"The Finest Story in the World" 15 страница

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

killed me."

"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

grim smile.

"Bend low," he whispered. The Englishman bent.

"_Bunnia_--Mission--school--expelled--_box-wallah_ (peddler)--Ceylon

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!


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

Wali Dad.

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

political color.

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

remember him."

"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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