F. E. (Fanny Emily) Penny.

The Rajah online

. (page 7 of 33)
Online LibraryF. E. (Fanny Emily) PennyThe Rajah → online text (page 7 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


his divine god-like person, whom they love more than all
things on earth. And so it ends in "

A wild scream interrupted his speech and rendered him
dumb. Delphine was startled to such an extent that she
bounded out of her chair, prepared to take refuge in the
house. Peter awoke from dreams of chicken bones and
sugar, and went into canine hysterics from a safe position
between Ted's legs.

An old woman with her hair dishevelled and tumbling
about her face, her saree torn and covered with dust,
crawled up the verandah steps and threw herself before
Ted, causing Peter to retreat with fierce growls under
the chair. The screams merged into heart-rending
groans.

" Great Scott, woman ! What has happened ? " cried
Ted, who also had sprung to his feet in his surprise.

" He is dead ! the young man ! And there is nothing
left of him but his turban, which was lying on the ground
before he went. Yemmah ! yemmah ! yemmah ! "

" Who is dead I "

" He leaves a widow, a poor woman with five small
children, to lie beneath your pious footsteps, sahib ! Aiyoh !
yemmah ! yemmah ! aiyoh ! "

" Who leaves a widow ? " demanded Ted.

" It has happened as we said. The driver killed no



CHAP, vm THE EAJAH 89

cock and made no sacrifice when the new carriage came to
the palace, therefore has this misfortune happened."

She concluded with a chorus of " yemmahs ! " and
" aiyohs ! " longer than ever.

" Is the man who drives the new horseless carriage
hurt ? "

" I cannot tell, sahib ; he is no longer there."

" Run away, probably, after damaging the new car,
with some piece of folly."

As the old woman remained silent except for her groans,
he asked

" Has he run away ? "

" No, sahib ; he did not run. He was carried away by
the will of the gods without requiring the aid of legs. Only
his widow and orphans are there waiting to throw themselves
before your pious "

" I must be off, Delphine. She is the old grannie
interpreter of the zenana. The kettle has boiled over, and
I must go and pull the fat out of the fire, as usual. It's an
accident of some sort. Don't be alarmed. This is the
ordinary method in this country of communicating bad
news."

" She looks as if she had been hurt," said Delphine,
from her position in the doorway.

" She has only been putting dust on her head and
' rending her garments ' as a sign that she is respectfully
sympathetic."

He threw away the end of his cigarette, put on his
sun-topee, and prepared to depart. He glanced at his
watch.

" Half-past eleven. I ought to be with the Rajah.
However, I must go and see what has happened, otherwise
we shall receive a string of urgent messages whilst he is
giving me an audience."

The old woman, observing preparations for a move on



90 THE RAJAH CHAP, vm

the part of the sahib, concluded that she had succeeded in
her mission, and refrained from further expression of
extravagant grief. She rose to her feet, shook the dust out
of her saree, and smoothed its folds. Then she laid one
hand over the other and made the best use of her eyes in
taking in every detail of dress and features of the lovely
lady who had appeared so suddenly at the bungalow.

" Go along, old mother. Tell the Ranees I'm coming,"
said Ted.

" I will follow your worship," replied the dame sidling
towards the part of the bungalow where the servants were
to be found.

Ted detected her manoeuvre, and stood firm.

" No, you don't ! No gossiping here. Off you go to
the zenana, straight."

Very much against her will she found herself compelled
to walk ahead of the sahib as he made his way across the
compound to the palace.

Delphine watched him go with a smile of amusement.

" Ted, of all people ! At the beck and call of four
Ranees ! How truly absurd ! Poor old Ted ! "



CHAPTEE IX.

ON Ted's departure from the bungalow Delphine retired
within to look round at the home which had been prepared
for her. Her own rooms erred, if anything, on the side of
lavishness. No money had been spared, and, in addition
to the luxury of it all, there was evidence of careful thought
for her personal tastes. It, was more than a brother would
have done. Ted might have written the order for the
tradesmen, and have filled in and despatched the cheque
when it was signed that paid the bill ; but the choice was
not Ted's ; the mind that thought out and arranged every-
thing was the Rajah's.

She went back to her dressing-room, where she found
the ayah busy unpacking and putting away the contents
of her trunks. She saw no cause to interfere. With a
word of approval, and one or two directions, she passed on
into the boudoir. Here, again, was evidence of ease and
luxury without counting the cost. Thence she proceeded
to the drawing-room.

In the doorway she stopped. An exclamation of
surprise and wonder came from her lips as her eyes travelled
over the scene. The room was barely half the size of the
drawing-room at Dersingham Court ; but, somehow, it
recalled her old home in every detail of its fittings and furni-
ture. There was the writing-table where she wrote notes
for her mother. The doulton vase might have been the
identical bit of pottery that always stood upon her table at
the Court. The yellow tea-roses it contained might equally



92 THE RAJAH CHAP, ix

have been plucked from the old timbered walls of the house.
A group of easy chairs near the table was a replica of the
group that was arranged before one of the mullioned
windows. Here the wide glazed doors opening into the
verandah took the place of the bay. A tea-table familiar
in shape and size was ready for afternoon tea. Even the
pattern of the curtains recalled the curtains of her home.
She was more than a little moved, not only from pleasure
in such a perfectly appointed house, but also at the kindness
that lay behind it all. Nothing was forgotten piano,
pictures, occasional tables, ornaments, even the fireplace,
or what might have been taken for the fireplace, with its
summer dress of mirror and ferns, all were there, posed
with a settled, finished hand, as though they had occupied
their positions for many years.

Hardly knowing whether to laugh or cry, so vivid the
semblance, so far away the real home, she sank into a chair,
the counterpart of a favourite seat at home, and leaned
back with a sense of luxurious delight. The air blew in at
the open door, soft, but not over-heated, although the sun
blazed with midday fervour. The bungalow was shaded
by deep verandahs, that modified the glare without ex-
cluding the breeze. A bird sang a song outside that was
strange in her ears, its nest hidden in the oleander growing
by the carriage-drive. From where she sat she could see
the garden with its wealth of colour and luxuriant foliage.
Trim and neat, its profuse growth was regulated by an
unsparing pruning-knife, handled by a skilled gardener.
Roses growing in large pots abounded out in the open.
Under the shade of the house, tuberose and eucharis lilies,
maidenhair fern, crotons, and other foliage plants common
to a tropical garden flourished. Strong-winged butterflies
of unfamiliar form and brilliancy rose from scented blossom
and soared like birds into the dark glossy foliage of banyan
and jak tree.



CHAP, ix THE RAJAH 93

She caught a gleam of water in the distance through the
trees, and here and there she could distinguish the outline
of a massive block of buildings, too imposing in size to be a
private dwelling. It must be the palace of the Rajah, and
the water was the lake where the red lotus lilies grew that
Narayan had told her of.

Peter disappeared in the direction of the back verandah
in search of more bones, and she was alone. The somnolent
peace of the Indian bungalow crept over her, and no sound
but the bird's song reached her ear. She did not hear an
electric motor car glide up the laterite carriage-drive and
stop beneath the portico.

Daniel, watchful and attentive, went forward with a
low salaam. The Rajah checked his advance with a motion
of the hand, and the butler slipped round by the inner door
to warn his mistress.

" His Highness, missie sahib. He enters by the
verandah."

With the consciousness of inferior caste and birth,
Daniel effaced himself, wondering much that his English
mistress should be so honoured.

Delphine rose as the Prince entered.

" Rajah ! Rajah ! " she cried in a glad voice that
quickened his pulse. " I am pleased to see you ! This is
splendid, meeting you again ! "

She clasped his hand in her fervent, impulsive manner,
her eyes fully endorsing her words.

" Welcome, Miss Dersingham. Welcome to Shivapet ! "

" You have, indeed, given me a welcome. Look ! this
is your doing. Ted would never have dreamed of it. How
good you are, Rajah ! Who but you would ever have
thought of preparing such a perfect memory of the old
Court ? Sit down ; do sit down. Here is your favourite
chair. It may not be the original, but it is to all
appearance the same."



94 THE RAJAH CHAP, ix

He listened, fascinated with the English speech, his
mind leaping back into the past, when he followed his
inclinations without one thought of the opinion of others.

" I am glad you like it," he said quietly.

" What made you think of such a happy surprise for
me ? " she asked.

" It was all selfishness, pure selfishness."

" Nonsense, Rajah 1 You are the most unselfish man
that ever lived ! "

How refreshing it was to hear himself talked to in this
fashion once more ! She had forgotten what Ted had told
her of the necessity of addressing him as Highness. The
old term was on her lips with the frequency of friendly
affection. She contradicted him royally. Already he was
sick of the adulation and the servile acquiescence he met
with whenever he spoke to any of his subjects. Even Ted
had found it expedient to use the ceremonious term. It
often happened that the Dewan or some member of the
Council was present when he and the Rajah were together.
The use of the less honourable mode of address on the part
of the secretary would have been unseemly. The name
" Narayan " had dropped out altogether, and Rajah was
heard only in strict privacy.

" It pleases you to say so ; but I shall tell you the truth
the blunt, naked truth, so dear to the heart of your nation,
so seldom met with in this land of crafty speech ? "

" Don't your people speak the truth ? "

" The Anglo-Indians have a saying in the broken
English of their native servants which is correct, ' What
master wishing, that only I saying.' I get more of that kind
of thing than I want."

" You shall have the truth from me, Rajah."

" Thank you," he replied, his eyes resting on her
figure.

It was like gazing at a bunch of fresh cool violets



CHAP, ix THE RAJAH 95

after having been dazzled by the scarlet of the scentless
hybiscus.

" You must promise to play fair," she said.

" I promise ; and, to show you I mean it, I will
tell you why I designed this room to look like the
Court."

" To please me, of course."

They laughed as schoolboy and girl might have done at
their own little personalities, and the old spell of her
comradeship was revived.

" That came in afterwards. I love the Court almost
as much as you do. Your presence and your brother's
would, I knew, bring it back vividly. It crossed my mind
that the picture would be more complete if the figures were
placed in a copy of the old setting, where I first knew them.
So, you see, I expect to have as much pleasure out of it as
you, Miss Dersingham."

The voice was the same, and there was not much
difference in the manner. They were chatting together as
they had done times out of number when he had arrived on
one of his frequent visits to the Court. Yet there was a
growing conviction in her mind that some subtle change had
come over him. She had not seen him before in a turban.
It was a simple, close-fitting head-dress of white and gold
ornamented by a diamond clasp set with a large stone of
great value. From the ornament rose a small aigrette
indicating his royalty. The turban was becoming, and
added dignity to his appearance. A second change was the
absence of the small black moustache which he had worn
in England a sacrifice required of him in the performance
of the funeral rites. The short hair covering his head had
also disappeared, from the same cause, but the shaven head
was amply hidden by the turban.

" I hope you will often find time to come and look at the
picture you have planned. No doubt you are busy ; but



96 THE RAJAH CHAP, ix

that is nothing unusual. I remember that you were always
occupied when you were in England."

" There I was busy over my own pleasures. Here I am
fully employed for quite another reason."

" What is that ? "

" The demands of State," he replied, with a faint echo
of a sigh.

Again she looked at him, puzzled as the indefinable sense
of a change came over her.

" They don't run in harness with pleasure."

" No, indeed, they don't," he replied, with more anima-
tion than he had hitherto shown.

" Tell me what some of them are ? "

" They won't interest you, I am afraid," he answered,
lapsing into a listlessness that was not a trait he had shown
in the past.

" Oh ! but they will ! I am very much interested in every
thing that concerns yourself."

It was said with easy grace and an entire absence of
intentional flattery. He did not mistake her meaning, or
infer more than she intended by words that might have
been construed differently.

" I wish I could be interested in them myself."

" Perhaps you will be when you know that Ted and I
are looking on and sympathizing with you in your troubles.
Am I to be allowed to see any of the ceremonies connected
with your what am I to call it ? crowning, isn't it ? "

" Induction to the throne. There is a semi-religious
function coming off before long, at which all the English as
well as the native gentlemen will be present. It is called a
durbar, but it is not exactly that."

" And I may come too ? "

" If you wish."

He did not speak with any enthusiasm. Secretly he
would have been better pleased if she had decided to keep



CHAP, ix THE EAJAH 97

away. His diffidence troubled her. It was so unlike the
energetic man she had known who could do nothing without
a superabundance of enthusiasm. What had happened to
him ? Why had he slipped away from the old footing ?
She did him the justice not to put it down to pride and the
accession to his new dignities.

Something of the same kind was passing through his
mind, but with a difference. He was in no doubt as to its
origin. She was unaltered. The same frank speech, the
same turn of the head, the same straight glance of friend-
ship from the violet-coloured eyes were all there, with other
familiar mannerisms treasured within his memory. Yes ;
her life had been unaltered since they had last met. But
what of his ? Could she but know all that he had
gone through, all that had passed since he had set
foot upon his native land, would the speech be as frank,
the glance as straight, the hand of friendship as freely
given ?

For several hideous days after his arrival he had been
occupied with ceremonies for the restoration of his caste.
The purohits, acting as private religious ministers, pre-
scribed the rites and superintended their performance. He
was entirely in their hands. The ceremonies proved
tedious, and some of them degrading to a man of his
education and refinement.

They were followed by the shraddah rites, performed for
the repose of the spirits of the dead man and his ancestors.
Narayan retained his Hindu faith, and believed that the
rites were necessary ; but there were moments when he
wished that they were of a less superstitious, less childish
nature ; when he felt that he was losing his dignity and
self-respect in carrying them out.

He performed ceremonies with water, with fire, with
boiled rice, oiled butter, sugar and camphor ; he repeated
muntrums verses from the sacred books ; and he fed

H



98 THE KAJAH CHAP, ix

Brahman beggars, men of great sanctity in Hindu eyes,
but unrefined and ignorant of the very rudiments of
civilized manners.

What would she have thought could she have seen him
solemnly making balls of rice to represent his defunct
ancestors and casting them into a tank so that the spirits
of his forebears might be invested with ethereal bodies, and
pass into the presence of Yama, god of death, to receive
judgment, the doom of rebirth, or absorption into the
Heaven of Brahma ?

Looked at from the Hindu point of view, it was all
natural, important, inevitable. Regarded with European
eyes, it savoured strongly of half-civilized superstition.

This was the shadow that had risen between them,
known to him in its entirety ; unknown to her, but never-
theless felt instinctively.

" Yes ; I should like to be present," she said, after
a short silence. " I should like to see you vested with
your dignities as a ruling prince, for it is an honour
that will sit well upon you. It seems to me that
the occasion ought to be full of interest to all who wish
you well."

He wondered if she would find it all that she anticipated,
and his mind misgave him as he recalled the strange ways
of the purohits.

" You will not understand the meaning of the cere-
monies that are performed, and they will appear senseless,"
he said.

" It will not matter. I want to be the first to con-
gratulate you after they are over. It will be like a court
at home, I suppose ? "

" Not exactly," he replied. " In this first durbar you
will be only a spectator. I am not permitted to speak to
any one, and only the purohits will address me. Later on,
another durbar will be held of the nature of a levee or



CHAP, is THE RAJAH 99

reception. I hope you will be there, and that you will
then be the first to give me your congratulations."

A sound of footsteps in the verandah heralded the
approach of Ted. He entered, heated and out of breath.

" I'm late, Highness. I hope I haven't kept you
waiting and inconvenienced you."

" Not at all, Dersingham. I have had an opportunity
of talking to your sister. What have you been
about ? "

" It's the new car for the Ranees."

" What's the matter with it ? "

" Blown to smithereens ! Eight thousand rupees gone
at one fell swoop, worse luck ! "

" How did it happen ? " asked Delphine.

" The chauffeur tried to inspect the inside of the petrol
tank with a box of matches."

" Poor fellow ! I'm afraid he came off badly," remarked
the Rajah.

" He's dead ; and the car is simply ruined."

" The Ranees won't like it," said the Rajah, smiling, in
spite of his concern.

" That's where most of the trouble comes in. They are
just raging. They have sent for your Highness to go and
see them at once."

" Ah ! Miss Dersingham ! I don't keep a dog and bark
myself," said the Rajah, with a humorous glance at his
secretary.

" No, Delphine. He is afraid, and he sends me to bear
the brunt of the storm," rejoined Ted, ruefully. " This
time it is going to be one of the worst we have yet had in
the zenana."

Delphine looked at him with amusement.

" It won't hurt you, Ted. You can seek shelter from
your cyclone in the bungalow. The ladies are purdana-
sheen, and can't pursue you here."



100 THE KAJAH CHAP, ix

" No ; they can't. Good old purdah ! It comes in
useful sometimes, and is my salvation when the Ranees are
displeased."

" Of course, they want a new car," said the Rajah.

" If that was all we could easily manage it, provided
that your Highness consented to pay the bill. They are
clamouring for the instant punishment of the poor fellow
who is dead. They demand that the whole family, down
to the third cousin shall be severely dealt with. The
method of punishment is to be left to their choice, and I
believe it is to be something particularly vicious and
nasty."

rt You may promise them anything you like to pacify
them always adding that I will see justice done," said the
Rajah.

" Justice from your point of view will not tally with
theirs," remarked Ted. " The zenana is too well informed
of the doings in the outer world for us to hope to deceive
the ladies into thinking that you have carried out their
bloodthirsty wishes when you have compensated the widow
and paid for a funeral feast."

" Promise them a new and still more magnificent car,
and that will, perhaps, reconcile them to the modern course
of justice," said the Rajah, as he rose from his chair
and held out his hand to Delphine. " Good-bye, Miss
Dersingham. I must go back to the palace, much as
I should like to remain here. There is so much I want
to talk about. You left London six weeks later than
I did."

" Come to tea, Rajah, some day soon," she said warmly,
as she placed her hand in his.

" Thanks," he replied, after a moment's hesitation.

" When you are not so busy, perhaps," she added,
noting the hesitation, and ascribing it to pressure of
business.



CHAP, rx THE RAJAH 101

" Yes," he acquiesced, but with a reluctance that
puzzled her, and she wondered if it was due to position.

In another minute he was gone, carrying Ted away with
him to the vicarious duties of the palace, supposed to belong
to the office of private secretary.



CHAPTER X.

CALLS are made between the hours of twelve and two in
India. The Rajah was a little early ; but, before he left
the bungalow, the guard at the palace gate had struck the
midday gong in the courtyard. Upon the departure of her
visitor, Delphine seated herself at the writing-table with
the intention of beginning a letter to her mother. She
dated and addressed the sheet of note-paper, " The Palace
Bungalow, Shivapet, Shivapore, India."

" The Palace Bungalow ! " It roused a train of thought
stretching from the past into the future. Only a few weeks
ago Narayan was their guest at Dersingham, the best of
friends, the most congenial of companions, whether in the
saddle or on the golf links or round the billiard-table.
What was this indefinable change, this shadow of reserve
that had sprung up to quench the old buoyancy of spirit ?

Was the change in him or in herself ?

He had given unmistakeable proof that his regard for
her was in no way lessened. The preparations seemed
rather to indicate that it had, if anything, increased. Not
only had he forestalled every ^reasonable wish that she might
have, but he had come to greet her at the very earliest
opportunity without even waiting for the conventional
hour when visitors might send in their cards. It was
impossible to conceive that he had altered in his friendship.

Did the fault lie with her ? Had she been influenced
unconsciously by his accession to new honours ? This



CHAP, x THE KAJAH 103

could not be the case. Far from being affected by the
knowledge, she had actually forgotten, for the time being,
that he was a reigning prince. She thought only of him as
an old friend of the same class as herself. Not once
had the new honorific, adopted by Ted, been used
in speaking to him. The cloud that had arisen was per-
plexing, and, in the absence of any reason for its existence,
she tried to persuade herself that it was a creation of her
own fancy. This theory she was unable to maintain as she
recalled all that had passed. There was nothing tangible
that she could lay hold of ; but, for all that, the obstacle
was felt in the unusual reserve of his manner and in the
absence of that frank speech with which she was familiar.
In reviewing the conversation she became more and more
convinced that his words were often carefully chosen, and
that spontaneity was lacking in nearly all that he said.

Although she had to give up the solution of the mystery
for the present, being of a practical mind, she resolved that
this new condition must not be allowed to continue. The
old equality should be preserved in private, whatever their
attitude towards each other might be in public. The friend-
shipbegun in the days when he was a boy at Eton and she
a schoolgirl was too precious to be allowed to slip without
an effort to retain it. Through all the years of their youth
it had never been so much as strained, Was it to be
broken now for a cause she could not fathom ?

As she sat there in the ideal Indian home he had pre-
pared, she determined again and again, that neither State
duties nor the obligations of royalty should come between
them. The gulf, if gulf there were, should be bridged.
Impulsive to a fault, she decided to act without delay.
At the very first opportunity she would overthrow the
barrier between them and recover lost ground.

She was in no doubt as to whether he wished to keep
her friendship. A hundred little incidents reassured her



Online LibraryF. E. (Fanny Emily) PennyThe Rajah → online text (page 7 of 33)