The Law of the Threshold


How many books professing to deal with India have been, and still are being, written?

And yet the reading public of our race remains phenomenally ignorant of the first postulates in the problem of Eastern life.

Is it the fault of the few who write or the invincible ignorance of the many who read?

It matters little where the blame lies; the fact remains; so my heart sank when I set myself the task of writing this book; since its purpose was to portray—as far as possible without comment—the strange contrasts, the almost unbelievable antagonism which exists in the India of to-day.

I am aware that the truth of much that is contained in these pages will be strenuously denied by those who ought to know the facts. In reply I can only say that thirty years ago, I knew my India well—better than most; and that I simply decline to believe that three short decades have completely eradicated customs, superstitions, cults, which I know had outlasted three thousand years of much chequered fortune.

As I make one of my characters say, “All things, Huzoor, are possible in India. It is so very old. Were there not thirty centuries of lives before the West began to count?” Therefore I assert that such things as the Ritual of the Dead and Human Sacrifice did exist in my India, and that, though the last known date of the latter is 1875, there is strong reason for believing that there is hardly a district in India in which this rite is not still practised on occasions of great stress. Anyhow, the most minute directions for its performance still form part of the sacred books. True, it is only in the Tantras; but in Bengal, these are almost as sacrosanct as the other Vedas. In like manner, though I never had personal knowledge of those who seek Self by subsisting on Self thirty years ago, no doubt as to their reality existed in the minds of the ignorant and uneducated residuum.

For the rest. Under many names, Mai Kâli is worshipped throughout India—and particularly in Bengal—by the women. She is a very potent factor in their lives; one which requires recognition by those who try to govern India for the good of the many and not to satisfy a minority, be it alien or native.

A word must be said as to the curious exotic Tantracism that exists in America. I do not, for an instant, affirm that this cult contains all the objectionable features of the Indian cult; but it exists as Tantracism. It is, as all Tantracism must be, a secret society. As such an inevitable arena for the Bolshevist and the subversionist. And it is backed by wealth—whence does that wealth come?

F. A. Steel.


Chapter I

He passed as a Lamb to the slaughter,
Nor opened His mouth for a word,
Yet the Devil surceased in his laughter
In wrath and despite; for was heard
From each leaf of the cross-giving trees,
From each star in the infinite sky—
From each drop of the land-circling seas—
From each grain of Earth’s soil a glad cry:
‘Rejoice! Rejoice! He is sacrificed.
‘Rejoice! ye sinners, rejoice! The Christ
‘Has died on Calvary.’”

“I must go—outside.”

The voice, a hurried whisper, was scarce heard in the clamour of the vast crowd; a crowd that, ankle-deep in fast-clotting blood, was shouting itself hoarse in praise of the Dread Mother, Kâli-ma, who, to some two hundred and fifty millions of our fellow subjects in India, symbolises the ultimate mystery of life—the mystery of Sex.

The Blood of Birth, the Blood of Death! These two Pivots of the Great Wheel, inextricably blended, had brought men, women, and children in their thousands, to kill some miserable lambling or goatling on the temple steps in honour of the Goddess Kâli, in Atonement for their sins, and in obedience to the dreary hope of humanity that salvation may be secured by the sufferings of others. For Kâli as the feminine principle of life is pre-eminent in Hindu mythology. As the personification of Eternity, She tramples on the body of Shiv, the greatest god of all—Shiv, Her husband, even in His destroying character of Time. Her worship, full though it be of horrors, is all but universal; Her influence, especially amongst the women, almost the strongest influence in the lives of millions.

So whole families stood by serene, to judge, by the way the streaming life-blood of the sacrifice spurted, if the grim Powers behind all things were likely to be satisfied or no; and woe to the victim if the gleaming axe, botching the death stroke, failed to send the head bounding and re-bounding amongst the gore like a ball; for there was naught left to do save for all to pound the miserable youngling to a jelly with sticks and staves, since only by bruised flesh and broken bones could wrath be assuaged.

And women smiled as the deed was done, while little children laughed as the scarlet blood, which was to make their sins white as snow, spurtled on their dimpled limbs.

Thus the temple steps ran red and the warm crimson flood trickled down in rills to the sacred river, incarnading its cleansing waters, and staining the white winding sheet of a slender corpse that, in seeking the sea, had drifted into the temple backwater; a corpse which—to judge by the iron rings fast binding hands and feet—was that of some child-wife who had died in attempting to give birth to another child.

An attendant of the shrine shoved its contamination away with a long pole, muttering curses the while on one who, not content with failure in woman’s first duty, sought—though iron-bound—to bring evil to man—as if they were to blame.

“I tell you I must go outside.” The words, few as they were, betrayed the American nationality of the speaker. He was a young man full of fire, likewise of water; for the massive brow melted away—became fluid as it were—in the weak womanish curves of mouth and chin.

“But you have not yet seen,” began his companion, evidently an Indian, despite his European dress and speech. Then, becoming aware of the American’s ghastly pallor and evident weakness in the knees, he caught hurriedly at the latter’s arm—“Hold up, old man!” he cried in faultless English, adding in equally faultless Bengali, “Make room! Make room, brothers! Let us pass! My friend feels ill.”

The very suggestion of oneness with the surging, bloodstained mob seemed too much for the American. He gave a hysterical laugh, withdrew his arm and stumbled on alone, the crowd making way for him curiously. Once outside the temple, however, his stoicism gave way; he sought solace face downwards on Mother Earth, and was presently better, after feeling worse! The crowd of sympathising onlookers meanwhile suggesting that the gentleman was evidently seized with the Great Sickness.

“What’s up?” called a virile voice outside the circle of unavoidable and deeply interested spectators, and a tall good-looking European who happened to be passing in his buggy, jumped down and strode towards the group. “Cholera? eh! Now then! Let the doctor-sahib pass, will you?” he continued, thrusting his way without the least ceremony towards the prostrate man. The crowd obeyed the imperative, and Professor John Anderson, M.D., Civil Surgeon and Chemical Lecturer at the College hard by, knelt down beside the patient; but he was too familiar with the Great Sickness to be deceived by simulating symptoms, so, after a very brief inspection, he rose to his feet and smiled, as the young American, sitting up, professed himself all right.

“I never could stand the sight of blood,” he said apologetically.

The professor nodded. He was a big built man of about fifty, close-shaven, with a keen brown face and a merry twinkle in his red-brown eyes. “I see,” he said, removing his mushroom pith hat and running a very white hand through his rather long, wavy, grey hair. “Too much for you to stomach, eh? My dear sir! I don’t wonder. You have to be born to that sort of thing like your friend here.” And he turned carelessly to the young Indian. “Hullo! Devi-ditta?” he continued cordially, holding out his hand. “Back from England, eh? Taken your degree, eaten your dinners, and all that! Well! I shouldn’t have expected to find you here.”

Devi-ditta—or as the visiting card in his pocket put it, David Ditter—flushed a trifle, and explained—

“I was only introducing Blennerhasset to the sights——”

The professor interrupted him with a laugh. “Rather an unfortunate introduction? Now, Mr. Blennerhasset—that was the name I think?”

For answer a crimson velvet card-case with a gold monogram was drawn out, and a card, smelling strongly of musk, handed to John Anderson.

“That, sir,” said the young American with much pomp, “gives my name, my profession, my residence. At present, however, I am with the Llewellyn Davies’.”

Had he said the Gates-of-Heaven, he could scarcely have said it more reverently, since he had all his nation’s instinctive love of rank, and Llewellyn Davies, as Secretary to Government, was high up in the social scale.

“So I should have imagined,” remarked the professor dryly. He had a wonderful flair for the unreal, and knew the Secretary’s wife to have one for any notable, pretentious or otherwise; and this young man evidently thought himself a notable.

“Nigel P. Blennerhasset, T.O.A., San Francisco,” he read, while his eyebrows went up over the musk. “I’m afraid I’m no nearer as to the letters,” he remarked, “but perhaps you will be good enough to explain as we go along; for as I see you’re still shaky, and as I happen to be going to Mrs. Davies’ garden-party, I’ll drive you there, if you like. Sorry, Devi-ditta, but there’s only room for two in the buggy.”

It was quite politely said, but the young Indian felt instantly aggrieved. “I have told the motor to come back,” he said with some pomp.

“As you like,” returned the professor carelessly, “only I was proposing to take your friend to the club en route and administer a real ‘Am’ercan cocktail.’ Looks as if he wanted one, and he’ll only get lemonade at the Llewellyn Davies’—they’re full-blown prohibitionists! What do you say, sir?”

Thus addressed, Nigel Blennerhasset looked from the professor to his friend, and from his friend to the professor. He did not want to offend, and yet he was conscious of a distinct desire to escape, for a time, from all things Indian.

“If you don’t mind, David,” he began feebly, fearing a protest.

But the young Indian had not only acquired courtesy in the West, he had inherited it from a long line of high-caste ancestors. “Go, my dear fellow,” he said with much manner. “As Professor Anderson says, you need a pick-me-up. I will follow at my leisure; for, as you know, I have to play in a tennis match at Mrs. Llewellyn Davies’ garden-party.” This Parthian shot was for John Anderson’s benefit; but it is doubtful if he heard it, for he was already in the buggy gathering up the reins.

A moment more and Devi-ditta, feeling distinctly ill-used, was left watching his friend being driven off by a stranger. Yet his common-sense told him no offence was meant. Despite this, however, he did feel offended, and he was so standing with the nameless lack of self-confident dignity which besets Young India so terribly, when a hand was laid on his shoulder, and, turning round to see whose it was, he found himself faced by an eager, pressing crowd of young students, and in a moment memory made him forget the last six years of his life in the West, and remember only the days when he also was a student at the college.

“Ghosâl!” he cried almost affectionately, recognising in the older man who had touched him, the Assistant-Sanskrit master of those old school times.

“At your service, sir,” was the reply, “but what matters insignificant mortals when Mr. Devi-ditta, M.A., is in evident presence? Boys,” added the speaker, “three cheers for eminent townsman who has returned with B.A., M.A., and all the rest of the alphabet! Three cheers for chief alumnus of college.”

And the boys, eager-eyed, ready for any emotion or interest, broke at once into the shout with a wail in it, as if it were bemoaning its alien origin, which is such a travesty of a real English cheer.

“That is well, is it not, Mr. Nund Kumâr?” continued Ghosâl turning to a man who stood beside him—a man whose age might be anything between twenty and thirty, whose wheel-like turban proclaimed him a Mahratta, and whose white trident on the forehead showed him a Brahman.

“Undoubtedly it is very well!” replied Mr. Nund Kumâr in English only spoilt from perfection by a strong accent, an accent so strong as to be almost artificial. “Our illustrious compatriot deserves all we can give him—would it were more——”

“Well said, sir! Well said,” exclaimed Ghosâl exuberantly. “And we can do—yes! we can—Baiyan!” he turned again to the eager-eyed lads—”Let us celebrate fortuitous meeting with distinguished countryman by sacrificing! by garlanding! by going whole hog!”

Tumultuous shouting showed that the idea was rapturously acclaimed. “But I say—look here——” protested the proposed recipient of honour, his six years at an English university making memory play him another trick. In honest truth, for the moment, he scarce knew who or what he was; all was so familiar, yet all so antagonistic, to his present culture.

Five minutes afterwards, however, garlanded like a prize ox, he was objecting feebly to the sacrifice of a fowl.

“’Tis but the white cock to Esculapius, sir,” remarked Nund. Kumâr suavely, “and I hear you have passed in medicine.”

This remark seemed to please the audience who greeted it with uproarious mirth. Devi-ditta, despite his protests, had to pose as the principal figure of the ritual, while one Prem-nâth from amongst the students, a lanky hatchet-faced youth with prominent teeth, who was chosen for the job because his father was chief priest at a well-known up-country shrine, recited the office; which he did with much unction; though to his culture, also, the rite was almost abhorrent.

Was it all jest? Was it earnest? Fresh from a completely Western life, the young Indian scarcely knew. All he seemed able to remember was being taken as a child to this very shrine by his mother. And had she not been as a saint upon earth? He had lost her during his six years of absence; but the very thought of her unreasoning, her endless love for him, filled his eyes with unshed tears. It seemed an indissoluble link with the present; something which he did not desire to dismiss. So, with a smile he acquiesced in his position, until a sudden feeling of having been caught unawares, of having been, as it were, enmeshed, came with a loud remark of Ghosâl’s in the vernacular, so that all could hear and understand.

“Well done, boys! Well done! Having thus welcomed our illustrious brother Devi-ditta, son of our respected townsman Mr. Vidyan Narain Dâs, we must pray our Mother Kâli that, as he has cast glory on poor enslaved Bengal by his learning, he may gain greater glory by helping to set her free! Bande materâm.”

The catchword of Unrest, begun in his loud raucous voice, was taken up on all sides, and the chorus of the national hymn resounded over the blood-stained pavement. The worshippers sang with fervour, though, in truth, the chorus was all most of them knew of the precious composition. But young Devi-ditta stood silent. He could neither join nor dissent. His Western education had taught him to try and judge fairly, and he had come out from England determined—unlike most of his kind—to belong to no party until he had convinced himself of the justice of its claims.

Yet here he was in Mai Kâli’s court listening to Bande materâm! And listening with his mental ears to how many calls of the blood? He took refuge from them in the thought of his mother. And with the thought of her came that of another woman—the one he had met on board ship coming out from England—a woman of his own race, educated as he had been—a woman with a mission. Yes! he had failed to agree—he had set her theories aside as fanciful—but now, suddenly, surrounded as he was by the still almost savage superstition of the multitude, he saw—he understood. Underneath all the horror, the insensate foolishness of what was going on around him, there was a bed-rock of truth——

So he stood there silent, filled with a desire to free his people, not politically, but socially.

Meanwhile Dr. John Anderson as he drove along with his companion was using the buggy whip as a pointer. This habit of pointing was one born of long familiarity with lecture rooms; indeed to the memory of his students it seemed so indicative of the man himself, that the mere thought of him would conjure up the large nervous white hand gripping the glass mixing rod that showed like a point of light as it travelled over the blackboard. A point of light that was, in its way, symbolic; since John Anderson’s mind was singularly lucid.

“That’s the College over yonder,” he said. “A fine building—don’t ask me if the tower is Italian campanile or Burmese pagoda—all I know is that it was built by the Public Works Department. And it’s well appointed. I forget how many B.A.s and M.A.s we turn out; but a good lot, and they turn out good lots on the whole, though—poor chaps—they have only a few years’ schooling in which to imbibe a whole curriculum of new ideas, and unlearn all they have inherited. However, that’s only my theory. And that black monolith down by the water—just below the spire of the church—the Rajah of Rumgarh built that, by the way, in return for getting an additional gun to his salute—is the oldest temple in the place.”

Nigel Blennerhasset made a quick sign, something like the sign a Roman Catholic makes when hurried.

Dr. Anderson eyed him narrowly. “You’re interested in Shivalas, are you?” he said. “Well! they are interesting. The old faith they taught wasn’t bad, so long as it stayed pure nature worship, stern and straight; but nowadays Tantra-ism is horribly degrading!”

The young American’s face flushed crimson. “You’ve no right to say that, sir,” he broke in hotly. “You evidently know nothing of the real teaching which underlies—+” He paused as if in doubt whether to go on——

“Yes! underlies,” echoed the doctor dryly; then as this provoked no answer, he went on aggressively: “I should very much like to know what teaching underlies the farrago of black magic and immorality called the Tantras.” This was too much for Nigel Blennerhasset’s silence. “The Fifth Veda, called the Tantras,” he exclaimed, “is the key to the others. It is the Life and Soul of modern Hinduism, for it holds the Dogma of the whole World.”

John Anderson whistled. “Good Lord!” he said, “that’s a tall order. Do you speak off your own bat, sir, or——”

The mockery in his tone was again too much for the young man’s patience. “Off my own bat, sir,” he interrupted, “for I happen to be Kaula rite preceptor to the Third Tantrik Order in America—headquarters, San Francisco.” Then he bit his lip and paused: “I’m sorry I gave myself away, sir,” he continued, looking haughtily at John Anderson’s surprised face, “it’s against orders; though there is nothing to be ashamed of in our cult—as you would be the first to acknowledge if you knew anything about it; only you don’t. No ordinary man can.”

“Thanks!” said John Anderson with a smile. Then he grew grave. “I don’t understand!” he went on, his voice stern. “It’s incredible! You don’t mean to say, do you, that there is a living, breathing cult of Tantra-ism in America? If so it must be something very different from what it is out here.”

“On the contrary,” answered the American with vigour. “Tantraism—as our text-books say—we publish a great deal and publish well—our monthly magazine is no mere pamphlet but a solid illustrated number—is everywhere the same. ‘In mild patience, cosmopolitan sympathy, in nobleness of character——’”

Dr. Anderson broke in on the recital of virtues with a savage laugh. They were midway on the double cantilever bridge which connected the old town of Puranabad with the new town of Nawapura. Behind them lay huddled the tortuous alleys, the crowded tenements, the hoary temples of past ages; before them the garden-embowered houses, the spired Christian churches, the pretentious College buildings of to-day. Beyond this midway pier, the roadway was narrower and the doctor drew up his flea-bitten Arab to let a victoria which was coming towards them pass; and as he did so he pointed accusingly with his whip at a group of figures which was also approaching on the pathway.

“There’s the Kaula rite preceptor of this town,” he said sardonically. “Would you like to get down and fraternise?”

What Nigel Blennerhasset saw as his eyes followed the whip, was half-a-dozen or more young men in the deerskin cloaks of disciples headed by the somewhat unsteady figure of a man in the prime of life. A figure of magnificent build, naked as the day it was born. Its statuesque yet fleshy limbs were bespattered with blood, and the beggar’s bowl formed of a human skull which it carried, swayed like a pendulum as the figure moved with a lilt, evidently under the influence of some drug.

“That,” continued the doctor, his voice rising with scorn, “is Mâhârâj-jee. Every left-handed Tantrik woman in the place worships him—treats his desires as they would those of a god——”

“But that’s what we are up against,” broke in Nigel Blennerhasset eagerly—”we preach the spirit, not the letter——”

“Man alive!” interrupted John Anderson angrily, “you don’t know what you’re talking about. I do. I’ve too many patients due to the cult not to know—I tell you, you will do more harm than good with your metaphysics. As Constant says ’Les rites indecens peuvent etre pratiquées par un peuple religieux avec une grande pureté de coeur; mais, quand l’incredulità attaint ces peuples, ces rites sont pour eux la cause et la pretexts de la plus revoltant corruption.’ These women—there’s one worshipping that beast after their fashion—poor souls!—believe they’re right—if they came to see its horror—if educated woman——”

The words died on his lips, for at the moment the approaching victoria drew up, and a slim woman’s figure in white, carrying a tennis bat, stepped out, threw a coin into the beggar’s bowl, stepped in again and drove on.

“Good Lord!” ejaculated John Anderson; then with a ”Hut! you swine, Hut!” to the figure which lurched dangerously near the road in its effort to leer after the giver, drove on, heedless of its perfectly demoniacal scowl.

“Who is the young lady?” he asked quietly, for as the victoria passed its occupant had acknowledged Nigel Blennerhasset’s quick salute with a smile and a bow.

“A fellow worker,” replied the young man, his face radiant. “The most remarkable woman I ever met. The very life and soul of our cult. Of course she doesn’t approve, any more than I do, of—of that sort of thing; but as we are here to purify the people it doesn’t do to run counter to—to everything—just at first.”

Dr. Anderson drove on in silence for a while. Then he said: “You’re playing with fire, young man—fire and blood. I’ve lived here for fifteen years, I doubt if you’ve been fifteen days, and I tell you that your public has the ’Blut Lust’ in its veins. You saw to-day how the very babes in arms crowed over what made you sick; it’s inherited—you can’t help it; but it has to be reckoned with. That’s why Bolshevism would be appalling in India—why the mere prospect of it is so appalling. Take my advice, don’t try to make the common folk decent with metaphysical fig-leaves: it will do more harm than good. You know the Law of the Threshold, I expect, sir? The very elementary proposition that before you can be another thing, you must cease to be one thing, and that therefore there must be a breach of continuity. India’s in that breach at the moment; so for God’s sake let the cat sit on the wall and make up her mind which way she’ll jump. And now for a real American cocktail—it will be more cognate to your constitution than Omum water. The Llewellyn Davies don’t drink—more’s the pity.”

Chapter II

A bursting womb hidden within a grave,
Such is sown seed. Within it crowd and crave
A million claims to life; but who decides
If it grow fig or thistles: fool or knave?

The garden-party at the Chief Secretary’s was in full swing, and, so far as environment and management went, was proceeding on exactly the same lines which had governed such entertainments for many and many a year; since the house, and the garden in which it stood, had been the semi-official residence of Chief Secretaries ever since Mutiny time. So the trim durantia and sweet henna hedges, the wide lawns, the very beds of western flowers, were as they had been on that fateful morning of ’57, when wailing women and children had fled from them for shelter. The very servants were lineal descendants of those who had stood so staunchly beside their masters; and one there was—an old dodderer scarce able to stand upright in his scarlet gold-laced tunic—who had been a pantry-boy under his father in those days, and who, when the show was over, would squat—a bald, naked anatomy—in the cook-room, and descant on the time when the sahib-loque were sahibs, and he had not to demean himself by handing green chartreuse to the sons of moneylenders. For there is no such conservative as the old family servant in India, who would refuse high pay with scorn if it were offered by those who do not come up to his standard of gentility. So old Boota Khan, with his unblushing row of false teeth made of square ivory blocks connected with gold wire which he had worn these fifty years past, stood trembling like an aspen leaf behind the laden tables, and contented himself with handing a “pân” box surreptitiously to the small knot of Rajahs and Nawabs who still—after ancient custom—herded together aloof from the rest of the guests. In old days, he would have received a rupee or two in return; but Boota Khan had accepted the fact that times had changed; even though, in his opinion, they had changed for the worse.

And truly, Dr. Anderson admitted as he loafed about, welcomed by all, the function was somewhat of an olla podrida even for these latter days, since the Llewellyn Davies courted popularity. Yet he could separate the crowd into three groups. The jubilant group, including the host and hostess, who seemed to think a garden-party synonymous with Home Rule for India; the tolerant group of well-bred natives who, with their mouths full of pan suppari, would infinitely have preferred sitting on cane-bottomed chairs interminably watching a rather fat female interminably posture and sing indecent songs to the accompaniment of the tom-tom. Then there was the aggrieved group, and these were legion. Young men in correct Western costume, young women in aggressive Eastern dress, all with the dissatisfied look of children who, having cajoled one sweet out of authority, demand more. Outside these, there was a small condescending group of pure Europeans, amongst them the Commissioner’s wife, who begged Dr. Anderson to take her to the tea-table, lest some native should offer his services.

It was a difficult company to marshal effectively, but Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, a woman inches taller than her husband, with crinkly dark hair and a pair of luminous brown eyes, was equal to the task. Every now and again she would send her little husband as deputy to rope in some stragglers, but as a rule she managed beautifully; for she could gush over Eastern wisdom or Western education with equal aplomb, her slight Welsh accent bearing a curious similarity to that of the Indian born and bred. A clever woman, who did more towards her little husband’s success than he would have been inclined to acknowledge.

“You mustn’t go yet,” she said effusively to John Anderson, who, having done his duty by putting in an appearance, had come up to take his leave, “you must see the great match, East and West.”

“East versus West?” he queried jestingly. “Is that wise, Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, with India in its present state of ferment?”

“Oh! dear no!” she replied, shocked at the very idea of such want of tact. “One wouldn’t do that sort of thing, any more than one would let native regiments pull a tug-of-war with European soldiers, and that’s never done, is it? No! This is a rapprochement. Our best man and their best lady, against their best man and our best lady! Original, isn’t it? And fair besides!”

“That, my dear lady, depends upon your choice,” he replied a trifle sarcastically.

But as the players marshalled themselves he had to confess that so far as the West was concerned, none could cavil. Captain Hastings, the assistant-police-officer, had undoubtedly no equal in the province, while Lucy Morrison, his chief’s daughter, had just won the All India ladies’ single. It was a pity they had to play against each other since they were fiancé; but even so, it would be hard to find an Eastern couple to match the Western one.

“That is Maya Day,” came his hostess’ voice, as John Anderson stood staring incredulously at a slim girl in white, who, bat in hand, was taking her place on the lawn coolly. He recognised her in a second. She was the girl who had given alms to the Mâhârâj; yet she looked——He was quick to appreciate character, and the figure before him was full of it. The face, not pretty, but with the possibility of absolute beauty in it. The complexion just dark enough to make her dress look dazzling white a “bright array” as it were. The words of the old paraphrase came back to him, as he found himself questioning, who, indeed, and what she could be? And all the while Mrs. Llewellyn Davies’ voice was purring over her version of the puzzle. “Such a gifted creature! Sings divinely! They wanted her to be a professional, but she has a mission and came out with Nigel Blennerhasset—you know who I mean, don’t you? Well! She came out to sing to the Tantriks! I’m told they believe all sorts of dreadful things? So interesting; and such a sad romantic tale too. A widow from babyhood, and an orphan. Her father, so I’m told—just a poor writer though of immensely old family—won the Calcutta Derby sweepstake—some Englishman put him on to it—really quite a fairy tale. So he sent his daughter home. Then he died, but she has the money and is quite independent. Really, a most gifted creature! You must stop and hear her sing; she has promised to do so when she has played her game.”

“That will hardly be a good preparation,” said John Anderson foolishly; but he was mentally perturbed and could think of nothing else to say.

“Not when there is genius, dear Dr. Anderson!” cooed Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, beaming on him with her big brown eyes and shaking her head in cultured negation. “With genius one can do anything.”

And she drifted away leaving the professor interested, in spite of himself, to watch the game. It promised to be a good one judging by the first few strokes, although the men, uncertain of their partners’ strength, were at first rather obtrusive. But both the young policeman and David Ditter who made up the quartette soon recognised the mettle of their helpers, and settled down to their own work. And they all played hard, David Ditter, as English as a native can be in his spotless flannels, upholding the reputation which he had brought from Cambridge, and filled with resolution to win for the honour of India; Lucy Morrison, a typical English girl, seconding him, con amore, determined quite unconsciously that, if possible, her Charlie should not win with another woman. And he, tall, fair, handsome exceedingly, played hard from the Englishman’s sense of duty towards all balls, until something else came to him as Maya Day’s form developed itself, and he realised that never before had he had so good a partner.

“She’d beat Lenglen, I verily believe,” exclaimed a young subaltern enthusiastically, forgetful of all save sport.

“Yes! By George she’d make ’em sit up at Wimbledon,” said another.

Thus the game was a good one, though the issue was never really doubtful, and when the set was called six, four, the applause was almost as much for the losers as for the winners.

But Captain Charles Hastings figuratively bowed down before the slim young woman with the oval, expressive face and unfathomable dark eyes whom, before the game, he had viewed with absolutely indifferent eyes.

“You won that set for me, and I’m infinitely obliged,” he said, quite sentimentally, and when Charlie Hastings’ voice was soft it was very alluring.

But the girl’s face scarcely changed. “It was a ripping match,” she replied in perfect English. “One didn’t know if one wanted to win or lose—so one just played.” And she looked at her partner critically, appraising, yet discounting his superlative good looks. She had seen many such young Englishmen, well set up, clean, soft-voiced, but they had never interested her; nor did this one, though his next words pleased her, and made her feel a sudden approval of this boy—for he was little more—to whom all things were evidently equal in the world of sport.

“Just so!” he echoed, “I’m glad you felt like that! So did I. Of course I’d have liked Lucy Morrison—she’s my fiancée you know—to win; but when I saw your style there was nothing left but to play my hardest—and—and I’m awfully obliged to you. Come and have some lemonade—do——”

So, extricating her in lordliest fashion from crowding countrymen of the aggrieved class eager with congratulations, he piloted her to a seat, and standing in front of her to bar all intruders, entered into a real tennis talk. She bore it smilingly, attracted by his evident earnestness until he said——

“You know, Miss Day, if I played tennis, as a man, half as well as you play it as a woman, I think I’d chuck my profession and go in for it—regularly.”

Then with the kindly toleration of a mother she replied: “Don’t you think there is more to be done in life than play tennis, Captain?—I’m sorry, but I didn’t quite catch your name when we were introduced.”

“Hastings,” he said; then seeing a quick look of interest in her face he went on, “No relation, I’m afraid, to Warren Hastings, or Warm-’Estink as people call him out here. My father was only a cavalry captain. He was killed riding a steeplechase when I was quite a kid—my mother died soon after—more’s the pity.” His voice, cheerful utterly, had yet a ring of feeling in it. “What are you wondering at?” he added quickly.

“Oh! nothing,” she answered: then, as if to turn the subject, said, “Then you are an orphan—so am I; and I am a widow too.”

She wondered at herself as she said the words, for she was not given to being communicative. It must be his frank boyish confidence which had infected her, and laid her open to some banal condolence of course; but his words surprised her.

“Well! I suppose you don’t really mind. It’s your vocation, isn’t it? Like a nun’s.”

She stood up eyeing him curiously. “How do you know that?” she asked imperatively. “How is it you understand?”

Charles Hastings smiled. “Well, you see,” he replied, “I have to go a lot among the poorer folk—and one gets to understand—some things.”

“Then you are the first Englishman who does,” she said bitterly, and deliberately walked away, to be, ere long, the centre of a delighted crowd of Indian admirers; to say nothing of Nigel Blennerhasset, who felt that, in a measure, she belonged to him—or to his mission!

Meanwhile Lucy Morrison, also vaguely offended, had refused her partner’s offer of refreshments with somewhat over-elaborate courtesy, and had gone back to her father, leaving David Ditter a prey once more to self-conscious resentment, which he attempted to solace by explaining to his friends that Miss Morrison wasn’t a patch on Miss Day, and that if the latter had been his partner—as she ought to have been in a match called East and West—the East would have beaten easily. To which his friends, without exception, agreed, while many of them, quite unconsciously, added on this last grievance to their long lists of alien wrongs.

Colonel Morrison, on the other hand—a tall, grey man who had mourned his wife for many a long year and who now was consoled by having a daughter who ruled him and the roost with great skill, had greeted her sympathetically, but without the least rancour.

“You were completely out-matched, my dear,” he said. “Who is the young woman?”

Lucy Morrison, a pretty piquant girl, laughed quite carelessly, if a trifle loudly. “Yes!” she assented, “I simply hadn’t a look in. And she—curiously enough—is Maya Day. Don’t you remember? The Indian girl who came for a term to old cat Bisset’s school at Eastbourne. The girls were all clean gone on her, she was such a dear. But she left, when the war was over, to join some foreign conservatoire—she sings divinely. I must go and get hold of her to play tennis. Boy will like it.” And her somewhat over-assured face softened over the last words.

So, as the motley crowd of humanity drifted about, eating ices, chattering of all things on God’s earth, the short Indian twilight began to set in. Shadows cast by the surrounding trees invaded the smooth lawns in echelons. The night-scented cereus, overclimbing the wide porch, the white petunias bordering the carriage sweep, filled the whole garden with their elusive scent. A few coloured lanterns hung around the garden platform—where some of the younger guests were dancing a fox-trot to the sound of a gramophone—showed bright against the bloom of an orange grove, and told of coming darkness. The cicalas were making the cool air vibrant with their shrill shiver and through the open windows the sound of a woman’s voice singing, “The close of a perfect day,” came mellow and round. It was Maya Day. John Anderson paused a moment to listen, recognising a mistress of song. Then he turned for a glance at the dancers, who were beginning to look like pale ghosts as they flitted about chassé-ing, balancing, posturing. There was Lucy Morrison and Captain Hastings in close embrace; for style, to all appearances as if they had stepped out of a London ball-room; and close beside them a couple of young Indians dancing as if life held naught else.

So, over the air fragrant with the scent of flowers, drowning the voice of the singer, drowning the song of the cicalas and the faint whispering of dancing feet, came a loud yet muffled clang, musical yet dissonant.

It came echoing over the unseen river, from Mai Kâli’s shrine; for the festival of blood was still going on, though close on its end. The sound made John Anderson, as he took the reins and started homewards, feel—not for the first time that evening—that the world was upside down; and the feeling made him pause at a turning which led round a promontory that jutted into the river, and decide to take that road instead of the straight one to the Club; for along that road—it was little more than a cart track—lived one whose attitude towards life was ever a refreshment to a perturbed soul; at least in the professor’s opinion. So walking the flea-bitten Arab through the gathering gloom of trees over-hanging the stream, the quaint antiphonal chant of a class of schoolboys reciting arithmetical tables met his ears, and he smiled to himself. Some of the pandit’s pupils were in disgrace, evidently, as it was over late for them to be so employed.

“Three-and-three-quarter times seven-and-a-quarter,” came one set of voices, a note of imperious question in each syllable. Then the answer, confidently certain, from another set of voices. As ever, it brought to the listener a useless wish that a like certainty of answer could be found for weightier problems.

So, flinging the reins to the groom, he sought the master where he knew he would find him, on the plinth of some old stone steps leading down to the river. There was just room for the buggy to stand between them and the low whitewashed mud arcade that did duty for a school; a school in strange contrast to the be-spired, be-arched college that stood on the higher bank just above it.

He found the pandit as he expected to find him, apparently watching the flotsam and jetsam of spent marigold and jasmin petals which were floating seawards from the temples higher up the river. He was a small, thin, old man in spotless white, in close-wound turban framing a keen humorous face; such a man, briefly, as Birbal, the bosom friend of the greatest monarch who ever lived, might have been; Birbal who jested at death with eyes clear, yet full of tears.

A cresset lamp was alight on the opposite plinth, but the broad stream beyond was still a shield of golden glint, for the sun had not long set. Here and there on the shining yet shadowy water a gleam as of a star showed where some corpse—a lit lamp on its dead breast was floating seawards like the spent flowers.

Uttermost peace held all things, and John Anderson, feeling the charm, pushed the cresset to one side, lit a cigarette at it, and seated himself on the plinth, his feet dangling over the sliding river. The monotonous chanting went on and on, and prompted a question——

“What would you do, pandit-jee, if your pupils sang Bande materâm, as ours do up at the College, instead of singing their tables?”

The humorous face opposite him looked grave. “That cannot be brought within the realm of thought,” came the quick answer, “my pupils—are pupils.”

The professor laughed. Pandit Akâs Râm’s mind was ever a joy to him; it had been inherited from a long line of ancestors, and it was fine as a cobweb, strong as drawn wire. It was a squirrel-like mind, agile to a degree, and capable of threading its way through forests of words, and emerging where it would. The mind briefly of a Brahman whose forbears have for long centuries ruled over lesser minds. And Akâs Râm’s family had been hereditary ministers to kings.

“And ours are not,” suggested Professor Anderson.

The pandit was still grave. “There are few scholars, many masters, nowadays, Huzoor; except in patshala schools—such as this one. Lo! Humility is not taught by Government as we teach it. There was one, a lad of twelve who was sent hither by his parents—they were sib to me, Huzoor—because at a ‘missen school’ he became too full of argument. So I set him to sing two and two make four——” he paused——

“Well?” said the professor, “what happened?”

“Huzoor! After long hours he wearied of the sound of his own voice, and refrained from all words.”

Once again John Anderson laughed.

“So we don’t teach the boys——” he began.

“They are taught too much, Huzoor,” replied the old descendant of prime ministers quietly. “See you! It takes long years to make a mind that can think for itself, and the fathers of many students were as the beasts of the fields.”

“So you are not a democrat, pandit—eh?” put in his hearer.

The answer was swifter than before. “Mind is individual, Huzoor, it cannot be democratic. That is the error the sahib-logue make. And these young lads who come out bedizened with letters! They talk of democracy not knowing what it is. To them, democracy is what they desire, so those who refuse aught to them are tyrants. They herd together and think the thought of the next man; so, as the next man knows no better than they, all know naught.”

“Then you don’t think much of our Intelligence Department?”

It was the pandit’s turn to laugh. “Huzoor! They are as babes. In the old days——”

“Yes! pandit: In the old days——”

“We acted—we did not make enquiries.”

“Yet in the end, pandit, we do smash up people who give trouble.”

A superior smile showed on the keen bronze face. “But we dealt with them ere trouble came. The snake was scotched ere it had time to be venomous. ’Tis the safer plan.”

“Possibly; but I think we are pretty safe without it.” The English pride showed in the retort.

The pandit gazed thoughtfully at the drifting petals as they swept by on the current. “Perchance,” he replied after a pause, “but India is an old land, a very old land! Were there not thirty centuries of lives—thirty centuries of civilisation before the West begins to count? And do not old trees send out strange growths, yea! even poisonous ones?”

“Then you think—” began John Anderson

The keen face wrinkled itself into amused, negation, and the supple brown hand pointed to the drifting petals.

“Who can think aught, Huzoor,” said the descendant of prime ministers, “when man is even as yonder derelicts on the River of Life? See! How they huddle together! Wherefore! Now one leaves its mates and sails away solitary. Why? And now ’tis caught by a fresh current—yon dimpling whirlpool hath it—it spins round and round—’tis sucked in—it hath gone—Whither?”

The challenging question was pitiless. It was the old man’s method of ending a conversation which he did not desire to prolong, and John Anderson, rising, threw away his cigarette. “Well,” he said, “we won’t discuss the theory of vortices to-day, though it is news to me that Eastern thinkers puzzled over it.”

“Truth is not of hemispheres,” retorted the old man. “’Tis not even of our sphere. Hence, doubtless the difficulty of attaining it.” Then he added suavely, “But fret not over the idle songs of idle boys—there be greater causes for thought.”

“What are they, pandit-jee?” asked the professor; but once again the old man avoided direct answers.

“The old tale, Huzoor, of freedom misunderstood. ’Tis too large a gift for one man. Freedom is for the race, not for the individual.”

His voice modulating the liquid Urdu syllables to perfection, mellow, musical, lingered in John Anderson’s ears as he drove away; and as he drove there came over the fast darkening stream the last clang of Mai Kâli’s bronze bell.

The festival of blood was over.

Chapter III

Gold-hearted, open to the sun and rain,
The cornfields ripen. But the poison bane
Of nightshade and dhatura, seek the dark
Which best distils their essences of pain.

While the Garden-of-Chief-Secretary’s held its motley crowd of jubilants, tolerants and aspirants, the Temple of Mai Kâli over the water had gone on undisturbed. Little by little the jostling worshippers, diminishing, had drifted away to crowd still further the narrow bazaars of the old town which, filled shoulder thick with masses of almost undistinguishable humanity, gave one the impression of multi-coloured snakes crawling their tortuous way through the high tenement houses. Humanity shouting, yelling obscene songs, and still calling on Mai Kâli for help. How many thousands there were against the hundreds at the garden-party is held, nowadays, to be of small account; but together they made up India; India for whom a Western power was legislating as best it could on civilised lines.

In the temple, however, quiet began to reign. The bronze bell had ceased clanging. The image of the Dread One with its ten snake-like arms had been figuratively bathed and put to bed. The sacred water of ablution had been sacramentally imbibed by devout worshippers, and, save for one glimmer of an oil lamp surrounded by fading chaplets, the shrine was plunged in deepest gloom; though outside in the courtyards the rising moon was whitening the crimson gore and silvering the stream that had been stained by humanity’s vain effort after salvation.

The peace of God’s gracious night had fallen and there was no sound in the temple itself, save, every now and again, the whisper of a footfall as someone passed from outside towards the narrow courtyard-corridor which lay, embedded, as it were, in high tenement houses, at the back of the temple buildings.

One of these passers-by, who came late, paused a moment at the foot of the idol, flashed an electric torch suddenly on its distorted features, and then, with a laugh of mockery, went on. Yet the fleeting light had shown the orthodox dress—or undress—of a wandering ascetic. Of middle height, the limbs, less attenuated perhaps than the majority of such folk, were smeared plentifully with cow-dung ash, and the matted hair, bleached by lime and mixed with wool, was plaited most artfully like a tiara, slightly to one side of the head. But then the jogi was evidently a dandy of his kind, for his string of kernel beads was of the largest, and his bleached moustache and imperial were worn upturned, giving the face a distinct resemblance to the late Victor Emmanuel of Italy; giving it also a somewhat rakish, jovial expression.

He was one of the last to pass through the mere slit in the temple wall, which was the only access to the corridor-courtyard beyond. A slit, elbow-worn from its narrowness, and long as a passage, by reason of the extreme thickness of the temple wall. This thickness deadened all sound; but, as the dandified jogi emerged from the total blackness of the tunnel, the chink of money became audible.

It was a quaint place at all times this corridor-courtyard which served as a green-room for officiating priests. Even at noontide it was sunless, though the gilt spires of the temple were flashing above it in the mere strip of sky which was all of God’s making that it possessed; the rest being blank wall of man’s labour, windowless, doorless, looking dreary and dead. Sweltering heat had poured down all day long on to the earthen floor; a floor black and fetid by centuries of foul human use; a floor still damp enough to keep the heaps of spent jasmin and marigold chaplets flung aside in the corners, after worship, from shrinking to dust; so they lay slowly rotting and sending out a scent of mingled decay and flowerfulness. The air was heavy with this, with the smell of stale incense, and the fumes of the lamps filled with rancid oil which showed, dimly, a packed crowd of strange weird figures. For all the ascetics of all sects and kinds who had attended the festival were assembled to receive the dole set apart by the keepers of the shrine for this purpose. Strange, weird figures, indeed; many almost distorted out of human shape by fierce austerities. Of every sect, every denomination: fairly representative of the four million and odd mendicants in India, who live by mixed religion and poverty. All with the soul’s salvation as their aim, yet most with the greed of gold in their eyes.

The newcomer found a place for himself in the furthermost shadowy corner, and sate himself down on a rotting heap of flowers.

All eyes were on two men who, with an oil lamp stuck on the ground before them, were counting out piles of rupees, annas, and pice. The chink of them was the only audible sound, and there was anxiety on every face save the dandified jogi’s. His wore a smile and yet his eyes were everywhere, keen yet calm, apparently cataloguing and appraising the audience. Yonder, on a string bed, lounged the Mâhârâj, still under the influence of drugs; but so was the majority of the audience, as was evidenced by a certain dreamy exaltation of eye, a certain fixed stability of feature.

Not hard, in such an audience, to set a match to enthusiasms, to make resentment flame. An audience easily gulled, full of superstitions on which a dexterous hand might play.

Did the dandified jogi think thus? His face, anyhow, was impassive as the others; like them it woke to a sudden interest when the accountants called the sum total, adding;

“’Tis a third less than last year.”

A murmur of instant dissent rose from the motley audience, and an old man with streaming white hair and an arm stiffened to a mere stick by being upheld above his head as a penance, cried excitedly: “Then will our share be less.”

In a moment the dandified jogi was speaking. “Yea! father,” he said. “And whose fault be it? ’Tis the cursed alien that eats up the wealth of India. Yea! ’tis their fault.”

The murmur was one of assent this time; but on it rose a deprecating voice. It came from a very old man with a mild, almost childlike face. “I know not, brother,” he said. “’Tis true the pilgrims give less, though they seem pious as ever; and ’tis true they are poor; but life holds more of daily desire than it did of old—matches, and kerosine oil, and cigarettes—and the like.”

The dandified jogi broke into a disdainful laugh. “’Tis not matches and the like, oh! pantaloon, that makes us poor, nowadays! ’Tis the tacus we have to pay for the salaries of aliens to do work we, of the country, could do better. ’Tis the money the sahib-logue filch from us to let their mems ride in their carriages, while Indian wives sweat themselves at the quern and have no alms to give to the holy ones.”

As ever, the introduction of the feminine brought added indignation and there was a chorus of “Well said! brother,” from all sides.

But the hereditary chief keeper of the shrine, feeling that he owed his position largely to the support and toleration of a Government which respected ancient rights, and feeling, besides, that the speaker was arrogating attention to himself in a way not to be borne, said sharply

“’Tis not all the fault of the Government, O! stranger, who comest no one knows whence, and goes no one cares whither. ’Tis the fault of the railways. They take the poor folks, pence for ‘tuckets,’ and give no fee from the gainings to the shrine which makes the traffic. ’Tis not fair. And a pilgrim—be he ever so pious—cannot pay through both nostrils.”

Again on the chorus of assent a more reasonable voice arose. “Wherefore should he? Can he not walk? As Pandit Akâs Râm said—and he is the wisest of men—to one full of such complaints—‘Use thy legs, even as thy father did.’”

“Who calls Akâs Râm the wisest of men?” broke in the Mâhârâj, his speech still a little thick. “Who dares to call him so in my presence?” he went on, his voice rising with anger. “I say he is cheat and liar! He has deprived me of my rights this many years past. I, Kulin Brahman of the purest race. What is he to lay down the law and deprive folk of their rights—I say, what is he to interfere with—with women?” He grew somewhat incoherent, and a snigger ran round his audience, for all knew the cause of offence. Being a Kulin Brahman, Mâhârâj was in great request as bridegroom to penniless brides whose fathers could find no other fitting mate for their daughters; and who wished to escape the certain damnation which must follow on failure to provide one. And more than once old Akâs Râm—than whom no Brahman had higher caste rank,—had interfered to protect some miserable maiden from the sacrifice. It was an old quarrel dating years back; the Mâhârâj had had ample opportunities of assuaging his wrath and his passions with other victims; but the injury still rankled, especially when, as now, he was under the influence of drugs.

“There be others to defraud thee, besides Akâs Râm,” came a malignant remark. “Hast heard, Mâhârâj, that an emissary hath come from over the black water, by invitation from the accursed alien, to say the old faith is wrong—that ’tis sinful to shed blood, or touch a woman?” All eyes turned to the dandified jogi, and a priest with a subtle sinister face said sharply—“That cannot be, O! stranger; for we hold by the blessed book of the Tantras. They forbid not such things.”

A mocking laugh was the reply. “Neither do they forbid human sacrifice! Do they not provide ritual for it! Yet does not the alien forbid it? Besides, there be more ways of reading books than one, as thou shouldst know well, O! teacher of dogmas! ’Tis so verily. They preach, I say, that Mai Kâli is as naught. And they have with them a marriageable, unmarried girl of our race who claims holy widowhood, and sings and dances with the aliens.”

Once again the introduction of the feminine brought added intensity of feeling.

“Curses on her!” murmured a young and handsome beggar who lived largely on the alms of women.

“Aye! Curses on her,” echoed the Mâhârâj, solemnly. “Curses on all women who forget Mai Kâli; but She will prevail—She will have their blood.”

“Truly,” put in the old anchorite with the stiff arm, “she hath a right to blood, and Her followers be ready to do Her will.”

“If ’twere known what that was,” rejoined the first speaker; “but what with one saying this, another that, what with one plan and another plan, one knows nothing. So I, for one, stick to my beggar’s bowl. It fills my stomach!”

And now the partition of gains had been made. So much for the hereditary keepers of the shrine—many of them men of good position and considerable wealth; so much for the attendant priests and a residuum—on this case a disappointing one—for distribution amongst the holy ones.

“Nay, brothers!” said the dandified jogi on the clamour of protest which arose. “’Tis not we, Mai Kâli’s servants, who suffer most. ’Tis She—incarnate Womanhood—whose Honour is assailed. Yet, All-powerful, will She not call on us, Her servants, to defend Her womanhood?”

There was a babel of assent, and ejaculations. “Oh, Mother! Defend Thyself,” rose on all sides, in the midst of which a mournful voice was heard—“’Tis not the fault of womanhood; they be pious as ever! ’Tis their husbands who buy matches. As Akâs Râm, wisest of men——”

Here the voice was interrupted by the Mâhârâj who, beside himself with rage at this iteration of his enemy’s wisdom, bellowed——

“Hold thy peace, pantaloon! He is not the wisest. Lo! I will speak for womanhood. Do I not know them? Are they not mine by right?”

His excitement was so great that he staggered as he spoke. The veins on his forehead were dangerously swollen; he looked as if he would have a fit. “Yea!” he bawled, “I am the mouthpiece of Womanhood—I am Mai Kâli’s mouthpiece—I will defend Her.”

“Sit down, saint,” said one beside him, pulling him by the arm. “Thou wilt do thyself an injury. Mai Kâli can defend herself.”

The suggestion caught on in the fuddled brain. “Yea! Yea!” he shouted. “She will speak for herself. Mai Kâli! Speak—speak!”

The tumult of protest had stilled. The gaping audience stared. Ignorant for the most part, superstitious utterly, they were impressed by the very violence of the swaying figure; then as, losing its balance, it collapsed backwards on to the string bed, a laugh, half-nervous, half-relieved, was heard; but almost as it began it was checked; for something happened that made every vein run cold.

It was a woman’s voice, clear, cold, distant, heard distinctly from the little strip of now star-spangled sky that was all the courtyard owned of God’s making.

“Listen! Oh! Ye who hear,” it said. “Listen and learn! I, Womanhood incarnate, speak. Lo! from the beginning of Time I belong to the Woman and the Woman is Mine. Yea! she is Mine so long as she forgets not the Blood of Birth and the Blood of Death; so long as she forgets not the joy and the anguish of her labour to bring forth.

“For I am the Blood and the Life! Give Me of it to drink, O! my people; for I am not satisfied with the blood of lambs and goats; yet without blood is no remission of sins. That is My message to My people! Take it ye holy ones, proclaim it to every woman in every village. ‘Without blood is no remission of sins.’”

The voice ceased. A shivering sigh ran through the close-packed courtyard. The Goddess had spoken; so for a space there was awed silence.

Then from the corner where the dandified jogi sat came his strong masculine voice proclaiming the miracle—a marvellous miracle—a most marvellous miracle; and, with a sense of having found foothold, the whole courtyard burst into a perfect babel of excitement. One had seen a light in the sky, others had distinctly perceived the outline of a female form, and all, even the most sceptical, had heard the voice.

And the message, “Without blood is no remission of sins,” was not that the very essence of Mai Kâli’s cult?

So, by twos and threes the audience drifted away, enlarging on the sequence of events as they dispersed; those who remained becoming more and more dogmatic over what had happened, until the old anchorite with the uplifted arm was ready to swear in any court of law that he had distinctly seen the whole ten arms of the Dread Goddess, each holding its proper complement; with one ever pointing towards Heaven, another to Hell!

Beyond that, it was not possible to go; so at last the courtyard lay empty save for the Mâhârâj, who, roused again and again, had fallen back to slumber, and, snoring loudly, was left finally to finish out his sleep.

So the whole place was darkness until the flash of a small electric torch made itself seen as the dandified jogi leant for a moment over the sleeping saint and said in very good English:

“I thank thee, Jew, for giving me that word.” So, with a sinister laugh, he turned away; but ere he disappeared through the tunnelled slit in the wall, a female voice seemed to repeat the words from the star-strewn strip of sky. The man, whoever he might be, was an apt ventriloquist.

He passed out into the crowded bazaar where, already, the news of the miracle at Mai Kâli’s shrine was passing from lip to lip with the marvellous, almost unbelievable rapidity with which news spreads itself in India. And, already, beyond the bazaar, solitary figures were speeding their way across the wide plains, eager to be the first to tell the tale at some distant village. Dissent there was, of course. Here and there at the corners of the by-streets, where knots of bearded men were gathered, the tale met with scant credence, and one hearer, a doctor of Mahomedan law, spat scornfully in the gutter at the very idea of miracle. As if the one True and Only God would permit such glory to a ten-armed virago? But an unveiled Mahomedan woman, selling greenstuffs, pursed up her lips and nodded her head, as if she knew better.

The dandified jogi, however, did not stop to listen. Flinging some gibe, or some corroboration, with equal carelessness as he passed, he made his way northward until the crowds lay behind him, and he found himself on the banks of the river with a wall blocking his way, and running at right angles along a bend in the stream. High trees rose above the wall shutting out all things save themselves. An arched gateway led within; but, avoiding it, he skirted the wall to where, just at the near angle, it merged into a small bastion surmounted by a cupola. The foot of this bastion was arched to serve as a travellers’ shrine, for a blood-red imprint of a hand showed on the wall beside it, and a withered chaplet lay on the ground. What there was within the low-arched darkness a mere upright stone or some mis-shapen idol, none could say; but the dandified jogi, after one sharp look around as if to see he was unobserved, disappeared into the shadows and was no more seen.

Half-an-hour afterwards, however, a clean-shaven young man with restless dark eyes and a curiously fluid sort of face that was for ever changing, lounged in a long, cane chair set in the moonlight on the balcony roof of the great pile of marble and red sandstone buildings centring the four marble aqueducts, which divided a vast garden into four squares. A garden full of shadowy fruiting trees and trailing roses; of creamy orange blossoms and burnished orange leaves; a garden where the ordered fountains in the aqueducts glittered in the moonlight and sent showers of diamonds to hide in the white hearts of the lotuses.

It had been a Garden-of-Kings, and the piled buildings in the centre had been a King’s Palace, yet had it never in its palmiest days been so worthy of royalty as it was now; for it had been repaired, re-decorated, re-embellished with exquisite taste by the richest banker in Lower India. The very jewels in the inlaid marble work had been restored, priceless curtains hung in the doorways, and the tesselated floor, on which the young man’s chair stood, was covered by a silken carpet from Khotan that had the bloom of a peach on its rich, soft pile.

Opposite the young man, his elbows resting on the carved and inlaid marble table that stood between them, was the owner; a middle-aged man of middle height, florid of face, blue of eye, British in build.

“Put that whiskey and soda down, Ffolliott,” he said, “and let us have the end of your story.”

The young man laughed; a gay, irresponsible laugh. “Excuse me, sir, but that is the end,” he replied. “The drunken beast——”

The other interrupted him. “Don’t call names, Ffolliott, that might apply to yourself. That’s the third whiskey you’ve had since you came in.”

The young man laughed again, more irresponsibly than before. “Excuse me, sir; but the remark doesn’t apply. I drink, I admit; but I am never drunk. My strong head is my weak point. I can’t get uproarious like other chaps.”

The elder man frowned. “Go on!” he said peremptorily.

“The excellent and excited gentleman,” continued the other gravely, “having given me the tip, I naturally took it; with enormous success. I doubt if I ever did anything better when I tried to make a living by the game.” And he shook his head mournfully and helped himself to another whiskey and soda with the apology, “Ventriloquising is very droughty work.”

Mr. Whitehill, the banker, rose and walked towards the twelve-doored pavilion which stood in the middle of the roof. It was a miracle of carven work, and the ceiling above the gem-set pillars was decorated with thousands on thousands of faceted bits of looking-glass framed in floreated patterns of gilt stucco.

“I must ’phone Markovitch,” he said. “This may mean much. At times, Ffolliott, you are worth your weight in gold.”

The young man held out his hand promptly. “Pass it over, boss. I’m hard up for cash,” he said.

The elder man gave an irritated pshaw. “If you are, Ffolliott, it’s because you gamble away the excellent salary you get. Mind you, I don’t say you aren’t worth it. You bring in more news than all our other spies put together.”

“Small wonder,” retorted the young man complacently. “They didn’t have the education I had. If you stop out in India till you’re twelve, and have the privilege of getting inside a Bairupia gang, even Eton and a term at Cambridge doesn’t take the lingo and the art from you. Then, as Mr. Whitehill was engaged at the telephone, he lay back in the lounge chair and, for once, indulged in thought; for Fred Ffolliott—or as he was generally called “FFF” had, at an early age, set thought aside as unworthy of one filled and overfilled with a reckless spirit of adventure. So though his life, and he was turned thirty, had been of the most chequered description, his sudden ratiocination did not concern anything serious, but engaged itself over the memory of how he had been sent down from St. Peter’s College for playing the best practical joke on the Master that had ever been played at the ’Varsity. A gentleman by birth, his varied callings had left him much as he was born, absolutely without any moral sense, but as absolutely disinclined to do any mean trick. He had drifted to India, after trying many other trades, in a travelling stage company, and there his genius for impersonations had attracted the attention of the head of that much-respected banking firm, Whitehill and Markham. The result being that he found himself engaged as clerk and private secretary to the concern, with an excellent salary and free scope for that spirit of devilry and adventure which, to him, was the sole zest of life.

He was delighted, therefore, when Mr. Markovitch, a Russian Jew, who in banking circles and elsewhere was known as Mr. Markham, laughed consumedly over the story of the miracle in Mai Kâli’s shrine. This reception of it was far more to his taste than Mr. Whitehill’s solid seriousness; but then Whitehill was in reality a German, though he was a naturalised Englishman and had dispensed with his real name of Weissberg.

“You must be tired, Ffolliott,” said Mr. Markham with intent when the story was finished. “Hadn’t you better be off to bed?”

Fred Ffolliott laughed as he rose. “Since you want to get rid of me, sir, certainly.”

“If he only had a little more balance,” said Mr. Whitehill mournfully after he had gone. “As it is—it’s rather a stroke of genius, isn’t it?”

Paul Markovitch, seated on the marble parapet, flicked his cigarette-ash on its lace-like tracery.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “It’s what we have been wanting all along. We shall get at the people, especially the women, by it—if we’re careful. As I’ve always held, the Tantrik cult is the finest nidus in the world for our purpose—a secret society ready-made. And it is the people we want. I was listening to some Extremist stuff at one of their meetings to-day. I’ve heard most of the jabber that’s going on from Government House to Congress. And it is all educated rot, because less than ten per cent. of India is educated. If we can tap the ninety per cent. of the ignorant, our cult wins. So good luck to the cause——” And in curiously soft yet guttural Russian he repeated the famous Bolshevist toast, “To the destruction of Law and Order, and the unchaining of Evil Passions.”

It echoed out and over the still garden of old Kings, and over the shining shield of the river, that, at this height, could be seen, half-hidden by trees, sliding past the wall that imprisoned the scent of the orange blossoms and the roses. Mr. Weissberg looked a trifle dubious.

“Yes!” he said, “we win! But when the general wreckage comes, I mean to pick up at least my own.”

Paul Markovitch gave a cackle of a laugh. “My dear friend,” he said. “Naturally, the labourer is worthy of his hire. We, who lead, take care to have our share. Meanwhile, this stroke of genius on young Ffolliott’s part makes a new departure. If it only enables us to touch the fifty-five millions of Tantriks in Bengal, that will be something; but if it is properly engineered it may touch all India; and then—the deluge.” He paused and his mouth set cruelly.

“I’m afraid those two cranks we brought over from ’Frisco will prove duds,” he went on. “The man, more or less of an egregious ass, may be made useful, as our head office thought. But the girl—she has her head in the clouds—almost gave away the show by refusing to play and sing ‘God Save the King’ at the Secretary’s tea-fight this afternoon—I had to start it instead!” The cackle of a laugh was repeated—“And they say she has already got a big following among the college students; now we want them, bodies and souls. Holst reported to me to-day that he had some lads ready for anything, and I told him we wanted more and more youthful enthusiasts. So I can’t have a good-looking girl spoiling our best breeding ground for anarchists. We don’t want any high-brow nonsense. Our plans are progressing nicely—so well, that sometimes, do you know, I rub my eyes and ask myself if Government is totally blind not to see what is going on under its very nose? Why isn’t some notice taken of it?” He rose, and threw away the stump of his cigarette. “Is it a stunt—is there something behind it, or is it simply crass idiocy? By God! when I think of those miserable college boys, herding in back slums, being plied with Burke and Macaulay, taught to believe in individual freedom, I wonder if any self-destroying folly in the world equals the way in which the West attempts to educate the East?”

Chapter IV

We are like shells, that by some ancient main In the soft ooze, all free to move have lain. Then seas retreat, Time turns the ooze to stone, The shells are dead; yet still their forms remain.

No better illustration of the foolishness at which Paul Markovitch laughed could be found than Prem-nâth, the youth who had sacrificed the white fowl for David Ditter’s benefit, as he sate crouched up like a spider on the slack, string bed which served him for couch, chair, wardrobe, bookshelf, and table. It usurped all the space in the turret room that formed the topmost pinnacle of a high tenement house in the old town. Originally but an eight-foot square of roof surrounded by a parapet, the latter had been heightened and sheets of corrugated iron added as covering. A narrow slit, serving for door and window, opened directly on the foot-wide brick stair ladder that, clinging to the outside wall like a swallow’s nest, led to the storey below. It was a miserable lodging, but the up-country boy had chosen it because it was airy, and he was unaccustomed to towns.

Airy it might be; but it was also hot; for the sun, baking on the thin iron roof, intensified the heat of the blazing September day; and, though it was still early morning, the lad was in a bath of perspiration as he sate poring over the paper, pens, ink and books, which formed the topmost stratum of litter on the string bed. His eyes were dull with want of sleep, for he had been working feverishly all night at his prize-essay on Patriotism. He had taken no heed of his own weariness, no heed of the wheeling stars he could see through his window-door, no heed even of the oncoming of dawn save a faint feeling of relief that it had anticipated the extinction of the paraffin lamp which had smoked and smelt more than it had lit.

He had been searching with diligent drudgery for quotations—i.e. for other men’s words to embody mental conceptions that were foreign to his nature—and in so doing was typical of his class.

The pages of Macaulay’s “Lays of Ancient Rome” fluttered as he turned them rapidly, until something caught eye and brain.

“And how can man die better
“Than facing fearful odds
“For the ashes of his fathers
“The temples of his gods?”

He flushed all through him. That was what Nund Kumâr, the new gymnasium master, had quoted—

“The temple of his gods.”

The blood of a long ancestral line of priests surged in his veins. Then, with sudden remorse, he remembered that he had forgotten his Brahmanical prayers at the rising of the sun.

A minute afterwards, naked save for the thread of his caste over his shoulders, he was genuflexing on the narrow foot-wide platform that ended the swallow’s nest stair. A pathetic figure: above him limitless ether, below him a toiling and greed-obsessed world. A pathetic figure indeed, his brain crammed with unfamiliar knowledges, his heart full of inherited ignorances.

So, finishing his invocations for Light, more Light, he went back to Macaulay—

“For Romans in Rome’s quarrel
“Spared neither land nor gold
“Nor wife nor child, nor limb nor life
“In those brave days of old.”

The rhythm held him; he repeated the lines aloud.—

“Oho!” said a somewhat raucous voice from the stairway, “You have not yet learned to say ‘India in Ind’s quarrel’ as we do in the Samitri. But that is easily remedied. Join the National Volunteer movement, my son. I have watched you with concern, since I took up my appointment. I am distressed to find the brilliant career of one whose talents promise so much, obscured by physical weakness. Now, at your age, I was hollow-chested, round-backed, even as you. I nigh missed my college degree through cough such as yours. Then a friend advised gymnasium exercises—and here I am. Have you any fault to find?”

And Nund Kumâr, throwing off his cloth, stood before the boy a picture of supple strength. So, surely, must the great hero Arjuna have looked—so might——

But comparisons failed before actualities. Prem-nâth looked down with distaste at his own ill-nourished body and said regretfully—

“That may be so, master-Jee; but I am not of that build. My father, and my father’s father——”

Nund Kumâr laughed. “Come but once to the Garden-of-the-Winds where we drill. Thou needst not join the corps, but try the training for a day, and if thou eatest not thy bread with greater relish, thereinafter, then I am not what I am, my son!”

And with a superb gesture, which showed to the uttermost his perfect training and strength, he gave a sudden spring, and leapt some ten feet to the roof below, alighting on his feet, as if they were made of rubber; so with a gay “Till sunsetting in the Garden-of-the-Winds,” disappeared, leaving Prem-nâth agog with admiration.

Hithereto fear of failure in his role of learning-machine had kept him from joining that section of the students which interested itself in athletics; but this Sunday afternoon he determined to accept the invitation given, and go to the Garden-of-the-Winds.

It was hardly a garden to Western eyes, rather an ordered plantation of huge mango trees surrounded by a high wall, in the centre of which stood a small tank stepped to the water’s edge. Beside it was a little temple, like a tall beehive, which held a ten-armed presentiment of the Goddess Kâli in her most malevolent and crimson mood. A splash of red on the stone plinth showed that, here also, blood had been spilt.

And here, after a first bewildering attempt to hit a blown bladder with a singlestick, Prem-nâth sate down, cooling his feet in the water. Truly, as Nund Kumâr had prophesied, he felt exhilarated. The crowds of other boys, who fencing, wrestling, drilling, and doing physical exercises thronged the garden, had all been friendly, the unwonted exercise had sent his usually torpid blood bounding from heart to brain, and when Nund Kumâr—going round with someone who seemed of higher rank paused beside him to say—”This, Colonel Sahib, is our last new recruit,” he did not say him nay, but started to his feet and made a miserable attempt at a military salute. Nund Kumâr’s face wore a satisfied smile as he walked on, and Prem-nâth sate him down again, feeling that he had made the decision.

Yet the meshes were to tighten still more. No chance, here, of forgetfulness in the matter of prayer-time. As the sun set, a conch blew from the further side of the garden, foils and bows were set aside, and the lads trooped over to a bigger temple hidden in the trees. The ritual had already begun, the bronze bell was clanging, but Prem-nâth, born to the priesthood, knew every word of the office.

And those around him? A glance made him realise that almost all were like himself, Brahmans, and a sudden rush of pride in his race assailed him. Yes! So it was. He and his like on the one side; on the other the ruck of the world!

The nightly bathing of the brazen god went on, and Prem-nâth was of those who pressed forward to communicate by drinking of the water rendered sacred by the touch of the holy body. The feeling of comradeship deepened and grew. He and those around him held the keys of heaven; their salvation was secure. Drugged by pride and content, he listened while the shadows deepened, and the light in the cavernous temple flickered like a star. And hark! What was that? A voice reciting those stanzas of the Song Celestial which young Bengal has travestied into a sanction for murder.

“Naught better can betide a martial soul
Than lawful war: scorn thou to suffer then
For that which cannot suffer. But if thou shunnest
This honourable field—a Kshatriya—
If knowing thy duty and thy task thou bidd’st
Duty and task go by—that shall be sin.

Thine arm for conflict nerve, thy heart to meet
As things alike to thee—pleasure or pain.
So minded gird thee to the fight, for so
Thou shalt not sin.”

Then the bronze bell clanged again. The office was over; but, softly, a cadence arose that was new to Prem-nâth. And no wonder, for it was a popular music-hall melody adapted to the verses of some poetic Bengali; but the spirit of both matched the boy’s mood, and after a time he joined in the whispered refrain that echoed softly through the garden.

“Oh! priests of the people! Oh! people of priests,
“Ours is the birthright of rule.
“Brahman! remember mere man is mere beast,
“Though the alien denies it, he’s fool!
“Kâli! Dread Mother, thy children are we,
“Help us, Oh Mother! to set India free.”

It was terrible doggerel, but the audience had no sense of English poetical rhythm; that, curiously enough, being the last apprehension of the Indian cultured mind, witness innumerable poetasters, including National Congress hymn-writers.

After this, most of the lads drifted away, but Prem-nâth, in the novelty of his newly-aroused feelings, sate once more by the tank while the Garden cooled to quiet night. But the keepers of the Garden-of-the-Winds were wily; they knew how to treat those they wished to enmesh; so they left him alone, until one, passing by, said carelessly: “Art not coming to the Tantrik circle, my son? There is a great preceptor from America who is to lecture on the inner meaning of the cult, and we Indians of Western knowledge should hear what he has to say; for of truth many unnecessary superstitions are current amongst ignorant folk.”

The bait could not fail to be taken, and ten minutes afterwards Prem-nâth found himself in a dark hall, all hung with scarlet draperies. It was packed full of students, and on the platform at one end were gathered a few figures, some familiar, some novel. To begin with there was Nigel Blennerhasset attired in the white robes of a Kaula rite preceptor of the Third Tantrik Order in San Francisco. White robes covered with occult symbols in black, and wanting only a stuffed black cat on the shoulder to be the fancy dress of a witch! Nund Kumâr was there, also; and Ghosâl, and one or two other leading lights of the college. But the figure that riveted most of the eager intelligent eyes in the audience was a slim girlish one, robed in a flame-coloured sari that suited an eager flame-like face to perfection. It was Maya Day. Her Eastern dress had brought out her Eastern beauty almost beyond belief; scarcely would recognition have come to those who had only seen her in Western tennis costume. And yet her mind was curiously occupied with Western thoughts, and she looked out over the sea of impressionable faces upturned to hers, with doubt, almost with fear at her heart. Were they so very different? What was she to sing to them? Already, though she did not recognise it, the ignorances of the India she loved so strenuously were beginning to assail her enthusiasm. She was beginning to doubt a speedy panacea for the wrongs she still detested so vehemently. Yet when, a few minutes later, she was singing of the ancient Glories of the Golden Age, her voice startled her hearers by its truth, its exultation. Few, if any, of the audience had listened before to a cultured voice bringing consummate art to the interpretation of Eastern music; then, to most of them, it was an absolutely novel experience to see a woman on the platform at a public meeting. Finally the voice was one to rouse instant enthusiasm in every audience; one to fill even laggard hearts with that desire to do which comes with most strong admirations.

It had instantaneous effect on these emotional lads. You could have heard a pin drop while the song went on; when it ceased a vociferous roar of applause left no doubt as to desire—it was encore to the echo!

Nigel Blennerhasset, beaming content, was ready with one, prearranged, and handed the score to Maya Day. She took it with a frown, glanced at it, then with an audible “I won’t sing that rubbish,” placed it on the table, stood for a second irresolute. Finally in full voice, burst into a sentimental English ballad; a ballad much favoured in the fifties and sixties of last century: a ballad with a haunting refrain to it, and words pleasantly sad, gently touching, easy of comprehension.

“Where is now the merry party
I remember long ago,
They have all dispersed and wandered
Far away, Far away.”

In an instant it caught on; the students sate rapt. The whole gist of the song, sentimentally silly doubtless to European youth, was fresh to these lads, and verse by verse it came home to them—

“Years roll on and pass forever
What is coming who can say?
Ere this closes many may be
Far away—Far away.”

A voice or two attempted to join in the last refrain; but most were silent; there was a choke in the young throats and tears were running down the young cheeks.

There was no applause; but Maya Day needed none; she had had more than appreciation: she knew she had got home!

So also did others; but with less satisfaction. Nigel Blennerhasset, indeed, as he stepped forward to speak in the hush that followed, felt distinctly that his pitch had been queered, that his audience had been put out of tune with what he had to say, but, being a practical public speaker, he was soon afloat on his subject.

The text of it was.—”Lo! She was free, now She is bound.” He was very eloquent, rather wordy, as he began by discoursing of a Cosmic Brotherhood that should overbear such trivialities as race or country or creed; a Brotherhood bound together by a common aim—the regeneration of the World by Tantrik Truths. And the heart of every lad present swelled with natural pride as the speaker gave lavish praise to the superlative value of Hindu philosophy, which was the birthright of every Brahman. And a certain sense of relief came to the attentive students as they heard of the influential Tantrik circles in America, that land of freedom; for the fact showed them that the cult did not divorce them from the Western learning to which hitherto, their whole lives had been dedicated.

So, after a while the speaker passed on to explain the old belief by new transcendental imaginations, and say that Love, Eternal, Creative, as manifested in the one great Mother whose earthly emblem was Woman divine, immortal, was the one power in the world. The love of good, of country, of mother, of wife, the Love of which poets sang, which preachers praised; the Love which gave the cosmic tie of kindred thought to the great Brotherhood of those who sought the highest.

There was faint applause as he finished. It was all too vague for enthusiasm; but this was soon remedied by Nund Kumâr who in a short address, contrived to rouse race hatred and pride of birth whilst deprecating both. So, one by one the mystic elements of the Tantrik cult were introduced by acolytes, and duly worshipped with ordered gesticulation. Fish, flesh, wine were all there in their turn. But where was the chief element—Woman? She came with sudden darkness—for the electric lights were extinguished—with sudden soft music from a hidden harmonium—the love music of Tristan and Isolde—with a sudden cloud of incense seen by a sudden slanting shaft of light.

It was only the ray of a magic lantern; but the audience waited tensely, assailed by mysterious curiosity, as the light settled to a circle on the white sheet which had been cleverly exposed by the withdrawal of scarlet drapery.

So, half-hidden at first by the incense cloud—there grew to the light, after the fashion of a dissolving view, the presentiment of a famous Grecian statue. A naked Aphrodite, sexless in its pure beauty, yet sending its message of passion as surely to those Eastern adolescents in that dingy hall, as it had done, long ages before, to the worshippers of woman in the marble temples of Cnidos.

And all the while the hidden music discoursed softly the most passionate strains that the mind of man ever brought into being.

Slowly, as it came, the figure melted away and there was silence for a space.

So after a few words of the office, recited by Nund Kumâr as preceptor, the music suddenly changed to that of “God save our gracious King”; the patriotism of which was considerably marred by the fact that the words so lustily sung by all, called down God’s curse on all aliens.

Then, with the whispering tramp of bare feet, the students passed out into the cool night, most of them stirred to their heart’s core. Certain it is that Prem-nâth—the Lord-of-Love as his name signifies—as he stumbled up the foot-wide brick ladder that led to his sleeping place scarce knew if he were awake or dreaming. The emotional desire to do something heroic which invariably follows any vibration of the heart strings, filled him body and soul; he cast himself down on Macaulay’s Lays amid the welter of exotic and native learning which usurped the larger part of the string bed, and, out-wearied by unwonted exercise and still more unwonted emotion, was soon fast asleep.

But Maya Day had remained seated staring at the red curtain which had replaced the circle of light. Her mind was in a whirl, her whole soul in revolt. She scarcely heard Nigel Blennerhasset’s somewhat aggrieved question as to why she had refused the prearranged encore; but when she grasped his meaning she turned on him swiftly, anger in her eyes.

“Why?” she cried, “because I did—because I wouldn’t sing that rubbish—those boys—I tell you there’s no difference at all—no difference at all——!”

And with that she swept past him—swept out of the hall, leaving a little knot of men vaguely resentful, and Nigel Blennerhasset mournfully apologetic.

“I am sorry,” he said, “that Miss Day would not sing—as—as we had arranged. The song was sent me purposely from San Francisco—it appeared in last month’s magazine, and is by one of our finest poets—Of course it has to be taken with its inner meaning; but it would have been a fine prelude to the remarks I had to make—Don’t you think so, sir?”

He appealed to a Jewish-looking man who had been on the platform and who was reading the score with evident interest.

When the long bright day has ended,
Oh! the peace the darkness brings.
When the evening hath descended
On her cool and fragrant wings.
’Tis the time to worship then
Time to seek the temple gate
Far from garish haunts of men
Come love! Ere it be too late
Let me woo thee this sweet night
To the worship of delight.
Love! Thy body is the altar
Mine shall be the offering
That with faith which shall not falter
In devotion I will bring
Worship of all worship best
Sweetheart truest, tenderest.
Come love! worship thou with me,
Be thou too, a devotee.
Let me woo thee to delight
In the gold and purple night.

When he had glanced through it, he handed it back with a bow. “Very much so, Mr. Blennerhasset; but your little co-adjutrix seems a trifle out of hand. If you are to succeed, you will have to make her understand—ahem—that wiser heads than hers have the conduct of your mission—of—in fact the general mission to the Indian people.”

Chapter V

O! fool! to sit and weave to wisdom’s word
Thine estimate of all things seen and heard!
Another comes with words as wise as thine,
Says thou art wrong, and all thy work is blurred!

Although Nigel Blennerhasset had not disputed the remark that his mission was part of the general mission to the people of India, he would have been puzzled, as most of us are in the babel of voices clamouring for unattainable ends, to say precisely what the true mission really was. One party shouted sonorously that it was to destroy pathetic content, another that democracy was the only panacea possible when the demos was overwhelmingly ignorant and unfit to govern, while a third held that the sword was the only weapon of rule over what had undoubtedly been won by the sword. And each one in turn glozed over some important factor in the problem which completely neutralised their particular pet plan. Those who decried content forgot that for thirty centuries the whole genius of India had been for this same placidity, and that it was unlikely that the froth engendered by friction with the turmoil of the West could really have gone down to the depths in at most three decades. And those who acclaimed demos forgot the very existence of a social system which barred one man from another by water-tight compartments. While those who advocated force forgot that, at any rate for the last seventy years, the policy of England towards India had been diametrically opposed to it.

It was a welter of mutually antagonistic opinions into which David Ditter found himself plunged. At Cambridge the very violence of the young extremists who gravitated towards that university, had prevented his joining them; for his was a reasonable soul; but here, in India, with every shaft of propagandist opinion focused on the brilliant young man whom all sides were eager to gain, it was a different matter. To begin with, say what he would to himself, the trial of a return to Eastern life after six years of a Western one was grievous.

As, awakened by the sparrows twittering—most cheerful of sounds—he lay—as he knew none other in the rambling old house lay—on a spring mattress, between clean sheets, he could not help knowing he was a source of wonder and anxiety as well as of pride and delight to the whole female inhabitants, from old Muniya, his foster-mother, to Tulsi Bhai, the dignified mistress of all—including his father, the most respected and the most respectable Indian physician in the town. A most urbane gentleman was Vidyan Narain Dâs, having what is called in the West a good bedside manner; withal autocratic as befitted one accustomed to catalogue every disease under the sun as either hot or cold, wet or dry; absolutely intolerant also of all systems of medicine save the Egyptian one which, alone, was suited to the Indian constitution; so, naturally, of a conservative mind. He was, in fact, of the fast-dwindling class of the old-fashioned who really prefer sitting on the ground as their fathers did.

But he was seated on a cane-bottomed chair when his son appeared, after a prolonged tussle with old Muniya as to the necessity of shaving water being really hot.

“The idol of mine eyes should let a barber do barber’s work,” protested the old lady; and David Ditter had not the heart to tell her he preferred shaving himself.

It was these little pin-pricks that fretted the young man, and irritated him against the alien influence which had so altered his taste. The mere fact that he knew perfectly well that he only had to say the word to make his devoted band of worshippers, forgetful of their own way, put less cocoa-nut oil into the curries, less sugar into the sweet rice, was an offence. It was he who was to blame; he who had changed. And who was responsible for the change? The alien—who else? He did not formulate this in so many words; but it was at the back of his mind. And so also was another and a more serious discord. He had been formally betrothed in boyhood to Tulsi Bhai’s niece. It was only the gaining of the scholarship which had sent him overseas to complete his education that had prevented the consummation of the marriage years ago. On the other side of the black water he had been able to view the necessity of doing so on his return, if not with complacency, at any rate with toleration; but now? Now he realised what it would mean. Now, in addition, he had seen Maya Day. In every way, save that she was a widow, she was a suitable match; and as for widowhood, his father, old-fashioned as he was, had so far ranged himself on the side of social reform as to admit the advisability of widow re-marriage.

But Tulsi Bhai? That was the crux. Lenient as she was about clean sheets and pillow cases, David Ditter knew her too well to expect consideration—especially when the future of her own niece was concerned.

“I am going to the Llewellyn Davies’ to breakfast, father,” said the young man; and the mistress of the household, who had spent time over table-cloths and spoons and forks in order to please him, felt aggrieved. “She asked me last night,” he continued. “It is really very kind of them to be so friendly.”

Tulsi Bhai tossed her head. “Friends eat friends, as the jackal remarked to the peahen when she was devouring plums and he had no bones,” she said darkly. “Thine own folk touch closest, as thou wilt find out ere long, Devi-ditta.”

And he could not tell her, in so many words, that they did not touch him at all.

But neither did those whom he found assembled round Mrs. Llewellyn Davies’ long table, covered with snowy damask and all set with dumb waiters and the crunched-up posies of mixed flowers so dear to the unregenerate gardener’s heart; for even in such small details the lady adhered to the fashion of pre-mutiny days.

“I love the old,” she gushed to Professor Anderson who, having come in to see the little Secretary on business, had been enmeshed in her skilful net. “I love to think it as one with the new; that they can—er—both grow together to the harvest—and—that there is really no difference—though—though the bottles may be new.”

She pulled up before her own confusion of thought.

“Being old myself,” replied John Anderson, bored yet gallant, “I thank you; though we have Scripture warranty that new wine is dangerous to the bottles!”

As he spoke, a young man in the uniform of a Government aide-de-camp entered somewhat hastily, and, disregarding the hostess’ fervent “Oh! Captain Mordaunt—so glad you can come,” went up to the bottom of the long table where the little Secretary was sitting. After a brief colloquy the latter rose.

“What is it, Lewis?” queried his wife quickly.

“The Governor wants me, my dear!” replied the little man; then, knowing of old that explanations were imperative, he continued: “I am afraid there has been a a—a sporadic outrage up-country—er—quite a small affair, but——”

“Anyone hurt?” came John Anderson’s vibrant voice.

“A few police killed——”

“Dear, dear!” ejaculated Colonel Morrison, who as Head of the Force was bound to be sympathetic.

“And Smith, the Deputy Commissioner, is injured—seriously,” put in the A.D.C. “Now, sir.”

A blank fell momentarily on the company as the two hurried out, and someone was heard saying, “Good chap, Smith—has a wife and a lot of children”; but Anglo-Indian society, accustomed always, and more so than ever of late years, to handle Life without a velvet glove, soon set the all-too-common incident aside, and resumed ordinary topics.

One or two continued comment; but in undertones, for Mrs. Llewellyn Davies’ entertainments were, as a rule, too cosmopolitan for freedom or friendship, and the tongue had to walk warily in the presence—not of thirty-two teeth, as the Indian proverb runs—but of many more than thirty-two different outlooks. The restraint which our modern civilisation has placed upon truth, made it all the more necessary to avoid discussion, since the man who was eating “filet de boeuf aux tomates” with gusto, might in a few hours’ time be inveighing at some village meeting against cow-killing as part of the enormities of the alien; and he who agreed courteously that some reforms might be due, would in all probability, ere half an hour had gone by, be lamenting that the good old days could not come back in their entirety.

Briefly, the whole atmosphere was unreal, and John Anderson, talking polite nothings to his hostess, being psychologically inclined, wondered what the deuce it all really meant.

“By the bye,” said Mrs. Llewellyn Davies with her sudden volte-face which at times betrayed the keen capability that underlay all her gush, “I want to make you and Mr. Blennerhasset acquainted—Mr. Blennerhasset—this is Professor John Anderson, who knows everything about India that is worth knowing, and who I am sure will initiate you into all its strange, mysterious ways——”

“Not all, my dear lady,” said the professor gravely. “Mr. Blennerhasset has already experience of some——” He had half a mind to tell the tale, but the general atmosphere of unreality made him refrain. “And I already have the pleasure of Mr. Blennerhasset’s acquaintance; but anything I can do——”

“He wants to see the college,” interrupted Mrs. Llewellyn Davies with another of those sudden returns to the direct method which enhanced her general discursiveness, and gave her the reputation of being the clever, capable, practical woman she really was.

So it was arranged that the two should go down to the college together, and that, after John Anderson had given a lecture which could not be delayed, he should show the visitor round.

“It will be rather a short lecture,” apologised the professor, “so doubtless you’ll be able to thole it as we say in Scotland.”

Thole, however, was not the right word; for Professor Anderson was a born exponent; one of those who make you listen with the rapt attention of ignorance to things which you know by heart. The class-room was full to overflowing, and all eyes were steadfast on the man who, in his white overall, dogmatic, decisive, recognised and put out of court all side issues and went straight to his point, allowing nothing for accepted beliefs, nothing for unproved theories. Whether for or against your own creed, he was a speaker whose words never failed to interest; therefore there was no sign of weariness, but only pleased expectation when, having finished his legitimate subject sooner than he had intended, he consulted his watch and said: “We have still ten minutes. So, gentlemen, I propose showing you some preliminaries of next week’s lecture, which otherwise might overstep time limits as the subject is a vast one; no less than ‘Poisons, Animal, Mineral, Vegetable.’ In addition I have been fortunate enough to-day to receive a consignment of poisonous snakes. Therefore—since the essence of any experiment of value is that you should begin ab initio—I propose to spend these ten minutes in showing you how I remove the secretion, which we shall have to analyse, later on, from the poison fangs.”

A slight stir of added interest arose as John Anderson gave a low whistle; this was his invariable call to those bound to obey him; and, as ever, it produced instant response. A few incisive directions to the orderlies who hurried in, and all was ready. After one quick glance to see nothing was lacking, the professor told an orderly to bring the snakes in: then, turning to the students who were sitting eagerly curious, said—

“I am sorry, gentlemen, but my assistant is ill. Now, I can manage by myself perfectly; but if any of you care to come and help I shall be obliged. There is no danger”—here he smiled—“unless something goes wrong—which is extremely unlikely.”

There was an instant’s pause, during which Nigel Blennerhasset was screwing up his courage; but ere he could do so effectively a tall, lanky youth with a hatchet face and prominent teeth rose from his seat and went nonchalantly to the platform.

It was Prem-nâth. His brain was still in a whirl, and the desire to do, to show himself a man, had not diminished with his few hours of restless sleep on the top of Macaulay’s Lays.

“You are not afraid?” queried the professor.

The lad salaamed. “I am of the Snake tribe myself, sir,” he replied. “They do not touch us.”

“You are to be congratulated,” said John Anderson dryly, turning to his work, while Prem-nâth stood looking on with the curiosity of a child in his quaintly unchildish countenance.

A few quick words to the aboriginal who brought in two round dome-covered baskets slung on a yoke, and the professor was ready.

“The further basket,” he said, “contains the eehis carimata; not so deadly a snake, but one more difficult to handle, as most of you know—for it is common by reason of its evil temper, I shall have practically to kill them before I can remove their fangs. But the cobras in this basket are different, gentlemen. Now then Dom-jee.”

It was over in a second—the raised lid—one long, sinuous slither of flight—the sudden seizure by the tail, the lightning upward slip of the other hand, and there John Anderson stood, his fingers clipping the reptile just below the extended hood, while the coils of its body were twisted tightly round his white overall-clad arm.

A faint murmur of relief ran through the hall.

“The first time I did that, gentlemen,” he said, “I was doubtful as to the issue. Now I know that, given reasonable care, there can be no—misadventure. Prem-nâth—that’s your name, isn’t it? The bottle, please. No! You needn’t hold it—they will see better if you are not in the way——”

Nigel Blennerhasset, for all he was brave as men go, felt a shiver run through him as he watched the firm white fingers holding the wide-mouthed little bottle with its soft waxen diaphragm-stopper for the snake to strike. Another inch or so—only an inch or two, surely—and it was death. But those others around him sate silent, breathless, not with fear but curiosity. A snake to them was an every-day experience of life.

“If you watch closely,” came the professor’s incisive voice—“you will see the poison-drop fall—golden yellow—there are generally about eight drops. One—two—three—four—five—six—seven—eight——” A sudden cry of dismay from the basket-bringer made the professor turn rapidly over the last word; but the iron grip on that slithery neck never relaxed. What he saw, however, sent one surge of blood galloping through his veins, not from fear but from the need of immediate action. For what he saw was a second long, sinuous slither of flight; the basket, carelessly closed, had allowed a second cobra to escape. The next instant an ominous flop told it had fallen from the platform and was in the body of the hall among the students.

In an English crowd there would have been instant uproar, instant stampede. Here there was but one thought—to get out of the death dealer’s way in the natural, easiest fashion; and with one accord every lad was standing on his seat. Only Nigel Blennerhasset stood dazed, uncertain——

“Get up, man!” shouted the professor “I’ll have it in a moment.” He was down as he spoke on the open space between the benches and the platform. His forceps were in his hand, and even as he leaped they were busy on the poison fangs of the snake he still held, since there was a possibility of more poison, and it was as well to be sure. So done, he let the dazed and bruised snake slip from his arm, and his clear, cold voice came resonant——

“It is all right, gentlemen! They are male and female—it will come to its mate, Prem-nâth! give me that cane—the long one in the corner—thanks!”

Yet once more it was all over in a second.

The dealer of death slid quickly to its comrade, there was one swish of the cane, and the reptile, with a broken back, lay writhing to have its head crushed by John Anderson’s boot. A swift repetition of the actions and the two cobras lay faintly struggling, side by side, and the incident was over.

But from the back of the hall came voices, and students were seen picking up an insensible figure. The professor strode down the gangway, followed by Nigel Blennerhasset, his face still pale, but with his nerves fairly under control.

“It didn’t get at him, did it?” asked the professor quickly.

“Huzoor no!” came a dozen voices. “It was never nigh him. He tried to get up, stumbled, fell on the floor, so fainted.”

“He was full of fears, not being of the Snake tribe,” remarked Prem-nâth with complacency.

“Apparently not,” assented John Anderson in a curious tone of voice.

The man—he was quite young—was already recovering consciousness, though he still lay prone. His turban had fallen off, showing a round, clean-shaven head, that matched a certain broad regularity of features in his face. His eyelids quivered, his greenish pallor was changing to brown, in a minute or two he would be himself again; but the professor opened the shirt quickly, looked within, though he did not sound the heart.

“Who is the fellow?” he asked, standing up.

“He is the new teacher of tricks in the gymnasium,” said a college official who had hurried in learning of the incident. “His name is Nund Kumâr—a Mahratta Brahman from Bombay.”

Professor Anderson’s keen red-brown eyes were still on the man’s bare head.

“Have they no snakes in Bombay?” he asked, “that the fellow should be in such a blind funk?” And as he turned away he remarked to his companion—”Curious, but I’ve never seen the distinctly brachycephalic type in a native’s skull before.”

“Brachycephalic?” echoed Nigel Blennerhasset interrogatively.

“Short-skulled—didn’t you notice the shape of the head—quite Finnish in type—most unusual. Now come, and I will show you the sights. This is the Victoria Kaiser-i-Hind quadrangle. That tank in the middle is where the students bathe. They are particular about it, you know, and we do everything we can for them; but we can’t help laughing sometimes; and that is really at the root of race feeling. Now, here is something I got this morning—Mrs. Llewellyn Davies bade me instruct you, if you remember—it’s from my junior class. There was a rumour I was about to retire—hence these tears—gratifying but—well! If you can help laughing——”

It was a scented gold sprinkled paper, a rough sketch of the Royal Arms at the top. Then this:

Dieu vous garde—Vive vale
Vox populi vox Dei
Thou wert ever guide, philosopher and friend.
— Pope.

“We, your affectionate and grateful students, most regretfully beg on our knees to approach you to offer sincere tribute from the very core of our hearts for the golden instructions and chastening rod——”

“Hyperbole,” put in the professor. “I bar corporal punishment.”

“Of which we have been fortunately recipuants for many years, and to express our sense of deep attachment which neither time nor distance can eradicate.

“Ceaseless flows and will for ever flow”

”Esto perpetuo.”

“All of us, without exception, saw in you an intelligent preceptor, a guardian angel, pater patrae and l’homme necessaire.

“Thus we waft thy name above night and morn on the wings of prayer.

“May every happy omen meet
To guide thee through the long distance yet,
And sing a bras ouvert!
Pax Vobiscum!


P.S. May your shadow never be less.

Nigel Blennerhasset made great efforts at gravity; but the end proved too much for him.

“I told you so,” put in the professor almost ruefully. “It’s delightful, charming, touching, and I’m proud of it; but—you see—few Indians have any sense of humour—our humour if you will, and that is why they are so constantly on the huff. It ruins everything!” And he shook his head quite mournfully. “Now,” he continued, “as I was bidden to show you round, and as you’ve seen everything that ought to be seen here, I’ll drive you, on the way back, to make the acquaintance of a very remarkable man—a great friend of mine—one Akâs Râm. I—who have the reputation of knowing everything vide Mrs. Llewellyn Davies—seldom see him without learning something new—new and old.”

They found the old man seated, as usual, watching the sliding petal-strewn stream, while the unending chant of antiphonal voices reciting the arithmetical tables by quarters went on and on.

But Akâs Râm’s first words were not usual, and his keen wrinkled face showed evident concern.

“The Huzoor,” he said, “has doubtless heard of the miracle at Mai Kâli’s shrine?”

John Anderson shook his head and impatient irritation showed on the old man’s countenance.

“God knows why,” he rejoined, “but the Huzoors never know anything!” ’Tis a pity; they would rule better if they did. They are too proud to keep spies, as my fathers did——”

The old man seemed to be wandering from the point and the Professor recalled him by saying: “What about the miracle, Pandit-jee?”

“Much, Huzoor,” was the reply. “Mai Kâli spoke from Heaven, calling for blood.” So, with many marvellous additions, for the tale had grown with the hours, he related what had happened. Both the Englishman and the American laughed and the pandit’s face became a study in exasperated patience.

“It is a pity,” he said, “that the Huzoors never really understand; they would rule so much better if they did. Huzoor! The call for blood has gone out into the land. As I sit at my work teaching the young, one holy man after another has passed on his way to scatter the news far and wide. And the noise of it is even now among the college students. There was one here also, Prem-nâth by name—in the Huzoor’s class——”

John Anderson nodded. “I know him—a gawky youth of the Snake tribe.”

There was a suspicion of raillery about the rejoinder and Akâs Râm’s face hardened with dignity.

“I also am of that Tribe, O! Protector of the Poor. The holy cobras do not strike me. But Snake tribe or no, it is well to avoid the venom and the students are agog——” He spoke in an injured tone.

“Well!” replied John Anderson soothingly, “Prem-nâth couldn’t do anyone much harm, and very few of the students really believe in Mai Kâli.”

The pandit looked further reproof. “The Huzoor is wrong! ’Tis the half-baked boys who are dangerous. They have minds in two halves—the one eastern, the other western, and they agree not. How can they? A boy of sixteen hath not time to educate both halves. He tries to sit on two stools, and all fall together. And therefore he is dangerous. Then these others who count themselves holy. They sit watching the stream as I do, each telling new marvels, and then strive for foothold by asking me what I think.”

“And what is that?” queried the Professor. As a rule the pandit was chary of opinion; but this time it came with uncompromising swiftness.

“That Mai Kâli will get the blood for which She asks unless quick action be taken! See you, Huzoor, I say naught as to the rights or wrongs of anything on God’s earth. He alone knows Who knows all! But this is certain. Who governs India as a whole must govern by power. Even in the Golden Age——”

Once again the Professor, looking at his companion who sate silent much astonished at what he was hearing, brought the old man back to his subject by saying—

“Then you think the message has gone forth?”

“Assuredly; how far, God knows; but many village women are already listening to the tale; and they revere the ash-strewn nakedness, from which the Huzoors turn with derision. They are to them what your padres call the Church visible.”

John Anderson laughed. “Don’t you think we are even equal to managing the women?”

“No man is equal to a woman when she means mischief,” replied the old man readily, and both the Westerners laughed this time.

“And how is the message of blood to be hindered?” asked Nigel Blennerhasset.

“In the old days,” replied the pandit, salaaming with perfect grace, “an order would have gone forth to find the man who dared to simulate the voice of the Most High—”

“Then you think it was simulated?” put in the same speaker.

“What else could it be, Huzoor?” rejoined the old man. “The Gods speak not in this Black Age. And the man being found, he would have died, and every tenth male of his family also.”

“Drastic, rather,” said the Professor.

“If by the death of a few the many be saved, such is wisdom, O! Protector of the Poor.”

John Anderson looked at his companion. “One, Graham of Claverhouse, made that same remark some, time back, O! pandit. Anything more?”

The old man sate silent awhile watching the sliding stream, and an uncanny sense of the inevitable fell upon these two listeners.

“Huzoor—yes,” replied the speaker with a curious note of certainty in his voice, as if—like his ancestors he had the power to command. “The Valley-of-the-Thousand-Trees should be raided and its inhabitants done away with.”

“If it exists,” put in John Anderson. “But does it?”

The pandit’s face showed extreme patience. “Of a surety it does. ’Tis a pity the Huzoor will not believe. But it is there on the slopes of Mount Akâs to the north. Amid the forests there is a grove of banyan trees all sprung from one root. Which is the parent God alone knows. It is the meeting-place of the eaters of human flesh.”

“It was you mean!” put in Nigel Blennerhasset quickly. “The last of the cannibals was caught years ago—so I’ve read.”

“Reading is not seeing, Huzoor,” replied the old pandit politely. “’Tis true I see them not with my old eyes, but my young ones, on moonlit nights saw many a one floating, like these flower petals, down the stream, on some corpse, feeding on its foul flesh. But they are not all gone. One was here but now—the Huzoor would not have recognised him, seeing that one ash-smeared nakedness is the same to them as another; yet I know. He is a good, a learned man.”

“Impossible!” ejaculated the American.

“All things are possible in India. It is so old,” was the reply. “And folk will do much to gain the power which the eating of Self confers.”

“Self!” echoed John Anderson, for once surprised.

“Self,” reiterated the pandit. “Look you! The sect of Agorapanthis hold the Godhead to be Self, and Self the Godhead which permeates all. Thus, since all things are One, they subsist upon themselves, eating the Flesh and the Blood as a sacrament.”

“That’s curious,” said the Professor, ever eager for information. “I never heard that before. Have they a priesthood?”

The old man shook his head. “Each man is a priest; but they have a temple. It is hidden in the midst of the Thousand-Tree-Valley, and none but the initiates can find it. I myself have sought for it long days, I have followed every path; but I have never found it, never—never!”

The old voice faded into silence, and the two listeners sate silent also until John Anderson rose with a laugh.

“I’ll find it some day, never fear, O! Pandit!” he said.

“The Temple of Self! Splendid—most attractive.”

But Nigel Blennerhasset said nothing; he was completely dumbfounded.

Only as they drove away, and the professor was enlarging on the value such men as Akâs Râm would be to the Government if it could only get hold of them instead of blatant B.A.’s, and taking comfort from the fact that much as they disliked the aliens and his methods, root and branch, they disliked the opposite camp still more, he said suddenly, almost nervously——

“Do you think the old man was telling the truth?”

John Anderson burst into a perfect guffaw of laughter.

“Anyhow the old buffer thought he was telling the truth,” he replied regaining gravity, “and that is all we can ask nowadays.”

Chapter VI

A wayfarer was questioning of the Night:
“Art Thou, or Daytime, strongest in the fight?”
“Fool!” came the answer, “Out beyond the stars
“The Light is Darkness, and the Darkness Light.”

Although even John Anderson, knowledgeable to an unusual degree, knew not, exactly, the truth or falsehood of Pandit Akâs Râm’s tale of the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees, there was no question that it existed some twenty miles north of the first class railway station of Nawapura. Astonishing survival in the twentieth century! But then in India a five miles journey will often take one beyond civilisation altogether.

The Valley, so-called, was hidden in the wide forests which covered the southern slopes of Mount Akâs with a canopy of evergreen gloom. Somewhere in the leafy stretches that rose and fell in gentle waves like a calm sea, it lay; but whereabouts or of what size was known only to the initiates, who could point it out unerringly. Others might wander on and on through the fringe of swampland where mosquitoes swarmed and leeches clustered below the entangled creepers that leapt from tree to tree, and finally lose heart—or their way—amid the deeper gloom of the forest itself, where the undergrowth of poisonous looking plants grew so thick that it was a labour to force a further way. But if you chanced to be in the right direction, the thickets would become less and less dense, the ground would seem to slope very gently under your feet, and ere long, you would find yourself entering aisles upon aisles of stately columns stretching away further and further, till the gloom obscured them. Aisles upon aisles of bare tree trunks, grey, twisted sinuously like snakes, rising on all sides from the dark bare ground.

Even at noontide the place was dim, almost dark. No sunbeam ever filtered through the over-arching roof of spandrel boughs and leaves. A place where, one instant of forgetfulness, one careless turn, might cause a wanderer to lose his way, since all sides were alike; since on all sides paths lay open between column after column. A place where, if one called, there was no echo and the very sound of the voice was dulled, all muffled by the gloom.

A strange, weird place truly! And it was inhabited and frequented by still more strange, still more utterly fantastic figures; for it was the headquarters and meeting-place of many holy men, the “sadhus,” who embody the very Spirit of Hinduism. So every now and again, but half seen through the green, shimmering gloom, some almost inconceivable shape would show, walking swiftly a-down one aisle, emerging swiftly from another, disappearing as they came like shadows. Naked figures worn by asceticism out of human likeness, with twisted withered limbs, ash-smeared to whiteness. Incredible insensate figures, deformed from God’s making by the desire to find Him. Horrible utterly, yet pathetic in their consuming search after salvation. Every now and again, mocking the silence that brooded deep on all things, would come a sudden single brazen clang as of a bell, ceasing almost ere it began, telling that somewhere in those vast oppressive shades, the great Unknown was being worshipped.

Here and there the curious enquirer—and there were but few of them, since more than once such foolhardy wanderers had disappeared for ever amid the mazes of Thousand-Tree-Valley—might come upon a few reeds thatched together as a hut, and find beneath the scanty shelter some naked anatomy seeking saint-ship by the patient endurance of self-torture caused by the ingrowing of nails through clenched hands, or the stiffening of limbs in one unaltered attitude.

And here and there, insignificant almost to overlooking, a red splash on a tree trunk or an upright stone beneath it, would show that on that spot, the insoluble mystery of Life had been worshipped by someone, in the shedding of blood.

Close to one of these upright stones, however, there stood, in flagrant incongruity, what was nothing more nor less than a galvanised iron fowl-house. It had no attempt at camouflage. A fowl-house it was, and a fowl-house it remained, even to the sliding shutter at the bottom of the door to let the feathered inmates enter: yet, owing to the fact that the chief ascetic of Thousand-Tree-Valley had chosen it as residence, it was a very sacred spot indeed. And here, a few days after the miracle at Mai Kâli’s shrine, was gathered together the strangest of political meetings; stranger than even dreams. The chairman, if chairman he could be called, was the ascetic in question. He was seated in the attitude of the Buddha, on a cowdung-plastered pedestal. An immovable, commanding figure, naked save for his rope girdle, with high plaited tiara of matted hair above a curiously good, intellectual face. Around him were grouped those who had been called together to discuss a matter of supreme importance. Most of these were, like himself, anchorites, ascetics, call them what you will; but all, despite their fantastic variations, bound together by one common aim in life—the advancement of its spiritual side. Even Gopi-nâth, Mâhârâj, whose fleshly limbs showed in marked contrast to the spare, almost skeleton-like figures of the majority, would strenuously have asserted that his wild rage against the new teaching from America was due to a striving after perfection, and not from any fear lest the dues Mai Kâli had received in the past should be lessened.

Amongst these strange, weird people, however, were others of more earthy aims. These were those who, having hereditary interests in shrine or temple, had a right of consultation in all matters relating to them. Besides these were others, mostly quite young men who, disappointed of preferment under the alien Government, had become professional agitators, and, in consequence, made a point of attending every meeting where sedition could possibly be preached.

One of these—a man who had taken his degree at Cambridge—was holding his audience spellbound by a recital of wrongs. Murder, dishonesty, rape; every one of these were laid to the charge of every one of the alien rulers. Laid indiscriminately; the last crime being the favoured one; and as it was described with a minuteness of detail and a plethora of circumstantial evidence, it never failed in its effect on the audience. Gopi-nâth the Mâhârâj especially was uncompromising in his horrified condemnations, and took the first opportunity of detailing his own wrongs in regard to the women who frequented the inner courtyard of the temple. Folk were not free nowadays to do as they ought to do, he complained. Western ideas were being foisted on them; it was high time Swârâj were on the way. And as for the reforms? Undoubtedly by the property qualification he had got his vote, as was only right and just; but what good did it do him, when the magistracy, the appeal courts—when everything was filled by aliens who did not understand the usages of the country? That was why Akâs Râm—curses on him—had been able to cheat him—Gopi-nâth Mâhârâj—of a lawful prize. He was a Kulin Brahman; and, as all knew, a girl had been affianced to him as an infant. When her people had imbibed western ideals and had repudiated the contract, Akâs had helped them in court. And this was no solitary instance. There were others, he darkly hinted, and if this went on, honest fathers would be hard put to it to find suitable husbands for their penniless daughters. Yet, as female infanticide was also barred by cursed western ideals, these honest fathers would have to go to hell for not doing their duty! He was proceeding to give details as to their awful fate, when he was interrupted by a tall old man with a spiritual face, who held all spellbound by his eloquent panegyric on the past glories of the Golden Age in India. Why should they not come again? There was no reason against it save the western ruler, whose ideals were different.

Again and again this conclusion was thrust upon the audience by speaker after speaker, until at last one rose to ask if it were not time some really well organised effort was made to rid themselves of foreign rule. It was Nund Kumâr, and he also had tales to tell of women molested and outraged; sure way of rousing passion.

And all the while the Buddha-like figure of the chairman on its plastered pedestal had remained immovable,, looking as if it heard nothing; as if it were carved in stone. Of what was it thinking; that honest survival of a faith which the democracy for which it stood sponsor must shelter? Heaven knows; but no human pen can picture the inchoate mass of thought that lay behind the fiery speeches which had been made, the passionate appeals for liberty, equality, fraternity! Ye Gods! Liberty beside a social system which leaves, which must leave, the individual a slave. Equality, when the first postulate of religion is inequality. Fraternity, when one half of society is debarred from eating or drinking with the other half by fear of eternal damnation. A strange medley of desires indeed, and through them all the one great desire for duty, for the right, which always makes words so dangerously akin to action.

So by degrees the issue narrowed, and finally centred round the question—for the settlement of which, indeed, the meeting had been summoned—as to whether Mai Kâli’s call for blood should be regarded, or disregarded. In other words, whether an effort at organised revolt should be attempted. If so, how?

Regarding the authority of the call itself, opinion was divided. The keepers of other shrines naturally belittled the incident which had already brought plentiful harvest to a rival. They were joined by many of the agitators. Young men whose brains had western culture and who foresaw that to base any public movement on a supposed miracle at a Hindu shrine would infallibly alienate all Mahomedans; for even with the Extremists perfect solidarity between the two great cults of Hindustan is a postulate of success.

What was wanted was something like the famous chapatti of Mutiny days, that went its mysterious round from village to village, rousing vague expectation, vague unrest in the pathetically contented population.

The arguments waxed hot, until suddenly from the back of the crowd a voice, old, thin, quavering with strong emotion, cried aloud—”Oh! fools and faithless! Why seek wisdom from the living when the dead will proclaim it?”

All eyes turned at once to the speaker and they saw surely the strangest, weirdest figure ever seen on God’s earth. Old, whether from years or suffering who could say. One arm withered to a mere stick, immovably petrified, pointed heavenward, and through the clenched palm of the hand the nails had bitten, showing like talons on the other side. Long streamers of white hair, joining a ragged white beard, half hid a face shrunken to the size of a child’s; a face whence fierce eyes blazed in a mad glare. The rest was skeleton; absolute skeleton. Not an ounce of flesh to be seen anywhere; only bones showing moulded under the polished skin.

“What do we here?” the voice continued. “We of the innermost circle of magic, wasting our breath over words, when one who hath none is waiting ready to give us of his new-found wisdom? Did not at dawn-time one of us join his soul to the Absolute? Yea! Yea! His tongue—the tongue of a Saint—is scarce cold. Will it not speak if it be called upon? And who should call on it save the Blessed One that by virtue of his magic powers sits supreme. Lo! Keeper-of-the-Keys-of-Wisdom! thou art called upon to act!”

All eyes turned from the speaker to the Buddha-like figure on the clay pedestal. There was not one in all the assemblage who did not understand the appeal to the ritual of the dead. Some there were to whom it was reality; to others, with Western culture superadded, it lay in that dubious zone of uncertainty between belief and incredulity which must exist in every mind whose education has been diametrically opposed to its inheritance.

So for a moment or two there was a pause. Then murmurs of assent began to arise, swelling to volume; until at last voices were heard from all parts of the audience repeating those last words

“Oh! Keeper-of-the-Keys-of-Wisdom! thou art called upon to act.”

And other voices also: voices that stood for silence, for rational procedure. But in that audience the appeal to the unseen prevailed, and at last the Buddha on the clay pedestal stirred. His eyelids quivered, the wrinkles on the forehead relaxed. So by degrees the whole face woke to life and finally words came, slow, certain, assured.

“So be it, my brethren! Lo! if wisdom be called upon wisdom will surely answer. Swear that ye will abide by what is spoken and at the break between night and day will I perform the ritual. Swear by Mai Kâli—Let Hers be the victory!”

A deafening chorus of “Mai Kâli ki jao” arose, and on it came the slow, certain, assured voice with a curious finality in it.

“So be it. To-morrow at dawn it will be known if the dead give wisdom or withhold it. Till then, farewell.”

And with the words the look of life left the face; once more it seemed as if carved in stone. But a murmur of satisfaction passed from mouth to mouth as the audience began to disperse like shadows into the countless shadowy aisles, some carrying with them a conviction that the reference would be successful, others simple wonder as to what would really happen when the ritual was performed. So far, however, was certain to both, that what remained was for the Blessed One alone. Report had it that he had twice gained power by this means; so let him do so again—if he could.

A few, however, were palpably dissatisfied. These were the young agitators, and amongst them Nund Kumâr. He was very silent as, led by an extremist initiate, the party were piloted back through the mazes to the nearest high road. Here they found their motor awaiting them, and packing themselves into it in a manner inconceivable to those who have not seen a Ford full of natives, they rattled away to Nawapura.

Still it was fairly late when Mr. Markham, arriving at the Palace-of-Dead-Kings, entered into earnest colloquy with Mr. Whitehill instead of proceeding at once to dinner.

“I expect Ffolliott could go, if you think it worth while,” said the latter.

Paul Markovitch smiled grimly, “Everything is worth while when one is out to destroy everything! So he had better have a try! He can take the Rolls Royce, and the sadhu chap can go as guide; he is quite safe. Most people are if they are well paid.”

Ten minutes afterwards, as they were discussing oysters, fresh run by express from Karachi, a faint whirr—almost like birds winging their way to roosting places in the tall trees—told that something had started from the orange-scented Garden-of-Dead-Kings.

Meanwhile, in some far corner of the dim over-crowding aisles of the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees, the body of the anchorite who had joined his soul to the Absolute that dawning had waited burial when the sun should set. Then, with many a quaint ceremonial it had been carried with glad songs to the place where many and many a dead saint lay in unending peace, and after the grave had been dug, had been left untended, unwatched, upon the brink of its last resting-place, to await the dawn, when—with many another quaint ceremonial—it should be made one with the earth from which it sprang. And all the day the Blessed One, inured by long habit to almost perfect aloofness from all things, had felt no flutter of heart, no sinking of soul at the thought of the dread ordeal before him. He had spent the day in absorbed meditation, in fasting, in penances, and when, just before midnight, leaving his disciples behind him, he sallied forth from the incongruous chicken coop, carrying the elements necessary for the due performance of the sacrament, he felt that he had left nothing undone to propitiate the Supernatural Powers which he—mere man—was daring to approach.

So, quite alone, he neared the open grave and the dead man so soon to occupy it. By the feeble light both looked mysterious. The one so still, so ghastly; the other dark, fathomless, a mere black blotch on the dimly seen ground; and such indeed it was! A gulf into which men dropped —to what? To the shoreless chasm of Eternity!

So, without a quiver he commenced the ritual; and as he swayed and chanted beside the dead man, the scene so formed was almost inconceivable in its pathetic horror—pathetic because of the human hopes and fears which prompted it. To a western spectator it would have been nerve-shattering. The dead and the living beside the fathomless gulf, seen as but a dark shadow. The surrounding gloom, still, silent; not even a leaf stirring. The only sound the low, muttered chanting of charms. Charms for what? To bring back, even for one moment, the dead to the living. And here, beyond and behind all the wrappings and trappings, the elaborate ceremonials and measured recitings, lay the pathetic hope of humanity that somewhere, somehow, the dead were still living—a hope that redeemed the ritual from pure, revolting savagery.

So it went on and on. At last the climax was reached. Astride the corpse the Blessed One placed the cresset on the frozen forehead, disposed the elements on the marble chest, and began the invocations.

He placed food in the dead mouth and adjured it to eat.

He held wine to the dead lips and adjured them to drink. Did they obey the summons?

By the glimmering light that flickered feebly over all things, all seemed uncertain; the very shadows shifted and changed; movement seemed everywhere.

“Speak! O! thou who hast gained wisdom! Speak truth! Doth the Great Mother desire blood or no?” The supplicating command broke the monotonous chanting and seemed to hang on the still air. There was no answer.

Again the order came; but the silence only seemed to grow deeper.

For the third time the prayer rose insistent; this time with a note of acquiescence in it, as if the questioner expected no answer; as if he knew by experience that the dead speak only through the imaginations of the living.

But then something happened. Something stirred in the silence, and the Blessed One, startled out of ritual, drew back suddenly. This must have overset the unstable balance of the oil cresset, for it slipped from its precarious placement, overturned, and there was total darkness.

And through the darkness came a whispering voice.

“She desires blood!”

The Blessed One heard, gave one wild cry of surprised fear, tried to rise and, staggering backward, fell headlong into the chasm of the grave where he lay, breathing, but unconscious.

So, for a while there was silence. Then a faint sound as of someone moving amid the over-arching branches made itself heard, and becoming louder, ceased at a footfall on the ground.

The click of a petrol cigar-lighter followed and young Ffolliott stood revealed.

“Holy Moses!” he muttered as he peered into the grave. “This complicates the business! I hope he isn’t dead.”

The next moment he had swung himself lightly into the grave, and was carefully punching the prostrate man all over to see if he were seriously hurt.

The examination appeared to prove satisfactory, for after arranging the limbs in a more comfortable position, and raising the head by a clod of earth, he swung himself up again with a low chuckle.

“I have it,” he quoted, “’tis engendered! ’Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light—and they will—or I’m a Dutchman!”

With that he disappeared into the darkness, and silence, oppressive silence, fell on all things. After a time, however, something stirred again in the darkness. The Holy One was recovering consciousness from what had been more of a shock than a hurt; a blurred consciousness, certain but of one thing—that the dead had spoken. And this certainty became more certain still, as, after his disciples, coming at dawn, had found him cowering beside the shadow that was a grave, he told the result of his vigil in a quavering voice. Undoubtedly Mai Kâli had spoken through the dead mouth. So, as dawn came, eager feet were brushing the dew off the far-reaching crops to north, south, east and west in their haste to tell the tale to every half-awakened village and hamlet. And the sleepy peasants drifted out from the close courtyards to listen, while the women with tight-drawn veils peeped apart, drinking in the words of those who to them were as the Church visible. Overhead the cloudless sky was darkening from topaz to sapphire, the partridges were calling in the cane brakes; not a breath stirred the tanks, where the waterfowl still floated undisturbed. Peaceful utterly. And the people themselves? Wide-eyed, open-mouthed they listened, and something in their inherited placidity, their pathetic content, stirred as it had never stirred before, even at the calculated lies of the professional agitator. This they understood.

“It is what we have been wanting,” said Paul Markovitch, his thin lips cutting the words sharply as he balanced his cigarette between them. “I’ve told the Commissionaire over and over again that it is an almost hopeless task to rouse people to violence who haven’t a personal grievance. And these miserable contented folk haven’t really got one. It’s different where capitalism has ground the masses down, but here it hasn’t touched them. Yet we have to rouse them somehow, for colour must fight white if we are to get world domination. And now—just by chance—we’ve hit on a match! And as everything else is favourable, sublime ignorance, almost absolute lack of damned bourgeois education, a past of autocracy—deuced like Russia it is you know—and a secret society ready-made to our hands, we ought to succeed—if we don’t go too fast.

“News travels rapidly in India it’s true—but we must give the ferment time to work. Organise by all means. Send out the best propagandists we have. Keep the ball rolling by minor outrages; but let Christian patience do her perfect work for two—if not three—months before starting the . . .” He paused, and his mirthless, mocking laugh finished the sentence.

Mr. Whitehill nodded assent. He did not give himself away in words as a rule, for at heart he reprobated Bolshevik methods save as a means of revenge against those who had humiliated the Fatherland; but for this purpose he would have gladly seen every Englishman, woman and child in India murdered in cold blood. So his nod meant qualified approval as he sat sipping his early cup of tea on the roof of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings.

But Fred Ffolliott, who had been devouring poached eggs after his strenuous night’s work, got up suddenly from the marvellously inlaid marble table and went to look over the fretted balustrade at the garden below, whence a mingled scent of roses and orange blossoms arose on the cool morning air. And as he did so he said defiantly:

“Well! I don’t care, sir, what the result may be. All I know is that it was jolly funny seeing the Holy One all crumpled up with sheer fright at the bottom of someone else’s grave.” Here he paused, waved his band, and called “Good morning” to a female figure clad in a loose white garment, neither Eastern nor Western in its fashioning, which was walking a-down the marble edge of the foursquare aqueduct, where pink and white lotuses were blooming.

“Who is it?” queried Paul Markovitch quickly. He was ever on the alert.

“Maya Day,” replied young Ffolliott carelessly. “You gave her leave for the garden, didn’t you, sir?” he added, turning to Mr. Whitehill.

The latter looked a little apologetically at his collaborator. “You see she is living now with the Sens at the corner—so I lent her the key of the little door. She is all right, Markovitch,” he continued, noticing the other’s frown.

“Glad you think so,” retorted the other caustically. “I don’t—and if I were you I’d take the key away again. The girl has imagination, she has education, she has personality, she is individual, and we want none of these things. We have nothing to do with right or wrong, I’m proud to say.”

And once again, as he raised his cup to his lips, he gave the famous toast of Bakumin, the arch-Bolshevist. “To the destruction of all law and order, and the unchaining of evil passions.”

The devilish words echoed out over the roses and the orange blossoms, but these went on scenting the morning air in placid pathetic content as they had done for thousands and thousands of years, and Maya Day looked up at the palace roof and smiled her recognition of young Ffolliott’s greeting.

Chapter VII

Woman or Man? Which erred? O! idle quest,
Illusion holds them both: there is no rest
For either till each learns to separate
The Capital of Life from Interest.

Maya Day’s sudden refusal to sing the erotic effusion from the Headquarters of the T.O.A. in San Francisco had been a surprise even to herself. Accustomed as she had been to view the Tantra cult as taught in America, she had not calculated on the vast difference which lay between her intellectual estimate of it, and the reality as taught in India. Her actual experience of this had been utterly repellent to the culture which had become a veritable second nature during her two and twenty years of Western influence.

Of course most girls or young men who are sent to England for education must in like manner undergo more or less westernisation; but as a rule, this results in the shedding of many inherited beliefs. Maya Day’s experience had been different. Sent from India to America before she was three years old, she had grown up in the almost unbelievable atmosphere of the Tantrik cult as expounded by the West. The beauty of her voice had early attracted attention, and she had been deliberately educated to take a part in propaganda. She had refused many offers to train her for the operatic stage; she had come out to India full of enthusiasm for her task, and—and now——

As she thought over what had happened she felt helpless. She had known, of course, what superstition, what appalling customs had, as it were, obscured the True Faith—that was what she was out against—that was why she and Nigel Blennerhasset had come to India. But there was something more than this. From the very first her association with the leaders of the movement had dissatisfied her, yet a sense of aloofness from their standpoints made her angry with herself that this should be so.

She felt she must get into touch with the best in Indian life unless she was to lose her foothold altogether; must get away as much as was possible from that West which was responsible for her sense of separation.

So when the Sens, who collectively, were owners of the biggest spinning plant in the Presidency had, after her tennis success at Mrs. Llewellyn Davies’ garden-party, invited her effusively to stay with them, she had accepted gladly; for she knew the Sen household to be typically Hindu. A place where she would meet the sort of people she wanted to meet, where the best of Indian life would surround her. And she was not disappointed. The huge barrack of a house itself, which had been built by the original Sen as a challenge to the neighbouring Palace-of-Dead-Kings—since in those days the relative wealth of the Sens and the banker’s firm had been a moot point in Nawapura commercial circles—was rather terrible. All bedight with cupolas and balconies, its elemental ugliness and pretentiousness was the more accentuated by the severe square marble mass of its rival, beside which it stood an excellent example of the appalling lack of taste which overtakes Indian products when once the old beaten track is forsaken—that track in which for ages Indian Art has been supreme.

The Sen family, however, were very proud of their mansion; and the Sen family, being numerous, managed to make it a cheerful residence. Being cotton spinners their politics were bound to be so far Extreme that they favoured immediate Home Rule, in which the perfectly unjustifiable excise laws that gave English products an unfair advantage would be abrogated. And being ardent Hindus especially the womenfolk of the family—they naturally gravitated towards the policy of non-co-operation, which appeals directly to religion.

So the womenfolk, the sisters and sisters-in-law, the cousins, the aunts, all of whose male belongings were employed in the business, wore coarse home-spun cloth somewhat ostentatiously, in obedience to the Great Mahâtma’s order, even while they doctored their dainty hands, lest they should be roughened by unaccustomed fingering of spinning wheels and carding combs, with Cosmetique de Paris, and manicure sets made in Birmingham. The male members of the family, meanwhile, were particular as to their brand of cigarettes which they smoked as they supervised the delivery of miles upon miles of imitation Manchester muslin.

But despite these faint flaws, the household was honest and straightforward, and Maya Day felt none of the unreality, the sense of arrière-pensée behind loud-voiced patriotism, which had repelled her in the outside world. And here, also, she met with all the notables in the various forms of unrest. The presidents of this, that, and the other society, all so eager, so certain their way was the only one to free India from chains which all acknowledged and none formulated. Many of them made her frown and yet smile over the ease with which they could reconcile sweeping discredit of all things alien, with a desire to retain all the benefits which that alien rule had brought to India. Then the readiness, especially on the women’s part, to believe anything and everything they heard, annoyed her because it brought to memory something she wanted to forget, that is the credulousness, the gullibility of the millions on millions of absolutely ignorant men and women who made up the real India. At times this memory obsessed her, and she had difficulty in setting it aside; but if she mentioned this vague fear of hers to any of the agitators who came of an afternoon to play tennis—for the young Sens were devotees of the game—they would smile in superior fashion and say that their followers at any rate would never get out of hand.

One of the first effects on Maya Day of life in the Sen household was her adoption of the conventional widow’s dress, in which she was backed up by the womenfolk. The males, however, strongly objected, on the ground that you could not play tennis in a sari and Miss Day was too good a player to lose. Whereat the womenfolk pouted, asserting that they found no difficulty in doing so; which was true—if the game of pat-ball which they played, and at which Maya’s straight returns were greeted with shrieks of mingled admiration and dismay—could be called tennis.

The strongest objection, however, came from David Ditter, who as college chum of the youngest Sen was a frequent visitor, attracted partly by his love of games, but more so by his growing love of Maya Day.

“It is sheer nonsense,” he said with great heat, “such old-fashioned ideas cannot be considered. Young India has freed itself from them.”

“Has it?” the girl interrupted, her whole face saddened by doubt. “Oh! How I wish it would!”

“I have at any rate,” he put in, seizing his opportunity. “And if you also——”

But she was too quick for him. “I like white better than colours,” she said coolly, “and as I don’t intend to play tennis any more I find it quite convenient.”

And Nigel Blennerhasset coming to arrange about her singing, was mildly regretful. “The flame colour was so very suggestive,” he said, “so—so spiritual. I have often, myself, been quite carried away by the inspiration of your voice—your appearance—and it is the emotional that counts you know.”

“Yes,” she assented slowly. “We are the most emotional people in the world. I feel at times—at the college for instance—amongst those boys—that I could do anything I liked with them.” As she stood before him her face soft yet set, he felt himself carried away once more.

“You could do anything you liked with most people,” he said tenderly—“with—with me for instance—I would do anything——”

“That is lucky,” she interrupted stolidly, “since we have to work together so much.”

And he felt snubbed.

Despite, however, the ease with which she kept other people off the subject of possible marriage it occupied much of her thoughts. Hitherto the very idea had been far from her. She had been unconscious of its existence. Brought up from earliest childhood to believe herself, as it were, sacrosanct, dedicated by Fate to the noblest task of which womanhood is capable—that is to say the salvation of humanity by the sacrifice of sex, she had been more than content. But here, in the close atmosphere of a Hindu home in which the men, well educated and liberal, would talk glibly of social reforms, and the elder women, still untouched in the set conventions of their forefathers, were, as women in India have been for long ages, chiefly interested in wifehood, motherhood, widowhood, she felt for the first time, the necessity for justifying the faith that was in her. That, indeed, was the real reason for her adoption of the conventional widow’s dress. It would serve to remind the world, herself included, that she was as much vowed and set apart as any Western nun. Not that she needed a reminder. She was five-and-twenty and in all these years the passion of sex had never come near her. Yet with a lack of logic which she felt, but would not acknowledge, she could not adopt all the widow’s insignia. Jewels she could foreswear, but she drew the line at a shaven head!

Old Chund Bi, the doyenne of the widows who, naturally, had to form a certain proportion of that patriarchal family, was extremely anxious to perform the ceremony for Maya Day. She would sit at her feet in the latter’s room overlooking the sliding river, and, as she gently kneaded the girl’s slender ankles, descant on the numbers of bereaved Sen wives on whom she had operated. She was a dear old thing, was Chund Bi, utterly selfless and cheerful, who spent her whole days thinking and doing for others. Short of shaving her head, Maya Day would have done anything to please her; so, though the long rigmaroles of the good old lady were not only tiresome but disturbing, Maya would sit and listen to them patiently, knowing full well that they reflected the thoughts and beliefs of nearly every woman in India.

Marvellous, indeed, were the tales Chund Bi had to tell of the Great Mahâtma; of his unlimited power, his Godhead.

“See you,” she would say, her worn, kindly old face beaming with delight. “They have put him in prison; but he is but biding his time. And it will not be long in coming! Not long ere blessed little Jodhya the bride will be able to wear her jewels and bridal stuffs all day long, instead of as now—by stealth Yea! Yea! Didst credit the child with such patience that she—a bride—would wear kadr night and day? What of her husband and her wedding joys? Not so, friend, not so! Youth must have its time. Home rule cannot do away with heart rule.” And the old lady would chuckle at her own apothegm. “Yea! Yea! The Mahâtma will come, never fear. Hast heard how the Big Lord Redding sahib met his match? He sent a whole regiment to fetch the Mahâtma; but there was no need, for he came smiling quietly. So the Lord sahib said, ‘I am tired of you. Even in prison you flout me; so I am going to kill you.’ ‘Can’t be done,’ said the Mahâtma, smiling more. ‘We’ll see about that,’ said Redding sahib. Then they bound the Mahâtma hand and foot and tied him up in three sacks—dost hear? Three whole sacks! and took him far out to sea and threw him overboard. But half-an-hour afterwards there he was in the durbar hall, smiling and salaaming. ‘What,’ said Redding sahib bahadur, ‘I thought I’d killed you?’ ‘Can’t be done,’ replied the Mahâtma, smiling still more. Then the Lord sahib fell into a great rage and cried, ‘We’ll see to that.’ And he ordered the regiment to put the Mahâtma against the wall and shoot him. So they put him against a wall, and the whole regiment fired and fired till they had no more cartouches, but they never hit the Mahâtma. So then Redding sahib desisted, for he saw the Mahâtma was a God.”

And here, as after all the similar tales she told, Chund Bi would salaam religiously, and mutter a prayer of benediction, while Maya Day sat looking at, yet not seeing, the sliding water beneath the balcony and wondering what comment she ought to make. Protest was useless; it only provoked tears. So a change of subject seemed best; and on this occasion curiosity prompted the question:

“You say Jodhya Bai wears jewels sometimes—does she?”

Chund Bi went off into a pleased giggle. “That does she and looks as she ought to look—the Gods bless her and send her quickly a son! Lo! Thou shouldst see her—it does the heart good!” Then an idea seemed to strike her and every worn wrinkle on her face seemed to melt away in sheer sympathy with youth and its joys. “Look you,” she continued, “come with me when the sun sets and thou shalt see for thyself. The husband plays with ball elsewhere to-day; so there will be no lack of decorum.”

So, when the sun was setting, Chund Bi came for the guest, and together they made their way up the big central staircase of the Sens’ palatial residence. Such a big wide stair, so ill suiting the slight bent figure that climbed it hesitatingly, holding on fast to the balustrade as if it had been a life-line, and looking fearfully at the wide space between her and the wall, where a body might easily fall and break a bone.

“Take my arm, mother,” said Maya sympathetically, remembering the narrow Indian staircase with scarce elbow room that seemed to her so inconvenient.

So the two widows so strangely dissimilar climbed the marble stair together.

“’Tis I who see it swept and dusted,” said Chund Bi as she produced a key. The door opened and Maya Day could not resist an exclamation of astonishment as she looked beyond into the room. It was a long gallery, the walls were covered with pictures and cabinets crammed with china, and bibelots of all sorts and kinds stood beneath them.

“We put all the things up here when order to cease having Europe things came,” said Chund Bi confidentially. “It was good luck having such a big house; my brother had to put his in the go-down when the Mahâtma-jee was coming to stay; but then it was only for a day or two, and he put them back immediately his Godship went.”

So they passed through a big saloon that was like a furniture shop so full was it of Europe-made chairs and beds, and wardrobes, and tables.

“This is the husband’s room,” whispered the old widow in an awed voice. “Lo! He being rich brought back many things from over the Black Water, but that didn’t prevent him from being childless”; here her face brightened with a kindly hope. “But little Jodhya will surely bring him a son. Jodhya! Where art thou?”

There was a clash of silver anklets as a figure all bridal scarlet and gold rose from a pile of down cushions on the sofa with a cry, “Is’t thou, beloved?”

Then, realising its mistake, it stood radiant in its seductiveness, yet defiant, sulky. “Lo! Widow! What dost mean disturbing my happy dreams?”

It was a picture never to be forgotten. The bride secure in her position as woman claiming all things, even happy dreams as her right. The widow who had forfeited everything for an idea. In a way it epitomised the whole Tantrik cult, spirituality and sensuality combined.

Vaguely Maya Day realised this as she glanced round the room which formed so unsuitable a background. It might have been the study of a very high-brow, very cultured Oxford Don. Books lined the walls, a bronze replica of the listening faun stood on a most beautifully inlaid marble pedestal. A photograph of the Forum occupied an easel in the corner, the armchairs and sofa were of the kind into which you sink as if you were never going to get out of them again. And behind it all, behind the widow and the bride, behind the books and the culture, a flaring sunset sky.

By the time Maya Day had realised all this the bride had been appeased. If he were not coming till later it was as well to have someone else to whom one could show off one’s jewels and dresses. And show them she did and that plentifully. Yet ever with the refrain: “When Swârâj comes, when the Mahâtma wins, they will be worn for all to see.”

Maya Day, listening, felt that here again was a force so dynamic that it needed absolute control.

Old Chund Bi held her fingers to her lips as she hobbled down the wide stair again after closing the door of the Bluebeard’s chamber behind her. “Thou wilt keep counsel, gracious one,” she said. “Lo! it hurts none, and it makes the little mother-to-be content, and that the Gods know, is virtuous indeed.”

Undoubtedly; yet Maya Day, full to the brim with both East and West, felt that she could have lain down and cried for very despite that such things could be. She was jarred, uncertain of all things; most of all of herself. So the sight of Devi-ditta coming towards her through the gardens roused her to quick resentment; for the last few days had made his object clear, even to her almost curious sexlessness—the sexlessness of one brought up from earliest babyhood to regard her widowhood as a precious gift. But David Ditter had made up his mind to come to some understanding with Maya Day, if he could compass it. Only that morning there had been a difference of opinion at home, during which Tulsi Bhai had thrown out certain hints which he felt sure would be followed up by direct attack. Before that came it would greatly strengthen his position if he knew exactly where he stood in regard to Maya Day. So he made valiant efforts to overcome a shyness of which he was heartily ashamed, since he was clear-sighted enough to realise whence it came. Briefly, when neither you, your father nor any of your male ancestors have ever asked a woman to marry, it is a trifle difficult to begin; a difficulty considerably enhanced when the very idea of marriage is far from the mind of the woman you are addressing. It required therefore considerable courage and persistence even to get to the point when Maya Day interrupted with a frown—”It seems to me that you want me to marry you; but you know that is quite impossible—quite.”

He was completely taken aback, and could only say blankly, “Why?”

“Why?” she echoed, and then suddenly she gave a little laugh, half-mirthful, half-bitter. “Oh! a thousand whys! To begin with, Mr.—no; I can’t even call you Mr. Ditter, and I ought not to call you Devi. I—I seem to have no foothold anywhere—And I think you feel it, too—none of your ancestors ever asked a woman to marry them and none of my ancestresses were ever asked. We are at sea—absolutely at sea.”

“One has to begin sometimes,” put in the young man gloomily.

The laugh became a peal, infinitely amused. “I suppose so,” she replied, “but it can’t begin with us. I am a widow——”

He seized on the fact angrily. “Of course I know that; but it is no objection—none whatever. Young India——”

“Not on your part, possibly,” she interrupted, “but on mine?”

His face fell. He had, however, thought out the position very thoroughly, so he was prepared with an answer. “All women have to give up the perfect life, the life of the saint, when they marry; but surely if we—I mean you and I—were to work together as we could work—for the good of India—that would be something—in a way a great thing.”

Her eyes filled up with quick tears on the instant. “It would be all things,” she said impulsively, holding out both her hands to him. “But we can do that without being married, can’t we? As friends—fast, firm friends—Ah! leave it at that—don’t spoil it—as friend always——”

And there he had to leave it, though ere he parted from her she had promised to come and see his people; come and see what she would have to put up with, should she change her mind.

“That will never be,” she said shaking her head. “I believe I was born to be a widow indeed.”

And yet after he had left her she felt strangely disturbed; for she had seen in poor David Ditter’s eyes something she had never before seen in any other eyes, and she was conscious that it attracted her.

Wishing to be alone and hearing gay voices coming towards her through the garden she made for the door in the dividing wall between the two palace grounds, opened it with the key Mr. Whitehill had lent to her, so found herself in the dense-scented shade of orange trees. It was growing dark, and with an unconscious desire to gain what light she could, she made her way to a favourite vantage ground of hers; a small cupola over the bastioned turn of the wall riverwards. Thence she could see the last red flare of sunset between the purple clouds and the far purple horizon. It was a somewhat perilous climb to the cupola; for many of the embedded steps up the wall were missing; but she knew the gaps, and once in the quaint, octagonal, bird-cage like place, rested her arms on the pierced marble balustrade that enclosed it, so, laying her forehead on them gave herself up to thought.

Was it the mere propinquity of love which had so disturbed her? Or was it possible that she herself held the possibility of it? In a way, she knew that this must be so, though hitherto it had seemed so far—so very far from her——

She was roused from her thoughts by an approaching footstep outside the wall. Raising her head slightly, she saw beneath her the figure of a jogi on the slip of pathway between the wall and the sliding river. An instant and it had disappeared apparently into the wall. Then she remembered the wayfarer’s shrine at the bottom of the bastion. The man must have entered it—to worship, possibly. Stay! What was that? With ears acute she listened——

A low rumble—almost a growl—as if some heavy thing was being moved—turned—And then silence.

She raised herself to her knees and peered over the pierced parapet.

Nothing to be seen, and in an instant her mind leapt to a conclusion.

There was some private means of access and egress to the Palace-of-Dead-Kings, and a jogi had the entrée! What did it mean? Quick suspicion, born of the vague distrust which had grown up in her as to the real object of the mission with which she was associated, seized on her. What was it? She must find out. . . .

Without a moment’s hesitation she made her way down the perilous steps, passed quickly to the nearest garden gate of which she had the key, so back on her traces along the river bank until she found herself outside the bastion.

It was almost too dark to see; but a cavernous shadow showed her the archway of the wayfarer’s shrine. To be within it was the work of a second, and, disregarding the ten-armed travesty of womanhood against the back wall, she was feeling with her fingers for any crack, any fissure that might tell of a door or revolving stone. Patiently, carefully, in the pitch darkness, feeling everywhere up and down.

Suddenly, her heart leapt to her mouth—there was a yielding in the hard stone, a faint rumbling noise, the huge block of basalt on which the idol was carved turned smoothly on some unseen axis and before her stretched a dimly lighted tunnel. She must, by chance, have touched some spring—some mechanism. Anyhow she was inside. And the almost noiseless closing of the huge slab behind her, told her she must go on even if she felt disinclined or afraid to do so.

But Maya Day was no coward, and she sped on rapidly, taking stock as she went of what she saw. The tunnel was in good repair; therefore it must be in constant use. The light, as she passed it, showed electric, and there was another further on—so the Palace people must know of the passage. What if she were to find herself there? But no!

She gave a little gasp of surprise as she came suddenly on a wide space dimly lighted, soft carpet under her feet!—and furniture!

“What’s that?” came a man’s voice, and in one instant a perfect flood of electric light showed her what was evidently a dressing-room littered with clothes. At the further end of it, evidently just about to leave it, was a man in evening dress.

She recognised him in a minute. It was young Ffolliott. The recognition was mutual for he exclaimed incredulously:

“Miss Day! How the devil——” Then he paused, consternation struggling in his dark mobile face with amusement.

But she was in no mood for either. “What does it mean?” she queried sharply, pointing accusingly to the jogi’s disguise which lay, open to all eyes, on a chair.

“What does it mean?” he echoed advancing towards her, his voice autocratic, decisive. “That, my dear lady, I can’t tell you, and it’s best you should not know. Now, if you will promise to treat this discovery of yours as a dream—to forget all about it, say nothing about it, I’ll show you a way out; if not——” he broke off suddenly to say, “I see you’re not a bit afraid.”

“Why should I be afraid?” she replied quietly.

He laughed. “Lots of girls would be; but you are the right stuff. Now, Miss Day—you won’t gain anything by trying to pump me—you see that—so, if you’ll promise not to tell anyone what you have seen—I’ll show you the way out.”

She paused a moment, then said slowly, “I promise, but I warn you I shall do my best to find out.”

“Of course you will,” he returned with a smile. “You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t. You’re made that way—so am I! Now, if you’ll follow me.”

Half-a-minute or so in a dimly-lighted tunnel as before and he paused, put a key in the lock of a door, opened it and said, “Turn to the right up those stairs. You’ll find yourself in the tykhana of the summer-house. It’s a bit dark, I’m afraid; but you can feel your way. Good-bye. I’m glad you’re the right sort And if,” he added, why he scarcely knew, “if you are ever in a tight place and want a double—— Good-bye.”

Was it indeed a dream, she wondered as she felt the cool scented air of the garden in her face? She must think what it could possibly mean, so she went back to the cupola, climbed the perilous stairway and watched the last lingering light between the clouds and the far horizon die into darkness. Then she went back to face the weak-kneed disloyalty which was generally talked when the Sen family entertained their unrestful friends.

“Are you not rather afraid of the effect such teaching may have on the masses?” she asked suddenly of one who was declaiming in favour of civil disobedience.

“My dear lady!” was the reply, “we have the masses well in hand—well in hand.”

Chapter VIII

The winds blow as they list; and none can say
Whither they go, or whence they came! So stray
The loves of men and women. Fate decides
When they shall come? If they will pass or stay.

Captain Charles Hastings sate in the Morrisons’ drawing-room, waiting for his fiancée, and reading the last number of the “Autocar,” after the manner of all young Englishmen who find themselves otherwise unoccupied. In his white uniform be-gilt with buttons, he looked, as he stood up to greet her, the very picture and pattern of what a young Britisher should be, clean, straight, tall. Small wonder, indeed, that an expression of almost motherly pride softened the somewhat over-confident face of the girl.

She was a singularly attractive girl, exquisitely dressed from the tip of her dainty suède shoes to the top of her delightfully disarranged hair. Other, and envious girls, would attempt to copy the charming glare of her gay French dresses, would strive to imitate the loose curls and waves of her hair, only to fall into vulgarity and untidiness. But Lucy Morrison triumphed over both; so, although her skimpy chemise of a gown was in broad stripes of yellow and white, suggestive of Christy Minstrels, and though her hair—inconceivably, incredibly, unnaturally waved—was worn in a huge bob at the nape of her neck, she looked most sweet, lovable, above all ladylike.

“I’m glad you could come to lunch to-day, Boy,” she said after a few preliminaries. “Father will be late, I’m afraid.”

“Yes!” replied the young police officer a trifle gloomily. “I wish the boss would have an escort on these occasions; not that there is any real danger, though we have had a lot of skull and cross-bones letters of late—but it looks better. In this country a display of power——”

“Go up one,” laughed the girl, “you’ve been taking lessons from the professor, who, by the way, is coming to meet Maya Day. I want him to admit she’s a dear, and he says he won’t; but you like her, don’t you?”

“She plays a ripping game of tennis, and isn’t bad looking,” he replied carelessly, “when can we have our next, Lucy?”

She shook her head. “Never, I’m afraid. Maya’s given it up—says it isn’t the thing for a widow. And she is wearing their horrid shroud. Do you know, Boy, I’m awfully afraid she is going a bit dotty over that mission of hers. I’d the greatest difficulty in getting her to keep her promise and come to lunch to-day. Silly, isn’t it?”

The young man with his hands in his pockets strolled to the window and looked out idly.

“I don’t know,” he said slowly. “I suppose it pleases her—but it’s a bore about the tennis—Ah! There she is,” he added; then his face suddenly brightened. “I don’t know about the shroud,—Best one! It suits her no end—like a Madonna! I’ll go and bring her in.”

In truth the soft creamy-white folds about a soft creamy-white face were becoming, though the wearer immediately apologised for them. She would have put on European dress, she explained, for the occasion, but for the fact that she was due to sing at a meeting immediately after lunch and, as Mr. Blennerhasset was coming to fetch her, there would be no time to change.

“No excuse needed,” said her hostess carelessly, almost ungraciously; the ungraciousness of modern youth which counts society politeness as of no moment. She did not add as she might have done, that the dress suited her guest extraordinarily well, and by its very strangeness in those surroundings lifted the wearer out of the commonplace into the realms of the imagination.

But young Hastings felt this, unconsciously. So satisfaction came to him when she held out her hand with a smile and said lightly: “I believe we ought to be friends, Captain Hastings. I was looking over some papers the other day and I am almost sure it must have been your father in Bareilly, long years ago, who befriended mine. If so—I owe you a good deal——”

He stood holding her hand, recognising her beauty for the first time.

“If so,” he said simply, “I must have played with you when you were a baby; but I don’t remember.”

“No, more do I,” she replied still lightly, “but it may have been so. Who knows—or cares?”

If Lucy’s eyes had not been on him, he felt he might have taken the proffered opportunity and said, “I do.” But he refrained. Still the girl was beautiful, beautiful exceedingly—and tantalisingly unassailable, somehow, in that shroud, which ought to be hideous; yet wasn’t.

Clever also. Even John Anderson had to acknowledge that, as more from divergence of standpoint than from personal antagonism, the two began to fence with each other during luncheon, and she parried the professor’s covert attacks with ease and grace. Her voice, too, was music in itself; more musical, perhaps, than even nature had made it, by reason of the deliberate accuracy of speech in an acquired language.

“It is inevitable!” she retorted to some criticism. “You English cannot or will not understand! ‘East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.’”

“Poor Kipling!” laughed the professor. “How he must curse the day when he wrote that oft-quoted line. But it’s bad chemistry, Miss Day. Elements must combine before there are explosions such as we have in India to-day!”

The others laughed; but Maya Day flushed up and frowned. The young police officer turned to her appeasingly.

“I’m afraid we are in for another epidemic of bombs,” he said, “and I don’t wonder at it. The non-co-operationists have little else to do now that Gandhi is in prison, and the young students—silly fools——”

But the professor was not to be put off. Despite his appreciation of Maya Day’s wit, he could not forget her alms to the Mâhârâj.

“Then I shall have to lock up my picric acid,” he interrupted coolly. “I hope, Miss Day, you don’t use glycerine as a cosmetic, for I can assure you that H.N.O., H.2S.O., C.5 H.5 of each one part is not good for the complexion of affairs—even when prepared by women at home!”

The girl’s face was a study of rising anger; she could hardly maintain her composure.

“Don’t heed him, Maya!” put in Lucy Morrison, noticing this. “The professor is impayable when he gets to his alphabets——”

“Alphabets are shields, my dear young lady,” persisted the professor mischievously, “and one is the better of a shibboleth to screen one’s soul from an over-curious world. If you wear your heart on your sleeve, people are apt to think it a red rosette—put there for purposes of—decoration.”

“Boy!” cried Lucy Morrison with decision, “tell the khansaman to give the professor some more ice pudding. He requires cooling.”

So the rocks were avoided for the time. But when luncheon was over, while Lucy Morrison and her fiancé were discussing, with the absolute forgetfulness of sex which is so typical of the lovers of to-day, their chances of victory in a coming tennis tournament, John Anderson went up deliberately to Maya Day with a smile of a ministering angel, and took her coffee-cup from her.

“I am afraid I was rather brutal at lunch,” he said quietly, “you must forgive me. You see you interest me very much—and I don’t understand you—somehow?”

There was no mistaking his sincerity; but she eyed him scornfully.

“Perhaps because you treat me as a child, and I am a grown woman,” she replied.

“And I am not a congenial idiot,” he put in, a twinkle in his red-brown keen eyes. “Why—you are womanhood incarnate. Every man must see it—feel it. Therefore—excuse me—Maya or—illusion——”

“It is curious,” she retorted, feeling nevertheless appeased by the kindly look and manner, “how you Europeans will get hold of the wrong end of the Indian stick. Illusion is not of the feminine order. And, as for womanhood! You will never learn that the cult of India is the cult of the creatrix—that woman is the symbol of Divine energy—Aye! and the salvation of men.”

Her voice rose, her face was alight with passionate belief. Professor Anderson put down his coffee-cup elaborately and then said appraisingly—”So you really are a Tantrik.”

“I am a Kayasth by birth,” she replied proudly.

“I beg your pardon. I ought to have remembered,” he continued. “And you belong to the Left-Handed section—I saw you giving alms to the brute they call Mâhârâj. I was driving with Blennerhasset.”

Once again she flushed. “Perhaps you did,” she replied defiantly. “What then? The distinction Left and Right is Western. Tantracism is One and Indivisible! It is the concentrated Wisdom of all Time—that which Is and Was, and Ever shall be.” Carried away by her own words she went on vehemently, speaking faster as if to avoid interruption. “How I have laughed at your women holding Zenana meetings to bewail the position of Indian women, when from Time immemorial the Tantras have taught that without us is nothingness. I tell you the great woman question——” She paused for breath.

“Are there any great women?” asked the professor in his worst manner, and repented him of the evil even as he spoke the words; for the girl’s eyes filled with sudden tears, she held out both hands to him appealingly.

“Oh, don’t—please don’t,” she cried. “Don’t make fun of me—or it; for you could do so much good. I know it—I feel it—if you only would. You don’t realise how difficult it is. How we are all at sixes and sevens. And you could help—if you would!”

Touched as he was ever by appeals to himself as man, he clasped one of her outstretched hands, and laying his other hand on her wrist, felt the bounding pulse, the tremor of muscle.

“My dear child,” he said gently, kindly, “you take things too hardly—they’re not worth it.”

She turned on him in superb denial. “How dare you say that? You who know that such things are the only ones that matter in the whole wide world.”

“And what of India?” he queried, feeling, in truth, unable to gainsay her.

Her face fell. “India?” she echoed. “O! if you only knew how hard that is for me to answer. If you only knew how bewildered I am. Not that it matters really, for the feminist movement holds the future of India, and that must—it shall succeed! You don’t believe it, but you shall see. You will see what even one woman can do——”

For a moment or two John Anderson was silent, leaning against the pillar of the verandah by which he stood, looking out over what lay before him. It was a very ordinary Indian compound. Just a gravelled drive edged with flowering shrubs leading to gateless gateposts, and beyond, seen through the fine fringes of the farash trees, a straight road and a few reed huts and mud buildings that formed an outlying bazaar. Beyond that again, a glimpse of the sliding river and the serried houses of the old town.

Suddenly he spoke. “I think, Miss Day, that a real bout with the buttons off the foils would do us both good. Have I your permission?”

She gave assent and he began at once:

“No one in their senses could deny that you have every chance of becoming a power. You have personality. I, old as I am, feel it. Then you have emotion—and that—excuse me—is worth everything else when a woman has to deal with men—as you must, if you are to help India. You have plenty of brains, but your hold will be on their emotions, not their minds—you know that perfectly well. Take Blennerhasset for instance——”

A faint smile—the woman’s irrepressible smile at her own sexual attraction—showed on the curves of Maya Day’s mouth.

“For the matter of that,” went on the professor remorsefully, “I dare swear dozens of us are in like case. I myself——” the twinkle in his eyes was responsible for the girl’s quick almost mischievous interruption:

“Am I to be held responsible for the foolishness of men?”

“Scarcely,” admitted John Anderson. Then the twinkle faded from his eyes; they became grave, inquisitorial. “But there is your own to be reckoned with. Love comes to Eastern women overwhelmingly, blindly, physically——”

A glowing shadow showed the rush of blood to her face. “I am a widow,” she said simply, “to whom such things are barred for ever.”

He laughed aloud. “You people of progress are very illogical, Miss Day! You disapprove—you must!—of half the racial and social customs of India, yet you fly to the shibboleths on occasion—you can’t hope to touch the masses without them. Virgin widowhood! What truck can it have with your modernised thought? None! You are simply woman—woman more than most—waiting as every woman waits, consciously or unconsciously, for a lover——”

There was a sudden sharp crack, then a reverberating boom followed by a shriek which made him stop short, puzzled; but the young police officer seated by his fiancée in the drawing-room was on his feet in a second, and with the exclamation: “A bomb by all that’s holy!” was over the verandah railings and a-down the carriage sweep. At his heels came the professor, and with an agonised wail of “Oh! Father! Father!” Lucy Morrison was after them.

But for a while Maya stood still, petrified by sudden revulsions of feeling, by wild anger at the mere thought of the senseless outrages that were so injuring the cause she had at heart. Then the desire to see for herself, to protest, to condemn, overcame all else, and she also ran as for dear life, through the scented garden, her brain busy with hope, almost with command that no harm should have happened to her friend’s father.

What she did see when she reached the reed huts was reassuring. A horse, bleeding from a splinter, was being led away to the stable by an unperturbed groom, and Colonel Morrison, also calm, was allaying his daughter’s fears while he removed some dust from his coat.

But a little further down the road two yellow-legged policemen were keeping back a semi-circle of over curious but silent natives who were pressing round a group in the centre of the road.

There was the professor, a crouching woman, and young Hastings; the latter kneeling on the ground and holding in his white-uniformed arms a limp, naked baby of a few months old which John Anderson was examining, his keen face intent on truth. But the other? Maya’s heart beat to suffocation as she recognised the pity in it, the softness of it——.

She gave a little cry half-gasp, half-sob, and ran on till she stood beside the woman, who was rocking herself to and fro silently. After the first shriek when she had discovered that the babe—doubtless drugged with opium—she held wrapped in her veil had been hit on the head by a splinter from the otherwise ineffectual bomb, she had said nothing. All had been dumb patience and acquiescence. On the other side of the world she would have been the centre of tense sympathy; here the circle of spectators were also patient, also acquiescent.

The questioning look left the professor’s face, his fingers left the small wrist. A few words to the young policeman and the latter stood up, straightened himself, then walked to the silent woman and laid the child in her arms. “Your son has found freedom, mother!” he said simply, but his voice, soft, sympathetic, struck the listening girl like a blow.

When she had played that first game of tennis with him she had found her partner extraordinarily handsome and attractive. But now? What had happened? A few words, a look, and she felt inclined to cast herself at the speaker’s feet and bid him take all that she possessed. Then a thought, searing like hot iron, flashed through her mind. “Would he look like that at his own children when he had married Lucy Morrison? Would he speak like that to her?” The elemental jealousy of the thought made her in part realise the truth, and she stood bewildered. The past few days had been sufficiently disturbing; and now? Now she felt adrift upon an unknown sea.

The professor’s incisive voice as he examined a shred of silken thread held out to him by a policeman who had found it beside the splintered bomb, brought her back to realities; it was a mere shred, but it smelt of otto of roses and had evidently served to string some woman’s necklace.

“Home made,” said the professor. “Curse those emotional women! They’ll ruin India as they have most things.”

She was not intended to hear; but she did, and the words joined to the remembrance of what he had said to her but a few minutes before, stung her to the quick. She stepped forward, and in an instant was haranguing the crowd, which by now had gathered, in a perfect torrent of Bengali. She had often sung in public; never had she spoken, and the discovery of her own eloquence added to her excitement. What she said she scarcely knew, and she might have succeeded in rousing even that apathetic audience had not her own emotion mastered her. She staggered and might have fallen had not young Hastings steadied her.

“Overwrought,” called the professor, who was busy over more splinters. “Get her out of the crowd, will you, Hastings, and tell Lucy to give her sal volatile. It’s nothing—but don’t let her walk. I’ll be round in a minute.”

It was nothing, doubtless, to John Anderson, whose keen mind was set on discovering truth; but to those two warm, living, young things it meant something.

He, clipping his half-conscious burden below the knees, and raising it easily to his shoulder, was aware that he was carrying a very attractive person, and she, not conscious enough for acquired reserve, felt vaguely that she was where she would be and settled her head on his breast with heart-whole self-surrender. In fact Charlie Hastings as he looked in the eyes that sought his fearlessly, saw an expression that he had never seen before in the eyes of any woman—for his experience with Lucy Morrison had been too friendly for pure passion—and as a result felt a wild desire to kiss the beautiful mouth. But he muttered a curse under his breath and strode on.

“Aren’t you going to put me down?” she said at length. “I can walk quite well.”

“I was told not to let you walk; so if you don’t mind?” he replied shortly.

The radiance of her evident satisfaction made him catch in his breath hard; but the memory of Lucy helped him and he went on almost viciously: “I’m glad you are comfy, I’m rather a ’oner at carrying girls—had a sister who was a regular rotter—always flopping about the place and——”

Ere he could finish Maya Day had slipped from his hold and was facing him with dignity. “Thanks so much. I can’t think what made me such a fool.” So far she spoke artificially; then real feeling stepped in: “It was that poor little baby——”

The young Englishman was instant in sympathetic response. “I don’t wonder,” he said, his joyous face clouding. “It was a beastly shame; and what for I can’t imagine. These miserable murders do no good. However, it is no use grousing over them; only I wish all these palavers and conferences they’re holding could get at something to stop what’s going on. At present it is only the fools and dupes who get toko; and that isn’t fair, is it?”

Was anything in the wide world fair, she wondered, as they walked on to the house. Why should she thrill to the very sound of this English boy’s voice? She asked herself the question many times later on, when Nigel Blennerhasset, who had come to fetch her, descanted eloquently on the inutility of such senseless outrages, while Colonel Morrison ate his delayed luncheon with the self-complacent moderation of a man who has just escaped an unmerited death.

She knew quite well what had befallen her. When Captain Hastings, seeing her into the motor, let his hand linger on hers a moment longer than was necessary, in order to say a few words of apology for apparent rudeness, she did not need the answering thrill that shot through her to prove to her the truth.

Yet all she said was this: “You were quite right—I was a rotter.” Though something, a sort of forlorn sense of failure, made her add with a tremor about her lips: “I am very sorry I am a fool.”

The young Englishman flushed up in quick negation. “No!” he said, “you’re not a fool—I’ll tell you what you are—you are beautiful—most beautiful.”

He stood moodily watching the motor disappear; then, hearing an imperative “Boy! Come here, please, I want you,” returned still more moodily to the drawing-room where he found Lucy in difficulties, trying to whip a tennis bat that seemed inclined to spring.

“Aren’t you coming?” she asked, surprised, when the job finished—he prepared to leave. For a moment he hesitated; then he excused himself on the ground of work. The bomb business would entail extra office hours. The girl’s face hardened inconceivably.

“I wish we could kill the lot,” she said quite viciously.

“I don’t,” he replied quietly. “One baby is quite enough—and I think you’d say so, too, if you’d seen the poor little beggar.”

For answer she went over to him and kissed him lightly, but affectionately. “You’re always such a dear, my dear! A thousand times nicer than I am,” she said and hid her face on the white uniform.

“Not a bit of it, girlie! You’re the dearest and sweetest old thing on earth,” he replied stoutly, and felt that he meant it.

Meanwhile Maya Day, as she sate by Nigel Blennerhasset on her way to the meeting, scarcely listened to what he was saying though she answered vaguely. It was not that her mind was too full of what had occurred; but that it seemed for the time empty of all things that she could recognise. She was in a new world in which her very self seemed to have slipped from her. Yet she did not feel lost, or troubled, or unhappy, simply dazed.

“What is that you are saying?” she asked abruptly when at last some words of her companion found real entrance to her consciousness. “That I am not to mention what happened—the bomb I mean?” She gave a visible shudder. “That I am not to condemn—what on earth do you mean?”

Nigel Blennerhasset who, encouraged by her silence, had for the last five minutes been carefully paving the way for a final expression of opinion as to the wisdom of tact and caution, felt flustered by her evident divergence of opinion.

“Only,” he began, “that we—I mean those who really head our mission—especially Markham, without whose aid we could practically do nothing—are very insistent on the need for caution. In fact,” he added with an indulgent smile, his own words bringing him courage, “they are inclined to think that you——” he paused.

“Yes! That I,” she asked, every trace of her quiescence gone.

“Well! That you lay a little too much stress on the purely spiritual war which we have to wage. They don’t think the people—the uneducated people—understand it—quite! And so much depends on ranging them under our banner. Of course we ourselves—you and I—realise that what is needed in all reform is a change of spirit; but these poor people require something more tangible.”

She eyed him critically. “Bombs?” she said, and the word was like a sword. There was an instant’s pause, then she added quietly: “You can tell Mr. Markham that I reserve to myself the right to say anything I choose. I definitely refuse to be under his orders, and I am surprised that you are so ready to obey them.”

“My dear Maya!” he began horrified; but she cut him short. What she had said was final and it was useless to discuss the matter further.

And all the while she was realising that she would never sing as she had sung before. What, for instance, would she sing that afternoon? It was to be a meeting of students chiefly. What should she tell them? Of earthly glories in the past, of earthly glories in the future? No! such things were trivial. And the words to which she had given assent all her conscious life, but which had never before come home to her, sprang to memory “When the Self has become all things, what sorrow, what joy can there be to him who has once beheld that Unity? He, the Self, the subtle Being, encircles all, bright incorporeal, scathless, pure, untouched by evil!”

Union of the Finite with the Infinite—that was Love. And with a rush she realised that it had come to her.

So, with sombre eyes that were yet full of a spiritual gladness, she burst, when the time came, into a Hymn of the Dawn, her glorious voice full of exalted praise.

Many tinted Dawn—the immortal daughter of Heaven
Young white-robed come with thy purple steeds,
Follow the path of the dawnings the world has been given,
Show us the path of the dawn that the world still needs.

Darkly shining Dusk, thy sister has sought her abiding,
Fear not to trouble her dreams; daughters, ye twain, of the Sun.
Dusk and Dawn bringing Birth! O! Sisters, your path is unending,
Dead are the first who have watched. When will our watching be done?

Bright, luminous Dawn; rose red, radiant, rejoicing,
Show the traveller his road; the cattle their pastures new.
Rouse the beasts of the Earth to their truthful myriad voicing,
Leader of Lightful Days, softening the soul with dew.

Wide, expanded Dawn! Open the gates of the morning,
Waken the singing birds! Guide thou the Truthful Light
To uttermost shades of the shadow: for, see you! the Dawning
Is born, white shining, out of the gloom of the Night.

And as she sang she felt that to the uttermost shade of her shadow a light had come. Small wonder then that her emotion found its way to her audience, most of them eager boys, ready for all enthusiasm, so that never before—though she was already a prime favourite with the College youths—had she encountered such a perfect storm of admiration and applause.

She paled before it; then suddenly she spoke. She had not meant to speak; perhaps she had no right to speak, but in an instant she had every boy in her grip. What did she say? Everything.

She ended with words well known to all her hearers.

“For we are all One! One Self in Self. One Life which Flame cannot burn, Water cannot overwhelm, or Dry Winds wither. One Life, Ineffable, Impenetrable, Immortal, All-Arriving.”

The effect was instantaneous. Carried away by emotion, the youthful audience stormed the platform, cast itself at the speaker’s feet, hailing her as a divine teacher, so, not yet satisfied with the expression of its approval, insisted, in Europe fashion, on unseating the chauffeur of Nigel Blennerhasset’s car, and dragging it through the crowded bazaars surrounded and followed by a cheering mass of students.

And the bazaars, epitomising in their welter of varied life, the whole wide continent of India at the present day, stood aside to let the procession pass.

“’Tis the widow who hath come to belittle Mai Kâli,” said one. “Lo! she is even as the mems who sit beside their husbands unveiled—curses on her.”

“Have a care!” commented his neighbour. “’Tis not safe to curse witches. And she is witch for sure. See how she hath charmed the boys.”

But down in the courtyard at the back of Mai Kâli’s temple, the Mâhârâj resting after a full day’s debauch laughed wickedly as incomers told the tale.

“Let be!” he said. “’Tis not for long. The storm gathers fast, and such poor rubbish is as naught to the mighty Wind that comes! Mai Kâli can protect her own!”

Chapter IX

Words are so slight! And yet one word will make
The wide air quiver endlessly and wake
The waves of sound to ceaseless fruitless quest
Of some far distant shore whereon to break.

“The girl must be gagged, and at once,” snarled Paul Markovitch, when the news of Maya’s triumph was brought to him by Fred Ffolliott.

The latter, who, seated on the marble-latticed balustrade of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings, was dangling his legs over the void, flicked his cigar ash into the dusk of the scented garden below him and said lightly:

“You will have your job cut out for you, sir; for the girl is the right sort.”

Mr. Markham turned on him angrily.

“What the devil do you mean?” he asked.

The young man swung his legs inwards and looked at his superior coolly.

“That she funks—nothing,” he replied.

“And may I ask what you know about her and how you know it?” continued the other categorically.

The young man laughed. “Not much, I admit; but that is my opinion.”

And it was true. Ever since the girl had faced him so unflinchingly the evening before, he had been obsessed by the remembrance of the slight figure in its white widow’s shroud. Reckless, irresponsible, he had usually a certain contempt for the feminine; but in Maya Day he had recognised something cognate to his own daring, his own uncalculating courage.

Perhaps, if he could have seen her, as she lay at that very moment on her bed in the Sens’ castellated mansion, not three hundred yards away, stifling her sobs in her pillow after the way of overwrought girls, he might have changed his opinion. Though it must be confessed that she had ample excuse for self-pity, the only cause, as a rule, of tears. One thing after another had come to shake the very foundation of her world. She wanted to think, and could not; she could only feel. At intervals she sate up, pressing her hands to forehead, eyes, breast as if seeking to crush down the happenings of the day from consciousness; but they would not be crushed. After a time, however, she began to ask herself why they should be ignored? It was not as if they had been ignoble—not as if they did any harm to any one but herself. This thought calmed her and rising from her pillows she went into the verandah, sat down and with head thrown back watched the swift sunsetting of the cloudless Indian day. Twilight had already claimed all things; the white petunias along the border which had wilted under the long hot sunshine had lifted up their heads and were sending their faint elusive evening scent into the air.

All was peaceful exceedingly; the very birds silenced by the oncoming of night. She closed her eyes feeling comforted. After all, why fuss over a thing that concerned herself alone; that if she chose she could set aside absolutely; that need never come into real life?

So, after a while, wearied out, she fell asleep. She woke with a start. Someone—a white figure dimly seen of a lad was prone at her feet kissing them. She drew them away hastily with the words:

“Who art thou, my son?”

For answer the lad sate back on his heels, thus disclosing the narrow hatchet face of Prem-nâth. It was all blurred by tears, distorted by passionate emotion. “It was I, who did it,” he blurted out. “I, who threw the bomb—Oh Mother most mild? Most merciful! Forgive, forgive!”

And he was down at her feet again squirming like a crushed snake.

She stood up and moved away a step. “You threw the bomb,” she echoed scarcely understanding.

He sate back on his heels once more, and Maya drew a step further away, for she saw in his dark brimming eyes something that smote her like a blow. It was passionate adoration, passionate love—like her own. She scarcely heard his wailing whimpering voice as he went on. He had done it—yea! He had done it thinking no evil till she had spoken. Then he had seen—then he had wept—then he could not rest until he had sought forgiveness from the most beautiful, the most marvellous——

He rocked himself backwards and forwards; there was something pathetically ludicrous in his utter self-abasement, but Maya felt chilled to the heart by the certainty that he had given her all that was in him, as she had given all that was in her to the young Englishman—why—oh—why had she done it?

She cut his protestations short almost angrily——

“You meant to kill the Colonel sahib, and you killed that poor baby?”

His reply brought the blood to her heart with an uncontrollable sickening throb of fear.

“Either the Colonel or ’Asting sahib. It did not matter which. They were both on the list.”

“Hastings sahib,” she echoed, while before her eyes she seemed to see the tall figure, the boyish sunny face. “What harm has Hastings sahib done to—to you?” Her voice was vibrant with quick denial. “What possible, harm, I say, has he done to—to anyone?”

Prem-nâth, sitting back on his heels, whimpered more than ever at her tone. “I know not, O! Mother most mild,” he moaned. “It was on the list, and there are many others—even for the Big Lord sahib himself there is big reward. Yet did I not do it for gold; but for glory! And it was glory till the voice from Heaven spoke——” he went rambling on, but Maya Day standing still as if she were carved in stone heard no word. Heart, brain, soul were at deadly war within her. Suddenly she gave a little shiver and she said in a low voice—“Come inside—we can talk better there—and—and shut the door—no one must hear.”

Though she did not realise it, her decision was already made. So the door closed on darkness and those two. After a time a feeble light showed through the red muslin blinds; but there was no sound; an eavesdropper would have heard nothing.

Then the door opened once more and Maya Day came out holding a candle in her hand, followed by the lad whose hatchet face beamed content.

“Go, my son,” she said whispering. “Go quickly but remember to return with news. Return, but ever in the darkness, for this is secret . . . between thee and me.”

The lad fell at her feet, kissed the hem of her garment, and was gone into the darkness. She stood for a moment holding the light high above her head, as if to see what lay before her, but by then the darkness had deepened, and shadow against shadow was all that could be distinguished. So, slowly, she went back into the room, put the candle on the table and, with head resting on her hand as she sate beside it, stared at the light as if it could filter through her brain and illumine the chaotic darkness which possessed her body and soul.

What had she done? Why had she done it? Both questions were unanswerable. Why, at the bidding of a sudden fear, a sudden desire to protect, had she cozened a wretched boy who would—yes! who would have sold his soul for her, even as she felt she could do likewise for someone—oh! shame—shame unutterable!—

She could not think, and yet she must. Well! she had cozened this wretched lad to be her tool—to what

purpose? Was she really going to be a spy? She who but a few hours before had been foremost in revolt. It was impossible, incredible—and yet——

The gong striking eight o’clock at the police quarters across the river roused her from almost unimaginable depths of self-abasement. Eight o’clock, and the Sens were giving one of their periodical entertainments that evening. She must appear—she must not let others guess. The party was more or less in her honour—Her honour?

Where was that?

With a bitter laugh she turned on the electric light, and as she did so the old saying current throughout India about the Dipak râj—the prophecy that kingship would come with the power to bring light from darkness, sprang to memory. Well! the alien had that power anyhow—And what else—what else? A confused mass of claims and counterclaims, justices and injustices, oppressions and benevolences crowded in on her, leaving her helpless, at the mercy of her emotions, reckless, regretful, defiant.

“My Paris dress—the flame-coloured one—I will not wear this,” she said to the servant who came at her call, as she cast away her white shroud and stood bare-armed trembling from head to foot. Who was she, what was she to wear the widow’s holy garb? How dared she?

Half-an-hour afterwards, when she entered the big saloon where all the notables of Purawabad and Nawapura were gathered together, every eye turned to the slim figure, but hers were full of dreams.

Devi-ditta was at her side in a moment, and his voice thrilled with passion and delight. “I am so glad,” he whispered. “That is as it should be—you are divine in that dress. O! Maya! Maya! Forget the old, and begin afresh with the new.”

She smiled radiantly, provocatively. She could not help it; she seemed to herself to have thrown everything to the winds and to be without rudder, without compass.

“I give you the old, she said with quite a coquettish shrug of the shoulders. “But I am not going to promise anything about the new—not yet.”

After that he would have hung round her for the rest of the evening had it been possible; but she was a centre of attraction for half the young men in the room. They also could not help themselves. Her mind, with its acquired reticences, its acquired conventionalities, had lost control, and they followed blindly the lead of her elemental womanhood. Of all sorts and sizes they were, and so was the crowd which was rapidly filling saloons, verandahs, gardens. That in the saloons was as representative of modern India, as the crowd of ash-smeared nakedness which had assembled a few days before in the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees had been of the old India. Every shade of opinion was there, from that of the stern-visaged English lady wielding unquestioned authority over her native following by sheer force of character and common-sense, to the utterly illogical non-co-operationist who went about imploring people not to eat salt because an extra tax had been put on it in order to pay the salaries of bloated aliens; a tax which would burden every man, woman and child in India to the extent of one farthing per annum. Appalling tyranny! Unbearable extortion! And intermediate between these two, was every conceivable shade of opinion having just this in common, that the promulgators were very earnest, though their beliefs were founded for the most part on misrepresentation, and so were curiously unreal. Almost as unreal as Nigel Blennerhasset, who, in a marvellously resplendent gown of red velvet besprinkled with cabalistic symbols in gold, which he wore in virtue of his high estate as Tantrik preceptor, was talking metaphysics with white-robed pandits in the verandah. They bore, what was to them, Western superficiality, with courteous patience; only old Akâs Râm (who as revered family priest to the Sen tribe had to put in an appearance and give the entertainment his blessing as it were) sate watching the stream of life with the same half-wistful expression with which he watched the derelict petals that floated past his perch, by the river side. And now his eyes followed the brilliant flaming figure of Maya Day as she paused to speak with one, then another. To him she was an insoluble enigma opposed to his whole theory of life. But there were others to whom she was frankly obnoxious, who scowled when she passed, murmuring to themselves that she, and her light-o’-love in the red velvet gown who masqueraded as true Tantriks, deserved all that could be given them. This group occupied a vantage post, half in, half out of the palace where they could keep an eye on what went on within it, and also see what was happening in the garden. Foremost amongst these was the Mâhârâj, clothed for the nonce, and more or less in his right mind.

“Lo!” he said, his lecherous eyes following the girl’s slim figure, “she be too fair for death. Give her to a man and let him teach her for what all women were made.”

And everywhere from the kadr dressed men and women to the half-naked coolies; from the Europe young men and women to the elder, half-doubtful, half-despairing ones was unrest. Unrest in every corner of the big saloon, in the wide verandahs where in some side room carefully screened with curtains, long drinks and cigarettes could be obtained by those who desired them; even outside in the still, moonlit garden, hung round by coloured lanterns, where, after the usual Indian custom, food was being distributed to quite a crowd of expectant beggars, there was the same inchoate discontent with the present, the same vague desire for something different, even while they sate, patient beyond belief, awaiting their turn while they watched an occasional rocket fizz up into space, or another, and yet another fire balloon sail aloft to join the galaxy of flaming stars that formed a new constellation to leewards. Unsteady, unordered, star-constellations curiously suggestive of those who sent them up; of their aspirations, and aims, pre-doomed to failure, to flame up, to die! The real fireworks, without which no Indian entertainment is complete, were to come later; but it was already lighting-up time, and by the growing illumination the crowd could watch the naked brown figures clambering—torch in hand—up perilous pinnacles, or along break-neck balustrades, to set alight the rows on rows of oil cressets that had already been glued with mud, like swallows’ nests, to every outline, every curve, every arch of the palace.

Old Mr. Sen, the grandfather of the business, coming out to see how the work was progressing, chuckled a fat chuckle as he went back to his guests in the saloon.

“It will be good, very good!” he said to Nigel Blennerhasset, still occupied in discussing the eternal values with his pandits. “That is one thing in which we Indians beat you English quite hollow. I have seen firework illuminations at Crystal Palace, but for beauty give me oil cressets. Electric is easy. I could have had, and cheaper too, but cresset light is softer, more romantic. Besides, commend us always to the good old ways. What say you, sir?”

Nigel Blennerhasset agreed; but old Akâs Râm looked up, his keen eyes glistening with sudden mirth.

“Not so!” he said softly. “Lo! were the old to return half of us would walk headless.”

Meanwhile within the saloon, a noted speaker had begun an address on Nationalism, which he asserted was the one aim and object of every Indian worthy of the name, utterly oblivious of the fact that the very idea of Nationalism is untranslatable into the Indian languages as spoken up to the present day, and that no equivalent nearer than the “care of the tribe” can be found for it. Small wonder then that on the speaker’s mouth the impersonal changed to the personal, and he descanted, not on the transcendental value of loyalty to something that exists beyond and above humanity, but on the advantages—material chiefly—of “Swa-desh” or “Self country.”

India for the Indians! Most people were capable of listening to that, and those who had gone out for coolth to the garden, drifted back to hear the speaker.

Not so Maya Day. She had an uncomfortable feeling that she had heard it all before, and that she was not quite sure of the foundation on which it rested.

Was it possible that after thousands and thousands of years in which a pathetically contented people had lived without the remotest idea of national life, that in a few short decades this uneducated mass of ignorant brain could have gripped that idea so firmly, that without it life was unbearable? For the moment at any rate and in her present mood, she could not believe it; so reckless, defiant, she passed into the verandah accompanied by the bevy of young men who buzzed round her like bees round a honeypot.

It was cooler out there; darker also. It suited her inmost self better; that self which like a drowning man was reaching blindly round on all sides for support.

Yet even here as she stood leaning against a pillar frescoed in imitation of the long buried ones in Pompeii, the speaker’s voice came fitfully to her ears. She caught herself listening to it more than to the gay voices of her companions.

“Self-determination is the right of every man, every country. We Indians and our beloved India claim it! They say we are not fit for it; but I say we are. We are fit for Democracy. Democracy, the rule of the people, one and indivisible.”

A sudden crash overhead, a sudden stir, a sudden gathering closer of those outside which made her cry hastily—“What is it?”—then steps forward into the almost empty garden to see what had happened.

A very simple, a very common thing. One of the men sent up to the more dangerous parts of the illuminations—a man of the lowest caste, a Dom, had over-balanced and fallen. In falling he had struck an older man, and both lay on the ground at a little distance from each other. It needed but a glance at the one, all crumpled up out of human likeness, to show that he was beyond human aid. The other lay moaning, to all appearance unconscious. Round the one the crowd that gathered, God knows whence in an instant, stood back offering no aid. “ ’Tis Sibbu the Dom,” said one; “call his people.”

Round the other the crowd pressed, but, unconscious as the man seemed, only to be waved back by piteous helpless gestures.

“He is Brahman,” said they. “Is there one here to give him water ere he die?”

So to the one in a few moments came dark-skinned, half-naked figures to bear the dead body whose touch was contamination to be wailed over in a place apart; while to the other came Death athirst; since none were worthy to give him drink. It was all over in a minute; the marvellous Indian silence concealing it. Within the big saloon, nothing had been heard save the speaker’s voice and that went on and on. Even to those who had seen the catastrophe it meant little after the first silent shock; the curious apathy as regards death which is so noticeable in India outside the immediate family, held all. The one who had been so suddenly called away was of no account in the world; and the other, being Brahman, had the doors of the next wide open for him, so what more was to be said? Meanwhile it was best to go on with what was in hand, and leave those whose duty it was to see to things free to follow the old, old ways.

Even Maya felt this strange call of the blood strongly; and yet there are times when a chance word, even a look, will bring clearer vision and make truth unmistakable.

So it was here. The close juxtaposition of the claims made within the palace and the actualities outside, brought the contrast between them home to her with irresistible force. She passed swiftly into the saloon, and as the speaker’s voice tailed into silence after a fiery peroration, hers rose calmly, and echoed to the furthermost corners.

“What has been said is true. India needs freedom to seek her salvation on the old lines; but, ere we can hope to build the fair temple of Democracy in our beloved land, we must make sure its foundations are laid upon level bed-rock. And how can we be sure of this when men are not equal in the sight of God—when we are divided into clean and unclean?”

She ceased. A murmur of approval, disapproval, surprise and sheer anger showed on the faces of her hearers. Disregarding them all, she passed swiftly as before to a tall figure standing by one of the doors. It was Professor Anderson who, as medical attendant to the Sen family, had been invited to the show, and who, with his usual desire to see everything that could be seen, had come in for a look round. She swept up to him with outstretched hand, a quick appeal for perfect understanding in her eyes.

“I am right, am I not?” she asked, and he with friendliness in his grip replied:

“Absolutely right, my dear young lady, but——” He hesitated, then went on: “Don’t say it quite so loudly next time, or you’ll get into trouble—— And you ought to go to bed—you need—rest!”

The certainty that he was right made her say “Goodnight,” and pass on with a smile.

To do so she divided a group of men engaged in earnest conversation. They stood aside, many of them bowing to her pleasantly; but when she was out of hearing one said in a rasping voice:

“In my country her life wouldn’t be worth a moment’s purchase. We of the Soviets stand no interference with our programme.”

As she was leaving the saloon David Ditter overtook her.

“Going?” he said regretfully. “And I wanted to ask you what day you would come and see my people?”

She flashed round on him, sudden recklessness in her eyes.

“Any time! Whenever you like. Good-night.”

“Maya!” he cried intoxicated in a moment by her look; but with a light laugh she left him.

She had meant to follow the advice given her to rest, but the coolness of the air in the verandah induced her to slip outside into the garden, where, at the further end, fireworks were already being displayed. And over all things, warming the pale moon rays with a sheen as of gold, was the soft diffused light of the illuminated palace. How beautiful it was! The lines of light following each cornice, each arch, each curve, seeming to hang suspended in the air so perfectly did their glow obliterate the solid bricks and mortar on which they hung. A palace of stars—that was what it was!

She stepped back a pace or two to see better and felt she impinged on someone behind. Turning to apologise, if necessary, she saw a jogi. The tiara of matted hair, the rope girdle, the string of rudraksha beads all complete; but in an instant memory sprang to life.

“Mr. Ffolliott,” she said in a low voice.

The jogi’s lips did not move, he stood as if he had not heard—looking beyond her, statuesque, immovable; but his voice came to her mockingly.

“I like you far better in your widow’s shroud,” it said. “In that you’re like all your kind—in the other you were ripping.”

She stared at him incredulously. “But you are Mr. Ffolliott surely,” she reiterated. “What does it all mean?”

No flicker of expression came to the face before her. She might have been miles away, and half involuntarily she stepped back from it; but the voice met her ears as before.

“That’s right. Why have a fuss? As I told you before I don’t intend to explain anything——” There was a slight pause—then the voice went on, though the speaker, turning away, strolled leisurely towards the fireworks. “And look here—have a care or you’ll get yourself into trouble. If you want help you know where to find me.”

She stood looking after him uncertain what to do or even to think.

Chapter X

We load our dice. We throw them as we list
To get the main. Then with some curl or twist
Fate intervenes, the die gives one more turn,
Settles three-one, and so the game is missed.

There was much stir and bustle in the rambling old house where Tulsi Bhai, David Ditter’s stepmother, reigned supreme. A Western spring-cleaning is as nothing to the havoc which a sweeper’s broom, under the shrill direction of women who would die rather than do the job themselves, can make in a house in which dust has been allowed to lie for weeks, save for a little perfunctory waving of that same broom which disturbs more than it removes. By the time David Ditter rose from his bed it was as if an electric dust storm was in full blast, and much as he desired to stop and superintend, as far as he dared, the preparations for receiving Maya Day’s visit, the atmosphere was such, both physically and spiritually, that the young man deemed flight the better part. And yet in suggesting this visit, he had been tact itself. So far as his father, honest gentleman, was concerned, he had decided that a straightforward policy was best. So, confidentially, he had told of his love, had dwelt on Maya Day’s many good qualities, her suitable rank, her close adherence to Hindu principles and her independence, so far as money was concerned; in fact on everything which could soften a parent’s heart to a prospective daughter-in-law. He had, however, left out the important fact that she was a widow. That would doubtless have to come afterwards when Maya had—as of course she would—conquered all by her perfections.

This had answered well enough with old Narayan Dâs. He had listened urbanely as he might have done to a patient’s recital of his ailments; and finally, with a like suavity, he had literally petrified the young man by saying;

“It is well, my son! The virtuous affection and desire of man for a woman should be encouraged. Therefore wed first the one to whom thou art espoused. So will thy mother be placated, which is great gain. Afterwards on some fair excuse, and with suitable presents to those in authority, thou could’st doubtless take this Padmini of a woman as honourable concubine. Having money, she could live apart; thus duty and pleasure, being alike appeased, thou could’st live happily.”

David Ditter simply sate and stared helplessly at the good honest gentleman who had brought him into being. It was useless to explain, to comment. He had simply outgrown his father and his father’s code of conduct. There was nothing more to be said, so he accepted the inevitable.

But Tulsi Bhai being a woman had keener eyes for the affairs of the heart, and the moment David Ditter had broached the simple subject of the expected visit, she was as much up in arms as she would have been had she been told the truth. She became shrill at once. She answered her stepson that she had no desire to see a girl who, professing to be a Hindu, danced and played tennis with every man she met.

David Ditter fled from her, discomfited, vowing that women were kittle cattle.

And yet as Tulsi Bhai, attired in her best sari, stood awaiting what was to her an irruption of everything she disliked into her orthodox home, she had every excuse for feeling fretful. She had been up before dawn to make proper oblations to the little brass gods in the little brass shrine that was set in the roof room of the house, where they were duly and daily worshipped with flowers and sour milk and sugar cakes. And she had prayed, O! so hard, that the darling pride of the house might be kept in the straight path. Now, what though the little brass gods to whom she prayed had, mayhap, ten arms, a bird’s beak and an elephant’s trunk, they represented to her—as other symbols do to other women—that Providence which shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will, so that the expenditure of religious emotion was the same in both. Surely, surely, she thought, as many a Christian woman has thought, this Providence might be bribed, be suborned, to prevent the pride, the joy of the house from forgetting his bond and contracting a hateful marriage. It should not be her fault at any rate if It did not interfere. She would deafen the very ears of the Gods, she would leave no stone unturned in her efforts to secure her end.

So she had made ready to feast the poor, to give doles to Brahmans, to send offerings to various shrines, and perform every luck-bringing ceremonial of which anyone in the household had ever dreamt or heard. And these were legion. Old Muniya the foster-mother had ten to all the others’ one; and they were many of them of a harassing sort. For instance, after you have made a most savoury carrot stew for dinner, it was aggravating to have to throw it away because it was unlucky to have it when evil was impending. So it was no wonder that Tulsi Bhai felt flushed and harried as she waited for her unbidden guest. Even Devi-ditta’s youngest sister, the only one unmarried, reflected her stepmother’s anxiety though she was brimful of curiosity to see the girl who had been described to her so rapturously—the girl who had looked so superlatively beautiful in a flame-coloured Paris dress. For during the past few days the young man’s mind had dwelt persistently on the last time he had seen Maya Day—when she said she had—and she had acted as if she had—forgotten the past—forgotten her short-lived adoption of the widow’s shroud.

So it was as if the sky had fallen on him when she stepped out of the hackney carriage in which she arrived in the unmistakable garb of a Hindu widow.

It is impossible to make a European mind realise what this meant to him, or to those whose startled eyes watched the slim figure, swathed in white, approach them with outstretched hand.

A widow! An unlucky widow!

In a second David Ditter’s house of cards fell flat. In a second wild anger and revengeful wrath took possession of Tulsi Bhai’s mind. She stepped back from the proffered hand; but had sufficient control of herself to make the conventional salutation, utter a few words of conventional greeting, and then, absolutely overwrought, she burst into sudden tears and, sobbing uncontrollably, turned to seek refuge in the inner room. The girl—Devi-ditta’s sister—stood irresolute, holding out her posy of flowers, her wondering eyes still full of curiosity.

“Give her the flowers,” said the young man in a harsh voice, “then go and see to the mother.”

The girl obeyed, and those two were left alone in the sun and bright courtyard.

“Why didn’t you tell them I was a widow?” asked Maya coldly. She had gripped the situation in a moment.

David Ditter had flung himself into one of the chairs which had been set beside a table for their reception—a table that was covered with one of those crimson scalloped-edged cloths long since out of date in Europe; a table decorated with four green glass tumblers and a packed posy of flowers set in a celery glass. His arms were on the table, his head down on them.

“I meant to, by and by,” he said in a muffled voice. Then he looked up at her almost accusingly, almost angrily. “Why did you wear that dress? I thought you said you had forgotten——”

“I had forgotten!” she interrupted quickly. “I was mad, overwrought. You don’t know how I felt—perhaps you do a little—now. But the nights have brought wisdom. I—I can’t escape——”

He rose up then and faced her, revolt in him from head to foot.

“Can’t you!” he echoed, “then I mean to. I am not going to be cribbed, cabined, confined!” Even in the fierce flare of his sudden resentment at the maddening confusion of all things, himself included, the inveterate habit of quotation, so marked in the cultured Indian, still clung to him. “I am not going to be a prey to the new and to the old. It is all their fault—the people who wean and tempt us away from ourselves, and then ask us to go back as if we had never left home. I see it all now. I didn’t before and I wouldn’t listen to what the others said. But now! Now I’m one with them. What business have they to interfere? What right have they to alter all our standards, to educate us to be like them—at any rate in some ways—and then to let us stew in our own juice? What right, I say it again, had they to beguile me from the good old ways——”

She crossed over to him swiftly and laid her hand almost affectionately on his arm. At the moment she liked him in his defiance better than she had ever done before.

“I know,” she said, “I feel like that sometimes. I often wonder if I am English or if I am Indian—I get so confused. I don’t seem to know where I am.”

He laughed wildly—”That has got to stop. We will have no more of these conflicting ideals, these paralysing divergences. We will send the West about its own business and manage our own, ourselves, in our own way.”

“You can’t do that,” she answered slowly, “we’ve learnt too much from them—I have at any rate.” And with that she turned away; but, as he saw her to her carriage, he rambled on angrily about the impossibility of being two things at once, and his determination to join those who sought to get back to what they ought never to have left. It had only made India unhappy—it had made them both unhappy, for, say what she would she was not content either. Ah! if she would only come back with him to the old ways; but he would show her this was possible; and then—and then—and then!—

Hope, love, determination shone in his face. A personal grievance had conquered his reasoning powers, and she felt vaguely responsible. “You will not, I hope——” she began.

“I shall go straight ahead,” he replied, interrupting her, “straight ahead.”

Meanwhile the three who had taken refuge from tragedy were still overcome by anger and despite. It was a mere slip of a room almost dark, for it was guiltless of windows and the door was closed; but Muniya, with eye glued to the keyhole, had been watching what passed in the courtyard. And when Maya laid her hand on Devi-ditta’s arm, the old woman turned away, and squatting beside the other two—for the room possessed neither chairs nor tables—mingled her tears with theirs. For there could be but one interpretation of such familiarity. Their boy, the darling of their hearts for whom they had fashed so much over a thousand and one strange habits and desires, had been caught by a widow!

Something must be done, and that at once. The family priest and teacher had best be summoned and his advice taken. So old Muniya was sent off breathlessly, and after a short absence arrived with a wizened old Brahman to whom the whole dreadful tale was divulged.

“Can naught be done?” asked poor Tulsi Bhai, wringing her hands. “We will give alms! Aye! and rewards.”

“And I will give my old life,” put in Muniya. “Yea! Yea! If all other means fail I will kill her. What care I if they kill me? I am old, I am weary and ’twould be a righteous act.”

And the wizened Brahman pursed his lips, saying: “Not so, sister. Of old, perchance, that might have been compassed secretly; but now, no! Yet may there be some way; so I will enquire. Meanwhile ’twould be well to offer largely at Mai Kâli’s shrine. She is all powerful!”

Possibly the fact that as an assistant priest at that shrine, he would receive some, if quite an infinitesimal, benefit from the offering, made him select the Dread Goddess as fitting aid. Apart from this, however, there could be no doubt that Her temple and Her priests were foremost in intrigue even for the causeless, useless, idle intrigue, in the complexities of which the fine-drawn mind of India revels. So it came to pass that in the gloom of the evening within the scent-sodden courtyard, behind the temple men sate talking with guarded voices. Of what? At first it would have been hard to say. It is always difficult to find the exact genesis of the elaborate cases based on lies, bolstered up by false evidence, which are almost daily brought before Courts of Justice in India. But as the darkness drew down something took form. Something that the speakers carried with them to embroider and substantiate as they passed through the temple to the outside world. It was almost too dark to see the malevolent figure of Mai Kâli, though they salaamed to it as they passed. But the knowledge that it was there, ten-armed, blood-thirsty, rapacious, must perforce have been in their inmost souls aiding them to more cunning in the work they had in hand.

“’Twill serve a double, nay! a treble purpose,” said one to the other. “This widow with her glib tongue, and her sway over the young, hath done the Great Mother harm already. And her teaching and that of the mountebank man she takes about with her, who pretends to be a preceptor, not knowing the very foundation of the Tantrik cult, is blasphemous. So she should be silenced. Therefore if this old woman who came for our help but now will indeed swear as may be required, a claim may be made on this widow, as no widow, but true wife to someone, by virtue of betrothal ere she left India. Yea! Yea! the tale will unfold itself doubtless as it grows. So the folk who desire freedom for their son will gain, and we of the shrine will gain, in alms and aims; and methinks those who employ Nund Kumâr and Ghosâl will gain also—and who knows how many others?”

“And ’tis a likely tale,” added the other, “for, see you, ’tis easy to say the father becoming rich desired a better marriage for his daughter—thus to escape . . .”

“Thou hast it! Krishna!” cried the first speaker. “Did I not say the tale would unfold! ’Twas so of a surety—Yea! I stake my life on it, ’twas so. And we have but to find the one to whom the girl was betrothed —and he is easy found—for the widow is personable and there be many——”

He paused and looked at his companion. “’Twill unfold itself doubtless,” he added, “and there will be no lack of husbands. Why! the Mâhârâj himself——”

And there was silence. Good seed must be left to germinate by itself. It does not do to dig it about, to tell it which way to grow. Already it was sprouting. One said in the bazaars to a friend:

“Lo! Gunga said to me but now that the widow woman who speaks against Mai Kâli is no widow, but a wife—God knows if it be true.”

And an hour later, he who heard was saying to his womenkind—”They have it in the bazaar that she who speaks against Mai Kâli and whom ye have already condemned for daring, as widow, to thrust herself in public, is no widow, but a wife who has left her husband——”

A little shriek of dismay. “Left him, sayest thou? Oh! evil-minded one! Hearest thou, Dropadi? A woman who hath deserted her husband! Lo! I must tell the neighbours—wilfully left her husband!”

So, throughout the night, the tale grew to credence.

Chapter XI

Still is the night! The fireflies flicker round
The lighted lamp. There is no other sound
Save that of shimmering wings. Then comes the rain,
The lamp goes out, the dancing flies are drowned.

“Aren’t you dancing this, Boy? It’s the best fox-trot out.”

Lucy Morrison, as she touched her fiancé lightly on the shoulder, looked very alluring in her faint affectionate reproach. He started to his feet in an instant and smiled back at her—a dainty vision truly; all broad hat, laughter-loving eyes, slender dance-loving feet cased in the neatest of shoes, the most glistening of silk stockings.

“All right! come along,” he said, and slipped his arm round her waist; so in an instant they were flitting about irresponsibly like the fire-flies in the garden outside. There were not many dancers—the evening was over warm for late September—so you could see their faint shadows on the polished floor. But half the European population of Nawapura were, after their usual custom, spending the hour or two before dinner at the club. Many were sitting out over cooling drinks in the verandahs, some were watching the bridge in the card room, while the click of balls told that others were using the billiard table. Men weary with work, or heated from tennis, drifted in and out; a girl or two dressed in the latest fashion with a man in tow passed chattering to get a cup of coffee. Could a magic wand have uprooted the whole and plumped it down at Ranelagh or Queen’s Park, it would not have seemed exotic.

“I always think,” remarked Mrs. Llewellyn Davies in staccato fervour, “that it is such a pity the Club does not admit Indian members. It would tend so much to—to ameliorate the present stringency. One can’t wonder——”

“Exactly so, madam,” put in a choleric major who was absorbing chloric ether bitters. “One can’t wonder at our exclusiveness. It only matches their own. They won’t let me see their wives, so why should I let them see——” The gallant major hesitated; for he was a bachelor.

“Don’t be afraid, sir,” put in a cheeky young subaltern, “let’s have them in the plural, please.”

The major glared at the speaker and walked away.

“I know they have a club of their own,” continued the good lady effusively, “but, of course, it isn’t so nice as this one. And it would be such a rapprochement.”

“We are a bit too near each other as it is, my dear madam,” put in the Professor, who had just looked in, “and as we both suffer from presbyopia—that is to say we both have old sight—sight impaired by old traditions, we don’t see so clearly as we might.”

And he deliberately dropped into the next chair to the Chief Secretary’s wife; for he was one of the few who did battle with her fearlessly.

“The combatants ought to retreat a pace or two as the fencing masters advise,” he added, “or use spectacles—rose-coloured ones, or—better still—look through the big end of the telescope. It’s surprising how different things seem when you reduce their dimensions.”

And he went on coolly, parrying Mrs. Llewellyn Davies with good-humoured satire.

Meanwhile the dancers had stopped.

“You are not going so well as usual, Boy,” said Lucy Morrison critically. “What’s up?”

The young man made ready to begin again. “Nothing, girlie,” he said, “only a bit of a headache. Come on——”

But she stood still frowning a little.

“You haven’t been yourself for some days—never since that day Father was so nearly bombed—No! I’m not going to dance. I believe you’ve got liver, and I shall take you over to my dear professor and get him to give you a blue pill.”

Which she did.

“Just in time!” laughed John Anderson as he rose, “Mrs. Llewellyn Davies was getting the better of me. I’ll give you a seat in my buggy, Hastings, and we’ll call at the dispensary on the way back.”

Once seated behind the flea-bitten Arab, however, he repeated Lucy Morrison’s query. “What’s up? Not sleeping well—eh? You look a bit nervy.”

The young man flushed up. “Oh! I’m all right,” he began; then suddenly became confidential as most people did when confronted by the professor’s keen, kindly eyes. “The fact is I’m awfully worried. Things are going wrong——”

“You haven’t quarrelled with Lucy, I hope,” interposed John Anderson.

“Good Lord, no!” ejaculated Charles Hastings. “We’re far too good pals for that sort of thing. I mean politically,” and he paused.

“Of course they are,” put in the professor solidly. “Only you won’t get the bosses to believe it.”

“That’s the rub!” assented the young police officer eagerly. “They won’t! Look here,” he added, pulling a letter from the breast pocket of his white uniform. “I didn’t mean to speak about it, but you always make a fellow confidential somehow. Well! we policemen get a lot of letters as a rule. Blood and thunder, skulls and crossbones stuff, but these last few days I’ve been getting some of another sort like this one.” And he read out: “‘Go to the Chanda Bazaar about 11 p. m.’ Well,” he continued, “I go, and I hear something to my advantage as the advertisements say—some little thing I ought to know—and shouldn’t otherwise have known. And I can’t make out who is giving me these tips—or why? What’s more I’m certain, dead certain, there’s mischief brewing.”

The doctor looked at the young man curiously. “It’s odd, certainly,” he said. “Look here! I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Drive round and see what my friend Akâs Râm has to say on the matter. He knows everything that’s going on, though he won’t often talk about it. Still his hints are worth something, as a rule.”

Akâs Râm, however, was more than usually reticent. As he sate in his usual place by the sliding river, watching the spent petals drift close by, the white-swathed corpses with the light on their dead breasts drift further out into the stream, he was quite ready to admit there was mischief afoot; but of what it was he professed complete ignorance. As he had told the doctor-sahib originally the Aghorè-panthè of the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees were more than usually active, and there was no doubt a good deal of propaganda going on in the villages all over India; but all this the Huzoors know, or ought to know, as well as he did.

Briefly, he was strictly non-committal, except once when asked if he knew of anyone likely to send letters of warning to the young policeman, he startled both his hearers by saying imperturbably: “A woman for sure, since God has blessed the chota sahib with beauty.”

And once again the professor had looked at his young companion curiously. It was true; he was extraordinarily good looking; more so than ever now by reason of an indefinable growth and power and passion that was new to his face. Doubtless there were many, the old man went on, who would wish the Huzoor well; for, see you there were many different thoughts and ways and works about; all with aims that somewhere or other clashed, so giving cause for jealousies and treacheries like that which was splitting the followers of Mai Kâli into twain. What? The Huzoors had not heard? Truly the Good God must have deafened their ears since they heard so little.

It was only about the woman who came with a sahib from America to teach the real Tantrik doctrines.

Here the professor gave a quick glance at his companion. He was listening intently, a slight frown on his face.

It was a queer story which might be true, on the other hand it was more likely to be false seeing who was concerned in it. Folk were saying she was not a widow after all; but a wife. It seemed that her father being poor and without hope of dowry sufficient to procure a suitable groom for his infant daughter, had betrothed her, according to the rite which is even as marriage, to a Kulin Brahman; one of those who contract many marriages for small sums of gold. Then the father becoming very rich and regretting the step he had taken had given out that the child had died and sent her away secretly to America, where the Mâhârâj—for it was he——


The monosyllable rang out like a pistol shot.

Charles Hastings was on his feet, blazing anger in his face, his whole figure instinct with sudden passion.

The pandit’s voice came suavely sarcastic.

“Gopal Singh, whom the Huzoor doubtless knows, of Mai Kâli’s shrine. He whom the women call Mâhârâj.”

“That swine—that infernal swine——” The words cut the still evening air like a knife and Professor Anderson, gripping something of the elemental emotion which had seized on the young man, interposed quickly, soothingly.

“But, of course, he can have no claim now—No court of law——”

“Courts of law be damned,” cried Charles Hastings, turning to him, his face alight, his whole bearing that of some knight of old ready to do battle for virtuous maiden. “The beast must be taught not to dare—and she so beautiful—so good——” He ceased absolutely overcome by fierce resentment. A minute before he had been only vaguely conscious of his interest in Maya Day. Now he realised that he would commit murder to save her from one touch of the drunken beast who claimed her as wife——

It was incredible, impossible; the very idea of it was degradation to her——

He was so overcome—so strangely, so startlingly overcome by the mere thought of this, that he scarcely heard the rest of the conversation, scarcely realised what passed till he found himself at the door of his quarters and heard John Anderson advising him to go to bed and have a good long sleep. ‘And take a couple of aspirins there’s a good chap,” came the kindly voice.

Then he gave an odd little laugh. “No good—opium’s better. I’ll get a bit from the chuprassi.”

The doctor eyed him keenly. “So that’s it, is it?” he said shortly. “But it mustn’t be again. No drugs if you please! Sooner than that——”

He had out his pocket case in an instant and was busy over a small syringe. “Your arm, please,” he went on masterfully. “There! That will give you sleep and no harm done. Good-night.”

But as he drove back through the gateless gateposts which led to the young police officer’s modest bungalow, he gave one whistle, soft, low, and said “Damn,” under his breath.

Matters were getting complicated. And how about Lucy? His particular pet Lucy? Would she rise to the occasion like a sensible girl and see that there was such a thing as midsummer madness? That it did not do to keep emotion entirely out of life—especially out of lovemaking—as she and her kind were inclined to do. And it was midsummer madness. In his sober senses young Hastings could never think of Maya Day, charming though she most undoubtedly was, as his wife. So, driving through the cool scented air, with the cicalas shrilling and thrilling God knows what passionate protest over God knows what John Anderson asked himself if it were possible he was living in a real world. The lights were still lit in the Club; a few belated dancers could be seen through its wide-set doors, taking advantage of the cooler air. And that smart Rolls Royce to which he gave wide passage as it swept by at thirty miles an hour held Markham on his way to the Lieut. Governor’s dinner-party he was giving to Members of the Legislative Council. And there, coming across the bridge just as he had done that evening but a month ago when he, the professor, had rescued Nigel Blennerhasset from Mai Kâli’s shrine, was the Mâhârâj, half drunk with drugs as usual and surrounded by a bevy of worshipping women. What a world it was! A world in which such a claim, preposterous as it was, could be made. In which dozens, hundreds, thousands of the ignorant would support it—in which it might conceivably be a match setting light to an almost uncontrollable fire.

And to what purpose? The thought coming to him for the first time brought with it the conviction that the claim must have some purpose—must serve some end. What was that purpose—that end? He must find out.

Perhaps the girl herself could give him a clue. And she might be in need of help, of support. Lucy Morrison had told him that Maya had few relations, and they were far away up-country folk not easy to summon. And as for Nigel Blennerhasset, he was useless, while her native friends?—Who could tell if they were friends or not?

Yes! He would see her in the morning—why not this evening? It was still early.

Being a man of action he turned the flea-bitten Arab at the thought, and drove to the Sens’ palace on the river. But she was not there; nor could he find out whither she had gone.

He found the whole Sen household, however, in a state of ferment. The younger men, inclined to laugh at the pretensions which it appeared the Mâhârâj and his supporters had already put forward, even while they were curious to know if the story had any foundation in fact. Old Sen himself looked grave. It was a most annoying claim, and though, of course, the Government could not possibly allow it to stand it might provoke trouble, as, equally of course, were the story true, rights would have to be over-ridden since betrothals were undoubtedly as indissoluble as marriage in Hindu law. These cases did sometimes arise; but they were generally settled by compromise. He had suggested this at once to Miss Day and offered to negotiate, but she had refused all help; even to keep the matter quiet, which was the great desideratum since the mere raising of such a question was greatly to a woman’s disadvantage.

“It must be to some one’s advantage anyhow,” put in the professor grimly. “Have you any idea who that someone is? She may have enemies. I expect she has made a great many; but who are they? She has created a great stir among the college students, of course, but so far as I know they are all friendly—very friendly.”

“Yes indeed!” added one of the kadr-coated ladies, who for the most part were divided between tears and curious anxiety. “There was a lad who came most often seeing her here. It was when he came this afternoon that she requested us keeping her boxes for a day and went. We are thinking she heard of some kidnapping plan.”

The professor turned quickly for corroboration to old Sen.

“Is that done?” he asked.

“In old days, yes,” was the apologetic reply. “For it saved trouble and settled many things. Only money matters and compromises remained. But nowadays, surely not—being contrary to penal code.”

“I don’t think Mâhârâj-jee cares much about penal codes,” replied the professor. “And you have no idea where she has gone? Well, I must find out.”

So he left them equally disturbed and helpless and drove straight to the Llewellyn Davies’, where he knew he would see Nigel Blennerhasset. He found him more disturbed but equally helpless.

“It is incredible,” he said excitedly. “Of course the story is not true, it can’t be true! She had been living with us over in America ever since she was two.”

“That doesn’t prevent her from having been betrothed or married—some forms are practically the same thing—before she was two, does it?” replied the professor. “But I’m not concerned to know the facts. I want to know where she is—and why she ran away from the Sens—that’s the first thing. Where is she? How can we get hold of her?—and give her the protection that I expect she needs; for you know as well as I do, sir,” he added, turning to the Chief Secretary, who, with his wife, was present, “that there is no use in calculating on what these people will do, by our standards. Why, half the honest Hindu townsfolk would lend a virtuous hand to aid a husband in getting his rights.”

“But it is so long ago,” bleated poor Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, who for once felt the ground of her belief in the exact similarity of East and West slipping from beneath her feet. “Besides it is quite impossible—such a gifted creature——”

“I have already wired to our representative,” began Nigel Blennerhasset.

“Much good that will do.”

“And I have just given notice to the police,” put in the Chief Secretary.

“Quite right, my dear,” added his spouse, recovering herself somewhat. “That is, of course, the proper——”

“Proper or not,” interrupted John Anderson brutally, “it’s not the slightest use—Colonel Morrison’s away on tour, and by this time I hope Hastings is asleep under a full dose of morphia. And God knows if the rest would be any good. I tell you there’s no counting on what the natives of this country will do, if they find themselves up against anything which touches on their religion or their women—and if I know anything about this country there’s something here we don’t understand—not yet. This claim has been put forward for some ulterior object in view—that is being borne in on me every instant, and we’ve got to grapple—and at once. Of course one knows this is all moonshine! Whatever the Mâhârâj may himself think, blinded as he is by sex and drugs—though even he can hardly hope to get at Maya Day—those behind him—and there are men, and clever men, too, really in it. I haven’t yet got at anything but bare outlines; still I’ll bet my bottom dollar it is all a banawat a real good make up—all except the fact that the girl was sent over to ’Frisco as a baby. Still, we have to guard against two things—the girl being carried off—that would make it far more difficult for us—I mean the Government, and of course it would ruin the poor girl. However, I believe on second thoughts that she is safe for to-night. She must have got wind of some attempt, and found hiding. She has got her wits about her, and she has the advantage of knowing, by the intuition of birth, what the people of her race—good, honest, religious, ignorant people—can and will do, which is more than I can. Ah! my dear madam! I wish I were in your mental position; but I expect you’ll have to modify it ere long.”

By this time, however, Mrs. Llewellyn Davies had recovered her pose. “I don’t think so,” she said magisterially, “and I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill—don’t you agree, my dear?”

The Chief Secretary coughed. “I—I am inclined to agree with you in some things, dearest, and with the professor in others. The position will doubtless require tactful handling.”

John Anderson laughed. “Yes, sir,” he said, “the atmosphere is getting a bit electrical. The whole thing is a farce; but it is none the less dangerous.”

Chapter XII

Lo! as the last ray of the setting sun
Seen through green sea-waves blends the world to one
Pellucid emerald, so a thought may bring
Like thoughts in others, swift communion.

John Anderson’s laugh had, as it were, an echo in that of Paul Markovitch, alias Markham, as he sate once more smoking his after-dinner cigarette on the roof of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings. They were alone, he and his partner, and the silence which so often falls between those who spend much time together lay between them.

It was broken at last by the laugh—a harsh, mirthless laugh.

“It really is a farce when one comes to think of it; but how infernally lucky! It has been luck all through! First Ffolliott’s unpremeditated stroke of genius at Mai Kâli’s shrine. Who could ever have imagined it? And now, just when the scheme, so it is reported, is a bit hanging fire, this absolutely wild claim of a drunken beast to a virtuous maiden!”

“Ausserordentlich!” commented Mr. Whitehill not without a trace of sentimentality. “It is truly a little too bad.”

“It is impossible to be too bad,” said Paul Markovitch dryly. “The worse it is, the better for us. The powers that be must interfere. They can’t allow either the abduction—which is the indirect sequence in these cases—or the claim, can they? Just a trifle too thick. A girl who plays tennis like Lenglen and sings like Albani at her best can’t be sacrificed to an indecent satyr.”

“Have they sufficient evidence?” put in Mr. Whitehill; he had not his companion’s absolute lack of moral sense.

“What the devil does that matter? We can advance sufficient money to get enough to bamboozle the masses into believing the tale. And that is all we want. And here was I solidly thinking of getting the girl put away in order to stop her cursed tongue when this idea providentially cropped up! Of course we took it—it was too good to lose; but I should never have thought of it myself. One requires to be born and bred to Eastern intrigue before one can rise to such heights! And I don’t believe anyone really had a clear concept of it at all to begin with. Like Topsy it growed—it just came into being. The good woman who didn’t want her son to marry a widow suggested that she wasn’t one, that, briefly, she was someone’s wife gone astray! An old servant was ready with oaths. Nund Kumâr—he is running young Ffolliott very close in capability—got hold of the threads and there we are: as nice a little absolutely groundless grievance as one could wish for! We mustn’t let it slip through our fingers. It must be properly manipulated. The girl mustn’t be kidnapped; at any rate not too soon. Doesn’t do to put the climax on the stage till the third act! By the way—how about Ffolliott? It’s deuced annoying his being laid up just now, when I want really to get at things—and he is the best man we have——”

“Thank you, sir,” said a mocking voice behind the speaker as the young man in question came forward. He looked less dapper than usual, yet his careless aplomb was as ever, and he helped himself at once to a stiff peg of the whiskey and soda that stood on the table. “It’s always pleasant to be appreciated,” he continued, “though I could wish you’d reward my merits in more solid fashion.”

“If I gave you more than three hundred a month you would drink yourself to death,” retorted his employer coolly. “As it is you’re always getting off colour.”

“Malaria, sir, I assure you—nothing but malaria contracted in my arduous duties of loafing about naked, listening to other folk talking. It leaves me deuced thirsty.” And he helped himself again. “Anything doing, sir?” he continued after a pause. “I’m fit for work again if I’m wanted.”

“There’s always something wanted,” said Paul Markovitch dryly. “That’s what’s the matter with your Secret Service—they don’t keep at it. The fisherman who keeps his fly longest on the water catches most fish—the man who listens longest hears most news! Well! as I suppose you have heard nothing for the last three days while you have been recovering from your attack of malaria, I’ll tell you what has happened.”

While the recital—from Paul Markovitch’s standpoint—was going on the younger man sate silent, watching his chief intently and biting his nails. When it was ended he rose suddenly——

“It’s a dirty trick, sir,” he said without any manifestation of feeling, “a low-down, mean, beastly trick, and I’m not such a damned scoundrel——”

“As I am,” put in the Russian coolly. “No! I’m proud to say I beat you hollow! You see, you English don’t understand that at times what you call scoundrelism is a duty——” Here his eyes darkened, his whole face became instinct with savagery. “We of the Soviet have got to win, so we don’t let your invertebrate morality interfere with victory—we stand above such balderdash.”

Fred Ffolliott gave a derisive laugh. “Well, sir, I expect I stand below it. There isn’t much morality about me, though Eton and Oxford, even when one had been expelled therefrom, are apt to stick in a fellow’s gizzard at times. You don’t want me to abduct the young woman, do you? If so you’ll have to raise my salary.” He spoke with absolute recklessness and Paul Markovitch, knowing his man, said quietly: “Done! Four hundred if she isn’t abducted! Man alive! She mustn’t be! It would upset the whole apple-cart! What we want is to make the Mâhârâj into a martyr—get the Government to interfere—rouse good, old, ancestral, elemental passions—and then——”

“And then, sir,” interrupted Fred Ffolliott with a sudden flare in his eyes, “Government will turn and rend you. Englishmen always do when they are roused. So good-night, I’ll listen for all I’m worth—four hundred rupees, remember.”

“If she is not abducted,” said Paul Markovitch cynically.

Fred Ffolliott turned at the stair-head. “She won’t be, sir, whether you wish it or not——” a sudden impulse to negation seizing on him, he knew not why. “Goodnight.”

He had not meant to take leave so soon; the whiskey bottle was still temptingly full, but he felt strangely like losing his temper, and experience had taught him that, when he lost control of his easy-going, callous indifference and recklessness, something was apt to take the reins and disturb the even tenor of life. So he whistled the latest American rag-time to bring himself back to the normal as he ran downstairs to his room on the ground floor, whence he passed at once into what had been the hummans or bathing rooms of the palace in olden days, and so through a cunningly devised swinging slab of marble into the long, dark tunnel that led under the garden. Here, secure from the possibility of light being seen, he touched a switch and in an instant electric lamps pointed the way; a not un-needed guidance since they showed a network of small passages and cell-like rooms: for this had been of old days a refuge from excessive heat.

The air here struck chill, withal not damp, and the rag-tune echoed sonorously from the vaulted roof. It was interrupted for a second as he unlocked a door at the end and paused a moment ere touching another switch: for the room beyond was dark as pitch. Then he gave a quick exclamation—”Jerusalem!”

For as the light leapt on the darkness it disclosed the figure of Maya Day seated at a table apparently eating sandwiches while a steaming thermos stood beside her.

“I thought you were never coming,” she said with an apologetic smile, “so as I didn’t know where to find the switch, I had to eat my supper in the dark.”

He stared at her in whole-hearted surprise. She did not in the least seem to see that her presence there was unusual. “But,” he began, absolutely stammering in his amazement, “how the deuce—I mean how on earth did you get here, and why have you come?”

“You know quite well how I came,” she answered calmly. “And I am here because you told me to come if I needed help: and I do. There was a plan to carry me off to-night. I can tell you why, afterwards. I heard of it—so I came. I knew they couldn’t find me here.”

The young man burst into noisy laughter. “This beats cock-fighting,” he gurgled. “Do you know, my dear soul, that you are winning me four hundred rupees? Capital! Excellent! Look here—you’d better have something more solid than sandwiches! I’ve a store here—let me open a tin—Oh, I forgot, you’re a Hindu. But I have got some ripping chocolate.”

He ran on partly to get time for thought when she interrupted him:

“I expect you know the whole story,” she said: “for you are a spy—aren’t you?”

He hesitated for a second, then said hardily: “Yes! That is just what I am, a spy—a very useful thing, I can assure you.”

“Very,” she replied. “But for a spy I should most probably have been—well——” She paused and her face grew relentless in its contempt, its absolutely fearless disdain. “I expect you know the story. Anyhow, I’m here and I claim——”

“Your double,” he laughed. “By the way! How long do you want to stop, for I shall have to put up clean white muslin curtains for the new tenant, shan’t I?”

She smiled. “Only for to-night. It was all so sudden. I had no time to take precautions. My spy—he is a boy at the college—half-witted—they make the best spies——”

“Thank you,” said Fred Ffolliott.

She looked at him gravely. “They do though,” she reiterated. “You see they don’t realise how mean it is—how small.”

“You needn’t waste your adjectives,” he interposed suddenly, savagely, “go on——”

“He only came about sunset and he was very vague. So this seemed best. To-morrow the immediate danger will be over, and if need be, I can put myself under proper protection.”

“Thank you again,” said the young man mockingly. “Meanwhile, you are welcome to stay here. As I told you, you are worth four hundred rupees to me—my boss——” He pulled himself up quickly.

“Your boss——” she echoed.

“It is no use, my dear young lady,” he replied. “I am not going to be pumped. Meanwhile, the sooner I clear out the better. I’m sorry there isn’t a bed; you’ll find some rugs and a pillow—somewhere!”

He gave a rueful glance round the room—which was simply littered with clothes and rubbish and papers, attempted to pile some of them together, then desisted, came up to her suddenly, and held out his hand. “Goodnight! I shall feel inclined to say my prayers if I stop here much longer. Now mind—come when you like, go when you like; but don’t ask questions. I haven’t asked you any. I haven’t even heard your side of the story, and I don’t want to. It’s all one to me if it’s true or false. I shall get a decent sum of money if your enemies can’t abduct you; so they won’t—you bet your bottom dollar on that.”

She drew back from his outstretched hand. “There is no need to bet,” she said coldly. “As I told you it was only the suddenness, the absolute unpreparedness—I had not time for anything else. I am sorry now that I came, and I think I will go back——”

“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” he said, putting his hand suddenly on her shoulder. “Look here! I know a deal more about this affair than you do, though I haven’t been in touch with the bazaars for some days. And I am dashed if you go.” He stepped rapidly to the door by which she must have entered, locked it, and put the key in his pocket; suddenly stopped, took the key out again, and put it in the lock. “No!” he said. “I won’t treat you like a baby. You’re a sensible woman, and will remember that if you get into trouble you will lose me four hundred a month. Good-night.” And with that he was gone.

She sate for a while after he had left; then she moved to the door, hesitated, and sate down again. After a while she sought out a rug and a pillow, and lay down, but not to sleep.

In that quaint vaulted room built of old time for heaven knows what purpose: may be to let the secluded ones in the women’s apartments have secret access to the outside world—now lit by electricity, aired by an electric fan, whose faint burr overbore by its insistence all other sounds, Maya Day’s mind ranged helplessly over the events of the past week.

What was it that had brought about so much?

Why had she revolted, as it were, from her own beliefs?

Why had she been at the mercy of circumstances drifting this way and that? Because she was a house divided against itself. Because she was half and half. Even now she had behaved as any English girl might have behaved.

She had not been heroic. She had not been Eastern; yet how oriental, how elemental, was her sudden passion for a man whom she ought to have despised, whom, with a certain portion of her mind, she did despise even now.

Small wonder if there was unrest in India if many minds were like hers!

So she lay and thought, while the electric light flared down upon her, showing remorselessly both the old and the new.

But in the courtyard at the back of Mai Kâli’s temple there was no such light, though folk were awake there also; for they were awaiting news. And to them came others curiously undisturbed, curiously apathetic, though they brought tidings that were unwelcome to all; namely, that there could be no doubt but that she, whom they had hoped to carry off, had left the Palace down by the river; thus immediate action was of no use. So, with the almost appalling readiness of the East to swift intrigue, the plotters calmly set to work on other lines, for they knew that they had at their command the finest secret association in the world; an association knit together, as it was, by sacred ties, by ancient traditions, such as the West knows not. For these were no political conspirators. Their care for freedom, for self-government, for all the shibboleths of the Young India party was as naught to their care for the honour and glory of their cult. Most of them were extremists of that cult and they resented, fiercely, deeply, the attempt to smooth away its ugly features which had been made by Nigel Blennerhasset and Maya Day. To stop these attacks on the true and ancient faith, to take revenge for the harm that they had done, was their aim and object. Just as Paul Markovitch and his stratum of conspirators had seized on the romance which had spread like wildfire through the bazaar that Maya was no true widow, turning it to their own purposes, so these men had turned it to theirs. For heterogeneous as India may be in race, language, custom, it is yet homogeneous in this, that any agitation, any unrest, any sedition, may tap scores and scores of unseen, scarcely formulated grievances or aspirations. Here was a case in point. The match lit almost thoughtlessly by Tulsi Bhai’s determination not to let her stepson squander himself on a widow, had touched the tinder of unrest in two places; and both had flamed up.

So, as these men sate crouched together in the darkness that was but ever and anon lightened by the sudden glow of fire from the chillum of a pipe, as some new inhaler took over the mouthpiece bringing fresh vigour to the draw, they had at least this claim to respect; they were filled with a sense of religion, a sense of duty to that religion. Their first crude plan of using the tale which had spread through the bazaars with the usual startling rapidity, as a means of stopping an over-eloquent speaker’s mouth, had miscarried; but as all know, who know India, failure is never fatal to Eastern intrigue. It is hydra-headed. Decapitate it, and a fresh brain, fresh venom springs up to take the lead. So as they sate, as it were, distilling conspiracy almost in silence, it came to them easily that they must tap the stratum of ignorance and sexuality which they knew existed in the Tantrik cult, on which, indeed, it depended for much of its revenue, by starting the cry of alien interference with the sacred rights of marriage.

Who were they, these people who planned and plotted? Who knows? Who ever does know in India in what brain, in what place the germ of trouble found its genesis? Who started the idea of the greased cartridges? Where did the passing round of the fateful chapatti begin? Who invents the thousand and one tales of evil which pass current among all classes of the Indian populations? Not long ago a tale was so far believed that it found its way into the newspapers. It was a tale of senseless race jealousy towards an Indian boy at one of our English public schools. It told how he was looked down upon, how he was forced to live in a private house because other British boys would not consort with him. How he was denied entry into the school elevens; how he was even refused legitimate promotion by the masters. Every word of that was a lie. The boy in question was much liked, he had played and played excellently, for his school at Lord’s; finally, he was the youngest boy promoted to responsible duties. The story was categorically denied: but the newspapers did not trouble to print that denial: so possibly at this moment that grievance is still part of the stock in trade of agitators. But the question arises: “From what brain did the falsehood spring?”

Who knows? Only this is certain. Lies travel faster even than truth, and this fact alone seems to indicate that in India, no lie, however trivial, should be allowed the publicity of print by a Government which has perforce—by reason of its very virtues—to guard against wilful misrepresentation. Here in Britain, where the vast majority of people are educated, where they are at least capable of a more or less limited judgment, it may be dignified to leave all things to be arbitrament of common-sense—a sense that has become common by constant use not only in personal matters, but on those of a more or less extended environment. In India, until the last two decades, this sense was non-existent except in so far as it impinged on the purely personal—the self, the family, the village. Even now it is but rudimentary in the men; in the women not recognisable.

Therefore while Maya Day lay awake under the glare of the electric lamps, and the little knot of conspirators chose darkness as a veil, there were thousands and thousands of homes, lit by one smoky oil chiragh, where the latest scandal of the bazaars was being discussed in all its novel aspects with one unfailing premiss, “The wife belongs to the husband.”

Chapter XIII

A lover to the river rapids bound
Embraced his love; her arms about him wound,
His swimming float a pinprick thus received;
Water crept in, and the poor man was drowned.

“Do you mean to tell me, sir,” said Nigel Blennerhasset excitedly, his American accent, as it were, taking command of him, “that the British Government in India will administer a law that is a disgrace to—to—any civilised power? That it will countenance a claim such as this? That it will allow one who is—is virtually an American girl to be so insulted? If that be so, sir, I can tell you one thing—the American eagle will scream.”

He looked as though he would scream himself, as, red in the face, he wiped his forehead and brought his hand down heavily on the Chief Secretary’s table. It was littered with files concerning almost all things on God’s earth; for the safe pilotage of such a dependency as England’s is in India at the present day is no sinecure. The Chief Secretary coughed—His wife was not in the room, so he felt for once free to follow his own bent; therefore he very nearly made the well-known retort: “Let it scream!” but remembering that caution is above all things necessary for peace in India at the present time, he refrained, and went on, studiously non-committal:

“We have, Mr. Blennerhasset, to administer the law of India justly; and their laws respecting marriage and betrothals are strict—very strict. The claim is of course preposterous; but I am afraid if it is pressed that it will have to be heard in a court of law. I don’t think it will be pressed—ahem—I mean we shall do our utmost to—er—to prevent its being pressed—and there are—er—other means, of course—but, you see, this man they call Mâhârâj is a man of note, and we are naturally anxious not to give any hold to our opponents; so we must move cautiously.”

“Cautiously!” echoed Nigel Blennerhasset, still full of virtuous indignation. “I tell you, sir, it is infamous to move cautiously in a case like this. I am informed on all sides that the man who pretends that Miss Day was affianced to him in babyhood is a man of no character whatever. He has over a hundred legal wives already, and the number of women who have given themselves to him in the name of religion is legion. How, I say, can a civilised nation even take stock of such a state of affairs? Incredible! Impossible! The Government of the country should take steps—everyone says so—Mr. David Ditter is almost as indignant as I am—the Sens—in fact, as I said, everyone. All classes would welcome strong measures.”

The Chief Secretary coughed again. “Not all classes, my dear sir,” he said suavely. “The upper classes, doubtless. But the crowd—the residuum? And there is such a vast residuum out of a population of three hundred millions! No, sir, I fear no active measures can possibly be taken. It would only arouse oppositions which—er—possibly we would not be able to control. The police have made stringent enquiries, and the young lady in question—a most charming girl—whom we all admire immensely, such a gifted creature—is in no danger and there is no idea of kidnapping at present though there may have been some at first. In fact, I believe the whole affair is mere moonshine. Why it was brought up, how it originated, is inexplicable. It is one of those figments of an idle brain about which the less said the better. We have constant instances of this sort of thing—not so crude, so—so—infernal as this, I admit—but the reasoned opinion of Government is that it is better to ignore them, and by that opinion we mean to abide.”

The little Secretary said this with such an unusual air of finality that Nigel Blennerhasset rose, still blustering.

“Well, sir,” he said, “I expect you’ll hear more of it, for we American citizens won’t stand that sort of thing in regard to women who have claimed, and had, our protection for four and twenty years. Good morning.”

Mr. Llellewyn Davies sate back in his chair and sighed. His whole morning seemed to have been taken up by this, to him, trivial affair. First had come the young police officer eager that some measure should be taken against the Mâhârâj—if only for drunkenness! Next, Mr. Paul Markovitch had appeared to advise that Miss Day should be warned against speaking in public or doing anything likely to lead to senseless outrage. David Ditter had arrived next, eager to point out that the ancient scriptures held no warranty for such claims which, quite incidentally, he would be happy to prove absolutely fraudulent were he allowed to defend any Government action on the part of a young lady for whom he had the most ardent respect, and whom he hoped to marry.

Then had appeared Nigel Blennerhasset, the most unreasonable of all: and here, just as the little man hoped for some rest, was the professor. He, however, was always worth listening to; and on this occasion he began by clearing away much extraneous matter and getting down at once to the root of things.

“I’ve seen Maya Day,” he said, “and she is quite calm. Had word, apparently, of some projected kidnapping before anyone was prepared; and thought it best to hide—where I don’t know. A clever girl who will come to no harm if she’s left alone—at least not for some time. So that’s enough about her. What I came to talk about is the situation. It’s frightfully electrical. I feel certain something is up—what is it?”

“Nothing more than usual,” replied the harassed official. “That is bad enough.” He looked round nervously as if to make sure his wife wasn’t there, then went on: “Have you ever seen a batch of bread on the rise, Professor? I used to watch my mother’s, when I was a kid in Wales. Fairly smooth on the top, and it went down with the slightest touch of the finger—but steadily on the rise for all that. Every now and again a bubble bursting; nothing else to show what was going on down below. Well! India reminds me of that, and——” here he put his elbows on his office table and rested his head on his hands and shook it slowly—“I’m blest if I know what is going to happen. If they were all of one mind one could go ahead. But there are so many of them. They only coalesce when there is mischief afloat.”

“And when they have got a slogan, as they have now,” put in John Anderson. “It is a very good slogan, too, Davies. But there is something beneath it. What is it?”

“I don’t know,” replied the little man fretfully. “How can I? All we have to do is to wait and see. Keep quiet and pretend it is all right, as it may be. I only hope that emotional fellow Blennerhasset won’t give trouble. He has got hold of his Ambassador, cabled to Congress, and goodness knows who besides. Dear! Dear!” He rubbed his head thoughtfully. “I believe I could manage the show if I was given a free hand,” he said pathetically, “but I never have one.”

John Anderson stood looking at the little man critically.

“We most of us feel like that,” he said with a shrug of the shoulders. “I do at any rate. What is more I am going to have a shy at finding out what is at the bottom of—of everything. I believe it’s the Bolshevists.”

“My dear Professor, why?” bleated the Secretary.

“Because they would be fools—and they aren’t that—if they didn’t make a shot, anyhow, at India. My dear sir! It is the very place for them—virgin soil with everything necessary to germination in it. Yes! The more I think of it, the more certain I become that we have Bolshevist agents at work here. I shouldn’t be surprised if they had a hand in this ridiculous, but at the same time disturbing, claim on Maya Day—she has been preaching peace, so I’m told, and that is just what they don’t want. They want disturbance, and I shouldn’t wonder if they got it. As I said, the atmosphere is decidedly electrical.” And with that he took his leave.

Others were feeling a like sensation of tension and expectancy. Charles Hastings especially, after a dreamless night due to Dr. Anderson’s hypodermic syringe, had awakened distinctly the worse for his sleep. He felt dissatisfied with everything, most of all with the inaction which was imposed on him by order of his chief. He would dearly have liked to thrash the Mâhârâj within an inch of his life, even while, being of sound common-sense, he admitted that the best policy was to ignore his preposterous claim, until—as might happen—it forced itself upon notice. So he gloomed about his office duties and finally went off, as usual, to lunch with the Morrisons, wondering why he felt so sick of himself and everyone else, and if he was going to be ill. Lucy was busy over some kind of work that necessitated her counting aloud; so though, as ever, she looked the perfection of coolness and daintiness, his general dissatisfaction grew to a distinct grievance; and, after a time, he said, “You might give us a kiss, old girl.”

She went on counting, but between the counts said jerkily, “Take as many as you want.”

“Damn!” He didn’t mean to say it, but a quick sense of forlornness, a sort of home-sickness that made him in a flash remember how kind his mother had been to him when he had the measles, had come over him.

Lucy turned at once surprised. “What’s up?” she asked, then added quickly, “How sentimental you look, Boy! Don’t, there’s a dear—you know how I hate that sort of thing.”

He flushed a little. “I beg your pardon—yes! I know you do,” he said, then walked to the window and stood, his hands in his pockets, looking out. Suddenly he turned, walked back to where she was sitting and laid his hand on her shoulder. “That’s awfully jolly stuff you’re doing, girlie,” he said. “When are you going to wear it?” But something in his voice startled her: she put down her work and lifted her hand to his.

“I believe you have fever,” she said, rising hurriedly, “I’ll take your temperature.” In the taking of which there was peace and life grew worth the living.

Still no amount of peace could prevent the young man feeling a thrill when, in the late afternoon, Fate found him with Maya Day’s hand in his as she greeted him.

After much cogitation, he had decided that he had been a laggard in not calling on her before, and that, seeing he was vaguely connected with that past babyhood of hers, which folk were calling in question, it was only right that he should do so now; not of course to speak about the transcendent lie, but just to show the “auld lang syne” was not forgotten. For, thinking about the matter, he had been able to drag from perfect oblivion the blurred memories of a four-year-old boy in regard to someone who used to bring a baby girl to play with the “chota sahib” in the verandah. Memories that of late had had a tendency to extend themselves until they formed a sort of tie between himself and the girl, in whose eyes he had seen something he had never seen before as he carried her in his arms.

So he had gone down to the Sens’ palace, intending to make a conventional call. And here Fate had intervened in the shape of old Chund Bi, the widow of widows who, with her own life in ruins, was for ever trying to build up the loves and lives of the young; she had got a squint at the handsome figure through the windows of the women’s apartments, and had sent down to say that the desired lady was in the garden of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings, where, if he wished, she could doubtless be found.

The invitation was too good to be refused. And in the cool shades of the orange trees, where the perfume of roses and jasmine, which had wilted under the fierce sun that was setting in a flame of rose and gold on the western horizon, still lingered bewildering to the senses, the young Englishman found something in himself that responded to the scent, the languorous, passionate atmosphere around him. He walked on, his pulses bounding, a sense of the unusual, the unfamiliar, thrilling him as he threaded the narrow pathways, coming now on a marble aqueduct set with pink lotus blooms, now on a fountain tinkling over gorgeously tinted calladiums. But no one was to be seen, so at last he called, out of sheer content and light-heartedness, using the native form of address:

“Oh! Madam-lady! Oh, princess-lady.”

“I am here,” came a voice almost above him. He gave one look upwards, gripped the fact that there were stepping-stones in the wall close by, and in a minute was half in half out of the corbeilled cupola over the wayfarers’ shrine, saying with boyish frankness as he held out his hand to Maya Day:

“By Jove! What an awfully jolly place!”

He was the last person she wanted to see. In fact, though she was far too honest with herself to deny the truth that she had fallen in love—yes! put it as plainly as it deserved—fallen in love foolishly, causelessly—no! not quite causelessly, since there was no denying his attractions—still senselessly with a man she ought to have despised—no! no! not that, he was not despicable. Over and over again her cogitations had been of this kind, for there was war, bitter war, between heart and brain.

She hated herself for loving—and yet—and yet— It always ended so. That was why she had made up her mind, never, if possible, to see or speak to him again . . .

And here he was holding out his hand—joyous, lovable. Why had she answered his call? Why had he made it, deceiving her into thinking it was one of her own people?

She would have stood back—drawn away her hand, had she been able to do so; but the cupola was small; cramped even for one.

“Not much room for two!” he exclaimed laughing: “but so—it will be all right.” And there he was perched on the low balustrade, dangling his long legs over the wall.

All right! she thought almost wildly—No! everything was all wrong. So far she went; then her heart rose up in might against her brain— Even if it was all wrong was it not pleasant?—dear heart! how pleasant? So they sate and talked. Of what? Nothing in particular. Chiefly of the past—his vague memories, the absolute blank of hers. Of the great game of tennis they had won. Of Lenglen and Wimbledon. Of everything in short, save what interested them most. So they talked while the sun flamed rose and gold, while the shadows grew to the pile of the Western College and the Christian Church on the opposite bank of the river, though the sunlight still shone brilliant on the spires and minarets of the old town. Talked soberly yet joyously, while the scent of the wilted roses and jasmine assailed their senses, and the sky above them deepened to purple, and one by one the stars began to show faintly. From far, as from another world, came the occasional sound of human voices, the cry of beast or bird. They passed unnoticed by those two, lost as they were in measureless content.

Then suddenly, with a curious serenity about it, the bronze bell at Mai Kâli’s shrine echoed out over the darkening river, like a muffled funeral knell.

“It grows late,” said the woman gathering her shrouding veil around her.

But the man stood arrested, his hand in hers once more.

“I can’t think,” he said, a slight shadow on his happy young face, “why it is that I feel when I am talking to you, as if you were giving me something I hadn’t got before. Something,” he added, with a half-ashamed laugh, “very precious. I wonder what it is. Curious, isn’t it?”

For a second she was silent, overwhelmed. What had she not given him? Truly all things. There was nothing, nothing she would not have laid at his feet.

It had grown so dark, that as they stood together the difference in race scarce showed. Shadow had taken the gold from his hair, and blurred the colour of her face leaving it pale. But for her dress they might have been of like parentage.

“Very curious?” she echoed at last. “Good-night, I mean good-bye.”

“Not for long,” he said joyously, “I shall see you again soon.”

She made no reply, and when he had gone she fell on her knees by the low balustrade, and stretching out her clasped hands over the misty shadows that held the sliding river, laid her head on her arms and was silent. What use was weeping? Her tears would not solve the riddle of her life. She was a house divided against itself—divided against itself— The words, familiar to her, as were most of Christ’s sayings, dinned themselves into her brain. So she remained, not thinking at all, simply suffering and feeling absolutely lost, absolutely alone, until a low whistle of “Sally in our alley” just below her, made her start to listen.

Was it below her? Surely it came from the garden. She turned to make sure when an unmistakable voice seemed to whisper in her very ear:

“I have something important to tell you. Come tonight when all is quiet.”

That it was Fred Ffolliott’s voice she felt sure; but how?

The explanation came rapidly. He must be an apt ventriloquist. If so—why, then, it explained much—much that she had been inclined to set aside as pure invention. The miracle at Mai Kâli’s shrine for instance—the dead man speaking. All these tales she had naturally heard, and as naturally left without affirmation or denial. But now——

She felt on the edge of discovery, and with a quick sigh of relief she turned from herself and her troubles feeling that there was more in Life than these trivialities.

Yes! when all was quiet, she would go at all costs and hear the something that was very important.

Chapter XIV

Fate is not altered by a thousand sighs;
The Angel at whose bidding storms arise
Cares little if our feeble lamp burns bright,
Or if extinguished by some gust, it dies.

An Indian night brings little certain quiet. For a few minutes silence reigns; even a snore may tell of sleep. Then, disconnectedly a voice rises, wakefulness in its every tone, and elicits a like response. The hubble-bubble of a full-throated pipe seems to chuckle over something said, and a yawning figure passes over to listen. The voices die down and silence comes again, only to be broken once more.

Thus it was past midnight ere Maya Day judged it safe to steal through the knots of sleepers who, in hot weather, lie out in the open around Indian houses, and make her way to the little shrine at the bend of the river. It was pitch dark; so she had to feel her way by the wall to avoid a mischanced step into the stream. But once the archway was found it did not take long to hit on the hidden spring, the stone slab turned with a faint groan, and the darkness grew still more intense. But a chink of light showed at the end of the passage, and opening the unlatched door she was almost blinded by the sudden glare.

“I thought you were never coming,” paraphrased a mocking voice.

Fred Ffolliott rose as he spoke, showing still in his disguise of mendicant jogi, and Maya Day could not suppress a slight start.

“You don’t like it,” he said with the same easy sarcasm, “Any more than I liked your Paris dress.” Then he quoted lightly—

“‘What know men of the wearer, though they know the dress full well,
> The letter’s writer only can the letter’s purport tell.’

However, as you called me a spy, I kept on my spy’s getup.” As he spoke he turned out a light, which was just above the table at which he had been sitting, and covered something on it with a sheet of paper.

Maya Day stood looking at him critically. “You are a ventriloquist,” she said suddenly, “and I believe you are responsible for——”

The pretended jogi gave a little bow. “I am responsible,” he interrupted quietly. “I might have known you would find that out; but the impulse seized on me to startle you—and”—he shrugged his shoulders—”I generally do what comes into my head. I hope I was successful?”

She took no notice of his question.

“Why are you doing all this?” she asked, a frown on her face. “You must have some purpose. What is it?”

His whole manner changed. “That, as I told you before, I do not intend you to know. I brought you here because I happen to have learnt that you have some—” he hesitated—“some very powerful enemies. Enemies—I don’t exactly know why, but who have any amount of money—of everything—at their command and who mean—to compass their end. So far as I can judge they want to stop your speaking. It tells against their plans. Why not stop? Why not give up ‘Bande materâm’ and marry the police officer?”

Maya Day’s blood rushed to heart and brain in fierce anger. “How dare you!” she cried; then added, hotly indignant, “I suppose, spy as you are, you were listening. Well! there was nothing——”

Fred Ffolliott chuckled almost inanely. “I grant you that, my dear lady. And it was too dark to see, but when a young man and a young woman——”

She stamped her foot. “Hold your tongue, you despicable spy!” she cried.

He took a step forward, then paused and said coldly, “Excuse me, but I could scarcely give away my secret entrance when you had—company. You might have recognised the rumble of the slab—you might have spoken, so I judged it better to wait in the shadow of the wall till you were alone.”

For the life of her she could but admit the truth of his words; but her anger rose hot as ever. “And may I ask why you, who think nothing of deceiving people, whose whole life is a lie—who——” she paused.

“Go on!” he said coolly, “but it is little use cataloguing my crimes. I own up; I’ve done everything a man should not do—so why waste time?”

His imperturbability left her almost speechless. “What I want to know,” she continued in quieter tones, “is why you should warn me—why you should go out of your way to give me help?—to do me a kindness.”

For answer he stepped back to the table again, switched on the electric lamp once more, withdrew the covering paper, and by the light that poured down on it Maya Day saw a half-finished miniature of herself; just the head and shoulders swathed in the white widow’s shroud.

“I told you I liked you best in that dress,” he said, glancing from his work to his model and back again. “And it isn’t half bad; but I haven’t got the mouth right. I see you generally speaking or singing; and I want it at rest. I wonder if you would mind sitting for me? I shouldn’t take five minutes.”

The absolute irresponsibility of the man struck her all of a heap; and one glance at the picture assured her that the painter was no mean artist.

“But—but—” she said, incredulity making her hesitate, “if you can do that, why?”

He interrupted her with a laugh. “Oh, yes! I suppose I could—but I preferred being—a spy! Now! If you will sit in that chair and turn your head a little to the right—just a little—I’ll get what I want in a jiffy.”

Sheer amazement made her compliant, and she found herself watching his deft hands not without admiration.

“Thank you,” he said after a time with the grave courtesy of a Chelsea portrait painter, “that will do nicely, I have got what I wanted. And now”—he rested his arm on the table and looked her through and through with keen eyes—“to return to our muttons. Miss Day, as I told you—as you see by this,” he touched the portrait, “I like your looks. I should be sorry if any harm came to you. And conceivably it may come. Certain very influential people want to get rid of you; they also want to use this ridiculous claim—of course it is trumped up—against you for their own purposes. Take my advice and go back to ’Frisco——”

“Run away?” she queried disdainfully.

“Not for your own sake, entirely,” he put in quickly. “I have a certain sense of honour left, Miss Day; so I can’t tell you why; but at the moment India would be better without you—and your grievance? So, if you want to do ‘Bande Materâm’ a good turn, you should cut and run.”

A curious feeling of friendliness, almost of fellowship, had been growing up in Maya Day for this man, so reckless, so indifferent, so capable, and she fixed him with one straight question.

“If you were me—would you run?”

He laughed. “I really couldn’t say, not being in the least like you; but—if I were in your place . . .?” He paused, then added easily, “No! Certainly not.”

“Then why should I?” came the swift response. “I think you are looking on me as—as a Westerner; but I am native born. These claims—real or false—are not new to me. I am, as it were, forewarned—forearmed, and I understand——”

He shook his head. “My dear lady,” he said, “you don’t! You and your kind are further from the general ruck of India than the veriest English youngster. Your heads are in the clouds. You’ve strained towards heaven and left hell behind. You’re too high-minded to understand. The youngster isn’t. And as for me—? Look here, I don’t generally give myself away, but you interest me. Now my grandmother was a pukka-born Mahratta Brahmani; that is to say she came of a race that has no equal in deceit and intrigue. So here I am. And with full knowledge, which I can’t give to you, I say, ‘cut and run.’ If you don’t care for the policeman, there is always Mr. Nigel Blennerhasset, Mr. David Ditter, or even yours truly—No!” he added, “not that! I apologise. I’m not such a beast as to drag any decent woman down to my level.”

She had been flaming with anger, ready to pour out the vials of her wrath on his studied impertinences; but something in his last words turned indignation to pity.

“You make yourself out worse than you are,” she began, when he stopped her by the sudden wince which showed on his face before he gave one of his mocking laughs.

Impossible, chérie! but I have done my duty for once. I’ve warned you—and if you won’t cut and run, at least keep that fool Blennerhasset from making the eagle scream. Also, don’t come back here again, it isn’t safe. And now I’ll see you through to the garden. You’d better take this electric torch for fear of snakes. It’s pitch dark—you can snap it off in an instant if anybody’s about.”

Five minutes afterwards she could not but feel grateful for his forethought, since more than one black rope of a thing slithered sinuously from the ray of light the torch cast on the forward path. Yet the garden lay so still, so silent, so peaceful; the air sweet with the fragrance of flowers; but Death lay among them.

Vaguely the thought came to her that the surroundings were typical of India, the land she loved so well. Darkness and Death beside a heaven-born light of pure ideality such as no other country, no other race possesses.

Could she have seen what was going on at that very moment in the Valley-of-a-Thousand Trees, the truth of the symbolism would have been even more apparent. Dusk as the Valley was during the brightest day, its darkness now was overwhelming. It could, indeed, be felt impinging on the body from head to foot, bringing a wonder if one were still in the familiar world or in space itself. Only in one spot was light. Such a feeble light! A bit of cotton wick stuck in a cruse of oil. But it sufficed to show a small group of men gathered round it. A weird group truly, even seen by the calm unerring light of day, but in the glimmerings and flickerings of the oil lamp, unreal, fantastic beyond credibility. They were discussing some question in the slow deliberate manner that dominates argument in India when untouched by a Western stimulus. The chuckle of a long drawn water-pipe filled up the pauses.

“She hath over-much power with those who should be disciples,” said one; a man of gentle face, yet every inch a fanatic. “Lo! for sure there is magic in it; and magic must be met by magic. Thus it surely behoves those who are magicians to thwart her, and the man with whom, shamelessly, being another’s wife, she lives.”

“Yea!” assented another, “what the brother says is true. Magic needs magic. And the times are pregnant with hope, therefore all care must be taken that the good comes to birth.”

“Truly!” assented a third. “The times are critical. All goes well so far. They brought good news to-day. The ferment spreads. Therefore must all things be done in order, so that She hath no complaints to make.”

There was a longer chuckle than usual; then a milder voice said deprecatingly, “Yet, brother, surely all things have been done.”

The reply came sharp and the flickering lamplight showed that the speaker was a wild-looking old man whose white elf-locks and beard streamed back from a face, thin, haggard beyond belief.

“Not so, friend!” came a clear harsh voice. “The uttermost sacrifice hath not—as yet—been performed.”

The words were few; but they seemed to strike home, and the chuckle of the water in the pipe bowl rose almost to a laugh.

“Yea!” went on the same voice. “What sayeth the sacred book of Her cult—‘The flesh of the antelope or the rhinoceros give my Beloved delight for 500 years; but by the sacrifice of man, Kâli is pleased for 1,000 years! Yea! the Blood which has been rendered pure by Holy tests is equal to ambrosia, and the head and the flesh also afford much delight.’ My brothers! ’Tis a terrible mystery; but are not the rules, rules of sacrifice, yea! even the prayers, the ceremonies, the implements to be used laid down in the Kâli Purana, which all know? ‘Kâli! Kâli! Devi Bayrêswri Lâwa Dandayâi nâmek!”

A sudden tenseness seemed to seize on all present as they listened to the words of sacrifice. They crowded together; so sate muttering, whispering. An eavesdropper would have heard little. An occasional word perhaps; and yet when the party one by one stole away into the black darkness surrounding them, something had been settled; or if it not so concrete yet, as settlement, something had been started.

Something, of which even Paul Markovitch had no cognisance; something, that belonged to the uttermost residuum of the three hundred and fifty millions of the inhabitants of India. Something, the possibility of which not one of the odd hundred or more of Committees, and Congresses, and Associations, and Assemblies, which are bent on regenerating India would have allowed, but which, nevertheless, was a reality to that residuum. Something, which would have been set aside as fantastical by two men who had been hard at work all night editing a newly-started newspaper that was to bring light and leading to Indian homes; that was to convince the three hundred and fifty millions—if they could possibly be got at, save by a propaganda of lies—that if the alien had wronged them he had also righted them. One of these men was David Ditter. He was looking worn and haggard. The last few days had brought home to him the great gulf that was fixed between him and his people. His stepmother’s reception of Maya Day had shown him the impossibility of combining East and West in the present. Their standards were too dissimilar. Before unity could come there must be a change of ideals. So with all a young man’s fervour he had seized on a joint crusade against both the factors of the problem. He would denounce the East, he would castigate the West. He would show the beam in one eye, the mote in the other with equal impartiality. So the first number of “The Scale” was to appear on the morrow and David Ditter, as he sate finishing his leading article, was giving himself heart and soul to the task of holding the scales of Justice absolutely straight.

A task that was beyond him; for Fred Ffolliott had told truth when he said that the heads of such as David Ditter were in the clouds; that straining their eyes towards Heaven they failed to see Hell.

And small wonder. The last of the lees, in that residuum of India, remains unknown, save when, every now and again, the great mass of humanity is stirred to its very depths.

Even old Akâs Râm, seated watching the drift of spent petals in the sacred stream, would have held that something to be impossible in this year of grace had the thought of it ever occurred to him. But it had not, though in the dawning hours of that same morning he was giving his views on the aspect of affairs to John Anderson, who was smoking his morning cigarette in the old man’s company on his way to early college.

“May his soul be utterly accursed,” said the pandit suavely, almost courteously, without the faintest note of indignation, “for all Time and all Eternity. He should have been strangled many years ago; but the Huzoors know nothing of government—at least they know not how to govern such God-forgotten people as the Mâhârâj. ’Tis strange, O Protector of the Poor, that being of the Christian faith the rulers should hold Death so dreadful a thing? Lo! for all, no matter which be right, which be wrong, whether man be good or evil it is peace from this world’s mistakes.”

The Professor smiled. “True, O! pandit,” he replied; “but the folk who fear death, delight in this world’s worries.” He paused, then went on, “And you have no wisdom to give me as to why this claim has been made; for, to my thinking, it does not stand on its own legs!”

“Naught does in this land, Huzoor,” replied the old man. “And when things run so fast as this tale hath done, ’tis not legs that do it; there be ever wheels within wheels. ’Tis to some purpose, doubtless. That is why I say—kill!”

“The Mâhârâj?” queried John Anderson, amused.

“Of a certainty. Then could there be no claim.”

“But if it were counted murder?”

Akâs Râm smiled gently.

“Murder touches not live men, like marriage, Huzoor. For one who would weep Mâhârâj’s death, there be twenty who would defend his rights—which be theirs also. Yea! death is the cure for most evils; and ’tis the only right a man hath, and so I told one who came hither prating of liberty and God knows what, to my people. As if liberty had aught to do with one who is yet a disciple, no matter of what age.”

“Who was the man?’ asked the Professor, half idly, half because at the back of his mind there was ever the desire to find out what others said they could not find out.

“They call him Nund Kumâr, the teacher of body tricks at the College. He comes hither bewitching the boys with beauty as of Arjuna, great prince of athletes, and would beguile them to the Garden-of-the-Four-Winds for physical training. But the Huzoor, being of the College himself, doubtless knows the truth better than I.”

Vague recollections of the snake incident came to the professor’s mind; he felt faintly interested.

“I’m afraid I am as far from the truth as the Huzoors are generally, pandit jee,” he replied with a smile. “The Garden-of-the-Four-Winds? Where is that? And the man is a Mahratta Brahman, isn’t he?”

Pandit Akâs Râm’s face put on its air of tolerant patience.

“The Garden-of-the-Four-Winds is where they teach the Huzoor’s pupils to sing ‘Bande Materâm.’ They also teach them to be volunteers,” he replied. “As for the man himself, he is doubtless—what God made him.”

Something in the pandit’s tone arrested the professor’s attention.

“And not what he professes to be—eh?” he queried sharply.

The old man gave his evasive smile. “Nay! Protector of the Poor! He professes to teach tricks of the body and he teaches well. Lo! The boy Prem-nâth, of whom I spoke once to the Huzoor as half-baked, is twice the man he was—upright and alert. ’Tis going to the Four Winds has done it; so the Huzoor might ask him of what he desires to know. He is easy found, for of late the lad hath been of the forward party of students against the Mâhârâj. As the Huzoor doubtless knows, there be many students carried away by the eloquence of she who claims to be widow, and is claimed as wife.”

The professor was not aware of this; but knew it of no use to say so, knowing of old that when once Akâs Râm volunteered information nothing more was to be got out of him, no matter how trivial and unimportant the information might seem to be. And it had a trick of turning out valuable. So he took his leave, and as he drove college-ward, turned what he had learnt over in his mind. Prem-nâth! The name came back to him with his recollection of the snake incident. Curious that Nund Kumâr—the man with the brachycephalic head by the way—should be associated with the same serio-comedy. What a blind funk the fellow had been in! And, as the pandit had said, with the physique of a hero. Yes! He must find this Prem-nâth, a hatchet-faced lad with no physique to speak of, and nerves of iron so far as snakes were concerned. Slouching, under-nourished, as half the students were—more’s the pity—! Here a police sowar, coming up at a canter, drew rein and saluted, just as the buggy was at the turn by the bridge.

“’E-stink-sahib, bahadur, sent me for your Honour,” he explained. “There is trouble by the shrine of Mai Kâli, and people are hurt. Therefore if the physician could come quickly.”

“Right-o!” replied the doctor, turning the flea-bitten Arab citywards. “What’s up? A drunken row?”

“Huzoor, no,” replied the sowar stolidly. “It hath occurred that certain students of the college met, with a horsewhip, to whip the Mâhârâj in western fashion. And the attendants objected. So strife came uppermost until ’E-stink-sahib arrived. Then it ceased; but the Mâhârâj hath been whipped. Both his noses bled furiously.”

“For which God be thanked!” ejaculated the Professor, piously. “He may bleed to death with advantage.”

“Huzoor!” assented the sowar deferentially. What he really thought was quite a different matter. He might have been on the side of the Mâhârâj, he might not. No one could tell.

“Anyone really hurt?” asked the doctor, as with statuesque calm the sowar kept his bucketting, prancing stallion just abreast the flea-bitten Arab, which responded by little squeals and kicks.

“Huzoor some, and one of the students hath a bash on the head that methinks hath killed him; but the Huzoor will doubtless ascertain.”

A few minutes later Dr. Anderson, beside the prone body of a lanky, hatchet-faced boy whom he instantly recognised as Prem-nâth, the very lad he wanted to find, was endeavouring to discover whether the sowar’s diagnosis was correct, while Captain Hastings was busy taking notes of the occurrence from a posse of be-bandaged and bleeding students who were all remarkably fluent in English. Some were in European dress, and all seemed eager and high-spirited.

“Yes, sir,” said the spokesman. “We think Mâhârâj behaves in most ungentlemanly way. We believe he deserve horsewhip. So we whip—we whip well——”

“I wish to God you’d killed him,” said the young policeman savagely; but the remark raised no smile, no sympathetic or unsympathetic response. It was simply accepted as the dictum of authority.

“He groan very much,” put in another voice. “And howl, too.”

“Yes, sir,” continued the first. “So, while whipping, myrmidons interfere; thus fight ensues and students were victorious. That is plenty all, sir, none seriously hurt save Prem, who, slipping in haste to pull Mâhârâj’s nose, fell with head on sacrificial stone.”

“There are no fractures,” came the Professor’s verdict cheerfully, for in truth the possibility that his patient might be beyond being useful had been disappointing, “and as the skull is usually very thick in his type, I expect it is simple concussion. Bring a charpoy and take him to hospital, you there, and tell the dresser I’ll be round before long.”

As they lifted the lad from the ground a letter fell from his clothing, which the Professor picked up.

“Queer!” he said glancing at the superscription. “It is apparently for you, Hastings.”

“For me?” echoed the young police officer incredulously, as he took the note, ran his eye over it, then, with an irritated air, thrust it into his pocket.

But when, in obedience to the Professor’s suggestion that he had better come with him to the hospital, he was in the buggy, he drew the letter out again and re-read it with dissatisfaction.

“Another of those warnings,” he said vexedly. “And it is about this very business. I wonder how it came into the lad’s possession—I must find out. He must have known what it contained,” he added, “and delayed in delivering it. It’s deuced queer.”

“Very,” assented the Professor dryly. He was beginning to piece things together.

Chapter XV

Learn of the moth, which flutters round the Light
Singeing its wings in silence, what Love’s might
Can bring of courage e’en to cowards heart.
Fear not, poor fool! Dawn follows on the Night.

“It is useless to ask Government to do anything,” said the Chief Secretary austerely. “Here is the American minister demanding that special measures should be taken against a man ‘styled Mâhârâj’ for insulting the eagle, and the man styled Mâhârâj—or rather those behind him, for I hear that, recovered of his bruises, he is wallowing in a perfect orgy of drink and licentiousness—is asking that special measures should be taken towards ‘beating boys.’ There is but one possible answer, ‘The law must take its course.’ If anyone has a grievance let him go to the courts with it.”

“Exactly,” returned Professor Anderson, “only unfortunately, that policy doesn’t suit the Indian temperament. It is all for personal interference. ‘Off with his head’ makes it feel it is being governed. ‘Wait and see’ is weakness to it; and sooner or later we shall find out what weakness brings with it. Meanwhile this boyish outrage——”

“Most regrettable—most regrettable!” admitted the Secretary. “Especially as the complainants make a case of police favouritism out of it. Swear they omitted to arrest the ringleaders and that you—you refused to attend to the Mâhârâj’s bleedin’ wounds!”

“Perfectly true,” replied Dr. Anderson gravely. “He was bleeding from ‘both noses.’ I wish he had had three!”

The Secretary ruffled his sparse locks resignedly. “It is all very well, Anderson,” he remarked, “but that is just the sort of thing we are up against. It will get into all the native newspapers.”

“And by next week will be magnified into my having entered his chaste apartments by force and outraged his hundred and one wives. No! Davies! We have let that sort of thing go a little too far, and now we can’t stop it. I don’t deny it is a puzzle what to do; how can it be otherwise? We are now governing for the so-called intellectuals who, in a remarkable way, have got hold of what I call the residuum. But what are the intellectuals? What are you to make, for instance, of a man like Mohun Dâs, the Assistant Forest officer? Educated in England, restored to caste on his return, orthodox Hindu, reverts to sleeping on the floor, not letting his wife eat with him, and all the old games at home; but will put on dress clothes, come to dinner with you and eat anything so long as you keep it dark that it is beef! I say you can’t get at his mental position. It’s topsy-turvy. In fact the only thing you can predicate is that, as the atmosphere gets more electrical every day, a storm is bound to come ere long.”

“What storm?” queried the little official fretfully. “Really, you scare-mongers are so very vague.”

“I really couldn’t say,” replied the Professor with a smile, “there are so many brewing—there always are in India. One comes, one doesn’t come. It is largely chance.”

The little Secretary rose and gathered up a huge file of papers. “Well! I must be off to see the Governor. I don’t think you understand how much is being done to—er—to smooth things over. I admit there is what you call a residuum; but it is well in hand. Er—the mere multiplicity of—of effort after nationalisation in India, ensures a division of the masses, and each organisation is confident of having its members well in hand—er—well in hand. The great thing is to keep the surface smooth.”

“I hope so,” remarked John Anderson as he took his leave.

In truth he was feeling a bit baulked. Things seemed to be going on normally both in the old town and the new, yet he was conscious of tension in the pulse of the people. He felt as if he were watching a serious case of arteriosclerosis, in which a crisis might come at any moment.

Yet there was little to account for it. Taking stock of the situation, he could see that Maya Day, who had thrown herself con amore into the role of leader, had, by her wonderful voice and eloquence, captured almost the whole college; but that, if anything, made for peace, since her thesis was ‘No violence.’ The Mâhârâj and Nigel Blennerhasset on the other hand made for disturbance; but they were not sufficiently powerful to produce that arterial tension. He could get at nothing. Even Prem-nâth was not available; for though the professor had started as amateur detective, he was primarily a doctor, and would permit no excitement to his patient until convalescence was assured; and the boy was still not fit. Meanwhile Charlie Hastings was glooming about unhappily, and the professor’s favourite, Lucy Morrison, was watching her fiancé critically.

Altogether an uncomfortable state of affairs.

So a day or two passed, until one afternoon returning to his bungalow for his consulting hours, the professor found Maya Day awaiting him.

“Nothing wrong, I hope?” he said, measuring her with a physician’s critical eye. Her great beauty as she stood before him, secure, self-reliant, gracious, swathed in her widow’s dress, overbore a certain look of nervous strain and anxiety.

Her radiant smile chased everything but sheer vitality from her face. “Nothing!” she said. “I only came to ask if I might see the boy who was hurt—Premu, I mean. I went down to the hospital and they referred me to you. I want to see him very much.”

It came to the professor then that this was a time for plain speech.

“So do I, Miss Day,” he replied. “Won’t you sit down, and let us have it out, as we did once before—if you remember?” that here was something so great, so overwhelmingly great, that from its very greatness it gained a certain sanctity. She could speak of it without fear!

He felt vaguely as if they stood before the Great White Throne, and he murmured, “I am sorry.”

“What is there to be sorry about?” she asked simply. “Neither you nor I have anything to do with it—it is Fate.” She paused, then went on gently, “I was foolishly angry with myself when I first found out what had happened. I tried to kill it, to ignore it—to despise it. Then I saw it was changing my outlook completely, and I knew why it had come—come to teach me Love—not Hate. I have preached peace ever since. Love is the only real power in the world.”

John Anderson, listening, felt that even if he could deny the proposition—and his temperament made him inclined to do so—he would not do so for the world to this woman with a face that showed clearly that the Spirit had gained control of the Body.

“Is that why you have been warning Captain Hastings?” he asked rather brutally.

Her lip trembled a little ere she replied, quite untouched by his sarcasm. “You know that too? Yes! I suppose a woman must always think first of the man she loves; but it was also for peace— There is so much that is working against it. I daresay you don’t realise it as I do. But I always find myself up against something I don’t understand, something that is behind all the unrest. Yes! and behind even the attempts to quiet that unrest. You know so many things—can you tell me what it is?”

He shook his head. “I would give a great deal to know,” he said, “for I realise it as much as you do; but I don’t.” Her face changed; she seemed to forget the personal, and putting her arms on the table she leant forward and spoke eagerly, rapidly. “I’ve tried very hard, but I have only got at a very few things of little moment. Premu has been useful. You see the boy is in love with me—they all are in a fashion. It’s the same thing everywhere—you said so once, you remember—only it takes us in a different fashion. You think it despicable of me to use him? I don’t know—it makes him happy. And I have been able to give warnings about things. I ought to have prevented that attack on the Mâhârâj, only——”

“Only Premu himself was evidently keen on the beating,” interrupted the Professor, “so he didn’t deliver your letter. It fell out of his clothing as we were lifting him; so I handed it to—Captain Hastings.”

For the first time she showed emotion. The blood rushed to her face, darkening it. “He did not guess?” she asked tremulously.

“No!” replied the Professor dryly. “But if this goes on it won’t be long before he does—and then?” He paused, rose, and going over to where she was seated put his hand on hers as they lay on the table.

“My dear child,” he said, “this won’t do. You are playing a very dangerous game with yourself, and with him. Yes! with him. Now listen! Lucy Morrison is, as you know, a dear girl, a charming girl, who, when she is his wife, will realise a lot that she doesn’t understand at present. She has taught herself to hate what she calls nonsense— She is Western—cold as ice—you’re Eastern, hot as fire—Yes! you are for all your idealism. Now some day the young man will become aware of these facts, and the East and West will meet with a vengeance. Now you don’t want this, do you? I don’t think you do?”

She seemed half-hypnotised by those keen, brown eyes of his.

“I don’t want it,” she said slowly, with a little shudder.

“I knew that,” he went on, unable to keep strong feeling out of his voice do what he would. “It—it is too great for that, isn’t it?”

She had covered her eyes with her hands, but he could see one tear roll down her cheek. Then she looked up and faced him fearlessly.

“I don’t know if it is great—Oh! but you must know—surely you must understand how mean it would be to let him throw away his chance—to cheat him of his right of perfect fatherhood—to let him forget his race—his own self, as it were! I could not do it. It would kill me to know that but for me——”

She almost broke down, and for an instant her face sought her hands once more, only to look up again with a sort of smile on her trembling lips.

“It is only the race that matters—we Indian women are taught that in our cradles, and, thank God, I am Indian enough for that. No! No! I don’t want it—I don’t want it.”

There was a pause; then John Anderson spoke; pity—admiration—in his voice.

“So we have got to avoid all that—if we can. Now you are not doing much good, are you? You admitted that. You have got hold of the students, of course you could do that anywhere—men, too, if you wanted them—I told you so from the beginning. On the other hand, in addition to the danger of which we have been speaking, you are rousing considerable excitement, aren’t you? And we—and you—want peace more than anything. Supposing—supposing you were to go away for a time. It’s a lot to ask—one wouldn’t ask it of the ruck; but you are different. Your mission wouldn’t hurt in the end. Take a holiday. Go back to ’Frisco. If I were you——”

She gave a half-laughing sob and stood up sharply. “No, you wouldn’t!” she cried. “That is what all you men say—what he said! But you know you wouldn’t cut and run from a difficulty.”

“May I ask who ‘he’ is?” said John Anderson after a pause.

She was silent for a second or two; then she sate down again and said wearily: “I suppose I shall have to tell you something, or you’ll find it out somehow: besides you may be able to help. Only you must promise me not to make use of what I say to—to injure the man who helped me.”

“Certainly I promise,” said the Professor. “You wouldn’t make an unfair stipulation.”

He listened intently while she told him of her adventure in the tykhana of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings, and of Fred Ffolliott’s eccentric kindness, doing her best to make his virtues clear.

“Thank you,” he said when she had finished. “He—you haven’t told me his name, by the way. Purposely? I understand—He certainly behaved very well to you. So you have enemies—influential—money, etc., at command. And they want you to go.” He got up and began to walk about the room. “I don’t think on the whole, therefore, that I would oblige them. I would stay on——”

“I never had the slightest intention of running away,” she interpolated quietly.

He looked at her with admiration. “No! I don’t expect you had. And it will be better to stay and stand it out. Only don’t go sending letters to young Hastings, and for God’s sake keep out of his way.”

She flared up in a second. “I don’t need to be taught how to behave myself,” she said indignantly.

After she had left, he sate and thought for a long time.

The Palace-of-Dead-Kings? So much she had said. He had always disliked and distrusted Paul Markham. Whitehill? Yes! Whitehill might conceivably be a German.

He felt, dimly, that he was on the track of something. What a pity, he thought, that the boy Prem-nâth was useless for the present. And the thought brought back that of Nund Kumâr—the Mahratta Brahman—with his deadly fear of snakes, who was associated with the boy.

“Have they no snakes in Bombay?” He remembered his own comment at the time and the shape of the man’s head— And surely, surely . . . Some doubt had assailed him at the time, a careless doubt, killed by finding the man’s skin brown under his coatee. Strange! How things slipped by unnoticed to come back afterwards. Nund Kumâr! Nund Kumâr! How could he be got at? Finally the professor decided it was too late to do anything that evening, and lighting a cigar he strolled over to the Club.

It was full as ever. There had been gymkhana races during the day, and many of the jockeys who had ridden their ponies therein, were descanting on the openly shameless manoeuvring which is apt to distinguish Indian pony racing. “If a man says he is not going to win he should stick to it,” grumbled one subaltern to another. “I don’t ask that a fellow should win when he say he’s goin’ to do so. He can’t always pull it off; but hang me if he can’t pull off a lose.” And he laughed at his own little joke.

Mrs. Llewellyn Davies was in evidence as usual, and the professor could hear the staccato sentimentality of her voice as she laid down the law about the sanctity of Hindu marriage. “So beautiful, you know, so high-minded. Such a lesson to us with our dreadful mariage de convenances.” But he did not feel inclined to cope with her, so he went to the verandah and stood looking at the dancers within. A couple came dipping and sliding and swaying past in rather vagrant fashion. Lucy Morrison, charming, elegant, ladylike as ever; but it was hardly her usual style. And the man she was dancing with? Absolutely elegant also; but, ye Gods, how vulgar! The way he held his partner, the aggressiveness of his entwining legs, the smile on the face held so close to her hair that he could have kissed it, made the professor swear under his breath. He flung away his cigar, and entering sate himself down to watch. She and Boy always stopped in their joyous rounds when they saw him.

And she had not forgotten. As the couple sliding, bobbing, swaying, came past again, the girl broke in on the rhythm and with a curt: “That’s enough—you can go,” flung herself into the seat beside John Anderson. The man, simpering, laid his hand on his heart, made a gesture almost like kissing his hand, and in a minute more was exhibiting himself with a more suitable partner, whose flesh-coloured silk stockings looked as if they must crack, so tight were they, and whose dress showed a modest, yet immodest, tendency to slip downwards and so shorten the expanse of visible leg.

“Where is the Boy?” asked the professor, already alarmed by something undefinable in Lucy’s look.

“If you mean Captain Hastings,” she returned loftily, “I really do not know—and what is more I don’t much care. Don’t look so shocked, professor; but really he was getting so tiresome in so many ways that I told him I thought we should do better apart, and he quite agreed.”

“Lucy! My dear girl!” cried the professor, aghast. “You don’t mean it, really.”

She grew a little less defiant.

“Really I do. We haven’t quarrelled. There is nothing to quarrel about,” she added superbly, “and I hope we shall be as—as good pals as ever. But the other thing is off—and I am sure we shall both be much happier. He wasn’t in the least happy this last fortnight or so—never since that bomb nearly killed father at the gate.”

There was a faint shade of irritation in her tone; and the professor noticing it tried the actual cautery.

“He may have fallen in love with Maya Day,” he suggested calmly. “She was, I remember, looking most attractive that day.”

Every atom of blood flew to Lucy Morrison’s face and then left it pale. She got as far as a startled “You don’t really think so, do you?” then pulled herself up, gave a scornful little laugh and said: “I’m sure, if it pleases him, I’ve no objection.”

“Lucy,” said the Professor sternly, “put on a cloak or something over that terribly transparent dress, or you’ll take cold, and come into the garden—we can’t speak here.”

Rather to his surprise she obeyed meekly. So they stood under an overarching bower of gardenia and poinsettia, whose scarlet, widespread hands showed lurid even in the dusk, seeming to point fingers of scorn at all things, and the Professor asked Lucy in so many words what the devil she meant playing fast and loose with Charlie Hastings, a man in a thousand, a man she would find hard to match for looks or character.

“I don’t say he is awfully brainy, mind you,” he went on, “but neither are you; so there you are.”

Lucy Morrison held her head very high. She looked inexpressibly dainty in her transparent veilings, and the turbulent waves of her hair seemed to guard her delicate face.

“I haven’t played fast and loose with Captain Hastings . . . and I hope he hasn’t played fast and loose with me,” she said. “You don’t understand us—I mean the girls of today. We want to be free. We don’t want to cozen our menfolk and we don’t want to be cockered up; only to be good pals. I daresay,” she added, and her face flushed a little as she spoke, “when one is really married it’s different, but that is another affair. We weren’t going to be married for ever so long—not till he got his promotion, and I do hate sentimentality. If he wants that, he will find plenty of it in Maya Day—she’s an Indian woman, and they love that sort of thing. I don’t!”

“Lucy Morrison,” put in the Professor calmly. “I’ll tell you what is up. You are jealous—Yes! you are. You are jealous of a woman whom you know Charles Hastings would never dream of marrying. Granted that he admires her—who doesn’t? She is a very remarkable woman. Granted that, why should you drive him into her arms—because—because you object to be kissed—that’s the brutal truth. Oh! my dear little girl, think for a moment! You say you want to be free. I don’t wonder. You nice girls have only just found your wings and, naturally, you don’t want them clipped. But think of our position—the nice men I mean. We’ve had our wings for centuries—and used them, and we also don’t want them clipped. So don’t be hard on us! Let us down easy—we are not so bad, after all.”

She met his kindly, half-bantering words with a shrug of her pretty half-bare shoulders. In truth, as she stood there dressed from head to foot in the most alluring of ways, every little detail of her dress thought out for effect, she was temptation incarnate, though she did not realise the fact. But John Anderson, well on in his fifties, who had been through the storm and the stress of sex, realised it keenly. He took a step nearer her, gripped her dainty wrist with his cool, strong white hand, and said bitterly, “You do a lot of harm, child; I’m not sure you don’t do as much as the woman who traipses about the street at night seeking whom she may devour. Be wise. Call your lover back before it is too late. Maya Day loves him, and if he gets to know it there may be cause for jealousy with a vengeance. There is none now.”

She gave a slight shiver and a light laugh. “Thanks for the information; but I had guessed it already. And now I must go and dance. You don’t dance, do you?”

“Come along,” he said grimly. Whether he danced the latest steps or not, there was no doubt he was a most efficient partner, no doubt that the very spirit of dancing informed his feet.

“By George,” said a young onlooker. “Didn’t know the old bean had it in him.”

“Anyone can dance with her,” replied his friend enviously, “but she won’t give a fellow a chance.”

The girl herself, as her partner deposited her gently, with the care with which he would have handled a poached egg, on one of the settees and sate down beside her, looked up in the somewhat wrinkled, decidedly elderly face with a bewitching smile and said—

“That was almost as good as dancing with Boy.”

He muttered a curse under his breath and changed the subject; though he felt that the position generally was getting beyond his control.

Chapter XVI

Dead as the gold itself are the people who call
Money the end of everything great and small.
Yet, though the coins may bear the legend of Kings,
The minted metal of mind outweighs them all.

Truly Professor Anderson was not far wrong in thinking the situation was fast becoming dangerous.

With the residuum of three hundred and fifty millions of human beings, of whom less than half a million are even remotely “politically minded,” it is surprising how slight a thing is required to change a whole atmosphere of acquiescence into one of resistance.

Even Paul Markham felt this as in the early morning he sate on the roof of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings sipping his cup of tea and looking, a trifle distastefully, at a long telegram which had just been brought to him by a be-badged chuprassi, who thereafter had retreated down the elbow-wide stairway, closing the heavy door behind him.

Thus the roof lay absolutely secure from interruption; likewise from eavesdropping. Nothing that was said there could possibly be heard in the storey below, especially when the lower door of the stairway was locked, as it could be, by an electrical device close to the chair on which Paul Markham usually sate. Thus he could control his visitors, and only the winds of heaven could hear their speech.

It was one of those crisp, clear mornings in early October, when one realises that the tyranny of the hot weather is over, and that life once more is worth living.

Yet there was a frown on the reader’s face as he collated the meaning of the telegram, which was in cypher, from a New Testament on the table beside him. It was open at the “Revelation of St. John the Divine.”

“Peste,” he muttered more than once. It was a lengthy business, and he had barely finished when the bell of the speaking tube rang.

“Is that you, Weissberg?” he asked; then added, “Come up, will you? I was just going to send for you.”

“A telegram from headquarters,” he said, when Mr. Whitehill had duly appeared. “The day is fixed for the 15th October. As this is the 5th, that leaves us a good ten days. Rather too late; for we are well forward here. Yet we must synchronise, or the cause will be lost, as it has been so many times. And people are much more jumpy here than they are in Russia. There’s a stolidity there on which one can reckon. Here, though they are individually calm, they are collectively tempestuous; one never knows how a breath of wind may sway them. However it has to be—And, by the way, I shall want another lakh of rupees—perhaps more——”

Mr. Whitehill squirmed; sufficient of the banker remained in him to object. “It costs, it costs,” he said; “you had a lakh last week.”

“Tush! man! what’s that? These things are only to be managed by money—and more money—and yet more money. Besides, you have lashings of it, you German Jews—and the result will be overwhelming in your favour—if we succeed—and we must succeed.” He turned back as he spoke to the telegram. “It’s a bit lengthy collating it,” he continued, “but I am glad I made them stick to the book code. It’s absolutely undecipherable unless you get hold of the key, and that, with care, is very unlikely. Ha! Ha! ‘The four horses of the Apocalypse’—most appropriate! The ‘Day’ will be about the ‘Last,’ I hope. Yes! That’s right,” he went on reading as he spoke. ‘Make for the aerodromes at once!’ Yes! A couple of aeroplanes over an Indian riot would send it scuttling like rabbits—the unknown is always awful.”

He ran on in this fashion carelessly, till his task was over. Then he sate staring out beyond the lattice-work marble balustrade to the tops of the trees that showed above it against the cloudless sky. “I do hope,” he said suddenly, “that fool Blennerhasset won’t precipitate matters in his blind anger against Government inaction. ’Pon my soul, that girl gives trouble all round! I wish I had her in Russia! If we can only dope the people cunningly till, say the 10th, it will be all right. After that, they can have their heads, and do what they like. It will be too late then to stop it.”

Mr. Whitehill went off into a suppressed fit of chuckling. “So!” he commented. “And the Legislative Assembly will still be discussing the tax on salt. It is well—it is very well! But you will be busy, my friend.”

Paul Markham’s face positively sparkled with sheer vitality.

“Yes! I shall be busy—and so will Von Holz—he is not quite so good as that madman Ffolliott in disguise, but somehow the latter has gone off lately—too much whiskey, I expect. Von Holz is a total abstainer, and, by Heavens! he is simply a marvellous athlete. I’d back him to defend himself against odds anywhere and anyhow.”

So, while the sun began to send its tilting rays into the garden far beneath them, and the birds, back from their first forage for food, were once more twittering wisdom to their young in readiness for their autumn flight to unknown lands, Paul Markham sate plotting and planning.

And not three hundred yards away in the Sens’ palace Nigel Blennerhasset was paying his usual morning visit of enquiry to Maya Day; for ever since the preposterous claim, had, as it were, wrecked his conventional world, making him forget all else save a desire for instant punishment, he had made a point of going over to satisfy himself that no outrage had been attempted in the night.

Seated close to the girl, he was explaining at full length the latest step he had taken to outwit her enemies and ensure her safety from further insult.

“It is very kind of you,” she said wearily, “but really the best plan is to ignore the whole affair. And I am not in the slightest danger—my boys see to that! I told you that they patrol the whole place at night, and they insist on a bodyguard by day. Not that there is the slightest need for it. It seems very dreadful to you; but similar claims—if not quite so ridiculously unreal—are constantly being made all over India—people are always trying to get out of or get in to betrothals—you can’t help it when they begin so early—fourteen years, perhaps, before the time for real marriage arrives! But they aren’t violent, they go to law about it.”

“It is infamous to have laws of that sort,” broke in the American hotly, “and still more infamous to administer them—on that educated America is agreed. But that brings me to my point. We—I say we because I am backed by many interested fellow countrymen—don’t mean to wait for a law-suit. By advice and with competent aid I have got a regular ‘bairastha’ out of the most learned pandits—one of them is Akâs Râm, than whom, I am told, no greater authority exists on Hindu law—a real religious verdict, setting down the ancient custom and proving that no claim could lie, because——”

“So Akâs Râm signed it,” she interrupted listlessly. “He is a great enemy of—of the shrine. But,” she looked up at him almost appealingly, “you know I don’t really care a bit, though it is awfully kind of you to take so much trouble.”

He bent over to her then, and spoke fast and low.

“Maya!” he said, and there was quite a tremor in his voice. “How often am I to tell you that nothing is a trouble to me that concerns you? How often am I to beg you to leave this land where everything seems upside down? Oh! I have learnt a lot since we came here—things unbelievable, terrible—So I beg you to come away! Come back with me to America. I don’t say to marry me, though you know that is my dearest wish. But there is heaps of work for you over there——”

“There is heaps of work for me here,” she interrupted.

“Granted; but you could come back again afterwards. And yet I don’t know—I think it would be better if you left the senseless, foolish opposition alone—it doesn’t match with you.” He stretched out his hands to her. “Oh! Maya! You don’t really belong to them. We have had you too long! I see it now—I see that I also belong to a different hemisphere of thought. Forget that you are Indian by birth—remember only that you belong to!—us by everything else, to us,—the freest nation upon earth.”

He spoke with passion, with a certain directness unusual to his artificial outlook.

She drew back from him startled. “Forget!” she echoed. “How can I forget? It is true I am Eastern! I am Western! And even in me they will not meet—No! I cannot come with you. I must go on as best I can. Don’t ask me again—it is no use—no use.”

He had to leave it at that, and went away with his precious bairastha, determined, whether people liked it or did not like it, to nail the lie about Maya Day to the counter. It was preposterous, even in an upside-down country like India, that such a thing should be tolerated. In truth, the strange medley of opinions, thoughts, words and works, the utter impossibility of predicating what one set of people thought, from what another set of people thought, was fast getting on his nerves. His complacent superiority was almost gone. He began to doubt if even his metaphysical moralities were comprehensible to the majority of the people.

He left Maya Day feeling that she had made a confession to herself. Never before had she directly formulated the fact that East and West were in her, warring that old never-to-be-ended strife. Now that she had done so, she felt utterly dispirited. She had, as it were, found herself out.

So, when but a few hours later David Ditter, fresh from writing a leader in which he passionately urged the impossibility of satisfying India with anything but absolute autonomy, made a final appeal to her to forget her Western upbringing and remember that she was Indian born, she looked at him with lack-lustre eyes.

“You none of you understand,” she said, and there were almost tears in her voice. “How everything seems to call me. Everything! Everything! I cannot forget one—I must remember the other—The only thing that seems certain in the whole wide world is this—that Love and Peace and Goodwill make—make paradise——”

He caught her up eagerly. “But that is what we preach. Come with us and help us! I do not say marry me, though, as you know, I have left my father’s house, I have thrown in my lot with the new civilisation—and it is the dearest wish——”

She laughed outright then; a laugh with little mirth in it.

“Forget and remember! How easy to speak, how hard to do! And you neither of you know what Love means. It asks for nothing—and you! Why, you are clamouring for all things; even for the repeal of the salt tax. Don’t let us speak of it any more, please; it is no use. I stop where I am.”

And with that he, also, had to be content; but he left the girl even more dispirited than he had found her. In truth, nothing seemed of any use; so after she had borne patiently with the women’s chatter for an hour or two, she slipped away to her favourite retreat in the Garden-of-Dead-Kings. A tall nim tree, its dark green pinnate leaves exhaling a faintly aromatic perfume that kept away the flies, overhung the little cupola, bringing shade and freedom from the pests of India. Feeling cooled and comforted by the solitude and the silence, she rested her head on the low balustrade and was soon fast asleep. When she woke the sun had dipped to the western horizon and the sky was preparing for the pageant of departing day. High up on the zenith little fleecy clouds, almost diaphanous, were awaiting the slant rays that would flush them to rosy radiance with a farewell kiss. Further down on the high arch of heaven, haze was gathering in long rolling waves that by and by would settle down to the western horizon in bars of amethyst and gold. A faint breeze had risen with the growing coolth, and there was a soft rustle as of leaves in the air——?

But closer at hand surely than the nim leaves overhead? She looked downwards and saw pinned on a fold of her veil a slip of paper fluttering gently. In an instant, fully awake, she seized and read the writing that was on it.

You were asleep and I would not wake you. I came to warn you that after all you had better cut and run. As words have no effect, writing may do the trick. There is danger.”

Danger! she thought, as she tore the note to strips and let the breeze take them whither it would. There always was danger! “Man is so frail a thing that even a raisin may kill him!” The quaint saying of old Jeremy Taylor sprang to memory, making her smile. Of course some mishap might always find its way even into the most sheltered life. What of that? Strange, how everyone wanted her to be a coward. Not everyone—What would he say if he knew what these others knew?

“Miss Day!” came a joyous voice, “May I come up? You are there, aren’t you?”

And almost before she realised whose the voice was, and certainly before she gave permission, there was Captain Hastings looking indescribably young, and bright, and handsome.

“I’ve been watching this ‘burg’ with my Zeiss from over the way these three days,” he said, pointing as he spoke across the river to where the police headquarters showed in a clump of trees, “and I thought you were never coming here again. Then, when I spotted you to-day, I made sure you were asleep, until you had a visitor.”

“A visitor?” she echoed.

Charles Hastings laughed a boy’s careless laugh. “A visitor or a monkey I really don’t know which! He let himself down over the wall just like a ‘bandar,’ and so far as I could see disappeared in the little shrine. And I thought he was dressed in European clothes! Most mysterious! But I didn’t come here to talk about other people. How are you, and what have you been doing with yourself this long time?”

She felt relieved that what had evidently been one of Fred Ffolliott’s mad escapades had dropped out of the young man’s purview, at any rate for the time; but the almost caressing kindness of his last words left her at the mercy of an emotion which must be suppressed at all costs; and she rushed blindly at speech, simply for its own sake.

“Oh! I’m very well, thank you. I am all right in spite of what people say—I mean,” she added, started on a new vein of thought, “that everybody seems to think I ought to go away.”

“I don’t,” he put in simply. “I want you to stay.”

Her heart beat almost to suffocation. She felt as if her face must show the fierce delight which seized on her.

“I don’t expect you know what they know,” she said, steadying her voice with a strong effort. “They seem to think I am in danger—they want me to go back to America.”

“America?” he repeated almost indignantly, every atom of English pride roused in an instant. “Like their cheek! I fancy we can take care of you as well as they can—I can anyhow.”

That habit of his of turning everything from the general to the personal was unnerving; but she struggled to keep on normal, conventional lines.

“That is what I tell them,” she replied, speaking as lightly as she could. “You—I mean your department has been keeping the peace quite splendidly of late—hasn’t it?”

It was rather an unfortunate diversion, for it brought an immediate frown to the young policeman’s face. “Yes!” he said. “Thanks to some kind friend who put me up to a lot of things. I can’t find out who it was—someone in the know—but for the last two or three days we—I mean I—haven’t had any tips.” Here his face cleared, and he smiled genially. “And in consequence,” he added, “I very nearly got bombed yesterday by some silly boys! There’s a lot of that sort of thing going on just now. Why, I don’t know.”

Bombed! The very thought of danger to him was unbearable.

“How dare they!” she cried vehemently, thrown partly off her guard. “I shall see that it doesn’t occur again.”

He laughed. “Oh! I don’t suppose it was your boys, Miss Day. I expect it was some of the lads that brute Nund Kumâr has got hold of. You know he recruits for the Garden-of-the-Four-Winds. I’ve told the Colonel dozens of times he ought to be arrested, but Government sticks to the policy of ‘Wait and see.’ I think it suicidal, and so do you, don’t you? We think alike on most things, don’t we? I believe when I was a kid at Bareilly——”

And he was afloat upon vague memories, and little half-humorous reminiscences which she had neither the heart nor the wish to limit. It was so pleasant, so intoxicatingly sweet to sit beside the man she knew she loved, and join with him in his laughter, his half-expressed regrets, and hopes, and fears.

And always, always, the recurring references to himself, to herself as equal actors, equal sharers in every little incident.

So at last, when time had sped, and he turned to her more particularly than ever with the remark that as he had told her before, he always felt in her company that she was giving him something no one else had ever before given him, she was roused from a perfect heaven of content to the knowledge that they were dangerously near thin ice, and in her haste to retreat, she said gaily——

“I’m sure Lucy has given you everything that is good for you.”

He stood up on the instant looking grim. “Lucy,” he replied, “I mean Miss Morrison and I have agreed we are not suited to each other—so there is no question as to what she gives me.”

She also stood up. The blood had ebbed from her very lips, she was trembling all over. For in an instant she had realised the consequences of what he had said, not to herself, but to him. That had happened which, but for her—yes! there was no denying it now—she had cozened herself into blindness; but now she knew—but for her would never have happened—which must not, which should not happen.

“Do you mean,” she said slowly, “that you—that you are not going to be married?”

“We have no such intention,” he replied coldly, “we are going to be—what we have always been—very good pals. We like—but we do not love each other.”

She looked at him with fire in her eyes.

“I don’t think you either of you know what love means,” she said in a low voice. “I will go and tell Lucy——”

“You will do no such thing,” he interrupted haughtily, almost fiercely. “We know our own minds! Come!” he added in more set tones, “we do not want any interference.”

Interference! The whole question seemed to her so much a part of herself, that she had not thought of her advice in this light. She stood for an instant silent; but the next was facing him, her head held high, her voice sweet and dignified thrilling him through and through.

“You do not know,” she said, “you neither of you know—you neither of you understand. If you did you—you good pals—you two so suited to each other would not throw away the long years of life—happy life you would have together—with children”—her voice broke a little —“gathering round to bring you a satisfied old age when the stress of life is over—you would not throw away all this for the sake of something that—that, mercifully, it isn’t given to everyone to feel—something that shrivels and scorches——” She pulled herself up in her impetuous torrent of words and went on more calmly—“You are making a mistake—indeed you are, Captain Hastings! I haven’t any right to interfere, I know—but Lucy is so sweet, so good, so kind—I will speak to her——”

“I trust you will do nothing of the kind,” he broke in, “I am quite capable——”

“You are not capable,” she retorted and her voice broke into a little bitter laugh. “I daresay I am not capable either—no one is! Everything is all wrong, and I am tired of it all—yes! tired even of you—so good-bye—please—good-bye.”

He flushed a deep red, drew back from her outstretched hand and turned to leave; then hesitated as if to take it. But it pointed beyond him now, and her eyes had left him to fix themselves on what looked like a wave of shimmering gold that showed above the greenery of the garden trees to eastwards.

“It is a storm—an electrical storm!” she said. “You had best be gone at once. Good-bye!”

Even as she spoke a shrill clatter, almost a tinkle, in the nim leaves overhead told that a gust of coming wind had struck them bringing with it a wisp of dust, golden in the last rays of the western sun to drift between the man and the woman. Dust that had sprung up obediently from every crack and cranny of the humanity-spoilt world to darken God’s clear air.

In a moment they could scarce see each other.

“I had best help you down the steps,” he said quietly, stiffly, “take my hand!”

As they almost felt their way from one projecting stone to another, a great blob of warm rain fell on their joined hands; one of the huge drops of moisture that herald a bad dust storm in India.

It was like a tear, she thought, with a little shiver.

Chapter XVII

If this be so, if life be but deceit,
And all my dreaming vain and incomplete,
Then from my body will I tear my heart
And leave it lying at my loved one’s feet.

The storm grew with the first hours of nightfall. Great gusts of wind surged through the gardens sweeping the dust of centuries before them, then died down suddenly to flat calm, leaving their burden suspended in the air to make the darkness still deeper. Every now and again a faint shimmer of light showed here, there, everywhere; just a faint shimmer as of distant summer lightning that told of the mighty force which was bidding the dust of yesterday spring up and obscure to-day; and humanity, seeing no other means of defence against the millions on millions of atoms that filled the air and found entrance to all things, covered eyes, nose, mouth as best it might and staggered, half-blindly, for shelter behind bush or building. Even in the narrow alleys of the old town, folk forbore to stand gossiping at open doors. Yet there was little sleep, small rest even for the children. The disturbance of the elements invaded the mind and voices rose shriller, more discordant because of the shrillness, the discordance of the storm.

Down by the river, Mai Kâli’s shrine was deserted; but by the light of an oil lamp, set beyond the reach of wind in a horn lantern, the hideous misshapen figure of the idol could be dimly discerned among the cavernous shadows of its arched recess. A grasping hand, distorted crab-like arms, gaping red mouth, scarcely seen through the thick dust-haze which the feeble flicker turned to a golden halo.

So, for long hours the shrine remained mysterious utterly. Then just before dawn low, reverberating thunder seemed to make the atoms quiver, as if uncertain what to do, and a sharp shower of real rain drove them back to earth once more. With incredible swiftness the air cleared and the whole world lifted up a new-washed face to greet the primrose sunrise. The storm was over. Life had returned to the normal.

Thus Lucy Morrison when, after her early morning ride, she slipped from her Arab mare at the verandah steps and entered her drawing-room did so with a certain physical content, a certain careless indifference of mind which had not been hers always during the last few days. But she was a healthy young creature, and a smart gallop round the race-course had sent the blood tingling through her veins. She looked very sweet, very dainty, very debonaire in her short habit skirt, her covert coat, her rebellious hair hidden away decorously beneath her trim hat. Very different from the figure swathed in white which stood waiting for her beside the sofa.

Even at her calmest, the past storm might have kept Maya Day awake; joined to the turmoil of her heart and brain, the night had brought no hint of sleep. Yet she stood composed, though her face showed signs of great weariness and strain.

“You here?” said Lucy, drawing back involuntarily. “May I ask why?”

“Because I have to speak to you about Captain Hastings,” came the reply, tonelessly, though without an instant’s hesitation. What indeed was there to hesitate about? Certain things had to be said. The sooner they were said the better. She had waited for some time for Lucy’s return; time which she had occupied in settling what she had to say and how she should say it; and now that she stood face to face with the slim Western girl whose pride of race and creed, and ideals showed in every line of face and figure, so curiously aloof, so absolutely unsympathetic, every atom of forethought seemed to desert her. Nothing was left save the fundamental fact that she loved one who had been that Western girl’s lover. So without a pause she went on, a certain remorselessness in her tone: “I have come to tell you that I love him as we Easterns love; that if I choose, he would love me, and that I do not choose——”

In those words lay everything and she paused.

“You are welcome to choose, if you like, so far as I am concerned,” came the cool, quick reply; but almost ere it was spoken the tall figure in the widow’s shroud was down at the English girl’s feet clasping them in the age-long Indian gesture of appeal, of entreaty.

“Nay, sister—listen! Have justice! Listen! These things are not of our making! They come. If you will only listen, you will understand, for you are sweet, and good, and kind—as he is—that is why you must not, you cannot give him up.”

She raised herself a little and still kneeling thrust her veil back from her face with both hands, and, remaining thus, spoke fast and low: “It was when he held the child in his arms—the dead child you remember—the child that was killed the day they tried to kill your father—it was then that love came to me. Why did it come thus? It was my spirit that approved—the spirit that had been nurtured, educated into something that was not born in me. But the love that came? What was it? It was of that which I had inherited, and I soon found out that all the rest was nothing—that I was just as—just as other Indian women are. Oh! how I hated it—how I despised myself. How I hate myself, how I despise myself still. You—so cool, so hedged in by hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years of self-repression, cannot understand how such love—such passion as I have, sears and burns—how it scorches and shrivels!—That is what I have come to tell you—that it shall not touch him—that I will not have him smirched. I tell you I could find heaven in his kiss, yet I would rather have hell. . . . My soul and my body are at variance. I am neither one thing nor the other—only this I know, that he is yours by right of birth, by right of creed, by right of love. Mine is not love—it is brutal, horrible passion and my soul will have none of it. Oh! Lucy! Lucy! for God’s sake be kind to me—for God’s sake help me!” So far she had got, her words following each other in swift rush to be spoken; but now a single glance at the surprised, distasteful face above her seemed to recall her to her second self, and she rose to her feet with a murmured apology.

“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to give myself away—as—as I have done. Not that it matters. I don’t suppose you will ever understand how I am rent in twain. How one thing, then the other, comes uppermost and takes command. I meant to tell you this calmly. To tell you that I had made up my mind to go back to America with Mr. Blennerhasset, so that this might all be forgotten—you smile! You are thinking that so far as you are concerned, I might stop. Do you think I don’t understand what you are feeling? The pity of it! the pity of it! I have learnt your feelings. You have not learnt mine! That is at the bottom of all the trouble.” Her eyes flashed, the whole expression of her face changed. Once more she had forgotten the personal in what was to her, even in her most individualistic moments, the larger issue. “You have learnt nothing of our ways, our works, our ideals, thus you cannot believe we have learnt yours, so, finding no welcome from the highest we are thrown back upon ourselves. Oh! the pity of it! the pity of it!”

She was aflame with her own thought, she wrung her hands as if in bodily pain. Slow tears gathered to her eyes. Something there was in the utter self-abandonment of her grief, her forgetfulness of what she came to plead, which broke through Lucy Morrison’s reserve——

“Don’t,” she said swiftly. “It hurts me to see you like that. I didn’t know—Yes! I suppose you are right. We don’t know——” Then, suddenly, she held out her hand.

“Thank you for coming,” she went on. “It was very brave of you. I don’t think I could have done it—in fact I am sure I couldn’t. But,” she hesitated, shook her head, then sighed. “It is no use talking, I’m afraid; we should never really understand one another, should we?”

And Maya shook her head also with a faint smile. It was indeed useless. Useless in every way. All her work, all her hopes, her whole life of no avail, idle, purposeless, almost contemptible. Vaguely there came upon her that mental lassitude, that dull despair which drives many an Indian woman almost irresponsibly to seek swift Death in village well or tank. Yet as vaguely she thrust the thought from her. “At least,” she said, “you can understand this. He shall not be hurt—he shall not be smirched. Good-bye.”

She turned to go; but a great wave of pity swept through Lucy Morrison, making her cool hand keep the slender feverish one in tight clasp.

“Don’t run away, Maya!” she cried impulsively. “Don’t be a coward—no man is worth that. You’re brave enough to see it through.”

For answer Maya touched the cool hand with her forehead, then raised herself and looked steadily into the clear, cloudless blue eyes.

“Peace be with thee, sister,” she said in the vernacular, “for that word.”

When she had gone Lucy Morrison stood with a frown on her face for a minute or two; then crossed to the mantelpiece and, taking up a photograph therefrom, looked steadily at it. After a while she replaced it quietly, and crossing her hands beneath it rested her head on them; so remained until her father entering and fussily demanding why she had not gone to change, roused her.

“All right, father,” she said cheerfully, but her eyes were full of tears.

Meanwhile Maya, feeling in some measure that her mission had not been absolutely fruitless, was on her way to the old town. What the young policeman had told her of his escape from a bomb thrown by idle boys had brought home to her the necessity for getting once more into touch with Premu. The assistant surgeon at the hospital had told her the day before that the lad would most likely be discharged on the morrow; so, if she went early she might catch him before he drifted away, whither she knew not; thus a few hours might be saved, since he was not likely to come and see her until evening—if indeed, he were fit for the long walk. As she crossed the bridge which separated the old town and the new, she paused at the central pier of the cantilever and stood leaning over the parapet looking upwards to where Mai Kâli’s temple struck clear into the eastern sky. Peaceful utterly, inoffensive absolutely; and yet a shudder thrilled her as she thought of the cult it taught. Then memory, inconsequent, irresponsible—memory that no amount of education and control can make obedient, brought back the fact that it was here, just in this very place, that she had thrown an alms into the beggar’s bowl carried by a lurching half-drunken figure. How blind she had been then to realities. How little she had understood the inner meaning of what she saw. So her mind wandered off over the events of the last month. Only a month, and how tangled up everything seemed to have become.

A buggy driving over the bridge made her look round. There was an eager cry of pleasure, the horse was reined up and David Ditter sprang to the ground.

“Maya!” he exclaimed joyously. “Well met, I was just coming over to see you.”

He looked radiant. Dressed entirely in native dress, his dark, intelligent face showed at its best under the close-wound turban, and the straight folds of his loose garments made him look taller, broader.

He stood beside her, his elbows on the parapet, his dark eyes full of affection and fire. “I wanted you to know my good fortune, Maya,” he began. “I have been chosen as delegate to represent our school of thought at the Congress. This means—I can scarcely tell you what it means; for it may mean all things—the peace, the prosperity, the happiness of India. It is a great opportunity—a psychological moment. But I need help—Maya! Won’t you give it to me? I have many men—better perhaps than I am, eager, willing, ready to help—for the school of thought has grown enormously. People—people of standing, of worth—are coming over to us every day. It is the last thing in politics—the dernier cri in nationalism—impossible to tell you our success—a peaceful programme after your own heart—Maya! We need a woman to get at the women—will you not help? You have but to remember that you are Indian born—that the ideals of India are as high as—nay, higher than—theirs—that we were a people, a nation while they were still savages.”

She looked at him and smiled. There was something exhilarating in his perfect content, his enthusiasm, his boundless hopes.

“Then you see no signs of coming storm,” she asked almost pathetically, “you have no fear of trouble?”

“Storm? Trouble? My dear Maya, the horizon is absolutely clear. All that we need is more enthusiasm and still more enthusiasm. You have it—give it us!”

“I cannot,” she replied. “I am returning to America with Mr. Blennerhasset.”

It was not strictly true; she had not yet quite made up her mind, for Lucy Morrison’s words had unsettled her determination; but it seemed the easiest, the most certain form of denial.

She was scarcely, however, prepared for his incredulous anger, from which, after a time, she escaped by saying an appointment could brook no further delay. Even then, his insistence on knowing whither she proposed to go, and his determination to drive her there, struck her as evidence that he also felt heredity warring with culture. In an instant she had become to him a woman—someone to be governed and controlled. So she sate meekly beside him in the buggy listening to his eloquent resentment and regret that she should have chosen the flesh-pots of Egypt. “For,” he added, as he pulled up at the hospital gates, “of course you’ll marry him.”

“Of course,” she echoed politely. It seemed the best way of ending the incident. She had lost all interest in him and his school of thought. It was but one move among the many.

So she passed into the squalid wards of the old hospital. Very different this from the brand-new one over the water though it served its purpose well enough for the cases that came to it from the close-clustered tenements of the old town. It was just a long, narrow, one-storied building with a wide verandah on either side where the patients who came in sick with malarial fever and such like lay covered with cotton quilts that looked—though they were not—inexpressibly dirty. No sheets or pillow cases, no tables, chairs, no anything. Just the row of high iron bedsteads with their cocoanut-fibre mattresses. A degree more squalid were these verandahs than the building itself where the pneumonia and dysentery cases were being tended by an ancient-of-days sweeper, who on occasion would call a dresser from the dispensing room at the end. Not that one could always come, for they were busy there with the out-patients. Crowds on crowds of them huddled up in rows waiting their turn with a patience phenomenal to Western eyes. The usual patients from an ancient-of-days native town, several shades more squalid, and a shade or two more congenitally diseased than patients from the slums of hygienically-drilled European cities. Only this difference, that here were no women save one or two, purblind, pathetic, whose age has made them forgetful of their sex. An infant or two possibly, predoomed before birth to die ere sex claimed them. The rest men and boys waiting with black wine bottles in their hands for some of the accursed aliens’ medicines.

Prem-nâth, the assistant surgeon said, was up and dressed, only awaiting the doctor-sahib’s visit to get his discharge. The bibi sahiba would find him in the east ward, sitting doubtless on bed “forty.” He corroborated this number from the mighty register; for they are strict regarding such technicalities in Government hospitals.

And there Maya Day found him, still a little dazed; but much of that might be set down to exuberant joy at seeing her.

“Come and sit on the verandah steps,” she said, partly from a desire for privacy; more to avoid the curiosity of the neighbouring patients at the sight of his extravagant adoration. So they went and sate on the steps; but he had little to tell her, and that only at second hand from another member of the students’ bodyguard who had been to see him that morning. All had seemed quiet; the only startling news being that Nund Kumâr, the gymnasium master, had sent in his resignation and was to leave at once. Wherefore? That the Good God knew; but doubtless from something to do with the Garden-of-the-Four-Winds: there was ever great commotion in the Garden, nowadays, and doubtless he might learn somewhat when he went thither in the afternoon. So Maya Day had to be content with urging him to bring her news at nightfall if there was anything important. Having done this, she would have left; but in view of the possibility of the lad, who still looked a trifle weak, having a tiring day, and a long walk in the evening before him, she meant to drive him back to his lodgings. So she waited the doctor’s dismissal; and from the sudden stir in the ward behind her, she judged that he had already come.

“I’ll take the out-patients first,” came John Anderson’s masterful voice. “I’m late as it is, and the poor beggars may as well get away as soon as possible—the wards can wait.”

“Certainly, sir! By all means,” assented the obsequious understrapper, eager to please and forgetful of all else. Maya, realising that she was lumped in with the wards, set herself to patience; and, moving towards the end of the verandah steps, sought interest in watching the proceedings.

It was a striking scene. A courtyard baking with hot sunshine and packed with patients, most of them being attended to by dressers and dispensers duly prepared with bandages and ointments, quinine powders, Epsom salts, and the like. But, gathered apart, a company of more serious cases requiring diagnosis. These were grouped round a table on which instruments of sorts glittered in the sunlight. Beyond in the shadow of an archway, John Anderson’s tall figure, bare-headed, keen-eyed, swift-handed. In an instant Maya Day caught in her breath and felt her heart beat. Here was something worth watching indeed! Here was skill, experience, knowledge—not of one lifetime only, but inherited, acquired from other lives spent freely for the healing of disease. Here was the quintessence of long past hours of labour, of research, of self-forgetfulness. How deft those white hands! made deft by the experience of many hands, now mouldering in the grave. How resourceful the brain, made resourceful by the acumen of dead men’s brains. How gentle the voice that gave the verdict—made gentle by centuries of such service.

There was one—a woman—incredibly old, led by the hand to seat herself at the doctor’s feet—her sightless eyes upturned, her wrinkled parchment face instinct with anxiety. Others, purblind as she, had had words of comfort. What would be her fate?

A kindly, almost caressing hand on the forehead; a voice quiet, sympathetic, yet certain. “The light is killed, mother. Go in peace.”

The quick tears sprang to the watcher’s eyes. A sudden overwhelming grasp of reality came to her heart. Was all this nothing? This that was being enacted in thousands and thousands of places all over India, where the West was turning all its learning, all its skill to the task of alleviating the agony of the East? Was this to be forgotten as an asset to the alien? A swift sense of shame swept through her—she herself had forgotten it—she had never realised it. Yet surely, surely it should count for righteousness! Think of what it meant—the whole wisdom of the West poured out unstintingly at the feet of the East. If pain counted for anything in the Ledger of Right and Wrong, surely the long, unbroken record of Western healing would outweigh all the isolated instances of injustice that could be set down by the bitterest enemy of alien rule. True—the Indians themselves took part in this Gospel of Goodwill—but who had taught them? Who had forged their weapons? And it was so in many another thing. As she sate staring into the sunlight, watching intently yet seeing nothing in reality, all her perceptions busy making up the Record of Good and Evil, the ingratitude of her native land, of her native race came home to her with hitherto unknown force.

John Anderson’s voice close behind her roused her from a dream of the final Balancing of the Great Account.

“I am sorry I did not know you were waiting, Miss Day,” he said. “Prem-nâth could have been passed out at once.”

She started to her feet. “It doesn’t matter,” she replied brightly. “Only a little more to pay the taxi. I am going to take him back to his lodgings.”

Dr. Anderson’s face gave instant denial. “If I were you I should do no such thing,” he said. “Apart from the fact that, as I happen to know, his diggings are practically inaccessible by wheeled vehicles, I should not think it advisable that you should parade your interest in him through the bazaars—especially at present when, what with the storm—and other things—their atmosphere is—well, febrile. No! Send him in your ghari if you like. I’ll drive you home.”

As a rule John Anderson expected acquiescence; in a hospital he commanded it. So Maya found herself behind the flea-bitten Arab threading the narrow bazaars on the way to the river palaces. They were full of people drifting about, somewhat sullenly for the most part; sullen and listless, yet with a vague expectancy on their faces.

“I told you they were a bit febrile,” said the doctor, pointing with his whip to a group of professional beggars who stood aside aggressively after several orders to make way. “As a rule they don’t object to the profession.”

Maya, her thoughts still full of what she had just seen, flushed up in an instant. “How could they?” she exclaimed, “if they did ingratitude could go no further—after all you do—all that is being done.”

John Anderson eyed her critically. “I’m glad you recognise that,” he said. “Yes! I think we medicoes have given of our best—done what could be done. And they aren’t really ungrateful. It is only that they have no judgment. Some agitator comes round and tells them they are being tyrannised over and they haven’t the sense to weigh pros and cons in the balance. They believe everything they are told, and upon my soul I don’t wonder at it. Why! I am becoming a perfect gobe mouche myself, this new world of ours is so full of wonders. The very air teems with them! Think of the messages—S.O.S. and otherwise—that are bombarding our deaf ears at this moment? Of course, they have been there all the centuries; but we hadn’t gripped the fact—wherein lies ‘the differ’ as we say north of the Tweed.”

They had reached the outskirts of the town by this time, and before them lay a limitless horizon with the silver curves of the sacred stream winding its way among the sandbanks until lost in the green and gold levels of cane brake and poppy fields. Close at hand rose the marble terraced roofs of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings, showing among the dark foliage of the garden, and beyond, all stucco and modernity, the Palace of the Sens.

“I wonder,” went on the doctor, “if the time will ever be when we shall all automatically become wireless receivers? In some ways it would be better than it is now, when one doesn’t know who is listening-in and who isn’t. Over there for instance,” his whip pointed to where, half-hidden by feathery farash foliage, a superbly graceful, almost etherial looking marble-domed canopy topped the old palace—“I wonder often if they’ve wireless there. It’s an ideal place for it—even more ideal than it was for the midnight loves of Dead Kings. Hullo! Where did that man come from? Out of the wall?”

In an instant Maya Day had recognised Fred Ffolliott in his jogi disguise. He came on jauntily, evidently thinking insouciance the best way of minimising the dangers of sudden recognition. But Maya, though startled, was mistress of herself. “I expect he had paused to make an offering at Mai Kâli’s shrine in the bastion; most of them do.”

“More’s the pity,” returned Dr. Anderson dryly. “Half the mischief in India comes through the cult of Mai Kâli—and what is more, all the trouble to come will filter through Her Temple. I feel it, as old women say, in my bones—just as I feel at this moment that the air around me is simply shouting things that I ought to know and can’t hear.”

Chapter XVIII

Nothing is hid for ever. Time will wear
The diamond from the pebble, and lay bare
The red flush of the rosebud’s heart. The seed
Betrays itself and grows to wheat or tare.

“My dear,” said the little Secretary to Government apologetically to his wife, who, in truly Victorian fashion, was pouring out Nigel Blennerhasset’s coffee as they sate comfortably ensconced at a round table set in the window, “I’ve brought Anderson into breakfast. We hadn’t quite finished our discussion about dispensaries, so I thought——”

Mrs. Llewellyn Davies beamed archly. She had lately been decorated with an O.B.E. for her valuable services in connection with half a hundred schemes for the betterment of this, the amelioration of that, to all of which she had brought an immense amount of highbrow sentiment, so she was feeling at one with her world and inclined to be even more effusive than usual.

“No excuse is needed so far as the dear professor is concerned,” she interrupted, “he is welcome everywhere. Indeed! I have just been telling Mr. Blennerhasset that he would not do better than ask his advice——”

“Advice is hardly the right word, my dear lady,” put in Nigel Blennerhasset somewhat hastily. “You see, the matter is settled so far as I am concerned—I mean we, for I am acting throughout on instructions from—from my association in America—and believe me, it is in a very strong position there. I am only in doubt whether to call a meeting or go down direct to the—the nidus whence this disgraceful claim emanated—and—and squash it once and for all.”

John Anderson looked enquiry and the little Secretary coughed.

“It is Miss Day,” he explained vexedly. “I cannot persuade him that it is—er—not so very unusual. That—er—it answers to our breach of betrothal, only, of course, it is generally the other way on at home.” And he gave the little laugh which men reserve for such feminine wrongs.

His wife bridled. “I must say, David, that I think the men deserve it. Nothing can be more cowardly than to engage a young girl’s affection and then throw her over.”

“Unfortunately, Mrs. Davies,” put in John Anderson, dryly, “there is no question of sentiment about these Indian cases of breach. The contracting parties see something better. They have always been common, and are likely to become more common every day. You can’t expect educated men and women to hold by contracts made in their infancy. Of course, in this particular case, the gulf between that blasted beast Mâhârâj and—one of the most charming girls I ever met—is simply unthinkable; but one must not forget that according to the social customs of the country he is of higher rank than she is—more, indeed, than her equal.”

“There!” said Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, complacently turning to Nigel Blennerhasset, “didn’t I tell you Professor Anderson knew all about India—You see he understands the Indians so thoroughly——”

“I understand sufficient to understand that I know nothing, my dear lady,” remarked the professor with a shrug of the shoulder. “I have a skin-deep acquaintance with facts—motives are beyond me. But if my advice were asked I should say, ‘Don’t fuss—it is so easy to set light to a stack of tinder.’—”

Nigel Blennerhasset looked volumes of righteous resolve and indignation.

“I disagree with you, sir,” he said, his American accent showing very strong. “I am not impeaching your Government, but I, in common with most of my countrymen, believe in nailing lies to the counter. You temporise too much.”

“You surprise me, sir,” remarked John Anderson, elaborately. “The sentiment does you—and yours—credit; but sounds strange from a country which has consistently done its best to foster the so-called unrest of young India. Half the agitators have been educated in America, or by Americans.”

“I am glad to hear it, sir,” retorted Nigel Blennerhasset, thoroughly roused, as his compatriots ever are, by the slightest hint df disparagement to the National Eagle, “for I doubt if even you will deny that India has many grievances. The mere fact that there are crowds of these highly-educated young men—men who should be the backbone of any decent democracy—with nothing better to do than agitate, shows that your system is wrong. Why should not they have a voice in governing their own country?”

Dr. Anderson smiled urbanely. “Quite so. I admit it; our system’s wrong. But what choice have we? Consider the question quite calmly. Someone must govern India, that vast congeries of races, creeds, customs. On the one hand we have, say, a quarter of a million of Europeans, frankly alien, and a quarter of a million of educated natives quite as alien to the mass of the people—more so in some ways. Now, to govern India as it should be governed postulates a force majeure behind that government. Which of the two claimants—as they stand to-day, mark you, not as they may or ought to stand in the future—has this backing? Surely the frankly alien; a race accustomed to government for centuries, a race with capital, prestige, personnel at its command. It must govern, and what is more it must—it is bound by the very fact of its existence—to govern strongly—almost relentlessly. It has to keep up confidence in its right to be where it is; so the weaker must, for the present, go to the wall.”

“I don’t think that is a Christian sentiment,” put in Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, reprovingly. “We Christians are bound to consider the weaker brother, are we not? And indeed,” she beamed again on her audience, “I am really often surprised, almost ashamed at times, to find how truly patriotic, how truly cultured some of my Indian friends—I speak, of course, largely of Indian women—show themselves. They are literally full of good thoughts, good works. I meet a great many of them, Mr. Blennerhasset, and I must say I feel it terribly hard on them that they should be debarred from the corporate life of their nation.”

Dr. Anderson looked at her with the expression to be seen on his face when, in his professional duties, he had to use the knife or the actual cautery.

“Just so!” he said quietly. “Why not let them have their voice? You should have heard it yesterday when, attracted by screams of agony, I interrupted an interesting ceremony in the courtyard of quite a good house in the city. In the dust, held down by aged beldames, was a miserable ricketty boy of about four. An attendant present, his nose and mouth bandaged, was burning red pepper up the child’s nose. The boy was in convulsions naturally: I had him out of them, I’m glad to say, pretty soon, though he was precious near gone; but the crowd of women circling round to see the devil driven out were a bit disappointed at missing the show. It was no use telling them that the wretched boy was not bewitched and that cod-liver oil would be a better devil-driver than red pepper. So I left them, and I daresay by now they have killed the child—with the best intentions in the world. No! my dear lady! Your experience is not mine. I don’t judge your elect by my ruck—they are excellent people, I feel sure. But don’t you judge the Great Ruck of India by your elect.”

For once the lady was silent; but Nigel Blennerhasset came to the rescue loftily. “I agree, sir,” he said, “India is a difficult country to judge; especially for us of the West. But there is one point which all must admit. The extreme poverty of the people. It makes their placid content almost divine. I grant you that being a non-industrial population——”

“Which, poverty or no, is increasing by leaps and bounds,” put in the doctor dryly.

“It is undoubtedly difficult to find support for all, but surely——”

Dr. Anderson broke in once more and shook his head. “No, my dear sir, they won’t grow potatoes—will they, Davies? Potatoes are not the ancestral diet—they are not the religious diet; so, though the potato would solve the problem of Indian poverty, it can’t help. There are so many things to be considered in India, and that is why I say that if I were you, I’d let matters well alone in regard to Miss Day.”

“Well?” ejaculated Nigel Blennerhasset, outraged beyond hearing. “No! Before Miss Day leaves this country as she has promised to do——”

“Leave?” echoed the professor. “That is news—but I am glad—it is the wisest thing—under the circumstances.” He was thinking of Charles Hastings and Lucy Morrison.

Nigel Blennerhasset snorted. “And yet you wish to minimise the—the intolerable situation caused by—by this pernicious—er—claim.” He was almost speechless with indignation.

John Anderson eyed him critically. “If you will excuse me saying so again,” he remarked sharply, “I wouldn’t fuss. It really would not be safe. The atmosphere is overheated as it is—very little would fan the smouldering fire to a blaze——”

Mrs. Llewellyn Davies gave a little affected shudder. “Don’t make our flesh creep, my dear professor, you are as bad as Colonel Morrison, who is always asking David to have someone arrested. And all because the air is full of messages from Mars.”

“My dear,” bleated her husband.

“Well!” she replied cheerfully, “they are just as likely to be that as anything else. Marconi is at work, you know. At any rate I am sure they have no importance, for no one with whom I come in contact, and, of course, I have this enormous advantage that I can mix with the Indians unofficially—no! Not one of all the many I have purposely consulted knows anything about the matter. They are all agreed that the situation is distinctly reassuring.”

There was a finality about the good lady’s pronouncement, accompanied as it was by a commanding glance to the little Secretary which showed that discussion and decision had taken place before. So the subject dropped.

Only, however, to be revived by Dr. Anderson at the first moment.

“About these messages,” he began as soon as he found himself back in the office room. “Wireless, I suppose—are there many?”

“During the last few days, yes,” replied the little man obviously disturbed. “Here is the list,” and he pushed a paper covered with figures over the table. “We can’t get at the cypher—if it is a cypher.”

John Anderson cast a quick eye over the slip, his whole face hardening in an instant to absolute, absorbed attention.

“Book cypher,” he said, “can’t you get at the key? Chance it by arresting suspects.”

“My dear Anderson!” palpitated the Secretary. “One can’t do that sort of thing nowadays! Think of the native newspapers!”

“Native newspapers be damned! Look here, Davies. Are we going to govern or are we not? Remember the first duty of a Government is to keep the confidence of the governed that it can and it will rule.”

The Secretary coughed. “You talk of suspects,” he said evasively. “Heaven knows there are enough of them, and Morrison brings me fresh names every day. There’s the latest list if you would like to see it,” and he tossed over quite a bulky file.

John Anderson still with that absorbed look on his face, ran his finger down a page or two; then stopped abruptly.

“Nund Kumâr,” he said. “What is there against him, except that he ought to have been in jail these six months past for the mischief he has played with the students?”

“My dear Anderson,” retorted the Secretary fretfully, “of course we know all about the Garden-of-the-Four-Winds, and the volunteers. But it is a National movement, and except under dire necessity, it is best left alone. Let me see. Yes—here it is,” he went on consulting a large ledger—“you see we tabulate everything most carefully—extra black mark. ‘Took urgent private affairs to go to Kattiwar—father’s death—hasn’t gone.’ That came in yesterday; but you see there is nothing really against the man except that he is an Extremist and we can’t arrest every Extremist in India—now, can we?”

The professor made no reply; he was busy over the cypher.

“Useless without the key,” he said at last. “It must be got somehow, Davies.”

“Somehow? How?” echoed the Secretary. “And after all it may be only—a message from Mars.”

“Most likely,” retorted the professor dryly. “A fiery cross of war! May I keep this?” he added, putting the paper with its long strip of numbers into his pocketbook, coolly. “It might be useful for reference if—if I should happen upon the key.”

For in those brief seconds he had made up his mind. How the idea came to him he did not know at the time, nor did afterthought bring greater clearness of vision. Simply in one moment he had seen his way to something that at any rate was worth trying—if it could be managed?

But, of course, everything could be managed if a sufficiency of trouble were taken. That was an axiom of Professor John Anderson’s life, and, gifted as he was with supreme vitality joined to an unusually clear brain, the rule had never yet failed him. He did not mean that it should fail him in this instance.

So, an hour afterwards he had Prem-nâth, limp and acquiescent, in his study, and by dint of mixed kindness and sternness had got hold of many facts, insignificant in themselves, but all tending to strengthen his suspicions of Nund Kumâr—the man with the curiously brachycephalous head—the man who had such an unaccountable dread of snakes. Gradually, as he listened, it came home to him that here was a chance—an off-chance it is true—but still one worth trying. But how was it to be tried? How was he first to get hold of his man?—unprepared of course—that was a sine qua non of success—and how was he to be trapped? Force was useless. Nund Kumâr was a trained athlete. He, John Anderson, powerful enough in his way, wouldn’t have a chance against those bronze sinews, which—no matter what shape the man’s cranium might be—were, without doubt, incomparable. And help was worse than useless. There must be nothing to attract attention; nothing to lay hold of, as it were, should the attempt prove a failure. Surprise and silence, those were the essentials.

His arms on the table, while he still questioned Prem-nâth with great show of interest, John Anderson cogitated how best to proceed. Finally, he took the folded paper containing the wireless message from his pocket and stared at it.

“Worth a trial,” he said to himself at last and took up pen and paper. When he had transcribed the long column of figures, he folded the original and turning to Prem-nâth, said——

“I want you to deliver a letter to Nund Kumâr as soon as you can. I don’t care how, where, or by whom. Only make sure it is delivered at once. I can’t explain now, but take it from me that if the Miss sahiba, whom you boys call the Madr Mihrban, were here, she would give the same order. And by-the-bye—you students all belong to different political organisations, don’t you? Which is considered the most loyal, or should I say the least disloyal?”

Prem-nâth glowed with conscious pride. “The one to which this poor one belongs,” he said bombastically. “Merciful Mothers’ Myrmidons we call ourselves; at once most strong and possibly most numerous.”

Dr. Anderson searched round for a sheet of thin paper, and in a feigned hand wrote these words:

“Key to this and similar wire-grams will be sent to authorities this evening. Persons objecting to same should come bringing Rs. 500 to students’ research room after college hours to-day.

Signed Member of Merciful Mothers’ Myrmidons.”

He looked at it critically when he had done, and gave a half-laugh. “Crazy,” he muttered; “but everything is crazy, and there’s an off chance of success.” Then he put it into an envelope and gave it to Prem-nâth.

“Remember,” he said, “‘you’re doing this by the Madr Mihrban’s orders.” Then he thought for a moment and added: “I shall be going down to the college just before school, and I want you to meet me there and tell me the letter has been delivered. Come to my room.”

And when the lad had gone, he dismissed the subject from his mind with the comment that, after all, he hadn’t told so many lies; as, by hook or by crook, he meant to deliver the much-wanted key to the authorities that evening.

Still as about dusk after bidding Premu, whom, as ordered, he had found awaiting him, be ready if called, John Anderson sate down expectant yet doubtful at the oblong table which filled up the middle space in what was grandiloquently called the Students’ research room, he felt somewhat of a fool. Nothing might happen—nothing was really likely to happen.

It was a fairly small room dependent for its light on three clerestory windows set in the outer wall high above the range of shelves which, standing on wider cupboards that formed a sort of narrow table, lined the walls. This narrow table, that ran round the room save for the two doors, one opening outside, the other into the lecture hall, was crowded with retorts and appliances of sorts, the shelves held rows of bottles, but the central table was clear, and above it hung a movable arm furnished with a very powerful electrical sun-burner. It was not dark enough yet to need this, so the room lay mostly in shadow; the light from the clerestory windows only illuminating the bare walls, the raftered roof. Dr. Anderson’s grey head showed clear, but at his feet all things lay dim.

So, his elbows on the table, he waited.

Hark! was that a footstep? Surely! He stooped hurriedly, as if to get something, and the next instant had stepped behind the door close to the electric switch. He had not long to wait. The handle rattled, the door opened slowly, a man peered in. Nund Kumâr! by all that was holy! There was an instant’s pause. The room was too dark for sight, and the newcomer hesitated to come in. Quick as thought, John Anderson gave the familiar warning—”Beware! Snake! Snake!” seized Nund Kumâr by the shoulder and thrust him violently forward. Startled by the sudden shout, bringing with it the possibility of dangers, Nund Kumâr gave to the impulse with a bound. The next instant the door was closed and locked, the electric switch was turned on, and wheeling round to see what was happening, he found himself confronted by a snake’s head within two inches of his face. John Anderson’s left hand clipped it just below the raised hood, and the long rope of a thing writhed and twisted round his left arm.

“If you move you are a dead man,” came the doctor’s quiet voice. “Give me that revolver—do you hear—quick!”

Nund Kumâr hesitated, and the flicking tongue of the cobra licked his face. Then he gave in. He was green with fear, his knees trembled under him, he could scarcely stand.

“Premu,” called John Anderson, chucking the revolver on to the table and then gripping the man by the throat with his right hand, while the left held death close to the chin. “Lock the door!” he continued, as the lad with the broad grin which comes to the Indian when he finds himself on the side of force, came in hastily from the lecture hall, “and strip this fellow while I hold him—be quick!”

For Nund Kumâr had given a wriggle which necessitated the bringing of death half an inch nearer. “Before God,” came the short sharp words, “if you move again you are done for.”

It was a grotesque group seen by the full flare of the electric sun. Dr. Anderson’s figure tense with determination, his keen eyes watching the fear-struck face and appraising how far sheer desperation might bring revolt. Premu’s deft hands leaving Nund Kumâr as naked as the day he was born.

“There’s a coil of rope by the table,” came the order. “Hands behind your back, please—what? you object?—there—just so. Secure them as well as you can, boy, I’ll see to it afterwards. Now his feet. Sit down in that chair, will you. Tie him in a bight round the legs—that’s right. Now——” Dr. Anderson stood back a bit and gave a short laugh at what he saw—for Nund Kumâr, deprived of all covering, showed distinctly piebald.

“So!” he said in German, “it was not for nothing you had a Finnish head, my friend! Have a care! The beast is still within striking distance,” he added, as Nund Kumâr tried to wrench himself free and then subsided into voluble German cursings, “Give him two extra turns round the back of the chair, Premu, and fasten the end by his feet. There!” went on the doctor, reverting to German again, “I think you will find that quite à la Davenport brothers; so now,” he straightened himself and with a quick gesture flung the cobra he held from him by loosening his hold on its throat when in an instant the twisted curves on his arm relaxed, and, like a catapult, the reptile shot itself into the air, so to the floor, where it slithered hastily to a large snake-charmer’s basket that the electric light showed beneath the table.

“It may interest you to know,” remarked John Anderson, suavely, as he turned to examine Nund Kumâr’s clothing, “that it is, so to speak, a tame snake—its fangs are drawn. I borrowed it for the occasion.”

Nund Kumâr’s speech failed him, even curses were comfortless. He felt himself trapped hopelessly; for though one terror had gone, the revolver lay on the table beside those strong hands that were so busy over their task; busy and successful. . . .

Five hundred rupees in notes! That showed there was money behind whatever was going on. A few papers, mostly unimportant. One or two in cypher. Nund Kumâr, watching the proceedings, felt the search was getting warmer and warmer as the doctor approached the turban; as usual yards and yards of white muslin. It was shaken. Nothing fell out. After all this devil of a man—thought the captive—might miss it,—Englishmen had little sense. . . .

No! This one knew what he was about. The long length of folded crumpled cloth was being rapidly passed through feeling fingers—a doctor’s fingers—there was little chance of escape.

None. The fingers stopped. The fabric was surely thicker—and something crackled. Yes! the cloth was doubled: and in the pocket thus produced were sheets of closely-printed paper—very thin paper, torn——

Yes! Torn from some diminutive book—a Bible! Yes, by Heaven.

The Revelation of St. John the Divine! In three folios as it were!

John Anderson glanced up at his captive and saw by the look of hatred on the face, that the search was at an end—here was the key! Would it unlock the puzzle?

No time could be lost. Dr. Anderson saw that, and his mind was made up on the instant. The spy must in the meantime be firmly secured and gagged, lest relieved of the immediate fear of the revolver he should shout for and find help. So bound he would be safe enough left there for half-an-hour. In that time he could get to the Secretary’s office and decide on what was to be done next.

Prem-nâth? No! he would not leave him to watch. One could never quite rely on such as he. He should go to the Secretary’s office, too; that would keep him out of mischief.

“I am afraid I shall have to gag you,” he said politely. Then he saw to the knots, double-locked and bolted the door to the lecture hall, locked the outside door when he had passed through and bolted it securely.

Ten minutes afterwards, the flea-bitten Arab, much blown, drew up at the office door, and John Anderson entering said quietly:

“Here’s the key, Davies. Now to get at the thing. Meanwhile ’phone to Morrison or Hastings.”

“Good Lord!” ejaculated the little Secretary.

Chapter XIX

When in dense forest lost, the boles appear
A giant palisade about our fear
Sudden a vista opens; on the sky
A lone tree sentinel stands—our way is clear.


The professor looked at the rows of figures on the last wireless; and the little Secretary looked also.

“One must theorise of course,” murmured the former, “if the first fails, try another. There’s a plenitude of oughts—about every fourth figure—they must mean something—not likely a word—comes too often—most likely something you can’t send otherwise. Stay! no stops in telegrams—are there in wireless? Let’s see 01147—then 061415. Let’s take these two only. Stay—by Heaven it seems likely, 0 beginning a word, 1 chapter, 14 verse—7 word. Look it up sharp, there’s a good chap. What does it make?”

“First chapter fourteenth verse seventh word ‘white,’” read out the Secretary. “Doesn’t look as if it would fit, somehow.”

“Go on,” said John Anderson grimly, “0 6 1415. That may be opening up several combinations. No! only three directions required, so it must be 6 chapter fourteenth verse fifteenth word—Look it up sharp, please—we’ve no time to lose.”

“Mountain,” reported Mr. Llewellyn Davies. “Won’t do, I’m afraid, Anderson—try another.”

The professor drew his forehead together into a frown with his nervous hand and muttered: “White mountain—Whitehill—— White By Jove!” He drew his finger down his nose and sate for an instant, his hand on his lip. Then he said: “I think I’ll go on, Davies, if you don’t mind. Take the next, 01516. What’s that?”

The thin leaves fluttered, and the Secretary put on his spectacles. “Deuced small print,” he said, “dead. What do you make of that?”

“Something,” replied the doctor, “not much—but a possibility. Go on to the next, 0 1516 22.”

“That might be a lot—permutations and commentations no end,” put in his companion.

“Excuse me,” interrupted the other impatiently. “Only three directions required—fifteenth chapter, sixteenth verse, twenty-second word. What is it, man?—out with it.”

“Let me see—why—yes, ‘kings’ it is! That’s footling.”

John Anderson got up and put his hand on the other’s shoulder. “I don’t think so—listen. White mountain dead kings. What if it were Whitehill Palace of Dead Kings? The man’s name was Weissberg when he came out to India . . . and—well—I think it’s worth going on.”

“Whitehill, Palace-of-Dead-Kings,” repeated the little Secretary, his pale blue eyes wide open—”but surely—he is so well-known——”

“Not so much as he ought to be. Go on—if it makes sense, we are there.”

So word by word they spelt out the message. And when it was written down John Anderson handed it over to his companion with a smile and the words: “Thank Heaven, this is only the twelfth.”

For the message ran thus: “white mountain dead kings send more money remember patience the time is fifteenth.”

“Yes,” assented the small man quietly. Conviction had come to him, and with it had come the usual phlegm of his upbringing. “I’d better ring up——”

“Not yet!” said John Anderson. “Let us get at more of these wireless first. We don’t know enough yet to act.”

The Secretary produced a sheaf of messages from his confidential bag, and they set to work on them like terriers at a fox’s hole.

In less than half-an-hour, they both stood up. By this time Colonel Morrison and Captain Hastings had joined them, and the four men looked at each other silently for a second.

“The great thing,” said the Chief of the Police at last, “is to keep as quiet as we can. Luckily, it is three days before the time settled by these Bolshevists—for they are Bolshevists, sir, neither more nor less. I’ve told you so a dozen times—But these seventy-two hours mean a lot. We shall get the thing well in hand by then. For there’s no lack—there never has been any lack—of loyalty; only it’s got disheartened.”

“For all that,” put in John Anderson quietly, “I should warn every aerodrome in the country at once—I should act on my own responsibility if I were you, Davies. Believe me, so long as we keep control of the air in India, we are secure. The peasants won’t rise against an aeroplane, any more than partridges will when a hawk is hovering over a field. Meanwhile, quite on the quiet we had better go and get the gentleman with the short skull into greater security. You might stop on the way down or ’phone for a van and constables to be at the College; but I think we three could manage Mr. Nund Kumâr, despite his muscles——”

Possibly, they might have managed; but there were other considerations in the taking of a man who was a practised gymnast, as they soon found out.

“By Jove! I must have forgotten to turn out the lights,” said the Professor, as, standing before the door, key ready, he noticed a glint of light by his feet; “that was a mistake—still——”

He paused, for the opening door showed an empty room.

“How the deuce did he manage?” said the young police officer; “he must have had help; but the doors.” He tried the other one: it also was fast.

Professor Anderson was studying the chair, which lay literally, in smithereens on the floor.

“He must have bruised himself awfully doing it,” he remarked thoughtfully. “Overset himself, I expect—but, however he did it, it’s done. Then—see—he must have wormed himself to the table over yonder—razors there for slicing specimens—see! There’s one fixed in the hinge of the cupboard door—how—heaven knows! It’s all my fault—the fault of the light——”

“But how did he get out?” asked Colonel Morrison.

John Anderson looked up quickly; then pointed to the clerestory windows—one of them was wide——

“Got on to the top of the shelves, and used the cords for swinging the windows open, as a trapeze—see, they are knotted together. Clever; but commonplace. What beats me is the first throw that must have bashed some part of the chair—after that, comparative simplicity. But come—this alters the whole complexion of affairs.” He took out his watch. “An hour and a quarter since I left him—the cypher is responsible for most of that—— Say half-an-hour—or three-quarters to set himself free—he still has half-an-hour’s bulge on us. Long enough, in India, to let the news reach from here to Cape Cormorin—I don’t mean for a row—that’s dead—still-born—like so many other attempts. But if we want to get at the leaders—well! there’s no time to lose. Look here, Morrison—there was enough in those wireless to hang Markham and Whitehill twenty times over. Now we can’t wait for such civilisations as warrants and Supreme Government orders. The Palace-of-Dead-Kings must be searched, and searched at once; though I’m desperately afraid the birds will have flown. Are you game? If not I’ll go alone.”

Colonel Morrison, as with a doubtful heart he yielded to the other’s persuasion, took comfort in a like fear which he felt would exonerate him from blame.

“It seems impossible,” said Captain Hastings suddenly, as they stood outside the garden gate of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings. Even in the darkness of a moonless night, the white marble of its piled roofs showed spectre like above the dense darkness of the surrounding trees. Unutterable peace lay on all things. The cicalas had ceased their shrill tremors; there was not a sound, not a rustle of a leaf in the still garden. And overhead the multi-coloured stars of an Indian sky twinkled steadily through space. Across the river the lights of the New Town showed as steadily.

The gate stood open, after Indian fashion. No servants were visible, and, after a few seconds of cool air, scented heavily with magnolia and rose, they stood in what had been used as an anteroom. Here the tinted lights burnt dimly, but showed emptiness. A wide step or two, and they were beside a dining-table set ready for service with flowers and glass and plate. Still no sign of life.

“We are too late,” said John Anderson briefly, “they have been burning paper.”

And sure enough, the smell of it mingled with the faint perfume that so often still lingers about the scent-sodden walls of old Indian palaces.

Up the narrow stairway they passed, all barriers open, out on the roof with its silken carpets, its reclining chairs, its inlaid marble pavement. A half-finished cigar in an amber and gold holder lay beside a wine glass half full of sherry and bitters.

“Wireless! I thought so,” said the Professor as they passed on to the crowning cupola. “I told Davies of it long ago: but what will you? ‘Wait and see’ stands for statesmanship nowadays! Well! we have got to face it. Failure is known, will be known all over India before tomorrow morning. Possibly the whole thing may pass over quietly. I believe there have been heaps of these plots more or less elaborate of which we knew nothing. Stillborn, even if they got so far towards life as that. But the sense of failure is always a little disturbing; for, mind you, there are heaps of conspirators to whom success spells salvation—who would give their lives, their souls for the cause they champion—poor devils!”

“Shall I leave a sergeant and four in charge, sir?” asked Captain Hastings of his superior officer.

“No!” came the answer. “They have evidently quitted and I must have every man I can get on the city tomorrow.”

So the measured beat of footsteps trained to rhythm died away and the Palace-of-Dead-Kings was left to the calm peace which nothing seemed to disturb. Had it memories of the deeds that had been done in it? The dynasties it had seen rise and fall, the crimes of violence and bloodshed it had witnessed, the passionate love and hatred, the squalor and the unimaginable luxury it had harboured? It gave no hint of remembrances; to it, to-day was as yesterday. A dynasty in the balance? What then? Except within reach of elbowing, hustling humanity, the white marble walls were stainless, the jewelled, inlaid arabesques of flowers and fruit, as brilliant as they had been the first day the sun shone upon them.

But as the measured beat of footsteps became faint, a slab in the vestibule wall turned on some unseen hinge and a man in dress clothes came through it with a light laugh.

It was Fred Ffolliott.

“Fools!” he said sotto-voce and made his way to the narrow stair. It was not till he had reached the roof, and was seated smoking a cigarette, this time in the most comfortable chair, with a stiff tumbler of whiskey and water beside him that he completed his sentence. “Damned fools!”

Whether he referred to the hunters or to the hunted is doubtful. Possibly both.

So he sate and thought over what had occurred, feeling a certain satisfaction at the remembrance of Fritz Weissberg’s white rabbit face of fear when Nund Kumâr had burst in with the news. Paul Markovitch had at least had his wits about him. He had told everyone to disappear, he had burnt a heap of papers, and in the end would have been caught had it not been for the underground tykhana, where, at the moment, the conspirators were safely awaiting developments; for the cause was not yet quite lost; there was still a chance. Not that Fred Ffolliott cared if it had one or not. To him it had been adventure, simple adventure. He might have to seek this elsewhere, for of late he had become bored by his present job. Yes! ever since that girl had tackled him in the vaults below he——

He poured out another whiskey; a stronger one this time, and after a while, fell asleep like a child.

Meanwhile the air around him was vibrant with words. Messages were flying here, there, everywhere, and every telephone and telegraph wire was blocked with messages. A very different affair this, from what environed the Mutiny of ’57, when the mere chance of stopping a homeward-bound trooper at Aden and turning her back on her traces, saved India from absolute disaster.

“I think we have it well in hand now,” said one of a knot of men who had been busy all night, as he set back the hanging screen at the window, the better to see the sun rise in a cloudless sky. “I doubt if there will be any ructions at all.”

“Unless someone plays the fool,” put in a younger officer.

In truth the day seemed cloudless, and the bazaars unusually quiet; almost uncannily so. John Anderson, driving through them college-ward—for work went on as usual—was so impressed by the fact that there was not a squabble over a farthing or half a farthing going on at every other shop, that on his way he once more drove round to see if old Akâs Râm had any explanation to offer.

He found the old man as ever, on the plinth above the sliding river watching the drift of spent petals while the rhythmic chant of his pupils rose as ever persistent, immutable. Its mellow, antiphonal tone seemed to blend with the mellow boom of the big bronze bell at Mai Kâli’s shrine that every minute or so came echoing harmoniously across the river.

All was as ever, save that there was a world of acquiescent comprehension in the old man’s dark eyes as he answered the Englishman’s query as to why Nawapura seemed half asleep.

“When folk are expecting something big,” said the old pandit, “they care not for what is little—but if the great come not—as happens at times—they feel lost as if in dreams. So trouble may come—even from the little.”

Dr. Anderson smiled at the wisdom and knowledge showing in every line of the keen old face.

“Then you have heard?” he said, accepting the situation.

Akâs Râm gave a little cackling laugh of pure derision. “Who has not heard, O Protector of the Poor? The very sucking babes babble of it; for we of India are not like the sahib-logue who hear nothing. The word went forth at sundown yesterday; by now it is stale bread on every hearth. And many had hoped for new.”

“They will not get it, then, my friend,” replied the doctor, his lip set, for he thought he sensed a half regret in the old pandit’s tone.

“That is as God wills!” was the cheerful answer. “So Ravana thought when he set fire to the blessed Hanuman’s tail and sent him flying; but lo! that flaming tail set fire to Lanka—it taketh not much at times to set a city alight. A monkey or a fool may do it. God send there be none of them about.”

As he spoke the boom of the bronze bell seemed to give assent to the words.

“They are very musical over at the shrine to-day,” remarked John Anderson idly. “What’s up?”

Akâs Râm shook his head in negation. “That, who can tell? She is ready. She is waiting. Since early morn Her call has gone forth—that is all that is known. For the rest it is Fate.”

Fate, however, appeared peacefully inclined. The students at the College pursued knowledge diligently. At the noonday recess, the professor and other masters noticed a slight anxiety to get hold of certain native broadsheets which were published during the morning. But even they refrained from special comment, and were but generally abusive as usual. David Ditter’s newspaper had, it is true, come out with a more than usually vehement encyclical on the advantages of peace and goodwill. But if the atmosphere was a trifle heavy and sullen even this seemed passing off; so it was a shock to the professor when, driving home to lunch, he was passed by Captain Hastings and four mounted policemen riding furiously.

“What’s up?” cried the former, making way.

“That infernal fool Blennerhasset!”

The answer was as it were left behind as the horsemen galloped on. And, after all, those few words explained the whole situation.

Dead set on his own estimate of what was right, and convinced that a straightforward Western method of dealing with the preposterous claim made on Maya Day was what was needed, the young American had started to carry out his plan of confronting the claimants with the verdict of their own authorities. He had not the least idea that he was being made the catspaw of the seething conspiracy and unrest which underlay the crusade against superstition, which he had been sent over from America to inaugurate. He was absolutely ignorant of the fact that he had been deliberately egged on to action in the hopes of making trouble: that the very “bairastha” on which he set so much value had been given by most of the signatories with the same object. Briefly he was a helpless pawn in an Eastern game of which he knew nothing, and which, even had he been cognisant of it, he could not have understood. Briefly the West was out-finessed by the East. A pitiable object this, yet one to be often recognised in Indian History. So he had taken all the righteous indignation, all the effusive encouragement as genuine.

He had been a little surprised, it is true, at the warmth of interest shown that very morning in his projected visit to the authorities at Mai Kâli’s shrine. How was he to know that two arch conspirators, confined uncomfortably in the secret vaults of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings, had bidden their followers do their best to provoke the populace; not so much in the hope of starting a possible revolution—that was over for the present—as for the turmoil that would make escape easier. How was he, finally, to know that it was, so to speak, a put-up job, and that a sufficiency of agents in the know would be present in the bazaars to rouse to quick irresponsible action that idle, inert, almost listless crowd that ebbed and flowed through them, looking for something yet finding nothing?

He had started on his mission with all dignity, Mrs. Llewellyn Davies standing on the doorstep to wish him well, and deplore the fact that, as woman, she dare not venture to intrude in learned religious discussions.

Once over the bridge, however, and in the old town a regular procession had been awaiting him, and a banner was displayed bearing a legend in Bengali. Had Nigel Blennerhasset been able to decipher it—which he was not—he could scarcely have objected to it, for it only proclaimed his own view, namely, that the West meant to force its own code of conduct on the East, even to the extent of interfering with Eastern women; a declaration innocuous enough from Nigel Blennerhasset’s point of view, but one that was, to the ordinary ignorant mind of India, utterly damnable. So it did not take long, aided by crafty suggestion from certain of the crowd, to focus the diffused sense of grievance on this one point—and this is a point that never fails to excite, a match that never fails to raise fire—interference with women. It did so here—crowding out from by-lanes and houses the people pressed round scowling, only awaiting a final torch to break out into action. This came, and came purposely. In the narrow streets of an Eastern town there is ever scant room for wheeled traffic, and here the crowd made passage increasingly difficult. It was easy, therefore, to raise an outcry that someone—a child—had been knocked over. And there, surely enough, was a child screaming horribly—as children will when soundly pinched.

No one could see clearly, and the wail of hurt childhood was enough to cause instant uproar. “They will kill our children.” “They will debauch, they have debauched our women,” passed from mouth to mouth; but as yet there was nothing beyond curses and threats, the crowd allowing itself to be held more or less in check by a few yellow-legged policemen, doing their best to keep a semblance of order till the reinforcements for which they had sent could arrive.

Then suddenly, by whom uttered none could tell, a word cleft the hot air; a word of dire import, a word that none wish to hear in an Indian crowd—

Maro! Maro! Kill! Kill!”

It thrilled from one end of the bazaar to the other, and faces forgetting all else, became simply savage, simply murderous—


Why and whom?

None knew, and those who were engineering the outbreak did not care; so long as there was violence. The crowd was unarmed save for sticks; but stones, brickbats, and copper vessels, anything handy that could be laid hold upon, began to fly. The native supporters in the carriages promptly sought shelter by jumping out and mingling with the mob; but Nigel Blennerhasset showed no lack of courage. He stood up and tried to harangue, thus exposing himself to the various missiles. One struck him on the head and turned him dizzy, but he stuck manfully to his guns and still stood swaying a little.

“He is drunk—he is an alien”; “he had one of our women yesterday,” came a voice and that cry “Maro! Maro!” became less impersonal. And now a group of ascetics pressed forward led by the self-same old man with the streaming white hair and withered right arm, who at the council in the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees had given forth such implacable hatred of the alien rule. A saint of saints, the crowd hushed for a second to hear him speak. And there was madness—sheer insanity—in every fibre of his body as he yelled in his quavering old voice

“Kill! Kill! He hath flouted the Great Mother. She clamours for his blood.”

She should have it! That thought was with hundreds; but only those nearest the carriage had their chance. Half-a-dozen were over the wheels in a second. There was a scuffle, the sudden quick-following report of a revolver—for Nigel Blennerhasset, true to the traditions of his race, carried a six-shooter and was man enough to sell his life at a fair price.

Two of his assailants dropped; but there were hundreds more to come and even the old saint clambered on to the carriage step. The very multitude of the attackers kept their victim from falling and in the blindness of their fury they rained blows on each other, yelling and shrieking. Silent as a rule, the Indian mob beats all others for sheer deafening clamour when once it has lost control of itself; so the clattering hoofs of horses recklessly ridden through or over what lay before them was not heard until with an insistent cry of

”Hut! Hut! Hut!”

a band of troopers were seen charging regardlessly men, women and children. There is nothing that disintegrates a crowd so quickly as horses’ galloping feet, and almost before realisation of what was happening became possible, a tall figure in white uniform had flung itself into the carriage, laying about him with the scabbard of his sword.

“Have at the horses, Man Singh,” shouted Captain Hastings to the first sowar. “Make them gallop—use anything—gallop like the devil.”

Something at any rate was used. The horses, hitherto encompassed, as it were fettered, by the concourse of people, plunged, reared madly, plunged again, and with a mighty jerk that strained every inch of leather in their harness, every joint in the carriage itself, started forward.

The effect was magical. The crowd fell back from the plunging hoofs quicker than the Red Sea fell back from the rod of Moses, and half the assailants tumbled headlong this way and that.

“Keep them at it, Man Singh. Gallop like the devil round by the Queen’s Park, that’s the quietest way,” shouted Captain Hastings, busy as he spoke, in disposing of the remaining assailants by pitching them out into the crowd. They were mostly boys; they generally are in these sudden, irresponsible riots.

But the old saint still balanced on the step, clinging to the handle of the door.

Hut, you old fool, Hut,” cried the young man, “you’ll get hurt—Hut, I say—there——” He made an ineffectual clutch at the loosening, old, left hand; but he was too late. The withered old body swayed sideways, fell and the wheel passed over it.

Captain Hastings shrugged his shoulders, muttered “Couldn’t be helped—lucky it’s only one,” and turned to see what could be done for Nigel Blennerhasset, who lay senseless and bleeding, doubled up on the seat of the carriage. But the extreme tension was over. The crowd was being left behind, and soldiers at the double and a machine gun were debouching from the main road into the tortuous by-ways of the native city. The riot for the time would be over; but there was doubtless more to come. Meanwhile, the General Hospital must be the wounded man’s destination, and, after that, report must be made at headquarters. There was no time to lose.

Chapter XX

He whose soul by love is quickened, never can to Death be hurled.
Yea! for him is life immortal far beyond this fleeting world,
For behind him lies the Puzzle, and before him Heaven’s own light
Shows the meaning clear as crystal, all the mystery unfurled.

“You are hurt!” said Lucy Morrison, pointing to a crimson stain on the young police officer’s white uniform. He had come in, a minute before, to make his report, had found father and daughter at lunch, and now was waiting impatiently for the former to get out of mufti before going down to the office.

The girl’s dainty face was curiously set and determined; she spoke as one having authority; as a mother might speak to her child.

“It’s nothing,” he said, a trifle gruffly. “One of the fellows was using a knife and it got me on the arm somehow. It’s nothing, I assure you.”

She had advanced towards him, a frown on her face. “You should have shown it to the doctor. Why didn’t you? It’s so foolish to neglect common care—a little iodine. Take off your coat, please, I can at least bandage it up—as you know.”

He did know. He had, he recollected, been proud of her qualifications as a nurse; besides, when a man finds himself in capable feminine hands, the old obedience of nursery days comes back to him, and he does what he is told. So the coat came off and revealed a shirt-sleeve drenched in blood.

“It will have to come off too, I’m afraid,” he said lamely, “so you had better leave it alone. It’s nothing—

He paused, feeling helpless, for a deft snip with the scissors from the work-table close by had started a rent that left his arm bare to the shoulder. “My poor shirt,” he remarked with an effort after rueful lightness.

“Your poor arm,” she retorted. And it was such a white arm! The whiteness of it, the contrast between the soft spotless skin just like a little child’s, and the sunburnt wrist all smeared and stained with blood, sent a sudden thrill through the girl, even though her mind was set on a bad slash she saw just above the elbow. A thrill that made her voice absolutely tremble a little as she said—

“It’s a clean cut, but it will want strapping.” Then she added more collectedly, “Will you go down to the hospital, or shall I do it? I can!”

“I know you can,” he answered, conscious from head to foot of her soft fingers.

“I shall have to fetch the plaster, but I won’t be a moment.”

And he was left alone in the room where he had spent so many hours, content, carelessly content. The very scent of the flowers assailed him with recollections. Had he really broken away from all that cool, calm affection? . . .

She was back, busy with scissors, water, and sponges.

“You’re taking a lot of trouble, girlie,” he said absently. He was for the thousandth and one time admiring the ordered untidiness of her back hair as she stooped over his arm.

And once again that thrill swept through her at the familiar name; but she set it aside sternly.

“That’s right,” she remarked. “And now I shall put a little iodine—and a wadge—it will smart a good bit, I’m afraid.”

“I’m not,” he echoed with a little laugh, feeling somehow that she couldn’t hurt him even if she tried. And she knew she could not. She had listened to the report he had given her father of the row in the bazaar, told straightforwardly, modestly, and she had recognised, with a strange pride she could not stifle, that here was a man quick to see, quicker still to act. No! she with her soft, feminine touch could not really hurt him, body or soul.

She thought this as she bandaged and pinned; and the thought brought with it a strange tenderness, a quick realisation of what she had given up so lightly. A sudden sense of his youth, his bravery, his beauty, his boyish charm came over her, and as she stooped to draw the rent shirt together at the shoulder, the whiteness of the latter—so like a child’s, so smooth, so cool, and yet so warm, overwhelmed her, and without a thought, save sheer admiration and the protective love which so often takes the guise of passion in a woman’s heart, she laid her lips to it and murmured:

“You have been good—so good, dear Boy.”

Then, crimson to the very roots of her hair, startled, she looked up and faced him. Their eyes met.

“M—I—I didn’t mean——” she began.

“I wish you had,” he interrupted almost angrily. “Why didn’t you before——”

But at that moment Colonel Morrison came bustling in, calling loudly on everyone to find his service helmet! So Captain Hastings, with that kiss tingling through his veins, and Lucy Morrison, repentant yet unrepentant, had to leave the incident at that. She was the first to recover ease.

“I’ve been dressing his arm. He has a nasty cut just above the elbow,” she explained. “Don’t let him use it, father—it really ought to be in a sling. You won’t, will you?” she added with the oddest little smile, addressing the young man as she helped him on with his coat. “You will be good, won’t you?”

He gave her a look which should have withered her; for, in truth, he felt indignant. Why—why had she never before done such a thing? Why was that kiss burning a hole through him, straight to what he supposed was his heart?

But he had little time for such thoughts, for Colonel Morrison bombarded him with questions about the situation as they motored over to Government House. And once there the questions became even more manifold. The outcome of all being that though it was evident feeling was running very high in the old town, and Nigel Blennerhasset’s action had been—well! most regrettable—(strongest blame of which a Government office is capable) still the policy of “wait and see” must be continued. Troops, etc., would be kept ready, of course, for all emergencies; but there must be no patrolling of the streets, no posting of machine guns; the surest way to provoke violence being to show that you are prepared to meet it. Therefore, there was to be no interference with any peaceful demonstration, not even with the heated harangues which were being delivered by ascetics over the foul murder of the Blessed Saint; for the old man with the withered arm had been picked up dead. So, as the day wore on, huge crowds gathered to see the corpse of the old man (all crouched up like a cat on the string bed, garlanded with sacred flowers, and carried shoulder high) processed through bazaar after bazaar, accompanied by drums and shawms on the way to burial in the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees. Wild were the tales told in the progress by the ash-smeared ones. The cursed young alien had strangled the old man with his hands; but what else could one expect? Had not the chota police wallah sahib taken advantage of his position a thousand times to debauch Indian women? None were safe from him.

Only last week—— Here voices sunk lower; though more than one with a note of authority in it asserted roundly that his last victim was the lawful wife of the Mâhârâj. Had they not been seen philandering together on the old burj at the corner of the Garden-of-Dead-Kings? Was not that really the reason why the accursed rulers were protecting the woman, as they were; for was not the evil one who had bribed traitors to write a bairastha, living at the Secretary-sahib’s house? And was not such personal bias always at the bottom of alien tyranny? Deft were the lies and many; so the crowd drifted on, listening to them; after a while believing in them doubtless; but in a half-hearted way which led to nothing; for, in truth, the psychic moment for revolt had been forestalled. The people were not ready for it, only a section of religious fanatics swearing vengeance accompanied the corpse beyond the city walls, and they drifted back, after a while, leaving it to the care of a few ascetics. For the way to the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees was long and hard, and vengeance lay amid their kind in the city.

“The game is up,” reported Nund Kumâr, who, with others, returned at dusk to those who had found refuge in the tykhana of the Palace-of-Dead-Kings. “Absolutely, a wash-out for the present, at any rate; by-and-by, perhaps——”

“No thanks to you, Van Holz,” snarled Paul Markovitch. “’Tis all your fault. Luckily, we have an inner cypher which subordinates don’t know. Now! Weissberg, there is no use grousing. Your money is safe in Germany and”—here his face darkened with grim determination—“the Cause cannot suffer; it will—it must make its way. So now for safety.”

Half-an-hour afterwards Fred Ffolliott was the only occupant of the place, and he, in his favourite disguise, was leisurely preparing to leave, for a time, at any rate. He was not in the least afraid of being discovered; for he had had too much experience of the perfection of his make-up to fear detection; and he felt curiously disinclined to start—as he had every intention of doing—on new lines in search of fresh adventures. So he sate in a long chair, drinking whiskey and water, and telling himself that, on the whole, even that stuffy, vaulted old place had given him a good time. How often he had returned to it—and the whiskey and water—positively tingling with the vitality which comes from success. Then there was Maya Day! His mind went back to what he recollected—and well— How she had looked that first time when the electric light had disclosed her sitting so calm, so composed, in her widow’s shroud by that very table. And then . . .

A low moaning rumble made him look up. Great Scott! Was he dreaming? No! There she was at the doorway, calm and composed in her widow’s shroud!

Then an idea struck him, and he burst into a laugh. To think that she might have come in half-an-hour before! To think that he had quite forgotten she knew the trick of the slab! By George, what an escape—for her, mostly——.

He stood up a trifle unsteadily. “So you have disregarded my warning not to come here——” he said, with a frown.

She took no notice of his words; but walking up to him spoke almost in command.

“Mr. Ffolliott! I know that you know all the ins and outs of what has been going on here for months past. Now I don’t ask you to tell me about that. I don’t want you to give away anyone. But—well! You know a plot has been discovered—you know that some scheme has miscarried—So I ask you to inform me of anything that can be done to avoid trouble in the future. I demand that you should tell me of any danger against which it is possible to guard.”

She paused, and he broke in——

“A cool request, and if I don’t comply——?”

She met his eyes fairly and squarely. “Then I will denounce you.”

His laughter echoed up into the vaulted roof. “And you have the brazen cheek to come and threaten me—threaten me—here—aren’t you afraid?”

“You can kill me if you like,” she replied proudly, “but it won’t benefit you much; for I have left a letter with the Sens that they are to send to Dr. Anderson if I don’t turn up, and he——”

“You would have made an excellent conspirator, Miss Day,” he interrupted mockingly, “but may I ask why you come to me?”

She took a step nearer. “Because, somehow, I trust you. You mayn’t speak; but you won’t tell me a lie. And—and—I believe you can understand,” her voice faltered a little, “how all this trouble affects me—how it seems to centre round me. I—I am the cause of it all—I, who thought I was working for peace—Oh! it drives me mad. So I must—I must know if there is anything to be done to prevent the trouble spreading. Oh! if you have a spark of honour left, tell me—I implore you to tell me——”

Her voice rang with sudden, passionate entreaty. Her eyes were full of tears.

“My dear lady,” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “I really have nothing to tell, even if I would—which is doubtful. But this much I will say. Disabuse yourself of the idea that you are the cause of what you call the trouble. You are only a pawn—a very insignificant one—in a great game that is being played, with considerable chance of success, all over the world. So don’t blame yourself unnecessarily. You really are quite harmless—except to some of us—Captain Hastings for instance!”

The hot blood rushed to her face, making it darken. “I do him no harm,” she protested quickly.

Again Fred Ffolliott laughed. “I am not so sure of that. He is at the moment about the best hated man in Puranabad! There is no saying what may not happen.”

She broke in on him hastily. “Do you know anything? Is there danger?”

Fred Ffolliott put his hands behind him on the table, leant back and shook his head at her reprovingly. “I thought that would tap the milk in the cocoanut, Miss Day,” he said forbearingly. “I don’t blame you—he is very nice looking—he deserves the care you have taken of him. Now don’t get angry—what on earth is the use of that?” His mocking voice changed; it held her suddenly by its note of pathos. “Will you be surprised to hear me say,” he went on, “that love is a little devil who pokes his nose where he isn’t wanted? You couldn’t help yourself, of course; still it is a pity you didn’t take my advice and go away. I did everything I could—now, didn’t I?—short of blabbing? I told you what would happen.”

His words made her realise for the first time that he had indeed gone out of his way to give her warnings, and she felt suddenly more humble, more friendly.

“I had to come,” she said hurriedly, “you don’t know how I have suffered to-day—I have spent it trying to find out; but they are all so secret—then I thought of you——”

“That was very kind of you,” he remarked, reverting to his jocular manner, “but I assure you I am of no use.” The disappointment on her face made him add almost without thought—“but I am going down—as you see—into the thick of it—and if I hear anything—anything, I mean, that I can tell—I’ll let you know—don’t look like that, please; nothing is worth it—nothing, nothing.” He paused, then added, “And now you had better go out you ought never to have come in.”

His vagrant thought caught once more at the humour of the incident, and laughter returned as he imagined what the face of Mr. Weissberg would have been like had she entered to find him drinking the Pilsener beer which had been his sole consolation during the hours of waiting.

But when he returned to the vaulted room mirth had vanished; he looked almost savage as he went back to the table. “Damn that barber’s block,” he muttered, beginning to look over papers and oddments in his desk. Some he tore up and burnt straightway, making his decisions with incisive rapidity; but at one thing he looked curiously for quite a long time. It was the miniature of Maya Day as he had first seen her. It was backed—as such things are in the rough—with a slight framing of metal.

“Too good to destroy,” he muttered at last; so carelessly added it to one or two other things which he had already hidden in his tiara of bleached and plaited hair, that universal pocket of the ascetic! So, still carelessly, almost recklessly, he switched off the electric light for the last time, and set forth, full of vitality, on his search for new adventures.

Meanwhile, Maya Day had gone back to the Sens’ palace, feeling terribly depressed. The news of the attack on Nigel Blennerhasset had reached her early through Prem-nâth, and she had hurried to the old town intent on using every atom of her influence with the students towards peace, only to find that outward peace had come with the quick resource of Captain Hastings. Those boys who had witnessed the affair were full of laughter and applause, though even they bewailed the death of the old saint.

“See you,” argued one, a first-year student-to-be of the law, to Maya Day. “He did not mean to kill; so it is no murder, but manslaughter.”

“Or rather,” put in another in his second year, “you mistake. It was self-defence; for, mind you, he himself was bleeding blood profusely. I saw it clearly inundating his arm.”

Bleeding! The very thought turned her sick. And it was all owing to her! Why had she not gone away when she was advised to do so?

Well! she had not done so, and there was no use in crying over spilt milk! She must set herself to preventing more being wasted. So all the afternoon she had gone about feverishly exhorting, imploring, upbraiding; and all the time with ears a-tune for the slightest vibration in the atmosphere of the minds with which she came in contact, for every little hint that might tell of future possibilities. Without success; probably because people did not themselves know what the day and the night might bring forth. So, as a last resource, she had bethought her of Fred Ffolliott, the spy. He might know something; he might be induced to tell her something. Anyhow, he would not cry peace when there was no peace, like the Sens and half the native notables whom she had consulted. And she had gained nothing—nothing at all. Yet there was a growing uneasiness to be noticed even amongst the posse of Sen women, that was not to be placated by the assertions of their menfolk, that there was nothing wrong, that there might have been some idea of violence; but that the people were well in hand.

So said the Sen faction and all the factions of the many different Associations and Leagues and Councils, that had sprung up like mushrooms for the amelioration of this, the repeal of that, the general reorganisation of the other. “The people—our followers—are well in hand.” That was the dictum. And good Mrs. Llewellyn Davies was echoing the same formula, in defiance of history, as she sate at the head of her long dinner-table that was being served as dinner was served in the year of grace 1857, when many a man who drank a glass of port to the loyalty of his sepoys, was shot like a rabbit by them on the following morning.

But the little Secretary, who sate at the bottom of the table, was not so sure of the position. “I think we have it in hand,” he had said a trifle doubtfully to Dr. Anderson, not many minutes before. “But it is wiser not to make sure when one has to do with a whole continent.”

“Just so,” the doctor had assented. “At present the cat has not quite made up its mind which way it will jump. A very little thing might bring war—a still smaller thing peace. The most dangerous thing in the situation, it seems to me, is outside mere Bolshevism. It is the cult of blood—briefly religious fanaticism such as was roused to-day by that fool Blennerhasset—who, by the way, has got off better than he deserved. Should be about in a week. I wish I could give as good an account of Hastings’ arm. He has been using it all day, young idiot, and will have trouble with it. Anyhow, it will be of no use to him for days—his right arm, too.”

About the same time Maya Day was listening to Prem-nâth’s last report. She was looking quite worn out, and her hands clenched themselves together, as the lad told her of the Captain sahib with his arm tight-bound to his side, wearing his uniform cape to hide the fact that he could not put on his coat.

And it was all her fault! It was very well for the spy to say it was not. But for her Nigel Blennerhasset would not have been a fool; but for her—but for her—but for her—the thought was insistent—it burnt into her brain. She could not, as night drew on, rest, though all seemed at peace. The city, the river, the palaces; even the police station over the way, all as usual—no sound, save the occasional beat of a tom-tom, the letting off of a squib or two, the sailing up into the purple sky of a trail of fire balloons, telling that somewhere in the mazes of the town a wedding was going on.

A wedding? The thought itself was curiously disturbing. She felt a sudden desire to be under the stars of heaven, to be away from humanity; to be alone, undisturbed. So, bidding Prem-nâth not fail to return with the latest news before eleven o’clock, she made her way to the old burj in the garden. It was a heavenly night. A flood of moonshine making the whole weary work-a-day world seem dream like, etherial; a night to make one forget all things, save that one could give thanks for the Mystery of Life. The girl sate down on the marble floor, and resting her bare arms on the cool marble of the balustrade, looked out—over what? Over the city half shrouded by a rising mist? Over the faint line of lighter shadow which in the far, far distance told where earth met heaven?

Further than that. It seemed to her as she sate motionless, as if she could see that rim of the world speeding through space; speeding on its way—to what? The immensity of the mystery overwhelmed her, yet brought her a reverent content. The puzzle of it all, the puzzle of herself, so—unco-ordinated, so much as the mercy alike of her inherited and her acquired nature, ceased to trouble her. She recognised that it was insoluble, at any rate this side the grave. Till then, surely, she could be calm? Surely she could take what the Mystery sent her with a cheerful heart? What was the sense of whining over the day’s trouble when you had Eternity before you?

“Eternity, whose Harvest none can reap,
Whose Hands all equipoised the Balance keep.
Eternity, Who smiles although men weep,
And watches while men sleep.”

The words came back to memory. “Smiles, although men weep!” Yes!—because all things were so certain, so secure!

It comes to some of us at times, this absolute self-forgetfulness, that brings with it perfect peace, perfect union with something of which we know nothing, save that it satisfies. So as Maya Day sate, with outstretched arms over the silvern slide of the sacred river, her mind forsook alike the cult of Kâli, and the cult of civilisation, and her hands clasped themselves as if in prayer. To what? She did not know.

For the time the contemplation of the Mystery absorbed her. The night sped on; she did not notice its passing.

A touch on her shoulder roused her, to see the whimsical face of the disguised jogi bending over her.

“Sorry to disturb your prayers,” came the mocking voice, “but I promised to let you know if anything was up—and something is.”

She started to her feet in an instant, her ecstasy of content gone. “He—Captain Hastings?” she faltered, back in her normal world.

The familiar jibing laugh echoed out under the stars. “The one he! Lucky dog! Yes. There’s a plot to kidnap him to-night at twelve. You’ve not much time.”

“Kidnap?” she echoed. “Why, and what?”

“I didn’t promise to answer questions,” he replied. “I promised to tell you—and I have—though why, God knows—I don’t. One has to be a fool sometimes, I suppose. Good-bye.” He turned to go, then stopped suddenly. In the moonshine his supple brown figure, almost devoid of clothing, caught the silvery light along every muscle, making it like a bronze statue; but the face was so veiled in the shadow of his crowned hair that it was impossible to judge of its expression. Still the tone of his voice made Maya Day look at him quickly as he said:

“Couldn’t you squeeze up a word of thanks? I didn’t want to save the barber’s block.”

“Of course I thank you!” she cried hastily.

“Of course! Of course! Of course!” he echoed mockingly as he swung himself into the tree and disappeared.

Twelve o’clock! And that was the police gong striking eleven. But Prem-nâth would be here in a few minutes—he was late already—and then she could send her warning. But it was running it close, and no time must be lost. She hurried back to her room and wrote an urgent warning in the usual feigned hand, so as to be ready against the boy’s arrival—he could do the distance to the police station in twenty minutes and that would enable precautions to be taken, even if Captain Hastings was not there for his bungalow stood not far—quite close in fact.

Still no Premu! It must be five—perhaps ten minutes past the hour—minutes wasted! Letter in hand she set out to meet the messenger hoping thus to save a minute or two. Then with a sudden remembrance that—if she could not meet Premu, it might be possible to find another messenger, she turned back to get her purse which might be needed. She had left it lying on her table, but in the dark she failed to lay her hands on it. Feeling that every instant’s delay was a danger, she did not pause to look, but caught up her jewel case instead. The key of that was round her neck and a trinket would serve the purpose of a bribe if one were needed. So, swiftly, she passed out into the night, quickening her pace when, beyond the Sens’ garden, she reached the high road.

But still no signs of the lad—and it must be nigh on the half-hour. What was to be done? The warning must be given—that was certain. There was no choice. She must take it herself. She must let him know that it was she—that she had been protecting——

A hot flush burnt in her cheeks, her heart beat madly, as quickening her pace she started forward, an almost triumphant gladness flooding her soul and body. Yes! he would know now—and it was not her doing—it was Fate—Fate had decreed it!

Chapter XXI

While youth is still our own, wine’s glee is best,
When cares assail, full drunk to be is best,
And when the bowl is finished? Then indeed
To welcome Death when Death we see is best.

Charles Hastings’ arm as Dr. Anderson had feared was giving trouble. It had kept him awake despite the sleeping draught; and having made him feverish it had started his brain, as fever always does, on every subject likely to prevent rest. The sequence began with a wonder as to what everything really meant? Why had Lucy kissed his arm? Why, incidentally, did her back hair look so distractingly, lovably untidy? Then what was he, Charles Henry Hastings, doing? What was he going to do? He was no milksop. He had faced life squarely and fairly. Partly from temperament, more from that love of outdoor life, that passion for playing with balls which, thank Heaven, is still such a marked feature amongst young Britishers, he had hitherto set aside all the problems of sex. Even his association with Lucy Morrison had not brought him face to face with them. But now? Now the one certainty was that the mere touch of Maya Day’s hand was something not to be ignored. But, confound it! that damned kiss was simply burning his heart out. Heavens above! Was he going to be a Don Juan? Yes! he was a brute—a mere beast. Yet neither of these women loved him; at any rate he had been sure Lucy didn’t. But now? And then Maya Day! Had she also succumbed to his infernal, his cursed good looks—for he was good-looking—he knew that. Not that it mattered save that he wished he could find out what the devil it all meant——

So it went on, a dreary round, for hours and hours after Dr. Anderson had sent him to bed; and when he finally dozed off it was but to be harried by like dreams, too confused for aught save half consciousness.

“Captain Hastings! Captain Hastings!”

That sounded more real; only, of course, it wasn’t. No one was calling him, no one—no one. Oh! if he could only really get to sleep!

“Captain Hastings! Captain Hastings!—oh! do rouse—please, please wake up!”

That sounded distinctly more real. Vaguely he seemed to recognise the voice, but it was only a figment of his own brain. Everything was familiar—all the phantoms of his dreaming—Lucy—the old saint who had been run over—that beast Mâhârâj—even Maya herself——

She, standing by the bed, was getting desperate. She had hurried on her way as much as she dared, running down the deserted by-streets, walking rapidly through crowded bazaars, and, once over the bridge among the long avenues, and square compounds of the European quarters over the river, she had sped like any lapwing to the Central Police Station, for she knew that time—precious time—was running short. And she had found the station closed, the big gates guarded by two sleepy constables. Evidently every other man was on duty in the old town. But Captain Hastings’ bungalow was but just over the way, so she lost not a moment in questioning, but passed on rapidly feeling that if he was not in his house, he would in all probability be comparatively safe elsewhere—at any rate not alone.

The moonlight showed her the quaint little four-square building with its thatched roof half-hidden by tall trees. But here also was evidence of desertion. There was no light, no drowsy servant on the verandah, and no one answered her low call. A sudden pulse of fear shot through her. Was she too late? She went on rapidly and passed through an open door. Like most Indian bungalows where there are no passages, the rooms opened straight through to the verandah on the other side, so there was light enough to show her the sparse furnishing of a bachelor’s living room; to show her, also, that there was no one there. So she passed rapidly to the next door, and she drew in a swift breath as she realised it was the bedroom, that a camp bed was set in the middle of the room so as to catch every breath of air, and that a long—such a very long—figure lay stretched on it amidst tumbled bedclothes. Such light as there was showed her clearly one arm—such a very white arm—in the veiled moonlight hanging inert on the bed, and the fair curls all ruffled with unrest. Asleep—fast asleep!

What a pity to wake him—and he ill—for a bottle of medicine glinted on the table beside the bed-head! Still it must be done—she must rouse him.

“It is I, Maya Day—please wake!” she repeated, laying her hand on his arm.

Whether it was the name or the touch that reached the unconscious mind, matters little; the young man sate up, was on his feet in a second. Bare feet, so white—and he so tall—so—so—so beautiful——

She stood transfixed.

“Maya!” he echoed dazedly. “Maya Day! Why on earth——”

But she had recovered her composure, her thought had turned to safety—only to safety.

“Put on your dressing-gown—your coat, anything,” she said hurriedly, “and come away—there is danger. I’ll tell you as we go, but please come directly—quick, please, quick; it must be nearly time——”

“But I don’t understand——” he began.

“Oh, that doesn’t matter,” she interrupted, her words fast and tumultuous. “Only come—please come! I only heard an hour ago and there was no one—no time to send—so I came myself. You are in danger, I tell you—they may be here any moment——”

As he stood looking at her with narrowed eyes a world of comprehension came to his confused brain; and a great tenderness came to his face. Then the fever that was on him caught him in its grip and he blazed up in sudden passion.

“I see,” he cried, “I understand—it is you—you who have been warning me all the time—it is you—you who have been troubling yourself. Oh, my God!” He caught her to him and held her close, his hands, his touch, his voice full of caress. “Oh, Maya! Maya! I was right— I told you you were giving me something very precious—I know now—it was Love, and I——” His kisses were raining on her face—“Oh! how I love you!”

She made no attempt at denial, no attempt at escape. It was all true, and it was Paradise to be in his arms, his kisses on her lips. Lost in a sudden glory of emotion she clasped him tight and lifted her face to his.

So, in the first ecstasy of mutual passion they forgot all else. The world, danger, difficulty, all things slipped from them.

But only for a minute. Ere there was breathing space slender fingers, lithe as a snake’s coil, were round the man’s throat and others like steel sinews were at his hands, his feet, his waist.

“Gag him quick,” came a whispering voice in Bengali.

“The woman, too—no noise—no noise.”

It was done in a second. There was no time even to see the assailants. The young police officer struggled madly, but those iron hands were everywhere; and so noiseless, too! There was not even the sound of a scuffle. The one attempt at a scream which the woman made was stifled by a hand; the next minute, gagged, bound, her veil wound round her head, she felt herself being carried away swiftly. By whom she knew not, nor whither she was being taken. And was he also being carried off—or had they killed him? The thought was suffocating— A motor—yes! That was a motor—a very silent one. There were others in the car—she could feel their presence, though she could not see or hear. Oh! this awful silence— What had they done? What had they done to him? That was her only thought. Her hands and feet were becoming numb from the tightness of the rope tying them. And he—was he suffering, too—he so ill—for fever had been scorching those white caressing hands. Oh! it was all her fault! Why had she waited for Prem-nâth? Why had she not been quicker coming? Why! Oh, why had she forgotten in the heaven of those caressing arms?

The gentle purring of the motor ceased: where were they?

“Silence—no noise,” came the whispered order; but on it came a loud sharp question. “A woman? Who is she?”

“Hush, owl! Thou wilt spoil all,” was the whispered reply. “’Tis the harlot widow—she who belongs to Mâhârâj. We found her in the young Melchcha’s room, the shameless one!”

A muttered curse: then silence. But surely the louder voice was familiar? Maya, however, had no mind to think, hers was occupied by that one thought—his safety. It seemed an eternity before, silently as ever, she was carried some distance, then set on her feet, though the firm hold on her arms never relaxed. She was in some place where people were congregated. There was a faint breathing of life in the air, but as yet she was blindfolded by her veil.

Then a whispered colloquy arose and the order came sharp:

“Let the woman’s shame be seen.”

The next instant, she recognised where she was with a shudder. It was in the sacrificial court of Mai Kâli’s temple. Almost dark, it was yet possible to see before her, by the flicker of a cresset lamp, a semi-circle of faces. Such faces! There was no mistaking them. They belonged to ash-smeared nakednesses of the type which under the guise of sanctity terrorise and exploit the women of India. A few there were whose religious fanaticism saved them from absolute degradation, but the most were instinct with almost insane hatred. No hope of pity there; no more than there was in the dim dreadfulness of the incarnadined Goddess with Her ten clutching arms that Maya felt lay behind her in the cavernous arches of darkness.

What were these men going to do? The answer came to her in a second, and her eyes, leaving those fateful faces, sought for him in agony. Yes! she was right! There he was, almost unconscious, the blood streaming from his wounded arm, bruised and battered by his vain struggles against his captors, bound to a sacrificial post at the feet of the half-seen idol—unseen save for those clutching arms hungry for blood and yet more blood. The meaning was clear; it did not need the attendant priest ready with the sacrificial axe standing beside the half-conscious figure to show what was coming. She essayed to scream, but the sound died in her gagged mouth. She struggled madly in the rough hands that held her, though the cords bit deep into her wrists. So, suddenly, a voice seemed to speak in her ears: “Be quiet! I’ve sent for relief. I’ll put off time.”

Incredible! Impossible! She glanced round wildly and saw a jogi taking his seat in the semi-circle. Was it, could it be Fred Ffolliott? Her eyes, bloodshot and overstrained, could not pierce the darkness; yet she felt vaguely comforted; felt that she was not quite alone, even while she knew in her heart that one man could do little. What, indeed, could he do?

So, still in whispers, a colloquy began. What was said could scarcely be heard—all things were terribly, awfully silent. What had to be done was evidently to be done secretly. None need know. The river would hide dead men—was not that part of its sacred task?—and bloodstains in Mai Kâli’s court were neither here nor there. And as the discussion went on it became louder, more vocal. Yea! the man would be the ultimate sacrifice that would bring success. But the woman? What was to be her fate? The Dread Mother cared not for female blood—unless ’twas voluntary. Yet she deserved death; but first she must, of course, be handed over to the Mâhârâj, her lawful husband. Let him take her—take her even now and use her as he chose.

A perfectly fiendish chuckle here broke in on the speaker as the tall burly figure of the Mâhârâj rose to its feet with a horrible leer. “Yea! Hand her over to me, and I’ll warrant I’ll teach her what women were made for! Hand her over—I can kill her when I’ve done with her.”

“Yea! Yea! That is but fair,” came the whisper from half-a-dozen voices, and the Mâhârâj advanced towards Maya, his crisped hand, his leering face hideous in their unbridled lust. But ere he could reach her a loud laugh startled the echoes, reckless, foolhardy, jibing. It came from the jogi, who sprang, a threatening figure, between those two. Maya Day, shrinking in on herself, had turned her agonised gaze to that figure bound to the sacrificial stake—so brave, so strong, so good, as if in one last appeal for help; saw there was none there for the head had sunk on the breast and merciful unconsciousness had brought peace; but at the sound of the laugh, she veered round swiftly. Yes! It was Fred Ffolliott! But what could he do?

Startled, but still silent, surprise showed on every face; but the voice that spoke was loud, vibrant—as if, indeed, it demanded hearing. Yet on the whole whimsical face of the speaker was the intent look of one listening for, hoping for something.

“Hands off, booby,” he cried in the vernacular. “Thou hast no right! I say she is a common woman, and I, her last lover but one, have prior right. I say I am her lover, her true lover, and not thou of fat carcase. Dost not believe? Look there! Do men carry pictures of strange women about with them? Look, fool, and see for thyself.”

And with the words he chucked the miniature he had hidden in his tiara of hair full in the Mâhârâj’s face. It grazed his nose and sped on to the hands of a peculiarly malevolent-looking ascetic, who, nevertheless, was sufficiently curious to look.

“What is’t, brother? What is’t?” And half-a-dozen of those nearest craned over to see also. And, all the time, the look of one listening for something never left Fred Ffolliott’s face, though his keen eyes watched the effect of what his diversion had done, appraising its value.

“And see here!” he cried, as the excitement began to die down. “Look ye! and judge for yourselves?” He stepped up to Maya, tore the gag from her mouth and kissed it passionately. She stood dazed; but once again that voice was in her ear—”Give me back one—just for luck—there’s a good soul.”

Their eyes met squarely; and quietly she gave him back his kiss.

Then, reckless as he had been before, sheer devilry seemed to seize on him. His cackling laughter rang up into the dark arches, and amongst its peals came a female voice

“Listen, ye faithful! This man, this woman belong to each other—trouble them not!”

All eyes turned upwards, for all present had heard Mai Kâli’s voice on the Day of Miracle: and this was the same voice—unquestionably the same!

“Yea, trouble them not. Am I not Kâli, the Dread Mother?” went on the voice. But the Mâhârâj, deaf to all things save the call of his desires, refused hearing and with a maniacal scowl of rage rushed on the slim figure before him. It stepped aside, seized the sacrificial axe from the hand of the attendant and with a reckless jibing cry, “St. George and Merrie England,” delivered one full at the head of his antagonist. Fred Ffolliott was fairly good with single-stick, but he had not calculated on the sharpness of the weapon he held. It clove right through the bull neck and sent the head bounding among the audience, while the big body fell inert, a mass of quivering flesh.

There was no more silence.

A yell of rage arose as the spectators rushed to revenge. But Fred Ffolliott had the advantage. He was the only one possessed of a weapon, and the ascetics as a body were not men of fight; so he held them easily at bay, his back against the pedestal of the idol. And as he parried the rushes made at him, his voice rose here, there and everywhere in joke and taunt. Now urging them to kill each other, now mocking their crass credulity, now in feminine accents bidding them hearken to the fact that Mai Kâli was a fraud.

“Didst think me a miracle? Lo! a cursed alien deceived you. I am nothing but a beastly red crab—helpless, powerless! I called for no blood—Lo! ’Twas the false jogi who has drunk the blood of the Mâhârâj, my servant. Woe is me! I am nothing, nothing!”

The voice seemed to come from the very stars now, for Fred Ffolliott, still with the intent look of one who listens on his face, had edged his way beyond the temple arches to the boundary plinth which carried the steps down to the river at their eastern end. A plinth some three feet wide on its level top that jutted into the stream, till it finished, with the steps, in a square bastion a little beyond them and some five feet higher. On this he was secure from any attack behind him and as the steps descended, the straight plinth naturally grew higher and hither; so as he retreated slowly, he gained freedom also from side rushes; until at last he had only to combat the few who followed him along the level plinth. But by this time, the silence was broken, the effort after secrecy was gone. An Indian town is ever but half asleep, even in the dead of night, and the quarter around the temple was now thoroughly aroused. Then the guardians who had been posted at the gates had joined in the hubbub of their fellows so that the populace, finding free ingress, was swarming in with shouts and cries. What the turmoil was about none knew, but sticks and stones began to appear, and it took little time for most of them to realise that the man, who by now could be seen above the crowd edging his way along the bastion wall, was a cursed Melchcha, that he was defiling the temple, and uttering blasphemies against the Great Mother of all. Some, startled, muttered that the voice was the voice of the Miracle, but most were content with joining in the general commotion, while some added fuel to the flame by saying that a woman was at the bottom of the business.

So, step by step, as slowly as he dared, Fred Ffolliott retreated, listening ever, and noting, by reason of his elevation above the crowd, that the unconscious man bound to the sacrificial stake, and the woman—who, powerless to move, had sunk on the ground—were alike forgotten; at any rate for the time. And relief must come ere long. So step by step he retreated, the long handle of the axe and the razor-like sharpness of the weapon giving him advantage, while his mocking voice rose now from the skies, now from the cavernous arches of the temple where the idol stood, in contemptuous raillery at the impotence of Mai Kâli, Her Miracle, Her priests. None hearing could forget; none listening could fail to grip their message of disdain, of careless mastery. It checked some, who paused in amazement; but the boys and the bullies pressed forward.

And still no hint of rescue!

Fred Ffolliott set his teeth, and his retreat became slower. Yet, with life hanging in the balance, he could not afford to be disabled; so every atom of the man sprang to swift defence. The beads of perspiration dripped from him like blood, his breath came fast and loud. He was not a yard now from the end of the plinth, but he fought possession of it gamely. Then a big bully armed with an iron-shod lathi aimed at his head. He parried it by a half inch; but other antagonists came on fast and furious. It seemed as if the end had come, when sudden and sharp a whistle rose above the growing clamour; quick on it followed the rattle of a machine gun. A sudden inrush of sheer vitality seemed to inform the slim figure, now plainly visible by the many, sharply outlined against the blackness of the sacred river. With a swift yell of “St. George and Merrie England,” it flung the axe dexterously at the crowd below it, turned like lightning, and the next instant the gurgling cloop of a practised diver striking deep water told where the stream had been met by one long, high leap.

It was echoed by half-a-dozen others from the steps as some of the assailants essayed capture. But here again, devil-may-care pluck had the advantage in that forward dive, and Fred Ffolliott, swimming under water, struck boldly upstream and was seen no more. He had done what he set himself to do. He had gained time. And quite unconsciously he had done more than this; by his reckless jibings and mockings he had sown the seed of something that had far-reaching consequences.

For the present, however, the general turmoil was too great to permit of anything but strenuous opposition on both sides. The first relief party of constables, finding itself overmatched, had sent for the military, and it was past dawn ere Colonel Morrison, with the officer in command, could secure free entrance to the temple, while desultory fighting was going on in half the neighbouring lanes and gullies. It was only indeed by patrols of cavalry and a few aeroplanes overhead that the whole city was prevented from rising.

Over what?

None knew—or knowing, kept silence. And the only three people who could have told were not there. Fred Ffolliott had disappeared for ever; in search, doubtless, of new adventures, and neither the young policeman nor Maya Day were to be found; though, as no one knew of their having anything to do with the matter, this occasioned no surprise. The temples, when the gates were finally forced, were found to be as usual at that hour, almost empty. The Mâhârâj’s dead body had been removed and no sign of the past tragedy remained.

“I want to know what the devil it was all about,” said Colonel Morrison fretfully to John Anderson, who had come down to give aid to the wounded, “but I haven’t the least idea. We got an urgent S.O.S. wireless from somewhere or other—there are crowds of them—unregistered, illicit, all over the town, I know—I came down at once, found the place in a blaze—half Puranabad seething, sent for the military, and we escaped a real bad business by the skin of our teeth; yet I haven’t the least idea how the row originated—have you?”

John Anderson shook his head. “Something about a woman I expect; but we shall find out ere long. Meanwhile, as things seem quieting down in most satisfactory fashion, I think I shall be off and begin my rounds. I’m rather anxious about young Hastings—and he’s all alone—more’s the pity.” He looked at Lucy’s father almost angrily, and the latter coughed a trifle apologetically; fathers have often to be apologetic nowadays. It was true, the doctor thought, as he drove homewards escorted by a guard of police, the people were settling down with remarkable rapidity. The sherbet sellers’ shops were opening, and round one quite a posse of men were gossiping. They stood up and salaamed as he passed, and he overheard a remark from an old man whose caste marks showed him to be of the innermost Brahmanical circle:

“For sure, ’twas deceit from the beginning. There was no Miracle.”

“Then the Mother did not ask for blood,” said another.

Chapter XXII

A word is but a thought made manifest,
We keep tongues silent; but our minds attest
That which we will not say. An idle word
Is ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ when doubt is in our breast.

The world of Nawapura and Puranabad had apparently recovered its equanimity, when Dr. Anderson drove through it an hour or two later. It is true that constables were patrolling some of the bazaars, and that at the bridge, a machine gun guarded by a few soldiers was posted; but there seemed to be no necessity for either, and the guardians of the peace themselves seemed to wonder what they were at. It was curious; but of late everything had come more or less as a surprise, and the doctor felt it was wise to be prepared for anything.

Yet, as finding the door set wide he entered the young policeman’s bedroom from the verandah with a cheery “Good morning” on his lips, he was dumbfounded to find it empty.

“Good Lord! what a young fool,” he ejaculated to himself, and gave the low whistle which invariably brought instant attendance from any servant within hearing.

“When did the chota sahib go out?” he queried of the bearer who came running. The man gave a quick glance at the empty bed, and the instant’s hesitation in his answer assured the questioner that it was not the truth.

“About the second jackal’s cry, Huzoor.”

The doctor looked round. A watch was still lying on the table by the bedside, but there was no sign in the room of any clothes.

“His uniform?” he queried again, “did he put it on?”

This time the man was ready, if evasive. “The Huzoor doubtless put it on before going out.”

“You mean you did not see him put it on,” was the quick retort, “that you were away, you scoundrel, in the bazaars, instead of obeying my orders and being at hand in case you were wanted. If I’d time, I’d give you a good hiding, but I haven’t.”

A relieved expression came to the man’s face—he promptly held his ears with both hands, cried “Tobah! Tobah!” discreetly, and confessed he had been away; but only for a space so long as a mosquito’s buzzing. When he came back, his young master had dressed and gone.

“Young fool!” muttered the doctor, as he drove off to enquire if Colonel Morrison had sent his subordinate anywhere. As likely as not; for there had been a coolness and a dryness between young Hastings and Lucy’s father since the engagement had been broken off, and the latter might not have been—well—considerate.

The bearer, infinitely relieved, watched the buggy drive off. He had managed to allay wrath, and there would have been no use in telling the doctor-sahib that the uniform was waiting to be brushed—no use at all! So he locked it up in his “go-down,” and went back to his quarters to await developments.

“Send him on duty?” exclaimed the Colonel, whom John Anderson found already at his office, and looking distinctly irate. “Certainly not, after what you said last night, though the young fool doesn’t deserve much consideration from me; but they are all the same nowadays, thoughtless—irresponsible——”

“Then he must have gone off on his own,” interrupted the doctor.

“Doubt it—Here! Inspector! Has E-stink sahib Bahadur been seen anywhere? Was he down in the troubled area last night?”

“Huzoor—no!” came the reply.

“There you are!” went on the Colonel vexedly. “Absent without leave, and an additional worry when I really don’t know if I’m standing on my head or my heels.”

“Nothing fresh, I hope,” put in John Anderson quickly.

“Far from it,” replied the perplexed official. “The city is abnormally, almost unhealthily quiet. But there is a cock-and-bull story going round of a disguised jogi who began the row by blaspheming Mai Kâli, swearing there had been no Miracle, boasting he was the Miracle, and making voices come from Heaven—and I suppose Hell—absolutely unreliable. And the Mâhârâj—he’s dead, you know——”

“Dead?” echoed John Anderson.

“They say he had a fit in his rage and died. What is more, they burnt the body at dawn without notice. Strictly illegal; but there it is. I wonder what the devil is at the bottom of it all?”

“So do I,” said the doctor. “Meanwhile what is to be done about young Hastings? He really wasn’t fit to leave his bed—I was afraid of blood poisoning—the wound looked very nasty——”

“Leave him alone, for the present at any rate,” growled the superior officer. “He hasn’t come to harm in the town. Indeed, there are surprisingly few casualties—none fatal—thanks to the military only using blank cartridges and scabbards. The police will get to work, of course. He’ll turn up, I expect, before evening.”

But about noon, while the professor was lecturing, an urgent ’phone came asking him to come up to the Central Police Office in recess time. He found Colonel Morrison very grave.

“Young Sen,” he said, “came here soon after you left and—Maya Day has disappeared also.”

Despite his intimate knowledge of Charles Hastings, and his absolute belief in Maya Day’s goodness, John Anderson could not help looking at the Colonel as a man of the world will look when lads and lasses disappear simultaneously.

“Yes!” continued the Colonel— “And—I didn’t send for you till we made enquiries. She went about ten o’clock last night, saying she was going to sit in the garden—and she took her jewels with her. Joined to what has happened—it—it is suspicious.”

“I don’t believe it for a moment,” began the doctor, then the remembrance of mutual passion came to make him pause. His experience told him that in such cases anything might happen. “The pity of it! The pity of it!”

“We had better keep it dark as long as we can,” he said. “Even if—if what you suggest is true—it is better to give time.”

The Colonel nodded. “You’d better tell Hastings’ bearer that I sent him away on duty.” And the doctor nodded in his turn.

But though the people of the country can easily manage to keep things concealed from the alien, it is nigh impossible for the alien to do anything in secret from the populace. Next morning a miserable broadsheet, emanating from the most disloyal press in the town, gave out Maya Day’s disappearance, coupled with covert hints as to its cause.

“Confound their nose for garbage! said the Colonel, though his own mind was, by now, full of a great certainty, “and there is that crazy fellow Blennerhasset kicking up the devil’s own row. The Sens and that young Ditter—why he mixes himself up in it I can’t think—told him last night she had gone, and he will have it she has been abducted by the Mâhârâj. I’ve told him the brute is dead and burnt—that there is no evidence of any violence; but he won’t believe it—I really think he’ll have to be told the truth.”

“If it is the truth,” remarked John Anderson slowly.

“My dear sir,” put in the Colonel, “what other explanation is there to offer? I think he ought to be told how matters stand, if only to stop him from wiring to Viceroys and Presidents. You’re attending him, and can tell him better than I can.” The Colonel was always modest about his own powers when any disagreeable duty turned up that he could shift on to other shoulders.

So the professor had to undertake the task. By this time Nigel Blennerhasset had recovered from the clout over the head which had stunned him; but he was still sitting with wet bandages on, and a very black eye showing beneath them. And he was almost tearful.

“Here am I, laid low by those ruffianly cowards,” he said excitedly, “and the dearest, the sweetest, the best woman in the world abandoned to her horrible fate. It’s monstrous! Incredible! I have just wired our President, and perhaps he will be able to stir up you laggards to something like honourable conduct.”

It was on this that the professor told him that there was another possible explanation of the disappearance. At first he was scornful, incredulous. It was impossible. Miss Day positively disliked Captain Hastings—what indeed could she have in common with him? Everything about him was antagonistic to her pure ideals.

“There you are mistaken,” put in John Anderson quietly. “This is in confidence, of course, and I only tell you to prevent your making a fool of yourself until we get at the truth—but I happen to know they were very much in love with each other.”

“In love? What of that?” echoed the man who had persistently preached that love was the end and aim of life; but he hid his face in his hands, and when he looked up he was white with passion.

“If that is so—and I don’t believe you’re lying,” he said, “it ends it—so far as I am concerned. She has given up—everything—and I—I—for a man who is good-looking and plays tennis well! It’s—it’s sickening. But I’ve been made a fool of all through by these devilish people, and the sooner I get away the better. Yes! if you think I’m fit to travel, I’ll start by to-morrow’s steamer. Our—I mean my passage is booked in it—and—and—My God! I shall be glad to leave this land of disappointment and regrets.”

The doctor did not say, as he might have done, that many people in that land would welcome his departure; but he put no obstacles in the way of an immediate one, saying that a sea voyage was indicated by shattered nerves, and that it might as well come at once. So the very next morning Nigel Blennerhasset was carried on board, being seen off by a crowd of so-called friends. The Sens, the Ditters, also Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, whose big brown eyes were full of silent sympathy. It was this silence, indeed, which struck home to the unfortunate man. Whatever their thoughts might have been, not one of them mentioned Maya Day.

“It is time Lucy was told,” said the doctor, looking in on the Colonel’s office after seeing his patient safely aboard. “People are beginning to think, and it won’t be long before they speak. It is better she shouldn’t hear of it from outside.”

The Colonel coughed deprecatingly. “You tell her, Anderson! After a clergyman, the proper person to tell bad news is the doctor—always the doctor! And I should get cursing the d——d young scoundrel!” This was the first spoken intimation of the conclusion to which he had come; and the doctor, as with a shrug of the shoulders he set himself to the disagreeable task, could not but feel that the conclusion was not unwarrantable. Yet the pity of it struck him most of all. The girl had been so full of self-sacrifice, so secure in her own integrity; and the boy—poor lad—with fever on him, to say nothing of that sleeping draught. Morphia sometimes was an excitant when given through the mouth. Why hadn’t he used the hypodermic? On such trivialities did tragedy depend. He felt very bitter, inclined to blame himself and all the world beside. For what? For ruining a lad’s career. He found Lucy cool and dainty as ever, reading a French novel. She threw it aside as he entered and asked quickly—

“How is Captain Hastings? I heard from father the wound wasn’t doing well. I hope I did nothing wrong?”

“You did everything that was right, my dear lady. Even the best surgeon can’t sometimes prevent—er—trouble—I wish I could.” Then he paused. It was difficult to begin his tale; she seemed so far removed from the baseness, the meanness of it. For, tell it as kindly as he could, the story was mean, was base. She was too quick for him, however. She looked at him and with that curious feminine prescience which is, at times, so remarkable, said quickly: “You have something to tell me—what is it?”

Even so, it was difficult for him to put into words what, nevertheless, was undoubtedly in his mind. She looked at first puzzled, then incredulous. And when she gripped his meaning, her lip set, her eyes flashed as she stood up and faced him. “How dare you!” she exclaimed. “How dare you even hint——”

And then to his dismay her face broke up with emotion, she sank back on the sofa, and hid her flood of tears in the cushions.

He was utterly unprepared for this, and manlike thought it best to let her sobs have way; so he walked over to the window and looked out. But when the sobs went on, he walked back again and laid his hand gently on the pretty disorder of her pretty hair. “My poor child,” he said, pity in his voice. “I didn’t know you cared so much for him.”

“For him?” she echoed on her feet in a second, her tear-stained face blazing at him defiantly. “Who was thinking about him? I wasn’t—one never can quite count on a man! I was thinking of her—How dare you suppose—I tell you it is impossible—impossible——

Dr. Anderson felt inclined to give a low whistle; it seemed to him the only adequate expression of his amazement; but he only said, lamely—

“I beg your pardon. I’m sorry I—I mean I am glad you think, or rather you don’t think——”

“There is no thinking about it,” retorted the girl superbly. “I am quite certain.” Here she pushed back her hair from her forehead recklessly. “I tell you she couldn’t—why! She came here and told me—and I was a beast. I—I wouldn’t let myself understand—not then. I tell you something has happened. How long ago was it? Thirty-six hours? Oh! What a lot of time wasted because of your evil thoughts.” She had crossed the room and was putting on her hat, which was lying beneath a mirror.

“Where are you going?” he asked blankly.

“Going?” she echoed. “Why, to Boy’s house, of course. You’re going to drive me there. All this time, and you’ve found out nothing—nothing! But men are no use, unless they’re the Sherlock Holmes sort; and very few of them are that.”

Her cheeks were crimson, her eyes were aflame and her hand shook as she seized on her gloves; she was evidently talking, as it were, against herself, against her almost overwhelming anxiety.

There was nothing to be done but to obey; so together they drove to the little square-set bungalow. The doors were closed, but at the doctor’s whistle the bearer came running; pausing an instant as if in alarm at the sight of the Miss-baba. Yet she said nothing and looked sweetness itself. She walked into the sitting-room, glanced round her, then went on into the bedroom. But she was back in a moment; and then, but not till then, her soft voice was heard.

“Where are the chota sahib’s night-things? If he got on his uniform, he can’t have put it on over his pyjamas. Bring them.”

Vaguely, the man knew that his hour was come, but he struggled to escape.

“Huzoor!” he murmured and disappeared into the bedroom to return with what he had been sent to fetch.

“Those haven’t been worn—you took them out of the drawer,” came the girl’s inexorable voice. “I want the ones he took off.”

There was another desperate flounder. “Miss sahiba, washerman got—give him yesterday.”

“Then why didn’t you give him the shirt—the one with the torn sleeve that’s in the bath-room? And how is it that you didn’t take away the Captain-sahib’s uniform to brush—or did you?”

The miserable man was by this time shivering.

“I believe you did,” continued the girl scornfully. “Yes—you did—and—and—— Give me the keys of your lock-up place—d’you hear me?”

A few seconds more and the missing uniform was found. It was all done so quickly, and with such absolute dexterity, that John Anderson could only smile inanely. But Lucy’s eyes were sombre.

“I told you it was a mistake,” she said. “He was carried off—out of his bed most likely—but why—and what does it mean? It isn’t robbery or—or the mean thing you thought it was. What is it? Murder?” Her face had paled, had become tragic. Then she continued, following up her own thought— “But they could have done that here.” She gave a little shudder, “but they didn’t. So it is something else; what is it? What is it?—what is it?”

He could but shake his head. Deprived of the ordinary, almost sensible explanation, he had none other to offer.

The girl, however, was not long inactive. “The first thing to be done,” she said curtly, “is to look through his papers, and see if there are any that throw any light—any clue.”

“I quite agree,” answered the man. “After I’ve driven. you home I’ll go round to the Brigade-Major and he can wire the Adjutant-General.”

Lucy’s face was a study. “Do you think I’m going to wait for Brigade-Majors and Co.?” she asked scornfully, as she sate down to the writing-table, rummaged in a drawer, produced a bunch of keys, and thereafter set to work on a despatch-box.

“But, my dear Lucy,” remonstrated the doctor, “we really have no right.”

She was busy over a bundle of papers and now threw one over the table at him.

“There you are!” she said. “That will set you free, my dear man, of Adjutant-Generals.” She spoke with hardihood: but there were sudden tears in her eyes.

John Anderson glanced at what was given him. It was a short holograph will, signed Charles Henry Hastings, Capt., leaving everything to his dearest dear Lucy, and appointing John Anderson, M.D., as his sole executor. As he read a lump came to his throat, and this time he was not in the least surprised to see her head down on the table and hear the sobs she sought vainly to check.

“You poor child!” he said. “Let me take you home. I’ll finish this—it’s my business, you know, and to-morrow morning—it’s getting dark—and you’ve done splendidly. I’ll go round to the office when I’ve seen you home. No time will be lost. Come, my dear——”

She made no objection and did not open her lips as they drove through the gathering dusk. Only, as he handed her out of the buggy at the verandah steps she looked up in his face with scared eyes and said quietly—”I—I hope they didn’t torture him.”

And he had nothing to say—nothing that would have brought denial home to her; for there was nothing in his heart.

It was quite possible they might—and he knew it.

As he drove along the Mall to the Central Post Office to lay his information, the sound of music and dancing feet came from the club. And a little further on, the other side of the way, even more aggressive jazz tunes came sounding out from the new club-house which had been lately opened by young Indians as a protest against their exclusion from the old original one. And here, as he was passing, a voice, musical, cultured, pleasant, but with a ring in it that was not quite English, called out to him from a group of young Indians, who, some with cycles, some without, were standing at the gateway.

“Come in, doctor, and have a drink. We shall be delighted if you will. We’re not exclusive, you know, like the shop over the way.”

And there was a little, quite courteous, chuckle from the group.

John Anderson, as, with a laughing excuse he drove on, seemed to hear those words of Lucy’s in his ears:

“I hope they didn’t torture him.”

Inconceivable, incredible divergence! Unbelievable contradiction of actualities!

Yet both were true.

Chapter XXIII

Forgotten? Or Remembered? Which stands first
In the mind’s panoply? Our best, our worst
Are hidden there. Shall we forget our good
At the Last Day, and be by memory curst?

The dawn was breaking pellucid over the wide stretches of cornland, where the springing wheat was touching the brown earth with a faint film of green, when John Anderson, having a busy day before him, drove in at the wide gateway—so ridiculously wide in comparison with the insignificant little bungalow to which it gave approach—that led to Captain Hastings’ house. He had spent half the night in futile consultation with many officials, and now, in pursuance of his promise to lose no time, he intended to make a thorough search through the missing man’s papers for any clue which might serve to put enquiry on the right track; for at present no one could even suggest any direction in which to start. It was evident that the young man had been abducted by people well accustomed to similar exploits; abducted with the utmost secrecy and stealth by professional thieves. But with what purpose? and wherefore? No one could suggest anything: it became necessary, therefore, to leave no stone unturned in the search for information.

As he drove up to the house the doctor was somewhat surprised and not a little annoyed to see that the doors both of the sitting-room and the bedroom were wide open; for he had not only given strict orders to close them the night before, but had himself seen to the fast shutting up of the sitting-room. It was early hours, however, for servants to be about, so, throwing the reins to the groom he walked into the bedroom. But on the threshold, he stood literally transfixed with surprise; for on the bed lay Charles Hastings apparently fast asleep. Hardly able to credit his eyes, John Anderson stepped up to the bed and appraised the sleeper professionally. Even breathing, a faint wholly natural flush on the cheeks; and—either sound asleep, or unconscious. He raised the left wrist in order to feel the pulse, and the instant response of the muscles as the whole arm moved as if to push away the touch showed him that it was heavy sleep— drugged sleep. Most likely opium. What was more, a quiver of the eyelids told him that the effect of the narcotic was passing off.

The doctor looked round the room helplessly; but nothing unusual was to be seen. The watch still lay on the table: and by all the gods! someone must have wound it up and set it at the right time; for it was ticking away serenely and the hands marked 6:30. That could not be far wrong. Mechanically he looked at his own watch; two minutes’ difference—no more.

He sate down on the chair by the bedside and wondered if he was awake. Then he began to take stock, as it were, of what he saw. The wounded arm was bound up—in native fashion, it was true—but skilfully done; and from the ease with which it rested on the breast he judged it could not be giving trouble.

But what was that pinned to the bandage? A folded scrap of native paper. Dr. Anderson looked closer and saw one word on it, one word only—


He sate down again, feeling absolutely at a loss. It was useless attempting to unravel the mystery. That must be left for young Hastings when he came to himself. But what ought to be done now? Clearly Lucy Morrison had the prior right to the note. She must be fetched; and at once, if there was to be any chance of secrecy—and this might be necessary.

So he gave his low whistle, and when the bearer appeared breathlessly he said quite coolly: “Your master came home last night, and as you see, has gone to bed. I expect he was tired; so let him sleep. I shall be back shortly.”

As he drove over to the Morrisons’ house he did not attempt to formulate any explanation of the facts; they had gone beyond him. And when, it being still ridiculously early, he sate waiting for Lucy Morrison to appear, he occupied himself in watching, with curious interest, the servants go about their several tasks with that strict attention to routine and lack of result which is so exasperating in India. Even when the girl appeared, bearing evidences of having dressed in a great hurry, yet with eyes sunken in deep hollows that told of a sleepless night, he felt curiously disinclined to begin his astounding tale. But her quick question, uttered almost as she entered the room, brought him to his feet and senses.

“No!” he answered. “It is not bad news—it is good. He is asleep in his bed.”

“Asleep in his bed!” she echoed. “What do you mean?”

“And what’s more,” he went on stolidly, seeing her struggle not to break down, “he seems quite well. I came for you simply because there’s a paper pinned to the bandage on his arm——”

“A paper!” she echoed again, her voice quite faint with sheer amazement.

“Yes! addressed to you——”

She interrupted him. “From Maya?”

He shook his head. “How can I tell? How can anyone tell anything in this business? But I thought you ought to come and see. Will you?”

She nodded assent, and so, without another word, they started. There seemed, indeed, to be nothing more to say. The whole happening was so unexpected, so unreasonable that comment was useless. Only as she got out at the verandah of the little house, the girl looked up at her companion and said almost vindictively: “Of course it’s from Maya. You might have brought it, you know—for there’s nothing to conceal—nothing mean—you must see that now.”

He wondered vaguely if he did, as she went swiftly over to the sleeping figure, knelt down beside the low bed, unpinned the paper and read it. After all, it might——

Her low voice, reading aloud what the paper contained, checked his thought—

“For God’s sake, be kind to him.”

That was all; but it brought silence, and John Anderson walked to the window and looked outside where two sparrows were fighting over a straw each wished for its nest, partly to hide his own emotion, partly to give the girl time to recover her calm should she have lost it. But she had not. When he turned she was standing quite composedly by the bed, note in hand.

“Poor darling,” she said softly; but whether the remark was intended for the sleeping man, or the absent woman who had written the “For God’s sake, be kind to him,” the doctor did not know. He could not even guess.

Lucy herself had to pause in her wonder.

“I wish I knew,” she began, then stopped; to add more cheerfully, after a pause: “but he will be able to tell us, won’t he, when he wakes?”

“And that won’t be long now,” said the doctor evasively, “in fact he is beginning to stir; and as it will be less exciting and less strange if you are not here—I think it would be better if you were to go—don’t you think so?”

“Perhaps,” she replied, looking like a Sphinx, “but there is nothing to conceal, you know.”

Still, she went, and the doctor lit a cigarette, feeling that his nerves needed soothing. After all, there were two whole days unaccounted for, and the young man might——

“Hullo! old man,” came a voice from the bed interrupting his thought. “I’ve had the sleep of my life! That stuff you gave me last night was A.1. I feel pounds better. Bearer! you beast! Get my bath ready, will you?”

In an instant Dr. Anderson realised what had happened. For the immediate present, at any rate, it was useless to look for information from Charles Hastings. He evidently remembered nothing; the past two days were as if they had not been. But why? Such lapses of memory were common enough after concussion. Severe nervous strain, also, might induce them; but—so far as he knew—the young fellow had suffered neither of these evils. Meanwhile there was but one thing to be done; to soften the discovery of his forgetfulness to the patient as much as possible.

“All right,” said John Anderson cheerfully, “but before you rise let me have a look at your arm.”

“My arm?” echoed the young man, evidently a trifle puzzled. “Oh, yes! I got a jab in that row—and how is that miserable fool, Blennerhasset?”

No fault of memory there, thought the doctor as he undid the bandages. Then he looked at the wound incredulously. It was completely healed over. Some ointment with an extraordinarily aromatic, extraordinarily elusive scent had evidently been applied, for the room seemed full of the perfume. What was it? Nothing in any pharmacopoeia with which he was acquainted; of that he felt sure.

Not that it mattered, since everything was beyond the pale of practical experience, and he felt he was moving in a world unknown.

So, bidding the young man take his time and be sure to have something to eat ere starting out, since the city was quiet as the grave, and he wouldn’t be wanted, the professor drove over to the Morrisons.

“Do you mean to tell me,” almost roared the Colonel, when the tale had been unfolded to him, “that a man can be spirited away in the dead of the night and spirited back again—and then doesn’t remember anything about it?—it’s incredible.”

“So far as the spiriting goes, sir,” replied John Anderson caustically, “as Chief of the Police you ought to know what professional thieves can do—they boast that they can strip your sleeping suit from you without waking you. That seems to me quite possible. At any rate, they could come and go so noiselessly as not to rouse anyone. Then the loss of memory—for a longer or shorter time—isn’t unusual. What beats me is what caused it? At present he has not the slightest idea that he has forgotten; he believes it is the day before yesterday.”

“God bless my soul,” ejaculated the Colonel, “what a most extraordinary business! What’s to be done?” he added helplessly.

“Break it to him as gently as possible. So, with your permission, I will go and tell Lucy——”

“To be sure! To be sure!” assented her father, so relieved at having his duty taken off his hands that he forbore to ask any more questions.

But Lucy’s face was one vast query as she listened.

“But why?” she asked, fear in her voice—”what—what has made him forget?”

Dr. Anderson shook his head. “That remains to be found out—and—and we don’t know how much he forgets—you’ll have to find that out too—it—it may be a good deal——”

In truth he felt himself so far beyond ordinary experience that everything seemed possible; he attempted to get back to normal, however, by saying that memory might return as suddenly as it had apparently departed.

But the girl interrupted him almost impatiently. “I wasn’t thinking of that,” she said. “Boy will do very well, anyhow—he is always a little forgetful—nice men always are—but he is among friends. And she—Maya, I meant—may be anywhere—and she may have given up—oh!—everything—to send him back.” Her eyes were wide with dread; her hands gripped each other tightly.

“My dear girl!” interposed the doctor hastily, “for heaven’s sake don’t start that idea in his mind. Remember he can’t be normal—he requires care.”

Her whole face softened. “And he shall have it—but I must tell him about the note—no one else, of course, but he must know. It wouldn’t be fair to—to keep it from him.”

And from this position she refused to budge, despite protest; yet as she sate waiting for the man who had been her lover she felt sick at heart. How much would he remember, she wondered—— “For God’s sake, be kind to him.” The words echoed in heart and brain. Yes! she would be kind—no matter what had happened.

And, after all, there was no need to be so of set purpose. He came in as he had always come, like a breath of fresh morning air, and ere she knew why or wherefore she was in his arms, with a little cry, half sob, half laugh.

“Why? What’s up, girlie?” came his rich young voice. “Have I done anything awful?”

She looked up in his face then, and realised absolutely that here, by God’s grace, was the one man for her.

“No!” she replied, with something that was almost a giggle. “But I’m so glad you’ve come back to me.”

“Come back?” he echoed. “But I never went away, did I?”

So he didn’t even remember their estrangement; that, in a way, was a comfort. But she must find out how far forgetfulness went.

“Don’t you remember?” she began.

“I remember your kissing my arm to make it well,” he interrupted mischievously. “It was awfully nice of you—couldn’t you do it again?—just there.” And he pointed with her hand, which he still held, to his shoulder. If anyone had told Lucy Morrison a week before that she would do such a thing she would have indignantly denied it. But she did it. And after that they sate down on the sofa, and she told him as gently as she could how he had been missing for two whole days. And when she had finished that part of the story he sate, his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands, staring at the carpet for quite a long time.

“It’s awfully queer,” he said after a pause. “So it is the day after to-morrow.”

“Yes, dear,” she replied unable to repress a smile; “but I’ve something else to tell you—something more important. It is about Maya Day.”

He turned to her in an instant, his face alight.

“The girl who played tennis so well—Yes! I remember her.” He puckered his forehead slightly. “Yes! And that brute, Mâhârâj—Blennerhasset was quite right, of course, but he needn’t have been such a fool. Anything wrong with her? I hope not.”

Lucy stared at him incredulously. Could he really have forgotten everything that touched on what she knew to have been his passionate admiration? and a great pity for the woman who had sent him back, surged up in her—”Then you have forgotten?” she began.

“What?” he queried sharply.

And looking into his eyes, so clear, so unclouded, she found it impossible to answer his question. How could she without dimming their clarity? So her fingers tightened over the paper she had ready in her hand to give to him and she said in a low voice:

“Not much! Only I thought you might know she disappeared—I meant that she went away the same time that you did.”

He was on his feet in a second. “You don’t mean that beast abducted her?” he cried, his face aflame with quick anger.

“No! No!” she replied, feeling herself getting more and more entangled in all the mysterious happenings. “She must have gone away of her own accord, for she took her jewels with her.”

“Then why did you suppose I knew anything about it? You didn’t suppose I’d gone away with her, did you?” The scorn in his voice told its tale of, at any rate, absolute forgetfulness. That was the wonder of it! How was one to tell the facts? But her heart rejoiced in the truth of his instant denial. “No! Never! Never!”

“But other people did,” he continued savagely. “I’d like to kick the lot of them! Has no one heard anything of her—no one?”

He was walking up and down the room now excitedly. There was a perpendicular line between his bent eyebrows, and the doctor’s warning recurred to her and she held the paper still more firmly in her grip.

“I am not sure,” she said. “You had better ask father.”

When her lover had gone off as he did, in hot haste, to make enquiries, she asked herself why she had not been bold and told the truth. And she repeated the question to John Anderson when he came in later to see how explanations had gone on.

“Because you were wise,” replied the doctor. “If the truth is to come out, it had better do so of itself. He has had some great shock—or he has been drugged—perhaps both.”

“Drugged?” replied the girl. “Is there anything?”

“My dear young lady!” replied John Anderson captiously. “I really can’t say. I only know that some of their medicine men claim marvels, and I’ve had ocular demonstration of one. The healing of Hastings’ arm was simple magic. It seems to me that you and I—the only two who know the ins and outs of this infernal—I beg your pardon—business, must keep our heads screwed on very tight, or we shall find ourselves becoming balmy—and here comes Hastings to give us the finishing touch. For heaven’s sake let us lie wildly or we—and he are lost.”

In truth it was no easy matter to steer their way safely without sacrificing truth; for Charles Hastings’ forgetfulness was strangely partial. All his feeling for Maya Day seemed to have slipped from his memory, though he remembered most things about her, and everything about other people. More than once he alluded to the time when he had carried her into the house, though every time he did so, a puzzled look would come to his face, he would pass his hand over his forehead and say he was sure he had forgotten something. And as they listened, those two would look at each other doubtfully.

But the burden of his cry, the reason, he said, why he had been hunting the doctor from pillar to post, finally running him to earth at the Morrisons, was that he wanted to know—must know—if there was any clue to what had happened to produce this lapse of memory. To his knowledge he had not been knocked on the head, neither had he had any nervous shock. All the rest was comparatively easy. Sooner or later he would find out the miscreants who apparently had toted him about like a dummy. They must be professional thieves, and they generally fell out in the end. And Maya Day? He had been making enquiries about her, and had found out that she had talked of going away. Anyhow, he meant to find her, and to that end was going that very afternoon to Mai Kâli’s temple in order to cross-question the new authorities there, and make sure there was no hanky-panky. And all the while he was speaking, his eyes were troubled, and the upright wrinkle between his brows became more marked.

“Let Lucy drive you down in the car,” said John Anderson, “you told me the other day you had never seen the place,” he continued, turning to her with a meaning look. “And it is well worth seeing—once at any rate. If you’ll make it about four o’clock, I shall be close by and I can meet you there. They are more likely to tell me the truth than they are to tell it to you,” he added for the young policeman’s benefit.

But neither he nor Captain Hastings could get anything out of the extremely courteous, almost obsequious officials who were loud in their desire to afford every information. Doubtless there had been a great disturbance; so great that the late lamented Head had fallen in a fit from excitement and died. The cause of the disturbance? A drunken jogi, whom some said was a sahib in disguise, but who was well-known in the shrine as a bad liver, a disgrace to his holy profession, who had circulated blasphemies about the Great Mother. But surely the Huzoors knew of this, since it was common parlance?

And this being the case, the Huzoors had passed out of the corridor courtyard where the colloquy had taken place and found Lucy sitting on the steps leading down to the river, waiting for them. She spread out her hand over the shining water as they advanced and said:

“Perfectly lovely, isn’t it?”

And it was so. The lengthening beams of the sun turning the river to a shield of gold, the unsullied, unstained steps reflected in the pellucid water, the white spires of a shivala or two higher up the stream striking the sky, where already the blue was softening to a pale violet. And against this faintly-shadowed sky a flock of purple-necked white pigeons were fluttering about cornice and finial.

Peace absolute, thought John Anderson. Unrecognisable utterly from what it had been the last time he saw it. Not so long ago—barely two months.

“Yes! Jolly quiet and restful if you can forget the red crab behind you,” agreed the young policeman seating himself beside his dearest dear and hand-in-hand, with her turning to glance at the distorted misshapen idol half seen in the arches’ gloom. And then a strange thing happened. His face grew white as that of a corpse, his eyes fixed themselves on a sacrificial stake close at the feet of the Dread Mother, his hand pointing to it trembled like an aspen leaf—his voice came thick and harsh as he said in tones that startled his hearers—”Look! Look! It makes me sick to see it. I feel as if I were choking—my hands—my feet— Oh! come away, Lucy—don’t let’s stop in this awful place. Come away—come away! I tell you it is full of horrors——”

And they had come away; but that very same evening, John Anderson said to Lucy Morrison, “He must go away from here. Better still you should take him. Three months’ leave home would be a nice honeymoon. He would see his people, get out of the groove, and come back fit as a fiddle. Your father has to be in camp, so he wouldn’t mind.”

The girl looked at him and shook her head. “It would not be fair on her. We don’t know what she gave up to send him back—and it is hardly fair on him—while he doesn’t recollect. He might not wish——”

“My dear child,” broke in the doctor quite rudely, “don’t be a fool! Why refuse a child wholesome bread and butter because it once cried for but has forgotten a painted lollipop? You know, as well as I do, that in his sober senses Hastings couldn’t marry Maya Day, and, what is more, she would not have him. So what is the use of talking sentimental rubbish? Marry the lad and take him away. It’s his best chance of happiness.”

But once again Lucy was adamant. Nothing of the sort could be thought of until they had definite news of Maya Day. And deep down in John Anderson’s heart, despite the hard practical common-sense he showed to the outside world, there lurked the belief that when news did come, it would be tragic. He could not have told why this conviction came; he tried to ignore it, but it was there. Understanding as he did, better than most Englishmen, the mentality of India, he knew its incalculable possibilities; behind all its modernities, he saw the ancient rule, fixed, firm as ever.

Thus when, a day or two later, on passing through the college quadrangle on his way to his lecture room, he saw a knot of eager students crowding round the notice board, it gave him a shock of surprised relief when on going over to see what attracted them, Prem-nâth rushed at him with the words

“It is from the Madr Mihrban! See you, Huzoor, she remembers her Myrmidons. Shall I read you—shall I translate——”

But the doctor was a linguist; and the paper pinned to the notice board had been penned by a practised writer of Sanskrit, so it was legible to him:

“Greetings to ye, my dear disciples. In a fair still spot I sit and send ye peace—the peace that is not Self, but is Self’s very Self. Remember ye, there is true Knowledge; that which sees one changeless Life in all the lives of men. There is false knowledge, also, that which holds all men, all things apart and separate. There is a Love which centres on its Love, and there is Love which lives eternal by Forgetfulness. Grieve not ye hear my voice no more. Lo! I am well and happy, and I will return to sing of Love and Peace and Kindliness. But ye must listen—listen for my voice.”

It was signed with Maya Day’s full name and the lads, who crowded round, were uproarious with delight; but as John Anderson made out what he could of the meaning, he felt a chill creep over him.

Still it was news.

“‘I am well and happy,’ she said that,” commented Lucy Morrison when she heard of the letter, “but when and how did it come?”

“It was pinned on to the notice board last night,” replied John Anderson. He had not thought it necessary to give his hearers the full text of Maya’s message; and as they were not Sanskrit scholars there was no chance of their becoming aware of it.

“Well and happy,” repeated Lucy, glancing at her lover. “Are you content, dear?” There was a tremor in her voice.

“Quite content,” he said simply. “If I could only remember what happened to me during those two days, I should be happy also. But I am beginning to remember—I remembered to-day that you and I quarrelled, about something; but what it was I couldn’t recollect. Do you?”

She went up to him and slipped her hand into his arm.

“I think it was because I refused to give you a kiss,” she said; “but it won’t happen again.”

It was just a fortnight after this that John Anderson stood on the platform to bid the young couple good luck, amid a crowd of well-wishers. And when the train had steamed off, and the ladies were criticising the bride’s dress, and the gentlemen were praising the bride’s looks, a sudden feeling that reality lay behind the wedding cake, and the favours, and even the bishop’s address to the newly-married pair came across him, and instead of driving to the club where Mrs. Llewellyn Davies assured him she was most anxious to have his opinion on the possibility of encouraging miscegenation, he turned the flea-bitten Arab to where he knew he would find old Akâs Râm watching the derelict petals. It was ever a mental rest to watch with him.

Chapter XXIV

My caravan of prayers goes out at dawn
Eve finds it still, with weary feet and worn
Seeking the Gate of Heaven—All in vain
God hears not! Nor is grief from me withdrawn.

“The Huzoor has been at a wedding,” said the old pandit, pointing to the favour which still adorned the professor’s coat. “Lo! I heard the church bells an hour agone. They made great clatter; but Mai Kâli’s gong over the water is better metal. It speaks longer.”

As he spoke the familiar deep-toned knell echoed over the river, and the professor, yielding to a sudden impulse of impatience, almost of resentment, unpinned from his coat the rosette of white satin ribbon and orange blossom and flung it far into the stream among the spent petals of jasmine and marigold. “There!” he said, half to himself, “let them fight it out—sink, or swim!”

And he sate watching awhile, and the old man watched also, as the favour bobbed and sidled amid the little swirls of the stream. It did bravely, sitting upright in the water, the white satin bows serving as a sail as it sped swiftly down the river cleaving a way through the flotsam and jetsam of dead flowers. And, as he watched, a new determination to get to the bottom of the whole business, if he could, came to the man who prided himself on knowing most things that were to be known. So at last he turned to the old man and said casually:

“Have you any idea as to where the thieves who carried off the chota police-wallah, took him, and why?”

He had not previously mentioned the abduction to anyone; indeed, so carefully had the secret been kept, that very few British people were aware that two whole’ days were missing in Charles Hastings’ life. The question, therefore, which contained several assumptions, was framed so as to find out how much the old man knew; but he was on his guard.

“It’s beyond the realm of thought,” he replied cheerfully. Then he added after his usual custom, “and there are so many robbers of which the Huzoors know nothing though they have made a ‘cinsus’ of every naked mendicant in India.”

“You mean,” put in John Anderson quickly, “that the mendicants are likely to be the thieves in this case?”

“Huzoor,” replied the old man suavely, “God knows, and since naught was taken, so they say, why thieves at all?”

“So they say?” echoed the doctor. “Then you know all about it?”

“I know what folk say, Huzoor,” assented the pandit blandly. “Many men pass my door, and the steps by the river are restful—as the Protector of the Poor doubtless finds himself.”

The suave courteousness of the reply did not prevent its being a distinct rebuff, and John Anderson, warned by previous experiences in conversing with the descendant of prime ministers, knew it was useless to continue on that tack. But, somehow, the distant glimpse still to be had of the wedding favour gaily holding its own, even when it collided for an instant with the white-swathed remains of mortality on its way to the all-embracing sea, stiffened his determination and he chose another line of attack.

“And how about the jogi who caused the trouble at Mai Kâli’s temple? Did he exist? Or is it only a make-up?”

Akâs Râm’s face grew keen. “It is true, Huzoor,” he replied. “Did I not tell the Protector of the Poor from the first that there was no Miracle? And there was none. It was only a bad walking jogi with the gift of many voices. And so folk see; that is why they are so quiet. It is strange, Huzoor, how little turns the scale one way or the other. If the Huzoors could only learn how little they would rule better.”

John Anderson did not care to dispute the point, his mind was set on turning the conversation into his own channel.

“Then some of these wandering mendicants have this gift, have they?” he asked. “I did not think what we call ventriloquism was known in India.”

Akâs Râm gave a little half-laugh. “There be few things, Huzoor, that the true ascetics do not know,” he replied almost bombastically.

“Love philtres and that sort of thing,” continued John Anderson, following his own line of thought relentlessly. “Drugs that make you forget——”

The old man smiled. “Love needs little to make it forget,” he interposed, “but doubtless they have it——”

“And ointments that heal wounds miraculously,” went on the doctor, and pandit Akâs Râm turned sharply—

“Where did the Huzoor gain knowledge of that—in the Holy Book?” he asked. “Lo! in those days they healed the wounds of the mighty with an ointment made of flowers that bloomed once in a thousand years, an ointment whose perfume filled the whole world.”

John Anderson was conscious of a distinct thrill from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head: but he said stolidly:

“Do they make it now?”

“Now?” echoed the old man derisively. “Nay! Huzoor, not now! Such things suit not to-day. The very secret of the preparation is forgotten——” he paused. “There is but one man who might remember somewhat——”

“Is he a jogi—a mendicant?” asked John Anderson in the ensuing silence, fearful, as he spoke, lest a direct question should dry up the fount of information as it did so often.

“Huzoor, no—and yet, yes. To the sahib-logue he would be but an ash-smeared nakedness; but to those who know, he is learned indeed. He it is of whom I spoke once before when the Huzoor brought the sahib who was not quite a sahib to see this slave. He, who having partaken of Self, knows the Self beyond the Self.”

The thrill—to his intense disgust—seemed to have invaded John Anderson’s mind as well as his body. He rose up, feeling outraged by his own susceptibility.

“You mean,” he began, but at the moment the mellow booming clang of Mai Kâli’s bell echoed over the river, and somehow held him silent!

“He lives in the Thousand-Tree-Valley,” went on the old man dreamily; “perchance the Huzoor might see him some day if he chose.”

If he chose? As John Anderson drove back to the club, he asked himself if he would choose. He could not say for certain. It was all sheer nonsense, of course, and yet there was something at the very bottom of his mind which prevented him from accepting the common-sense solution of Charles Hastings’ abduction and Maya Day’s disappearance. Practically they had nothing to do with each other. She had gone off with intent, most likely from excess of emotionality, to make a retreat. Her failure to say where she had gone, in fact all the mystery of the business was pure hysteria. Even the note she had pinned to the lad’s bandage—if indeed she had pinned it—was——? Well, it might be many things. The men who had carried off Charles Hastings must have done so in hope of ransom. Maya had her jewels, she might have paid the ransom. They were most likely professional mendicant thieves—Akâs Râm had rather given himself away over that—if so, they might, by chance, have taken their captive to the place whither Maya had retreated—The place——

And then suddenly from the depth of the doctor’s clear common-sensical brain, leapt the idea which had been hidden there for so long—”The Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees.”

Once it came to light, the idea obsessed him. He wondered he had not formulated it before. It seemed to open up possibilities. Even if it did not? At any rate, he would have seen the place and that in itself was a gain. And it was beginning to seem, intolerable to him, that no one should try to unravel the mystery, that no one should know what—what had been done?

The memory of Maya Day’s face as he had seen her, seated in his office room, her hands almost bloodless with the fierce pressure of her grip upon herself, mixed itself up with those two radiantly happy faces amid the showers of confetti and old shoes. Yes! somebody, for pity’s sake, must try and get at the truth!

So a day or two later he went over to the little Secretary, whom he found in his private office room with Mrs. Llewellyn Davies doing watch and ward while she filled muslin bags with sticky sweets; for a Christmas Tree was looming in the near future.

“I came over,” said the professor after sundry gushes from the good lady, “to say, Davies, that I think you had better put Halliday on as medical to the L.G.’s Christmas camp. I’ve been a bit off colour of late, and if you can spare me, I shall go off into the jungles for a week’s quiet shooting. There are good snipe jheels north of the Akâs hill, and there’s nothing like snipe for steadying one’s nerve.”

“Oh! you mustn’t,” exclaimed the lady, her big brown eyes full of enthusiastic appeal. “I do so want you to see Mr. Satavanatya as Father Christmas. The white beard shows up so beautifully on his—his—er—brunette skin. And he doesn’t in the least mind doing it, though he is an Arya Somâjh man—so nice of him, isn’t it? Oh! there he is coming to try on his costume,” and the good lady floated away with her sweets and her bags.

“Nothing further has been heard about the mysterious jogi who started the row?” asked John Anderson when the room was clear.

“Nothing,” replied the Secretary. “Of course it is possible, as the police seem to think, that young Ffolliott—you remember what a hit he made in those theatricals, don’t you?—was at the bottom of it, but he has disappeared——” here his voice became confidential. “The fact is, Anderson, that in an old civilisation like this in India, there is such a confounded amount of dregs down below that the less they are disturbed the better. Heaps of things one doesn’t understand are best left alone. The—the detritus of centuries will eventually solidify; but at present—er—one gets out of one’s depth——” and here the little man having got out of his depth in metaphor, was silent.

“Yes!” assented John Anderson dryly. “What with the dregs at the bottom, and the scum at the top, it is a little difficult to know where one stands.”

And this feeling remained with him as he made his preparations for what he knew would be much more a search in the dregs, than a shooting excursion. Experience had taught him that if you wished to gather information it was fatal to take servants with you; they simply built up a wall between you and the people, and extorted baksheesh right and left. So he proposed managing for himself as he had often managed before. The first thing to be done, however, was to get hold of Akâs Râm and persuade him if possible to act as guide to the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees. He found this easier than he expected; in fact the old man rather jumped at the idea.

“God knows,” he said, “but that being old and nigh to death, I may find what I found not in youth— And see you, even my pupils seek holiday at the Big Day like the Sahibs. Thus I will come for a space and with me I will bring a disciple—that half-witted one Prem-nâth knows all the rituals, and that will be useful mayhap, God knows!”

That was exactly John Anderson’s feeling. “He knows or perhaps He knows it not.” Over and over again he said to himself that he was a fool: that there was no reason why he should fash himself about a girl who most likely—being of that semi-hysterical, wholly religious sort—was quite happy in some hermitage or other. Over and over again he told himself that he really was going snipe-shooting, and nothing else. Yet he knew that his real object was to get into touch if possible, with the monstrosity who, having partaken of Self, knew the Self within the Self.

Of course it was all balderdash—but what if it wasn’t?

What if deep down in what the little Secretary had called the dregs of old civilisation there lingered still wisdoms and knowledges? Of a truth, as he had said—what with the dregs down below and the scum at the top, it was difficult to know where one was standing.

This feeling vanished like mist before the wind, however, when after a night in a six-foot tent on a couch of reed-leaves, he found himself waiting for the first response of an Indian jheel to the coming of another day. A pearly dawn was just lightening the darkness of the sky. Stretching away and away to the unseen horizon lay a still dull plain of leaden-looking water broken by banks of tall, tiger grass, whose feathery tops scarce showed against the grey above them. A silence, as of death on all things, a peace beyond words.

Then suddenly a clarion cry—the dawn-cry of the whistling teal. Silence again; but the grey sky lightens, a hint of primrose shows in the east—the leaden look on the water changes to dull silver. And hark! the clarion cry once more from a dozen throats; and with a surging swish of wings the wild fowl rose in flocks circling and inter-circling.

Not for the first time in his life John Anderson stood gun in hand watching, man’s primeval desire to slay forgotten.

Not for long, however. The first arresting flight over, the love of sport returned, and he set out warily to surprise the birds as they were feeding. The chase led him far afield, but he had food with him, and he had told the coolies who carried his tent where to go. Still, the day was hot for the time of year, the mosquitoes were troublesome, and he felt rather wearied out when towards sunsetting, he met Akâs Râm at the appointed place. It was on the very edge of the forest, and, rather to John Anderson’s surprise the old pandit suggested that they should start at once for the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees. He had had word, he said, that the Learned One whom the Huzoor wished to see would be leaving next morning, so that it would be as well to be prompt. Prem-nâth had cooked food for the Huzoor, whose tent had not yet arrived, and after partaking of that they could start, and doubtless return in time for rest.

Prem-nâth, aided by the old pandit (whose ancestors had evidently lived well as well as ruled well) had provided a really delicious meal of hot cakes, vegetable stew and sweet milk, so that John Anderson felt quite refreshed as he followed in the old man’s track through the outer fringe of the forest. And here he was at once conscious of distinct disappointment. The jungle, which seemed impenetrable at first sight, was clearly traversed by a visible path. The place altogether looked like many other places of a similar character. And even when the waning light made the electric torch he had brought with him advisable this seemed to add to the banality of the whole affair.

What the devil was he doing, trying to hunt down an impostor? for it came to that. What knowledge could the man he sought possibly have? Briefly, John Anderson felt outraged by his own imagination; a thing that annoyed him intensely.

However, now he had gone so far it was best to go through with it. So he stalked behind old Akâs Râm in a very evil temper, flashing the light down dark arcades as he passed them, and saying to himself that he was a fool for his pains. In a way, though he knew it not, he was typical of the attitude which the West, as a rule, takes up in regard to the East. He was out of touch, out of sympathy with it altogether. Its mystery seemed to him mere pretence; given the necessity for this at all, he preferred that of Maskelyne and Cook. Its mysticism? Where was the use of it when it led only to daubs of red on some upright stone under a tree? The lamp he carried showed him many such—showed him dim arcades stretching away on every side. But what of that? How many acres did the one celebrated banyan tree in Bengal cover? A larger or a smaller area than this one? What matter? When one could only see a portion where was size? The lean spare figure of the man in front of him seen only by the uncompromising light with which science has equipped the West, seemed in itself, unreal, fantastic, like the figures one makes out of a forefinger and a pocket handkerchief to amuse children withal. The brain of it was clever enough; yet compared with that of an average British schoolboy it had unbelievable gaps of ignorances; strange lacunal, beyond the power of education to bridge—inherited from countless ages——

“Yonder is the Blessed Abode of the Learned One,” said Akâs Râm, reverence in his voice.

The beam of light left the dark arcade it was investigating and followed the pointing hand.

Then John Anderson laughed; a derisive laugh. For there could be no mistake; the galvanized hen-roost stood confessed even though at its door sate a figure absolutely at variance with its surroundings. Immovable as a stone-carved Buddha, self-conscious pride of piety in its every lineament. Such a figure, as many an Indian religious fair presents, where the women crowd round to offer worship at the feet of one who is to them as a God. Offering it in all simplicity, ignorant perhaps, at any rate unconscious of what that worship implies.

John Anderson had realised, more than most Englishmen, the absolute antagonism of Eastern and Western thought and ideals; yet never had this come home to him so overwhelmingly as when he laughed at the juxtaposition of the hen-roost and the saint. And during the next few minutes his brain seemed to reel under the utter contradiction of what he saw and what he heard. What was the use of talking to a man who sate with his eyelids pretentiously closed, and a face impressively set into a mere mask? Impostor! Impostor! Impostor! The word dinned itself into John Anderson’s brain, making him vaguely wonder why he should be so disturbed about what was only to be expected. Why! even that most holy Swâmi of Dwarkapur, the saint of saints, the holy one who had forsaken all earthly things— Had he not produced a visitor’s book wherein were written the names of all the mighty ones who had interviewed him (including that of Prince Frederick William of Prussia), and implored him, John Anderson, to follow their example and write down his estimate of the Swâmi’s saintship?

And the professor, listening to vague generalities about the Self that knows and the Self that doesn’t know, wondered again why he should feel so irritated and why he was doubtful whether to laugh or to cry; and why the voices of those two, Akâs Râm and the Most-Learned-One, talking futile philosophy, began to sound so very far off?

It comes on very suddenly, does malarial fever. In a few minutes the face grows pinched and grey; so, almost before the first shiver, the first chatter of the teeth warned the doctor that he was in for a go of it, Akâs Râm was saying in tones of concern—”The Huzoor looks ill——”

He stood up then, intending to take his leave; but he found his knees swaying, and he realised that for a time at least he must remain where he was. There was no help for it. And the worst of it was he had no quinine with him——

“Some beast of a mosquito,” he murmured. Yes! It must have been a more than usually poisonous one; for his teeth chattered so that he could hardly speak, and he felt his head beginning to wander.

“I’ll lie down for a bit,” he shivered. “I shall be all right when the hot fit comes on. I wonder if there is such a thing as a blanket in this cursed hole?”

Apparently there was one. Also a sort of pillow. And it seemed warmer inside the hen-roost. Infernal nuisance! Fancy having the shivers and shakes in a saint’s chicken-coop! Yes! decidedly the brute was a poisonous brute; for there were the aches and pains and he was certainly a little light-headed.

Opium? Yes, failing quinine, opium was next best. Of course His Holiness would have opium; and it wasn’t a bad thing for fever—especially of the dengue type, and those jheels were a bit like the terui country. By Jove! how the wild fowl had risen. He could hear the whirr of their wings in his head. Opium? Yes, of course. He was much obliged to His Holiness. He would do as much for him if he got jhurri jhurri in his hen-roost—no! chicken-coop . . . That was a whacking dose—what? not all opium—churrus? Cannabis indica—hasheesh— So much the better! Make you feel nicey and give you pleasant dreams. A big dose. What matter! Anything to get rid of this cursed cramp and pain. Undoubtedly a very virulent brute. He had seen men go down with malaria and become delirious in five minutes; but now he knew what it was like, knew that it wasn’t sham like the miserable impostor with his closed eyes. However, he mustn’t abuse the despicable fraud. He had produced opium—no—churrus—cannabis indica—hasheesh So now for dreams! He shivered down into the coverings and after a time he slept.

*  *  *

He was awakened by a voice, grave, round, kindly.

“The Huzoor wishes to see the Temple of Self,” it said. “But how could he see it when the old man stood by? He is too full of the wisdom of this world to see those things that concern the next. But if the Huzoor will rise now, while this world sleeps, I can show it to him.”

He turned to see the figure of the Most-Learned-One squatting on the floor beside him; but the eyes were no longer closed, they were wide open, dark, dream, infinitely attractive. And there was a quivering smile about the lips as the voice went on, becoming mournful as it proceeded: “But since the Huzoor believes not in the world where there is neither North nor South, neither East nor West, how can he see that which proceeds from it?”

“How can I believe in what I cannot see?” retorted John Anderson, vaguely amazed to find his brain so clear, so wide-awake, to feel a sense of life and vigour in limbs which surely should have felt some effect from that bout of fever—a bad bout, too.

The Most-Learned-One had risen also, and as he stood facing his antagonist, a curious similarity in height, build, face, was noticeable. Vaguely, again, John Anderson became aware of this; it was as if what showed before him was a replica of himself.

“Tat twam ussi,” said the Most-Learned-One. “The Huzoor is a scholar. He knows the meaning: ‘Thou art that.’ All can be seen when we perceive all in one and one in all; when Self is cast aside and found anew in all things. Yea! surely when knowledge comes to see One Changeless Life in all the lives of all things, then are all things our own. The freshness of cool water, the gold light of the sun, the silver shining of the moon, the red flame of the fire and the good sweet smell of rain-washed earth! All these are Self! Aye! and the wisdom of the wise, the greatness of the great, the splendour of all splendours, and the holiness of hallowed souls. With this knowledge secure, nor Earth, nor Heaven can be seen. Naught but the reposeful Self, hidden beyond harm. So all things are understood. But if the Self hates Self as not Itself, there is no understanding.”

The even tenors of the almost chanted words floated out into the still night air, and John Anderson felt half hypnotised by it. He stood listening as to some unseen half-heard music, realising vaguely once more that this was the teaching of the East; that shorn of all the crowding trivialities of twentieth century life this was the unassailable ground in which the “pathetic content” of the millions of India found root.

He glanced around the galvanised hen-roost of a shed in which he had found shelter. Akâs Râm lay snoring—a chrysalis of humanity rolled in his white sheet in one corner. For the rest, himself and the Most-Learned-One facing each other; growing, surely, more and more alike every moment. And a sudden compulsion seemed to come to him to see what acquiescence in the theory “Thou art that” would do.

“Tat twam ussi,” he repeated slowly, “Now-Learned-One, let us go ahead.”

“Tat twam ussi,” echoed the ash-smeared nakedness, “Now shall we understand each other. Nay,” he continued, “We shall not need the light. The Huzoor had better leave it here. He may want it on his return.”

Obedient to the suggestion, John Anderson laid aside the electric torch he had taken from his pocket and they stepped out under the over-arching branches. It was true; they did not need a light. But whence came the radiance that showed them to each other?

“There is no time to lose,” murmured the Most-Learned-One, “let the Huzoor therefore cast Self aside and find the Over-self. What is it that he wishes to see, to know, to hear, to understand?”

The answer came crowding to John Anderson’s lips. There were so many things that, with his new-found tolerance of all, he would have liked to see, to know, to hear, to understand; but being a man of fixed determined purpose the one that came uppermost was the one which had brought him to the Valley-of-a-Thousand-Trees.

“I want to know where Maya Day is—I want to see her, to understand why she disappeared.”

A faint sigh seemed to breathe all around him, as if the whole world were sorrowful at his decision.

“The Huzoor shall see, shall know, shall hear, shall understand if he will follow me,” came the voice of the Most-Learned-One.

The next moment they were hurrying down one of the dark arcades; but it was no longer dark, for a dim, yet searching light went with them. Whence came it? Surely from themselves. For an instant it was borne in on John Anderson that the world might be strong, the mind might be the stronger; but the Over-Soul of Selflessness was the strongest. It was the comprehending whole; supreme, all powerful, imperishable.

“The Huzoor can go on by himself now. He will find what he wants to find.”

The words were scarcely to be heard and after that there was silence, unbroken silence for a while.

Then, echoing through the arcades—how light they were now, and surely that was a bird singing among pellucid green leaves—came the measured sound of a muffled bell, mellow, muted, and in an instant it recalled to the hearer’s mind the echoing clang from Mai Kâli’s shrine and that brought swift repulsion. So, on the instant also the light around him died away, and a darkness that could be felt invaded all things.

“Tat twam ussi!”

Whence came the warning voice? He could not say; but it brought home to him his own acquiescence in the theory, his own decision to try what acquiescence would bring.

“Tat twain ussi,” he echoed and the light returned, showing him a path that led upwards to the steeper slopes. And as he breasted these in hot haste—for the desire to know, to understand flamed up fiercely in heart and brain—he found himself viewing all things from a new standpoint. The ground on which he trod, the song-birds whose carols were in his ears, the very sunlight which filtered through the now sparse trees were himself—not a part of himself, but himself utterly. How, then, could Self condemn Self as being not itself? as being something hateful, foreign to Itself. So it came home to him, suddenly, that the Temple of Self must be the whole wide world; and as the thought arose he saw before him something that made his blood run cold, but that brought with it a wondrous sense of peace and well-being.

Was it real, or was it only a vision, that shadowed niche in a vast temple whose arches were inlaid with amethyst and beryl, with lapis lazuli and pearl and turquoise? And on the carven altar, what was that?

A woman’s head; the rippling hair bound by a crown of jasmine stars, flowing from the broad, calm brow to fall over the low pedestal to the ground, where it lay in soft curls amongst the heaped-up offerings of fresh flowers. The heavy eyelids were closed as if in sleep, the curves of the mouth showed calm, composed. No smile there, no shade of content or discontent in the whole beautiful, reposeful face.

“Maya!” he cried, his whole being up in arms with passionate protest, with uttermost hatred.

The light faded. Darkness envisaged him on all sides, he groped his way from tree trunk to tree trunk, till in the distance he saw a twinkling light. It was Akâs Râm coming towards him torch in hand.

“The Huzoor had been gone a long time, his bed was quite cold, so fearing lest the accursed fever had made him wander, this slave came in search of him,” explained the old man, relief in his voice.

“And the Most Learned?” queried John Anderson, quickly. The pandit smiled a satisfied smile as he said— “He left, Huzoor, so soon as the drug administered took effect. It was a powerful drug.”

“Very,” assented the doctor dryly.

He made no further comment. Only suddenly as they emerged from the forest into the more open ground beyond it, he asked——

“Do they—I mean the devotees—or the people—God knows which—ever sacrifice human beings?”

The pandit coughed. “In olden times, yes! Not so much now, they fear the police——”

“But they do not sacrifice women—do they?” The question came with a certain anxiety.

Pandit Akâs Râm’s face was a study of shocked surprise. “Surely the Huzoor must know that womanhood is sacred? She can sacrifice herself; but none other dare touch her. We men do not even sacrifice a female goatling. Truly if the Huzoors knew more they would rule better.”

The remark met with no reply.

When John Anderson returned to headquarters a day or two later he found a letter from Lucy Hastings awaiting him.

“He is recovering his memory day by day and remembers most things; and it is such a comfort to us both to know that Maya is well and happy—as we are— Oh I so happy!”

He stood with the letter in his hand, silent for a space. Then he said as if for his own satisfaction——

“Whatever happened—and God alone knows what that was—she sacrificed herself.”

Then he got into the buggy behind the flea-bitten Arab and drove down to the hospital; there he felt sure of his ground; there success was only to be ensured by the absolute sympathy of that Eastern formula——

“Thou art That.”

Yes! There lay the secret of all true healing both of the Body and the Mind.


The Promised Land we surely must possess:
Its threshold’s at our feet! Oh! onward press.
A step! and we are there! Poor fool! not so
Between each forward step is nothingness.

“Name this child.”

“Lucy Maya,” responded John Anderson, who was standing sponsor. His tone was decorous, devout; but his mind was not on the ceremonial which was being enacted before the company who stood round the stucco imitation of a font in St. Mary Magdalene Church at Shadipur. Yet it had not wandered far, for the immediate surroundings held him by their hopeless lack of sympathy, with even their hopeless lack of rudimentary comprehension of that ceremonial.

For the so-called church, though it boasted the beginnings of a chancel, a very elaborate altar, a pulpit and a reading desk of orthodox pattern—to say nothing of the stucco font—had a history somewhat antagonistic to all these alien importations. Tradition, indeed, said it was the burial-place of a dancing-girl who, in some ancient court, had illegitimately caught her master’s eye. And so the haughty mistress, superb in her dignity, had the offender buried alive just under the spot where the font now stood, and thereafter had entertained her erring husband at a magnificent love-feast over the living grave of her dead rival. A tale that was old enough to be sufficiently forgotten not to trouble the alien authorities who, being short of money, and seeing the beauty of the deserted marble structure which had once been a trysting-place for lovers, had turned it into a church, and laid the ghost—perchance—by calling it after the Magdalen. Be that as it may, it served its purpose well to the little civil station of Shadipur, whither a clergyman gravitated about once every three months. Hence it was that Charles Hastings and his wife, who had been transferred there on return from leave a year ago, had seized the opportunity of the Governor’s camp being in the immediate neighbourhood to get their first-born duly sponsored and christened.

Thus John Anderson’s vagrant thoughts were idly employed in trying to find foothold for burials and births alike, and with attempting to combine in both the memories which that name, “Maya,” had called up.

Still, here was a child of the race! A bald-headed creature which had, at least, had the decency not to squall, when, in obedience to Lucy’s autocratic if silent invitation, he had taken it from her arms to transfer it to those of the clergyman.

“Isn’t she like her mother?” said the young father ecstatically, looking almost fatuous with sheer delight, as, after the ceremonial, the company trooped out into the sunlight, where motors galore were waiting to take the party back for a reception at the camp.

“Hasn’t so much hair,” replied the Professor grimly, and Charlie Hastings laughed; the delighted laugh of one who possesses the owner of the most beautiful thing in the world; but Lucy looked at the speaker with kind, comprehending eyes and said softly, for his ear alone—

“Boy would have it Lucy; but, of course, I shall call her Maya.”

Would that make any difference to the past tragedy, he wondered, as he drove back with Mrs. Llewellyn Davies who, staccato as ever, was lauding the happiness of the married pair, and pointing out to her latest capture, one Chakravati, fresh out from home, what a practical illustration it was of the superiority of the Western and Christian ideal of marriage. To which he agreed volubly, though he was waiting for his child-wife whom he had never seen to grow up before taking her from her father’s house. But then it was always easier and more polite to agree with Mrs. Llewellyn Davies than to disagree with her. And she did the honours of the christening party—for the Governor was a grass-widower—with perfect grace and tact. They cut the cake with a sacrificial knife which she had picked up in the bazaar that very morning. “Such a happy omen,” she said, “for the dear babe.” Though what she meant it was difficult to say. And the cake was truly archaic; none of your Pelliti modernities; but a four-tier atrocity decorated with festoons on festoons of pink and white sugar pipings that broke away from their moorings at the lightest touch. But old Boota Khan, the ancient of days chuprassi, had superintended the making of it, and it was a direct copy of one made, she believed, only she was not quite sure, for the great Warren Hastings himself. Another happy omen for the dear babe! It was so beautiful to think of all the young souls and bodies that were coming every moment of the day to carry on the work that their fathers—and grandfathers, of course—had begun.

After a while, this sort of thing became wearisome; so John Anderson strolled out for a quiet cigar, and the little Secretary, always glad to escape, also followed suit, So the two men paced up and down in front of the big durbar tent where the company were assembled. It was a gloriously fine evening, and the sides of the marquee were set wide to let in the fresh, cool air; thus, as they sentinelled backwards and forwards they could see the rather motley society, centred, as it were, by the atrocity of a christening cake. Motley because a Governor’s camp carries with it all sorts and conditions of men; black, white, piebald, holding all sorts and conditions of offices. It was very peaceful; but as they passed, for the hundredth time or so, the wireless aerial, which is now as much a part of such camps as the flagstaff with the Royal Ensign, a clerk came up, message in hand.

“Another Swa-râj-ite in,” said the little Secretary, calmly. “We shall be in considerable minority, of course.”

“And then?” queried the professor.

“Then we shall do as minorities do when the driving-force is behind them—sit tight,” was the reply, as the little man flicked the ashes off his cigar before continuing. “You see, we can’t let them have the moon for some time to come—they would only upset its orbit. We have but to carry on. Men like David Ditter are the difficulty. They have brains, principles, considerable right on their side; but they lack the courage of their opinions. He, for instance, has just spent, or allowed his father to spend, something like a lakh of rupees over his marriage to his cousin. Yet he disapproves. If you ask him the reason for the compromise, he would say to please the old man—the old Adam, if you like. There you are! They are bound to please! Politically, they’ve gained a certain backing. Morally, socially, they’ve none with what you called the residuum. The Bolshevists have more—that’s why they are so dangerous. That last business, by the way, was more far-reaching than we thought at the time, and it isn’t scotched, by any means. Yes! Soviet teachings are more cognate to the masses than those of Herbert Spencer and Co.”

The Secretary might have gone on, for, freed from the presence of his better half, he did not lack ideas, but at that moment a slender figure in scanty, diaphanous, blue-and-white muslin, coming out from the tent, beckoned to John Anderson.

“I’ve promised to dine with the Hastings,” he explained and joined it.

“I sent Baby—I beg her pardon—Maya, home some time ago,” said Lucy, as the motor whirled them past the wide, green-flushed fields of sprouting wheat, by the little wayside shrines, the shady wells where the bullocks were drawing water, past the thorn-circled cattle-folds, the high, hut-crowned eminences whither the potters and the outcasts are exiled, through mud-walled villages, and all the sights and sounds of Indian rural life—the life of the residuum.

“You remember old Pooroo,” she went on; “Father’s bearer? He nursed me, I’m told. Well! he is awfully old and quite dottled; but he did for Father, until he heard there was a baby, and then nothing would serve him but to come here.”

“And, by Jove!” broke in Captain Hastings, overflowing with delight, “you should see him holding an umbrella over the perambulator—he doesn’t believe in them, you know——”

“But he is devoted to Baby!” began Lucy reprovingly. “Never leaves her. Ah! there she is just where I told him to put her by the drawing-room door in her pram.”

“And old Pooroo taking a snooze by the pillar,” quoth her husband teasingly.

“Don’t be silly, Boy,” retorted his wife. “Of course, the dear old chap is sometimes sleepy; but there are always heaps of other servants about; so she is quite safe. Aren’t you, my beauty?” she added, as she lifted the child in her arms and stood smiling, a picture of happy, careless motherhood.

“What’s that?” asked John Anderson, pointing to something on the flags at his feet, on the very threshold of the house; just a faint impress of someone’s hand—a hand that had been dipped in some red pigment—so faint that it was barely visible.

“Oh! that,” replied Lucy, as she stepped over it, “is only one of old Pooroo’s charms. He is always making them or saying them to keep away evil spirits. It doesn’t hurt, you know.”

“Certainly,” assented John Anderson absently, as he also stepped over the threshold; but he knew; he understood. That red hand was the Hand of Blood. The threshold was guarded by Mai Kâli! He stepped over it, stepped into a drawing-room, Western absolutely, all set with English flowers.

“Then he remembers nothing more,” he said when Captain Hastings had gone into his office, but, as the professor spoke, his eyes were on that red hand guarding the threshold.

“Nothing,” replied Lucy “Those two days from the time she said she was tired of him, are gone. Do you think they will ever come back?”

The professor shook his head; his eyes were still on that guarding hand. Lucy’s followed them, and she held her child closer to her breast.

“Chuprassi!” she called suddenly, “tell the sweeper to sweep away that mark on the threshold.”

And it was swept away.

The End