Index

Railway stories from Rudyard Kipling


See Early Indian railway maps

Rudyard Kipling wrote several pieces which mentioned the Indian railways. The bridge in the Bridge-Builders is on the Ganges, and Kim travelled from Lahore to Umballa. Further on in the book, he travelled to and from Lucknow. None of this overlaps with Frederick Dibblee's railway work. However, the story about the famine, William the Conqueror, is somewhere in the south ("at some unpronounceable place" - thank you, Mr Kipling!), and Frederick Dibblee did quite a lot of railway work near Madras.

The Bridge-Builders (from The Day's Work)
William the Conqueror (from The Day's Work)
Passages from Kim

This is a short story from the collection The Day's Work by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1898. The story is in two halves. The first describes a bridge being built in India over the Ganges (Mother Gunga). It is nearly finished, but then is threatened by an early flood caused by the monsoon. The second half is an opium dream by the engineer, Findlayson, and the overhead-man, Peroo. It seems to suggest that the coming of the railway will change the attitude of the Indians to their religion, which has not actually happened. Still the first half of the story gives a vivid idea of what some of the railway construction work entailed.

The Bridge-Builders

THE LEAST that Findlayson, of the Public Works Department, expected was a C.I.E.; he dreamed of a C.S.I.. Indeed, his friends told him that he deserved more. For three years he had endured heat and cold, disappointment, discomfort, danger, and disease, with responsibility almost to top-heavy for one pair of shoulders; and day by day, through that time, the great Kashi Bridge over the Ganges had grown under his charge. Now, in less than three months, if all went well, his Excellency the Viceroy would open the bridge in state, an archbishop would bless it, and the first trainload of soldiers would come over it, and there would be speeches.

Findlayson, C. E., sat in his trolley on a construction line that ran along one of the main revetments - the huge stone-faced banks that flared away north and south for three miles on either side of the river and permitted himself to think of the end. With its approaches, his work was one mile and three-quarters in length; a lattice-girder bridge, trussed with the Findlayson truss standing on seven-and-twenty brick piers. Each one of those piers was twenty-four feet in diameter, capped with red Agra stone and sunk eighty feet below the shifting sand of the Ganges' bed. Above them was a railway-line fifteen feet broad; above that, again, a cart-road of eighteen feet, flanked with footpaths. At either end rose towers, of red brick, loopholed for musketry and pierced for big guns, and the ramp of the road was being pushed forward to their haunches. The raw earth-ends were crawling and alive with hundreds upon hundreds of tiny asses climbing out of the yawning borrow-pit below with sackfuls of stuff; and the hot afternoon air was filled with the noise of hooves, the rattle of the drivers' sticks, and the swish and roll-down of the dirt. The river was very low, and on the dazzling white sand between the three centre piers stood squat cribs of railway-sleepers, filled within and daubed without with mud, to support the last of the girders as those were riveted up. In the little deep water left by the drought, an overhead crane travelled to and fro along its spile-pier, jerking sections of iron into place, snorting and backing and grunting as an elephant grunts in the timberyard. Riveters by the hundred swarmed about the lattice side-work and the iron roof of the railway line hung from invisible staging under the bellies of the girders, clustered round the throats of the piers, and rode on the overhang of the footpath-stanchions; their fire-pots and the spurts of flame that answered each hammer-stroke showing no more than pale yellow in the sun's glare. East and west and north and south the construction-trains rattled and shrieked up and down the embankments, the piled trucks of brown and white stone banging behind them till the side-boards were unpinned, and with a roar and a grumble a few thousand tons' more material were flung out to hold the river in place.

Findlayson, C. E., turned on his trolley and looked over the face of the country that he had changed for seven miles around. Looked back on the humming village of five thousand work-men; up stream and down, along the vista of spurs and sand; across the river to the far piers, lessening in the haze; overhead to the guard-towers - and only he knew how strong those were - and with a sigh of contentment saw that his work was good. There stood his bridge before him in the sunlight, lacking only a few weeks' work on the girders of the three middle piers - his bridge, raw and ugly as original sin, but pukka - permanent - to endure when all memory of the builder, yea, even of the splendid Findlayson truss, has perished. Practically, the thing was done.

Hitchcock, his assistant, cantered along the line on a little switch-tailed Kabuli pony who through long practice could have trotted securely over trestle,and nodded to his chief.

"All but," said he, with a smile.

Frederick Dibblee worked for the Public Works Deaprtment. He started in 1874.

C.I.E. is Companion of the Indian Empire. C.S.I. is Companion of the Star of India. Both were honours rewarding British and native officials who served in India.

The Ganges is one of the main rivers in India. It is prone to flooding, and holy. Both these points become important later.

The Viceroy was in charge of the whole of India, under Queen Victoria.

C.E. means Civil Engineer.

A trolley is a small open truck for moving up and down railway lines.

Frederick Dibblee's obituary describes "his bold and skilful construction of temporary timber stagings, made from railway sleepers, for the erection of iron bridges".

"I've been thinking about it," the senior answered. "Not half a bad job for two men, is it?"

"One - and a half. 'Gad, what a Cooper's Hill cub I was when I came on the works!" Hitchcock felt very old in the crowded experiences of the past three years, that had taught him power and responsibility.

"You were rather a colt," said Findlayson. "I wonder how you'll like going back to office-work when this job's over."

"I shall hate it!" said the young man, and as he went on his eye followed Findlayson's, and he muttered, "Isn't it damned good?"

"I think we'll go up the service together," Findlayson said to himself. "You're too good a youngster to waste on another man. Cub thou wast; assistant thou art. Personal assistant, and at Simla, thou shalt be, if any credit comes to me out of the business!"

Cooper's Hill is the Royal Indian College of Engineering, in Surry, England. The story about Frederick Dibblee shooting the cows by mistake talks about the "the boys who had come from the hill called Cooper's."

Indeed, the burden of the work had fallen altogether on Findlayson and his assistant, the young man whom he had chosen because of his rawness to break to his own needs. There were labour contractors by the half-hundred - fitters and riveters, European, borrowed from the railway workshops, with, perhaps, twenty white and half-caste subordinates to direct, under direction, the bevies of workmen - but none knew better than these two, who trusted each other, how the underlings were not to be trusted. They had been tried many times in sudden crises - by slipping of booms, by breaking of tackle, failure of cranes, and the wrath of the river - but no stress had brought to light any man among men whom Findlayson and Hitchcock would have honoured by working as remorselessly as they worked them-selves. Findlayson thought it over from the beginning: the months of office-work destroyed at a blow when the Government of India, at the last moment, added two feet to the width of the bridge, under the impression that bridges were cut out of paper, and so brought to ruin at least half an acre of calculations - and Hitchcock, new to disappointment, buried his head in his arms and wept; the heart-breaking delays over the filling of the contracts in England; the futile correspondences hinting at great wealth of commissions if one, only one, rather doubtful consignment were passed; the war that followed the refusal; the careful, polite obstruction at the other end that followed the war, till young Hitchcock, putting one month's leave to another month, and borrowing ten days from Findlayson, spent his poor little savings of a year in a wild dash to London, and there, as his own tongue asserted and the later consignments proved, put the fear of God into a man so great that he feared only Parliament and said so till Hitchcock wrought with him across his own dinner table, and - he feared the Kashi Bridge and all who spoke in its name. Then there was the cholera that came in the night to the village by the bridge works; and after the cholera smote the small-pox. The fever they had always with them. Hitchcock had been appointed a magistrate of the third class with whipping powers, for the better government of the community, and Findlayson watched him wield his powers temperately, learning what to overlook and what to look after. It was a long, long reverie, and it covered storm, sudden freshets, death in every manner and shape, violent and awful rage against red tape half frenzying a mind that knows it should be busy on other things; drought, sanitation, finance; birth, wedding, burial, and riot in the village of twenty warring castes; argument, expostulation, persuasion, and the blank despair that a man goes to bed upon, thankful that his rifle is all in pieces in the gun-case. Behind everything rose the black frame of the Kashi Bridge - plate by plate, girder by girder, span by span - and each pier of it recalled Hitchcock, the all-round man, who had stood by his chief without failing from the very first to this last.

Kashi is the earliest name for Benares (now Varanasi).

Three of Frederick Dibblee's children died from cholera, and he died from a fever contracted while working on a railway in Burma.

This passage shows how much time was needed to visit England. Frederick Dibblee's employment record shows some of his leaves. A leave of three months meant that he could spend some time in England with his family.

So the bridge was two men's work - unless one counted Peroo, as Peroo certainly counted himself. He was a Lascar, a Kharva from Bulsar, familiar with every port between Rockhampton and London, who had risen to the rank of serang on the British India boats, but wearying of routine musters and clean clothes, had thrown up the service and gone inland, where men of his calibre were sure of employment. For his knowledge of tackle and the handling of heavy weights, Peroo was worth almost any price he might have chosen to put upon his services; but custom decreed the wage of the overhead-men, and Peroo was not within many silver pieces of his proper value. Neither running water nor extreme heights made him afraid; and, as an ex-serang, he knew how to hold authority. No piece of iron was so big or so badly placed that Peroo could not devise a tackle to lift it - a loose-ended, sagging arrangement, rigged with a scandalous amount of talking, but perfectly equal to the work in hand. It was Peroo who had saved the girder of Number Seven pier from destruction when the new wire-rope jammed in the eye of the crane, and the huge plate tilted in its slings, threatening to slide out sideways. Then the native workmen lost their heads with great shoutings, and Hitchcock's right arm was broken by a falling T-plate, and he buttoned it up in his coat and swooned, and came to and directed for four hours till Peroo, from the top of the crane, reported "All's well," and the plate swung home. There was no one like Peroo, serang, to lash, and guy, and hold, to control the donkey-engines, to hoist a fallen locomotive craftily out of the borrow-pit into which it had tumbled; to strip, and dive, if need be, to see how the concrete blocks round the piers stood the scouring of Mother Gunga, or to adventure upstream on a monsoon night and report on the state of the embankment-facings. He would interrupt the field-councils of Findlayson and Hitchcock without fear, till his wonderful English, or his still more wonderful lingua franca, half Portuguese and half Malay, ran out and he was forced to take string and show the knots that he would recommend. He controlled his own gang of tackle men - mysterious relatives from Kutch Mandvi gathered month by month and tried to the uttermost. No consideration of family or kin allowed Peroo to keep weak hands or a giddy head on the pay-roll. "My honour is the honour of this bridge," he would say to the about-to-be-dismissed. "What do I care for your honour? Go and work on a steamer. That is all you are fit for."

The little cluster of huts where he and his gang lived centred round the tattered dwelling of a sea-priest - one who had never set foot on black water, but had been chosen as ghostly counsellor by two generations of sea-rovers all unaffected by port missions or those creeds which are thrust upon sailors by agencies along Thames bank. The priest of the Lascars had nothing to do with their caste, or indeed with anything at all. He ate the offerings of his church, and slept and smoked, and slept again, "for," said Peroo, who had haled him a thousand miles inland, "he is a very holy man. He never cares what you eat so long as you do not eat beef, and that is good, because on land we worship Shiva, we Kharvas; but at sea on the Kumpani's boats we attend strictly to the orders of the Burra Malum [the first mate], and on this bridge we observe what Finlinson Sahib says."

A Lascar was a sailor from India employed on European ships.

Bulsar (Valsad) is in the Indian state of Gujarat.

Rockhampton is a town in Queensland, Australia. Peroo is well-travelled!

Mandvi is a city in the district of Kutch (Kachchh), in the Indian state of Gujarat. It's not particularly near Bulsar.

Kipling was a man of his own time, and sometimes his language offends. But here, Peroo is valued for his competance, hard work, authority and ability to keep his head in a crisis. He is one of the three men who built this bridge, and he knows it.

Finlinson Sahib had that day given orders to clear the scaffolding from the guard-tower on the right bank, and Peroo with his mates was casting loose and lowering down the bamboo poles and planks as swiftly as ever they had whipped the cargo out of a coaster.

From his trolley he could hear the whistle of the serang's silver pipe and the creek and clatter of the pulleys. Peroo was standing on the top-most coping of the tower, clad in the blue dungaree of his abandoned service, and as Findlayson motioned to him to be careful, for his was no life to throw away, he gripped the last pole, and, shading his eyes ship-fashion, answered with the long-drawn wail of the fo'c'sle lookout: "Ham dekhta hai" ("I am looking out"). Findlayson laughed and then sighed. It was years since he had seen a steamer, and he was sick for home. As his trolley passed under the tower, Peroo descended by a rope, ape-fashion, and cried: "It looks well now, Sahib. Our bridge is all but done. What think you Mother Gunga will say when the rail runs over?"

"She has said little so far. It was never Mother Gunga that delayed us."

"There is always time for her; and none the less there has been delay. Has the Sahib forgotten last autumn's flood, when the stone-boats were sunk without warning - or only a half-day's warning?"

"Yes, but nothing save a big flood could hurt us now. The spurs are holding well on the West Bank."

"Mother Gunga eats great allowances. There is always room for more stone on the revetments. I tell this to the Chota Sahib" - he meant Hitchcock - "and he laughs."

"No matter, Peroo. Another year thou wilt be able to build a bridge in thine own fashion."

The Lascar grinned. "Then it will not be in this way - with stonework sunk under water, as the Qyetta was sunk. I like sus-sus-pen-sheen bridges that fly from bank to bank. with one big step, like a gang-plank. Then no water can hurt. When does the Lord Sahib come to open the bridge?"

"In three months, when the weather is cooler."

"Ho! ho! He is like the Burra Malum. He sleeps below while the work is being done. Then he comes upon the quarter-deck and touches with his finger, and says: 'This is not clean! Dam jibboonwallah!'"

"But the Lord Sahib does not call me a dam jibboonwallah, Peroo."

"No, Sahib; but he does not come on deck till the work is all finished. Even the Burra Malum of the Nerbudda said once at Tuticorin-"

"Bah! Go! I am busy."

"I, also!" said Peroo, with an unshaken countenance. "May I take the light dinghy now and row along the spurs?"

"To hold them with thy hands? They are, I think, sufficiently heavy."

"Nay, Sahib. It is thus. At sea, on the Black Water, we have room to be blown up and down without care. Here we have no room at all. Look you, we have put the river into a dock, and run her between stone sills."

Findlayson smiled at the "we."

"We have bitted and bridled her. She is not like the sea, that can beat against a soft beach. She is Mother Gunga - in irons." His voice fell a little.

"Peroo, thou hast been up and down the world more even than I. Speak true talk, now. How much dost thou in thy heart believe of Mother Gunga?"

The conversation between Findlayson and Peroo sounds as if it is between a superior and inferior (Sahib means Lord or Master), yet Peroo maintains his point against opposition. He believes the river Ganges "Mother Gunga" to be a goddess, and he thinks she will be angry at the bridge. Findlayson at this point seems just to humour him. When Findlayson abruptly finishes the conversation, Peroo is definitely not snubbed!

Peroo, despite having inadequate English, seems to manage a pun in English. Findlayson tells him to look out (in case he falls). Peroo says that he is looking out, as if he was on a ship.

The Black Water means the sea. A river, being kept within its banks, can cause more havoc than the sea. The bridge is 'the chains'. You can consider this superstitious nonsense or sound engineering thinking dressed up in metaphorical language. The rest of the story explores this idea.

Chota Sahib means 'litle master'. All Indians had to refer to the British as Sahib.

"All that our priest says. London is London, Sahib. Sydney is Sydney, and Port Darwin is Port Darwin. Also Mother Gunga is Mother Gunga, and when I come back to her banks I know this and worship. In London I did poojah to the big temple by the river for the sake of the God within. . . . Yes, I will not take the cushions in the dinghy."

Findlayson mounted his horse and trotted to the shed of a bungalow that he shared with his assistant. The place had become home to him in the last three years. He had grilled in the heat, sweated in the rains, and shivered with fever under the rude thatch roof; the lime-wash beside the door was covered with rough drawings and formulae, and the sentry-path trodden in the matting of the verandah showed where he had walked alone. There is no eight-hour limit to an engineer's work, and the evening meal with Hitchcock was eaten booted and spurred: over their cigars they listened to the hum of the village as the gangs came up from the river-bed and the lights began to twinkle.

"Peroo has gone up the spurs in your dinghy. He's taken a couple of nephews with him, and he's lolling in the stern like a commodore," said Hitchcock.

"That's all right. He's got something on his mind. You'd think that ten years in the British India boats would have knocked most of his religion out of him."

"So it has," said Hitchcock, chuckling. "I overheard him the other day in the middle of a most atheistical talk with that fat old guru of theirs. Peroo denied the efficacy of prayer; and wanted the guru to go to sea and watch a gale out with him, and see if he could stop a monsoon."

"All the same, if you carried off his guru he'd leave us like a shot. He was yarning away to me about praying to the dome of St. Paul's when he was in London."

Poojah means worship. He is referring of course to St Paul's in London.

"He told me that the first time he went into the engine-room of a steamer, when he was a boy, he prayed to the low-pressure cylinder."

"Not half a bad thing to pray to, either. He's propitiating his own Gods now, and he wants to know what Mother Gunga will think of a bridge being run across her. Who's there?" A shadow darkened the doorway, and a telegram was put into Hitchcock's hand.

"She ought to be pretty well used to it by this time. Only a tar. It ought to be Ralli's answer about the new rivets. . . . Great Heavens!" Hitchcock jumped to his feet.

"What is it?" said the senior, and took the form. "That's what Mother Gunga thinks, is it," he said, reading. "Keep cool, young 'un. We've got all our work cut out for us. Let's see. Muir wired half an hour ago: 'Floods on the Ramgunga. Look out.' Well, that gives us - one, two - nine and a half for the flood to reach Melipur Ghaut and seven's sixteen and a half to Lataoli - say fifteen hours before it comes down to us."

"Curse that hill-fed sewer of a Ramgunga! Findlayson, this is two months before anything could have been expected, and the left bank is littered up with stuff still. Two full months before the time!"

"That's why it comes. I've only known Indian rivers for five-and-twenty years, and I don't pretend to understand. Here comes another tar." Findlayson opened the telegram. "Cockran, this time, from the Ganges Canal: 'Heavy rains here. Bad.' He might have saved the last word. Well, we don't want to know any more. We've got to work the gangs all night and clean up the riverbed. You'll take the east bank and work out to meet me in the middle. Get everything that floats below the bridge: we shall have quite enough river-craft coming down adrift anyhow, without letting the stone-boats ram the piers. What have you got on the east bank that needs looking after?

"Pontoon - one big pontoon with the overhead crane on it. T'other overhead crane on the mended pontoon, with the cart-road rivets from Twenty to Twenty~three piers - two construction lines, and a turning-spur. The pilework must take its chance," said Hitchcock.

"All right. Roll up everything you can lay hands on. We'll give the gang fifteen minutes more to eat their grub."

Although Findlayson seemed to humour Peroo by talking about "Mother Gunga", he now drops quite naturally into thinking about the river the same way.

A tar is a telegram. The monsoon has come early. This is serious. The river will flood, and the currently empty river bed is full of junk used in building the bridge. What's more, part of the bridge is not yet finished, and a strong river flood may damage it or even destroy it.

The Ramgunga is probably the Ramganga, which starts from Doodhatoli ranges in the Uttarakhand state of India. It flows into the Ganges.

Close to the verandah stood a big night-gong, never used except for flood, or fire in the village. Hitchcock had called for a fresh horse, and was off to his side of the bridge when Findlayson took the cloth-bound stick and smote with the rubbing stroke that brings out the full thunder of the metal.

Long before the last rumble ceased every night-gong in the village had taken up the warning. To these were added the hoarse screaming of conches in the little temples; the throbbing of drums and tom-toms; and, from the European quarters, where the riveters lived, Mc'Cartney's bugle, a weapon of offence on Sundays and festivals, brayed desperately, calling to "Stables." Engine after engine toiling home along the spurs at the end of her day's work whistled in answer till the whistles were answered from the far bank. Then the big gong thundered thrice for a sign that it was flood and not fire; conch, drum, and whistle echoed the call, and the village quivered to the sound of bare feet running upon soft earth. The order in all cases was to stand by the day's work and wait instructions. The gangs poured by in the dusk; men stopping to knot a loin-cloth or fasten a sandal; gang-foremen shouting to their subordinates as they ran or paused by the tool-issue sheds for bars and mattocks; locomotives creeping down their tracks wheel-deep in the crowd; till the brown torrent disappeared into the dusk of the river-bed, raced over the pilework, swarmed along the lattices, clustered by the cranes, and stood still - each man in his place.

Then the troubled beating of the gong carried the order to take up everything and bear it beyond high-water mark, and the flare-lamps broke out by the hundred between the webs of dull iron as the riveters began a night's work, racing against the flood that was to come. The girders of the three centre piers - those that stood on the cribs - were all but in position. They needed just as many rivets as could be driven into them, for the flood would assuredly wash out their supports, and the ironwork would settle down on the caps of stone if they were not blocked at the ends. A hundred crowbars strained at the sleepers of the temporary line that fed the unfinished piers. It was heaved up in lengths, loaded into trucks, and backed up the bank beyond flood-level by the groaning locomotives. The tool-sheds on the sands melted away before the attack of shouting armies, and with them went the stacked ranks of Government stores, iron-hound boxes of rivets, pliers, cutters, duplicate parts of the riveting-machines, spare pumps and chains. The big crane would be the last to be shifted, for she was hoisting all the heavy stuff up to the main structure of the bridge. The concrete blocks on the fleet of stone-boats were dropped overside, where there was any depth of water, to guard the piers, and the empty boats themselves were poled under the bridge down-stream. It was here that Peroo's pipe shrilled loudest, for the first stroke of the big gong had brought the dinghy back at racing speed, and Peroo and his people were stripped to the waist, working for the honour and credit which are better than life.

"I knew she would speak," he cried. "I knew, but the telegraph gives us good warning. O sons of unthinkable begetting - children of unspeakable shame - are we here for the look of the thing?" It was two feet of wire-rope frayed at the ends, and it did wonders as Peroo leaped from gunnel to gunnel, shouting the language of the sea.

Findlayson was more troubled for the stone boats than anything else. Mc'Cartney, with his gangs, was blocking up the ends of the three doubtful spans. But boats adrift, if the flood chanced to be a high one, might endanger the girders; and there was a very fleet in the shrunken channel.

"Get them behind the swell of the guard tower," he shouted down to Peroo. "It will be dead-water there. Get them below the bridge."

"Achcha! [Very good.] I know; we are mooring them with wire-rope," was the answer. "Heh! Listen to the Chota Sahib. He is working hard."

From across the river came an almost continuous whistling of locomotives, backed by the rumble of stone. Hitchcock at the last minute was spending a few hundred more trucks of Tarakee stone in reinforcing his spurs and embankments.

"The bridge challenges Mother Gunga," said Peroo, with a laugh. "But when she talks I know whose voice will be the loudest."

For hours the naked men worked, screaming and shouting under the lights. It was a hot, moonless night; the end of it was darkened by clouds and a sudden squall that made Findlayson very grave.

"She moves!" said Peroo, just before the dawn. "Mother Gunga is awake! Hear!" He dipped his hand over the side of a boat and the current mumbled on it. A little wave hit the side of a pier with a crisp slap.

"Six hours before her time," said Findlayson, mopping his forehead savagely. "Now we can't depend on anything. We'd better clear all hands out of the riverbed."

Again the big gong beat, and a second time there was the rushing of naked feet on earth and ringing iron; the clatter of tools ceased. In the silence, men heard the dry yawn of water crawling over thirsty sand.

No-one can see the flood yet, or even the monsoon rain. But the telegram has given them enough warning to clear the site, and even try to strengthen the bridge against the pressures that the flood will put upon it.

Foreman after foreman shouted to Findlayson, who had posted himself by the guard-tower, that his section of the river-bed had been cleaned out, and when the last voice dropped Findlayson hurried over the bridge till the iron plating of the permanent way gave place to the temporary plank-walk over the three centre piers, and there he met Hitchcock.

"'All clear your side?" said Findlayson. The whisper rang in the box of lattice work.

"Yes, and the east channel's filling now. We're utterly out of our reckoning. When is this thing down on us?"

"There's no saying. She's filling as fast as she can. Look!" Findlayson pointed to the planks below his feet, where the sand, burned and defiled by months of work, was beginning to whisper and fizz.

"What orders?" said Hitchcock.

"Call the roll - count stores - sit on your hunkers - and pray for the bridge. That's all I can think of. Good night. Don't risk your life trying to fish out anything that may go downstream."

"Oh, I'll be as prudent as you are! 'Night. Heavens, how she's filling! Here's the rain in earnest."

Findlayson picked his way back to his bank, sweeping the last of Mc'Cartney's riveters before him. The gangs had spread themselves along the embankments, regardless of the cold rain of the dawn, and there they waited for the flood. Only Peroo kept his men together behind the swell of the guard-tower, where the stone-boats lay tied fore and aft with hawsers, wire-rope, and chains.

A shrill wail ran along the line, growing to a yell, half fear and half wonder: the face of the river whitened from bank to hank between the stone facings, and the far-away spurs went out in spouts of foam. Mother Gunga had come bank-high in haste, and a wall of chocolate-coloured water was her messenger. There was a shriek above the roar of the water, the complaint of the spans coming down on their blocks as the cribs were whirled out from under their bellies. The stone-boats groaned and ground each other in the eddy that swung round the abutment, and their clumsy masts rose higher and higher against the dim sky-line.

"Before she was shut between these walls we knew what she would do. Now she is thus cramped God only knows what she will do!" said Peroo, watching the furious turmoil round the guard~tower. "Ohé! Fight, then! Fight hard, for it is thus that a woman wears herself out."

But Mother Gunga would not fight as Peroo desired. After the first down-stream plunge there came no more walls of water, but the river lifted herself bodily, as a snake when she drinks in midsummer, plucking and fingering along the revetments, and banking up behind the piers till even Findlayson began to recalculate the strength of his work.

When day came the village gasped. "Only last night," men said, turning to each other, "it was as a town in the river-bed! Look now!"

And they looked and wondered afresh at the deep water, the racing water that licked the throat of the piers. The farther bank was veiled by rain, into which the bridge ran out and vanished; the spurs up-stream were marked by no more than eddies and spoutings, and down-stream the pent river, once freed of her guide-lines, had spread like a sea to the horizon. Then hurried by, rolling in the water, dead men and oxen together, with here and there a patch of thatched roof that melted when it touched a pier.

This passage shows that the centre of the bridge is not yet finished. This will obviously be a weak point.

A normal flood would spread out across the countryside, covering the flood plain. But now the bridge has made part of the bank built up, confining the water. What will happen?

"Big flood," said Peroo, and Findlayson nodded. It was as big a flood as he had any wish to watch. His bridge would stand what was upon her now, but not very much more, and if by any of a thousand chances there happened to be a weakness in the embankments, Mother Gunga would carry his honour to the sea with the other raffle. Worst of all, there was nothing to do except to sit still; and Findlayson sat still under his macintosh till his helmet became pulp on his head, and his boots were over-ankle in mire. He took no count of time, for the river was marking the hours, inch by inch and foot by foot, along the embankment, and he listened, numb and hungry, to the straining of the stone-boats, the hollow thunder under the piers, and the hundred noises that make the full note of a flood. Once a dripping servant brought him food, but he could not eat; and once he thought that he heard a faint toot from a locomotive across the river, and then he smiled. The bridge's failure would hurt his assistant not a little, hut Hitchcock was a young man with his big work yet to do. For himself the crash meant everything - everything that made a hard life worth the living. They would say, the men of his own profession- he remembered the half-pitying things that he himself had said when Lockhart's new waterworks burst and broke down in brick-heaps and sludge, and Lockhart's spirit broke in him and he died. He remembered what he himself had said when the Sumao Bridge went out in the big cyclone by the sea; and most he remembered poor Hartopp's face three weeks later, when the shame had marked it. His bridge was twice the size of Hartopp's, and it carried the Findlayson truss as well as the new pier-shoe - the Findlayson bolted shoe. There were no excuses in his service. Government might listen, perhaps, but his own kind would judge him by his bridge, as that stood or fell. He went over it in his head, plate by plate, span by span, brick by brick, pier by pier, remembering, comparing, estimating, and recalculating, lest there should be any mistake; and through the long hours and through the flights of formulae that danced and wheeled before him a cold fear would come to pinch his heart. His side of the sum was beyond question; but what man knew Mother Gunga's arithmetic? Even as he was making all sure by the multiplication table, the river might be scooping a pot-hole to the very bottom of any one of those eighty-foot piers that carried his reputation. Again a servant came to him with food, but his mouth was dry, and he could only drink and return to the decimals in his brain. And the river was still rising. Peroo, in a mat shelter coat, crouched at his feet, watching now his face and now the face of the river, but saying nothing.

Findlayson has worked hard to build the bridge, and worked hard to save it before the flood. But now he has nothing to do. He is helpless before the force of nature which is Mother Gunga. He has challenged her with his bridge. Will she defeat him?

Raffle means rubbish.

At last the Lascar rose and floundered through the mud towards the village, but he was careful to leave an ally to watch the boats.

Presently he returned, most irreverently driving before him the priest of his creed - a fat old man, with a grey beard that whipped the wind with the wet cloth that blew over his shoulder. Never was seen so lamentable a guru.

"What good are offerings and little kerosene lamps and dry grain," shouted Peroo, "if squatting in the mud is all that thou canst do? Thou hast dealt long with the Gods when they were contented and well-wishing. Now they are angry. Speak to them!"

"What is a man against the wrath of Gods?" whined the priest, cowering as the wind took him. "Let me go to the temple, and I will pray there."

"Son of a pig, pray here! Is there no return for salt fish and curry powder and dried onions? Call aloud! Tell Mother Gunga we have had enough. Bid her be still for the night. I cannot pray, but I have been serving in the Kumpani's boats, and when men did not obey my orders I-" A flourish of the wire-rope colt rounded the sentence, and the priest, breaking free from his disciple, fled to the village.

"Fat pig!" said Peroo. "After all that we have done for him! When the flood is down I will see to it that we get a new guru. Finlinson Sahib, it darkens for night now, and since yesterday nothing has been eaten. Be wise, Sahib. No man can endure watching and great thinking on an empty belly. Lie down, Sahib. The river will do what the river will do."

"The bridge is mine; I cannot leave it."

"Wilt thou hold it up with thy hands, then?" said Peroo, laughing. "I was troubled for my boats and sheers before the flood came. Now we are in the hands of the Gods. The Sahib will not eat and lie down? Take these, then. They are meat and good toddy together, and they kill all weariness, besides the fever that follows the rain. I have eaten nothing else today at all."

Peroo tries a different way to help the situation, using the priest of his own religion. But this fails. So he just accepts the siuation, something that the British engineer can't do, although at this point it would be the most sensible thing to do.

He took a small tin tobacco-box from his sodden waist-belt and thrust it into Findlayson's hand, saying: "Nay, do not be afraid. It is no more than opium - clean Malwa opium."

Findlayson shook two or three of the dark-brown pellets into his hand, and hardly knowing what he did, swallowed them. The stuff was at least a good guard against fever - the fever that was creeping upon him out of the wet mud - and he had seen what Peroo could do in the stewing mists of autumn on the strength of a dose from the tin box.

Peroo nodded with bright eyes. "In a little - in a little the Sahib will find that he thinks well again. I too will-" He dived into his treasure-box, resettled the rain-coat over his head, and squatted down to watch the boats. It was too dark now to see beyond the first pier, and the night seemed to have given the river new strength. Findlayson stood with his chin on his chest, thinking. There was one point about one of the piers - the seventh - that he had not fully settled in his mind. The figures would not shape themselves to the eye except one by one and at enormous intervals of time. There was a sound rich and mellow in his ears like the deepest note of a double-bass - an entrancing sound upon which he pondered for several hours, as it seemed. Then Peroo was at his elbow, shouting that a wire hawser had snapped and the stone-boats were loose. Findlayson saw the fleet open and swing out fanwise to a long-drawn shriek of wire straining across gunnels.

"A tree hit them. They will all go," cried Peroo. "The main hawser has parted. What does the Sahib do?"

An immensely complex plan had suddenly flashed into Findlayson's mind. He saw the ropes running from boat to boat in straight lines and angles - each rope a line of white fire. But there was one rope which was the master rope. He could see that rope. If he could pull it once, it was absolutely and mathematically certain that the disordered fleet would reassemble itself in the backwater behind the guard-tower. But why, he wondered, was Peroo clinging so desperately to his waist as he hastened down the bank? It was necessary to put the Lascar aside, gently and slowly, because it was necessary to save the boats, and, further, to demonstrate the extreme ease of the problem that looked so difficult. And then - but it was of no conceivable importance - a wire-rope raced through his hand, burning it, the high bank disappeared, and with it all the slowly dispersing factors of the problem. He was sitting in the rainy darkness - sitting in a boat that spun like a top, and Peroo was standing over him.

To help Findlayson relax, Peroo offers him some opium. From this point on, the story becomes a dope dream. Under influence of the opium, Findlayson foolishly tries to save some boats which have broken loose. It seems Peroo saves him, but they end up in one of the boats, racing along the flood to near certain destruction.

"I had forgotten," said the Lascar, slowly, "that to those fasting and unused, the opium is worse than any wine. Those who die in Gunga go to the Gods. Still, I have no desire to present myself before such great ones. Can the Sahib swim?"

"What need? He can fly - fly as swiftly as the wind," was the thick answer.

"He is mad!" muttered Peroo, under his breath. "And he threw me aside like a bundle of dung-cakes. Well, he will not know his death. The boat cannot live an hour here even if she strike nothing. It is not good to look at death with a clear eye."

He refreshed himself again from the tin box, squatted down in the bows of the reeling, pegged, and stitched craft, staring through the mist at the nothing that was there. A warm drowsiness crept over Findlayson, the Chief Engineer, whose duty was with his bridge. The heavy raindrops struck him with a thousand tingling little thrills, and the weight of all time since time was made hung heavy on his eyelids. He thought and perceived that he was perfectly secure, for the water was so solid that a man could surely step out upon it, and, standing still with his legs apart to keep his balance - this was the most important point - would be borne with great and easy speed to the shore. But yet a better plan came to him. It needed only an exertion of will for the soul to hurl the body ashore as wind drives paper, to waft it kite-fashion to the bank. Thereafter - the boat spun dizzily - suppose the high wind got under the freed body? Would it tower up like a kite and pitch headlong on the far-away sands, or would it duck about, beyond control, through all eternity? Findlayson gripped the gunnel to anchor himself, for it seemed that he was on the edge of taking the flight before he had settled all his plans. Opium has more effect on the white man than the black. Peroo was only comfortably indifferent to accidents. "She cannot live," he grunted. "Her seams open already. If she were even a dinghy with oars we could have ridden it out; but a box with holes is no good. Finlinson Sahib, she fills."

"Achcha! I am going away. Come thou also." In his mind, Findlayson had already escaped from the boat, and was circling high in air to find a rest for the sole of his foot. His body - he was really sorry for its gross helplessness - lay in the stern, the water rushing about its knees.

"How very ridiculous!" he said to himself from his eyrie -" that - is Findlayson - chief of the Kashi Bridge. The poor beast is going to be drowned, too. Drowned when it's close to shore. I'm - I'm on shore already. Why doesn't it come along?"

To his intense disgust, he found his soul back in his body again, and that body spluttering and choking in deep water. The pain of the reunion was atrocious, but it was necessary, also, to fight for the body. He was conscious of grasping wildly at wet sand, and striding prodigiously, as one strides in a dream, to keep foothold in the swirling water, till at last he hauled himself clear of the hold of the river, and dropped, panting, on wet earth.

Peroo quite sensibly decides that there is nothing to be done and takes more opium. Findlayson is so high that he is talking, and behaving, ridiculously. However, the consequence is that they both manage to blunder ashore onto what turns out to be an island. All this time, Peroo does not criticise, or even become irritated by, Findlayson.

"Not this night," said Peroo, in his ear. "The Gods have protected us." The Lascar moved his feet cautiously, and they rustled among dried stumps. "This is some island of last year's indigo-crop," he went on. "We shall find no men here; but have great care, Sahib; all the snakes of a hundred miles have been flooded out. Here comes the lightning, on the heels of the wind. Now we shall be able to look; but walk carefully."

Findlayson was far and far beyond any fear of snakes, or indeed any merely human emotion. He saw, after he had rubbed the water from his eyes, with an immense clearness, and trod, so it seemed to himself with world-encompassing strides. Somewhere in the night of time he had built a bridge - a bridge that spanned illimitable levels of shining seas; but the Deluge had swept it away, leaving this one island under heaven for Findlayson and his companion, sole survivors of the breed of Man.

An incessant lightning, forked and blue, showed all that there was to be seen on the little patch in the flood - a clump of thorn, a clump of swaying creaking bamboos, and a grey gnarled peepul overshadowing a Hindoo shrine, from whose dome floated a tattered red flag. The holy man whose summer resting-place it was had long since abandoned it, and the weather had broken the red-daubed image of his god. The two men stumbled, heavy-limbed and heavy-eyed, over the ashes of a brick-set cooking-place, and dropped down under the shelter of the branches, while the rain and river roared together.

Peroo is still sensible, looking for snakes. Findlayson imagines that this flood is the one in the Bible which destroyed all mankind.

The peepul is the sacred fig. This plant is considered holy by the followers of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. There is a temple as well, showing this to be a holy place.

Up to this point, we have been shown reality. But now we enter the dream of the gods.

The stumps of the indigo crackled, and there was a smell of cattle, as a huge and dripping Brahminee bull shouldered his way under the tree. The flashes revealed the trident mark of Shiva on his flank, the insolence of head and hump, the luminous stag-like eyes, the brow crowned with a wreath of sodden marigold blooms, and the silky dewlap that almost swept the ground. There was a noise behind him of other beasts coming up from the flood-line through the thicket, a sound of heavy feet and deep breathing.

"Here be more beside ourselves," said Findlayson, his head against the tree pole, looking through half-shut eyes, wholly at ease.

"Truly," said Peroo, thickly, "and no small ones."

"What are they, then? I do not see clearly."

"The Gods. Who else? Look!"

The bull is Shiva, one of the main Hindu gods. The bull is sacred to him, and he is associated with the River Ganges. Marigolds are hung on statues of the gods.

This is not just Findlayson's dream. Peroo sees the gods too.

"Ah, true! The Gods surely - the Gods." Findlayson smiled as his head fell forward on his chest. Peroo was eminently right. After the Flood, who should be alive in the land except the Gods that made it - the Gods to whom his village prayed nightly - the Gods who were in all men's mouths and about all men's ways. He could not raise his head or stir a finger for the trance that held him, and Peroo was smiling vacantly at the lightning.

The Bull paused by the shrine, his head lowered to the damp earth. A green Parrot in the branches preened his wet wings and screamed against the thunder as the circle under the tree filled with the shifting shadows of beasts. There was a black Buck at the Bull's heels-such a Buck as Findlayson in his far-away life upon earth might have seen in dreams - a Buck with a royal head, ebon back, silver belly, and gleaming straight horns. Beside him, her head bowed to the ground, the green eyes burning under the heavy brows, with restless tail switching the dead grass, paced a Tigress, full-bellied and deep-jowled.

The parrot is Kama, the god of pleasure and sexual love. The black buck is Indra, who was a warrior god, originally the chief of the Hindu gods, but later became less important. The tigress is Kali, the wife of Shiva, a goddess of destruction, and the regeneration that brings.

The Bull crouched beside the shrine, and there leaped from the darkness a monstrous grey Ape, who seated himself man-wise in the place of the fallen image, and the rain spilled like jewels from the hair of his neck and shoulders.Other shadows came and went behind the circle, among them a drunken Man flourishing staff and drinking-bottle. Then a hoarse bellow broke out from near the ground. "The flood lessens even now," it cried. "Hour by hour the water falls, and their bridge still stands!"

"My bridge," said Findlayson to himself, "That must be very old work now. What have the Gods to do with my bridge?" His eyes rolled in the darkness following the roar. A Mugger - the blunt-nosed, ford-haunting Mugger of the Ganges - draggled herself before the beasts, lashing furiously to right and left with her tail.

"They have made it too strong for me. In all this night I have only torn away a handful of planks. The walls stand. The towers stand. They have chained my flood, and the river is not free any more. Heavenly Ones, take this yoke away! Give me clear water between bank and bank! It is I, Mother Gunga, that speak. The Justice of the Gods! Deal me the Justice of the Gods!"

"What said I?" whispered Peroo. "This is in truth a Punchayet of the Gods. Now we know that all the world is dead, save you and I, Sahib."

The Parrot screamed and fluttered again, and the Tigress, her ears flat to her head, snarled wickedly.

The grey ape is Hanuman, the monkey god, who helped the hero Rama. He symbolises devotion. Kipling makes him the god of work. The drunken man is Bhairon, the fierce manifestation of Shiva associated with annihilation, who rides on a dog. Kipling says he is the god of the common people.

The mugger, a crocodile, is the river Ganges.

A punchayet is a village council.

Somewhere in the shadow, a great trunk and gleaming tusks swayed to and fro, and a low gurgle broke the silence that followed on the snarl.

"We be here," said a deep voice, "the Great Ones. One only and very many. Shiv, my father, is here, with Indra. Kali has spoken already. Hanuman listens also."

"Kashi is without her Kotwal tonight," shouted the Man with the drinking-bottle, flinging his staff to the ground, while the island rang to the baying of hounds. "Give her the Justice of the Gods."

"Ye were still when they polluted my waters," the great Crocodile bellowed. "Ye made no sign when my river was trapped between the walls. I had no help save my own strength, and that failed - the strength of Mother Gunga failed - before their guard-towers. What could I do? I have done everything. Finish now, Heavenly Ones!"

The deep voice is an elephant, Ganesh, son of Shiva, and god of wealth.

Kotwal means a magistrate. Kashi is another name for Benares (now Varanasi). Later, Bhairon says that his stick is the Kotwal of Kashi.

"I brought the death; I rode the spotted sickness from hut to hut of their workmen, and yet they would not cease." A nose-slitten, hide-worn Ass, lame, scissor-legged, and galled, limped forward. "I cast the death at them out of my nostrils, but they would not cease."

Peroo would have moved, but the opium lay heavy upon him.

Sitala is the goddess of smallpox (and other diseases).

"Bah!" he said, spitting. "Here is Sitala herself; Mata - the small-pox. Has the Sahib a handkerchief to put over his face?"

"Little help! They fed me the corpses for a month, and I flung them out on my sand-bars, but their work went forward. Demons they are, and sons of demons! And ye left Mother Gunga alone for their fire-carriage to make a mock of the Justice of the Gods on the bridge-builders!"

The Bull turned the cud in his mouth and answered slowly: "If the Justice of the Gods caught all who made a mock of holy things there would be many dark altars in the land, mother."

"But this goes beyond a mock," said the Tigress, darting forward a griping paw. "Thou knowest, Shiv, and ye, too, Heavenly Ones; ye know that they have defiled Gunga. Surely they must come to the Destroyer. Let Indra judge."

The Buck made no movement as he answered: "How long has this evil been?

"Three years, as men count years," said the Mugger, close pressed to the earth.

"Does Mother Gunga die, then, in a year, that she is so anxious to see vengeance now? The deep sea was where she runs but yesterday, and tomorrow the sea shall cover her again as the Gods count that which men call time. Can any say that this their bridge endures till tomorrow?" said the Buck.

There was a long hush, and in the clearing of the storm the full moon stood up above the dripping trees.

"Judge ye, then," said the River, sullenly. "I have spoken my shame. The flood falls still. I can do no more."

The river Ganges, Mother Gunga, says she has tried to destroy the bridge as an impiety, crossing her holy waters. She has failed (the smallpox has also failed to kill them). Kali also wants the bridge (and possibly the people connected with it) destroyed.

Shiva (the Destroyer) is undecided. Indra thinks that Gunga is making a fuss over nothing. The gods have lasted so long and will last so long that the life of the bridge is short in comparison. Remember that at the start of the story, Findlayson was proud how long his bridge would last.

"For my own part " - it was the voice of the great Ape seated within the shrine - " it pleases me well to watch these men, remembering that I also builded no small bridge in the world's youth."

"They say, too," snarled the Tiger, "that these men came of the wreck of thy armies, Hanuman, and therefore thou hast aided - "

"They toil as my armies toiled in Lanka, and they believe that their toil endures. Indra is too high, but Shiv, thou knowest how the land is threaded with their fire-carriages."

"Yea, I know," said the Bull. "Their Gods instructed them in the matter."

Hanuman built a bridge from the south of India to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to help Rama find his wife. Kali seems to accuse the British of being monkeys (the army of Hanuman).

A laugh ran round the circle.

"Their Gods! What should their Gods know? They were born yesterday, and those that made them are scarcely yet cold," said the Mugger. "tomorrow their Gods will die."

"Ho!" said Peroo. "Mother Gunga talks good talk. I told that to the padre-sahib who preached on the Mombassa, and he asked the Burra Malum to put me in irons for a great rudeness."

"Surely they make these things to please their Gods," said the Bull again.

"Not altogether," the Elephant rolled forth. "It is for the profit of my mahajuns - my fat money-lenders that worship me at each new year, when they draw my image at the head of the account-books. I, looking over their shoulders by lamplight, see that the names in the books are those of men in far places - for all the towns are drawn together by the fire-carriage, and the money comes and goes swiftly, and the account-books grow as fat as - myself. And I, who am Ganesh of Good Luck, I bless my peoples."

"They have changed the face of the land - which is my land. They have killed and made new towns on my banks," said the Mugger.

"It is but the shifting of a little dirt. Let the dirt dig in the dirt if it pleases the dirt," answered the Elephant.

"But afterwards?" said the Tiger. "Afterwards they will see that Mother Gunga can avenge no insult, and they fall away from her first, and later from us all, one by one. In the end, Ganesh, we are left with naked altars."

The drunken Man staggered to his feet, and hiccupped vehemently.

"Kali lies. My sister lies. Also this my stick is the Kotwal of Kashi, and he keeps tally of my pilgrims. When the time comes to worship Bhairon - and it is always time - the fire-carriages move one by one, and each bears a thousand pilgrims. They do not come afoot any more, but rolling upon wheels, and my honour is increased."

"Gunga, I have seen thy bed at Pryag black with the pilgrims," said the Ape, leaning forward, "and but for the fire-carriage they would have come slowly and in fewer numbers. Remember."

"They come to me always," Bhairon went on thickly. "By day and night they pray to me, all the Common People in the fields and the roads. Who is like Bhairon today? What talk is this of changing faiths? Is my staff Kotwal of Kashi for nothing? He keeps the tally, and he says that never were so many altars as today, and the fire carriage serves them well. Bhairon am I - Bhairon of the Common People, and the chiefest of the Heavenly Ones today. Also my staff says - "

The Hindu gods (and, one suspects Kipling himself) have a low opinion of the new-fangled Christian 'gods'. Hinduism is an ancient religion.

Indra thinks that the British are motivated by religion. Ganesh realises that money is a greater motivator. They start to squabble about whether the gains bought by the British are worth the losses. The trains bring more pilgrims to worship them, but Mother Gunga is worried that people will no longer respect her as she has been beaten.

"Peace, thou" lowed the Bull. "The worship of the schools is mine, and they talk very wisely, asking whether I be one or many, as is the delight of my people, and ye know what I am. Kali, my wife, thou knowest also."

"Yea, I know," said the Tigress, with lowered head.

"Greater am I than Gunga also. For ye know who moved the minds of men that they should count Gunga holy among the rivers. Who die in that water - ye know how men say - come to us without punishment, and Gunga knows that the fire-carriage has borne to her scores upon scores of such anxious ones; and Kali knows that she has held her chiefest festivals among the pilgrimages that are fed by the fire-carriage. Who smote at Pooree, under the Image there, her thousands in a day and a night, and bound the sickness to the wheels of the fire-carriages, so that it ran from one end of the land to the other? Who but Kali? Before the fire-carriage came it was a heavy toil. The fire-carriages have served thee well, Mother of Death. But I speak for mine own altars, who am not Bhairon of the Common Folk, but Shiv. Men go to and fro, making words and telling talk of strange Gods, and I listen. Faith follows faith among my people in the schools, and I have no anger; for when all words are said, and the new talk is ended, to Shiv men return at the last."

"True. It is true," murmured Hanuman. "To Shiv and to the others, mother, they return. I creep from temple to temple in the North, where they worship one God and His Prophet; and presently my image is alone within their shrines."

"Small thanks," said the Buck, turning his head slowly. "I am that One and His Prophet also."

"Even so, father," said Hanuman. "And to the South I go who am the oldest of the Gods as men know the Gods, and presently I touch the shrines of the New Faith and the Woman whom we know is hewn twelve-armed, and still they call her Mary."

"Small thanks, brother," said the Tigress. "I am that Woman."

"Even so, sister; and I go West among the fire-carriages, and stand before the bridge-builders in many shapes, and because of me they change their faiths and are very wise.. Ho! ho! I am the builder of bridges, indeed - bridges between this and that, and each bridge leads surely to Us in the end. Be content, Gunga. Neither these men nor those that follow them mock thee at all."

Shiva says, in effect, that all religions are one. People turn from one religion to another, then back again. In the long term, it has no meaning.

"Am I alone, then, Heavenly Ones? Shall I smooth out my flood lest unhappily I bear away their walls? Will Indra dry my springs in the hills and make me crawl humbly between their wharfs? Shall I bury me in the sand ere I offend?"

"And all for the sake of a little iron bar with the fire-carriage atop. Truly, Mother Gunga is always young!" said Ganesh the Elephant. "A child had not spoken more foolishly. Let the dirt dig in the dirt ere it return to the dirt. I know only that my people grow rich and praise me. Shiv has said that the men of the schools do not forget; Bhairon is content for his crowd of the Common People; and Hanuman laughs."

"Surely I laugh," said the Ape. "My altars are few beside those of Ganesh or Bhairon, but the fire-carriages bring me new worshippers from beyond the Black Water - the men who believe that their God is toil. I run before them beckoning, and they follow Hanuman."

"Give them the toil that they desire, then," said the River. "Make a bar across my flood and throw the water back upon the bridge. Once thou wast strong in Lanka, Hanuman. Stoop and lift my bed."

"Who gives life can take life." The Ape scratched in the mud with a long forefinger. "And yet, who would profit by the killing? Very many would die."

Mother Gunga is still concerned with the present crisis. She tries to persuage Hanuman, the god of work, to cause more work by destroying the bridge. Hanuman is undecided.

There came up from the water a snatch of a love-song such as the boys sing when they watch their cattle in the noon heats of late spring. The parrot screamed joyously, sidling along his branch with lowered head as the song grew louder, and in a patch of clear moonlight stood revealed the young herd, the darling of the Gopis, the idol of dreaming maids and of mothers ere their children are born Krishna the Well-beloved. He stooped to knot up his long wet hair, and the Parrot fluttered to his shoulder.

"Fleeting and singing, and singing and fleeting," hiccupped Bhairon. "Those make thee late for the council, brother."

"And then?" said Krishna, with a laugh, throwing back his head. "Ye can do little without me or Karma here." He fondled the Parrot's plumage and laughed again. "What is this sitting and talking together? I heard Mother Gunga roaring in the dark, and so came quickly from a hut where I lay warm. And what have ye done to Karma, that he is so wet and silent? And what does Mother Gunga here? Are the heavens full that ye must come paddling in the mud beast-wise? Karma, what do they do?"

Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu, and is the god of love. Hence his connection to Kama, the parrot.

Fleeting means that moves constantly, shifting, unstable, wandering.

"Gunga has prayed for a vengeance on the bridge-builders, and Kali is with her. Now she bids Hanuman whelm the bridge, that her honour may be made great," cried the Parrot. "I waited here, knowing that thou wouldst come, O my master!"

"And the Heavenly Ones said nothing? Did Gunga and the Mother of Sorrows out-talk them? Did none speak for my people?"

"Nay," said Ganesh, moving uneasily from foot to foot; "I said it was but dirt at play, and why should we stamp it flat?"

"I was content to let them toil - well content," said Hanuman.

"What had I to do with Gunga's anger?" said the Bull.

"I am Bhairon of the Common Folk, and this my staff is Kotwal of all Kashi. I spoke for the Common People."

"Thou?" The young God's eyes sparkled.

"Am I not the first of the Gods in their mouths today?" returned Bhairon, unabashed. "For the sake of the Common People I said - very many wise things which I have now forgotten, but this my staff - "

Kishnu sees everything from the point of view of the ordinary people, who he loves. He is angry when Bhairon claims to represent the common people.

Krishna turned impatiently, saw the Mugger at his feet, and kneeling, slipped an arm round the cold neck. "Mother," he said gently, "get thee to thy flood again. The matter is not for thee. What harm shall thy honour take of this live dirt? Thou hast given them their fields new year after year, and by thy flood they are made strong. They come all to thee at the last. What need to slay them now? Have pity, mother, for a little - and it is only for a little."

"If it be only for a little " the slow beast began.

"Are they Gods, then?" Krishna returned with a laugh, his eyes looking into the dull eyes of the River. "Be certain that it is only for a little. The Heavenly Ones have heard thee, and presently justice will be done. Go now, mother, to the flood again. Men and cattle are thick on the waters - the banks fall - the villages melt because of thee."

"But the bridge - the bridge stands." The Mugger turned grunting into the undergrowth as Krishna rose.

Krishna persuades Mother Gunga to leave, and make the flood fall.

"It is ended," said the Tigress, viciously. "There is no more justice from the Heavenly Ones. Ye have made shame and sport of Gunga, who asked no more than a few score lives."

"Of my people - who lie under the leaf-roofs of the village yonder - of the young girls, and the young men who sing to them in the dark - of the child that will be born next morn - of that which was begotten tonight," said Krishna. "And when all is done, what profit? Tomorrow sees them at work. Ay, if ye swept the bridge out from end to end they would begin anew. Hear me! Bhairon is drunk always. Hanuman mocks his people with new riddles."

"Nay, but they are very old ones," the Ape said, laughing.

"Shiv hears the talk of the schools and the dreams of the holy men; Ganesh thinks only of his fat traders; but I - I live with these my people, asking for no gifts, and so receiving them hourly."

"And very tender art thou of thy people," said the Tigress.

"They are my own. The old women dream of me turning in their sleep; the maids look and listen for me when they go to fill their lotahs by the river. I walk by the young men waiting without the gates at dusk, and I call over my shoulder to the white-beards. Ye know, Heavenly Ones, that I alone of us all walk upon the earth continually, and have no pleasure in our heavens so long as a green blade springs here, or there are two voices at twilight in the standing crops. Wise are ye, but ye live far off; forgetting whence ye came. So do I not forget. And the fire-carriage feeds your shrines, ye say? And the fire-carriages bring a thousand pilgrims where but ten came in the old years? True. That is true, today."

Krishna says that since he lives close to the people he understands them best. It is pointless to destroy the bridge as it will just get rebuilt. The only people who suffer are his people, who die.

"But tomorrow they are dead, brother," said Ganesh.

"Peace!" said the Bull, as Hanuman leaned forward again. "And tomorrow, beloved - what of tomorrow?"

"This only. A new word creeping from mouth to mouth among the Common Folk - a word that neither man nor God can lay hold of - an evil word - a little lazy word among the Common Folk, saying (and none know who set that word afoot) that they weary of ye, Heavenly Ones."

The Gods laughed together softly. "And then, beloved - " they said.

"And to cover that weariness they, my people, will bring to thee, Shiv, and to thee, Ganesh, at first greater offerings and a louder noise of worship. But the word has gone abroad, and, after, they will pay fewer dues to your fat Brahmins. Next they will forget your altars, but so slowly that no man can say how his forgetfulness began."

"I knew - I knew! I spoke this also, but they would not hear," said the Tigress. "We should have slain - we should have slain!"

"It is too late now. Ye should have slain at the beginning when the men from across the water had taught our folk nothing. Now my people see their work, and go away thinking. They do not think of the Heavenly Ones altogether. They think of the fire-carriage and the other things that the bridge-builders have done, and when your priests thrust forward hands asking alms, they give a little unwillingly. That is the beginning, among one or two, or five or ten - for I, moving among my people, know what is in their hearts."

"And the end, Jester of the Gods? What shall the end be?" said Ganesh.

"The end shall be as it was in the beginning, O slothful son of Shiv! The flame shall die upon the altars and the prayer upon the tongue till ye become little Gods again - Gods of the jungle - names that the hunters of rats and noosers of dogs whisper in the thicket and among the caves - rag-Gods, pot Godlings of the tree, and the village-mark, as ye were at the beginning. That is the end, Ganesh, for thee, and for Bhairon - Bhairon of the Common People."

"It is very far away," grunted Bhairon. "Also, it is a lie."

"Many women have kissed Krishna. They told him this to cheer their own hearts when the grey hairs came, and he has told us the tale," said the Bull, below his breath.

"Their Gods came, and we changed them. I took the Woman and made her twelve-armed. So shall we twist all their Gods," said Hanuman.

"Their Gods! This is no question of their Gods - one or three - man or woman. The matter is with the people. They move, and not the Gods of the bridge-builders," said Krishna.

"So be it. I have made a man worship the fire-carriage as it stood still breathing smoke, and he knew not that he worshipped me," said Hanuman the Ape. "They will only change a little the names of their Gods. I shall lead the builders of the bridges as of old; Shiv shall be worshipped in the schools by such as doubt and despise their fellows; Ganesh shall have his mahajuns, and Bhairon the donkey-drivers, the pilgrims, and the sellers of toys. Beloved, they will do no more than change the names, and that we have seen a thousand times."

"Surely they will do no more than change the names," echoed Ganesh; but there was an uneasy movement among the Gods.

"They will change more than the names. Me alone they cannot kill, so long as a maiden and a man meet together or the spring follows the winter rains. Heavenly Ones, not for nothing have I walked upon the earth. My people know not now what they know; but I, who live with them, I read their hearts. Great Kings, the beginning of the end is born already. The fire-carriages shout the names of new Gods that are not the old under new names. Drink now and eat greatly! Bathe your faces in the smoke of the altars before they grow cold! Take dues and listen to the cymbals and the drums, Heavenly Ones, while yet there are flowers and songs. As men count time the end is far off; but as we who know reckon it is today. I have spoken."

The young God ceased, and his brethren looked at each other long in silence.

"This I have not heard before," Peroo whispered in his companion's ear. "And yet sometimes, when I oiled the brasses in the engine-room of the Goorkha, I have wondered if our priests were so wise - so wise. The day is coming, Sahib. They will be gone by the morning."

Now Krishna introduces a new idea. The religion of the British will not change things, but the way they think and what they bring will. The Hundu gods represent the Indian way of life, and that is changing. Only Krishna will be left, as men and women will always love each other.

A yellow light broadened in the sky, and the tone of the river changed as the darkness withdrew.

Suddenly the Elephant trumpeted aloud as though man had goaded him.

"Let Indra judge. Father of all, speak thou! What of the things we have heard? Has Krishna lied indeed? Or -"

"Ye know," said the Buck, rising to his feet. "Ye know the Riddle of the Gods. When Brahm ceases to dream, the Heavens and the Hells and Earth disappear. Be content. Brahm dreams still. The dreams come and go, and the nature of the dreams changes, but still Brahm dreams. Krishna has walked too long upon earth, and yet I love him the more for the tale he has told. The Gods change, beloved - all save One!"

"Ay, all save one that makes love in the hearts of men," said Krishna, knotting his girdle. "It is but a little time to wait, and ye shall know if I lie."

"Truly it is but a little time, as thou sayest, and we shall know. Get thee to thy huts again, beloved, and make sport for the young things, for still Brahm dreams. Go, my children! Brahm dreams and till he wakes the Gods die not."

Indra gives another idea. The gods, even the Hindu ones, are as ephemeral as everything else. There is only one God (but the story seems to imply this is not the Christian or Moslem God). Krishna is wrong, as men and women and all creation is ephemeral too.

Krishna denies this, and it seems to end in mid-air. Perhaps Kipling himself couldn't decide.

Brahm (not to be confused with Brahma) is all-ervading power which is the unity of the cosmos.

. . . . .

"Whither went they - " said the Lascar, awe-struck, shivering a little with the cold.

"God knows!" said Findlayson. The river and the island lay in full daylight now, and there was never mark of hoof or pug on the wet earth under the peepul. Only a parrot screamed in the branches, bringing down showers of water-drops as he fluttered his wings.

"Up! We are cramped with cold! Has the opium died out? Canst thou move, Sahib?"

Findlayson staggered to his feet and shook himself. His bead swam and ached, but the work of the opium was over, and, as he sluiced his forehead in a pool, the Chief Engineer of the Kashi Bridge was wondering how he had managed to fall upon the island, what chances the day offered of return, and, above all, how his work stood.

"Peroo, I have forgotten much I was under the guard-tower watching the river; and then - Did the flood sweep us away?"

"No. The boats broke loose, Sahib, and" (if the Sahib had forgotten about the opium, decidedly Peroo would not remind him) "in striving to retie them, so it seemed to me but it was dark - a rope caught the Sahib and threw him upon a boat. Considering that we two, with Hitchcock Sahib, built, as it were, that bridge, I came also upon the boat, which came riding on horseback, as it were, on the nose of this island, and so, splitting, cast us ashore. I made a great cry when the boat left the wharf and without doubt Hitchcock Sahib will come for us. As for the bridge, so many have died in the building that it cannot fall." A fierce sun, that drew out all the smell of the sodden land, had followed the storm, and in that clear light there was no room for a man to think of the dreams of the dark. Findlayson stared upstream, across the blaze of moving water, till his eyes ached. There was no sign of any bank to the Ganges, much less of a bridge-line.

Now we wake up.

Peroo implies that the close relationship caused by building the bridge together made him risk his life for Findlayson.

"We came down far," he said. "It was wonderful that we were not drowned a hundred times."

"That was the least of the wonder, for no man dies before his time. I have seen Sydney, I have seen London, and twenty great ports, but " - Peroo looked at the damp, discoloured shrine under the peepul - "never man has seen that we saw here."

"What?"

"Has the Sahib forgotten; or do we black men only see the Gods?"

"There was a fever upon me." Findlayson was still looking uneasily across the water. "It seemed that the island was full of beasts and men talking, but I do not remember. A boat could live in this water now, I think."

"Oho! Then it is true. 'When Brahm ceases to dream, the Gods die.' Now I know, indeed, what he meant. Once, too, the guru said as much to me; but then I did not understand. Now I am wise."

"What?" said Findlayson, over his shoulder.

Peroo went on as if he were talking to himself "Six - seven - ten monsoons since, I was watch on the fo'c'sle of the Rewah - the Kumpani's big boat - and there was a big tufan; green and black water beating, and I held fast to the life-lines, choking under the waters. Then I thought of the Gods - of Those whom we saw tonight" - he stared curiously at Findlayson's back, but the white man was looking across the flood. "Yes, I say of Those whom we saw this night past, and I called upon Them to protect me. And while I prayed, still keeping my lookout, a big wave came and threw me forward upon the ring of the great black bow-anchor, and the Rewah rose high and high, leaning towards the left-hand side, and the water drew away from beneath her nose, and I lay upon my belly, holding the ring, and looking down into those great deeps. Then I thought, even in the face of death: If I lose hold I die, and for me neither the Rewah nor my place by the galley where the rice is cooked, nor Bombay, nor Calcutta, nor even London, will be any more for me. 'How shall I be sure,' I said, 'that the Gods to whom I pray will abide at all?' This I thought, and the Rewah dropped her nose as a hammer falls, and all the sea came in and slid me backwards along the fo'c'sle and over the break of the fo'c'sle, and I very badly bruised my shin against the donkey-engine: but I did not die, and I have seen the Gods. They are good for live men, but for the dead - They have spoken Themselves. Therefore, when I come to the village I will beat the guru for talking riddles which are no riddles. When Brahm ceases to dream the Gods go."

Peroo remembers and understands what has past. Findlayson seems to have heard the gods, yet is forgetting it, perhaps because he wants to.

Peroo reverses what Indra said. Rather than taking as comfort that Brahm still sleeps, so everything continues as before, he says that everything will go when Brahm awakes, so everything, including the gods, are without meaning.

A tufan is a typhoon.

"Look up-stream. The light blinds. Is there smoke yonder?"

Peroo shaded his eyes with his hands. "He is a wise man and quick. Hitchcock Sahib would not trust a rowboat. He has borrowed the Rao Sahib's steam-launch, and comes to look for us. I have always said that there should have been a steam-launch on the bridge works for us.

The territory of the Rao of Baraon lay within ten miles of the bridge; and Findlayson and Hitchcock had spent a fair portion of their scanty leisure in playing billiards and shooting blackbuck with the young man. He had been bearled by an English tutor of sporting tastes for some five or six years, and was now royally wasting the revenues accumulated during his minority by the Indian Government. His steam-launch, with its silver-plated rails, striped silk awning, and mahogany decks, was a new toy which Findlayson had found horribly in the way when the Rao came to look at the bridge works.

"It's great luck," murmured Findlayson, but he was none the less afraid, wondering what news might be of the bridge.

The gaudy blue-and-white funnel came downstream swiftly. They could see Hitchcock in the bows, with a pair of opera-glasses, and his face was unusually white. Then Peroo hailed, and the launch made for the tail of the island. The Rao Sahib, in tweed shooting-suit and a seven-hued turban, waved his royal hand, and Hitchcock shouted. But he need have asked no questions, for Findlayson's first demand was for his bridge.

"All serene! 'Gad, I never expected to see you again, Findlayson. You're seven koss downstream. Yes; there's not a stone shifted anywhere; but how are you? I borrowed the Rao Sahib's launch, and he was good enough to come along. Jump in."

"Ah, Finlinson, you are very well, eh? That was most unprecedented calamity last night, eh? My royal palace, too, it leaks like the devil, and the crops will also be short all about my country. Now you shall back her out, Hitchcock. I - I do not understand steam-engines. You are wet? You are cold, Finlinson? I have some things to eat here, and you will take a good drink."

"I'm immensely grateful, Rao Sahib. I believe you've saved my life. How did Hitchcock - "

"Oho! His hair was upon end. He rode to me in the middle of the night and woke me up in the arms of Morpheus. I was most truly concerned, Finlinson, so I came too. My head-priest he is very angry just now. We will go quick, Mister Hitchcock. I am due to attend at twelve forty-five in the state temple, where we sanctify some new idol. If not so I would have asked you to spend the day with me. They are dam-bore, these religious ceremonies, Finlinson, eh?"

Peroo, well known to the crew, had possessed himself of the inlaid wheel, and was taking the launch craftily up-stream. But while he steered he was, in his mind, handling two feet of partially untwisted wire-rope; and the back upon which he beat was the back of his guru.

Rao means Rajah. Frederick Dibblee may have worked for a Maharaja.

A koss may be from 1.5 to 2.5 miles.

The bridge is safe. Rao Sahib (note that this is what Findlayson, who is British, calls him) thinks that religious ceremonies are 'dam-bore'. Peroo is going to beat his guru or priest. Was Krishna right, and the Indians loosing interest in their religion?


This is a short story from the collection The Day's Work by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1898. The railways are incidental to this story although there is a short description of what a long railway journey is like.

William the Conqueror

"IS IT officially declared yet?"

"They've gone as far as to admit 'extreme local scarcity,' and they've started relief-works in one or two districts, the paper says."

"That means it will be declared as soon as they can make sure of the men and the rolling-stock. 'Shouldn't wonder if it were as bad as the '78 Famine."

"'Can't be," said Scott, turning a little in the long cane chair.

"We've had fifteen-anna crops in the north, and Bombay and Bengal report more than they know what to do with. They'll be able to check it before it gets out of hand. It will only be local."

Martyn picked the Pioneer from the table, read through the telegrams once more, and put up his feet on the chair-rests. It was a hot, dark, breathless evening, heavy with the smell of the newly watered Mall. The flowers in the Club gardens were dead and black on their stalks, the little lotus-pond was a circle of caked mud, and the tamarisk-trees were white with the dust of weeks. Most of the men were at the band-stand in the public gardens - from the Club verandah you could hear the native Police band hammering stale waltzes - or on the polo-ground, or in the high-walled fives-court, hotter than a Dutch oven. Half a dozen grooms, squatted at the heads of their ponies, waited their masters' return. From time to time a man would ride at a foot-pace into the Club compound, and listlessly loaf over to the whitewashed barracks beside the main building. These were supposed to be chambers. Men lived in them, meeting the same white faces night after night at dinner, and drawing out their office-work till the latest possible hour, that they might escape that doleful company.

The 1876-8 famine in Bombay, Madras and Mysore killed five million people through starvation.

There are 16 annas in the rupee. So fifteen-anna crops means crops which are 15/16 as good as they can be.

There were four Presidencies, Punjab, Madras, Bombay and Bengal. The famine is in Madras. These people are in the Punjab.

Kipling worked for the Pioneer at one point.

"What are you going to do?." said Martyn, with a yawn. "Let's have a swim before dinner."

"'Water's hot. I was at the bath today."

"Play you game o' billiards - fifty up."

"It's a hundred and five in the hall now. Sit still and don't be so abominably energetic."

A grunting camel swung up to the porch, his badged and belted rider fumbling a leather pouch. - "Kubber-kargaz - ki - yektraaa," the man whined, handing down the newspaper extra - a slip printed on one side only, and damp from the press. It was pinned up on the green-baize board, between notices of ponies for sale and fox-terriers missing.

Martyn rose lazily, read it, and whistled. "It's declared!" he cried. "One, two, three - eight districts go under the operations of the Famine Code ek dum. They've put Jimmy Hawkins in charge."

"Good business!" said Scott, with the first sign of interest he had shown. "When in doubt hire a Punjabi. I worked under Jimmy when I first came out and he belonged to the Punjab. He has more bundobust than most men."

"Jimmy's a Jubilee Knight now," said Martyn."He's a good chap, even though he is a thrice-born civilian and went to the Benighted Presidency. What unholy names these Madras districts rejoice in - all ungas or rungas or pillays or polliums."

A dog-cart drove up in the dusk, and a man entered, mopping his head. He was editor of the one daily paper at the capital of a Province of twenty-five million natives and a few hundred white men: as his staff was limited to himself and one assistant, his office-hours ran variously from ten to twenty a day.

"Hi, Raines; you're supposed to know everything," said Martyn, stopping him. "How's this Madras 'scarcity' going to turn out?"

A temperature of 105 (Fahrenheit) is 40 degrees Celsius.

Kubber-kargaz means newspaper. Perhaps yektraaa means Extra.

Ek dum means immediately.

Bunobust means a talent for organising.

A Jubilee knight means one knighted for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee (1887). Kipling means by Punjabi that Hawkins worked in the Punjab before going to Madras (the Benighted Presidency). He is a member of the Indian Civil Service (a civilian) and an important one (thrice-born - a joke from the twice-born highest Hindu castes).

"No one knows as yet. There's a message as long as your arm coming in on the telephone. I've left my cub to fill it out. Madras has owned she can't manage it alone, and Jimmy seems to have a free hand in getting all the men he needs. Arbuthnot's warned to hold himself in readiness."

"'Badger' Arbuthnot?"

"The Peshawur chap. Yes: and the Pi wires that Ellis and Clay have been moved from the Northwest already, and they've taken half a dozen Bombay men, too. It's pukka famine, by the looks of it."

"They're nearer the scene of action than we are; but if it comes to indenting on the Punjab this early, there's more in this than meets the eye," said Martyn.

The cub is the assistant. I wonder if this is Kipling himself! The Pi is the Pioneer newspaper.

Pukka means real, genuine.

"Here today and gone tomorrow. 'Didn't come to stay for ever," said Scott, dropping one of Marryat's novels, and rising to his feet. "Martyn, your sister's waiting for you."

A rough grey horse was backing and shifting at the edge of the verandah, where the light of a kerosene lamp fell on a brown-calico habit and a white face under a grey-felt hat.

"Right, O!" said Martyn. "I'm ready. Better come and dine with us, if you've nothing to do, Scott. William, is there any dinner in the house?"

"I'll go home and see," was the rider's answer. "You can drive him over - at eight, remember."

Scott moved leisurely to his room, and changed into the evening-dress of the season and the country: spotless white linen from head to foot, with a broad silk cummerbund. Dinner at the Martyns' was a decided improvement on the goat-mutton, twiney-tough fowl, and tinned entrees of the Club. But it was a great pity that Martyn could not afford to send his sister to the hills for the hot weather. As an Acting District Superintendent of Police, Martyn drew the magnificent pay of six hundred depreciated silver rupees a month, and his little four-roomed bungalow said just as much. There were the usual blue-and-white-striped jail-made rugs on the uneven floor; the usual glass-studded Amritsar phulkaris draped on nails driven into the flaking whitewash of the walls; the usual half-dozen chairs that did not match, picked up at sales of dead men's effects; and the usual streaks of black grease where the leather punka-thong ran through the wall. It was as though everything had been unpacked the night before to be repacked next morning. Not a door in the house was true on its hinges. The little windows, fifteen feet up, were darkened with wasp-nests, and lizards hunted flies between the beams of the wood-ceiled roof. But all this was part of Scott's life. Thus did people live who had such an income; and in a land where each man's pay, age, and position are printed in a book, that all may read, it is hardly worth while to play at pretence in word or deed. Scott counted eight years' service in the Irrigation Department, and drew eight hundred rupees a month, on the understanding that if he served the State faithfully for another twenty-two years he could retire on a pension of some four hundred rupees a month. His working-life, which had been spent chiefly under canvas or in temporary shelters where a man could sleep, eat, and write letters, was bound up with the opening and guarding of irrigation canals, the handling of two or three thousand workmen of all castes and creeds, and the payment of vast sums of coined silver.

Frederick Marryat wrote Mr Midshipman Easy and The Children of the New Forest.

William is the name of Martyn's sister. William may be a nickname, or an abbreviation for Wilhelmina. Scott and Martyn are described by their surnames, but William is not (she is really Miss Martyn). Scott does not call her William. He says "your sister" to Martyn, and avoids any name when talking to her.

A phulkari is a cloth embrodered with flowers.

He had finished that spring, not without credit, the last section of the great Mosuhl Canal, and - much against his will, for he hated office-work - had been sent in to serve during the hot weather on the accounts and supply side of the Department, with sole charge of the sweltering sub-office at the capital of the Province. Martyn knew this; William, his sister, knew it; and everybody knew it. Scott knew, too, as well as the rest of the world, that Miss Martyn had come out to India four years ago to keep house for her brother, who, as every one knew, had borrowed the money to pay for her passage, and that she ought, as all the world said, to have married at once. Instead of this, she had refused some half a dozen subalterns, a Civilian twenty years her senior, one Major, and a man in the Indian Medical Department. This, too, was common property. She had "stayed down three hot weathers," as the saying is, because her brother was in debt and could not afford the expense of her keep at even a cheap hill-station. Therefore her face was white as bone, and in the centre of her forehead was a big silvery scar about the size of a shilling - the mark of a Delhi sore, which is the same as a "Bagdad date." This comes from drinking bad water, and slowly eats into the flesh till it is ripe enough to be burned out.

None the less William had enjoyed herself hugely in her four years. Twice she had been nearly drowned while fording a river; once she had been run away with on a camel; had witnessed a midnight attack of thieves on her brother's camp; had seen justice administered, with long sticks, in the open under trees; could speak Urdu and even rough Punjabi with a fluency that was envied by her seniors; had entirely fallen out of the habit of writing to her aunts in England, or cutting the pages of the English magazines; had been through a very bad cholera year, seeing sights unfit to be told; and had wound up her experiences by six weeks of typhoid fever, during which her head had been shaved and hoped to keep her twenty-third birthday that September. It is conceivable that the aunts would not have approved of a girl who never set foot on the ground if a horse were within hail; who rode to dances with a shawl thrown over her skirt; who wore her hair cropped and curling all over her head; who answered indifferently to the name of William or Bill; whose speech was heavy with the flowers of the vernacular; who could act in amateur theatricals, play on the banjo, rule eight servants and two horses, their accounts and their diseases, and look men slowly and deliberately between the eyes - even after they had proposed to her and been rejected.

From 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica "Unpleasant, but not dangerous, is another disease, the so-called "Bagdad date-mark".. It shows itself as a boil, attacking the face and extremities. It appears as ..a dry scaly sore.. It is not painful but leaves ugly scars. The boils last for about a year, after which there is no more likelihood of a recurrence of the trouble than in the case of smallpox."

Urdu and Punjabi are the local languages.

Cutting pages of magazines means cutting out articles or pictures that she was interested in.

"I like men who do things," she had confided to a man in the Educational Department, who was teaching the sons of cloth-merchants and dyers the beauty of Wordsworth's Excursion in annotated cram-books; and when he grew poetical, William explained that she "didn't understand poetry very much; it made her head ache," and another broken heart took refuge at the Club. But it was all William's fault. She delighted in hearing men talk of their own work, and that is the most fatal way of bringing a man to your feet.

The Excursion is Wordworth's longest poem, published in 1814.

Scott had known her for some three years, meeting her, as a rule, under canvass, when his camp and her brother's joined for a day on the edge of the Indian Desert. He had danced with her several times at the big Christmas gatherings, when as many as five hundred white people came in to the station; and had always a great respect for her housekeeping and her dinners.

She looked more like a boy than ever when, the meal ended, she sat, rolling cigarettes, her low forehead puckered beneath the dark curls as she twiddled the papers and stuck out her rounded chin when the tobacco stayed in place, or, with a gesture as true as a school-boy's throwing a stone, tossed the finished article across the room to Martyn, who caught it with one hand, and continued his talk with Scott. It was all "shop," - canals and the policing of canals; the sins of villagers who stole more water than they had paid for, and the grosser sin of native constables who connived at the thefts; of the transplanting bodily of villages to newly irrigated ground, and of the coming fight with the desert in the south when the Provincial funds should warrant the opening of the long-surveyed Luni Protective Canal System. And Scott spoke openly of his great desire to be put on one particular section of the work where he knew the land and the people; and Martyn sighed for a billet in the Himalayan foot-hills, and said his mind of his superiors, and William rolled cigarettes and said nothing, but smiled gravely on her brother because he was happy.

At ten Scott's horse came to the door, and the evening was ended.

The lights of the two low bungalows in which the daily paper was printed showed bright across the road. It was too early to try to find sleep, and Scott drifted over to the editor. Raines, stripped to the waist like a sailor at a gun, lay half asleep in a long chair, waiting for night telegrams. He had a theory that if a man did not stay by his work all day and most of the night he laid himself open to fever: so he ate and slept among his files.

"Can you do it?" be said drowsily. "I didn't mean to bring you over."

"About what - I've been dining at the Martyns'."

"The Madras famine, of course. Martyn's warned, too. They're taking men where they can find 'em. I sent a note to you at the Club just now, asking if you could do us a letter once a week from the south - between two and three columns, say. Nothing sensational, of course, but just plain facts about who is doing what, and so forth. Our regular rates - ten rupees a column."

"'Sorry, but it's out of my line," Scott answered, staring absently at the map of India on the wall. "It's rough on Martyn - very. 'Wonder what he'll do with his sister? 'Wonder what the deuce they'll do with me? I've no famine experience. This is the first I've heard of it. Am I ordered?"

"Oh, yes. Here's the wire. They'll put you on to relief-works," Raines said, "with a horde of Madrassis dying like flies; one native apothecary and half a pint of cholera-mixture among the ten thousand of you. It comes of your being idle for the moment. Every man who isn't doing two men's work seems to have been called upon. Hawkins evidently believes in Punjabis. It's going to be quite as bad as anything they have had in the last ten years."

She seems to be rolling cigarettes for her brother, and perhaps Scott, rather than for herself.

'Shop' meant talk about work.

Work in the Himalayan foot-hills would mean cooler weather, espeecially important for William, who as a woman was considered to be weaker than her brother (although the story seems to go on to deny this).

Sailors working guns below decks would get extremely hot, and so strip to keep cool.

Scott finds out that he is being sent to help with the famine. Hawkins is picking people that he knew when he worked in the Punjab.

"It's all in the day's work, worse luck. I suppose I shall get my orders officially some time tomorrow. I'm awfully glad I happened to drop in. 'Better go and pack my kit now. Who relieves me here - do you know?"

Raines turned over a sheaf of telegrams. "McEuan," said he, "from Murree."

Scott chuckled. "He thought he was going to be cool all summer. He'll be very sick about this. Well, no good talking. 'Night."

Two hours later, Scott, with a clear conscience, laid himself down to rest on a string cot in a bare room. Two worn bullock trunks, a leather water-bottle, a tin ice-box, and his pet saddle sewed up in sacking were piled at the door, and the Club secretary's receipt for last month's bill was under his pillow. His orders came next morning, and with them an unofficial telegram from Sir James Hawkins; who was not in the habit of forgetting good men when he had once met them, bidding him report himself with all speed at some unpronounceable place fifteen hundred miles to the south, for the famine was sore in the land, and white men were needed.

A pink and fattish youth arrived in the red-hot noonday, whimpering a little at fate and famines, which never allowed any one three months' peace. He was Scott's successor - another cog in the machinery, moved forward behind his fellow whose services, as the official announcement ran, "were placed at the disposal of the Madras Government for famine duty until further orders." Scott handed over the funds in his charge, showed him the coolest corner in the office, warned him against excess of zeal, and, as twilight fell, departed from the Club in a hired carriage, with his faithful body-servant, Faiz Ullah, and a mound of disordered baggage atop, to catch the southern mail at the loopholed and bastioned railway-station. The heat from the thick brick walls struck him across the face as if it had been a hot towel; and he reflected that there were at least five nights and four days of this travel before him. Faiz Ullah, used to the chances of service, plunged into the crowd on the stone platform, while Scott, a black cheroot between his teeth, waited till his compartment should be set away. A dozen native policemen, with their rifles and bundles, shouldered into the press of Punjabi farmers, Sikh craftsmen, and greasy-locked Afreedee pedlars, escorting with all pomp Martyn's uniform-case, water-bottles, ice-box, and bedding-roll. They saw Faiz Ullah's lifted hand, and steered for it.

"My Sahib and your Sahib," said Faiz Ullah to Martyn's man, "will travel together. Thou and I, O brother, will thus secure the servants' places close by; and because of our masters' authority none will dare to disturb us."

Frederick Dibblee's employment record describes him being given temporary responsibilities, presumably as the previous person became ill or moved elsewhere. His transfer from the Cuddapah-Nellore railway shows an example of how people were notified.

Faiz Ullah is a Moslem (see later). Personal servants often were, as they were not so concerned with caste and what they could and could not do. This would explain why Faiz Ullah greeted a fellow-servant as Brother.

When Faiz Ullah reported all things ready, Scott settled down at full length, coatless and bootless, on the broad leather-covered bunk. The heat under the iron-arched roof of the station might have been anything over a hundred degrees. At the last moment Martyn entered, dripping.

"Don't swear," said Scott, lazily; "it's too late to change your carriage; and we'll divide the ice."

"What are you doing here?" said the police-man.

"I'm lent to the Madras Government, same as you. By Jove, it's a bender of a night! Are you taking any of your men down?"

"A dozen. I suppose I shall have to superintend relief distributions. 'Didn't know you were under orders too."

"I didn't till after I left you last night. Raines had the news first. My orders came this morning. McEuan relieved me at four, and I got off at once. 'Shouldn't wonder if it wouldn't be a good thing - this famine - if we come through it alive."

A temperature of 100 (Fahrenheit) is 37 degrees Celsius.

"Jimmy ought to put you and me to work together," said Martyn; and then, after a pause: "My sister's here."

"Good business," said Scott, heartily. "Going to get off at Umballa, I suppose, and go up to Simla. Who'll she stay with there?"

"No-o; that's just the trouble of it. She's going down with me."

Scott sat bolt upright under the oil-lamps as the train jolted past Tarn-Taran. "What! You don't mean you couldn't afford - "

"'Tain't that. I'd have scraped up the money somehow."

"You might have come to me, to begin with," said Scott, stiffly; "we aren't altogether strangers."

"Well, you needn't be stuffy about it. I might, but - you don't know my sister. I've been explaining and exhorting and all the rest of it all day - lost my temper since seven this morning, and haven't got it back yet - but she wouldn't hear of any compromise. A woman's entitled to travel with her husband if she wants to; and William says she's on the same footing. You see, we've been together all our lives, more or less, since my people died. It isn't as if she were an ordinary sister."

"All the sisters I've ever heard of would have stayed where they were well off."

Umballa is a railway junction (mentioned in Kim). Simla is a hill station, cool and comfortable in the hot weather. Obviously William, being a woman, will not be going to the famine!

"She's as clever as a man, confound - " Martyn went on. "She broke up the bungalow over my head while I was talking at her. 'Settled the whole subchiz in three hours - servants, horses, and all. I didn't get my orders till nine."

"Jimmy Hawkins won't be pleased," said Scott "A famine's no place for a woman."

"Mrs. Jim - I mean Lady Jim's in camp with him. At any rate, she says she will look after my sister. William wired down to her on her own responsibility, asking if she could come, and knocked the ground from under me by showing me her answer."

Scott laughed aloud. "If she can do that she can take care of herself, and Mrs. Jim won't let her run into any mischief. There aren't many women, sisters or wives, who would walk into a famine with their eyes open. It isn't as if she didn't know what these things mean. She was through the Jalo cholera last year."

Subchiz means everything.

The train stopped at Amritsar, and Scott went back to the ladies' compartment, immediately behind their carriage. William, with a cloth riding-cap on her curls, nodded affably.

"Come in and have some tea," she said. "'Best thing in the world for heat-apoplexy."

"Do I look as if I were going to have heat-apoplexy?"

"'Never can tell," said William, wisely. "It's always best to be ready."

She had arranged her compartment with the knowledge of an old campaigner. A felt-covered water-bottle hung in the draught of one of the shuttered windows; a tea-set of Russian china, packed in a wadded basket, stood on the seat; and a travelling spirit-lamp was clamped against the woodwork above it.

William served them generously, in large cups, hot tea, which saves the veins of the neck from swelling inopportunely on a hot night. It was characteristic of the girl that, her plan of action once settled, she asked for no comments on it. Life among men who had a great deal of work to do, and very little time to do it in, had taught her the wisdom of effacing, as well as of fending for, herself. She did not by word or deed suggest that she would be useful, comforting, or beautiful in their travels, but continued about her business serenely: put the cups back without clatter when tea was ended, and made cigarettes for her guests.

"This time last night," said Scott, "we didn't expect - er - this kind of thing, did we?"

"I've learned to expect anything," said William. "You know, in our service, we live at the end of the telegraph; but, of course, this ought to be a good thing for us all, departmentally - if we live."

"It knocks us out of the running in our own Province," Scott replied, with equal gravity. "I hoped to be put on the Luni Protective Works this cold weather, but there's no saying how long the famine may keep us."

"Hardly beyond October, I should think," said Martyn. "It will be ended, one way or the other, then."

Heat-apoplexy is heat stroke. It seems odd to prevent this by giving hot tea, but this may make you sweat and so cool yourself, and it would also hydrate you.

"And we've nearly a week of this," said William. "Sha'n't we be dusty when it's over?"

For a night and a day they knew their surroundings, and for a night and a day, skirting the edge of the great Indian Desert on a narrow-gauge railway, they remembered how in the days of their apprenticeship they had come by that road from Bombay. Then the languages in which the names of the stations were written changed, and they launched south into a foreign land, where the very smells were new. Many long and heavily laden grain-trains were in front of them, and they could feel the hand of Jimmy Hawkins from far off. They waited in extemporised sidings while processions of empty trucks returned to the north, and were coupled on to slow, crawling trains, and dropped at midnight, Heaven knew where; but it was furiously hot, and they walked to and fro among sacks, and dogs howled.

Then they came to an India more strange to them than to the untravelled Englishman - the flat, red India of palm-tree, palmyra-palm, and rice - the India of the picture-books, of Little Harry and His Bearer - all dead and dry in the baking heat. They had left the incessant passenger-traffic of the north and west far and far behind them. Here the people crawled to the side of the train, holding their little ones in their arms; and a loaded truck would be left behind, the men and women clustering round it like ants by spilled honey. Once in the twilight they saw on a dusty plain a regiment of little brown men, each bearing a body over his shoulder; and when the train stopped to leave yet another truck, they perceived that the burdens were not corpses, but only foodless folk picked up beside dead oxen by a corps of Irregular troops. Now they met more white men, here one and there two, whose tents stood close to the line, and who came armed with written authorities and angry words to cut off a truck. They were too busy to do more than nod at Scott and Martyn, and stare curiously at William, who could do nothing except make tea, and watch how her men staved off the rush of wailing, walking skeletons, putting them down three at a time in heaps, with their own hands uncoupling the marked trucks, or taking receipts from the hollow-eyed, weary white men, who spoke another argot than theirs. They ran out of ice, out of soda-water, and out of tea; for they were six days and seven nights on the road, and it seemed to them like seven times seven years.

At last, in a dry, hot dawn, in a land of death, lit by long red fires of railway-sleepers, where they were burning the dead, they came to their destination, and were met by Jim Hawkins, the Head of the Famine, unshaven, unwashed, but cheery, and entirely in command of affairs.

Martyn, he decreed then and there, was to live on trains till further orders; was to go back with empty trucks, filling them with starving people as he found them, and dropping them at a famine-camp on the edge of the Eight Districts. He would pick up supplies and return, and his constables would guard the loaded grain-cars, also picking up people, and would drop them at a camp a hundred miles south. Jim Hawkins was very glad to see Scott again - would that same hour take charge of a convoy of bullock-carts, and would go south, feeding as he went, to yet another famine-camp, where he would leave his starving - there would he no lack of starving on the route - and wait for orders by telegraph. Generally, Scott was in all small things to act as he thought best.

This shows how the railways could be used to ship grain in a famine. The Bengal Nagpur Railway was built for famine relief. It was surveyed by Frederick Dibblee.

This also shows what a long railway journey was like at this time in India, although this is, of course, in an emergency.

"Little Henry and His Bearer" was written by Mary Martha Sherwood, and published in 1832. Written by the wife of a British army officer stationed in India, it tells the story of a six-year-old boy's conversion to Evangelical Christianity and his efforts to convert his Indian servant. The climax of the tale is Henry's death at the age of eight. Much of the book's appeal was the vivid description of its exotic setting.

William bit her under lip. There was no one in the wide world like her one brother, but Martyn's orders gave him no discretion.

She came out on the platform, masked with dust from head to foot, a horse-shoe wrinkle on her forehead, put here by much thinking during the past week, but as self-possessed as ever. Mrs. Jim - who should have been Lady Jim but that no one remembered the title - took possession of her with a little gasp.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're here," she almost sobbed. "You oughtn't to, of course, but there - there isn't another woman in the place, and we must help each other, you know; and we've all the wretched people and the little babies they are selling."

"I've seen some," said William.

"Isn't it ghastly? I've bought twenty; they're in our camp; but won't you have something to eat first? We've more than ten people can do here; and I've got a horse for you. Oh, I'm so glad you've come, dear. You're a Punjabi, too, you know."

"Steady, Lizzie," said Hawkins, over his shoulder. "We'll look after you, Miss Martyn. 'Sorry I can't ask you to breakfast, Martyn. You'll have to eat as you go. Leave two of your men to help Scott. These poor devils can't stand up to load carts. Saunders" (this to the engine-driver, who was half asleep in the cab), "back down and get those empties away. You've 'line clear' to Anundrapillay; they'll give you orders north of that. Scott, load up your carts from that B.P.P. truck, and be off as soon as you can. The Eurasian in the pink shirt is your interpreter and guide. You'll find an apothecary of sorts tied to the yoke of the second wagon. He's been trying to bolt; you'll have to look after him. Lizzie, drive Miss Martyn to camp, and tell them to send the red horse down here for me."

Scott, with Faiz Ullah and two policemen, was already busied with the carts, backing them up to the truck and unbolting the sideboards quietly, while the others pitched in the bags of millet and wheat. Hawkins watched him for as long as it took to fill one cart.

"That's a good man," he said. "If all goes well I shall work him hard." This was Jim Hawkins's notion of the highest compliment one human being could pay another.

Jimmy Hawkins obviously has a higher opinion of Scott than Martyn.

The story suggests that the selling of the babies was not so much the parent trying to get enough money to buy food to survive, more a way of trying to ensure that the babies survived.

An hour later Scott was under way; the apothecary threatening him with the penalties of the law for that he, a member of the Subordinate Medical Department, had been coerced and bound against his will and all laws governing the liberty of the subject; the pink-shirted Eurasian begging leave to see his mother, who happened to be dying some three miles away: "Only verree, verree short leave of absence, and will presently return, sar - "; the two constables,armed with staves, bringing up the rear; and Faiz Ullah, a Mohammedan's contempt for all Hindoos and foreigners in every line of his face, explaining to the drivers that though Scott Sahib was a man to be feared on all fours, he, Faiz Ullah, was Authority Itself.

The procession creaked past Hawkins's camp - three stained tents under a clump of dead trees, behind them the famine-shed, where a crowd of hopeless ones tossed their arms around the cooking-kettles.

"'Wish to Heaven William had kept out of it," said Scott to himself, after a glance. "We'll have cholera, sure as a gun, when the Rains break."

Faiz Ullah is not only a Muslim (described incorrectly by Kipling as a Mohammedan), he sees the local people as foreigners, since he comes from the Punjab.

But William seemed to have taken kindly to the operations of the Famine Code, which, when famine is declared, supersede the workings of the ordinary law. Scott saw her, the centre of a mob of weeping women, in a calico riding-habit, and a blue-grey felt hat with a gold puggaree.

"I want fifty rupees, please. I forgot to ask Jack before he went away. Can you lend it me? It's for condensed-milk for the babies," said she.

Scott took the money from his belt, and handed it over without a word. "For goodness sake, take care of yourself," he said.

"Oh, I shall be all right. We ought to get the milk in two days. By the way, the orders are, I was to tell you, that you're to take one of Sir Jim's horses.There's a grey Cabuli here that I thought would be just your style, so I've said you'd take him. Was that right?"

"That's awfully good of you. We can't either of us talk much about style, I am afraid."

Scott was in a weather-stained drill shooting-kit, very white at the seams and a little frayed at the wrists. William regarded him thoughtfully, from his pith helmet to his greased ankle-boots. "You look very nice, I think. Are you sure you've everything you'll need - quinine, chlorodyne, and so on?"

"'Think so," said Scott, patting three or four of his shooting-pockets as he mounted and rode alongside his convoy.

"Good-bye," he cried.

"Good-bye, and good luck," said William. "I'm awfully obliged for the money." She turned on a spurred heel and disappeared into the tent, while the carts pushed on past the famine-sheds, past the roaring lines of the thick, fat fires, down to the baked Gehenna of the South.

A puggaree is a cloth wrapped around the crown of a pith helmet or sola topee.

Condensed milk is thickened sweet milk in a tin. It was originally made as baby milk, but it is not considered suitable for babies now (although my grandmother was raised on it). It is however still sold and used for homemade sweets or just eaten from the tin. Yummy!

Quinine is for malaria. Chlorodyne was a patent medicine for the treatment of cholera. These would be for Scott's personal use.

It was punishing work, even though he travelled by night and camped by day; but within the limits of his vision there was no man whom Scott could call master. He was as free as Jimmy Hawkins - freer, in fact, for the Government held the Head of the Famine tied neatly to a telegraph-wire, and if Jimmy had ever regarded telegrams seriously, the death-rate of that famine would have been much higher than it was. At the end of a few days' crawling Scott learned something of the size of the India which he served, and it astonished him. His carts, as you know, were loaded with wheat, millet, and barley, good food-grains needing only a little grinding. But the people to whom he brought the life-giving stuffs were rice-eaters. They could hull rice in their mortars, but they knew nothing of the heavy stone querns of the North, and less of the material that the white man convoyed so laboriously. They clamoured for rice - unhusked paddy, such as they were accustomed to - and, when they found that there was none, broke away weeping from the sides of the cart. What was the use of these strange hard grains that choked their throats? They would die. And then and there very many of them kept their word. Others took their allowance, and bartered enough millet to feed a man through a week for a few handfuls of rotten rice saved by some less unfortunate. A few put their share into the rice-mortars, pounded it, and made a paste with foul water; but they were very few. Scott understood dimly that many people in the India of the South ate rice, as a rule, but he had spent his service in a grain Province, had seldom seen rice in the blade or ear, and least of all would have believed that in time of deadly need men could die at arm's length of plenty, sooner than touch food they did not know. In vain the interpreters interpreted; in vain his two policemen showed in vigorous pantomime what should be done. The starving crept away to their bark and weeds, grubs, leaves, and clay, and left the open sacks untouched. But sometimes the women laid their phantoms of children at Scott's feet, looking back as they staggered away.

The fact that people will starve rather than eat an unfamiliar food sounds horribly plausible. Note that Kipling quite rightly treats it as a stupidity belonging to all of humanity rather than just the Indians.

It also shows how someone from one part of India may not understand anything about another part. It would be, as Faiz Ullah would no doubt point out, be a foreign country.

Faiz Ullah opined it was the will of God that these foreigners should die, and it remained only to give orders to burn the dead. None the less there was no reason why the Sahib should lack his comforts, and Faiz Ullah, a campaigner of experience, had picked up a few lean goats and had added them to the procession. That they might give milk for the morning meal, he was feeding them on the good grain that these imbeciles rejected. "Yes," said Faiz Ullah; "if the Sahib thought fit, a little milk might be given to some of the babies"; but, as the Sahib well knew, babies were cheap, and, for his own part, Faiz Ullah held that there was no Government order as to babies. Scott spoke forcefully to Faiz Ullah and the two policemen, and bade them capture goats where they could find them. This they most joyfully did, for it was a recreation, and many ownerless goats were driven in. Once fed, the poor brutes were willing enough to follow the carts, and a few days' good food - food such as human beings died for lack of - set them in milk again.

"But I am no goatherd," said Faiz Ullah. "It is against my izzat [my honour]."

"When we cross the Bias River again we will talk of izzat," Scott replied. "Till that day thou and the policemen shall be sweepers to the camp, if I give the order."

"Thus, then, it is done," grunted Faiz Ullah, "if the Sahib will have it so"; and he showed how a goat should be milked, while Scott stood over him.

"Now we will feed them," said Scott; "twice a day we will feed them"; and he bowed his back to the milking, and took a horrible cramp.

When you have to keep connection unbroken between a restless mother of kids and a baby who is at the point of death, you suffer in all your system. But the babies were fed. Each morning and evening Scott would solemnly lift them out one by one from their nest of gunny-bags under the cart-tilts. There were always many who could do no more than breathe, and the milk was dropped into their toothless mouths drop by drop, with due pauses when they choked. Each morning, too, the goats were fed; and since they would straggle without a leader, and since the natives were hirelings, Scott was forced to give up riding, and pace slowly at the head of his flocks, accommodating his step to their weaknesses. All this was sufficiently absurd, and he felt the absurdity keenly; but at least he was saving life, and when the women saw that their children did not die, they made shift to eat a little of the strange foods, and crawled after the carts, blessing the master of the goats.

"Give the women something to live for," said Scott to himself, as he sneezed in the dust of a hundred little feet, "and they'll hang on somehow. This beats William's condensed-milk trick all to pieces. I shall never live it down, though."

He reached his destination very slowly, found that a rice-ship had come in from Burmah, and that stores of paddy were available; found also an overworked Englishman in charge of the shed, and, loading the carts, set back to cover the ground he had already passed. He left some of the children and half his goats at the famine-shed. For this he was not thanked by the Englishman, who had already more stray babies than he knew what to do with. Scott's back was suppled to stooping now, and he went on with his wayside ministrations in addition to distributing the paddy. More babies and more goats were added unto him; but now some of the babies wore rags, and beads round their wrists or necks. "That" said the interpreter, as though Scott did not know, "signifies that their mothers hope in eventual contingency to resume them offeecially."

Faiz Ullah has come up with the practical idea of feeding goats with the useless grain so they came back into milk. Scott develops the idea (much to Faiz Ullah's disgust) to feeding the babies. Scott knows he looks ridiculous, but his job is to save lives, and this does the job.

"The sooner, the better," said Scott; but at the same time he marked, with the pride of ownership, how this or that little Ramasawmy was putting on flesh like a bantam. As the paddy-carts were emptied he headed for Hawkins's camp by the railway, timing his arrival to fit in with the dinner-hour, for it was long since he had eaten at a cloth. He had no desire to make any dramatic entry, but an accident of the sunset ordered it that when he had taken off his helmet to get the evening breeze, the low light should fall across his forehead, and he could not see what was before him; while one waiting at the tent door beheld with new eyes a young man, beautiful as Paris, a god in a halo of golden dust, walking slowly at the head of his flocks, while at his knee ran small naked Cupids. But she laughed - William, in a slate-coloured blouse, laughed consumedly till Scott, putting the best face he could upon the matter, halted his armies and bade her admire the kindergarten. It was an unseemly sight, but the proprieties had been left ages ago, with the tea-party at Amritsar Station, fifteen hundred miles to the north.

"They are coming on nicely," said William. "We've only five-and-twenty here now. The women are beginning to take them away again."

"Are you in charge of the babies, then?" "Yes - Mrs. Jim and I. We didn't think of goats, though. We've been trying condensed-milk and water."

Scott now returns to Jimmy Hawkins and, of course, William. Kipling may not understand women, but he's right that Scott surrounded by babies that he's fed would make a good impression on William!

"Any losses?"

"More than I care to think of;" said William, with a shudder. "And you?"

Scott said nothing. There had been many little burials along his route - one cannot burn a dead baby - many mothers who had wept when they did not find again the children they had trusted to the care of the Government.

Then Hawkins came out carrying a razor, at which Scott looked hungrily, for he had a beard that he did not love. And when they sat down to dinner in the tent he told his tale in few words, as it might have been an official report. Mrs. Jim snuffled from time to time, and Jim bowed his head judicially; but William's grey eyes were on the clean-shaven face, and it was to her that Scott seemed to appeal.

"Good for the Pauper Province!" said William, her chin on her hand, as she leaned forward among the wine-glasses. Her cheeks had fallen in, and the scar on her forehead was more prominent than ever, but the well-turned neck rose roundly as a column from the ruffle of the blouse which was the accepted evening-dress in camp.

Cremation would be usual for Hindus, but the British might feel revulsion for it as a way of disposing of the dead.

The Pauper Province is the Punjab.

"It was awfully absurd at times," said Scott. "You see, I didn't know much about milking or babies. They'll chaff my head off, if the tale goes up North."

"Let 'em," said William, haughtily. "We've all done coolie-work since we came. I know Jack has." This was to Hawkins's address, and the big man smiled blandly.

"Your brother's a highly efficient officer, William," said he, "and I've done him the honour of treating him as he deserves. Remember, I write the confidential reports."

"Then you must say that William's worth her weight in gold," said Mrs. Jim. "I don't know what we should have done without her. She has been everything to us." She dropped her hand upon William's, which was rough with much handling of reins, and William patted it softly. Jim beamed on the company. Things were going well with his world. Three of his more grossly incompetent men had died, and their places had been filled by their betters. Every day brought the Rains nearer. They had put out the famine in five of the Eight Districts, and, after all, the death-rate had not been too heavy - things considered. He looked Scott over carefully, as an ogre looks over a man, and rejoiced in his thews and iron-hard condition.

"He's just the least bit in the world tucked up," said Jim to himself, "but he can do two men's work yet." Then he was aware that Mrs. Jim was telegraphing to him, and according to the domestic code the message ran: "A clear case. Look at them!"

He looked and listened. All that William was saying was: "What can you expect of a country where they call a bhistee [a water-carrier] a tunni-cutch?" and all that Scott answered was: "I shall be glad to get back to the Club. Save me a dance at the Christmas Ball, won't you?"

"It's a far cry from here to the Lawrence Hall," said Jim. "Better turn in early, Scott. It's paddy-carts tomorrow; you'll begin loading at five."

"Aren't you going to give Mr. Scott a single day's rest?"

"'Wish I could, Lizzie, but I'm afraid I can't. As long as he can stand up we must use him."

"Well, I've had one Europe evening, at least. By Jove, I'd nearly forgotten! What do I do about those babies of mine?"

"Leave them here," said William - "we are in charge of that - and as many goats as you can spare. I must learn how to milk now."

"If you care to get up early enough tomorrow I'll show you. I have to milk, you see. Half of 'em have beads and things round their necks. You must be careful not to take 'em off; in case the mothers turn up."

"You forget I've had some experience here."

"I hope to goodness you won't overdo." Scott's voice was unguarded.

"I'll take care of her," said Mrs. Jim, telegraphing hundred-word messages as she carried William off; while Jim gave Scott his orders for the coming campaign. It was very late - nearly nine o'clock.

"Jim, you're a brute," said his wife, that night; and the Head of the Famine chuckled.

We find out Martyn's first name, Jack. William is trying to show that her brother is as good as Scott.

It is disconcerting to hear that 'things were going well with his world' because three people have died. But Jimmy Hawkins is concentrating entirely on doing the job well.

"Not a bit of it, dear. I remember doing the first Jandiala Settlement for the sake of a girl in a crinoline, and she was slender, Lizzie. I've never done as good a piece of work since. He'll work like a demon."

"But you might have given him one day."

"And let things come to a head now? No, dear; it's their happiest time."

"I don't believe either of the darlings know what's the matter with them. Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it lovely?"

"Getting up at three to learn to milk, bless her heart! Oh, ye Gods, why must we grow old and fat?"

"She's a darling. She has done more work under me - - "

"Under you? The day after she came she was in charge and you were her subordinate. You've stayed there ever since; she manages you almost as well as you manage me."

"She doesn't, and that's why I love her. She's as direct as a man - as her brother."

"Her brother's weaker than she is. He's always to me for orders; but he's honest, and a glutton for work. I confess I'm rather fond of William, and if I had a daughter - - "

The talk ended. Far away in the Derajat was a child's grave more than twenty years old, and neither Jim nor his wife spoke of it any more.

"All the same, you're responsible," Jim added, a moment's silence.

"Bless 'em!" said Mrs. Jim, sleepily.

Jimmy Hawkins is teasing his wife. She is obviously the slender girl in a crinoline. Kipling mentioned in other stories that a man in love would work hard and well.

Martyn works hard but Hawkins prefers Scott who can work independently of orders.

Before the stars paled, Scott, who slept in an empty cart, waked and went about his work in silence; it seemed at that hour unkind to rouse Faiz Ullah and the interpreter. His head being close to the ground, he did not hear William till she stood over him in the dingy old riding-habit, her eyes still heavy with sleep, a cup of tea and a piece of toast in her hands. There was a baby on the ground, squirming on a piece of blanket, and a six-year-old child peered over Scott's shoulder.

"Hai, you little rip," said Scott, "how the deuce do you expect to get your rations if you aren't quiet?"

A cool white hand steadied the brat, who forthwith choked as the milk gurgled into his mouth.

"'Mornin'," said the milker. "You've no notion how these little fellows can wriggle."

"Oh, yes, I have." She whispered, because the world was asleep. "Only I feed them with a spoon or a rag. Yours are fatter than mine. And you've been doing this day after day?" The voice was almost lost.

"Yes; it was absurd. Now you try," he said, giving place to the girl. "Look out! A goat's not a cow."

The goat protested against the amateur, and there was a scuffle, in which Scott snatched up the baby. Then it was all to do over again, and William laughed softly and merrily. She managed, however, to feed two babies, and a third.

"Don't the little beggars take it well?" said Scott. "I trained 'em."

They were very busy and interested, when lo! it was broad daylight, and before they knew, the camp was awake, and they kneeled among the goats, surprised by the day, both flushed to the temples. Yet all the round world rolling up out of the darkness might have heard and seen all that had passed between them.

"Oh," said William, unsteadily, snatching up the tea and toast, "I had this made for you. It's stone-cold now. I thought you mightn't have anything ready so early. 'Better not drink it. It's - it's stone-cold."

"That's awfully kind of you. It's just right. It's awfully good of you, really. I'll leave my kids and goats with you and Mrs. Jim, and, of course, any one in camp can show you about the milking."

"Of course," said William; and she grew pinker and pinker and statelier and more stately, as she strode back to her tent, fanning herself with the saucer.

There were shrill lamentations through the camp when the elder children saw their nurse move off without them. Faiz Ullah unbent so far as to jest with the policemen, and Scott turned purple with shame because Hawkins, already in the saddle, roared.

A child escaped from the care of Mrs. Jim, and, running like a rabbit, clung to Scott's boot, William pursuing with long, easy strides.

"I will not go - I will not go!" shrieked the child, twining his feet round Scott's ankle. "They will kill me here. I do not know these people."

All right - this passage is very sentimental. I like it, cold tea and toast and all!

"I say," said Scott, in broken Tamil, "I say, she will do you no harm. Go with her and be well fed."

"Come!" said William, panting, with a wrathful glance at Scott, who stood helpless and, as it were, hamstrung.

"Go back," said Scott quickly to William. "I'll send the little chap over in a minute."

The tone of authority had its effect, but in a way Scott did not exactly intend. The boy loosened his grasp, and said with gravity: "I did not know the woman was thine. I will go." Then he cried to his companions, a mob of three-, four-, and five-year-olds waiting on the success of his venture ere they stampeded: "Go back and eat. It is our man's woman. She will obey his orders."

Jim collapsed where he sat; Faiz Ullah and the two policemen grinned; and Scott's orders to the cartmen flew like hail.

"That is the custom of the Sahibs when truth is told in their presence," said Faiz Ullah. "The time comes that I must seek new service. Young wives, especially such as speak our language and have knowledge of the ways of the Police, make great trouble for honest butlers in the matter of weekly accounts."

Tamil is the local language. Scott does not speak it well as he comes from the Punjab.

What William thought of it all she did not say, but when her brother, ten days later, came to camp for orders, and heard of Scott's performances, he said, laughing: "Well, that settles it. He'll be Bakri Scott to the end of his days." (Bakri in the Northern vernacular, means a goat.) "What a lark! I'd have given a month's pay to have seen him nursing famine babies. I fed some with conjee [rice-water], but that was all right."

"It's perfectly disgusting," said his sister, with blazing eyes. "A man does something like - like that - and all you other men think of is to give him an absurd nickname, and then you laugh and think it's funny."

"Ah," said Mrs. Jim, sympathetically.

"Well, you can't talk, William. You christened little Miss Demby the Button-quail, last cold weather; you know you did. India's the land of nicknames."

"That's different," William replied. "She was only a girl, and she hadn't done anything except walk like a quail, and she does. But it isn't fair to make fun of a man."

"Scott won't care," said Martyn. "You can't get a rise out of old Scotty. I've been trying for eight years, and you've only known him for three. How does he look?"

"He looks very well," said William, and went away with a flushed cheek. "Bakri Scott, indeed!" Then she laughed to herself, for she knew her country. "But it will he Bakri all the same"; and she repeated it under her breath several times slowly, whispering it into favour.

When he returned to his duties on the railway, Martyn spread the name far and wide among his associates, so that Scott met it as he led his paddy-carts to war. The natives believed it to be some English title of honour, and the cart-drivers used it in all simplicity till Faiz Ullah, who did not approve of foreign japes, broke their heads. There was very little time for milking now, except at the big camps, where Jim had extended Scott's idea and was feeding large flocks on the useless northern grains. Sufficient paddy had come now into the Eight Districts to hold the people safe, if it were only distributed quickly, and for that purpose no one was better than the big Canal officer, who never lost his temper, never gave an unnecessary order, and never questioned an order given. Scott pressed on, saving his cattle, washing their galled necks daily, so that no time should be lost on the road; reported himself with his rice at the minor famine-sheds, unloaded, and went back light by forced night-march to the next distributing centre, to find Hawkins's unvarying telegram: "Do it again." And he did it again and again, and yet again, while Jim Hawkins, fifty miles away, marked off on a big map the tracks of his wheels gridironing the stricken lands. Others did well - Hawkins reported at the end they all did well - but Scott was the most excellent, for he kept good coined rupees by him, settled for his own cart-repairs on the spot, and ran to meet all sorts of unconsidered extras, trusting to be recouped later on. Theoretically, the Government should have paid for every shoe and iinchpin, for every hand employed in the loading; but Government vouchers cash themselves slowly, and intelligent and efficient clerks write at great length, contesting unauthorised expenditures of eight annas. The man who wants to make his work a success must draw on his own bank-account of money or other things as he goes.

The funny story about the cows shows how a joke could travel round the British community.

Martyn's reaction makes one wonder if he would not have done the same as Scott for fear of appearing ridiculous. William certainly seems less interested in defending her brother from this point on!

"I told you he'd work," said Jimmy to his wife, at the end of six weeks. "He's been in sole charge of a couple of thousand men up north, on the Mosuhl Canal, for a year; but he gives less trouble than young Martyn with his ten constables; and I'm morally certain - only Government doesn't recognise moral obligations - he's spent about half his pay to grease his wheels. Look at this, Lizzie, for one week's work! Forty miles in two days with twelve carts; two days' halt building a famine-shed for young Rogers. (Rogers ought to have built it himself, the idiot!) Then forty miles back again, loading six carts on the way, and distributing all Sunday. Then in the evening he pitches in a twenty-page Demi-Official to me, saying the people where he is might be 'advantageously employed on relief-work,' and suggesting that he put 'em to work on some broken-down old reservoir he's discovered, so as to have a good water-supply when the Rains break. 'Thinks he can cauk the dam in a fortnight. Look at his marginal sketches - aren't they clear and good - I knew he was pukka, but I didn't know he was as pukka as this."

"I must show these to William," said Mrs. Jim. "The child's wearing herself out among the babies."

Scott usually has a very responsible job, but now will do anything to acheive what Hawkins asks of him.

Pukka here means sound, good.

"Not more than you are, dear. Well, another two months ought to see us out of the wood. I'm sorry it's not in my power to recommend you for a V. C."

William sat late in her tent that night, reading through page after page of the square handwriting, patting the sketches of proposed repairs to the reservoir, and wrinkling her eyebrows over the columns of figures of estimated water-supply. "And he finds time to do all this," she cried to herself, "and - well, I also was present. I've saved one or two babies."

She dreamed for the twentieth time of the god in the golden dust, and woke refreshed to feed loathsome black children, scores of them, wastrels picked up by the wayside, their bones almost breaking their skin, terrible and covered with sores.

Scott was not allowed to leave his cart-work, but his letter was duly forwarded to the Government, and he had the consolation, not rare in India, of knowing that another man was reaping where he had sown. That also was discipline profitable to the soul.

"He's much too good to waste on canals," said Jimmy. "Any one can oversee coolies. You needn't be angry, William; he can - but I need my pearl among bullock-drivers, and I've transferred him to the Khanda district, where he'll have it all to do over again. He should be marching now."

"He's not a coolie," said William, furiously. "He ought to be doing his regulation work."

"He's the best man in his service, and that's saying a good deal; but if you must use razors to cut grindstones, why, I prefer the best cutlery."

A V.C. is a Victoria Cross, the highest military honour in the British Army, and not at all appropriate! Still, an important theme of the story is that the best reward for the best work is the good opinion of other people, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

"Isn't it almost time we saw him again?" said Mrs. Jim. "I'm sure the poor boy hasn't had a respectable meal for a month. He probably sits on a cart and eats sardines with his fingers."

"All in good time, dear. Duty before decency - wasn't it Mr. Chucks said that?"

"No; it was Midshipman Easy," William laughed. "I sometimes wonder how it will feel to dance or listen to a band again, or sit under a roof. I can't believe I ever wore a ball-frock in my life."

"One minute," said Mrs. Jim, who was thinking. "If he goes to Khanda, he passes within five miles of us. Of course he'll ride in."

"Oh, no, he won't," said William.

"How do you know, dear?"

"It will take him off his work. He won't have time."

"He'll make it," said Mrs. Jim, with a twinkle.

"It depends on his own judgment. There's absolutely no reason why he shouldn't, if he thinks fit," said Jim.

"He won't see fit," William replied, without sorrow or emotion. "It wouldn't be him if he did."

"One certainly gets to know people rather well in times like these," said Jim, drily; but William's face was serene as ever, and even as she prophesied, Scott did not appear.

The Rains fell at last, late, but heavily; and the dry, gashed earth was red mud, and servants killed snakes in the camp, where every one was weather-bound for a fortnight - all except Hawkins, who took horse and plashed about in the wet, rejoicing. Now the Government decreed that seed-grain should be distributed to the people, as well as advances of money for the purchase of new oxen; and the white men were doubly worked for this new duty, while William skipped from brick to brick laid down on the trampled mud, and dosed her charges with warming medicines that made them rub their little round stomachs; and the milch goats throve on the rank grass. There was never a word from Scott in the Khanda district, away to the southeast, except the regular telegraphic report to Hawkins. The rude country roads had disappeared; his drivers were half mutinous; one of Martyn's loaned policemen had died of cholera; and Scott was taking thirty grains of quinine a day to fight the fever that comes with the rain: but those were things Scott did not consider necessary to report. He was, as usual, working from a base of supplies on a railway line, to cover a circle of fifteen miles radius, and since full loads were impossible, he took quarter-loads, and toiled four times as hard by consequence; for he did not choose to risk an epidemic which might have grown uncontrollable by assembling villagers in thousands at the relief-sheds. It was cheaper to take Government bullocks, work them to death, and leave them to the crows in the wayside sloughs.

That was the time when eight years of clean living and hard condition told, though a man's head were ringing like a bell from the cinchona, and the earth swayed under his feet when he stood and under his bed when he slept. If Hawkins had seen fit to make him a bullock-driver, that, he thought, was entirely Hawkins's own affair. There were men in the North who would know what he had done; men of thirty years' service in his own department who would say that it was "not half bad"; and above, immeasurably above, all men of all grades, there was William in the thick of the fight, who would approve because she understood. He had so trained his mind that it would hold fast to the mechanical routine of the day, though his own voice sounded strange in his own ears, and his hands, when he wrote, grew large as pillows or small as peas at the end of his wrists. That steadfastness bore his body to the telegraph-office at the railway-station, and dictated a telegram to Hawkins saying that the Khanda district was, in his judgment, now safe, and he "waited further orders."

This is rather a strange passage. Scott and William are obviously in love, yet William is confident that he will carry on with his work rather than visit her. This is followed up later. Scott would be doing doing reprehensible by visiting the camp, and Jimmy Hawkins' wife expects it, yet Scott has a higher notion of duty, and so does William (of his duty), which I find rather hard to sympathise with.

Mr. Chucks and Midshipman Easy are characters in books by Captain Marryat. Scott was read a book by Marryat at the start of this story.

The Madrassee telegraph-clerk did not approve of a large, gaunt man falling over him in a dead faint, not so much because of the weight as because of the names and blows that Faiz Ullah dealt him when he found the body rolled under a bench. Then Faiz Ullah took blankets, quilts, and coverlets where he found them, and lay down under them at his master's side, and bound his arms with a tent-rope, and filled him with a horrible stew of herbs, and set the policeman to fight him when he wished to escape from the intolerable heat of his coverings, and shut the door of the telegraph-office to keep out the curious for two nights and one day; and when a light engine came down the line, and Hawkins kicked in the door, Scott hailed him weakly but in a natural voice, and Faiz Ullah stood back and took all the credit.

"For two nights, Heaven-born, he was pagal" said Faiz Ullah. "Look at my nose, and consider the eye of the policeman. He beat us with his bound hands; but we sat upon him, Heaven-born, and though his words were tez, we sweated him. Heaven-born, never has been such a sweat! He is weaker now than a child; but the fever has gone out of him, by the grace of God. There remains only my nose and the eye of the constabeel. Sahib, shall I ask for my dismissal because my Sahib has beaten me?" And Faiz Ullah laid his long thin hand carefully on Scott's chest to be sure that the fever was all gone, ere he went out to open tinned soups and discourage such as laughed at his swelled nose.

"The district's all right," Scott whispered. "It doesn't make any difference. You got my wire?" I shall be fit in a week. 'Can't understand how it happened. I shall be fit in a few days."

"You're coming into camp with us," said Hawkins.

"But look here - but - "

"It's all over except the shouting. We sha'n't need you Punjabis any more. On my honour, we sha'n't. Martyn goes back in a few weeks; Arbuthnot's returned already; Ellis and Clay are putting the last touches to a new feeder-line the Government's built as relief-work. Morten's dead - he was a Bengal man, though; you wouldn't know him. 'Pon my word, you and Will - Miss Martyn - seem to have come through it as well as anybody." - "Oh, how is she, by-the-way"." The voice went up and down as he spoke.

"Going strong when I left her. The Roman Catholic Missions are adopting the unclaimed babies to turn them into little priests; the Basil Mission is taking some, and the mothers are taking the rest. You should hear the little beggars howl when they're sent away from William. She's pulled down a bit, but so are we all. Now, when do you suppose you'll be able to move?"

"I can't come into camp in this state. I won't," he replied pettishly.

"Well, you are rather a sight, but from what I gathered there it seemed to me they'd be glad to see you under any conditions. I'll look over your work here, if you like, for a couple of days, and you can pull yourself together while Faiz Ullah feeds you up."

Pagal means mad. Tez means strong or hot. Scott has fever, presumably malaria, he is delirious and presumably swearing a lot.

Constabeel is constanble.

Faiz Ullah has looked after Scott with great devotion, and teases him about being beaten when Scott was delirious. Yet earlier, he has hinted that he is stealing from Scott, and he is very ready to assume authority because of his position. I like Faiz Ullah!

Scott could walk dizzily by the time Hawkins's inspection was ended, and he flushed all over when Jim said of his work that it was "not half bad," and volunteered, further, that he had considered Scott his right-hand man through the famine, and would feel it his duty to say as much officially.

So they came back by rail to the old camp; but there were no crowds near it; the long fires in the trenches were dead and black, and the famine-sheds were almost empty.

"You see!" said Jim. "There isn't much more to do. 'Better ride up and see the wife. They've pitched a tent for you. Dinner's at seven. I've some work here."

Riding at a foot-pace, Faiz Ullah by his stirrup, Scott came to William in the brown-calico riding-habit, sitting at the dining-tent door, her hands in her lap, white as ashes, thin and worn, with no lustre in her hair. There did not seem to be any Mrs. Jim on the horizon, and all that William could say was: "My word, how pulled down you look!"

"I've had a touch of fever. You don't look very well yourself."

"Oh, I'm fit enough. We've stamped it out. I suppose you know?"

Scott nodded. "We shall all be returned in a few weeks. Hawkins told me."

"Before Christmas, Mrs. Jim says. Sha'n't you be glad to go back - I can smell the wood-smoke already"; William sniffed. "We shall be in time for all the Christmas doings. I don't suppose even the Punjab Government would be base enough to transfer Jack till the new year?"

"It seems hundreds of years ago - the Punjab and all that - doesn't it? Are you glad you came?"

"Now it's all over, yes. It has been ghastly here, though. You know we had to sit still and do nothing, and Sir Jim was away so much."

"Do nothing! How did you get on with the milking?"

"I managed it somehow - after you taught me. 'Remember?"

"Not half bad" means very good indeed, although the more you look at the phrase, the less sense it appears. It arises from "not bad" meaning "OK". It is an example of litotes (rather than making a certain claim, deny its opposite) qualified with an understatement.

Then the talk stopped with an almost audible jar. Still no Mrs. Jim.

"That reminds me, I owe you fifty rupees for the condensed-milk. I thought perhaps you'd be coming here when you were transferred to the Khanda district, and I could pay you then; but you didn't."

"I passed within five miles of the camp, but it was in the middle of a march, you see, and the carts were breaking down every few minutes, and I couldn't get 'em over the ground till ten o'clock that night. I wanted to come awfully. You knew I did, didn't you?"

"I - believe - I - did," said William, facing him with level eyes. She was no longer white.

"Did you understand?"

"Why you didn't ride in? Of course I did."

"Why?"

"Because you couldn't, of course. I knew that."

"Did you care?"

"If you had come in - but I knew you wouldn't - but if you had, I should have cared a great deal. You know I should."

"Thank God I didn't! Oh, but I wanted to! I couldn't trust myself to ride in front of the carts, because I kept edging 'em over here, don't you know?"

"I knew you wouldn't," said William, contentedly. "Here's your fifty."

Scott bent forward and kissed the hand that held the greasy notes. Its fellow patted him awkwardly but very tenderly on the head.

"And you knew, too, didn't you?" said William, in a new voice.

"No, on my honour, I didn't. I hadn't the - the cheek to expect anything of the kind, except . . I say, were you out riding anywhere the day I passed by to Khanda?"

William nodded, and smiled after the manner of an angel surprised in a good deed.

"Then it was just a speck I saw of your habit in the - - "

"Palm-grove on the Southern cart-road. I saw your helmet when you came up from the mullah by the temple - just enough to be sure that you were all right. D' you care?"

This time Scott did not kiss her hand, for they were in the dusk of the dining-tent, and, because William's knees were trembling under her, she had to sit down in the nearest chair, where she wept long and happily, her head on her arms; and when Scott imagined that it would be well to comfort her, she needing nothing of the kind, she ran to her own tent; and Scott went out into the world, and smiled upon it largely and idiotically. But when Faiz Ullah brought him a drink, he found it necessary to support one hand with the other, or the good whisky and soda would have been spilled abroad. There are fevers and fevers.

But it was worse - much worse - the strained, eye-shirking talk at dinner till the servants had withdrawn, and worst of all when Mrs. Jim, who had been on the edge of weeping from the soup down, kissed Scott and William, and they drank one whole bottle of champagne, hot, because there was no ice, and Scott and William sat outside the tent in the starlight till Mrs. Jim drove them in for fear of more fever.

Apropos of these things and some others William said: "Being engaged is abominable, because, you see, one has no official position. We must be thankful we've lots of things to do."

"Things to do!" said Jim, when that was reported to him. "They're neither of them any good any more. I can't get five hours' work a day out of Scott. He's in the clouds half the time."

"Oh, but they're so beautiful to watch, Jimmy. It will break my heart when they go. Can't you do anything for him?"

Here is the explanation of Scott's behaviour in not visiting them, and William's expectations. I still think she's being unreasonable, but I suppose they understand each other.

"I've given the Government the impression - at least, I hope I have - that he personally conducted the entire famine. But all he wants is to get on to the Luni Canal Works, and William's just as bad. Have you ever heard 'em talking of barrage and aprons and waste-water - It's their style of spooning, I suppose."

Mrs. Jim smiled tenderly. "Ah, that's in the intervals - bless 'em."

And so Love ran about the camp unrebuked in broad daylight, while men picked up the pieces and put them neatly away of the Famine in the Eight Districts.

. . . . .

Morning brought the penetrating chill of the Northern December, the layers of wood-smoke, the dusty grey-blue of the tamarisks, the domes of ruined tombs, and all the smell of the white Northern plains, as the mail-train ran on to the mile-long Sutlej Bridge. William, wrapped in a poshteen - a silk-embroidered sheepskin jacket trimmed with rough astrakhan - looked out with moist eyes and nostrils that dilated joyously. The South of pagodas and palm-trees, the overpopulated Hindu South, was done with. Here was the land she knew and loved, and before her lay the good life she understood, among folk of her own caste and mind. They were picking them up at almost every station now - men and women coming in for the Christmas Week, with racquets, with bundles of polo-sticks, with dear and bruised cricket-bats, with fox-terriers and saddles. The greater part of them wore jackets like William's, for the Northern cold is as little to be trifled with as the Northern heat. And William was among them and of them, her hands deep in her pockets, her collar turned up over her ears, stamping her feet on the platforms as she walked up and down to get warm, visiting from carriage to carriage and everywhere being congratulated. Scott was with the bachelors at the far end of the train, where they chaffed him mercilessly about feeding babies and milking goats; but from time to time he would stroll up to William's window, and murmur: "Good enough, isn't it?" and William would answer with sighs of pure delight: "Good enough, indeed." The large open names of the home towns were good to listen to. Umballa, Ludianah, Phillour, Jullundur, they rang like the coming marriage-bells in her ears, and William felt deeply and truly sorry for all strangers and outsiders - visitors, tourists, and those fresh-caught for the service of the country.

It was a glorious return, and when the bachelors gave the Christmas Ball, William was, unofficially, you might say, the chief and honoured guest among the Stewards, who could make things very pleasant for their friends. She and Scott danced nearly all the dances together, and sat out the rest in the big dark gallery overlooking the superb teak floor, where the uniforms blazed, and the spurs clinked, and the new frocks and four hundred dancers went round and round till the draped flags on the pillars flapped and bellied to the whirl of it.

Spooning - To court or pay addresses to (a person), esp. in a sentimental manner (OED)

About midnight half a dozen men who did not care for dancing came over from the Club to play "Waits," and that was a surprise the Stewards had arranged - before any one knew what had happened, the band stopped, and hidden voices broke into "Good King Wenceslaus," and William in the gallery hummed and beat time with her foot:

"Mark my footsteps well, my page,
Tread thou in them boldly.
Thou shalt feel the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly!"

"Oh, I hope they are going to give us another! Isn't it pretty, coming out of the dark in that way? Look - look down. There's Mrs. Gregory wiping her eyes!"

"It's like Home, rather," said Scott. "I remember - - "

"Hsh! Listen! - dear." And it began again:

"When shepherds watched their flocks by night - "

"A-h-h!" said William, drawing closer to Scott.

"All seated on the ground,
The Angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
'Fear not,' said he (for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind);
'Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.'"

This time it was William that wiped her eyes.

Waits are carol singers.


Kim by Rudyard Kipling was published in 1901. This is a passage describing a journey by train. The lama is on a pilgrimage and has met Kim, a beggar boy, who decides to accompany him.

Rudyard Kipling is a product of his own age, of course, and his attitudes sometimes grate. Still, it should be pointed that Kim, that cheeky and dishonest little boy, is in fact British!

From Kim, chapter 2

THEY entered the fort-like railway station, black in the end of night; the electrics sizzling over the goods yard where they handle the heavy Northern grain-traffic.

"This is the work of devils!" said the lama, recoiling from the hollow echoing darkness, the glimmer of rails between the masonry platforms, and the maze of girders above. He stood in a gigantic stone hall paved, it seemed, with the sheeted dead - third-class passengers who had taken their tickets overnight and were sleeping in the waiting-rooms. All hours of the twenty-four are alike to Orientals, and their passenger traffic is regulated accordingly.

This is Lahore station.

"This is where the fire-carriages come. One stands behind that hole" - Kim pointed to the ticket-office - "who will give thee a paper to take thee to Umballa.

"But we go to Benares," he replied petulantly.

"All one. Benares then. Quick: she comes!"

"Take thou the purse."

The lama, not so well used to trains as he had pretended, started as the 3.25 a.m. south bound roared in. The sleepers sprang to life, and the station filled with clamour and shoutings, cries of water and sweetmeat vendors, shouts of native policemen, and shrill yells of women gathering up their baskets, their families, and their husbands.

The lama thinks they are travelling to Benares, but Kim wants them to stop in Umballa first.

"It is the train - only the te-rain. It will come here. Wait!" Amazed at the lama's immense simplicity (he had handed him a small bag full of rupees), Kim asked and paid for a ticket to Umballa. A sleepy clerk grunted and flung out a ticket to the next station, just six miles distant.

"Nay," said Kim, scanning it with a grin. "This may serve for farmers, but I live in the city of Lahore. It was cleverly done, babu. Now give the ticket to Umballa."

The babu scowled and dealt the proper ticket.

"Now another to Amritzar," said Kim, who had no notion of spending Mahbub Ali's money on anything so crude as a paid ride to Umballa. "The price is so much. The small money in return is just so much. I know the ways of the te-rain.... Never did yogi need chela as thou dost," he went on merrily to the bewildered lama. "They would have flung thee out at Mian Mir but for me. This way! Come." He returned the money, keeping only one anna in each rupee of the price of the Umballa ticket as his commission - the immemorial commission of Asia.

Kim is going to get his full ticket by trickery, but he prevents the ticket clerk cheating the lama, doesn't use the lama's money for his own ticket, and only takes a reasonable commission. It was Mahbub Ali who gave Kim an errand at Umballa.

There are 16 annas to the rupee.

The lama jibbed at the open door of a crowded third-class carriage. "Were it not better to walk?" said he weakly.

A burly Sikh artisan thrust forth his bearded head. "Is he afraid? Do not be afraid. I remember the time when I was afraid of the te-rain. Enter! This thing is the work of the Government."

"I do not fear," said the lama. "Have ye room within for two?"

"There is no room even for a mouse," shrilled the wife of a well-to-do cultivator - a Hindu Jat from the rich Jullundur district. Our night trains are not as well looked after as the day ones, where the sexes are very strictly kept to separate carriages.

"Oh, mother of my son, we can make space," said the blue-turbaned husband. "Pick up the child. It is a holy man, see'st thou?"

"And my lap full of seventy times seven bundles! Why not bid him sit on my knee, Shameless? But men are ever thus!" She looked round for approval. An Amritzar courtesan near the window sniffed behind her head drapery.

"Enter! Enter!" cried a fat Hindu money-lender, his folded account-book in a cloth under his arm. With an oily smirk: "It is well to be kind to the poor."

"Ay, at seven per cent a month with a mortgage on the unborn calf," said a young Dogra soldier going south on leave; and they all laughed.

"Will it travel to Benares?" said the lama.

"Assuredly. Else why should we come? Enter, or we are left," cried Kim.

"See!" shrilled the Amritzar girl. "He has never entered a train. Oh see!"

"Nay, help," said the cultivator, putting out a large brown hand and hauling him in. "Thus is it done, father."

The first class would be for the British.

"But - but - I sit on the floor. It is against the Rule to sit on a bench," said the lama. "Moreover, it cramps me."

"I say," began the money-lender, pursing his lips, "that there is not one rule of right living which these te-rains do not cause us to break. We sit, for example, side by side with all castes and peoples."

"Yea, and with most outrageously shameless ones," said the wife, scowling at the Amritzar girl making eyes at the young sepoy.

"I said we might have gone by cart along the road," said the husband, "and thus have saved some money."

"Yes - and spent twice over what we saved on food by the way. That was talked out ten thousand times."

"Ay, by ten thousand tongues," grunted he.

Different castes and religions had to share carriages. This was resented at first, but the Indians adapted to it.

"The Gods help us poor women if we may not speak. Oho! He is of that sort which may not look at or reply to a woman." For the lama, constrained by his Rule, took not the faintest notice of her. "And his disciple is like him?"

"Nay, mother," said Kim most promptly. "Not when the woman is well-looking and above all charitable to the hungry."

"A beggar's answer," said the Sikh, laughing. "Thou hast brought it on thyself, sister!" Kim's hands were crooked in supplication.

"And whither goest thou?" said the woman, handing him the half of a cake from a greasy package.

"Even to Benares."

"Jugglers belike?" the young soldier suggested. "Have ye any tricks to pass the time? Why does not that yellow man answer?"

"Because," said Kim stoutly, "he is holy, and thinks upon matters hidden from thee."

"That may be well. We of the Loodhiana Sikhs," he rolled it out sonorously, "do not trouble our heads with doctrine. We fight."

The lama is a Buddhist monk. He is from Tibet, which is presumably why the soldier calls him a yellow man.

"My sister's brother's son is naik (corporal) in that regiment," said the Sikh craftsman quietly. "There are also some Dogra companies there." The soldier glared, for a Dogra is of other caste than a Sikh, and the banker tittered

"They are all one to me," said the Amritzar girl.

"That we believe," snorted the cultivator's wife malignantly.

"Nay, but all who serve the Sirkar with weapons in their hands are, as it were, one brotherhood. There is one brotherhood of the caste, but beyond that again" - she looked round timidly - "the bond of the Pulton - the Regiment - eh?"

"My brother is in a Jat regiment," said the cultivator. "Dogras be good men."

"Thy Sikhs at least were of that opinion," said the soldier, with a scowl at the placid old man in the corner. "Thy Sikhs thought so when our two companies came to help them at the Pirzai Kotal in the face of eight Afreedee standards on the ridge not three months gone."

He told the story of a border action in which the Dogra companies of the Loodhiana Sikhs had acquitted themselves well. The Amritzar girl smiled; for she knew the tale was to win her approval.

"Alas!" said the cultivator's wife at the end. "So their villages were burnt and their little children made homeless?"

The Dogra are an ethnic group, mostly Hindu. The Sikhs are a religious group. The caste system is Hindu, and does not apply to the Sikhs, who in fact explicitly consider themselves to be all equal. However, it is likely that Sikhs, known to be good soldiers, might look down non-Sikh soldiers. The Sikh is presumably objecting to the Dogra soldier claiming to be a Sikh soldier.

"They had marked our dead. They paid a great payment after we of the Sikhs had schooled them. So it was. Is this Amritzar?"

"Ay, and here they cut our tickets," said the banker, fumbling at his belt.

The lamps were paling in the dawn when the half-caste guard came round. Ticket-collecting is a slow business in the East, where people secrete their tickets in all sorts of curious places. Kim produced his and was told to get out.

"But I go to Umballa," he protested. "I go with this holy man."

"Thou canst go to Jehannum for aught I care. This ticket is only to Amritzar. Out!

Kim burst into a flood of tears, protesting that the lama was his father and his mother, that he was the prop of the lama's declining years, and that the lama would die without his care. All the carriage bade the guard be merciful - the banker was specially eloquent here - but the guard hauled Kim on to the platform. The lama blinked, he could not overtake the situation and Kim lifted up his voice and wept outside the carriage window.

"I am very poor. My father is dead - my mother is dead. Oh, charitable ones, if I am left here, who shall tend that old man?"

"What - what is this?" the lama repeated. "He must go to Benares. He must come with me. He is my chela. If there is money to be paid - "

"Oh, be silent," whispered Kim; "are we Rajahs to throw away good silver when the world is so charitable?"

The Amritzar girl stepped out with her bundles, and it was on her that Kim kept his watchful eye. Ladies of that persuasion, he knew, were generous.

"A ticket - a little tikkut to Umballa - O Breaker of Hearts!" She laughed. "Hast thou no charity?"

"Does the holy man come from the North?"

"From far and far in the North he comes," cried Kim. "From among the hills."

"There is snow among the pine trees in the North - in the hills there is snow. My mother was from Kulu. Get thee a ticket. Ask him for a blessing."

"Ten thousand blessings," shrilled Kim. "O Holy One, a woman has given us in charity so that I can come with thee - a woman with a golden heart. I run for the tikkut."

The girl looked up at the lama, who had mechanically followed Kim to the platform. He bowed his head that he might not see her, and muttered in Tibetan as she passed on with the crowd.

Kim now gets the money for the rest of the journey by trickery. He has enough money but begs for it instead.

"Light come - light go," said the cultivator's wife viciously.

"She has acquired merit," returned the lama. "Beyond doubt it was a nun."

"There be ten thousand such nuns in Amritzar alone. Return, old man, or the train may depart without thee," cried the banker.

"Not only was it sufficient for the ticket, but for a little food also," said Kim, leaping to his place. "Now eat, Holy One. Look. Day comes!"

Golden, rose, saffron, and pink, the morning mists smoked away across the flat green levels. All the rich Punjab lay out in the splendour of the keen sun. The lama flinched a little as the telegraph-posts swung by.

"Great is the speed of the train," said the banker, with a patronising grin. "We have gone farther since Lahore than thou couldst walk in two days: at even, we shall enter Umballa."

"And that is still far from Benares," said the lama wearily, mumbling over the cakes that Kim offered. They all unloosed their bundles and made their morning meal. Then the banker, the cultivator, and the soldier prepared their pipes and wrapped the compartment in choking, acrid smoke, spitting and coughing and enjoying themselves. The Sikh and the cultivator's wife chewed pan; the lama took snuff and told his beads, while Kim, cross-legged, smiled over the comfort of a full stomach.

...

The Amritzar woman is a prostitute! It is typical of the lama's naivity that he doesn't realise.

"Beggars a plenty have I met, and holy men to boot, but never such a yogi nor such a disciple," said the woman. Her husband touched his forehead lightly with one finger and smiled. But the next time the lama would eat they took care to give him their best.

And at last - tired, sleepy, and dusty - they reached Umballa City Station.

The husband is suggesting that the lama is mad.