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perform this feat of horsemanship with Cavendish-the thoroughbred in question.
He reflected that the station had not appeared to notice anything. But the station was, just then, made up of men, and men-Englishmen, at any rate-once past their infancy, were not famed for "taking notice." But you could trust the bazaar for seeing that to which the station's eye was blind. Its instinct was unerring and its channels of information always took the shortest route. Stations had never yet accounted for the way bazaars knew things -before they happened. The station generally knew a thing when it had seen it. The bazaar seemed to have a way of seeing a thing because it knew it. The Padre was aware that there were large discrepancies in the sums of knowledge obtained by these two methods, from these two sources, with the balance on the side of the bazaar.
The Padre determined to look at the case impartially, by which he meant looking at it from Cavendish's point of view. He was a fine chap, was Cavendish. His family was one of the best in England. His service was the best in India, in the world, in fact-the Indian Civil Service. (Ordinary capitals can really do little in the way of justice to the size of those initials, I.C.S., in India, and in the Padre's mind.) Cavendish was an A 1 officer, too. With his talents, birth, and backing, he would have a career before him, the only thing that made it worth one's while to come to India. When it came to marrying, he could take his "pick." He was attractive, too. Not handsome, -at least, not in a romantic way. You would hardly look for beauty in a chap who went about habitually in a riding suit of khaki and a battered old brown helmet. Hawkins, now, was handsome. Even Towers went Cavendish one better in his looks. Still, there was something about Cavendish. It might be his erectness. His ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle were in line. His trousers never bagged at the knees. He never slouched. There was something indicative of the man in that. You could n't blame a girl for fancying Cavendish. He had everything to give her-present precedence, post-mortem pension. Those P's would weigh with any woman. Anna Harding would be dazzled by them.
Neither could one blame a man for
fancying Anna Harding. She was an exceptionally beautiful and attractive girl. Unformed, of course. One could n't expect "form" of a girl who had never been in England. And character-at her age, with her surroundings, one could n't suppose she would have much of that. Still, the Padre was man enough beneath his cassock to have observed that Anna Harding was a charming girl. And being the only girl in sight would, naturally, multiply her charms. But when it came to family, well, "least said, soonest mended,” was the phrase for that.
Anna Harding was what the natives call "this country English," and what the English deem a shade worse than being a native-an Eurasian. She was not "pukka." A pukka coin is one turned out from the government mint, of standard weight and value, no counterfeit about it. It is genuine if it is pukka. It had required but the lightest play of fancy and no humor for the Englishman in India to appropriate that most expressive word to denote the obvious distinction between himself and his half-brother, the Eurasian. The Eurasian is the false coin. The Englishman may be responsible for turning him out, but he cannot accept him in circulation. He, the creator, beholding his creation and seeing that it is not good (not having been made in his own exact image), spurns him as a spurious coin, and brands him with the phrase, "Only fourteen annas to the rupee." The Englishman is the standard, the sixteen anna, pukka, genuine rupee, and the Eurasian falls, by natural gravitation, into the debased currency class. It was to this class that Anna Harding belonged. Would George Cavendish, purest coin of the realm, so limited in the output that comparatively few were in the market, identify himself with a "fourteen anna” coin? The Padre knew that it was neither to be expected nor desired.
He had turned by this time into the broad white track of beveled road that ran from the bazaar to the European quarter, and had paused among the myriad rootlets of a hoary banian to survey the scene. The way was lined with bright-hued natives, squatting along the route, some talking and gesticulating eagerly, the others listening stolidly. The Padre knew that there was not a white man, from the Himalayas down to Tuticorin, who could
have told him, had he "brayed him in a mortar," what it was that they were saying. It made him shiver in the midday heat to think that Anna Harding's name might, even then, be passing down the line. It seemed to him that his course was plain. It was his duty to interfere before it was too late.
As if on purpose to confirm him in this resolution, his meditations were disturbed, just here, by a pounding noise behind him, and by the flight before him, like brightfeathered fowl, of native cloths and puggrees. Anna Harding dashed by on horseback, followed by two men, one almost neck and neck beside her, the other in the rear. In the foremost man the Padre recognized George Cavendish, and in the one who was following on Hawkins of the Police. With British absorption in themselves, the cavalcade saw nothing in the street, while every one in the street, with native absorption in the spectacle of the passer-by, gazed wide-eyed after them. The Padre, who saw all, wondered that he had not seen it all before, so obvious did it now appear.
He determined that he would talk it over with Captain Towers that evening, after dinner; that he would get Hawkins's opinion; that, if necessary, he would drop a hint to Cavendish; and, if it came to that, that he would speak to Anna Harding.
The Padre was chumming with Surgeon Captain Towers, of the Indian Medical Service, in the absence of their wives in England. Their bungalow, with the others in the European quarter, backed up against a hill, one of a group round which the highway ran, ascending till it reached a sandy plateau in the midst of them, where it came to a dead standstill in front of a cemetery gate. The standstill was not really dead, but was only a case of suspended animation, for the road eventually recovered and went on again; but the cemetery and the gate remained, accentuating by their dreary isolation the stillness and the deadness of the dead, upon whose silence, as a rule, the only noise that broke was the wild laughter of hyena packs among the hills at night.
Dining that evening with the Padre and Captain Towers was Hawkins of the Police, a reserved and reticent man whose personality suited his department. He
had a genius for ferreting out dakoits, and for laying his finger on the man, that had made a great impression on the natives, by whom his achievements were ascribed to magic. If any one knew what was being said in the bazaar, he did, and you could depend upon him not to talk. It was an open secret that Government had its eye upon him for its "Keep it Dark" Department, and that, like Cavendish, though in a lesser sphere, he had a career before him. The Padre had been glad to see him riding that morning with Cavendish and Anna, not only as having a tendency to frighten native gossip, but as offering the prospect of a competent opinion based upon the observations of an expert.
The three men sat out after dinner in the middle of the drive, where, full in Orion's light and free of foliage, the afterdinner dozer might enjoy the maximum of breezes and the minimum of snakes. Their long arm-chairs with teakwood rests formed the radii of a circle to which the center was a teapoy, on which the butler and the Padre's boy placed whisky and soda "pegs," matches and cheroots, and then withdrew to then withdrew to balance themselves adroitly on their heels, in company with Hawkins's peon, a short distance down the drive, where they awaited, with no more refreshing aids than patience and a lantern, the separation of their sahibs for the night. The breeze wafted the following conversation toward them:
"Has it occurred to you that Cavendish and Anna Harding are too much together?" It was the Padre's voice.
Surgeon Captain Towers, six foot three, and weighing fifteen stone, having cut a pair of legs off earlier in the day, and feeling thereby justified in affording to his own all possible ease, had deposited those members on the rests of his arm-chair and was preparing to enjoy his usual postprandial repose. He did not wish to talk, but the Padre's question was too startling to ignore.
"What put that idea into your head?" he asked.
"I have reason to believe that there is a rumor in the bazaar about them," said the Padre.
"That's nothing," said Captain Tow"The bazaar is always full of rumors. It 's where they make them."
Then, after a pause, he asked, "How did it reach you? Through your boy?"
"I never gossip with native servants," said the Padre, somewhat stiffly. "I was passing through the bazaar, and I overheard some Brahmans talking. I distinctly heard them use her name. We know what that means. She was out with Cavendish at the time. Of course, the natives would talk. Such freedom between men and women is incomprehensible to them. But they are familiar, of course, with English customs, and I feel that their talking must mean something more than idle gossip. I blame myself for not foreseeing it. She's in my parish and I feel a responsibility." "Were they out alone?"
"No. Hawkins was with them.” "Had it occurred to you, Hawkins?" "Had what occurred to me?" voice came as from one aroused from private meditation.
"That the bazaar has any reason, beyond its love of scandal, to talk about Cavendish and Anna Harding."
"Heaven forbid," said Hawkins, "that I should repeat everything that occurs to me, or anything that comes from the bazaar."
Both Captain Towers and the Padre understood, from what Hawkins did not say, that he knew that the bazaar was talking. The Padre, in particular, felt confirmed in the wisdom of his morning's resolutions. "Do you suppose that Cavendish means to marry her?" asked the Padre, after an interval of silence.
"Of course not. How could a man in Cavendish's position marry a girl in Anna Harding's?" answered Captain Towers.
"She's an exceptionally attractive girl. A good sort, altogether. She's not at all the usual 'fourteen anna' kind. In fact, she's quite English, you know." The Padre made this statement in the tone of one who utters the final word in praise of a human being.
"Yes, but Harding is n't dead. And what is he? Just a Local Fund engineer, and a poor one, at that. The strain of the "country" in him shows in his looks, shows still more in his speech, shows most of all in his roads. What sort of family connection would he make for a man like Cavendish?"
"Cavendish would n't marry Harding." The remark came in a cool, quiet tone from the depths of Hawkins's arm-chair.
"Yes, he would. It amounts to that, in India. An Englishman can't afford to marry an Eurasian, however charming she may chance to be. He outcastes himself by doing it. It 's that sort of eruption that 's spoiling the complexion of AngloIndian society. A first-class man ought n't to marry a second-class wife. She's too heavy a weight to carry. She blocks his way to the top, every time."
"It has been done." The cool, deliberate voice came again from Hawkins's chair.
"And how has it turned out? every time. No man with a 'country' wife reaches the top of the ladder. Besides, it 's bad for the race. We 're raising up a mongrel breed in India that will be a serious problem some day. It's neither 'fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring.' Government is beginning to realize it, too. It does n't like such marriages. It would be seriously annoyed if a man like Cavendish were to make such a mistake. We should get a 'wigging,' all round, if we encouraged it."
"What has Government to do with a man's private affairs?" asked Hawkins.
"Nothing. But it has a good deal to do with a man's promotion. It wants the blood of the ruling class kept pure."
"It 's rather late in the day to talk about that," said Hawkins, dryly.
"Well, it won't help matters to encourage the other thing. I'm opposed, as a medical man, to all such marriages. I'm
"Yes, but she is n't English. The Har- confident Cavendish would n't think of it. dings are n't pukka."
"Her mother is dead," said the Padre, in the tone of one who mentions a providential dispensation. Anna's mother had been "country" rather more than "bred," and the Padre, like the most of us, believed in the doctrine that "the Lord knows best" when He removes impedimenta from our pathway.
It would seriously affect his career."
And Captain Towers refreshed himself with another whisky and soda "peg," relighted his cheroot, and, elevating his legs once more to their high station, indicated, by falling asleep, that, for him, the conversation was at an end.
The Padre felt that he would like to know more definitely Hawkins's opinion.
There could be little doubt that his trained faculty of observation had taken in the status of the case. Hawkins's opinion, he was aware, was hard to get, and, when obtained, did not always bear the hall-mark of unquestionable value. But the Padre was a conscientious man, and he was thoroughly in earnest about this matter of Cavendish and Anna Harding. No stone should lie unturned that he could turn in time to prevent that stumbling in the pasture.
"Hawkins," he said, as soon as certain sounds denoted that Captain Towers was absent in the spirit, "what do you think about this rumor in the bazaar?”
"To which rumor in the bazaar do you refer?" asked Hawkins, calmly.
"To the one about Cavendish and Anna Harding, of course," replied the Padre.
"Is there such a rumor?" asked Hawkins, in a non-committal tone.
"I think I mentioned it awhile ago," said the Padre, once more rather stiffly.
"Ah, yes. Well, what about it?" "That's the very thing I'm asking you," said the Padre, beginning to feel the heat of the climate suddenly.
"How should I know anything about it?" demanded Hawkins. "Do I live in the bazaar, or spend my time in gossiping with natives?"
The Padre's patience showed signs of a decline, but his inexorable twins still urged him on.
"Look here, Hawkins," he said, "this is a serious matter. If any white man knows what is being said in the bazaar, you do, and what I want is your opinion and advice. Do you believe that there is anything between George Cavendish and Anna Harding?"
"They have not honored me with their confidence," said Hawkins, "but I am willing to say this: if they wish to marry each other, I see no reason why Government, or any one else, should interfere."
"It would ruin his career," declared the Padre. "And, if he does not marry her, it will ruin her reputation. I must interfere before it is too late."
"And if it should already be too late?" said Hawkins, with a rising, cynical inflection.
"That can hardly be," replied the Padre. "We, who are closest to them cannot all have been so blind as not to see, if
matters had gone very far.
"Well," said the Padre, finally, "you have given me your opinion. What is your advice?"
"To keep hands off," said Hawkins. "They are not in 'swaddling bands.'"
The butler, the boy, and the peon, still balancing themselves upon their tireless heels, betrayed no sign of slumber or impatience so long as the conversation lasted. The lighted lantern was waiting to show Hawkins Sahib home. Orion in the zenith, shoulders forward, sword and belt ablaze, his dog behind him belching forth a stream of light, might have seemed competent to perform that service, but the conduct of a cobra in the hedge proved the utility of the lantern and the peon. The cobra, too, was going home. It cared nothing for Orion or his dog in space, and little for the sahibs in the chairs, but it looked with thoughtful consideration at the lantern and the peon, and decided to take another route. In doing so, it passed close to Hawkins Sahib's hand, which hung down limp beside his chair. The cobra saw it, reared its head, adjusted its spectacles, and eyed it carefully as it went by. Had Hawkins moved, it would have struck. But Hawkins did not move.
Presently, since there was no more conversation, the peon coughed gently once, then twice. Then he was seized with a paroxysm of great violence. Hawkins rose.
"The peon wants to go. I am off for camp at daybreak. I don't know when I shall be back. Good night," he said, and went, the peon holding the lantern low before him all the starlit way.
"Hawkins does not approve of our position. He evidently thinks it unfair to Anna Harding," said the Padre to Captain Towers, as they were parting for the night.
"It's hard to tell what Hawkins thinks," said Captain Towers. "I sometimes suspect that he has imbibed a bit of the 'country' himself, through his department."
"He says he sees no reason why Cavendish should n't marry her," continued the Padre.
"Well, he might see differently, if he were Cavendish. Such a marriage would seriously affect the career of any English
man in India, and Hawkins cares as much for his career as any one I know. If I were you, Padre, I should drop a hint to Cavendish."
The Padre decided that he would drop a hint to Cavendish, but when he called upon him for that purpose, he found that it belonged to the class of operations of which we often hear that they are easier said than done. He had no idea that it could be so difficult to drop anything. If If any one had asked him how to drop a hint, he would have said that it was like dropping anything else that all you would have to do would be to "just drop it, you know." But when he found himself seated opposite that straight-limbed, cleanshaven, just-out-of-the-tub young man, it seemed, to his surprise, a rather complicated sort of thing. Cavendish gave him no fair chance. He was full of a run he had had that morning in which his hounds had nearly cornered a very wily jack, and he ran on about rice-fields, tank-bunds, and prickly-pear hedges, none of them. suitable places in which to drop anything with the expectation that any one would see it, and cleared them all without giving the Padre a chance in edgewise. Once he threw in an aside about how his horse had just missed putting a foot in "one of Harding's holes," on the Kartari road, but before the Padre could cut in, the hole closed over, and nothing had been dropped in it. The Padre had never realized before what a talkative chap Cavendish was so full of life and energy and vigor. He was, plainly, not the sort from whom one could expect much, in the way either of forethought or of retrospection. He was just the kind to sow in haste and reap at leisure. The Padre began to feel annoyed that so much of high-spirits and goodhumor should accompany conduct involving such responsibility. He would have. preferred Cavendish to behave more like a man with something on his mind. The ultimate psychological effect of this was that it occurred, at last, to Cavendish that the Padre was behaving like a man with something on his mind-liver, probably. He knew that the liver has a way in India of getting into the cranial cavity. He became sympathetic at once.
"Is anything wrong, Padre? You don't seem quite fit this morning," he said, with friendly solicitude in his tone.
The Padre, whose mind was still reverting gloomily to the dropping problem, admitted that he was somewhat less than fiddle fit.
"That's India," said Cavendish, cheerfully. "I'm sorry you 're feeling down." "Do you never feel 'down,' yourself, Cavendish?" asked the Padre, trying to feel his way.
"I? Oh, I'm always fit, thanks. I take a lot of exercise, you know. There's nothing like exercise in India to keep one's liver right, they say."
The Padre began to see a way, if not to drop the hint, at least, to drag it in. "Quite so. There's no exercise like riding, I suppose. Are you out every day?"
"Of course. The horses have to be exercised, you know."
"I believe you do not ride alone," the Padre said, an inflection of accusation in his voice.
"Alone?" said Cavendish, "why should I? Hawkins rides, and Miss Harding likes a mount. There's not much sport in going out alone."
'Sport," said the Padre, "is not always the first consideration."
"It is to me," said Cavendish, "when I'm out for it."
"There," thought the Padre, "is the key-note to his character," and a wave of indignation sweeping through him made it easy for him to broach the subject on his mind. In his turn, giving Cavendish no chance to get a word in edgewise, he stated the case as precisely as was convenient with a young man blushing furiously in front of him, and showing a disposition to interrupt with exclamations.
When the Padre had concluded, Cavendish rose, walked round the room with his hands thrust deep into his trousers pockets, spoke severely to several hounds that lay about upon the floor engaged in those researches incidental to the country, made a number of remarks about bazaars and natives, and then came back and stood before the Padre.
"Do I understand," said he, "that this rumor in the bazaar involves an injury to Miss Harding's reputation?"
"You know as well as I do, Cavendish, that a rumor about any girl, in any Indian bazaar, involves an injury to her reputation," said the Padre, firmly.