The Unlucky Mark

Chapter I

It was half-past six in the morning. A bright sun had risen into an unclouded heaven, and shone over the plateau of Mysore and the adjacent district of Salem. The tropical heat was tempered by a cold wind. Its crispness caused the horses that were waiting to be released from their boxes to stamp impatiently. Occasionally an interrogative neigh came from one of the compartments. It was answered by a puzzled and bewildered call from another. This separation from their companions was not at all to the liking of the Walers. Their gregarious habits made them miserable when parted from their companions.

The terrible sea voyage from Australia was over. The still more terrifying transhipment, by means of a sling at the end of the long arm of the crane, was a nightmare of the past. When the trembling creatures had turned their backs on the shimmering restless sea and felt terra firma once more beneath their feet, their courage returned. Their troubles, however, were not over. They had to learn to eat a new kind of food, and what was still more disturbing to their peace of mind, to drink out of troughs and buckets instead of the pools and rivers of the land of their birth.

After a few days of peace and rest in the stables at Madras, they were introduced to a fresh horror in the form of a long railway journey. For a whole night they were confined in the small, darkened compartments of the horse-boxes. The floors sounded hollow and unfamiliar to the nervous tread of the unshod hoofs. As soon as the train was started they experienced a new movement that was different from the motion of the ship. They were no longer rolled from side to side, but were jerked and jarred in every limb.

All night long the wheels roared under them. At unexpected moments the engine screamed. There were stoppages succeeded by jolts at starting that threw the frightened strangers against the sides of their boxes; and jerks that strained the head-ropes, setting the worst-tempered a-kicking. Throughout the night they stood in the heat and the dust of the journey, unable to lie down, yet keeping their feet with difficulty.

At last the roar of the wheels ceased. With a final scream the engine departed on its way, leaving its load of horse-boxes at Malur, a small station not many miles from Bangalore. The heat, together with the terror of this their first journey by rail in a strange land, had matted the rough coats with moisture. The cool breeze penetrating the Venetian shutters, by which the boxes were ventilated, chilled the Walers and caused some of them to shiver and sneeze. Thirst had also been their lot, and their mouths were parched. With the cooler atmosphere came hunger. It was not lessened as the sweet breath of the country reached their nostrils. The dewy grass glistened in the rays of the morning sun and scented the air. The grass was coarse compared with the turf of their native land; but they would learn to like it in time, and would fatten upon it.

Malur is the nearest point on the railway to the Government Remount Establishment at Matigiri, which is better known as the Hosur Remount Depôt, from its proximity to the town of Hosur. It is on British territory, not far from the confines of the native state of Mysore, and is in the district of Salem. It stands on the plateau that extends across the peninsula from the Eastern to the Western Ghats. The tableland, although in the heart of the tropics, possesses a temperate climate. It is of an open character, less heavily wooded than the regions of a lower altitude. The soil is fertile where water is obtainable, producing the beans that take the place of oats in an Indian stable. This coolthi grain gives the name of Bangalore, the city of beans, to the old Mysore town. Sheets of water called tanks abound, and their contents find their way by countless runlets to the land. Snipe and wildfowl are plentiful in the swamps and pools, attracting sportsmen, European and Asiatic, from the neighbouring stations and villages. A journey of seventy miles by rail is thought nothing of where there is a prospect of a good day’s shooting.

The distance of Malur from the Remount is considerably over twenty miles. The road runs through open country which is broken by patches of jungle and sheets of water. It is not the tropical jungle of palms and ferns nor the luxuriant vegetation that is found in the plains. Compared with the giants of the primeval forests of the Western Ghats, the trees are often scrubby in growth, especially if they are exposed to the wind. Where conditions are more favourable they resemble the elms of England, and help to give to the settlement the English character which strikes the visitor forcibly on first arriving at the place.

Besides dropping the horse-boxes the train had set down a few passengers at the quiet little wayside station. One of these was a native gentleman. He had alighted from a first-class carriage, and was attended by a servant, who could not have exhibited more deference in his conduct if his master had been the reigning Maharajah of a native state.

The Hindu, a man of about twenty-eight, was clothed in a grey frock-coat and trousers cut by a good English tailor. His collar and tie were in excellent taste and of the latest fashion. On his feet were French boots of patent leather. The only part of his dress not European was the turban. It was of the finest muslin embroidered with gold, and was small and peculiarly neat. It gave him a look of refinement and dignity which was not to be found in the face. His features were regular with a certain pretence to being handsome; but the full lips and large dark eyes bespoke his love of luxury and ease, his vanity and self-concentration.

A couple of syces who had travelled in the groom’s compartment of one of the horse-boxes approached him and made a low salaam.

“Has the horse borne the journey well?” he asked.

“It has, excellency. Two or three times in the night we entered the compartment to handle it and give it confidence; but, as master knows, it has an evil temper.”

“Yes, yes!” replied the owner, impatiently. “Everything is known to me. There is no need to repeat the story.”

He spoke in the language of his servants, and continued to give them instructions.

Another passenger had also alighted from the train. He was an Englishman, sparely built without being actually thin. Of medium height, he had the appearance of having been born to the saddle. He formed a striking contrast to the fleshy Hindu. Endowed with the gift of beauty, Sir David Dereham had basked all his life in the sunshine of unqualified admiration. Women with their artistic temperament invariably smiled upon him. For no other quality than his appealing eyes and perfect mouth he had been the object of their ministrations. All his wants, reasonable and unreasonable, had been supplied from his boyhood. The reward had been the grateful glance and a smile that was like sunshine.

Dereham glanced up the platform, and his eye fell upon Dharma Govinda, the Hindu, who, seeing that he was the object of attention, endeavoured to rivet it by raising his voice and assuming a haughty manner to his syces, under the impression that it could not fail to impress the stranger with his importance. A frown passed over the brow of the baronet, and he turned on his heel, presenting his back to the Hindu. There was an expression of indifference in the action that did not escape the eye of the “native gentleman,” as he delighted to call himself. For a short space the full sensuous mouth took an angry curve; but he recovered himself and continued his harangue to the syces.

Dereham’s turn brought him face to face with a man in a tweed suit and sun hat. This was Lieutenant Timothy Breydon of the Remount establishment. He gave the traveller a military salute, and inquired if he was Sir David Dereham. Without waiting for the answer of which he was certain, he continued ---

“My name is Breydon. Major Cheverell asked me to look out for you, sir. I have a brake here to take you and your luggage to the Depôt.”

“All right; I’m ready when you are,” replied Dereham, pleasantly.

“I shall have to keep you a little while, I’m afraid,” replied Breydon. “I must see the horses out of the boxes and ready to march before I leave.”

“Are they all for the Remount?”

“All but one. Your horse is to come on with ours. The odd one belongs to Dharma Govinda.”

“That native over there?”

“Yes; he came up in the same train. I have had some tea made for you. It is in the waiting-room. While you are taking it I’ll hurry on with the unloading. The sooner I can get the horses off, the better it will be for them. The morning breeze chills them to the bone after the hot night’s journey.”

As he talked Breydon led the way to the waiting-room, where the acceptable meal known as chota-hazri was laid out upon the table from a tea-basket which Breydon had brought with him.

“I shall be about half an hour; not more. Ill come and tell you as soon as I am ready to start.””

Breydon turned away quickly, but was recalled by Dereham.

“Wait a moment; I want to ask you a question. Have you a syce to spare to lead my horse?”

“Haven’t you brought one with you?” asked Breydon in some surprise. “Major Cheverell told me that one was coming with the horse, and would look after it at the Depôt.”

“I hired a man who seemed a decent fellow; but just at the very last minute he was taken ill and couldn’t travel.”

“His way of saying that the job didn’t suit him,” commented Breydon.

“No; he was really ill, beastly ill, poor devil!” answered Dereham. “I’ve been in India before, and I’ve had my experience of malingering. It was too late to find any one to take his place, so I let the horse travel up alone. It shared a horse-box with that native’s animal. There were two syces, and I thought they would see after things. Now, can you find me a man who may be trusted to lead it with the other horses? I would be much obliged if you could.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Sir David. I’m afraid I have no spare man with me. We are full up in the stable lines just now, and I have only one syce to lead each horse to-day. Usually I have three or four over and above the number of animals to be led. One never knows if these Walers mean to go quietly or not. Perhaps I can hear of some one in the place who would undertake it.”

He hurried away beyond the platform to the spot where the horses were detrained. The officials of Malur were well accustomed to their task, and had everything in readiness for the syces. The work was done expeditiously and with skill. The Walers were for the most part dispirited and weak from sheer fatigue and fright. They were a strange lot, lank and weedy, and terribly out of condition, some of them being mere bags of bone. Their coats were dirty and neglected, and many of them were still suffering from sores acquired in rough weather on board ship. They were all, with the exception of the two thoroughbreds belonging respectively to Dereham and Dharma Govinda, destined to be schooled into chargers for English and native cavalry, or to serve with the guns.

Breydon had enough to do to see that the horses were properly led out. His presence prevented roughness on the part of the syces who happened to be new to the work. The older hands were more reliable, having learned their lesson of patience and gentleness from the English sergeants who were set over them.

The Hindu of the south may possess endurance, but he is not endowed with much courage, especially where a horse is concerned. He has an inbred fear of the whole equine race that destroys sympathy. No amount of familiarity will engender the confidence that so frequently exists between the Englishman and his charger; and in handling a horse he seems to live in constant expectation of the poor beast turning into a ferocious tiger. His fear is the cause of various little acts of brutality that go far to destroy the best temper in the world.

Breydon was known to keep a wary eye open for any overt acts of the kind. They were reported to the Superintendent, and the man was sent up to the orderly-room to be reprimanded under the semi-military rule of the establishment. If the offence was repeated, and the syce failed signally to establish friendly relations between himself and his charge, he was dismissed.

After the horses had been released they were watered and fed. A sowar in kharki was in charge of the gang of syces, several of whom had come up on the train with the horses. He was a well-built man of fairer complexion than his subordinates. He had served in a regiment of cavalry in the Indian Army, and was a born horseman. The son of a race of soldiers, he added to the pension he drew from Government by superintending the syces, and breaking in the horses to the saddle. By religion he was a Muhammadan, and he had a racial contempt for the Hindu, whom his forefathers had conquered and oppressed under Haider Ali and Tippu Sultan. The sowar approached Breydon in obedience to a signal.

“Abdullah, have you a spare man who can lead Sir David’s horse? It is to go to the major’s house.”

“No, sir; I have only just enough syces for our own horses; and if any of them give trouble I shall have to lend a hand myself.”

“That’s unfortunate. Somebody must be found. His man was taken ill just before the train started, and the horse has come up alone. Is there no one here at the station who could do it?”

Abdullah ran to the bungalow and knocked at the door of the station-master, a Hindu, willing enough to oblige any one from the Remount Depôt, but unable from lack of means to give assistance in this case. The sowar returned immediately.

“There’s no one who can do it here, sir. The station-master says that even if he could spare one of his men, he would not answer for him. They all declare that they know nothing of horses, and are not of the horse-keeper caste. They are frightened of Walers just landed because they know that they kick and bite.”

Breydon was perplexed. He moved towards the horse-box that contained Dereham’s property. The horse had not been released. The sowar followed. Govinda’s animal had just been led out by the two syces who served him.

“Lend a hand, one of you men, to bring out the other,” said Breydon.

One of them let go his hold on the head-stall, and with Abdullah’s assistance led out Dereham’s horse. The two were much alike in appearance. Both were racers; and were in good condition.

“I wonder why that one,” pointing to Govinda’s horse, “is muffled up in a cloth,” said Breydon. “Is it to keep it from getting a chill?”

“It is to keep off the evil eye. These Hindus are very superstitious, and fear devils and all sorts of evil influences,” replied Abdullah.

Govinda came up displaying his white teeth in a smile.

“A fine horse, Mr. Breydon, isn’t he?”

“I can’t judge with all that drapery hanging about him. The other looks all right.”

He glanced towards Dereham’s property.

“I can’t take the jhools off just now, the wind is too cold; but if you could see the horses together you would say they were brothers; own brothers, they are so much alike.”

“Where are you sending your horse, Mr. Govinda?” asked Breydon.

“To my house in Hosur. I shall train him there for a few weeks. Wyres, the English trainer and jockey, has come over from Bangalore to do the training. I am entering the horse for the race meet after Christmas.”

Breydon was not in the least interested in the future of Govinda’s horse. He was endeavouring to solve the difficulty of having to lead twenty-one strange horses along a strange road with only twenty men.

“I see you have two syces. I wonder if you could spare one of them to take this horse to the Depôt.”

Govinda shook his head as he said, “It would be too risky.” Then he added, “Did the gentleman who owns the horse ask for one of my men?”

“Oh no; it is entirely my own suggestion. All he requested me to do was to find him a man. There is no one here who can manage it.”

“Is that so? I will see what I can do. Perhaps my men can tell me of some one; but first I must speak to Sir David Dereham.”

“He is having chota hazri in the waiting-room. You will find him there,”

Govinda went briskly off in the direction of the station, the fashionable cane he carried hung over his arm, his kid gloves neatly buttoned, and a fresh jasmin flower—presented by the station waterman—stuck in his buttonhole. As he walked along the platform, Dereham, having finished his tea and toast, came out and met him face to face. Dharma Govinda stopped and spoke.

Chapter II

“I understand, Sir David, that you are short of a syce,” said Dharma Govinda.

A frown passed over the face of the listener as his name ran glibly off the speaker’s tongue. It took the place of the “sir” that somehow was expected. He put up his glass again, repressing comment from instinctive good breeding. He could not so easily disguise his expression, which was one of surprised annoyance. He answered coldly ---

“You have been rightly informed.”

“Mr. Breydon, of the Remount Depôt, brought the fact to my notice. He is short-handed, and has been unable to engage any one here. I thought that perhaps I might take the liberty of offering some assistance. I have a spare syce who could lead your horse if you would accept of his services.”

He spoke English fluently, but with a strong accent. At the timely offer Dereham unbent. His manner became less indifferent towards the native who was proving an unexpected friend in need. It is true that he would have preferred not to place himself under an obligation to one of Dharma Govinda’s stamp; but apparently there was no alternative. He therefore determined to wail himself of the offer, and to do so with grace.

“I shall be much obliged if you can really spare him without inconveniencing yourself.”

“I will make a point of sparing him. I take a risk in doing so, but you run the same risk as myself.”

“What is that?”

“The escape of a valuable horse that has engagements to fulfil.”

“I suppose there would be no difficulty in catching it. Hunger would bring it within reach if nothing else.”

“You forget that this is a grass country, Sir David. Ask Mr. Breydon, he will tell you the traditions of the horse hunts that have taken place in past days. It is said that a mare broke away once, and was not recovered for twelve months. When she was found she had a foal at foot. Other horses have not been so fortunate, as there are wolves and leopards in the district. However, we will hope that no accident will happen in this case. My men are both excellent syces, who may be trusted to do their best.”

“Could your man stay with me a little time until I am suited?” asked Dereham. “I hired a syce in Madras, strongly recommended by the Stable Company, but he was taken ill at the last moment.”

“Ah, yes! a common occurrence in this infernal climate of India,” commented Govinda, with an ofF-hand tone of sympathy which again jarred on the listener. “This servant has been with me some months, and I have no wish to part with him.”

“That, of course, settles the matter,” replied Dereham, shortly, with something of his old manner.

He had no desire to increase his obligations to Govinda. He would have been unfeignedly glad if he could have dispensed with his services altogether. He would speak to Breydon before proceeding further, and see if it was possible to do without the man. With that intention he walked quickly towards the spot where the horses were being detrained.

“What bags of bones you have got there, Breydon,” he said as he came up with him.

“It’s good bone and no mistake. Our Superintendent is a smart buyer. He seems to know a likely horse by its framework. In six months’ time you won’t know them. They will have filled out and we shall have got their coats into condition. All that stuff will come off; they’ll turn a better colour, and will have learned manners. I am sorry that I can’t find a man to lead your horse. I don’t know what we are to do.”

“This—this—” Dereham would have said “native,” but hesitated to use a term that might offend one who had just offered to help him out of his dilemma.

“Mr. Dharma Govinda,” suggested Breydon, tactfully employing the name and looking towards the Hindu, who had followed closely behind.

“I have promised the assistance of one of my men,” Govinda hastened to say. “I have two syces for my horse, and can spare one, though, as a rule, I consider it safer to have two men for an animal of this kind.”

He glanced towards his property which at that moment was, in the language of the syces, “giving trouble.” Its ears were laid back and there was a restlessness about the near hind foot uncommonly like the commencement of cow-kicking. Its clothing flapped in the wind and struck its flanks; it was easy to see that it was not in the best of tempers.

Dharma Govinda looked on at this display with a glow of satisfaction. For himself or his property to be the centre of observation was extremely gratifying to his vanity. He called to the syce, who was holding Dereham’s horse, to leave it and go to the assistance of the other. A porter, who had been helping in the detraining, replaced him, while the two syces endeavoured to quiet the restless animal. Their methods were strange. One jerked the headstall rope; the other dealt the horse a blow with his knuckles. Breydon saw the action, and called to the men in reproof, counselling patience. Govinda did not interfere. He would have been content to spend half an hour thus, if he could have been certain that his property would have engrossed their attention.

There was the additional satisfaction of feeling that he was a benefactor, that he had obliged an Englishman, a friend of Major Cheverell, with whom he desired for various reasons to stand well; and that whilst his high-spirited animal gave trouble, that Englishman would have to wait until it had quieted down. It was also gratifying to feel that Breydon, who supervised the non-commissioned officers, and was an important person in his sphere at the Remount Depôt, should be detained. Altogether he was enjoying the situation and was in no hurry to bring it to an end.

Dereham’s horse formed a strong contrast to its travelling companion. It stood unmoved by the commotion, even though two or three of the Remount batch had become infected with a faint spirit of insubordination, and were stamping and snorting uneasily. It was behaving like a lamb.

Nevertheless the reluctant porter, impressed into the service against his will, looked as miserable as if he had been placed in charge of a wild bull. He glanced fearfully from the quiet beast to the demon, that was trying to shake itself free from its captors in a frantic protest against this third stage of its journey; then his eyes sought his charge again in momentary expectation of a like demonstration.

With a few bounds and a rattle of hoofs, Govinda’s property completed the circle round the syces and settled down into a quietude that was as capricious as its cavortings.

“That’s a fine mettled beast, but too nervous to be of much use,” remarked Dereham to Breydon. “It is wonderfully like the one I’ve got. You wouldn’t know them apart.””

“They are full brothers, Sir David,” said Govinda. “It is quite possible that yours will have as much mettle and spirit as mine, when it recovers from the fatigues of the journey. I intended to buy it myself, but was just too late. However, I am glad you got the one that took your fancy,” he concluded with a generosity that was not appreciated.

“You will find yourself better off with your present purchase, and there is nothing to regret. In spite of its uncertain temper it looks as if it had good staying powers,” said Dereham, with cold indifference.

The man irritated him. His voice was harsh and metallic, and his accent jarred. He did not seem capable of understanding that his conversation was an intrusion, and that Dereham’s remark made to Breydon was not intended to call forth an answer from any one but the person to whom it was addressed.

Breydon gave Abdullah some final directions, and turned to Dereham.

“I am ready to start. Sir David, as soon as you have made arrangements for your horse to be led.”

“Leave the matter in my hands,” said Govinda with a flourish of his stick, a shooting of his linen cuff and a twirl of his silky moustache in close imitation of the young bloods of Bayswater, with whom he had consorted in England. “Do not trouble yourself. Sir David; I will order my man to bring the horse to our friend Major Cheverell’s stables.”

“Thanks,” replied Dereham, stiffly. “I should prefer to speak to the syce myself.”

His manner was haughty, though it had lost none of its natural courtesy. There was coolness in his tone, which he could not hide from the quick ear of the Hindu, however courteous his speech might be. Govinda beckoned to the men to approach. They advanced leading the troublesome horse between them.

“Hi! Gopal; see here! This Englishman wants a syce. He will give good wages. You can take his offer.”

Gopal made no reply, but looked down at his toes with a sullen expression on his dark face.

“Hoh! Son of an owl! is that all you have to say? Who are you to be considered? You belong to a caste of servants, therefore you shall serve as we decree.”

The other syce advanced a step. “If it please your excellency, I will take the situation with the English sahib.” He was of northern extraction and a Muhammadan. “Gopal has his family at Hosur, but I—I have no relations except my wife and child to bind me to any spot.”

“Very well, Cassim. I wish to oblige the gentleman. See that you serve him well and do not spoil my name.”

“I will serve him well even if I die in the serving,” replied the man, glancing towards his new master.

Govinda looked at him sharply and then at Dereham. “I believe I have made a good choice for you,” he remarked to the syce in his own language, with a slight laugh; and then he proceeded to give directions about the march from the railway station.

“What are you saying?” asked Dereham, impatiently.

“I am arranging with my men which of them is to undertake the work of leading your horse. That one—his name is Cassim—is willing to enter your service and stay with you as long as you want him. He is a good syce; I could better spare the other.”

“The man will be of no use to me unless he understands English. I know a little Hindustani, but nothing of this crack-jaw Tamil.”

“I can speak English, sir,” said Cassim, looking Dereham steadily in the face. “If your honour wishes to talk in the sepoy’s Hindustani, I can understand.”

“English is good enough for me,” remarked Dereham.

“I am delighted to be of service to any Englishman,” said Govinda, with a bow and a smile.

“It will not be for long. I shall find another fellow in a day or two, and will send yours back.”

“Please do not trouble to do anything of the kind. If he suits you, I beg you will keep him as long as you like. Cassim, do you wish to remain with this gentleman?”

The syce assented with a vigorous nodding of the head sideways, an action Dereham remembered of old among the natives when he was with his regiment in India.

“Have you ever had a relative in my service?” he asked, gazing at the man, and struggling with the confused memories of the past.

“No, sir,” replied the syce in some surprise.

“Do you know who I am?”

“A gentleman for the Remount Depôt.”

“Don’t you know my name?”

“No, sir.”

Dereham turned to Breydon, who was standing by waiting patiently.

“These fellows with their dark skins all look alike. It is only their dress that distinguishes one from another. I once had a syce rather like Cassim; he died.”

“Probably there was an Afghan strain in his blood, as you can see there is in this man.”

“I must confess that I really cannot distinguish racial traits. To me the natives are all alike; and as for their ridiculous caste differences, it’s childish nonsense in my opinion. Look here, Cassim, you lead that horse to the Depôt, and take care that he comes to no harm on the road. Your master here says you are to be trusted. The animal is quiet enough, and will give no trouble.” Again there was an affirmative wag of the head.

Dereham’s horse did not belie its owner’s words. It stood motionless, its head hanging dejectedly, its tail switching lazily after the teasing flies. It formed a great contrast to its companion, which moved restlessly, stamping its feet, laying back its ears and snorting uneasily. Yet as far as could be seen—the cloths upon Govinda’s horse made close comparison impossible—the two animals were alike in build, in the formation of the hocks and hoofs, and in some of their actions, the toss of the head, and the movement of the tail.

Abdullah, who had placed his men in the order of their going and was ready to start, approached Govinda’s horse with a view to examining it more closely. An abrupt movement on the part of the syce caused it to rear and lash out.

“Don’t go near it; it is nervous and upset with the journey,” called Govinda.

“Come, Sir David; we must be off,” said Breydon. He turned to Abdullah.

“Get the men started. I would like to see them moving before I leave.”

In five minutes the string of Australian exiles, that would never see their native land again, were beginning their march single file. The two Englishmen did not wait for the last three or four to be put into motion, but walked quickly to the brake that was standing near the station. The tea-basket had been repacked and placed inside, and the team was ready to be attached to the carriage as soon as there was a prospect of a speedy start. Breydon took the reins and climbed to the box seat. Dereham mounted to his side without a word. The syces let go the horses’ heads, and the half-broken team bounded forward, straining at their collars in their impatience to be on the road again. They made nothing of the heavy vehicle. The strong wheels, tyred with iron, rattled noisily behind them, as by-and-by the wheels of the guns would roar and rumble with even a greater noise in their rear. The jingling of the chains and tapping of the brass buckles of their harness only stimulated them to effort. Their fear of the various noises connected with their work had been conquered, and they were no longer assailed by panic at the sounds.

The syces caught the rail at the back. Two of them jumped inside; the other two continued to run until the cavalcade was passed. When the team had settled down to its work at a steady pace of ten miles an hour, Breydon signed to them to get up. Though he had a firm hand over man and beast, he was merciful and considerate, and never exhausted either with unnecessary eiFort.

The road, unbounded by either hedge or ditch, was good, and for the most part free from traffic. Here and there a country cart was met or passed, travelling slowly to its destination, its driver half asleep behind his plodding cattle. Prolonged shouting from the syces awoke him from his day-dreams, and by a twist of the tail and a jerk on the nose-rope, the cattle turned off to the side. On either hand stretched the tableland; the level horizon melted into the sky like the line of the ocean, or formed a soft outline of low distant hills in a pale ethereal blue as pure as the shining blue of the sky. Already the limpid air was aquiver with the heat of the sun, a heat that was not felt by the travellers in the fresh morning air. The trees, sturdy but not luxuriant in their growth, took dark shades of green in the dazzling light; and the bushy scrub that patched the open land looked dull and uniform in colour. Stonechats and pipits hopped and pecked among the rocks. The pheasant-crow sent its laughing call from the sunny side of a patch of jungle. The eagles screamed overhead, turning their heads from side to side as they circled with outspread wings over the slabs of grey granite that cropped out of the scrub. There the lizard and the snake rested motionless, their long scaly bodies flattened against the warm rock, as they waited for the blundering insect, whose sense of danger was lost in the intoxication of the sun’s rays. A sudden swoop, a gust of air from a feathered wing, and the predatory reptile was carried aloft only to be dropped again in a death-dealing fall upon the ground. The insect, the reptile, the bird, accepted fate without question. They were governed by a force of which they knew nothing. The order of their governance was not disputed; and no created being intervened to protect one or assist the other. The only action taken was that born of an inherited instinct, the instinct of self-preservation. It caused the preyed-upon to flee before its pursuer, to hide itself from sight and to lie hidden until the danger was passed. It induced the weak to adopt protective measures. The insect, while it basked in the sun, chose a dried leaf or a brown stem the tint of its own body and wings. The reptile lay motionless upon the rugged stone which it closely resembled even to the imitation of the excrescences. When it stirred it moved with a sinuous motion that was unlikely to attract the eye of the eagle.

Chapter III

The team was fresh. The horses had been sent to Malur overnight. The long wait in the early morning air and the thought of the corn ready for them at the end of their stage made them inclined to be fretful. Breydon handled the reins with a skill that was bred in his blood. Dereham watched him with silent approval as he drew the impetuous animals together, and corrected their faults with a touch of the whip laid on with a nicety of judgment that made the punishment individual and not general. Presently he let them have more rein, allowing freedom of action without a suspicion of being out of hand.

The calmness of the man seemed to be conveyed to the horses by his touch upon their mouths. A sudden terror at the sight of a crisp brown leaf flying upon the wind gave occasion for a falling out of step, and the execution of a pas seul by the off leader. It was controlled instantly by hand and voice. When order and confidence were restored, the sting of the lash well placed on the shoulder reminded the culprit that work was the order of the day and not play.

Breydon did not speak; he was fully occupied with the schooling of his team. There was another fact that contributed towards his silence when in the company of such men as Dereham, Breydon was a ranker. He bore no resentment against fate on that account, but accepted it in the curious spirit that marked the man and left him guiltless of ill-will and envy. Habit is strong. The habit of the years passed in the ranks remained. Now that he was a commissioned officer, and on a level with the men who had formerly been his superiors, he found it difficult to take the initiative. By nature he was open-hearted and free of speech. His experience of life had tended to modify those virtues and to produce a reserve difficult to penetrate. As he was one of the least inquisitive of men, so he might be called one of the least communicative in personal matters.

His father lived in Norfolk. He owned about a thousand acres, half of which was in rich meadow land lying on the banks of a river. He cultivated his property himself, devoting his attention to the breeding of horses and pedigree cattle. He rose early and worked hard, buying and selling on Norwich hill with the large company of sturdy farmers who gathered there weekly, the rough with the refined—the prosperous owner of five hundred head with the man who could only boast of a couple of horses and cows, and a yard of dirty pigs.

The house was a substantial square building called Dunstan Hall; and Mr. Breydon was termed the squire.

Tim, his eldest son, was sent as a boarder to the Grammar School at Norwich, where he associated with the sons of professional men and of men who occupied a similar position to his father. He remained there till he was just eighteen. It was not thought necessary to enter him at a public school. The Norwich school had been good enough for his father and grandfather before him. He tried to obtain a scholarship from the school to one of the Universities, but without success. His failure caused less disappointment to himself than it did to his head-master, who discerned good in the boy and would fain have seen him take up one of the professions.

He returned to his father’s house a week before his eighteenth birthday under the impression that his path in life was marked out for him; and that it was a wise dispensation of Providence that he had not succeeded in striking out a new line for himself. Undoubtedly it was intended that he should follow closely in the footsteps of his forebears and stick to the land.

He was prepared to begin his new duties at once; to help in the superintendence of the stock; to accompany his father to Norwich market and to assist in the buying and selling; to shoot the game in the winter and fulfil the contract with the game dealer; to hunt regularly with his sisters, and attend them at their social functions—garden parties in summer and dances in winter. In short, he would lead the ideal country life, as his ancestors had done before him, although he belonged to an untitled family, which did not even bear a coat of arms, and had no pretence to call itself a “county” family.

Then came the bitter awakening. Timothy Breydon discovered with a sinking of the heart that his services were not required. His father, hale and vigorous, was able to do all that was necessary to keep the farm going with the assistance of the old bailiff. Unconsciously, the older man exhibited a species of jealousy—due to long residence within the confines of a narrow world—which caused him to put a wrong construction on his son’s actions. Tim’s ready offer to learn his duties, his eagerness to relieve his father of some of his most irksome work, entailing the braving of bad weather, early rising in the dark hours of a winter’s morning, and the toilsome tramp over cornfields in the hot August sun, only bred suspicion in the eyes of the squire. They seemed to be attempts on the part of the younger man to get the power into his hands, and to shelve the older generation. Consequently his offers were rejected without any expression of gratitude.

Determined not to be discouraged, Tim ignored the rebuffs and shut his eyes to discouragement. He endeavoured to discover if there was any means by which he could help. He associated himself with the bailiff, treated the sick beasts in the cattle-sheds and stables under his directions, and assisted in the tan-strewed yard where the colts were introduced to the saddle and bridle for the first time.

He managed to get on with the old bailiff, who had known him from a baby. Under his guidance he learned a great deal about the handling of young horses which was not even known to his father. Tim enjoyed the work, as any young active spirit would appreciate occupation; but it was not the kind of thing that would help him to stand in his father’s shoes by-and-by.

Gradually his willingness to give of his best died within him. He felt that he was merely killing time with occupation that might be equally well performed by any young horseman on the farm. He was sinking slowly but surely into head stableman and rough rider on his father’s estate; for which office he received free board and lodging, and a modicum of pocket-money grudgingly bestowed. He was permitted to hunt as often as he chose. There were always horses in the stables to be trained in the field. It was a good place for exhibiting the hunters, and it was not unlikely that a purchaser might be met with. In the same way his father took no exception to his shooting. The game had to be brought in regularly to fulfil the contract, and Tim was a good shot, killed his birds neatly and to the liking of the man who purchased them.

It was inevitable that, with a man of Tim’s temperament, rebellion should follow. The position into which his father had permitted him to sink—indeed, had pushed him—was galling to his pride. On every occasion when he offered to do something that had responsibility attached to it, the refusal of his help was followed by a suggestion that he would find plenty to do in the riding-school.

One day his habitual patience gave way, and out of the bitterness of his heart he spoke, reproaching his father for his want of sympathy. If his work was to lead him no further than to be a hired hand upon the farm, he would do better to strike out a line for himself elsewhere. Unfortunately his choice of a time for unburdening himself was not good. The older man was smarting under a loss sustained through his own obstinacy respecting a valuable bull that was ill. Tim had recommended one course; his father in sheer contrariness had taken the other. The bailiff had been indiscreet enough to express an opinion that Tim knew more than the master gave him credit for, and that it was a pity they had not followed his advice. Tim’s hot-headed words, bursting in inconsiderate haste from an overburdened heart, added fuel to the fire that was already smouldering. The squire cut him short in unconcealed anger. He might go as soon as he pleased; he was not worth his salt in the old home; the family acres were not broad enough to keep useless sons in idleness; there was his younger brother to educate and his two sisters to portion, and so on.

Tim gasped for breath as he listened to the unexpected tirade. His first impulse was to check his father’s speech with vehement contradiction; but the hopelessness of the situation overwhelmed him, and he bowed his head in silence to the storm. When it was over he quietly packed his portmanteau and went off to a friend in Norwich. His sisters knew nothing of what had passed between father and son. They imagined that he had taken a holiday. There was no mother to divine the truth and pour balm upon the sore and stricken heart. So Tim did not return to the paternal roof. He made several valiant attempts to strike out the contemplated new line for himself but without success.

Three months later, after a series of disappointments of which his father knew nothing, a letter was received by one of his sisters and handed on in astonished silence to the head of the family at the breakfast table. In it Tim announced that he had enlisted in a Dragoon regiment; and that as soon as his training was completed, he would be sent out in a draft to join the regiment, which was stationed in India.

Born on a stud farm among horses, Tim Breydon was in his element as a trooper. There was very little about a horse that he did not know. He had a way with the animal that made him its friend as well as its master. He threw himself into his profession and rose rapidly until he became Riding Master and was given a commission.

His regiment went to Bangalore and, being married by that time, he gladly accepted the offer of Major Norman Cheverell, who had known him in the regiment and recognized the value of his qualifications, of a post on the staff at the Remount Depôt. He was put in charge of the European sergeants—all picked men—whose duty it was to supervise the horse lines and the gangs of syces employed.

Breydon had never broken altogether with his father. Occasionally he wrote home to his unmarried sister and sent messages to the old man. He also desired to be remembered to his brother and his married sister. He said very little of his own affairs, and still less of his wife. He mentioned the fact that he had married, but gave them no details about their sister-in-law. She naturally excited their curiosity more than a little; and the married sister, who was nearest to him in age, found courage to write and ask a few leading questions. The reply was short and to the point. Her birth was as good as theirs; she had a little money of her own; she was two years younger than himself, and she had brown eyes and dark hair. This only whetted their appetite for more, but it was all that they could get out of him. Further questions were ignored. An urgent entreaty for a photograph met with no better luck; and they had to content themselves with the meagre information already received. In speaking of the marriage among themselves, they decided that Tim had married colour, and was desirous of keeping the secret to himself. Once they hazarded the suggestion to their father, now less active than he was of yore and more dependent on his bailiff, who like himself had aged. He had met the insinuation with scorn and anger, and had stood up for his son’s judgment in all matters, including the choice of a wife. At the bottom of his heart he was bitterly regretting the loss of Tim. The younger scion had proved a failure. As the old man declared in moments of exasperation, “the boy didn’t know a horse’s head from a cow’s tail, and was no good on the farm at all.” To get rid of so useless an individual he articled him to a solicitor in Norwich, and then brushed him aside from his mind, as he had done in the case of his elder son when the latter enlisted. Every year that passed left its mark upon the squire and added to his limitations.

The bitterness that had struck so deeply into the heart of the willing helper, whom he had driven from his side, was the portion of the old man. He never mentioned it, and his children remained in ignorance, although there were signs now and then that might have opened their eyes. Did Tim say anything of coming home on leave? he asked unexpectedly when one of the soldier-son’s short and concise but not very communicative epistles had been passed round the breakfast-table. No. Tim had never suggested anything of the kind. Why should he? He was happy where he was, and now that he was married—well, perhaps it was wise to remain in India, as his wife, according to his own showing, preferred it. Squire Breydon turned away without a word, and called for the staid old cob that carried him over his property. He could no longer walk as of old to the furthest confines of the estate, and sometimes in the winter, when the cutting east wind blew in from the North Sea in all its untempered fury, the ride was almost too much for him. He was a just man, though his nature was hard and his vision of life narrow. He had carved out his own destiny for himself, and he knew it. The blame rested with himself and not with the generous affectionate boy whose spontaneous affection he had rejected. Too proud to admit that he was in fault, he never once wrote to his son nor sent him a personal message.

So Tim remained in ignorance of any softening on the part of his father. On his side the bitterness passed away; and when he thought of home, which was not very often, the vision of the schoolboy’s happy holidays was presented. The subsequent scenes that took place after he left school were set aside as bad dreams, and were forgotten.

Tim was contented with his lot, although there were moments when the agricultural life in Norfolk was vividly recalled by the English homestead established at Hosur. A fit of homesickness took him suddenly and unawares. Then he looked at his wife with a wealth of affection shining in the depths of his green-grey eyes, and knew that it was best for them both to remain in the Arcadia they had found at Hosur,

At the end of ten miles or so a fresh team was waiting, and once again Breydon’s attention was fully engaged. The horses were a very raw lot; and when a motor-car passed from behind after they started, and glided forward raising a cloud of dust, the team became thoroughly disorganized.

“Who was that?” asked Dereham, sneezing under the influence of the dust.

“Dharma Govinda; the man who lent you the syce.””

“He drives a motor-car, does he?”

“Two or three, I believe. He has more money than he knows what to do with. His father supplies our lines with corn and straw. I believe he also has a contract with the Lancers now stationed at Bangalore; and he does a lot of business for the Maharajah and his troops. Instead of burying the money under the floor of the zenana, as they used to do a couple of generations ago, these fellows invest it in cotton mills, coal and gold mines, and land, and get their fifteen to twenty per cent.”

“I suppose he sent his son to England?”

“Govinda was there three years. He professes to know all there is to be known of the old country, and has his opinions strong. He tries to get me on to the subject of Ireland and the wisdom of our policy in its government when we meet,” said Breydon, with a laugh.

“What cheek! What infernal cheek! What does he know about England, even if he has happened to live there three years, or of Ireland? His time was probably spent at music-halls and knocking about with silly girls who disgrace themselves over these black skins.”

“He will tell you that he is more competent to judge English affairs than you are to judge Indian, because the English people at home are easier to know. He never loses an opportunity of poking fun at the ‘Pagets, M.P.’ who come out on three months’ tour and then go home and write about the country as if they were experts. As for their comments on the caste and marriage customs of the Hindus, he grows rabid upon the subject, and asks if we should listen for a single moment to similar criticisms of our social customs from a Hindu.”

“Evidently his head has been turned and he doesn’t know his place.”

Tim drove on in silence for some time, and then said ---

“May I ask, sir, how long it is since you were in India?”

“I left five years ago, when my father died. I left the regiment at the same time. It was the Lancers now quartered at Bangalore.”

“You will find the country altered even in that short time.”

That’s an alteration, an innovation, I might say, and one that bodes no good to them or to us.” He nodded towards the distant cloud of dust marking the passage of the car. “It isn’t that I object to his riding in a car. What jars on me is the side that he puts on.”

They arrived at the second stage of their journey, where a third team awaited them. The spot was shady, and there was water within easy reach. Here the cavalcade, that was following slowly behind, would arrive three or four hours later and take a well-earned rest.

Breydon did not lose any time. The syces released the sobered team and harnessed the fresh horses to the brake. In five minutes they were off again, this time with less cavorting and getting out of step, for the team consisted of an older and steadier lot that had almost completed its training.

“Hallo! Whafs happened to the car? Something has gone wrong,” exclaimed Dereham soon after they had started, his eyes fixed upon a distant object by the roadside.

As they came up with it, they found Govinda standing disconsolately at the edge of the road whilst his chauffeur was poking about the machinery. The Hindu held an umbrella over his head, and there was no sign of the smile that usually illuminated his dark face.

Breydon pulled up; and the syces, who had seated themselves inside, jumped down and ran to the horses’ heads,

“What’s the matter?” asked Breydon. “Can we be of any assistance?”

“Thank you, no; something has gone wrong with the machinery. I daresay my man will be able to put it right.”

The chauffeur emerged wrench in hand and said, “I cannot possibly put it right without assistance. I am sorry your honour is so inconvenienced. It is not my fault. This is a chance accident that no one could have foreseen.”

“May I give you a lift home, Mr. Govinda?” asked Tim.

Govinda looked up wistfully. Then his eyes travelled over the seats of the brake arranged waggonette fashion. He had seen the syces jump out. He knew that no Englishman would be so thoughtless as to make his men run all the way. They would be told to get up and occupy the vacant seats as soon as they were fairly started. The luggage took up some space within the large, roomy brake; and the occupants of the seats would be obliged to sit close to each other. To ride side by side with men of lower caste than himself was abhorrent to his mind; it was impossible. He was not a Brahmin, but he considered himself immeasurably superior to the pariah syces. Education and wealth had combined to fill Hindus of Govinda’s type with the exclusiveness and pride that had belonged for all ages to the Brahmin. He lifted his chin with a gesture that intimated to the natives at least that he knew what was due to him.

“I would rather stay with the car. It is quite possible that we may be able to tinker it up sufficiently for me to be able to get home,” he replied.

“You are some way off your house in Hosur. Better let me drop you there. It won’t take me more than a couple of miles out of my way.”

“You are very good, and I am much obliged; but I won’t avail myself of your kind offer. I’d rather stay here and see what can be done.”

“Very well; good morning,” said Tim Breydon, with a drawing together of the reins that telegraphed to the animals he had in hand his desire to start.

The going was beautiful. The music of the hoofs as they struck the ground in unison; the breeze that tempered the rays of the sun descending with some heat upon their backs; the even motion; the open landscape that awoke the instinctive approval of the sportsman, suggesting with its varying features good hunting, fishing, and shooting; the anticipation of the certain welcome to Cheverell’s perfectly appointed bachelor’s establishment, all contributed to raise Dereham’s spirits and put him in tune with the universe. Something of the pure enjoyment of his boyhood days was returning, a blessed pleasure that he had forfeited by self-indulgence. Something like repentance for what he termed his follies stirred within him. If he could compass his designs, he would drop all such nonsense. It had long since palled upon him and become bitter in its after taste; he would lead the life worthy of the Englishman who desired to perpetuate a good name and hand it down to his son.

Four miles were covered in a silence broken only by the pleasant thud of hoofs upon the road and the roll of wheels.

A curl of dust in the distance suggested an approaching vehicle. A smart pony and two-wheeled trap driven by a lady approached and flashed past them. Tim lifted his whip in salutation; the lady nodded. At the same time she shot a swift glance through the blue veil that enveloped hat and head at the man by his side. Something in his appearance attracted her, for she turned and looked back.

Dereham was quite accustomed to be followed by beauty’s eyes, and the glance did not strike him as being peculiar. From his childhood he had run the gauntlet of undisguised admiration. He could not walk down a street or go into a shop to make a purchase without finding himself the centre of feminine observation. Her action, therefore, was not unusual or surprising to him.

“Who’s that; one of the Depôt ladies?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Breydon, pulling his team together. The horses had started as the flying hoofs of the pony rattled by.

“Pretty figure and a good whip; had that little beast of a pony well in hand when it played up as we passed. It’s probably been raced. Who is she?”

Breydon did not reply, being engaged with the near wheeler that was worrying itself under a determined attack of a large cattle-fly. Though well schooled the horse had a short temper, and it was laying back its ears as it seriously considered the advisability of displaying a pair of heels under the infliction.

Another curl of red dust that shone with the brilliancy of gold in the sun diverted Dereham’s curiosity.

“Who have we here?” he asked. “More ladies apparently.”

“It is Mr. Quinbury, the sub-collector, who lives at the Castle.”

A man of about thirty-five was driving a pair of brown Walers in an open waggonette. They passed in sedate and orderly fashion without disturbance to the team. By his side was a girl. Inside was Mrs. Quinbury with another girl and a man. They were laughing and talking among themselves, and had no eyes for chance travellers along the road. The driver, occupied with his horses, nodded to Breydon as he passed. The woman by his side glanced at Dereham with surprise and sudden recognition. He returned the smile, but without any astonishment, and the smile lingered on his lips after the vision had gone. He asked no questions this time. He knew more about Alauda Lawrence than his companion could tell him.

The steady pace was maintained; and half an hour later Breydon took his team skilfully up the winding carriage-drive that led to the Superintendent’s house. As he pulled up Major Cheverell came out to greet his guest.

“Hallo, Dereham! Got here at last! Hope Breydon didn’t have to keep you long?” he said cheerily.

“Nothing to speak of. If there was any delay, it was caused by my own horse. The syce I engaged to come up in the train failed me at the last moment.””

“What did you do?”

“A native came to the rescue with the loan of a man, and so my horse follows with your cavalcade.”

“Was it Shah Adam-u-din?”

“No, sir,” replied Breydon for him. “It was Dharma Govinda.”

“Oh, that fellow! He has taken up racing lately. He ought to be in his father’s go-downs in Bangalore city, looking after the store coolies,” said Cheverell, with contempt. “How did the teams go, Breydon?”

“Very well, indeed. The chestnuts were fidgety, tired of waiting in the cold morning air at the station, and they were in a bit of a hurry to get on. The bays are very raw still, and might do a little more work. These brown horses have brought us in the last ten miles splendidly.”

“I’ll have them up here as soon as the roans go.”

“They won’t give you any trouble; their mouths are soft, and their manners nearly perfect,” replied Breydon, with a touch of pardonable pride in his voice.

The luggage had been removed, and he was ready to take the horses to their lines.

“All right, I’ll see you this afternoon, Breydon. Come in, Dereham, you’ll be glad of a change after your night’s journey,” said Cheverell, leading the way into the cool, flower-scented hall.

There were several duties to perform before Breydon could return to the pretty little house that was his home. Having handed over the team to the syces, to be rubbed down and rewarded with their portion of sweet green lucerne which was awaiting them in their stalls, he passed in turn to each row of stables known as the lines; he spoke to the sergeants in charge, who had just concluded the supervising of the feeding and grooming of the hundred odd horses that occupied that particular building. He had to inquire into the health of the animals and the conduct of the syces, and to learn if there was anything to report or any complaint to be made. The hospital also had to be visited. Here he found Captain Ravenstone, of the Army Veterinary Department, who greeted him genially.

“What sort of a lot have we got this time?” asked Ravenstone.

“Very good as to build, but I never saw horses in worse condition. Perfect scarecrows they are. They must have had very bad weather crossing,” replied Breydon.

He did not linger, but walked quickly towards his bungalow. It was less than a quarter of a mile distant from the stables. Nestling among trees and embowered among flowering creepers, it was hidden from the road. Not until the compound was entered did it come into view.

As he strode through the open gateway a handsome boy of six years old ran towards him shouting his childish welcome.

“Hallo, Daddy! Did any of your horses kick this morning?”

“No, sonnie. Isn’t it time you went indoors and washed your hands for breakfast?”

“Mum has called me,” was the complacent answer.

“Well, run in at once, and don’t let her have to call twice.”

Breydon entered the centre room from the verandah. Breakfast was laid upon a round table; there was a welcome smell of coffee which well-nigh dominated the scent of yellow roses in the bowl that stood in the centre of the table.

He glanced round, and seeing no sign of his wife, called ---

“Brenda! Where are you?”

There was no reply, so he turned into the bedroom on the right that opened on to the broad verandah. A woman came silently and swiftly towards him. She raised her arms and clasped him round the neck, clinging to him as though she sought shelter from some threatened evil. He caught her closely and held her to him. His touch had the same magical effect upon her as it had upon the mouths of his horses. It stilled her nerves and restored her self-possession.

“What is it, darling?” he whispered, bending over the dark brown head laid against his breast. “You haven’t had an accident with the pony and smashed up your dear self, have you? Bluebeard was very fresh this morning when you passed; but you’re as capable a whip as I am.”

She found her voice at last. “No, no, Tim! Bluebeard went splendidly. It was—” the words choked her; her tongue refused to utter what she wanted to say.

“Take time, dear; and throw your burden upon my shoulder. Long ago I told you that I was to be the bearer of all your troubles. I was ready then; I am ready now. What has happened?”

“I saw you this morning, and by your side—”

“Yes—yes?”

“Sat the man.”

Closer still he gathered her in his arms. Then he lifted the pale, refined face and gazed long and steadily into the dark eyes. They met his fearlessly. Sorrow had left its shadow upon them, but out of their depths shone a great devotion passing the mere passion of feminine love.

“Darling!” he whispered; and he kissed her on the lips.

Then lifting his head he muttered a curse on the man, a deep malediction that was wrung from his innermost spirit. It carried in it contempt and deadly loathing.

Chapter IV

Dharma Govinda stood looking disconsolately after the retreating brake. With its departure went the only comfortable means of returning to his house without a long wait, or an undignified ride in a chance country cart that might be passing. His father had no objection to the humble bullock-cart as a means of conveyance. Progress might be slow, but the time could be passed pleasantly in sleep. His son had been educated beyond the primitive means of travelling that were good enough for the father. Nothing less than twenty-five miles an hour in a motor-car of the latest pattern seemed satisfactory in an open country like this.

“You are a fool, the son of an owl, the grandson of an ass,” commented the vexed owner of the car, as the chauffeur once more grappled with his difficulties.

“It is not my fault, excellency,” whined the unhappy young man, who in spite of his overalls had begrimed his smart uniform into a murky brown that matched his complexion. “It would have been better if your honour had accepted the horse-master’s offer and had been driven back to Hosur.”

“Fool! Would you insult your master? Am I to ride in company with low-caste syces like an Englishman? He has no caste; it is nothing to him, who is served by pariahs, whose food is touched by the hands of the out-caste, to sit close to a horse-keeper!”

The outburst soothed him, and he said in more moderate tones ---

“Is there no chance of mending the machinery sufficiently for us to get home? There need be no hurry. We could drive slowly.*”

“Sir; it is impossible. There is a breakage which can only be repaired in the workshop. It has been a day of bad luck ever since we left the station. First there was the dog, not fifty yards from the railway. Its back was broken; and a dog’s back has a much higher price when it is broken by the stranger than when it breaks under its owner’s stick. Then there was the cart-load of earthen pots, all new pots! Aiyoh! the breaking of one new pot brings enough bad luck; but to turn over and smash up a whole bandy load is to bring a thousand evils upon one’s head! Now there is this breakdown. A flaw in the metal, the engineer will say. Who can account for a flaw in the metal?”

“The rascally Englishman who cast it.”

“The English have much to answer for, but they cannot hide flaws in steel at pleasure to spite Hindus. This is the work of the gods. Your honour has come suddenly under their displeasure. I know not how; but it is certain that they hide their faces, and the devils make sport of us.”

Govinda was silent. He turned back along the road and walked to the place where the last team had been taken. The chauffeur followed with a rug and some cushions. He arranged them under the shade of a tree so that his master might rest in comfort.

“If your honour will remain here, I will go to the nearest village and see if I can hire a couple of strong bulls to take the car home.”

“Go, son of a pig; and be sure you get what we require without being the whole day about it.”

Govinda was left to his thoughts. The azure sky, the fresh breeze, the singing of the birds, the smiling country had no attraction for him. They stirred neither the sportsman nor the naturalist within him. If his eye chanced to linger on a field of beans, it was with the merchant’s appreciation of the value of the crop. He sat there brooding over the unusual chapter of accidents that had befallen him. A delay and a fierce dispute of half an hour’s duration with the owner of the dog resulted in the assessment of the value of the broken spine at five rupees. Another half-hour spent under similar circumstances with the driver of the cart containing the earthenware pots had ended in the transfer of a twenty rupee note. His progress being retarded in this fashion, he had not overtaken Breydon as soon as he had intended. It was a disappointment. He had had it in his mind to flourish past in the first few miles and show in what a superior manner he, Dharma Govinda, was able to travel, even though they had four noble horses, picked animals from the best that Australia could give. It had also crossed his mind that he might offer a seat to Major Cheverell’s visitor, and convey him to the Superintendent’s house in a quarter of the time that it took to drive. But Dereham’s manner had not fostered the inclination. He decided that it would produce a better effect to loll back on his cushions and roll by, leaving them to enjoy his dust. By a stroke of sheer ill-luck the tables had been turned, and it was they who had offered him a lift, an offer that was an insult, whether they knew it or not. If Dereham had dismounted from the box-seat and given him his place it would have been different. Since he had obliged the Englishman by the loan of a syce, he felt aggrieved that this had not been done. Dereham had no caste to consider, and he might so easily have made it possible for Dharma Govinda to avail himself of an offer that would have been a happy solution of his present predicament. Sitting by the side of a groom was a common practice with Englishmen. He had seen it done in England as well as in India, and Dereham could have sat by the syces without loss of dignity.

“It is the horse, the fault of the horse. I might have expected it; but I thought, I hoped, for so short a space of time fate might have been averted,” he murmured to himself.

A pipit in the tree overhead piped to another that responded from a neighbouring bush. A curlew sent its melancholy cry across a shining stretch of water that lay on the other side of the tope of trees, and a plover called to its wary brood to lie hidden whilst the kite sailed overhead.

At the end of an hour a pony-cart of country pattern, known as a jutka, approached from the direction of Hosur. It swayed from side to side as the wiry Mahratta pony went along in that uneasy pace peculiar to the breed which is neither a trot nor a gallop. The animal seemed capable of sustaining it for a great distance, and it covered the ground at the rate of nine or ten miles an hour.

The cart pulled up at the tope of trees, and turning off the road drove into the shade. It rocked, threatening to fall to pieces and drag the string-tied harness from the pony’s back.

Out of the back of the cart stepped a young Hindu. He stretched his long dark limbs and shook out the crumpled white loin-cloth into flowing skirts. Seeing Dharma Govinda, he approached and made a low salaam.

“Why is your excellency seated thus upon the ground instead of flying along the roads in the devil-bandy?”

“The devil has struck work and refused to do my bidding. He who drives the devil has gone to find a pair of bullocks to take the carriage home.”

“And you, most noble sir, most honourable of men?”

There was devotion in the eyes as the head was raised from the obeisance. The look and the action were soothing to the ruffled feelings of the owner of the car. The smile that had been absent longer than usual from his face returned, and the white teeth glistened in the bright daylight.

“I wait with patience as my country waits. If it is the will of the gods that I travel no faster than my ancestors travelled before the fire-carriage and the devil-carriage came, I submit. But if it is possible to go quicker, by all means let us have done with patience. Let us fly.”

“I have done with patience ---”

“Foolish little brother!”

“Your honour knows.”

“See here, Chandraswamy, I know nothing. Am I not a friend of the English? Even now my servant, Cassim, is employed to lead the horse of the foreigner. You passed the brake?”

“Not long ago. There was a Feringhi seated by the side of the horse-master who drove.”

“He it was to whom I lent Cassim; but, little brother, have a care how you use that term Feringhi. They do not like it; and their ears are pricked like those of the foolish hare when they hear it. They scent danger and think of some fifty odd years ago.”

Govinda laughed lightly as though amused at his thoughts. His companion did not join in his laughter.

“It was from your own lips, excellency, that I first heard the term,” he replied gravely.

“I but repeated what was said in the papers,” answered Govinda, carelessly. He looked towards the pony that had been taken out of the jutka, and was losing no time in cropping the grass. “How soon are you returning?” he asked.

“As soon as my mission is fulfilled.”

“And when will that be?”

The youth gazed down the road in the direction of Malur.

“It is too soon to expect them yet,” was the vague answer.

Govinda did not trouble himself to ask what he meant. “I do not think I will wait for the bullocks. Let me have your pony and cart, you can return in the car. You will have plenty of time to reflect.”

“Reflection is not what young India wants. Our fathers have reflected; it is for us to act.”

“Every horse must have its rough-rider to saddle and bridle it for the first time, and teach it manners with whip and spur. Those who saddle and bridle the English may get some hard knocks. With your kind permission I will go. Tell your driver to harness the pony. I will give him a present in addition to his charge for the journey, if he will drive carefully. Bring some of the cushions. It is ill work riding in these jutkas after being used to a devil-carriage of my own.”

A little later the pony with its hooting and yelling imp of a driver started off in the direction of Hosur. The promise of a present and the honour of driving the rich young merchant turned the head of the boy altogether. He chucked at the rotten reins, tied by their worn-out buckles to the cruel jagged snaffle, and kicked the willing little beast in the flanks with his sharp toes, by way of qualifying for the bestowal of the gift and of showing how capable he was. The jutka rolled and swayed, giving its occupant such a shaking as he had not experienced since he was a boy.

“Chandraswaray means well but he is hot-headed; and the hot-headed are like flying foxes in the sunlight. They do not see where they are going. The Englishman said that all black skins were alike; it was only a difference of dress by which they could be distinguished. He would give me to understand that if I were dressed in the uniform of slavery with which he clothes his syces, I would look like a syce! I, Dharma Govinda! who have been to England! I, who have put my arms round their English girls, and have been waited on, and had my boots blacked by ‘one of his colour!’ The time is near at hand, as Chandraswamy says, for action. Let the wise be wise and keep themselves out of the storm.”

Filled with pride he unconsciously lifted his head, and dislodged the turban that he wore. In endeavouring to replace it, he let go his hold on the seat and was thrown from one side to the other. He shouted angrily to the boy to drive more carefully. The imp mistook the shout for an order to go faster. He used his whip and redoubled the play upon the pony’s flanks with his toes, fearful lest a comparison of the pace of his jutka with the pace of the devil-carriage should cause his fare to change his mind in the matter of the present. They were approaching the outskirts of the town. The road became more confined as the habitations of men were reached, and there was less “sea room” for the surging, maddened steed. Moreover its stable and its mid-day meal were not far off. Govinda again shouted, and as the boy turned to hear what he said, the pony took a corner too sharply. There was a cracking sound of wood and a snapping of straps. The pony was brought up sharply on its haunches by collision with the culvert wall. It sat down, and then rose on its hind legs in a far-reaching rear that lifted the shafts, and upset the centre of gravity of the passenger inside the vehicle. The door behind flew open, and Govinda fell out with an avalanche of cushions on the top of him. His turban rolled away in the red dust, and his smart grey suit was stained with the powdered laterite. Fortunately the pony chose to bound forward instead of backing the cart over the prostrate man, a danger that seemed imminent at one time; and, getting out of hand altogether, it tore onwards at a hand gallop. The dilapidated harness seemed to hang by a thread, or rather by several bits of frayed string; the door banged as the jutka rocked. The boy, knowing the weakness of everything but the pony, dared not pull upon the rotten reins more than was just sufficient to guide the animal and avoid further collision; nor did he care to make much effort in that direction. Flight was his only refuge from the wrath of the great man he had so ignominiously laid low in the dust. All chance of the present was gone. He would be lucky if he saved his skin from the application of the bamboo. He turned down a by-street and disappeared until the storm should blow over and he could demand his fare from the person who had originally engaged him, and compensation for the splinters and paint that had been knocked off the vehicle. Never again would he start out as he had started out that morning. An owl had hooted and screamed in the dawn upon the roof of the pony’s stables. It was bad luck, sheer bad luck. He should have turned back and made a fresh start, and so cheated the ill-will of the devil that sent the owl.

Strange to say, Govinda was neither enraged nor frightened at the calamity, the fourth that morning which had happened to him. Having discovered that no bones were broken, and that all he needed was a clothes-brush, he stepped to the side of the road carrying the cushions with him. These he deposited upon the wall. A cooly-woman, bearing a load of vegetables upon her head, bemoaned with many exclamations and honorific terms the ill-luck that had befallen his honour. He cut her short with an order, given in an imperious manner, to call two of his servants and send them to his assistance. She departed at a jog-trot with salaams, for she knew who he was. Then he pulled out his watch and made a calculation.

“This is again the horse,” he said resignedly, as he flecked at the large red patches of ochre dust that stained his knees.

An empty cart drawn by a single trotting bullock passed. He was tempted to signal to it but resisted the impulse. “No, I have no wish for a further experience on wheels. Let me submit to fate and leave others to fight it. I will finish my journey on foot as soon as I have some one to carry these things. It is a marvel that the train did not break down. But no! it was no marvel after all! Was not the other horse travelling by the same train? Of course, the train was safe from the ill-will of fate. Ah! here comes one of my people running. Now let us see if the journey can be finished in safety without further catastrophe. Perhaps the spell is already broken. If Cassim is sharp— Here, gardener, carry these things to the house.’”

Without question the servant piled the cushions upon his head and set off in the direction of Govinda’s house. His master followed at a leisurely pace; and in a quarter of an hour he arrived at a substantial building with an upper story. The compound was small and surrounded by a high wall. It was entered by a gateway that had no gate, but was barred by a bamboo of sufficient strength to prevent buffaloes from straying through.

Govinda walked up the weedy, untidy carriage-drive and entered the verandah, which was entirely screened from one end to the other by bamboo blinds. As his patent leather boots sounded on the brick floor a woman came towards him wringing her hands and raising her voice in lamentation.

“Aiyoh! that I should be fated to bring such an evil message on my tongue to the master of the house!”

Tears fell profusely and he noted, now that his eyes were becoming accustomed to the subdued light, that she had thrown dust upon her head and had torn her muslin saree.

“What is it, woman?” he asked. “What is the good of shrieking like a mourner at a funeral if you do not tell the cause?”

“Aiyoh! it was a girl, only a girl, so perhaps it will not matter, your excellency, that the child has died; but it was hard that the mother should die too!”

“The mother of daughters can be better spared than the mother of sons. What is the big mistress doing?”

“She awaits your coming.”

“Tell her I am ready. What time was the child born?”

“Between six and seven.”

“This is also the horse,” he muttered to himself as he signed to the woman to go.

Then he went inside and passed to his own private room, where women with soft touch and gentle movement removed his soiled clothes, bathed his hands and massaged his limbs, whilst he discussed with his mother the ceremonial to be carried out in the funeral and cremation of one of his wives.

Chapter V

Gopal and Cassim were the last to start in the long string of horses, when the porter who had patiently held Dereham’s horse, was released.

“I am glad indeed that it was not the other,” he said as he relinquished the rope.

“Shoo! timid one! Have the syces been talking? To hold a horse or even to lead it is not to possess it, and no harm can come,” replied Gopal.

“The Remount syces say that it is marked by the gods.”

“Are we not all marked by the gods at our birth; and is not everything that breathes marked likewise? else why should one die and another live?”

A shout came down the line, echoed from man to man, and the last of the horses began to move.

“Lead on, Gopal,” said Cassim, who had arranged to take charge of Govinda’s animal for the first half of the journey. Should it “give trouble” on the road, as was possible, he was more fitted to cope with its naughtiness than his fellow-servant. Gopal without another word followed the last syce, and Cassim brought up the rear. The porter, in company with the waterman, watched them and commented on the horses in general and the racers in particular, until they were lost in the cloud of dust raised by the numerous feet.

They travelled steadily hour by hour with few stoppages until they reached the tope near the spot where the car had broken down. It was one o’clock in the afternoon, later by forty minutes than Abdullah had hoped to be there.

The newly imported Walers were already much fatigued with their march. They had felt it more than the men, who could have walked at the easy pace set by Abdullah for another six hours if there had been any necessity.

After attending to their charges and giving them water and food, the syces drew together in the broad shade of a tree. They sat in a large circle squatting upon their heels—their horses held behind them—to eat their own frugal mid-day meal, which they had brought with them. It comprised boiled rice prepared the previous day and flavoured with salt, pepper, garlic and green ginger. They disposed of it quickly, and the men’s tongues began to wag.

Cassim and Gopal occupied a place in the circle, but the former was still busy with Govinda’s horse, removing its clothing. Neither of the racers had suffered in the march. They had not been recently landed from a sea voyage and they were in a better condition. A few weeks’ training would fit them for the contests during the coming festivities.

The cloths being removed the proportions of Govinda’s horse were displayed to the view of the curious syces. There was a chorus of “Ah! Bah!” as the animal stood in the sunlight.

It was strangely like the one bought by Dereham, and yet to the syces’ eyes there was a difference of the greatest importance. On the chest of Govinda’s animal a twist in the hair appeared which circled round into a tiny curl. The horse had been so well groomed that it was scarcely perceptible. It was the sight of this curl that had brought forth the ejaculation. The men recognized it as an unlucky mark that boded ill for the owner. On the other horse an identical curl appeared, but it was placed higher up, half-way between the chest and head. In this spot it had another meaning. Good luck would attend its owner.

“How came your master to buy the horse?” asked an old syce named Runga, looking at the unlucky mark.

“It was by the same mischance that Devaraja bought his horse some years ago. The story is well remembered in the stables in Madras,” said Cassim.

“What was it?”

“Devaraja was a careful man. He never neglected to read what was written by the gods. The horses before they are sold are numbered. It is not necessarily the number that is branded on their feet. He chose the number on the list which the astrologers had declared long ago to be his fortune number; and he had ascertained that by a curious coincidence the numbers marked on its foot and on its card were the same. As he was leaving his house on the morning of the auction, his brother’s widow met him to make a request. He cursed her and turned back, determined to start afresh. He waited ten minutes, by which time the unpropitious moment might have passed, and again tried to leave his house. This time he stumbled on the threshold and sneezed. After that he gave up the journey and all thought of securing the horse. His cousin, being sorry for his disappointment, said, ‘Let me go, brother; I will buy it for you. It is clearly marked in the catalogue and there can be no mistake.’ So Devaraja, who greatly desired to have the horse, consented, and his cousin brought it back that very afternoon. Never having seen the horse that Devaraja had chosen, how could he tell that the animal had been removed and another substituted? A big Rajah had seen it, and recognizing the mark of good-will given by the gods, he had offered a large sum. The manager took it away and put another horse in its place. Devaraja stood upon the steps of his house as his cousin came up, a syce leading the horse behind. ‘Brother, I have brought you the desire of your heart, but I have not ceased to marvel why you wished to possess so accursed a beast. If it was for cheapness then assuredly you did well, but it has no other good quality; and by the signs set upon its body, it will bring speedy death to its owner.’ Devaraja saw with his own eyes that the words spoken by his cousin were true. He uttered a cry and fell forward breaking his neck upon the spot, and thus the writing of the powers that control the fate of men and animals came true.”

The syces listened intently to the tale; and as Cassim finished their eyes turned upon the horse bought by Govinda.

“Something of the same sort happened here. The horse seen and chosen by my master was that other,” he pointed to its companion. “Then came the Englishman. He is of a nation whose people never rest till they get what they want. He bought it the day before the auction, and the stable people put this one in its place, which, being so like, my master believed was the one that he chose.”

“It is a strong horse,” remarked Runga, the old syce; “and were it not for the unlucky mark, it should beat all that enter the field with it. See the marks of its wings; how large and strong they would have been if the gods permitted them to grow.”

He pointed to the horny excrescences on the legs, where, says Hindu tradition, there once were wings. When men fought with each other in those days it was in the air. One day they turned their arms against heaven, and the gods in anger at their presumption, cut off the wings of their steeds and they fell to earth never able to rise above it again.

“Now that the English have brought the devil-carriage and the balloon and can do without horses, the gods must be sorry that they cut off the horses’ wings.”

“That may be; for in these days they hide their heads in shame. The English with their messages that go unseen upon the wires—it is even said by some of the papers that they will go without the wires, but I cannot believe it—their devil-carriages, their devil trumpet-tubes which carry the voice of a weak woman twice as far as the strongest hill-man can send his shout, their lamps showing flame from an empty tube where there is neither oil nor wick, the gods are disgusted. The spirit is gone out of them and they sit angry and silent, waiting for some one to revenge them. The Mission padre says they are dead; but our purohits and gurus know better. They tell us that the gods wait and watch and one day they will speak.”

“Ah, ah, old man! your lips speak truth!” cried a voice behind them.

It belonged to the young Hindu who three hours ago had ridden up to the tope in the jutka. His long thin face with its deep-set eyes was alight with fanaticism. Without waiting for an invitation he stepped into the circle and held up both his hands, a gesture that was quite unnecessary as he already had the undivided attention of the men.

“I am a Swadeshi preacher, and I am here on purpose to talk to you. It is forbidden that I speak in your lines. This, therefore, is the only chance I have of bringing those things to your ears that the gods would have you know. You heard this old man say that the gods of our country were hiding themselves for very shame. It is true. The Kaliyuga, the cruel age of Kali’s reign, has begun. Misfortune and ruin are at their full flood, and all the gods but the Destroyer have hidden themselves. It is a time of wickedness and misery, when the rules of caste are broken down by foreigners; when strange gods are proclaimed; when cows are fed only as long as they give milk, and then are killed and eaten by the pale faces; when there are famines and plagues; when men possessing money are thought more of than the holy Brahmin in the streets; when kings, living thousands of miles away and never looking upon the faces of their people, levy taxes instead of giving them protection. It was told in the sacred book, the Vishnu Purana, that was written in our forefathers’ time.”

All eyes were centred upon the speaker.

“You belong to a lower caste than myself, but there is no reason why I should not speak to you. I am not too proud. Are we not all natives of this land, born to inherit what the gods may have provided for us; but do we come into our inheritance? The stranger from a foreign land has entered it, and like the caterpillar on the tree he devours everything before our eyes. Are these your horses that you lead? No, they are the property of the stony-hearted white-faces. Will they be trained for your use?” No! they are destined to drag the guns of the Feringhis, which are kept not for the enemy outside, but to slay you if you dare to rise and demand your rights. Do you ride in carriages drawn by four horses like the foreigners by whose orders you are here? No! you tramp the roads in the dust raised by their wheels; and you run like slaves behind their carriages until they choose to give the sign for you to mount upon the carriage step. Is this justice, I ask? Is this as things should be in a free country?”

His words rang out in sharp metallic sounds that reached every ear. There was a murmur among the syces as a young man here and there echoed his words, and an old one grunted a doubtful assent.

“What is it?” he cried. “Some of you would like to ask a question, perhaps. I am ready to answer. I have knowledge. Was I not for three years a student in one of the Universities, where I was taught by the coat-wallahs? Ask me any question you like. I am here to give you information and tell you of the things that make the gods sorry.”

His fanatical eyes swept the little assembly, and rested upon a tall young syce whose face wore a deep shadow of discontent.

“Tell us the meaning of swadeshi. Some say that it is doing without English things; others that it is refusing Government service. What is swadeshi?

The last sentence was echoed by some of the other men.

Swadeshi is a word relating to the motherland. Anything that is done for the good of the country is swadeshi. These very words that I speak are swadeshi. It is by means of swadeshi that the yoke of the foreigners, who eat up the land, is cast off, and usurpers are driven into the sea. It was swadeshi that led the Japanese to triumph over the pale-faces who oppressed them. Through it men regain liberty, and with liberty comes happiness. In the old days India was ruled by Hindu kings. She had swaraj then; she ruled herself without the intervention of the foreigner. She was rich and free, and her people were blessed. Now what do we see? Famine! plague! ruined trade! slavery! the slavery that makes you walk and lead your masters’ horses whilst they ride. Was India—once the home of the gods—ever meant to lie under the heel of the accursed Feringhi?”

“His tongue utters the truth,” said the young syce, looking round upon his companions.

The tired horses stood with drooping heads, wearily brushing their flanks with their wisps of tails, and stamping a foot now and then. Some of them closed their eyes, an action quickly noticed by the syces for all their attention to the orator. A sharp word and a jerk upon the rope woke the sleepy animal, and prevented it from falling where it stood.

“What would you have us do?” asked another young man who had not long joined the Remount.

“For the present serve your masters. The time has not yet come to act; it is the time to listen, to meet together for encouragement, to look into our wrongs. It is the time to talk as you walk along the road, one behind the other. In such a line can there be more than one at the head—one who is first?”

The assent was unanimous, and the orator smiled at his own wit, as he continued ---

“You are right and you are wrong. If at a single word every man in the line going north—no matter whether there were twenty or one hundred—turned to the east, what should we find? A line still; but each would be first, and none would be last. When the time comes the word will be given. Till then submit to the yoke of the foreigner who walks in front.”

He looked round and found that Abdullah, the sowar, who had been sitting apart, had approached and was listening with a contemptuous smile on his face.

“It is time to be going,” he cried in a loud voice. Then he nodded his head towards the orator. “A bell makes much noise when a fool pulls the rope. Men who have wisdom take care to find out who it is that pulls before they give ear to the clatter.”

The Hindu shot an angry glance at the Muhammadan, whilst Cassim, the only other follower of the Prophet, laughed.

“You Mussulmans do not understand this question; you have no patriotism. Swadeshi is dry sand in your mouths. The spirit is gone out of you, and you would lick the boots of the white-faces whose foot is upon your neck.”

Abdullah did not vouchsafe to reply. A Muhammadan is not a man of words but of deeds. If he had had a sufficient number of co-religionists at his back, it is possible that the inflammatory and abusive speech of the Hindu might have led to some broken heads. As there was only Cassim to assist, and a large number of Hindu syces to support the other side, he deemed it wiser to express his scorn and contempt in his own method and break up the gathering.

“Come on! come on! Now Runga, lead the way!”

He addressed the old syce, who from long service was regarded as the father of the lines. He had already risen to his feet. As he moved slowly off in company with the sowar, Chandraswamy again raised his voice.

“Remember who you are, the swadeshi sons of India. If you would learn more, come to Hosur on Sunday. I address a large meeting under the banyan tree by the temple after sunset.”

He took from his pocket a dozen copies of a newspaper printed in Tamil and English, the columns being side by side. The English translation was a mild version of what was said in the vernacular.

“Which of you can read Tamil or English?”

More than half the men raised a hand to signify that they had a knowledge of one or the other.

“Where did you learn?”

“In the Mission school,” was the reply given by the majority.

He distributed the papers with an injunction to pass them on to other men when they had been read. The last men to leave the tope were Gopal and Cassim.

“The horse is tired and will no longer give trouble; there is no necessity to replace the cloths, as the afternoon is warm,” said Cassim, folding the jhools into a neat pile and placing the bundle on Gopal’s head. “You shall lead your master’s horse and I will take charge of the one belonging to the Dereham master.”

Gopal made no objection to his load nor to the leading of the horse. The delay caused by the packing up of the jhools and the change of horses from one syce to the other, caused the distance between the last animal of the Remount batch and themselves to widen. Once or twice Abdullah looked back and shouted to the long string of men behind him. There was a tendency to straggle in this last stage of the journey. Men and horses were showing signs of fatigue, the animals even more than the syces. It was unwise to hurry them; they must have time. He set a steady pace, walking by the side of Runga.

“Did you hear any of the words spoken by Chandraswamy?” asked the old man.

“Quite as many as my ears were willing to hold,” replied Abdullah, with some acrimony.

“What did you think of the speaker?”

“That he is like the wind blowing down a pipe. He makes a great noise and is pleased with the sound; but for all that there is nothing in the pipe but noise.”

The old man grunted and walked on for some time in silence. Then he remarked ---

“Prices are high. Never was rice so dear except in the red wind famine, when so many people died.”

“That is because there is not enough rice grown.”

“Yet the Sirkar is always opening up new land and making new irrigation works. It seems as if the more the land is brought under the influence of water and the plough, the dearer grain becomes.”

“It is the people who are in fault,” replied Abdullah. “They grow cotton and jute instead of grain. They do it because they get more money for their crops.”

“Say rather that it is the fault of the Sirkar. Government should not permit the growth of stuffs that cannot be eaten. Who can live on cotton and jute? It is rice and raggi that we want in plenty, such as we had when I was young. If it is grown now, the railways take it all away, and we are left to starve. Who builds the railways? The servants of the Sirkar. We were better off in the old days when there was no iron road, no fire-carriages.””

“The days are past when people obey their rulers,” observed the sowar, who had not much sympathy with the Hindu syce. “In these times they are allowed to follow their own will, and they are like horses that do not know the saddle and the curb. It was not so in the days of Haider Ali, who governed this land even from the Western Ghats to the plains on the Coromandel coast. My fathers fought in his service.”

Abdullah’s deep-set eyes travelled over the broad smiling landscape with a vague regret for another phase of the past that had vanished.

“Chandraswamy spoke of the Kaliyuga, the age we are now in, when Kali rules, bringing evil instead of good,” remarked the syce, who, being no historian, was more troubled about the present than the past.

“I know nothing about such idolatrous teachings,” answered the sowar loftily. “I only know that our power over the people of this land lay not so much in our arms as in our heads. We knew them and we governed them by our knowledge. The strength of the English is in their arms and not in their heads. They do not know us, and if it were not for the deadly power of the guns these horses are destined to drag, they could not hold the land.”

“It would be governed by men like Chandraswamy,” said Runga complacently. “He at least knows that we want cheaper food and cheaper clothes, and from his words it is likely that he would give them to us.”

“Pah!” Abdullah spat contemptuously. “My ancestors tossed such men as Chandraswamy upon the points of the spears, as the English toss the white balls over the net with their racquets. What is there to prevent us of the Faith from doing likewise? Nothing but the guns we speak of.”

The old syce said no more of his heathen beliefs nor did he urge the advantages of being ruled by men of Chandraswamy’s type. He took refuge in the repetition of his regrets for the days, not so very long ago, when food was cheaper and the woven cloth made in the country was not sent out of it.

“There were not so many people in the land then,” he said regretfully.

“That was when there were no relief works and no means of bringing food to the people. Now all that is changed; men and women are kept alive during the famines.”

“To die slowly through dearness of grain,” rejoined Runga, in bitter complaint. “We were better off in the old days when the men of a foreign race did not interfere with the will of the gods—gods they despise and irritate through their blindness.”

The sun was setting in a blaze of colour upon the level horizon. The paleness of the sky had vanished, and the uniform tints of the landscape had disappeared. The blue above had deepened to that tint beloved of the old Italian masters. Clouds of vapour, their edges gilded with red gold, and their masses glowing with warm purples, floated in the west, occasionally obscuring the sun and sending broad shadows earthwards in the golden haze. The green of the trees took an emerald tone, and the shadows a rick madder brown, whilst the distant hills turned from ultra-marine blue to rosy violet. Darkness was approaching, and Abdullah looked back with a shade of anxiety upon his face.

“Are our men all there?” he shouted, the question being repeated down the line.

The answer came back that they were all there, though the last horse was a mile behind. Only Gopal and Cassim were not in sight. The sowar considered if he should turn back; but he, too, was feeling that the walk from the station had been long enough, and he had no wish for any extra or unnecessary steps.

“Cassim and Gopal are not of us,” said Runga. “Why trouble about them? If they sit by the roadside, will they rise at your bidding, you, who are neither their maistry nor the owner of the horses? Possibly they have taken a road that leads more quickly to Hosur, and from thence Cassim will bring on the Dereham horse.”

Abdullah recognized the wisdom of the old man’s words, and plodded on in silence. It was quite dark when they reached the stable lines, and there was half an hour between the arrival of the first and the last horse. A gang of fresh syces was ready to relieve the men who had been leading, and to set them free at once; but Abdullah stood patiently waiting until he had seen every horse committed to his care brought up, except the racer.

“Where is Cassim and the Dereham horse?” he asked of the last dusty-footed man.

“I don’t know. For some time past they have not been in sight,” was the reply.

He walked back, tired as he was, to the road. There was no sign of horse or man. He listened for the thud of footfall, and presently caught the sound of some one running wearily. He moved towards that direction and came face to face with Gopal. Distress and exhaustion were apparent in every line of his figure, and he found his voice with difficulty.

“Where is the horse?” demanded Abdullah.

“Gone!”

“How? What?”

“It has escaped! Aiyoh! that I should be the unlucky one to tell the tale.”

The sowar knew all about such catastrophes, and what they entailed.

“How did it happen, son of a pig?”

“I was leading the new master’s horse, when suddenly one of those night-birds, that lie hidden on the road, and are the children of rakshas, flew up with a devil’s scream. It frightened me. I thought that it was the tree-devil out of the tope. The horse broke loose, and Cassim, in trying to catch it, let go of the rope by which he held the other. The horses are both well-fed and strong, and not as these that have lately come over the sea. They kicked their heels, and with much biting and fighting they ran away across the maidan. Aiyoh! unlucky man, that I am!”

Tears ran down his cheeks as he bemoaned his fate.

“Where is Cassim?”

“He follows to watch their course.”

“Go home and take your food. Nothing can be done in the dark. To-morrow at dawn a party shall be sent out to catch them if it is possible. May Allah preserve the beasts from cheetahs and wolves!”

Wiping his eyes the miserable syce departed to convey the bad news to his master, Dharma Govinda. The sowar looked after him.

“He is either a fool or a knave. Will he get the stick, as is his due in either case; or will he be rewarded? As to why it has been done, it is no business of mine. Let me mind my own duty and serve my masters; then I shall be rewarded of Allah.”

Chapter VI

Alauda Lawrence was a product of the latest educational system combined with wealth. She had a great respect for money, and a still greater respect for intellect. The result was confidence, a colossal confidence in herself and her wealth. There was no pride of birth or of position or attainments. She was too self-reliant to feel pride. She was an American by birth, but it was not apparent in her speech. Unless excited or startled her choice of idiom did not betray her nationality.

Alauda’s parents were dead, and she was alone in the world except for relatives like Mrs. Quinbury, the wife of the sub-collector of Hosur, who showed much kindness without claiming any authority. Occasionally advice was tendered; but not with the expectation that it would be followed blindly. If it coincided with her own views, Alauda might act upon it.

As her conduct was usually circumspect according to her trans-Atlantic rearing, even though it bordered on unconventional freedom, her relatives took no exception to her actions. They admitted that her independence was masterly, and unlike that of an English girl; but under the circumstances—those circumstances being wealth, good looks, and an absence of guardians—perhaps it was as well that she should have implicit confidence in herself.

She lost her mother when she was fifteen. She then became more than ever necessary to her father. He was fully occupied with his business, so that he made no demand upon the hours she desired to spend in study. It was after business and study were over that father and daughter drew together in close companionship. He survived his wife seven years, dying rather suddenly in the end. Alauda inherited all his wealth, being his only child.

During those seven years, when she was his constant companion, she learned how to manage the money that would one day be hers; and also how to keep her counsel concerning it. The reports that went abroad after his death were varied. Some credited her with a carefully nursed fortune of not more than fifteen thousand pounds, possibly less. Others professed their belief that it mounted up to something approaching a million. Not even to her aunts and cousins did she confide the secret. Their comment was that, whatever it might be, she knew how to take care of it. In business matters she was her father’s own daughter.

One of her aunts, soon after Lawrence’s death, ventured to suggest the adoption of a less fanciful name than Alauda. She advised her to call herself Laura or Leonora instead. The girl regarded her gravely.

“Do you know how I came by that name?” she asked, quietly.

“Some nonsense on the part of your father, I suppose,” was the reply, rather uncertainly given. “He was always of an inventive turn of mind; that’s how he made his money. It was just like him to invent a name for his daughter and only child.”

“You make a mistake, Alauda was no invention on his part. It is the Latin name of the skylark.”

“What made him think of it?” asked the other, with a curiosity about her reserved brother which she could not repress.

“On the morning I was born my father stood at the open window at dawn, waiting for news that might break his heart or make him the happiest man in the world. As he waited a lark flew up from the dewy grass, and rose to meet the sun. It poured out its very soul in a joyous song, which penetrated my father’s misery and filled him with new hope and fresh courage. My mother’s maid touched his arm. She smiled, though there were tears in her eyes. ‘It is a girl, sir; mother and child are both doing well.’ The maid left him; and now the lark, which had reached the first rays of the sun, redoubled its song. To my father’s ears it was a hymn of praise and gratitude. ‘I will name my new gift after the little bird,’ he said. ‘May she sing happily throughout her life as the Alauda of this morning.’ He intended me to use the name, for he gave me no other.”

At the invitation of her aunt, Mrs, Quinbury, Alauda had come out to India; but before paying her visit to the south, she had gone to the north, lingering where fancy dictated. The hot weather found her on the Nilgiri hills with Mrs. Quinbury. Now that the heat was over they had returned to Hosur.

Dereham had made Alauda’s acquaintance on board the crowded P. & 0. ship by which they had travelled out to the East. At first she had taken a dislike to the proud, rather supercilious Englishman. He was not genial except to those with whom he was intimate. He was too good-looking in her opinion. How could a man with those regular features be otherwise than conceited? His appearance commanded her admiration in spite of her prejudice, as a handsome animal commanded it. Yet he did not pose for admiration or look for it. He took it for granted. Alauda resented his attitude, treating him to a cold indifference which perplexed but did not disturb him. She tried to ignore his existence; a lover of horses might just as well have tried to ignore the existence of an animal that showed perfection in every point. She caught herself dwelling upon the admirable proportions of his figure, and watching for the smile that sent the mouth into curves that were lines of beauty. That smile was like a sudden gleam of sunlight over a fine landscape.

Dereham, as has already been said, was so accustomed to being followed by the eyes of women that Alauda’’s carefully restrained observations of the man she wished to ignore did not attract his attention. He allowed himself to be carried on the wave of circumstance, which she took care should not cast him in her vicinity. It so happened that beyond the comprehensive bow in the morning that she gave to the group of which he formed one, he had no speech with her and did not even know her name.

A week after they started something was said in the smoking-room about the heiress who was making the trip to the East in the modern fashion untrammelled by a chaperone; and the amount of her fortune was discussed. Some one in that multitude of travellers had known something of her past, and remembered the gossip at her father’s death. It was a pleasant excitement to the company to have an heiress among them—so an heiress they dubbed her with fabulous moneybags. Dereham’s interest was awakened for more reasons than one.

Whatever his ultimate intentions might be, he decided to cultivate her acquaintance. Ignoring all such hindrances as her indifference and aloofness, he persevered until he had succeeded in ingratiating himself. It did not elate him when he found that he could bring a smile to her lips when he choose; nor did it turn his head to discover that when he spoke within her hearing she did not lose the words. Failure with a woman was unknown to him, and he took his success with Alauda as a matter of course.

When he had established friendly relations, he was sensible that his victory had not landed him in the exact position he had intended it should. There was some subtle difference in Alauda’s attitude from that which women had hitherto assumed with him. There was no constraint on her part, no self-consciousness, no indication of the stirring of the pulses. She was companionable and genial, ready to welcome him on all occasions; and she did not attempt to disguise the fact that he amused and interested her.

Had he but known it, this was Alauda’s usual attitude towards her men friends. It was a curious sexless attitude. Whilst she offered companionship such as one man might offer another, or a woman give to the bosom friend of her sex, she made no claim whatever to equality. She readily admitted her womanhood with all its physical weaknesses. She acknowledged the superior strength of man, his capabilities within the masculine sphere, his endurance, his courage, his capacity to lead his fellows in danger, and she expressed no desire to imitate him. These admissions, instead of paving the way to softer emotions, only set up barriers which in Dereham’s hitherto triumphal progress were a new experience.

On more than one occasion he made a determined effort to break through the geniality that was invariably presented. A carefully designed touch of the hand fell distinctly flat. There was no flutter, no soft involuntary raising of the eyes or allowing them to droop, nothing in short to indicate that the touch had any meaning in it for her. Compliments somehow equally missed their mark; and little sentences half uttered and half implied, that might have meant so much, seemed to border on idiocy.

They journeyed to Madras, but not together; and there they met again, renewing their friendship on the same footing. History repeated itself when they found themselves at Ootacamund. Picnics, rides, hunts, garden-parties and balls gave every facility for meeting and fostering friendship into something else; but no progress was made, and Dereham felt as if he were brought up face to face with an insurmountable stone wall.

It was Dereham’s intention to develop the friendship into a softer emotion without any needless delay. He had come to the conclusion after landing that this was the woman for him. Her fortune would mend up his own, and her person would not disgrace the good old name that he bore. Moreover, he was attracted more than he cared to admit even to himself.

He struggled hard to alter their established relations when he was on the hills, but was unsuccessful. He was becoming just a shade impatient under the discipline of good comradeship, and was contemplating a plunge in the shape of a proposal, when Alauda’s departure abruptly ended the situation as far as Ootacamund was concerned. With the knowledge of where she was staying he had accepted Major Cheverell’s invitation with alacrity, determining to bring matters to a head before they should again be separated.

As the sub-collector passed with his niece by his side, Dereham recognized that smile upon her lips. He knew it of old, with its unaffected hearty greeting and all that it meant. He returned it as the combatant might return the smile of his opponent, one who had proved a formidable but not necessarily an invincible enemy.

Alauda saw nothing to alarm her in the encounter and her greeting was genuine. She had learned to like Dereham, and her artistic nature could not do otherwise than admire the gifts that had been bestowed upon him.

The Walers moved swiftly and in perfect accord. Mrs. Quinbury and her other guest, Vida Alpheton, kept up the conversation with Charlie Assington, a nephew of the sub-collector. He claimed cousinship with Alauda on the ground of possessing a joint uncle and aunt; but he was no relation, being thoroughly British in nationality and training. Alauda called him insular. He retorted that Americans slopped over in all things pertaining to sentiment. The only thing on which they had a good grip and a clear judgment was their own interest in financial matters. Charlie was in the Public Works Department, and had pitched his camp not far from Hosur. He had been picked up on the drive; and Mrs. Quinbury had persuaded him that it would forward his work rather than hinder it if he came home to breakfast with them and order his horse to follow.

They passed swiftly along the avenued roads, and turned off into the private carriage-drive leading to the castle. To their left was a beautiful lake. It was highly ornamental; but being used also for irrigation purposes, it was known as a tank, not a lake.

The castle stood upon the site of an old fort. It was built by a civilian in the halcyon days of official liberty. He must have had some baronial mansion in his mind as he planned it. The moat was bridged, and the castle rose in turretted tower and embattled terrace from the very edge of it. The old earth walls of the fort surrounded the compound; and where once armed men had assembled, and troopers had clattered in the barrack yards, there were lawns and gardens, shrubberies and well-kept paths. The castle had its tragic story—a story that was enacted before it had ceased to be a fort or had blossomed out into a baronial mansion. Englishmen confined within the fort had been done to death before relief had come.

The party alighted at the gothic stone entrance under the porch. They moved up the stairway that led into the hall. Alauda always declared that the white-robed Asiatic butler was out of place, and that she looked for the old family retainer in his stead.

The letters from the post had arrived during their absence. There was a pile of correspondence, mostly in long official envelopes, for the master of the house. His wife swept up a little heap of square missives that bespoke social engagements of various sorts. There was only one letter for Alauda. The address was in a masculine hand, and the packet was thick. A fleeting shadow of apprehension passed over her features as her uncle handed it to her.

The bedrooms were beyond the dining and drawing-rooms. A boudoir opened out upon a terraced garden laid out on the top of an old bastion. It was the pleasantest chamber in the house, and Mrs. Quinbury welcomed her visitors there whenever they liked to seek her.

Alauda threw off her hat and dust-cloak and opened her letter. She glanced through the closely written sheets, uttered an exclamation of impatience, and hurried off to her aunt.

“May I come in? I want to speak to you.”

Mrs. Quinbury had removed her hat and was seated at her writing-table, glancing through her correspondence. The morning-room was filled with the scent of the tuberose lilies that grew in a bed on the terrace just outside the French windows.

“Here’s another idiot!” exclaimed Alauda, in real vexation. “He has taken the trouble to write all this”— she flourished the sheets as she spoke—”to tell me that he loves me, and to ask if I will marry him. He’s that nice boy who used to give me such a good lead on the downs at Ooty, when we were out with the hounds, one of the most good-natured men I ever met. But why, oh! why does he want me to marry him?”

“Is he the seventh or eighth?” asked Mrs. Quinbury, in an even voice.

She had a practical mind and an equable temperament that kept her placid under circumstances which others might have found depressing or exciting.

“It seems like the hundredth. Why, I ask, do they do it?”

“Because you take their fancy.”

“Take their fancy!” repeated Alauda, partly with scorn and yet with distress. It grieved her terribly to say or do anything that might hurt the feelings of others.

“Because you flirt with them,” said her aunt, watching the sensitive face of her niece.

“Oh, auntie! come now! that is not quite fair to me. You can’t call me a flirt. I never flirted in my life.”

“Perhaps it would be rather over-stating the case,” assented Mrs. Quinbury, unperturbed. “Possibly they propose because you have money.”

“That is equally unfair to them. In this case there can be no suspicion of such a thought on his part. He has money of his own. It distresses me beyond measure that these Britishers with whom I have established friendly relations, should one after another spoil it all by proposing. In America I became chummy with lots of men without a suspicion of our friendship developing into anything else. I could even single out one and make him the chosen companion for the time being. There was no thought of marriage or any nonsense of that kind. It is just that atmosphere of possible matrimony which seems to spoil all the fun with young English men and women. The women divide the men into two classes, eligible and ineligible; and the men divide the girls into girls with money and girls without.”

“You belong to the girls with money.”

“Indeed I don’t. In America we have yet another class in which both sexes may be found, men eligible and ineligible, and girls with and without money. They are the men and the women who don’t want to be married.”

“Marriage is a very excellent thing, Alauda---”

“Now, don’t! I know what you are going to say with its corollary of maternity and the whole duty of woman. Heaven is a most excellent and desirable abode of bliss, where life is to be fulfilled beyond all expectation; but if the Angel Gabriel entered the room at this moment and offered me his arm with the intention of conducting me there immediately, I should say, ‘My dear friend, wait a moment; I am not ready to make the change just yet. What you say about its advantages is doubtless very true, but I am happy as I am for the present, and should prefer not to be hustled.’”

“Really, Alauda!” protested her aunt, laughing. “Well, you will have to write to this last unfortunate victim and say that you don’t want to be married yet, leaving out, of course, the allusion to the Angel Gabriel.”

“I’m the victim, the victim of his folly,” protested Alauda. “I have already used that argument with one of them, and it was of no good. The dear thing, in his innocence, offered to wait till love came.”

“Say ‘No’ without giving any reason.”

“I tried that on another, and he promptly wrote to ask if I loved any one else. I said ‘No’; then he offered to wait till love came.”

“You don’t dislike the men?”

“Goodness, no! I like them all, particularly these army men. They are the most charming companions in the world, and many of them are as handsome as Apollo. If it wasn’t for this unfortunate matrimonial bee in their bonnets they would be the most attractive of men.”

“I don’t see why you shouldn’t marry one of them. After all---”

“Don’t!” she cried again, in anticipation of the advice she had been obliged to hear more often than she liked. “I am beginning to think that the matrimonial bee has crept into your bonnet. If I married one, I should want to marry all. They are all so nice.”

“You had better join the Todas on the Nilgiris,” said Mrs. Quinbury, impervious to being shocked or scandalized by her niece’s speeches.

“Wigwams and fleas, blankets and buffaloes are not to my taste. Nor is marriage with one or many.”

“Then surely it would be better to be more reserved, more circumspect in your friendship.”

“No! a thousand times no!” protested Alauda, her eyes sparkling. “I will not have these insular limitations and reservations imposed upon me. I’m an American,” in her excitement the pronunciation of the word was a testimony to the fact, “and I claim the right of thinking and acting and speaking as an American.”

“In that case, when Sir David’s turn comes, you might give the proposal a little more consideration.”

“Sir David! you don’t imagine that after all our pleasant friendship, he means to follow the same line?” exclaimed Alauda in dismay.

“As Kipling says, the men are as like as a row of pins. You had better be careful.”

Alauda was silent. Her aunt had opened her eyes to a new aspect, and suggested consequences to which she had blinded herself. She was not altogether pleased; but she brushed the matter aside with the confidence that was one of her characteristics, and said—

“There is no good in going over the bridge till I get there. As for exercising the care that you seem to think necessary, it means turning my back on these dear delightful men; foregoing their society, and snubbing them off the field. No, no! I can’t do it. They don’t deserve it! Not one of them has ever given me any offence; not one of them has ever said an unkind word to me. Why should I send them to Coventry? Dear auntie! I love them all as I might have loved my brothers if I had any; but I won’t marry one of them; so don’t preach, there’s a dear!”

She ran off to prepare for breakfast, and Mrs. Quinbury gazed after her thoughtfully. She earnestly wished to see her niece married. Sir David Dereham seemed to her a most desirable match, and there was no doubt from his manner that he was attracted.

The breakfast bell rang, and the party assembled in the dining-room. It was like an old college hall. Mr. Quinbury, who had his day’s work before him, was seated already at the table. There were duties to be attended to at the Kutcherry, and he had no time to idle. Vida Alpheton, Assington, and Stanley Kingsford, the superintendent of the farm at the Remount Depôt, made up the party. Kingsford had ridden over for breakfast at the invitation of Mrs. Quinbury. He had been up since six, and out in the fields with his labourers, supervising the hoeing and weeding, the irrigation, the cutting of the lucerne and supply of hay needed in the lines.

The centre of the table was a mass of La France roses and maiden-hair fern. The room was filled with the scent which mingled with the aroma of some special graft mangoes, a royal fruit that rivals the finest nectarines, and cannot be purchased in the bazaar. The conversation flowed, Alauda taking her full share in it and distributing her smiles without a thought of the possible consequences.

“We saw Mrs. Breydon out driving this morning,” she said to Kingsford. “She handles the reins in a masterly fashion. It is evident that she was brought up with a well-furnished stable and has had plenty of experience with horses.”

“So was Breydon. I believe his father has an estate in Norfolk and breeds horses. That’s where he learned his business,” said her uncle.

Alauda was not to be diverted from her subject. “I should like to know her. We never meet her anywhere except as we did this morning. Does she never come to see you, Aunt Barbara?”

“She has only been once, and that was when she returned my call. Unfortunately I was out.”

“Then you have never met her?”

“I have spoken to her after church on Sundays sometimes.”

“Ask her to tea. I should so like to talk to a woman who can drive as she does.”

“She won’t come. Twice I have sent her invitations; but she has refused each time.”

Alauda dropped the subject and turned an attentive ear to what her uncle was saying to Kingsford.

“It is the most pernicious stuff I have ever read; and the last straw is the impertinence of the editor in sending me a copy.”

“How do you know he has sent it?” asked Kingsford.

“He makes no secret of it. ‘With the editor’s compliments’ is written on the margin.”

“Who is he?”

“I don’t know. We shall have to make it our business to find out; and if anything appears that is openly seditious, it will be advisable to put the old Act of 1818 into motion, if the Home Government don’t abolish it.”

“What is that?”

“Deportation and trial outside their own particular world,” replied Quinbury. “One and all, from the Bengalis to our ‘B. A.’s’ down south, hate the thought of it. It robs them of martyrdom, removes them from the neighbourhood of their admirers, and does away with all chance of the notoriety—so dear to the heart of the Hindu—during the trial.”

“Why not gag the seditious beasts at once?” said Kingsford.

“And scrag them at the same time,” added Assington.

“No, no; the hour hasn’t come for politics at the point of the bayonet just yet; and, please God, it may not come. There are other measures by which the Press may be regulated if we choose to employ them.”

“Such as—” inquired Alauda.

“Judicious legislation, controlling but not suppressing it. We might with advantage have an age limit, so that we don’t have student editors. I would also suggest that every owner of a newspaper might be made to deposit a certain sum—say five thousand rupees—as a guarantee of good faith. That in itself would not only be a check to the production of indiscriminate publications, but it might give the country a better class of men as proprietors as well as editors.”

“Better educated, do you mean?”

“I was thinking more of their sense of responsibility than of their education—men, in fact, who have a stake in the country and something to lose. The Press of any country in these days of universal education is a powerful factor, and it should be used for the benefit equally of ruled and rulers; therefore it ought to be in competent hands. The Hindu editor has a very inadequate sense of his responsibility. He runs amok, so to speak, and uses his weapon as a mad sepoy uses his rifle, producing disorder instead of order. The outcome of both is murder; one directly; the other indirectly.”

“Where is this inflammatory stuff printed?” asked Kingsford, who had been glancing at the paper, the Flaming Torch of India.

“In Mysore, and it is distributed in British territory.”

Kingsford handed back the paper, noticing that it was well got up and well printed.

“It’s the most treasonable stuff I ever read,” he said. “Yet, though it exudes sedition from every paragraph, there is nothing definite that you can lay your finger on. It looks to me as if there was money and brains behind it. The forfeiture of a deposit of five thousand rupees would be nothing probably to this man; and deportation with the luxury that money brings would scarcely be a deterrent, unless it was accompanied by imprisonment. I don’t quite see where you can get your knife in; but there is no doubt about the expediency of stopping this sort of thing as soon as possible.”

“Imprisonment instantly brings the martyr’s crown,” said Quinbury.

Breakfast ended, they rose; and the party broke up without delay. Each man had his work to do; for India holds no idle Englishman, except on the hills, where they go to spend their short leave. As Kingsford shook hands with Alauda, he said—

“Major Cheverell is going out to-morrow morning with his bobbery pack. You’ll join us, won’t you? And you, Miss Alpheton? We meet at the kennels.”

Chapter VII

The household of Dharma Govinda was in the throes of an elaborate funeral ceremonial. No expense was spared. The master of the house had communicated with his father on the subject by the aid of the telegraph; the reply had been to the effect that the ceremonies were to exceed all others ever known to have been performed in Hosur. Professional mourners were hired; purohits were sent for; food was prepared and supplies were laid in; relations on both sides were summoned in urgent haste.

The chorus of wailing, the beating of tom-toms and the blowing of horns shook Hosur to its very centre. There was a crowd night and day round the house to appreciate this magnificent display of grief for the loss of a poor little brow-beaten wife, who had miserably failed to please her husband, mother-in-law, aunts and cousins. How eagerly had the broken-hearted creature looked forward to the birth of her child! She had spent days in weary pilgrimages to different temples, propitiating those terrible powers of evil which she believed had overshadowed her life and prevented her from finding favour in the sight of her husband and his kinswomen. She had been granted the prospect of maternity. Would the gods turn the fruit to ashes in her mouth by denying her a son?

In the midst of the terrible suffering, aggravated by the crass stupidity of the midwife, her sensitive ear caught the exclamation of impatience from the women who crowded the sick-room to look on in cold curiosity. The midwife had announced the sex.

“What is the use of such a wife to her husband?” said one.

“She would be better dead,” said another.

“And her child also. The land is filled with women. Who, we ask, is to find them husbands? A husbandless woman is accursed.”

“So are her father and her mother,” added another.

“It is the doing of the Sirkar. It is only since the white-face came among us, that so many women children have been born.”

“And have lived,” remarked a third significantly. “The English are making us like themselves. Their country is full of unmarried women, so Chandraswamy says.”

“That is because there is only one God in their country to whom they have to go for all things. One God! look you! Had He eyes all over Him, could He attend to every one who needs His help? So with them women babies are born where there should be men babies, and not half of them become mothers. Even those for whom husbands are found have but one or two children, as may be seen if we look at the women who come to this country.”

“Hark! Listen to her breathing! She will die!” said another.

The moans had ceased and a terrible faintness over-whelmed the patient. The midwife was busy fumigating the new-born babe. She held it in the middle of a cloud of pungent smoke given off by the slow combustion of sacred leaves upon charcoal. The little lungs, drawing their first breath with difficulty, were choked. A convulsive shudder shook the small naked body.

“Pah!” ejaculated the midwife in disgust, “it will die! Yet I put a double quantity of leaves upon the fire, because the mother has not found favour in the sight of the gods.”

Between the mother and the child, who were both passing to the unknown regions beyond death, the women assembled had an absorbing time. Word went forth into the zenana that matters were going badly; and the news brought every woman and child, relatives and servers, into the room. A knot of men gathered outside waiting to be told the result.

The end came and curiosity gave place to excitement in the anticipation of the magnificent tamasha which the burning would involve. For the first time since she came into the world an unwelcome girl baby, the little wife was the chief object of attention. At her marriage her husband absorbed the lion’s share. Now she had the honour and glory all to herself, and the chorus of wailing was loud enough to express a world of grief.

Dharma Govinda left the funeral arrangements entirely in the hands of his mother. When his presence was required he came at her call and submitted with admirable grace to every ceremonial ordained by the purohit from the temple. He was a good son and much attached to his parents. He thoroughly enjoyed the feminine sympathy showered upon him. He had never pretended to regard his second wife with any affection. All the same he was quite ready to pose as a bereaved husband and accept condolences. The Hindu character lends itself easily to emotional situations. Dharma Govinda was not without his share of sentiment. His love of display of all kinds caused him to adopt the correct pose for the occasion and play his part to perfection.

The bodies were to be cremated on the evening of the day of his arrival from Madras, barely fourteen hours being allowed to elapse between death and the funeral.

From the time he was met at the door by the messenger who carried the bad news until four o’clock in the afternoon, he had been occupied under his mother’s superintendence. Now he was at liberty to rest and employ himself as he pleased.

He retired to his room, which was furnished with a strange mixture of conservative Oriental taste with the latest fancy of western luxury. At the end furthest from the glazed doors, where the light was dim and subdued, there was a broad low couch well supplied with cushions. A dainty inlaid table about two feet high stood near, its daintiness marred by stains of coffee and cigars on its beautiful polished surface. A curtain hung from a pole that projected from the wall and partially hid the luxurious sofa and soft pillows. In the centre of the room was a large writing-table covered with papers. The high back of pigeon-holes served as a further screen for the eastern section of the room.

Near the table was a typewriter with its stand. Between this and the doors that opened into the verandah were two or three comfortable armchairs, a newspaper rack, a glass bookcase, and some little occasional tables capable of being easily moved. It was to all appearances just what the writing-room of an Anglo-Indian might have been, with the exception of the corner behind the table.

Govinda examined the papers on the desk; opened his letters and glanced through them, pencilling notes for replies on the margin. A roll of galley-proofs he set aside for future inspection; and taking up a newspaper that had come by post, he tore off the cover and spread it open.

“The Flaming Torch of India! What has the editor to say this week?” he said, as he seated himself in one of the leather-covered armchairs.

He began to read with evident appreciation and amusement the “pernicious stuff’” which had roused the ire of the district officer that morning.

“Ho! ho I he is becoming bolder. Let him have a care lest he burn his own fingers with his flaming torch! Yet I think he is too clever for that.”

He laughed softly in a kind of chuckle as if the suggestion amused him. An attendant entered and stood at his elbow, waiting for permission to speak with a far greater show of respect and awe than was ever exhibited by a servant towards a European. Govinda allowed the man to stand there whilst he continued to read. Then, without turning his eyes from the page, he said—

“Bring a cigar and fire. Be quick and sleep not over your duties.”

His command was obeyed with alacrity and again the man stood respectfully waiting until he had permission to speak. His wages were just half what he would have earned had he been in the service of an Englishman. Govinda lighted the cigar at the glowing piece of charcoal and began to smoke. He took up the paper and continued reading, a smile frequently upon his lips.

“What is it?” he inquired at last.

“Chandraswamy asks to see your excellency. He has to go to Mysore this evening. It is a long journey and he would start as soon as possible.”

Govinda looked at his watch. It was half-past four. “Tell him that I will see him in half an hour.”

“Very good, sir. He will sit in the verandah until your honour is ready.”

The man left the room feeling an instinctive satisfaction in delivering a message that subjected one of higher status to the same treatment he had himself experienced. He had no more sympathy with Chandraswamy for his loss of the precious hours than Govinda had for the loss of his servant’s time. Chandraswamy received the message without any sign of impatience, although in view of what he wanted to accomplish, every minute was valuable. He seated himself on a rug at the end of the verandah, resigned to his fate.

The Hindu cannot understand dispensing with privileges. To forego a right is to express weakness and to lose dignity. A man of position and importance has no need to seek or to hurry. Let the world seek him and wait on him as long as he can command that world. When he has no longer the power of commanding that world he may begin to think of concessions. So Govinda idled over the paper and Chandraswamy waited; while the attendant not only waited but watched for the moment when his master should call.

Had Chandraswamy been paying a visit to a European, he would not have scrupled to send in a respectful message to say that he was anxious to proceed to Mysore, and would be obliged if his honour would grant him an interview at his earliest convenience. A good-natured Englishman, having a keen appreciation of the value of time, would set aside his own work and grant the interview. Chandraswamy, with profuse apology and ingratiating smiles and bows, would accept the boon, not as a boon but as his right, a proper recognition of his learning, his university degree, and his profession as a lawyer. If the request was refused and he was asked to wait even half the time decreed by Govinda, he would not scruple to designate the Englishman as an arrogant person. Advice to the Secretary of State for India would be offered in some hysterical native newspaper to the effect that instead of deporting poor well-meaning Hindu editors, who had the courage of their opinions, it would greatly benefit the country to apply the Act to some of the over-bearing Europeans, who were set in authority over a down-trodden nation.

At the end of the thirty minutes chosen by Govinda to uphold his prestige, the summons came and Chandraswamy entered the room.

“I hope your excellency got home safely this morning. The car came slowly with the bulls, so slowly that I walked the last half-dozen miles,” he said, standing in somewhat the same position as had been assumed by the attendant.

“You are going to Mysore this evening?”

“The jutka that is to take me waits outside.”

“Tell the editor that I have read his paper with great interest. It is truly like its name, and throws a sharp light of criticism on the actions of the Government. But he must be careful and keep within bounds. No one heeds the roaring of a tiger caged, but all tremble at the mere purring of one that is at large. Did you succeed in getting a word with the syces to-day?”

“I spoke for twenty minutes.”

“Rashly, I have no doubt, little brother,” said Govinda, indulgently and with a smile.

“Who can consider in these days if words be rash or no? It is a time to speak with the firestick. The words of the advocates of freedom must burn where they fall. What does this paper say?”

He read out the following :

“The trumpet clarion of swaraj has gone forth over the land. India lifts its voice in the cry of Bande Mataram! Hail, Mother! But where is our mother now? Where is she who was clothed in civilization and crowned with philosophy when the Western Isles were wallowing in naked savagery? The past ages saw her the proud mother of warriors and of kings against whom none might prevail. What sins had she committed that the gods ceased to smile upon her? The pale faces were permitted to land upon our shores, and they laid her low in the dust. Her sons have stood with bowed heads, silently submitting to the fate that has overtaken her. When a child is young, it looks to its mother for protection; it clings to her skirts; it suffers with its mother; but when it comes of age, it is the mother who seeks protection from her son, who shelters herself by his side, secure in his new-found strength. When the child is half-grown it is governed by the schoolmaster because it cannot rule itself; but when it comes to manhood, it lifts its head and asks to be freed from thraldom and to govern itself. Observe, it asks. If it were silent, who would heed it? It is the slave who is tongue-tied and cannot voice his wants. The son speaks; he begs; he entreats; he prays; nay, he demands to have his liberty granted to him, to be permitted to stand alone, to be freed of his leading-stings. Let those who feel the fire of national manhood burning in their veins ask, entreat, pray, if need be, demand. Let them watch for the moment when the guardians of their youth shall say, ‘Ye are of age; ye have been instructed; we have no more to teach; stand alone and be strong.’”

Govinda listened in a luxurious attitude and was filled with pride. He knew the article almost by heart, for he had written it himself. He could have heard it repeated a dozen times a day with pleasure, so completely satisfied was he with his work. It was not the sentiment that gratified him, but the flow of words which he had produced. As the sentences rolled off the tongue of the reader, he felt as if Chandraswamy were pouring warm, scented oil over his back. They had a very different effect upon the earnest fanatical youth who read them. Had Govinda been thinking less of himself and more of the consequences of his baneful composition, he might have seen the dangerous light that was kindled in the eye of the reader, indicating the awakening of ill-regulated passions. The agitator devotes himself to pulling the strings; he leaves others to dance. If the process is fraught with danger, the evil will net overtake himself, but the dancers.

“Those are true words,” said Chandraswamy, his voice trembling with emotion. “I would add that not only has the time come to ask, to demand the rights of our sonship, but to act. If that which is our right is withheld, who can blame us if we put forth our hands and take it?”

“Providing always that the hand is strong enough to hold, little brother,” said Govinda, half in banter.

The extreme earnestness of the other amused him. His vanity was flattered as he witnessed the power of his diatribe to stir the spirit of this man. There was a kind of exhilaration about it, such as he might have felt in the lashing of a young half-broken horse, or in tormenting a chained tiger. Neither was without its danger.

“Who can measure strength without putting it forth?” cried the young dreamer. “Let the Feringhis be careful! If they will not give us freedom, at least they can offer us equality and remove some of the fetters that bind our mother. Why should the heel of the foreigner rest upon our necks any longer? Under their rule we have lost our liberty, we have lost our industries—they are all in their hands and exploited with their capital—we have lost our wealth. Our people, who used to live by their trade, now labour like slaves for a miserable wage bestowed grudgingly by a foreigner,”

Chandraswamy’s eyes shone with a dangerous light, the red glow of implacable anger. His lips trembled as the words left them, and his fingers worked nervously. Govinda watched him as he would have watched a fretful horse lashing out under the sting of a whip, or a tiger gnashing its teeth at its tormentors at the length of its tether. At the same time he was considering how he could best express the sentiments just enunciated in a form suitable for the Flaming Torch framing them in such a manner as to veil their sedition and elude the police. He had sailed very near the wind in the last effusion just read; but with his facile pen he had in some indefinable way strengthened the vernacular and softened the English translation printed alongside, so that he had not overstepped the mark.

“Have you succeeded in enrolling any more names on the Hosur branch of the secret society?” asked Govinda.

“Not at present. Men have been alarmed by the passing of the new laws which are directed against the simitis, and are holding back. We have made a mistake in allowing the objects of our societies to become public— the boycotting of European goods, the raising of money for swadeshi purposes, and the distribution of the papers and pamphlets that are being printed in England.”

“That is because violence has been advocated and in some cases actually used. The Feringhi will not tolerate dacoity and murder in any cause whatever.”

“May the gods of our land curse the Feringhi root and branch!” cried Chandraswamy, with a sudden outburst of passion. “Our sacred aims justify all means that the gods place within our power.”

“All the same it would be wiser to keep your aims more secret with regard to the methods you desire to employ,” counselled Govinda, who had thoroughly enjoyed the little exhibition of uncontrolled temper.

“It is on that very subject that I am going to speak at Mysore to-night.”

“Tell them at the meeting also, that I advise the branch to affiliate with the branch here. It would give confidence to increase the numbers at the meetings; it would afford a wider field of action. If the Mysore police became troublesome, you could without much inconvenience to those members, hold the meetings here in Hosur, in the Salem district, where you would come under the supervision of a different body of police.”

“I will mention the matter to the secretary and tell him that it is your opinion.”

“Above all things be careful of the police. I hear that they have employed some detectives in plain clothes and ordered them to be present at all meetings. These men will probably report speeches incorrectly and exaggerate the expressions used by the speakers in their eagerness to obtain convictions,” said Govinda with more earnestness than he had hitherto shown. “It would utterly destroy my good influence in the cause and rob it of my support, if my name were to be mixed up in your operations. You will be careful to exclude it in all you do and say. I have no wish to be brought into conflict with the police.”

“I shall observe extreme caution,” Chandraswamy assured him. He was anxious to get to the subject on account of which he had asked for the interview. He continued: “I have not yet explained to your honour why I have come. There is a post vacant in the Kutcherry here. It is a clerkship and I should like to have it. There are times when your honour meets the sub-collector. A word spoken in my favour might secure it for me.”

“You would work for a miserable pittance given by a foreign Government?” asked Govinda, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Since I have no clients, it is necessary to do something. As your excellency knows, our towns are full of lawyers. There is not enough work to go round among us.”

“Yet as a people we are ever going to law,” remarked Govinda carelessly. “What was your father?”

“He was a schoolmaster.”

“And his father before him?”

“He was a drawer of water. It was the schools founded by Government that prevented my father from following the trade of his ancestors. When he had received his education, was it fitting that he should become a water-man and spend his time in singing on the picotta as he raised water for the land? He obtained a situation in one of the Government schools. I learned for a little time under my father; there were scholarships to be had, and I gained one which enabled me to pass through the university and take my degree. If the English cannot find us work under Government, why do they give us this education and help us with money grants? They ring the bell and call us to the curry-pots, but the pots are empty. I am taking a wife in three months’ time, and my family want me to earn money; so I would have this post in the Kutcherry if I can get it.”

“Have you applied for it?”

“A fortnight ago I sent my application with copies of testimonials.”

“I will see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything for certain,” replied Govinda.

He was good-natured and quite ready to be generous where it required no effort and no self-sacrifice. The truth must be told. In this case he had no intention whatever of helping the suppliant. The occupation would fill Chandraswamy’s time to the exclusion of certain work that he did in Govinda’s own behalf—the typing of manuscript, the carrying of messages that were best not confided to paper, the constant advertisement of Govinda’s cleverness and ability as a speaker and an orator.

“Has your honour any more to say to his humble slave?” asked Chandraswamy.

Govinda did not answer the question immediately. His eyes turned towards a roll of papers on the writing-table, and then came back to the tall spare figure of the Hindu still standing near his chair. The distant wail of the mourners rose in a weird chorus of lamentation, such as the Jewish women in exile might have raised when their thoughts turned to the city of Jerusalem. The old-world music of the tom-toms rose and fell in cadences intelligible only to the Asiatic ear.

Outside the house the peace of evening was approaching with the going down of the sun. The blue smoke from the cooking fires built in the little enclosed yards floated over the town, and turned purple with the rosy light of sunset. The sparrows chirped noisily under the eaves of the verandah, disputing violently over their roosting-place, in blissful ignorance that there existed any other law than the law of might. The strongest took the warmest corner and kept it by that law. The weakest had to content itself—not without vociferous protest—with a place on the outskirts of the feathery crowd. Its ruffled little body would serve to screen the others from the sharp night air creeping in later as the tiles cooled. Also it would be the first victim of the predatory snake if it came by.

This was the way of the world, and not even man with his superior attributes could alter the law of nature. One must be first, another last. One attained the shelter of the warm corner where safety lay; another must stay on the outskirts, exposed to cold and danger. Govinda was not thinking of the sparrows. His mind was, however, upon the warm corner that he occupied; and upon Chandraswamy who was exposing himself to the dangers outside.

“You will see the editor of the Flaming Torch and tell him that he has done well. This is better than anything that we have had before. But warn him from me that he must move forward slowly; he must creep unawares upon his public—a paragraph one week where the meaning is veiled, and may escape the eye of the police; a sentence or two next week in continuation, the true meaning of which will not be apparent if the first paragraph is forgotten; and the conclusion in the third, truly a puzzle to the white-faced police-officer, but understood by the people.”

He laughed; the manufacture of an enigma pleased his subtle brain. The sentiments set forth in the enigma did not matter. He was the theoretical agitator, not the practical reformer.

“The time is come to speak,” objected Chandraswamy.

“There are many ways of speaking; a shout from the hill-top; a whisper by the gate of the police thana. You desire to begin your journey, little brother. Go; I have said all that is in my mind for the present.”

The Hindu bowed low and salaamed. Every young man has his ideal, and he had chosen Dharma Govinda for his. There was wealth, which meant power; there was education, which meant another kind of power; there was a quick wit and a ready self-assured manner, sufficiently courteous to make him popular with the hated race.

Moreover, he had travelled. He had been in London and Paris more than once, whither Chandraswamy longed in vain to go. At any moment Govinda might be off to the West again, letting caste remain in abeyance until he returned. With his intimate knowledge of the East and the West, in the young lawyer’s opinion, it was men like Dharma Govinda who were required on the Supreme Council. He understood the people; he knew how to keep men in their places. With the native army at his back he could govern India far better than the blundering official sent out from England, a man who scarcely recognized on landing the difference between a Hindu and a Muhammadan; who had no experience in caste distinctions; who had to learn from his native underlings that a Hindu has religious duties to perform, whatever may be his trade, which must not be interfered with. Ah! how willingly would he, Chandraswamy, give his life to sweep every white-face into the sea; and to place the reins of government in the hands of men like Dharma Govinda!

Having finished smoking, that gentleman rose and seated himself at his writing-table, where he corrected proofs and made notes until summoned by his mother to take part in the last ceremonial connected with the burning of his wife’s body. It was nine o’clock before he was free to return to his sanctum. As he entered the dimly lighted room the tinkle of silver anklets caught his ear. He drew in a sweet breath of sandalwood at the same time. His attendant came forward.

“What is it?” he asked with a touch of impatience.

“Cassim, the syce, has come and would speak with your honour.”

Reluctantly he turned back and went into the verandah. Cassim came to the foot of the steps with the usual salutation.

“To-morrow would have been time enough to give me your report about the horses. I am tired and would take rest,” said Govinda.

“Sir, the horses have escaped.”

“Is it possible to catch them to-night, son of a donkey?”

“No, sir.”

“Then why trouble me? Your tale would have kept till to-morrow.”

Again there was a faint sound of the enticing tinkle behind the curtain at the end of the room. Cassim, seeing his late master about to turn away, hastened with his business.

“The head man in your honour’s stable has bidden me move my family out of the stable godowns this very night.”

“Is it not the custom when you enter the service of a new master to take your family with you?”

“My wife was delivered of a son four days ago. It will be better if she stays another two days in the godowns. She is not strong enough to walk to the Remount Depôt.” “Then carry her in a bullock-cart. What is one Mussalmani woman more or less to me? If she dies, take another wife.”

As he spoke, the racial hatred between the two nationalities, which is always latent in the Muhammadan and Hindu, sprang into sudden life. There was a growing contempt on the face of the Hindu master, and a hidden fire of hatred in the eye of the man. Cassim restrained himself with an effort. It was not a favourable moment to indulge in any exhibition of his feelings.

“I pray your excellency to let her remain to-night. Have I not always served your honour well, even to the very last command your tongue uttered?”

“And have I not paid you for your services?” retorted Govinda.

“Master may require them again—in the matter of catching the escaped horses,” returned Cassim, pointedly. Govinda regarded him thoughtfully. The silvery call sounded again as a foot was beaten impatiently upon the floor.

“Let your wife stay. Hi!” he called to his servant. “Go to the stables and say that Cassim’s family is to remain in the godowns until I give the order for them to depart. Shut the doors; I shall want nothing more.”

He retired into his room, and the attendant closed the great doors, Cassim assisting voluntarily so that the work might be expedited; and the master of the house was left to his own devices.

The message was delivered, and the weak anxious woman wept tears of relief as she learned of her respite. Human nature is the same whether black-skinned or white. This was the first son born to Cassim of this wife—he had lost a former—and it was everything in the world to her that the child should live. To carry it herself through the cold night would have been impossible in her present condition. She must have lain under some tree by the wayside, and the exposure, bad enough for herself, would have killed her little son with deadly fever.

Cassim comforted her, and fondled the tiny brown baby nestling by her side. He made her lie down again, and helped himself with the aid of his small daughter, aged eight, who assumed the thoughtful ways of a grown-up woman, to his evening meal. It had been waiting for him since sunset. Then he piled up the pots and platters and left the godown, bidding the girl look well after her mother.

He closed the door after him, and retired to a neighbouring stall, where stood a noble racer, sound in every limb, well groomed and fed, none the worse for its long walk from the station. In a stall adjoining was the counterpart horse, equally well tended. Gopal, wrapped in his blanket, lay in a corner already asleep. Cassim unfolded his own blanket, and in another five minutes he too was oblivious of his aching limbs and tired feet.

Chapter VIII

The sun was just above the horizon when Alauda Lawrence and Vida Alpheton galloped up to the kennels. There was no sign of the hounds being taken out. Major Cheverell came up almost at the same time, mounted upon a horse that he kept for his own use. Alauda greeted him warmly. They were old friends, having met some years ago in London, when Quinbury was on furlough. Being several years older than herself, and a friend of the district officer and his wife, he had somehow in those early days dropped into the use of her Christian name, a habit he had renewed without reproof on the resumption of their friendship.

“I am so sorry to disappoint you,” he said, pulling up his horse alongside of Alauda’s. “Two horses, Dereham’s and another, got loose yesterday on the road from the station. They broke away—so the syces say—about ten miles from here. Dereham has gone with Kingsford to hunt for his lost property. I promised to join him. You can come with me, if you like; but I don’t think you will care about it.”

“A horse-hunt instead of a fox-hunt! What fun! Let’s go, Alauda,” cried Vida.

“Yes, come along; I can’t wait. I promised Dereham I would help him for a couple of hours. I know the country, and he doesn’t, so he won’t do much good alone. Kingsford is gone in another direction,”

“Come, Alauda, why do you hesitate?” said Vida, impatiently, as she saw Major Cheverell trot off.

“We shall be in the way; and I’m not in the humour for such rough riding,” she replied, looking after Cheverell’s retreating form.

“It won’t be worse than running after the hounds,”” urged Vida.

“I am not going,” declared Alauda, decisively.

“How disappointing! I was looking forward to a run with the hounds this morning,” said Vida, as she restrained the fidgety horse. “What are we to do with ourselves?”

The sun shot its rays of gold over the landscape. A pale translucent mist rose from the dewy earth and yellowed as it floated skywards into the light. The air was sharp and the horses sneezed.

“I want to see Captain Ravenstone about my pony Bobby. I’m going to ride to his bungalow and catch him if possible before he goes to the lines.”

Vida pursed up her lips. She was still smarting under her disappointment.

“You strain at gnats and swallow camels, Alauda. If you won’t go horse-hunting with those men because you think you will be in the way, I shall not go to Captain Ravenstone’s bungalow, because I am sure Mrs. Quinbury won’t like it.”

Alauda gazed at her in surprise. “You English-women are incomprehensible,” she began. Vida objected to the term “woman” in connection with herself. She thought it more applicable to her hostess. Alauda was, in her opinion, odd in her speech, and erratic in her actions; so, without waiting to hear more, she moved her horse in the direction of the road taken by Cheverell. It was opposite to that which led to Ravenstone’s bungalow. “Aren’t you coming with me?” cried Alauda after her.

“If you will excuse me, I would rather not. Let’s have a gallop along the road. We may be able to see something of the hunt without joining in it.”

She did not wait to hear her companion’s reply, but put her horse into a canter and disappeared down the road, her syce following behind. Vida felt that she had circumvented the American “woman” this time. Alauda would be compelled to follow whether she wished it or not. It was impossible for her to go alone to Ravenstone’s bungalow. It was not quite the correct thing for them to go together; but singly and without a chaperone such a visit, in Vida’s opinion, was out of the question.

Alauda, however, did not follow. She turned her horse’s head in the other direction, untroubled by doubt or hesitation, and rode up to the officer’s house, which was a little distance from the kennels. She found Captain Ravenstone in his verandah. He was just ready to start out on his morning round of duties among the sick horses, and was talking to a tall military man in riding-dress and sun-helmet. At the sound of hoofs he came down the steps.

“Good morning. Captain Ravenstone. Can you spare me five minutes?” asked Alauda, with the confidence peculiar to American women that makes them appear certain of being welcome. “My pony is rather galled by the collar. I’ve had the collar altered, and now I want to heal the sore. The syce said he could do it in three days’ time; but I am sure that he has made it worse instead of better.”

“Don’t trust him for a single minute. He’ll poison the wound with his filthy concoctions.”

He proceeded to explain how it was necessary to keep the sore clean; how the pony was to be dieted and exercised. Whilst she listened her eyes wandered beyond the face of the man who spoke to the figure in the verandah. It was a short but comprehensive glance, and it did not detract her attention from the words that were being said.

“I will give you some ointment, Miss Lawrence, that will help to heal the place quickly. It must be rather inconvenient having the pony laid up.”

“Thank you; I shall be very grateful for the stuff. I should have to write to Madras for it if you could not supply me. I’ll take it with me, if I may; then I can see to its being used at once.”

“Certainly; I’ll go into the surgery and get a small box. We have it down by the pound jar. I shall have to keep you a few minutes.”

As he ran up the steps of the verandah his guest strolled down into the garden. Alauda, without hesitation, moved her horse up to the stranger.

“Good morning. I hope I don’t interrupt your conversation with Captain Ravenstone,” she said easily.

He touched his helmet with the gold-headed riding-whip that he carried, and replied with the same ease of manner.

“Not at all. Captain Ravenstone was good enough to ask me to come and see him this morning, and I am just starting back for camp. There’s my horse ready for me.”

She glanced round and saw a syce holding a bay Arab.

“I don’t know if we have met before; I think not,” continued Alauda. “My name is Lawrence. I’m on a visit to my aunt at Hosur—Mrs. Quinbury; do you know her?”

“I know Mr. Quinbury; I’ve met him in the district.”

“As Captain Ravenstone is not here to introduce us, will you tell me your name, please?”

“I am Major Adam-u-din.”

“Is that so? And you’re out in camp with your regiment, I suppose. It must be a very pleasant life.”

“For a few weeks it is; but after a time I am very glad to get back to my bungalow. I think the men enjoy it; and I know the horses do.”

“Your regiment is mounted, then, Major O’Dene? You’re from Bangalore, of course?”

“No; my regiment is quartered in Mysore. I’m in the Imperial Service Troops, the Mysore Sillidar Horse.”

He spoke with a slight accent which Alauda attributed to that particular part of England in which he was born. She never doubted for an instant but that he was a “Britisher,” although she recognized an Eastern strain in his olive complexion that had perhaps been heightened by exposure to the sun in camp. She had met men in the services before bearing English names who had the same colouring. She chatted on as she sat there, whilst he stood by the shoulder of her horse. Once the animal moved as though tired of being stationary. He laid an ungloved hand upon the arched neck and patted it by way of quieting it. The hand was shapely, and on the little finger was a ring with a single diamond of great beauty.

Ravenstone returned and glanced from one to the other with a scarcely perceptible arching of the brows.

“You see we have introduced ourselves,” said Alauda, who detected no sign of surprise. “I have been much interested in all Major O’Dene has been telling me about his regiment. Thank you so much. Captain Ravenstone. I will have the ointment applied directly I get home; but first I must have my gallop. Which way are you going, Major O’Dene? I will ride part of the way with you.”

Shah Adam-u-din assured her truthfully that he would be delighted to have a companion. Ravenstone’s face clouded. He had met Alauda at the castle and at Cheverell’s house several times. Like the rest of his sex, he was attracted; and when this delightful American girl set convention aside for the benefit of himself and his fellows, and with her graceful ease established good comradeship, he had no criticism to offer; but when she extended the privilege to a Muhammadan, even though he might be as cultured and refined as himself, his whole nature rose in revolt.

“I will ride home with you myself and have a look at the pony,” said Ravenstone, hastily.

“How can you spare the time?” she protested. “I know how busy you are in the morning. You will have to overhaul the new batch that arrived last night. I heard they were expected. Come along, Major O’Dene. Let’s have a good gallop. I know my horse wants to stretch its legs. You lead the way.”

Shah Adam-u-din was already in the saddle, and without waiting for further protest from the Englishman, he sent his Arab forward. Alauda brought her animal to his side, and together they left the compound at a sharp trot. It was not until they had reached the open country beyond the trim hedges and English-looking fields of the Remount farm that they gave the horses their heads.

“Will your horse jump?” asked Major Adam-u-din.

“Like a bird! I will back him against that Arab of yours any day,” cried Alauda, in reply.

He smiled at her enthusiasm and said, “We will take a bee-line for those trees over there. It is good going all the way, so we need not mind putting on the pace.”

The hoofs rattled in a chorus of thuds, and not a word was spoken by the riders in the intense enjoyment of the ride. The trees indicated as their goal were a couple of miles away, and by the time they were reached, the Arab, as well as Alauda’s horse, was ready to slacken the pace to a walk. Major Adam-u-din pulled up under the shade of one of the hoary old banyan trees to let the syces come up with them.

“Do you care to go any further?” he asked. “If not, I will ride a little way back with you.”

“How far is the camp from here?”

“Under four miles.”

“Then I will go on. I want to see the tents and the men. Will you take me over the camp, if I come?”

“With pleasure; I shall be proud to do so. You have seen native troops before, of course.”

“No, I haven’t. I don’t happen to have visited any place where they have been stationed,” she answered.

“Your British native army is a fine body of men, and you ought to be very proud of them.”

“I think you’re making a mistake, Major O’Dene. I’m not English.”

“Not English!” he exclaimed in astonishment. “You look and speak like one of that nation.”

“I’m American. I’ve been in England a good deal, and in Paris, and in other places on the Continent; but I’m American to the backbone. I hope that you are not disappointed to find that I don’t belong to your nation.”

She glanced at him gaily, ready to receive the obvious compliment. It came, but the words surprised her.

“I should be proud to belong to the same nation as yourself, Miss Lawrence; but I am neither English nor American. I am a native of this country.”

She turned in her saddle to gaze at him in sheer astonishment. Then she laughed.

“I know! You are an Englishman born out of your native country; born in India instead.”

He smiled at her solution of the mystery. “My father and mother were both Asiatics and belonged to Mysore. Perhaps my remote ancestors may have come originally from Arabia; but that would still make me of Asiatic origin. Some of my ancestors fought under the banner of Haider Ali, the Moslem ruler of Mysore, and my great-grandfather held a commission in Tippu Sultan’s army. We have been soldiers for generations.”

She listened with absorbing interest, unembarrassed by the strange companion she had chosen for her morning’s ride. It so happened that he was the first native gentleman with whom she had ever spoken.

“I am afraid that I am rather ignorant of the history of the country,” she said. “Do I understand that your ancestors fought against the English?”

“Certainly; we fought to the death for the country which we had conquered at the point of the sword, and held by the strength of our arms and by our valour; but the English prevailed; not through mere brute strength, but by strategy and superiority of arms.”

They had ridden on beyond the tope and were cantering easily. The tents of the encampment came into view on the level horizon of the plateau land. They were pitched in neat rows and gleamed white in the morning sun. The horses were also picketed in rows, each hind foot tied by a heel-rope to a peg. They had already been groomed and were eating grass from bundles cut and brought in the day before. The smoke curled upwards in light wreaths from the mess and stable fires, where the camp cooks were busy preparing the rice for the mid-day meal, and grinding the condiments for the pillao. The men were boiling gram for the horses. It was a busy little world that had risen up on the plain, and it was ruled by strict discipline. After a certain time it would disappear as quickly as it had arisen; and the plateau with its broad solitudes, its clear, pure atmosphere would be left to the quiet possession of the birds and wild beasts.

Alauda pressed on, Shah Adam-u-din allowing her to set the pace. She did not draw rein till she had reached the first of the tents.

“Now that you have come so far, you will have a look round at the horses, won’t you?” he said.

She was out of the saddle before he could offer her a hand. He beckoned to an orderly, who took her horse to hold it until the syce arrived. He dismounted himself and led the way to the spot where a long line of swinging tails switched contentedly. The men were occupied in various ways. Many were cleaning their accoutrements, seated in groups and chattering among themselves as they worked, with the gaiety that is the special gift of the Oriental. Some were being drilled; others were attending to the earthen pots in which the small brown beans for the horses were seething. From the adjoining tank came a string of water-carriers, bearing dripping jars upon their shoulders.

“What a wonderful scene!” cried Alauda, in keen appreciation. “Tell me, now, are those men all of the same nationality as yourself? If I may say so, they look a great deal darker.”

“They are mostly Mysoreans like myself. Some are Moslems; some are Hindus,” he replied.

“They all seem alike to me.”

“That’s because your eye is not accustomed to the difference in their appearance in dress and bearing. You can tell the difference between a Frenchman and an American, I suppose?”

“I think I can do that without much difficulty. I flatter myself that I can do better, I can distinguish an Englishman from an American.”

“The difference between a Moslem and a Hindu is infinitely greater, even though they have lived together for centuries,”

“I wonder that they have not amalgamated under British rule,” she remarked.

“They will never mingle and lose their identity in one nation,” said Shah Adam-u-din with conviction. “They have lived side by side for centuries without amalgamation. The two systems, Hinduism and Muhammadanism, are totally distinct in laws, religion, institutions, observances, even in food and dress. The one is a conservative federation, the other is a democratic system tending towards socialism; although it is not without certain strong imperial instincts where leaders are concerned, especially if the leaders should call forth service and devotion in the cause of religion.”

She listened with delight; and as she listened her eyes dwelt upon the men about whom he spoke. The majority of them, being off duty, were not in uniform. Each man wore what pleased him best. White and red predominated, as is usual with the people of South India. Many of them had put on a warm sleeveless waistcoat of scarlet cloth richly embroidered with yellow and green braid; it was worn over the long white cotton coat. Others had red or blue flannel coats. These were the Hindus. In the clear, bright rays of the Indian sun the scene was brilliant and arresting.

“Is the Imperial Service a part of the British army?” she asked.

“No; if it were I should not be holding the commission of a major in its ranks,” answered Shah Adam-u-din with decision.

“Why should you not hold a command in the British army?”

“I could not accept service on the present conditions. A native is not permitted to hold a command such as I hold in the Imperial Service. The highest rank possible for him to attain in the British army places him beneath the youngest subaltern. I was educated in England at a big public school; I went to Oxford; I have travelled on the Continent, and have seen your country under the same conditions as surround other travellers of good birth and ample means. Yet if I entered the British military service in India—the doors are closed altogether against me in the English army—I should always be subordinate to the subaltern. I could never be entertained at an officer’s mess, nor honoured with an invitation to dine with men like the Superintendent of the Remount Depôt.”

“It seems strange; but I suppose the English know their own interests best. Have you met Major Cheverell?”

“I think I may claim him as something more than a mere acquaintance. We were at Harrow together, and I spent my holidays several times at his father’s house in Cheshire.”

They had been up and down the lines of picketed chargers, and he had explained to her the system of Sillidari, by which each man owned his horse and provided himself with his arms and accoutrements; how they all possessed a piece of land in their native villages; and at harvest time took a month’s leave to help in the reaping and to share the profit with their families.

Talking thus Major Adam-u-din and his companion arrived at the other end of the camp. A group of Hindu sowars was seated on the grass just beyond the limits, listening to an oration delivered by a young Hindu. It was Chandraswamy himself, who had taken the camp on his way back from Mysore. Shah Adam-u-din looked at him with undisguised contempt.

“A preacher of religion?” asked Alauda, following his glance and noting the expression. She suspected religious intolerance on his part.

“Nothing so harmless. He is one of those poisonous sedition-mongers, trying to sow the seeds of disaffection to the ruling power. We should have made short work of such vermin in the old days.” A gleam of racial hatred shone in his large hazel-brown eyes as he continued, “When we ruled the land such men as those grovelled at our feet. They were our slaves, our humble slaves. They did not dream of criticizing our methods. One look, one whisper that savoured of disloyalty and they were doomed men.”

“Deported promptly, I suppose.”

“The snake that bears poison under its fangs is not deported; nor is it tried by a jury of serpents. The sedition-wallahs were put beyond the power of speech by the aid of their own turbans and the strong branch of a tree. There they were left to hang as a warning to others. Now the snake is allowed to live and to spread its poisonous doctrines and incite a dangerous hatred and rancour in the hearts of ignorant men against your people.”

“My people!”

“Forgive me! I forgot for the moment that you were not of England,”

“I, like you, am a spectator. I am not one of the ruling race, so I escape anger and hatred.”

“Pardon me, you are mistaken! The Hindus hate the Moslems as much as they hate the English. Their sedition is directed equally against us all. They exclude Moslems from office wherever it is possible, and they treat them with disrespect and contumely. We wait, as a nation which has bowed to the will of Allah and accepted His decree, for our conquerors to keep order and administer justice impartially. We wait and watch to see if there be sufficient strength in the hand that holds the sceptre. If it fails to protect us from open insult and tyranny, we shall be obliged to act for ourselves. The mediator who is not strong enough to hold combatants apart with either hand must expect deadly blows. Let us hope that the Moslems of India will never be obliged to resort to self-protection; that they will never be brought into conflict with over-confident aggressive Hindus who are deluded into thinking that the English Government will support them in their aggression. It would be a bad day for Britain if ever such a crisis arose.”

Thej had approached the large tent that was pitched a little apart from the rest. Two servants issued from it, one bearing a couple of chairs, the other a tray of coffee.

“You must taste my coffee. Miss Lawrence. I always have a cup when I return from my morning ride or from parade.”

The seats were placed in the shade of a tree close by, and half an hour passed quickly and pleasantly.

“Now I must be getting home,” said Alauda.

“I am coming part of the way to show you a shorter road to the castle,” he replied.

Once more they were in the saddle. As they galloped across the open country with the enjoyment that is the heritage of youth all over the world, distinctions of race, religion and nationality were forgotten. They reached the road leading to Hosur, and Major Adam-u-din pulled up.

“I think you can find your way easily now. I need not go further,” he said.

In the far distance he had caught sight of the white helmets of the Englishmen from the Depôt. Something prompted him to leave her and let her meet them alone. He had had enough experience of the English, both in India and in England, to comprehend that in their opinion the American woman had exceeded the bounds of convention in condescension towards himself. He liked her none the less for her independence of action and her unconventional attitude. Her companionship had brought back the memory of the happy days of his boyhood, when he was received on an equality by his schoolfellow’s family as if he belonged to the ruling race. Alauda had been different from all the Anglo-Indians he had ever met. Yet there was nothing in her manner that he could pick out that was not to be found in other women. It was her general bearing, her frankness, the entire absence of self-consciousness, above all her perfect confidence in herself and him, that lifted her out of the crowd and set her apart as something more acceptable, more admirable than the rest. It left him profoundly moved and deeply grateful.

Alauda galloped on at a steady pace until she met Cheverell and Dereham. She pulled up.

“Well; what luck? Have you found the horses?”

“No; nor seen any trace of them,” replied Dereham.

“That’s odd. They can’t have gone very far away after the long march from the station.”

“They have probably made their way into one of the patches of jungle,” said Cheverell. “Govinda’s syces are out, and I have sent two of my own men. Also half a dozen men from Hosur have joined in the search. You’re out late, Alauda; where have you been?”

“I rode as far as the Sillidar camp—such a pretty sight in the morning!”

“I’m coming to call upon your aunt, by-and-by,” said Dereham. “I hope I shall find her at home; and you, too. Miss Lawrence.”

“As far as I know we shall both be in, and delighted to see you, at least I can say that for myself, and feel pretty certain that I may say it for my aunt as well,” replied Alauda, heartily.

Cheverell glanced sharply at her and then at Dereham. He drew up the reins and said—

“We must be off, Dereham. You must be gettinh home, Alauda. The sun is too hot for you to be out in it much longer. We shall have rain before long with this heat.”

They rode on until they were near the Depôt, when Cheverell said—

“Do you mind going on by yourself. I want to speak to Breydon. I think I shall find him at his house.”

“I’ll come with you,” replied Dereham.

“All right; I shan’t keep you five minutes.”

They turned in at the gate and rode up to the verandah. Mrs. Breydon was seated at a small table busy with some work. She glanced up at the sound of hoofs, expecting to see her husband.

“Good morning, Mrs. Breydon; is your husband in?”

“He hasn’t returned from the lines yet. You will find—” her voice died away as her eyes fell on his companion.

Dereham, seeing a lady, had taken off his hat mechanically in anticipation of the introduction, which came the next moment from the courtly soldier.

“Mrs. Breydon, this is my friend. Sir David Dereham, who has come to pay the Remount Depôt a visit. I’ll go to the lines at once and catch your husband before he leaves. Good morning.”

He turned his horse at once without waiting for a response. He was too much hurried to note the curious expression upon his friend’s face, a look of surprise not unmixed with confusion.

Dereham pressed his horse closer to the verandah. “Brenda!”

She leaned forward with uplifted hand. “Go!” she cried, in her clear vibrating tone. “Go! You are not wanted here!”

He stared at her, and, without another word, trotted off after his host.

Chapter IX

True to his word, Dereham appeared at the castle in the middle of the day, the regulation time in India for paying calls. Cheverell did not possess a brougham, but he lent his friend a dog-cart. The air still retained some of its freshness, and the heat was nothing like that of the plains. The interior of the castle was refreshingly cool, and pleasant with its scent of flowers and its softened light after the glare outside. There was something in the atmosphere that gave an impression of refined luxury. It appealed strongly to his senses. The presence of the two girls in the drawing-room, clothed in cool linen garments of delicate tint, completed the picture. They rose to greet him as he entered, and Vida’s colour deepened slightly from self-consciousness as she touched his hand. She had met him in Madras more than once, so they were old acquaintances in a way.

“You got safely home, Miss Alpheton,” he said, looking into her eyes more from habit than with any special attention. “I did not like letting you go alone; but I felt bound to follow Cheverell because of breakfast. He is a busy man, and likes to have it punctually.”

“I was quite safe,” she replied, dropping her eyes and raising them again.

“You were very brave to follow us. Why didn’t you come too. Miss Lawrence?”

“I thought, under the circumstances, you would be better without any women to escort. I know Major Cheverell of old, and I was afraid he would find us in the way. Where work is concerned he doesn’t want any of the sex around.”

“He asked us himself,” cried Vida.

“You don’t know him as well as I do,” said Alauda, calmly.

“So you went to the camp instead, and had a look at the Maharajah’s troops. By the way, how did you find the camp?” asked Dereham, veiling his curiosity under a careless manner.

“Major Adam-u-din was my guide.”

He gazed at her in astonishment that he could not hide. Vida, jealous of the deflection of his attention from herself, began to explain. She had heard the story from Alauda herself.

“Miss Lawrence met him at Captain Ravenstone’s bungalow.”

Dereham’s surprise was not lessened. At this moment Mrs. Quinbury entered. When the greetings were over and the visitor had reseated himself, he returned to the subject.

“I suppose Ravenstone introduced you to the native?” Something in Alauda’s straight and steady gaze made him add with a heartiness that he did not feel, “Shah Adam-u-din is a fine specimen of a soldier, isn’t he? He was down in Madras when we were there playing in the polo tournament on the Island. He captained the Imperial Service team.”

“I remember him well!” cried Alauda. “I asked one or two people at the time who he was, but no one seemed to know his name. ‘Some native,’ or ‘some Rajah,’ was the reply given to my questions. He played polo magnificently.”

“Did Captain Ravenstone introduce you?” asked Mrs. Quinbury, regarding Alauda with a shade of perplexity.

“No, auntie; I just introduced myself,” she replied without any embarrassment or misgiving. Turning to Dereham, she continued, “It really was a fine sight. I got Major Adam-u-din to take me over the camp and he showed me the horses. Then he rode back with me. We had just parted when I met you and the Major.”

For a moment no one had any remark to make. Mrs. Quinbury, herself an American, alone understood the situation. She knew that there was nothing out of the way in it as far as Alauda and her trans-Atlantic upbringing was concerned; but she had lived long enough in India, as the wife of an Indian official, to know what was passing in the mind of Dereham and of the English girl. She inwardly resented their attitude, and she was conscious of wishing that her niece was a little less unconventional.

“The English in India do not cultivate the society of native gentlemen to any great extent,” she said, addressing her words to her visitor. “My niece feels at liberty to improve her acquaintance with the people if it pleases her.”

“It is so impossible to become intimate with Muhammadans and Hindus,” replied Dereham, with eagerness. He felt that he could say more to Mrs. Quinbury than to Alauda on the subject. “There are so many obstacles. We cannot know them even as well as we know the natives of some other parts of Asia.”

“Why?” asked Alauda, who had no sort of doubt as to the wisdom of her conduct in this as in other matters.

“There is no reciprocity. Ever since we have occupied the country we have been rigidly excluded from the home life of the Indians, especially the Hindus and Muhammadans. The only people who have voluntarily lifted the veil are the Parsees; and they are in a very small minority.”

“Has the fault been with them or with you?” asked Alauda.

“With them, of course. It all has to do with the question of caste.”

“Major Adara-u-din is a Muhammadan, so the question of caste does not enter into this case,” said Alauda, quietly.

“All the same he is a native with Oriental ideas and practices concerning home life, which are diametrically opposed to those of the European or American. For instance, take the subject of marriage. He is a polygamist. His religion allows him four wives; and being a man of means he probably has the full number, each established in quarters of her own with a staff of servants and handmaids. If we tried to visit Shah Adam-u-din on reciprocal terms we should have to accept his four wives— supposing that they would consent to come out; invite them and return their hospitality, recognizing them collectively, as your aunt is recognized as the district officer’s wife. The situation would be preposterous. It would be still worse with the Hindus. They would not be able to distinguish between the status of their wives and their favourite dancing-girls”—he pulled himself up sharply. “Good Heavens! What confusion there would be!” he concluded, with a laugh and a glance at Mrs. Quinbury.

“Native women are so uninteresting,” said Vida, desiring to show where her sympathy was. “They have no education, and can talk of nothing but their children and jewels. It is just as well for us that they don’t seek our acquaintance. I had some experience of the zenanas when I was staying in Madras with my mother. She knew the missionaries and we went to one or two parties for native ladies at the Mission house. I could not get on with them at all. I don’t think I should feel at home with a man who had four wives either. It is so contrary to our English notions.”

She gave a shake of her delicate shoulders by way of a shudder at such a monstrosity as a polygamist. Alauda offered no interruption to the views expressed, but when both had finished, she said—

“Major Adani-u-din has no wife. He is a widower.”

“How do you know?” asked Vida, full of curiosity, and raising her eyebrows as she caught Dereham’s eye.

“I asked him about himself, just as I should have asked an American about his circumstances. We were sitting near the mess tent under a tree drinking coffee and I said I thought that camping out must be pleasant as a change for his wife. He told me that he had no wife, she died three years ago; and he explained that the Moslem women of good birth were gosha, which means hidden; and they would not dream of going into camp. I inquired if they were happy, and he said that they were. They had their children and their household to occupy their attention and time. He also told me that the ladies of his family were very well educated indeed. Then he laughed at me for being so interested in a man’s estate, whether he had a wife or no. He had noticed it in England, I said that he ought to feel complimented at the interest taken in him and his affairs. It was a mark of our regard when we troubled ourselves to gain information about a man. Of course, he replied just as you might have done. Sir David. He said he was proud to find that he had awakened my interest. I was the first lady he had met in India to show any. As a rule English women did not care even to know his name.”

“You seem to have had a good deal of conversation with him,” remarked Dereham, drily.

“I had; and I could have stayed talking all the morning, he knew so much about the country.”

“Naturally; he’s of the country—country-born; an Indian. Quite apart from his merits or demerits, or whether he possesses four wives or none at all, it is not the custom among us to admit natives into the family circle; is it, Mrs. Quinbury?” said Dereham, appealing to his hostess for support.

In her placid manner she readily assented, saying that she received a visit from a native gentleman now and then when her husband wished to show special courtesy to any man. It was also a visit of ceremony which could not lead to any intimacy.

“Intimacy with a native is impossible,” said Dereham, turning again to Alauda. “I am not laying down rules of my own making; I am simply explaining the attitude which after a knowledge of the country for three centuries we English, as a race, have thought fit to adopt. Do you admit the negroes of your own country into your houses on an equal footing. Miss Lawrence?”

She was stirred at last, and she glanced at him with an expression that was not free from anger.

“The two are not to be mentioned in the same breath. One is a savage; the other is as cultured as any American.”

“All the same, Sir David is quite right,” remarked Vida to Mrs. Quinbury. Then addressing herself to Dereham, she said, “Alauda is unconventional; she always has original opinions on this sort of subject.” She was becoming restless under what she considered serious conversation. Without waiting for comment on her statement she continued, “She wanted me to go with her to Captain Ravenstone’s bungalow this morning; but I thought it best, after Major Cheverell’s kind invitation, to follow him.”

Dereham was not as grateful as he might have been to Miss Alpheton for her sympathy with his sentiments. The implied criticisms of Alauda’s action found still less favour in his eyes, and he began to wonder if the American had taken umbrage.

“I hope you are not offended with me for speaking out so plainly, Miss Lawrence,” he said, with a touch of anxiety in his voice.

“Not in the least; we are all entitled to our own opinions,” she answered, recovering her good-humour. “Now tell us what you did this morning, and whether you have any news of the missing horse.”

He fell into her vein and dropped the difficult subject of social duties between Europeans and Asiatics.

“We had no luck at all. There wasn’t time to go very far, as Cheverell had business at home. He has sent out a couple of mounted men, and I hope they will be able to trace the horses. By-the-by, he told me to remind you, Mrs. Quinbury, that you promised to come over for tea and tennis this afternoon.”

Dereham devoted the rest of his visit to his hostess, and then rose to go. As he passed through the hall, he encountered Dharma Govinda just entering, accompanied by an elderly man of his own nationality.

“Ah! how do you do. Sir David?” cried Govinda. “I am so sorry to hear that your horse has not yet been found. I am in the same case as yourself. It cannot be helped. You remember that I warned you that it was a possible contingency.”

“You have sent out some of your people to look for the horses, I am told.”

“Certainly, Sir David. I have eight fellows scouring the country for me.”

“What does your trainer say to it?”

“He is in Bangalore just now. I have wired to him not to come until the horse is found.”

Dereham moved on, and the older man saluted him in the customary manner by touching his forehead with his hand. Govinda nodded familiarly as he had seen his companions in England nod to each other in farewell, and he said, adopting their light and casual tone—

“Ta! ta! Sir David. I will let you know directly I hear news of the animals.”

Again Dereham felt impatient at the man’s familiarity. He glanced at the motor-car waiting near the porch as he stepped into the modest two-wheeled trap belonging to Cheverell. It was not exactly envy that found a place in his breast; it was a keen sense of the unfitness of things, that he should be driving himself whilst a Hindu baboo, as he dubbed Govinda, should be rolling along in luxurious fashion in one of the latest and most expensive of automobiles. It is true that he might have brought out a similar car with him if he had chosen; but as he had come to India to economize after five years of over-spending, the car had been rejected as unadvisable.

Dharma Govinda asked for Mr. Quinbury, and was shown into his private room. The district officer rose from his chair at the writing-table, where he had just seated himself on his return from the Kutcherry. Having greeted his visitor he asked the name of his companion.

“This is my uncle, Mr. Chinaswamy. He has come to my house on a visit connected with a domestic affair, and begged to have the honour of being presented to you. I hope you will forgive the liberty I have taken in bringing him.”

“I am very pleased to see him,” replied Quinbury, politely. “Does he understand English?”

“He has never learned the language. In his young days he had to be content with what the village school-master could teach; and there was no thought of going to England then,” replied Govinda, as he seated himself in that particular arm-chair which appeared to him to be the best in the room.

He signed to his uncle to be seated also; but the courteous old man, with a knowledge of what was due to his host, remained standing. Quinbury understood his action. He pushed forward the chair from which he had himself risen on their entrance, and in his visitor’s own language begged him to take it. The hesitation and diffidence on the old man’s face gave place to gratification; and the deep-set eyes met those of the district officer with a grateful smile. The sub-collector could not have done him a greater honour than in giving him his own seat; and in so doing he had raised him to a more important position than the one Dharma Govinda had assumed uninvited.

These trivial matters of courtesy, so important in the estimation of the native, irritated some of Quinbury’s colleagues. Practical men with socialistic tendencies despised the smallness of mind that distinguished differences in chairs offered to visitors, especially when those visitors came on business. They did their best to show that it was of no importance where a man sat. It was the man, not the seat, that mattered. In the busy lives of officials there was no time for these trifling considerations.

Quinbury, on the other hand, attached due importance to eastern methods of showing courtesy. He recognized the sensitive temperament that clung to ancient customs, and that distinguished a difference in seats, and showed a jealous appreciation of the exact spot where the master of the house received his visitors; whether it was on the threshold or in the middle of the room; whether he remained seated or stood to greet them. The blunders made through ignorance and carelessness in this respect have given rise too often to the unmerited charge of arrogance made by offended natives.

The honours were done with due propriety, and Quinbury entered at once into the business he had in hand. He produced the copy of the Flaming Torch that had come by post the previous morning.

“I sent for you, Mr. Dharma Govinda, to ask if you know anything of this publication?”

“I have seen it.”

“Have you read it?”

“I glanced through it yesterday on my return from Madras. There are a few grains of corn with a great deal of chaff that is worthless.”

“Do you know the editor and proprietor?”

“I have a slight acquaintance with the editor. He is a young lawyer from Bengal who has come down South for a time; a harmless youth, Mr. Quinbury, but a shade too zealous. These young men who have received education at the hands of the Government and who are without the means of going to England, where they would learn the English language as they could never learn it in this country, are apt in their ignorance of the exact meaning of the words to overstate their case.”

Quinbury watched the Hindu as he talked, and did not interrupt. When he had finished he said—

“They understand their own language—and I understand it as well. The English portion of the paper is more moderate in its expression than the vernacular. It seems to me that the writer has an intimate acquaintance with the English language.”

Govinda smiled broadly, as if the district officer had praised him.

“Ah, well, the youths of the present day are often hot-headed and given to exaggeration.”

“Can you tell me who is the proprietor?”

“I have no definite information on that point. I believe it is another young Hindu who is labouring under the same unfortunate circumstances, a good education and no field for his talents. What educated India wants in the present day is scope and opportunity.”

“If the men would turn their attention to the development of trade—I don’t mean as artisans but as skilled experts, supervising and directing labour—they would find illimitable scope for their energies,” replied Quinbury, with animation.

“One can hardly expect, in this country or in your own, men with university degrees to supervise and direct labour,” said Govinda.

“It would be only following in the footsteps of their fathers. Education is not meant to create a clerkly class, but to fit every man for his natural work.”

“If that was the intention of Government in establishing schools and colleges, why did it offer scholarships and money prizes to incite students to gain university degrees? Had it been the wish of the authorities to fit men for technical work, the obvious means to that end would have been the establishment of technical schools and not universities.”

“The policy has certainly resulted in the over-production of B.A.’s—men who consider that their talents can only be exercised in the office,” admitted Quinbury. “In my opinion it is a result to be regretted. Instead of producing gratitude for their privileges, it has created discontent and idleness.”

“A discontent that is reasonable, and an idleness that is forced,” responded the Hindu. “It is not to be wondered at that the men who ought to be schoolmasters, clerks, or lawyers, should air their grievances by filling the columns of a newspaper like the Flaming Torch.”

“They must have a care that they do not get burned when they play with fire. Editors and proprietors of seditious papers are dealt with summarily in these days.”

“They are prepared to suffer. It is their fate and not their fault.”

“You seem to sympathize with these malcontents, Mr. Dharma Govinda,” said Quinbury, with a touch of sharpness.

“I have learned to sympathize with all sorts of people in my residence in England,” replied Govinda, expansively. “With men like yourself, who are attempting to rule a country by imposing modern western methods on an ancient eastern nation; and with the ruled, whose actions are tested by a foreign standard, who are misunderstood, whose inner life is a closed book. I sympathize with the foreign monarch, who is doing his best through his ministers to govern his unknown subjects; and with his subjects, who long in vain for men of their own race to be set in authority over them.”

“Would you return to the old days when India suffered under the despotic rule of Hindu kings and Muhammadan moguls?” asked Quinbury.

“I think I may venture to say that the peasantry, who form the backbone of India, would prefer to be governed by a despotic native prince rather than by a despotic foreign power. The native prince is of the people. He understands their psychology, and he knows how to govern them without hurting their sensibilities. He judges them as one of them would judge him; and he treats them as he knows they would treat him if the position were reversed. We need not look further than Mysore itself to see the system I am suggesting—not advocating, let me say—in full working order. There they have a perfectly organized system of Government modelled on that of British India, and officered almost entirely by Indians with the Maharajah at the head instead of the Viceroy. The result is eminently satisfactory. Any one can see that it has been for the moral and material good of the people.”

“You imply that we are despotic.”

“By despotic I mean that you legislate for the people without consulting them. I admit that it has been for their good from your point of view. Take your plague regulations and the sanitary rules that you have introduced into towns, matters that closely touch the home life of the natives. They have been imposed without consulting them. There are other things, such as the forest reserves, which have equally been made the subject of legislation by the foreigners without consulting the man who benefits by the open forest.”

“Surely anyone of your education and experience must admit that, despotic or not, we have endeavoured to legislate for the benefit of the community and of posterity.”

“Of course! of course!” cried the Hindu, airily. “To me it is all clear; and though there are certain changes I should like to see, I am content.”

“You would like to be on the Viceroy’s Council, for instance,” said Quinbury, with a laugh that was good-natured.

“Not at all, I assure you; but I should like to have a voice in the election of the members of the Viceroy’s Council, and even in the election of the Viceroy himself.”

“That is a long way off at present,” said Quinbury, with conviction.

Then he turned to his other visitor, who had sat silent throughout the conversation, patiently waiting with old-fashioned courtesy till his host should give him leave to speak by addressing him. He asked in the old man’s language if he had understood what had been said. The answer was in the negative. He inquired if he was interested in the nationalistic movement that was demanding self-government and reforms of all kinds. He replied that he left all that to the young people.

“An old tree has fitted itself into the hillside and adapted itself, root and branch, to its situation; it asks for no changes. All it needs is the continuation of benefits, protection from evil influences outside, the thunderbolt, the blast of the cyclone, and the wood-cutter’s axe.”

“Then you would advise the young generation to be content with the hillside which was good enough for their fathers.”

“No young tree can stand upon the exact spot occupied by the old one. There may be need for search of fresh ground, but that is the business of the young and not the old.”

He told Quinbury that he held an appointment in the service of Dharma Govinda’s father as agent for the purchase of grain in Mysore. He was doing the work which in the old days would have fallen to the lot of the son.

Presently the district officer rose from his chair preparatory to dismissing his guests. He turned to the younger man and said—

“You would oblige me if you could give the editor of the Flaming Torch a hint that he must not allow his pen to run away with him. Tell him that it would be better if he could write moderately upon these burning questions which are so much to the fore just now.”

“I shall be delighted to do my best. I have more than once warned these hot-headed youngsters against being too fiery in their language, and have pointed out that the words they use mean more than they intend,”

“And see if you can discover the name of the proprietor of the paper. I note that it is printed in Mysore. An appeal on our part to the Mysore Government to suppress the paper and deport the editor and proprietor would be acted on at once. The Government has no sympathy with extremists.”

“Nor have I. There is nothing wrong in the new spirit until it becomes impatient of control. Then it fosters lawlessness in unbalanced minds, and it is a source of immeasurable danger. The Mysore authorities have absolutely no sympathy with excess,” replied Govinda, with a smoothness that caused Quinbury to smile. “Before I take my leave there is a little matter I would inquire about, Mr. Quinbury. I understand that there is a vacancy in the Kutcherry for a clerk.”

“It is filled up. There were eighty applicants for it,” replied the district officer.

“I hope you have secured a man who is satisfactory.”

“I believe so. He is a B.A., and not a member of any secret society; nor does he mix himself up with politics. One has to be careful in these days.”

“Quite so; some of the extremists have proved themselves to be nothing less than murderers,” said Govinda. “We don’t want to have anything to do with men of that stamp.”

“You may well say that. Such people must be kept out of public office. I wish that they could be content to follow the calling of their ancestors and leave politics alone. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find servants because the younger generation with the better education seeks employment in shops and offices in the larger towns. My waterman is too old for his work, and I proposed that his son should take his place. He informed me that his boy was a clerk in the telegraph service, and had no intention whatever of following his father’s calling.”

As he talked he courteously conducted his visitors through the hall, and Govinda expressed a hope that Mrs. Quinbury was quite well. The reply was that she was in excellent health. He half hoped that he might have been invited into the drawing-room. It would have been an opportunity for displaying his European manners for her edification; and at the same time he could not have failed to impress his relative with his importance when he saw the intimate footing on which he stood in the family of the sub-collector.

The hint was not taken, and a few minutes later the car was spinning along the road at the rate of thirty miles an hour, to the satisfaction of the owner and the inward terror of his relative, accustomed to the slow movement of the bullock-cart.

At the house they found Chandraswamy. He had been watching eagerly for their return.

“Did you ask for the post in the Kutcherry?”

“I did; but without success. I think the district officer must have heard something about you. He said he didn’t want a man who mixed himself up in politics or was a member of any secret society. He would rather not have anything to do with such brutes. Such people must be kept out of office. They ought to be content to follow the calling of their ancestors and let politics alone. You would do better to adopt your grandfather’s trade and draw water. His own waterman is old and past work. There is an opening for you!”

Chandraswamy’s eye flashed. “Draw water for a Feringhi and his servants, indeed! Does he not remember that they are pariahs, not fit to pass on the same side of the road where I am walking? The arrogant upstart Feringhi! Ah! the time is not far off when he and his fellows will be made to eat their own words; and perhaps they will be eaten themselves by the jackals and the kites.”

Dharma Govinda watched him with amusement. It was the young tiger straining at his chain again and snarling with rage.

“Gently, little brother! Violence on the part of the buffalo when it is under the paw of the beast of prey is foolishness. It only hastens the end. Think no more of the Kutcherry. I have plenty of work for you to do, and will see that you do not want for a moderate salary as my secretary.”

“It is strange,” remarked the older man, “that the Englishman could have used such language with that even voice and pleasant smile.”

“That is their way. You heard the word ‘waterman’ when the district officer spoke?”

“It was said more than once. Truly this shows how deceitful the race is, and how little they can be trusted. They are worse than the Muhammadans; and the world knows how foul they are!”

Chapter X

Major Cheverell had gathered together what was considered a large party for the Depôt, It included Mr. and Mrs. Quinbury, Alauda and Vida, Assington, Captain Ravenstone, Kingsford, and a Mr. and Mrs. Bucknall and their daughter Margery, who were on a short visit to Kingsford. Breydon and his wife had been invited, but he had pleaded business at the riding school, and Mrs. Breydon had refused without giving any reason.

“She never can be persuaded to go anywhere,” Cheverell had said to Dereham, as the latter inquired if they would be present. “It’s a pity. She’s such a nice woman; and he is one of the best fellows in the world.”

“Where did he meet her?”

“That I can’t tell you. I know nothing at all about her antecedents. In India we don’t ask any questions except those that the Gazette can answer. A woman takes her place according to the position of her husband. If she fills it decently, we are satisfied. As far as I am concerned I can see for myself that she is well-bred.”

Dereham relapsed into silence. He took the hint and asked no more questions of his host. Her story with the part he himself had played in it was evidently not known, and he was glad of it. It was not to his credit. At the bottom of his heart he was dimly conscious that Cheverell would not have offered his friendship and hospitality so freely if he had been aware of certain episodes in the past.

He wondered if Breydon knew, and came to the conclusion that he did not. Brenda had kept her counsel, and she was wise. Dereham decided that he would do the same. Under the circumstances, there was no reason why he should renew his acquaintance with her. He would have preferred, if it were possible, to forget her existence altogether. It was fortunate that she chose to live in retirement, as there was less likelihood of uncomfortable meetings and awkward constraint in the presence of each other if chance brought them into contact.

His determination to marry Alauda grew steadily. He lost no opportunity of quietly pursuing his purpose. Vida’s predilection for his society helped rather than hindered the design. It formed an excellent cover for his line of action. His genial and responsive attitude towards her could be so easily adopted towards Alauda at the same time. There was less stiffness and formality in this little up-country station than in Madras, or even at Ootacamund, where the House party, as the Governor and his staff were familiarly known, insensibly affected the social atmosphere. During the games of tennis, and at the tea-tables spread under the old banyan tree near the courts, he felt that he was progressing.

A game was made up in which Alauda did not play. Major Cheverell seeing her disengaged asked if she would come and look at his gloxinias. The plants were in a little enclosure that he had built on purpose for them at the end of a verandah by the side of the house.

She rose at once, leaving Captain Ravenstone—who had just dropped into a chair by her side, congratulating himself on his good luck—in the middle of a conversation, which was of absorbing interest to him whatever it might have been to Alauda. Cheverell always had an attraction for her. He looked older than he was on account of a slight baldness; and there was a shadowy resemblance in his manner to her father. She felt that she could have confided in him had she needed a friend for that purpose. More than once she had gone to him for an opinion on a subject that puzzled her; and had taken his advice in preference to that which was offered by her aunt.

They arrived at the gloxinia house and admired the beautiful velvety blossoms. Then she turned suddenly to him and said—

“Major Cheverell, will you do something for me?””

“Of course I will,” he replied, looking at her with friendly honest eyes.

“Will you introduce me to Mrs. Breydon? I do so want to know her.”

“With pleasure. When do you wish to see her? We can go now if you like. It’s only five minutes’ walk from here. We mustn’t stay long; but you can call on her again some other time if you find that you are welcome.”

He started off at once, leading the way by a path across a field of grass and talking as he walked.

“It’s very kind of you to think of looking up Mrs. Breydon,” he said, with warm approval. “I know her well and often drop in to have a chat; but the rest of the people in the place can’t believe that their visits are welcome, because she won’t return them or accept any invitations.”

“She has been invited to the castle, but she has always refused,” said Alauda.

“Oh yes! I know; and then people get tired of sending her invitations, and they let her alone without making any further effort. It’s her fault, not theirs; and so I tell her sometimes. She only laughs at me, and says I’m a good-natured old bachelor, who has impossible ideas about making the Depôt into a kind of happy family regardless of people’s inclinations.”

“Then she will think that you have persuaded me to come down this evening,” said Alauda, stopping on the path.

“I’ll tell her that you have done it all off your own bat, and that it is not my suggestion,” cried Cheverell, in consternation. “Come along, Alauda, and carry out one of the best intentions you have had for some time.”

“She must find it very dull,” remarked Alauda, as she continued her walk.

“Not a bit of it! She’s devoted to her husband and to a child they have taken charge of, a jolly little chap of six, named Adam. Queer name for a child, isn’t it? They call him Sonnie.”

They entered by the garden and found Mrs. Breydon among her roses. She had her gardening gloves on, and was busy cutting off dead leaves and blossoms. She glanced up with a startled expression as she heard their footsteps; but came forward with restored confidence on recognizing Cheverell. He introduced his companion and they began to talk of the flowers, Mrs. Breydon was soon at her ease with Alauda, showing her with pride the roses she had budded with her own hands; pointing out the care she had taken to mark the pots in which they stood, lest the gardener should exchange them for commoner kinds.

Her refined voice arrested Alauda’s attention. She had heard it in well-bred women in London. The deep full-voiced ring carried the words authoritatively and without noise, and there was an entire absence of anything sharp and metallic in its sound. She liked the voice and found a pleasure in listening to it; but it struck her that it was curiously at variance with the retiring manner.

Breydon had come in for tea and was about to return to the riding-school. He joined them for a few minutes. Following at his heels came the child. Alauda was fond of children. She stooped and spoke to the little boy, putting her arm around him; she asked if he had a pony of his own.

“Not yet,” he replied. “Daddy is going to give me one when I am eight. I must have two more birthdays.”

“Can’t you have one sooner?”

He shook his head solemnly and looked at Mrs. Breydon.

“It’s all on account of Mum. Poor old Mum! She’s so frightened lest I should fall off.”

There was a laugh at Mrs. Breydon’s expense, in which she joined softly, and Alauda thought that her laugh had even a greater charm than her voice. It reminded her of a sound she had heard in the large drawing-rooms in England, where well-dressed women, wearing few jewels but somehow expressing wealth, congregated.

“We must be getting back, Alauda,” said Cheverell.

She turned to Mrs. Breydon with the natural spontaneous manner of the American woman, guiltless of any intention to patronize.

“I will come some other afternoon, if I may, and you must show me how to bud roses,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Do come; it will be very nice,” replied Mrs. Breydon.

There was a genuine ring in her voice which almost amounted to heartiness, and Cheverell knew that she meant all that she said. As they retraced their steps across the field Alauda remarked—

“That woman interests me. I shall look her up pretty often, if she will allow me.”

“Ah, do! Poor thing!”

“Now, why do you say ‘poor thing!’” she demanded, glancing at him combatively.

“I don’t exactly know,” he confessed, feeling sure that he was going to be worsted in the encounter. “I am sorry for her because she seems to have no friends.”

“By your own showing that is entirely her fault. I’ll tell you how the matter stands. Your pity is wasted on her. She is the happiest woman in the place—in the whole country. She is devoted to her husband—any one can see that with half an eye; and she loves that wee boy she has adopted, even though he has dark blood in his little veins. She is so supremely happy that she doesn’t want any friends and is independent of her neighbours.”

“Then why does she look sad sometimes?”

Alauda did not reply immediately. She felt that she had penetrated deeper into Mrs. Breydon’s secrets than other casual observers had done; and she was not sure if she was betraying an unwitting confidence or not. Her eyes rested on Cheverell’s face as though she were weighing him in a balance. He was not found wanting, as her words proved.

“You are a man to be trusted with a woman’s secret, Major Cheverell, unless I am very much mistaken; so I will tell you what I have discovered. She has found such great happiness by passing through an ocean of misery.”

Such a thought had not struck him before. If he had felt any curiosity, he had stifled it instantly from a chivalrous feeling that it was of the nature of prying. A rigid sense of honour caused him to respect everything that was sacred to God and his fellow man. When it was a woman there was the addition of tenderness and pity, of that quality which is only to be found in noble and refined natures. He thoroughly understood what Alauda implied, and how great was her confidence in him when she made her statement.

“Thank you,” he replied quietly; his eyes told her how much he was touched. “I will prove worthy of your trust.”

They walked on for a little way when he said, “How did you know?”

“You can read it in her eyes,” she replied.

They finished their stroll without further conversation. Their friendship was sufficiently cemented to allow of the companionship of silence; therefore they did not hurry.

The tennis set was just over. Dereham had been playing with Vida against Margery Bucknall and Kingsford. The rest of the company were lounging in the comfortable cane chairs grouped under the banyan tree. Quinbury and Bucknall were discussing the action of the Home Government with reference to the Indian member of the Viceroy’s Council. Mrs. Bucknall was cross-examining Mrs. Quinbury about the details of American cooking, in the hope of pleasantly surprising her friends with a new dish and a new drink. Assington and Ravenstone were enjoying their cigars and a desultory chat about the shooting that was to be got in the neighbourhood.

As the players left the court, Cheverell and Alauda joined them under the tree. Dereham drifted purposely to Alauda’s side and claimed her attention before Ravenstone could succeed in monopolizing it. The latter retired with a sigh. What was the good of trying to “hitch his waggon to a star?” Even if she turned a favourable eye in his direction he would never have the courage to pursue his advantage. He was a poor man; and though in these days the department under Government to which he was attached was on an equality with the other branches of military service, he was conscious that there was nothing distinguished about it; and there were no openings in it as in the others for reaping honour and glory.

“Where did you go with Major Cheverell?” asked Dereham, indifferently. “To see the roans?”

“No; we went first to look at the gloxinias.”

“Now it’s my turn. Let me show you the picotees near the bungalow,” said Dereham, glancing towards a smaller house standing near the big building where the Superintendent lived.

“They are nothing out of the way,” protested Alauda.

“Nor are the gloxinias.”

“The gloxinias are Major Cheverell’s special pets,” replied Alauda.

“The picotees are my special pets,” retorted Dereham. “You should be fair and just. I don’t see why Cheverell is to be favoured more than the rest of us.”

She was amused at his claim for equality.

“By the same token I must presently go and see the roses with Mr. Assington, the geraniums with Captain Ravenstone, the onion bed with Mr. Bucknall, and the carrots with Mr. Kingsford.”

“If there is time; but the picotees will take hours to look at. There is such an infinite variety,” said Dereham, audaciously.

“They are all clove pinks of one colour,” asserted Alauda, laughing. “I denounce you as a fraud, a gay deceiver. Sir David; and if other women have been led by your plausible tongue to put faith in your statements, I am sorry for them. I shall not be so weak; I refuse to come.”

“You are half-way there already,” he cried, as she stopped short at the carriage-drive, which they had reached in their wanderings. “Hallo! Who’s this?”

A motor-car glided in at the open gateway and came towards them. They stepped back on to the grass. At a sign from the occupant the car drew up close to the spot where they were standing, and Major Adam-u-din got out. He wore a European suit that was well cut and fitted him admirably. As with Govinda, the only article of dress that was not European in its origin and style was the turban. This was of a different pattern from that worn by the Hindu; and it was tied in military fashion with the gold embroidered ends of the puggaree hanging upon his shoulder. It was a picturesque head-dress, peculiarly suited to the refined Semitic features of the wearer.

“This is an unexpected pleasure,” he said, as he touched Alauda’s hand.

She introduced her companion, whose response was cold and formal. Dereham’s want of cordiality jarred upon her. To compensate for his coolness, she became slightly more genial herself. She asked Shah Adam-u-din if he had come to see Major Cheverell.

The Superintendent had observed the arrival of his visitor, and had hastened to greet him. He endeavoured to show by his manner that Alauda was released from any responsibility, and might, if she chose, resume her stroll with Dereham; but she did not take the hint.

“I called to ask you if I might keep the charger you sent over to the camp for me to try. I like it immensely,”” said Major Adam-u-din. With his quick insight and observation he detected the slight embarrassment on the faces of the two men; and he added courteously, “I am afraid I have disturbed you; I see you have friends. Don’t let me detain you. I can talk to you about the horse another time.”

He spoke with the ease of an Englishman, and his eyes rested on Alauda as though the apology which he uttered to Cheverell was intended for her.

“Oh, you don’t interrupt!” exclaimed Alauda, before Cheverell could reply. “We have finished our games and our tea, and are just killing time till we have to go home.”

The Superintendent looked at her in perplexity, not seeing how he could detach Shah Adam-u-din and draw him away. Dereham stood aloof with face averted, impatiently tapping his leg with his racquet.

“Come into the house and have a chat, Adam-u-din. I haven’t seen you for some time. I have been intending to ride out and call on you, but I’ve been desperately busy lately. This is our busiest and fullest time,” said Cheverell.

He moved towards the portico; Adam-u-din and Alauda followed. Dereham remained for a few moments in doubt, and then decided to join them and seize the first opportunity of decoying her back to the party under the tree. Incidentally he congratulated himself that he was not tied by any profession to the country. On his marriage he would live in England and turn his back for good on the East. It would be better—safer—for an impulsive unconventional girl like Alauda not to be brought into contact with people whose acquaintance she could not cultivate. Her ignorance of English thought and custom would be less likely to lead her astray there than in India.

“Is Mr. Quinbury at home?” asked Shah Adam-u-din of Alauda, as they all entered the verandah together.

“No; he is here. He is sitting under the banyan tree by the tennis courts. Do you want to speak to him?”

“I was going on to the castle to ask if he and Mrs. Quinbury would drive over to the camp to-morrow to see the men’s sports. We are going to have some fancy riding and tent-pegging, and if you will come I will arrange for a musical ride.”

“How lovely! I would not miss such a sight for the world. I have never seen a musical ride. If my uncle and aunt can’t drive, I’ll ride over as I did this morning,” said Alauda, her eyes bright with anticipation and pleasure.

“You saw the troops off duty this morning, and without uniform. I want you to see them in the field. I am very proud of my men.”

“I’ll go and ask my uncle at once if he can spare the time,” she said, with the confidence which Vida envied and tried in vain to imitate.

Cheverell did not attempt to fight against fate any longer. He sat with his guest in the verandah discussing the horse and its price whilst they awaited Alauda’s return. She came, bringing her uncle with her. Dereham followed, moody and silent, curbing with difficulty his desire to dissuade Alauda from accepting the invitation. Quinbury greeted Shah Adam-u-din with his usual courtesy.

“I have come to thank you for your kind invitation,” he said. “I am sorry that I am unable to accept it. Business takes me in another direction.”

“But that is no reason why I should not come, or Miss Alpheton either,” said Alauda.

Cheverell turned to Dereham with a sudden inspiration. “Look here, Dereham; I know you like driving a team. Will you take the roans out to-morrow morning and drive the whole party to the camp? The Bucknalls would be delighted to go, I am sure. Possibly Assington would join you too. The brake will accommodate you all.”

Dereham’s face cleared at the prospect suddenly opened before him of having Alauda on the box-seat by his side. He replied promptly—

“I shall be delighted.”

Shah Adam-u-din was gratified, and he turned to Dereham to give him directions how to find the road to the camp. It was the first time the two men had addressed each other. The good breeding of both prevailed, and the icy front of the Englishman thawed. They talked naturally. Shah Adam-u-din inspiring confidence and respect, and Dereham perceiving that he was not likely to commit any breach of good manners.

The sun had set, and the short Indian twilight was creeping over the garden and landscape. The Muhammadan began to make his adieux. As he held Alauda’s hand he said again—

“I am so pleased that you can come. It is good of you to grant me my request.”

She returned his glance, and responded frankly with expressions of gratitude which Dereham thought would have been better left unsaid. Cheverell’s eyes rested on her with uneasiness, and then he glanced at his old school-fellow. Just as he was sending a servant to summon the motor-car a brougham entered the compound. It was drawn by a fine Waler. The carriage came quickly to the steps of the verandah, and from it issued Dharma Govinda. He was all smiles and suavity; and he had a gushing greeting for every person present except Shah Adam-u-din. To him he turned a studiously vacant eye, until Major Cheverell said—

“You know Major Adam-u-din, surely.” Then he addressed the Muhammadan. “This is Mr. Dharma Govinda, one of the leading residents in the town of Hosur, and a member of the municipal council.”

Govinda, in his best Bayswater manner, expressed himself delighted to meet him.

“We are not co-religionists,” he said blandly, “but we are fellow-countrymen, and therefore must have much in common.”

To which Shah Adam-u-din murmured an assent, and then took his leave. The brougham moved away and the car appeared in its place. As he entered it he heard Govinda say in his clear penetrating tones, which the speaker made no effort to modulate—

“I see he drives a car, too. It is not of so recent a make as mine; but I dare say it is good enough for his purposes.”

The Muhammadan shot a contemptuous glance at the Hindu as the car glided away.

“The English have no discernment or they would not tolerate that bounder. They are fastidious enough in their own country, but here they seem to know nothing of class. There are Hindu native gentlemen, but that man is not one; he is what they themselves would call in England a cad,” was his inward comment.

Govinda began to explain the reason of his visit. “I have come, Sir David, to give you joyful news. The horses have been found.”

He glanced round to appreciate and enjoy the sensation his announcement should create. He was not disappointed.

“Where were they?” asked Cheverell. “My men scoured the country all this morning, and could see no trace of them.”

“They were in quite another direction. It seems that they retraced their steps, crossed the road, and wandered away to the other side of the town. I have had them brought straight here. Their jhools have been put on in case they should take cold after their fatigue.”

As he spoke Cassim and Gopal approached from the road leading the two racers. The horses looked none the worse for their mythical wanderings. Dereham glanced from one to the other.

“Which is mine? Upon my word the two are so much alike that it is difficult to say.”

Cassim took a step forward. “This is your honour’s horse; and I am the man who has promised to serve your honour.”

The animal stood with hanging head in the position it had assumed on the morning when it was detrained.

“Your horse seems to have quieted down,” remarked Dereham to Govinda as he glanced at the other, held by Gopal.

“It will soon recover itself. There is nothing like fatigue to subdue high spirits,” he replied cheerfully.

For all its quietness it showed signs of restlessness every now and then, jerking its head and moving from side to side.

“You are satisfied, Sir David, that Cassim has your own property?” asked Govinda.

“Yes,” replied Dereham, with a slight raising of the eyebrows. “Have you any doubt about its identity?”

“None whatever; but I should like you to be assured on the subject.”

“There can be no difficulty about identifying the horses,” said Cheverell. “All horses sold by the company are marked on the hoof of the hind foot. Here, syce, lift that horse’s foot,” he called to Gopal. “What was your number?” he asked of Govinda.

“Eighty-three,” was the prompt reply.

“And yours, Dereham?”

“Yours was eighty-eight, Sir David,” replied Govinda, as the baronet hesitated in doubt.

“The number will be on the receipt given you by the company for your cheque. You can verify it by your papers presently,” said Cheverell.

Meanwhile Gopal had not succeeded in carrying out the direction given by the Superintendent. When he tried to grasp the hind foot to lift it, the horse started suddenly and showed a desire to kick. It was with difficulty reduced to quietude. Cassim was more successful. With a little coaxing and manipulation he managed to get the foot up.

Daylight was fast disappearing, and the servants had lighted the lamps in the house and verandah. Cheverell took a lantern from one of them, and threw the light full upon the hoof. He announced that the number was clearly and distinctly eighty-eight. He ordered Gopal not to worry the other horse any further.

“It’s odd,” remarked Dereham, thoughtfully. “I was certainly under the impression that the horse’s number in the catalogue was thirty-six.”

“You are right, Sir David,” replied Govinda. “Both the horses bore the number thirty-six in the catalogue. It was also hung upon their necks. You bought yours before the auction. The one I bought was substituted in its place. The numbers on the feet are a stable mark, and have no connection with the catalogue. Would you like to examine the foot of my horse?”

At his direction Gopal made another attempt, but the animal plunged to such an extent that Dereham begged Govinda not to trouble further.

“If I had any doubt about it, the behaviour of the two horses would be sufficient proof. This is the quiet one. I hope it won’t be too quiet for its work.”

“After it has been a week in the stable it will be as full of mettle as my own,” said Govinda.

“I am very much obliged. If there have been any expenses incurred—”

“None at all, I assure you,” Govinda hastened to assure him. “The men I sent out were all in my service. Those employed by Major Cheverell belong to the Remount establishment. Now I will say good evening, having accomplished my mission.”

He shook hands effusively with them all, including Alauda, to whom he bowed impressively as he said—

“It has filled my heart with joy to have the privilege of making your acquaintance. Miss Lawrence. I hope we may meet again before long.”

It was a little speech that he used to make to the young women who permitted him to take them to evening shows and theatres. It never failed to produce smirks and blushes with bright glances. He was puzzled to find that it fell flat on this occasion; and that Miss Lawrence, to whom he had not been introduced, merely gazed at him in surprise as she uttered a cold “Thank you.”

Dharma Govinda drove away, and his horse was led after him. Cassim was directed to take the other animal to the loose box assigned for its use; and the syce spent the evening in placing various marks upon the door and walls of the box. They were charms which were intended to ward off evil from himself and his family, and to the gods upon the horse committed to his care.

Chapter XI

Dharma Govinda’s mind was at rest. The design which he had elaborately worked out in his brain had been executed without a hitch from beginning to end. The only drawback had been the chapter of accidents which he attributed to his temporary ownership of the unlucky horse. He was not afraid that the syces would betray him. And if they did, could he not swear as hard as they could? His word with the Europeans was better than that of the syces. The only man he had feared was Abdullah, a pig of a Muhammadan, to whom it was just possible Cassim might confide the secret. He took the risk, however, with an easy mind; for he had paid Cassim handsomely. It had cost something; but Govinda was accustomed to indulge in his fancies without any restriction. The syce engaged by Dereham in Madras had also had his price for his complacency in swallowing the dose that disabled him.

Govinda originally intended to send Gopal to Dereham; but in this respect he was overruled by Cassim, who expressed a wish to serve the Englishman. It was immaterial which man went and which stayed, as long as they combined to carry out the plot. Doubtless Cassim had his reasons. It did not concern him, Govinda; and he asked no questions.

As he left the house of the Superintendent he ordered his coachman to drive slowly so as to accommodate the pace to the steps of the horse being led. More than once he glanced back through the little window behind to make sure that the animal was close by. There must be no chance of any further trickery. He was satisfied that the exchange would not be discovered except through perfidy. The number eighty-three, which the horse with the unlucky mark bore on its foot, had been cleverly altered by a little manipulation into eighty-eight. The alteration was not likely to be detected by Dereham, who in the first place had not troubled to carry the number in his mind. Secondly, when the horse should have recovered from the liberal doses of bromide of potassium that had been forced down its throat by the willing Cassim, it would not be likely to allow its foot to be examined except by the blacksmith. Gopal, at Cassim’s instigation, had given the leg of Dereham’s horse a sharp prick, as, in obedience to the Superintendent’s order, he had made a feint of attempting to lift it. A mixture of datura and hemp worked up in a treacle ball had roused its sleepy nature and caused it to show signs of unwonted animation.

The carrying out of such a scheme had a curious fascination for the Asiatics, quite apart from the satisfaction felt at handling Govinda’s crisp notes. In their eyes there was nothing wrong about the duplicity. They regarded it as an admirable piece of cleverness, and they were not a little proud of having put it into execution.

Wyres, the jockey and trainer, arrived from Bangalore the next day and took charge of the horse. He expressed himself well satisfied with it.

“It ought to carry everything before it, Mr. Dharma Govinda,” said Wyres, confidently. “Of course, we can’t tell what entries there may be; but I shall be surprised if we have anything up to the mark of this horse. You haven’t named it yet, have you? How are you going to enter it?”

“As Swadeshi” promptly replied Govinda.

“Was that its name when you bought it?”

“No; it was called the Saint—an English word that has no meaning for me.”

“‘Change the name and not the letter, change for the worse and not the better,’” quoted Wyres. “We don’t like a change of name in our profession. It means bad luck.”

“I have no fear of your superstitions,” replied Govinda, loftily. “I have heard them quoted often in England; but they were always mentioned with a laugh, showing how little faith was placed in them. This horse, the syces say, has a lucky mark on it which should bring its owner success. The lower classes of your country and of mine are very superstitious.”

Wyres could not afford to quarrel with his bread and butter, so he had to pocket the insult of being compared with the natives of the country. Govinda knew perfectly well that the trainer did not belong to the upper classes.

“Very well, Mr. Dharma Govinda; then I understand that the horse’s name is to be Swadeshi,” said Wyres, who had a lofty contempt for politics of any kind. “Let us hope that it will bring you success.”

His residence in India had made him an Imperialist, and he put his principles into practice in his professional work. Gopal had a despotic master in him, and strange to say the syce liked it; for however rigid he might be, Wyres was a just man. What a Hindu requires is a leader. Many generations of submission to a line of conquerors has made him prefer to follow than to lead. Independent action is foreign to his nature, and he needs some stronger character than himself to point out the way. This habit of following is not without its effect on the Englishmen who come out to the country. Liberal and socialistic tendencies melt away as they find themselves called upon to direct and control the energies of other men.

*  *  *  *

There was rain in the night and the dust was laid. The roans did not belie their character. They went well and Dereham thoroughly enjoyed handling the reins. He had succeeded in securing the companion he desired. Vida in imitation of Alauda’s decisive manner, had openly expressed her wish to have the seat by his side; but he boldly announced that Major Cheverell had already arranged that Miss Lawrence should occupy it. Alauda was about to disavow any previous arrangement when she caught Dereham’s eye. His half-comic, half-pathetic glance saved the situation.

“I don’t know why I should be favoured like this,” she said with a twinkle of her eye as she climbed up the steps.

“You are a favourite with Cheverell,” he replied, smiling down at her from his high perch.

“You know perfectly well that it was all your own invention;” she answered, at which he laughed gaily.

He was good to look at as he sat there controlling the high spirits of the four noble roans, that in their way were equally deserving of admiration. The box-seat was raised above the party inside the brake, and the conversation was not audible. Dereham knew this, and appreciated the situation.

“Do you think Miss Alpheton doubted my word when I quoted Cheverell?” he asked, as soon as he had piloted his team into the road and set the pace.

“I’m not sure. She shall have this seat on the return journey. I mustn’t be selfish.”

“I mean to be selfish, however. We shall return as we go, that is to say if you are content?”

“Who could be otherwise than content with those four beautiful creatures going like that?” she cried.

The distance by the road was considerably greater than the way taken by the riders the day before; but the journey seemed all too short for Dereham. Alauda was in a particularly happy mood. The fresh morning air exhilarated her. She laughed gaily and chaffed her companion, warning him not to allow his attention to be diverted from his steeds, and assuring him that he would presently have the team tied up in a knot if he talked so much.

Vida only half heard what Assingtou had to say. Her ears were strained to catch the words that were bandied between the pair on the box. It was in vain. The wind carried the sounds away before they could reach her, and having lost Assington’s attention she was obliged to listen to Mr. Bucknall’s comments on the country they were passing through. The Government engineer devoted himself to Margery, a merry girl of nineteen just out from England, and still feeling the glow of satisfaction that envelops the lately emancipated school-girl. Pretty clothes, the cessation of study, the absence of chronic anxiety over examinations, the prospect of social gaieties and social triumph filled her with the joie de vivre, which vanishes all too quickly under the influence of an enervating climate and a superabundance of balls.

They arrived at the camp, and the brake was left under some trees by the roadside. Adam-u-din’s motor-car took them from the road to his tent. A carpet had been spread in the shade of the tree under which Alauda had sat. Comfortable seats were placed on the carpet, and their host, having greeted them, mounted his charger and put the men through some evolutions.

Dereham watched them with keen interest, following every movement. With his experience he was able to appreciate the excellence of their manoeuvres from a military point of view. When the parade was over and Major Adam-u-din joined them again, the congratulations which he offered were spontaneous and hearty. The eyes of the Muhammadan shone as he listened.

“It is as good as anything we can do in the English Army,”” said Dereham. “Those Arabs and country-breds are so handy compared with our heavy English chargers. Your men are of lighter make, too, than our troopers, and don’t need the Walers. The Arabs do well under them.”

“We have some Walers among our horses, and we are adding to the number,” replied Shah Adam-u-din. He turned to Alauda. “Are you pleased with the Mysore troops, Miss Lawrence?”

“They’re just splendid!” she replied enthusiastically. “I’m sorry it’s all over.”

“It isn’t all over yet. The men are going to do a musical ride now, and afterwards you shall see some tent-pegging. I have offered a few prizes, and they are as keen as mustard to compete.”

“Look!” cried Vida, “what are they doing now?”

“This is an exhibition of the various kinds of riding,” replied Major Adam-u-din.

The horses raced past with the men in all kinds of attitudes, lying at full length along the saddle, clinging to the necks of the animals, dropping from the saddle to pick up something from the ground and vaulting into it again.

The riders gave place to the troopers who were to take part in the musical ride. The earth was soft with the showers that had fallen, and a sweet scent of trodden turf was in the air. There was glitter and colour, life and motion everywhere. The lances at rest with their pennons flying in the breeze, the glint of polished steel and brass, the scarlet of the turban, the gleaming white of pipe-clay, gave a wonderful impression of life and vitality.

The band struck up, and at the sound of the music a body of horsemen came forward and began their figures. They swerved this way and that, now in lines with serpentine turnings, now in phalanxes, meeting and parting, interweaving and separating in an orderly confusion that was masterly. The horses kept time with their feet to the beat of the music, and there was no apparent effort in the guiding; they seemed to tread the maze of figures from their own knowledge.

It was the first display of the kind that Alauda had seen. Shah Adam-u-din, seated by her side, watched her face as her eyes followed the movements of the ride. Then came a sudden change of time and the horses broke into a gallop. Faster and faster went the music until the pace was furious. In the midst of the mad galloping the riders dashed into a phalanx and left the field. The vision of glistening accoutrements, colour and life vanished like magic; and where the rattling hoofs had scattered the sods of earth the crows and babblers were busy among the disturbed insects.

“What a glorious ride!” cried Alauda. “I felt that nothing but a mad gallop at the end would satisfy them.”

“You would have liked to have joined them,” he said in a low voice.

“How did you know?” she asked, her eyes upon his.

“I could see that your spirit went out to them in sympathy. You were in their midst and not merely a spectator.”

Their voices were lowered, and Dereham, into whose ear Vida was pouring admiration studded with questions as to whether he had ever taken part in a ride like that, glanced uneasily towards the couple. Surely Alauda was giving too much of her attention to this man. She did not understand; she was too easy in her manners towards him. It was rough on the man himself to lift him out of his position in that way. Whatever position Shah Adam-u-din had occupied in England, there was nothing indefinite about it here. If he did not know what it was, the sooner he was made to understand the better. In the middle of Vida’’s smooth speech Dereham leaned towards Alauda and asked her what she thought of the ride. He did not wait for her reply, but went on to explain that the musical ride was not the peculiar property of native troops. It was executed to perfection by English cavalry.

“Somehow I can’t imagine the dignified English hussar solemnly going through a manoeuvre of that kind,” she replied instantly. “It is more in accordance with the oriental temperament, and just what I could fancy those sowars doing before rushing upon the enemy in a mad death-dealing charge. Don’t you think so?” she asked, turning to Major Adam-u-din.

“More than that; I know that what you say is perfectly true. The Englishman needs no wild unreasoning enthusiasm to lead him against the enemy. His deeds are deliberate and carefully considered. The oriental nature requires some clarion call to awaken it, and that call is to be found in preliminary action and the sound of music.”

“You mean that it is an equivalent to the war-dance, the prerogative of the savage,” Dereham said, as if to himself; but Shah Adam-u-din heard the words.

Dereham did not mean to be discourteous, but he was irritated and restless. Vida’s persistent chatter was getting on his nerves, and Alauda’s manner towards their host added fuel to the fire. He looked at his watch and then at Mrs. Quinbury, who, with the rest of the party, was amused and contented and in no hurry to be going. She understood the action.

“We need not be starting yet, Sir David,” she said in her placid tones. “I told my husband not to wait breakfast for us.”

There was nothing else to be done but to resign himself to his fate. Major Adam-u-din had observed the action and heard Mrs. Quinbury’s words. He rose and went into the tent, presently emerging with servants carrying small tables and trays of coffee. There was a readjusting of chairs, and Dereham drew his up to the little table set in front of Alauda. To do this he had to swing aside that which the Muhammadan had occupied. Shah Adam-u-din had apparently relinquished it permanently, for he seated himself between Mrs. Quinbury and Mrs. Bucknall, and devoted himself to their entertainment. Whilst the coffee and its accompaniments were being discussed, the tent-pegging proceeded. The commander’s eye was frequently upon his men, and his applause ready as success attended their efforts. Once or twice Alauda glanced in his direction as he was explaining something or other to her aunt. She would have liked to have had him still by her side to indicate the points that were worthy of commendation as each peg was taken. Dereham noted the wandering glance and inquired if there was anything that she desired to know.

“I should like to know why Major Adam-u-din applauds so vigorously sometimes and not at others. In both cases the peg is taken. What is it that counts?”

“Pace and neatness. Didn’t you notice how straight that last fellow came. His horse was completely under control in spite of the terrific pace it was being sent along. The sowar bent from the saddle, as if swayed by the wind, instead of crouching, and the peg was taken from the ground by a clean stroke that did not stir the turf. I couldn’t have done it better myself.”

“Can you tent-peg?” asked Alauda, in some surprise.

“Of course I can. You mustn’t think that these natives have a monopoly in gymkhana tricks. At Christmas you will have an opportunity at Bangalore of seeing what Englishmen can do. My old regiment will be having some military sports, and then we will show you something.”

Presently Mrs. Quinbury rose and the party again stepped into the car, and were taken across the open maidan to the road. They could not all go at the same time. Alauda elected to remain for the second trip. It gave her a few minutes which she made no secret of devoting to her host. After she had expressed her gratitude, she said—

“Well, Major Adam-u-din, you have given us a treat. It is not merely the pretty show that has interested me. It’s seeing these men in their element. They fit into the scenery and look at home. Now, tell me, will these men ever take part in a real charge against a real enemy?”

Shah Adam-u-din’s glance for one brief moment met Dereham’s. He left the latter to answer her question.

“Not unless an enemy attacked India; then the Imperial Service troops would join us in protecting the country from invasion.”

“Some of our troops were offered for Africa,” said the Mussulman, “but the offer was not accepted.”

“Why?” asked Alauda.

Again he left it to the Englishman to reply.

“Because it was not thought advisable to pit native troops against men of European extraction,” said Dereham.

At this juncture, to Dereham’s relief, the car returned, and he with Alauda, Assington, and Vida, were swiftly taken to the spot where the team was waiting ready to start on the homeward journey.

“Now, Vida, it is your turn to have the box seat,” said Alauda.

“No,” replied her aunt, decisively. “Vida comes inside with me, and we return as we started.”

Dereham was already in his seat. “Be as quick as you can,”” he cried to his company. “The roans are in a hurry to be off.”

Without another word they all took their seats as they came, and Alauda climbed to her place beside the driver.

“The horses seem quiet enough,” she remarked as the syces let go their heads.

“Yes; they are all right. It was I who was getting restive. When your aunt issued her orders, I wanted to clinch the matter, and give you and Miss Alpheton no time to protest against her decree.”

His good humour was restored now that he had her to himself; and the drive home proved fully as pleasant as the drive out to the camp.

Outside the big tent of the officers’ mess of the Sillidar Horse stood Major Adam-u-din. He could distinguish the brake in the distance as it rolled along the smooth road with its occupants half hidden from view by the white umbrellas they carried. The figure seated by the driver had no parasol. In the clear atmosphere he could see that Dereham was driving and that his companion was the American girl, the first woman he had met in his own land who had treated him as an equal and admitted him to her friendship.

An orderly rode up, dismounted from his horse and, with a military salute, handed him a letter. It was from his mother, and written at her dictation. It informed him that she had opened negotiations for a marriage between him and a member of an honourable family living in Hyderabad. The girl was all that she could desire; of a suitable age, namely, fifteen, and of good appearance. Their horoscopes had been compared and had been pronounced sympathetic. When he returned from camp she would be glad to confer with him on the subject.

Shah Adam-u-din folded the letter and replaced it in the envelope with a sigh. His eyes went back to the road.

The brake with its load had disappeared, and nothing remained but the memory of a sympathetic voice and of a pair of kind eyes.

The men had not yet finished their contests. He walked to the spot where the chairs occupied by his visitors still stood as they had left them. He flung himself into the one which he had occupied by Alauda’s side. His officers, who had stood apart hitherto, approached and took the empty chairs; but Alauda’s was left vacant. Shah Adam-u-din had drawn it towards himself and thrown his arm across it in apparently careless fashion. It was in such a manner, however, that no one could sit there without asking him to move; and this none of his officers cared to do.

Chapter XII

The public hall at Hosur was crowded. The occasion was an afternoon meeting to consider “The Coming Congress,” and how its aims might be promoted to the best advantage.

The principal speaker was Dharma Govinda. He arrived at the hall in his motor-car which had been bought in Paris. He wore a fine silk shirt, light grey cloth trousers, and collar and tie of English make. His boots were of American manufacture. The outer garment was a richly embroidered coat of purple velvet, and his head was covered with a turban of fine white muslin. A handsome gold curb bracelet, set with a jewelled watch, encircled his wrist. It bore the name of one of the best London makers.

The committee of management, composed of five natives, had assembled and had taken their seats on the platform. They rose as he entered, and welcomed him with effusive politeness. The hall was closely packed, and there was a little crowd outside striving in vain to enter and find standing room. Govinda came in by a private door at the back, and his appearance was the signal for cries of “Bande Mataram!” “Swadeshi!Swaraj!” coupled with his name. He glanced round at the crowded room with a glow of satisfaction as he heard the greeting. This was the kind of thing in which he delighted. Every eye was rivetted upon his neat, well-dressed figure; every ear was turned to catch the words that dropped from his lips.

Half-way down the room were seated two men in native dress. They seemed to know no one, and were supposed to be reporters; but the little group of reporters near the platform disavowed all knowledge of them as brethren in the profession. Whispers went round that they were no less than detectives, sent by the authorities to take notes of the speeches.

Chandraswamy, in a state of suppressed excitement, went to the foot of the platform and begged for a word with the speaker before he commenced. Govinda’s rôle in public included gracious condescension towards his hearers; and he was always ready to listen to questions and to answer them. He rose from his chair with an indulgent smile and bent forward to catch the whisper. Might Chandraswamy and his friends be allowed to eject two men suspected of being policemen in disguise?

Govinda held up his hands in protest at the suggestion of such violence. Raising his voice so that it might be heard by the men themselves, he declared that all were welcome to the meeting, whatever their views might be, whether sympathetic or antagonistic. He assured the company that nothing would be said during the proceedings which could be construed into disloyalty. He and, he hoped, all his audience were devotedly loyal to the paramount power.

Chandraswamy retired with a scowl upon his dark face. It was reflected upon the countenances of a large number of young men who formed at least three-quarters of the audience. Many of them were mere boys, and not one of them was over the age of twenty-five. They all lacked experience, and were eager with the rashness of youth to enter the difficult field of politics. They were panting to promulgate doctrines the practical consequence of which they knew nothing and cared nothing. They mistook the enthusiasm of prejudice for noble self-devotion. Each one professed to be acting for the benefit of his country, whereas he was but inflated, like Govinda, with a desire for notoriety; and was actuated by an insane wish to rouse emotion in the multitude and stir dangerous passions not easy to allay. Not one of them, not even the speaker nor his committee, had a sense of his responsibilities. Not one was prepared to carry into practice the precepts of brotherhood and equality that he advocated so intemperately. Not a single man was ready to forego his caste prejudices and set aside his racial antipathy towards the Muhammadan and the Dravidian in his private life. The hereditary instincts were as strong within their breasts as ever they had burned within the breasts of their ancestors.

Education had left these raw, rudderless youths without discipline—since the rod had been abolished by a benevolent Government from their schools; without religion—since John Stuart Mill’s and Herbert Spencer’s books, with those of their successors, had been placed unreservedly in their hands; and without occupation, since they had all sought to improve their condition and had failed to attain the particular object of their ambition.

Without exception they would have scorned to have followed the calling of their fathers; and would have considered it unbecoming and beneath their dignity to work at the silk loom, to weave cotton, to spin gold thread, to hammer brass into platters, and to touch the bellows of the forge.

Govinda was introduced by the chairman with a few adulatory sentences, and rose to address the meeting. He began by explaining at length the origin of the congress, and how, like many large institutions, it had a small and almost obscure beginning. At one time it was accused of being an assemblage of schoolboys. Looking round the room he could not say that the men who had assembled to give their support to the movement were schoolboys. They had emerged from that state, if he might judge from appearances—here he glanced round with a comprehensive and appreciative smile—and had entered into their heritage of manhood. The congress, therefore, was not the plaything of boys. It was a legal and constitutional mouthpiece of the people. It voiced the opinion of young India. Like themselves, it had left its immaturity behind and had entered into its heritage of manhood and strength. Its words echoed throughout the length and breadth of the land. They even crossed the ocean and penetrated to the footstool of the throne. The foreigners, who sat in luxury and ruled this vast land from their arm-chairs, had been compelled to listen when congress spoke of their insular prejudice. It was the duty of every Indian to support such an institution heart and soul, and to join its ranks.

It was only natural that there should be a divergence of opinion in its ranks. Such a thing was inevitable in any large comprehensive body of thoughtful men; but diversity of opinion as to methods did not interfere with the great object that it had in view. This was nothing more nor less than bestowing upon the country the inestimable boon of self-government. In making the request for autonomy, he counselled patience and moderation.

Here he paused, as if to allow the sentiment to be properly digested, and also as if he would gauge the temper of his audience. They were not slow to express their feelings. Led by Chandraswamy there were cries of “Why should we not have Swaraj?” “Give us Indian rulers!” “Let us be swadeshi to the backbone!”

Govinda, having permitted a little relaxation of this kind, lifted his hand to enjoin silence, and took up the thread of his discourse. There were men who were rash enough to make unreasonable requests, which, whatever the future might hold, could not be granted at present.

Instead of practising patience, they allowed their passions to dominate their reason. These were the Extremists. They expressed a desire to sweep the British into the sea. It must be borne in mind that India could not do without the aid of British arms for some time to come. Order might possibly be maintained within their borders without the assistance of a foreign army; but there were enemies abroad that were to be feared. Until they had had an opportunity to organize an army for themselves, and follow the example of a neighbouring empire, they could not successfully resist the hordes of Russia.

The outcome of the action of the Extremists had been a few regrettable incidents such as the death of an English lady and her daughter through the agency of bombs. It was impossible for the Moderates to sympathize with homicide and the misappropriation of money. These deeds would not further their designs. More caution must be observed if certain ends were to be obtained.

“What we should aim at as Moderates is self-government on colonial lines. Give us what Canada has. Let us enjoy the privileges accorded to Australia, South Africa, and other English colonies. We do not ask to be judges of the High Court, nor to be placed on the Revenue Board to the exclusion of Englishmen. We do not demand an Executive Council composed of Indians, with an Indian at the head. We are moderate in our requests and only pray that we may be permitted to have a voice in the election of those who rule over us; that we may be fairly and adequately represented, and that legislation shall come from within and not from without.

“All this is not to be effected in a hurry. There are many difficulties in the way which cannot be surmounted in an hour. There are our racial difficulties, caste differences, diversity of language. There are many undesirable customs, such as early marriages, that must be dealt with and reformed before we can hope to come to our full strength and build up national unity.

“But I am not without hope that the threads of the tangled skein may be straightened out. We must remember that racial difficulties have been confronted in Europe, and they have been conquered, as in the case of Austria and Russia. Linguistic difficulties may be overcome by the adoption of a common language such as Hindi. Caste difficulties and social angularities can be rounded off by determined individual effort prompted by a loyal and devoted attachment to the common cause. When once the masses understand the end we have in view, they will support us to a man, and lose sight of all personal feeling in the glorious liberty and union that is promised. If there is any doubt in the mind of our rulers, let them, as I have already said, sound public opinion throughout the length of the land. Silence in the Asiatic must not be taken for consent. It often hides the deepest discontent. A consensus of popular opinion has never been arrived at. When it is obtained it will probably astound the paramount power.

“You will remember that we, with others, sent an expression of our satisfaction a short time ago to the Secretary of State for India at the way in which he had taken action on our behalf by introducing a Bill into Parliament, which was to give us some of the privileges we prayed for. In the gratitude of our hearts we told him that his name would be handed down to posterity in the East as that of a noble Englishman, who, by a great and momentous step, was. laying the foundation of true and popular government in India. We declared our entire satisfaction in the reforms he proposed to effect. We considered that those reforms were liberal and equitable, and that they were worthy of general acceptance.

“I will read aloud what certain members of Parliament—who are our devoted supporters—have written to our Indian papers on the subject; and I will ask you whether we do not, indeed, deserve the term of Moderates. Where we have shown a modest contentment, they are full of fiery discontent on our behalf. One says, in the columns of the Indian Review [February, 1909]: ‘I went into the Gilded Chamber to hear Lord —— make his statement, and never was I more pained, disappointed, and indignant in my life. Pained at the whole-hearted approval Lord —— accorded to the violent measures of repression which the Government of India in blindness and panic had adopted; disappointed because of the feeble and flimsy character of the reforms; and indignant on account of the uncalled for denunciation of Parliamentary institutions for India, and by implication for oriental countries also. The fact that no mention was made of revising the partition of Bengal, of declaring an amnesty for all political prisoners except bomb-throwers, of reversing the régime of repression, and of affording equal rights to Indians in the administration, drove me to the conclusion that the attenuated reform scheme was doomed to failure. If the telegrams received here report truly that the Moderate leaders warmly accept the proposals, I can only express my astonishment, and congratulate them upon the modesty of their ambitions. If Lord —— had seized this golden opportunity of doing something really great, the Liberal and Labour parties would have backed him for all they were worth. As it is there are some of us who appreciate India’s needs much higher than our pusillanimous leaders, and who therefore will strive to improve and strengthen the all too tiny recognition of India’s claim for self-government.’”

The extract was received with an uproar and a deafening cry of “Swaraj!” and “Bande Mataram!” “Down flimsy reforms!” “We want our rights!” The excitement was tremendous, and Govinda revelled in it. An Englishman had given him words that he would not have dared to express on his own initiative. He allowed the storm to rage, and listened to its breathings as long as he thought fit. Then he calmed down his excited audience into sufficient silence to allow of his reading further extracts. That they were but fuel to a dangerous fire did not trouble him in the least. His pleasure was in the conflagration, and his pride was in the power to make the conflagration.

“Now, gentlemen, let me read an extract from what another member of Parliament writes. Possibly some of you have already seen it; but it will do you no harm to hear it again; ‘I hope by-and-by we may go much further towards liberating India from alien government—= otherwise Britain has no right to remain. The new Coercion Law is abhorrent to me.’”

Again there was a rising murmur indicating a renewal of the agitation. But he held the multitude quiet: he had yet more to tell them.

“One more extract and I shall have finished. These again are the words of an enlightened English gentleman who has the honour of writing M.P. after his name:— ‘We may express thanks for the small modicum of justice in Lord——’s proposals; but without restoring Bengal to its original position the concessions cannot count for much, especially when they are granted without any attempt to dispense with the policy of deportation without trial, an action which Lord —— in the House of Commons, admitted he could not justify. Still, the outrages committed recently deserve discouragement.’”

Govinda paused for effect, and continued by commenting on what he had just read. “If a fellow-countryman of the late victims to an excess of zeal and misdirected patriotism can judge thus leniently of the actions of the Extremists, how shall we, who are of the same race, judge them? Certainly not with a harshness greater than theirs. Let us condemn the action by all means but, true to our profession, let our condemnation be tempered with moderation.

“I need not impress upon you the fact that these words were written for our guidance. They were penned by highly educated Englishmen who enjoy the confidence of their fellow-countrymen sufficiently to be elected by them as their representatives in Parliament. They must therefore carry weight with us. They must be stored in our memory, and we must bear in mind that we may count upon the men who write thus for influential support.

“At the same time I would utter a word of warning,” said Govinda, glancing in the direction of the two strange visitors. “Although these self-devoted friends of India express themselves thus warmly, let me once again urge upon you the necessity for moderation. Let us be loyal to our rulers. Let us refrain from violence; but by all means let us ask for what we want and make our wants known through our congress.

“There is an incident related in the sacred writings of the West which I commend to you for consideration. A widowed woman importuned a judge to give her justice. She was poor and he would have sent her away, but she refused to go. She persisted in her demands until he grew weary of her importunity and granted her all that she desired. It is thus that I would have the congress approach the subject; and I recommend all the true sons of India to follow the example of the widow in the sacred book.”

As he ceased speaking the wave of excitement surged back upon the audience. The room was filled with acclamation. The old cries were repeated. The native is not in the habit of exercising any restraint on his emotions. The expressions of the young men were extravagant and violent in the extreme. They had been worked up to such a pitch that if a European had happened to cross their path at that moment it would probably have gone hard with him simply because he was an alien. Again Govinda felt that thrill of pleasurable excitement attendant on the stirring up of a tiger.

The audience pressed forward in a body to shake hands with the orator. The less violent were equally anxious to congratulate him on his moderation, his restraint. He had stated the case admirably and urged the claims of congress without uttering a single word that could be called seditious. He was a master of elocution, in their opinion; and it was such men as he who were wanted on their executive councils.

Chandraswamy, deeply moved, expressed his congratulations in a voice which trembled with emotion.

“It was well done, most noble master. Your utterances might have been the utterances of Vishnu himself. Your speech fell upon our ears like raindrops upon a parched land; as the call to liberty on the ears of the prisoner; as good grain in the mouth of the starving. We salaam to you, honourable sir; we call you our leader, our lord.”

He touched his forehead with both hands and bowed low before Govinda. The worship and adulation were as meat and drink to the orator. He gloried in the thought that he had stirred the multitude, and he determined that a full report should be printed in both languages in the columns of the Flaming Torch. He could have gone on speaking for another hour; but he had already exceeded the time allotted to him. There were others who wished to be heard.

He made a signal for silence. The audience instantly became still, most of the men resuming their seats. He thanked them for their expression of good-will, and hoped that they would give the same attention to the gentlemen who were about to speak as they had accorded to himself.

Towards the end of the meeting an elderly man, plainly dressed in native dress and wrapped in an old chudder, entered the room. There was no seat vacant, and as it was not known what his caste might be, no one offered to get up and give him one. Such little courtesies belong to the West, where there is no caste. He stood patient and unnoticed until the proceedings closed with a vote of thanks to Mr. Dharma Govinda for the loyal and instructive lecture he had given. He was assured that it would reach the ears of friends and well-wishers in England and meet with their hearty approval.

A smile came over the face of Govinda’s father as he waited.

“The young bull has much to say until his neck comes under the yoke; then his bellowings give place to sighs as he toils on the road. Will his bellowings alter his fate and place him in the seat of the driver? The yoke is where the gods place it,” he said under his breath.

Govinda, after much hand-shaking—a western custom that had apparently escaped the notice of the ardent advocates of swadeshi—made his way down the room towards the main entrance. His father joined him as he issued from the door. He greeted his parent with some surprise since the old man had excused himself from attending the funeral of his daughter-in-law on the score of pressure of business.

“Will you ride to the house in the car?” inquired Govinda, as the chauffeur brought it up to where they were standing.

His father made a movement with his hand as though he would wave aside the toy of a child, remarking that he wanted to talk and not to ride. It was not far to walk, and before they reached the house Govinda had learned part of the trouble that had caused his father to seek him.

A merchant, following the same trade as himself and a distant relative, had instituted a claim to some property which the old man had inherited from an uncle. It was of no great value when he first came into possession of it some quarter of a century ago; but lately things had altered. The railway had made a difference and had changed the condition of trade, which was no longer confined to the locality. The merchant by the aid of the iron road could look to foreign ports for the disposal of the products of the country and find a better market. The buildings that stood upon the piece of land under dispute were valuable store-houses wherein he had been wont to gather the grain and the other commodities in which he trafficked. He could ill afford to lose them. He had contracts to fulfil with America and England as well as with the military authorities of the English and Mysore Governments; and he would be inconvenienced beyond measure if he were deprived of the property. It would be the introduction of a rival middle man, who might draw all the trade to himself, and who would undoubtedly spoil the market by competition.

“He who opposes me is rich, cunning, and unscrupulous. The land that he claims will increase still more in value as soon as the new branch of the railway is finished.”

“Have you the title deeds?”

“No; there never have been any title deeds or papers relating to the property. They all disappeared in the wars many years ago, and he knows that, otherwise he would not make the claim. He will spare no expense to gain possession of it,”

“What do you want me to do?” asked Govinda.

He was a good son and ready to assist his father when help was really required.

“Go down to Madras by the night mail and see Mr. Langham to-morrow morning on your arrival. He is the cleverest pleader we have in the Presidency. Put the case in his hands, and show him the necessity of having it tried before an Englishman. The issues are too great to be trusted to a native who is not of our caste.”

“It is possible that the Mysore native judge——”

His father interrupted him with an impatient exclamation. His son might preach swadeshi all he liked, but when it came to serious business like this, where so much was involved, the old man preferred to act according to his own deeply rooted convictions, and not according to his son’s newly acquired principles.

“I knew his father,” said the merchant. “He was a wise man and a clever man; and his son, though he is a judge, is like him. You may put on European clothes and hide your dark skin; but it is there. It comes between you and your strange western ideas; and it will rule, and continue to rule, as long as it is there. He will act as his father would have acted before him, and his grandfather, too. I prefer to lay the matter before an Englishman.”

“Perhaps you are right. We had better wire at once to retain Mr. Langham on our side.”

They arrived at the house and went into the private sitting-room, passing behind the table to that part which was free of European furniture; not that Govinda’s father had any swadeshi doctrines to uphold, but because he was unaccustomed to sit in leather-covered chairs.

He seated himself upon the sofa, drawing his feet up and folding his legs beneath him as was the custom of his forefathers. He removed the chudder and the coat he wore, baring himself to the waist. Then he took off his turban, and extracting some papers from its folds prepared to set forth all the evidence that he had been able to muster in the absence of the deeds.

The telegram was written out and despatched as quickly as possible; and as soon as this was done Govinda called his servant to push up a chair near his father. Into this he sank, and while devoting part of his attention to what his father was saying, he directed his attendant in the packing of a smart silver-fitted suitcase. Into this, the latest thing in travelling-trunks that London had to offer, silk shirts and socks, flannel suits, and other articles that could only have been turned out of a European capital wherever they might have been purchased, were packed.

The reply came from Langham some forty minutes later. He regretted that he was unable to accept the case. His services had already been engaged on the other side.

Father and son gazed at each other in real consternation. This was a piece of sheer bad luck. They consulted together as to who was the next best man to ask; and having decided, a wire was sent off without delay. Govinda meanwhile hurried on with his preparations. It was more than ever imperative that he should go in person to Madras.

“The case must be heard by an Englishman. Both my relative and I are residents in the State of Mysore; but the property lies just over the border of the State in the district of Salem. Mr. Langham is sure to get his way, and it will be tried before the native judge,” said the old man, despondently. “Some evil influence has been at work in this matter, otherwise I should have secured Mr. Langham.”

Govinda’s thoughts flew to the horse; but he was satisfied on that point. The horse in his stable bore the lucky mark. If bad luck were hovering on the wing anywhere, it should be alighting on the head of the Englishman, who was the guest of the Superintendent of the Remount Depôt. Whatever evil influence it might be that was sending things awry, it was not that. He rose from his chair and took some money out of a drawer and his cheque-book. His father folded the papers and handed them to his son.

“Will you ride back to Bangalore with me?” asked the younger man.

The offer was declined without hesitation.

“I shall have some food and then return as I came. When it means riding in the devil-bandy, I am swadeshi; but where grain and straw, cotton, sugar, cocoanuts, and such-like are concerned, I leave swadeshi to you young fellows, and am glad to take the Englishman’s money. It is good and there is no bother about commission and discount; moreover, one has not to wait for it,” growled the old man, as he followed his son into the verandah.

The lamps of the motor-car glowed like fiery eyes. Govinda entered his luxurious car not in the least discountenanced by the half-critical, half-humorous glance of his father, who was quick to detect the inconsistencies of the younger generation.

The old man watched his son’s display of European manners, just as the owner of a clever dog might watch its tricks. He had paid a high price for those tricks when he sent his son to England. It was as well that he should gain some amusement and gratification from their exhibition. He was proud of his boy and firmly believed that he was equal to the Viceroy himself in style and behaviour.

He stood looking after the car as it swiftly passed away into the darkness of the night. Then he turned back into the house to seek for more congenial quarters near the kitchen. When he had eaten the excellent curry prepared and served in native fashion by the women of Govinda’s household, he called for the bullock-cart which had brought him to Hosur, and which was to take him back. It was a springless conveyance with a flat floor, upon which was spread an old mattress. Using his turban as a pillow, and his chudder as a blanket, he was soon asleep. The journey was made at the rate of three and a half miles an hour; and he arrived at his house in Bangalore city at daybreak, refreshed by an excellent night’s rest and ready for the business of the day. The house was small and insignificant. Govinda on his return from England had pointed out its short-comings, and had demanded a more suitable residence for himself. It did well enough for his father. After a cup of coffee and some rice cakes he went into his office, a little room where his clerks were seated on the floor on mats. Before each was a small desk that stood less than six inches high. A long single bookshelf hung against the wall and contained all the account books. Under the shelf was a strong teakwood chest containing the cash and some of the family jewels. There were no luxurious office fittings of modern pattern, no roller-topped tables nor leather-covered chairs, no typewriters, nor telephone. Yet the turnover of business transacted in the office was as great as that of many big European firms of the Presidency towns; and it furnished an income that was amply sufficient for the needs of Dharma Govinda, providing him with all his playthings, his motor-car, his journalistic venture, and his race-horses included.

Chapter XIII

The drive home from the camp was in every way satisfactory to Dereham. He was quick to note that there was an indefinable change in Alauda. It was nothing that had developed in her manner towards himself. She was just the same, a pleasant sympathetic companion such as he had found her from the time they became acquainted on board ship. She responded to his chaff and kept the conversation going in the direction he himself set it.

When the road was clear and there were no difficult turnings to negotiate he offered to let her have the reins.

“Feel what it is like to have four good horses under your control. See if it does not give you a sense of power,” he said.

But she refused the offer firmly and declined to take the heavy leather reins in her fingers.

“I am quite content to rule Bobby and have dominion over Caesar, who carries me so beautifully,” she replied, with a soft happy laugh.

He glanced down at her and studied the change in her face. Her refusal to drive indicated a contentment with her position and an absence of any desire to alter it. He attributed this contentment to the pleasure she found in sitting by his side whilst he drove. It was sufficient; she wished for nothing better. There was no mistake about the enjoyment that was indicated on the reposeful mouth.

The thought never entered his mind that happiness could come to her as she sat there from any other source than himself.

He had had sufficient experience of women to know the value of falling into their moods when emotion was stirred, and of following rather than leading. He accepted her refusal without attempting to overrule it.

“I thought all your sex loved power, and never lost an opportunity of exercising it,” he said.

“Yes;” she assented, with a readiness that surprised him. “I am sure that we have the instinct strongly implanted within us. It is an instinct and not a reason.”

Her eyes shone with a light that he did not quite understand. His pulses beat a little faster and hope sprang up within him with a sudden unfolding of wings. He did not rush the situation with the over-confidence of youth, and tell her how she had him in her power, how she could make or mar his happiness. He kept his head and remarked quietly—

“You admit having the instinct and yet you refrain from exercising it when opportunity offers.”

“The knowledge is often sufficient for a woman. There is more enjoyment in the thought, in the anticipation, than in the practical experience which often develops an unexpected limitation depriving it of more than half its pleasure.”

“For instance, the reins might prove too heavy for your wrists and the whip too long to be manageable.”

She caught her breath in a curious little sigh. “That is exactly why dreams are so rosy, and the reality sometimes proves so grey. The future has many uncertainties; and it is impossible to weigh all its details in the balance —the reins, the whip, the possible accident by which the team may be disorganized. More often than not it is best to stop short at the dream, if it is at all extravagant, and not to venture beyond.”

He glanced at her with rebellion in his face. He had no desire that the dreams which filled his brain should stop short of reality.

“I should have said that you were the last person to dream dreams without wishing or intending to realize them,” he remarked.

“So should I,” she responded in quick agreement that surprised him.

They drove on for a while in silence, she apparently allowing her fancy full play; he wondering how far he might go without frightening his quarry.

“I suppose they come to all women sooner or later, including the most practical,” he said presently.

“And to all men,” she rejoined. “Have you never had your dreams of pleasure, your dreams of happiness?”

“I am having them now,” he answered, the words coming from him almost involuntarily.

The confidence so suddenly given startled her, and caused a withdrawal of the unusual expansion she had shown. She was not bestowing upon him her undivided attention, and she put the question carelessly whilst she followed a train of thought that led her elsewhere. He observed the change, and with a diplomacy that was part of his nature he resumed the old friendly attitude at once and restored her confidence.

“I don’t think any English girl of my acquaintance would refuse the offer I made you just now,” he said, in an entirely different tone. “There are not many who have the chance of driving a team like this.”

He went off into impersonal subjects, and talked of the sporting instinct and how it developed in women as well as men.

“I knew a girl who married a sportsman, and she developed the instinct after her marriage, caught it from him, I dare say. It was not long before she drove a four-in-hand, which at the time was the summit of her ambition.”

“I am glad her dreams were fulfilled, and I hope she was satisfied.”

“She wasn’t. That’s exactly where the difference comes in between men’s dreams and women’s. However ambitious they may be, and however fully realized, women are never satisfied. They make the fulfilment of them a foundation for another flight. This woman gave up her team for a racing motor, speed being her dream.”

“Did sixty miles an hour satisfy her?”

“Not a bit. She said the car with all its complications and possibilities was after all only a unit, and left her with no sense of power. I think she would have liked a team of cars if it had been practicable. To have control of four at a time would have given her a more adequate sense of power.”

“Then she still has worlds to conquer?”

“Yes; the latest world is aerial flight. She owns a flying machine of the latest pattern.”

“What a magnificent courage! There is no limit to her dreaming, to her desires, to her courage in seeking their fulfilment.”

“Does it require so much courage where the desire is overwhelming?”

“I don’t know; I have had no experience.”

“You still have worlds to conquer; so have I.”

She did not reply; again her thoughts wandered. Another voice was in her ear. A pair of dark eyes looked into hers, obliterating the blue-grey English eyes that watched her narrowly. As Dereham helped her to alight she glanced gratefully at him. Her lips had not lost the softer curve nor her eyes the light that had quickened his blood.

On the whole he was satisfied. The task he had set himself was not an easy one. The greater the difficulties that opposed him the keener was he to conquer; they only added zest to the pursuit and spurred him on to fresh effort. Hitherto victory had been easy. Lavish nature had furnished him with invincible weapons with which he had conquered his nurses and governesses. Later in life they had not been used so innocently. As he gazed into her eyes and listened to her thanks, his heart gave a strange leap of joy, revealing how deeply he was involved and how momentous was the issue.

It was some time since he had been in love. His fancy had been taken several times; but love had come to him only once, and then it was a lurid passion which had passed away as soon as it was satisfied, leaving him with ashes in his mouth. The love for Alauda that was blossoming like a rare and beautiful flower was of a different nature. It was ennobling, elevating; it had wonderful wings of silver that raised him above the sordid considerations which had first turned his thoughts towards her. He felt the grace of it, and fostered it with the instinctive knowledge that it was the best thing that had ever come to him in the whole course of his life. Her fortune, which had been the first attraction, became of no importance. What he desired with a craving that was almost pain was her sweet self, a woman who in her glorious innocence and self-confidence was as a rock to lean upon. With such a right-minded wife by his side, a good and decent life would become easy. Its temptations would depart like murky clouds before the sun. He would follow in the footsteps of a long line of worthy ancestors—men who like himself had probably sown their crop of wild oats without damage to themselves or posterity —and raise up children to the honoured name he bore.

It is given to men to close the door upon their past. They may have regretted the foolish and injudicious actions of their youth; they may possibly have repented of them; but having done their duty with regard to regret and repentance, they close the door and set a seal upon it never to open it again.

To the woman it is left to look back down the long vista of the past and to see every stone, every pebble that caused her feet to stumble. There are no doors for her to close, no sealing up of the past. It haunts her to the very end of her life with a retribution that may sleep but which never dies. Whenever she is confronted with the consequences, she tears and lacerates herself with self-reproach, regret, and vain longing.

Men do not look back. Having closed the door and finished with regret, they start afresh as though things had never been. They begin again and establish themselves on a new footing, taking life philosophically and not sentimentally. So Dereham turned over a page in his existence with the determination of setting matters on a different plane.

After lunch it was Cheverell’s custom to retire to his office-room to write letters. If his visitors joined him there, it was with the understanding that they left him free to pursue his business. He provided plenty of books and newspapers, and also cigars, so that there was no excuse for a breach of rules.

A day or two after the drive to the camp Dereham entered just as Cheverell had lighted his cigar and was beginning to look through his correspondence.

“May I have a few words with you, Cheverell, before you settle down to your writing?” he asked.

“With pleasure; it won’t take long, I suppose?”

“Not more than five minutes. It’s about the horse, the Saint as I call him. He was a perfect lamb until he arrived here. Since he came he has developed a devilish temper. I suppose it’s the food. He won’t let me go near him. The only person he tolerates is Cassim. I had thought of sending Cassim back to his old master, but no syce will take his place.”

“There’s nothing against keeping the man, unless he wants to go,” remarked Cheverell.

“No; I had a reason of my own for wishing to get rid of him. The fellow reminds me of a man I should like to forget, a man I lost when I was out in India before. He was a Muhammadan, and one of that shifty kind that I never knew if he was telling the truth or not. I thought he was malingering. Well! he wasn’t; and he died. I compensated his widow and did what I could, and there was an end of it, I don’t want to be reminded of it every time I look at Cassim. However, I shall have no choice in the matter; he’ll have to stay.”

“Does he do his work all right?”

“Capitally, as far as he can. He can’t train the horse. I was intending to send the Saint to Bangalore a little later, but I’ve made up my mind that he had better go at once, I suppose Gamboll will be the best man to employ. I’ve been in correspondence with him and have heard that he can receive the horse at once. He will train him for the race meet in January. I shall enter the brute as the Saint. By Jove! he nearly did for me this morning. He was within an ace of catching me in the ribs with a cow-kick, Cassim had hold of his head with one hand and held the stirrup-leather with the other, while I dismounted. All at once, without warning, he squealed and let out viciously. I don’t know what Gamboll will say to him.”

“Is Gamboll to ride him at the meet?”

“No; I think I shall ride him myself, I took him for a good spin this morning, and as far as I can judge he has speed and staying powers. He’ll carry everything before him if he chooses to start and run straight; but with a fiendish temper like that, goodness only knows what he will do. The only other horse likely to touch him is the one belonging to the native, his own brother. What I want to ask is, whether you can lend me a man to go to Bangalore with Cassim and the horse.”

“To be sure I can. You had better ask Breydon about it. He will be able to make all the necessary arrangements so that you can start the horse off to-morrow morning.””

“Shall I find him at his house?”

“I think not. He is having an afternoon at the riding-school with the rough-riders and some of the new horses. By-the-by, Mrs. Quinbury and some of the girls may drive up after tea. I told them that there would be something going on at the school, and asked them if they had nothing better to do to come and see the fun. Those sowars are wonderful chaps.”

Dereham, who had lighted his cigar, put on his helmet and sauntered out. He found Breydon fully occupied, too busy to do more than lift his whip in greeting.

It was a large enclosure surrounded by a wall. On one side of the entrance was a small stand roofed in so as to give shelter from the sun. It had room for a dozen people, and the platform was furnished with a couple of benches.

Dereham seated himself on one of them and watched the horses while he smoked. They plunged round the tan-ride mad with fright and wild with fury, wondering what manner of creature had sprung upon their backs. They felt their panting sides gripped firmly as the rider refused to budge even under the most determined buck-jumping. One cunning brute dashed himself violently against the wall and endeavoured to rub off his rider or crush him, but his vicious designs were frustrated. Sometimes a horse threw himself down like an enraged child and rolled; others reared and were in danger of falling over backwards, but their devices were of no wail. The sowars stuck tightly to the saddle and were not to be dislodged.

There was a lull in the proceedings, and a batch of tired wild-eyed creatures was led away. In between the departure of one lot and the arrival of another, Dereham descended from the platform and approached Breydon, whose manner was cold and unresponsive. He explained what he wanted, and the other promised to make all the necessary plans for the despatch of the Saint at daybreak the next morning. Having concluded the arrangements, Breydon turned away to speak to the sowars who were doing the rough-riding.

“I suppose you will be busy for some time to come?” remarked Dereham, casually.

“All the afternoon,” replied Breydon, shortly.

Dereham glanced sharply at him. The man seemed to have forgotten his very existence in his absorption in the work.

“These rankers lose their manners altogether when they are in the ranks, and they never find them again,” he said to himself, as he strolled back to the house.

He did not enter it, but passed on through the garden and took the path across the grass field with the intention of looking up Ravenstone. It was the path Cheverell and Alauda had followed a few days before when they made their call on Mrs. Breydon. Dereham was in no hurry and he strolled idly along, his thoughts having gone back to Alauda.

Chapter XIV

Breydon’’s bungalow was small, and it had a verandah running round three sides of it. The verandah was broad, and enclosed by a trellis covered with creepers. Mrs. Breydon had furnished the end of the verandah with a table and some comfortable chairs, and made it into a snug little morning-room, shutting it off from the chief entrance by a folding screen. Here she sat when she was not employed in household duties. She kept a small staff of servants, who did the work of the house quietly and well. As she never entertained, their duties were not heavy.

She was seated in an easy-chair, and had a small garment, intended for Sonnie’s wardrobe, in her hands. She had been busily stitching at it until the child claimed her attention.

“I can’t understand when I read to myself. You read to me a little, please. When you read the words, they all seem so real,” he said, seating himself on a stool at her feet, and leaning his head against her knee.

She took the book and began at the place he had reached with so much effort.

“This is making me very idle, Sonnie,” she said presently.

“You’ve sewn such a lot since tiffin, and it will soon be teatime. Then I must go out with ayah, and there will he no chance to read any more.”

She continued the story. A false knight, a good knight, and a fair lady figured in it. It was a well-known tale; she had been through it more than once before. Histories of knightly valour never lose their charm, however familiar they may be; and her mind was occupied with fitting the allegory to her own life. The child grew restless under her abstraction.

“Let’s go out in the hayfield. It is so dull and hot in the verandah,” he said.

Just outside the compound Tim had had a small portion of the grass-field closely mown. A bench had been erected under the shade of the trees, and here she and Sonnie often spent the time between lunch and tea. The scene reminded her of an English park. The path from the Superintendent’s house ran close by, passing on to Ravenstone’s bungalow.

Dereham, unaware of her custom, came suddenly upon Mrs. Breydon and the child deep in the interrupted fairy tale. She did not hear his steps, and continued her reading. It was the same full-toned voice, with the familiar intonations that he knew of old. Even now, though that door was closed and sealed upon the past, he was conscious that it thrilled him, just as it was wont to do years ago, when her first husband held an appointment on the general’s staff, and Dereham was a lieutenant and an A.D.C.

He did not pause. Memory was thrust aside with ruthlessness. He had no intention of reviving old associations, but would prefer to bury them for ever. He trod slowly and heavily, with the purpose of attracting her attention, and switched at the grass by the side of the path with his stick. It would be inconvenient if she were taken by surprise, and betrayed into emotion.

She glanced up and recognized him, her first feeling being dismay and confusion. It was quickly followed by anger, and a deadly fear lest the sanctity and peace of her paradise should be broken by the intrusion of this man. Underneath it all was the bitter consciousness that his voice and his step still moved her more than the voice and step of any other man—with the exception of her husband. The thought of Tim with his strength, his faith, and his courage restored her self-possession.

Sonnie, accustomed to being warmly greeted by the whole world, ran forward before she could prevent him. The unusual sight of a stranger roused his childish curiosity. He asked his name, and before any reply could be given Dereham was warmly invited to come and sit by “Mum’s” side and hear the rest of the wonderful tale. He led the way with all the importance of six years.

Dereham looked down at the child with curiosity. He noted the oriental strain in the beautiful face—the finely cut features and the Cupid’s mouth curving into a smile that was like sunshine.

He glanced up at the tall woman, who met him face to face. She was almost as tall as he was, and his eyes faltered before that steady, level gaze of cold inquiry, mixed with aversion.

He was not easily abashed, but for the moment he almost wished that he had not come. He was no coward, however, and he went forward deliberately, with the grace that had carried him through all difficulties where human beings were concerned. He observed that she had not held out her hand. He contented himself with greeting the child, pausing as he stooped down to the boy, to give her time to recover her self-possession. Then he straightened himself, and met the eyes into which he had once looked and lost his head as well as his heart.

“How do you do, Mrs. Breydon?” he said formally. “Cheverell is very busy with his writing, and I am an idle dog with nothing to do but make other people idle. I am afraid I have interrupted a story, eh, little man?”

“Yes; Mum was reading about a good knight, and a bad knight, and a poor lady who was very beautiful. The bad man left the poor lady all alone in a dark valley among savage wolves, because he was tired of carrying her on his horse, and the good man came riding by and picked her up just before the wolves ate her.”

Dereham’s brow contracted as he listened. The analogy struck him also, and for all his courage and audacity he dared not lift his eyes to those of the woman he had left to be devoured by human wolves. He stopped the babbling of the child by inquiring what he meant to be when he grew up.

Sonnie replied promptly, “I’m going to be a soldier like Daddy, and I’m going to keep horses and kill bad men with my lance.”

Hitherto Mrs. Breydon had not spoken. Now she found her voice.

“Were you looking for my husband? He is not here,” she said.

“1 have seen him at the lines. I am on my way to call on Ravenstone. I did not know that this path led so near your retreat. You have been fortunate in your choice of a home.”

She remembered that cool audacity of old. It had been one of the pebbles in her path that had caused her feet to slip. She also had a vivid recollection of the voice and the fatal smoothness of speech, other stones that had contributed to the disaster. She lent him no assistance in making conversation, and did not reply.

“You are fond of a garden, I see,” he continued, as he caught sight of the flowers through the open gate. “This is a perfect climate for flowers, and you must be very well contented with it.”

Her lips compressed as he touched on her own personality, and a hard expression came into her eyes. She braced herself up and prepared to dismiss him summarily if any occasion arose for taking violent measures. She had no wish to make a scene, however; and if he would depart without offence, she would try to be patient until he chose to go.

As he talked she was looking down that long vista of the past with all its madness and misery. He had done her an irreparable injury in that past. When he came into his title and resigned his commission to go home, he could have made reparation had he chosen. There was no excuse for his failure to do so. The man whom she had sinned against obtained his remedy. Too late she discovered that her sacrifice had been made in vain. Dereham, on the plea of urgent business, returned to England without fulfilling his promise. She refused to accompany him except as his wife, preferring to remain behind in India and hide her shame in a large garrison town. She was too proud to appeal to relatives or friends for help; and when she disappeared from the scenes she was quickly forgotten by the fluctuating English community. Some months later she heard of her husband’s death. In her misery she envied him.

Death does not come with desire, fortunately, or the population of the earth would quickly be decimated. She had to live because her youth bade her live. She found a situation as nurse to a Muhammadan girl, and gladly entered the harem where at least she could hide. The Moslem girl became a mother, and little Adam was placed in her arms. A child’s hand may lay a soothing touch upon a wounded spirit where another’s may only scorch and sear. Her tiny charge brought healing and comfort in her distress.

Who was the child’s father? How had he managed to carry on an intrigue with a girl of good family? No one knew; it was whispered in the harem that it was no common man but some one of position; an English officer whom she had seen through the Venetian shutters, and had fallen in love with. Perhaps the women of the harem knew his name; perhaps they were ignorant. The secret was kept, and it may have died with the young mother, who, though she got over her confinement safely, and seemed strong and healthy, faded away a few days after the birth of the child through ill-treatment.

Then came a curious chain of events. The nurse and her charge were turned out of the harem. It might have gone hard with them both if a Muhammadan gentleman, who had imbibed western notions of philanthropy with his western education, had not exerted himself on behalf of the little orphan, Brenda was asked to retain the charge of the child, and to bring it up as if it were her own until it could be sent to England to school. She was already attached to it; and she was grateful to the unconscious baby for the healing it had brought to her sorely wounded spirit. She accepted the charge, and since the Muhammadan community repudiated the child, she had no scruples in having it baptized by the missionary. She gave it the name of Adam after the good Samaritan who had befriended them.

It was as an unprotected woman living on a wage earned by serving natives that Tim Breydon found her. He was a sergeant then. He knew the temptations and wickedness of an Indian city with a large English garrison, and he heard the wolves howl round the forsaken exile. He pitied her from the bottom of his honest heart. Every time he passed her in the busy crowded streets as she did her shopping in the bazaar, or carried the child abroad for an airing in that portion of the town where she would be least likely to meet the men and women of her own station, he read the misery and often the fear that were in her eyes.

The friendship of men in his rank of life is of little use to an English woman who stands alone, unless it is quickly followed by the conferring of the right to protect. That right he presently craved when his pity turned to love; but it was not bestowed in a hurry. He persevered and prevailed in the end. Brenda, worn with sorrow and shame, yielded to his entreaties and became his wife. She found at last a haven of rest in the arms of as honest a Briton as ever drew breath.

The guardian of the child begged her to retain possession of it. Tim had no objection. On the contrary he knew the value of it to his wife. So Sonnie remained with them. When Tim got his commission, and passed on to another regiment, and presently moved to Hosur, the misery of the past was left behind. As for the little boy, he grew apace and flourished exceedingly in that beautiful climate.

Dereham could not shut out memory altogether, and as he talked of inconsequent matters conscience pricked him more than once. Brenda’s fears were allayed as she gradually comprehended that he had no intention of raking up the past. She replied always with a dead level of coldness that would have sent any other man away at once.

The child was attracted as all children are by a stranger. He looked up into Dereham’s face as he spoke, and answered smile with smile.

Suddenly Brenda’s attention was rivetted. Her eyes went from the boy to the man, and from the man to the boy. The strong similitude of their beauty struck her. As she followed each line and curve, the likeness between the two stood out. A suspicion flashed upon her. It was quickly followed by conviction; and the discovery was a shock. Could it be true, or was it only a chance likeness? There was no reason why it should not be true. The chief actors in the interlinked tragedies of her life and the life of the child’s mother had lived in that same city.

Following her line of thought step by step she almost forgot the presence of the man, and she left his remarks unanswered.

“What is this little chap’s name?” he asked, as he formally shook hands with Sonnie, to the child’s intense gratification.

“Adam.”

“I mean his surname; Adam what?”

She hesitated, and then replied unwillingly, “Adam Breydon.”

He did not offer her his hand, seeing that she held hers resolutely by her side, but passed on with a politely uttered, “Good-bye.” As he turned away the sound of a motor-car entering the compound from the road attracted his attention. He stopped and glanced back with a curiosity that was irresistible. From the open wicker gate issued Major Adam-u-din. He could hear the clear voice of the child in an exclamation of pleasure followed by the words—

“Mum! here’s uncle Adam-u-din! What have you brought me this time, uncle?”

Brenda’s words were as clear and almost as glad. “I’m so pleased to see you. I want to consult you about Sonnie—”

He could catch no more. As he strolled on across the field his mind was busy with what he had just seen and heard; so busy with surprise and the possible solution of the mystery that he failed to see Breydon in the distance going home to snatch an early cup of afternoon tea before resuming his duties at the school. It was as well, perhaps, that their paths did not cross. The scowl on Tim’s usually clear and open face was not a pleasant sight; and the switch of the riding whip against his puttees had a menace in it that boded ill for any disturber of the peace of his paradise.

Chapter XV

Alauda announced her intention of giving her pony Bobby some exercise that afternoon. The collar-gall had healed, and it was time Bobby returned to duty between the shafts.

“Don’t forget that we are due at the riding-school at five o’clock to see a little of the rough-riding,” said her aunt, as she dispensed the four-o’clock tea.

“I am not sure that I shall join you at all,” remarked Alauda. “It will depend on my inclinations. Will you come with me, Vida?”

“I would rather go with Mrs. Quinbury,” answered Miss Alpheton, without hesitation.

She had no intention of losing the opportunity of seeing Dereham. In all probability he would be there with Cheverell. If Alauda was uncertain of her movements, she would make sure of gaining her own ends by remaining with her hostess.

Alauda had prepared for the drive before tea. As soon as she had finished, she drew on her gloves. Bobby waited at the porch, all spirit and mischief after its enforced rest.

They flew along the roads until the pony had worked off some of its superfluous energy, and then Alauda considered two courses. Should she go to the riding-school, or should she pay her promised call on Mrs. Breydon. Whilst she was considering the question, she found that the house was close at hand. The sight of the entrance gateway decided the matter, and she drove in.

There was a motor-car drawn up under the shadow of the trees. She recognized it with a sudden throb of pleasure that was a new experience. What was it that set her pulse beating and brought a light into her eye? It was the same light that had planted hope in Dereham’s breast as they drove home from the camp.

She pulled up under the portico, and the syce summoned the butler. She was conscious of an impatience at the man’s slow movements as he received her card on a little silver tray, and announced that his mistress was in. He led the way to the drawing-room, where a scent of tea-roses filled the air, and asked her to sit down. He would find the mistress and tell her of her arrival. He passed on through the long French windows towards the garden, from which direction came the sound of voices.

Mrs. Breydon entered by the window and advanced with out-stretched hand. Alauda’s eyes went beyond the stately figure with an eager look. The warm blood seemed to fill every vein in her body as she caught sight of Shah Adam-u-din following behind.

Brenda discovered that there was no need for an introduction. Her visitors were apparently excellent friends. They sat talking for a short time, and then she proposed that they should return to the garden. They passed out into another creeper-covered verandah on the western side of the house and reached the garden by a flight of steps.

On this side Tim had built a rosary with rough-hewn stone pillars in the fashion of a pergola for his wife on an old tennis-court. It was latticed with lathes of bamboo woven in a large mesh, that broke the rays of the sun without shutting them out altogether. The pots of roses were arranged with foliage plants, palms, and ferns, due regard being paid to sunny spots and shady nooks.

Beneath the pergola was spread a carpet. Some light cane chairs and a tea-table stood near, showing that Brenda had not been alone for that pleasant, informal meal of the afternoon. Tim had hurried back to the school and Sonnie had gone for his usual evening walk.

It was a beautiful little garden laid out with skill. Flowering shrubs with a background of graceful trees hedged it in on three sides. The fourth side was shut in by the house, with its leafy trellises patched with trusses of luxuriant blossom. The seclusion without loneliness suited Alauda’s mood.

They seated themselves, and dropped into familiar chat not worth recording; but it had its import for all three. To Brenda it was as the sound of long-forgotten music, that awoke memories of a time when she moved in a different world. She listened with pleasure as the girl’s speech and laughter rippled in the warm summer air.

To Shah Adam-u-din’s ear it was also music, the magic music of sympathy and friendly equality. Something indefinable in Alauda’s attitude broke down the barriers of race distinction and banished class feeling. He was flattered too by the thought that she and she alone recognized the fact that he was not one of the ordinary men of the country. He possessed those two great attributes so highly prized in the West, birth and education, in the same degree as the men who had come out to rule the land; and she showed by every word and action that she appreciated the fact.

For Alauda herself there was a strange fascination in the personality of the man who sat talking with her, as much at his ease as any American could be. She saw no danger in it, either to him or to herself. Her natural self-confidence did not allow a doubt to intrude as to the wisdom of this unbending. She was accustomed to take her pleasures as the bee sucks honey, conscious of her own purity, and without a question as to whether the honey contained poison or not.

Brenda, seeing that they were good friends, felt no responsibility concerning the bond of friendship which they were in the process of forming, or perhaps had already formed. Yet, as she listened, a misgiving shot through her now and then, and she wondered if they were playing with fire. Alauda appeared to be full of common-sense. She had been some months in India, and must have understood by this time the relative positions occupied by white women and the native races. Brenda allowed the conversation to drift as it would, joining in when she had anything to say. For the most part she sat quietly listening with the echo of bygone careless, happy days in her memory.

One by one the stars came out, and the golden West with its flaming wisps of light vapour faded into pale green and grey. Bulbuls and black robins among the scarlet hibiscus and yellow alamanda sang their last hymn of praise and sought their roosting-places. The scent of pink oleander, salmon-coloured tea-roses, and ghostly tuberose lilies, was wafted on the evening air. Bobby, the pony, had fallen asleep, whilst the syce and the chauffeur talked in low voices of the meetings held under the auspices of Govinda and his ardent supporter, Chandraswamy, and of the wonderful new doctrines unfolded at those meetings. Sonnie returned from his walk, and was shepherded into the house by the watchful ayah, who was eager to get her duties done expeditiously and escape to the godown, where her evening meal was steaming and sending up a savoury smell.

There was a call for “Mum,” and Brenda rose reluctantly. Her move must of necessity be the signal for the departure of her guests.

“I am afraid that I have paid you a terribly long visit,” said Alauda. “It has been so pleasant sitting in your delightful garden.”

“I hope you will come and see me again before long,” she said.

“I will; indeed I will,” was the reply, given without the conventionality that marked her former little speech. “Please don’t trouble to come and see me off. There is Sonnie calling you again. Major Adam-u-din will find the pony-cart for me.”

They did not return to the front by way of the house, but strolled round outside, taking no heed of time. Moths fluttered over the blossoms of the lilies, and the destructive bat winged its eccentric flight from side to side in unexpected course.

The lamps had to be lighted and the horse-cloth folded before Alauda thought it necessary to pick up the reins. She gave her hand to Shah Adam-u-din. He took it, and she let it rest for just a moment longer than was necessary, long enough to set his blood tingling. He knew the ways of a well-bred white woman, and was conscious of the privilege accorded. With light words of adieu covering a deeper feeling that was new and wondrously strange and sweet, she drove away into the darkness of the night.

He stood on the lower step of the verandah watching the light of the lamps until the cart turned out of the compound into the road, where it was lost behind the trees.

Brenda had quieted Sonnie, and she had come noiselessly into the verandah from the house. She saw the parting with its lingering touch of hands. She caught a glimpse of the eyes that were turned to the man, and recognized the soft ring in the voice that said good night. For the second time that day she stumbled on a discovery, and this time fear entered with knowledge.

She moved down the steps and laid her hand upon his arm. He started like one awakened from a dream. The eyes that were turned to her glowed with the deep fire of human passion. Too well she knew all that it betokened. She allowed a few moments to elapse before she spoke; then said—

“There was something that I forgot to ask you, Major Adam-u-din. Not very long ago you told me that your mother was searching for a wife for you. Has she been successful? *”

The fingers of his hand suddenly contracted as he replied—

“I believe a suitable girl has been found.”

“That is well. It is fitting that you should marry and have a son to bear your name and carry on the family. It is due to the mother who bore you, and who lives in you since her husband died, that she should hold your child in her arms.””

He turned away, and his eyes went towards the gateway through which Alauda had passed into the darkness of the road.

“I—I—don’t want—”” The words choked him. He made another effort. “If I could choose for myself—”

Again he failed to complete the sentence.

She made no pretence of misunderstanding him. The meaning was as plain as if he had spoken out his inmost thoughts. The fingers that still clasped his arm closed still more firmly, and he was conscious of a nervous grip that seemed to bid him take courage, as she had taken courage when adversity had well-nigh overwhelmed her.

“Such a thing as you dream of is impossible—impossible—impossible!” she said, her low tones vibrating through his ears with irresistible conviction.

Three times she repeated that paralyzing word, and with each repetition he felt as if a knife had pierced him,

Then rebellion came surging forward in a great wave that swept him beyond the influence of reason and restraint. His eastern temperament was stirred; and as it rose in all its strength, it dominated the years of careful western training, and left him under the sway of the half-civilized nature of his ancestors.

“Why should it be impossible? I will bend everything to my will. I will make it possible. It can be, and it shall be!” he cried vehemently.

“Not if it is against the will of Allah.”

“How do I know—how do you know that it is against His will?” he said, a strange ring of rage and despair in his voice.

“Come; I want to show you something.”

She drew him by the arm and led him into the little room that was set apart for Sonnie’s use. The child had eaten his supper and was flinging aside his garments in preparation for the bath which the ayah was busy making ready.

The rounded limbs, the perfect face, were angelic; but, with all his beauty, what was he? A half-caste; a child without a name, without a nationality, without honour or pride of race; a child who had been rejected by his mother’s people in shame and dishonour, who had been turned out of their community to starve and die if it had not been for the charity—learned in a foreign country —of a friend of the family.

Shah Adam-u-din stood speechless at the door of the room, looking down at the happy, innocent boy who was prattling about his childish world of toys. He comprehended what she would have him learn. There, in the person of that child, was the undeniable evidence of the impossibility of union between the races of the East and the West. It came as a shock. It was so convincing, so unanswerable; there was no escape from it. It was a hard lesson, cruel in its sharp incision, its uncompromising directness; and it left him wordless, sick at heart, and stricken.

He broke away with an abrupt movement, as if he had received a blow. She heard him pass swiftly down the steps and fling an order to the chauffeur, which startled that sleepy mechanic and caused him to wake up.

“Drive to the lady-mother’s house in Mysore, and go like Shaitan himself.”

What she did not hear were the deep and bitter curses that he laid upon the white man, who had come to India, bringing insuperable trouble in his train for the people of the land, and who had created problems racial and political that were impossible of solution.

Brenda turned back into the bungalow with an aching heart. Shah Adam-u-din had been a good friend in the past. There was a time before Tim found her when his charity towards the child had been a charity towards herself. She strongly suspected that the allowance she received in payment for her duties came out of his pocket. Since she had married Tim, money matters had become easier. There had been a great and momentous change in her family circle at home. An unexpected inheritance of a peerage with an adequate fortune to support the dignity had come to her father. Her mother was dead, but she had sisters. An inquiry into her welfare was instituted at the time of the change; and when her father discovered that she was honourably married to an officer in the British army, and that the dark cloud of scandal had passed away, he wrote to say that under his altered circumstances he was able to make her an allowance. She could do as she pleased about assuming the title which was hers by right. It ought to depend upon the position occupied by her husband. She answered gratefully, accepting the allowance gladly, and suggesting that perhaps it would be as well to let the title lie in abeyance for the present, since she had no desire to enter into society again in India. In course of time it was probable that her husband would inherit the Norfolk property. It would be advisable to wait till then.

Tim had come in from the riding-school and was changing for dinner. Brenda retired to her room, and when she had finished her preparations for the evening, she went into her husband’s dressing-room.

“Tim!” she said softly.

He was busy putting the finishing touches to his hair before slipping into his dinner jacket.

“Well?” he replied with a suspicion of hardness in his voice which she had not heard before.

She went up to him and took the hair-brushes from his hands.

“That will do; don’t brush it all off. I want your full attention. I had a visitor—three visitors this afternoon.”

“Oh!” was the reply.

“Don’t talk like that, Tim, or I shall have to go and confide my troubles to the roses instead of to my husband.”

He melted at once.

“What is it, darling? but you need not tell me. I saw the brute crossing the field. He knew that I was safely tied to the riding-school and so he sneaked over here. You gave him beans, of course.”

Even now she detected the faint shadow of a doubt in the eyes that searched her face; troubled eyes they were, for his whole nature revolted against the thought of harbouring suspicion.

“Yes; but not after the manner of the barracks. When he first appeared I wished you had been here; but afterwards I discovered that he had not come with a purpose; he had not expected to find me in the field. He was on his way to Captain Ravenstone’s bungalow.”

“Was he civil?” asked Tim combatively.

“Quite; he gave no sign by word or look that he associated me with the—the unworthy woman he had known years ago.”

“Don’t, Brenda! I can’t bear to hear you speak like that! Oh! the brute! the beast! If I could only use my hunting whip where it is so richly deserved, I should feel better!”

“Let us bury that black past for ever, Tim. It is too late to talk of punishment. It is really a relief to me to find that he has no intention of raking up bygones. He won’t come this way again, I feel sure. He stayed a very short time, during which he talked more to Sonnie than to me. He looked less uneasy when he found that I had nothing to say. I gave him no assistance whatever; and at the risk of being thought discourteous I avoided shaking hands with him.”

“He’s after that American girl, Miss Lawrence. She has a pot of money, I’m told. She’s miles too good for him,” said Tim.

“What makes you think that he is turning his attention in that direction?”

“I can see it plainly. This afternoon he came round to the school with the Superintendent, who had Mrs. Quinbury and Miss Alpheton in tow. Dereham fidgeted about and turned his eye down the road, asking Mrs. Quinbury if Miss Lawrence was coming. He had to content himself without her; and he wasn’t in the best of tempers at being kept there kicking his heels for nothing. He did not care a bit about the riding, and he seemed to care still less for Miss Alpheton.”

“Miss Lawrence was here.”

“Great Scott! What a fright he would have been in had he known it!” cried Tim, putting the finishing touches to his toilet. “Look here, Brenda,” he continued with great solemnity and wisdom; “it won’t do to let that chap have his way if that is really his intention. She ought to be warned before she allows herself to fall in love.”

“Judging from the way she lingered here this evening, when she must have known where he was, it doesn’t look as if she were losing her heart.”

“That’s all right; we need not worry ourselves. If he gets scotched so much the better,” remarked Tim viciously, as he got into his coat. “Who was your third visitor? Oh! I know; Shah Adam-u-din, of course. He had tea with us; one of the best fellows God ever made; only why wasn’t he blessed with a white skin instead of a brown one? Hallo! there’s the bell. Come along, Brenda, I’m as hungry as a hunter.”

And like a big, happy school-boy, Breydon hurried off to the little dining-room, where the soup was already steaming on the table.

Chapter XVI

The days passed with a certain degree of monotony for the English residents. There were riding, driving, and hunting with the bobbery pack in the morning, tennis and golf in the afternoon. They gathered together at informal little dinner-parties that were acceptable to the men who were busy all day long. Work was over by then, and they felt that the rest of the evening was theirs, when they might eat without haste, and rest without qualms of conscience.

Alauda rode and drove every day, sometimes in one direction, sometimes in another. She met Adam-u-din three or four times in as many days, and then he suddenly disappeared. She looked for him in vain. Whilst she was scouring the roads on wheels, or galloping over the open maidan—where the fields ended and there was no crop to damage—her eye frequently swept the horizon. The action was not conscious, nor was the object of her search admitted to herself. There was no sign of the spare athletic figure that seemed born to the saddle. As the days passed, a curious little shade of disappointment damped her spirits, and made her preoccupied.

Dereham was to the fore whoever else might be absent. He noted the change, and was puzzled until vanity came to his assistance. She was succumbing at last, but was unwilling to give in; she was fighting against her fate, and would not yet acknowledge herself beaten. He must continue his policy of patience and avoid hastiness. She mistook his attitude for friendly thoughtfulness which respected her inclinations; and so it happened that they were drawn together rather than driven apart through their misunderstanding.

Alauda went to see Brenda again, and they sat together in the rosary with the scent of tea-roses round them and the song of the bulbul in their ears. Alauda was the silent one this time, and it was Brenda who talked. The presence of a third haunted both. His name was not mentioned, but it was never out of the mind of either. As the conversation flowed gently on in spite of Alauda’s preoccupation, her companion became still more assured that Dereham had made no impression and had no chance of success.

The American girl spoke openly at the castle of her visits to Mrs. Breydon; but not being given to gossip, she was silent on the subject elsewhere. It so happened that the knowledge never came to Dereham.

Frequent meetings are inevitable in a small Indian station. It was rare for a day to elapse without the residents seeing something of each other. If nowhere else, they gathered on the golf-links or tennis-ground between the hours of five and seven when the day’s duties were done.

Quinbury sat at his dining-table with his guests. The dinner was over, and the men had been left to smoke.

“The fellow is sailing a little nearer the wind this time,” Quinbury was saying to Cheverell and Dereham, who had moved their chairs towards the head of the table. “He has published a full report in the Flaming Torch of a meeting that was held a short time ago here at Hosur. Dharma Govinda spoke, and his words were ‘smoother than butter.’ For all his profession of loyalty, I don’t trust him.”

“What particular sedition was he advocating?”

“There’s absolutely nothing that you can lay your finger on to call sedition in the words he used. The leading article on the meeting is more outspoken. The mischief of it is that it repeats in different words and with verbiose elaboration what has already been said with impunity by our own countrymen—certain members of Parliament who have lately been doing incalculable mischief by giving their support to the agitators. The real value of their sentiments is not understood. For all the contempt shown by the modern baboo for the white-face, as he calls the Englishman, he magnifies everything that is spoken or written by a member of Parliament into an utterance of Parliament itself.”

“Can’t that kind of thing be stopped? ^ asked Dereham.

“That’s where the difficulty comes in. Every party politician claims a right to express his opinions and to criticize the actions of the other side. In England it is understood. The two opponents bandy words, and even call each other names in the heat of their arguments; but after the discussion they may meet at a dinner-party the best of friends. Out here the bandying of words with the calling of names has quite another meaning. It implies bitter caste feuds, religious hatred, and war to the knife. There is not one of these agitators and disturbers of the peace but believes that the writers of the letters, were they in India, would eagerly place themselves at the head of the malcontents, and lead them on to put into practice the theoretical sedition they advocate.”

“In addition to their ignorance on that point, they are further deceived by the statements made by their own orators, which contain half-truths more dangerous than downright lies,” remarked Cheverell.

“That’s just it,” assented Quinbury. “Govinda talks glibly about ‘arriving at a consensus of popular opinion’ of the whole of India, and he declares that the result would astound the ‘paramount power.’ Imagine the absurdity of the suggestion! To begin with, the case would have to be stated in considerably over a hundred languages.”

“I’d sooner sound the opinion of Europe,” remarked Chevereil.

“It would be a far easier task, because there you would be dealing with more or less educated people,” replied Quinbury. “Then he speaks lightly of racial difficulties, assuring his hearers that they can be conquered as in Russia and Austria.”

“Good Heavens!” exclaimed Dereham. “It shows how little he knows what he is talking about. The present state of those two countries gives his statement no support whatever.”

“What I distrust most of all in his speech,” continued Quinbury, “is the use of the word ‘homicide’ for the dastardly murders of the English ladies, and of ‘misappropriation of money’ for the dacoities committed with violence by members of secret societies under the excuse of obtaining funds to promote patriotism. In the leading article there is a quotation from John Stuart Mill’s ‘Liberty.’ ‘The act of a private citizen in striking down a criminal who, by raising himself above the law, has placed himself beyond the reach of legal punishments or control, has been accounted by whole nations and by some of the best and wisest men, not a crime but an act of exalted virtue.’ The writer of the article refrains from drawing the inference, but any one can see by the juxtaposition of the quotation what is implied.”

They smoked in silence for a while, and then Dereham said—

“What is to be the end of it all?”

“That is the question we are all asking ourselves, whilst the Home Government is trying to patch up the ugly cancers with tissue paper in the shape of concessions.”

“Do you really believe that the danger is serious?”

“You have set me another difficult question which I have to admit I can’t answer. It won’t do to disregard the signs; that was the mistake of ‘57.”

“The native newspapers are responsible for a good deal of the mischief. Like the orators, they overstate the case,” said Cheverell.

“Their sin comes of the necessities of a struggling and competing Press with an insatiable greed for sensational copy. The diatribes of a man of Dharma Govinda’s kind are the breath of life to a rag like the Flaming Torch. In the native Press everything is exaggerated and represented in a false light. India has the weakness, in common with Great Britain, of believing anything that appears in print, and credence is given to the wildest and most outrageous assertions.”

“Are your men affected, Cheverell?” asked Dereham.

The Superintendent laughed as he replied confidently—

“Not in the least. Why should they be? They have comfortable quarters, and their wages are paid regularly. They like their work, and have everything to lose and nothing to gain by seditious agitation. No; I should say that the syces of the Depôt would be the very last to entertain anarchism in their ranks.”

Quinbury looked at him thoughtfully through the blue smoke of his cigar, and wondered if it would be wise to tell him that five hundred of his men were present only the evening before at a meeting where seditious doctrines were expounded by a young Hindu fanatic. He concluded that it would be better, in view of his own designs, to keep the information to himself.

“It’s fortunate that there is no rehgious animus underlying all this,” remarked Dereham. “If it were a movement on the part of the Muhammadans, it would be a serious matter. They are composed of many nationalities, but as followers of the Prophet they have always been united. It is that very fact, added to their military capabilities, which has made them a formidable enemy to be reckoned with. When it comes to a lot of soft-skinned Hindus, whether of Aryan or Dravidian origin, with their countless castes, worshipping millions of deities, how can there be any fundamental bond of unity among them? It is impossible for them to originate organized and simultaneous movements of any consequence. The worst that can happen will be what is already taking place—local riots, sporadic murders, which the native newspapers term homicide, and the dissemination of recipes for making bombs.”

“It doesn’t take a whole faggot of sticks to set a house on fire,” remarked Cheverell.

“Are you so sure that the Hindus have no common bond of union in a religious movement that embraces all castes?” asked Quinbury of Dereham.

“I have never heard of one.”

“Never heard of the worship of Kali, the most iniquitous, most pernicious, most insidious of religious movements this earth ever saw? In some of its features it resembles the old phallic cults of Babylon; but underlying the modern cult there is a political principle which was absent in the teaching of the Babylonians. It makes the serpent double-headed and a thousand times more dangerous.”

“Kali is the goddess of small-pox and cholera, isn’t she?” asked Dereham.

“When disease is raging, she is called its deity, and is propitiated; but that is only a minor detail. Kali is one of the characters assumed by Siva’s wife, Siva the destroyer and re-creator. She is not only his consort, but generally represents an intensification of his attributes. As Kali she is the instrument of destruction. The Hindus say that we are in the Kaliyuga, the age of evil, when Kali holds sway over men, when the prophecy of the Vishnu Purana and other sacred books is in course of fulfilment.”

“What is the prophecy?”

Quinbury went to his sitting-room, and returned with a volume of reference on Hinduism. From it he read the following :—

“‘Hear what will happen in the Kali age. The usages and institutes of caste, Of order, and of rank will not prevail, Nor yet the precepts of the triple Veda. Religion will consist in wasting wealth; In fasting and performing penances At will; the man who owns most property And lavishly distributes it, will gain Dominion over others; noble rank “I’d Will give no claim to lordship; self-willed women Will seek their pleasure; and ambitious men Fix all their hopes on riches gained by fraud. The women will be fickle and desert Their beggared husbands, loving them alone Who give them money. Kings, instead of guarding, WiU rob their subjects, and abstract the wealth Of merchants under plea of raising taxes. Then in the world’s last age the rights of men Will be confused, no property be safe, no joy and no prosperity be lasting.’

“There is a movement in India going on at the present time to cultivate the worship of Kali,” continued Quinbury. “It is not confined to one province, nor to one caste, nor even to one race. Closely connected with it are the abominable practices of Sakti worship that appeal to the sensual side of a sensuous people. The attraction has been far-reaching, especially to the youth of the land. People gather together regardless of caste distinctions to take part in the demonstrations—I can hardly call it worship— which are made in the form of processions through the streets, and they find in them a powerful fascination.”

“Castes may gather together for a common cause, but the rigidity of their rules is surely never set aside?” objected Cheverell.

“That is the foundation on which many optimists build; but Dharma Govinda told his audience that caste difficulties might be set aside, and he is quite right. In this very worship of which I am now speaking there have been times—and there still are and ever will be—when all restraint is thrown aside, when men and women of all castes meet on terms of perfect equality. It is not in the street that the rules are broken, though the licentiousness during the public processions passes belief. It is at the meetings which are held in secret that caste is disregarded and all restraint removed.”

“Where do they find authority for their licence?” asked Dereham.

“In the Veda that expounds Tantric worship. The verse runs thus : ‘ On entering the circle of Bhairvara, all castes are on equality with the best of the twice-born; on leaving it they are again separated into castes.’ If Hindus can combine for one purpose in this manner—it is a purpose too degraded in character, in my opinion, to dignify by the term ‘ religious ‘—what is to prevent them from meeting on the same terms for any other purpose?”

“The whole system should be crushed; their meetings put down by the aid of troops, if need be. The thing wouldn’t be tolerated in any European country,” said Dereham.

“In that case we should do nothing more that manufacture martyrs, heroes and patriots, persons who are essential to the teachers of the new gospel of emancipation. Government desires to be tolerant in politics as well as in religion.’”

“Of course, Quinbury, you are in duty bound to believe in Government and its civil methods of ruling,” said Cheverell, with a laugh at his old friend, the civilian. “Your hands are tied. The authorities expect you to deal with feelings, and to use nothing but moral suasion. When our turn comes, as it must in the end if this kind of thing goes on, we shall deal with facts without considering feelings, and use the rod where it is required.”

The district officer smiled as he blew the smoke from his lips.

“You fighting men can only think with the sword in your hand. Your trade is to kill. Ours is to keep alive.”

“To nurse vipers,” remarked Dereham.

“And draw their fangs,” added Quinbury. “We are not at the end of our resources yet. We can put new machinery into motion and drag out some of our old prerogatives if we think it necessary.”

“Meanwhile your troublesome cattle overturn you into the ditch,” rejoined Dereham.

“That is where we come in. We shall have to pull you out of your difficulties and set you on your legs again as we did in ‘57,” added Cheverell, as they rose to join their hostess.

Chapter XVII

It was one of those beautiful moonlight nights which are the charm of the tropics. Nature was reposing, not in unconscious slumber but in the full luxury of conscious rest. Large white moon-flowers opened to the pale rays, and datura bells exhaled their rich scent to lure the fluttering moth. The air still retained some of the day’s warmth, and the dew had not yet begun to fall. Quinbury led his guests to the drawing-room, but it was empty.

“They must be in the terrace garden,” he said, as he moved on to his wife’s boudoir. Two or three of the older ladies were seated near the long open window. The younger ones were in the garden wandering among the beds of sweet stocks and lilies, or seated in chairs in front of the window.

Dereham had followed his host with as much speed as he dared to show. He was dreading the formality of the baronial drawing-room with its lights and absence of the nooks and corners of the modern room. The garden, although confined to the top of the earthworks, was more secluded under cover of the night. It was possible that he might find the opportunity there which he was seeking. He was to leave for Bangalore on the following morning at daybreak for a few days’ visit. Gamboll, the trainer, wanted to discuss certain matters with him, among others the conduct of the syce, Cassim. The man had given trouble, and had been dismissed on the spot without reference to his master.

In spite of his haste, he was unsuccessful in securing Alauda’s attention. Mrs. Bucknall, having heard that he was going to Bangalore, waylaid him with a warm invitation to be their guest. She was one of those kind-hearted Anglo-Indian women who had lived up-country all her life out of the way of hotels. It seemed a flagrant breach of hospitality not to offer to “put him up” for as long as he liked to stay. It took some minutes to assure her that it was impossible to accept her invitation, as he had already made arrangements to stay at the hotel.

Then Vida and Margery, wandering among the garden beds with Assington and Kingsford, blocked the way, asking if he did not think it a perfect night. He could not push past them without absolute rudeness, and it was equally impossible to turn his back on them and retreat.

It was Cheverell who secured the prize Dereham coveted, and the latter consoled himself with the thought that he would sooner see her talking to good old Cheverell than to Ravenstone, who, in spite of his determination not “to hitch his waggon to a star,” made tracks in her direction. Seeing her turn towards the Superintendent with a touch of the old friendliness that had lately been less apparent in her manner to all alike, Ravenstone joined the group near the window.

Alauda was leaning on the old parapet overlooking the moat. She had been gazing across the thick vegetation that filled the fosse, towards the expanse of open country lying under the silvery moonlight. In the far distance tiny lights twinkled marking a mud hut here and there. The peasants had finished their evening meal, and were already wrapped in the black blankets that protected them from the rain by day and the dew by night. Where the lights twinkled tired women packed their curry-pot, and cleansed the vessels that had been used in serving up the evening meal. Pariah dogs howled to each other until they were silenced by the melancholy jackal that bayed at the moon.

“Are you looking for the ghost?” asked Cheverell.

“No; I am not endowed with ghost-sight. To tell you the truth, I am ignorant as to what particular kind of ghost is to be looked for.”

“Haven’t they told you?”

“My aunt won’t allow the subject to be mentioned. She has had trouble with the servants. They have some queer tales among themselves about the little temple that stands inside the grounds, and the supposed manifestations of the local deity. There was an attempt on the part of a religious mendicant to institute pujah, but it was stopped.”

“And quite right, too! Talk of oppression! The people are more oppressed by these knaves who make religion an excuse for their shameless extortions than by any taxes that have yet been imposed upon them. The rascals sit down in idleness and batten upon the poor, ignorant creatures, impoverishing them throughout the whole length of the country.”

Alauda was peering down over the parapet into the deep shades of the bushes that filled the moat. She did not trouble herself with questions of political economy. Her mind was still dwelling on the ghosts.

“It’s very suggestive of ghosts and spirits, anyway,” she said. “Do tell me the story.”

She had her own reasons for wishing to keep him by her side. There was something she wanted to know as soon as she could find an opportunity of asking.

“I won’t tell you about the ghost, as your aunt doesn’t wish it spoken about. I’m not a believer in it myself. I will give you the history of the tragedy connected with the old fort instead.”

“The fort was here, where the house has been built, wasn’t it?”

“It was enclosed within the walls that surround the grounds. Probably, the habitable part formed the foundation for the house built by Brett—’Brett’s Folly’—as it used to be called. History—real history —says that two Englishmen who had been taken prisoners by the Mysoreans were confined in the fort for a considerable time. It is also related that they were employed in strengthening its defences. They apparently had communication with the people of the town of Hosur, for they were much liked. The news of Lord Cornwallis’ approach with an army, in 1791, reached the ears of Tippu Sultan, and he sent an order that the prisoners were to be beheaded. They were so popular among the inhabitants of Hosur, that no one could be found at first to execute the order; and no weapon was available for the purpose. At last, some miscreant produced a small knife, such as is used by shoemakers to cut leather. I suppose the reward was tempting. Before the horrible deed was done, a carpenter begged Captain Hamilton, the elder of the two, to give him some personal trifle as a present. In compliance he handed him a pair of compasses. Captain Hamilton then urged a request upon his executioner, that his companion, a midshipman, might suffer first, and so be spared the additional agony of seeing the unspeakable horror committed on his companion.”

“Oh, Major Cheverell! it can’t be true! It must be an invention!” cried Alauda.

“I am afraid it is a true story. Two skeletons were found buried in a field near the fort many years afterwards with marks of decapitation. Another curious testimony to the truth is the fact that an Englishman met a descendant of that carpenter, who was using an old pair of compasses—which are not common instruments among native mechanics—and on them were scratched Hamilton’s initials, ‘J. H.’”

“Where did the tragedy take place?”

“The spot is not known, but it has been suggested that it was inside the fort, and probably in the barrack-yard, between the place where this house stands and the temple.”

“And that cruel, barbarous deed was done at the order of the prince under whose banner Major Adam-u-din’s forefathers fought? It seems incredible.”

“It might happen again any day, if we did not keep princes and people under control.”

“Major Adam-u-din could never lend himself to such brutalities!” she cried in warm protest.

Something in her voice made Cheverell look keenly at her in the bright light of the Indian moon. She did not notice his close scrutiny. Her eyes had gone back to the soft grey landscape, visible above the bushes, the shining sheet of water to the right, and the silent sleeping town to the left. She was thinking of the camp and the men-at-arms who had shown themselves so skilful with the lance and in the saddle. They were made for the chivalrous defence of the weak, surely; and not for the murder in cold blood of unarmed, defenceless prisoners.

“I have the highest opinion of my old school-fellow,” said Cheverell, without hesitation. “But after all, I have to remember that he is an Asiatic, a native of this country, with forebears who looked upon Haider Ali and his son Tippu as god-like heroes. I know that he has an admiration amounting to hero-worship for them himself. He declares that their methods suited the times and the people whom they ruled. The methods they adopted were understood, while ours are not. As for what he would do if he were in arms against a foreign power, no one, not even he himself, could say.”

“I must ask him some day what he thinks of the story. I am quite sure that he will condemn the action of the prince and regret it. I suppose he is still in camp?”

The question she had been longing to ask was out at last, carelessly put with a show of indifference she was far from feeling. Cheverell was deceived by it, and the faint shadow of the suspicion that had risen in his mind was lulled to rest.

“The camp is broken up, and the troops have gone back into quarters at Mysore,” he said. Then catching sight of Dereham, who had succeeded at last in shaking off his companions, and was approaching, he said quickly, “What are you going to do to-morrow morning?”

“Nothing particular. Take a ride, if it is fine.”

“Come and see me after it. My gloxinias are magnificent; much finer than when you last saw them. I shall be alone, as Dereham will have left for Bangalore.”

She promised, and he readily resigned his place to his friend. He walked back to the lighted room and entered it, observing that it was not safe for middle-aged men like himself to be mooning about in the night air.

“You should clear out that fosse, Quinbury. I am sure it is very bad to have all that jungle growing under your windows. It would be a good thing, if possible, to fill in the moat.”

“Government has no money to spare for improvements. I am not sure that I should be allowed to do it at my own expense even. Some men would say that it would destroy the picturesqueness of the castle.”

“Besides breeding malaria, I should be afraid of the jungle harbouring snakes,” said Mrs. Bucknall.

“Or thieves,” added her husband. “The bushes are thorny and matted together with rank creeper. It would be impossible to unearth a budmash if he took shelter there.”

“I fancy the snakes keep those kind of gentlemen away,” remarked Quinbury.

“Are there not some old casemates and subterranean passages in the walls and in the earthworks?” asked Bucknall, who was always attracted by archaeology.

“I dare say there are; but I believe old Brett, after utilizing the best of them as godowns and servants’ quarters, bricked up the rest on purpose to prevent the presence of uninvited lodgers, human or reptile. He spent a lot of money on the place, and when he left he had to sell it for just what it would fetch. Government being the only bidder, the price was not high. He could not take his baronial castle home with him when he retired, so he accepted the offer.”

A sound of laughter came from the group of people who had been bold enough to remain upon the terrace. The party was seated on the chairs which had been drawn together for the purpose of discussing the prospective gaieties offered by the large garrison of Bangalore. There were to be races, balls, polo, theatricals, and tournaments; to say nothing of the entertainments given by the Maharajah at his palace at Bangalore to the Europeans. Only Dereham and Alauda stood apart, but they were in full view of the rest in the broad moonlight, sufficiently removed, however, for their words to be inaudible.

“I would not have spoken so soon,” Dereham was saying; “but I must leave the Depôt to-morrow morning, and may not be back for some days.”

“I am sorry,” was her comment—not upon the announcement of his departure, but upon what he had said previously. “We have been such excellent friends I had hoped—”

“How can you hope that men will not be men where women like yourself are concerned?” he asked.

His voice, though restrained, was full of passion, and his eyes gazed at her with a light in their depths that he did not attempt to veil. She might read all that was written there if she chose; she could not fail to understand the signs that she had seen too often in the men to whom she had extended her friendship.

“I am fated to bring unhappiness to the people I like best. It is time that I went back to America, where men comprehend the relationship between the sexes,” she said, with something that was not far from regret in her tone.

He leaned a little closer, and his voice dropped lower still, though it lost none of its passion.

“Do American men show no desire to gather the best of God’s gifts into their keeping? They are surely only human. Are there no sufferers among your countrymen?”

She turned on him with a flash of displeasure at what she considered a personal question. Then, seeing how she had hurt him, she repented, and forgave the words that had been wrung from him in the bitterness of his heart. “I have given you no right to catechize me about the past. There will be time enough by-and-by for us to make confessions to each other, if it is necessary to make them at all,” she said, with a softness that took all the sting out of her words.

“Forgive me!” he cried with contrition. “I am a brute! I ought not to talk to you like this, but I am feeling sore.” Then he pulled himself together with the conviction that he was only injuring his cause by being aggressive. The tone that she had adopted with him of good fellowship and friendliness must not be lost sight of or extinguished by sentiment. He begged her to forget his hasty words, and to believe that he trusted her implicitly. “I should be troubled more than a little if anything occurred to disturb our friendliness. You don’t know, Miss Lawrence, what a pleasure it has been to me— so great a boon that I have been bold enough to wish that it might be cemented by a closer tie. I can’t think that anything is more likely to make for success in marriage than to build it upon the firm foundation of friendship. If friendship and companionship underlie love—such love as I feel for you—how can there be failure?”

It needed all his strength to hold himself in check and speak with such restraint. This was not his usual method, nor had he hitherto pinned any faith to such wooing. His way with women was audacity, tender violence, and impetuosity, which was not to be stemmed. Backed by his personal qualities, that appealed so strongly to the senses, he had never known his method to fail. It is possible that, had he found himself alone with her, he might have tried the old plan of campaign. With the presence of that laughing, chattering group close at hand, it was impossible to let himself go.

It was just as well for him that the opportunity was not afforded. Any exhibition of passion would have alarmed Alauda, and given her a wrong impression of the man. With all the condescension they show to their friends of the opposite sex, the American women are more jealous of their rights than are their English sisters; and the sudden, impulsive appeal does not clinch the matter when a woman is hesitating.

Alauda heard him in silence. He had done wisely in choosing his line of pleading. If she had ever thought of marriage, it was as the forging of some such tie, founded, as he said, on a real liking of the nature of friendship. It was certainly not founded on abandonment to an unreasoning passion, and this was because hitherto the storm of real passion had left her untouched. How near she was to that whirlpool she did not know. In her strong self-confidence she believed that she would never be drawn into it. She pictured married life just as he, knowing the bent of her mind, described it—perfect trust, perfect companionship—a comprehension of each other’s characters that necessitated no extravagant proof and made no demands. It was just such an ideal union as existed between her father and herself, but with the relationship and some of the duties altered. It is the preconceived notion of many women, and it holds good until that miraculous storm of passion sweeps over them, coming unexpectedly, they know not whence, and leaving them with the ideals they had hugged so close hopelessly shattered.

“I have not thought of marriage for myself,” she said presently, “My life has been happy without it.”

“So has mine,” he rejoined, with a quick sympathy that did not miss its mark. “And whilst the happiness lasts it has much to commend it; but it cannot last indefinitely—it is not intended in the scheme of nature that it should go on for ever.”

“I have no desire to put an end to it at present. It would be wise of me to follow an instinct that prompts me to say ‘No.’ It would leave you in no doubt or uncertainty, and be kinder than deferring my decision,” she said, looking at him dubiously.

“Say ‘no’ as often as you like, I shall not take it to myself at present, because I want you to give yourself time.”

It was a hard battle to fight, and the plan of action was entirely opposed to his inclinations. As she lifted her eyes to his a wild impulse seized him to cast aside his cold, almost formal, arguments, and to plead his cause in his own way, with the burning words that were with such difficulty restrained. But the exhibition of violent emotion must be avoided at all costs. It would only bring that deadening negative which he was with difficulty staving off. If once spoken in cold blood—and she, he knew to his cost, was speaking in cold blood—it would never be retracted.

The only latitude he permitted himself was the touch of her cool fingers as they rested upon the parapet. In spite of the self-control he was exercising, his hand trembled as it was laid over hers. He knew how deeply he was involved this time, and how necessary it was for his happiness that he should win this woman. There must have been something electric in the contact of their fingers; for his touch carried conviction with it, and she felt a warm glow of pity such as she had never experienced with any other rejected suitor for this, her last victim. It was a pity that gave birth to a desire to compensate for his pain by some means or other, if it were possible. But once again the voiceless cry was wrung from her. Why, oh why, did it always end thus?

“It shall be left, then, until your return,” she said.

Her even tones fell like cold water upon his ardour; but he recovered instantly. When had he ever failed? When had those eyes ever looked into the eyes of fair women without success? When had his efforts ever been without avail? The task he had set himself was proving harder than usual; but he entertained no doubt as to his ultimate victory. He knew moreover that he had a friend in Mrs. Quinbury, whose manner towards him clearly indicated her favour. He even thought of Vida as a possible ally, although he was not quite sure how she would take a total deflection from herself.

“You will tell your aunt that I have spoken,” he said.

“Do you wish it?”

“I do,” he replied earnestly.

“Even if my answer is ‘no’?”

“Yes; she ought to know that I have spoken, for she must have guessed that—”

He was interrupted by a sudden flare of light at no great distance from the castle, followed by the sound of an explosion. The party seated outside the window rose and came to the edge of the wall. Quinbury stepped out into the garden, followed by Cheverell.

“What was it?” he asked.

“Fireworks by the side of the lake,” replied Dereham.

“I wonder they don’t kill themselves with their crackers and squibs,” remarked Vida.

“They do sometimes. They think nothing of fireworks unless there is a noise,” said Cheverell. “But why are they letting them off near the lake?”

“Some votive offering at the little temple that stands on that side of the tank,” replied Quinbury.

“Of course the people pay the piper,” remarked Cheverell. “After all it doesn’t matter how the money is spent. What matters is the drain those temple knaves impose upon the people.”

The move had been made, and the guests took advantage of it to say “good night” to their host and hostess. All were early risers, and none cared to burn the candle at both ends.

After the last carriage had disappeared and driven along the private road that bordered the lake and led from the castle to the highroad, two natives crept round the opposite shore. They passed outside the old walls beyond the entrance. One had his left hand bound in a piece of cotton cloth. The other carried a market basket on his head. Their mode of progression was odd. After walking a hundred yards or so, they crouched on the ground and listened. When they were satisfied that they were not being followed, they rose and moved forward again with the same caution. Keeping to the base of the wall they arrived at an old bastion. The facing of sun-dried bricks had fallen away in patches. Out of the earthwork grew a huge coarse-leaved bush that spread its long arms in every direction. Upon the top of the wall a strong creeper fastened its roots and sent its tendrils down to join hands with the bush.

The man with the basket on his head swung himself along the sloping brick-work with the ease of a monkey, balancing his load without the aid of his hands. He disappeared under the bush, returning in the same manner, the basket still there with its contents apparently intact.

They listened, and then continued their walk outside the walls, taking cover as often as was possible in the deep shadows of the masonry and vegetation, but without any more crouching or hiding. Presently they left the fort and struck across the open country in the direction of the town with a bolder step indifferent to observation.

Each stall-holder and shopkeeper had packed away his goods and extinguished his flaring paraffin lamp. A tiny wick in an earthenware bowl of oil faintly illuminated the interior of the small room behind the stall. By its light the owner of the shop would spread his sleeping-mat beneath the counter on which he exposed his goods; and wrapping his weary body in the thick country-made cotton sheets he would soon be asleep.

The two men passed on until they came to the stables belonging to Dharma Govinda. Here the bearer of the basket was about to turn in when a hand was laid upon his shoulder.

“Put your basket down and let me see what it holds.”

Cassim obeyed whilst Chandraswamy stood by with a smile upon his face. The removal of the cloth displayed a load of cocoanuts. The police constable lifted the edge of the basket and rolled every cocoanut out into the broad moonlight. There was nothing else to be seen. When he had satisfied himself, he walked on with a grunt. The Hindu looked at the Muhammadan and laughed silently.

“There is need for care. I still have plenty of work to do. By the incoming mail this week I shall receive a better and surer recipe for making my fireworks.”

“And these cocoanuts, will they be required?”

“For the curry that we prepare for the Feringhis? Yes, and more if we would have enough for all. See that you get them ready without delay; and come to me for orders to-morrow morning. I can do nothing until this hand is healed.”

Chandraswamy went on to the house of his patron. He stopped at the kitchen door. A woman was lying asleep at the entrance. He touched her on the shoulder.

“Give me help!” he said. “See! I was making fireworks for the pujari of Kali’s temple by the big tank, and one exploded.”

“Aiyoh!” she cried sympathetically. She set herself to dress the burns with oil, and to fan them to “take out the fire,” as she said. “What did you do, my young master, to anger the goddess that she should treat you so?”

“It is for what I have not yet done, old mother, that she punishes me. Kali groans and cries with rage at the presence of the white-faces. She would have their heads laid out in a row before her shrine in the place of the goats’ heads.”

“Ah! bah! that is bad talk, my son! When the time comes mother Kali herself will sweep them into the sea. Until then we must wait.”

“And what broom will she use, think you?”

“Talk not of brooms; they are unlucky things to think of in the dark hours. Lie down and sleep, if you can. The burn is not deep, and will heal in a few days.”

“Did news come to the big mistress of the young master by the afternoon post?”

“Yes; it was a wire-message man who came. His wire had been talking. The master sent word by it that the devil-bandy was to go to the station to-morrow morning to meet the train by daybreak.”

Chapter XVIII

Alauda was up early on the following morning, and in the saddle before the sun was above the horizon. She had no companion, a fact she did not regret. The horse was fresh, and she gave him his head. As she passed near the Superintendent’s house she drew rein and waited till the syce came up, bidding him stop there till her return, a command willingly obeyed.

Then once again loosening rein she galloped along the same line that she had taken with Adam-u-din as her guide, the morning that she had made his acquaintance at Captain Ravenstone’s bungalow. How long ago was it? Barely three weeks. She thought of the occasions when they had met; she could count them on the fingers of her two hands. After the visit to the camp he had called on Mrs. Quinbury, and they saw each other three or four times. Then there was the meeting in Mrs. Breydon’s garden. After that an interval occurred, and when they next came together he seemed to stand aloof. She fancied that he might have taken offence at something that had been said, and with her usual directness she made a point of speaking to him, and of drawing him into conversation. One morning, when she was riding with Vida, she encountered him on the road, and turning her horse’s head she followed the way he was going for a couple of miles or more. At first there was restraint and reserve in his manner, but it melted before her easy attitude of good fellowship, and the gaiety and laughter came back.

Then she ceased to find him either riding or driving, and his name was not mentioned among those by whom she was surrounded. She had remarked to her uncle that Major Adam-u-din had not appeared lately, and he had acquiesced without comment, as though his appearance or disappearance was immaterial. Then came her opportunity to question Cheverell, and from him she had learned that he and his men had gone, that they would be seen no more in the vicinity of the Depôt, and with that knowledge came the desire to visit the deserted camp.

She pulled up at the tope where they had waited for the syce, and Caesar was allowed to get his wind. Then she spurred on again, never stopping until she reached the spot where the white tents had stood. The turf was cut up by hoof and tent-peg; and there were traces everywhere of the little world that had lived in the canvas town. Straw, paper, empty tins, the ashes of dead fires, a hundred signs of recent habitation were scattered in all directions. The débris were just such as might be seen upon Salisbury Plain after a camp of military exercises. She could distinguish the spot where the mess-tent was pitched, and where the carpet had been spread for them when they drove over to see the impromptu gymkhana got up by Major Adam-u-din for their amusement. She thought she could pick out the exact spot where she had sat with him, discussing racial questions as their eyes followed the glitter of metal and colour in the dazzling sunlight.

A group of birds, the babblers, familiarly known as the “seven sisters,” hopped and chirped over the ground that the lances had turned up as they struck at the white pegs. A king-crow fluttered impudently over half a dozen crows foraging in a kitchen refuse-heap. The voracious birds were too busy to resent the smaller birds’ impertinences. A sneaking little grey fox stole off at a leisurely pace from the spot where the beans had been boiled and measured out for the horses.

In her imagination she heard the thud of hoofs and the rattle of military accoutrements, the hum of the foreign language approving and applauding; above all came the memory of the high-bred voice that spoke of things from a deep personal view, and discussed matters which no one else had cared to talk about.

So absorbed was she in her own visions and thoughts that she did not notice a motor-car gliding along the distant road; nor did she observe how it suddenly slowed down, until it halted beneath the trees where the brake had been left. A figure stood up and gazed across towards the deserted camp, gazed with a wonder and longing which it was well that she could not see.

The car had overshot the mark where it used to leave the road and find a way across the open ground to the camp. Presently it backed as though it would enter upon its old track; but before it could do so, Alauda turned her horse’s head and galloped back towards the Depôt. The car shot forward, and its occupant flung himself down upon the cushioned seat under the hood.

The gallop was not of long duration. Caesar’s high spirits had worked off, and he was well content to be allowed to walk with a loose rein. Her brain was busy with the past. Hitherto she had carved out her own way, shaping it as she would, believing in herself, and having infinite confidence in her own judgment. Her self-indulgences and her acts of charity—these last were many—were marked by moderation and an absence of extravagance. Impulse had never carried her beyond the bounds of reason. Now there had suddenly come into her life a mad longing to break the bounds of convention and tradition, and to strike out a line of action which she knew the whole world would condemn as rash and foolish. The longing carried with it a pain that was well-nigh unbearable. Her desire was not formulated at present into any definite expression. It was inchoate and its nature unrecognized. It had intruded itself uninvited, and refused to be driven out. It might be ignored, but it was there all the same, tearing at her heart-strings, and bringing the hot blood to her cheeks again and again as she tried to face it, wrestle with it; aye! and kill it.

For she knew that this desire of her heart was impossible of fulfilment.

How was it that she had allowed it to creep in? What was there about the man that made him appear different from every other man in the world?

Had he been a European or an American, she could have hewed out the way to happiness as she had chosen. It might have been difficult, but there would have been no insuperable bar to its attainment. In this case she was confronted by an insurmountable barrier, the barrier of racial prejudice. In every other respect it might be set aside; but in this one thing it was impossible.

Then for the first time in her life she was assailed by a misgiving, bringing close upon its heels the shadow of repentance. It was her own doing that the acquaintance had ripened into friendship, and from friendship into something deeper still. She had thought to extend to the Asiatic the same intimate good-fellowship that she offered to Dereham, Ravenstone, and others. She was anxious to show him that she at least had none of the narrow views of the ruling race; and to let him understand that she, if no one else, appreciated the fine qualities oi his birth and education.

There had been warnings, slight but unmistakable, on the part of her friends, hinting that she was playing with fire; but she could see no danger. Her friends were well intentioned, no doubt; at the same time they were full of insular prejudice. So she had taken her own way, never dreaming of disaster.

She checked the flow of thought sharply. Disaster! It should not be disaster if she could help it. Her pride came to her assistance in hot haste. Surely she had sufficient strength to cast out all dreams of the unattainable, to cut away the vain longings that were eating their way into her heart. She might suffer, but she would take care to suffer in secret.

She drew up Caesar’s loose rein with a jerk that surprised him, and he bounded off in a canter, which he was obliged by his rider to keep up until they reached the entrance to the grounds of the Superintendent’s house.

In coming to this determination there was one thing that Alauda promised herself as a kind of reward for her renunciation. She would somehow manage to see Adam once again, just once; and then he must pass out of her life for ever.

Alas! poor human nature! She attributed her sudden cheerfulness to the victory she had obtained over herself; whereas, could she only have examined the innermost recesses of her deceitful heart, she would have discovered how false it was. The return of her cheerfulness was entirely due to the promise she had given herself of seeing him again.

Caesar trotted up to the verandah of the house; the syce, picked up at the gate, followed close behind. She threw the reins to him, caught her skirt and slid from the saddle before Cheverell could assist.

“I told you I would come. I’ve had such a glorious ride—” the words died on her lips with the discovery that Cheverell had a companion. It was none other than the man who had occupied her thoughts, Shah Adam-u-din himself.

How could she tell that the secret which she supposed was locked in her breast peeped out of her luminous eyes, spoke upon the parted lips, and repeated itself yet again in the voice with which she greeted him.

“Adam-u-din! This is fortunate. I was wishing to see you and wondering where I should find an opportunity. I have just been riding to your late camping ground to have a last look at the place where you gave us so much pleasure.”

She had shaken hands with him as she spoke, allowing her hand to linger in his just long enough to send the blood surging through his veins and to bring chaos and confusion to his mind.

Cheverell saw and heard everything. Knowledge came, bringing such a shock with it as to deprive him for the moment of speech. He pulled himself together with an effort, and made a sign to his servant to call the motor-car. It moved up noiselessly, like a monster, and waited for its victim.

“Major Adam-u-din has come this morning to give me news of himself,” said Cheverell, laying a slight stress upon the word “Major,” which Alauda had unconsciously omitted.

“Don’t hurry away now we have met. Let me hear your news,” she said—those two old friends and school-fellows alone knew how sweetly she uttered the request!

Cheverell felt that the truth must be told—the sooner the better. Yet he shrank from inflicting the blow. He glanced at Adam-u-din, intending to leave him to give his own version of the tale; but he found that he had only half learned the tragedy so suddenly unveiled. There was that in the Moslem’s face which betrayed another secret and made a further revelation. The man was only human;

he was neither bhnd nor deaf. The light of mad joy and delirious happiness shone in the eyes that were fastened on the girl; eyes that saw nothing else in this wide world but the features they gazed upon,

Cheverell braced himself up boldly for his disagreeable task. He was to strike a deadly blow which would extinguish that glorious light shining in the eyes of the woman he held dearest in all the world. He was to kill the smile on her dear lips, and crush out the tender ring of the sweet voice. It was cruel, brutal; but it must be done. He would sooner have thrust a dagger into his own soul.

“Major Adam-u-din came to tell me,” he said slowly, each word uttered with a terrible distinctness, “that he is to be married soon after Christmas.”

He dared not look at either of them; but he knew by the chill, breathless silence which followed, that he had not missed his mark. He continued in the same deliberate tone that sounded so unnatural in his own ears.

“His mother has desired to see her son married for some time past. She has been negotiating with one of the princely families of Hyderabad; and a lady has been chosen who, I hope, will make my old friend a good and suitable wife.”

Again he laid stress upon a certain word; this time it was “suitable.”

Adam-u-din saw the change come over the face into which he gazed; and he was conscious that the gates of the wondrous paradise which had opened for a brief space, had closed again, and that they were locked for ever against him. He recognized the marvellous glow, and saw it fade and give place to a strange greyness. He felt as if she had died where she stood, and that there was nothing but cold marble left. All that was beautiful in life died within him at the same moment.

Words do not kill the young, whatever their import may be. Alauda’s heart, though curiously stilled, beat on with a regular pulse. The eyes did not grow dim nor did she shrink. Cheverell watched her as she caught her breath in one deep sobbing sigh. He noted how bravely she summoned all her strength to bear the blow, and with what courage she hid the wound he had inflicted. Her lips were forced into a conventional smile, and her tongue spoke the conventional words prompted by the training of western civilization.

“I congratulate you. Major Adam-u-din. I hope you will be very happy.”

There was no reply. The Asiatic does not inherit trained emotions; Adam did not trust himself to speak. Cheverell understood and again interfered to break the tension.

“I am sorry that you cannot stay longer, Adam. I suppose we shall see something of you later on at Bangalore, when we all gather together for the festivities. You will be at the palace with the Maharajah, of course.”

As he talked he moved forward towards the car, turning his back purposely upon the two who still remained standing face to face. Then the man caught the woman’s hand in his, pressed it passionately to his lips, and broke away wordless. He passed Cheverell without waiting to shake hands, and threw himself impetuously into the car. The glance they exchanged was sufficient to express all that was there, a deep, unspoken sympathy, absolutely devoid of racial prejudice on one side, and a life-long heart-break on the other.

“Drive back to Mysore,” he cried to his chauffeur.

The car moved away swiftly. Cheverell watched it as it turned out of the gateway into the road, leaving a cloud of dust in the air. It also left him face to face with one of the problems of the East. European philanthropists ask why the East and West cannot meet on reciprocal terms, why there should not be equality, friendship or even intimacy. Indian social reformers ask the same question, and some of the more practical endeavour to put their theories into practice. All goes well until they are confronted with the great racial problem of mixed marriages and their issue.

Alauda stood staring after the car, scarcely realizing the revelation that had just been made. The indefinite longing, the formless desire were no longer nebulous. They had taken shape, and she was left with the knowledge of the fact that love had come to her at last, unreasoning, uncalculating, strong-winged, glorious beyond compare. Behind it stood duty and reason, preaching renunciation with menace and threat.

“Now for the flowers, Alauda,” said a familiar voice in her ear.

A strong, firm hand grasped her arm above the elbow and led her gently down the steps. It was not towards the gloxinia house they went, but in the opposite direction, where the little bungalow stood solitary and without an occupant just now in the absence of all visitors. There they would find the privacy which both needed. Seated in the verandah they were out of the way of chance callers and inquisitive servants.

Cheverell put her into a low cane chair. He drew another close to hers and dropped into it, taking an unnecessarily long time to arrange the cushions to his liking. His touch upon her arm had given her strength, and had brought the blood back to her lips and cheeks.

“You had heard nothing of his plans for the future, I suppose,” he said. “Men of his race are not in the habit of speaking about their personal affairs; but I am sure that he wished you to know. His mother has had some difficulty in persuading him to take this step. He had some advanced notions of a wife who would be a companion, and live without the semi-barbarous gosha rules. It was impossible to find such a woman. All Muhammadan ladies of good birth observe gosha strictly. It is one of the privileges of good birth, and must not be dispensed with if the ladies wish to retain the respect of their co-religionists.”

She did not speak when he paused, but kept her eyes upon his with that stricken look in them that hurt him.

“Such a man as that,” he continued, “ought to have children of his own race growing up around him, an honour to himself and to his nation. He will rejoice in them and do them justice. The boys will be sent to school in England as he was sent, and they will be brought up staunch followers of the Prophet, loyal to their king and their country. It is difficult to think of him as belonging to a different race and a different religion; he has so many western habits of thought as well as action. In one respect he will be like an Englishman—he will have only one wife. She, he tells me, has been well educated by an English governess, so that she will be a companion to him as far as their domestic rule of life allows. An eastern woman’s first duty is motherhood and the care of her children and her house, and nothing else, as a rule, is expected of her. I believe that there is every prospect of happiness for him.”

“You think that—that he has done well?” she said, her voice even now scarcely under control.

“I am sure that he has. Marriage for a man of his position is a sacred duty. I have old-fashioned notions about marriage, though I am not married myself. It ought to come to all in time, provided that they are suited for it. Men and women cannot remain single throughout their lives or the world would get awry. It will come to you, Alauda, by-and-by.”

Something in his protective attitude soothed her. He reminded her of her father. He had put everything before her just as he would have done.

“I suppose it will,” she replied meekly.

It touched him to the heart to see how the old fire had disappeared. All the arrogance of youth was gone, and every vestige of self-confidence had vanished for the time.

“When it comes to you—”

She put out her hand and he took it, as he might have taken the hand of a trusting, confiding child, and waited for the confession that he felt was impending.

“It is coming—now—it has come,” she said. “Last evening, when we were out on the terrace. Sir David asked me to be his wife.”

There was a little pause during which the hum of the insects among the clove-pinks and the soft cooing of the busy hoopoes on the gravel paths became audible. The brave soul sitting there had his own battle to fight. He could not have told when the change came to himself, and when Alauda ceased to be an interesting girl and became a lovable, desirable woman. He had never posed as a suitor, nor set himself to win her. A fastidious diffidence held him back. He was older than she was by several years; so was Dereham, for that matter. He believed, in his modesty, that she might do better, and win for herself a younger man. There was another obstacle that weighed heavily with him. He possessed very definite views about money. The husband should at least bring as much as his wife. Although he had expectations at the death of his father, his private means, enough for himself, were at present moderate, and could not compare with Alauda’s fortune. This in itself was sufficient to hold him back and keep him silent.

“Well, what did you reply?” he asked at length.

“I tried to say ‘No,’ but was not successful. He would take no answer until his return from Bangalore.”

“Wise fellow! And when he comes it will be ‘Yes.’”

There was no query in the words; they were uttered as an assertion of a fact about which there was no doubt. Alauda did not reply. A strange apathy had settled down upon her. It seemed as if nothing mattered now. The world was colourless, uninteresting; it might go as it would. Cheverell continued—

“I have not known Dereham for very long, but what I have seen of him I like. If you could find it in your heart to care for him, I think he would make you a good husband.”

He still held her hand, as though to give her fainting heart courage. He would have shielded her from harm if he could, and would have protected her from every breath of misfortune and sorrow. He would have bestowed upon her his best and asked for nothing in return.

“Do you believe that love, sufficient love, will come?”

“I hope—I think so,” he said, a little uncertainly. “You like him as a friend. Does he—does he bore you?”

“Not in the least; we are the best of friends. I have always found him a pleasant companion, such as the ideal husband should be. He told me that he thought marriage should be built on some such liking. But oh, Major Cheverell! I don’t know what to think, what to do! Tell me, just as father would have told me if he had been alive, whether I ought to marry. Tell me whether by-and-by—if—after I have had time to forget—will love ever come to me—again?”

The last word was spoken scarcely above a whisper; but he caught it.

“We all have our moments of madness, and dream dreams that can never be fulfilled. The heavens seem to open; reason is thrown to the winds as the luring vision unfolds itself. Then it vanishes with all its wonderful light and colour, leaving us shivering as if we had received a blow.”

“Ah!” she cried suddenly. “That’s how I feel— bewildered, dazed, and unable to think for myself.”

“It will pass. Life is not extinguished by such shocks. We take another view of it, leaving out the gilded visions. It is a prosaic give-and-take life, with many compensations, many pleasures, that we have to deal with. It may be commonplace, but it is very tolerable if we don’t expect too much.”

“And the love is commonplace, prosaic, and tolerable. Are you sure that I shall not find it irksome, and unhappy?”

She gave a little laugh, in which there was not much mirth.

“I can’t fancy unhappiness coupled with the name of Alauda, Alauda the woman, or Alauda the skylark,” he replied.

“You have been very good to me,” she said simply, as she lifted her eyes in gratitude to his, and looked straight into them, seeing all the goodness and honesty which lay in their depths, but nothing of the wealth of love that was behind.

She rose, and they walked back to the house as they came, his hand within her arm. They lingered by the bed of clove-pinks; and the shadow of a smile crossed her lips as she thought of Dereham and his desire to take her to see them. She could guess now what it was that underlay the wish. Then she remembered Cheverell’s favourite flowers.

“After all, I haven’t seen the gloxinias,” she cried.

“They must keep for another time. You’ll have to go and see them with Dereham. It is time you were riding home. Make Caesar put his best foot foremost.”

He helped her into the saddle. She rode away into the sunshine, her white sunhat dancing as Caesar’s hoofs rattled under him.

“Alas! how easily things go wrong.
A sigh too many! a kiss too long!’”

he quoted. “Thank God! it hadn’t got to that! They will recover themselves, and there won’t be much mischief done. I wonder if I was right in giving her that advice. After all, I only know Dereham as I find him. I am totally ignorant of his past.”

He went into the house, and was presently hurrying through breakfast. There was much to be done; and much had been left undone while he attempted to pour balm on a wounded soul.

Chapter XIX

Dharma Govinda arrived at Hosur tired and dejected. He had failed in securing any notable barrister to defend his father’s case. The man he had engaged, he discovered, after making the arrangement, had been signally defeated recently in a land dispute not unlike that in which his father was involved.

Govinda had also failed in his endeavour to get the case removed and placed under the jurisdiction of an Englishman. It was to be tried before a native judge in the territory of Mysore, where both litigants were resident. In justice to that worthy, it must be said that he administered the law to the best of his ability, and was held in honourable esteem by Englishmen; but on account of his nationality men like Dharma Govinda’s father were unable to credit him with the impartiality of a European. Had they been persuaded to believe in his integrity, there would have been a certain amount of contempt in their minds. The Hindu is conservative to the backbone. In his advocacy of reform, his wowed aim is the restoration of a past that appears gilded to his florid imagination, rather than the institution of new methods. He is suspicious of all innovations. They are strange and unfamiliar, and he does not know how to act with regard to them. Whereas, with the old order, he is quite at home. He judges by the old standards used by his forefathers, and shapes his conduct accordingly. Certain virtues and certain weaknesses are to be found under the brown skin. It is bewildering when through western teaching they are displaced.

The car went to the Malur station in the early morning as Govinda had ordered, but no train arrived. There had been an accident on the line; a derailed engine with some trucks blocked the way. Dharma Govinda was imprisoned in his first-class compartment for the whole day.

The accident had happened at a spot that was far removed from human habitations, and out of reach of refreshment-rooms, and Govinda was kept starving as well as a prisoner.

Towards the afternoon the train resumed its journey. There was a stoppage at one of the larger stations of thirty minutes to give the starving passengers an opportunity of procuring food. Govinda purchased a tin of biscuits as being the only wailable food that was permissible to one of his caste. He had some difficulty in persuading the refreshment-room waiter to let him have it. It was not usual to sell the tins thus, the man complained. If every passenger bought a whole tin, there would be no biscuits left for retail to others. According to the rule of his caste, Govinda might eat the biscuits with impunity from a box opened by himself; but it would defile him to touch them if the box were opened by one of the pariah waiters.

There was an appetizing smell of cooked meat, coffee, curry, and all kinds of savoury English food, but Govinda was obliged to pass it by. His father had been put to some expense each time he returned from Europe to restore his caste. He could not possibly break it, and incur that expense just to satisfy the craving of his appetite on this occasion. So he ate his dry biscuits, and washed them down with copious draughts of water supplied by the old caste waterman at the station.

The train arrived at Malur at midnight. He was the only first-class passenger to alight. He inquired for the car, and learned that it had been waiting for him from sunrise to sunset. The chauffeur, hearing from the station-master that the train was not expected till four o’clock in the morning, took the car back to Hosur, promising to return at the hour when the train was due. The chauffeur had been without food all day long except for a few bananas that he had purchased of the waterman, and he had his own reasons for wishing to go home. He made his master’s mother, the big mistress, his excuse; she would be troubling herself over the delay in her son’s return.

There was nothing to be done but to wait till the car made its appearance. Govinda had a few hard words for the station-master, who was of a lower caste than himself. With the wire at his service, he ought to have been better informed as to the time when the line would be cleared and the train expected at Malur.

The station-master, with many apologies and expressions of regret that so honourable a gentleman should have been put to so much inconvenience, placed the waiting-room at his disposal. Having bustled and hustled the two porters in attendance, and delivered several unnecessary orders in a loud tone of voice, he slipped away to his own quarters, determining to stay there till the arrival of the next train, which was not due till daylight.

Dharma Govinda had plenty of time for reflection. He could not sleep. The mosquitoes were troublesome, and the snatches of slumber that he had taken in the train deprived him of any inclination to close his eyes. He had ample opportunity therefore of reviewing the events of the past few weeks. He was puzzled at the continuation of his ill-luck. Having got rid of the horse of misfortunes to his ownership of the animal. It was in Dereham’s possession, and on his head should the curses of the gods fall.

He tried to think of some other influence that might possibly be working against him, but he could recall nothing. No ill omen of any kind had come to him either in the house or upon the road. He had studied the flight of the Brahminy kites, and found them augur well. He had encountered no widows. The chirrup of the lizards on the walls of the house where he was staying had been propitious; he could not understand why bad luck should dog his steps in this fashion.

There was only one solution to his difiiculty. He must consult a soothsayer, and ask him to examine his horoscope to see if the stars were fighting against him. He did not remember hearing that there was to be an unpropitious crisis in his life just at this period. The wise man would also be able to suggest something by which the spell might be broken. A pilgrimage to some temple, with the car as a conveyance, might be quickly accomplished. There would be no personal inconvenience attached to it, except that it would take time; and just now time was rather precious.

The Flaming Torch must appear regularly in justice to its subscribers, and it must keep up their interest. He had done his best from Madras to supervise the editor and restrain his zeal. There was nothing in the coming edition that could involve the mysterious proprietor of the paper or the editor. The latter was rash and hot-headed, an extremist whom nothing would satisfy but a martyr’s crown. He required a firm hand and a watchful eye to steer him clear of the police.

At four o’clock in the morning the car came up to the station. The sleepy watchman announced the fact that the master had been waiting for four hours, and was not in the best of tempers, and then went off to rouse Govinda and inform him of its arrival.

Govinda lost no time in transferring himself and his luggage to the car. He had a sharp word of reproof for his man. It was met by the assurance that no less a person than the station-master himself had ordered him to return to the house. It was against the rules of the company to allow wheeled vehicles to remain longer than a certain time in the station-yard. Govinda did not wait to verify the tale, but entered the car and ordered him to drive home quickly.

He had already written at length to his father, and there was no hurry to give his mother a history of his doings in Madras; so when he reached his house a little before sunrise, he went at once to his room to rest, and if possible to sleep. The roar of the train still lingered in his ears, and would remain there until he could lose himself in slumber.

His attendant, in anticipation of his master’s requirements, had some coffee ready on a pan of charcoal. There was also a supply of the freshly made rice cakes that are eaten with the morning coffee. The chota hazri was acceptable to the weary traveller; so also was the removal of the English clothes and the substitution of a more comfortable native dress. The sun was above the horizon when he threw himself on the broad couch and stretched his tired limbs under a scarlet quilt.

He had not lain there more than half an hour when he was roused by the voice of his trainer, Wyres, in the verandah, who was demanding in very plain language to see him.

“I don’t care if he is sleeping or in bed. I must have a word with him one way or another. I can go into his room if he is lying down. Lor! I often see gentlemen in their beds, if it suits their convenience!”

It is doubtful if the servant understood much of what Wyres was saying, for he knew very little English; but Chandraswamy, coming out of a room off the verandah, where he did secretary work for his patron, heard and understood.

“Can’t I take a message?” he asked.

“Yes, you can, young man. Tell Mr. Dharma Govinda that I’m not at all satisfied with the horse, and I want to talk to him about it.”

“What is the matter with it?”

“It behaves strangely. The women would say that it was overlooked or bewitched; but I don’t believe in the evil eye, as much as in the evil doings of these devils of syces. No wonder the father of mischief is painted black. That Gopal is a young limb of his, I’m sure; and I must have him dismissed or shifted to another job!”

By this time Govinda had clothed himself sufficiently to maintain his dignity as he appeared before the trainer.

“Beg pardon for disturbing you, sir,” said Wyres, catching sight of him. “I’ve been wanting to have a word with you for some days past, but you’ve been away.”

“Yes, Mr. Wyres, I had business in Madras, a law-suit; and I had to see my solicitor and counsel,” explained Govinda, with a touch of pride.

“Indeed, sir! I wish you luck. I never had anything to do with the law myself, though I had a cousin who was a clerk in a lawyer’s office.”

“I suppose it’s about the horse that you have come. Is anything wrong with it?” asked Govinda, as he seated himself in a chair and signed to his trainer to sit down also.

His experience in England had taught him the rules of western etiquette, and however much he disclaimed against the white-face in his oratorical flights, he never lost an opportunity of showing how admirably he could play the European host.

“It’s ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to that question,” replied Wyres, enigmatically. “The horse is sound in wind and limb, and when it chooses to go, it can go; but the more I train it, the lazier it gets. It takes food all right, and I have no reason to think that it is sick. I don’t understand its sluggishness unless drugs are being used. It had a reputation at the Company’s stables for temper. It will do nothing at the meet unless I can wake it up.”

“What food are you giving it?”

“The same that we give in Bangalore. The only difference between the training here and there is that here we have no company for the horse except what you have in the stable, and they are carriage horses. Over there it will be with a lot of other racers that are putting their best foot foremost; they will set it a good example. If you don’t mind, Mr. Dharma Govinda, I want you to allow me to take the horse over to my place at Bangalore at once instead of waiting till later as we had arranged.”

“What about the cost?”

“It will cost you no more—perhaps not so much as it is costing you now with me here alone with the horse.”

Govinda considered for a few seconds, and then said that he had no objection.

“You spoke well of the horse, Mr. Wyres; and I have been telling all my friends that I have something good in my stables. I don’t want to disappoint them, as I believe they will put some money on it.”

The Englishman looked serious. “Have you heard of that horse of Sir David’s that he’s named the Saint?

“I know that he has a horse training with one of the Bangalore men; it is a troublesome brute I’m told, that won’t start or keep on the course when it has started; but I didn’t know it was named the Saint.”

“It’s odd, isn’t it, that he should have fixed on the very name we chucked? The luck has gone over with it, for I hear it’s coming on A 1 with Gamboll, and losing all its trickiness. We shall have to do our best if we want to beat it, and I feel that I am not getting on here as I should.”

There was real anxiety on the face of the trainer. He had his heart sufficiently in his profession to wish to succeed, apart from the earning of his living.

“It does not matter what name Sir David gives his horse. It carries on its body an unlucky mark that will bring misfortune to its rider and its owner as well as itself. It’s the kind of horse that I never would have bought myself,” replied Govinda, unblushingly.

“Those sort of superstitions are all very well for you native gentlemen, and I dare say they come true as often as not; but your sayings don’t affect us. Your lucky and unlucky markings won’t hold good in a race meet got up by Englishmen. The only thing that might affect us with this horse of yours—only mind, I’m not superstitious—is the change of name, and not the letter. It was a piece of bad luck Sir David hitting upon the very name we cast aside.”

“You think that unlucky marks which affect us do not affect Europeans?” asked Govinda, not without anxiety.

“I feel sure of it,” replied Wyres, with an earnestness that belied his disavowal of being superstitious.

This was a new view of the situation that had not presented itself to Govinda hitherto. He had no faith in the luck having gone with the change of name, because he knew that the horse which Wyres was training had never borne the name of the Saint, but that fact he was obliged for obvious reasons to keep to himself. What troubled him most was the suggestion that Oriental omens of good and evil fortune had no effect on Europeans, By that rule a horse ridden and owned by Dereham might carry everything before it, however unlucky the marks upon its body might be, if the owner were up. The theory worked equally in the converse direction. The lucky mark on his own horse would be nullified partially or totally, and good fortune held in abeyance with a European in the saddle. It seemed unfair, and was another piece of injustice imposed by the ruling race upon the conquered people.

“Have you any man—a native—in Bangalore who could ride this horse and help you to train it?” asked Govinda.

“I might find one if I inquired; but I thought you wanted me to ride the horse,” replied Wyres, with a lifting of the eyebrows.

“We need not settle it just at present.”

“Is this horse marked in any particular way?” asked Wyres, with sudden illumination.

“I told you before that according to the syces it bears a lucky mark. I haven’t examined it very closely myself.”

“In that case I see your point about putting up a native jockey. But there! these men are all alike. You never know what hanky-panky they may be up to. A native jockey will ride for his own advantage. If it happens to be to your advantage so much the better for you. I know the whole blooming lot from their heads to their heels. And that reminds me of something else I wanted to ask you. I would like a change of syce. I’m not pleased with Gopal; not that he has been impudent or idle—I have my own way of dealing with those sort of tricks—but when a horse doesn’t look as I think it should, and I can’t see any reason for it, the first thing I do is to sack the syce,”

Govinda was placed in a slight difficulty by the trainer’s request. He could not dismiss Gopal for certain reasons which he kept to himself. It was undesirable just now to quarrel with him or give him offence. Chandraswamy, who had been standing close by, a silent listener to the conversation, said something in his own language. Govinda’s brow cleared, and he turned to Wyres.

“There’s a syce here who has been in my service a couple of years. You might give him a trial. He’s a Muhammadan, and has served me well. I can find something for the other fellow to do, so we need not turn him adrift, unless, of course, you have any definite charge against him.”

“I have my suspicions, but I can’t prove them,” said Wyres.

“Has he been tampering with the food?”

“Well, sir, to tell you the truth I suspect that he has been drugging the horse.”

Govinda relapsed into thought, and Wyres added, “I don’t know what his object would be. It can’t do him any good.”

“Give this other man a chance, and move the horse to Bangalore as soon as you like, the sooner the better,” said Govinda, rising from his seat to put an end to the interview,

Wyres left in a more hopeful frame of mind. He meant well by his employer, and intended to do his best by the horse. He was pleased at the prospect of joining his wife and children, and he felt that he would have a better opportunity in his own stables of “bringing on” his charge. It was not his custom to put money on the races. The honour of success was sufficient for him, and it brought him credit as a good trainer.

Cassim, also, was satisfied with the arrangement, since the scheme had been of his own devising, though Gopal had carried it out. The Muhammadan had his own private reason for wishing to return to Bangalore, where he desired to stay until after the races. It was important that he should be attached to one of the trainer’s stables, and have a right to consort with the grooms.

Gopal was not displeased to be relieved of the close supervision of the exacting trainer, who permitted no shirking. He transferred his duties at once, without waiting for the departure of Wyres to Bangalore, and that evening he bore the basket of cocoanuts to the little temple near the lake. Chandraswamy explained that he had been able to procure through some English friend of Govinda’s, a number of new recipes for the manufacture of coloured fireworks. The cost was small, and he proposed to have a number ready for the cracker feast. The display at the temple, with the water for a foreground, should exceed anything they had ever had before. It was a yearly event, and was always looked forward to with eagerness by the inhabitants of the town.

When Wyres departed, Govinda returned to his couch, hoping to snatch a couple of hours’ sleep before devoting himself to a pile of papers on the writing-table. Scarcely had he drawn up the quilt, when a jingle of bullock bells and a creaking of cart wheels sounded outside. Chandraswamy entered the room with an apologetic cough.

“Your honour’s honourable father has arrived,” he said.

The old figure, wrapped in the chudder shawl, followed close upon the heels of the young Hindu. He had been travelling all night from Mysore, a journey that his son was accustomed to make by his car in an hour. He had had an excellent supper before starting, and had enjoyed a good night’s rest on the old mattress. Indeed, sleep was still lingering in his keen, deep-set eyes as he scrambled up the verandah steps with bare feet, eagerly asking for his son.

Govinda once again threw aside the quilt, and raised himself into a sitting position, drawing his feet up as his father had done on a former occasion when he had seated himself on the couch. He resigned himself with a sigh to the inevitable, and gave up all thought of a nap until after the midday meal, when the whole household, including his parents, would require sleep. He welcomed his father with due respect, being the good son that he was, and made room for him on the sofa by his side.

The old man divested himself of some of his clothing, and took the seat, settling himself comfortably for a long talk. He pulled out an ancient bag that served as a pocket, and produced some fresh betel leaves with the usual accompaniments, rolled a toothsome morsel for his son and heir, and prepared another for himself.

Litigation is the breath of life to the Hindu. The case, in spite of its uncertainties, had revivified him and aroused the energy that had marked the man throughout his existence. He had entered into the contest with the zest of youth, determined to carry it on to the very end.

“So, my son, you failed to get any of the men to defend us whom we desired,” he said.

“The luck was against us from the very first; and our cousin is as sly as a snake in the grass field.”

“If I had had as much as a hint that he intended to dispute my title to the estate, I would have spoken to Mr. Langham,” said the old man. “There was that arab I took from one of my customers who could not pay ready cash. After it killed its syce, I had great difficulty in selling it, and the sum I got was nothing to speak of. We might have sent it to Mr. Langham as a gift. It was a handsome animal, and he would never have known of its wickedness. The gift would have influenced him in our favour, and would probably have secured us his services.”

“I am not sure that you are right, father,” replied Govinda. “Our cousin was very early in the field.”

“Did you hear anything in Madras?”

“I spent some time in Mr. Langham’s godowns, and made presents to the servants. Of course I could not go in my English clothes. From the butler I learned that as long ago as last Christmas the plaintiff went to see Mr. Langham, carrying with him a diamond ring. He asked many questions, when Mr. Langham would be disengaged, and whether he could take up the case. He explained what he wanted, and obtained a promise that the gentleman would act for him.”

“And we knew nothing! nothing!” cried the old man with vexation. “Our ignorance has been of more advantage to him than his own wisdom. The tiger’s strength is of no use if it does not know where to strike. Did you find out whether the fee was paid?”

“It was paid ten days ago, in notes and silver. Mr. Langham sent it to the bank the same day by the hands of his most trusted peon.”

“Does our pleader give any hope of success?”

“He says that if we could produce the title deeds, or will, or deed of gift, he could gain the case for us.”

“There are none, my son. Neither my cousin nor I have any.”

“He will produce some in Court.”

“Did you hear what they were?” the old man inquired eagerly.

“The nature of the documents has not been made known.”

“He is too clever for that. It is only by keeping his secret till it is too late for me to obtain evidence, that he can succeed. I have been in Mysore on business, and saw a notary who is clever with his pen. He is quite ready to prepare documents on old paper, or even to get them engraved on copper in ancient characters, if I can give him a description of the deeds my cousin intends to produce; but I can’t do that, and our ignorance is the plaintiff’s strength. Is it possible that we can discover what foundation he has for his claim from Mr. Langham?”

“I called on Mr. Langham, in proper style, after I had spoken with his butler, driving up to his house with a carriage and pair of horses. I told him I had arrived that very day,” said Govinda, complacently retailing his doings whilst his father nodded his head approvingly at his son’s cleverness. “I asked him if I might be told the grounds on which my cousin claimed the property, but he could give me no information. He said he had not had time to go into the case yet; and when I pressed him, he declared that I was ill-advised to seek an interview at all. If there was need of discussion, I ought to send the pleader we had engaged to defend us.”

“So you discovered nothing?”

“Nothing, except that the case will come before the native judge.”

“It is a pity. Times are greatly changed, and the country is not what it was. No good ever came of trying to teach the crow to caw in a new fashion; nor will a dog ever do more than bark, however much Government may spend over its education. Let us have justice in the old way, I say,” said the old Hindu.

“What else did you do in Mysore?” asked his son.

The question roused the father into an animated description of his actions. He had not been idle by any means.

“As soon as I received your letter, I hurried off to the house of the judge, carrying with me a roll of notes. I tried to see him, but could not gain admittance. I waited for two whole days, hoping to catch him as he came out. On the afternoon of the second day he appeared, and was about to step into his carriage when I ran forward and threw myself at his feet. He took no notice of me; I might have been a stick or a stone.” In his indignation his voice rose to a shrill scream. “I cried for ‘justice! justice!’ and you would have thought that at least he would have asked my name. But he passed on. I rose to my feet and ran after the carriage as it drove away. I threw the roll of notes so that it fell into his lap.”

“What did he do?” asked Govinda, with some curiosity at the result of this old-fashioned method of dealing with judges.

“You will scarcely believe it when I tell you. He picked up the roll and threw it back. I could have understood if he had opened the packet and counted the notes, but he did nothing of the kind. I should have known then that the sum was not large enough, that my cousin had offered a larger. When the tiger neighs like a horse, what is one to think?”

“There was nothing else to be done,” commented Govinda.

“Nothing else to be done!” the old man shrieked in his excitement. “That was not the manner of my father and my father’s father! There are other ways of crossing the river besides the bridge. I put on some old and stained garments, threw ashes on my head, and sat upon the steps of his house all day long bemoaning my fate. I let it be known among the peons that my family was numerous, and that my son, Dharma Govinda, had a terrible temper and the courage of a fighting bull; that I had many nephews and cousins all young and strong and fierce men, each possessing a high sense of justice. They would take care to see that I had my rights. I told the tale of how my great-grandfather in Tippu’s days treated an unjust judge who gave a case against him; how he caught him as he was travelling in a lonely place, bound his servants, and then buried the judge up to his neck in the ground, besmearing his shaven head and face with much treacle so that the ants came.”

“What did the people of the house say?” asked Govinda.

“They only laughed, the shoemaking outcasts! saying that those good old days of swadeshi were gone. I replied that they were gone only as long as the gods permitted, and they might return any day.”

“Violence is of no use, my father, in these days when we have the police always prying about, unless we use it in the name of patriotism. Perhaps, after all, we should have done better to have engaged a native pleader,” said Govinda.

“No! no!” replied the old man with decision. “Our opponent is too rich! He can buy anything he wants except the Englishman, and him he will deceive. The next thing we must do is to try and intimidate the plaintiff. It is too late to make him withdraw, but it may at least be possible to induce him to moderate his claims.”

“Take care.”

“Shuh! you have no more courage than a cat! Leave me to go my own way. Old bullocks need no guiding; they know the road they have travelled over all their lives. Let my cousin have a care of himself lest he pay dearly for his victory. Cholera is not always sent by the gods—there be men—”

He checked himself as the attendant entered.

“The big mistress asks to see your honour,” he said.

It was with a sigh of genuine relief that Govinda watched his father depart for the women’s quarters. If there was one thing more than any other that he detested, it was violence; and his father was becoming very violent.

Chapter XX

Doubt and indecision were not characteristic of Alauda Lawrence; nor on the other hand was hastiness of action. Her reliance on her own judgment seldom left her hesitating between two courses.

Up to the time of her conversation with Cheverell in the verandah of the little bungalow, she had given Dereham’s proposal no consideration. Her mind was occupied with something else, and her thoughts centred round another world. It was Cheverell who brought her back to earth, who drew her from those visionary regions into which she had soared. He opened her eyes to the fact that life could not be spent on outstretched wings in the blue and gold of ethereal skies. It must be passed among the sombre browns and greens of the earth fields. Nay, more; the soaring must not be repeated. There must be no more song in the azure of the heavens; no more visions of a vague alluring bliss that was unattainable. By way of tethering her down to the realities of life, and raising an insuperable bar to that forbidden Eden, Cheverell counselled marriage. And she listened.

The advice was not altogether distasteful to Alauda. Marriage presented itself to her disturbed and chaotic mind as a wholesome discipline. She believed that by imposing upon herself certain obligations she would once and for all clip her rebellious wings, and put an end to all unreasonable dreams. In regard to the man who reminded her of her own father, she paid more heed to his advice than she was aware of, and was unconsciously influenced in coming to her decision.

Immediately breakfast was over she retired to her room, and sat down to write the letter. The sooner it was done the better, she thought, with a little sigh. It was short and straightforward. There was a masculine directness about it which an ardent lover ought possibly to have found disconcerting. Suddenly she stopped and threw down her pen. Did she want to be married? Why should she change her estate? She had been very happy up to the present, free to do as she pleased, make friends with whom she chose, and be answerable to no man for her words and actions. If she remained single she might possibly see more of—

A vision rose before her eyes that sent the hot blood racing through her veins. She beat it down ruthlessly, caught up her pen and continued writing with feverish haste until the letter was finished.

She addressed it, but left it unstamped on her table. With a smile that was critical she sought her aunt, intending to taste her first experience of what it was like to be engaged; it would give her a palpable sense of having entered the preliminary state to matrimony. If it proved unexpectedly irksome and galling, there was yet time to tear up the letter and write another.

Mrs. Quinbury sat in the boudoir that looked out upon the old bastion. The sound of the piano in the drawing-room told Alauda that Vida was not with her aunt. She walked into the room and said abruptly—

“I have written to accept Sir David.”

Mrs. Quinbury looked up at her in some surprise, “I didn’t know that he had proposed,” she said. There was a slight pause, and she continued quickly, in a more hearty tone, “I am so glad; I congratulate you. It is indeed good news.”

She spoke from the bottom of her heart, and followed up her felicitations with praise of matrimony generally. She also enlarged on the wisdom of marrying before youth was gone. Alauda listened in silence. She wondered if her aunt would have advocated marriage in the abstract so warmly had another name been mentioned, a foreign Asiatic name of an honoured princely house.

“Sit down and tell me all about it,” pleaded Mrs. Quinbury, watching her niece as she moved restlessly between the long open window and the spot where she was seated. “You will be envied by all the other girls. Sir David is looked upon with favour. He is one of the handsomest men I have ever met.”

The words only served to irritate the listener. She asked with a touch of impatience—

“Do looks really matter? Judging from what I have seen, I should say that six months’ constant intercourse between married people is conducive to an indifference that approaches blindness on that point. They are no longer capable of guaging the quality of each other’s looks.”

Mrs. Quinbury took refuge in generalities. Meeting with no response she said—

“I suppose you feel some sort of love for him or you would not accept him.”

Alauda turned upon her, and exclaimed fiercely, with eyes that shone—

“What is love?”

Yet even as she put the question she resumed her restless pacing to and fro. She knew that the answer would not satisfy her. She might as well have asked her matter-of-fact relative what existence was like in the planet Venus.

“Love!” replied Mrs. Quinbury with an odd little sigh that caused her niece to glance at her. “The sort of love that should exist between husband and wife is a warm sensible affection that makes a woman desire—”

“Oh!” exclaimed Alauda, stepping out of the window into the sunshine in desperation.

Bending her head over the tube-rose lilies she inhaled their scent, disturbing the morning repast of a green and black butterfly. In another instant she was back, again, repentant of her fit of impatience.

“Never mind the wife’s feelings. I shall find those out for myself. Tell me what is to be expected from the husband.”

“He will protect you and be a companion ever ready to advise. He will confide his troubles to you and—”

“Make a waste-paper basket of me, in short! Supposing I turn the tables on him and make a waste-paper basket of him!—only I can’t fancy myself doing anything of the kind!”

“A husband must not be bored with domestic worries—”

Mrs. Quinbury stopped short, for her niece had once more passed but into the blazing sunshine of the garden, hatless and without an umbrella.

“Come in! come in, Alauda! The sun is too hot for you to be out in it!” she cried in unusual perturbation.

“Why should the sun hurt me more than it hurts the Hindu gardener?” she asked rebelliously.

“Because you are not an Asiatic. That is a fact which you can never forget in this country. If you forget it the consequences are disastrous.”

“So I have already found to my cost,” she murmured to herself with a bitterness that escaped the ear of Mrs. Quinbury.

“I want to say something,” said the latter, divining at last that her niece was disturbed. “Sit down quietly for a few minutes and listen. I am afraid that you are uneasy because you do not feel that ecstatic happiness, that romantic bliss, which you read of in books, and which is represented as love. Girls in their teens may experience something of the kind; but when a woman is well on in the twenties, as you are, it must not be expected. You, with your independence and practical mind, are not likely to have your head turned with romantic love.”

“Were you ever in love, Aunt Barbara—I mean did you ever feel that—that ecstasy, as you call it?”

“Yes; years ago, when I was sixteen, I fell in love with one of the clerks in my father’s office. His name was Joshua. He had a lovely moustache, which I adored. I remember going to my father and asking him if he would allow Joshua to marry me. His face was a picture. I can see it now.” Mrs. Quinbury smiled at her recollections. “He looked at me in astonishment and a smile appeared on his face. Then seeing how serious I was, he said quite gravely: ‘We will consider it. Joshua hasn’t enough to keep a wife at present. I must promote him before we arrange for him to pay you attention.’ He sent for Joshua and, unknown to me, he offered to raise his salary if he would shave off his moustache. He had taken a dislike to moustaches, he said, as he could not grow one himself. Poor Joshua fell into the trap. The next time we met the lovely brown silky moustache was gone! With it went all my infatuation for Joshua. He had a large mouth, thick pale lips and a short chin. I couldn’t bear the sight of him. A month later my father said, ‘I’ve fixed up your wedding, Barbara, as you wished. I think Joshua is pleased; but he feels a little shy, as you have been cold and reserved lately.’ I burst into tears of fright and dismay. I cried, ‘I hate the sight of him!’ Father looked very serious as he replied, ‘This is a bad beginning, Barbara; I never heard of such fickleness in one so young. Do be more careful how you play fast and loose with the affections of young men.’ I never fell in love like that again. It was all the moustache. It really was the handsomest that I have ever seen,” concluded Mrs. Quinbury, reminiscently.

Alauda smiled, as she mentally contrasted herself with the placid woman who talked in even, gentle tones of her one romance in life. Her thoughts wandered from the platitudes that were being poured out, and her eyes turned towards the sunny garden once more, where the green and black butterfly feasted undisturbed upon the honey of the tube-rose lilies. She was roused from a day-dream by a question as to the circumstances of the proposal.

“I must tell you about it another time,” she said; leaving the room even more abruptly than she had entered it.

She went to the drawing-room where Vida was trying over the accompaniments to some of Assington’s songs.

“Stop and listen to my news,” she cried. “Sir David has proposed and I have accepted him.”

Vida looked at her curiously; something in the tone in which the announcement was made did not ring true. After a shght pause, which Alauda attributed to surprise, Vida congratulated her with a heartiness that was genuine. She was a sensible girl, and had discovered some time ago that there was very little hope of carrying off the baronet herself. She had already turned her attention elsewhere, with the result that Assington had brought a bundle of his songs to be tried over.

From the drawing-room Alauda went to her uncle’s study in her quest for experience. What would he think of the engagement, and would he have anything to say to upset her decision? With each announcement she felt that she was clipping her wings relentlessly and stifling the song of her heart.

Quinbury had donned the large pith hat that he wore when he went to his work. He was about to start for the Kutcherry and he looked at her with some surprise as she entered.

“Anything I can do for you?” he asked.

“Nothing, thank you, uncle. I have only come to tell you of my engagement to Sir David.”

His eyes dwelt upon her in deep contemplation. Congratulations had fallen readily enough from the lips of the others; but they were left unuttered by the silent observant man.

“I hope you are satisfied,” said Alauda, with a slight uplifting of the eyebrows.

“Have you definitely accepted Sir David’s offer?”

“I have written the note; it only remains to be posted.”

“Keep it till to-morrow. Always sleep on decisions that are important,” he said.

“I was just going to put the letter into the box in the hall.”

“Don’t; let it wait.”

“I’m not going to change my mind,” she replied, with something of her old self-confidence.

The faint breath of opposition which she recognized in her uncle’s words was as salt to a dish that so far had not much savour.

“You don’t know what you will do with to-morrow’s sun,” he said as he gathered up a bundle of papers from his writing-table and thrust them into a despatch-box. Then he looked up at her, not without a shadow of anxiety.

“I am in no doubt,” she replied, lifting her chin and throwing back her head.

He knew the gesture of old.

“I hope you will be happy,” he said.

“I mean to be,” she rejoined quickly. “Life, I take it, can be made what you wish. It is a question of will. I mean that mine shall be happy.”

As he was carried to the Kutcherry in his brougham her words rang in his ears. “A question of will! a question of will! So I once believed, but the East teaches another story.”

Some days later Dereham returned. He was wise enough to take his triumph quietly and without showing his extreme gratification. The rôle of accepted lover did not prove quite so satisfactory after a short experience as he had hoped. It was none the less interesting, however, since it was not exactly what he called a “walk over.” He found it difficult to break through the old-established relations. Alauda made no attempt to avoid him and exhibited no shyness in his presence. It was that very frankness and absence of self-consciousness that was embarrassing. She accepted his homage as she had accepted it before their engagement—as her right—and beyond this he could not pass. Friendliness there was; but without the sweet familiarity that lovers look for. Attention was graciously accorded to every wish he expressed, and if it was possible, she fell in with all his suggestions. She was ready to speak of the future without demur, and to discuss their plans before and after marriage. He was the one to feel awkward when she deliberately took up a calendar, saying—

“If we are to return to Europe in March, we had better be married in February. I will consult my aunt, and if the second week in that month suits her, we will fix it for that. Thursday would be a good day, as it is a military holiday. Your friends in Bangalore would probably find it convenient.”

What could he say but that he was delighted? The sooner the better as far as he was concerned. He threw her a glance which was intended to supplement his words, but it was lost upon her; she was deep in the study of the homeward sailings.

“There’’s a good steamer,” she continued—”one of the new P. and O. boats—leaving Bombay, March the tenth. I’ll write for a cabin at once, as there is sure to be a rush for passages. What do you say to a month on the Riviera, to allow the weather to warm up a bit before we go on to London?”

He could only reply that he was delighted to fall in with her plans. Yet as he listened and acquiesced he raged inwardly.

“I suppose this is what one must expect if one marries a woman with money,” he said to himself as he drove back to the Depôt, “But I am not marrying her for her money! Confound it all! I love her as I have never loved any woman before—and the devil knows I’ve had experience with the sex! I am struck dumb when she talks like that, and I’m paralyzed when I ought to be making way.”

Cheverell noticed that his guest was moody at times, and he was disturbed. Dereham’s future was so closely bound up with Alauda’s that it had suddenly assumed a new importance in his eyes. He questioned him about the horse. Everything was going well with it now that the groom had been changed. Gamboll had engaged a man he knew well and could trust, and the animal was coming on well. It had turned out tricky and troublesome in many ways, particularly in starting, and it had lost its good character for steadiness; but Dereham had ridden it himself frequently, and he spoke confidently of having overcome these difficulties.

“It is strange that the horse should have developed a bad disposition,” remarked Cheverell.

“Not at all,” replied Dereham. “It was in poor condition, compared with its present state, when I brought it up. Change of food and change of climate will make a horse a different creature.”

Cheverell watched him as he talked, and was satisfied that there was nothing in the stable to cause anxiety. Dereham had put a little money on the event, though it was not his habit to plunge heavily. The interest was sufficiently sustained by the excitement of winning; but now he seemed to have lost the enthusiasm with which he had entered the lists. Surely matters could not be wrong between the engaged couple? The engagement was being made public without haste. Cheverell had been informed of it by Alauda herself on the very morning on which she posted her letter to Dereham. She wrote a note, saying that she had taken his advice and had accepted Sir David. She added one sentence to her letter that stirred him more than a little: “You have been a good friend to me. Don’t let me lose your friendship in my new estate.”

He read the missive over more than once, and finally locked it in a certain despatch-box that held his will and other papers of a strictly private nature.

“Poor little girl!” was his comment, although Alauda was almost as tall as himself. “God grant that she may find her happiness in motherhood. Then and only then will she realize that she has taken the right course. Good Heavens! if—”

He thrust the thought aside; it was too repulsive to his inbred racial instincts as an Englishman to tolerate the vision of Alauda smiling down upon children who called her mother, and who bore the features and complexion of Adam-u-din.

“She has done right; she has done right,” he repeated again and again, as though to convince himself and get rid of a lurking doubt.

He saw less than ever of his visitor, who spent all his spare time at the castle, or in going over to Bangalore. One afternoon Cheverell wandered towards the little bungalow among the trees.

Brenda was occupied in superintending her gardener. He was building up a raised bed for eucharis lilies. Sonnie was playing close by in the shade of the pergola. His toys were wooden horses, which represented a fresh batch of troublesome Walers just arrived at the Depôt.

“Don’t stop working, Mrs. Breydon. I am in an idle mood, and shall enjoy watching your operations,” he said.

He seated himself on one of the garden chairs at the entrance of the rosary and she took another. Occasionally she rose and stood by the bed, giving her directions to the willing, if somewhat stupid, worker. Cheverell was content to remain silent. The retired spot never failed to impress him with a sense of peace. Until the day when he had brought Alauda there he had believed that it was the beauty and retirement of the spot that gave birth to the sensation. Now, as he watched the graceful figure of the woman clad in white, he realized that the garden, beautiful as she had made it, was only the background. It was in Brenda herself that the embodiment of peaceful happiness centred; her flowers were but the setting. The restfulness of the haven was to be found in the reflection of her own calm, shining happiness. It was her wifehood, her womanliness that appealed to his senses. Breydon was a lucky fellow to have secured such a wife. He wondered if Alauda would be like her when she married, whether happiness would overflow from her own superabundance upon those who surrounded her.

The bed of lilies was finished, and the last plant placed in position, when the servants brought out the tea.

“Your husband is coming home to tea, I suppose,” remarked Cheverell, as she seated herself before the table.

“He usually runs in for a cup. You will stay, won’t you?”

He was no stranger; and Brenda had lost her shyness and some of her reserve in his presence.

“The lilies ought to do well there,” she remarked, as she regarded the new flower-bed with satisfaction.

“You have stuffed it well with plants,” he replied, looking at the broad, glossy leaves. “You are fond of your garden, Mrs. Breydon.”

“It is a great pleasure.”

“And of your adopted son,” he added, gazing after the child as the ayah led him away to prepare for tea, an important meal in his little life. “By the way, you have never told me his history. How did you come to mother him?”

She caught her breath and was silent, turning to the tea-table to set the cups in order and rearrange the tray. When she had recovered herself she replied quietly—

“He was a little waif thrown in my way, and I took him, having no child of my own. Tim is as fond of him as I am.”

“Mother a native, and father a European,” he remarked more to himself than to her. Then he looked at her, and recalling Alauda’s words, said, “I should not wonder if you were the happiest woman in this place.”

She glanced at him in surprise. He had never before touched on her own personality. Her feminine intuition, however, told her that though he gazed at her so earnestly she was not the object of his thoughts.

“Perhaps,” she answered softly. “It would not be Tim’s fault if I were otherwise than supremely happy.”

“I suppose marriage consummates a woman’s happiness.”

“If she is fortunate in her choice.”

He stirred uneasily and played with the apostle spoon in his saucer.

“Of course I know that there is an ‘if,’ a big ‘if,’ in the business. Anyway, you have been fortunate.”

Again there was the personal note. She was puzzled. Had he heard anything? Was it possible that Dereham had dropped a hint? She grew hot at the mere thought of it. The peace of her mind was suddenly broken up like the glassy face of a pool with the casting of a pebble into its midst. She gathered her courage, and controlling her voice, asked a question which should set at rest the horrible uneasiness that had taken possession of her.

“What are you thinking of, Major Cheverell? You have something on your mind. Speak out; don’t keep me in suspense; let me hear it, good or bad.”

“I was thinking of Dereham.”

“Yes!” she said breathlessly. It seemed as though her heart stopped, and her pulse ceased to beat.

“A week ago he proposed to Miss Lawrence.”

“And she refused him!”

The words came out involuntarily and with an unusual sharpness. He turned in his chair and faced her, startled from his dreaminess by her tone, and assailed by sudden suspicion.

“No; she has accepted him,”

In the silence that followed, Cheverell’s mind worked rapidly. Mrs. Breydon did not approve; of that he was certain from her manner and from her studious restraint from congratulatory comment. What did she know of the man? There must be some reason for her behaviour.

“I can see that you do not approve of the engagement,” he said. As she did not reply, he continued, “I know nothing of Sir David beyond two years ago when I met him in London. I liked him and gave him an invitation to the Depôt if ever he came to India. Mrs. Quinbury speaks well of him—”

He stopped; it was difficult to proceed with his general praise of the man in the face of that stony silence. It was still more difficult to ask the questions that were burning on his lips. At this moment the ayah returned, bringing Sonnie. He ran forward eagerly.

“Mum! Ayah says that there are mangoes for tea. May I have one, Mum, dear Mum?”

His pretty pleading was irresistible; and he was promised his desire if he would first eat the plate of bread and butter cut for him. In his delight he laughed, and as he did so his eyes half closed, developing lines at their corners that were peculiar. They were an hereditary trait and not acquired,

Cheverell watched him with a quickened intelligence. He had seen that gesture before on the countenance of a man whose features he had had the opportunity of studying lately. He closely observed the curved lips, the expressive eyes, the shapely ear with its point in the thin, almost transparent flesh. Studying them under a new light, the same flash of inspiration came to him that had come to Brenda herself. If his suspicion was true, it would account for her hesitation in making any comment on the engagement. Leaning towards Mrs. Breydon, he laid a hand upon her arm.

“Tell me, who was that boy’s father?” he whispered.

“An English officer of—”

She named the station where Dereham’s regiment was quartered when he was with it.

“His name?”

“The boy’s mother would never divulge it. The secret died with her, poor thing.”

There was silence, a deep, comprehensive, eloquent silence. Then Cheverell said—

“The wishes of the dead must be respected for the sake of the living. Let us hope that the grave will keep the secret. Do you agree with me, Mrs. Breydon?”

“Yes; if it does no one living an injustice.”

He made no answer, and she turned to her duties at the tea-table, supplying Sonnie with his cup of milk, and her guest with tea and bread and butter.

Presently Tim came in. It was a relief to both to feel that the conversation under his guidance was once more flowing in an ordinary channel. When tea was over, Cheverell rose to walk back to the stables with Breydon.

“I came over to tell your wife of the engagement of Miss Lawrence to Sir David,”” he said, his eyes resting on Tim with unconscious curiosity.

He caught a swift exchange of glances between husband and wife.

“Had you heard of it?” he asked.

“No,” returned Tim, shortly. “Shall we start, sir? I want to get back as quickly as possible.”

They went out through the little gate into the grass field, and took the path that led to the stables.

“Were you in Dereham’s old regiment, Breydon?”

“No, sir.”

“Let me see, if I remember right, you were in the—”

He named the regiment, and the large military station where Tim had met Brenda.

“Yes; we followed Sir David’s. He had left by that time, having just come into the title, I believe. What shall we do, sir, about letting those bays go to the regiment at Bangalore? I should like to have had the schooling of them another couple of months; but it seems that they are in a bit of a hurry for them.”

The conversation passed to matters concerning the stables, and Tim had no more uncomfortable questions to parry.

That evening, when he had finished dinner and was smoking his cigar in the verandah, where Brenda sat sewing by the light of her lamp, he said—

“This is a bad business.”

She knew what he meant, “I have been thinking of it ever since Major Cheverell mentioned it,” she said.

“I saw it coming.”

“You may have seen it on his part, but I cannot believe that she loves him,” she replied, remembering the evening in the garden when Alauda and Adam-u-din had taken tea with her.

“A good-looking chap like Dereham usually gets his way with the women; they can’t stand against him if he chooses to make love,” said Tim, with a touch of bitterness.

He did not intend to hurt her, but her sensitiveness had been revived by what had passed that afternoon. She was nervous and disturbed at the news.

“Tim, how can we stop it? She is too good for him. He will blight her whole life if she puts her happiness in his keeping. Some one ought to open her eyes to his true character.”

“Who is to do it?” he asked, looking at her.

“I can’t! You can’t!” she cried, throwing down her work. Her fingers trembled so much that she could no longer use her needle. “Yet, if we can’t, who can? We are the only people here who know the story. Oh! it is impossible! We must leave it. I could not bear to speak of the past to any one but you; and even to you I have said little. You have been so good! so kind! You asked no questions, not even his name. Oh! why has he come into our lives again to trouble us, when we were so happy?”

She bowed her head on her folded hands, as the rare tears fell. Tim’s cigar was thrown out into the garden, and his strong arms were round his wife. She felt the comfort of their shelter, and nestled into them like a terrified bird that has been stung by the cruel shot of the sportsman’s gun,

“You leave it all to me,” he said bravely, “As I told you before, I’ve taken this business on myself. If she has to learn the story, I’ll see that she learns it without dragging your name into it.”

She allowed herself to be comforted, although she was inwardly convinced that it would not be done by her husband, however willing he might be to spare her; but through her own woman’s wit. Tim had every intention of carrying out the disagreeable task that he was undertaking. All the same, it was not at all to his mind. It was like hitting a man in the dark to tell tales about him, even if they were true. If it was necessary, he could do it, but he would have preferred to have tackled the worst tempered horse that had ever found its way into the Remount stables.

Chapter XXI

There was a great beating of drums and droning of pipes in the compound of Govinda’s house at Hosur. A celebrated soothsayer had been invited to pay him a visit. Business and pleasure were to be combined; he was to be entertained, and at the same time, with the payment of certain fees, he was to be consulted concerning the run of bad luck that had overtaken the family of late.

The preparations for his reception were on a magnificent scale, and the motor-car was sent to bring him from Bangalore. He was pleased with the attention, and highly delighted with the car; but he declined to make use of it. He preferred to travel after his customary manner, in a palanquin. The chauffeur was instructed to take his place immediately behind the bearers, and to follow closely at their heels. The large vehicle, shining with varnish and polished brass, suited its pace with difficulty to that of the bearers, and panted laboriously in its restraint. It formed an imposing addition to the little procession. The scarlet curtains and tinsel decorations of the old-world palanquin, the chanting of the bearers, the drumming of the tom-toms, the wheezing of the motor with occasional explosions, the droning of the pipes, made a curious picture of ancient Orientalism inset with the latest occidental innovation. The chauffeur, being a Hindu, submitted to the decree without a word. It was true that he preferred to sweep along the roads like the wind, leaving to the gods and to fate the safety of the luckless creatures that happened to be in his path; but on an occasion like this, it was to the utmost advantage of the car that it should come under the beneficence of the magician. It would accumulate a store of good fortune which would render it immune from accidents for some time to come.

The soothsayer was received by the women of the family with every mark of respect. Hands were pressed to foreheads; heads and knees were bowed with many ejaculations of respect. Govinda, accompanied by his father, came out, descending the verandah steps to welcome the guest, who did not attempt to stir from his cushions until this honour had been accorded. He was conducted into the house, and led to the courtyard, upon which the kitchen opened.

Govinda’s father began at once to pour out his troubles; but the wise man was tired and hungry. The journey from Bangalore, which might have been made in an hour by the car, had taken from sunrise until three o’clock in the afternoon by the palanquin.

The sun had set before the magician was ready for his divinations. A substantial gift was presented, and various substances required in the ceremonies were brought at his request. The whole household assembled in a state of breathless expectation to witness his method of divination, and to hear his pronouncements. As they waited, whispers went round among the company of the greatness of the power of the wonderful man, who could read the will of the gods and advise men how to circumvent the still more important will of the devils.

Lamps were lighted, and he began his strange ritual by drawing a circle with chalk on the floor of the court-yard. Squatting in the centre, he burned strange substances in a new earthenware pan. Light, transparent flames leaped up as the powder touched the smouldering charcoal, and they swayed in the evening air. Blue smoke ascended, and there was a crackling like the snapping of small twigs. He bent his ear and listened, shook his head as though things were not going well, and cast on fresh powder. The sharp chirrup of a lizard sounded overhead.

He rose with an impatient gesture and demanded a second earthenware pan. The whole ceremony was performed again with the same result, except that instead of the chirrup of the lizard, an audible groan issued from the column of smoke. Its effect was electrical, and there were expressions of alarm among the women.

“Something casts a spell of evil on this house,” he said at length. “Is there a man or a woman or a child in the family who lies under the displeasure of the gods?”

He was assured by Govinda that there was no such person in the domestic circle. He took out a crystal from a little bag that he wore by a cord round his neck and held it in his hand. He fixed his eyes upon it in dreamy contemplation for the space of five minutes.

“I see a horse. It is ridden by an Englishman, and it bears on its chest an unlucky mark. There is death in the mark for the horse and its rider, and misfortune for the owner and his family.”

“Swami, the horse that I own has a lucky mark,” exclaimed Govinda, eagerly. “Do I not speak the truth?” he added, appealing to the various inmates of the house who were present.

His words were confirmed by half a dozen voices that described the mark borne by the animal. The wise man received the information with an unsatisfied grunt, and once again applied himself to the crystal.

“There is a horse, a racing horse. It has a bad temper; a small devil hides in the hair of its ear and commands it to do wicked deeds. Low down on its breast is the curl of evil fortune. An English officer comes. He speaks to the trainer who sits in the saddle with words of command, as though the horse belonged to him; but it is not his property. He did not pay for it; he did not choose it; and though he alone gives the orders, he is not its owner, and the little devil in its ear laughs.”

A dead silence followed this reading of the crystal. As Govinda listened his jaw fell, and his dark complexion yellowed with fear. He tried to speak, but his tongue was dry, and the words refused to come. The story of the exchange of the horse was well known to the household; but his father had been left in ignorance of it. The mind of the old man was so full of his lawsuit that he had no thought for the amusements of his son. The racing, like the car and other fancies, was a plaything that pleased the boy and was no concern of his.

“What is this about the horse?” he asked of Govinda.

With stammering lips Govinda told the story of his purchase, and how he had tried to circumvent fate by effecting an exchange of the horses unknown to the Englishman. The soothsayer listened. He had come from Bangalore where there was a bazaar. An Indian bazaar is a perfect mine of information. It is the business of the professional soothsayer to gather through his disciples all that there is to be learned about his clients’ affairs, otherwise the lucidity of the crystal may be impaired. The wise man had not been remiss in this matter, and he was able to explain the reading of the crystal without difficulty.

“Is the money paid for the horse?” he asked.

“It was paid by cheque before I left Madras, and I have the receipt,” said the unhappy Govinda.

“Show it to me.”

He hastened to his room and returned with the stamped receipt. The soothsayer took it and regarded it wisely, frowning over the little document as he was accustomed to frown over his own cabalistic ciphers. He turned it all ways, and after smelling it with a deep inhalation, laid it beside the crystal. Once more he applied his eye to the mysterious depths of the transparent stone. Then the oracle spoke, and the assembly waited open-mouthed to hear the decree.

“The holder of this paper is the owner of the horse; and though others may feed and groom it, it belongs to no one else.” He paused to allow the full import of his words to be comprehended. “It bears a very bad mark on its body, which means nothing less than death to its rider, and loss of character and riches to its owner. The gods have written it up with their fingers, and who shall compel them to unsay what they have said?”

“Is there no way of getting rid of the beast?” asked Govinda’s father presently, seeing that his son was incapable from sheer terror of putting any question to the magician.

“The horse might be sold, even if it were only for a rupee, and the evil fortune would pass with the purchase; but it must be done openly and knowingly between the buyer and the seller.”

“The exchange, swami! Was the exchange of no use?” cried Govinda, wriggling in mental agony on the mat where he was seated.

“Evil cannot be passed on thus. If the horse had been stolen and not exchanged it would pass.”

“Is there no other way?” asked the old man, who was gradually realizing that the unfortunate transactions of his son were at the bottom of all the recent ill-luck.

The soothsayer muttered a muntrum and applied himself to his crystal.

“There is one other way of removing the ban from this house, if it can be accomplished.”

“Speak. No money shall be lacking if money can do it,” said the father.

“The horse must die; it is its fate. The evil luck will die with it.”

“Is there any way of ensuring success if an attempt is made to bring about its death?”

“There is a holy man who by his long-practised self-denial can compel the gods to listen. For seven years he has lain upon a bed of nails. Place in my hands a sufficient sum of money, and let every inmate of this house make a gift of jewellery. I will carry the offerings myself to the swami, and plead in your name for favour. If I prevail and he intercedes, the means you adopt, whatever they may be, will prove successful.”

“And what are they, excellency? What shall be done?” inquired the old man, who was keenly alive to his own interests, and had every intention of getting all that he could for his money out of the soothsayer.

“Poison administered in sugar-cane. The syce can manage it if he is bought. No money must be spared in removing the bad luck under which your honourable house lies.”

“What about the horse with the lucky mark which my son is keeping, and of which he is supposed to be the owner?”

“Rightly it belongs to the English officer, who bought it and paid for it, and who has unknowingly exchanged it; but on the death of the other horse it will no longer be an exchange. It may then be considered as stolen; and a stolen animal, whether it be a dog or a horse or a cow, carries the luck marked by the gods upon its body to its new owner.”

There was a chorus of praise from the audience, Govinda breathed again; and his practical father set about collecting at once what was required to be presented to the ascetic of the nail bed. He added a handsome gift on behalf of his son and himself, and the wise man promised that it should prevail.

When the sitting was over, the guest was ministered to by the women, who vied with each other in showing him attention. Each had a little personal request to make on her own account which necessitated the bestowal of more gifts. Nothing was too small or trifling for the great man’s acceptance. Copper coins and brass jewellery from those who could afford nothing better were as welcome as the gold and silver of the richer folk.

At dawn, the following day, the soothsayer departed in his palanquin. The brilliant scarlet drapery and the glittering tinsel of the ancient vehicle of travel carried more weight with the gaping crowd in the street than the shining motor-car. Only the holy, the wise, and the rich travelled thus. The hated arrogant Feringhi used the car, so said the young students. There was nothing in the hooting, spitting machine, breathing out smoke and bad smells, to inspire respect though it might engender fear. It was a marvel, no doubt; but the mystery of its mechanism had long since been dispelled by familiarity with the fire-carriages on the iron road, by which they travelled when they made pilgrimages to the big temples of the south. The car was not requisitioned this time to swell the procession, and the soothsayer departed in the golden light of the morning, as his predecessors had departed for centuries before him. The red umbrella was lifted above the palanquin; the long tin trumpet blared; the tom-tom drummed, and the reed pipes squealed; the dust curled in clouds from beneath the feet of the chanting bearers; the naked brown-skinned children, silenced in their awe of the great man, stared round-eyed and open-mouthed, showing gleaming white teeth and ruby tongues between their dark lips. Women salaamed repeatedly with hands pressed palm to palm. Men stood respectful and silent, watching closely for the passing glance of good luck that might be caught from the magician as he was carried past. The clock might have been put back a thousand years.

Quinbury, taking his morning drive, passed the procession on the Bangalore road. His wife remarked on the picturesqueness of the scene.

“That is India, pure and simple, and the people understand it,” he remarked. “We hold all that sort of thing in great contempt. I am not sure that we don’t make a mistake. It is a very impressive manifestation of superiority in the eyes of the masses.”

“Surely you don’t mean that the English officials should adopt that method of travelling? Fancy yourself going to the Kutcherry every day in a bespangled palanquin, accompanied by a discordant racket of drums and trumpets!”

“It would produce a sensation of respect, and a belief in my power as an officer of the State, which my modest brougham and unornamental sun-hat are incapable of producing. The old Company’s servants travelled in that manner; they were shrewd enough to understand the power of the umbrella, and passed stringent laws regarding its use within their own settlements.”

“It is much more sensible to educate people out of such childish displays, and to teach them that colour and noise do not necessarily imply wisdom and strength.”

“And so we force our own opinions and methods on the people we govern, regardless of the proverb that advises us to do in Rome what Rome does!” replied her husband, unconvinced.

Govinda, having seen the soothsayer depart, assisted his father into the pony-cart that was to convey him back to his own house.

“The horse must die before the case comes on. You must see the syce who is in charge of it. Offer him a sum of money. Ten or fifteen rupees perhaps will satisfy the fellow. Have you any of your own men in the training stables whom you can trust?” said the old merchant.

“There is one, Cassim; I lent him to the Englishman, but the stupid fellow was up to some trick, and the trainer dismissed him. He is now looking after my horse, but I do not employ the same trainer. However, Cassim is a clever man, and will be sure to find a way of doing what we want if we make it worth his while; but it will not be done for fifteen rupees.”

“Then offer more. It must be managed even if it is to cost us a thousand rupees.”

The old merchant wagged his head, and filled his cheek with betel to chew on the way. He wasted no time in useless reproaches. Ever since his son could run alone he had indulged his every wish. If mischief was wrought by this self-indulgence he did not blame his boy, but ascribed his misfortunes to ill-luck. This was the view he took of the present condition of affairs, and he was ready to do his best to wert the ill luck and regain the favour of the gods.

He entered the jutka at the back, drawing his withered legs after him, like a lean old rooster taking cover in a hen-coop on wheels. He peered out of the small opening above the door, and listened to his son’s parting assurances that he would see to the business himself with the smallest possible delay. Govinda entreated him not to act without legal advice. He knew his parent of old, and his weakness for taking the law into his own hands—a swadeshi proceeding that might be desirable, but which would lead to disaster.

The old man listened, grunting and chewing the betel. His head and neck projected out of the little square window as long as he was within hearing distance. The pony galloped, the cart swayed, and the dust rose. It took less time for the vehicle to reach the corner round which it disappeared than the palanquin took, and no one stared after it with wondering eyes and quickened pulse, even though the occupant was known to be the owner of many crores of rupees.

Govinda turned back into his house with a troubled sigh. His literary and platform triumphs were forgotten in the new anxieties that had arisen. An article that should have been completed three days ago and sent to the Flaming Torch for insertion in the coming issue, lay on his writing-table in an unfinished state. The editor had been left to fill up its vacant place in the columns as best he could. There had been no time for him to send the article, which he proposed to insert in place of Govinda’s, for approval; and it had been put in without the careful supervision of the owner of the paper.

As Govinda dropped dejectedly into the chair by his table, Chandraswamy entered, bringing the letters from the postman. Among them was a copy of the latest edition of the Flaming Torch. Govinda’s thoughts were still upon the horse and the disturbing revelations made by the soothsayer. The receipt for the price of the unlucky beast lay upon the table where he had thrown it. What a fool he had been to trust to his own judgment! He ought to have consulted some wise man long ago, and have learned from him how to manage the business. He also wondered what his father would do. The old man was given to prompt action. He was old-fashioned and wedded to ancient methods of procedure which were not advisable in the present day. It was not safe to leave him to himself, or he might overstep the bounds of prudence and land them both in worse difficulties.

He took up the paper and tore off the wrapper, running his eye over the leading articles. There were two from his own pen carefully worded. One was an exhortation to his readers to throw off the restraints of old customs that had grown tyrannical. Caste was to be used, not abused. He warned men against allowing themselves to be “priest-ridden” in the name of caste. He praised the wisdom of the Vedas, and the pure philosophy taught by them; and deprecated the superstition that led ignorant humanity to the small temples dedicated to the worship of demons. Above all he cautioned his readers against becoming the prey of the valluvan and soothsayer. He did not hesitate to denounce these men as leeches.

The effusion read well in his opinion, and he made a mental note to the effect that it might serve even better as the nucleus of a platform speech than as an article. He was particularly well pleased with the latter part, in which he hinted that the paramount power had had its own reasons for refraining from interference with the religious beliefs of the country. Under pretence of giving freedom it had encouraged superstitious thraldom. He asked his readers, in righteous indignation, was it to be accounted a virtue for a parent to leave his children without guidance, without counsel, to become the easy dupes of unscrupulous men who battened upon their credulity? The boasted freedom of thought, permitted by a benevolent but mistaken Government, was nothing more than a form of slavery. If a nation was under bondage to one power, it was likely to remain submissive under bondage to another. He begged all thoughtful men to make an effort to throw off the yoke of the village astrologer and the wandering mendicant bairagi.

The second article dealt with swadeshi and its practical side. It warmly advocated the rigorous exclusion from the household of the self-respecting Hindu of all goods of foreign manufacture. This great and important step could not be taken all at once. Unfortunately there were men so situated that the use of foreio-n goods was an absolute necessity. This applied to those who occupied a public position and were brought into contact with Englishmen. It would be a loss of dignity to appear in the presence of the district officer, for instance, when paying him a social call, if a man neglected to wear the neat patent leather boots, the grey tweed trousers and cloth frock-coat of European manufacture. The Maharajah himself had no alternative but to adopt them when he met the Resident. At the same time the principle of swadeshi must not be lost sight of; and he entreated the native capitalist to be the saviour of the people by employing his capital in the manufacture of those articles which modern progress had made indispensable.

This also read well, but not perhaps so forcibly as the first.

Then his eye wandered idly over the columns containing local news, items of information gathered from the large English dailies of the Presidencies, letters to the editor, and flaming advertisements. Suddenly his attention was arrested by a big head-line entitled “The Arrogance of the Feringhi.” There followed three-quarters of a column, just that quantity which should have been supplied by himself, had he been at leisure to write. He read rapidly and with increasing agitation, first the vernacular and then the English translation by its side. The latter was done with considerable freedom, and not without a lapse here and there into Baboo English. The translator had been at pains to soften the bald abuse of the native language. When he came to the concluding paragraphs he fairly gasped with dismay. However careful the paraphrasing might be the seditious nature of the writino; could not be hidden. The article concluded thus—

“As an example of the arrogance of the men sent out to rule this down-trodden oppressed country, the writer is able to give instances that have come to his certain knowledge. The first incident happened recently; the second took place a few years ago. It might have remained buried in oblivion if the chief actor in it had not chosen to return to the country where his barbarity was perpetrated.

“The first incident relates to a young man, the worthy son of an honoured father, who was a schoolmaster. By the practice of a noble self-denial this devoted father was able to give his son a befitting education. The youth was both willing and talented. He climbed the tree of knowledge, gathering its fruits in the shape of well-merited scholarships until the summit of his ambition was reached. Loaded with the honours of passed examinations his ardent wish was to enter the legal profession. Fortune forbore to smile on his endeavours; though qualified in every respect to become a leading light at the bar, briefs failed to fall into his extended and expectant lap. To live in idleness was pain and grief to him. Setting aside his personal wishes, he applied to a certain district officer for a humble post in the Kutcherry—a junior clerkship that carried with it a mere pittance.

“His request was laid before the oily tongued tyrant who masquerades as the benevolent ruler of the district. It was refused with contumely and veiled abuse. The poor despondent youth was brusquely informed through a kindly requesting relative that the appointment was not for him. On further kind inquiry by said relative as to what a willing but unfortunate candidate for employment should do, a brutal message was sent that the post of waterman in the house of the Feringhi was vacant. If he chose to fill it and draw water for the servants of the household, including the syce and the still more degraded sweeper, his application for the post would be entertained. Needless to say the poor youth, who is of good caste, preferred to starve rather than to labour for the pariah household of a cursed Feringhi.

“The second tale is still more sad; and it is to be deeply deplored that necessity forces us to drag it out in the broad light of day. Justice cries out against its concealment, and we are obliged to speak. The perfidy and wickedness of the paramount power and its immoral myrmidons ought not to be hidden.

“A few years ago a syce entered the service of an English officer in a mounted regiment. The syce was painstaking and industrious, and he gave his master no cause to complain. The Englishman took leave and went to the hills, his horse and syce accompanying him. The season happened to be unusually wet, and the syce was struck down with fever. One day he felt so unwell that he failed to appear at the end of the ride. His master was inconvenienced by the want of his services, and reproached the man on his return home. The poor fellow bore the reproaches in silence, and attended to the horse although he could barely stand. On the following day his master started out on another ride, a round of twelve miles. He ordered his syce to keep in front. When the man flagged and would have sat down to rest, he cracked the hunting whip about his ears in terrifying manner, shouting that he would have no malingering. There could be but one ending to such malicious cruelty. The syce by superhuman efforts reached home; but it was only to fall on the threshold never to rise again.

“It was easy for the cold-blooded murderer to declare afterwards that he did not know the man had fever; that he thought he was ‘shamming sick’ in order that he might attend the Mohurrum; that he had no alternative but to insist on an effort being made to reach shelter; that it would have been certain death to lie down in the jungle with night coming on and no shelter. The affair was hushed up; and because the unfortunate victim of his ferocity lived four days after his cruel treatment, his brutal destroyer escaped Scottish free.

“In the interests of humanity a lucky fate removed the cursed Feringhi out of the country before he could add to his list of victims. How is it that he has had the temerity to reappear among us? Perhaps he has come to flaunt in our faces the unmerited title which his sovereign has seen fit to bestow upon him. Let him look to himself! A title is not a coat of chain armour, and the gods may yet revenge the death of the humble servitor who was so shockingly maltreated. Is it right that such people should live? Are we to tolerate tyrants and murderers in our midst? No! Let the sons of India rise as one tower of strength and sweep above mentioned into the sea. With sticks and stones, with knives and bombs let them turn and rend their destroyers before they are themselves destroyed.”

Govinda’s blood ran cold as he read through to the last word. Half—a quarter—nay, one-tenth of the stuff was sufficient to be the undoing of the Flaming Torch and sound its death knell. Who could have written such a suicidal article? Was it the editor himself? If so he must have fuddled himself with drink or be off his head. Such bald statements, such open abuse as the article commenced with, were not safe even on the platform, where words were spoken and not always recorded. To put into cold print such blatant sedition was the height of folly. He must see the editor at once and find out who was the culprit, although the knowledge would not save either the owner or the editor or the writer. They were all held responsible one with the other. The thought of deportation, fine and imprisonment flashed across his brain, and in his own language, his liver turned to water. It was too late to recall the edition. The same post that brought his copy distributed it to the rest of the subscribers and the people who were favoured with presentation copies. One of these was the sub-collector himself; another was the Superintendent of the Remount establishment.

As he sat there, the fat podgy hand that held the paper trembling in his agitation, Chandraswamy entered with a note. He observed the page that was spread out before his patron, and smiled with mingled pride and gratification.

“You have read it! It is yours, all yours, my honoured little father! Every word, every sentence has issued at one time or another from your own lips. I have been but the basket in which the precious fruit has been collected. I have treasured up your sayings in public and in private, winnowing the grains of rice from the husk; and I have given them, refined and purified, to your admiring readers. The stories are mine. Your honour knows them well. The first is my own; the second—”

“You idiot!” blazed forth Govinda, at last finding his tongue.

The storm of abuse that followed was not fit for any ears but those of an Asiatic. The satisfied smile of the astounded listener was frozen, and his jaw fell. His figure seemed to shrink and grow smaller under the blasting torrent of invective poured forth by his infuriated patron. He continued to droop till he fell upon his knees, which would no longer support him, and pressed his forehead upon the ground.

“Sir! sir! they were your own words, your own most precious, most revered words,” he whimpered, whenever through failure of breath the speech of the agitator and reformer failed.

Govinda seized the note that Chandraswamy had laid by his elbow. He tore it open with foreboding. It was from Quinbury, asking him to call on him at his earliest convenience.

“Get up, son of fifty pigs, and tell the chauffeur that I want the car as quickly as possible.”

Chandraswamy was not sorry to escape. He felt like a plucked fowl, and well-nigh as sore. Govinda busied himself with feverish haste, ransacking drawers for letters and papers, emptying boxes and files until a large bundle was accumulated.

“Tie them up and put them in the car,” he said, when his secretary appeared a little later to announce that the car was ready.

Placing his cheque book in his pocket, he followed the bundle; and in less than five minutes the car glided away from the house of ill-luck in the opposite direction to that in which the district officer was to be found. It was not until he had left the town well behind him that Dharma Govinda’s self-confidence returned, and his complexion assumed its usual healthy tone.

Chapter XXII

The shadow that had fallen upon the lives of Tim and Brenda remained. Brenda made efforts to cast it aside, and Tim fought against its influences. Sonnie alone maintained his unruffled happiness, and his foster-parents sought to shake themselves free from moodiness by entering more frequently than ever into the child’s games. Tim played horses with him, and Brenda read stories of brave knights, defeated giants, and good fairies. Each morning on awaking they gazed at each other with a question in their eyes. They had set themselves a task. When and how was it to be fulfilled?

“Shall I go to Major Cheverell and ask him to—”

Brenda’s voice died away under the sharp exclamation uttered by her husband.

The thought of his wife laying bare the secret of their lives, even to a man of Cheverell’s kindness of heart, was intolerable; and her suggestion seemed to drive a knife into him.

“I think I could do it; he is so full of compassion for any one in trouble,” said Brenda, low-voiced and humble in her never-ending contrition.

“I won’t have it!” cried Tim with rough tenderness.

“It must be done, Tim,” she replied with one of those little sobbing sighs he knew of old, but had not heard of late. The sound wrung his heart, and he answered firmly—

“She shall learn the facts before it is too late. The proper person to tell her is Dereham himself.”

“He will refuse to utter a single word that might incriminate him in the eyes of a woman,” she replied with conviction.

“At any rate he must be given the chance of doing the right thing,” said Tim, sturdily.

“And if he won’t do it?”

“Then we shall feel at liberty to speak; and we may say what we choose.”

“To her or to Major Cheverell?”

“We will decide that later on. As I have told you before, Brenda, you are to leave it to me. In a week’s time he is going to Bangalore for the Christmas festivities. They are all going. Between this and then I will make an opportunity. God give me patience to behave as a Christian and a gentleman. At present I am in a most unchristian mood. My chief desire is to shoot the fellow or horsewhip him.”

Brenda lifted her head and looked into his eyes. Then she smiled. It was a sad smile, but it was full of confidence.

“Ah! Tim, you talk, but I trust you! I trust you!”

The opportunity arrived the very next day without any special seeking. Dereham came to the stables just as Tim had finished his morning’s work to ask a question about a supply of hay to be sent to Bangalore for his horse. When the information had been given, Tim said—

“One moment, sir. My wife tells me that you are to marry Miss Lawrence.”

Dereham raised his head with a touch of haughtiness as he uttered an interrogative “Yes?”

“She and I are agreed that—that certain facts known to us three should be made known also to the lady in question. You have our consent to inform her.”

Tim spoke quietly, but his face wore an expression which might be seen upon it sometimes, when he was passing a death sentence upon an ill-tempered animal that was not only useless, but a menace to human life. Dereham regarded him with glittering eyes disclosing an evil temper not altogether under control.

“Shall I also hint at the paternity of the child you harbour?” he asked.

Breydon failed to see the implication hidden in the question. Fortunately he knew too much. Brenda had confided to him all she knew and all she subsequently suspected anent the parentage of the little Adam. He replied contemptuously—

“Please yourself about that. You can mention the mother’s name as well, Fatima Bee, the daughter of a noble house, who trusted to the honour of an English officer and was betrayed.”

Dereham started and the colour forsook his face and lips. Unconsciously Breydon had administered a shock which struck him dumb. He had had no suspicion that the child was Fatima Bee’s son.

“I shall tell my wife that you will not leave Miss Lawrence in ignorance,” said Breydon walking away.

For answer Dereham broke into oaths. “I shall do nothing of the kind,” he managed to call after the retreating form.

Tim stopped and retraced his steps. “In that case she will be compelled to see Miss Lawrence herself,” he replied quietly.

Turning from the hateful presence of the man he strode away, indignation and wrath burning within him.

“I’ve failed, Brenda,” said Tim, as he found himself alone with his wife. “I was a fool to expect that a man of that sort could act honourably. He refused to enlighten Miss Lawrence.”

“Then I must. No one else ought to be dragged into this miserable business, not even that good Major Cheverell,” said Brenda. “Miss Lawrence is kind of heart; she will understand the sacrifice I am making, and will not humiliate me,” she said; but even as she tried to comfort herself her spirit sank.

How difficult it was to bury the past and keep it out of sight! how impossible it was to flee from its associations! Poor Brenda had thought to find an asylum from the old trouble in that remote corner of the world, where her husband had made her a retreat that was a veritable little Paradise. The shadow of the evil, that she hoped was banished, had returned to darken their skies. The sun shone as brightly; refreshing showers fell, bringing out the new leaves and blossoms; a new generation of birds sang in the bushes; a new generation of butterflies sported in the beautiful garden. Surely the past might remain dead and buried with the fallen petals of the roses; surely its evil deeds might be allowed to lie hidden and forgotten like last year’s flowers and leaves.

A day or two later Brenda summoned up sufficient courage to write to Alauda and invite her to tea. An answer came promptly. It was a cold and formal refusal, without the expression of any excuse or regret that she could not accept it. Brenda passed the letter to her husband in silence when he came in for his afternoon tea. He read it, and made no comment.

“He has thought better of it, and has told her himself,” she said.

“It looks like it,” he replied moodily.

“And this is her judgment.”

He rose from his chair with an abrupt movement, and paced up and down the garden for a while. Presently she called to him to drink his tea before it was cold. He sat down again with an effort of self-control.

“Forget it,” he said. “We agreed that we would be all in all to each other, and that the world might go hang. What does it matter as long as you and I are together? We defy the past; we defy the present, and we snap our fingers at society.”

He spoke strong, comforting words, and as she listened her courage returned. It had been a rare pleasure to meet Alauda, to feel herself in touch with a woman who reminded her of the world she had forfeited. As he talked he watched the refined face that he worshipped with a great and rare love until the pain died down and something of its wonted calm and peace returned; but there was still the shadow of sadness, and no sign of the quiet happiness that he had seen only a short time ago.

It was his custom to go back to the stables after tea, whether he had any special duty or not. That evening he determined to stay with Brenda. He rose and lighted a cigar. Taking her arm, he strolled into the rosary. The roses were laden with blossom, and the air was filled with the sweet scent of a rampant yellow tea-rose that sprawled strong-limbed and profuse of bloom over the latticed roof of the pergola. The afternoon sun filtered in splashes of warm golden light through the network on the western side. Petals of over-blown roses fell noiselessly to the ground as the ardent rays penetrated to their “tasselled” hearts in a farewell kiss. Hoopoes coo’ed as they hunted for ants on the gravel paths; mynas chattered vociferously in the eaves of the bungalow; the song of the bulbuls and black robins echoed among the oleanders. Let the world with its distracting restlessness be forgotten. These two had found peace, and they would jealously guard their retreat from invasion. They had performed their task. Their duty towards their neighbour was done, and they need think no more of it.

*  *  *  *

Alauda, returning from her ride with Dereham, received the note from Brenda on dismounting. He knew the writing, and guessed what was underlying the invitation.

“Mrs. Breydon asks me to go to tea with her this afternoon. You may call for me at her gate at a quarter to five,” she said as she glanced through the page.

Dereham had arranged to take out a team that afternoon, and Alauda was to occupy the seat by his side. They, were standing under the porch of the castle, preparatory to his departure to the Depôt for breakfast.

“I think I ought to speak, Alauda. It is an unpleasant subject; but, in justice to you, I cannot leave you altogether ignorant of the fact that Mrs. Breydon is not visited by the ladies of the station.”

She looked at him in surprise. “By her own wish, and not for any fault on her side.”

“Are you so sure of that? What do you know of her past?”

“Her past?” repeated Alauda, gravely.

“Yes; and her relationship to that so-called foster-child that she so ably mothers,”

Alauda was silent, displeasure plainly written on her features,

“I admit that it is a most disagreeable task to open one woman’s eyes to the shortcomings of another; and I would not do it, I assure you, if you were nothing to me. Under the circumstances, I ask you as a favour to refuse her invitation and to drop her.”

“Do you speak from knowledge?” she asked.

“Unfortunately, from accurate knowledge. The scandal connected with her name occurred in the station where I happened to be quartered. It was hushed up; but the woman forfeited her position. Breydon has behaved with noble magnanimity. One cannot praise him too much for rescuing the poor creature and the child that is dependent upon her. You will understand that this is a painful subject.”

Alauda was only half convinced, and she felt a vague resentment towards him for repeating a tale of the kind.

“I don’t see why I am to sit in judgment on her and condemn her unheard. I shall accept her invitation. I suppose she is the wife of the man whose name she bears?”

“Undoubtedly she is. I think you fail to understand the position. She must be aware that her story is known to me. It is possible that she has not heard of our engagement. If she knew of our relationship, she would feel that her secret was no longer safe, and that I might at any moment tell you the sad story of her fall. Surely it would be kinder of you to let her alone than to pursue the acquaintance, which was of your own seeking and not hers. Let her be, in pity to your sex; I ask it of you as a favour.”

He pleaded earnestly and prevailed. Alauda refused the invitation; and being decisive of action, she so worded her refusal that there was no encouragement to repeat it. When the note was despatched and she had time to think it over, a doubt entered her mind; she was not altogether satisfied with her action. She mentally reserved to herself the option of seeing Mrs. Breydon again. Why should she condemn her, since the past was buried and a new life begun? Her sense of justice was roused. The man, whoever he might be, who had ruined the woman had escaped scot-free; was the woman never to be forgiven? Was she to stand condemned for ever in the eyes of the world?

Feminine curiosity, irrepressible and immortal, stepped in with a question: “Who was the man?”

She called to mind the beautiful boy with his high-bred features, his wheaten oriental complexion. A sudden suspicion darted through her brain like a red-hot needle, leaving a scorching pain behind it. She had met some one at the house who was received as an old friend. Could it be? No! Impossible! The husband would never tolerate his presence if—

The thought choked her. The blood rushed through her brain, pressing upon her eyeballs and setting all her nerves tingling. The golden image turned to clay; dust was in her mouth; her teeth were on edge, and bitterness was in her heart.

She made no attempt to undo what was done, and Dereham’s wishes were carried out to the letter. Mrs. Breydon was dropped.

Chapter XXIII

Chandraswamy was not in a happy frame of mind. His patron had abused him in no light or sketchy manner. He had confidently looked for praise, and he had been loaded with blame. For months past he had carefully treasured the various sayings and opinions that had been cautiously expressed by his patron in more or less veiled language. He had thought to flatter, as well as indulge in his own personal spleen, when he penned the seditious diatribes that had filled Govinda with apprehension, and sent him off as fast as the motor-car could take him to Mysore.

A hasty conference with the editor; the employment of a dozen coolies and three or four bullock-carts had effectually removed all incriminating traces of the Flaming Torch. When the police arrived on the following day to take forcible possession of the seditious press, they sealed the doors on waste-paper and ink-stained furniture. The watchman in charge of the premises was faithful to his orders, and repeatedly declared that the editor and his staff had left a fortnight ago for Madras.

Govinda did not return to his own house in Hosur, but joined his parents in Bangalore city. He informed his father that in view of the approaching litigation, it was best that he should be with him. Underlying his action were two motives. One was to keep himself out of sight of the district officer, who had demanded to see him upon urgent business; the other was the necessity he felt of watching his father and preventing him from committing any act of violence against his adversary.

Thus Chandraswamy found himself alone and unemployed at Hosur. He expressed a wish to be permitted to join his patron in Bangalore, but was curtly informed that his services would not be required at present. He was instructed to remain where he was; his salary would be paid as usual. Left in idleness, he spent most of his time at the little temple on the lake, making fireworks for the coming festival. Sunrise and sunset found him in the town emulating his master in the delivery of stump speeches to any audience he could draw round him. Sometimes he spoke under the banyan tree near the temple. At others he selected a more secluded place outside the town, in the direction of the Remount Depôt. It was to this spot that the syces were invited.

He had been jonied on the platform by two or three young men, whose ambition to become orators had been fired by seeing Chandraswamy’s success. They caught the fever of his enthusiasm, and speedily fell in love with the sound of their own voices. They experienced the fascination of holding the attention of the listening multitude. It mattered little to them what the substance of their oratory was as long as it produced a sensation. There was no one to control or to counsel moderation; and they had neither the will nor the skill to veil their sedition. Inflammatory speeches, inciting men to violence and to breaches of the law, were uttered, regardless of consequences, in the name of patriotism, and their fulminations did not fall on deaf ears.

One morning the district officer appeared in their midst. He rode quietly up to Chandraswamy, his well-mannered horse pushing through the crowd without hurting any one.

“I should like to give you a word or two of warning,” said Quinbury quietly, to the three men who had been addressing the assembly in turn. “You are speaking in the name of the congress; but I doubt if the congress would approve of your words. Your language is ill-judged, and tends to create disorder where the law would keep order. I warn you all—and particularly you, whom I regard as leader”—he looked at Chandraswamy—”that you are rendering yourselves liable to be prosecuted and imprisoned. If these meetings result in violence, or if open sedition is preached, the matter will be placed in the hands of the police, who will receive instructions to arrest the leaders. Be warned in time, and be prudent.”

He did not wait for a reply, but rode away as he had come. Chandraswamy pointed to his retreating figure. His eyes burned with rage, and his voice trembled as he denounced the Englishman.

“That Feringhi, who has dared to interrupt us, is the miscreant who offered me the post of waterman on my application for a clerkship in the Kutcherry. That is a specimen of the men sent out by an autocratic sovereign— who has never seen us, and whom we have never seen—to govern this down-trodden, afflicted country. That is one of the white-faces whose hand dips deep into our revenues, who pays himself what he chooses to call his salary from the cash-chest in the Kutcherry. Where does that money come from? It is squeezed out of the suffering, starving Hindus. It is ours; ours by right! If we take what is ours, a tyrannical Government calls it robbery and thrusts us into prison; but when he, the accursed Englishman, fills his pocket from the cash-chest, his iniquitous Government terms it payment for services. Services, indeed! Who wants his services? We do not.”

There were angry murmurs from the crowd, and two or three men on the outskirts hurled stones in the direction of the rider. They fell short of horse and man. It is possible that Quinbury may have been aware of the act. He took no notice of it, however, as he trotted away, never turning once to look back at the gathering he had disturbed.

That afternoon the crowd again assembled to listen to Chandraswamy and his companions. About fifty syces had joined from the Remount Depôt. They were given an embellished account of what had taken place in the morning. As Chandraswamy concluded his oration, a man in the audience cried out violently—

“We are badly in want of funds. Why should we not take what is our own? I, for one, am ready. Who will follow me?”

Numbers of hands were lifted in show of consent, and there was a dangerous stir of excitement through the crowd. The love of loot is deeply implanted in the breast of the Asiatic; and it takes very little to turn a quiet law-abiding native, whether he be a Hindu or a Muhammadan, into a lawless budmash.

“Let there be no unnecessary delay,” continued the speaker. “The cash-chest was filled only this morning, so that the salaries might be paid to-morrow. The district officer leaves at five o’clock. At half-past five there will be nobody there but the watchman. We will bind him with his own turban, break open the door, and carry out the chest. The building must be fired. There is nothing like fire for covering footsteps.”

Before he had finished speaking, the old syce, Runga, who had headed the cavalcade of Walers from the station, slipped quietly away. He had been listening on the fringe of the crowd with more curiosity in his face than sympathy. Some one asked him why he did not stay and follow presently to the Kutcherry.

“There is nothing to fear with such a number of us. If the police appear, we are strong enough to send them flying.”

“Let the young follow the young,”” he replied. “When an old horse joins a young one in running away, he is likely to get a bad fall.”

He strolled in leisurely fashion to the road, but no one troubled to watch his movements; they were far too excited about their own. The assembly broke up into groups, and one or two individuals followed Runga’s example. The rest removed their turbans, and bound them tightly round their loins. Branches of trees were broken off to form staves. Those who were unable to find a suitable stick or club furnished themselves with a store of pebbles.

The brougham containing the district officer was seen to pass along the distant road carrying him from the Kutcherry to the castle. The Eurasian and native clerks filed out, and the watchman closed the doors and the windows. An unsuspecting police-constable was noticed in the distance strolling along the road on his round. He glanced towards the spot where the hot-headed youths were seated or stood, suspiciously quiet before the storm. He concluded that they were waiting for the orators who were to address them. No orders had been issued at present for the dispersion of these meetings, so that duty did not call upon him to return to the police-station and report upon what he had seen.

The sun was touching the horizon when Chandraswamy and his companions, on mischief intent, crept quietly towards the Kutcherry. The building stood inside its own grounds; the entrance to the compound was not barred by any gate. The house was protected by a lock upon the door and primitive bolts on the Venetian shutters. There was greater space in front than behind, and it was here that Chandraswamy collected his followers.

He had overcome his last scruple, and had thrown himself into the scheme proposed by his colleague, preferring to take the risk of leadership rather than allow himself to be superseded. His directions were given clearly. A party of men were to seize and bind the watchman, and a search was to be made for the key. If it was not forthcoming at once, another party was to break open the Venetian shutters of one of the windows and an entrance forced that way. The chest was to be carried out if it was movable. No one seemed to know exactly whether it was attached to the wall or whether it stood on a stand.

“Do everything quietly and wdthout noise,” was his last injunction.

No time was lost in executing his orders, so eager were they to begin. The astounded watchman was attacked, gagged and bound. The key was not to be found on his person, and this was their first check.

Suddenly there was a clatter of hoofs; a couple of riders dashed through the gateway. Cheverell, mounted on his favourite hack, carried a dog-whip with a long and searching lash. Breydon, upon Bluebeard, whirled a polo-stick, which he had snatched up in his haste. Before the men, who were rough-handling the watchman, were aware of their presence, Cheverell was up with them, laying his whip to right and left upon their naked flanks with resounding cracks. Yelling with terror and pain they fled to a man. Cheverell released the unfortunate watchman, mounted his horse again, and attacked a large party of house-breakers who were trying to burst open the door.

Tim rode straight for another party busy at one of the windows. With his swinging polo-stick he caught the unprotected limbs a series of blows that elicited another chorus of yells quickly followed by flight. Without a leader to rally them they scattered all ways in the utmost confusion, creating a panic in those who had not yet been attacked by whip or stick. One thought alone dominated their brains, to escape out of reach of the stinging lash, and the bruising hammer-headed weapon that struck their staves from their hands and set their “funny-bones” tingling and aching.

The syces, seeing their chief appear, were in no doubt as to the best course to pursue. They fled like scared rabbits and made for cover in the direction of their lines. They feared the master’s eye even more than his lash. Other men belonging to the town who had been spectators followed their example. Those who paused in doubt had their minds made up for them by the sight of the frantic Bluebeard coming straight for them with his rider whirling that terrible hammer; or by the sound of the thundering hoofs of the Waler carrying a perfect master in the art of laying on the thong.

Chandraswamy and a knot of his warmest supporters stood their ground, combatting the panic that threatened to demoralize them into craven fugitives. As Cheverell and Breydon wheeled towards the group one of them threw a stone. It hit Bluebeard full in the face. The excited pony reared and plunged forward with open mouth and rattling hoofs. In his maddened rush he was even more formidable to the naked-limbed Hindus than his rider. Breydon, fearing an accident that might have been fatal, pulled hard and brought him up on the curb within three feet of Chandraswamy. Again he rose, pawing the air as though he would strike his enemies to the ground with his iron-shod hoofs.

The sight was too much for their courage. They broke their ranks and scattered to right and left, Cheverell following one lot and Tim another. Out through the open gateway went the orators, Chandraswamy leading with his long legs. Whack went the polo-stick as each was overtaken, the blow sending the unfortunate congress-wallah a spread-eagle on the ground. One by one they went down until Chandraswamy alone remained. He headed for shelter in the town, but ere he could reach it the polo-stick had hit its mark, and the hero of the stump platform was shot into the midst of a party of constables hastily summoned by the released watchman. Their surprise was so great that they remained inactive until it was too late. Chandraswamy pulled himself together and was gone before they understood that he was the man they wanted,

Breydon returned to find the compound of the Kutcherry deserted save for Cheverell, who was leisurely twisting up the long lash of his whip. They jogged homewards, Bluebeard champing his bit with disappointment that the fun was so soon over. It was a long time since he had had such a scamper, and he had thoroughly enjoyed the scurry while it lasted. Wheels and level roads were not to his mind. It had been pure joy to see the stick whirling about him and to respond to the touch of the heel.

“How many of our men were in it?” asked Cheverell.

“Some of our best; I don’t know how many.”

“What shall we do? It would be awkward to lose them just now.”

“I took care not to look in their direction, and if you did not recognize any of them we can let the matter pass. After all, they were only looking on. The men who were abusing the watchman belonged to the town.”

“You had better warn them not to mix themselves up with these political reformers,” said Cheverell.

“I’ll give them a good lecture to-morrow, and tell them that you’ll sack the whole lot if they attend any of these seditious meetings. The old men will take care that the young ones don’t compromise them for the future.”

“Where were you when Runga gave the alarm?”

“At the bungalow. I had just promised to spend the rest of the afternoon with my wife in the garden because she seemed a little bit low-spirited, when the old man called me away.”

And thus ended Tim’s little holiday.

Chapter XXIV

Christmas was over, and January with its brilliant sunshine and occasional light shower was ushered in. Mr. and Mrs. Quinbury with Alauda were guests of the Resident. Vida had joined her mother at the Cubbon Hotel. Dereham had taken up his quarters in one of the bungalows of the West End Hotel with some other men interested in the approaching races. His relationship to Alauda was known, and he was at the Residency as often as possible. Assington, with ten days’ leave, had pitched his tent in the large shady grounds of the Cubbon Hotel. Cheverell made one of the party at the Residency when he Avas in Bangalore. His room was kept ready for him to occupy as he found convenient.

The Maharajah was established at the palace with his suite. Invitations for various social functions there as well as at the Residency, and at the various regimental messes, had been issued. The days and nights were well filled with engagements, and the season promised to be gay. Just now the races formed the most important event; and the different merits of the horses entered were much discussed. There were two that attracted attention. One was the Saint, owned by Dereham; the other was Swadeshi, the property of Dharma Govinda.

The knowing ones declared that the Saint could carry all before him if he chose; but the question was, would he choose? He might turn sulky and refuse to start; or he might consent to start and then leave the course in a fit of contrariness. If he made a mess of it, Swadeshi had an excellent chance of bearing away the Maharajah’s cup. The natives without exception were backing Swadeshi, on account of the lucky mark he bore. The owner was congratulated on all sides as though he had already won the race, so great was the faith in the mark of good fortune. He listened with his usual smile; but, remembering the pronouncement of the soothsayer, the smile hid many qualms. His one desire was to be freed from the spell that was laid upon him and his house. The issue of the race had lost all its interest for him.

“Of course you are putting a large sum of money on Swadeshi yourself,” said one of Govinda’s friends, as they stood upon the racecourse one morning watching the movements of the different horses.

“I do not care to bet much. Money is no object to me. It is the honour I seek,” replied Govinda, loftily.

“Major Adam-u-din has entered a good horse,” remarked another Hindu, the proprietor of a large retail business in the station.

“Bah! it will do nothing!” replied Govinda, contemptuously.

“Who rides for him?”

“He rides for himself”

“As also does the Englishman, Dereham.”

At this moment Cassim, the syce, led Swadeshi slowly past the group.

“Where are you going?” asked Govinda.

“The trainer has ordered me to take the horse to the stables, excellency,” he answered.

Govinda joined him, and as soon as they were out of hearing he said significantly—

“The Saint still runs.”

“By the will of Allah, sir. He is closely watched. At night the doors are locked; by day a man sits on the threshold always awake. The last time I spoke with him the trainer caught me there. He knew me and raised his whip calling me a dog and a pig. The way of sugarcane is no good. I must contrive some other means.”

There was silence as the two men walked side by side. Swadeshi pricked up his ears and lifted his head at the noise of approaching hoofs. Dereham, mounted on the Saint, rode by at a hand gallop. The Saint was in a bad temper, and was guided with difficulty by his rider. Some insane impulse led the horse to dash right or left without any apparent reason. There was no hedge to confine the traveller to the limits of the metalled road, and it was a simple matter to pass to the rocky uneven ground, where the thorn-bushes, white-ant heaps and boulders made it perilous going for man and beast.

Govinda gazed after horse and rider with a curious hope at the bottom of his heart. Would the Saint run away and plunge recklessly across that treacherous stone-set ground? If once he gained the mastery over his rider nothing could stop him from bolting. And then more than one thing might happen which would bring about the end recommended by the soothsayer. A plunge into a bed of prickly pear; a broken leg over a hidden boulder; a fall over a white ant’s nest and a dislocated neck would save much trouble.

Dereham was too good a rider to allow the animal to get out of hand. The Saint was subdued to orderly behaviour and brought back completely mastered.

“Is there need of haste, sir?” asked Cassim.

“Why do you ask?”

“There will be no watching when the race is over. The syces have their bets like their masters. After the race there will be much drinking.”

He looked at his employer. It was not necessary to explain further. Govinda comprehended what was meant, that this would be the opportunity to put the design into execution, if he could wait till then. The case was to come on a couple of days after the races. The deed must be accomplished before that date.

“If it can be done on the night of the last day, I shall be content; and the money—a hundred rupees—shall be paid the next morning without fail. There must be no talk with the other syces.”

Cassim grunted an inarticulate assent to the warning.

“Be careful also of yourself,” continued Govinda. “Since the story of your brother’s death was printed in the Flaming Torch there have been many inquiries as to the person who told it. Chandraswamy was wrong to put it in the paper. It will be as well for you to leave Bangalore and return to your home in Hyderabad, where you can remain hidden till the anger of the Englishman has died down. Chandraswamy, since his escape from the police at Hosur, has gone there to stay for a time.”

“Your honour believes that he is in Hyderabad; but it is said in the bazaar that he is here in the pettah. Your excellency knows more perhaps than the chattering idlers of the bazaar.”

Govinda was disturbed by the news; but he took care not to show it. He had given Chandraswamy money and had urged him to go away for a time. After the raid on the Kutcherry it was possible that he might be arrested on that account. Once in the hands of the police there was no telling what revelations might be made.

Govinda bade the syce proceed with the horse whilst he turned back towards the racecourse, where he had left his car. On the way he met the Saint, also being led to his stables. He stopped and put a question or two to the syce; but the man was short in his answers, and apparently in haste to be moving on. Govinda found his car, and as he was getting into it one of the Residency carriages passed. In it were seated Quinbury and Cheverell. The district officer glanced at the Hindu and saluted him courteously, as was his wont.

“I am glad to see that fellow turn up again. I want to keep my eye upon him,” he remarked.

“Have you any proof that he was the real owner of the Flaming Torch?” asked his companion.

“Not sufficient for us to act upon. He was too clever and too quick for us with that motor-car of his. By the time the police were on the spot everything that could incriminate the editor and owner was gone. The man I should like to see in custody is Chandraswamy, the secretary. He could tell us a great deal if he chose.”

“Why hasn’t he been arrested over the raid business?” asked Cheverell.

“We are anxious not to give him an opportunity of posing as a martyr in the eyes of his compatriots,” replied Quinbury.

“They deserve to be punished for publishing such libellous stuff as that story about Dereham. The mischievous part of it is that it is founded on a grain of truth. Dereham was fresh out from England, and he made a mistake; he was convinced that the man was shamming. He may be impatient at times, but all the same he is a good and considerate master in his treatment of the servants he has with him here. What foundation was there for the other story?”

“None, unless the writer took it from the fact that an application was made to me by Govinda himself on behalf of a relative. No name was mentioned. In the course of a conversation on other matters he hinted that this relation would like to have a post in the Kutcherry. It was already filled up. I suspect that the candidate was this Chandraswamy himself. I have a vague recollection of having made some general remarks to the effect that it was a pity the educated youth of the present day did not stick to their fathers’ trades and occupations. I gave as an instance my waterman, who had brought up his son to consider himself superior to his father’s calling. The old man was already failing, and there was no one to take his place. It is extremely difficult to contradict these garbled statements. They are more difficult to deal with than bald unvarnished lies.”

“For crass credulity give me the Asiatic,” said Cheverell; “and, by George! what cowards these political agitators are; you should have seen them run the other day when Breydon and I dispersed the would-be raiders! The whip and the polo-stick were quite sufficient.”

“Those were the best weapons that you could have used. Powder and shot and cold steel against naked and unarmed men would not do,” said Quinbury.

“Yet the idiots meant mischief that day. They would have robbed the cash-chest, murdered the watchman if he had resisted, and have set fire to the building. What is to be done with such people?”

“Get rid of the agitators, if possible. The disaffection in Hosur is all the result of that conceited gas-bag, Dharma Govinda, with his meetings and his Flaming Torch. Chandraswamy and his companions are his dupes. I am inclined to believe that Govinda himself is the tool of others, who have a deeper purpose, and who keep themselves out of sight, I hope both Govinda and his secretary will be more careful in the future. I should be sorry if it became necessary to arrest either.”

The day before the race for the cup took place the Maharajah gave a large party at the old Fort. A number of invitations were issued, and the guests included all the leading native gentlemen of Bangalore.

It was one of those gatherings where the people broke up into parties. The natives were not known to the Europeans, except in the case of a few officials who had been brought into contact over business in the Government offices. The natives were even more exclusive than the English, and separated themselves into distinct groups according to caste or race. The Muhammadan merchants held aloof from the Hindus; the Brahmin clerks in the Government offices drew away from the Hindu officials, and all alike avoided the men who had embraced Christianity.

The old fort, that once figured conspicuously in Mysore history, has been partly dismantled and some of its fortifications pulled down. Portions of the walls remain. They are wide earthworks encased with brick and stone. A pathway runs along the top, where once the guns were mounted. The space enclosed by the walls is considerable, and contains several buildings, chief of which is the old palace. Here Tippu Sultan occasionally resided. It is no longer a royal residence, a new palace having been built nearer to the English station.

The Maharajah was using the durbar-hall on this occasion for the reception of his guests.

A stream of carriages, with here and there a motor-car, passed continuously down the petteh road, carrying English ladies in their smartest dresses and men in their frock-coats and top hats. Natives in velvet and satin rolled by, their victorias drawn by showy Arabs. The Maharajah and his suite occupied a couple of large cars that overtook the Residency party in the slower-moving carriages,

Alauda felt her pulse quicken as she caught sight of the single occupant of a car closely following the Maharajah. It was Major Adam-u-din. He touched his forehead with the fingers of his right hand in grave salutation, and she returned the greeting with a bow and an unconscious smile of gladness, The cars swept by and were soon out of sight, and she had time to think of what she had done. She was thankful that Dereham was not by her side. He was detained by matters connected with racing. Her companions were new acquaintances, who were staying at the Residency, like herself.

“Who was that handsome man who saluted you?” asked one.

“Major Adam-u-din of the Sillidar Horse.”

“You must introduce me when we get there. How did you come to know him?”

“He was in camp near the Remount Depôt. We were invited to see a gymkhana held for his men, and he entertained us at his mess.”

“How delightful! He isn’t black, like most of the natives here,”

“He is of a different race,” explained Alauda; “he is a Muhammadan, and an officer of the Imperial troops.”

“All the same I suppose he is a heathen, like the rest of them, only he happens to be fairer of complexion.”

“The Muhammadans are not heathen,” said Alauda, trying out of common politeness not to smile.

“What are they then? They are not Christians.”

“So they must be heathen, you think. You must look into their sacred book, the Koran, and you will almost believe, in its historical part, that you are reading a portion of the Old Testament.”

“The Koran! Oh, of course I’ve heard of it,” said Alauda’s companion. “That’s the book that gives them permission to marry any number of wives. Now, I wonder how many wives that handsome major has got! A dozen, I’m sure.”

Alauda was silent; the flippancy of the speaker jarred, and she was thankful when the conversation turned into another channel. She had not seen Adam-u-din since they parted at Major Cheverell’s house, when she had learned for the first time of his approaching marriage. Had it taken place? Then her thoughts flew to Brenda and the child. The colour mounted to her cheek. It was as though she had suddenly felt the sting of a lash laid without warning upon her sensitive skin. At the pain she rose in rebellion, her perception strangely quickened now that she was once more about to meet Adam-u-din. She had seen him with Brenda; there was nothing in their attitude that suggested intrigue and shame. The credence she had so readily given to the story was unworthy of her. Dereham might be mistaken for all his positive assertions. She felt absolutely guilty concerning her behaviour in sending that chilling repellant little note in answer to the friendly invitation. Where was her old independence?

There was a time not so very long ago when, in the face of an accusation of that kind, she would have boldly gone to the fountain head, and would have asked for the other side of the story. It was not her custom to condemn any one unheard, least of all a woman.

Chapter XXV

The carriage drew up in front of the durbar-hall. Quinbury and his wife were awaiting the arrival of the rest of the house party before being presented. The Resident had already been received and given a seat on the dais by the side of the Maharajah.

The large deep verandah was carpeted with scarlet cloth. A guard of honour, composed of the royal troops, lined the steps and formed an imposing sight in their glittering uniforms. The lances which Alauda had seen so skilfully used in the tent-pegging competition were held at rest, the small red pennons hanging limply from the polished steel heads.

The Maharajah, resplendent in velvet and jewels, rose to receive his guests. Calm and immobile in his dignity he shook hands with each in turn as his or her name was announced. The presentation over, the company was at liberty to remain in the hall or to wander about on the smooth turf outside the palace.

Alauda, accustomed to the close attendance of Dereham, missed his presence. After speaking to several people she found herself unattached to any particular companion. Glancing about her she was greeted by Vida, at whose elbow stood Assington.

“Here is our friend. Major Adam-u-din, who so kindly entertained us at his camp,” she said. “He has promised to tell us all about the fort. I am sure you will be interested.”

She hesitated with a curious aloofness; then melted suddenly before inclination.

“May I listen?” she asked, lifting her eyes to the man as he stood silent, ready to go or stay at her bidding.

His answer was in his eyes. He moved forward through the rapidly increasing crowd, Alauda walking by his side, Vida and Assington following.

“First let us take a look at the buildings outside. When the guests have been presented, the Maharajah will leave the dais and go to the refreshment tents with the Resident. Then we shall have a better opportunity of seeing the durbar-hall.”

They strolled among the various erections near the palace, and Shah Adam-u-din, accepting the rôle of guide, pointed out the mosque, the temple, the old barracks, and other points of interest. He described how the final attack of the British army was made from the direction of the quarter in which the Lai Bagh now stood; and he showed them a splintered pillar and a broken frieze where the shot from the besiegers’ cannon had struck.

Vida and Assington listened with a divided attention; but Alauda gave her whole mind to the tales he had to tell.

“Some of my ancestors must have heard the crash of those cannon balls,” he said dreamily, his thoughts going far back into the past. “The thunder of that cannon was part of the knell of Tippu’s reign. Judged by his compeers, many historians agree that he was a fine ruler and a notable man. It was an honour to serve under his banner, and I am proud to be descended from one of his generals; but I have told you all this before. Miss Lawrence,” he concluded, apologetically.

She smiled as she replied, “You have your share of pride of race—”

“It governs all our actions,” he answered, his eyes dwelling upon her with a strange expression of fatalism and resignation.

They moved towards the palace with the intention of re-entering it by the equally large verandah that sheltered the rooms at the back. Groups of natives stood about. Some of them were the servants employed in the refreshment tents; others were the dependents of the native guests of the Maharajah; a few had come in uninvited to see what was going on. If asked why they were there, they had a ready excuse in the statement that they were relatives of the people who still lived in the fort.

As the little party stepped inside the verandah their progress was barred by a group of young Hindus, who were talking together in excited tones.

“Make way, please, for the ladies,” said Adam-u-din, politely in English, as he might have spoken in an English crowd.

“Make way yourselves,” was the rude reply. “We have as much right to be here as you and the pale-faced women have.”

Major Adam-u-din’s eyes flashed angrily, but he remained quiet under the insult. Pushing gently but firmly the most obstructive of them aside, he obtained sufficient room for his three companions to slip by. There were angry murmurs; and Alauda, glancing behind her, noted that they were talking together and looking at her. She was glad to find herself in the carpeted hall, which was nearly empty. The Maharajah had left, and his guard was no longer on duty. The gay company had followed, on tea and ices intent, and only two or three people lingered. They also were bending their steps in the direction of the hospitable tents.

“What is that large bracket or shelf?” asked Alauda, looking up at a curious kind of gallery that jutted out from the centre of the wall into the hall.

“It is a dais erected by the order of Tippu, You see that it is surrounded by a latticed gallery. Behind that lattice the ladies of the harem were permitted to assemble and watch the proceedings below.”

“Come and have some tea, Alauda,” said Vida, who had had quite enough history for the present.

“Just a minute or two longer. I want to hear about the hall.” She turned to Adam-u-din. “What sort of things took place here?”

“The prince received his chiefs and nobles, and listened to the requests they had to make. He also heard their disputes and arbitrated, his decision being final. There was no appeal in those days,” he concluded, with a smile.

“When did he use the gallery?”

“Whenever he saw the sentence carried out. His punishments were severe in the case of treachery, disloyalty, or even unmannerly behaviour. Seated up there he was out of reach of the assassin’s sword and the fanatic’s dagger. Do you think that any Hindu would have dared to speak to one of his officers as that man addressed me just now? He is the political reformer whom you saw talking to my men in camp. Tippu Sultan would have made short work of him and all his followers.”

He led her up the stairs to the screened gallery, and they stepped out upon the dais.

“Can you imagine the great man dealing out reward and punishment as he sat there? The rewards were in the shape of gifts and honours.”

He pointed to the centre of the platform, where, pillowed among silk cushions, Tippu the Tiger had once reposed in security—soft-eyed women his guardians above; devoted Moslems his guardians below.

“And what were the punishments?”

“The traitor was brought into the hall with his witnesses. The story of his offence was told and he was given an opportunity of speaking to the prince himself in his own defence. If he was unable to convince him of his innocence, Tippu made a sign, and an elephant appeared behind the man. The jailer slipped away, closing the hall doors so that there was no escape. Only the elephant with its mahout and the criminal remained. The mahout looked to his monarch. At a signal the elephant trumpeted and then began a strange game. The miserable wretch ran hither and thither like a mouse in a cage. The clever beast was well taught. It followed him continually, treading the hall with its great feet uplifted, each step coming nearer to the mark. In vain the condemned man turned and twisted and flew from side to side shrieking for mercy. There was no escape. When the prince was tired of the spectacle he signed to the mahout to finish. A terrible scream rang out; the Hindu was struck down by the foot of the elephant, and the life was trodden out of him. That fellow who spoke impertinently to us just now would have given fine sport. His legs are long and while his strength lasted he would have been a good match for the elephant.”

The eastern blood revealed itself unconsciously as Adam-u-din spoke. He could neither forget nor forgive the insult that he had received from one of the conquered race, and his anger and hate burned within him.

“You would not really wish to see so cruel a sight,” said Alauda, in a low voice.

Her words roused him out of his dream of revenge. He remembered who his listener was.

“Of course, not! Forgive me for seeming so murderous. I was living in the past. In those days men were judged by a different standard, and there was no western teaching.”

They stood for a time in silence. Shah Adam-u-din was the first to break it.

“Since we last met, I have learned that you have engaged yourself to be married, as you say in England. I hope you will be happy. May I ask when the wedding will be.?”

“In February; and yours, Major Adam-u-din?”

“It is also in February.”

Again the conversation dropped. The durbar-hall was curiously silent. The galleries that had once echoed to the laughter of Tippu’s harem were ghostly in their stillness; and the roof that had been filled with the shrieks of his victims, who made sport for the dark-eyed beauties behind the lattice, was silent save for the chirruping of the sparrows. Outside could be heard the strains of a band and the hum of the gay company.

“You would like some tea?” he said.

“I am in no hurry.”

She moved slowly away from the tyrant’s platform, with a sense of being fettered and bound. Her wings had indeed been clipped. The Adam-u-din and Alauda of two months ago were gone. In their places were two conventional puppets with deadened hearts, who talked of tea!

“Did you see anything more of Mrs. Breydon after I left?” he asked.

She glanced at him. There was no embarrassment in his manner as he mentioned her name.

“Not much; in fact, nothing after I became engaged to Sir David; he claimed all my time.”

“You have not heard that the little boy is very ill?”

“No! Is he? I am sorry!”

“It is appendicitis. I had a letter from Mrs. Breydon this morning. There has been an operation; but peritonitis has set in and I am afraid there is not much hope.”

“Oh, poor little boy! how sad!”

“And poor Mrs. Breydon! She is very much attached to the child. She has had charge of the little fellow ever since he was born. Except that it is a sorrow to her, I should not regret his death. His future would be a difficulty.”

“Why?” she asked with a curiosity she could not repress.

“Because of the mixture of the races. If justice is to be done, he should be brought up as I was brought up —that is to say, as a Moslem. His mother belonged to a good family. She was educated beyond the limit that was usual with Muhammadan girls. She was also allowed a certain amount of liberty without actually breaking her gosha. She was veiled and chaperoned, as you call it, and was permitted to drive out and go about in public places. The experiment proved a failure. She died after giving birth to her son. Her fate was terrible. I am afraid I shall shock you if I tell you what it was,”

“What was it?”

“The day after the birth of the child her grandfather forced his way into her room and beat her severely.”

“How dreadful! How shocking! And she was Sonnie’s mother!”

“He could not forgive her for the shame she had brought upon the family in meeting the English officer. It appeared that, taking advantage of her liberty, she sought the man out herself. She did not understand that it was wrong. Her grandfather demanded his name; but she refused to tell. He was so transported with rage that he ill-treated her in that manner. She kept her secret and died a few days later. The child was sent to the sweepers’ godown. I heard of it and rescued it. Mrs. Breydon offered to take the boy, and she has been a mother to him ever since. He was named Adam after me.”

Alauda’s mind was in a tumult. This then was the story. What had Dereham meant by telling her such a tale? He must have been grossly misinformed. How cruelly people gossiped away the reputation of a good woman! And she had believed it all and shaped her conduct accordingly! She was overwhelmed with remorse as she thought of the mistake she had made. Her keen sense of justice prompted her to rectify it in the smallest space of time possible.

“Major Adam-u-Din, will you do me a favour?”

“Certainly; you know that I—”

She checked with a gesture the warm words that were on his lips.

“I am appealing to you as a friend. Will you lend me your car? I want to go and see Mrs. Breydon; I want to tell her how sorry I am. Perhaps I may be able to comfort her in her trouble. She has no friend near her but her husband.”

“When will you go?”

“To-morrow morning early, if you can spare the car. I will start at daybreak, and I shall be back by breakfast-time. I must be in Bangalore in the afternoon to see Sir David win the Maharajah’s cup.”

“The car is at your service, and it shall be at the Residency at six o’clock. You will reach the Remount Depôt soon after seven.”

They had proceeded slowly towards the refreshment tent, where the people still congregated consuming coffee and ice creams. Quinbury and his wife were seated at one of the small tables. They rose on seeing Alauda and her companion.

“I thought Vida was with you,” remarked Mrs. Quinbury.

“So she was for part of the time. I have been fascinated with the accounts Major Adam-u-din has given me of the fort,” said Alauda.

“Has he shown you the dungeon where Sir David Baird was imprisoned?” asked the district officer.

“We did not get as far,” explained the Muhammadan.

“As soon as Miss Lawrence is ready, we will go and look at it. In my opinion it is one of the most interesting spots in the fort,” said Quinbury.

A little later they strolled towards the old walls on the north side, Adam-u-din walking with Mrs. Quinbury while Alauda joined her uncle. Others asked if they might come, and the party numbered over a dozen.

They climbed up on to the wall by steps built in the earthworks. From the top they had a view of the town. The sun was low down in the West shedding its golden light over the town. Thin smoke from the wood fires rose in a blue mist and turned the red tiles of the roofs into purple. Flying foxes were already on the wing; and the wandering crow was returning to its roosting-place in the trees of the fort.

From the town came the indescribable sounds of eastern life in a chorus that was softened by distance. Underlying all was the monotonous beat of the tom-tom, marking here a wedding-feast and there a funeral ceremony. Palm trees reared their feathery crowns in sharp relief against the orange and crimson of the sky; and the rounded heads of the banyan trees were deepening to a rich madder brown like blots against the brilliant colours of the heavens.

After following the wall for a short distance they came to a part where the earth-works widened into a bastion. Here they found steps leading down into a stone-encased yard, excavated in the heart of the fortifications. Another stairway, steep and dark, took them still further down into a small room dimly lighted by a grating in the upper part of the wall. The floor was paved with stone. It sounded hollow to the tread.

“I wonder if there is yet another of these dungeons below this?” said one of the party.

“If so, it would be of the nature of an oubliette,” replied Quinbury.

“Was any European ever imprisoned here?” asked Alauda.

“Sir David Baird was said to have been confined here for some time. The story goes that he escaped by the aid of a friendly waterman, who carried him out in his water-skin, but I don’t think there is any truth in it. History says that he was liberated.”

They climbed out of the hot unventilated dungeon and regained the top of the wall. They stopped at a point where they had a view of the four old gateways, one leading to another by a narrow way between high walls. Each gate had once been fortified and rendered capable of defence when the engines of war were of a less destructive nature than in the present day. The small guard-rooms stood empty save for the bats and owls; the narrow serpentine passage had been deserted for the broader road that ran through a wide breach in the walls.

A party of five or six natives approached. They were all youths who had apparently come up to see the view. Shah Adam-u-din throughout the walk had never been far from Alauda. He was the only one to notice the presence of the young men. Recognizing Chandraswamy, who had spoken impertinently to him at the back of the palace, he drew nearer to Alauda to protect her from any further insult. She was at Quinbury’s side listening to the well-known story of the remark made by Baird’s mother when she heard of his misfortune. She was told that in his imprisonment he was chained to a common soldier. Her only comment was that she was “sorry for the chiel who was tied to our Davie.”

Suddenly a cocoanut came rolling to Alauda’s feet.

Quick as thought the Muhammadan made a dash forward, caught up the cocoanut and threw it into the deserted passage between the gateways down below. There was a deafening explosion and a fall of masonry as the bomb burst and sent its contents into the old walls right and left. It all happened in the space of a few seconds, and it left the company paralyzed and stunned. Only two or three had seen the throwing of the bomb. The others were at a loss to understand what had caused the explosion. The Hindus themselves were also inactive. They were amateur anarchists in their way. Even Chandraswamy, who had cast the bomb, seemed bewildered and surprised at its effect.

He was not allowed much time for thought, however. Before his presence of mind returned sufficiently for him to make good his escape, Adam-u-din hurled himself upon him with the ferocity of a tiger. They fell to the ground together, the Muhammadan uppermost. Chandraswamy was no match for the soldier, and he made but a faint attempt to free himself The fingers of his enemy closed round his neck like a vice, choking speech and stifling the cry for help that the Hindu would have uttered.

Racial hatred unrestrained took possession of Adam-u-din. It lent strength to his hands, and roused an unconscious hereditary desire to inflict some terrible torture before death put it out of his power. As he lay on the top of him, his hands slipped from the neck and moved upwards towards the eyes, the thumbs seeking the orbits with ghastly intent. In another second the bomb-thrower would have been blinded for life.

Quinbury, at whose feet this had taken place, divined his intent, and gripped the Muhammadan’s wrists just in time to prevent the accomplishment of his purpose. The hands were wrenched aside and Chandraswamy, unworthy though he might be, was saved. On his release the Hindu caught his breath and screamed with terror that communicated itself to his companions. They turned and fled. The cry awoke the energies of the Englishmen of the party. They came forward to assist in holding the two men apart, and in guarding the offender until he could be handed over to the police.

Shah Adam-u-din rose to his feet suddenly sobered; and it was soon seen that he had no intention of repeating the attack.

“Bah! the swine!” he ejaculated. Then turning to Quinbury, he said, “Forgive me, Mr. Quinbury. In my rage I should have murdered the dog! Hand him over to the police. It will be a worse punishment for him to suffer the indignities of imprisonment than to lose his life or—or anything else.”

All this time Alauda, startled but self-collected, maintained her position by her uncle. As Adam-u-din regained his feet she looked at him. He met her gaze without flinching, a curious mixture of pride and shame upon his face—pride that he had saved her life, and shame that he had been given over to his passions so completely as to contemplate the commission of such a crime in her presence.

“We owe you our lives, Major Adam-u-din,” she said, her voice audible and steady. “If the shell had burst at my feet I must have been killed and my uncle with me. How can we sufficiently thank you for what you have done?”

Her words turned the tide in his favour. His impulse to revenge the dastardly crime was lost sight of in gratitude. Had he not thrown the bomb down under the walls of the old gateway, not a single person in the party would have escaped without injury of some kind. Those nearest to the infernal machine would undoubtedly have been killed on the spot. There was a chorus of thanks. which the Muhammadan received in silence. He had found a sufficient reward in the words uttered by Alauda.

They rejoined the company, leading their sullen prisoner with his hands tied behind his back until they were able to hand him over to the proper authorities. The people crowded round with eager inquiries, which were not easily satisfied. The noise of the explosion had been heard and no one could account for it. The sun had set and the short tropical twilight was passing swiftly. In the bustle and confusion Adam-u-din sought Alauda once more.

“Miss Lawrence, I am going. I feel that I have disgraced myself for ever in your eyes. I am not as your people are. I still desire to kill that man, to mutilate his hateful countenance, to see the life crushed out of him under the foot of an elephant, because he tried to kill you. Such thoughts I know are unpardonable in your eyes. Forgive me!”

The pride and sorrow that was mingled in his voice moved her. She placed her hand in his and her eyes were full of pity.

“It will be best for us both not to meet again; but bear this in mind. I shall never forget. You have given me my life; you will carry my gratitude always with you, wherever you may be.”

“And you!” he cried, “you will carry my love with you for ever!”

The gay crowd pressed together taking light farewells of each other, discussing the outrage, and making appointments for the next day. A couple drifted near her as she stood alone, overwhelmed with a strange sense of desolation. She caught the happy expression on Vida’s face as she looked up at Assington and listened to his murmured protestations.

Alauda shivered and turned away. Their happiness jarred upon her. It was a welcome sound when she heard her name uttered by Quinbury.

“Your aunt is gone and I have arranged for you to drive back with me. I hope you are not feeling upset by that accident on the walls. Here is our carriage. Will you get in?”

A short time before the explosion occurred Dharma Govinda was strolling about aimlessly on the outskirts of the European visitors. He was accompanied by two or three friends, men of his own caste. If they had any object in view, it was to place themselves in a spot where the Maharajah was likely to pass. A glance from his eye, an elaborate salute on their part, would have afforded them much gratification. They had inspected the tents and the tables set out with cakes and sweets, occasionally fingering a pink or white sugary confection to examine it more closely and replacing it carefully. To have eaten one would have contaminated the taster in his own and his fellow caste-men’s eyes more than the touch of a plague corpse of their own caste.

The noise of the bomb fell on their ears, and like the rest of the company they were startled. They hurried towards the spot whence the sound came, and presently met the party with Chandraswamy a prisoner in their midst.

At the sorry sight of his secretary in custody, with turban gone, dress disordered, eyes wild and bloodshot, Govinda made a shrewd guess at what had happened. Fool! idiot! could he not have waited! He was ruining everything by his impetuous haste, his ill-judged violence. The life of the Flaming Torch had come to a premature end through his ill-considered article. Now he had seriously jeopardized his own liberty by indulging in personal spite against the district officer. He, Govinda, had not been at pains to obtain from Europe the latest recipes for the manufacture of bombs merely that this son of a donkey might throw them at his personal enemies.

Never had matters gone so much awry as of late! And how much more mischief might be bred with Chandraswamy in the hands of the police! A little pressure would elicit admissions regarding both the Flaming Torch and the manufacture of the bombs, which would be enough to place Govinda in much the same predicament as that in which Chandraswamy found himself.

Creeping quietly away to the spot where the carriages were packed, he found the chauffeur and gave him certain directions. Then he sneaked round to the sandalwood warehouses. The custodian was a Hindu of his own caste. A five rupee-note was sufficient to unlock the room where the most precious pieces of wood were stored. Govinda breathed more freely when he heard the key turn in the large clumsy padlock of the door. Here at any rate for a time he was safe from the hands of the police.

No time was lost in seeking for him, A couple of hours later the constables appeared at his father’s door, disturbing the old man just as he had composed himself for his night’s rest. He inquired why they wanted his son, and was shown a warrant for his arrest in connection with the outrage committed at the fort that afternoon. He assured them that his son had left Bangalore that morning for his own house in Hosur. They paid no attention to his tale and searched the house thoroughly, but without success. Again he recommended them to go to Hosur, and the suggestion commended itself to the officers of the law. It was not easy, however, to put it into execution immediately. The fort stood in the Mysore province, which was a native state. Hosur was in Salem, which was British territory. Delay was necessitated by the propriety of the two ruling powers communicating with one another through their respective foreign officers.

This delay proved the salvation of Dharma Govinda’s liberty. By the time the warrant was ready he had arrived in his car at Bombay.

Chapter XXVI

There was a large dinner party at the Residency that evening. The outrage was discussed and Dereham, who was present, expressed unbounded indignation.

“Nothing short of a good dose of powder and shot will teach these Hindus a lesson,” he said.

Cheverell smiled as he remarked, “Breydon and I found the dog-whip and the polo-stick effective enough. I am coming round to Quinbury’s way of thinking. We have to deal with unarmed men.”

“This bomb-outrage doesn’t look as if they were unarmed.”

“Ah! there you have something more than the simple-minded follower of the agitator. The bomb-thrower is the agitator’s victim in whom the homicidal mania is aroused. There is nothing for him but stern repression,” said Quinbury. “I wish we could also repress the man behind him, but he is too cunning to commit himself.”

“It is my opinion that the country wants a lesson, a severe lesson before it is too late. In 1857 we waited too long,” said Dereham, with an indignation that was excusable, considering the peril in which Alauda had been placed.

“I beg your pardon, Sir David,” suddenly interposed the Resident. “It is not the country that requires a lesson, but a small minority of educated men who have spread themselves over the whole of India, preaching in the name of patriotism a new gospel of sedition and disloyalty. The great majority of the people have no political aspirations whatever, I assure you. They desire to be left alone in peaceful enjoyment of their land and their religious and domestic customs. The least important marriage in the village is of greater moment to the villagers than the election of a native member of Council. If only they could be left to follow the bent of their inclinations, their continued happiness would be assured. With these agitators preaching to them continually on matters they cannot understand, stirring up their worst passions by inflammatory speeches and urging them on to senseless deeds of violence, we are face to face with what may at any moment become a dangerous problem. For the present, however, powder and shot are not merited by the masses.”

“At any rate I hope this fellow will get his deserts, sir,” said Dereham, who was not convinced.

“A few years at the Andamans will sober him down. I am sorry for him. No doubt he and his followers will regard it as a martyrdom.”

“For the benefit of the district it will be advisable to have him removed for a time,” said Quinbury. “I should be glad to get rid of Dharma Govinda as well.”

“He is certainly at the bottom of the unrest round about us,” remarked Cheverell.

“I am not so sure that he and his kind are at the bottom of all trouble,” said the Assistant Resident, a civilian from Bengal.

“Ah! I know your opinion,” rejoined the Resident with a smile. “You believe that the movement has a deeper origin, and that the Brahmins are the mainspring of it—that it is an effort of the priestly caste to regain their temporal and spiritual power over the people, powers that they fear our political and christianising influences are undermining. Time alone will show if you are right.”

The conversation drifted to the evergreen topic of the army and its efficiency; the changes that had lately been introduced; and what would happen if there were a European war and half the troops were recalled.

In the drawing-room after dinner Dereham sought Alauda.

“Are you coming to the racecourse to-morrow morning? There will be some small events, chiefly jumping competitions for hacks and ponies.”

“I think not; it will be enough if I go in the afternoon, when I hope to see you win the Maharajah’s cup,” she replied.

“That Muhammadan, Major Adam-u-din, will run me close. He is up himself and he knows as much about riding as I do; perhaps more, for he has been in the saddle all his life.”

“How has the Saint been going on lately?” she asked.

“Like a lamb. Swadeshi, on which all the natives are putting their money, ought to come in a good third,” he replied.

“What is the reason for Swadeshi being a favourite with them? Is the owner popular?”

“No; the animal has a lucky mark, a curl of hair in a certain position to which they pin their faith.”

“Has the Saint any mark of luck?” she asked, knowing that the subject of horses never failed to have an interest for him.

“I believe the Saint is said to bear an unlucky mark, but I don’t know much about these superstitions. I am going to prove the fallacy of such signs by winning the cup,” he said with a happy laugh.

She looked up at him as he spoke so confidently of carrying all before him.

“By-the-by, I was talking to Major Adam-u-din to-day at the Maharajah’s party—”

“Was he there?” he asked quickly.

“Of course; he is on the Maharajah’s staff; and he was the man who saved our lives by his prompt action.”

She stopped. It had been on the tip of her tongue to tell him of Brenda’s trouble and to set him right in a matter where he had been mistaken. On second thoughts it seemed hardly a suitable moment for the relation of such a story. He and she were by no means isolated where they sat and her words might easily be overheard.

“Well! what did he say?” he asked indifferently.

“Miss Lawrence, I want to show you some photographs of Mysore,” said the Resident’s voice at her elbow. “I should like to persuade you to join our party for the Durbar. You mustn’t leave Bangalore without seeing Seringapatam, which is close to Mysore.”

There was no further opportunity of private conversation between Dereham and Alauda that evening. As he said good night with the rest of the guests, he begged her to excuse a call that had become customary every morning.

“I shall be busy all day and must be content to see you on the course in the afternoon after the cup race. The Resident has kindly invited me to dinner. You will be with his party on the stand so I shall know where to look for you.”

“Major Cheverell has promised to drive me to the course,” she said, as she returned the pressure of his hand.

She slipped away to her room immediately he had departed.

“Make my excuses to the Resident. I am so tired I must go to my room,” she whispered to her aunt.

Mrs. Quinbury glanced after her as she retired. Her placid mind was disturbed as she noticed the listless attitude. In some incomprehensible manner Alauda was changed. Perhaps it was the engagement. She would recover her normal condition when the fuss of the wedding was over.

Alauda threw herself into a deep cushioned lounge near the window opening into the verandah. A sweet cowslip-creeper filled the air with its fragrance. On the horizon a pale glimmer of lightning heralded a welcome shower of the night. The earth would awake to the rising sun dripping with moisture. The turf would be improved by a light fall of rain. She wondered if Adam-u-din would remember to send the car as he had promised. The desire to see Brenda and make amends increased. The wish to hear from Brenda’s lips the story related by Adam-u-din was strong. She blamed herself constantly for not having gone direct to her in the first instance. If the car did not come she must find some other means of getting over to the Remount Depôt.

Her thoughts went back to the incidents of the afternoon, the stroll round the old palace with Adam-u-din, his tales of bygone times, the fire that came into his eyes as he described the sights and sounds that delighted the Tiger of Mysore and his harem. Then came the bomb throwing, and the timely action that saved them from a horrible death; the fierce attack upon the Hindu and the sudden revelation of the untamed nature; the wild impulse to take revenge, to inflict pain, to slay. If her uncle had not interfered he would have killed the man or done a worse thing.

The gulf seemed to grow wider between the East and the West as she contemplated the events of the day. The veil had been withdrawn and the true nature of the Asiatic revealed; she ought to have been cured of her folly; but love is unreasonable, ill-governed and wayward. There, in the darkness of her room with the cowslip scent in her nostrils, and the glory of the summer lightning before her eyes, she admitted her love for Adam-u-din.

“Can I ever marry the other man?” she whispered fearfully to herself. “It is the only way to forget, the only way to blot out the other.”

Next morning the ayah brought the tea-tray at half-past five, and at six she was dressed and ready for her drive.

“The car has come, missy,” said the woman, holding out the long cloak that her mistress wore for the morning drives.

She passed out by the pillared entrance, and the car glided through the gates of the Residency and down the smooth Cubbon road. The rain had laid the dust and the air was fresh and cool. The chauffeur drove well, and when once he had left the cantonments behind, he put on the pace. He had had his orders apparently, for he asked no questions.

A few minutes after seven they turned into the shaded compound, and drew up at the verandah of the little bungalow. The house was very quiet, but its inmates were not asleep. Tim hearing the sound of the car came forward expecting to see Major Adam-u-din. He was slightly taken aback as Alauda stepped out of it. She walked up the steps without hesitation, holding out her hand.

“How is the child?” she asked.

“He died at five o’clock this morning.”

There were tears in the eyes of the strong man. He had learned to love the pretty boy. The child had brought sunshine in their lives, and had lightened the sorrow of his wife.

“May I see Mrs. Breydon?” inquired Alauda. “I want to tell her how sorry I am; how much I sympathize with her in her trouble.”

He looked at her with doubt; but the doubt vanished before her earnest words. Only half an hour ago he had been wishing that he could leave Brenda in the hands of a woman friend. His duty called him away; he could not stay. Already he was late, in the absence of his chief, in going to the stables.

“Come!” he said.

She followed him into the bungalow. He opened the door of the bedroom, where the little cot stood and motioned her to enter. The white curtains were raised, and on the mattress lay the little form, perfect in death as in life, the beautiful features calm and reposeful as if in sleep.

Brenda was standing by the side of the bed, some eucharis lilies in her hand. A few of the flowers were already placed upon his breast. She looked up and recognized Alauda. Then her eyes sought her husband’s with swift inquiry. His answering glance restored confidence and the apprehension momentarily roused died away.

Alauda went quickly forward, passed an arm around her waist and kissed her affectionately. Brenda had not been kissed by a woman for many years. The action gripped her suddenly and unexpectedly. It loosened the bands of reserve and opened the flood-gates of her sorrow—long pent-up sorrow and suffering. The flowers fell upon the child’s body; trembling arms were thrown round Alauda’s neck; and Brenda, burying her face on her shoulder, burst into a storm of weeping.

Tim stood for a few seconds watching the scene; then with a sigh of relief he turned away and hurried to his neglected duties at the stables. He had the wisdom to understand that this was what his wife needed more than anything else at the present moment. He blessed the generous sympathetic woman who dared to break through the social barriers and bring comfort to the broken spirit.

Two hours later, Brenda and Alauda came into the verandah of the silenced bungalow.

“When is the funeral to take place?” asked Alauda.

“This evening at five o’clock.”

“You will miss the dear child.”

“It is best as it is,” replied Brenda. “We loved him; but all our love could not make him an Englishman.”

“Nor a Muhammadan. Poor little out-cast! Yes; any union between the races is impossible! impossible!”

Brenda started. The words seemed like an echo of her own, uttered to Shah Adam-u-din upon that very subject not long ago. Alauda signalled to the patient chauffeur to bring up the car.

“Tell me, have I done wrong in speaking?” asked Brenda. “I could not remain silent when I found that he had left you in ignorance—”

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Alauda answered, her voice low and unsteady. “I have learned this morning the true state of my mind. You have saved me from making an irretrievable mistake, and I thank you again and again.”

Once more Brenda felt the friendly arm about her and the friendly kiss upon her cheek. It was impossible to express her gratitude, and she dared not attempt to utter the words that rose to her lips.

“Well!” cried Tim, as he returned a little later for breakfast. “What have you done with your guest?”

“She would not stay; she wished to get back in time for breakfast at the Residency. It is at ten; she will be in time.”

He looked at her narrowly and was satisfied. In spite of her latest trouble there was more happiness in her eyes than he had seen of late.

“You told her?”

“About myself—yes; but not of our suspicions about the child. We have no proof.”

“They were sufficiently imprinted on the little chap’s face to satisfy any one with discerning eyes,” growled Tim. “How did she take it?”

“Nobly in every way. She is a woman in a thousand, far too good for him!”

“I don’t envy the fellow when she meets him. He deserves every bit of what he will get,” was the reply.

Chapter XXVII

“Have you been for a ride, Alauda?” asked Mrs. Quinbury, as her niece greeted her at breakfast.

“I went for a drive. Major Adam-u-din lent me his car.”

Mrs. Quinbury looked surprised. She was reconciled to her eccentricities, however, and merely asked—

“Did he go with you?”

“No; I went alone to Hosur to see Mrs. Breydon. The little boy is dead. He had appendicitis. The doctor operated, but it was not successful.”

“Poor Mrs. Breydon! She and her husband will feel the loss, as they were much attached to the child. I have often wondered what his story was. Was she very sad?”

“She grieved, of course; but it is not like losing a child of her own. She was resigned.”

“It was kind of you to go, Alauda, but it was not necessary. I thought you were on the racecourse with Sir David. You mustn’t neglect him.”

Alauda’s lips closed more firmly and she made no reply. The Resident, who was never long at the table, presently rose to go. His guests followed his example as they chose.

“Is Sir David coming to lunch?” asked Mrs. Quinbury.

“No; the Resident has asked him to dinner, and I shall see him on the racecourse this afternoon.”

She pushed back her chair preparatory to leaving the table.

“Come to my room presently,” said her aunt. “I have been thinking out your wedding-dress. As there has been no time to send to England for it, we must do the best we can with the dressmakers here.”

“I have some letters to write; I must ask you to excuse me. There will be plenty of time for the consideration of the frock later on.”

Mrs. Quinbury’s eyes followed her niece as she went out of the breakfast-room. “What a strange girl she is! the first I ever met who showed so little interest in her trousseau.”

Dereham had a busy morning on the course. He returned to the hotel for lunch and an hour’s rest. He was preparing to go back to the course when he met one of the stewards in the verandah of the hotel.

“I say, Dereham, one of your rivals is disposed of. Major Adam-u-din has decided at the last moment not to ride.”

“Who has he put up instead?”

“A native of no account. The only man who will run you close is Wyres himself.”

“I thought Swadeshi was to be ridden by a native.”

“Wyres overruled Govinda, and persuaded him that the horse would have a better chance with an Englishman up. Hallo! here’s a Residency peon!” exclaimed Dereham’s companion catching sight of the scarlet-coated messenger. “A letter for you. I shall see you later on. Hope that queer-tempered devil, the Saint, will behave nicely.”

Dereham took the note and went across to his room in the bungalow. The letter was from Alauda. In a few straightforward words she told him that she had been to the Remount Depôt that morning, and that she had seen Mrs. Breydon. From her lips she had learned the story of her life. It was hardly necessary to say that the aspect of affairs was entirely changed. She felt obliged to retract her promise to marry him. The announcement of the alteration of their plans need not be made until they had both left Bangalore. She herself would return to Hosar on the following morning. There was not a word of regret or apology.

Twice he read the letter through. The man who had brought it was waiting outside for the answer, Dereham took up his pen, but it was some minutes before he could steady his hand sufficiently to write. The letter enraged him to such an extent that it was with difficulty that he could express himself calmly. “You have written in haste,” he wrote; “and I refuse to take my dismissal. A man does not live to my age without having made mistakes and repented of them. I have repented, and it is ungenerous of you to rake up the past against me. Be kind, Alauda, and don’t ruin my life and yours for mere sentiment. I return your cruel little note with this, praying you in the goodness of your heart to tear it up and forget that you ever wrote it. Let the past bury the past. The future is ours, to make it what we wish. In my great love for you, I desire nothing but the liberty to devote my life to you; therefore I hold you to your promise and utterly refuse to let you go.”

Although he wrote temperately, her action and the thought of Brenda’s treachery, as he termed it, roused his anger. He drove to the course in an evil temper.

The afternoon was brilliant with sunshine, and the grand-stand was gay with pretty frocks and parasols. All the Europeans and a large number of natives were gathered together on the course. The scarlet uniforms of the soldiers among the muslins and ribbons of the Eurasians gave an additional note of colour to the scene. In the place of honour sat the Resident with his guests and the chief people of the station. Cheverell had taken Alauda under his wing and was busy pointing out the different horses and jockeys. She had received Dereham’s note and was disturbed by the attitude he had assumed. She had not anticipated that he would combat her decision or make any stand against her expressed desire. She was puzzled to know what should be her next move. It would be necessary to have a private interview, and she did not see her way to it until the following morning. This meant that they would have to meet in the afternoon and evening and appear in public in a false position.

“I don’t see Major Adam-u-din,” remarked Cheverell, as the horses, entered for the Maharajah’s cup, were led out.

“Probably he is not here,” remarked Alauda.

He glanced at her with troubled eyes; her voice had lost its joyousness, and her manner was listless. Something was wrong; he could not tell what it was, and he dared not ask.

“There’s Dereham still in his overcoat,” he said. “That horse of his has developed a queer temper since it has been in training. He won’t bring it out till the last moment.”

She did not respond. Her mind was occupied with the problem of the immediate future and the state of her feeling towards Dereham. As soon as she had written and despatched her letter demanding her release she had been conscious of a strange sense of relief. A weight seemed to have been lifted from her mind. On receipt of his reply the clouds had gathered again, and the indignation roused by Brenda’s story burned hotly within her. That a woman should sacrifice everything for a man, that she should be betrayed, and then forsaken when the way had been made clear for reparation was abominable; that the punishment should fall on the woman alone, and that the man should go free to enjoy honour and wealth, was an intolerable injustice. And he confidently expected her to overlook it and behave as though it had never been! Where was his superiority to the Asiatic? The one killed a woman’s reputation; the other would have fulfilled the old Mosaic law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Which was the worse—moral murder or physical murder?

Cheverell, observant and considerate, forbore to trouble her with trifling remarks. It was sufficient for him to sit by her side, since he could not help her to carry her burden. He knew by intuition that it had laid heavily on her from the day that she had come alone to his house and met Adam-u-din. He had begun to fear that the approaching marriage was a mistake. A girl of Alauda’s physique, so full of palpitating vitality, should] not be so coldly indifferent to her lover as she appeared at the present moment.

“Take my glasses and you will see better,” he said, as the horses with their riders began to gather at the starting-point.

Mrs, Quinbury, who was sitting in front, leaned back in her seat towards Alauda.

“Look! there’s Sir David on the Saint. He has the horse well in hand but it is not in a good temper.”

The animal was certainly behaving strangely. It sidled and backed and was never still. There was a little delay in getting off. The Saint spent the time in circling round and round. His eccentric movements did not tend to lessen the irritation of his rider.

“Wait, my beauty, wait till we are fairly off and I will teach you a lesson,” he muttered above the Saint’s ear.

At last they started and for some distance the majority of the horses kept well together. Then one drew apart and forged ahead. A second, making an effort, followed and overhauled the first.

Swadeshi is leading! Adam-u-din’s horse comes next! Now the Saint,” cried Cheverell, as he watched the race through the glasses, which Alauda had given back.

Creeping up, the Saint passed first one and then the other. Swadeshi put forth his powers, caught up the Saint and the brothers raced neck and neck towards the winning-post. Hitherto Dereham had not had occasion to use his whip. Now he laid it on to urge his horse to greater effort. The sharp sting of the lash seemed to awaken every evil passion in the Saint that horseflesh is heir to. He shot ahead, putting a good length between himself and Swadeshi. With ears laid back he galloped as though demon-ridden. They were nearing the goal posts and Dereham ceased applying the whip. He raced past at full speed, the winner of the cup, pulling and tearing at the Saint’s mouth in his endeavour to stop him.

A kind of madness seemed to have seized the horse. The bit made no impression whatever. On, on they raced, until Dereham, tired of pulling and almost as mad with rage as the horse, loosened the reins and dug his spurs into the animal’s sides.

“Go, then, you devil; run till you drop!” cried Dereham, with his teeth set and his heels close pressed.

The Saint was not accustomed to the prick of steel upon his sensitive ribs. With a squeal of fury and a leap of the nature of a buck-jump he turned sharply off the course, cleared the low boundary fence, and galloped madly across the broken ground. There was a murmur among the watchers on the grand-stand who had glasses. She heard cries of—

“Dereham wins! the Saint wins by a couple of lengths! Bravo, Dereham!”

A man near her exclaimed, “By Jove! the brute is running away with him! He has passed the crowd, thank goodness! If the Saint had left the course and had rocketted into those people, there would have been a nasty accident. Ah! That’s bad! They’ve left the course after all, and have got into as nasty a piece of rough ground as we can show. There they go! How that brute can jump, and how well Dereham sits him! Great Scott!

He was suddenly silent, remembering the women who were gazing with frightened eyes at horse and rider, now a speck in the distance.

“Does Dereham know his ground?” asked the commentator on the Saint’s performance of Cheverell.

“I don’t know; why do you ask?”

The other did not reply, but slipped away hastily. Meanwhile the stewards, having no anxiety on behalf of so excellent a rider as Dereham, busied themselves in the preparations for the next race.

“I congratulate you,” cried Vida, pressing forward towards Alauda. “Are you not feeling very proud? I know I should be just crazy with delight if Charlie had won the Maharajah’s cup.”

Assington smiled proudly at the sound of his name on her lips. It had all been settled on the previous afternoon at the Maharajah’s party, and the happy couple cared not how soon the news reached the ears of the public.

Cheverell rose and gave Vida his seat. Assington dropped into that which the critic of the Saint’s doings had vacated. They whispered their secret to Alauda, and received her congratulations. There was much to tell now that the ice was broken, and Alauda listened with sympathy. Occasionally her eyes swept the space between the stand and the course for the figure of Dereham. He had promised to meet her after the race.

Thirty minutes later she saw Cheverell. He made a sign to her to join him. She rose and left the lovers, who were barely conscious of her departure, so absorbed were they in each other.

“I want you to come and have a walk with me,”” said Cheverell, as soon as she found herself by his side. “You will be tired if you sit there all the afternoon.”

She followed obediently where he led, and found herself near the dog-cart in which he had driven her to the course.

“Get in, Alauda; I have something to tell you.”

She glanced at him in inquiry, but climbed up to the seat in silence. He took the reins, and the Waler moved out of the enclosure.

“There has been an accident, a nasty accident.”

“Sir David?” she asked sharply, her sense quickened with vague apprehension.

“Yes; the Saint after winning the race ran away with him as you saw, and he has had a fall.”

“He is such a good rider, I am surprised,” she replied.

“The horse fell with him in that nasty rough ground beyond the course.”

“Oh, poor fellow!” she said quietly.

Cheverell made no further remark. Her calmness puzzled him. There was silence except for the tramp of the horse’s feet upon the road as it trotted towards the Residency. The distance was not great. At the entrance he helped her down and followed her into the drawing-room. It was deserted, everybody having gone to the course. They seated themselves near the large window that looked out upon the garden, and she drew off her gloves.

“Now, Major Cheverell, the truth please,” she said, as she turned to face him.

He was startled by the sudden energy of her manner, an energy that bordered on fierceness.

“He is dead. The horse and the rider fell into a quarry that has lately been opened for stone for the new buildings. He was killed instantly, and the Saint as well.”

“God rest his soul in peace!” she said, with bowed head.

It would have been a relief to Cheverell if he could have seen the tears fall. He distrusted that calm stony attitude.

“I am so sorry—” he began lamely.

She checked his words with a gesture. “Pity him, not me! Pray that I may not be too glad!”

“Glad! Alauda! What do you mean?”

“Death has given me a release that I sought but which he refused.”

“You felt that you did not love him,” he said, thinking of Adam-u-din.

“It was not that,” she replied, “I learned something of his past that was not to his credit. I may have judged him harshly—but I think not.”

She rose from her chair, calm and self-possessed. It was only in the depths of her eyes that he saw signs of trouble and pain. He asked no questions; he was content to take her statement without comment, and to believe in her judgment. She felt grateful to him for refraining from questions.

“Can I do anything for you, Alauda?”

“Drive me back to the castle to-morrow morning,” she said.

He watched her as she passed out of the room, dry-eyed and deadened to emotion.

“Something has hit her very hard. I wonder what it was.”

He learned the secret later, but not from Alauda.

Chapter XXVIII

On the third evening after the cup day Cassim stood before the door of the modest house in which Govinda’s father lived. He asked to see the master. The old man was in an ill-humour. His son had disappeared and he had had to meet large drafts in his favour at Bombay.

Moreover, after the restraint of his son’s presence was removed, he had carried out his intention concerning his litigious relative, and had sent certain trustworthy dependants to waylay him and administer the promised beating in the old-fashioned swadeshi manner. The plaintiff, however, was not caught napping. He had provided himself with an escort from his household. They travelled hidden in a second cart and at the first shout for help they came to his rescue. The assailants were badly beaten and one of them was secured. He was carried off and handed over to the police. On the whole things were looking black for the old man.

“What do you want, you Moslem son of a pig!” he demanded.

Cassim’s eye flashed angrily, but he restrained himself. “Ah, ha! that is well. Now good fortune will smile upon us. You found opportunity to give the medicine in sugar cane?”

“The medicine was made up in a small treacle ball. It was datura and hemp. The syce in charge ate sweetmeats and was ill, so that another man had to lead the horse to the racecourse. The horse won the race, but the medicine in its heated blood caused madness. It ran away and fell with its rider in the new stone quarry, a quarter of a mile from the course. It was well done, and there is no fear that the police will discover anything. The price arranged by your honoured son was two hundred rupees.”

“Ten, you mean.”

“The deed was worth the two hundred promised. There was the risk in preparing the sweetmeats for the syce; then there was the treacle ball to be given, a business of much difficulty. Ask your honoured son, sir,” said Cassim, well-knowing that Govinda was out of reach and not likely to return for many months. “He will assure you that after much talking we settled the price at two hundred rupees.”

“I will give fifteen.”

They bargained for an hour, and more than once Cassim threatened to go to the police and tell them everything. The old man dared not let him depart. This pig of a Muhammadan had acted in such a clumsy fashion that he had compassed the death of the Englishman as well as the horse.

After severe and obstinate haggling, Cassim was beaten down to a hundred and twenty-five rupees, which was twenty-five more than Govinda had promised. Very unwillingly the money was produced, and Cassim departed gloating over his triumph. His dead brother was revenged and he was enriched. Best of all, Allah himself had brought it about without the necessity for any action on his part,

Gamboll, the trainer, had something to say in private to Wyres after the races were over. They were rivals in their profession, but excellent friends in their unprofessional capacity.

“You never know what these black-skinned devils are up to with a horse,” remarked Wyres, after the accident had been gone over again in all its detail.

“The gentleman himself was in a bad temper,” said Gamboll. “The horse was badly scored by his spurs. The Saint couldn’t stand the whip let alone the spurs. The poor brute was just maddened. I was afraid something nasty would happen as soon as I saw Sir David laying on the whip.”

“Then you think that the horse wasn’t hocussed with one of those poisonous preparations of bhang?”

“It was impossible. As soon as the syce fell sick, I put that Eurasian on duty who is learning the business with me. I know I can trust him. From the time he took charge he never left the horse till Sir David mounted him. None of the natives liked having anything to do with the Saint because of the unlucky mark. I believe that the syce dosed himself on purpose that he might not have to go on duty on the course. He was afraid of being mixed up in some accident. I’ve known syces do that sort of thing before if they wanted to get off a job that wasn’t to their minds.”

“Sir David brought it all on himself?”

“I feel sure of it,” said Gamboll. “He was a good master in spite of his temper. It took a great deal to rouse it, but when he was thoroughly angry, he was unpleasant to deal with, as the Saint found to his cost. A good racer is lost in that horse, although he was as tricky a brute as ever stepped. If nature hadn’t given him a bad mark, I should have done so myself in my books.”

“What do you suppose had riled Sir David?”

“That’s more than ever you or I shall know. It was nothing that happened in my stables. It must have been some private matter which he took care to keep to himself. I’m sorry he’s gone, for he was just and fair in his dealings, and a pleasant gentleman to work for.”

It was as well that Govinda’s father never learned the opinion of the trainers as to the cause of the accident, or another trouble might have been added to the pile that was accumulating on the old man’s shoulders—that of having wasted a hundred and twenty-five rupees on a rascally lying Muhammadan.

*  *  *  *

Several months have passed. Chandraswamy is chewing the cud of bitterness in the Andaman Islands. Whilst he has been a compulsory guest of the “paramount power,” his conduct has been exemplary. He has hopes that his sentence will be shortened, and the period of his imprisonment curtailed by a couple of years at least.

Dharma Govinda believes that he has found a sphere of usefulness in England, where a man may say what he likes with impunity. He has settled in one of the southern suburbs of London, and he runs a boarding establishment for his countrymen under the name of the “Hindu Retreat.” He is also responsible for a paper produced on the lines of the Flaming Torch under the title of The Moderate Mind. As it is printed in England anonymously and sent out to India for distribution, it is not necessary for the editor, proprietor, and publisher, who are one and the same person, to observe such a cramping policy as was expedient with its predecessor.

Dharma Govinda has many friends among English politicians of a certain party, and it is rumoured with confidence that he will be invited to stand at the next general election as a representative of the suburb in which he has taken up his residence.

His father is still active and industrious. The luck has turned in his favour. In spite of the loss of his law-suit, and his narrow escape of imprisonment on the charge of instigating an assault upon his relative, he flourishes. It was only by the payment of an additional sum of money that the assault case was withdrawn. Business matters began to look up from that time, and he is able to send remittances to England as often as they are required. The “Hindu Retreat,” however, is not run at a loss, nor is The Moderate Mind. Subscriptions to both are forthcoming on appeal.

*  *  *  *

Dunstan Hall is looking its best in the bright July sunshine. The roses are in full bloom, and the song of the blackbird is heard in the leafy shadows of the old shrubberies standing between the gardens and the well-stocked coverts.

Captain and Lady Brenda Breydon are expecting guests. One has already arrived. Alauda Lawrence, her arm linked in Brenda’s, is strolling on the lawn outside the drawing-room windows.

“How long have you been in this delightful place, Brenda?” she asks.

“Just three months. Tim sent in his papers as soon as he heard of his father’s death in January.”

“You were not sorry to leave the Remount Depôt?”

“Yes and no. It was there that I found a friend, my first woman friend.” She looks at Alauda with shining eyes. “And it was there that I lost my dear little Sonnie.”

“Ah! what would he have said to the prospect of a little foster-brother or sister?” asks Alauda.

“How proud he would have been!” replies Brenda, with a new maternal dignity. “See! There’s Tim with the waggonette, and your uncle and aunt and Colonel Cheverell. Let’s go to the front door and give them a welcome.”

As Cheverell takes Alauda’s hand in his he searches her face closely. He gives a little sigh of content that no one hears as hope rises within him. He is not without sufficient courage this time to seize his opportunity.

It is possible that the wings of the skylark may grow again, and that she may yet sing the joyous song of spring.

THE END