hinted at cats--at a Sending of Cats. The mere words on paper were creepy
and uncanny to behold.
"What have you done, though?" said the Englishman; "I am as much in the
dark as ever. Do you mean to say that you can actually send this absurd
Sending you talk about?"
"Judge for yourself," said Dana Da. "What does that letter mean? In a
little time they will all be at my feet and yours, and I--O Glory!--will
be drugged or drunk all day long."
Dana Da knew his people.
When a man who hates cats wakes up in the morning "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница and finds a little
squirming kitten on his breast, or puts his hands into his ulster-pocket
and finds a little half-dead kitten where his gloves should be, or opens
his trunk and finds a vile kitten among his dress-shirts, or goes for a
long ride with his mackintosh strapped on his saddle-bow and shakes a
little squawling kitten from its folds when he opens it, or goes out to
dinner and finds a little blind kitten under his chair, or stays at home
and finds a writhing kitten under the quilt, or wriggling among his boots,
or hanging, head downward, in his tobacco-jar, or "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница being mangled by his
terrier in the veranda,--when such a man finds one kitten, neither more
nor less, once a day in a place where no kitten rightly could or should
be, he is naturally upset. When he dare not murder his daily trove because
he believes it to be a Manifestation, an Emissary, an Embodiment, and half
a dozen other things all out of the regular course of nature, he is more
than upset. He is actually distressed. Some of Lone Sahib's
co-religionists thought that he was a highly favored individual; but many
said that if he had treated the first kitten with "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница proper respect--as
suited a Toth-Ra-Tum-Sennacherib Embodiment--all this trouble would have
been averted. They compared him to the Ancient Mariner, but none the less
they were proud of him and proud of the Englishman who had sent the
Manifestation. They did not call it a Sending because Icelandic magic was
not in their programme.
After sixteen kittens, that is to say after one fortnight, for there were
three kittens on the first day to impress the fact of the Sending, the
whole camp was uplifted by a letter--it came flying through a window--from
the Old Man of the Mountains--the "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница Head of all the Creed--explaining the
Manifestation in the most beautiful language and soaking up all the credit
of it for himself. The Englishman, said the letter, was not there at all.
He was a backslider without Power or Asceticism, who couldn't even raise a
table by force of volition, much less project an army of kittens through
space. The entire arrangement, said the letter, was strictly orthodox,
worked and sanctioned by the highest Authorities within the pale of the
Creed. There was great joy at this, for some of the weaker brethren seeing
that an outsider who had been working on independent lines "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница could create
kittens, whereas their own rulers had never gone beyond crockery--and
broken at best--were showing a desire to break line on their own trail. In
fact, there was the promise of a schism. A second Round Robin was drafted
to the Englishman, beginning: "O Scoffer," and ending with a selection of
curses from the Rites of Mizraim and Memphis and the Commination of
Jugana, who was a "fifth-rounder," upon whose name an upstart
"third-rounder" once traded. A papal excommunication is a _billet-doux_
compared to the Commination of Jugana. The Englishman had been proved,
under the hand and seal "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница of the Old Man of the Mountains, to have
appropriated Virtue and pretended to have Power which, in reality,
belonged only to the Supreme Head. Naturally the Round Robin did not spare
He handed the letter to Dana Da to translate into decent English. The
effect on Dana Da was curious. At first he was furiously angry, and then
he laughed for five minutes.
"I had thought," he said, "that they would have come to me. In another
week I would have shown that I sent the Sending, and they would have
discrowned the Old Man of the Mountains who has sent this "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница Sending of mine.
Do you do nothing. The time has come for me to act. Write as I dictate,
and I will put them to shame. But give me ten more rupees."
At Dana Da's dictation the Englishman wrote nothing less than a formal
challenge to the Old Man of the Mountains. It wound up: "And if this
Manifestation be from your hand, then let it go forward; but if it be from
my hand, I will that the Sending shall cease in two days' time. On that
day there shall be twelve kittens and thenceforward none at all. The
people shall judge "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница between us." This was signed by Dana Da, who added
pentacles and pentagrams, and a _crux ansaia_, and half a dozen
_swastikas_, and a Triple Tau to his name, just to show that he was all he
laid claim to be.
The challenge was read out to the gentlemen and ladies, and they
remembered then that Dana Da had laughed at them some years ago. It was
officially announced that the Old Man of the Mountains would treat the
matter with contempt; Dana Da being an Independent Investigator without a
single "round" at the back of him. But this did not soothe his people.
They wanted to see "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница a fight. They were very human for all their
spirituality. Lone Sahib, who was really being worn out with kittens,
submitted meekly to his fate. He felt that he was being "kittened to prove
the power of Dana Da," as the poet says.
When the stated day dawned, the shower of kittens began. Some were white
and some were tabby, and all were about the same loathsome age. Three were
on his hearth-rug, three in his bath-room, and the other six turned up at
intervals among the visitors who came to see the prophecy break down.
Never was a more satisfactory "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница Sending. On the next day there were no
kittens, and the next day and all the other days were kittenless and
quiet. The people murmured and looked to the Old Man of the Mountains for
an explanation. A letter, written on a palm-leaf, dropped from the
ceiling, but every one except Lone Sahib felt that letters were not what
the occasion demanded. There should have been cats, there should have been
cats,--full-grown ones. The letter proved conclusively that there had been
a hitch in the Psychic Current which, colliding with a Dual Identity, had
interfered with the Percipient Activity all along the main line. The
kittens "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница were still going on, but owing to some failure in the Developing
Fluid, they were not materialized. The air was thick with letters for a
few days afterward. Unseen hands played Glьck and Beethoven on
finger-bowls and clock-shades; but all men felt that Psychic Life was a
mockery without materialized Kittens. Even Lone Sahib shouted with the
majority on this head. Dana Da's letters were very insulting, and if he
had then offered to lead a new departure, there is no knowing what might
not have happened.
But Dana Da was dying of whiskey and opium in the Englishman's godown, and
had small "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница heart for honors.
"They have been put to shame," said he. "Never was such a Sending. It has
"Nonsense," said the Englishman, "you are going to die, Dana Da, and that
sort of stuff must be left behind. I'll admit that you have made some
queer things come about. Tell me honestly, now, how was it done?"
"Give me ten more rupees," said Dana Da, faintly, "and if I die before I
spend them, bury them with me." The silver was counted out while Dana Da
was fighting with Death. His hand closed upon the money and he smiled "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница a
"Bend low," he whispered. The Englishman bent.
pearl-merchant--all mine English education--out-casted, and made up name
Dana Da--England with American thought-reading man and--and--you gave me
ten rupees several times--I gave the Sahib's bearer two-eight a month for
cats--little, little cats. I wrote, and he put them about--very clever
man. Very few kittens now in the _bazar_. Ask Lone Sahib's sweeper's
So saying, Dana Da gasped and passed away into a land where, if all be
true, there are no materializations and the making "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница of new creeds is
But consider the gorgeous simplicity of it all!
ON THE CITY WALL
Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was
upon the town-wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.--_Joshua_ ii. 15.
Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world. Lilith was
her very-great-grandmamma, and that was before the days of Eve as every
one knows. In the West, people say rude things about Lalun's profession,
and write lectures about it, and distribute the lectures to young persons
in order that Morality may be "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница preserved. In the East where the profession
is hereditary, descending from mother to daughter, nobody writes lectures
or takes any notice; and that is a distinct proof of the inability of the
East to manage its own affairs.
Lalun's real husband, for even ladies of Lalun's profession in the East
must have husbands, was a big jujube-tree. Her Mamma, who had married a
fig-tree, spent ten thousand rupees on Lalun's wedding, which was blessed
by forty-seven clergymen of Mamma's church, and distributed five thousand
rupees in charity to the poor. And that was the custom of the land. The
advantages of having a "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница jujube-tree for a husband are obvious. You cannot
hurt his feelings, and he looks imposing.
Lalun's husband stood on the plain outside the City walls, and Lalun's
house was upon the east wall facing the river. If you fell from the broad
window-seat you dropped thirty feet sheer into the City Ditch. But if you
stayed where you should and looked forth, you saw all the cattle of the
City being driven down to water, the students of the Government College
playing cricket, the high grass and trees that fringed the river-bank, the
great sand bars that ribbed the river, the "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница red tombs of dead Emperors
beyond the river, and very far away through the blue heat-haze, a glint of
the snows of the Himalayas.
Wali Dad used to lie in the window-seat for hours at a time watching this
view. He was a young Muhammadan who was suffering acutely from education
of the English variety and knew it. His father had sent him to a
Mission-school to get wisdom, and Wali Dad had absorbed more than ever his
father or the Missionaries intended he should. When his father died, Wali
Dad was independent and spent two years experimenting with the creeds of
the Earth "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница and reading books that are of no use to anybody.
After he had made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Roman Catholic
Church and the Presbyterian fold at the same time (the Missionaries found
him out and called him names, but they did not understand his trouble), he
discovered Lalun on the City wall and became the most constant of her few
admirers. He possessed a head that English artists at home would rave over
and paint amid impossible surroundings--a face that female novelists would
use with delight through nine hundred pages. In reality he was only a
clean-bred young Muhammadan "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница, with penciled eyebrows, small-cut nostrils,
little feet and hands, and a very tired look in his eyes. By virtue of his
twenty-two years he had grown a neat black beard which he stroked with
pride and kept delicately scented. His life seemed to be divided between
borrowing books from me and making love to Lalun in the window-seat. He
composed songs about her, and some of the songs are sung to this day in
the City from the Street of the Mutton-Butchers to the Copper-Smiths'
One song, the prettiest of all, says that the beauty of Lalun was so "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница great
that it troubled the hearts of the British Government and caused them to
lose their peace of mind. That is the way the song is sung in the streets;
but, if you examine it carefully and know the key to the explanation, you
will find that there are three puns in it--on "beauty," "heart," and
"peace of mind,"--so that it runs: "By the subtlety of Lalun the
administration of the Government was troubled and it lost such and such a
man." When Wali Dad sings that song his eyes glow like hot coals, and
Lalun leans back among the cushions and throws bunches "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница of jasmine-buds at
But first it is necessary to explain something about the Supreme
Government which is above all and below all and behind all. Gentlemen come
from England, spend a few weeks in India, walk round this great Sphinx of
the Plains, and write books upon its ways and its works, denouncing or
praising it as their own ignorance prompts. Consequently all the world
knows how the Supreme Government conducts itself, But no one, not even the
Supreme Government, knows everything about the administration of the
Empire. Year by year England sends out fresh drafts for the first
fighting-line, which is officially "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница called the Indian Civil Service. These
die, or kill themselves by overwork, or are worried to death or broken in
health and hope in order that the land may be protected from death and
sickness, famine and war, and may eventually become capable of standing
alone. It will never stand alone, but the idea is a pretty one, and men
are willing to die for it, and yearly the work of pushing and coaxing and
scolding and petting the country into good living goes forward. If an
advance be made all credit is given to the native, while the Englishmen
stand back and wipe their foreheads. If "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница a failure occurs the Englishmen
step forward and take the blame. Overmuch tenderness of this kind has bred
a strong belief among many natives that the native is capable of
administering the country, and many devout Englishmen believe this also,
because the theory is stated in beautiful English with all the latest
There be other men who, though uneducated, see visions and dream dreams,
and they, too, hope to administer the country in their own way--that is to
say, with a garnish of Red Sauce. Such men must exist among two hundred
million people, and, if they are not attended to, may cause trouble and
even "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница break the great idol called _Pax Britannic_, which, as the newspapers
say, lives between Peshawur and Cape Comorin. Were the Day of Doom to dawn
to-morrow, you would find the Supreme Government "taking measures to allay
popular excitement" and putting guards upon the graveyards that the Dead
might troop forth orderly. The youngest Civilian would arrest Gabriel on
his own responsibility if the Archangel could not produce a Deputy
Commissioner's permission to "make music or other noises" as the license
Whence it is easy to see that mere men of the flesh who would create a
tumult must fare badly at the hands of "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница the Supreme Government. And they
do. There is no outward sign of excitement; there is no confusion; there
is no knowledge. When due and sufficient reasons have been given, weighed
and approved, the machinery moves forward, and the dreamer of dreams and
the seer of visions is gone from his friends and following. He enjoys the
hospitality of Government; there is no restriction upon his movements
within certain limits; but he must not confer any more with his brother
dreamers. Once in every six months the Supreme Government assures itself
that he is well and takes formal acknowledgment of his existence. No one
protests against his detention "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница, because the few people who know about it
are in deadly fear of seeming to know him; and never a single newspaper
"takes up his case" or organizes demonstrations on his behalf, because the
newspapers of India have got behind that lying proverb which says the Pen
is mightier than the Sword, and can walk delicately.
So now you know as much as you ought about Wali Dad, the educational
mixture, and the Supreme Government.
Lalun has not yet been described. She would need, so Wali Dad says, a
thousand pens of gold and ink scented with musk. She has been variously
compared to the Moon, the "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница Dil Sagar Lake, a spotted quail, a gazelle, the
Sun on the Desert of Kutch, the Dawn, the Stars, and the young bamboo.
These comparisons imply that she is beautiful exceedingly according to the
native standards, which are practically the same as those of the West. Her
eyes are black and her hair is black, and her eyebrows are black as
leeches; her mouth is tiny and says witty things; her hands are tiny and
have saved much money; her feet are tiny and have trodden on the naked
hearts of many men. But, as Wali Dad sings: "Lalun _is_ Lalun, and when
you have "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница said that, you have only come to the Beginnings of Knowledge."
The little house on the City wall was just big enough to hold Lalun, and
her maid, and a pussy-cat with a silver collar. A big pink and blue
cut-glass chandelier hung from the ceiling of the reception room. A petty
Nawab had given Lalun the horror, and she kept it for politeness' sake.
The floor of the room was of polished chunam, white as curds. A latticed
window of carved wood was set in one wall; there was a profusion of
squabby pluffy cushions and fat carpets everywhere, and Lalun "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница's silver
_huqa_, studded with turquoises, had a special little carpet all to its
shining self. Wali Dad was nearly as permanent a fixture as the
chandelier. As I have said, he lay in the window-seat and meditated on
Life and Death and Lalun--specially Lalun. The feet of the young men of
the City tended to her doorways and then--retired, for Lalun was a
particular maiden, slow of speech, reserved of mind, and not in the least
inclined to orgies which were nearly certain to end in strife. "If I am of
no value, I am unworthy of this honor," said Lalun. "If I am "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница of value,
they are unworthy of Me," And that was a crooked sentence.
In the long hot nights of latter April and May all the City seemed to
assemble in Lalun's little white room to smoke and to talk. Shiahs of the
grimmest and most uncompromising persuasion; Sufis who had lost all belief
in the Prophet and retained but little in God; wandering Hindu priests
passing southward on their way to the Central India fairs and other
affairs; Pundits in black gowns, with spectacles on their noses and
undigested wisdom in their insides; bearded headmen of the wards; Sikhs
with all the details "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница of the latest ecclesiastical scandal in the Golden
Temple; red-eyed priests from beyond the Border, looking like trapped
wolves and talking like ravens; M.A.'s of the University, very superior
and very voluble--all these people and more also you might find in the
white room. Wali Dad lay in the window-seat and listened to the talk.
"It is Lalun's salon," said Wali Dad to me, "and it is electic--is not
that the word? Outside of a Freemason's Lodge I have never seen such
gatherings. _There_ I dined once with a Jew--a Yahoudi!" He spat into the
City "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница Ditch with apologies for allowing national feelings to overcome him.
"Though I have lost every belief in the world," said he, "and try to be
proud of my losing, I cannot help hating a Jew. Lalun admits no Jews
"But what in the world do all these men do?" I asked.
"The curse of our country," said Wali Dad. "They talk. It is like the
Athenians--always hearing and telling some new thing. Ask the Pearl and
she will show you how much she knows of the news of the City and the
Province. Lalun knows everything."
"Lalun," I said at random--she was "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница talking to a gentleman of the Kurd
persuasion who had come in from God-knows-where--"when does the 175th
Regiment go to Agra?"
"It does not go at all," said Lalun, without turning her head. "They have
ordered the 118th to go in its stead. That Regiment goes to Lucknow in
three months, unless they give a fresh order."
"That is so," said Wali Dad without a shade of doubt. "Can you, with your
telegrams and your newspapers, do better? Always hearing and telling some
new thing," he went on. "My friend, has your God ever smitten a European
nation for gossiping in the bazars? India has "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница gossiped for
centuries--always standing in the bazars until the soldiers go by.
Therefore--you are here to-day instead of starving in your own country,
and I am not a Muhammadan--I am a Product--a Demnition Product. That also
I owe to you and yours: that I cannot make an end to my sentence without
quoting from your authors." He pulled at the _huqa_ and mourned, half
feelingly, half in earnest, for the shattered hopes of his youth. Wali Dad
was always mourning over something or other--the country of which he
despaired, or the creed in which he had lost faith "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница, or the life of the
English which he could by no means understand.
Lalun never mourned. She played little songs on the _sitar_, and to hear
her sing, "_O Peacock, cry again_," was always a fresh pleasure. She knew
all the songs that have ever been sung, from the war-songs of the South
that make the old men angry with the young men and the young men angry
with the State, to the love-songs of the North where the swords
whinny-whicker like angry kites in the pauses between the kisses, and the
Passes fill with armed men, and the Lover is torn "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница from his Beloved and
cries, _Ai, Ai, Ai!_ evermore. She knew how to make up tobacco for the
_huqa_ so that it smelled like the Gates of Paradise and wafted you gently
through them. She could embroider strange things in gold and silver, and
dance softly with the moonlight when it came in at the window. Also she
knew the hearts of men, and the heart of the City, and whose wives were
faithful and whose untrue, and more of the secrets of the Government
Offices than are good to be set down in this place. Nasiban, her maid,
said that her jewelry was worth ten "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница thousand pounds, and that, some night,
a thief would enter and murder her for its possession; but Lalun said that
all the City would tear that thief limb from limb, and that he, whoever he
was, knew it.
So she took her _sitar_ and sat in the windowseat and sang a song of old
days that had been sung by a girl of her profession in an armed camp on
the eve of a great battle--the day before the Fords of the Jumna ran red
and Sivaji fled fifty miles to Delhi with a Toorkh stallion at his horse's
tail and another Lalun "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница on his saddle-bow. It was what men call a Mahratta
_Laonee_, and it said:
Their warrior forces Chimnajee
Before the Peishwa led,
The Children of the Sun and Fire
Behind him turned and fled.
And the chorus said:
With them there fought who rides so free
With sword and turban red,
The warrior-youth who earns his fee
At peril of his head,
"At peril of his head," said Wali Dad in English to me, "Thanks to your
Government, all our heads are protected, and with the educational
facilities at my command"--his eyes twinkled wickedly--"I might be a
distinguished member of the local administration "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница. Perhaps, in time, I
might even be a member of a Legislative Council."
"Don't speak English," said Lalun, bending over her _sitar_ afresh. The
chorus went out from the City wall to the blackened wall of Fort Amara
which dominates the City. No man knows the precise extent of Fort Amara.
Three kings built it hundreds of years ago, and they say that there are
miles of underground rooms beneath its walls. It is peopled with many
ghosts, a detachment of Garrison Artillery and a Company of Infantry. In
its prime it held ten thousand men and filled its ditches with corpses.
"At "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница peril of his head," sang Lalun, again and again.
A head moved on one of the Ramparts--the grey head of an old man--and a
voice, rough as shark-skin on a sword-hilt, sent back the last line of the
chorus and broke into a song that I could not understand, though Lalun and
Wali Dad listened intently.
"What is it?" I asked. "Who is it?"
"A consistent man," said Wali Dad. "He fought you in '46, when he was a
warrior-youth; refought you in '57, and he tried to fight you in '71, but
you had learned the trick of blowing men from guns too well "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница. Now he is
old; but he would still fight if he could."
"Is he a Wahabi, then? Why should he answer to a Mahratta _laonee_ if he
be Wahabi--or Sikh?" said I.
"I do not know," said Wali Dad. "He has lost perhaps, his religion.
Perhaps he wishes to be a King. Perhaps he is a King. I do not know his
"That is a lie, Wali Dad. If you know his career you must know his name."
"That is quite true. I belong to a nation of liars. I would rather not
tell you his name. Think "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница for yourself."
Lalun finished her song, pointed to the Fort, and said simply: "Khem
"Hm," said Wali Dad. "If the Pearl chooses to tell you the Pearl is a
I translated to Lalun, who laughed. "I choose to tell what I choose to
tell. They kept Khem Singh in Burma," said she. "They kept him there for
many years until his mind was changed in him. So great was the kindness of
the Government. Finding this, they sent him back to his own country that
he might look upon it before he died. He is an old man, but when he looks
upon this his country "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница his memory will come. Moreover, there be many who
"He is an Interesting Survival," said Wali Dad, pulling at the _huqa_. "He
returns to a country now full of educational and political reform, but, as
the Pearl says, there are many who remember him. He was once a great man.
There will never he any more great men in India. They will all, when they
are boys, go whoring after strange gods, and they will become
citizens--'fellow-citizens'--'illustrious fellow-citizens.' What is it
that the native papers call them?"
Wali Dad seemed to be in a very bad temper. Lalun looked "The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница out of the window
and smiled into the dust-haze. I went away thinking about Khem Singh who
had once made history with a thousand followers, and would have been a
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