
Until then I am taking long odds, but betting only on certainties."

Copeland studied him a minute, while they both dipped spoons into
abominable soup.  He decided that the man's obesity might be as
deceptive as his mild brown eyes and his almost bovine calm.

"What I meant," he remarked, when thunder had ceased crashing,
"is, why do you tell me your name and what you are?  I might
betray you."

He was answered by a chuckle.  Then:  "Do you suppose the
C. I. D. would send me here because I don't know the country
intimately?  Knowing, I am naturally known;  and, once known, not
so easy to forget!  If His Highness the Rajah of Kutchdullub
happens to be sober, his spies will tell him before midnight that
you and I have dined together.  So why should I observe secrecy
towards you?  On this side of the border what harm can you
do me?"

"Will they let you cross, or must you sneak in?" Copeland
asked him.

"I would go in with a brass band, if there were one," said the
babu.  "Some of them will welcome me as small boys do a teacher,
telling me the little secrets better to conceal the big ones.
For I tell you, that secrets are not kept by being secretive;
nor can you discover them by looking like a questionnaire in a
headsman's mask.  But tell me, have you ever shot a tiger?"

"Can't say I have," said Copeland.  "But a fellow needs a steady
nerve at my trade.  There isn't much room for error when you
operate on eyes, for instance.  I can handle a rifle.  I've a
good one that I've used quite a bit.  Say, look here!  I don't
know of anything that I can offer you, but perhaps you can think
of something.  You can get into Kutchdullub, and you're going.  I
want people suffering from cataract to come and see me.  And I
want to shoot a tiger.  Help me in either of those respects, and
name your _quid pro quo._  If I can match you, I will."

Swiftly, penetratingly, and only once, the babu glanced at him;
his brown eyes almost changed their shape during that fraction of
a second, and their color glowed like amber with a light behind
it.  Then he looked down at his goat chop.

"Do you ever gamble, sahib?  Do you bet blind?  Do you have an
intuition that you trust against the evidence of all your senses?"

"Sometimes."

"Care to bet on me?  I have a nuisance value.  Not even God can
guess the value of a nuisance, or He would not have created such
a paradox.  A nuisance is superior to Einstein's square root of
minus one;  that has no demonstrable existence but can solve a
problem by creating greater ones.  I would exact a promise."

Thunder again, chain lightning, and a volley of rain on the iron
roof.  The man in the far corner washed his ruby in a tumbler,
polished it on a napkin, turned up his overcoat collar and walked
out, letting in a gust of wind that blew off tablecloths and
smashed some crockery.

"I would ask you to promise," said the babu, "not to cross the
border into the State of Kutchdullub until I send for you or come
and fetch you."

"What's the big idea?"

"Take no chances," said the babu.  "Sahib, it is paradoxically
true in this world that the simplest way to get what you are
after is not to try to get it.  Say no, and resist temptation
when you mean yes and already have fallen for it like an apple on
to Newton's nose."

"O.K., I get you.  Very well, I promise."

"But I promise nothing," said the babu.  "It is contrary to my
religion to make any promise that I don't intend to break.  I am
a slave of my religion."

"You're 'a high-caste Hindu, aren't you?  How comes it that you
eat with me, and eat meat?"

Chullunder Ghose took up a bone in his fingers and gnawed it
before he answered:

"Sahib, why do you cut cataracts off eyeballs?"

"For the practice.  Hell, I'm learning!"

"Same here!  Self am also surgeon--of impossibilities!  I
amputate them.  Why?  For the experience.  I like it.  And one
does not get experience by being holier than other people."

"But the Hindu religion, as I understand it--"

"You don't understand it, any more than I do, or the priests do,"
said the babu.  "I am a devotee of all religions and all politics.
I am an autocratic-democratic-absolutist, communistically minded
--a pro-Gandhian believer in machine-made products.  Also am a
Nietzscheian-Tolstoyan platonist with animistic leanings,
balancing a pole, like Blondin on a tightrope, with a Bryanite
bimetallism on the one end and a sense of humor on the other.
I believe that governments are necessary nonsense, and that
the only deadly sin is sorrow, whether you inflict it or
accept it."

"So you sign up with the C. I. D. and send men to the gallows?"

"I?  Their lack of humor hangs them!  Clowns and other funny
people never reach a gallows.  It is people who take themselves
seriously who slip up on their own solemnity, like politicians on
a party platform.  The secret of all the crimes there ever were,
is self-importance.  It is that--their self-importance, that
eventually traps them."

"All right, go and prod their self-importance, but remember, I
want some cataract cases--and a tiger.  You can reach me at the
Sikh's dispensary.  He wrote he has a bedroom for me, but I don't
know the address yet.  I'll have to wait here at the station
until he shows up.  Where will you be?"

"Everywhere, sahib.  I must splash around in this abominable
monsoon, wishing I were Jonah in the belly of a whale.  And I
must go now.  Thank you for the rotten dinner and the pleasant
company.  I wish you hecatombs of mutilated heads to study with
your lancet."

"Thanks, I hope you hang your man," said Copeland.  "Bring him to
me first, though, if his eyes need fixing."

"Good-by, sahib.  Don't come out into the rain."  But curiosity
compelled, so Copeland buttoned up his overcoat and watched three
elephants go swaying off into the darkness loaded with a Prince
and all his retinue.  The station lights, reflected in a kind of
misty halo by the rain, revealed even a glimpse of royalty--a
lean, dark-turbaned, youngish man, a trifle stooping at the
shoulders, perched up in the nickel-plated howdah with a heavy
shawl over his English raincoat.  He was taking himself, or
something, seriously.  He looked sad.  But he swayed away into
the rain and was lost in darkness before Copeland could even
memorize his features.

Then an _ekka_ drove up for the babu--a one-horse, two-wheeled,
springless cart, already piled up with the babu's baggage under a
watertight tarpaulin.  The babu's dish-faced servant was already
up beside the driver.  The babu climbed in and the cart creaked.
The driver screamed at his decrepit horse.  The babu pulled an
end of the tarpaulin over him and waved his black umbrella--and
suddenly, out of the station shadow, the two yellow-robed
pilgrims ran like ghosts and climbed into the cart too.

"Charity to holy people is a way of going long of riches in the
next world!" the babu shouted.  "Good-by, sahib."

There was a frightful flash of lightning--seething rain--thunder
--howling wind;  lightning again, and a vivid glimpse of trees
bent almost double--ruts through black mud--miles of muddy water.
And then darkness.

"It's a hell of a night," said Copeland to himself.  He went back
to the dismal dining-room and paid his bill.  "Who was that man
who had dinner with me?" he asked the waiter.

"Some babu," he answered.  "I not knowing."

But he did know.  He was too afraid of him to talk.  The
lamplight shone on too much of the bloodshot whites of his
distended eyes.




Chapter II.

     "I am sent by Soonya."


Wind rolled away the steam of two weeks' rain and gave a glimpse
of tumbled mountains beyond lush green jungle.  Out of the jungle
poured a roaring river;  coffee-brown, loaded with trash;  it
stank of dead things.  Where, two weeks ago, the shallow ford had
been, and village cattle came to drink, it boiled and eddied ten
feet deep--impassable.  A dozen mat-and-cotton, toe-rag camps
were clustered on the side towards the city;  there the traveling
native merchants waited for the yearly race to be first in the
field, to sell goods on credit while the peasants' rain-fed
optimism rose like sap in green stuff.

On the far side of the river, on a hillock, in a thatched shed
built for him by villagers, Chullunder Ghose sat camped in
luxury.  He had crossed, before the river rose too high, on a
log-raft that had been carried away by the next night's flood and
left him stranded.  He had exactly what he needed, and he needed
extremely little.  In an English Norfolk jacket, a Hindu loin
-cloth and a plain black cotton turban, he looked rich enough to
be important and yet not so rich that the villagers might feel
afraid of him.  He sat on a mat in the door of the shed;  cross
-legged, like a fat god, smiling.  And since he paid his way, and
certainly was not a tax-collector or policemen, the villagers
came and talked to him between the storms of rain.  Their talk
was chiefly about taxes, and the priests, and the iniquitous
forced labor when the Rajah needed porters for his hunting
expeditions.  They talked about the Prince who had come across
the ford with three elephants, and who had actually paid them for
firewood and elephant feed.

"A good Prince.  But he came near drowning.  There was with him a
Madrassi, with a red stone on his finger.  When the Prince fell
off the elephant in mid-stream that Madrassi pretended to try to
rescue him.  But we saw.  And it was one of us who swam into the
stream and saved him.  He received for that a gift of two rupees
from the Prince.  But from the Madrassi he received a cursing.
The Madrassi said a low-caste person should not touch the
Prince's person.  And that is true.  But what would you?"

They talked also of Gandhi.  Gandhi, they had heard, was in
London teaching the English how to use the hand-loom.  Was it
true, as some of Kali's priests said, that Gandhi intended to
kick the English out and give the government to Moslems?

Chullunder Ghose was patient.  He declared he had to wait until
the ford was passable.  He asked no questions about tigers, none
whatever about Kali's priests, or about the ruined temple in the
jungle near by.  If he had asked, he might have heard nothing.
But, as usually happens to a good-tempered man who listens but is
not inquisitive, what he wished to learn began to reach his ears
in driblets.  He was told, among many other things, the reason
why, for instance, nobody came near him after four in the
afternoon, and why the cattle were driven home so early.

"He has slain six women, four men, five children, six-and-fifty
goats and nineteen head of cattle.  He is a male tiger.  He is
harder on us than the _takkus._  Our shikari should have set a
trap or shot him, but he dared not, though he talked loud;  and
when we mocked him he ran away, we know not whither.  It is not
wise that your honor camps in this place, and if we had known how
good your honor is we would have spoken.  Come now and dwell in
the village."    Chullunder Ghose might have accepted the
invitation, but the rain came down that minute, so a dozen
villagers were forced to share the shed with him, and half a
dozen more came running along the track at the edge of the jungle
to take shelter.  Five of them reached it, and the sixth was
hardly fifty yards away when he suddenly screamed.  A tiger
leaped out from the undergrowth and struck him, seized him by the
shoulder, worried him a moment and then dragged him out of sight.
It was all over in ten seconds.  But they heard the man scream in
the jungle--once.  After that, silence.  It had happened phantom
-fashion.  Even the rain seemed silent and unreal.

All the villagers took sticks and ran to beat the jungle.  But it
was useless, and they knew it.  One by one they came back to
squat and shudder in the babu's camp-fire smoke and ask advice.

"Another widow to feed.  That is the fifth man, making sixteen
humans.  Shall we abandon the village?  But where then?  There is
no place for us."

"Tell the Rajah," said the babu.  "Is it not his business and
privilege to deal with tigers?"

"Sahib, we have sent and told him.  Long ago we told him, when
the tiger slew the first man."

"What else have you done?"

"We have paid much money to the priests of Kali's temple.  But
the priests also do nothing."

"What else?"

"To the priestess we have given money.  Her name is Soonya.  It
is her tiger.  She lives in the ruined temple yonder in the
jungle.  The tiger lives there also."

"Liars!  Can she keep a tiger like a tame cat?  If it eats you,
would it not eat her?"

"Nay, not so.  Is she not a priestess?  She is not like other
people, sahib.  Furthermore, she says the tiger will continue
killing us and our cattle until the Rajah keeps a promise to
rebuild the temple.  Nevertheless, if he should do that he would
first increase the _takkus;_  and how can we pay it, since the
tiger eats us and our cattle?  Will your honor not speak to the
Rajah?"

"I would like to speak first to that priestess," said the babu.
"Which of you will lead me to her?"

There were no volunteers.  There were fifty excuses, chief of
which was that the hour was growing late;  it would be dark in
the jungle.  Some of them even admitted they were too scared.

"Sahib, in a few months, when the sun has dried it, we will burn
the jungle.  There is nothing to do until that time comes."

"Except to get me an elephant.  Get one.  Go and do it!"

But the nearest elephant was fifteen miles away.  It belonged to
a zemindar notorious for meanness;  he would demand too much
money.  The elephant would eat the food of thirty people.  The
mahout and two or three alleged grass-cutters would also demand
rations and money.  Probably the elephant would go sick.  He
might even die;  and who would' be blamed for it?

"Tell me then about this Soonya whom you call a priestess," said
the babu.

So they told him an endless story, that being the least they
could do after refusing his other requests;  and he believed some
portions of it.  None knew whence she first came.  She was
married, some said, at the age of ten years to a man so handsome
that the gods were jealous of him.  Therefore the gods slew him
with a sickness.  She wanted to die on his funeral pyre, as
widows used to, and, it is rumored, that some do even to this
day.  But that was forbidden by the Sirkar, that is obstinate
about such matters.  So she tried to starve herself to death,
which also was forbidden.  Sahibs took her to a hospital and fed
her by force with a tube until she gave in and agreed to live.
She was then sent to a Christian mission, and the padres taught
her to deny caste.  But she did not agree to the rest of the
teaching, so she ran away.  She became a sanyassim--wandering,
wandering with staff and begging bowl, and rumor had it that she
went mad.  But some say that the padres had already made her so.

"We are all mad," said the babu.  "If we were not, nobody would
love us.  How did she come to this place?  Did she bring the
tiger with her?"

Opinions varied.  Some said she had come before the tiger;  some
said afterwards.  They all agreed, however, that at Kutchdullub
she had adopted the terrible creed of Kali, which serves death,
not life.  It worships death and sings the praises of calamity.
"Our fathers told us about Thuggee, sahib.  Has your honor heard
of that?  The Thugs slew people as a sacrifice to Kali, the
Destroyer.  But the Sirkar also made an end of Thuggee--some
say."

"I will cross the river," said the babu.

"Nay, nay, sahib!  Not yet for a week, or for more than a week.
It drowns men.  Who can cross it?"

"I will cross now."

"Nay, nay!  Tell us more about the dok-i-tar who skins eyes so
that blind men see."

"Lead me to the priestess, or I go now."

"But we dare not.  Is that killer not loose in the jungle?  He is
worse than she is."

"Then I go at once.  These"--he pointed to his odds and ends of
baggage--"are in your keeping.  Make me a raft of goatskins
--tight ones--well sewn.  Bring a long rope and a pole.  And if I
drown I hope the tiger eats you all."

They pleaded--argued;  but his mildness had vanished.  He even
beat them.  So the goatskins that an Indian village never lacks
were blown up tight and lashed together.  Standing on that, the
babu poled and paddled himself across, assisted by the rope that
held the raft against the stream.  It took him two hours.  It was
after nightfall, and he was almost fainting from exhaustion, when
he crawled out on the far bank in a storm of wind and rain.  He
staggered to the nearest trader's bivouac, where a kerosene
lantern made a warm glow in the darkness.

"Horses!" he commanded.  "Harness up and drive me to the city!"

Mocking voices answered.  "Swim, thou mudfish!  Sit in the mud
thou fool, and pray for miracles!  Thy belly holds more food than
we have here--go and fill it with frogs!"

"I am sent by Soonya," he answered.

There was instant silence.  Presently a man crawled out into the
rain and thrust a lantern near the babu's face.

"Who do you say sent you?"

"Ask again, thou dog, and she herself shall answer!  Harness up!
She orders.  I pay--twenty rupees."

That was a mistake.

"So?  She?  A priestess offers money for a service?"

But the babu snapped back:  "Atcha!  I will keep my money.  Ask
her anything you wish to know.  I will go and bring her."

He turned away into the dark rain.  The lantern followed.

"Sahib!  Sahib!"

Fifteen minutes later he was splashing into darkness toward
Kutchdullub City in a hooded cart, behind two strong horses,
munching at chupatties spread with hot spice.  The driver asked
no more questions.

It appeared that Soonya was some one.




Chapter III.

     "Isn't that brute dead yet?"


Divinely authorized and autocratic sounds good, but it seems that
liabilities invariably balance assets, somehow, even in the Rajah
business.  To begin with, it was monsoon weather.  The marble and
limestone palace, with its terraces, courtyards, gardens, summer
-houses and lotus-ponds was one desolate splash made drearier by
hurrying dark-gray clouds.  There were creditors out on the
palace steps, bemartyring themselves beneath umbrellas.  The
walls dripped clammy moisture.  There was mildew on the hangings.
The canaries in gilded cages were molting miserably and refused
to sing.  The Rajah had the bellyache, a headache, and a letter
from a banker--a swine of a banker--a dirty, contemptible son of
a low-caste shroff, who demanded his interest and "found it
inconvenient" to lend another rupee.  Nor was that all.

The zenana hummed with malice, like a wasps' nest being smoked
out.  The most recent recruit to the Rajah's private menage was a
lady with a genius for spending money and a magnetism that
exploded all the stores of jealousy and discontent that she could
anywhere discover.  There is plenty of both in a Rajah's zenana,
always.  And today it is not nearly as safe as in the good old
days of twenty years ago to use the whip;  because even in Indian
Native States there are women who know about modern notions.
They inform the others.  And any woman understands that one does
not have to believe things in order to try to get away with them.

So the Rajah was in his library, where the books were all soggy
with moisture;  and even the brandy and soda did not taste good,
because he had drunk too much of it the night before.  His
servant had left the lid of the cigar-box open, so the cigars
were ruined;  they tasted like hay and blotting-paper--two rupees
each.  The cat looked happy, sleeping on a cushion near the
smelly oil-stove.  So he kicked it, and that settled the cat for
a while.  Then he got up and looked in the mirror--a full-length
one, behind which was a closet of books such as even a Rajah does
not let the servants see.

There was a damp film on the mirror, but he could see himself.
He had never had any faith in religion except as an important
form of politics;  but the sight of himself in the glass nearly,
if not quite, convinced him that a diabolical intelligence does
actually govern things.  How otherwise could such a handsome
fellow, so endowed by nature with a figure, a brain, and a taste
for smart clothes and expensive entertainment, find himself in
such a damned predicament?  No answer.  He made a grimace at
himself in the glass.

Then he pressed an electric bell;  but rain had discovered the
places where a rascally contractor had saved money on the
insulation, so the bell was silent.  After waiting a few minutes
he seized a revolver and fired it five times at the bell-push.
He was a good shot, even with all that brandy in him, so he hit
the mark three times, but it annoyed him that he missed twice;
and the noise made the cat act like a lunatic, so he put the
sixth shot through the cat's head.  Then the servant came.  He
might possibly have shot the servant--it would have cost less
than to whip a woman--only that the cartridges were all used up.

"Take away that cat and tell Syed-Suraj I want him."

The servant left the cat's blood on the carpet and ran like a
marauding jackal with the carcase.  Syed-Suraj was the only one
to run for when the Rajah was in that mood.  Discreetly vicious
sychophant and rapacious grafter though he was, Syed-Suraj could
be depended on to calm the Rajah's humor even when the last new
female favorite was afraid to go near him.  A relation, distant,
on the distaff side;  an educated sybarite, whose estates had all
been squandered in Madrid, Heidelberg, Paris, London, and Monte
Carlo, Syed-Suraj had equipped himself with cynicism and a
charming manner that the Rajah and Syed-Suraj, too, mistook for
statesmanship.  But Syed-Suraj was a lot too shrewdly cautious to
accept an official position.  It suited him better, and so did
the pickings, to be the Rajah's confidant, pander, parasite,
and go-between.

He entered briskly.  There was a flower on the lapel of his well
-cut British suit.  He looked well, lithe, humorous.  His olive
skin, fresh from the barber, shone with apparent youth, although
he was almost fifty years of age.  He was a small-boned man, with
rather hairy hands and small feet.  Nothing about him except his
eyes suggested danger, importance, or even much experience.  But
the crows' feet at the corners told their tale, and his eyes were
slightly simian, brown, brilliant, a bit too close together, with
a habit of narrowing slightly after one swift, penetrating glance.

He sat down, He and the Rajah usually conversed in French or
English to avoid being understood by servants, who were always
lurking where they should not and who always carried tales to the
zenana.  The Rajah scowled.  Syed-Suraj smiled.

"You'll be dead soon," he remarked, "so be gay.  Let the money
-lenders worry."

"Damn the money-lenders," said the Rajah.  "I would sell my
entire State for the price of a trip to Europe."

"But you can't, dear boy.  It's mortgaged for more than it's
worth.  Why be impractical?  Besides, imagine what might happen
if you went away.  You know as well as I do that the priests are
playing poker with a whole pack up their sleeves.  They'd frame
you in your absence.  They already accuse you of neglect--of
withholding temple revenues--of personal defilement--"

That last was a sore point and the Rajah sputtered, cursing the
priests of Kali in a language enriched by ages for just that
purpose.  The expense of being undefiled was bad enough--they
have a special rate for Rajahs--but the worst part was the
tedious ceremonies.  He shuddered to think of them.

"And," said Syed-Suraj, "they again demand fulfilment of your
promise to rebuild that damned old temple in the jungle.  You
would have made that promise over my dead body, had I been here
when you came to the throne."

"But, damn your eyes, I had to make it," said the Rajah.  "They
pretended they knew all about my elder brother's death.  If a
lying rumor had come to the ears of the British that he died
of poison--"

"Yes, that might have been inconvenient.  But rumor and proof,
dear boy, are not the same thing, even if your brother's death
was slightly opportune, and even if he was cremated rather in a
hurry.  The point is now, that you can't keep your promise about
that because you lack the necessary funds.  They know that.
Nevertheless, they are using pressure--propaganda--and that
tiger.  If you shoot the tiger they will charge you with
sacrilege, which won't cut any ice except with half the population,
who will probably refuse to pay their taxes.  Swallow that one!
If you don't go and shoot the tiger you will hear from Smith
about it--"

"Damn Smith!  Damn his middle-class morality!  Oh, damn his
father and his mother and his--"

"Smith is all right," said Syed-Suraj.  "As a representative of
the British Raj at the court of a reigning Prince he is rather a
joke, I admit--or a bore, whichever way you look at it.  But what
if he weren't lazy and had some brains and self-respect?  You're
lucky to have such a fossil to deal with.  When he retires on
pension, two or three months from now, you'll be out of luck;
there can't be two politicals like Smith in India, and if there
were, the law of averages would keep them from sending the other
to succeed this man.  I advise you to get things straightened out
before a new man comes in Smith's place."

"To hell with the British!"

"Not so loud!" said Syed-Suraj.  "They, too, have their
difficulties, but their ears are as long as a mule's and--"

"Blather!  Their day's done.  They've lost their grip on India
--lost it, I tell you.  They'll be gone in a couple of years.  And
then the deluge.  Then we'll have the old times back again."

"Not yet!  And meanwhile, Smith will be compelled to make himself
a nuisance.  How can he help it?  The British have sent that fat
scoundrel, Chullunder Ghose, to spy and report--"

The Rajah sat suddenly upright.  "Isn't that brute dead
yet?  I arranged--"

Syed-Suraj interrupted:  "Yes, I know you did, and it was very
thoughtless.  He's the C. I. D.'s pet undercover man.  Do you
remember when he came two years ago and asked you to employ
Hawkes?  Do you remember I cautioned you not to refuse?  He
wanted Hawkes placed here to keep an eye on you.  If you had
turned Hawkes down, Chullunder Ghose would have flooded the State
with Hindu spies, and those dogs would have framed you for the
sake of their own advancement;  whereas Hawkes plays cricket.
Nobody could make Hawkes tell a lie or shirk work.  He's a good
servant and he saves you money."

"All right," said the Rajah, "but Chullunder Ghose is--"

"_Sui generis._  He might be much worse.  Bump him off--and see
then what descends on you!  It might be utterly impossible to
prove you ordered it, but nobody would doubt it.  The C. I. D.
would be out for revenge;  they value that man.  They would send
a mob of expert second-raters, who would do exactly what the
priests want--frame you and force you to abdicate.  The priests,
you know as well as I do, want your cousin on the throne."

"He'll never get there," said the Rajah.  "He already has what he
thinks are ulcers of the stomach.  If your doctor from Madras is
half as good as you pretend, the priests will soon have the
mortification of conducting funeral ceremonies for their darling
nominee for my throne.  I see humor in that."

Syed-Suraj blew his nose and glanced at the Rajah's face over
his handkerchief.

"Well," he remarked, "his death won't help you at the moment.
Neither would it help in the least to kill that fat babu."

"I have ordered him killed."

"Then countermand it."

"It is too late."

"He is probably your best friend in the circumstances.  He is not
a trouble-maker.  He has a genius for pulling the plugs of
trouble and letting it pour down the drain.  That is undoubtedly
why the C. I. D. have sent him."

"He is dead," said the Rajah.  "That is, he's as good as dead."

"I'm sorry to hear it.  I can't do any more than give you
good advice."

"Oh yes, you can."  The Rajah stood up.  He chested himself.  He
struck the attitude that always had effect with certain sorts of
women, but that did not deceive Syed-Suraj for a moment.  "Take
my Rolls-Royce, and go and borrow money for me.  Go to Ram Dass;
he has plenty."

"Twenty-five percent," said Syed-Suraj.

"What do I care?"

"He will also take a note for twenty-five percent more than he
really lends you."

"I will sign it."

"And Ram Dass will show your note to the priests."

"To hell with them!"

"They will say you now have money and must rebuild that
temple immediately."

"What?  During the monsoon?  Impossible!  Go and get me
some money."

"You might offer me a little _douceur!_"

"Damn it, what becomes of all the money that you wheedle
from me?"

Syed-Suraj closed his eyes a trifle.  Then he contrived to
look hurt.

"Any one of the servant-girls in your zenana costs you more than
I do," he retorted.  "Most of what you give me is spent on your
business--on informers, for instance.  Do you think spies work
for nothing?"

"I am certain you don't," said the Rajah.  "Dammit--all right
--five percent.  And don't ask for another rupee for a twelve
-month.  Do you hear me?"




Chapter IV.

      "This is from the fat babu who ate your dinner."


Across the border, five hundred yards from the railway station,
in a corrugated iron barn that faced a yard at the back of the
Sikh's dispensary, by the light of a gasolene lantern Stanley
Copeland labored and forgot the weather.  Rain drove in between
the joints of the iron walls and drummed on the iron roof.
Sometimes the lantern blew out at critical moments and the Sikh
had to come to the rescue with his flashlight.  The operating
table was a thing of planks and trestles that had to be scrubbed
at intervals with soap and water.  There was a very slim
supply of anaesthetics, and the Sikh was ignorant as well as
nervous, although willing.  There were no nurses--no trained
help whatever.

But the Sikh had snatched at opportunity.  The moment he was
sure Copeland really would come he had gone hard at work at
propaganda.  He had promised that the greatest surgeon in the
world would operate, free, gratis, and for nothing, on any one,
no matter who he was or what might be the matter with him.  And
the only reason why the Sikh had not been at the train to meet
Copeland was that his dispensary was chock-a-block with patients
clamoring for first turn.  He had had to drive them out into the
rain and lock the door on them before daring to leave the place;
they might have wrecked it.

So, instead of restricting himself to eyes, with occasional side
-ventures to an ear or throat, Copeland had been forced to tackle
almost all the horrible and crippling ailments known to Asia.  He
had amputated gangrened legs, attended to enlarged spleens,
opened abscesses, adjusted and set compound fractures, cauterized
dog-bites, treated ague, diagnosed and taken chances with
afflicted kidneys, livers--anything and everything.  And luck was
with him, as it usually is with men who pull their coats off and
go straight ahead at what needs doing, even though they don't
know how to do it.  Nobody had died yet on the operating table.
Seven days, of fourteen hours' work each, had gone by and the
waiting list still grew.  The sleepless Sikh was half-hysterical,
but happy.  Copeland had begun to dream he really might amount to
something some day, which is half the battle.  He could see
himself getting the high-priced custom in Chicago or New York.
And then a messenger arrived--a dish-faced messenger.

He came in grinning, dripping, with a flour-sack hooded on his
head and shoulders.  He was otherwise naked except for a breech
-cloth.  In his hand he held a cleft stick, in which a note was
tied securely, wrapped in a scrap of goatskin.  He refused to
wait outside although a cancerous nose was being amputated.  He
refused to give the message to the Sikh.  He forced his way in
and waited patiently, amused by the removal of the nose and now
and then feeling his own to make sure it was still there.  When
the job was finished and he had given up the note to Copeland, he
offered to help scrub the operating table.  He was not in the
least discouraged or offended by the Sikh's rebuff, but watched
the Sikh's assistant for a minute and then, being quite a person,
pushed the incompetent duffer aside and did the whole job
perfectly, in quick time.

Copeland lit his pipe with the fourth or fifth match--matches and
tobacco being damp.  Then he studied the note before he opened
it.  He only vaguely recognized the dish-faced man and was not
really sure he remembered him.  There was nobody who ought to
write to him;  no one, in fact whom he knew on the country-side.
The thing suggested trouble, or perhaps an urgent call for
surgical help in some outlying district, so he scowled at
it.  However, he was the kind of man who likes to hit his
troubles on the snout, not run away.  So at last he opened it.
The address read:

To the Skin 'em alive-o Doctor sahib at the Sikh's dispensary.
From Babu C.G.

That was impudent, but not discouraging.  Besides, the messenger
was a genuine human being with a good grin, who appeared to
believe in working while he waited.  That, too, was a favorable
sign.  He unfolded the paper and read on:

This is from the fat baba who ate your dinner.  Cheerio.  How are
you?  Please excuse the paper, but the nearest shop is more than
twenty miles away and the miles are mud if you can find them
under water.  I am curious to know if you are still premeditating
battle with a tiger?  Or have you slain so many people on the
operating table that the thought of even lawful murder sickens
you?  If you are still ferocious, oil your gun but wait for
kubber.  If you are still the gentlemanly sportsman that I took
you for, be kind enough to hold your tongue about it, because
silence feeds no flies, of which there are a lot too many.
Please send back an answer by this messenger and tell me whether
you would back your skill against a belly-trouble, said to be an
ulcer but suspected by me to be more of a family token of regard.
It might be possible to bag the tiger and assault the ulcer at
the same time.  Point is:  will you do it?

Please don't pay the messenger, it spoils him.  Give him two
spots of the cheapest whisky you can get and kick him forth to
come and find me with your answer.  Hoping the supply of crushed
and otherwise intriguing eyes is holding out;  and wishing with
all my heart that you were here to buy me drinks and dinner
--alas, I have none of either!  I remain,
          Your Honor's most respectful servant,
                                           C.G.

P.S.--And remember, there is no such person!

Copeland thought a minute--thought of the work to be done where
he was, and of the mud and the rain outside.  He almost tore the
note up--almost told the messenger to say "no answer."  But the
messenger grinned and the grin was good.  And he remembered then
that the fat babu had smiled like some one who was safe to bet
on.  So he handed the messenger two rupees and told him:

"Go and buy yourself some whisky.  Come back when you've drunk it."

Then he wrote on a piece of dispensary paper:

From S.C. to C.G.  This is a telegram.  Try me.  I don't
believe you.

He folded it, sealed it with a lump of candle-grease, impressed
his thumb-mark, wrapped it in the goatskin, tied it in the cleft
stick, set it where the messenger could see it on a stool beside
the door, then:

"Come on," he said to the Sikh, "bring in your next case.  At
this rate it'll be midnight before we've done a day's work."




Chapter V.

      "I need a new knife, sahib."


Chullunder Ghose sat in the dark cart, enjoying motion after days
of sitting still and being talked to by ignorant villagers.  It
was slow motion;  the big wheels sank deep in the mud and the
horses paused at frequent intervals to gather strength;  but the
horses were as keen as the driver on reaching the journey's end,
so they pulled their best.  The silence--he enjoyed that also
--was comparative;  the important thing was that the driver made no
conversation.  Countless millions of frogs made such a din that
he could hardly hear the splashing of the horses' hoofs or the
squeak of an oil-less wheel.  But none of those facts excused
carelessness;  the business of being "purposely misunderstood"
demands unceasing and acute attention.

It may be that the comfort of a heavy blanket made him sleepy.
He felt sure, too, that he had left behind a village that was
friendly to himself, whatever hatreds or intrigues might dwell
there.  But probably he himself could not have told exactly why
he let his normally alert and intensely intelligent senses
slumber while he mused and pondered.  He was chuckling over the
letter he had sent by messenger to Doctor Copeland, and envying
the almost superhuman skill and courage of the messenger who swam
that swollen ford without as much as hesitating on the brink,
when his turban fell over his eye and he felt a blow on the back
of the head that almost stunned him.  But he had felt the blow.
He could still feel it.  Therefore he knew he was not too badly
hurt, and in the dark the odds were in his favor yet, whoever the
enemy might be.  Between him and the driver was a curtain of
heavy cloth that made the inside of the cart so absolutely dark
that he knew his assailant must have struck at random.  Probably
some enemy had crawled in over the cart-tail and was now
crouching amid the litter of empty sacks and goatskins, waiting
to see what his blow had accomplished.  Those thoughts took a
fraction of a second.

In another fraction of a second Chullunder Ghose had stripped his
blanket off and bulked it, holding it at arm's length in his left
hand.  Beneath it, with his left foot, he kicked on the floor of
the cart to suggest his own whereabouts.  He felt a club hit the
blanket.  He pounced.  A man as wet as a fish, and as slippery,
writhed in his grasp, and even the babu's prodigious strength was
hardly enough to hold him;  he had to grab the man's hair and
almost strangle him with his left arm while he thumped him
breathless with his right knee.  The driver heard the intense,
swift struggle, and pulled the curtain aside to ask what the
trouble might be.  Chullunder Ghose mastered his breath:

"Another passenger.  He overtook us.  I invited him to ride."

"He should pay," said the driver.  "Such a journey as this may
break my cart and harm my horses.  It is enough that--"

"It is enough that your crows' meat pull so feebly that this
cripple overtook us!" the babu retorted.  "Drive on.  I will pay
you with a kick in the teeth if I hear another word from you!"

"Shameless ingrate! I will turn back," said the driver.

"Try it!  See what happens!"

It was too late to turn back;  it was already nearly as far to
the encampment by the ford as it was to the city.  And to turn
about meant facing wind and rain.  The driver made a virtue
of convenience.

"I made a promise.  It is better that I keep it.  I will pray
your honor to be generous."

He closed the curtain, and Chullunder Ghose relaxed the pressure
on his assailant's throat, but he did not let go of his hair.  He
seized an arm and twisted it.

"Who are you?" he demanded.  "Besides being a jungle-bum with
less brains than an animal, what are you?"

"Have pity, sahib!"

"Answer before I break your neck, you murderer!"

"And if I answer, what then?"

"Pity, perhaps;  and perhaps a thrashing;  possibly a rupee.  Who
knows?  Was it Soonya who sent you?"

"Nay, nay, sahib!  We of the village laid our heads together."

"And the honey of united wisdom came forth?"

"Sahib, we thought if your honor should make complaint in
the city about the tiger, then there might be trouble from
the priestess."

"You should have said that to me before I left you."

"But we did not think of it until your honor crossed the river.
Then we guessed that your honor had lied about being a spokesman
for the dok-i-tar sahib who skins eyes.  Some said you are
probably a politician;  and we agreed that much trouble might
come, and of that we have plenty, without more of it."

Chullunder Ghose jerked at the man's hair.  As an afterthought he
groped for the club and laid it out of reach.  "For instance?"
he demanded.

"First, a sahib might come.  It might be Smith sahib, who would
command the services of many people and much food for his
servants, who would beat us.  And the servants would pay us
nothing, even though their sahib might give them money for the
purpose.  Or perhaps the Rajah himself might come, and that would
be much worse."

"Yes, and--?"

"She would put a curse on us for having made complaint."

"Who?  Soonya?  That priestess?"

"Yes, sahib.  She might carry out her threat to loose on us a
second tiger--a she-one--much worse."

"Uh-huh."

"So it seemed best--"

"To silence me by killing me, eh?  How did you cross the river?"

"That was easy, since your honor let the raft get caught to the
far bank by a tree-root.  Was there not the rope?  We drew that
tight and I crossed by it, hand over hand, being better used to
such dangerous work than the others.  Was it not I who received a
reward for rescuing a Prince in mid-stream?  And having crossed I
sought a club, but it was difficult to find one in the darkness.
The one I cut at last was too light.  Thus the blow I struck was
feeble and your honor--"

"Where is your knife, with which you cut that club?" the babu
asked him.

"It was in my loin-cloth.  But it fell in the mud when I slipped,
as I tried to crawl silently into the cart.  Otherwise I could
have used it, and your honor--"

"I will give you a new knife," said the babu.

"That is generous.  But it is only fair.  I--"

"With which to cut your own throat for being such a frog
-brained jungli!"

"Nay, I will need it badly for my work in the fields when the
rains are over."

"If I let you sit there near the cart-tail will you jump off and
run home?"

"Nay, I need a new knife, sahib.  Where can we buy it unless in
the city?"

"Then what?"

"I will go home.  I will tell them in the village you are one
whose heart is so big that it swells your belly.  They will
excuse my failure when I show the new, expensive knife."

"Clothe yourself with sacks.  Sit silent.  I am sick of talking
to you."

So the cart creaked on and there was no more conversation.  Wind,
rain, trees, and frogs united in an ocean-chorus;  it was easy to
imagine that the cart was a boat on a storm-tossed sea.  The
villager, almost invisible even against the sky at the open cart
-end;  sat with his chin on his knees and seemed to meditate.
Chullunder Ghose, wrapped in his blanket, cuddled himself at the
front end, in a corner, undiscoverable even to a bat's eyes, it
was so dark.  Even when the jolting of the cart-wheels moved him
he was quite invisible.

The cart stopped.  Some one spoke to the driver.  Chullunder
Ghose, ear to the curtain, caught the driver's answer.

"Nay, I am from this side of the ford.  I know not who he is."

"Is he a fat man?"

"Look within the cart and judge that for yourself."

Footsteps splashed around the cart.  Some one hooded in a flour
sack leaned in, from the rear.  At the same time there was a
faint click, but to the trained ears of the babu it was clearly
not a pistol.  It was probably a flashlight, damaged by rain,
short-circuited, useless.  A man swore scurrilously.

"Who is in here?" he demanded.

The villager stirred uneasily.  The man seized him and dragged
him out into the darkness.

"Who are you?  Who else is in there?"

"No one," said the villager.

"Not a babu?  Not a very fat man?  Not he who was camped beyond
the river?"

"Nay, nay!  I am from that village.  I have seen that fat one--I
have spoken with him.  He is still there.  How could he have
crossed the river?"

"How did you cross?"

"On a horse--but it drowned the horse.  I, clinging to its tail,
was thrown up on the bank on this side."

"Why are you traveling?"

"To reach the dok-i-tar.  My eyes fail and I fear I go blind.  I
have heard there is a sahib--"

Stealthily Chullunder Ghose moved to the cart-tail, the villager's
club in his fist.  The frog-noise and the rain that spattered
on the roof effectually drowned any noise he made.  He crouched
in the corner opposite to where the villager had sat.

"You jungli, you are lying!" said the voice in outer darkness.
"He who drives said--"

Unexpectedness was two-thirds of Chullunder Ghose's method, and
the other third was use of intuition.  He decided there was only
one man to be dealt with.  He sprang--two hundred and fifty
pounds of suddenness and muscle.  He struck with the club with
all his might.  Luck aided him.  Square on the top of a skull the
club broke in two and the man went down into a puddle like a
pole-axed steer.  The babu set a foot on him.  He waited;  there
might be some one else;  although he guessed not.

"See who he is," he commanded presently.  The villager knelt
--felt--pulled at something.

"Nay, your honor means, who was he?  He is dead now.  And he
had this."

He thrust a heavy, old-fashioned revolver into the babu's hand.
By its weight--by the balanceless feel of it Chullunder Ghose
guessed, almost beyond the possibility of error, that it came
from the Rajahs armory.  The Rajah's private weapons were as new
and costly as caprice could dictate and his credit provide, but
his soldiers and policemen--and his murderers and bullies--had to
use what other armies sold as bargains fifty years ago.  However,
the babu struck a match to make sure, recognized the Rajah's
monogram on the holster worn by a man in plain clothes who lay
prone in a puddle, and then threw the revolver away.  He heard it
splash into a deep hole.

"Are you sure he is dead?  I also think so.  Get into the cart."

He climbed in too, and resumed his blanket in the corner.

_"Cheloh!"_ he commanded, drawing aside the curtain.  "Why do we
wait?  Are the horses as stupid as you?"

The driver whipped and yelled.  The cart creaked forward and the
rain came down in blustering squalls that almost blew the roof
off.  It was several minutes before Chullunder Ghose even
attempted to make his voice heard.  Then he moved a little closer
to the villager and asked him:

"Did I say you are a frog-brained jungli?"

"Yes, but it is not true."

"I repeat it.  You wished to kill me.  That man would have done
it for you."

"Yes, I guessed that, sahib."

"Why, then, did you tell those lies and say I was not in here?"

"I need a new knife, don't I?"

"Krishna!  You shall have a good one," said the babu.  "I can use
such a madman as you are!"




Chapter VI.

    "The trouble with impossibilities is that they so often happen."


Major Eustace Smith, aged fifty-four and rather seedy for his
years, lay in bed at the Residency.  There was nothing much wrong
except for a boil on the back of his neck, which made him
irritable.  The damp and the dripping of rain depressed him;
and, since the doctor went on leave, he had been lonely, although
he and the doctor detested each other as only two bachelors can
who have no other society than each other for months at a time.
He enjoyed not having to have breakfast with the doctor, even
though he missed him and needed his attentions now.  Bed was
comfortable.  Office details were obnoxious to a military man--of
the old school, dammit!--and there was nothing his clerk could
not attend to;  his successor, three months hence, might suit
himself and find as much fault with the clerk as he pleased.  In
the meantime, the less business the better.  Three months--then a
pension, thank God!--and a little cottage in Madiera, where a
fellow can live cheaply and enjoy the climate.

However, as he reached for a book and a cigarette he saw a
scorpion on the pillow.  Scorpions made him half-hysterical.  He
slew the thing and yelled for his servant;  and by the time the
servant came he was too upset to take things easy any longer.  He
swore at the servant and made him examine everything--clothes in
the closet, boots, suitcases, curtains.  Then he put on slippers
and his bathrobe, changed the bandage on his boil and decided to
try the veranda that faced the Residency garden--a mere patch of
shrubbery and draggled flowers circled by a high stone wall.  He
ordered tea brought out there.

It always annoyed him to be interrupted at his morning tea.  As a
soldier he had had to rise at five a.m. or earlier and attend to
all sorts of details.  But "political life," according to Smith's
view, called for military dignity, not military rigor.  He still
wore his graying moustache in fierce, waxed points, and he was
ramrod-straight, however lazy he might feel.  But business before
eleven in the morning?  No, sir!  Not except in grave emergency.

So he swore when his servant brought out word to the veranda that
Hawkes sahib wished to see him.  It was bad enough to be expected
to interview any one at that hour.  But he especially detested
retired infantry sergeants who eked out their pensions by staying
in India and getting jobs in Native States.  Such fellows ought
to live in England, where they have equals and where their rotten
manners consequently clash less with the social standards of
their betters.

However, he knew Hawkes could not be exactly looking forward to
the interview;  he had been to particular pains to impress on
Hawkes that he was not a welcome visitor.  So he supposed there
was some news that Hawkes, at any rate, believed important.

"Show the man in," he commanded.  "Take that other chair away.
I'll keep him standing."

Hawkes stood five feet ten in heavy boots and a ready-made
English serge suit.  He had left his waterproof outside, and he
came to attention from old habit, so that his fine figure showed
to advantage and made Smith look and feel slack as he sat staring
at him in pyjamas, stocking-less feet, slippers, not yet shaven.
Smith, conscious of the contrast, decided to begin by taking
Hawkes down a peg or two.

"A pity," he said, "that a man of your physique should loaf his
days away when England needs guts and muscle.  Native States are
no place for pensioned soldiers.  What good are you doing here?"

"I seem to satisfy His Highness, sir."

"Don't you flatter yourself?"

"And I'm keeping off the dole two sisters, one down with
tuberculosis--and my mother."

"Keeping them in idleness, I don't doubt."

"Well, sir, I'm not idle.  And I didn't come here to waste your
time.  There is something I think you ought to know, sir."

Smith's eyes glared with irritation.

"I have told you before, Hawkes, I have very reliable sources of
information.  Nothing goes on in the state that I don't know
about before you know it.  I resent your interference.  Unless
you know of something that I don't know--"

"It's about that tiger near the village beyond the river."

"Bah!  That old wives' story!  Let me tell you something for your
own good.  The political significance of tales like that is
wrapped up in obscurity too deep for inexperience to penetrate.
I heard it long ago:  a woman in the jungle is supposed to
possess a man-eating tiger that destroys whole villages.  Well,
put it in your pipe and smoke it!  It's a mare's nest.  It's a
bit of local politics, in which His Highness and the priests are
engaged in jockeying for influence.  If I hear of you taking a
hand, I warn you, I shall insist on the Rajah getting rid of you
at once."

"You threatened that before, sir;  but he can't.  I've a
contract.  I don't wish to show you disrespect--"

"You'd better not!"

"And politics don't mean a thing to me," said Hawkes, "but I
intend to do my job.  When I tell you that there's a tiger
killing people--and that the Rajah nor any one else'll do a thing
about it--you may make up your mind that I'm telling the truth."

"Is that so?  Very well, Sergeant Know-it-all, why don't you go
yourself and shoot the tiger?"

"Because of politics and me not touching 'em.  My job is
inspecting stores and checking sales and purchases."

"Ah!  Why not, then, attend to business?"

"Very well, sir.  I've reported.  Thank you for the interview.
Good morning."

Smith did not even answer him.  He scowled.  As soon as Hawkes
had left he got up and began pacing the veranda.

"Dammit, I suppose I ought to go myself and shoot the bloody
tiger;  that 'ud stop this particular feud for a while.  The
brute is killing people--no doubt of that.  But in this weather?
And with boils on my neck!  Mud--rain--snakes--malaria--and then
a tiger in a ruined temple?  Fat chance for a pension I'd have!
Somebody would draw my life-insurance!  And I'm not here to do
the Rajah's dirty work.  I think I'll send for Syed-Suraj.
That's it.  He's a slimy devil, but he has tact.  He can put it
to the Rajah unofficially that something has got to be done about
this--and done now.  That's it.  Diplomacy.  Nothing in writing
that would call for explanations to the Foreign Office.  Keep
away from red tape.  Yes, I'll send for Syed-Suraj."

Europe, profligacy, and the need to refinance himself by stealth
had educated Syed-Suraj to an understanding of the value, among
other things, of promptness in his dealings with the nervous,
Nordic blonde.  He arrived almost too soon for Smith to be
shaved, and he had to wait in the outer office, where he fingered
correspondence while the office babu's back was turned.  He was
amused to read that the C. I. D. requested prompt attention to
the forwarding of Number D.3's confidential reports;  and the
Department authorized D.3 to draw whatever sums he might need up
to Rs. 250, against his own voucher.

One other letter equally amused him.  The Foreign Office, in
view of strained political conditions, urged that foreigners
--particularly doctors--should be discouraged from entering Native
States unless provided with a special Foreign Office passport.
The attention of the Foreign Office had been called to instances
where aliens, possessed of medical skill and enthusiasm, but
having no political experience, had acted indiscreetly and
contributed to local unrest by exciting caste prejudice.  Smith
came in before he had a chance to read the other letters.  Smith
invited him into the library, replete with volumes of the Indian
Census, law-books, and the works of Edgar Wallace.  They sat down
facing each other in front of the oil-stove.

"How are you?"

"How is His Highness?"

The polite formalities took half a minute.  Then there was a
rather awkward pause, unbroken by Syed-Suraj, who was half afraid
that the news of the death of Chullunder Ghose already might
have reached Smith's ears.  It was news that would have to
break sooner or later.  His eyes were alert, hard, less simian,
more brilliant.

"Suppose you and I have a friendly chat," said Smith;  "no
witnesses."

"A pleasure, I assure you."

"Unofficial, of course."

"That condition imposes itself, since I have no official
standing."

"Understood.  Do you mind telling me how matters stand at
the moment as regards the quarrel between His Highness and
the priests?"

Syed-Suraj chuckled, visibly relieved.  "Why shouldn't I tell?"
he answered.  "It's no secret.  They insist on his building a
temple, and he has no money.  They insist he purify himself by an
expensive ritual.  He will not."

"Why not?" Smith asked.  "Is his personal ease so important to
him that he can't concede a bit to superstition?  Church and
State must hold together, dammit,--or we'll all be Gandhi-ized.
The next thing will be Communism.  Nobody requires His Highness
to believe in gods that were thought good enough for his
ancestors.  But he might at least pretend a bit.  How else, in
these difficult times, are we going to preserve our sacred
institutions?  How shall aristocracy survive in the face of
Communism, if the Native Princes don't stand with the Church?  Do
you recall what James the First of England said? 'No bishop, no
king!'  Tell that to His Highness."

Syed-Suraj placed the tips of his fingers together, as he had
seen the English lawyers do in consultation.  He imagined it
impressed the English.  He particularly wanted to impress Smith,
not that he admired or trusted him, but he admired and trusted
his present royal patron even less.  It might be time to consider
safety.  British practice, which is frequently above-board, is
invariably based, at least politically, on careful underground
investigation--spy-work, to put it bluntly.  Why had Chullunder
Ghose been sent by the C. I. D. to snoop and listen?  Smith, as
Resident, was the unacknowledged but none-the-less actual--even
if duly incompetent--link in that part of the world between spies
and their secretive but immensely powerful masters--men with
misleading titles, who can make or ruin any one by hinting at the
existence of mysterious, anonymous reports.  Syed-Suraj hoped to
have his own name inscribed on the list of desirables.  But he
was shrewd enough to know that to betray his present patron
unadroitly would be to destroy his own chances.  Treachery, if it
is to succeed among gentlemen, has to be cloaked in decency and
faithful phrases.

"It occurs to me," he said, "that this might be your opportunity
to crown your career with a ribbon."

"Pah!"  Smith's scorn of decorations was proportioned to
the probabilities.  "My dear fellow, I have never let such
considerations influence me for a moment."

He believed that, perhaps.  But Syed-Suraj did not.  "Even
governments," said Syed-Suraj, "now and then are grateful.  Many
of us who have experienced your tact and kindliness would dearly
love to see you receive some official recognition before
you retire."

"Tut-tut--let us talk of more important matters."

"The forced abdication of the Maharajah of Indore," said
Syed-Suraj, coming promptly to the point, "undoubtedly has
strengthened British influence in some ways.  It has drawn
attention to the fact that the British-Indian Government can,
when it pleases, discipline--by removal--any Rajah who ignores
what we might call the rules of the game."

"Yes, Yes."  Smith shifted nervously.  The conversation was
getting a bit too serious to suit him.  Even minor issues, such
as tigers, were a nuisance;  major ones were anathema.  However,
he had started it;  he had to listen.

"On the other hand," said Syed-Suraj, "it has called attention to
the--let us say, vulnerability, of our ruling Princes.  There is
a feeling that a Prince no longer has the unconditional--and,
shall I call it, ingenuous backing?--of the British Raj.  A
Prince has become, to some extent, a skittle, one might say, who
can be knocked down by a wave of indignation."

"That is an extreme view--too suggestive of hysteria," Smith
answered.

"Ah!  But we must consider local prejudices, politics and
misconceptions.  It is not on facts, but on their interpretation
that rebellions are based."

"Rebellions?" said Smith.  He looked scandalized.

"Revolutions, if you prefer the word.  The priests have always
exercised enormous influence in this State.  They resent the
present ruler's rather careless--and frequently, I may say,
stupid--efforts to destroy that influence.  They foresee--or they
think they do--that the democratization of India, aimed at by
Gandhi and rapidly gathering headway, must produce a conflict
between new and old ideas.  In plain words, they believe they
must fight to the death for their privileges, sooner or later.
They appreciate that phrase you wisely quoted just now--'no
bishop, no king.'  They would, however, say, 'no king, no
bishop.'  Therefore, they feel that the reigning Rajah, in order
to preserve the established order, must make common cause with
them and uphold their dignity and influence, that they, in turn,
may uphold his.  Our mutual friend, my patron, will not see
that."

"Damn him!" Smith said fervently.

"The priests, in consequence, would vastly rather see his cousin
on the throne.  The cousin, as undoubtedly you know, is a
religious man, untainted by vice or cynicism, and remarkably
attentive to the drift of world affairs.  He is also wealthy in
his own right.  I know him well.  A very honorable man.  Perhaps
a trifle over-altruistic, but sufficiently shrewd to live over
the border, in British-India, where he can keep in touch with
his--ah--his admirers in the State, but be more or less safe
from--ah--well, you know what so often happens to the heirs
-apparent to a throne."

Smith scowled.  That was another unpleasant subject.  It was
notorious that for hundreds of years those few direct heirs
to the throne of Kutchdullub who had not been murdered had
survived by luck or accident, or through the watchfulness
of faithful servants.

"Let us hope that British example has relegated that sort of
thing to the dishonored past, Syed-Suraj."

"Yes, let us hope so.  Hope is wholesome.  The point is, the
cousin is sick--very sick.  He is said to have ulcers.  Rather
rashly--in my opinion--he is just now visiting a little place he
owns up in the mountains in this State."

"Yes, I know that.  He paid me a call on the way," Smith answered.

"He was taken worse there."

"You suspect--?"  Smith almost used undiplomatic language.
Syed-Suraj diplomatically did not notice it.

"The priests--the High Church party, that is--are afraid he may
die and be lost to their cause.  They believe, whether rightly or
wrongly, that medical--possibly surgical--skill might save him.
And they don't trust the man from Madras who has charge of
the case."

"Too bad the Residency doctor went on leave," said Smith.

"Yes, altogether too bad.  In the circumstances it is only
natural the High Church party should be restless.  They are in a
position to put the screws on.  They intend to do it, in order,
if possible, to save the life of the heir to the throne.  They
want him on it, and they mean to get him there by hook or
by crook."

"Ridiculous!" said Smith.  "Impossible!"

"The trouble with impossibilities," Syed-Suraj answered, "is that
they so often happen.  The High Church party has been most
ingenious.  They have a tiger that is killing people.  And they
have a story that exactly fits the superstitious prejudices of
the peasants, while it tickles the sense of humor of more
intelligent people."

"Yes, I've heard that tiger story.  Something must be done
about it."

"What, though?  From time immemorial it has been the Rajah's
privilege, in person or by deputy, to shoot all tigers that
molest the people.  If he shoots that tiger he will find himself
denounced for having violated the ancient sanctuary where a
so-called priestess keeps the brute.  How she keeps him there, I
don't know, but she does it.  And remember that the Rajah, from
the High Church viewpoint, is in a state of gross impurity that
he refuses to correct by proper ritual and sacrifice.  It would
be a scandalous act for him to cross the threshold, even of a
sacred ruin, no matter for what reason.  They could make an awful
stink about it."

"There would be riots.  He might get killed--that's almost
probable, there are so many fanatics who have been stirred up by
the propaganda."

"Whose propaganda?  The priests?"

"You bet.  They are masters of it.  And what will happen if he
does not shoot the tiger?  They will say not only that he
neglects his duty, but that the tiger is sent as a curse from the
angry gods because he broke his promise to rebuild that ruin in
the jungle.  And he can't rebuild it, even if he cared to, since
he has no money.  Consequence--even worse rioting!"

"Dammit, perhaps I'd better go and shoot that brute myself,"
said Smith.

"But if you do, my friend, you will end your career in a hornets'
nest instead of being decorated for discretion!"

"What do you suggest?"

"I don't know.  It occurred to me that possibly you might--ah
--let us say, intuitively, guess--the--ah--the British attitude
toward the Rajah's cousin.  If he should come to the throne, why
then, of course, the priests would get rid of the tiger.  They'd
poison the brute."

Smith was horrified.  He was as capable of treachery as any other
nerveless, self-important bureaucrat;  but minor treachery
--nothing heroic--nothing that might involve him in a nine-day
tempest in a teapot at the close of his career.  He had a genius
for minor treachery.  Already he was shaping in his mind a full
report of this strictly private conversation, to be sent to
Delhi, where it would do Syed-Suraj no good.  But now he thought
of something better.  He could kill two birds with one stone, and
retain his own reputation for tact.

"It's as simple as most problems are when you face them," he
answered.  "I can see no reason to take official cognizance of
this.  But take my compliments to His Highness, and suggest to
him that he should send that fellow Hawkes to shoot the tiger.  I
am told he is an excellent shot."

"But sacrilege--"

"Yes, certainly.  He can blame Hawkes, and dismiss him--pack
him off home to England.  Hawkes was in here not two hours
ago.  I had to reprimand him for trying to interfere in what
was none of his business.  I can testify that Hawkes is an
incorrigible meddler."

"Hawkes has a contract--"

"He can be dismissed for cause," Smith answered.  "Use tact.
Warn His Highness to be careful how he instructs Hawkes.
That's all."




Chapter VII.

       "You should have been the Unknown Soldier."


 From the British Residency, where a Union Jack drooped dismally
on a pole from which sun and rain had flaked most of the paint,
to the Rajah's palace, where damp-chilled and disgusted sepoys
stood on guard before the pretentious iron gate, was a mile and a
half.  There was an avenue of trees, then winding, cobbled
streets--a maze of narrow-fronted, mostly two-storied houses with
flat roofs, built around tiny courtyards in which the hot-weather
life of the city was lived.  But during the monsoon most
of the life was indoors, where it grew shrill and irritable
--over-crowded.

At about the time when Louis XIV was inviting bankruptcy by
building palaces to house his ignorance of economics, a Frenchman
of curious character, possessing an amazing gift of salesmanship,
had inspired the despot who then occupied the throne of
Kutchdullub with ambition to rebuild the city.  Nothing sanitary
--such indecencies had not been thought of--but as grandiose and
gimcrack as a stack of exposition buildings.  Naturally, the job
was never finished;  tax-exasperated merchants had the Rajah
poisoned, and the Frenchman was chased off the roof of the house
he had built for himself;  the city dogs ate what was left of
him.  The houses had come to their natural end and had been
replaced by indigenous Indian architecture.  But the squares
remained, and the trees still graced them.  So the center of the
city was a spaciously conceived oasis of four paved quadrangles.
One faced the palace;  another the temple of Kali;  the third was
mainly occupied by shops belonging to the more successful
merchants;  and the fourth square was a marketplace.  Normally
the latter hummed with chaffering and stank of cabbage, onions,
and spice;  but in the monsoon it was a waste of bluish-gray
cement on which sheets of rain rippled.  Around three sides of
that was a stucco colonnade, beneath which were the shops--half
-shuttered now to keep the draught out--of the dealers in corn,
enamel-ware;  and all the cheap stuff that peasants delight in.
There, also, was the store of Ram Dass, dealer in mortgages,
money, and grain.  It had yellow-painted shutters.  It occupied
eight whole arches of the colonnade.

Wheeled traffic was not allowed in that square, and the
prohibition was enforced by steps and a row of ancient iron
cannons set three feet apart with their muzzles downward, along
the side of the square that opened to the main street.  So even
Rajahs had to walk if they should wish to visit Ram Dass, and a
Rajah's confidential dick-o'dirty-work was under the same
necessity.  Syed-Suraj had to leave the Rajah's silver-plated
Rolls-Royce standing in the street and mince amid the puddles
under a big umbrella held for him by the liveried footman.  He
hated, as much as a cat, to get his little feet wet.  And he
hated to wait in the draughty shop.  But Ram Dass kept him
waiting--sent out word that he was being treated for lumbago by a
doctor and could not come until the torture was over.

Ram Dass was a comfortably fat, gray-bearded veteran with
twinkling eyes, who no more had lumbago than he had melancholia.
There was nothing whatever wrong with him, or with his bank
account.  Voluminously clothed in clean, white cotton and the
little round cap of a bunnia, he sat cross-legged on a pile of
corn-sacks, with a kerosene stove beside him, on which a kettle
sang cheerfully.  In front of him, on an up-turned, empty box,
there was a teapot, sugar, cream, two teacups, and a silver case
of cigarettes.  Beyond that wholly satisfactory and swankless
table, on another pile of corn-sacks, equally contented, sat
Chullunder Ghose.  He was enormously bulky, but there was
something about him--it might be his sense of humor--that
suggested they were two of a kind.

"If they think you are dead," said Ram Dass, "they will presently
unthink it.  You are about as easy to disguise as an elephant.
Some one must have seen you enter my shop.  You are well known.
And as soon as the Rajah learns about his bully lying dead in the
rain he will--"

"Oh no, he won't," said Chullunder Ghose.  "He knows I could
appeal to the Resident if he should have me arrested.  Even if he
locked me in a secret place, he would know that you or some one
else could--"

"Could avenge your death.  What good would that do?  He would
swear that you had died by an accident and bring a hundred
witnesses to prove it.  Then what?"

Chullunder Ghose smiled and sipped tea.  Then he helped himself
to an expensive cigarette.  "The god of accidents," he remarked,
and blew the sweet smoke through his nose, "is a respecter of
persons.  Self am favorite.  You ascertain the odds as soon as
possible, and bet on this babu."

"I never bet."

"No?  Why, then, did you lend His Highness, yesterday, ten
thousand rupees, as you say you did?"

"Only five thousand.  I took his note for ten."

"What is that but betting--on a, weak quail?"

"I agreed to lend another five--same terms, same interest
--provided I receive the contract to supply grain for the elephants
for five years.  That is why Syed-Suraj waits outside there.  He
has brought the contract.  He has come for the money."

"You believe, then, that the Rajah will continue on the throne as
much as five weeks?" asked Chullunder Ghose.  "For a man of
affairs you are credulous--credulous.  Pour me more tea."

"We could do without him," Ram Dass answered, pouring.  "But they
tell me his cousin is dying--poison, no doubt.  So who shall
succeed him?  The British always shut their eyes and ears unless
they see a way clear;  and the whole world knows they have
trouble enough with Gandhi and the Nationalists, and the Round
Table Conference, and unemployment, and God knows what else.
They certainly don't want to have to add this State to British
India.  The nervous old wreck at the Residency, who would have
hysterics if he were called on to act with determination,
is sufficient proof to me that the British don't mean to
be drastic."

"Any rioting yet?" asked Chullunder Ghose.

"No, none yet.  This is bad weather for rioting.  There will be
some, though, unless some one kills that tiger.  Priests are just
as stupid as Princes;  they have overdone it this time, and they
don't know how to back down.  As if the Rajah would care that
their tiger eats a hundred people!  That will only react on the
priests when people wake up.  Then what?"

"Let us interview the jackal."

"Bring him in here?"

"Why not?  But why lend money?"

"I want that contract."

"Have it.  But save five thousand rupees.  Hawkesey never takes
commissions.  Offer Hawkesey good grain at a fair price, promise
him you'll not cheat, and ask him to get you such a contract next
month.  Hawkesey is on the establishment.  A change on the throne
would make no difference to Hawkesey's job.  He loves those
elephants.  Moldy corn delivered to the elephants would make
Hawkesey your enemy.  I think I would prefer the tiger--or
myself.  I also am a sentimental adversary.  _Verb. sap._"

Syed-Suraj was admitted:  A discreet clerk bore a chair in front
of him and set it where the light would fall straight on its
occupant's face.  That act of courtesy made it perfectly clear to
Syed-Suraj that he was not being received as an equal.  The
democracy of corn-sacks was denied to him;  he was a mere
ambassador from a throne, looked upon from the corn-sacks with
contempt.  It amused him, or at any rate he tried to think
it did.

"I forgive you the lumbago on condition that I need not drink
tea," he remarked.  Then he faced Chullunder Ghose.  "You
certainly surprise me.  Where are you from?"

The babu winked at him.  "I surprised myself.  Question is, what
will His Highness do with _corpus delicti?_  Is it found yet?"

"Oho!  So you killed a man?"

"I?" said the babu.  "Telling you things is a lot too dangerous;
you have brains.  For instance, I would not dream of hinting to
you that a wise rat leaves a rotten ship."

Syed-Suraj produced one of his own cigarettes and lighted it,
cupping his hands around the match to hide his face a moment
while he controlled its expression.  Then he turned to Ram Dass:

"Do I get that money?"

"No," said Ram Dass.

"I have brought the contract."

"Tear it up," said Ram Dass.

Syed-Suraj stared from face to face.  Chullunder Ghose spoke
swiftly before Ram Dass could put in another word:

"You know something, don't you?  Why not tell us?"

"I have no news.  I was at the Residency.  Smith was as
usual--futile."

"Did you fall or were you pushed?" the babu asked him.  "I mean,
were you sent or sent for?"

Syed-Suraj dropped the cigarette and set his heel on it.  He
laid his hands on his knees and faced the babu.  He grinned
like a cat.

"If you want information," he retorted, "you will have to play
fair.  Is the net out for me too?"

"No," the babu answered.

"But the C. I. D.?"

"I never heard of that.  What is it?" asked the babu.

"Cursed Inquisitive Dog Department," Syed-Suraj answered.  "If
you won't play fair, damn you!"

"All right, I shall have to ask Smith what you talked about and,
if he does not tell me, I can tell him!  You were either sent or
summoned.  What is there for him and you to talk about but His
Highness, the priests and a tiger?  Did he send for you to talk
about the weather?"

"I believe you have already talked with Smith."

"Your beliefs are as unimportant to me as the day-before
-yesterday's dinner that I didn't eat," Chullunder Ghose answered.
"I wasn't joking when I said I think you have brains.  I am
giving you a chance to use them."

Syed-Suraj stared a minute at the oil-stove.  He looked at Ram
Dass, but the merchant was stroking a black cat that had laid a
dead mouse on the sacks beside him.

"Clever pussy!  Fool mouse ran the wrong way, did he?"  Ram Dass
tossed the mouse into a corner and the cat leapt after it.

Syed-Suraj drew a folded contract from his inner pocket, crackled
it to attract attention, and then tore it to pieces.  "A nod," he
remarked, "is as good as a wink.  Let us exchange confidences."

He was interrupted.  A turbaned clerk came in to announce that
Hawkes sahib wished to speak to Ram Dass.

"Ask him to be good enough to wait.  Be sure to give him a cigar."

The clerk went out again and Syed-Suraj assumed a rather bored
expression.  He had evidently thought of a bright idea;  he
wished to hide its newness;  he was conscious that the bright,
mild eyes of Chullunder Ghose were studying him--smiling.

"Well, it was, as you say, about the tiger," he began.  "I went
for a quite informal conversation, but Smith seemed worried about
the Rajah's difficulties.  One thing led to another until we got
pretty deep into local politics, and at last he asked me my
opinion.  So I gave it.  I suggested he should shoot the tiger.
He objected, so I offered an alternative.  I told him to ask
Hawkes to do it.  That ought to solve the problem.  Hawkes can be
the scapegoat afterwards."

"Does Smith pay Hawkes?" asked Ram Dass.

"No.  The State of Kutchdullub pays Hawkes.  Smith saw that
point.  You got Hawkes his job, Chullunder Ghose;  so I suggest
that you should tell Hawkes to go after the tiger.  Hawkes would
listen to you.  You would get the credit with the C. I. D. for
having pulled a trigger that saved a nasty situation."

"And a nice, kind Rajah!  No," the babu answered, "we will let
you have the credit.  You may need it.  You tell Hawkesey."

"If I do, and if he speaks to you about it, will you put
a word in?"

Chullunder Ghose stretched his naked feet toward the stove to
warm them.

"Why not?  The suggestion, though, should come from you in the
first instance, not me.  I will add my influence."

"Then I will tell him now," said Syed-Suraj.  "May I count on you
also to mention my name in the proper quarter?"

Chullunder Ghose nodded.  Syed-Suraj bowed with semi-serious
respect to both men and went out, shutting the door behind him.

"Well, that settles it," said Ram Dass.  "You have saved a
situation, as he calls it.  But you have also saved a monster on
a throne that he defiles every day of the week.  You have
probably condemned the Rajah's cousin to a painful death by
poison.  You have certainly sacrificed Hawkes--and that means you
have cost me a contract.  I don't think you are so clever."

"Clever?" said the babu.  "I am treacherous.  And I believe in
devils.  I believe I know them when I see them.  Don't keep
Hawkesey too long."

Ram Dass, contract still in mind, went out to do the honors.
Five minutes later he himself led Hawkes in.  Hawkes looked
curiously like a London Bobby with his long black waterproof and
the hood drawn up over his head.  He was wholesome.  As he pushed
the hood back and his eyes grew used to the gloom amid piled-up
corn-sacks, he stared--grinned--held out his hand:

"You, you damned old son-of-a-gun!  Say, when did you blow in?
And why not my house?  Damn--I'd sooner see you than a pay-raise!
Remember last time you and I got drunk together?  It's about time
for an encore."

"Drunk since?" asked the babu.

"Hell, no!  You're the only one I drink with.  I could pass for a
teetotaller if you weren't living."

"What is new?" the babu asked him.

"Nothing.  Same old round of checking up and finding fault.  Yes,
there is, though--damn, the sight o' you 'ud make a man forget
his mother.  Have you heard o' the tiger that's killing and
eating 'em, over beyond the river?"

"I have seen that tiger," said the babu.  "I have come from
there.  I saw it kill a man."

"Trust you to know everything!  Smith as good as called me a liar
today for reporting it.  Was that fellow Syed-Suraj in here?  Do
you trust him?  He button-holed me as he went out, said he had
the Rajah's orders to instruct me to go after the brute tomorrow
morning.  Do you think that's on the level?"

"On about three levels," said the babu.  "What did you say?"

"Me?  I asked for it in writing."

"Hawkesey, you are much too sane to do me any credit!  You should
have been the Unknown Soldier!  Take an elephant and start
tomorrow morning.

"Do you mean that?"

"But you must not shoot the tiger!"

"What's the idea?"

"You must find out for me how they keep a tiger in a ruined
temple and persuade it to return when it has finished hunting.
When you have found that out, you must come back and tell me."

"You've the call on me," said Hawkes.  "I can't say no to you.
You know that."

"Some men can forget more easily than you do, Hawkesey.  Can you
manage to get word to Syed-Suraj?  Ask to see him.  Say you
didn't understand him.  Ask him to repeat the conversation.  Then
agree to start tomorrow.  And then do it.  But as one friend to
another, kindly--please--don't kill the tiger, even if he bites
you!  I require him."

"Alive?"

"Yes, and gnashful!  Teeth, tail, talons and a nasty disposition!"

"Won't you tell me what the game is?"

"Hawkesey, I would tell you anything, if only you weren't
honest!  Wait until afterwards.  But bring back word and
tell me all that happens."

"O.K., since it's you, old trusty."




Chapter VIII.

       "It happened thiswise, sahibs."


The head mahout was angrier than even the monsoon weather
justified.

"Ten thousand devils take that Haw-kiss-ee!  Now he gets up in
darkness to punish the sun if it rises late!  See him look at his
watch that he doubtless stole from some one! Hurry-hurry-hurry!"

It was a presentation watch;  it had been given to Hawkes by a
grateful general as a reward for inventing a wonderful trick for
teaching raw recruits to shoot straight.  He had saved his
country millions of pounds and nobody could ever guess how many
lives, but he rightly considered the watch a more than ample
compensation.  It was a chronometer watch.  It had been made by
scientists.  Hawkes had a touching and abiding faith in science.

That was half the secret of his friendship with Chullunder Ghose.
He knew the babu could talk nine languages and think in terms of
quantum;  drunk or sober, he could quote Kant, Einstein, the
Mahabharata, Shakespeare, and Plato with equal humorous
familiarity.  So the babu was on a pedestal in Hawkes's mind.
But there were other reasons;  the babu was a genuine friend in
need, with secret influence that he had earned by merit.  It was
the babu who had wangled him the job that saved him from the
dreaded half-existence on a color-sergeant's pension back in
England and enabled him to keep his sisters off the dole.

So whatever the babu said or did was scientific, straight,
dependable, in Hawkes's opinion, to be betted on--blind, if need
be--and unquestionably on the level.  There were no reserves in
Hawkes's mind;  he had tested the babu and judged that he could
trust him.  Dynamite might modify Hawkes's judgment by destroying
Hawkes, but he was otherwise as changeless as the honest flavor
of an onion or as the habit of water to run downhill;  which was
why the babu liked him.  And Hawkes started on an elephant at
daybreak, having talked the evening before with Syed-Suraj as
requested, because Hawkes invariably kept a promise.

He was curious, but not offended, to discover that a sly-eyed
villager from beyond the river wished to ride with him.  The
fellow had a big new knife in an embossed sheath and was
inordinately proud of it.  He also had a _chiteh_ from the babu
--just a scrap of paper, with the words:  "Please take him.  C.G."

"Up you get," said Hawkes, "you naked golliwog;  you'll need a
blanket.  Here, take this one.  You may keep it."

It had been a good one in its day.  It was an _ante bellum_
blanket, big and beautifully criss-crossed by a German-Jew
designer's notion of a Highland tartan.  It was a bit ragged, but
the hole in the middle would do to stick a fellow's head through.
It established in the mind of the villager the opinion that
Hawkes was a wealthy and profligate man, from whom important
favors might be coaxed if he were suitably managed.  The question
being how to manage him, he sat silent at the rear of the howdah,
on the left-hand side, remembering all the tales he had ever
heard about a white man's blind obedience to unknown laws.  He
naturally got them badly mixed up;  it seldom happens that a
naked plowman from a mud-and-wattle village by a jungle
understands an Englishman, however hard he tries to.  But
he can try.

The elephant squelched through the mud and enjoyed it.  The
howdah bellyband, his belly, and his legs, became a slimy,
comfortable mess that did not dry and cake off, since the rain,
that had lessened a bit and had warmed since yesterday, streamed
down his sides in rivulets and kept the paste thin.  The mahout
was miserable, since he had to face the rain;  but he did not
dare to vent his temper on the animal, because he knew Hawkes's
strange objection to the habit;  and he also knew that Hawkes had
whisky with him.  Liking whisky, he proposed to be rewarded with
a tot for good behavior.  And the elephant, who also liked it,
knew that Hawkes invariably spared some, to be poured on the
enormous loaf of corn-meal that formed part of the load in the
howdah.  So it was best foot first, to reach dinner as soon as
might be, and in spite of the rain and the hurrying clouds there
was nobody feeling that life did not have compensations.  Hawkes
smoked, with a hand over his pipe to keep the rain from drowning
the tobacco.

On the left was jungle, on the right an endless waste of water
reaching to the sky-line, that would presently be plowed fields
when the flood subsided.  Far ahead were mountains curtained by
pearly mist that sometimes, when the wind grew squally, let the
sun through and presented sudden vistas of green-and-gold
forested ranges.  There was not a human to be seen until the
villager grunted to call Hawkes's attention, and Hawkes saw four
men in the khaki uniform of State constabulary, staggering along
through nearly knee-deep mud towards them.

They were carrying something.  It was a litter made of poles and
twigs.  A man lay on it, who was not in uniform.  They set down
the litter and waited for the elephant, and as it drew near two
of the men walked out into the road--looking determined--pulling
down their tunics and squaring their shoulders to show authority.

"Halt!" one of them commanded.  "Here we have a corpse.  It must
be taken to Kutchdullub."

"Do you mistake me for an undertaker?" Hawkes asked.  There was
neither love nor admiration lost between him and the State
constabulary.  He regarded them as blackmailing bullies, in
league with criminals, and eager to be bribed by any one.  They
sullenly resented him as an alien who had no right to criticize
them, but who did it bluntly and without that tolerance that men
who drew the Rajah's pay should feel for one another.

"Who is he?" Hawkes asked.

"One of us.  He was on plain-clothes duty.  We were on patrol and
found him lying near here, raving with a cracked skull."

"Could he talk sense?" Hawkes asked.

"Not until shortly before he died.  Then he spoke of a cart.  But
if there was one, then the rain has washed away the marks of it.
And he spoke of a man in the dark, who struck him as they stood
together talking near the cart-tail."

From the howdah Hawkes stared at the muddied corpse on the litter
beside the road.  He observed an empty holster.

"Where is his revolver?" he demanded.

"Missing.  Whoever struck him, took it."

"What did the assailant look like?  Did he tell you?"

"No;  he said he couldn't see him in the darkness.  He could only
say a few words.  Then he grew delirious again and soon died."

"Was he on patrol too?  Why was he alone?  You plunderers
always hunt in couples, when there aren't a dozen of you.
What was he doing?"

"Secret duty."

"Dirty work, eh?  Why are you patroling?"

"We were looking for him."

"That so?  You expected trouble, did you?"

Silence.  Surly glances from the four men, then a sour grin
from the spokesman.  Hawkes stared at the litter again.

"What have you underneath that sacking?"  He could see the
edge of a shovel.  "You look like a burial party to me."

The villager in the howdah interrupted:

"It was a priest who did it," he said suddenly in Hawkes's ear.

One of the policemen overheard him.  "Come down here, you!"

"Stay where you are," Hawkes ordered.  "Tell your story."

Fame!  A pulpit!  Oratory from a Rajah's elephant!  Police for
audience!  A friend, not only reckless with expensive blankets,
but not even scared of the Rajah's "constabeels."  Ecstasy!  Also
a vision of favors to come!

"It happened thiswise, sahibs.  Having lost my old knife, I must
get a new one.  Therefore I swam the river and set forth on foot
to Kutchdullub.  There rode a priest in a cart, and I sought to
overtake the cart, being minded to ask the favor of a ride into
the city, as was not unreasonable.  Many a time that priest has
drunk our cow-milk at the village, it being he who brings the
he-goats for the temple sacrifice."

"What temple?"

"That one that lies in ruins in the jungle."

"Sacrifices?"

"Once a week that priest brings seven goats, all he-ones.  There
is a daily sacrifice.  However, we of the village offer no goats,
since a tiger slays too many of them, so we told the priests to--"

The constable swore impatiently to keep the story within limits.

"Tell what happened."

"Thus it happened.  As I overtook the cart--it labored in the
deep mud, sahibs--that one, he who lies dead, came forth from the
jungle suddenly.  He did not see me, but I saw him.  And I feared
him.  So I crouched in darkness.  I heard him say he would ride
in the cart.  But the priest said nay to that.  For they are
thrice-born swaggerers, those priests.  They fear a man's touch,
notwithstanding that the Lord Mahatma Gandhi teaches--"

"To the lowest hell with Gandhi!  Tell what happened."

"But I do tell.  He began to climb into the cart, holding his
revolver thus.  But the priest had a light--a peculiar one, like
a stick, that he flashed into the man's face.  By that light I
saw the priest's hand hold a club and strike the man twice on the
top of the head.  So he fell.  And he dropped his revolver.  So
the priest got down and, groping for it, found it.  He flung it
away.  I heard it fall into a pool of water.  Then the priest
returned into the cart.  I heard him command the driver to go
forward.  And, being frightened, I ran.  The cart was heavy and
the mud deep.  Therefore I reached Kutchdullub far ahead of it.
I bought my new knife.  And because I enjoy the special favor of
the Ruler of the Land, I now return home on a royal elephant."

"Get off the elephant before I drag you down," the policeman
commanded.  "You may tell that story, or another version of it,
at the _kana._"

But the villager appealed to Hawkes in silence, eloquent in
gesture.  Hawkes knew as well as the villager did what tortures
they would give him in a dark cell to induce him to tell a
lot more than he knew, and to edit his story to suit police
convenience.  It was not his business, but he had Chullunder
Ghose's note;  he felt he might be letting down the babu somehow
if he failed to interfere now.

"Go to hell," he answered.  "I'm in charge o' this man.  Two of
you had better hunt for that revolver that he says the priest
threw away.  If you find it, it'll be evidence.  One of you stand
by the corpse, and let the fourth man hurry to Kutchdullub
for assistance."

"Nay, nay!  That is the Rajah's elephant.  We will ride home on it."

"That so?--_Cheloh!_" Hawkes commanded.  The mahout knew better
than to disobey Hawkes.  The elephant resumed his squelching
progress through the mud.  Rain came down again in torrents.
Hawkes sat silent, with his coat up to his ears until the squall
ceased.  Then he turned his head abruptly.

"You're a liar," he said to the villager.  "Why did you tell that
mess of lies?  If it was true, you'd have held your tongue about
it for fear of being held as a witness."

"Nay, I spoke truth."

"Get down and walk then.  Swing yourself down by the elephant's
tail and go with the policemen!"

"Is the sahib angry that the priests should eat a little trouble?
They have made enough of it for other people.  They have said
their tiger only slays the wicked.  So our village has become a
by-word, and other men mock us to our faces.  Nobody will slay
that tiger for us, and the priests say--"

"Cut it short now.  Who did kill the police spy?"

"Nay, I know not."

"Do you mean you invented all that yarn?  Then down you get and
go back.  You're too big a liar to ride on a decent elephant."

"But is the sahib not the friend of him who sent me with the
_chiteh?_  And if the sahib's friend should be accused of slaying
some one, would the sahib like that?"

Hawkes stared.

"I am a poor man," said the villager.  "I thought if I should
save the sahib's friend from accusation, then the sahib possibly
might give this humble person a reward."

Hawkes continued to stare.  "Did you see the man killed?" he
demanded.  "Did you see who did it?"

"Yes, but no matter.  I have turned the blame on to those bloody
-minded Brahmins.  If the sahib should give me fifty rupees, I
could hide among the mountains until it is time to plow.  And for
a hundred I could stay away all summer."

Hawkes spat. "Not a rupee."

"But the sahib has an old coat.  It is tied in the roll of
bedding that is under the tarpaulin."

"You stay by me," Hawkes retorted.  "If I get a good report about
you from the babu you shall have what's right."

"But if he lies about me?  All babus are liars."

Hawkes stuck his pipe in his teeth, carefully lighted it, puffed
a few times and then leaned back against the bedding roll.

"If you think that about him, hook it," he suggested.  "The
elephant keeps his tail at that end.  Use it.  I'll look straight
ahead until we're past that big tree on the left hand."

"Nay, nay," said the villager.  "That babu said I am to ride free
all the way to the village."

Hawkes stuck his hands in his overcoat pockets and whistled
softly to himself.  The villager did not like that, because it is
well known that to whistle softly summons evil spirits;  so he
hummed a little nasal mantram said to disagree with evil spirits,
and sat meditating--wondering why sahibs are so complicated and
unable to discern the simplest way of solving riddles.




Chapter IX.

       "Talk with one another."


Crises on which destinies appear to hinge are sometimes
unimportant, being actually no more than the din of aftermath.
The genuinely change-producing undercurrents escape attention,
they are so deep and devious.  But they meet.  They create a
vortex.  Then the deluge.  And they who are caught in the deluge
rarely ever know exactly how and why it happens.

The Rajah was a man who did not see deep, although he thought
himself almost a Machiavelli.  He had plenty of spies;  but all
of them, except Syed-Suraj, had learned to tell him what they
guessed he wished to believe;  he had a way of striking off the
pay-roll any one who told unpalatable truths too often.  And he
read the papers, even though they bored him;  so he flattered
himself that he thoroughly understood the trend of world affairs.

_"Tu m'embetes!"_ he remarked to Syed-Suraj in the library.  "A
bat could tell you there's a revolution going on all over the
world.  It's economic, it's religious, it's scientific, and it's
social.  It will end in the break-up of empires--as happened to
Rome, and to our Moghuls, and to Napoleon's half-finished scheme.
And then what?  The survival of the fittest!  Princes who are not
such asses as to give a damn what other people think, will come
into their own again.  Pour me a brandy-and-soda.  India, within
a year or two, will be a welter of what that idiot Wilson
preached as self-determination--take my word for it--each State
for itself, to hell with all the others, and the English, thank
God, stewing in their own grease on an island in the North Sea.
All I need is to prevent the priests from getting too much power.
Just now I'm letting them go too far, on purpose.  Later, when
the crash comes, I won't need them;  they will need me.  Have a
drink too?  Why not?"

"It will need a clear head to--ah--to follow your line of
thought," said Syed-Suraj.  "I am not a statesman.  But I
run your errands.  Wouldn't it be safer if you took me
into confidence?"

"About what?"

"What have you done, for instance, that I don't know?"

"Nothing, except that I've sent a party out to bury that babu.  I
picked four men notorious for criminal associations.  They are
men who won't talk--won't dare."

Syed-Suraj blinked his bright eyes, hesitated, and then changed
the subject.

"Any news of your cousin?"

"Not yet. That doctor of yours from Madras is a slowcoach."

"He has made a lot of money out of life-insurance cases," said
Syed-Suraj, "and he understands the dangers of an autopsy.  He's
a safe man.  But have you paid him?"

"Why ask?  You know as well as I do that I'm personally broke.  I
will give him a thousand rupees from the five you got from Ram
Dass.  Then let him whistle.  He won't dare talk."

"I'm afraid of the priests," said Syed-Suraj.  "They are subtle."

"Are they?  They will find themselves out-subtled!  Hawkes is on
his way to shoot their tiger, isn't he?  I may have to fire
Hawkes for a scapegoat.  But what of it?  There are plenty of
Hawkeseys.  Every one will understand that the tiger trick was
rather neatly turned against them.  They will be laughed at.  It
will cost them prestige.  And what is left after that of their
prestige will fall in the mud when the news breaks that my
beloved cousin can't succeed me on the throne for rather concrete
reasons!  After that, what can they do but make their peace with
me?  No heir!  Do they want the British to take over the State
and run it Gandhi-fashion--brotherhood with Christians, Sikhs and
Moslems--child-marriages unlawful--caste repudiated?  Not they!
The priests will decide to put up with me!  And they will pray
for a son of my loins to inherit the throne!"

"It sounds good," said Syed-Suraj.  "How about my rake-off, by
the way, of the loan from Ram Dass?"

"Get the balance.  Then I'll pay you."

"But he won't lend any more."

"Try him again, if you want your rake-off, as you call it.  Take
my car and go and see him."

But Syed-Suraj did not take the Rajah's Rolls-Royce.  Neither did
he go to Ram Dass.  He had debts of his own, and a craving--not
to pay his debts exactly, but to place a stake to windward where
his creditors might whistle for it.  He was nervous.  He felt
that the Rajah had gypped him out of a commission, and he
savagely resented it.  He could not go directly to the priests,
and offer to betray the Rajah to them.  They would probably
decline an interview.  But there are ways and ways of doing things.

There never yet was an important priesthood that did not
subsidize a more than ultramontane lawyer to direct its contacts
with temporal government.  Ananda Raz was a Brahmin schooled in
those arts.  He kept an inoffensive-looking office in the square
where the wealthier merchants had their shops, and did a
lucrative legal business.  Thither walked Syed-Suraj, carrying
his own umbrella, because, although he hated Brahmins, he knew it
rarely paid to put on airs in their presence, even if one has
adopted Western habits and repudiated caste to some extent.  One
may afford to smile sardonically at the very mention of religion,
but it is wise not to flourish one's offensive affiliations in a
land where priests have teeth and competent attorneys.

There was the usual outer office, white-washed, full of meek
clerks and spidery files;  and there was an oil-stove in the
midst, because Ananda Raz was prosperous and liked to have his
clerks half-thawed as well as half-starved--meekly eager, that
is, and aware that their employer thought about their little
comforts.  Next, between outer and inner office, was a waiting
-room without a stove, as dark as a police cell, furnished with
one plain table and one rigidly plain chair.  After a minute or
two of mysterious conversation through a tube, Syed-Suraj was
conducted to the waiting-room and left there.  He was very
interested in the thickness of the ancient wood partition between
the waiting-room and inner office.  It was almost a museum piece
--incongruous.  He wondered at the richly carved panels, and as he
examined them, he saw a panel slide the merest fraction of an
inch.  So he sat down and glanced at his watch, a bit disgusted
that he could not recognize the eye that he could easily see
peeping at him through the opening.  The eye vanished.  The panel
closed again--almost.  There was still a thin crack--quite
unusually careless for a man of Ananda Raz's distinguished
habits.  Syed-Suraj put his ear to the crack.  He forgot for the
moment that his name had been announced through a speaking-tube,
so it did not occur to him that the crack might have been
carefully left to induce him to listen.

Ananda Raz was speaking--wheezily, squeakily.  Even the attorneys
of the pious now and then have asthma.

"The priests repudiate all knowledge of the tiger," he said.  "If
His Highness won't keep his promise to rebuild that temple, no
one but he is to blame if a tiger occupies the ruins and
slaughters villagers.  If there are riots on account of it, he
will be answerable for that too.  As the legal member of the
Legislative Council, I shall raise that issue at the very next
session, no matter how many members he thinks he has under his
thumb, and no matter how many threats are aimed at me.  And I
assure you"--he began to whisper, an asthmatic rasp as noisy as
an engine's safety valve--"I mistrust that doctor from Madras who
is attending the Rajah's cousin."

"I know him," said another voice.  "He is a charlatan."

"I intend," said Ananda Raz, "as soon as possible to send another
doctor to the Rajah's cousin, at my own expense if necessary."

"There is," the voice answered, "as it happens, a doctor at rail
-head--just over the border--at the Sikh dispensary--an American.
He is an enthusiast who would cost you next to nothing."

Panic seized Syed-Suraj.  Cold sweat crept along his forearms.
As the Rajah's Dick-o'-dirty-work, suspicion would certainly fall
on him if some reputable doctor were to diagnose poison.  And he
knew his Rajah.  Cousin-poisoners and money-gyps are hardly
likely to protect their intimates if danger to themselves looks
serious.  He could see himself hanged as a murderer--could almost
see the Rajah grinning over perjured evidence.  The cold sweat
turned to hot sweat and again grew cold before the inner office
door was opened and Ananda Raz invited him to enter-melancholy
looking, shrew-nosed, small Ananda Raz, in a neat white turban,
gold-bespectacled and irritable, wearing the thread of the
"twice-born."

"You are unwelcome, but never mind.  I am busy, but I dare say
that it doesn't matter."

That was a bad beginning, although only the obvious Brahmin
reaction to his having omitted the phrase "I kiss feet."  Nobody
who wants a Brahmin's good-will should omit that formula.  But
there was worse to follow--a shocking spectacle.  In a chair
outside the railing beyond which no non-Brahmin might trespass
with calamitous impurities, near the lawyer's desk, Chullunder
Ghose sat smiling like a fat, complacent toad!  The most
dangerous man in the C. I. D., in confidential standing with the
enemy's attorney!

Syed-Suraj had not meant what he said when he told the Rajah he
was not a statesman;  he did not consider himself a rat who would
pimp for a rattlesnake if there were comfort in it.  There was no
comfort here--none whatever.  He had overheard the conversation
through the crack, so he knew that Chullunder Ghose at least
suspected that the Rajah's cousin was being poisoned.  Not
improbably the babu also shrewdly guessed who had instigated the
attempt to murder himself;  he had probably added two and two
together and was out for vengeance.  It was time for Syed-Suraj
to swap horses.  He tried it instantly:

"Am I right," he asked--he looked directly at the babu--"in
supposing that the C. I. D. have sent you to contrive a political
change here?  An important change?  If so, I might help you.  I
am thoroughly disgusted with the goings-on.  I have done my best
to solve the tiger difficulty;  as you know, it was I who told
Hawkes to shoot the brute."  He hesitated, then stared at Ananda
Raz, conjecturing what shot might penetrate the Brahmin's
prejudices.  "This morning I spent an hour attempting to convince
the Rajah that he ought to purify himself and make peace with the
priesthood.  But I can't convince him."

"You are his intimate.  Why not set him the example?" Ananda Raz
ask pointedly.

"I can't afford it.  And, besides, it might lose me the, Rajah's
--ah--friendship, and that would destroy my usefulness."  He eyed
Ananda Raz.  "I could do it afterwards."

"What do you mean--afterwards?"

"A more generous patron might--ah--might provide me with the
stiff fees that the priests demand for ritual purification.  If
the Rajah's cousin knew how sincerely I would work for and
welcome his--"

Ananda Raz snorted.  He seemed unimpressed.  He wiped his spectacles.
"If you have anything to tell us, tell it," he breathed.  It was
too like a snake's hiss to encourage indiscretion.  Syed-Suraj
grinned back, catwise.

"Make me an offer," he suggested.

But it was Chullunder Ghose who made the offer--suddenly, before
Ananda Raz could answer:  "Get out of the State, and stay out."

"But I can't afford it.  Can't you see, you fool, that you should
use me?"

"How so?" asked the babu.

"I could get proof!"

"Proof of what?"

"Some one is murdering some one."    Chullunder Ghose smiled like a
seraph.  "Yes," he said, "and certain sorts of murderers need
parasites to cover up their tracks--sycophants to hire their
doctors from Madras.  Get out of the State, you jackal!  Leave
your royal tiger to the huntsmen!"

Syed-Suraj wilted.  "Oh, all right," he answered, "since you put
it that way."

"If I catch you here tomorrow--"

"I will go today.  I will take tonight's train."

"Get a permit from the Rajah.  You will need it.  And I don't
care what you tell him," said the babu.

Syed-Suraj strode out, dignified--if dignity consists in throwing
up one's chin.  And it is difficult to hold that pose and notice
things, still more difficult if one must hold an umbrella against
a rainstorm.  He did not, for instance, notice a man in rags, a
beggar possibly, who followed him almost as far as the palace
gate.  The ragged, dish-faced person dodged behind a tree six
feet away, exactly at the moment when a mud-bedraggled member of
the State constabulary, staggering with weariness, stepped out
from the shelter of that same tree and confronted Syed-Suraj.  It
was squally;  the constable seized the umbrella and held it to
windward, protecting them both.  So most of the conversation
reached the man who listened.  He was downwind.

"Careful, sahib!  Some one, who I think is a friend of the
fat babu, just now offered me ten rupees to tell what I know.
I refused."

Unfortunately, silver jangled in a tunic pocket, and it was
certainly not pay-day.  However, that might be coincidence, and
Syed-Suraj pretended not to notice.  The constable continued:

"Something went wrong.  He who should have slain that babu was
himself slain by a priest from Kali's temple, who was on his way
from having taken goats for sacrifice at that old ruin in
the jungle."

"Who said that?  Who knows it?"

"We four found the body.  And Hawkes knows it.  With Hawkes, on
an elephant, is he who saw the deed done--a fool of a villager;
we would have brought him here in custody, but Hawkes said no;
he took the fellow with him.  What now?  May I have an elephant
to bring the dead man to the city?"

Syed-Suraj sneered back:  "How do I know?  What do I care?  Ask
His Highness."

"He is in his _bibi-kana._  None may summon him," said the
constable.  His voice held envy or contempt;  it was not easy to
tell which.

"Do you expect me to enter the zenana?" Syed-Suraj retorted.

"Wait here until you are sent for."

"I am weary, sahib."

"Constables sometimes are, they tell me.  What are you paid for?
Wait there."

Syed-Suraj hurried toward the palace, still not noticing the
dish-faced man behind the tree, who ran before the rain until he
once more reached the office of Ananda Raz.  But he did not
enter;  he sat in the rain and waited for Chullunder Ghose.  He
appeared to be doing, it might be, penance, wrapped up in a piece
of ragged sacking.

Syed-Suraj went into the palace and demanded instant audience
with the Rajah.

"If he has a dozen women in his lap, I don't care!  I will see
him now--do you hear me?  Tell him."

So the Rajah fumed into the library, showing his teeth.  He
smelled of blended perfumes.  "What the devil does this mean?"
he demanded.

"Good-by!  I'm off."

"Curse your impudence!  I'll shoot you like a dog if you ever
again dare to summon me from the zenana!"

"Never again, I assure you!  Give me my percentage of the loan
from Ram Dass."

"To the devil with you!  All you do is badger me for money!"

"Better pay me this time, or I might talk!  I'm deserting you.
That's final."

"You treacherous swine!"  The Rajah turned his back, but watched
the mirror.  He opened the mirror--took out a revolver--faced
about abruptly.  "Dog of a traitor!  What does this mean?" he
demanded, walking forward.

Syed-Suraj backed away from him.  "Steady now, steady!  I've
warned you often enough against your temper.  Don't make matters
worse by--"

"Tell me, damn you!  What has happened?"

"Nothing, my good man;  oh, nothing, oh, dear me, no!"  Syed
-Suraj found that tart sneer irresistible.  "I warned you.  Did
you listen?  Not you!  Now the priests know you are poisoning
your cousin!  Furthermore, Chullunder Ghose is alive, in the
city, in touch with the priests--one of whom killed the man whom
you sent out to murder Chullunder Ghose.  Do you suppose the babu
doesn't guess who ordered him killed and buried in a swamp?  And
what does that mean?  That you have the C. I. D. against you!
That is why I am going.  Give me money and a travel permit."

The Rajah took three steps forward.  "You propose to desert me,
eh?  You propose to betray me from over the border!  Probably you
hope to toady to my cousin!  Speak, you hyena!  Have you sold
yourself?  To whom?  For how much?"

Syed-Suraj backed away again.  He struck a footstool--staggered.
Probably the Rajah misinterpreted the sudden jerk toward him in
an effort to recover balance.  He raised the revolver.  Panic
-stricken, Syed-Suraj clutched at his wrist.  The Rajah fired
three times, to summon a servant.

"Help!" he shouted.  "Help!  Help!" frenzy of indignation making
him forget he was using English.  Syed-Suraj, wincing as the
shots smashed the window-glass, struck at the Rajah and tried to
escape before a servant could arrive.  He poked two fingers at
the Rajah's eyes.  The Rajah shot him--twice--through the heart.
As he fell he kicked him four or five times in the face.

Then the Rajah's mood changed.  Languidly he turned and faced the
door.  It had opened.  His personal servant stood there.  He
signed to the man to close it and come nearer.  Then he stared
into the man's eyes.

"You, who saw what happened, did you see him take my revolver
from the closet behind the mirror?"

The servant nodded, wide-eyed, silent.

"Did you hear him threaten me?  And did you see him try to shoot
me, three times, as I stood between him and the window?"

The servant gravely bowed assent.

"And did you hear him boast that the priests will provide him an
alibi, and pay him handsomely for killing me, because they wish
my cousin on the throne?"

The servant bowed.

"And did you see me snatch the pistol from him?"

"It was well done," said the servant.  "Others saw it also.  I
will go and find them."

The Rajah poured himself brandy-and-soda, smiled, and drank it.

"Yes," he said, proud of his self-control, "bring them in.
Refresh their memories.  Talk with one another."

He drank another gulp of brandy--straight, and strode out, back
to the zenana.




Chapter X.

    "Who ever it is, is as scared as I am."


The rain ceased, but the river had risen;  it poured out of the
jungle with a gurgling rush that carried big trees ducking and
bobbing in mid-stream.  Men from the merchants' bivouac on the
near side gathered around Hawkes and warned him that not even an
elephant could cross for possibly a week to come.  No one could
remember such a monsoon.  They regretted having started out so
prematurely.  They were beginning to lack provisions;  they
described themselves as idiots for not having returned to the
city along with the man who had taken the fat babu for nothing;
nothing, mind you!

"But the babu had a way with him.  A madman.  Or perhaps a holy
person:  Holiness makes some folk impudent.  Besides, the owner
of the cart and horses was afraid of the woman across the river;
but the babu claimed to have authority from her.  It might be;
and she might be dangerous;  men say so.  There are great owls in
the jungle, and they cry too much;  men say they cry out to
announce the prowling of that woman and her tiger."

"Have you seen the tiger?" Hawkes asked.

"Nay, nay!  Could it cross the river?"

"How do the priests cross when they bring goats?  I'm told they
bring 'em once a week for a sacrifice of some sort in a ruined
temple."

"Who knows?  Some say they cross by a bridge.  The people
hereabouts won't speak of it, except as something to stay away
from.  They pretend it is guarded by evil spirits.  Now and then
they tell the truth, those villagers."

Hawkes's passenger had heard the conversation.  He admitted that
he knew there was a ruin--and a tiger--and a priestess.  The
tiger killed folk, and the priestess ate them;  everybody knew
that.  But a bridge?  He shook his head.

"How do the priests cross the river?" Hawkes asked.

"They sit on a mat, and the mat gets up and flies.  But some
say that the owls pick up the mat and carry it."

"That sounds more probable!" said Hawkes.

"Yes, much more probable.  How could the priests make a mat fly?"

The mahout was adamant.  His elephant could not possibly swim the
river, and he himself would rather die than ride into that jungle
to look for a bridge.

"For should there be a bridge, it might not bear the elephant.
And whoever heard of a bridge in a jungle?  But every one has
heard of evil spirits.  They are bad for elephants.  An elephant
goes crazy and kills, and smashes things, when evil spirits
enter him."

Threats, bribes, arguments, were useless, until at last Hawkes
gave the elephant a lump of corncake soaked in whisky, to
establish confidence, and ordered the elephant to hoist him up to
the mahout's seat.  With his legs behind the great beast's ears
he urged him forward.  The mahout's mind changed then.  He
declared his honor was at stake.  He shrieked disconsolately, as
a man should who, for honor's sake, must plunge into the midst of
devil's magic.  Hawkes crawled into the howdah and took his rifle
from its case;  but rifles are no good against devils.  The
mahout climbed by the elephant's knee to the elephant's neck;
white-eyed with terror he demanded whisky, which is good against
everything.  Hawkes gave him some.

Then tank-work, such as only elephants, of all living things,
can do--crushing, sliding, grinding, breaking, crashing into
undergrowth--plunging through the tributaries of the river,
following its course and smashing down the thickets--turning
aside for nothing but the big trees and the biggest boulders.
Time and again the howdah and its load were almost ripped off;
half a dozen times Hawkes swung by the arms from a branch of a
tree to save himself from being brained.  But the elephant waited
for him, and they went on, mile upon gloomier mile, drenched,
bitten by a million mosquitoes, leaving a track behind them that
a blind man could have followed if he only were amphibian.  And
at last, about four in the afternoon, the going became firmer.
Limestone cropped up through the tree roots and the trees were
less huge, although as dense as ever.  The weary elephant
appeared encouraged, as if he recognized the neighborhood of
humans, where a decent beast was likely to get dinner.  Suddenly
the river curved;  it thundered down a waterfall between sheer
flanks of limestone, with a fern-filled, rocky island in
the midst.

It was easy to see there had been a bridge there once upon a
time, although its fallen masonry had long ago been swept down
-stream by rain-fed torrents such as this one.  There had been a
road of some importance;  some of its paving-blocks, up-ended by
resistless trees, stood up like tombstones in the jungle.  For a
bridge now, there was nothing but a hand-rope, taut across the
river, and two tree-trunks--near bank to the island, island to
the far bank.  They were slippery with rain and only half
-trimmed;  branches blocked the way along them.  It was something
that a goat or a man could tackle;  for an elephant, it might as
well not be there.  The mahout grinned, chattering with terror,
but relieved because this seemed to be the limit.

Hawkes pulled out a flashlight from the bedding-roll, shouldered
his rifle by the sling and put some spare shells in his pocket,
filled the other pocket with some chocolate and biscuits, looked
to his flask and gave his orders.

"Set me down," he said, "and wait here.  Feed your elephant and
hunt some dry wood.  It's getting late;  if we have to make a
night of it we'll need fire."

He poured all that was left of the whisky on the elephant's big,
flat corn-loaves.  Then he started across the bridge.  It was a
slow job, although the rope helped;  the rifle and flask slings
kept on catching in the half-trimmed branches, and by the time he
reached the island he was dizzy with exertion and with the roar
of the torrent beneath him.  He rested on a pile of masonry that
had once formed a part of the bridge.  Then he glanced back at
the elephant-one of those sudden, intuitive movements that the
dogmatists explain away by calling them coincidence.

He could see the mahout in his place on the elephant's neck;  and
before that sight set thought in motion he became aware of
danger.  The mahout did not look round;  he merely urged the
elephant.  Before Hawkes could think or shout, the elephant was
going full pelt through the jungle, back along the way he came.
There was only a glimpse of him, gray as the tree-trunk shadows.
He was gone in a second.

Hawkes shrugged his shoulders.  It was no use swearing.  He would
kick the liver out of that mahout in good time.  Meanwhile, what
-next?  Forward was hardly likely to be worse than backward, and
he could not possibly struggle back to the ford before sunset.
Neither was it the slightest use to sit still.  Besides, he was
dripping wet;  the elephant had shaken down continual showers of
water from the trees, and Hawkes had a wholesome dread of a night
in wet clothes in the fever-ridden jungle.  He decided to go
forward and to look first for a place where he could spend the
night.  Next, he would look for dry wood.  Then, if there was any
time left before sunset, he would try to discover a path towards
the village on the far side of the river.  He was angry, but not
in the least discouraged.

The tiger, for the moment, gave him no concern whatever.  With
his double-barreled .577 express and sufficient daylight he felt
well able to care for himself;  by nightfall he proposed to have
a hot fire going that would keep any tiger away and be smoky
enough to defeat the much more dangerous mosquitoes.  Chullunder
Ghose's curious injunction not to shoot the tiger troubled him
least of all;  if he had seen the tiger there and then he would
have shot the brute without a moment's hesitation.  But as he
worked his way along the slippery tree-trunk, with the hungry
dark-brown flood beneath him, he did wonder why the babu should
have been so emphatic about it.

"Damn him, he knows me.  He should have chosen a native for this
job if he didn't want the tiger sent west."

Something hit him on the helmet.  It was a fine, big, padded
helmet with a waterproof cover.  It absorbed shock, so that the
stone, or whatever it was, did no harm except almost to make him
lose his footing.  Sacred monkeys sometimes swarm amid ancient
ruins;  thinking of the ruins that he hoped to find, he supposed
for a moment that one of the monkeys had pelted him, as they
frequently do.  He hurried to the far bank, scrambled to the
ground and looked up at the tree-tops.  Not a sign of monkeys.
But another stone hit him a crack on the jaw.

He unslung his rifle, cocked it, stared about him and aimed at a
sound.  There was something moving in a thicket, or behind the
thicket.  He was certain it was not a tiger.  Some one who had
flung that stone was lurking--looking at him.  He could feel
eyes.  He began to walk toward the thicket.  Something or
somebody scurried away, not making more noise than a furtive
animal, but it was an unrecognizable noise.  Elimination left no
probability except that a human being was trying to scare him
back the way he came, but was afraid to be seen.

"Hell!  Whoever it is, is as scared as I am," he reflected.
Knowing he was rather scared, he set his jaw and squared
his shoulders.

Half-light filtered through the trees of a jungle under heavy
clouds, induces nervousness.  It makes a sound seem half
-mysterious and wholly dreadful.  Hawkes was neither superstitious
nor a weakling, but the goose-flesh rose all over him.  He was as
dangerous then as dynamite.  He would have shot at anything he
saw.  But he could see nothing.  The trees were not nearly so
dense on this side of the river, due to sheet-rock that afforded
only random root-hold;  undergrowth was dense where it had found
a lodging, but there was not much of it to give a fair view in
all directions, except where boulders blocked the way.  Much of
the undergrowth was fern, a little less than waist-high,
drenching wet, but passable.  And, winding through the fern, if
not a track, at least something that faintly suggested one,
appeared to take an almost definite direction.  Much too nervous
now to care to stand still, Hawkes decided to follow that track.

It led away from the gloom of the jungle.  It presently curved
into a space of ten or fifteen acres where a fire had raged not
long ago and second-growth was barely knee-high.  Stumps and
charred downwood barred the way, but the footpath, more distinct
now, wound amid them.  On the right hand, sunset bathed the sky
in furious crimson.  On the left hand was a pond an acre in
extent, half-filled with lotus-pads and still surrounded by
limestone masonry, broken, but not so badly that one could not
see some of the steps that once had lined the pond on all four
sides.  And beyond the pond, the ruined temple.

It was a heap of grim blocks, tumbled by an earthquake.  Trees
had rooted in the cracks, and done more havoc than the tremors
that had wrecked the roof and some of the enormous columns.
Giant creepers, flaming in the sunset, seemed to tie the mass
together as if jungle-gods had drawn a net around it to preserve
its shapelessness.  Nothing remained of a temple, seen from
outside, except one huge image, partly fallen, tilted forward and
to one side, staring downward.  Unimaginably held by roots and
broken masonry, it grinned at its reflection in the still pool
--loathsome on a blood-red mirror--cruel, calm, impassionate.  A
million frogs made music to it.  On its head, amid the carving of
the hair, a seed had rooted and produced a drooping spray of
green that made the head look drunken.  And the coarse lips and
the lazy, heavy-lidded eyes smiled confidently at the glutted
drunkenness of death that swallows life, and even swallows death
itself, and ends in nothing.

Hawkes remembered he was hungry then and ate some chocolate.
There was plenty of charred wood that would make a camp-fire;
there was time enough, too, to gather up a good load.  Nothing
for it but the ruins;  he must take his chance of snakes
and hunt for a nook or cranny large enough to spend the night
in.  He could build a fire in the entrance and dry his wet
clothes.  Forward!

Fifteen minutes' scramble over fallen masonry and tangled
creepers brought him to a window, or what had been one.  It was
nothing but a shapeless, dark hole, but it opened into what the
flashlight revealed as a cell, about twenty feet by ten, with
walls of heavily carved limestone, and so deep in bat-dirt that
there was no guessing what the floor was made of.  At the far end
there were shadows and a broken masonry partition, but Hawkes did
not stay to examine those;  he went for wood.  After half a dozen
trips he had enough to keep a good fire going all night;  so he
frayed up tinder with his clasp-knife, economically built his
watch-fire in the middle of the hole, and set to work to clear a
piece of floor to sit on, scraping away the bat-filth with a
piece of charred wood.  The stench turned his stomach, so he let
it alone after a few minutes and decided to sit on a loose,
square block of stone that had a clean side when he turned it
over.  Then he pulled his clothes off and began to dry them at
the fire.

So he was naked, except for his socks and boots, when something
stirred away behind him in the dark beyond the broken masonry
partition.  He grabbed his rifle.  Then he pulled his trousers
on.  He listened.  Suddenly he used the flashlight, but it made
the darkness even darker where the shadows lay beyond the broken
masonry.  He felt his trousers slipping, so he had to tighten his
belt with one hand while he clutched his rifle with the other.
He held the flashlight between his knees;  the light went upward,
terrifying scores of bats that were disturbed enough already by
the watch-fire in the entrance.  By the time he had his belt
tight and the flashlight aimed again there was a woman staring
at him.

She had stepped from behind the broken half-wall at the far end.
One could tell she was a woman by her long hair, flowing to her
waist but gummed into ropes with blue mud.  From her breasts, as
flat as pancakes, to her knees, as gnarled as tree-knots, she was
covered with a goatskin apron.  She had no eyebrows.  Her eyes
glowed sullenly from dark holes in a wrinkled face that looked as
hard as bronze.  Her lips seemed hardly skin-thick, tight against
splendid teeth that were as yellow as amber.  Beauty that had
left her as the tide leaves the barren beaches, made her terrible
by hinting it had been hers.

And another thing was terrible.  Emaciated, scarred by thorn and
weather, she stood straight as a spear and as strong as an
Amazon.  Life had not left her;  it lingered and burned in a
scarred mask.  And she looked as if she hated life, that rioted
in sinewy, strong loneliness, and gave her nothing.

"Cheerio," said Hawkes.  "I've chocolate and biscuit.  Come and
have some."

No answer.  He repeated the invitation in Hindustani.  "Come on,
mother.  Come and share supper with me.  I'll forgive you for
hitting my jaw with a rock.  It was you.  No use lying.  Who else
could have done that?"

Again no answer.  But she beckoned, holding a long stick like a
spear in her left hand, motioning with her right arm stretched
out in front of her at full length, four upturned fingers
summoning, unmistakable.

"All right, mother.  I can lick you," he remarked.  "I'll follow."

She turned on her heel, and from behind she was as splendid
as a statue of youth, with the goatskin loosely drawn round
her loins and nothing but the long blue ropes of hair to hint
at old age.  The muscles of her back, as she moved, were
ripples in the flashlight.

"Hell!  I wonder--could I lick you?"  Hawkes thought.  But with
his thumb he set the safety catch of his rifle.  "Hell!  I'd hate
to shoot a woman.  Why not stay here?"

But he followed.  Curiosity was stronger than good sense.




Chapter XI.

      "How about a permit?"


Stanley Copeland suddenly--as such things happen--saw that
he had bitten off a mouthful that a dozen of him could hardly
have chewed.  He was getting no rest, and the Sikh was as
tired as himself.

"Say, you and I are like the old lady who tried to sweep back the
Atlantic with a house-broom," he said;  and the Sikh stared wide
-eyed at him, equally enthusiastic, equally conscious of human
limits, but guiltily aware of a waiting list of crippled, maimed,
and sick who had responded to the call of naive propaganda.

"We're like Germany, we need a moratorium," said Copeland.  "I'm
game to buy my standing with hard work, but you and I are just
snowballs in hell, that's what we are.  Next thing, both of us
will go sick.  Nurse each other, I suppose, eh?"

"But I have some very interesting cases for you," said the Sikh
apologetically.  "I am even hoping to bring you a leper."

"The devil you are.  You may not believe it, Kater Singh, but
what I crave now is strong drink and a tiger.  I'm sick of
patching cripples.  I want to kill something.  Philanthropy
palls.  If you brought me a really rare eye, I could walk out on
you.  That's the plain truth."

"God relieves the over-burdened," the Sikh quoted piously.  And
that was also true, apparently, because the door opened without a
knock that instant.  The Sikh scowled, not so positively, sure of
God's benevolence as speech might indicate.  Copeland turned
about and faced Chullunder Ghose, the omni-impudent, the all
-observing, genial and fat to look at in his English shooting
-jacket and his homespun loin-cloth.

"Don't you like it?" he asked, lifting the loin-cloth like a
ballet-girl's skirt.  He did a caricature of Pavlova.  "It is my
concession to Mahatma Gandhi.  All things in their turn to all
men--not too much, though, or they love you, and their love
is dreadful."

"Drink?" suggested Copeland.

"You will go far.  Never have I seen a swifter diagnosis.  Eighty
percent of diagnoses--so says Osler--are inaccurate, but yours is
_verb. sap._ to the ultimate dimension!  Let me warn you, whisky
is forbidden by the Sikh religion.  Order, therefore, three
drinks.  We will drink ours swiftly to preserve him from the sin
of voting too dry and becoming too wet."

Copeland produced the whisky bottle, and his servant brought the
glasses and siphon.  They drank in silence until Copeland set the
glass down.  "I'd forgotten what it tastes like!"

"Same here," said the babu.  "And the sun is shining!  Your eyes
assure me you have forgotten what that looks like!  Come and see
it!  Twenty million miles of mud--and only one macadam road in
all Kutchdullub!  But it leads you to the city, and it starts
here.  I've a Ford car."

"How about a permit?" Copeland asked.  "I've had a formally
polite but firm communication from the Foreign Office calling my
attention to section so-and-so of Order in Council number
umpty-um restricting the movement of aliens into Native States."

"Did it mention boils?" Chullunder Ghose asked.  "Boils on the
back of a bachelor's neck--of a hypochondriacal bachelor's neck
--of a white babu's neck--an officially dignified and economically
useless, ethically hypocritical anachronism's neck?  I think not.
Circumstances alter cases.  I could do the job as well as you
can, with a safety-razor blade.  But dignity would call that
impudence.  Besides, I need a mouse to help me nibble at the nets
of Humpty-dumpty on a rocking-horse.  He rocks like hell,
I tell you.  One shove--and we shall have his alternative,
probably worse, undoubtedly not much better, but different.
That is nature.  Work with nature, same as Osler ordered.
Are you coming?"

"You bet.  But coming where?  Why?  Do I get the tiger?"

"Yes, unless he gets you.  And unless you are afraid of moss-back
majors with a mid-Victorian morality that makes them fit this
epoch as a pig fits an automobile."

"Frighten me later on," said Copeland.  "You have pulled my cork.
I'm coming."  He grinned at the Sikh.  "You'll have enough to
keep you busy till I come back.  Keep all those eyes in the dark,
if you can, and remember what I showed you about draining deep
wounds.  Go slow with iodoform, and don't let 'em change their
own dressings.  I'll be back--when?"

"Then!" the babu answered.  "When it's over.  When the Major has
been recommended for a decoration, and when you and I have
received our reprimand!  Observe my belly;  it is obese with
reprimands.  The walls of my wife's bathroom in her home in Delhi
are bee-autified with fifty of them, framed in pale pink.  Let us
go now."




Chapter XII.

     "The devil quotes scripture, sahib."


Major Eustace Smith, in a sweater and blazer with a scarf round
his neck that gave him almost the appearance of a rowing man,
paced the tiled veranda, pausing at frequent intervals to glare
into the Residency garden.  He had to turn his whole body in
order to do it, because the boils on the back of his neck were in
the sharply painful stage.  The garden offered no encouragement;
it was a drab, wet, dreary wilderness of half-neglected flowers
ruined by the rain.  The sun had burst forth through the brown
-gray clouds, but nothing welcomed it except the weeds and a
lonely bull-frog, who reiterated big drum belches of enthusiasm
from an unseen puddle.

"Curse and damn my luck!" Smith exploded.  "Why the devil is that
fat brute taking all this time to bring a doctor?"  To have a
murder on his hands--a palace murder--with a little less than
three months more to go before leaving India forever--"Damn that
Rajah!  Damn and blast him for a skunk in velvet!  Does he think
this is Chicago?  To avoid a scandal I shall have to accept
whatever lies he cares to trump up.  But for two-pence, if I had
my own way, I would hang him, dammit!"

He had learned of the shooting of Syed-Suraj two hours after the
event, through palace spies who brought the information to the
back door.  He had spent a whole night disbelieving it, inertia
suggesting to him that it might, after all, be another rumor
cooked up by the Rajah's enemies.  But with the dawn Chullunder
Ghose had come--that scoundrelly babu with the know-nothing face
and omniscient eyes.  The babu had had the story first-hand from
the female servant of a woman in the Rajah's over-full zenana;
she had heard and seen the whole thing through a panel in the wall
above a bookshelf, where she had been lurking to report the Rajah's
movements for the information of her own neglected mistress.

And the worst of that was that Chullunder Ghose would write his
own report to a Department that regarded Smith as less than
nobody, but that employed the babu and accepted his information
at face value because--

"Oh, dammit!  Why do they insist on knowing everything that goes
on?  Not a chance for a man to use his own discretion!  I could
smooth this over.  I suppose they'll order me to investigate.
God-dammit, and the chances are some idiot will get his lies all
mixed up.  Then the cat's out of the bag--and gee-whiz!  I had
better send my own report in--telegram in code--before the babu
gets his off.  Confound him, the fat brute has probably wired
from rail-head!  I had better ask for full discretion, on the
ground that all reports are not in, and it may be possible to
clear the individual on whom suspicion now rests.  That's it."

He wrote his telegram, translated it to code, checked and
rechecked it, destroyed the original, gave the coded version to
his office babu to be signaled and then returned to the veranda.

He was nearly frantic from the bandaged neck boils when a Ford
car with a flat tire clattered to the front door, and its
abominable honking jarred Smith's nerves so that a murder seemed
like sweetly, reasonable justice.  If a snarl and a scowl could
kill he would have slain his servant.

"Show them in, you idiot!  The library--yes--where else?  Do I
receive visitors in the bathroom?"

He paced the veranda again a few times, trying to calm himself.
But the abominable bull-frog mocked him, a mosquito bit him and
he slapped his face to kill it.  That jerked his head and sent a
stab of pain into his neck that nearly made him cry out.

"Going all to hell!" he muttered.  "Eustace, old fellow, take a
pull now--steady!--steady!"

He thrust both his fists into the blazer pockets and tried to
stroll into the library, remembering that he had donned that
ancient blazer merely to impress the damned American, who very
likely would expect him to be wearing gold-braid and a cocked
hat.  Nothing like a little informality with foreigners.  It
takes em off guard.

"Ah, I'm pleased to meet you, Doctor Copeland.  It is very kind,
indeed, of you to come and see me.  I am only sorry that I had to
send a Ford car and a very unofficial babu to escort you.  But
the Residency staff is quite inadequate for such emergencies."

"That's perfectly all right," said Copeland, setting his bag on
the table.  He glanced at Chullunder Ghose, and even Smith could
see that those two understood each other.  Chullunder Ghose
answered the glance and then stared out of the window.

"Did you send a telegram from rail-head?" Smith asked.

"No, sir," said the babu.  He had sent one from the city before
seeing Smith that morning, in a code more intricate than Smith's,
so he was saved from lying.  But he would have lied, if necessary.

"I can see you need a sedative," said Copeland.  "Let me give you
that first.  As a working rule, it's not a bad idea to get rid of
the discomfort and then see what's left that needs attention."
He was looking into Smith's eyes.  He felt his pulse without
glancing at it.  "Tongue, please."  There were no apparent
symptoms of the solitary drinking that he half-suspected.  "If
you'll swallow these--"  He gave him three big, sugar-coated
pellets.  "Now, if I may have a basin of warm water, we'll take
that bandage off."

"Is yours what you would call a bedside manner?" Smith asked.  He
could not resist the impulse to be disagreeable.  He hated any
one who dared to take charge.  The suggestion to remove the
bandage should have come from himself, as the senior.  "May I ask
how much your fee is for a consultation?"

Copeland stared at him, then caught the babu's eye again
and smiled.

"There will be no charge for the consultation.  I will tell you
in advance how much the rest of it will cost you when I know what
needs doing."

"And if I let you do it!"

"Quite so"

Then the basin came, and towels.  Smith sat with his back to a
window and Copeland carefully undid the bandage.  Then he wetted
the dressing and snatched it off so suddenly that Smith screamed.
"Dammit!  Oh, my God, that hurt me!"

It had hurt him all right.  He put his head between his hands and
moaned;  but that was eyewash, to explain away the scream;  the
pain was over in a fraction of a second.  Copeland studied the
boils.

"They're bad," he said, "and they'll be worse before they're
better.  Do you like pain?"

"That's an idiotic question!  What needs doing?"

"I should say you need to wangle me a permit to go tiger-hunting."

"Quite impossible, my dear sir.  You Americans imagine you can do
as you jolly well please, whatever government you favor with
your disrespect.  But I assure you this is one place where
you toe the line like other people.  You may not go after
tiger in Kutchdullub."

"I will bandage you again," said Copeland.  "Keep still."

"Do you mean you can do nothing for me?"  Smith turned suddenly
to look at him.  The involuntary movement was a torture worse
than pulling off the dressing, and it lasted longer.  "Yow!  It's
agony, I tell you!"

"No doubt.  But it isn't serious," said Copeland.  "You can stick
it out, I reckon.  Once a surgeon names his fee it's scarcely
ethical to take less.  My fee is a tiger permit--just one tiger."

"I have no authority to grant one."

"Then we're two of a kind," Copeland answered.  "I have no
license to practise surgery in the State of Kutchdullub.  I have
a complimentary license for British-India, but Native States
aren't mentioned."

Smith smiled, forcing it;  he tried hard to recover geniality and
decent manners.  "Did you see the British flag?" he answered.
"Within the walls of this Residency you are on British ground."

But either somebody had tutored Copeland or he had done his own
thinking exceedingly well in advance.  "That may be law," he
said, "but it's a mighty thin excuse for me to bet on.  I came
here to treat boils, not to split hairs.  Do I get a crack at
tiger?  Come along, I'll match you!  You risk your certificate,
and I'll risk mine!"

"Perfectly unheard of!" Smith exploded.  But Chullunder Ghose
came over from the other window and, as meek as Moses, sat at
Smith's feet, smiling upward.

"Will your honor kindly send for secret correspondence file and
study letter number O-A-7, date of August 30th?" he asked.  "I
saw a copy of it.  Same applies to this case."

"You may go to the devil," said Smith.  But his memory stirred
uneasy thought.  Official secret correspondence was about as rare
as fresh eggs for his breakfast, so he could hardly forget that
letter.  But the babu quoted from it--one whole paragraph:

In view of all the circumstances, it is therefore urged upon all
acting representatives of H.M. British-India Foreign Office to
avoid any but the most discreet and only absolutely necessary
interference at the courts of Native States.  It is important
that the public should not be encouraged, at this juncture, to
believe that Native Princes are in any danger of removal from the
throne or of loss of prerogatives;  since obviously, if that
impression should gain ground in an already heated and disturbed
condition of affairs that may be likened to a major crisis, the
authority of Princes might be challenged by their subjects, with
results that it is difficult to foresee.

Smiling at him, confidently impudent, but curiously oozing a sort
of wise benevolence, the babu paused.  He had done with quoting.
Now for some diplomacy.

"The Devil," he said, "quotes scripture, sahib.  But your honor's
humble servant, this babu, is devilishly _compos mentis_ when it
comes to stern realities.  I think your honor would appreciate
an O.M., or perhaps a C.S.I., before retirement?  Same is
not impossible."

"Curse your damned impertinence!" Smith answered.  "Do you mean
you sell 'em?"

"Sahib, no.  I wangle 'em!  A decoration is a public honor worn
by diplomats who know enough to trust a totally dishonorable
person in a tight place.  This is tight place--very.  _Verb.
sap._  Self am a dishonorable person;  nobody could easily
imagine me bedecorated with a star and ribbon.  Reprimands are my
meat;  I enjoy same.  I was reprimanded--and received a pay-raise
incidentally--for getting the goods on the Afghan minister;  but
it was General Aloysius McCann who got the decoration.  General
McCann had hives;  they made him as indignant as a hornet in a
big drum.  He threatened me with mayhem.  But we saved an
international imbroglio, and he got decorated for it.  Now you!
Why not be a properly bejeweled personage at your retirement
three months hence?  And is the neck not painful?"

"Dammit, yes!" Smith answered, grateful for the opportunity to
answer yes.  Dignity did not permit him, in the presence of a
damned American, to traffic for a ribbon.  Humor beamed forth
from the babu's mild eyes.  He understood perfectly.

"Let us suppose that you make a mistake," he suggested.  "Then we
lose what?  Nothing!  You retire in three months--pension check
as regular as Hawkesey's presentation watch!  And you can blame
me, who am too notoriously unrespectable to dare to answer!  But
suppose it comes off--!"   "What do you propose to do?" Smith
asked him.

"Ah!  If I myself knew, I might argue with myself, and that is
fatal.  And if you knew, you might try to educate me, which is
much worse."

"But you dare to try to educate me!"

"God forbid it!  I propose that you should give this eleemosynary
eye-enthusiast a cagey sort of letter which his Yankee optimism
can interpret into an authority from you to shoot a tiger on the
Rajah's territory."

"I can't do it."

"He can make boils painless!" said the babu.  With an angry
gesture Smith repudiated the suggestion that his personal
discomfort influenced him in any way whatever.  But the movement
almost made him yell with agony.  He had to wait a minute before
he could speak.  He devoted the minute to furious thought.

"If you should tell me, on your honor," he said then, "that you
require this for the doctor for the purposes of C. I. D.  I could
stretch a point then.  But I would require such an assurance
from you."

"Sahib, I assure you on my honor that I need it."

"And your honor rooted in dishonor stands!" Smith answered.  He
could not resist the obvious retort;  he never could;  no more
than he could understand why so few friendships had graced his
career.  "It's a very risky course to take.  I know nothing of
Doctor Copeland.  However, I might give him a note to His
Highness asking for permission for him to go and shoat one tiger.
There would be no obligation to present the letter to His
Highness.  He might possibly interpret it as--"

"He will do so!" said the babu.  "Will your honor kindly
write it?"

Major Eustace Smith, as desperately nervous as a schoolboy
cheating at examinations, almost tiptoed to his desk.  He wrote
on Residency paper, with a quill pen, as illegibly as self
-respect would let him--blotted it, which made it more illegible
--inclosed it in an envelope, then crossed the room and handed it
to Copeland.

"That's your fee in advance," he remarked, "but I want it clearly
understood between us that I haven't given you permission to go
tiger-shooting.  I have merely asked His Highness whether he
would care to give you that permission."

"It's as good as Greek to me," said Copeland.  "I'm taking my cue
from Chullunder Ghose.  A Rajah and a circus amount to about the
same thing in my--"

"In your ignorance!" Smith snapped back.  "Now, will you be good
enough to earn your fee, sir?"

Stanley Copeland went to work on him with pitifully skillful
hands, a local anaesthetic and a lancet that had learned to stab
as accurately as a sculptor's chisel.  If he lacked a bedside
manner he redeemed that by precision and the confidence that he
had bought with hard work.  The relief on Smith's face, when the
job was over and the patient lying on the couch, was almost
comical;  his character, the habitual mask relaxed, leered upward
loose-lipped and selfish.

"Yours is an easy way to earn a living, isn't it?" he volunteered.
"In New York I suppose you'd charge a hundred dollars a boil
for play that's as easy to you as cutting toenails."

"No, in New York I would send you to a Christian Scientist," said
Copeland, "for a dose of divine intelligence.  Take these in
water--once every two hours, twice;  then every four hours.  Have
you some one who can change the dressing once a day?  Very well,
I'll look in on you on my way back to the border.  If anything
goes wrong meanwhile, just cross the border to the Sikh
dispensary--Kater Singh, his name is--he has no diploma,
but he's O.K."

"And we thank you," said the babu.  "Have we now your honor's
leave to give ourselves an absence treatment?"

"Certainly, yes.  Go to hell!" said Smith.  "You make me want
to get my gun and--"

"Good-by," said the babu.




Chapter XIII

     "Let us hope you have no conscience."


A spirit of mischief--nothing else whatever--actuated Copeland.
He was coming up for air, and neither principalities nor powers
--least of all a sense of reverence for stuffed shirts or
responsibility to dead tradition--controlled his behavior.  For
months on end--particularly for the last ten days, he had been
seeing humanity stripped, in the raw, with its weaknesses upward.
His regard for it was limited to sympathy, without much of the
sauce of admiration;  and at the moment, as long as the mood
should last, whoever failed to make him smile was no one, but
whoever gave him belly-laughs was somebody.  In plain words, he
was tired out, and Chullunder Ghose had dawned on him like the
rising sun at the end of a long, dark night.

The tire was still flat;  nobody had dreamed of fixing it.
Another tire went presently.  The babu drove serenely on the
rims;  he seemed unconscious of the jolting.  Also, he seemed to
believe that the horn was part of the propelling mechanism;  from
the Residency gate until they reached the city he scarcely
stopped using it.  There was an elephant in mid-street;  it was
half a mile ahead when they saw it first;  it was still in mid
-street when they caught up;  it remained there;  and the more the
babu honked, the less inclined it seemed to get out of the way.
The street grew narrower, and the crowds were out because the
rain had let up for a few hours;  it was a sullen swarm, touchy
from close confinement indoors, and averse to making room for any
one.  The elephant grew more and more afraid of the infernal
noise behind him;  the mahout, afraid of what might happen,
concentrated on his mount and never once glanced backward;  but
the babu kept on honking.

"For a C. I. D. man, I should say you advertise," said Copeland.
"If I was the elephant I'd face about and squash us like a pat of
wheat-cake.  What's your hurry?"

"That is the Rajah's elephant.  Observe the mud on him.  And
there is Hawkesey's luggage in the howdah, but no Hawkesey.  I
must talk with the mahout."

"You need a telephone.  Jee-rusalem, this is a crazy city!
What's that show ahead of us?  A circus?"

It was Kali's priesthood, reawakening the public consciousness of
death by holding a procession through the streets.  They had the
image of the goddess Kali on a huge float drawn by twelve white
oxen.  Conch-horns blared amid a jamboree of cymbals, drums of
lizard-skin, and jangling brass bells.  Drawn towards it down a
dozen streets, like water towards a central drain, the multitude
roared--surged--sweated--beat its breasts and grew delirious with
frenzy.  Those in front of the procession lay to let the sacred
oxen trample them, and had to be prodded away by the priests'
sharp-ended sticks--a substituted pain, symbolical of the invited
death and less embarrassing to the temporal power that prefers to
gather taxes from the living rather than support the orphans of
the dead.

A Ford horn honking at his rump, and all that din ahead of him,
the elephant chose hysteria as the only consolation left.  He
screamed.  He raised his ears.  He did a trample-dance in time to
the incessant drumming of the ankus on his aching skull.  And
then he charged into the crowd like three insulted tons of dark
-gray death endeavoring to slay them all at once.

"Oh, hell!  I go to work again," said Copeland.  But Chullunder
Ghose ignored that.  He had left off honking.  He had eyes for
nothing but the howdah.

The disturbance had awakened some one.  Out from under a
tarpaulin some one crawled who had his head through a hole in a
blanket and a decorated sheaf-knife hanging at his loins.  He
gave a glance at the catastrophe, then seized the howdah rail.
He almost flung himself over the elephant's rump--a whirl of
naked legs and lurid tartan.  But he caught its tail.  He
streamed out like a flying devil cast forth from a monster's
flaming entrails.  Then he let go suddenly, fell feet first,
tumbled backwards, did a perfect somersault and landed on the
radiator of the Ford.

"So that's that," said the babu.  "Where is Hawkesey?  Damn you,
where is Hawkesey?  There is nothing else I want to know, so shut
up and say where he is!"  Then he remembered he was talking
English.  He repeated the question, using the vernacular,
bringing the car to a standstill by the narrow sidewalk.  "Where
did you leave Hawkesey?"

Copeland got out, carrying his handbag.  He could see the
elephant embattled with the goddess Kali;  he was tusking at her
float and overturning it, while mortally indignant priests
engaged him with their sharp sticks and the sacred oxen milled in
only half-awakened panic.  Heroism had the priesthood by the
shoulders that day;  they stood up to the elephant, prodded him
and beat him on the trunk.  And heroism, as it usually does,
caught on, assuming curious disguises.  Some one on the sidewalk
brilliantly, instantly, decided the mahout was guilty.  Fury lent
him strength.  He tore up a cobblestone, flung it and hit the
mahout.  It brained him.  The mahout fell down beneath his
charge's feet;  and, having nobody to interfere with natural
behavior then, the elephant screamed a last defiance--and
departed up-street, scattering the sacred oxen.  There were
lots of cobblestones.  Innumerable heroes tore them up and
buried the mahout, a broken mess of blood and bones, beneath
a mid-street cairn.

"The Rajah's elephant" yelled some one.

No priest offering to stop that dangerous assertion of a plain
truth, tumult took it up and tossed it to the roofs, where women
yelled it to and fro until a quarter of a city knew the Rajah had
deliberately sent an elephant to wreck the chariot of Kali.  The
remainder of the city, pardonably swift to magnify a rumor, took
to cover and put up shutters, shouting that machine-guns, manned
by the Rajah's sepoys, had begun a massacre.  And Copeland, with
his coat off, set a leg or two and bound up bruises that
miraculously were the only irreligious damage that the elephant
had done.  (They were covering Kali's fallen image with a huge
sheet, to await the privacy of darkness.)

In the Ford car, on the front seat, fat babu and slender villager
engaged in argument.

"But you said you could use me.  Therefore do it.  I will tell
you nothing," said the villager, "until your honor guarantees
employment.  I will prove to you then what a father and mother of
brains your servant is.  I am a good one.  Write me on the roll
and pay me."

"I will kick you in the teeth unless you answer!"

"Nay, I have a new knife.  See it.  I remember now that Hawkesey
said I am to have his overcoat.  But that is in the howdah, and
the elephant is spilling things, so probably the priests will
take it."

"I will take you to the _kana,_" said the babu.

"Nay, nay!  That is where the constabeels are.  I have had enough
of that tribe."

"Very well then, tell me, where is Hawkesey?"

"How, do I know?  Am I God that I should know it?  All I know is
that a constabeel accused him on the way of having slain that
other plainclothes constabeel, who tried to slay your honor when
I saved your honor in the darkness.  Lo, they had the body with
them and they would have taken Hawkesey to the _kana;_  but I
told them priests had done it, so they let us continue our
journey.  And Hawkesey promised me the overcoat."

"And then what?"

"Why, later we came to the river.  But the elephant would not
swim the river, though I took him by the trunk and tried to make
him do it."

"Did you push him?" asked the babu.

"Certainly I did.  I pushed him in.  But out he came again, the
coward.  And then Hawkesey rode off looking for a bridge,
although I warned him that the jungle gods would not approve
of it."

"Did you ride with him?" asked the babu.

"Nay, not I!  I went and did a little puja to the gods, to keep
the devils from deviling Hawkesey.  I made a little image of an
elephant, of mud.  It took a long time, because I wanted no
mistake about it;  it must not be like a cow, or like a horse, or
like a common elephant.  It must resemble that one.  As I say, it
took a long time.  So the devils got Hawkesey."

"How so?"

"It was the fault of the mud.  It was too wet.  I had finished
the elephant and set a little fire in front of him.  And I had
finished the mahout and set him on the beast's neck.  So both of
them were all right.  But when I started the image of Hawkesey,
gun and all, the wet mud would not stick together.  And before I
knew it, back they came, the elephant and the mahout, with no
less than a thousand devils chasing them--although they had no
need to fear the devils, because that part of the puja was
attended to."

"And Hawkesey?"

"The mahout said that a tiger got him."

"Do you think he was telling the truth?" the babu asked.

"No.  All mahouts are liars.  That one lies dead yonder,
doubtless because of the lies he told."

"Why don't you think he was telling the truth?"

"Because he waited at the ford for Hawkesey.  He pretended that
his elephant was weary.  But I know, by the way he sat all night
and watched, that he expected Hawkesey to come any minute.  What
I think is that the devils tempted Hawkesey far into the jungle,
and that is the last you will ever hear of him.  They could not
tempt the elephant and the mahout, because I had finished their
part of the puja.  However, Hawkesey had promised me the
overcoat.  Undoubtedly that elephant has run back to the lines,
so I had better go now and claim the overcoat before some rascal
steals it."

"I will find it for you," said the babu.  "Get into the back
seat."  Then he shouted in English to Copeland:  "Doctor sahib!
Do you stop a forest fire by putting out the match that lighted
it?  You are a reincarnation of Nero--you are setting legs while
Rome burns!  Incidentally you rob the local leeches of a fat fee!
You will hear from the Union!"

But Copeland was already face to face with that.  He had been
violently shoved away from one case.  Two good splints that he
had improvised with commandeered umbrellas had been pulled off
and the bandages, made from the victim's turban, had been thrown
into the gutter.  Men of the victim's own sub-caste had carried
him away for treatment by a ritually clean incompetent;  and
other victims, not yet carried off, were calling to their friends
to come and rescue them before the foreigner could touch them
with pollution.

"Oh, to hell with them!" said Copeland.  "How can you help such
fools?"  He climbed into the front seat, pitched his bag beside
the villager and reached into his pocket for tobacco.  "Where
now?  Who's your new friend?"

"To the palace," the babu answered.  "And the son of untruth on
the back seat is the guide who is to lead you into mischief.
Luckily you can't talk to each other;  there will be trouble
enough without that!"

He began to drive as furiously as the flat tires let him, taking
short cuts through the crowded, winding streets towards the
central rectangular part of the city.  There was mob-rule in the
making--leaderless as yet, but ominous enough to terrify the
police, who were conspicuous by their absence;  they had
concentrated on the _kana,_ where they awaited orders from the
palace.  Popular resentment at the outrage to the image of the
goddess took its customary way of raging against anything foreign
and anything modern.  Cobblestones and vegetables pursued the
Ford, shattered the lamps and windshield, struck the occupants;
but Copeland's helmet and the babu's turban saved their heads
from injury, and nobody was hurt except the villager--and he not
badly;  he bled at the nose and wiped it on the blanket with an
air of having suffered far worse inconvenience without the
compensating fun of being driven, gratis, by a babu in a rich
man's chariot.  It was not until Copeland forced him, that he lay
down on the car floor and protected himself with Copeland's
bedding-roll and suitcase.

But the worst came in the great square, where the palace sepoys,
hurriedly reinforced from the barracks had been lined up two deep
to protect the gilded iron railing and the great gate.  Their
commanding officer looked fierce enough to eat his own revolver,
and the bearded sepoys--bayonets already fixed--were in the
nervous state that leads to massacre or rout, whichever accident
determines, or whichever the leader's nerves may set in motion.
Swarming in the square, the hoarse crowd yelled and imprecated,
fearful of the bayonets and perfectly aware that one word might
direct a volley into them, but urged on from the rear, where
bullets were less likely to reach loud-lunged agitators and the
streets offered ready escape.  Copeland advised discretion:

"Isn't there a back door to the palace, if you feel you have to
go there?"

But the babu glanced up at the lowering sky and shouted back,
between the honkings of his horn:  "There is a time for meekness
and a time for being insolent.  I think, too, that the gods will
save these imbeciles!"

He honked into the crowd.  It made way.  At the top of his
lungs he shouted:  "From the Residency!  Let pass some one
from the Residency!"

That bluff worked for half a minute.  A lane widened.  But the
sweaty faces glowered.  Teeth flashed.  Eyes glared.  And then
some one shouted _Bande Mataram!_--Hail Motherland!--the war-cry
of the self-determinists who want an end in India of all things
British, influence in Native States included.  Some one with a
long stick struck at Copeland's helmet and the officer on
horseback at the great gate saw it.  He shouted.  He drew his
saber.  He turned in the saddle to bark a command at his men.
The babu gave the engine all the gas he dared, and above the din
of that--above the mob-yell--sudden as a thunder-clap--a volley
from a hundred rifles ripped into the air above the crowd's
heads.  Then the gods got busy.

"Thought so!" said the babu.

Down came the rain.  It was as if the bullets had shattered a
firmament.  A deluge, driven by a gusty wind, smote slanting in
the faces of the crowd and scattered them as if their angry gods
had opened on them with artillery.  The lightning sizzled through
the rain.  It thundered.  And in sixty seconds one whole company
of drenched, but relieved and scornful sepoys stared across a
streaming pavement at a solitary, flat-tired, battered Ford that
skidded crazily towards them, honking for the gate to open.

"Quick!  Am I a fish?" Chullunder Ghose asked.

The commanding officer, proud on his high horse, but peevish
because the rain was pouring down his neck and chilling his
spinal column, rammed his saber back into the scabbard and
motioned the babu away with the flat of his hand.  He ignored
Copeland.  To explain about that volley would be trouble enough
without adding to it by an altercation with a foreigner.

"I bring a doctor for His Highness," said the babu.

"I know nothing of an illness."

"Does the Rajah have to ask you for permission to be sick?"
Chullunder Ghose retorted.  "Do you think your haughty ignorance
will save him from a death-bed?"

"Go away, I tell you."

"Very well then, stick that saber into me and take the consequences!
Or command a volley!  One more like the last one should improve
the Rajah's headache!  It should sweeten His Highness' temper!"

"Where is your authority?"

"Where yours is--under a wet towel in the Rajah's bedroom!  And
the towel will catch fire unless they change it very frequently!
Already I am late.  But I would rather be me than you when I have
told who kept me waiting!"

The commanding officer decided, ungraciously, on a middle course.
He faced about and ordered two men to mount the running-boards
and go with the Ford to the front door.

"Then, if they are not admitted, bring them back to me and I will
show them the guard-room door from the inside."

The gate swung open and Chullunder Ghose drove honking round the
drive to the pretentious portico, where insolent retainers lolled
in heavy overcoats and scowled at such an insult as a Ford car.

"Tradesmen to the back door!"

The sepoy escort took their cue and ordered the babu to drive on.
But he stopped the engine and was out on the palace steps too
quickly for them.

"Idiots!  Did you hear that shooting?  I am from the Residency.
Go and tell His Highness that unless he sees me instantly a
telegram will be sent to British-India for troops to quell
the insurrection!"

Even palace flunkeys understood the dire significance of that
threat.  The arrival of a single company of British infantry
would mean political extinction as a State--and that would mean
the end of perquisites.  Another differently sordid crew of
bureaucratic thieves would govern.  So a man fled up-steps and
the babu followed, placidly ignoring the command to wait.  He
followed through the front door;  he was too heavy and powerful
for the attendant to slam it shut in his face.

"You forgot me!" he said with a grin.  "I am the broker, not the
moneylender!  Kiss yourself on both cheeks with the compliments
of Mother Kali!"

But the impetus of impudence was almost spent by that time, and
they kept him waiting in the hall.  He gave his name to the
attendant.  Three inhospitable looking stalwarts stood and
glowered at him, while another vanished to inform the Rajah who
it was that dared to crave an audience.  Their ominous scowling
made the babu nervous;  he was suffering reaction from his own
enthusiasm, and the longer he waited the worse he became--until
the chimes of a grandfather clock nearly startled him out of his
skin.  It was high noon.  He compared the time by his wrist
-watch--set the wrist-watch.

"Mid-day--mid-monsoon--_in medial res_--we lay our bets--_fortuna
insolente ludit_--God proposes, man forgets--and then _calamitas
intrudit!_--I forget my Latin.  What the devil else have I
forgotten?  Oh yes--that the wind is tempered to the shorn lamb
--let us hope so.  Let us hope, too, that the scissors shear well!"

Suddenly and very rudely he was beckoned to the Rajah's presence
by a man whose servile nature parroted his master's mood.  He
even parroted the silence--imitated the sneer and the nod of the
autocratic head that had assented to the babu being haled into
the presence.  Down a corridor as gloomy as a morgue, with
mildewed tapestry, the babu followed the attendant to a room that
the Rajah described as his office.  It was very plainly furnished
and reserved for visitors whose social standing was of much less
note than their importance.  On the wall that faced the plain oak
desk there was a portrait of Queen Victoria, bearing her
autograph.  It had been made in one of her less amiable moments,
and a small crown, at a saucy angle, indicated that she knew her
onions, although she might have been offended at the phrase.

"You swag-bellied scoundrel!  What do you want of me?" the
Rajah asked.

"Magnificence, I need an elephant."  With his hands to his
forehead, the babu bowed as meekly as a tradesman asking ten
times what a jewel for the last new favorite was worth.

The Rajah struck the desk.  "May devils with a set of jaws at
both ends bite you in the liver," he exploded.  "If I had a
thousand elephants, you shouldn't have one."

"But the thousand-and-first?  I beg the Presence to begin to
count at that end."

"I will gladly count a dozen that shall tread you into food
for rats, if you will only go and lie down in the mud where
you belong!"

"But if the priests should let me have an elephant--"

"Pah!  Try them!"

"I should need to persuade them, no doubt, by informing them of
what I know."

"Eh?  What?  You rotten spy!  And what do you propose to
tell them?"

"It would need to be something serious," said the babu, "since
they know so much already.  All I need is just one elephant, for
one week--"

"Week?  You raging imbecile!  I tell you, not for one hour!"

The Rajah opened the middle drawer of the desk.  He drew out a
revolver, a little beauty, all mother-of-pearl and nickel-plate.
Then he rested his elbow on the desk and covered the babu,
glaring at him.

"Now them Tell me why you're here, and what you think you know,
or go out down the main drain!"

"Did the main drain swallow Syed-Suraj?  I am sure Your Highness
would have shot me first thing, if it were not risky.  Did the
main drain swallow all Your Highness' slightly rash remarks about
the British?  It is said that others than the priests have
overheard them.  It is said, too, that Your Highness' cousin's
health is--"

With the butt of the revolver on the desk the Rajah dinned him
into silence.

"They accuse me, do they?  And is that what brought you to
Kutchdullub?  You abominable traitor, are, you sent to inform
against me, and to find an excuse for getting rid of me in order
to enthrone my cousin?"

"Is the Presence dreaming?" asked the babu.

"Tell me why you want that elephant."

"To save your Honor's honor!"

"What the devil--?"

"If the Presence will believe a desperately hurried babu, I am
sent to do the diametrically opposite of what the Presence honors
me by hinting that I might be trusted to attempt!  A little
meditation might convince Your Highness that the British Raj, if
it should wish to bring about your abdication, would hardly
entrust that task to such a person as myself."

"You lie, you fat hog!"

"If I should reveal a secret, will the Presence not betray me?"

"I will blow your brains out, unless you tell me all you know,
you viper!"

"Then I must tell.  You are murdering your cousin.  You have
murdered Syed-Suraj.  By refusing to destroy a tiger you have
murdered many of your subjects, for the sake of making a dilemma
for the priests.  I am afraid that you have sent my good friend
Hawkesey to his death.  And you have tried to murder me.  But I
am sent to save a scandal."

The Rajah grinned.  "And you propose to do it?  How?"  He tapped
the desk with the revolver.

"I intend to send a doctor to your cousin.  That is why I need
an elephant."

"And--?"

"As Your Highness shrewdly said, I am a viper.  I forgive the
attempt to have me murdered--"

"Do you?  You slew one of my men!" said the Rajah.  "It was no
doubt you who told a villager to say a priest had done it.  You
shall hang for that as surely as I sit here!"

"But unless you promise me," the babu went on, pointing an
accusing finger, "and unless you keep the promise, to attempt to
save the life of my friend Hawkesey--"

"Then what?"

"Then what?  Damn you, I will let the priests win!  I will let
you abdicate!  And you shall die in prison in the Andamans, where
they will neither give you champagne nor expensive women!  Shoot
me--go on, shoot me!  I am unimportant.  I am only the one person
who can save you from enforced abdication!"

"Curses on your black soul!" said the Rajah.

"If I thought I could trust you--"

"You can't!  You can't trust any one," the babu answered.  "My
employers trust me.  That is all you can depend on.  It is your
luck that they don't want any scandal.  They have sent me to
preserve them from the bad embarrassment of forcing you to
abdicate, at this time when political strain is too severe
already.  You can no more trust me than I trust you.  But you can
use your judgment.  Have the whisky and the women left you any?"

"Damn you--"

"Do I get the elephant?"

"When?"

"Now!"

"Do you mean you are for me, not against me?"

"I am dead against you!  But I have my orders to save you from
the Andamans.  Do I get he elephant?"

"Yes."

"Give the order."

"Presently.  About Hawkes?  What do you wish done about him?"

"I will tell you about Hawkesey when the elephant is at the
front door."

"You annoy me," said the Rajah.  "I advise you, it is dangerous
to do that."

"Is it?" asked the babu, bulging out his stomach.  "Let me tell
you then, that I am fat from too much danger that has never
happened!  It is you who are in danger.  I would rather see you
dead than prosperous, so hurry up!  Unless I have an elephant in
fifteen minutes--"

"Twenty," the Rajah answered.  With an air of bitter resignation
he returned the nickel-plated weapon to the drawer.  "It will
take them all of twenty minutes to get him saddled.  Wait here."

"While you shoot the doctor?  It will take me twenty minutes to
instruct him," said the babu.  "It is not so simple as, perhaps,
you think, to save your face and keep my conscience at the same
time!  Let us hope you have no conscience;  that may save your
Presence from the horror of repentance at the end!"




Chapter XIV.

      "We nibblers at the thread say nothing."


Behind Hawkes was the light from the fire he had built.  He also
held a flashlight that exactly indicated where he was, although
it also aided him as long as he kept it switched on.  It showed
him a hole in the wall, down which the inscrutable woman slid,
heels first;  and it showed him her head at the foot of the hole,
when she landed on something firm and waited for hire.  But he
switched it off then, in order to spare one hand for his rifle
and the other for groping.  He could slide in the dark, and he
did.  But when he switched it on again before reaching the bottom
it made him a mark for any one who might be lying in wait
for him.

Suddenly, then, he remembered he was naked from the waist up--no
spare ammunition;  all the extra shells were in the pocket of his
coat that was waiting its turn to be dried at the fire.  His
curiosity, or possibly the woman's weird appearance, or her
magnetism, whatever that is, had obliterated caution.  He cursed
himself and instantly decided to climb back, to get his coat and
reconsider tactics.  A bat in his face increased his eagerness.
He directed his flashlight up the hole--and felt his feet seized
from beneath him.

He had carried his rifle muzzle-upward, to protect the sight, and
from habit, and because the butt might come in handy to provide a
purchase on the rough wall.  Now there was no room to turn the
weapon end for end;  it was as useless as a protest in an
earthquake.  Worse, it occupied his right hand.  And he clutched
at his watch with his left hand--that precious watch that he kept
in the padded, buttoned pocket underneath his belt.  So he
dropped the flashlight, heard it clatter downward, and the next
he knew its rays were focused on him.

He was jerked out from the hole so violently that he was almost
stunned when his head struck masonry;  but he hung on to the
rifle and his thumb snapped off the safety catch as automatically
as his other hand had gone to the protection of the watch.  He
could see nothing except his flashlight pointed at him.  He was
lying in a pool of white light on a black floor--onyx--black
marble--something smooth and slippery;  and he discovered that
his feet were in a noose.  He sat up suddenly to aim his rifle at
the flashlight, and was equally suddenly jerked to his back
again.  Some one snatched his rifle then and twisted it out of
his grip.  Whoever that was, whispered:

"Sorry to be so rough, sahib--take it easy!'"  Good plain
English!  But the noose around his feet was plainer than a hint
too.  So was the butt of his own beloved .577, poised in the path
of the flashlight, over his nose and near enough to explain
exactly what it meant.  He saw now that the woman held the
flashlight;  but the rope that held his feet went taut into the
dark beyond her.

Pride has its very peculiar way with individuals, no two reacting
quite alike.  It made Hawkes silent.  It was pride in his own
resourcefulness that told him, if he said nothing and did
nothing, surprising opportunity would offer him the upper hand in
due time.  Why waste effort?  Why not fool the adversary,
meanwhile, with a show of sulky submission?  He lay still, hoping
his hands would escape being tied.  But that was a vain hope.

He who held the rifle set a lean knee on his neck and pinned him
to the hard floor, forcing him to writhe to one side to avoid
suffocation.  He raised his hands to strike at the knee, or to
seize and twist it.  Both hands were instantly caught and drawn
tight in another noose.  The pressure on his neck ceased, but his
hands were pulled over his head and he lay stretched like a felon
awaiting the rack.  It was a very neat job;  even Hawkes admitted
that.  He was as angry as a noosed gorilla, and about as likely
to forgive his assailants, but he was curious too.  He had bumped
his head, but why in thunder had they been so thoughtful not to
hurt him worse than that?  And why the devil did the woman stand
there saying nothing?

He began to be drawn, on his back, by the feet.  Whoever had
charge of his hands kept that rope taut enough to make struggling
useless.  As he passed the woman she spat on him.  Suddenly,
then, the torch was snatched out of the woman's hand and switched
off.  He heard a blow that sounded as if the woman's arm had
struck some one, and he heard a knife go slithering along the
floor.  After that he was dragged in great haste, scraped around
a corner, down some steps, where the man behind him raised him by
the shoulders, presumably to save him from being skinned on the
stone treads, and then carried by two men through a door.  He
heard it slam behind him.

"Sahib," said a voice, "we thank you in the name of our employer."

"What for?"  Sullenness was melted by astonishment;  Hawkes could
not keep his tongue still.

"That you let us avoid the wrath of our employer."

"Who's he?"

"He insisted we are not to hurt you.  Did we?"

"Damn your eyes, who is he?"

"But he ordered us to seem to be your honor's enemies, in order
that your honor may assist us."

"Turn alight on!"

"But we are to warn your honor not to use the rifle--not yet."

"Strike a light, I tell you!  Let me up, God dammit!"

"Babu Chullunder Ghose said also that your honor is depended on
to listen to us two and not be angry with us."

"What's his number?" Hawkes asked.

"C.3."

"What's yours?"

"We are F.11 and F.15."

"O.K., I'll listen to you.  Dammit, if you've hurt my rifle--"

"Take it, sahib.  It is unhurt."

The spokesman switched on the flashlight that he had snatched
from the woman in passing.  He grinned.

"She had a knife under her goatskin, but I knew it.  Slash your
throat and feed you to the tiger too soon--that was her idea.
But I tricked her.  And now I shall have to persuade her all
over again."

Hawkes stood up, kicking his feet free from the noose.  He
examined his rifle.

"What the hell d'you mean by too soon?" he demanded.  Then he
stared at two men dressed in yellow smocks, their hair, a mess of
yellow clay.  They looked like religious pilgrims;  on their
foreheads were the yellow-ocher signature of Kali's chosen.  They
were worshipers of Death, if signs meant anything.  One of the
men was lighting a hurricane lamp in a corner.  He was using
Swedish safety matches.  As soon as the lamp was properly alight
the other man switched off the flashlight.

"Let us save that.  We shall need it.  She--that woman--knows you
are the Rajah's agent.  She supposes you have come to kill her
tiger.  She would have knifed you if we hadn't coaxed her to
reserve you for a special offering to Kali.  We persuaded her
that there would certainly be trouble unless the tiger kills you
in the open and it looks like accident.  And we agreed to tie
you, and then loose you in the tiger's way some evening.  But you
see what she is;  she can't wait.  She's a bad one."

"Why not noose her then, the same as you did me?" Hawkes asked
him.  "Drag her to Kutchdullub.  Chuck her in the clink.  I'll
interview her tiger.  Let me get my eye on him at fifty or
a hundred--"

"Steady, sahib!  He who sent us is an artful person.  If we take
this woman to the _kana,_ who can prove anything against her?
But it will prove to the priests that we are their enemies;  and
the priests will prove it to the people, who will riot.  One
priest is a better liar than a hundred lawyers, and a lawyer is
no duffer at it, God knows.  They will turn lies loose against us
like a swarm of hornets.  And the worst is, they will say the
British have a hand in it.  They will say that the British are
aiming plots at their religion, we being men of the C. I. D.,
which is a British agency.  It would be true;  and the truth is
deadly dangerous, except as one friend to another."

Hawkes stared at the fellow's straight nose and at his hungry,
fierce eyes;  they were fierce with savage laughter.

"If you couldn't see a joke, you'd be a damned keen killer on
your own hook, I'll bet!  What's the game now?"

"Sahib, wait for C.3.  He and we are mice that nibble at the
thread by which a sword is hanging over some one."

"Politics, eh?"  Hawkes scorned the word;  he never used it
except as an insult.

"Nay, sahib, not so.  Politics is talk, of which there is already
too much.  Is a politician he who lets the pythons strangle one
another?  Nay, a politician seeks the stronger side.  Then he
robs both the loser and winner and says:  'Behold me, what a
paragon I am!'  But we--we nibblers at the thread--say nothing,
and rob no one."

"I can't wait here," Hawkes said savagely.  He hated mysteries.
He had a .577 that he felt could easily solve this one.  "C.3
wanted me to find out how they get a man-killer to come back when
they call him.  I'm to go to Kutchdullub and tell him.  How's
it managed?"

"We will show you, sahib."

"Any priests here?" Hawkes asked.

"No, not priests, but devotees, such as we are supposed to
become when the spirit overcomes and overwhelms us.  Do you
understand that?"

"No," he answered sulkily.  He did not wish to understand it.
But as thieves delight in teaching thieves, and scientists
delight in teaching scientists, the C. I. D. exists because its
members passionately love their art and teach it, as it might be
music, to whoever has the O.K. of a master of their guild.

"It is the same as Thuggee, sahib.  Thuggee never died out.  It
was a religion.  A religion never dies, although, it can be
changed into another form.  So when the British set the C. I. D.
to wipe out Thuggee;  and its devotees, who slew by stealth for
the sake of slaying, saw the shadow of the gallows--and the
slayers, though they love death, love not that death;  then they
had to seek another way of worship.  So they sought this.
And it is also like the death beneath the wheels of juggernaut.
And it is also like the death by Sattee.  Only this is far
more dreadful."

"And they like it dreadful?" Hawkes asked.

"Drama, sahib!  They are unlike the little weaklings, who
go in gangs and flatter one another.  They are like lone
criminals, on whom a spirit of crime has cast its shadow;
or like great conquerors, on whom the breath of war has breathed.
They achieve aloofness and aloneness.  And the drama they devise
is for themselves alone.  It is not crime or conquest that they
serve--or profit;  and it is not fame they seek--or justice.
Neither is it pride.  And they are not mad--not as common
madmen are.  They see crime, or they see death as a drama; and
themselves its climax.  Slay--then be slain;  it is all one."

"They may kill 'emselves for all of me," said Hawkes.

"And why not, sahib?  But a man must understand them if he hopes
to serve the C. I. D. and grapple with the brainy ones who turn
such drama to their own ends."

Hawkes spat.  He reached for his pipe and tobacco--remembered
again that he had no coat on--swore irritably.  Then he answered:

"Out o' my line.  I'm not C. I. D.  I never would be.  I like
give and take above the bellyband.  To hell with sneaking in and
out o' holes."

"But if the secrets are in holes?  You shall look at this
one, sahib."

F.11 signed to F.15, who took the lantern and led downwards into
smelly darkness, by a flight of stone steps in the thickness of a
wall whose seams not even an earthquake had been able to enlarge.
The darkness stank.  There was a silence that not even Hawkes'
boots could shatter with Fusilier tramp on the masonry.

"Where's that woman?" Hawkes asked.

"You shall see her, sahib.  I must tie your hands now.  Even in
the darkness that is better;  one might come and feel you."

No less suddenly than Thugs were used to whip their scarf around
the throats of victims, F.11 noosed Hawkes' arms.  F.15 had
snatched the rifle from his hand and he was pinioned like a
gallows bird before he could start to resist.

"It must not be forgotten, sahib, that a death awaits your honor!
It is by your honor's death that we two may achieve the ecstasy
that shall prepare us also for the embrace of Kali!"

Sullen silence fell on Hawkes again.  He could have kicked and
done some damage, but not enough to make the offense worth while.
So he grinned while he gritted his teeth;  he had had enough of
indignities and somebody would pay--unless--

"Are these blokes fooling me?" he wondered.  "They could have
learned those numbers--easy.  Am I for it?"  He could feel the
goose-flesh rising on his bare skin;  and the stench of a
charnel-house sickened him.  "Chullunder Ghose said nothing about
these men.  Why, I wonder?  Maybe they've been spying on him,
that's what!"  He began to think about his mother and his
sisters.  "Dole!"  How he hated the word.




Chapter XV.

        "Not yet!"


There was a goatskin on a shelf of masonry. It was sewn like an
enormous short sleeve.  F.15 used it to cover the lantern, and
then it was pitch dark except for the blood-colored glow on his
knuckles where the bail just topped the goatskin.  So it felt
like following a dead man's hand into the morgue at midnight.  Or
a graveyard.  Or a pit where paupers' corpses lie awaiting
God's worms.

The abominable stench grew sharper as a passage curved round the
roots of broken columns, amid debris over which Hawkes stumbled.
There was only a glimpse now and then of a column lying prone
beneath the wreck of a colossal roof--until the glimpses
presently became a dim reality, and suddenly the passage opened
on a segment of gallery, on which about a dozen tiny clay lamps
flickered.  There had been a balustrade round the gallery, but
that had fallen.  Perched round the edge, beside the little
lamps, sat humans, chins on knees, like vultures at a Parsee
charnel-tower.  And the stench came upward, from a darkness that
suggested death made solid.  The little grease-fed, smoky flames
round the gallery resembled yellow tongues that sought to slake
undying thirst.

The human vultures glanced uneasily, as vultures on a roof do, at
the sound of Hawkes's boots on the masonry.  Then they resumed
their vigil, staring downward.  F.11 whispered, so Hawkes sat
between him and F.15, with his legs tucked under him;  but they
sat like the others, chin on knees, with their arms round their
shins.  The gallery was only three feet wide;  Hawkes set his
back against the wall and shuddered.  It would be a lot too easy
for his guides to seize him, one on either hand, and shove
him over.  He could almost feel himself go.  He shut his
eyes--then opened them and forced himself to stare into the
dark, polluted silence.

Then he saw eyes.  They were green.  They were not, they were
red--no, green--no, one was green and one red.  They were both
green.  They were moving.  Up and down a trifle;  then from side
to side and back again--as much as twenty feet each way--faster
and then slower.  They were deep down somewhere, and no guessing
how near--fifty--a hundred--a hundred and fifty feet away--no,
fifty.  And they seemed to be in mid-air.  But they were too big
for a bird's eyes;  and never a bird flew as that one did.  They
were enormous.  No, they were not;  they were yellow, and they
shrank.  They were two of the lamp-fires mirrored on stagnant
water.  But they vanished.  And there they were again as big as
ever, moving sideways, emerald--then blue-green.  Much more
swiftly they were moving.

Silence split so suddenly that Hawkes's heart checked, then
hammered on his ribs.  It was neither a growl, nor a whine,
nor a snarl, but all three, ending in a harsh cough.

"Tiger!"

Now he recognized them;  tiger's eyes, weird in darkness, made
that way by nature to confuse all others.  And it was easier to
guess, now that he knew what they were.  They were thirty feet
down, and twice that much distant, moving to and fro behind a
barrier of some sort, but he could only imagine the barrier.
They were catching the light from the tiny clay lamps and
reflecting it.

In the gruesome stillness Hawkes suddenly heard a footfall.  It
was heavy--careless;  something rolled away as if kicked.  It
sounded unlike stone.  And then there was light--a little blaze
of tinder, leaping into crimson as a resinous torch caught fire.
It was the woman.  She was perched on a broken column, seated
slightly above Hawkes's level, to one side of a circular pit,
whose roof consisted of a mass of fallen masonry supported by its
own dead weight against surrounding walls.  She shook her torch.
Amid the leaping shadows, thirty feet beneath him, as he stared,
Hawkes saw human ribs, skulls, thigh-bones, scattered amid fallen
debris--then a tiger and tigress, she behind a barrier of upright
stone bars, rubbing herself against them, as if fawning on the
male.  He stood as close as he could get to her, magnificent and
startled, staring up at the torch.  He blinked at the light.  He
snarled and showed his eye-teeth.  His tail twitched in and out
of shadow.  He crouched.  He slunk away towards the dark mouth of
a tunnel--turned round a shapeless heap of masonry and changed
his mind--turned back again and stared up at the broken gallery
--then coughed and sprang like lightning at the column on which the
woman sat.  His leap fell short of her by twenty feet.  He tried
it three times.  Then he slunk back to the tigress, who was
frantic;  she was flowing back and forth behind the stone bars
like a shadow with emerald eyes.

No one had moved, stirred, spoken.  On the segment of the broken
gallery that solemn audience sat still like vultures that await
death.  Whose?  Hawkes struggled to release his arms, but F.11
heard him and whispered:

"Not yet!"

Then Hawkes pressed his back against the wall so hard that it
tortured his pinioned elbows;  but the pain was better than the
too near edge of that rail-less gallery.  When F.11 moved a
little closer to him he set his teeth--shrank.  Pride would not
let him cry out, but he felt already the appalling vertigo of
falling into dark space.  He began to pray for guts with which to
face it.

Suddenly the blood came coursing through his veins again like an
electric current.  Sound as vibrant as a file on brass so struck
the silence that it seemed to make the very silence throb with
anger.  It was the hag.  She was singing.  And never in battle,
nor in the ambulances where the stricken screech their greeting
to the jaws of hell, nor in the jungle, when the python steals on
victims in the night, had Hawkes heard such a paean to the gods
of horror.  Agony was in it, and the utter emptiness of hunger
for the ultimate of nothing--and the knowledge that the hunger,
too, was nothing, and the agony of the nothingness of hunger in a
void that had no end and no beginning--an eternity that was not,
is not, never will be.  And the human vultures in a row round the
ledge, between the little yellow lamp-flames, chanted flat,
monotonous responses to her litany of death.

It ended in a silence in which nothing stirred except a skull
that rolled out of shadow where the tiger's eyes shone in the
torchlight.  Then the hag struck a gong and the tiger crept into
view, as if he knew that signal.  Some one at the far end of the
gallery--without a word or gesture that betrayed emotion--set his
thumb deliberately on the little flame beside him, stood up
leisurely as if he yawned at what was coming, raised both arms
above his head, swayed slowly and then, soundless, let himself
go, feet first, down into the dark pit.

He fell with a thud amid bones and debris.  There was no other
sound, except a slight one as he writhed in shadow.  Hawker's
pulse beat a hundred times before the tiger leaped like tawny
lightning through the zone of torchlight.  Then a guttural growl
--thud--scrunch, as teeth went home into a man's neck.  Silence
--nothing--no emotion, except that the tigress, like a frantic
green-eyed shadow, wove to and fro on a loom of longing in her
dungeon behind the stone bars.




Chapter XVI.

      "I kiss feet, heavenborn!"


Ram Dass, dealer in grain and mortgages, was a gentleman whose
hat was always in the ring.  He had an enviable reputation as a
good sport, who was easy on his debtors if the debtors played
fair.  But it was dangerous to "gyp" him.  Having lent the Rajah
five thousand rupees at usurious rates on an open note, at the
request of Syed-Suraj, he was perfectly willing to wait for his
enormous profit;  but he did not choose to lose the money.

And Chullunder Ghose had very deftly planted in the mind of Ram
Dass more than a suspicion that the Rajah was in danger of losing
his throne.  On top of that came rumor--then the circumstantial
story--and then proof that the Rajah had murdered Syed-Suraj in
the course of a furious argument.  The inquest, held immediately
in the Rajah's library;  the servants' version of what had
happened;  and the verdict--had deceived nobody, not even the
presiding judge who acted coroner.  The Rajah had not even
honored the inquest with his presence, although rumor had it that
he listened through the panel above the bookcase that had been
used by the woman who actually saw the murder and reported it in
detail to Chullunder Ghose's dish-faced spy.

"If I must lose my money I will have a run for it," said Ram Dass
to his head clerk.  "Royalty may get away with murder, but the
ones who do settle their debts!  And besides, that babu didn't
drop me hints for nothing.  It was not for nothing that he told
me how to get the elephant-feed contract.  Not for nothing that
he saved me from lending another five thousand.  Not he!  He does
nothing for nothing.  And he knows I play fair.  What does he
expect, then?  He didn't say what he wants.  But if I play my own
game it will probably exactly fit his."

He had none of the airs of the plutocrat.  In spite of all his
wealth he did not even own a carriage.  Beneath a very cheap
umbrella, and with a very ordinary cotton blanket swathed round
his shoulders, he walked to the office of Ananda Raz, the Brahmin
attorney.  He was admitted instantly into the Brahmin's presence.
And, being a sensible man, to whom another's dignity was equally
important as his own, so long as it entailed no calculable loss
or inconvenience to him, he started with the proper formula.

"I kiss feet."

So the Brahmin wheezed asthmatic, equally perfunctory but
inoffensive blessing and they sat down, studying each other with
the guarded guile of men who thoroughly detest each other's
morals but respect each other's business acumen.

"Terrible weather," said Ram Dass.

"Dreadful," agreed the Brahmin.  "But the rain should give us
good crops.  Do you look for a low price for future rice deliveries?"

"I look for God's will."

"Such is wisdom," said the Brahmin.

"As attorney to the temple trustees, you undoubtedly are more
familiar with God's will than the rest of us," said Ram Dass.
"Is it probable that changes of importance may occur soon?"

"Of the weather?"

"At the moment I was thinking more of ruined temples--and a
tiger--and the funeral of Syed-Suraj," Ram Dass answered.  "Is
the Rajah's cousin's health improving?"

"I have no news."

"Is the sahib at the Residency well?"

"I have heard he has boils," said the Brahmin.  "And if that is
true, he should be pitied.  Boils are painful, and they who
suffer from them usually lose their judgment along with their
bodily vigor."

That was an opening.  Ram Dass rode straight at it, whip, spur
and bridle.

"Is he sick, or is he shamming?  Are they diplomatic boils, and
is he waiting on events, to see which way the priests--I mean the
cats--jump, before he bets on one or other of them?"

"Strictly between you and me, he is ill," said the Brahmin, "but
it makes no difference.  Such a person as he is always at the
mercy of events, since he always looks backwards.  If he does
look forward, it is only to a dream of laziness.  In consequence,
a change inevitably sees him trying to resist it."

"So you do think there will be a change?" asked Ram Dass.

"Do I?  And what sort of change?" the Brahmin answered.

That seemed to be another opening, so Ram Dass tried again.

"I am in favor of a change," he answered.  "Did you hear the
Rajah's sepoys fire a volley from the palace gate just now?"

"Yes, yes.  Nobody was hurt, however.  It was a warning to the
crowd to disperse."

"I am in favor of the crowd," said Ram Dass.  "I have heard that
the Rajah sent an elephant to wreck the sacred image of the
goddess Kali.  Do the priests intend to overlook such sacrilege?"
Ananda Raz knew perfectly that Ram Dass cared no more for Kali's
image than he did for Confucius;  he was simply talking to seduce
the attorney's confidence.  Ananda Raz, however, only wanted an
excuse;  he only dreaded to give an opinion that he could not,
later, claim he had been justified in giving.  So he yielded--let
his temper get the better of him--wheezed as if some one had
stolen a fat fee:

"Sacrilege!  Sacrilege!  Now you have laid your finger on it!
Murder we are used to!  Insolence and personal defilement we have
had to learn to tolerate!  But show me proof that it was he who
sent that cursed elephant to break up the procession through the
streets, and I will--"

He hesitated for effect, and Ram Dass flattered him by a show of
breathless interest:

"Tell me!"

"I will guarantee to have him replaced by his cousin within ten
days!" said the Brahmin.

"How then?"

"I will bring on a rebellion!  And I will get up an appeal
for British troops!  And I will sign up an association of
his creditors!"

He paused again.  He stared hard.  Then he pointed with his index
finger.  "Tell me, are you not his creditor?"

At that Ram Dass unmasked his own artillery as blandly as a
conjurer producing rabbits from a top-hat.

"Thank you," he retorted.

"What for?"

"A concerted action by his creditors might force me to accept as
little as a tenth of what he owes me.  So, unless I get mine
first, in full, you may depend on me to take his part in any
serious trouble that may turn up!"

"You astonish me!"

"I know, too, that he owes you a lot of money," Ram Dass
continued.  "You expect to get it from his cousin, as the price
of the priests' support, but you propose to make the other
creditors accept a small percentage of their claims."

"But I assure you--"

"I need no assurance!  As attorney for the temple trustees, you
know that the priests have got themselves into a mess!  They have
a tiger--"

"Prove it!" snapped the lawyer.

"I don't need to.  Tigers are their own proof!  Are you such a
fool as to suppose that an inquiry by the British won't involve
the priesthood in a scandal that will clip their claws and break
their teeth forever?  That is why you sit still.  You, as the
attorney for the priesthood, are afraid to appeal to the British.
So unless I get the money that the Rajah owes me, I am going to
the Residency now to demand that the Resident wire for troops."

"Then neither of us could collect the money that the Rajah owes
us," said the Brahmin.

"I can afford to lose mine," Ram Dass answered.  "I would lose it
far more cheerfully if you must lose yours also."

The attorney stood up, blazing indignation.  "Go then, to the
Residency!"  Ram Dass bowed to him in mock humility.

"I kiss feet, heavenborn!"

He bowed his way out, but he guessed Ananda Raz would have him
followed.  So, his purpose being to recover money, not to make
more difficulties, he struggled against the rainstorm to the
palace without the slightest effort at concealment.  If Ananda
Raz should guess that he was on his way to offer the Rajah
loyalty and influence, possibly then Ananda Raz might change his
mind and buy him off by purchasing the Rajah's debt.  But if
not--and if the Rajah should be obdurate or flat-broke--there was
still the Residency and the more or less amusing prospect of
annoying--and arousing--and compelling Major Smith to act with
energy that was as foreign to his nature as humor and genuine
dignity were.

The officer on duty at the front gate never had been asked to pay
his bill for horse-feed, so Ram Dass was promptly admitted.  But
he was questioned.  The officer wanted to know what course the
rioting had taken and what the prospect might be of a further
demonstration at the palace gate.

"I am not in politics," said Ram Dass, "and I mind my own
business.  But I have heard that the priests are up to something.
They are crows who caw of death, remember!"

The officer's face betrayed concern.  "And His Highness is
suddenly sick!" he remarked.  "Just now they brought a doctor to
him."  If he had spoken the word "poison" he could not have
expressed the thought more clearly.

Ram Dass nodded, to conceal his own surprise.  "His Highness's
cousin's health?" he asked, to keep the thought in motion.

But the officer was not so easy to tempt into indiscretion.

"Go in," he answered.  "Bring me the news on your way out."

So as accident, or luck, or some unseen directing spirit such as
dogs the ways of murderers, would have it, Ram Dass swayed and
struggled against rain and wind and reached the Rajah's front
steps, under the elaborately gaudy portico, exactly at the moment
when Chullunder Ghose came down the steps to confer with
Copeland, who was sitting on the back seat of the Ford attending
to the nosebleed and the bruises of the villager.  The villager
was enjoying the fun of being "serviced" by a sahib, in a rich
man's chariot, beneath the up-turned noses of a lot of Rajah's
servants, who were showing their profound displeasure from the
high steps of the very palace entrance.  It was exquisitely
pleasant to offend such haughty nabobs.




Chapter XVII.

    "Sappier and verbier than you guess! Hurry! Hurry!"


No less swift or sure of touch than Copeland's to the villager's
needs, Chullunder Ghose's genius leaped instantly to deal with
Ram Dass.  That a middle-aged man of affairs should face such
filthy weather, at a time of riot, was sufficient proof that
opportunity was stirring, and the babu knew the nature of the
seed that he had planted in the merchant's mind.  The law of
probabilities suggests, if it does not actually indicate, that
certain sorts of men are likely to react in a clearly predictable
way to certain sorts of pressure;  and the babu was an artist;
he could recognize a psychological condition with the accuracy of
a sculptor making notes for future use, and with the skill of a
physician who observes the symptoms that a patient is trying to
hide from himself.

"Which are you doing?" he demanded.  "Are you sawing off the
branch you sit on?  Or are you trying to ride two camels, in two
directions, with a fence between them that you wish to sit on?"

"I have come to recover my money," said Ram Dass.

With his belly thrust out and his hands on his hips, like a fat
chef in an apron, the babu laughed at him.  He laughed as if the
universe held nothing else than good jokes.

"Perhaps you like to lose your money?" Ram Dass shot back
irritably.

"God, I haven't any!  Ha! ha!  You won't have any, unless you
change your methods!  I would rather look for goblets full of
cool wine in the Gobi Desert, than for money where you go
questing for it!  You remind me of a virgin who has lost her
reputation.  It is irredeemably lost, and the thing for her to do
is to forget it and establish herself as soon as possible as some
one much too sensible to feed a dead horse!"

"I have talked with Ananda Raz.  I have just been to see him,"
said Ram Dass.

"Any one could guess that!" the babu answered.  "And a pair of
pale eggs in a frying-pan could see that you have told him too
much and have heard too little!  I suppose you offered to join
the High Church party on condition that the party should agree to
guarantee your money?  Don't deny it.  I would probably have done
the same thing!"

"What would you suggest?" Ram Dass asked.  "You, who said you
never bet, but who have lent your money to a profligate at the
request of needy adventurer, in the hope of making too much
profit from a contract to supply good elephants with bad corn
--you astonish me that you forgot my hot tip!  Bet on this babu,
I told you."

"Is it too late?"

"Do I look it?  Unless Hawkesey also has forgotten which horse he
should bet on, and has upset all the dope by disobeying men he
doesn't know and shooting away the weight that my opponents have
to carry, I am winning hands down!  Bet on me, you idiot!"

"I bet," said Ram Dass.

"Very well, then.  Go in and demand your money.  He will say the
money isn't due, and it isn't, but you must accuse him of having
got it from you under false pretenses, and of having shot the
only witness."

Ram Dass hesitated.  "He will shoot me!"

"Do you think so?  In my presence?  I shall be there, mind you.
It is less than fifteen minutes since he did not dare to shoot
me, all alone, and dearly though he would have loved to do it!"

"Ah!  If you are coming with me--"

"I would not trust you to see him alone," the babu answered.
"And now understand this--memorize it:  he knows a lot too much
already for his own good, because I have told it to him.  I have
given him exactly twenty minutes to prepare a trap, and I intend
to walk right into it!  He had the impudence to tell me that it
takes his whole corps of mahouts that long to harness up an
elephant.  He had the ignorance to imagine I would wait in his
office while he summoned somebody to quarrel with me and provoke
a fortunate excuse for my arrest.  He does not dare to kill me;
he is contemplating other means of making me innocuous.  So when
he does what I am almost sure he contemplates, you are to fall
into the trap too."

Ram Dass was a much too easy-going usurer, and much too
downright in his dealings to consider traps with equanimity.
He checked again.

"You have a sahib in the Ford car.  Take him in there with you.
I will wait here.  Then, if you don't come out in due course--"

Chullunder Ghose affected sudden interest.  He swept away
resistance by accepting and conditioning the other man's proposal
before he had time to voice it.

"Yes, yes.  You could go to the Residency and report to Major
Smith.  But you must do that afterwards:  It is of the utmost
importance that you should go to the Residency, and I depend on
you to do it."

"Do you mean you planned this?" Ram Dass asked him.  "How did you
know I was on my way here?"

"Planned it?  No, no.  But the second I saw you coming I knew the
gods were working with me!  'Ram Dass,' I said to myself, 'is a
gift of the gods to a man in a tight predicament!'  I was in
terror at the thought of taking in this surgeon sahib to protect
me in the Rajah's presence.  He is brave and honorable, but about
as ignorant of statecraft as an alligator is of contract bridge.
So you can estimate my pleasure when I saw you--thoroughly
experienced and dependable Ram Dass!  'Here is a man,' said I,
'whom I can safely bet on!  We shall help each other;  what a
privilege--what fun--what justice--in return to help him get
his money!'"

"Do you believe I can get it?"

"Yes, if you will trust me."

"I have trusted you before," said Ram Dass, "but never to this
extent.  However, there is no fool like an old one.  I will go
in with you."

"Not you.  Go on now, ahead of me!" the babu answered;  and he
shoved him up the steps so violently that the palace servants
noisily rebuked them both and Ram Dass felt he had to go in, to
preserve his dignity, since otherwise the servants might honor
themselves by thinking they had overawed him.  Then Chullunder
Ghose hurried to Copeland.

"From now on, sahib, until hell and high water permit, you will
kindly believe nothing unless I tell it to you!  As, for
instance, do you see an elephant?  It is one!  And you are to
ride it--now, immediately!  Get out.  The mahout will set a
ladder for you;  climb it, and don't forget the rifle and the
little black bag.  The villager shall carry up your bedding, but
don't let him appropriate it, you will need it badly.  I will
tell the villager where to go, and where to wait for me.  If the
mahout refuses to obey him, beat both of them with the butt end
of your rifle and then beat the elephant--since that will cause
the elephant to run, and the mahout to make the best of it;  and
it will make that villager believe you know what you are doing."

"Maybe it's as well I don't know?"

"_Verb. sap.,_ sahib!   Sappier and verbier than you guess!
Hurry!  Hurry!"

It would have been harder to persuade Copeland not to ride the
elephant, in that holiday mood in which he found himself.  It was
a monster of a beast that swayed into the rain round the palace
wall and halted beneath the portico.  It seemed the Rajah had
said nothing about trappings, so the chief mahout had compromised
on a sort of semi-royal turn-out, with a howdah that had canvas
weather-curtains and enough enameled woodwork to suggest that, at
the very least, a royal favorite was being sent for a ride in the
rain to cool her disposition.  Copeland climbed the ladder, drew
the curtains, and reached for his pipe.

"O.K. with me," he chuckled.

Chullunder Ghose watched the villager climb up with Copeland's
luggage, then beckoned him down and took away the ladder.

"Run away," he ordered.

"Why?"

"You are a liar, a thief, a murderer, a greedy fool, a treacherous
and dirty-minded ingrate, and a devil destined to be reborn in
the belly of a worm.  Besides, I don't trust you."

"Naturally.  But you like me," said the villager, "and that is
why you take advantage of me.  What now?"

"To the devil with you," said the babu.  "Run and fetch me a man
I may trust."

The villager turned his back and ran into the rain.  He turned
again and ran back.

"This is he!  And now what?"

"This fellow looks like a talker to me," said the babu.

"Uh-uh!  This one's name is Silent Shadow!"

"Are you deaf and dumb?"

"Yes."

"Then you can't hear me tell you to lead this elephant to the
grain-barns that belong to Ram Dass, and to wait for me there.
So you can't tell any one I told you what to do.  But you
will do it."

"The mahout might not obey me."

"He is not deaf.  I am not dumb.  So he will obey me;  otherwise
the sahib in the howdah will instruct him with the butt end
of a rifle."

"Is he such an one, that sahib?"

"He is such an one as cuts out livers.  He extracts eyes.  He
cuts off noses.  Legs and arms are so much trash to him, he mows
them off.  He can make a man unconscious in a moment, and the man
may wake up with a noseless, blind head on a legless, armless
body--and no liver either.  That is the exact truth, so observe a
careful attitude towards him."

"Certainly.  I will make him like me as much as you do.  Does
your honor mean the barns of Ram Dass that are on the outskirts
of the city, eastward from here?  Very well.  And now, since I am
dumb, you had better command the mahout to tell his elephant to
pick me up and set me in the howdah."

"You will walk," said the babu.

"In this rain?"

"And being a silent shadow, you will observe whoever follows.  If
you speak to nobody until you see me--under any provocation, mind
you--and if, when I give you leave to speak to me, your speech is
satisfactory to me, I may consider you for permanent employment."

"Don't doubt, I will satisfy you.  Let me have a little money for
my victuals."

"You shall eat, at my expense, when I eat.  Lead on."

"_Atcha!_  By the size of your honor's belly, I believe you eat
good food and plenty of it."

Chullunder Ghose aimed a kick at him to get him started.  Then he
ordered the mahout to follow and called up to Copeland to beat
the mahout if he should dare to disobey the villager.

"And if any one asks you questions, say you are the Residency
doctor--_locum tenens_--temporary--just come--out for a look at
the scenery.  They won't believe you, but they wouldn't believe
you if you told the truth."

Copeland laughed.  "They'd have to search me!  I don't know
the truth!"

"Nobody does," said the babu.  "You shall see me when you see me.
So long."

The elephant swayed away majestically and the babu returned up
the palace steps.  He was nervous again.

"You scowl at me?" said the attendant.

"Open the door wider!" the babu commanded.  "Do you take me for a
sardine?  Yes," he added, "things are going too well.  I suspect
you of soaping a stone for me to slip on!"

Curiously cautious all at once, he peered round the door before
he entered, but there was no one lurking there in ambush.

"A hyena smells its own breath, and fears its own shadow," said
the attendant, smiling acidly.  He had received no slipper money
--the extortion customary in the East, where slippers are supposed
to be kicked off at the outer door and left in the attendant's
charge.  Chullunder Ghose's slippers lay beside the plainer ones
of Ram Dass, on the top step.  He returned.  He picked them up.
He handed them to the attendant.

"You shall hold them for your greater honor," he remarked, "and
if I catch you having set them down, you _beshirm,_ I will ram
them down your gullet!  Where is Ram Dass?"

Slightly cowed, but surly, the attendant pointed and another man
came forward to escort the babu, who smiled, but his smile was
noticeably thin, as if it had been pasted on his fat face.  He
was down into the depths of the fear that follows closely on
audacity and sometimes overtakes it.

"Things are going too well!" he repeated half aloud, and the
escorting servant answered:     "Sahib?"

"I said, 'Hurry up, you father of a snail!'"

He was as irritable now as he was normally serene.  The palace
gloom affected him.  He started at the least sound.  The corridor
draught made him shudder.

"Where is the library?  Where was Syed-Suraj shot to death?" he
suddenly demanded.

They were passing the library door.  The servant pointed to it.
"There is still a broken window, so the room is disused for
the present."

"But I wish to see it," said the babu.

"Nay, it is forbidden."

Chullunder Ghose, however, tried the doorknob.  The door was not
locked.  He pushed it open, glanced inside, and suddenly stepped
into the room, slamming the door in the servant's face.  There
was a key inside.  He turned it.

_"Bohut salaam!"_ he remarked in his usual calm voice, bowing
from the hips, not lowering his eyes.  His nervousness had gone
as utterly as if it were a cloak that he had left behind him in
the corridor.  Here was real, unexpected, unimagined danger.  He
could face this.  The Rajah, with his right hand in the mirror
-paneled closet, turned to face him with a sneer as savage as a
startled cat's.




Chapter XVIII.

     "I know devils when I see them!"


There was brandy on the table.  There was brandy in the Rajah's
eyes too.  They blazed.  He had swallowed almost half a bottle of
the stuff.  A mere matter of twenty minutes, plus the alcohol,
had changed a worried unregenerate into a calculating savage.


"Who invited you in here?" he demanded, and the babu guessed he
had to answer well and swiftly or receive a bullet in the belly.

"You did!  Your dilemma did!  Unless you act exactly as I tell
you, it is absolutely certain that the blood of Syed-Suraj will
be avenged on your head!  I am here to save you from it."

That was stark bluff, and the Rajah suspected it was.  But he was
as eager to conceal what he was doing with his right hand as the
babu was to see what he was doing.  If there was a pistol in the
closet, it was strange that the Rajah did not pull it out and use
it.  The babu's wits worked furiously, and he was gaining control
of his face.  He smiled inscrutably--a poker smile that might
mean triumph;  or it might not.

"Has not Ram Dass asked you for his money?" he said slowly.  "You
are rightly afraid of Ram Dass.  So am I afraid of him.  He is
the one man rich and important enough, and determined enough, to
force an intervention by the British.  He would do it for
revenge if he believed you cheated him.  But can you pay him
back his money?"

"It is not due," said the Rajah, trying to withdraw his hand
without disturbing something, or without opening the closet door
so wide that the babu could see what was in there.  Probably he
hoped, too, that Chullunder Ghose might think there was a firearm
on the shelf.

"But Ram Dass says you did cheat," said the babu.  "He asserts
you borrowed under false pretenses, not intending to repay.  Why
did you borrow the money--such a little sum of money?  And where
is it?"

That was calculated impudence.  The brandied dignity of royal
breeding boiled up, and the Rajah withdrew his hand to strike, or
to make a gesture with it.  Keys clashed, and something fell
forward off a closet shelf and stuck between shelf and door as
the Rajah tried to slam the door shut with his foot.  The babu
moved a trifle sideways, and the Rajah followed his movement, as
a cornered snake does, so that the pressure of his foot against
the closet door was relaxed and something fell to the floor with
a crash.

It was an unlocked, decorated metal box.  It spilled its
contents.  There were seed-pearls and a lot of semi-precious
stones--trash for the most part;  but there also was an aigrette
set with diamonds that was probably one of the jewels of State.
The Rajah tried to hide it with his foot, but he was too late.

"You propose to offer that to Ram Dass as security?" the babu
asked, sure of himself now.  "You had much better traffic with
me.  I am a poor man."

"What do you mean?"  The Rajah's eyes glowed sullenly, but there
was a flicker of indecision and a hint of half-awakened hope
about the way he showed his teeth through slightly parted lips.

"You haven't tried to tempt me, have you?" said the babu.

"Blackmail?"

"Never!  A reward for saving you from abdication and the
Andamans, however, might be--well, it might make matters easier."

"I have no money at the moment."

"None?  Not any?  None of what you had from Ram Dass?"

"I have only three thousand rupees of it left.  And as for you,
you dog, I wouldn't trust you with it.  You would pocket it and
then betray me."

"Why, of course I would, if I could do it!" said the babu.  "I
don't love you and you don't love me.  But how do you suppose I
am to pacify Ram Dass, unless I let him see what happens to his
money, or some part of it, and tell him why it happens?  And if
Ram Dass is a witness, how shall I be able to betray you without
ruining myself?  So I suggest that you should let me talk to Ram
Dass, and then pay that money to me in his presence.  It is very
little money.  It is scandalously little.  But if it's all I can
get I will have to accept it."

"Yes--and then collaborate with Ram Dass to betray me!" said
the Rajah.

"I would tell you not to be a fool, if you were not a royal
personage," the babu answered.  "I am under orders, as I told
you, to prevent an abdication if it can be done.  And Ram
Dass simply wants his money.  Promise him the elephant-feed
contract and--"

"I did.  I offered that just now," the Rajah interrupted.  "He
refused to listen."

"Let me talk to him."

The Rajah hesitated, blustering to hide his fear that fifty
of his crimes were known to the babu.  It would be no use
buying him off on two or three counts, only to be blackmailed
on a dozen others.

"You dog of a devil!" he sneered.  "It might be wiser in the end
to shoot you as you deserve!  And besides, this is inconvenient.
I need that money."

"So do I," the babu answered smiling.  "However, keep it--keep
it!  Any one who won't pay that small sum of money to be saved
from abdication and the Andamans is, after all, no patron for a
man of influence like me!  It may be better to report to my
employers that this is a situation too explosive to be saved
except by drastic measures."

"I will try you," said the Rajah.  "But if I even suspect you of
playing a trick, you fat hog--"  He snapped his fingers by way of
illustration.

"Bring the money," said the babu.  "Let us waste no more time."

But the Rajah had to go and get the money, so he turned the babu
over to a servant.

"Keep an eye on the fat brute!" he ordered.  "See that he waits in
the corridor.  During my absence he is not to speak to Ram Dass."

So the babu stood and stared out of a window, and because it was
raining outside and the murky clouds shut off the sun, some one
had turned on the hideous electric chandelier that dangled like a
trained icicle from the corridor ceiling.  The window-glass, due
to the stronger light on the inside, became a moderately clear
reflector of the corridor.  The babu watched it.  Suddenly he
ducked.  His foot slipped on the polished marble and he fell on
his back.  He rolled sideways as far as the wall and got up
cautiously, first on his hands and knees, with his back to the
window.  However, he could only see a very slight sway of the
curtains at the far end of the corridor where, in the window
-glass, he had detected the long tube of a blowpipe.  And in the
window-pane behind him was a neat hole surrounded by feathery
cracks, such as nothing on earth could have made but a sharp dart.

"Am I so unpopular?" he asked the servant.  "Stand here and
observe me!  How can you observe what I am doing if you shrink
behind that statue?"

He compelled the man to stand between him and the curtains;  and
the fellow's nervous shudder and his furtive glances were enough
proof that he knew about the blowpipe and expected at least
another shot.  The babu watched him like a lynx.

"If you should move your right hand, I would break your neck!" he
warned him.  "Not that you are not a pleasant fellow, nicely
scented up with musk to save your nose from turning upward, but I
dislike a knife in my belly."

Then the Rajah returned, not more than glancing at the babu as he
beckoned him and opened a door on the right-hand side of the
corridor.  He looked as if he had another stock of brandy
somewhere and had swallowed a lot of it--perhaps to make it
easier to part with money.

"Wait for me.  We will go in here together!" said the babu.
"Your assassins are such rotten shots that they might hit the
wrong man unless I protect you!  How you would laugh if you knew
how important to me your royal life is!"

"You are drunk, you fat fool!" said the Rajah.

"Yes, Your Highness.  I am so drunk that I do not notice that
you, not the servant, have opened the door.  Has he a pistol?  A
dagger?  What has he?"

Sullenly the Rajah jerked his head.  The servant slunk away along
the corridor.  The Rajah entered the room and the babu followed
him.  Ram Dass was standing in a big bay window, dwarfed and as
shabbily aged as a mendicant by the high ceiling and the rich
cut-velvet hangings.  He looked sorry for himself and eager to be
back amid the grain-sacks in his comfortable store;  but he
perked up at sight of the babu.  As he bowed to the Rajah he
raised both hands respectfully to his wrinkled forehead and
glanced between his fingers at Chullunder Ghose.  But there was
no answering signal, and for a moment here was silence.  The
Rajah seemed not to know what to say.  However, it was up to him
to speak first, so he turned contemptuously on Chullunder Ghose.

"It is beneath my dignity to repeat your conversation," he
sneered.  "Tell this merchant what you have suggested."

Then, as naively as if he were a bagman selling rubbish to a
fool, Chullunder Ghose unfolded his proposal to the gravely
nodding Ram Dass, who stroked a graying beard and puckered
wise eyes.

"Ram Dass, sahib, as your honor knows, this babu is the underpaid
employee of a government that sends me into trouble but
repudiates me if I can't keep out of it.  I know His Highness
owes you money, but he can't pay me to turn my coat and do him
certain little favors, if he pays you also.  And, besides, he has
not enough money for you at the moment.  He has only three
thousand rupees.  And that is my price."

"I demand my money," Ram Dass answered.

"Either that, or I go to the Residency.  And if Major Smith won't
ask for an investigation, I myself will go to Delhi and demand a
hearing at the Foreign Office."

He was so sour and vehement that he almost deceived Chullunder
Ghose.  He made the Rajah swear and stutter.

"Tell him!" he commanded.  "Tell him what you told me!"

"In a moment.  Ram Dass, sahib, only this babu in all the world
can save His Highness from flattering the Kaiser and the King of
Spain by imitating them.  But he would have no money and less
liberty, so he would rather imitate the Czar of Russia.  And that
would do nobody any good, since who would pay his debts?  So he
proposes to pay me a little money in your presence, and to assign
to you all the contracts that are at his disposal.  In return we
are to lend him our united influence, and you are not to press
him for the money he recently borrowed, until it is due.  I beg
your honor to agree."

"I want my money now," said Ram Dass.

"But he can't pay!"

"I won't pay until it is due," said the Rajah.

"And unless he pays me something there will be a calamity," said
the babu.  "All his creditors will have to whistle for a dividend
from nothing, properly prorated after the attorneys have been
satisfied.  He is to bribe me in your presence to prevent my
double-crossing him.  Is that clear?"

Ram Dass looked amazed.  "I didn't know you take bribes,"
he answered.

"I can seldom get them," said the babu.

"Do you mean," said Ram Dass, "that your influence can actually
save this Rajah?  Changes are sometimes bad for business.  When
we know where we are, we are there, at any rate.  But can
you do it?"

"I am sent to save him from an abdication," said the babu.

"But you won't, unless he bribes you?  Oh, well.  I shall never
think the same of you again.  But stability counts.  I will wait
for my money--provided I get all the contracts for delivery of
corn."

"Yes, yes," said the Rajah, "at a good price--at a very good
price.  I will see the treasurer about it, and you need not fee
him.  But I shall expect your loyal influence.  There must be
counter-propaganda to offset the lies the priests are telling."

"I detest those rogues," said Ram Dass.

The Rajah forced a smile.  He crackled three one-thousand rupee
notes and laid them on the window-sill.

"I may depend on both of you--eh?  They are yours.  You may take
them," he said to the babu.  But as he drew his hand away his
finger-ring struck the window-pane.  And as the babu took the
money, a red turban--two eyes--then a lean, mean face appeared
above the sill.

"You see, we have another witness!" said the Rajah, smiling much
more genuinely than he had done.  "I supposed a little bribe was
all you wanted, so I took a precaution."

"Only one?" the babu asked him.

"No need now to kill you!" said the Rajah.  "You will either
serve my interests without fail, or lose your job and go to
prison for accepting bribes.  You understand me?"

"Perfectly, huzoor."

"You had better begin to use your wits at once against those
thieving priests."

"I wish to do so."

"And don't forget that they are intriguing to get my loving
cousin on the throne."

"I will not forget it."

"Then you have my leave to take your beastly presence hence into
the rain, you blackguard, and begin!"

"I go now," said the babu.

Bowing--suitably respectful--he and Ram Dass hurried out.
Chullunder Ghose retrieved his slippers from the door attendant
and slapped him with one of them.

"Just to remember me by!" he remarked.  "Your master has insulted
me.  Out of my way, you dog, before I spit at you!"

"Just try to get in here again!" said the attendant.

"You have done it now!" Ram Dass grumbled.  He hurried down the
front steps, but the babu overtook him.

"Get in!" he commanded.

"Into that old Ford?  Not I.  It has flat tires.  Why should I
risk my neck at my age?"

"Because I tell you.  Get in!"

Chullunder Ghose hustled him in, but it took him a minute or two
to get the thing started, and he had to hold the merchant.

"Let me out, I tell you!  I have never ridden in a--"

Fear seized Ram Dass as the car jerked forward, missing badly,
thumping on its rims.  He set his teeth and held on grimly until
the car had to stop at the iron gate, where the officer,
dismounted now, leaned in to speak to the babu.

"What news?"

"Not much," said the babu.  "Any more rioting?"

"None yet.  That one volley turned their stomachs.  Let us hope
the rain will continue.  That will stop rioting.  But tell me
your news."

"Can you keep a secret?" asked the babu.

"None better!  I am trained to keep them."

"Don't say that I told you.  But the truth is that Hawkesey--you
know Hawkesey?"

"Don't I!"

"Hawkesey has been got at!  He has turned against His Highness.
He is in a temple in the jungle, where he is conspiring with the
priests to bring about a _coup d'etat_ to put the Rajah's cousin
on the throne.  Hawkesey has been promised double salary.  And
the Rajah's cousin has guaranteed him a pension for life in the
event that the British insist on having him deported.  That's all."

"And you call that nothing?  Does His Highness know it?"

"No.  And I daren't tell him," said the babu.  "Even if I
did dare, I could not get back into the palace.  One of the
attendants has assaulted me.  He called me vile names.  All the
palace servants are afraid of me because they think I spy on them
and will report them to the Rajah.  So I don't know what to do."

"How many people know this?" the officer asked.

"Not many, sahib.  Even Ram Dass hears it only for the first
time."

The officer affected scorn.  "I don't believe this.  It is
another big-fish story."

"Who expects you to believe it?  Who expects the Rajah to believe
it?  Nobody believes a true tale, until too late!  Why should you
believe me?  I am an anonymous and stupid fat man, sent by some
one stupider than me to find out what is going on--so, naturally,
I know nothing!  I would like to know, though, what the Rajah is
to do about it!"

"Five hundred Men!" said the officer.  "We can hew hard.  We can
shoot straight.  Even Hawkes has praised our shooting lately!"

"Oh yes.  I suppose, then, you will face about and display your
heroism to a brigade or so of British troops?  You idiot!  Do you
suppose the British will permit a civil war in this State at a
time when they must also deal with Gandhi and a dozen other
troubles?  They will simply march in and annex the territory.
And then where will you be?  Perhaps you think the British will
sack their commander-in-chief in order to provide you with
a fat job?"

"What is this about poison?" the officer asked.  "His Highness
sent away that doctor just now on an elephant."

"Poison, nothing!  I suspect the Rajah knows the truth of what is
happening and simply has the wind up!  He is drinking too much,
and he has a headache, that's all.  Any one who told him what to
do would be a Godsend to him."

"I can reach him," said the officer.  "His Highness is always
willing to receive me whenever I have anything to report."

"But you are not to tell him that I told you," said the babu.
"He would be angry with me for not having told him myself just
now, when I had the chance."

"Why did you not tell?" asked the officer.

"Because I was afraid of him, for one thing.  As for you, if you
are not afraid, you had better say your own spies told you.  Thus
you will receive more credit."

"Why not?  Yes, that part of it is simple.  But what is the
proper advice to give him?"

"Ask me!" laughed the babu.  "Who am I to know that?  I know
well enough what I would do in his shoes.  But I am not in them,
praise be to the gods of Karma!"

"What would you do?"

"I would go to that temple on elephant-back.  I would take not
more than one or two men with me, and perhaps some servants.  I
would order Hawkesey to return to duty."

"And if Hawkes should refuse?" asked the officer.

The babu stared.  "Are you so innocent as that?  Do you suppose
Hawkesey would shoot him--and hang?  Of course he would not!
Could he take him prisoner?  Quite equally, of course not!  What
could Hawkesey do with such a prisoner?  I tell you, Hawkesey is
alone, with only three or four priests.  He is supposed to be
shooting a tiger.  He is actually making propaganda."

"Why not appeal to the British?"

"That would take time," said the babu.  "Time is in favor
of Hawkesey."

"Why not go, then, with a hundred men and seize Hawkes?"

"Because of the rioting!  Let twenty-five, or fifty, or a hundred
armed men march, in monsoon weather, and who will believe the
Rajah is not making war against the priests?  Do you suppose the
priests will sit still and say nothing?  You have never seen a
riot such as that one would be!"

"But if Hawkes refuses to surrender to His Highness personally?"

"Then the Rajah has a fine case, hasn't he, against the British!
They would have to help him to destroy Hawkes, but it would not
give them an excuse to overturn the government and put another in
the Rajah's place.  At the least, they would have to pretend to
be ashamed of Hawkesey's misbehavior."

"Well, why not shoot Hawkes?" asked the officer.  "He might be
ambushed.  Or he might be tempted into a parley and--"

"Oh, how I envy any one whom you advise!" the babu interrupted.
"Shoot Hawkes without bringing him to trial--and then see who can
stop the yell of 'murder' that will go up!  Don't forget that
Hawkes is much more popular than you are.  And the priests, who
probably despise him, nevertheless would take advantage of his
murder to accuse the Rajah.  Can the British let a Britisher be
killed and not retaliate?"

"So you suggest--?"

"That he should use his courage!" said the babu.  "Has he any?
Order them to open me the gate, I pray you."

Presently, in drenching rain, in mutually watchful silence,
Chullunder Ghose and Ram Dass skidded to a standstill.  There was
no one near the yellow-shuttered corn-shop except a dish-faced
penitent who sat in sackcloth, chin on knees, beside the shop
door;  even he seemed unobservant.

"Now I thank God I am still alive," said Ram Dass, starting up
the steps between the ancient cannons.  He seemed to wish the
babu not to follow him.  He hurried.  He turned at the shop door
and noticed the babu giving money to the dish-faced individual.

"Buy merit if you can!  You need some," he remarked, and then
entered his shop.

Chullunder Ghose followed him through to the back room, where the
oil-stove burned amid the corn-sacks.  Ram Dass turned on him.

"You are insane!" he said bitterly.

"I hope so, sahib!  Here are your three thousand rupees.
Take them."

"My three thousand?  Are you drunk too?"

"Not yet.  When insanity has done its job, I mean to get as drunk
as Bacchus!  Take your money.  You are fined two thousand dibs
for having lent good money to a bad crook!  I could not do any
better for you."

"Do you mean it?  You are not so mad after all.  That dirty dog
would never have repaid me, whatever I threatened.  He knew I was
bluffing.  I thank you.  Three thousand is better than nothing at
all.  And I apologize for my remarks just now."

"But how about the contracts?" asked the babu.  "Do you want
them?  And don't you owe me something?  Turn about is fair play."

"Money?  How much?"

"To the devil with your money!  Hawkesey and I are on the
level.  So are you, Ram Dass-jee.  Run an errand for me, and
we cry quits!"

"What now?"

"Go to the Residency and insist on seeing Major Smith, however
many times he may refuse to see you.  Tell him that his boils are
not an alibi, and say you have important information for him.
Then, as soon as he has finished reprimanding you for the
intrusion, turn the tables on him.  Say that the priests are
telling all the people that the Rajah has sent Hawkesey to commit
a sacrilege by invading a sacred place.  Say also that the Rajah
boasts that Major Smith advised him to send Hawkesey, and that
therefore the people are doubly indignant.  Tell him that today's
riot was a prelude to rebellion that only he can prevent.  And
then commence to flatter him.  When flattery has done its work,
tell him you have overheard me talking to the Rajah's bodyguard,
and say you think the Rajah intends to force a civil war, in
order to compel the British India authorities to intervene and
put the hooks into the priests--which will inevitably bring the
British into the religious sort of difficulty that they dread
with all their nerve and instinct."

"I was right when I called you insane," said Ram Dass.

"Nevertheless, reserve your judgment," said the babu.  "My
insanity is catching!  What I want is to get Major Smith to hurry
to the palace.  He will take a sore neck and a rotten temper with
him.  He will threaten the Rajah.  He will Dutch-uncle him.  I
know Smith.  And if I know the Rajah, he will drink a lot of
brandy and decide on what a statesman would have jumped at in the
first place--and spoil it by incorporating what that officer of
the guard to whom I spilled a little seed of my insanity,
advises."

"Then what?"

"Major Eustace Smith will get a decoration."   "What for?"

"Nothing.  I shall get a reprimand, and much more interesting
work to do.  And you will get the contracts."

"Pah!  I doubt it.  That man's promise--"

"Is as good as wooden money, no doubt.  How about his cousin's
promise?  If I tell his cousin you were instrumental in--"

"Oh!  This man has to abdicate?"

"No."

"What then?"

"Wait and see!" the babu answered.  "Will you do that errand at
the Residency?"

Ram Dass rubbed a finger on his sly old nose and hesitated half a
minute.  Then he answered:

"I will do it.  Not because I trust you, but because I think you
trust me."

"Stchah-Stchch!  The fellow to trust is the Rajah," the babu
answered.  "I know devils when I see them!"




Chapter XIX.

     "C.3 meant to do that, if he did it."


Familiar though he was with death's most bloody and disgusting
shapes, Hawkes was dazed and sickened by the devotee's death at
the claws and fangs of the tiger of Kali's temple.  Helplessly
bound, with the stench of the tiger's den beneath him and the
grim hag's torchlight breaking up the gloom, he hugged the wall
again for fear of falling off the ledge.  Ghosts of dead men
seemed to leap out from the shadows.  He could hear the tiger
snarling and the crunch of the brute's fangs on human flesh
and bone.

There was no more ceremony, except that the hag stood upright on
her broken pillar and began to scream, waving and shaking her
torch.  She was as mad-drunk as ever a Roman mob became at orgies
of dramatically frightful death.  Her screams appeared to stir
the tigress in the cage behind the stone bars;  eyes that
glittered in the torchlight did a dance to the measureless rhythm
of the hag's chant, leaving to imagination the invisible
contortions of a body yearning to glut strength in a feast
of frenzy.

Both Hawkes's captors seized him by the shoulders, raised him to
his feet and started back along the gallery, one leading with the
shrouded lantern and the other urging from behind.  He could not
have been recognized by any of the others on that gallery;  it
had been too dark;  his captors hustled him away too soon.  At
the end of a winding passage--not the same they came by--they
descended three steps and passed through an iron door that F.11
closed and bolted.  Then the other unshrouded the lantern
--grinned and pointed.

Half in and half out of a trough of carved stone lay a python,
heavier and much longer than any Indian python Hawkes had ever
seen.  It was offended by the lantern-light.  Red anger stared
from its fixed eyes.  It swayed its head in baffled arcs as it
tried to see beyond the lantern.  Then it crawled away across the
threshold of another door and vanished amid tumbled masonry.  And
F.15 spoke:

"Fed full!  He has slain his count of men, that serpent;  but he
eats goats, since a man is too much for his jaws to swallow,
though he crushes them like sponges dipped in red wine!  One goat
a week they give him--and six for the tigress;  on the seventh
day they let her hunger.  But to the he-tiger they give nothing;
he must hunt men!"

"Loose my arms!" Hawkes ordered.  "Dammit, I gave all my whisky
to the elephant.  I need a drink like Judas Iscariot!"

F.11 unfastened his arms and chafed the places where the raw hide
thong had bitten when he strained against it in his terror.

"Now the rifle!"

F.11 gave it to him.  There was no hint of his being a prisoner
now--no fear of him, and not the slightest trace of anything but
comradeship.  F.15 and F.11 grinned, disclosing teeth as yellow
as their long smocks, and their eyes were as inscrutable as those
of alligators.  They were partners in an ugly game;  they were as
full of guile as rats, as full of ruthlessness as leopards;  but
they were as friendly as two good hunting dogs.

Hawkes stared up at a ceiling formed by broken vaulting, into
which huge blocks of masonry had jammed themselves in falling.

"What now?" he demanded.  "I'd like half a ton o' T.N.T.  I'd fix
this place up proper!  Samson could ha' done the job right--pull
away the props and drop it on 'em?  Never heard o' Samson?  You
should go to Sunday school, the same as I did.  How do I get
out o' this?"

"You don't!" said F.11.  "Did not C.3 tell you to obey us?"

"Chullunder Ghose asked me to get back quick to him with
information," Hawkes answered.  "If you've any message for him,
get it off your chests, now.  And then how about one of you
coming to show me the way home?"

Both men shook their heads.  "Our orders are to stay here," F.11
answered.  "We have done our work well.  Soonya believes we are a
pair of Kali-worshipers in quest of this death."  Even F.11
shuddered.  "Our turn is the last--us two together--after all the
others have been torn and fanged into eternity.  We are to keep
you here until the babu comes.  He said so."

Hawkes asked:  "Did he mention me by name?"

"He did not.  What does C.3 care about a man's name?  C.3 is a
doer of the silent deeds that set up this one, and that set down
that one, but that leave him as secret as the drawers of night's
curtain.  Nay, a man's name or his place are nothing to him;  for
if Number One says, 'this one is a traitor;  ruin him!' or 'that
one is a true man in a tight place;  clear a way for him a
little!'  C.3 does it.  And he told us he would send a man to
stand by, who should do our bidding and defend us if it comes to
grave need.  We are to defend him also and to show him all we can
discover.  You are that one."

"Am I?  I'm in a predicament," Hawkes answered.  "That's what I'm
in.  First of all, the Rajah's Dirty Dick says I'm to come and
shoot the tiger.  I tell C.3, and he urges me to come, but says
I'm--not to shoot the tiger;  I'm to hurry back and tell him
what's what.  On the other hand, he did say I'm to dress by any
one I find here who appears to have credentials;  and you blokes
have 'em.  And you tell me I'm to stay along o' you until he
comes.  But I'm paid by the State o' Kutchdullub, out o' taxes,
and supposed to obey the Rajah--barring that, I mayn't take part
in politics or buck the local prejudices, one of which is that a
white man shouldn't enter temples.  It's a mix-up!  Damned if I
know what to do now!  I've a mind to go and shoot both tigers to
begin with."

"Nay, nay, sahib!  C.3 needs them."

"What the hell for?  Is he crazy?  Ever since I've known him he
was just a good old fatty with a sense o' fun and twice his share
of honest guts.  Has he gone off his onion?  Does he know about
the goings on in this place?  Has it made him barmy?   Dammit,
I'll go barmy if I don't get out o' here!"

"But in the darkness, sahib?  Through a jungle such as this one?
In the monsoon?"

"What do you suggest?" Hawkes answered.

"Sahib, we are pieces in the game he plays, so let him move us!"

"But he has told you one thing, and me another!"

"Sahib, nothing is more certain than that C.3 meant to do that,
if he did it."

"Damn his eyes!" Hawkes spat perplexity.  Then he reached for his
pipe and swore again when he remembered he was naked to the waist
and that his pipe was in his jacket pocket, in a cell at the end
of a maze of winding passages.  "You two come and sit by my
fire," he suggested.  "It'll go out if I don't get back and heap
some wood on.  We can sit there until daylight--fresh air and no
skeeters--how about it?"

Both men nodded.

"But to hell with that damned hole where you two caught me by the
feet!" said Hawkes.  "We'll stick a rock in that from top-side.
Let's get out o' here and find our way by the glow o' my fire in
the dark."

"But there is no way out." said F.11, "except through the chamber
where the woman keeps watch."

"O.K.  She shall have my butt end if she cuts up!"

"Nay, nay!  She is mad, that woman, and she has the cleverness of
madness.  As a drunkard gets drink, or as a drug-addict gets
drugs, Soonya will get what she is after, until the end comes.
It is better that we let her think she has her way now.  She will
take a short cut to her way if we stir suspicion.  If we slew
her, we should have those others down on us;  and they would be
worse than she is, because the would have lost their guide into
eternal death!  They would say we had robbed her also of eternal
death!  She teaches that eternal death is only to be had by dying
in the right mood and exactly at the proper moment, of one's
own will.  And they crave the nothingness of nothing--the
annihilation of themselves and of knowing, and feeling, and
being.  They crave it as an egg craves life, or as a lover yearns
for his beloved."

"All right.  Up the hole!" Hawkes answered.  "I'll go nutty if I
stay here, that's a safe bet."

He shuddered.  Unimaginative as a rule, and ignorant as most men
are of all that did not interest him, he had not the remotest
notion of the meaning of that temple, or of the fact that Moloch
-worship, the fire of the Inquisition, and a hundred other
horrors, are only new names for a basic madness that is older
than history.  All Hawkes cared to know just then was that the
stars and moon were shining somewhere outside, up above a murky
wilderness of clouds that would be blown away by clean air.  And
he yearned for that air in his lungs--good, washed air.

"Get a move on!"

F.15 led, carrying the lantern.  F.11 followed with a cat-like
tread that suggested his own nerves were nothing to boast of just
then.  The contact with Hawkes's plain thinking probably had
showed him, as a light shows darkness, something of his own weird
peril.  He seemed almost as much afraid as Hawkes was, and the
echoes of the thump of Hawkes's boots on the floor of shadowy,
long passages so scared him that he crowded close on Hawkes's
heels and glanced backward so often that Hawkes, too, felt they
were pursued.  Crowding on the man ahead, Hawkes stumbled
frequently, because there were steps in unexpected places and the
rising ramps between them were encumbered by the litter of fallen
carvings off the passage walls.  But at last they reached the
sloping hole that Hawkes had come down at the invitation
of the woman.

Then F.11 went up first with his rawhide looped round his waist,
and when he reached the top he lowered it for Hawkes to clamber
up by.  But it was too short.  F.15, with bare feet, had a better
grip on time-smoothed masonry, so Hawkes, encumbered by his
rifle, had to tread on the lamp-bearer's shoulders, and the two
of them slid twice to ground again before Hawkes caught the noose
at last.  It tightened on his hand, and F.11 felt the strain.  He
pulled hard.  Hawkes went upward like a fish hooked foul, and
landed, cursing, with his chest and face in bat-dirt and the
stench of that to stomach rather than the fresh night wind for
which he famished.

But the fire burned;  all it needed was a few sticks and a
moment's fanning.  Outside, gusty rain was splashing on the
stones and gurgling down the channels it had cut in slopes of
root-bound debris.  Hawkes went out, trousers, boots and all, and
washed himself until the bat-stench faded.  Then he pulled off
his trousers and wrung them, coming in again to dry them at the
welcome fire and squat there like a wet frog.  He examined his
rifle carefully by firelight before he found his pipe.  When he
had filled and lighted that he felt less nervous, but a military
instinct urged him.

"Take that rock, you two, and plug the hole," he ordered.
"There's a brace o' tigers, and a woman, and a python;  none o'
them's good company."

When they had done that they came and squatted on their heels
beside him, and for a long time there was silence, only broken by
the storm sounds or when one of them poked the fire.  But at last
Hawkes got into his clothes, and that broke F.11's reverie.

"Until the earthquake," he said, "and that was in the time of
Akbar, or earlier, this temple was known as a place where death
could be had for the asking.  There was fire in those days.  Men
--aye, and women were thrown in, at their own wish, after being
taught the meaning of it by the priests of Kali.  But it always
was a secret, told in whispers.  Men said that the earthquake
ended it.  But our trade teaches this, if nothing else;  that
evil has no end and no beginning.  Vigilance reduces it, as day
does night, but even day has shadows.  None knows how to stay
night from returning.  And an evil springs up from its own roots
in the very shadow of the scythe that just now mowed its stalks."

"Hell, you talk like a funeral," Hawkes objected.  "What do you
draw pay for?  Half the world 'ud starve if the other half
weren't in need of policing, one way or another.  Clean up!  Rout
this place out!  Burn it like a hornets' nest!"

"And there would still be hornets, sahib!  Aye, aye, we are sent
to clean this.  Trust us, we will do it.  C-3 will attend to it.
But there is no end.  That which causes evil will discover such
another place and find another way of befouling the darkness.  It
is like the cholera--plague--smallpox--"

"It's a job o' work for you blokes--What's that?" Hawkes asked.
Suddenly he gripped his rifle.  Wind was blowing, but the rain
had spent itself and myriads of night sounds were as audible as
Hawkes's own breathing!

"It was probably a jackal or a rat," said F.11.

"Shut up!  Let me listen."

Water trickled and the frogs made a floor of din on which all
other noises marched.  It was impossible to see beyond the
firelight, even if smoke had not watered their eyes.  And the
wind went sighing through the foliage of creepers rooted on the
ruins.  One could imagine anything.  Hawkes whispered:

"Were you expecting some one?"

"Only C.3."

"'Tisn't him;  he'd give his signal.  But there's some one out
there who has seen our fire.  He's afraid to come close before he
knows who's in here."

"Surely a hyaena, sahib."

"Sit still."  Hawkes took his rifle and crawled out, cursing the
mosquitoes.  For a while he sat in total darkness, listening, but
at last he put himself directly in the zone of firelight and
stood upright so that he could not help but be seen if there were
eyes in that outer darkness.  He could hear no outcry, and no
footstep.  He had decided he was mistaken and had faced about to
crawl back through the hole when something touched him on the
instep and he almost yelled, it felt so like a snake.  It gripped
his ankle.  He raised his rifle to smash at whatever it was with
the butt, when a voice said "Sahib!" and he checked the blow
in mid-swing.

Hawkes sat.  He knew his knees had given way from panic.  He
pretended to himself that he had sat in order not to have to
raise his voice.  Training and natural doggedness served him;  he
recovered swiftly, and the moment he could trust his voice he
answered, hardly above a whisper:

"Well? What?"

"I am F.9."

"What do you want?"

"I look for F.11."

"Where are you from, and who sent you?"

"Nay, I will not answer that until I know who you are."

"Come in then."

"I will follow, sahib."

"Watch your step then!  Any funny business and you'll wish
you hadn't!"

Hawkes did not catch even a glimpse of the owner of the voice
until he himself had crawled back to the fireside.  Even then he
only saw a momentary naked shadow, because a bundle of wet
clothing struck him in the face, and by the time he recovered
from that surprise the newcomer's wet fingers had gripped him by
the throat from behind.  It was an iron grip, one-handed, forcing
his face in jerks towards the fire while another hand twisted his
arm behind him.  Then his pipe fell from his teeth into the
embers.  F.11's hand recovered it.  There was a little talk in
undertones, and then the grip relaxed as it had seized hold,
suddenly.  Hawkes struck at random, but his fist hit nothing and
a man laughed.

"Do you wish to fight me, sahib?  Better give a number next
time, if you hope to be questioned gently!  I was taught to
take no chances."

"Who the devil are you?"

"Not the devil--but a playmate of the devil!  I am acting Number
Two to C.3.  These men spoke for you, or you would now lie
smothered in those ashes."

Naked, and the color of coppery-bronze a little reddened by the
firelight, with a chin like Gandhi's and incredible, steel-rimmed
spectacles above a thin nose that was almost like the beak of a
falcon, sinewy and stronger to the eye than whipcord, grinning
with the tip of a red tongue thrust through a gap in his front
teeth, F.9 met Hawkes's stare and mocked his indignation.

"One of these days I'll teach you manners," Hawkes retorted.

"It is hard to teach an old ape new tricks, sahib.  I was
learning in Chicago how to keep a thumb out of my eye before your
honor knew a rubber teat from dry dugs.  I have word for C.3.
Do you take it?"

F.11 leaned into a cloud of smoke and touched Hawkes's knee.

"I said it, sahib!  Said I not that C.3 has the key to any puzzle
that he sets up?  All we have to do is to obey him, and the plan
unfolds!  Not you--this man was the one we waited for;  and not
we--he is to instruct your honor!  He stays here with us, and we
shall show him what we know.  But you obey him!"

"How do I get back to C.3?" Hawkes asked.

"How did I come?  How else than by elephant?" said F9.  "Did you
think there is a subway?"

"Can he swim the river?"

"Easily, but can you hang on when the river ducks him?"

"Say, I'd hold fast to a submarine if it 'ud take me to
Kutchdullub!  Where's your elephant?"

"Down yonder in the jungle."

"What's your message?"

"It is for C.3's and no other ears.  The elephant's mahout
knows nothing."

"O.K.  I'll deliver it to C-3--if I get through.  And I'll get
through if it snows ink."

"Tell him this, then, sahib:  'F.9 saw the target and reports
that many shots have missed it, since the marker uses tricks that
turn the arrows.  But the marker is not suspected.'  Please
repeat that."

He made Hawkes repeat it three times, then resumed dictation:

"Add this:  'But the archer, becoming impatient, invents
excuses to step nearer to the target and assault it with
a new bow.  Being unpaid, he is eager to hit the very heart
of the bull's-eye and claim the reward.'  Repeat that also
to me three times, sahib."

Hawkes repeated it.  Then F.9 made him say it all from the
beginning, interrupting him to test his memory.  But Army
signaling had made Hawkes good at that game.

"Then add these words, sahib:  'It is high time.  Too late is
as bad as never!'"

Hawkes stuck his pipe in his pocket and tied a shoelace.  Then he
buttoned his jacket.

"Say what it means," he demanded.

"Oh yes, I forgot that."  F.9 grinned at him again and leaned
into the firelight.  "Probably it means that C.3 trusted you to
come and get the message, and that F.9 trusted you to take it!
Are you hungry?  Are you thirsty?  There are bread and meat and
whisky in Kutchdullub!"

"Are there!  And there's cheese in your guts!  You've fair
warning.  Watch yourself, the first time me an' you meet
unofficial!  You can have it Queensberry or catch-as-catch-can
--your choice."

F.9 chuckled.  He stuck out his tongue.  "Come along," he
answered, "I will show you to your elephant.  Perambulator for
the sahib!  Cushions!  Let me know if the mahout is rude to you
and I will slap him!"

Sticking a fist into his pocket to restrain himself, and setting
his rifle at safety to prevent an accident that might have looked
like an attempt at murder, Hawkes crawled out into the darkness.
F.9 followed, took him by the hand and led him at a half-run,
laughing at him when he stumbled--pushing him, pulling him
--seeming to see in the dark like an owl, whereas Hawkes saw almost
nothing, having stared too long at firelight.  He could smell an
elephant before he saw it;  and before he knew how near he was or
guessed the meaning of F.9's shout he was caught by an elephant's
trunk and hoisted, kicking, to a lightweight howdah such as
sporting princes use for speed and distance.  And before Hawkes
had his breath the elephant was crashing through the jungle like
a landslide;  he had to lie low and cling to the howdah to save
himself from being brained against low branches.  Twice he almost
lost his rifle.  Half a dozen times he threatened the mahout with
mayhem to persuade him to go slower.  He could guess neither
time nor distance.  It was pitch-dark, and the crashing of the
elephant through undergrowth silenced all other sounds until the
roar of the river greeted them.

The great brute did not hesitate.  There was a sickening slide,
then a splash and they were swimming in an unseen maelstrom.  The
mahout climbed in and hung on to the howdah rail.  They seemed to
spin round in tunnels of bewildering spate, in a deafening roar,
on a slippery perch that ducked them twenty times a minute.  And
then earthquakes, as the elephant stuck toes into the far bank
and hove himself up on rotten earth that gave way under him.
Panic in the blue mud--the mahout in place again--a blind crash
into tents and overturning carts--a chorus of blasphemous cursing
from awakened campers--and they were off again, towards
Kutchdullub, splashing through the mud at top speed--full five
tons of dark anachronism hungry for a hot meal.




Chapter XX.

          "It will probably be something!"


Ram Dass once more donned his blanket and sent a shop assistant
for a one-horse gharri, it being too far to walk to the
Residency, and too wet for his old gray Muscat donkey that he
sometimes rode and always treated with the sentiment that he
seldom allowed to intrude into corn or mortgages.  Chullunder
Ghose rehearsed him while they waited for the gharri, going even
to the length of telling him what Major Eustace Smith would
probably say, and how to make Smith angry and afraid without the
slightest risk of personal retaliation.

"Tell him that you have a telegram of about three thousand words
already written, that you will take to railhead to avoid State
censorship, and send to Delhi at your own expense unless
he takes immediate steps to check this rioting, same being
bad for business."

"It is nice to be able to tell at least a little truth," said Ram
Dass.  "We had better shut our shops if rioting continues."

"Truth," remarked the babu, "is good.  But only that is good of
which we like the consequences.  Use that as the measure of the
lies you have to tell, and don't be squeamish!  On your way you
are to stop for just two minutes at the office of Ananda Raz, who
is a mixture of lawyer and priest, so beware!  You are to tell
him you have absolutely confidential, but positive, news that the
British-India authorities are intervening;  and that, therefore,
if the priests will tell the people to stop rioting they will
soon see a change.  However, if the rioting continues, there will
be investigation and a public trial of the culprits."

Ram Dass nodded.  "Kali's priests would dread that."

"And a riot," said the babu, "is a form of suicide committed by
ignorant fools at the behest of human jackals in the pay of human
tigers, who are much worse than the beasts, because they know
what they are doing.  So let us stop these riots.  And Ananda Raz
can do it.  As the priests' attorney he has influence enough to
make those devils change their tactics."

"I will talk to him."

"Two minutes only!  He is an attorney;  he will totally defeat
you if you argue with him!  Simply say your piece and go away in
silence--to the Residency.  Go and get into the gharri;  it is
waiting.  Go now."

As mercurial as the very essence of his native Bengal, Chullunder
Ghose cracked his knuckles and the joints of his toes inside his
slippers.  It was all he could do to force himself to wait until
the merchant was well out of sight.  There was no sense in
letting Ram Dass know too much;  he had seen that dish-faced
fellow squatting near the shop door, but had probably not
memorized his features;  so it was not until the gharri drove
away that Chullunder Ghose walked past the man and, _sotto voce,_
bade him follow.  Round the corner, out of sight and earshot of
the shop assistants, he turned and gave his orders rapidly.


"Buy bananas;  eat them as you run, if you are hungry.  Go now
swiftly to the British Residency.  Speak there with the old
chuprassi whom the Major sahib uses as a spy.  You are to tell
him that a rumor is abroad that Hawkesey is indignant, and has
refused to shoot the tiger because somebody has said to Hawkesey
that the Major played a dirty trick on him by telling Syed-Suraj
to instruct Hawkesey to go and shoot the tiger and then to tell
the Rajah to dismiss him as a scapegoat.  Say that over to me."

Dish-face had a number in the C. I. D., so he was not in need of
much rehearsing.  Unimaginably underpaid, he was as keen as he
was illiterate, and as proud of his job as he seemed to be stupid
and humble.  He adored the babu.  When he repeated the message
accurately at the second attempt, and the babu nodded, his eyes
had the mute devotion of a sheepdog's.

"You are not to say to the chuprassi whence you have that news.
But say that if it does not reach the Major's ears immediately
there will be a new chuprassi within three days.  If he asks who
said that, say a bullfrog told it to you.  Go then to the palace.
Watch what happens.  If the Rajah goes away by elephant, you are
to set on fire as soon as possible the"--he hesitated--"it must
be a very big blaze.  It should look like the work of rioters.  I
must be able to see it from far away.  And it must kill no one.
It must not inflict important hardship."

Dish-face nodded.  "I can burn the place I sleep in, sahib.  It
stands alone in a deserted compound at the rear of the palace.
It is a great old wooden barn, wherein they stored the grass for
elephants.  But a contractor filled it full of grass no elephant
would eat, and now the rats are in it, because the roof is
tight and the grass dry."

"Atcha.  Set it well alight then," said the babu.  "I have given
you the money for your railway ticket.  You will not see me again
until we meet in Delhi."

"At the usual place?"

"Yes, if you are not shot by a Rajah's watchman as you run from
the burning barn.  Go now, and be careful."

But it was the babu who was almost caught off guard and was lucky
to keep that rendezvous in Delhi.  He was almost sizzling with
excitement as he hurried through the rain on foot towards the
barn where Ram Dass kept his surplus grain.  His theory that
typhoons illustrate the nature of all violence and that,
therefore, the safest place is always in the slowly moving midst
of the disturbance, may have made him overlook the element of
motion of the midst.  He was no longer in it.  Three hundred
yards from the barn, with a couple of acres of muddy slums to
thread his way through and the rain in his face, he was suddenly
struck on the jaw by a stone as he passed a narrow alley between
two disreputable houses.

Ninety-nine men in a hundred might have taken to their heels.
But his brain was too swift for his instincts.

"He who hits to kill, hits harder," he reflected.  So he dodged
into the alley whence the stone had come.  There was not much
more than shoulder room between the walls, and rain came pouring
from the eaves on both sides, forming an ankle-deep stream down
the middle.  There was no shelter--no cover of any kind, except
the buttress of a house wall on the right hand.  It projected two
feet out into the alley-way.  He ran towards it.  Out from behind
it sprang the villager who had named himself Silent Shadow.
Quicker than the shadow of a rat, he knocked the babu off his
balance and shoved him flat-backed against the wall behind the
buttress.  Then he smote him in the belly.

"It is too big!  Suck it inward!  Anyone who passes in the street
could see it."

"Where is your elephant?"

"Where I left him, by the barn of Ram Dass.  But your honor
ordered me to watch who followed.  So I noticed that the same men
whom I prevented from taking that elephant away from Hawkesey
--they, I mean, who found and carried in that _badmash_ whom your
honor slew with my club--they four came forth from a guardroom
near the palace gate and followed.  They were very weary
men, and they had knives and clubs and pistols.  So I said
to myself, they are up to no good since nobody sends out
tired men on a long chase but to do that which weariness
will urge them to do swiftly."

"Must I listen to a tale about your cleverness?"

"But I was clever, sahib!  I am much the best assistant that your
honor ever found by good luck!  Did your honor not forbid me to
have speech with them?  So what could I do but coax them to have
speech with me?"

"Very well, they spoke.  And what then?"

"Only one of them spoke.  The others smote me;  and they twisted
my arms until I had to speak.  However, that was all right, and
not disobedience at all, because I lied to them.  It is a well
-known fact that lies are nothing and the truth can prove them
to be nothing.  Telling nothing is not speech, so I was not
disobedient.  I told them that your honor saw a woman through a
window and had called to her to set a signal whenever her husband
should be away from home.  I said she set the signal and I saw it
and informed your honor;  so your honor hurried to the house."

"Did they believe that?"

"Yes, they presently believed it, after I had added certain
details.  They would have broken my toes and fingers if I had not
been clever and made them believe.  I told them how your honor
wished to use that woman as a spy, by getting her to talk to the
zenana servants.  So they set an ambush, saying they will stop
such treason.  There they wait, to slit your honor's throat;  but
me they drove away, mistrusting me.  They feared I might cry out
or make a signal and inform your honor.  So I came here by way of
the back street.  And here I waited in all this draughty air and
rain, as cold and hungry as a--"

"Where are they now?"

"Round the corner.  Just round the corner of the next street."

"Very well.  Now we shall see if you are fit for permanent
employment.  Go and tell them--and demand a fee for telling it
--that you have just now seen me entering the shop of Ram Dass.
If they doubt you, offer to go with them."

"But if they take me to the _kana_--"

"You will get a meal there and a dry bed.  What should you care
if you sleep in a police cell?  We, of our service, sometimes
even serve a term in jail to hide from enemies."

There was no more speech between them, but it was as if an ax had
fallen and severed the thread of the villager's interest.  He
nodded, but the nod was unconvincing.  The natural slyness left
his eyes and was replaced by a look of stolid honesty, which is a
danger-sign in yokels.  The intangible, perhaps magnetic, current
that unites two men in one enthusiasm, ceased as suddenly as
switched-off light;  and the villager smiled as he walked away
into the rain.  If he had looked back, he might have noticed that
Chullunder Ghose was smiling also.

"He was too good to be true, that villager," remarked the babu to
himself.  "That one is the ninth or the tenth I have tested who
was afraid of a cell, although crafty enough to fool a hundred
constables.  Well--now he sells me to the constables, so what
next?  There are two ends to this alley."

But the villager knew that;  and the babu felt equally certain
that the villager had decided to betray him.  The chances were
that two of the police would come from either end, so as to catch
him whichever way he bolted.  But to do that, two of them would
have to give the other two enough time to run round the block of
buildings and take up position.  Nothing for it but the buttress.

"There is no time now for bad luck!  O thou Lord Ganesha, lift me
by the short hair!  Grip same as it rises!"

It was such a buttress as an ape might clamber easily enough, but
it was slippery with rain and not an easy climb even for an
athlete equipped with leg-irons.  For the babu it looked like
stark impossibility.  But he kicked off his slippers and stowed
them in his waistband.  Pudgy-looking fingers and bare toes took
a grip on cracks and the interstices of weathered bricks.  Knees
and elbows hugged the buttress as a vice hugs lumber, and he went
up like a Jack-o'-ladder in a toyshop, until he swung himself
over a low parapet on to a flat roof and lay there listening.

Three minutes later, four men approached from opposite directions
and came to a halt beneath him.  One of them spoke to a fifth man:

"Well, where is he?"

"Sahib, he was here!"

"You lie, you vermin!  I watched this end of the alley."

Another man spoke:  "If that fat brute had escaped at our end, we
two surely would have seen him running.  There is no door here
--no window.  He could not have hidden.  This lying jungli has been
fooling us!"

"I have not, sahibs, I--"

"Take that, you mud-begotten toad!"

"And take that, you dog of a liar!"

"And take that!"

"And that!"

"To the _kana!_  We will teach him in the _kana!_"

"In a dark cell we will teach him--"

"Where a rat or two will gnaw his whip-sores!"

"He shall eat salt--"

"Lots of it, and listen to the splash of water!"

"Put the handcuffs on him."

"Hold him while I bruise his insteps!  Why should he walk in
comfort when our feet ache from a long wait on account of
his lies?"

"Ouch--ohee-ee-yow-oh-h-h-!"

"Forward, or I'll crack you on the heels, you jungle-hopper!"

Peering above the parapet, the babu watched them march away
down the alley in single file, with the villager limping in
their midst.

"Another cull!" he muttered.  "What a pity!  He was almost all
right, that one.  But the tainted egg becomes a bad egg.  That
one will become a criminal.  There is not room for a split hair
between those and us;  and yet the stars are nearer to the earth
than they and we to one another!  Too bad!"

Down he went over the parapet, and out the far end of the alley,
hurrying, and not once glancing backward.

"I am probably beholden to the god Ganesha," he reflected.  "And
the gods are worse than money-lenders.  They collect--they
collect--they collect!  So why waste breath on thanks to them?
And bombs don't fall twice in the same place.  Good luck is just
like a cold in the head;  it runs for three days if it isn't
squelched the first hour.  Three days?  I can do it, if only
Hawkesey hasn't acted like a true-blue Britisher and shot my
works away to save his character--or something.  It will probably
be something."




Chapter XXI.

      "What are good guys for?"


Copeland sat up, in the howdah, smoking, studying the back of the
mahout's head and admiring the way the rain ran from the roof
of the enormous barn--a two-storied affair.  The upper part
projected and was supported on thick wooden posts;  it served as
shelter from the rain, and the smell of the corn and semsem seed
and peas was not bad, so that Copeland actually was enjoying the
long wait.  He had hardly realized how tired he was, after so
many days of incessant and exacting work, until he sat in that
swaying howdah while the elephant pumped restlessly at an
imaginary crank.  And there was lots to think about--the Sikh's
enthusiasm--Major Eustace Smith's boils and abominable manners
--the riots in front of the palace--this astonishing elephant--and
the babu.  Most of all the babu.  It was like a dream directed by
a humorous, fat showman.

Copeland had ceased to believe or disbelieve.  He chuckled over
it, enjoyed it and pretended to himself that nothing mattered,
although at the back of his mood was sane sense warning him that
things like that don't happen unless serious events are stirring
underneath the surface.

"Hell, it's not my funeral!" he reflected.  "It's the tiger's if
I've luck and if the babu isn't lying.  He probably is, but who
cares?  He amuses me, I like him, and I shan't mind if he soaks
me any reasonable sum of money.  All I've missed until now is the
Rajah, but I'm riding his elephant, so that's something.  And I
don't know where I'm off to, which is even better!  Here's luck!"

He drank from his flask, relighted his pipe, and almost fell
asleep in the gently swaying howdah, with nothing bothering him
except mosquitoes and the smell of the mahout, who stank of
garlic, betelnut and unwashed underclothing.  He was somewhere
between sleeping and waking when a clod of earth fell in his lap
and the babu called up from beside the elephant:

"Come down!  I have a key to this place, but just look at the
cripple from whom I took it!  Ram Dass probably employs him
because he couldn't run away with grain-bags!"

There was a rope suspended from a beam, so Copeland swung himself
down by that.  A half-paralyzed and at least half-insane watchman
fled at sight of him, limping and writhing round a corner of
the building.

"He would not have let me have the key if I hadn't told him you
are sent by Ram Dass to remove his legs and arms and have them
cured in the United States.  Let us steal two hundred pounds
of grain."

"I'm willing.  But, for God's sake, why?" asked Copeland.

"Fuel!  Number One Welsh for the non-stop special!  Elephants
are engines with the fire-box at the wrong end.  Do you like
excitement?  Look at me then;  I am essence of it!  Come on!"

Between them they dragged out four bags of the best unhulled
rice, and the elephant hoisted them into the howdah.  Then he
lifted Copeland and the babu, who addressed the mahout with
savage vehemence:

"You son of evil, I am wet through and ashamed to ride behind a
filthy drunkard such as you are!  So beware of making me more
angry than I am already!  I want speed and plenty of it.  If I
have to speak again to you about it, I will brain you with your
ankus and then drive the elephant myself!  Get going.  Take the
road towards the river."

An elephant is one of the fastest things on four legs.  Corn-fed
and in good condition, with his feet well tended, he can out
-speed and out-endure any mammal that breathes, excepting always,
man.  He is incomparable in squelchy going, if the squelch is
only on the surface so that it does not bog his great weight.
But his head bobs, and his body sways;  he is as comfortless at
high speed as a racing motor-boat in the teeth of a wind-crossed
tide.  So Copeland presently bestowed his breakfast on the blue
-black mud that smick-smacked to the suck-and-plug of four
enormous feet.  He was not interested in the sandwiches he had
brought and that Chullunder Ghose appropriated.  Optimism oozed
away, along with the rain that drooled down from the high-peaked
howdah-top.  It is impossible to vomit and be proud, or even to
be reasonably vain;  so he began to live on obstinacy.  Nothing
but that preserved him from the last disgrace of asking to be set
down and left by the roadside.  At the end of ten miles he would
have welcomed a tiger, if the brute would only guarantee to
kill him.

However, most people survive even sea-sickness and its equivalent,
especially men like Copeland, who can laugh at themselves between
the devastating spasms.  Sunset found him sprawling on his back
with his eyes shut, unable to endure the sight of a revolving
universe.  One hour after sunset he was sitting up and following
the babu's gaze across the trees in the direction of Kutchdullub.

They had stopped on high ground, he supposed, to breathe the
elephant.  But except for the great brute's heaving lungs there
was no motion now, and Copeland's senses came back to resume work
almost as swiftly as they had deserted him.  He saw a column of
flame in the distance, and a hell-red splurge below the belly of
a black cloud.  It looked as if a city was burning.

"What is it?" he asked--his first words since they left Kutchdullub.

"Just a signal," said the babu.

"Looks like rioting to me."

"It means that things are going much too much like clockwork,"
the babu answered.  "I shall begin to suspect disaster unless
something goes wrong presently."

"My works have been going wrong," said Copeland with a pale grin.

"That is not enough, however.  In important matters there are
always errors.  To succeed, it is essential to get those errors
cleaned up and out of the way.  If not, the climax catches us
with so much to attend to that we act like politicians chasing
broken pledges with a fish-net.  I am worried."

"Talk sense, can't you?  What does the signal mean?"

"It means that the Rajah has left his palace."

"Didn't you want that?"

"I insisted on it!  I have used up all my ingenuity to get him to
do so.  He has done it.  Now I am afraid."

"Of what?"

"I can imagine only one way now by which he might upset my
calculations.  I imagine that, however;  and it makes me feel
like being raised the limit by a fool who drew one card and may
have filled a royal flush."

"I don't know what you're calculating.  What could he do to upset
you?  Do you suppose he is out after our tiger?"

"If he isn't, we are flummoxed, sahib, if you know what that means."

"For the love of Pete, talk sense and then I'll try to understand
you."

"Sahib, if he has not had enough to drink to inflame his ego
--which is to say, if he has the wind up too badly--some stray,
fluffy little shred of common sense still floating in the water
on his brain may tempt him to disgrace his ancestors and save
himself by hurrying across the border into British India.  If he
should do that, and claim protection against his cousin and the
priests, accusing them of having caused the riots, my work would
be wasted and the British would have to send for Jack the Ripper
to invent a reason for not coming to his rescue--since a treaty
is a treaty, even among statesmen!"

"Are you framing him, for God's sake?"

"Sahib, he is framed in barbed-wire by his own besotted conduct!
It is inconvenient to abdicate him, so he must be buried.  And he
can't be executed, so he must be made into a hero."

"Bumped off?"

"Much more diplomatic.  Have you ever seen a scorpion sting
itself to death?"

"Eh?  Suicide?"

"No, no.  But allowed to follow causes to their natural
conclusion, sahib."

Copeland shied off vigorously.  "Dammit, I've no share in this.
I won't be drawn in.  If you'd given me a hint of all this,
I'd have--"

"You shall keep your moral feet dry," said the babu.  _"Cheloh!"_
he commanded, and the elephant resumed its squelching down
the pitch-dark lane between the jungle and a wilderness of
flooded fields.

Copeland would have liked to argue, but the vertigo seized him
again.  It was not quite so bad as before, but it made speech
impossible;  so he lay still, watching the crimson cloud grow
dull-red as the rain descended on the fire beneath it.  For
another hour they swayed amid a sea of forest noises into black
night.  Then a shout--unmistakably English--stopped them, and
Copeland sat up.  An electric torch stabbed at the darkness and
the elephant was bathed in milky white light, striped with
parallel lines of rain.

"Oh, Hawkesey--is it Hawkesey?" asked the babu, his voice
sonorous with emotion.

The answer was equally sonorous, but the emotion different:

"Who the hell did you suppose it was?  Get down off there--or let
me up--I'm scuppered!"

"What has happened, Hawkesey?"

"I've a message for you.  Lost my elephant!  He went into a panic
when a buffalo got up and startled him.  He crashed into the
jungle and brained the mahout on a branch;  he brained him deader
than a doormat.  Then he bogged himself in a mud-hole, and I
jumped.  He couldn't climb out.  Last I saw of him was bubbles,
where his trunk blew 'Last Post' through a foot o' stuff like
blue soup.  He'd a bullet in him.  Soon as I saw he was there
for keeps I shot him;  then he sank in half a jiffy.  That was
mid-day.  I've been walking ever since."

"I thank you, Hawkesey!" said the babu.

"What for, dammit?"

"Oh, for getting in the way of trouble!  You are a very
dependable person, Hawkesey!  Now I am an optimist!  I think
that all is well from now on!"

"Cheese it!  Hoist me up there.  Any liquor?"

"Catch!"  Copeland summoned strength enough to throw his whisky
-flask.  Hawkes recovered it out of the mud, up-ended it and
drained it empty.  Then the elephant knelt in the mud and Hawkes
stared at Copeland by the aid of the flashlight while he leaned
against the big beast's heaving flank.

"I hope that whisky wasn't all you had," he said politely.
"'Struth, but I needed it."

"I've another bottle," said Copeland.

"What is the message, Hawkesey?" asked the babu.

"F.9--scarecrow in his birthday trousseau and a pair o' specs.
You know him?"

"I have known him when he wore a top-hat, Hawkesey!  I have seen
him ride a bicycle in plus-fours.  He is a very important liar.
What did F.9 tell you?"

Hawkes delivered the message.  "It's as Greek to me," he said,
"as algebra.  He sassed me when I asked him to explain it.  Does
it mean much?"

"Hawkesey, yours will be the winning uppercut at Armageddon!  Did
you shoot that tiger?"

"No chance, dammit!  Wish I had!  I saw him kill and eat a bloke
who asked him to!  I never saw the like of it.  If I'd been
drinking I'd have known I had the D.T.'s.  And I didn't shoot
that woman, either;  but I will if she ever gets in range o'
my express!"

"F.15 and F.11?"

"On the job.  F.9 is with 'em.  It was they who tied me so I
couldn't shoot the tiger."

"God reward them for it!  Hawkesey--"

"What now?"

"Are you all in?"

"You're a Pharaoh, that's what you are!  Do you think I'm a
blinkin' Israelite to go on making blinkin' bricks for you
without no blinkin' straw?  I want supper and sleep."

"That message, Hawkesey, means that your employer has been paying
a physician from Madras to poison his cousin.  But because that,
cousin, Prince Jihangupta, has a body-servant who is loyal;  and
because F.9 explained the danger to that body-servant, something
else was substituted for the poison.  So the doctor from Madras
is seeking other means of killing him, and we must hurry to
prevent it."

"I'm not stopping you," Hawkes answered.  "I can reach home on
foot all right, if I take it easy.  Got a sandwich?"

"Your employer, Hawkesey, is behind us.  Or at least, I hope he
is behind us.  He will not come quite so fast as we did, being
fonder of his comforts."

"Don't I know it.  Elephants give him a gut-ache.  When he rides
'em you'd think he was going to his own funeral."

"He may be going to it, Hawkesey.  Who knows?"

"Hey?  What?  Some one set an ambush for him?  Maybe I'd better
wait right here and warn him as he goes by!"

"Wait, yes.  But there isn't any ambush, Hawkesey.  Nobody will
kill him.  Tell him all that you have seen within that temple.
But neglect to tell him that you know he ordered you to shoot the
tiger, with intent to sack you afterwards for having committed
sacrilege by entering a sacred and forbidden place!"

"The hell he did!"

"It is as true as that I sit here," said the babu.

"Then he's worse than I took him for!"

"Lot's worse, Hawkesey."

"And he'll sack me anyhow, if I admit I've been into the temple.
Sacred places are expressly mentioned in the contract;  I mayn't
touch 'em."

"So we understand each other.  Had I asked you not to tell him
what you saw in there, we might have argued half a night about
it!  You are quite right;  you would be a fool to tell him."

"What then?"

"Say that you have heard his cousin will be there at daybreak."

"What for?"

"To destroy the tiger and to get the credit."

"But I haven't heard it."

"Are you deaf?  I told it to you.  You may say I told it to you.
You may say I am encouraging his cousin to get up out of bed and
to steal a march on him and kill that tiger for the sake of
gaining popularity, and, at the same time, putting hooks into the
priests of Kali, who will have to behave after that, or else be
shown up.  You may tell the Rajah I am very angry with him for
his several attempts to have me murdered."

"How can I speak civil to him?" Hawkes asked.

The babu leaned out of the howdah, thrusting his face into the
rays from the flashlight.

"Be a good sport, Hawkesey!  You have done so perfectly that I am
prouder of you than a cuckoo that has laid a fresh egg in a foul
nest!  Don't go now and spoil it!  Swallow anger for the sake of--"

"Damn you, I'll do anything for you," said Hawkes, "so cut the
Sunday sermon.  I'll wait here and--"

"Offer to go with him to the temple and to help him kill
that tiger!"

"Did you hear me say I'm all in?"

"Play the little gentleman, and--"

"What else?"

"Dogged does it, Hawkesey!  Here are seven sandwiches.  But drink
rain--no more whisky!  And expect me when you see me.  I depend
on you to be a true-blue British bulldog of the sort whose
ignorance is priceless, and whose errors are so honest that the
gods convert them into pitfalls for the enemy!"

"Oh, go to hell!"

"_Auf wieder, sehen,_ Hawkesey!"

"_Bong swoir!_  And the same to you, sir.  Thank you for
the snifter."

Then the elephant rose to its feet like something rocked up
by an earthquake, and resumed the sucking, plugging sway
into the darkness.

"It's a hell of a night to leave a good guy sitting in the rain,"
said Copeland.

"What are good guys for?" the babu answered.  "To be put in paper
wrappers in a glass case?"




Chapter XXII.

    "You shall drink with it to your own health, you devil!"


Pictures burned themselves from then on into Copeland's mind.
They were lurid, with gaps between them, like the midnight
glimpses from a railway window.  Some of them were like
remembered fragments of a nightmare.  There was one where the
elephant swam the river;  part of it was a fantastic fight in
darkness with a tree that whirled down-flood.  It entangled the
elephant's legs;  he tried to dive beneath it, and its branches
caught the howdah trappings.  Tree and elephant at last were
flung against the far bank.

Then there was a two-hour wait beside a smoky bonfire while they
fed the elephant on wet rice;  and a little whisky for his
disposition.  Copeland dried and cleaned his rifle by the
intermittent glow of firelight, coughing and rubbing the smart of
the smoke from his eyes.  The mahout refused further duty at that
stage, until he was beaten with a fire-brand by the babu, who
threatened to kick him into the fire and leave him there.  He
meant it.  He clutched him by the beard and throat and forced him
backwards.  The mahout capitulated and was given about an ounce
of whisky.

Then on again, into the folds of foothills, where the trees
went by like black ghosts.  There the going became rocky
and the elephant's tired feet began to hurt him, but he was
driven mercilessly.

"Show me man or beast who doesn't have to suffer at some time
without knowing why," said the babu in answer to Copeland's
protests.  "Most of us suffer without reward, but this big
simpleton will get a hot mash, with some sugar in it, and a
gallon of arrack."

Measureless and timeless darkness--then an oil-lamp throwing wet
light on a gate amid enormous trees.  A gate-house, and a sleepy
gate-man with his turban all awry, who sulkily refused admission.

"I will crash that gate, you son of sixty dogs!" the babu yelled
at him.  He ordered the mahout to charge it, head-on, but the
gate-man ran into the gate-house for his key and let them pass
in.  Then a winding drive amid a dumpy maze of feathery bamboo
and scented shrubs.  A dark house.  One dim light beneath a
portico.  A huge bell, that the babu tolled like the knell of
hastened destiny.  An angry group of servants at a dark door--one
wax taper, and a voice like a barking watchdog's.

"He is ill.  You may wait outside until the morning.  This is no
time to disturb His Highness."

"Shall I shoot my way in?" asked the babu.  He seized the bell
-rope--sent a clangor through the night that brought another group
of servants on the run from the stables and out-houses.  Some of
them brought ladders and a chemical fire-engine.  Light after
light appeared at curtained windows;  one jerked open with a
screech of unoiled hinges and a voice called:

"What now?  What the devil is it?"

"An important message from His Highness the Rajah of Kutchdullub!"
the babu shouted, and the window slammed shut.

Then the doctor from Madras appeared in the doorway, in his blue
suit and his watch-chain, with his necktie loose.  His black
beard looked as if he had been sleeping on it.

"You--I want you!" said the babu.  The elephant knelt.  He
climbed out.  "Come here--and talk English, or you may regret
it!"  Then he drove a group of servants out of earshot and
beckoned the man from Madras to the side of the howdah.  He
approached with hesitation, that he tried to offset with an air
of insolent importance.

"You?" he said, folding his arms on his chest.  "I know you well
by sight.  Who are you?"

"No one of the least importance," said the babu.  "I am
from His Highness of Kutchdullub, who is not pleased.  You
are too slow!  He has sent another doctor--this one--who
must see the Prince instanter!"

"He is too ill."

"Did you hear me?"

"Have you it in writing?"

"Do you take His Highness for a born fool?  You are to receive
your payment in a certain place at daybreak.  After that
you may go to the devil.  I will take you to the place, and
I will be a witness that you are paid-in full--as a precaution
against blackmail!"

"I have never heard of such indignity. I--"

An acetylene light in the hall was turned on suddenly.  A very
weary looking man with strange eyes, in a yellow turban and a
yellow robe of flowered silk, came and stood in the doorway.  He
was shadowed by a servant ready to support him;  as he appeared
to fear his master might fall backwards.  Chullunder Ghose
promptly salaamed with both hands to his forehead.  Behind them
he whispered to Copeland:

"Get out of the howdah!"

He almost pulled Copeland out.  He hustled him towards the door.

"Prince Jihangupta," he said, "it is my privilege to introduce to
Your Highness Doctor Copeland of the United States of America who
comes in great haste--"

"Why?" the Prince asked, staring.  He appeared not to see
distinctly.  Copeland muttered one word:  "Digitalis!"

"He congratulates you!" said the babu.

"I am flattered.  But on what account does he congratulate me
--and at this hour?"

"Her Majesty Queen Victoria had to be haled out of bed by Lord
Melbourne to be told she had succeeded to a throne," the babu
answered.  "So we have a precedent to go on.  May we speak to
Your Highness in private?"

The Prince swayed, but the servant caught his elbows.  Then he
turned on his heel and led the way into a small room, where his
servant lighted candles.  It was furnished almost like a
monastery cell--wood-paneled, severe, no ornaments, a vaulted
ceiling.  The servant remained;  he merely withdrew into a corner
at a sign from the Prince and stood still and alert--a very old
man with a young one's quickness.

"Well, what is it?  Is my cousin dead?" the Prince asked.

"Not yet," said the babu.

Copeland interrupted:  "You will be, unless you listen to me!
How much digitalis have you taken?"

"But it was not digitalis!" said the Prince, and sat down.

"Let me see your wrist," said Copeland.  He did not touch it;  he
could see the tell-tale needlemark from where he stood.  "How
many shots have you had?"

"Two.  He--my doctor--says that two more will restore my
health entirely."

"Send that servant for my bag," said Copeland.  But the servant
said his say then.  He was voluble and he even shed tears.
Chullunder Ghose interpreted:

"Who am I to know about such matters?  But I know that these hurt
no one, so I substituted these for what the doctor gave him--and
he lives!"

The servant produced a tin box from his sash.  On its cover, in
big white words, were the name and the claim of a patent capsule
so notorious that reputable druggists will not sell it and some
governments refuse to let it pass their frontiers.  He went on
with his story, and Chullunder Ghose interpreted:

"Today he took a little syringe.  What could I do?  And he
squirted something into the Bahadur's arm.  He did it twice.
And now what?  Will he die in spite of all my watching?"

"Tell him to bring my bag," commanded Copeland.

But the servant was afraid to leave his master, so Copeland
himself went for the bag, and that took several minutes, because
the mahout had taken the elephant towards the stables and was
busy arguing about accommodations.  When he returned he found the
babu talking to the Prince like an auctioneer to a baulky bidder.
He caught the end of a sentence:

"You are not the first Prince I have talked to!  If it isn't
priests, it's money-lenders!  If it isn't drink, it's women!  I
am nothing but a babu, but I don't keep my brains in my belly,
and I will ruin you unless you listen to me!"

Copeland poured a tumbler nearly full of brandy.  "Drink that,"
he commanded.

"But I never drink.  It is against my--"

"Drink it!"

Then the doctor from Madras came in, his beard brushed and his
necktie properly adjusted.  He watched the Prince screw up his
face as he drank;  and he smiled as the Prince wiped teeth and
lips with a purified handkerchief to offset the defilement from
Copeland's touch.  Then he shrugged his shoulders:

"My responsibility has ceased!  If that man's medicines should
kill you--"

"How much did my cousin offer you to poison me?" the Prince
asked;  and before he could answer the babu turned and faced him:

"Tell it when the Rajah pays you, dog of a hypnotist!  Dog of a
murderer!  You are coming with us!"

The Madrassi turned towards the door, but the babu seized him and
flung him backwards almost half across the room.  Then he glanced
at the Prince, and from him to Copeland.

"Can he travel?"

Copeland nodded.  "Violent exercise is what he most needs.  Put
him on an elephant and sway him.  That and the brandy ought to
overcome the digitalis."

"Will Your Highness give the necessary orders?" asked the
babu, and the Prince staggered out of the room on the arm
of his servant.

Then Chullunder Ghose nudged Copeland and the two of them faced
the Madrassi.  He showed his teeth;  his hand was in his right
hip-pocket.  They approached him closer.

"If you have a pistol, draw it!" said the babu.  Suddenly he
kicked him, pounced and seized him by the arms.  "You take his
pistol, Doctor sahib!"

The Madrassi had no pistol.  In his right hip-pocket were a
hypodermic syringe in a silver case that also held a phial of
digitalis, and a screw-lid wooden box that looked as if it might
hold ink for refilling a fountain pen.  Copeland opened it.  He
found a small glass bottle, drew the cork and sniffed once:

"Prussic acid!"

The Madrassi wilted.  "Let me have that!" he said in a harsh
voice.  "It will save trouble for us all!"

Copeland gave the poisons to the babu.  It was not his business.
But he was curious.  "Any ground-glass in the Prince's stomach?"
he asked.

"No, no," said the Madrassi.  "He has ulcers and--"

The babu interrupted:  "Pah!  The Prince is nothing but a
hypochrondriac, and morbid!  He had belly-ache, and this man
hypnotized him to believe it was ulcers!  This man is a
specialist, I tell you.  Too many of his patients die of
overdoses of some drug or other!  Yet he has no money;  he is
blackmailed by the undertakers and the servants of the heirs
who pay him to murder a rich relation!"

"You are a fat and filthy liar!" the man from Madras said
savagely through tight lips.

"Tell that to the Rajah!  Are you coming with us?  Shall I tie
you?" asked the babu.

"Listen to me;  I will let you have that prussic acid--"

"Give it to me!"

"You shall drink with it to your own health, you devil, if you
will accuse the Rajah to his face, before us all, of having
bribed you to murder the Prince!"

"Ha!  Two sides of the same coin!  He will simply shoot me."

"Otherwise, you go to prison," said the babu, "and await what
happens in the prison to a man whom the police of this State find
it inconvenient to send to trial!"




Chapter XXIII.

    "A tiger comes quick as a punch in the eye!"

Hawkes, with is head on a tree-stump and his rifle on his knees,
fast asleep on a fallen monument beside the temple pool, snored
louder than the bullfrogs.  Sun was rising very dimly through a
gray mist and the pool was like a mirror ruined by the damp--no
ripple on it, but a patchwork of leaden lanes with silver-gray
between them.  Kali's temple drooled, gray-ugly;  it was like an
ant-heap, except that the mist made semi-luminous the green of
its marauding foliage, redeeming it a little.  Two huge
elephants--blue-black phantoms looking twice their real size
--swayed amid trees at the edge of the jungle.  Out of sight of
those, but visible from where Hawkes lay, two other elephants
stood stock-still waiting to be told to kneel and be unloaded;
they were on the opposite side of the temple--away from the
river.  A minah-bird squinted at Hawkes from a burned stump,
scolded at something--and took wing.

"How long have you been sleeping, Hawkesey?"

Hawkes sat up, gripping his rifle.  Seconds passed before he
recognized Chullunder Ghose.  The babu sat six paces off, facing
the temple but camouftaged by tree-stumps and a bunch of tall
grass.  Hawkes yawned.

"Thought you'd gone and lost yourself," he answered.  "It's a
pity you didn't.  Things look enough like hell to pay, without
your adding to 'em!"

"Tell me."

"The Rajah's drunk.  He was afraid to cross the river, though
he's generally bull-rash when the liquor's in him.  Damned if I
think he'd ha' crossed if he weren't so bent on shooting you.  He
hates you worse than he does his cousin.  I'm next.  I'd ha'
betted a hundred dibs he'd try to shoot me when I told him what
you said to tell him."

"Where is he?"

"Yonder by the elephants.  There's seven servants with him, not
including the mahouts.  It takes two of 'em to keep the champagne
iced and ready for His Highness;  and at that he never offered me
a drink, the stinker--not even when I took an elephant and three
men, crossed the river to the village, stole a rope and made a
raft o' goatskins, sent that over on the elephant, and towed him
across--in the dark, mind!  He's as drunk as two coots.  Killing
drunk.  His eyes 'ud burn a hole in sheet-iron.  I came over here
to be out o' harm's way.  I don't want to have to shoot him--not
even in self-defense.  I'd sooner hook it."

"Stand by, Hawkesey!" said the babu.  "I am needing all the
courage I can beg or borrow!"

"What's, up?"

"I have brought the Rajah's cousin!  I have also brought the
doctor from Madras who has been poisoning the Prince!  I have
him tied into a howdah, between Doctor Copeland--"

"Who's he?"

"U.S.A.  You saw him and you drank his whisky.  He is pukka.
Between Doctor Copeland and a servant who would give both eyes
for leave to torture him to death;  but I have other uses for the
doctor from Madras."

"You'd better use him quick," said Hawkes.     "It's getting
daylight, and the Rajah's up to dirt o' some sort.  Give him
about one more quart o' champagne and then watch him!"

"Is the woman in the temple?"

"Lord knows."

"Have you seen F.9?"

"No."

"He has seen us," said the babu.  "He has set a signal."

"Which?  Where is it?"

The babu pointed to a red rag hanging from the limb of a tree
amid the temple ruins.  "That means he has seen us and that the
tiger is in there."

"There are two of 'em," Hawkes answered.  "One's a female.  She's
behind bars."

"No, she isn't," said the babu.  "F.9 had his orders.  If there
was a way of letting out that tigress he has done it."

"How did you know about a tigress?" Hawkes asked sulkily.  "You
sent me to discover how they--"

"I could not imagine any other way of getting a loose tiger to
return home after killing somebody, Hawkesey.  So I told F.9 to
look for one, and, if she happened to be caged, to loose her."

"Why?  Which are you--drunk or off your nut, you fat fool?"

"Listen, Hawkesey.  I have done a good job.  It is too long to
explain in detail, but by choosing a critical moment to spring a
surprise, and by dint of impudence and luck and argument as
forceful as a ton of T.N.T., I have convinced a pious and
perfectly harmless Prince that it is up to him to assert himself.
And Doctor Copeland has inserted ginger into him in little
capsules.  He must act, however, before lethargy sets in
again, or he will think he has an ulcer in the stomach and
must lie down."

"What's the program?" Hawkes asked.

"I have told him he must shoot that tiger, since the Rajah has
refused to do it.  He is ritually clean, and therefore he can go
into the temple without involving himself in a charge of
sacrilege.  And after he has seen what he has seen, he will be
able to compel the priests of Kali to behave, for fear of an
exposure of their goings-on.  And the Rajah will follow him into
the temple.  I will be there.  And the doctor from Madras will be
there.  F.9, F.15 and F.11 will be there also.  That's all."

"Don't you kid yourself!" Hawkes answered.  "That's not half of
it!  There's Major Eustace Smith across the river, boils and all!
There's him and Ram Dass.  Ram Dass hired an elephant and brought
him, and they're both afraid to cross the river.  So they're
setting there, top o' the elephant, afraid to wet their feet and
cracking on like two old cronies.  Smith's as mad as a man
with corns in tight boots.  No doubt Ram Dass likes to see
him that way."

Suddenly the babu beat his head and breast and struck clenched
fists together.

"Dammit, Hawkesey!  Why did I up-shoot Ganesha?  Listen!  Bear me
witness.  I will give the god Ganesha, for his temple in Benares,
rupees fifty to convert this into good luck!  Does the Rajah know
about this?"

"Not he.  You remember sending me a note about a villager you
wanted me to take home on the elephant?  I took him, but it seems
he returned to Kutchdullub, on the same elephant, after its
damned mahout rode off and left me.  He fell foul of the police
in some way;  they arrested him and gave him hell.  But he
escaped 'em somehow and ran to the Residency, where he found Ram
Dass and told him a long yarn about you being gone on an elephant
to find me and look for treasure in this here temple.  Can you
beat it?  Smith was furious and fetched the villager along, so's
to be able to prove to the Rajah that you and I are behaving
without any orders from him.  And Ram Dass came along to make
sure Smith pays for the elephant."

"Who told you, Hawkesey?"

"He--the villager himself.  He swam the river, and he found me.
He's as proud of what he told'em as a dog with two tails.  Now
he's in the temple."

"Did he say why?"

"Yes.  It's you he's looking for.  He says he knows you're
in there."

"Did he say why he wants me?"

"Yes.  He said he'd saved your life a time or two, and if he
saves it again, perhaps you'll hire him permanent."

Chullunder Ghose sighed.  "Oh, well, there are always difficulties!
This was too good to last.  I should have known that villager
would get into the wheels and ditch the train!"

"Tiger may kill him," said Hawkes.

"I hope so!  Oh, I hope so!  Hawkesey, the Rajah is not so very
drunk.  I see him."

"He is so drunk that he's icy-sober," Hawkes insisted.  "See him?
He walks like a man in a dream.  And he's alone;  he's left his
servants!  Know what?  I believe he thinks the Prince is in
there, and he wants no witnesses!  He's killing-crazy, that's
what he is!"

"And he has no rifle with him," said the babu.

"Automatics--two of 'em--in holsters," Hawkes answered.  "He
knows he's no good with a rifle."

"How does he know the way in, Hawkesey?"

"Hell, I told him!  I got sick of lying, so I told him good and
plain I'd been inside.  He made me tell him ten times how to find
the hole that I went in by.  You can see it from here;  you can
see where my smoke blackened up the stonework.  Can he see
your elephants?"

"He isn't looking," said the babu.  "Hawkesey, do you know
another entrance?  Which way does the tiger take?"

"Do you mistake me for a blinkin' lunatic?" Hawkes asked him.
"Do you think I asked the tiger?  There's a tunnel that he uses;
Smarty F.9 maybe took a chance and--"

"Blocked it!" said a thin voice, so near in the knee-high grass
that Hawkes turned two shades paler.  He looked haggard, anyhow,
unshaven and with dark rings under his eyes.  But the babu sat
unmoved.  He did not even turn his head when F.9's spectacles
appeared through parted grass.

"I have been waiting for you," he said.  "You are almost
too late."

"Time enough," said F.9.  "I have blocked the tunnel to keep that
tiger in.  And I have loosed the tigress;  it was possible to
raise a stone bar from above by climbing carefully along a
cornice.  Now they are both in the pit in the midst, and they are
raging thirsty.  The tunnel mouth is only blocked with stones and
branches, so they may escape unless you set a gun there."

"Any other way in?" asked the babu.

"Yes;  the way that I came."

"Where are F.15 and F.11?"

"Shadowing the Rajah.  Acting holy.  Waiting to betray to
him the passages--in silence.  They are supposed to be under
a vow of silence."

"Safe stuff, silence, always," said the babu.  "Let us hope he
doesn't shoot them for it!  There he goes now.  He has gone in.
Quick, come with me!  Come on, Hawkesey!"

Several minutes later Hawkes and the babu posted Copeland on a
big rock that commanded, at a range of less than fifty yards, a
tunnel entrance on the far side of the temple from the hole that
Hawkes knew.  It was partly choked by fallen masonry, and the
remaining space was jammed with branches.

"It's a bad light," Hawkes said, "and a tiger comes quick as a
punch in the eye.  So don't wait.  Plug him if you see a tuft o'
hair between those sticks.  He'll bust through there as sure as
Christmas.  Five shots to your magazine?  Good.  Give him all of
'em, and then reload quick--same as if you was seeing a girl home
in Chicago and the bandits asking for your small change."

"I have kept my promise," said the babu.  "I have given you a
chance at tiger, Doctor sahib.  It is up to you to kill him!
Come on, Hawkesey, let us put our Prince into a hat and see what
comes out!  Too bad there is not an audience.  I love an audience
when tricks click!"

"Cheese it!  Take me for a clown like you are?" Hawkes retorted.
"Me, I'm out o' bounds and acting foolish.  What's more, I can't
keep my eyes open, let alone shoot!  If we come out o' this
alive--oh, hell--come on, let's get it over with!"




Chapter XXIV.

    "Simple!  Since they wished it, why not!"


F.9 led.  Hawkes followed him, for no especial reason except that
he might get a chance to retaliate for F.9's cheek, as he
regarded it.  Next came the Prince's servant, on the watch for
snakes and fussily suspicious of the entire proceedings.  Then
the Prince, with a repeating rifle that he fingered with an air
of knowing how to use it;  but he looked as if he felt the effort
was beneath his dignity, and he walked as if he felt too fragile
to exert himself much.  Chullunder Ghose came next, unarmed,
untidy, corpulent, unshaven, weary-looking, but sturdily
strutting his weight on huge thighs.  He was wearing his loin
-cloth tucked up, workmanlike.  And he was talkative, perhaps to
keep himself awake, but every word was aimed directly at the
Prince's lethargy or at the pale mood of the doctor from Madras,
who walked beside him.  The Madrassi spoke once:

"If I should run, and were shot as I run, would that not save
trouble for us all?"

"I am not your executioner," the babu answered.  "I am not your
judge, and I am not the jury.  I arrange the pieces for the gods
to play with.  I have set there quite a puzzle, and I think I
know the answer.  But it may end by your being Rajah of
Kutchdullub!  Who knows?"

"Bargain with me.  I will give you evidence against the Rajah."

"Bargain with the gods," the babu answered.  "Priests will tell
you the price."

To the Prince he was a calculating irritant.  He lectured him as
if they were a small boy and a master of a sternly managed truant
school.

"The modern state of mass-intelligence does call for figureheads
on thrones, no doubt of it.  But a king is a king, and dignity is
not attained by being hypnotized into a death-bed.  What is the
use of morals, if you let a drunken blackguard get away with
murder?  You are like a rabbit that waits for a weazel to bleed
it to death because it knows a weazel does that sort of thing.
You can't help having royal blood in you, but you can make the
best of it."

The Prince kept silence, although his eyes glowed with anger.  He
showed no nervousness when F.9 led them into what had formerly
been cloistered passages and now were trash-encumbered channels
leading between broken walls.  There was a practicable footpath,
winding amid roots and debris--only room for single file, and the
babu made the Madrassi walk ahead of him.  There began to be
broken arches--sections of unfallen roof--until at last F.9
pulled out a lighted lantern from behind a fallen statue.  Then
he scrambled, almost like a hairless monkey, up a pile of
fallen masonry into a dark hole in a thick wall.  There Prince
Jihangupta hesitated and his servant tried to make him turn back,
but the babu mocked and Hawkes said, "Maybe he's forgotten his
goloshes."  So the Prince found unsuspected energy and went up
like a front-rank man into a breached fort.

Then there were interminable passages, and no one spoke because
the echo of their footsteps was a solemn, horrifying noise that
made the blood run cold.  It sounded like the voices of the
shadows put to flight by F.9's lantern.  And the bats were like
dead men's memories of evil, wakened for a moment's panic by a
light that broke on peaceless dreams.  There was an acrid stench
of bat-dirt and then, presently, pervading it and blending with
it, the appalling reek of rotting bones and tigers' ordure.
But at last a row of clean cells, doorless, in a carved wall
representing Kali's orgies of annihilation;  and another lantern;
and the saffron smocks of F.15 and F.11 dimly looming in a broken
archway at the far end of the passage.

F.9 spoke to them in whispers that went murmuring away into the
silence like the rumble of muffled wheels.  Then he beckoned.
Chullunder Ghose shoved the Madrassi in front of him, pushed past
the other three and joined the conference.  The sweat of fear was
dripping from him, but he governed his voice and himself, not
trembling.  The Madrassi, too, was either proof against hysteria
or else beyond it, numb-brave as a gallows-passenger to unknown
regions, on his last march.

"Soonya?" asked the babu, making almost no sound;  but the echo
of it multiplied itself in hollow darkness and an underworld said
"Soony-oony-oony," as if secret messengers were calling her from
her forgotten tomb.

"Soonya saw him--"

"Saw him, saw him," said the echo.

"--and she ran and summoned all her holy candidates for death.
They tried to terrify him, but we hid him in the chamber where we
hid Hawkes.  And he is _hokeema mut;_  the liquor crazes him and
he is unafraid.  He seeks his cousin.  He will slay his cousin.
He will throw him to the tigers."

Chullunder Ghose lost patience.  "Never mind that.  Tell me
what happened."

"Came the noises you made, and they echo like tramping of armies
all converging on a center.  There is no guessing whence a sound
comes.  Soonya cried out that the Rajah's men are here to stop
the sacrifice and make an end of Kali's mercy, and she summoned
them to bring their little lamps while there is yet time.  Then
the Rajah threatened us with pistols, so we let him go forth.  He
is wandering in darkness."

"Hurry!  Lead us to Soonya's charnel-house!" the babu ordered.

They were swift, and the noise of their feet was a tumult as
loud as the quarreling roar of a torrent that vanishes into a
mountain.  Shadows fled before them in enormous frog-leaps,
until, rosy-red on masonry, a torch-flare lit the darkness as
they turned an angle.  In a moment then they pressed on one
another's heels into a stinging tiger-stench and stood grouped on
a platform whence the broken gallery projected over one-third of
the circumference of Soonya's dreadful pit.

There was a row of little lamps along the gallery.  A row of
ghosts--ghouls--vultures--sat between them.  Perched on her
pillar of marble, Soonya stood brandishing a flaring torch and
shaking sparks into the pit, where four eyes glittered opal
-colored in the coal-hole darkness.  Soonya screamed.  The row of
little lamps went out as suddenly as if her scream had switched
them, and she flung her torch into the pit.  It spiraled, blazing
red and yellow, and she followed it, spread like a home-coming
Harpy embracing a spirit of hell in her shadowy arms.

Then, one by one, as frogs seek water when a footstep startles
them, the owners of the clay lamps sprang into the dark pit.
There was one scream--then a sound of struggle amid dry bones and
the snarl of tigers.  The Madrassi said the first word:  "Simple!
Since they wished it, why not?"

Hawkes clicked his pocket flashlight, swearing:  "Just my cursed
luck!  It's played out, dammit!"  F.9 swung a lantern over
darkness, but it made no depth of light;  it seemed to set a
yellow halo swimming on a sea of black pitch;  and beneath that
there was growling horror.

Suddenly F.15 and F.9 raised their lanterns and a pale light
framed the broken entrance-gap.  It shone on an English shooting
-jacket--and a pair of nickel-plated automatics held in lean
hands--and on the dark eyes and the self-admiring, sly smile of
the Rajah of Kutchdullub.

"Caught you!" he remarked.  His eyes were on the babu and he
aimed both pistols at him.  "Dog of a meddlesome Bengal rice-rat!"

"My turn!" said the babu.  "Oh, well."

F.15 and F.11 drew away their lanterns.  F.9 smothered his in
something.  But there was light enough still.  The Rajah lingered
on his aim, enjoying the amazement on the babu's face, not
guessing why the babu stood so still and breathless.  Suddenly a
slim black shadow flicked out from the darkness at the Rajah's
back.  It bunted him off balance, snatched both pistols from his
hands and sent them spinning down into the dark pit.  Naked
--grinning--confident--the villager, a broken handcuff on
his right wrist, stepped up and saluted the babu like impudence
addressing dignity.

"So now I am your honor's friend again!"

Chullunder Ghose thrust him aside;  he had no time for pleasantries.
The Rajah's cousin was in shadow behind Hawkes and F.9;  now the
villager's black body added one more to the protecting screen.
The Rajah tried to step back through the opening, but F.15
and F.11   stepped behind him and prevented.  He made rather
a brave figure of a man, at bay with folded arms.  The babu
pushed the doctor from Madras towards him.

"Your turn!"

"Well, well!" said the Rajah.

The Madrassi seemed as unemotional as ice.  His attitude was
almost casual, his voice as calm as if he passed a good check
through a banker's window.

"We are found out."

"Are we?" said the Rajah.

"But I don't choose you should leave me to suffer the sole blame.
I accuse you of having bribed me to poison your cousin."

"You yelp like the pi-dog you are," said the Rajah.  "Where is
he?"  There were death-sounds in the darkness--groans now, and a
noise of struggle.  "Is he down there?"

The Madrassi went a step nearer.  "You deny it?"

"Damn you, yes, you liar!" said the Rajah, and he struck him.
The Madrassi clutched the Rajah's wrists and forced him backwards
along the broken gallery.  The Rajah's cousin forced himself out
between Hawkes and F.9, pushed past Chullunder Ghose and ran
towards them.

"Stop that!" he commanded.  But he paused and let an enigmatically
lean smile linger on his lips as F.11--lantern held high--ran,
too late, along the gallery.  The lantern lit the Rajah's face.
He saw his cousin.  The Madrassi tripped him and leaned on him,
bending him backwards, but agony changed to maniac, stark hatred
on the Rajah's face as his eyes blazed at his cousin and he
fell, with the Madrassi clinging to him, somersaulting down
into the stinking darkness.  They were striking at each other
as they fell.

Then pandemonium was loose.  The pit became a pool of frightful
tumult.  Lanterns swinging from the gallery suggested unseen
horrors hidden amid shadows heavier than waves of dark oil.
There were yells and the guttural snarls of brutes made frantic
by thirst and the fury of slaying.  Hawkes's voice shouted, "Get
a rope and let me down there!  Maybe he's alive yet.  I can't see
a dam' thing."  Then the Rajah's cousin began shooting--at
random--at nothing--blindly--each flash showing fragments of a
scene like Dante's vision of the pits at the Inferno.

Hawkes snatched F.9's turban--then Chullunder Ghose's--then the
smocks of F.11 and F.9 and the Prince's servant's turban--tore
and knotted them into a rope and gave the babu one end.

"You and them others hang on to it and let me down--not too slow
--I'll be done for if a tiger sees me.  Maybe I can see when I get
down there.  Stop that fool shooting!"

But the Prince refilled his magazine and had his own way.
Blinding flash and echo-cannonading crack continued, even after
Hawkes was swinging by a string of turbans, turning as the babu
lowered him.  He was clinging by one hand, with his rifle in
the other.

"Can't see a dam' thing!" he called up, when his feet touched
bottom.

Then the babu:  "Wait there, Hawkesey.  I will bring a lantern."

F.15 and F.11 laid their weight and strength against the rope and
F.9 hurried to their aid as Chullunder Ghose grabbed at a lantern
and swung himself over.  He went down hand over hand, with his
naked toes against the masonry, the lantern clattering against
the wall.  They were both visible, like divers under water
--small--foreshortened.  Hawkes's voice:  "Steady now.  I see one."

His express spat blue-white.  Stripes--fangs--black-and-yellow
phantom with a sound like snapped wires--leaped into the zone
of lamplight, fell short, clawing at a rotten skeleton, and
lay still.

"Tigress!" said the babu.  His voice boomed.  He sounded steady,
like a big gun.

Hawkes's voice, several notes higher:  "Can you see the other?"

"He is down that tunnel, Hawkesey.  I saw his shadow as he
stole in."

Came the sound of an empty brass shell falling and the snap of
the closing breech as Hawkes reloaded.  Then again Hawker's voice:

"Find the Rajah."

The pool of lantern-light went sideways, slowly, while the babu
hunted amid shadows.  Then it moved back.

"I have found him.  He is stone-dead.  I believe his neck
was broken."

"The Madrassi?"

"Dead, too."

"Can you climb back?  Blinkin' man-eaters in blinkin' tunnels
ain't a picnic."

"I can hear him, Hawkesey.  He is clawing at the branches at the
far end.  We could see him against daylight if we should go in
after him."

"You're crazy.  If he didn't kill us we'd be shot by that American."

"If we pursue him with the lantern, Hawkesey, he will break
through that way.  He is thirsty.  He has had enough of this
place.  It is never wise to think the enemy is less afraid than
you are."

"Have it your own way.  Come on."

"And I like to let the gods have equal opportunity to swat me
like the others.  We are all flies on a cosmic window-pane."

They vanished down a dark hole, and a tunnel rumbled to their
footsteps, until two shots, muffled by a distance, cracked as
faintly as whips in a blustery wind.  Three minutes later,
Hawkes's voice, tunnel-hollow:

"The American got him!  He broke through.  We're going out at
that end.  So long."




Chapter XXV.

       "Accept my humble praises, sahib."


"That's a splendid tiger.  Did you get permission?"

Copeland turned and stared at Major Eustace Smith, wet, bleary
-eyed from lack of his accustomed sleep, and pompous as an offset
to a dirty collar and a two-day growth of whiskers.

"How are the boils?" he answered.

Before Smith could answer that, Chullunder Ghose, unturbaned,
bloody from thorn-scratches where he had scrambled out of a hole,
abominably filthy and so weary that he rolled like a drunkard,
came towards him.

"Salaam, sir," said the babu.  "Did you swim the river?"

"No, I got wet, dammit, hurrying to stop your mischief!  What
have you been up to?"

"Earning you a ribbon!"

"What the devil do you mean, you vulgar fellow?"

"Listen," said the babu.  "I am going over there"--he pointed
--"to appropriate the champagne that his late lamented Highness of
Kutchdullub does not any longer have an opportunity to drink.  I
am taking with me Hawkesey and Doctor Copeland.  Let us hope
there is enough champagne to make us all drunk.  We deserve it.
You will get a ribbon, and you don't deserve it, but it will look
very nice on your dress-suit lapel."

Hawkes strolled up, wearier, if anything, than the babu.

"Morning, sir."

"You are both arrested," said the Major.

"No, no," said the babu, "you are much too diplomatic.  You have
saved a very nasty situation, I assure you."

Ram Dass, glancing at the tiger, came and stood as close to Major
Smith as tact permitted.

"Had you shot the tiger--had Hawkes shot it--had the Rajah shot
it," said the babu, "diplomatic priests would have immediately
stirred a revolution in a teacup, and it might have been another
Sarajevo--who knows?  And if you, or I, or Hawkesey, or the
Rajah's cousin, or a common murderer had shot the Rajah, there
would certainly have been a bad mess.  As it is, the Rajah took
advantage of an opportunity to die in manly battle with the
poisoner who tried to take his cousin's life;  and I have no
doubt that you recommended to the Rajah he should look into the
dirty rumors that were flying.  It is certain that he acted as a
consequence of what you said to him in private conversation.  He
is stone-dead, so he can't deny it.  And by giving your authority
to Doctor Copeland, in a letter that I witnessed, to go tiger
-shooting, you have cleverly removed a menace from the countryside
without affording opportunity to priests and such-like people to
accuse the British of the sacrilege.  As an American, does Doctor
Copeland give a damn for local prejudices?  Not he!  And what can
be done to him?  Nothing! He is diplomatically no one, and a very
useful scapegoat.  You invited him to shoot the tiger, in my
presence!  You requested me, in fact, to bring him to relieve
your boils with just that purpose, and no other, in your mind
before you sent for him.  I know it.  I shall say that in my
confidential report."

Smith glanced at Copeland.  Copeland grinned and nodded to him.

"I'm mum."

"It is true, there were a tiger and a tigress," said the babu.
"Both of them are dead.  The death of one is not accounted for.
But I admire immensely your particularly brilliant intention to
congratulate the Rajah's heir immediately and to tell him, if he
does not burn this temple, you will take steps--diplomatic steps,
as serious as may be.  It is nothing less than statesmanlike of
you to think of telling him that if his elephants should draw
some fifty or hundred tons of fuel, such a quantity, if burned
beneath the dangerously-broken roof, would cause it to collapse
completely and to bury a bone of contention--many, many bones, I
might say!  And I think it noble of you to insist on Hawkesey's
contract being recognized and properly extended, at an increase,
by the new regime.  Accept my humble praises, sahib.  Now, if you
permit me, I will lead away my boon companions and get as drunk
as quantity permits.  I have my leave to go."

But Ram Dass interrupted him.  "About that contract for the corn--"

"Oh, to the devil with you!"

Then the villager came running.  "Am I numbered on a pay-roll,
sahib?  What next?  Am I--"

"Oh, my karma!" said the babu.  "C. I. D. is not a bed of roses,
is it!  Come on, Hawkesey--come on Doctor Copeland--let us drink
annihilation to the C. I. D., and politics, and tigers, and to
every other dam' thing!"



End of this Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook
"C. I. D." by Talbot Mundy





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