Zamin Ki Dost.

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E-text prepared by Al Haines



SON OF POWER

by

WILL LEVINGTON COMFORT and ZAMIN KI DOST







Garden City New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
1920
Copyright, 1920, by
Doubleday, Page & Company
All Rights Reserved, Including That of Translation
into Foreign Languages, Including the Scandinavian
Copyright, 1919, by the Curtis Publishing Company




PUBLISHER'S NOTE

Zamin Ki Dost is a title given to one who lived in India many
years - from the time when she was little more than a child. The tale
of tales would be her own story. Her name is

WILLIMINA L. ARMSTRONG





CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I THE GOOD GREY NERVE
II SON OF POWER
III SON OF POWER (_Continued_)
IV THE MONKEY GLEN
V THE MONKEY GLEN (_Continued_)
VI JUNGLE LAUGHTER
VII THE HUNTING CHEETAH
VIII THE MONSTER KABULI
IX THE MONSTER KABULI (_Continued_)
X HAND-OF-A-GOD
XI ELEPHANT CONCERNS
XII BLUE BEAST
XIII NEELA DEO, KING OF ALL ELEPHANTS
XIV NEELA DEO, KING OF ALL ELEPHANTS (_Continued_)
XV THE LAIR
XVI FEVER BIRDS




SON OF POWER


CHAPTER I

_The Good Grey Nerve_

His name was Sanford Hantee, but you will hear that only occasionally,
for the boys of the back streets called him Skag, which "got" him
somewhere at once. That was in Chicago. He was eleven years old, when
he wandered quite alone to Lincoln Park Zoo, and the madness took him.

A silent madness. It flooded over him like a river. If any one had
noticed, it would have appeared that Skag's eyes changed. Always he
quite contained himself, but his lips stirred to speech even less after
that. He didn't pretend to go to school the next day; in fact, the
spell wasn't broken until nearly a week afterward, when the keeper of
the Monkey House pointed Skag out to a policeman, saying the boy had
been on the grounds the full seven open hours for four straight days
that he knew of.

Skag wasn't a liar. He had never "skipped" school before, but the Zoo
had him utterly. He was powerless against himself. Some bigger force,
represented by a truant officer, was necessary to keep him away from
those cages. His father got down to business and gave him a
beating - much against that good man's heart. (Skag's father was a
Northern European who kept a fruit-store down on Waspen street - a
mildly-flavoured man and rotund. His mother was a Mediterranean woman,
who loved and clung.)

But Skag went back to the Zoo. For three days more he went, remained
from opening to closing time. He seemed to fall into deep
absorptions - before tigers and monkeys especially. He didn't hear what
went on around him. He did not appear to miss his lunch. You had to
touch his shoulder to get his attention. The truant officer did this.
It all led dismally to the Reform School from which Skag ran away.

He was gone three weeks and wouldn't have come back then, except his
heart hurt about his mother. He felt the truth - that she was slowly
dying without him. After that for awhile he kept away from the
animals, because his mother loved and clung and cried, when he grew
silently cold with revolt against a life not at all for him, or hot
with hatred against the Reform School. Those were ragged months in
which a less rubbery spirit might have been maimed, but the mother died
before that actually happened. Skag was free - free the same night.

The father's real relation to him had ended with the beating. It was
too bad, for there might have been a decent memory to build on. The
fruit-dealer, however, had been badly frightened by the truant-officer
(in the uniform of a patrolman), and he was just civilised enough to be
a little ashamed that his boy could so far forget the world and all
refined and mild-flavoured things, as to stare through bars at animals
for seven hours a day. In the process of that beating, hell had opened
for Skag. It was associated with the raw smell of blood and a thin red
steam, a little hotter than blood-heat. It always came when he
remembered his father. . . . But his mother meant lilacs. The top
drawer of her dresser had been faintly magic of her. The smell came
when he remembered her. It was like the first rains in the Lake
Country.


But that was all put back. Skag was out in the world now, making it
exactly to suit himself. He was in charge of himself in many ways. A
glass of water and a sandwich would do for a long time, if
necessary. . . . The West pulled him. Awhile in the mountains, he
lived with a prospector; there was a period in the desert when he came
to know lizards; then there were years of the circus, when he was out
with the Cloud Brothers, animal men of the commercial type. Ten queer,
hard years for the boy - as hard almost as for the animals.

Back in Chicago the caged creatures had been kept better - as well as
beasts belonging to the outdoors could be imprisoned, but the Cloud
Brothers didn't have fine senses like their charges. They tried to
make wild animals live in a place ventilated for men. There was a bad
death-percentage and none of the big cats were in show form, until the
Clouds began to take Skag's word for the main thing wrong. It wasn't
the hard life, nor the coops, nor the travel, but the steady day in and
day out lack of fresh air. Skag knew what the animals suffered,
because it all but murdered him on hot nights. Of course, there are
tainted-flesh things like hyenas that live best on foul air, foul
everything, but "white" animals of jungle and forest are high and
cleanly beasts. When well and in their prime, even their coats are
incapable of most kinds of dirt, because of a natural oily gloss.

At nineteen, Skag was in charge of the packing, moving and feeding of
all the big cats, including pumas, panthers, leopards. He was in and
out of the cages possibly more than was necessary. He learned that
there are two ways to manage a wild animal - the "rough-neck" way with a
club, and the fancy way with your own equilibrium; all of which comes
in more to the point later.

He was interested at the time, but not really acquainted with the
camels and elephants. He often chatted with Prussak, the Arab, who
loathed camels to the shallow depths of his soul, but got as much out
of them as most men could. Skag dreamed of a better way still, even
with camels. Often on train-trips, at first, he talked with old Alec
Binz, whose characteristic task was to chain and unchain the hind leg
of the old "gunmetal" elephant, Phedra, who bossed her sire and the
little Cloud herd, as much with the flap of an ear as anything
else. . . .

No, old Alec must not be forgotten, nor his sandalwood chest with its
little rose-jar in the corner, making everything smell so strangely
sweet that it hurt. A girl of India had given Alec the jar twenty
years before. The spirit of a real rose-jar never dies; and something
of the girl's spirit was around it, too, as Alec talked softly. All
this was unreservedly good to Skag - thrilling as certain few books and
the top drawer that had been his mother's. . . . But something way
back of that, utterly his own deep heart-business, was connected with
the rose-jar. It was breathless like opening a telegram - its first
scent after days or weeks. If you find any meaning to the way Skag
expressed it, you are welcome:

"It makes you think of things you don't know - "

"But you will," Alec had once answered.

The more you knew, the more you favoured that old man of the circus
company, - little gold ring in his ear and such tales of India!

It was Alec who led Skag into the fancy way of dealing with animals,
but of course the boy was peculiar, inasmuch as he believed it all at
once. Skag never ceased to think of it until it was his; he actually
put it into practice. Alec might have told a dozen American trainers
and have gotten no more than a yawp for his pains. This is one of the
things Alec said:

"If you can get on top of the menagerie in your own insides,
Skagee - the tigers and apes, the serpents and monkeys, in your own
insides - you'll never get in bad with the Cloud Brothers wild animal
show."

There wasn't a day or night for years that Skag didn't think of that
saying. It was his secret theme. So far as he could see, it worked
out. Of course, he found out many things for himself - one of which was
that there is a smell about a man who is afraid, that the animals get
it and become afraid, too. Alec agreed to this, but added that there
is a smell about most men, when they are not afraid.

For hours they talked together about India - tiger hunts and the big
Grass Jungle country in the Bund el Khand, until Skag couldn't wait any
longer. He had to go to India. He told Alec, who wanted to go along,
but couldn't leave old Phedra.

"I've been with her too long," he said. "She's delicate, Skagee. I'm
young, but she couldn't stand it for me to go. Times are hard for her
on the road, and the little herd needs her as she needs me. . . ."

Skag understood that. In fact, he loved it well. It belonged to his
world - to be straight with the animals. Gradually as the distance
increased between them, the memory of old Alec began to smell as sweet
as the sandal-wood chest in Skag's nostrils - the chest and the rose-jar
that never could die and the old friend became one identity. . . .

India didn't excite Skag, who was twenty-five by this time. In fact,
some aspects of India were more natural to him than his own country.
Many people did a lot of walking and they lived while they walked,
instead of pushing forward in a tension to get somewhere. Skag
approved emphatically of the Now. The present moving point was the
best he had at any given time. He thought a man should forget himself
in the Now like the animals.

Besides they didn't regulate dress in India; in fact, they dressed in
so many different ways that a man could wear what he pleased without
being stared at. Skag hated to be stared at above all things. You are
beginning to get a picture of him now - unobtrusive, silent, strong in
understanding, swift, actually in pain as the point of many eyes,
altogether interested in his own unheard-of things.

Alec told him how to reach the jungle of all jungles, ever old, ever
new, ever innocent on the outside, ever deadly within - the Grass Jungle
country around Hattah and Bigawar - the Bund el Khand. The Cloud
Brothers had paid him well for his years; there was still script in his
clothes for travel, but Skag had a queer relation to money, only using
it when the law required. Not a tight-wad, far from that, though he
preferred to work for a meal than pay for it; much preferred to walk or
ride than to purchase other people's energy, having much of his own.

He came at last to a village called Butthighur, near Makrai, north of
the Mahadeo Mountains in the Central Provinces. On the first day, on
the main road near the rest-house, there passed him on the street, a
slim, slightly-stooped and spectacled young white man. The face under
the huge cork helmet, Skag looked at twice, not knowing why altogether;
then he followed leisurely to a bungalow, walked up the path to the
steps and knocked. The stranger himself answered, before the servant
could come. He looked Skag over, through spectacles that made his eyes
appear insane, at times, and sometimes merely absurd. Finally he
questioned with soft cheer:

"And what sort of a highbinder are you?"

Skag answered that he was an American, acquainted with wild animals in
captivity, and that he had come to this place to know wild animals in
the open.

"But why to me?" the white man asked.

"It seemed well. I have looked into many faces without asking anyone.
There is no chance of working for the native people here. They are too
many, and too poor."

"You do not talk like an American - "

"I do not like to talk."

The white man was puzzled by Skag's careful and exact statements and
remarked presently:

"An American asking for work would say that he knew about everything,
instead of just animals in captivity."

"I have not asked for work before. I can do without it. I like it
here near the forests."

"You mean the jungles - "

"I thought jungles were wet."

"In the wet season."

"Thank you - "

The slim one suddenly laughed aloud though not off-key:

"But I haven't any wild animals in captivity for you - "

Skag did not mind the mirth. He appreciated the smell of the house.
It was like a hot earthen tea-pot that had been well-used.

"I will come again?" he asked tentatively.

"Just do that - at the rest-house. I drop in there after dinner - about
nine."

That afternoon Skag went into the edge of the jungle. It was a breath
of promised land to him. He was almost frightened with the joy of
it - the deep leaf-etched shadows, the separate, almost reverent
bird-notes; all spaciousness and age and dignity; leaves strange, dry
paths, scents new to his nostrils, but having to do with joys and fears
and restlessness his brain didn't know. Skag was glad deep. He took
off his boots and then strode in deeper and deeper past the maze of
paths. He stayed there until the yellow light was out of the sky. At
the clearing again, he laughed - looked down at the turf and laughed.
He had come out to the paths again at the exact point of his entry.
This was his first deep breath of the jungle - something his soul had
been waiting for.

At dinner in the village, Skag inquired about the white man. The
native was serving him a curry with drift-white rice on plantain
leaves. After that there was a sweetmeat made of curds of cream and
honey, with the flavour and perfume of some altogether delectable
flower. In good time the native replied that the white man's name was
Cadman: that he was an American traveller and writer and artist, said
to be almost illustrious; that he had been out recently with a party of
English sportsmen, but found tiger-hunting dull after his many wars and
adventures. Also, it was said, that Cadman Sahib had the
coldest-blooded courage a man ever took into the jungle, almost like a
_bhakti yogin_ who had altogether conquered fear. Skag bowed in
satisfaction. Had he not looked twice at the face under the
helmet - and followed without words?

"How far do they go into the jungle for tigers?" he asked.

"An hour's journey, or a day, as it happens. Tigers are everywhere in
season."

"Within an hour's walk?" Skag asked quietly. The other repeated his
words in a voice that made Skag think of a grey old man, instead of the
fat brown one before him.

"Within an hour's walk? Ha, Ji! They come to the edge of the village
and slay the goats for food - and the sound cattle - and the children!"

Skag laughed inwardly, thinking how good it had been in the deep
places. However, it was now plain that these native folk were afraid
of tigers - afraid as of a sickness. He walked out into the street.
Though dark, it was still hot, and the breeze brought the dry green of
the jungle to him and life was altogether quite right.

That night he met Cadman Sahib. They talked until dawn. Skag was
helpless before the other who made him tell all he knew, and much that
had been nicely forgotten. Sometimes in the midst of one story, the
great traveller would snap over a question about one Skag had already
told. Then before he was answered fully, he would say briefly:

"That's all right - go on!"

". . . Behold a phenomenon!" he said at last. "Here is one not a liar,
and smells have meanings for him, and he has come, beyond peradventure,
to travel with me to the Monkey Forest and the Coldwater Ruins!"

It had been an altogether wonderful night for Skag. Talking made him
very tired, as if part of him had gone forth; as if, having spoken, he
would be called upon to make good in deeds. But he had not done all
the talking and Cadman Sahib was no less before his eyes in the morning
light - which is much to say for any man.


These two white men set out alone, facing one of the most dangerous of
all known jungles. The few natives who understood, bade them good-bye
for this earth.

Many stories about Cadman had come to Skag in the three or four days of
preparation - altogether astonishing adventures of his quest for death,
but there was no record of Cadman's choosing a friend, as he had done
for this expedition. Skag never ceased to marvel at the sudden
softenings, so singularly attractive, in Cadman's look when he really
began to talk. Sometimes it was like a sudden drop into summer after
protracted frost, and the lines of the thin weathered face revealed the
whole secret of yearning, something altogether chaste. And that was
only the beginning. It was all unexpected; that was the charm of the
whole relation. Skag found that Cadman had a real love for India; that
he saw things from a nature full of delicate inner surfaces; that his
whole difficulty was an inability to express himself unless he found
just the receiving-end to suit. Indian affairs, town and field, an
infinite variety, Cadman discussed penetratingly, but as one who looked
on from the outside.

"She is like my old Zoo book to me," he said, speaking of India their
first night out. "A bit of a lad, I used to sit in my room with the
great book opened out on a marble table that was cold the year round.
There were many pictures. Many, many pictures of all beasts - wood-cuts
and copies of paintings and ink-sketchings - ante-camera days, you know.
All those pictures are still here - "

Cadman blew a thin diffusion of smoke from his lungs, and touched the
third button down from the throat of his grey-green shirt.

"One above all," he added. "It was the frontispiece. All the story of
creation on one page. Man, beautiful Man in the centre, all the
tree-animals on branches around him, the deeps drained off at his feet,
many monsters visible or intimated, the air alive with wings - finches
up to condors. That picture sank deep, Skag, so deep that in
absent-minded moments I half expected to find India like that - "

There were no better hours of life, than these when Cadman Sahib let
himself speak.

"I haven't found the animals and birds and monsters all packed on one
page," he added, "but highlights here and there in India, so that I
always come back. I have often caught myself asking what the pull is
about, you know, as I catch myself taking ship for Bombay again. Oh, I
say, my son, and you never got over to the lotus lakes?"

"Not yet," Skag said softly.

"There's a night wind there and a tree - I could find it again. I've
lain on peacock feathers on a margin there - unwilling to sleep lest I
miss the perfume from over the pools. . . . And the roses of Kashmir,
where men of one family must serve forty generations before they get
the secrets; where they press out a ton of petals for a pound of
essential oil! And that's where the big mountains stand by - High
Himalaya herself - incredible colours and vistas - get it for yourself,
son."

It was always the elusive thing that Cadman didn't say, that left
Skag's mind free to build his own pictures. Meanwhile Cadman as a
companion was showing up flawlessly day by day.


At the end of a long march, after many days out, they smelled the night
cooking-fires from a village. A moment later they passed tiger tracks,
and the print of native feet.

The twilight was thick between them as they hastened on. Cadman Sahib
stepped back suddenly, lifting his hand to grasp the other, but not
quite soon enough. That instant Skag was flicked out of sight, taken
into the folds of mother-earth and covered - the bleat of a kid
presently identifying the whole mystery.

Skag fell about twelve feet into the black earth coolness. He was
unhurt, and knew roughly what had happened before he landed. His rush
of thoughts: shame for his own carelessness, gladness that Cadman Sahib
was safe above, the meaning of the kid's cry and the tracks they had
seen; this rush was broken by another deluge of earth that all but
drowned the laugh of Cadman. Skag had jerked back against the wall of
earth to avoid being struck by the body of his companion who coughed
and laughed again faintly, for his wind was very low.

"You couldn't ask more of a friend than that, son. I couldn't get you
up to me, so I came down with you - "

Of course, it was an accident. Cadman presently explained that he had
set down his dunnage and crept close on his knees to look into the pit
when the dry earth caved. Doubtless it was intended to do so, since
this was a native tiger-trap baited with live meat. But Cadman had not
considered fully in time. . . . Dust of the dry brown earth settled
upon them now; the grey twilight darkened swiftly. The chamber was
about nine by fifteen feet, hollowed wider at the bottom than the top,
and covered with a thin frame of bamboo poles, upon which was spread a
layer of leaves and sod. The kid had been tethered to escape the
stroke if possible.

"It's all night for us," Cadman remarked. "They won't look at the trap
until morning. My packs are above - rifle and blanket - "

"I have the camera," Skag chuckled.

Cadman's thin hand came out gropingly.

"The cigarettes are in the tea-pot," he said in a voice dulled with
pain.

"I have the pistol," Skag added dreamily. Something of the situation
had touched him with joy. If he spoke at such times, it was very dryly.

"Doubtless you have our bathing-suits," Cadman suggested.

"And my cigarette-case has - " Skag felt in the dark, "has
one - two - three - "

"Go on," the other said tensely.

"Three," said Skag.

"Let's smoke 'em now. They're calling me already."

Skag passed him the case, saying; "I'm not ready. I do not care just
now."

The other puffed dismally.

"I don't always quite get you, son," he said. "But it's all right when
I do - "

Skag mused over this. He was hungry and he put the thought away. He
was athirst and he put that thought away also. The wants came back,
but he dealt with them more firmly. The two men talked of appetites in
general, and Skag explained that he handled his, just as he had handled
the wild animals in the circus, being straight with them and gaining
their friendliness.

"Don't fight them," he said. "Get them on your side and they will pull
for you in a pinch."

"You talk like a Hindu holy man - "

"Do they talk like that?" Skag asked quickly. . . . "It was my old
friend with the circus - who taught me these things. He taught me to
make friends with my own wild animals. It is true that he was many
years in India. . . ."

"He was the one that had the ring in his left ear?"

"Right ear."

The other laughed. "It's such a novelty to find you are not a
liar - with all you know and have been through. I'll stop that nasty
business of testing you. Hear me, from now on, I'm done!"

Hours passed; it was after midnight. The waning moon was rising. They
could tell the light through the trees. Cadman had smoked again, but
Skag still expressed an unwillingness.

"It doesn't want to, now," he said.

"Oh, it doesn't - "

"I have persuaded it to think of other things. It is working for me."

Cadman swore softly, genially. "I never forget anything, son," he
whispered. "Never anything like that."

"Old Alec said I should never let a day pass without doing something I
didn't want to - or without something I wanted. He said it was better
than developing muscle."

"Some brand of calisthenics - that. And he was the old one with the
rose-jar?"

Skag's hand lifted toward the other and Cadman's met his.

There was a wet, meaty growl, indescribably low-pitched - but no chance
even to shout - only to huddle back together to the farthest corner.
The beast had stalked faultlessly and pounced, landing upon the thin
cross pieces of bamboo, but short of the bait. Down the twelve feet he
came with a tearing hiss of fright and rage. Something like a muffled
crash of pottery, it was, mixed with dull choking explosions. The air
of the pit seemed charged with furious power that whipped the leaves to
shreds.

"The pistol, Skag - "

They were free, so far, from the rending claws. The younger man's
brain was full of light. Cadman Sahib's voice had never been more calm.

Skag drew a match, not the gun. He scratched the match and held it
high in front. They saw the great cowering creature like a fallen pony
in size - but untellably more vivid in line - the chest not more than
seven feet from them, the head held far back, the near front paw lifted
against them as if to parry a blow.

Skag changed the match from his right hand to his left. When the flame


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