W. A. (William Alexander) Fraser.

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Go now."

When Ajeet, with a deep salaam, had gone from the
room Hodson threw himself back in his chair wearily
and sighed. Then he said: "A woman! the jamadar
was lying all that stuff about Nana Sahib. There's
been some deviltry; they've used this woman to trap
the messengers; that's India. It's the papers they
were after; they must have known they were coming;
and they've hidden the woman. We've got to lay
hands upon her, Captain she's the key-note."


Barlow had waited until the deceit would have gone
before showing the papers that were in his pocket
because it was an advantage that the enemy should
think them lost. He was checked now as he put a
hand in his pocket to produce them by the entrance
of Elizabeth, and he fancied there was a sneer on
her thin lips.

"Father," she said, as she leaned against the desk,
one hand on its teak-wood top, "I've been listening to
the handsome leader of thieves; I couldn't help hear
ing him. I fancy that Captain Barlow could tell you
just where this woman, the Gulab, who is as beautiful
as the moon, is. I'm sure he could bring her here
if he would."

The Captain's fingers unclasped from the papers in
his pocket, and now were beating a tattoo on his knee.

"Elizabeth!" the father gasped, "do you know what
you are saying?" His cold grey eyes were wide with
astonishment. "Did you hear all of Ajeet Singh's

"Yes, all of it."

"It's your friend, Nana Sahib, whom you treat as
if he were an Englishman and to be trusted, that knows
where this woman is, Elizabeth."

A cynical laugh issued from the girl's lips that were
so like her father's in their unsympathetic contour:
"Yes, one may trust men, but a woman's eyes are given


130 Caste

her to prevent disaster from this trust which is so
natural to the deceivable sex."

"Elizabeth! you do not know what you are saying
what the inference would be."

"Ask Captain Barlow if he doesn't know all about
the Gulab's movements."

The Resident pushed irritably some papers on his
desk, and turning in his chair, asked, "Can you ex
plain this, Captain what it is all about?"

There were ripples of low temperature chilling the
base of Barlow's skull. "I can't explain it it's be
yond me," he answered doggedly.

The girl turned upon him with ferocity. "Don't lie,
Captain Barlow; a British officer does not lie to his

"Hush, Beth," the father pleaded.

"Don't you know, Captain Barlow," the girl de
manded, "that this woman, the Gulab, is one who
uses her beauty to betray men, even Sahibs?"

"No, I don't know that, Miss Hodson. I saw her
dance at Nana Sahib's and I've heard Ajeet's state
ment. I don't know anything evil of the girl, and I
don't believe it."

"A man's sense of honour where a woman is con
cerned lie to protect her. I have no illusions about
the Sahibs in India," she continued, in a tone that
was devilish in its cynicism, "but I did think that a
British officer would put his duty to his King above
the shielding of a nautch girl."

"Elizabeth! " Hodson rose and put a hand upon the
girl's arm; "do you realise that you are doing a dread-

Caste 131

ful thing that you are impeaching Captain Barlow's
honour as a soldier?"

Barlow's face was white, and Hodson was trembling,
but the girl stood, a merciless cold triumph in her
face: "I do realise that, father. For the girl I care
nothing, nor for Captain Barlow's intrigue with such,
but I am the daughter of the man who represents the
British Raj here."

Barlow, knowing the full deviltry of this high pro
testation, knowing that Elizabeth, imperious, dominat
ing, cold-blooded, was knifing a supposed rival a rival
not in love, for he fancied Elizabeth was incapable of
love felt a surge of indignation.

"For God's sake, Elizabeth, what impossible thing
has led you to believe that Captain Barlow has any
thing to do with this girl?" the father asked.

"I'll tell you; the matter is too grave for me to
remain silent. This morning I rode early earlier
than usual, for I wanted to pick up the Captain before
he had started. As I turned my mount in to his com
pound I saw, coming from the back of the bungalow,
this native woman, and she was being taken away by
his chowkldar. She had just come out some back
door of the bungalow, for from the drive I could see
the open space that lay between the bungalow and the
servants' quarters."

Hodson dropped a hand to the teak-wood desk; it
looked inadequate, thin, bloodless; blue veins mapped
its white back. "You are mistaken, Elizabeth, I'm
sure. Some other girl "

"No, father, I was not mistaken. There are not

132 Caste

many native girls like the Gulab, I'll admit. As she
turned a clump of crotons she saw me sitting my horse
and drew a gauze scarf across her face to hide it. I
waited, and asked the chowkidar if it were his daugh
ter, and the old fool said it was the wife of his son;
and the girl that he claimed was his son's wife had the
iron bracelet of a Hindu widow on her arm. And the
Gulab wears one I saw it the night she danced."

A ghastly hush fell upon the three. Barlow was
moaning inwardly, "Poor Bootea!"; Hodson, fingers
pressed to both temples, was trying to think this was
all the mistaken outburst of an angry woman. The
strong-faced, honest, fearless goldier sitting in the
chair could not be a traitor could not be.

Suddenly something went awry in the inflamed
chambers of Elizabeth's mind as if an electric current
had been abruptly shut off. She hesitated; she had
meant to say more; but there was a staggering vacuity.

With an effort she grasped a wavering thing of tan
gibility, and said: "I'm going now, father to give the
keys to the butler for breakfast. You can question
Captain Barlow."

Elizabeth turned and left the room; her feet were
like dependents, servants that she had to direct to
carry her on her way. She did not call to the butler,
but went to her room, closed the door, flung herself
on the bed, face downward, and sobbed; tears that
scalded splashed her cheeks, and she beat passionately
with clenched fist at the pillow, beating, as she knew,
at her heart. It was incredible, this thing, her feel-

Caste 133

"I don't care I don't care I never did!" she

But she did, and only now knew it.

"I was right I'm glad I'd say it again!"

But she would not, and she knew it. She knew that
Barlow could not be a traitor; she knew it; it was just
a battered new love asserting itself.

And below in the room the two men for a little sat
not speaking of the ghoulish thing. Barlow had drawn
the papers from his pocket; he passed them silently
across the table.

Hodson, almost mechanically, had stretched a hand
for them, and when they were opened, and he saw
the seal, and realised what they were, some curious
guttural sound issued from his lips as if he had waked
in affright from a nightmare. He pulled a drawer of
the desk open, took out a cheroot and lighted it.
Then he commenced to speak, slowly, droppingly, as
one speaks who has suddenly been detected in a
crime. He put a flat hand on the papers, holding
them to the desk. And it was Elizabeth he spoke of
at first, as if the thing under his palm, that meant dan
ger to an empire, was subservient.

"Barlow, my boy," he said, "I'm old, I'm tired."

The Captain, looking into the drawn face, had a
curious feeling that Hodson was at least a hundred.
There was a floaty wonderment in his mind why the
fifty-five-years'-service retirement rule had not been
enforced in the Colonel's case. Then he heard the
other's words.

"I've had but two gods, Barlow, the British Raj

134 Caste

and Elizabeth; that's since her mother died. In a
little, a few years more, I will retire with just enough
to live on plus my pension perhaps in France, where
it's cheap. And then I'll still have two gods, Eliza
beth and the one God. And, Captain, somehow I had
hoped that you and Elizabeth would hit it off, but I'm
afraid she's made a mistake."

Barlow had been following this with half his recep
tivity, for, though he fought against it, the memory of
Bootea gentle, trusting, radiating love, warmth
cried out against the bitter unfemininity of the girl who
had stabbed his honour and his cleanness. The black
figure of Kali still rested on the table, and somehow
the evil lines in the face of the goddess suggested the
vindictiveness that had played about the thin lips of
his accuser.

And the very plea the father was making was react
ing. It was this, that he, Barlow, was rich, that a
chance death or two would make him Lord Barradean,
was the attraction, not love. A girl couldn't be in love
with a man and strive to break him.

Hodson had taken up the papers, and was again
scanning them mistily.

"They were on the murdered messenger he was
killed, wasn't he, Barlow?"

<: Yes."

"And has any native seen these papers, Captain?"

"No, I cut them from the soles of the sandals the
messenger wore, myself, Sir."

"That is all then, Captain; we have them back
I may say, thank God!" He stood up and holding

Caste 135

out his hand added, "Thank you, Captain. I don't
want to know anything about the matter I'm too
much machine now to measure rainbows fancy I
should wear a strip of red-tape as a tie."

"If you will listen, Sir there is another that I
want to put right. Your daughter did see the Gulab,
but because she had brought me the sandals. And
you can take an officer's word for it that the Gulab
is not what Elizabeth believes."

"Captain, I have lived a long time in India, too long
to be led away by quick impressions, as unfortunately
Elizabeth was. I've outlived my prejudices. When
the mhowa tree blooms I can take glorious pleasure
from its gorgeous fragrant flowers and not quarrel
with its leafless limbs. When the pipal and the neem
glisten with star flowers and sweeten the foetid night-
air, it matters nothing to me that the natives believe
evil gods home in the branches. I know that even a
cobra tries to get out of my way if I'll let him, and I
know that the natives have beauty in their natures
one gets to almost love them as children. So, my
dear Captain, when you tell me that the Gulab ren
dered you and me and the British Raj this tremen
dous service, and add, quite unnecessarily, that she's
a good girl, I believe it all; we need never bring it up
again. Elizabeth has just made a mistake. And, Bar
low, men are always forgiving the mistakes of women
where their feelings are concerned they must that
is one of the proofs of their strength. But these"
and he patted the papers lovingly "well, they're
rather like a reprieve brought at the eleventh hour to

136 Caste

a man who is to be executed. We're put in a difficult
position, though. To pass over in silence the killing
of two soldiers would end only in the House of Com
mons; somebody would rise in his place and want to
know why it had been hushed up. But to take ac
tion, to create a stir, would give rise to a suspicion of
the existence of this."

Hodson rose from his chair and paced the floor, one
hand clasped to his forehead, his small grey eyes
carrying a dream-look as though he were seeking an
occult enlightenment; then he sat down wearily, and
spoke as if interpreting something that had been whis
pered him.

"Yes, Barlow, this deceit has been seized by the
Nana Sahib lot. His life was forfeit, and they've
offered him his life back to come here and turn Ap
prover to become a spy, not for us but as a spy on
us for them. Ajeet would know that information of
his coming to me would be carried to them by spies
the spies are always with me and his life wouldn't
be worth two annas. I gave him that pardon because
we have no power to seize him here, but it will make
them think that we have fallen into the trap. They
might even believe wily and suspicious as they are
that what he gleans here is the truth.

"There's a curious efficacy, Barlow, in what I might
call an affectation of simplicity. You know those
stupid heavy-headed crocodiles in that big pool of the
Nerbudda below the marble gorge, and how they'll
take nearly an hour wallowing and sidling up to a

Caste 137

mud-bank before they crawl out to bask in the sun;
but just show the tip of your helmet above the rock
and they're gone. That's perhaps what I mean. As
we might say back in dear old London, this wily Raj
put thinks he has pulled my leg."

"I think, Colonel, that you are dead onto his

"Well, then, the thing to do is to emulate the mug
ger. But this" Hodson lifted the paper and he grew
crisp, incisive, his grey eyes blued like temper purpling
polished steel "we've got to act: they've got to be
delivered, and soon."

"I am ready, Sir."

"It's a dangerous mission most dangerous."

"Pardon, Sir?"

"Sorry, Captain. I was just thinking aloud mus
ing; forgive me. Perhaps when one likes a young
man he lets the paternal spirit come in where it doesn't
belong. I'm sorry. There's a trusty Patan here who
could go with you," Hodson continued, "and this side
of his own border he is absolutely to be trusted; I
have my doubts if any Patan can be relied upon by us
across the border."

"I will go alone," Barlow said quietly. Then his
strong white teeth showed in a smile. "You know the
Moslem saying, Colonel, that ten Dervishes can sleep
on one blanket, but a kingdom can only hold one king.
I don't mean about the honour of it, but it will be
easier for me. I went alone through the Maris tribe
when we wanted to know what the trouble was that

138 Caste

threatened up above the Bolan, and I had no diffi
culty. You know, Sir, the playful name the chaps
have given me for years?"

"Yes the Tatan' I've heard it."

"I make a good Musselman scarce need any make
up, I'm so dark; I can rattle off the namaz (daily
prayer), and sing the moonakib, the hymn of the fol
lowers of the Prophet."

"Yes," Hodson said, his words coming slowly out
of a deep think, "there will be Patans in the Pindari
camp; in fact Pindari is an all-embracing name, having
little of nationality about it. Rajputs, Bundoolas,
Patans, men of Oudh, Sindies men who have the lust
of battle and loot, all flock to the Pindari Chief. Yes,
it's a good idea, Captain, the disguise; not only for
an unnoticed entrance to the camp, but to escape a
waylaying by Nana Sahib's cut-throats."

"Yes, Colonel, from what I have learned from the
Gulab it was, Sir the Dewan has an inkling that I
am going on a mission; and if I rode as myself the
King might lose an officer, and officers cost pounds
in the making."

The Resident toyed with the papers on his desk,
his brow wrinkled from a debate going on behind it;
he rose, and grasping the black Kali carried it back
to the cabinet, saying: "That devilish thing, so sug
gestive of what we are always up against here, makes
me shiver."

Then he sat down, adding, "Captain, there is another
important matter connected with this. The Rana of
Udaipur is being stripped of every rupee by Holkar

Caste 139

and Sindhia; they take turn about at him. Holkar is
up there now, where we have chased him threatened
to sack Udaipur unless he were paid seventy lakhs,
seven million rupees the accursed thief! We have
managed to get an envoy to the Rana with a view to
having him, and the other smaller rulers of Mewar,
join forces with us to crush forever the Mahratta
power drive them out of Mewar for all time. The
Rajputs are a brave lot men of high thought, and it
is too bad to have these accursed cut-throats bleeding
to death such a race. If the Rana would sign this
paper also as an assurance of friendship, to be shown
the Pindari Chief, it would help greatly."

"I understand, Colonel. You wish me to get that
from the Rana?"

"Yes, Captain; and I may say that if you can get
through with all this there will be no question about
your Majority; you might even go higher up than

"By Jove! as to that, my dear Colonel, this trip is
just good sport I love it: less danger than playing
polo with these rotters. I'll swing over to Udaipur
first it's just west of the Pindari camp, been there
once before on a little pow-wow then I'll switch back
to Amir Khan."

"I wish you luck, Captain; but be careful. If we
can feel sure that this horde of Pindaris are not hover
ing on our army's flank, like the Russians hovered on
Napoleon's in the Moscow affair, it will be a great
thing you will have accomplished a wonderful thing."

"Right you are, Sir," Barlow exclaimed blithely.

140 Caste

The stupendous task, for it was that, tonicked him;
he was like a sportsman that had received news of a
tiger within killing distance. He rose, and stretched
out his hand for the paper, saying: "I've got a job of
cobbling to do I'll put this between the soles of my
sandal, as it was carried before it's the safest place,
really. To-morrow I'll become an apostate, an
Afghan; and I'll be busy, for I've got to do it all
myself. I can trust no one with a dark skin."

"Not even the Gulab, I fear, Captain; one never
knows when a woman will be swayed by some mental
transition." He was thinking of Elizabeth.

"You're right, Colonel," Barlow answered. "I
fancy I could trust the Gulab but I won't."


Captain Barlow had been through a busy day. The
very fact that all he did in preparation for his jour
ney to the Pindari camp had been done with his own
hands, held under water, out of sight, had increased
the strain upon him.

In India in the usual routine of matters, a staff of
ten servants form a composite second self to a Sahib:
to hand him his boots, and lace them; to lay out his
clothes, and hold them while slipped into; to bring a
cheroot or a peg of whiskey; a syce to bring the horse
and rub a towel over the saddle to hold the stirrup,
even, for the lifted foot, and trotting behind, guard
the horse when the Sahib makes a call; a man to go
here and there with a note or to post a letter; a servant
to whisk away a plate and replenish the crystal glass
with pearl-beaded wine without sign from the drinker,
and appear like a bidden ghost, clad in speckless white,
silent and impassive of face, behind his master's chair
at the table when he dines out; everything in fact be
yond the mental whirl of the brain to be arranged by
one or other of the ten.

But this day Barlow had been like a man throwing
detectives off his trail. Not one of his servants must
suspect that he contemplated a trip no, not just that,
for the Captain had intimated casually to the butler
that he would go soon to Satara.

Thus it had to be arranged secretly that he would

142 Caste

ride from his bungalow as Captain Barlow and leave
the city as Ayub Alii, an Afghan.

Perhaps Barlow was over tired, that curious knotted
condition of the nerves through overstrain that rasps
a man's mental fibre beyond the narcotic of sleep, and
yet holds him in a hectic state of half unconscious
ness. He counted camels long strings of soured,
complaining beasts, short-legged, stout, shaggy desert-
ships, such as merchants of Kabul used to carry their
dried fruits, figs and dates and pomegranates, and
the wondrous flavoured Sirdar melon, wending across
the Sind Desert of floating white sand to Rajasthan.

Once a male, tickled to frenzy by the caress of a
female's velvet lips upon his rump, with a hoarse bub
bling scream, wheeled suddenly, snapping the thin
lead-cord that reached from the tail of the camel in
front to the button in his nostril, and charged the lady
in an exuberance of affection with a full broadside
thrust from his chest that bowled her over, where she
lay among the fragments of two huge broken burnt-
clay gumlas, that, filled with water, had been lashed to
her sides.

Barlow sat up at this startling tumult that was the
outcome of his slipping a little into slumber. He
threw his head back on the pillow with a smothered,

His bed had creaked, and an answering echo as if
something had slipped or slid, perhaps the sole of a
bare foot on the fibrous floor matting, at the window,
fell upon his senses. Turning his face toward the
sound he waited, eyes trying to pierce the gloom, and

Caste 143

ear attuned. He almost cried out in alarm as some
thing floated through the dark from the window and
fell with a soft thud upon his face. He brushed at
the something perhaps a bat, or a lizard, or a snake
with his hand and received a sharp prick, a little
dart of pain in a thumb. He sprang from the bed,
lighted the wick that floated in the iron lamp, and
discovered that the thing of dread was a rose, its
petals red against the white sheet.

He knew who must have thrown the rose, and almost
wished that it had been a chance missil, even a snake,
but he put the lamp down, passed into the bathroom,
and unbarring the wooden door, called softly, "Who
is there?"

From the cover of an oleander a slight girlish form
rose up and came to the door saying, "It is Bootea,
Sahib; do not be angry, there is something to be

By the arm he led her within and bidding her wait,
passed to the bedroom and drew the heavy curtains
of the windows. Then he went through the drawing-
room and out to the verandah, where the watchman
lay asleep on his roped charpoy. Barlow woke him:
"There's a thief prowling about the bungalow. Do
not sleep till I give you permission. See that no one
enters," he commanded.

He went back to his room, closed and barred the
door, and told Bootea to come.

When the girl entered he said: "You should not
have come here; there are eyes, and ears, and evil

144 Caste

"That is true, Sahib, but also death is evil some

"I have brought this to the Sahib," Bootea said as
she drew a paper from her breast and passed it to the
Captain. It was the pardon the Resident had given
that morning to Ajeet Singh.

Barlow, though startled, schooled his voice to an
even tone as he asked: "Where did you get this
where is Ajeet?"

"As to the paper, Sahib, what matters how Bootea
came by it: as to Ajeet, he is in the grasp of the Dewan
who learned that he had been to the Resident in the
way of treachery."

"Ajeet thought Nana Sahib had stolen you, Bootea."

"Yes, Sahib, for he did not find me when he went
to the camp, and I did not go there. But now he
would betray the Sahibs, that is why I have brought
back the paper of protection."

"Will they kill Ajeet?" Barlow asked.

"I will tell the Sahib what is," the girl answered,
drawing her sari over her curled-in feet, and leaning one
arm on Barlow's chair. "The decoity that was com
mitted last night was, as Ajeet feared, because of
treachery on the part of the Dewan. I will tell it all,
though it might be thought a treachery to the decoits.
As to being false to one's own clan Ajeet is, because
he is a B agree but I am not."

Barlow pondered over this statement. The girl
had mystified him that is as to her breeding. Some
times she spoke in the first person and again in the
third person, like so many natives, as if her language

Caste 145

had been picked up colloquially. But then the use of
the third person when she used Bootea instead of a
nominative pronoun might be due to a cultured de
ference toward a Sahib.

"I thought you were not of these people you are of
high caste, Bootea," he said presently.

He heard the girl gasp, and looking quickly
into her eyes saw that they were staring as if in

For a space of a few seconds she did not answer;
then she said, and Barlow felt her voice was being held
under control by force of will: "I am Bootea, one in
the care of Ajeet Singh. That is the present, Sahib,
and the past " She touched the iron bracelet on her
arm, and looked into Barlow's eyes as if she asked
him to bury the past.

"Sorry, girl forgive me," he said.

"Ajeet has told why the men were brought for
what purpose?"

"Yes, Gulab; to kill Amir Khan."

"And when they refused to go on this mission, the
Dewan, to get them in his power, connived with Hunsa
to make the decoity so that their lives would be for
feit, then if the Dewan punished them for not going
the Raja of Karowlee could not make trouble. Hunsa
told the Dewan that if I were sent to dance before
Amir Khan, some of the men going as musicians and
actors, the Chief would fall in love with me, and that
I could betray him to those who would kill him; that
he would come to my tent at night unobserved be
cause he has a wife with him and that Hunsa would

146 Caste

creep into the tent and kill him as he slept; then we
would escape."

Barlow sprang to his feet and paced the floor; then
he plumped into the chair again, saying: "What an
unholy scheme, even for India. Gad! how I wish I'd

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