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THE TEMPLE IN
THE TOPE

* . FO5KETT




THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE



IN THE NEW SERIES
ATHALF-A-CROWN

DEATH ON TIPTOE

R.C.Ashby
THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE

S.Foskett
BERNARD TREVES'S BOOTS

Laurence Clarke
THE LITTLE GREY SHOE

Percy Brcbner
THE BRIDE OF THE SUN

Gaston Leroux
THE MAKER OF FROCKS

Edward C.Davies
THE MYSTERY
OF THE TOWER ROOM

Leslie Despard




THE TEMPLE IN
THE TOPE



S. FOSKETT



HODDER AND STOUGHTON



Mode **d Printed in Great Britain for Hodder and Stoufhton Limited, by
Wyman 6r Sont Ltd., London, Reading and Faktnkam



PR



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I FAG

THE GIRL AT THE STREAM 7

CHAPTER II
THE TEMPLE - 15

CHAPTER III
THE SANNYASI - - 21

CHAPTER IV
A CURIOUS EXPERIENCE 32

CHAPTER V
AN ANGLO-INDIAN'S LAST LETTER - 39

CHAPTER VI
THE COLONEL'S BEQUEST .... 48

CHAPTER VII
A TIGER 59

CHAPTER VIII
A WOMAN'S FEAR 6

CHAPTER IX
THE PRIEST - 73

CHAPTER X
A JUNGLE EAVESDROPPER 80

CHAPTER XI
DEMONS BEHIND DARKNESS - 9

CHAPTER XII
SHADOWS AND DREAMS - xoa

CHAPTER XIII
AN EVIL GENIUS - "4

CHAPTER XIV
DEVA-DASIS "9

CHAPTER XV
"THE SERVANT OF THE DEAD" - - - - - - - - "5

CHAPTER XVI
DUPED - - 135

CHAPTER XVII
THE FEUD OF THE NAGITES - - 144



6


CONTENTS






CHAPTER XVIII


PACE


DACOITS ....




154




CHAPTER XIX




THE DACOIT CHIEF




- I5




CHAPTER XX




A GLIMPSE OVER THE EDGE OF THE EARTH -


- 160




CHAPTER XXI




A LULL IN THE STORM





- - - - 165




CHAPTER XXII




SIDE-LIGHTS -




- 168




CHAPTER XXIII




TRAPPED AND TAKEN





- 173




CHAPTER XXIV




PURUSHA-MEDA




- 181




CHAPTER XXV




A NAUTCH NEOPHYTE





- 197




CHAPTER XXVI




MAGIC AND MYSTICISM





- 205




CHAPTER XXVII




TWO ANCIENT RITES -




- 209




CHAPTER XXVIH




THE MESSAGE




- 217




CHAPTER XXIX




INSIDE THE TEMPLE COURT -


- 221




CHAPTER XXX




INSIDE THE GARBHALIAM


- 225




CHAPTER XXXI




NEOPHYTE NO LONGER





- 233




CHAPTER XXXII




NEW PLOTS -




- - - - 24




CHAPTER XXXIII




THE PADRE'S BUNGALOW





- - 358




CHAPTER XXXIV




POT-LUCK




- 268




CHAPTER XXXV




THE AGRAHARAM -




- - - - 37




CHAPTER XXXVI




NEMESIS ....




- 297




CHAPTER XXXVII




THE DEATH OF A HERO





- 311



CHAPTER I THE GIRL AT THE STREAM

IT was about half-past five in the evening. The
Indian sun was still shining fiercely out of a cloudless
sky, though its great power was rapidly dying as it
sank majestically in the direction of a group of conical
hills that stood like worn-out sentinels on the far side
of the valley. Percival Duncan, of the I.C.S. and
Collector of the District, was riding along the forest
line accompanied by a syce. It was not an easy ride
indeed, it was very far from being so ; for the track
which he was following, like others which he had
had occasion to try in this primeval forest, was little
more than an uneven bed of broken boulders and
alluvial deposits along the base of some thickly wooded
hills. At the point, however, where this story begins,
Duncan was about to pass through a picturesque
mountain gorge where he soon found compensations
for the increasing difficulties of the road, in the intense
pleasure of his surroundings. Great trees bent over-
head, giving a shadowy dreamland touch to the
darkened ravine mothakapuvu, the red fleshy flower
from which the people draw the red dye for their
festivals, filled the nooks with an extraordinary blaze ;
trees, creepers and grasses combined to laden the air
with a wonderful mixture of perfumes ; parrots,
pigeons, doves, squirrels, and moths of magnificent
colours murmured of life untrammelled and free ;
undergrowth, thick and high, on either side, suggested
exciting stalks after strange animals : in short, the
whole place suggested and offered that which he
sought freedom and pleasure.



8 THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE

For some months past he had been working at high
pressure. Poor harvests, land disputes, increasing
dissatisfaction with an imperfect system of assessment,
family feuds and a general tendency to unrest had
kept him incessantly at work until he had begun to
feel dreadfully tired of everything in general and of
routine work in particular. Thus we find him, towards
the middle of February, seeking seclusion in the heart
of the forest, whither he had come to indulge in a little
shooting by way of a change.

It was probably the knowledge that he was within a
few miles of the best shooting spot in the district, and
one of the pet places of Indian shikaris, which made
him think that he needed a few days' rest. Be that as
it may, he had finally decided to try his luck once
more in the forest, and with that object in view he had
sent his tents and bullock-bandies ahead the previous
day, with orders to his servants to pitch the former in
a famous tope some twelve or fifteen miles from where
he then was.

India, and above all the Indian jungle, is a place
where one expects to see strange things and experience
thrilling adventures. But " Chose accoutumte n'est pas
fort priste," applies to the jungle as to elsewhere, and
new experiences being expected, though often strange
and weird, they are not infrequently taken as a matter
of course, and the purely phenomenal is sometimes
needed to rouse excitement as well as interest.

When Duncan, however, wrote to his friend, the
I.M.S. man, to come and help him to enjoy a few days*
shooting, little did he suspect the nature of the game he
was to stalk, or the destiny which was written for him
in the annals of the Maha-Shiva's temple in the tope.

He belonged to the younger branch of a famous but
impoverished family, and in coming East had been more
or less guided by the example of its widely scattered
members, many of whom had served in various
capacities, and with no small amount of distinction,



THE GIRL AT THE STREAM 9

under the auspices of the East India Company. He
had been resident about ten years in India, and it
had been by merit, rather than by influence, that he had
risen to the important post which he now held ; yet,
as he was by no means lacking in influence, it was
generally expected by those who knew him that he
would soon hold one of those exceptional positions
which were beginning to offer such splendid scope to
men of his abilities.

His position was not one that brought him much
into contact with ladies. Circumstances, nevertheless,
did occasionally conduct him to some of the brilliant
assemblies of Anglo-Indian Society, and both before
and since he had got his collectorate, many gracious
smiles had fallen to his lot. But Percival would have
none of them, or rather he refused to pay the penalty
of taking advantage of the opportunities they offered.
Moreover, he loved bachelorhood because he knew
that it left him the freedom to go and to come when-
ever he liked. He was one of those, and Indian life
produces many, who prefer to slip away from head-
quarters and return when the mood strikes them to do
so and not a minute earlier. Moreover, he had a
great love of danger for its own sake, for horses, for a
rifle and for a twelve-bore, and he knew quite well that
he would have to give up a little of his free-love for
these if he meant to take a mistress to his heart and
bungalow ; so far he had intended to do neither the
one nor the other.

But although Percival loved his gun and his freedom,
and although he had not as yet fallen a victim to the
challenge of merry blue eyes or " the sweet silent
rhetoric of dark persuading eyes," he was like unto
other men ; and, under the stars of heaven amidst the
weird loneliness of an Eastern night, or with the in-
expressible chill of his empty and solitary bungalow
upon him, the mysterious call of nature would sweep
through him, like a plectrum passing over the vibrating



io THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE

cords of a zither, warning him that it was more than
possible that he would some day seek for that which
Providence had destined as the complement of man.

But he had been, and still remained, something of an
idealist. This fact, together with the good influences
of his early training, accounted largely for his apparent
impregnable reserve in the presence of women who
found him good to look upon also for his aloofness
from that which sometimes ate like a canker into the
lives and into the characters of his neighbours. At
school he had always led : in points of moral manliness
more or less a hero ; in feats of strength and athletics
a match for most ; and it was probably largely owing
to his attention to physical training while young, that
he carried in after years a muscular frame befitting a
height of over six feet.

Soon after passing through the deep gorge referred
to, Duncan came to a place where there was a break in
the hills on his left through which the forest line
meandered for some distance, and then made a sharp
dip down towards some low-lying forest stretching
away towards the grey plains. For a moment he
rested on the edge of this rocky vantage ground, gazing
with a peculiar thrill of pleasure at Nature's great
amphitheatre which lay below him.

The heat of the day was practically gone ; the sun's
fiery rays were lighting up the rugged tops of the
dark, sombrous mountains ; here was deep suggestive
shadow, there where the sun's last glints fell
brilliant green or reflected red of the forest trees ;
while mingling with the twittering of birds and the
hum of insect life, was the dull rumble of a distant
cascade. He lingered a little, allowing the potentiality
of it all to stir his being ; then dismounted, and,
having handed over his pony to the syce to take to
the camp, about a mile away, he left the divisional line
and struck off into jungle.

Duncan loved the jungle every leaf and insect



THE GIRL AT THE STREAM n

was a source of great interest and pleasure to him.
Moreover, there is a freedom in the forest which can
be found nowhere else. He knew it, and, whenever
he found time to do so, he pursued it with the energy
and vigour of a man full of strength and health.

The hoarse cry of the peacock, the passing of a deer,
the traces of a panther, meant to him hours of physical
exertion, mental activity and healthy excitement.
And now, as he entered almost noiselessly into the
thick cover, his senses were keenly alive with expec-
tancy, and his gun lay ready at half-cock in the firm
grasp of his strong, steady hand. Nor were his powers
of patience and endurance put to any severe test. It
was the time of day when all manner of beasts and
birds of the forest begin to move about seeking their
night's provender or prey, and Duncan had scarcely
entered the long spear grass when an angry snort and
a wild stampede warned him that he had stepped into
the neighbourhood of a herd of wild boar. Before he
could locate them, however, they had completely dis-
appeared. So, with the hope of meeting them again,
he began to follow up their spoor. But luck was
apparently against him, and, after an hour's useless
tramp, seeing that night was rapidly approaching,
and feeling the effects of a keen appetite, he turned
reluctantly campward.

When he arrived at the line of trees that bordered
the open space in which his tents were pitched, there
were still about ten minutes remaining before the
deeper dusk that would make shooting impossible. As
he lingered a moment, wondering what he should do
during the short time left to him, he suddenly drew
himself up with a jerk his eyes wide open with some-
thing more than surprise, and his heart quivering with
something more than physical excitement.

Duncan was gazing at the most beautiful woman he
had ever seen. At least, so he thought. The com-
parison was, perhaps, unjust, and the rapid judgment



12 THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE

fallacious but so it would seem to be in the case of
all spontaneous lovers. At any rate, Percival was, for
the moment, well satisfied with the delusion if it were
one. Further, his was one of those natures which are
content to let themselves go once for all in such matters,
and ask nothing better than to be permitted to take
the risk of doing so.

Amongst Europeans both at home and abroad he had
been acquainted with women who were both beautiful
and lovable, and during his tours through India and
other oriental countries he had seen many magnificent
specimens of Eastern women ; but among neither the
one nor the other had he ever seen dne who appealed
to him in this way the way which he had uncon-
sciously expected, calling out in tumultuous irruption
those dangerous instincts of desire and possession which
had lain 'dormant or suppressed at the root of his
character. This enchantress gave the final touch to
the deepening fascination of the forest. For the
moment she seemed to him like some young goddess
and, indeed, to his pain and horror, he was soon to
learn that such was the destiny intended for her.

Even the most critical would have been compelled to
admit that she was beautiful a glance was sufficient
to draw that conclusion, and further examination but
revealed the delicate finish of her physical perfection.
But what was she ? Who was she ? Whence had she
come ? and, why was she here in this forest clearing ?
Had she been dark the questions would have been
answered as they surged up. But what Percival could
see of her was fair startlingly fair, almost Western in
its clearness, if not quite so. Whereas the dress, the
attitude, and the circumstances under which he found
her, all suggested another origin a high-caste origin
perhaps. But if so, her fairness still remained inex-
plicable to him, for he had never seen anything like it
before among her people.

When first he saw her, she was bending over a small



THE GIRL AT THE STREAM 13

stream filling a brass pot with water. Before she
lifted her head and saw him, he had taken an indelible
mental picture of her and all connected with her. Her
hair, magnificent in its abundance as it fell like a mantle
nearly to her feet, had something of a dark brown
tint rather than the blue-black colour of Indian hair.
Worked into it was a tiara of precious stones, and
(but this he only saw later) suspended from it, lying
upon her forehead, was the sacred symbol of the
Shivites worked with tiny diamonds and rubies, which
sent forth a scintillating light whenever she moved.
Her dress was altogether unique, different from any-
thing he had ever seen before, except perhaps in old
paintings and amongst the sculptured figures of ancient
temple walls. The upper part of her cloth or veil had
slipped to the ground, leaving her shoulders partly
exposed, and thus he was able to mark the curious
spiral bands of gold which encircled her neck. To
these were attached a number of gold chains which
crossed over the bosom and supported two strangely
chased circlets over the breasts. The skirt-like under-
cloth which she was wearing was evidently made of
the finest silk with a wonderful sheen in it, and was
covered with the figures of gods and goddesses worked
with gold and silver wire.

For some little time she continued to play dreamily
with the trickling water. At last she rose and saw
Duncan who, in his eagerness to see her better, had
stepped from under the covering of the trees gazing
at her with the look of a man who is making up his
mind to stake all on a single act.

Expectancy and doubt held him in suspense, because
he had not yet looked upon her face. He was almost
afraid lest this opening dream should suddenly dis-
appear and leave him with what he had so often seen
before an Eastern woman with a magnificent form,
but with an impossible face. When he saw her rise
tall and slender before him, his suspense deepened and



i 4 THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE

he doubted the testimony of his eyes. Her features
were small and delicately moulded, somewhat after the
Grecian style, and the large grey eyes with which she
looked at him were like ah, what were they like ?
indeed, it would have been impossible for him to
suggest what their beauty and depth resembled. If
in her he saw something, whether of East or West,
that was like an unformed ideal, she, on the other
hand, saw one not unworthy to be a specimen of
Western power and straightforward manliness. Over
six feet, an athletic build, a face bearing the visible
signs of a masterful character but withal a kind, open
look, were enough to make most women look at him
for an appreciable space of time.

At first when she found herself under the observation
of a stranger, a quick startled frown passed over her
face. But this quickly gave way to a smile a smile
that Percival would have given much to prolong. His
delight, however, was of very short duration. With a
quick movement she gathered up her trailing veil, and,
with a low, ringing laugh, glided away towards the
temple which could be seen through the trees on her
side of the stream.

She was gone so quickly that the idea of following
her did not occur to him until after she had quite
disappeared. Had he been quick to follow in her
footsteps he would probably have seen much that
would have made him suspicious, and perhaps tempted
him to seek an immediate solution of the dark mystery
into which he had unconsciously stepped. But the
glamour of her presence and personality was upon him,
so he remained where she had left him ignorant of
the fact that many eyes had noted even the smallest
details of their meeting, and that dark forms were moving
stealthily under the trees on both sides of the path
which she had followed towards the temple.



CHAPTER II THE TEMPLE

DARKNESS closed in as Duncan lingered watching the
place where the strange sylvan priestess had disappeared
among the trees ; then he walked towards his tent.
This, with a large Swiss Cottage tent and a servants'
pall, was pitched under a few palmyras trees growing
in the middle of a large glade preserved around the
temple. It was an ideal spot to have chosen for a few
days' picnicking. At one end stood the mighty Hindu
shrine, surrounded by large coco-nut trees and sweet-
smelling date palms, while forming as it were a fixed
boundary to this quadrangle where ten thousand people
at least might move freely were two lines of magnificent
mango trees, whose deep shade provided for all festival
comers a cool refuge from the fierce glare and heat of
the midday sun.

Behind all, peak above peak, solemnly rose the thickly
studded hills called from their hue, and perhaps from
their history, the Black Hills.

When Duncan entered his tent he was almost a
different man from what he had been a few hours
nay, a few minutes before. There are many cynics
who do not believe in such sudden revolutions in
human character, that a man's life's course his hopes,
ideals, ambitions and passions can be so radically
changed by the revelation of such a moment.

Such must regard Percival's psychological condition
as a phenomenon, or if they would prefer to do so
a delusion ! Certain it is that none would have been
more thoroughly, astonished than Duncan himself at
the cataclysmic condition of mind and purpose of the

15



16 THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE

Collector famous among his people for his intrepidity
and self-possession.

It was an unconscious relief when the servants came
in to give their final salaams, and the clash and clatter
of the camp began to quieten down for the night.

Soon after, when the heavy, regular breathing of men
and beasts told him of prevailing slumber, Duncan
took his long rattan camp-chair out into the open air,
and gave himself up without restraint to the tumultuous
thoughts and feelings which were crying out for com-
plete possession. He knew that he had come to the
parting of the great ways, and that it behoved him to
rest a moment and reason or, at least, try to think
out more clearly the issue.

Unbridled passion had been hitherto an experience
foreign to his nature, yet that was unmistakably his
present danger. When, in imagination, he heard again
that low, ringing, challenging laugh, and pictured to
himself the lovely face with a world of mystery and
sadness in it, mad impulses fought with what little
reason remained.

That he would find her out and see her again cost
what it might was a determination irrevocably made
at the instant of parting. But why ? and after !

Irresistibly his eyes and his thoughts were drawn
towards the silent temple in the distance, and it was
only the evident madness of the act which prevented
him from forcibly entering it to find her then and there.

He had not played lightly with the idea of love in
youth, nor had he sought it in the dawn of manhood,
and the result was as it not infrequently is under
such conditions the possibility of inexpressible misery
or ?

Duncan was free from the stains which relaxed
moral codes had brought to the souls of many of his
neighbours ; but now that the crisis had come, con-
science had all it could do to assert itself, and show
how easy it would be to go with the muddied stream.



THE TEMPLE 17

He knew that many, situated as he was under so-called
extenuating patriarchal conditions, did not trouble to
distinguish between meum et tuum, and thought cynic-
ally of the parable of the " one ewe lamb." They
would have laughed lightly at the thought which had
begun to trouble him was she a maid, or was she
married ? So far as he had been able to see, she had
worn no tali or any other marriage symbol, but versed
as he was in Hindu customs he knew perfectly well
that no girl of her class could ever have reached such
an age without marriage.

Nevertheless he tried to persuade himself that she
was not a wife. Was she, then, a temple girl ? The
very thought made him shudder violently. Heavens,
it could not be ! the idea was too horrible. He had
seen hundreds of temple girls and nautch dancers
many of them beautiful specimens of Nature's handi-
craft but never one without that hard, cynical,
sensuous look in the eyes. Moreover, the symbolism
of her dress was different, and meant too much or too
little to class her with them.

Besides an old priest and a number of Brahmin
assistants, who came regularly to collect the tithes
and offerings, to discuss religious matters, and to decide
upon the ceremonial and sacrifices of the temple (their
claims to the revenue and their power of legislation
being more or less hereditary) there had been connected
with the temple for many years a Sannyasi, or ascetic
one who was generally regarded as a kind of guardian
in the absence of the priest.

During former visits the Collector had carried on
many a conversation with this man, and more than
once the Sannyasi had on the receipt of two or three
rupees discreetly stared at his nose, or looked the
sun in the face, while Duncan was enjoying a cool
and refreshing swim in the temple pool. But, some
months previous to the time at which we have arrived
for reasons which will gradually unfold themselves



1 8 THE TEMPLE IN THE TOPE

as we proceed a notice had been set up in four
languages, strictly prohibiting Europeans and all
others but high-caste Hindus from either bathing in
the pool or entering the reserved precincts of the
temple. The temple itself, the great court, the sacred
Shivite symbols, the idols, the figures of the gods and
goddesses, and the Maha-nandis, or gigantic bulls,
which represent the vehicle through which Shiva
sometimes works his miracles, had all been repaired,
painted and restored as if some religious revival had
set in.

When Duncan had refreshed himself with a bath,
after a restless night, it occurred to him that the best
course to pursue would be to seek out his ancient
hypocritical friend the Sannyasi, and try to get some
information from him about the girl and her where-
abouts. With this object in view, he strolled over
towards the temple just as the pinnacles of the latter
began to reflect with a dazzling glare the fiery rays of
the sun which was showing itself above the mountain
range.

The temple, a huge pagoda or pyramidical tower,
rising tier upon tier until it terminated in one of the
gilded Maha-nandis referred to, stood in a large court
surrounded by four high walls.

In the centre of three of these walls were built
smaller pagodas, gopurams, or towers, beneath which
one entered the court and approached the sacred pool
a beautifully clear tank about fifty yards square,
built of marble and cement, and fed by a perennial
stream which had bubbled up unceasingly in its centre
since the day that the holy Rishis built their hermitage
there, and the Shivites had^ found it a source of



Online LibraryS. (Samuel) FoskettThe temple in the tope → online text (page 1 of 24)