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    In The Presence

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    Chapter 7
    Previous Chapter
    (1912)

    'So the matter,' the Regimental Chaplain concluded, 'was correct; in
    every way correct. I am well pleased with Rutton Singh and Attar Singh.
    They have gathered the fruit of their lives.'

    He folded his arms and sat down on the verandah. The hot day had ended,
    and there was a pleasant smell of cooking along the regimental lines,
    where half-clad men went back and forth with leaf platters and
    water-goglets. The Subadar-Major, in extreme undress, sat on a chair, as
    befitted his rank; the Havildar-Major, his nephew, leaning respectfully
    against the wall. The Regiment was at home and at ease in its own
    quarters in its own district which takes its name from the great
    Muhammadan saint Mian Mir, revered by Jehangir and beloved by Guru Har
    Gobind, sixth of the great Sikh Gurus.

    'Quite correct,' the Regimental Chaplain repeated.

    No Sikh contradicts his Regimental Chaplain who expounds to him the Holy
    Book of the Grunth Sahib and who knows the lives and legends of all
    the Gurus.

    The Subadar-Major bowed his grey head. The Havildar-Major coughed
    respectfully to attract attention and to ask leave to speak. Though he
    was the Subadar-Major's nephew, and though his father held twice as
    much land as his uncle, he knew his place in the scheme of things. The
    Subadar-Major shifted one hand with an iron bracelet on the wrist.

    'Was there by any chance any woman at the back of it?' the
    Havildar-Major murmured. 'I was not here when the thing happened.'

    'Yes! Yes! Yes! We all know that thou wast in England eating and
    drinking with the Sahibs. We are all surprised that thou canst still
    speak Punjabi.' The Subadar-Major's carefully-tended beard bristled.

    'There was no woman,' the Regimental Chaplain growled. 'It was land.
    Hear, you! Rutton Singh and Attar Singh were the elder of four brothers.
    These four held land in--what was the village's name?--oh, Pishapur,
    near Thori, in the Banalu Tehsil of Patiala State, where men can still
    recognise right behaviour when they see it. The two younger brothers
    tilled the land, while Rutton Singh and Attar Singh took service with
    the Regiment, according to the custom of the family.'

    'True, true,' said the Havildar-Major. 'There is the same arrangement in
    all good families.'

    'Then, listen again,' the Regimental Chaplain went on. 'Their kin on
    their mother's side put great oppression and injustice upon the two
    younger brothers who stayed with the land in Patiala State. Their
    mother's kin loosened beasts into the four brothers' crops when the
    crops were green; they cut the corn by force when it was ripe; they
    broke down the water-courses; they defiled the wells; and they brought
    false charges in the law-courts against all four brothers. They did not
    spare even the cotton-seed, as the saying is.

    'Their mother's kin trusted that the young men would thus be forced by
    weight of trouble, and further trouble and perpetual trouble, to quit
    their lands in Pishapur village in Banalu Tehsil in Patiala State. If
    the young men ran away, the land would come whole to their mother's kin.
    I am not a regimental school-master, but is it understood, child?'

    'Understood,' said the Havildar-Major grimly. 'Pishapur is not the only
    place where the fence eats the field instead of protecting it. But
    perhaps there was a woman among their mother's kin?'

    'God knows!' said the Regimental Chaplain. 'Woman, or man, or
    law-courts, the young men would _not_ be driven off the land which was
    their own by inheritance. They made appeal to Rutton Singh and Attar
    Singh, their brethren who had taken service with _us_ in the Regiment,
    and so knew the world, to help them in their long war against their
    mother's kin in Pishapur. For that reason, because their own land and
    the honour of their house was dear to them, Rutton Singh and Attar Singh
    needs must very often ask for leave to go to Patiala and attend to the
    lawsuits and cattle-poundings there.

    'It was not, look you, as though they went back to their own village and
    sat, garlanded with jasmine, in honour, upon chairs before the elders
    under the trees. They went back always to perpetual trouble, either of
    lawsuits, or theft, or strayed cattle; and they sat on thorns.'

    'I knew it,' said the Subadar-Major. 'Life was bitter for them both. But
    they were well-conducted men. It was not hard to get them their leave
    from the Colonel Sahib.'

    'They spoke to me also,' said the Chaplain. '_"Let him who desires the
    four great gifts apply himself to the words of holy men."_ That is
    written. Often they showed me the papers of the false lawsuits brought
    against them. Often they wept on account of the persecution put upon
    them by their mother's kin. Men thought it was drugs when their eyes
    showed red.'

    'They wept in my presence too,' said the Subadar-Major. 'Well-conducted
    men of nine years' service apiece. Rutton Singh was drill-Naik, too.'

    'They did all things correctly as Sikhs should,' said the Regimental
    Chaplain. 'When the persecution had endured seven years, Attar Singh
    took leave to Pishapur once again (that was the fourth time in that year
    only) and he called his persecutors together before the village elders,
    and he cast his turban at their feet and besought them by his mother's
    blood to cease from their persecutions. For he told them earnestly that
    he had marched to the boundaries of his patience, and that there could
    be but one end to the matter.

    'They gave him abuse. They mocked him and his tears, which was the same
    as though they had mocked the Regiment. Then Attar Singh returned to the
    Regiment, and laid this last trouble before Rutton Singh, the eldest
    brother. But Rutton Singh could not get leave all at once.'

    'Because he was drill-Naik and the recruits were to be drilled. I myself
    told him so,' said the Subadar-Major. 'He was a well-conducted man. He
    said he could wait.'

    'But when permission was granted, those two took four days' leave,' the
    Chaplain went on.

    'I do not think Attar Singh should have taken Baynes Sahib's revolver.
    He was Baynes Sahib's orderly, and all that Sahib's things were open to
    him. It was, therefore, as I count it, shame to Attar Singh,' said the
    Subadar-Major.

    'All the words had been said. There was need of arms, and how could
    soldiers use Government rifles upon mere cultivators in the fields?' the
    Regimental Chaplain replied. 'Moreover, the revolver was sent back,
    together with a money-order for the cartridges expended. _"Borrow not;
    but if thou borrowest, pay back soon!"_ That is written in the Hymns.
    Rutton Singh took a sword, and he and Attar Singh went to Pishapur and,
    after word given, the four brethren fell upon their persecutors in
    Pishapur village and slew seventeen, wounding ten. A revolver is better
    than a lawsuit. I say that these four brethren, the two with _us_, and
    the two mere cultivators, slew and wounded twenty-seven--all their
    mother's kin, male and female.

    'Then the four mounted to their housetop, and Attar Singh, who was
    always one of the impetuous, said "My work is done," and he made
    _shinan_ (purification) in all men's sight, and he lent Rutton Singh
    Baynes Sahib's revolver, and Rutton Singh shot him in the head.

    'So Attar Singh abandoned his body, as an insect abandons a blade of
    grass. But Rutton Singh, having more work to do, went down from the
    housetop and sought an enemy whom he had forgotten--a Patiala man of
    this regiment who had sided with the persecutors. When he overtook the
    man, Rutton Singh hit him twice with bullets and once with the sword.'

    'But the man escaped and is now in the hospital here,' said the
    Subadar-Major. 'The doctor says he will live in spite of all.'

    'Not Rutton Singh's fault. Rutton Singh left him for dead. Then Rutton
    Singh returned to the housetop, and the three brothers together, Attar
    Singh being dead, sent word by a lad to the police station for an army
    to be dispatched against them that they might die with honours. But none
    came. And yet Patiala State is not under English law and they should
    know virtue there when they see it!

    'So, on the third day, Rutton Singh also made _shinan_, and the youngest
    of the brethren shot him also in the head, and _he_ abandoned his body.

    'Thus was all correct. There was neither heat, nor haste, nor abuse in
    the matter from end to end. There remained alive not one man or woman of
    their mother's kin which had oppressed them. Of the other villagers of
    Pishapur, who had taken no part in the persecutions, not one was slain.
    Indeed, the villagers sent them food on the housetop for those three
    days while they waited for the police who would not dispatch that army.

    'Listen again! I know that Attar Singh and Rutton Singh omitted no
    ceremony of the purifications, and when all was done Baynes Sahib's
    revolver was thrown down from the housetop, together with three rupees
    twelve annas; and order was given for its return by post.'

    'And what befell the two younger brethren who were not in the service?'
    the Havildar-Major asked.

    'Doubtless they too are dead, but since they were not in the Regiment
    their honour concerns themselves only. So far as _we_ were touched, see
    how correctly we came out of the matter! I think the King should be
    told; for where could you match such a tale except among us Sikhs? _Sri
    wah guru ji ki Khalsa! Sri wah guru ji ki futteh!_' said the
    Regimental Chaplain.

    'Would three rupees twelve annas pay for the used cartridges?' said the
    Havildar-Major.

    'Attar Singh knew the just price. All Baynes Sahib's gear was in his
    charge. They expended one tin box of fifty cartouches, lacking two which
    were returned. As I said--as I say--the arrangement was made not with
    heat nor blasphemies as a Mussulman would have made it; not with cries
    nor caperings as an idolater would have made it; but conformably to the
    ritual and doctrine of the Sikhs. Hear you! _"Though hundreds of
    amusements are offered to a child it cannot live without milk. If a man
    be divorced from his soul and his soul's desire he certainly will not
    stop to play upon the road, but he will make haste with his
    pilgrimage_." That is written. I rejoice in my disciples.'

    'True! True! Correct! Correct!' said the Subadar-Major. There was a
    long, easy silence. One heard a water-wheel creaking somewhere and the
    nearer sound of meal being ground in a quern.

    'But he--' the Chaplain pointed a scornful chin at the
    Havildar-Major--'_he_ has been so long in England that--'

    'Let the lad alone,' said his uncle. 'He was but two months there, and
    he was chosen for good cause.'

    Theoretically, all Sikhs are equal. Practically, there are differences,
    as none know better than well-born, land-owning folk, or long-descended
    chaplains from Amritsar.

    'Hast thou heard anything in England to match my tale?' the Chaplain
    sneered.

    'I saw more than I could understand, so I have locked up my stories in
    my own mouth,' the Havildar-Major replied meekly.

    'Stories? What stories? I know all the stories about England,' said the
    Chaplain. 'I know that _terains_ run underneath their bazaars there, and
    as for their streets stinking with _mota kahars_, only this morning I
    was nearly killed by Duggan Sahib's _mota-kahar_. That young man is
    a devil.'

    'I expect Grunthi-jee,' said the Subadar-Major, 'you and I grow too old
    to care for the Kahar-ki-nautch--the Bearer's dance.' He named one of
    the sauciest of the old-time nautches, and smiled at his own pun. Then
    he turned to his nephew. 'When I was a lad and came back to my village
    on leave, I waited the convenient hour, and, the elders giving
    permission, I spoke of what I had seen elsewhere.'

    'Ay, my father,' said the Havildar-Major, softly and affectionately. He
    sat himself down with respect, as behoved a mere lad of thirty with a
    bare half-dozen campaigns to his credit.

    'There were four men in this affair also,' he began, 'and it was an
    affair that touched the honour, not of one regiment, nor two, but of all
    the Army in Hind. Some part of it I saw; some I heard; but _all_ the
    tale is true. My father's brother knows, and my priest knows, that I was
    in England on business with my Colonel, when the King--the Great Queen's
    son--completed his life.

    'First, there was a rumour that sickness was upon him. Next, we knew
    that he lay sick in the Palace. A very great multitude stood outside the
    Palace by night and by day, in the rain as well as the sun, waiting
    for news.

    'Then came out one with a written paper, and set it upon a
    gate-side--the word of the King's death--and they read, and groaned.
    This I saw with my own eyes, because the office where my Colonel Sahib
    went daily to talk with Colonel Forsyth Sahib was at the east end of the
    very gardens where the Palace stood. They are larger gardens than
    Shalimar here'--he pointed with his chin up the lines--'or Shahdera
    across the river.

    'Next day there was a darkness in the streets, because all the city's
    multitude were clad in black garments, and they spoke as a man speaks in
    the presence of his dead--all those multitudes. In the eyes, in the air,
    and in the heart, there was blackness. I saw it. But that is not
    my tale.

    'After ceremonies had been accomplished, and word had gone out to the
    Kings of the Earth that they should come and mourn, the new King--the
    dead King's son--gave commandment that his father's body should be laid,
    coffined, in a certain Temple which is near the river. There are no
    idols in that Temple; neither any carvings, nor paintings, nor gildings.
    It is all grey stone, of one colour as though it were cut out of the
    live rock. It is larger than--yes, than the Durbar Sahib at Amritsar,
    even though the Akal Bunga and the Baba-Atal were added. How old it may
    be God knows. It is the Sahibs' most sacred Temple.

    'In that place, by the new King's commandment, they made, as it were, a
    shrine for a saint, with lighted candles at the head and the feet of the
    Dead, and duly appointed watchers for every hour of the day and the
    night, until the dead King should be taken to the place of his fathers,
    which is at Wanidza.

    'When all was in order, the new King said, "Give entrance to all
    people," and the doors were opened, and O my uncle! O my teacher! all
    the world entered, walking through that Temple to take farewell of the
    Dead. There was neither distinction, nor price, nor ranking in the host,
    except an order that they should walk by fours.

    'As they gathered in the streets without--very, very far off--so they
    entered the Temple, walking by fours: the child, the old man; mother,
    virgin, harlot, trader, priest; of all colours and faiths and customs
    under the firmament of God, from dawn till late at night. I saw it. My
    Colonel gave me leave to go. I stood in the line, many hours, one
    _koss_, two _koss_, distant from the temple.'

    'Then why did the multitude not sit down under the trees?' asked the
    priest.

    'Because we were still between houses. The city is many _koss_ wide,'
    the Havildar-Major resumed. 'I submitted myself to that slow-moving
    river and thus--thus--a pace at a time--I made pilgrimage. There were in
    my rank a woman, a cripple, and a lascar from the ships.

    'When we entered the Temple, the coffin itself was as a shoal in the
    Ravi River, splitting the stream into two branches, one on either side
    of the Dead; and the watchers of the Dead, who were soldiers, stood
    about It, moving no more than the still flame of the candles. Their
    heads were bowed; their hands were clasped; their eyes were cast upon
    the ground--thus. They were not men, but images, and the multitude went
    past them in fours by day, and, except for a little while, by
    night also.

    'No, there was no order that the people should come to pay respect. It
    was a free-will pilgrimage. Eight kings had been commanded to come--who
    obeyed--but upon his own Sahibs the new King laid no commandment. Of
    themselves they came.

    'I made pilgrimage twice: once for my Salt's sake, and once again for
    wonder and terror and worship. But my mouth cannot declare one thing of
    a hundred thousand things in this matter. There were _lakhs_ of _lakhs_,
    _crores_ of _crores_ of people. I saw them.'

    'More than at our great pilgrimages?' the Regimental Chaplain demanded.

    'Yes. Those are only cities and districts coming out to pray. This was
    the world walking in grief. And now, hear you! It is the King's custom
    that four swords of Our Armies in Hind should stand always before the
    Presence in case of need.'

    'The King's custom, our right,' said the Subadar-Major curtly.

    'Also our right. These honoured ones are changed after certain months or
    years, that the honour may be fairly spread. Now it chanced that when
    the old King--the Queen's son--completed his days, the four that stood
    in the Presence were Goorkhas. Neither Sikhs alas, nor Pathans, Rajputs,
    nor Jats. Goorkhas, my father.'

    'Idolaters,' said the Chaplain.

    'But soldiers; for I remember in the Tirah--' the Havildar-Major began.

    '_But_ soldiers, for I remember fifteen campaigns. Go on,' said the
    Subadar-Major.

    'And it was their honour and right to furnish one who should stand in
    the Presence by day and by night till It went out to burial. There were
    no more than four all told--four old men to furnish that guard.'

    'Old? Old? What talk is this of old men?' said the Subadar-Major.

    'Nay. My fault! Your pardon!' The Havildar-Major spread a deprecating
    hand. 'They were strong, hot, valiant men, and the youngest was a lad of
    forty-five.'

    'That is better,' the Subadar-Major laughed.

    'But for all their strength and heat they could not eat strange food
    from the Sahibs' hands. There was no cooking place in the Temple; but a
    certain Colonel Forsyth Sahib, who had understanding, made arrangement
    whereby they should receive at least a little caste-clean parched grain;
    also cold rice maybe, and water which was pure. Yet, at best, this was
    no more than a hen's mouthful, snatched as each came off his guard. They
    lived on grain and were thankful, as the saying is.

    'One hour's guard in every four was each man's burden, for, as I have
    shown, they were but four all told; and the honour of Our Armies in Hind
    was on their heads. The Sahibs could draw upon all the armies in England
    for the other watchers--thousands upon thousands of fresh men--if they
    needed; but these four were but four.

    'The Sahibs drew upon the Granadeers for the other watchers. Granadeers
    be very tall men under very tall bearskins, such as Fusilier regiments
    wear in cold weather. Thus, when a Granadeer bowed his head but a very
    little over his stock, the bearskin sloped and showed as though he
    grieved exceedingly. Now the Goorkhas wear flat, green caps--'

    'I see, I see,' said the Subadar-Major impatiently.

    'They are bull-necked, too; and their stocks are hard, and when they
    bend deeply--deeply--to match the Granadeers--they come nigh to choking
    themselves. That was a handicap against them, when it came to the
    observance of ritual.

    'Yet even with their tall, grief-declaring bearskins, the Granadeers
    could not endure the full hour's guard in the Presence. There was good
    cause, as I will show, why no man could endure that terrible hour. So
    for them the hour's guard was cut to one-half. What did it matter to the
    Sahibs? They could draw on ten thousand Granadeers. Forsyth Sahib, who
    had comprehension, put this choice also before the four, and they said,
    "No, ours is the Honour of the Armies of Hind. Whatever the Sahibs do,
    we will suffer the full hour."

    'Forsyth Sahib, seeing that they were--knowing that they could neither
    sleep long nor eat much, said, "Is it great suffering?" They said, "It
    is great honour. We will endure."

    'Forsyth Sahib, who loves us, said then to the eldest, "Ho, father, tell
    me truly what manner of burden it is; for the full hour's watch breaks
    up our men like water."

    'The eldest answered, "Sahib, the burden is the feet of the multitude
    that pass us on either side. Our eyes being lowered and fixed, we see
    those feet only from the knee down--a river of feet, Sahib, that
    never--never--never stops. It is not the standing without any motion; it
    is not hunger; nor is it the dead part before the dawn when maybe a
    single one comes here to weep. It is the burden of the unendurable
    procession of feet from the knee down, that never--never--never stops!"

    'Forsyth Sahib said, "By God, I had not considered that! Now I know why
    our men come trembling and twitching off that guard. But at least, my
    father, ease the stock a little beneath the bent chin for that
    one hour."

    'The eldest said, "We are in the Presence. Moreover _He_ knew every
    button and braid and hook of every uniform in all His armies."

    'Then Forsyth Sahib said no more, except to speak about their parched
    grain, but indeed they could not eat much after their hour, nor could
    they sleep much because of eye-twitchings and the renewed procession of
    the feet before the eyes. Yet they endured each his full hour--not half
    an hour--his one full hour in each four hours.'

    'Correct! correct!' said the Subadar-Major and the Chaplain together.
    'We come well out of this affair.'

    'But seeing that they were old men,' said the Subadar-Major
    reflectively, 'very old men, worn out by lack of food and sleep, could
    not arrangements have been made, or influence have been secured, or a
    petition presented, whereby a well-born Sikh might have eased them of
    some portion of their great burden, even though his substantive rank--'

    'Then they would most certainly have slain me,' said the Havildar-Major
    with a smile.

    'And they would have done correctly,' said the Chaplain. 'What befell
    the honourable ones later?'

    'This. The Kings of the earth and all the Armies sent flowers and
    such-like to the dead King's palace at Wanidza, where the funeral
    offerings were accepted. There was no order given, but all the world
    made oblation. So the four took counsel--three at a time--and either
    they asked Forsyth Sahib to choose flowers, or themselves they went
    forth and bought flowers--I do not know; but, however it was arranged,
    the flowers were bought and made in the shape of a great drum-like
    circle weighing half a _maund_.

    'Forsyth Sahib had said, "Let the flowers be sent to Wanidza with the
    other flowers which all the world is sending." But they said among
    themselves, "It is not fit that these flowers, which are the offerings
    of His Armies in Hind, should come to the Palace of the Presence by the
    hands of hirelings or messengers, or of any man not in His service."

    'Hearing this, Forsyth Sahib, though he was much occupied with
    office-work, said, "Give me the flowers, and I will steal a time and
    myself take them to Wanidza."

    'The eldest said, "Since when has Forsyth Sahib worn sword?"

    'Forsyth Sahib said, "But always. And I wear it in the Presence when I
    put on uniform. I am a Colonel in the Armies of Hind." The eldest said,
    "Of what regiment?" And Forsyth Sahib looked on the carpet and pulled
    the hair of his lip. He saw the trap.'

    'Forsyth Sahib's regiment was once the old Forty-sixth Pathans which
    was called--' the Subadar-Major gave the almost forgotten title, adding
    that he had met them in such and such campaigns, when Forsyth Sahib was
    a young captain.

    The Havildar-Major took up the tale, saying, 'The eldest knew that also,
    my father. He laughed, and presently Forsyth Sahib laughed.

    '"It is true," said Forsyth Sahib. "I have no regiment. For twenty years
    I have been a clerk tied to a thick pen. Therefore I am the more fit to
    be your orderly and messenger in this business."

    'The eldest then said, "If it were a matter of my life or the honour of
    _any_ of my household, it would be easy." And Forsyth Sahib joined his
    hands together, half laughing, though he was ready to weep, and he said,
    "Enough! I ask pardon. Which one of you goes with the offering?"

    'The eldest said, feigning not to have heard, "Nor must they be
    delivered by a single sword--as though we were pressed for men in His
    service," and they saluted and went out.'

    'Were these things seen, or were they told thee?' said the
    Subadar-Major.

    'I both saw and heard in the office full of books and papers where my
    Colonel Sahib consulted Forsyth Sahib upon the business that had brought
    my Colonel Sahib to England.'

    'And what was that business?' the Regimental Chaplain asked of a sudden,
    looking full at the Havildar-Major, who returned the look without
    a quiver.

    'That was not revealed to me,' said the Havildar-Major.

    'I heard it might have been some matter touching the integrity of
    certain regiments,' the Chaplain insisted.

    'The matter was not in any way open to my ears,' said the
    Havildar-Major.

    'Humph!' The Chaplain drew his hard road-worn feet under his robe. 'Let
    us hear the tale that it is permitted thee to tell,' he said, and the
    Havildar-Major went on:

    'So then the three, having returned to the Temple, called the fourth,
    who had only forty-five years, when he came off guard, and said, "We go
    to the Palace at Wanidza with the offerings. Remain thou in the
    Presence, and take all our guards, one after the other, till we return."

    'Within that next hour they hired a large and strong _mota-kahar_ for
    the journey from the Temple to Wanidza, which is twenty _koss_ or more,
    and they promised expedition. But he who took their guards said, "It is
    not seemly that we should for any cause appear to be in haste. There are
    eighteen medals with eleven clasps and three Orders to consider. Go at
    leisure. I can endure."

    'So the three with the offerings were absent three hours and a half, and
    having delivered the offering at Wanidza in the correct manner they
    returned and found the lad on guard, and they did not break his guard
    till his full hour was ended. So _he_ endured four hours in the
    Presence, not stirring one hair, his eyes abased, and the river of
    feet, from the knee down, passing continually before his eyes. When he
    was relieved, it was seen that his eyeballs worked like
    weavers' shuttles.

    'And so it was done--not in hot blood, not for a little while, nor yet
    with the smell of slaughter and the noise of shouting to sustain, but in
    silence, for a very long time, rooted to one place before the Presence
    among the most terrible feet of the multitude.'

    'Correct!' the Chaplain chuckled.

    'But the Goorkhas had the honour,' said the Subadar-Major sadly.

    'Theirs was the Honour of His Armies in Hind, and that was Our Honour,'
    the nephew replied.

    'Yet I would one Sikh had been concerned in it--even one low-caste Sikh.
    And after?'

    'They endured the burden until the end--until It went out of the Temple
    to be laid among the older kings at Wanidza. When all was accomplished
    and It was withdrawn under the earth, Forsyth Sahib said to the four,
    "The King gives command that you be fed here on meat cooked by your own
    cooks. Eat and take ease, my fathers."

    'So they loosed their belts and ate. They had not eaten food except by
    snatches for some long time; and when the meat had given them strength
    they slept for very many hours; and it was told me that the procession
    of the unendurable feet ceased to pass before their eyes any more.'

    He threw out one hand palm upward to show that the tale was ended.

    'We came well and cleanly out of it,' said the Subadar-Major.

    'Correct! Correct! Correct!' said the Regimental Chaplain. 'In an evil
    age it is good to hear such things, and there is certainly no doubt that
    this is a very evil age.'

    JOBSON'S AMEN

    'Blessed be the English and all their ways and works.
    Cursed be the Infidels, Hereticks, and Turks!'
    'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I used to lie
    Was neither Candle, Bell nor Book to curse my brethren by:

    'But a palm-tree in full bearing, bowing down, bowing down,
    To a surf that drove unsparing at the brown-walled town--
    Conches in a temple, oil-lamps in a dome--
    And a low moon out of Africa said: "This way home!"'

    'Blessed be the English and all that they profess.
    Cursed be the Savages that prance in nakedness!'
    'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I used to lie
    Was neither shirt nor pantaloons to catch my brethren by:

    'But a well-wheel slowly creaking, going round, going round,
    By a water-channel leaking over drowned, warm ground--
    Parrots very busy in the trellised pepper-vine--
    And a high sun over Asia shouting: "Rise and shine!"'

    'Blessed be the English and everything they own.
    Cursed be the Infidels that bow to wood and stone!'
    'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I used to lie
    Was neither pew nor Gospelleer to save my brethren by:

    'But a desert stretched and stricken, left and right, left
    and right,
    Where the piled mirages thicken under white-hot light--
    A skull beneath a sand-hill and a viper coiled inside--
    And a red wind out of Libya roaring: "Run and hide!"'

    'Blessed be the English and all they make or do.
    Cursed be the Hereticks who doubt that this is true!'
    'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I mean to die
    Is neither rule nor calliper to judge the matter by:

    'But Himalaya heavenward-heading, sheer and vast, sheer and vast,
    In a million summits bedding on the last world's past;
    A certain sacred mountain where the scented cedars climb,
    And--the feet of my Beloved hurrying back through Time!'
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