« AnkstesnisTęsti »
“Am I to understand that you hold HEARING that Cavendish had gone into me responsible for the rumor and the in- camp, he went to see her. He found her jury?"
standing by a rose-tree in her garden, The Padre hesitated. His twins, how- looking at one lonely flower. It was an ever, had him in their grip, and would English rose, its hue more delicate, its not let him go till he had paid the utmost poise more drooping than in the homedebt he owed them.
grown plant. So, thought the Padre, "Cavendish," he said, “I ask you no were the hue and poise of the girl who questions. I have no right to. Much bent above it. But, as she came forward must, of course, be allowed for the natu- to meet him, he recognized anew her rally corrupt minds of the natives. I sim
grace, her charm. ply put the case before you. Is it reason- The Padre had often wondered at her, able to suppose that an attractive man in and had settled it in his mind that she was your position, with all you have of worldly what they call a "throw back." advantage to confer, could be in constant Nature is, as we know, a creature of intimate association with a girl in Anna habit. She loves routine and follows the Harding's class without arousing, not beaten track. And in most of her human only gossip in the bazaar, but, in her own mints, on most of her human coins, she mind, hopes-expectations - "
puts the same old stamp. But Nature, A Aash of fire from Cavendish arrested after all, is feminine and freaky. She him.
tires, now and again, of her patterns, and, “Please leave Miss Harding's name out harking back in her memory, drags to the of it!” he broke in hotly. “I hope I 'm surface an old type that has all the effect not an ass !”
of a new one. The Padre rose. He was not a man to The Padre believed that Nature had be put down, in any case, and, in India, done this with Anna, that, when fashionsenior chaplains outrank civilian juniors. ing her, she had thrown a look backward,
"I fear, Cavendish," he said, with dig- over the seas, to a race whose men, in nity, “that it is too late to leave Miss their youth, go far afield. For Anna HarHarding's name out of it. Her name is ding was English, so far as the eye could already in- in the bazaar! I have done There was not a "touch of the tar” my duty, discharged my responsibility, and on herfrom her beautifully molded I will bid you, now, good morning." golden head to the tips of her rosy finger
nails, round the half-moons of which were “Did you drop that hint to Cavendish ?” no telltale circles of blue. Her complexion asked Captain Towers of him, later in had not a creamy tone in it, but was the the day.
wild rose color of England, while, best of "I did.”
all, in her speech she betrayed no accent "What did he say?"
of the Eurasian, but spoke in the full, "Nothing satisfactory."
sweet, pure tone of the voice of the British "Do you think there was anything in Isles. If the "country" had laid its hand that rumor, after all ?"
upon her at all, it had been to combine “Undoubtedly there was."
with her golden hair the jet black brows "What is Cavendish going to do about and lashes that gave to her blue eyes the
subtle charm of sadness. “I have no idea."
Was the Padre mistaken in thinking, as “Well, I don't see that there is any- she advanced to greet him, that there was thing more that you can do."
more than the charm, that there was the “There is one thing more that I can fact of sadness? Were not her lids a litdo," said the Padre, grimly. “I can speak tle red from weeping? Had Cavendish, to Anna Harding."
then, already taken action ? To gain a “A rather delicate operation, that," little time, he walked with her up and observed Surgeon Captain Towers. down her garden paths. He talked of
The Padre was not chumming with a crotons and panaxes, of roses, lilies, and surgeon not to know that the knife should ferns. He discussed seed-sowing, layering, never be delayed if one would cure a can- cutting, grafting, inarching, and budding. cer. So he resolved to operate at once.
He examined her garden frames and soils.
He even described to her an improved va- to the frill of dainty lace into whose coolriety of water-lift. But all the while, be- ness her neck dipped and disappeared. But neath the surface of his consciousness, his she was brave. Stemming with courage remorseless twins kept pinching, punch- the tide of thoughts that threatened to ening, prodding, demanding to know why he gulf her, she waited for him in the middle put off the evil hour.
of the stream. A man could do no less They came, at last, in their round, to than plunge in after her, so in the Padre the place where they had started out, and went. he realized that she had scarcely said a It was many years before he lost the word. A whispering tamarind threw its vision of himself struggling in a turbid shade around them, inviting them to stop current of ideas, rising to the surface just and rest.
The Padre removed his topee long enough to utter words like these : from his head, and took out his handker- “Nothing had happened. (Thank God chief to wipe both perspiration and per- she had spoken of him, herself. One need plexity from his brow.
not mention names.) If he had goneOh, that his wife might do this thing it was better so. Ought to have gone
beinstead of him! How, now, for instance, fore. Men and horses were alike-always would she be likely to begin? By what cantering-stumbling in the pasture-just maneuver would she break the ice ? to exercise themselves—must n't be taken He looked at the girl before him, sim- seriously. Marriage was
Marriage was an important ple, beautiful, aloof. He saw that she thing-affected a man's career-especially was hardly thinking of him.
in India. It would n't do- England was were on the distant line where the bur- the natural place—" and so on, foundernished sky and the burnished hills struck ing, hopelessly submerged. from each other fire and fiercest heat. And it was longer still before he lost There ought to be no trouble about break- the vision of the girl who had, at first, ing ice in such an atmosphere as that which been with him in the stream, but who bubbled round them.
gradually rose out of it, receding farther He had been standing for an hour be- and farther from him, till he heard her side her on the slippery surface of con- saying, as she stood in simple strength ventional talk, watching for some opening upon the shore: to let him in to the deeper stream of what “Please say no more. I see. I undermight be their common thought. The stand. But what he-you- none of you time was fully ripe for him to go, and yet understand, is that you cannot care more he could not go till he had made his for his success than 1—that I can-I do plunge. Perhaps it was his silence that -care too much for him-and for myself made her look at him and smile, a smile - to marry him if it is not best for him." that had no joy or gladness in it. touched a fiber in him somewhere, a fiber That night at dinner the Padre waived not in the Padre-in the man. He took course after course. The little that he her hand as if to go, and held it.
ate, he ate in a silence that Captain Tow“My child,” he said, "there is some- ers did not like to interrupt. The table thing that I must say to you, and I don't was beautifully trimmed with flowers, know how to say it. Can't you help me?" some of which hopped up and Aew about
The solemnity of his tone alarmed her. like humming-birds in the punka's wind. The rose of England died suddenly in her The butler and the Padre's boy moved in cheek. The fire and passion of the East and out, noiseless, attentive, watchful, unflared up behind the jet black screen of obtrusively alert. The cook, the chokra, lashes.
syces, malis, peons, were squatting in the “Has anything happened to him?" she back veranda, close to the screens before cried impulsively. “Is that the reason the open doors. They were all as dead why he does not come ?"
men, pillars, posts--any inanimate objects The ice was broken and she was in the that you like-to the two Englishmen stream. And what an abnormal flood it whom they so punctiliously served. It seemed to be. Were its waters hot? Yes, was drizzling a bit outside, and the cheburning, scorching hot. They were dyeing roots were offered inside, with dessert. her head crimson, from its golden crown When the Padre pushed his chair back,
Captain Towers, taking it for a sign, · ening noise of “tom-tom,” cymbal, and said:
wailing, to the burning ghât, where a “Well?"
few fagots, a low fire, a dense smoke, a Then the Padre told him just what she sickening smell, and an hour's time end had said.
all. "There must be good English blood But a Church of England burial in Inthere somewhere,” was Captain Towers's dia is an almost more distressing thing. comment, to which the Padre's irrelevant The strain after the home customs, the reply was:
effort to do things decently and in order, “How I wish my wife were here!" contrast pitifully with the unseemly haste
They talked the matter over quietly be- of the proceedings. The flimsy coffin, the tween cheroots, while all the compound rude cart, the roughly hewn and shallow servants waited patiently for their signal grave, the already disintegrating form, are to remove the cloth, not one of them painful discords in the harmony of a sershowing the slightest symptom of impa- vice designed for abbeys and cathedrals, tience, though the hour was late.
and set to the key of calm and long repose. They said good night, at last, and, as The four men felt all this as they the outcome of their colloquy, the Padre met, soon after five o'clock, at the foot of wrote, before he slept, and despatched, as Anna Harding's steps, to carry Harding's soon as he awoke, the following chit: body out.
There is something fine in the simplicMy dear Cavendish:
ity, shorn of sentiment, with which a Only my conscience and my sense of re- Briton does a disagreeable duty. The Pasponsibility lead me to refer again to the
dre wore the mien of the man who always topic we discussed when last we met. I
expects the worst and usually obtains it; have seen her, and I find that I was right
Captain Towers that of him who sows in my assumptions. I feel that, in telling and leaves the crop to Fate--no questions you this, I have discharged my obligation in
asked ; Cavendish's face was pale with the the matter, and that all further responsibil- pallor of a man who frankly admits that ity rests with you. Sincerely yours,
he enacts a most distressing part; that of P. R.
Hawkins, dark and thin, carved into lines,
chiseled and molded by thoughts of which "There," said the Padre, as he sealed one could guess neither the nature nor the the note, “I have done my duty, absolved mood. But it did not occur to one of myself from all further responsibility. I them to shirk the hour's task. can do no more. I must now allow events All were thankful, however, for once, to take their course."
to India that she excludes women from
the funeral train. Anna remained at home. EVENTS, availing themselves of the Pa- It was a strange funeral procession that dre's kind permission, proceeded to take wound its way along the road, past the their course at once.
doctor's bungalow, up the hill, toward the It was only a day or two after this that cemetery gate.
The Padre went before, a coolie came running in at noon to say bearing the Cross and Book. Captain that cholera had broken out in Harding's Towers walked behind, laying his weight, camp, and that Harding, himself, had from time to time, against the backboard died of the disease. To confirm the news of the cart as the coolies seemed to lag. his body followed shortly.
George Cavendish took the right hand Cavendish and Hawkins, having been and Hawkins took the left. The male informed, arrived almost as soon.
servants of the dead man followed meekly The ghastliest bit of life in India comes in the rear. So they went up the hill, the at the end of it. If a funeral is to be held, rude bier in the midst of them. They it is well that it be held quickly. There reached the sandy plateau encircled by the is nothing to prevent this with the native, hills, passed through the gate, and stopped who has but to gather a few flowers, a beside the shallow, open grave. The Padre little fruit, a trayful of sweetmeats, and a read the Order for the Service at the crowd of neighbors, all eager to accom- Grave. When he came to that part where pany him at a moment's notice, with deaf- “the earth shall be cast upon the body by some standing by,” Cavendish took a spade ding, himself, was not alive to see to it. and poured the harsh earth, full of stones There were a few things that really were and gravel, down upon the dead man with too useful to destroy-in particular, one a grating sound. Not an unnecessary word excellent flannel shirt that had hung on was said.
Harding's bedpost when he died. The When all was done and the four were rains would soon be on, and flannel shirts left alone, however, Cavendish spoke. His were well-known specifics against fevers. voice was halting, full of self-reproach. It seemed to Harding's syce a thousand
“I wish to say,” he said, "Harding's pities that a brand-new flannel shirt should death seems to make it right that I should not survive to fulfil its mission in the tell you-now that she's alone-that- wet southwest monsoon, now nearly due. after that rumor-and the Padre's note - Mariattal, the cholera goddess, to be sure, I went to Miss Harding-and offered—” had called Harding Sahib when he had it there was a sudden, swift stiffening of his on, but it was universally admitted that straight figure line, a backward movement when Mariattal called a man, he had to of his lifted head—“I mean to say that I go, whether he wore a shirt or no, and, in asked her to do me the honor to become point of fact, she called more men without my wife—and she declined.”
than with one on. Harding's syce, thereIt seemed to occur to none of them to fore, convinced of the soundness of his say another word.
reasoning, took the shirt with him back to Presently the four went down the hill Rayalpur, and carefully washed it at the abreast, the silence of the grave around Hardings' compound well. There was them still.
much going on throughout the compound
on that day. One's sahib could hardly die THAT evening, after dinner, Captain so suddenly, even in India, without a ripTowers and the Padre sat alone in the ple being left behind. There were many middle of the drive, inside their compound important subjects to be discussed, such as, hedge. It was one of those Indian nights which servants were likely, now, to be cast when the full moon speeds, like a racing off, what would be the approximate size craft, through a sky of lighted foam, pitch- of Missy's income, what her future, and ing and tossing, rolling and diving among other allied topics, equally absorbing. It the waves of light. The hills and the was scarcely to be expected, under these cemetery gate stood out like silhouettes conditions, that the water-bearer would against a great white sheet.
find it convenient to walk a mile that day The Padre leaned forward in his chair, to fetch the drinking-water, particularly his weight upon his elbows, and his head since there was no one at leisure to obupon his hands. Captain Towers lay back,
So he took it from the compound full-length, in his, his feet upon their rests. well. Cavendish and Hawkins had both re- That night at dinner the Hardings' turned to camp. Perhaps a half-hour gray-haired boy pressed vainly on his mispassed before the Padre spoke:
tress the soup, the fish, the “side-dish,” “She was as good as her word,” he said. and the joint. He did his best, out of She loved him too well to marry him.” pure sympathy and kindness, to make her Captain Towers made no reply. eat. The ayah, too, stood by, and coaxed
“Not many women love a man like her just to taste a little. There would be that," continued the Padre's voice.
enormously interesting things said in their The big form of his comrade shook itself “godowns” that night about her, and parout of its chair and got upon its feet. ticularly diverting things about the Eng
"Well,” said the voice within it, “per- lish sahibs, but they would not go to hear haps it 's as well, all things considered them till they had done their best to make that they don't."
her swallow something, for there was a With which they appeared to think the saying, “If one cannot eat, one cannot subject had been quite thrashed out. live." So they urged her just to take a
Captain Towers gave the order to have little. Harding's kit burned up at once, which “I cannot eat,” she said, looking at order was as strictly carried out, perhaps, them with wretched, tearless eyes. as could have been expected when Har- "Then drink a little water," said the
ayah, and the boy, fetching a porous, but unglazed windows of the room, and, earthen water-bottle, filled her tumbler circling frantically about, hung itself up with water from the compound well. She in a distant corner of the room.
Rats ran looked at them, half vexed, half grateful, back and forth in the ceiling cloth above, wholly miserable, and, just to please them, threatening to pull the tawdry structure drank a very little of the water.
down. Now and then there broke from Captain Towers was leisurely enjoying the cemetery hills a peal of ghostly laughhis chota-hazri the next morning when ter from hyena packs. A shadow, one of the Harding peons came running shrouded, motionless, had stood beside the up, salaaming low, to say:
bed all day, watching, not the steady pull “Missy done took very sick, and boy of the coolies' hands against the ebbing say cholera.”
tide; that did not interest her; not the Captain Towers hastily swallowed his indomitable pluck of the man who fought tea and went, wasting no time in asking against her; that did not move her. Had idle questions. He knew without them not experience proved, over and over just how it had happened. He arrived at again, that those things did not determine the Harding bungalow without loss of life or death in cholera? She watched the time, where, after assigning suitable des- trembling balance of the life upon the tinies to the cook, the boy, the ayah, the bed, that she might be ready were there malis, and the peons, to every one, in fact, so much as a hair's breadth of a downexcept the syce and water-bearer, who ward tipping of the scale. That was her were not in sight, he fell to work.
business there. Captain Towers called She was young and she had an even the shadow Death. But the coolies knew chance to live. Captain Towers knew the that her name was Mariattal. ratio well. It was as one to one. “One At length the form upon the bed stirred shall be taken and the other left," is math- slightly. She was conscious. She tried to ematically true in cholera. Captain Tow- speak but could not. The ayah, who had ers was something of an enthusiast in his lain upon the floor all day, rose up and work, albeit his income was a settled thing. laid her warm, soft hands upon the arms, And he did his best that day. He fought and rubbed and kissed them gently. Fresh through the morning hours the almost coolies fell to work. The shadow drew a more than mortal pain. He fought through little farther off. Captain Towers rethe afternoon the awful collapse that fol- newed with vigor the efforts that had lows in its train. She was cold. The seemed in vain. golden hair, wet and matted with the dews It was about nine o'clock when he apof a great agony, showed dark against the peared upon the veranda where the Padre pallor of her face. The sunken eyes were sat, holding the cross between his closecircled with huge rims of black. Her clasped hands. mouth and nose were pinched. The pur- “How does it go?” asked the Padre, ple lay thick beneath her finger-nails. anxiously. Coldness and dampness, pallor and shadow "Impossible to say. It may go either gathered round her head. Still Captain way. But she is conscious, and there is Towers struggled on. He called in coolies, some hope. The disease is conquered, and in relays, four and four, who rubbed her, the collapse is passed. But reaction has cheerfully risking death for a four-anna not yet set in. Where is Cavendish ?" bit. They were used to breaking stone “In camp." upon the road, between the furnaces of “Are you sure she told you that she earth and sky, to them a sterner task than loved him?" rubbing the hands and feet of Death. “How else would you interpret what Drenched with turpentine to kill the she said?" germs, they rubbed to keep the circulation "Then send for him. It is only fair. moving.
She is trying to ask for some one, but is Twilight fell, like a curtain dropped. too weak to speak. There is a chance that A cold wind sprang up. The boy brought his coming might just turn the scale. Tell in the lights, two small glass lamps, smok- him to be quick.” And Captain Towers ing and sputtering their contempt for Rus- disappeared within. sian oil. A bat flew in between the barred “I have sent for him,” he said, dis