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with success near Bristol; and this means that in a certain, though no doubt limited, manner we are bringing the latest resources of engineering science to the doors of the very uncivilised folk all around us."
It seems all very incongruous, very startling in its contrasts," observed my host, "as different in a way as the gardens here with their roses and lilies differ from the sterile rocks and stony uplands which I saw to-day. The people themselves must be very forbidding, difficult to know, and hard to find in any way attractive."
"My naturalist friends tell me that the birds of the falcon genus, which are found in the mountains here-peregrines, sakers, goshawks, &c.,
gether by unskilled labour if possible. All this involves some ingenuity in design. On the other hand, since the land, as a rule, belongs to no one in particular, we have no complications about property, water rights, and other such legal troubles as beset engineers in a civilised land. We build our bridges and quarry our stone, help ourselves to water where we can find it, and make our roads where we think best, and ask no man's leave. In a few cases we may have to encroach on or near cultivated land; then, of course, we arrange matters with the cultivator, but I have never known any instance of complication or complaint arising from this cause. In other respects our work is that of constructional engineers in any part of the world; for nature's laws are all nest in summer in the universal, and the properties of matter and the science of applied mechanics are the same everywhere. In Westminster there is not only the venerable Mother of Parliaments, but another and less ancient institution dealing with the utilisation of natural forces for the use and service of man. With this, the Institution of Civil Engineers, and its worldwide range of operations, we are in touch. Some of my officers, as well as myself, belong to it, and we benefit by its publications. I am contemplating, for instance, in a big bridge in the Kurram Valley the same method of archconstruction that has been used
mountains of Norway; but about September they fly southeast to the passes here, over which vast flocks of ducks and geese come a little later, driven south by the rapidly increasing cold of Siberia to the warm plains of India in millions. I have seen such flocks in migration in Kashmir and China, and their numbers are countless. The falcons take ample toll of them in passing. But the falcon is, to those who know him or her, a bird with many attractive qualities, brave and affectionate, although these good points may not be evident to a wild duck. So with the fierce and fanatical tribes of these passes, who also
migrate with the seasons, though not so far as the birds do. They have for generations looked upon highway robbery as their calling in life just as an Indian peasant regards agriculture. They are fierce as hawks are, and cruel in their customs, but they have some excellent points, for they are men, every inch of them. Their faults are very conspicuous, but they have some virtues: they are hardy, brave, capable of strong attachment, grateful for kindness, appreciative of straight and honourable treatment. I think I may claim to know them fairly well; I speak their language fluently, and have often entrusted myself entirely to their care. It is incongruous, certainly, that we should be here comfortably seated with our coffee and cigars in pleasant surroundings, and a few miles away to north, south, and west there are communities of people whose ideas are those of the worst of the medieval European brigands-superstitious, revengeful, carrying on bloodfeuds from generation to generation, and whose lives are wanting in all that we have inherited of culture and courtesy. But they have only been in touch with us for about sixty years; before that time the Sikh Government treated them with atrocious cruelty, and it is no wonder that from their earliest infancy their hereditary ideas have been devoid of any humanitarian influence. Providentially, many of the Eng
lishmen who came into touch with them first were Christian gentlemen of the highest chivalry, courage, and honour. To them the tribesmen took with readiness and admiration, and as long as we put men of that stamp in high positions here, progress is assured. I think, too, we can help matters by our roads, for increased facilities for transportation mean possibility of wealth and prosperity, apart from robbery. Even as it is, some of the tribesmen are beginning to travel. I met a man in the Gomal the other day who had just come back from West Australia, where he had taken a lot of camels. The more we have of that sort of thing the better, for men who travel and see the world realise truths which they never learn at home."
My friend laughed. "I am afraid you are speaking a home truth, applicable to others besides these truculent people. I am bound to admit that in the last few weeks, and especially in the last twentyfour hours, I have learnt, with the greatest interest, truths that I had never dreamt of. But all you say only confirms what I saw of my countrymen elsewhere in India, how they are cheerfully bearing the burden of administration and saying nothing about it. I am bound to say, however, that here that burden seems to exist in a very intensive degree. You talk coolly about a survey party being cut up, and about a young man living by himself
separated from all his fellows
think I may say for most of my officers that they would
by forty miles of waterless desert. You discuss labour far rather stay here than go and contract problems as though they were on the same lines as they are in England; and yet, from what you say, the works involved must in themselves be of exceptional magnitude, and calling therefore for all the skill that combined trade experience can bring, though here necessarily absent. I suppose family life among your officers is rare, and your Indian subordinates must have their domestic difficulties too. How do you induce people to serve here at all Are there extra emoluments or any special advantages?"
I paused for a little before replying, for I was not quite sure that my friend, excellent fellow though he was, was one who would see the point I now wished to make.
"The life here is intensely fascinating because of its very difficulty. The fact of there being a certain amount of risk only adds to its attraction. The pursuit of a wild animal becomes more alluring if the beast is dangerous. Fox-hunting would lose half its attraction for most people if there was no chance of taking a toss sometimes, and the pleasure of being at the top of a hunt, with hounds running fast, is much enhanced by the obstacles negotiated.
The joy of the task is far greater here than elsewhere in India, and although we get the same salaries, &c., as we should get elsewhere, I
to an easier job elsewhere. But with the Indians it is different. Some Sikhs and Punjabi Mahommedans share with us the feeling of pleasure at the overcoming of difficulties; but the natives of Hindustan, Bengal, &c., loathe the Frontier and regard it as a penal settlement if they are sent here. So we often find it difficult to get suitable men for subordinate positions, and we don't risk bringing British soldiers for that purpose; for although they would have all the tenacity and courage which is so necessary, they would not, as a rule, take kindly to the isolation, and I doubt if they would appreciate the sporting aspect of the case.
"Perhaps, however, I am wronging the officers in imputing to them the sporting motive as the main incentive. Certainly it does affect the question, as I can testify personally. But there is a higher attraction, and in my great master, Sir James Browne, who was not a sportsman at all in the ordinary sense, sport was not in any way a ruling motive. I can only describe the great incentive by saying that a great task such as this is Life with a big L-a life that is not absorbed in eating and drinking, sleep and money-making, amusement or material pleasures generally, but has wide interests and great aims. As regards the risks, which every
soldier accepts as incidental because I speak with familiarity
to his calling, one has to remember that other professions accept them in pursuance of worthy ends-a great physician or surgeon, for instance, accepting the chance of personal injury or death in the investigation of some discovery which will benefit mankind. I think there is an awakening consciousness among the people that disinterested service is possible; and although that is not quite the case with us who serve the Government, it is with some other English people here the missionaries, for instance, whose devoted lives have given them an influence far stronger than any of us have. We engineers are helping the people a bit, and they are not ignorant of the fact. Our roads, no doubt, are primarily for military purposes, but they help the commerce of the land. Our canals provide a useful revenue, but they turn the desert into a garden and enable the cultivators to be sure of their harvests. Our water-supply schemes are on a scale they never could have accomplished alone; and if we do build jails and courthouses, they acknowledge that these are for perfectly legitimate cases of justice. So it is all in the way of a full and useful service to the community, in spite of the fact that it is not all Life, for Death comes occasionally with startling suddenness and even horror. But do not think that
of such occurrences as that on the Gomal recently that I hold human life as less sacred here than it is in England. I shall never forget the first accident that happened on the works when I came to the Frontier some twenty odd years ago. A man was brought in to me one very hot day from an adjacent quarry, where, having lighted a charge of powder and being impatient at the delay in explosion, he looked round a corner to see what was happening, and it went off almost in his face. He was alive when they brought him to me, but a ghastly sight, and quite past any human aid. I did what I could for though the end came very soon; but the feeling I had then was of arraigning myself at the bar of my own conscience to see whether I was or was not responsible for not having made my arrangements foolproof. This has always been a matter of consideration ever since, and I think has helped to lessen casualties. Yet we cannot allow casualties, when they do occur, to prevent the ultimate accomplishment of our aim, and so accidents have to be taken into account like other obstacles, such as floods, or sickness, or the worry of the white baboos who rule affairs at Simla, and cannot realise any difference between conditions of work here and at some comfortable place in India, like Lucknow or Poona.
"However, I must stop this and bid you good-night reluctantly, for I am off early to-morrow. I wish you could come with me, for I am sure it would interest you to see one of our big bridges in progress, and here you have only seen the merest fringe of our frontier life. I think you said you had to return at once for the opening of Parliament and your important departmental work. It is a pity you cannot find time to go to Quetta; for although it is not a big city like Peshawar, it has, both in its immediate surroundings and in the road to it, many special features of frontier life, which differ in degree from what you see here. Anyhow, when you return to Whitehall and carry on your useful administrative work, it will, I hope, be not disagreeable reflection to think that in the service of the King we are united in aim, though the surroundings are so very different, working as we do for the good of our fellow-subjects and for peace and goodwill among our neighbours.
We parted most cordially, the kindly old old gentleman thanking me with unnecessary emphasis for what I had told him, and hoping that I would look him up when I returned to England. But we never met again; he died a few years later, honoured and respected by all.
The sequel as regards the road to Fort Sandeman is
illustrative of some of the truths above discussed. A few weeks later, just as the hot weather was beginning, the tribesmen murdered the native assistant commissioner (who, as I suspected, had been using his position for his own nefarious purposes), and blew up all the dynamite which had been collected for the road operations in the precipice work. As the Indian railways are forbidden to convey explosives in the hot weather, this meant postponing further work on those parts of the road for several months; and as the young engineer in charge was evidently unnerved by current events, he was sent to a safer place elsewhere, and a strong and capable sapper subaltern took over charge. He very soon brought the tribesmen into order, and by the time the dynamite was delivered at the nearest railway station (eighty-five miles off, on the far side of the swollen Indus) he had organised work in the gorge portion. He established his headquarters on an upland plateau in a small fort close to a sheer precipice of some 200 feet in height, at the foot of which brawled a small stream. In this stream there was excellent fishing, and in the mountains around good shooting, both of small and big game, so he had some opportunities of recreation in his scanty spare time. But in other respects his life was one of solitary hard work, for he was seventy miles from the nearest