The Achievements of John Carruthers

The Cow-Row

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

I was never much of a hand at writing. When I was at school my composition used to get me more remarks than marks, and the criticisms were generally more sarcastic than polite. Now, if I have to sit down and draft an official report on some subject or other, I find myself in a singularly embarrassing position. My pen seems to take charge, and the document when completed not infrequently expresses opinions widely differing from those which I had intended to convey. However, I notice that as a general rule it is not of very great consequence what a report contains provided that it is reasonably long, and is embellished with a sufficiency of figures, percentages, and tabulated statements. My experience is that the simplest way is to let one’s clerk compose the required production. Of course, one has to carefully edit what he has written, cut out the long words and sententious phrases that are so dear to the Baboo mind, and introduce a few colloquial expressions, so as to give an idea of originality. Then, as likely as not, you are thanked for your careful and illuminating contribution to the literature regarding the treatment of habitual criminals, or whatever the subject may be with which you have been expected to grapple. Now, in what I am going to try to write I can’t get a clerk or any one else to help me; and so, if my description is not quite so clear as I should like it to be, I hope that my deficiencies may be overlooked. For the circumstances which I have to describe are decidedly complicated, and I am desperately afraid that I may put the cart before the horse.

Perhaps I had better explain how I came to know Mr. John Carruthers; in fact, it would be simpler to start from the beginning. When I was at a public school, like a good many other fellows, I had no idea what profession I should go in for. I only hoped it would be something that would allow me to have plenty of cricket and other sport, without too much work. Now there was a boy in my house called Mackenzie, a year younger than I was, who told me one day that he was going to try for the Indian Police, as a friend of his who was in it wrote and said that he had a delightful time, with polo and shooting to his heart’s content. Well, that seemed a very attractive career; and I found that the way to enter the service was to pass a competitive examination in London. This was a recent institution, for until lately youngsters used to go out to India and get into the Police without any examination, which seemed a much more reasonable arrangement. However, I sent in my name, and did more work for six months than I had done all my time at school before, and to my intense satisfaction my name appeared in the list of successful candidates. Then they asked me what part of India I would like to go to. I did not know one part from another; but as Mackenzie said that his friend was on the Bombay side, and that he intended to go there when he passed next year, I thought that I might as well select Bombay as any other Presidency or Province.

Well, in due course I found myself in Bombay. I was quite fascinated with the curious and interesting sights that it afforded. On reporting myself at the Secretariat, I found that I was posted to Somapur in the Deccan; and I was informed that my pay was two hundred and fifty rupees a month. I was overjoyed at the prospect of such an income; but my views on the subject were to be modified a little later on. The day after my arrival at Bombay I took the train to Somapur, and was immensely impressed with the scenery as we mounted the Ghauts, whizzing in and out of tunnels, and climbing along precipices where it hardly seemed possible that a train could go. I duly reported my arrival to Mr, Thomas, the District Superintendent of Police, under whom I was to learn my work. He was a very kind old gentleman; and he asked me to stay with him till I could join the Club, where he said I had better live. I gladly accepted the invitation, and very good he was to me. The life at first seemed very strange. In the early morning we used to have “chota hazree,” consisting of tea and toast, and, what my Chief called breakfast, at twelve o’clock, though it seemed to me more like lunch. I confess I found myself absolutely starving long before this noonday meal; but the Goanese butler, a very obliging man called Roderigo de Souza, after the first day or two brought me some more tea with fruit and biscuits about ten o’clock. I was very grateful to him for this attention. Police work did not seem to be very onerous. Mr. Thomas lent me a pony, and I rode with him through the town and to the Police lines in the mornings. He used to see his Native policemen here and there, and ask if all was well. I noticed that they invariably replied in the affirmative. I should mention that it was the middle of November when I joined, and the weather was heavenly, bright and sunny with quite a touch of cold in the morning and evening.

After a week or so I moved into rooms at the Club, and I found living there extremely pleasant. Most of the other men were very lively companions. I bought a couple of ponies and a gun, and soon became fairly proficient at polo, and could make a good bag of snipe. Now and then I had some pig-sticking. This usually meant a journey of thirty miles or so by train. This pig-sticking was the grandest sport, and never shall I forget my delight the first time that I got a “first spear.” After dinner at the Club we used to play billiards or cards. The residents of Somapur were very hospitable; and after I had gone round calling, to show myself, as the expression went, I had numerous invitations to their houses. Sometimes there were dances at the Gymkhana, and one way and another life was most enjoyable. I should explain that Mr. Thomas had gone into camp for some months. He told me to look after the City Police in his absence, and go night-rounds occasionally, besides preparing for my departmental examination in law and language. I was rather annoyed at hearing that I still had examinations to pass, as I thought that all troubles of that nature were over; and I found that when I tried to master the Penal Code after my midday breakfast, to which meal-time I soon became accustomed, I invariably went to sleep. As for the language, I soon picked up enough of it for conversational purposes by talking to the natives when I was out shooting; but the reading and writing of the vernacular hieroglyphics was a terribly difficult task. I used to ride through the City sometimes in the morning when I had nothing better to do, and I did not at all mind visiting it by night on my way home from a dance or a late dinner. I don’t know what advantage resulted from this, as the Native Police officers always told me that everything was all right; but those were my orders, and I obeyed them. The cold weather soon slipped by and the hot weather came on; but the heat was not at all unbearable. A good many people went up to the hills for two or three months; but those who remained seemed more cheery than ever. A charming form of recreation was rowing on the river in the evening. We would row for about three miles to a place where there was a club-house in some pretty gardens on the river bank, which bore the classic name of Rosherville. There were tables and chairs set out on the lawn under the trees, and the cold drinks that the club supplied were distinctly welcome after our exertions with the oars. Now and then there would be a small race-meeting on the racecourse; and once, to my joy, I managed to win a pony handicap. Altogether I thought that I had acted with great wisdom in entering the Police.

When it came to June the weather changed. It rained heavily, and the air was close and steamy. But after a week or so it cleared up, and the climate was absolutely delicious. All the people who had been to the hills, or out in camp, came back, and what they called the season commenced. At the beginning it was not so very lively; but gradually a rush of festivities set in, and the number of dances, theatricals, race-meetings, cricket matches, polo tournaments, and “tamashas” of every possible kind that followed each other in endless succession was glorious. Mr. Thomas, who had come in like every one else, asked me now and then how I was getting on with my work and preparation for my examination; and I assured him that I was progressing quite nicely. So he was satisfied. He liked peace and quiet, and was not often seen at entertainments. As a matter of fact, I had the most excellent intentions as regards studying for the examination; but somehow one engagement or another always seemed to interfere. But I comforted myself with the reflection that I could make up for lost time by working hard the last few weeks. Now I have mentioned that my pay was two hundred and fifty rupees a month, and just at first this seemed a competence. But before long I found that my liabilities very considerably exceeded this amount. I had paid for my ponies with money that I had brought out from home; but my gun and many other things were not paid for, and in a place like Somapur one had to be smartly dressed. There was a very disagreeable custom by which bills came in month by month instead of waiting till one had some money. These bills began to annoy me, especially when they were accompanied by letters pressing for an early settlement; and one morning about the middle of September, just before the big race-meeting, when the season was at its height, I thought it advisable to see exactly how matters stood. I took the bills out of the drawer where I used to throw them when they came in, and I added them up. To my horror the total was fifteen hundred rupees. I was staggered; and I supposed my face showed that something was wrong, for a friend of mine, a subaltern named Buckle, asked me at breakfast what the devil was the matter with me. I told him about my bills, and said that I was terribly upset, and he confided to me that his financial position was identical with my own. “But I shall soon be all right,” he said; “I have a perfectly straight tip for the Deccan Derby, besides one or two smaller affairs.” He let me into the secret that the certain winner of the Deccan Derby was a horse named Euclid, although the public had not made him the favourite. But to back horses meant the possession of a little ready-money; however, Buckle was quite up to surmounting this difficulty. It was the simplest thing in the world, he assured me, to borrow a few hundred rupees in the bazaar, and pay them back out of our winnings. Certainly prospects looked very rosy. We signed some documents and received our money, five hundred rupees each; and the result of the first three days’ racing was that we each had over a thousand rupees more than we commenced with. At last came the most important race of the season; and as we saw Euclid, a splendid chestnut Arab, trotted out in the paddock, our excitement was at fever heat. I had ventured all that I possessed on Euclid, and I stood to win five thousand rupees. Through our glasses we watched the start on the other side of the course. To our delight Euclid was leading as the horses came round the curve and were tearing along the straight half-mile for the finish. On and on they came, the green and white stripes of Euclid’s jockey well to the fore. It was too thrilling for words, and I felt that I was indeed triumphant. But just in the last few yards, amidst a deafening roar of applause from the crowd, the favourite dashed ahead and won by half a length. My hopes were blighted. I felt that I was ruined. What in the world was I to do? How could I repay the money that I had borrowed? I suppose I kept my feelings under control, for I heard a voice remarking that the favourite’s was a splendid performance, and to my surprise I recognised the voice as my own. Then I seemed to realise that Buckle was suggesting that we should go and have a drink. I went off with him, endeavouring to look as if I had won instead of lost.

“What awful luck!” he said, when we were in the Club refreshment tent. “Whoever could have expected this? Simple robbery, I call it. Look here, there is one more race, and we must make it up in that. I have just seen the bunya who lent us the rupees. He has been winning heavily. We can easily get him to lend us another trifle. We will put our money on the favourite this time.”

The whisky and soda had the effect of raising my spirits to some extent, and I quite concurred with Buckle. The bunya was very pleased with himself after his successes, and was easily persuaded to let us have another three hundred rupees each. We each invested our fresh capital on the favourite, Artaxerxes. Of course, the odds were not so good as before; but our winnings would be sufficient to repay the bunya in full, and to pay something on account to our most pressing creditors. Again our hopes were raised to the highest pitch as Artaxerxes came leading the field almost to the winning-post, only to be crushed again as an outsider at the very last moment forged in front and won by a neck.

How the next few days passed I hardly know. Two hundred and fifty rupees a month, which I found totally insufficient for my ordinary expenses, and two thousand three hundred rupees of debt, not to speak of the interest on the borrowed money! I felt in absolute despair, and had not the faintest idea what to do. But it was encouraging to find that Buckle seemed as cheery as ever, and perfectly confident that it would all come right somehow. I did not see how it could possibly do so; but I could not help being influenced by Buckle’s spirits, and I endeavoured to show a brave face in spite of my anxiety. I put in an appearance at the remaining events of the season, and to my surprise I even managed to enjoy them, especially the Club ball. But when September passed away, and October came in with more bills and pressing reminders than ever, I again felt utterly despondent.

Well, all this was to explain how I came to know Mr. Carruthers. I did not think that it would have taken so long to write; but I am really coming to the point now. During the latter part of September Mr. Thomas was in very poor health; and early in October he was ordered home at a moment’s notice, and Mr. Carruthers was appointed Superintendent of Police in his place. I was sorry for Mr. Thomas, as he had been very kind to me, and I heard that Mr. Carruthers was likely to be a hard task-master. On the day after my new Chief’s arrival I put on my uniform and went to call upon him. He was a very different man from his predecessor. He looked alert, active, and vigorous. I noticed a change already in the surroundings. The office clerks were hard at work or bustling about instead of yawning over their papers, and the orderlies in the verandah were smartened up and standing at attention as I had never seen them before. Mr. Carruthers was talking to an inspector when I was shown in, and I heard him say: “You quite understand, you go off now and bring those people, about whom this correspondence has been going on for this interminable time, to me at once, and I shall settle the matter out of hand. And, mind, I tolerate no delays of this sort.”

“Sit down, Trench,” he said to me, pointing to a chair; and he then ordered the clerks out of the room. “Now I have to speak to you very plainly,” he continued. “I have heard a good deal about your goings-on. I gather that you have the makings of a very decent fellow; but you are on the high road to ruin. I mean to make it my business to save you. But you will have to obey me implicitly. In the first place, you will leave the Club and come and live with me. You will be my guest entirely, until you are out of debt. And you must get out of debt as soon as possible. I understand that you are keeping two ponies. One, with a bicycle, is enough for your work; and one of the animals must be sold at once. You will knock off all liquor. You will be surprised to find how much that will save you each month. You can have a reasonable amount of recreation, whether tennis, rowing, or cricket. Polo you will entirely give up. It is far too expensive. If you dine out you will go on either your pony or your bicycle. There will be no hiring of gharies. Next you will understand that your work is to come before everything. There will be plenty of it, I can tell you. You ought to go up for your examination next month; but I don’t suppose there is the faintest chance of your passing, and it will be better to wait till January. You will perfect yourself in all subjects before that. To return to financial matters, you will only require one servant, and you can very well keep your total expenses down to a hundred rupees a month. You can pay off debts at the rate of a hundred and fifty rupees a month, or eighteen hundred rupees a year. Now go straight off to the Club, pack up your kit, and bring it over here in the course of the afternoon.”

I was considerably taken by surprise at all this; and though I was greatly pleased at the prospect of getting out of debt, yet I did not at all relish the idea of leaving the Club and the jolly time that we used to have there after dinner, and doing without every little luxury. I could hardly take it in all at once, and it was startling to be told to move over the same day. So I thanked my Chief in the best terms that I could command, and at the same time hesitatingly suggested that it would be difficult to bring my things over that day.

“Mr. Trench,” said my Chief decisively, “when I say to-day I mean to-day, and not to-morrow. I shall expect you here with your kit by five o’clock. Good morning.”

I saw, as every one else did, that it was hopeless to attempt to dispute anything that Mr. Carruthers said. The man was like iron. So by five o’clock I and my belongings were deposited in the quarters that I had occupied on my first arrival. I must confess I feared that my new life would be a distasteful one; but to my relief I did not find it so. Certainly my nose was pretty well kept to the grindstone; but on four or five evenings in the week I was able to get tennis or boating, while there was always riding to be done in the morning. What I rather dreaded was dinner tête-à-tête with my Chief; but though he never let it be forgotten that he was my Chief, yet he was quite lively and amusing. He was full of anecdotes about his police experiences, and I soon began to realise that there was plenty of interest and excitement in the work, a fact which had never occurred to me before. Apart from this he could talk in the most interesting way on a seemingly endless variety of subjects, and the dinners which I had looked forward to with some alarm used to slip by in no time. Riding round the town with him was very different from the formal business which it had been before. He used to stop and talk with all sorts of people, sometimes dismounting and smoking a cigarette while he sat in the verandah of a shop and chatted with the shopkeeper. In this way he often picked up valuable information. Then he used to test the knowledge of the head constables and constables regarding what went on in their beats, with the result that they usually knew nothing at all about it. Then there was tribulation. But before long all this was changed, and the men found it advisable to learn their business. It was wonderful what was effected in a short time. Gambling-houses were raided, utterers of false coins were brought to justice, organised bands of thieves shared the same fate, false weights and measures were seized, rowdyism in the streets was stopped, broken-down horses in public conveyances were no longer licensed, and many irregularities in the Police Force were put an end to. Cases of cruelty to animals were rigorously dealt with. All the policemen on duty were smartened up in the most extraordinary way. I never thought that one man could have done so much. I soon began to take an interest in all these things, and became quite keen in working up improvements. Then there were, of course, now and then serious cases to investigate, which took hours or a whole day at a time. There might be, for instance, the discovery of a dead body, regarding which it was doubtful whether death was due to suicide or to murder. If it was a murder we had, of course, to find out who had committed the crime, and I noticed that the people who were at first suspected or accused were generally perfectly innocent. It was not often with Mr. Carruthers that an important case went undetected; but, at any rate, it was not the least use trying to humbug him with concocted evidence, and there was no fear of the wrong persons being convicted. He had a wonderful knack of getting at the actual facts of a case. I sometimes asked him how he managed it, and he would reply that it was by experience, observation, and patience.

In the course of the cold weather we went out into camp for several short trips; but my Chief considered the city too important to leave it for very long at a time. For one thing it was always a focus of political intrigue which required constant watching. Now during this cold weather there was, in many parts of India, a considerable agitation which we called the Cow-Row. It was all about Mahometans killing cows. The Hindoos have a curious notion that the cow is a goddess who is to be worshipped, and protected from injury, while Mahometans have a partiality for beef. The ill-feeling between the two nationalities became very acute, and in many places there were serious riots in consequence. The whole country was flooded with Hindoo pamphlets about the sanctity of Goddess Cow, and pictures were distributed broadcast of the sacred animal being slaughtered by the most evil-looking of butchers. Of course, the killing of kine could not be stopped just to please one section of the community; but various rules and regulations were issued to prevent cows being slaughtered in places where so doing was likely to offend religious susceptibilities, and altogether the extra trouble and responsibility thrown upon the Police were very serious. Well, it was in connection with the Cow-Row that I want to write down how exceedingly smart Mr. Carruthers could be.

Early in the morning one day in March, when the weather was beginning to warm up, a sawar, or mounted policeman, brought in a vernacular report in the usual red envelope, which denoted that a serious crime had taken place. It was to the effect that a Mahometan butcher had been murdered in the course of the night at Chinchgaum, a town about ten miles off. No details were given; but the inspector, by name Pandurang, who had been encamped at a neighbouring village, was already on the spot with a number of constables. Mr. Carruthers called me into his room. As was often the case, I found him surrounded by a crowd of newspapers as he sipped his morning tea. Handing me three of the newspapers he asked me to read some passages scored down in red pencil, while he considered the report of the crime. The first paper was the “Madras Observer,” and in it was an account of the murder of a Mahometan butcher at Tuticorin. The next was the “Bengal Mail,” and it contained the account of the murder of a Mahometan butcher at Ranigunge. The third was the “Punjab Gazette,” and this reported a similar occurrence at Ranjitpur. In none of the cases was there any clue to the perpetrator of the crime; but the remarkable circumstance in each case was that the weapon used was a thin stiletto, and that a small brass image of a cow was affixed to the clothing of the murdered person.

“Rather more than a coincidence, Trench, isn’t it?” said my Chief. “The gentlemen who are engineering the Cow-Row seem to have devised an exceedingly active plan of campaign. One that is likely to spread, too, I fancy, unless we can nip it in the bud. I wonder if our case at Chinchgaum is on the same lines as those reported in the papers! The ramifications seem extraordinarily wide. The sooner we are off the better. We will start in half an hour. Rama can follow with some breakfast and bedding and my dispatch-box.”

I enjoyed the ride immensely. Mr. Carruthers, as was always the case when something a little out of the common turned up, was in great form, and most amusing. He talked about the theatres he had been to in London a couple of years ago; and he seemed to have all the actors and actresses at his finger-ends, and to have known many of them personally. He told me what a number of old friends he had met at home, and what a good time he had had in every way, and he was quite eloquent about all that he intended to do when he retired. “But I am afraid I shall miss all this sort of fun,” he said in conclusion. We rode leisurely, and it must have been about ten o’clock when we reached Chinchgaum. It was a picturesque town under the shadow of some lofty and rugged hills, and surrounded by groves of banyans and mangoes. There was a fantastic Hindoo temple, and a graceful Mahometan mosque, not far apart from each other, a sparkling stream running between them. An old Mahratta fort overlooked the town. It did not take long to ascertain the facts of the murder. The name of the deceased was Yusuf. He had resided in a house in a narrow lane in the northern limit of the town. Although towards morning the air grew cool, yet the early part of the nights was close and stuffy. Yusuf had been accustomed to sleep on a cot in the lane outside his house until about two o’clock, when he used to move into the house for the rest of the night. But last night he had failed to move in, and at about four his family being a little alarmed went out to see why he had not joined them. To their horror they found him dead. Intimation was at once sent to the Police post, and by the police stationed there to the Superintendent. There was said to be no clue whatever. Death had been caused by a stab by a thin pointed weapon, which appeared to have reached the heart. The weapon was still in the body, which was exactly as it had been found. Mr. Carruthers motioned to the swarm of bystanders to step aside, and proceeded to examine the corpse. “Just as I expected,” he said to me in a few moments, after feeling about the unfortunate Yusuf’s clothing; “here is the brazen image of a cow goddess. This promises to be a really interesting case. But I must have time to think. Pandurang,” he continued to the inspector, “you can take down the statements of all concerned, hold the usual inquest, and send the body to the civil hospital for the post-mortem. Bring me the papers and the diary when they are complete. Take particular care of this brass cow, and leave the weapon in the body for the civil surgeon to see. Meanwhile have inquiries made as to all strangers who are here or have been here recently, and carefully watch any unknown persons who may take it into their heads to stroll down this lane any time between now and sunset. Come along, Trench, we will go and have a smoke under that mango tope until our breakfast arrives.”

He puffed away at a long Trichinopoli cheroot for a long time, without uttering a word, and I did not like to say anything lest I should interrupt his train of thought. At last he suddenly said to me: “What did you notice under the cot that Yusuf had slept on?”

“I can’t say that I noticed anything particular, sir,” I replied.

“I didn’t ask you if you noticed anything particular,” he said, rather sharply. “Did you notice anything at all? We can’t limit our observations to anything particular. We have to notice anything and everything. Now what was under the cot?”

“Well,” I replied, “there was a remarkably untidy collection of rags and paper; but I don’t know that there was anything else.”

“Was there nothing among the litter of paper that struck your attention?”

“No, sir, I can’t say there was,” I replied.

“Well, there was something that I observed that it was my first instinct to pick up, and my second to leave alone. It was risky perhaps to leave it; but I must trust to the impenetrable stupidity of Pandurang and his subordinates to allow it to repose undisturbed. It was just a fairly large piece of paper folded a good many times, and on one corner I noticed a representation of a cow and some very strange characters or hieroglyphics. Now if I am not mistaken, although I want that paper badly, so does some one else. And I want that some one else. I am counting on his going back for his paper. Ah, here comes Rama with some food. Let us eat and drink. After that we must leave the pleasant shade of these trees. I require more privacy than we can have here. One of the unmarried constable’s rooms in the Police post will do. Just tell an orderly to have it cleaned, and a table and a couple of chairs put in.”

I forgot to say that Rama was Mr. Carruthers’ butler, and had been with him for years. He was a most faithful and useful servant. We partook of an excellent cold breakfast, and then moved into the not too inviting room in the outpost. A few odds and ends of furniture had been obtained from the village school; and my Chief proceeded to peruse some office papers that he took out of his bulky dispatch-box. I found it rather irksome having nothing to do, and the hours passed very slowly. About three o’clock, as I was looking through the tiny window, I noticed Gangaram, the Head Constable of the post, and an exceptionally smart-looking young constable, coming up from the town, and with them a Hindoo who had anything but a prepossessing appearance.

“Our man, I fancy,” said Mr. Carruthers, as I told him what I had seen. “But we will hear what they have to say. Call them in, will you? Well, Gangaram,” he continued as the three entered, “who is this man, and why have you brought him?”

“The Sahib gave orders to watch the place where Yusuf was killed,” the Head Constable replied. “After the body was taken away to be sent to Somapur the people who had been looking on dispersed. This constable Krishna, who was on duty, alone remained. He sat just inside Yusuf’s house, where he could see up and down the lane without being seen. It is for us humble ones to obey the Sahib’s orders; though what there should be to watch for is not known to us. A short while ago this man came down the lane looking about to make sure that he was not observed, and seeing no one he came to where Yusuf’s cot had been. He stooped down, and put his hand on a piece of folded paper. As he was about to pick it up Krishna jumped out, secured the paper, and brought it with the man to me. I therefore ask the Sahib’s orders. What reason there was to interfere with the man I know not, and if Krishna has acted foolishly he may be pardoned as he is inexperienced.”

“Really it does seem rather pointless,” said my Chief, “to bring me a man who has done nothing more than this. However, I will ask him a few questions, but I am busy just at present. I will dispose of this correspondence, and then call him in. You and Krishna can wait with him outside till I am ready. You might leave the paper with me.”

They withdrew. Mr. Carruthers closed the door, and unfolded the paper, and this is what we saw:---


“Hush, there is not a moment to lose,” said Mr. Carruthers, as I uttered an exclamation of surprise at the sight of this extraordinary document. “It is lucky that there is a glass window here.”

He seized a pencil and piece of paper, and, holding the document to the window, made a careful tracing of the characters. He put his tracing in his dispatch-box, which he carefully closed, and then called up the three men.

The stranger whom the police had brought wore the saffron-coloured dress of a Sadhu or religious mendicant of the better sort. He was of fair complexion, of middle age, slight build, and oval face, with very small malignant eyes. He had a short moustache, but his beard was shaved. In answer to my Chief’s questions he said that his name was Bhawani Shunker, that his native place was in the Carnatic, that he travelled all over India to perform his devotions at Hindoo shrines. He had been attracted by the crowd at Yusuf’s house in the morning and had dropped the paper there. It contained devotional exercises, so he had gone back to look for it, and would like to be allowed to retain it.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Carruthers. “Your statement is entirely satisfactory. Here is the paper. You can go wherever you please. The constable was very foolish to detain you.”

The Sadhu, with a look of relief, made a deep salaam and walked slowly away, while Mr. Carruthers proceeded to abuse Krishna in unmeasured terms for his unauthorised interference with the mendicant as long as the latter was within hearing. No sooner was he out of sight than my Chief changed his tone entirely.

“Shah-bash, Krishna, well done!” he said. “I have not come across you before, but you have the makings of a policeman in you, and you should get on well. Now, be off like lightning, and follow that man wherever he goes without letting him see you. Leave your uniform here.”

A minute later a wild-looking ruffian in tattered clothes, whom no one would have known for the smart Krishna, was on the track of the departing Sadhu.

“Now,” said Mr. Carruthers to me, “will you tell Rama to get us some tea, and then we must elucidate this mysterious document. It ought not to take us long. There is only one language which can be employed to cover all India, and that is English. Hindustani is of no use at Tuticorin. Besides, it would be practically impossible to invent a cipher for Oriental languages with their innumerable dots and dashes to represent vowel sounds and nasal intonations. We shall probably arrive at the solution before very long.”

I thought that if it depended on me it would be very long indeed before the extraordinary conundrum was solved.

“Before we begin,” continued Mr. Carruthers, “we must summarise our position. The whole country has gone more or less mad about the cow-row. We read in the papers this morning of murders of butchers at three different parts of India, the weapon in each case being a kind of stiletto, and the brass image of a cow being left with the murdered person. The circumstances of this case are absolutely identical. Now there is found beneath the cot of the murdered man this document with the figure of a cow upon it. We may fairly assume that the paper has some close connection with this anti-butcher crusade. Then a stranger is very anxious to get hold of it. But he takes precautions to avoid being seen. He waits until, as he supposes, the coast is clear, and then tries to effect his purpose. Why this secrecy, and why this pressing need for the paper? That there is some connection between this unknown gentleman and the murder seems, at all events, not improbable. This is the clue which we have to follow up. It would have been quite useless to arrest him at present. There is no evidence against him. My only course was to let him go, and to do nothing to excite his suspicion. At the same time, he is being shadowed. And now for the document. If it is English the first thing is to find the letter E, as that is the commonest in the alphabet. Well, in the first four lines you will notice that one of the characters occurs twelve times. If, as I fancy, the language is English, that must be E. The next thing is to look for the common word ‘the.’ Twice in the first line and once in the second two signs occur before our E. They are probably T and H. In the second and third lines E is twice followed by two similar characters. It is most probable that they represent the letter S. Now look at the sixth line. Beginning at the fourth letter in this line we find the word ‘the’ followed by an unknown letter and then another E, thus: T H E ? E. The last five letters are T H, the same unknown letter, and then two more E’s. What letter will suit each of these places? Try R, and you have got two words, ‘there’ and ‘three.’ Now this sixth line runs as follows, putting the sign ? in the place of unknown letters. ? T S THERE ? ? ST ? E THREE. We must proceed by trying experiments. What would make sense in completing the E before the last THREE? We might try B. Then the line runs: ? T S THERE ? ? ST BE THREE. Now this sign which we take for B is the third letter in the fourth line, and is followed by two E’s. This might form the word ‘bee’ but as the circumstances strongly suggest that the subject of the paper is the cow, this is not likely; As a shot the word is more likely to be BEEN, the letter next to the E’s being N. The only way is to go on making experiments and testing them. The first word in the paper is composed of an unknown letter and then this N. The word can only be either ON or IN. Which is it? The first letter comes again in the last six letters in the second line. If we take it as O, it does not seem to represent anything; but with I we get THIRT. Go on guessing. The next letter may be Y, making the word ‘thirty.’ That seems all right. I think we can get a step farther from the sixth line. What can we suggest as the two unknown letters before ST? The incomplete sentence runs THERE ??ST BE THREE. Make a shot. Supply M U. Then we have ‘there must be three.’ Assuming this to be correct we have two more letters, and O, M and U. Now this M comes in the first line as the eighth character, and in the third line as the fourth character. We have now identified tentatively, at any rate, eleven symbols, namely:

T = T
H = H
E = E
S = S
R = R
B = B
N = N
I = I
Y = Y
M = M
U = U

“Now let us re-write the document, translating it as far as we can, and substituting the sign ? for unknown letters. You see it runs as follows:

???ERIN?S YUSU? ????E

“You see the way that these ciphers are unravelled. It will be easy to complete our task. But wait a minute. There is something in my mind. I have been considering where these peculiar and rather fascinating characters come from. It would take a deal of ingenuity to invent an alphabet of this description. I was so engaged in deciphering the puzzle that I forgot to analyse the characters themselves, although I had a sort of hazy idea that I had seen something like them before, though in a very different connection, except so far that cows were concerned with both sets of circumstances. Do you mind taking the tray out of my dispatch-box and diving to the bottom of the papers beneath it? I think you will find what I want, a few pages of foolscap sewn up in brown-paper covers. Thanks, that’s the very thing. This little compilation contains some notes that I made years ago on the cattle-thieves of Upper Sind, and the brands used by the various Sindi and Beluchi tribes to distinguish their cattle. Here are the brands, you see. There are over ninety different devices out of which some enterprising person has selected enough to make our alphabet. Take the first three letters that we found out --- T H E. Exactly so---

T=TBrand of theT alpurs
H=HBrand of theH alepotos
E=EBrand of theE roris

Why on earth didn’t I think of this list before? I should have saved myself ever so much trouble. You will notice that the inventor of this cipher code has taken the initial letter of the name of each tribe as the identical letter of the English alphabet, and then represented it by the brand of the tribe. Now to make out the alphabet in full on this system. I sha’n’t be blessed by the printer’s devil if some day these cattle-brand symbols are to find permanent record. Well, here is the alphabet, minus a Q and an X, which don’t particularly matter:

I & JIJagirani
V & WWWasan


The first unknown letter is A, it is the first letter of the alphabet. The next two unknowns are obviously O F. One can almost guess the rest of the whole thing; but we will take it bit by bit. Look through the list for G O and D and Here

we are, G for Gabol, O for Od, and D for Dhareja. Behold---


I scorn to look up the three missing characters. Your own unaided intelligence will tell you that they stand for C O W.”

I was lost in amazement at all this; and I don’t believe that any one but Mr. Carruthers could have made head or tail of the enigma. Still, I did not understand the full signification even when the result was written out like this:

“In the name of the goddess the cow, thirty shameless butchers have been sacrificed to the deity. In your limits there must be three offerings, Yusuf, Jaffer, Ibrahim. The three fingers.”

“Are you ready for an adventure?” asked my Chief. “We may have a journey before us to-night, though I know not where at present. Just send for Head Constable Gangaram, will you? He may settle our destination.”

More puzzled than ever I sent for the Head Constable, and wondered what was coming next.

“Now, Gangaram,” said Mr. Carruthers. “I want a list of the names of all the butchers who live in the various towns and villages under this Police post.”

It took Gangaram a long time to evolve the required information out of his limited intelligence; but at last we got a list of seventeen, with the names of the villages where they resided. Gangaram was then allowed to leave us.

“Yes,” said my Chief. “Three offerings, Yusuf, Jaffer, and Ibrahim. Yusuf is done for. Jaffer lives at Belwandi, ten miles from here to the North, and Ibrahim at Karakgaum, eight miles to the East. I am so convinced that Jaffer is intended to be the next offering that we will both go to Belwandi; but on the bare chance of its being Ibrahim, I will send Gangaram to warn him to take every possible precaution. We will start at ten o’clock. Meanwhile we can have a stroll, and then some dinner.”

We had our stroll and sat down under some trees near the stream. After a while I remarked to my Chief:

“There is one thing I cannot make out, sir, and that is what is meant by the three fingers.”

“I was hoping that you would ask me that question,” he replied. “I was afraid that you would let that pass. It is tremendously important. I could not find the interpretation at first, but since we sat down here I think I have arrived at it. But is there nothing else that puzzles you?”

“The whole thing is puzzling,” I replied; “but I don’t know that there is any one detail that is specially so.”

“Careless boy!” he answered. “But I dare say I should have been the same at your age. There are two things that have to be worked out. One is how or why the brands of cattle in Upper Sind have been chosen for the cypher; and the other, what is the design below the cryptogram? What should you say it was meant for? It was this design that happened to put me on to the three fingers. Don’t you read the Confidential Police Gazette carefully? A recent entry should help you.”

“I always read it, sir, but it is too long to remember it all.”

“You must strengthen your memory. The last few numbers are in my dispatch-box. We will look them up when we go back to the Police post. Now I was considering the design at the foot of the paper. It seems to represent the junction of either roads or rivers. My thoughts instinctively wandered off to the chief rivers of India; and the union of the Ganges and the Jumna at Allahabad, with the old Mogul fort in the angle, naturally occurred to me. By Jove, of course, I thought, here’s the fort itself represented. But how will that help us? Then it seemed to me that I had read something about Allahabad lately; and it flashed across me that there had been an entry in the Gazette about a three-fingered man at that place who was taking an active part in the Cow-Row business. Have I put two and two together to make sixteen; or does it pan out to the correct four? Come along now, and we will verify the entry.”

Back we went and soon found the entry in the Gazette. It ran as follows: “No. 3752, February 19th. Allahabad. One Luxman Rai has lately been delivering addresses on the kine-killing agitation. Is visited from time to time by persons dressed as Sadhus. Sends a good many letters and parcels by post. Description: age about sixty, thin and emaciated, height five feet six, deep scar about the right eyebrow, hair white. Thumb and index finger of right hand missing. Is being watched. Last Sadhu who visited him gave the name of Bhawani Shunker, age forty, thin, remarkable looking small eyes.”

“Excellent!” said Mr. Carruthers, “two at once, Three Fingers and our friend of to-day. It strikes me we have a chance of earning our pay just at present. The first thing is to wire Allahabad. Where’s there a telegram form and the Police cipher code? See if they are not at the top of my dispatch-box.”

In a few minutes the following telegram was written out in cipher to the District Superintendent of Police at Allahabad, and sent off by a constable to Somapur for transmission. “Your number 3752, Confidential Gazette. Arrest Luxman Rai for abetment of murder of Yusuf, butcher of this district, and probably others. Obtain remand, search his house for stilettos, brass images of cows, and cipher correspondence in which the symbols used are cattle brands of Upper Sind. Get him to write in the same cipher to all his correspondents in India that the deity is satisfied and no further sacrifices are required. To be signed Three Fingers.”

“The moon rises to-night at half-past two. Our friend will want to offer his sacrifice before that time; but he will not do it before midnight, lest any people should be about. We should reach Belwandi by half-past eleven.”

We had some dinner, and at ten o’clock we set off on our ponies, Mr. Carruthers and I, without any escort. The road ran fairly direct. When we calculated that we were about a mile from Belwandi, we met a bullock-cart coming slowly towards us. We alighted, and my Chief stopped the cart-man, who, luckily, was a Mahometan.

“Salaam Alikum,” said Mr. Carruthers.

“Alikum Salaam,” responded the driver, who looked considerably surprised.

“Your name?” asked Mr. Carruthers.

“Jan Mahomed,” was the reply.

“How far is Belwandi?”

“Half a kos.”

“Do you know Jaffer the butcher?”


“Where does he live?”

“He lives alone in a small shed close to his slaughter-house, on this side of the town.”

“Well, Jan Mahomed, I want your assistance. You shall be rewarded for your trouble. Jaffer is in danger of his life, and you must help us to save him by guiding us to the place where he sleeps. Take your cart off the road, unyoke your bullocks, and tie them to a tree. We will do the same with our ponies, and we will walk on. Absolute silence is to be maintained. You can point out the way. I can see well enough by the starlight.”

On we went slowly, and about quarter to twelve we arrived at Belwandi. Jan Mahomed put his hand on my Chief’s arm and pointed out a small shed surrounded by a hedge of dry thorns. Just at that moment a figure emerged from some bushes, and I fancy for a moment Mr. Carruthers thought as I did that it was Bhawani Shunker; but a rapid official salute reassured us and an almost inaudible whisper, “Sahib, it is Krishna,” showed that our prey had been carefully followed. “He is sleeping the other side of the bushes,” continued Krishna in the same whisper.

Mr. Carruthers took off his boots, and motioned to me to do likewise, and he stepped softly to the hut, the door of which was open, and looked in. He was evidently satisfied that Jaffer was inside; for he came back to us, and placed us in positions where we could watch without being seen. He himself crept right inside the shed. Then it was a case of waiting, waiting, waiting, for what seemed interminable ages. At last, though I could hear nothing, and, though there was now a dim light from the rising moon, I could see nothing, I felt a consciousness that some one was moving. A mad inclination came upon me to call out, for the silence seemed intolerable; but luckily I restrained myself. At length slowly, oh so slowly, a crouching form became visible, and gradually approached the shed. What was I to do? There had been no opportunity to give me instructions. I did not dare to interfere, but I drew near as softly as possible. I felt Krishna beside me. The form slowly entered the shed. For a moment there was silence, and then a shout from Mr. Carruthers of “Strike a light!” followed by yells and screams. We dashed in. I lit a match, and had time to see Mr. Carruthers struggling on the ground with our friend Bhawani. My Chief had him by the throat. The butcher, utterly amazed at what was going on, was bellowing at the top of his voice. “Give me the matches, Sahib,” said Krishna to me; and in a few seconds he had kindled some dry grass that was in the shed. Now that we could see, it was easy to complete our task, seize the Sadhu and securely bind him. We rested a few minutes before we searched our captive; and Mr. Carruthers lit one of his long cheroots. He puffed away for a while, and then observed to the occupant of the shed, who was still lost in astonishment:

“It is about time that you thanked us for saving your life, Jaffer. Look at this nice little toy that but for me would have been buried in your breast!”

I have written down so much of this story as I was personally concerned with; and it has been no easy task. To describe all the sequel would be quite beyond me. I would only say that Bhawani Shunker, and Three Fingers, and several other malefactors were hanged by the neck till they were dead, and that we didn’t hear any more of murders of butchers. Oh, there is one thing I had forgotten that I must put down. Mr. Carruthers took the finger impressions of Bhawani Shunker, and sent them to the bureau in Sind, to see if they had his previous history. The result was surprisingly interesting. Under different aliases he had undergone several terms of imprisonment in that province; and he had also wandered about among the cattle-owners of Upper Sind upbraiding them for their wickedness in killing kine. That is where he learnt the cattle brands of the tribes of those parts. He must have thought of the idea of using them as cipher characters, and have arranged with Three Fingers to adopt the system.

P.S.---I forgot to say that when we searched Bhawani Shunker we found on him quite a number of stilettos and brass cows. I also forgot to record that Mr. Carruthers took Krishna on to his personal party, and often found him very useful.


The Terrible Goddess

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

A few years of police work in India are sufficient to reduce one’s estimate of human nature---at all events, as exemplified in the East---to an exceedingly low degree. Such extraordinary falsehoods are constantly told by the natives that it becomes difficult to believe any statement whatsoever. There is a Persian proverb that says, “Never tell a lie when the truth will serve your purpose equally well.” But this queer country reminds me of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas; and when to tell the truth would be the most obvious course to adopt, our Aryan brother will go out of his way to invent the most preposterous and incredible of stories, with the sole result of causing the maximum of annoyance to all concerned. The fact that no advantage results from this procedure has no deterrent effect. At least a third of the crimes reported to the Police have never been committed at all. A man is annoyed by his neighbour, and he instantly proceeds to trump up a false case against him. The Police trade upon this amiable propensity; and when they find themselves unable to detect a case that has really occurred they report that it is a concocted one. David said in his haste that all men are liars. If he had served out here, he could have said it at leisure. I remember a case which Mr. Carruthers sent me to investigate. One worthy gentleman, named Babaram, had made a complaint that his enemy, an equally estimable gentleman, named Balaram, had maimed and mutilated his cattle. There was a counter complaint from Balaram that Babaram’s cattle had trespassed on his fields and ruined his crops, and he wanted redress. He had never laid hands on the cattle; he had only driven them out peaceably. Each of these worthies wanted the other arrested at once. I said that I would go and see the place first. I noticed that they displayed no particular enthusiasm at this suggestion; but I made them go with me. When we arrived at the village where they lived I called up the patel or headman. Lo and behold, neither Babaram nor Balaram possessed either fields or cattle! I remember an ayah asking her mistress to write a letter on her behalf to her son, entreating him to come and see her, as she was “dangerous sick.” “But, ayah,” said the lady, “you are not sick at all!” “No, Mem Sahib; but if I do not say so my son will not come.”

Then they have such weird ideas, these people, about magic and demons and so on. The evil eye is one of their most cherished superstitions. In some cases the employment of this agency seems a more effectual form of revenge than making a false accusation, or sending an anonymous petition against a man. And really the coincidences that from time to time are met with are so unaccountable that one begins to wonder, after all, if the curious beliefs of India have not some basis of fact. I once had a servant named Rupa, a youngster of about eighteen, who was exceedingly smart and useful. He knew all my clothes, and used to get out exactly what I wanted; he waited well at table, and on an emergency could cook me a quite creditable dinner. He was of a bright and cheery disposition, but after a time I noticed a great change in him. He never shirked his work, and he was always present when he was wanted; but he did everything in a purely mechanical way, and manifested no interest in anything. He became intensely melancholy, and grew so thin that he seemed as if he were wasting to a shadow. I was very concerned about him, and sent him to be examined at the Civil Hospital, but they could find nothing specifically wrong. One day I was talking about him to Krishna, Mr. Carruthers’ smart orderly; and I asked him if he could throw any light on the matter. He seemed to know more than he was inclined to say, and I pressed him to speak out. At last, after some hesitation, he said that the fact was this. Someone, who he knew not, had put the evil eye on the boy, and he was to die in two months from the time that this was done. Rupa was now in hopeless despair, as only nine days were left him. Sheer nonsense it seemed to me; and I called him up and talked to him like a father, and persuaded him to take some nourishing food. But on the ninth day he died. Did not this strange occurrence offer food for reflection?

I fear that what I have been writing may appear irrelevant; but before commencing the story that I have to tell I was anxious to explain that, while in this very remarkable country ordinary statements are, as often as not, unworthy of credit, yet there is nothing which is to be disbelieved just because it seems hopelessly improbable or even impossible. I remember once having to study Hamlet for a holiday task; and there was a passage in it about there being more things in heaven and earth than was known to Horatio’s philosophy. My quotation may not, perhaps, be entirely accurate; but that was the substance of the sentiment, and I should say that the author had visited the East. I hope that this prelude to the following history will not be considered superfluous.

In the course of the cold weather Mr. Carruthers and I had been encamped at the village of Wargaum. It was a place with very disagreeable associations for Englishmen, for about a century and a quarter ago our army was badly beaten there by the Mahrattas, and was only allowed to retreat ignominiously to Bombay after coming to very discreditable terms with the enemy. The curious thing is that, while we remember all about it, the natives of the place seemed to have preserved no tradition of the event, and they were not interested in the matter at all. This Wargaum was a very pretty village. It was quite a thriving place, with substantial houses, a well-stocked bazaar, several large tanks in which the water never failed, and extensive vegetable gardens from which many basketfuls of produce went daily by train to Somapur. There was a good deal of cultivation, except on the south side, where the country was rocky and broken up by ravines for about a couple of miles; and beyond there were precipitous hills of a considerable height. Near the tanks were some very fine cocoanut palms and banyan trees, with a profusion of babuls, which are an inferior species of mimosa. Quite a picturesque-looking Hindoo temple stood in the centre of the village. If it hadn’t been for the very undesirable hedges of prickly pear, Wargaum would have been really charming to look at. We stayed about a week there, and got to know the people quite well. The patel, or headman, was a handsome-looking old Mahratta named Devji, with a huge white moustache of which he was very proud. He was also very proud of having slain three panthers in the course of his career. The Hindoo temple that I have mentioned was dedicated to the goddess Kali. The Brahmin priest was a man named Shivram. We used often to talk to him, and found him intelligent and well informed. He, with his wife Tarabai, and two sons and a daughter, occupied an old-fashioned and rambling but roomy house hard by the temple. Tarabai was a buxom, motherly housewife, and the way in which she used to make her brass and copper household vessels shine excited my admiration. The eldest son was destined to succeed his father as priest of the temple; while the younger, with the assistance of a few ryots, used to look after the fields which, so to speak, constituted the glebe of the parish. But the child in whom I was specially interested was Gangabai, a very pretty girl of twelve. Indian children are, as a rule, quite clever and sharp, and I have often wondered why they generally grow up into such very stupid men and women. It was common for a child to understand me readily when I spoke the vernacular, although grown-ups, whether truly or not, would make out that they did not know what I was talking about. Gangabai was a captivating little maiden. She was a good deal more than her kind-hearted mother could manage. She was, in fact, a regular handful, and capable of all kinds of mischief. She used to wander about alone at her own sweet will, climbing the hills, and gathering flowers and berries in the jungle. She wore valuable gold bracelets and silver anklets, and I frequently pointed out to her and to her parents the danger she incurred of being killed for the sake of her ornaments. Gangabai would only laugh, and say that no one would ever hurt her; and really it did not seem as if any could have the heart to lay hands on such a little butterfly. Tarabai contented herself with trying to scold Gangabai for going so far from her home; and the silly old Shivram would retort that the daughter of the priest of Kali must be dressed in accordance with his position, and he would be ashamed to see her going about like a beggar girl.

As I have said, I was greatly interested in Gangabai. She had a tremendous will of her own, had this young lady. One day when I was there her mother had to go by train to Somapur for the day, and nothing would satisfy Gangabai but to go too. In vain did her parents say it was impossible. She was determined to have her own way, and the argument proceeded with tears and coaxings on the one side, and repeated negatives on the other. I expect Gangabai would have got her own way without any assistance, but I happened to be passing at the time, and the little minx appealed to me. Of course, I was obliged to take her part; and I told her father and mother that it would do her all the good in the world, and that my little sister in England used to go about by train with her mother. So off she went, and by way of gratitude she brought me back some particularly sticky sweetmeats which I had to pretend that I liked. But it was in a much more serious matter than this that she expressed her determination. A marriage had been arranged between her and a Brahmin named Rambhau, a widower of forty, who had several boys and girls. In India, daughters, and for the matter of that sons, are not allowed any say in their own matrimonial alliances; but Gangabai, when she heard of the proposed arrangement, absolutely put her foot down, and flatly refused to have anything to do with Rambhau. She did not want to get married at all, she insisted; and if ever she were married, it would certainly not be to a horrible old man like Rambhau. Here the little lady was not strictly accurate; for though the disparity of age was, of course, appalling, yet Rambhau was by no means a horrible man. He struck me as quite a presentable member of society, not at all bad-looking, and very clean and careful as regards his dress. He was fairly well to do, as he possessed some houses and fields; and he had a good reputation among his neighbours. From a worldly point of view, the match would have been a good one; but Gangabai declined to have anything to do with a man three or four times her own age, and with grown-up children who were not likely to give a young stepmother a very warm welcome. Certainly my sympathies were with Gangabai, though I did not see how she was going to avoid the union with Rambhau. But she was quite confident that she would have her own way; and she confided in me that she used to slip into the temple and put little offerings of flowers and fruit before the altar of Kali to induce the goddess to help her. Now, it struck me as unfortunate that it happened to be the terrible and bloodthirsty goddess Kali who was the deity of the shrine. Had it been the kindly goddess Lakshmi, or the compassionate and wise god Ganesh, the girl would have had a better chance. As matters stood, there was not much time to lose if any intervention was to come, for this was January, and the marriage was fixed for the latter part of May.

Mr. Carruthers and I were quite sorry when the time came to strike our tents and move away from Wargaum; and I was the more regretful as for the next two months I was to go off by myself and do a tour of inspection in a part of the district which my Chief had no time to visit himself. The solitary life was not exactly to my taste; and I missed the society of Mr. Carruthers, hard task-master as he was. But it was arranged that during the month of May, when the hot winds and mirage on the Deccan plateau are the reverse of exhilarating, we should tour together along the Ghauts. It was very necessary to traverse the hilly part of the district now and then, as there were certain aboriginal tribes who, if not looked after, were very liable to get out of hand, and come swooping down on the villages of the plain for the purpose of loot. It was also very delightful marching along the Ghauts. The mountain peaks rose to four thousand five hundred feet, and the temperature on these heights was quite delightful and bracing. The scenery was magnificent. There were dense forests, and rocks and precipices, and old Mahratta forts; and from openings in the forest we could look over ranges and ranges of hills to the sea. There were no roads and hardly any paths, and everything that we required had to be carried by coolies. But we travelled as light as possible, doing without tents, and sleeping in little shelters of dry thorns that the people made for us. How the two Brahmin clerks who had to come with us for disposal of urgent work hated it! But to us it was a joy. The only objection was the great delay in getting our post, though I endeavoured to survive this affliction with equanimity.

One evening about the middle of May---I find on referring to my diary it was the 17th---a messenger came in with three red envelopes, the contents of which startled us exceedingly. They had been a very long time reaching us, owing to our being in such out-of-the-way places. They were all from Illam Din, the Head Constable of the Police post at Wargaum. The first was dated the 12th of May, and ran as follows:---

“To the Superintendent Sahib Bahadur.

“Be it known that since two days Gangabai, daughter of Shivram, priest of the Temple, who was known to your honour personally, is missing. This humble one has caused search to be made in every direction, but to no purpose. Enquiries are going on; and information of anything that may transpire will at once be sent to the Sahib. It is feared that Gangabai may have been murdered.

“(Signed) Illam Din, Head Constable.

“Taza kulam (i.e. fresh pen, i.e. postscript). The marriage of Gangabai was arranged for the 16th of May.”

The next letter was dated the 13th of May, and stated that there was no news about Gangabai; but her father was in still further distress because the sacred image of the goddess Kali had disappeared from the altar in the temple in the course of the night. The third letter was dated the 14th---and was to this effect:---

“Be it known. The efforts of your honour’s slave have been rewarded by success. The body of deceased Gangabai has been found in a dense thicket in the jungle, about one kos (two miles) from the village. The gold and silver ornaments have been removed. As the body has been exposed for four days the flesh has been eaten away by jackals and vultures. The skeleton is clearly recognised by two glass bangles of unusual design worn by deceased. The finding of the body took place this morning. Deceased Gangabai was last seen at her house at sunset on the evening of the 10th. It was not likely that she would have gone such a distance by herself at so late an hour. It was therefore surmised that she was enticed away and then murdered on account of her ornaments.

This slave made enquiries, and suspecting one Martand, a bhairagi (religious mendicant), who had been staying in the village for some time, found that on the same evening he had been absent from the village, and had not returned until early the next day. He was unable to explain his absence; and when taxed with the crime made a full confession. He promised to show where he had hidden the girl’s ornaments; but on being taken into the jungle professed his inability to find the place where he had secreted them. He has been sent to the Magistrate under section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and a remand of ten days has been asked for, upon receipt of which accused will be brought back to Wargaum and kept in Police lock-up pending your honour’s arrival.

“(Signed) Illam Din, Head Constable.”

“Good Lord!” I exclaimed when the reports had been deciphered (of course, they were in the vernacular). “How dreadful! Poor little Gangabai! What a brute of a man to kill the poor little innocent. What do you think about it all, sir?”

“My dear Trench,” replied my Chief, “you might have known me well enough to realise that I make it my business never to think at all until I know. We must go there as fast as we possibly can, and verify every detail. When we are in possession of all the circumstances we can think what we like. But these reports by native Police are not, as a rule, veracious guides to the actual facts of the case.”

It was perfectly impossible to travel at night in the wild fastnesses of the Ghauts; but at the earliest streak of dawn we were ready for a start. We walked and scrambled, and scrambled and walked, for hours, occasionally halting for a little rest. It grew frightfully hot as we reached the lower slopes of the hills; and I was wearied out. At last we came to a village, where we found a pony which I borrowed and rode, and Mr. Carruthers marched along beside me. For a couple of hours in the heat of the day we bivouacked under some trees; and then as luck would have it, a rough country cart with two ponies came along. We arranged with the driver to convey us to the nearest railway station, about ten miles off. It was not luxurious travelling, and we took two hours to cover the distance, the track having but a slight resemblance to a road. However, in the Police one must be thankful for small mercies. At the station there fortunately happened to be a goods train that was just starting for Somapur, a distance of thirty miles; and after a weary slow journey with interminable delays we trundled into Somapur about seven o’clock. There was no use in going on by a train which would reach Wargaum at one o’clock at night; besides, I was absolutely worn out, and even Mr. Carruthers admitted that he was thoroughly tired, so we decided to start by the six o’clock train in the morning. How I enjoyed a tub, a change of clothes, and a dinner at the Club! There was, of course, no food available at our house, as our servants were far behind us.

The next morning, the 19th of May, we arrived in due course at Wargaum, and put up in a small room attached to an engineering store just outside the village. Illam Din was in attendance, and Inspector Pandurang with a number of subordinates was also present. As soon as we were a little settled down Mr. Carruthers called in the Head Constable, commended him on his smartness, and asked what the accused had said before the magistrate. Illam Din replied that he had made a full confession, and that he had brought a copy of the statement recorded by the magistrate. A remand of a week had been granted. Two days of this period had expired, but no further information had been obtained. Mr. Carruthers directed that the bhairagi should be brought to him.

As soon as he was led in, my Chief told Illam Din to read out the confession. It ran as follows:---

“My name is Mart and I do not know what my age is. It may be thirty or forty. I live by begging for alms. I have no fixed place of residence, but I wander about. I went to the village where I was arrested when the weather became hot. I do not know if the name of the village is Wargaum. I do not know how many days or weeks I was there. I keep no account of time. I am engaged in contemplation. There was a girl whom I used to see. It was my fate that I should kill her and take her gold and silver ornaments. I spoke to her sometimes when she gave me alms. I told her that there was a bird’s nest with five beautiful blue eggs in the jungle. She came to see it. It was my fate that I strangled her. I took off the gold and silver ornaments, and buried them at the foot of a pipal tree. There are many pipal trees, and I cannot find the place. There were two glass bangles, one on each wrist. These I left. I have nothing more to say. You can do with me what you will. I am neither sorry nor glad for what I have done. It was my fate.”

The bhairagi looked on with total unconcern while the confession was being read out. He presented a very unattractive appearance. Like the rest of his class, his only garments were a loin cloth and a ragged puggri; and his body was smeared with white ashes, and streaked with yellow ochre.

“You need not make any statement to me unless you like,” said Mr. Carruthers, “and I do not want to ask you at present about the murder of the girl. But have you anything to say about the disappearance of the goddess from the altar in the temple?”

The bhairagi’s manner changed instantly. His look of indifference disappeared. He seemed wildly indignant. “What!” he cried, “do you ask if this dust of the earth laid presumptuous hands on the holy goddess? Would not Kali shrivel body and soul of one who dared to offend her? Look now on whom her vengeance shall fall for the outrage that has been committed.”

“That will do,” said Mr. Carruthers to Illam Din; “take him back to the lock-up. Now let Shivram come and see me.” In a very short time the priest of the temple was announced. He had shaved off his moustache, the usual sign of mourning, and he looked utterly unhinged and stricken. He threw himself at Mr. Carruthers’ feet, and, taking off his puggri, plunged into speech without waiting to be addressed.

“I have been waiting for the Sahib,” he said, “for I would speak to no one else. The goddess is gone; great Kali has been stolen; what can I, her priest, do? Guilty and useless servant of the shrine that I am, great has been my sinful carelessness. I and my father before me, and his father before him, and many generations of my line have served Kali in her ancient temple here; and she, the mighty goddess, has blessed these humble ones who offered prayers and oblations in her name. And now I have offended by my negligence, I who should have given my life for her have been heedless. I took no care, and she is gone, removed by some base robber. Her curse will light upon him. And we her votaries, what retribution can we make? Have I not yet made retribution? My mind is on fire. How can we live without her protection. How can we endure her anger? But who has committed this crime? The Sahib must find out the robber and bring him to justice.”

The priest paused for breath, and I looked in amazement at my Chief. What appalling heartlessness was this! The man’s darling little girl had been murdered, and all that he would think of was the wretched image of Kali. I expected my Chief to pour out the vials of his wrath upon him; but he sat still and unmoved, with an unperturbed countenance.

“Yes, Shivram,” he said quietly, “be assured it is my business to bring offenders to justice. But please stand up, or be seated, whichever you prefer. I cannot talk to you very well while you are in that position. That’s better. Now tell me on what day the goddess vanished? To-day is the 19th of May. I understand that it was six days ago, on the 13th, that you informed the Police of the occurrence. I should like to know exactly when you missed the goddess.”

“I will tell the Sahib the truth,” said the priest. “For four days I hid this thing in my heart, and let it be known to none. How could I speak of so terrible a matter when the sacrilege was unavenged? But when the vengeance became known why should I conceal things? Then it became time to speak, and search for the evil-doer.”

Mr. Carruthers’ expression was very stern as he addressed the priest.

“You are quite sure of what you are saying, Shivram? Be very careful, please. From your statement it would appear that the goddess was stolen on the 9th, or a day before another serious event occurred, regarding which you have hitherto been silent. Man alive, have you nothing to say about your daughter Gangabai?”

“Have I not said it?” answered the priest. “Have I not said that when the sacrilege was avenged then was a time to speak? Was there not an avenging? Have not I the servant of Kali avenged the insult done to her? Yes, there was a day and a night, and the will of the goddess came to me. This was the sin that had caused the misfortune, that Gangabai had refused to marry the bridegroom chosen for her in the name of the goddess. The marriage ceremony was to be performed in one week. Then Kali went away, and I knew that the wrath of the goddess had come through Gangabai. There was a day and a night, and the word came to me, and I did the will of the sacred one, and I offered her a sacrifice. Yes, I, Shivram, led Gangabai into the jungle and offered her to Kali. I drew off her gold and silver ornaments so that your Police might think that she had been killed by some robber, for I did not want them to know. But Kali knew, and that is enough. I have done something to make amends; but the Sahib must find the wicked man who has taken the goddess, and put her back upon the altar.”

Words and thoughts alike failed me as I listened to this frightful statement. I felt a burning desire to annihilate the devilish brute on the spot when I thought of the sweet little Gangabai. And then what about the story of the Bhairagi Martand, and his confession before the magistrate? Was that all false? I wondered how Mr. Carruthers would unravel this extraordinary mystery. Much as I wanted to ask him there was an expression in his face which compelled me to refrain.

“In these circumstances,” said Mr. Carruthers to the priest, “I place you under arrest. You will be sent to the magistrate to-morrow. Illam Din, remove Shivram to the Police post. Do not confine him in the lock-up with Martand. One of the constable’s rooms will do. It will be known that Shivram is arrested, but not a word to any one as to the reason why.”

We sat in dead silence for nearly an hour, Mr. Carruthers smoking hard the whole time as he always did when he was in deep thought over some knotty problem. At length, when the silence was becoming unbearable, approaching footsteps were heard, and Rambhau, who was to have become the husband of Gangabai, was announced. He was admitted.

“I am glad to see you,” said Mr. Carruthers. “I was about to send for you to ask you a few questions about this terrible case of Gangabai. I can see by your face how you feel the dreadful blow. You have my deepest sympathy. Now, as to the investigation, you are, of course, aware that Martand has confessed; but at present there is no evidence against him in support of the confession. Can you tell me anything about the man and his goings-on here?”

“Sahib,” he replied, “Martand and his goings-on are of no consequence at all. I have come to tell the Sahib the truth. It is I, Rambhau, son of Madhu, who killed Gangabai. Yes, I killed her. I had loved that girl with all my soul, and I had looked to her being mine and becoming a wife after my own heart. And now the time that was appointed for the marriage is past. Yes, I killed her. For she laughed me to scorn, me to whom she had been vowed in the name of Kali. She said she would drown herself the day before the marriage if the goddess did not deliver her from me. She taunted me in bitter terms. I became frenzied, and my love turned to hate. What! Was I, a man of substance and reputation, to have my face blackened by a girl, to be the laughing-stock of all the country round? The thing was intolerable, inconceivable. So I killed her to avoid the disgrace. I talked to her and said that I would have the marriage postponed for a year, and that we would see how she felt inclined later on. I spoke sweet words, and I persuaded her to come to my house and look at some lamps that I had purchased. I knew that my children were not in the house. She came with me, and I strangled her; and in the night I carried her body to the jungle. Who should have known this? I had saved my honour and avoided disgrace. But I was driven to tell the Sahib.”

Mr. Carruthers sat grim and unmoved. I could endure it no longer. “Sir,” I shouted, “what is all this about? All these confessions are enough to drive one absolutely mad. Do tell me what you think of it all?”

“Bear with me a little longer,” he replied, “my dear boy. It is beyond me just now to say anything. I am trying to work it out. When there is anything to know, you shall know it.”

There was, of course, nothing to do but to have Rambhau removed in custody. It was now midday, and the faithful Rama, who had travelled all night, and caught us up at Somapur, brought us some breakfast. It was a wretched little room that we were in, and the heat was most oppressive; and what with the closeness of the place and the effect on my mind of all that we had heard, I can’t say that I had much appetite. My Chief, however, partook of all that was put before him. After breakfast he opened his dispatch-box and disposed of papers on various subjects, while I lay back in a long chair and tried to have a siesta; but my mind was too much on the alert to allow me to sleep. Slowly the hours passed. At four o’clock Mr. Carruthers sent for Illam Din.

“I forgot to ask you what you had done with the body of Gangabai,” he said. “I presume you have not had it removed.”

“I have neglected no precautions,” was the reply. “I had a hedge of thorns placed round it, and have kept a constable and a couple of villagers to watch the place till your honour should come. But if the Sahib will listen to me concerning these confessions of Shivram and——”

“I will listen to nothing now,” said Mr. Carruthers. “I may have to ask you some questions later on. Meanwhile, I want to see Tarabai, the murdered girl’s mother. Bring her here.”

Tarabai arrived in due course. She looked very different from the buxom, good-natured lady whom I had known in the cold weather. Her appearance was neglected; she looked years older, and appeared woebegone and distraught. My Chief offered her a chair, but she sat down on the floor.

“The Sahib has sent for me, and I have come,” she commenced, “but I was about to come before the order reached me. There are many things, but one thing I wish to tell the Sahib first. The Sahib knows that it is my pride to look after my husband’s house, and the kitchen, and the milk and the butter and the condiments; but some one is stealing my milk and sweetmeats, and protection may be given to me, for who knows what more may be stolen.”

“My good Tarabai,” said my Chief, “is there nothing more important to talk about than milk and sweetmeats? Have you nothing to say about the unfortunate Gangabai?”

Tarabai burst into a flood of tears, and for a long time was unable to speak. At last she appeared to have regained self-control.

“The Sahib must not be angry,” she said. “I did not wish to tell the Sahib; but if a secret is torn out of one’s breast, then how can there be silence? It is useless to conceal the truth from the Sahib. It was I, Tarabai, who did it. It was written in my destiny. This girl refused to be married to the man who was plighted to her in the name of the goddess. Whoever heard of such a disgrace? And the goddess went away from us. What could I do? It was in the evening, and I took Gangabai——”

What further she would have said, or did say, I know not. It was beyond all endurance. My feelings were indescribable. I---felt dominated by some awful influence.

“Stop her, sir,” I exclaimed, “for God’s sake stop her. I shall go mad with all this. I can endure no more. I shall be confessing myself next. What is it all about? Do you feel nothing? I seem to be in sympathy with all these people. Yes, I can put myself in the place of each. One cannot help it. One is driven to it. Yes, I must out with it. I can recall it all now, yes, it was I, I who——”

I suppose I fainted; for the next thing I remember was finding myself on the ground, with Mr. Carruthers stooping over me, and forcing some brandy down my throat. He spoke kindly and bade me cheer up, and said I should be all right directly; but he looked very grave. I certainly did not feel as if I should be all right directly; however, I endeavoured to compose myself.

“I have told Tarabai that she can go away and attend to her household duties,” said my Chief when I had to some extent recovered. “I am not taking any official notice of what she has said at present. I am going over to see her in her house soon, and after that I have an unpleasant duty to do. I must have a look at the remains of the unfortunate girl. We will have some tea, and I hope you will be able to go with me.”

I felt better after the tea, though still a good deal shaken; and I managed to go with Mr. Carruthers. Not for worlds would I have been left alone. First we walked over to the priest’s house, where Mr. Carruthers chatted away with Tarabai on trivial subjects, professing the utmost interest in all the details of her house and farmyard. I suppose they must have talked for half an hour or so. It certainly seemed to me an extraordinary waste of time, considering all that had happened; but it appeared to do Tarabai good, and as my Chief led her on she became more her old self. Then the conversation gradually turned upon Gangabai, about whom they both talked quite unconcernedly; and Mr. Carruthers asked about the gold bracelets and silver anklets that the girl had worn, and also the glass bangles that were left on the body. These were very peculiar, the good lady said; and she did not think that any others could be obtained of the same pattern, certainly not in that part of the country. She would show the Sahib what they were like, for she had a couple of spare ones lying on a shelf. But they were not to be found when she went to look for them; and Tarabai was quite put out that she could not lay hands on them. At last Mr. Carruthers said that we must go, and we wished her good-bye, and promised to come and see her again; while never a word was said about her confession. It was beyond me to wonder any longer what was the meaning of those strange confessions, and it was as in a dream that I accompanied my Chief to where the remains of Gangabai lay. We rode ponies that had been provided for us, while Illam Din walked alongside. The country was too rough to permit us to go at any pace. It may have been half an hour before sunset when we arrived at our destination. We dismounted, but I could not bring myself to go near the body of the poor girl. My Chief, however, made a minute inspection of the skeleton, even looking at it with his lens. Finally, he turned to the Head Constable, and said:---

“I know that there are no Mahometans in Wargaum. Where is the nearest village that has any Mussulman community?”

Illam Din reflected for a moment, and replied that there were some of his co-religionists at Karla, ten miles away.

“I know that very well,” said the Chief, “but are there none nearer? Are there not a few at the hamlet of Mehid?”

“There are two families there,” was the reply, which seemed dragged out of the Head Constable’s mouth.

“Yes, and the distance of Mehid from here is about a mile and a half?”

“What is there that this humble one can tell the Sahib? My request is that I may be allowed to resign the Police at once, without the customary two months’ notice.”

“You may,” was the curt response; and without any further conversation we mounted our ponies and rode back in the growing darkness. My Chief was obviously immersed in thought, for never a word did he say to break the silence, nor did I like to ask him what on earth could have induced Illam Din to make so extraordinary a request. At dinner-time things improved, and Mr. Carruthers began to talk, greatly to my relief. There was no conversation, however, about the business which had brought us to Wargaum; but my Chief seemed very keen on some new novels that he had lately received from home, and he quite warmed up as he told me about them. When we had finished dinner and Rama had disappeared, he said something that considerably surprised me.

“We shall not sleep here,” he said. “We pass the night in Shivram’s house. Tarabai knows nothing about it. You remember the lean-to room at the back of the house. It will be open. I noticed this afternoon that the door does not close properly. We shall have to keep absolutely quiet. We must hide ourselves under the loose grass that you may have seen. You can go to sleep if you can manage it. Have a bullseye with you. See that it is properly filled with oil, and keep it closed till I ask you to show a light.”

I knew it was useless to ask questions. The only thing was to obey orders. So about eleven o’clock we walked over quietly and slipped in at the back door without being observed. We crept under the grass as well as we could, and terribly hot and suffocating we found the position that we had taken up. But somehow or other, perhaps as a reaction to the strain that I had gone through, I soon fell fast asleep. It was not a very restful sleep, however. I had a seemingly endless series of dreams, all of them horrible. At last I fancied myself a witness of the murder of Gangabai, though who was the murderer I could not exactly make out. I could hear the piercing screams of the poor little girl. Heartrending screams they were---how actual, how real! And then in the midst of them I heard Mr. Carruthers say, “Quick, Trench, a light,” and then, “You are a very naughty little girl to give all this trouble.”

I was amazed on turning on the light of the bullseye to see Mr. Carruthers, still lying on the ground, half-covered with grass, holding by the ankle a very frightened, unkempt, and betowzled little Gangabai, who was uttering scream after scream. But she soon stopped when she saw who we were; and my Chief took her on his knee and patted her on the head. “I fancied it was you, young lady, who was stealing the milk and sweatmeats. You would not find jungle-berries sustaining for very long. Now you had better have that drink of milk which I have interrupted you from taking, and then you can tell us all your happenings.”

Gangabai slid off his knee, very leisurely drank some milk and ate some sweetmeats, and then, with a wicked smile on her merry little face, said, “What fun it has been! I don’t think they will try to marry me to that old Rambhau now.”

“I don’t think they will,” said my Chief, laughing in spite of himself; “Rambhau would not marry you for a lakh of rupees. But if you have had some fun yourself, a good many other people have had a very rough time indeed, between you and the goddess. And tell me now, Gangabai, what you have done with the goddess.”

She hung her head at this, and pretended that she would not say anything; but after a little while she yielded to my Chief’s coaxings and spoke out.

“I will tell you everything, Sahib,” she said. “I had made the goddess many offerings of flowers and sweets so that she might save me from the marriage to Rambhau. But no sign came, and the time was close at hand, and I became very angry. Then I stole the goddess, and I ran away and hid in the jungle. And oh, it was fun; and I caught a squirrel and tamed it, and here it is, look.” And the little lady brought out a squirrel from the folds of her sari, and let it run all over her.

Shah-bash,” said Mr. Carruthers, “that was clever of you, but you don’t put me off like that. Where is the goddess? You must obey me.”

With a twinkle in her eye she again explored the folds of her sari, whence she produced the missing brass image of Kali. The countenance of the goddess was inexpressibly stern and forbidding. She had no less than eight hands, in each of which was held a formidable weapon. The uppermost of her right hands grasped a heavy sword, with which she was apparently about to slay an evil-looking monster that was at her feet. Two fierce hounds couched before her. The image was about six inches in height. Its workmanship was most delicate and artistic.

“So this is the terrible goddess who has set every one daft in revenge for being stolen!” said my Chief. “As for the gods of the heathen, they may be but vanity; but they seem able to use their vanity to some purpose. The method may seem odd, but has not Kali attained her object?”

I need not describe the joy of Tarabai and Shivram, at getting back both their daughter and the goddess, the latter of whom was duly reinstalled on the altar. The arrested persons were, of course, released; and the strange thing was that none of those who had incriminated themselves remembered having done so now that the influence, or spell, was withdrawn. Of course, it is beyond me to offer any explanation of the strange circumstances. I merely set down the facts as they took place.

Mr. Carruthers explained to me the next day how he had gradually arrived at the truth of the matter. At first, he said, it had not seemed impossible that Martand had killed the girl; but his inability to find the ornaments threw some suspicion on his story. With so many people stating that they had each committed the crime it was obvious that all the statements except one must be untrue, and all of them might be equally false. Then Tarabai’s complaint that her milk and sweetmeats were being stolen caused this idea to suddenly flash across his brain that the girl might be alive. Again, Shivram’s admission that the goddess had been stolen before and not after the girl’s disappearance, threw a light new on the circumstances. He remembered how Gangabai had connected the goddess with her marriage to Rambhau, and how she used to try to get Kali to help her. Altogether it seemed probable that the girl was alive, and was responsible for the goddess’s disappearance.

“But tell me, sir,” I said, “about the body, and Gangabai’s glass bangles being on it?”

“I did not care to ask you to examine the remains that we were taken to see,” he replied. “If you had examined them as I did---you would have seen that the skeleton was one that had been buried for some little time. Earth was adhering to it in several places. As you know, Hindoos burn their dead. Did I not ask Illam Din where the nearest Mahometans lived? He saw what was in my mind, and thought that he had better resign. I let him. I could not face the idea of prosecuting him, and of my---an Englishman---having to give evidence in court about the doings of the terrible goddess, and being cross-examined thereon by sarcastic pleaders. You see, the aspiring officer wanted to secure a conviction against Martand, who, I fancy, must have made his confession a little earlier in the proceedings than the reports show. Yes, Illam Din thought he would get promotion by an ingenious piece of detection. He was probably surprised at Martand’s readiness to confess. To work up his case he exhumed the body of a child from the nearest Mussulman cemetery, and put on it the glass bangles of Gangabai, which you will remember Tarabai was unable to find. It was rather smart of him; but, as it turned out, not quite smart enough. The force is well rid of a scoundrel.”

I trust that I shall have no more to do with the gods and the goddesses of the heathen. I don’t like their sort of vanity.


For East Is East

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

The more I saw of the Hindoos the more eccentric they seemed to me. Many of them I had a real liking for, the Mahrattas in particular; and when in the course of a shooting or a pig-sticking expedition I sat down under a tree for some lunch, and afterwards enjoyed a smoke, I used often to have most interesting conversations with the cultivators who had volunteered their services as beaters. To any one who seemed in sympathy with them they would open their hearts and talk away as freely as could be, about their families, their personal affairs, their harvests, their local gods and goddesses, and their traditions and customs. Mr. Carruthers was, so to speak, an Encyclopædia Indica on Hindoo religion and superstition; and partly by listening to him and partly by talking to the people, in course of time I managed to acquire a certain amount of information on these subjects. I must say, on the whole, I was glad that I was not a Hindoo, especially a Brahmin. It would not have been so bad to be a Mahometan, at all events a male Mahometan; for the women, except those of the lower classes who could go about freely, must have led rather a melancholy existence, locked up as they were in the Zenana or harem. But missionary ladies, and others who have seen them in their houses, have told me that so far from being discontented with their lot they would look on it as a shameful thing if any man beyond their husbands and near relations were to see their faces. This seems rather hard to believe. The same authorities have, however, told me that these good ladies are generally very fat, and their faces anything but attractive to look at; and this latter circumstance may have something to do with their dislike to being seen abroad. As far as the men are concerned, they appeared to have quite as much liberty as was good for them. True, they are forbidden by the laws of their prophet to drink intoxicating liquor; but perhaps on the whole this restriction has its advantages. For the well-to-do there were various means by which the regulations on the subject might be relaxed in their favour, and a medical certificate that an occasional bottle of Exshaw’s brandy was necessary on account of health was not very expensive to purchase. Yet with the glorious inconsistency and perversity of the East I have known a Mahometan camel-sawar let his wife die when a little brandy would probably have saved her life, rather than allow the forbidden liquor to pass her lips. He was sincerely grieved at her loss. But there was one thing that would certainly not have tempted me to be a Mahometan, and that is the month called Ramzan, when they all have to fast in real earnest. There is no pretence about it. From sunrise to sunset not a morsel of food, not a drop of liquid of any description may pass their lips. Not a whiff of tobacco is allowed. And they go on with their usual work, and carry out the order, as a matter of course, without a word of complaint. The Ramzan may sometimes be in the cold weather and sometimes in the hot. The Mahometan year, which consists of twelve lunar months, with some fractions over, is eleven days shorter than ours; and so each year the Ramzan, or any other particular month, commences eleven days earlier, according to our calendar. In the course of time, the Ramzan has been included in each month of the year. Fancy Christmas sometimes coming at Midsummer! When the Ramzan has to be observed in the fiery heat of July, and the day from sunrise to sunset is over sixteen hours long, I should think that the inclination for a drink in the course of the afternoon would be hard to overcome. I must confess I should not find it easy to keep that commandment of the prophet. Otherwise the Mahometans as a general rule seemed to have a pleasanter and freer life than Hindoos. Of course, they are not free from superstitions and prejudices. But these did not seem to cause them much trouble; and they were most punctilious in their religious observances, for which I hold them entitled to great credit. They would never hesitate, whoever was looking on, to prostrate themselves and say their prayers at sunset, wherever they were. It might be on the platform of a railway station, or by the roadside, or in a boat; it did not make the slightest difference. One curious fact in connection with their lunar months was that they would never believe that the moon had arrived in its proper place in the heaven unless it had actually been seen. On a dark, cloudy evening in the monsoon, especially on the last day of Ramzan, they would be gazing by the thousands for the new moon. The existence of such a thing as an almanac was entirely disregarded. They would, however, act upon a telegram that the moon had been seen somewhere else.

But not for any consideration would I choose to be a Hindoo, more particularly a Brahmin. The Brahmins form the priestly caste. The tradition is that there were originally four castes, and that they were all born from Brahma, the creator. The Brahmins, the highest caste, sprang from his mouth; the Kshatryas, or soldiers, from his arms; the Waishyas, or traders, from his thigh; and the Sudras, or miscellaneous, from his feet. Nowadays it is doubtful if any of the Kshatryas or Waishyas exist, though the Rajputs claim to be Kshatryas. The Sudras are split up into a multitude of castes, some of which are practically guilds or crafts. People of one of these cannot eat or intermarry with those of any other. If any one breaks the caste rules he is fined or expelled from the caste; and in this latter case the best thing that he can do is to become a Christian or Mussulman. The Brahmins are most scrupulously particular about their caste, and they are in consequence frequently put to serious discomfort. A Brahmin is always potentially a priest, although he is not necessarily employed as such. On the contrary, he may be a soldier, policeman, clerk, trader, telegraph operator, ticket collector, a cook or water-carrier to other Brahmins, or even a beggar. But he is always “twice-born,” and semi-sacred; and if he does such a terrible thing as touch a low caste Hindoo or an European, he is thereby defiled, and has to go through stringent ceremonies of purification before he can partake of food, or say his prayers. When he has his meals he is only allowed to wear a garment of one piece of cloth, which must not be sewn in any way. This is usually a kind of thin white shawl, which he wraps round him. Then he sits down on the floor, and enjoys his repast, leaving what he does not want for the female members of his family. The arrangement seemed to me a very unsociable one. If business or duty takes a twice-born to the hills in the cold weather, when an Englishman is glad of clothes as warm as he would wear at home in the winter, I do not envy my friend the Brahmin as he sits down to enjoy his meal. I fancy that the function is not a prolonged one.

Even the Brahmins have a number of divisions and subdivisions, and the customs of all are not alike. So what I am going to say will not apply universally. But there is, on the whole, a general likeness in spite of differences in some details. A Brahmin spends his life in religious observances and ceremonials. When he rises in the morning he bows to the sun, and after bathing, which is, of course, a religious ceremony, he goes to the house-shrine of his family gods. He sits on a low wooden stool before the gods for about half an hour, repeating prayers and chanting verses. He has to meditate on a multitude of profound and abstruse subjects. He must think of Brahma, and remember that there are nine Brahmas who created the eight million four hundred thousand kinds of living creatures, of which the most important is man, the apex of the creation being a Brahmin. He must think of the corner of the world called Agnidiku, or the region of fire, over which the god Agni Iswara presides, and which is that part of the world in which India is situated. I must say that for several months of the year it is not very difficult to remember this subject of meditation. When he has thought of as many of the things on the list as he can be reasonably expected to call to mind, he has to perform “pooja,” or worship and adoration. Pooja is continued at intervals throughout the day; in fact, when a Brahmin has any time to spare he employs it in purifying himself and offering a pooja. There are many varieties of poojas. One consists in washing the feet of the family god. If the deity’s favour is to be specially sought, flowers, saffron, and sandalwood powder may be placed in the water; or he may be propitiated with a beverage of honey, sugar, and milk. There is a comprehensive rubric in which stress is laid on incense and lighted lamps. Before offering the gifts, care has to be taken to sprinkle a little water over them with the tips of the fingers. The worshippers can then prostrate themselves before the deity. A Brahmin may have to earn his living as much as any one else; but as soon as his day’s work is over he returns to his poojas with unabated energy. I must say that there are some of the customs of these people which came to my knowledge which I was distinctly sorry that I had ever heard of.

In one of his stories Mr. Carruthers described in detail the interminable ceremonies of a Brahmin marriage. Similar obligations recur over and over again in the life of the unfortunate Brahmin. The ceremonies after the birth of a child are wellnigh endless. During the fourth month, if the child is a boy, the sun-showing or suryava lokan is performed; in the fifth the earth-setting or bhumyu paveshan; and in the sixth, eighth, or tenth month the food-tasting or anna prashan. All these are extraordinarily tedious and wearisome. In the third year is the head-shaving and in the seventh the girding with the Brahmanical sacred thread. The directions for the ritual in these ceremonies occupy pages and pages of the sacred books. Then there are elaborate ordinances concerning the coming of age, atonement before death, and funerals, and many other occasions. As I have said, I am glad I am not a Brahmin. What I want to explain is that these people are simply infatuated with their religious obligations. They think that all their happiness in this world, and in the innumerable lives to come, depends upon the proper performance of their observances. I have known Brahmins for whom I have the greatest respect, and others, perhaps the most devoted of all to the priestly rites, who are out-and-out scoundrels. However, that is a parenthesis. Nowadays the education in English colleges tends to demolish these old-established ideas, and the orders of Government clash with some of them. Consequently the more conservative and orthodox sections of the twice-born Brahmins have a consuming hatred for all things English, even though they can speak English as well as I can, not to say considerably better.

There is just one thing more that I must refer to before I proceed to my story, and that is the treatment of high-caste widows. With their child-marriage system, a girl may be left a widow at the age of ten. She can never marry again. She is looked on more or less as an accursed thing. Her head is kept shaved, and she has to wear the most hideous-looking clothes. She is, in fact, in mourning until her death. She may wear no ornaments. She must not, except in a few communities, put saffron on her face or mark her forehead. This she regards as the greatest of her hardships. She can have no share in amusements or ceremonies, for her very presence would be considered an evil omen. “Widow” is actually a term of abuse.

On the heights of the Ghauts there is a most delightful hill station, where every one who can manage it goes up for the hot weather. As soon as the monsoon bursts they all return to their own stations, for the rainfall on the hill is about three hundred inches in four months. The scenery is most romantic. There are excellent carriage roads for driving, and paths cut through the forest for riding. There is a club and a gymkhana, a racecourse, and polo-ground, and as many social festivities as an ordinary man could desire. The strawberries that grow there are almost like English ones. I managed to run up for a few days’ leave in the Easter holidays, and a delightful time I had. I did not take any long leave, as I was saving this up for a trip to England, when I could afford a second-class return ticket by the P. and O. But what I have to write is not about the hills, but about a place in the valley below, which I passed through on my way up and down. It looked so fascinating as I drove through it in the tonga on my way to the hills that I arranged to spend a few hours there on my return journey. The name of the place was Wynot. It is on the sacred river Krishna, and is a specially holy spot. As a stronghold of Brahmin, conservatism and superstition it has no rival. Dislike and hatred of us Europeans were constantly manifested there. I used to have an idea that the natives fondly appreciated the blessings of British rule; but at a fairly early stage I was rather disillusioned on this subject. I came across a certain amount of what we called sedition and they called patriotism at Somapur; but for sentiments of this nature I must say Wynot was unsurpassable! However, it was quite an interesting place to see. There was a picturesque town of about twelve thousand inhabitants; and a large proportion of these, including all the leading people, were Brahmins of the Brahmins. At the west end of the town there was a large temple of Ganpati or Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of wisdom. It was an imposing edifice built of grey basalt. Its chief architectural feature was a fluted conical dome of brick covered with white plaster, about seventy feet high. Just above this shrine there was a stone weir built across the river bed, and so for half a mile upwards from the weir the Krishna was always full of water. Most Indian rivers are nothing but empty watercourses for more than half the year. Along this half-mile there is a whole series of temples of various gods and goddesses. The ghaut, or river bank, is lined with steps all the way. My visit was in the evening, and it was a curious sight to see hundreds and hundreds of people, men and women, along the range of steps, incessantly engaged in their ceremonial ablutions and clothes-washing. These occupations always went hand in hand. The women were mostly, if not all, Brahmins. I never could grasp the principle on which some women, whether Hindoo or Mahometans, were locked up, and others allowed to go abroad; but, generally speaking, Brahmin women were free to move about as they liked. However, I suppose that some one was exercising precautions all the time to prevent any breach of propriety.

The banks of the river were low, and were overhung with trees and grass. Round about were beautiful mango topes, and the fruit at this time was about to ripen. Rather overrated things I considered mangoes, and very inferior to a juicy English pear, not to speak of the trouble involved in the process of eating them. To the west the range of the Sahyadris, or Western Ghauts, stood out purple and blue in the glow of the setting sun. I walked right along the extended cluster of temples, taking great care to offend no religious susceptibilities, but none the less noticing various venomous glances, and sotto voce remarks that sounded the reverse of blessings. Some of the temples were very handsome. I believe that several of them cost as much as thirty thousand pounds each. The architecture was peculiar, for it was hard to say whether the erections on the temples ought to be described as domes or spires. They were a kind of compromise between the two; and the general effect, though odd, was rather pleasing. One of these spires or domes was twelve-sided, with rows of weird mythological figures on each of the tiers. There was some finely carved ornamentation too, consisting chiefly of flowers. The basalt pillars, originally black, were polished to the brightness of a mirror. There were also some very fine and substantial houses. I asked a man if he would tell me who lived in the most prominent of them. He seemed to think that I was taking a liberty in addressing him; but he condescended to inform me that it belonged to a very holy and revered gentleman named Wasudew Govind Phadke. This was my first acquaintance with Wynot. I little thought of the circumstances in which I was to see it again. It was to be the scene of one of Mr. Carruthers’ greatest successes, and incidentally one of his failures.

There was no lack of crime to occupy Mr. Carruthers and myself for the rest of the hot weather. There were occasional murders, a good many cases of arson, a regular crop of robberies and burglaries, and a few dacoities. It did not seem to matter how many criminals we arrested and had sent to jail. There invariably seemed just as many more to take their place.

The hot weather was always a busy time. The soil was as hard as iron beneath the furious sun, and no agricultural pursuits could be carried on. So there was plenty of leisure for the village jawans to go off and amuse thmeselves by looting bunyas and sawkars, or whomsoever it pleased them to favour with their attentions. As soon as the rain came at the beginning of June all this changed; and with the exception of the regular criminal classes, every one settled down with apparently intense devotion to the field operations. The arrangement was not altogether an unsatisfactory one, for trying as it was to have to go about in the dry hot weather it was nothing to the discomfort of plodding across country in the rains when mile after mile was under water. I remember that season at Somapur as a particularly bright and enjoyable one. Of course, my work had to come before everything else; but nevertheless I was able to get quite a reasonable time for amusement. I even went to the races and thoroughly enjoyed them; though not for worlds would I have risked any money in betting. I had learnt my lesson. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed that season. I was out of debt, thanks to Mr. Carruthers, and had no cares of any description to weigh upon me. I had many good friends, and altogether life seemed worth living. I don’t know if I need explain that the fashionable season at Somapur is in the rains, that last from June to September, and not in the cold weather. The reason is that in the cold weather all the high officials and the district officers of all branches of the service flit away to other spheres, whether into camp or to the metropolis of Bombay, and the troops go out for manoeuvres, and so on; and also the climate of Somapur is at its best during the monsoon. Occasionally I had to go out for a day or two after some crime, but it was generally by train, and it only amounted to a pleasant change. But twice in the course of that season Mr. Carruthers and I had to go out for a longer spell, and each time our path lay to the very holy town of Wynot.

One day at the beginning of August the post brought in the report of a very serious crime in the usual flaming red envelope. It was from the Head Constable of the Police post at Wynot. The report was evidently hastily written, for the language was so confused that it was almost unintelligible; but this much was clear, that a Brahmin named Shivram Govind Phadke and his wife Radha had been murdered by some person or persons unknown, and ornaments of considerable value stolen. Mr. Carruthers decided that we should both go. It was an easy journey, about four hours by slow train, and then twenty miles by tonga, which with the state of the roads in the rainy season meant another three or four hours according to circumstances. We took the night train and arrived without difficulty at Wynot in the early morning. Luckily the place possessed a dawk bungalow, so there was no particular discomfort to face. I should mention that I had told my Chief that the name of the deceased was more or less familiar to me. His second and third names were identical with those of the holy man whose name I had ascertained when I had visited Wynot at Easter. With these people every man has three names: the first is his own special designation, the second is his father’s name, and the third his patronymic or surname. So it was probable that the murdered man was brother of the gentleman who occupied the large house which had attracted my notice. This turned out to be the case. Both brothers had lived in the same house, though in different parts thereof. The house, to which after some tea and toast and ablutions we promptly repaired, was certainly a very fine one, of the usual Deccan design. It was built round a central courtyard, in which was a tamarind tree and some bushes of the sacred tulsi plant. The entrance was through a gateway on the west of the building, facing the river, which was now in full flood, the weir being hardly distinguishable. The house was raised on a plinth, and there was a broad verandah, roofed in, running right round the square. The verandah is the most useful part of the house. In it the children play, visitors are received, the owner of the house does his business with his clerk or agent, and the women polish their household vessels, or chatter and gossip. This house was rather unusual inasmuch as it had an upper storey. We were received by the good man’s karbhari or agent, and asked to take chairs, and kindly wait till Wasudew Govind Phadke had completed the religious ceremony in which he was engaged. We had a long time to wait; but we knew that neither life nor death would hurry a Brahmin priest when he was occupied with religious business. In due course he arrived and addressed us in English, politely enough. He was an elderly man, seemingly in broken health. He was scrupulously dressed after the fashion of his kind. He was naturally tall, but was very bent. His complexion was remarkably fair, and his features what might be described as classical. He had the cold grey eyes which are occasionally met with among Brahmins; and if eyes could mean anything at all, his signified invincible determination and bitter hatred. Without any hesitation he introduced his wife Anandabai, and bade her bring us milk and sweetmeats. Anandabai was a by no means bad-looking woman, of about five-and-twenty, evidently---from the great disparity in age---the Brahmin’s second wife. She did not look particularly happy; but was apparently of a yielding disposition, and ready to obey the mandates of her lord.

The story that Wasudew had to tell us was an extraordinary one. He and his deceased brother and their respective wives had always been on the best of terms.

It had suited them to occupy different parts of the house, but they used constantly to meet during the day. Owing to the kindness of the goddess Lakshmi, the elder brother, our host, had a son and a daughter by his first wife, and a son by his present wife; but the younger brother Shivram and his wife Radha had no children. This was an intense grief to them. They had offered sacrifices and vows to Lakshmi and many divinities, and had even made a pilgrimage to the sacred city of Kashi (Benares), but all to no purpose. They had also fruitlessly consulted various learned and religious persons who came on pilgrimage to the temple of Wynot. At last, about ten days ago, a circumstance occurred which raised their hopes and gave them the greatest comfort. There arrived at Wynot two ascetics by name Gopal and Ganesh, the first of whom was a guru, or a kind of ecclesiastical father-superior, and the latter his chela, or disciple. They brought with them letters and certificates from the custodians of many important religious centres, testifying to their extreme saintliness, and the wonderful powers of the guru as a diviner and soothsayer. To these two the deceased Shivram and Radha confided their trouble, and besought them to exercise their meditations with the gods. The guru was most kind and sympathetic. He replied that on the third day the planets would be propitious for the investigation of the matter, and that he would spend the intervening time in fasting and purification, so that his powers might be unimpaired by any terrestrial influence, and he enjoined on them to do likewise. At the appointed time the guru and his disciple met the two deceased. The guru with the chela’s assistance performed some mystic incantations, and then held a minute examination of the hands of the husband and wife. The guru said to the other, “Is it so?” and the chela replied, “It is so.” Gopal then told Shivram that he and his disciple had read their hands, and through their knowledge of soothsaying had discovered that the reason for his wife having no children was that the evil eye had been put upon them, and it was necessary to exorcise the spell. After that they should in due course have two children, a boy and a girl. The couple were, of course, overjoyed at this revelation. The next thing was to arrange for the exorcising of the malign influence. In order to do this, Gopal said that after another interval of three days a feast should be given to gurus and Brahmins at the expense of Shivram, and Radha should attend, wearing all her jewels and ornaments. This was all done as directed. On the termination of the feast the guru again performed some mysterious rites, mixed some powder in milk, and gave it to the deceased to drink, which they did, and directed them for that night to sleep in separate rooms which adjoined each other on the upper floor, being careful to leave the windows open. The holy men then departed with the blessings of the assembled throng to pass the night in a temple. They expressed their intentions to leave the next morning. The guests then dispersed, and the inmates of the house went to sleep in a happy and contented frame of mind. The next morning, after his usual religious ceremonies, Wasudew sent to inquire if his brother was up. The messenger returned in horror and alarm to say that both Shivram and Radha had been murdered, and Radha’s ornaments were gone. The value of these was seven thousand rupees. There was not the slightest clue to the perpetrators of the crime. The feast had taken place three days ago, that is, the day before yesterday morning. The disposal of the bodies could no longer be delayed. Wasudew was ready to offer a large reward for the perpetrators of the crime.

The first thing was, of course, to make a minute examination of the bodies and of the premises which the deceased had occupied. The unfortunate people had had their throats cut, apparently by an ordinary knife, or rather knives; for Mr. Carruthers soon came to the conclusion that there had been two separate murderers, as in the case of Radha the weapon had been used by a left-handed man, while in the husband’s case this peculiarity was absent. Entrance had been effected through the windows that opened on to the back of the house, not from those which faced the court. The windows were only ten feet from the ground; and the criminals had piled up a number of wooden boxes which were lying about, and so easily climbed in. Now over the window of the room occupied by the murdered man, there was a shelter which protected it from the rain, while the other had no protection. The window-sill of Radha’s room was consequently clean; but on the other there was a thick layer of dust. The murderer had put his hands on this to help him to get in; and there was a wonderfully clear impression of his finger-tips. I know my Chief so well that I could see he was very excited at this; but the casual observer would not have noticed anything to show that he attached any particular importance to the matter.

“I think I will take a snapshot of this,” he said; “there is just a chance that it may prove useful. Do you mind sending over to the dawk bungalow for my kodak?”

Mr. Carruthers took a number of photographs of the finger impressions; and it was wonderful to see when we examined the negatives with a magnifying-glass how clear the markings appeared. Then to my surprise he said to me:

“I am going back to Somapur as fast as I possibly can. There is nothing for me to do here just at present. But I want you to remain here, partly to show that the case is not being neglected, and partly to keep your eyes open should any developments occur. You will either hear from or see me before very long. Meanwhile you can ask all the questions and make all the inquiries that you like, the more the better. Converse freely with this old Wasudew, and get a descriptive list of Radha’s ornaments for me to take with me.”

Five days passed away, and I must admit that the time hung heavy on my hands. I asked all sorts of questions about the case without obtaining any clue. The Brahmins had not the least suspicion against any person or persons, neither had the few local police. A police inspector named Govind, who had been after some cases a long way off, arrived on the second day; and he formed a theory that the murders had been committed by Wasudew himself or at his instigation. True, he said, there had been no apparent hostility between the brothers; but this was a most suspicious circumstance, as everyone knew that when two Hindoo families occupy one house they always spend their time in quarrelling. Moreover, Radha’s ornaments were said to have been worth seven thousand rupees, while those of Anandabai were valued at less than five thousand. This fact was, he considered, quite sufficient reason for Anandabai to have instigated the murder of Radha and her husband. He wanted to have the whole house searched to see if the missing ornaments had not been concealed by Wasudew and Anandabai; but Wasudew strongly protested against this proposal, and I declined to permit this procedure merely on the grounds of a guess. The only thing to do was to await Mr. Carruthers’ return. Meanwhile I had my eyes considerably opened in another direction, and I learnt various unexpected things, though they did not affect this particular case. Old Wasudew was very communicative, and was the most recklessly outspoken man I could have possibly imagined. He seemed regardless of consequences. His hatred of the English was, I should think, unparalleled; and he appeared to revel in pouring out his opinions to me, one of the detested race. It did me no harm, and it filled up the time, so I let him go on to his heart’s content. According to him the English were nothing but robbers and plunderers, who had established their rule by craft and guile and false promises. Their aim was solely and entirely selfish. As an example of how they robbed the country he pointed out that the Government sent home to the Secretary of State for India thirty million pounds sterling a year, which was squeezed out of the unfortunate inhabitants of India, who were reduced to such abject poverty that they had nothing to eat or to wear. I had not noticed much poverty at Wynot; but I did not mention this. It amused me rather to draw the old gentleman out. Contact with Englishmen, he would say, brought in its train poverty, slavery, and immorality. The so-called benevolent rule of the British was responsible for a much larger number of deaths by starvation than was ever due to former internecine wars. The drain of India’s wealth had made England fabulously rich, while it had produced in India frequent famines of terrible severity. The harrowing trials and tribulations through which India was passing were quite intolerable. All the Government appointments that were worth having were filled by Englishmen, and Indians were expected to be happy if they were allowed to be punkah-pullers or sweepers. India used to supply the markets of the world with the products of her looms; and now all the weavers were ruined and their industry dead, because the selfish foreigners forced upon the Indians the cotton goods of Manchester. The railways were made only to provide good appointments for Europeans, and to get hold of the money of the people and further enslave the land by providing facilities for military transport. As for the white soldiers, it was well known that they were pitiless devils, sparing neither age nor sex. “I have read the Irish newspapers,” he flared out at the end of a long dissertation, “and find that the name applied by them to the British Empire, is Hell. That is what I think too. The English have in point of Satanic tyranny outdone all the cruel and despotic rulers whom the world has known. You are aware how your ill-deeds have made us hate you, and you have deprived us of our arms so that you may be safe. You introduced security of property, that you might carry it all away with perfect ease. As for security of life, look around at famine, plague, and starvation. The motives of the English in India are impure, being based on greed of money and lust of power. But a spirit is arising in India through which we shall burst our shackles. Your time is coming to an end. Our old religion shall be revived and established. The good old days when the children of Bhawani and Indra possessed the land shall return, and every one of you Feringhis shall be swept out of the land.”

I smiled and lit a pipe, and said I would think it over, which I did; and on thinking it over I came to the conclusion that the extraordinary thing was that the silly old man certainly believed all the nonsense that he talked, and further that what he said was probably suggestive of what others thought, though what sense there was in it all I could not make out. It seemed to me that we had conferred innumerable benefits on India and its inhabitants, but there is no accounting for taste.

At daybreak on the sixth morning I heard a tonga rolling up, and Mr. Carruthers walked in and called out for some tea. I was, of course, most anxious to know what he had been doing, but I had the sense not to bother him until he had washed and refreshed himself. I knew that he never liked being hurried. But before he said anything he made me tell him how I had passed the time, and recount all the conversations that I had had with Wasudew, or rather all the tirades that I had had to listen to. I then begged him to satisfy my curiosity.

“You have been very patient, Trench,” he said, “and you deserve to hear what there is to tell you. But first, do you mind opening my tiffin-basket?”

I confess I was a little surprised at this request, but I did what I was asked. If I was rather struck by the weight of the basket when I moved it, when I opened it I was unutterably astonished. It was simply crammed full of gold and silver ornaments.

Mr. Carruthers looked at me with some amusement.

“Yes,” he said, “we have got the stolen property, or most of it. Now just tell the orderly to bring in my travelling companions.”

Two Hindoos were promptly introduced. They were securely handcuffed, and very sorry for themselves they looked. They were dressed in nondescript garments, and it was hard to say what their caste or occupations might have been.

“Now look at this man’s finger-tips,” said Mr. Carruthers, taking the handcuffed hands of one of the men. “Right-hand thumb an arch. The ridges run from one side to the other, making no backward turn. There is an appearance of a delta, but no ridge intervenes between the inner and outer terminus. So it is a true arch. Right index finger composite with lateral pocket loop. Middle finger whorl, single cord. Ridges about the core elliptical. Right ring whorl, double-cored, spiral revolving in same direction as the hands of a watch. Right little a loop; the core ridges meet an enveloping ridge at an acute angle. Compare all this with the photo that I took. Every detail corresponds. The same with the left-hand impressions. I went straight off from here to the Central Finger Impression Bureau, and soon found our friend’s card. Under the name of Kashiram he had been sentenced last year to six months’ imprisonment for burglary. Resident of Lolapur. Is known to wander about and frequent large fairs, where he makes money by fortune-telling. This afforded no very definite clue to his whereabouts. But I knew the great annual fair of Sundharpur was now proceeding, so I went there as fast as train and tonga could take me. Of course, it was only a chance. I at once went for the goldsmith’s shops, and found that a number of ornaments corresponding with those stolen from Radha had been recently sold to the sonars, and that bargains concerning others were still in the making. Then, of course, I easily got on to the tracks of these two gentlemen, and found the remaining ornaments, and a whole pack of credentials as to their sanctity and accomplishments as soothsayers. The finger impressions of one we have tested; the other man is left-handed. Now to get Wasudew to recognise his late visitors. He ought to come to me; but the poor old man is so decrepit that we must go to him.”

It seemed perfectly splendid to me the way Mr. Carruthers had got the murderers. Of course, as he said, there was a certain amount of chance about it, but other people don’t seem to succeed like this, chance or no chance. I wondered what Wasudew would say when he found what kind of angels he had entertained unawares. Well, we went over to the house, and were offered chairs in the verandah until the old Brahmin could tear himself away from his everlasting religious observations and come down to mundane affairs. At last we saw him approaching. He bade us welcome respectfully; but as his eyes fell upon the two accused, an extraordinary change came over his face. I could not fathom its meaning, but I could see wrath, indignation, and hostility in those cold, grey eyes.

“Good morning, Wasudew,” said my Chief, pointing to the contents of his tiffin-basket; “can you tell me if you have seen these ornaments before?”

With the slightest glance at the jewellery Wasudew replied:

“I have never seen them before.”

“You are unable to recognise the ornaments of the unfortunate Radha?” asked Mr. Carruthers, with some little surprise in his tone.

“I am perfectly able to recognise the ornaments of Radha. But what has that to do with these things? These are not hers. Ananda,” he continued, turning to his wife, and almost shouting, “the Sahib expects me to believe that these worthless things are the ornaments of Radha.”

The karbhari and others were in hearing, and, of course, the hint was sufficient. No one on the establishment was going to admit that the ornaments were those stolen from Radha.

“Do you recognise these two men?” said Mr. Carruthers, pointing to the prisoners.

“I have never seen them,” was the reply.

“They never visited Wynot as Gopal the guru, and Ganesh, his chela?”

Wasudew took a long look at the accused.

“Most certainly not,” he answered, in a tone that could be heard by all the inmates of the household. “Who would mistake these wretched-looking persons for the holy men who bestowed their kindness upon us?”

My Chief was silent for a few minutes, and then, rising to depart, said to the old Brahmin:

“Wasudew, you have done a very wicked thing. Your motive is obvious. You know as well as I do that these are the two scoundrels who imposed upon you as holy men, and so learnt what ornaments Radha possessed. You know that these are her ornaments. You have grasped the fact that these men are the murderers of Shivram and Radha. But lest there should be any slur or obloquy cast upon your religion, any exposure of your credulity, you perjure yourself and cause all subject to your influence to perjure themselves, and you compel me to let the perpetrators of an odious crime go unpunished. I now leave you.”

We went back to the dawk bungalow, the prisoners and ornaments being brought with us.

“Can nothing be done, sir?” I asked.

“Nothing, Trench. The case would have been complete but for this recalcitrancy. Now it is hopeless. We cannot, judicially speaking, connect the ornaments with the murder. Every one will deny that these men were the guru and chela, or that they ever saw them before. There remain two facts: the fingerprints of one were on the window-sill, and the other is left-handed. No court will convict on this evidence alone. We can’t always succeed; and this is a failure. It is a satisfaction that the family will lose the ornaments, as failing any claim on them they will be auctioned for the benefit of Government.”

I did not think that all this would take so long to write, but I had to show what these Brahmins were like, and it is the sequel that is the main part of my story. We had not yet done with Wynot. Meanwhile, however, we went back to Somapur. Mr. Carruthers was as philosophical as could be about the case, while I was burning with anger; and to my surprise after he disposed of the papers that had piled up in our absence he took a couple of days’ holiday. He rowed on the river with me, and played tennis, and had me to dinner at the Club, and went and danced at the gymkhana. Then he only lived for his work again. About a fortnight passed by quickly enough with plenty in the way of duty, and a certain amount in the way of amusement, when out we had to go again. There had been a number of cases of dhatura poisoning of late; and these were always hard to detect, for the poison being a vegetable one no traces remain in the system that the chemical analyser can diagnose. We had reason to suspect a certain man who had been travelling about in various disguises, and a wearisome chase we had after him. As it turned out, he was not to be caught just yet; but something may be written about him later on.

The rain was exceedingly heavy about this time, and it was in frightful discomfort that we travelled. First we went about forty miles by train. That, of course, was all right, and then we had to move about across a flooded country as best we could, sometimes walking, sometimes getting a lift in a bullock-cart when the state of the communications permitted the progress of this cumbrous vehicle. For a week we never knew what it was to have any dry clothes on. We could hardly take anything with us, and we had to subsist on most unpalatable fare. My Chief’s faithful butler Rama, who trudged along with us, did his best, and he always managed to provide tea. But I must say I did not bless the dhatura poisoner who had selected such a time and place for his operations, and was leading us such an interminable wild-goose chase.

At last one afternoon we arrived footsore and wearied at the village of Dahiwadi, about ten miles from Wynot. We took up our quarters in the chauri or miniature village “town-hall,” intending to remain there for the night. We made ourselves as comfortable as we could in the circumstances, which is not saying much; and we were just enjoying some tea which Rama had got ready for us, when to our surprise we saw walking up to our quarters the Head Constable and three constables, who constituted the Police Force of Wynot. They were drenched through, and looked very miserable.

“What on earth is this?” said my Chief, as they approached and saluted. “Why have you all left your post at the same time?”

“See this report, Sahib,” replied the Head Constable, whose name was Din Mahomed; “this arrived this morning. It is stated that there was a serious dacoity at Pimpalgaum, six miles beyond this place. So this slave reflected that we should all go, and by the Sahib’s favour detect the cause.”

“Pimpalgaum!” exclaimed Mr. Carruthers, “Pimpalgaum! Why, that is where we halted at midday to-day. There was no talk of a dacoity there. What is the meaning of this? What is happening at Wynot?”

“By the favour of the Sahib all is well at Wynot. The Sahib will have heard that Wasudew, in whose house the murder took place, is dead. He was ailing since the murder. The disposal of his body will take place this night at midnight.”

“So that venomous old bigot has gone to his numerous gods!” said my Chief. “When did he die? To-day I suppose.”

“It was yesterday morning that he breathed his last. The priests have been busy preparing for the ceremony ever since. He was a man of reputation, and many will come from different places.”

“The devil they will!” said my Chief. “What does this mean? Whoever heard of cremation not being on the same day as the death of a Hindoo occurs. Have you anything else to tell me?”

“By the favour of the Sahib, all is well at Wynot. But the Sahib should know that Anandabai, the wife of Wasudew, died this morning; and the bodies of both will be consumed at the same ceremony.”

“You hopeless fool,” said my Chief; “you and your all is well at Wynot!”

“What is it, sir?” I interrupted. “Is this the dhatura poisoner again? The woman looked as healthy as could be the other day.”

“The Lord only knows. All I can tell you is that you and I do not sleep here to-night. How long was the woman ill, Din Mahomed? What is she supposed to have died of?”

“This slave saw her yesterday after Wasudew was dead. She was then well. In the evening she trod on a snake and it stung her, and she died in the early morning. Raoji Date, the hospital assistant, gave her much medicine, but to no purpose. There was an inquest, and the hospital assistant issued a certificate.”

“Go and take your food, you and your men, and rejoin me here at eight o’clock. Meanwhile, do not leave this place for Pimpalgaum or anywhere else. Tell the patel to see that no one leaves this village in any direction.”

“Trench,” he continued after the police had moved off, “there is some devilry about. I cannot say what. It is no use guessing. The police were not decoyed away for nothing; and not for nothing has the old man’s cremation been delayed, You and I must get up as Hindoos the best way we can. In the darkness and this everlasting rain we shall pass muster. We will take these police, except the Head Constable, for I cannot have a bearded Mussulman, and our own orderlies. We have two hours before us. We shall earn our pay to-night if I mistake not. You and I know something of the Wynot people, and their capabilities in the way of religious bigotry. Good God, if it is what I suspect! But now let us eat and drink what Rama and the fates can provide for us.”

At eight o’clock we started. We had ten miles to do over muddy paths, in pitch darkness and merciless rain, and it took us the best part of three hours. I will not describe that awful walk. As we drew near our destination we perceived an enormous crowd on the river bank. There were a few lamps and torches in the middle, so we could see without being seen. Mr. Carruthers gave us some instructions just before we got up to the assembly. I was to keep close to him, and the others mingle with the crowd, but to be at no great distance from us. At a certain signal they were to take action should any action prove necessary. In the centre of the throng was a huge pile of wood, on which the bodies were to be burnt. Several priests were reciting shloks, or sacred texts, and performing religious ceremonies. The assembled people were silent for a time; but a vast shout of “Rama! Rama!” arose as at length there emerged from the house of Wasudew a wicker bier, borne by four men, with the remains of Wasudew upon it. The body was slowly placed upon the wood while the people shouted, and a number of priests waved censers of incense, and broke cocoanuts and sprinkled rice and water on the corpse. The rain never ceased, and I noticed that kerosene oil was being poured freely over the wood so that it should readily ignite. But there was only one corpse. Where were the remains of Anandabai? Why the delay in setting fire to the wood? There was a general air of expectancy among the crowd. What did they look for? At last there was a stir, and more shouting, and blowing of conches; and another procession made its way from the house. My Chief gave me a nudge, and we approached nearer. The people were too much occupied to bestow any attention on us.

What could I say when I realised what we had come to see? The hideous horror, the impossible abomination, the loathsome wickedness! No corpse of Anandabai was this, but a poor, live, terror-stricken Anandabai, covered with ornaments and flowers, adorned in her finest apparel, evidently more or less drugged, was being led by devils in the guise of priests to join her dead husband, the flames of the funeral pyre to consume both bodies together, the dead and the living. Men and women as she slowly passed shouted in raptures of religious fervour. Oh, how long it took! Would Mr. Carruthers never give the signal? See, she is actually in a half dazed way distributing leaves of betel to the women who stand nearest to her. Her demeanour is calm, almost smiling. Does she understand? Yes, see her countenance as she reaches the fatal place. Her firmness gives way. See that convulsive tremor! She cannot stand without support. Will the signal never come? A sign from the chief priest, and the yelling of the people, and the braying of the conches cease.

“Behold,” he shouted, “the rites of our pure religion, as they were before the accursed English Sirkar brought its defiling touch. The Suttee—”

At last the signal. “Angrez Sirkar ki jai,” [Victory of the English Government] roared Mr. Carruthers, throwing off his native headgear. We rushed in. My Chief seized Anandabai in his arms, I knocked down and handcuffed the chief priest; our men did the same to other leading persons present to whom Mr. Carruthers pointed. It was all over in a moment. We had eight persons arrested, and could do no more. Our attack was so unexpected that there was no resistance.

“Angrez Sirkar ki jai,” again shouted Mr. Carruthers. “Be off to your homes, ye faithless ones, before the white soldiers come and shoot you down as ye deserve!”

As we had come, so for all that they knew, might the soldiers; and the hint was speedily acted upon.

I don’t think there is much more to say about this business. Mr. Carruthers himself put a torch to the pile of wood, and by the light of the flames Anandabai was conveyed to the dawk bungalow. Later on she was placed in the charge of some kind mission ladies. And there was a very sensational case in the Somapur Sessions Court.


The Terror of the Thorn-Apple

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

Crime in India is simply rampant. Almost any one seems to be a potential criminal. If the rains have not been as good as they might be, and the crops are consequently below the average, the able-bodied men of a village, against whose character there may have been nothing before, will calmly, and, so to speak, on instinct, band together and commit highway robberies and dacoities, until they happen to be caught or they get tired of their holiday-making. If a dacoity entails a murder, this matters nothing. It is merely in the way of business. Criminals used openly to say that it was safer to commit robbery or dacoity on a large scale than ordinary theft. If one or two men were arrested for ordinary burglary they were sent up to the nearest magistrate and probably sentenced to a year’s imprisonment within a week or so. But if twenty men disguise themselves and commit an armed dacoity, the chances of detection, or at all events of conviction, are very remote. The timidity of the people is so great that on an occasion like this, when armed ruffians pour into the house in the dead of night, and there is an indescribable din from explosions of bombs accompanied with shouts and yells, their sole idea is to hide themselves. To offer any resistance, or even try to recognise the dacoits, is the last thing they think of. If the Police manage to detect the case by following up footprints, or by working up some other clue, and some of the scoundrels are arrested, first there is a prolonged examination in the Magistrate’s Court, and then they are committed to the Sessions, the date of the trial being fixed about three months ahead. By that time the witnesses forget most of the details and contradict each other freely, or they have been suborned and swear that they know nothing about the matter. Then the accused, who always manage to be defended by smart pleaders, are acquitted; and the Police are censured for sending up a case with insufficient or untrustworthy evidence. In all these circumstances it is perhaps to the credit of the people that there is not even more crime than there is. However, the amount of crime is startling enough; and there is, I should say, really about twice as much as is ever reported. When a man is placed before the magistrate for security for good behaviour, numerous charges which have never been heard of before are frequently brought against him. The Police have hushed up some; in others the injured people have thought it advisable to endure their loss rather than have all the trouble and bother of laying a complaint and being forced to attend, it may be, for days and days at a court until the matter is decided. Besides, if they do prosecute, there is the future revenge of the accused to be taken into account. All these things make police-work exceedingly difficult; and when it is remembered that the rank and file of the Police are paid less than ordinary unskilled labourers, some idea of the situation may be obtained. It is also to be borne in mind that an average district under one superintendent, with perhaps one assistant, and some eight or nine hundred police, may have a million of population, and comprise an area equal to that of Yorkshire, with perhaps one strip of railway running through it.

The number of deaths reported as due to snakebite or accidental drowning used to be out of all proportion to what was probably the actual number. If one man killed another it would not bring the dead man back to life to register the case as murder, while to do so would certainly entail an infinity of trouble to all concerned. It was much simpler to hold a panchnama or inquest of village elders, bribe the Police, and report another death by snake-bite. Of course there was a proportion of deaths that were really due to this cause; but to have the body in each and every case of alleged snake-bite examined by a medical officer was quite impossible. There is only one civil surgeon for the whole of a district, with perhaps eight or nine dispensaries in charge of native apothecaries scattered about, and it might easily be thirty miles or more across country to one of these from the place where death occurred. Poisoning was an incident of common occurrence. The symptoms of arsenical poisoning frequently resemble those of cholera; so when a serious outbreak of cholera occurs, it presents an excellent opportunity of disposing of a few undesirable people by a dose of arsenic without exciting suspicion. But at all times the commonest means of poisoning is with the seeds of the dhatura. This shrub grows everywhere, by the roadside or in the jungle. It has smooth leaves, and very pretty bell-shaped flowers, generally white, but sometimes purple. The fruit is more or less spherical, and covered with sharp spinous projections, so that it is sometimes known as the thorn-apple. The seeds may be either black or white. A preparation containing a small proportion of the black variety is prescribed by native hakims, or quack doctors, for the treatment of fevers and tumours, and the leaves are employed as local applications for boils. The seeds which can so readily be obtained, when administered in more than minute quantities, are extremely poisonous. The white seeds are generally preferred by poisoners, as they can be embodied in sweetmeats or other substances without fear of detection, either on the ground of taste or colour. The seeds are usually powdered. Sometimes they are mixed with tobacco or gunja, to make a smoking mixture, and in this way the poison acts more quickly than in the other. A few cases of dhatura poisoning have been detected by post-mortem examinations; but the examination has to be conducted soon after death, as the traces wear off in a comparatively short time.

The symptoms of dhatura poisoning would be amusing if they were not so piteous. The action is usually very rapid. The unfortunate person who has been drugged first experiences dryness of the mouth, and difficulty in swallowing. His face becomes flushed, and he may lose his voice. There is dilatation of the pupils of the eyes. Then comes on giddiness, loss of power of arms and legs; the victim is seized with furious delirium and wild hallucinations. He rushes about like a madman, as if to escape imaginary dangers; he becomes wildly excited, and bursts into peals of laughter. He performs varied and ridiculous antics. Gradually the delirium changes into drowsiness which develops into stupor and coma. If the dose has been strong enough the stupor passes into death. In cases of recovery there is generally a second period of delirium after the stupor passes away. The memory remains clouded for a long time; and this, of course, confers an immense advantage on the poisoner. In “the good old times,” before the English came to India, there was a celebrated poison called poust or poshtah, by the frequent administration of which in small doses royal princes, who by rebellion or relationship had rendered themselves obnoxious to the reigning monarch, were rendered helpless lunatics. Some of them even prayed for death in preference to the awful drug. Dhatura probably formed the ingredients of poust.

When I had been about two years at Somapur the number of deaths due to snake-bite swelled to such unusual proportions that an urgent circular went out from head-quarters, calling for a close investigation into as many of these cases as possible. It was not so much in the Somapur District as in the neighbouring ones that the increase had occurred, though our returns were to some extent above normal. At the same time the number of cases of dhatura poisoning that were reported increased, though only to a slight extent. Of course, we were put upon our mettle; and I could see that Mr. Carruthers was thinking deeply about it all. The first thing that he did was to issue the most stringent orders to the Police throughout the district that they were to investigate every reported case of snake-bite from the point of view that it might be realty dhatura poisoning, and the heads of the Police of other districts gave similar orders to their subordinates. This had a marked effect; and the returns of accidental deaths greatly diminished, while the reports of dhatura poisoning correspondingly increased. The next thing to do was, of course, to detect the cases and lay hands on the poisoners, or rather to tty to do so; for of all the phases of criminality that I have encountered, this was, I think, about the most perplexing. Everything seemed against us. The victims either died, or were insensible for so long, that the poisoners could get as long a start as they liked; and there was the everlasting weakness of memory of those who recovered from the effects of the drug, and their consequent inability to describe the criminals. Most of the cases were for the sake of appropriating the money or ornaments of the victims, and there was consequently always a chance of discovering the stolen valuables and so getting on the track. But this chance was very remote, for practically any one in India will purchase property that is obviously stolen; and it was the easiest thing in the world to have gold and silver ornaments promptly melted down.

We went on various wild-goose chases after the will-o’-the-wisp knight or knights of the thorn-apple. One of these expeditions, if it served no other purpose, was certainly amusing. The Head Constable of Ranipur sent in an urgent report that three men had been poisoned by two others; that the victims had, by the favour of God and his own careful ministrations, recovered from the ill-effects of the dhatura, and that he had arrested the two persons concerned. Off we went, Mr. Carruthers and I, for forty-five miles along the high road. We started before breakfast in a tonga, and did twenty miles in three hours and a half. We rested for an hour, and then pushed on for another ten miles. By this time it was past midday and the tonga ponies could go no farther. The remaining distance we travelled in a bullock-cart; and it was evening when we arrived at Ranipur. It did not take my Chief long to discover that there had been no poisoning case at all; nothing, in fact, beyond a drunken row in which three villagers had blamed another two for plying them with liquor and making them intoxicated. When asked what he meant by reporting that it was a case of dhatura, the Head Constable said that he had seen the men reeling about and thought that this might be due to dhatura, and he understood that the Sahib would be pleased by poisoning cases being reported, and he hoped to obtain the Sahib’s favour for his smartness in the way of promotion.

“That’s the sort of fool we are expected to administer a district with,” said Mr. Carruthers, when the two incarcerated persons had been set at liberty. “And the man thinks it is very hard that I do not instantly promote him! Kya karenge? What is one to do?”

Our tiffin-basket contained enough for our dinner and for the next day’s breakfast; and we spent the night very comfortably on some grass beneath a banyan tree. On our way back Mr. Carruthers, after a long silence, suddenly said:

“Well, Trench, what do you make of all this poisoning? Have you formulated any theory yet?”

“I am afraid not, sir,” I replied; “but the occupation is evidently a popular one. Any number of people seem to be engaged in it. I suppose it is because the ingredient is so easily obtained.”

I can’t say you throw much light upon the matter,” he said. “Have you no idea how many persons are concerned in all this?”

I confessed that I had no idea at all, and begged him to tell me if he had.

“Well, Trench,” he answered, “I don’t know that I can see very far ahead just at present. But this much I can tell you. There is one man who is engineering the whole campaign; but he has secured an able lieutenant. The original man is a tall Hindoo, who gets himself up in various disguises, and the second is a Mahometan. The Hindoo commenced operations about a year ago when the increase in deaths by snake-bite was first reported. I can’t trace his history during that time; nor is it of great importance. For the last eight months we have a substantially accurate record; for the first three of these months he worked alone. He then obtained an ally, and the two have since generally, though not always, acted together. Of course this won’t account for all the cases, for the normal number naturally goes on as usual. We must not be led astray by these. We have to eliminate the ordinary sporadic cases, and trace the extraordinary outburst. This doesn’t help us much, you may say; but it should enable us to utilise any clue that turns up.”

“How do you know even this much, sir?” I asked.

“Look at the statistics,” he replied. “Eight months ago there were within a fortnight ten cases in the Kaladghi District. These occurred on different dates and in different places. I studied the map and saw that some person unknown had followed the line of rail from the south to the north of the district, stopping here and there for a little shikar. He travelled by train, for otherwise he could not have covered the distance in so short a time. This gentleman was a Hindoo, for all the victims were Hindoos; and naturally they would not take food from a Mussulman. As for there being only one person concerned, that is merely a matter of record; for though the reports are of course vague, and the descriptions given of the poisoner quite inconsistent, yet they all agree that there was only one man in each case. Then there was an interval of a fortnight, during which time our friend went to his house and arranged for the disposal of his booty. On the following month there were twenty-five cases in the Lolapur District, and in the next thirty-seven in the Ahmedpur District. All the victims were Hindoos; there were never two cases at different places on the same day, and in each district the poisoner had evidently gone by train as in Kaladghi. In the earlier cases there was only one victim in each; but evidently our friend grew bolder as he went on, and latterly he poisoned three or four people at a time. There was always one man, and he is described as old, as young, as wearing good clothes, or almost none at all. Our friend is an adept at disguise; but there is one thing that he cannot conceal, and that is his height. He is invariably described as tall. Now everything points to all these cases, considering the dates, and the places of occurrence, as being the work of one and not of several different people. Well, after the first three months, things assumed a different complexion. Parties of travellers, Hindoos and Mahometans, were poisoned together, and the poisoners are generally said to have been two in number. In the last five months half the Districts in the Presidency have had a visitation from these infamous scoundrels. There is always about a fortnight’s foray, and then a fortnight’s rest. That’s how matters stand; and who the devil these two devils are is what we have to find out. Perhaps chance may favour us. Out-and-out devils, aren’t they? The total list of recorded poisonings, over and above the normal, is close on two hundred, out of which there have been about fifty deaths. The list does not include the number of deaths ascribed to snake-bite in the early stages of the movement. Now can we get any farther in our diagnosis? Can you deduce what district our friends hail from?”

“I give it up entirely!” I replied.

“Don’t give it up so easily,” he said. “Haven’t you read your Dickens? What was Mr. Micawber’s motto? ‘Give up be blowed,’ if I recollect rightly. Well, consider how all the districts round about us have suffered. In each there has been the same organised plan of operations. We have had some cases in this district, as I need not remind you. Some of them may be the work of our two friends; but others are certainly not. We can put aside all in which more than two persons have been concerned. We have only had three or four above the average in Somapur; and they have been isolated, and have occurred between the series of cases in one district or another. Don’t you follow my argument? Why, in all probability our two friends, or at all events the Hindoo, belong to our own district, and very likely have been living under our very eyes. They would think it safer to work at a distance from home, at all events in concerted raids, though in their leisure moments they might put their hands to something nearer. They must have made a fortune by now. I shall depute a few smart men to find out what Hindoo in Somapur city has recently amassed wealth, and who is also frequently absent for a fortnight at a time.”

I may anticipate events by recording that the only result of this experiment was a widespread complaint on the part of the merchants in the city that the Police were making inquisitorial inquiries about their private affairs in the most unjustifiable way. For unutterable folly and hopeless want of tact, commend me to the ordinary native policeman.

“Now consider the cases that we have been to,” my Chief continued. “In two of them the modus operandi was identical. A bullock-cart driver gives a lift to a wayfarer, who in return for the kindness asks his benefactor to accept some specially good sweetmeats that he happens to have with him. The driver becomes insensible, and is deposited in the jungle; while the stranger whom he has befriended drives the cart to some unknown place, sells the vehicle and the bullocks for a fair sum, and then disappears. The poisoner has, of course, found out from the driver where his home is, and naturally avoids the village where the animals might be recognised. These cases are fairly ordinary. But look at the case at Khairgaum railway station. A party of four Hindoos, and another of three Mahometans, arrive by train. They are proceeding fifteen miles by road to Nassarpur, where there is one of those peculiar shrines that you occasionally meet with which is reverenced by people of both religions. The travellers are strangers, and are only too glad of the offer of assistance on the journey by two insinuating persons, one a Hindoo and one a Mahometan, who represent themselves as agents of the sacred shrine. Two light bullock-carts are in readiness, and the whole party sets off. About half-way, where the road passes through a thick jungle, and there is a well which was built by some devout person for the benefit of travellers, the two agents suggest a little rest and a meal. In the course of half an hour all except the two agents are gesticulating like maniacs, and are perfectly incapable of taking care of themselves. Three of them die, and the rest are found wandering about conducting themselves like idiots by some passers-by in the course of the evening, and escorted to the nearest police station. As you know it was with the utmost difficulty that we could extract from the survivors any connected account of what happened. Five hundred rupees were looted in this case, which seems to me a more daring one than ordinary amateurs would contemplate. It occurred, too, when you and I were a couple of days’ journey away from Somapur, and we could not get to Khairgaum till it was too late to be of any use. Then there was the other case at Pimpri, where the unfortunate nautch girls were decoyed away and poisoned. That was altogether out of the common, and our two friends were certainly responsible for it. Well, here we are very nearly at Somapur. A wash and some food will be very acceptable.”

There was a lull for some time in these dhatura cases; but after the rains had commenced we heard of a series of them in one district after another. The procedure was in one respect always the same. The poisoners selected a length of a hundred miles or so of railway line, and limited their attentions to places within easy distance of this communication. There were generally two men engaged, though sometimes only one. All kinds of measures were taken. The railway stations were watched by Police for suspicious strangers; but then, any one of the thousands of travellers might be a suspicious stranger, and naturally the thorn-apple miscreants were not likely to make themselves particularly conspicuous. Travellers were warned by printed notices and by word of mouth not to partake of food from strangers; but it would have been as useful to warn goats in the jungle not to eat some particularly inviting kind of grass. We were left in peace in the Somapur District for some time; but in the middle of August there was a break in the rains, and the country looked smiling and beautiful in its universal verdure. So inviting it was that it apparently appealed to the poisoners as a good opportunity for a summer excursion; and in rapid succession there came in three reports of administration of dhatura. In the first two there was only one man concerned; but in the third his comrade had joined him. But there was one curious divergence from the usual procedure. The first case was near the railway station of Shahabad, forty miles from Somapur. But instead of following the railway line, the poisoner went off at right angles to leave his devastating track among the outlying villages. I called Mr. Carruthers’ attention to this feature.

“I am very glad that you observed this,” said my Chief. “I was wondering if it would escape you. What do you deduce from it?”

“Well, sir,” I said, “it would appear that this is a new set of people, as the rules of the game seem different.”

“That might be so,” he replied. “On the other hand, there is no news of our friends in any other district just at present. Their continued successes elsewhere have made them so assured of safety that they are encouraged to begin working systematically in their own district. And the reason why they have left the railway line is that they are now in a part of the country with which they are familiar. Oh yes; it is our old friends you may be sure. We must follow them instantly.”

The difficulties of our task were enough to make one despair. At Shahabad we learnt that a sonar, or goldsmith, who was travelling on business, and was obviously in a weak state of health, was accosted by a respectable-looking religious mendicant who was carrying some small idols and brass lotas for the performance of pooja. The mendicant told the traveller that there was a sacred spring at the temple of Shiwa four miles off, and that if he would accompany him there he would offer intercession and secure the re-establishment of his health. The sonar accepted the offer with alacrity, and went off with the mendicant. His body was found the same evening in a pool a couple of miles from the station. It was probable that when the goldsmith’s brain was turned by the drug, the poisoner had been alarmed at the sight of some people approaching, and had pushed the helpless man into the water. The people who came up observed nothing; but made their salaams to the mendicant who kindly returned them. The body had been sent by train to Somapur, and traces of dhatura found in it. Whatever jewels or money the goldsmith may have carried on his person were all gone. Of course, suspicion rested on the mendicant, who was said to have been a tall man; and the country-side was searched for him, but to no purpose. “Naturally enough,” said Mr. Carruthers, “he did not travel far in his religious guise. His idols and his lotas are in the pool.” We found them there, as well as the horsehair commonly worn on their heads by gentlemen of his persuasion.

There was one thing that the poisoner had miscalculated, and that was the weather. The break in the monsoon ceased on the first day that we went out, and it rained pitilessly for the rest of the time. But rain or heat matters nothing to an Indian policeman. The only way is to endure both philosophically. There was no use in staying at the scene of the sonar’s death, so we went on in a bullock-cart along a track that was something of a road, but more of a watercourse. Late in the evening we arrived at a wretched little village, where the second crime had been committed. A small boy, who was still in a maudlin condition, had been offered a sweetmeat by a stranger when he was driving home his father’s goats from the jungle. As he did not return in time, search was made for him. He was found reeling about and singing at the top of his voice; and his silver ornaments, worth about twenty rupees, were missing. The wretched boy could give no description of the stranger. The next morning we pushed on to a village called Shurwell. Here two men had arrived in a bullock-cart, and said that they wished to sell it, as they had determined not to pursue their journey on account of the flooded state of the country, and they intended to walk to the nearest railway station. One man was a tall Hindoo, and the other a Mahometan. We were really on the track at last; but two days and a half had passed by, and this was a heavy loss of time. The bullocks and cart had been sold for sixty rupees. Later on the real owner of the cart was found in a demented state by the roadside, stripped of nearly all his clothes. The late mendicant had evidently replenished his wardrobe at the expense of the cartman. Both men, however, had provided themselves with a fresh outfit at the local emporium before they left. The next four days and two investigations I will pass over. I am afraid I have made this narrative too long already; but I want to write of Indian Police life as it actually is, and it is often more monotonous than wildly exciting.

One evening of this, as it seemed, absolutely interminable expedition, we were struggling on the best way we could, sometimes sitting in a bullock-cart, sometimes walking, and occasionally helping to push the cart through the mud, when we heard some one singing and shouting in a wild and discordant way, and coming round a turning in the lane through which we were wearily progressing we saw a man who seemed an escaped lunatic. This was the first time that I had come across any one under the influence of dhatura, and I felt no desire to repeat the experience. The man was a Mahometan. When he saw us he approached us, and put up his hands in a supplicating posture, and then with a babble of incoherent talk he shrank away and yelled with horrible laughter. He would seize hold of parts of his clothes, take up dirt from the ground, and snatch at imaginary objects in the air. He evidently had great difficulty in standing erect. Altogether it was a horrifying sight. Gradually his delirium seemed to wear itself away and he appeared to be becoming more helpless and dazed. He sat down, and pulled at his fingers and toes, and got up again, but could not stand, and again sat down.

“Now is the time,” said Mr. Carruthers, “to see if we can get any sense out of him, though I don’t suppose there is much likelihood of it. You are feeling better now, I think,” he continued, turning to the unfortunate man. “Can you tell me your name and where you live?”

He broke into a mirthless laugh and then shouted out, “Jai Bhawani, Jai Bhawani.” He lay prone on the ground, and murmured something about “The viper has stung me,” and sank into a coma from which he never recovered, though we conveyed him to the nearest village and tried the few simple remedies that were available.

“Well,” said my Chief, as we partook of a sodden tasteless attempt at a meal, of which a tin of sardines was the chief constituent, “and what do you think of this latest episode?”

I was feeling completely worn out. The strain of the life, if it could be called a life, that we had been leading, was really very severe. Everlasting drenched clothes, no baths, no beds, and utter discomfort of every kind, had had their natural effect. I felt that I didn’t care what any one did if only I could feel clean and dry again. But I tried to make myself superior to circumstances.

“It seems a strange thing,” I said, “that a bearded Mussulman should even in a period of delirium use the Hindoo invocation of ‘Jai Bhawani’; but I don’t know what this suggests.”

“Well done!” said Mr. Carruthers. “So far, so good! But I won’t bother you with questions and deductions. I see you are physically unfit for mental effort. But just listen to this. Our Hindoo friend was annoyed with the Mahometan lieutenant, and poisoned him. Didn’t the poor devil say that the viper had done for him? He knew it was his own familiar friend who had killed him. I wonder what the quarrel was about. But just think of this and try to grasp its full significance. When I asked the man a simple question or two, he exclaimed, ‘Jai Bhawani,’ or victory to Bhawani, another name of the bloodthirsty goddess Kali. Whoever heard of a Mussulman calling on the Hindoo goddess Kali? You don’t know? Why, man, have you never heard of the Thugs of old days? They were Hindoos and Mussulmans, and both alike set out on their murderous expeditions after joining together in the most solemn rites and sacrifices to the goddess Bhawani. Just think it out. Here are two men, Hindoo and a Mahometan, who are having a revival of Thuggee, without the fatal handkerchief, it is true, but with the practically equally fatal thorn-apple, in the name of the detestable goddess. I wonder how many disciples they have initiated into the cult. Probably none; that would have come later. Meanwhile we have only one man to pursue instead of two---just one tall, merciless devil.”

And one man we did pursue. He was a tall man---a tall man always. Otherwise he was a merchant, a cartman, a mendicant, a schoolmaster, a cattle-dealer, even a policeman. From village to village he was never the same twice following. He would exchange his clothes with any one, and then throw those thus obtained down a well and buy some more. How I hated this fleeing murderous devil. I seemed to lose all count of time and place. It was always move on, move on; and more reports of poisoning, and more everlasting rain, and more hopeless trudging along. Mr. Carruthers was unconcerned as ever, except when his long cheroots became so damp that he could not smoke them. Really it was a perfect god-send when we got to the village of Dahiwadi, and found that there was some devilry going on at Wynot, and we made our way there in time to prevent the suttee. That was an enormous relief to the tension which I, at all events, had endured for what seemed such an endless time. Then I don’t know whether it was by good luck or by good management, but the poisonings ceased; and we returned to the amenities of life at Somapur, more dead than alive. Mr. Carruthers had been accustomed to success as a general rule, and I could see that he was depressed by his failure to detect the poisoner. I went to bed for three days; but my Chief simply sat down before the accumulated piles of correspondence that had drifted up, and attacked them with all the greater energy by reason of his professional disappointment.

I am sure that there is no one in this world who would less wish to receive greater credit than is due to him fhan Mr. Carruthers, and he has always said that he has had most exceptional luck. Perhaps he has; I do not know. But what I do know is that other Police officers, including myself, have had just as much luck, only we haven’t managed to avail ourselves of it. We have lacked the ability to recognise the luck when we had it. Any one else might have had the luck about the suttee, at least the hearing that there was some devilry going on, but not have had the sense to grasp the situation. Well, that was what happened in this business.

We had been back a fortnight in Somapur, and reduced the routine work to order after our prolonged absence. The weather was glorious again, and I had some leisure for cricket, rowing, tennis, and dancing. As long as my work was done my Chief was very indulgent in these respects; but the work had to come first. One morning after a rather wearisome three hours at orderly-room, kit inspection, and so on, we rode back to our bungalow, anxious to discard our uniform in favour of more comfortable costume, when we saw a Mahratti woman, quite decent looking, wearing a very fine sari, and a fair amount of gold ornaments, who was evidently most anxious to make a request.

“Sahib,” she said, “I cannot wait any more without telling the Sahib. It was my husband, I know it was. What did it mean? I am terrified. It was dreadful. The Sahib shall tell me what to do.”

“I shall be very glad to tell you what to do,” said Mr. Carruthers, as he dismounted, “when I know what has happened. You must tell me all about it from the beginning. Come and sit down---here.”

My Chief and I seated ourselves in two long cane chairs in the verandah, and our visitor sat down on the ground in the fashion of the country.

“Now tell me your name and your husband’s name,” commenced Mr. Carruthers.

The first of these questions was easy to answer. Her name she told us was Radha; but Hindoo women are supposed never to utter their husbands’ names, and up went the corner of her sari to her eyes, as she professed her inability to give the required information.

“How am I to help you about your husband if you won’t tell me his name and all about him?” said Mr. Carruthers. “I know your custom, but for once in a way you must break through it.”

She suffered herself to be persuaded, and then told us her story, but in a very disconnected and by no means intelligible way; and this was how my Chief reduced it to writing.

“My name is Radha, my husband’s name is Ramji. He is a dealer in cloths. He has a shop in Shukruwar Peth. He is well to do. He was not always well to do. Some time ago, it may be a year, or it may be two years, he went away on a visit to an uncle. His uncle was a kind man, and gave him fifty rupees. I do not know his uncle’s name or where he lived. My husband is a clever man of business. He bought some shawls and took them away to Lolapur to sell them, and he made a good profit. He began to make many journeys, and each time he brought back money by his buying and selling. He had only had a little shop before. He disposed of this and took a much larger one, and stocked it well. He used to take large bundles of cloths to different places, and he always made a handsome profit. He is very good to me. He gives me rich clothes and ornaments and money for household expenditure. I do not know where the places are that he goes to. I never left Somapur until four days ago. A neighbour of mine, a coppersmith’s wife named Yelabai, laughed at me because I had never been away from Somapur or seen anything of the world. She was going to Bombay with her husband, and she persuaded me to go with them. It was very wrong of me. My husband had been away for a week, and I did not expect him back for another week. I thought that he would not know. Sahib, I went to Bombay in the fire-wagon. I was frightened, but I enjoyed it very much. They took me to the great market in Bombay. It was wonderful. There they sold fruit and sweetmeats and vegetables, maunds and maunds and maunds of them, and singing-birds in cages, and monkeys and Persian cats. And it was there that my liver became water. I saw a man in common clothes carrying a basket, in which the fruit and condiments and so on of purchasers might be carried to their houses. I saw the man look at me as if surprised, and then he turned and was lost in the crowd and disappeared. Sahib, that man was my husband. I could not fail to know him, though his face was somewhat disguised, for under his left eye there is a mole, and one upper tooth is missing. He had opened his mouth as he looked at me, and I noticed this. Sahib, what can have happened? Has some enemy made him mad? He is a good man, and what should he be doing disguised as a cooly? I came back to Somapur at once to see the Sahib; for everyone knows the Sahib’s cleverness. But I was afraid, and had no courage to approach the presence until now. The Sahib shall tell me what to think and what to do?”

“It is a pity you did not come to me sooner,” said Mr. Carruthers. “Time is of such importance. By the by, is there one thing more that you can tell me? Is your husband a short man?”

“No,” said Radha proudly, “my husband is a tall, fine-looking man.”

“Thank you,” said my Chief, “you have told me your story very concisely. I will do my utmost for you. Come to me in three days, and it is possible that I may have something to tell you.”

Radha rose, made a respectful salaam, and took her departure.

“I have found thee, O my enemy,” said my Chief, as soon as she was out of hearing. “Look here at this piece of news in yesterday’s Bombay paper:

“‘Another poisoning case. A lad found suffering from the effects of dhatura in a jungle near Bandora. Yesterday morning some cattle-grazers found a boy of about sixteen gesticulating like a madman. They took him to the hospital where he was treated. He gradually came to his senses, and stated that he had been to Bombay on a visit, and had gone to see the market. There he met a cooly who volunteered to show him round the building, which he did. The man made himself very agreeable, and asked him if he would not like to go and see Bandora, as the place was very nice. He was easily persuaded, and they went by train, the journey taking about an hour. When they reached the station the cooly proposed that they should visit a certain cave in the jungle. There the lad was given some sweetmeats by his new acquaintance, and he could remember nothing more. He had been wearing ornaments worth fifty rupees, and they were missing.’

“Quite interesting, isn’t it? The process of putting two and two together is hardly necessary. But still we want evidence. A Sessions Court seems to like evidence as much as a dog is said to like pudding. Well, we must get it somehow.”

Radha called again in three days’ time, and Mr. Carruthers managed to satisfy her that all was well with her husband, though he could not explain the mystery to her just at present. He made her promise, when her husband returned, as he would in a few days, to say nothing to him at all about her journey to Bombay or the meeting at the market; and he guaranteed that if she kept silence her husband would not ask her any questions as to her gadding about. He told her not to come again until he sent for her, and that this would be in due time.

A week passed by, and then one evening when I came in to dress for dinner after enjoying a row on the river, Mr. Carruthers said, “I have some instructions to give you which you must engage to obey implicitly, without the smallest question, whatever you may think on the subject. You know where the road to Linghur passes through a thick jungle five miles out from here. Very well. There is a footpath going off to the left of the road from the particularly tall pipal tree in the middle of the bit of jungle. Two hundred yards from the road there is an open glade surrounded by very dense scrub. You will go to that place on foot, starting at four o’clock in the morning, so that you will arrive before daylight. Hide yourself in the thickest part of the scrub, so that you will be absolutely invisible. Take some sandwiches in your pocket. Whatever you may see you are to take no action whatsoever, unless you hear your name mentioned. If anyone calls on you by name open this small box, and act on the instructions contained therein. Unless your name is mentioned do not open the box.”

Of course I promised to exactly carry out the instructions. Burning as I was with curiosity I knew that it was perfectly hopeless to expect to have it gratified. I walked out to the place as ordered, and as day was breaking, and there was just enough light to see what I was about, I crawled into the scrub, and took up the least uncomfortable position that I could select. It could not have been so very uncomfortable as it seemed at first; for somehow or other I fell asleep, and it was not until the sun was high in the heavens that I awoke and realised that people were talking and laughing not far from me. I could just catch a glimpse of them through a tiny opening in the bushes. There were five Pathans, tall, stalwart men with long beards. They seemed to be of the type of the gentlemen from Afghanistan who come to India and sell clothes on credit and advance money on loan, charging extortionate interest for the same. These people cause serious trouble in a variety of ways; but if I once began to describe their habits and customs I don’t know when I should leave off. The present company seemed a jovial one, and judging by the clink of silver, they were dividing rupees between them. Then so far as I could gather from their conversation, it was very little that I could see, they proceeded to eat and drink; and that reminded me that I was hungry, and I thought it time to take some of my sandwiches. While the Pathans were still engaged in their meal I heard one of them say, “Arhe Bhai, who is this stranger?” and a well-dressed Deccani Mussulman, a youngish man with a slight beard, walked up and joined the party. “Can you tell me, friends,” he asked, “if I am on the right way for Linghur? I am a stranger to these parts, and I doubt if I have not taken the wrong road.” “You are quite right,” said one of the Pathans, “but you must be hungry. Sit down and partake of our humble fare.” The new comer accepted the invitation. He was a man of a ready tongue, and from the laughter that followed on his remarks, apparently of a high order of wit. After a time I heard the stranger invite the Pathans to partake of some very special sweetmeats that he had with him in a tin receptacle. No reluctance was manifested, and they all ate the proffered delicacies. Then the guest volunteered to sing a song, which was warmly applauded, and he called on the others to sing in return. I was becoming very disconcerted; for I could not help thinking that this was a case of dhatura poisoning. But I had to obey orders and refrain from any action. How I wished that my Chief was with me. He must have known what he was about when he gave me his instructions. I watched and watched to see what would happen. In about half an hour two of the Pathans began to manifest uneasiness. They called for water in a husky voice, and could not drink it when it was given them. Then they all began to be very excited, and to laugh idiotically and stroll about aimlessly. Was I to do nothing, nothing? Minutes passed by, and more and more; and then I could perceive the man who had given the sweetmeats proceed to rake up a heap of rupees from the ground, while the Pathans gibbered and made strange noises. Was I to do nothing until I heard my name? Then on a sudden one of the Pathans seemed to make an effort to steady himself, and he rushed on the latest comer and seized him by the waist. As he did so he called out, “Come on, Trench, now’s the time”; and it was the familiar voice of John Carruthers. I opened the box, and saw inside a bottle and the following words: “Seize the stranger, and dose all sufferers with the emetic.” I rushed out, and hurled myself on the poisoner, and with such assistance as my Chief could give me, for he was half senseless, I tied him up with his own puggri. The devil’s false beard came off in the struggle; and he was no Mahometan, but a Hindoo. I noticed the mole under his left eye, and the defect in his teeth, I then administered the medicine to the rest of the company, and I drenched them with water from a neighbouring pool. My Chief was the first to come to himself; but the remedy had been applied so promptly that by the evening all were on a fair way to recovery.

Why people should ever confess the crimes that they have committed is a psychological question which it is beyond me to answer. Perhaps they feel impelled to admit their guilt, although there may be no apparent necessity for their so doing. I remember Achan confessing to Joshua how he had stolen the accursed thing. Be the reason what it may, Ramji put down on record the most startling list of all the people whom he had poisoned. He described each case in full detail, as though he had kept a diary of his doings. He seemed to be a monomaniac. He manifested no regret whatever; but said that he had done everything for the sake of the goddess Bhawani. I could not help thinking that the gold and silver of the poisoned persons had exercised some influence upon him. The wretch actually said that the only joy to him that was greater than seeing the poison take effect was to witness the last struggles of one of his victims.

I asked Mr. Carruthers how he had managed it all. He told me that he had arranged with four Pathans to join him in an adventure, the nature of which he did not disclose to them, on the promise of a hundred rupees each. Then he, in the garb of a Pathan, went with them to the road in which Ramji lived; and in the front of his shop, where he was sitting, they stood still and held a conversation which had been rehearsed beforehand, detailing how they would meet in the glade near the Linghur road the next day, and divide all the money that they had earned. The bait took, and the evidence satisfied even the Sessions Court. Much of the confession was verified, and Ramji swung at the gallows. I think it was wonderfully fine of Mr. Carruthers to risk his life by deliberately eating the horrible thorn-apple.


The Flight of the Homing Pigeon

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

Mr. Carruthers had to admit that he suffered more from the effects of the dhatura case than he at first anticipated, and he very shortly applied for six months’ leave and sailed for England. It was his principle that an officer in the Police, or in any Indian service, ought to take as much leave as the rules permitted; for he considered that “mens sana in cor pore sano” was the only condition in which a man could do his work properly. It may be gathered from what I have written in these histories that Police work is especially exacting; and if a D.S.P., which is the usual abbreviation for District Superintendent of Police, is not at his best, and can only manage to dispose of his routine duties, it is advisable that he should make way for some one more efficient. Four years at a time was the maximum that was possible, Mr. Carruthers held; and this rule he consistently followed. “The work bothers me,” he said, “and I can only do it when it is a joy to me. That dose of dhatura was not so innocuous as I thought. So good-bye, Trench; take care of yourself and don’t get into trouble on the racecourse or elsewhere. I shall look forward to seeing you again. Keep kindness, as the natives say in these parts.”

It was characteristic of the man that he only commenced his preparations for departure a couple of hours before the train left Somapur to take him to Bombay. But he went off without the least flurry with a couple of portmanteaux and a bullock-trunk. The faithful Rama, who was left to look after my wants, took care that nothing which the Sahib might require was forgotten. I, with every one in the force, was sincerely sorry to lose our Chief; for though he was hard, yet his absolute sense of justice and fair play, his imperviousness to flattery, and his absence of favouritism, were appreciated by all. I was unable to go to Bombay to see him off; but there was a great crowd of all sorts and conditions of men at the Somapur station to wish him good-bye and safe return. He had, of course, to undergo the process of being garlanded with wreaths of roses on the platform; but he endured it manfully.

There were several changes at Somapur within a short time, and no little responsibility was placed on myself, as I was supposed by this time to know the men and the district well. I did not experience any trouble, for my late Chief had left the machinery in perfect order. Nothing particularly sensational occurred, so I had no opportunity of distinguishing myself---or the reverse. After three months, during which time no less than three different officers had officiated as D.S.P., I was ordered away to have temporary charge of a district on the coast. I felt very elated at the idea, and I endeavoured to show that my selection was a wise one. But I must say that the difficulties and objections that I encountered when I tried to introduce reforms on the lines of Mr. Carruthers were surprising. I found out that it is not given to every one to “hustle the East” with impunity. After a few weeks I wrote a long, and, I confess, rather lugubrious letter to Mr. Carruthers, telling him how matters stood, and pointing out how I was hampered and thwarted in every direction. I calculated on getting a reply in a little less than five weeks; but in a day or two above a fortnight I got this telegram from him: “Do your day’s work and leave reforms alone.” I greatly appreciated his kindness in sending me this wire; and it was a relief to my mind, for I thought that he would have expected me to work out things according to his ideas, and now I felt relieved of great responsibility. In due course I received a long letter in reply to mine.

“My dear Boy,” it ran,

“You have my entire sympathy in all that you have been attempting. I applaud your zeal, but not your discretion. A locum tenens is not supposed to go and alter everything. To do so is useless; for when the pucca man comes back he will only upset what you have done. Any one in charge of a district for a short time like you should do his daily work to the best of his ability on the lines that he finds existing. Later on when you get a district of your own you can improve the organisation as much as you like, provided you don’t go against standing orders of higher authorities. I did not expect you would have had an acting charge so soon, otherwise I should have given you some advice before I left India. However, before long I shall be back in harness at Somapur; and I hope to again have the benefit of your assistance. (I wondered how far this was sarcastic.) Meanwhile, never forget one thing, and that is that a D.S.P. is the Assistant of the District Magistrate, who is the head of the district. You must loyally and implicitly comply with his instructions. If he realises that you are doing your work he will probably never interfere with you. You should see him frequently, and let him know everything that occurs. This will improve your position, for you will obtain his confidence and support. Many a D.S.P. has got into trouble by going against the District Magistrate, and attempting to claim an independent position to which he has no right whatever. So much for shop.

“I may mention that I had banished the whole thing from my mind, and forgotten its existence, until your letter recalled it to me. I have been enjoying myself immensely. I was, of course, too late for the grouse, and for the opening of the partridge season; but I had some excellent pheasant-shooting in Norfolk. There is perhaps too much civilisation about it after my Indian shoots. I ran down to the Shires for a fortnight and had some fine runs after Master Reynard. It is wonderful what you can do with hired mounts. Time was too short to make it worth my while to buy. I found town very delightful. Lewis Waller’s play, ‘Monsieur Beaucaire,’ is the finest show in London. It rather jarred on my patriotism to see a Frenchman represented as having all the virtues and accomplishments, while the Englishmen in the piece (Beau Nash’s time) were mostly knaves or fools; but nevertheless it was worth coming home to see. Waller is a really talented actor, and has a striking personality. The new Gaiety is very superior to the old one; and Gertie Millar in the ‘Orchid’ was fascinating. I have come across many old school and college companions. Mind you keep yours up; it is worth while. Capital friends as I have in India, it does one more good to explore fresh fields and pastures new when at home rather than confab with Smith of Shaitanpur, and Brown of Budbugunge, and hear all about the inevitable bundobust, and ‘bobaji-khana’ and ‘balbutcha,’ not to speak of who’s likely to act for whom and all the rest of it. Looking forward to our next merry meeting.

“Yours ever,

“J. C.”

Wasn’t it good of him to write to me at such length, and in such a light-hearted and kindly way? One thing perhaps wants a little explanation, and that is about the District Magistrate. The head of every district, nearly always an officer of the Indian Civil Service, is generally known as the Collector, and in some districts as Deputy Commissioner. Under either of these designations he is responsible for the revenue and general administration. He is also District Magistrate, and, in this capacity, head of all the subordinate magistrates as well as of the Police. He is a man having authority, and he draws a handsome salary. Most that I have known were very pleasant to meet, and did their duty admirably in the way of hospitality. Occasionally I have come across one who seemed to go out of his way to worry his D.S.P.; but certainly this is quite exceptional. So much for that point in the letter. There was another which I must refer to. For once in a way Mr. Carruthers was wrong. He was not to return to Somapur; for when he arrived at Bombay, he received official orders to take charge of Indapur, and put things right, as they were rather out of hand. I was much disappointed at this, for my acting appointment was at an end, and I had returned to Somapur as Assistant just before Mr. Carruthers came out. But Indian official terms of office are very uncertain, and they constitute, so to speak, a perpetual transformation scene, so there is not the least use in worrying. However, the Easter holidays were shortly coming on, and it was arranged that I should go and spend a few days with my old Chief.

Of all the wretched places that I ever saw, Indapur was the most unpleasing. A line of railway ran through the district; but it passed outside of the civil station by a good many miles, and there was a dusty, comfortless drive from the nearest station along a track that did duty for a road. There were only about six European officers in the station. There was a so-called club where a game of tennis on an inferior court was possible when not more than two or three of the residents happened to be absent from the station on duty at one time. The country was exceptionally ugly. The soil was on the whole poor, but there were areas of some considerable aggregate extent where cotton of good staple was grown. The native town of Indapur was more imposing than might have been expected, and the inhabitants were seemingly well-to-do. The police force of the district was ridiculously inadequate; and as an appreciable proportion of the inhabitants consisted of criminal tribes, the cotton-merchants and money-lenders lived amongst alarums and excursions. It was intensely hot in the hot weather, though in the monsoon the climate was not bad. But it was a famine-stricken district, and it was always problematical if there was going to be any monsoon or not in any particular year. Famine relief works were a matter of common occurrence. John Carruthers was standing at the porch of the shanty that was dignified by the name of the Police bungalow when I arrived. I must explain that what is meant by a porch in India is very different from what is understood by the term in England. Out here it means a covered space in front of the verandah, under which a carriage and pair can stand and be sheltered from the sun or the rain.

“Here we are, Trench,” my old Chief called out cheerily, as, a dusty and travel-stained object, I crawled out of the ramshackle vehicle in which I had been cooped up, “how goes it? Flourishing like a green bay tree? Not with the result delineated by the prophet of old, I trust? Come and have some tea. You know my ways; and I am not going to offer you anything stronger at this time of the afternoon. You shall have a peg after tennis, a little later on. We have got a whole four to-day. There is Fleming, that’s the Collector, and Miles of the Forests; both are quite good. By the by, before I forget it, we are all dining at Fleming’s to-night. There’s our two selves and Miles, that’s three, and Flocken the Judge, and Bennett the Civil Surgeon, and Henry the Executive Engineer are expected in in time for dinner. There’s a Mrs. Fleming and a Mrs. Bennett---so you see we are not without the civilising influence of the fair sex to prevent us from getting too jungly. Emollit mores, nec sinet esse feros. You passed in on classics, didn’t you, so you may remember that quotation. Now come along in, and we’ll have a buck.”

I must explain the meaning of the term “buck.” It is a Hindustani word for a conversation in which men and matters of all descriptions are discussed. If the conversationalists are two in number and are reposing in cane chairs under a punkah in a cool part of the verandah, with something long to smoke, and they are persons who know and like each other well, and have not met for some time, there are worse things than a prolonged buck. What a succession of incidents come back to one’s memory! What didn’t we talk of, my old Chief and I, for the next hour and a half, when it was time to go to the gymkhana for tennis. It would take too long to record a tenth part of it. So I will limit my remarks to one thing, and that is not a thing, but a person, and no less a person than the Collector of Indapur. People who do me the honour of reading what I have attempted to write say that my paragraphs are always either too long or too short. This present paragraph is certainly very short, but short it will have to remain; for on the subject of Fleming the Collector I must commence a new one.

From Mr. Carruthers’ description, the Collector was a very unique individual. After a distinguished career at Oxford he had come out to the Civil Service about twenty years ago. While on furlough he had studied a multiplicity of questions, practical, abstruse, and abstract, in America, Australia, and half the countries of Europe. He was an enthusiastic exponent of theosophy, which he professed to identify with Christianity; and he used to read the service at Indapur on Sunday evenings. In his younger days he had been a Bohemian or Alsatian, then a Jesuit, and now a model husband and a father. When I say a model husband this is to be understood with the proviso that he had a very inflammable temper, and it was common knowledge that he had from time to time acute differences with his better half. While he was a man of first-rate ability he was extraordinarily faddy and eccentric. Of the value of time or of money he had no notion. Unless occasionally he was much too early, he was almost invariably late for everything. As for money, his sole idea was to buy whatever he wanted; and he was so much in debt that he would probably never be free from incumbrances. His hospitality was boundless. He wanted every one to dine with him every night, and so long as he could induce people to come and stay with him his house was full of guests. He had written several books on gnosticism and metaphysics and so on, and he was considered to possess an European reputation. As regards his work, when a subject interested him, he would take it up con amore, putting everything else, including meal-times and social enjoyments, entirely on one side, until he had completed his labours, and even his detractors were forced to admit that the result was most brilliant. But the greater part of his work was never done at all. It was put off from day to day until the three office-tables in his room were piled up with undisposed-of references, and then the files meandered across the floor. His assistants and office establishment were driven to despair. I must not omit to say that he was devoted to animals and an untiring student of natural history. He had several first-rate horses, and his farmyard included cows, buffaloes, fat-tailed sheep, turkeys, ducks, tame deer, all of the finest varieties. He was a great pigeon-fancier, and he had greyhounds and terriers and pets of all kinds. He would pull a squirrel or a lizard out of his pocket, and let it climb all over him, and then put it back into the same resting-place. The natives loved him; for they looked on him as more or less mad, and they consider madness as akin to divine inspiration; and so, though he could not be bothered with correspondence and written work, yet he was regarded as being the father of his people in the old-fashioned way. When they could get hold of him to listen to their grievances or to settle a dispute, he would do it admirably. His moods varied from hour to hour. On the whole he was enthusiastic on whatever subject happened for the immediate present to excite his interest. He could be bright, cheery, and amusing, while subject to periods of intense depression. These appeared to have increased since he had come to Indapur a year ago. People thought that he would have liked the place for one reason, and that was that his father, now dead, had been Judge there some twenty years before. But they were mistaken, for he tried, though in vain, to avoid the transfer; and now his whole object seemed to be to forget Indapur, and bury himself in his favourite pursuits. For the last week he was said to have been in the lowest of low spirits, and nothing seemed able to cheer him up. That a man of such peculiar mental calibre and characteristics should fail to win the approval of Government was only to be expected. He had been superseded by several of his juniors, and it seemed likely that he would have to endure the exile of Indapur for the rest of his service. His wife was said to be a charming little woman, who had a tremendous admiration for her husband’s ability, and who was generally very much afraid of him, but occasionally stood out and opposed some special eccentricity. She was devoid of any intellectual qualities herself, and loved society and gaiety, and was altogether about the last sort of wife that Mr. Fleming would have been expected to choose.

I was curious to meet such a many-sided individual as the Collector appeared to be. We strolled down to the tennis court about an hour before sunset, only to find that there was no one there. There was an open chit, or note, from Miles of the Forests, for the benefit of all whom it might concern, saying that he was delayed, and could not hope to get in till just in time for dinner. Mr. Carruthers sent a man to the Collector’s bunaglow to say that we were waiting for him. “Perhaps the Mem Sahib may come and make a fourth,” said my old Chief. “She plays occasionally, and the news that there is a strange male man in the station may constitute an irresistible influence to bring her here. She is probably giving extra attention to her toilet for your benefit at the present moment.”

However, Mr. Carruthers’ sarcasm was mistimed, for as he spoke the Collector and his wife appeared, and I was duly introduced. For such an extraordinary man as Mr. Fleming was said to be, his appearance was most ordinary. Of middle height, he was scrupulously dressed and turned out, and I should have said matter-of-fact and conventional. He gave me a warm welcome to Indapur; but his thoughts seemed far away, and he looked worried and depressed. I was much more interested in Mrs. Fleming. It is no use my trying to say what she was like. Mr. Carruthers twice made an attempt to describe ladies in his stories, and he meant to make them out very charming; but the reviewers said they were “fearsome things.” But whether it was the wretched surroundings that, so to speak, acted as a foil to Mrs. Fleming or not, anyhow, I thought that with her golden hair, her blue eyes, and her winning smile, she was a dream. She at once suggested that she and I should play the rest; but unfortunately they were far too strong for us. So to make any game of it at all, Mr. Fleming and I had to be partners, and I was perforce separated from the lady. I am not ashamed to confess that I was glad when the games were over, and the four of us rested in easy chairs, myself next to Mrs. Fleming. A long iced drink was placed in my hand by some benevolent attendant. I suppose that the Collector and the D.S.P. entertained each other; but I had eyes and ears only for Mrs. Fleming. It seemed an incredibly short time when Mr. Carruthers said that it was time to return to his bungalow and dress for dinner.

“Well, Trench,” he said, on our way home, “what did you think of Mr. Fleming?”

“I never saw such eyes,” I replied; “and that hair is simply too glorious!”

“Hair and eyes!” ejaculated Mr. Carruthers. “Is the man mad? Fleming’s hair and eyes? Why, he is half bald, and as for his eyes, good Lord deliver us! Oh, I see, it’s the fairy! Another slave at her feet. You are not number one, my boy, by a long way. You had better take care. Fleming is as jealous as can be when there is an attractive youngster about. But what did you think of our gifted ruler?”

“To tell you the truth, sir,” I replied, “I don’t know that I have had any particular opportunity of forming an opinion. He is certainly an excellent hand at tennis. But there is one thing that struck me, and I meant to ask you about it. You told me that he was depressed; but you didn’t tell me he was in an extraordinary state of alarm about something or other. Or do you think that I am mistaken? Look at the way he turns round suddenly to see if any one is coming up behind him. He seems to have a secret terror hanging over him.”

“Perfectly true, Trench. I preferred to let you find this out for yourself. I haven’t the least idea what it is all about. I have been here a fortnight, and I did not observe it at first, but for the last week it has been very pronounced. As to the cause, I don’t know that it is my business to inquire. If he consults me I might be able to help him. Now we had better dress, though I don’t know that there is any particular hurry. Fleming is sure to be late after being so remarkably punctual at tennis.”

I happened to be ready first, and while waiting for my host to appear I took up a file of the Police Gazette and glanced through it to pass the time. I happened to notice the following entry:

“Dhonde Ramji of the village of Kopgaum, District Indapur, sentenced to transportation for life on a charge of murder on the 15th February, 18---. The remainder of this convict’s term of imprisonment is remitted on account of his good conduct in the Settlement of Port Blair, and he is ordered to be released.”

Just then Mr. Carruthers appeared in his white mess uniform and bade me come along, and I forgot to ask him if he knew anything about Dhonde Ramji. Not that I attached any special importance to the matter; but my old Chief always liked being asked questions of that kind. It was a fairly cool evening for the time of year, and we strolled over leisurely to the Collector’s, a peon with a lantern guiding us, in preference to entrusting ourselves to any of the rickety vehicles that Indapur provided. Mr. Carruthers had not yet had time to equip himself with a conveyance of his own.

Mrs. Fleming was in the verandah to receive us, and she looked more of a dream than ever in her exquisite dinner costume. I was introduced to the other men of the station, and to Mrs. Bennett, a washed-out-looking, colourless type of woman; and then we sat down in the verandah to wait for our host. The bungalow might be described as a large ramshackle barn, evidently built in detachments, and added to from time to time. It was far from being what estate agents call a desirable residence; but the furniture, curtains, pictures, curios, ornaments, and fittings were all in the highest taste. In fact, the general luxury of the establishment seemed out of all proportion to the surroundings. Now in a place like Indapur time is not of much consequence; that is, a little more or less does not matter. But when we had all waited for half an hour, and our host was still absent, I began to think it rather surprising. Of course, I had been told of Mr. Fleming’s oddities; but I was beginning to feel that I possessed an appetite, and to pine for the wherewithal to satisfy it. Mrs. Fleming was very apologetic for her husband, and said that there was no accounting for his forgetfulness. As likely as not it had entirely slipped his memory that he had guests for dinner, and was studying some ology or other much beyond her understanding. She called the butler and told him to bring cigarettes and sherry for the Sahib logue to beguile the time, and to go and hurry the Sahib up. This lasted for about a quarter of an hour, but still there was no Collector, and I wished that I wore a belt which I could tighten to assuage the pangs of hunger. Then the butler reappeared and said that he could not find the Sahib anywhere; and that he had certainly not changed his clothes for dinner, as the dress-suit put out for his use was lying untouched.

“There is nothing to worry about,” said Mrs. Fleming; “he has often been later than this. He has gone out to throw some grain to the pigeons, or to see that the horses have water to drink, or to gaze at the stars with a telescope, and forgotten that there is such a thing as dinner. He will get quite cross when he is found and reminded of it. However, I will go and have a look myself.”

Of course, we all volunteered to help to look for our host, and the end of it was that we searched the whole house and found no sign of him. Then we got some lanterns, and had a regular beat all over the compound, which was a very large one, and full of clumps of bushes which it was difficult to make out in the dark; and we called out and shouted, one at a time and all together, but no Collector appeared or gave any answering cry. It was really very annoying. I thought that any one, be he Collector or not, might have some regard for guests whom he had invited to dinner. I confessed to our hostess, near whom I chanced to be, that I was positively starving.

“Poor boy,” she said, “I am so sorry; run in and tell the butler to give you some biscuits while we go on looking for the truant. I wonder where the naughty man is hiding. Isn’t it funny? What can he be doing?”

Of course, I could not leave the rest of the search party. That was quite impossible. What I had hoped was that they would all sit down to dinner and leave the Collector to come in when the fancy seized him to do so. But when we had searched the house, office, stables, and compound over and over again, and sent messengers to other houses, and the tennis court, and everywhere else that we could think of, without any result, the situation ceased to be humorous, and a general feeling of disquietude arose. It was now about two hours after dinner-time, and the non-appearance or rather the total disappearance of our host was altogether too extraordinary. Mrs. Fleming began to be hysterical, and every one was considerably upset.

“Look here, Mrs. Fleming,” said Mr. Carruthers at last, “I trust that nothing untoward has happened. Your husband will probably turn up soon from somewhere. Leave it to me to make every possible inquiry. Meanwhile, we can all work better if we have something to eat. Please, all go and sit down to dinner. We need not spend much time over it. Go on at once, and I will join you in a few minutes.”

When a man speaks determinedly he is generally obeyed, and to go against Mr. Carruthers’ orders was quite out of the question. It was wonderful what a difference came over everybody’s spirits when they had been ten minutes or so at the dinner-table. Miles of the Forests started a joke, and it caught on and we were quite merry. I do not think that any one but myself noticed that Mr. Carruthers had not joined us. I could see by his face when he ordered us in to dinner that he believed something serious to have taken place. I could imagine him having wells examined and tanks dragged while we were regaling ourselves. At last when we had gone through all the courses he came in, and sitting down as if nothing had happened, apologised lightly for his late arrival. He had something to eat and drink, and then cigarettes were handed round and the general conversation continued. But not for long. Mr. Carruthers looked at his watch and then said:

“Mrs. Fleming, I am going to take it on myself to ask your guests to say good-bye. Trench and I will stay here until Mr. Fleming returns. Long chairs in the verandah will be all that we need. You must go to bed and rest. It is no use your overstraining yourself.”

So good-byes were exchanged. First the doctor and his wife went off, and then Hocken, and then Henry the Engineer; but as Miles was about to depart, I saw Mr. Carruthers give him a nudge and an implied hint to stay where he was. As soon as the other guests were out of hearing, Mr. Carruthers asked Mrs. Fleming, Miles, and myself to sit down for a few minutes in the verandah.

“Now, Mrs. Fleming, I must beg you in the first place to be very brave, as brave as possible. I am sure that you can be. I must tell you honestly that I believe something has happened to your husband; but I have very good reasons for thinking that he is quite safe, though perhaps not quite so comfortable as he would be here. It is my business to find him and bring him back to you, and I shall lose no time in doing all that I can. I have a theory, but at present it is rather vague, and I require some more information. I should like to know first of all on what terms your husband was with his father when he was alive.”

Whatever inclination Mrs. Fleming may have had to be hysterical, she entirely repressed it under the influence of Mr. Carruthers. “They were on the most excellent terms,” she replied without hesitation. “My husband used to idolise his father, and he said he only wished he could be more like what he was. You see, his father was very business-like and methodical, and he was thought a great deal of. He went from being Judge here straight to the High Court, you know.”

“Didn’t you think that Mr. Fleming, who is not a society man, would have liked to come to Indapur where his father, whom he so respected, had been Judge?”

“Yes, that’s just what I should have thought,” she replied; “but he had every objection to coming, and he dislikes the place intensely. I really don’t know why. He has never given me any particular reason. He was always subject to occasional fits of depression, but since coming here they have been far more frequent. The last week he has been exceptionally nervous and even agitated.”

“Exactly so. That is what I want to know more about. Can you assign any reason for his state of mind? You must be perfectly candid with me. Was it money troubles, or any difference with yourself? You must not mind my asking. Or was there any special letter ficm home that upset him?”

“I will answer your questions in the reverse order,” she said, with a slight smile. “There was no letter from home at all. He and I have had differences, as you call it, from time to time; but they never last long. As for money matters, he never bothers himself about them. His sole idea is to buy whatever he fancies. I am the only one who has to struggle with this difficulty. As for any other reason, well, it seems rather a trivial thing, but I do remember that he was very upset last week at a native forcing himself into his office-room without permission, and against all orders. I believe the man was most insolent. My husband was very angry with the orderlies for not preventing him from coming in, but they said he was a big, strong man, and he pushed them aside and walked in. But I hardly see why this should dwell on his mind.”

“Thank you very much,” said Mr. Carruthers. “Now you go to bed and leave us three here. If anything transpires during the night I will let you know. Anyhow, I will see you in the morning.”

I will go and lie down as you tell me,” said Mrs. Fleming, “but I can’t possibly sleep. I am much too anxious and perplexed.”

“Miles,” said Mr. Carruthers when she had gone, “I wanted you to stay, as you are better acquainted with the Flemings than any one else, and I feel that I can count on your assistance. But now I must see some of the orderlies and servants.”

He had them up one by one, and each after being interviewed was sent to a considerable distance from those who had yet to come. He asked them various questions, working up gradually to the native who had intruded on the Sahib. All that they could say was that he was an elderly man, but big and strong, who refused to give his name or state his business, and they had been too frightened to try to stop him. He closed the door on going in, and they didn’t know what he said; but he spoke loudly and, they thought, rudely. He walked out in a few minutes and had not been seen again. No attempt had been made to follow him or to ascertain who he was.

What all these questions about the intruding native might lead up to was beyond me. However, I supposed that my Chief, as I still considered him to be, must have something in his mind. By this time it was very late and I was tired out, and I felt truly thankful when Mr. Carruthers told Miles and myself to go to sleep in our cane chairs.

The next thing I remember was waking up a little after daybreak and seeing Mr. Carruthers partaking of tea and toast. I sat up intending to join him, when something fluttered into the verandah, evidently flying rather painfully, and fell at his feet.

“Hullo!” he exclaimed as he picked it up gently, “what have we here? A pigeon in the last stage of exhaustion. This is intensely interesting. Here, Miles, wake up. You can help me. Does the Collector go in for homing pigeons? I don’t happen to have heard of it, though I am aware that he possesses an aviary. I have been here such a short time that I am lamentably ignorant of much that I ought to know.”

Miles sprang up and looked at the bird. “I should think he did keep homing pigeons,” he said, “though he has not been interested in them for some time, and the birds must be a trifle out of training. Why, this is Lucy. They all have their particular names, and each has its own special perch in the pigeon-house. What a commotion there is if any of the birds ventures to appropriate another one’s resting-place. I know Lucy very well. You see the white circle on the back of the neck does not quite meet. This is unusual. Lucy was his favourite too. What a state she is in, covered with blood and red dust.”

Mr. Carruthers sat silent, looking at the pigeon and immersed in thought, for the space of five minutes. He then said:

“Send a message to Mrs. Fleming to get up and come to me at once. Order a couple of tongas with the best ponies available. We have a long way to go, forty-eight miles, in fact. Tell them to get a well-stocked tiffin-basket, and put in some Brand’s Essence and some brandy. There is no time to lose. We want a couple of the best lanterns procurable as well. One pair of handcuffs will do.”

Miles began to ask questions, but, of course, I knew the futility of this, and the Forest officer was vouchsafed no information. Mrs. Fleming, however, was more fortunate when she appeared. She looked terribly worn and distressed when she came out in a charming deshabille.

“Mrs. Fleming,” said Mr. Carruthers, “your husband is perfectly safe, though probably in considerable discomfort, and I am afraid sadly in need of nourishment. Miles and I and Trench and your butler are going off to bring him home. He is forty-eight miles away. I hope to have him with you in time for dinner, though we may be a little late. It depends upon the ponies. We are starting at once. Will you please arrange for two more tongas to go thirty miles on the road to Dewgiri and there wait for us.”

“You are going to find my husband and leave me here!” said Mrs. Fleming. “You don’t know me, Mr. Carruthers. I am going with you. You can do without the butler. I shall be ready in five minutes. But I implore you, tell me what you know. Where is he? Oh, do tell me.”

“I can tell you this much, my dear lady. He is in a cave in the Dewgiri hill, forty-eight miles off, and he was taken there by one Dhonde Ramji, the native who forced himself into his room a week ago. I don’t quite know who Dhonde Ramji is, but I can make a pretty fair guess. I congratulate you on your spirit, Mrs. Fleming. I shall be delighted to have you with us.”

“Sir,” I said, “there is no need for you to do any guessing. Just give me a few minutes.”

I tore off to the Police bungalow and was back with the file of the Police Gazette in a very short space of time. I was too breathless to be able to speak, and I just pointed out to my Chief the paragraph that I had read the evening before about the release of convict Dhonde Ramji.

“Exactly so,” said Mr. Carruthers; “I thought that I was on the right track. This Gazette appeared before I rejoined from leave, and I have not had time to read through all the back numbers since. I ought to have managed it. This comes of neglecting my duty. I should have known what to do much sooner if I had noticed this. I am infinitely obliged to you, Trench; but no more now. We must be off at once. I see that our fair hostess is ready.”

I did not particularly want to travel in the same tonga with Mr. Carruthers, for I knew that he would preserve his sphinx-like attitude and vouchsafe no further details. I wondered that he had condescended to tell us even where we were going to. So I joined Mrs. Fleming in the second tonga, while Mr. Carruthers and Miles preceded us in the first. I thought this a very excellent way of conducting a police investigation I should mention that my Chief had most carefully looked after Lucy and given her food and drink, and was bringing her along with us. Our ponies travelled six miles an hour, neither more nor less. They were good sturdy little country-breds, nothing much to look at, but who would go till they dropped. It was seven o’clock when we started, and at midday, having covered thirty miles, and having eighteen before us, we rested for an hour and had some refreshment. But we gave more attention to the ponies than to ourselves. We groomed them, fed them, and watered them; and by one o’clock the excellent little beasts were as fresh as ever. At half-past three o’clock we saw before us some low, reddish hills, and at four we pulled up at the foot of a small isolated range of red sandstone. When I say at the foot---that is true in a sense; but the hills were protected by such a mass of dense thorny vegetation that it seemed impossible to get at them. But my Chief had said that the Collector was in a cave, and the cave was obviously in these hills; therefore to these hills we had to discover some means of approach.

“Now,” said Mr. Carruthers, “it was Lucy who brought us here, and it is Lucy who has to show us what to do next. If she got out she can presumably find her way in again. What I am afraid of is that her homing instinct may lead her to fly straight back to Indapur instead of acting as our guide. We must see.”

He took out Lucy and stroked her and pointed her towards the hill, still holding her. Three times she evidently tried to free herself and turn her head towards home. But my Chief still stroked her and talked to her, and gave her some grain to eat, and pointed her at the hill. Her efforts to turn in the opposite direction relaxed. She seemed to understand what was expected of her. Gently and gradually Mr. Carruthers let her loose, while we all looked on with the most intense interest. Lucy at once soared up aloft. She gave a lingering glance towards Indapur, and then, mindful of what we wanted, she flew straight off to the right and settled on a babul tree. We hastened after her, and stood under the babul as much puzzled as ever, for what barrier could be more impenetrable than what confronted us?

“She must know,” said my Chief. “Why, look here, the ground has been disturbed near these bushes. These particles of red mud have been recently moved. We must examine this nearest thorn bush. I have my doubts as to whether it is so firmly fixed as it seems to be.” And putting on a thick pair of gloves he caught hold of the wicked thorn, and it came away almost at a touch. It had been cut off at the root and was lightly fixed back in its place. This was the beginning of the end. One bush after another came away, disclosing a very narrow path which led us to the side of the hill. Lucy took up her position nearer and nearer as we slowly advanced. Our progress could not be rapid, for we had to dispose of the cut thorn bushes as we pressed our way on. Against the hillside a huge mass of dead thorn was piled up, and it was with the greatest difficulty that we pulled it down. Poor Mrs. Fleming’s dress was torn to ribbons with the thorns, and horribly stained with the red sand. At last we succeeded in removing the thorns, and there before us in the hillside was an opening barely two feet high and two feet broad. The only means of entrance was to creep in on our hands and knees.

“Shall I get a lantern, sir?” I asked.

“You can get both the lanterns, but do not light them yet,” said Mr. Carruthers. “Our friend Dhonde may have a gun, and a lantern would make rather too plain an object to aim at. I am going to crawl in in the dark, and trust to luck for what happens. You may come after me if you like, but I warn you it is risky.”

I was very much hurt at the idea of my being deterred from entering the cave because it was risky; but there was no time to argue, so in we went, my Chief in front and I behind. The subterranean passage twisted and turned in all directions; and until we had penetrated its tortuous windings for a considerable distance there was no room to stand up. Gradually, however, we could feel that the roof was higher, and the sides farther apart, and at length it was possible to stand erect. But it was black as Erebos, and we could see nothing. My Chief took a grip of my arm and whispered, “Hush!” We stood still, hardly venturing to breathe, and at length it seemed that we could hear a soft recurring sound. Mr. Carruthers’ grip on my arm strengthened. “He is asleep,” he said, almost inaudibly, “about two yards ahead, half left. Hold on to me.” Slowly, oh so slowly, feeling our way inch by inch, we moved on. Then all of a sudden Mr. Carruthers let go of my arm and hurled himself on the prostrate form of the sleeper, whose actual presence he had made out by his foot. Then there was a tremendous struggle. The man thus taken unawares yelled and roared and fought furiously with his unseen adversary, while in the pitchy darkness I did not know what to do. Suddenly a match was struck, and there was the invaluable Miles, who, unknown to us, had crawled in behind us, lighting a lantern. And there was actually the plucky little Mrs. Fleming with him. With Miles’ assistance it was a simple matter now to secure Dhonde Ramji. The next thing was to look for the Collector. We found him in a corner of the cave heavily gagged and quite insensible; but there was no doubt he was alive, for he was breathing heavily. His wife flew towards him, and we turned aside as her feelings gave way. After a minute or two Miles and I conveyed Mr. Fleming, as well as we could, into the open air, while Mr. Carruthers very unceremoniously dragged Dhondi by the heels after him. Refreshments from the tiffin basket were very acceptable after our exertions.

It was several days before the Collector came to himself, and was able to describe what had happened. But there was no need to wait for his description. We had it all from my Chief the same evening when we prevailed on him to explain matters.

“I will tell you how I thought it out,” he said, while Mrs. Fleming, Miles, and myself listened with breathless attention. “I was never in greater difficulty, for there were so few data to go upon. All that I knew at first was that Mr. Fleming was suffering from acute mental tribulation. Had any event occurred which might have induced him to take to flight? I hardly supposed so; but it was necessary to exhaust all possibilities. However, Mrs. Fleming reassured me regarding a few points which had occurred to me in this connection. But at the same time she informed me of the intrusion of the truculent native which seemed to have had so strange an effect upon her husband. Could this be the clue for which I was seeking? Now when I made an examination of the Collector’s office I found that he had scrawled the name ‘Dhonde Ramji’ on the blotting-pad on his table over and over again. Who was this Dhonde Ramji who was so much on his mind? Was the bearer of the name by any chance identical with the unwelcome visitor of a week ago? That was to be discovered. Meanwhile I remembered that, apart from being so terror-stricken for the last week, Mr. Fleming had from the first manifested a strong distaste to Indapur, although it was supposed that he would have liked to be stationed in the district where his father had made such a reputation as judge. Could I frame any hypothesis from these meagre scraps of information? Until you, Trench, showed me the entry in the Police Gazette, I was limited to guesswork; but as events turned out my guess happened to be an accurate one. Why should the unknown native, whose name perhaps was Dhonde Ramji, have borne enmity to the Collector? This is what occurred to me. Mr. Fleming’s father had the reputation of being a very stern judge. Now a convict sentenced by him to transportation for life might at the present time be returning from the Andamans portion of the life sentence, as is frequently the case, being remitted. Suppose that the convict at the time of his conviction had threatened vengeance if ever he were released. There is nothing unusual in this; nor is it unusual in the East to take vengeance on the son if the father is dead or gone away. What if Mr. Fleming had been advised by his father never to go to Indapur if he could avoid it? An officer appointed to any particular place could not possibly give such a reason for not complying with orders.

“Well, then, assuming that I was right, how was such a released convict likely to carry out his revenge? The most probable method was murder. But if Mr. Fleming had been killed we could hardly have failed to discover his dead body. Besides, the native who had so rudely intruded, if he were the released convict, could have murdered Mr. Fleming on that occasion if he had wished to do so. No, he must have had some other design. The only conclusion that I could come to was, for some mysterious reason Mr. Fleming’s enemy had chosen to kidnap him. He must have taken the opportunity to do this when Mr. Fleming went out before dinner to see his pigeons. To forcibly seize a man of Mr. Fleming’s powerful build would not have been easy; but the unknown native was described as being exceptionally strong. He probably drew a sack suddenly over his victim’s head, and so prevented any screams from being heard. It was, of course, dark at the time. While I was wondering if the explanation that had occurred to me was correct, and if so where the kidnapped Collector had been hidden, Lucy, who by extraordinary good fortune had been in her master’s pocket, flew into the verandah and set my doubts at rest. She bore no message in the shape of a signet ring, or other article of personal possessions, so I gathered that Mr. Fleming was not in a position to send her back, but she had managed to get away herself. What she had to say was plain. Her wings and claws were covered with the persistent clinging dust of red sandstone. In this district the only place where there is an outcrop of this geological formation from the black cotton soil is at Dewgiri. Further, poor Lucy had bled from some punctures, and as there was a horrible thorn in one of her wings I perceived that she had had to struggle through a thorny obstacle. Now the local Gazetteer, in its description of Dewgiri, refers to a cave that was dug years ago by some eccentric fakir for his place of residence. It is difficult of access owing to a thorny hedge. That would be an excellent place in which to conceal a kidnapped enemy. Yes, Dewgiri was undoubtedly our destination. Now, remember, it was about eight o’clock in the evening when Mr. Fleming disappeared. As it takes eight hours more or less to reach Dewgiri in a tonga, the Collector must have been placed in the cave about four in the morning, or a little later. It was after six when Lucy arrived home. She may not have been able to escape quite at first, and she had to force her way through the thorns. She was weakened by loss of blood, and, moreover, she was out of training. A homing pigeon in full training can fly nearly sixty miles an hour. It took Lucy nearly two hours to cover forty-eight miles in her state of exhaustion. I think she deserves a gold medal at the least for the endurance that she displayed. Then before we set off on our quest you showed me the entry in the Police Gazette about Dhonde Ramji, thus substantiating my theory as to the identity and motive of the kidnapper. So the circumstances and the time and the distance all harmonised. I think that’s all that there is to say. It might be interesting to find out where Dhonde obtained a tonga for the journey; but I don’t know that it would do us any particular good. There is quite enough against him.”

Lucy is alive and flourishing and greatly cherished. I do not think that I spent my Easter holidays badly. I may mention that Dhonde Ramji did not attempt to deny what he had done. He said that he meant to let the judge’s son know what detention for the term of his natural life was like.


It Was Thou, Even Thou

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

It happened during my third hot weather in India, that Mr. Carruthers was appointed to act for a couple of months as Chief of the Police in Bombay; and for a month out of that time I, although I was very junior, was placed in charge of the Railway Police. My head-quarters, while I held this appointment, were in Bombay; so luckily I was able to see something of Mr. Carruthers. I rather appreciated the railway work, at all events by way of a change. I had a reserved saloon which I could have attached to any train that suited me. It had a separate compartment for servants, with arrangements for cooking, so that I could have a meal when I liked; and my own part of the carriage had comfortable easy chairs, and, to which I attached greater importance, a full-length bath. What stories I heard, even in a month, of the villainy that goes on on a railway, the cheating, swindling, and pilfering that exists in every direction. But I must hold in my pen, for if I were once to commence on this topic I don’t know when I should come to an end. I have a long history to write, so I must get to business as soon as possible, without any preliminary observations.

One afternoon I had disposed of all my routine work at an early hour, and I went over to Mr. Carruthers’ office, about a quarter of a mile away, to consult him regarding a case which I found rather difficult. He was immersed in his correspondence, and he asked me to sit down and wait until he had finished some particularly urgent work. This done, he soon brought light to bear on the points that had seemed so dark to me. Then we had some tea, and I was about to take my departure when a card, inscribed “Mirza Nawaz Ali,” was brought in with an intimation that the bearer had some very pressing and important business with the Sahib, the nature of which he would not disclose.

“Show him up,” said the Chief. “Matters of so-called important business often take only a couple of minutes to settle. However, there’s always a chance of something interesting. Wait a moment, Trench, while I hear what our friend has to say for himself.”

Mirza Nawaz Ali entered, and Mr. Carruthers motioned him to a chair. Our visitor was a young man, evidently of the better class of Mahometans. His clothes were of exceptionally expensive material, and I especially noticed his coat, which was of shot red and gold. His head-gear was a fez, and his boots were of patent leather. He was evidently a fashionable gentleman of independent means. The wearing of patent leather boots of English cut is supposed to entitle their owner to keep them on when coming before a Sahib, and thereby demonstrating his equality with him, while the old-fashioned native shoes have to be left outside. The head-dress is, of course, never removed; so it comes to this that a native enters one’s room just as he was in the streets, and this does not seem to me good manners. To return to our friend, although he had such a fine wardrobe his clothes were put on without any care. His hair and beard, or what there was of the latter, were unkempt; and he seemed in a perturbed state of mind that allowed him to pay no regard to his personal appearance. His features suggested that dissipation was not unknown to him, and that notwithstanding the prohibition of his prophet he had more than occasionally looked on the wine that is red.

“I do not know much English,” our visitor commenced, “and if I may be given permission I should prefer to tell my story to the Sahib in my own language. It is a very long statement that I have to make.”

“All right,” said Mr. Carruthers; “I am ready to listen to all that you have to say. Hindustani will do very well. Tell me what has brought you here?”

“Sahib,” said Nawaz Ali, “I must begin from the beginning, so that my history may be quite clear. My father, Din Mahomed, died three years ago, when I was still at college, and he left me very well off. I came into the possession of a good income, and also of certain houses and lands. I at once took my name off the rolls of the college, and proceeded to enjoy myself to my heart’s content. I bought horses and carriages, took a fine house, and surrounded myself with a circle of friends whose tastes were in common with my own. We indulged in feasts and banquets and music and nautches, and revelry of all kinds, sometimes at their houses, or at clubs and places of public entertainment; but more often at my house. If the Sahib blames me for my extravagance and love of pleasure it is not for me to make excuse, but this I may say, that some of my friends have been to England, and have told wonderful stories about the way in which young men of means scatter their money there. But I was not utterly reckless. I always knew how my affairs stood, and I was prepared to retrench some day when it should prove necessary. Meanwhile I intended to enjoy life. Now, however, a blow has come which has changed the wine of delight into the waters of bitterness, and the day of joy has become the night of misery. Sahib, it is for you to restore to me the treasure of which I have been robbed.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” said the Chief, while our visitor paused for a moment as though overcome with emotion; “but it is no use asking me to restore your treasure until I know what it was and everything about it. Go on with your narrative. I am all attention.”

“One of my friends for whom I had the greatest liking and affection,” resumed Nawaz Ali, “is a young man of about my own age, named Murad. In fact we are entirely devoted to each other, or rather we were until quite lately, for in truth I know that he feels I have done him an injury. And yet it was not in my heart to supplant him; but who would resist such temptation? Murad is very amusing and lively, in fact a regular dare-devil, and he has provided me with more entertainment and diversion than all my other friends put together. I must mention that he is also very clever. He had very little money of his own, and he was anxious to start in business so as to be able to support himself. Some two years ago I lent him five thousand rupees, and with this for a commencement he is doing very well, and he hopes to be able to repay me within a year. He is an agent or broker, and he arranges for the sale and purchase of houses, horses, furniture, and property of all descriptions. He introduces to each other those who wish to buy and those who wish to sell, and he receives a commission from both. Of course he had to set himself up with an office, and carriage, and horse, and so on. Before very long he expects to establish quite an extensive business. My only complaint was that his work took him away from me so much, for but for this we should have been quite inseparable. Well, now I am coming to my story. Murad and I had often walked together on the esplanade by the seashore in the cool of the evening to eat the air, and to watch the gay crowd of Hindoos, Mussulmans, and Parsees who frequent this fashionable promenade. One evening, just five days ago, but it seems like five years, there happened to be drawn up in the centre of the esplanade a very fine carriage and pair. Each of the windows was covered by a curtain, so it was obvious that the carriage was occupied by a lady or ladies of high position. We walked up and down, Murad and I, several times, wondering who was in the carriage, and whether we could possibly catch a glimpse of the fair unknown. After taking several turns we again approached the equipage, and just as we came up to it a small hand raised the curtain that was nearest to us, and for a moment my eyes rested on the most beautiful woman in the whole world, a very peri from paradise. Then the curtain fell, and the hand was withdrawn. I was so overcome with the amazing beauty of the lady that I could hardly stand. My liver was turned to water. My mind was intoxicated as if by wine. I clung to Murad for support. Murad! Yes; and what had I noticed in the brief moment? Why, that Murad and the fair unknown were acquainted and had an understanding between them. What could this mean? What was Murad to her? What right had he to be on any terms of intimacy with this vision of loveliness? She must be for me; she must have been destined for me and for me alone. I felt incensed with Murad for daring to rob me of what must be mine. I could not find words for some time to express my thoughts and pour out my reproaches. But before words came I realised that reproaches would not assist me. I must betray my own familiar friend, and persuade him to obtain for me an interview with this divinity. Alas, how love is capable of sacrificing friendship upon its altar!

“So I endeavoured to calm myself, and tried to explain that I had been seized with a sudden faintness, and afterwards, quietly and, as it were, unconcernedly, I asked Murad who the lady in the carriage was. At first he protested that he did not know in the least; but I was not to be denied or put off, and I fear that in spite of my efforts to conceal my feelings my eagerness and curiosity must have been evident. I implored him to reveal to me her identity, as it was no use his denying that he had some acquaintance with her. I conjured him in the name of our friendship (faithless friend that I was) to inform me of her name and circumstances.

“‘Why, my dear Nawaz,’ he replied, ‘what is the matter? You really quite amuse me! I have never seen you so excited. You see, friendship is friendship, and business is business. A professional man is never justified in disclosing confidential affairs of business even to his dearest friend. You would be the first to blame a doctor or a lawyer who was to abuse the confidence of any one who consulted him. But since you are so very urgent, and your friendship is so precious to me that for the world I would not offend you, and in this particular case there would be no harm in my telling you the facts, I will for once in a way make an exception to my rule, of course as a matter of absolute confidence between you and me. You were quite right in your surmise that I know the lady. Nor though our relations are strictly those of a business nature do I deny that I am greatly struck with her beauty. Perhaps---but I must confine myself to business. Some day---well, I know not. Who can foretell his destiny? Well, since you insist upon it I must tell you that the lady is no less a personage than Rohina, Rani of Tajpur. She has run away with one of the servants of the court, and is living quietly in a sequestered house at Mahim, in the midst of the palm trees. My business with her is simply this, that she has a considerable quantity of the most valuable jewellery which she wishes to dispose of; and I am trying to make as good a bargain as I can for her. So now you know all about it, and I trust you implicitly not to divulge a word to a living soul.’

“‘You are indeed kind and friendly, Murad,’ I replied. ‘Yours is truly a friendship upon which I can rely, and I will put it to a further test now. I want you to introduce me to the Rani of Tajpur.’

“‘Impossible,’ replied Murad. ‘You must be out of your senses! My acquaintance with the princess is simply due to our business relations. How can I presume on the strength of this to introduce a friend to one of such exalted rank? Surely you can see for yourself the impropriety of such a thing!’

“‘I see nothing of the kind,’ I replied. ‘I spoke just now in flattering terms of your friendship for me; but I see that I was mistaken. Your friendship, when tested, comes to nothing at all. You know very well that if you chose you could introduce me at once. It is simply your selfishness that stands in the way of your obliging me.’

“Well, we went on arguing and disputing for some time, and becoming more and more angry with each other, when at last Murad threw his arms round me and said that he could bear my reproaches and entreaties no longer, and in spite of his reluctance he would accede to my wishes. I was delighted at his change of attitude, and without any waste of precious time I obtained a carriage, and we set off together on our long drive to Mahim. I was on the tip-toe of impatience to behold the object of my adoration, for she was already no less than that to me; and in a dreamy way I listened to the account that Murad gave me as we went along of Rohina’s history. So much I realised, that she was a princess from Rajputana, who had been forced to marry against her will the reigning chief of Tajpur, a horrible old man who had treated her brutally, and that she had induced an Abyssinian servant, or slave, to assist her to escape, and fly from her intolerable fate. She had managed to convey with her the jewels which had formed her dowry, and by the proceeds of their sale she wished to secure an income upon which she could maintain herself. But I was more immersed in my own thoughts than in Murad’s account of the princess’s history, and I counted the minutes to the time when I could throw myself at her feet. At last we passed through deep groves of palm trees, and the carriage, directed by Murad, drew up at a substantial house. Murad said that he must first go in and acquaint the lady with my arrival, and my desire to be admitted into her presence; but he added that for all he knew she might refuse to have anything to do with me. I waited in the carriage in a state of intense excitement; and how can I describe my feelings when, after an interval that might have been five minutes or two hours, Murad emerged from the house and said that I was to be admitted. He had had the utmost difficulty, he said, to obtain my request; but he had been so insistent that the princess had at last yielded to his prayers. He had hinted, he said, that I might be a possible purchaser of the jewels, and that I must be prepared for some reference to this subject.

“Under the guidance of Murad I walked up the steps, and accompanied him through two plainly furnished rooms, and then raising a delicate silk purdah, or curtain, we entered a large apartment, most exquisitely caparisoned and upholstered. There were couches and divans covered with the richest velvets, and the woodwork was most tastefully gilded. Magnificent candelabras were suspended from the ceiling; and, though it was still daytime, subdued lights were burning in them. Carpets and rugs of the softest material were spread upon the floor. Throughout the room there was distilled a delicious aromatic fragrance. Everything seemed to yield delight to the senses, and my brain reeled at the inconceivable luxury with which I was surrounded. Murad seized my arm and seated me beside him on a low couch. But where was the princess? Hardly had I framed the question in my mind when from behind a hanging which had escaped my attention, a voice which sounded like a silver bell said:

“‘Welcome to my poor house. Such a friend as Murad says that Mirza Nawaz Ali is to him is many times welcome here. Unfortunate woman that I am, I am in great trouble and difficulty; and where should I be but for the kindness and sympathy of Murad? There is no one whom I respect more, and when he tells me of all your noble qualities, it happiness to me to bid you welcome. I know full well that you will respect my wish for privacy. Fate compels me to hide myself in this retreat, and it is a grief to me that I cannot receive you in circumstances more suitable to your position.’

“What could I think, Sahib, when I heard such wonderful words? My brain seemed consumed, and I could not collect my senses to reply. I pressed Murad’s hand in token of my gratitude for what he had said about me to the princess, and managed to stammer out something in return for the welcome that had been accorded me. Then to my relief Murad perceived my embarrassment, and proceeded to enter into conversation with the lady behind the hanging. After some time I began to pluck up courage, and asked myself why, if Murad could be on such easy terms with the princess, I should be a laggard; and by degrees I found myself joining in the conversation, and at last taking the major part of it upon myself, Murad sitting silently beside me. I don’t know how much time had passed when Murad, who did not seem over-pleased at the way in which I was now getting on with Rohina, suddenly looked at his watch and said it was very late, and he had an appointment to keep, and we must go. An appointment to keep! I soliloquised; what did a lakh of appointments matter to any one who was near this princess? I thought of expostulating, and then an inspiration leaped into my mind, and my courage bounded through my veins.

“‘I am so sorry, my dear Murad,’ I said; ‘you must not let me cause you to break your appointment. There is no call on me; and if the princess will allow me to remain a little longer and continue our conversation my thankfulness will be beyond words.’

“The lady graciously accorded her permission, while expressing her regret that Murad was unable to stay; and Murad, with a countenance like a thundercloud, got up and walked away with very scant ceremony. When he had gone, I sat down again, and we resumed our talk. The princess told me how pleased she was with Bombay, and how she admired the buildings, and how delightful to her was the sea, which she had never set eyes on before, and how interesting it was to watch the crowds of people, who were unable to see her, through the curtains of her carriage as she drove about. And then she began to tell me about her past history, and how miserable she had been, and how shamefully treated, when the string which held up the hanging happened to become loose and the curtain that parted us fell down. How can I describe the vision of loveliness that I beheld? The momentary flash that I had seen of her in the carriage was as nothing to this. All the beauties of all the most beautiful women who have ever lived were concentrated in this peri. Her eyes were like those of a gazelle, her cheeks were round as a houri’s, her teeth were ivory, and her lips the roses of Sharon. She was dressed in the most entrancing robe of delicate pink silk, and superb jewels gleamed in her hair and round her neck. She was overcome with confusion at what had occurred.

“‘What can you think of me?’ she said, when she had recovered herself. ‘What a dreadful thing to have happened! How immodest you must think me to be sitting alone with you without a purdah between us! Pray go at once, I beseech you. Do not make me feel more humiliated by staying on.’

“Sahib, I could restrain myself no longer. I prostrated myself at her feet. I protested that I would not leave her. I swore by every hair of the prophet’s beard that I was destined to be hers for all time, and that she was destined to be mine. She must be my wife. I did not know anything about Hindoo law; but in some way her marriage to the hateful Raja of Tajpur should be annulled, and she should become my wife by Mahometan rites.

“‘What can I say, Nawaz?’ she asked, her voice quivering with emotion. ‘You are too good to me. What have I done to deserve this, to have so noble a husband? Is fate at length about to recompense me for all that I have endured? No; it cannot be true. This is a rash impulse, Nawaz; rather chivalry and compassion than love. I think too highly of you and all your good qualities to allow you to link your life with mine. Go, go, for pity’s sake, and do not wither my heart-strings more!’

“Sahib, I was distraught and rent asunder with agitation. To think that this incomparable creature could actually love so poor a thing as I am! Fate was too blessed. I refused to depart, and with a daring that I did not know I possessed I advanced towards her and seized her hand, and gently drew her to the couch where Murad and I had been seated, and placed her beside me. At first she hung her head, and refused to say a word; but after some time she raised her beautiful eyes and allowed them to meet mine. Sahib, to repeat all the sweet words that we exchanged would be profane. I must draw a veil over these. After a while I besought her to continue the relation of her past history, which the fall of the purdah had interrupted, and this I must tell to you. While a young girl in Rajputana she had been as happy as the day is long. She used to play with her companions in the beautiful gardens which surrounded her father’s palace, or ride across the open plains at break-neck speed on her favourite horse. Life was an endless joy. And then came her marriage to the old clown of a Raja, and everything was changed. Locked up in the recesses of the Zenana she felt absolutely suffocated and distracted. Her only companions were imbecile old females; and the male attendants were Abyssinians chosen by her husband for their hideous and repulsive appearance. This cruel ogre pretended to suspect her of I know not what crimes, and had her continually watched. Life was perfectly intolerable, and she determined to run away. To do this alone was impossible, so by entreaties and promises of enormous rewards she persuaded one of the Abyssinians, named Jaffer, who seemed less offensive than the others, to accompany her in her flight. My heart bled as I listened to the pathetic way in which she told me of all her wretchedness at Tajpur. More than once she burst into tears as she related what she had undergone. But her troubles were not over. Of course it was impossible to return to her father’s court, and she had determined to find a refuge in Bombay, thinking that in so large a city her whereabouts would not be discovered. But her fate was, after all, not mended. Jaffer, the Abyssinian, had her in his power. This man, relieved from the restrictions of the court, turned out to be an abominable tyrant, and she was in terror of her life at his hands. He treated her in the most brutal way, especially when he was in his cups, which was not of seldom occurrence. In vain had she tried to free herself from this atrocious man; but Jaffer refused to leave her unless she handed over to him the whole of her jewellery, which was worth at least a lakh of rupees. She would willingly give up all this in exchange for her freedom; but except the proceeds of the jewellery what had she to live upon? And now go, dear Nawaz,’ she said at last; ‘it is getting late and my tormentor will be coming in; and at this hour he is most dangerous!’

“Sahib, you will think that this is a very long story, and that I am never coming to an end; but I shall soon show you how I want your help. How I tore myself away from Rohina or found my way home I do not know. I was far too fired and frenzied to be able to sleep that night, and I tossed about thinking of scheme after scheme for rescuing the unfortunate princess from her pitiable position. One after the other seemed equally impossible; but at last a plan dawned upon me that might perhaps be feasible. Sahib, I confess one thing, and that is that I am not a brave man, and the risk of a physical combat always unnerves me. And yet the only way seemed to me to interview this Jaffer, and see if I could not come to some terms with him. True, he had sworn he would accept no less than the whole of Rohina’s jewellery as a condition for leaving her; but it is one thing to say that to a lady and another to say it to a man. I might be able to strike a bargain with him. To sell such valuables at a day’s notice at anything like their fair value was out of the question. But if I could induce him to accept half the value, whatever that might be estimated to be, in cash down, I could perhaps manage by mortgaging my houses and realising certain bonds, to produce the necessary funds. I felt indescribably elated at the idea. What joy it would be to me to save my enchantress from her detested persecutor! How delightful to be able to offer such a tangible proof of my devotion! And then what a link there would be between us if I could carry out my project! About daybreak, with all this in my mind, I at last fell asleep and enjoyed a couple of hours rest. I then got up, made an exceptionally careful toilet, and waited with such patience as I could command while the interminable hours passed away, for I was not to visit Rohina until evening. In the course of the afternoon I became too restless to be able to stay still; so I went off to the business quarter of the city, and as luck would have it I at once stumbled upon Murad. I would have avoided him, for my conscience reproached me, and I felt that I was a traitor to my dearest friend. But he addressed me cheerfully enough.

“‘Oh, ho,’ he said, ‘we are dressed up to-day! Where is the gallant Rustom bound for? But I think I can guess. A grove of palm trees, and a house, and a lady! Quite interesting. And so sudden, too. Well, I congratulate you on your success.’

“‘My dear Murad,’ I began, ‘I assure you——’ but he would not stop to listen; and with some bantering remark he disappeared, I must admit to my relief.

“At last the time went by, and I found myself at the steps of Rohina’s house. How can I describe our meeting? There was no purdah this time; and she looked more gloriously radiant than ever. When we had spoken of many things which I need not repeat to you, I ventured to unfold the plan which I had formed for getting rid of the Abyssinian.

“‘Oh, how noble of you!’ she exclaimed. ‘What a true and real friend you are to poor me! How can I thank you sufficiently for the kind thought? How I admire a strong capable man like you! But there are two things to be considered. Will Jaffer accept your terms? I doubt it. But you are so clever and determined that you will persuade him. That is one thing. Another is this. If he accedes everything must be done in proper order to safeguard your interests. You must bring a jeweller, whom you can trust, to value my poor trinkets. Then a bond must be drawn up for my signature in which I acknowledge the receipt of the money borrowed on the security of the jewels, and promise in due course to repay the loan with interest at the usual rates. The whole of the jewels shall be in your keeping. They will be safer than with me, and you can sell a few of them in order to provide me with a little money for my humble expenses!’

“Sahib, I was indeed astonished to find that besides being so lovely she was so thoughtful and businesslike, and I did not attempt to dissuade her from the course that she proposed. The next thing was to arrange for me to see the dreaded Jaffer. The brute used always to go out in the afternoon, and return very drunk and violent at night, and he slept till late in the morning to work off the effects of his potations. My best plan was to see him at midday, when he was likely to be most amenable, and it would be as well to have the jewels valued first. So it was decided that I was to come the next morning at eleven o’clock, accompanied by a skilled valuer of precious stones. This settled, Rohina and I again had a delightful talk seated together on the couch. I was bewitched by her sweetness and fascination, and I thought that never in the world had anyone enjoyed such exquisite happiness as myself. I was overwhelmed too at the thought of my own unworthiness of so peerless and perfect a woman, or, as I have said, a peri from paradise. Oh, it was hard to tear myself away; and Rohina made no secret that it was no less hard for her to let me depart.

“Now, there had been known to me from my earliest days a Hindoo goldsmith named Soni Chagan. He was now old, but his skill was as great as ever, and I could trust him implicitly. Him I took into my confidence so far as was necessary. He promised to assist me, and punctually at the appointed time we arrived together at the princess’s residence. This time on account of the goldsmith’s presence, she was again behind the purdah, and my eyes were deprived of the sight for which they thirsted; but she greeted me most kindly and graciously, and her silvery voice was as music in my ears. I introduced the goldsmith, and then Rohina bade me open a brass casket, which was on the floor in front of the purdah, and take out the jewels. I at once proceeded to obey her behest. Sahib, I was all amazement when I saw the magnificent jewels that the casket contained. There were gold ornaments and diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and all kinds of precious stones, with ropes of the finest pearls. I was speechless with wonder, and old Chagan seemed transfixed as he looked upon this profusion, and he muttered, ‘Shiv! Shiv!’ in profound admiration. Then his business instincts came to him, and he took up the jewels one by one. He examined each with the utmost care, rubbing, smelling, filing, and applying other secrets of his craft, and then made a complete list. ‘A king’s ransom,’ he ejaculated, ‘a king’s ransom. All genuine, if old Chagan knows aught of his trade. One lakh and twenty thousand rupees is the total value; not a hundred rupees more or less!’ Sahib, while I was rejoiced that Rohina’s wealth was greater than had been anticipated, yet I was perturbed in my mind about one thing. I was to produce half the value of the jewels to pay over to Jaffer; but I had made a mental calculation that I might with difficulty be able to raise fifty thousand rupees, or half a lakh, but I could not possibly obtain more. This was a serious quandary. There was only one thing to do, and that was to have the valuation reduced. Sahib, my story is long in the telling, and I must endeavour to cut it short, but it is necessary that you should know all details. The wine of speech must be tempered by the water of restraint. I sent Chagan out of the room for a moment, explained the situation to Rohina, who at once concurred with my view, and recalled the goldsmith. ‘Chagan,’ I said, ‘the good lady who owns these jewels, and intends to dispose of them, is fearful that you have estimated their value too highly. Her conscience would not permit her to set so high a price upon them. So please revise your estimate in accordance with her wishes.’ Chagan at first strongly objected to this slur on his professional attainments; but at last consented under protest, and he prepared a fresh list making the total value ninety-eight thousand rupees. The next thing was to obtain the presence of Jaffer, and my courage oozed out of my finger-tips as Rohina departed to look for him. After a short time I heard a heavy tread approaching, and then appeared before me a peculiarly ferocious-looking Abyssinian. He was not so big a man perhaps as I had expected, but his expression was sinister and alarming, The way in which his whiskers were combed back, or rather upwards, was typical of the overbearing bullies of his class.

“‘Well, young man,’ he said, in a rude and offensive way, ;what do you want? Is a young monkey like you going to buy these gewgaws?’

“Frightened as I was, I yet felt angry at being addressed like this. But the very last thing that I wanted was a quarrel; and I spoke sweet words to him, and told him that I would let him have forty-nine thousand rupees, or half the value of the gems, in ready money, on condition of his leaving the princess for good and all. He made every possible objection; but at length his mood seemed to soften, and to my intense relief and joy he acceded to my terms. Then he made more trouble by insisting on having the money that very day, and it took me a long time to explain that I did not possess so much ready cash, and that it would take a little time to realise my securities. Finally it was settled that I should come the following day after sunset with the amount. Then I had to depart without even a glimpse of my divinity; but I consoled myself with the thought that after the next evening I should be able to be with her without restriction. I had that afternoon and the whole of the next day to obtain the forty-nine thousand rupees. I cannot describe what I went through in my eagerness and anxiety to secure this sum. The difficulties were enormous. I went from one banker and broker and agent to another, and met with disappointment after disappointment. There was what you call a slump in the market, and no one seemed anxious to purchase bonds or houses. Again, to my confusion, I stumbled upon Murad, and again he chaffed and bantered me, this time on my care-worn appearance. ‘Hard work, isn’t it, Nawaz?’ he said. ‘There is nothing like a love-affair to make one lose weight. Have you met our friend Jaffer yet?’ I moved away without a word. What word could I say to my best friend whom I had betrayed? By the evening of the second day, that is yesterday, after sacrificing property far below its value, I had managed to realise forty-five thousand rupees, and beyond this I could do no more. The only way was to persuade Jaffer to accept this amount, and, if necessary, to promise a further remittance later on. Again taking Chagan with me, for Rohina had insisted on this in order that as a matter of form I should be satisfied that the jewels were the same ones, I duly arrived at the house in the Mahim palm groves. Chagan and I carried in the money and placed it on the floor. The sweet voice of Rohina greeted me from behind the purdah, and I explained about the deficiency of four thousand rupees. She said that it was certainly disconcerting, as there was no knowing what the truculent disposition of Jaffer would not lead him to do; but she trusted that he would make no serious objection. Chagan again examined the jewels, and certified that they were identical with those which we had seen before. Next at Rohina’s request we replaced them in the casket, which I fastened up in cloth that had been placed beside it for that purpose, and I sealed it with wax. Then as the princess said that there should be no possible mistake she asked me to hold the package close to the purdah while she put her hand through an aperture, and with a pen placed her signature upon it. She also signed the bond acknowledging the money. Chagan was then dismissed, and I hoped for a moment to be able to gaze upon Rohina’s beautiful face, when I heard Jaffer’s heavy step approaching. He had evidently been drinking, and was in an irascible mood. I showed him the forty-five thousand rupees on the floor in notes and sovereigns and some silver, and apologetically explained that I had been unable to get the full sum agreed upon. He then flew into a most furious rage, and hurled at me all the abusive terms that he could think of. In vain the princess behind the purdah implored him to be less violent. He gave a savage kick to the money, which went flying across the floor.

“‘What is this swindling and perfidy?’ he roared. ‘Who is this wretched youth who makes bargains which he does not keep for that which is above all bargains? Who is this contemptible creature that would rob me of my lady? Have I not risked my freedom, and my life, for her sake, to help her to escape from a prison? Is it not I who saved her jewels for her? And what are all the jewels of creation to the one jewel whom I have saved! What! send me away from the loadstone of my existence! Bribe me to go with paltry rupees! Never. I will slay this fool, and show him whom he has meddled with!’ Sahib, I shivered with fear, for he moved across the room, seized a drawn sword, and rushed towards me to kill me. My knees sank under me. I could not escape, and I sank helpless upon the floor awaiting a mortal blow, when this incomparable lady with the courage of a lion sprang out from behind the purdah, and threw herself between us. ‘How dare you, you slave?’ she exclaimed, in a commanding tone. ‘Replace that sword immediately. Not a hair of his head shall you touch except across my dead body!’ The Abyssinian seemed to come to his senses when addressed in such terms of authority by his mistress, and he sulkily obeyed the order. ‘Go now, my dearest Nawaz,’ said Rohina to me with the sweetest of smiles. ‘Nothing can be done at present. I will bring him round, and he shall keep the agreement. Return tomorrow at midday, and if possible bring the remaining four thousand rupees. I will prevail on him to leave me by next evening at latest. Go now, and take the casket of jewels. Heaven’s blessing rest upon you!’ I was too agitated at the awful scene to be able to express myself in words. I could only press my beloved’s hand warmly in expression of my gratitude, and taking up the casket I made my way home. Another sleepless night awaited me. Oh, the thoughts that, burnt themselves into my brain. What would the morrow bring? Would that inhuman wretch be induced to take his departure, and cease to torture the princess, that noble lady who had risked her life for my sake? Or would he meanwhile have used violence to that lovely soul? I blamed myself for leaving her for a moment in his power. And yet what could I do? Her influence had some effect on him, while I was helpless. What a magnificent character was hers! And how thrice blest I that she could love me!

“And now, alas, what has happened? I am consumed with affliction and misery, and I have come to the Sahib for help. I must tell the Sahib the end of my pitiable story. This very day at midday I again repaired to the house of Rohina. I sprang from my carriage in an agony of expectation, hope, and alarm. How can I proceed further! I entered the house, and found in it no sign of occupation. The beautiful hangings and carpets and couches were all gone, and there was nothing but a few pieces of the commonest wooden furniture. In vain I sought in every room for my goddess; in vain I called Rohina! Rohina! There was no response. Had the jins and the ghouls snatched her away? Or had the detested Jaffer after securing my money torn away the princess from the refuge that she had chosen and placed her where I could never find her? Yes, it must be so; but I would follow her to the end of the world and rescue her from this devil’s clutches. I could not restrain my emotions. I threw myself upon the floor and wept blinding tears. I tore my hair and my clothes, and gave unrestrained way to my grief. After a while I came to myself, and considered what I might do. First I went to the owner of the house, whose name and residence I easily ascertained. He was a very disobliging Parsee. He said that he knew nothing about his late tenants. They had paid him handsomely for the use of his house for a fortnight, and if they had gone before that time was up it was not his business. He knew little and cared less. If I had any inquiries to make about them, he said, I had better go to the Police. The Police! I thought, I have not much faith in them. Then suddenly I bethought me that there was one police officer who could help me, whom the people credit with wonderful powers, and I have come straight to Carruthers Sahib to implore him to help me to find my princess.”

Here Nawaz Ali rose from his seat, removed his headgear, and threw himself at the Chief’s feet in a paroxysm of tears.

Mr. Carruthers did not attempt to check this hysterical outburst, but allowed the youth to relieve his feelings. When he seemed to have a little more command over himself, the Chief patted him encouragingly on the head, and bade him return to his chair.

“I congratulate you on two things, Nawaz Ali,” he said. “Firstly, on your good sense in coming to me at once; and next, on the admirably clear way in which you have told me your story. I can promise nothing; but more apparently impossible things than the recovery of the princess have been achieved. Now, if you please, we will at once go to this house among the palm trees. I may find some clue there. Also I will have close inquiries made at every railway station and every steamer wharf. But first just give me the address of your friend Murad, and of Chagan the goldsmith.”

The Chief rang a bell, and sent for Mr. Stone, the head of the detective branch, and directed him to find out Murad and Chagan, and bring them to the office, also to inquire at the stations and wharves if an Abyssinian with a lady of rank had left Bombay since midnight of last night. He also scribbled a few lines on a piece of paper, which he gave to Stone. We three, the Chief and I and Nawaz Ali, were soon on our way to Mahim, seated behind the fastest pair of horses in Bombay. It was difficult to imagine when we entered the rambling old-fashioned house how it could ever have possessed so captivating an appearance as Nawaz Ali had described; but, after all, if valuable carpets, velvet couches, and silken hangings abound, and the place is seen only in a subdued light, while none of the elements of romance are absent, I dare say it is not difficult to create an impression of magnificence. Mr. Carruthers at once set about searching with minute care in every direction, while I also did what I could. Nawaz Ali remained in the carriage. In a few minutes the Chief emerged from a small back-room with two objects in his hands. One was a paper parcel, the other was a sword.

“By Jove, Trench!” he said, overcome with laughter, “look at this formidable weapon! Take hold of it.”

I did so, and it was almost as light as a feather. It was just a thin lath of wood covered with silver paper; but at a casual glance it was certainly a good imitation of a genuine weapon. Poor Nawaz Ali! What fool’s game had been played at his expense? I asked the Chief what he had in the paper package; but he would not gratify my curiosity, and said I should learn in good time. He snapped the sword in two, and concealed the pieces in the sleeve of his coat, bidding me say nothing to our companion.

“I begin to have hopes, Nawaz Ali,” he said, as we stepped into the carriage; “but I cannot tell you anything definitely yet. Now I wish to go to your house. Never mind why. Show me the way.”

It was a showy, pretentious house in Girgaum that he took us to, with any amount of coloured glass, gaudy pictures of German manufacture, and chandeliers, all in the most execrable taste.

“Now, if you have no objection,” said the Chief, “I should like to see the casket of jewels.”’

Nawaz quickly brought it. “Here it is, Sahib,” he said, “sewn up and sealed as I told you; and here is the signature of the princess. See how clearly it is written ‘Rohina’ in Persian characters!”

“Persian characters! Persian! Does it not strike you as rather strange that a Rajput princess should employ the Persian character? Would not Hindi or Nagri have been more what she was accustomed to? But now, please, open the box.”

The cloth cover was removed and the brass box opened. But where were the magnificent jewels? Like the prophet’s gourd they had sprung up in a night, and withered in a night. There was nothing but some pieces of lead.

“I am afraid you have made rather a bad bargain for your forty-five thousand rupees,” said Mr. Carruthers. “What do you make of this, Nawaz Ali?”

I thought Nawaz would have fainted, he looked so ghastly pale. But the Chief put a reassuring hand upon his shoulder, and bade him be a man.

“There is only one explanation, Sahib,” he replied after a few moments. “This is some devilry of Jaffer’s. He has not only gone off with my noble princess, but he has taken my money and the jewels as well. The Sahib shall find him and get me revenged for all this. But there is one thing in my mind. For the money and jewels I care nothing if only I can recover my heart’s delight, the princess Rohina.”

“Your sentiments do you credit,” was the reply. “Meanwhile we must return to my office. There may be some information there.”

Off we started again, taking the casket and its cover, and were soon in the head office. By this time it was dark; and I, at all events, felt distinctly thirsty. But I was desperately excited about the dénouement of this extraordinary case, and was filled with wondering as to what would transpire. The Chief and I went to his office-room, while Nawaz Ali was asked to take a seat in the visitors’ hall. Detective Stone was sent for, and soon arrived.

“They are all present, sir,” he said.

“All?” exclaimed the Chief. “Lady and all! You have been smart. And who is the lady? But I will have in Murad first.”

“Very well, sir,” said Stone, who was a man of few words; and Murad was promptly introduced. He was much of the same type as Nawaz Ali, and his manner was half-cringing, half-defiant.

“May I ask why I have been brought here?” he said in English.

“May I ask in return why you were so foolish as to leave this tinsel sword in the house at Mahim? Still more, this elegant disguise?” The Chief, with a smile that he could not restrain, slowly opened the paper parcel, and took out a flexible silk mask of an Abyssinian, with the fiercest possible whiskers. Murad’s face blanched, and beads of perspiration stood on his forehead. Not a word did he say.

“Put on this mask, and take the sword in your hand. It is a little damaged, it is true, but it will serve my purpose.”

The ridiculous figure that Murad cut with his terrifying Abyssinian head-piece surmounting his ordinary clothes was indescribable. He was placed behind the door, which was open.

“Now for the lady,” was the next order. It was undoubtedly a remarkably handsome woman who walked in.

“I am sorry, Your Royal Highness,” said Mr. Carruthers, “not to be able to receive you more suitably; but I trust that you will forgive my want of preparation. But let me introduce to you a nobleman named sometimes Murad, and sometimes Jaffer. Walk out, Murad.”

The lady gave a scream as the preposterous object appeared, and then sank upon the floor, her face suffused with laughter and giggles.

“It is no laughing matter,” said the Chief. “Get up, please, and stand behind the door, while I send for another old acquaintance.”

She obeyed, and our friend Nawaz Ali was shown in. He gasped as he saw the hybrid apparition consisting of the upper portion of the Abyssinian and the lower of some one else, and the broken sword in the hand of this incomprehensible being.

“Take the sword,” said the Chief.

Nawaz obeyed, and stared as he realised its consistency.

“Hit this man on the head with the sword,” continued Mr. Carruthers.

Hesitatingly he did so, and the mask fell off.

“What!” cried Nawaz Ali, “Murad!”

“Well, it is Murad, or Jaffer, whichever you like,” said the Chief. “I do not know about the jewels or the money; but this gentleman of the double individuality can reunite you to the princess. A nice pair of friends you are, the one robbing the other of his money, and the other stealing his friend’s lady-love. Now, Your Royal Highness, we are ready for you.”

The lady stepped out smiling. Nawaz Ali was for a moment lost in amazement, and then fell at her feet, uttering protestations of love and joy, regardless of our presence.

The lady, who clearly recognised the situation, gave her lover a very contemptuous kick, and said, “Utho kum-ukal, bus karo, aisa bewakuf main ne kubhi nahin dekha,” which, being interpreted, means, “Get up, you idiot, stop all this; I have never seen such a fool!”

I must draw a veil over the sufferings of Nawaz Ali when he realised how he had been duped. The only thing that remains to be told in this story is the matter of the jewels. They were real ones, and had been lent for a few days by some wealthy jewellers for a consideration of two thousand rupees. With the help of Chagan, Detective Stone managed to trace them in the course of a day or two. It is very likely that the jewellers were more or less in the plot; but this could not be proved. They were, however, thoroughly frightened. Mr. Stone also succeeded in recovering a considerable portion of Nawaz Ali’s money from the house of Murad and the lady, who was an up-country Mahomedan named Fatima, and a well-known character in certain quarters of Bombay.

I asked Mr. Carruthers how he had arrived at the truth so soon. He told me that I ought to be ashamed of asking so simple a question. The fact that the house had been engaged for only a fortnight showed that the woman was absolutely lying in her statement that it had been taken for her to occupy as a place of concealment. It followed that the house had merely been rented for some temporary purpose. The whole thing was palpably a plant. It was easy enough to fill one of the rooms with fancy furniture, and so work on the imagination of the unsuspecting Nawaz Ali. Then there were the jewels. Real gems had been obtained in order to hoodwink the credulous youth, and so obtain his money. But what became of the jewels? It was not to be supposed that he had been allowed to take them away with him. What was the point of the episode of the gleaming scimitar and the infuriated Abyssinian? The only hypothesis was that it was intended to divert the attention of Nawaz while the sealed packet of valuables was removed, and another, exactly similar to it in appearance and weight, substituted for it, and also to frighten him out of the house. As for the bond, Nawaz, at all events, did not know what became of it. It appeared to have been just a theatrical “property,” designed to give an additional air of reality to the performance. The contents of the precious casket were soon found to be what the Chief suspected. The note that he had scribbled to Stone contained instructions to find out what lady of peculiarly fascinating personal charms Murad had lately been affecting. This presented no special difficulty, and the vanishing lady quickly appeared. That it was Murad who had devised the whole conspiracy was too obvious to need any detailed demonstration. As to the Abyssinian, there might have been a real gentleman of this persuasion; but the finding of the mask strongly suggested the identity of Murad and Jaffer. It was not likely that Murad would have enlisted more confederates than were necessary. The whole thing was a very daring, not to say brilliant, conception. Of course, Murad and the soi-disante princess went to jail. Nawaz Ali looked very sorry for himself when he had to tell his pathetic story in the Magistrate’s Court. It is a curious world.


When Thieves Fall Out

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

It was about eight years before I got a district of my own permanently, though I had previously acted as District Superintendent of Police from time to time for short periods in various districts. I had been assistant to Mr. Carruthers in several places, for he was good enough to say that he approved of my work, though I had still much to learn. For the matter of that he often said that he himself learnt something new every day. I was glad enough to serve under him, for I should never get a chance of seeing such varied experience with any other chief. I really think it was a case of adventures to the adventurous, for few officers seemed to come across such exciting cases. I used to be lost in amazement at the things that Mr. Carruthers found out. But in the story that I am going to tell there was no display of cleverness on his part. The case, so to speak, detected itself. The only thing is, I doubt if the persons concerned would have opened their mouths in the same way to any other officer. My reason for selecting this story is that it illustrates the extraordinary tricks that natives of India can evolve.

Mr. Carruthers and I were stationed at Ahmedpur, in Gujerat, the flat coast country north of Bombay. It was very different from the Deccan in scenery, climate, language, habits of the people, and in everything else. In fact it was about as much like Somapur and its surroundings as the south of Italy is like the north of Scotland. In the Deccan much of the soil is rocky and barren. Here it was all fertile and well cultivated, and the people seemed to be very prosperous. There was excellent riding, and except for the absence of hedges a great deal of the district resembled English grass country. There was no lack of crime, for the richer the people the greater the opportunity for the thief. Some of the criminals were exceedingly clever, and I must say the police seemed as a rule peculiarly helpless. There were various noted and notorious organisers of thefts, robberies, and swindles; but nothing particular happened to them, and they had for years carried out their operations with little or no interference. Of course, on the occurrence of a serious crime their houses were searched, and equally, of course, nothing was ever found. Of course, too, petitions, in each instance, went to various high officials regarding the zoolum of the police in taking away the reputation of highly respectable and innocent persons by searching their houses. All this was shikar to Mr. Carruthers, and he lost no time in providing accommodation in the jail for a number of gentry who had flourished by appropriating their neighbours’ goods and chattels. But in the circumstances which I am going to try to narrate he had no chance of displaying his ingenuity.

About an hour by rail from Ahmedpur was the station of Viramwala, and at a distance of some three miles from the station was the village of Umbli. On one side of this flourishing hamlet was a substantial thatched cottage surrounded by a garden, in which grew melons, pumpkins, chilies, and native vegetables. Over the roof of the cottage there straggled in profusion climbing plants, bearing gourds and gherkins. In an enclosure hard by there were cows, goats, and sheep, with a couple of ponies. This desirable residence was the property of one Narayan Waghri. The Waghris are an aboriginal caste, and it was exceptional to find one of them settled down on a farm of his own with comfortable means of livelihood. Waghris generally prefer to wander about in the forest and eke out a rather unenviable existence the best way that they can. Honesty is not their strong point. This Narayan, or as he was generally called Nara, was an exceptional man. I do not mean to say in the way of honesty, but in his cleverness and daring. He was now quite old, and he was said to have been, on and off, more than twenty-five years in jail, though it was over ten years since he had enjoyed free board and lodging at the Sirkar’s expense. He had been trained to villainy from his earliest days. At the age of six he used to steal the ornaments of his little playmates. When he was eight his neighbours found it highly necessary to lock up their fowls very securely at night. At ten he could bring home any stray cattle which he came across within five miles of his father’s hut. A few years later there was no one to outrival him in his skill for picking pockets, lifting bags, parcels, and boxes from railway stations and carriages. As he grew older he gathered round him a small but select band of heroes of his own kidney, and he became famous for his enterprise in the way of dacoities and highway robberies. When he became advanced in years he settled down to an apparently respectable life as a country gentleman, having very judiciously invested his ill-gotten gains in land and cattle. In old days he had thought nothing of walking thirty miles at night after looting the house of some wealthy bunya; but old age prevented such exploits from being anything more than tender memories. In appearance he was thin, not to say emaciated. But like the prophet of old, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. Every movement of his limbs denoted energy and activity. He stood erect, and his mien betokened a commanding personality. Such of his hair as was allowed to protrude from his capacious puggree was iron-grey; and his carefully twisted moustache was snowy white. The only garment that he condescended to wear beside his head-dress was a dhotar or loin cloth. But though his years prevented Nara from taking any active part in criminal adventures, yet the colourless life of a landed proprietor bored him to extinction, and his hereditary instinct for robbing his fellow-men impelled him to give vent to it in some way or other. So he engineered various clever swindles, which were carried out for the most part by well-trained subordinates, though, as will be seen, he could still occasionally take a part in them himself.

One day at Ahmedpur there came to see Mr. Carruthers, when we were in office, a bunya, a compound of a general merchant and a money-lender. His name was Bhulabhai. He was fat, sleek, and greasy in appearance, and generally unpleasant to look upon. He was in a state of considerable excitement and agitation, and he began to pour out his grievances in such a hurry that it was really impossible to understand what he was talking about, though the name of Nara Waghri was obvious enough.

“Take your time, my friend,” said Mr. Carruthers, “collect yourself, and let me hear what you have to say quietly and in order. Begin from the beginning, and then we shall learn all about Nara Waghri, Come and sit down in front of me,”

Mr. Carruthers pointed to a chair. The gentleman’s card had shown that he was a member of the District Local Board, and he was consequently entitled to a chair. Natives of the lower or lower middle classes are, of course, not usually accorded this privilege; but whereas in England a chimney-sweep, for example, would remain standing while he had anything to say, in India a native adopts the alternative of sitting down on the floor. This is what they do in one another’s homes. Bhulabhai took up his position on the seat that was offered him, dried his heated brow with a flaming bandanna handkerchief of weird aniline dyes, and having more or less composed himself recommenced his tale of woe.

“Sahib,” he said, “you are newly come to Ahmedpur, and do not know every one yet. But if my name has come to the Sahib’s ears he would be aware that I am an influential citizen and merchant of unblemished integrity, who am always engaged in giving assistance to the Sirkar and to the police. And now things have come to such a pass that I, Bhulabhai, a District Local Board member, am robbed and beaten with impunity.”

Here our visitor bared his chest and shoulders, and there were certainly obvious marks of a fairly recent thrashing.

“Have you made a complaint to the local police?” asked my Chief. “That’s the procedure, you know; and if the case is serious enough they inform me at once.”

“The local police!” said the bunya, standing up in his wrath and indignation, “the local police are worse than useless. The little sense that they possess they exercise in procuring contributions from thieves and gamblers on condition of not interfering with them. And in this case I have grievous complaint against the police. The police and Nara have robbed me, and only the Sahib can help me.”

“Well, well,” said Mr. Carruthers, “get along with your story. If the police have committed any offence they will certainly not be spared.”

Bhulabhai, after a copious use of his fiery bandanna, proceeded with his narrative.

“You must know, Sahib, that I have great taste for keeping cows of the finest quality. It is pleasing to me that my family should have the best of milk and cream and butter. Well, a month or so ago both of my cows died. Since that unfortunate occurrence I have been inquiring in every direction for animals that should take their place; but I could not find any sufficiently good. Yesterday morning, however, there came to me a young man, dressed as a respectable bunya, who said that he had heard of my requirements, and knew of two splendid Jaffirabad cows, each of which gave fifteen seers of the richest milk a day. The price was three hundred rupees each if sold separately, or five hundred rupees for the two if purchased together. I should mention that the young man gave his name to me as Hirabhai Amritlal. I asked him where they were to be seen, and he replied at a village close to Lilapur railway station. He impressed upon me that it was an exceptional opportunity and that other people were in negotiation for the cows, and that my best plan was to go with him by the two o’clock train that very afternoon, taking the price of the cows with me. Well, the young man had an open countenance, and I, being an upright man and unsuspicious of guile, was induced to act upon the advice. So at two o’clock Hirabhai and I took tickets in the intermediate class for Lilapur, and proceeded by the train. But when we arrived at Viramwala, the station before Lilapur, my companion said that, after all, this was the best station to get out at, as it was nearer to the village where the cows were. This seemed to me rather strange, but I am not of suspicious nature; and so we alighted. I had supposed that we should only have a short distance to walk; but we went on and on ever so far, nearly five miles, I should think, when I became very fatigued, and I asked how much farther we had to go. Hirabhai pointed to a small village a little way ahead, and told me that that was the place. I inquired the name of the village, and he replied that it was Umbli. At this I became very much alarmed, for it now came to my recollection that the notorious scoundrel Nara Waghri lived at Umbli, a few miles from Virawala station. I began to feel distrust of Hirabhai. I openly expressed my hesitation, and said that I would prefer to retrace my steps, as I was afraid of the village in which Nara lived. But he encouraged me to proceed, saying that the cows did not belong to Nara, and that I had nothing to fear. Reluctantly I proceeded, and my trepidation was well grounded, for I was led to a house before which stood an old man who I instantly guessed was the famous Waghri. ‘What is this?’ I said to Hirabhai. ‘You told me that the cows did not belong to Nara; and now where have you brought me?’ Nara himself replied. ‘Quite true, bunyaji,’ he said, ‘the cows for sale are not mine. They are in my keeping on behalf of a friend who lives away in the Gaekwar’s territory, and who has sent them to me to dispose of for him. Come and see them for yourself, and you will realise that you left your home on a lucky day.’ Sahib, what was I to do? I feared to refuse, and the only thing was to obey Nara, so, trembling, I accompanied him to his cowshed. There was no doubt that the animals were wonderfully fine, and I instantly longed to buy them; but I was naturally anxious not to give the whole price that was demanded. So I began to disparage the cows, and I said that they did not appear to be of the real Jaffirabad breed. I finally offered four hundred and fifty rupees for the two. I was afraid that Nara would be angry, but he agreed to take the price that I named, though he said that they were worth very much more; but his friend wanted the money urgently, and it was a comfort to him to know that the cows would be well cared for by me. So the bargain was struck, and we went back to the house, and I proceeded to count out the rupees on the floor. When I had half finished there was a great noise and scuffle outside, and I, being much frightened, jumped up and hid myself in the back verandah, while Nara went out to see what had happened. The noise soon ceased, and I returned to my task and counted out four hundred and fifty rupees in heaps of twenty-five each. I told Nara that the sum was correct, and he began to take them up. Suddenly he said in a furious voice, ‘What is the meaning of this, you vile bunya? In each of these heaps there are five bad rupees. That is the way you thieving bunyas take advantage of poor ignorant people like me. Look at this rupee, and at this!’ And he abused me and beat me. Sahib, what could I do? Certainly the rupees that he showed me were bad ones; but God knows how they came to be with mine. He declared that the bargain was off, and that, to punish me for my attempted fraud, he would keep two hundred of the rupees, and he bade me depart with the remainder as quick as I could. I was helpless, and I did as I was told and started back on my journey to Viramwala station, Hirabhai accompanying me. He professed the utmost sympathy, and said he never thought that Nara would behave in such a way. And then it flashed upon my mind what had happened, for I am not of suspicious nature, and I had not at first thought of what seemed so obvious afterwards. The noise outside the house was meant to divert my attention while Hirabhai substituted a number of bad rupees for my good coins. I was enraged when I saw how I had been tricked, and I turned upon Hirabhai and abused him, and told him that I would report him to the police. At that moment we were within half a mile of the railway station, and the road passed through a deep cutting which was overhung by trees. We were just emerging from the cutting when I saw two men, one riding and the other marching beside him. I saw at a glance that they were policemen. Of course they were not in complete uniform as they are in the towns; but they had the small black cap and tight pantaloons which serve to denote their position when in the jungles. The man on the pony was evidently a Chief Constable, and the other a subordinate. ‘Police, police!’ I cried, ‘I give this man in charge for cheating me and causing me to be beaten.’ ‘He lies,’ said Hirabhai, to my horror and amazement;’ he is an utterer of false coin. Search him and you will find false rupees on him.’ Searched I was, Sahib, and of course there were the false rupees that had been mixed with mine. Both the policemen beat me, and said I was arrested and must come with them to the police-station. I was in despair and began to weep, when Hirabhai said to me, ‘Don’t be a fool! These are good men. Give them money and they will let you go. As you have false rupees on you they must take some action.’ The end of it was, Sahib, that your police took all my good rupees, two hundred and fifty-six in all, leaving me with forty-four bad ones. They finally gave me back one of the good rupees for railway tickets. See, here are the forty-four base coins, to show that I speak the truth. The Sahib has seen the marks of the beating that I have eaten. I have been dishonoured and robbed of close on five hundred rupees, and suffered most shameful indignities, and the Sahib must do me justice.” And our visitor took off his puggree, threw himself on the floor at Mr. Carruthers’ feet and howled piteously.

My Chief took no notice of him and let him go on wailing until he chose to stop. But he took a piece of paper from his table, wrote a few words on it and handed it to me. “This man has lies written on every feature of his countenance,” the communication ran; “we will watch developments. Tear this up.” I tore it up, and looked at my Chief, but his face was absolutely expressionless.

“Your narrative is indeed a strange one,” said Mr. Carruthers, when the District Local Board member had more or less recovered himself; “it invites the deepest sympathy. At the same time I am delighted to prosecute Nara Waghri, whose reputation has reached me; and as for the dishonest policemen, I am always pleased to be able to rid the force of such black sheep. The difficulty is to get any witnesses to support your case. Apparently there are none except Hirabhai, and he seems to have been an accomplice. It is doubtful if he would be any use in the Magistrate’s Court. Who is he, by the by? Have you never seen him before?”

“Sahib, if I had seen him before I would have told you. I am an honourable man and Local Board member; and no lie ever came from my lips.”

“Well, well,” said my Chief, “perhaps I may be able to lay hands upon him. As for the policemen, the Chief Constable can only be Damodhardass, the Thanadar of Khairgaum, in whose jurisdiction Umbli lies. We can easily see what he has to say. But the first thing to do is for you to go with me to Umbli. We will take the two o’clock train this afternoon; the same that you went by yesterday. I will direct Damodhardass to be present and to bring the subordinate, whoever he may be, who has last been patrolling with him. The two o’clock train, mind.”

“But, Sahib, I have important business to attend to here. It is impossible for me to go to-day. See what I have suffered at that terrible place. How can I venture there again? I have been robbed and beaten and dishonoured. Everything is in the hands of the Sahib. The Sahib shall do me justice, and arrest these scoundrels and send them to jail. Doubtless the Sahib will find many false rupees in Nara’s house, and he will go to jail, and the Huzoor will recover my money for me.”

I wondered how my Chief would take this very calm proposition. Mr. Carruthers fixed his gaze on the bunya for the space of several minutes in dead silence. I could see our visitor cowering, and, I fancy, wishing himself considerably farther off.

At length Mr. Carruthers spoke. “The two o’clock train this afternoon, Mr. Bhulabhai,” was all that he said.

“Who shall disobey the Huzoor’s order? I shall be present,” was the reply that seemed wrung from Bhulabhai’s inmost being.

We took no pains to see that he did not play us false; but he was present at the station at two o’clock. As we took our tickets Mr. Carruthers casually asked how many intermediate class tickets had been issued by the same train the day before to Lilapur. “None,” was the reply. “And to Viramwala?” “Two.” “Thank you,” said my Chief. On arrival at Viramwala he asked if any intermediate passengers with tickets for Umbli had alighted at Viramwala yesterday by the same train. “None,” said the station-master; “there were only two intermediate passengers, both of whom had tickets for this station. That is one of the passengers,” he continued, pointing to our travelling companion. “He comes here now and again.”

“I told you what the gentleman’s countenance portrayed, Trench, didn’t I? Not far wrong, was I? I wonder what really took place yesterday?

We walked on to Umbli, for the very excellent reason that there was no means of conveyance. It was a very pretty walk through fields of millet and oil-seed plants, interspersed with palm trees; and it did not seem very long before we arrived at the village. The study of Bhulabhai’s face, as he accompanied us in silence, was distinctly amusing. I am afraid that the charm of the scenery was lost upon him. Nara’s house was the first that we came to as we approached Umbli, and there was no need for any one to tell us who was the old man with the alert, brisk figure, the keen features, white moustache and piercing eyes, who was standing in front of his cottage. There was a swarm of people present, most of whom we gathered were descendants of the Waghri to the third and fourth generation. Nara stepped forward as we drew near, and with a profound salaam bade us welcome, and ordered one of the numerous hangers-on of the establishment to get us chairs. “Arhe bunyaji,” he observed, as his eye lit upon Bhulabhai, “what brings you here this time? You are always welcome to my poor house.”

I pricked up my ears at this remark, but Mr. Carruthers paid no attention to it, not openly, I mean, for nothing escaped his mental observation. He addressed himself to Narayan Waghri.

“I like seeing as much of my district for myself as I can manage to,” he commenced, “and I thought I would pay a visit to Umbli. I am told that you have a very thriving farm, and that after an adventurous career you have long since settled down to a peaceful country life. How I look forward some day to doing the same! I wonder if I shall be as interested in it as I hope to be, or if I shall ever feel any inclination to return to my present wandering existence. Do you ever find life at all dull? I hope not. There must be a fascination in seeing your crops ripen and your young stock grow up. I am told that you are especially noted for your cattle breeding. My friend Bhulabhai mentioned that you had a beautiful pair of Jaffirabad cows. I should very much like to see them, if I may.”

“Jaffirabad cows!” exclaimed Nara, in apparent or real amazement. “Jaffirabad cows! I have never owned any, nor even seen any in this village. Ho, bunyaji, what is this that you have been telling the Sahib?”

“Well, Bhulabhai,” said Mr. Carruthers, “speak up.”

But the wells of speech seemed to have dried up within him.

“He may have been mistaken about the breed,” said my Chief. “But I shall be very glad if you will let me see your stock. Come with us, Bhulabhai.”

We went round the establishment under Nara’s guidance. Everything was very nice and well ordered, and we saw various cows and oxen, good enough in their way, of the ordinary Gujerat breed; but nothing that was very remarkable. Certainly there was no animal for which anything more than a hundred and fifty rupees could possibly have been expected.

“Show me the cows that you saw yesterday,” said Mr. Carruthers to the bunya. But no reply was forthcoming. The flaming bandanna was, however, again brought into requisition.

“Our friend is fatigued,” said my Chief. “He is not accustomed to walking. We will give him a few minutes’ rest. A cup of milk may do him good. Let us go back and sit down in your verandah and have a talk at leisure.”

We made our way to the front of the house and sat down on the chairs that had been provided, the Local Board member and Nara sitting on the ground beside us. Mr. Carruthers lit a long cheroot, and after a short interval said to Nara:

“My friend Bhulabhai has made a certain complaint to me against you and certain others, and he wants me to do justice. I certainly mean to do so. But if I state the case I may make a mistake, as I appear to have done about the Jaffirabad cows. I want Bhulabhai to repeat the story that he told me at Ahmedpur this morning. Now, Bhulabhai, speak out. You need have no fear in my presence.”

At last our companion’s power of speech returned to him. He rose in almost hysterical excitement, threw off his puggree, and prostrated himself at my Chief’s feet. I may mention, parenthetically, that this procedure always causes me the most intense annoyance, not to say disgust. The bunya burst into a storm of words.

“I have told the Sahib everything,” he ejaculated. “Why should I say it again? How can I tell a lie? How can I speak in the presence of these people? My mind is on fire, and my thoughts cannot be clearly expressed. The Sahib shall do me justice. The Sahib knows everything. I have been deceived, dishonoured, plundered, and beaten by the Waghri and the police. I have lost five hundred rupees. I am ruined, I, a District Local Board member. This Nara is a thief, a scoundrel, and an utterer, or for all I know a manufacturer of false coins. Let him go to jail until he dies, so that he rob no more poor men like myself. The Sahib shall sell by auction his house and cattle, and restore to me my five hundred rupees. Never before was such zoolum under British Raj!”

Nara sat still while this outburst proceeded. But I could see his limbs twitching and his eyes flashing.

“Dog of a bunya!” he exclaimed, when Bhulabhai ceased. “How dare he come here with a pack of lies to poison the Sahib’s ears against this humble one! But it is all vague and doubtful. Let him make some clear statement. If the fool is unable to do so will the Sahib tell me what charges this lying devil has brought against me? I cannot make a defence until I know what the accusation is.”

Nara, of course, betrayed a not unnatural excitement; but his demeanour was perfectly dignified and respectful, and presented a very favourable comparison with that of the bunya.

“Very true, Nara,” said Mr. Carruthers. “You shall know exactly what has been said against you and others. Our friend is, as you see, a little upset and excited; so I must tell you the facts of his complaint. Briefly they are as follows: Yesterday morning a well-dressed young man named Hirabhai Amritlal came to him, knowing that he wanted some good cows, and said that there were two for sale at a village near Lilapur, and he arranged to go and see them, The two took tickets for Lilapur, but at Viramwala Hirabhai said they had better get out there as it was nearer to the village, and he conducted the bunya to you here. The assumption, of course, is that had he mentioned you, or even that they had to alight at Viramwala station the bunya would have been suspicious of you, and refused to go. Well, having come here he proceeded to strike a bargain for two Jaffirabad cows for four hundred and fifty rupees. While counting out the money there was some interruption, during which Hirabhai took the opportunity of substituting false rupees for some of his good ones. On examining the money you pretended to be very indignant at finding bad rupees, repudiated the bargain, beat him, and kept two hundred rupees as a punishment for his deceit and drove him away. Hirabhai went with him, and in the cutting not far from the station they met two policemen. Each accused the other to the police, Hirabhai saying that the bunya was an utterer of false coins, some of which he had upon his person. He was searched and the false coins found. He was again beaten, but suffered to go, on giving up all his good rupees. That is, in substance, the case against you.”

Nara could restrain himself no longer. He was furious in his wrath and indignation.

“He is the father of lies,” he shouted. “Who am I that I should eat dirt on account of cutchra (rubbish) like this? There is one word of truth in all these lies, and that is that he was beaten; but not so soundly as he deserved. The Sahib shall hear the truth of the whole story, and he can send me to jail for as long as he likes, yes, even for the rest of my life, which will not be many years; but this lying cheat shall go with me. I will swear on my son’s head, and holding the tail of a cow, that I will speak every word of truth.”

“Very well,” said Mr. Carruthers, “but remember you are under no obligation to say anything against yourself.”

“The Sahib shall hear the whole story from me and my friends, and he may judge if it is against any of us or not. I have said that I am ready to go to jail, and my friends can go there too; but it will be in company with this cheat and swindler. The only regret I feel is that he did not receive all deserts in full. Sahib, this youth whom you see is Jiwan, my grandson. He shall commence the recital. Ho, Jiwan, go and fetch Hirabhai Amritlal.”

Jiwan was a smart-looking youth of about twenty, dressed in the same costume which his grandfather affected. He disappeared with a knowing smile on his distinctly handsome face, and in a few minutes there appeared before us a well-dressed young bunya in the approved alpaca coat and patent leather boots. He salaamed respectfully to my Chief and myself. It was impossible to resist laughing as we recognised the identity of Hirabhai and Jiwan.

“Tell the Sahib your story, Jiwan,” said the old man. “Omit nothing. This Sahib shall hear something.”

Jiwan evidently thought it an excellent joke, and rolled off a delightfully naive history, looking the while as pleased with himself as possible, and thoroughly enjoying Bhulabhai’s dire distress.

“Sahib,” he commenced, “my grandfather and my father and myself have had dealings with this Bhulabhai for many years. He has always worsted us in every bargain. He is mean, avaricious, and impossible to trust for a moment. He is very rich, and has made his money by receiving stolen property. It would take too long to tell the Sahib how he has from time to time cheated us and abused our confidence. We forbore for a long time, but at last we said somewhat. He became frightened, and would have no more dealings with us. But we swore to be even with him. And he has had something on account; but we have not done with him yet. Well, yesterday morning I went to him, dressed as you see me; and in truth he did not know who I was. I told him that there was a man near Lilapur who had some very valuable gold ornaments of the purest gold for sale. They were worth twenty rupees a tola, and fifteen rupees a tola would be accepted. Of course, there was no pretence that at that price the ornaments had been obtained in the ordinary way of business. I explained that they had ‘changed hands’ many years ago, the thieves having been up-country bairaghis, and the original owners having since died. I said that if only I had the money to buy them with, I should never have come to him. You should have seen his eyes glisten as I told him all this. I explained that there were thirty-five tolas’ weight of gold, and so he must bring five hundred and twenty-five rupees with him. He asked all kinds of questions and I parried them with all kinds of answers; and it would take too long to repeat everything that was said. In the end this snake promised to bring five hundred and twenty-five rupees in a bag; but in fact he brought only five hundred.

“He, however, did not forget to take with him a pair of scales, a touchstone, and a phial of acid to test the gold. This contemptible thing was so mean that he said that I must pay for the railway tickets, so he did not know that I took them to Viramwala and not to Lilapur. I must not forget to say that I had induced him to promise me a handsome commission on the bargain if all turned out to be just as I had said. But promises are cheap, and railway tickets cost something; and I doubt whether the handsome commission would have been worth having. I took care to make no stipulation as to the amount, but said that I had every confidence in his generosity. You see, Sahib, he would not have come with me if he had known that he was going to Nara’s village, so I conducted him by roundabout tracks, and he was quite surprised when he found himself close to Umbli. Then he would have returned, especially when I said, as though quite innocently, that we had arrived at our destination, and that the ornaments were in the possession of a poor old man named Narayan Waghri. He grew pale and became very uneasy, and said that he had heard of the man and could not trust him. I replied that rumour should not be believed, and that as he had only heard about Nara he had obviously never met him, and that when he saw him he would at once feel confidence in him. I had him in a beautiful trap, for he could not after that say that he had actually known Nara. So one way and another he had to accompany me to Nara’s house. I had done this part of my business. He could then say that this was his first visit to Umbli as often as he liked.”

Shah bash, Jiwan!” said Nara; “you have told it all as plainly as a lawyer. Now I will continue.”

“One moment,” said my Chief. “Jiwan, when you went to Ahmedpur was there no word about cows?”

“Not one word, Sahib. However, I know as a fact it is true that his cows died some time ago and he is looking out for others; and so he hit on this as an excuse for having come to Umbli. He did not expect that the Sahib would come to see for himself,”

“Now, Nara,” Mr. Carruthers said, “I am ready to hear what you have to say.”

Nara stood up and commenced the recital. “The boy has told you how he brought Mr. Bhulabhai, Sahib Bahadur, Local Board member, to this humble one’s dwelling. He was very frightened, and he mopped his forehead like this.” (Here Nara gave a delightful representation of the manipulation of the bandanna.) “But I spoke sweet words, and said that we were old friends, and if there were any misunderstandings they should be forgotten, and that I knew no one like himself who could assist me so well, and that he would be greatly benefited by the transaction; also that there was no risk whatever. I said he must forgive me for the little trick that had been played upon him in bringing him to me unexpectedly, but I had no other means of procuring his presence, and I knew that a personal interview would put everything all right. Well, he suffered himself to be persuaded, and he came to see the ornaments. They were in a box that was buried beneath a tamarind tree. Before digging them up I posted men in various directions with orders to inform us if they saw any police patrols about. This was to overcome the bunya’s apprehensions. The Huzoor should have seen his excitement when the box was unearthed, and the ornaments, which were really magnificent ones, were beneath his covetous old eyes. He took up each and tested it and smelt it and played many fantastic tricks in the manner of the goldsmith’s profession; and then, of course, began to disparage the jewels. I let him go on. Finally he weighed them, but the crafty old fox cleverly put one of the anklets without weighing it into the heap that was supposed to have been weighed. I saw the trick, but said nothing. My time was to come. Then he told me that the total weight was not thirty-five tolas of gold, as he had been informed, but only thirty, which at the rate of fifteen rupees a tola would come to four hundred and fifty rupees, and not five hundred and twenty-five. Apart from that he said that the market value of the ornaments would not admit of his giving more than ten rupees a tola. I did not care how much he gave; but in order not to excite his suspicions I said that I was a very poor man, and entreated him for the sake of our old friendship to give me more than that. So after a deal of haggling he consented to pay at the rate of twelve rupees a tola for a total weight of thirty tolas, or in all three hundred and sixty rupees. He was very pleased with himself for having made so excellent a bargain, and he counted out the money from his bag. I watched him counting, and instead of the full amount agreed upon he deliberately placed ten rupees less on the ground for me. I laughed inwardly, but said nothing. He became very friendly, and said that he would lose no opportunity of doing me a service. When he rose to go I suggested that Jiwan should accompany him to the station for his protection, and he gratefully accepted the offer. Jiwan can now tell the Sahib something more.”

“One word first,” said Mr. Carruthers, “what is this about the false rupees?”

“It is all banau (invention). He had to make out some reason for his being roughly handled by the police, about which handling the Sahib has something to hear. It is for him to account for possessing the bad rupees which he showed the Sahib. It may be that there are more in his house. The Sahib might have search made.”

Bhulabhai did not seem particularly enamoured with this suggestion, and the bandanna came into tremendous action. But he appeared to think that silence was golden.

“Now, Jiwan,” said my Chief, “proceed with the next act of this interesting drama.”

“We had a very pleasant walk,” responded the smiling Jiwan, “as far as the cutting over which hang the trees. Bhulabhai was in the best of spirits and high good-humour, and there was nothing that he could not do for me. He carried the box of ornaments under his arm, and the balance of his money in a bag slung round his waist. Just before we passed out of the cutting we saw two policemen approaching, one on a pony, and one on foot, as he has stated. If the Sahibs will look round they will see something.”

We acted on the suggestion. I must explain that we had been facing the house. Just outside the compound hedge we saw a man on a pony, and another on foot, in a garb which strongly resembled that usually worn by policemen when patrolling villages---not exactly regulation costume, but sufficient to show what they were. Both gravely saluted.

“My son, Nana, and my grandson, Raoji,” said Nara gravely.

It was too preposterous, and we both burst into uncontrollable laughter.

“Go on, Jiwan,” said Mr. Carruthers when we were reduced to some degree of gravity.

“Well, Sahib,” continued Jiwan, “as soon as we saw the officers, Bhulabhai became very frightened, and hesitated to proceed. I told him that that was foolish. We must proceed unconcernedly, or we should excite suspicion. So we walked on and said, ‘Salaam, Jemadar Sahib,’ as we came up to the policemen. The officer on the pony salaamed politely in return, and asked where we had come from and where we were going. I mentioned some neighbouring villages and he seemed quite satisfied; and we were going on, when the man on foot said to his superior, ‘Jemadar Sahib, see that box under the fat bunya’s arm! Should we not see if it contains smuggled opium?’ ‘There is really no need,’ said the mounted officer. ‘These are evidently quite respectable persons!’ But the other would not be put off, and reminded his senior of the strict orders on the subject, and the chances of promotion if they should come upon any contraband drug. ‘Very well,’ said the Jemadar. ‘Doubtless this gentleman will have no objection to showing us the contents of his box.’ But Bhulabhai had every objection, and he expostulated and besought and protested, and finally offered them twenty rupees to let us pass on. This, of course, only made matters worse, and the officers became very suspicious, and also bitterly indignant at the supposition that they would leave their duty undone for the sake of a bribe. ‘What word is this?’ said the Jemadar, getting excited at the bunya’s behaviour and speech, ‘Give him something to remember us by, and open his box for him, havildar-ji.’ The subordinate lost no time in complying with the instructions; and he gave Bhulabhai a good thrashing with a heavy stick which he carried, encouraging him the while with a hearty flow of abuse. Then he took the umbrella from his superior’s hand, and made a great pretence of hustling me about also with that formidable weapon. Bhulabhai gasped and foamed and prayed and yelled, all to no purpose; and giving him a few more blows, and telling him to keep quiet if he valued his life, the havildar seized the box and opened it. ‘By Shiv,’ said he, ‘Jemadar Sahib, what have we here? Fine ornaments and stolen, too, I’ll be bound. Look at this gold nuth (nose-ring), it is worth forty rupees if it is worth one. And this gold ring with four pearls in it. Why, there was a ring of that description stolen in the Nussarpur dacoity the other day! Have you not the list of the articles stolen on that occasion with you?’ It so happened that he had, and it was quickly produced by the Jemadar and read out by his lieutenant. Every single ornament in the box corresponded with one of the items on the list, first a dania or gold necklace with silk threads, worth twenty rupees; next a splendid chandrika or head ornament, then a beautiful saria or worked gold necklace, and so on. The evidence was conclusive, was it not, Sahib? And what did this hound do but protest that he knew nothing about the contents of the box which his companion, who was unknown to him, and who had met him by chance on the road, had asked him to carry for him! A dozen more blows he received for that lie, till I thought that he would have swooned. ‘Of course, Jemadar,’ said the havildar, ‘we arrest this man and attach these ornaments?’ ‘Certainly,’ said the Jemadar. ‘Five years he will get for this villainy.’ The terrified Bhulabhai was in despair. Off went his puggree, and down went he on the ground and besought them to pardon him. Whatever had happened was his misfortune; let them take the ornaments and let him go and he would bless them all his life. ‘Just examine that bag,’ said the Jemadar; and the havildar promptly opened the bag that was tied round Bhulabhai’s waist, and counted out a hundred and forty rupees. ‘More stolen property!’ he remarked. ‘It is not stolen,’ said the miserable bunya, ‘but be kind to me and take it all, and let me go.’ Then I interposed and said to the officers that this was a rich man and he would pay whatever they thought right. The end of it was that after much talk and many arguments he was allowed to go, on signing a paper promising to pay on demand to Hirabhai Amritlal the sum of five hundred rupees. Here is the bond, Sahib. ‘Be off to your house at once,’ said the Jemadar, ‘and as you value your life say nothing about this to any one.’ Bhulabhai did not wait to be dismissed twice, but went off as fast as his legs could carry him. He had supplied us in one day with five hundred rupees, besides a bond for the same amount, and also an infinite deal of amusement. We had a great dinner that evening, consisting of a fat goat, rice and sugar, spice and jaggery (molasses); and we sat smoking and chatting and laughing, and, I admit it, Sahib, drinking, till the early hours as we discussed the day’s adventures. And now the Sahib will put the handcuffs on us and have us sent to jail; but we have had our fun, and care nothing so long as this son of a pig goes to jail as well.”

I looked at Mr. Carruthers, wondering what would happen next. His face bore the expression of a sphinx. He lit a long cheroot, and smoked in silence for at least ten minutes, and no one dared say a word.

At last a faint smile crept over his features, and he addressed Narayan Waghri and his family collectively.

“You have been perfectly honest with me,” he said, “and I will be perfectly honest with you. I believe every word that you have told me. You thoroughly well deserve to go to jail, each and all of you. But for the life of me, I don’t know how to send you there. The complaint against you is a mass of lies, unsupported, nay, unsupportable, by any evidence. Concerning the things you have admitted, there is no complaint against you at all. What can I do? How can I fill up a charge sheet? If I put in the facts as stated by Bhulabhai, the case would be thrown out of court in half an hour. And if I put in what you have told me, well, no one has complained of such incidents, and you would probably withdraw your confession. Your statement to me, a police officer, is not admissible. I don’t know what is to be done. Or rather I know very well. I must leave you alone. As for that bond, you will tear it up at once in my presence. Regarding the five hundred rupees, my conscience is singularly vague on the subject. Perhaps we had better leave Bhulabhai to bring a civil suit against you for the amount. But by your gods and mine, if you do not keep quiet for the rest of your natural life, I will have every one of you swung on the highest tree in the district.”

“Well done, sir,” I said as we rose to depart, and the air rang with shouts of “Carruthers Sahib ki jai.”


The Money-Lending God

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

The gods of the heathen are mysterious beings. I have known strange happenings in connection with them; but that a deity should take up the role of a money-lender struck me as a most extraordinary circumstance. And that is what actually happened. Considering all that came to light in the course of the transaction my advice to those about to borrow is on no account to borrow from a god. The most extortionate bunya or sowkar is less dangerous. It has to be borne in mind that the two most pronounced characteristics of the average native are avarice and superstition, or perhaps it would be more respectful to speak of the latter quality as religious devotion. And so when the two of these act in unison their joint influence is great. To fill his coffers and to save his soul alive by one stroke of business was a conception that forcibly appealed to him, and he naturally regarded it as nothing less than a divine inspiration. The Vedantic theology, the Puranas, and Rig-Vedas, the Trimarrti, and the whole of the voluminous Hindoo Pantheon were lost in insignificance in comparison with the new and up-to-date revelation. No wonder that it achieved wide popularity, and flourished exceedingly, until Mr. Carruthers intervened. Intervention should have come long before; in fact, the institution ought to have been exposed and its promoters sent to jail or to the gallows soon after the commencement of operations. But the folly of the Native Police allowed vast harm to be done. The police are supposed to keep the higher authorities informed of all events that take place, and to report at once anything out of the common. As a fact, it is the most difficult thing in the world to make them do this. They will use neither their eyes nor their ears. Any amount of mischief might be hatched within half a mile of a police station, while the members of the force remained in total ignorance of what was being done. Apathy and stupidity on the part of his men are what the unfortunate D.S.P. has everlastingly to contend with. Dishonesty and corruption are much easier to deal with, for these things are positive and definite. But the perennial vis inertiæ is enough to break one’s heart.

This curious conjunction of religion and finance affords an excellent illustration of police inefficiency. Of course, for natives to go on a distant pilgrimage and die while absent from their homes by reason of plague or cholera is not uncommon; nor need it ordinarily excite suspicion. But when some twenty persons going from a more or less limited area on a pilgrimage to one and the same shrine, each in identical and very unusual circumstances, all died, the police might have been expected to manifest some interest in the matter. Anyhow, they did not do so, and I honestly believe that they knew nothing about it. This shows how useless the police frequently are. If they do not mingle familiarly with the public at large, and learn what is going on, it is obvious that they do not earn their pay. Perhaps even this criticism is hard on them, for the incidents that I am about to relate did not seem to cause the least anxiety or concern to the people in general, although the wildest scares about something purely imaginary are for ever in circulation.

Well, my Chief and I were in total ignorance that anything particular had been taking place, when one day in glorious cold weather we pitched our camp at Wynot, the scene of the suttee adventure. In the exhilarating crisp morning air, and the bright sunshine of mid-January, the quaint temples that line the sacred river Krishna looked extremely fascinating. In spite of the cold, which induced me to wear thick English garments, the ghauts were lined with crowds of people with very little on, who were busily engaged in their ablutions and religious observances. I wonder it did not kill them. Perhaps the sanctity of the place preserved them from the natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Our intention was to spend a week at Wynot, and in addition to exploring at leisure the architectural features of the place obtain as much information as possible regarding certain movements which we called seditious, but our Aryan brethren termed patriotic. As I have mentioned, if there is one place above others where the people would like to upset British rule in India it is Wynot. They were mostly very uncommunicative, and reluctant to come to a closer acquaintance with us; but Mr. Carruthers had a wonderful way of ingratiating himself with them, and winning their confidence. At last we managed to get on tolerably intimate terms with several. These were, of course, Brahmins, for practically the whole of the Wynot population consisted of “twice-borns.” One of these was a man named Ramchandra Govind Kelkar. His age was about thirty, and he was of the usual Brahmin appearance and type, with the exception that while the average Brahmin is an exceedingly serious and grave individual, our friend Ramchandra had a sense of humour and quite loved a joke. At the same time he was very orthodox and devout, and professed that he cared nothing for the affairs of this world, all his interests in life being centred in religion. He was engaged in the building of a new temple to the god Kandoba, of which, when finished, he was himself to be the chief priest. It was to be a large and imposing edifice. The walls were now about ten feet high, and the masons were busily employed in carving pillars and images. Several times we went with Ramchandra to watch the progress of operations. He evidently knew how things ought to be done; for no defect in the workmanship, however slight, failed to attract his attention, and the delinquent was made acquainted with his fault in a very fine flow of sonorous Mahratti. Our friend was frankly outspoken on the sedition question, but in quite a light-hearted way, and without any excitement.

“Of course,” he said one day, “we as a people don’t want you here. We should prefer to manage our own affairs. You would not like it if Hindoos ruled England. Personally, except for sentimental reasons and from a patriotic point of view, I don’t particularly care if you go or if you stay; but don’t let any of my fellow-countrymen here know that I talk like this. Speaking for myself, I get on very well as things are now. I can’t say that I have any special liking for most of the Englishmen that I have met. They are generally haughty, and think that we don’t count at all. Half of your people who pass through here on their way to the hills don’t know the difference between a Hindoo and a Mahometan, and care less. But what does this matter to me? If Englishmen like you two Sahibs are pleased to come and talk to me in a pleasant way, I am quite happy to have as much friendly conversation as you may desire. As for those who are otherwise minded, they can go their way and I mine. I am quite as free to carry out my religious observances under your Government as I should be under Brahmin rule. Well, perhaps not altogether,” he continued, smiling; “I must not forget that little incident of the suttee, in which you had something to say. Why you English should object to a widow burning herself and so going straight to the delights of Swarga instead of dragging out years and years in unhappiness here, is beyond my comprehension. But it really does not much matter one way or another, to my way of thinking, what becomes of a widow; and it was foolish of these bigoted old people to go and defy your law. It was just a chance that you were in these parts, Sahib, or no one would ever have heard of it. I shared in the tussle that night, I don’t mind telling you; but I managed to elude your silly police. Really a widow is not worth so much fuss; but for the sake of Mahadew let these words of mine be kept secret. I can speak freely to you, Sahib; but were my sentiments known here and in the districts round about, subscriptions to the temple of Kandoba would soon cease. And the raising of this temple is the work of my life. It will cost lakhs and lakhs of rupees, and will outrival all the other temples of Wynot. Other people think of matters of temporal welfare, and the attainment of lands and treasure. Why, even my own two elder brothers sacrificed their spiritual welfare for the sake of earthly dross, and owing to the displeasure of the gods they were not suffered to live to enjoy their wealth. As for me, I find no satisfaction in silver or gold to equal the joy of the soul that is afforded by religion. But the Sahibs will think that I talk too much, and if they are so inclined we may meet again to-morrow.”

That was a plain hint that our friend had had enough of us for the time being; and we bade him farewell, or au revoir, with all the politeness that was at our disposal. I don’t know that I looked forward with any great interest to seeing him again the next day; but I knew my Chief too well to imagine that he would forego a talk with any native. He never appeared bored, however hopelessly uninteresting the conversation might seem to me. But, as things turned out, the delight of an interview with Ramchandra Govind was not vouchsafed to us the next day; for when we went to look at the temple the mokkuddum, or artisan in charge, informed us that his master had gone away on a tour to collect subscriptions for the sacred edifice, and did not expect to be back for four days.

“Trench,” said Mr. Carruthers, “I am going to take a few days’ holiday. I shall wire to the District Magistrate that I am going on casual leave in anticipation of sanction. See the advantage of being on good terms with one’s superior officer! I want you to stay here till I come back and dispose of routine work.”

I did not approve of this at all. I had been left in Wynot once before, and then there was some point in it; but now there seemed absolutely none. Besides, the shooting about Wynot was of the poorest description. I had not the faintest idea where my Chief was going; nor was it the least use to ask him for information when he was not inclined to bestow it upon me of his own accord. I carried out orders for three days, and was bored to distraction, my one friend Ramchandra being absent; and then I suddenly took it into my head to do something very wrong. In fact, I deserted my post. I saw the mail tonga that was going up the hill changing ponies, and it had a vacant seat in it. The temptation was irresistible, and in three hours I was at the dainty little club on the top of the hill. With the clusters of wild roses by the roadside the place looked delightful, and after a look of satisfaction at the surroundings I walked gaily into the billiard-room to see if I could find some one to join me in a game. I did find some one. There was Mr. Carruthers playing billiards with the marker. I know I felt a fool, and I expect I looked it.

“Hullo, Trench,” said my Chief; “come along and take a cue. This man is perfectly useless. I want some one to put me on my mettle.”

I was never more astonished in my life. I expected a stern rebuke, and I may incidentally mention that my expectations were gratified later on. But my Chief liked to choose his own time for everything. He confessed to me a month or two afterwards that he was afraid that if he had touched on my misconduct when he saw me, he might have said what he would subsequently have been sorry for, and so for the immediate present he did not refer to the subject.

We finished our game, and then stepped outside to have a look at the roses and other flowers. We at once stumbled on a hill coolie with a basket of orchids for sale. The coolie addressed Mr. Carruthers and begged him to buy some of his specimens, which he said were exceptionally rare ones. “They certainly are,” said my Chief; “we must have a close look at them. Come on, my man, I will inspect your orchids in my room.” In we went; Mr. Carruthers closed the door, and then his anger burst out. “You miserable impostor, Krishna! Whoever saw an orchid-selling coolie wearing a gold ring on his finger? And you are the man whom I have rapidly promoted! You useless fool! You nirup yogi murakh!” Krishna knew better than to put forward excuses; and he only folded his hands in a penitential attitude, and looked thoroughly unhappy. It was hard to imagine that this shivering figure was identical with the smart head-constable, the brass buttons on whose uniform gleamed like gold. “Well! What have you to tell me?” continued the angry D.S.P.

“Sahib, the time has been short,” replied Krishna, “but by the Sahib’s favour this humble one has found out something. The Sahib will discover what it means. I have visited ten villages, and my knees are aching. There is a tale of a god in the south who is lending money for the cultivation of land and the planting of trees. I met two men who have received a hundred rupees each. I heard of others who were encouraged by this kindness of the god, and they applied for and were promised loans. They went to the temple of the god in the south. They have not returned. They may have died of plague. There is much plague in these times. In Wynot there were two men only to whom the favour of the god came. They are Tukaram and Mahadew, brothers of Ramchandra, with whom the presence converses. What more can be known? The time has been short. There is no thought of any evil.”

“Well, well,” said Mr. Carruthers. I dare say it is all right. Take off this costume and wear as many rings as you please on your fingers and toes, and order a special tonga for the Sahib and myself at six o’clock to-morrow morning. You can come with us, though you thoroughly well deserve to have to walk down the hill.”

Krishna humbly salaamed and withdrew.

“What is wrong, sir,” I ventured to ask my Chief; though before the words were out of my mouth I recognised the uselessness of them.

“I really do not know for certain that there is anything wrong,” he replied; “but I just like to make sure that everything is all right.”

It was bitterly cold, as we got into the tonga before day had dawned next morning; and in spite of rugs and coats I did not feel warm till we came within sight of the temples at Wynot and the sun was well up in the sky. I looked forward to a hot cup of tea in the tent to properly thaw me; but, lo and behold, the mango tope where our tents had stood was swept and garnished. I was lost in amazement.

“Don’t look so surprised,” said Mr. Carruthers, with a smile on his face. “Had you been here yesterday evening you would have received a note from me, asking you to have the camp moved to Dahiwadi. In case of my note not reaching you I sent an order to the head constable of the outpost that the tents were to go. Now you can depute a mounted constable to have them brought back here as soon as possible. We can do without them till the evening. I have some things to eat in my tiffin basket. One moment though; I just want to ascertain one particular before the sawar starts.” He stopped a native who was walking from the direction of the new temple, and asked him who was looking after the works. “Ramchandra Kelkar,” was the curt reply. “Send off the sawar,” said my Chief to me.

We went to the empty traveller’s bungalow, and in lieu of tea had a cup of hot milk accompanied by some not particularly esculent plantains. Having thus to some extent refreshed ourselves we strolled out and gradually found our way to the temple that was rising in honour of the god Kandoba. When I was at school I used to find it distinctly difficult to master the kings of Israel and Judah; but I really pity a Hindoo youngster who has to pass an examination in the theology, or divinity, of his cult. Is it monotheism or pantheism or polytheism? I have heard it defined, not appropriately I think, as one-at-a-time theism. As for this god Kandoba he never seemed to me to be of any particular benefit to any one, in spite of the numerous temples that were built for him. Lakshmi and Ganesh and even Shiwa were often ready to succour their devotees; and persons desirous of vengeance on an enemy could generally rely on the assistance of Kali or Bhawani; but many of the divinities might, so far as I could see, have been very well dispensed with. However, that was our Indian fellow-subjects’ business, and not mine; and perhaps it is as well to leave other people alone in such matters. Anyhow, Kandoba’s followers seemed very devoted to him, for the liberal subscriptions that poured in for the building of his temple seemed a very tangible proof of his popularity. The work was going on merrily as we drew near; and there was our friend Ramchandra, exhorting, reproving, directing, and generally the life and soul of the whole enterprise. He greeted us with a friendly smile as we approached, and expressed his great joy and surprise at seeing us again.

“I was afraid we should not meet till I know not when,” he commenced, as we came to close quarters. “I am too delighted to resume our intercourse. I was shocked when on my return to Wynot this morning I saw that the Sahibs’ tents were gone. I was consumed with grief, for I had no time to bid you farewell when last I was honoured by your condescension. And now, after all, I am again favoured. And will the Sahibs make a long stay here? And how will they live without their tents? We people can put up in a corner of a temple, or a dhuramsala; but the Sahibs must have comfort.”

“Must they?” asked the Chief. “I think that this Sahib can tell you what sort of comfort we have enjoyed on a good many occasions. We do not despise the amenities of civilisation when we can get them; but when we can’t there is no complaint. As for our tents, you see, we were both away, and there has been a ridiculous mistake. I have sent a man to Dahiwadi to order them back here as soon as possible. We shall be here a little longer, and there will be time to have many talks. By the by, you left rather suddenly the other day, did you not? The last time we saw you you spoke of seeing us the next day.”

“What the Sahib says is indeed very true,” the Brahmin replied. “I had hoped to have more sweet words from the Sahibs the following day. But who can control his destiny? The word of the god came to me to go forth on my travels, and collect more money for his temple. Who should disobey the god? I had no opportunity to take my leave of the Sahibs. How can I sufficiently express my regret?”

“Well, you might sit down and give us the benefit of your conversation. The workmen will do their best when they know that you are in such close proximity to them. The other day you spoke of your two brothers, and mentioned that their love of gold had brought them to grief. I should be very interested to hear all about it. Tukaram and Mahadew were, I think you said, their names.”

“Did I tell the Sahibs their names? I must have done so since the Sahib says so. Yes, those were their names. But in truth they had wellnigh passed out of my recollection. I did not approve of what they did. I warned them that the love of money could have no good result. And my words were true. But my thoughts are on the god; and my brothers offended, and I have ceased to remember them. Yes, though it was in the name of a god that they were tempted, yet the sin was theirs. For to this god Kandoba alone should they have given allegiance, and joined me in collecting funds for his temple.”

“But what happened to them, Ramchandra? I have heard of money causing misfortune, but have not had the privilege of trying it myself. There is not much misfortune to be had out of seven hundred and fifty rupees a month, except that it does not command so many of the comforts that you referred to as I should like. What harm did money bring to bear on your brothers?”

“They died, Sahib. Who can say more? They were tempted by a strange god, and they went away and returned not. The plague was bad, and they perished on the way.”

“But what was the special temptation? I am most anxious to know. What strange god ventured to interfere with Kandoba? And were you not tempted? Or if you were, how did you manage to resist it?”

“Indeed I was tempted, Sahib. How could I not yield except by the favour of Kandoba? The word came to me that I should despise temporal things, and heed only spiritual things; and I obeyed, and my soul is in peace.

Shah-bash, Ramchandra. You make me feel ashamed at my grumbling about getting only seven hundred and fifty rupees a month. I envy you your temperament. But won’t you tell me what happened to your brothers?”

“Sahib, I have said that I have forgotten my brothers. They offended, their memory is dead to me. But at the Sahib’s request I recollect so much, that a letter came to them from a strange god offering them money, and they went away and returned not. Who can say more?”

“It strikes me you can recollect very much more if you like,” said Mr. Carruthers, in a slightly sterner tone than he had hitherto employed. “I prefer to use ‘sweet words,’ as you call them. Will you allow me to confine my speech to sweet words, or must I speak harshly?”

“What has this humble one done to deserve hard language from the speaker of sweet words? Have I not told the Sahib all that I know? My brothers were tempted with gold, and they were spoilt and they went away, and the plague came and they returned not. This I have told the Sahib.”

“Look here, my man, I mean business,” said Mr. Carruthers, standing up. “Either you give me a full history of what happened to your brothers, or I shall proceed to search your house, and make all possible inquiries.”

Ramchandra did not look exactly pleased. “This humble one is feeling ill,” he said, “and requests that the Huzoor will give him permission to depart.”

“Very well, since that is your tone you can go. But Mr. Trench and I go straight to your house and see what we can find there. You can be present. I shall, of course, take the usual two witnesses to the search that I intend to make. Come along,” he said, addressing two of the principal workmen, “I require your services on a panchnama.”

This last word, I must explain, means “five names,” and is used to signify a jury, or a number of witnesses to any proceeding, whether less or more than five.

We made the search, though what my Chief expected to find was beyond me. We first asked Ramchandra in the usual way if he desired the women of his household to be placed in seclusion so that our presence would not annoy them. He replied that he did not know what the proposed search was for, and he protested against the indignity; but as for his womenfolk he had no superstitious objection to our seeing them.

What we found was some very extraordinary correspondence, in the Mahratti language, which, being interpreted, ran as follows:

“No. 1.

“May the blessing of the god Venkatesh be with us.



“Bhagwandass, officer in charge of the Somagiri Sirkar State, the owner of which is the god Shri Venkatesh, lord of the goddess of wrath, possessed of the lustre of crores of suns, possessor of nine crores of rupees, and lord of crores of Universes.


“Tukaram and Mahadew, sons of Govind Kelkar of the holy city of Wynot.

“I send herewith under the orders of the god this letter and his prasad (sweetmeats from before the god). Please accept both with great reverence for the god. In the month of Ashwin the god ordered Brahmins to be fed on your behalf; and offerings were made to him on your account. You are therefore indebted to him to the extent of ten rupees.

“You should send by the bearer a cow which will be numbered among those belonging to the god. You should not disobey the order. He will give you his blessing, and you will be successful in all your dealings, and all your desires will be fulfilled.

“With these blessings the undersigned concludes.


“Dated the 2nd of the dark half of Ashwin, 1835.”

I must explain that this Hindoo date corresponds with 1905 of our calendar.

“No. 2.


“Bhagwandass, officer in charge of the Somagiri State, the owner of which is the god Shri Venkatesh, lord of the goddess of wrath, possessed of the lustre of crores of suns, possessor of nine crores of rupees, and lord of crores of Universes.


“Tukaram and Mahaaew, sons of Govind Kelkar of the holy city of Wynot.

“May what I write, sitting at the threshold of the god Venkatesh, and under his mandate, please you.

“Letters containing your requests have reached the feet of the god. In accordance with your requests a question was put to the god with camphor lit before him. Several days passed, after which I had a dream which was very favourable to your interests. You should therefore understand that prosperous days are in store for you. If you are desirous of closing this transaction for yourselves, the god has ordered the payment to your credit from his Huzoor bank a sum of Rs.30,000.

“The conditions are as follows:---

“(1) No interest for one year from the date that this sum is advanced to you will be charged.

“(2) After one year interest at the rate of two annas per cent per annum will be charged, which is payable to the devotees on their annual tours.

“(3) No demand for the repayment of the principal will be made for fifteen years, after which it must be paid gradually.

“I had sent you a letter under the instructions of the god in a dream, upon which you replied that the loan would be taken up when required. You subsequently intimated to our agents your wish to raise the loan. The god was therefore again questioned, and the same replies were received. You are probably reluctant to borrow the money from the god, but you will find that there is no objection to any man borrowing money from this god, as in his name the deity speaks in a dream; because he is a money-making god. The only thing is that one per cent on the amount borrowed will have to be paid in advance. Send this with the servant of the State, and one of your own trustworthy men. The money will be credited and the promised sum paid to you according to the orders of the god wherever you would like it made payable. It can be made payable at the capital of the State or at any place you wish. Under the instructions of the god I have sent Balaji. When he returns, please make provision for his maintenance and journey to the capital of the State or to Shripur, where the money can be paid to you at shop No. 9 by the men sent to you, and send one of your men with them. Orders have been sent to the Shripur bank to pay Rs.30,000. There is no necessity for our agents and your man to come here if you wish to borrow within the amount placed to your credit. But in case you wish to raise more than Rs. 30,000, you must come here yourselves, when a special formal demand will be made to the god. All information you may require will be furnished orally by the man who has been sent to you. Think over the matter well, and accept the money from the Shripur bank. Take my man with you to Shripur, he will serve as guide to you in every way. You would probably prefer the commission fee to be deducted from the capital when you pass the bond; but this cannot be done. No sum has ever been advanced without the fee. All information on this point will be given to you by my man. The god has chosen you two brothers for his favour on account of your piety. If you serve him faithfully you will advance nine thousand years in the next circle of the universe. The god Venkatesh will bless you, and you will be prosperous in all your dealings. With these blessings I conclude.


“Dated 12th of the dark half of Kartik, 1835.”

“What amazing rubbish and rhodomontade,” I exclaimed, when the translation was completed. “Who can make head or tail of this farrago of nonsense?”

“It may seem nonsense to an ordinary Englishman,” replied Mr. Carruthers, “but to the mind of a Hindoo this is convincing logic. However, the correspondence is obviously not complete. We must have a further search, and failing any more discoveries perhaps our friend will condescend to throw a little more light on the matter. As for what depends upon all this, remember he may know our own language; so as you are a classical scholar I can tell you that pallida mors aequo pulsat pede various simple, deluded people in connection with these documents.”

We searched and searched, and could find no more papers, so my Chief had again to turn for information to Ramchandra Govind. This gentleman having recovered from his first indignation at the search of his premises seemed to be resigned to circumstances. He was quite his own suave and rather jovial self again.

“I am most sorry,” he said, “that owing to an unfortunate feeling of indisposition my temperament became disturbed, and I was not ready to tell the Sahibs what they wanted to know. I now feel more at ease, and I will endeavour to satisfy them. It will be remembered that I stated that my memory of my brothers was weak and indistinct, for my mind it always engrossed in spiritual matters. But the sighs of these letters brings back the circumstances to my mind. Had I known that these papers were what the Sahib desired he should have had them long ago; but in truth I had forgotten that they were still in existence.”

“That’s right, Ramchandra,” said Mr. Carruthers; “I am very glad that you are once more in your usually amiable frame of mind. Now let us hear all about your brothers and these letters. Begin from the beginning.”

“I will do so, Sahib. My two elder brothers and I had a small estate in common. We were what we call an avivakht, or undivided family. The estate was not a large one, but it brought in a few hundred rupees a year. In good years there may have been a thousand rupees. There was enough to live upon comfortably. I had no wish for more. My mind was on spiritual matters, and the word came to me to build a temple to Kandoba. My brothers were good men, and they did not neglect their religious observances. But their minds were set upon temporal advantages, and they greatly desired to add to the estate by buying more land, if only they could borrow money to do so on satisfactory terms. They did not wish to increase their lands and flocks and herds by a little, but by a great deal. I tried to persuade them to be content with what they had, and to serve the gods; but they were not to be persuaded. Meanwhile I wandered about collecting subscriptions for Kandoba. Once on my return I found my brothers in great joy. I questioned them as to what had happened. They informed me that a messenger had come from the god Shri Venkatesh of Somagiri, and had offered to advance as much money as they wanted to enlarge the estate. I was exceedingly surprised. They showed me the second of the two letters which I had forgotten, and the Sahib has found. I perused it, and said to them that there seemed to have been some previous letters. They then showed me the first of the two letters, and some others which they may have taken away with them. They said that they determined to borrow no less than Rs. 50,000 from the god, and they were consequently preparing to set out for the temple of Somagiri, as for a loan of more than Rs. 30,000 their personal attendance was necessary. They were taking with them the sum of five hundred rupees as the advance that the god stipulated for. They said that the conditions were most favourable, for they would purchase land that was in the market, and make such profits that they could repay the loan and the interest in the time that was allowed, and we should all be rich men. I was amazed and horrified at all this, and besought them to leave such mundane affairs alone, and assist me in building Kandoba’s temple; but it was all to no purpose. I upbraided them for not having told me when the messenger first came; for they admitted that he had been to them several times in my absence, and we spoke hard words to each other. But who can resist destiny? They were to start out the next day and meet the messenger at Londi, twenty-five miles away. Sahib, I could not bear to see them depart from our ancestral home; so I went away at once on my work of collecting money for Kandoba, and on my return they were gone. I dreaded that some ill fortune might attend them; and my fears were but too true, for I heard after some months that they had died of cholera one day’s march beyond Londi at the village of Panchgaum. What could I do? I devoted myself to Kandoba, and did not permit myself to recollect my poor brothers. What more is there to say to the Sahib?”

“Well, I should like to ask you one question,” said Mr. Carruthers. “As the Somagiri god picked out for his favour men who were specially devout, how is it that he did nothing for you, who seem to have been much more devout than your brothers? But you said something about your having been tempted too. Was any letter addressed to you?”

Ramchandra paused for a moment, as though in thought, and then replied: “Now that I think of it, Sahib, there was a letter addressed to me which my brothers showed me, offering me a loan; but I put the paper aside and took no notice of it. I may have the paper somewhere. I had not remembered it at all. I will search for it, and if I find it I will bring it to the Sahib.”

“Very well. There is one more question. The messenger from the god Venkatesh on the various occasions that he visited your brothers came in your absence, so, of course, you cannot describe him. But is there no one here at all who saw him?”

“I do not know, Sahib. I made no inquiries. I was displeased at the whole transaction, and felt no interest in anything connected with it.”

“Very well; that will do for the present. I will see you again later. Come along, Trench, I require time to think.”

Mr. Carruthers certainly took time to think, for never a word did I hear from him the whole of the rest of the day. Our tents arrived in due course and were pitched under the mango tope. We had a reasonably good dinner; but my Chief remained silent, and right glad I was when it was time to retire to bed. I slept late the next morning, and when I got up I saw Mr. Carruthers in conversation with a wandering fakir. This everlasting talk to all sorts and conditions of natives was sometimes rather trying, and it seemed to me that I was a little neglected during these conversations. However, we must take people as we find them, and I should have been infinitely sorry to have any other Chief than Mr. Carruthers. His kindness to me was wonderful; and, after all, a man like this may be allowed some idiosyncracies. He gave me a cheery good morning, and bade me look at a paper that he had in his hand. It was in Mahratti. “What do you make of this?” he said. I couldn’t make anything of it in particular, though it was obviously a letter similar to the second of those which we had seen yesterday.

“Nothing strikes you especially about this interesting document? Well, there is a good deal that strikes me, as you shall presently hear. I have to unearth some very peculiar devilry; but I can see no golden road to a solution of the mystery. There is no heroic remedy or sensational counterplot. I have to persevere patiently, and endeavour to verify my deductions. What these are you shall soon know. But proof remains to be obtained. This may take some time; but I think I shall be able to conduct some one to the gallows. Kindly ask an orderly to call up certain people whom I have sent for.”

About twenty of the leading Brahmins of the holy city were shortly ushered in, Ramchandra Govind among them. We had a few chairs, and the most prominent persons were accommodated with these. The remainder were given rugs and cushions on the ground. All were arranged in a circle, except Ramchandra, who was told to stand in the centre. Then Mr. Carruthers proceeded to address the company.

“I have invited you, the most influential people of Wynot, to listen to me while I tell you a few things. I intend to take you absolutely into my confidence. In the first place, you see these handcuffs. I place them upon the wrists of Ramchandra Govind Kelkar, whom I hereby arrest on a charge of murder.”

I could see a profound sensation reflected in the faces of the Brahmins; but no one moved or spoke. Ramchandra stood where he had been, his hands manacled behind him. The morning was cold; but big drops of perspiration stood on his brow.

“You have seen what I have done,” continued my Chief. “I will now give you my reasons. This man has committed many murders, I do not know how many. I shall find out before very long. But this much I can tell you. He has murdered his own brothers, Tukaram and Mahadew. How do I know that? I will tell you. I had talked many times to this Ramchandra, freely, as I talk to every one, and he spoke freely to me. Various things in his talk made me doubtful of his sincerity and straightforwardness; but I did not attach any great importance to this. One morning he suddenly stopped the conversation and let Mr. Trench and myself know, politely enough, that he wished to be rid of us, and there was a peculiar look upon his face as though he had said something rash, and which he regretted. What had he said? It was to the effect that his two brothers had been bent on the acquisition of wealth, and had incurred the displeasure of the gods and had not been suffered to live. This was a very strange thing to say, and it appeared to me to be necessary to investigate the matter. However, as Ramchandra evidently wanted to be free of us I said no more at the time. He had promised to meet us the next day. But the next day he was gone, leaving word that he would be away for four days. He knew that it was my intention to leave Wynot within that time. Obviously he did not wish to meet me again, so the slight suspicion that had formed in my mind became stronger. I therefore went away, and ordered my tents to be moved, on the fourth day, so that on Ramchandra’s return he would not hesitate to remain. Meanwhile through a trusty agent I had some inquiries made about his brothers. I learnt their names and ascertained that not only they, but a number of other people in the surrounding district, had been enticed away by the promise of a loan of a considerable sum of money by some god in the south; and that only the first two or three who had wanted small loans, and had been given the amount, so that they might be employed as decoy ducks, had ever returned. All the rest were said to have died during their absence. All had taken a sum of money to deposit with the god as an advance or security. The aggregate of these advances is fairly large. The dupes were all said to have died of plague.

This, without being impossible, was exceedingly unlikely. But Ramchandra later on said that his brothers had died of cholera, and this set my thoughts working in another direction. Well, I gave Ramchandra every chance of explaining the circumstances of his brothers’ deaths. He was strangely reluctant to do so; but the little that he did say, which was something about his brothers having been tempted by a strange god, made matters more mysterious than ever. He then pretended that he was ill. It was clear that he would not speak, nor indeed was there any compulsion on him to incriminate himself. I therefore searched his house, and found these two documents, which I hand round for your inspection. One of you will kindly read them out when you have all glanced at them. Well, after my search, Ramchandra became more communicative. Silence had not proved very successful, and there was no possibility of disregarding the circumstances referred to in the correspondence. He thought it would be good policy to speak out, and make it appear that there was no mystery at all, and that everything was open and above board. Now you will notice that the favour of the god was vouchsafed to persons of special devoutness. Why should the most devout of the three brothers have had no communication sent to him? It was clearly desirable to prove that he had not been neglected. So late last night Ramchandra brought me this letter to his address, which I now hand to you. He said that he had found it after much searching. Please note a few points about it. When was it written? Look at the ink. You can see for yourselves it was only written yesterday! Look at the paper. Is it not surprisingly fresh to have been lying about for a long time? Look at the date, 1835, that is equivalent to our year 1905. This paper happens to be watermarked. Hold it up to the light. What do you see? The year 1906! I can also tell you this. I could not afford to leave Ramchandra unwatched yesterday. He was very carefully shadowed; and I can tell you at what shop he purchased the paper on which the letter to him from the god was written! Now a few more things I can tell you. He stated to me that the maximum income derived from his and his brother’s joint estate was a thousand rupees a year. I have been busy throughout this night in various inquiries, and one result is that I know the estate to have been worth three thousand rupees a year. It was not a trifle that he gained by the murder of his brothers. Now, there were conflicting rumours as to deaths by plague or by cholera. You may know that the symptoms of cholera are very like those of arsenical poisoning. Ramchandra is too careless in his speech. He should not have mentioned cholera. Well, this made me think, and early this morning I had another search in his house, and in a recess concealed behind a cupboard I found this phial half full of arsenic. Now I come to the messenger of the Somagiri god. He had been seen by several persons among you present here now. As you know, the messenger from the god came, in the first instance, as an absolute stranger to the place, and ostentatiously inquired the address of Tukaram and Mahadew for whom he brought a letter from the god Venkatesh, which bore his special seal. On each of his visits he was an honoured guest, seen in the house of the three brothers not only by Tukaram and Mahadew, but by others of you from time to time. What like was this messenger? Of course, coming from the south he wore clothes different from those worn here, and his speech was not quite the same, and his religious observances did not quite coincide with yours. This is very interesting, not much above thirty. And he always too care to come in the absence of Ramachandra. Have you no perception, you people of Wynot? This is the messenger, this Ramchandra, this fratricide. He is now under arrest, and will be sent to the magistrate, from whom I shall obtain a remand of fifteen days to enable me to make further enquiries. I have called you together to show you why I have arrested Ramachandra. As for the temple at Somagiri, I don’t believe there is one. You are now dismissed.”

Murmurs of consternation and horror had been going round the audience for some time, and now after a short consultation, an old priest named Vinayak rose as spokesman on behalf of the rest.

“Sahib,” he said, “we believe not one word of this old woman’s talk. This is not the first time that the Sahib has endeavoured to bring into disrepute the sanctity of our religion. On a former occasion he falsely accused two holy mendicants of murder in this city, and has otherwise affronted the gods. This is your detested British rule. What we say is this, that the Sahib shall at once release Ramchandra, or we will call on the goddess Bhawani, and she shall take him by force.”

Mr. Carruthers laughed. “This is really amusing,” he said. “Do you wish me to arrest you all for abetment of murder and resistance to the law? But as you have appealed unto your gods, I will just give you this chance. Send for Ramchandra’s son, for a cow, and some Ganges’ water. Let him put one hand on his son’s head, hold the cow’s tail with his other hand, and after drinking the Ganges’ water swear that he is innocent.”

“We will, he shall,” was vociferated by all.

But Ramchandra threw himself at the feet of Mr. Carruthers and said, “Sahib, I have done all this; let the Sahib do with me whatsoever he will.”


A Christmas in Camp

*Told by William Trench, Assistant Superintendent of Police*

Mr. Carruthers was furiously angry. I had seldom seen him angry at all, and never anything approaching this. He glared at me until I felt as if his glance would wither me away.

“You indescribable idiot,” he thundered. “You hopeless fool! You have ruined yourself for life. I did think that we had one decent young policeman. After all that I have done for you too. Good heavens, it is too monstrous. Ruined utterly! Never a stroke of honest work to be got out of you again! Talk of brains, intellect, enthusiasm, keenness! And all for what? Endless trouble, worry, and annoyance! Damn it, man, it is too intolerable!”

And what was the cause of all this outburst? Merely this, that I had asked him to congratulate me on my going to be married. I had hoped that he would be pleased, especially when I told him that she was the dearest girl in the world. But this only seemed to add fuel to the flames.

“The dearest girl in the world!” he snorted. “The fools always say that. They learn in good time what there is dear about it when they have to pay for their idiocy.”

I felt unspeakably hurt and indignant. What crime had I committed? I was now twenty-six, and old enough to judge for myself, I thought; and many men married at that age and seemed to be as happy as possible. I had been home on three month’s privilege leave and had become engaged to---well, to the dearest girl in the world, without any possible exception. It was now August, and she was to come out in November, and we were to be married in the Bombay cathedral. I had the greatest regard for Mr. Carruthers, and I was looking forward to his congratulations on my good luck. And now to be treated like this! I felt exceedingly disconcerted. We both stood silent for a while. He had not even offered me a chair.

“Forgive me if I have been violent, Trench,” he said at last, holding out his hand, which I took. “I was quite upset at this sudden announcement. Why didn’t you have some consideration for me, and let me have a little preliminary warning by letter?”

“Well, you see, sir,” I replied, “I wanted to give you a surprise and have your congratulations personally.”

“By the prophets,” he said,” you certainly achieved your object in giving me a surprise; but this sort of surprise is not good for one---not for me at any rate. And as for my congratulations, well, my dear boy, as you have asked for them I am afraid you must have them. This is the prospect on which I have to congratulate you. A very pretty but evanescent glimpse of fairy land to begin with; then incessant thinking of every rupee, anna, and pie; worries about health; complaints about being in a wretched dull station, a transfer about every two years at ruinous expense, for double first-class fare doesn’t go far with a family; no money to go home on leave when leave is due; instead of investigating a crime at length, as you ought to, scheming how soon you can get back to the memsahib; and to pass on for a bit, in fifteen years’ time, when you are forty-one and a generous Government is giving you possibly eight hundred depreciated rupees a month, there will be three youngsters being educated at home and the wife there to look after them. You will be sending the family five hundred rupees a month; you will be in debt for their steamer passages, and paying this off at the rate of fifty rupees a month, leaving you two hundred and fifty to live on, the same as you had when you started life, a nice income on which to keep up the position of Head of the Police in a district; you will be all alone and fagged and worried and unable to do justice to your work; but there will be no going home for you, my boy, unless some old aunt leaves you a legacy; and long before your pension is due, though still comparatively young in years, you will be a despondent, worn-out, useless old man. You asked me for my congratulations and, by the Lord, you have had them.”

Here was food for reflection. I could have cried. I felt so miserable at this crushing summary of my future circumstances. For I knew that though it was one-sided, and did not say anything about the companionship of married life, and so on, yet truth compelled me to admit that I had seen something of the same kind in other cases. However, if every one, at all events in India, was going to look so far ahead as that, very few people would be married at all; and I cheered up at this reflection, and took a brighter view of the future. In fact, when I thought of the girl who was coming out to be my wife in a few months, and how delightful it would be to be in camp together, and ride together, and dine together in the tents, and breakfast together under the trees, how could I feel anything but overjoyed with life? And Mr. Carruthers, having scolded me to his heart’s content, to my unspeakable satisfaction wished me all the joy in the world, and said that if she was anything like the photograph I was indeed a lucky fellow. He was my best man at the wedding, and he gave us as a present on that occasion, a splendid district tonga, with a pair of fourteen-one ponies that went in saddle as well as in harness.

The good ship “Arabia” arrived in Bombay harbour one morning late in November, bringing a certain Ellen Bramwell, as well as a few hundred other passengers who did not count at all. We were married within a few hours. She looked perfection in her wedding gown of soft white satin, and a Limerick lace veil that had been worn by her mother; and I was, of course, in full uniform. After the ceremony there was a very pleasant little meeting of a few old friends, and Mr. Carruthers made a most neat and humorous speech, wishing good luck to the happy pair. Then we changed into travelling costume, and went up for a ten days’ honeymoon to the delightful hill station of Matheran---a few hours in the train and then a seven miles’ ride up the hill on hired ponies. I shall never forget what a delightful time we had there. But I must restrain my pen or it will fly away evolving sheets and sheets about the joys of Matheran. I must not omit to mention one very welcome wedding present; and that was an announcement in the “Government Gazette,” on the day of our wedding, which appointed me to act in a long vacancy as D.S.P. of Tarapur, the next district to Somapur, where Mr. Carruthers was again stationed.

“This is excellent news, Trench,” said he. “I will have a Christmas camp at Loni, just in my district, and on the borders of yours. You must both spend the holidays with me; and we will see what Mrs. Trench can do with a gun or a rifle.”

Of course we accepted, and looked forward greatly to this merry meeting. Things that are looked forward to sometimes fail to realise expectations; but this certainly didn’t. We enjoyed it immensely, and none the less for a mysterious and exciting incident that occurred. But I must not anticipate. It was an exceptionally good cold weather. By this I mean it was colder than usual, and Ellen was glad of her winter wraps. There was just a touch of frost in the early morning, and a bite in the air, and everything looked heavenly in the brilliant sunshine, which was not too strong to prevent us from being out all day long. Late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve we arrived at the camp, after a twenty-four mile drive in our wedding present tonga, the ponies as fresh as could be, and ready for a good many miles more. Mr. Carruthers was standing in front of his tent, and gave us the warmest of welcomes. I was surprised to see how extensive the camp was. There were half a dozen large tents, apart from those provided for servants’ and sepoys’ accommodation. They were all pitched under a beautiful mango tope. Everything was in perfect order; and rows of wild plantains had been planted in the ground to mark out the roads leading from tent to tent. Strings of yellow marigolds hung along the lines thus formed; and Ellen said that she had never seen anything so like fairyland.

“By the by, Trench,” said Mr. Carruthers, after we had exchanged greetings, “I have a little surprise for you. Who do you think are coming? Do you remember your visit to me at Indapur when the Collector was stolen away, one Fleming by name? Well, he and the mem-sahib and the two children will be here. I expect them any minute. She was rather pretty, if you recollect. Some one described her as looking like a dream, and having the most wonderful eyes and hair. But I don’t suppose you would have noticed such things.”

It was mean of Mr. Carruthers to indulge in this little pleasantry; but there was not a twinkle on his countenance, and Ellen seemed entirely unsuspicious that he was amusing himself at my expense. However, I lit a cigarette as quick as I could to cover my confusion. The Flemings arrived in due course. He seemed far brighter and livelier than he used to be; and though there was no denying that she was a pretty woman, yet when I saw her alongside Ellen I wondered how I could have admired her so much at Indapur. She and the wife were soon the best of friends, and a very merry party we all were. After dinner we put on warm coats and wraps and sat over a roaring bonfire a little way from the tents, and we roasted chestnuts and made jokes and told stories, and drank milk punch, and Ellen got out her guitar and sang to us, and Mr. Carruthers was the life and soul of the whole thing; and the whole thing was delightful. I forgot to mention that the two little Flemings, Jack and Dolly, were allowed to sit up as a great treat, and they enjoyed it all as much as their elders. Great excitement there was at bedtime as to whether “Christmas Father,” as they called him, would be able to find his way to the camp to fill their stockings; but Mr. Carruthers told them that Christmas Father was very clever and was sure not to disappoint them. Certainly by the result he would appear to have visited the tents in the night; for the stockings were full to overflowing the next morning. But I have a story to tell, and at this rate I shall never begin. But it is difficult to pass over such a jolly time without trying to write something about it. It would seem positively ungrateful not to do so.

Christmas Day was, indeed, a day to remember. Our host had provided seasonable presents for every one; and all the servants and orderlies were called up and presented with a rupee or two according to their respective rank and deserts, in recognition of which they respectfully salaamed to the Sahib-logue for their kindness in remembering the humble ones on Natal-ka-din, or Christmas Day. The natives always speak of Christmas as Natal. I suppose the word was introduced by the Portuguese. Well, after a substantial chota hazri we all started out for the day. We drove six or seven miles in various conveyances, and we found breakfast arranged for us in a forest glade. We had a little shooting, and made a small bag of quail and black partridge. Mr. Carruthers initiated Ellen into the mysteries of loading and firing a gun, and aiming nowhere in particular and yet bringing down the bird. After a glorious day in the jungle we went back to the camp for dinner, and when that thoroughly enjoyable meal with its regulation puddings and mince pies was over, there was a wonderful surprise for us all.

“I want you to come out and see something that may interest you,” said our host. “Put on warm coats and come along.”

Out we went in obedience to instructions; and, lo and behold, where there had been a canvas enclosure to which I had given no particular attention there stood a gleaming, scintillating, dazzling Christmas tree, a mass of pretty things resting on its branches. There were no bounds to the delight of Jack and Dolly at the sight, and all of us felt a thrill of excitement at the sudden replica of the festivities that were being celebrated in thousands of homes in dear old England. Ellen could hardly contain herself, and she simply waltzed round and round the tree again and again. Jack and Dolly were laden with presents, and there was something for all of us; but this did not complete the proceedings. There was an enormous crowd of natives whose attendance had been invited. Every one in the place who had any children seemed to be there, including all the police who were blessed with youthful progeny. The natives had never seen such a sight before. They were immensely impressed, and there was a chorus of “Wah, wah,” “Arhe Bapre,” and similar ejaculations. For every child there was something, whether a handful of sweets or some glittering toy, and I think it will be a long time before that Natal-ka-din of Carruthers Sahib will pass out of remembrance at Loni. There are days in one’s life which stand out for ever in one’s memory, and I am sure this was one of them for all of us English people. As for the natives the Christmas tree was a foretaste of Bihisht or Paradise. Nevertheless it appeared to me that there was some kind of apprehension in the air. Mothers hung on to their children very persistently, never for a moment letting go of their hands, and anxious looks were distinctly noticeable. However, no one said anything, and neither Mr. Carruthers nor I were going to spoil the day’s enjoyment by asking if anything was wrong, and thus inviting a flow of eloquence on some possible or impossible subject. So the whole crowd went away quietly, after giving three cheers in English fashion for Carruthers Sahib.

The next morning when we had assembled and were doing justice to our chota hazri Ellen suddenly told us of a curious dream that she had had in the night.

“At least I suppose it must have been a dream,” she said, “though it did not in the least seem like a dream at the time. But, of course, on thinking over it, it could have been nothing else. Perhaps it was the result of the mince-pies. I woke up with a feeling that some strange person was in the tent. There was not a sound to be heard, and at first I could not see anything. But I had a most vivid impression that someone, or something, was present. After a brief space of time, what do you think I saw? A tall figure passed along the foot of the bed, and its head was a horrible skull with red lights gleaming through the openings where its eyes had once been. Wasn’t it terrifying? I could have shrieked aloud, but I was positively afraid to, and something seemed to withhold me from uttering a sound. The figure disappeared as silently as it had come, and I don’t know how it left the tent. I soon went to sleep again; and now, of course, I know it must have been a dream. But it was ghastly, wasn’t it?”

Mr. Carruthers looked very attentive and concerned as he listened to this recital.

“What an extraordinary coincidence!” he exclaimed. “You know that I am an early riser; and for the last hour I have been listening to a deputation of the inhabitants of Loni, who want me to lay a ghost for them. A policeman’s duties in this country are of a very multifarious nature. By the by, Mrs. Trench, can you give me any further description of your ghostly visitor?”

Ellen reflected for a moment or so and then said:

“Yes; there was a dim light burning in the tent, you know, and I could see that the apparition, or whatever it was, was above middle height. He, or it---what am I to call it?----wore ordinary native costume with the exception of a red waistcoat with brass buttons.”

“This is indeed remarkable,” said Mr. Carruthers.

“Now I will tell you the story that has been related to me to-day. The whole village is in a state of consternation; and it is all caused by a gentleman who exactly answers to the description you have given of what you saw in the night. The curious thing is that when I was in these parts a few years ago I personally knew this individual, who seems to have returned from the astral plane, or whatever it was that he went to after his departure from Loni. His name was Maruti.”

“Then why should it not be Maruti in the flesh, playing a practical joke?” asked the matter-of-fact Ellen.

“Because,” replied Mr. Carruthers, “Maruti is dead and buried, or rather burnt. He was a somewhat reckless kind of man, fond of spending more money than he earned. He was, as I remember him, very popular in the neighbourhood. He and his wife Chandra Bai resided in a small cottage on the outskirts of the village. With them lived Maruti’s brother Dhondi, whose intelligence was of the most limited order. However, he was able to do his work, which consisted in helping to cultivate a couple of fields. Chandra Bai was not a bad-looking woman, but was a terrible scold; and my friend Maruti was invariably worsted when there was a war of words. She, like her husband, was very extravagant, and was fond of new saris and ornaments. Maruti was willing enough to gratify her, but this resulted in his becoming more and more involved in debt to the village money-lender named Kashiram, and at last his fields were hopelessly mortgaged. I have mentioned his two fields, and as a matter of fact there were only two that were of any use. But there was a third one, a wretched barren piece of land, to which he attached greater value, from sentimental reasons, than to his really fertile fields, for its possession had been a matter of dispute from time immemorial between his own progenitors and those of one Tatya, a neighbour of Maruti’s. This Tatya, who now claimed the land, was an over-bearing, hectoring man; and there was bitter enmity between him and Maruti. Each had been heard to threaten that he would take the other’s life unless he gave up his claim to the disputed field. I must mention, Mrs. Trench, that Maruti, who was intensely conceited, used to wear a considerably larger puggree than his station in life entitled him to, and he was very proud of a ridiculous red waistcoat with brass buttons. Now you have all the dramatis personæ. As time went on Maruti’s financial position grew worse and worse. Chandra Bai upbraided him for not giving her more money to buy clothes and ornaments to deck herself out with; Kashiram refused to advance him a pice over and above what he had already had, and Tatya’s enmity became more bitter than ever. Suddenly one night Maruti disappeared. That was a little more than two years ago, when I was in this district. Inquiries were made in every direction, but not the faintest trace was found of Maruti or his red waistcoat. This seemed to sober Chandra Bai, and she and Dhondi managed to cultivate the two fields, pay the interest on the mortgage, and keep a roof over their heads for some time. But Tatya seized the disputed piece of land. As the last harvest was a bad one the interest on the mortgage was not available, and Kashiram has taken proceedings in the civil court to foreclose. Well, this morning early, as I have told you, a deputation came to me. They had, with the most unusual consideration for a Sahib’s feelings, refrained from saying anything before, lest they should spoil our Christmas Day; but they could keep silence no longer.

This is their story. Four days ago, the day before I came to this camp, some coolies were engaged on making a new local fund road, about half a mile away, and they had to remove a large heap of stones. Beneath the stones what do you think they found? The body, or rather the skeleton, of Maruti, for the flesh, of course, was gone; but the identity was unmistakable from the red waistcoat, brass buttons, and exceptional puggree, which, though more or less stained, were perfectly recognisable. Instead of informing the police and having an inquest on the remains, they burnt them, red waistcoat, brass buttons, and all that very night, with the usual ceremonies. Then there was trouble. Maruti had slept peacefully under his stones ever since his disappearance; but his spirit was evidently displeased at the unwarrantable interference with his resting-place, and his ghost proceeded to worry his former relations and acquaintances. The ghost was not satisfied with the appurtenances that he had worn in this life. There were the original red waistcoat, brass buttons, and large puggree; but his face was a skull with fire gleaming in the sockets where his eyes had been, just as you describe it, Mrs. Trench. First he went to his own house, where Dhondi and Chandra Bai were having their meal. In a hoarse whisper he uttered ‘Beware!’ Chandra Bai went off into a swoon, while Dhondi ran shrieking down the village streets, with his extraordinary tale. Next the ghost visited Kashiram, the money-lender, and said, ‘Give me my mortgage bond, or you die!’ Terribly frightened and hardly knowing if he was in his senses or not the sowkar produced the document, threw it at the feet of his unearthly visitor, and fled for his life. He next appeared to his old antagonist Tatya, and said, ‘Your turn has come!’ Tatya has behaved like a madman ever since. The ghost has been seen by various other people, and the whole village is, as I say, in a state of consternation.”

“Good heavens! How amazing! How extraordinary!” were a few of the exclamations that we listeners made on hearing this narrative.

“Wait a minute,” continued Mr. Carruthers; “I have not finished yet. It appears that last night, after they had all gone away from the Christmas tree, they went through the most elaborate ritual, which was warranted to lay any ghost in creation. This seems to have been the gist of the proceedings. All the caste-fellows of Maruti, together with Chandra Bai, went off to the place where Maruti’s body had been found. They took with them one Mahdu, a gondhali, or master of occult ceremonies, and Govind, a bhagat, or medium, a kind of go-between who carries communications between mortals and the unseen world. The assembled persons sat down in a circle round these two agents of the supernatural. For some time Mahdu and Govind sat wrapped in deep thought, and then Mahdu commenced a strange wailing chant, in which he called upon the spirit of Maruti to remain peaceably in the under world, and to cease from troubling the inhabitants of Loni. Next Govind took a copper pot and asked all present to contribute a small coin, which should be expended on such comforts and luxuries as the deceased Maruti might require in his present abode. The collection was duly made, and so anxious were the people to appease the ghost that many of them promised other things in addition, such as an umbrella, a brass lota for drinking from, or a pair of shoes; and Tatya, who had been dragged most unwillingly to the conclave, offered to give a red waistcoat with brass buttons similar to that which Maruti used to wear on earth. At the mention of each item Govind said, ‘Receive this gift, Maruti, for thy needs in thy new home.’ Next Mahdu took out from a bag in which it had been brought, a black cock, and proceeded to cut its throat while reciting some weird incantations, and then sprinkled its blood upon the place where the corpse had been found and even upon the bystanders.”

“How horrible!” exclaimed Ellen. “Whatever was that for?”

“It was evidently an important part of the ritual necessary for the laying of a ghost,” answered Mr. Carruthers. “To continue, when this was done, the whole assembly at the direction of Mahdu, shouted three times, ‘O Shiva, receive his spirit,’ and with a general feeling of satisfaction and confidence that their efforts would be crowned with success they were on the point of returning to their homes when, to their horror, the ghost of Maruti appeared with his dreadful skull and the lights in his eyes, and pointing his hand towards Tatya he said, ‘Your turn has come!’ With wild screams of terror the assembly scattered to the winds, leaving the spectre in possession of the field. And now, finding that their gods have failed them, they have come to me to get them out of their difficulty. It is rather out of my line of business, and I confess I do not exactly see my way. I should have been inclined to think that the whole thing was the result of imagination were it not for Mrs. Trench’s narrative.”

“I am quite sure it was not any imagination on my part,” said Ellen. “It was either a dream or some sort of visitation. Why should I imagine or dream exactly the same thing which all those people think that they have seen, especially as I had never heard anything about it before.”

“Precisely, Mrs. Trench. Now as you are the only one of us who has seen the apparition, I wonder what you think about it, after hearing all the story. Have you any theory to suggest, or any advice to offer me as to clearing up the mystery.”

“I am very complimented at your asking my advice,” she said; “but I am half afraid you are making fun of me. I can’t suggest any explanation, much less any means of solving the conundrum. It is too dreadfully puzzling. The strange thing is that the ghost of Maruti kept perfectly quiet till they found the poor man’s body. What was the coincidence that made it walk from that time onward? Then the ghost evidently knew all about his mundane affairs, as he promptly visited the money-lender and the other man. I can’t manage the curious names yet. And the skull and the lights in the eyes. It is all most incomprehensible. And why should he have come to me? I’ll tell you one thing that I think, Mr. Carruthers, and that is, that the people who performed that elaborate ritual and incantation did not give or promise half enough to the poor ghost. In fact, they were very mean. Fancy an umbrella and a pair of shoes! Now if the rival were to give up his claim to the field, and the money-lender allowed his mortgage to go on without foreclosing, the ghost might be satisfied and keep quiet.”

“By Jove, splendid! Mrs. Trench,” said Mr. Carruthers, “that is a very concise summing up. There is nothing like getting the facts into order. That is the first business of a policeman. You will be a credit to the force yet. This matter needs thinking out; but we will begin on your suggestion. I will send for these people and have a talk to them. Every one can listen to the conversation.”

In due course they all arrived. There was Mahdu, the gondhali, and Govind, the medium; there was Chandra Bai, who in spite of the mortgage was wearing some fine gold ornaments; Dhondi the brother of the ghost; Kashiram, the money-lender; and Tatya, the claimant of the disputed field.

“Look here,” said Mr. Carruthers, when they were all seated, “I have been thinking much over this matter; and I have taken the opinion of this lady, who knows much more about ghosts than I do, and who has actually seen the spirit of Maruti, exactly as you all describe him. He entered the lady’s tent last night, after he had given you that fright at the place where the body was found. This proves that your story is quite true. Now, as I have told you, this is a very wise lady and learned on the subject of ghosts. And this is what she says. When Maruti was alive you gave him great trouble. After his death he was content to do nothing and remain quiet. But you disturbed his body, and he has become displeased. You have tried to pacify him by raising for his benefit a collection of small coins, and promising an umbrella and a pair of shoes, and so on; and Tatya, who has seized the land which Maruti believed to be his, has promised a red waistcoat and some buttons. Is not this foolish? Is this not contemptible? You have raised the enmity of a ghost, who can cause you all inconceivable trouble, and you think that you can pacify him by petty gifts such as you have told me of. This wise lady says that this is no ordinary ghost. The wearing of a skull with lights instead of eyes shows that it is a very extraordinary ghost, and therefore extraordinary means are required to avert his displeasure. Now if you want to be relieved of your terror you must all give that which you really value, Do you agree?”

There was a murmur signifying that they all concurred in the suggestion.

“Very well, then. Now in the first place, you, Chandra Bai, were very wrong, considering that your husband was a poor man and at the same time a generous, open-handed man, in being so extravagant and indulging in expensive clothes and ornaments which he could not possibly afford to give you, also in constantly scolding him and making his life unpleasant. You still wear valuable ornaments although your land is likely to be lost to you. What you will give to the ghost of your dead husband is all your ornaments, and a written statement that you regret your bad treatment of him. Will you do this, or will you be plagued by his ghost for the rest of your life? Yes, I thought you would agree. Next Kashiram, I want a statement of your account with Maruti and his family. I can send for your books, so it is no use telling me any lies. Yes, I thought it would be something of the sort. Advanced altogether from time to time six hundred rupees. Interest paid on loan nine hundred rupees. Interest still due four hundred rupees. Total due for interest and capital one thousand rupees. And then you sowkars wonder that you have your noses cut off now and then! Well, what you will give is this, a statement that nothing whatever remains due to you on account of either interest or principal. Do you agree or will you rather be plagued for the remainder of your life by the ghost of Maruti? Yes, I thought so. You, Tatya, will sign a paper that you renounce all claims to the disputed field. It is a bitter blow to you, but preferable to having your life ruined by the ghost. Next Mahdu and Govind. You ought to know your business better. Fancy trying to put off a really superior ghost like this with such trumpery presents! Now this is my order. You will again meet to-night where you met last night, and make these new gifts to the ghost. You can have any ceremonies and incantations that you like, except that no cock is to be killed. This lady will be present, and she says that there is to be no cock-killing, as ghosts do not really like it, and she knows all about ghosts. Now you have permission to go.”

I explained to Ellen all that Mr. Carruthers had been saying in the vernacular, and she took him to task as severely as she could for putting the whole responsibility on her. But I don’t think she was seriously annoyed. Anyhow, she was quite pleased at the prospect of seeing the ceremony in the night, although not a little frightened at the idea. But the Flemings promised to come too, and that restored her courage. We were very excited about the ghost during the day, and we made all kinds of guesses regarding the strange mystery. Opinions were divided as to whether the proposed remedy would have any effect or not. Mr. Carruthers would not pronounce any theory. He insisted that the case was in the charge of Mrs. Trench, and that he was merely carrying out her suggestions. It was she, and she alone of our party, who had seen the ghost, and that was a clear sign that she was intended to have charge of the whole inquiry. She had begun so well that he had every confidence in her skill and intelligence, and her ability to unravel the mystery. Ellen laughed at this, and while disclaiming any powers such as she was credited with, promised to do her best. We had a delightful day. In the afternoon we drove to see the ruins of a really beautiful Hindoo temple, four or five miles off, and had our tea there beside a running stream. Mr. Carruthers had begged us to excuse him from making one of the party on the grounds that he had urgent work to dispose of. But we laughed him to scorn and insisted on his coming. He was quite unable to resist the united argument and entreaties of Ellen and Mrs. Fleming and Jack and Dolly, whatever he might have done if only Mr. Fleming and I were concerned. Mrs. Fleming said that if he were not with us to look after him her husband might be spirited away again, perhaps by the ghost this time, and there was no homing pigeon in his pocket to put a rescuer on the track. So we thoroughly enjoyed the outing, and forgot all about the spectre, and came back to dress for dinner. Mr. Carruthers was always very punctilious about regulation dinner costume in camp just as much as anywhere else. He said it made all the difference between feeding and dining. At dinner the conversation was, of course, mainly on the coming event, and after pulling some crackers and drinking the health of absent friends we put on our warmest wraps and proceeded to the scene of the incantation. There was no road, so we had to walk, and it was pitch dark; but with the aid of some lanterns we managed to find our way without any particular difficulty. There was a tremendous crowd when we arrived at the place, and we found a row of chairs placed in position for the Sahib-logue. At Mr. Carruthers’ direction our lanterns were turned down.

“There is only one thing that I have to say before Mahdu and Govind begin,” said Mr. Carruthers. “You all know why we are here, to make proper and liberal offerings to the ghost of Maruti. Govind will recite the offerings to the departed spirit, and we may be sure that he will accept them and not trouble you again. But it is only reasonable to suppose that he will be present to accept the offerings; so it is my order that if he comes you are not to be frightened and run away, but just stay where you are. Now Mahdu and Govind, you can commence.”

It was a weird sight, if, indeed, you could have called it a sight. As our eyes got accustomed to the darkness we could just make out an enormous ring of people huddled closely together, while in the centre sat the two mystics, Mahdu the master of the ceremonies, and Govind the medium. Mahdu called for silence; and I must say a feeling of awe and of something supernatural crept over us all during the prolonged period of absolute stillness which succeeded. We could just make out the master of occult lore going through some strange ritual. At length Govind stood up and commenced a long-drawn piteous wail, which seemed to emanate from the depths of the earth, and ought to have been enough to lay every ghost in creation. Gradually the chant wove itself into intelligible words, and we could make out an invocation to Shiva to receive into rest the soul of the departed Maruti, for whose benefit they had now made the most complete offerings. Then the medium addressed his supplications to the departed.

“Spirit of Maruti,” he cried, “be pleased with our offerings. There has come to us a lady, young in years but old in wisdom, having full knowledge of the unseen world, who has taught us that what we promised was insufficient. Now we offer thee these things. Tatya gives up his claim to the disputed field; Kashiram remits the debts due to him; Chandra Bai gives all her ornaments, and offers amends for her harsh words. And Carruthers Sahib is witness. Be pleased, O Spirit of Maruti, to manifest thy acceptance and trouble us no more.”

A sudden stir in the part of the circle opposite to us attracted our attention. People edged away and made an opening. There were cries and shrieks; and men prostrated themselves and women swooned. For there, advancing through the opening, was a tall figure with two lights for its eyes; and, yes, we could make it out now, a skull for its head. There was a general movement, indicating that all were about to flee for their lives.

“Silence!” shouted Mr. Carruthers, jumping up. “Be still. There is nothing to fear. I told you to expect the spirit of Maruti. The wise lady says that you are to listen to him. Govind, repeat the offers that have been made.”

The medium’s teeth appeared to be chattering as he did what he was told; but he completed his task, much as he would obviously have preferred to be anywhere but where he was.

“Now, spirit of Maruti,” said Mr. Carruthers, “the wise lady bids you speak. Do you accept these offers and will your spirit cease from troubling the people of Loni?”

“The wise lady has spoken, and so shall it be,” replied the spirit, in a singularly human voice. “My spirit is satisfied.” And as a sign of agreement out went the lights in the eyes of the skull.

Mr. Carruthers leapt forward and stood beside the apparition.

“Now, my good people, you can go,” he said to the assembled throng. “You have heard the word, and you may be sure that you will be troubled no more.”

There was not much reluctance manifested in obeying the order to go. Off they all rushed as fast as their legs could carry them.

“What awful fun!” said Jack; but Dolly held on to her mother.

“Now we require a little explanation on one or two points,” said Mr. Carruthers, as he came back to our chairs leading with him a tall figure. “But first I want to see one thing. Now, Maruti, switch on those lights of yours.”

Instantly the lights gleamed in the sockets of the skull. They gave sufficient illumination for us to make out the figure of a man with a red waistcoat and brass buttons and a peculiarly big puggree. A close inspection showed us that the skull did not exactly cover the real face, but was rather above it, so giving an additional appearance of height. The skull was cleverly fixed on to the puggree, but in the dark, and of course the apparition would only manifest itself when it was dark or there was only a very dim light such as there generally is in native houses, this would not be noticed. Then Mr. Carruthers directed the orderlies to turn up the lanterns that we had brought with us, and irresistibly funny was the sight of the spirit of Maruti under the collective glare of our lamps.

“How do you do the trick?” asked the Chief.

“Sahib, yih lictric lait hai,” was the reply, or, Anglicé, “It is electric light.” “It is nearly used up,” the speaker continued, “but it has frightened those fools here. A Sahib gave me the apparatus when I was on the sugar plantation at Mauritius; and I thought of this tamasha.”

The spectre laughed. It was not at all weird or uncanny; but a good, hearty, soul-filling laugh. We all joined in and laughed to our hearts’ content.

“Now, Mrs. Trench,” said the Chief, “we will have the ghost’s explanation in a minute or so. Meanwhile tell me this? You knew it was the real Maruti all along, didn’t you?”

“I was certain of it,” said Ellen, “in spite of the difficulties and improbabilities. Why he should have appeared from the exact time that the corpse was discovered and burnt, I do not know. But that didn’t very much matter. I don’t believe in ghosts, and so I was sure that it must have been a man. He knew too much about Maruti’s private affairs for it to be any one else but Maruti. As for the corpse, it might have been anybody’s, red waistcoat or no red waistcoat. The supply of red waistcoats in the world, even with brass buttons attached to them, is not necessarily limited to one.”

Shabash: well done!” said the Chief; “you will be a great policeman some day. And then your advice about the offerings?”

“Well, I thought that Maruti had been rather roughly treated; and I wanted to do something for him. So far as I can make out, now he has everything that he desired.”

“Splendid,” said Mr. Carruthers. “Now, Maruti, you can tell us your story. What were the circumstances of your leaving Loni?”

“Sahib, I will tell you the truth. Fate was against me. I need not repeat what is known to the Sahib. There was Kashiram and Tatya, and there was Chandra Bai. I said to myself that I would go away secretly and not return until I had a thousand rupees. Sahib, I have brought more than a thousand---my wages on the sugar plantations. Yes, I went away with five rupees in my pocket and said not a word. I meant to begin life afresh. I gave up my name Maruti and have called myself Sakharam. As luck would have it, when I left the village after nightfall I met a beggar who asked me for alms. I offered him a rupee if he would exchange his rags for my red waistcoat and big puggree. He was very pleased to do so. I thought no more of him. I went to Mauritius and had good wages and saved them. I came back a few days ago. I had bought a waistcoat and puggree like I used to wear before. But I did not want to be known at first. I wished to see what had happened in my absence, so I hid my good clothes in the jungle outside the village and put on poor garments and disguised my face. Sahib, to my amazement I at once came upon a funeral party that was about to burn a corpse wearing my old waistcoat and puggree. I thought then of the beggar who had exchanged his clothes for mine. The people were all saying that it was the corpse of Maruti; and it was a strange thing that a man should witness his own funeral ceremony. And I heard about Tatya and the field, and Kashiram and the foreclosing of the mortgage. And I laughed and I swore to be revenged. And there was Chandra Bai. Her tongue is sharp, and she deserved a frightening; but I was greatly wishing to see her. And now by the favour of the Sahib and of the wise lady my destiny is made happy.”

“A very interesting story, Maruti,” said Mr. Carruthers. “But what were you doing in the wise lady’s tent?”

“In truth, Sahib, you had known me before, and had been kind to me, and an inclination came to me to see the Sahib in his tent, and when I entered the tent and found that it was not the tent of the Sahib, I was ashamed and went and hid in the jungle again.”

“Well, Maruti, the best thing you can do is to come to my camp to-morrow morning and there let me introduce you to your family and friends, so that further trouble may be avoided. There is some one else whom I have to see in the morning, and that is Tatya. There is the matter of the beggar who was killed when he was wearing clothes that gave him the appearance of Maruti. There was a talk of putting Maruti to death. Krishna,” he said to the head constable of the party, “let it be known that Tatya is to come to me the first thing to-morrow.”

I may here remark, parenthetically, that Tatya did not come in the morning, for he disappeared and was never seen again. Of course, proof would have been practically impossible; but there was no moral doubt that he had killed the beggar thinking that he was Maruti, and had hidden the body beneath the stones.

We walked back to the tents and a bottle of champagne was opened and consumed, and, I think, a pint in addition; and much talk and laughter we had over the day’s adventures. Mr. Carruthers said that Ellen was a born detective and the most promising member of the Force, and he quite forgave me for having been married.

Altogether this is quite the finest Christmas party that I can remember.


The Railway Police

*Told by Krishna*

Trench Sahib has bidden me to write a story about something that Carruthers Sahib has done. But when I heard these words there came to me much shame. For I am a poor man, having little knowledge of reading and writing; and what can this humble one say of Carruthers Sahib? For I have seen many Sahibs, but never one like Carruthers Sahib. Trench Sahib is a good. Sahib. He has done something sometimes under Carruthers Sahib; but by himself I doubt that he will ever do much. He intends well, but he is wanting in intelligence. He will never be such a Sahib as Jan Carruthers. And now he has ordered me, Krishna, to write about Jan Carruthers. I begged him to excuse me; but he would take no denial. He said that he had written nine stories, and there are two others, which makes eleven, and there must be twelve to make a book. Therefore it was the order that I should take paper and pen and set down some history. I requested the Sahib that I did not know why there should be twelve stories, for it seemed to this slave that eleven was a very good number. But he laughed and said that the Sahib who had the Chapkhana (printing press) in London would not be satisfied with less than twelve, and it was my turn to write. I urged the Sahib that as he had written nine stories, and to write had become his custom, he might complete one more, and the Sahib in London would be satisfied. But he replied that he was now married, and in his spare time from work he must do the service of the Mem-sahib, and not pass his time in writing. This seems strange to me, that a man shall give up time which he might spend on his own pleasure (not that writing books appears to me a pleasure), to doing the service of his Mem-sahib. Rather with us people, if a man thinks of his wife at all, it is that she should give her time to pleasure her husband. But the Sahibs’ ways are not to be understood by us. They send away their children to Wilayat (England) to be put to school, while we would die sooner than do aught so contrary to religion as part children from their parents. I have seen many Sahibs and some Memsahibs, and I have tried to please them. Trench Sahib, and Carruthers Sahib even, and most Sahibs have been kind to me; but the why and the wherefore of the Sahibs is not to be understood. It is sufficient to obey their orders.

And now my order is to write something about Jan Carruthers Sahib. How can I, Krishna, whom this Sahib has raised from the dust of the earth to be a Chief Constable, and to sit on a chair in his presence, how can I write about this Sahib? For there never was such a Sahib as this. Of whom else may it be said as of this Sahib, that he is not an “anjan,” not an ordinary human?

But if so be it is necessary that I, Krishna, the son of Balaram, should carry out this order, who am I that I should escape my destiny? If it is my fate that I should take in hand that which I never thought to attempt, and make a record of something that has been done, then my prayer is that I may commence this task upon an auspicious day, and bring it to a fortunate conclusion. For if I set down that which is not true, nor exactly as it happened, how should Carruthers Sahib not be angered if he cast his eyes upon what I shall have written?

Of a truth the Sahib has done many things, and brought to light the offences of many evil-doers; and whether to select this, that, or the other for this story that I am ordered to relate is in itself a yoke of heaviness on the neck of this foolish one. But upon reflection for the space of some days and some nights this poor servant in the Department of Police has turned his mind to the “jadu” (magic) by which the Sahib rescued from misfortune two of his officers, one a Hindoo, and the other, though a Mahometan, not without some virtue. And the circumstances were in this manner. Carruthers Sahib was ordered by the Sirkar (Government) to go and introduce some order into the Police of the Railway. For it is not to be denied that at that time in the Railway Police there was but little bundo-bust (proper arrangement) and excessive ghur-bhur (confusion). And by this Sahib such things were not considered agreeable; and his order was that the work of to-day must be completed to-day, and not put off till to-morrow. But there had been another custom prevailing, and inquiries were put off from day to day for many months, and nothing was completed. Thus to arrive at the truth of what had occurred in this or that, and to come to an opinion as to whether the facts were on this side or on the other, for these things, if a man desired at all to obtain knowledge, there was no gateway open to him. But as is the difference between a sound man and one who is a cripple, so in a few months became the difference between what there had been and what was to be. Nevertheless to throw light upon places that had been dark and were still in darkness was not a work of one day; for when it might appear that all things were now decided, and it was only necessary to deal with what might afterwards be destined to occur, some old confusion would of a sudden arise to be determined. And the Sahib would in the fashion of his kind say goddam, and then proceed to find the truth.

In this manner it was that the Sahib went in his saloon carriage, in part of which we humble ones, servants and orderlies, were permitted to travel, to Lolapur to inspect the police at that station. And if on the railway there was generally confusion, at Lolapur things were so upward and downward that who could affirm what was certainty and what was mayya (illusion)? For all the police were fighting among themselves, and striving and tale-bearing, and doing khut-put (scheming); and as for the work of the Sirkar, everything else came before that. And there were many things to make clean; but there was one thing which I will endeavour to set forth. As soon as the Sahib came to inspect the police and their work, or, as one might say, their idleness, he observed a fourth-class head constable, or, as we call it, a naik, that is in English a corporal, who appeared to be of a higher standing than others of his grade; and he asked his name. He replied that his name was Yeshwant Rao, and he had been a Chief Constable, and had been unjustly reduced to this grade, for he was entirely innocent. And the Sahib asked him some questions and he received some replies that appeared strange. But he ordered Yeshwant Rao to come to him in his saloon. And he came there after inspection, and the Sahib asked some more questions. Then the Sahib said that he must see the dakhla, that is, the record; and he sent to the office at Bombay for the papers, and he read them, and he again sent for Yeshwant Rao, and asked more questions, and he wrote down all the answers. And at the end he said goddam, after the fashion of the English.

And I heard what all this was about; and though, owing to the ghur-bhur in the Railway Police, and their usual disputes with the District Police, it were easier to decide why the rain comes in some years and in others there is famine, than to get at the truth of what had happened to cause Yeshwant Rao to be thus dishonoured and to have his life ruined, yet the facts were somewhat on this wise, though not one detail is undisputed. It was a matter of two years ago, more or less, that one morning at the station of Lakhipur, about forty miles from Lolapur, where it becomes daylight as the mail train arrives from Bombay, a constable observed a bunya travelling in the train who appeared to be very ill and weak, and his feet and hands were much swollen, and he could hardly take care of himself. It is to be stated that at this time there was much plague, which must have been sent for some one’s sins; and the orders about plague were very strict, and every person who might be suspected to have plague was detained and examined. That was one thing. There was also another thing, that this sick bunya was carrying a bag which from his manner of holding it, for he clutched it close to his person, might contain something of value. This point, too, was a matter of suspicion; for who should say that the valuables, if any, were not stolen? And it is to inquire into such matters that the police are paid. Hence the constable went with the bunya to the great station of Lolapur, and handed over the passenger to the Chief Constable, Yeshwant Rao, for inquiry. Yet even this much, though on record, is denied; for another record states that the sick bunya was first observed at Lolapur. Be this as it may, all agree that the bunya was inspected at Lolapur, and found to be carrying in his bag golden ornaments worth two thousand rupees at the lowest estimate. Now this was on the morning of a Friday, and for Yeshwant Rao it was an unlucky day. It so happened that he had arranged to go to Parsi Road by a train that left ten minutes after the arrival of the mail on some business that was not so urgent that it might not have been deferred. And when so much business was continually being deferred, it must have been his destiny that induced Yeshwant Rao to persist in going to Parsi Road. Had he stayed, being a Hindoo officer of some acumen, that which occurred might not have occurred. But who can avert what is written in his book of fate? He went away, having given orders to his jemadar, or senior head constable, named Hyder Khan, to have the bunya, whose name was Sunderlal, medically examined, to take an inventory of his property, and not to let him go until he returned. Now it was on this last order that everything hinged. For what law was there to detain Sunderlal? It was soon determined that though he had dropsy there was no suspicion of plague, so he could not be obstructed on that account. The statement that he gave regarding possession of the valuables after much question appeared to be entirely satisfactory, so there was no room to prevent his further journey on the ground that he was in possession of stolen property. An inventory of the ornaments and so on was indeed duly taken. They were wonderfully beautiful and rare, and besides the golden ornaments there was a precious box of sandal-wood, in which some of the choicest trinkets were kept. The inventory was taken in the presence of a panchnama, or jury; and the jury certified that the ornaments were all restored to the bunya, who was most reluctant to let them out of his possession for a moment. In this matter, however, as in everything else, there was much doubt, and of the oaths sworn, while some may have been true, a moiety at the least must have been false. One even of the jury, Hiralal by name, who sold sweatmeats and other refreshments on the platform to the passengers in trains, stated afterwards that he did not know what had been written in the testimony of the panchnama (which he himself had signed); but that to his knowledge these ornaments, except a watch and some trifles, were not given back to the bunya, but were retained by the Railway Police. What should be the fate of such a man who can sign and then deny, and blow hot and cold with one mouth? But to the matter of the subject which I have in hand. The bunya Sunderlal was very desirous of going on to some shrine where by the god’s favour he might be healed of his disease. But there was the order of Yeshwant Rao not to let him go; though whether that order was by reason of his sickness, or his carrying so much property, was not known. It may have been this, or it may have been the other---who can say? Regarding the fate of Yeshwant Rao, it cannot be gainsaid that it was of evil tendency, for instead of returning that evening he suffered his business to detain him at Parsi Road until Saturday night. By some, indeed, it is said that it was not business, but pleasure. This he may account for himself. And as he did not appear, though he was sought for in every train that arrived, were there not the stretched wires through which the jemadar, Hyder Khan, might send a lightning word to ask instructions? There was a fate upon all concerned, and none could act with any sense, or record an accurate and credible record of what occurred during those days.

About the doings on Friday and Saturday when Yeshwant Rao was absent, there is more that will have to be said, and I shall put all down in due order. But now it is convenient to state that by the mail on Sunday morning Yeshwant Rao arrived, and at once he saw that there was great confusion and excitement outside the station limits, in fact, beyond the jurisdiction of the Railway Police. He straightway went to see what was happening, and behold there was a great crowd around an open well, and the dead body of a man was being removed from the well, and he recognised the body to be that of the bunya, Sunderlal. Then there was another panchnama held, this time by the District Police; and it was found that the unfortunate bunya had upon his person only a watch and some ornaments worth about fifty rupees, and there was no clue to the remainder. Nor though the well was dragged were any found therein. And there was more inquiry, and the body was sent for post-mortem to the civil hospital. And the civil surgeon was away, and the post-mortem was done by the senior Hospital Assistant, by name, Raghonath Rao; and regarding this there was more trouble and doubt and uncertainty. Meanwhile there was much recrimination and great asserting and denying on the part of the Railway Police, and the District Police, and the railway staff, and others. Yeshwant Rao denied that he had ordered the unfortunate bunya to be detained until he returned. Hyder Khan also denied that he had received such order, and stated that the man had been free to go when he liked, and had not been detained at all, and had been seen walking about in the bazaar. It was therefore the District Police who were responsible for the terrible event, be it murder or suicide, or what not, as also for the production of the valuables. On the other hand, several even of the railway constables, who bore a grudge against their superiors, and were callous as to their own circumstances, gave testimony that Yeshwant Rao had given the order to detain the bunya and that Sunderlal had been detained, although he might have been allowed to go to the bazaar to purchase necessaries. Now, again, all was upside and downside. As to who had seen him last alive one might as well have inquired from whence the wind bloweth. The result of the postmortem was strangely dubious. There were no marks of violence upon the body. There were no fingermarks on the throat. The medical officer certified that death was due to drowning. Nevertheless, in truth, the body did not show the usual signs of drowning. The lungs were not full of water, and other specific signs of death by immersion were not present.

In all this confusion and chaos, and there were many more difficulties and disagreements which it would take too long to detail, even if Carruthers Sahib had been in charge at the time and had come to the place at once, and failed to find the truth, who should blame him? The Sahib of that time came and made inquiries, but not until after long delay; and he wrote a decision, and it did not seem that what he wrote down made matters very plain. There was much about the probable and the improbable; but less about actual facts. The decision that the other Sahib came to was this. That there was no occasion to detain the bunya at all; that the Railway Police had detained him illegally for two days; that the ornaments had been dishonestly appropriated by them; that the panchnama which stated that the ornaments were returned to Sunderlal was fabricated; that the evidence of Hiralal, the sweetmeat-seller, proved this; that the deceased, ill as he was, and driven to despair by finding himself kept in restraint, and his property taken away, found life no longer endurable, and managed in the course of the Saturday night to elude the police, and drown himself in the well. The order, however, contained many “probables”; and owing to this, and his previous good character, the punishment inflicted was that Chief Constable Yeshwant Rao was reduced to jemadar, and Jemadar Hyder Khan to constable. This was not the end of the matter, for each officer appealed to higher authority against his reduction. This did them no good. It was held that the punishments had been too lenient, that for the suicide of the deceased while illegally and improperly detained by the police, and the disappearance of the ornaments of which they had taken possession, the jemadar must be held primarily responsible. In the interests of the public and of departmental discipline the shocking scandal called for the severest notice, and Hyder Khan was accordingly dismissed. As regards Chief Constable Yeshwant Rao, he had not only falsely denied that he gave an order to detain the deceased, but also endeavoured to screen his subordinates and to deceive his superior officers, and he was therefore reduced to the grade of head constable fourth class.

This was the representation that Yeshwant Rao made to Carruthers Sahib. He was aware that it was useless to appeal further upon the facts, but he insisted that he had not given an order to keep the bunya in detention, but only general instructions to look after him; that he was convinced that the bunya had his ornaments restored to him at once; that he had been free to go when he liked, and that as to the circumstances of his death and the fate of his ornaments the Railway Police were in no way responsible, and neither knew nor could be expected to know anything about the matter. If only the Sahib could discover the truth he and his companion Hyder Khan would be acquitted of blame and restored to their honours.

I, Krishna, have endeavoured to write down the circumstances as they were made known to Carruthers Sahib. If I have written more or less than it was proper to do, I may be excused, for I have but little experience of such duty. And owing to the inconsistencies and the upward and downward statements, it was the more difficult to set forth the account of the circumstances so that it should be understood. This much being learnt I began to consider what Carruthers Sahib would do, for after so many days what hope was there of discovering anything new? Some days passed at Lolapur station, and what was hidden in the Sahib’s mind I do not know; but he made no inquiries about the case, and I could see that Yeshwant Rao was giving up hope. But the Sahib used to walk up and down the platform and talk to all sorts of people on every subject but the bunya’s death, and he often allowed this slave to be in attendance on him. And one morning when I, Krishna, was beside him, he was walking on the platform, just before the mail came in from Bombay, when he stopped, and pulled out his cigarette-case, but it was empty. He gave me the order to go to his saloon and have the case filled, when he changed his mind. We happened to be standing close to the stall of Hiralal, the sweetmeat-seller, the same man that had been on the panchnama when Sunderlal came two years ago. Hiralal was just spreading his sweetmeats and other wares on his stall to tempt the passengers arriving by the train, and the Sahib asked him for some cigarettes. He took half a dozen, lit one and walked away. Then the train was signalled, and soon arrived; and there was much talking and shouting, and Hiralal did a good trade for the seven minutes that the train stopped. Carruthers Sahib used to say that in England there was no such shouting at the stations when the trains came in; but who knows how the mouths of people can be stopped here? As soon as the train had gone the Sahib went back to the stall of Hiralal, praised his cigarettes, and purchased some more. Then he entered into conversation with Hiralal on many subjects, and I remember that he said he was glad to see that he was doing so well. And Hiralal was pleased, and said that he now had his servants at many stations to sell sweetmeats and sundries, and that by the Sahib’s favour he was becoming prosperous. And Carruthers Sahib complimented him and said he supposed it was owing to his success in business that he could afford such nice gold-earrings. Hiralal smiled and said that it was owing to the Sahib’s condescension that he could afford some little luxuries. But I saw that his eyes sought the ground, and he made as though he would pack up his wares and walk away.

Then the Sahib told me to fetch the Chief Constable, and Yeshwant Rao, and any two of the station staff, to be witnesses to a search. I executed the order, and brought the station-master, and a guard who was off duty. The Sahib asked them if they ever smoked Hiralal’s cigarettes, and both said that they did, as they had a peculiarly pleasant scented taste. Then the Sahib bade Hiralal lead us to his house, which was about a hundred paces from the station. Hiralal was very unwilling, and made objections, but to no purpose. At the Sahib’s orders we searched the house; and there was a box of sandal-wood containing cigarettes beneath some clothes in a cupboard.

“I expected we should come upon this,” said the Sahib, though why he should have expected it who can say?

“Now, Hiralal, are we to search further, or have you anything to show us?”

“The Sahib can do what he likes,” said Hiralal.

The Sahib gave an order, and we proceeded with the search; and pickaxes and spades were brought, and the floor was dug up, and beneath the floor in a little backroom were golden ornaments. The Sahib himself took them up one by one, and showed them to the station-master and the guard, and told them to compare them with the inventory of the bunya Sunderlal’s property which he had with him. Each article found exactly corresponded with one that was in the list. About a third of the total quantity was found.

“That will do, Hiralal,” said the Sahib. “The rest have, of course, been divided among your confederates, or melted down to make into ear-rings, and extend your trading operations. I have been waiting to make this search for some little time. I suspected you from the first. It was rather too marked on your part to sign the panchnama papers, and then back out of your statement and swear that the ornaments were retained by the Railway Police; so I have had my eye on you. Your stock in trade was exceptionally good, much superior to that of other sweetmeat vendors. You had cigarettes of decent brands, instead of the rubbish usually sold. You had obtained a monopoly, as I knew before you told me, of the refreshment business at ever so many stations. You wear good clothes and gold ear-rings. Most railway refreshment people are in poor, struggling circumstances. Why this difference? Whence had you obtained your capital? There has been talking and talking here which does not amount to much; but I had good reason to believe that Sunderlal had been seen at your house. Then by some lucky instinct I tried your cigarettes. They instantly reminded me of sandal-wood. But some of Sunderlal’s ornaments had been kept in a sandal-wood box. This was enough to take action upon. And now we have found the ornaments. On with the handcuffs, Krishna.”

I put them on with gladness; and Yeshwant Rao’s face beamed with joy.

Then Hiralal spoke. “The Sahib has found out my offence. It is my fate. The Sahib shall hear all. When I was on the panchnama I coveted the ornaments. I said in my heart they shall be mine. I wrote that the ornaments were kept by the Railway Police, and every one believed it till the Sahib came and did ‘jadu’ (magic). For two days the bunya stayed mostly at the station. He had his ornaments concealed under his clothes, for he feared. It is true that the police told him he was not to leave Lolapur without permission. It is also true that they did let him walk about. He could not walk far. He came to my house at my request. He wanted food from my stall---puri, baji, and chiwada. My stall was only open at the time of trains coming. He wanted food at other times, so he came to my house. He came to my house, which is also a shop, and sat there and ate and talked on the Saturday night. I detained him for a long time with sweet words, I and my brother Baldev. Baldev and I had talked on this matter. We promised to persuade the police to give him permission to depart in the morning. Sunderlal became thirsty, and wished to drink water. I said, ‘Inside there is a pipe, go and drink water.’ He went inside towards the pipe. I said to Baldev, ‘Now is our time.’ We followed the bunya, and seized him. I pressed his throat in the corner near the pipe. Baldev pressed his mouth and nose softly, so as to leave no marks. He became cold and senseless. I began to tremble. We laid him down. He had become cold, but he was not dead. There was life. Baldev and I took the ornaments. We wrapped the body in a long cloth. After midnight when no one was about we carried it to the well. It was very dark and raining heavily. We reached the well. We took the body out of the cloth. There may have still been life in it. We threw it into the well. We took home the cloth, lest it should be seen and recognised. My brother is in Bombay. He may be found there. I have not felt any remorse for what I did. It was my fate. Now I feel remorse.”

This is the way in which Carruthers Sahib saved Yeshwant Rao and Hyder Khan from the dishonour into which they had been thrown by the accusation that the Railway Police had misappropriated the bunya’s ornaments and so troubled him that he drowned himself in the well. And this was represented to the Sirkar; and both officers received their honours back, and their pay for the time that they had been punished. But the Sahib scolded them for their foolishness; for though they had been cleared of the great offence, yet their procedure had been very irregular, and they had kept no proper record in the books. And they are both blessing Carruthers Sahib.

And now I have obeyed the order of Trench Sahib. I have tried to write down one thing that Carruthers Sahib did. But I am a poor man, and little educated; and my fingers are aching, and my head is going round. And Trench Sahib says that what I have written is not long enough; and it should be of so many words as each of his stories, otherwise the Sahib who has the chapkhana in London will be displeased. But this humble one has done what he is able, and an ass cannot do the work of a horse. And for my shortcomings I may be pardoned. To Trench Sahib my request is that he may put upon me any task that this humble one can accomplish, but it may not be to do any more writing.


Quis Custodiet?

*Told by Ghulam Rasul, Chief Constable*

I Ghulam Rasul, formerly Chief Constable of Police, was in charge of the Police Station of Mehrabpur, in the district of Subzulkot in Sind, when my destiny became changed and the zenith of hope was turned into the nadir of despair. How my ill-fortune played me such a trick, and so simple a beginning led to such a tangle of complications in the end, it is beyond me to determine. I am a man of some education, and am experienced in the writing of police diaries and reports; and yet this whole matter is so intricate and confused that the East might be West and the sun might be the moon. God is my witness that I know not how to commence my piteous tale. For a man to write down that he has married a wife, and has riches in possession, or that he has ruined his enemy, is as easy a task as to praise God for such blessings. But one who has always prospered knows not how to set about writing the history of his own misfortune. Until all this happened I had always felt that I was born under a lucky star. My father Jan Mahomed was only a constable. He was employed as an orderly to the Superintendent of Police, and when I was quite a child the Sahib took notice of me. When I was about eight years old he had me taught to read and write, although my father said that as he knew not how to do either, and could only make a mark for his name, there was no reason why I should be troubled in such matters. However that may be, he did not like to oppose the Sahib, and I got on well at school. In my leisure hours I used to make myself useful to the Sahib, by pulling his punkah, carrying letters to the bungalows of other officers, and picking up the balls when he played tennis. He used to give me shahbash, and say that I was a smart boy. As time went on he had me taught drill with the police, and when he raised a police band I was instructed in playing first the fife, and later on the piccolo. When I became old enough I was enlisted as a recruit boy, and very proud of myself I was when I put on my uniform. At eighteen I was made a constable, and being by this time expert at drill I was selected for the post of drill-master. I did not spare the raw recruits, who were often older than I was, while I was knocking them into shape. But the Sahib was pleased, and said his recruits had never been smartened up so quickly. In the heat of the day I used to work in the office, and soon learnt how to write up registers and file correspondence. I gradually learnt how everything was done, and I made myself invaluable to the clerks by being able to lay my hands upon any compilation or papers that they required at a moment’s notice. I became conversant, too, with all the tricks and dodges that existed among them for making more money than they were entitled to, such as drawing up long travelling allowance bills for men who had performed no journeys at all, showing reports of police investigations to accused persons to enable them to prepare their defence, taking gratuities from every member of the Force who was promoted, or who was transferred to a place that he sought after. All executive officers had a great idea of the power of the clerks, and these gentlemen manifested no reluctance to encourage the general belief. A Chief Constable who came in on business from a distant police station would find that his errand was likely to be considerably delayed unless he took the liberty of offering a little present to the head clerk. Why should I interfere with such things that did not concern me? I rather stored them in my memory for future use.

By and by I was selected to be one of the Sahib’s orderlies, one of the party as it was called. I took care to make myself useful. I was always present when I was wanted, and I was invariably smart and clean in appearance. Most of the other orderlies were impenetrably stupid, and never understood what they were told. If they were directed to do one thing they were perfectly certain to go and do something totally different. But I had brains, and I was determined to use them for my own advancement, and the way to do this was to keep in the Sahib’s favour and at the same time avoid making enemies. So I was always careful not to offend Karimbuksh, the havildar or head constable in charge of the party, and I obtained his good will by doing much of his work for him while abstaining from taking any credit on this account. I also used to clean the Sahib’s guns and his sword, and see that his syces gave the full amount of grain to his horses without abstracting any for their own use. If any of the servants fell sick I was always ready to step in and do their work until another man was forthcoming. The Sahib was fond of shikar, and I made a point of finding out where the best snipe and quail were procurable and letting him know. Then, when the Sahib went into camp on inspection tour, I always took care that there was no difficulty about obtaining carts or camels for the conveyance of his kit, or supplies for his own consumption. In short, I made myself indispensable. I was scrupulously honest, for I wished to build up a character to use when the time should come. Why risk my future welfare by trying to make four annas here and two annas there, and perhaps being found out, when in good time I might attain a position in which I could accept hundreds of rupees? Of course I was unable on tour to pay for my food, for to do so would have exposed every one else, and so created ill-feeling. No one paid for anything on tour except the Sahib, and it was seldom that his money reached the right person. The police officer near whose police station or outpost the camp might be would arrange with the villagers to send in supplies of wood for fuel, and fodder for the horses, and so on; and if at the end of his stay the Sahib chose to hand over so many rupees on account of those things to his butler or to a head constable, well, he could do so, but who was to say to whom the money was due? It was easy to give the Sahib a receipt with some illegible signature or mark in token of payment. There must have been about thirty people all told in the Sahib’s camp, including his own servants, the clerks, and their servants, and the orderlies, mounted and foot. None of these, as I have said, except the Sahib, ever paid for milk, grain, ghee, or anything else. If the Chief Constable in whose jurisdiction we were travelling did not provide all that was required, or see that some one else did, the clerks who were deputed to examine his crime registers and account books, and all the other useless records that the Sirkar ordered to be maintained, would find a thousand mistakes, and the man would be severely punished by the Sahib. But if he did his duty and made every one comfortable, well, only just enough errors were found in the books to show that the inspecting clerks were not neglecting their work. So things used to go on all right in the camp. True, to the villagers the visit of the Sahib and his attendants was worse than the arrival of a swarm of locusts. But then they realised that it was the will of Allah; and the hardship of having to provide entertainment for so large a company was more than compensated by the joy at seeing the departure of their guests. As to making any complaints against the local police, or the landholders, or the bad characters, or any one else, for the Sahib to do justice, that was about the very last thing that would occur to them, for to do so would have caused all the zoolum to last the longer. Nothing could be so hard on them as the continued presence of the swarm of persons connected with the camp. Indeed, I have known a man who had a spite against the people of a certain village go to it when the Sahib was in camp there, and make a fearful story as to how the villagers had injured him, simply with a view to lengthen the Sahib’s stay with its attendant evils. After succeeding in prolonging it for several days he disappeared from the neighbourhood. Well, as I have said, I could not cause annoyance by paying for my food, but I was very careful not to go beyond this. I saw what a grand future there was before me, and I grasped the principle which actuated every member of the Police Force, namely to make as much for himself as he possibly could.

Now old Karimbuksh, the havildar or head constable of the party, was growing fatter and lazier. He had come to rely on me so much that he gave up doing anything himself; and there was no one else in the party on whom he could depend. I had gone round the district on two cold-weather tours, and it seemed to me time enough to step into Karimbuksh’s shoes, So in the course of the next touring season I applied for and obtained a month’s leave to visit my father, who had gone on pension, at his native place. I had made him write me a letter saying that he was dangerously ill, and earnestly desired my presence. All fell out as I expected. On my return everything in the camp had gone wrong. Camels were not obtainable, carts had broken down, the tents were badly pitched; this, that, and the other was left behind. No one reminded the Sahib that his cartridges were running short; and as a result of all this he was very angry with every one, and with Karimbuksh in particular. Just then, by the will of Allah, a head constable at head-quarters died, and the Sahib sent Karimbuksh to fill his place and promoted me, young as I was, to be head constable of the party in the vacancy. Of course this piece of luck had nothing to do with the head clerk, but I was too wary to go against the established procedure and I secured his favour by giving him a month’s pay without waiting for him to ask for it. Well, by the favour of the prophet, my lucky star continued in the ascendancy, and my good fortune continued. For two years I remained head of the party. On the one hand I saw that the work was done, and on the other I did not go out of my way to interfere with old customs. The Sahib’s comforts were attended to, and the men under me were satisfied. I persuaded the clerks in their leisure time to teach me English, and I had the pleasure of being able to decipher for myself the remarks about me in my service register. They were all satisfactory. “Smart, intelligent, good drill-master, capable, thoroughly honest,” and so on, was the opinion recorded by each Sahib under whom I had served. For when I have spoken of the Sahib I do not mean to imply that it was always one and the same officer. It was seldom that a Superintendent of Police remained more than two years in one district. Either he went on leave, or he was transferred for some reason or another, and a new officer was appointed. But every officer wrote in the book his opinion of the various members of the Force. I was now twenty-two years old and I saw that if I wanted to advance my destiny I must leave the party. So I approached the Sahib and explained that I was anxious to rise in the department, and asked that I might be given an opportunity of showing what I could do in a more responsible position. The Sahib was naturally sorry to lose my services on his personal party, but he saw the reasonableness of my request and he placed me in charge of the outpost of Kadhan. It was a distant and unpleasant place; but I made no objection, and thanking the Sahib for his favour I proceeded to take over charge. There were four constables under me, one of whom was a sawar or mounted man. I soon found, as I expected, that these men and my predecessor had been making double their pay by the usual methods, such as refusing to take any notice of a complaint unless it was made worth their while to do so, allowing the badmashes or persons under police supervision to leave their villages upon payment of a gratification, hushing up cases, and so on; but it was all on a small scale, and betokened a want of originality. My pay was now sixteen rupees a month, and with my ambition what was the use of merely doubling it? What I wanted was the opportunity for doing something on a larger scale; and for this I required two things, promotion to a higher post, and a thoroughly established character for honesty and straightforwardness. I was not going to sully my reputation for the sake of a wretched four annas here and there.

There was much crime, especially cattle-theft and burglary, under the Kadhan outpost, but only about a dozen cases had been registered in each of the last few years. For the rest the police had either been too lazy to investigate them, or it had not been made sufficiently worth their while to take them up. Kadhan, as I have said, was an out-of-the-way place, and not much was likely to result from petitions to higher authority. Now it would not do for me to suddenly begin to register three or four times as many cases as there used to be. That would point to my inefficiency and my inability to keep the badmashes in hand. But the selection of cases that were taken up had been all wrong. What was the use of showing three convictions in a year and nine undetected cases? Most of the cases were simple. At the end of twelve months my record showed three undetected cases and fifteen convictions. It was easy to find a source of income in cases to which there was no clue and leave them unregistered, while at the same time prosecuting cases in which the offender was caught red-handed. My men grasped the superiority of this arrangement over the old one, and supported me well, for they were all promoted for their good work without suffering any diminution in their usual receipts. As I have said, I kept my own hands clean in all this. My destiny had not yet arrived. I had already acquired some reputation. What I wanted was promotion, and that rapidly. So I set to work to obtain it. After some deliberation I decided upon the following plan.

In the village of Gharibabad, about three miles from Kadhan, there lived a wealthy sowkar or money-lender named Choithram. He was avaricious, grasping, and generally detested. This man should pave my way to promotion, and also, incidentally, pay me for so doing. Others were to serve my purpose in the same way. Of the badmashes in my charge most were fairly amenable, and sensible enough to see that it was no use to go against the police. But there were five who were exceedingly troublesome and truculent fellows, and constantly defied my authority. This, of course, could not be tolerated. Their names were Jumo, Bachu, Ahmed, Daud, and Fakiruddin. They had all been several times in jail, and I thought that a prolonged residence at the Andamans would be beneficial to them. Well, I settled with five other gentlemen who were under police supervision that they should break into the house of Choithram on a certain night, and share his wealth with me, while I promised that the five men whose names I have mentioned should be convicted of the offence. Every detail was thought out with the utmost care. On some pretence I decoyed Jumo and his four associates to Choithram’s house in the afternoon. This answered two purposes. There were their footprints on the ground to serve as evidence against them, and as their presence was observed by several witnesses, it would be clear that they had come to spy out the land. Meanwhile my friends went to the houses of Jumo, Bachu, and the other three and managed to secure a few articles of dress from each, such as a puggri or pair of shoes. The dacoity came off, as such things generally do. My men forced their way in and looted Choithram of three thousand rupees’ worth of gold ornaments, while the money-lender and his family hid themselves in terror. The dacoits made off, after leaving behind the articles that they had borrowed from Jumo and his companions. I was soon on the scene of the offence, and easily succeeded in persuading Choithram and his family members that they had recognised Jumo and his merry men as their visitors. The next thing was to arrest them. Strangely enough, in each of their houses I was fortunate enough to secure a small portion of the stolen property. My friends had carried out my instructions implicitly. What more was wanted by way of proof? The accused had been seen hanging about the house in the afternoon before the dacoity occurred, they were recognised by the witnesses as being the persons who broke into the house, there was the unrebuttable evidence of their footprints, there were articles of their clothing found in the money-lender’s house, and portions of the stolen property found in their own houses. Their previous convictions were proved, and seven years’ transportation was the sentence awarded to each of them. And what had I, Ghulam Rasul, effected? I had got rid of five men who had troubled me; I had rightly punished Choithram by relieving him of the wealth which he had sucked from the poor by cruel usury; I had benefited five men who had done well by me by allowing them a hundred rupees each out of the proceeds of the dacoity; I had obtained for myself some two thousand five hundred rupees; and finally I received the highest encomiums from my Chief for my smart bit of detection, with immediate promotion to the rank of jemadar, or senior head constable, and I was transferred from the outpost of Kadhan and placed in charge of the police station at Khairpur. Yes, my lucky star was in the ascendant. I was always scrupulously careful of my religious duties, and I made a handsome present to the Mullah of the mosque at Shahpur.

I was now a step up the ladder, and was in a position in which I might steadily amass a reasonable competence. I was at this time about twenty-four years old. I was of a fine appearance, an accomplished horseman, of agreeable manners and address, and while preserving my own dignity, extremely polite to the magistrates and other influential persons with whom I came into contact. I was well acquainted with the law, and could conduct a case in court as well as a professional vakil or lawyer. Altogether I made a most favourable impression upon all with whom it was desirable to ingratiate myself. I took good care for my work to be always excellent. There was a considerable number of bad, not to say desperate, characters within the limits of my police station, and I arrested and sent up many of these for security for good behaviour. Some few of them were bound over and released on bail, but most of them went to prison, as I made it my business that no one should go security for them. Some of the worst of the badmashes were kept by zamindars or landholders on their estates to act as bullies or to render services of one kind or another. Now the zamindars were ready enough to give evidence against the smaller individuals, but not at all against these pets of theirs, who were really responsible for most of the crimes that were committed. However, I managed with more or less difficulty to get one of these swashbucklers sent to jail. This was enough. What had been done in a single instance was possible in others, and a rich harvest poured into my pockets from the other landholders as compensation for my not interfering with their protégés. You see, for a landholder who has a position to maintain it would be a terrible blow to his dignity to have a person of any importance on his establishment sent to jail as a bad character.

Many things occurred while I was at Khairpur which showed that my destiny was fortunate. It would take too long to relate them all. But this one I will set down. There was a large cotton-spinning factory that belonged to a Hindoo named Pesumal. This man was not at all in a good way of business, and his affairs were going from bad to worse. Not long before I went to Khairpur he had insured his factory for fifty thousand rupees. One night the whole building was burnt down. Now, of course, Pesumal had done this himself to get the insurance money, and on circumstantial evidence I could have arrested and prosecuted him. But he had been very clever and there was no direct proof of his complicity. This I could have supplied had I chosen, but the question was would it be to my advantage to do so? Of course I should have been commended for my work if I secured a conviction and saved the assurance company from payment of the policy. But I saw my way to something better than this. I went to Pesumal the morning after the fire and explained to him how it was in my power to send him to jail and ruin him for life; and then I suggested a little friendly arrangement. If I could prove in court that the fire was the work of incendiaries he would be cleared of all suspicion and would obtain the fifty thousand rupees for which he was insured. I guaranteed to do this if he promised to give me thirty thousand rupees, keeping the twenty thousand for himself. He demurred at my terms and wept and flung himself on the ground at my feet. I said that he could do exactly as he liked. If he did not accept my offer he would go to jail and lose everything. As a fact he ought to consider that I was acting with great generosity. Of course, he was brought to reason. I then got hold of three men who had been employed in the factory, but had been dismissed for one reason or another, and arrested them for setting fire to the concern. The case that I made out was really a work of art. There was not a detail that was wanting in the way of evidence, whether direct, indirect, or circumstantial. The four or five witnesses whom I selected were rehearsed in what they had to say over and over again till they were absolutely perfect; and I cross-examined them on every possible point regarding which they were likely to be interrogated in the courts until there was no chance of their being taken by surprise. The accused had been heard to swear revenge for their dismissal; matches of a peculiar make were found in their houses, and also on the road outside the factory; tow soaked in paraffin was found in their pockets; they had been seen slinking out of their houses at night by one witness, and actually setting fire to the building by two others, and so on. I took care that none of the witnesses were constables, for, as everybody knows, the courts are very suspicious of a policeman’s evidence. The three accused were convicted and I obtained my thirty thousand rupees, Pesumal remunerating the witnesses out of his share of the insurance money.

I was highly commended for my smartness in detecting and bringing to justice the offenders in so serious a case; and very soon afterwards I was made Chief Constable and posted to the important Police Station of Salamkot. Now I was in a very independent position. There were over seventy towns and villages in my charge, and the district was a rich and thriving one. It would be strange if I should not benefit by this providential state of things. But I was exceedingly cautious. Other officers had been made chief constables on account of meritorious services in a subordinate position, and then lost their high offices by some foolishness or want of common sense. I had, above all things, to prove that I was efficient, capable, and smart. My predecessor had been none of these things, and there had of late been several undetected dacoities and a number of robberies in which no one had been brought to justice, not to speak of various murders. I soon changed all that; and as the few serious crimes that occurred in the first two months after my taking charge resulted in heavy sentences in the Sessions Court, peace and quiet soon became the order of the day. At the same time I was not forgetful of my own interests. I ascertained that the identity of the dacoits and robbers who had been plundering with impunity before my time was well known to the people in general, and that these gentry were protected and harboured by well-to-do landholders. Here was an opportunity. I was induced to refrain from bringing this scandal to notice and so causing bodies of punitive police to be quartered on the villages at the expense of the inhabitants, and my kindness was rewarded by very considerable sums of money. In so large an area as was in my jurisdiction I was able to make a large income by intimations that unless I received some satisfaction I should prosecute this, that, and the other person for security for good behaviour. Those who did not pay went to jail; but mostly they acceded to my terms; this saved a great deal of trouble to every one concerned, including the magistrates. Now there was one man, a small farmer named Allahbuksh, an ill-conditioned and overbearing fellow, who was both a bad character and cordially detested by his neighbours. He, by his unlucky destiny, chose to withstand me, and threatened to report me for extorting money. This was not to be tolerated, and I determined to deprive him of his land and cattle. I induced a money-lender to enter in his books the loan of five hundred rupees to Allahbuksh on a certain date some years before, and to credit him with periodical payments of interest since. The money-lender then went to the Civil Court and filed a complaint to the effect that Allahbuksh had borrowed five hundred rupees from him on the security of his farm, and that the time for repayment had come and gone, but that Allahbuksh refused to repay the loan, and the court should therefore pass an order for the surrender of the security in default of payment. The court, in the first place, issued a summons for Allahbuksh to appear and advance any reasons that he might wish to make against the money-lender’s application. The summons was handed over to a bailiff for service, but I offered to save him a long journey by having it served for him. I had it served on a different person altogether; and this man, who was to represent Allahbuksh, appeared in court on the day fixed. Asked if he were Allahbuksh he replied in the affirmative, and he also admitted the loan. He further stated that owing to bad seasons it was impossible for him to meet his obligations. He made a great scene and wept and howled and begged the money-lender for mercy, but, of course, in vain; and the court issued a decree for the execution of the agreement. Armed with this document a party of bailiffs swooped down on the real Allahbuksh and placed the money-lender in possession of the property. Allahbuksh had not the faintest idea how the order had been obtained; but he had no friends and no money, so what could he do? He sent petitions to several officers, saying that he was in entire ignorance as to why his property had been confiscated, and references were made to the courts, whose reply was, of course, that all had been done in accordance with the law. There was nothing more for Allahbuksh to do but accept his destiny. I only made two hundred rupees by this transaction, but I had ruined a man who had the temerity to oppose me. I made an offering to the shrine of a saint in token of my gratitude for the success vouchsafed to me.

After a time the Superintendent of Police came round on a tour of inspection. Needless to say, while he was in the limits of my charge I made the most excellent arrangements for his camp; and never did he travel in such comfort. His clerks and party I feasted to their hearts’ content. The Sahib was exceedingly pleased with my work, and gave me great credit for the good order and freedom from crime which he found prevailing. But he said that the neighbouring police station of Isakot was out of hand and crime was heavy, and I must go there and put things right. I always made a point of obeying orders without any remonstrance; so I thanked the Sahib for the compliment and away I went. Within a few months I greatly reduced the crime in Isakot. Some of the worst criminals I sent to jail, and so I inspired a proper fear of myself into the remainder. Then I called together a few of the leading badmashes, and told them that I did not wish to see them starve, but that there must be no trouble within the area of Isakot. I would, however, let them know of likely places in my late charge of Salamkot, and I would say nothing to their carrying on their profession in that area if they handed over to me two-thirds of the spoil. They urged that taking the risks into consideration my share was too great, to which I replied that if they preferred it they could go to jail now, as I had abundant evidence against them. They soon saw that reason and generosity were on my side, and my scheme worked excellently. For months money flowed into my coffers, and a long petition, signed by hundreds of influential people of Salamkot was submitted to the head of the district, requesting that I might be sent back to that station, as no one else could protect them from the criminal classes. In due course their request was complied with and back I went. Crime, of course, ceased, for I explained to my friends of Isakot that Salamkot was now placed out of bounds for them, and that if any one ventured there I should, as we say in Sindhi, soon “see him.” And now another providential event occurred. There was a visitation of plague, and the inhabitants were panic-stricken, partly by the mysterious disease, but still more so by the means adopted by the Sirkar to check its ravages. There were plague camps, plague doctors, and plague inspections everywhere, and plague police to enforce the rules and regulations. The people would do anything to conceal the presence of plague, and they simply forced money upon the medical subordinates and others for certificates that deaths from plague were due to ordinary fever. At the principal railway stations camps were formed, and all passengers were taken out of the trains and detained for a week and then allowed to proceed on their journey if they had not developed plague. But rich people had no wish to be kept in a plague camp, and many were glad to pay a hundred rupees for a certificate that they had been there for the prescribed time when they had really only arrived the same day. The total number of persons in the camp was, of course, registered and daily checked. But people who would pay nothing were kept on over and above the requisite period, so the numbers always showed a correct tally. Inoculation, too, was a considerable source of income. This device was detested by the people, and certificates that a person had been inoculated, when he had not submitted to the operation were paid for liberally. It seemed to me most unjust that so much money should be changing hands without any benefit to myself. So I took the matter up vigorously. I had some persons sent to jail for extorting money, while others were dismissed, and I received commendations from the authorities for my zeal. I then informed the subordinates in charge of the plague arrangements that there would be no interference on my part if they handed over to me half of their receipts. It was wonderful how the money mounted up. One or two men attempted to palm off upon me much less than my legitimate share of the revenue. These I promptly prosecuted for receiving dishonest gratifications, and there was no more trouble of the kind.

It is not to be supposed that in all these years no one had made any reports or petitions against me. This was only to be expected, but it was a case of my wits against those of people who were so ill-advised as to cross my path. I had only to say that an officer who did his duty so efficiently as I did, and with no respect to persons, was sure to incur enmity, and it was easy enough in each case to show that the person who misrepresented me was actuated by malice. Besides, I let it be well understood that to thwart my will involved very serious consequences. There was a wealthy zamindar named Kaimshah, from whom I asked for a loan of three hundred rupees. Of course, it was understood that it was only to simplify matters that the proposed transaction was referred to as a loan. Kaimshah had the audacity to refuse the accommodation, and threatened to report me to the Superintendent of Police. Well, I got a couple of men to make a pretence of breaking into his house, and happening to pass by at the time myself I arrested them. The next morning I issued summonses to Kaimshah and all the members of his household, including his women folk, to come and give evidence against the burglars at the police station. I need not say that for women of the zenana or harem to leave their house and appear at a police station would be unspeakably disgraceful. Of course, Kaimshah came round with the three hundred rupees; but after such recalcitrancy, this was not enough. I let him off with a thousand rupees and a severe warning. The summonses were destroyed, and nothing more was heard of the burglary or the arrest of the two men. I must by this time have accumulated a hundred thousand rupees. Verily I had been born under a lucky star! I returned thanks to the prophet for my good fortune, and I blessed the benign British Government for creating the Police Department.

In the course of some years I had served in several police stations, and my work had been entirely satisfactory both to the authorities and to myself. I was finally placed in charge of Mehrabpur, the largest and most important police station in the district. My first year in this charge was eminently successful. The title of khan sahib was conferred upon me by the Commissioner in public durbar, and I was not unlikely to be soon promoted to the rank of inspector. But an event occurred which upset all my calculations, and ruined me for good and all. The Police Superintendent, Mr. Robertson Sahib, who possessed good judgment and had always been favourable to me, was transferred to another district, and one John Carruthers Sahib came to Subzulkot. He had some reputation, and it was said that he had more eyes than any one else; but from my experience of European officers I did not consider it very difficult to make them see just so much as they were meant to see, and no more, however many eyes they might have. Anyhow, this officer used to fly about his district without regard to his comfort or convenience, and he had a very irritating way of poking his nose into matters which had much better be left to his subordinates. Two or three times he came unexpectedly to inquire into cases which I was investigating, and he was good enough to express his satisfaction with the way in which I had conducted my proceedings. By my good destiny they were cases in which the accused persons had declined to come to terms with me, and so I had no alternative but to prosecute them. Thus the Sahib was pleased with my work, and did not trouble me again for a long time. So I felt that I was secure, and the money flowed into the channels which Providence had intended it to.

Now what happened afterwards was due to a very small beginning. I was extremely particular about my food, and especially about my milk, and quite suddenly my cow, which gave beautiful milk, fell sick and died. I could not obtain an equally good animal just at once, so I sent a constable to a man called Raban with orders to send me his cow to be kept at my house for my use. Raban was not a man of substance. He made his living by growing vegetables in a garden, and by keeping a few goats and this one cow of which I have spoken. The cow was of special virtue, in fact much too good for such as Raban, and it was unreasonable that he should have it while I needed it. Well, this dolt flatly refused to part with his cow for a single hour, so I had no alternative but to send a couple of men to bring it over. This they did, but Raban came with them and threatened to appeal to all the high officials of the district,

What I should have done was to let him take back his cow and bide my time for revenge; but my annoyance got the better of my prudence, and I kept the animal and told him that I had very good reason to believe that he had not come by it honestly, and that I should make further inquiries into the matter. I was greatly enraged, and I determined to send him to jail for stealing the cow. Several days passed while I was working out my plan, but something which appeared much more opportune took place, and Providence seemed to have designed the most fitting retribution that I could have desired. This Raban possessed a wife whose name was Janat. She was a good deal younger than himself and of considerable personal attractions. It was well known that Janat was not on the best of terms with her husband, and that she favoured a stalwart and good-looking young man named Imam Ali. Many a time would Raban give his wife a sound beating on account of her clandestine meetings with Imam Ali, and he had been heard to threaten her that one of these days he would kill her unless she altered her behaviour. Thus to hear cries and groans in Raban’s cottage was nothing unusual, and passersby would only say, “Janat has eaten another beating.” As a rule Raban went into his house for his midday meal, and then returned to his work in the garden; but on the third day after I had sent for his cow he remained in his house the whole of the afternoon with Janat, and it was noticed that the crying and groaning were more than usual.

The next morning about daybreak I was aroused by one of my men, who informed me that Janat had hanged herself; so, as usual in cases of suicide, I proceeded to investigate the circumstances. Raban’s cottage contained but two rooms, one in which he and his wife lived, and a smaller one used for storing garden produce, and so on. Suspended by a rope attached to a rafter in the smaller room there hung the body of the unfortunate Janat. Her feet were just off the ground, and at a short distance from her lay an overturned wicker-work stool. Raban, who denied that he had had any altercation with his wife on the preceding day, stated that they had both gone to bed at their usual time, that he woke up between four and five o’clock in the morning, and finding that Janat was not with him called out for her. Getting no answer he lit a small lamp and made search, and was horrified at finding her dead. Asked how the rope came to be fastened to the beam he said readily that Janat must have attached a weight to one end of the rope, thrown it across the rafter and so lowering it made a loop, passed the other end through the loop, and pulled the rope taut. She must then have stood upon the stool, tied the rope round her neck and kicked away the stool, thus causing death by strangulation. Asked what motive she could have had for the rash act, Raban stated that she had long since wanted to go on a visit to her parents, but he had refused to allow her to do so. She had more than once threatened to take her life in consequence of this, but he had not regarded her threat seriously. Now this might sound straightforward and above-board; but the man who had defied me had delivered himself into my hand. The rafter to which the rope was fastened was some ten feet from the ground, and the space between it and the angle formed by the two sloping sides of the roof was only about eight inches. It was clearly impossible for any one to have thrown the end of the rope through this limited space. Further, there was no sign of an object by which the rope could have been weighted. How had the rope really been fixed? I proceeded to minutely inspect the premises, and made the following discoveries. Hidden beneath some grass in the compound was a light bamboo ladder about eight feet in length. There had been rain during the night, and there were marks of Raban’s mud-stained feet in the smaller room. Thus it was Raban and not Janat who had brought in the ladder. There was some mud on one end of the ladder, and corresponding marks on the sloping roof against which the ladder had been rested by the person who fastened the rope to the rafter. On Janat’s back were weals and marks of very severe beating. The whole thing was perfectly clear. Raban had beaten his wife into a state of insensibility, and then, terrified at the result of what he had done, hanged up her body and endeavoured to make out a case of suicide. Fate had indeed revenged upon him the indignity that he had offered to me in the matter of the cow. Yes, he should suffer the last extremity of the law.

But though the case was to my mind clear enough, yet I knew the difficulty of proving my facts before the Sessions Court, and I thought it advisable to obtain further evidence to incriminate Raban. When I say obtain I need not say that of course I meant concoct. After all my years of experience could not I tutor witnesses to give exactly what statement was necessary? The chief witness that I arranged matters with was Imam Ali. He was naturally incensed at the death of the woman who had found favour in his eyes, and he agreed with alacrity to support the case. As a matter of fact he had been absent the previous day, and had only returned in the early hours of the morning. This did not, however, constitute any difficulty. I recorded at length his statement, how the previous evening after dusk he had been loitering in Raban’s garden on the chance of an interview with Janat, how he had heard heart-rending screams in the house, and gathering that Jan at was being ill-treated he ran in to interfere, and saw Raban with a bamboo stick in his hand pitilessly beating Janat, who was lying on the floor face downwards, that he had tried to seize Raban, but that Raban had beaten him also and hurled him out of the house on to the wet ground, where he fell senseless. He remembered no more, but supposed that he must have managed to crawl home when he came to his senses. He was too frightened to make any report, but when he heard in the morning that Janat was said to have hanged herself he came to tell the truth to the police. Then I obtained several independent witnesses who testified to having heard the sound of blows as they passed the house in the evening, and piteous cries from Janat, who screamed out, “Do not beat me, you will kill me.” After taking down all the statements I drew up a report which was as clear and convincing as could possibly be desired. I then arrested Raban, and proceeded to arrange for the disposal of the body of Janat, according to law.

It was just at this juncture, when I was inwardly blessing Allah for my continued good fortune, that I became aware of a stir and commotion outside Raban’s house, and behold this John Carruthers, the Superintendent of Police, suddenly walked in. I have always disliked the smell of tobacco, and whether it was due to the long cigar that was between his lips or to some malign influence connected with his arrival I know not, but I felt for the moment dizzy and faint. However, the Sahib addressed me in encouraging tones and the seizure passed away.

“Well, Ghulam Rasul,” he said, “how are you getting on? A difficult case is it? Another real murder shown as a suicide! I will run through the papers and see if everything is in order. I have no doubt you have thought of every detail. I only heard of this case on my arrival a few minutes ago. I had come about a very different matter, some ridiculous report against you about forcibly taking a cow from a man called Raban. I am always opposed to people who make vexatious complaints against the police, and I thought it would save correspondence for me to see into this myself. Just send for this Raban while I go through these papers.”

The Sahib’s words were friendly enough, but a vague fear was turning my liver into water. I did not seem to possess my usual self-control, and it was with a somewhat faltering voice that, pointing to the handcuffed Raban, I replied, “This, Sahib, is the very man.”

“Oh, oh,” he said, “that is how matters stand, is it? Well, read out all the statements.”

I complied with the Sahib’s wishes, keeping Imam Ali’s to the last. When I had finished this, Sahib turned to Imam Ali.

“Have you a twin brother?” he asked.

I was amazed at this question. Whatever could it portend? Imam Ali replied that he had no brothers at all.

“Then it was you who ran against me on the platform at midnight when I was changing trains at Ladu Junction? If you have no twin brother, it was certainly you. Just show me the marks of the beating which rendered you insensible!”

There was a dead silence. As a fact, I had not had time to simulate any marks of beating on Imam Ali’s back. In vain I tried to think of some suitable reply, while beads of cold perspiration stood on Imam Ali’s forehead. Why had this fool not told me before that he had seen, nay actually run against the Sahib, at Ladu Junction?

“We must get to the bottom of this,” the Sahib said, and he walked up to the body of Janat and began to examine it very slowly and carefully. First he looked at the marks on the back, and taking out his notebook commenced to make entries therein, talking to himself the while.

“Yes,” he said, “ecchymosis shows itself as a dark dull reddish blue discoloration of the skin, which in about twenty-four hours begins to change colour, becoming lighter and changing in tint to violet. Yes, signs of inflammation round the injuries. Changes of colour at the circumference of a patch of ecchymosis. Exactly so. Clear indications that the infliction of the injuries was certainly twenty-four hours before death, and probably more than that. Very nice, indeed. And this precious witness, who can be beaten without any signs thereof remaining, and who appears to be ubiquitous, swears that he saw the unfortunate woman beaten to death yesterday evening. Yes, these blows would not even have caused insensibility.”

Then he fixed his eyes for some time on the face of the dead woman, opened her mouth and looked into it. “Death by strangulation!” he ejaculated. “My good fool, Ghulam Rasul, I have long known you to be a first-class scoundrel, but I did not think that you were such a double distilled son of an ass as this. As you have commenced this investigation you had better complete it yourself. Just lift up the poor woman’s arms, if you please.”

Automatically I obeyed the order, and in each arm pit I saw an unmistakable bubo. Hastily I dropped the arms and moved away in horror. The truth was obvious. Janat had died of plague, and to avoid all the trouble connected with the discovery of the dread disease Raban had hit upon the idea of making out that his wife had hanged herself.

As for me, I was suspended, tried for concocting false evidence, sent to jail, and dismissed the service. I had to eat the bread of humiliation and drink the water of disgrace. But it was not for nothing that I had served for years in the Police, and though I could no further gratify my ambition, yet I could comfort myself with the reflection that I had not wasted my opportunities.


The Pearls of Lala

*Told by Ramchandra Parashrani*

This story is reproduced, by permission, from the *International Police Magazine*, Madras.

I Ramchandra Parashram, sometime head clerk to the Superintendent of Police at Gharibabad, hereby place it on record, and may it ever be held in remembrance, that this John Carruthers was a shaitan of the blackest description. He was devoid of any sense of justice, and destitute of honour and conscience. He took no heed of the circumstances of his poor subordinates; and he reduced many to indigence, leaving their wives and children to starve. Me he be ruined in this world and the next; for, what can I hope for in another plane of existence after the shame that I have undergone in this?

I, Ramchandra Parashram, a twice-born Brahmin, descended from Indra and Bhawani, am brought low by the ruthless machinations of this Englishman. Before he came to Gharibabad everything was in order. When Mac Benn Sahib was Police Superintendent the whole force under his command was happy and contented; and I and the other clerks enjoyed the comforts that our position entitled us to. Mac Benn Sahib was of an equable temperament, and did not like to be worried. It disturbed his equanimity to be troubled with complimentary visits from zamindars or police inspectors; and he issued a very sensible order that no one was to be admitted unless they had first satisfied the head clerk that an interview with the Huzoor was really necessary. This was a most excellent order. Of course, I as head clerk never considered that an interview was really necessary until I had been paid at least five rupees, and more often twenty, by the applicant. If any one ventured to expostulate I stared him full in the face, and showed him the Sahib’s order. “You understand this,” I would say, with a meaning expression, “you will now pay me double fee!” He, of course, grasped the significance of the order, and complied with my command. Then there were in the district more than eight hundred police of various ranks; and promotions from one grade to another had constantly to be filled up. Mac Benn Sahib was of most gentlemanly feelings, and quite understood how things ought to be done. Under his benign sway the inspectors used to submit every three months a list of men for promotion; and those lists came to me for comparison with the men’s previous record of service. The inspectors and I worked together in the most friendly way. We arranged that any one who sought promotion should pay a month’s salary. Of this half went to the inspector of the division and the other to me. If two or more men pressed for the same vacancy, the one who paid the more was given the place. All were satisfied with this arrangement. Those who obtained promotion by purchase thought themselves clever men and lucky fellows; and were much more pleased than if they had to wait an indefinite time until they could persuade the Sahib that they had done a good piece of detective work or some such nonsense. As for the money which had to be forthcoming, that represented no loss to them. The seniors recovered it from the juniors in small instalments for favours accorded and for not reporting delinquencies. The juniors, constables and so on, had many ways of recouping themselves. It was a recognised institution that every person on whom a summons was served had to pay the constable who served it the sum of four annas. If a man served twenty summonses in a month it will be seen that his children need not starve. A warrant of arrest, though there was some risk in this, represented a lucrative source of income. I have known as much as a hundred rupees paid by a man against whom a warrant was out. The money changed hands, and the individual who was wanted disappeared; while a report was submitted that in spite of all possible efforts on the part of the police no trace of the criminal could be found. This, of course, could not be done too often. Then there were all kinds of offences, such as driving without lights on a dark night, or imbibing a little more liquor than was good for one, wherein the interchange of four annas staved off much trouble and induced amicable relationships. Yes, that was a real Sahib. The district was in admirable order, and the annual returns were most creditable; for where was the advantage in recording thefts and robberies of which there was no chance of detection? It was much simpler to threaten the complainant, and induce him to keep quiet. If he persisted in making a fuss and giving trouble, an experienced police officer could easily make out that his complaint was a malicious one, and have him sent to jail for falsely charging his neighbours with a criminal offence. Then there were the mounted police. They received so much a month for the keep of their horses. But if they expended their horse allowance on grain and fodder for their animals, how were they themselves to live in reasonable comfort and decency on the pittance which was allotted to them as pay? what would their wives say to them if they were not provided with smart saris and chulis? Well, the difficulty was surmounted by forcing the villagers to bring in free supplies of grass, and making the drivers of carts laden with grain that passed near the police stations furnish one measure out of each sack for the police horses. True the men in the armed branch could not make much; but they recognised the justice of this, as it was known to all concerned that they were selected for that branch as possessing strong bodies and little brain. But they could do something for themselves in a small way by allowing tobacco, opium, and other luxuries to be passed in to prisoners in the lock-ups. There was also the ball practice, where, by a judicious manipulation, centres could be registered as bullseyes, and misses as outers; and so certain rewards for good shooting could be obtained. Occasionally too there might be an extra windfall. Stolen property might be for some time in the charge of the police pending the trial of the accused; and if, when a gold nose-ring with valuable pearls was ordered to be restored to its rightful owner, the owner chose to assert that the original pearls had been removed, and imitations substituted, well, it was easy to make such assertions, but not so easy to substantiate them. There were hundreds of other ways of adding to one’s income. Men who were on the roll of persons under police supervision were always ready to pay up, in order to have their names removed from the black list; and on a certificate from the officer in charge of a police station that any individual was a reformed character the Sahib would strike his name off. Contractors for the supply of uniform simply forced gratifications upon us for the privilege of supplying the police with coats and boots. Thus, as I have said, every one was content, including Mac Benn Sahib who had plenty of time for his polo and cards in the station, and for his snipe shooting in camp. The inspections were always satisfactory. The uniform was invariably in good condition for the reason that the men only wore the hateful dress when they had reason to suppose that the Sahib was near at hand.

Whether it was I, Ramchandra Parashram, or Inspector Baldkrishna or Chief Constable Hari Raoji, who had committed some sin in a former existence on account of which this happy state of things was once and for all brought to destruction, cannot now be affirmed with certainty. Later on we shall know. Be this as it may, the end came all of a sudden. Mac Benn Sahib was taken ill, and ordered home, and this John Carruthers was gazetted to Gharibabad. The first thing that he did was to study the service record of each man in the force himself. Then without consulting me or the inspectors, he took to writing out lists of promotions with his own hand in a book. He told me to translate the orders into the vernacular and bring them to him for signature the very same day. It was impossible to evade this humiliating order; but my ripe intelligence suggested a way which would reduce the results thereof to a minimum. I translated an order promoting, for instance, Constable Balaram to be head constable; and the Sahib signed the order. I registered the order in the outward register as having been dispatched. But I was not such a fool as to post it. On the contrary, I held it back in my office box, and intimated to Balaram that I had the ear of the new Superintendent Sahib, and could promise him promotion in return for a month’s pay. Balaram was, of course, only too delighted to obtain promotion on these, or any, terms; and for a time the new system did not differ much from the old. But this Sahib had a most disagreeable way of suddenly running out to distant police stations without a word of notice; and once at Khetgaum he came across a constable named Shunkar, whose promotion to head constable he had ordered some weeks before. Shunkar was still serving as constable, and had not received the order for his promotion. As a fact, I had kept it back pending receipt of my remuneration, which had been a long time in coming. But Shunkar had not the sense to say either this or that, or one thing or another; and Carruthers Sahib, who could never leave anything alone, started a further development. He could read and write the vernacular fairly well; and after that whenever he made a promotion he wrote a brief note in the language of the district to the man who was promoted to inform him of the fact, and posted it himself. Could meanness go farther? Could a Sahib who considered himself a Sahib sink so low? It was humiliating to see an officer of such exalted rank condescend to such petty details. But it was sheer robbery as regards me and the chief constables. How were we to live if this sort of thing was to go on? God knows, when our rates of pay were fixed, no one, not even Government, could ever have expected that we could possibly live on our wretched salaries. Yet here was a man, or as I have said before, a shaitan, who robbed us of one source of income after another. He cancelled Mac Benn Sahib’s order that visitors should first satisfy the head clerk as to the necessity for an interview. Every evening he had a carpet spread in front of his verandah, and his easy chair placed thereon. Here he would sit, and listen to all the riff-raff that chose to come to him, and pour out their balderdash to their hearts’ content. Much good it did them or him; but it ruined me. Of course, too, he must go and get all the cases recorded which no one used to bother his head about before; and a fine annual report consequently went in to head-quarters for the Gharibabad District at the close of the year! However, if the man liked to make more of a fool of himself than his gods had intended him to be, that was his look-out and not mine.

But I, Ramchandra Parashram, was ruined. How much had I made in all, by my own brains, month by month, for years past? My pay was fifty rupees per mensem; and if my total receipts were only ten times that amount, would not my conscience accuse me that I was wronging my children? What had I not expended on the restoration of my ancestral home at Vingorla, where the soft sea-breeze blesses the plantains and the mangoes? What on the dowry of my daughter Ganga Bai when she was married to the son of the Desai of Kulbawadi? What on the education of my son Balwant, who was to appear for his final examination at the Bombay University next year? And what was to be done for my two younger children, son and daughter? Fifty rupees a month! I might as well be told to manage on fifty annas. And you wonder that I curse John Carruthers. But maledictions fill no stomach. There were many stomachs to fill, and backs to clothe, and luxuries, that had become necessities, to provide. Something had to be done. Self-preservation is the law of nature. Others had provided for my requirements in the past. The familiar ways were stopped. But of one thing I was determined, and that was that, somehow or other, others should provide for my requirements in the future. It is to be understood that I was ruined, ruined. Expect me to live on fifty rupees a month when my son’s education cost me more than that? My senses reeled and my head span round. My liver became water. I put all the blame of what happened upon this John Carruthers. The course that I adopted was as follows. I was familiar with various released convicts who resided in the district; for I used to see them at inspections when they had to report themselves at stated intervals to the police, and notes about their occupation and conduct were made in the registers. I was also familiar with the well-to-do merchants and the rich money-lenders. I possessed, in fact, much information about them and their possessions, especially as regards the places where they kept wealth, which the professional thieves would be only too delighted to be acquainted with. These two and two I put together. I began by slow degrees, feeling my way cautiously. After a few experiments, all of which turned out successfully, I found a perfect treasure in a Mahometan named Amir Baksh. He was a tall, thin man of about fifty, scrupulously clean in his person, and although poorly dressed yet of a quite respectable appearance. He had twice been in jail for house-breaking; but there had been nothing proved against him for some years. He ostensibly gained his livelihood by selling the produce of his small vegetable garden, and by carrying his neighbours’ goods and chattels to the nearest railway station in his bullock-cart. He had no family, and cooked his own food. He also did some horse-dealing, having what is called an eye for a horse; and this taste of his sufficiently accounted for occasional journeys from home. It was a curious coincidence that when he went to a distant village to take stock of an animal that was for sale, there was not unusually a theft somewhere in the locality; but if any one suggested that the coincidence was suspicious, Amir Baksh loudly retaliated that it was a device of his enemies to get him into trouble, and interfere with his bargains in horseflesh. As every one in India has enemies who are always engaged in getting him into trouble, the argument was of course unanswerable. Well, Amir Baksh and I interchanged confidences. He was a man after my own heart. He had abundant skill and daring; and his circumstances, which I have described, rendered him in every way suitable to my plans. He was, moreover, very devout, and was always ready to make even more prostrations than were ordered by his Prophet, when there was any one to observe them. So we arranged that I was to send him on to likely places for shikar; he was to make the bag, I was to dispose of the takings, and we were to share the profits between us. He never came to me except at night; and we left no precaution untaken to avoid suspicion.

For some months all went on well. I was acquainted with Ramji Patel of Pimpri, and knew that he was going with his family to attend the marriage of his nephew at Atgaum, fifteen miles away, leaving valuable gold ornaments buried in the north-east corner of his cook-room. When Ramji returned from the ceremony the floor looked exactly the same as usual; and it was not for some days that he thought of inspecting his possessions. Then, of course, they were not to be found; and terrible was the outcry. A charge was at once made by Ramji against his wife’s cousin Pandu who lived in the same lane; and various witnesses were obtained who swore that they had seen Pandu going to Ramji’s house at night in the latter’s absence. However, as no property was found with Pandu the charge could not be proceeded with. Meanwhile I had dispatched by parcel post half of the ornaments to my house at Vingorla for disposal there, and half to one Dulichand, a dealer in miscellaneous goods in Bombay, whom I knew of old as a man who would ask, and answer, no questions. Five hundred rupees resulted from this enterprise and Amir Baksh and I shared them between us. Then there were alarms of burglaries round about Wada, and I gave friendly warning to Gangaram Sonar that he was ill-advised in keeping so many valuables in his house, as some members of Chetu’s old gang which had come down from the Ghauts a few years ago were again about, and Chetu had designs on his house. Naturally he did not disregard advice from a member of the Head Police Office who was in a position to know what was going on. So, acting on my suggestion that he should bestow his confidence on no one, he collected his treasures from their hiding-places, and set off alone one night to Kharabgaum, whence he could take the train to a place of safety. Half-way to the station, he was held up by a veiled figure which in a hoarse voice bade him deliver his property to Chetu. Amir Baksh, faithful soul, brought me over nine hundred rupees in this haul, while I endeavoured to console Gangaram in his grief at the zoolum of Chetu.

About three miles from Gharibabad was the well-to-do village of Shahpur. It consisted of substantial stone houses with tiled roofs, and was surrounded with gardens where grew the finest varieties of plantains, pomegranates, and guavas. Amongst the inhabitants of Shahpur there were several sowkars, or money-lenders, who, when a debtor could not pay up his dues in cash, would condescend to take his family ornaments to stave off payment of the amount due. One of the richest of them was Lalchand, popularly known as Lala, who in his inordinate desire for wealth was always inclined to purchase ornaments and valuables for cash down, without asking any tiresome questions as to how they were obtained. “Yes,” he would say to some incorrigible jail-bird who brought him gold ear-rings or silver anklets for sale, “yes, your family ornaments! You require money to satisfy some rapacious Marwari who will not allow your debt to stand over till next harvest on the security of these ornaments. A hard case, a hard case. It is not all who are so merciful as I am in such circumstances. Yes,” he would say, glancing carelessly at the articles, which may have been worth a couple of hundred rupees, “fifty rupees may be the value of these. But times are hard, and I cannot get in my dues. I am not a hard man, I; and people take advantage of my kindness. All my cash is out, and God knows when I may see any of it back, let alone interest. But it must not be said that Lala allows people to starve. Yes, yes, you shall have twenty-five rupees in cash down. No one else would be so generous, so foolish.” And really considering the risk and all things, the disposer of the ornaments had not done so badly. Meanwhile Lala flourished exceedingly. His house was once searched by the police upon information received; but, of course, nothing suspicious was found. Lala on his part submitted a complaint to the head of the Province describing in the most eloquent terms the wholly unmerited indignity to which he had been subjected, and begging to be safeguarded from such maltreatment in the future. The police were called upon for explanation, and they could offer little in the way of substantial information in support of their action. Nothing further occurred in that connection; but they thought it would not do to interfere with Lala after what had occurred. For some time past I had had a casual acquaintance with Lala; and I considered it advisable to cultivate this further, but not in such a way as to attract notice. As we became more intimate I showed him from time to time some of the choicer bits that my friend Amir Baksh conveyed to me. Lala’s terms were hard, but he always paid cash down, while protesting that he had not a pice to his name. Also he was fairly close at hand, and dealings with him obviated the necessity of dispatching too many parcels by the post, and so possibly creating suspicion. Remember, it was entirely the fault of John Carruthers that I was started in this dangerous career; and for all that has happened the blame be upon his head.

Well, some months went by, and Lala and I became more and more friendly and confidential. On one of my visits to his house, he was in a very communicative mood, a more than usually profitable bargain having resulted in his being on particularly good terms with himself. Our conversation happened to relate to the value of ornaments of various descriptions; and of the most suitable kind of pearls for nose-rings. I was in favour of those from the Ceylon fisheries, while Lala expressed his preference for those that came from the Southern sea. As he warmed to the subject he became quite excited; and at last he offered to show me in support of his theory an absolutely unique string of a hundred pearls from the South Sea Islands, the value of each of which was the incredible sum of five hundred rupees. Bidding me remain seated while he fetched them for my inspection he drew aside a heavy purdah, or curtain, and disclosed a massive wooden door secured by two elaborate locks. These he opened in succession, and after drawing the purdah across the doorway he entered an inner room. I was fired with curiosity and cupidity. Why should this old miser possess the pearls and not I who needed money so much? It seemed preposterous, intolerable, that so much inequality should exist. I remained seated for a few moments, fully anticipating what would happen. The ugly wrinkled-up face of Lala appeared through the curtain, the money-lender wishing, as I expected, to make sure that I was not spying on his movements. Seeing me sitting motionless where he had left me he was evidently satisfied; and he again disappeared behind the curtain. In a moment I was creeping along the floor. I raised the curtain from the ground just enough for me to be able to peep underneath; and I saw Lala slide open a tiny panel in one of the wooden pillars that supported the roof. This was enough for me. I knew the receptacle of these wondrous pearls. Before Lala could rejoin me I was in the same place and position in which he had left me; and although my heart was on fire I was outwardly in a state of coolness.

“Look!” he said, “look! Is not this a dowry for a princess? Hast ever heard of the like of this! A hundred pearls, and each one a perfect match of each of the rest. Wouldst know the history of this marvel? It came from the treasury of the Moguls at Delhi. Money was urgently required for purposes of State, and my great-grandfather Govindram, who was a wealthy banker, agreed to advance it upon this security. Now the strange property of this necklace is that it becomes to its possessor more precious than untold gold; and empoverished as I am, I would not part with it for hundreds of times its weight in the precious metal. It is my joy, my food and drink, my child, my very existence.”

The old man’s face seemed transported with delight as he caressed the magnificent necklace with his bony fingers; and he hardly listened to the expressions of admiration which I endeavoured to evolve. As in an ecstacy he slowly re-entered the inner room; and having disposed of the pearls in their receptacle he reappeared, carefully locked the door, drew the purdah across it, and resumed his seat beside me. He appeared to have put the subject entirely out of his mind; for to my relief, in my agitated condition, he proceeded to converse upon trivial and ordinary subjects. Hardly knowing what I was doing, I took my leave, went home, and retired to bed, but not to sleep.

A hundred schemes were racing through my brains for the acquisition of the hundred pearls. Could I but succeed my fortune was made; and any incompetent drudge that Carruthers Sahib might like to appoint could carry on the duties of head clerk to the Superintendent of Police. But oh, what to do? Lala’s house was of solid stone; and it was beyond the means of Amir Baksh, skilful as he was, to break into it in any ordinary way. Besides, Lala, like others of his profession, employed two chowkidars, or watchmen. These were Hindustanis from Allahabad, great stalwart men. Their names were Ramcharan and Kalidass. They possessed the characteristics of men from their part of the world. They were faithful to death to their employer; impossible to corrupt, but at the same time extremely wanting in intelligence. While it was out of the question to tempt them to betray Lala or his interests; it might not be impossible to take advantage of their stupidity. But how? That remained for consideration. How many devices I thought of, one after another, only to discard each in turn, Mahadev alone knows. Could I by any means introduce Amir Baksh into Lala’s house, into the room where he had showed me the pearls? No, there was no hope of this. I was, I believe, the only acquaintance of Lala who was allowed the privilege of entering his private quarters. Others who sought an interview with him had to carry on their conversation in a dark little corner of the outer verandah which was enclosed with a wooden palisade to afford such privacy as their business might demand. Then I wondered if I could again induce Lala to show me the pearls, and by force or fraud relieve him of them without extraneous assistance. But I, Ramchandra Parashram, wish to record everything faithfully; and of this I make no secret, that, shrewd and intelligent as I have always been, physically I am a coward. The very thought of a personal conflict with any one, even with old Laichand, is disconcerting to my intellectual faculties. In short, it was clear that I could not act alone, and must consequently call Amir Baksh to my aid. He need never know the value of the pearls; the price of one of them would make him happy. But smart as my friend was with his implements, there were limitations to his intellectual attainments; and he could never work out a scheme for getting into the house and circumventing Ramcharan and Kalidass. No; it was my brain that must evolve the plan; and for a long while my brain refused its office.

At length I thought of a way to obtain my pearls; for I had from the first looked on them as mine. I have mentioned that Amir Baksh owned a bullock-cart; and my inspiration came from that. I have also mentioned that round about Shahpur there were rich gardens; and it was the custom to send to the railway station consignments of fruits and vegetables in wicker-work baskets which were sometimes no less than five feet in length. It would not be impossible for a man, if he did not mind his legs being a bit folded up, to be concealed in one of these baskets; though I have no doubt that his position would not be exactly comfortable. He would at all events have no difficulty in breathing, as the wicker-work was but loosely woven. The baskets of fruit were frequently taken about in bullock-carts; and so the passage of a basket through the town would excite no remark. This then was my idea. I would inform Lala that I had so unusually a large stock of valuables to dispose of, that I must convey them all to his house at once, as too frequent visits might not be prudent. I would myself bring them to his house at night in the bullock-cart of Amir Baksh, packed in a fruit-basket. Lala’s own chowkidars could convey the basket into the room where he had showed me the pearls; and we could value its contents at leisure. I laughed as I thought of my clever scheme, and the certain result; for it was neither fruit nor ornaments that the basket should contain, but my friend Amir Baksh himself. The basket was to be so fastened that the person inside by withdrawing a piece of bamboo could loosen the cover, and easily extricate himself. The basket was to be laid down in a corner of the room; and while I engaged Lala in conversation and kept him from looking at the basket, Amir Baksh would slip quietly behind him, and give him a blow on the head sufficient to stun him, but no more. There would be no noise to alarm his chowkidars. I could then take the keys which Lala always wore at his girdle, and obtain possession of my pearls. Amir Baksh would then give me some slight superficial wounds and throw some blood upon me which he would have with him in a bottle, and then slip out quietly and remove his bullock-cart. After a reasonable interval I would raise an alarm, and have a fine story ready as to how dacoits had entered the house and attacked its owner and myself. If Ramcharan and Kalidass gave any trouble I would throw the suspicion upon them. Amir Baksh was delighted at the idea, and we proceeded to put it into execution.

It was, of course, the rainy season; otherwise I should have been out in camp with the Superintendent of Police. The rains had come in with a burst in June, and they lasted well till the end of July; but early in August a break had commenced, and the cultivators were howling for rain lest their young rice crops should wither. Rainy weather would have suited me best; but I was so fired that I would not defer my expedition on the chance of the weather changing. I finally decided to carry out my plan on the night of Friday, the fifteenth of August. There was a new moon on the twelfth; and at midnight of the fifteenth it would be pitch dark. Meanwhile it occurred to me that it would be a reasonable precaution to have Carruthers Sahib at a safe distance, in case of any unforeseen accident. So I drafted a report to him in the vernacular purporting to come from Yatim Khan, Chief Constable of Tulligaum, a police station in the north of the district, more than seventy miles from Gharibabad. I could imitate Yatim Khan’s handwriting sufficiently well; when the Sahib discovered later on that Yatim Khan was not the author of the report, there would at all events be no proof that it had been sent by me. I dispatched a man to Tulligaum on the thirteenth, bidding him post the letter there on the fourteenth, so that it should reach the Sahib on the morning of the fifteenth. The cover would thus bear the Tulligaum postmark; and all would be in order. The report that I drew up was as follows:

“From Yatim Khan, Chief Constable of Tulligaum, to the honourable Superintendent of Police, Gharibabad, dated this day, August fourteenth, the following report is submitted. A dacoity with murder was committed in the house of Narendranath, sowkar at Ranipur, ten miles from Tulligaum, after midnight last night, that is, in the early hours of this day’s date. Six accused were concerned, of whom four entered complainant’s house, while two stood outside exploding bombs and throwing stones in case of any one coming to oppose them. Narendranath fled on the alarm being raised and concealed himself in an outhouse. The dacoits burst in the door, and beat the women to make them disclose the sowkar’s property; one of them was so seriously injured that she was removed to the hospital at Tulligaum, but unfortunately she died immediately after arrival. The hospital assistant’s report will follow. The dacoits were disguised; but complainant suspects men of the Waghri caste who have had dealings with him. I, Yatim Khan, with all police, am making minute inquiries; and, by the good fortune of the Sahib, hope to arrest the offenders with the stolen property, which is valued at nine hundred rupees. If the Sahib thinks fit to visit the scene he can obtain the bullock-dumny of Ramdass at Tulligaum, but the road is not in repair. Signed Yatim Khan, Chief Constable.”

There, I thought, if that does not free me of Carruthers Sahib I do not know what will. So on the morning of the fifteenth when Carruthers Sahib called me as usual to read out the vernacular post, there was Yatim Khan’s report at the top of the correspondence in the flaming red cover which was always used to denote that the contents referred to a serious crime. As I have said, the Sahib could read the vernacular fairly well; but it would have taken him too long to go through all the reports himself. So I read out the report of the dacoity, while I surreptitiously watched the Sahib’s face. He did not seem a bit flustered or bothered, although, of course, he was obliged to undertake an unpleasant journey; but merely remarked that this was extremely interesting. He asked me some questions about Yatim Khan, and Narendranath; called his servant and quietly told him to make preparations for leaving by the seven o’clock train that evening; and he went on with the usual routine of work as if nothing had happened. He did not shorten the office hours by five minutes, although I was on fire to get away and devote my mind to my final preparations. At last the hours went by; the office was closed, and the Sahib sat down to a hasty dinner. My anxiety then took a new turn; and while before I had been dying to start on my enterprise, I now felt that I could not let the Sahib out of my sight until he was safe on the mail train. So I went to the station ostensibly to pay my respects to him as he took his departure. He was there about ten minutes before the train departed, talking in his usual way to any one whom he happened to come across, and not appearing in the least put out, as some officers would have done, at all the trouble that his journey involved. He even, as a sudden thought seemed to strike him, asked the guard who was passing to keep back the train half a minute while he went up to the engine to have a look at some new-fangled patent brake that the company had just got out from home. At last the train started, and I salaamed respectfully as the Sahib looked out of the window, and reminded me to have a précis of the correspondence about the application of the Criminal Tribes Act to the district ready by the time that he returned. I watched the train as it passed the distance signal, and disappeared out of sight where the line curves into a cutting, not to stop till it reached Tulligaum. I felt an enormous relief at the success of my arrangement. In another way, too, luck was in my favour. The clouds had been piling up since morning; and it now came on to rain in torrents. It promised to be a night on which no one was likely to be out. So I went home in a more easy mind; and waited with the best patience that I could command for the time to go by. Eight, nine, ten, and at last eleven, I heard the hours ring out from the gong at the police guard over the Collector’s cutcherry. Yes, it was now time for me, Ramchandra Parashram, to put my fortune to the test, and free myself once for all from the despicable servitude of the office of head clerk. I was to meet Amir Baksh with his bullock-cart and basket by a heavy mango tope some three hundred paces outside Shahpur, at about quarter of an hour before midnight. All went well. The rain came down mercilessly, and the lane along which I passed was like a quagmire. I was drenched to the skin; but what did that matter when so much was at stake? Not a soul did I meet the whole way; and had I done so they could not have known me. I was too familiar with the topography at night for me to make any mistake as to the route. I found myself in due time under the mango tope, and stumbled right on to the bullock-cart before I perceived it. Here was my trusty Amir Baksh, and the long basket. All was well. There was no need to interchange words. The basket was slung along the cart, and into it Amir Baksh crept, not without difficulty it is true, but still it was managed. I mounted the seat in front, and urged the bullocks on. We had proceeded all right for about a hundred yards or so, not without groanings from Amir Baksh on account of his uncomfortable position, while I conjured him to forbear, telling him that it would soon be over. But now an unfortunate hindrance occurred. I have already written it down that I am a coward. We had gone, I say, some hundred yards, when suddenly in the darkness the cart struck against two men, who had not been able to see us coming. They were very annoyed at being run into; and feeling in the cart with their sticks asked angrily who I was. Terror seized me. I slipped out of the cart from behind and ran back to the mango tope. After a few minutes my senses recovered themselves. What had I to be frightened of? Two stray wayfarers who only wanted to get home, and were not unnaturally aggravated for the moment at their collision with the cart. What a mare’s nest I had raised! I plucked up courage, and returned to the cart. The animals were quiet ones, and had not moved. The men had departed. I said to Amir Baksh, “Is it all right?” He replied with a curse that he was there, but could not endure his position much longer. So once more, in good spirits, I urged on the bullocks, and we soon arrived at the house of Lalchand.

I sprang out of the cart and called quietly to Ramcharan and Kalidass. They were present by the door, which they threw open. Bidding them take out the basket carefully, and warning them that it was very heavy, I walked into Lala’s room followed by his two chowkidars with their burden. The weight was so much more than they had expected that they let it drop with a bang, but to my immense gratification the brave Amir Baksh did not utter a sound. At a sign from Lala his henchmen vanished. Luckily the basket was right side up. I must have looked a sorry sight as I greeted Lala, for I was drenched with rain and covered with mud from head to foot. But what were such trifles at this climax of my life? “Wait a moment,” I said, “before we examine all these valuables; let me collect myself after this terrible journey.” And I seated him beside me on some pillows with our backs to the basket, and endeavoured to engage him in general conversation. Did I hear a slight creaking behind me as if the lid of the basket were being raised? Was Amir Baksh coming now? A feeling almost of compunction for Lala came over me for a moment; but, after all, it was his destiny. Yes, that must be Amir Baksh. Now! Now!

Before I could say Shri Krishna, my hands were tightly grasped behind me, and “You infernal scoundrel!” said the familiar voice of John Carruthers. John Carruthers, who ought to have been seventy miles away at Tulligaum! I flamed with anger at this Sahib, and so lost my presence of mind. After all, however he was there, what had he against me? I lost my opportunity. I should have at once come out with a most convincing and unanswerable story about my having heard that a dacoity was planned upon the money-lender, and how I had come there to prevent it. But I was consumed with indignation at the everlasting interference of this Carruthers with my interests. I shouted to Lala that this was a demon, and yelled to Ramcharan and Kalidass for help. They came rushing in; “Release me,” I cried, “release me, and kill this shaitan!” They were not to know who my assailant was, for he was more or less hastily attired as a Native, and his face was smeared with mud. Ramcharan seized him first and procured my release, and his fellow flung himself into the fray. Carruthers was a powerful man, but he could not withstand the combined assault; and the three fell in a writhing heap on the floor. Lala had swooned at the very beginning. The struggling trio on the floor fought and shouted. The outer door crashed open, and in tumbled a body of police armed with guns and batons. It was difficult for them to make out what was happening, for the Sahib was quite unrecognisable; but they promptly plunged into the struggle. The din and uproar were indescribable. I huddled back in abject terror behind Lala, who had fallen near the curtained door of the room where my pearls reposed. My pearls! Were they, after all, not to be mine? An inspiration seized me. I would have my pearls or perish in the attempt. The room was lighted by a feeble oil lamp that stood in a niche above my head. I turned it out and the place was in a total darkness; and the shouting and struggling and confusion were more awful than ever. Now was my time. I, Ramchandra Parashram, would do the most daring deed ever recorded. I slipped the keys off the waist-belt of the unconscious Lala, secreted myself behind the purdah, and proceeded to open the two locks. It was not an easy task, but I succeeded: I felt my way cautiously into the inner room, counted three paces forward, and there I was at the pillar. I passed my hands round about it several times, but found nothing. At last when I was falling into despair I was conscious of something that was movable; and to my joy the sliding panel gave way. I slipped in my fingers, and at last, my pearls were in my possession. I secreted them in the folds of my puggri, and then proceeded to make my way back, intending to escape from the house under cover of the darkness. I closed the door of the inner room, and standing underneath the purdah turned in succession the two locks. The shouting and hubbub still continued, and all promised well, when on a sudden a bullseye lantern was opened; its light flashed round the room, and disclosed my form displacing the purdah. In an instant I was seized and handcuffed and thrust down beside the prostrate Lala, who was apparently now coming to his senses. Aided by the light, Carruthers Sahib had struggled to his feet, and though evidently somewhat battered and bruised was now able to assert his authority. He seized the bullseye lantern from the man who was carrying it, whom I now perceived to be one Krishna, a troublesome, meddlesome orderly whom he had brought with him from his last district. “Stand back,” he said to the police, “while we see what this is all about.” The order was promptly obeyed; and as the bullseye switched round the room Ramcharan and Kalidass went to the assistance of their master.

“Now, my friend,” said Carruthers Sahib, turning to me, “we can investigate the matter at leisure. In the first place we search you.” In vain I expostulated, implored, and besought; in vain I protested that there was nothing to search me for, and pleaded that I should not be subjected to such an intolerable indignity; but it was all to no purpose. The Sahib leisurely lit a long cheroot while the wretch Krishna, and another constable named Gungaram, searched me from head to foot, and Krishna flourished my pearls in the Sahib’s face.

What more can I say? How can I reproduce my misery and despair? I was taken away and hurled into the lock-up; I was tried by the magistrate and committed to the sessions, and it seemed that half the sections of the Indian Penal Code were proved against me. Lala deposed how he had shown me the pearls on the occasion of one of my former visits, though he was careful to avoid saying what the object of my visits had been, and I saw no occasion to extract the information from him in cross-examination. Amir Baksh, the faithless, went and told an interminable story of all kinds of transactions between him and myself, pointing out how I had tempted him to a return to evil ways from the career of unsullied innocence which he for long pursued. “Five years rigorous imprisonment,” was the refrain that was buzzing in my ears as I left that hateful court. And five years rigorous imprisonment I shall have completed tomorrow. I shall be a free man again; free to beg my bread and be the mark of scorn. For two years in jail I was forced to grind corn. I was then made to weave carpets, and the last year I have had the privilege of serving in the jail office, and assisting the clerks in the preparation of their day-books and returns. It was thus that I have had the opportunity of setting down this account of all that happened.

But stay, it is not all recorded yet. This riddle was ever calling for solution in my mind. How had John Carruthers appeared in the basket instead of the cur Amir Baksh? None of the police on guard over me would ever vouchsafe the smallest information. I could form no guess whatever. At last one day Carruthers Sahib came round the jail, and watched me weaving carpets, and I besought him to grant me a favour.

“A favour to you!” he said coldly; “what favour can you expect?”

“I deserve no favour,” I replied, “but it would put my mind at ease if I knew how the Huzoor was in the basket when he should have been at Tulligaum.”

The Sahib paced up and down for a few moments, when he stayed still in front of me, and said:

“Well, there is no particular harm in your knowing. Perhaps the knowledge may prevent you or others from thinking that the path of wrong-doing is a simple one. My suspicions had been upon you for a long time; but I preferred to allow you a good deal of rope instead of taking any premature action. But when that report purporting to be from Yatim Khan reached me I perceived that there was something seriously wrong. Instead of bearing the postmark of Tulligaum, it bore that of Gharibabad.”

“Gharibabad!” I ejaculated, “why, I sent it to be posted at Tulligaum.”

“So I gathered,” said Carruthers Sahib; “but your little plan did not come off. Presumably your messenger found it more convenient to post it at Gharibabad, and spare himself the journey. Also on the morning of the same day I received a private letter from Yatim Khan in which he said that all was quiet in his taluka. There was obviously a scheme to decoy me away; and I made a very good guess that it was you who had initiated it. Do not suppose that your comings and goings to Shahpur had not been observed, though I did not know exactly what they were all about. Well, you saw me off by the mail train; but you did not know that I had arranged with the driver that he should stop the train a mile out of the station and let me down. I had no time to ascertain your plans; but I felt sure that they were connected with Shahpur. So I with Krishna and others went there, but not by the direct route. We entered the village from the opposite side to that which you used to patronise, passed through it, and waited two and two at intervals outside pending your arrival. I had enjoined the strictest silence upon all. It chanced that two men whom I was with ran into your bullocks. Your opportune flight enabled us to examine the cart. Your friend had some rags forced down his throat and was left by the roadside to cool himself in the rain after his imprisonment in the basket. I took off my coat, pulled on his upper garments over my lower ones, smeared my face with mud, took his place in the basket, and awaited developments. The whole thing did not take a couple of minutes. My only fear was that the driver of the cart might not return; but knowing you, and believing the driver to be you, and seeing that something of importance was on, I anticipated that when you believed the course to be clear you would carry out your scheme in spite of the temporary interruption. Is there any further information with which I can oblige you?”

I, Ramchandra Parashram, formerly head clerk, admitted that there was none. And to-morrow I shall be free, free to beg my bread in this world. And for the next? Have not I, a twice-born Brahmin, eaten in the jail food cooked by the hands of Sudras and Mahometans? What need to say more?

The End