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Title: Jungle Jest
Author: Talbot Mundy
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Language:  English
Date first posted: September 2006
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Title: Jungle Jest
Author: Talbot Mundy



I.    "All right. I'll Remember."
II.   "Twenty-Five Years Later"
III.  "I'll Prove to You that There's Not Much Wrong with Mahommed Babar."
IV.   "Fear and the Heart of a Fool Are One."
V.    "Loyalty to Whom--to What?"
VI.   "Engage the Enemy More Closely."
VII.  "I Am the High Court Judge."
VIII. "The Benefit of the Doubt."
IX.   "I Will Lead!"
X.    "Hostages."
XI.   "Yours Truly, John Linkinyear."
XII.  "Mohammed Babar Wants a Cavalry Saber."
XIII. "Tonight I will Write Down How Ye Did."
XIV.  "But They Stole No Hindu Women?"
XV.   "That Kind of Talk is Always True."
XVI.  "Tomorrow a Big Victory!"
XVII. "I Am a Rebel."


I.    "There Isn't a King, Crowd, or Parliament That Could Make
        Me the Enemy of a Man Whom I approve."
II.   "How is Ommony Exempt?"
III.  "Foolishness to Frighten Hawks."
IV.   Peria Vur
V.    "Hah! He is Perr-R-Other-O-O-Oh!"
VI.   "I'm Going to Kick You Out of This!"
VII.  "A Cur, Never!"
VIII. Colonel John Tregurtha, V.C., D.S.O., etc.
XI.   "I Will do Anything You Ask of Me, Bahadur."
X.    "I'm Glad it's You, Tregurtha!"
XI.   "Ommony was Right in Some Respects."
XII.  "What'll You Do?"
XIII. "Let the Man Alone!"
XIV.  "You Exceeded Your Authority!"
XV.   "My Country is the Forest!"
XVI.  "A Man's Death is the Most a Man May Ask!"


I.    "Slow But Sure--The Lord Providing Foresters."
II.   "They Conceded Fish."
III.  "Hail, Parumpadpa!"
IV.   "My Name is Craig!"
V.    "By Jiminy, We'll Now Grow Trees!"
VI.   "The Priests Did This."
VII.  "Silence, Please, Memsahib!"
VIII. "Sir William Molyneux Will Blame You Priests!"
IX.   "Obey the Priests!"
X.    "To the Queen's Taste!"
XI.   "Think it Over!"
XII.  "How's the Situation?" "Ticklish!"
XIII. "Good Dog, Di!"
XIV.  "She Euchred the Ephesians!"




_"All Right. I'll Remember."_

Some one began to pray in a nasal snarl, and a stallion squealed
for breakfast, but the sun did not get up, and seven or eight
thousand other horses that knew the time ignored the stallion's
appeal as phlegmatically as several hundred men cold-shouldered
the religious argument. It was better to sleep than pray. Better
to sleep than squeal for breakfast. That was all about it.

Horse or human, at a horse-fair let him rest who can. There is
little enough peace in the world, and none at Dera Ismail Khan
when the snow has left the passes and the foot-hills. There is
horse-fair, holiday and hocus-pocus--money, maybe, and murder
certainly; but no peace.

The stars had done a night's work and were fading away before the
chill wind that blows the dawn along. To the northward the sky
rested dimly on the dark mass of the Himalayas, and there was one
warm light that marked the sentry-post by the bridge over the
Jumna, but that was a long way off and made the darkness bigger
and more bleak.

There was a smell magnificent, and one other light that moved. A
man swinging a lantern walked among the rows of low tents,
cautiously avoiding pegs and stooping at intervals to examine
sleeping men who had taken advantage of tent-flies or piled
baggage. But they were smothered head and all under blankets,
and though he prodded one or two of them occasionally with
a long stick that he carried ostensibly against dogs, he failed
in his search.

Finally another dark form stepped from a shadow between two tents
and cautioned him. This second man was obviously a Pathan
policeman, and by the contrast between the two men you could
tell, even in darkness, that the first was white. The white man
swore, grumbled, and retreated to his own tent. Then suddenly the
Lord of Light touched a mountaintop with an electric finger.
Color was born and danced on the snow through a billion prisms.
The wind increased quarrelsomely, and the camp awoke, each living
being in it aware of emptiness and appetite.

Of such stuff music is made. Add the smoke of new dung-fires to
the stamping and snorting of horse-lines. Send the whine of
morning prayer through that, and the shouts of the saises
dragging sacks of grain--then presently the steady munching as
the beasts get fed, and you have a tune, if you know what that
is. It contains no jazz--nothing syncopated--but a leisurely
suggestion of long trails and a hum to the effect that life means
business. Now and then the staccato thump as a hoof lands home
punctuates the rhythm. Mares, whinnying, provide high notes that
are nearly as eloquent as the mew of sea-gulls.

Music of the long leagues--immeasurable spaces--horse--and the
smell magnificent of cooking and dung and unwashed men; tobacco,
forage and dry grain in gunny-bags. That is Dera Ismail Khan when
the passes open in the spring.

The white man was there to buy army remounts. That was, a quarter
of a century ago, and his name does not matter, for he was no
hero and never had been. Besides, he is dead and has probably
learned his lesson. He belonged to that school of white man that
asserts pride of race with boot and fist, demands obsequiousness,
and is obsequious--the snob. Maybe the devil made them when the
Creator's back was turned.

To him, as he sat in his canvas chair in the door of his tent,
came ex-Rissaldar Mahommed Babar, leading a boy by the hand. It
is not thought unmanly for a warrior of that land of battles to
lavish affection on his male child, but the sight of it raised
the white man's gorge, and he omitted to return the stately
greeting--although a viceroy had more than once gone out of his
way to shake hands with Mahommed Babar.

"Curse you! Why didn't you come yesterday?"

"I came the day before yesterday at sunset."

The rissaldar's face did not betray that he had noticed insolence.
It hardly mattered, for none could overhear. The camp was alive
and a-hum with too many noises for one mean man's ill-temper
to attract attention, and the small boy knew no English. True
pride is hardly ever self-assertive.

"You lie," said the white man. "I hunted the whole camp over for
you. All last night I poked among the shadows looking for your
one-legged servant. Just for you and your dilly-dallying I got
ordered out of the lines by a bloody Pathan policeman! I won't
listen to your lies!"

"Surely not, sahib, since I tell none. I arrived as I said. The
boy fell ill. My man and I nursed him."

"And kept me waiting! That's another obvious lie. Look at the
brat--there's nothing whatever the matter with him!"

"I have another son, who--"

"That'll do! You've kept me waiting while you've rigged the
market against me. You promised to get the horses cheap! Kick
that brat into the horse-lines and go to work now! I expect the
best horses twenty percent cheaper than last year. Fail me if you
dare, and take the consequences! Hurry! Don't stand there looking
at me!"

Rissaldar Mahommed Babar continued to look for thirty seconds,
saying nothing. His only reason for promising to help had been
desire that the army of the Raj, whose salt he had eaten, and in
whose ranks he had fought, should have the pick of the horses
available. Year after year for ten years since he retired on
pension he had performed the same friendly office of advising
the remount buyers. But one white man is no more like another
necessarily than horse resembles horse, and he stood considering
the difference before he turned and led his son away.

That was altogether too much for the white man's patience.
He had to be cringed to, and had not been. Instead, saises,
horse-dealers of a dozen tribes, and even a camp constable
saluted the rissaldar as he began threading his way through
the horselines. The white man picked up a tent-peg, which
is an awkward missile, threw it at the rissaldar, missed him,
but hit his son. The boy yelped--once--and bit the cry in
halves--remembering what he owed his stock. The rissaldar turned
to face the white man, and all that end of the camp grew
curiously still. It is neither safe nor wise to strike back in a
conquered land. It would be even less sensible than hitting a
policeman in London or New York. Yet everybody knew the limit had
been overstepped.

"Are you afraid to strike me, that you throw things at the
child?" the rissaldar demanded. He used a tongue that every
hanger-on in that camp understood, and the white man got to his
feet, picking up his riding-whip.

"Afraid of you?" He walked close with his lower jaw thrust out.
"Take that!"

He struck with the heavy riding-whip, and the rissaldar made no
attempt to parry the blow, which fell on his shoulder and brought
blood welling up through the cotton shirt under a semi-military
tunic. The blow had opened an old wound.

One, and only one, consideration kept the rissaldar from defending
himself--the same that prevented him from striking back or
summoning assistance. There were twenty rival clans in camp,
every man of whom would have instantly made common cause with him
if the rissaldar had raised a finger. They would have beaten that
white man to death, with consequences that any fool could foresee.

But the white man mistook the self-control for meekness, a
quality that exasperates ill-temper. He struck again and again,
until the boy let go his father's hand and shouted shame on the
horse-traders who could look on and not retaliate.

That was all that was needed. There would have been murder, and
inevitable hangings afterward, but for another small boy. As he
rode an Arab pony around the lines he saw the first blow struck,
and, being the only son of Cuthbert "Raj-bahadur" King, who was
sixth of his line to serve in India, he knew how to choose the
right course even at that age.

While the men of a dozen rival factions ran to avenge the
rissaldar, young Athelstan King spurred his pony in the opposite
direction and reined in at his father's tent.

"What is it, boy?"

Those two had learned to understand each other in eight years.
You must, if you ever mean to, in a land that the white man's son
may not know between the years of eight and eighteen. It is as
children that the English learn the art of governing, and grown
men return to India to pick up reins which were dropped when they
left for "Home" and school. Nine or ten words were enough.
Raj-bahadur Cuthbert King lifted his son from the saddle and
galloped across camp as fast as the red pony could lay hoof to
earth under him.

He was in time to burst through a yelling swarm armed with knives
and sticks and take on his own body a last blow aimed at Mahommed
Babar. The white man was afraid now, with the bully's fear that
seeks to terrify the strong by hammering the weak. The blow would
have killed if it had landed on the old man's head. Instead,
it gave Raj-bahadur King excuse for the only means of saving
the situation.

He struck back, dismounted, and waded in with his fists, treating
the white man to a licking such as few white men have ever had in
front of an Eastern crowd. Not a man from Delhi to Peshawar would
willingly have laid a finger on Raj-bahadur King. Rather than
harm him they forewent their rage and stood back in a circle
until it dawned that the thrashing he meted out was better, and
more just, than the murder they had intended. After that they
ceased shouting and watched in silence, while all the theoretic
principles of the army were broken and an officer thrashed a
civilian with his fists.

Finally Raj-bahadur King threw the victim into his tent, resumed
his jacket, and addressed himself to Rissaldar Mahommed Babar.

"I'm sorry, old friend, that this should have happened. Are
you hurt?"

"Nothing that I cannot endure for your sake, sahib."

"Is the boy hurt?"

"Not he. He has had a lesson."

King picked the youngster up and set him on the pony.

"Ride over to my tent," he ordered.

Then he took Mahommed Babar's arm and the two walked side by side
across the camp, as equals, all the camp wondering. Raj-bahadur
Cuthbert King was considered the equal of viceroys in all except
rank, and greater than any viceroy in his grip on the hearts
of men.

When they reached the tent he with his own hands set a chair
for Mahommed Babar, and made his own son bring the old man
breakfast, even as the Black Prince waited on the French king
after Agincourt. Then they sat and smoked together in view of
all those northern traders, so that the news of the honor done
to Mahommed Babar was certain to be spread from Delhi as far
as Khabul after a month was out. Then:

"Is there anything I can do to make amends, Mahommed Babar?"

"By your God, sahib, may dogs eat me if I bear one grudge! I am
old, and that fool struck me harder than he knew. Let him not
know. He is not worthy to have killed a rissaldar of the
`Peishwaris.' Moreover, if it were said that I die because of
him, better men than he would presently be hanged for taking law
in their own hands."

There was fire smoldering behind King's eyes, but he nodded.

"Why didn't you tell me? Gallopers could have brought an army
surgeon here by noon."

"My time has come. Why trouble the surgeons? This is thy son?"

King nodded again. The rissaldar knew well the youngster was his
son, but there are proper ways of approaching subjects, and a man
who fought on the right side in '57 is not to be denied his
measure of stateliness.

"This is my son: Like thine, he shall carry on the purpose. He
shall serve the Raj. They two may be the last for all we know.
None may know that, save Allah. My boy's name is the same as
mine, Mahommed Babar. And thine?"


"A king's name! Good. Mahommed, lay thy hand on his. Be thou his
man as long as Allah gives thee breath!"

"Shake hands with him, Athelstan," said Cuthbert King, swallowing
something and hiding emotion angrily after the manner of his kind.

The two boys shook hands, the Englishman frankly with a smile,
and the other with some embarrassment.

"Say something!" commanded Raj-bahadur King.

"All right. I'll remember," said Athelstan. And that was surely
as good as anything he could have said.

"Mahommed," said the gray ex-rissaldar, moving himself very
gently in the chair for fear of hemorrhage, "do thou remember
likewise. Other men's memories will fail them in the years that
come. There will be talk of this and that. Let no talk seduce.
Hot words are emptiness. Nothing is good in Allah's sight but
deeds well done. I, thy father, who am Allah's slave, will stand
at the gate of paradise and question thy deeds when thy time
comes! Color, clan, creed, tribe, wealth, honor are all nothing
in the scales against one deed. Remember!"

"Do you hear that, Athelstan? This is for you, too. Are you
listening?" demanded King senior.

"Take no vengeance. That is Allah's. But requite in full. Repay.
Owe no man. Thou hast seen how this sahib repaid, disgracing his
own countryman and honoring me. Think well on that."

The old man laid his head back and moved his hand to signify the
episode was over.

"And now, sahib, shake hands with me. Thine is a friendship
bearing no regrets. If your honor's servants have nothing better
to do, it would be kind to have me laid on a litter and carried
home. Good-by, sahib. May Allah bless your son--and mine!"


_"Twenty-Five Years Later."_

Poona, Bombay Presidency. Three words to a man who knows
the western side of India like three sniffs in the dew to a
hunting-dog. They tell the whole story. Poona, summer government
headquarters, depot for artillery, cavalry and favored infantry,
sick-and-short-leave station--second-class Simla, as it were,
where the pale-faced men and women who have bridled the rising
Eastern peril meet once in a lustrum and exchange remarks, was
the same after the war as before it. Only the people had changed
a little. There were new faces, and the old ones were older. That
was all.

Pig-sticking, polo, and gymkhana dove-tailed into the day's work,
and the nights were fabulous--Arabian. India lends herself to
that. Hot skies and hard sport go together. The star-powdered
Indian sky is the background of them all for nodding paper-lanterns.
Turbaned servants, flitting on naked feet among shadows darker
than themselves, suggest intrigue that never sleeps. A khaki
uniform looks golden, a white one silver, and a woman's bare
shoulders like a glimpse of Heaven.

The fortnightly dance at the gymkhana differed in no wise from a
hundred that preceded it. A dozen scattered men in evening dress
among two hundred only punctuated the color scheme and made the
whirling pattern easier to read.

One of the men in black was Cotswold Ommony. He never wore
uniform, being of the Woods and Forests. You could tell at a
glance that he never walked abroad without a gun under his arm--a
sturdy, stocky man with a queer, old-fashioned look that made you
take a second glance at him.

He was the only man in the room who wore a beard; one of the very
few that danced in the new style. Most of them waltzed round and
round in the Victorian way that Byron thought so scandalous and
that looks so absurdly antique to Americans. But Ommony did the
fox-trot and the one-step. He was no expert, but an enthusiast,
and the high and mighty into whom he bumped did not approve. They
said so at intervals, but Ommony smiled; whereat you knew
immediately why he held his job.

Among the scandalized objectors was young Mrs. Wilmshurst,
so-called because her husband was a middle-aged High Court judge.
She angrily chafed an elbow as she talked with Athelstan King
against the veranda rail, with a blue Chinese lantern swaying
gently overhead. They stood together exactly at the point where
the yellow ballroom glare outpouring through wide doors and
windows met dark night and defeat.

King was safe to dance with. He had not learned the new tricks.
Moreover, he did not dance too much and get too hot, and had no
beard; and women always liked to talk with him because he had
never been known to make love to any one, and in a case like that
there is always hope.

Although both men were in evening dress he looked as different
from Ommony as a carriage-horse from a cart-horse; taller,
although the two were really the same height; lighter, although
they weighed about the same; darker-complexioned, in spite of
Ommony's dark gray-shot beard; more active, although Ommony was
prancing like a satyr, and King stock-still.

Mrs. Wilmshurst was in her bitterly cynical mood, which she
believed becoming to a High Court judge's wife whose elbow has
been hurt by a Woods and Forests man.

"Has India seeped into your blood and made you mad, that you
should have left the army in your prime, Major King?"

"Perhaps," he answered. He was thoroughly bored with her, but
quite able to be bored without letting her know it.

"I suppose there's more money in your present job."

"No. Less money."

"Gracious! Then you surely are mad! Do explain! I'm crazy about
complexes. My husband has been reading Freud and talks about it
at breakfast." She tapped his shoulder familiarly with her fan.
"Come, let me analyze you!"

King turned to face the ballroom and leaned his back against
the rail.

"There's a man enjoying himself! Look at Cot Ommony!" he laughed.

Mrs. Wilmshurst understood that she had failed to please, and her
bitterness became as nearly genuine as anything she usually felt.

"Does he prance that way in the forest glades?" she wondered.
"What a pity a man said to be so brilliant should waste his time
among monkeys--and learn manners from them!"

"Ommony has learned more from the beasts than most of us learn
anywhere," King answered.

"Oh, is he a friend of yours? I see you're huffed. So sorry. I
thought you had no intimates--so everybody says."

"Ommony and I are friends."

"I suppose it would be rude to say I don't envy either of you!
I like warmth about my friendships. How can you possibly be
friends, when he lives in his great forest and you disappear over
the Himalayas for months on end? Do you write each other

"Practically never write. I think your next partner is looking
for you," King answered. "Here you are. Don't let me rob
you, Campbell."

She left on Campbell's arm, but had the last word and took care
that King heard it.

"So glad you came, Captain Campbell. I was frightfully bored."

King chuckled and lighted a cigar. A moment later Ommony joined
him, wiping the inside of his collar with a handkerchief.

"Hello," said Ommony.

"Hello, Cot."

"You're lean. What's the matter?"

"Nothing. Got a scratch up Khyber way. Brass bullet in the
stomach. All right now."

"Where are you going next?"

"To stay with you."


Ommony pulled out a gold watch that must have been an heirloom,
because nobody nowadays would buy such a thing. "Seventy-two
minutes. One A.M. train."

"Ready when you are."

The fact that they had not met for nearly four years was as
unimportant as the water that had tumbled during that time over
Poona bund. They resumed where they had left off, those two,
hardly troubling to exchange remarks over a whisky-and-soda at
the bar; then striding side by side into the darkness to
interrupt gambling by candle-light and send their "boys" in
search of baggage.

Servants and baggage went in a tikka-gharri to the station, but
they walked, characteristically saying no good-bys. Ten words
from each of them and their servants went about the business of
going somewhere--anywhere--with that unsurprised contentment that
is homage of elementary intelligence to men who know their minds.
There is more than art or violence in being well served; more
also than money payment.

They had not more than enough time to catch the train, but you
could have hurried an era just as easily as either of those men.
Two things--knowledge of the exact number of minutes at their
disposal, and an all-absorbing interest--took them out of
their way through winding streets instead of straight down the
high-road to the station. Add to that the faith in their servants
of two men who have kept faith, and you have their whole motive.
But it was promptly misinterpreted.

India never sleeps. And because the long night of her subjection
to innumerable despotisms has probably begun to wane and life
moves in her hidden roots, night is the time when secrets draw
near the surface. Just as you can hear the jungle grow at night,
so you can see India seeing visions, if you look. Not very many
trouble to look.

There were voices on the roofs. Guttering candles made a beautiful
golden glow among shadows where only hate lurked. Light emerged
from the chinks of shutters, sound crowding through after
it--mostly of men talking all at once, but now and then of one
man's voice declaiming. The gloom of the narrow streets, with
the occasional ineffectual-looking "constabeel" under a lamp
at a corner, produced an unreal effect, as if they were walking
in a dream.

A door opened violently as they passed, and a copper-colored man
with his long hair coiled in a chignon and sweat running in
streams down his naked, hairy belly, stood boldly with a hand on
each doorpost and eyed them as agreeably as a caged beast eyes
its captors. His eyeballs rolled, and he spat into the gutter.
Then, turning with slobber on his jaws as if frenzy had gone
beyond control, he shouted in the Maharati tongue to the men in
the room behind him:

"Come and look at them! Oh, brothers, come and look at them! How
long shall we endure? Those lords, eh? See them swagger down the
streets! We labor to pay their salaries, but--"

Some one pulled him in by the waist-cloth and the door slammed
shut. The constable at the next corner, who had heard every word
of the tirade, saluted rigidly and stared after King and Ommony
in a sort of dumb perplexity. He was not obliged to salute them,
for they were not in uniform.

"I've been up and down India recently," said King. "It's like
that everywhere. It isn't honest discontent that common sense
and guts could deal with, it's something else. The troops
are beginning to get it. They're wondering. Did you notice
that policeman? Nothing but his pay between him and anarchy.
What's happening?"

"God knows," said Ommony.

"Of course, living in your forest--"

"You can learn a lot in a forest."

"Granted. But--"

"This, for instance--goats will keep a forest down. Control the
goats, and they do it good; it grows. Turn them loose and they
kill it. That's us. We controlled the goats for a hundred years,
and India grew. We were so busy policing goats that we overlooked
other things. The forest's getting out of hand."

"I often think we English are the blindest fools that breathe,"
said King.

"Queer, isn't it?" Ommony answered. "I've puzzled over it. Read a
lot--specially foreign criticism. But the critics don't help.
They only sneer at our faults as if we weren't aware of them. The
nearest I've come to explaining it is that we're so busy policing
goats, jailing robbers, passing cautious laws, cleaning unhealthy
places, that we can't see beyond that. We're near-sighted."

"And where there is no vision--" King suggested.

"No foresight, yes."

"--the people perish. May I die with my boots on!"

"Amen!" said Ommony.

"Some of us will, some won't. There'll be all kinds of us, in all
sorts of predicaments, when that hour comes. If that brass bullet
didn't let all the steam out of you we'd better put on speed now.
We've exactly seven minutes."


_"I'll Prove to You that There's not Much Wrong with Mahommed Babar."_

Ommony being official overlord of half-a-million acres of forest
and stream, he and King traveled in a compartment all to
themselves. Characteristically, Ommony asked no questions. Their
car was cut off, bunted and shunted from one track to another.
They smoked, said little, and were fed from luke-warm tin cans at
intervals by servants who climbed monkey-fashion along the
footboard for two long days and three longer nights. And at last
they left the train at dawn at a station kept by one lone babu
who was station-master, telegrapher, freight-agent, porter, and
every other thing. He looked glad to see Ommony and told him the
gossip of the line, which was mainly about sudden death, that
being Moplah country.

A decrepit tonga waited, drawn by two nags not yet quite old
enough for pension, and driven by a man, most of whose property
was on his back (three yards of cotton cloth, less wear and tear)
and he contented. That tonga was the last link for a while with
the life that is smothered under stiff shirts.

"Feels good here," said King, with his knees nearly up to his
chin on the back seat and the early morning flies making patterns
on his sleeves and helmet.

"This is home," Ommony answered, lighting a cigar beside him,
with his heels on piled-up luggage on a level with his head. "I
hope to die here, if there's anything in death. Heaven'll be a
forest. Lots to do; lots of time to do it. By George, it's going
to be hot among the trees!"

A rut-worn red earth track began to ribbon out behind them. The
forest closed in on either hand, and with it the stifling breath
of trees with interwoven smells that are an open book to all
the animals and some men. Ommony brushed the flies away with
a horsetail switch and wallowed in contentment, while the
driver tossed back for his consumption snatches of fact--true
journalism--a bulletin of forest happenings since Ommony
went away.

"There was a little fire near the place where Govind's pony broke
a leg two seasons back. Dhyan Singh took a gang from the village
and put it out."

"That shall be remembered."

"Govind has offended all the gods. It is true that his pony's
leg mended, which was wonderful. But the beast was lame,
nevertheless, and three days back a panther sprang at twilight."

"Which panther?" demanded Ommony.

"The black one, sahib, who slew the old boar in the millet
patch beyond the charcoal-burner's. He slew the pony and ate
the throat part--"

"That one always did begin at the throat."

"As the sahib says. Govind went to see what might yet be recovered.
While he was gone Govind's wife ran away with Hir Lal, son of
the blacksmith."

"I warned Govind he would beat that woman once too often."

"True. I heard the furious names the sahib called him. Mahommed
Babar, seeing the sahib was absent, went after Hir Lal and made
him give the woman back. Hir Lal recovers, but there is no skin
or comfort on the backs of his thighs and loins."

"Did Mahommed Barbar use my riding-whip?"

"Surely, sahib. How else should he have authority? He took it
from its nail in the sahib's bedroom, daring greatly lest a
greater evil happen. And now Mahommed Babar knows not how to
mend the broken whip. Nevertheless, Govind has his woman back."

"What else?"

"Govind beat her. She is as weary of blows as Hir Lal, who is a
great rascal."

"There are others! What else has happened?"

"Shere Ali has changed his hunting-ground. He hunts now near the
village and the people fear he will kill cattle. So they send six
men when the cows go grazing, and work which needs doing is not
done, because, though they bring the cows home too early, the six
men say they are weary, which is a lie, but who shall prove it?"

"I'll interview Shere Ali!"

"Soon, sahib! Soon! That tiger grows too bold. The wolves have
been hunting over Guznee way of late."

So it went, detail by detail the account of all the little things
that, multiplied ad infinitum by the little things of elsewhere,
make a world of news.

King screwed himself back into his corner and reveled in the only
genuine rest, which is anticipation of the good time coming.
Every great natural gift includes the consciousness of spaces in
between events. The music of the spheres is not all noise. There
are interludes. Only the men who understand true time can leap
into action at exactly the right moment.

The forest closed in, and in, until they drove in a golden shaft
between walls of darkness. The rank, lush after-monsoon smell had
begun to yield to the hot-weather tang that gives birth to fire
without rhyme or reason and keeps the naked gangs alert. Suddenly
the drive curved and opened into a wide clearing with Ommony's
house in the midst, and all the evidence of a white man's
twenty-year-long vigil in a dark man's country. An obvious
bachelor's house. The flowers and vegetables stood in straight,
alternate rows. Saddles and such things, polished to perfection,
rested on brackets on the front veranda, where three dogs were
chained. A boy loosed the dogs as soon as the tonga came in
sight, and the next few minutes were a tumult punctuated by
shouts of "Down, sir! Down! Get off my chest!"

There was the first so-called police dog ever imported into India,
an Irish wolf-hound nearly as high at the shoulder as a native pony,
and the inevitable, quite iniquitous wire-haired terrier.

Then came the servants, observing precedence--butler, hamal,
dog-boy, dhobie, sweeper, three gardeners--all salaaming with
both hands, and Mahommed Babar standing straight as a ramrod over
to the right because he was of the North and a Moslem, and would
not submit to comparison with Hindus. He gave the military
salute, although he was not in any kind of uniform; and in his
left hand, that the world might see he was not afraid, he held
the broken riding-whip. Having saluted his master he came to pay
homage to King, who promptly shook hands with him.

"Are you satisfied?" King asked him.

"Surely. There is no such sahib as Ommony bahadur. But for
these Hindus--"

"But for the night, it would be all daytime, wouldn't it?" King
answered, laughing.

"Sahib, speak a word for me."

"Are you out of favor?" King answered. "What have you done?"

"Sahib, I am a Moslem of the North, and these--"

"You must face your own music," King answered. "I'm your friend
to the gallows' side, if need be. I can't save you from yourself."

"The sahib is still my friend?"

King nodded.

"Enough. I am the sahib's friend."

King and Ommony went into the shuttered sitting-room, where
several hundred faded books in glass cases provided most of the
furniture. But there was a tiger-skin on one wall, three deep
wicker arm-chairs, and a desk crowded with papers under lead
weights. Through an open door was a view of Ommony's iron bed
with its legs set in jam-pots filled with insect poison. The dogs
came and flopped down on the floor with their legs out straight,
panting. In his own house at last Ommony opened up.

"Here I am," he said. "Now. Tell me first why you left the army."

"Too many things a soldier can't do. Too many over you. They
spoil every game by wanting to know at the wrong moment,"
King answered.

"How did you solve the money problem?"

"Found an American millionaire whose passion is pulling plugs.
To use his own term, he hired me. I've a free hand."

"You didn't come all this way just to tell me that," said Ommony.
"Do you want some good advice? There isn't any! I can show you
what I consider a good example, but you'll have to be the judge
of it."

"I want information."

"Ask and it shall be lied unto you. I can give you my opinions
about alleged facts. I believe 'em, but I may be as wide of the
mark as the pigs that perish."

"Who's running the ructions here in Moplah country?" King asked.
"Who is at the bottom of the chimney, making smoke?"

"Whoever it is has made fire," Ommony answered. "Moplahs are
fanatics. Fire's under 'em. I turned in a report a year ago,
and was told to mind my forest. I hate to be obedient as
much as any man, but I like the forest and don't like politics.
Besides, I had broken my own rule, which is never to offer
advice. I lay down. If a man comes all this way and asks,
he either wants to hear me talk or has something of his own
to say; that's different. There's fire under the Moplahs. They'll
cut loose soon."

"Did you go to Poona to say that?"

"I went on leave because short leave was due. Chose Poona,
although I hate the place, because I knew Fludd would be there.
He could do more than any one else to remedy this situation.
Accepted dinner at the brute's house. Talked with his wife and
daughter, who belong to all the societies for restricting other
people. Hoping, of course, that he would ask for my opinion. He
didn't. Here I am again, minus my leave and eight hundred rupees
for expenses. All he said on the subject of the Moplahs was that
they're sending Judge Wilmshurst to investigate the rumored
persecution of Hindus. He thought I'd be pleased to hear it. I
didn't try to look pleased, so he changed the subject."

"And Wilmshurst will bring his wife," King suggested.

"Undoubtedly. Daren't leave her!"

"D'you care if I use this as headquarters?" King asked.
"Wilmshurst will be intensely legal. He'll hang so many, and
imprison so many adjusting the proportions nicely--"

"And brother Moplah will do the rest!" Ommony agreed. "Headquarters
what for? Reception committee? I forbid Mrs. Wilmshurst the house!"

"Plug-pulling campaign. I want to keep the peace in spite
of Wilmshurst."

Ommony laughed, genuinely, making almost no noise but throwing
his head back.

"All right. What else?"

"What is the matter with Mahommed Babar?"

"Nothing. He's a first-class man. Between the devil and the deep
sea. As the son of his father he wants to stand with us. As a
pious Moslem owing money to a Hindu shroff he naturally believes
death is the dose for Hindus and now's the time. Why? Has he
said anything?"

King repeated what the Northerner had said when they arrived.
Ommony nodded.

"He's all right. He's being tempted almost beyond endurance,
but I'd rather trust him than Wilmshurst. Have you seen him
out with tiger?"

The nearest to tiger-hunting that King had done for years was
stalking greased Afridis in the northern mist.

"All right," said Ommony. "I'll prove there's not much wrong with
Mahommed Babar. Do us all good. Mahommed's nerve may be going if
he thinks he needs speaking for--moral nerve. Physically he's
harder than either of us. Have to interview Shere Ali anyhow.
Fancy any gun from that rack?"

That is as exciting as being invited to choose your own horse out
of a bunch. There followed five minutes of absolute delight,
Ommony remarking on the virtues of each weapon as King lifted
them down in turn. He selected an Express.

"Good," said Ommony with one of his curt nods. "I'd sooner you'd
take that than any. Precaution--self-defense; that's all. Stop
him if you have to. Shere Ali's in his prime. Preserves the
jungle balance. Be a shame to kill him. Are you ready? No, no
dogs this trip. No, no shikarris. No, no bearers. Only Mahommed
Babar and the jungli."

The jungli needed no summons. Naked except for a leather
belt, he lived, moved and had his being within earshot in
hope of a command from Ommony, and, like the dog, followed
unless forbidden.


_"Fear and the Heart of a Fool Are One."_

Roughly speaking, Ommony's forest is fan-shape, with his bungalow
in a clearing near the handle of the fan. The jungle is hilly
and in many places impenetrable, but fire-lanes have been cut
through and through it, and the local villagers' main source of
revenue is laboring to keep those clear. They are also the best
feeding-ground for the village goats, which is the reason why
Ommony set forth to interview Shere Ali.

None of the lanes went straight, because of the conformation of
the ground. They could seldom look back two hundred yards and see
anything but solid jungle with heat shimmering up from it toward
a brassy sky. Except the two white men, followed by Mahommed
Babar and trailed by the naked jungli, the only moving objects
were kites circling above the trees, who followed the view
of two rifles on general principles. The jungli displayed
scant interest, his bronze head was like a gladiator's, too
familiar with fanged death to treat it seriously until face
to face--unintelligent, perhaps, in some ways.

On the other hand, Mahommed Babar's manly Northern features--rather
hawk-eyed he was, rather hook-nosed; and the corners of his mouth,
scarcely suggested under the dark beard, were rather cynical--appeared
preoccupied. Not nervous. Not in the least nervous. Bent on
something--perhaps arguing with himself.

"We may have to execute Shere Ali," said Ommony. "I hope not. He
shall have fair trial. His dam came down from Khalsa ghaut and
hunted the forest for nine years before she killed a woman at the
water-hole, and I had to do my bit. That's her skin on the wall
in my sitting-room. I had this fellow in my arms when he was
about the size of a family cat. Huh! He'd purr when you stroked
him and claw and bite you the moment you stopped. The jungli
found him, and we fed him chickens and mice until he was old
enough to take his own chance in the jungle."

"Pity to kill him," King agreed. "What does he get away with?"

"A full-grown buck or a doe about every other day. If it weren't
for him they'd graze in one place until the ground was sick of
them. But, what with him and the wolves, they keep moving and
the young stuff has a chance. However, he's taking to goats,
apparently, and that's the first step on the road to murder."

"What's the reason?" King wondered.

"Another tiger, probably. Shere Ali may have a yellow streak. If
another male tiger has elected to hunt this forest, Shere Ali may
be afraid to challenge him. No wild animal is dangerous to man
until fear gets its work in. I hope he proves himself not guilty.
Magnificent beast. Too good for a viceroy. I was hoping to keep
him for the prince."

They might have been strolling in the Botanical Gardens for all
the apparent precaution they took. But Ommony knew his men, as
well as his forest. At the end of an hour's steady tramping the
jungli took the lead uninvited, armed with nothing but a small
flat tom-tom and a stick. Ommony said something to him in
a language that sounded hardly human, and he disappeared
immediately like a shadow among the trees.

Two minutes after that they emerged into a clearing of several
acres with an almost dry stream winding through it. There were
occasional bushes, but the open space sloped southward, and from
where King and Ommony stood they had a clear view of the whole of
it with the light on their left hand.

"He'll come that way," said Ommony, nodding toward the right front.

As if in answer to him there came a short, sharp rattling
noise three or four times repeated. It was almost like a
woodpecker's note.

"What the devil is that?" demanded King.

"The jungli's tom-tom. It's made of tortoise-shell and lizard
skin. He can drive anything with it--even pig."

Mahommed Babar announced his presence with a cough and came closer.
Ommony looked at him and then up at the kites, and laughed.

"The Romans used to call the birds good prophets. What do you
think of them?" he asked.

"They expect you to die. Will you oblige them, Mahommed?"

"Inshallah, sahib." (If God wills.)

The tom-tom rattled again two or three times, and Ommony seemed
familiar with its code, for he motioned to King to take his
stand on the far side of the lane by which they had entered the
clearing. He took the near side and stood with legs apart and his
rifle balanced loosely in the crook of his right arm.

"Shere Ali will be here in a minute," he said. "I want to try him
out, Mahommed. Will you go and stand fifty yards away--not on
rising ground--the lower you are the more helpless you'll look.
See if he'll kill man without being attacked."

Mahommed Babar glanced at King, who detected the Northerner's
look of unfinished argument. It was not fear. It might be doubt.

"Take my rifle, if you like, and I'll go instead," King volunteered.

Mahommed Babar smiled. So did Ommony. The rattle of the tom-tom
was repeated five or six times.

"Better be quick, whichever's going," said Ommony, and if there
had been any doubt that ended it. Mahommed's face cleared. Those
five words of Ommony's added to King's offer had established him
as an equal as far as essentials were concerned. He moved his
hand cavalierly and strode forward to play in the presence of
death, unarmed. The tom-tom rattled again, three times more
loudly. King opened his breech to make sure, being an army man.
Ommony knew. His rifle lay along his forearm and he never once
glanced at it.

Mahommed Babar walked toward the apex of an isosceles triangle,
of which Ommony and King were the base, and stopped at the end of
fifty yards, looking up. There was a lump of ground in front of
him, three or four yards high, with a tangle of dead bushes on
top. Shere Ali had come silently from the direction Ommony
predicted and stood looking down at all three men with his head
thrust out through a clump of high grass. King's hands fidgeted
with the Express. Ommony remained stock-still.

The more or less unexpected had happened, as always in tiger
land. Shere Ali looked down on Mahommed Babar, measuring the
distance, snarling, one ear forward and the other back, and
looked altogether too long for his own reputation. A tiger whose
hand was not against man would have taken the clear road to
safety along the watercourse after one swift survey.

Then Mahommed Babar did either a very bold and confident or a
very afraid and foolish thing. He began retreating, backward.
King swore between his teeth and raised his rifle midway. Ommony
continued to stand still. Mahommed came very slowly, feeling his
way behind him with each foot-trod in a hole, lost balance,
staggered, and fell. The rest was all instantaneous. Yellow as
sunlight, in his prime, magnificent, Shere Ali launched himself
like a flash to wreak murder. Both rifles spoke at once. An
Express bullet and a .404 went home, and the tiger fell short,
writhing with a smashed shoulder and paralyzed hind legs. Getting
to his knees, Mahommed Babar stared across a scant yard into the
brute's eyes, and Shere Ali struck with the one uninjured
forepaw, missing by inches, and then trying to struggle nearer.
Aiming very carefully, King sent his second bullet exactly
between the tiger's eyes.

Trial, sentence, and execution were all over in less than sixty
seconds; and the jungli appeared between two trees, looking about
as enthusiastic as a stuffed museum piece. His only comment was
to rattle his strange little tom-tom; then he went to count the
dead brute's claws and whiskers. Ommony must have moved, for it
was his bullet that smashed Shere Ali's backbone and paralyzed
the hind legs; but he was standing exactly as he stood at first,
with the rifle lying on his forearm, legs apart.

He ejected the empty cartridge-case, reloaded, and strode
forward, for one thing to make sure that the jungli did not steal
claws and whiskers; for the superstition is that those things are
good against devils, which, as every jungli knows, are all too
plentiful. King reloaded the Express and followed Ommony, neither
man having spoken a word since Shere Ali showed himself. It was
Ommony who spoke at last. He came to a halt midway and felt for
his cigar-case.

"That beats hell," he said wondering.

Mahommed had got to his feet and, glancing at the tiger once to
make sure, had faced about. Presumably he was waiting for Ommony
and King, but the old look of unfinished argument was on his
face, with irresolution added. He glanced almost furtively
from one man to the other, moved a pace or two--seemed to
hesitate--and then started running. He made a circuit and
disappeared at top speed down the lane they had come by.

"There's something I can't explain," said Ommony, as King caught
up with him. "No smoking in the forest. Care to chew a cigar? You
see that beast? He had no excuse for killing man. He wasn't hurt.
He hadn't been driven far enough to make him nervous. I think he
came by a yellow streak when we raised him by hand. But where and
how did Mahommed Babar come by his? In a month Shere Ali would
have been killing children at the water-holes. But who'd have
thought Mahommed Babar would cut and run? Can you explain it?"

King shook his head.

"Somehow I don't believe it yet," he answered. "He and I were
brats at Dera Ismail Khan. He had guts as a youngster. We gave
that tiger benefit of doubt until he actually sprang. I vote the
same for the rissaldar's son."

"Why did he leave the army?" countered Ommony.

"Resigned. Suspected of politics. Nothing was proved. I sent him
to you to get him as far away as possible from Peshawar. There
might have been trouble up there if any one had thrown the
resignation in his teeth. He was champion of the native army with
the saber--ambidextrous--capable of fighting three at once. I've
seen him use two swords at once for practice. Marvelous footwork.
Shifts his ground so that one opponent is always stymied, and
sometimes two. Hot man in a tight place."

Ommony checked the count of claws and whiskers and sent the
jungli for a gang to skin the tiger and bring in the hide. He and
King kept guard until the gang came, talking intermittently,
swiping at flies with their handkerchiefs.

"Mahommed Babar had a claim on me," said King. "I wish I had a
notion of what the real matter with him is."

"What is a man that thou art mindful of him?" quoted Ommony. "I
know a little. He has been pestered out of his senses by the
Moplah malcontents, who lack nothing but military training to
make them almost invincible among these wooded hills. Mahommed
Babar's a bit of a fanatic, and they've fed him the Koran until
his blood boils. On top of that some of these gentry have been to
Peshawar, and one of them heard a story of some insult offered to
Mahommed's father by an Englishman. Not sure the Englishman isn't
supposed to have killed his father. Anyhow, he spread the yarn
here-abouts, of course, and they've been rubbing that into
Mahommed Babar along with the Koran. I told 'em in Calcutta
a year ago that the Moplahs would cut loose at the first
opportunity. Maybe Mahommed Babar is opportunity. Was he a
good soldier?"

"First-rate," King answered. "Two campaigns. Promoted for
gallantry. Nothing wrong with him except a cursed bent for
politics. He never could understand that a soldier mustn't touch
that stuff."

"Soldier or any other wise man!" Ommony answered.

"Specially in India. Well, I'm afraid Mahommed Babar's lien on
your friendship won't help him much. Did you see his eyes just
now, before he took to his heels? We'd pulled a thorn out of him
a minute or two before. He walked out like a man and a brother to
meet Shere Ali. Then he and the tiger both had a yellow fit.
Mahommed Babar knew we saw him flinch. Thought we'd be scornful."

Ommony got off the rock he was sitting on, saw the jungli gang
coming in the distance, and turned to meet King's eyes.

"I'm afraid we've found him out," he said. "He's an enemy, or if
not the next Moplah he meets will convert him."

He gave instructions about the skinning, and he and King walked
back, not saying much, nor exactly aware of the forest in the way
they had been. The gold had gone out of the morning. Something
drab had entered in--nothing a man could explain, even to
himself. Very soon another tiger would find his way into
that part of the forest and Ommony would have the delight of
discovering his lair, and of knowing where he hunted day by day.
North, south, east, and west there were loads of men as fit to
make friends of as Mahommed Babar, and for that matter King had
friends everywhere. Nevertheless, the day was changed. News did
not improve it.

They were met about a half-mile from the house by two of Ommony's
servants, who came running to report that Mahommed Babar had
packed his bedding-roll and ridden away at a gallop on his
own gray pony. Furthermore, that certain chiefs of the Moplahs
had come for a conference and were awaiting Ommony on his
front veranda.

"Any men with them?" he asked.

"Nay, sahib. Three chiefs without followers. But they act boldly,
as if their followers were not far off. Moreover, since when did
a Moplah chief go unattended? Therefore, being afraid, we sent
the hamal and two gardeners to discover where their followers are
hiding. They have not come back, and we are more afraid."

"Fear and the heart of a fool are one," said Ommony, quickening
his pace.

As they neared the house the third gardener met them with a
message from the butler.

"The three men from Malapuram entered the house to help themselves
to guns and ammunition, sahib. The butler forbade, but they
threatened him. They were prevented by the dogs."

The dogs were still on duty when King and Ommony came in view of
the veranda, the terrier standing gamely between the legs of the
other two and making most of the noise. The Moplah chiefs, with
the fanatical Moslem's loathing for dogs, showed their teeth
almost as prominently as the beasts did, and were standing herded
together at one end of the veranda with hands on the hilts of
most un-Indian looking swords. Their sword-belts, rather like Sam
Brownes, were surely never made in India.

Ommony called the dogs off, rewarded them with curt approval, and
sat down on a sort of garden seat between the sitting-room window
and the front door. King took a seat beside him, crossed his long
legs, lighted a cigar and proceeded to look indifferent. The
Moplahs approached, slowly recovering their poise.

They looked nearly as un-Indian as the swords they wore. They
had the long, Semitic Arab nose and the ineradicable Arab
stealthiness added to truculence, inherited from Aram ancestors.
One of them had red dye in his beard, which increased the
Semitic suggestion.

Nobody knows what Moplah really means, or exactly whence the
turbulent fanatics came; but they invaded India three centuries
after the prophet Mahommed's flight from Mecca and ever since
have been Moslems in the middle of a Hindu land. Moreover, in
that impenetrable mountain jungle they have increase to a million
strong--a million thorns in the side of Brahma and the Indian
Government--rebels to a man in every generation.

Their approach to Ommony was after the manner of their kind--not
deferent. On the other hand, it was not insolent, although there
are men in the East who call everything insolence that doe not
include obsequiousness. Theirs was rather the approach of
peace-makers, who come to reason with a weaker adversary to
save him from his own mistakes; and Ommony, who knows men as
understandingly as he knows animals, chuckled as he signed to
them to sit down.

They squatted before him with their backs against the veranda
rail--proud, fierce-looking fellows. Change their Arab-looking
garments, give them a haircut, and you could imagine them driving
cattle in Mullingar (forgetting, of course, the tell-tale noses).
They waited for Ommony to speak, for manners is the breath of all
the East.

"Have you come to serve notice on me to quit?" he asked them in
their own tongue.

The man in the midst with the red beard took up the tale at once.

"Father of Forests"--that was what the one word meant--"it is
better that you go. Your house and your goods shall be spared.
Go, and come back afterward. Only leave the guns. We came for the
guns and cartridges."

They knew their man--not quite as well as he knew them, but
broadly nevertheless. Otherwise they would have beaten about the
bush for an hour first. Ommony answered without a suggestion of
superiority--which is the secret of real rule.

"The dogs would not let you take the guns."

"True. But now you are here and have understanding."

"Am I less than a dog?" wondered Ommony.

"Nay, sahib!"

"Then I, also, will not let you have the guns."

That was final. All three men recognized it. If he had lorded it
over them, or argued, or threatened, there would have been a
false note, which would have led to dispute, hot words, and quite
likely murder. But he stated facts simply, and they understood.

"Father of Forests, you cannot fight against all of us. We
are many. We rise in honor of the Khalifate, which is being
sacrificed by the British for the sake of Hindus."

"As I've told you a score of times, you know nothing about
international politics," Ommony answered. "You've been lied to
by professional agitators, whose salaries are paid by the same
foreigners who sent you those swords and sword-belts. Whoever
enters politics is a fool. I have told you that often."

"You will be a fool if you fight against us, sahib."

"I don't intend to," said Ommony. "I shall stay here in my
forest, on duty." He said "my forest" with the unconscious
arrogance that came of having served the forest faithfully for
twenty years. It was really the forest that owned him.

"But--but if harm comes?"

"Then my blood will be on your heads. I have been your friend. I
never harmed any of you."

"That is true. Allah be witness, that is true. But if we take the
guns and ammunition?"

"Allah will witness that also. It will be over my dead body."

"Ommon-ee sahib, that must not be."

"Don't try to take the guns then."

"But we need them."

"So do I."

"Oh, if you need them. Ah, that is straight talk." The three
heads whispered together for a minute, looking devilish sly as
they nodded, arriving at decision. "You will not give the guns to
the Hindus."


"Good. That is satisfactory. You have always been a friend to us,
Ommon-ee. You know our Koran better than our own priests do. You
have known many of our secrets and have not told."

"That isn't true," said Ommony. "I have told the Government in
Calcutta, in Otticamund, and in Simla all I knew of your secrets.
I have warned them of your intentions. They told me to come back
here and mind my forest. I did."

The Moplahs laughed. That was the type of joke that tickled them,
for they did not doubt for a single second the deliberate truth
of every word that Ommony uttered. (You can make your word worth
more than Government paper at the end of twenty years if you try
hard enough.) A Government refusing to believe the reports of its
own best forester--that was humor. They cackled. A forester knows
everything, or should. If he doesn't, the trees will make him so
lonely that he will go mad, and from madness to the devil is only
one step.

"Will the Government send troops to protect your house?"
they asked.

"I hope not," said Ommony.

"Then, sahib, we must mount a guard to make sure the Hindus do
not come and take the guns away."

"When do you begin?" asked Ommony.

They whispered again. This time they were longer reaching
a decision, but they did not lower their voices much, and
Ommony could easily have overheard if he had cared to. Obvious
cut-throats though they were, they were rather like children
playing at secrets in front of their nurse.

"Will you tell your Government?" the red-bearded one asked
at last.

"Certainly," said Ommony.

"Ah! Then we will not answer."

"All right. My servants will give you food," said Ommony, by way
of dismissing them. But they had not quite finished.

"Will you report on this interview?"

"Of course," said Ommony.

"We do not guarantee the messenger's life!"

"I will be the messenger. I myself will walk to the station and
send a tar,"* answered Ommony. [* Telegram]

Humor appealed to all three of them again simultaneously.
They cackled.

"The sahib will weary himself in vain. The wire is cut!" Ommony
raised his eyebrows.

"The babu will send my message by the next train," he answered.

"The babu, who was a Hindu and would not recant, is dead of a cut
throat," said Red-beard pleasantly. "Moreover, the train will not
go because the rails are torn up."

"Oh, all right," answered Ommony. "No need then to tell the
Government. They probably know already. Food is waiting for you.
You have my leave to go."


_"Loyalty to Whom--to What?"_

Governments are like earthquakes. They sleep for protracted
periods and then wake suddenly. Waking, they blunder expensively
and--_cui bono?_

The easiest way to wake a Government is to cut the railway and
the telegraph. The Moplahs did not mean that, naturally. Being
simple sons of stream and forest, their idea had been, as usual
once in a generation, to convert a few hundred thousand Hindus
by fear, to make a horrible example of as many conscientious
objectors as could be caught, and to keep the detested British
Government afar off by severing communications.

Whereas, of course, if they had let trains and messages go
through they would have gained ten days or so for unhindered
violence. Nobody would have believed the alarmist reports until
long after scores of Hindu villages had ceased to exist. So the
Moplahs threw away their best trump card when they tore up the
railway line.

To the uninitiated in such matters a damaged track looks serious;
especially when the rioters--as the Moplahs were described at
first--have removed the spare rails to be made into bullets,
swords and what not else. Actually it was less than nine hours
before the first train got through and reached Ommony's wayside
station. He was sitting at dinner alone, when a hot, redheaded
military man rode up from the station followed by two mounted
orderlies. Hair had been rubbed off their horses' rumps by
contact with the inside of a cattle-truck, but otherwise--except
for the redness of the officer's face--there was nothing about
them that suggested emergency.

The officer shouted from the saddle. Ommony sent out the butler
to invite him to dinner.

"You're a cool one I must say," said the officer, striding in.
"Or didn't you know?"

"Have a drink," said Ommony.

"The Moplahs are `out.’"

"Sit down. Eat and drink. There are no Moplahs under the table,"
said Ommony.

The cavalry man ignored the invitation, but rather bridled at
the jest.

"Haven't you a man named King here--Athelstan King?"


"He arrived by train with you this morning. Where is now?"

"If I knew I wouldn't tell you. Martial law yet?"

"Not yet."

"Neither King nor I are military men. He resigned his commission,
you know. Sorry," said Ommony.

"I'm Major Pierson."

"Sit down. Eat. Drink. You're wasting my merry mood."

The cavalryman took a chair and helped himself to whisky.

"Merry mood? Great Scott! Yes, thanks. I'll eat. Are you simply
a satyr, well-fed and isolated? I'm in command of an armored
train patrolling the relaid track between here and Malapuram.
I want information."

"So do I. We all do," said Ommony. "King and I went to the
station before noon and buried as much of the babu's corpse as we
could find. The Moplah chiefs were here this morning and gave me
leave to live. They agreed not to steal my guns. King painted his
face and tired his hair until no wild Moplah in all the Nilghiris
could out-mopple him. He's gone--vamoosed, vanished, napoo."

"What about Mahommed Babar? He's on my list."

"Gone too."


"Ask Allah! King set out to find him. Now eat, drink, and tell me
the news."

"There isn't any. This affair won't amount to much. Headquarters
have wired for judge Wilmshurst to come and hold an investigation,
but the old boy had already started. My orders are to bring in
any one I find along the line who feels frightened, with special
reference to yourself, King, Mahommed Babar, and one or two
others up the line."

Ommony looked straight into the major's eyes and deliberately
blew up, crashing his open hand down on the table until the
plates and bottles jumped. "I shall stay here. I told those
opinionative asses at headquarters--in Calcutta, Ooty, Poona--sent
word to Simla. Now you. This is the biggest show the Moplahs ever
staged. Not going to be. Is!"

"Who's running it?" asked the cavalryman, with frank incredulity.
"Savages always fail for lack of leadership. Have they hired a
new Napoleon from the Army and Navy Stores?"

"That's a question for headquarters," Ommony answered.

"Scores of Moplahs were in France--sapper and pioneer units.
Learned trench-digging and lots else. I warned the Government
they've got bombs, modern rifles, ammunition, and even uniforms."

"Got 'em where?"

"Abroad. France, Italy, Japan, U.S.A."

"Who paid? Moplahs haven't any money."

"Whoever is running India's bid for independence paid. Best
money's worth on Asia! Brother Moplah's going to keep a whole
division busy. If he only had planes he'd raid Calicut. It's his
turn. Hasn't staged a good show for thirty years. Do himself
proud this time. Cares no more for brass hats and army corps than
my terrier does for a steam-roller. He's been told that if he'll
engage the British army for a month the whole of the North will
rise at the British rear. They've promised brother Moplah half
the loot and all the Hindu converts he can make. So he's out, and
the British army's in for it!"

"You'd better come away then," said the cavalryman with the
inevitable nurse-instinct that all soldiers feel toward civilians.

"Bunkum! I'm your only possible liaison with the Moplahs. You
can't exterminate 'em. We've nobody to blame but ourselves."

"What for, pray?"

"Being English. Osseous formations on the occiput."

"Well, we can't help that."

"No. On the whole we're rather proud of it. Do you think you
could so far penetrate the brass hats at headquarters as to make
them see the wisdom of leaving me here?" said Ommony. "We're
awfully proud of muddling through, you know. Tell them it would
be Nelsonic rashness; that should turn the trick. I will act as
liaison officer."

"If you like to call that a message, I'll deliver it," said the
cavalryman. "Suppose you put it in writing. Eh? What?"

Ommony laughed.  "I see myself! You might add, will you,
unofficially, of course, that as things are likely to move
swiftly my permission to remain here ought to be granted
definitely within a few hours. How about tomorrow noon?"

"What d'you mean? Is that a threat?"

"From several points of view, the Moplahs might do worse than
kidnap me."

Major Pierson stared at Ommony, and Ommony smiled back with
unquestionably genuine amusement.

"You see now why I won't put my demands in writing, don't you?
They're demands. There's going to be wholesale murder, of
course--bombs, machine guns, bayonets--a beastly mess. Naturally,
we win. That's inevitable. I can prevent some of the fighting,
and owe no obedience to the army. So either I get my permission
in writing before noon tomorrow to remain here--or the Moplahs
kidnap me!"

Major Pierson's face became a mask--one of those obvious masks
that announce to the wide world there is something to conceal.

"I'll deliver your message," he snorted, and Ommony chuckled.

"I shall be out when the answer comes," he said. "If it's `Yes,'
I'll return to the bungalow. Otherwise I'll be kidnapped."
He turned his head and whistled on a low note that carried
amazingly. The dogs, sprawling on mats by the door, looked up
but did not move; they knew that whistle.

The jungli, naked except for a leather strap, appeared in the
door and fidgeted. It was possible he might have come in if
Ommony had ordered, but a room was too much like a trap for
him to venture of his own free will. Ommony merely nodded in
his direction.

"This is the man who will know where to find me. He'll wait at
the station."

"D'you think you're acting loyally?" asked the cavalryman,
pushing aside a half-finished glass of whisky-and-soda and
brushing away crumbs as if Ommony's hospitality were now
under suspicion.

"Loyally to whom--to what? I'm no soldier. The minute martial
law's proclaimed I'm under the army's heel. They mean fight, and
I know I can reduce the fighting. Ergo, I make my bargain in
advance. I'm sober and in earnest."

"Wouldn't you obey an order to come away?"

"I should never receive it!"

The jungli in the door still fidgeted. He had left his lizard-skin
tom-tom and stick somewhere and was at a loss how to draw notice
to himself. It was the dogs who first sensed the note of alarm;
they growled and called Ommony's attention. He turned his
chair about, and the jungli promptly squatted in the doorway
with his eyes on Ommony's face but a sort of glance in reserve
for the cavalryman. Ommony grunted a monosyllable and the jungli
turned loose floods of speech--little staccato freshets in his
case that broke forth and were dry again. It was all about the
cavalryman; that much was obvious even to the dogs, who watched
him and were restless. The major, too, became impatient.

"Thus saith the Lord--but what?" he demanded.

Ommony grunted a dozen monosyllables and turned his chair again.
The jungli disappeared. A big winged insect dashed itself to
death against the table-lamp with an _elan_ that almost broke
the glass--first-class cavalry tactics.

"Your two orderlies have disappeared," said Ommony.

Major Pierson overturned his chair in a hurry to get to the door.

"Nonsense!" he said. "They can't have gone far. Orderly!
Oh, orderly!"

He ran down the veranda steps in the pitch darkness and stood
still at the bottom, listening, but could hear nothing.

"Orderly! Oh, orderly! Where are you?"

There was no answer. His eyes were growing used to the dark so he
strode forward, trying far-sightedly to penetrate the blackness
where the line of trees began. Suddenly he stumbled, tried to
recover, and fell headlong.

"My God! Ommony! You there, Ommony? Dead horses--two of 'em.
Hot! Dead about a minute! Blood! By God, my hands are all
sticky with it!"

"Better come back," advised Ommony from the veranda.

"Got to see where the men are. God, if they're--"

"If you'll come back here, I'll get your men for you."

Pierson wiped his hands on the dry grass and cocked his service
revolver with an ostentatious click.

"What do you know about this?" he demanded, making his way back
cautiously, peering sideways, trying to make out whether Ommony
was armed. It was one of those panicky moments, euphemistically
termed a crisis, when the army does things not easily explained
in the hard light of tomorrow. Ommony recognized it.

"You'll be safe up here beside me," he said in deliberately
commanding tones. (You can't safely plead with hysteria,
especially in armed, grown men.) "Come on; I need your advice."

"I'll blow your head off if you try any tricks!" the major answered.

"Unfortunately I'm no use without my head! Come up!" said Ommony.
"Let's talk this over."

"Talk? You do as I say!"

The major climbed the steps and tapped the muzzle of his revolver
against the veranda railing. "Call your servants! Send two of
them to the train to find out what's happening!"

"My servants have bolted," Ommony answered. He seemed not to see
the revolver at all, although it was within a foot of him, in the
shaft of light that came by the window shade. "The butler brought
the coffee and followed the others for what they call tall timber
in the West. The jungli has gone for your orderlies."

"You don't mean they ran too? For God's sake--"

"According to the jungli, they were surprised, gagged, bound, and
carried off. He saw it."

"Good God! What's it all about?"

"The mystery is why the dogs didn't bark," said Ommony.

"One of my servants must have attended to that. The dogs are
above suspicion. So is the jungli."

The major sat down on the garden-seat between the door and
window, pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face. Then he
shoved the revolver back into its holster."

"I say, was I beastly rude just now?" he asked.

"Not at all." Ommony produced his case, chose a cigar, and
offered him one.

"Thanks. I mean, wasn't I--"

"Men gone--horses dead--any man would flare up."

"Dashed decent of you to admit it. Some men would have--What's
that noise?"

Out came the revolver and was cocked--quietly meaning business.

"The jungli's drum. He's signaling. Listen."

There was no need to listen. You couldn't help hearing that
peculiar, dry rattle. It penetrated like the note of a cicada.

"They'll be here in a minute," said Ommony. "D'you mind unloading
that revolver?"

"What the devil? Do you think I'm--"

Ommony was much too wise to admit what he thought.

"I'm going to tell them we're unarmed."

"But suppose--"

"We'll know presently. Unload, please."

So the cavalryman unloaded, and that chance of accident was
barred out. Ommony's hand closed in the dark on the empty revolver.

"Not in the holster. Always tell 'em the exact truth. Let me lay
it down."

He laid it on the window-sill and strode forward to the head of
the steps in the full yellow lamplight from the open door. All
three dogs came and growled beside him with scruffs raised, and
the terrier's sawed-off tail disappeared completely.

"The night's alive with 'em!" said Ommony. "Could your men scout
as quietly? I tell you these Moplahs--"

A voice from the dark interrupted him.

"Oh, Ommon-ee!"

He leisurely lighted the cigar he had chosen two minutes before,
and it occurred to the soldier for the first time that his host
was in full evening dress--not dinner-jacket. Old-fashioned
style. Stiff white shirt. It suited him so well that even out
there in the jungle it looked perfectly in harmony.

"What do you want?" he said at last.

"Your tracker said that you wish to speak with us. But you
are not alone. We see a khaki-sahib. We see his pistol by
the window."

"It is not loaded."

"That is a trick to tempt us."

"You have my leave to come up here and talk. You shall not
be harmed."

"There are dead horses, Ommon-ee!"

"Very well," said Ommony. "I will go with this sahib and not
come back."

There came the noise of hissed argument from the blackest shadow,
and presently the speaker's voice was raised again.

"We want your promise there is no trick, Ommon-ee."

"There is none."

"No attack from the te-rain?"

"What orders did you give the train crew?" Ommony asked over
his shoulder.

"Just to wait for me."

Ommony translated that news into the vernacular, but cautiously.

"The train-men have no orders to attack. But you must not attack
the train."

That satisfied them.  The three chiefs who had presented
themselves that morning rose like goblins from the gloom and
approached--grinning--undoubtedly pleased with themselves. They
squatted uninvited in the pool of light before the door.

"Where are the Rajput orderlies?" demanded Ommony.

"They are not dead--yet, Ommon-ee."

They glanced at the major, but he missed the point, not knowing
the dialect. Ommony came back promptly with a point that
everybody understood.

"Produce those orderlies unharmed, or clear out!"

"But we make war, we Moplahs. They are prisoners--our first!"

"You make war in my clearing and call me friend?" he retorted.

"We have not touched you," Red-beard answered lamely.

Ommony sat down beside the major and crossed his legs. He had
won, and he knew it. All that remained was that they should know
it too.

"The word of a Moplah is good or it is not good," he said abruptly.

"By Allah, it is very good!"

"This is sanctuary then. All who wish, of either side, have leave
to come and go here unmolested."

"But Ommon-ee--they might come to make war here."

"Not while I live!" he answered. "Neither side shall make war
here. Give back those prisoners."

"But Ommon-ee--"

"I have spoken."

They laid their heads together and whispered without much
emphasis, there was so little to argue about.

"Very well, Ommon-ee."

The fellow with red in his beard raised his voice, and another
man answered from the shadows. One of the three began to converse
with Ommony, but he would not listen until the two prisoners were
surrendered unhurt. So, as is said there was once in Heaven,
there was silence for the space of half an hour--lighted by
fireflies and the glowing ends of two cigars. The dark was full
of witnesses unquestionably, but even the usual jungle noises
seemed to be suppressed for the occasion.

At last came the sound of footsteps and the voice of a native
orderly reminding his captors that he had "told them so." He
furthermore asserted they were pigs, and the night became
instantly alive with recrimination. The shadows shrilled back
with fifty voices that there would presently be no Hindu
idolaters in Moplah country and the Rajput prisoners replied in
kind. Ommony appealed to the major, who stood up and barked the
order for attention. In perfect silence again the orderlies stood
at the foot of the steps and saluted.

They were complete and unharmed, even to their small change, and
admitted it reluctantly. They naturally thought that vengeance
was in order, and it was pity to reduce the count in any way.
Nevertheless, the fact was that although everything had been
taken from them, all had been returned.

"Except the horses," remarked Ommony.

"They are dead," said the chief with the red beard.

"Have you horses that are fit for army remounts?" Ommony retorted.

"As Allah is our witness, we have no horses whatever, sahib."

"Then you must pay money. The horses were slain in this sanctuary
after you had passed your word. You must pay. Everybody knows the
price of an army remount."

"But we have no money with us, Ommon-ee."

"I don't care. Sign a promissory note, plus interest from date.
Pay it here in my house whenever you like, or add it to the fines
that the Government will levy after this foolishness is over. You
must either pay now or sign."

"Very well, we will sign."

Ommony went into the house and wrote out a note for the proper amount.

"All three of you must sign," he said, handing them his fountain
pen. Then, as he shook the paper to dry the signatures:

"One other thing."

"Nay, sahib, this is enough! We have done honorably."

"My servants have run away. One of them did as you told him and
kept the dogs quiet while you seized the orderlies. Having obeyed
you, he is yours. Keep him. Send the others back, and don't
interfere with my servants again."

"Very well, Ommon-ee."

"And take away those horses. You have paid for them. We are
not sweepers here to clean up after you! Leave the saddles
and bridles."

The man with the red beard shouted and again the night became
full of noise-grunting, many exclamations, much advice, and the
sound of heavy bodies being dragged.

"You have my leave to go," said Ommony, and the three chiefs
shook hands with him and went not quite so turbulent, but still
looking fairly well pleased with themselves.

"By God!" exclaimed the major. "May I be eternally damned if I
ever saw anything like it! Mr. Ommony, if my report of this
affair counts you'll be here whether you like it or not until the
chiefs are all hanged and this extraordinary show is over!"


_"Engage the Enemy More Closely"_

In every generation there are scores of men who can disguise
themselves as natives of the East and get by undetected. The
really rare men are those who can do it and regain their Western
heritage. It means something more than merely staining your
whole skin black to act Othello. It is more like dying and
being born again.

Athelstan King was dead to his own kind--to the past--to the
world that knew him--possibly to the future. If he should die,
they would say only this of him--that no man knew how he met his
death, or why he courted it, and that few except Ommony had ever
understood him. But that, too, is a most rare gift--the ability
to go without praise and recognition. Ommony and King were both
men who valued praise merely at its asset value. If it gave them
command of more resources for the great game, good; if not it
bored them.

King limped a little, for the white man's feet grow soft in
boots, however hard he uses them meanwhile. He looked so like
Mahommed Babar from the rear that even in broad daylight the
Northerner's relatives might easily have jumped to the wrong
conclusion. But it was dark in the jungle, although still fairly
light overhead, and he held the end of a khaki turban between his
teeth, as the men of that land do when in haste; from in front,
when he strode into the luminous gloom of a clearing, you could
not have told whether or not he was bearded, and Mahommed Babar
might have thought himself face to face with his own shadow.

A jungli, who had never seen King clothed and in his right mind,
and was too incurious to be suspicious, was leading jungle
fashion at a dog-trot, not boldly down the middle of the lanes,
as King went, but flitting from shadow to shadow, afraid of the
dark and of devils, but much more afraid to disobey Ommony--who
owned both devils and forests, as every jungli knew.

King ran heavily. The jungli made no sound that any but an animal
could hear. King breathed heavily. The jungli, like a phantom,
seemed to do without breath. At intervals the woods resounded
with the crash of falling branches, and at every one of those
sounds the jungli would leap almost out of his skin, springing,
like Puck, from side to side of the fire-lane. Now and then there
would come the clear cry of a hunted animal, and at every one
of those sounds King would stiffen tensely, but the jungli
took no notice.

They did not speak, for they had no word in common, Ommony being
one of half a dozen men who have ever learned the jungli-bat,*
and very few junglis knowing anything except their own and the
animals' language. Ommon-ee had spoken. The jungli showed the
way, and thereafter would say nothing because he knew nothing and
did not care to know.

* The incomprehensible language spoken by the aborigines, who
live in the jungle, and who are probably the last of a race that
was conquered and proscribed when India was first invaded,
thousands of years B.C.

Mahommed Babar doubtless believed himself beyond pursuit.
Like all Northerners, and Highlanders especially, he had an
inconvincible contempt for Southern, and above all lowland ways.
As Ommony's steward of supplies, he had seen the junglis at their
work reporting every incident in the forest, including the
tigers' and the leopards' meals, but that had not persuaded him
that such folk could ever outwit a campaigner like himself.

Was he not born in the Northern mists? Had he not scouted unseen
on Allah's slag-heap by Quetta, where men are trained to outview
the kites? Had he not been guide to the Guides* themselves? When
such as he decide to vanish and leave no trace, there is less
trace than a light wind leaves! Gone on a gray horse--that was
the last the curious would know until it should suit him to
enlighten them! [* A famous Indian regiment]

Nevertheless, four hours after he left it was told to Ommony that
a panther had slain the gray horse while Mahommed Babar rested
under a tree. Hairs from the mane and tail of the horse were
brought in proof, together with a bit of fly-decked meat to show
that the leopard had one eye-tooth missing.

An hour after that it was reported that Mahommed Babar stopped to
pull a thorn out of his heel. It was even said from which heel
and what kind of thorn it was. By that time King had used walnut
stain so skillfully from head to foot that not even the mirror
could expose his origin and Ommony Dutch-uncle-ing, as he called
it, from an arm-chair, had done breaking up facts with a

Then King fared forth as the seventy did of old, with neither
purse nor scrip, but--since the Good Book says nothing about
pistols--with a perfect little Colt repeater nestling against
his ribs and a great faith in his own high purpose. A jungli
was whistled for and told to lead Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan
on the trail of Mahommed Babar, and in the heat of the afternoon
pursuit began.

Now a man on foot can run down anything that lives. He can walk
down anything that lives, and within a day or two. With a
five-hour start on a well-fed horse, and given the information
that he is followed, another man, of course, can hold his lead
provided he has legs and knows enough to abandon the horse at the
end of the first forced march. But a man who has counted on a
horse and lost it in the first few hours, and who thinks he
has baffled pursuit, so that he has ignorance as well as
disappointment against him, is in no shape to leave a determined
huntsman behind for long. The outcome is simply a question of
mathematics and the huntsman's wind. King's wind was good.

Moreover, although King had the white man's natural fear of the
beasts who hunt the jungle lanes, Mahommed Babar was even more
afraid of them, because unused. In his land men hunt men, which
is another matter altogether. He was afraid to set his foot down
where a snake might be hiding. He feared, as the evening closed
on him, that the down-hanging tendrils were pythons in wait for
the passer-by and a strangled meal. He had the North-born sense
of direction, but no guide to show him practicable cuts. And
although he had to perfection the swinging, almost tireless
Hillman's stride, the end that he had in view was not so sure as
the rock-strewn landscape he was used to marching down. There was
a sort of jaw-set half-determination, at war with itself, that
led to dalliance and reduced speed.

Whereas King's alert guide knew every short cut--every forest
voice. He was afraid of devils, but believed that King could
protect him from them, since Ommon-ee had said so, and whatever
else Ommon-ee did he never lied. King was afraid of tigers,
leopards, pythons, what not else, but knew that the jungli would
give him ample warning of any of them. And the end King had in
view was absolutely sure. He knew that because he was following
first principles there was nothing whatever to argue about and
the outcome was, as Moslems say, on Allah's knees.

When it grew dark and the fire-lane lay like the mold of
loneliness in front of him, Mahommed Babar felt inspired to climb
out of harm's reach and wait for the dawn. He would not admit to
himself that he was superstitious and that the in-drawn sigh of
the tree-tops put him in mind of all the spirit-tales that haunt
the Northern villages. He was a man and unafraid, he told
himself, but a soldier likewise, who would travel better by
daylight and could sleep well in a tree.

"Moreover, a leopard slew my horse, and I am easier to slay. I
have no firearms. Shall I fight bagheela in the dark with a knife
and my bare hands? Let us hope there are no pythons in this tree."

He chose an enormous, wholesome one that spread impenetrable
shade above ten thousand feet of ground, and clambering with the
sureness of a mountaineer discovered a dry branch near the top
that had not been long enough dead to be dangerous. Climbing
that, he found himself again in the short, clear Indian twilight
and, bracing himself like a man at the mast-head, he surveyed
the undulating sea of green that reached every way to the
horizon--overlooking one fact. He was silhouetted against
the crimson glare that the retreating sun had scorched on a
tired sky.

King stopped by a stream, laughed curtly and sat down. Having
satisfied himself that the jungli also had seen Mahommed Babar he
got into the stream, cold water working on the Anglo-Saxon like
magic; when he emerged and ate sandwiches he was fit to march all
night if need be.

The jungli grunted and King looked up. Darkness comes very
swiftly in those latitudes, and he was only just in time to see
Mahommed Babar clamber down again and disappear into the opaque
foliage. Another minute and the dead branch blended with the
others in a blur against the night.

So King and the jungli went forward again, and were in time
to hear Mahommed Babar drop from a low branch and resume
his original direction. He had seen something; that much was
obvious. Something friendly. Not too far away. King began
to wish poignantly that he knew a language intelligible to the
jungli--knew the general lay of the land--knew anything. The
trouble was that the jungli had orders from Ommony to show the
way taken by Mahommed Babar, and would therefore do that and do
nothing else. Pantomime was no good; the jungli merely laughed
at it.

The only possible remedy was to see what Mahommed Babar had
seen--if there should still be light enough. King chose the same
tree, since that was proven climbable, and bent all his faculties
to the task of reaching the top before the last faint glimmer of
light should die. He had signed to the jungli to stay below, but
that had no effect; the jungli climbed too, and suddenly the
merit of his stupidly literal obedience became apparent. He was
showing the way still--step by step the only way Mahommed Babar
could have climbed the tree! Swinging overhead like an ape, he
pointed, first with one toe, then with the other, to the branches
King should mount by, with the result that King reached the fork
of the dead branch while a baleful lemon-yellow glare still
flickered low in the west. It was freakish, like summer lightning.

He need not have hurried. What Mahommed Babar had seen became
much more visible as darkness deepened. A series of fires placed
roughly in the shape of the letter M flickered and gained
brilliancy in the woods about five miles away, illuminating a
wide clearing, and he could see dark shapes of men dancing around
in circles and ducking. Pure Arab that. Nothing Indian about it.
Brother Moplah was reverting true to type, as all men do when
their primitive passions are aroused. You can recognize the
pigeon-movement of Arabs dancing as far away as you can detect
any movement at all, but the man does not live who can explain
the significance of just that bobbing of the heads toward the
center all together.

There was rising ground capped by a high rock on King's left
front, about two hundred yards away. Because of the trees you
could not see it until up in the tree-tops; Mahommed Babar had
seen it and evidently decided it was better than the tree, for he
was up there now, where he, in turn, had been seen by a Moplah
scout. By a flash of sheet-lightning King saw Mahommed Babar step
out and stand silhouetted on the summit of the rock. The next
flash showed two men talking furiously.

King climbed down again followed by the jungli. There was nothing
to be gained by guessing; much to be gained by the fact that
Mahommed Babar did not suspect pursuit. For a man entitled to the
benefit of the doubt and no more, the Northerner was taking
reckless chances, but not greater than King proceeded to take;
for King, having no password or sign, risked being seen by Moplah
scouts, who are as alert as they are blood-thirsty. For the life
of him he could not make the jungli understand that he wanted to
creep close and listen without being seen. The jungli understood
that he should follow and overtake Mahommed Babar, and when you
understand a thing, you understand it, naked or otherwise. King
tried to send him back to Ommony, but he would not go, not having
accomplished his task yet, so finally King put a cord around his
throat and held him in leash by that, as you would a too-eager
hunting dog. So they crept closer, each mistrustful of the
other's smell, as the way is of humans as well as animals.

The arrangement did not last long. Restraint was intolerable and
the jungli slipped out of his noose. Down there under the trees
the range of vision ceased at about a hand's breadth from the
eyes unless you had animal sight. The jungli vanished with the
incredible speed of a shadow, and King thought he heard him break
a twig about fifty paces ahead some seconds later, so he crept
forward, groping with fingers on the ground. The great thing was
to make no noise. Doubtless the jungli had made that little noise
in order to guide him. Wonderful fellows junglis. Pity they could
not talk intelligibly.

One thing was quite unnecessary--to be on guard against animals.
The fires five miles away and the out-thrown ring of scouts would
have driven every jungle denizen bigger than a hare to other
hunting-grounds. Nothing to do but keep out of sight and go
close--close--close; that is where secrets are learned and
thoughtful little games prevented--close! Engage the enemy more
closely--England's watchword, or it ought to be. It went through
King's head like a refrain, like those snatches you repeat in
time, to the thump of train-wheels.

"Closer! Closer! Nothing to be gained by hanging back!"

Then some one struck a light--touched off a fire of leaves and
twigs on top of the pinnacle rock--and he saw Mahommed Babar
seated facing the other man, talking with him earnestly. There
were four men now, not two, and he recognized Mahommed Babar by
the shape of his turban, which was unmistakable. They heaped fuel
on the fire as if they wanted to be seen by all the country side.
But, of course, the fire made it seem even darker down below,
just as staring at it produced spots of light in front of the
eyes that made the dark more difficult to penetrate than ever.

So King took his eyes off the fire and crawled forward again. He
was sure he heard the jungli. Another twig broke, which is a way
those people have of signaling. Ommony could have read the signal
accurately, but all King could do was to follow the sound. Now he
could hear the men talking on the high rock. He glanced up again
and saw six, the last two standing. At any rate he hoped they
were the last two.

He hardly felt the blow as two other men landed on his neck.
Being perfectly unconscious instantly it did not trouble him
that his face was pressed into the mold, or that his hands
and feet were lashed with rawhide until the blood in them ceased
circulating. He had engaged the enemy more closely, and the
incurious jungli trotted homeward to report the news to Ommony.


_"I Am the High Court Judge."_

The British are always taken unawares. They get more notice than
other people, and they don't ignore the notice. They wonder at
it. Sometimes they admire it. They are also always interested.
But as for its meaning anything serious until afterward, the
forebodings of Noah, Cassandra and the Prophets meant more in
their generation--much more; men pelted Noah, mocked Cassandra
and stoned the Prophets, whereas the British do none of these
things. The British preserve a noncommittal attitude and wait
and see.

They waited and saw at Ooitacamund. Saw the flames of Hindu
villages. For a generation it had been notorious that regular
troops could campaign in Moplah country only with the utmost
difficulty because of the hills and impenetrable jungle. So there
were no troops to speak of. There was not even a garrison to
defend Calicut, and one had to be improvised when the first
horde of wounded and panic-stricken Hindus came stampeding
for protection.

Even if there had been troops available they could not have been
used to advantage at first, because the Moplahs were ready and
the British were not. There was a prevalent superstition to the
effect that the Moplahs knew nothing about tactics or strategy.
Therefore there was no need to be ready. Moplahs always had been
savages; ergo, they always would be. Q.E.D.

Once a viceroy of genius had ordered Moplahs to be enlisted in
the army, on the same principle on which Lord Channing enlisted
Scottish Highlanders after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. But
brother Moplah did not take to discipline, albeit he liked
fighting so much that he even fought with the other regiments and
his own officers. It followed, of course, that he never could
be disciplined.

Benevolent despotism therefore was the only dose for Moplahs,
reinforced with aeroplanes, naturally. Aeroplanes had scattered
the Somalis, who are a desert people, and had routed the Afghans,
who live on treeless hills and plains. Therefore aeroplanes could
easily police the Moplahs, who would fear them if nothing else.

But unfortunately aeroplanes can hardly accomplish much over
hill and dale that is spread from end to end with a natural,
impenetrable camouflage. And a bomb among trees, though it
makes a lovely noise, does inconsiderable damage. Moreover, as
Ommony had reminded King, scores of Moplahs went to France in
the well-paid labor units, where they grew so familiar with
bombing-planes that anything short of being actually hit by a
bomb left them entirely unconvinced. And that kind of insouciance
is more contagious than the itch.

The Moplahs broke all standing rules from the start. They
sprang a surprise that was perfect in all its ways. They were
well-supplied with arms and ammunition, had a well-laid plan,
displayed considerable strategy, used modern tactics, and obeyed
somebody's orders--none of which things an honest Moplah ought
to do.

In a pigeon-hole in Calcutta, with a duplicate in Simla and a
triplicate in Delhi, there is a report drawn up by a painstaking
committee, which sets forth for the confusion of future historians
ust how the Moplah "show" began. Nobody knows how it began. It
started everywhere at once, and every one concerned was much
too busy taking his part on one side or the other to have
any knowledge of what might be happening elsewhere.

Torn-up tracks and cut wires were the first intimation the
authorities received. The spares kept at wayside stations
and beside the track were carried off as plunder, but with
commendable speed and resource the emergency crews replaced
everything, thus providing brother Moplah with a second instalment
of welcome iron-mongery. As the improvised armored trains
patrolled the relaid track, just around the next curve, screened
by trees before them and behind, the Moplah raiders helped
themselves. Armored trains were isolated for lack of rails
to run on. Crews were what is known as "scoughed" after the
ammunition had given out.

Of course, not all the trains were caught in the open or wrecked
in broken culverts between depots. After the first damage had
been repaired and between raids there were even passenger trains
that got through. For instance, the train attached to which was
a coach containing Judge Wilmshurst and his hot, although
fashionable wife, who mourned like another Rachel and would not
be comforted, arrived somewhere finally. As Ommony wisely said,
the judge had not dared leave his wife behind.

The train winds through those hills like a patient worm possessed
of brains. Ever it turns aside at each obstacle; always it
appears again somewhere beyond, once more circling toward its
ultimate objective, frequently passing a place on three sides
within a mile or two before swerving in suddenly and dumping
passengers or freight for a touch down. The train always wins,
unless the Moplahs are "out" and in earnest, and sometimes even
then. Such is the fortune of war and its freakiness that neither
Judge Wilmshurst nor his wife as much as saw a Moplah; and when a
subaltern commanding twenty men at a wayside station ordered them
out of the train for safety's sake they not only disbelieved but
were indignant.

However, you can't successfully oppose a British subaltern with
anything less than steel or TNT when he has once assumed
responsibility. The judge tried all the old methods of overawing
a child, and his wife tried several new ones, but none worked.
Not even blandishments accomplished anything. The youth gave his
name as Charles Sutherland, and Mrs. Wilmshurst remembered she
knew the Sutherlands of Southrey, but he was not interested.

"I could pick your family profile out of a million," she
assured him.

"Where's Southrey?" he answered. "I'm from Blackheath. My people
never had a county-seat. Dad was an architect. You're delaying
us awfully."

She refused to leave the car that she had been complaining of for
two hot days and nights, and told her husband he was "spineless"
to let a mere subaltern impose on a High Court judge. So he from
Blackheath ordered the car uncoupled and let the train go on
without it--which it did for ten miles, at the end of which it
fell into a broken culvert, where the Moplahs looted it.

As the solitary car in certain contingencies might make a superb
addition to his scant means of defense, Charley Sutherland of
Blackheath made his men put their shoulders to it and shove until
it stood exactly at the angle with the station building that his
martial eye approved. There he left it, with two fifteen-year-old
boys in uniform on guard (attested, of course, as twenty-one),
and two more, who were honestly eighteen, carrying water in
kerosene cans for drinking purpose in case of siege. They filled
the copper tank, but as Mrs. Wilmshurst promptly took a bath and
said nothing about it the total accomplishment did not amount
to much.

The station buildings were sufficient for their purpose, whatever
that may have been. Undoubtedly they were no good for anything
else. There was a ten by twelve concrete hut constituting
ticket-office and babu's quarters, and from that a roof reached
either way for fifty feet above a masonry and gravel platform.
That was all, except that a wooden hut had stood fifty yards back
from the station by way of zenana for the babu's family. There
were nice black ashes where it had been. The babu and his
family were Hindus, and the Moplahs had done the rest. Charley
Sutherland, a sergeant, two corporals, and seventeen men
arriving later on the scene raked up the ashes of babu and
family into sacks and buried them, which was respectful, even
if blasphemously carried out and not at all the orthodox way of
disposing of Hindu remains.

Charley Sutherland and his twenty were there by the whim of naked
luck, not otherwise. They had been sent to lend distinction to
the funeral procession of a Moplah chief, whose relatives and
whose village the authorities chose to honor for reasons best
known to themselves. Having marched for twenty miles along a
jungle lane, slept in a flea-infested thatched hut, "proceeded
according to orders," and having even fired a salvo in the
deceased's honor, they had marched twenty miles back again, only
to discover a burned babu.

The station premises had been looted perfectly, but the arrival
of Sutherland and twenty men had interrupted proceedings and the
wire was not yet cut. Sutherland was a telegraphist of sorts and
he managed to get headquarters before the raiding party thought
of cutting the wire out of sight around the curve. Being only of
sorts he had difficulty. Skepticism, blank incredulity, panic and
fuss were among the elements at war with him, added to all of
which he could send, like most "of sorts" men, much better than
he could take. However, he managed to read off that trains will
proceed as usual before a clangor unmistakable announced that the
wire was cut and being shaken.

Thereafter Charley Sutherland assumed responsibility, and, being
beyond reach of his superiors, did fairly well. He kicked a
private of the line, which is strictly against the regulations,
but as man to man, conveys enlightenment; and he let the only
train go through, as per orders. But orders had said nothing
about passengers, and although Judge Wilmshurst and his wife said
a very great deal, they ceased from being passengers and became
occupants of a fort on wheels--the right wing of Charley
Sutherland's defenses.

When he heard the wire go down, he sent a sergeant and six men to
bring in as much of it as could be "snaffled" without loss of
life. The sergeant was a Lancashire man who had poached in
Yorkshire and could fight either end up. The raiders abandoned
their half-coiled wire and the sergeant's men dragged it in
uncoiled--enough to make a breast-high fence of five strands
between the station office and the Wilmshursts' car, with
connecting strands so woven as to make a rather efficient net
of it.

So far, good. There was more wire in the other direction and the
sergeant's party sallied forth again. This time, having to do the
tearing-down themselves, they did not bring in so much of it; but
it was enough for a three-stranded entanglement on the other
side, and meanwhile Sutherland had superintended the dismantling
of the platform roof, and then ten-foot sheets of corrugated iron
raised two-deep lengthwise and with sand and gravel packed
between them made a bullet-proof and fairly efficient means of
communication between the right and left wing. More iron sheets
and sand around the car wheels completed the arrangement, and
Charley, scratching the back of his head like an architect
considering new plans, sat down on the edge of the platform
deliberating what to do next. It was then that Judge Wilmshurst
so far thawed as to call to him. Not by name, of course. Nothing
so human as that.

"Have you any food?" he asked.

"The men have scant rations for one meal in their haversacks."

"How long do you expect to hold this post against an enemy?"

"Hadn't thought of that, sir. Hold it as long as we can."

"Have you ammunition?"


"How many rounds?"

"That's a military secret," answered Sutherland, drying up.
Wilmshurst smiled broadly.

"Would you mind listening to me a moment? I'm Grosset Wilmshurst--High
Court judge--perhaps you never heard of me? My business here is to
hold an inquiry into complaints laid by the Moplah headmen against
the local administration. They knew I was coming. Now, if you'll
send word to the nearest headman that I'm here, I think you'll
find there'll be no trouble."

Sutherland looked actually shocked, and it takes a very great
deal to shock a youngster of his profession. He had known the
Moplahs more or less for six months, and the conceit of a man who
supposed that his mere arrival from afar could cause trouble to
cease in that neighborhood was breath-taking. Dead and burned
babus he could face, but...

"Have you any idea what it means when the Moplahs are out?" he
demanded. "Perhaps you think--"

"Tut-tut, my dear boy, try it."

"You know they've killed the station-master and his family, cut
the wires, torn up the track behind you, and fired on my men?"

"I should have been here sooner. The minute they know I am here
to inquire into their grievances they will calm down. Send word
to them."

The judge's butler-like countenance was so self-assured that
Sutherland was almost half-convinced. If he had been ten years
older the judge's self-assertion might have appeared less absurd,
but the judgment of youth is much more critical than Solomon's.

"If I had a man to spare, perhaps," he said dryly.

The judge's head retired through the window, but his defeat
enraged Mrs. Wilmshurst to the blazing point. Fresh from her bath
she confronted the limp, perspiring judge and demanded to know
whether he supposed she had married him in order to be snubbed by
a two-penny subaltern of infantry.

"Have you no manhood?" she demanded, and proceeded to display her
own by stepping down on to the track to force the issue.

"What is this nonsense?" she demanded. "How dare you imprison a
lady in this abominable way! You heard my husband. Send at once
for the Moplah's headmen!"

"No need. Get back in!" commanded Sutherland, and shouted to his
men to duck, pushing Mrs. Wilmshurst toward the door at the same
time so violently that she collapsed on to the step, providing
just sufficient clearance for a bullet, which clipped the brim of
her panama hat.

Two more bullets plunked through Sutherland's helmet, half a
dozen smashed the glass in the car windows, and one good
answering volley under the sergeant's direction caused a
temporary halt in the proceedings. Mrs. Wilmshurst climbed in and
crouched on the floor.

"What does this mean?" asked her husband, head through the
window again.

It was obvious what it meant. Sutherland read off the symptoms as
one with vision reading to the blind.

"They've moppled your train, that's what! Scoughed everybody, or
I'm a Hindu! Wonder we didn't hear the shooting--must have been
some--no--train crew wasn't armed, that's right; they may have
ditched the whole shebang and used knives! Anyhow, they've looted
everything. I can see lamps, an oil-can, shovel, flags, some
third-class carriage doors--give 'em another one, sergeant,
they're gathering again!"

The volley tore across the barricade before the judge could get a
word in, and the Moplahs, who had been swarming around the bend
three hundred yards away, scampered for cover.

"There! That will do! That's enough, I tell you! Have you killed
anybody? Let me manage this."

The judge was no longer ridiculous, even if not yet sublime.
Sublimity, warts, and a butler's nose are not congruous; but he
knew what he thought he could do, and proceeded to try it, tying
his handkerchief to a walking-stick and waving it from the
carriage window.

"Good God! You mean surrender?" Sutherland made a jump at the
stick but missed.

"Certainly not! You leave this to me. Let me talk to them!"

"Be careful! Oh, be careful!" came the voice of Rachel
Wilmshurst, but the judge ignored her absolutely.

The Moplahs had swarmed through the fringe of trees bordering on
the line and already had Sutherland's scratch defenses threatened
on two sides. They established that fact beyond argument by
means of a scattering cross-fire, which ceased, however, when
the judge had waved his white flag for about a minute. Ironically
enough the Moplah leaders answered with the colored flags they
had looted from the train, and presently, when it was clear
that there would be no more shooting for the present, three
white-turbaned, long-haired fellows in a kind of khaki uniform,
armed with modern rifles and swords slung from the shoulder by a
black belt, emerged from the trees and took their stand a little
nervously by the ashes where the babu's zenana had been.

The judge with his flag in his hand walked forward to meet them,
and Sutherland accompanied him after cautioning his men.

"Shoot at the first sign of treachery!" he ordered. "This is no
surrender, I promise you that. Merely a palaver. If anything
should happen to the judge and me, use your ammunition sparingly
and fall back on the railway carriage. Protect the lady at
all costs."

He had to run to catch the judge, who was marching like a man in
a procession best foot foremost with the flag over his shoulder.

"Can you mopple their lingo?" asked Sutherland.

"No. No, my lad. I'll speak English to them. Key-language of the
world--of the universe for aught we know to the contrary! Keep
behind me, and don't try to interfere."

There is something in cocksureness after all. It was the
key-language. All three of the Moplahs knew English, he with
the green flag in the middle almost perfectly.

"You surr-ender?" he asked, making a dactyl of the word.

"No," said the judge. "I have come to tell who I am."

The Moplahs bowed--a shade ironically. One can afford to be
polite when the outcome is inevitable; and as the agony was to
be all on one side there was no harm in prolonging it.

"I am Grosset Wilmshurst, sahib."

The statement was received with blank incomprehension. The
Moplahs glanced at one another for a cue, and some one shouted to
them from the trees behind. The judge put on speed to explain.

"I am the High Court judge who was sent for from the Bombay
Presidency to hold impartial inquiry into the Moplahs' grievances."

"Ah! Oh! Ah!"

That evidently did convey a meaning. The Moplah headmen looked in
one another's eyes again and knew themselves unanimous.

"That is good. Then you are a prisoner," said the tall man in
the middle.

"Stuff and nonsense! I came to inquire into your grievances. Do
you treat a guest that way? Have you no sense of honor?"

The man in the middle began to translate that to the other two,
who had only half-understood it, and the judge took advantage of
that to turn on Sutherland.

"Leave this to me, d'you hear me? This is a case for the civil
authorities. Go back there and tell my wife to keep out of sight.
As long as they don't see her--"

But it was already too late. They both saw Rachel Wilmshurst
stepping down from the car. The three headmen saw. Every Moplah
in the fringe of trees had seen. There were shrill comments from
the covert, not all of them unintelligible.

"I demand protection for my wife and myself," said the judge; and
that, although he did not know it, was a thoroughly strategic
attitude to take, for if Moslem law insists on one thing it is
that the stranger demanding protection must receive it.

Needless to say, it does not always work, and the Moslem does not
live who is not a quibbler over technicalities.

"That shall be seen," said the man in the midst. "You demand for
yourself and your wife? You are High Court judge? Judge what
name? Williamsshirse. Bohut atcha. You know bohut atcha? Bombay
language. Very well. We take you and your wife. As for these
others, it is too late to make demands for them. Besides, they
are military. They kill--we kill--bloodfare regular business. Of
course, you understand."

There followed one of those revolting arguments that leave all
concerned dissatisfied. The judge and Sutherland asked time for
consultation and were granted fifteen minutes by the headman's
silver watch. They walked back toward the station arguing, the
judge trying to overbear Sutherland and the subaltern falling
back on sheer obstinacy.

"I tell you I will!"

"You shall not, sir!"

"You young ass!"

"Maybe. But you shall not while I have a man left to prevent you!"

The judge believed that he and his wife would be perfectly safe
in the hands of the Moplahs. Furthermore, that the Moplahs would
let the soldiers alone if they could gain two important hostages,
and the loot from the first-class railway carriage, without
a fight.

Sutherland, with a youngster's views, might perhaps have been
persuaded to let the judge go. The judge was his senior and of
the male sex. But bluntly and truthfully he swore that he and his
men would die before any Moplah came within bayonet length of
Mrs. Wilmshurst. He disliked her already cordially, and for
sufficient reason; hoped never to see her again, and told the
judge so to his face.

"But I'd like to be able to look my own men and my mother in the
eye. What's more, I will! By God I will! She stays. That's all
about it!"

The judge made the incredible mistake then of appealing to
Sutherland's men over their officer's head. He stood with his
back to the station building and spoke as if he were on the bench
lecturing a row of lawyers.

"Now you men must know what the origin of this disturbance was.
Your officer has told me how you came to be here. He has said
nothing about your conduct in the village where you were supposed
to attend a funeral, so I am left to draw my own conclusions.
These Moplahs are a proud people, who bitterly resent such
indignities as soldiers of an alien race can thoughtlessly
subject them to; and they no more enjoy having their harems
interfered with by aliens than you would enjoy having, let us
say, your mothers carried off by Moplahs. However, the harm is
done, and must be remedied. I am the only person who can do that.
I am here on an investigation of Moplah complaints. I intend to
report that in my opinion at least this one disturbance was due
to our soldiers--to yourselves in particular--possibly others,
too, but this disturbance certainly. Now I am going to order your
officer to deliver my wife and me to those people as hostages in
evidence of good faith--"

Sutherland saw fit to interrupt, and, since he did not care to
dispute with the judge before his men, turned on the men, and
barked them back to their posts.

"The next man who leaves his post without my order will be `for
it,'" he announced.

They had no particular reason for fearing the judge. Besides, he
had warts and a butler's face, and they had heard his wife scold
him unrebuked. Sutherland they knew. The regulations they knew.
The sergeant they knew particularly well, and the sergeant feared
no fifty-year-old civilian, whatever he might think of foes in
shining armor. Each man proceeded to the post assigned to him,
and squinted along his rifle because that was the obvious thing
to do.

Brother Moplah, peering from the fringe of the woods, could not
see what took place under the shelter of the station building,
but did see the men return and line the ridiculous defenses. He
naturally misinterpreted. Wishing to believe that all British
officials were rogues and liars, and with his hereditary
instincts almost out of control in any case, he translated
suspicion into certainty.

Probably no chief gave the order. It was spontaneous combustion,
as it were, the spirit of pirate ancestors taking charge and
unquestionably blaming the breach of faith on the British. From
three directions at once the ragged, independent firing poured
out from the trees, and Sutherland stopped one of the first
bullets with his shoulder.

Thereafter Judge Wilmshurst conceded there was no peace, and
stepped down in favor of the military, obeying without argument.
Sutherland ordered him back into the railway carriage with his
wife, where the two lay obediently on the floor, the judge on the
side whence the bullets were coming and she pouring into his ear
in fitful detail her opinion of him for having brought her among
such savages, and for having failed on top of that so signally in
trying to assert his authority.

There was no peace anywhere; nor much hope, with only twenty men,
and the rails torn up to prevent relief from coming. There were a
corporal and three men on their bellies under the carriage,
peeping out between the iron sheets that surrounded their lair
like a petticoat; but four men were not enough when the Moplahs
crossed the line lower down and proceeded to surround the whole
inclosure. As Sutherland, with an arm swinging limp, dragged more
men from the barricade and drove them into the carriage to fire
from the open windows some one on the Moplah side had enough
military genius to take advantage of the momentary confusion.
They rushed the station building, gained the cover of the wall,
and thereafter had the outcome in their own hand. It was merely
a question of how many casualties, and were they willing to
pay the price?

The Moplah will pay any price when his blood is up. They surged
around the station building from both sides and jumped at the
telegraph-wire entanglements, encouraging Tommy Atkins, age
sixteen, enormously by the sight of writhing arms and legs and
bodies like bloody scarecrows hung face-forward grinning across
the wire.

As long as the ammunition lasted, and with the harvest in full
view fifty feet away, there was no chance whatever of storming
that nest of youngsters. Nobody misses much at fifty yards from
behind a breastwork when life depends minute by minute on aiming

But the ammunition did not last. At the end of fifteen minutes
even the steadiest men had only two or three rounds left; and
Sutherland knew that when it came to bayonets his boys would
stand no chance again Moplah swordsmen. Stunned for the moment by
the extent of their losses, the Moplahs took cover, and Sutherland
seized the chance to reduce his line of defense. There was
nothing else for it. He had to abandon the station building,
behind which the Moplahs were already gathering again for a final
rush; abandon the sheet-iron barricades; abandon all except the
railway carriage, underneath which he stowed his seven wounded,
not reckoning himself. His kind never does reckon himself a
casualty until unconsciousness supervenes and they carry him off
on a stretcher.

Inside the carriage, kneeling on the seats that ran parallel with
the windows, they waited, and tried not to damage Mrs. Wilmshurst
with the heels of ammunition boots. Sutherland ordered a count of
cartridges, each man calling out the number still remaining; but
before that was half done the Moplahs resumed the attack, leaping
the undefended barricades and charging at the carriage from all
four sides simultaneously.

"Each man save one cartridge for close quarters!" ordered Sutherland.

He had eyes for nothing but his own men and the enemy, and
did not see the handkerchief on a stick thrust through the
window at his back and waved violently. All he knew for the
moment, and wondered at, was that the Moplahs halted and ceased
firing--halted with their prey by the throat, as it were--an
unimaginable thing. But he was not dead or dreaming; he knew that
because his shoulder hurt so. They did halt, and their chiefs
came forward to parley again. He turned to look through the other
window--and saw the white flag!

"Oh, my God! You rotter!"

The judge has not forgotten, nor will forget that last comment of
Sutherland's until his dying day. The next moment a bullet fired
from the rear by a Moplah who knew nothing of white flags drilled
Sutherland through the temples, and it was too late to say
anything in his own defense. The judge lifted the boy's body off
his complaining wife and gave her his handkerchief.

"I suppose I'm in command now?" he said to the sergeant, who
could not answer easily because his lips and front teeth had been
shot away.

The judge was acting in perfectly good faith. So was the
sergeant, who aimed a blow at the judge's stomach with his rifle;
he only missed because his bayonet caught another man's tunic and
steered the blow awry.

"We've surrendered. Now no more fighting!" said the judge. "Put
up your weapons, men. You've done your best. Now the right thing
to do is surrender with good grace."

He shoved his head through the open window and tried to make his
meaning clear to the men underneath.

"Your officer's dead. We've all surrendered!"

Oaths answered him, and he was not sure whether he had been
understood or not.

"The best thing we can all do now is to file out one by one," he
said, with a feeling of inspiration. "Leave your rifles on the
seats, and they'll not harm you."

The sergeant had collapsed. Disgust and loss of blood completed
the Moplah bullet's work. One corporal was underneath and the
other was dead. The remaining boys obeyed, laying their rifles on
the seats dejectedly, with wicked barrack-room oaths, and filing
down to the track one after the other.

The Moplahs let them come--took scant notice of them--only closed
in and stood waiting; and the same headman with red in his beard
who had palavered before came to the door with a hand stretched
out to receive the surrender of Wilmshurst and his wife. Mrs.
Wilmshurst, pale-faced and tousled, stepped down almost into his
arms, and the judge followed. The Moplah chief, smiling but
saying nothing, led them by the hand away behind the station
building and then cried out an order in a language of which
Wilmshurst knew not one solitary word. So his evidence is
not trustworthy.

Months later, after the big surrender, the Moplah chiefs said
that the men underneath the railway carriage had reopened fire,
thus making unavoidable what followed. They said that four or
five of their own men were shot down without warning, and went
so far as to give names. However, unsupported by impartial
witnesses, that evidence has not much value either.

The fact is unpleasant. The moment the judge's back had disappeared
behind the station building butchery began, and did not cease so
long as a soldier remained alive. The judge and his wife heard
it all, of course, but were not allowed to see; the excuse for
that being that they might have exposed themselves to bullets
fired by the British soldiers.

Finally, when the carriage had been stripped of doors, windows,
upholstery and everything removable, the Wilmshursts' baggage, of
course, included, the British dead were piled into the carriage.
Branches of trees, loose lumber from the station yard and some
telegraph posts were dragged up. The babu's looted kerosene was
poured over the lot, and a badly made imported Japanese match did
the rest.

Thereafter the judge and his wife were made to walk interminable
miles, until Mrs. Wilmshurst fainted.


_"The Benefit of the Doubt"_

Ommony made shift for twenty-four hours without servants--rather
fecklessly being used, like most Anglo-Indians, to being waited
on hand and foot. A man can almost forget how to pull his own
boots off after twenty years, just as an Admiral of the Fleet can
forget how to tie a bowline. The cooking was the worst part. He
opened cans, ate out of them, let it go at that, incidentally
making discoveries about a Hindu cook's kitchen--keeping methods
that are not good for the white man's temper.

Like most men who deliberately sleep at noon, Ommony burned
midnight oil, reading omnivorously. So he was not in bed when the
jungli returned at three in the morning. A twig struck the wooden
shutter, making a noise not much louder than that of a big
insect alighting, only different. A man's ears draw distinctions
instantly after twenty years of life like Ommony's. He stuck a
marker in the book and walked to the door without any more doubt
or hesitation than a city apartment dweller who expects a friend.

Afraid, unseen, indiscernible, the jungli gave his version of
what happened, sending forth his guttural monologue from behind a
bougainvillaea. It being his experience that man gets punished
for all kinds of occurrences that are beyond his own control, he
kept out of Ommony's aim and reach, albeit trusting Ommony more
than any other man. Ommony found a small bag of rice for him,
which was a prodigious treat, tossed it in the general direction
of the bougainvillaea, and returned indoors to meditate. The
sound of the falling rice-bag convinced the jungli. He decamped,
and the rice lay there until morning, where the squirrels found it.

The jungli had been sure of two things: that King was dead, and
that Mahommed Babar had ordered the slaying from the summit of a
high rock. The rock was described so accurately that Ommony
identified it.

"Benefit of the doubt?" he muttered, putting his feet on a chair
and beginning to read again.

But he could not read--not even Schopenhauer, whom he idolized.
His thoughts reverted ever to that rock--the pinnacle wolf-rock.
The first time he had ever seen it was by moonlight. A wolf had
sat alone, on the very apex of it, howling dismally; and he had
shot the wolf because those were the days when he still thought
he owned the forest, and was consequently lonely and irritable.
Later, when he came to know that the forest owned him and made
use of him, just as it made use of light, dew, warmth and all the
creatures, he always remembered that rock as the wolf-rock, and
regretted the lone wolf, whose cured pelt was on the floor beside
his bed.

Strange that King should have met his death in that place. He
wondered whether there was any possible connection. The more a
man reads Shakspere, Schopenhauer, Goethe, and the Prophets,
the more convinced he is of subtle interwoven causes and
effects, impalpable but governed by law--leisurely, unhurried,
inescapable. Live twenty years in the jungle, and either you open
your mind to the unity of all things and all actions, or else go
mad. Ommony sat until dawn and remembered. He had slain that wolf
wilfully, unjudged--he whose business in life it was to judge the
jungle, always considering the greatest good of the greatest
number. Had that slow, certain law impelled him wilfully to let
King go to his death?

For he could have prevented. He could have dissuaded, diverted,
forbidden. Had the same unreasoning impulse that blinded him to
the lone wolf's right to sit on a rock and howl, if so minded,
blinded him, too, to the obvious treason of Mahommed Babar? If
so, why had he sent King to his death instead of destroying
himself? He laughed. It was early yet to beg that question; the
law was leisurely! He was no such fool as to think that killing
the wolf brought consequences. It was willingness to kill the
wolf without good cause that would cause him to stumble forever
until he should wake up and understand. Strange, though. He
thought he had learned that lesson long ago. But if he had
learned it, why should the circumstances force themselves so
insistently on his mind now?

So a man thinks who has lived in the jungle for twenty years and
loved the jungle most of the time. Ommony sat and puzzled over
the impartial law that governs all creatures without hurry or
emotion, until he heard the horses in the stable neigh for
breakfast and his dogs came and thrust damp, curious noses into
his hand. Even then he had not puzzled it out. The horses needed
grain, hay, and water. More, they expected and would presently
receive. The dogs wanted corn-meal and gravy in three plates set
in a row on the veranda; and they too would get what they asked
for, even if he had to cook the stuff. He himself wanted eggs,
bread-and-butter, and tea, and nobody would bring them.

Responsibility. That was the word that suggested itself as the
answer to the problem. Sense of responsibility was better,
perhaps. But to whom, and for what? All he could answer positively
was that he would feed the animals before he fed himself, and
that he was sorry he had let King go the day before.

He did not waste time being sorry for King. No man who understands
life in its simplest aspects wastes a second being sorry for a
fellow who dies in harness "proceeding as per plan." That is
the way to die. Whatever lies beyond that is inevitably based
on good faith, hope, and manliness. But he was sorry to lose
King, which is quite different, and he was extremely critical
of himself for having let King go on such a hare-brained mission.

He broke about a dozen eggs but managed at last to fry two,
and ate the mess out of the frying-pan. Then he went to the
veranda for his morning smoke, and wondered all over again
from the beginning why Mahommed Babar, or a lone wolf on
a rock in the moonlight, should have been allowed to make
such a mess of things, and what the connection might be. In
a universe composed of units, every one of which was equally
important--granted--nevertheless, why should Mahommed Babar--of
the North--an interloper after all--be allowed to betray the
hands that had fed and protected him and to order the death of
a man--a real man such as Athelstan King?

Benefit of the doubt? Of what doubt? Which doubt? Cui bono?
Murder was murder since Cain killed Abel, and why should the best
man be the victim nine times out of ten?

So Ommony was entertained for the whole of a lonely day, while he
and his dogs alternately or together policed the grounds and he
fed the horses and chickens at intervals. Not a soul came near
him. He did not dare go to the station to discover, if possible,
whether trains were moving, and there was nobody to send. He
almost forgot that he had ordered the Moplah chiefs to send his
servants back; and he quite forgot his threat to Major Pierson to
have himself kidnapped rather than desert his forest post.

Not that his threat made the slightest difference. Major Pierson
lay face-upward beside a wrecked and burned train, while the
crows picked the holes where his eyes had been. The Moplahs were
on the job, and meant business if no one else did.

Toward evening the servants came back, looking foolish and
afraid. Two had been beaten. One looked near death from
exhaustion, and collapsed while the dogs went and sniffed him
to make sure he was really some one who belonged. They all
lined up before the veranda, headed by the butler, who gathered
dust in both fists and heaped it on his head in token of
abject repentance.

"Oh, you children of disillusionment!" said Ommony, smoking his
cigar with that day's first touch of contentment. "Shall I
dismiss you all or take you back again?"

"Father of forgiveness! We have nothing and nowhere to go. The
Moplahs took all and drove us forth again. We will submit to
fines and beatings without number. We are dirt. We abase
ourselves. We have wept because the sahib's meals were not cooked
and his bed not made. We are good Hindus. Pious people! We will
not become Moslems! And we will serve the sahib faithfully
forever--presenting ourselves for a beating forthwith!"

They all bowed repeatedly like a row of tall plants waving in
the wind.

"Doubtless you have consulted on the way," said Ommony, stroking
his beard between puffs of the cigar. "That is a clever proposal
you decided to make. Whose idea was it? Yours? Exceedingly
clever, since not one of you has ever known me to beat a servant
or impose a fine! Did you ever see me beat even a dog?"

"Sahib, you have been our father and our mother. We are very much
ashamed. All nine of us eat sorrow."

"Then why did you run away?"

"The Moplahs threatened us. We are Hindus, and they vowed all
Hindus will be slain or forcibly converted. They sent word again
and again. They said unless we went to them, to a village a day's
march distant, and became converts of the Moslem priest, they
would come here and murder us all, the sahib included. So we ran
to the village, hoping to save the sahib's life."

"And you all became Moslems?"

"Nay, sahib. Therein our honor was at stake and we refused. Two
of us were beaten. We were all robbed of our possessions. One
of us was made ill with too much fear. But we refused to be
converts, and at last the Moplahs took pity or else admired, we
knew not which, and drove us forth again."

"A very pretty story!" answered Ommony. "So here you are--all
honorable Hindus, eh?"

He chuckled. There is a certain way of knowing whether or not an
individual has been admitted to the fold of Islam.

"Your clothes smell," he said to the butler. "They have contagion
on them, but that is not your fault. The clothes must be burned.
There are no women here. Strip, then, and enter the house. Take new
cotton sheeting from my store-chest and clothe yourself decently."

The butler hesitated. But what was the use? You could never deceive
Ommony for more than five minutes. He stripped shame-facedly, and
Ommony laughed out-right.

"Nine new-made Moslems, eh? Well--you need comfort, not more
punishment! Strip, all of you. Go and wash. Go to work. The
butler shall give you each new cotton sheeting. Put that sick man
to bed and I'll physic him presently."

The sick man was carried off moaning, "Not episin sawts--oh, no,
not episin!" and the butler came out on the veranda carrying a
bolt of white sheeting, to make sure.

"There is none to overhear," said Ommony. "Tell me the truth now.
Who ordered you to run away from me?"

The butler hesitated, showing the jaundiced whites of his eyes.
"Sahib, I am afraid. Is Mahommed Babar here?"

"No. He's gone."

"Run away?" Ommony nodded.

"Sahib, it was Mahommed Babar who ordered us. He said we should
go to that village and be made Moslems, after which he would see
that we were not slain. It was truly Mahommed Babar, sahib. He
ordered us."


_"I Will Lead!"_

Athelstan Kind recovered consciousness, but did not advertise the
fact, not believing in advertisement, and having seen too many
men betray their plans and their weakness at the instance of that
up-to-date disease. He does not believe that it pays, and his
dread of advertisement is of such long standing and so ingrained
that it controls him even in the twilight between near-death
and recovery.

So he lay still and discovered that he was lying on his stomach
between a dozen men and a ridge of rock. He could touch the rock
with his right hand. The men sat in a row between him and a
bonfire, whose light danced and fell, alternating with shadow on
the rock beside him. His head ached and there was a singing in
his ears, but he could hear the men talking, and could hear
others jesting across other fires not far away. He knew that his
wrists and ankles had been tied, for they smarted where the
thongs had cut, but some one had loosed them and the blood was
circulating freely.

Moving inch by inch, he managed to turn his head and look under
his left arm, but it took him a long time to recognize what he
saw as anything but phantasy, because the blood was still surging
behind his eyes. He had evidently had a bad blow on the head, and
a cautious survey with his fingers discovered a bruise the size
of half a mango--whereat he was content. Bruises that break
outward hurt but are hardly ever serious.

The scene, as viewed between the hips of two men who squatted
chin on knee, resembled a glimpse of Robin Hood and his merry
men carousing in the open. There were even bows and arrows in
evidence, but most of the men had rifles and bandoliers. All had
peculiar swords of foreign make; and every single man had loot
of some kind--when nothing else, then brass railway carriage
handles or the buttons from an official's uniform. Headmen were
haranguing groups in front of fires, for a Moslem loves to be
told what he wants to think and will listen in raptures to almost
any one who will reel off the right sort of platitudes.

Obviously, these were men returning, not from one raid, but
from a series of them. They had the loot of Hindu villages as
well as of railway trains. Over beyond the fires he could make
out the shadowy shapes of cattle and sheep; and herded in a
corner between two bonfires, with a guard beyond them, were
unquestionably prisoners, mostly young Hindu women, like himself
unbound, but unlike himself, watched closely.

Gradually King began to remember the incidents preceding the
blow on the head that had stunned him. He judged that he must
have been transported a considerable distance since then. He
remembered the pinnacle rock and looked for it, but it was not
there. Instead, his eye rested on another--a monolith twenty feet
high from the ground, shaped like a huge recumbent tombstone, on
which men were seated talking in the dark.

He could not hear words at first; could not recognize a single
voice, for they were all pitched low; and he did not expect to be
able to understand the language in any event; but he listened,
trying by sheer force of will to overcome the singing in his ears.

Presently the men who squatted near him got up and crossed over
to the far side, without even glancing at him. Taking advantage
of the shadows, King instantly started to crawl toward the
monolith, and gained a point about twenty yards away from it,
where a dozen dwarf trees cast impenetrable darkness. He lay
there and listened again, beginning to imagine that a rather
hard, not exactly nasal, but roof-of-the-mouthy voice might
be familiar. There were certain notes in it that struck chords
of memory.

Then, to his surprise, he recognized words--Hindustanee, which
meant that one race was talking to another, using the _lingua
franca._ That drew attention to the predominant voice again, and
he was more than ever sure that he recognized it. Nevertheless,
he could not catch more than a word or two here and there that
were meaningless without the context. And he did not dare
crawl nearer.

The men were not quarreling, but they were arguing. Some of them
were shooting questions at the fellow with the Northern voice.
That was it--Northerner! Mahommed Babar for a fortune! Knowing
who the man was made it easier to hear what he said for some
unfathomable reason.

"There are liars here as elsewhere evidently. You have listened
to very many lies. You have only yourselves. No help from
outside. Yes, it is true there is discontent. Yes, the North is
full of violence. Yes, I have come from the North expressly to be
with you. Very true, I would not do that unless I felt sure the
cause I espouse would succeed. But I know more than you do.
Listen! I tell you, you will only make these British obstinate by
raiding out of your own territory. I know them. They are like
those trees; they can be made to bend before the blast, and if
they are uprooted they grow again, and they hardly ever break.
By Allah, I say you must act wisely, brothers! Slay no more
prisoners lest the British send an army corps!"

The speaker got up to pace restlessly to and fro, and King could
see him clearly at last outlined against the crimson overglow
of a row of fires a hundred yards beyond. It was Mahommed
Babar--both hands behind him--chin down--staring at the rock
before his feet.

Apeing Napoleon?

"Who is that fellow we seized by the look-out rock and brought
along with us? He is a Hillman like yourself. Who is he?"

"How should I know?" Mahommed Babar answered. "Men from the Hills
are sure to come in ones and twos. The news of your looting will
bring them like kites. But do kites help?"

"Every Moslem's sword is welcome to strike a blow with us for the
Khalifate!" some one shouted, and for a minute or two they all
chorused, "There is no God but Allah, and Mahommed is his
Prophet." The whole bivouac voiced the sentiment.

"How many times must I tell you that between us and the Northern
tribes lie not only leagues but armies!" said Mahommed Babar when
the noise had died down. "The men of the North have made you
promises, but cannot fulfil! Can each of you fight a hundred? No.
Neither can they. You are as far apart as the mountain was from
Mahommed, and neither can get to the other! You must manage this
the way I tell you, or you will be overwhelmed."

Apeing George Washington?

The others talked on. Mahommed Babar with hands knitted behind
him continued to pace to and fro until the mauve of morning
glimmered over the tree-tops and the glow of the bonfires paled.
Then, of course, most of the raiding party proceeded to fall
asleep. But some one blew a horn that sounded like a bagpipe, and
a dozen others took it up, running officiously among the dying
fires to waken everybody. Probably they had been feasting through
the night on the flesh of Hindu cows. None paused for breakfast.
They were up and away, on foot all of them, before the first
golden shaft of sunlight pierced between the trees; and nobody
seemed to remember King. At all events nobody looked for him, and
none took notice of him as he took to the trail with the rest.

It was difficult to think at all with his head almost splitting
apart with pain, and he rewound his turban to make sure that the
early sun did not creep under it and put the finishing touch.
They were marking nearly due west, and a cursory study of one of
Ommony's forest maps had not conveyed much information. He did
not know where he was to begin with, so could hardly calculate
what place they might be heading for.

He did not know whether to approach Mahommed Babar and tax him
with disloyalty--perhaps dissuade him even yet--or to let him
alone and wait on events. Chance and the law of averages always
play into the hands of him who waits. He did not even know
whether Mahommed Babar had seen him or not; nor, if so, whether
he had recognized him. That answer made on the monolith, "How
should I know who he is?" might have been honest in either of two
ways--plain truth, or the effort of a careful man to save a
friend's life.

He decided at last to look for Mahommed Babar and watch for an
opportunity. But whether his head ached so badly that he could
not watch as alertly as usual, or whether Mahommed Babar avoided
him, he failed--even when they reached a Moplah village and filed
up the one tree-shaded street.

It was a prosperous enough village of about two hundred huts,
some in considerable compounds, all inclosed behind a fence of
sticks, and all shaded by enormous trees; underneath which the
inevitable poultry put on muscle, fighting and chasing insects.
Peaceful enough at the first glance, except that the little boys
who came running out were noisy and pelted the prisoners, and the
women peering through the high stake-fences shrilled like furies.

There was a mosque built mainly of mud and thatch at the upper
end of the steep street, and some one was thumping a tom-tom near
the door. King made straight for that, confident in spite of the
sickening pain in his head and the increasing curiosity of a
dozen small boys, who detected his foreign appearance and were
inclined to be abusive on general principles. Just as the center
of a cyclone is the safest place, so is a mosque in Moslem
country, if you can pass for a Mahommedan. Every Moslem has right
of refuge there--the right to pray and meditate and sleep.

Moreover, the mullah very often fancies himself as a physician,
or at least as a vendor of cure-all charms; so King had a double
claim on him, in addition to a knowledge of the Koran that would
establish his credentials in any community where, as likely as
not, the mullah himself knew no more than a hundred texts.
Moreover, women having no soul worth mentioning in Moslem lands,
the mosque, the coffee shop and the barber's are sure to be free
from the sex, which gossips no more than men, and is no more
curious, but is different. The gossip of men falls nine times out
of ten on unbelieving ears. The curiosity of men is fairly easy
to withstand. It was a woman, not a man, who saw through Peter by
the courtyard fire, and though he had no objection to lying
thirty times if need were, whether cock crew or otherwise, King
was resolved to avoid the dangerous sex as much as possible.

Nevertheless, a priest is usually the next most dangerous.

The mullah greeted King with undisguised relief. He craved
the night's news, was full of a private stock of rumors of
his own, wanted to mix with the crowd and do what the Scots
call "arglebargle," yet dared not for fear of losing dignity.
Evidently there was some local phase of politics that upset the
usual procedure and, temporarily at any rate, robbed the priest
of his privileges.

"Ah! An Afghan!" he exclaimed at sight of King. "No? An Afridi,
are you? Well, the same thing. Both are true believers, and Islam
is all one, or ought to be. The blessing of the Most High rest on
you, my son."

He was a learned-looking mullah, with the white turban supposed
to imply that he was a doctor of the Moslem law; but the crafty
expression of his face, added to a sort of vague indefiniteness,
provided excuse for reasonable doubt. If a small community lacks
a really learned priest, it must make the most of an ambitious
one, and usually does.

He had a straggly beard through which he ran his fingers at
frequent intervals, showing his fangs between rather simian lips,
which could smile, nevertheless, extremely good-naturedly.
Clearly a man who could let well enough alone; who would rob
Peter but would certainly pay Paul; who would fight underhandedly
or in any other way for his own interest, but would concede the
other fellow's once his own was sure. In fact, not such a bad
fellow, provided you did not poach in what he claimed were
his preserves.

"It is good to meet a learned man among all these fools," said
King. "I sat at the feet of the learned Sidiki ben Suliman of
Delhi, of blessed memory, who filled me with a void of loneliness
because so few can talk as he did."

The mullah's eyes changed swiftly as he went on guard. He was
like a cat that wonders whether you mean to stroke or seize it.
Plainly he was willing to admire King's learning, even if he
would not comprehend much of it, for all India knows the name of
the late Sidiki ben Suliman, and those who were taught by him were
entitled to deep respect. But he was not going to be shown up
before the villagers as an ignoramus; and if anything of that
kind were on the cards, he was going to denounce the new arrival
out of hand.

"You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," his brown eyes
said, and King understood him perfectly.

Now King really had sat at the feet of Sidiki ben Suliman. That
had been part of his Secret Service training, and the great
Sidiki had accepted him quite frankly as an Englishman in quest
of knowledge, who would inevitably do more good than harm in a
world that is all too empty of what are called true seekers.

"Naturally I know much less than your eminence," said King, "and
I have never had the inestimable privilege of being appointed
mullah. But there are some things that the great Sidiki told me
which your honor might be pleased to hear; and I have been
fortunate in acquiring some medical skill that might increase
your honor's reputation."

The mullah almost purred. He crossed one fat leg over the other
and leaned back against a wooden upright of the portico, brushing
a place on the floor with his hand as a hint to King to sit
beside him.

"I perceive your honor is a man of great distinction," he said
warmly. "My servant shall bring a wet poultice for your head,
which I regret to see is injured, and may Allah bless your honor
with a swift recovery."

They exchanged names, and the mullah rolled King's over in his
mouth half a dozen times, liking the sonorous high sound of it.

"Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan! Your honor favors us. To what
circumstance do we owe the good fortune of this visit?"

"I heard of what you Moplahs intend, and as a good Moslem I came
to see for myself and possibly do some good here," King answered.
"However, some of your outposts saw me first in the night-time
and all but beat my brains out. Your men are alert and have keen
eyes in the dark--good fighting men. There is no serious harm
done. I shall recover. Many a harder blow than this has fallen to
my lot in the Northern wars."

The mullah's servant came and bandaged King's head rather
skillfully, clipping the hair around the bruise and laying on
a kind of cool leaf that reduced inflammation.

"Tell me what chance you think we have! You are a soldier. Tell
me, can we drive the British away from here, seize their ships,
and send an army to restore the Khalifate in Stamboul?"

"All that is on the knees of God," King answered piously,
grateful for the Moslem habit that makes that kind of reply
acceptable. "Let us talk first of the great Sidiki ben Suliman
and the wise sayings that he taught."

The mullah sent for food. He was delighted. Here was a man, not
only of good breeding but of learning, not only of learning but
of valor, not only of valor but of discrimination--a stranger
most unquestionably versed in the law, who set the law first
and politics after it--who was pious, wise, indisputably well
disposed toward himself--one from whom he could learn priceless
scraps of knowledge, to be retailed thriftily to the villagers
afterward, and one whom he dared trust to give impartial,
sound advice.

"Surely," he said. "If your honor pleases, tell me of the great
Sidiki and his sayings, whose memory and whose wisdom may Allah
bless forever. This is a stiff-necked people and I need such word
as your honor brings for the better chastening of their pride.
They are willing to slay the infidel and to circumcise the
idolater, but they are backward in prayer and fasting, and in
alms-giving less eager than these stones."

So for an hour they talked, eating chupatties swallowed down with
draughts of cows' milk (for the plundered Hindu cows were lowing
for relief, and the villagers were not so unmindful of their
mullah's needs as he chose to maintain).

King's art--his whole art--consisted in being all things to all
men, as that arch-strategist the apostle Paul advised; so as he
talked the mullah warmed to him, calling him "my son," drinking
in the absolutely simple proverbs that had fallen from the lips
of Sidiki ben Suliman, deceased, wondering at his broad humanity,
chuckling at his shrewdness; more and more patronizing him, and,
as he patronized, delivering himself bound and helpless into
King's net.

King asked no questions. Whoever has watched a lawyer examine
even a willing witness must know that direct interrogation is the
surest way to get the facts confused. He was simply sympathetic;
not so flattering as friendly; willing to be waited on and
accorded deference, but much more pleased to render service if
that could be done with dignity. He owned the key that opens all
doors in the world, and the oil that prevents the tell-tale
squeak of hinges.

"Your honor is acquainted in the North. Do you know Mahommed
Babar?" the mullah demanded at last. The really important subject
must come to the surface, as a cat knows when she camps near a
mouse-hole. King was at least as cautious as a cat.

"Who is he? What of him?" he countered.

"He came and worked for Ommon-ee, who is mad but who has been
blessed by Allah with compensating gifts. He ran away from
Ommon-ee and came to us; and my servants brought me word last
night that he sets himself up as leader."

"What does he look like?" King asked, avoiding direct question.

"I have not seen him. He advises one course, whereas I have all
along insisted on the other. I say, raid and plunder. We have
always done it--always. We have met defeat, because of dissension
generally; but we have always kept the plunder, for our villages
are inaccessible. Hindu women make good wives when their cursed
superstitions have been whipped out of them. The Moplah nation
has grown to be a million strong because Allah has blessed us
with the daughters of our enemies. I say: Raid in the name of
Allah! This Mahommed Babar from the North says otherwise. What
does your honor think?"

"I think," said King.

"In Allah's name think quickly, then, for I need advice! It is
not good that a stranger should upset my authority. If he has
valuable counsel for us, that is well, but he should address
it to me first. Then with my approval it can be passed on by
the elders."

"He lacks manners," King agreed. "Your wisest course is to
arrange for me to have private word with him. Meanwhile, if you
think his advice is bad--"

"It is the advice of an ape in the tree-tops!"

"--you may say there is another here from the North, whose advice
may prove different."

"Excellent! Excellent! And you will say nothing without my sanction?"

"I will discuss each syllable with you in advance."

King entered the mosque and lay down in the cool, clean interior.
The mullah departed, blessing him. He had let enough time go by
to preserve his dignity, and now, with a wonderful new ally in
reserve, whom Allah must have sent for the express purpose of
upholding traditional authority, he could afford to approach the
raiders and high-handedly "demand to know." Incidentally, of
course, he would make a few inquiries as to the share of the loot
that was due him, and would look the prisoners over--males first,
of course, in the name of Allah, for likely converts. Females
second, not quite so perfunctorily, in the name of prudence,
since he had but two wives.

And because some of them wished to avoid the mullah, whose
prayers were doubtless excellent but whose appetite for percentages
was insatiable; and because it was the custom; and because there
was nowhere else where men could talk at that time of day without
being overheard by women (which is always inconvenient), gossiping
parties of two and three, with an eye for the mullah as they made
a circuit of the house, began dropping in to the mosque and
squatting face to face on kaskas mats.

It was reasonable that King should lie there fast asleep against
the wall. Even in the gloom every one could see that his head
was bandaged. He might be dying. Who knew? In the name of the
Prophet, Allah bless the man!

And having breathed the word of charity, they spoke of blood--of
this and that raid on the railway line; of this and that
woman dragged screaming from a Hindu home--of jewelry, cash,
cattle--and the tale of butchered Hindu traders.

But lordly though the count was, and uninterrupted the series of
detailed victories, every little group opened presently on the
subject of Mahommed Babar, until one group joined another,
and, absorbed in a common subject, they all formed one wide
circle--outside which, in the shadow, King lay presumably
dead to the world. Not that he mattered. A Moslem, an obvious
Northerner--a man with a broken head whom the mullah had been
seen to feed on the portico--let him listen for all they cared.

Mahommed Babar had puzzled them. They recognized him for a good,
grim fanatic, whose fiery impulse was to convert all India to
Islam forcibly; but they did not understand his everlasting
harping on the theme of caution--forbearance--discrimination.

What in the name of Allah did forbearance have to do with
rebellion? Why discriminate between troops and civilians? Troops
could hit back. Civilians usually couldn't! Civilians had money.
Troops had none. And by the time you had driven British troops
to bay and butchered the last man, there was usually not any
ammunition left. It was wiser, easier, more profitable and much
less dangerous to kill civilians. Moreover, the soldiers never
had women with them, and civilians always had.

The consensus of opinion was that Mahommed Babar was probably
mad. Not that madness was necessarily against him. Most good
leaders had a strain of divine frenzy that showed itself in
unexpected ways. But it was a weird kind of madness that urged
them to make common cause with the Hindus! Mahommed Babar
actually said, and swore to it in the name of the Most High, that
in Delhi and such-like ancient places even in Ahmedabad and
Lucknow--Moslems and Hindus had fraternized and sunk old
grievances in the hope of combining to clear India of foreigners
from end to end. The man was obviously not a liar, but they did
not believe a word of that. Some one had deceived him.

Why, the first thing they would do, if the British could be
driven out of India, would be to--Allah! Think of it! How many
Hindu virgins, and how many rupees in Hindu pockets, would remain
between the mountains and the sea? Oh, Allah, Giver of all Good,
hasten that day!

Nevertheless, Mahommed Babar had impressed them. Their neck of
the woods lacked leadership. Their own mullah was a greedy
fellow, full of talk and plentifully bent on rapine, but not
inclined to take the field himself--which, indeed, was no
misfortune, since he would be quite sure to lead into disaster
if obeyed, and if he were disobeyed there would be even less
discipline than at present.

Mahommed Babar would make a splendid leader.  Trained in
war--widely traveled and full of experience--scornful of personal
gain, and therefore unlikely to tithe them too heavily--brave,
for had he not faced their headmen the previous night and stood
up to them unarmed, insisting on his determination to be heard?
Magnetic--for had he not appealed from the headmen to themselves,
and successfully? They had actually threatened their headmen with
violence unless they gave the Northerner a hearing, and one by
one the headmen had seen the advantage of befriending him.

Followed much laughter. It was funny to remember with what haste
the headmen had scrambled to make friends with Mahommed Babar
after the first one had shown the way. Hah! With what jealousy
they competed for recognition! How they had flattered, who but
ten minutes before were mouthing hot threats! How they had
striven and intrigued for the privilege of being host to him!

Even now all the headmen were crowded together uncomfortably into
one small room rather than let one man have Mahommed Babar's
private ear. Allah, what a stifling heat in there!

What a mess of argument! If Mahommed Babar were indeed a leader,
he would drive those headmen forth and claim his privacy! By
Allah, that was a brilliant proposal! Who had thought of it?

They all had, since somebody said it was brilliant. Each
nudged the other and insisted on having been the author of
the praised remark.

Why--how was it brilliant? Hah! Any man with half an eye could
understand that. Let there be a sign from Heaven. Was not that
the authorized, established, ancestral way of deciding knotty
issues? If Mahommed Babar should up and drive those headmen
forth, thus proving himself greater and braver and wiser than
the headmen, then let him be accepted as their leader! If not,
then no.

Let Allah, Lord of Life, decide the issue. Then if Mahommed Babar
drove the headmen forth it would be the verdict of Allah and--

The speaker was interrupted by the arrival of the headmen in
more or less of a cluster, each doing his best to seem the
most important without offering the others too much inducement
to challenge him. For a while they all whispered and talked
at once, unable to elect a spokesman, until at last the youngest
of them seized the advantage, speaking very rapidly and loud
to avoid interruption.

"We advise that you engage this man Mahommed Babar to be leader
for the present," he announced.

"We recommend it."

"We have considered the proposal in council and we strongly
advise it."

"We will continue to be a council. He may do nothing without our
approval. Subject to that, we advise you to appoint him leader
for the present."

"We are unanimous."

"We urge you to agree to this at once."

The headmen were undoubtedly unanimous, but in nothing so much as
preventing any one of their number from rising a little higher
than the rest.

There came another man into the mosque. He was laughing and full
of communicative malice.

"He drove them forth! I saw! I heard! From the street I saw and
heard! He called them bellies full of wind and said he will
appeal to less opinionative folk! He said he will offer himself
as leader before us all, and we may leave or take him. If we take
him he will lead. By Allah, he will lead, said he. If we reject
him he will go away and we may stew in our own juice! So he said,
standing in the door with legs apart, and they went away and held
a council afterward."

"Good! Let him be leader!" shouted some one, and they shouted agreement.

"But he must change that part about doing no violence to
civilians! We must be allowed to loot or kill unhindered!"
They agreed to that, too, unanimously.

"Let some one bring him and we will tell him so to his--"

The speaker's jaw dropped. There was silence. In the door
Mahommed Babar stood, with head bent a little forward and hands
behind him. He appeared to meet the eyes of every man in the
mosque before he spoke. Then:

"I told these headmen that I will be your leader," he said
quietly. "Does any one object?"

None did. At least none cared to voice his disapproval.

"Very well, then," he said after a full minute. "I will lead.
Henceforth there will be no killing of unarmed civilians. But
there will be a plan and a purpose, and no back talk. I will
give my orders to the headmen, who will enforce them. By Allah,
since you have named me leader, I will lead!"



People live on the slopes of Vesuvius. They speak of the volcano's
cruelty, its sudden anger, its destructive outbursts--of the names
of its slain, of the square leagues of vanished orchards, and of
the cities buried under lava. They continue to live on the slopes
of Vesuvius. The profits while peace lasts are greater than on
the crowded plains, and the human gambling instinct draws them
to settle again among the smoking lava beds between eruptions.

Hindus live in Moplah country. They speak of the Moplahs'
cruelty, their sudden anger, their destructive outbursts--of
the names of the slain, of the square leagues of vanished
cultivation, and of the cities buried in jungle that once hummed
with Hindu life. Hindus continue, nevertheless, to live in Moplah
country. The profits while peace lasts are greater than on the
crowded plains, the gambling instinct draws them to resettle the
smoking villages between outbursts of fanaticism.

The Hindus were there first, just as people were there before
Vesuvius. Once in every fifty years or so since the Moplahs'
first invasion, which is oftener than Vesuvius breaks loose, the
Moplahs have readjusted the balance in their own favor, adding to
themselves new wives, new cattle, new money, and new blood in
the shape of compulsory converts. Estimates of the number of
Hindus killed on those occasions vary from a score to a million,
according to whether Hindu or Moslem makes the estimate and whether
the inquirer is merely curious or a British Government official.

Undoubtedly there is more looting than murder, just as Vesuvius
impoverishes more people than it slays. The Hindu can run and,
moreover, has a merry little way of accepting the creed of Islam
temporarily, together with its permanent brand, and reverting to
Hinduism when the storm is over.

For the profits are prodigious. The Moslem is literal-minded. The
Koran forbids charging interest, so he never charges it, but he
will pay it willingly. And whereas under the ancient Moslem law
no man's land or house could be attached for debt, the British
have changed all that; a mortgage has become the money-lender's
chief security. And a Hindu would rather lend money than till
fields, especially with the legal maximum at twenty-four percent.

So once in a generation or so the balance really calls for
readjustment, and it is only the Moplah's method that is
reprehensible. Like Artemus Ward's kangaroo, he is an "amoosin'
cus." He redistributes the money-lender's surplus and converts
the villager to Islam, but is careful to leave the money-lender
unconverted, in order to have some one from whom to borrow by and
by. And although he plunders the towns and villages and puts
priests to the sword, he as often as not leaves the Hindu
temples unharmed, in order to tempt the Hindu back again when
recurrent peace sets in.

It was so at Podanaram, which the legends say was an enormous city
before the Moplahs came. That may be true, for the Hindu temple
that stands in the midst with narrow streets criss-crossing
around it in every direction is much too big and well-built
for a town of the present size. Some of its stones are enormous.
There are evidences of its being an ancient Buddhist temple
made over by the Hindus, although the Hindu carving has suffered,
too, where the iconoclastic Moslem has knocked off ears and noses.

The temple appears suddenly and sets you wondering, just as
Podanaram appears unexpectedly amid the jungle at the end of a
winding forest path. The jungle has invaded the ancient city in
sections, gaining foothold where it may, and enormous trees make
it impossible to gain any idea of the size of the present
community, or even to see the temple from anywhere except in
front; the temple's rear is plunged into impenetrable gloom, and
from overhead the monkeys drop down on to its pagoda-like roof,
which in places has been rubbed into grooves by the action of
branches and wind.

Podanaram now was headquarters of the most radical Moplah puritan
reformists. The Hindu temple was official G.H.Q. Just as Cromwell
stabled horses in cathedrals, the pupils of the Ali Brothers
chose the most sacred Hindu shrine available for their designs
against the Hindus, and the famous Alis being in jail elsewhere,
those who carried on the good work were much more thorough than
their teachers might have been.

The Moplahs, being sons of their sires, were split into factions,
of course, although not so badly as usual. The rabid, self-elected
G.H.Q. at Podanaram was aiming at unity by force of a good example.
So they seized a hundred Hindus, men and women, and made them
clean that temple from cellar to roof, there being nothing
under the blue sky filthier than a Hindu place of worship,
nor anything cleaner than a Mahommedan mosque.

Having cleaned the temple thoroughly, the Hindus were marched in
procession to distant villages, where a dozen or so in each place
were publicly and painfully executed, to the greater glory of
Allah, who is the Father of mercies and men, and never sleeps.

Very ingenious, that. There was not a village in the radius of
twenty miles thereafter that could claim no Hindus had been
butchered in its midst. All being equally guilty, all must unite
in repudiating foreign rule, repelling British troops and raking
the coals of Jehannum. Nothing like blood-guiltiness to stir
fanaticism, which was stirred accordingly.

Meanwhile, in a clean-swept G.H.Q., the puritan reformers began
their bid for power, as such gentry always did and do. Loot,
rapine, reformation, destruction of idolatry--those were the
wages of the blind-obedient. Power was the reward of brainwork,
and the key of all contentment. They chose, and would take
nothing less. Control. The Key of Everything.

There were the individuals who had been taught by the cleverest
agitators in the East. That their teachers were in jail only
keened their appetite for vengeance and rebellion. Supplied with
funds from the common Hindu-Moslem purse, they urged the butchery
of Hindus, not because they cared, but because that was sure to
be obeyed, and obedience is the very bones of power.

Schooled by shrewd demagogues, they knew that the outcome must be
defeat. Therefore they planned for such disaster as should make
the Moplahs turn toward themselves more desperately. For such
outrage as should force the British hand and oblige retaliation.
Then for such advertisement of British ruthlessness as should set
alight the whole fire of Moslem India. By that light they
expected to see their way to power indeed.

But little by little! First Moplah-land. Power first over the
factious villages, never forgetting for a moment the obligation
to provide for their own individual safety in any event. Better
jail than death, for a man may use his brains between four walls.
Knowing defeat was inevitable, they could plan for the days
beyond defeat, and did.

And the first consideration of G.H.Q. must be intelligence.
Village by village they arranged for spies, mullahs mostly, who
kept them informed of every development. In the beginning, when a
village sent its men-folk on a raid, G.H.Q. invariably sent a
messenger in pursuit, who ordered just that raid in the name of
G.H.Q. emphatically--only they called themselves the Khalifate
Committee, which sounded more orthodox. So the suggestion of
obedience was imposed and grew. None seemed to know exactly who
the Khalifate Committee were, which helped immensely, and almost
from the start men who would have defied their own headmen to
their teeth obeyed the Khalifate Committee without murmur.

There are principles for winning the control of men, just as
there are for training dogs. There are men who teach them; other
men who study them as keenly as bankers investigate the laws of
money. You take away a bone from a puppy, and presently give it
back perhaps, to demonstrate your absolute authority, and by and
by the puppy lets you do it with an air of resignation, almost
reverence. You must do the same thing to a crowd if you hope ever
to exercise unquestioned sway.

There came along a fire-lane through the forest a crowd of a
hundred and fifty men carrying the plunder of a mixed train,
dragging an elderly white man with them, who had warts and a
butler's face, and carrying the prisoner's unconscious wife on an
improvised litter. There were other prisoners, but those were the
important ones. Incidentally they were also the greatest
nuisance, since it took four men to bear the litter and four more
to drag and shove the judge along.

He had said he was a judge, which was why they had spared his
life from the start, and there was no precedent in living memory
for killing or mishandling a white woman, so they had brought his
wife along too.

The loot was very good indeed, including rifles. Most of the
other prisoners were young women from a Hindu village down along
the railway line--entirely satisfactory. The judge and his wife
were a speculative quantity--perhaps profitable, perhaps not;
certainly a cause for pride, but as inconvenient as a pair of
European boots and quite likely dangerous, if one only knew.

They had sent word by runner concerning the judge and his wife,
partly in spirit of boastfulness, but also to see what the reply
would be--not to the Khalifate Committee in Podanaram, for that
would have conceded too much, but to a village whose mullah they
well knew would forward the news to the Khalifate Committee. Thus
they could obtain a professional opinion without confessing
themselves in need of it.

The professional opinion met them in the form of a stern command
delivered to them in a forest clearing by a sub-committee headed
by an ex-Brahman who had been forcibly converted twenty years
before and wisely had made the best of the situation. A Brahman
is constitutionally bent on self-assertion and inclined to reach
the top, like scum on water. Nearly always an adept, too, at
establishing his claim over ignorant men.

He told them to give up their white prisoners--to surrender them
to the Khalifate Committee, who would take charge of them and be
responsible. The men who carried the litter, and who shoved and
dragged the judge, complied without demur; so the headmen were
presented with a fait accompli, which like possession is nine
points of almost any argument. The ex-Brahman ordered his own
party to take the prisoners away, and himself stood guarding the
retreat exactly in the middle of a narrow jungle path, like a
swag-bellied Cerberus.

"The Khalifate Committee takes charge of all white prisoners," he
announced. "Whoever conceals or neglects to hand over a white
prisoner will be punished. You are allowed to keep all other
loot," he added, as if that were a concession granted by
incontrovertible authority.

It was cleverly done. The moment was accurately chosen. The
raiders wanted to go home and eat, brag, sleep. They decidedly
did not want to go to Podanaram and argue with men who were
almost certain to have the best of any argument except possibly
force. The headmen could have accomplished nothing by going
without their following, who would almost certainly have refused
to go, and all who were in favor of not carrying litters or
pully-hauling corpulent kadis* said, "Aye." The "Ayes" had it.
The raiders sought their own villages, one of which was that in
which King lay nursing a bruised head and Mahommed Babar was
establishing himself. [* Judges]

And so it happened that, after many hot hours and much imprecation,
the judge and his wife were presented like captured animals
before the door of a temple that would have stirred the judge's
archaeological lees on any other occasion.

Mrs. Wilmshurst had recovered consciousness. In fact she had done
that some hours ago, but had played 'possum for fear of being
made to walk again in high-heeled shoes. The litter lay on the
stones of the temple forecourt, and she sat on it, staring and
being stared at by a row of Moslems, who varied all the way from
cardinal-like sanctity to perfect ruffianism.

They broke no rules. As ever in such cases, they were nearly all
foreigners--mostly from places as far removed as New York is from
Mexico. The sprinkling of native-born Moplahs among them was
enough to lend a skimpy patriotic flavor to the whole, as if a
Moplah or two had felt obliged to import advisers. Enough
Moplahs, in fact, were there to take full blame for the whole
committee's actions, and being ignorant savages they were swamped
meanwhile--bewildered--almost ignored--but kept in a suitable
state of amenity by dint of flattery and bribes.

Their day of disillusionment was coming, when the time should
come to surrender and send in those responsible for outrages.
For the present the Moplahs stood long-haired, open-mouthed,
marveling at fortune that had sent them British prisoners.

The men from Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Aden,
Peshawar and the far North saw fit to be more polite to the
judge and his wife than the Moplahs might have been if left to
themselves. More polite and less agreeable. The Moplahs would have
grinned and gloated, but would have fed them and let them wash.

There was a table, looted from where Allah only knew, but a
good, teak, Christian table, set under the temple portico on the
thousand-year-old flagstones just within the limit of the shade
so as to have the advantage of whatever breeze was moving.
Around that were chairs--one each for the committee, some of
whom, Moplahs especially, had never sat on chairs until fate
pitch-forked them into such prominence. They took their places,
with an oily-haired Moplah at the table head for sake of the
advertisement, nearly all cross-legged but some enduring the
European posture as, for instance, Mrs. Wilmshurst endured her
shoes, and the judge and his wife were requested to stand at the
end of the table opposite the chairman.

The language elected was English, probably because the choice
implied a patronizing air toward the judge.

The chairman had nothing to say. He stuck his tongue in his
cheek, displayed his magnificent teeth, and lolled with his
elbows on the table, making an occasional scrawl on paper with a
quill pen, perhaps to disguise the fact that he could neither
read nor write. He was a very obvious figurehead and none
too beautiful.

The man who opened on the judge was an under-sized dapper little
Delhi Moslem, seated on the chairman's right, who looked and
spoke as if he might have been a practising lawyer. His mild
brown eyes were only mild at the first impression. They were
unflinching really--bold--calculating--afraid of nothing--and a
lot too shrewd to take his share of the risks. That dark shade of
brown that grows harder and darker as you look at it.

He recognized the judge, instantly, but gave no sign. The judge
was not sure. There was something about the man's deliberate
impudence that seemed familiar, but of course he had seen
hundreds of the same type from the bench, and he did not care to
run the risk of appearing to curry favor by recognizing some one
whom he was not sure he knew. He stood with his hand on his
wife's shoulder, helping to support her, and glanced from face to
face, but always back again to the brown eyes of the under-sized
man from Delhi.

"You realize you are a prisoner?" asked the Delhi man.

"You need not be afraid. We do not beat our prisoners."

"I am not the least afraid," the judge answered, "but I would
appreciate your providing a chair for my wife."

One or two of the committee had the grace to look uncomfortable,
but the man from Delhi grinned meanly. The judge began to be
very nearly sure he recognized him, and was glad he had not
made overtures.

"She shall have a chair, certainly. Many an Indian has been made
to stand at her whim, but we are not vindictive!"

He clapped his hands and a boy brought a broken chair from inside
the temple. The judge, who was weary almost beyond endurance, was
left standing. Mrs. Wilmshurst sat down, speechless almost for
the first time in her life.

"If you are not afraid, your case is different from that
of the unfortunates who so frequently stand before you for
sentence--unfortunates whom you punish drastically for breaking
laws they had no voice in making," said the man from Delhi; and
at last Wilmshurst did recognize him. But he contrived to keep
the recognition from his eyes.

"What do you propose to do with us?" the judge asked.

"Why should we propose at all?" the other retorted. "You are a
prisoner. You should ask mercy."

He evidently meant to inflict as much verbal torture as possible,
for he was settling himself comfortably, cross-legged. Nevertheless,
he did not enjoy the paramountcy that he hoped for. There was
sturdy opposition from a graybeard facing him, who wore the
white headdress of an educated man and was big enough to
have made about three of him from Delhi.

"They are hostages," he said in English. "Make no error about
that. I will agree to nothing else. They are hostages."

The man from Delhi smiled with lean lips, accepting the suggestion,
but obviously reserving venom for later on.

"Do you realize what it means to be a hostage?" he asked the
judge. "For every outrage perpetrated by the British troops
against us you are liable to be made to suffer in your own body."

Wilmshurst smiled, rather wryly--because his feet were in
agonies--but genuinely none the less. He was not such a fool as
to suppose that men of the type before him would torture valuable
prisoners. The suggestion was too absurd for him to answer with
the obvious threat of what the British troops might accomplish in
return. The point was not worth arguing.

Graybeard in opposition opened fire again, laying his fist on the
table manfully and forestalling the Delhi man's next remark.

"You will write a letter," he said. "You will say in it that
your wife and you are prisoners. You will say you have been
well treated--"

"That will depend on the facts," Wilmshurst interrupted. "My wife
has been disgracefully ill-treated, and so have I. We have had no
food--no rest. If I write a letter I shall say in it what I
consider true."

"Say what you like!" the graybeard answered. "You write the
letter. Your friends will know you are a prisoner, and that is
what we want."

"I shall read the letter, of course, before you seal it up," said
the man from Delhi.

"I am willing to write," said the judge after a moment's
reflection. His legal mind could see no possible objection to
communicating with British Headquarters, wherever that might be.
He rather suspected a trick, because the man from Delhi was
connected with it, but for the life of him he could not see
through the trick, so he supposed that none existed.

The man from Delhi, watching Wilmshurst with a quizzical
expression that seemed to hint at ultimate consequence foreseen
as yet only by himself, pushed paper, pen and ink toward the
judge, who ignored them.

The Moplah at the head of the table said something in his own
tongue, and there was a moment's discussion in which the man from
Delhi did not join.

"You are promised good treatment and anything you want in reason
that is in our power to do until we shall have formulated our
final demands. That is not yet. We will discuss them. When our
final demands go to the British, your treatment after that will
depend on the British reply. Now write," said the man who sat
between the chairman and the graybeard.

He had obviously had legal training, and seemed more than usually
proud of his command of English, for he smirked self-complacently
when he had done his speech.

The judge wrote:

To whom it may concern: My wife and I are prisoners in the hands
of Moplahs, who have notified us that we are hostages, but have
promised us good treatment for the present. Hitherto the
treatment has not been good.

"Cross that out!" commanded the Delhi man, coming round to look
over the judge's elbow.

"Certainly not," Wilmshurst answered, and signed his name. "Send
that or nothing."

They were in a quandary whether or not to use that letter, and
some of them did not care to argue the point in the prisoner's
presence;  so two of the committee--Moplahs, who knew no
English--were told off to take them to the quarters assigned to
them inside the temple. There were basins, great quantities
of water, some soap, two towels, and two string-beds with
cotton-stuffed mattresses and clean white sheets.

"Oh well, this might be worse!" said his wife, growing almost
cheerful as the Moplahs locked them in.

"Might be worse? Yes. Might be better," said the judge. "That
fellow from Delhi who did the talking is a man whom I once
sentenced to twenty years for forgery and arson. He escaped from
prison. His name was Aurung Ali in those days, but he has
probably changed it."


_"Yours Truly, John Linkinyear."_

Ommony returned to first principles--to his forest--cherished it.
As a military man he was nothing. As a forester he had work, and
knew that he could do it better than any one else, or otherwise
he would have gone long ago to learn from the better man. War,
and especially rebellion, means fire; fire in the forest means a
generation's increase gone, and possibly baked earth in which no
tree will root again. He went to work.

Many of the Hindus in the scattered villages had been murdered.
Others had run away toward the coast, where in due course a
warship put in appearance and produced an impression of safety
where there was none. But it is impressions that count. Even a
pitched battle is for no other purpose than to convince the enemy.

Ommony convinced his friends, which is always equally important.
The one lone cruiser that dropped anchor off Calicut accomplished
no more in its way than Ommony in his. He was a refuge in a
stricken land--one white man unafraid. You could go to him and
have your panic laughed at--then listen to strong sympathy and
reassuring wisdom.

It was Ommony, leisurely regarding life from a wicker chair on
his veranda, who pointed out that, whereas a village could be
burned and its women carried off, the junglis who had no villages
were safe.

"You can rebuild your villages," he said, "but can you come to
life again? Moreover, will the Moplahs burn an empty village?"

Thereafter, whoever had overheard him might have understood why
the Christian missionaries have no kind word for Ommony; for he
talked to those pagans in the terms of their own understanding,
so that they knew him for an elder brother, not a representative
of unintelligible wrath.

"The gods of the woods are afraid for their trees," he announced.
"I, who have served their forest, am protected. You have seen how
the Moplahs spare me and my house, although they murder the white
men in the trains. The gods are grateful. But how about you? Is
it better to serve the gods with little cakes and withered flowers,
or to go and look after the trees that the gods love? How do I
know that the gods love the trees? People of no discernment! If
the gods did not love the trees, why should they live among them?"

The logic of that was so much easier to grasp than the Moslem
theory of one revengeful, flattery-loving Allah; and, moreover,
it was so much more like what they were used to than the
ordinary admonitions of a white man preaching allegiance to
an incomprehensible Government, that they felt comforted and
listened on, instead of shrugging their shoulders at the great
gulf fixed between them and whatever gods there be.

"If you care for the trees, the trees will hide you," said
Ommony. "That is the way of the gods, who reward for service
rendered. If you let the trees burn, the gods will forget you.
Pray, and the gods will laugh like the money-lender. Keep the
fire-lanes clear; find the Moplahs' deserted watch-fires and
slake the ashes; search for the heat where smoke is, and the gods
will protect you, even as they do me. Moreover, the Deepartament,
whose servant I am, will pay wages by the month."

So they left their miserable villages, cached their scant
belongings, drove their cattle and goats into forest clearings
under Ommony's directions, and submitted to be formed into gangs.
The junglis, who are so wise that they have no homes and will not
work unless the work amuses them, were set to guarding the
cattle, driving them from clearing to clearing out of the way of
the raiding Moplahs and not losing more than a fair percentage to
the lords of the jungle. Leopards must eat, and the terrified
buck were much harder to kill since the fighting started.

Other junglis, scouting to discover which way the Moplahs might
come next--in order to give notice to the herdsmen--were told to
keep a bright eye lifted for Mahommed Babar, and to discover what
had been done with the body of Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan--for
none of the junglis understood that King was an Englishman. Some
of them had seen him in English clothes when he first came, and
with a rifle when he helped to execute Shere Ali, but that only
led to the logical inference that he was an Indian who could play
a white man's part.

And meanwhile, the British authorities were not idle, although
every precedent had been upset. Precedents are British gods, and
it is distressing to see all your little deities broken on the
earth, faces downward. Nevertheless, you can distress the British
without immobilizing them, and they have this characteristic:
that when the old gods are quite worn out and in disrepute they
adopt nice new ones promptly.

The railways were out of commission, along with nearly all the
bridges and a good proportion of the rolling-stock. The roads,
too, were blocked with felled trees and great rocks loosened from
the hills, for brother Moplah, who had seen the white man
practicing his creed in France, had learned at last how to do a
job thoroughly. Wherever a barricade of rocks and trees could be
arranged to check the advance of troops, there it was. There,
too, were trenches very skillfully designed and placed.

The torn-up railway track was about the only practicable line of
advance; and as there were hardly any troops available, and such
as there were were mostly needed to garrison fixed posts and
protect defenseless small towns, the only possible course was to
send junior officers in charge of small parties of men to patrol
the line and keep the Moplahs worried.

Left to himself without a nurse in red tabs and brass hat a
British subaltern can lead men. Whether wisely or not is not the
question. He can be depended on to go three times as far as
suggested and to have much less trouble with his men than if
there were a canteen and a court-martial within reach.

So Lieutenant John Linkinyear, marching jauntily at the head of
eleven men--having lost three en route and buried them--arrived
at Ommony's one early morning just as Ommony was coming down the
steps with a gun under his arm.

"Bacon and eggs!" demanded Linkinyear, whose last meal was a
supper of dry biscuit. "For twelve of us! Section-halt! Stand
easy! Let your mouths run!"

Ommony shouted to his cook to continue bringing hot food until
further notice, and demanded news.

"I'm three days out, thank God, and out of touch," said Linkinyear.
"The last I heard was that Sutherland of the Rutlandshires and
twenty men got theirs--and a rumor about old Kadi Wilmshurst
and his missus. It's true about Charley and his Ruts. We found
their bones in the ashes of a first-class railway carriage.
Gave 'em full military honors--loaded salute. They'd earned
it. Charley was a first-class man. He'd actually thrown up
earthworks with the railway carriage on one wing and the station
building on the other--telegraph wire entanglement--iron off the
station roof to keep the gravel and sand heaped up--no end good!
Must have moppled 'em too--made 'em so sore they left the wire
and stuff behind 'em--probably hadn't enough men left to drag
it away."

"What was the rumor about Wilmshurst and his wife?" asked Ommony.

"They were in a train that didn't get through. I'm supposed to be
sniffing for kubber* of them. Morning I left there was a note
supposed to be from him saying he was a prisoner, missus along
with him, and both safe. But nobody could swear to his signature
and it was suspected to be a forgery."

"What good would the forgery do the Moplahs?" demanded Ommony. [*

"Dunno. Everybody's mad--Moplahs maddest of all--'xcept of course
the D.A.A.G. acting everything. He's no longer human. Theory was
that Moplahs might be tempting us into a trap. Letter was dated
from Podanaram or some such place. Never heard of it. Know where
it is?"

Ommony nodded and led him into breakfast, leaving the men to wolf
food on the veranda.

"How did you come to be here?" Linkinyear demanded between
mouthfuls. "Why aren't you killed or circumcised? Are you a
Moplah chief--wizard--mad mullah--what's the secret? You'll come
away with me, of course?"

Ommony laughed and waved the suggestion aside.

"I've news of Wilmshurst and his wife. One of my junglis brought
word last night of two white prisoners locked up in the temple
of Podanaram."

"Man and wife?"

"Male and female made he them," said Ommony.

"Any description?" asked Linkinyear, pulling out his memorandum
book. "Let's see--warts--age fifty-two--"

"No description, but who else could it be?"

"All right," said Linkinyear, "that's my next objective then.
Which would you rather do, stay here or come with us? I'll have
to borrow some sort of guide from you. Perhaps you know the way?
You might be safer on the march with us."

For his own amusement Ommony mentioned the denseness of the
jungle, describing it as pretty much one huge ambush. Then he
described Podanaram and guessed at the number of troops that
would be needed to assault the place. It all went by Linkinyear
like so much weather.

"So you know the way. The luck holds! If Charley Sutherland
had had my luck he'd have snaffled promotion out of this
instead of making room. You know, these High Court kadis have
influence--kadis' missuses even more so--what? You get me? Rescue
a kadi and his beldame out of durance vile and the tide in the
affairs of--what's your name again?--Ommony, and Linkinyear
starts rising forthwith. Princesses in enchanted castles are
possibly all right, but for practice give John Linkinyear, yours
truly, one fat kadi and his wife in one tight fix. Return
tickets, please, for Podanaram--but perhaps you can't march?"

Ommony thought he could march, but sensed a predicament unseen by
the proponent of direct action.

"Some of the Moplah chiefs are my friends," he said. "Suppose I
try to get word to them."

"Get word? Why? They'll know our game then. No. Let's steal a
march on 'em. Nothing like unexpectedness--wins every time! We
won't hurt your friends as long as they behave."

Ommony laughed again.

"They won't hurt me as long as I behave," he answered. "There's a
truce that covers me, my house, property, and servants. Any one
may come or go unmolested from here to the station. I can go
unarmed anywhere, but they would consider I had broken the truce
if I led a raid on Podanaram."

"I thought you were some kind of a wizard when you turned on
bacon and eggs. All right, you stay here and I'll take another
guide. If Podanaram contains Wilmshurst and his wife, I'm off
there to acquire merit. I see an extra star for this on the
shoulder of John Linkinyear."

"I see you and your men face upward looking at the crows!"
answered Ommony. "You've no chance, Linkinyear. I'll send word to
the Moplah chiefs. Perhaps they'll come here to talk things over.
Your wise course is to march back along the railway line and
report. By the time you come this way again I'll have more news
for you."

"Rats!" answered Linkinyear rudely. "Your eggs are good, Mr.
Ommony. Your advice is rotten!"

Ommony produced cigars and summoned his reserves of patience,
which exceeded those of his visitor by the amount of twenty
years' accretion at compound interest. His trump card was
that Linkinyear would never be able to find Podanaram without
a guide, and none could possibly be obtained unless he, Cotswold
Ommony, consented. With that for final argument, and a fund of
experienced geniality for front line, he wore the younger man
down, while eleven of the rank and file smoked pipes and listened
through the open window.

The dispute lasted nearly all morning, with interruptions when
Ommony went out to render off-hand justice between quarreling
village folk, or to give orders for the guidance of the gangs.
Whenever a native sent in word for Ommony, Linkinyear would
follow out to the veranda and demand to know in his best attempt
at the vernacular if he knew the way to Podanaram. He had no
success. They all looked equally stupid. And he never once caught
Ommony making signals with hand or eye, although he was smart
enough to be suspicious and to watch for them. Ommony was not
smart--merely wise.

Linkinyear would not return to G.H.Q. as long as it was humanly
possible to remain away. His orders were to give the Moplahs
something to think about, and if possible to make them believe
that an attack in force was already under way against them. He
would not sit down and be quiet in Ommony's bungalow while Ommony
went to Podanaram to make inquiries, even if that should be
permitted by Ommony's Moplah friends. Nor would he let Ommony go
alone on any terms.

In fact, he vowed and declared that if Ommony's refusal to
produce a guide should oblige him to return to G.H.Q. it would be
his duty to take Ommony along with him. Whether or not it was his
duty, he would do it. He convinced Ommony of that.

But the older man's moderation and good humor were having more
effect than the youngster realized. Linkinyear yielded nothing of
his demands, but gained nothing. He did not want to return along
the line with Ommony in tow; yet Ommony, by everlasting obstinacy
and exasperating good temper, obliged him to threaten that again
and again as the only alternative to Podanaram. He threatened it
most pleadingly, reducing himself to a mental condition in which
he would have cheerfully offered Ommony a year's pay to yield, if
only that would not have made himself ridiculous.

At last, being full of youth and overrunning energy, he reached
the stage where the judge and his wife in Podanaram seemed to be
the only goal worth striving for, and Ommony, biding that time,
recognized it.

"There's only one way we can agree," he said at last.

"Name it!" snapped the youngster. "No toss of a coin! I won't
gamble on it! I go to Podanaram, or you come with me to G.H.Q.!"

"An armed party leaving here for Podanaram would be attacked and
butchered for a certainty," said Ommony. "But I might obtain
permission for an unarmed party to go and speak with the prisoners."

"Fine!" agreed Linkinyear. "D'you think they'd swap the judge and
his missus against the lot of us? That 'ud be good odds from
their standpoint. Equally good from ours. If anything should
happen to Mr. and Mrs. High Court Kadi our side would have to be
enormously vindictive, whereas we wouldn't matter. Nobody would
care if we got scoughed. The game is to get the judge and his
wife away to safety."

"The Moplahs are not such fools," Ommony answered, looking
Linkinyear candidly in the eye. "They know the value of a judge
and an English lady. They'd set no more value on you and your men
than G.H.Q. would! No. But you may be able to talk with the
prisoners and come away."

"All right, I'll go you!"

"You would have to leave your weapons here." Linkinyear demurred.

"It's against all the rules of war and the British service! I
wouldn't mind promising not to use them. We could agree to bury
our cartridges somewhere, perhaps, but--"

"No butts or bayonets!"

"Man! We'd take their word not to attack us. They must take ours
not to use our weapons."

"If I go," Ommony answered, "I go without even a hunting-knife.
If you go, you do the same. I know the Moplahs. You don't. I
propose to return alive, which we never would if we carried rifles."

"Unloaded rifles? Just for appearance?"

"The appearance is what would start trouble inevitably. No. White
flag party. Same way that a Moplah might be allowed to penetrate
our lines."

"I'll find out if the men are game," said Linkinyear, and walked
out on the veranda, arriving just too late to surprise them
grouped with their ears to the open window.

Ommony went to the back door and whistled the same jungli who had
attended Shere Ali's obsequies. They exchanged guttural coughs
and grunts for about a minute, and the jungli departed at a

"The men are perfectly splendid. Game to go anywhere on any
terms!" said Linkinyear. "Now for your Moplah chiefs! Mind--you
must make this a regular white flag party--honors of war--good
faith on both sides--all that kind of thing!"

"Yes, all that kind of thing," said Ommony. "I've sent for
the chiefs."

But it was dark--nine o'clock--before the same three chiefs came
who had made terms with Ommony in the first instance.

"What is it, Ommon-ee? Who are these soldiers? We promised. You
need no guards in this place."

"Be seated. My servants shall bring food. You have prisoners at
Podanaram--a judge and his wife."

"Not we, but the Khalifate Committee. What of that, Ommon-ee? Do
the British not take prisoners?"

Ommony chose a cigar and drew on his air of deliberate leisureliness.

"Have you ever defeated the English?" he asked after a moment.

"Not seriously. No. However, this time--"

"If they should defeat you, would it not be best if there were
certain claims on their generosity that might be brought forward
on the day of settlement?"

"We have treated you well, Ommon-ee."

"But I am only a forester. The prisoners at Podanaram are very
important ones. If they should be ill-treated--"

"As Allah hears us, they shall not be!"

"If I should send word into the British lines that of my own
knowledge those two prisoners are well and are being treated
kindly, there would be satisfaction," said Ommony.

"Satisfaction begets good-will. And out of good-will no harm was
ever born, even between enemies."

"That is true. We trust you, Ommon-ee. We will take you to see
those prisoners, but you must not spy on us; you must promise that."

"I shall return to this place," he answered, "and these soldiers
will carry my report."

"Good. They may wait here. Only we will take their weapons as
guarantee. When you return we will give them back their weapons.
That is fair."

"But not wise!" Ommony answered. "It is better to leave their
weapons here, subject to your promise not to interfere with them,
and to take the officer and his men, unarmed, with me. In that
way there will be no excuse for hostilities."

The headmen objected strenuously, but Ommony refused equally
strenuously to leave any of the party in his bungalow, saying
that if anything under heaven were certain it was that news of
soldiers being quartered there would leak abroad, and Moplahs
from a distance, who knew nothing of the truce, would pay the
place a business visit.

"These soldiers are too many," said the chief who had red in his
beard. "Send all but two of them back to the British lines.
Later, when those two return with your message, we will give them
a safe conduct."

That was good common sense, but Linkinyear would not listen to
it, for he himself would have had to return to G.H.Q. It would
have been out of the question to send ten men back without so
much as a non-commissioned man in charge. His adventurous heart
was set on penetrating the jungle and the way to Podanaram and
reporting the accomplished fact to his superiors. His men were no
whit behind him in enthusiasm.

So Ommony held his ground, half admiring Linkinyear's persistence,
and wholly minded on his own account to look into the condition
of the prisoners. There followed an interminable argument as
to disposition of rifles and ammunition, which it was finally
agreed should be locked up in Ommony's storeroom.

Then the servants had to be sent for and carefully persuaded that
the Moplah guard about to be set over them would guarantee their
safety, and would not molest them, in Ommony's temporary absence.

Last, but not least, there were the white flag terms to be discussed,
and the exact conditions of the safe conduct, which it was agreed
in any event were contingent on the soldiers' good behavior.

One way and another, it was dawn before the white flag party left
Ommony's bungalow and plunged into the gloom along a jungle


_"Mahommed Babar Wants a Cavalry Saber."_

The mullah's servant came into the mosque and changed the bandage
on King's head as an excuse for listening to deliberations from
which he would normally have been excluded. In theory the mosque
is absolutely democratic, but in practice there are tyrannies and
sharp distinctions that a man must understand before he can cope
with Moslem politics. If the mullah had been there in person, his
servant would undoubtedly have been excluded.

But the mullah, of necessity, was playing for his own hand.
Having advised the village elders to oppose the claims and the
temperate methods of Mahommed Babar, he could ill afford to
continue to advise them in their hour of defeat. On his way down
the village he had seen them driven forth by the Northerner, and
had divined, with professional insight into local politics, that
jealousy among themselves had practically made Mahommed Babar a
gift of the leadership.

So he sent the servant to change the bandage on King's head, King
being another Northerner and therefore very likely destined to be
the first one's ally. And as for himself, he took the obvious
course--entered the house and the room assigned to Mahommed
Babar's use, and waited.

His servant came first, reported that King's head was a great
deal better; and gave an almost phonographic account of Mahommed
Babar's final victory in the mosque. So that when the Northerner
himself arrived, striding down-street with the peculiarly even
motion of a man long used to spurs, and entered the house with
his handsome head bowed gloomily, the mullah was well posted.

"Are you rested? Have you bathed? Permit my servant to trim
your honor's beard and nails," the mullah suggested, rising
and bowing.

Mahommed Babar stroked his beard and eyed the mullah for
a moment in critical silence, well aware of the man's unstable
friendship--equally aware of the mullah's possible importance
as an ally, if wisely managed.

Nothing for nothing is the universal law of politics, with its
practical opposite, _quid pro quo._ In the East there are
symbols, still continuing, that have their counterpart in Western
decorations and honorary titles.

"Bring me a saber," said Mahommed Babar. "A cavalry saber, clean
and sharp; the heavier the better."

The mullah understood. He was accepted. Subject to Mahommed
Babar's overriding authority, his influence was likely to be
greater than ever. An orthodox leader of rebellion--rare, but,
oh, how wise! The mullah bowed, and almost visibly began to plan
small indignities for his political rivals.

"What became of the Northerner whose head was injured when the
scouts surprised him in the night?" demanded Mahommed Babar.

"Your honor refers to Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan?"

"If that is his name. What became of him?"

"He has been in the mosque all morning."

Mahommed Babar started almost imperceptibly.


"No. I had his head dressed. He recovers. He is anxious to speak
with your honor."

Mahommed Babar began to pace the room, chin forward and hands
behind him, to and fro, to and fro, wrestling with indecision.
There were moments when his fine teeth and hard eyes gleamed with
an iron resolve, followed almost immediately by a different
interpretation of the same impulse. Once or twice he stood and
held his dark beard in both hands as if about to tear it in the
Eastern expression of distracted grief.

Mullahs, priests, ministers know all those signs. They can
recognize pride, honesty, fine frenzy, patriotism, determination,
compromise. The mullah watched stealthily, looking away each time
Mahommed Babar faced about.

"What do you say his name is? Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan? Great
names! A great man possibly."

He faced the mullah and stood with legs apart looking down at
him, holding one elbow and stroking his beard again.

"See that he is respectfully treated. Let him have no weapons,
but he may come and go unmolested. That is my order."

It was the very first detailed order given by Mahommed Babar
since his grasp of the leadership, and the mullah's opportunity
to attach his own imprint to authority.

"If he comes and goes but has no weapons harm may befall him,
sahib. Better imprison him."

"I have spoken! If harm befalls him, let his blood be on your
head! Let me have word of everything he says or does."

"Your honor will not speak with him?"


The mullah hesitated, devoured by curiosity, which eats the
brains of some men as worms gnaw the belly of a dog.

"He has no beard, but--is he your honor's brother?"

Mahommed Babar glared. The word "brother" in the East has various
significances. Moreover, a mullah's curiosity more often than not
has teeth. Answer, and he perverts the answer. Refuse, and he
draws his own conclusions. Appear to mistrust him, and he
mistrusts you. Trust him, and take the consequences!

"You may get the answer to that question from Sirdar Mahommed
Akbar Khan, and you have my leave to go!" replied Mahommed
Babar, resuming his stride up and down the room with his hands
behind him.

So the mullah returned to the mosque, where the elders had done
arguing, and announced his restored importance in a short speech.
He had prayed, he informed them; that being his business and he a
faithful man. In answer the Lord of Mercies had inspired him to
go and visit Mahommed Babar down the street. During the ensuing
interview knowledge had been born in his mind in a flash that
this Mahommed Babar was the Lord's appointed leader; and he had
therefore blessed him in the name of the Most High, whose right
arm would now surely uphold the Moplah cause.

Mahommed Babar, a very prince of men and a lover of God if there
ever was one, had accepted the blessing and given thanks for
it, requesting him, the mullah, to continue with spiritual
meditations and wise advice. In view of the facts, and of his
conviction that all this was Allah's will, it was his duty to
urge them to obey Mahommed Babar implicitly in all things--for
the present. He added the last words in more or less of an undertone,
having not only a fine imagination but a well-developed bump of
preparedness against contingencies.

The elders departed, discovering scant amusement in the mullah's
sermon, but bent on making the most of the situation. They were
so eager to keep an eye on one another that they flocked out,
elbowing and shoving--hurrying down-street to undo the advantage
gained by those who had stood nearest to the mosque door.

The mullah approached King, who was still lying down with his
bandaged head cushioned on the folds of his turban.

"Your honor's brother is disturbed for your honor's safety," said
the mullah. "He orders a bodyguard appointed for your honor, lest
harm befall. There is a little room behind this mosque--clean,
comfortable--my son and my servant would bring food--"

King noted the tense and was careful to look pleased. The
mullah's under-handedness was easy enough to see through, but the
word "brother" was not so easy. He suspected guesswork, not
believing that Mahommed Babar would have proclaimed relationship
for any reason. He had probably given orders that made the mullah
suspect blood-relationship as the only likely explanation. There
might even be a slight facial resemblance. He was no such fool as
to enlighten the mullah one way or the other.

"Has your honor a weapon?" the mullah asked, almost off-handedly,
not looking directly at him, but sidewise. Conscious of the
automatic still tucked snugly against his ribs, King shook
his head.

"Get me one!" he urged. "Those rascals who struck me on the head
took mine."

The mullah looked relieved, and beckoned King to follow. Almost
laughing, King obeyed him and passed out through the rear door of
the mosque into a tiny court, at the back of which was a one-story
thatched building. As a jail it was ridiculous. Nevertheless--

"This is where your honor must stay until further orders," said
the mullah.

King noted the "must," and bowed acknowledgment. The mullah
looked relieved again, as King observed. When men of the North,
or Moplahs of the South, make prisoners, they search them;
usually strip them, and invariably lock them in a place whence
escape is impossible.

The mullah showed the way into a reasonable room, carpeted with
matting. It had two windows, barred with upright wooden rods. The
ceiling was low and of calico. The door had obviously been stolen
from some ready-made imported building and could be kicked down
easily. There was a folding canvas cot, a camp-chair, and a few
odds and ends, including a bundle of old swords and bayonets in a
corner, some of them dating from before the Mutiny. One of them
was an enormous cavalry saber, much heavier than is used in any
army nowadays.

The mullah made an armful of the weapons and pitched them all out
in the yard, as if tidying the place. Reconsidering things, he
brought the big saber in again. A very tactful man, that mullah.
Quite a strategist.

"There is a cot--a chair--your honor may rest here and get well.
Would your honor do a favor for me? There is no hurry, but when
the head feels better. This saber now--an old one--I place no
faith in such things, but prefer this."

He pulled out a Mauser repeating pistol and patted it meaningly.
King noticed rust on the sliding action and wondered whether the
thing would go off.

"Your brother, Mahommed Babar, wants a cavalry saber. Would your
honor care to clean and sharpen this for him? See, it was a good
one once. Whoever owned it knew how to use it, too. Look at the
notches he has nicked below the hilt--nine, ten, eleven men! A
fighter! Your honor--a fighting man, sharpening a saber must
be--see, I have a box of implements; files, a whetstone, sand,
leather, and some rags. There is water in that iron jar. Your
honor is willing?"

Diplomacy! But two can play at that--none better than King, who
can seem to play the other fellow's game more innocently than a
sheep led by the bell-wether.

"If your honor's head were only--"

"Much better!" announced King. "Hardly aches now."

"I will be back in an hour. If that saber could be ready."


"I must find the right men for guards, who will treat your honor
reasonably well."

It had been "bodyguards" the first time. "Reasonably well" seemed
also a concession to unnamed contingencies. King bent his head to
hide a smile and examined the blade of the saber.

"I would prefer this personally!" said the mullah, pulling out
his Mauser pistol and patting it meaningly again. Very diplomatic!

"They are better than a sword," said King, reaching for the box
of rusty files and things.

"So. I will be back in an hour," said the mullah, and went out,
locking the door after him, incidentally forgetting in his haste
the patriarchal blessing that he should have paused in the
doorway to invoke.

Both men were beautifully satisfied. The mullah now had to ask no
favors of the blacksmith, who was a person given to curiosity and
almost as much independence as the men of his ancient guild who
hammered armor for the knights of old. His guest was busy and
undoubtedly believed himself a prisoner. He had time to hunt up
discreet individuals, who would mount guard for a day or two and
hold their tongues. There was no such simple way of reporting a
man's sayings and doings as to keep the individual under lock and
key. And, as he wanted very badly to be absent for the next few
days, the arrangement was all the more convenient.

Last, but not least, the saber was likely to be cleaned and
sharpened in such fashion as would delight even such a fierce
soldier as Mahommed Babar. Excellent! There is no God but Allah, who
is all-wise and who directs the thoughts of the faithful. Mahommed
is the Prophet of Allah, on whom be peace! He emerged from the mosque
and walked down-street with an air of contemplative statesmanship.

In the bedroom King worked at the saber contentedly. He might
need it--if the mullah or his servants should return too soon.
Meanwhile, it might be true that Mahommed Babar needed it, in
which case King was this kind of man: he would either break the
weapon or make it as near perfect as he could. He cleaned
it--made it as sharp as a razor--within half an hour; tested it a
time or two by hacking at the door until the cheap lock came in
pieces; scratched on the blade with the sharpest file and the
smallest letters he could compass: "To Mahommed Babar from A.K.
with compliments"; returned it to its scabbard, stood it in the
corner, and walked out. It was no use closing the door; the frame
and lock were smashed too noticeably.

An hour later the mullah, returning with four chosen sycophants,
discovered the bird flown but the saber leaning upright in a
corner, clean and sharp. He did not examine the blade beyond
testing of its sharpness with his thumb. And he had this element
of greatness--he could see the uselessness of crying over
spilt milk.

"Go and look for him!" he ordered. "Find him, be polite to him,
and bring him back and keep him here!"

Then he went to deliver the saber to Mahommed Babar, for that was
urgent. He delivered it in presence of all the elders, who were
suitably and flatteringly jealous. Mahommed Babar did examine the
blade, every inch of it--seemed able to read the inscription on
it--possibly the maker's name. He looked pleased, and yet not
pleased, as he nodded and slung the saber at his waist. A
strange, uncommunicative, puzzling sort of man, Mahommed Babar.


_"Tonight I Will Write Down How Ye Did."_

It was no mean accomplishment that Ommony had undertaken. Among
those rival and fiercely jealous Moplah villages he himself could
probably go unchallenged at any time. But it was "another
thousand of bricks" to take with him an officer and eleven
men--even an unarmed officer and men on good behavior, with full
permission granted by three chiefs.

The trouble was that the chiefs' authority was largely local.
Their influence, and Ommony's own, varied with the points of the
compass. With distance from their village theirs diminished,
although Ommony's actually increased in some respects as he went
further from his home. Locally they knew him as a friend through
thick and thin, fire, drought, and famine--a mediator between
them and the Government--a scoffer like themselves at lawyers'
law, but a masterful upholder of first principles. At a distance
he was less well known but more rumored about. Men came from a
long way off to submit their quarrels to him rather than go to
court and be ruined with fines and fees; and they, returning well
content, told stories about him, invented mainly on the way home,
that made King Solomon of legend seem in comparison rather a
cheap and silly potentate. In far outlying villages, Ommony was
almost a myth. They used his name to frighten children with and
as a threat conclusive when the younger members of the village
council would not see sense.

So, although the chiefs provided an escort of four men whose
business was to emphasize the sacredness of the flag of truce
under which the party marched, and although they all carried
white flags nailed to sticks, it was Ommony's person that was
really sacred. The white flags did not mean much, and the
chiefs' representatives meant less and less as they drew near
rival villages.

Entered another distinction, with its fine edge widening
progressively. Ommony had lived among them for more than twenty
years, through internecine outrage and occasional rebellion, with
never an armed man to protect him. There had never been a man in
uniform attached to Ommony's scant staff. He had been policeman,
lawyer, judge, adviser, forest king, and friend so intimately and
with so little friction that he was in a class by himself. Apart
from the military arm--which to the Moplah is incomprehensible if
it is not a direct invitation to fight. Soldiers fight--fight
soldiers--the words worked either way.

And the ways of a rumor are wonderful. It turns on itself like a
whirl of smoke blown in the wind, until the outside becomes the
inside and sense is nonsense. Moreover, it grows, even as smoke
grows, covering more ground as the particles of fact grow
thinner. And in a forest that is even more the case, because the
range of view is limited and the eye can seldom check up what the
ear exaggerates.

So word was sent echoing from tree to crag by the Moplahs'
outposts, and it became known for a fact in the village, where
Mahommed Babar was busily evolving his plan of campaign, that
Ommon-ee was a prisoner of war, and was being marched through the
jungle by a British officer and ten men. Ommony was riding and
the others were on foot, but it was described with how many knots
Ommony's feet were tied beneath the horse's belly.

Naturally, the village wiseheads had to invent a reason for any
such extraordinary turn of affairs; and, having no facts to go
on, they depended wholly on imagination, which is the secret of
most news anyhow. They decided that the British were bringing in
Ommony with the purpose of exchanging him against the judge and
his wife who were close prisoners at Podanaram.

Whereat was laughter. Who would hold Ommony prisoner for a day?
Should they let the two prisoners go, whom they certainly could
hold for ransom, and accept in exchange the one whom they would
have to release instantly because of friendship and past favors?
Moreover, Ommony had dealings with the forest devils, and might
inflict disasters on them. Who knew? Such things have happened.
How much simpler in any event to release Ommony and obtain his
everlasting good-will, incidentally increasing their own stock of
British prisoners, who would no doubt be very useful when the
time for talking peace should come.

That was the argument, and action follows very close on argument
in Moplah-land. Every step was easy except one, which was
impossible. There was no way of surrounding the party in the
forest without Ommony's junglis becoming aware of it.

So a jungli came hurrying to Ommony's stirrup and made noises
with his mouth. Ommony wheeled his pony and addressed Linkinyear,
who had refused the offer of a mount because it would make the
men feel better if he marched with them. They were all swinging
along at a good three miles an hour, carrying their tunics and
brushing off flies with bits of twig and stuff--not sorry
to halt--rather expecting to laugh, because Ommony's jokes
seemed inexhaustible.

"Whatever happens next, don't show resentment or offer to hit
back," said Ommony unexpectedly. He spoke to Linkinyear, but
at his men. "Our escort are acting in good faith, but we're
surrounded, and we might be attacked if there were any hastiness."

They surrounded Ommony to hear his explanation, not that he
had much to say, although Linkinyear shot question after
question at him.

"If you'll let me keep about fifty yards ahead,"  Ommony
suggested, "that will look less as if I were relying on you for
protection. The great thing is to show them from the first that
we rely absolutely on their respecting a flag of truce."

He rode on. They allowed him nearly a hundred yards. So there was
plenty of room, and the pony was hardly aware of disturbance
behind him when fifty men rushed between Ommony and Linkinyear's
party. It was over so swiftly that Ommony did not even see what
took place. He wheeled his pony and spurred back; but when he got
there and forced his way through the yelling crowd, beating them
over the head right and left with his hunting-crop, most of the
men were already dead and Linkinyear was struggling under half a
dozen Moplahs, who were trying to tie him and at the same time to
murder a private whom he was protecting.

It was amazing what they took from Ommony without retaliation. He
beat them off as a huntsman whips hounds off a kill, cracking
open more than one skull with the butt of his loaded whip. But he
was too late to save the lives of more than Linkinyear and three
men. Two more were so badly wounded as to be obviously in their
death throes, and the rest lay with their throats cut Moplah-fashion,
which is right back to the spine.

Then the escort of four men, who had been leading considerably in
advance for the express purpose of preventing a surprise, came
running back and swore with good reason that their honor was
involved. They were perfectly ready to fight about it, and would
have been killed in turn if Ommony had not threatened to do
murder and thus force them to do violence to himself. Whether
Ommony guessed it or not, they had peremptory orders from their
chiefs to do him no injury on any pretext, and he made the most
of his immunity as it developed.

Linkinyear was nearly off his head--just not quite mad enough to
fling himself on the Moplah knives.

"You swine," he yelled at them in English. "You rotten, dirty
blackguards! You know what a white flag means--you! Oh, you
swabs! Look what you've done, you stinkers! Good, decent fellows
marching under flag of truce and--just you wait, that's all! A
hundred of you swine for every decent one of my men you've
murdered! Say, they don't understand that. You tell them, Ommony.
One hundred of the swine for--"

"Better give those men decent burial," Ommony suggested. "Do you
know the funeral service?"

"No. Good God! How does it begin? Any of you men know the
funeral service?"

"I'm sorry to say I know it by heart," said Ommony. He turned on
the Moplahs, resting the whip on his thigh and speaking as if
disobedience were unimaginable.

"Dig graves for those gentlemen!" he ordered.

The Moplahs demurred. They are not proponents of hard labor at
the best of times. This was war--their war. There had recently
arrived hugely exaggerated stories of a British victory somewhere
down between Ooticamund and the sea, in which a raiding party of
Moplahs had left their own dead on the field. There were stories
that Hindus were burning the bodies by British order, and burning
is everlasting shame and desecration to the Moslem. To be made to
bury fallen British soldiers in the circumstances was something
of an imposition, as they viewed it.

But not for nothing had Ommony been unofficial judge of all that
land for twenty years. In their own tongue he could rake their
very consciences over the coals of Eblis better than their
mullahs could. For every argument that they could hurl at him he
knew ten texts--could cite ten instances where they had come to
him for help and had received it. Besides, they were afraid of
him, and he feared nothing but his own opinion of himself.

They dug the graves--not one trench, but a separate grave for
each dead man in a row along the jungle lane; and Ommony recited
the funeral service seated on his pony, who behaved as if he had
attended that kind of ceremony scores of times--motionless until
the end.

"Damn them, they've got firearms! Let them salute my men!"
exploded Linkinyear when Ommony had finished.

Ommony looked at him a moment and decided on heroic means to
prevent worse trouble later.

"This was a horrible mistake," he said to the Moplahs, who had
stood viewing the performance sulkily, waiting to push in the
covering dirt with their hands when Ommony should give the word.
"Honorable men who make mistakes must make just acknowledgment.
How many of you bear a grudge against the dead ye killed?"

That was the kind of Solomon-like question with which he always
had his way with them. None answered.

"If these men had come to fight, ye had a right to kill. But they
came peacefully, observing peace. If they had died in fair fight,
there would have been others of their own race, with firearms, to
pay them final honors. But they died by your mistake, unfairly.
Will ye rob as well as kill?"

They, whose notion of life was organized robbery, denied the
imputation hotly.

"But the dead are dead!" exclaimed one of them.

"Ye can honor the dead like honorable men, and so yourselves be
honored!" answered Ommony.

"How then?"

He told them. So the unbelievable took place. Four and fifty
Moplahs, some with the blood of murdered soldiers on their bands,
fired a salute at the tree-tops, not knowing what it meant
exactly, but understanding that in some way they were wiping out
a stain on their own honor and a score that would otherwise have
increased against themselves with interest. They fired across the
graves exactly as Ommony told them, and the scared crows winging
from a tree near by looked like the souls of dead men.

Moslems--very ignorant Moslems--living among Hindus pick up by
hearsay and observation innumerable Hindu superstitions, rail
their mullahs how they may. The Moplahs glanced at the crows, met
one another's eyes and stared at Ommony with new respect.

"By God! You know--by God! I say--you tell them, will you, in
their own confounded bat--by God! They've done the right thing,
damn it! Say that, will you, please?" demanded Linkinyear. "God
damn them! They've done the decent thing!"

But Ommony had not quite finished. He made the Moplahs fell two
big trees straight across the path, so that all would go around
in future, making a new track. And none would tread on the graves
until the forest had blotted them out completely, along with the
thousands of others that dot the earth unmarked. Then:

"Tonight I will write down how ye did," said Ommony. "It shall be
set down that ye slew like dogs and fools, but that ye honored
the dead like decent men."

"Let it be set down that we did not rob the dead, but buried them
in their uniforms," called out one of them.

"That, too, shall be written down," said Ommony.


_"But They Stole No Hindu Women?"_

Mahommed Babar had done with indecision, even if jealousy had not
altogether done with him. There were those who mistrusted,
without feeling strong enough to oppose him. News of the first
British success to date made the moment ripe for action. He spoke
like a man. He laid good plans. He gave orders without excuses,
as a leader should. And as he led off through the forest he
inspired confidence. Nevertheless, he also inspired resentment.

There were those beside the mullah who hurried to Podnanaram to
consult with the Khalifate Committee. Some went merely as
tell-tales. Others were marplots, who would have plotted the
downfall of any one who seized the leadership. About a dozen men
all told, including the mullah, took to the jungle path leading
to Podanaram, and the mullah saw every one of them pass him, but
could not help it, being loaded with a bigger belly and more
years than they.

The mullah was, furthermore, suspicious that he was followed, and
that delayed him. Not sure of it. Ten times at least in the
course of a long day's march up hill and down dale he thought he
saw somebody dodging out of sight behind him. As many times he
stepped behind a tree and waited, and once he was almost sure his
pursuer had crept up within twenty paces; but although he called,
coaxed, challenged, cursed--and hunted among the tangled jungle
growth as pluckily as if he had been a genuine fighting man
instead of a rather spoiled, short-winded priest, he was still in
doubt at the end of it.

The glimpses he thought he had had conveyed only one impression.
Reason told him it must be false. It could not be possible, he
argued, for Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan with that injury to his
head to be following so persistently--unless and there another
thought entered in--perhaps that injury was not so serious, in
which case . . .

He put on speed for a while. But endurance was more in his line.
Speed distressed him. He sat down on a rock near a tree that
shaded him from the afternoon sun, in a clearing from which he
could see in several directions, and gave suspicion full rein,
muttering the names of the Most High as a sort of touchstone
against which to test his thoughts.

If Mahommed Babar and Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan were brothers--and
whence did that suspicion come if it were baseless?--one might be
spying for the other. Notoriously, brothers were either the
closest friends or the deadliest enemies, almost without exception.
Mahommed Babar had refused to speak with the Sirdar, yet had
refused to have him imprisoned. Why? And he had ordered a report
to be made of all the Sirdar's sayings and doings. Strange. Very.

It began to look possible that he, the mullah, was being used as
a stool-pigeon. If he was to report the Sirdar's sayings, what
would be easier than for the Sirdar to say things that should
convey desired information? Obvious! And if he, the mullah, was
to be the go-between--a go-between who was also to be spied
upon--what was more probable than that the Sirdar was close on
his trail?

Meanwhile, less than fifty paces from the mullah, King sat behind
a tree from under whose lowest branch he could just see his
quarry, and was very grateful for the short rest. The poultice of
leaves had worked wonders, but the pain in his head still robbed
him of fifty percent of efficiency. Nevertheless, the pursuer has
all the advantage. It is much easier to keep a fugitive in sight
than to make the pace, especially if the fugitive is short-winded
and the pursuer long-winded.

Officers of the Indian Army are encouraged to hunt the most
difficult big game in the world because of the experience it
gives them, and the mullah would never have caught a glimpse of
King unless he had so chosen. He had deliberately shown himself a
dozen times for a fraction of a moment because he wanted him
rather rattled. Nervousness upsets even a mullah's judgment, and
it is by the other man's mistakes that the pursuer profits.

Cagey old bird, the mullah! He settled himself apparently for a
well-earned snooze in the shade--but with his head turned in the
direction from which pursuit would come. King could just discern
beyond the clearing the only possible path by which the mullah
could eventually resume his journey. So he skirted the clearing,
which was a very difficult thing to do without betraying himself
because of the denseness of the undergrowth and the necessity for
crossing the open scores of times. Having reached the point where
the track plunged again into the jungle, he sat down exactly in
the midst of it, and waited. Cagey old bird though the mullah
might be, there was salt on his tail!

When King began to make his circuit of the clearing, the mullah
heard a few dry twigs break, as King intended that he should.
Thereafter was silence, and the mullah lay shamming sleep, with
one eye watching the direction whence the noise of breaking twigs
had come. At the end of half an hour he could endure the suspense
no longer. He got up suddenly, and ran for the point where he had
heard the twigs break, found nothing, beat about the bush for
fifteen minutes, and returned jumpily nervous to the rock, where
he had left his bundle of traveling necessities. It was gone!

The ground was too dry to take footprints. There was nothing to
show whether bird, beast, or man had done the lifting, and the
mullah in his heart suspected devils. Even his cotton umbrella
was gone--that inseparable emblem of his dignity that, unlike all
other dignities in this world, provided comfort too!

One point was settled at all events. It was a common thief, and
not the Sirdar Mahommed Akbar Khan. No sirdar would steal a
mullah's cloth bundle containing snuff, soap, tobacco, socks and
a change of shirts. Luckily he had tucked his small supply of
money into the fold of his belly-band. Luckily, too, he knew of a
lodging for the night, where he would be treated with proper
dignity, umbrella or no umbrella. He resumed his journey angrily,
yet praising Allah in that he had not been killed.

He was telling his beads as he turned the corner into the jungle
lane on the far side of the clearing, and it should not be
written of a mullah that he screamed. It was not a scream.
It was blended of oath, prayer, exclamation, agony of fear,
astonishment, roar of rage, and recovering presence of mind.
There is no one word in all the dictionaries that covers that
ground completely; but there is one sound that expresses all of
it, and the mullah used the sound, leaping backward at the same
time like a colt that sees an adder in the path.

King rose easily from a sitting posture, holding the mullah's
bundle and umbrella--very careful indeed not to startle his man
any further. For that rusty Mauser pistol might go off after all,
supposing the mullah could find it among the folds of his clothes.

"I saw that your eminence was tired, so I picked these up to
carry them for a while!"

"How--why--what?--Allah! Why are you not where I told you
to stay?"

"The saber was clean and sharp. None came. I was curious to see
the village. I emerged--looked about me--caught sight of your
eminence--and naturally followed."

"Naturally!" the mullah snorted. "Did the door open naturally?
The lock was smashed to atoms!"

"Yes. A poor lock and a good saber! Which way shall I carry your
eminence's bundle--forward or toward home?"

The mullah eyed him, hesitating. He looked tired, and there was
pain behind his eyes as if his head ached terribly; but none the
less he was an antagonist too well-set-up and limber-looking to
be tackled except as a last resource. Besides--

"I have no means of protecting you. Can you protect me if we
march together?" asked the mullah.

But no wise man shows his weapons until he means to use them.

"We came thus far," King answered, smiling. "If Allah pleases--is
the road much longer?"

The mullah decided on direct tactics. This was a crafty fellow,
who could outwit craft. It would be waste of words to try
cozening him.

"Tell me truly how you stand toward Mahommed Babar!" he demanded.
"Are you his friend or his enemy? I charge you, answer the the
truth, or the curse of Allah and of all His angels shall pursue
you forever!"

King answered without a moment's hesitation.

"Mahommed Barbar is a friend of the Moplahs and of all who love
liberty," he answered.

"And you?"

"I, too, am a friend of the Moplahs."

That was as direct an answer as a man may expect in a land that
had studied evasiveness for seven thousand years.

"You spy on me on his behalf?" asked the mullah.

"I am his friend. And you?" King retorted.

The mullah made a virtue of necessity--an easy enough thing to do
when you are a fatalist by profession. Believing in prayer and
direct answer to prayer--failing any means to rid himself of this
man--and having prayed repeatedly for guidance in the present
difficult turn of affairs, the mullah considered himself guided
accordingly. This sirdar must be a guide sent purposely by Allah.

"I am his good friend!" he answered. "It was I who placed in his
hands the saber that you sharpened, in token of Allah's blessing.
He hitched the saber on and has gone foraying."

They swung into step together and walked in silence for a mile or
two, until the sun got down so low that all was deep gloom under
the trees; and the monkeys chattered overhead quarreling about
perches for the night.

"Where are we going?" King asked at last.

"Podanaram. But not tonight. Tomorrow. I go to find out what the
Khalifate Committee says about our friend Mahommed Babar. The
news had gone ahead of me; no need for us to hurry. We are near a
place where we can spend the night."

From under the trees you can see the stars before the sun goes
down, but dimly. It was just as the stars shone forth with full
brilliancy that the mullah pushed King up a side path whose
existence was concealed by a tree-trunk lying parallel with the
main track.

"Most men are afraid of this place," he said. "Are you timid
about devils?"

Suddenly the mullah turned aside again, and a dim light showed
itself a hundred yards away at the end of the gut of gloom. A man
was holding a lamp--one of those earthenware things like a
saucer, with a lip to take the wick. They followed the light, and
the man led the way into an ancient temple that was part cave,
part masonry--a Hindu temple, very likely once Buddhist, now
indubitably Moslem superficially. For the noses had been knocked
off the images that lined the walls, and some parts of their
anatomy were missing altogether.

"This man was a Hindu priest," said the mullah with a self-satisfied
smirk, taking the lamp and shifting it this way and that so that
King could have a good view of their host. "I circumcised him.
He is grateful. He and I have been good friends ever since."

Strange that a man should feel grateful for being circumcised
against his will, and for having his temple walls shorn of their
beauty. King met the Hindu's eyes, and one of those intuitive
flashes of intelligence passed between them as incomprehensible
as ether and electricity, no more, no less. The Hindu offered
them water, washed the mullah's feet, then King's, with the
forlorn air of a man who has lost his caste forever; and then
brought food, which he served on the temple floor. King sat
thinking, saying nothing. The mullah patronized the ex-Hindu,
tossing him insignificant scraps of news and asking questions.

At last the mullah wiped his beard and announced his intention of
sleeping until an hour before dawn, when he expected to resume
his journey. With a dumb glance in King's direction that implored
him to stay where he was, the Hindu led the mullah away to some
chamber in the rear and presently returned. He made a small fire
of crossed sticks on the temple floor between himself and King,
and sat before it, saying nothing until the mullah's snores came
thundering and rasping through an open door. Then:

"You are a Hindu at heart!" said King, looking straight at him.

"You are a white man--English!" the Hindu answered.

"If that were true, would it mean anything to you?" King asked.

"Hope!" he replied, speaking English. "I had almost given up
hope. My spirit said you are English. You are a secret agent of
the Government--an officer, I think. If you stay here I can be
useful to you after that mullah has gone in the morning. Can you
think of an excuse?"

"Easily. My head is injured. But how can you be useful?"

"Listen, sahib. You are here to work against these Moplahs--is it
not so? I would give my right hand, and my left hand--my feet,
eyes, liver--and all my life for one real chance to do the Moplah
cause an injury! I am a renegade outcast, without honor in this
world or the next. Nothing is left for me but vengeance, and I
crave that as a hungry man craves food. I could have slain this
cursed mullah, but I yearn to do the whole Moplah brood an
injury! That mullah thinks he is the only guest who uses this
place, and his talk is forever of devils, to keep others away
from here. Stay here, sahib, and you shall know all the reports
that reach the Khalifate Committee. Only promise me--on your
sacred honor, sahib--that you will use the information against
the Moplahs!"

"They must be defeated," King answered.

He showed King a place to sleep, in a niche behind a great stone
image, and lent him a pair of most unpriestly blankets. But King
was not allowed to sleep much, either during that night or those
that followed. What the snoring mullah fondly dreamed was his own
private preserve turned out to be a secret meeting-place.
Ex-Hindus who had been converted forcibly to Islam, losing caste
so that return to their own religion was hopeless, as every
suppressed people in the world has always done, had formed
themselves into a secret society with passwords, signs, and
countersigns. But they were much more deadly dangerous than most
in that they eschewed murder and confined their activities to
spying, hoping to know so much about the Moplah cause that they
could some day ruin it with information laid in the proper quarter.

King was awakened about midnight to sit up behind the stone
image and listen to a man whose brother was secretary to the
self-appointed Khalifate Committee. They had had to make use of
ex-Hindus because the number of Moplahs who can read and write is
approximately zero. A few mullahs. A few headmen. A few of the
sons of the wealthier land-owners. No Moplah wanted any such
menial task, and the virtue of the ex-Hindu consisted in his
being so utterly forlorn and spiritless as not to be dangerous to
any one--presumably.

He described the Committee's reception of the news of Mahommed
Babar's coup d'etat. They had approved the idea of a leader who
led; who rallied a village around him and started on a foray
almost before his leadership had been confirmed; a soldier, who
had training and experience. But they objected emphatically to a
leader who preached observance of the rules of war. In perfect
pantomime, and even mimicking the voices, the man described each
member of the Committee's reaction to the news.

"And they will do something terrible to offset the preaching of
Mahommed Babar," he prophesied before he left.

There was no danger of the mullah overhearing, even if his own
snores had not rendered the feat impossible. There were some
small boys, who appeared from nowhere in particular and sat on
guard in the doorway of the mullah's chamber. If he had wakened
the alarm would have been given.

Never more than one visitor entered the temple at a time. There
was some means of signaling with the lamp that kept new arrivals
at a distance until whoever was talking to the ex-priest took his
leave. In that way none but the ex-priest received the news, and
none could swear who his informant had been. There was almost no
chance for treachery.

It was like being in the center of a well-laid system of wires.
Not an hour of the night went by but some one brought news. Of a
Moplah raid. Of a Hindu village burned. Of a British force
entangled in the trees and badly cut up. Of a counter-attack and
a Moplah retreat. The dates of events were confusing, but the
particulars were clearly given, as if the informants had trained
themselves determinedly.

News came, about fifteen minutes before the mullah snored his
final blast and came out to pray noisily on the temple portico,
of Mahommed Babar's night's adventure. He had burned the railway
bridges over the most difficult section of the line, and had
chased away a contingent of sappers who had been trying to make
the track practicable for an armored train.

"But they stole no Hindu women, and burned no villages!" said
the informant, as if that were much the most important part
of the story.

The ex-priest told the mullah that King was delirious with fever,
and the mullah was so little disturbed by the news that he did
not even trouble to confirm it, mumbling only something about the
devils of the place.

"I will call for him on my return," he said blandly. Then,
accepting a handful of chupatties to break his fast with on the
way, he stepped out into the cool, rustling darkness that
precedes dawn.

Thereafter King slept in snatches, and was entertained in
snatches. His host never once let him be seen by the men who
brought information. That seemed to be the first and most
strictly observed rule of all, that each was entitled to full
secrecy and only the ex-priest should meet any informant face
to face.

The Khalifate Committee aired their views rashly, considering
that their servants were all forcible converts. Not even the
General Staffs in France ever talked more incredibly loosely.
Almost every argument and change of opinion reached King's ears
within six hours of its expression by an irritated member of
the Committee.

More and more their discussion raged around the subject of
Mahommed Babar. Reports were so constantly and so cleverly turned
in that King even got to know what policy was favored by which
Committee-man, and who were the most consistent zealots of
the nine.

By midnight of the second night the news had become fixed
in an alarming groove, as disturbing to the ex-Hindus as to
King himself.

"Many villages, some a long way off, are offering allegiance to
Mahommed Babar, and to all he makes the stipulation that the
rules of war shall be observed. The Committee desire outrages.
They wish to force the British to make stern reprisals. They have
sent their messengers in every direction, urging the contrary of
what Mahommed Babar teaches, and now they have a worse plan. They
desire to antagonize the British against Hindus and Moslems
equally. Thereby they propose to torture and kill the two English
prisoners--the Kadi and his memsahib--and to lay the blame to
Hindu converts; the argument being that British soldiery will
draw no distinction between Hindu or convert but will retaliate
on all and sundry. Well handled, that would make a good story
with which to goad the rest of India to rebellion."

"If that is their plan, why do they delay?" asked the ex-priest
shrewdly cross-examining.

"Because they hope for more prisoners. They wish to perpetrate
a thorough-going outrage that will madden the English to a
pitch of frenzy."

King waited the whole of another day listening to the development
of that plan, and then there came news that put an end to mere
eavesdropping. It was time to move swiftly. The mullah had not
returned, and there was no news of him; so King accepted the
chupatties that were ever a symbol of action in the Hindu world,
and set forth with a lean, half-naked boy, who knew the distant
village where Mahommed Babar was.


_"That Kind of Talk is Always True."_

The mullah, returning from Podanaram, avoided the temple where he
had left King, reasoning that if, as was likely enough, the
sirdar should escape, the ex-priest would be blamed for it. For
himself, he had troubles enough without any added difficulty of
making explanations to Mahommed Babar.

He returned to his own village in doubt about Mahommed Babar. The
Khalifate Committee head decided to throw their whole influence
against him. Choosing the weaker of two sides was not the
mullah's guiding principle, and he would have cheerfully given
the amount of a year's stipend for sure, prophetic knowledge as
to which of the rival influences would prevail.

As a Moslem and a mullah, he could hardly disapprove a plan to
murder a couple of foreign infidels, if the cause of Islam was to
be gained by it. What did prisoners expect? They would be lucky
not to be tortured as well as murdered. Nevertheless, the
project scared him. In the long run the British always had been
victorious. It would be unpleasant to be hanged. Vastly safer to
have an alibi. If Mahommed Babar were really strong enough to
prevail against the Khalifate Committee, undoubtedly the best
plan would be to notify Mahommed Babar of the project. He could
manage that without the Khalifate Committee learning of his
"discretion," as he described it to himself, because he had
promised them to return to his village and spy on Mahommed Babar.
But he must have a witness, otherwise the double play would be no
use. He must be able to prove, in the contingency of British
victory, that he used his influence against the murder of
European prisoners.

It was in that frame of mind that he approached his village near
nightfall. The village was almost empty of inhabitants, excepting
women and children, who, however, were creating a prodigious
disturbance at the foot of the hill, where the one street entered
the jungle. He hurried downhill to investigate, and was met by
Ommony on pony-back, who knew him slightly, and whom he knew very
well indeed by reputation.

"You step down opportunely out of Allah's lap," said Ommony by
way of greeting. "Save these men's lives, will you? This is a
British officer. These are three of his men. The remainder were
killed in the jungle, while marching behind me under flag of
truce--a bad mistake! Now these idiots of women want to kill the
rest of them."

"Where are you going?" asked the mullah.

"To Podanaram."

The mullah thumbed his beads in secret recognition of the
wondrous ways of Allah, and launched forth a string of abuse that
sent the women homeward. That left some half-dozen old men and
cripples, and four or five armed youths who, for one reason
or another, had not accompanied the raiders. The mullah gave
Linkinyear and the three men into their charge. Ommony protested.
The mullah excused himself, but was adamant. He said it would
cause a bad impression in the village if he acted otherwise, but
invited Ommony, as a favored individual, to come to the mosque
with him and talk the situation over.

Ommony yielded the point temporarily, knowing from experience how
vastly easier it is to conduct an argument without an audience.
Linkinyear did his best to look cheerful, and encouraged his
three remaining men by sitting down beside them, ignoring rank
over their protests. The mullah took Ommony's stirrup uphill, and
the four Moplahs who had been lent by the chief for an escort
took to their heels incontinently. Ommony tied the pony to a tree
outside the mosque, and a jungli, whom no one had noticed
hitherto, came and sat in the dust beside the animal. The mullah
led the way around the mosque and through a gap in the fence into
the room whence King had cut his way out with a saber. The door
had not been repaired.

"If your honor will be seated, I will find my servant."

Ommony raised no objection. Unless your host in those parts
commits himself to some extent by supplying food and drink you
have small chance of gaining your point. He sat down on the bed
and pulled out a cigar--paused--lighted it--smoked--smoked the
whole of it. His host was gone more than half an hour, yet it was
not politic to arouse suspicion by betraying it.

Meanwhile the mullah went into the mosque and sat there. He
wanted time to think. He took off his turban and pressed
his temples between both hands. Put on the turban again and
knelt in prayer. Laid his forehead on the mosque floor--then
rose and beat his forehead with his fists. Went out and found
his servant, but suddenly changed his mind about what he had
meant to say. Abused him roundly for looking like a fool, to
the shame of his Creator, and then coaxed him, begging him
to be discreet. Ordered him into the mosque. Ordered him out
again. Called him back. Made him squat down before him. Warned
him how Allah is omnipresent--omniscient--knows, hears, sees
all things and reads men's hearts. Bound the servant to secrecy
by half a score inviolable oaths--and then sent him downhill
to tell the whole party who were standing guard over the
prisoners to march all four of them away at once to Padanaram,
and to bring him an answer.

The answer came back in the shape of a protesting Moplah, who
accompanied the servant and demanded to know whether they were to
march through the jungle by night. Was the whole world crazy all
at once? The mullah told the servant to say yes. The other
refused indignantly, because of the danger. The mullah cursed
him; then cursed and coaxed alternately; then coaxed--through the
mosque door. They compromised. The prisoners were to be taken out
of the village immediately, sleep wherever there was shelter,
hurry on to Padanaram at dawn. Praise Allah! The mullah had not
compromised himself. He could claim afterward that he had sent
the prisoners along, or that he had not. None had seen him
talking through the mosque door, except the servant; he could
beat him.

He returned to Ommony, who was pacing the room restlessly--had to
go out again, however, because he had forgotten in the excitement
to tell his servant to bring food. Came back again and sat down
rather humbly on the floor in front of Ommony.

"And now, O Father of the Forest, let us seek to oblige each
other," he suggested.

"Have you ordered food for that officer and his men?" Ommony demanded.

"That is what took this long while. It was necessary to see the
food was suitable. It has been done."

He described in considerable detail the ingredients and
condiments that had gone into the imaginary stew, whereat Ommony
professed himself satisfied. Ommony began to explain the
situation in detail, dwelling on the baseness of murdering
unarmed men who came carrying white flags. He told why they were
coming. He, Ommony, had consented to the expedition for no reason
whatever except to save the Moplahs from consequences that
inevitably must ensue if they should murder those two prisoners
at Padanaram.

The mullah grew nervous again. He suggested that the consequences
might not be so serious. Ommony disabused his mind. After the
British victory, which must come sooner or later, the defeated
Moplahs would be falling over one another to denounce the authors
of every outrage, and nothing would be easier than for the
British to identify culprits, who would be hanged after trial
and conviction.

The mullah became very nervous indeed. Ommony pointed out that
foreigners from other parts of India, who might look just at
present like responsible people, would undoubtedly try to run
away before the end came, leaving the Moplahs to shoulder
the consequences.

The mullah, more nervous than ever, excused himself to go and see
why the food was so long coming--actually to find his servant and
countermand the order about taking those prisoners to Podanaram.
But he could not find the servant. He had to get another man to
make tea for his guest, and by the time that came at last it was
after sunset.

"Where are my friends going to sleep?" demanded Ommony.

The mullah professed not to know. By that time he was too jumpy
to invent a workable lie on the spur of a moment. Ommony insisted
on finding out where they were to sleep; invited the mullah to
accompany him, but threatened to go alone and investigate
otherwise. Not knowing exactly what excuse to make, but hoping
for something to turn up, the mullah took a lantern and followed
him out, taking the lead as they passed through the gap in the
fence and drew abreast of the mosque portico.

There a man ran into them--cannoned off the mullah in the dark
and nearly upset Ommony. He was heaving--sweating--did not smell
like a native of Madras--and Ommony's nose was jungle keen. The
man collapsed on the portico, gasping for breath. Ommony took the
lantern from the mullah and, stooping to see who had come in all
that haste, looked into the face of Athelstan King!

"Oh, hello!" he said. "'Lo, Cot!"

Ommony and the mullah picked him up between them and supported
him into the mosque, where Ommony kicked his boots off as a
concession to the mullah's prejudices.

"Thought you were dead," he said, smiling at King in the dancing,
dim lantern light.

"That was guesswork, Cot, not thinking! Is it true--" He lay down
a minute, still panting for breath, then sat up again. "Sorry.
Ran uphill. Is it true you had an officer and three men with you?
Women said so. Why d'you let 'em take 'em to Podanaram?"

Ommony's lower jaw dropped a trifle as he turned on the mullah,
that was all. The mullah recognized a crisis and proceeded to use
his natural weapon.

"This person is an English spy, for he speaks English!" he
announced. "You--you had our confidence! I will denounce
you both!"

"Man without brains or hope of life eternal!" exclaimed King in
the vernacular. "I come from Mahommed Babar, who now has four
hundred followers. He cares nothing for mullahs--all for his
friends! He is within a march of here."

The mullah chewed the cud on that a minute, then nodded and got
up to leave the mosque.

"Sit down there!" commanded Ommony, who, however, had no weapon.

The mullah reached into the folds of his clothes for his own
rusty Mauser--hearing a low whistle and, turning, found himself
looking down the barrel of King's little automatic.

"Give me your weapon, and sit down!" ordered Ommony. The mullah
obeyed in both particulars.

"I was scratching myself," he explained. "I wasn't going to
use that."

"Allah's own truth!" agreed Ommony. "It wouldn't have gone off.
Here, take it."

The mullah stored the Mauser away again with an air of drawing
comfort from it nevertheless.

"We've got to do something quick!" said King. He tapped the
mullah's knee with an arresting finger. "It is not too late for
you to put yourself right! We are men worth making friends of,
Ommony and I. Can you bring that officer and his men back here
at once?"

"I don't know where they are," said the mullah impotently.

Ommony gave King a brief account of how they had come, King
interjecting short, quick questions, which Ommony answered in the
same laconic code. Then:

"Every prisoner in Podanaram, including Judge Wilmshurst and his
wife, is going to be tortured and murdered!" King announced.
"Some talk of making it a public exhibition. The majority favors
doing it in secret and showing the bodies afterward from village
to village--commit 'em as accessories--encourage further
outrage--offset the influence of Mahommed Babar, who preaches
decency and enforces it."

"Better get word to him," Ommony suggested.

"I've just come from him. Strange fellow. Had a long talk. Seems
it was we who drove him to rebellion. Yes, you and I, Cot!
'Member when we shot Shere Ali? 'Member how he flinched, or
seemed to? Swears he didn't. Swears he stepped back to tempt the
brute, and had perfect confidence in us. When he saw the look on
our faces he knew he wasn't one of us and never would be! That's
his version of it. Says we thought him a coward, and he didn't
care to argue."

"That kind of talk is always true," said Ommony. "A liar would
have invented something plausible."

"I tried to get him interested in Mr. and Mrs. Wilmshurst; heard
all about them in a temple where this mullah left me. Mahommed
Babar said he was sorry for Mrs. Wilmshurst, hardly interested in
the judge, and busy in any event. True, too. Really is busy.
They're flocking to his standard in scores by the hour. Then
there came a rumor about you and a party of British soldiers
surrounded and cut up in the jungle."

"Mahommed Babar didn't believe a word of it--gave me leave to
live--said he will always consider himself my friend--and hinted
that the interview was over. I came hurrying here to investigate
the rumor about you and soldiers. It's bad, Cot. Rotten. What are
we going to do?"

"I can go to Podanaram," suggested Ommony.

"Worse and worse! They'd kill you out of hand, and impale your
head to prove all hell's loose! No. Think of something else. This
mullah. What about him? He cooked the goose. Can he uncook it?"

Ommony considered the mullah for a moment.

"He has points. He has points," he answered. "I wouldn't trust
him out of my sight."

"D'you know where Mahommed Babar is?" asked King, and the
mullah nodded.

Both King and Ommony considered in silence for several minutes.
Each kept looking at the other. The same idea was dawning in both
minds and the mullah recognized the birth of a force that would
sweep him he knew not whither.

"I have been a friend to both of you--to both of you!" he muttered.

"Do you understand that the murder of those prisoners must be
stopped?" King demanded at last.

The mullah nodded. He would have agreed to almost anything, but
he seemed convinced of that.

"If we promise to report to the authorities that you did so, are
you willing to use your influence to prevent those people from
being tortured and killed?"

"In the name of the Lord of Mercies, yes."

"You realize that Mahommed Babar has forbidden outrage from the
first? Good. As a mullah you have influence with his men? Good.
If you go and argue with his men that this outrage at Padanaram
must be prevented, he cannot accuse you of being in opposition to
him, can he? Better and better. Go and do that. Go with Ommony
sahib. If you do your work cleverly, when Mahommed Babar tells
his men that this crime at Padanaram must be prevented, they will
have been convinced already. They will obey with alacrity. Small
time will be wasted. Will you do that?"

"Better let me go alone," the mullah answered, ever on the alert
for a chance to switch plans undetected. Then suddenly he
recalled an earlier thought that, he must have a witness if his
alibi was to be the least use. "No. No. It is good. I will go
with Ommon-ee."

King shut both fists in a characteristic gesture. "As you suggested;
keep him in sight, Cot. I'm off to Podanaram--now--tonight--no
argument. Arrive as soon after dawn as I can make it. Will you
lend me your pony? Have to take a chance on leopards."

"Take the pony certainly. But what when you get there?" asked Ommony.

"Surrender, of course--tell 'em I'm an Englishman. They'll add me
to the list for auto-da-fe. You tell Mahommed Babar where I am.
Say I sent you. Don't say anything about his father and mine, but
say as regards that tiger incident I'm giving him the benefit of
the doubt."

"You think--"

"I know! Has the pony been fed?"

"He has. And there's a jungli who can get you by the leopards,"
answered Ommony.


_"Tomorrow a Big Victory!"_

Although it lacked two hours of dawn, the roar amid the trees was
like the din of a city. In a clearing, partly natural and partly
new--hewn, the watch-fires threw sparks that would have set
Ommony's heart on fire, but more by luck than arrangement the dry
trees had not caught. There was a glow over the tree-tops, and a
great din where the blacksmith labored, so that from half a mile
away it might have looked like a Titan's forge. Only it would
have been very risky for strangers to come within a mile, because
of the pickets who guarded every negotiable track.

Mahommed Babar had done with indecision. He walked resolutely
from one fire to the next addressing scant words to the men who
cleaned their weapons by the blaze or merely awoke from slumber
to greet him as he went by. No need to listen to what he said.
His attitude--with a great old-fashioned saber slung from his
shoulder by a modern Sam Browne belt; the reception he received;
the air of alert expectancy he left behind him--all were
perfectly eloquent. Nevertheless, the words, being the expression
of the spirit in him, were important.

"Tomorrow a big victory! Obedience, remember--wait for the
word--leave loot to the jackals--be tigers! Be proud! Seek
nothing but to conquer in fair fight--and the rest is sure! You
shall have a victory tomorrow, and then forward to another one!"

As savages will, they turned his words over and over by one fire,
while he strode to the next, where some one would stir the
sleepers and they would all sit up and grunt at him.

"They conquered India by discipline--by obedience to orders--by
fighting fair and not establishing resentment. When they take
prisoners they treat them well, caring for the wounded. Do ye so
likewise. In no other way can ye win freedom."

He had the fiery eye and carriage of a man of action--looked like
a fighting man--and yet refrained from foaming at the mouth and
calling on God to curse whoever disagreed with him. Which, if
they did not analyze, they at least appreciated. He told them at
another fire how he had thrown his all, including life, into the
scale. They might trust him to do his best for them.

"There are others who urge you to outrage now, who will run from
the first sign of disaster. You will find me with you to the end,
whatever that may be!"

By one fire a fellow sneered openly, demanding what hope of
profit had brought him from the North to claim leadership.

"I fight for all India," he answered. "I forbid rape and murder,
and you hate me. But I tell you, it is only by such fighting as I
permit that you can win freedom and set India free!"

The idea of setting India free was a brand-new one to most of
them. If he left an excellent impression, it was much like a
ship's wake that prevails but seldom long. There were men who
followed him surreptitiously from fire to fire, undoing his
words, reversing them, pouring scorn on them, quoting the Koran
in evidence that it is right to murder infidels of all sorts.

"He says that he will be with us to the end, but that is talk.
Watch him! He will leave us in the lurch. Even tomorrow,
possibly. The Khalifate Committee speak ill of him. They say he
is paid by Hindus to protect their property and lives. It is
hinted that he serves the British. If that were so, that might
explain why he insists on treating prisoners so tenderly! Turn
that thought over in your minds, my brothers! Victory tomorrow?
For whom? For himself doubtless!"

He had no other means of thwarting the discontented element than
that he took, constantly moving about and appealing to the spirit
of the others. He had hardly had time to surround himself with a
group of loyalists, hand picked, really to be depended on,
although he had done his best along that line. Over by his tent,
which was a tarpaulin spread over branches, his more or less
inner guard waited for him. When he approached they showed him a
good deal of deference; but that was not in necessarily every
instance more than their way of excusing themselves for accepting
his leadership. To obey him and not appear to respect him would
have been to make themselves ridiculous.

The bonfire in front of a tarpaulin was his G.H.Q. Thither the
runners came, bringing messages from the out-thrown intelligence
units--spies, the enemy called them--scouts, they called
themselves--experts unquestionably. Mahommed Babar sat down on a
log with his saber across his knees, and two runners who had been
waiting for him stood up to tell their story.

"The British work their way along the railway line. They toil by
night, with great oil-burning lamps that roar exceedingly. Where
the bridges are broken they use timber very cunningly. Soldiers
guard the workers with machine guns, and a tee-rain follows fifty
paces at a time as fast as the rails are laid." Another took up
the tale from another angle.

"They push supplies along the mended line--heavily guarded--food
and ammunition for a thousand men perhaps--"

"Perhaps!" agreed Mahommed Babar with a dry nod. "They have no
thousand men. Two hundred men in five days eat as much as a
thousand men in one."

"They come fast, sahib! It is better we oppose them now."

"Let them come!" he answered.

Some of the men around the fire caught one another's eyes at
that. One of them tendered advice;

"But, sahib, if we let them come too far there are others who
will pounce on them and get the loot. We are not the only armed
men in the woods."

"We are the wise men of the woods!" he answered. "Let others
fight them. We will cut their line of communications when
the time comes. They will be obliged to surrender. The more
well-treated prisoners we have, the easier it will be to make
satisfactory terms. What we must do is to defeat, not aggravate."

"Sahib, they say you have a purpose in holding us back."

"I have a purpose."

"They say a private purpose."

"None who believes that need follow me."

There began to be a fairly obvious division of his adherents into
two. Perhaps a third of them believed their own advantage lay in
supporting him as long, at least, as success might seem to attend
his methods. Two-thirds proposed to use him for their own ends,
and, if he would not be used, either to force his hand or else
cast him off.

"We fighting men came to find a leader. You show us words and
dalliance," one man grumbled.

"The woods are already full of loot, but the others have it all.
Where is ours?" said another.

"Listen!" said a third. "There is a Hindu shroff who has fled to
Calicut, but his house lies yonder, half a day's march. Once he
lent me a little money. Three times with the aid of the notes I
signed he took away all I had, and he claims that I still owe him
more than he originally lent me. Lead to that man's village! Let
me see the burning of his whole property! Thereafter you may lead
me where you will!"

Mahommed Babar got to his feet, rested his hands on the saber
in front of him, and met the gaze of every man in turn. The
firelight shone in his eyes, and the most inexpert guesser might
have known that even his Oriental patience was near exhaustion.

"How many times shall I tell you I am no man's agent?" he demanded.
He spoke through his teeth, spitting the words at them. "I lead,
or I do not lead."

"Very well, lead on!" retorted some one from just beyond the zone
of light. "Thus far you have only led on little forays. We will
give you until an hour after dawn to lead us against this big
force that comes along the railway. Defeat that for us--lead us
to all that loot--and we will follow you from here to the sea and
plunder Calicut and give you all the richest gems in the city!"

That was short notice.  The stars were already paling.  A
considerable murmur of applause greeted the last speaker, and
before Mahommed Babar could reply another runner came, announcing
that Moplahs to the north and westward wanted to know at what
hour the attack on the railway repairing party should begin. He
was answered in chorus.

"An hour after dawn! Mahommed Babar will lead us then or sooner!"

Somebody hustled the messenger out of the light-zone and sent him
away on the run to deliver his answer. Other men by the bivouac
fires began passing the word along, and the enthusiasm leaped
from fire to fire until the whole clearing roared the news, and
the men in the outer ring of Mahommed Babar's circle smiled.

Another word began passing from lip to lip among the shadows.
"Now we shall see! He says he will be with us to the end. They
say he will run from real danger. We shall know within an hour
or two."

That was such obviously good leverage that the inner circle
caught it up and used it.

"Now deeds may answer words and all will know that you are not
paid by the enemy to save their lives and property!"

There was nothing indecisive in his answer. He drew his saber
with a jerk of the wrist that made the fine steel thrum.

"It is good!" he answered. "Ye shall have your way! An hour after
dawn I will lead against the British force--and by the holy blood
of martyrs ye shall rub your noses into the worst of it! I will
pistol the man who flinches! Headmen!--jemadars!--join your
parties--inspect weapons--see the men are fed--be ready!"

In a moment he was almost alone by the fire, standing, staring
rather gloomily in front of him, angry because he knew he was
being forced into a mistake, yet seeing no way out of it. True,
he might snatch a victory, but it would be costly and worth
nothing. If he could only hold them back he knew he could
accomplish something worthwhile, at almost no cost in life
at all.

Well, there was nothing else for it; he must establish his
reputation, on which authority must rest. He was turning to eat
the food that a servant brought when another messenger arrived.

"A sahib comes!"

"A sahib? What sahib? You are crazy!"

But the sahib, walking swiftly and followed by a weary mullah,
arrived almost as soon as the messenger.

"Don't shoot, Mahommed Babar!" said the sahib's good-humored
voice. "I'm Ommony."


_"I Am a Rebel."_

The door of the priest's chamber in the temple of Padanaram
opened suddenly and they thrust a man in so violently that he
stumbled and fell over the recumbent body of a soldier who lay
asleep on the stone floor. There were only two cots. One was
occupied by Mrs. Wilmshurst.

"Is this to be another Black Hole of Calcutta?" she complained.

The suggestion was absurd. It was a good, large, airy room for
one thing. The sun was already above the trees outside and
flooded the room through a large window set high in the wall,
through which escape might almost have been possible, for there
was no glass--no bars. Only, one did not know what was outside,
and the judge was neither active nor adventurous. The soldier
acquiesced, dog-weary, and knowing what they knew.

The judge had lent his cot for a few hours to Linkinyear, who sat
up and stared.

"Oh, are we to have natives in here?" asked Mrs. Wilmshurst in
the identical tone of voice that has made most of the trouble
between the East and West.

The man recovered himself, apologized to the soldier, and faced
Mrs. Wilmshurst's cot, on which she lay clothed, languidly
fanning herself.

"Pardon the interruption, but they threw me in here," he explained.

"Oh well--if you couldn't help it, I suppose--"

"I could have helped it all right," he answered.

By that time they were all staring at him--judge, Linkinyear,
three privates of the line, and Mrs. Wilmshurst--puzzled
principally by the excellence of his English.

"Oh--beg pardon! I forgot. My name's King. Traveling incog,
that's all."

"Not Major King--whom I met at Poona?" Mrs. Wilmshurst would have
used her lorgnon if she had had one. "Mr. Ommony's friend? Well,
I never! You look as if you need a bath. Sorry we can't oblige you."

"Well, well!" her husband exclaimed, stepping forward to shake
hands. "At least we're safe then! The famous Athelstan King--"

"Not in the least safe," King interrupted. "Has anybody tried
that window? Backs, please."

Two of Linkinyear's men stood face to the wall, and King climbed
on to their shoulders. One glance through the window was sufficient.

"Not at all safe. Small yard--high wall--jungle. Two men with rifles
on the wall, and probably others on the temple roof. Impracticable."

"What then?" the judge asked. "Why are you here? You say you
could have helped it?"

"Heard you were all here, so came and surrendered to the
Khalifate Committee. They were delighted, of course."

"Goodness gracious! Why didn't you run the other way and bring
some help?" Mrs. Wilmshurst asked indignantly. "If the authorities
knew we were here they'd--"

"No time," King assured her. She was right in her diagnosis. He
was not a lady's man. "We're to be murdered. High noon today.
Bodies disgustingly mutilated, before death or afterward--then
placed on view--excite the Moplahs. Murder will be secret.
Afterward they'll advertise it. Scheme is to persuade Moplahs to
go in for frightfulness wholesale."

"Oh, my God!" said Mrs. Wilmshurst. "What do they kill you
with? Knives?"

"Pardon me, old top, but have you a weapon of any kind?"
asked Linkinyear.

"Sorry. No. Had a pistol, but they searched me rather thoroughly
just now," King answered.

"How do you know that is their intention?" asked the judge.
"Perhaps they were only threatening you on purpose to terrify--"

"Oh no. You see, I didn't tell them who I was at first. They
mistook me for a friend. Told everything. It was after that that
I mentioned my real name and nationality, and of course then
there was nothing to do but kill me or throw me in here. Mean
minutes while they decided that point!"

"But, my dear man--that was quixotic, wasn't it? Outside, and
incognito, there was surely always a chance in a thousand to help
save us, whereas--"

"Whereas inside I've an even chance," King interrupted. "Cot
Ommony has gone for help to a friend of mine, who has influence
and some backing. He can't refuse to rescue me--at least, I hope
not. He won't, if I know him. The risk is he may be overruled by
the men about him. And, of course, he may arrive too late. I'd
say the chance was fifty-fifty."

Mrs. Wilmshurst got up and paced the floor, trying to master
herself. Her husband began to offer sympathy, a little clumsily
but kindly. She shook him off.

"I tell you what," she said suddenly. "We ought to pray. Let's
all pray. Do you hear me?"

They heard, but none responded. She returned to her cot to lie
down and pray by herself.

"What do you say they kill you with? Knives?" she asked. "Oh,
my God!"

King entered into details, in particular about the Khalifate
Committee, whose prisoners they were.

"Moplahs are decent savages. That Committee are devils," he
insisted. "All they're playing for is ructions, north, south,
east, and west. Bag them, and this Moplah business might be over
in a month or two."

"Why discuss that? They've bagged us!" said the judge with
a wry smile.

"Oh, my God! I can't remember any prayers!" said Mrs. Wilmshurst.
"Which of you knows a prayer?"

One of the privates did, and volunteered to prove it. Mrs.
Wilmshurst welcomed him and they knelt against the cot, one on
either side.

"Can't we stage a show of some kind?" wondered Linkinyear. "We
might stand by the door and swat them as they come through--swat
or scrag them. Kill a few before they snaffle us. The hell of it
is they'll get the beldame anyhow. If I'd a gun--"

"Come and listen, Lu!" Mrs. Wilmshurst called to her husband.
"This man prays beautifully! He has made me cry already! Come
here at once!"

The judge went and sat on the end of the cot, listening with a
rather puzzled look. He might have been hearing a witness in a
rare language.

"If Mahommed Babar comes too late," said King, "there's this--perhaps
we couldn't have used our lives to better advantage."

"How so?" demanded Linkinyear. "I'd rather take mine with the
damage I'd done all in full view around me!"

"It might be the last of this Committee," King answered. "The
sight of us all dead may arouse Mahommed Babar to the--"

There came a kick against the door. It opened slightly. There was
a noise of scuffling, and it closed again.

"There! Some one's coming to the rescue! There! That comes of
praying!" exclaimed Mrs. Wilmshurst, getting off her knees. The
door opened wide. A man in a khaki shirt and pants, without much
else on, was hurled in backward and the door slammed shut.

"There? Is that your Mahommed Babar?"

It was Cotswold Ommony, flat on his back. King helped him to
his feet.

"'Lo, Cot!"

"'Lo, Athelstan!"

"Any prospect?"

"None whatever!"

"How did you come so quickly?"

"Borrowed his horse. When I gave him your message he was eating
chupatties, standing in front of his tent. He went on eating.

"'My friend King sahib asks more than he knows,' he answered.
`You speak of the benefit of doubt. Whose doubt?'"

"'Your own,' I said. `He has no doubt of you.'"

"He looked me in the face for about a minute after that. You know
the way he strokes his beard, standing with his legs apart? He
looked pretty much like a man, with an old-fashioned saber he's
dug up from somewhere. I liked him. I hope he realized it."

"'No time to waste,' I said. `This is post-haste or nothing!'"

"'You shall see what you shall see,' he answered, and began
shouting for some of the headmen. They came running.

"'These are some of my most loyal,' he told me, and then began
explaining to them what was wanted.

"You never saw such a riot! They turned on him like wild dogs.
Accused him of treason. Said he had promised to lead 'em against
troops on the railway line, and led they would be or else teach
him what became of traitors! The mullah was down among the men
already, playing his part, but some of the headmen ran and gave
their version, and if it hadn't been for a half-dozen stalwarts
they'd have scoughed Mahommed Babar there and then. Several men
took shots at him. He strode in among them like a man and a
brother. Good to watch."

"It turned their hearts like eggs on a skillet. They shifted the
blame on me--said I'd come there to corrupt him. I became the
target. Nine or ten of them missed me beautifully. He managed to
control them for a moment somehow, and gave me his pony to escape
on. Told me to cut and run back to my bungalow, where I'd be
safe. I came here, of course, hoping my influence might have
weight, but I'm worse than useless. The Committee told me
point-blank they would rather cut my throat than any one's,
because of the effect on the country side. They stripped me of
nearly everything and pitched me in here, but I kicked two of
them in the belly--hard!--before they got my boots!"

"What time is it?" King asked.

"Oh, about half-past ten--quarter to eleven--somewhere there.
They took my watch. Not an earthly chance of Mahommed Babar's
making it, even if he decides to and they let him come."

"Any one know any hymns?" asked Mrs. Wilmshurst. "I can hum
tunes, but who knows the words of a hymn?"

Ommony did. They say in the woods that Ommony knows everything.
He not only could sing hymns, but he could put that peculiar
verve into them that distinguishes faith from mere habit of
say-so. When Ommony hymned you knew somehow that God, Allah,
Jehovah, Elohim, Maheshwara--it, he, they all are one!--was in
heaven, and all was well with the world, at least in principle!
You could believe it as long as he kept on singing, beating time
with hand, foot, shoulders, head--sometimes with all his body.
Captain of unexpectedness, he knew psalms--could sing them, too!

It takes time to roll out those stately meters. It may have been
nearly noon when the door opened and a voice called:

"Come out, one at a time! Mr. Ommon-ee first!"

They half-closed the door again from the outside. It was impossible
to see who waited. They intended to kill quickly, one by one, or
else they were few out there and did not feel confident.

"We'll soon see," said Ommony, and walked out before the others
could raise a hand to prevent him.

"Follow up?" whispered Linkinyear. One of those stage whispers
that can penetrate stone walls and be heard through the talkie-talk
of siege guns. He led; King was next; the others herded Mrs.
Wilmshurst in between them; and they all surged for the door--which,
however, was slammed in their faces.

"When they open again let me go first," said Mrs. Wilmshurst.
"They won't dare offer violence to a woman."

"Ladies last!" King answered over his shoulder.

"Pig! Ill-mannered boor!" she retorted, and they all laughed.
When the door opened again--just a little--very cautiously--they
rushed it in a scrum all together, but failed of their purpose.
Some one on the far side had forestalled them by placing a beam
so that the door could only open wide enough to pass one person
at a time. Linkinyear disappeared through the opening as if
sucked through by a vacuum. The door shut suddenly--opened again
and King felt his neck in a noose. He could not step back to
avoid it because of Mrs. Wilmshurst, who pressed forward from
behind. He was hauled through choking, and the door was once
more slammed.

Young Linkinyear was already stripped to the waist and tied with
his hands behind one of the fluted temple pillars. Three men were
holding and tying Ommony when King was dragged in, and they tied
him next. There were only nine of the enemy.

"The whole of the Khalifate Committee," said Ommony, "and only
nine to our eight! If only we had known!"

One of the three who were tying him struck him on the mouth. The
Committee's smallest, meanest, most self-assertive member nodded
pleasantly at that, examined King's thin rope and struck it a few
times with the edge of his hand to make sure that it bit into the
flesh, and then took charge of proceedings, giving orders without
any suggestion of sharing authority with others. He was the whole
raise--the works--the brains--the up-to-date Napoleon.

"Now there are only four men and a woman in there. Draw your
pistols. Stand by the door. Open it wide. Let them come through.
If the soldiers make any resistance, shoot them, for they don't
matter much."

The first man through was one of the three privates. He charged
in with his fists clenched, ready to do battle with the universe.
But a Hindu tripped him as he went by. Another noosed him as he
lay prone, and dragged him, strangling, to one of the pillars,
where he had no difficulty in tying him single-handed--passing
the rope around the pillar and kicking his victim until he stood
upright--then choking him helpless with one hand while he roped
the man's arms with the other.

The second soldier through was knocked more or less unconscious
by a pistol-butt, so that he, too, was easily tied in place by
one man. The third soldier pulled judge Wilmshurst and his wife
back into the room.

"Come on in, ye devils, and fight like men if ye can!" he
challenged, striking his Lancashire fighting attitude, which
holds feet as well as hands ready.

Instead of going in they sent a bullet. He fell forward, and his
brains spread in a way that made Mrs. Wilmshurst scream. But that
was the last exhibition she made of any kind of weakness. The
judge took his wife by the hand, kissed her, and they walked
through together. Once through the door they were seized, dragged
apart, and tied like the others, the judge at one end and his
wife at the other next to Linkinyear. Linkinyear, with a rope
cutting into his wrists, called on all that was left of his lone
command to act like men, and they responded by telling Mrs.
Wilmshurst to "Cheer up, ma'am, and not be down-'earted!" Whereat
she laughed and called them darlings. Her own wrists were in
agony, but she said nothing about that.

There were twenty pillars supporting a dome. Six more were
missing--had been knocked out and carried off by Moslems--and it
was a marvel that the dome had not collapsed. The gap thus caused
faced the temple door, which, nevertheless, was only dimly
discernible in the gloom. The prisoners had been tied to the
pillars directly facing the gap, so that when the door opened the
light shone directly in their faces. On the right also, only
dimly discernible beyond the pillars, was a blank wall with a
huge image at either end and a long stone bench between the two.
Eight of the Committee went and sat on that bench, while a ninth
opened the door to look out on the temple portico.

A vicious-looking rascal stood out there with his back to the
door, but turned and saluted.

"Remember," warned the Committee-man, "if anybody comes, rap
loudly and give us ample warning!"

He spoke Hindustanee, the lingua franca. They all did. Among nine
Committee-men there were five races and three creeds, and they
could not have understood each other or their servants in any
other tongue.

"All is well," said the ninth, joining the others on the
stone bench.

The Moplah chairman no longer sat in the midst but at the far
end. The place of importance was occupied by Aurung Ali, the
little, self-important man. He was the only one who looked quite
comfortable, lolling back against the wall with his hands folded
in his lap contentedly.

"Well, your honor judge Wilmshurst," he began sarcastically,
"I believe the pleasure of recognition is mutual, eh? I recall
you were in no hurry when you sentenced me to twenty years'
imprisonment. I will be equally patient and provoking! We are
all going to enjoy ourselves thoroughly in secret session. Isn't
it nice!"

He said that in English; then to the Committee in Hindustanee:

"Now you understand. The evidence of torture cannot be applied to
a body successfully after death. It must be done, painstakingly,
while they are living. I will not have them killed too soon.
There must be proof, positive and convincing, that they were
done to death miserably. This is an opportunity of a lifetime
to inaugurate a reign of reprisal and counter-reprisal that will
last until India is aflame from end to end! Now, who has a pistol?"

They all had. They produced them, thinking he wished that. He
cackled meaningly.

"There you are! You produce them much too readily! You will use
them too readily!"

"I say, shoot them first!" said a rather fat man, shifting his
legs nervously. "Only Moplahs will see the bodies afterward.
They have no professional coroners. We can say they were
tortured, and they will believe it. I am against this business
of torturing."

"You mean, I suppose, that your brain has become as fat and
flabby as your stomach! Idiot! We must take great care that
the bodies fall into British hands! What would be the use of
inflaming the passion of one side, without a corresponding hatred
on the other?"

"We can easily make marks on them with a hot iron directly after
death--almost the same second. None would ever know the
difference," the other objected.

"No! Look here, you're going to spoil everything! Lay down your
pistols, all of you! Lay them on the bench! Look--see--there is
mine! To hear you talk you might be a lot of Gandhis preaching
non-violence! Now, no backing out of this! We were all agreed.
You must all commit yourselves. Each of you must lend a hand and
torture somebody. Take your knives, and somebody bring the hot
coal. Leave Mrs. Wilmshurst to me--I am sure the judge would
rather have it that way!"

They obeyed him, laying their pistols on the bench, and in proof
that it was fear and not compunction that had made him flinch it
was the fat man who went at once to drag a glowing charcoal
brazier out from behind one of the stone images. The remainder
chose their victims with a businesslike air, Aurung Ali bowing
sarcastically to Mrs. Wilmshurst.

"I want you to watch this, judge!" he said pleasantly, moving
toward the brazier to choose an iron.

Not one of the prisoners said a word. Each stared at the devil in
front of him. Each devil fingered a long knife, hesitating even
yet to begin the abominable business.

"Now watch!" said Aurung Ali, whirling a hot iron.

But his movement was arrested by a quiet tap on the temple door
from outside. Every member of the Committee turned and faced the
door as if Nemesis had already entered.

"Go on, go on!" exclaimed Aurung Ali. "That is nothing. I ordered
him to knock loud for danger. This is some minor matter. I will
go and see."

He walked to the door, after thrusting the iron back in the fire
to keep it hot, and drew the bolt back gingerly. The instant the
edge of the bolt was clear the door was burst in violently, and
the dead body of the man who had been left on guard was flung in
like a sack, knocking Aurung Ali backward half-way across the
temple floor. The blazing light of full noon shone in like a
sunburst, and in the midst of that stood Mahommed Babar, with the
mullah, haggard and red-eyed, behind him. Mahommed Babar held a
pistol in each hand. There was nothing to be gained by moving.
He stood there, summing up the situation, for about thirty
seconds--then spoke to the mullah without turning his head. The
mullah went to the stone bench and gathered all the pistols off
it into his lap.

"This comes of hymns and praying!" announced Mrs. Wilmshurst. The
soldier who had prayed with her was dead, but that thought did
not occur until afterward.

"If you would kindly cut our thongs, Mahommed Babar," said King,
"we could--"

But he left the mullah to do that. Without answering King, he
spoke again over his shoulder, and some one closed the temple
door behind him. In the sudden change from light to gloom it was
difficult to see, but none could mistake the sound of the saber
licking from its scabbard, or the thrum as he wristed it to
the attack.

It was then that Aurung Ali went mad and charged Mahommed Babar
with a hot iron, upsetting all the charcoal on his way and
screaming in the last frenzy of fear. There was a sudden swish
and thud, and Aurung Ali's head rolled to Ommony's feet, where it
lay mouthing at him.

Then panic seized the rest, and they pursued the mullah from
shadow to shadow, from pillar to pillar, from corner to door. The
mullah shook the pistol chambers empty as he ran and then threw
away the weapons. They fought for the empty weapons, and screamed
as they found them useless--rushing, swearing, imprecating,
screaming--like rats in a pit with a terrier after them.
And in among them--swift--unhurrying--certain as the act
of destiny--Mahommed Babar's saber licked--and hacked--and
thrust--until the last Committee-man backed away screaming in
front of him and clung to Mrs. Wilmshurst for protection.

"You needn't kill him to oblige me," she said. "Is he worth killing?"

Mahommed Babar hesitated--stepped a pace back--and seemed to go
off guard. The frenzy of cowardice gripped the other, and he
lunged with his long knife, missing Mahommed Babar by an inch. A
thwack--a thud and his head rolled to lie gaping near Aurung Ali's.

The mullah was struggling to cut thongs, making poor progress.
Mahommed Babar shouted and the temple door was swung wide open.
Twenty or thirty men peered in, crowding to see but not crossing
the threshold. Mahommed Babar walked behind the prisoners and
severed all thongs with his saber. King held his hand out.
Mahommed Babar shook it, very stately and gently, perhaps because
of the injured wrist.

"We're all awfully obliged," said King.

"I say--we're simply frightfully grateful!" said Mrs. Wilmshurst.

"You're a man and a brother, Mahommed Babar," put in Ommony.

"Won't some one introduce us?" asked the judge.

"Of course, you'll come with us, old man?" King asked, taking
Mahommed Babar's arm.

Linkinyear led his two privates to bring their dead comrade's
body from the inner room.

"No, sahib. I have my work to do. I am a rebel. Here are fifty
men who have put the Committee's men to flight. They will
escort you to the British lines. Please give them safe conduct
back again."

"Ommony and I--this that you have done here--we can save you from
a rebel's fate--" King began.

"Sahib, you and I are friends," he interrupted. "Forgive me,
then, for my father's sake and yours. I am a rebel. I will be a
rebel until the end."

He bowed to Mrs. Wilmshurst, then toward the open door, then to
the judge, and kicked two gaping heads out of the way. "You have
my leave to go," he said, and stood waiting, only shaking hands
with King and Ommony as they went by.



_"There isn't a King, Crowd, or Parliament that Could Make Me the
Enemy of a Man Whom I Approve."_

Cotswold Ommony sat in what he called his "seat of custom,"
underneath the sambur antlers, between the front door and the
window of the library, on his veranda that overlooked an acre or
two of clearing on the outer, penetrable fringe of the forest.

A crowd of mixed Moplahs with a few veiled women among them
squatted on the brown earth that was lawn for two or three months
of the year. Man after man emerged into the clearing and added
himself to the crowd.

All eyes were one way. They all watched Ommony's face--even the
dogs, between the intervals of announcing newcomers--as if
dreadful matters rested in the scales of his decision.

Beside him on a mat there squatted an almost naked individual who
knew but one business, and who feared that such gods that he had
heard of might envy his good fortune unless he also wore the
tiger's eye-tooth around his neck. He cleaned a rifle more
scrupulously than any mere military weapon was ever cleaned.
Ommony watched that. He said something to the rifle's valet, who
rose and held the barrel so that Ommony could squint along it.

"Son of Neglectfulness, it calls for three more drops of oil, and
much perseverance!"

"Father of Eyes, it does!" agreed the naked man, without so much
as looking to confirm the observation or dispute it.

The dogs announced the arrival of several more foot-weary men and
women, who seemed--at any rate the men--to have improvised a
wardrobe from somebody's rag-pile. Ommony hardly glanced at them,
but chose a cigar from a leather case that held half a dozen, and
some one below in the crowd accepted that as a sign.

"We are all here, Ommon-ee."

"So I see. The dogs know you are murderers, thieves, destroyers.
They grow!"

"That is true, Ommon-ee. That is why we are here. We wish you to
do something about it."

The speaker was a tall, lean, long-haired man with eyes like a
bird's, who rose from the front rank of the squatting visitors as
meek as a Jew on Sinai, all simple lines of ragged drapery from
head to heel; with a nose like a vulture's beak and a neck that
carried the head manfully for all the forward bend of deference.

"Because you did not burn my house or steal my goods am I
beholden to you?" Ommony demanded, obviously enjoying his cigar.

"Nay, Ommon-ee. We did not burn or take away because you were our
friend. That has nothing to do with this. Only we have escaped
the cordon of troops, burying our weapons in the jungle, and you
are the only friend we know of."

"You have to make peace with your enemies, not me," he retorted.

"Oh, Ommon-ee! You jest, but we are men between the upper and the
lower millstone, who laugh lamely. We made rebellion, and we
lost, as Allah knows. We seek comfort, not mockery."

"What have you made in the form of overtures?" asked Ommony.

"What could we do? Those who surrendered when the Raj made
proclamation will escape death. Not so with us."

"How then? Did Allah breathe a special destiny into your bodies?"

"That must be. He is omnipotent and can do as He pleases. We are
the last, who stayed with Mahommed Babar, whom the British
proclaimed a traitor, threatening death to all who should give
him aid, counsel, or encouragement. They offered a reward for
Mahommed Babar, dead or alive. We be poor men, yet we did not
seek that reward. Nevertheless, when the end came we proposed to
deliver him to the British as the price of our own lives."


"When we sought him, he was gone!"

The comforting thing about Ommony was that he always sat still.
When in doubt or puzzled he did not get up and pace the veranda
restlessly. You could look at him in one place, and feel him look
at you, and know that whatever the outcome Ommony would do his
best because he was neither nervous, in a hurry, nor afraid.

"Mahommed Babar was my friend," he said at last, blowing the ash
off his cigar away over the veranda rail. "If you would surrender
my friend, why should I seek to save you?"

The speaker for the Moplahs dropped his jaw for about a second,
as if he had just seen the answer to a hard conundrum; and
instead of answering he sat down swiftly with his back toward
Ommony, beckoning the nearest men to gather close. To them he
explained the situation as it now appeared to him; they nodding,
grunting, whispering--and presently hurrying outward to explain
it to the others in intensely interested groups. They acted as if
there were a screen that prevented Ommony from seeing them. It
was ten minutes before the diplomatic interlude was over and the
spokesman rose to his feet again.

"Oh, Ommon-ee, what if we spare Mahommed Babar? What if we will
not inform against him? Will you help us then?"

He answered promptly.

"He was your leader, or he was not. He led you bravely, or he did
not. He would have been a fool to leave himself in your hands at
the end, or he would not. Judge for yourselves, then tell me
the answer."

The Moplah chief sat down again. The conference was resumed. In
three or four directions one handkerchief could have covered a
dozen heads. It was like one of those games that children play,
whispering until somebody shouts "ready."

They reached emphatic, gesticulating unanimity.

"Oh, Ommon-ee, we are agreed. In the name of Allah, who is Lord
of Truth, as we be men, we will not betray Mahommed Babar."

"I see there are women among you," answered Ommony, wise in the
evasions of the East.

"We answer for our women. They shall not speak."

Ommony seemed unimpressed, went on smoking and said nothing.
Whatever his visitors' purpose they appeared to have failed in
it. They conferred again, blundering only into deeper mazes of
incomprehension, growing angry with the spokesman. Hissing abuse
at him for not establishing their case, until at last he cursed
them and got to his feet with both hands clenched and a look of
forlorn hope.

"Oh, Ommon-ee, we are not liars. We will not injure Mahommed
Babar. We seek only help for ourselves."

Ommony saw fit to hint at what was lacking.

"A man was drowning," he said gruffly. "Those on the bank said,
'Lo, you were a good friend; we will not throw stones at you!'"

The spokesman saw the point. The final whispered interlude lasted
about two minutes. Then:

"Oh, Ommon-ee, we are agreed. As Allah is our witness, Mahommed
Babar led us to defeat, but he led well. In the end he knew of
our intention to deliver him to the British, and because of that
he left us. We will not betray him. We will help him while we
live, as Allah sends the opportunity."

Ommony nodded. Everybody nodded. The atmosphere changed almost as
when the button is pressed that starts a big electric fan.

"There are those whose orders I obey. I might be told to ask you
questions about Mahommed Babar," said Ommony.

"Oh, Ommon-ee, we would not answer you." He nodded again. So did
they all.

"It is a pleasure to help brave men," he said.

"We be brave men, Ommon-ee. Are we not the last who held out?"

"You are outlaws," he said. "What is your answer to that?"

"We are rebels, but we are defeated. We surrender."

"They will say you have aided and abetted treason, helping the
traitor Mahommed Babar. What will you answer?"

"Nothing. There is no answer. We beg you to help us, Ommon-ee.
Accept our surrender and--"

"I have no authority for that," he answered. "But you can
help us?"

"I will write a letter. Surrender yourselves and deliver the
letter to the nearest British post. I don't know yet what I can
do, but I will do my best. My servants will give you food. I will
come and see you where they keep the prisoners. You have my leave
to go."

They trooped away to the back of the house, where Ommony's Hindu
steward measured to them short weight of what meager fare the
store contained, taking a receipt for overweight. Ommony sat
still, smoking, frowning--watched the dogs as they watched the
Moplahs trail away wearily, eyed and initialed the steward's
store-book, sent the steward away, whistled the dogs to lie down
near his chair--and continued to sit still; even though birds'
voices and the setting sun told him it was time for certain
routine duties. Unbidden, the jungli leaned the clean rifle
against the wall and vanished.

Suddenly all three dogs rose upright with their ears alert. But
they did not bark, and Ommony did not move. Diana, the Irish
wolf-hound, laid her chin on his knee and thumped the floor
slowly with a tail that never makes mistakes. The sun dipped
under the topmost trees. The voices of all the servants arguing
rose from the kitchen at the rear of the house. A man's footstep
creaked. The fox-terrier's sawed-off tail made a shuffling
sound wigwagging on the floor, and Ommony spoke without moving
his head.

"Go into the library, Mahommed Babar."

He gave the man plenty of time, and then followed him in, after
a very careful survey of the deepening gloom, which he sent
the three dogs scouting to confirm. He obviously cared to have
no witnesses.

"Sorry to keep you waiting. Pardon me if I lock the door."

Mahommed Babar looked startled and then checked himself. Ommony
understood--left the key in the lock and deliberately turned his
back on it, walking across the room to light the lamp. If it is
bad manners to scare your guest, it is worse to appear to know
that he is scared.

They stood on either side of a small teak table and looked in
each other's eyes. The other was a very tired man, but still
resolute. He wore a saber of the 'fifties slung from his shoulder
by a Sam Browne belt, and a khaki uniform that was patched in a
dozen places and half-concealed by a cape that once hung from
German shoulders--possibly in the first rush into Belgium, for it
was old enough. His turban was torn, and folded carefully to hide
the tears. He had no boots, but sandals, with puttees over them.

"Before you go, Mahommed Babar, go into my bedroom and take
anything you need," said Ommony. "You understand, anything!
There's money in the dressing-table drawer."

"Perhaps I will not go at all, sahib. I came to discuss that."

"Sit down then. Are you hungry?"


"It's not safe to ask the servants--I'll get what I can myself."

Ommony went into the dining-room, returning with a tin of
biscuits, water, butter and some cheese, locking the door again
behind him.


"These Moplahs, sahib--the handful who rebelled with me until the
end. They were so discouraged finally that they decided to hand
me over as the price of their own pardon. You know there is a
price on my head?"

"Yes, I know that."

"Pardon me if I eat and talk at once, sahib. The time is short.
These Moplahs were in rebellion before I came, but I became
their leader."

"Led like a soldier and prevented outrages!"

"Yes, sahib, that too was my doing. The British have called me a
traitor, because I was once in their army, and have condemned me
to death unheard. Nevertheless, if it had not been for me there
would have been ten times as much outrage as there has been. I
will die a rebel! I deny the right of any foreign government to
outlaw me. But I will bargain. The British may have me, and hang
me if they like, against their guarantee to pardon that last
handful of mine. It is about that I came--to ask you, sahib,
to intercede for them, and to conduct negotiations in case I
must surrender."

"It is less than an hour since I promised to intercede for them
in any way I can," said Ommony. "They won't betray you."

"But the British will punish them unless they betray me,"
Mahommed Babar objected.

"How can they betray you?" Ommony answered. "There is all this
forest. Take what you need when my back is turned, and work your
way northward over the border into the mountains--"

Ommony checked himself. He could see he was wasting words,
suggesting the impossible.

"They could betray me," said Mahommed Babar simply. The men
who ask fewest questitons find out most. Ommony asked none,
understanding that his guest would have made no such statement
unless the facts were damning and indisputable.

"Your last handful have promised to help you when Allah provides
the opportunity," he commented, and Mahommed Babar smiled in the
way a man does who has listened to large promises before. He did
not look cynical, nor yet credulous.

"Well, sahib, to be hanged is disagreeable, and life imprisonment
would be a thousand times worse than death. The question is, can
you keep me informed of developments without getting your good
self in trouble?"

Ommony nodded.

"There is a reward of ten thousand rupees for my head, sahib. I
am proclaimed a traitor. They might do things to you, if--"

The two men's eyes met over the smoky lamp.

"There isn't a king, crowd, or parliament that could make me the
enemy of a man whom I approve," said Ommony.

"Strategically you're a pawn against the whole back row. But
you're brave, Mahommed Babar, and--"

"Sahib--Ommony sahib--I wish you would think twice. I want you
not to feel you owe me anything because I saved your life on
one occasion--"

"Tchutt!" Ommony interrupted scornfully with snapping fingers.
"It was your plain duty. If I thought you held that over me, I
would kick you out of the house. Now--what is there exactly that
I can do? If I hold too much communication with you they'll have
me watched and trap you easily."

"Sahib, there is a high pole by the chicken-run, on which your
honor hoists foolishness to frighten hawks. If an old boot should
hang there I would put the leagues between us. If two boots
I would make great haste. But if I should see an old cane
chair-seat swinging in the wind I would understand that I may
rest. And I would come if I should see a cooking-pot."

"All right," said Ommony.

"And letters, sahib--I shall need to mail them."

Ommony shook his head. "You may take pens, ink, paper,
postage-stamps, whenever I'm not looking. I'll deliver any letter
from you to the Government. But--"

"I understand, sahib. I will find a way."

There came a knock at the door.

"The butler," said Ommony. "Dinner. I must dress. Now, you know
my house--where everything is--money, medicine, clothes, boots,
writing-paper. Bear in mind that I'll be useless to you from
the moment I'm suspected of befriending you. Go out by the
window. There'll be a bag of things to eat on the veranda every
night--take it or leave it. Good night, and good luck to you,
Mahommed Babar!"

Ommony opened the door. Dinner was not ready after all. It was
the steward, not the butler, who had knocked and gone away again.


_"How is Ommony Exempt?"_

All wars, all rebellions end the same way, with civilians and
soldiers at loggerheads. The Moplahs had "come in," thanks to
courage and good strategy as the soldiers believed, owing to
force of circumstances as a committee of civilians insisted. But,
as the Moplahs themselves explained it, because they had had
enough. Either way it left plenty to argue about.

There was the usual division between men who advised drasticism--dubbed
"Dotheboys," to their enormous indignation; others who believed in
reconciliation--known as Sister Susies; and a third party mixed of
civilians and military who were for moderation on the whole, with
incidental and severe exceptions. They were known as the one-two-three
brigade, because they talked a lot of nonsense about concrete and
the way to lay foundations of enduring amity.

But all were agreed on one point, even if they reached agreement
by a dozen different ways.

"The king-pin's missing. We'll soon have the work to do all over
again unless we get Mahommed Babar!"

But none knew how to get him.

There was a council held in a great marquee pitched on a hill
near the compounds where the prisoners loafed in tents and ate
three meals a day. The British never let prisoners starve,
although they send them to places like the Andamans and break
their hearts. Opposing arguments were led by a Fellow of Oxford
University, who contended that if the reward were increased some
one would probably poison Mahommed Babar sooner or later; a
financial genius, who was for equipping selected Moplah prisoners
with firearms and forgiving them on condition they should hunt
Mahommed Babar down--thus saving ten thousand rupees; and a
soldier, who proposed the scandalous notion that Mahommed Babar
should be treated honorably.

"Offer him personal indemnity if he will come in surrender
and behave!"

The soldier's name was Tregurtha. He himself had been treated
honorably on occasion, for he wore the V.C. ribbon. Nevertheless,
the proposal was howled, sniffed, laughed at, snorted at, but
found a seconder and reached the dignity of a debate. No matter
what the legal members said about the impropriety of overlooking
treason, three soldiers and several civilians kept harking back
to the theory of treating a brave man bravely as a remedy for

"Some of you talk as if you would have poisoned Botha and Smuts!"

"Piffle! Mahommed Babar is a foreigner--Peshawar way--what
business has he in the South? Besides, he was in the army. So was
his father. He's a traitor--ate our salt--that puts him beyond
the pale, you know."

"What price George Washington and Lafayette?"

"D'you want to put him in their class?"

"Certainly! Why not!"

"Oh, let's talk sense. He's just a dacoit with more brains than
usual. Any other Government in the world would run him to earth
and hang him."

"Treason, gentlemen, is treason. Always recognized as a crime in
a class by itself. It is treason to compound treason--to overlook
it--or to permit it to exist unchallenged. The nation that
tolerates treason commits suicide."

"Cromwell, George Washington, de Valera--"

"Order! Order!"

The leader of the drastic "Dotheboys" made up his mind to spike
the milk-and-water party's guns once and for all by making
them absurd.

"Suppose we concede the absurd principle of compounding treason,
admitting forever our weakness and all that kind of thing--which
I don't, mind you, for a minute. How are we to get in touch with
this renegade? An outlaw--a runaway at large in an enormous
forest--who is to tell him he may come in and be kissed on both
cheeks? Perhaps some bright genius--ha--ha!"

"Easier than you think," retorted a man with a monocle. "The lot
who stuck with Mahommed Babar to the end came in day before
yesterday. I examined 'em. I asked 'em where Mahommed Babar is,
and they said they'd promised Ommony they wouldn't tell."

"Say that again, will you!" (From the chair.)

"Promised Ommony they wouldn't tell. Said he's Ommony's friend
and that Ommony insisted on it. Get that? He insisted. All said
the same thing. They brought along a letter from Ommony, in which
he volunteered himself as their next friend. I'll bet anybody one
month's pay that Cotswold Ommony can get word to Mahommed Babar
within the day. Who'll take me?"

That brought up for discussion Ommony's merits and demerits,
which are an inexhaustible subject. Some men began telling
anecdotes and had to be brought to order; several others agreed
that it was just like Ommony's impudence to interfere; and there
was one man, Parkinson Macaulay, who bided his moment skillfully
and brought on climax.

"Can anybody tell me under what dispensation Mr. Ommony has
dealings with traitors?" he asked.

The question was put in a penetrating voice that brought silence
more swiftly than the chairman's gavel. Eyes met over the table.
Most men present knew Macaulay and his reputation. Some had felt
his steel, and had official wounds that rankled. None liked him.

"Harboring your country's enemies, holding communication with the
enemy, trafficking with the enemy--treason! How is Ommony exempt?
I ask for information."

At the end of a considerable silence a man who hated Macaulay
more bitterly than most spoke up for Ommony. But as everybody
understood his motive none cared to be associated with that
effort and the defense fell flat. Macaulay resumed the offensive:

"I suggest that Mr. Ommony should be asked to come here and
explain," he said acidly; and everybody knew what that meant. He
had once tried a tilt with Ommony and met defeat. He would like
exceedingly to have him at his mercy answering questions for an
hour or two.

Colonel John Tregurtha laid his hands palm-downward on the table,
leaned his weight on them, and spoke in a voice like a woman's.
But for the fact that he wore the V.C. ribbon along with a dozen
more you might have supposed he was afraid.

"This committee will not lend itself to the pursuit of private
quarrels as long as I'm on it," he announced. "If Mr. Macaulay
wishes to see Cotswold Ommony charged with treason or anything
else, let him prove reasonable suspicion first--and in the proper
place--or else charge him over his own signature."

The only man in the marquee who had no remarks to make or
opinions to offer was the officer directing the Intelligence.
After one casual reference to the fact that there ought to be a
bar with assorted drinks provided, which was frowned on by the
chair as irreverent, Colonel Arthur Prothero subsided into a
condition of perspiring coma, from which he appeared to awake
once or twice to make notes on the backs of envelopes.

He looked less intelligent than anybody in the room--even than
himself; for from behind, although massive, he appeared alert and
the back of his head was shaped like a thinker's. But he had
small, protruding, lobster's eyes, a drooping mustache, whose
ends came nearly to his chin; a low, creased forehead, and a
cave-man way of stooping forward, as if he were always a little
the worse for alcohol.

It was a case of almost perfect natural camouflage. His own
contention--printed in brochure CXaaF21 and filed in the Royal
Society's archives as well as in the Intelligence Department
records--is that the appearance of cleverness is really stupidity's
mask. Real brains, he says, need no advertisement and therefore
Nature goes to no pains to develop a brainy type. A look of
stupidity, says he, is the safest mask for brains to work
behind; therefore beware of the stupid-looking man. And just as a
hermit crab covers itself with odds and ends, and a leopard has
brilliant coloring to disguise its craftiness, the really stupid
fellow is sure to look handsomely intellectual.

That, he goes on to explain, is how all countries are so
abominably governed. The crowd that used formerly to support the
knight in the handsomest suit of armor with the gaudiest crest
and plumes nowadays votes for the man who looks brainy, who
invariably has no brains worth mentioning, and it ignores the
owners of carefully camouflaged intelligence, who are clever
enough to keep in the background and enjoy life instead of being
public slaves.

He cites himself as an instance. His photograph is on the flyleaf
of the brochure, side by side with drawings of the heads of a
dozen notoriously stupid, intellectual-looking statesmen, who
have been dead long enough for the depths of their folly to be
understood. In contradistinction to them he cites himself as
having avoided matrimony, as having a profession that keeps him
out of the public eye; as being a man without a master to the
extent that that is humanly possible. For almost nobody can
give him orders, and he is in position to wreck the career of
anyone--and is being paid by the public without the public having
a word to say as to his activities. Not even the police may
interfere with him. Yet, as he confesses with naive amusement, he
resembles from in front a caricature of a drunken satyr, and in
profile so that the warts show on his left cheek--the average
man's notion of what a Prussian sergeant-major ought to look like.

As he remarks at the end of chapter one of the brochure: If he
had not brains in more than usual degree, how should he have
attained to such a height in his profession, be without a home or
other dull encumbrances, possess ample private means accumulated
through the Stock Exchange, and keep the finest cook in India?

He was much too clever to remain in that committee marquee, where
he knew his advice would not be listened to, but, if given, might
be held against him subsequently.

He stayed long enough to get his name down on the minutes--so as
to be able to share the credit or repudiate the whole thing as he
might subsequently see fit. Contrived to offend the right people,
which is always profitable, picked the kernel out of the nut, as
it were, and had himself called forth by an underling, in the
same way that doctors have themselves summoned away from
assemblages that bore them.

Outside, with one button of his tunic unfastened to make room for
curry and rice in which his cook that morning had excelled
himself, Colonel Prothero interviewed Major Bean and Captain
Tilley, whom he had thoughtfully trained to do most of the work
and take all of the blame for anything that went wrong.

"Something has turned up that may be important," he explained. "I
shall be gone some time. Perhaps a day or two. You fellows carry
on. Nothing'll come of this cackle in the tent. When they've
talked 'emselves dry they'll agree on some idiotic scheme. All
you need do is flatter Macaulay and just carry on as usual. I'll
need Lal Rai."

Lal Rai was human--although some doubted it--was meticulously
clean as to his person, and as to his raiment, such as it
happened to be at the moment, most abominably unclean. Lacked
certain fingers, some toes, most of his teeth, a portion
of his nose and upper lip, one eye, but none of his born
impertinence--and reminded the casual observer more of a stray
terrier than of any other living thing. It was not that he looked
like a terrier, for he did not. Presumably he thought like one.
At any rate, the impression contrived to be conveyed to the
observer's mind. Born in Calcutta slums, he had traveled, and in
the end united all the tongues he had tried to learn into a sort
of shorthand pidgin-English of his own invention.

He stood in front of Colonel Prothero without self-abasement,
listened without reverence to instructions tersely conveyed in
Bengali, nodded, neglected to salute. Put away in the fold of his
turban an order scribbled by the colonel, and presently departed
up the railway on a hand-car shoved by half a dozen coolies, who
looked like bronze statues of Krishna but had not sense enough
between them to avoid working hard for a lazy man.

Lal Rai came in due course to the station to Ommony's forest
home. Left his coolies there unfed to bivouac against the
up-turned hand-car; and just as evening fell set forth along the
track to Ommony's bungalow, where he arrived about the time when
Ommony sat down to dinner; and, cautiously avoiding the front of
the house and the neighborhood of dogs, presented himself at the
servants' quarters.

As he looked almost supernaturally stupid just then they were at
no pains to investigate him, but let him cool his heels in the
porch outside the kitchen door, where, from behind the mask of
unintelligence, he saw and summed up everything that could be
seen and calculated.

The ultimate result of that was that he paid no further attention
to the kitchen staff, but betook himself to the door of the
steward's one-room hut, where the steward presently stumbled over
him and only ceased from cursing to discover that it might be
wise to listen for a while instead. Lal Rai had a way with him
when minded, and a terse habit of expression picked up from
department officers. They went into the steward's hut, where Lal
Rai ate enormously and the steward weighed pros and cons.

The pros had it. Until midnight Lal Rai listened to accounts of
happenings and speeches in meticulously tiny detail repeated
again and again. Even what a man did with his fingers while he
spoke was told and made a note of. And at midnight Lal Rai went
away, finding his way by moonlight to the station, where he slept
on the one seat on the platform until dawn.


_"Foolishness to Frighten Hawks"_

Colonel Arthur Prothero arrived shortly after dawn in a special
car attached to a dawdling freight train. The car was shunted
into the only siding, and he remained in it until his cook had
prepared one of those breakfasts that make all earth look cream
and rose-color, and every task worth while. Then, for the sake of
digestion, he started on foot for Ommony's bungalow rather than
send and ask for a conveyance.

It was not his purpose to catch Ommony unawares. He never did
that kind of thing. There was no need. Lal Rai, getting off the
one seat on the station platform, followed him like a dog at heel
unbidden, and defiled the dewy morn with reminiscences, in which
the names of Ommony and Mahommed Babar occurred repeatedly.
Prothero made no comment, absolutely none. He strode along with
hands behind him and might not have been listening; but he knew
as much of that subject as Lal Rai did by the time he reached the
clearing and discovered Ommony descending from the veranda with a
gun under his arm.

He walked straight up to Ommony, of course, threw his overcoat to
Lal Rai, which sufficiently explained that individual’s presence,
and shook hands. Ommony, who knew him, asked no questions, which
threw the burden of conversation on the colonel.

"Nice little place you have here."

Ommony knew that. Said nothing. Waited.

"Have I interrupted? You were off somewhere?"

"Merely a round of inspection."

"Good. I'll walk with you. Nice little place you have here," he
repeated. "Quiet. Lots of solitude. Time to think, eh? Hello!
Chickens, eh? Imported?"

"Just a notion to cross-breed English poultry with jungle-fowl,"
said Ommony, warming instantly.

He proceeded to explain all about jungle-fowl and their presumed
descendants to Prothero, who only cared for any of them in a pot
presided over by Louis Manoel, the finest cook in India. However,
he followed Ommony about, asking questions as fast as he could
think of them.

"And this? What's this?" he asked.
"Totem--fetish--prayer-pole--village priest been making you do
pooja to the local god?"

He laid his hand on a fifty-foot pole, like a flagstaff, from the
top of which an old cane chair-seat fluttered and dived in the
morning wind.

"Just a scheme to keep hawks and crows away," said Ommony. "I
can't sit here and pot them all day long. Novelty is the secret.
They get used to one scare, so I change it frequently. Here goes."

He put two fingers to his teeth and whistled. A servant came
running, and he sent him in search of a pair of old boots.
Meanwhile, he hauled down the chair-seat under Prothero's
unsuspicious-looking eyes.

In point of fact Prothero was not suspicious. He did not have to
be. There was Lal Rai, only fifty paces off, who suspected

Ommony bent the boots on to the line and hauled them up, where
they swung one above the other kicking seven-league style.

"That should be a sufficient hint to bird, beast, or man, to
clear out!" grinned Prothero. "What's that old kettle doing?
Physic for the hens?"

"Goes aloft, too, on occasion."

Prothero's lobster-eyes went through a gyration that Lal Rai
noticed. He gave no answering sign, but his one eye rested on the
kettle for a moment, whereat Prothero looked away.

Ommony whistled the dogs, which had been undergoing torture in
the form of grooming in the stables. They came like the Gadarene
swine with a rush, and had to be sternly forbidden to attack
either Prothero or Lal Rai. Dogs detect the atmosphere of enmity
at first sniff; but, as the boots on the high pole testified,
Ommony needed no warning. He foresaw that all he needed was to
keep an eye on Prothero; which is proof enough that not even
Ommony foresees infallibly.

"Shall I lend you a gun?" he asked.

But Prothero was much too lazy to enjoy a gun, preferring to
stroll beside Ommony and pay attention. He foresaw that all he
needed was to keep an eye on Ommony, which is proof that he knew
his business. What was more, he could afford to be agreeable.
Ommony brought down a hawk that had been trespassing too much of
late, and Prothero complimented him gracefully.

Next moment he paid an honest ungraceful compliment, wrung from
him by emotion. For more quickly than the dogs could make up
their minds, an almost naked, nearly coal-black jungli emerged
from between the trees and caught the shot hawk before it reached
earth. Prothero had never seen the man before, who had received
no orders, but had followed among the trees--inaudible--and had
surpassed the animals in guessing the hawk's flight, Ommony's
aim, and the angle of descent. In his own way he was even more
amazing than Lal Rai.

"I'll give you five hundred for that fellow?" Prothero said
instantly, and then gasped--another helpless compliment. Ommony
spoke to the man in the jungle dialect, which not more than a
dozen civilized men have ever learned. The jungli answered, and
Ommony understood, which was even more remarkable.

"By Gad, sir, you have talent!"

The jungli showed the hawk to Ommony, stuck a wing-feather in his
tangled hair, and disappeared again.

"Five hundred, did you hear me? I'll give five hundred dibs for
him! All right, a thousand then!"

"You may have him for nothing if you can catch and keep him,"
Ommony answered, and they walked three miles in silence down a
fire-lane to a great crag that rose above the trees and afforded
a view of square leagues. They climbed by what looked like a
goat-path, that really had been made by Buddhist hermits
centuries before, and had been used since by none save the
animals and Ommony.

It wound corkscrew fashion around and around the crag, mostly
hidden by low bushes that yielded and sprang back into place,
shaking the air full of powdery smells.

Prothero followed, breathing heavily, resenting the strenuous
exercise, but interested beyond measure in this man who could
speak the jungle-bat.

"This is the Outlook Rock," Ommony announced. "You could see a
fire from here within a radius of twenty miles--"

The words died on his lips as he turned slowly to sweep the
horizon and presently face his own bungalow. Nothing of the house
was visible except the thin column of smoke from the kitchen
chimney. But straight down the fire-lane, through a gap between
the trees and a notch between two hummocks, he could see the pole
on which hung "foolishness" to scare the hawks--foolishness which
should consist just then of two old boots.

He pulled out his field-glasses. Indubitably the kettle was now
hoisted where the boots had been. It was blown out nearly at
right angles by the wind entering the lidless hole and crowding
out slowly through the spout. A big, chipped, once enameled, iron
kettle--no mistaking it.

He turned and stared at Prothero, who had given no orders to any
one regarding any kettle, and could afford to look innocent, and
in any event could not have seen such a small object with his
naked eye at that long range. Prothero blew his nose and wiped
the sweatband of his helmet, as if no such thing as a kettle
existed. Possibly a shade too innocent.

"Got a cigar with you?" he asked, and Ommony produced one. Then
the dogs came, brushing the undergrowth aside, led by Diana the
wolf-hound, with the tail that never made mistakes. She thrust
her great muzzle into Ommony's hand, and the long tail said
things that are not in the dictionary. He twisted her ear by way
of recognition, and stood thinking, thinking--motionless in one
place, with the gun under his arm and both hands behind him--legs
apart. Finally he glanced again at Prothero and whistled three
short, peculiar, rising notes, that might have been heard a
hundred yards away. The dogs took no notice; it wasn't their
language. He did not speak for several minutes, and Prothero
enjoyed himself, grateful for the company of a man who could
be silent.

Then the jungli came in answer to the whistle and stood on the
edge of a rock with a golden line of sunshine drawn down one
side of his naked body, most astonishingly beautiful to see.

"You offered a thousand rupees for him I think," Ommony said
at last.

"For the Service. We can use him."

"Like my steward instead?"

"What the hell would I do with your steward?"

"I don't know. Do you want him?"


"He'll be in need of a job presently," Ommony answered, and,
without moving his head, spoke to the jungli in what sounded like
a morse code made of grunts and consonants.

The jungli vanished.

"That is the end of the steward as far as I'm concerned. He'll be
gone when we get back, bag and baggage. Now I suppose you want to
see Mahommed Babar. Why couldn't you ask me decently?"

Prothero snorted. That was the first time he had been caught off
guard in months and he was hardly ready with an answer. He
hesitated, using his lobster-eyes on Ommony in a swift effort at
snatched, last-minute judgment. Finally he lied.

"Truth is, Ommony, you're being accused of treason. I came here
to disprove it if possible. I hope you understand that anything
you say to me is--"

"Is said in the presence of Allah and the wilderness," retorted
Ommony. "Thereafter, my word against yours."

"Let's be friends!" said Prothero suddenly, holding out his hand.

He had judged his man. How could Ommony refuse him? Slowly he
advanced his hand. Prothero seized it, leaped from judgment to
unmerited conclusion, and threw away what he had gained, abasing
himself in Ommony's opinion to the level of the worms.

"Friends! That's it! Scratch my back and you'll find me useful to
you. Set a net for this Mahommed Babar, and there isn't a thing
in my power that I won't do to oblige you. Alive if we can take
him. Dead will do. It 'ud mean a feather in my cap, and promotion
in your pocket."

Diana, the wolf-hound, returned from another wild gallop up and
down the jungle lanes that radiated from the Outlook Rock, and
once more her tail beat rhythmically as she thrust her wet nose
into Ommony's fist.

"Sorry we can't be friends," said Ommony. "Have you a pistol?"

"Why? What d'you mean?"

"You must hand me your pistol if you wish to meet Mahommed Babar."

"Not friends, eh?" said Prothero. "I like you. You're a damned
fool to oppose me, but--here you are!"

He held his automatic muzzle-end. Ommony took it.

"Now the other one."

Prothero laughed and pulled a small Webley from under the skirts
of his tunic.

"I'm curious to meet the man, but I'll make you pay for this,
you know--"

"As long as I live I will pay my own debts!" said a quiet voice
in English, and Mahommed Babar stood before them--in Ommony's old
hunting-jacket, wearing a shirt of Ommony's, but looking no more
like an Englishman than a wolf looks like a bear. He had come
across the ledge on which the jungli had stood fifteen minutes
earlier, and waited with his back against the sun for Ommony to
invite him nearer.

His black beard and an air of having been through prodigious
hardships made him look older than he was. He stood like a god.
The sinews outlined under the dark skin looked as if cast in
copper. Only the ancient saber slung from a Sam Browne belt
suggested that he might be dangerous. The dark eyes were
dignified, almost mild.

"I came--to see the view," he said simply, glancing, however,
in the direction of the pole on which blew foolishness to
frighten hawks.

Prothero sat down on a lump of rock with his legs stretched out
in front of him and proceeded to make the most of a predicament.

"My name is Jones," he said pointedly.

"I have no name," said the Northerner, and his eyes met Ommony's,
who was in plenty of time to remove two pistols out of harm's
way; which was the same thing as Prothero's reach.

"Sit down and let's talk this over," suggested Prothero. "There
are no witnesses. We may arrive at something."

Ommony's head bowed an almost invisible affirmative, so Mahommed
Babar took his seat on a rock facing Prothero, with the saber
laid in its scabbard across his knees, in an attitude much
too beautifully managed to appear alert, although it was that
or nothing.

"You say your name is not Mahommed Babar?"

"I said, for the present I have no name."

"You could take a message to Mahommed Babar?" Prothero suggested,
with his lobster-eyes on Ommony's shot-gun. Ommony laid the gun
down and beckoned the wolf-hound, who came and lay with her paws
across the barrel. She was big enough and strong enough to tear a
man like Prothero to pieces.

"I could if I would," said the man with the saber, showing his
teeth in a milk-white smile.

Prothero took time. He was judging his man again. Not one element
of honesty or fairness entered into Prothero's calculations,
except in so far as they might govern the other fellow. He
could not have existed in such elements, but he could observe
them--study them--and did, as a fisherman observes the weather.

"He ought to know at whose expense he's enjoying liberty," he
said at last, and noticed that the eyes of the man with the saber
contracted just sufficiently to record a "touch." "He ought to
be told what price others will have to pay for his freedom,"
he went on.

The flashing white teeth appeared again, but not exactly in a
smile. It was more the way a wolf exchanges compliments.

"If you wish me to deliver such a message you must enter into
details," he answered, raising the saber an inch or two and
laying it down on his knees again in a gesture of nervousness.

Prothero was only too delighted to give details.

"Tell him that the last lot who surrendered, who held out with
him until the end, will be denied the status of rebels and
charged with treason in that they upheld him after the final
proclamation. Some will be hanged, and the rest will be sent to
the Andamans. The only way to prevent that would be for Mahommed
Babar himself to surrender and eat his gruel like a man."

"You mean that the British will murder surrendered prisoners
because they refuse to tell of Mahommed Babar's hiding-place? I
don't believe you," he retorted. "I will take no such message as
that. It would be a lie."

"You might tell him two were shot yesterday," said Prothero,
blundering--not for the first time that morning. They had been
shot by sentries while endeavoring to escape, and he would have
been wiser to admit that, if obliged to mention the incident
at all.

The man with the saber rose to his feet with perfect dignity,
rested both hands on the saber hilt, and bowed.

"Then there is no need for discussion, for I know what Mahommed
Babar's answer will be. He will say no bargain is possible; the
men who slew those prisoners have no honor," he retorted.

His indignation was icy cold. Prothero had touched him on the
virgin center of his heart, and what to almost any other man
would have been admirable drew a chuckle from the Colonel of
Intelligence. He had him! He had him now like a fish on a barbed
hook, foul. No chance for him.

"He may not mind about his men, but how about his friend?"
he asked.

"You mean, sahib?"

"I mean Mr. Ommony. Tell him--Hell! Let's stop this foolishness.
Mahommed Babar, I am Colonel Arthur Prothero of the Intelligence.
Unless you surrender at discretion--and to me, now--your friend
Mr. Ommony will be arrested and charged with treason. It will
be your fault, and the least he will get will be disgrace
and imprisonment!"

That was another blunder.

"I think no judge would take your word against Ommon-ee's, and
there are no other witnesses," Mahommed Babar answered.

"Several others," said Prothero. "His steward, my man Lal Rai,
Moplahs--every single one of that last lot of prisoners, who all
say Mr. Ommony bound them over not to betray you--"

Ommony's face was a picture. So was Mahommed Babar's. Emotions
chased each other as the shadows of the clouds do on a mountain-side.

"Why not kill him, sahib?" said the Northerner, but Ommony shook
his head. His whole career in that forest, which was all the life
he cared about, seemed to be slipping away from him, and the end
was smoke.

"Give him back a weapon, sahib, and fight him to the death!--or
let me!"

Mahommed Babar drew the saber and sliced the air with it so
savagely that the whistle and hum set all three dogs to barking;
but Prothero did not flinch. He might blunder on occasion, but he
was no such fool as to believe that Ommony would consent to his
being killed.

"You'll have to surrender if you want to save him," he said,
smiling like a man who holds all the remaining trumps.

Mahommed Babar glanced at Ommony, who shook his head, and at that
the Northerner made his mind up.

"I judge you to be a liar; but answer this to whoever gives you
orders--for every hair of Ommon-ee's that is offended I will slay
an Englishman! I will teach you what rebellion means!"

He returned the saber to its scabbard with violence, and strode
back to stand on the rock against the sky, where he looked like a
bronze effigy of vengeance. Then with a wave of the hand he
disappeared over the crest of the crag.

Ommony gave Prothero his pistols back--too soon, for he seized
them and sprang for the ridge--but just too late; whereat he
laughed, and clicked his teeth with his thumbnail for about
a minute.

"I wonder what you have to say to all this," he said presently.

"Nothing. If I thought you would understand I could say a great
deal," Ommony answered.

"Suppose we get back then in time for tiffin."

Ommony led the way, and at the bottom walked straight on down the
fire-lane without waiting for Prothero, who heard a rustling
among the undergrowth and stopped to listen. It was not the dogs,
for they were in front, ahead of Ommony. He became sure there was
some one lurking in a clump of dense thicket between two boulders
and, there being no law for the outlaw, fired three shots running
with his automatic, which naturally brought Ommony and the dogs
back on the run.

"What frightened you?" asked Ommony.

"There isn't a tiger or leopard within a mile of us."

"There's a man in there--hit--dead--your friend Mahommed Babar!"

The dogs were investigating.

"There's nobody dead, some one's hit," said Ommony, listening.
"You wait here."

He made a circuit, following the line the dogs had shown him, and
came on one of his junglis writhing in dumb misery with a broken
knee and a hole shot through his lung, stabbing at the dogs, who
he feared would obey the jungle rule and make an end of him. In
his own opinion it was right, but to be resisted nevertheless. He
was past recovery.

Ommony whistled. There came other junglis--four, five, six of
them--flitting from tree to tree like homeless shadows. He
questioned them. They had seen. He asked who had fired the shot.
They pointed through the undergrowth at Prothero. Ommony called
to Prothero, who came crashing through the bushes like a
wounded buck.

"Here's your victim," he said. "Victim and six witnesses."

"Their evidence--"

"Plus mine," said Ommony dryly.

Prothero eyed him for a minute, clicking his teeth with
his thumbnail.

"Very well," he said, "you and I had better understand each
other. These poor devils won't know enough to make a complaint
unless you--By the way, though--halt and as you were! How could
their evidence be taken without an interpreter? And who's to
interpret? You?"

Ommony faced him, answering nothing. It was true, he was the only
possible interpreter, and if he himself were to stand charged
with treason--

"I, too, was a witness!" said a quiet voice from behind the
nearest rock.

For a second Ommony caught sight of Mahommed Babar's face.
Prothero turned on his heel and emptied the automatic stupidly in
the general direction of the voice, and then, while he reached
for the Webley:

"Look!" said the same voice.

Two heads appeared above near-by rocks--strangers' heads that set
the dogs growling savagely.

"These also were witnesses," Mahommed Babar continued, keeping
carefully out of sight.

"Who the hell are they?" demanded Prothero. "Associates of yours?
That outlaws 'em!"

"You are a murderer. That outlaws you!" replied Mahommed Babar.
"You are only safe from me as long as you are the guest of
Ommon-ee. Whatever harm befalls him shall recoil on you!"

Mahommed Babar disappeared and Prothero laughed. The jungli
coughed his life out. The others picked the body up and carried
it away. Ommony started homeward. Prothero, stowing away both
pistols, swore and followed him.


_Peria Vur_

Ommony sat on his favorite seat on the veranda that evening,
cursing not exactly fate but his own misuse of it. It is a chief
part of his forest-learned creed, which he has drummed into the
heads of scores who thought themselves unfortunate, that
misfortune is not a cause, but the result of mistakes and misuse
of opportunity. So he had no self-pity; only distress and a
desire to know wherein he had stumbled.

For stumbled he certainly had. Whoever had heard Prothero's
leave-taking that afternoon could not have failed to understand
that Ommony's number was up, as the saying is. The colonel had
made one last effort to reach terms dishonorable, and Ommony had
simply laughed.

"Trap Mahommed Babar for me and I'll save your bacon!"

"Those dogs wouldn't do what you ask. Am I worse than a dog?" he
had answered.

And Prothero had said:

"Yes! Less than a dog you'll be before I'm through. I'm a man of
few principles, Ommony, but I live up to 'em. I never brook
refusal or interference. If I go for a man, I get him. Now--I'll
give you a last chances"

"Go to hell," said Ommony.

Whereat Prothero went to the railway station on Ommony's pony,
having no sense of pride where his own comfort was concerned. Lal
Rai followed on foot with several of Ommony's prized possessions
concealed about his person, having no more pride than his master.

So Ommony's cook went to no pains with the dinner. And the butler
neglected to put flowers on the table. The "boy" put broken studs
into the white shirt that he laid on the bed, and deliberately
picked out old socks with holes in them. It is in such little
ways as that that kings first learn of their subjects' disaffection.

They reasoned that Ommony would dress for dinner in spite of the
colonel sahib's threats and the whispered hints of Lal Rai, who
was a badmash, but knew too much. Ommony always did dress for
dinner even when alone, that being another section of his
inviolable creed. A white man, to his way of looking at it, is a
white man, and his home is his castle, wherein if he does not
respect himself none will.

However, he continued to sit on the veranda that evening until
after dark, taking no notice of the boy's announcement that hot
water was ready--refusing to have his boots removed--keeping his
gun beside him instead of letting the hamal place it in the glass
case and bring the key as usual.

The butler, who had been many things to many masters, spoke
darkly of suicides he had known. According to him, a white man
always sat that way, with a gun beside him, and his head between
his hands, and elbows resting on knees, when he contemplated
blowing out his brains. He said the signs were infallible.
Moreover, the dogs came and sat down beside their master
miserably, divining his sorrow, which was an even more positive
sign. Diana, the wolf-hound, moaned, and was rewarded with a few
pats on the head, which brought the terrier into Ommony's lap in
spasms of jealousy.

Dinner was announced by the butler--in a dirty smock because of
the occasion. Normally Ommony would have dismissed him for the
evening in shame and tribulation for daring to be otherwise than
spotless. But Ommony did not even look up--did not acknowledge
the summons--and the dogs, having understanding of their master's
mood and not much patience with stupidity, growled at the butler
for the first time since he had been engaged two years before, so
that he fled precipitately and locked himself into his quarters.

Finally Ommony shook the terrier off his lap and pulled out a
cigar. He could see no solution of the problem; therefore he
would bide the event--mark time, as the soldiers have it.
Prothero's power was too great, his influence too vast, and the
fear of him in bureaucratic circles too well-founded for any one
man in India to possess a chance against him, whatever the rights
and wrongs of the argument.

He might charge Prothero with murder, it was true. But he had
only jungle witnesses, and himself for interpreter, unless he
should call on Mahommed Babar and his two unexpected friends,
whose heads had appeared so opportunely near the scene. But he
could not call on Mahommed Babar without putting the man's life
in jeopardy, even supposing he could find Mahommed Babar now in
any event. The owners of those unexpected heads were probably
fugitives from justice, who had served to bluff Prothero nicely
at the time but would never dare approach a township to give
evidence against him.

And there was the whole unholy gamut of Prothero's ability to
procure false witnesses, sustain false charges, tamper with
evidence and blackmail officialdom. Moreover, there was that
filthy beast Lal Rai, capable of swearing and procuring witnesses
to prove whatever Prothero's ambitious heart desired.

There was only one thing to do, one course to take that he
could see.

"Nothing!" he said aloud. "Nothing whatever, and trust whatever
gods there be!"

"Your honor might take in Mahommed Babar and surrender him,"
said a voice he knew; and he realized all at once that for
several minutes past Diana had been nuzzling into his fist
to call attention, and the other dogs had been wagging tails
and restless.

He turned his head to see Mahommed Babar standing in the dark
inside the door, holding his hand back of him as if restraining
some one else. He got up, taking the gun with him, and entered
the library, where three men followed him, one of whom locked the
door. He could not see who they were until he had lighted the
lamp, but the dogs, who had come too, betrayed no alarm, so he
set the gun down in the corner before he struck a match. The
light showed Mahommed Babar and the other two strangers from the
North who had witnessed the killing of the jungli. Mahommed Babar
presented them.

"Ali Khan of Aira. Jhat Singh of Jubbulpore. Your honor's servants."

Jhat Singh was square and squat, but Ali Khan looked much like
Mahommed Babar. Ommony eyed them without enthusiasm. Their
presence only complicated matters.

"Mahommed Babar, I wish to hell you'd go away, and stay away--you
and your friends!" he said rudely. "Ali Khan is an escaped
murderer under sentence. You're no better than the company you
keep. Get away from here!"

"Give me up, sahib! I am here to propose that," said Mahommed
Babar. "Here are two men who will carry on my work. After I am
hanged they will do better than I, being two in place of one and
spurred to greater valor by the fate that overtook me."

"Damn it! D'you think I'm on your side?" demanded Ommony. "D'you
think I protect you in order to see my own crowd slaughtered?"

"Nay, sahib, I know better. You have been my friend, and I offer
you my life to save your honor. But I would be dishonest unless I
showed you what the consequence would be. I speak in good faith.
You may surrender me. These men, my brothers-in-blood, will carry
on the task."

"You're talking rot!" Ommony retorted. "You're claiming
blood-brotherhood with a convicted criminal, who richly deserves
hanging. If you choose to surrender, go and do it. That's your
affair. My business is the forest."

"Sahib, I would surrender if I saw no other way."

Mahommed Babar took a side-step rather swiftly in the direction of
the corner. Ali Khan of Aira pocketed the door-key. Ommony noticed
neither incident. Only the dogs began to grow unaccountably
restless, so that Ommony had to chide them gruffly, laying his
hand on Diana's neck to smooth the rising hair.

Mahommed Babar had his back to Ommony's shot-gun now.

"I do see an alternative," he said abruptly. "Can your honor
control those dogs? Otherwise I must shoot the big one!"

The thing was over in a minute. Mahommed Babar's friends pinned
Ommony's arms behind him, and the gun was leveled at Diana. So he
spoke the word that saved the dog's life, and Mahommed Babar
smashed in the glass of the gun-case, taking out three rifles,
one revolver, a shot-gun, and some ammunition.

"During all the time you have trusted me I have never touched
your firearms, sahib. But now it shall be perfectly clear that
you are an unwilling prisoner. We will demonstrate the absence of

They had tied Ommony's hands, and Diana the wolf-hound was
sniffing at the cord, wondering what to do about it yet obedient
to the almost unbelievable command to "stay still." Mahommed
Babar gave Ommony's rifles to his two friends, himself buckled on
the revolver, laid the shot-gun on the table, and took pen and
paper. He wrote in English:

Mr. Cotswold Ommony has been taken prisoner and is held a hostage
for the lives of all Mahommed Babar's men who surrendered
recently. Should harm befall those Moplahs, Mr. Ommony will
suffer in like degree. Should they be set free unharmed, Mr.
Ommony will receive the same treatment.

--Mahommed Babar (Sirdar),

Officer Commanding the remaining unsurrendered rebels against
British rule.

He pushed it across the table for Ommony to see. Ommony laughed.

"Who'll believe that after Prothero's account is in?" he sneered.
"You'd better shoot me and have done with it."

"We shall see, sahib. We shall see. We shall see," said Mahommed
Babar, and began to give hurried orders to the other two. "We
will leave this manifesto on the table. That should be a good
place. Be good enough to control those dogs, sahib. It would
grieve me as much as you to be obliged to kill them. Thus.
Now we will proceed. Which servant would your honor prefer?
Unfortunately one is all we can permit, and I advise the cook."

"Do as you damn please!" answered Ommony, walking out of the room
with a shot-gun at his back.

"Your honor shall ride. Which horse do you prefer?"

"The gray one."

There followed panic almost indescribable in pitch blackness
criss-crossed by the glow-worm flashes of three lanterns, as
Mahommed Babar turned out Ommony's servants and put them to work
producing such stores as he needed. Nothing more was demanded of
Ommony than that he stand and be seen under the stable lamp with
his hands made fast behind him and a shot-gun leveled at his
head. Every one of the servants saw him--all three grooms, the
gardeners, butler, hamal, boy, and two or three hangers-on. They
saw the cook seized, too, and bound, protesting, to a tonga-wheel
while the kitchen was rifled of delicacies.

Then the whole lot--provisions, delicacies, ammunition, odds and
ends, and cook--were bundled into the tonga and driven away down
a jungle lane, followed by Ommony on the gray pony with his hands
still tied behind and the dogs in close attendance.

Mahommed Baber rode away last on Ommony's fourth horse--a beast
that was nearly due for pension underground. He locked up the
empty house first, and drove the other servants all away toward
the railway station, after making sure they would report all they
had seen by threatening them with torture if they did. Then he
kicked the decrepit mount into a canter, overtook Ommony and
reined alongside.

"Could your honor summon the junglis to keep leopards and such
away?" he asked.

"No need," Ommony answered. "They never let me out of sight
unless I go by train."

"Day or night?"

"Day or night. Loosen this cord, will you; it cuts like the

"No, sahib. I am sorry. Nevertheless, I am pleased it cuts."

Mahommed Babar gave no explanation of that paradox--avoided being
asked for one--rode on--overtook the tonga--exchanged places with
Ali Khan, who was driving, and sent the other back to act

Ali Khan was distinctly curt with Ommony. Although a convicted
murderer, apparently he did not like the name. The atmosphere of
captive and captor--almost of threat--became unmistakable, and on
the whole was rather a relief. At least a man knew where he
stood, so to speak. Even the cord that bound his wrists seemed to
hurt less.

They went at a slow trot as far as the ponies could drag the
tonga. Close to the Outlook Rock the track became too difficult
for wheels in the dark, so they took the ponies out, up-ended the
tonga shaft so as to tip out all of the contents, cached
everything except one haversack full of eatables which they
loaded on the cook, left the tonga where it was, mounted the cook
on one of the tonga ponies, where he sat lamenting dismally, and
carried on.

The forest owned Ommony. He was its guardian spirit. There was
not a track he did not know. It was not his boast, but his
conviction, that you might blindfold him and lead him anywhere
within its limits, and he would "place" himself almost instantly
after his eyes were uncovered. It was certainly impossible to
lose him by following any negotiable trail within ten miles of
his bungalow; and as his eyes were not bandaged it was only a
matter of minutes before he understood perfectly whither they
were heading.

Once, in the days when the Buddha was something more than a
tradition, those square leagues used to echo to traffic and the
boom of temple bells. There were half a dozen cities in the area
now claimed by Ommony's beloved trees. Roots, rain and wind had
used the centuries to upturn and make mere stones of the masonry.
Where towers had stood were mounds, in which the she-wolves dug
to rear their young. In the market-places was a tangle of such
undergrowth as only the wild pig could scramble into. Streets had
become watercourses, boiling brown in the monsoon, almost
unnegotiable tracks when the rain was over.

But there were visible remains of splendor, if a man knew where
to look for them. There are papers in archaeological archives,
written by Ommony, and filed by men who paid him graceful
compliments, but neither cared nor understood, describing in
extraordinary detail some of the Buddhist remains in Moplah
country. They are accompanied by photographs and drawings--even
maps--so that an inquirer could find his way to them without much
more than a compass and an escort. But there is fashion in
archaeology, as in other things. Ommony and advertisement don't
jibe. He tells what he knows and, if it falls on deaf ears, turns
his back, respecting societies no more than individuals. So his
antiquities are almost as unknown as when he first discovered
them and scratched among their carvings with a stick.

One, and the most wonderful, is the place he has called Peria
Vur, which means Great City; not that there is any city left, but
he argues that the temple, whose foundations and part of whose
upper structure he discovered, can only have existed in a
populous community. It may have housed as many as a thousand
priests. Its gates that open north, south, east and west are more
massive than those the ancient Egyptians raised, and, though in
ruins, still bear witness to the traffic passing under them, for
the stones are worn into channels by the tread of simply
countless naked feet.

Ommony, with the aid of junglis, had done a little work in there
with ax and spade at various time; but the jungle grows so fast
again after the rains that year by year he could hardly find the
clearing of the year before. He had ordered the junglis to drive
animals away, and the track leading to the place had been kept
more or less practicable by their repeated visits in the breeding
season for that purpose. But as a rendezvous almost any jungle
clearing would have been more practicable than Peria Vur when he
last set eyes on it.

Nevertheless, to Peria Vur they were bound, for that winding
track led nowhere else. As they advanced it became easier,
instead of more difficult. In the pitchy darkness--not even stars
were visible through the canopy of branches--it was quite
impossible to tell how much work had been done, but there were no
low-hanging twigs to strike a horseman's face, and the stirrups
did not catch in undergrowth as formerly.

It was about nine miles, by a winding route that made fifteen
of it, from the Outlook Rock to Peria Vur, and they covered
the distance in three hours, which was proof enough that more
than a handful of men had been busy. Then they were aware
of three lights--red, green, yellow--evidently looted train
lamps--swinging horizontally in line above the trees.

Someone--probably Mahommed Babar--blew a horn. One shrill blast.
It was answered by the lights, which moved, and hung vertically.
Also by another blast, which explained unmistakably the condition
of the track by which they came. Elephants trumpeted.

There is a huge rock that you must skirt before you come on Peria
Vur. Even by day it shuts off all view of the place from between
the trees. It stands so high and bulks so big that bonfires on
the Peria Vur side would be invisible to any one approaching. On
the top of that rock--the "Rump," as the junglis call it because
of its shape--some one was managing the colored lights. The
elephants--seven as it transpired--were tethered to the left of
the track, and the party wound around between them and the rock,
being greeted by a second trumpeted salute that nearly scared the
ponies out of their senses.

Beyond the Rump Rock the scene was wonderland, for the elephants
had cleared away all growth between rock and temple, exposing
more than an acre of the ancient granite blocks with which the
courtyard had been paved. Some had been piled on others by the
pressure of roots from beneath, and none remained on the ancient
level, so that to reach the temple one had to walk along a zigzag
causeway, which was practicable none the less for beast as well
as man.

Some of the holes between the paving-blocks made reasonably
spacious caves and had been covered over with awnings improvised
from looted odds and ends to make a bivouac. A dozen fires cast a
crimson light on the weird scene, and legs, arms, heads appeared
out of the holes like dead men answering the Trumpet Call. Only
they looked once and retired, as if satisfied that Gabriel was
only practicing.

Over in a corner, where a fire glowed brightest, rose the
ding-ding-dong of a smithy in action and a number of tortured
gnomes gesticulated in hell-flame, repeating the motions interminably.

Light glowed and danced all up and down the broken temple wall,
which had been cleared of creepers and the disemboweling roots of
trees that force their way into the masonry, overturning
millimeter-wise. The great, wide temple door remained and was as
clear and clean as on the day when worshipers brought the first
offerings of flowers to strew the portico. Only, against the
carved wall on either hand were set three stones--one on the left
hand, two on the right--and three men were using them as chairs.
The man on the left was smoking an ordinary English briar pipe.
Those on the right sat with knees on a level with their chins.

Ali Khan dragged Ommony off the horse, for his hands were still
tied, and gruffly ordered him to call the dogs back; they had
rushed at the man who was smoking in the temple door, as if be
were a well-known ancient enemy. Diana persisted longest, and be
had to summon her by name, whereat the man with the pipe, who had
retreated into the building, came out again and, staring with his
head bent forward in the puzzling light, called:

"Oh, hullo, Ommony!"

The two men on guard--Sikhs by their turbans--who had also
retreated in front of the dogs, came out and cautioned him,
whereat he sat down obediently on his stone and laughed.

"Go forward, sahib!" said Mahommed Babar from the far side of the
pony he had ridden.

Ommony approached the temple, picking his way carefully over the
up-ended blocks, with his hands still tied, not greeting the man
with the pipe until close enough to see his eyes, although well
knowing who he was. Then:

"Hullo, Prothero," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"I'll answer when I've seen your hands," said Prothero.

Ommony turned his back to let him see, and Prothero whistled.

"I'm the same as you, Ommony, a prisoner. The rascals ditched my
train and rubbed my nose in the dirt beside the track, but--by
gad, sir! By the wrath of India's gods! Your wrists'll mortify if
those thongs aren't cut! Here--some one come and free this man!"

Mahommed Babar strode up, drew his saber, which was razor-sharp,
and severed the thongs in an instant.

"You chafe his wrists. You have nothing else to do," he said,
looking in Prothero's eyes.

Then he gave an order to the guard and strode into the temple,
where his footsteps echoed cavernously, and a few dim lights at
far intervals made periods in the gloom.

"Sit down," said Prothero, not offering his own seat.

One of the guards rolled his stone across the doorway, and Ommony
accepted that, Prothero sitting beside him and chafing at the
numb wrists rather leisurely.

"You see what comes of befriending the wrong crowd," he said.
"Now, if you'd done what I suggested, we'd have both scored
heavily. Instead, we haven't a cook who can boil eggs without
burning water. We haven't a change of linen. Possibly we haven't
an hour to live. I detest the thought of death on an empty stomach."

"They brought my cook," Ommony answered.

"Then I forgive you! But Government won't! You're damned,
my boy, irrevocably damned! You can't tell me that a man
who can talk the jungle-bat and whistle up junglis from the
undergrowth didn't know all about this encampment. You're
done for--ab-so-lutely cooked!"

"I can tell you," said Ommony. "Getting you to believe the truth
may be another thing. I ordered the junglis not to report to me
any of Mahommed Babar's doings. That's fact. It was none of my
business to keep an eye on him."

"Fact? Hmmm!" Prothero half-closed his lobster-eyes and hummed a
tune. "Tell that to the horse-marines."


_"Hah! He is Perr-r-Other-O-O-Oh!"_

It was characteristic of Colonel Arthur Prothero that he said
nothing about what had happened to the train-crew and his
servants when Mahommed Babar's followers "ditched" the train. His
silence was comprehensible. If shame was not in him, at least he
was mortified not to have known that Mahommed Babar still had men
under his command with sufficient morale to go raiding. The train
had gone dawdling without an escort, without pilot engine,
without any means of protection, for the staff imposed confidence
in Prothero's assurance that there wasn't a "rebel left with guts
enough to grin with."

So the ditching had not had to be very serious. A misplaced rail
caused the engine to plow up fifty yards of track before the
engineer came out of a day-dream and things stood still, just
naturally, of their own accord. Whereat Prothero ceased from
eating a ragout fin provided by his priceless cook, and shoved
his inquiring head out of the window. The rest of him followed
promptly, pulled out by Mahommed Babar and two Sikhs, who
took away his pistols. He swivelled his lobster-eyes about
inquisitively until they drew a gunny-sack down over his
shoulders, pitched him into a hammock, and started off through
the jungle with him for the Lord knew where.

Being a philosopher after his own fashion, the ragout having been
more than usually excellent, and the hammock being comfortable,
he slept, the gunny-bag serving splendidly to keep off flies. Nor
did he wake up until they reached Peria Vur, where they set him
more or less at liberty, and he observed that Mahommed Babar was
not present. He spent the rest of the day using his trained
faculty for observation, seated in the doorway of the temple,
until Ommony's arrival close on midnight--asking questions which
were not answered, drawing deductions that were not entirely
accurate, and "wishing like the devil that he had Lal Rai." When
you have built your reputation on the genius of an underling
there comes a feeling said to resemble homesickness if you have
to get along without him in a crisis.

Now that Ommony had come he could think of nothing more appropriate
than to go to sleep again. It was too bad about Ommony--a decent
fellow but an awful fool to have antagonized himself, and to
have got mixed up with this Mahommed Babar business. In fact,
if it hadn't been against his strict principles he would
have been inclined to overlook the personal aspect, and to
make friends with Ommony. He never had forgiven anybody yet,
but he might try, and the experience might be amusing. Church,
for instance, baptisms, weddings, and all that kind of thing
were decidedly amusing on the rare occasions when he attended.

But no gentleman could treat Ommony as an equal--sit and talk
with him--compare notes--share confidences (as if Prothero ever
shared confidences!)--knowing what the outcome must be. Why, even
in self-defense, to prevent Ommony from making capital out of the
accidental shooting of that jungli, he would be obliged to make
out as black a case against him as possible. Prothero admitted to
himself he was not squeamish, except in so far as cooking was
concerned, but he hardly felt equal to sitting up with Ommony and
being friendly in the circumstances.

Ommony was a such a confoundedly friendly fellow, hang it! You
caught yourself liking him against your will if you weren't
careful, and accepting little favors that might make subsequent
relations extremely awkward. He wished he hadn't ridden the
fellow's damned horse to the station.

So he said a gruff good night and asked the Sikh guard to tell
him where to sleep. The man led him into the temple, to a dark
hole already cleaned out and appointed. The other man remained in
the portico with Ommony, decidedly thawing in manner as well as
method the moment that Prothero had gone, for he merely requested
Ommony to sit still where he was and, receiving the assurance,
disappeared in turn into the temple interior.

Within two minutes of that Mahommed Babar came striding out,
jangling his inseparable saber, and there was none to overhear
when he sat down on the stone beside Ommony.

"Ommony sahib, for those cut wrists you may take whatever price
you will! But what else could I do? How else could I have
satisfied that devil Prothero that you are honestly a prisoner? I
know that son of an evil mother. Well I know him! I will hold you
as hostage for the safety of my friends--but him I will kill
unless he serves my purpose obediently!"

He produced torn linen and some of the aromatic oils that India
still relies on rather than the antiseptics of the West, dressing
Ommony's cut wrists with the care of a trained nurse.

"You shall have no more ill-treatment, sahib. I would rather hurt
my mother's son. It is on Prothero that reprisals shall fall if
the British make those necessary. Prothero shall clear you of
complicity in my rebellion."

"Rot!" answered Ommony cheerlessly. "How did you catch him?"

The sirdar explained how the train had been ambushed.

"That beast Lal Rai will get back to headquarters and give his
version of it," Ommony grumbled. "Lal Rai has orders to make out
a case against me, and--"

"You think so?"

Mahommed Babar whistled. A man answered out of darkness. The
sirdar gave an order in the Pashtu tongue, and after a minute two
Afridis appeared, dragging Lal Rai between them. He looked
beaten, but unconquerable. His one eye gleamed in the firelight
and he carried himself malignantly between his captors, powerless
for the moment but convinced of his own ultimate resourcefulness.

"You know where your master is?" Mahommed Babar asked. He nodded.
The nod was a challenge as much as an answer.

"You want to lose your master?"

The question was asked in Hindustanee, the lingua franca by which
a hundred Indian nations interchange occasional ideas. The answer
came in a gibberish of a dozen tongues mixed with a thieves'
palaver--threat--all threat--unqualified by anything except
abuse--the long and short of it, that he would come back from the
grave, if necessary, to avenge the "Dekta sahib," which was
apparently his own pet name for Prothero.

"Kill me--kill him--devils kill you!" he shouted, spitting. He
evidently loved in his own fashion, which was more than his
beloved master could confess.

"You can save your master," said Mahommed Babar.

"Only give chance, an' I 'member not plung-um hot iron in
your belly!"

That was the limit of his gratitude--his utmost offer. He was all
fight, unconquered, unconquerable, unafraid.

"You may take a letter written by Ommon-ee."

Lal Rai nodded. The gesture included utter contempt for Ommony,
whose fate he considered he foreknew.

"You will say that if it is desired to save the life of Colonel
Prothero the British will send a white flag party of not more than
two officers, unarmed, to treat with me. Can you remember that?"

The one eye flashed scornfully. He could remember anything.

"The white flag party shall have safe conduct. They will be met
at the place where the train left the rails, and escorted thence
through the jungle. And you will say, furthermore, that if an armed
force should be sent, it will not fare well with Colonel Prothero!"

At Mahommed Babar's instigation Ommony wrote, setting forth the
situation. It was a short note, on a scrap of paper. Lal Rai
stuck it in a fold of his loin-cloth.

"You may wait until dawn," said the sirdar.

"I go now!"

"Are you not afraid of the jungle beasts?"

"'Fraid nothing, and not you! Give a thing make noise with; I

"Did you see Ommon-ee arrive here?"

He nodded.

"Look at his wrists?"

He nodded again.

"Say at headquarters that Ommon-ee sahib was injured by the man
who tied him. You understand?"

To Ommony it looked as if he understood too well. The one eye
gleamed with a malignancy as full of intelligence as a cobra's.
However, Mahommed Babar seemed confident, and dismissed him with
an order to his guards to provide him with some noisy instrument
and see him out of camp.

They gave him a tin pan with a hole in it, and saw him as far as
the outer range of leaping shadows where the elephants rocked at
their pickets and the mahouts slept between. There they warned
him to make both noise and haste, and shoved him away with a
devil's blessing.

Noise he did make; haste not. The scandal of his beaten tin pan
died away into the dark, and ceased--ceased where he laid the tin
pan down behind a tree and began to retrace his steps. Nobody saw
him slip between the elephants, nor what he did; but a scream of
rage suddenly ripped the night apart and in a moment the mahouts
were yelling for assistance, crying that their charges had gone
mad. They were fighting, as humans will, each believing the other
had done stealthy injury, and there was so much confusion that
even Mahommed Babar came out of the temple to lend a hand, and
Ommony followed him.

All seven elephants broke loose. There was hue-and-cry to round
them up, for panic-stricken elephants might go twenty miles
before morning. Ommony's dogs joined in that fun naturally, and
during the confusion Lal Rai reached the temple door unseen,
crept in, and discovered without much difficulty the dark hole
where his master lay.

Prothero was asleep, and affected no surprise on being awakened.
He was used to having situations saved for him by his graceless
factotum. Moreover, he never bestowed much praise, never admitted
obligation, never let the other party grow too self-important.

"Where have you been all this time?" he demanded.

Lal Rai, in his own assorted gutter-speech, explained. He had the
gift of laconism.

"Scoot. Caught. Knock-out. Gag-an' bind-um. Kick, shove, pull,
drag along behind, and by-um-by me come easy. Kep' a dekko
lifting. Fetch here--chuck um in dark hole. By-um-by Ommony write
letter. Mahommed Babar orderum fetch me. Take letter. Me going.
Coming back. Look for you. Now you savvy whole goddam bisnis."

"Show me the letter," growled Prothero.

"No can see."

"Strike a match, damn you."

"You see--ev'rybody can see. Never min' letter. Me eatum. You say
what shall say--me say it, savvy?"

Prothero did "savvy" instantly and wasted no time on wordy gratitude.

"Give me that letter. Give it here! Now cut back to Headquarters
and say this: `My compliments to the General Commanding. Mr.
Ommony caused my train to be wrecked and me to be taken prisoner.'
You get that?"

Lal Rai repeated it word for word.

"'Mr. Ommony is here, at liberty to come and go among the rebels,
with his dogs, his horses, his cook, and several guns.' Repeat that."

Lal Rai repeated it.

"Say, `With Mr. Ommony's assistance, Mahommed Babar is raising a
new force from the Punjab and all over the North.' Have you got
that? Say the whole message over from the beginning. Good. Now
add: `Two hundred men resolutely led and moving swiftly could
surround this party and finish the business.' Say the whole thing
over once more. Excellent. Now go! Take care of yourself.
Remember, my life depends on your getting through."

Small need to urge Lal Rai to take care. He was adept at that.
Small need to urge him now to make haste; he had a shrewd idea
what his fate might be if he were caught in camp after being
ordered out of it. He dodged and ducked from shadow to shadow and
ran for the spot where he had cached his tin pan, for even he
hardly dared travel the jungle at night without some means of
scaring the beasts of prey.

Once escaped from the zone of firelight he said Prothero's
message over and over again to himself--said it perfectly--even
pronounced the words correctly, since the speech was another man's
and not his own. They say that every criminal always forgets at
least one important thing. He had forgotten nothing--except
Ommony's dogs, which had out-distanced the elephants and turned
them. Headed back by the dogs, the already sobering seven
were met by their mahouts and stopped. Having ascertained
that they were to be coaxed and petted, not punished, they
surrendered accordingly. Diana, who could not count, proceeded
to range the jungle tracks in search of stragglers, not quite
uninfluenced by the delicious discovery that five tons of
elephant would run from a hundred and twenty pounds of dog.

Being a wolf-hound, Diana had no nose worth speaking of, but eyes
and ears that were miracles--eyes for the daylight and ears for
the dark--ears that could catch the cadence of Lal Rai's
stealthily retreating feet. And she had a tongue like the
Inchcape Bell, which summoned the other two.

Luckily Mahommed Babar had not ordered Lal Rai's knife returned
to him. He had nothing but his tin pan, and the stick he beat it
with, to use in the dark on Diana. Even her milky fangs were
invisible. She used the fangs on him, making no sound now,
never relaxing her jaws except to seize a firmer hold, downing
him--reaching for his throat--possessed of one sole purpose, for
she knew him for her master's enemy--a thing to be destroyed.

It was the other dogs belling and yapping in pursuit who gave
Ommony notice. He shouted Diana's name half a dozen times, and
she let go her victim long enough to throw up her head and
bell acknowledgment. He shouted again and she shut her jaws
reluctantly. Lal Rai, who was under her, seized her by the
forelegs; and he might have done an injury, for she was too well
taught to disobey that call of Ommony's. She would not bury her
teeth again in the creature he had ordered her to watch. But
the other two dogs caught up, closed in; they knew much less
discipline but more desire to make up for lost time. So Lal Rai
was bitten and torn, while Diana looked on and Ommony hurried,
arriving ahead of Mahommed Babar and about a dozen of his
followers, all breathless from pursuit of elephants.

Lal Rai by that time was a beast at bay--bleeding, frothing--scared
of every sound and shadow--outraged--unable to believe in anything
but danger--death--fighting with fist and teeth. They had to
seize him from behind. They threw him, and he gnawed their legs.
They had to tie him with turbans and frog-march him--all in
the dark, hardly knowing which end up he was.

So that when they came to the nearest fire and searched him for
Ommony's letter it seemed obvious that he had dropped it in the
struggle. Suddenly his frenzied mind became aware of what they
were looking for, and a devil's delight in defeating their
purpose--anybody's purpose except his own and Prothero's--seized
him. "Yah! Yah! Sons of worms, I eat um!"

He yelled to them to cut his belly open and look if they did not
believe him. Seeming to think in that crazy minute that an order
from Prothero had magical qualities, or thinking, perhaps, that
they thought so, he roared with malicious delight that a message
had been written that would ruin all of them.

"Call me when he grows reasonable," growled Mahommed Babar, and
turned away. Everybody knew what that meant, Ali Khan especially.
Ommony remonstrated. He caught Mahommed Babar's arm and spoke
with a catch in his throat.

"Are you forgetting your izzat?" he asked.

"Sahib, he has obviously slipped back and talked with Prothero.
If you can make him talk to us in any other way--"

"Give me ten minutes," said Ommony, and the sirdar nodded. So
Ommony went into the temple, and Mahommed Babar stayed by the
fire superintending. They brought water as well as irons to be
heated, and Lal Rai understood, setting his teeth and grinding
them like a boar at bay. Ali Khan smiled with cold eyes and thin
lips, understanding perfectly how to be master of such ceremonies.

But Ommony, understanding something else, shook Prothero until he
could not feign sleepiness.

"They've caught Lal Rai," he said. "They're heating irons to
torture him because he won't tell what your orders are. The only
way you can save--"

"He won't tell," said Prothero.

"He will if you order him."

"I'm no such fool."

"You'll let him be done to death?"

"Oh, they won't go that far. And, if they do, damn it, man, it
won't hurt Lal Rai half as much as it would you or me! We're,
comparatively speaking, soft--at least I am physically. Done
myself too well. You're soft-hearted and soft-headed. He's hard
as nails--an animal--a peculiarly intelligent animal, good in his
way, but no more in our class than the fish you catch or the bear
you shoot."

"Then you won't say the word?" asked Ommony.

"No. If he were to divulge my orders they would probably kill you
and me."

Ommony had what he wanted, but a quirk in his nature that other
men, and frequently he, too, construed as weakness, impelled him
to offer Prothero a last chance.

"Won't you come out and stand by?" asked Ommony.

"No. That 'ud be foolish."

"It might comfort the poor devil."

"He has no more use for comfort than a hunted animal. I'd make
him nervous. The sight of what they'll do to him might upset me.
I might weaken. Weakness is vice, only more disastrous."

"I shall tell him you won't come."

"Good idea. Tell him. Make him realize it's up to him to stick it
out and see it through. It won't hurt for you to stand by. He'll
want to show off in front of you. Your presence might help. Go
on. Go and tell him I won't come."

Mahommed divined easily enough what Ommony had been asking
Prothero. The obvious thing was to persuade him to say the word
that would loosen Lal Rai's tongue. But he thought he knew better
than Ommony what manner of man was Prothero, and laughed as
Ommony strode out into the firelight from the gloom of the
temple door.

"The pig's weak place is his belly, sahib. Did the brein respond
to argument? Has he a heart?"

"Have you one?" Ommony retorted.

"Is it you who should ask that?"

"Are you going to torture that poor devil?"

"Ommon-ee, I will let him go if you care to say the word. You
were my friend when none believed in me. But be my friend! Think
twice! Prothero is the Head of the Intelligence. If I can learn
what orders he gave to Lal Rai it is likely I can slip out of a
tightening net."

Ommony knew better than to believe that. The unlikeliest thing
was that Prothero had done more than appeal for help, with a
detail or two as to how to reach him. But it is not wisdom to
argue with a man in dire straits about things you can't prove to
him. Mahommed Babar was not open to argument.

"Let me speak with Lal Rai alone," suggested Ommony.

So though Ali Khan displayed reluctance they drew away at the
Sirdar's gruff command and left the captive gagged and trussed
between two fires with the evidence of their intentions all
around him. Ommony loosened the gag. Lal Rai spat in his
face promptly. Ommony wiped off the spittle with the sort of
deliberate care he would have used if it had been wind-blown
dirt, and with no more resentment. Something in his manner of
doing that conveyed more to the captive than words could have. He
glared around at Ommony's dogs that sat showing their fangs at
him, and from them to their master, who took an iron out of the
fire and stirred the ashes contemplatively.

"Burn me! I will not tell!" he sneered.

"There is no danger of your being burned," said Ommony. "You are
of no importance. But you can sit here, and see them torture your
master with these irons and that water and not speak?"

"Hah! He is Perr-r-other-o-o-oh! They could burn him forever and
he would not tell!"

"But will you permit that? That is the point. Will you sit
here unharmed, and watch, and let them burn him, when a word
from you--?"

"What word?"

Ommony made a signal with his hand behind his back before
answering, and Mahommed Babar began to draw near unostentatiously.

"If you tell what the message was that he gave you to take just
now there would be no object in torturing him."

The one wild eye betrayed hesitation palpably. Ommony put in his
subtlest stroke.

"It is true he will not come and tell to save you from being
tortured, for he does not consider you are worth it. I have asked
him. But you might tell to save him, for you are his man, and he
is your master. Besides, he would never know."

"Never know?"

"Never know."

Ommony moved his hand again, and the sirdar came and stood quite
close behind the prisoner.


_"I'm Going to Kick You Out of This!"_

It is team work that wins, even in questioning prisoners. The
ability to watch and wait and support the other man is what makes
captains in the end, and never a rebel leader lasted thirty days
who could not play second fiddle to opportunity. Lal Rai was
disposed to bargain for terms and guarantees, but Mahommed
Babar, listening behind him, saw the drift and played into
Ommony's hand.

"What are you waiting for?" he growled in a sort of stage-assassin's
_sotto voce,_ and Ali Khan and several others got up, wondering
what he meant.

"The irons are hot. Are you afraid to burn his feet because his
hide is white and his name is Prothero? His liver will be found
whiter than his skin, I'll warrant! Must I show you? Take the
fire into the temple and heat the irons there. Make haste. Have
him tied and stripped before I come."

Those were Afridis, neither averse to inflicting pain nor ashamed
of the impulse. The hills they are born among are cruel, and why
should they not be? Moreover, they were rebels, whose heads,
excepting Ali Khan's, were not yet priced only because the
authorities did not yet know their names. If caught they might be
hanged, and the preference for being hanged for something rather
than for nothing is as old as draconic law. And Ali Khan, who
would be hanged in any case, might just as well go the limit. In
the mind of Lal Rai there was no question as to their intentions.
In their shoes he would have done the same thing.

"I will tell," he said, with a great man's simplicity.

"Do not touch him until I come!" Mahommed Babar shouted, and Ali
Khan, who at that distance looked like the sirdar's twin brother,
threw up his hands in a gesture of disgust. The others looked not
more pleased than hungry men would be if told to wait while the
dinner cooled.

Lal Rai, taking all that in with one super-observant eye,
hastened to repeat the message Prothero had given him. Parrotfish
he pronounced the words almost perfectly, even apeing his
master's voice, he who when coining his own phrases never
used a word or part of speech without maltreating it.

"My compliments to the General Commanding. Mr. Ommon-ee caused my
teerain to be wrecked and me to be tak-en peerisner. Mr. Ommon-ee
is here at liberty to come an' go among the rebels with hees
dogs, hees horses, hees cook, and several guns. Weeth Mr.
Ommon-ee's assistance Mahommed Babar ees raising a new force from
thee Punjab and all over thee North. Two hun'red men resolutely
led and moveeng swiftly could surround thees party and fineesh
thee bisnis."

Mahommed Babar made no audible comment but strode out of the
firelight and returned, two or three times, with his hands
behind him. Ommony's face betrayed emotion, but not incredulity.
Lal Rai was a person whom you could disbelieve easily in most
circumstances, but not when he reeled off that particular message
in that particular tone of voice. It would have been as sensible
to disbelieve a dog with feathers in his mouth, bringing in
news of partridges. At last Mahommed Babar stood still and
exploded--one word:


It contained a whole encyclopedia of mixed information as to his
own thoughts. He was full of scorn. He was amazed. He doubted
what to do.

"I advise you to keep this fellow prisoner," said Ommony. "Put
irons on him. Make sure of him."

The sirdar nodded. "And the other?"

"Let him go," said Ommony.

Mahommed Babar thought that was part of the snare of words being
laid for Lal Rai. He entered no immediate objection, but shouted
to his men to come and tie the prisoner carefully and followed
Ommony away into the shadows.

"I do not see the connection," he said then. "I do not understand
the trick."

"No trick," said Ommony. "Just let him go. I'd have the junglis
watch him as far as the railway line. He's useless to you as he
is, but--"

"I do not understand you, Ommon-ee. Listen to me. That man
Prothero is a snake with the hide of a lion and the mentality of
a hyena. You have heard the message that he hoped to send. If I
let Prothero himself go he will tell worse lies. Moreover, he
will know the way to this place, and--"

"Why be here?" wondered Ommony.

"Because I must!"

It was no use arguing that, no time for explanations.

"All the more, I advise you to let him go," insisted Ommony. "As
a hostage he isn't the slightest use to you. They'll be searching
for him now. My servants will have told all they know. By morning
the scouts will have found my tonga in the jungle. It won't be
very difficult to trace you from that point. They'll find the
footprints of your elephants if nothing else. Reinforcements will
be sent for. They'll surround you. You'll be killed if you don't
surrender. And what's to prevent Prothero from telling any lies
he pleases?"

"But, Allah! If I let him go--"

"He will tread on his own feet--dig his own pit-trap himself! If
you must stay here--"

"I must."

"Then your only chance is a mistake by the other side! Keep Lal
Rai and let the colonel go, for he's a man who'll make mistakes!
You'll puzzle him if you let him go. He's absolutely sure to put
a false construction on it."

"Sahib, I will have nothing to do with this!" said Mahommed Babar
with a sudden exclamation of disgust. "If the British caught me
they would hang me as a traitor, who am a rebel and no worse.
I have caught him. I should hang him as a convicted jackal
masquerading in a man's skin! It is in your hands. Do as you like
with him!"

"Is it between him and me?" asked Ommony with a strange new
thrill in his voice.

"I give him to you, sahib. I give you leave to turn him loose or
kill him or trade him for yourself and go free, or do anything
you will."

Ommony threw his shoulders back and instantly took Mahommed Babar
at the letter of his word.

"Keep Lal Rai out of sight then," he answered with a grin, and
started for the temple, springing to alternate paving-blocks with
a playfulness that he had hardly felt since his school-days.

There is no such exhilaration as the courage that a man of peace
produces when he has made up his mind at last that patience,
having had her rein, is due to trot behind. Your mere berserker,
used to hurling thew and steel into each chance argument--your
bully, who delights to see the other fellow cringe--even your
stone-wall fighter forever on the defensive--neither know nor can
imagine such perfect thrills as he enjoys who knows in his heart
of hearts that he has done all possible to avoid offense.

Ommony's boots rang on the temple floor as he entered. He knew
vaguely where Prothero's corner was and struck a match as he drew
near, whereat Prothero began calling to him from somewhere else.
He followed the sound of the voice and came on steps descending.
There was a glow of light below, so he went forward, down into a
cavern where the ancient priests had held their mysteries, all
cleaned out anew and hung with plundered mats and what not else.

They had Prothero tied in there--bound with ropes on a thing like
an altar in the midst--but neither gagged nor blindfolded. They
had their little fires and the hot irons staged so that he should
miss no detail of what was supposed to be prepared for him. Fully
believing that Mahommed Babar was in earnest, Ali Khan had gone
to the length of sharpening a knife and describing to him how
conveniently near the surface nerves are so that they can be
opened up for more exquisite entertainment. So Prothero was in no
mood for pleasantries, although he had not lost his courage when
Ommony arrived; the sweat was running from his naked body in
anticipation of the ordeal, but his eye was bold and he was
asking no quarter. Plainly he had hurt a man or two in the
scuffle when they seized him, for Ali Khan's nose was bleeding
and another was chafing an injured arm.

"Loose him!" commanded Ommony. "The sirdar has given him to me."

They were about to refuse. No Afridi cares to be balked of his
prey when the cruel side of him has been deliberately conjured
uppermost. Ali Khan thrust out his lower jaw and flashed his
knife. But Ommony made as if to call Mahommed Babar; and suddenly
Diana appeared from the upper gloom. She had followed her
master unbidden, and looked like a special kind of devil with
white fangs flashing and eyeballs glaring in the glow of the
torture-fires. Superstition is stronger than desire, more
compelling than anger.

"Oh, if the sirdar says--"

"Take the fires away with you," said Ommony. "Leave that lamp."

One of them set the little clay lamp on a ledge on the cavern
wall. Ali Khan, because it was the most unpleasant way of doing
it, seared through the cords that bound Prothero, using one of
the hot irons, and walked out swinging the weapon in illustration
of his frame of mind. Ommony told the dog to follow to the
stair-head and keep watch. Then he turned at last on Prothero and
stood watching him pull on his pants and boots.

"You'd better leave your coat and collar off," he said. "I'm
going to lick you!"

"What in blazes do you mean?" demanded Prothero.

"Just that."

"Good Lord! Are you mad? What possesses you?"

"General principles."

"Don't be an idiot!"

"Never more sane! You're a skunk. You've been given to me to do
what I like with. I like to give you a licking, and kick you into
the jungle! Stay up there, Diana! Do you hear me?"

Diana's tail thumped the stone upstairs in dumb acknowledgment of
orders, and Ommony peeled his coat off, rolling up big flannel
shirt-sleeves in a way that almost made him feel in school again.

But it was Prothero who was in school, and he began to take
instruction with three different disadvantages. As he had
remarked earlier to Ommony, he had done himself too well, and,
although hale and strong, he was overfed. The dim light from the
clay lamp did not suit his small eyes, whereas Ommony was used to
peering down the gloom of jungle lanes. And he did not believe
that Ommony was serious. Everybody knew Ommony for a man who
preached peace almost to the point of getting fired for it.

He was not really convinced of Ommony's seriousness until an
unimaginary fist struck him on the nose. Bellowing with rage he
hitched his pants, squared himself and struck back, receiving
another on the nose that made it bleed and added incitement
to conviction.

The fight once on he proved no mean antagonist, for he was
heavier and full of that ruthless, selfish courage that is apt to
surprise those who count too literally on the maxims of the
copybook. Bullies may be cowards, but most British officers can
box a bit, and in his early days Prothero had studied the game
for purely disreputable reasons, counting on the average
officer's objection to having his head punched, as a safe basis
from which to disregard the finer canons of conduct. He had
almost wooed unpopularity, that being the easiest way for a man
to climb who has scant social charm. It passes for strength
of character.

So once or twice as they sparred around the altar in the midst of
the cavern the advantage passed from Ommony to Prothero. But
never for more than a moment, because Prothero's spirit was the
cynic's bent on self-defense, Ommony's that of the dealer of
chastisement. Moreover, Ommony had never done himself well in the
Lucullian sense. If he was an epicure it was of thoughts,
principles, and self-control. The self-controlled man who elects
at last to fight is utterly invincible--except in the dark and
then perhaps.

The dim light from the clay lamp handicapped Prothero. There was
just enough of it to let him see the other's fists as they came
on his guard. Sight and sensation were almost simultaneous, and
although Ommony could not hit like Bob Fitzsimmons, his blows
were amply hard enough to shake the teeth of the other, who
felt himself weakening, sickening, dizzying, more and more
distressed--and had no regard for what decent fellows call the
game in any event.

Some men can take punishment, consider it as punishment, fight
back but bear no malice, knowing they deserve what they are
getting but intent on coming off as little damaged as may be in
their own or the enemy's estimation. You may bet on those men
safely--not that they will win; but that they are fit to laugh
and live with--fit to be fought and forgiven.

Prothero was the other kind. Punishment, that he so loved to
inflict, brought out the yellow devil in him either way. He could
not hit except to kill. His vices were his virtues in his own
opinion. Sportsmanship was cant, that he could use to his own
advantage on occasion, but that he was never bound by. He was
incapable of liking--of admiring--of respecting; but he could
fear, and he could hate. He began to hate Ommony poisonously, as
fear increased and he felt himself at his intended victim's mercy.

We hate men for the wrongs we have inflicted or intended to
inflict on them. To Prothero, backing away around and around the
altar, it began to seem an outrage that Ommony should not be
tried for treason. Each blow that passed inside his weakening
guard increased the sense of it. He, Prothero, needed some one to
be blamed for the fact that Mahommed Babar was at large and in
command of men. Why, then, not Ommony? What right had Ommony to
resent being a victim. Or to refuse? Or to hit back? Damn him!
Had he the impudence to think himself an equal! The son of a
dusty old Cambridge bookseller the equal of Colonel Prothero of
Cheltenham and the Intelligence?

By Gad! Was he, Prothero, going to take a thrashing from a
shopkeeper's son? Not while he knew it! He would teach the fellow!

One eye was nearly out of commission. Glassy, over-fed,
protruding things, they were only too easy to hit. But the one
that Ommony had not yet reached caught sight of an iron, the size
of a tavern poker, that had rolled against the wall and been
forgotten. It was under the lamp. The dim light glinted on it.
He had to look away, lest Ommony should see it too and be
forewarned. Turning his head exposed the angle of his jawbone to
a right-hand punch that sent him reeling backward, but it also
gave him the excuse to give ground unsuspected. He sprang for the
wall, jumped, smashed the clay lamp with his fist, and ducked
instantly in the total darkness to grope along the floor.

Ommony's fist crashed against the wall, and the next he knew was
a stinging blow as the iron struck him from behind between the
shoulder-blades. The blow almost produced paralysis, but missed
it by a fraction of an inch.

Colonel Prothero could see no sense in sportsmanship. But Diana
could not even understand the meaning of the word! Subtle canine
reasoning convinced her that the sudden darkness canceled
previous orders. And possibly her huntress eyes could see in the
total darkness, where Ommony's could not.

Prothero groped for the back of Ommony's head with his left hand
and raised the heavy iron for the blow that should finish the
argument--taking his time--making sure of his aim--laughing as
Ommony turned half-toward him. He seized him by the hair with his
left hand to force the head downward in position, and the laugh
changed to a gurgle as Diana took him from behind with paws on
his shoulders that bore him downward and jaws that tore his neck.
He went down in the darkness, crying out.

No iron--no torture--nothing less than Ommony's voice and hand
could have caused Diana's fanged hold to relax, as it did
reluctantly. Then, because Ommony's back still pained him where
the iron had struck, Diana was given the seat of Prothero's pants
to haul by, and master and hound together dragged the Chief of
the Intelligence upstairs into the temple, where the gloom was
not quite so opaque, and there Prothero recovered, not having
quite lost consciousness at any time. He was only torn and
punched, whereas Ommony had been clubbed from behind, which is
almost the worst thing that can happen to a man.

"Damn that dog of yours! Well, have you worked your temper off?
You'd better shake hands," suggested Prothero, running true to
type, as men do in most emergencies and using what he believed to
be psychology.

Conscious of pain between his shoulders and its origin Ommony
said nothing yet. He knew exactly what he was going to do--needed
no suggestion. But he waited, for he was curious.

"A man who won't shake hands after a fight--" Prothero began.

"How did you hit me in the back?" asked Ommony.

"I didn't. I hit you on the chin. You staggered back against the
wall and hurt yourself. I was bending forward to steady you when
your infernal dog seized me from behind. D'you realize what he's
done to my neck, confound it? He's torn the flesh out! Missed my
jugular by half an inch. And you sit there refusing to shake
hands! That's a nice return for my trying to steady you on your
feet. You hit me first anyhow--attacked me like a madman."

"I suppose that's the story you'll tell at headquarters," said
Ommony, smiling at last. The smile was invisible, because of
darkness, but there, and as unmistakable as pain.


"Yes. Have you still got that iron?"

He reached to make sure, and Prothero neglected the opportunity
thus provided to strike him behind the ear because of Diana,
whose shaggy hair was bristling and who was making music of
a kind.

"Get up!" commanded Ommony, seizing a handful of Diana's scruff
and leaning his whole weight on her as he got to his feet. "Get
out into the jungle! Walk home and tell any lies you like!
Cheat--chouse--perjure yourself--and have first move! I'll play
what I have and beat you! Get out of here!"

Prothero ran to escape being kicked--ran faster because of
Diana's music growling through her teeth behind him--and was
bitten by the other two dogs that had been caught and held at the
temple door by Mahommed Babar's orders. No Mohammedan quite likes
the company of dogs in his living-quarters, and he had ordered
all three kept outside, but nobody had dared handle Diana, whom
Ommony now had to hold with all his might to prevent her from
joining the other two and tearing Prothero to pieces.

The other two dogs were dragged off at last, Ommony contrived to
leash Diana, and Prothero, refusing to believe his senses, yet
aware of the toe of his enemy's boot, was driven past the fires,
and past the elephants, and out into the jungle--bleeding,
bruised, sans weapons, sans cook or cooking-pot, sans cigarette,
sans anything.

But after Prothero had gone, with Diana's deep voice belling from
behind to hasten him, Ommony whistled in a way that was peculiar
to him, and a jungli came flitting between the tree-trunks
no nearer than was necessary. Only his outline was vaguely
visible--that and the reflection of the firelight in his
eyes--but he grunted, and Ommony answered. After about a minute's
interchange of gutturals the jungli disappeared again along the
trail of Prothero.


_"A Cur, Never!"_

It is not good to be bleeding in the jungle in the dark, and all
alone, especially if you can only see a star or two at intervals
between the over-arching trees and have lost a great part of your
sense of direction because one eye is nearly out of commission
and the other bruised. Ill-temper and hatred are no help.

There are creatures that see in the dark and have wings and like
blood and can sting. There are four-footed "fellamilads" with
fangs that moisten at the smell of warm blood from far off.
Eyes that gather up the almost non-existent jungle light and
gleam as they dodge from tree to tree. Voices that whimper
and whisper and yelp of hunger--voices that roar--and, the
worst of all!--stealthy footfalls, announcing the approach
of none knows what, but it may be a black panther. And there
are snakes which rustle in the undergrowth, or hang down swaying
among the creepers.

Prothero elected to climb a tree and wait in its branches until
morning. But even as he raised his right foot painfully, using
a hand to help his thigh that ached on the under part where
Ommony's toe had met meat, a silent form, almost invisible, moved
in the velvet gloom beside him and he leaped for the narrow glade
again, where a man at any rate had room to swing his fists.

Whereat a low noise like the mewing of a cat made his blood run
cold, and he retreated along the glade, slapping the back of his
neck to kill mosquitoes and turning at every second stride to see
what he should see, but hoping to see nothing.

The mewing ceased when he went forward. When he paused to listen
it began again--sometimes so close that the goose-flesh rose up
all one side of his body as if some creeping thing had touched
him. He was being followed, but could hear no footsteps. He could
almost feel the presence of a living being, but could see none.
Once, when he struck out suddenly in a sort of panic of despair,
he thought his fist actually brushed against something, but it
might have been one of the countless winged insects that were
fluttering all about him--there were lots of those.

A bat crashed into his face, filling his nostrils with a stink
beyond analysis. He struck the creature to the ground and killed
it, but cried out, almost on the verge of tears--he, Prothero of
the Intelligence!

He mastered himself with an effort and continued down the glade,
but stopped again after a minute, for he heard the crunch of
strong jaws that devoured the bat. He had to consider. Only two
animals in all the jungle would devour that filthiness--pig or
hyena--the bravest and the meanest beasts that live. He was not
afraid of hyenas, or need not be; but if it was pig--the lords of
the jungle, the tiger and leopard, give right of way to the boar,
and he would better choose a tree accordingly.

He chose a tree, and even as he raised his foot to climb some
other creature struck the brute that ate the bat. It snarled and
yelped and ran off whimpering. So he knew it was hyena and not
pig. But who--what had struck the brute? Not another hyena, for
he heard the blow--almost a thump--it might have been a kick--a
hoof he would have thought, only he could hear no footfalls. He
started to climb the tree, and that infernal mewing began again.

No use trying to climb away from any of the big cats. Each to his
own element, and a man, even in extremity, is better on the hard
ground and his own two feet. He groped about in utter darkness
for a stick that would serve for a club, and his hand touched
something neither warm nor cold that moved and drew an oath
from him.

It might have been a snake, although it was hardly clammy enough.
It had not feathers, nor any hair that he could feel. He had
touched it, or it had touched him--which was it?--on a level with
his waist. A snake can sit up to that height--some snakes
can--but it had not struck, it had retreated.

Then a twig broke on his left, and another twig behind him,
and the mewing began again. Colonel Arthur Prothero of the
Intelligence cried out, on the threshold of hysteria.

After that he ran for a little while, hoping that the sound of
his heavy footfall might scare away creatures given to mistrust
of unfamiliar sounds. But the life of the jungle is lived by
night, as it sleeps by day, and nearly all waking life is
curious. He heard the crashing of the undergrowth as some big
beast that knew his own power too well to worry about caution
hurried to investigate. Stopping to hunt frenziedly for any kind
of weapon--going on his knees to grope for down-wood--he heard
what sounded like a fight. There were a dozen blows, a deal of
crashing, snarling, growling, guttural grunting followed by
retreat. But retreat of what he could not guess, any more than he
could see what had caused retreat.

Had some beast--some one of the big cats--chosen him? Was it
playing cat-and-mouse with him, and driving away competitors
meanwhile? It felt, looked, sounded like it! He began to run
again, partly to find out whether he was followed.

It was easy to run along the jungle lane, for the narrow slit
overhead made the gloom luminous and the irregular line of trees
on either hand was like two walls of blackness leaning inward,
only just a trifle darker than the night itself. He could not
hear anything following, and as he grew out of breath he stopped
again to listen. Instantly, under the sound of his breathing and
the humming of his own heart, he heard the mewing as distinctly
as ever--closer than ever. He almost felt breath on his cheek, it
was so close. He struck out, kicked, shouted, and his foot struck
something neither soft nor hard that yielded and vanished, for
when he kicked a second time there was nothing there.

The mewing resumed from behind him; not quite so close this time,
but near enough to make his blood run cold--from about the height
of his waist, or perhaps a bit higher, as well as he could judge.

At last he found a stick that would come away in his hand and was
heavy enough for a weapon. He wielded it, whirled it about him,
and shouted to raise his own courage, which was parlous near to
disappearing altogether.

The stick struck something and broke. Whatever it struck was
alive, for it grunted and gave way. Then instead of one sound of
mewing there were three, distinct, from separate directions, and
they seemed to be closing in on him. So he gripped the short
end of the stick that was left in his hand and started off
running again.

There came footfalls from behind him this time, but he could see
nothing when he glanced over his shoulder. It was like the sound
of soft feet galloping--not wolves or wild dogs, for they made no
other sound and did not come fast enough--perhaps a hyena again.
He stopped to stand at bay, and pursuit ceased instantly, which
suggested a hyena more than any other brute.

But you can generally see a hyena's eyes, hung low and moving
sidewise, and he could see nothing. He found another stick and
charged with it, striking at the spot where he supposed the brute
might be; but only beat the air and presently abandoned that, for
it made him feel more impotent than ever.

Meanwhile the bruises Ommony's fists had made and the flesh torn
by Diana's teeth had become a spread feast for the insects. He
had come away without a handkerchief, so he tore off the tail of
his shirt to make a bandage. In the dark he tore it badly. It was
too short. He had to tear the whole shirt up to get a piece long
enough to be any good. That did serve to cover up the actual open
wounds; but it stuck to them and hurt nearly as badly as the
insects had. Moreover, it left the bruises exposed, and his torso
arrayed in nothing but a cotton singlet, through which the
mosquitoes could drive their gimlets comfortably with the
additional advantage of a foothold.

"Just like that cad Ommony to kick me out without coat or hat!"

Rage against Ommony helped for a little while, but gave place to
chagrin. He did not feel proud of having been kicked out of camp
by the bookseller's son. Ommony was a person who had friends. He,
Prothero, was indisputably blessed with a number of steadfast
enemies. He had always regarded his enemies as useful hitherto.
They had provided him with opportunities to score vindictively
and call attention to his dangerous qualities, which was the same
thing in his mind as importance.

Ommony's friends were not only numerous, some of them were highly
placed. That made the situation awkward. Damn the man! Why
couldn't he be the nincompoop a bookseller's brat ought to be,
and take the consequences! A mere Woods and Forests man who was
friendly with rebels and knew the junglebat was such an obviously
easy mark for a Colonel of Intelligence in search of a scapegoat!
Friends or no friends, he could have contrived to blame Ommony
for Mahommed Babar's continuance in the field if only the bally
man hadn't presumed to take his own part so damned effectively!

He could have made a lovely scandal of it. A minor British
official charged with treason! An insignificant but famous Woods
and Forests man convicted of harboring his country's enemies! A
notorious pacifist caught in the act of fostering rebellion!
Suspected, tracked down, seen, overheard and taken by the famous
Arthur Prothero, hero of so-and-so and such-and-such. He might
have got a decoration out of it! And the leverage it would
have given him over Ommony's erstwhile friends would have
been priceless.

"That's what you think, is it? Well, I'm told you used to believe
in Ommony, so your opinion--"

But who was going to be convinced now by circumstantial evidence
without investigation? No one, except that ass Macaulay, who was
known to hate Ommony and always to be convinced, in advance of
the evidence, on whichever side his prejudices leaned.

Macaulay on your side was worse than useless. All the other
influential men would wait before passing judgment. They would
ask why Ommony had thrashed him, Prothero. And what would the
answer be? Damn it!

He knew what the answer would be. People who liked Ommony were
fanatics about him, and all fanatics were fools. They would
assert and maintain that Ommony, being such as he was known to
be, would never thrash a man without good reason. They would look
into the reason. And, damn it!--whatever Ommony might say, there
would be men who would believe, implicitly!

Dread of future developments added itself to immediate fear and
the torture of insects. There were moments when it almost seemed
better to face about and wait for the wild beasts that dogged him
so persistently. He wished he knew more zoology, so as to know
what animal mewed like that. Come to think of it, he had never
heard an exactly similar noise, but that might be because he had
never studied leopards except by way of shooting them occasionally.
It might be a cheetah.

Some one told him once that cheetahs mew when tracking down their
prey. If it was a cheetah there were very likely several of them.
That made the recent chorus of mewing comprehensible. There were
two or three hours yet until dawn. They kill at dawn or just
before it preferably, he remembered--or so somebody had said.

Well, he always did hate a man who funked death when it could
not be escaped. If it could be avoided, then any course was
justifiable for a man of position and means. But was it avoidable
now? Was there any other victim for the cheetahs, to be substituted
for himself? No. Not even Lal Rai--that impudent, lying, rascally,
useful dog Lal Rai.

He wondered what would happen to Lal Rai. To whose lot would he
fall? He would surely fall to some one, for a man like that was
never any use without a master. And he certainly would never find
another master who would understand him and make use of him as
he, Prothero, had done. Any one with idiotic notions about
conventions and morality might as well hold a two-edged knife by
the blade as try to employ Lal Rai. For a while he was almost
happy, thinking of the tricks he had turned through Lal Rai's
agency. But the mewing began again.

He was dreadfully tired as well as sore and irritated. He had
an idea that his nerve would fail altogether if he continued
retreating in front of that beastly, blood-chilling noise. As a
man of notorious resourcefulness he felt reasonably sure that if
there were a remedy within reach he would not have overlooked it.
Death seemed inescapable. No way out. It was undignified, as well
as stupid, to keep on running away from what could overtake him
whenever it chose.

Beaten--defeated he might be. A cur, never! He chose a tree by
the feel of it, and sat down with his back against its bole, to
wait for death. He even composed his own epitaph, and wished he
had a pencil with which to write it on a scrap of paper for the
search-party to find and turn in at headquarters.

He waited a surprisingly long time, and nothing happened, except
that the cloud of insects increased, and whenever he moved there
was mewing. Hang it, it was almost like a house-cat's! That
thought brought relief, after its absurdity had faded, and
it is surprising what relief will do to a man whose nerves
are all on edge.

He found himself struggling to keep awake. He had to rub his eyes
repeatedly. More and more frequently his head fell forward on his
breast. More than once his own half-finished snore brought him
back to his senses with a start. When he heard other sounds, and
thought he saw eyes in the dark very near him, he could not be
sure that he was not dreaming.

Finally he decided that he might just as well be killed while
asleep as while awake. So he made himself as comfortable as he
could, laying his head against a root and curling up as if he
were in bed. He fell asleep almost instantly, and was awakened
by loud mewing shortly after sunlight had begun to penetrate
the jungle.

He sat up, rubbed his eyes and looked. Six of Ommony's naked
junglis sat around him in a semi-circle--sat and mewed at him,
and pointed in the direction of the railway line.


_Colonel John Tregurtha, V.C., D.S.O., etc._

In the big tent by the flagstaff, on the hilltop overlooking the
compounds where the prisoners wondered what was next, Macaulay
smiled meanly. He was at his best, always, when a reputation was
in danger. And his best was his worst. He could break a man more
skillfully and painfully, and read a more eloquent lesson from it
afterward, than any man in India, except perhaps one missionary,
who deserves a story to himself and shall be accommodated--one of
these days.

Macaulay did not seem to feel the heat. He was probably as
incapable of suffering or sentiment on such occasions as a hound
in full cry.

Colonel John Tregurtha V.C., D.S.O., etc., on the other hand,
wiped sweat from his forehead and swore in undertones. He sat
across the table from Macaulay and studied the map between them
in order to keep himself from doing violence--which must never be
done to civilians.

Ommony had made the map, and there were ways in which it differed
from the Ordnance Survey maps, as Macaulay had been careful to
point out; but, as Tregurtha had made answer, Ommony was not an
Ordnance Survey man, and it was the only map available.

"He should have taken the trouble to familiarize himself with
requirements," said Macaulay.

"Was he ever paid for his work?" asked Tregurtha.

Macaulay withdrew into cynical silence behind his handkerchief.
Tregurtha rubbed it in.

"I understand that we didn't even lend him the surveying instruments."

"Why should a Woods and Forests man make maps at all?" demanded
Macaulay. "He is paid to look after trees."

"Don't his trees look good?" asked Tregurtha. "This is an
excellent map."

"It looks to me like the work of a man whose attention is
divided--improperly divided," said Macaulay.

"He includes geology, altitude, contour, running water with depth
and periodicity, standing water, rocks, trees--a very good map,"
said Tregurtha. "Just the least confusing to a person not taught
to read maps--"

"Do you refer to me as a person?" asked Macaulay.

"These peculiar marks are ancient buildings--not given on our
maps at all," said Tregurtha.

"Probably not there," said Macaulay.

"This one is Peria Vur--or so he calls it."

"That, I take it, is his ultimate effrontery," Macaulay sneered.
"The naming of places is a function of Government, not the
privilege of Woods and Forests men. But, of course, as the place
is probably not really there--"

Tregurtha got up and strode up and down to make sure of himself,
then resumed his chair in the way a man faces the dentist. If his
duty, as it seemed, was to speak to Macaulay civilly, he decided
he could manage it.

"A spy has reported elephants at a point that seems to correspond
with Peria Vur," he said.

"Doubtless wild ones," said Macaulay.

"The Air Force reported recently that their men have seen what
look like camp-fires close to the same spot."

"Forest fires," the other answered. "Ommony was no doubt making
maps instead of attending to business."

Tregurtha was about to retort, but a junior officer brought in a
despatch marked "O.H.M.S. Secret." Tregurtha opened it, studied
it, wrinkling his forehead for several minutes, and began wiping
away sweat again--a process that annoyed the other, whose
only natural function was declared by irreverent juniors to
be indigestion.

"Let me remind you," said Tregurtha, "first and last I have urged
reconnaissance of Peria Vur."

"You have insisted ad nauseam! I suppose you had the right to. I
have opposed it for three reasons, which I don't mind repeating.
In the first place, the expense. Second, the rebellion is over;
armed reconnaissances should give place to peaceful measures.
Third, Peria Vur is a mare's nest--one of this man Ommony's
inventions for calling attention to himself. He craves notoriety.
It's a disease with him."

Tregurtha laid the secret despatch face downward on the table,
for it had become a habit with all who knew Macaulay to permit
him no unnecessary opportunities. "Well, here's important news,"
he said. "From the Intelligence--delayed--cut wire. The train
in which Colonel Prothero was traveling was derailed. Prothero
was carried off. Ommony's bungalow was raided the same night;
his stores were looted, and Ommony too was carried away prisoner."

Macaulay refused to be shocked.

"Prisoner fiddlesticks! He's hand and glove with every
disaffected person in the country!"

"I suspect Peria Vur. The report says tracks lead in that
direction, and Ommony's servants confirm the belief."

"I'd like to interview those servants."

"Nothing to prevent you. The predicament of Prothero calls for

"You may act in any way within your province, Colonel Tregurtha.
Limits were laid down at the recent conference. The predicament
of a Colonel of Intelligence! Hah! It ought to make a good story!"

"This is an emergency."

"I deny that it amounts to that," Macaulay answered, reaching for
the despatch, and turning it face upward.

Tregurtha permitted him with ill-concealed reluctance. The men
who write military messages in great haste are not adepts
at presenting their case to sarcastic civilians. Macaulay,
martinet-civilian, as Tregurtha was practical soldier, was there
for the appointed purpose of bringing military measures to an
end; he could combine business with pleasure, and did, his
pleasure being such as it was.

"On the strength of this one scribbled note do you expect me to
risk my reputation by permitting armed extravagance?" he asked
with his choicest sneer. "What is obviously called for is an
investigation as to how Colonel Prothero--"

"I will investigate," Tregurtha interrupted, pocketing despatch
and map and getting to his feet.

"In person?" asked Macaulay, taken aback for the moment; then,
recovering himself, "You will report to me, of course."

Tregurtha made no answer but strode out of the tent and gave his
own orders wherever he felt he still had some authority. Under
Macaulay's exacerbating regime the tendency was to set clique
against clique, with everybody spying on everybody else and all
power consequently centering into Macaulay's own hands. But not
all men are amenable to that kind of thing, and Tregurtha had his
resources. He made the most of them. There was no prohibition
against sending out patrols in quick succession, so he did that,
and gave them orders to rendezvous at a point along the line,
whither he himself proceeded in an empty freight train.

So he arrived with about a hundred men next day at the point
where Prothero's train had left the line and was still blocking
the way. Labor gangs were already busy with it. Nobody had been
killed; no loot had been taken from the train, which, except for
minor damage, was unharmed. The train crew, the handful of
passengers, Ommony's servants, and a few other witnesses had been
rounded up by the first officer to arrive on the scene in charge
of a patrol, and they were all indignantly anxious to tell their
story and get away from the miserable wayside station, where they
were accommodated in a shed that reeked of ancient skins and
similar products of the country.

Tregurtha packed them into his train under guard and sent them
back, after hearing what they had to say, and himself remained on
the spot with most of his men, planning to return in the derailed
train when the gangs should have put it in commission, and
providing nothing else transpired meanwhile.

There was no proper breakdown machinery on the spot, and no
chance of getting any until the wires should be mended, which was
"not yet." So the soldiers were put to work, and what with
showing the railway coolies how to do things, and being shown by
them, it was night before the job was nearly done. And there were
no flares. If it had not been for a culvert that the engine broke
when it left the track--but there is always something.

So the men bivouacked happily, Tregurtha studied the situation,
as his report expressed it afterward, and sent out scouts to find
natives who might throw some light on events. Nothing happened,
except for an incidental fight or two between the soldiers and
the half-caste railway underlings, who hate one another as
suddenly and fiercely as ants from a different hill. No native
informants who had any valuable knowledge were discovered, and
when morning came Tregurtha recognized himself as hardly wiser
than the day before.

However, when the sun was just beginning to peer over the
tree-tops and start the men swearing, there came stumbling to the
edge of the bank above the track an apparition in a bloody
singlet, with a fragment of a torn khaki shirt knotted around his
neck. His eyes were almost entirely closed by bruises and
mosquito bites, and he came forward as if goaded like an ox; as
if direction were supplied by pin-pricks and the impulse to
advance by fear of something following.

He in no wise resembled any form of military man, except for his
puttee leggings and boots, which still retained shape, if not
slickness and polish. His breeches were a mass of matted leaves
and blood, for the jungle insects are hardly delayed by a
thickness of cotton twill. He needed shaving, to say nothing of a
bath; and in fact had reached the stage of misery, dirt, and
discomfort in which he almost ceased to resemble a human being.
He did not see the top of the bank, but stepped forward and fell
over it, sliding and rolling twenty feet to the bottom, where he
sat up presently, making no sound, only his swollen lips moving.
A sentry from a point of vantage some way along the bank called
attention to him as a man at sea might report a ship on the
horizon. But it seemed to be nobody's business to go and
investigate, and finally Tregurtha went himself, rather expecting
to have to call for a non-com to arrest a drunken half-breed.

"Who are you, my man?" he asked when he came close enough.

"By Jabez, Tregurtha," he mumbled. "I'm damned if I know! I was
Prothero once!"

Now Prothero and Tregurtha reckoned any way at all were as the
poles apart. Tregurtha did not even regard Prothero as a good
Intelligence officer, and as for his morals, manners, and
personal habits he despised them _de profundis._ On various
occasions he had found him out in ambitious prevarications,
without, however, ever having had sufficient proof to force an
issue; so almost the first thought that occurred to him as he
beckoned for help was that he should guard against trickery.

No cause had any interest for Prothero unless it should profit
him personally. That was notorious. It was therefore almost a
duty to regard Prothero's statements with suspicion. There was,
moreover, Macaulay. He and Prothero were known as the fox and
badger, because they were allies but not friends, and had other
peculiar characteristics that endeared them neither to each other
nor to their subordinates, but made both of them dangerous to
their equals and superiors.

So he avoided confidences for the moment on humanitarian
grounds and superintended the sponging of Prothero's face.
Then he had him almost embalmed in vaseline and bandaged
from head to foot; all of which was very comforting after such
a night as Prothero had spent, and set up a corresponding
reaction in his mind--brought his natural inclinations uppermost.
If you thaw out a frozen snake you must not be surprised if he
bites you, but some folk never learn that.

Tregurtha had learned it, of course, but never really understood.
He could dislike, distrust, and despise like any normal man; but
he was constitutionally incapable of fathoming the obliquity of
either Prothero or Macaulay; and he was unfortunately capable of
pitying either of them, even when he felt most sure that they
were poisonous rogues.

In other words, Tregurtha was a plain and decent fellow, who knew
obliquity existed, and regretted the fact. But he was as a rod in
the hands of any high-placed crook who dared make use of him. He
might have learned the facts if he had questioned Prothero the
minute he came on him, but he did not.

So by the time he had Prothero comfortably stretched on a seat in
the very car from which he had been dragged by Mahommed Babar's
men, with his own effects around him and his own servants, cook
included, sent for from the railway station, the advantage had
passed entirely into the wrong hands. It is a maxim of the
Intelligence to say nothing without good reason; and Prothero,
with his wits just sufficiently recovered to make him cautious,
determined to give away no information unless and until he could
find out how much was known already.

It would have been a breach of discipline, punishable under
King's Regulations, to refuse to answer questions, so he
took the simply obvious course of pretending to be "all in."
He certainly looked the part, and the bandages added their
picturesque suggestion.

"Lal Rai," he mumbled with his eyes closed, instead of answering
the questions Tregurtha put to him.

His purpose was to commit himself to nothing; his interest in Lal
Rai's whereabouts would be taken as only natural, no matter how
much Tregurtha knew already or would be likely to find out later.

"I have no news of Lal Rai," said Tregurtha. "Try to collect your
thoughts now. Just nod or shake your head, while I put questions.
You were captured from this train and carried off--which
direction? East? Northeast?"

It might have been the bandages that made the head movement so
difficult to interpret. It seemed like a combination of nod
and shake.

"Southeast?" Tregurtha suggested, and received the same answer--or
so nearly the same answer that no sane man would swear to
the difference.

"Who carried you off?" Tregurtha asked. "Mahommed Babar? Was
Ommony a prisoner too? Did you see him?"

The movements of his head continued to mean either yes or no,
until gradually Prothero became convinced that Tregurtha knew
literally nothing, or he would not have asked such questions.

There was no doctor on the scene, as Prothero lapsed unchallenged
into a kind of coma in order to think uninterrupted. He took his
time about recovering; did not recover, in fact, until the
culvert was reported practicable and Tregurtha went out to
examine it. In Tregurtha's absence he sat up and demanded whisky;
and the whisky provided just that touch of daring that, in his
condition, was all that was needed to change irresolution into
decision. As Ommony had correctly diagnosed, he was a man who
would inevitably make mistakes.

As an inventor, who had wrestled with a problem for endless
weeks, may sit up in the night and see in a flash the false key
to his discovery, so, with the whisky fumes in his brain,
Prothero saw not only how to have revenge on Ommony, but how to
gather credit for himself. To men of his disposition no success
is genuinely palatable unless it includes failure for some
one else.

He saw how to discredit Tregurtha, who in his opinion was
overrated and needed showing up. Overrated men ought to be shown
up as a matter of religion. The solution was perfect--three-sided,
as all perfection should be! He was careful to show just sufficient
symptoms of recovery to induce Tregurtha to resume his questioning
on his return from inspecting the culvert and ordering steam up
on the engine.

Face to face with Tregurtha across the narrow compartment he
allowed it to be dragged forth from him that a considerable
body of outlaws, about whose numbers he succeeded in being
unintelligibly vague, was at large in a clearing to the eastward.
It was no part of his intention that Tregurtha should snatch
one of those quick successes on which he had risen to distinction.
So whenever Tregurtha questioned him about Peria Vur and ancient
Buddhist temples he fell back on silence, vertigo, and incomprehensible
mumblings through lips that masked his trickery to perfection.

Had not he himself cross-questioned hundreds of prisoners in his
day? Did he not know all the side-steps of evasiveness, and how
to state the truth while conveying the meaning of untruth? He
contrived to convey the impression that these outlaws were a very
ordinary company of malcontents, who might be surprised and
rounded up without much difficulty; and the surprising fact that
the train had not been burned or looted lent color to the
suggestion. To Tregurtha, whose mind was direct and uncompromising,
drawing simple conclusions from plain facts, it looked as if
Mahommed Babar and a miserable handful had pounced on a couple
of more or less important Englishmen with the notion of holding
them as hostages--possibly to be exchanged eventually against
indemnity for themselves.

"But how did you escape?" he demanded, and Prothero grew
unintelligible again.

"Did you fight your way out?"

That was the kind of question Prothero was delighted to answer.
To tell a lie truthfully tickled his sense of humor and complied
with all his tenets. He nodded. He had fought his way out, hadn't
he? He certainly wasn't going to admit that Ommony had kicked him
out! He framed the words with cracked and purple lips, and made a
gesture by way of illustration. Obviously, as a modest man,
he could not boast of his own resourceful bravery, but the
suggestion was in the air, nevertheless, that V.C.'s are mostly a
question of available witnesses.

All of which naturally added to Tregurtha's growing conviction
that the outlaws were an insignificant number, who should be
handled with speed and resolution. Were there not Prothero's
previous reports, to the general effect that not a rebel was left
at large "with guts enough to grin with"?

Personal ambition did not influence Tregurtha, and he was man
enough not to be governed by desire to score off Macaulay. But to
his view the situation called for immediate action, and that was
nearly, but not quite, all about it.

"Didn't they take you to Peria Vur?" he demanded. "Isn't there an
ancient temple where they're camped? Elephants? An enormous rock
that junglis call the Rump?"

Prothero's eyes were much too swollen and discolored to betray
the thought behind them as it began to dawn how perfectly he
could mislead the other man without incriminating himself.
He permitted the impression to escape that he was gradually
recalling impressions and incidents, which had been for a while
obliterated by his experiences in the jungle. There was such a
temple. They were camped there. He remembered.

"You came on foot from there to here? How far away is it then?
Must be fairly close. You arrived here about eight in the
morning. In your condition you can't have been marching many
hours. Is it three-four-five miles?"

Prothero nodded at the word five. Fifteen was nearer the mark,
and he knew it, but the truth might make Tregurtha over-cautious.
Tregurtha remembered that Ommony's map, which he had in his
pocket, gave the distance as fifteen or sixteen miles; but, as
Macaulay had insisted, the map was not necessarily accurate.
Prothero, who had come recently on foot, should know best.

"All right," he said suddenly, "I'll have this car cut off and
send you along. Please tell Macaulay that my patrols will
probably be in touch with the outlaws by the time you get there.
He may expect to hear from me soon after. This should be a quick
business, so I'll keep all of this train except your car, and use
it for a base of operations. Hang it, man! I do believe you're
smiling! Well, well, that's splendid! Feeling better already, eh?"


_"I Will Do Anything You Ask of Me, Bahadur."_

The showdown came at dawn. They do. If the history of crises
could be written it would be set down that the turning-point in
the career of nations as well as individuals occurs with almost
mathematical exactitude between darkness and the rising of
the sun.

Mahommed Babar came before the false dawn and awoke Ommony, who
was sleeping fitfully on a heap of blankets in the lap of a stone
Buddha. Together they mounted the Rump by a winding flight of
steps cut the width of a human foot into the granite, and sat
facing the direction where the sun would presently appear. There
was an enormous lingam there, which Mahommed Babar used as a
stool, sitting in the European way with legs thrust forward and
his old-fashioned saber laid across his knees. Ommony sat on an
altar to some obscure Hindu god that, like the lingam, had
displaced, or, at any rate, had followed after the purer worship
of the Buddha.

They were aware that they formed an almost perfect contrast--conscious
of the fact that they were men of opposite color, differing creed,
rival culture, seeking for a common denominator, as it were,
through which they might attain to understanding. So they were
silent all the while the false dawn flickered in the sky. For
just as the really hungry hound pursues and does not give tongue,
men who genuinely seek knowledge make no noise about it.

"How is it, my friend Ommony?" Mahommed Babar said at last. "We
are men, we two. The world as we know it would be safer in our
hands than in those of the men who do rule it. We have the merit
of being honest. Why are we not successful?"

"Perhaps because we are fools," suggested Ommony.

"Nay, I think not. If a man is a fool who puts conviction to the
test, then I have no use for the universe or all its laws!"

"Perhaps the universe with all its laws has a use for you,"
Ommony answered dryly.

"We mean the same thing, sahib, only we phrase it differently.
But I would like to know what it all amounts to. My heart burns
with rebellion. Who put it there? I see, I know, I admire such
men as you; and I rebel against the culture that you worship! I
defy your masters! I cannot rebel against what represses me
unless I injure you; and if I ceased to rebel I would cease
thereby to be a man, and be not worth your respect. What is the
meaning of it all?"

"When I have looked I have nearly always found a middle way,"
said Ommony.

"A middle way? Hah! That is the obsession of the English.
Compromise is its other name. I hate it! The middle way between
light and darkness is gloom; between enmity and friendship is
treachery; between rebellion and servitude is hypocrisy! I
despise all three. Nevertheless, I am gloomy and a traitor and a

"I shouldn't have supposed you were the last two," Ommony
answered, biding his time like a fisherman.

"It is being a traitor and a hypocrite that makes me gloomy,"
Mahommed Babar answered. "I must betray the Moplahs, who stood
with me until the end, or else my Northern friends, or you--or
even possibly all three!"

"How does that make you a hypocrite?"

"I do the very thing I hate. I play off one alternative against
the other. You think me a brave man--a bold man, Ommony?"

"I have considered you brave."

"I am afraid!"

"I have often been afraid," Ommony answered.

"I am a coward!"

Ommony chose a cigar from his case and stuck it in his teeth
belligerently, up-tilted--lighted it with one hand, never taking
his eyes off the other's face--and slightly closed his left eye,
as he always did when studying the jungle.

"Hah! You eye me as a man who judges wine, and you are a good
judge. But, you see, it isn't dawn yet, and who shall judge wine
in a half-light?"

"Half-light! I think that's it!" said Ommony, and the rissaldar nodded.

"Something is happening, sahib, but we know not what. We see a
little, but not enough. You see that the sun is setting on the
day of empires--on the earth hunger that has made one nation rule
another. I see the sun rising on new realms. Yet neither you nor
I see clearly. I am a rebel, because my heart burns. You are--"

"My business is the forest," Ommony answered.

"I would praise Allah more profoundly if I might speak as you!"
said the rissaldar. "You can devote yourself to the forest and
injure none. Mine is rebellion, and it seems I must injure every
one! Yet, sahib, if the truth could be peeled, as it were, so
that one might see it naked, it would be known that I would
rather die than injure any one except myself!"

Ommony nodded with understanding. To be born rebel, whose brave
heart burns without envy, his own submission to authority always
seems to be the greatest injury that he could do the world. The
very strength of his compassion for the under dog strips him of
patience. Pilate asked, "What is truth?" and washed his hands,
committing murder to save himself trouble. The rebel sees untruth
and strikes at it because he knows what truth is, yet not how to
express it. He kills that other men may live--is willing to die
that other men may live. The world has gone forward on the backs
of rebels, continuing to treat them as vermin, yet making heroes
of them after they are dead."

"What puzzles me is why you don't get out of here," said Ommony
at last.

"How can I, sahib? When this Moplah rebellion began I lent my
sword and became a leader. I sent letters to such cities as
Peshawar. Men joined me from the North, and then I sent back to
recruit others, appointing a rendezvous here, on this spot. Shall
they come then and not find me here?"

"If the troops come and find you here--"

"There might be a fight!" Mahommed Babar answered. "That might
possibly serve as an advertisement to keep my friends away! But I
doubt it, and it might do the reverse. You remember that I
suggested that you should mail my letters, and you refused? You
were right to refuse. Besides, letters, are probably opened, so
of late I have written none. My friends are in ignorance, and if
I were to be taken without a fight they would never learn of it
until they all came blundering into a trap. But if there were a
fight, and I should defeat the British, news of that would travel
on the wind. My friends might come hurrying all the faster--and
to what? To a cause already lost--to sure defeat! So either way I
am a traitor to my own! What shall I do, sahib?"

"That's the end of every problem, `What are you going to do about
it?'" answered Ommony. "Look. There's the dawn at last."

"Aye, but the dawn of what? Irresolution--irony--Nemesis--who
knows? And how about you, my friend? You have kicked that hyena
Prothero into the jungle. Your junglis will shepherd him. My
scouts say that railway men are already working on the wrecked
train, so he will find servants, if not friends. He will say what
he likes about you! What if they kill me and you are taken?"

Ommony got to his feet and stretched himself, facing the
rising sun.

"Lord knows!" he answered. "It's your affair as long as I'm
your prisoner."

"And if I let you go?"

"It would then become my business."

Mahommed Babar rose with his back to the sun and stood facing
Ommony. He smiled, but he looked like the image of robbed hope,
not disillusioned but defeated. The sun's rays, edging him, only
appeared to exaggerate his mental agony.

"It is a difficult thing," he said, "to set a hundred nations
free!" He did not exaggerate. India is at least a hundred
nations. Ommony laughed, but without scorn.

"The funny part about that is that you have to free one man
first," he answered; and of the two, although he was prisoner
and the other captor, he looked the less distressed in mind
or body. Mahommed Babar was pale and drawn with anxiety. The sun,
brazening as it rose, made of the surrounding tree-tops a
shimmering sea of gold and silver, and of the rock they stood on
an opal; but it made Mahommed Babar old and grim, although he was
hardly as old as Ommony.

"I think that I will set you free," he said slowly--then broke
out suddenly in bitterness: "It seems to make no difference
what I do! I came to help these people, not myself; and they
surrendered and left myself to pay the price! I sent for my
friends, and I am become a bait that lures them to their undoing!
Yet I intended less to make use of them than to provide them with
opportunity! I took you prisoner because I hoped to save you from
the stigma of having befriended me. But I think I have only made
your situation worse! Prothero is free, for you freed him; he
will lie about you to save his own face. Lal Rai is loose--"

Ommony gasped as if some one had hit him.

"Lal Rai gone! That rascal is Prothero's brains! I warned you--"

"I know you did, Bahadur. But he broke the iron with which we
fastened him, slew two of my men in the night, and slipped away.
None knew until early dawn. I sent men in pursuit, but--"

"Damn!" exclaimed Ommony.

"So there are two dangerous men who will accuse you. No man,
sahib, ever had a better friend than you have been to me, and no
friend ever steered a course more carefully. I could answer truly
that you never stepped beyond the letter of your authority, but
who will believe me?"

Ommony did not answer. Something told him that the upshot of it
all was ripe for announcement, and that Mahommed Babar was only
coming at it in his own way.

"I can save you, sahib, I think, but first tell me this: Am I of
use in the world? I am a defeated man, but might my sword perhaps
yet serve these people?"

"That is Allah's business," answered Ommony, in his usual
unbigoted way that makes so many Christian missionaries hate him.

"Is it your business to--"

"My business is the forest!" he interrupted, sure that he could
never insist too strongly as to that.

"If I let you go, will you do me one favor, sahib?"

"Because you release me? No."

"I do. You are no longer a prisoner. Will you do me a favor, sahib?"

"Ask. I'll answer yes or no."

"Lead British troops to this place! Let them take what they find,
see what they see, draw their own conclusions--and do you
say nothing!"

"No ambush?"

"None! I want you to promise me to keep hands off--to say
nothing, know nothing, do nothing except see to it that news of
my capture and death is made public. My friends must hear of it."

It was Ommony's turn to be irresolute. By the terms of the
original permission given to him to remain at his forest post,
when all other Europeans were hurriedly herded into Calicut
because of the rebellion, he might regard himself as almost a
neutral, in order that either side might have the ear of the
other through him. In common with all neutrals, being human, he
had not pleased both sides; although the Moplahs had never once
doubted him and some of his own countrymen had understood.

He regarded it as none of his business to dictate to Mahommed
Babar what he should or should not do. If the sirdar wanted to
surrender that was his affair, between himself and his own
conscience. What did occur to him and puzzle him was whether or
not the Moplahs would understand, when they should learn
eventually that he, Ommony, whom they had trusted, was the
individual who guided troops to their ex-leader's hiding-place
and so brought about his capture, and in all likelihood his death.

"Understand me, sahib, please! No lawyers to be hired to try and
turn death into life imprisonment! As a friend I am asking you
to lead the troops to this place and to let what may happen
to Mahommed Babar!"

Suddenly Ommony squared himself and turned his back on the sun
in order to see better into the sirdar's eyes.

"Your life is yours and you are master of it," he said slowly.
"If I go, it will be my duty to bring the troops here, provided
I'm asked to. If you're here when they come that's your lookout.
All right. Do me a favor in return."

"Subject to the stipulations I have named, I will do anything you
ask of me, Bahadur."

"Good. You've a murdering, torturing devil in your party, who
richly deserved hanging a year ago. See that he's here, too, when
the troops come. I refer to Ali Khan of Aira."

To Ommony's surprise the sirdar nodded, answering eye to
eye unflinching.

"He shall be here. He is a rascal, but he has been brave, so let
us pray they shoot him instead of hanging!"


_"I'm Glad it's You, Tregurtha!"_

Most men run as true to type as animals. Tregurtha did. As a wolf
or a bear or an elephant will react in a definite way to a given
set of circumstances, Tregurtha, given opportunity, could be
counted on for forced marches, swift decisions, and a trick of
catapulting his whole command at a hole in the enemy's line. He
had won half a dozen distinctions that way, including the
respectful title of "Sic 'em Tregurtha" from his men, and there
was as much likelihood of changing him as of persuading the
Sphinx to move along a bit.

Circumstances were decidedly in his favor. He no longer had any
engine, so he couldn't return to headquarters. Prothero was on
the way to see Macaulay, who, without any doubt whatever, running
also true to type, would take immediate steps to spoil the game
for all concerned; that was another certainty. He had a map, a
compass, and a hundred and eleven men, plus a more than usually
guarded admission from Prothero that the enemy was within
striking distance. Plenty for "Sic 'em" to base a decision on.

So Prothero had hardly been gone twenty minutes when Tregurtha's
dispositions were all made, down to the final selection of the
dissatisfied eleven whose duty would be to stay and guard the
train. The delighted hundred were drawn up awaiting the order to
march, and Tregurtha was giving his final instructions to
subordinates, when, however, according to Tregurtha's memoranda,
twenty-two minutes and thirty seconds after the departure of
Prothero's engine and one car, a one-eyed specimen of humanity
emerged from the forest and descended on the railway line by the
ancient and honorable means of sitting and so sliding. As he had
no pants he wore out nothing.

He resembled one of those unfortunates released from the
Bastille, in the beginning of the Terror. He was about as full of
human charity. His one eye glared. From his wrists, bent by
unbreakable rings, hung the broken bar with which they had
fettered him and with which, when he had smashed it, he had
brained his guards. Furthermore, there was other than human blood
on those pieces of iron. He had had no escort of junglis, and
they who believe they are lords of the jungle had challenged his
right of way. He could have chanted a one-night Odyssey had
poetry been in him. However, he was a wholly prosy individual,
laconic, and obsessed by one idea, outlined, defined, and expressed
by the first word that escaped him after one of the eleven had
pounced on him and led him to Tregurtha. "Perr-r-other-r-roh!"

Everybody knew that pest Lal Rai, either by sight or hearsay.
Tregurtha recognized him instantly and knew, too, that news of
the rascal's master was a key that would surely unlock speech. So
he explained at once, and with sympathy, that Colonel Prothero
was safe, comparatively speaking well, and already on his way to
headquarters. Thereafter Lal Rai was provided with that lubricant
of tongues that comes in a dented bottle, and given a seat in
the shade on a camp-stool over against Tregurtha. Decidedly a
seat of honor.

Lal Rai knew enough to dislike talking before witnesses, so as
time was short Tregurtha conceded the point and there was none to
overhear. Accordingly, Lal Rai was not afraid of being taxed with
unlawful statements; and there was only one person to whom he
ever told the truth in any event. There was fact in his account,
but not much of it.

He had not seen Ommony thrash Prothero and drive him forth, so he
was no more limited as to details than by his passion for
revenge. Having been sent against Ommony in the first instance,
he hated him as a good dog hates his master's enemy, and for no
other reason. While he had lain under a displaced paving-stone in
irons at Peria Vur his guards, who had had no orders to the
contrary, described to him in joyous detail what was taking
place, adding exasperating extras for their own amusement.
Nevertheless, something of judicial hesitation had crept into Lal
Rai's make-up, from constant association with officialdom, and he
asked one question first. A lonely atom of the element of fair
play lurked in him somewhere.

"Dekta sahib look-um like hell? Beatum bad?"

Tregurtha nodded. He saw no use in disguising that truth. And
that settled it, naturally. Lal Rai was convinced and promptly
turned imagination loose.

Luridly, with syncopated art, he pictured an attack by Ommony on
Prothero. Ommony was the dragon of his story, Prothero Saint George,
defeated, and the battle took place in a cave, as was picturesque,
fitting and right. There were hot irons in it, and Ommony's dogs,
and cold steel--blows rained with a bludgeon--horrible, dragony
curses by Ommony. Piteous cries from the saintly Prothero--valor
pitted against frenzy--and a final touch of perfect fiction
reinforced by circumstantial evidence.

"You saw all this?" asked Tregurtha, with both gray eyebrows raised.

Lal Rai exhibited the broken fetter, still dangling from his
wrists by rings.

"Me in it! Me beatum good! Killum too many men!"

He showed blood on the ends of the iron, and hairs sticking to
the blood, which he swore were human hair. That gave Tregurtha,
who knew what a leopard's hair looked like, his first real
inkling of how much of the story to believe.

"Who began the fight?"


"Did he simply attack Colonel Prothero?"

"Curse-um. 'Tack-um. Kick-um out!"



The mental picture of how Prothero had looked when he first came
convinced Tregurtha that there was something in Lal Rai's
account. Prothero had almost certainly been thrashed. However, he
knew both men. He felt sure that Ommony had never thrashed
anybody without utterly unpardonable provocation. He also
realized that Lal Rai's account was colored by desire to avenge
his master. But he did not realize the extent to which Lal Rai
would dare go, for he had the usual senior officer's conviction
that subordinates should not, and therefore do not, presume to
instigate military movements.

But Lal Rai was made of atoms every one of which was disrespect.
His soul was impudence. His god was Prothero. He knew where
Ommony was, and, knowing less of military matters than a dog-like
devotion to his master's feud, hoped, which in his case was the
same thing as supposed, that Ommony could be taken red-handed in
the rebel camp if Tregurtha and his hundred would only start at
once and move swiftly. For himself, he was almost all in, but no
more ready to quit than a wolf would be in the like predicament.
A little more whisky--just a tumblerful--and he would guide them.

So he answered Tregurtha's succeeding questions with only one
object in mind--to convince him how easy it would be to surprise
and capture the rebels. He had no love for Mahommed Babar or for
any of the men who had bound him and obliged him to make that
desperate escape. He proposed to himself to enjoy their last
predicament when Tregurtha should bring them to bay. But that was
a side-dish--butter on the bread, you might say. The meal that
should really satisfy was Ommony.

So whereas Prothero had tried to get Tregurtha to invade the
jungle for one reason, and a mean one, Lal Rai persuaded to the
same end from a different motive, after all not quite so mean,
because it was based on loyalty to Prothero, whereas Prothero's
malice was wholly selfish. Neither of them, of course, gave a
moment's thought to the privates of the line who would be
slaughtered inevitably if the rebels should ambush them and get
the upper hand.

That, however, was the one remaining consideration that gave
Tregurtha pause. He considered it, but experience had shown
him what can be done by skating over thin ice, moving so
swiftly that the enemy has no time to make plans and execute
them. And he devoted the next five minutes to extremely careful
cross-examination of Lal Rai intended to uncover what the risk
might be, as that astute individual was quick to appreciate.

So Lal Rai's answers were framed to persuade him that advance was
reasonably safe and the distance short. Within three-quarters of
an hour of Lal Rai's arrival on the scene, he was limping back
again, meditating exquisite amusement, guiding Nemesis in the
shape of a British colonel, two captains, four lieutenants, and a
hundred fighting men. Tregurtha for about the twentieth time in
his life had crossed the Rubicon.

So the junglis, who had acted angels of the night to Prothero,
and were asleep in the enormous hollow of a tree, awoke and
fled before a column that came along the fire-lane noisily,
four abreast, believing itself jungle-wise; whereas all the
knowledge that it really knew was bravery--a good thing, but not
all-inclusive. They fled before the frightening thump of feet,
through a screen of Mahommed Babar's scouts composed of men who
had crept oiled and naked through raw Peshawar mists at dawn to
steal the rifles of wide-awake outposts, and whose only weapons
had been won that way.

The junglis disappeared behind the screen of scouts, but the
scouts remained, and intelligible word went back, exchanged from
lip to lip, until it reached a plundered telephone restrung along
the monkey-lanes, and Mahommed Babar learned the whole of what
was happening, but not the whole of Tregurtha's intentions. And
because there is never any knowing just how rash, ill-advised,
and so occasionally brilliant a British colonel with a hundred
men will be, it seemed wise to the sirdar to engage, and draw the
column forward, until Ommony, no longer a prisoner but a free man
burdened with a promise, could meet it and do the rest.

So the prettiest little fight took place that ever set the jungle
leaves afire and scared awake the lovers of the dark. None better
than Tregurtha could deploy a column in a tight place and
advance--keep edging forward--ever alert like a man in the ring
to punch with right or left as instant opportunity might offer.
And none knew better than those wind-weaned Northerners how to
fight a rear-guard action, neither yielding a yard too much nor
standing a minute too long at any time. It was a nice, blind,
bloody little mix-up, helped by the burning undergrowth and
stinging smoke, costing a baker's dozen of men on either side and
whetting the edge of the ardor of all concerned. It convinced
Tregurtha that Prothero's and Lal Rai's information was correct
about the nearness of Peria Vur and the rebels' stronghold. He
proposed to keep advancing and to "sic 'em," so his men picked up
their dead and were of one mind--his.

The reputations of great captains are built on their enemies'
mistakes. Tregurtha, of course, knew that. He believed that once
again by greatly daring he was upsetting all the enemies'
calculations. In fact, the calculations of Mahommed Babar now
were precisely made, and Tregurtha was kept advancing at the
speed most convenient. The redoubtable sirdar took the field
himself. Tregurtha's men were allowed no rest, given no glimpse
of their antagonists, tempted, lured, enticed, retreated from,
and once--when Tregurtha proposed to fall back on rising ground
by water, for roll call and a breathing spell--informed by
effectual means that retreat was impossible. They could not fall
back on the railway if they wanted to. There was nothing for it
after that but to continue the advance and strike at the heart of
the rebels' stronghold.

Naturally, by that time every man in the column understood
the predicament, and only the superstition of Tregurtha's
invincibility prevented the men's morale from vanishing. The
gloom of the jungle, penetrated by the irritating shafts of light
that confuse eyesight and that caused the panther to invent those
puzzling spots of his, the heat, almost insufferable, and the
need to carry their dead as well as food and ammunition, were
progressively effective--cumulative. Even Tregurtha was feeling
the depression that foretells impending anticlimax, when the
perfectly impossible occurred.

War--womb of melodrama--never staged anything more neatly,
obviously, utterly theatrically turned.

Into the opal twilight of an opening caused by the enormous
spread of twenty trees, in and out between the whiffs of dust and
pools of light, nervous and yet persistent, dodging back a time
or two but again urged on by the impulse of obedience, there
emerged a wolf-hound, and was missed repeatedly by twenty men,
who were in no mood for natural history. They swore, each time
she dodged out of view, that they had shot a wolf, hyena,
panther, leopard, jackal, antelope--practically everything except
an elephant. It was Tregurtha himself who recognized the dog and
blew his whistle for "cease fire."

As if she knew what the whistle meant, and as if she knew that he
who blew the whistle must be officer commanding, Diana leaped out
of the shadows, taking fallen tree-trunks in her stride, and
thrust her great moist muzzle into Tregurtha's hand. He felt
rather than saw the edge of folded paper, closed his fingers,
and she was gone again, too swiftly to be patted, thanked,
praised--gone with her haunches under her, shoulders and feet and
sinews all one prodigious impulse, more beautiful and swift than
a shadow of the tree-tops vanishing.

Tregurtha unfolded a slobbery half-sheet, pierced by Diana's
eye-teeth, warm with her breath, and made out a message in a
level, square caligraphy with which he was more or less familiar
from constant study of a certain map.

To O.C. Troops marching on Peria Vur. If you will cease fire
long enough to make the proceeding possible I will join you
and bring information.

--Cotswold Ommony

The enemy's intermittent, scattered firing had all ceased several
minutes before. Tregurtha shepherded his men into a safe
formation, ringing the opening under the roof of golden-green
with men who were gradually picking up the art of harmony with
their surroundings. A man from the city streets might have
strolled through the circle without seeing one of them. But the
jungle undoubtedly smiled, as a city man smiles when a "hick"
takes the sun on the sidewalk.

And Ommony smiled, as he came walking into the ring with a rifle
at rest on his arm and three dogs at his heels. A jungli, as
naked as black, bearing cartridges, flitted and trotted behind
with that spring in his gait that a led Arab stallion uses when
nervous. He shied like a horse when a man blew his nose, and was
not reassured until he saw that the dogs were unsuspicious.

Lal Rai crouched by Tregurtha's feet and watched, his one eye
looking less alarmed than mischievously curious--nevertheless
aware of a certain tenseness in the situation. All three dogs
raised their scruffs and growled at him. Ommony silenced them
with a gesture, and they lay down, watching Lal Rai as if
expecting to be told to tear him in pieces presently, Diana
baring her teeth each time he moved even to flick a fly off. The
jungli lay down beside the dogs on his stomach, chin on both
hands. He watched Ommony, the only human being from all the
outside world whom he could understand.

Ommony spoke first:

"I'm glad it's you, Tregurtha!"

The colonel unstiffened. Nothing in Ommony's words nor in his
expression turned that trick. It was something in the air. If
Ommony had sought to justify himself, Tregurtha would have drawn
on guard and might have missed the note, or the wave, or whatever
it is that assured him Ommony was telling truth and totally
reliable. Men are just like animals in that respect. They
sniff-translate vibrations into smell--and either fight or make
friends; but there are very few who understand the process that
affects us all.

"You have information?"

Ommony nodded, and handed his rifle to the jungli, who sat up and
nursed it in raptures of responsibility.

"You're all right," he said. "The rebels are retiring in front of
you. Mahommed Babar wants to quit. The others won't let him
surrender until they've had time to remove their belongings from
Peria Vur. The elephants are forcing a line of retreat through
the jungle. When they've cached their ammunition and supplies
they mean to abandon the elephants and scatter. If you don't
advance too swiftly you'll find Mahommed Babar, with possibly a
handful, at Peria Vur, and he'll surrender at discretion. But if
you attack too swiftly you'll force their hands. How many men
have you--a hundred? Well, they have more than two hundred.
They're desperate. Mahommed Babar wishes me to say that he is
thoroughly tired of fighting and that he would appreciate it if
he weren't obliged to surround you and cut you up!"

"Said that, did he? How far is Peria Vur?"

Ommony told him. There was more than half the way yet to go.
Tregurtha glanced at Lal Rai, who looked in the other direction.
He recalled to mind Prothero's nodded five-mile estimate.
Swiftly, in the sudden way in which he saw the answers to
algebraic equations at school, he grasped the fact that Prothero
for one, at any rate, had lied intentionally. It often used to
take him longer than anybody else to see a thing; but that was
like Tregurtha. When he did see, he knew.

"Is it true you thrashed Prothero?" he asked.

"I did my best," said Ommony, opening his cigar-case, offering
neither explanation nor excuse. Tregurtha watched him pull out a
cigar, bite off the end and light it--eyed him thoughtfully with
dawning appreciation for about a minute--then, "sic 'em" fashion,
made his mind up.

"I'll have one with you," he said, shutting lips and teeth as if
he had bitten off the end of doubt. "Give me a light from yours.
Now sit down here and tell me your version of this."

"I've told it," said Ommony. "I was a prisoner until after dawn
this morning. I was released, and then requested to bring you the
message I've just delivered."

"Do you guarantee the truth of it?"

"No. I repeated it exactly. I believe it. It seems to correspond
with what I've observed."

"Did Mahommed Babar make no stipulations?"

"Yes. He asked me to promise that news of his surrender and of
his execution, if that takes place, shall be heralded broadcast
in the interest of peace. He thinks the news will do more than
anything to take the fight out of men who would otherwise keep
flocking here from the North, to find him and fight under him.
His only fear is that his capture may be kept secret."

"I say, he sounds like a sportsman, doesn't he?" said Tregurtha,
blowing cigar smoke through his nose.

Ommony nodded.

"He has two hundred men?"

"More than two hundred," said Ommony. "He's commanding the
rear-guard himself. He says, and I think he's right, he could
have surrounded you and destroyed you half a dozen times this
morning. You see that rock against the sky between the tree-tops?
That's where he was ten minutes ago--gone now, of course."

Tregurtha gulped and swallowed smoke, which made him cough.
Probably no man would like to be told that he has held the lives
of his whole command in jeopardy all morning.

"This is an incredible business! You say if I advance slowly he
won't attack, but will surrender at Peria Vur? You believe that?
It isn't a trick to draw us into ambush?"

"You're at his mercy now, if he should care to attack," Ommony
answered. "He gave me his word of honor there should be no
ambush. I believe him so fully that I'm willing to return with
you. Can't say more."

"All right, we'll take him at his word!"

Tregurtha was Tregurtha--unchangeable--half-school-boy with his
itch for action and delight in other men's strong qualities.
Ommony's first words. "I'm glad it's you, Tregurtha!" summed the
whole situation up. There were half a dozen men available, of
equal rank, any one of whom would probably have been incredulous
on general principles, and might have retired to the edge of the
jungle to await reinforcements. And a British retreat at that
minute very likely would have tempted Mahommed Babar's rebels out
of hand. It would have been like pulling lambs away before the
eyes of wolves.

And Tregurtha's men were hero-worshipers. They idolized him as
Lal Rai did Prothero, but with much more innocence. Realizing
devotedly that he had snatched another victory by daring and
great skill, which Ommony had come to announce, they went forward
with a new enthusiasm, no longer needing impulse from the rear
but Captain Cautions in advance of them to hold control.

There were stray shots now and then, but nobody was hit. There
were shouts in the jungle at intervals, just beyond range, that
suggested the presence of danger sufficiently to cause delay. But
the shots and the shouts became fewer as hours and the miles
sweated by and the crimson sun bore down below the higher

Then one prodigious bugle, winded by a man with leather lungs,
clarioned a long laugh down the echoing fire-lane, and a
feu-de-joie, or it might be a feu-de-congee, rattled through the
trees like summer fireworks. Tregurtha's men answered it
nervously, blazing at nothing; and theirs--the last echo of their
useless volley--was the end. It was the blot, in place of period,
that closed the so-called Moplah Uprising in Malabar. But that
was all it closed, for incidents repeat themselves.

Tregurtha led on. And when the sun died down behind them, and the
Rump loomed up enormous in the gloom at last, they saw a lone man
seated there, in a sort of uniform, bowed, and with a saber of
'57 across his knees. He made no sign. Tregurtha called to him:

"You may come down, Mahommed Babar. You're a man. We'll treat
you decently."


_"Ommony Was Right in Some Respects."_

Destiny makes no mistakes. We men are so perpetually fallible
that, weary of ourselves, we invent a cause for disappointments
and call that Destiny; but Destiny proceeds and is positive--with
the precision of a calculating instrument. You punch a few
keys here and it gives you a result there. No errors. No
stray consequences.

Mahommed Babar did not come down from the Rump and surrender as
requested. That surprised Ommony and annoyed Tregurtha. Tregurtha
had in mind to do the decent thing and treat the rebel leader
like a gentleman. He had proposed to himself to let him keep his
sword, at least until they should reach the railway line, when it
might possibly be mislaid as if by accident and not be seen again
until turned into store at headquarters. He had decided to invite
him to dinner al fresco, and to share with him the last two
"tots" of whisky remaining in his pocket-flask. A gentleman
resolved to act with courtesy is naturally annoyed by surliness.

And Ommony was twice surprised. That Mahommed Babar should be
gloomy and aloof was in the circumstances comprehensible. But
that his whole disposition should change in a few hours from that
of a gallant commander to one of fear and surliness was puzzling.
There was no reason whatever why he should not come down and
shake hands and be introduced--unless he had not kept his promise
to deliver Ali Khan to justice. Even so, perhaps, he had.

Ommony set about exploring the temple, peering into the holes
under the paving-blocks where the rebels had made themselves at
home, visiting the scene of his fight with Prothero in the vault
below the temple, hunting behind the great image of the Buddha,
in whose lap he had slept on a pile of blankets, investigating
the shadows, bidding his dogs "go find him." But the dogs
searched as vainly as he.

It was possible, and even probable, that Ali Khan had proved
cantankerous, and at the last minute had had to be roped or even
killed. But if roped, where was he? And if killed, where was his
corpse? The man's crimes had been so abominable, and even his
escape from jail, where he had awaited death, was contrived with
such cruelty, that to leave him loose in a forest uncontrolled
would be a worse crime than rebellion--a moral crime, whereas
rebellion was only a legal one and might be a moral obligation.
Yet the dogs could find no trace of him, dead or alive. And he
hated to ask Mahommed Babar for an accounting of his given
word--hated the idea of that as much as Tregurtha hated to send
up a junior on the Rump to bring the defeated leader down.

The whole situation savored of anticlimax. The men lighted
bonfires where the rebels' fires had been, and reflections of the
flames danced merrily on the wonderful temple wall. The cook and
his assistants, cursed, contriving, competent, began without
argument to burn and boil the evening meal, so there was even
that comforting smell to advertise contentment. There was even a
trench ready-dug that would serve as a grave for their dead and
rob death of its toil. There was plenty to eat; there was nothing
to fear; there were dug-outs to sleep in and a temple for the
officers; and yet there was gloom.

Something, somewhere had gone wrong, and even the cook's assistant
stirring the slumgullion knew it.

Since Mahommed Babar would not come down, and there was only one
way up discoverable, and that a narrow one eked out with hewn
steps as wide as a man's foot, it was clearly beneath Tregurtha's
dignity, as well as dangerous, to go up to him. If the man had to
be dragged down, then a junior must do it. So he sent up a
captain and two men, with orders to be polite if possible.

Waiting at the foot of the narrow, winding stair, that turned on
itself like a snake in the dark, Tregurtha was presently aware of
the captain's head that dropped through the dark to his feet and
lay crushed like an egg. He felt hot blood splash on his hand,
and almost before he could spring away in disgust the body of one
of the privates came somersaulting down, striking the rock
alternately with head and feet until it thudded on the captain's
head and stayed there.

The third man shouted. He was putting up a fight. Tregurtha
shouted too. There was a rush to clamber up and reach him before
it should be too late and as only one at a time could use the
steps they swarmed up the sides of the rock on one another's
shoulders. Dozens fell back, and a number were injured, some
badly; but nothing--no natural bar--can prevent the assault of
men really determined. The fires of Vesuvius--Everest--the North
Pole--nothing but the equally determined will of other men can
hold them back; and nearly a score of them, clambering like apes,
with bayonets shoved into the chinks to tread on and belts let
down to haul the other fellow up, using teeth and nails and,
chiefly, courage, scrambled on their bellies over the bulging
summit. Then the rest was a matter of seconds and more team work.
To their everlasting honor they took their prisoner alive, and
unhurt except for the broken skin in places where the webbing
they tied him with had bitten a mite too deep.

He had killed an officer and one man, mortally wounded a third,
and seriously injured five more, including a lieutenant--all on
the strength of a message, sent by Ommony, to the effect that he
would surrender at discretion for the sake of peace.

Tregurtha naturally was indignant, although so proud of his men's
performance that the two emotions choked him and he could hardly
speak. They had taken the prisoner's sword away. A private,
saluting very emphatically to call attention to himself--for the
hope of decorations burns undimmed--presented it to Tregurtha,
who took it in his fist by the middle of the scabbard, hardly
noticing, and led the way to find a place where they should dare
untie the prisoner's legs and arms without risking further
violence or possible escape.

It did not prove easy to find just the right place. He made up
his mind to ask Ommony. But where in hell was Ommony? What
was he doing? What the deuce did he mean by absenting himself
in a moment like that? And Lal Rai? Where the devil was that
one-eyed scoundrel?

He knew in about a minute. He came on him gasping what looked
like his last in a fight to the death with three dogs and the
jungli who had trotted behind Ommony. They had to drive the dogs
away with rifle-butts and drag the jungli free, too late to
get any reasonable explanation from Lal Rai, who was raging
semi-conscious in a hell full of imaginary monsters, acting like
a cat in a fit--epileptic possibly. And as for the jungli, none
knew his speech, even if he had said anything; he simply
collapsed into absolute fear, which is stupidity.

The dogs did the explaining. Hurt by Lal Rai's fingers and the
rifle-butts of his rescuers, they retreated to the first cause,
the beginning, the basic fact that they understood, which is the
way of intelligent men as well as animals. Without even glancing
backward to see who followed, they sped into the temple's inner
gloom and vanished downward, only the terrier giving tongue with
a yap-yap-yap that gave away the whole itinerary as its tone
changed, growing cavernous.

So they brought flashlights, a lantern, resinous torches, and
followed--the colonel, two officers, and about a dozen men
shepherding the prisoner, careful to use no violence, but hedging
him in so closely that he would have had to kill three or four
before he could start to escape.

The temple shadows danced in the torchlight and lamplight,
suggesting mystery and danger that the echoes more than half
confirmed; but they followed the dogs, downstairs into the temple
crypt, and came on them licking and whimpering over Ommony, who
lay looking dead at the foot of the steps, between them and the
thing like an altar on which Prothero had recently avoided
painful entertainment.

But he was only stunned, for he was breathing. They picked him
up, dogs protesting, and laid him on the altar, where he came to,
blinking like a man just waking from a dream.

So he and the prisoner saw each other--looked for one swift
moment into each other's eyes before the soldiers closed around
their man again and hustled him away into the farthest corner.
Question--Ommony's--met mockery--the sirdar's--as Tregurtha saw
and noted mentally. It took more than seconds, usually, for
Tregurtha's mental process to function, excepting in action. He
knew he needed time to think.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Don't know," said Ommony, also needing time to think. Tregurtha
walked around the cavern examining the walls carefully, making
sure it was a safe place in which to keep his prisoner, then
ordered two of them to carry Ommony up the steps if he could not
walk, and himself led the way, stumbling over Ommony's rifle that
lay in a shadow below the lowest step. So he picked up the rifle,
and thought about that, too.

Outside in the temple porch, rifle in one hand, captured saber in
the other, Tregurtha stayed to question Lal Rai, who was
recovering his wits--malignant all of them.

"What happened?" he asked.


"I'll speak with him presently. Tell me your version of it."

"Omm-on-ee going shoot-um me, damn-is-eyes, damn quick me
knock-um down!"

"Didn't you try to kill him?"

"No! No kill-um! None my bisnis. He sahib, me Lal Rai no kill-um.
He going shoot-um me then give-um shove. Dogs coming--me
run quick!"

"What happened to Ommony sahib?" Tregurtha asked suspiciously.

"No savvy. Give-um shove, dogs coming, and me run!"

Tregurtha went back into the temple and met Ommony leaning on the
shoulders of two men, limping with a twisted ankle.

"How is your memory working now?" he asked. "Do you know
what happened?"

"I remember a blow on the back of the head. There's a bruise. You
can feel it."

"You might have got that falling," said Tregurtha.

"I'm pretty nearly sure Lal Rai hit me from behind, said Ommony,
not realizing yet that he was in a brand-new false position. He
was still half-dizzy from the blow, or the fall, or from both.

"Did you see him?"

"Yes. He followed me into the temple. I called the dogs off him."

"He tells me you threatened to shoot him."

"No. Ordered him out of the temple, that's all. Then hunted here
and there--"

"For what?"

"For a man I expected to find. Lal Rai must have followed me and
struck me as I started down the steps."

"You had your rifle in your hand, of course?"

"Under my arm, the way I always carry it."

"Why didn't he brain you with it, or use it to shoot the dogs? He
says you threatened to shoot him, so he pushed you and ran to
escape the dogs."

"Probably the dogs prevented him from taking the rifle," Ommony
answered, beginning to appreciate that he himself was now
under suspicion.

"You mean possibly. It is just possible," Tregurtha answered. "A
man attacking from behind according to your version would mean
murder. Lal Rai knew the dogs were there. If he really did attack
you he would naturally seize the rifle to defend himself against
the dogs, if not to murder you."

"What do you suggest as the alternative?" Ommony asked dryly.

"His story is that you threatened to shoot him, and he knocked
you downstairs backward. You've a bruise on the back of your head
I believe.

"Oh, all right. Believe him if you want to," Ommony retorted.

It was the first time he had lost his temper since the ever
memorable day when a member of the British Cabinet, traveling at
national expense, had asked him to have tigers driven into a wire
inclosure to be shot by his right honorable self before a battery
of cameras. The present circumstance was not so aggravating, and
be probably would not have lost control of his emotions but for
that pain at the back of his head and the agony in his ankle. And
if he had kept his temper nothing should have been easier than to
regain Tregurtha's good opinion.

"I'll thank you for my rifle," he said, letting go the men he
leaned on and holding his hand out. He wanted it to support
himself, but Tregurtha, hot-headed at the best of times, misunderstood.

"No you won't. I'll keep it. There are things that you'll have
to explain."

Tregurtha turned his back and strode away with head erect and
lips set in a straight line under the iron mustache.

Cotswold Ommony's case began to look not so clear to him--in fact
curiously turgid--rotten! All those rumors, all that talk about
him, all that criticism at headquarters, might have had
foundation after all.

"Where the smell of smokeless powder is, some one has pulled the
trigger," thought Tregurtha to himself. "I should have remembered
that. I'm too prone to take a fellow's word for everything.
Can't afford it! Too damned trusting, that's what I am! Always
refusing to believe ill of any one. Foolish--foolish! Ought to
be more careful."

It occurred to him that Ommony's report of the situation had been
nearly all wrong--not wrong enough to convict him of deliberate
falsehood, but sufficiently so to throw discredit on his whole
judgment. This might be an ambush after all. Something had
doubtless gone wrong with the enemy's plans, which was why they
had caught the sirdar all alone there on the rock, and only taken
the fellow after a struggle.

"Lord! How the fellow defended himself! What a scorpion at bay!
Moslem-fanatic, of course--never had intended to surrender--end
of his resources--seeking paradise by the usual route of killing
a few unbelievers--well--he missed it--have to be shot like a
gentleman and go to hell instead--altogether too bad that he got
so many men before they captured him--good men, too--wonderful
men! Too bad. And how about Ommony?"

He puzzled about Ommony, the while he took precautions, running
no more risk on the strength of Ommony's assurance that there
would be no ambush, no surprise attack. He posted every available
man in person, placing them in twos, with orders that one should
sleep and the other stay awake alternately. Then he went down in
person and saw that his prisoner had food and a blanket, not
speaking to him except in an official tone of voice to ask
whether he needed anything, and receiving no reply.

"Surly devil!" he remarked, and came away after cautioning the
men; presently he sent down his remaining captain to be in charge
all night, and himself sat in the temple doorway, alert as a gray
wolf, meaning to stay awake and sincerely hoping that Ommony
would not come and try to talk with him. He hated that kind
of thing.

"Beastly bad taste to insist on explanation, at the wrong time."
However, Ommony agreed with him, it seemed, at least on that
point, and did not come. He had given no orders that Ommony
should be restrained in any way, and he could see him with his
three dogs up on the top of the Rump, sitting smoking in the
liquid, honey-colored moonlight.

"Rather decent of him, I should say. Shows tact. Keeps himself in
full view without occupying anybody."

If there was one quality under heaven that Tregurtha esteemed
above all others it was fairness. So he naturally was fair. He
began to feel ashamed of having treated Ommony so cavalierly on
the strength of the mere assertion of a one-eyed epileptic such
as Lal Rai. He decided to question the rascal again, and sent for
him. But nobody could find him. He sent a junior officer up to
the Rump to inquire whether Ommony had seen him, but Ommony had
not. Ommony, however, volunteered to summon junglis, who would
track the miscreant through the jungle in the event of his having
sneaked away.

"Very decent of him," said Tregurtha, and sat still smoking,
thinking the situation over for about an hour.

The silence was only broken by the occasional snore of a tired
man, the footfall of an officer quietly going the rounds, and the
cry of the outpost men at regular intervals announcing that so
far all was well. Those, and the voices of millions of insects,
made up the nocturne. There was no suggestion of the presence of
an enemy. A lieutenant, told off to patrol with six men along the
new lane forced by the rebels' elephants in their retreat, came
in to say that he had met no enemy except mosquitoes.

"Ommony was right in some respects," Tregurtha thought. "Honest
enough, I dare say. Probably made use of by Mahommed Babar, who
wanted to die in a spectacular fashion. Sorry I didn't give him
back his rifle when he asked for it. Beastly rude of me! In front
of witnesses, too. Well, a suitable apology in front of witnesses
should offset that."

He began to wonder why Ommony should have thrashed Prothero, and
that line of thought made him sympathetic, almost affectionate;
for if ever a cad deserved kicking, Prothero was he, in his,
Tregurtha's, judgment. Dearly he would have loved the task
himself! Times without number nothing had prevented but the rules
of the Service and the requirements of discipline!

"A cad with influence, money, and imagination. Is there anything
worse?" Tregurtha wondered, and on top of it began to wonder,
too, whether his own treatment of Ommony had complied with his
standard of personal conduct--his own, by which alone he was
entitled to judge others.

He decided to send for Ommony, and a moment later an orderly
started up the Rump. He returned, however, to say that Ommony
was sleeping with the dogs all around him. Was he to be disturbed,
and if so might the dogs be killed if they should offer to prevent?

"No. Let him sleep. He's a hurt man," said Tregurtha.

That again seemed a strong point in Ommony's favor. True, the
lower types of criminal can sleep in any circumstances, but the
man of intelligence, caught in the act of illicit intrigue, and
thereby in danger of life and liberty unless he can explain
himself, is much more likely to lie awake and cudgel his brains
nervously. A headache and a twisted ankle should make that sort
of man yet more sleepless. If Ommony could sleep like that he was
probably not guilty of anything worse than over-confidence.

At the suggestion of over-confidence he looked down at the row of
medal-ribbons on his tunic. Most of them had been won by
over-confidence--rashness some men called it.

Suddenly it occurred to him to wonder how a man with a badly
twisted ankle could have climbed the Rump. He had given no orders
to have him carried up there, and he could account in his head
off-hand for the movements of every one of his officers and men
since he made his dispositions for the night. He called to
the orderly.

"How did Mr. Ommony get up there on the Rump? Who carried him? He
can't walk. Find out, will you?"

At the end of five minutes the orderly returned with rather
surprising information.

"They do say, sir, that 'alf a dozen black men came when 'e
whistled an' carried 'im up there."

"Where are the black men now?"

"They're gone, sir. Cleared out at soon as 'e give 'em the word."

"Anybody see them go?"

"No, sir."

It dawned on Tregurtha again that, in spite of patrols who saw
nothing, the whole of the jungle surrounding them might be full
of enemies. So an hour before dawn he had all the men wakened,
that being the deadliest time for a surprise attack. At dawn the
cook and his assistants, cursed and cheerful, served what is
known as coffee to the optimists who win wars, and smelling
it--for it smells much better than it tastes--Ommony came down
from the Rump, sitting and working his way gradually, hanging
sometimes to Diana's collar. At the foot of the track he picked
up a stick and used that, limping toward the "kitchen."

Tregurtha intercepted him, before two officers, a non-com and
several men, deliberately.

"Good morning, Mr. Ommony. It appears you were right when you
said we would not be attacked."

"Yes, it seems I was," he answered. "But after that affair last
night I took no chances. There were junglis watching. They would
have warned me."

"But you were asleep."

"They would have wakened the dogs. They know how to."

"Well, Mr. Ommony, I'm having your rifle cleaned for you. If
you'll be kind enough to forget my remarks last night, which were
totally unjustified, I'll--"

"Have a cigar," suggested Ommony, reaching into a hunting-pocket
for his case. "I'll take coffee, please."


_"What'll You Do?"_

Macaulay sat in a rigid arm-chair in the big marquee--on the
hilltop over by the camps where the Moplah prisoners wondered
what was next--sniffed the scent on his handkerchief, and
suffered. He always did suffer when unpleasant people inflicted
their company on him, and he hated the smell of iodoform.
Prothero reeked of the stuff. Moreover, he looked like the deuce,
or as much of him did as you could see. Prothero, understanding
perfectly, liked to see Macaulay suffer.

He should not have been there. He said so. Macaulay agreed with
him. But what he called sense of duty, and what Macaulay knew was
a captious spirit of suspicion, had dragged him from a sick-bed,
swathed in smelly bandages, to offer advice as poisonous as the
mosquito bites that had given him malaria and, under the guise of
conveying information, to find out Macaulay's intentions.

People who want to be powers have to keep awake and work.
Macaulay smoothed his rather heavy black mustache behind the
scented handkerchief, stroked his nose, and looked at Prothero
from under heavy dark eyebrows with inquisitive malice that he
hardly troubled to disguise. He was one of those men who believe
there is just so much good in the world, and no more, to go
round, and that therefore no profit can come to himself without a
corresponding loss to somebody else. It did his heart good to see
Prothero suffer, although, unlike Prothero, he would not have
admitted it and much though he disliked the vulgarity of the
spectacle. His eyes and his philosophy were not one. He could
keep them separate, letting not the one know what the other
doeth--much preferring toothache for his adversaries, because it
hurts so exquisitely and perverts judgment so diabolically
without upsetting the beholder's nerves.

He was obliged to consider Prothero, to listen to him and in fact
to treat him as an ally. The rules and constitution of the
Commission, whose chief member he believed himself to be, took
care of that. To antagonize the Chief of the Intelligence would
be suicidal. In the circumstances he believed himself capable of
making use of his compulsory ally--his _obbligato,_ as he
ironically dubbed him--all things, and especially Prothero's
present state of health, considered. So, although he detested
the stench of iodoform, he smiled as he looked at Prothero across
the handkerchief.

Nevertheless, you couldn't see very much of Prothero through
the bandages, nor judge much from his bloodshot, protruding,
half-closed lobster-eyes. Prothero had thoughts of his own, and
much experience in concealing them.

"Trig'll be here before long," he remarked, as if the thought
gave him comfort. It did, for it discomforted Macaulay. "Trig"
was Tregurtha.

"Considering your reports that rebels were no longer in the field,
and that Mahommed Babar had probably died of pneumonia--those,
and the fact that there's been a rather sharp engagement, and
Tregurtha is bringing in Mahommed Babar alive--I should think you
wouldn't be too pleased to meet him," said Macaulay.

"I like Trig," Prothero answered. "He's such a plain, straight-forward
simpleton. If he holds the ace of trumps, he leads it. You know where
you are all the time. He holds it this time and he'll lead it this
time. You watch."

"I wonder what you mean?" Macaulay asked acidly. He could not
guess whether Prothero was smiling because the bandage almost hid
his lower jaw, and his eyes looked parboiled.

"He'll go for you, if I know Trig. You advised against a
reconnaissance of Peria Vur--did everything you could to prevent
it--and finally, when he did go, you turned in a report accusing
him of insubordination and extravagance--"

"He has lost a lot of men," Macaulay snapped.

"But--he has brought in the rebel leader," answered Prothero,
enjoying the afternoon and glad he came, although the fever
racked him.

"The leader, who your reports said, was a dead man long ago!"

"I had to turn in on demand such information as I possessed.
Subsequently it was I who advised him to march on Peria Vur,"
said Prothero. "Ask Trig when he comes if that isn't so. You'll
find he'll confirm it."

"Damn!" said Macaulay, frowning into his handkerchief. The oath
corresponded to the roll of drums that immediately precedes a
change of tune.

"Whatsamatter?" asked Prothero, cocking one red eye and trying at
the same time to appear considerate.

"Nothing, except that by another of those strings of accidents
Tregurtha seems to be snatching the chestnuts again! For a man of
no consequence he gets much too much spotlight. Undeserved. He's
only a lucky bungler."

"Who will lead his ace of trumps," remarked Prothero. "Can you
beat it?"

Macaulay leaned back in his chair--leaned back till it rested on
two legs, and his toe against the table was all that preserved
equilibrium. From that angle he could look under his eyelashes
and study Prothero, who sat in the direct path of a beam of sunlight.

"We might," he said--not accenting the "we," but prolonging it a
little. "There'll be very little to divide," he went on. "A few
minor medals, of course, but only one civil and one military
distinction. Pity if the military one should go to Tregurtha, who
has had so much more than his share."

"How do you propose to manage it?" asked Prothero, not accenting
the "you," but dwelling on it. Having been caught recently and
ignominiously he had no intention of walking into any trap set by
such a known bird-limer as Macaulay. "What's your big idea?"

"Publicity, of course, is what confers distinction," said
Macaulay. "If it gets out that Tregurtha made a raid on Peria Vur
and took the redoubtable Mahommed Babar prisoner after a sharp
fight against odds--well--imagine that in the papers with
Tregurtha's photograph. All his old regimental friends would
start wire-pulling. The sentimental element would shed tears and
call the viceroy's attention. You and I would be obliged to
recommend him for reward, to save our own faces."

"Whereas? You suggest?"

It was uphill work. Prothero was refusing his share of it,
leaving the whole pull to Macaulay, who was beginning to wear a
look of dark guilt, and was conscious of it--beginning to be
conscious, too, that the other was amused behind that mask of
evil-smelling calico.

"Look here," he said suddenly. "We'd better be frank with each
other. Time's short. And I tell you, if I have to support
Tregurtha on account of your refusing to take the sensible view
and agree with me, that will be the end of our friendship,
Prothero. The end of it. You understand?"

"Which end?" asked Prothero, and Macaulay winced. "If you've a
proposal, make it," Prothero went on.

There was no one in the tent except themselves, but Macaulay
got out of his chair to make sure that the sentry was not
exercising every sentry's prerogative of hearing as much as
he might. Then he went to a familiar-looking piece of furniture
at the rear of the marquee and produced sounds like the tinkling
of fairy sleighbells, doubly seductive and delicious because of the
appalling heat. He understood at least one of Prothero's peculiarities.

"How about a whisky-and-soda?"

"Not too much soda," answered Prothero.

Macaulay did not drink, but made a gesture with his hand as much
as to say that men just out of sick-bed were entitled to
peccadilloes. Prothero drank copiously and with absolute
indifference to any one's opinion.

"That was good," he said, gasping. "Another one would be better."

Macaulay returned to the sideboard and refilled the glass,
resuming his chair with a surreptitiously amused expression.

"Now that you think you've made me drunk, suppose you spill the
beans," suggested Prothero. "I'm still sober enough to listen."

"You're a conscienceless brute," said Macaulay. "But I've brains.
Trig hasn't. I like Trig."

"A recommendation from you to the effect that Mahommed Babar's
capture should be kept secret would receive my indorsement. One
more vote would give us a majority on the committee. My influence
will secure that. In fact, I can swing the committee at almost
any time; but the recommendation should come from you; it would
have more weight and would make my task easier."

Prothero waved his nearly empty glass, and now the other could
tell he was grinning, for the whisky had wetted the bandage so
that it drooped from his mouth. He looked more than ever like a
swathed and parboiled corpse, and the sight of him made Macaulay
feel physically sick, but heroes are made of stern stuff, and it
is a gross mistake to imagine that all heroes are virtuous. The
public will decorate any one who overcomes his limitations and
gets away with breaking most of the Ten Commandments without being
actually caught at it. Macaulay was working for a decoration, and
would have been a hero in his own opinion even if seasick. He
made the supreme effort of an arduous career.

"Well, old fellow?" he asked.

"I've heard what you want," Prothero answered. "Point is, are you
willing to pay for it--er--old fellow?"

Macaulay gasped. In all his long official experience he had never
listened to anything quite so indecent. Men should be known by
their fruits, not by their frank admissions. To talk like that
was worse than to walk naked.

"Pay for it?" he asked with eyebrows raised, fiddling with his
fountain-pen as if he expected to have to write a stiff check
presently. "If you mean you want to borrow money--"

"Oh, you silly ass!" said Prothero. "I've got more money than
you--more than I'll ever need. What'll you do, damn it? You want
me to do something. What'll you do that'll do me any good? Don't
look like an old maid in a Turkish bath--name your offer and give
hostages, for I wouldn't trust you out of this tent!"

Macaulay was utterly scandalized, but did not see how to back
out. Prothero had diagnosed him perfectly; he could be anything
except naked. He enjoyed the smell of a pink much better when
he called the thing _Dianthus Jedewegii._ His napkin was a
serviette. _Quid pro quo_ was "listening to reason," and he much
preferred Dame Reason with her skirts below her knees, immoral
old trot though he knew that she frequently was. He never paid
cash for anything, but liked to have statements sent him subject
to varying discounts, and when he didn't trust a man he never
said so.

"Trig'll be here soon," Prothero repeated by way of clearing the
atmosphere. "Suppose you measure me another whisky?" Macaulay
measured him a stiff one, and it began to have its own peculiar
effect, which varies with each patient, both in kind and degree.
You never can tell in advance what the fumes will do. They made
Prothero think of Ommony, who had thrashed him, Prothero, most
confoundedly and kicked him into the jungle and dreadful night;
Ommony, who now had Tregurtha's ear.

"There's a man I don't like," he said simply.

"Oh, very well," Macaulay answered, visibly relieved, although
he disliked the vulgarity of the admission. "What is his
name, I wonder."

"Cotswold Ommony is the name his carcass goes by."

Macaulay smiled thinly but seraphically. One of his own pet
dislikes, and yet some people refuse to believe in coincidence.

"I want him broke!" said Prothero, and Macaulay smiled more perceptibly.

"My word, Prothero, aren't you vindictive?"

"I am! You bet I am! I want him broke. Break him, and I'll help
you do Tregurtha out of a ribbon."

Macaulay was happy again. He had Prothero committed and the
market beared; all that remained was to resume, deftly and
immediately, garments of virtue that Prothero had rudely
torn off.

"I take it we're agreed about Tregurtha being overrated," he said
thoughtfully. "Neither of us would care to stand in the way of a
first-class man."

"No, because a first-class man would lick the hell out of both of
us," said Prothero. "If Trig had brains he'd beat us. As it is,
we'll beat him."

Naked again! Macaulay clenched his teeth. He simply couldn't
understand the nature of a man who liked his cynicism unadorned,
or his oysters raw, as Prothero would probably have phrased it.
However, virtue will assert herself:

"I have no compunctions about Ommony--another vastly overrated
man," he said with the angular sneer of a cross-examining
attorney. "I'm acquainted with the head of his department and
will write a letter throwing light on some of Mr. Ommony's
activities. He is notoriously hand in glove with every rebel in--"

"Don't make a fool of yourself," Prothero advised him. "Remember
he's coming in with Trig, who tells the truth the way a mule
kicks, at all four points of the compass. Trig may say that
Ommony induced the surrender. There are more unlikely things, and
people will believe Trig."

"Well, I happen to know something else against him. He draws a
salary for looking after the forest, and spends the time that
belongs by rights to his department making maps and things of
that sort that are no possible concern of his."

The whisky was working in Prothero's brain, but not making him
stupid--belligerent perhaps, and cynical, but it took nine or ten
stiff shots as a general rule to upset his critical judgment.

"All right," he said suddenly. "Write your letter and I'll
drop it in the post. You've got to prove to me that you'll
break Ommony."

Macaulay frowned--more nakedness--but wrote and signed the letter.

"You'll indorse my recommendation as to secrecy about the capture
of Mahommed Babar?"

"Sure. Whenever you make it," answered Prothero. And you couldn't
see whether his tongue was in his cheek, because of the bandages.


_"Let the Man Alone!"_

Ommony sat on a stone, gulping down stuff the cook described as
coffee, and Tregurtha superintended the construction of litters
for his wounded, Ommony and prisoner included; for a man can't
march on a twisted ankle nor should a prisoner be dragged, and
the horses taken from Ommony's stable by Mahommed Babar and his
men had vanished in the general retreat. He took special pains
about Ommony's litter and consulted him about it, seeking to make
amends for his rudeness of the night before.

One of the easiest habits to acquire is forgetfulness of insult.
Most successful men and all wise ones pick it up naturally and
become incapable of carrying resentment in their thoughts.
Like practiced mountaineers, they would laugh at the notion
of burdening themselves with useless luggage, which is all
resentment is. But the habit has its disadvantages, for it
sometimes arouses the suspicion of the people who expect to
be the butts of your resentment. They think you are either a
hypocrite or a very subtle schemer, and of the two the suspicion
of subtlety is usually worst.

Ommony, of course knew that, being a philosopher in some ways,
but he forgot it for the moment under the agreeable influence of
Tregurtha's frank apology. He, too, was desirous to please, and
Tregurtha was communicative.

"Rotten bad about Mahommed Babar," he remarked. "The silly fool
is so ill-tempered I daren't trust him. Have to tie him. Much
rather treat him decently."

"Suppose I talk with him," suggested Ommony. "I haven't had a
word with him since he was captured. Perhaps if I could speak
with him alone I might--"

"You recognized him?" Tregurtha interrupted abruptly.

"Yes. Recognized the sword, too--it's there in that bundle. Let
me see it."

An orderly brought the sword. Ommony, drawing it from the
scabbard, looked for some initials scratched deep on the
blade and began to explain how they came there. To Tregurtha's
agitated mind he showed a little too much knowledge of the
rebel's history.

"The point is, you recognize it?" he said, intertupting again.

"Yes, he's proud of it. Never let any one else touch it, I
believe. Now, if I should take that sword to him--he's sentimental
like all patriots--and I might--"

"Thanks, the less you say to him the better!" Tregurtha snapped.
"He told you he'd surrender! Did he? You'll oblige me, please, by
keeping away from him."

Ommony understood that, very likely better than Tregurtha did. He
knew he could only stir suspicion deeper by attempting to argue
the point or to justify his own motives. Besides, the rebel
leader had broken the promise in two ways by surrendering neither
himself nor Ali Khan, so he needed no excuse for staying away
from him.

He knew a little of the Moslem mind, having a gift and a liking,
which is another name for it, for studying the abstruse. He
understood the pride with which Mahommed Babar would strive to
keep faith, and, pride failing, the recklessness with which he
would deliberately go the limit of unfaithfulness. Reproach would
not improve that frame of mind, and in the circumstances any
attempt by Ommony to hold communication with him must unavoidably
savor of reproach. Silence, aloofness, was the kinder course, as
well as the only one tolerable to Tregurtha.

So Ommony begged leave for his bearers to lag behind, alleging
the good reason that his junglis would not then be afraid to
bring him word of any overtaking enemy. Junglis and the dogs were
better than any regulation rear-guard.

Tregurtha sent his prisoner on ahead, with a lieutenant and
twenty men told off to do nothing but guard him. His wrists and
his ankles were lashed to the poles of the litter, and, since
that arrangement would have submitted him otherwise to torture
from flies, a burlap curtain was suspended all around him. Even
that was raised at fifteen-minute intervals to make sure he was
not up to tricks.

Tregurtha marched midway down the column, where he could handle
the whole most easily whichever end might get into difficulties.
The cook with his pots and pans and all the odds and ends borne
cheerfully enough on poles by Tommy Atkins, who will make a joke
of anything provided he only gets the kind of officer he loves,
was between the main column and the official rear-guard, who
again preceded Ommony. So only the dogs and the men who carried
Ommony were aware of the one-eyed thing in rags who crept from a
thicket on all fours, blubbering and ranting in a mixture of
Lascar-English, French, Portuguese, Hindustanee, and a dozen
other languages. He clung to the legs of the litter-bearers
and refused to be kicked away. Ommony had to control the
dogs sternly.

He was long past walking. Yet he could not be left, and every
minute of delay increased the column's lead. He was pierced with
thorns, fly-bitten, full of fever that racked him and shook his
aching limbs, and worse than all those, mad with a fear that made
his one eye bulge out of its socket.

"Oh, hell!" he groaned. "You know Lal Rai! You know-um! You not
leave-um! Oh--" and he wandered off into a stream of dock-rat
blasphemy that all meant nothing except that he was licked,
conquered, begging for mercy, and as fit to be trusted as a wolf
in similar circumstances.

In other words, there was just the possibility that he might be
tamed a bit.

"Is that the bloke as 'it ye on the 'ead, sir?" asked a litter-bearer
sympathetically, grateful for the delay and making use of it to
light a clay pipe. "If 'e 'ad 'is rights 'e'd lead the dawgs
acrost a line o' country! Let the blighter crawl, sir, if 'is
feet ain't workin'. Serve 'im proper if 'e can't keep up.
That bloke's a bad 'at--never done no one no bloomin' good.
Ger-r-r-outo-that! Lemmy-leg-alone, d'ye 'ear!"

But though it had been a moral obligation to punish Prothero, it
would have been descending to the culprit's level to wreak
vengeance on his miserable servitor. There is a definite
distinction in such matters. Ommony put his fingers in his teeth
and whistled--then laughed, for the fear that had been was as
nothing to the paroxysms when the first three naked junglis
emerged like timid wraiths into the jungle lane.

A man in delirium tremens, seeing snakes, makes the same fuss
that Lal Rai did, and for reasons as valid. The junglis would no
more have harmed him physically than the shadow of a cloud will
wreck a mountain. They were almost as afraid as he was, only they
knew they had a friend in Ommony, and Lal Rai knew he had none
even in far-away Prothero. That constituted all the difference,
intangible, but enough, and his grimaces were like Pierrot's
voiding his sense of emptiness.

The junglis are no more muscular than they are intelligible to
the ordinary run, which is hardly at all. No more are they
carpenters--builders of anything. The difference between them and
the animals, anatomy excluded, is confined to this--that just a
little more distinctly than the animals they are aware of the
existence of a moral law, apart from physical desire. That is the
ladder along which all creation moves, the only way it advances,
and is the reason why the "missing link" is no more discernible
than the exact point where light begins and darkness ceases. Or
so says Ommony. There are high-priests, low-priests and followers
of other cults who call him an impostor and an ignoramus.

At least he can understand junglis, and they him, which is
unusual. He put them to work, which no other man ever did. They
brought him some poles and the long, supple strands of a creeper,
and held them while Tommy, with ingenuity and language suitable
to the occasion, constructed a litter that would do. Whereat the
junglis fell on Lal Rai, Ommony commanding, dogs on tiptoe with
excitement, and Thomas Atkins critically amused. The wretch who
had fled from those thin, naked forms through the night was
incapable now of believing them able or willing to help him. He
fought like an animal trapped. It was minutes before they could
throw him and tie him in place in the comfortless thing they
had made, whereon he was to travel like a man half-crucified,
with Ommony's borrowed blanket thrown over him to keep off
the flies and a night-spook fanning his face with a broken
wild-plantain leaf.

The junglis were unused to carrying--except one of Ommony's guns
on occasion, which was the highest honor within reach, and
corresponded to Macaulay's yearned-for-decoration. When they
moved their scant belongings, which was often, women labored,
which is woman's business. It was incorrect, undignified to
gather up that litter with its burden and bring up the rear of
the procession, league on league.

Yet Ommony commanded, and they did, half-consciously aware
that he knew dim, disastrous laws beyond their ken, which he
obeyed and they did not dare disobey. Whereas all other men,
except their own sparse remnants of a history-less race, were
incomprehensible, astonishing, unable to explain, Ommony
understood and could give reasons, that were reasons and not
conundrums to the jungle intellect. Wherefore, although their
women-folk would mock them and need beating, they obeyed,
conceding doubtless that a beating would do the women good.

Once in a while Tregurtha sent back a non-commissioned officer to
inquire whether all was well, so it was reported that the blacks
were carrying Lal Rai. But nobody was interested. It was agreed
the world would be no richer for him, and would hardly have been
poorer if the wolves had overcome him in the night. They had
Mahommed Babar, safe and alive, which was what they went for, and
Tregurtha proposed to wash his hands of all association with the
lying stool-pigeon Lal Rai, whose discreditable master Prothero
might have the whole credit for him and his consequences! So he
ignored the news of his existence, gave no orders concerning him,
made no comment when the breathless, overtaking non-com
hiccoughed his report. Least said, the soonest mended.

They halted for food and a rest, but food was scant. Tregurtha
believed that a raiding party should travel light and lived up to
his convictions. If the men wanted a square meal, they must
march; the train was the larder; so the breathing spells were
short, and Ommony, whose men must rest too, never came near
catching up. Toward the end the junglis wilted like severed green
stuff under their unaccustomed load, and had to be coaxed as
well as waited for; so although they reached the train about
midafternoon, the soldiers had eaten and were singing songs
impatiently when Ommony came. Steam was up on a newly-arrived
engine, which had brought a letter to Tregurtha from headquarters
forbidding him, over Macaulay's signature, to go raiding into the
jungle on any pretext whatever.

That letter put Tregurtha in a perfectly good temper. The wires
were repaired, and Macaulay, he knew, must already be aware of
what had happened, with what excellent result. The engine had
brought an empty box-car, which was stuffy but an otherwise
perfect place of confinement for the prisoner, who was locked in
nearly naked, with no means of hanging himself, and watched
through a small iron grating by two men, one at either end, who
would give the alarm in a moment should he try to escape.
Everything was excellent, including one of Ommony's cigars.

He was a troublesome prisoner--difficult to handle in proportion
to his value and the cost of taking him. Whenever they had loosed
one hand to let him eat or drink he had used it to pluck at his
other fastenings, never saying a word, but toward the end of the
journey glancing incessantly from right to left, as if he
rather expected some one to spring out of the undergrowth and
rescue him.

So they had taken great care; and even when they had him clear of
possible ambush in the jungle and locked in the box-car, twenty
men were told off to keep guard on either side of the track until
the train should start, and the two who stood on the iron steps
at either end were cautioned under penalty never to take
their eyes away from the gratings through which they watched
the prisoner.

But Tregurtha could override his own strict orders. And to him,
obsequious and bland, armed with a permit to be out along the
line, "to look into the extent of losses at the hands of
Moplahs"--almost as beautifully forged it was, and quite as
convincing, as the servants' references sold in the bazaar--came
a Hindu gentleman in cotton clothes and turban, who "rejoiced to
believe" that Mahommed Babar had been captured.

"That scourge of the villages! That terror of the jungle! Oh,
sir, the countryside will bless you!"

That did not make Tregurtha's temper any worse. The decent
gentlemen who held a country in subjection, being decent, like to
believe themselves appreciated by the "thoughtful natives." The
Briton in India is as sure of his duty and as keen on it as ever
Roman legionary was in Britain. Moreover, he will cling at least
as steadfastly, and die in the end as game. Meanwhile, he liked a
little recognition, even on the lips of flattery.

"Oh, sir, how I would love to set eyes on him! He burned my
property. I saw him standing with his officers giving the order
to set my barn alight. I heard the words. I could recognize his
voice again. If I only might identify him! Then I could tell all
men I have seen him with these eyes--heard him with these
ears--and even those who have said they receive no protection
from the Government would have to take their words back!"

That was reasonable. It could do no harm to let him look through
the grating at one end of the box-car, while the man at the other
end moved to let the failing light shine through. Tregurtha
himself gave the order to the men to get down off the steps and
let the "Hindu gentleman" see inside. So the Hindu stood for
possibly twenty minutes tiptoeing on the iron step, exchanging
a few words with the prisoner, as if trying to persuade him
to look up and be recognized. Tregurtha did not mind his talking
with him. It was too late for words to make any difference.
Weapons--nails--a small file--were the sort of thing to be looked
out for. Satisfied at last, the Hindu gentleman, all gratitude
and grins, asked after Ommony.

"For it was said, sahib, that he was taken prisoner by Mahommed Babar."

"Mr. Ommony is on his way here," said Tregurtha.

"If I might only see him too. Then I could satisfy everybody!"

"Go and wait there, at the end of the jungle path, and you'll see
him coming."

That being the apex, as it were, of all available permission, the
Hindu sat down in the shade and referred inquisitive sentries to
Tregurtha, who, when appealed to, answered:

"Let the man alone."

So when Ommony's litter at last came sweating jerkily along the
fairway a man in Hindu turban, whom the dogs unaccountably did
not challenge, strode out of the shadow of a great tree. He was a
clean-shaven Hindu, unknown to the junglis or to Ommony; but
Diana's tail, that never made mistakes, beat a sort of reassuring
tattoo on the dry earth alongside the litter. The fox-terrier
yapped, disliking Hindu clothing, and the setter cocked one eye
warily. The sun being low beyond the westward trees, the light in
the throat of the lane was uncertain, which accounts in the main
for one or two things.

The Hindu as he drew near raised his right hand almost with the
motion of an upward dagger-blow. The soldiers had halted. They
dropped the litter, each with a separate oath. They were ready to
kill for the sake of the man they had carried all that way and
who, according to their view of it, was a "decent sort of bloke."
Nevertheless, the dogs made no move, and the junglis, who were
quite as watchful and suspicious as the dogs, did not even set
their burden down. Questioned about it afterward, they said "the
dogs told us," which was a long speech from them and more than
usually full of explanation.

The Hindu did not strike. He did not come near enough to strike.
So far as anybody knew, and notwithstanding the imagination of
Private Joe Peebles who was litter-bearer on the forward
port-end, he had no weapon. He simply tossed a folded letter into
Ommony's lap, made a gruff exclamation whose purport no one
caught, and vanished into the deepening gloom along the edge of
the forest.

Ommony could have sent Diana to keep track of him, but the train
was waiting and Tregurtha was beckoning violently. He could have
sent the junglis, but they were prodigiously weary after their
unaccustomed labor, and the same problem of lack of time entered
into their case too. The simplest course was to open the letter
and read it, and to do that he was obliged to have himself
carried out into the open, where the light was better. Which
being accomplished, there was no longer any sense in pursuing the
Hindu, who, if in haste, had had plenty of time to put distance
between them. Tregurtha called to him and the litter-bearers
answered at the double, so he did not actually read the letter
for several minutes.

There was the business of rewarding the junglis, for whom he
begged fabulous gifts from Tregurtha--even a blanket apiece
from the dead men's kit and--unbelievable, amazing wealth of
wonders!--an army flannel shirt for each of them, as useless, and
henceforth as fashionable, in the jungle as a silk hat at
midsummer funerals in Maine.

It was after that, as the sun went down, Ommony sitting on the
running-board of the train beside Tregurtha, whom he invited to
read it along with him for politeness' sake, that the contents of
the letter were revealed to four astonished eyes. The train had
not moved on yet because a man with a cutting-in set had reported
that headquarters was trying to phone Tregurtha along the mended
wire and he expected they would overcome the bad connection in a
few minutes. So together Tregurtha and Ommony studied, and
studied again the remarkable note that, though never read at any
trial, did constitute a plea for mercy more effective than the
voice of any paid attorney in the world.

Ommony sahib, Salaam!

My heart is broken that I did not keep my promise to surrender to
justice Ali Kahn, who is a murderer deserving death, and who
himself admits it. Wherefore I sought death, but was taken
prisoner, and am treated, as you see, with indignity, which may
be just, since Ali Kahn escaped and I am at fault.

I have not the heart to appeal to you in person, nor to look
into eyes that ever met mine fairly and without reserve. If
opportunity is given me to end my life before the executioner can
take the work in hand, I will seize on it. This, therefore, is
perhaps a dying man's request, made to a friend whose heart it is
believed is great enough to overlook the present for the sake of
past esteem.

Sahib, I fear but three things: First, that your honor may suffer
for having acted charitably, ever seeking to persuade me to avoid
such violence as should include me among those to whom no quarter
may be granted. It was through your wise advice that I kept that
standard ever first in mind, and it is therefore due to you that
I forbade, and sternly punished, excesses by my followers. Sahib,
I implore you, let no consideration for my predicament interfere
with your own care for yourself. I am as good as dead. You have
your life to live. You need not spare my memory.

Second: I fear that my capture and execution may be kept secret
in order the better to trap certain of my friends, who, if the
news were published, would not leave the North in search of me.
Permit me to remind you, sahib, that my reason for disbanding at
this time and deliberately letting myself fall into British hands
was none other than to save those friends of mine from hurrying
to join a lost cause. My sacrifice will have been worse than
useless, therefore, if the news should not be so widely published
as to become common talk throughout the North. If it is the last
favor, sahib, and although there can be no acknowledgment from
me, I beg you in the interest of peace and for the sake of
honorable men not yet indictable, use all your influence to break
up secrecy!

Third: There is a fear that tortures me alone and therefore shall
be mentioned with less emphasis. I fear that they will hang, not
shoot me. Sahib, as you know, death by hanging is not conformable
to my religion, nor is it worthy treatment for a man who, whether
or not proclaimed guilty of treason, has been a rebel and no
worse. If your honor should have time and the inclination, I
would be grateful for such relief in this respect as one friend
may contrive for another.

This letter is written with the aid of Ram Ghose, who, if caught
and punished for passing pen and paper to me by means of a trick
played on my captor, will beseech your honor's favor on the
ground that it was he who treated your honor's dogs in your
honor's absence at a time when they would otherwise have died of
poisoning. He has no other claim on your consideration.

For the rest, Bahadur, kindly spare me the distress which is all
that a final interview between us could accomplish. You live
for India. I die for her. Your hope is in patience and the
overturning evolution in the hearts of men. My faith is rooted
deep in war, the saber and straight-forwardness. Only Allah, who
knoweth all things, can decide between us.

May He, who judgeth pride, when all is set and off-set, reckon in
my favor, if nothing else, than this--that with pride and
gratitude I lived, and shall have died.

Your friend,
    (Sirdar) Mahommed Babar Khan
      (Once of the Dera-Ismail Border Regiment.)

"By God!" exclaimed Tregurtha, choking. "Gad! That fellow shan't
be hanged if it costs my commission! He shall be shot by men of
unimpeachable record who fought in France, if my name's Trig! So
that's why he put up a fight instead of surrendering--'fraid we'd
hang him! Huh! A decent fellow who could write that letter should
have known we'd never hang him! Can't you speak with him through
the bars and persuade him to be sensible? We'll let bygones be.
I'll take his parole if he'll ride where I can keep an eye on him."

But Ommony demurred. Better than most Englishmen he knew the
Moslem mind, which is, however, not to say infallible.

"Hardly, after that request to be excused an interview. He'd
think it an impertinence. I thought you had his wrists tied; how
did he write that letter?"

Tregurtha explained how the Hindu had been allowed to stand for
nearly twenty minutes on the iron step under the grating at one
end of the box-car.

"A sleight-of-hand adept, I suppose. Slipped paper and pen
through the bars, although I watched him and did not see. He
stood speaking, wanted to hear his voice, too, for identification
purposes." Suggestion works subtly. "He looked to me like one of
those native doctors who travel around the country combining
quackery and politics."

"I always wondered who treated my dogs that time," said Ommony,
with eyes half-closed, remembering. "Mahommed Babar was working
for me in those days, and on the spot. He didn't care to touch
the dogs himself. Some Moslems don't, you know. Religion. He told
me afterward he found a Hindu, who considered himself free from
caste and understood dogs, but he never did say what the Hindu's
name was. Well, that explains why the dogs didn't go for his
throat when he threw the letter in my lap."

"What about publicity?" Tregurtha asked. "'Pon my soul, I'd like
to oblige the fellow, but in my position--"

"This Hindu Ram Ghose has very likely started the ball rolling
already. But, of course, official confirmation of the rumor--"

"I daren't do that," said Tregurtha.

"Have you any orders to give me?" Ommony asked him.

"Not a damned one! Technically, I suppose--no, I doubt if
even technically I command your tongue. I could seize your
correspondence if I cared to, but--"

"No orders, eh?" said Ommony.

"Not a damned one!"

"Any use for Lal Rai?"

"My God, no! He's Prothero's pimp. I wouldn't touch him with a

"He may--"

"Lie on the line and let the train run over him! I hope he will!"

"May I have a compartment alone with him for an hour or two?"

Tregurtha nodded, motioned toward an empty compartment with his
thumb, and walked away toward the nearest telegraph pole, where a
signaler crouching on his knees was behaving like a terrier at a
rat-hole, the difference being that sound instead of smell was
exciting him.

"Connection's better now, sir! Got them!" he called out.

Ommony and all three dogs, pushed, pulled and generally mothered
by a non-com and six privates, piled into the empty compartment,
and, at Ommony's request, Lal Rai was shoved in along the floor
the way they slid a casualty into an ambulance. There was no need
for any armed guard; Diana did that part perfectly. At Ommony's
invitation, seconded by music from between Diana's teeth, Lal Rai
arose and assumed a squatting posture in the middle of the
forward seat under the solitary lamp. Diana bared her teeth at
him and they shone in the lamp's unpleasant, yellow rays. It was
not yet time for Lal Rai to recover from the agony of fear; he
knew from experience how those teeth felt when they closed on
sinewy flesh.

"You hold-um! Me good feller!" he objected.

"Do what I say then," said Ommony.

Then the train started. It was too late for Lal Rai to jump out
or yell for help, even if either course would have done him the
least good.

"Peer-r-r-other-o-o my master--Dekta sahib--" he began.

But Ommony silenced him with a gesture, reinforced by the
castanet rattle of Diana's teeth and an under-growl from the
other two dogs.

"Listen!" commanded Ommony. "You may have your choice between
going to prison for about ten years for attempting to murder me,
or obeying me implicitly."

"You telling me, I do!" he answered, his eye on Diana.

There were elements of greatness to him. He was terse. But Ommony
also went straight to the point.

"Do you know the newspaper correspondents?"

Lal Rai nodded. Well he knew them, regular as well as surreptitious.
There were men employed around headquarters, who corresponded
secretly, whenever they could glean facts, for as many as a
dozen native papers each. Had he not been employed by Prothero
to fool them by disseminating false news? He, Lal Rai, had
access to the ear of every newspaper in India!

"I will write concerning the capture of Mahommed Babar," said
Ommony. "It will not be signed. You may say you had it from a
British officer. Show the account to every correspondent you can
find within two hours of this train's arrival at headquarters.
After that--you understand me, after that, not before--you will
deliver a letter from me to Colonel Prothero."

Lal Rai nodded. It looked safe and easy. He saw no objection. But
Ommony added the final, super-subtle touch.

"The newspaper correspondents will spread the news. My letter to
your master will tell him how to take advantage of the news. But
unless the news is spread first my letter will be of no use to
him. You understand?"

He did. "Me do-um," he answered, nodding.


_"You Exceeded Your Authority!"_

The train came whistling in between the hills at dusk, and was
met by Macaulay waiting side-by-side with a secretary. It had
entered Macaulay's consciousness, in the way conclusions do when
a man has nursed his own ambition long enough and with sufficient
disregard of the other fellow's, that now if ever should the
blow be struck that should change his lot from one of merely
departmental drudge, as he described himself, to that of a power
in the land. The divinely appointed minute, the stroke of
destiny, that so many men before and after Napoleon have sought
and missed!

So he brought the secretary with him to be witness that he left
to Tregurtha no loophole. He was minded that Tregurtha should
be sacrificed to the gods of his own destiny. The secretary
was a gentleman from Bengal, with spectacles and a monumental
stomach, who did not adore the military and most of all despised
Tregurtha, who had once called him a "bellyful of objections,"
which was rude but accurate. With such a witness in his favor and
the cards all stacked, Macaulay knew he had Tregurtha beaten
before the play began. He intended that Tregurtha should have
plucked a chestnut from the fire for him, and go not only
unrewarded but discredited for his pains. And all this without
especial malice, but because, according to the creed Macaulay
favored, no man can attain to eminence without treading on
another's upturned face. He supposed the universe was designed
that way by its Artificer.

So, feeling en rapport, as it were, with Destiny, he smiled
beneficently while he waited for the train. He had a flower in
his buttonhole, and knew he looked handsome--no exaggeration,
that. In a florid, well-dressed, rather too neat way he vaguely
resembled one of those good-looking guides who board the boats at
Naples to steer tourists into harm's way.

And he smiled as the train rolled in; smiled as Tregurtha stepped
to the platform, smiled, with extended hand, as Tregertha failed
in an effort not to see him quite so soon. Tregurtha had to shake
hands and be patronized.

"I'm glad you're alive and well, at any rate," he said suggestively.

"What d'ye mean?" Tregurtha answered, wiping the sweat from
the back of his neck with a bandana handkerchief. It only
needed that earth-to-earthy touch to break the thin veneer of
Macaulay's manner.

"Why, I understand, Tregurtha, you exceeded your authority!
Conducted a foray! After receipt of a letter from me. I said in
the letter--I have a copy of it--that in the opinion of the
Commission no such enterprise should be attempted on any pretext!"

"You've got it all balled up," Tregurtha answered, and was going
to say more, but Macaulay interrupted him.

"I understand it was you who got all balled up! How many men did
you lose on this unwarranted raid?"

"I will report that in writing."

Tregurtha was growing about as stiff as an Airedale terrier making
the acquaintance of a cur from foreign parts. He particularly
did not approve of that kind of conversation in front of the
Bengali, who was smiling like a courtezan and fanning himself
with a palm-leaf.

"I understand you brought the notorious Mahommed Babar back
with you?"

Tregurtha nodded.

"And I suppose your men have been as indiscreet as usual?"

"Am I expected to care what you suppose?" Tregurtha demanded. "My
men have had no opportunity to speak with any one."

"Mn-n! Well, you have shown small regard for the Commission's
rulings! Be good enough to order your officers to keep silent.
The men must be quarantined on suspicion of smallpox to keep them
quiet; I will see the P.M.O. about that. The prisoner is to be
handed over to a special guard responsible to me."

Tregurtha was too amazed to speak. His impulse was to kick the
smirking babu and roast Macaulay for an impudent fool in front of
all his men. When injury was added to the insult and a guard
composed of uniformed police was marched on to the platform to
take charge of the prisoner, he knew himself incapable of
speaking without losing self-control. Macaulay produced a
document signed by himself as the Commission's duly appointed
executive member and witnessed by the fat man from Bengal,
requiring Tregurtha to deliver the prisoner Mahommed Babar into
custody. And almost before the station lamps were lighted the
special guard of twelve policemen marched away with the prisoner
in their midst.

Ommony, supported between two soldiers and followed by his dogs,
limped up. Macaulay, who knew him quite well, raised his
eyebrows, frowned, and stared point-blank, as at an upstart who
might presume to claim acquaintance. However, Ommony came
straight up to him.

"Where can I sleep?" he demanded.

"I should say the prison would be the logical place, Mr. Ommony,"
Macaulay answered with his choicest sneer.

"I'll provide him with quarters. The man's a gentleman!" Tregurtha
snapped before Ommony could get a word in.

"Oh, very well. Your definition, however, remains to be confirmed!"
Macaulay sneered. "My own conviction is that people guilty of
treason should be hanged, as high as Haman--as Mahommed Babar will be!"

Ommony set the example of turning his back; Tregurtha might have
otherwise let loose the vials of his wrath. Macaulay chose that
moment to play his extra trump--the one he carried up his sleeve.

"As friend to friend, Tregurtha," he said with apparent candor,
resuming his social smile, "I advise you to apply for long leave.
I believe it would be granted. I will use my influence. Otherwise--"

"I might stay here, I suppose, and punch your head! Is that the
trouble?" Tregurtha retorted through a swollen and indignant throat.

The words seemed to force their own passage out through
strangling muscles. Suddenly he turned his back as rudely and
deliberately as he knew how to contrive, and strode down the
platform to the sweeter, simpler atmosphere of Thomas Atkins
faced with news of quarantine.

"Yes!" he roared at them, words flowing free at last. "You're
quarantined! You've got the smallpox, you blighters, every
mother's son of you! You've caught it by behaving like gallant
men and you'll be cured when that's convenient to your betters!
Not a word now! 'Ten-shunn!"

He marched them away, they mystified and he increasingly aware of
the enormity, the characteristic blind and impudent enormity of
the mistake that Macaulay had made. The idiot proposed to break
him, Tregurtha, for disobedience, keep the affair as quiet as
possible, and make some political use of the prisoner for his own
ambitious ends. But it did not make him feel any better to know
that he could show up Macaulay as a blundering ass. It was not
within his scheme of things to break any one in purse, pride,
prospects, or reputation. He was not vindictive. The only man he
cared to hit hard was his country's enemy, and only him as long
as he persisted in the enmity.

Knowing he had done no wrong, he had never lost confidence--only
his temper. He recovered his temper on the march uphill, lending
the pony they had brought to the station for him to Ommony, who
needed it, and regaining judgment as the exercise set the blood
to coursing naturally through his veins.

But there was nothing else to regain. No satisfaction. That fool
Macaulay would compel him in self-defense to prove that he raided
Peria Vur and captured Mahommed Babar before orders not to do so
ever reached him. Macaulay's smug advice to him to apply for long
leave meant that he was in the way. Good! He would stay there!
Moreover, having pledged himself to see Mahommed Babar shot, not
hanged, he would be obliged to face Macaulay over that issue
too. It looked on the whole rotten for Macaulay, who was
possibly all right in his way if you only understood him. He,
Tregurtha, was a stubborn fellow, rather inclined to believe
that stubbornness is sin but given over to it. He would hit
back--have to--unavoidable. What was worse, he would wait and
let Macaulay overreach himself, emulating Stonewall Jackson,
as he always had done even before he studied strategy and
tactics with a crammer. Macaulay's subsequent progress would
be all downhill, and he, Tregurtha, was entirely sorry for him.
But not in a sparing mood. Stubborn. Dogged-does-it.

He sent Ommony to the mess tent and marched his men into the
quarantine inclosure, where he explained to them that the
quarantine was no more than a precaution against loose tongues.
Knowing that that explanation would only impel them to find
ingenious ways of making public all they knew. He went to the
length of saying the mistrust of them was none of his contriving,
and that personally he would simply have put each man on his
honor not to tell--which was true, as they knew perfectly.

"So I'll ask you to oblige me by holding your tongues," he said
at the close of his remarks. And that naturally settled it. They
would talk.

But it all took time. It was four hours after the train arrived
before Tregurtha reached his own square tent and sat down to let
his servant pull his boots off.

Meanwhile, about an hour before, say three hours after the
arrival of the train, there had come seeking Prothero in his much
more comfortably furnished wooden hut no other than Lal Rai,
bearing a letter.

"So it's you!" said Prothero. "Well, I'll be damned! Where ha'
you been?"

He opened the letter--then whistled--then again gave vent to the
bromidic prophecy about his future state.

"When did he give you this? Train's been in a dickens of a time.
Where ha' you been?"

He did not wait for an answer but read again:

My Dear Prothero,

Speaking for myself, whatever difference may have existed between
us was adjusted by the steps taken by me to that end recently.
That incident is closed and will continue so if will or act of
mine have anything to do with it. With the idea of resuming
satisfactory relations, am sending you the following information,
which as Chief of Intelligence I believe you will be able to
employ to the advantage of those most concerned, yourself
included. You are under no obligation to refer to me as the
source of your information.

Correspondents of newspapers--I don't know how many or which, but
including the news services--have been informed of Tregurtha's
brilliant exploit in capturing Mahommed Babar with the loss of so
few men. Tregurtha, with characteristic frankness, has said that
information supplied by you was what sent him off on his daring
raid into the jungle. As I understand it, the newspapers have
been told that you undertook the task of scouting alone, and that
you returned with priceless information after adventures in the
rebel stronghold.

Details were given to the newspapers without the knowledge of
Tregurtha, and, in fact, in face of his strict orders to the men
to say nothing.

For your special benefit the following _precis_ of the situation
is appended:

If Mahommed Babar's capture could be kept secret, Tregurtha, and
you, might be deprived of the credit. There would be continued
fighting, due to the fact that disaffected persons from the North
would continue gathering to serve under a leader whom they would
still believe to be at large. That would discredit the Intelligence,
and so yourself.

If the news of the capture of Mahommed Babar, on the other hand,
were to receive official confirmation and widest publicity, you
and Tregurtha would receive full credit unavoidably. Further
bloodshed would be prevented. Those who may have advocated the
reverse policy would be discredited.

Bitter resentment, consequently trouble, would be sure to
follow the hanging of Mahommed Babar; who, if to be executed,
should be shot. This last point is very important. Considering
Mahommed Babar's fine record in preventing excesses by his
followers, it ought to be easy to oppose the views and expose
the unsportsman-like motives of any who seek to have him executed
with indignity.

Subject to observance of the above stipulation in regard to
treatment of Mahommed Babar, you may count on my support in
obtaining full official recognition of Tregurtha's achievement.
It should not be necessary to refer to the manner of your
departure from Peria Vur other than to say that I assisted
you to escape.

Yours faithfully,
            Cotswold Ommony

Prothero glanced for a second suspiciously at Lal Rai, realized
that his rascally factotum would perish rather than be party to a
trick on his master, and chuckled. The whole thing looked to him
as obvious as twice two.

He had always said Ommony was a decent enough chap. Evidently he
had brains enough, too, to know he must lose in any long-drawn
vendetta with the rather well-known "Dekta" Prothero.

"Mn-mn! Handsome does, eh? The amende honorable! Not so bad at
that, friend Ommony! Well--we'll kick Macaulay in the face first;
his number's up. Trig must be applauded. He wins. Lucky! I wonder
what it is that makes a simpleton like Trig have all the luck--a
one-track mind! A single-barreled gun who goes off whenever
anybody pulls the trigger! Consistency must be the secret of it."

He began pulling off the bandages from his face and hands, and
ordered a servant to prepare a tub for him. Having taken good
care of himself and obeyed the doctor, he felt well enough to
rise unswathed to the emergency. So he washed off all the
ointment and got into uniform, strapping on his holster and a
.45 Webley from force of habit.

"But if that ass Ommony supposes I'll forgive and forget--" he
said to himself, half-closing his little protruding eyes as he
adjusted his tunic before the mirror.

He whistled and walked out, followed by his servant with a
lantern. Entering the mess tent, he discovered Tregurtha
and Ommony sitting _vis-à-vis_ across a table, discussing
belated supper.

He nodded to Ommony, but laid his hand on the other's shoulder.

"'Gratulations, Trig!" he exclaimed, holding his hand out. "So
you took my tip and pulled it off, eh? That's once when the
Intelligence didn't fail you!"

"It was much farther to Peria Vur than you intimated," said Tregurtha.

"Intimated, eh? You didn't understand me. I was suffering--couldn't
talk. Stands to reason I knew how far it was. Didn't I walk it,
by Gad! Tell me now--would you have gone, but for me?"

"I can't say," said Tregurtha frankly. "If I had known really how
far it was--no, I can't answer. It was what you said, or, rather,
what your gestures implied, that finally decided me; that and
what your servant told me. Your accounts agreed, and you were
both mistaken!"

He was puzzled. After the manner of his kind, which passes the
understanding of all sneaks--although Prothero knew perfectly
what he would not do, even if not why he would not do it--he had
deliberately avoided references to the circumstances of the
meeting of Ommony and Prothero in Peria Vur. Lal Rai had said
something about an encounter between them; but the statements of
a brute like Lal Rai were no basis for impertinent questions, at
least in his judgment. He never had liked Prothero. He did not
like him now. He did not trust him. Nevertheless, he was not
going to refuse him his due.

He, Tregurtha, had gone to get Mahommed Babar; had found Mahommed
Babar; had brought Mahommed Babar in.  That, as far as he,
Tregurtha, was concerned was all about it. Except that he was
glad to notice that Ommony and Prothero were not at daggers drawn.

"Sit down and drink with us," he suggested.

"Haven't time," said Prothero. "Just dropped in to congratulate
you. My report on this should get you your brigade, old man.
Macaulay, by the way, has done for himself. He has written a long
complaint lambasting you, charging you with insubordination among
other things. He claims to have sent you a letter in time to
forbid your entering the jungle, but I happen to know that it
never reached you."

"That's not quite true," said Tregurtha. "I received the letter
on my return to the railway line. The engineer brought it."

"Better and better! More and more witnesses!" laughed Prothero.
"But he's done worse! He has acted in the name of the Commission
without first getting the Commission's vote! I knew he would. He
counted on my support to give him a sure majority, and relied on
having his action approved after the event."

"If you knew what he intended you should have made your objection
clear to him," Tregurtha said sternly.

"You can't make some folk understand," sneered Prothero. "His
plan was to take your prisoner away from you--"

"He has done that," said Tregurtha.

"I know. Did he suggest you should apply for leave?"


Prothero chuckled and nodded.

"Do you get the idea? The notion is to claim a civil service
victory over the military, shelve you into obscurity, hang
Mohommed Babar to oblige the Hindus, and blame the army for
hanging him so as to pacify the Moslems. However, he's counting
without my vote. His action will not be approved tomorrow when
the Commission sits. He's done for himself! Now I'll go and
formally identify the prisoner. Suppose you come with me," he
suggested, looking hard at Ommony. "You and I both saw him at
Peria Vur. And oh, by the way--Macaulay has reported you for
making maps without permission."

"Damn!" snapped Tregurtha. "I shall insist on the Commission
taking official cognizance of that map! Macaulay's reported you
for it, has he? By the--"

"Come along!" said Prothero.

Tregurtha was glad enough to have him go. It savored to him
almost of naked indecency that Ommony should have overheard such
unclean official confidences.

So Ommony chained up his dogs and limped with the aid of a stick
beside the least forgiving enemy in India. Prothero knew every
inch of the way in the dark and ordered the man with the lantern
to keep behind them because the unsteady bright rays bothered his
inflamed eyes. Ommony could see in the dark almost as well as one
of his own jungli-folk; but they had to go extremely slow because
of his injured ankle.

So it was possibly fifteen minutes before the shadow of the
police-station loomed in front of them with its one oil lamp
flickering over the sleepy man on guard in front of the door and
another chink of light escaping between the shutters.

"Isn't it the limit?" asked Prothero. "To put a prisoner in here
in charge of a dozen lying 'constabeels' when we've a stone cell,
a searchlight, and regular troops! Nothing here but corrugated
iron. Police asleep as usual, I'll bet you!"

They were not all asleep, for the man under the lamp challenged.
Prothero answered, and the policeman lapsed again into a sort
of camel-coma, chewing something, one hip protruding nearly
out of joint.

They stamped into the police-station, where the officer of the
night came out of a snooze with elbows on the desk to greet
them sulkily.

"No," he said, answering Prothero's question. "There are orders
he should not be seen."

"All right. Are you disposed to arrest me?" Prothero retorted. "I
shall report you. Your name, please!"

"Suit yourself. You know my name perfectly, you black rascal!
Where are your keys? Open that door!"

"You must first sign a requisition," the policeman stipulated.
Prothero agreed to that--was glad to; it would constitute more
proof of Macaulay's unauthorized high-handedness. He scribbled a
chit on the desk, and the officer opened the door leading to a
stifling corridor that divided two rows of cells smelling
strongly of disinfectant.

"The cell at the end on the right," he said stiffly, closing
the door behind them and remaining outside--washing his hands,
as it were, of complicity in the unauthorized proceeding.
Afterward, Ommony remembered that the man was simply huffy,
not apparently afraid.

"Can you beat that?" asked Prothero. "Not even a man on guard
between the cells!"

There were no other prisoners that night. Two rows of empty cells
flickered shadowy in the rays of oil lamps that illuminated the
passage fairly well but left the rear of the cells almost pitch
dark. Prothero led the way, muttering to himself. Ommony stumped
along after him, wondering about a number of things; but chiefly
whether Mahommed Babar would be offended by his coming to
identify him. Considering the emphatic request in that letter, he
decided to keep in the background, and if possible to see the
prisoner without himself being seen. He proposed to himself to
enter the next cell, whose door was ajar, and to look for a hole
in the corrugated iron partition. His hand was on the swinging
grille when a yell from Prothero prevented him.

"Can you beat that? Quick! By God!"

He pulled his Webley out and fired.

"Where the hell are your dogs? You should have brought them!" he
shouted excitedly. "Damn it, he's dead; that ends him! Head and
shoulders through that hole! Ten more seconds and we'd have
been too late! I suspect Macaulay of collusion with the police
in this!"

That, of course, was ridiculous. But men say ridiculous things in
the heat of a moment. The astonishing circumstance was that the
prisoner was not dead, not even badly wounded. Prothero's bullet
had grazed him and gone through the cell wall, knocking him down
on the cement floor; plowing in transit a shallow course above
his shoulder-blade that hardly drew blood.

The police officer came bursting in, lantern in hand, and temper
out of hand, which made an awkward team of him and Prothero.

"Open the cell, you ass!" Prothero yelled at him.

"It is not your business to order me!" he retorted.

"Damn it! Are you blind? There's a hole in the wall you can see
the stars through! He's got a cold chisel in there! How did he
get it? Some one gave it to him! If it wasn't you, who did? Open
that cell or I'll call a guard and--"

He had to go back for his keys, and that took time, for he
was sulky and disposed to give himself time to think of some
alternative. But he opened the door at last. Between them the
policeman and Prothero dragged out the prisoner and put him in
the next cell, Ommony keeping out of the way. It was Ommony who
picked up the cold chisel with which the prisoner had forced
apart the sheets of corrugated iron; it had the Government broad
arrow and a number stamped on its upper end.

The policeman saw him with it in his hand, but did not see him
give it to Prothero, who put it in his tunic pocket.

Then Macaulay came in. He said he had heard the disturbance a
quarter of a mile away, and there was a fine row, everybody
blaming everybody else. It took Macaulay's keen sense of
obliquity to bring on temporary truce by concentrating blame on
the policeman.

"Don't presume to contradict me!" he snorted. "Your motive is
obvious. You knew there was a reward for this prisoner dead or
alive, and you proposed to let him escape so as to shoot him in
the open! If not, why did you post a policeman with a rifle
outside this corner of the building? Don't deny it! I stumbled
into him in the dark as I came along!"

"He was there to prevent an escape!" the policeman retorted
indignantly; and he was going to say more, but was stopped by
Prothero, who whispered. Something had given Prothero what he
regarded as a bright idea.

"I suppose, as a matter of fact, if he should get away we'd never
hear of him again," he said aloud, almost as if speaking to
himself, directing the remark really at Macaulay--who bit
instantly--but puzzling Ommony, who at last had swallowed his
compunction and was leaning, looking through the cell bars. He
knew there was a key to the puzzle within reach, but could not
lay his finger on it. The prisoner turned his back, unwilling to
be recognized.

"Get away?" Macaulay snapped angrily. "He must be hanged as
soon, and as secretly as possible. This whole business should
be hushed up!"

"When do you propose to have him tried?" asked Prothero.

"At once. There's plenty of evidence."

"But no need of it!" Prothero answered. "Mahommed Babar was
proclaimed a traitor and outlaw. If you're bent on hanging him,
it may take weeks. But if you want him shot you can have it done
at dawn tomorrow by simply signing your name. If what you want is
secrecy, all you need is a couple of witnesses and a firing
squad. The men won't know who it is they're shooting."

That may have occurred to Macaulay before, but perhaps he had
needed a co-conspirator to give him that kind of daring. He did
not act or speak as if the idea was totally new to him.

"He'll only be trying to escape again, or else commit suicide, if
we leave him in here," he said darkly.

"Beastly business, suicide, and difficult to hush up!" was
Prothero's comment.

Macaulay nodded.

"To prevent the police from playing further tricks of this sort--yes,"
he said; "yes, yes--yes; yes decidedly. You'll receive an official
communication from me before morning, Prothero."

Macaulay walked out. The policeman held the door open. Prothero
went next; Ommony last, and the policeman touched him on the
shoulder. He knew Ommony by reputation for a man who had a heart
inside his ribs.

"You could save me much trouble, sahib, by letting me keep that
cold chisel," he whispered. "They will use it otherwise to try to
prove that we were helping Mahommed Babar to escape, so as to
shoot him and claim the reward. Whereas that is not true. It
could not be. It--"

"I gave the cold chisel to Colonel Prothero. I'm sorry I did, but
it can't be helped now," Ommony answered.

The policeman noticed the tone of voice, observed the absence of
the note of enmity--took heart of grace.

"Could you not get it back for me, sahib?"

Ommony shook his head. It was obviously out of the question and
the refusal was emphatic. The policeman began to plead. "Let me
tell you, sahib! Give me just one minute to explain! Mahommed Babar--"

"Will be shot at dawn," said Ommony. "I can't help you. If you
want the cold chisel, you must ask the man who has it."

He saw him go to Prothero. The two stepped aside into the shadow
outside on the porch. Ommony, limping out, passed the policeman
coming in, without the cold chisel, but smiling like a man who
drew four cards, and filled.


_"My Country is the Forest!"_

There is a discontent that is divine. That night, in the tent
provided by Tregurtha, it took such hold of Cotswold Ommony that
his dogs moaned. Less complex than a man, they were better able
to apply those elemental principles they understood. They loved
Ommony and that was all about it. When he groaned inwardly they
cried aloud, and were objurgated suitably.

They tell us that all problems are as simple as twice two, which
may be honest information; but few look simple, and least of all
Ommony's that night. He saw chicanery and double-dealing all
around him, and the impulse was to expose it; yet he knew that if
he tried to do that he would do more harm than good, and only in
the end expose himself to the enmity of bureaucracy, which is
specious, cruel, and vindictive the wide world over.

Besides, there is an irony that is divine, and it is sometimes
well to let the mills of God grind on. Whoever made the mountains
can make big ones into little ones with equal ease.

By the dim tent candle-light he studied again that extraordinary
letter Mahommed Babar had written him; recalling incident by
incident the circumstances that led up to it and the clever means
arranged for its delivery. Almost too clever. Almost too like
making a mere stalking-horse, convenience, of himself; a thing he
should resent.

"My business is the forest!" he asserted testily in answer to
that argument, bringing himself back with a jerk to first
principles. "I don't have to resent unless I choose."

He understood perfectly that officialdom, if ever called on to
review the facts, would deny he had any other duty than to lay
bare all he knew. Bureaucracy would punish him for having an
opinion of his own; would humiliate him for daring to be
independent. Patrioteers would call his friendship for Mahommed
Babar treason. They would say he set a personal regard above
loyalty to country.

"My country is the forest, where my job is," he assured himself.

He had done his duty by the forest. Even he, least lenient of
critics of himself, knew that.

If they knew all the facts they would say he had favored his
country's enemies by helping a considerable horde of rebels to
escape. But which were his country's enemies? They who used
authority to further their own ambition in the name of taxpayers
six thousand miles away, or he who stretched a point to do his
utmost for an honorable man? He conceded he had stretched a point
or two in favor of Mahommed Babar. But the doctrine of "my
country right or wrong" did not appeal to him.

He wished he were back in the forest, where problems arose and
things happened that he understood exactly how to deal with.
Bureaucracy, supported by and supporting patrioteers, would hold
him up to obloquy if it should ever find it out; citing against
him instances from all the school-books to show that a man must
sacrifice an honorable friend in favor of dishonest government.
Should forgo his own first principles in favor of sacrosanct
privilege and anything majorities might say are good.

Yet there were famous men he could think of who had stood by
their friends in the face of that kind of criticism. Men whom
he felt able to admire. Not wholly despicable characters.
Practically all the men who ever rallied to a standard of
rebellion would have to be included, along with all those who
blazed new trails as traitors, if that were treason. He himself
had striven to bring what element of flux he might into healing
the breach between the East and West. If that was treason, then
so be it! He could and would plead guilty with a high chin!

He had never been paid to do anything else than serve the forest.
He had earned his pay. He decided, not for the first time nor the
last, that he was a free man otherwise--free to live, move, have
his being and befriend such branded traitors as he of his
unfettered judgment should deem worthy of it!

That decision, naturally, carried action in its wake. Ommony
unleashed his three dogs, left the candle burning, and returned
to the police-station, meaning to share his own conclusions with
the prisoner, through the bars if need were, but alone in the
cell with him for choice. Although he did not realize it at the
time, he saved himself whole from the avenger in that hour.

It seemed to him decent and compatible with love of country that
a man about to face a firing-squad should know in his last
moments that some one understood the circumstances and appreciated
what he did.

"There's not a great deal a fellow can say to him. The less the
better probably. Short--to the point--and friendly."

He followed the dogs along the winding path, turning over
in his mind the things a fellow might say in the circumstances.
He decided not to mention the fighting, or the distinctly
questionable incident on the Rump when he fought like a devil
instead of surrendering.

"What he did do, isn't the point. What he's doing now is the
whole issue. Must be careful, too, not to start any discussion.
Have to say a few words simply, that's all."

He had plenty of time to think, for the distance was more than a
quarter of a mile and the state of his ankle obliged him to walk
extremely slowly. Finally, in full view of the flickering police
lamp, he decided on the words--his words, but the world's
forgiveness and farewell according to his view of it.

"You're doing well. You've chosen the right course. They'd have
taken you sooner or later and hanged you. Now you may die like a
man and do good by it."

That, he decided was all right. Even if the jailer had to listen,
that short speech could do no harm. None but the condemned would
understand it, and he would realize that somebody appreciated the
sacrifice sufficiently to forgo resentment.

"It isn't bowing to necessity that counts. It's the motive with
which we face necessity--the unselfishness with which we do
the unavoidable," he argued, not aware that he, too, was doing
just that.

Nevertheless, he drew blank temporarily. The policeman met him at
the door with that inconstruable laugh with which the East looks
on the West's dilemmas.

"They came for him," he said simply, answering the unspoken
question. Then, to the spoken one:

"Oh yes, he was violent--at first--that is until they told him he
should be shot. Afterward he was well-behaved. But they carried
him in a stretcher for fear he might go wild again."

"He won't," said Ommony, and the policeman nodded, comprehending.

"Did you get that cold chisel from Colonel Prothero?" Ommony
asked him.

"No, and I no longer care for it," he answered. "It will not be
used against me."

Ommony studied him a minute.

"Tell me," he said. "Don't count too much on--"

The policeman understood. Almost every man's hand is against the
Indian police. He proceeded to make for himself a friend who
could be counted on.

"Sahib, when it was learned yesterday evening by telephone that
the train was bringing this important prisoner, Macaulay sahib
began to make arrangements. The prisoners who were in here were
removed. About an hour before the train arrived Macaulay sahib
came in here to visit the cell. I had my arrangements made to put
the prisoner in the end cell nearest to the office. It was
Macaulay sahib who countermanded that and chose the cell at the
other end. He visited it. He was alone in it. After he came out
and closed the door none was in it until the prisoner was pushed
in. Consequently, since the prisoner was searched and had no cold
chisel, and could not have had that cold chisel in any case; and
since I have ascertained that a cold chisel similar to that one
is now missing from a storeroom which Macaulay sahib inspected
yesterday, there is only one conclusion to be drawn! I draw it!
Macaulay sahib wished him to escape! I shall hold my tongue, unless--"

"Unless Prothero should turn on you? Well, he won’t!" said Ommony.
"He would rather turn on Macaulay."

"I know that, sahib!"

Under the flickering lantern they looked straight into each
other's eyes.

"The prisoner had a scar," said the policeman darkly.

"Was that what you talked about with Colonel Prothero?" Ommony
asked him. "Had Prothero seen the scar?"

"Yes, sahib, he had noticed it. Would your honor care to see the
records of two years ago?"

Ommony, not given as a rule to that kind of curiosity, accepted
the invitation.

"You see," said the policeman. "I obliged Colonel Prothero to
sign that chit tonight. He cannot say afterward that he was not
here and did not speak with me. You see? But you do not look
surprised, sahib. How is that?"

"Not the least surprised," said Ommony. "You said you'd hold your
tongue. Do you mean to? I advise that. After dawn, when"--he
spoke slowly and distinctly--"Mahommed Babar will be dead and
buried, mine would be the only evidence worth anything to you if
those men should try to make you a scapegoat. As long as you do
hold your tongue, you may count on me implicitly."

They shook hands on that, but Ommony limped away aware of fear;
for, like Tregurtha, he had crossed a Rubicon. Thenceforward he
must carry on, although he knew that nothing could prevent that
policeman from trying to blackmail all concerned and, failing
that, from telling all he knew if one least step should fail in
what should follow.

He returned to the tent and found Tregurtha sitting there,
smoking irritably. He explained where he had been.

"I thought I'd cheer the man a little if I could, but they've
removed him."

"I know they have. Damn it, that's Prothero's doing!" Tregurtha
answered. "Macaulay must be drunk or off his head! He has given
Prothero an order to have Mahommed Babar executed at dawn. There
isn't one possible excuse for it!"

"Yes, there is," said Ommony. "Macaulay wanted Mahommed Babar to
escape. He could have blamed the police for it; and without
Mahommed Babar on his hands it would have been lots easier to
discredit you. However, the escape failed. He's just as keen now
on the execution, for fear the prisoner might tell how he came by
a cold chisel. Macaulay recognizes Waterloo and wonders whether
he's French or English!"

Tregurtha swore explosively.

"They've the right," he said, "but no excuse! Prothero is a
bounder, and Macaulay's worse! However, there's only one thing I
can do about it. Will you come with me and see the poor devil
gets treated decently?"

They sat talking until shortly before dawn, Tregurtha just simply
indignant and Ommony aching to tell what would drive him to a
frenzy of defiant countermanding, yet holding his tongue for
friendship's sake. Toward dawn they tied the dogs up and walked
side by side to the execution ground in the valley between
three hills.

They could not refuse to let Tregurtha witness the proceedings.

"Where's Macaulay?" he demanded.

"No need of him," said Prothero, tapping his pocket. "I've his
signature. You leave Macaulay to me!"

The prisoner had been carried on a stretcher, but was standing
now. They had given him back his uniform and his hands were not
tied. Beside Prothero there was only one officer, a non-com, and
a dozen men. Prothero ordered the prisoner blindfolded and tied,
but Tregurtha interfered.

"No, if he prefers to stand and face it!" he said. "I forbid
tying him unless it's necessary. Give him his chance to die like
a brave man."

The prisoner, avoiding Ommony's eyes, glanced at Tregurtha
gratefully and raised one hand to the salute in the first
admission of any human feeling he had made since he was captured.
The officer touched him on the arm and he stepped forward
instantly to the sand-bank with a smile on his lips that hardly
suggested defiance. It was more like triumph.

"Funny!" said Tregurtha. "I don't see victory in that death, but
my! he's proud of it. And what's his complaint against you? Why
don't he at least nod you a so-long?"

"Perhaps he thinks I know too much about him," ventured Ommony.

They fired as the sun rose facing the condemned man over the
ridge that closed the valley's end. So he fell with the light in
his eyes. And almost before the sand began to soak the blood up,
Prothero produced a sheet of paper fastened in a clip on a
writing-board. He, Prothero, certified the dead man dead; then
passed the paper to Tregurtha, who wrote his name as witness.

"You'd better sign too. You knew him. Just write your name and
the date below Tregurtha's," said Prothero, but Ommony shook
his head.

"No," he answered. "I'll have nothing to do with it. My job's
the forest!"

"Good man!" said Tregurtha. "Mind your own business, eh? Besides,
it was a damned shame shooting that man!"

"No," Ommony answered, "it would have been a shame to let him
live! But I'm pleased he escaped hanging."

"Lord!" exclaimed Tregurtha. "What d'ye mean, man? Is it pique
because he didn't recognize you--or a touch of sun? Sun--must be!
Come away! You'll feel better after breakfast." Just a plain,
straight-forward, simple fellow, Tregurtha was.


_"A Man's Death is the Most a Man May Ask!"_

Cotswold Ommony sat in what he called his "seat of custom,"
underneath the sambur antlers, between the front door and the
window of the library, on his veranda that overlooked an acre or
two of clearing on the outer, penetrable fringe of the forest.
The morning mail had arrived, and there was only one letter that
interested him; although there was other interesting news, for
Prothero had turned up on the same train and sent up asking for a
conveyance to bring him from the station.

Prothero was always above-board--always fair and unsecretive--always
announced his coming in advance. But that did not imply by any
means that Ommony desired to meet him. He had sent the tonga to
the station, but his gun was against the veranda rail, and the
dogs knew what that meant. Meanwhile, he read the letter again
and again--particularly part of it:

You have the news of course. Tregurtha is a brigadier. That pig
Prothero they say has contrived to snaffle the only important
decoration. It's not gazetted yet, but they say it's a foregone
conclusion. Macaulay, who everybody thought was the man of
destiny--he surely believed it himself--got a backstairs
promotion downward and resigned! He's on his way home. Can't
feel sorry for Macaulay, somehow. Nobody seems to know what
caused his downfall, but everybody in this department feels
triumphant about it, because he had the petty spirit to report
you for making maps!

And by the way, about those maps--Tregurtha took it up with his
usual combativeness and recommended for you everything in sight.
It seems there are no funds from which you can be paid for making
them, and as a decoration costs less anyhow they've set your name
down for a C.M.G. or something--

He laughed, picked up his gun and started for the jungle, the
dogs leaping and racing about him, showing the way to the lookout
rock, as if he did not know it. There, at the end of the long
fire-lane, he climbed at last.

A few minutes later a man's footsteps were distinctly audible,
ascending. They paused.

"All's clear, Mahommed Babar. Come on up!" said Ommony.

The sirdar strode out on to the narrow level at the summit. He
looked a trifle younger, perhaps because his beard was not so
long. It looked newly grown, as if he had shaved it rather recently.
He wore nothing resembling a uniform, but the semi-modern, simple
garments of a Northern Moslem of good standing.

"I came to say good-by, sahib. I have spent these weeks making
sure my rebels scattered and laid down their arms. I have kept
faith and will keep it."

"How did you persuade Ali Khan to die in your place? You came
near breaking it with me," said Ommony.

"Near, but not quite! I was there, sahib! If harm had befallen
you at any time since, I would have given myself up! I swore to
you to be there and to surrender Ali Khan to justice. Did I not?"

"He didn't surrender," said Ommony.

"So I saw! He feared lest they would hang him. He was glad to die
if he might die decently. He knew they would capture him sooner
or later, for he was a man of few friends and many enemies; and
as a murderer condemned to death he would certainly have been
hanged whenever caught. So he offered to die in my place. When
you left me, sahib, I intended to disperse my following and
surrender, keeping only Ali Khan with me. He was not a man who
should be turned loose. He deserved to die, and he knew it. He
would have become a common bandit if I had let him go. After you
were gone it was he who made me the proposal; I who agreed to it,
liking well enough to see him act the man at last. When he was
taken, I was within a hundred paces almost, lying along the bough
of a great tree--watching. Thereafter there was nothing for me to
do but write a letter and arrange for its delivery."

"Who delivered that letter?" asked Ommony.

"I did, sahib. The dogs and the junglis recognized me, and I saw
you were puzzled. I shaved and took a Hindu part, and for two
reasons--needing to make sure that you, sahib, should believe I
was really in the box-car; and having promised Ali Khan he should
be shot, not hanged, if I could manage it. When did you first
know, bahadur, that it was Ali Khan, not I, who had been
taken prisoner?"

"The night before the execution, after he tried to escape, when I
saw him in the cell close up."

"Did he die like a man, sahib?"

"He did. I saw him die."

"Good! Surely a man's death is the most a man may ask! May Allah--"

He was interrupted by the dogs. Diana's clarion bark was bearing
news, and the yelp and the yap of the other two confirmed it.
Ommony stared jungle-wisely in the general direction of the
tumult, studied the trees a minute and then laughed.

"You're not the only fellow who can lie along a bough, Mahommed
Babar! Look!"

He called the dogs away.

"Lal Rai!" he ordered. "Get down and go back to your master! Tell
him I'm coming! You hear me?"

There was a noise among the branches and then, presently,
retreating footsteps.

"Will that dog Prothero--Is there danger, sahib? If so--"

"None whatever! What about you?" Ommony demanded.

"I go North tonight. I will keep faith. I will never return and
make rebellion here. The weapons of those who scattered have been
rendered useless."

"You'd best be going now. Good luck to you!" said Ommony, holding
his hand out. "I've committed treason to a lot of rotters--for
the sake of a damned good man. Go away and be just that! Yes--see
you some day. G'by, Mahommed Babar!"

Five minutes later he was striding homeward, keeping the dogs to
heel, for they had a way of making free with uninvited guests who
did not assay up to standard. He reached his own veranda with
three sets of glistening teeth on guard and six eyes flashing
fire. Lal Rai crouched away at the far end, ready to jump the
rail, and Prothero, rising from Ommony's favorite chair, looked
nervous. Ommony went to the point the way he raised a rifle,
only careful not to raise his voice lest the dogs should make
a mistake.

"Your stool-pigeon told you he saw me, I suppose?"

Prothero accepted the challenge. He was a man who usually did the
wrong thing when face to face with honesty. It was only
dishonesty that he understood.

"Yes. He saw you with Mahommed Babar! That's why I'm here. I've
heard of your goings-on!"

Ommony waited. He knew what was coming. Prothero could only have
one possible motive for playing his ace of trumps so swiftly.
He was in a clubbing mood. He meant to browbeat Ommony into
usefulness to himself--to win the upper hand, and keep and
use it everlastingly.

"That means," said Prothero slowly, "that you've saved your
friend, and you and I had better reach an understanding."

Whereat Ommony was deadly wise; for there are bullies and then
bullies, and with some it does not pay to let them voice their
threats first. Prove you can win, before they start to try to
bluff you.

"Let's!" he said, leaning back against the rail, motioning the
dogs to keep still. "You knew that was not Mahommed Babar when
you saw him in the jail. You knew before I did! You recognized
the scar on Ali Khan's hand. You knew there was an entry in the
office records minutely describing Ali Khan! You saw him when he
was locked in there two years ago! The jailer knew that. You knew
the jailer knew it! You were so anxious to break Macaulay that
you risked a bargain with the jailer--a bad risk, Prothero!
Knowing the dead man was not Mahommed Babar, you signed the death
certificate! You invited me to sign it, you remember. I refused!
Knowing you had shot the wrong man--or, rather, a different
man--you sent in a lying report and have been recommended for a
decoration, which you will accept, no doubt. It will look very
pretty on you! You may wear it. I shall receive one too, and wear
it. But I make no bargain with you! Perhaps I've nothing to
bargain with. You're the best judge of that. You know now what I
know. You know what Tregurtha shall know if you don't behave
yourself! I've saved a friend, as you say, and you might break
me, but Trig has clean hands and won't thank you for promoting
him on false pretenses!"

"Well, let's shake hands and--"

"No! You came from the station in my tonga, but you'll walk back!
There's no bargain between us. Any time you feel like denouncing
me, remember I'd rather that than be your friend! But don't
imagine that I won't hit back! Don't ever come here again or I'll
set the dogs on you! Now go! Get out of here!"

So Prothero went--on foot--with Lal Rai tagging him. And it is a
reasonable surmise that Prothero chose to be discreet, because he
is still a Colonel of the Intelligence on speaking terms with
Tregurtha. Ommony still lives in and for the forest; and Mahommed
Babar is officially dead, not resurrected. There is a reward of
two thousand rupees for Ali Khan, "dead or alive," which somebody
might claim who knew enough to dig among graves beside the
execution grounds.



_"Slow but Sure--The Lord providing Foresters."_

Success in public service is the deuce. In a democracy they hate
you. In any other kind of country you are overworked. But there
are compensations. In India you get transferred and lent from
pillar to post to cover the delinquencies of other men; but you
may go, like Cotswold Ommony, in a barge with sixteen rowers down
mile-wide waterways illuminated by an Indian moon.

Howard Craig, of Little Cold Springs near Omaha, Baptist
missionary, says it is the same moon that shines everywhere; but
Ommony refuses to believe him. What Ommony does not believe, and
what he does, has caused him to fall foul of lots of men like
Craig. He scorns the history books as poisonous fiction, the
Bible as Hebrew politics mixed up with plagiarized mid-Asian
ethics, and modern civilization as a shoddy re-hash of the worst
of Rome, Egypt, Babylon, and Greece; pasted and held together by
matter-worship, which is another name--so he says--for modern
science. But he is the happiest man in India.

Concede him, though, no merit on the ground of contentment while
the long sweeps rowed him southward, beating time to a song the
boatmen's ancestors had sung a thousand years ago. For as the
King of England is the son of England's king, so rowers are the
sons of rowers, songs are the development of one song, and the
same short, deep stroke drives Maharajah's boats as always did
keep time to steersman's chanting, banishing discontent.

Nowadays the Maharajah owns a motor-boat; that is the fashion.
Miserable men like viceroys and their secretaries, who must move
with the times, and American millionaires, who believe they know
what is due them, are conceded seats in the hot, noisy machine
that hurries them into the picture and out again before they can
spoil it. So gasoline has virtue.

But men who are known only by the work they do, and have no press
notices, may enjoy the ancient pageantry. Cotswold Ommony leaned
back under a moving canopy of colored stars in a stern seat that
had been a royal throne; and his enormous dog Diana stood in the
bows, rigid as a carving, baying whenever the temple bells ashore
offended her. She looked like a figurehead--part of the boat.

There was a temple to every fifty yards of water-front, with
palaces behind them and between. Branch water-lanes led at random
amid fields and villages, and along all shore-fronts danced the
new-moon-shaped lateens. There was no moon; but the stars
seemed overcharged with light, and the Milky Way was awash
with liquid fire.

Down in the boat's waist, where the guns stuck up between the
blanket-roll and leather bags, sat Ommony's two servants. And
forward, in the break below the little deck on which Diana the
wolf-hound stood, was Toto, her attendant, expert at extracting
fleas and thorns, eighteen years old and regarded in his own home
circle as a made man. In deference to Ommony and the great
Diana--not of Ephesus--he had postponed his wedding until this
present wandering was over.

For Ommony was of the old school, miscalled feudal by its modern
critics. Who served him, he served. It was as sure as that
tomorrow's sun would shine that Cotswold Ommony would never
leave India to draw his pension with even a dog-boy behind him
unprovided for. Men knew that, although Ommony had never said it,
and he was waited on accordingly.

They swung along a water-lane in which the stars and every
shore-light were a million times reflected. The jewels of Indian
legend and the mystery of Indian custom based on fifty thousand
years of fact were all about them, nothing inscrutable to men
with eyes, but dark, annoying and unreal to all who think the
West will conquer the East in the long run.

Because they thought and lived in terms of an eternity far older
than the stars, they rowed the stars down, unwearied, and the
great hound in the bow stood shimmering gold in the rays of the
rising sun, betraying at last what men and animals call life. She
swayed her tail with mannerly reserve when another boat shot
forth from a landing beside temple-steps and ranged alongside.

"Mr. Ommony? I'm Craig. I'm glad to meet you."

A tall, good-looking man with iron-gray hair that was longer and
fuller than Englishmen wear theirs as a rule, dressed in white
drill and a soft gray Stetson hat, stood up in the stern of the
other boat and offered his hand.

"I've heard of you," said Ommony with truth.

He had heard much of many missionaries, and as to this man had
had warning.

"Fine!" said Craig. "I've heard of you, too. They tell me you're
the best forester in India. As soon as we knew you were coming we
made a room ready at the mission. Mrs. Craig will try to make you
comfortable. She has looked forward to this. You're the first
white man to stay with us since the Committee of Inspection three
years ago. I tell you, man, you're welcome!"

"You're good," said Ommony. "I'll come to breakfast but I
can't stay."

Craig's face fell. Ommony, eyeing him soberly under the brim of
the helmet he had donned at sunrise, divined unseen causes and
subsurface currents. He was glad he had refused the invitation.
Reason rallied to acclaim the intuition. But he liked the look of
his would-be host well enough to offer an excuse, and was glad he
could do it without much stretching of the truth.

"You see, Mr. Craig, I'm loaned by the Woods and Forests. It's
the Maharajah's duty to lodge me properly, and he'd feel hurt if
I ignored that. You know how these princes are."

Howard Craig knew too well--knew, too, that Ommony was not giving
his whole reason. Dame Rumor is a jade, but sometimes just, and
he had heard of this middle-aged man with a head so well set on
his neck and a rather belligerent expression not nearly hidden by
a grizzled, short beard, that he dared to decline any offer,
princely entertainment not excepted.

"Mrs. Craig will be disappointed," he said; but Ommony had also
heard of Mrs. Craig, and he betrayed no symptoms of relenting.

He has been accused of hating women--a manifest absurdity, as
will appear.

At the quay, where there were great iron rings as old as the days
of Hiram Abiff, set in stonework that none knew who laid in
place, Craig had a swarm of mission-servants and hangers-on
waiting to pick up Ommony's belongings. Ommony demurred.

"The Maharajah's men--"

"May come to the mission," Craig interrupted.  "You're a
white man--"

"Born in London," Ommony admitted.

"And a Christian--"

Ommony raised his eyebrows. Having had no breakfast, he declined
that argument.

"--It's only right you should receive our hospitality. We're one
color, if of a separate flag, Mr. Ommony; and you may feel need
of the moral support of your religion before you're through here.
The superstitious darkness of this native State is indescribable."

"I'll wager you've tried to describe it," Ommony answered,
smiling, tucking under his arm the rifle that he never allowed to
be touched by any one except himself and one jungli--in this
instance left behind. "Come here, Diana. Never bite this man. You
understand me?"

The great hound looked at Craig and sniffed him, slowly swaying
her tail, puzzled but obedient. The boatmen, who had orders,
but were growing used to missionary ways, watched Ommony,
hoping he would steer them out of a predicament. He read the
dumb perplexity.

"Any one ill at the mission?" he asked.

"Nothing that need frighten you," Craig answered. "Nothing
contagious. Only a man with a broken leg and a--"

Ommony, interrupting, turned away from him and spoke to the
head boatman in a tongue few missionaries know--and they
not Protestants:

"Pay compliments to diwan sahib. Say I go to mission house to do
what is possible for man with broken leg. Ask diwan sahib
graciously to send men for my luggage after breakfast."

The boatmen grinned. The diwan was the Maharajah's representative.
Their Maharajah was a poor thing possibly, but theirs, and they
preferred him above all the advance agents of penny plain
religions, their own being two-pence, colored, and prodigiously
more comforting to the eye and ear, establishing, for instance,
that their Maharajah was descended from the gods, the moon
specifically; and they grinned because Ommony had recognized
the royal prerogative. With the aid of a suitable lie or two
they could now assure their prince that all due precedence
had been observed. They ran off full of laughter, and Craig
vaguely resented it.

"You can't tell whether they're laughing at us or at something
else," he complained.

"That's easy--us!"  said Ommony.  "Don't you think we're
laughable--teaching our great-grandmother to suck eggs?"

"You mean--?" asked Craig.

"Let's not keep Mrs. Craig waiting," Ommony suggested. Craig was
silent, wondering at this sturdy fellow with a gun under his arm,
who strode beside him as if down forest-lanes, and spoke like one
who knew men. Craig had heard a world of things of Ommony, some
good, some bad. A human being then undoubtedly. A man, they said,
who feared no government and no superior, but whom a million
ignorant villagers looked up to, preferring his pronouncements to
the law. Not an anarchist then, nor a totally bad man, for of
their own free will folk do not submit to rogues. He knew
too well how hardly they submit themselves even to imported
righteousness and sacrament. Not a wholly good man, Craig
decided, although not dissolute; none of the marks of vicious
living were impressed on him. Wanton possibly. Too prone to trust
his own opinion and to forfeit that of others for the sake of
independence. A free-thinker. Godless? Well, he hoped not.

And Ommony, who had received official warning about Craig,
pursued the even tenor of his way unprejudiced. He had heard too
often of other men being warned against himself to attach the
slightest importance to unproven hearsay. Each man obscurely knew
that as far as things had gone he liked the other, but that was
to be expected of Ommony, who liked or detested. Craig kept
reservations. Ommony crossed each bridge as he came to it.

And even more reserved than her husband was Mrs. Craig, emerging
from the screened veranda of a tidy, thatched house, smiling a
welcome and wondering what the guest was going to bring into her
life. Strangers can so easily upset things. She was almost
glad--hardly able to look disappointed--when Craig blurted out
that Ommony would only stay for breakfast; and she fell back on
scolding Craig to cover her embarrassment. Why had he brought the
luggage from the boat if Mr. Ommony wanted it elsewhere?

She was younger than Craig and equally good-looking, but her
seriousness rather had the air of being laid on and then bitten
in, whereas his was natural. She was thirty, or thereabouts. Ten
years earlier she might have laughed without warning and without
assuring herself first that it was right to laugh. If so, she
would have been a very pretty woman.

There were signs of dimples, not yet quite ironed out by duty.
She had violet eyes, expressive of much thought, not all of it
somber; lips that ought to have been kissed--and may have been
when Craig was wooing, but not much since; a line of hair cut
straight across her forehead above level eyebrows; and feet that
could have danced. Not that Ommony is any dancer, except for
policy and exercise and his partner's sins; he merely observed a
natural fact.

She had a trim, light figure, brown hair, and once on a time was
no doubt called a "sweet girl" by her elders in Curlew, Oklahoma.
Craig had never satisfied himself that sweetness is not vice.

"The man we sent up a palm-tree to watch for your boat said there
was a golden calf in the bow. Breakfast's ready," she added
pleasantly. "Does the golden calf eat breakfast? Does she come
into people's houses? What a simply adorable dog!"

Diana was commanded to make friends while Craig frowned thoughtfully.
Ommony recalled to mind the patient with a broken leg and asked
to see him.

"Why, are you a doctor?" Elsa Craig demanded.

"A tactician."

Ommony saw her raise her eyebrows at her husband; but she led the
way promptly to a cool, screened outhouse in the rear of the
compound, where a convert from one of the basest forms of
Hinduism lay at ease.

Ommony hardly looked at the man. He seemed to think the details
of the case irrelevant. The clean, sweet-smelling room made no
perceptible impression; he was more interested in Diana's nose
sniffing against the screen from outside than in the carefully
written card at the foot of the bed. He turned on Elsa Craig in
the midst of her description of the case and interrupted:

"If anybody asks you, please say I came first thing to see
the patient."

"But you haven't looked at him! You're not even listening to
his history!"

She was piqued. Even unenthusiastic fishermen like boasting of
the taken fish.

"I'll make the man remember me," said Ommony, and dug down in
his pocket.

"No, no!" she objected instantly. "We don't allow that! This is
not one of those missions. Presents are against the rule. They
come because they want to be Christians, or they stay away. We
don't bribe them to come here. Rather we expect them to contribute."

"Good," said Ommony, continuing to dig and thumbing loose a
ten-rupee note. "Nobody has ever given this man a tip?"

"Not since he came here."

"Then he'll certainly remember me!"

He gave the man the ten rupees and met the obsequious salaam with
a steady gaze that was unforgettable because it was the stare of
intelligence making use of an inquiring mind. The stranger with a
shut mind and blown-in-the-glass convictions is the one whose
features and conversation men forget.

"Who are you that you should break our rule?" Elsa Craig
demanded irritably.

"Only you can break yours. I observed my own. You can't make
rules for me," he answered, and she saw laughter in his eyes,
although his face was sober.

He was not mocking her, he was amused.

"Love of money is the--" she began to quote resentfully.

"You should have kept me out if you didn't want your convert
corrupted," he assured her; then, looking again at the patient:
"I'm Ommony sahib. Come and see me when you're well."

Elsa Craig, indignant, led the way out. She knew in her heart
that what she resented was his having brushed aside a falsehood
she had schooled herself to accept as truth. She did not mind his
ruthless recognition of essentials, but she did mind his applying
it to herself and her affairs. He had no right to doubt her
husband's converts. And his first words, outside in the garden
among the well-kept palms and flowers, only increased her anger.

"That's a bad rascal you have in there. Don't trust him!"

"Then why do you want him to come and see you?"

"So he'll remember my visit. What's his name?"

"It was on the card. John Ishmittee. He can't say Smith."

"What in heaven--?"

Ommony stopped, turned and stared at her--not rudely, and she
knew it. He was just astonished.

"He had another name. He had a past," she answered. "When he
adopted a true religion he asked us to change his name, and we
arranged it legally. He had a right to turn his back on all
the past."

Ommony nodded, conceding all the claims of tolerance in full, but
not of incongruity or humbug.

"Our backs are to what's behind us," he admitted. "He's facing a
future, though."

"Is that why you bribed him?" she retorted acidly.

"Yes. Pay men in their own coin or they're not bought. Your
coffee smells like a breath of Allah's heaven!"

She felt herself thaw, and resented that, too. If he had said
simply "heaven" and had omitted "Allah" she could almost
have forgiven him the earlier offenses; because not even the
viceroy--and surely no bishop's wife--enjoyed such coffee as she
set on the table. It was her connecting link with home, departing
youth, and memories that she was never willing to let quite die,
although they hurt. Whoever praised her housekeeping, and her
coffee above all, touched the cord in her that had not hardened.

"Are you a Moslem?" she objected.

"Ask Allah that!" he answered with a curt laugh. "We'll all be
surprised to discover what we really are when our time comes."

She froze again, suspecting that he knew, or that he thought he
knew, what she was, though he had said no word that hinted it.
She even knew he was sympathetic. He was like a surgeon, who cut
deep and then looked under the bandages.

She felt that he had peered into the depths of her thought and
understood, and that he was sorry for her and no more inclined to
be ruled by her limitations than an eagle is to wear blinkers.
The little conventional lies that he tolerated for the sake
of courtesy meant no more to him than the big ones that he
challenged on sight. Without saying a word, he seemed to her to
have challenged her whole overlaid philosophy, which she had been
ten years studying and smoothing, until she herself hardly knew
it any longer for a lie.

No living man could do that and not be her enemy. No man could be
her enemy and not sustain defeat if victory were in her. She
smiled the little, hard, too-knowing smile that had cost her the
love of a man in the States and married her to a missionary, who
believed that sex was something to be ashamed of. She thought
that Ommony did not see the smile. Her husband saw it, standing
in the door of the heavily screened veranda, and imagined they
were friends already. He prided himself on never entertaining
jealousy--on always recognizing facts--on imperturbable

"Eatmetights!" he called to them. "Wheats! Ham and--! Let's play
we're in the West!"

Ommony played with him. They sat down vis-à-vis and traded
reminiscences, Ommony making fun of his own misadventures in the
States, that time he used a saved-up leave in search of forestry
and found none.

But Elsa Craig--although they praised her coffee--was depressed;
not one suggestion that her husband might have made could have
had more unfortunate results that morning. To play at being in
the West--to recall old times--on top of Ommony's surgery--was
torture, no less. She was cross to the servants and gave all her
breakfast to Diana, much to Ommony's concern.

"That dog's on a diet," he cautioned her. "They're hard to raise
in this climate. One meal a day--"

She was glad. She was not mean enough to wage war on the dumb
beast, but it was very good to cause Ommony even slight distress.
She left off feeding the dog, not to oblige the master, but
because she admired the animal, making mental note that it
tortured Ommony to see mismanagement he might prevent.

"How long do you expect to be here?" she asked him.

"Several months."

She was glad again. In time and with persistence one can make pain
felt. She was almost, and on the surface quite, good-tempered
when the meal was done and it was Craig's turn to show Ommony
about the mission.

There was no risk of the Maharajah sending men for his luggage
yet, for that was Southeast India--a native State--just warming
up for the monsoon. Men were as lethargic as the flies.

"Many converts?" Ommony asked as they strode off side by side
with the dog's nose between them, making free with Ommony's hand,
thanking him for lawless ham and eggs provided by the enemy.

"Few. Slow progress. Slow but sure," Craig answered. "I have
never tried for fireworks. Competition isn't keen here. No other
Protestant denominations. I don't have to make a big superficial
showing to get money. My private income helps out. Slow but
sure's my motto--slow but sure, Mr. Ommony, the Lord providing."

"Providing foresters, for instance?"

Ommony looked straight at Craig. There was no evading his directness,
although it was that and nothing more--no resentment--nothing
sly--a straight question.

"Yes, sir, the Lord providing foresters--or one at any rate,"
Craig admitted. "You knew?"

"I know now."

Craig checked an exclamation of impatience. There had been no
need to confess his hidden hand in the matter after all! He
wished he had not admitted it. So many folk were willing to
accuse missionaries of interfering in politics; Ommony was
doubtless like the rest.

However, he could not withdraw the confession. Explanation seemed
the wise course.

"You see, Mr. Ommony, something had to be done. The Maharajah is
a weak man, alternately in the hands of his prime minister and a
Hindu priest. Between them those two control the destinies of all
these people."

Ommony's eyes twinkled. He had his own ideas of destiny and
people, but he did not say anything.

"The priest is my deadly enemy. That is, of course, what you
might expect," Craig went on. "You can hardly blame him. If I
win, he loses. Converts to my religion mean increasing decay of
his. I'd like to be his friend, but he won't let me."

Ommony contrived to look grave, but it was difficult.

"Have you offered to make friends with him?" he asked, looking
the other way.

"Oh yes. I was aboveboard. I even offered to pay his son's
expenses to America, so he might see for himself what Christianity
and civilization mean. But the man is so enwrapped in superstition
and a sense of Brahminical importance that there's no penetrating
his conceit. I gave it up."

"I have to confess we're enemies. I'm sorry. He offends me
in all ways possible, and I try to act with forbearance, but
fact is fact."

Ommony looked frankly at his host, sizing him up, considering the
automatic, educated humor that would laugh at the accepted jokes
and frown at all uncensored ones--the obstinate courage--the
enthusiasm that no flood might quench--the perfect orthodoxy--the
manners that were one thing and the man that was another--all
clearly written on the fine, too serious face. He knew that he
and that man would never enjoy the same paradise; but he hoped to
find a means of getting on with him in this world, in that city,
for the present.

"Something had to be done," Craig continued. "It was no use
talking to the Rajah, for I tried it. Each time the poor wretch
entertained me he had to spend a week at the priest's dictation
resanctifying himself. My very presence was pollution."

"So I tried the diwan. He's open to argument, and you can't say
that for either priest or Rajah. The diwan is jealous of the
priest--that's natural--resents all interference of the Church in
politics. As an American I was able to agree with him in that
respect without reservation. I made it clear my friendship might
be worth his while."

Ommony laughed outright--one clear, "Hah!"

"What amuses you?" asked Craig.

"The Church in politics. Go on."

"I told the diwan what this State needs is forestry. Christ, and
then forestry. The British confer knighthoods on men who put
through great public improvements. I happen to know he is anxious
for knighthood.

"I assured him there are means at my disposal of calling the
attention of Government to any good or evil he might do. Then I
suggested that by public forestry on an extensive scale he could
not only serve his own case but inevitably injure the priest's.
He saw it. The diwan has astuteness in a measure."

He paused for Ommony to ask the inevitable question. But Ommony
judged it sufficient that he beat back laughter.

"Every tree cut down in this State pays a small tax to the
priests--small, but in the aggregate immense," Craig went on
after a dramatic pause. "So it is to the priest's interest that
trees should be cut--to the diwan's and the people's to grow
trees and conserve them."

It was Craig's turn to look critically at Ommony. It occurred to
him to wonder how his guest was taking this confession. Some
twinge of an uneducated conscience not yet dead, antedating his
appointment as a missionary, perhaps, suggested that his guest
might have opinions and a right to them. But as far as he could
judge he had given no offense yet. Ommony, rubbing the dog's ear,
strode beside him looking politely interested.

"The diwan is like all Orientals," he went on. "I could only get
him to agree with me on condition he had his own way. He had
heard of you. It was a case of you or nobody. If I could get you,
then he was willing to defy the priest and go in for forest
conservation seriously."

"And what were you to get out of this?" asked Ommony, controlling
his voice but twitching the hound's ear so hard that she whimpered.

"Personally nothing, but the mission a great deal--those little,
inconsiderable favors that amount to so much in the long run--an
occasional visit by the diwan--recognition by the Maharajah in
the form of a small financial contribution, just for the sake
of the principle involved. Above all the discontinuance of
picketing. They are not to sit at the gate and hound my converts
through the streets. The local papers are to discontinue
scurrilous abuse of me and to cease telling lies about my
methods. No pressure of any kind is to be brought to bear on any
of our converts. Don't you think now I was justified in using
influence to get you sent down here?"

"You're your own judge," Ommony answered.

He hated to be asked to pass judgment on other men's mistakes.

"I mean can you forgive me for--"

Ommony laughed curtly.

"You're not responsible for any move of mine," he answered. "They
told me you were trying to pull wires. I looked into it and
applied for the transfer."

Craig looked at him again, and stroked his chin, and wondered.

"I know the diwan rather well. He's a friend of mine," said
Ommony, and Craig continued wondering.


_"They Conceded Fish."_

Craig presently felt his feet. Did he, Craig, not know all the
wires he pulled, the influences he had brought to bear, the
patience he had exercised to bring this essay into forestry to
pass? Ommony, in his judgment, could no more have withstood the
pressure than could any other cog in the immense machine of
Indian government.

Ommony, he decided, was a vain man--one of those who, rather than
confess themselves a part of a machine, must boast that they
control it. Knowledge of human nature and of how to play on it is
nearly the most valuable tool in any missionary's kit. Craig
glanced at Ommony now with a changed expression in his eye,
believing that he understood him.

Thenceforth he showed the mechanism of his mission in intimate
detail, asking Ommony's advice wherever room might be for
improvement and frequently where none was, and Craig knew
it. As he had said, progress was slow; energy had had to
find an outlet in perfecting processes rather than in caring
for floods of converts, which in point of fact were non-existent.
Four-and-twenty converts was the total, and even Craig admitted
their conversion was a question of degree.

But there was a laundry, a carpentry, a printing-office, a loom,
and appurtenances for weaving homespun, and a school, besides the
raw, new-fangled chapel dwarfed by the roof of a thousand-year-old
Hindu temple that overshadowed it from beyond the compound wall.
On the gravel path leading to the chapel door the image of a
Hindu god cast its black reflection, like Pulcinella pulling snooks.

Craig did not see it. Craig would rather have died than have
confessed to seeing it. Ommony kept his thought about it to
himself, suppressing the unbidden smile lest Craig, who was
disturbed by the dog's efforts to enter the chapel, should draw
wrong conclusions.

One wrong conclusion was enough for that first morning, but how
should Ommony upset it without offense? He was perfectly aware of
Craig's intention to flatter him into a frame of mind useful to
the mission. Had Ommony not turned the same trick scores of
times, changing a race-conscious, self-assertive junior into some
one who could love trees? You can learn more about human nature
in a forest than in teeming cities, and Ommony knew Craig
disbelieved his statement about his coming of his own free will.
But how should he convince him? Was the effort worth it? What
would be the consequence?

"You say the diwan is your friend?" Craig asked as they turned
toward the house again.

He tried to make it sound as if he thought the assertion true;
but men who have listened for a lifetime to the voices that come
down-wind through forests are not easy to deceive as to hidden
meanings. Ommony was sorry he had made the statement, but
he nodded.

"That's excellent," said Craig.

It was all he did say on the subject just then. Men were trooping
through the gate to gather Ommony's belongings and carry them to
the royal guest-house. There was a pompous Hindu officer in
charge, walking as if the mission gravel did dishonor to his
boot-soles, bent on making much of Ommony and snubbing Craig.
Ommony shook hands and introduced him, forcing him to be polite
to Craig, gaining the Hindu's admiration for his own tact but
missing what he intended. Craig drew him aside.

"I appreciate your motive, but kindly don't force me to shake
hands with that man again. He's one of my most malignant enemies.
He'll brag now all over town that--"

Ommony cut him short by turning to say good-by to Elsa. She
emerged from the veranda smiling so serenely that for a moment
Ommony was almost fooled. Only the undisguisable acid in her
voice re-warned him.

"Come again--come often, Mr. Ommony. When you yearn to be
understood, and for home comforts, and to hear your own language,
you'll know where to find us."

So she thought she understood him. Hell! Ommony set his teeth as
he rode the Maharajah's fat horse, sent for his discomfort and
greater honor. He would rather be understood by the devil than by
Mrs. Craig just yet! He suspected possibilities, but they were
latent. Her own incomprehension, it seemed likely to him,
would be the only safeguard for any one who came within her
reach--that, and perhaps the limitations of her too narrow orbit.
She would dominate or die--use or usurp--control or conquer and
then tread underfoot! She was dynamic mastery imprisoned!
Good-looking as the deuce!

"So _she_ started the ball, eh? I thought the diwan was telling
the whole truth in his letter! Men-women? Give me animals and
trees! We men are all fools!"

He rode through streets whose history was fading in the days
when Rome first built a fort beside the Thames and called the
fever-stricken mound Londinium--past buildings where a lore lies
hidden that is foolishness to modern wisemen, but compared to
which their most amazing calculations would be as journalese to
Sappho--past pagodas never penetrated by the profane, not even by
all-conquering warriors, who might else have destroyed what they
could not understand; alongside waterways where ships they say
were Solomon's once lay at anchor, loading gold, apes, peacocks,
and the rest of the trash he prized; through awninged marts where
modern mock enamelware displayed itself indecently beside the
craftsmanship of self-respecting days; into the realm of
elephants, where big, stake-hobbled brutes ceased dusting to
salute at the command of a mahout; and beyond them to a triangle
between three roads on which was set the guest-house, hidden by
flowering trees and hedged in by a living fence of clipped bamboo.

It was a place quite fit for an emperor, if an emperor had brains
enough to know it.

There, beneath the stone gate-arch on which the gods were carved
in pictographs, whose inner meaning only a rare few still
preserve, the diwan waited, white from head to foot--turban,
hair, beard, clothing, shoes--his bronze skin looking handsomer
in contrast, and his smile as gentle and as humorous as that of
the too-naked god who posed in stone overhead.

"My friend, my friend," he said in English as Ommony dismounted,
"I cannot say how you are welcome."

"You needn't."

"No, I think you know."

They entered the garden on foot together, the old diwan accepting
Ommony's arm to lean on and the serving-men absorbing reverence
for future use--that being India's ancient way; it has nothing to
do with petty larceny and perquisites, that flourish equally and
side by side with it; those are the weeds in India's Eden,
encouraged, as her flowers are neglected nowadays.

They called each other sahib; for how else should five-and-forty
years address five-and-seventy, or five-and-seventy answer a
member of the conquering race? And, as was right, Ommony asked
first the conventional questions concerning the Maharajah's
health. He learned that in His Highness's condition there
was "no change."

Conventions all observed, they sat and were unconventional--as
much as India can be--on the deep veranda of the guest-house in
among sar and teak trees, sipping weak tea for politeness' sake,
and for the sake of privacy selecting the corner that gave them
full view of the house and garden. They were seen by a hundred
observing eyes, but could not be overheard, even by the Christian
gardener employed there to flatter Craig.

"He is what he himself would call `the limit,' that Mr. Craig,"
said the diwan. "He insults me daily without knowing it. In
intention he is merely galvanic; he would like to charge new life
into us as they charge the battery of His Highness's motor-boat.
In effect, however, he is paralyzing!"

"As bad as that, Kalambi sahib?"

"Worse! I have spared you the infliction of the truth! You have
seen his wife? She, who rules him, sought to govern me through my
wife. She wrote, inviting herself to visit my wife `in the
seclusion of the zenana,' as she expressed it. I replied that the
seclusion was too genuine at this time to be broken without
unpredictable consequences. She answered accusing me of hypocrisy
and marital tyranny--also of opening my wife's letters, which she
claimed was illegal. But when I explained that my wife had been
dead for more than twenty years she did not apologize."

Ommony sat back in the long chair facing the diwan and chuckled
silently. "Her sort don't," he answered. "What did she do?"

"I don't know, sahib. But I received a call from the British
Resident, who said he had been requested by the Secretary of
State to suggest that I might with propriety use less prejudice
in my relations with the wives of missionaries!"

"Good God!" Ommony exploded.

"There was a garden-party at the mission soon afterward, so I
attended it to prove how little prejudice I have. And they were
very kind; they let bygones be bygones; they made it obvious they
had forgiven me. They gave me cakes I did not dare to eat, and
much advice I would not take if death were to be the consequence
of rejecting it. To avoid argument I asked to be shown the
garden; and I talked to them a little of the knowledge of trees
that I garnered years ago from you in your forest. I wish I had
torn my tongue out rather!"


"Because I gave that woman an idea, and it would have been safer
to give dynamite and fuses to some of the converts she and her
husband keep about the place! They learned--I regret to say from
me--that some of the Hindu temple revenues are raised by a tax on
tree-felling--a tax imposed centuries ago to conserve the
forests; paradoxically it has wasted them.

"Craig and his wife seized at once on that chance to wage war on
our Hindu hierarchy. That very evening Craig came and promised
me a knighthood, as if he had the dispensing of the King of
England's favors. He did not know that I have refused a knighthood
from every Viceroy since Dufferin."

"Didn't you hit back?" Ommony asked.

"I did. I lent them an elephant. I said--which was true--that the
royal and ancient way of showing the Maharajah's favor is to do
that. The chief mahout, of course, enlarged on the details of an
elephant's rations. Contractors in receipt of hints delivered
quantities of hay and grain together with their bills.

"Craig had to call on me and ask my influence in getting the loan
of the elephant withdrawn with as little offense to His Highness
as possible. I did so on condition that he should likewise grant
me peace. He promised. He is honest. But he could not keep a
promise he did not understand."

"How long did he let you alone?" wondered Ommony.

"Until next morning. He came then, alleging gratitude in that I
had withdrawn the elephant, and offering in return to help me
with all his influence in the matter of the forestry! He showed
me a telegram he had received--of which I could have shown him
the copy that I received before his reached him!--saying his
friends had already taken the matter up in Simla.

"He had the impudence to say that a knighthood was hanging from
ungrown trees for me to pluck, and that all I had to do was to
grow the trees and take it. He considered that a pleasantry, I
know, because he laughed at it. He added that since His Highness
had felt friendly enough to lend an elephant, he ought to be easy
to convince. He even offered to go to His Highness with me and
give me the benefit of his eloquence."

He paused to let Ommony finish laughing. He would have preferred
that he should not laugh, but he understood that the West can do
that and be sympathetic. The East does not mix emotions.

"At what point did I come in?" asked Ommony at last.

"When Craig had written anonymously to the papers demanding a
commission to investigate the decimation of our trees. He
persuaded friends of his to do the same. There began to be
editorials about it.

"You must understand--no doubt you do--that the priests, headed
by Parumpadpa, were hard after me all this while. They resented
less the attempt to cut their revenues than the scarcely-veiled
attack on their authority, and they threatened me with expulsion
from office unless I could drive forth this missionary out
of our coasts.

"The threat to me was comparatively easy of fulfilment. It was
impossible to drive out Craig. I believe that I am useful to the
State and that my resignation would be detrimental. I can guess
who would be appointed in my place, and what advantage those
priests would take of him. So what could I do but temporize?"

Ommony nodded. He could have finished the tale himself, but the
diwan continued:

"I at last persuaded Parumpadpa and his priests that one course
remained, and that I alone could take it. If you, with whom I
boasted I have influence, could be persuaded to come here and
inaugurate the forestry regime, then we should have a man with us
whose breadth of experience and tolerance might solve the problem
without disaster. Otherwise--"

He paused, preferring that Ommony should imagine alternatives;
but Ommony fell back on rule of seniority and manners, and the
diwan had to finish his own sentence.

"Otherwise, there will be bloodshed--murder--poison--and perhaps
religious war. Our Hindus are indignant that Moplahs should have
slaughtered their co-religionists a day or two's march away. They
are still more indignant at having been prevented by the British
from retaliating. It would be too easy to arouse them beyond
control. The consequences--"

"Would be on the knees of influences known as gods, who are less
controllable than we are," Ommony conceded gravely. "Well?"

"The simplest course," said the diwan, "would be to kill Craig. A
missionary sent in place of him might prefer fish to forestry.
And as to indemnity, the temple funds would care for that. The
Maharajah would apologize beautifully. There are even Christians
in the mission who might be trusted to do the murdering, although
they are not very trustworthy."

"But the difficulty there is that I dislike bloodshed from
conviction--from within--outward--wholly. I believe I have
sufficient influence remaining to prevent it."

"And it would be impossible to foresee any except the immediate
consequences. So we must save Craig's life, although I think
he is as much a menace as that other idiot who fired the shot
at Sarajevo."

Ommony felt like a cat in the sun. Not one non-Aryan in a hundred
million ever listened to the unmasked thoughts of the real ruler
of an ancient Indian State. The key to their thoughts can not
be won by force or influence, nor by any other means than
friendship. He nodded, unlike Craig, for instance, who would have
launched forth an unnecessary diatribe on murder.

"You mustn't expect me to side with you against Craig," he
answered guardedly.

"If I had wanted--ah--the sort of man who would do that, I would
not have asked the Woods and Forests to lend you for a while,"
said the diwan dryly. "A second course that has been suggested to
me would be to have Parumpadpa murdered. A skillfully conducted
preliminary secret propaganda might produce anarchy within the
hierarchy in that event."

"In fact, the suggestion was made to me indirectly by an
individual who would welcome my assistance in snatching for
himself the office of chief priest--although what his friendship
would be worth afterward I don't know. But there again we cannot
foresee the indirect consequences. We might cry for Parumpadpa
back again. The people would."

"It is true that Parumpadpa is no altruist. But he has no brains.
And in his place there might be inflicted on us a priest with
brains, than which there is no worse calamity."

A green cloud of parakeets flashed screaming between them and
the sun, as if Nature herself felt forced to comment on that
instructive saying. A great tame stork by a fountain untucked his
other foot, stood to attention, nodded solemnly and went to sleep
again. Diana, down below the veranda, raised her head from
between enormous paws and growled.

"Suggestion three?" asked Ommony.

"Was made by the priests. It was that every alien forester sent
here should be beaten to death by a mob. You understand, it would
be very easy to arouse the mob on religious grounds. And if
a Hindu were to be sent he could be killed with even less
difficulty; there would be scores of ways of getting him into
trouble. That was another reason why I begged for you to be
sent here: It occurred to me you would be much more difficult
to kill."

Ommony lighted his pipe. He had to do something to disguise his
reaction to that compliment.

"What do you consider the solution?" he asked.

"You, my friend, are the solution. You have been invited here to
that end. Whatever may be the limiting terms of your official
instructions, privately you have _carte blanche_ from me. You are
to accomplish the incredible, as I have seen you do before."

"In the name of Craig and his accomplices--who came here
uninvited--it has been ruled that we may cut down no more trees.
People who are so poor that one pice is a consideration have been
ordered not to pay the infinitely tiny wood-tax. They may
purchase fuel instead at seven times the former price from
neighboring unrestricted States. And we are to plant trees,
although where has not been specified. There are no public lands
available unless we take away the grazing-grounds--"

Ommony interrupted him with a gesture of impatience--the
rebellion of an open mind, that recognized no real impossibilities,
against prejudgment.

"An old story, Kalambi sahib. There are always fifty reasons for
cutting trees, a hundred more for not replanting them--and
politics. That's worse."

"Worse than religion?"

"Tell me about Parumpadpa."

"The temple chests are overflowing. Therefore he thinks more of
power than of money just at present."

"Yet you say he has no brains?"

"None whatever, sahib. He is the perfect embodiment of abstract
sanctity without a concrete reason. He presides over his Church
as our Maharajah presides over his government; only to the Church
there are no restrictions. Consequently the priests can make
Parumpadpa do anything, whereas I can only advise my Maharajah to
act constitutionally."

"What is Parumpadpa's weakness?" Ommony demanded.

"Vanity! That is why he heads the Church so ably. His subordinates
flatter him, and he obeys."

"What's his strength?"

"The fact that there has been no war in this State for many
generations. The people are not afraid of the threat of it. They
do not know what it means. They would be very easy to excite and
very difficult to subdue. They believe that Parumpadpa is their
friend against these foreigners who increase the cost of fuel.
Moreover, the priests stand well with His Highness, who is
deeply devout and who is respected by the people because of
his devotion."

"Then why didn't you advise him to answer the Secretary of State
that he should mind his own business? Why not refuse point-blank
to interfere with forestry conditions?"

"My friend, because at the time when this man Craig began his
assault on our peace there was a question of fishing rights at
issue between the British Raj and ourselves--highly important
from the point of view of our improvident people; unimportant to
the British, except as a tactical advantage. They conceded fish
and demanded forestry."

Ommony knocked out his pipe and chuckled.

"Craig's a real calamity, eh? He has brains."

"He or some one with him," said the diwan darkly. "But he has no
heart," he added, "and the heart, my friend can conquer cleverness."


_"Hail, Parumpadpa!"_

Parumpadpa and his priests played the opening gambit, urged by
circumstances out of their control.

The waiting game is best when your resources are an unknown
quantity to your opponent. Leave initiative to him; block
him without disclosing your own hand, forever riding on his
shoulders, as it were, and tiring him more fatally the more
he struggles. The East, and peculiarly India, understands
that method.

But it was conceded in priestly councils--not held in crypts in
which the Yogi brood over old mysteries, but in a temple back
room like a vestry--that Ommony's arrival on the scene had forced
their hand.

For instance, there were rumors, spreading swiftly on excitement's
wings, that on the bows of Ommony's boat a golden god had stood,
shaped like nothing ever known in Indian cosmogony. Some said
his skin was tongues of flame, and others that his voice was
like far-away thunder.

The boatmen--having held a consultation, too, where a Frenchman
sold forbidden beverage--were suspected of collaboration in
another rumor that whomever the new god touched was blessed and
could pass along the blessing. The boatmen had all had contact,
and were charging a rupee, a person to be touched in turn; which
was bad enough.

But worse was that it all redounded to Ommony's credit. They
would make a god of him next, with leave to plant or cut
trees anywhere!

"We must do something," said Parumpadpa oracularly, having
ascertained that his technical subordinates were of that opinion.
He was a very learned-looking man, whose long robes, long beard,
long gray hair descending to his shoulders, and long ascetic nose
would have gained respect for him in any decent society, provided
he kept still. The diwan's judgment of him notwithstanding, he
had brains enough to appreciate his own stupidity. None could
ever accuse him of responsibility for failure, or refuse him
credit for success, because with priests, just as with other
folk, the strongest faction wins, and he led deftly from
the rear.

So Parumpadpa's, "We must do something," amounted in effect to a
question, "What shall we do?"

There followed hours of a to-and-fro discussion, in which all
theories had an airing, including those of murder; but none was
found acceptable because Parumpadpa could not detect as much as a
nucleus around which a faction might form with encouragement. The
spy, who told the diwan of it afterward, said there seemed to be
as many plans as priests.

But at last a man stood up, whose name was Jannath. It was he who
had suggested to the diwan that Parumpadpa might be murdered,
profitably to himself and perhaps, too, to the diwan. Jannath,
pouring sarcasm from bitter lips, offered a plan that should
break Craig's heart if nothing else, and volunteered to execute it.

That suited Parumpadpa, who detected sufficient jealousy of
Jannath to make it quite safe to intrust him with the opening act
of war. The first move is always the butt of condemnation. Even
if it succeeds beyond all expectation, jealousy is sure to find
fault with it.

And Parumpadpa was aware of Jannath's overtures to the diwan.
The diwan had told him, to make politics more pleasant for
all concerned.

"Let us hear Jannath's great plan," he commanded with sufficient
sneer to establish later on if necessary his own claim to have
disapproved it in advance.

Jannath, on his mettle, spoke of elephants and of the Feast of
the Mahouts, to occur within the week. He spoke so eloquently
that he convinced them. Parumpadpa sensed a big majority
in favor.

"Jannath shall try his plan," said Parumpadpa. "Let the chief
mahout be sent to me."

The chief mahout, an illiterate, almost casteless, wholly
superstitious member of the useful underworld, would have been
sufficiently enraptured to be interviewed by the high priest's
subordinate. But Jannath was only given permission to be present
at the interview for the purpose of bearing subsequent blame; and
between them he and Parumpadpa reduced the chief mahout to a
state of doddering acquiescence, in which he would have been
willing to eat hot coals if so commanded; for never before in
the history of that State had a chief mahout been granted an
interview by the chief priest. He was the most blessed mahout in
history. Thenceforward any one who should seek his favor would
have to pay double the former price. He went forth wondering,
owned soul and body by the hierarchy, and beat his wife to assist
her understanding.

Jannath had shown genius, for elephants are the most uncertain of
all beasts and none can predict what they will or will not do,
except their mahouts on occasion. When, as at the Feast of the
Mahouts, you have nearly a thousand elephants in procession
through crowded, narrow streets, on their way to be blessed at a
temple, and winding thence, afterward, in ever-increasing
circuits until the whole city shall have seen their flower-draped
hugeness, the chance for trouble could hardly be improved. A
cracker will start elephants stampeding. A small dog's bark, a
drum with unaccustomed note, a shadow on a wall that should not
be there, will madden them beyond control.

Mahouts may not be blamed for the custom, as old as the throne
itself, of conferring on strangers the privilege of riding
the royal elephants on the day of the feast. Mahouts are
untouchables, who might grow heady if allowed a feast unto
themselves; so in the beginning honored strangers were imposed on
them--at the stranger's risk--for the same reason that the
Maharajah always stayed away. Strangers were the skeletons at the
feast. The Maharajah's absence was the false note inserted to act
as a sedative.

On this occasion the only suitable skeletons available were the
British Resident and Ommony. The Resident had toothache, or said
so, and in place of himself sent his helmet and a case of
"presentation" whisky to the chief mahout, who accordingly
was drunk before the gambit opened, as Ommony was first to
learn--unless you count the elephants: They miss nothing.

The mahout, rebuked suitably, insisted it was Ommony who was
drunk, that being a sahib's right condition; he further asserted
that the elephant was father of typhoons, progenitor of
earthquakes, causer of calamities--

Wherefore would the sahib please be seated?

Ommony took his place in the howdah with misgiving, and as an
afterthought whistled Diana, thinking the great hound would be
safer up there than in the street and less likely to cause
trouble. The mahout drank copiously from a bottle draped in
cotton cloth and, remarking that doubtless all was well beyond
the stars, whacked the elephant's skull with the butt-end of the
ankus. That elephant's name was Tippoo Sahib, and he has made a
heap of history more than once. He arose and wandered forth a
little too moist at the trunk end, as if he too had been imbibing
the forbidden drink.

And animals no less than men ask only to be led. The hundred
monsters in the palace grounds were used to following Tippoo
Sahib, just as their mahouts were used to following their chief
without much argument. So, though the time was not yet and the
orchestra that should have played weird music had hardly set its
ancient instruments in place, the rank and file of the mahouts,
all self-conscious in their clean white clouts and turbans,
allowed their charges to wheel into column and shuffle in
Tippoo's wake.

Several people shouted, and a native officer galloped up in an
effort to head the procession off. But the chief mahout, like an
avalanche once under way, was capable of anything but turning
back. Down came the heavy ankus drum-fashion. Tippoo Sahib,
blowing the Rogues' Riot Call through a slobbery trunk, went
forward through the orchestra, destroying two drums en route.

Priests' instructions were aflame in the mahout's mind. They
might have burned themselves to ashes there had one of those two
drums not circled Tippoo's forefoot like a napkin-ring. It
irritated him beyond endurance. Stamp how he would, the loose,
annoying ring would not drop off. In some way he connected it
with the ankus blows that rained on him, and irritation burgeoned
into wrath. The great brute trumpeted again, and this time most
of the royal herd answered him.

"Set me down!" said Ommony.

But it was too late, and he knew it. One of those events had had
its birth that like a dynamite explosion must increase. They will
not go back into the shell. Their only end is in development,
which a man may guide but not prevent, and he who gets in the way
of them is nothing.

There was a high wall shutting in the courtyard surrounding the
palace, and a great arched gate, through which six elephants
might march abreast. Tippoo went straight for the gate at a speed
not lessened in the least by Diana's barking, and the whole herd
quickened into a mob behind, not knowing and not caring why, but
simply following and in a hurry to catch up.

And even so there might have been no disaster, for a drunken
mahout's and an elephant's thoughts are x, the unknown quantity.
But outside the gate there were nearly nine hundred more
thick-skinned anachronisms, each with a feast-keeping man on his
neck, all drawn up ready for entertainment and decked in
sufficient finery to grace even that occasion. There were torn
draperies and broken chains; elephants were plucking at each
other's trappings and their own; mahouts were becoming angry.
There was nearly enough friction to start a fire before even
Tippoo came trumpeting through the gate, making men's skin creep
and terrifying every animal within a mile.

But a hundred more rioted in Tippoo's wake. The gate grew
chock-a-block with struggling brutes, and even great blocks of
masonry were shifted by the thrust against them. The panic spread
like fire.

Ommony watched it helpless, clinging to Diana, who seemed to
believe that by barking and jumping she might accomplish something.

The chief street of the city lay ahead like a bow-string taut
between point and point of the curving water-front, and all the
countryside in gala dress was packed between the shop-fronts,
leaving hardly a lane for sober elephants--none whatever for
emergency. Tippoo went down that cramped opening full speed
ahead, and a thousand monsters raced for first place in pursuit.
At one point there were ten of them neck and neck, and the crowd
had nowhere to turn to escape them.

The unknown quantity of reason in the mahout's mind, inflamed by
the presentation whisky, worked like an engine with the governor
released. Turning once, he saw the helpless mob of men and women
go down under the pell-mell avalanche of brutes. He heard
Ommony's pistol; for the one lean chance was to kill an elephant
or two and scare the others to wheel and retreat. But who, from a
howdah on the back of a screeching, living earthquake, can hit
the eyes of elephants in panic, with a .38 automatic? Ommony
hit one, and did well. He might as well have shot to stop
the monsoon.

Ommony had done his utmost, and had no more cartridges. But if the
sahib was disturbed enough to shoot, why then should a reasoning
mahout, the confidant of chief priests and the instructor of
royal elephants, not show his capacity under emotion?

"Ganesha!* Hah!" [* The Elephant-god]

What enemy hath done this thing? Who but a Christian missionary
--Craig--could have--would have--would have dared to spoil the
Feast of the Mahouts, that had been a famous feast each year
since the gods themselves last walked on earth with men? Great--oh,
great and wise--were the priests who had warned him in advance
that the elephant folk might know enough to trample Craig
underfoot this day!

_Whack!_ came down the heavy ankus on Tippoo Sahib's skull. Where
was it--that mission garden, where the priests had warned him
Craig was growing trees by means of which to impose his hated
creed on a folk whose gods were plenty good enough, and kind, and
not too critical?

Lo and behold, the garden of the mission! Lo, the foreign looking
trees mocking their betters over the top of the garden wall!
Lo, the gate! An arched gate! Too narrow and too low to pass
an elephant!

"Hah! Ganesha!"

_Whack_ came down the ankus once again on the brute's sore skull.
Hook, knees, imprecations labored to change direction, even as
the old gun-laying crews would work in the days of sail. Tippoo
Sahib hove his rump and a restless tail to windward; and Ommony,
grabbing Diana by the scruff with one hand, seized the elephant's
tail and jumped! Diana's weight alone was enough to have
destroyed his chance, but his hold on the short tail offset that,
and when he let go and fell it was the hound's elastic strength
that saved him. He was up, and off, and away out of the path of
the pursuing herd at the same instant that Tippoo Sahib's
forehead struck the wall above the narrow gate and toppled down a
section wide enough to admit six elephants abreast.

Thereafter there was damage done, and Ommony beheld the whole of
it from the roof of Craig's house, sitting between Craig and his
wife, with the servants and the converts in a crowd behind them
and Diana baying her disapproval to the skies.

For he and the dog had burst into the mission just in time to
rescue the Craigs and round up the whole outfit out of harm's
way. Only "John Ishmittee" with his broken leg in the little
screened outhouse was left, like Lot's wife. Elsa called to him,
but he stayed to gather up absurd belongings, and from the roof
they saw the splintering outhouse disappear under a blue-gray
wave of wrath.

The garden wall went down in sections like a dike when the
sea gets through the weakest part. Three thousand tons--a
thousand--the elephants poured in and milled, a blue-gray
maelstrom, screaming as they cut their feet on things Craig had
imported, and reducing just that piece of earth and all things on
it to the state of a parade-ground-flat.

It grew into a sort of tune. The big blue shoulders rose and fell
in unison as they worked like washerwomen at the tub, their fool
mahouts nodding to one another, each forever saying the same
thing, and all as helpless as the wrack that rides on waves.

"They have seen the Lord Ganesha. He has ordered it. He verily
has ordered it."

Who had or had not ordered it made small difference to the Craigs
just then. The elephants had broken in through the veranda
screen, and the whole lower floor was a part with the gardena
desert--a flat waste, much marked with trampled things whose part
and purpose were no longer discernible. They heard the tear and
twang of the grand-piano strings as one big brute drove a tusk in
under them and ripped the lot to hell. The crash of glass and
crockery was like the splash of spray.

"I'm glad I built the walls well," Craig said solemnly.

No more than that one reminder, of all that married life with
Craig had been, was needed to destroy the fence that Elsa had
painstakingly erected around herself. It went down like the
garden wall. He cared for nothing but the concrete wall that
still stood! Her feelings, her emotions, her regrets, even her
sympathy, escaped him altogether!

He was glad, doubtless, that her body and the servants' and the
converts' bodies were up there with life in them beside him on
the roof; but the only thing that aroused his emotion to the
point of speech was walls which stood!

"I hate you!" she said simply.

For a moment he thought she meant Ommony. That she should hate
himself was so incredible that the thought failed to penetrate
his understanding until her blazing dark eyes, looking straight
at him, drove truth home.

"Elsa, are you sane?" he asked. "In front of a stranger--Elsa,
I'm surprised!"

He might have used vitriol and have hurt her less. In front of a
stranger! There was the whole point. That stranger understood
her--knew--had known almost in the instant when they first
met--that her married life and her mission field were dry bones
draped. And in presence of the first man who had vision who had
come into their lives, in the moment of heaped ruin when almost
any excess of sentiment would have been excusable, he forgot
her ten years' labor side by side with him, her courage and
encouragement, her guidance, her restraint, even her money thrown
into the fight with his--and praised his masonry that stood!

Not only that; he had not even the human charity to lie, as she
herself had lied for ten lean years, and pretend that he held her
dearer than bricks and mortar!

"Smash!" she said bitterly between set teeth leaning over to
watch the elephants. "Go on! Smash it all! I'm glad! I'm glad!"


Craig was scandalized; afraid, too, that perhaps he had an
unhinged woman on his hands. Ommony turned away and walked to the
far side of the roof, holding Diana by the scruff lest she jump
into the maelstrom beneath and perish underfoot. As surely as the
dog saw outrage to be opposed with teeth and noise he, Ommony,
sensed a greater climax; and he knew that only silence and a view
as wide and wakeful as the sun's at dawn would be the least use.

"All the king's horses and all the king's men," he reflected;
"yet--no king and his horses are the whole of it."

He began to pace the roof with hands behind him, followed by the
dog, who only knew that where her laconic owner was solutions of
all problems usually grew as if of their own accord. There was
now a great crowd running from the streets to view the spectacle,
and its voice was half a laugh, so blended with an angry
undergrowl that not the cocksurest Christian would have mistaken
it for friendly.

"It might be worse," Ommony reflected, looking down from a
corner of the roof, first at elephants, then at men and veiled,
shrill-voiced, excited women. "The crowd would have used fire.
The brutes are merciful."

The mercurial Eastern mind had lost no seconds seizing on
enlightenment. They understood below there that Craig and his
household were suffering because the priests decreed it.

But some one had confirmed that. There were runners in among
them whispering the news from ear to ear that Parumpadpa
had begged the loan of the royal elephants for this purpose,
and that the stamping-out of Craig and his Christians was
the Maharajah's doing.

"Hail, Motherland! Hail, Parumpadpa!"

The cry went up from one voice. A hundred echoed it. A thousand
rolled it up into a roar that thundered down-wind all along the
water-front and set the city's rift-raff by the ears--that
element that never stirs away from water save when the looting
tempts. Ommony heard trumpets blaring in the royal barracks, and
turned to watch the Maharajah's cavalry emerge through palm-trees
for riot duty.

But he did not see that. It was Elsa's eyes he met, she standing
not a yard away with fists clenched--calm--appearing enough
otherwise, except that the line of her lips was harder and her
eyes were brighter than most women's are.

"I believe you did that!" she said with a jerk of her head
downward toward the elephants.

Ommony was rather too wise to argue just then with any woman in
such a mood.

"There goes a life's work--two lives' work!" she went on. "Who
are you, and what have you done? What do you amount to, that you
should see our ruin?"

He saw no reason to defend himself.

"You think, because you have planted trees, you are fit to take
pity on us possibly?"

She ground her heel into the roof.

"We have planted God's word in the hearts of heathen! I believe
you were jealous, and you ordered this!"

Still Ommony did not answer. After all, he had planted a few
score million trees, and the trees had grown. He believed
that on their plane, in their degree, the trees have souls
and life and consciousness; also that men who work have no
need to assert themselves.

"You're a coward!" said Elsa Craig, and turned away from him.

Her scorn provided him excuse for silence; not that he would have
dreamed of denying her accusation. Man that is born of woman is
of few days and full of cowardice. Those who were not cowards
have been crucified, slain, tortured, burned, imprisoned, every
one. Ommony was no exception, and the only difference was that,
knowing himself a little, he was not annoyed by plain speaking.

He was a coward beyond doubt. He was afraid then. The elephant
herd, and the mob that milled around them, more vicious and less
manly than the brutes, did not disturb him very much, for all
they can do to a man is break or burn him and that, like the
toothache, though it hurts, is presently over with. He would not
have been afraid to go down among the elephants, provided
anything might be gained by that. He feared nothing he could see.

But as he had once told an intimate, his own Achilles' heel was
in the air. The trees had taught him. Only a long view lends
itself to forestry, and Ommony could foresee consequences far
beyond the scope of ordinary vision. Like the trees, imprisoned
by the destiny of trees but free from haste, he knew of wolves
and little foxes--serpents in the undergrowth and unseen fowl
that roosted above the boughs--knew and could not prevent their
goings and comings.

He could see the hand of Parumpadpa's priests in this affair as
plainly as Belshazzar once saw writing on the wall. He knew it
was war, not accident, although he was wrong in thinking the
chief mahout had received his whisky from the priests.

Knowing the nature of that kind of war, he knew there would be no
quarter. Non-combatants would suffer like the rest; in fact there
are no non-combatants when Church and politics join issue for the
right to rule, although the majority imagine always they are on
the fence, or above it all and out of it.

The priests would no doubt seek to destroy his, Ommony's,
reputation. But that did not frighten him; that was not his
Achilles' heel. Long, long ago, when he first laid all ambition
on India's ancient altar and received in exchange for it the
understanding that is only India's gift, he learned that
reputation is delusion. It meant nothing to him who received
men's credit for the work he had done. He had done the work, and
that was all that mattered--except this: that he dared not fail.

Whatever his hand attempted he had finished. That was his reward
for self-elimination. But even as Achilles, dipped in Lethe to be
made invulnerable, had to be held to earthy weaknesses by one
link, so Cotswold Ommony. He dreaded failure. He was afraid to
fail. It appeared to him worse than sin--which is, after all,
mainly ridiculous, like the fools who couch their lances at
its specter.

As he saw life, the man who understands a little of the Law in
force around him holds what he knows in trust. And since a
thousand fall for one man's failure, the price in irremediable
consequences--what the East calls karma--is too high to pay, yet
must be paid inevitably.

So a man who thinks he knows himself a little--none may know more
than that--should hesitate before he undertakes a task. Failure
may whelm a million people, every quiver of whose agony must in
the end be felt by him through whom affliction came.

It is a law with compensations. There is the corresponding side
to it. Alternatively he who sows shall reap. But just then Ommony
saw nothing but the shadow, knowing he had undertaken the
immeasurable task of bringing surcease to an ignorant swarm, that
lay beneath the hoofs of raging creeds as surely as the garden
and the mission floor lay under the pads of elephants.

He wondered whether the trees he loved, in whose name he had come
there, had taught him enough to know where to begin. At least he
knew he would not attempt too much at a time.

And he could see Craig, gray with misery, back turned to his
wife, staring down at the ruin and the blue-gray brutes beneath
him. Ommony went over to him.

"I don't pretend to understand or criticize the will of God,"
said Craig, "but who shall pay me for all this?"

It is difficult to comfort any one who figures accident in terms
of income unless you can show him money. Ommony could neither do
that nor answer his question.

Neither did he estimate the ruin as the will of God. Craig or no
Craig, Ommony knew the driving force behind the mission and the
certainty that as long as the West has dimes and quarters for the
offertory plate, the East will not lack foreigners to assail her
old philosophy; he knew, too, that an out-and-out victory for
Parumpadpa and his priests would be as pregnant with evil
consequences as men's conquests always are. He smiled to think of
Parumpadpa's innocence--an old rogue gaging the West's resistance
in terms of elephants and whisky-primed mahouts.

"I suppose you're glad to see this work undone?" Craig asked
bitterly, watching him.

Undone it was. The elephants that had not won into the compound,
but had had to satisfy themselves with overthrowing walls
and making the surrounding huts and gardens into unsightly
wilderness, were already coming back under control and being
herded sulkily up-street. Sharp cries of mahouts and ankus-blows,
now that there was no more harm to do, were gradually mastering
the rest.

What recently had been a blue-gray sea of heaving trunks and
shoulders sprayed with white turbans of mahouts was breaking up
into separate eddies that whirled and were borne away on another
tide. In fours and fives and dozens they returned with an air of
satisfied accomplishment to the great maidan outside the palace
wall, where they began to line up as straight as infantry
on parade.

"I'm told this Feast of the Mahouts has never been a failure
yet," said Craig. "They attribute it to their beastly god
Ganesha. Well--the Lord moves in a mysterious way His wonders to
perform. At any rate, they'll have to admit Ganesha fails them
this time. There won't be any feast now, that's sure; nor any
procession. I'm glad of it. Why do you laugh?"

Ommony was not laughing. Nothing but a corner of a smile escaped
him, and he regretted that. He knew, though he saw no use in
telling Craig, that there would be all the greater feast and all
the more processioning.

What if the flowers and frills had been torn from a couple
of hundred of the elephants? Was a Christian mission not
obliterated? Had the Lord Ganesha not avenged himself by the feet
and the knees of elephants? True, men, women, and children--some
said a hundred--had gone down beneath the brutes' stampede, but
that was a thing to be blamed on Christians afterward.

"You and your wife, of course, will stay with me in the Maharajah's
guest-house? You can't stay here," said Ommony.

Craig looked sharply at him, not so much surprised as critical
of motives.

"Yes," he said after a moment's pause. "There's nowhere else to
go. We must."

"Come when you're ready," said Ommony, and whistled his dog.

The elephants were not all gone yet, but he preferred the
flattened garden even so.


_"My Name is Craig!"_

There is a fiction, more useful than a superficial view pretends,
that royalty should be advised of events before any decision is
taken. It gives the world breathing-space. It lends dignity
and poise to what would else be nothing but a scramble--mad,
mean, hysterical.

"My friend," said the old diwan from the arm-chair facing Ommony
on the veranda where none might see him but the stork and the
Christian gardener, and only Ommony could hear the quiet voice,
"if you could only come with me!"

"Why not?" asked Ommony.

"Because, my friend, you shot dead one and badly wounded five of
the royal elephants. Parumpadpa's audience must wait until after
mine, but he has already sent private word to the Maharajah.
The priest's version is that your pistol-shooting caused the
stampede; therefore that you are alone responsible for the death
of seventy people, and for the damage to the mission."

"That's just why I should go with you," Ommony answered.

"No. The priests would accuse you in His Highness's presence. You
know how he is. He would only listen to the priests. Whatever you
might say would fall before him like dead leaves blown against a
fence. They have his ear."

"Take me with you," Ommony insisted. "I'm evidence--saw it
all--give him a first-hand account--"

"He has had too many accounts," the diwan answered. "The priests
were ready with their version of it all before it happened. You
must turn the tables on the priests. You cannot do that by simply
telling a story different from theirs."

Ommony stood up and knocked the ashes from his pipe. He laughed a
little dryly.

"All right."

"Remember!" he said. "I sent for you to work a miracle."

Ommony chuckled again. He had not a notion what to say to the
Maharajah--only a second-hand version of what the priests'
messengers probably had said to him--that and the divan's
assurance that the immediate outlook was the worst imaginable.

But he had the long view, backward as well as forward. It was his
experience that, given will to do the right thing, Nature, Law,
the Universe all must combine to put the answer in a man's mouth,
to set the stage for him--if necessary to produce new agencies.
All nature abhors a vacuum. A need, of thought of things, is
proof in advance of its supply.

But he did not say that to the diwan, because the merely
religious and the merely shrewd grow frightened at prospect of
Reliance on the Unseen. It was wiser to look clever and pretend
to having spare tricks up his sleeve.

So they went to the diwan's waiting carriage and drove for a mile
down an ancient avenue, whose trees had seen a hundred Maharajahs
of one lineage come and go. Then swiftly through that palace gate
that only a diwan uses, and along between the sentries, armed
with Snyder rifles lest '57 repeat itself.

The priests would use another gate and another door. But a man
stood on the steps who was trained in the ways of priests, and he
whispered to the diwan as the old man ascended the palace steps
leaning on Ommony's arm.

"There is bad news," the diwan said to Ommony.

But Ommony had been hearing bad news all his active days. His
business in life had been withstanding it. Fire, flood, and
famine all concern the man who rules a forest, and all of those
are less destructive and less fearful than the rumor they send
ahead of them.

"Never mind it," he said curtly. "Let's go--see and judge
for ourselves."

"I must warn you," the diwan answered.

It was no use Ommony protesting. He would rather not have known
the details. All those things are only snares to hinder a man and
spoil his aim and judgment. Look--see--act on intuition; that
is the secret of resourcefulness. But the diwan had grown
white-haired in the other school, that pits its wits against
the enemy and plans in advance of the event.

"They have charged that you brought this on deliberately, sahib.
They have said your purpose is to bring all of us into difficulty
with the British by causing it to seem that we hate missionaries.
His Highness believes the tale. They have shown him the bullets
you shot at the elephants, and a bottle that once held whisky,
which they say the chief mahout declares he had from you!"

"I'll tell him wilder news than that, if that's his mood! Lead
on," said Ommony.

The diwan drew assurance from the boast. Not once, ten times, he
had seen this man in other days take victory out of utter ruin as
a conjurer takes rabbits from a hat. He understood that Ommony
had learned a theory from India more faithfully than Indians do.
As for practice of it, were the woods and ways not noisy with the
tales of this and that amazing feat he had performed? Some even
called him a mahatma.

But the faces of attendants on the palace stairs were eloquent.
Ill news, a-weaving ill fame, had assailed diwan as well
as Ommony.  Smiles that should have greeted both were not
forthcoming--rather sullenness and nothing said, along with the
sidewise glance from eye to eye alert to improve upon another
menial's impudence. Easier than read the wind by weather-vane you
can guess your momentary rating at the court of any Eastern king
from the demeanor of the flunkies.

The comfort within was absolute. In place of the whirring
electric fans that make modern interiors sound and look like the
'tween-decks of a battleship the old embroidered punkahs moved
with leisurely pause and swing that is as peace-conveying and
restful as the ticking of old clocks. Carpets were laid three
deep to silence footfall.

No new thing, new face, new custom was in evidence to disturb
serenity. Colors were time-softened. Even the gold and vermilion
on carved screens and the peacock-splendor of embroidery were
tamed by the years until no stray tone of rawness broke the
harmony. The bird by a stair-head in a lacquered cage whistled
with a note as mellow as old wine.

Nevertheless there was an atmosphere of vague discomfort, because
men's thoughts are stronger than the things they heap about them.
Normally it was not a trying experience to wait in a teak,
vermilion and gilt-lined throne-room until the heir of all the
ages came and accepted homage. But the note of restfulness was
lacking, and a noise suggestive of the penetrating anger of
debate, muffled but not excluded by several doors, contributed to
the sensation.

Ommony supposed it was the priests, awaiting their turn,
entertaining courtiers with a sacerdotal concept of the crisis.
But the strident voice and the protesting ones continued, even
after the Maharajah entered the throne-room through ivory doors.
Noise at that solemn moment was almost as contrary to precedent
as Ommony's plain tweed shooting-jacket and the pipe, still hot,
that nestled in his fist.

As the diwan had told Ommony the day he came, in the Maharajah's
condition there was no change. He was as he had been five and
thirty years, and as he would be until he died--too inbred to
be educated, too well cared for to be ill, too sure of the past
to comprehend the present. He had learned and forgotten nothing.

His face looked like a cameo beneath the old-rose turban, and his
hands were those they drew in Persian miniatures six centuries
ago. Perhaps he weighed a hundred pounds, and he looked as
fragile as old porcelain; not bored, not angry--but obedient to
laws and whims and superstitions that were growing ancient when
the West was in leading-strings.

He nodded after a suitable pause, when the two attendants had
given him the royal sword and target, without which royalty in
that State is incognito.

"You may speak," he said with lips that scarcely moved. They were
delicate, blue, sensitive--considerate of custom.

The diwan let go Ommony's arm and stood erect, no less aware of
the advantage of years and stateliness than Ommony was of the
virtue of plain dealing. Ever men have paraded their highest
conceptions of manhood in all crises, and forever will. The diwan
was about to weave of musical old words a cloak of dignity about
his sturdy-standing, blunt, too honest friend and leave the
argument to him. But all old beacons were adrift that day.

There was interruption--an intrusion, uninvited, unannounced,
without the Maharajah's leave--as good as blasphemy!

Three doors in swift succession were kicked, swung wide and
slammed again. A babel of angry protests rose and died away as
the enormity of what was happening out-wondered speech.

The bronze doors, facing those of ivory that royalty used, burst
open, and an angry man broke in, all white from head to foot, in
an old white hat undoffed, his face as livid white as gypsum from
expressed emotion, with a staphorn-handled riding-whip in one
hand, as if he had come to chastise somebody.

"My name is Craig!"

He doffed the white hat slowly and stood waiting, as if the very
announcement of his name should be enough to force all issues.
Even as his courage had set armed guards aside and his arrogance
had brought him through forbidden doors.

Two deep folds of an arras came to life. Two men armed with
scimitars strode forward, one on Craig's either hand, and paused.
At a nod from the Maharajah there would have been blood and
entrails on the waxed floor; but it may be he caught Cotswold
Ommony's eye. His right hand, which had been closed a long while
on the hilt of the Sword of State, opened, and the two went back,
not now behind the arras, but on guard in front of it.

Craig understood that play perfectly, but knew nothing of the
etiquette of courts and cared less. He spoke again without
waiting for invitation.

"I'm here to demand immediate satisfaction!"

There is a famous admonition to Christians to offer the other
cheek, and cheek has become a missionary's lawful weapon. Craig
had his with him.

"I demand compensation in full--an apology--and re-erection of my
mission at the State's expense!" he announced, folding arms
across his breast in the attitude of unyielding resolution.

If he had been a pagan defying fanatical invaders, or even a
Christian told to swap religion or take the consequences, he
might have challenged admiration. As it was he challenged anger.

The Maharajah, lineal descendant from the moon, who knew small
English and less bad manners, bit his lip. None had leave to
speak yet. Even the diwan's leave had lapsed.

The Maharajah held trumps. Little and inbred he might be lord of
a little kingdom and less revenue, with tug-o'-war on top of him
between the British and the priests, and only a nine-gun salute
whenever he crossed his borders. But he could outplay Craig.

He made a signal--just a gesture of eye and lip--to an attendant,
who at once relieved him of royal sword and target. He was in
another world that instant, as immune from approach or address as
if invisible. And he rose and yawned and sauntered out as if the
veil between himself and lookers-on were actual, not assumed.

"Well, I'll be--"

"Damned?" suggested Ommony.

"--sugared!" Craig corrected.

The diwan sighed. He was helpless. Unless he should choose
to concede to Parumpadpa and his priests a similar privilege,
which they would doubtless multiply and never yield again, he
did not dare presume to follow His Highness through the ivory
double door.

Like the priests, he could send his unofficial messengers to
whisper behind the scenes; but for the remainder of that day and
all the next the Maharajah would be within his constitutional
rights in refusing to grant audience. It was only another of
those devices anciently contrived for taking haste out of affairs
of State.

But the men who thought it out had not reckoned with the coming
Christian's other cheek, so Craig stood like the horse-thief who
had shot the judge; there was none now to be appealed to against
mob law. His enemies had two days' unobstructed grace.

"Remember! I said a miracle!" the diwan reminded Ommony, touching
his arm again.

He would have ordered a chair except for the contingent
obligation of offering one to Craig.

"Where's your wife?" asked Ommony suddenly, and Craig looked at
him with gathering resentment.

He did not consider that he had come there to be questioned
sharply by this forester, whom he suspected of being a pagan in
league with pagans to oppose good mission-work. But he could not
avoid an answer.

"She is superintending the pitching of a tent."

"To live in it?"

Craig nodded.

"Unsafe! I offered you and her accommodation in my quarters,"
Ommony answered, squeezing the diwan's arm a little more tightly
than politeness called for, but watching Craig.

"She objects in the circumstances," Craig said, making no effort
to disguise the iron in his voice.

He was a good, hard fighter, willing enough to come out into the
open. But then so was Ommony; and Ommony knew better why he
fought. He turned toward the diwan:

"I advise you to order this man's wife detained under suitable
guard for her own protection," he said deliberately, and turned
his head again in time to intercept a look on Craig's face that
was almost comic.

It meant relief from tension. It was almost like a prisoner's
being turned unaccountably out of doors.

The diwan's old eyes twinkled, but he shifted nervously. Few but
such as he can estimate the danger of meeting sword with
sword--the zeal of missionaries with the blunter means of law.

By law he might take law into his hands for two days at his own
risk; for the Maharajah might repudiate him afterward, that being
another safeguard long ago devised to keep the throne in
countenance. None but the British, and not even they until the
Resident should be informed, could countermand his orders.

There was a rumor that the Resident was ill with abscess and had
taken too much morphia to ease the pain. And for what had the
diwan sent for Ommony unless to be guided by him?

"That is my order," he said simply. "I will go and attend to it."

He left the palace attendants to get rid of Craig as they might
see fit. His excuse for withdrawing Ommony was that old age
needed a strong arm to lean on.

"Better take up quarters with me," said Ommony over his shoulder
to Craig. "Come whenever you see fit."

He did not propose to give Craig excuse for accusing him of open
enmity. Perfervid zealots with the lid of conjugal restraint
removed are capable of wild leaps into the chaos of illusion. He
preferred to use Craig's energy to foil the priests rather than
let it burn up in uncomprehending rage against himself; if only
for the sake of the trees, which were his life's business,
even as Craig's was converting Hindus. Besides, he liked the
man--admired his courage if nothing else.

So presently he and the diwan found themselves alone together
where the carriage waited under the _porte-cochere._ They were
seen, because those Indian palaces are pierced in the recesses of
a thousand carvings with eye-holes for the omnipresent spy, but
none could overhear them.

"Where will you put her?" asked Ommony.

"Sahib, I--"

The diwan hesitated. Though he trusted Ommony he had the senior's
dislike to lay bare mental processes, and to that was added
Eastern unwillingness to be quite frank. Pride of the offensive
sort was not in him, but he would have been a poltroon had he no
respect for his almost absolute authority.

"I will consider."

"Do. Consider this. Defeat is to the irresolute; victory to the
swift. If she appeals through the Resident to Delhi, that will
mean that the British must interfere. And if they must, they're
at the mercy of organized religion as much as you are. Better
defy Big Business than the Church."

"The thing to do is to earn her gratitude. The way to do that is
to let her get into the toils. Then get her out again. The way to
defeat Parumpadpa and his gang is to compromise them badly. Did
you ever go fishing? You should give the fish lots of line always
before you strike."

"Man of enigmas! Just now you warned me to be swift!"

"I did. Are your horses swift? Then let's go driving."

It was then, and not until then that the diwan understood.

"Craig will return to his wife and warn her. Yes. But what if
they go together to the Resident?"

"My servant told me Craig went there first thing. The Resident is
in no condition to see any one or do anything. The Residency
doctor is away. The only immediate danger is that the Resident
may have wired for some one to replace him."

"He has not," said the diwan, who had his own arrangements for
knowing what telegrams were sent.

"He doesn't want the morphia habit to become official knowledge,
no doubt," Ommony answered.

"But, sahib, what if the Craigs should send a telegram to Delhi?
I dare not prevent that. There can be a little delay--an
accident--a few hours--"

"Plenty!" said Ommony with confidence. "Listen, diwan sahib: I
have your word for it that if Parumpadpa and his gang can find
excuse to stir the mob against these missionaries there will be
bloodshed--possibly a revolution."

The diwan nodded--shuddered.

"All India is on the verge of that," he answered.

"If Craig and his wife should win too handsomely that will be
the priest's next move."

"Indubitably. See what they did! How swiftly the mob crowded to
applaud the elephants: I have reported that was all due to an
accident, but the priests are asserting it was due to you, and--"

"We must give them line--go fishing--driving, rather! After
you, sir."

He helped the diwan into the carriage, and in view of as many
spies as cared to see they drove off, the diwan fidgeting
nervously. But Ommony chuckled. He knew now he had won.

"You recall the Peace Conference in Paris?" he asked.

"I was there," said the diwan.  "I was there and learned
nothing new."

"Few did! But there were master moves made. You recall how the
Japanese stampeded the other representatives by packing up one
night? They were only moving to another building, but the others
jumped to the conclusion they were going home. There'll be
jumping down here within thirty minutes!"

"God send you are right," said the diwan, "for I see only the
jaws of war that open for us!"

"Let us drive as if we were very busy," Ommony advised him.

"It shall be as you say--for thirty minutes!"

"Your office first. The fact that we do nothing--say
nothing--will make it hard for them to draw right
conclusions--easy to make mistakes."

"Then a telegram in code about nothing to nobody! The babu will
fail to understand it and either do nothing or else send
gibberish along the wire. They may get a copy of the wire--"

"They will!"

"--and misinterpret it!"

So they drove by a roundabout route to the diwan's office. The
diwan entered. Ommony remained outside. The diwan emerged again,
looking serious, and a man who was sitting in the shadow of
a doorway got up and hurried in the direction of a temple,
where two priests peered under their hands out of gloom into
the sunlight.

"You have five more minutes," said the diwan.

"To the Residency then."

"We shall not be admitted."

"Let us hope not."

"And after that?"

"It is their move. Then ours. And in the end there shall be more
trees in your honor's domain than in all the four neighboring
States together," said Ommony, leaning back on the expensive
cushions and looking much less anxious than he actually felt.


_"By Jiminy, We'll Now Grow Trees!"_

Mobs never rule. They always think they do, imagining they choose
new leaders when the old are trampled underfoot. Cozened and
flattered and betrayed, a mob does murder that the rogues who
rule may profit, and it sets new feet of clay on its own neck
before its head can rise between one master and the next.

No man would choose Barabbas. No mob fails to prefer him.
Men--individuals, that is--are stubborn thinkers, liable to err,
but each in his own advancing stage a battler for his highest
views of right.

As teams they can accomplish. As a mob they become that fluid
horror, gorging flattery as hogs eat swill; that senses no
impulse other than self-righteous greed and is manipulated
for their own ends by men more evil than the beasts because
more intelligent.

An Eastern mob differs in nothing from the rest except in
increased subtlety. Its motives are the same; its fear and lust
and cruelty are identical.

And as the sea is whipped into a rage by wind, or lulled into a
temporary calm, so mobs are managed by the rogues who understand
them and imagine that life is only a psalmist's three-score years
and ten. All history is a proof of that, and of the other fact,
that one man with his eye fixed on eternity is as the shadow of a
great rock in a weary land. There is a foretaste of eternity in
planting trees.

The priests, and they who pandered to the priests, had lulled the
mob's unrest as suddenly as the cries of children cease. That is
done by promises, though not of loot, for they start action, but
of something new about to happen. Expectation, veiled and vague,
brings on a pause.

Ganesha had expressed his wrath by means of elephants. Now let
them wait and see what next he had in store. Something marvelous
was coming. There would be a miracle, let none doubt.

So Elsa Craig, unhindered, was ordering the pitching of a big
tent in the ruined mission compound; and they who obeyed her were
not Christians, for the converts had all decamped--as other
converts once did in a famous hour. This and that man from
the street had been called in, and was working for coin and
curiosity. Some of them were priests' spies. All were aware they
only hastened the undoing of the damned. Word had gone forth
through the subtle avenues of Eastern news that the Craigs and
all their root and branch were doomed. So there were three-score
idlers doing ten's work, getting in one another's way and
speaking to Elsa civilly.

Into that confusion Howard Craig came hot-foot, brushing sweat
from his forehead with three fingers--a vulgarism Elsa hated.

"Girl," he almost shouted--and she hated to be called that--"you're
to be arrested. Ommony advised the diwan in my hearing to put you
under guard in some safe place until--"

Her anger checked him. Over his face there crossed the same look
Ommony had noticed. Habits--loyal ones peculiarly--die hard, but
again the thought occurred to him that worse than that might
happen. Safe she then would be beyond all doubt; and he, without
her to protect, without her to impose conditions on him, could
accomplish more. He knew himself for no physical coward. He
would dare--

"What did you say to that?" she demanded.

"Really, Elsa--"

"You agreed?"

"I did not. But I want you to agree. I think--"

It was scorn now. She could school herself to batten down her
anger; but contempt, associating him with the proposal, was too
strong for her and him. He could not argue against it.

Her unfairness struck the ground from under him. More than ever
he was sure she would be better in a safe place in the diwan's
custody; and she, too well able to read his thoughts, answered
them instantly.

"Look!" she said, gesturing toward the throng who did her
bidding, as much as to say the city would obey her if she were
left to her own devices.

He swept the suggestion aside schoolmaster-fashion, irritably,
with one hand.

"Listen, Elsa!" he stammered. "I went to the Residency. No
admittance. Gould is sick or something. Couldn't get word
to him, not even a note or a verbal message. So I went to the
palace--shouldered past the guards--saw the Maharajah--"

"That nonentity!"

"I demanded instant satisfaction, and he left the room! At least
I have lodged my protest before witnesses. Ommony was there, and
the diwan--"

"What business had Mr. Ommony?"

"Listen, Elsa! Ommony is quite right. He said--"

He stopped because she was not listening. She had that uningratiating
gift of switching all attention suddenly from whoever was addressing
her to something or some one else. Not only did she not intend to
listen, she actually did not hear.

She had seen Diana, Ommony's great stag-hound, lawlessly at large
and nosing curiously in among the trash the elephants had made.
Diana, once commanded to make friends and good-dog-fashion as
sure of Ommony's discretion in such matters as she was unwilling
to remain indoors.

"Please pitch the tent," she said suddenly, and without another
word walked off to coax the dog.

Craig let her go, and stayed to do her bidding. He knew the
uselessness of argument. In that mood she was capable of snubbing
him for days on end, and the only remedy he had ever discovered
was patient endurance; which, he consoled himself, was laid on
him by his religion and his chosen path.

He hoped they would come and arrest her, never doubting they
would treat her respectfully. The diwan was a gentle pagan
likelier to yield his own life rather than offer indignity to a
woman or any foreigner. Craig hoped it might happen while his
back was turned, for that would absolve him of a hand in it.

Once under arrest by order of the diwan she could not reasonably
expect him to drag her back to danger. Expect it she probably
would, but not reasonably. Reason would be on his side. It would
uphold him afterward.

She had said, "Please pitch the tent." He went about pitching it
methodically, with the intricate precision he had used in
building up the mission, measuring the pegs so many feet apart
and gradually getting order out of chaos with a quiet, determined
way he had of setting the example. He never realized, nor could,
that nine tenths of the work was his while they who should have
learned looked on.

And Elsa, stroking Diana's head, fingering the dog's ear as she
had noticed Ommony did, picked her way disgustedly over the
debris of the ruined wall into a deserted street; oblivious of
direction and of every other thought except that life was all dry
thorns in a weary wilderness.

She was the victim--she, who might have been the wife of a U.S.
Senator! She thought she would have made a President of that man,
if only he had not resented her efforts to guide him.

She had tried to make a famous man of Craig; she had forced her
own broad thoughts into his narrow mold, accepting dogma that was
all dry dust to her and weary routine. All hypocrisy to her
and balm to him--laboring with converts she knew well were
unconverted; all to the end that Craig might be a great one in
the world, and she his proprietor. And now this!

Ashes and agony and gray remorse! Craig didn't understand. He
could not. He cared only for the sticks and straw of trampled
buildings--that and her physical safety.

No doubt he would sooner or later gather his scattered converts
back, when the casteless crowd they once disowned had forbidden
them right of reversion to their old religion. He was capable of
putting them to work and rebuilding, replanting, rewhite-washing,
like an ant, no better than an ant. A one-track mind, she
reflected bitterly, leading from nonentity to nothing else!

That kind of thought acts like the blinkers on a horse. She
walked forward, seeing nothing but the ground before her feet,
her right hand on the stag-hound's shoulder. Diana guided her.
Diana's nose, forever ascertaining news by sniffing moistly at
the tainted wind and reading smells as men read books, became
aware of faint iodoform and followed the direction of it up a
little lane between old trees; by a picket fence, through an open
gate into a fenced inclosure where a few huts leaned untidily.
There Diana's eyes recognized something familiar. She trotted
forward, leaving Elsa standing; and Elsa turned her head to look
back down the lane.

She stepped into the shadow of the gateway instantly. She was
just in time to avoid recognition by that self-same Hindu officer
who had come to the mission that first morning to greet Ommony
and superintend the removal of his luggage.

He was there on horseback with six troopers and a two-horse
carriage--looking about him impatiently. Intuition argued he had
come for her, and anger rose in a crimson wave to her temples.

He should look in vain! At least he should look in vain as long
as possible! Determination to escape, to hide, perhaps to run
away from Craig--was not quite definite; but she knew that
officer's capacity for insolence, and one emotion was so heaped
on another that reason hardly governed her.

A longing to hit back--to cause trouble and to give offense--surged
in her. She stepped forward into the inclosure to annoy the
officer, and she remembered that she might perhaps give Ommony
some twinges of anxiety by keeping his beloved dog from running
home to him.

The dog was sniffing at a pallet on which a man lay in the shade
of palm-leaf eaves. Whether dead or only ill, that man provided
her with excuse for trespass. If he should happen to be a
high-caste man, who inevitably must repel any foreigner offering
to touch him, she would none the less have done her duty in
offering him aid; and it was very unlikely that a high-caste
Hindu would be found in that place, or, if so, that he would
submit to attentions from a dog.

She hurried forward, feeling relieved to have something definite
to occupy her mind, stooped over the pallet, and cried out with

"You! John Ishmittee! You were supposed to be dead! How did you
come here?"

Diana had completed her investigation. Having no more interest,
she moved away and stood in the midst of the inclosure, looking
for new attractions. John Ishmittee began a rambling account of
his adventures, interspersed with a few words of kitchen-English.
But it was obvious at the end of the first few sentences that
either he was out of his head or all his information of the
elephant disaster was at second-hand. He was interrupted by
Diana's battle-cry--no bark, but a growl like thunder in the
hills--a noise that of dark nights made strangers' blood run
cold; then instantly on top of it the worrying snap and snarl
of action.

"Diana! Here! Here!"

But Diana was engaged. Eleven men--and Elsa knew them!--were
attempting what not twice their number could have done without a
net; to capture Ommony's white-fanged bodyguard and drag her away
into a hut.

Two men were down with blood gushing out of gashed wounds. A
third was by the throat, and the rest were in one another's way,
all struggling for a hold of tail or legs. Boatmen all, none
sober, and the lot the same men who had pulled the long sweeps of
the Maharajah's barge that had brought Ommony.

"Here! Diana! Good dog! Here!"

As well cry to the clouds far overhead! And another man was down,
making mud from the flow of a torn artery. But Elsa had the
courage of her sex and race, that is as cold iron in some sorts
of emergency. Running with mission-pattern skirts uplifted, she
waded in and, seizing the hound's collar, thrust her forearm into
the blood-red jaws. The fangs closed on it like a vice and forced
a scream from her; but even in that summit of brute rage the
hound knew an official friend and let the arm go, snapping
to right and left and straining at the collar to reach the
enemy again.

Elsa felt her grip on the collar yielding. It would have been
easier to hold a horse. She flung herself on her knees and took
the dog's throat in her right hand, throttling and gasping
orders: "Down, Diana! Down, you hear me? Lie down!"

The hound obeyed, still growling like the rumble of a subway, and
the drunken boatmen drew off in a semi-circle, muttering their
comments in a jargon not expounded in the missionaries'

Then down-lane there came the noise of trotting horses, clank of
a saber on stirrup-iron and heavy carriage-wheels. Elsa turned
her head with a gesture of nervous fear and cried aloud to the
one sole creature there she had a claim on:

"John! John Ishmittee! Hide me somewhere! Those are the
Maharajah's men!"

John Ishmittee, raising himself on the pallet, said something in
the boatman jargon. The men Diana had torn and bitten dragged
themselves away. The other five grinned, beckoned, pointed to a
door in the wall behind the end hut. They urged her to make
haste. Elsa--no whit afraid of them--consented.

But she did not dare let the dog go. Diana would have run
home.  The Maharajah's officer would see the dog and draw
conclusions--guess that his quarry might be where the dog had
come from. She gripped the collar with trembling fingers and
dragged Diana with her.

The great hound came at first unwillingly. Then, throwing up her
head, she uttered on long, penetrating howl, more desolate than a
wolf's in winter, and obeyed with no more protest.

Ommony, up on a tower, where he stood to watch that no indignity
should go with the arrest, heard the howl, watched through a
single spy-glass, whistled to himself and gave instructions to
the dog-boy, who was squatting on the tiles beside him.

"Trees!" he said to himself then, chuckling; "yes, by Jiminy,
we'll now grow trees!"


_"The Priests Did This."_

The crises of the world, that take so long a-brewing, are
mismanaged or disposed of in the course of minutes. Any fool
could sense the danger after Sarajevo, or can tell, when a strike
has been declared, that trouble and loss will come of it; but it
is given to few to recognize the half-hour in which the tide of
evil may be taken at the flood and turned, cross-currents and
all, into constructive use. Those are mostly men without
ambition, who become great doctors, lawyers, statesmen, or, as
in at any rate one instance, foresters.

Ommony came down the steps of an ancient tower built for watching
water-lanes when piracy was open and a gentleman's pursuit. His
stride was positive--the thirty-inch, deliberate march of Rome's
centurions who conquered by the strength of an idea.

He was afraid, and yet his fear was only lest his own ability
should fall short of attainment. He had seen. He understood.
Remained to hold the thread of the solution through inevitable
darkness, and to follow it to the outcome. He forgot himself. The
outcome was to be new forests and--the necessary way toward
that--peace between factions.

The dog-boy had gone ahead, and he had trained him as a good
commander trains his staff, or as the Church trains zealots. So
he could afford to pause in front of John Ishmittee and give that
pawn of Destiny no inkling that a people's fate might possibly
depend on him. He smiled and spoke leisurely, as if asking
questions for his own amusement, providing no excuse for lies.

"Why, hello! How did you come here?"

"The sahib gave me money. I was tired of that bed in the mission.
I paid the boatmen to bring me here."

"What have you to do with boatmen?"

"Sahib, I was of their religion once. And they have been saying
that the sahib's big dog is a god in the form of an animal. The
priests are angry with them, and the priests said there will be a
punishment unless they seize the dog and drown him where the
carcass can never be found.

"So they came to me, knowing the sahib was friendly with the
missionaries, asking me to assist them in the matter. And I paid
them to carry me hither--hoping thus to do your honor a service
by dissuading them," he added by way of establishing his own
pellucid innocence.

"You are a snake in the grass and an ingrate," answered Ommony.

"Nay, sahib!"

Ommony's alert, observing eyes, that appeared to watch nothing
but the convert's face, were at work conveying information to a
brain that was absorbed by only one objective. He detected
cautious movement.

"You are a thief!"

"On my honor, sahib--"

"Let me look beneath that blanket! Quick now! Pull it back!
No argument!"

It was a check-book, that only a fool would steal. He likely
thought he could forge checks on Craig that a bank would cash.
Ommony picked the book up, smudged a little ink on the inside of
the cover with his fountain-pen and passed it back.

"Put your thumb-prints there--both of them!" He took the
check-book back and pocketed it.

"Jail?" he asked. "You want to go to jail?"

"Nay, sahib!"

"Who came this way just now? Who went out that way?"

"Memsahib Craig."

"Did she wish to be seen?"

"Nay, not to be seen. She begged me to hide her. The boatmen--"

"Silence then for silence!" Ommony said sternly. "Whoever asks,
say nothing! You understand?"

The convert did not understand, except that Ommony held evidence
that could convict him. Having tasted jail, then hospital, no
bird was more in love than he with re-won freedom. Ommony tapped
his pocket meaningly.

"Tell a soul you have seen Memsahib Craig, and I'll say where I
found this check-book! Moreover, I will prosecute you for trying
to steal my dog! In addition I will tell the priests that you
told me about their secret instructions to the boatmen--"

"Nay, sahib! Nay, not that! Not that of all things! I am dumb!
See, sahib, I will tear my tongue out rather! Only if your honor
will not tell the priests."

Eyes rolled piteously, and the dusky face turned ashen.

"Silence for silence!" said Ommony sternly, and passed along, out
behind the end hut, closing the gate behind him and fastening it
with a stick thrust through the iron padlock-rings.

He had not far to go. The dog-boy squatted in the dust beneath a
window latticed across with iron. The building was an old one set
in a bit of a garden with trees on either hand and with its back
against a high wall, over which the roofs of houses rose in
intricate confusion. The dog-boy looked up once and nodded, then
went on working the dust into patterns with his fingers.

Ommony rapped on the dry teak door very quietly twice. After a
minute's pause the door opened gingerly about six inches, and a
drunken boatman's questioning face appeared. Ommony sent the man
staggering and strode in, kicking the door shut again behind him.

For a moment in the inside gloom he was in danger. A cloth was
drawn on a string across the only window, and his eyes were set
for the outer glare.

The man who had staggered backward drew a boatman's knife, as
good for gutting humans as for caught fish. A thing with a
lanyard on it and a heavy handle that makes weight behind the
iron blade. Ommony ducked from instinct, and the knife struck
humming in the dry wood just behind him. He pulled it out and
curled the lanyard on his wrist.

Then another drunkard recognized him and said three words
in the boatman jargon that brought the knife-thrower down
on his knees in abject supplication, lying with a drunkard's
swift, absurd inventiveness.

"Heaven-born, the lanyard slipped through these fingers, which
are sweating! It was the purpose to throw the knife into a
corner, lest the heaven-born should hurt himself when about to
strike me in evident anger!"

"Silence!" commanded Ommony in their tongue in a gruff, low
voice, not meant to carry.

But it did, and it was recognized. A short bark and a low whine
announced that Diana, near at hand, had recognized her master.
Ommony clucked--that quieted the dog--and looked about him. There
were only seven boatmen. Two wore bandages of soft white cloth
that might have been the substance of a petticoat, a lot too well
applied to have been done by their oar-awkward fingers. They were
afraid--self-conscious--guilty of they knew not what exactly--in
confusion because they did not yet know what was to be charged
against them. Ommony's face was an enigma. Even with fumes of
longshore arrack in their heads they knew enough to wait and see.

Ommony heard the dog's low whimper again, and then a woman's
voice without fear instructing somebody--knew beyond any question
that the dog would howl a warning to him if there was instant
danger--and opened the door at his back. He beckoned the boatmen
out into the sunlight, waiting until the last had slunk by. Then
he shut the door and, glancing once quickly to right and left,
led them into the evil-smelling shade of thick-boled trees, in a
corner with the house on one side and the high wall behind. There
no passer-by could have seen them.

"What does she do?" he demanded.

"Sahib, she has torn her garment to bind up woundings the dog
did. She is well. None has harmed her. She begged us to--"

He cut that short with a gesture. He who is wise is careful
not to learn too much. Nor does he ask to be informed of
what he knows. He asserts what he knows when questions would
invite evasion.

"You attacked the dog. The priests so ordered it."

"Sahib, we--"

"To the devil with your lies now! Answer me! This is the
priests' doing?"

"The heaven-born knows too much," admitted one of them.

"You fools were pretending blasphemously that my hound is one of
your gods incarnate. The priests heard of it and threatened you
unless you stole the animal and drowned her. Now you have failed,
will the priests admit they gave those orders to you?"

They grinned. They knew from much experience how the priests
would handle that predicament.

"The priests will leave you to be punished for attempted theft of
a sahib's dog--for being drunk--for hurling a knife at me--"

"Sahib, the heaven-born's honor heard this man confess it was a
slip of the hand that--"

"And for violence to a memsahib! For decoying her and shutting
her inside a stinking room for God knows what evil purpose!"

"Sahib, sahib, that is untrue! She--"

He checked them again with a gesture. They were sobering, and the
lees of arrack fumes no longer were enough to keep too much truth
from escaping unless he acted censor.

"Yet you are good boatmen. You rowed well on the journey."

That was art--immodest, opportune--applied, as all art is, to the
occasion, using truth to point men's thought a fraction higher,
prostituting pride of honest oarsmanship in this case to the ends
of forestry. There is no pride like the boatman's in his skill.

"The priests did this," said Ommony.

He counted on the knowledge that all simple folk who live beneath
the heel of priests and their religion, hating the one and
drawing comfort from the other, tolerate the official for the
sake of glimpses of divinity that they discern beyond him. It is
easy to arouse antagonism to a priesthood--very hard to slay
men's faith in what priests represent.

"They are always mischief-makers," said a boatman darkly, with an
air of having heard more than he cared to tell.

The others nodded. Ommony felt the intuitive thrill that told him
he was winning.

"Disaster comes of interference without knowledge," he assured
them; and the East loves proverbs as the West loves beef
and bread.

They nodded sagely. He was talking heart to heart, and had
praised their oarsmanship. They understood him, at least. To your
boats, O watermen!"

"Shall the priests not finish what they started?" he demanded.
"Will ye bear blame for their devices?"

"Nay, nay! What have we done?"

"Truly, ye have only sought to steal my dog, and that is an issue
between you and me," he answered.

"Will the heaven-born not protect us?" asked a boatman, taking
heart of grace.

"Ye are ingrates," answered Ommony.

"Na, sahib, we are boatmen, sons of boatmen. We be men whose
hearts are in us."

"Ye are drunkards," he insisted.

"Nay! A little arrack--"

"To help the priests play tricks on you!"

"The stuff is all gone."

"Bring out the bottle then."

One went in and carried out an old glass flagon still about a
third full of the forbidden, pungent stuff. He tried, but was not
in time to prevent Ommony from seeing it.

"Ye are liars."

"Nay, we thought it was all finished."

"Give me the flagon."

The man yielded it, and Ommony poured out the poison on the
ground before their eyes.

"Now it is finished. Buy no more of it."

"We did not buy that, sahib. One came saying it was a gift from
the diwan sahib because we had rowed swiftly on the journey."

"It was the priests who sent it," said Ommony; and whether that
was true or not they took his word for it, he seemed informed
about so many things.

He was itching to get away, for he knew the priests were busy
with their own solution of affairs. Having given them time in
which to make mistakes, and a show of mysterious activity to
force their hand, it was of utmost importance now to find out
what the priests were doing.

But he did not dare give these simpletons a hint of his impatience.
The easiest way to fail in India is to let her sons know your
affair is urgent.

"Listen now to me," he said, with an air of having all eternity
to lecture in--an air disarming all suspicion, opposite to the
customary way of sahibs, which by haste stirs opposition. "If ye
should speak, the priests will turn your words against ye."

They nodded. They knew that.

"So say nothing. Watch. Be silent. Keep the memsahib within there.

"Ye shall see priests come presently and carry her away. Say
nothing to them, nor let them see ye. Simply watch. Then
afterward if any ask, and if ye would escape from the nets the
priests are laying, answer simply what ye saw, explaining
nothing, not excusing nor accusing. Say, `The priests did this.'

"Ye understand?"

They did. He was advising them to use habitual taciturnity when
confronted with whatever they could hardly comprehend. Easy!
They nodded.

"Obey, and ye shall find me your friend. If ye disobey my
warning, take the consequences!"

"The heaven-born truly will protect us?"

"Yes, unless ye drink again and let loose babbling tongues."

"On the word of boatmen, we obey!"

He gave the knife back, haft forward, to the boatman who had
thrown it, and there isn't an emotion under heaven more enduring
than that act of grace aroused. The knife was worth a rupee.

The boatman's pride, his dungaree jacket, a dirty turban and a
loin-cloth were pretty nearly all he had. Pride outweighed
everything, and the man salaamed, as once the rank and file
saluted Caesar. There was manhood and a great emotion expressed
in the uplifted hands.

"Warn the others," said Ommony and strode away, not guessing--knowing.

He had turned that trick.

The dog-boy followed him unbidden. He took no notice until they
turned a corner into another alley.

"Go back," he said then. "Keep the dog quiet. Where the dog goes,
follow. Leave a trail my messenger can pick up."

The dog-boy dropped astern like a mark thrown overboard. Ommony
began to show speed. He had left a horse tethered at the gateway
leading to the tower, and he surprised the fat, palace-trenched
beast into a gallop with a bamboo cane broken from a hedge.
Spluttered-up street dust stung the eyes of watchers who passed
the word along. Before he regained the guest-house, Parumpadpa in
a temple cloister knew the line he had taken.

But his thoughts were his own, and he found the diwan waiting for
him, fidgeting in the veranda arm-chair, so all the priests
gained was anxiety.

"What have they done?" demanded Ommony, pretending unembarrassment
for the diwan's benefit.

"My friend, they have done the worst!"

"That is always the best thing. It provides excuse for miracles,"
said Ommony, producing a cigar. "Tell me. There's loads of time."

The diwan laughed, but with an effort.

"Fail with your miracles," he answered, "and some of us won't
live to see tomorrow!"

"As bad as that?"

Ommony threw the cigar away and chose another, so he might have
been referring to tobacco, but the diwan recognized the
nervousness that had forced the question.

"I dare not go near my office. They have besieged it--emissaries
of the priests. They hope to force me to take action or to make a
statement that will compromise me."

"The officer who went to--ah--to escort Mrs. Craig to--ah--a safe
place--he had no orders to arrest, you understand--the terms were
vague--he might interpret them as he saw fit without committing
me--has galloped back to say she can't be found. I learned that
five minutes ago by telephone. The idiot must have talked, for
the priests are saying I have hidden her."

"Their men are stirring up the mob with a tale of my being
in missionary pay. They say the missionaries stampeded the
elephants. The missionaries are answerable for the resulting
death and injury."

"I, they say, am sheltering the woman and being influenced by her
behind the scenes. They say my ultimate purpose is to rob the
temple revenues in order to get money to plant trees--"

"Well, isn't it?" asked Ommony.

"Trees that will occupy the grazing grounds and impoverish--"

"The priests! Yes, go on."

"Impoverish the people, they say. They blame Mrs. Craig and her
husband for the increase in the cost of fuel. And Craig is making
matters worse! He has gone to my office--forced his way in--and
is waiting there until I come. The crowd outside is saying I
befriend him!"

"Good!" exclaimed Ommony. "Couldn't be better! Don't you befriend
him? Hasn't he your protection? Won't it be excellent afterward
to be able to say that even the hostile crowd accused you of
steadfastly protecting missionaries?"

"Afterward, my friend? The priests think it is time for a
swift uprising. Who shall prophesy of afterward? There is a
crisis now. They think the British will do anything to avoid
despatching troops."

"That's almost true," said Ommony.

"They hope to drive all missionaries out, get rid of me and
dictate politics in the future. They believe they have me and the
missionaries compromised."


"They even speak of His Highness abdicating in favor of a minor."

"Idiots! Have you ten men whom you would dare trust with
knowledge that you had stolen public funds?"

"Two score. But I do not steal."

"Ten is plenty. Do they look like priests?"

"Some could. There are the eight who usually watch the priests
for me. They are in my house now. I can telephone."

"Do that. Have them rigged like Parumpadpa's men and send them
here to me, ek dum. Tell 'em it's a life-or-death call."

There were servants in the hallway, much too obviously busy to be
innocent, so the diwan used the extension in Ommony's bedroom.
Even so, although he had his own man on the old-fashioned central
switchboard, there was desperate risk of leakage.

But there is a risk in every ruse men undertake. Contrivances
succeed because of other men's omissions more often than
from perfection.

"They will be here in thirty minutes," he said, sitting down
again in the arm-chair facing Ommony on the veranda after
discovering the gardener too near and sending him to chase crows
away from the distant flower-beds.

"Thirty minutes?" said Ommony. "That means an hour. Shall we
waste it worrying ourselves, or use it worrying the priests?"

"If only I knew where Mrs. Craig is! Shall we not search--"

"And learn too much!"

The diwan looked relieved.

"I see you know."

"I haven't seen her since she disappeared," said Ommony, and the
diwan nodded.

He began to regret less that he had trusted the solution into
this man's hands.

"I vote we go," said Ommony.

"Where now?"

"To the Residency."

The diwan assented meekly. This was all new experience for him;
his method, subtler perhaps, and much less active on the surface,
resembling more those sub-sea currents that deflect a keel
unknown to the eyes aloft. Storming along, tacking against the
head-winds of sedition, reduced him to obedient bewilderment.

"I am like the dog's tail. I wag at your pleasure," he admitted,
and Ommony chuckled over that confession all the way to the
Residency, through crowded streets where men avoided wheels and
cantering hoofs as by a miracle, assisted to it by the coachman's
whip and objurgation that would have started riots in the West.

The Residency stood alone in sixteen acres of flowering shrubs
and immemorial trees, surrounded by a low stone wall--a palace
set aloof, an extraterritorial embassy, assigned to an individual
whose mission is to watch the nearly independent ruler of a
native State and act as communicating link with the British Raj.

There are States where the Resident is kept keyed up until he
dies of too much physical and mental strain, collapsing like an
overloaded fuse, and is replaced by a new one on less salary. And
there are States, as this one, where a man goes for reward, or to
be shelved because of inefficiency too vague to be punished by
retirement home.

A few reports, occasional telegrams, a visit now and then
to the central government to satisfy the lords of pigeon-holes
that all is as it should be in the outer marches;  that,
quail-shooting--and a lot of morphia between-while was Gould's
routine. And in his friend the doctor's absence he was prone to
overdose himself, fearing abscess and loathing loneliness more
than the poison's aftermath.

Gould was a flaw in the machinery, overlooked by the most alert
bureaucracy on earth because no strain had hitherto arisen to
test his weakness. Now the strain had come he was _hors de
combat_--useless--worse, an obstruction in the way.

Ommony stormed at the chuprassi on the porch, swearing it was
rank indecency to keep a diwan at the door. The menial admitted
it; but the burra sahib was ill; orders were to admit nobody and
to accept no messages. The door was not locked; Ommony noticed
that. He returned to the carriage, helped the diwan out, and,
shoving the chuprassi to one side, strode in.

"But this is an offense," the diwan objected.

All his innate sense of courtesy was aroused with a new and not
vague fear of consequences.

"Come on!" Ommony answered, and the diwan came forward in the
wake of swift decision.

Servants interposed themselves on the stairs, but Ommony, with
the diwan leaning on his arm, strode on up, thrusting them aside,
offering no explanation. They would not tell him which Gould's
bedroom was, but he found it by opening door after door until he
came on a locked one and kicked that in.

Gould lay in buttonless pajamas on a tousled bed beneath a punkah
that had ceased to swing, unshaven, staring at the two intruders
with eyes whose pupils were reduced to pin-points, conveying only
mirage to the poisoned brain behind. He muttered unintelligibly.

"Wake up!" commanded Ommony, and shook him.

The answer was a motion like a child's sleep resenting to be
disturbed. Ommony caught the diwan's eye.

"Witness this," he said.

Then he shook Gould again. No use. The man's intelligence was out
of reach.

He went to the cabinet on the wall, chock full of patent
medicines, old hypodermics, bottles--threw half of them out
impatiently--found an emetic and forced a dose of it down Gould's
throat that would have changed the routine of a mule's inside
economy. The floor beside the bed grew horrible and the diwan
clucked compassion. Gould's absent wits, recalled by violence,
began to glimmer across the gulf between illusion and reality.

"Wake up!" Ommony commanded.

Intuitive caution came to the aid of the weakening drug and Gould
affected a lapse, too dazed to understand anything except that
silence possibly was safest. He moaned to awaken pity, and
instead was shaken, pinched, slapped, taken by the neck and
raised up--made to face reality whether he chose to or not. At
last his lips mumbled some sort of question.

"I'm Ommony of the Woods and Forests."

"Go 'way, damn you!"

"This is the diwan."

"Too ill t' see him!"

"There's a crisis. Can you handle it? There's--"

"Gimme a shot, old fellow, will you? Stuff's in that--"

"Listen!" Ommony commanded. "Some one must wire. The Maharajah's
life--yours--mine--the very State's in danger. Insurrection any
minute. Get up and take charge!"

"Ill, I tell you! Go 'way! Who are _you?"_

"Ommony. Shall I act?"

"Don't know you! Lemme'lone!"

"I'll let you alone if you tell me to act for you."

"Go to hell!"

Gould tried to escape again into the realm of effortless
illusion. Ommony shook him until his head rolled on his shoulders
like a disconnected thing.

"Some one must act for you until the doctor comes."


The word impressed him. That was a friend, who knew how to return
him to the world he dreaded, by easy stages. Contrast of that
memory with this unease set him vomiting again.

"I'll wire for the doctor if you appoint me temporary substitute.
Make over to me," coaxed Ommony.

"All right."

Gould collapsed on the bed and hid his face among disheveled sheets.

"You heard?" asked Ommony.

"I bear witness," said the diwan.

"Good. Let's leave him."

Ommony led the way down to a large, well-furnished office, where
the official code reposed in a steel safe and a secretary was
supposed to keep official hours. There was no sign of the
secretary. Ommony sat down and wrote a telegram:

Gould seriously ill. Has made over to me. Send substitute for him
and a doctor. Rush. Grave unrest here due in part to kidnaping of
missionary Craig's wife and in part to fuel situation. Priests
are so busy trying to establish alibi that suspicion rests on
them. Troops may be necessary. Maharajah's forces possibly
insufficient. Shall use my own discretion pending arrival of
Gould's successor. Don't answer in code.

       (Signed) Cotswold Ommony (Woods and Forests)

The diwan read it over half a dozen times. He suggested changes.
Ommony overruled them.

"Why not in code?" asked the diwan.

"The priests wouldn't understand the code. Please have that sent
at once over the public wire. Then order out every Maharajah's
man available to keep mobs from forming. I represent the Raj now,
understand. I'm with you, diwan sahib--to a finish!"

"And the finish?"

The diwan looked dejected.

"What will the finish be?"

"A forest!" Ommony assured him. "More trees than in all the
neighboring States together! Courage, _mon ami!_ We win!"


_"Silence, Please, Memsahib!"_

Mrs. Craig's subsequent account of these events was tinged in its
early stages by resentment, and as to the end by mixed emotions.
Some parts of it, as prejudiced, are not worth setting down;
others, that do her credit, are withheld at her request. But the
vein of actual occurrence, in so far as it served Ommony's as yet
undeeded forest, is not difficult to trace.

No doctrine alien to her instinctive views was needed to set her
bandaging those boatmen's wounds. The dog had torn the men badly
and scared them worse, for to some imaginative folk a wound from
a hound's clean tooth is more to be feared than the filth of
their habitual surroundings. Having no other antiseptic she used
the arrack left in a bottle in the inner room, and that stung
them enough to satisfy their craving for immediate medical
treatment. Most missionary women are adepts at first-aid surgery.

"Now go to the free dispensary," she ordered. "And don't tell any
one you saw me."

So they filed out, and were met by the rest of the crew, who
added Ommony's commands to hers.

Then she sat down in the stifling room to consider her own case,
first throwing all the covers off a string-cot for fear of the
inevitable lice. She wondered why she did not feel ashamed
of herself.

She had left her husband in the lurch. He was a good, plain,
loyal fellow, who would never have left her. She did not doubt he
was already exploring all imaginable holes and corners in search
of her.

She smiled at that. It served him right, she reflected, for
having presumed to agree to her arrest on any terms.

She had never lost her native color-prejudice. Americans abroad,
with few exceptions, carry along with enormous trunks the rockset
traditions of their home; and those, for good and evil, are as
changeless as the East's conservatism, humans being human under
whatever sky.

Arrest for any sake by dark-skinned aliens, whose culture--or
lack of it--and creed she equally despised, was more unwelcome to
her than death would be. That was not affectation; it was inborn,
inbred, ingrained; and there are worse states of mind possessed
by bigots who would blame her.

For another thing, though she hardly knew it, her whole being was
in rebellion against the deadly sameness of the mission routine.
Seven long years without vacation she had devoted half her energy
to Craig's work and the other half to "improving" Craig himself,
who was as unimprovable as salt; for what he was, he would be,
true to his convictions and afraid of sin if he should venture
half a step beyond them.

In total, she was playing hooky.  She knew she should go
back--considered that inevitable. There was neither profit, pride
nor much amusement to be had from sitting in that stifling hut.
But there was satisfaction in the thought of scaring Craig, a
hope that by delay she might avoid the insolent protection of the
Maharajah's men and a great contentment in offending Ommony by
keeping his beloved dog from him. Ommony had seen through her
mask of zeal at first glance, so she hated him, as we all hate
those who discern what shams we are.

The behavior of the dog was unaccountable. After one penetrating
howl Diana had followed her into the hut without objection and
had lain in a corner, head on paws, as if listening and gathering
news by means of an unhuman sense.

Once when a heavy step drew near she had trembled, although
apparently not with fear. Then when a low voice had said one word
in the next room in an unknown tongue, the dog had yelped and
whined. The sound of some one clucking with tongue in his teeth
had stopped the whining instantly.

Once after that she had whined, but the low voice of some
young fellow crooning just under the window seemed to provide
all the consolation necessary. Mrs. Craig tried to look out
of the window and discover who the comforter might be, but
he was too close to the wall for observation. The crooning
continued at intervals, and the dog lay quiet but refused to
come near her when she coaxed.

Presently, what with the heat and dread of insects, she decided
to move on--perhaps to look for Craig--she would decide that
point presently. She tried the door, but could not move it; not
all her strength and weight could make the least impression on it.

She went to the window, but that was built into the wall and
guarded on the outside by iron latticework. Only part of it was
glazed, so she called through it in a low voice. The crooning
that had comforted the dog ceased, but there was no other response.

She laughed--at herself. So this was the outcome! Seeking to
avoid arrest, she had simply walked into the trap set by the
Maharajah's men! She might have known Orientals would use
underhanded means. No doubt whichever way she walked they
would have simply closed a door or a gate on her. Her actual
whereabouts was immaterial to them provided they had her trapped
and under observation.

But what brutes! What a cell to keep her locked in! She thought
of the Black Hole of Calcutta, and that brought all the calmness
of her inborn courage to the surface.

No sense in beating like a bird against unyielding bars! She
would rest and reserve her strength! She took the remainder of
the arrack, wiped each stick and string of the bare cot, and
lay down.

Then the crooning began again, and she was sure a spy had been
set beneath the window, who perhaps could see her through some
undiscoverable cranny in the wall. All that puzzled her after
that was why the dog should like the crooning so and should
decline her own proffered caresses.

She lay so long that she almost fell asleep, and had no idea what
time it was when some one knocked and the great hound, with every
hair bristling, sprang at the door ready to do battle the minute
it opened. Elsa struggled with all her might, tugging at scruff
and collar, but she could not drag the dog away. Nor had she any
kind of rope, nor anything to fasten a rope to that would have
held for an instant.

But the crooning resumed under the window, interspersed with
unintelligible speech. Diana went back to her corner and lay
down, head on paws as formerly, still growling like a volcano
making ready to erupt, but offering no more fight. More mystery!

"Come! But you must take your own chance with the dog. I can't
hold her!" she called in English.

She expected the Hindu officer who had always been at pains to
show such guarded insolence. But in came two men whose ivory skin
showed between the folds of garments more like Brahman priests'
than soldiers'. She was not sure of it, not having mastered all
the intricacies of caste and costume, but she was nearly sure
they were priests or temple acolytes. She could see six more
behind them waiting in the other room.

They smiled, saluted her, made gestures that invited her to come
with them; in fact, were not uncivil in the least; and, strangest
of all, they took no notice of the dog, who growled as if thunder
quickened in her lungs. Undoubtedly the crooning outside the
window kept the dog from attacking them; but how did they know
they were safe? They had no weapons she could see--no means to
defend themselves against flashing teeth; yet they were so
supremely confident they did not even turn heads to look.
Mystery again!

She decided to follow without protest. The dog submitted to be
led by the collar, and she signed to the two to lead the way. But
they stood aside for her and looked to make sure there was
nothing of hers they should carry. The six in the outer room,
with evident respect, but no trace of hesitancy, formed up around
her, two ahead, one on either hand, two behind, and marched out
into the open.

She saw the boatmen, some now wearing the unbleached calico
bandages of the free dispensary. They all salaamed sheepishly in
a group under the wayside trees, but made no other comment. The
two men who had first entered the room brought up the rear
of the strange procession, and at a little distance behind
them a young man followed whom she suspected of being the
author of the crooning.

She knew then by the declining sun that it was nearly five
o'clock, and discovered, too, that she was hungry. She thought of
Joan of Arc being led to the stake by priests, and smiled, by no
means afraid of laughing at herself.

Romanticism, though it forever made appeal, was an element she
had turned her back on long ago. She mocked it, for like the U.S.
Senator it was part of the might-have-been. She assured herself
there was no romance in her existence.

She tried to feel matter-of-fact. There were crows on the wall
that cawed impudently. Overhead the kites wheeled ceaselessly
against a pure blue sky. A pariah-dog glimpsed Diana's shape
between her escort's legs and fled incontinently. The wheels of a
bullock-cart were creaking, and the driver's agonized invective
grated on her ear. All was as usual except that she, Elsa
Maconochie Craig, was walking a prisoner in the midst of Brahman
priests, perhaps within a stone's throw of her husband!

She decided to scream at the first profitable opportunity, and
conserved her breath meanwhile.

But humdrum opportunities had ceased. It was a day of baffling
unexpectedness. Out of the boatmen's sight, behind a godown that
projected into the alley, one of her escort threw a sheet over
her head, another wrapped it deftly, and a third, using English,
offered sharp advice, with his mouth two inches from her
muffled ear.

"Make no outcry! Obey us! We will gag you if you scream! Be wise!"

They had not hurt her. They had not touched her more than
necessary. They did not seize her hands, which were free beneath
the colored cotton sheet. And it was a clean sheet; it did not
even smell offensive! They had hardly frightened her, but that
may have been because of her iron courage.

Knowing they were eight to one, she decided not to try to resist
them, just then at any rate. But she wondered why the dog did not
offer fight; she had let go the collar in the first instinctive
struggle with the sheet, and did not even know where the dog
had gone.

Naturally, now she could not be aware of Ommony's dog-boy with both
arms around Diana's neck engaging the hound's whole attention.

She heard a door open, remembered she had noticed it in the midst
of a short, otherwise blind wall between two locked godowns, was
led through, heard it slam and lock behind her, and felt herself
pushed against the tail-end of a wheeled conveyance of some kind.

"Get in, please!" said the same voice that had cautioned
her previously.

Again no violence was offered--no unwelcome aid. They let her
grope her own way. Two men followed; then a third. She heard
Diana leap in and felt the hound's head on her lap.

She guessed she was in an old-fashioned covered ox-cart with her
back to the corner by the curtained front end. In a moment more
she knew it, for the driver cried aloud and the wheels creaked.

Then interminable bumpings at a snail's pace over cobbled streets
and unpaved roads that wound to right and left, leaving behind at
last the noises that told of town life and fording narrow streams
occasionally, where men seized hold of the wheels to help the oxen.

"Where am I being taken?" she asked once through the all-concealing
yellow sheet. But the only answer came from the same man who had
spoken twice before.

"Silence, memsahib, please!"

If they had treated her disrespectfully she might have made their
business troublesome--might have obliged them to play their hand
to the utmost and commit themselves to violent handling of a
missionary's wife, for which there would be stern accounting
afterward. But they did not.

The three men sat apart from her. She thought she could feel
their eyes, but never a hand approached. So she sat still,
listening to the wheels, the soft thud of the oxen's feet, and
the tramp of the remainder of her escort marching alongside
and behind.

She felt the gloom within the car grow darker and guessed the
hour of sunset; but the cries of the driver continued, and the
wheels bumped on, it seemed forever, until she could have wept
from very weariness. But she was not of the weeping kind--took
pride in that, and comfort from the pride.

It was probably after nine o'clock when she reached her destination.
There at last they took the sheet away when the ox-cart halted
before a gate under an arch, whose outlines were almost indeterminable
in the gloom.

Again the men's politeness disarmed her. They appeared no whit
ashamed of having carried her off, but bent on showing her all
deference, and their salaams were manly, not the cringing sort
she was accustomed to. They stood on the brick steps of a porch,
four on either hand, saluting as if she were a captured empress.
Iron in her character insisted on her going forward up the steps
with no fuss and no questions asked.

She was a prisoner after their own hearts. They brag of her,
those stalwarts, to this day.

The bronze-barred door swung open, and she passed in, hearing it
clang behind, but never turning. So imperially, looking straight
before her, Elsa Craig entered her prison, staring up beyond
the arch, between sentinel trees, at stardust swimming in a
purple sky.

She was in fairyland!

And she was glad to be alone! Craig, had he been there, would
have spoken bitterly of images of gods that smiled benignly amid
shrubbery, as if they were hiding to play games. She didn't care
if they were idols. She loved them. They were beautiful.

There were fountains that tinkled and splashed music, even at
that hour. The air was moist and cool. An old, old servitor
advanced and, beckoning, walked down a brick path between verdure
trained to grow in sequences as rhythmed as string symphonies.
The scent of flowers and shrubbery arose and waned in obbligato
to a melody of form. They skirted a lotus pond in which, between
the lordly, lazy fronds reflections of stars reshone like jewels
buried in the pool, and in their dim, calm light the meditative
image of Jinendra sat.

They came to a house of marble as appealing to the eyes as are
those ancient little temples that stand aloof wherever mystic
worshipers have dwelt--all pure--each true line drawn by one who
knew his life was neither this nor that thing but eternity.
Candlelight within made peace, so prisoned in the stone, appear
alive and welcoming.

The rays of a rising full moon touched the edges of the roof,
redrawing man's concrete masterpiece in liquid silver. Elsa
gasped. The old manservant, saying not one word, but beckoning as
if he, too, felt the inspiration of the place, led on.

They approached the house, he ever turning to be sure she
understood, up marble steps in which tree-shadows in irregular
design lay as if each touch of purple had been drawn in place by
Him who rules the symphonies.

As in a dream one passes disconnectedly from phase to phase, she
found herself in a chamber where moonlight through the open
window shone on a table spread for her--rice, bread, milk,
honey--things that men may eat without accepting the role of
executioner--not interfering with the karma of the beasts.

In a chamber next to it were clean clothes laid on a spotless bed
of hand-wrought sandalwood. A woman older than the man made signs
to her to change into the comfortable dress of a Hindu lady of
rank--loose, lovely stuff embroidered richly, yet as simple in
design as all true art.

She laughed. She needed that. Hitherto she was intruding. Now,
bathed and rearrayed, she was no harsh discord but a new, strong
note in harmony. The mirror, held by the old woman, told her that.

How Craig would have scorned!

The meal, with the old attendant silent behind her chair,
was like supper before sailing into new dimensions. It dawned
on her intelligence how mean and narrow is the Western view
that mentions heathen in the same breath with ancient culture.
She could doubt Christianity in that hour, along with all
her educated notions, excepting one--she was still white,
and American.

"Who built this place?" she asked in the dialect.

And as she spoke a bulbul piped his anthem to the rising moon.

"It was always here," said the old attendant.

"Who owns it?"

"The diwan sahib--now."

"Who formerly?"

"The diwan sahib's wife."

"But she has been dead for twenty years. Who lives here now?"

"None, save caretakers."

"Does the diwan sahib never use it?"

"Seldom. At times his honor comes to observe that all is as it
was when she lived, for she loved the place. He planted and
adorned it for her summer-house, building the high wall about it
for her greater peace. She was a holy woman, and he loved her
more than all else. Here she would come to meditate; and here
she died.

"The diwan sahib gave orders to us to preserve all things as they
were when she enjoyed them. And we also loved her. Therefore
the command is easy of fulfilment, and the diwan sahib finds
no fault.

"The fish in the pond are fed. None harms the birds. The
gardeners pull weeds. None enters, save the diwan rarely. The
memsahib is the first since she died."

"Why am I here?"

The question came to her lips unbidden, and was out before she
could restrain it.

"None knows. The order came this afternoon. The diwan sahib sent
word over his seal that your honor is to be treated in all things
as she, the diwan sahib's wife, was, save only that your honor
may not pass beyond the wall, nor may you receive guests."

"Then I am your prisoner?"

"The diwan sahib said you are his guest."

"I wasn't a willing guest."

"Whatever the memsahib wishes is an order, saving only the key of
the gate."

She went out and walked in moonlight--watched and marveled
at her own reflection in the lotus-pond--heard the liquid
bulbul note that is Nature's effort to explain the gist of
hope; and a great contentment grew on her. She began to wish
Craig were there, believing it would move him too, to a mood
more mixed with tolerance.

That set her thinking about Craig, and her own new tolerance shed
kinder light on him. She saw the manliness of his erect and
incorruptible pugnacity--the boy's heart that had borne him
storming to the Maharajah in the face of what would have
discouraged most men--the conviction, too rock-hewn to be altered
by even her seven-year siege.

She found she could excuse a deal of narrowness for sake of
that steadfast honesty, mistaken often, but, unlike her own,
uncompromising. There, where she stood in moonlight, at a
distance, she condoned his passionate regard for bricks and
straw--discovered that, even if he thought otherwise, they were
only landmarks he had set up on a hard trail. And now they were
all to be reset. She would help him!

Suppressed intelligence awoke in Elsa Craig that night and
mellowed her--until she thought of Ommony. She hated him! Which
led to a belated recollection of the dog. She wondered what had
happened to Diana, and who had fed her. Had she gone away again
with those men? If so, the men must be Ommony's, or otherwise
Diana would have rebelled. Yet--supposing they were Ommony's, why
had the hound shown fight when they first appeared, only to be
calmed astonishingly by the crooning and gibberish of somebody
under the window?

She could not make head or tail of it as she strode with hands
behind her along brick paths between the peaceful trees. The
old attendant followed--silent as another shadow--keeping his
distance unobtrusively. It was no use asking him. He had probably
never heard of Ommony.

She wearied of the problem, and discovered then that she was
weary in every atom of her being. So she returned and went to bed
on a mattress stuffed with rose-leaves, shaken into utter
softness by the old woman who attended her.

The last waking thought she remembered was of peace and the
breath of sandalwood. But her dreams were of Ommony, whom she
detested even more in that realm of illusion than she had
done waking.

He appeared in the form of a ghoul with a great magnifying-glass,
through which he scrutinized her, nodding as he analyzed in all
its naked ugliness the pride, ambition and hypocrisy compounded,
that he told her was the essence of her being! She woke up three
times screaming at him that he lied, and each time the old woman
brought her cooling drinks.


_"Sir William Molyneux Will Blame Your Priests!"_

What Ommony hoped for was really the inevitable. Reactionaries
always make mistakes, counting on what were possibly good tactics
yesterday to force the issue of today, like those who shoot
behind the moving mark.

On the heels of Ommony the priests' spies nosed and listened for
the news. But they themselves were news. Public knowledge that
the priests had plans afoot made countless other eyes and ears
alert, and the spies were watched more closely than they looked
out for Ommony. Accordingly when men, a move and several hours
too late, invaded the alley where the boatmen lived, there were a
score of hangers-on who overheard and oversaw what happened.

It was known to the priests that the diwan meant to imprison Elsa
Craig for her protection. They supposed it done. They approved
that and, as Ommony intended that they should, had heralded
intention as a fact, denouncing the diwan to the mob for hiding
the woman and being influenced by her behind the scene.

But Craig, rushing from his ruined mission compound to the
diwan's office--thence, in the diwan's absence, to the taciturn
police, demanding where his wife might be and trumpeting fear
broadcast--had advertised to the priests the possibility of some
miscarriage of arrangements. Craig ought to have known where his
wife was. They wasted three hours speculating and conferring.

Then a minor spy sent word, shoulder over shoulder with the speed
of relay signaling, that Ommony and the boatmen had had speech.
So half a dozen master-spies were sent, for the sake of overawing
numbers and the advantage of a checked account, to dredge out
the boatmen's information. And they were so proud of being
Parumpadpa's agents that they made no secret at all of what they
were but swaggered to the rendezvous all six together.

"What said Ommony sahib?" they demanded.

"Nothing. He came for his dog."

"Where is the dog?"

"She bit some of us and went away."

"Where is Ommony sahib?"

"Who are we that we should know? He came and he went."

The hangers-on were crowding close. The spies became impatient.
The boatmen, with Ommony's promise to befriend them recent in
their ears, admired the notion of showing priests' spies the
worst of it before an audience.

"Did he ask where the memsahib of the mission is?"

"He asked where his dog is, saying nothing else."

It began to be clear to one of the boatmen that misinformation
would die stillborn unless brought forth voluntarily. Scorn of
the priests' intelligencers and the simpleton's joy in intrigue
compelled speech.

"Ha-ha!" he bawled out for the audience's benefit. "If he sought
the memsahib of the mission, he should have asked you, not us!
Lo, she hid in that house. Priests came and took her. We know
that, for we all stood here beneath these trees and watched!"

In vain the boatmen were reviled. They stuck to the tale,
refusing to change a word or to attempt an explanation. Threats
were thrown away on them.

"We know not why she hid in there, nor where she is. Priests
came, and they took her. We are boatmen . . . honest men!"

"Ye are liars!" said the spies; but that was small use.

The news was out. The unbidden audience, increased by the
boatmen's shouts to nearly a hundred, was delighted. Whatever
they might think of Parumpadpa--the opinions of him were
mixed--they all conceded to the priests a near-divine omniscience
in dealing with intrigue. The priests themselves had busily
instilled that superstition.

So, faster than the spies decamped to bear the incredible
information, the audience dispersed through different streets to
brag of what they knew.

"Parumpadpa has carried off the missionary's wife and hidden her!"

"Parumpadpa was too clever for the diwan! He forestalled him! He
sent his men to seize the missionary's wife!"

"They throttled her!"

"She lies in a crypt beneath a temple, none knows exactly where!"

"She is to be eaten alive by rats!"

Each version of the tale found believers, and the boatmen, strong
in their faith in Ommony, but not so sure now of his exact
instructions, confirmed everything, inventing new versions of
their own.

"The priests told us to steal the new god Dhai Enna, who came in
the form of a big dog and was enslaved by Ommon-ee."

That resembled many an Indian story of the gods on earth, passing
muster easily among the ignorant.

"The memsahib of the mission also wanted to steal Dhai Enna,
because she is against all gods and sought to kill this new one.
So the priests took both of them, and that is all we know."

Public opinion, perennially instructed, had it that the priests
were forever behind and in advance of every new turn of affairs.
That "the priests think, then the diwan moves" was a proverb.

It was plausible, and even likely, that the priests should have
forestalled the diwan's action. They had done that frequently in
the memory of all who followed events with discernment.

So within the hour the city's humor changed from irritable anger
to excited guessing as to what the other side would do. In vain
the priests sent broadcast contradictions of the story. Those
were taken for official fibs intended to deceive the enemy. The
man in the street was on the inside this once, and the more the
priests denied it, the more implicitly the mob believed.

Long after dark those who could struggle past the cordon of
Maharajah's troops swarmed around the guest-house because some
one said the diwan was in there conferring with Ommony. And none
needed to tell the old diwan why they came; he had all the news
by telephone.

And hot-foot through the sweating cordon and the clamoring mob,
with shouts of "Tar! Tar!"* that made even that throng yield
a passage for him, came a messenger in loin-clout and khaki
jacket. [* Telegram]

"Tar for the diwan sahib!"

It was perfect--better than a play or than the tales men listen
to of evenings. Verily the gods all had a hand in this! Events
were on the anvil. Siva the Destroyer was evolving out of Siva
who creates.

"Now watch!"

But it was too dark then to see from the top of the wall, and for
fear of soldiers none dared penetrate within the guest-house
grounds to see the diwan, _vis-à-vis_ to Ommony on the veranda,
tear open the envelop and sign for it. His hands were trembling
so he could hardly read the penciled message. But Ommony chuckled.

The paper bore the marks of sweating thumbs, and was even
crumpled. In all likelihood a copy of it was in Parumpadpa's hand
that minute:

Cotswold Ommony accredited as temporary acting substitute for
Gould, who is withdrawn on the ground of illness. His Majesty's
Government regard with grave concern report that priests are
suspected of responsibility for disappearance of Mrs. Craig.
Please send motor-boat to railhead to meet Sir William Molyneux,
who is proceeding on today's train to take over Residency.
Pending his arrival please accord Mr. Ommony all privileges and
assistance in tracing Mrs. Craig, who has His Majesty's
Government's official recognition.

He passed the telegram to Ommony, who squealed delight.

"That's 'Brass-Face' Molyneux! A damned fine fellow, but the
hardest nut in the bag. They keep him for emergencies. It was he
who horse-whipped Rajah Kutch Dowlah--"

"He deserved worse," said the diwan.

"Yes, but nobody but Brass-Face would have dared. It saved a
massacre. Now--"

"You see I am to help you find Mrs. Craig," the diwan interrupted,
judging that no time for reminiscences.

"Go ahead. Help me."

"We know where she is!"

"The priests don't. The wire doesn't say where we're to find her."

The diwan stroked his beard, but his kind old eyes grew terrified.
Not for amusement had he fought the priesthood during thirty
intriguing years. He knew the depth of their ability to wreak
havoc and avoid responsibility.

"My friend--"

"I accept full liability," said Ommony. "They'll break me on the
wheel if this fails. I promise to absolve you."

"But isn't it the easiest thing to answer that telegram and say
Mrs. Craig is safe and sound?" the diwan objected. "Then let Sir
William Molyneux--"

"Come and wonder what the stew was all about, eh? Brass-Face is
no diviner of subtleties. You'll get no trees. The priests will
have scored. They'll lay the whole blame to the missionaries.
Brass-Face will insult Craig--he hates the tribe."

"You'll be superseded. Your successor will be nominated by the
priests. No, sahib, we've got to win this main!"

The diwan nodded. He was as clay in the hands of this man. No
sooner was he nervous than the memory of something he had seen
Ommony do brought back confidence.

"What then?" he asked, his eyes resuming their accustomed
brown placidity.

"It's Parumpadpa's move next," Ommony answered. "He's sure to do
something imprudent. The crowd's in no mood for--"

"Very nearly out of hand," the diwan answered. "Hear them!"

Over and through the trees surrounding the triangle on which the
guest-house stood a gradually rising uproar increased and waned
as if from two sides centers of commotion were approaching. It
was hard to distinguish between rage and exultation, but it
seemed as if the two elements were mixed. And in among the din
the shouts of troopers and their officers ordering the crowd back
subtracted nothing from the tumult.

Anger and adulation slowly separated into vortices, approaching
separate gates at angles of the grounds, and they could hear
the troopers leave one party to care for itself and go to
the rescue of the other. Then through both gates mounted men
entered galloping.

"Parumpadpa sends his emissary demanding audience!" said the
first man.

"Craig sahib asks admittance!" said the other. Ommony caught the
diwan's eye and nodded twice.

"Admit both!" the diwan ordered.

Neither spoke while the difficult business of letting the right
ones in and keeping out unauthorized intruders was under way.
Advice at the last minute to the man who must take the reins
distracts. Then nothing but assurance of strong support is of the
least use, and that is best done without words. The diwan felt
aware that whether he should play his hand supremely well or make
mistakes, he could count on Ommony to help face consequences,
some men having the gift of conveying that assurance silently.

First came Craig, alone, white-suited, striding like a phantom up
the graveled drive, hat in hand and brushing sweat with three
fingers from his forehead.

"Mr. Ommony! Your Excellency! Can either of you tell me where my
wife is?"

He spoke the instant his foot was on the veranda and approached
their corner with one hand on the rail as if grateful for
something to lean on. Ommony rose from his chair and pushed Craig
into it.

"Thank you. I'm tired out. I've searched every conceivable place
she might have gone to. Your boatmen, Mr. Ommony, tell me priests
have carried her off. They assured me that one of our converts,
John Ishmittee, saw it happen; but he has disappeared. Now the
crowd say the same thing. I'm afraid--"

"Not you!"

Ommony spoke abruptly. The old diwan was too aware of sympathy to
trust himself; it was not his way to cause unnecessary anguish.
But Ommony was like a surgeon with a sharp knife, daring for the
sake of what he saw beyond.

"Sit down here. Wait and see. Have you eaten?"

Over Craig's protest he called for sandwiches, and those arrived
simultaneously with Parumpadpa's emissary--Jannath--none
less--sent that he might be blamable if plans miscarried, since
it had been he who first proposed them.

Jannath, rather puffy-faced and ivory-pale in the lantern-light,
stood on the path below them with the official meekness and
abominable pride so blended as only a Brahman can accomplish. He
would not set foot on the veranda lest its touch defile his feet,
and he waited for the diwan, who was not a Brahman, to salute
him first.

The diwan accorded him the superficial gesture of reverence and
mumbled request for a blessing that Brahmans accept perforce when
deeper homage is refused. Jannath, equally perfunctory, responded.

Then for the space of a minute there was silence, broken only by
Craig's munching at a sandwich that annoyed the priest until his
eyes blazed indignation. It was not cow-meat between the bread,
but Jannath chose to suppose it was.

"What good fortune brought you here?" the diwan asked at
last politely.

"Parumpadpa sent me. He demands to know why you have told the
people that the missionary's wife is in our hands. We know
nothing of her."

"I said no such thing," the diwan answered quietly.

"Then whence the tale?"

The insolence was perfect, but the diwan knew the uselessness of
letting that draw fire. His voice was gentle and his manner
almost deferent:

"You priests know better than I whence rumors spring. By coming
you have saved me from going to ask you that very question. Where
is she? Whence the rumor?"

"We know nothing of her!" Jannath answered with disgust.

Craig left his chair suddenly, gulping the last of a sandwich,
and leaned forward over the rail to peer into Jannath's face.
Behind his back Ommony caught the diwan's eye.

"He can only do good," he whispered.

"If you priests don't know where my wife is, at least you can
find her if any one can," he said, speaking the language fluently
enough but with a Western idiom that made the reasonable
statement ring doubly offensive in the priest's ears.

Jannath stood like an insolent image in painted wood, ignoring
him; and that offended Craig much worse than hot retort.
He resumed:

"I've never harmed you. Repeatedly I've offered to be friendly.
All the return I've ever had has been unfair accusations and
malignant lies about my converts. I believe you priests were at
the bottom of that elephant business. I believe you know where my
wife is.

"If you priests kept your hands off her for reasons of policy,
nevertheless I'm sure you know what happened. Indirectly, at
least, if not directly, you're responsible for her disappearance.
I demand her back at your hands!"

He paused, not for breath, for he was quite unconscious of
himself, but to watch for the effect on Jannath, whose face
remained as stolid as an idol's. Not for any inducement in the
world was Jannath willing to appear to recognize before witnesses
this enemy of all his kind.  Craig, used to unresponsive
audiences, came at him again, leaning forward, as it were with
both hands on a pulpit-rail.

"Now I'm a Christian. You hate me for it. That's the offense in
your eyes for which you've visited this cruel wrong on me. But
I'll prove to you here and now what Christian ethics are. No
vengeance. No, not even punishment if you'll reverse yourselves.

"Give me my wife back unharmed, and I'll ask the diwan and the
British Government to take no steps against you. Now, tonight, I
want her at your hands!"

Jannath remained motionless--ivory-white insolence--the flickering
lamp-light exaggerating the scorn of his proud lips. Craig knew
he had made no impression and searched his magazine of arguments
for anything that might penetrate the priest's chilled armor.
He rightly judged an appeal for pity would be of no use;
thought of threats, and, as his bearing betrayed, discarded
those for the moment; then recalled that his own agitation
for forestry would have depleted temple revenues if successful.

Perhaps that was all the trouble. If so--he would not yield on
any point of principle; but the financial argument--

"If you return my wife unharmed to me tonight I will withdraw my
claim for the damage done to my mission buildings. I will not
retaliate. There shall be no consideration on my part of revenge."

"You hear him?" asked the diwan.

They both might just as well have spoken to the empty air. The
priest refused to acknowledge by word or gesture that he was even
conscious of Craig's demand. But the diwan seemed encouraged. He
moved in his chair with a chess-player's suddenly born activity
and read the telegram aloud, translating it for Jannath's benefit.

"You see," he said, "the British Raj is interfering. They accuse
you priests. When Sir William Molyneux comes there is no knowing
what will happen. It is best to have Craig memsahib found before
he arrives."

"We know nothing of her!" Jannath insisted hotly.

"Be advised by me," the diwan answered. "Tell Parumpadpa to
produce her before Sir William Molyneux arrives. They say he has
scant respect for Brahmans."

For sixty breathless seconds Jannath dwelt on his retort, his
face immobile but his eyes ablaze with energy that burned in
the subtle brain behind them. But he reserved his subtlety
for future use.

"The people threaten insurrection!" he said meaningly.

"Sir William Molyneux will blame you priests," the diwan
answered. "Therefore it is to your advantage to calm the
populace." Discovering strength where he had looked for weakness,
Jannath cut short the interview, turning without another word and
striding away magnificently, followed by attendants who emerged
from shadows as if they were secret-service men to protect him
against the diwan's treachery; instead of being Parumpadpa's
spies intent on taking back an absolutely true version of what
took place. Parumpadpa knew better than to trust to Jannath's
sole account.

The crowd at the gate roared jubilantly as the Brahman appeared
and the troopers forced an opening for him. Some of them looked
for a hint that would have laid the city at their mercy; none
expected less than an assurance of great doings presently.

But it may be that Jannath's face betrayed no optimism, or
perhaps his followers, who had heard what passed, dropped words
of caution here and there. It happened at all events that
Jannath's progress through the mob was marked by lessening
clamor, and within ten minutes of his leaving all the lined-up
troopers sat their mounts at ease with only a dwindling crowd to
watch. Then--

"We win!" said Ommony, reaching for cigars.

"You mean?" demanded Craig.

"Trees, fellow; trees!"

"My wife--"

"You'll have her back."

"You think Parumpadpa can produce her?"

"He must!" answered Ommony. "Brass-Face Molly is no long-range
diplomatist. His reputation goes before him, and his trail is up
and down the land. They know he'll fight without gloves. They'll
produce her before he gets here if they have to make a new Eve
out of Adam's rib to do it! Bed! The prescription for you is bed,
my friend. Come on, I'll show you to your room."


_"Obey the Priests!"_

"Emergency and Heaven are the same thing--there is no night
there," said Ommony, grinning, returning to the veranda. "Poor
Craig's in hell. I gave him a dose of sulphonal. How about you,
diwan sahib? Tired?"

"With a weariness none could guess who hadn't a throne and a
people's destiny to watch. These old bones are all but ready for
the dissolution. Months, a year or two perhaps, then rest. None
meanwhile if there is duty."

"Well, there is," said Ommony, and sat down facing him.

The diwan waited. It was likely the night would hold as much
anxiety for him as for Craig. Craig, should the drug do its duty,
would suffer no interruption, whereas he would be called to hear
every rumor. He preferred to stand the racket sitting upright.

"Those priests will make their big break now," said Ommony.


"They've two chances. The first is to find Mrs. Craig. How much
risk is there of your men letting the cat out of the bag?"

"None. None whatever. All those men are absolutely loyal. The
priests might search for a month, but they would never find a
trace of her."

"Splendid. Parumpadpa has one move then, and he's checkmate."

"Tell me, sahib," said the diwan, "why did you insist that Mrs.
Craig should change into Hindu dress?"

"For the same reason that Diana and the dog-boy are on duty.
Don't ask to know too much just yet, sahib, or you may be obliged
to lie your way out of it; that's a serious matter at your time
of life. Are you sure you made it clear to your men that they
were to order Mrs. Craig's own clothes thrown over the wall?"

"They understood. I made them repeat the instructions. I wish I
understood your object half as clearly."

"There's a hitch somewhere," said Ommony, pulling out his watch.

For a while he was silent with his elbow on an arm of the chair
and the short, crisp hair of his beard protruding through the
fingers of one hand. The other was on his knee. He was listening,
but the only sounds were the occasional stamping of a trooper's
horse, and now and then voices as the lingering remnants of the
crowd resumed stale argument.

"I'll have to go," he said after a while. "If I might do that
without explaining things that no diwan in your predicament
should know--"

"I will wait here for you, sahib."

"Thanks. That's good of you."

Ommony was on his feet when the sound that he listened for arrested
him. It was almost like a jackal's cry, not indistinguishable from
that by one unused to night notes in the wilderness. He grinned
and sat down. After a pause he whistled one note.

Presently, a shadow among shadows, making no sound, Diana slunk
across the driveway, disappearing instantly into the dark under
the veranda's protecting edge. There she whined so softly that it
was hardly audible.

Ommony snapped his fingers. The dog came stealthily up-steps and
paused when she saw the diwan. He sat still. Ommony motioned to
him to turn his head away. The instant he did that Diana leaped
and landed in the dark behind Ommony's chair, thrusting her nose
into the hand he let fall.

"When I gave orders to the dog-boy I forgot those gates might be
shut and guarded," Ommony explained. "I suppose Di jumped the
wall. That was a wonder of a jump, Di, old lady!"

"And it means?" asked the diwan.


He showed a piece of slobbery turban-end the dog had dropped into
his hand.

"It's the dog-boy's summons."

He went into the house and came out hooded in the all-disguising
cotton sheet the middle classes throw about them when they walk
abroad at night. His trousers were rolled up, and his bare feet
showed through sandals. On his head was a bunnia's turban, and
his very walk was changed to fit the new part.

"Careful, sahib!" warned the diwan. "If they recognize you--"

"Risks are for the rashly wise to run," laughed Ommony. "I need
your pass to get me by the troopers."

So--the diwan wrote an order to pass Bunnia Chirol Varma out or
in, and Ommony sent his great hound into the bedroom out of
harm's way. Then, having salaamed the diwan obsequiously, he
walked to the nearest gate with the heels of his loose sandals
rutching on the gravel and dislike of exercise written all over
him as if he were a Hindu merchant to the manner born.

He swallowed insult at the gate, as bunnias must who crave the
good-will of the military, answering abuse with meekness and
sufficient flattery.

"It is good," said he, "that we have brave men for our protection.
May many gods strengthen and bless you to preserve us from
violence and our godowns from plundering if insurrection comes!"

Some coins changed hands--the "slipper-money" due by ancient
custom from visitors to a gate's custodian, and no less welcome
to a soldier in the right recipient's eclipse.

"Would that all bunnias were as wise as that one!"

With his turban just a little to one side, as surely no man in
disguise would think of wearing it; he disappeared into the
gloom, avoiding moonlight, threading unlighted thoroughfares with
a woodsman's sixth sense of direction, and arrived presently at
the little two-room hut with a wall behind it, in the alley where
the boatmen lived. There, in the evil-smelling shadow of the
trees beside the road, he sat down and whistled softly.

No sound answered him, not even footfall, but what might have
been the dog-boy's ghost flitted across a shaft of moonlight and
squatted down beside him. Even his breathing was inaudible.

"You found the clothing?"

"Nay, Dhai Enna did. They who tossed it over the wall are fools,
moreover without conscience, making no signal. So the bundle fell
into such a tangle of thorns and rocks as snakes love."

"I waited until God made me impatient. Then I sent Dhai Enna to
make circuit of the walls, and she smelled it, where it lay so
that no eye could have seen it. And so I, naked, wrapped my
clothes on her for fear of cobras, and she brought it, leaving my
jacket among the thorns. I did not dare fetch the jacket nor send
the dog back for it, for fear of snakes."

"You shall have a new one," said Ommony.

"Nay, sahib, not a new one. The shooting-jacket with the leather
pockets that the sahib tore at the armhole when he jumped off
the elephant!"


The dog-boy thrilled in silence for a moment, then resumed:

"So I carried the bundle of clothing to the priests in the temple
of Siva as the sahib ordered. I having no jacket, they believed
my tale that I was a son of a gardener working for Bunnia Chirol
Varma at his house by the waterside. They answered they had never
heard of him, but what of that?"

"I said I had found the clothing by the water's edge and had
wondered at how excellent it was. Meaning to steal it, I had run
away. Then, fear obliging me, I had brought it back to them. I
begged them to take it and to let me go and to say nothing. But
they said much, calling me thief and what not else. One--a great
one with a snout like a dog's and the upper half of his head bald
and, as it were, swollen, said I should be kept within the
temple. But I cried no, that the gods would visit me--"

"You will be a great man some day," said Ommony.

"--and they saw I was afraid. So another said I will be given to
the police if I am found within the city. And at that I ran
crying, `No, no!' and found Dhai Enna where I had left her
hidden, and had much trouble to bring her away unseen because of
many men who watched the priests and some who saw me and wished
to question me. But I escaped them all. Only the dog broke my
hold and attacked some men who looked for me in a clump of
bamboos in a garden. They cried out that Ommon-ee must be near
and no doubt spying on the priests."

"Excellent!" said Ommony.

"So I came to this place, and sent the dog with a rag from my
turban as the sahib ordered. I shall need a new turban."

"Granted. How did you get from the place where the memsahib is
hidden to the temple of Siva? That is a great distance, isn't it?"

"There rode a fool of a peasant, much afraid of darkness, and his
horse, which was a young one, was afraid of Dhai Enna. The man
fell off and ran, crying, `Bagh!'* So I caught the horse and
rode, Dhai Enna following, and I turned the horse loose when I
came to the city." [* Tiger]

"Very good. Now bring the head boatman here," ordered Ommony.
"Be swift."

So after not much tapping on a broken pane but much whispering,
the head boatman's bulk took form against a background of purple
sky between the tree-trunks, and Ommony bade him squat down.

"Sahib, there came a priest who offered us money to leave the
city," he began abruptly, being, too, a tactician in his way.

"How much money?"

"Not enough. We receive very small pay from the diwan, but
it is every month, and we would be fools to forfeit that. He
went away to get permission to increase his offer, saying he
will return tonight."

"I think he will return with a totally different offer--perhaps a
better one," said Ommony.

The boatman's self-importance was increasing; it could be
actually felt. But watermanship breeds corollary; sly he could
be, and avaricious; but he could not help responding to bold
appeal and downright daring any more than his simple thinking
could resist intrigue. He stated his case deliberately, as he
would have faced a rising sea.

"If we should leave the city, then the sahib will have no more
hold over us in the matter of our trying to steal his dog."

It was clear enough that the offense had dwindled to extremely
small proportions in the boatmen's estimation.

"I undertook to be your friend," said Ommony. "Has that no
bearing on it?"

"But the priest who came declared the priests are our friends."

"Do you believe him?"

"Nay, he was a liar. We know that. But the priests are willing to
pay us much money perhaps."

"I'm not," answered Ommony. "I don't buy or sell friendship."

The boatman was silent for a long while. Longshore avarice pulled
tug-o'-war with the spirit of open water in his inner man. The
fact that Ommony was in disguise and obviously scheming did not
simplify the issue.

"Are we to lose the priests' money and have their enmity?" he
asked at last.

"Take it!"

"And deceive them?"

"Deceive nobody. I think the priests will come presently and
offer you money for a service and for silence afterward. Accept
the money, perform the service and keep silent.

"The priests will choose you because they already have a certain
hold over you in the matter of your idiotic boasts about the dog
and because you are the diwan's men, and they wish to make the
diwan look ridiculous; moreover, because they know it is your
business to draw the diwan's fish-nets before dawn, and there is
no other crew available that might be trusted and that knows just
where the diwan's fish-nets are."

"And the sahib will not turn his back on us afterward?"

"No. When the priests come, don't admit them to the house.
Pretend there are women in there. Talk among these trees, so I
may listen. When they have gone I will tell you whether it is
safe or otherwise to carry out their orders. Go now, and caution
the others."

Ommony moved back into the deepest shadow between the trees and
the wall, where an old, ill-smelling crate up-ended offered
absolute concealment. He tested the crate a time or two to make
sure it would not squeak under his weight and then crawled into
it, sitting motionless like a fakir meditating. The dog-boy
retreated down the alley and hid where there was no earthly risk
of discovery.

Ommony's state of mind was the hunter's who, with all the
resources at his command and vast experience of beasts' ways, has
set a trap and sits to watch it. He knew the priests were in a
quandary; knew they were alarmed at the news of Molyneux being on
the way. Was sure they were mystified by their belief that the
diwan did not know Mrs. Craig's whereabouts; expected them to
jump to conclusions, to which he had contributed by maneuvering
the dog-boy. And he staked all on one shrewd guess, that the
priests would be true to the past and, following the line of
least resistance, try to compromise the diwan and absolve
themselves in one stroke.

The risk was that it looked too easy. They might hesitate for
just that reason. But there is always a risk, and if forestry is
your religion you must be willing to take chances for it, going
to the stake if necessary, blaming yourself for failure, adoring
forestry for its success.

No Ananias holding back a sure thing for himself can win against
the forces of reaction. For the sake of trees unborn, then,
Ommony crouched in a filthy packing-case, chancing life, pension,
and preferment on one main with India's priesthood.

If he should fail--if there were insurrection--even if the
priests' hand should be strengthened as the net result, he would
have all the blame. If he should win there would be a forest
where none had been, and for himself, in course, oblivion. He
judged the scales fair enough, but wished he dared smoke; the
mosquitoes tortured him.

It was two hours after midnight--time enough to undergo the
agonies of twenty times repeated fears--before the priests came;
three, with Jannath in their midst. This time there was no
ostentation; they came adroitly along the shadows where moonlight
made splotches of dark purple hiding the pale-amber road.

The boatmen kept them waiting. There was maybe a conference
within the hut, with some one holding out for a double-cross all
round; but, if so, single views prevailed. There followed
altercation at the door, for the priests were unwilling to expose
their persons any longer in the alley for the benefit of chance
wayfarers. If there were truly women in there, let the women be
driven forth.

Noise won that argument. The priests could not afford to wake the
neighborhood, and yielded for the sake of silence.

So the boatmen all filed out, none yawning; there had evidently
been excitement enough already to drive sleep out of their
thoughts. They sat down in a group beneath the trees with the
backs of the nearest not a yard from Ommony's lurking-place, and
promptly the head boatman, acting spokesman for the group,
dispensed with inessentials.

"Have you brought the money with you?"

"Yes, but there is work to do for it. The money must be earned."

"Such work as what, for instance?"

"Oh, a little work. No danger. Nothing to fear. A little, simple
task. An act. A statement of the plain truth. And then no
talking afterward."

"Speak plainly," said the boatman. "We be plain men, not priests."

"Fifty rupees for each of you!"

"Little enough!"

"Nothing to do but take this bundle of a woman's garments with
you when you go to draw the diwan's nets. Open it at the nets.
Throw the garments in the water. Leave them long enough to let
the water soil them. Gather them again. Return; and if you should
meet one of us at the wharfside, say, `We found these in the
water.' That is all."

"And what if the police should meet us?"

"Say the same thing."

"And if we are arrested?"

"You will not be. We promise that."

The promise was received in silence. From that negative comment
the priests might draw such solace as they chose.

"We should be told the true reason for this," said the boatman
after some reflection; but the veriest child would have recognized
the bargain formula.

He wanted the money and was afraid the priests might hang back if
he agreed too quickly. Jannath saw the point. There followed a
chink of silver as a bag changed hands, and then more chinking
and much muttered counting.

"We have not said we will leave the city!" the head boatman
announced then with a note of triumph.

He considered he had scored, and sought to establish the fact.

"No need!" Jannath answered. "Lo, these two are witnesses. Ye
have the money. If ye fail now, or if ye talk unwisely afterward,
or if ye say aught except that ye found the woman's clothing in
the diwan's nets, then this will be said against you--aye, and
proven! That ye told us where the garments are, and that we paid
you to go and find them, because of a rumor that the woman has
been carried off by priests."

"Even as we saw happen!" said the boatman, off guard.

There was nearly a slip then! Ommony squirmed in his hiding-place.
Jannath possibly had not quite realized the depth of the boatmen's
conviction that they really were priests who had come to the
hut for Elsa Craig.

All that saved the day was that the money had been passed and
counted. It would hardly do to quarrel with the boatmen now and
have them perhaps go hurrying to the diwan with their tale before
steps could be taken to silence them forever.

"He who speaks rashly to his betters of things he does not
understand is a fool without profit to himself or others," said
Jannath sententiously, temporizing, seeking for a loophole; and
the proverb opened it, for of all the wisdom-adoring East,
boatmen love proverbs best.

"We be plain men, seeking only money for our work," the boatman
answered meekly.

"See to it that ye be plain men!" said Jannath, seizing on the
man's mood. "See ye talk not! I can lay a curse on you that will
kill; that will give no rest; that will bring you back to earth
in the belly of a dog, a fish, a tadpole, an insect in a
dung-heap, a snake without fangs crawling in the slime, a
vulture feeding in the cesspits--"

"Peace!" said the boatman, grinding his teeth together.

"Peace! Give a blessing!"

And the other boatmen clucked and grunted restlessly.

Jannath refrained. It may have been beneath his dignity to
squander blessings on such common clay.

"Be careful! Obey in all particulars!" he sneered, and went away
with his brother-priests on either side of him.

The boatmen sat still, watching them retreat cautiously along the
shadows; saying nothing, feeling possibly the Judas-guilt of
having traded honest watermanship for silver of the Sadducees.
But Ommony crawled out of his box and stretched himself, yawning
and then grinning. That changed the aspect of affairs.

"The sahib heard?"

"Heard everything. You nearly spoiled it."

"Shall we do this thing? What if--?"

"Obey the priests. Fulfil your bargain."

"What if--"

"I have told you. Then whatever happens, I'm your friend. If
you're arrested you shall be released."


_"To the Queen's Taste!"_

Dawn rose unlovely, yet so like preceding ones that only men in
agony of mind for their inventions knew the difference. The
morning colors were all there, the quiet, the dissipating
dawn-wind bringing in sea-sweetness; an hour of cool relief
between a breathless night and baking day, yet few to relish it.
The city then was in no mood to be caressed.

Craig came to the veranda red-eyed with a headache, and eyed
disgustedly the sloppy saucer with its cup of chota hazri tea
awash with buffalo cream. He swallowed the stuff and gasped
denatured profanity.

Ommony came out, brisk as he often was at daybreak. The great
gray hound that followed him sniffed half a dozen times upwind,
read all there was to know, yawned and lay down disgustedly.
Ommony looked at his teacup, dumped its contents over the veranda
rail, and shouted for the hamal.

"Chai!"* he demanded. "Chai, not dish-wash-water!" [* Tea]

He looked at Craig, who was pacing the corner like a schooner
captain with the reckoning confused.

"How are you?" he demanded.



Craig stared at him. He himself would have known how to be
sympathetic if the cases were reversed. It dawned on him that
this man might be worried too--perhaps had not slept.

"Mr. Ommony."

"What is it?"

Ommony paused in the act of lighting a pipe--in itself proof of
nervousness to any one who knew him; he almost never smoked until
the sun was over the high boughs.

"You are fortunate in that you have no wife to disappear in
distracting circumstances, Mr. Ommony. We all have a cross to
bear. I am glad for your sake your troubles are not as serious
as mine."

"Damned good of you!" said Ommony, recovering.

He rises to occasions like a war-horse, in the second stride. He
had to manage this man. What was worse, he had to spare his
feelings to the utmost, and yet did not dare admit him to the
secret. He stuffed the unlighted pipe into his pocket.

"Your wife will be found, Craig."

"What makes you think so?"

"Intuition. Experience. I know these people."

"I'm afraid you don't know women. Mr. Ommony, I'm nearly off my
head with self-reproach. Elsa was unhappy. A splendid, brave
woman--out of her true environment.

"I'm sorry. The admission is forced from me. I have been
unwilling to face the situation all these years; but last night,
sleeping a little and dreaming of her, waking a great deal and
turning it all over in my mind, I confess to myself that Elsa has
been bravely putting up a losing fight.

"Seven years without vacation. Too long, Mr. Ommony! Seven years
in an environment unsuited to her. Never a complaint. Yet never
any joy in her task--that true inner joy that makes willing
martyrs of some of us.

"Your arrival on the scene somehow, in some way--I'm not imputing
blame to you--brought her unhappiness to the surface. Mr.
Ommony--I hate to say it--I--"

Ommony took his arm and paced the veranda beside him, saying nothing.

"--I fear suicide!"


"I regret to say, not impossible. Her grandmother--"


"Pardon me. Her grandmother took her own life."


Craig's grief was poignant. Ommony's dilemma was at least an
equal torture. Unlike him, he began to hesitate. Had he a right
to inflict such grief on this decent fellow? Did he dare let him
into the secret? He decided to feel his way carefully.

"Suicide? What brings that to mind? Are you monkeying with
thoughts of it yourself?"

Craig stopped and faced him.

"--No, no, Mr. Ommony! A man's cross is his privilege. I will
bear mine--bravely if I can. But if I cry out I will bear it.
Elsa never cried out, until that first time when you heard her on
the roof. I'm afraid--I'm afraid--"

"The fear's the hell," said Ommony.

"Try faith."

"In my religion? I have faith."

"In her."

"Dread that she has taken her own life amounts almost to conviction."

"In me then. I believe she will be found alive and well."

Craig paused in the walk again and turned to look at Ommony with
eyes fear-hardened, almost fanatic. They burned under the bushy
eyebrows with that zeal that changes into frenzy.

"Are you drugging me, as you did last night? Do you mean to buoy
me up with false hope?"

"I suggest you wait and see."

"It has crossed my mind that you and the diwan together are
playing some deep game. With me. With my wife Elsa for a pawn,
Mr. Ommony. If I thought that--if I believed it--"

"Come on. This will relieve the pressure at least. Let's sit down
and you tell what you'd do in an imaginary case like that. What
would you do first?" Ommony suggested. "Let's suppose I--"

Craig refused to sit down. Taller than Ommony, he looked
down into his eyes and laid one fevered, lean hand on the
thickset shoulder.

"I know you would play no such trick on me. You're not a
heartless man. But if you did--if it were proven--I would never
rest until I had you out of the Service, you and the diwan both!
You would not be fit for public trust!"

"You do believe in private vengeance then?"

"Not I. But I believe in duty. In such a case as you suppose duty
would be as obvious as daylight. I would ruin you. I would make
it impossible for you ever to perpetrate such infamy again."

"You don't consider, then, that the public interest might
override private feelings on occasion?"

"Not a fair question, Mr. Ommony. Think for a moment and you will
realize it. On occasion, yes; in principle undoubtedly; in
instances of this sort, never!"

"Not only is it wrong to draw a missionary into politics, it is
ten times over-wrong to draw his wife in! I am forbidden by the
terms of my agreement with the Indian Government to enter into
politics in any way. To lend my wife to any scheme involving
local politics would be unthinkable! However, why flog imaginary
horses? We're talking foolishly."

"Yes, what's the use?" said Ommony, and sat down, fingering his
chin in discontent. Diana, aware of something wrong, got up and
came to sniff the creases at the back of Craig's knees.

"Perhaps the dog could find her? Elsa! Where is she? Go find
her!" Craig said suddenly.

The long tail waved response, but Diana would take orders from
none but two men, and from one of those only when Ommony decreed
it. She lay down, eyes on her master.

"She seems to understand! Mr. Ommony, send that dog to look for
my wife--please!"

"We might do worse," he answered. "Di, go find her!"

The hound trotted off, stern down, broke into a canter on the
driveway, bayed at the corner gate a minute or two, then, none
answering, turned and sprang over the stone wall at the third
attempt. Craig's hands as he watched were trembling, opening
and shutting.

"Man!" He turned to Ommony. "I hope! There's new hope born to me!
Elsa went off with the dog! She saw your dog in the mission
compound. She asked me to go on pitching the tent, and walked off
to speak to the dog. She was always soft-hearted with animals.
Your dog knows where she is--what happened to her! Oh, God!
Let's hope--"

"Yes, let's hope," said Ommony, aware of new developments. Craig
with his head between his hands did not see the diwan's uniformed
messenger coming up the driveway from the southern gate.

"The diwan sahib sends salaams, and will Ommony sahib please come
immediately to the office?"

"I'll walk there with you," Craig announced. "Might be news; you
never know."

Ommony could not refuse him, though he would have liked to. He
dreaded what he knew was coming, knowing he would have his work
cut out to manage the diwan and the priests without Craig on his
hands in the bargain. It was a long walk to the diwan's office,
and that was additional annoyance; he would have preferred to
ride, but Craig for some reason objected to horseback, and he
felt he owed Craig all the consideration possible.

So it was half an hour before they entered the courtyard of an
ancient palace that had long ago been converted into suites of
offices. There was bustle and activity, prevailing custom being
to begin the day's business soon after dawn and close through the
hot hours.

The courtyard was crowded. Some were the usual petitioners armed
with screeds done by the public letter-writer, but the most were
obvious partizans of the priests with the inevitable curious

"The High-Church Party," Ommony murmured, and Craig almost laughed.

There was no demonstration as they passed through the crowd, but
none the less an atmosphere of insolent anticipation.

Upstairs in the spacious place that once had been the royal
durbar-hall the old diwan sat in an office chair before a great
teak desk. Jannath, avid of high-priesthood and too proud to sit,
stood erect a little to one side, and there were priests behind
him. Over against them a policeman and two of the diwan's
subordinates stood looking worried.

On the blotting-paper on the desk lay an ominous bundle covered
with a piece of cloth. Hardly acknowledging Craig's bow or
Ommony's spoken greeting, the diwan drew the cloth back.

"Can you identify these garments, Mr. Craig?"

Craig stepped forward. One look satisfied him. He covered the
bundle with the cloth at once as if it were his dead wife's face.

"Yes, Elsa's. My wife's. Where were these found?"

"In the water! In the diwan's fishing-nets!" said a small man
from between two priests.

No priest himself, he had been brought to interpret, and as
plainly enjoyed a chance to show spleen.

"By whom?" asked Craig.

"By the diwan's boatmen!" sneered the same assertive individual.

Craig turned to Ommony.

"I warned you I feared this," he said. Then: "Has her body not
been found?"

"No," said the diwan, looking miserable, avoiding Ommony's gaze.

"That," said the priest's interpreter, "is for obvious reasons!"

And Jannath signified approval of the speech by nodding three
times gravely.

"What do you mean?" snapped Ommony.

He looked belligerent, as if it might be well to answer him.

"The clothes were found in the diwan's nets, and our contention
is that the diwan is the author of the charge that this lady
was kidnaped by the priests. We believe he knows who made
away with her.

"The clothes were thrown into the water, and he hoped they would
be found and used as evidence against us. But, you see--his own
men found them in his own nets! And in further proof that he has
guilty knowledge he has caused those boatmen to be locked up
where none can submit them to examination. They should be brought
before a magistrate."

"Is all this true?" asked Ommony, as if every word of it were
news to him.

Craig went and sat down in a chair in a corner with his head
between his hands.

Jannath whispered. The interpreter nodded like a lawyer prompted
from behind and resumed the attack.

"It is not only true, but we know it was by the diwan's orders
she was killed! We know she was carried off in a covered cart by
night. After that the diwan spread a tale that priests had done
it. So when a man came and said a woman's clothes were in a
water-way the priests paid the diwan's boatmen to go and look for
them; and the boatmen told the truth to us--"

"That's more than you've told!" Ommony interrupted with a grin.

"Our point is that Craig memsahib is dead and that the priests
are not responsible," said the interpreter, swallowing the
insult. "The facts must be made public. There should be an
investigation of the diwan's conduct--"


The amazing happened. Craig rose from his chair in the far corner
and strode over to the desk, with his own grief thrust into the
background and a fine compassion softening the hard lines of his
face. He laid his right hand on the diwan's shoulder.

"I know you would never be guilty of any such crime," he said
simply. "During seven years that you and I have known each other
you have been an honorable gentleman. I denounce the charges now
made against you as unworthy."

The diwan's eyes were moist, and he could not speak. He glanced
appealingly at Ommony.

"Good man, Craig!" said Ommony. "Wet clothes don't prove your
wife's dead."

"The boatmen have told me, not one of them faltering, that it was
priests who took her away," said the diwan struggling with
emotion. "They are locked up to prevent tampering with evidence.
They will be kept so until Sir William Molyneux arrives, after
which there shall be full inquiry. Craig sahib--"


Craig was discovering new iron in his character. He stood erect.
The patience he had lavished on the mission bricks and mortar was
forcing a new channel for itself now the old was blocked.

"If I were you I would not lose heart," said the diwan.

"Not I!" Craig answered. "You may count on me to a conclusion.
There is a motive. If these priests have made away with my wife
for the purpose of discrediting you, they will have us both to
reckon with! I'm with you! I will not believe she is dead until
it is proven. Let the whole city search for her! Offer a reward!
Make it ample!"

The diwan's eyes met Ommony's and read prodigious satisfaction there.

"From my own purse," said the diwan, "I will offer at once a
reward of rupees one thousand to whoever finds Memsahib Craig."

"Alive," Craig added.

"I'll contribute a thousand to that."

"Me too. A thousand," said Ommony quietly.

"There shall be a proclamation. Meanwhile," said the diwan,
turning to the priests and speaking in their tongue, "the
Maharajah's troops will enforce the law against rioting. Even
outside the temple there must be no assembly. I urge you before
these witnesses to use your influence to keep peace."

Jannath's puffy face for a moment lost its proud indifference.
Black anger darkened it, and to Ommony's observing eyes the
weakness of an underlying fear betrayed itself. Possibly the
vision of high-priesthood was slipping away into the never-never
land of useless dreams.

Then spite took hold, and Ommony, observing, scratched his chin.
He made a signal to the diwan.

Stately, venerably dignified, the diwan rose and left the room by
a door at the rear. Ommony glanced at Craig, who hesitated, then
knocked at the diwan's private door and followed him in.

He caught Jannath's eye. Jannath stood still. He looked straight
and curiously at the diwan's subordinates and the policeman; they
excused themselves, mumbling this and that reason for retreating
by the front way.

"We're not alone yet," said Ommony in the native tongue, smiling
at Jannath dryly.

Jannath's face did not move. He was thinking furiously behind the
mask. Every one of his entourage except the little restless rat
of an interpreter was doing the same thing, like a group of
graven images. The little man glanced sharply from face to face,
alert for his cue.

Jannath muttered something. All except the interpreter walked
out through the front door, and the doorkeeper closed it from
the outside.

"We are not alone yet!" remarked Ommony.

Jannath's face remained perfectly expressionless. Not even the
shark-eyes betrayed the least emotion. He was mastering thought
again, unlike Ommony, who was its servant, choosing between good
and bad, wisdom and unwisdom, letting intuition lead him. At the
end of a minute Jannath spoke again, and the interpreter followed
the others out by the front door.

Ommony looked under the desk, out along the ledge below the
windows, behind the big wall-map, into a cupboard partly filled
with stationery, behind a screen in a corner.

"We're alone," he remarked.

"You are an evil man--a foreigner without right here," said Jannath.

"That's a question of opinion. Time presses. We should talk of
facts," Ommony answered.

Then he baited his hook shrewdly and cast warily.

"I have you beaten," he said with an air of super-wisdom.

None more readily than Jannath would have scorned a mere show of
diplomatic trumps. But an air of super-wisdom was something that
the Brahman could not tolerate. His lip curled. Ommony looked
wiser than before and sat down.

"I've outwitted you," he told him, and the priest's thin smile
grew vague as he dallied with a dozen thoughts of how to overcome
this boaster.

"Sir William Molyneux will come and will demand Memsahib Craig
alive at the hands of you priests," said Ommony. "I know all
about the boatmen. I was there listening when you came last night
and paid them fifty rupees each. I overheard every word you said."

A look of astonishment, almost incredulity, escaped the priest's
control; but it was gone in a second.

"Parumpadpa will be in a tight place, won't he?" said Ommony
dryly. "Now if Parumpadpa had been wise enough to yield in the
matter of the revenue from cut trees all this might have been
avoided--mightn't it?"

The glare of an insane ambition leaped into Jannath's eyes. He
almost gave assent, but checked himself.

"Parumpadpa has betrayed his office. Why don't you act sensibly
and hand over Mrs. Craig?" asked Ommony.

"You know I don't know where she is!" sneered Jannath.

Ommony was no such fool as to admit his own knowledge, nor to
enter into any bargain with an utterly relentless enemy. Fish
catch themselves. That is the angler's whole art, making it look
tempting to the fish to do so.

"If I could have my way about the trees I might--perhaps--put
information in your way that--"

Enough. The hook went home.

"I will not treat with you about the revenue from trees," said
Jannath, and his eyes assumed that insolent, inscrutable,
superior stare that advertises treason in high places.

Outwitted? He had Ommony tricked two ways! He proceeded to emit a
smoke-screen for his further confusion.

"Neither you nor I know where she is--nor any one! You are an
impudent impostor!"

He drew his white garments, symbolical of purity, about him,
and without another glance in Ommony's direction walked out,
prefiguring high-priesthood in his stride. The door slammed at
his back, and after a minute the diwan came in through the
other door.

"What happened?" he asked.

"I hooked him!"

"The danger is that the priests will arouse the mob. They may
think that by killing Sir William Molyneux--"

"No fear now," laughed Ommony. "Jannath thinks he has the whole
solution in his own head. He'll restrain the orders until
Brass-Face gets here. I've managed to fool him."


"To the Queen's taste!" answered Ommony, who keeps in his inner
man a quite peculiar regard for the late, by him, for one,
lamented, Queen Victoria.


_"Think it Over!"_

That afternoon Ommony strolled down the street that leads by the
Temple of Siva. The city was strangely quiet, lulled into an
ominous unrest and doing nothing while it waited for the gods to
make the next move within a day or two. That was what the priests
had recommended busily since less than an hour after Jannath's
interview with Ommony.

In the temple portico stood Jannath, talking to his sycophants.
He had stood there for an hour, since a spy brought word that
Ommony was on the prowl; but Ommony, not knowing of that spy and
only aware of another one who dogged him, took great pains to
call attention to himself, examining old carvings on walls and
doorposts all along the street. He appeared not to see Jannath,
but continued his inspection of antiquities in that aggravating,
superciliously interested way that white men have when they hope
to prove they are not Philistines.

The moment he caught sight of him Jannath stepped into the shadow
and slunk thence into the gloom inside the temple door. He
watched. It was nearly five o'clock, so Ommony was very clearly
outlined against house walls by the westering sun. A man with a
carbine hidden under his cotton cloak stepped up beside the
priest and showed the muzzle end suggestively, but Jannath shook
his head.

"Leave this to me," he said, dropping his lower lip until all the
small, betel-stained teeth showed.

There was no objection to that. It was known Parumpadpa had
imposed on Jannath the problem of confounding Ommony; suspected
that the job was more than usually risky; well understood, too,
that Jannath was ambitious; and remembered against him that by
jealous habit he would bite the hand that helped him to success.

Jannath desired no witness. He beckoned off the spy who was
dogging Ommony about the city, and gave orders none was to follow
himself. Then when Ommony turned a corner out of sight Jannath
set out alone in pursuit.

The sycophants laughed.

"So much he thinks of dignity!" sneered some one. "Is it possible
to think of Parumpadpa acting thus?"

And they sat down in the cool shade of the portico to gossip of
the two men, taking sides, not sparing either. Ommony, with one
of those small mirrors in his hand that women carry in vanity
bags in public, began to hurry. Soon after Jannath turned the
corner behind him he pulled out his watch and made a gesture
of alarm.

Thereafter Jannath had to put best foot forward, aping dignity
how he might, while Ommony grinned to himself, as hard as nails
from perpetual exercise. He had a notion to tire his hooked fish
early in the game, and no idea of the extent of Jannath's
forethought. As they passed a great old archway that gave on
to a stable-yard an ekka* drawn by a lean, dun pony came
bumping out over the cobbles and followed the priest at a
respectful distance.

* A two-wheeled conveyance drawn by one horse

So, though Jannath was blown and angry, he consoled himself when
Ommony at last reached the clump of trees near the diwan's office
where he had tethered his horse. There was a mattress full length
of the ekka, and a cover stretched over it on iron hoops. The
priest climbed in, and lay full length.

Maybe the diwan saw through the window. Some one from the diwan's
office brought what might have been a map and handed it to
Ommony, who studied it for a minute or two, sitting horseback so
that the sun might shine from behind him over his shoulder.

Then, shoving the map, if it was that, into his pocket, he rode
away. The ekka followed, the pony loping to keep up, and if
Jannath did not grow seasick from the pitching it must have been
because he had been a sailor in a recent incarnation.

Ommony set the pace just fast enough to keep the pony loping and
the passenger worried. Time for undisturbed reflections might
make Jannath reconsider his course, because, to put it mildly, it
was risky and _infra dig_ for a priest to do his own out-of-town
espionage. There were obedient and reverent devotees by the score
who would do that kind of thing for almost nothing.

But once more Ommony had banked on the inevitable. Pickpockets,
footpads, common cheats and all the small fish hunt in schools.
Big fish, aiming to supplant the biggest, stand or fall alone.
They must. They know too much of their own treason to dare employ
an underling who might betray.

If Parumpadpa were to learn that Jannath thought he held a key to
the mystery, that key would have to be explained in council; or
at very least in the high priest's private ear, and gone would be
all hope of Jannath's using it for his own ends.

On the face of it Ommony's moves might seem connected up with
gossamer that the slightest accident would break. In fact he was
depending on known habits of his quarry, such as fishermen and
hunters use. The only risk now was that Jannath might grow
fearful on account of distance.

Even the document sent down from the diwan's office was a ruse.
Ommony needed no map. He had had full directions from the diwan,
and his woodsman's head retained that sort of information as some
minds remember limericks.

There is art in being hunted as in hunting. It required that
touch of suggestion to make Jannath think perhaps Ommony was not
quite sure of the way--a strong incentive to pursuit; ask any
hunter--and to heighten conviction that the diwan, too, knew
where Elsa Craig was hidden.

Two pigeons in one shot! If Jannath could discover her, use that
information for his own ends and also convict the diwan, he was a
made high priest! The only course left open then for Parumpadpa
would be to resign, adopt the begging-bowl and wander for his
soul's sake.

"High time!" thought Jannath, lying on his elbows, holding his
chin in both hands to offset jarring, and worrying the ekka's
driver with lay advice as to how to keep the horseman in view.

Ommony, holding that small mirror in his fist, had no need to
look behind him until darkness fell. Then, in the short, fast
deepening twilight he made believe there was a stone in his
horse's shoe, and so let the priest catch up.

When night fell, and no moon yet, he lighted a cigar and let the
glow of that serve for navigating-light, for there were no roads,
only cart-trails leading between field and field with the farmer
folk's small fires aglow at intervals.

The wonder of it was that Ommony, with only the diwan's verbal
outline and perhaps a map illegible in darkness, could lead
unerringly. Life in the forests adds that gift to a man's own
birthright--that, or, if he has no birthright, makes a beast
of him.

They splashed through fords. The priest in the ekka made nothing
of the fact that Ommony did not look round or wait to see
who followed. White men act so, riding up and down the land
all-ignorant of what is in it for the sake of a, to them,
agreeable aloofness--white men and priests. The rest wonder,
waiting on Karma, the Law of Cause and Effect that compensates
all errors in the end.

"He's as selfish and blind and exclusive as all other white men,"
thought Jannath. "Truly, whom the gods intend to ruin they insert
into a white skin!"

He, too, believed in Karma, but you have to do a lot more than
believe in it to profit by its absolute precision.

There was one incident that might have given Jannath an inkling
that he was fish, not fisherman. The ekka wheels stuck between
stones in a ford, and Ommony waited while driver and priest got
down knee-deep in the muddy stream to lift the wheel clear. He
could not afford to let them lose sight of him.

A new cigar was the excuse, but if the priest had thought at all
he might have known that the first one was hardly half finished.
Truly, whom the gods intend to ruin they make eager and ambitious,
and too sure of their own cleverness.

Not long after that the moon rose and Ommony increased the
distance between them, satisfied that he was silhouetted against
the enormous amber lantern of the sky. He could hear the
crack-crack-crack of a stick on the wearying dun, and put his own
horse to a canter presently, for he saw an outline etched with
moonlight that answered a description. It was nearly time to land
his fish.

He was a long half-mile in the lead when he came to an ancient
gate under an almost prehistoric arch, above whose gloom great
trees stood luminous in the moon's rays--but too far within the
wall to be of use to intruders. He struck on the gate a dozen
times with the butt-end of a riding-whip and then called out a
dozen words that the diwan had entrusted to him. They acted like
"Open, sesame!"

There was an answer from within, and the door swung open about an
inch for an eye to peer through. Then it shut tight. Ommony's
voice had accomplished more than one thing. Out of the dark along
the shadow of the wall a great beast bigger than a wolf came in
ten-foot leaps and landed in front of the saddle, like a devil
out of Scripture, on Ommony's lap!

"Down, Di! Down!"

Diana licked his face and whined and wriggled like a puppy,
leaped to the ground again and sprang back. Then, when Ommony
dismounted, lay down to have her feet felt over in the dark for
thorns. Ommony pulled two. There was no hurry.

The noise of the dun pony's cantering had ceased. Jannath had
dispensed with the ekka now, lest the driver share his information,
and was coming forward on foot.

Ommony calmed the dog's excitement; just one of her rare,
exultant barks might have spoiled everything. Then, with her
muzzle in his hand to make sure, he knocked on the gate again.

Once more it opened about an inch. He spoke through it, and
shoved in a sheet of paper that bore the diwan's seal. An old
voice answered him:

"Sahib, beware! There is a great beast that none ever saw before.
He-she-it is a female--has besieged this gate since morning.
I am fearful--"

"That's all right. I'm a tamer of such beasts. This one is sent
by the gods to do the diwan's bidding. See--I hold her with
one hand!"

"Now listen: Close the gate. Wait there. When I knock again three
times, open it wide! But if I speak when I knock, don't open it!"

There was no appeal beyond the diwan's orders over his seal and
signature. The old man grumbled an affirmative. The gate closed
tight, and one bolt clanged in place.

Ommony faced about to school Diana, whose fault now was eagerness.
She was willing to go forth and conquer--even to lie down and
keep still, if only Ommony were close at hand. But he planned
division of effort and did not dare raise his voice. It was
a stick that made her understand at last. She went and lay
watching where he told her to.

Ommony stayed at the gate, not still, but moving up and down
impatiently, ascending and descending the brick steps; pacing
irritably to and fro in front of it; ascending again to strike on
the gate and demand admission in the proper manner of a sahib who
can't wake the gateman.

"I tell you I've the diwan sahib's authority! Open, do you hear
me!" he shouted.

Once he had to whisper, for the old man was alarmed and wondered
what it all might mean--whether he had his orders right or had
perhaps mistaken them. But only Jannath was mistaken. He came
nearer--much too near. He had a dagger in his hand, contending
there was no least need for Ommony in this world when once the
secret of Elsa Craig's whereabouts should be betrayed beyond
all question.

Jannath avoided moonlight, kicked off his sandals, crept so close
he hardly dared breathe for fear of discovering himself. Came
closer--nearly trod on something in the dark that moved away an
inch or two--and felt the goose-flesh rise as an unseen creature
sniffed his leg! He raised the dagger instinctively. Moonlight
glinted on the blade.

"Down him, Di!" Ommony yelled, and sprang too, to save the
dog's life.

No need! Diana was as sudden as a mine exploded under the feet of
scouts in No Man's Land. The priest's heel caught in a root of
undergrowth and he went down backward with a thump.

"Hold him!" yelled Ommony.

When he reached the place at a run the priest was on knees and
one hand, swiping right and left with the dagger and jibbering
obscenity, Diana growling and dancing this and that way with jaws
going like castanets to keep him where he was. Ommony sent the
dagger spinning with a blow of the riding-whip and caught the
priest's leg, turning him over on his back, where he lay still,
breathing through his nose. There was very little said. Ommony
said all of it.

"Get up! Hands above your head! Now walk in front of me!
That way!"

Jannath obeyed, much less afraid of Ommony than of the dog, who
growled at his heels. Long intimacy with the tricks to which men
easily succumb makes Jannath's kind complacent in the presence of
_force majeure._ They know too many subtle ways of turning force
against itself. But a dog is a different matter. The corners of
Jannath's eyes were on Diana's teeth, not Ommony's riding-whip.

Not speaking, Ommony struck three times on the gate. The bolt
came clanging back. The gate opened half-timidly, as if the very
wood had grown unused to intrusion.

"Forward!" Ommony commanded; and Diana went in first to make sure
there were no traps for her master.

Instantly the priest switched round like an eel, aiming at
Ommony's eyes with the heels of both hands, with all his might.
Ommony stepped back, and the closing door caught him between the

The double blow missed, but Jannath was behind it with another
dagger snatched from inside his clothes, and again Diana saved
the night. She heard and, swerving like a wolf, snapped hold of
the dagger-wrist before the blade could quite touch Ommony.

The priest screamed, for the fangs bit bone. Ommony relieved
him of the dagger and then ordered the dog to let go. The old
gate-keeper, trembling as he barred the gate, gave tongue to
his displeasure.

"But this is all unseemliness. Here should be peace! No strife!
No quarreling! The diwan sahib--"

"Desires this!" Ommony interrupted. "Now! Where's a safe place to
lock this man up?"

"All is safe here, sahib. None can enter, none escape."

"I'll wager the rats get in and out. This priest is twice as
smart! Show me a place with no window and a floor he can't dig
through with his fingers!"

The old man led the way down a path between shrubbery and flowers
to a stone hut shaped like a little wayside temple. It was full
of gardeners' tools. Ommony pulled them all out, piling them in
confusion on the path, and asked the old man to bring water
"in something he can't use to dig a hole with." Then he spoke
to Jannath.

"You're a Brahman. Shall I dress that wrist for you?"

The laws of caste are iron--the higher, the more rigid. Jannath
hesitated. He was afraid of dog-bites.

"All right, think it over," said Ommony. "I'll think too," he
added, grinning.

Then he shut the priest in along with a bowl of water the old man
brought, padlocked the thick door himself, and put the key into
his pocket.

"The memsahib? You came to see her?"

"Presently," said Ommony. "Take her my compliments. Ask her
to be ready to receive a sahib. Let me out first. I must go
out and return."

Outside he set Diana quartering the ground, for he guessed the
priest had not come all that way barefooted. One pair of sandals
look much like the next, but there are significant small
differences, and the very last thing he wanted was a hue-and-cry.

Diana found them, and he put them in his pocket. Then he mounted
his horse and set out to find the ekka and its driver--nearly
lost both, for the dun believed Diana was a wolf and the driver
agreed with her. They went a mile before he overhauled them.

"Back with you!" he ordered. "Drive on till you come to a gate in
a wall!"

The driver obeyed, but he was wild-eyed. Once he made a jump for
freedom, but Diana caught him, and Ommony threw him back into the
ekka by the loin-cloth. After that he began to proclaim virtue,
denouncing all wicked men and calling no less than Ganesha to
witness that he never in his life harmed any one.

Why was the sahib taking him, and where? He had done no wrong.
For a very low price he had driven Jannath the priest--That was
all Ommony needed to know. He knew the priest's name. Lock and
key for him!

They came to the ancient gate, and over the old man's protests
hauled the ekka up the brick steps and under the arch. Then
Ommony brought his own horse in.

"But this is unheard of!" the old man objected. "Never were
wheels or a horse in this place! Never in her day--never since
then! It was her wish, and the diwan sahib--"

"Gave me full permission," Ommony assured him.

"It is sacrilege!"

"Leave the ekka here under the rock. Stable the horses somewhere.
Have you any grain?"

Grain was produced. There were sacks full kept for wild birds
beloved of the diwan's wife. Room was discovered for the horses
in a shed beside the granary, and the driver of the ekka was shut
in there along with them. Then Ommony returned to Jannath, having
begged first from the old gatekeeper aromatic oil, which is never
far out of reach in India.

"He will refuse it. He will say his caste forbids," the gateman
grumbled, but Ommony was in no mind to be refused.

He found Jannath glowering like Marius in a dungeon.

"Now," he began, "suppose I dress your wrist and we'll be friendly."

Jannath cursed him, without emphasis, because no fraction of the
curse was less emphatic than the rest--a venomous monotone.
Ommony seized the injured wrist and washed it while the priest,
not otherwise protesting, went on with the commination service.
Ommony tore a long strip from the priest's own clothing, soaked
it thoroughly in aromatic oil and bound it on.

"You will be a sow when the time comes!" Jannath assured
him calmly.

"Maybe. I'll try to be a good sow and bring forth prodigies of
young! Is the wrist comfortable?"

Jannath refused to answer. It was enough that he had submitted
to defilement by a foreigner. He was certainly not going to
acknowledge obligation to the impudent beast from oversea, who
had done no more than dress an injury committed by his own dog.

"Listen to me!" said Ommony. "You came to find out where Memsahib
Craig is."

The priest became suddenly alert.

"Incidentally to kill me."

The shark-eyes gleamed in the gloom of the cell, but there was
no response.

"What if I show Memsahib Craig to you alive and well? What then?"

As well argue with a mummy about metaphysics! Jannath was
intensely interested; that much was as obvious as the malicious
leer and the hate in his motionless eyes.

"Um-m-m! If I were to kick you," said Ommony aloud to himself in
English, "that might only awaken the lust for martyrdom that's in
the veins of all your kind."

Then to the priest in the other language:

"You're defiled already. You may as well wallow in defilement.
Why not come to terms with me? You can wipe it all out together
afterward in one course of holy disinfection in the temple!"

No reply--but a change behind the trustless eyes. Unyielding,
Jannath was alert for opportunity.

"I'll admit to you I'm in a mess," said Ommony. "It never crossed
my mind to use violence toward a sacred personage. How should I
have known who you were? But here we are, and I've done it! What
now? In one sense you're at my mercy, but you know quite well
I won't kill you, so in another sense I'm at yours. We've
got to get you out of this without involving me if possible.
You understand?"

He did, for that was something Jannath could appreciate. The law
of action and reaction as applied to evil was his life-long
study. As the tides flow and the moon wanes, there is always
repercussion in affairs of men, victors in their turn becoming
vanquished and all plans being riddled full of flaws because of
human lack of foresight. He could now resume where he had left
off. Were the gods not with him?

"The Government is obliged to protect priests," he said acidly.

"Of course. That's what Government's for."

Jannath almost let a smile escape him. This was absolutely
typical of an Englishman, making a bluff for days on end at being
subtle and then becoming as transparent as a child!

"I shall do nothing," he announced with an air of finality.

"Nothing tonight," Ommony agreed sarcastically. "Tomorrow, though,
unless I've come to terms with you, I'll go to Parumpadpa and--"

Jannath betrayed alarm. His eyes narrowed. He shrugged himself as
if stung.

"--and I'll tell Parumpadpa the whole story," Ommony continued.
"Parumpadpa might not excuse me--but at least he will make a
laughing-stock and an example out of you! Think it over," he
added, and walked out, padlocking the door behind him.

He chuckled as he found his way back to the gate and hardly grew
serious until the old gate-keeper led him to within eyeshot of the
Home of Peace where Elsa was installed. There another old man
greeted him respectfully and led the way up the marble steps, on
which the lightest footfall sounded like rank impropriety.

Ommony became aware that he was walking like a cat and smiled at
himself. No humility was likely to serve much in the next few
minutes. Thorough! That would have to be the keynote of the next
tune, and he hated it, but let his heels ring on the marble and
went up thenceforth boldly.

"Mr. Ommony?"

Elsa in the clinging draperies of India stood before him in
a doorway, looking like a goddess, feeling as if she were
in night attire.

"They said, `the sahib.' I felt sure it was my husband. You
mustn't see me like this."

"I've seen you," said Ommony.

Her detestation of the man revived and flooded her thoughts.
Too surely he had seen her, and seen through her! The basis
of their enmity!

"What do you want?" she demanded.

"Your help."

"At this hour? Where's my husband?"

"He's all right. He slept last night in the guest-house with me."

"Does he know where I am?"

"No. He's badly worried, but behaving like a man."

"Why don't you tell him where I am?"

Ommony's reply was truthful literally, if evasive.

"The dog traced you here. I came to find the dog. The man at the
gate admitted me after some argument."

"The dog? Diana? She found me? Where is she? Bless her heart!"

Ommony whistled, and Diana came out of the shadows, where she was
studying history with her nose to earth. At sight of Elsa Craig
she threw her head up and bayed, all golden in the moonlight.

"She's hungry," Ommony said cunningly. "Have you anything she
can eat?"

He had divined the password!

"Come!" she called to the dog, and Ommony went on up with Diana.

When Elsa returned from a hinterland of old women and cooking-pots
with a great bowl nearly full of cooked rice, Ommony was seated
on an ebony chair in the marble hallway. Elsa draped herself in
a cashmere shawl and stood in the doorway against the full moon,
watching Diana eat.

"May I smoke?" asked Ommony, craving something commonplace to
bring them both down to earth.

"What happens next?" she answered, not caring whether he smoked
or not.

She had small use for him, and showed it in her manner.

"I smoke," he said genially, and pulled out a cigar.

She watched him light it, he being at great pains to appear
at ease.

"Do you propose to spend the night here?"

"Not for fifty rajahs' ransoms! I propose to talk to you and ride
a tired horse back."

"Have you eaten since morning?" she asked.

"Why no. It was nice of you to think of that."

Having thought of it, she had to feed him. One of the old women
was requested to put food before him in the dining-room. Elsa at
last had recognized a quality she liked, and was quick enough to
comment on it.

"So you thought of the dog first?"

"No, the horse. I'm next. The priest comes last."

"What priest?"

"Jannath. He was outside, trying to get in. I let him in. He had
a dagger. The priests have said you're dead, and are trying to
prove it. Here's one of Jannath's daggers."

He pulled the thing out of his pocket and showed it to her.

"He's in the toolshed now, considering new sins."

"Are you sure he's in there?"

"Perfectly. I have the key."

"But there are tools in there."

"No. I removed them."

"Heavens, Mr. Ommony! I wonder what all this means."

"So do I," he answered. "It means one of two things--trees or
treason. Either I grow trees--a million of them--or you commit
treason to yourself, your sex, your race, your husband, and the
world! We've got to understand each other."

"Then kindly don't talk in riddles!"

"I'm a plain man," he answered. "You're the riddle. Would you
rather snub me because I don't pretend to like your John
Ishmittee--or help me defeat Parumpadpa?"

"To what end?"

"Trees!" he answered, knocking ash from his cigar. "You were at
the bottom of this tree business," he went on. "Do you care to
see it through?"

She leaned back against the doorpost, for she felt hot temper
rising and herself not strong enough to battle with it. But she
looked amazing with the moon's rays silvering her outline and the
edges of her hair.

"See it through? And I'm at the bottom of it! Mr. Ommony, you
thought you saw through me that first morning when you came to
breakfast. You--"

"I recognized your courage," he interrupted. "I was sorry--"

"What right had you to be sorry for me?" she burst in, grinding
her heel on the marble threshold.

"None. I was sorry to see courage wasted."

"Wasted? Our mission--"

"Wasted in a losing struggle with the Hindu priests. But, you
know, you can't help people who defy you from the word Go. Now I
need your help badly," he added, judging he had stood on the
defensive long enough.

And Elsa did not answer, but stood wondering with her face toward
the moonlight, until the old woman came and said food was ready.


_"How's the Situation?" "Ticklish!"_

Elsa did not sit down facing Ommony across the buhlwork dining-table
as he suggested; that would have looked too much like a signature
of peace. There was none. Peace had vanished from the tranquil place.

But her thoughts had undergone a great change in the night and a
day she had spent there. She went to the seat in the great square
window looking out on moonlight shimmering among the lotus-leaves
and sat there rigid; but she was conscious of a weakness in her
own attitude, and not so sure of the impudence in Ommony's. After
all, what had the man done to her? And was he not there offering
protection and requesting her help?

"What do you want me to do?" she asked presently.

"Nothing you don't care to," said Ommony. "I can manage natives
usually, but I wouldn't interfere with your judgment."

"It wouldn't pay you. What then?"

He finished eating very deliberately, and turned his chair so as
to face her.

"My sympathy for your mission is about on a par with your
sympathy for me. I don't pretend to any. But I like Craig. He's a
man, and he's entitled to his own opinions and their product. He
believes in his mission, and I'll help him as far as I can
without surrendering my own judgment. My job is to provide trees
for the generation that will follow us; and there we're on common
ground, for the priests are against your mission and against me."

"Prejudice and all that sort of thing aside, and conceding to
the Hindu priests a right to their own viewpoint, we've got
to defeat them before either your mission or my trees have
a ghost of a chance."

"We can't defeat them in the open, because they fight underground.
Their weakness is in mutual mistrust. So is ours. Now what
about it?"

"What can I do?"

"You can postpone your chastisement of me, for one thing, until
we haven't an enemy in common who needs our undivided attention."

She smiled in spite of herself, aware that she did not dislike
him so much as she had thought.

"Very well, we will postpone our enmity."

"That's thoroughly agreeable to me. The other thing I'll ask you
to do is to let me play this hand, and to obey my orders
implicitly. You'll need courage--"

"I think I don't lack that."

He decided courage was a sympathetic chord and harped on it,
reminding her at long length that the white man's chance in India
had always hung as much on woman's bravery as on any other
factor. He even mentioned Lucknow and the Mutiny, and talked of
the wives who wilt beside their husbands in the fever districts.

"Tell me your plan," she demanded after a while, and he unfolded
it while she thrilled and trembled alternately.

"You understand," he said finally, "there's a chance you may not
come alive through this. There's an equally strong chance that I
may be broke forever for it; and if they kill you, they'll
probably kill me and all the rest of us. We've got to win or take
the consequences standing. Are you game?"

She nodded.

"But my husband? How much does he know?"

"Nothing. He would never have agreed. He has acted splendidly.
Left to follow his own course he has been a prodigious help, but
he would go up in the air at once if he knew the part you are to
play. When he learns the whole truth he will probably denounce me
for a scoundrel. He would never let you do it if he--"

"I will do it," she interrupted, drumming with her fingers on the
window-sill, and Ommony did not disguse his smile of triumph.

"You'll make a dangerous opponent when the time comes to resume
your enmity with me," he assured her.

Thereafter he wasted no time, but got to horse, and with Diana
cantering beside him splashed through the fords on the way back,
hoping against hope to reach the quay before the Maharajah's
motor-boat could come with Molyneux.

Hope was confirmed. He had to wait, with the horse dripping sweat
and the hound asleep, until an hour before dawn, hearing the thug
of the approaching motor miles away and observant that a dozen
priests, who waited in a group near by, had no boat in which to
put out and obtain first audience. The diwan's representative,
who came at the last minute, saluted cordially, but it was even
his place to wait until Ommony, as acting substitute for the
British Resident, should have tendered the first greetings.

So, though the priests pressed close, it was Ommony who blocked
the gangway, and he who stepped down into the launch, awakening
Sir William Molyneux, who slept the sleep of all God-fearing,
unimaginative men.

"D'you mind backing out again, sir? We can talk unheard in

"Bet your last rupee! How's poor old Gould?  Spiffy boat
this--Tottenham Court Road cushions--slept all the way down."

"Gould's in the hands of the Maharajah's court physician. The
priests are waiting on the quay to get your private ear."

"Want to confess me, eh? Well, that's premature. By gad, sir, I'm
not nearly on my last legs. How's the situation?"


"Found the missionary lady yet?"

"I know where she is."

"Why not pounce on her and pull the plug?"

"Didn't care to act prematurely. Needed you to use your well-known
discretion in such matters. The priests daren't kill her--"

"What? Those rascals have her, and you--"

"Half a minute! Thought you might take better advantage of the
situation. You'll find she's in Siva's temple. Tomorrow--no by
Jove, today; there's the false dawn!--this evening there's a
temple ceremony--feast of the full moon."

"They'll be at their wits' end what to do with her. I have the
information. They admit the crowd at sunset. Meanwhile you might
commit the priests to a statement, preferably in writing, that
they haven't got Mrs. Craig. Then if you demand admission
to the temple, say an hour before the crowd's due, and find
her in there--"

"Yes," said Molyneux, "that sounds like common sense. Are you
sure she's safe meanwhile?"

"Reasonably sure. My informant had word with her during the
night. She seems to be comfortable and not put to indignity."

"But she's a lady! She must be suffering the tortures of the
damned! These missionaries are a nervous lot, you know, Ommony.
We ought to take that in consideration."

"Mrs. Craig is a plucky woman."

"Well, I'll take your word for her. So you think I should be a
bit stand-offish with these priests?"

"I would gain time if I were you, sir."

The launch put back to the quay, and Sir William Molyneux stepped
out to shake hands with the diwan's representative. But almost
before the usual courtesies were over that deferent individual
was thrust aside by a dozen others in the white robes of
their office, who pushed forward a little narrow-faced man
as interpreter.

"Sir William Molyneux--"

"That is my name, sir."

"That man--"

"Why don't you name him? Which man?"

"Mr. Ommony and the diwan have accused--"

He stopped. Molyneux had not been nicknamed Brass-Face without
reason. The sight of his jaw alone would have stricken fear into
a prize-fighter. When he frowned the brows came down over the
normally good-natured eyes, and a thick, untidy crop of hair
considerably shot with iron-gray increased the effect. It was
growing dawn, and though a light mist moved on the early wind
each line and contour of the bold face was discernible.

"Your diwan has the name of an honorable gentleman. I'm not here
to listen to tales against him," he interrupted sternly.

"But, sir, he--"

"I will present my credentials to the diwan after breakfast. At
the proper time, if he agrees, I may be willing to hear both
sides to any dispute between you. I bid you good morning!"

They drew off, showing their resentment in every way they could,
including remarks in their own language intended for his ears.

"Damn them!" exclaimed Molyneux. "I'd rather be friendly than
tread on their corns. Can't they understand that? If there's
anything I hate it is being rude without excuse. Confound them,
why do they force it on me? I've a sincere respect for priests of
all religions, Ommony. If my advice is not impertinent, I'd
say--Hullo! Where did you get that stunning stag-hound?"

Diana made friends, and with the diwan's representative beside
them for the sake of the amenities they walked to the guesthouse
for breakfast, Molyneux postponing taking over the Residency
until, as he expressed it, "the confounded stable's clean. But
gad, sir, I can smell that poor chap's drugs from here!"

He walked, as his conversation was, down-rightly, not avoiding
puddles left by the city bhists,* nor hurrying unduly, looking
about him to admire the sights and distributing uncounted small
coins to the beggars, who were up betimes for lack of luxury and
aware of a generous man from long, long practice.

*  Water-carriers who sprinkle the streets from goatskin water-bags

"Might be you and me, you know. Do you believe in all this
reincarnation stuff? By gad, if I should be a beggar in the next
life for my sins I'd hate to be refused an alms. Have you any
more small change, Ommony?"

They breakfasted along with tales of hunting in the Dekkan,
sniping in the gray mist up by Dera Ismail Khan, tiger-shooting
in the Assam jungle and, above all, snipe.

"I'd rather shoot snipe, my boy, than go to Windsor!"

All things were met down-rightly by Molyneux, and each in turn,
including poached eggs. Business and the diwan would come

"We're young, you know. He's on in years. Let's not hustle the
old gentleman. Where's Craig? Is there any means of smuggling
comforts in to Mrs. Craig? Too risky? Damn! I hate to leave a
woman in a predicament. Are you sure she's in no immediate
danger, Ommony?"

Craig came in, and Molyneux met that emergency with customary frankness.

"So you missionaries have been playing politics, eh? Don't deny
it, sir! Don't deny it! Let this be a lesson to you, damn me!
Will you ever learn, though?"

"Well, so Mrs. Craig is missing, eh? And Ommony tells me you've
acted like a man. That's good! That shows guts! We'll find her
for you."

"Do you smoke? Drink? Chew tobacco? Swear? No? Well, that's
right. I like a man who lives up to his convictions. I do 'em
all myself; found chewing a great relief up North after Ovis
Ammon--great rocks, you know, and leagues on end without a dram
of water. Ever hunt? No? Well, each man to his taste."

That situation well met, he dismissed Craig from his calculations,
and apparently from memory. It was time to visit the diwan before
there was any mention of the plan to rescue Mrs. Craig. As they
started to leave for the office, Craig put the question--"What
do you propose to do?"

"Not much notion yet, sir. Why talk behind the diwan's back? The
man's an honorable gentleman. He'll do the right thing certainly."

Craig remained at the guest-house, none too confident, his head
between his hands in the chair on the veranda.

Down-right and all above-board, Molyneux strode into the diwan's
office and refused to let the old man rise to greet him.

"Always glad to be of service to a man of your distinction, sir!
I take it you're a mainspring of the State and I'm an oil-can?
Eh? Now what's the difficulty? Priests, they tell me, and a
missionary lady. Any plans?"

The diwan looked appealingly at Ommony, who had promised to bear
the brunt and take all risks. So Ommony broke in.

"How much do you want to know, Sir William?"

"All there is to know! What else?"

"Do you wish to override the diwan?"

"No, sir. What the hell d'ye mean?"

"The diwan naturally knows the ins and outs of all this business.
I've helped him at his request. The thing's involved, and unless
you wish to override him he prefers, and I agree with him, to
handle the underground end, if backed up in the open by your
prestige. He doesn't like the idea of your becoming involved
behind the scenes in any intrigue between him and the priests--"

"Ha-ha! Intrigue? Me? I never saw the use of it! So you and
his honor the diwan have a little plan all cooked between you?
Eh? Well--"

He pulled a letter from his pocket, tugged it out of the envelope,
consulted it, and thrust it back.

"--my instructions give me latitude. They say you may be trusted,
Ommony. I like a man who may be trusted. I invariably trust him
once at any rate!"

"But, understand me, I'm responsible. By gad, sir, I accept
responsibility! I trust you at my own risk! You fail, and you're
responsible to me! I'll be abrupt with you! I'll take no excuses,
mind! If your guts won't hold on that, you may tell me your whole
plan and I'll adopt it or reject it. Now think it over."

"There's nothing to think over," said Ommony. "If you knew all I
know you'd be handicapped, that's all. I invite you to play the
hand as dealt. I'll lead up to you, and his honor the diwan will
follow suit."

"Good. I like a man with guts. Dig your trenches, fire your
mines, send for your shock troops, lay down your barrage, and
over the top! That's business! Fail, and the drumhead afterward;
that's business too! Now what?"

It was the priests. They flocked in with the same interpreter,
and he was primed, for they had had time to study their plan
carefully, and they had new ammunition. One of them stood forward
and reeled off a speech in his own language, pointing his finger
at the diwan, but addressing Molyneux.

"Explain," said Molyneux when he was done, and the interpreter
stepped up beside his chief.

"Memsahib Craig, the wife of a Christian missionary, has
disappeared, following a slaughter of innocents in the city
streets by elephants, who subsequently smashed the mission, all
of which was brought on purposely by the missionaries in order
that they might bring accusations against us! The diwan--"

"His honor the diwan," Molyneux interrupted.

"His honor the diwan caused a rumor to be spread that we, the
priesthood of Siva, were responsible for all this and for the
woman's disappearance."

"You mean Memsahib Craig's disappearance?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then why in blazes don't you say so?"

"Whereas we know nothing of the matter except this: that word was
brought to us, saying a lady's clothes are in the waterway. So we
paid the diwan's boatmen to look for them, and they found
clothes, identified subsequently in our presence as Memsahib
Craig's by Craig sahib himself--found them in the diwan's
fishing-nets; which nets, I may add incidentally, are spread
nightly by the diwan's orders for his own use and profit, he
employing for the purpose boatmen paid from the tax receipts. We
ask your honor to question those boatmen, whom the diwan now has
under lock and key."

"Is that agreeable?" asked Molyneux.

"Perfectly," said the diwan. "The boatmen will tell you that they
saw priests carry off Memsahib Craig."

"We maintain that they were not priests. We assert that they, if
they exist at all, were villains in the diwan's pay. In further
proof of which, a priest of ours named Jannath, who knew more
about this business than his honor the diwan thought convenient,
has likewise disappeared. We accuse the diwan of instigation
and complicity!"

Molyneux leaned on the arm of his chair and faced the diwan.

"Any knowledge of this?" he asked.

"None," said the diwan truthfully. Molyneux frowned toward the
priests again.

"Damme! What a mess of lies this is!"

"Sahib, we tell only the plain truth."

"Then you don't know where Memsahib Craig is?"

"No, sahib; but we believe she is dead, and that Jannath has also
been drowned by the diwan's orders."

"Put that in writing!" ordered Molyneux.

They tried to avoid it, whispering excuse after excuse to the
interpreter, the last of which was nearly valid:

"We have no authority. Our high priest Parumpadpa is absent."

"You seem to think you have authority to accuse the diwan sahib!"
Molyneux retorted. "Bring Parumpadpa here!"

"Sahib, it is not fitting that our high priest should be subject
to possible insult. We--"

"All right. I respect a high priest. Paper-pen-ink-blotter? Thank
you. Now!"

He drew his chair up to the table and began to write in a fist
of tombstone-maker's script, reading aloud as each word bit
into the paper.

We the undersigned, being priests of Siva's temple, do declare on
oath that we do not know the present whereabouts of Mrs. Elsa
Craig, wife of a missionary, and furthermore that we had nothing
to do with her disappearance.

"Sign that, all of you, in my presence."

The interpreter interpreted. The thing looked innocent enough.
One by one they came to the desk and wrote their signatures.
Molyneux blotted it and handed it back to the nearest priest.

"Take that to Parumpadpa. Have him sign it too. Tell him that if
he refuses I'll know exactly what to think! Meanwhile I'll
interview those boatmen. Bring that signed document to me this
afternoon. If Mrs. Craig isn't found by six o'clock this evening
I'll search the temple!"

"But the charge against us should also be in writing."

"Who has charged you?" Molyneux demanded, and they hardly dared
admit possession of copies of official telegrams. They filed out.

"Has His Highness the Maharajah any troops that could be counted
on in an issue with the priests?" asked Molyneux as soon as the
door was shut.

"Many of them might be afraid of the priests. But there is a
regiment of cavalry that served abroad. The men lost caste by
crossing the ocean, and the priests have refused to reinstate
them without great expenditure of money, which the men, most of
whom have wives and families, cannot afford. That regiment would
be entirely dependable."

"I'd like to speak with their commanding officer," said Molyneux.
"They're all Hindus, eh? Not afraid to march into a temple?"

"They would enter if so ordered. But, Sir William, I should warn
you: none but a Hindu has ever set foot inside the temple of
Siva. There are sacred mysteries. The intrusion of an Englishman,
however distinguished, would be considered sacrilege. An appeal
by the priests to the mob--"

"I'll let you know when I'm afraid," said Molyneux. "Are the
boatmen next?"

It was then that Ommony excused himself. He was not afraid of
anything the boatmen might admit. Their tale would involve the
priests undoubtedly, and the worst they could say of himself was
that he had advised them to obey the priests in the matter of
Elsa Craig's clothes. He yawned.

"Up all night," he explained.

"Take a nap," advised Molyneux.

But the diwan's eyes met Ommony's and twinkled.

"I think I'll ride it off."

"Good! Guts!" said Molyneux.

"May I have a horse? The one you lent me is all in."

"You shall have the best horse in His Highness's stable."

The diwan rang the desk bell.

"Now what--in blazes--Well--I said I'd trust you--"

Molyneux laid his iron jaw on a fist like a club, watching Ommony's
broad back as he walked out.


_"Good Dog, Di!"_

Ommony rode furiously, but it was two hours after noon before
he reached Elsa's hiding-place and tied his sweating horse
under the arch.

"Have you fed him?" he demanded.

"Nay, sahib."

"Good. A fed priest folds hands on his lap and dreams all's well.
Unfed, he worries. Worry does the wrong thing. Lord send I say
the right one!"

Diana, dog-weary, flopped and fell asleep under the ancient
arch, but Ommony walked to the tool-house and interrupted
Jannath's meditations.

"Things look rotten for you priests!" he began. "Sir William
Molyneux has come. At six o'clock he intends to demand Memsahib
Craig alive and unhurt, and if she isn't forthcoming he'll search
the temple.

"Parumpadpa is in panic. He committed all of you to a statement
that she's dead, and now the other priests begin to see the
unwisdom of that. They're about ready to turn on Parumpadpa. If
you'll overlook my having handled you roughly last night, I'll
give you a chance to produce Mrs. Craig and save the situation."

Jannath nodded. Promises not actually spoken are easier to
repudiate. His eyes betrayed no intention of forgetting or
forgiving anything, but a great, new hope.

"You understand," said Ommony, "if she isn't forthcoming by six,
Brass-Face will search from dome to crypt. The mob can't stop
him; he has troops. The only way to stop him is to produce her.
If Parumpadpa can't produce her, and you do; if Parumpadpa swears
she isn't there, and you demonstrate she is, producing her in the
nick of time to save the temple from desecration--you win!
Parumpadpa will be down and out--napoo--finish! Understand me?"

None knew that better than Jannath. He even smiled; but whether
from long habit his facial muscles naturally bent that way, or
whether there was new treachery awakening, would have been hard
to guess.

"You'll have to be careful. If Parumpadpa's men catch sight of
her they'll take her away from you, of course, and you'll have to
bear the whole responsibility. They won't stick at sacrificing
you to save their own skins. Do you know a secret way into
the temple?"

Again Jannath nodded. He knew half a dozen secret entrances. He
also knew things of which none but Siva's priesthood have an
inkling, and what scandal there would be if any foreigner should
be known to have penetrated the temple crypts.

Ommony was aware that there were subtle overturnings going on
behind the inscrutable mask, but he had no time to spare, nor any
means of guessing what the treachery, if that it was, might be.
If he could have seen four hours ahead and could have known what
desperate, dumb seconds were to hold the balance, he would have
flinched. But men win mains by never knowing too much. All the
truth at once would scare the wits out of the bravest.

"Will you take food?" Ommony asked him.

But Jannath had gone his limit in accepting defilement at
Ommony's hands, and proposed to die rather than take food from
him. He snarled a rebuke. So Ommony left him locked in, and went
in search of Elsa Craig.

He found her ready, resolute, and less inclined to feel friendly
than he hoped. She seemed to have slipped back into her earlier
suspicion of him. However, she raised no objections, and walked
beside him draped in the cashmere shawl over a silken Hindu
costume that was once the diwan's wife's.

"You look wonderful," he said; but that only offended her.

She did not thaw in the slightest until she saw the dog under the
arch; but endearments lavished on Diana then perhaps decided the
outcome of the next few hours. Diana, like most hounds, would
accept all the petting offered from a friend.

They harnessed up the ekka, its driver backing the corn-fed dun
between the shafts while Elsa held them up, and Ommony wrote a
short note to Molyneux on a leaf of his memorandum-book. Then he
brought Jannath and motioned him into the ekka first.

"You'll have to ride with him," he said to Elsa. "Would you like
my pistol?"

"It would only be bluff. I wouldn't use it."

"Um-m-m! Do you care if I put the dog in with you? She's tired
and has a sore foot where a thorn went in."

That was the last thing to which Elsa would object. First aid
to man or beast was instinctive with her. She would even have
rearranged the bandage on Jannath's wrist if he had let her
touch him.

Then with passengers inside, the ekka bumped down the brick
steps, and the gate of the Home of Peace clanged shut behind
them. A hot wind seared the landscape and Jannath, peering
through the curtain in front, had to half-close his eyes.

"Put your head in!" Ommony commanded. "When we reach the city
then tell the driver where to go without showing yourself. Now,
drive like the devil!"

So the dun ate whip, and Ommony cantered alongside hoping the
motion would not upset Elsa's stomach, or her nerves, which would
be worse. It was touch and go whether they could reach the goal
in time.

He did not dare to slacken speed, nor even to stop and ask her
how she felt; for what could he have done about it? It was
forward, and hard through the fords at risk of broken wheels,
with the more mud and dust the merrier because that would help
make them inconspicuous. And tough Scots ancestry in Elsa Craig
held her immune from seasickness.

The ekka creaked and groaned. Its wheels shrieked torture. Time
and again the dun pitched forward on weak knees, and once had to
be unharnessed and pulled up again.

The sun wore down into a crimsoning sky. Long before they reached
the city they could hear the tumult of a demonstration staged at
Parumpadpa's order; for the high priest was unwise enough to
think danger would make Brass-Face rescind a threat! They could
hear drums reverberating like the roll of thunder, and Jannath,
who knew how easily the mob could be worked to that pitch, smiled
to himself complacently.

They had twenty minutes to spare when the dun staggered into the
city, and Jannath, peering between the curtains, began to direct
the driver right and left. For a while he seemed to be making for
Siva's temple; but within a hundred yards of it, three dinning
crowded streets away, he suddenly ordered a turn about, and they
plunged into a narrow lane in the opposite direction. It was
nearly blind on both sides--nothing but walls with barred doors
at intervals and, here and there, the irregular outline of a roof
against the sunset.

They stopped in the narrowest place, in front of the narrowest
door of all, set deep into the wall and thickly studded with
bronze nails. Jannath slipped out between the front curtains
before Ommony could spur his horse between wheel and wall in the
gut where the alley curved.

There was a narrow, barred slit in the door, and Jannath spoke
through that. The door opened about an inch, as if some one
within were holding it ready. Jannath shrank into the recess out
of reach, and it was too late then to grab him by the neck and
keep control of him.

With growing misgiving Ommony dismounted. The dog jumped out and
made ready to attack Jannath from under the ekka at the first
hint from Ommony; but it was in his mind that minute to call off
everything. What right had he to risk a woman's life when he
could save her by simply ordering the ekka to drive on?

He went to the rear end to lean in through the curtains and
caution Elsa to remain inside. But she stepped out before he
could speak.

"All ready!" she said, smiling.

Maybe the Christians smiled and spoke and looked like that before
they stepped into the arena in ancient Rome. She was nothing if
not admirable.

Then Jannath yelped. The ekka-driver whacked the foundered dun
and drove away. Ommony had thrown his horses' reins over a peg on
the tail-end; so the horse went too.

And out of doors before them and behind, some thirty yards in
each direction up and down the alley, there came other priests
and priests' attendants. There was no retreat, nor any use in
sending the dog to change the ekka-driver's mind. There was
room to have fought, now the ekka was out of the way, but
an impulse not to fight--an inner prompting to go forward
with the whole affair.

He could see in his mind's eye Molyneux in white drill, dress
sword and official helmet approaching the temple entrance,
striding straight and taking no heed whatever of side issues.

Jannath beckoned. The door opened wider. Elsa Craig, with less
than a full glance at Ommony over her shoulder, walked straight
in, and the dog followed at her heels. The priests--four or five
from each direction--started to run as if their intention was to
cut in in front of Ommony and block the way. With a sickening
feeling in his heart of having mismanaged it all and failed, he
followed Elsa with a leap, repeater in one hand and riding-whip
in the other; and instead of priests at his back the door slammed
shut--in darkness!

"Where are you?"

No answer. Not even Diana's whimper to announce her whereabouts.
Absolute silence, and a sense of being shut within thick walls.
No glint of light; the slit in the door he entered by was covered
by an iron plate, and he could not feel what fastened it.
Matches! He stuck the riding-whip under his arm to grope in his
pocket; found a box of safeties, worried one out with impatient
fingers, struck once without result, struck again--and the fire
he saw was in his own eyes as he fell! He was hit hard, and he
knew it--even knew it was a sandbag--felt the numbness down his
neck and shoulders--knew enough to lie still.

He was not unconscious--knew that presently. He felt as if
Cotswold Ommony were lying down and out, perhaps dead, while he,
another man, was looking on, or, rather, listening-in, for it was
much too dark to see. And his brain was working perfectly; he
understood each word he listened to, in a language not so many
know besides the priests.

"Is he dead?"

"I think so."

"Better hit him again and make sure."

"No need. If he comes to life I will hit him."

"Have you his pistol?"


"What is the meaning of all this, Jannath?"

"Send some one with money to that ekka-driver. He must either be
killed or bribed to go away. What he knows must be covered up."

"Presently. No hurry about that. Brass-Face threatened to search
the temple. He is on the way. Parumpadpa is distracted and blames
all on you."

"Parumpadpa shall eat blame for this. I am the next high priest.
Those who are my friends now will be recompensed. Parumpadpa has
said she is dead. We will prove it."

"We have all said that."

"My friends, and I, will say that Parumpadpa ordered it. She must
be killed and thrown into the crypt. We will show her, dead, to
Brass-Face, saying Parumpadpa ordered it. To the people we will
say that Parumpadpa is to blame for desecration of the temple."

"Why kill her? Why not give her up alive to Brass-Face?"

"She knows too much. She would deny what we say."

"Then what about this man?"

"Let him be found dead along with her. Of him we will say it is a
scandal; that he loved the missionary's wife. Loving not such
scandals, the British will be easier to manage afterward. Take
this pistol and go in and kill her."

"Not here! There would be a noise."

"Then go in with a dagger or a rope."

"None dares. It is dark, and that dog is as big as a man--more
savage, too, than ten men!"

"All right; let her walk into the crypt; that is easier. There
you and I will kill her. Leave the dog to me. I will shoot the
dog with this pistol; you use your dagger on the woman."

"I am afraid."

"Ask no favors then when I am high priest! You can see that
Parumpadpa's day is done. His friends will fall with him. There
will be a collapse. Who but I can restore our former prestige?"

"Then you will kill the woman, and I will try to shoot the dog."

"No. You must be compromised, so that I may be sure you won't
betray me afterward. Come along; help me drag this thing."

"Ach-h! I hate to touch a corpse; it is defilement."

"That is why I haven't killed him, quite. We will finish the
business in the crypt. Make haste. Brass-Face may be at the
door already."

They each took a leg and dragged Ommony face upward over smooth
flags with gaps between them; and every bump over the gaps
brought Ommony to clearer consciousness. The healthy blood
resumed its coursing, and he felt the life flow back through
nerves and muscles, tingling like pin-points.

"Better listen first," said Jannath's accomplice. "Yes, I'll go
with you. There must be no slip!"

"Leave me to watch here then, while you go."

"Not I! Come with me. Is that, door shut?"


"Come on, then."

They let go Ommony's legs and hurried down an echoing passage in
the dark. Ommony lay still until he heard a door shut behind them
in the distance before he got to his knees and fell forward again
from vertigo. Afraid to try that again, lest reaction should
overcome him altogether, he lay still, calling: "Di! Di!" in a
low voice. Then he whistled, and heard Diana's snuffling beyond a
door and the dog's low whimper. He crawled to the door, and felt
a half-inch crack beneath it.

"Mrs. Craig! Mrs. Craig!" he whispered.

"Mr. Ommony? Is that you?"

He groped in his inner pocket.

"Quick! Take this!"

And he pushed under the door the page from his memorandum-book,
on which he had written a message to Molyneux.

"There's a leather loop on Di's collar, near the buckle. Fold
this message and push it through the loop so that the paper
sticks out at each end and can be easily seen. Then at the first
chance send the dog for help. Just say: `Bring a white man! Bring
a white man!' and she'll do her best.

"Don't answer me! Don't try to speak to me! I'm supposed to be
dead or dying, and that's the only chance we've got--except
the dog; so preserve Di's life as long as possible. Hs-s-h!
They're coming!"

He crawled back to the spot where they had left him and lay
still, face upward. There were four now. Jannath and his friend
had found two other men, or had been detected by them and had had
to let them into the secret.

"Parumpadpa swears all is your fault, Jannath!"

"He will cease boasting presently! But silence! You two bring the
woman and the dog while we drag this thing. Threaten her that if
she does not keep the dog quiet you will kill them both instantly."

"Why not kill the dog at once?"

"Yes; no harm. But no noise; and be swift!"

All in pitch blackness Jannath and his friend began to drag
Ommony, and the bumping over smooth, unevenly laid flags so
dinned into his head that he could hardly hear the others
open the door of the room where Elsa was. But he heard what
followed--thunder! Volleys of angry growling split apart by
Diana's war bark! Cries for help!

They let go Ommony's legs and ran back, crying for silence. He
decided it was time to come to life and, now or never, to test
his returning strength. He whistled--shouted:

"Good dog, Di! Down 'em!"

He managed to get to his feet. Jannath returned on the run, and
Ommony could hear the sandbag whirling as the priest got speed up
for a blow that should finish him. If he could only see!

But neither could Jannath see. The priest swung--missed--clutched
at his victim--and went down as a chance left swing by Ommony
went home under the angle of his jaw.

Down on his knees on the priest's empty belly went Ommony,
searching for the pistol--found it--and brought the butt of a .45
down hard on the shaven head. That ended Jannath's chance of the
high-priesthood. The skull broke like an eggshell.

Back down the passage there was pandemonium, echoes of growling,
shouts, feet slipping on stone--and a woman gasping, crying:

"Careful! Careful!"

"Sic 'em, Di!" yelled Ommony.

The dog's best chance for safety against daggers lay in swift
attack; and the more ferocious she was, the better his chance
from the rear. He ran with both hands out in front, guided by
sound, turned to the right when he felt the corner of the wall,
and nearly fell again, for a man crashed backward into him to
escape Diana's jaws.

He used the butt again. Diana smelled him--slobbered on him--began
to wriggle and yelp pleasure--then yelped in earnest as a long
knife reaching for her slit the skin along her flank. She turned
and had that opponent by the throat before the echo of her yelp
came off the wall, and Ommony saved a second stab point-blank
with the .45.

By its flash he saw Elsa, white and motionless against a corner
of a four-square stone cell, and the third man coming for him,
felt the wind of the dagger descending; thrust the muzzle against
naked ribs--and fired again.

"Four all accounted for! Are there any more in there?"

"No more," said Elsa. "Are you hurt?"

"No. Come."

"We ought to stay and give first aid to these."

"They've had all they'll need! Come on!"

He took her hand and ran with her, Diana careering ahead to smell
out ambush and making the long passage echo with a hunting-howl.
Elsa tripped over Jannath's body and had to be helped up.

"What next?" she gasped.

"Straight through with the plan!"

"Do you know the way?"

"We'll find it! Come on--hurry!"

"I've hurt my knee."

"Come on!"

At the end of possibly a hundred yards of echoing darkness they
ran into a door. He stopped and struck matches--three of them;
the damned things wouldn't light.

Suddenly it occurred to him to try the door. It was unlocked.
They ran through into gloom that was as daylight by comparison,
and down endless steps, with Diana's waving tail always a
turn ahead of them and her deep, delighted bark announcing,
"All's well!"

Into another passage--deep below ground-level this one--and along
that for fifty yards to rising steps. Diana charged up them and
returned looking puzzled, standing where an overhead shaft
allowed a beam of distant light to filter in.

"What is it, Di? Lord! If a dog could only talk! Come on; we'll
have to chance it!"

Up, and up, dragging Elsa by the hand, she following gamely;
turn, and turn again, another short passage--steps--and then a
door--locked! No lock on this side--only a keyhole, big enough to
thrust the muzzle of the .45 in easily. He fired, and an ancient
iron lock fell loose on the other side.

Something still held, but a shove with most of his remaining strength
sent the door swinging, and Diana rushed in past him--into the
crypt--no doubt of it, they were under Siva's temple.

In a gloom like twilight, images of what looked like a dozen
different gods were ranged against the walls, as if one by one
they had been superseded and relegated to this lumber-room.
But the place was clean from use. There was an altar in it
with a lingam, and away beyond that steps leading upward into
golden light.

"Temple lamps up there!" said Ommony. "It's a goal! Come on!"

They could hear confusion in the temple--men's voices, and a
noise as if things were being moved to barricade a door. Some one
was giving orders. Ommony caught one's purport.

"They're coming! Shut the door now! Shut it in their faces!"

Then Diana must have burst among the priests like an apparition.
Ommony, speeding up the last steps, lost sight of her, for the
inside of the temple was a maze of pillars, images and colored
lights, with a great clear space in the midst.

But the great door was open yet. The bolt that should drop into a
hole in the stone threshold caught in the stones as they fumbled
in their haste. There was a gap yet a yard wide, through which
the outer twilight streamed.

"Good dog, Di! Get a white man! Go bring him!"

Like a flash the dog broke through; and then they raised the
bolt, and the door slammed after her, missing the end of her tail
by the breadth of a hair on it.

"Now," said Ommony, "if I'm not sick I feel like it. My head
aches. Take this pistol and defend yourself. If you're alive when
Molyneux comes in, say you came up from the crypt. Say nothing
more if you can help it. Please obey that."

Then he sat down suddenly with his back against the wall in a
corner and his heels sliding out from under him. His head fell
forward on his chest, and Elsa, with the pistol in her right
hand, stood there looking at the priests and him, and wondering
what to do.


_"She Euchred the Ephesians!"_

Sir William Molyneux, advancing up the narrow street toward
the temple with a mounted regiment behind him, met the diwan's
carriage coming from the other direction and saluted. Behind
the diwan was a company of infantry, not nearly so dependable,
but there in order that the Maharajah's forces might be
fully represented.

Brass-Face pulled out his watch. He seemed totally unconscious of
a crowd that swarmed behind the troops and yelled at him from
roofs and every imaginable vantage-point. A stone fell and broke
within two feet of him, but he took no notice.

"Six-thirty! I've allowed them half an hour's grace. Diwan sahib,
I intend to force that temple door unless they open it or produce
Mrs. Craig."

A big stone knocked the watch out of his hand, but he took no
notice. He was smiling--frowning over it--a little like a
heavyweight considering the opponent from his corner of the ring.

"Ah! There's a priest. Perhaps they intend to be sensible."

The temple door was shut, but a priest came solemnly around a
corner of the building, mounted the steps at the end, and then
came down them straight toward Molyneux. Even the crowd grew
still. The only sounds were the stamping of restless troop-horses
and a dog's bark not far away. The priest stood still in front of
Molyneux and waited to be addressed.

"Where's Mrs. Craig?" asked Molyneux in English.

"We do not know."

"What does he say?"

"He says he does not know," interpreted the diwan.

"Is she in that temple?"


"What does he say?"

"He says, `No.'"

"He'll have to prove it! Tell him that! My information is that
she is in there."

The diwan spoke, and the priest grew angry.

"She is not in there. We know nothing of her. She is probably
dead by the diwan's orders."

"Lord! I hate this!" muttered Molyneux.

He turned half-about to say something to the troops' commanding
officer but checked himself. He caught sight of a white man's
helmet, some one--Craig, it could not be another--forcing his
way violently toward him along the line between the troopers
and the crowd.

"Let that man come! What is it, Craig?"

Craig burst through and ran to him, holding a great bleeding
stag-hound by the collar with one hand--waving a piece of paper in
the other--breathless.

"A letter--Ommony--my wife--they're in there!"

He thrust the paper into Molyneux's hand.

"But this is addressed to me, sir!"

"Can't help that! I read it before I knew. It was in the dog's
collar. She found me, and I've found you! They're in there now!
Get busy, man!"

"I accept that explanation. All right, Craig."

"Then hurry, man! Look sharp!"

But Brass-Face, whom no man ever succeeded in hurrying, paused to
read the penciled note:

You will find Mrs. Craig in the temple. I will try to worm my way
in and be with her. When you get this note it will be time to act

Swiftly was another thing from hurriedly. Molyneux and speed
could be one unit on occasion, with unexpectedness on top of that
to hurry the other side.

"--Open that door!" he commanded, feeling for his watch,
forgetting it was in fragments at his feet.

He had meant to allow sixty seconds.

"We will not!" the priest answered. "There is an image backed
against it. You may not--cannot--enter!"

The diwan started to interpret, but Molyneux did not wait for
that. He seized the priest by neck and one arm, twisted the arm
and forced the priest to face about.

"Forward!" he commanded. "Straight to that door you came through!"

Then over his shoulder to the Maharajah's officer: "Twenty men!
Dismount 'em, and follow me!"

The priest went on a run, astonishingly undignified. The crowd,
after one yell, grew dumb with amazement. Twenty troopers and
their officer, all casteless, not enamored of the priests, swept
Craig along between them, so that it almost looked to the crowd
as if Craig were arrested. They began to yell again.

Molyneux came to a halt at a little side door between two
projecting corners of the temple wall and ordered the troopers
to drive out members of the crowd who had packed themselves
in there in the hope of seeing something.

"Tell 'em to open it!" he ordered, squeezing the priest's neck.
"Say if they don't I'll break it down!"

He backed up his threat by beckoning the troopers forward, and
the priest, squirming and discovering no hope, cried out. Like an
echo to his cry the troopers' carbines thundered on the wood; and
some one inside drew the bolt.

Molyneux let go the priest's neck and jumped in with Craig at his
heels. Diana nearly upset them both, dashing between them,
yelping and then throwing up her head to make the great dome echo
to her hunting-call. Then she led them in a series of elastic
leaps, with toenails clattering and slipping on the marble,
toward the rear of the building, where in lamp-lit gloom stood
Elsa, at bay, surrounded by a dozen priests, with some one's blue
repeating pistol in her right hand.

"My wife! Elsa!"

Craig ran forward, reckless of the priests, who backed away
before Diana's reawakened fury. The dog seemed to think they had
killed her master. She charged back and forth to lick him and
savage them alternately.

"Elsa! What does this mean?"


"This costume?"

"They took my clothes away and--"

That was enough for Molyneux. He was bending over Ommony to feel
his heart-beats.

"Where have you been?" he asked.

"In the dark! Mr. Ommony brought me up those steps--"

"Admit the diwan!" Molyneux commanded. "Where's the high priest?
Summon Parumpadpa!"

"Are you hurt?" he asked Elsa, resuming his slapping of Ommony's
wrists with an eye on Diana, who appeared to view his ministrations
with mistrust.

But she and her husband were being foolish and she didn't even
answer him.

The diwan entered, leaning on a man's arm, and almost in the same
second they brought in Parumpadpa, two priests on each side doing
their best to enhance his dignity. But better gild the lily! He
was all arch-priesthood typified. The long beard, nearly to his
waist, and his robes of office made it seem a sacrilege to speak
above a whisper.

But Molyneux kept him waiting. There were signs of life in
Ommony, so he shook him and raised him up, then set him with back
against the pillar. Not noticing the high priest yet, but holding
Ommony by the lapel of his coat, he turned his head and whispered
to the diwan.

"We've got to use tact! Get me?"

The diwan nodded and tried to hide a smile.

"The less said the better. You understand? His Majesty's
Government would rather avoid a scandal.

"Does he know English? No? Will you interpret? Excellent! Hullo,
this fellow's coming to! How now, Ommony? Feeling better?"

Ommony murmured something. Molyneux stooped to listen--nodded.

"Craig, come over here, please. Will you be satisfied if they pay
for the cost of repairing your mission from the temple funds?
Yes? Well, that's a Christian attitude. I like a Christian. Mrs.
Craig, does that seem all right to you? Good."

He turned to the diwan.

"Tell them that, please!"

Parumpadpa listened with amazement he could hardly contain. He
had expected personal indignity. Not knowing where Elsa had been,
he could only suppose Ommony had broken in somehow and found her
in the crypt, where some of his priests, he thought, must have
concealed her without his knowledge. If so, these terms were
mild. He gave assent, not bargaining, with all the dignity at
his command.

But Ommony tugged Molyneux's coat, and he bent his head once more
to listen.

"Oh! Ah! Yes, I get you!"

He turned to the diwan.

"Tell him this serious offense is against His Highness the
Maharajah almost as much as against these innocent people."

The diwan interpreted. The high priest bowed.

"Law--order--His Highness's government must be respected."

The high priest bowed again, but with slightly more reserve.
"Unless he wants His Britannic Majesty's Government to interfere
and mete out punishment there must be an apology to His Highness
the Maharajah--"

Parumpadpa almost let a smile escape him, but concealed it with
another stately bow. Ommony whispered again.

"--and compensation in some form acceptable to His Highness."

Parumpadpa frowned.

"I understand this temple's revenue is drawn in part from a tax
on all cut lumber. Will it be acceptable to His Highness if that
revenue is transferred to the State for the specific purpose of
planting trees?"

"I believe so. I may say, 'Yes,"' said the diwan. He interpreted,
and Parumpadpa scowled.

"Tell him he may agree to that or do the other thing!" said
Molyneux, glaring at the high priest.

And the high priest yielded. There was no alternative.

"Pens, ink, and paper!" Molyneux commanded. "We'll sign up now
and get it over with."

So they set a table under the dome of Siva's temple, and for the
first time in all history a contract between Church and State was
drawn up and signed in that sacred edifice with Parumpadpa's
signature, witnessed by Molyneux, and lacking nothing but the
Maharajah's seal to make it absolute.

"There!" exclaimed Molyneux, throwing sand on his own signature
to dry the ink. "Tact! That's the stuff! I told you I'm an
oil-can! Assure His Eminence I have a deep respect for high
priests. I like a man who takes his gruel standing up. Yes, sir;
convey him my compliments!"

He put an arm like a grapnel around Ommony and, saluting the high
priest with the other, started for the door.

"Why, hullo, you're making a quick recovery! Guts, Ommony! By
gad, sir, I like guts in a man! Why, damme! You can walk alone!
What's happened?"

"Trees!" said Ommony. "I see trees!"

"Still light-headed, I perceive. I wonder what hit you. The less
said the better, of course. I mean to ask no questions. All's
nicely settled. But between you and me, my boy, I've a notion
you've put something over."

"No. Some one else did."

"Who then?"

"Diana! She euchred the Ephesians! Shall we go, sir? It must be
dinner-time. Mrs. Craig and I had no lunch."

"Guts! By God, yes, that dog has guts!" said Molyneux. "We'll
have to stitch that wound up for her, Ommony. I see she's still
bleeding a bit. You hold her, and I'll stitch. By gad, sir, I
admire a dog with guts!"


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