E-text prepared by Al Haines
The name "Lena" appears several times in this book. In the original book, the "e" in "Lena" was e-macron.
THE PATH TO HONOUR
SYDNEY C. GRIER
Author of 'The Power of the Keys,' 'A Young Man Married,' Etc., Etc.
William Blackwood and Sons Edinburgh and London 1909
* * * * * *
NOVELS by SYDNEY C. GRIER
Modern East Series.
The Advanced Guard His Excellency's English Governess Peace with Honour The Warden of the Marches
An Uncrowned King A Crowned Queen The Kings of the East The Prince of Captivity
Indian Historical Series.
In Furthest Ind Like Another Helen The Great Proconsul
Balkan Series. II.
The Heir The Heritage
The Power of the Keys
A Young Man Married
Edited by Sydney C. Grier
The Letters of Warren Hastings to his Wife.
* * * * * *
I. "IF IT BE A SIN TO COVET HONOUR——" II. HER SIDE OF THE CASE III. THE OLD ORDER AND THE NEW IV. "A-HUNTING WE WILL GO" V. GERRARD FINDS FAVOUR VI. THE CROWNING PROOF VII. ON GUARD VIII. THE SUPERFLUOUS CHARTERIS IX. IN SLIPPERY PLACES X. THE DOOR IS SHUT XI. MURDER MOST FOUL XII. THE ONE WHO WAS TAKEN XIII. THE ONE WHO WAS LEFT XIV. THE IDEAL AND THE REAL XV. MUTTERINGS OF THE STORM XVI. THE MILD CONCERNS OF ORDINARY LIFE XVII. THE ISSUES OF AN AWFUL MOMENT XVIII. THE CAMPAIGN OF VENGEANCE XIX. AS OTHERS SEE US XX. A DAY OF VICTORY XXI. FAINT HEART AND FAIR LADY XXII. THE TRIUMPH OF THE DEAD XXIII. RUN TO EARTH XXIV. HONOUR AND HONOURS
THE PATH TO HONOUR.
"IF IT BE A SIN TO COVET HONOUR——"
The time was towards the close of the 'forties of the nineteenth century, and the place the city of Ranjitgarh, capital of the great native state of Granthistan, which was not yet a British possession, but well on the way to becoming one. This ultimate destiny was entirely undesired by the powers that were, who had just appointed Colonel Edmund Antony—a fanatical upholder of native rights, according to his enemies—as British Resident and protector of the infant prince occupying the uneasy throne. The task of regenerating Granthi society from the top, much against its will, and welding its discordant elements into a peaceful, prosperous, and contented buffer state (the thing was known, though not as yet the name) against encroaching Ethiopia on the north, promised to be no easy one, but Colonel Antony was undertaking it confidently, with the support of two or three of his brothers and a picked band of assistants drawn from the army and Civil Service. That moral suasion might be duly backed up by physical force, ten thousand British and Indian troops, under the command of a Peninsular veteran, General Sir Arthur Cinnamond, were garrisoning the citadel of Ranjitgarh and holding the lines of Tej Singh in the suburbs. The city thus overawed Colonel Antony was wont to call the wickedest place in Asia, in blissful ignorance of the sins not only of distant Gamara, but of towns much nearer home. Its streets were filled with a swaggering disbanded soldiery that had faced the might of England and the Company in four pitched battles during the last decade, shameless women peered from its every lattice, and its defence of religion took the form of frequent bloodthirsty "cow rows," but he saw in its wickedness no insuperable bar to the success of his policy. In twelve years or so the British would retire, leaving a reformed nation to govern itself. Meanwhile, in order to emphasise the transient nature of the occupation, a Mohammedan tomb served as the English church, and a single house of moderate size was made to accommodate the Resident and all his assistants, becoming the scene of as much hard work and high endeavour as might have sufficed to redeem an empire.
On an inner courtyard of the Residency there looked out a number of small rooms, each of which was shared by two young men, who had much ado to bestow themselves and their possessions in the limited space and the section of verandah that appertained to it. One room was much like another, with its camp-beds and table, and its miscellaneous assortment of camel-trunks and tin cases piled up at the back or serving as seats; and each verandah was graced by two long chairs, usually to be found in sociable proximity, with a view to the better enjoyment of the occupants' brief periods of leisure. On one particular verandah, however, the chairs were placed as far apart as space would permit, and turned away from each other, so that Lieutenant Robert Charteris and Lieutenant Henry Gerrard, of the Bengal Fusiliers and the Company's Engineers respectively, might each delude himself into the thought that he was alone in his glory. This arrangement was of the newest, but it was already causing keen delight in the circles which had known the two young men as inseparable friends. Born no farther apart than the Rectory and Hall of a country village, they had learnt together under Gerrard's father, the Rector, entered Addiscombe together, and passed out at the same time, Gerrard with an array of medals which secured him one of the coveted commissions in the Engineers, and Charteris, undistinguished save by proficiency in games and universal popularity, slipping contentedly into the Infantry. Appointed to the same station, they had seen a certain amount of active service in company, and continuing to gain the good opinion of those in high places, Gerrard as a promising scientific soldier and Charteris as a born leader of men, had both enjoyed the distinction of being selected by Colonel Antony as his assistants at Ranjitgarh. But here discord stepped between them in the fair form of Miss Honour Cinnamond, the youngest daughter of the General commanding the Division, and after edifying the station for some time by their ardent rivalry, Charteris and Gerrard were no longer on speaking terms. The station regarded it as an excellent joke, but to Colonel Antony, who took life seriously, it was a scandal and a sin, to be ended at once and peremptorily. Knowing his man, he had on this particular day announced his ultimatum to Gerrard.
"When is this foolishness going to end?" he asked impatiently, after the two young men had passed each other in his presence without a sign of recognition—"this breach between you and Charteris, I mean?"
"I don't know, sir. Perhaps when we get to our districts——"
"I would advise you not to reckon upon that. I am thinking strongly of sending Charteris back to his regiment."
"But the disgrace, sir!" Gerrard was thunder-struck. "You said yourself that he was so well fitted for this work. It suits him too, and no mistake."
Colonel Antony frowned at the slang. "Is it possible that you perceive any good in him?" he asked coldly.
"Why, sir,"—Gerrard was too much perturbed in mind to attempt to answer the question,—"he could never go back contentedly to ordinary subaltern's work after this. He will do something desperate—perhaps even get transferred to the Bombay side, and volunteer for Khemistan."
He spoke with bated breath, for to the Antony brothers and all their circle the neighbouring province of Khemistan was a region of outer darkness, ruled by two fallen angels bearing the names of General Sir Henry Lennox and Major St George Keeling. It was a point of honour to assist their labours by harrying them with a constant dropping fire of minutes and remonstrances, with an occasional round-shot in the shape of interference on the part of the Supreme Government, deftly engineered from Ranjitgarh. And the pity of it was that the men thus thwarted with the purest possible motives were carrying on a similar work, and in the same spirit, as their opponents, but—and here came the line of cleavage—on different methods. Colonel Antony's grave dark face was immovable.
"It is for you to save him if you choose, Gerrard. What! do you think that I will allow the work here—the regeneration of the Granthi state—to be endangered by petty, miserable squabbles between my assistants? I have seen too much of support withheld at critical moments because one man had a grudge against another. Here we are all brothers. If Charteris intends to keep up this enmity, he must go."
"But if he is to blame, sir, so am I," confessed Gerrard reluctantly.
"I am glad to hear you say so. There can be no difficulty, then, in your admitting as much to him. I own I had thought that since you were more likely to be soon in a position to marry, he was probably the trespasser on your ground. The young lady favours him, then?"
"No, sir, neither of us." Gerrard spoke bitterly, but Colonel Antony brought his fist down upon the table with a resounding thud.
"What! you stand on the same footing, neither has cause for jealousy of the other, and yet this miserable alienation continues? You are indeed to blame, Gerrard. Go and ask your comrade's pardon, appeal to the memories of your youth and his, engage with him to bear this common disappointment as gentlemen, as Christians! No man living has more cause to be grateful for the blessing of a good wife than I, but I trust I should have been granted sufficient resolution to live solitary for ever had I perceived that my happiness was likely to mean a brother's misery, and imperil the hopes of a nation. You are not called even to make such a renunciation, since the matter is taken out of your hands—merely to acquiesce in a decision not your own."
"But if I am to blame, sir, so must Charteris be," protested Gerrard, feeling, as the Resident's associates not infrequently did, that Colonel Antony's standard was too high for this wicked world.
"That is quite possible. He believes that you have injured him?"
"I suppose so, sir."
"And he is conscious that he has injured you?"
"I can't say, sir. How should I know?"
"Then your duty is clear. Whether his conscience is awakened or not is uncertain, but you feel that you have, though unwittingly, done him an injury. Go and repair it, leaving him to find out his part in the matter for himself."
It was this conversation that Gerrard was uncomfortably turning over in his mind on the verandah. The natural man in him rebelled, very naturally, against humbling himself to Charteris, who was at least as much to blame as he was, and had made his resentment offensively evident. But it was Charteris who would suffer if a reconciliation was not effected in some way. The argument was conclusive, as Colonel Antony had foreseen it would be. Gerrard looked round the corner of his chair, and rather sheepishly said, "Bob!"
There was no answer from Charteris, but his legs, the only part of him that was visible, seemed to take on an air of indignant protest. Gerrard tried again. "Bob, look here! I want to tell you something."
This time Charteris sat up, exhibiting an angry countenance and a rough head. "Don't want to hear it," he growled. "Hang it! can't a man be left in peace in his own quarters?"
"No, but—I say, Bob," repeated Gerrard, feverishly anxious to anticipate the impending move, "the Colonel has been speaking to me—pitched it uncommon strong, he did. Do wait and hear what I have to say! Why should we go on making asses of ourselves over a girl who hasn't a civil word for either of us?"
"What?" cried Charteris, pausing on the edge of the verandah. "She's given you a pucka jawab too?"
"Last night," said Gerrard laconically. Charteris came a step nearer.
"Will you kindly tell me," he said, addressing creation generally, "exactly what that girl wants? Hal, I could have sworn it was you when she refused me."
"And until she refused me, I could have sworn it was you. Pretty clear she don't want either of us, ain't it? In fact, I may as well tell you, as she doesn't seem to have done it, that she said she had no intention of marrying at all."
"Fudge!" cried Charteris, quite in the vein of the immortal Mr Burchell. "Then she's here on false pretences. What does a spin. come out for but to get a husband? No, you mark my words, my boy; she's waiting for a bachelor Governor-General!"
Gerrard opened his lips to protest, but not feeling called upon to repeat the whole of his conversation with Miss Cinnamond, closed them again. "Anyhow," he said at last, rather awkwardly, "as we're in the same boat, don't you think we might come to an agreement of some sort, and do people out of a little of the fun they're having over us? 'Our Mr James' told the Colonel to-day that we wanted our heads knocking together."
"James Antony is a coarse brute, and I should uncommonly like to see him try it!" said Charteris, with concentrated fury. Then he came and stood over Gerrard, and looked at him curiously. "Were you going to suggest that we should come to an agreement to give up all thoughts of her?" he asked with extreme calmness.
"No, not for a moment."
"I'm glad to hear that, because I shouldn't think of doing it. I mean to go on asking her, over and over again, until she accepts me."
"And so do I," cried Gerrard, starting up, stung out of his usual quietness of manner. They glared at each other angrily for a moment, then Charteris laughed rather unsteadily.
"Basis for an agreement is rather wanting, ain't it? I regard you as a person of ordinary sanity, so I don't imagine you were going to propose either that I should nobly resign her in your favour, or you in mine. Then what on earth is there left to do?"
"We have to think of her as well as ourselves," said Gerrard, trying to steady his voice. "She may not marry at all, as she said"—Charteris snorted—"or she may marry some one else, neither of us. And I am sure we should both rather see her married to some one else, and happy, than marry her ourselves and know that she wasn't happy."
The construction of the sentence was involved, but its meaning was clear. Charteris flung up his head contemptuously. "You're wrong there," he said. "Speak for yourself. I want to see her married to me, and I'd undertake to make her happy. I shall be an uncommon good husband, I can tell you. What are you laughing at, pray?"
"I'm not laughing—at least, not exactly," gasped Gerrard, restraining himself with difficulty. "Forgive me, old fellow. It was the picture of you saying to the future Mrs Charteris, 'Be happy, or I'll know the reason why,' that overcame me."
Charteris looked deeply offended, but after a moment joined in the laugh. "Of course I know I can't put it pretty, as you could," he admitted grudgingly. "But I mean to marry her, and make her happy too."
"And so do I," said Gerrard again. "But it's quite clear she can't marry both of us, and mayn't marry either of us, ain't it? Well, what I say is, let us carry the affair through decently, so that the best man may win, if either of us wins at all. That appeals to you, doesn't it?"
"Not a bit," said Charteris promptly. "You are the best man."
"Oh, don't be an ass. What do medals for mathematics matter here? You are bigger than I am, and heaps better to look at. In fact, my dear Bob, I might even say of you that you were the least little bit showy." Gerrard was falling back insensibly into the old chaffing tone, but a look on his friend's face warned him that the time was not yet quite ripe for this, and he went on hastily. "At any rate, each of us has advantages on his side, we'll say. Then let us fight fair. You weren't thinking of proposing again every time you see her? In that case, it would soon be darwaza band when you called, I'm afraid. Let us agree not to make any move, either of us, for a year—or six months, if you insist upon it," as he read protest in Charteris's eye, "and then draw lots which shall speak first. If she accepts that one, the matter is settled—it's the fortune of war; if not, then the other has his turn. If she refuses both, then ditto ditto at the end of another six months."
Charteris, leaning against a pillar of the verandah, looked down at him and laughed. "If I didn't know you for a cunning old weasel, I should put you down as jolly green, Hal. Suppose she should meanwhile intimate, in the most unimaginably proper and delicate way, a preference for either of us?"
"For the present one or the absent one?" asked Gerrard drily. "Well, in either case, I think the present one ought to let the absent one know, before taking any action. But don't look so blue. You forget that we shall both be in our districts, at a safe distance from Ranjitgarh, for six months at least."
"And in the meantime she may marry some one else."
"Then we shan't have lost our friendship as well as her."
Charteris clapped him on the shoulder with a laugh. "I believe you, my boy! You don't know what a bore it has been this last fortnight, remembering what was between us whenever I wanted to tell you anything. Done with you, then, subject to necessary modifications to be agreed upon from time to time by mutual consent, and to the approval of the lady."
"But you wouldn't tell her?" cried Gerrard, aghast.
"Wouldn't I, just? Why, how is she to keep our joint memory green against the assaults of eligible subcommissioners and fat Commissariat colonels, unless she has this to remember us by? Hang suffering in silence! Let her know what fine fellows she has got waiting on her nod."
"Well, you can tell her," unwillingly.
"Not I. Be carried away into proposing again, and lose my turn? no, thank you. We will tell her together, my young friend, and keep a jolly keen eye on each other the whole time. And we'll do it at the ball. Come, this is something like life!"
"But she may not choose to grant us an opportunity."
Charteris winked in the most vulgar manner. "What'll you take on it? Do you think she don't know she has set you and me by the ears? If not, old Mother Jardine will soon enlighten her. And then—oh, my revered Hal, can you doubt what her first move will be? To reconcile us, my boy, as if we were two dirty little snivelling urchins in her village school at home! Will she make us shake hands? Oh, ain't it glorious!"
He dropped into his chair, helpless with laughter, while Gerrard surveyed him with distaste. It was some consolation to feel that Bob could not possibly be properly in love, if he could thus contemplate the likelihood of the object of his affections making herself ridiculous. But as if he had read his friend's thoughts, Charteris sat up suddenly, and spoke with perfect gravity.
"Mind you, Hal, all this don't signify that I forgive you in the least for coming between her and me. I'm willing to call a truce because falling out is horrid inconvenient, and looks silly. But your intrusive existence has turned love's young dream into a farce, and this suggestion of yours can only make things worse. I never bargained for being a sort of Siamese twin, but that's how it comes out. The unfortunate girl will never be able to think of one of us without the other. If she is dwelling affectionately on your modest merit, what you call, I believe, my swaggering dare-devilry will force itself into her mind, and if any of my encounters with tigers or dacoits should reach her ears, they will only recall your powers of discussing theology or reeling off poetry by the yard. Make no mistake. You intrude, sir; and I resent it."
"And words can't express the depth of my resentment that you should have poked your nose into my affairs," returned Gerrard heartily.
 Definite refusal.
 Not at home, lit. the door is shut.
HER SIDE OF THE CASE.
"I feared so much that you might consider me intrusive," said Mrs Jardine.
"On the contrary, I consider you most kind," replied Lady Cinnamond. She sat very erect, a beautiful woman still, with her dark eyes and white hair. Mrs Jardine was not an imaginative person, but the outlines of the Cinnamonds' family history had reached her, and her thoughts wandered involuntarily to the storming of Badajoz and the beautiful Spanish girl who had sought refuge in the British camp, and she found excuse for that infatuation on Sir Arthur Cinnamond's part which she had denounced bitterly when she first heard that "the new General's" wife was a foreigner. Not that she felt as yet quite at her ease with Lady Cinnamond. There was something that seemed to baffle her, a kind of regal willingness to hear all she had to say with courtesy, but with no promise to follow her advice.
"You see, dear Lady Cinnamond," she went on, "how I am placed. As the chaplain's wife one has a real duty—one can't doubt it, can one?—to promote peace, and one is so sorry to see what dear Colonel Antony calls his noble band of brothers disturbed by strife. And you being—may I say it?—a stranger here, and your sweet girl so young——"
"I have other daughters, and they have not been entirely without lovers." There was a slight quiver of amusement about the lips of the General's wife.
"Oh, dear Lady Cinnamond, how could you imagine that I would suggest such a thing? We all know how well you have married your girls, down to dear Mrs Cowper herself. And of course, if you are satisfied, I have nothing more to say. Only it seemed that as a true friend, if I may say so——"
"Indeed I should be very grieved if you might not. But perhaps I ought to tell you that Sir Arthur and I have a great idea of leaving young people to settle their own affairs as much as possible. It has always answered well hitherto, but Honour is, as you say, very young, and she has been brought up differently from the rest——"
"Yes?" said Mrs Jardine, with such breathless interest that her hostess had not the heart to baulk her curiosity.
"We were living at Boulogne before my husband was sent to the Cape," she said, choosing her words with care—"for the advantages of education, of course, and—well, dear Mrs Jardine, you know what half-pay means as well as I do, and I need not apologize, need I? Two elderly cousins of Sir Arthur's happened to pass through, and we were able to offer them hospitality when the packet was prevented crossing by a storm. They took the greatest fancy to little Honour, and wished to adopt her, but we refused. Then came the Cape appointment—to the Eastern Province, where the climate is so dangerous to young children born elsewhere, and they renewed their offer. And we consented to let them have Honour until she was seventeen. They were most kind to her, I am sure."
"Yes?" breathed Mrs Jardine softly again.
"Really, there is little more to say. Naturally your child becomes something of a stranger when you do not see her for fifteen years. But pray don't imagine that I blame the Miss Cinnamonds. Honour has been well educated, and taught to be a companion to her elders—rather too much so, perhaps. She has visited the poor, and taught a class in the village school, and practised all the good works which Sir Arthur says are new in England since his day, and I believe her aunts hoped to see her married to the curate. But unfortunately he went over to Rome."
"How truly terrible!" cried Mrs Jardine, then stopped in pitiable confusion, remembering that the lady before her had been almost certainly born and bred a Roman Catholic, though she now attended the tomb-church Sunday by Sunday with Sir Arthur, and betrayed far less impatience than he did when Mr Jardine's discourses exceeded the regulation length.
"It might have been much worse," said Lady Cinnamond innocently. "I cannot discover that Honour's heart was at all touched. But as you may imagine, her aunts were much distressed, and it was almost a relief to them to send her out to us as soon as an escort could be found."
"Yes?" said Mrs Jardine for the third time, but as it was evident no further information was forthcoming, she covered her disappointment with a little gush of friendly interest. "And do tell me, dear Lady Cinnamond, what is the dear girl's real name? As I said to Mr Jardine only two days ago, 'You may take my word for it, Samuel, Miss Cinnamond was baptized Honora or Honoria. Honour is merely a sweet little family name.'"
"I suppose it may sound foolish to strangers," said Lady Cinnamond, with a calmness that suggested she did not care whether it did or not. "It was a kind of joke of Sir Arthur's. I was playing with her one day when she was a baby, and calling her in Spanish the dearest thing in the world, and he pounced on me at once. 'I thought honour was the dearest thing in the world?' he said—I had told him so long before—and after that he would not hear of calling the baby anything but Honour."
She paused—with a definiteness which suggested that Mrs Jardine's call had lasted long enough, but the visitor was by this time aware that she had been guided dexterously away from her main object, and was determined to repair the omission.
"Then you are satisfied that nothing dreadful will occur at the ball to-night, dear Lady Cinnamond?" she asked anxiously. "Young men are so uncontrolled nowadays, you know, and Mr Charteris, I believe, is extremely passionate. I have heard that he makes use of the most frightful language to his servants——"
The slightest possible gesture from the great lady stopped her.
"I have no fear whatever that either my daughter or any gentleman who may be among the guests will transgress the laws of propriety," said Lady Cinnamond icily.
"Oh, I am so glad you think all will be well. I may tell my husband so? He was so troubled about it, and I ventured to take the liberty of calling upon you, just that I might relieve his mind. You must know best, of course."
"But what course were you intending to propose?" asked the hostess, with natural curiosity.
Mrs Jardine looked, as she felt, confused. "Oh, well," she murmured, "if Miss Cinnamond had remained away this evening——?"
"But would not that have been a little marked? I think we have all been making too much of a rather foolish affair, Mrs Jardine. After all, now that Honour has refused both of the young men, there is no reason——"
"Refused them both?" cried the visitor incredulously.
"Of course. I thought you would have been sure to know," said Lady Cinnamond sweetly. She rose as she spoke, and Mrs Jardine found it well to take her leave. Her hostess watched her depart, with a rather worried little smile, and then passed along the verandah to the dressing-room where her two daughters were arranging their dresses for the evening. Marian, the elder, had married her father's aide-de-camp soon after the move to Ranjitgarh, and the return from the honeymoon was the occasion for the ball to be given by the army in their honour. Vivid scarlet geraniums were to loop up Mrs Cowper's pale amber draperies, blush-roses to nestle in the airy folds of Honour's white tarlatan, and the bride claimed her mother's attention at once.
"Dear Mamma, I want your opinion. You have such excellent taste. Where ought this spray to go? Honour says here, and I say here," illustrating each position with the aid of a pin.
"Here," said Lady Cinnamond without hesitation, indicating a third place, and both girls cried out in admiration. That was just right. They knew it went awkwardly before, but they could not quite see where it should be. Their mother threw herself into their occupation, altering a fold here and pulling out a puff there, apparently engrossed in what she was doing, but conscious, through all Marian's light-hearted chatter, of the shade on Honour's brow. Her heart ached to see it, but she would not force the girl's confidence. There was not between her and her youngest-born the sympathy which had made those other handsome, capable daughters, whose married homes were landmarks of the wanderings of Sir Arthur and his wife, regard their mother almost in the light of an elder sister—only fifteen years older, indeed, than Charlotte, the eldest—and bring their joys and sorrows naturally to her. Honour was disappointed in her parents, her mother felt; it might almost be said that she disapproved of them, and though the feeling was not new to Lady Cinnamond in her own case, since she was obliged in every new station to live down the disadvantage of being a foreigner, it raised in her a tumult of indignation that any one, and most of all his own daughter, should presume to disapprove of Sir Arthur. But Honour was very young, and even if time did not soften her views, closer acquaintance must.
"Come to my room when you are dressed, Honour, and I will lend you my pearl necklace," said Lady Cinnamond, laying her hand on the girl's shoulder. Honour's response was drowned in the noise of horse-hoofs and clanking that announced an arrival in front of the bungalow.
"Dear Papa and Charles returned already!" cried Mrs Cowper, peering through the Venetians. "Fly, Mamma! Charley, Charley, come and see whether you approve of my gown!"
Lady Cinnamond fled, in answer to the sonorous shout of "Rosa! Rosita! Sita!" which pealed through the house, and Captain Cowper entered from the verandah.
"Stunning!" he breathed fervently. "Horrid shame to waste it all on a handful of politicals up in No Man's Land instead of exhibiting it at Government House. You wear this fallal on your head, I suppose?"
"Oh, Charley, you careless fellow!" Mrs Cowper rescued the broad strip of lace with indignation. "My beautiful berthe! It goes on the bodice—so, don't you know? On my head, indeed!"
"But it would look ravishing wherever you wore it," averred her husband, dodging the geranium-spray she threw at him, and there followed a brisk engagement with the flowers left in the box, to which Honour listened with some secret contempt but considerable interest, as she sewed on her roses where her mother had pinned them. Honour was learning lessons which ran counter to every maxim that had influenced her hitherto, and baffled all her efforts to reconstruct her vanished world. Those were the days when phrenology was considered an indispensable aid to instructors of youth, and a professor of the science had duly felt Honour's bumps, and recorded, for the guidance of her cousins, his mature opinion that, "though this young lady will not find it easy to apply herself to fresh subjects of study, yet she will never lose what she has once mastered." But in this case the mastering was the difficulty. To her, life had hitherto meant a round of recurring duties, to be performed conscientiously as they came, and love a blinding illumination revealing to a humble worshipper the form of a hero and a saint, but ending preferably in renunciation—if voluntary and wholly unnecessary so much the nobler and better. To think of love in connection with an ordinary, average man was something very like sacrilege, and poor Honour fairly shuddered when Mrs Jardine, who bore her a grudge for unsettling Mr Jardine's mind with the new views she had brought from home, broke to her the horrible fact that she had made two ordinary young men fall in love with her. It was of a piece with the disturbing discovery that whereas she had come out, as she understood, to soothe the declining years of her aged parents, those parents, though grey-haired, were disconcertingly hale and hearty, and asked only that she would be happy and make herself agreeable—two tasks of which Honour found the first impossible, and the second extremely difficult.
Her daughters took a very secondary place in Lady Cinnamond's mind when her husband was in question, and it was seldom that Sir Arthur had to complain of his wife's not being present to receive him when he returned from his duties. She ran into his snuggery now like a girl, and broke into the liquid Spanish which formed such an effective defence against the ears of aides-de-camp or English-speaking servants.
"You are tired, my Arturo. The sitting has been very long. Were the Durbar open to reason?"
"My dearest, they have no thought but to procrastinate and obstruct business, and our excellent Colonel indulges them far too tenderly. Every form of ceremony must be observed, and all the long-drawn compliments duly inserted, until a whole morning is wasted over one small matter."
"And my poor Arturo must sit and listen to it?"
"For his sins he must." Sir Arthur smiled whimsically at his wife. "Judge for yourself how contentedly he did it to-day, my sweet one. The Durbar knew that the home mail had come in, and scented a glorious opportunity. Every man had to be satisfied of the health of her Majesty, Prince Albert, all the little princes and princesses, the Duke of Wellington, and the Chairman of the Court of Directors. When the memory or ingenuity of one failed, his neighbour took up the tale. Then some genius remembered a precious piece of gup, and asked with all solemnity whether it was true that a new Governor-General had been appointed, which led to a canvass of the merits of all possible candidates. There sits poor Antony with agony in his eyes, seeing his time wasted to no purpose, and all the business left undone, while he can't bring himself to check the Sirdars in their loquacity. I saw James Antony fuming behind him. Rose of my heart, your Arthur will be indiscreet enough to confide to you a profound secret. If the Resident goes up to the hills, and his brother takes his place, the Sirdars will be taught the meaning of despatch."
"So much the better for the conduct of business, then. But they will not love him as they do the Colonel."
Sir Arthur laughed. "I fancy James can dispense with their affection if he secures their obedience. The Colonel desired his compliments to you, my love, and begged that you would not consider his absence this evening in any way a slight, since his principles demand it of him. The furbelows all ready, eh?"
"Nearly. But, Arturo, I have been entertaining Mrs Jardine the greater part of the morning."
"Some nice new piece of scandal, eh? What was the 'real duty' that brought her out in the heat?"
"An earnest desire to promote peace. She thought it might be better if Honour did not appear to-night. No, my Arturo,"—as Sir Arthur moved explosively,—"it was a warning given out of pure kindness to me, a foreigner. I told her what had happened, and she went away, I trust, satisfied. She thought me cold, I fear, for I restrained both voice and words."
"Better, much better. But that a woman of that kind should have it in her power to—— That Honour should contrive to get herself talked about!"
"She is so young, Arturo; she did not understand. And it was not all her fault."
"Which means that it was her father's. Well, but how was I to know that a daughter of yours and mine would turn out a fool? When she overwhelms me with a cool proposal to set up schools and I don't know what for the European women and children, what could I do but tell her it was the chaplain's business? You won't say that I ought to have encouraged her? Think of all the unpleasantness it would have caused in the regiments! And surely it was only natural to turn aside the matter by pointing out a sphere where her efforts would be more acceptable? Why, if I had said such a thing to Charlotte, or Eliza, or Marian, they would have blushed prettily and said, 'Oh, Papa!' and Marian might have giggled, but would any of them ever have thought of actually carrying it out?"
For this was the unfortunate result of Sir Arthur's ill-timed jocularity in advising his daughter to turn her enthusiasm for humanity to account in reforming some of Colonel Antony's assistants, instancing Gerrard and Charteris as standing in special need of her services. Young ladies were scarce, Honour was handsome and had inherited a touch of her mother's dignity, and when she unbent and displayed a flattering interest in the moral and spiritual welfare of each young man, the mischief was done.
"And then, to improve matters, she refuses both of them!" went on Sir Arthur despairingly. "What does she want? No one seems to please her."
"If we were in Spain, it would be very simple," mused Lady Cinnamond. "She would go into religion."
Sir Arthur bristled up at once. "What, ma'am! a convent for my daughter? I'd have you remember——"
His wife laughed, and patted his hand. "Calm yourself, my Arturo. No well-regulated convent would keep a daughter of yours within its walls for a day, nor would she care to stay there. Even Honour's romance would not survive the actual experience. But since we are not in Spain, we cannot hope to cure her fancies so quickly. Still——"
"Aye, romance—all romance!" growled Sir Arthur. "For your sake and mine, my dear, I trust it may wear off soon, but I doubt it. What hope is there of a girl who wears King Charles the First's hair in a locket?"
Sir Arthur's pessimism did not keep him from paying Honour a fatherly compliment on her appearance that evening—a compliment accompanied, however, as the jam by the powder, with the reminder that she might be thankful if she ever arrived within measurable distance of her mother in looks. Lady Cinnamond, in pink satin, with a black lace shawl depending from a high jewelled comb at the back of her head in a manner reminiscent of the mantilla of her youth, laughed at the assurance, and hurried her party out to the elephant which was in waiting. The bridal pair were inclined to be pensive, privately lamenting the waste of a whole evening in public which might have been spent in a sweet solitude a deux on the verandah. Ostensibly out of consideration for the ladies' dresses, Captain Cowper had suggested that he and his wife should follow on a second elephant, but this was vetoed by his father-in-law, who declared that they would, in pure absence of mind, go for a moonlight ride through the city, and never arrive at the ball. Thus, with jests and counter-jests, they reached the great shamiana, erected for the occasion, and were swallowed up in an overwhelming flood of scarlet and dark blue uniforms. When Honour took off her wrap, her mother observed with vexation that they had both forgotten the pearl necklace, but it did not occur to her that the girl's absence of mind was due to the fact that she was nerving herself to a desperate deed.
With the laudable idea of discouraging gossip by behaving as if nothing unpleasant had happened, Gerrard secured a dance, and sheer pity for his embarrassed partner impelled him to make conversation while they waited for the music to begin. Colonel Antony disapproved of dancing, especially in India, on account of the effect on the natives, but his brother James had just passed them, with Marian Cowper, a radiant vision, on his arm, and Gerrard ventured a remark on the contrast between the stern-featured civilian and his partner. Receiving nothing but an almost inaudible murmur of assent, he observed how well and happy Mrs Cowper was looking.
"Oh yes. Of course, she likes India." The sigh which accompanied the words told more than Honour had intended, and she went on hastily. "She has a sort of natural connection with it, you know, for Mrs Hastings was her godmother."
"Mrs Hastings? Not——?"
"Yes, the widow of Warren Hastings. Doesn't it carry one back into history?" Honour had forgotten her embarrassment, for things of this kind had a way of making links between Gerrard and herself.
"I should have thought it was impossible."
"Oh, she only died about ten years ago—yes, the year the Queen came to the throne. So I am not making poor Marian out to be terribly old."
The minds of both were wandering back to Westminster Hall filled with serried rows of faces, with all eyes turned upon a small pale man in the midst, when they were suddenly recalled to the present by the indignant approach of Bob Charteris.
"Pardon me—my dance, I think?" he said, glaring at Gerrard.
"No, excuse me—my dance," returned Gerrard, maintaining his position, and suspecting his friend unjustly of having supped early and too well.
"I really must appeal to Miss Cinnamond," said Charteris, with barely veiled hostility. "You promised me this dance, didn't you?"
"I was under the impression that Miss Cinnamond had promised it to me," said Gerrard, more sternly than he realised.
"Oh, please," stammered Honour, not at all in the dignified way in which the beautiful and stately ladies of her favourite German stories were wont to intervene between knights contending for their favours—"I am afraid I have behaved very badly again. I—I wanted to speak to you both, and—and I did not know how to do it except by giving you the same dance."
"We are only too much honoured," said Gerrard, with overwhelming courtesy. He was inwardly furious, but the girl looked ready to cry, and a burst of tears in public was above all things to be avoided in the circumstances. "You find the tent too crowded? Let us look for a quieter place, then. If you could get hold of a shawl or something, Bob?"
Charteris obeyed, with exemplary outward meekness, and joined them immediately in a smaller tent arranged as a card-room, but not yet put to its intended use. Disregarding Gerrard's movement, he put the shawl round Honour himself, and they stood waiting her pleasure in silence, while she gripped her fan so hard in both hands that it broke in two. She raised a crimson face at last.
"I wanted to speak to you together," she began again. "You both think I have treated you badly, but indeed I did not mean it. But that was not what I wished to say. I hear—some one—a friend—tells me that you are angry with one another on my account. It makes me so unhappy, and I don't see why——"
Her voice failed, and Charteris and Gerrard remained awkwardly silent, each intensely conscious of the extreme superfluity of the other's presence. Alone, either might have made shift to say something, but with his rival there, whatever was said would only make things worse. Looking up despairingly, Honour saw in their faces what made her cry out in terror.
"Oh, you wouldn't! you wouldn't! Don't make me feel that I have done such a dreadful thing! If you fought a duel about me I should die. There is no need. I will promise never to marry any one—ever. I will do it willingly, gladly. Isn't that enough? What more can I do? Only tell me, and don't do such a wicked, unchristian thing."
"For pity's sake, Hal—you have the gift of the gab," growled Charteris in Gerrard's ear, as she turned agonized eyes upon them.
"Play up to me, then," muttered Gerrard in response, and spoke aloud and cheerfully. "My dear Miss Cinnamond, pray don't distress yourself. My friend Charteris and I have no intention whatever of fighting a duel. There has been a—a temporary misunderstanding between us, but it is absolutely cleared up, I assure you."
"And as for the promise which you are good enough to offer to make, we should regret it more than any one else, because, you see, we both hope you will marry one of us," said Charteris, almost with levity.
"I shall never marry any one," said Honour remorsefully. "I have done too much harm already."
"Harm? oh, nonsense!—if you'll forgive me for saying so," returned Charteris. "It's done Gerrard and me a lot of good, hasn't it, my boy? (Why don't you back me up, surly?) We shall thank you for it yet—like eels getting used to being skinned, you know——"
"On my honour, Miss Cinnamond," said Gerrard, fearing the heights of metaphor to which his friend's ardour might carry him, "we are both quite prepared to abide by your decision for the present, but we think we may fairly claim the right of trying to induce you to change it, after a proper interval——"
("Couldn't have put it better myself," said Charteris, with enthusiasm. "Fire away, Hal.")
"But nothing is farther from our thoughts than to cause pain or anxiety to a lady whom we both admire and respect so highly," went on Gerrard, in his best manner. "We have made up our minds not to suffer our friendship to be broken by attempts to supplant each other secretly, and if at length one of us is so happy as to win your regard, the other will bow absolutely to your decision."
"Question!" said Charteris sharply, but at the sight of returning anxiety in Honour's eyes, he capitulated. "And if it would give you any pleasure to see us shake hands, Miss Cinnamond, the word is with you."
"It would, indeed," she said, smiling gratefully—and they did it, Charteris with a wicked twinkle in his eye. Honour stood up, tears contending with smiles in her face.
"Thank you both so much," she said. "But I think I ought to tell you that your friendship will never be put to the test. I could never, never choose."
"Cheerful!" said Charteris. "But we will hope on."
"Please take me back to my mother," said Honour, in some confusion, as a party of elderly officers invaded the room, eager to enjoy their hookahs, the bearers of which were waiting outside.
"You might bring Miss Cinnamond's fan, Hal," said Charteris, dexterously offering his arm first, and thus they returned to Lady Cinnamond, who had been a prey to grievous anxiety, disguised with an iron will lest public attention should be attracted to Honour's absence.
"Oh, Hal, my hated r-r-rival!" breathed Charteris, slapping his friend on the back when they got out into the open air. "Ain't it as good as a play? But what a monster of iniquity a man feels beside a girl like that!" he added sentimentally. "Do you wonder that I fell in love with her?"
"No, I don't," said Gerrard savagely. "But I wish with all my heart you hadn't!"
"The same to you, my boy!" laughed Charteris.
THE OLD ORDER AND THE NEW.
In little more than a week after the ball, Charteris and Gerrard had shaken from their feet the dust of Ranjitgarh with its Occidental influences, and were journeying, though westward, towards the pure unadulterated East in their respective districts. Charteris' sphere of influence was reached first, a land of prevailing sand-colour with oases of almost painful green, over which the Granthi sovereignty had never been more than merely nominal. A Granthi army had made periodic inroads into Darwan, sweeping off all the cattle it could find, by way of collecting the revenue, and the Darwanis retorted by incursions across the Granthi border, designed to assert their independence. Charteris was at the head of a strong force of Granthis, to emphasize the fact that he represented the Ranjitgarh Durbar, not the British Crown nor the Company, and his duties were extensive, if simple. He was to bring down the oppressor and relieve the oppressed, destroy the towers of robber chiefs and induce the occupants to turn their unaccustomed hands to honest labour, establish order in place of confusion, and generally to make it known and felt that there now existed, and must be obeyed, a law superior to the sweet will of the strongest.
Gerrard, passing on towards the south-west, would be faced with quite a different problem, in the solution of which the velvet glove would play a more important part, ostensibly at least, than the iron hand. The province of Agpur formed an indisputable part of the Granthi dominions, but it was ruled by a feudatory prince, who was faithful to his obligations during the lifetime of the great conqueror Ajit Singh, under whose banners he had often ridden to victory, but had seen his opportunity in the feeble rule of Ajit Singh's successors. One concession after another had been wrung by his diplomacy from the hands of weakling or child, the right to raise troops in his own name, to fortify the city of Agpur, and—though this was still contested by certain Ranjitgarh stalwarts—the power of nominating his successor instead of merely recommending his eldest son to the favour of his suzerain. Only a very few steps, a distance that might be bridged by a single resolute advance, had separated Partab Singh from the dignity of a full-blown independent prince, when the nerveless hands of the Ranjitgarh ruler were suddenly reinforced by the strong grasp of a British Resident upon the reins. For a short time it was doubtful whether the stiff-necked old Rajah would not put his fate to the touch, and come to death-grips with British power acting in the name of the Durbar, but wiser counsels prevailed. Partab Singh paid his tribute, with no more deduction than could be accounted for by the ever-ready plea of a bad harvest, and gave no excuse for marching troops into his territory. But he would not swell the triumph of the upstart Durbar by showing himself at Ranjitgarh, nor would he lower his dignity by making any response to Colonel Antony's overtures. He remained in self-imposed seclusion within the borders of his province, declining either to move or to be moved in anything relating to the welfare of his subjects.
Agpur, then, was the scene of Gerrard's future labours. For his own sake, Partab Singh would have done well to pay up his tribute in full, and not plume himself on the slight saving effected in the name of the bad harvest, for the plea afforded an opening for extending the influence of the central government. Colonel Antony sent word that he was despatching one of his most trusted officers to examine the system of irrigation pursued in the province, and to offer the Rajah any advice his experience might suggest that would tend to mitigate the suffering and loss consequent on bad seasons. Following his usual tactics, Partab Singh returned no answer to the communication, and Gerrard was therefore proceeding under orders which left him with a curious combination of strict instructions and wide discretion. He was to observe many other things besides the irrigation system in the course of his journeys—Partab Singh's military dispositions, the attitude of the people towards him, and also towards Ranjitgarh and the British, and the amount of union or disunion visible between the Mohammedan and Granthi elements in the population. If possible, he was to obtain supplies in the usual way from the village headmen as he passed, but should they be withheld, he was to make arrangements to be supplied from Darwan, rather than be forced to an ignominious retreat. The city of Agpur he was not to enter without an express invitation from its ruler, nor in any way to force himself upon his attention; but should accident, or any faint glimmerings of a conciliatory spirit on the part of Partab Singh, bring them together, he was to leave no means untried to win the Rajah's friendship. The probabilities were that the old ruler would either continue in his attitude of sullen withdrawal, or advertise his intention of maintaining the integrity of his dominions by wiping out the intruders, but that could not be helped. Gerrard took his life in his hand, and no one thought very much of the risk. Colonel Antony had a way of casting forth his subordinates into troubled waters, to sink or swim as best they might, and being picked men after his own heart, they had a way of returning triumphant, bringing with them treasures snatched from the deep.
It pleased Charteris to emphasize the dark side of the case as he and Gerrard shook hands and parted, half a day's journey beyond the spot fixed upon for the scene of the former's first steps in the art of government.
"There's something jolly dramatic about all your chances depending on me," he said. "I might hold back your reports, or send on forged ones instead, or ruin you in about a hundred different ways." All Gerrard's communications with Ranjitgarh were to pass through Darwan, lest Partab Singh should intercept them on the shorter route. "When I am inclined to feel hipped, I shall spend a happy hour or so in devising uncomfortableness for you, my boy."
"And how you would enjoy explaining to Miss Cinnamond the way in which you had eliminated your hated rival!" said Gerrard.
"Well, why not? All the old fellows in the Ages of Chivalry, that she talks of, did that sort of thing all day long, so why should she blame in a poor beggar of a Bengali what she would pass over in a baron bold?"
"Her age of chivalry is about as near the truth as the idyllic pictures of blameless Hindus that they hold up in Parliament, I fancy. Well, Bob, we can't say you haven't told me what to expect. If I do call upon you for help, you'll know it's a mere matter of form."
"Of course. It's quite impossible that I should get to you in time, you realise that? But I'll tell you what I will do for you, with the greatest pleasure. When you are safely dead, I'll avenge you in style. The smoking ruins of Agpur shall be your funeral pyre, as the old fellow said to the Dey of Algiers."
"Most consoling to me. Well, good-bye, Bob!"
"Good-bye, Hal, and good luck to you!" and they rode upon their separate ways.
For a time Gerrard's progress through Agpur territory was uneventful. It was not necessary to obtain provisions from Darwan, for they were forthcoming from the country traversed, though with accompaniments of vexatious delay and unfulfilled promises that showed the headmen had no fear of being taken to task for not making the traveller's way easy. The Granthi escort required ruling with a rod of iron, for they were prone, after their usual fashion, to prey upon the people, and it was no part of Colonel Antony's plan to provide Partab Singh with a colourable grievance. A few severe examples were necessary before the half-trained troopers realised that their new commander was in earnest, but when once the idea had been fixed in their minds that to seize the property of even the poorest cultivator without payment meant dismissal in disgrace, they began to take a pride in his very severity.
As for the people of the country, they regarded this new-fangled behaviour with suspicion at first, as probably a cloak for deeper designs of plunder on the part of Gerrard himself, but learned gradually to regard him as well-meaning, though certainly mad. Here and there a farmer or headman would open his heart to him, letting in light on many dark places in Partab Singh's administration, while from the elders who gathered round his tent-door at night when he was encamped near a village he learned what was the popular estimate of the ruler himself. One story was told with bated breath again and again, establishing Partab Singh's character in the minds of his people as a man of the nicest honour. A few years before, the Rajah had slain with his own hand every woman and girl in his zenana, as the result of some discovery, the nature of which no one durst even conjecture, and had since brought home to his blood-stained halls a young bride of purest Rajput descent from beyond Nanakpur, who had borne him a son, commonly reported to be the apple of his eye. There had been an elder son, but no one knew whether he was alive or dead, though a gruesome tale was whispered of his father's having ordered his eyes to be torn out. A faithful foster-brother was said to have sacrificed himself to save him, and to have died in the prison after his eyes had been duly exhibited to the Rajah as those of his son, while the prince made his escape in the servant's clothes, but the truth of this was not vouched for. Altogether, life seemed to be rather lightly regarded in the Agpur royal family, though Gerrard gathered that Partab Singh was held by connoisseurs to have failed to vindicate to the utmost his insulted honour. If the occasion were grave enough to warrant the massacre of every living thing in the zenana, it called also for the death of the avenger by his own hand as a finishing touch, but it was universally allowed that this could hardly be expected in the case of a man who had left himself no heir. Much was said also as to Partab Singh's lavish treatment of his soldiers and his presumable intention in training them, his encouragement of merchants and crusade against large landholders, who were either persecuted out of existence or compelled to reside in Agpur under his own eye, and the fortune he was heaping up for his one precious son. Thus the voluminous reports forwarded to Darwan for transmission to Ranjitgarh were by no means deficient either in detail or interest.
In the natural course of his leisurely progress, equally unhasting and unresting, Gerrard was now approaching the neighbourhood of the city of Agpur, not without experiencing an occasional constricted feeling about his throat, as though he was walking into a trap the entrance into which had obligingly been made easy for him. He was surprised to find that he was entering upon a scene of desolation. The half-ripe harvest had been roughly reaped in part, but was elsewhere trampled down, and the villages were deserted by their inhabitants; or if by chance a man or two were seen, they fled with the utmost speed. It seemed as if an army had been passing through the country, and presumably it was Partab Singh's own army, since no one was known to be invading him. But why should he be moving his army about at this particular season, and in the absence of any outside enemy? That the answer to this question might prove to have an unpleasant effect upon his own fortunes Gerrard was aware, and his thoughts were not altogether agreeable as he sat in his tent during the heat of the day. It seemed prudent to put his papers in order—perhaps to destroy one or two which might be liable to misinterpretation in unfriendly hands, and this he was proceeding to do when an orderly came to say that a local Sirdar and his son, who had become separated from their attendants in a hunting expedition, asked if they might take shelter in the Sahib's camp until the sun was a little cooler. The idea of a hunting expedition was strange in the desolate state of; the district, but Gerrard hoped to gain some information from the strangers, and ordered that they should be brought to his tent. As he rose to go forward and welcome them, a low voice—that of the munshi sitting on the ground at his side—arrested him.
"Sahib, I cannot be sure, but I think that old man is the Rajah Partab Singh, whom I have seen once at Nanakpur. Do not betray that you suspect him, but look at the mark of the kalgi on the turbans of the two."
The words were so quickly spoken that Gerrard's pause was barely perceptible, and he went out to meet the newcomers without hesitation. They were an elderly bearded man and a boy of five or six, dressed in ordinary country stuffs, but on the turbans of both there was distinguishable to one who looked for it a slight discoloration, as though an aigrette or other token of distinction had recently been removed, and their horses were very fine. Gerrard welcomed them courteously, and the old man introduced himself as Sirdar Hari Ram, and the boy as his grandson, Narayan Lal. A carpet was already spread in Gerrard's tent, and he motioned them to it, while he gave an order or two respecting refreshments, and other things. The hookah kept for occasions of this sort was brought in, and Gerrard took a whiff himself, then passed the mouthpiece to his guests, but it was politely refused, with a sanctimonious glance at the servants. The boy soon tired of sitting still, and began to investigate the tent, attracted by the European furniture and weapons. In response to his inquiries, Gerrard exhibited and explained his watch, his tin despatch-box, (which aroused disappointment as not being filled with treasure,) and his Colt's revolver, at that time a surprising novelty. The old man was as fascinated with it as the child, and remarked gloomily that it was no wonder the English had so much power, when one of them could carry six men's lives in his hand. He seemed inclined to talk, so Gerrard looked out an illustrated paper which had lately reached him from home, and opened it for the boy at the picture of the opening of a new railway by the Queen and Prince Albert.
"Sit down here, little one, and look at this," he said kindly.
The child drew himself up with great dignity. "I am a prince, and I sit at no man's feet save my father's, O bearer of many deaths."
Here was a confirmation of the Munshi's suspicions, and Gerrard could not forbear a glance at the old man to see how he took it. But no discomfiture was visible.
"The women spoil him and puff him up. But 'tis a fine spirit!" said the Sirdar, beaming even while he made the sign to avert the evil eye. "Nevertheless, delight of my heart, sit thou at the foot of the Sahib, for verily that is where all Granthistan must now sit."
The boy obeyed, and the old man took his turn at putting questions. Many of them were trivial enough, but Gerrard soon became conscious that there was something behind, that attempts were continually being made to entrap him. The inexhaustible theme of the relations between the Crown and the Company was freely discussed without seeming to become much clearer to the Sirdar, and Gerrard realised by degrees that his guest was seeking for a weak point, a jealousy between the two governing bodies, or between two rulers, such as a bold diplomatist might exploit to his own advantage. His answers must therefore be guarded, and yet apparently frank, lest the old man should read into them what he desired, and it seemed that the inquirer had been baffled successfully when he flew off at a tangent to Colonel Antony and his administration.
"We hear strange things of the Ranjitgarh Durbar," he remarked sarcastically, "how the due compliments are always offered, and any man may lift up his voice and be heard with mildness—the wretch who was a slave but yesterday as readily as a prince of the house of Ajit Singh."
"It is true," said Gerrard. "Our religion bids us be courteous to all men, and the Resident follows its precepts."
The old man smiled unpleasantly. "This Antni Sahib—he is one to be wondered at, is he not? Men say that when certain would have had the English take possession of Granthistan for themselves, he withstood them." A meaning pause. "And they say also that when any Englishman would override the rights of a Granthi, be he Sirdar or peasant, Antni Sahib is on the side of the Granthi."
"Quite true," said Gerrard again.
The Sirdar bent towards him. "Then, since he betrays his own masters thus, from whom does he look for reward?" he asked triumphantly.
"The Resident desires no reward but the gratitude of the Granthis, if that may be had, Sirdar Sahib."
"And the gratitude of the Granthis is to place him on the gaddi as King of Granthistan?" The old man's self-satisfaction was so evident as he displayed his acumen in detecting this deep-laid plot that Gerrard almost laughed in his face.
"Nay, Sirdar Sahib, he trusts to see young Lena Singh on his father's throne, ruling as an upright king, when he himself has returned an old man to England. But excuse me a moment."
The Eurasian apothecary, the only man in the camp who could speak English, had entered deprecatingly, with a visage of alarm. Gerrard spoke sharply.
"Don't look so frightened, Mr Moraes. What is it?"
"Zere are soldiers approaching, sar—a whole armee. What is to be done?"
"Bid Sirdar Badan Hazari send the men to their posts, and challenge the strangers before they get within musket-shot." He turned again to the old man. "You think that Colonel Antony might wish to make himself King of Granthistan, but which of all the English has ever done such a thing?"
"Nay, but they conquered for their masters. This man who resists his masters must surely have some advantage for himself in view?"
"Sahib!" It was the little boy who spoke eagerly before Gerrard could answer; "who are these men with guns and swords, and why do they come before the tent?"
Gerrard cast a careless glance at his twelve troopers, noticing that the old Sirdar did not move a muscle. "They are to protect my guests, little prince," he answered.
"But why are their guns pointed this way?"
"That my guests may see them, and know themselves safe."
"Your guests are much indebted to your thoughtfulness, sahib," said the old man, with something of mockery in his tone. Gerrard would have given much to know what was passing behind those inscrutable eyes. Was that long curved dagger, with the handle of which the Sirdar's fingers were continually playing, destined to be sheathed in his heart at the moment that an attack was made upon the camp from without? It almost looked like it, and yet why had the old man given such a hostage to fortune as the child he had brought with him? To prevent a flagging in the conversation, which might have been attributed to nervousness, Gerrard brought out his sketch-book, and requested the honour of taking the portraits of Sirdar Hari Ram and his grandson. The request was granted, but before the water for which he called had been brought Moraes appeared again.
"Ze strange officer desire to see you, sar. He say he Rajah Partab Singh's Komadan." 
"Tell him to send a message, since I am engaged with guests."
"He say you must give up zose persons, sar. Old man and leetle boy, he come to look for zem."
"Then tell him to come and take them. And you can promise him in my name a pretty tough job if he does." He turned from Moraes with noble disdain, and bestowed a reassuring smile upon his guests.
"Sahib," said the old man, "the wise lingers not where his presence is an inconvenience. The youth who has just left us appeared to desire our departure."
"His desires are of no moment, Sirdar Sahib, even were he so unmannerly as to express them."
"But it is the part of a churl to bring danger upon a host, sahib, and I have many enemies. Is it possible that there are those without who demand that I should be yielded up to them?"
"Since you ask, it is so, but you need have no fear that I shall comply," said Gerrard, more puzzled than ever.
"Nay, sahib, but I myself will depart with the child, so that neither your honour nor your safety will be menaced."
"You will do nothing of the kind, Sirdar Sahib. What! shall I suffer a guest to step from my very carpet into the hands of his foes? You would cover me with disgrace from the mountains to the sea."
"I will not bring trouble upon you, sahib. Suffer us to go."
"Certainly not. I will rather use violence to keep you. A word to these men of mine——"
The veins on the old man's forehead swelled, and his eyes flamed. "By the Guru! if the slaves of Lena Singh and the English dare to lay a finger on me——!" he cried. "Foolish young man, will you keep me from my own troops? I am the Rajah Partab Singh."
Gerrald stepped back with a bow. "Maharaj-ji, you are free to depart. I had not thought that the man whom I welcomed to my tent designed to pick a quarrel with me. Depart freely, and your son with you, but bear me witness that I did not fail in hospitality."
"Nor shall you find Partab Singh deficient in hospitality, O son of noble parents!" cried the old man, softening suddenly. "Know this, my friend. I designed to put you to a test, to prove your courtesy, your courage, your good faith, that I might see whether the English were indeed to be trusted. Well has Antni Sahib done in sending one like you, since he could not come himself!"
"A-HUNTING WE WILL GO."
"Here are ten rupees for you, Somwar Mal. You did me good service to-day," said Gerrard to his Munshi, who salaamed to the very ground.
"May the Protector of the Poor continue to be as a spreading tree, under whose branches this slave and all his house may find shelter!" he said devoutly. Gerrard thought he had departed, but looking up presently, saw him still standing humbly with folded hands.
"What is it, Munshi-ji?" he asked him.
"Sahib, among the attendants who accompanied the Rajah Partab Singh when he departed was a certain scribe, who made himself known to this slave as the grandson of his father's cousin, and asked leave to visit him this evening."
"Well, what of that? You may be able to get some useful information out of him. Ah, I see; you think he may be coming as a spy?"
"This slave has no doubt, sahib, that the young man will be commissioned to discover whether the Protector of the Poor was aware of the identity of the Rajah and his son when he received them, or not. What answer does the Presence desire should be given?"
"Why, the truth, of course!" said Gerrard impatiently.
"It is an order," said Somwar Mal, and salaamed himself out. His employer thought no more about him until just before bedtime, when the Munshi, his face beaming with modest gratification, sought another interview.
"This slave was not mistaken, sahib. The young man did his errand with a dexterity that would have deceived many, but not the humble one who watches over the interests of the Presence. The question came as though unpremeditated, as he had expected, and in accordance with the will of the Presence, he gave a true answer, saying that on the first appearance of the strangers on the horizon your honour cried out, 'Behold, some great one cometh! It is in my mind that the Rajah Partab Singh and his son are about to visit the camp.' And very great was the wonder of the young man that your honour could so well have hoodwinked his master."
"O Somwar Mal, you are a spoil-sport!" cried Gerrard. "Do you not see that all the hospitality I showed to the Rajah—all my faithfulness to my guests—now goes for nothing?"
The Munshi regarded him with mild reproach. "Nay, sahib, the meanest of men may not fail in hospitality—it is a duty incumbent upon all; but the power of foreseeing events is a direct gift from Heaven, and will move the Rajah to desire greatly the linking of his fortunes with your honour's. There is also another small matter in which this slave has to-night done what he could to add a stone to the pillar of your honour's prosperity."
"I wish you had asked me first. But let me know what obligations you have undertaken for me."
"The youth, the son of shame, dared to inquire in confidence what were the weaknesses of the Protector of the Poor!" said the Munshi, in an awful whisper. Gerrard fell in with the humour of the occasion.
"And of course you swore that I had none?"
Somwar Mal hung his head. "Alas, sahib! your honour bade me tell him the truth."
"You are right, Munshi-ji. Truth is great, and shall prevail. And which of my hidden faults have you discovered to the eyes of the world?"
"Sahib, your honour's credit is safe in the hands of your slave. He bade the youth name one after the other such things as have brought to ruin many wise men, and then assured him that not one of all these had ever touched your honour. But of that one thing which he has observed——"
"This becomes interesting," said Gerrard. "Speak."
"Nay, sahib, it is for this slave to lay the hand of respect upon the mouth of discretion."
"Not when the mouth of command issues an order. Say on."
"If it is an order, sahib——?" An inexorable nod answered him, and he went on. "Sahib, it has sometimes seemed to the humblest of your servants, who asks forgiveness for presuming to raise his eyes above your feet, that your honour was more occupied in seeking the right way to do a thing than in doing at once what required doing."
"Lack of decision? I see, and you told the youth this?"
Grieved surprise was in Somwar Mal's tone. "I, sahib? I told him that the besetting sin of the Protector of the Poor was a hasty judgment in sometimes acting without thought!"
"Oh, go away, you old humbug!" shouted Gerrard violently, and Somwar Mal retired proudly smiling, while his employer laughed undisturbed.
"Whether it is due to Soomwar Mull's original notions of truth, or to old Pertaub Sing's own favourable impressions, it seems to be certain that I have made a conquest!" he wrote to Charteris the next evening. "I have given up attempting to unravel the Rajah's motives in visiting me incog., and will only hint that if I were told the whole thing was got up with a view to burking the momentous question who should pay the first call I should not be surprised. Do you twig? Pertaub Sing has visited my camp, which is one to me; but the visit was not official, and that's one to him. In any case, I thought I should be carrying out Antony's wishes if I paid an official visit to-day, which I did, and was entertained regardless of expense, garlands, ottar, paun and all. The old boy is a regular brick, for—now grow green with envy—he has invited me to go a-hunting with him to-morrow. Hawking, he said—by the way, what would not a certain lady give to be a spectator of that most chivalrous of sports?—but oh, my beloved Bob, there's a jheel which I strongly suspect to be the intended scene of our exploits, and if there ain't pig there, call me a Dutchman. Conceive my feelings. If we sight pig, will it be my duty to turn delicately away, with a pained expression of countenance, or would it be better style to affect to have seen nothing whatever? Or will there, will there be spears in reserve, and the chance of some glorious fun? After all, my boy, envy me not till you hear how the day ends."
The day began uneventfully enough, though the spectacle of the Rajah's hunt delighted Gerrard's eyes. The old ruler himself and his councillors and Komadans seemed to have donned their brightest garb for the occasion, and the little prince, now known by his proper name of Kharrak Singh, was resplendent in emerald-green velvet, with a blue and silver turban and a broad folded girdle of stiff gold tissue, in which was stuck a huge dagger, large enough for a sword for him. He rode a white pony with a pink nose and a long tail, and on either side of him was an ancient armed retainer, charged to keep him out of any possible danger. The hawking was pretty to watch, but not particularly exciting, and Gerrard found it much more interesting when the innumerable dogs of indescribable breed which accompanied the party started something larger than birds in the brushwood surrounding the swamp. Partab Singh looked at his guest, and read the expression of his face aright. With a smile the old Rajah called up a man who carried a number of spears, and bade Gerrard take his choice. The beaters were wildly excited, declaring that the dogs had roused an old and very cunning boar which had long baffled the hunters of the neighbourhood, and after a brief council of war it was decided that the Rajah should take his stand at one side of the jhil and Gerrard at the other, the beaters keeping watch to prevent the quarry's breaking out across the open ground at the back, and the court officials going to the end of the swamp in case he should take to the water.
Rather to his annoyance, Gerrard found that the little prince, instead of accompanying his father, preferred to remain with him, in dangerous proximity to the track through the underwood along which the boar would probably come. Horribly afraid that the quarry would break out in his absence, he seized the white pony's bridle, and in spite of Kharrak Singh's vehement opposition, led him back to his guardians and bade him stay with them. As he cantered back to his post, the child's shrill voice made him look round, and he saw him striking furiously with his sheathed dagger at the hands of the two servants, who held the pony on either side. Satisfied that the boy was in safety, Gerrard waited, spear in hand, watching the movements of the bushes, which showed that some heavy body was making its way through them. From the yapping and yelping of the dogs at a discreet distance behind, he felt certain that this was the boar, and listened eagerly for the crackling of the brushwood as it came towards him. Then it burst into the open—the finest tusker he had ever seen—and made for him as fiercely as he rode at it. But to his utter astonishment, just as it met the iron it swerved violently—so that the spear merely inflicted a long gash from shoulder to flank—and charged on at something behind him.
Nearly thrown from the saddle by the absence of the expected resistance, Gerrard recovered himself and wrenched his horse round, to behold a sight which made his heart stand still. A white pony, with streaming mane and tail, was in full flight, and on the ground lay a vivid green and gold bundle, with two small feet kicking in the air. Kharrak Singh had evidently been thrown sideways from the saddle as the pony turned tail, and the boar's rush had carried it beyond him, but it had already transferred its attention from the terrified horse to the nearer foe. The two retainers, uttering cries of horror as they rode towards the fray, were hopelessly distant, and there was no one else at hand. Two things associated themselves in Gerrard's mind, without any volition on his part—the blood-stained spear in his hand and Kharrak Singh's broad golden belt, and some vague association with Somwar Mal was present as well. He and the boar charged simultaneously for the prostrate child, but before the cruel tusks could reach him, the spear had passed under the stiff golden folds and swung Kharrak Singh ignominiously into the air and across Gerrard's saddle. The astonished horse, accustomed to pig-sticking, but not to having the prey placed on his back, took the bit between his teeth and dashed furiously away, with the boar in full pursuit—so Gerrard gathered from the chorus of yells and shrieks that arose. One hand was fully occupied with the reins, the other with holding the child, and it was impossible to disengage his spear while going at this pace, though the handle collided with half the trees they passed, and threatened to jerk Kharrak Singh from his grasp.
"Hold fast, little brother!" he called out.
"Not your little brother!" The words reached him faintly, and he smiled, for at least the child was not much hurt. Venturing to glance round to see whether the boar was continuing the chase, he found that it had given up, but to his astonishment all the hunt, mounted and on foot, were pursuing him with wild cries. "Maro! maro!"  they yelled, and two of the Komadans, who were drawing ahead of the others, had one of them a spear in rest, and the other his sword drawn. Like a flash of lightning it broke upon Gerrard that to a distant observer his action must have had all the appearance of a peculiarly cold-blooded murder, and that before he could explain to these avengers that his spear had merely lifted the child by his girdle, they would have cut him down from behind. To check his horse was impossible, for the sounds of pursuit stimulated it continually to fresh efforts, and he had no means of defending himself while he explained matters, since his spear was still entangled in Kharrak Singh's golden waistbelt.
A second time the pleasing sense of proving Somwar Mat a false prophet came over Gerrard as he jerked his horse violently to the right, where an irrigation channel, leading from the swamp, crossed his course. The pursuers evidently thought it would prove an insurmountable barrier, for he could hear by their shouts that the two foremost were separating so as to ride against him from either side, when he would be caught between them and the main body behind. But his horse was a noted jumper, and that fact saved him. He felt it rise to the leap, and though the channel was too broad, and it fell on its knees on the slope of crumbling earth at the farther side, he contrived to twitch himself and Kharrak Singh out of the saddle in time to prevent its slipping back into the muddy water. Once on his feet, he was able to disengage the spear without difficulty, and as the horse also struggled up he caught it and set Kharrak Singh in the saddle, then turned to confront his astonished pursuers. They had halted in sheer amazement, and were gazing at him with various expressions of stupefaction, old Partab Singh himself, the spear in his iron hand shaking like a leaf; at their head. Kharrak Singh hailed their astonishment as a tribute to himself, for some reason or other, and clapped his hands and cried "Shabash!" until he was tired.
"Is the child unhurt?" the foremost Komadan ventured at last to ask, rather unnecessarily.
"Fool! who should have hurt me?" cried Kharrak Singh.
"The Feringhee," answered every one together.
"Surely ye are all mad, O people. I would have killed him with my dagger!" and the boy clapped his hand to his girdle, only to discover that the precious dagger had dropped by the way. Turning immediately upon Gerrard, he began to beat him with his fists. "Where is my dagger, O fair man? Hast thou stolen it? Give it back!"
"Choop!" said Gerrard unceremoniously, for Partab Singh had ridden to the edge of the bank opposite.
"O my friend, was this well done—to endanger your own life and the child's, and cause all my people to believe you a murderer, for the sake of a moment's jest?" asked the old man.
"Maharaj-ji, there was no jest. The child lay on the ground, in the path of the charging boar, and I could save him in no other way——"
"He caught me up on his spear, as a kite snatches up a kitten!" cried Kharrak Singh proudly. "I felt the breath of the unclean beast on my leg!"
Partab Singh turned to his guards. "Bring hither the heads of the liars who spake evil of my friend Jirad Sahib, and lay them before him." Then to Gerrard, "My face is black, O my friend. When justice has been done, I shall be less abashed, and able to speak to you."
"I entreat your Highness to pardon the men. Their eyes deceived them, and they thought they spoke the truth. If I am indeed your friend——"
"They shall live. Their eyes alone shall pay the forfeit, for I have no use for eyes that deceive their owners."
"Nay, let them go free. I ask nothing else of your Highness."
"This is in very deed my friend's will?"
"In very deed."
"I had sooner you had asked for half my treasury, but the wretches shall go free," grumbled Partab Singh, and two very badly frightened men were ignominiously sped with kicks and cuffs to the rear. The nearest cultivators were then summoned, and forced to break down the canal-banks, and make a temporary causeway for Gerrard to cross, in the midst of which the Rajah met him and embraced him, and insisted that he should forthwith mount his own splendid horse, with its gold-encrusted trappings, and saddle-cloth flashing with gems. Thus they rode back, the Rajah on a humble pony, with Gerrard on the great horse on his right, and Kharrak Singh, extremely discontented with Gerrard's plain saddle, relegated to his left. In the course of the ride, Gerrard learned that he was immediately to visit the Rajah at the city of Agpur, that the inestimable service he had rendered the state might be properly acknowledged and proclaimed, and that if he desired the life or property of any man in the province, he had only to ask for it. Colonel Antony's ambassador could have desired no better proof of the complete success of his mission.
The evening was spent in Partab Singh's camp, where all his officers and officials came by command to pay their respects to Gerrard and congratulate him upon his exploit. It seemed absurd, as he rode back to his own camp at night, to realise by what a chain of accidents he had been led to his present position of favour, and he reflected sagely that accidents might as easily dethrone him, so that it would be well to report the state of affairs at once, in case Colonel Antony should wish to take immediate advantage of it. He had got rid of his full-dress uniform and the garlands with which he had been decorated, and was writing busily by the light of a smoky lantern, when the Granthi commander of his escort came to say that they had caught a man trying to make his way unperceived into the camp, who said that he was a Sirdar who had urgent business with the Sahib.
"Tell him to come in the morning," said Gerrard.
"He comes from one of the states newly included in the Company's territory, sahib, and has a petition to present. Moreover he dares not come by day, for fear of the Rajah here."
"A British subject? I suppose I must see him, though why he should be skulking in Agpur territory—— Bring him in, Badan Hazari."
A tall man much muffled in a large cloak was ushered in, and at Gerrard's invitation, sat down on the floor. When Badan Hazari was gone, he lowered the cloak a little, and looked at Gerrard as though he expected recognition, but there was none.
"I place my life in your hands, sahib. I am Sher Singh."
"There are many of that name," said Gerrard, puzzled.
"Not many who are also princes of Agpur."
"You are a relation of the Rajah's, then?"
"Merely his eldest son, sahib." The man glanced round fearfully as he spoke, as though listeners were to be dreaded.
"What! the son who was sentenced——?"
"The discernment of the Sahib is wonderful. Yes, these are the eyes that were to be presented on a golden plate for my father to gloat over."
"But why are you here? You must know that your life——-"
"Is in danger? True, but I seek for justice from the Protector of the Poor."
"If you have a claim against your father, you must lay it before Colonel Antony and the Ranjitgarh Durbar."
"And be stabbed or poisoned by emissaries from Agpur? Nay, sahib, I want nothing for the present—merely a promise of justice in future. Who is to sit upon the gaddi when the pyre has been built for Rajah Partab Singh?"
"I understand that the Rajah has the right to nominate his own successor. It is no affair of mine," said Gerrard coldly. Sher Singh's eyes blazed.
"Not though he nominates the young upstart he has raised up to the prejudice of me, his rightful heir?"
"Ah, by the bye, why were you sentenced to death and cut out of the succession?" asked Gerrard casually. Sher Singh blinked once or twice before answering.
"What father does not hate his heir?" he asked at last.
"And the hatred was groundless?"
"What heir does not consider his father's life unduly prolonged? Say that he is tempted to anticipate the enjoyment of what will be all his one day——"
"Enough!" said Gerrard sharply. "You wish me to intercede with the Rajah for you?"
"Nay, sahib, since then my life would end before his. But you are high in the favour of the great Antni Sahib, the fountain of justice, who is all-powerful in Granthistan, save in this little corner. Does he desire to add to his present cares another infant-ruled kingdom, with another shameless Rani and more headstrong Sirdars to tear it in pieces? Partab Singh's days cannot now be long. Were it not well that he should be succeeded by a man of full age, who has travelled among the English and seen their power, and can be trusted to act towards them as a loyal ally?"
Gerrard considered the suggestion a moment, aware that Colonel Antony would give much to prevent the duplication of his present anxieties, and at the same time settle satisfactorily the affairs of this troublesome province. But unfortunately Sher Singh, in his eagerness to clinch matters, went too far.
"Sahib," he said, leaning forward confidentially, "in the treasury at Agpur there is wealth for many men. What if it were divided between Antni Sahib, you, and me—and Antni Sahib need not know what was the sum you and I found there?"
Gerrard started up. "Badan Hazari!" he shouted, and the soldier came running. "Turn this man out. He has dared to offer me a bribe. You have made a mistake, nephew of a foolish aunt. Leave to live, and a decent maintenance, you may obtain through Colonel Antony Sahib, but after to-night, nothing more."
"This slave is indeed foolish as the beasts," lamented Sher Singh. "Let the Sahib in his mercy obtain for him even now what he has promised, and for the present he will dwell quietly, and aim no more at a dignity that is clearly above his capacity."
The reason for this change of front Gerrard had not time to puzzle over at the moment, for as Sher Singh left the tent under the escort of Badan Hazari, the Rajah's minister, Diwan Dwarika Nath, appeared out of the darkness with his attendants, and cast a keen glance at the departing figure. Dismissing his servants to a distance, and apologising for the lateness of his visit, Dwarika Nath proceeded to make various arrangements on his master's behalf with regard to the journey to Agpur, all in a very friendly and polite spirit. But as he rose to take his leave, he turned suddenly on Gerrard.
"His Highness might be interested to learn what visitors his friend Jirad Sahib entertains in secret at night," he said.
"My visitors come without any wish of mine, but they go when I choose," retorted Gerrard warningly.
Dwarika Nath held up a deprecating hand. "There is no need for his Highness to know who the visitor was. I alone recognised him."
"It might certainly be safer for you not to bring that recognition to the knowledge of his Highness," mused Gerrard.
Dwarika Nath's face grew avaricious. "But there is my duty to his Highness. How could I consent to keep silent on a matter that affects him so nearly?"
"I really don't know. Your conscience ain't in my keeping. Settle it for yourself," said Gerrard carelessly. "Now I suppose I have made two enemies to-night!" he remarked to himself as Dwarika Nath turned away with baffled greed in his eyes.
 Kill! kill!
GERRARD FINDS FAVOUR.
From Lieut. Robert Charteris, Darwan, to Lieut. Henry Gerrard:—
"DEAR HAL,—I have not had long to wait for a billet doux from you. I had thought you would draw the line at assassination, but we live and learn. Last night, as I was returning to the shelter of my humble roof, a dirty hairy fellow—but why should I describe him to you?—leapt out and fired at me point-blank with a huge old-fashioned horse-pistol, and missed. I give you my word he singed half an inch off my left whisker. Of course they say he was a ruffianly suitor offended by my just decision in favour of his opponent, but I know better. 'Sweet Hal, by my faith!' thinks I to myself, says I, and what I says I sticks to. I know he ought to have been taken alive, and returned to you postage-paid, with an insulting message inviting you to try again and do your worst. Unfortunately my honest fellows, not being versed in these niceties of behaviour, fell on him in a body and incontinently despatched him. But bring on your minions. Come one, come all, this rock shall fly from its firm base as soon as
Sir, your most humble and obedient servant,
From Lieut. Henry Gerrard, Agpur City, to Lieut. Robert Charteris:—
"DEAR BOB,—I grieve to find that you answered what you are good enough to call my billet doux even before receiving it. Had your miserable tool's fortune not failed him when your plot was on the verge of success, you would now be rid of a rival. I own I should not have believed you fallen so low as to resort to poison—a nasty ungentlemanly weapon, if you will pardon my natural warmth. The wretch declared himself to have been employed by a villainous Dewan lately dismissed, 'tis true, but my apprehensive heart framed, though my lips refrained from uttering, your name. Powdered glass, too! Let me ask you as a favour to choose a less revolting form of death next time, or I swear to you that my expiring lips shall murmur 'Et tu, Roberte!' with sufficient reiteration to excite remark. And pray how had poor old Pertaub Sing injured you, that your vengeance should include him? Avaunt, traitor! I pities and despises you. H. G."
From Lieut. Robert Charteris to Lieut. Henry Gerrard:—
"Ha, most noble Hal, and have the little god's arrows but just failed to prove fatal in your case also? Honour, what crimes are committed in thy name! But none shall say Bob Charteris don't fight fair. Please receive herewith a buffalo horn, the trophy of my bow and spear. You remember how Mithridates, or some old classical fellow, used it as an antidote to poisons? The exact method of application has slipped my memory, but I fancy the horn should be ground small and mixed in all you eat and drink. If I am wrong, send me word when it begins to take effect, and I will make a point of arriving in time to give you a thumping big funeral. But by the horn, (not now, alas! by the buffalo,) there hangs a tale. The animal charged me in the most ferocious manner when I was passing peaceably upon my lawful occasions, and had I not snatched my gun from my boy, who promptly bolted, your dearest wish would now be fulfilled. But the trusty weapon did not play me false, and on mature reflection, I have decided not to lay the beast's malice to your account, for lack of evidence. To all appearances it was the wildest wild beast in Asia, but hardly were my escort come up to view the spoil and acclaim my prowess, than there arrived also a wretched cultivator, swearing with tears and howls that I had wantonly destroyed the friend of his family, the mainstay of his lowly cot. I held a court on the spot, and desired to know what sum would compensate him for this cruel loss. The opportunity of taking in the stranger was too promising to resist, and he requested leave to retire and consult with his friends—an interval I employed in making inquiry as to the market price of buffaloes in that neighbourhood. Returning, the honest man named a sum that would have bought him a dozen, at the lowest computation. Remembering Colonel A.'s maxims regarding kindness to the people, I was in some doubts whether to pay the demand and put it down to office expenses, but reflected in time that my appearance in public would in that case be the signal for loosing against me droves of charging buffaloes wherever I went. I brought the fellow down, therefore, to something like two and a half times the value of the very best bull ever bred in Granthistan, but as he was retiring, with difficulty concealing his smiles over the Sahib's gullibility, I called him smartly back, and fined him one and a half times the value of the said ideal bull for damage to my person and dignity by allowing his ill-conditioned beast to roam at large and uncontrolled. If the judgment of Solomon was received with one-half the applause and admiration that greeted mine, then Solomon must have been an insufferable person to converse with for at least a twelvemonth after. If you are flush of cash, then, I can recommend buffalo-shooting as a tolerable amusement, but if not, let me suggest that you obtain khubber of a tiger—of course a man-eater—in the direction of my boundary, when I will lay aside the cares of office and join you in the chase, and the resulting skin, should there be one, shall be laid, with our united respectful compliments, at the feet of a lady who shall be nameless. We hear marvellous tales of your having tamed a certain old bear, and leading him about with a silken string, but ain't there something of over-confidence in accompanying him into his very den? Even a tame bear is treacherous at times, and when riled, an awkward customer to tackle. Why not guide your bear gently in this direction, and settle the disputed boundary between Augpore and Durwan while I am on this side of my kingdom? Give me open country and room to move rather than the finest bear-pit ever built, says
Gerrard read this second letter in the quarters assigned to him in Partab Singh's fortified palace at Agpur, and appreciated the motive which had led Charteris both to send the warning and to couch it in veiled and sportive language. A kind of envy of his friend, whose problems, if difficult, were comparatively simple, and whose enemies attacked in front, seized upon him, for he also preferred open country and room to move. Nothing was simple at Agpur; it seemed as though there was a malign influence about the place which brought hints of tragedy into the most ordinary sights and sounds. Even as Gerrard approached the city, to which the Rajah had preceded him the day before, the gay procession of soldiers and dancing-girls that escorted him was interrupted by a very different crowd. Followed by a jeering rabble, there hurried forth from the gate a portly Hindu, whose spotless muslins were rapidly being converted into filthy rags by the attentions of his pursuers, and whose shaven head glistened bare under the sun's rays. Glancing hither and thither like a hunted animal for some place of refuge, the wretched man missed his footing and fell, with a red gash across his brow where a stone had struck him. Smiles and sarcasms passed among the soldiery, and one of the dancing-girls introduced into her song a verse inspired by the occasion, to judge by the cruel laughter it evoked. Fearing that the victim would be done to death as soon as his back was turned, Gerrard dismounted and went to help him up, intending to send one of his own men a little way back with him, to see him clear of the mob. To his astonishment, he recognised the distorted face which glared into his as that of the Diwan Dwarika Nath, and found his help refused with a venomous curse. The commander of the escort smiled.