Infomotions, Inc.The Story of Sonny Sahib / Duncan, Sara Jeannette, 1862?-1922

Author: Duncan, Sara Jeannette, 1862?-1922
Title: The Story of Sonny Sahib
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): maharajah; tooni; sonny sahib; sahib; sonny; moti; rao; sunni; colonel starr; starr; colonel; roberts; palace
Contributor(s): Young, Stanley [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 19,835 words (really short) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 64 (easy)
Identifier: etext4547
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Title: The Story of Sonny Sahib

Author: Mrs. Everard Cotes

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'Ayah,' the doctor-sahib said in the vernacular, standing beside
the bed, 'the fever of the mistress is like fire.  Without doubt
it cannot go on thus, but all that is in your hand to do you have
done.  It is necessary now only to be very watchful.  And it will
be to dress the mistress, and to make everything ready for a
journey.  Two hours later all the sahib-folk go from this place in
boats, by the river, to Allahabad.  I will send an ox-cart to take
the mistress and the baby and you to the bathing ghat.'

'Jeldi karo!' he added, which meant 'Quickly do!'--a thing people
say a great many times a day in India.

The ayah looked at him stupidly.  She was terribly frightened; she
had never been so frightened before.  Her eyes wandered from the
doctor's face to the ruined south wall of the hut, where the sun of
July, when it happens to shine on the plains of India, was beating
fiercely upon the mud floor.  That ruin had happened only an hour
ago, with a terrible noise just outside, such a near and terrible
noise that she, Tooni, had scrambled under the bed the mistress was
lying on, and had hidden there until the doctor-sahib came and
pulled her forth by the foot, and called her a poor sort of person.
Then Tooni had lain down at the doctor-sahib's feet, and tried to
place one of them upon her head, and said that indeed she was not a
worthless one, but that she was very old and she feared the guns;
so many of the sahibs had died from the guns!  She, Tooni, did not
wish to die from a gun, and would the Presence, in the great mercy
of his heart, tell her whether there would be any more shooting?
There would be no more shooting, the Presence had said; and then he
had given her a bottle and directions, and the news about going
down the river in a boat.  Tooni's mind did not even record the
directions, but it managed to retain the words about going away in
a boat, and as she stood twisting the bottle round and round in the
folds of her ragged red petticoat it made a desperate effort to
extract their meaning.

'There will be no more shooting,' said the doctor again, 'and there
is a man outside with a goat.  He will give you two pounds of milk
for the baby for five rupees.'

'Rupia!  I have not even one!' said the ayah, looking toward the
bed; 'the captain-sahib has not come these thirty days as he
promised.  The colonel-sahib has sent the food.  The memsahib is
for three days without a pice.'

'I'll pay,' said the doctor shortly, and turned hurriedly to go.
Other huts were crying out for him; he could hear the voice of some
of them through their mud partitions.  As he passed out he caught a
glimpse of himself in a little square looking-glass that hung on a
nail on the wall, and it made him start nervously and then smile
grimly.  He saw the face of a man who had not slept three hours in
as many days and nights--a haggard, unshaven face, drawn as much
with the pain of others as with its own weariness.  His hair stood
up in long tufts, his eyes had black circles under them.  He wore
neither coat nor waistcoat, and his regimental trousers were tied
round the waist by a bit of rope.  On the sleeve of his collarless
shirt were three dark dry splashes; he noticed them as he raised
his arm to put on his pith helmet.  The words did not reach his
lips, but his heart cried out within him for a boy of the 32nd.

The ayah caught up her brass cooking-pot and followed him.  Since
the doctor-sahib was to pay, the doctor-sahib would arrange that
good measure should be given in the matter of the milk.  And upon
second thought the doctor-sahib decided that precautions were
necessary.  He told the man with the goat, therefore, that when the
ayah received two pounds of milk she would pay him the five rupees.
As he put the money into Tooni's hand she stayed him gently.

'We are to go without, beyond the walls, to the ghat?' she asked in
her own tongue.

'Yes,' said the doctor, 'in two hours.  I have spoken.'

'Hazur![1] the Nana Sahib--'

[1] 'Honoured one.'

'The Nana Sahib has written it.  Bus!'[1] the doctor replied
impatiently.  Put the memsahib into her clothes.  Pack everything
there is, and hasten.  Do you understand, foolish one?'

[1] 'Enough.'

'Very good said the ayah submissively, and watched the doctor out
of sight.  Then she insisted--holding the rupees, she could insist--
that the goat-keeper should bring his goat into the hut to milk
it; there was more safety, Tooni thought, in the hut.  While he
milked it Tooni sat upon the ground, hugging her knees, and

The memsahib had said nothing all this time, had known nothing.
For two days the memsahib had been, as Tooni would have said,
without sense--had lain on the bed in the corner quietly staring at
the wall, where the looking-glass hung, making no sign except when
she heard the Nana Sahib's guns.  Then she sat up straight, and
laughed very prettily and sweetly.  It was the salute, she thought
in her fever; the Viceroy was coming; there would be all sorts of
gay doings in the station.  When the shell exploded that tore up
the wall of the hut, she asked Tooni for her new blue silk with the
flounces, the one that had been just sent out from England, and her
kid slippers with the rosettes.  Tooni, wiping away her helpless
tears with the edge of her head covering, had said, 'Na, memsahib,
na!' and stroked the hot hand that pointed, and then the mistress
had forgotten again.  As to the little pink baby, three days old,
it blinked and throve and slept as if it had been born in its
father's house to luxury and rejoicing.

Tooni questioned the goat-keeper; but he had seen three sahibs
killed that morning, and was stupid with fear.  He did not even
know of the Nana Sahib's order that the English were to be allowed
to go away in boats; and this was remarkable, because he lived in
the bazar outside, and in the bazar people generally know what is
going to happen long before the sahibs who live in the tall white
houses do.  Tooni had only her own reflections.

There would be no more shooting, and the Nana Sahib would let them
all go away in boats; that was good khaber--good news.  Tooni
wondered, as she put the baby's clothes together in one bundle, and
her own few possessions together in another, whether it was to be
believed.  The Nana Sahib so hated the English; had not the guns
spoken of his hate these twenty-one days?  Inside the walls many
had died, but outside the walls might not all die?  The doctor had
said that the Nana Sahib had written it; but why should the Nana
Sahib write the truth?  The Great Lord Sahib, the Viceroy, had sent
no soldiers to compel him.  Nevertheless, Tooni packed what there
was to pack, and soothed the baby with a little goat's milk and
water, and dressed her mistress as well as she was able, according
to the doctor's directions.  Then she went out to where old Abdul,
the table-waiter, her husband, crouched under a wall, and told him
all that she knew and feared.  But Abdul, having heard no guns for
nearly an hour and a half, was inclined to be very brave, and said
that without doubt they should all get safely to Allahabad; and
there, when the memsahib was better, they would find the captain-
sahib again, and he would give them many rupees backsheesh for
being faithful to her.

'The memsahib will never be better,' said Tooni, sorrowfully; 'her
rice is finished in the earth.  The memsahib will die.'

She agreed to go to the ghat, though, and went back into the hut to
wait for the ox-cart while Abdul cooked a meal on the powder-
blackened ground with the last of the millet, and gave thanks to

There was no room for Tooni to ride when they started.  She walked
alongside carrying the baby and its little bundle of clothes.
There was nothing else to carry, and that was fortunate, for the
cart in which the memsahib lay was too full of sick and wounded to
hold anything more.  In Tooni's pocket a little black book swung to
and fro; it was the memsahib's book; and in the beginning of the
firing, before the fever came, Tooni had seen the memsahib reading
it long and often.  They had not been killed in consequence, Tooni
thought; there must be a protecting charm in the little black book;
so she slipped it into her pocket.  They left the looking-glass

The ox-cart passed out creaking, in its turn, beyond the earthworks
of the English encampment into the city, where the mutinous natives
stood in sullen curious groups to watch the train go by.  A hundred
yards through the narrow streets, choked with the smell of
gunpowder and populous with vultures, and Abdul heard a quick voice
in his ear.  When he turned, none were speaking, but he recognised
in the crowd the lowering indifferent face of a sepoy he knew--one
of the Nana Sahib's servants.  Saying nothing, he fell back for
Tooni and laid his hand upon her arm.  And when the cart creaked
out of the town into the crowded, dusty road that led down to the
ghat, neither Abdul nor Tooni were in the riotous crowd that
pressed along with it.  They had taken refuge in the outer bazar,
and Sonny Sahib, sound asleep and well hidden, had taken refuge
with them.

As to Sonny Sahib's mother, she was neither shot in the boats with
the soldiers that believed the written word of the Nana Sahib, nor
stabbed with the women and children who went back to the palace
afterwards.  She died quietly in the oxcart before it reached the
ghat, and the pity of it was that Sonny Sahib's father, the
captain, himself in hospital four hundred miles from Cawnpore,
never knew.

There is a marble angel in Cawnpore now, standing in a very quiet
garden, and shut off even from the trees and the flowers by an
enclosing wall.  The angel looks always down, down, and such an
awful, pitiful sorrow stands there with her that nobody cares to
try to touch it with words.  People only come and look and go
silently away, wondering what time can have for the healing of such
a wound as this.  There is an inscription--


And afterward Sonny Sahib's father believed that all he could learn
while he lived about the fate of his wife and his little son was
written there.  But he never knew.


Tooni and Abdul heard the terrible news of Cawnpore six months
later.  They had gone back to their own country, and it was far
from Cawnpore--hundreds and hundreds of miles across a white sandy
desert, grown with prickles and studded with rocks--high up in the
north of Rajputana.  In the State of Chita and the town of
Rubbulgurh there was no fighting, because there were no Sahibs.
The English had not yet come to teach the Maharajah how to govern
his estate and spend his revenues.  That is to say, there was no
justice to speak of, and a great deal of cholera, and by no means
three meals a day for everybody, or even two.  But nobody was
discontented with troubles that came from the gods and the
Maharajah, and talk of greased cartridges would not have been
understood.  Thinking of this, Abdul often said to Tooni, his wife;
'The service of the sahib is good and profitable, but in old age
peace is better, even though we are compelled to pay many rupees to
the tax-gatherers of the Maharajah.'  Tooni always agreed, and when
the khaber came that all the memsahibs and the children had been
killed by the sepoys, she agreed weeping.  They were always so kind
and gentle, the memsahibs, and the little ones, the babalok--the
babalok!  Surely the sepoys had become like the tiger-folk.  Then
she picked up Sonny Sahib and held him tighter than he liked.  She
had crooned with patient smiles over many of the babalok in her
day, but from beginning to end, never a baba like this.  So strong
he was, he could make old Abdul cry out, pulling at his beard, so
sweet-tempered and healthy that he would sleep just where he was
put down, like other babies of Rubbulgurh.  Tooni grieved deeply
that she could not give him a bottle, and a coral, and a
perambulator, and often wondered that he consented to thrive
without these things, but the fact remains that he did.  He even
allowed himself to be oiled all over occasionally for the good of
his health, which was forbearing in a British baby.  And always
when Abdul shook his finger at him and said--

'Gorah pah howdah, hathi pah JEEN!
Jeldi bag-gia, Warren HasTEEN!'[1]

he laughed and crowed as if he quite understood the joke.

[1] 'Howdahs on horses, on elephants JEEN!
He ran away quickly did Warren HasTEEN!'

'Jeen' means 'saddles,' but nobody could make that rhyme!  Popular
incident of an English retreat in Hastings' time.

Tooni had no children of her own, and wondered how long it would be
before she and Abdul must go again to Cawnpore to find the baby's
father.  There need be no hurry, Tooni thought, as Sonny Sahib
played with the big silver hoops in her ears, and tried to kick
himself over her shoulder.  Abdul calculated the number of rupees
that would be a suitable reward for taking care of a baby for six
months, found it considerable, and said they ought to start at
once.  Then other news came--gathering terror from mouth to mouth
as it crossed Rajputana--and Abdul told his wife one evening, after
she had put Sonny Sahib to sleep with a hymn to Israfil, that a
million of English soldiers had come upon Cawnpore, and in their
hundredfold revenge had left neither Mussulman nor Hindoo alive in
the city--also that the Great Lord Sahib had ordered the head of
every kala admi, every black man, to be taken to build a bridge
across the Ganges with, so that hereafter his people might leave
Cawnpore by another way.  Then Abdul also became of the opinion
that there need be no haste in going.

Sonny Sahib grew out of the arms and necks of his long embroidered
night dresses and day dresses almost immediately, and then there
was a difficulty, which Tooni surmounted by cutting the waists off
entirely and gathering the skirts round the baby's neck with a
drawing string, making holes in the sides for his arms to come
through.  Tooni bought him herself a little blue and gold Mussulman
cap in the bazar.  The captain-sahib would be angry, but then the
captain-sahib was very far away, killed perhaps, and Tooni thought
the blue and gold cap wonderfully becoming to Sonny Sahib.  All day
long he played and crept in this under the sacred peepul-tree in
the middle of the village among brown-skinned babies who wore no
clothes at all--only a string of beads round their fat little
waists--and who sometimes sat down in silence and made a solemn
effort to comprehend him.

In quite a short time--in Rubbulgurh, where there is no winter, two
years is a very little while--Sonny Sahib grew too big for even
this adaptation of his garments; and then Tooni took him to Sheik
Uddin, the village tailor, and gave Sheik Uddin long and careful
directions about making clothes for him.  The old man listened to
her for an hour, and waggled his beard, and said that he quite
understood; it should be as she wished.  But Sheik Uddin had never
seen any English people, and did not understand at all.  He
accepted Tooni's theories, but he measured and cut according to his
own.  Sheik Uddin could not afford to suffer in his reputation for
the foolish notions of a woman.  So he made Sonny Sahib a pair of
narrow striped calico trousers, and a long tight-fitting little
coat with large bunches of pink roses on it, in what was the
perfectly correct fashion for Mahomedan little boys of Rubbulgurh
and Rajputana generally.  Tooni paid Sheik Uddin tenpence, and
admired her purchase very much.  She dressed Sonny Sahib in it
doubtfully, however, with misgivings as to what his father would
say.  Certainly it was good cloth, of a pretty colour, and well
made, but even to Tooni, Sonny Sahib looked queer.  Abdul had no
opinion, except about the price.  He grumbled at that, but then he
had grumbled steadily for two years, yet whenever Tooni proposed
that they should go and find the captain-sahib, had said no, it was
far, and he was an old man.  Tooni should go when he was dead.

Besides, Abdul liked to hear the little fellow call him 'Bap,'
which meant 'Father,' and to feel his old brown finger clasped by
small pink and white ones, as he and Sonny Sahib toddled into the
bazar together.  He liked to hear Sonny Sahib's laugh, too; it was
quite a different laugh from any other boy's in Rubbulgurh, and it
came oftener.  He was a merry little fellow, blue-eyed, with very
yellow wavy hair, exactly, Tooni often thought, like his mother's.


It was a grief to Tooni, who could not understand it; but Sonny
Sahib perversely refused to talk in his own tongue.  She did all
she could to help him.  When he was a year old she cut an almond in
two, and gave half to Sonny Sahib and half to the green parrot that
swung all day in a cage in the door of the hut and had a fine gift
of conversation; if anything would make the baby talk properly that
would.  Later on she taught him all the English words she
remembered herself, which were three, 'bruss' and 'wass' and
'isstockin',' her limited but very useful vocabulary as lady's-
maid.  He learned them very well, but he continued to know only
three, and he did not use them very often, which Tooni found
strange.  Tooni thought the baba should have inherited his mother's
language with his blue eyes and his white skin.  Meanwhile, Sonny
Sahib, playing every morning and evening under the peepul-tree,
learned to talk in the tongue of the little brown boys who played
there too.

When Sonny Sahib was four he could drive the big black hairy
buffaloes home from the village outskirts to be milked.  Abdul
walked beside him, but Sonny Sahib did all the shouting and the
beating with a bit of stick, which the buffaloes must have
privately smiled at when they felt it on their muddy flanks, that
is if a buffalo ever smiles, which one cannot help thinking
doubtful.  Sonny Sahib liked buffalo milk, and had it every day for
his dinner with chupatties, and sometimes, for a treat, a bit of
roast kid.  Chupatties are like pancakes with everything that is
nice left out of them, and were very popular in Rubbulgurh.  Sonny
Sahib thought nothing in the world could be better, except the
roast kid.  On days of festival Abdul always gave him a pice to buy
sweetmeats with, and he drove a hard bargain with either Wahid Khan
or Sheik Luteef, who were rival dealers.  Sonny Sahib always got
more of the sticky brown balls of sugar and butter and cocoa-nut
for his pice than any of the other boys.  Wahid Khan and Sheik
Luteef both thought it brought them luck to sell to him.  But
afterwards Sonny Sahib invariably divided his purchase with whoever
happened to be his bosom friend at the time--the daughter of Ram
Dass, the blacksmith, or the son of Chundaputty, the beater of
brass--in which he differed altogether from the other boys, and
which made it fair perhaps.

At six Sonny Sahib began to find the other boys unsatisfactory in a
number of ways.  He was tired of making patterns in the dust with
marigolds for one thing.  He wanted to pretend.  It was his
birthright to pretend, in a large active way, and he couldn't carry
it out.  The other boys didn't care about making believe soldiers,
and running and hiding and shouting and beating Sonny Sahib's tom-
tom, which made a splendid drum.  They liked beating the tom-tom,
but they always wanted to sit round in a ring and listen to it,
which Sonny Sahib thought very poor kind of fun indeed.  They
wouldn't even pretend to be elephants, or horses, or buffaloes.
Sonny Sahib had to represent them all himself; and it is no wonder
that with a whole menagerie, as it were, upon his shoulders, he
grew a little tired sometimes.  Also he was the only boy in
Rubbulgurh who cared to climb a tree that had no fruit on it, or
would venture beyond the lower branches even for mangoes or
tamarinds.  And one day when he found a weaver-bird's nest in a
bush with three white eggs in it, a splendid nest, stock-full of
the fireflies that light the little hen at night, he showed it
privately first to Hurry Ghose, and then to Sumpsi Din, and lastly
to Budhoo, the sweeper's son; and not one of them could he coax to
carry off a single egg in company with him.  Sonny Sahib recognised
the force of public opinion, and left the weaver-bird to her house-
keeping in peace, but he felt privately injured by it.

Certainly the other boys could tell wonderful stories--stories of
princesses and fairies and demons--Sumpsi Din's were the best--that
made Sonny Sahib's blue eyes widen in the dark, when they all sat
together on a charpoy by the door of the hut, and the stars
glimmered through the tamarind-trees.  A charpoy is a bed, and
everybody in Rubbulgurh puts one outside, for sociability, in the
evening.  Not much of a bed, only four short rickety legs held
together with knotted string, but it answers very well.

Sonny Sahib didn't seem to know any stories--he could only tell the
old one about the fighting Abdul saw over and over again--but it
was the single thing they could do better than he did.  On the
whole he began to prefer the society of Abdul's black and white
goats, which bore a strong resemblance to Abdul himself, by the
way, and had more of the spirit of adventure.  It was the goat, for
example, that taught Sonny Sahib to walk on the extreme edge of the
housetop and not tumble over.  In time they became great friends,
Sonny Sahib and the goat, and always, when it was not too hot, they
slept together.

Then two things happened.  First, Abdul died, and Sonny Sahib
became acquainted with grief, both according to his own nature and
according to the law of Mahomed.  Then, after he and Tooni had
mourned sincerely with very little to eat for nine days, there
clattered one day a horseman through the village at such a pace
that everybody ran out to see.  And he was worth seeing, that
horseman, in a blue turban as big as a little tub, a yellow coat,
red trousers with gold lace on them, and long boots that stuck out
far on either side; and an embroidered saddle and a tasselled
bridle, and a pink-nosed white charger that stepped and pranced in
the bazar so that Ram Dass himself had to get out of the way.  It
ought to be said that the horseman's clothes did not fit him very
well, that his saddle girth was helped out by a bit of rope, and
that his charger was rather tender on his near fore-foot; but these
are not things that would be noticed in Rubbulgurh, being lost in
the general splendour of his appearance.

Sonny Sahib ran after the horseman with all the other boys, until,
to everybody's astonishment, he stopped with tremendous prancings
at Tooni's mud doorstep, where she sat to watch him go by.  Then
Sonny Sahib slipped away.  He was afraid--he did not know of what.
He ran half a mile beyond the village, and helped Sumpsi Din keep
the parrots out of his father's millet crop all day long.  Nor did
he say a word to Sumpsi Din about it, for fear he should be
persuaded to go back again.  Instead, he let Sumpsi Din sleep for
long hours at a time face-downwards on his arm in the sun, which
was what Sumpsi Din liked best in the world, while he, Sonny Sahib,
clapped his hands a hundred times at the little green thieves,
abusing them roundly, and wondering always at the back of his head
why so splendid a horseman should have stopped at his particular
doorstep.  So it was not until the evening, when he came back very
hungry, hoping the horseman would be gone, that he heard Tooni's
wonderful news.  Before she gave him water or oil, or even a
chupatty, Tooni told him, holding his hand in hers.

'The Maharajah has sent for you, O noonday kite; where have you
been in the sun?  The Maharajah has sent for you, lotus-eyed one,
and I, though I am grown too old for journeys, must go also to the
palace of the Maharajah!  Oh, it is very far, and I know not what
he desires, the Maharajah!  My heart is split in two, little Sahib!
This khaber is the cat's moon to me.  I will never sleep again!'

Then for some reason the fear went out of Sonny Sahib.  'Am I not
going with you, Tooni-ji?' said he, which was his way of saying
'dear Tooni.'  'There is no cause for fear.  And will it not be
very beautiful, the palace of the Maharajah?  Sumpsi Din says that
it is built of gold and silver.  And now I should like six
chupatties, and some milk and some fried brinjal, like yesterday's,
only more, Tooni-ji.'


The palace of the Maharajah at Lalpore was not exactly built of
gold and silver; but if it had been, Sonny Sahib could hardly have
thought it a finer place.  It had a wall all round it, even on the
side where the river ran, and inside the wall were courts and
gardens with fountains and roses in them, divided by other walls,
and pillared verandahs, where little green lizards ran about in the
sun, and a great many stables, where the Maharajah's horses pawed
and champed to be let out and ridden.  The palace itself was a
whole story higher than the stables, and consisted of a wilderness
of little halls with grated windows.  It smelt rather too strong of
attar of roses in there--the Maharajah was fond of attar of roses--
but the decorations on the whitewashed walls, in red and yellow,
were very wonderful indeed.  The courtyards and the verandahs were
full of people, soldiers, syces, merchants with their packs,
sweetmeat sellers, barbers; only the gardens were empty.  Sonny
Sahib thought that if he lived in the palace he would stay always
in the gardens, watching the red-spotted fish in the fountains, and
gathering the roses; but the people who did live there seemed to
prefer smoking long bubbling pipes in company, or disputing over
their bargains, or sleeping by the hour in the shade of the
courtyard walls.  There were no women anywhere; but if Sonny Sahib
had possessed the ears or the eyes of the country, he might have
heard many swishings and patterings and whisperings behind
curtained doors, and have seen many fingers on the curtains' edge
and eyes at the barred windows as he went by.

This was the palace, and the palace was the crown of Lalpore, which
was built on the top of a hill, and could lock itself in behind
walls ten feet thick all round, if an enemy came that way.

The Maharajah was to receive them in one of the pillared verandahs,
one that looked out over the river, where there was a single great
ivory chair, with a red satin cushion, and a large piece of carpet
in front of it, and nothing else.  It was the only chair in the
palace, probably the only chair in all the Maharajah's State of
Chita, and as Sonny Sahib had never seen a chair before he found it
very interesting.  He and Tooni inspected it from a respectful
distance, and then withdrew to the very farthest corner of the
verandah to wait for the Maharajah.  A long time they waited, and
yet Tooni would not sit down.  What might not the Maharajah do if
he came and found them disrespectfully seated in his audience hall!
Patiently she stood, first on one foot and then on the other, with
her lips all puckered up and her eyes on the floor, thinking of
things that would be polite enough to say to a Maharajah.  They
were so troublesome to think of, that she could not attend to what
Sonny Sahib said at all, even when he asked her for the sixth time
how you made a peacock with blue glass eyes, like the one on each
arm of His Highness's chair.  Sonny Sahib grew quite tired of
watching the mud-turtle that was paddling about in a pool of the
shallow river among the yellow sands down below, and of counting
the camels that were wading across it, carrying their packs and
their masters; and yet the Maharajah did not come.

'Tooni,' he said presently, 'without doubt I must sit down,' and
down he sat plumply, with his back against the wall, and his two
small legs, in their very best striped cotton trousers, stretched
out in front of him.

As a matter of fact the Maharajah was asleep, and had forgotten all
about Sonny Sahib in the hall of audience.  It was Moti[1] who
reminded him, whispering in his ear until he awoke.  Moti was the
little Maharajah, and that was his pet name.  Moti was privileged
to remind his father of things.

[1] A pearl.

So Moti and the Maharajah went down to the audience hall together,
and there they found Sonny Sahib asleep too, which was not
wonderful, considering that the Maharajah had kept him waiting two
hours and a quarter.  Perhaps this occurred to His Highness, and
prevented him from being angry.  At all events, as Sonny Sahib
scrambled to his feet in response to a terrified tug from Tooni, he
did not look very angry.

Sonny Sahib saw a little lean old man, with soft sunken black eyes,
and a face like a withered potato.  He wore a crimson velvet
smoking-cap upon his head, and was buttoned up to the chin in a
long tight coat of blue and yellow brocade.  Above the collar and
below the sleeves of the coat showed the neck and cuffs of an
English linen shirt, which were crumpled and not particularly
clean.  The cuffs were so big that the Maharajah's thin little
brown fingers were almost lost in them.  The blue and yellow
brocaded coat was buttoned up with emeralds, but the Maharajah
shuffled along in a pair of old carpet slippers, which to Sonny
Sahib were the most remarkable features of his attire.  So much
occupied, indeed, was Sonny Sahib in looking at the Maharajah's
slippers, that he quite forgot to make his salaam.  As for Tooni,
she was lying flat at their Highnesses' feet, talking indistinctly
into the marble floor.

The little Highness was much pleasanter to look at than his father.
He had large dark eyes and soft light-brown cheeks, and he was all
dressed in pink satin, with a little jewelled cap, and his long
black hair tied up in a hard knot at the back of his neck.  The
little Highness looked at Sonny Sahib curiously, and then tugged at
his father's sleeve.

'Let him come with me now, immediately,' said the little Maharajah;
'he has a face of gold.'

The Maharajah sat down, not in his chair--he did not greatly like
sitting in his chair--but on the carpet.

'Whence do you come?' said he to Tooni.

'Protector of the poor, from Rubbulgurh.'

'Where your Highness sent to for us,' added Sonny Sahib.  'Tooni,
why do you pinch me?'

His Highness looked disconcerted for a moment.  As a matter of fact
he had known all that Tooni or Sonny Sahib could tell him about
themselves for three years, but he considered it more dignified to
appear as if he knew nothing.

'This is a child of the mlechas,' said the Maharajah, which was not
a very polite way of saying that he was English.

'Protector of the poor, yes.'

'Account to me for him.  How old is he?'

'Seven years, great King.'

'And two months, Tooni-ji.  Your Highness, may I sit down?'

'As old as the Folly.'[1]

[1] Native term for the Mutiny.

'He came of the Folly, Hazur.  His mother died by the sepoys in
Cawnpore, his father--also,' said Tooni, for she feared to be
blamed for not having found Sonny Sahib's father.  As she told the
story once again to the Maharajah, adding many things that Sonny
Sahib had never heard before, he became so much interested that he
stood on one foot for five minutes at a time, and quite forgot to
ask His Highness again if he might sit down.

The Maharajah heard her to the end without a word or a change of
expression.  When she had finished, 'My soldiers were not there,'
he said thoughtfully, and with a shade of regret, which was not, I
fear, at the thought of any good they might have done.  Then he
seemed to reflect, while Tooni stood before him with her hands
joined together at the finger-tips and her head bowed.

'Then, without permission, you brought this child of outcasts into
my State,' said he at last.  'That was an offence.'

Tooni struck her forehead with her hand.

'Your Highness is my father and my mother!' she sobbed, 'I could
not leave it to the jackals.'

'You are a wretched Mussulman, the daughter of cow-killers, and you
may have known no better--'

'Your Highness!' remarked Sonny Sahib, with respectful indignation,
'Adam had two sons, one was buried and one was burned--'

'Choop!' said the Maharajah crossly.  You might almost guess that
'Choop' meant 'Be quiet!'

'But it was an offence,' he continued.

'Protector of the poor, I meant no harm.'

'That is true talk.  And you shall receive no harm.  But you must
leave the boy with me.  I want him to play games with my son, to
amuse my son.  For thirty days my son has asked this of me, and ten
days ago his mother died--so he must have it.'

Tooni salaamed humbly.  'If the boy finds favour in Your Highness's
eyes it is very good,' she said simply, and turned to go.

'Stop,' said the Maharajah.  'I will do justice in this matter.  I
desire the boy, but I have brought his price.  Where is it, Moti-

The little Maharajah laughed with delight, and drew from behind him
a jingling bag.

'It is one hundred and fifty rupees,' said the Maharajah.  'Give it
to the woman, Moti.'  And the child held it out to her.

Tooni looked at the bag, and then at Sonny Sahib, salaamed and
hesitated.  It was a provision for the rest of her life, as lives
go in Rajputana.

'Is it not enough!' asked the Maharajah irritably, while the little
prince's face fell.

'Your Highness,' stammered Tooni, 'it is great riches--may roses be
to your mouth!  But I have a desire--rather than the money--'

'What is your desire?' cried the little prince.  'Say it.  In a
breath my father will allow it.  I want the gold-faced one to come
and play.'

The Maharajah nodded, and this time Tooni lay down at the feet of
the little prince.

'It is,' said she, 'that--I am a widow and old--that I also may
live in the farthest corner within the courtyard walls, with the

The Maharajah slipped the bag quickly into the pocket of his blue
and yellow coat.

'It is a strange preference,' he said, 'but the Mussulmans have no
minds.  It may be.'

Tooni kissed his feet, and Sonny Sahib nodded approval at him.
Somehow, Sonny Sahib never could be taught good Rajput manners.

'The boy is well grown,' said the Maharajah, turning upon his heel.
'What is his name?'

'Protector of the poor,' answered Tooni, quivering with delight,
'his name is Sonny Sahib.'

Perhaps nobody has told you why the English are called Sahibs in
India.  It is because they rule there.

The Maharajah's face went all into a pucker of angry wrinkles, and
his eyes shone like little coals.

'What talk is that?' he said angrily.  'His great-grandfather was a
monkey!  There is only one master here.  Pig's daughter, his name
is Sunni!'

Tooni did not dare to say a word, and even the little prince was

'Look you,' said the old man to Sonny Sahib.  'Follow my son, the
Maharajah, into the courtyard, and there do his pleasure.  Do you
understand?  FOLLOW him!'


'Sunni,' said Moti, as the two boys rode through the gates of the
courtyard a year later, 'a man of your race has come here, and my
father has permitted him to remain.  My father has given him the
old empty jail to live in, behind the monkey temple.  They say many
curious things are in his house.  Let us ride past it.'

In his whole life Sunni had never heard such an interesting piece
of news before--even Tooni's, about the Maharajah's horseman, was
nothing to this.  'Why is he come?' he asked, putting his little
red Arab into a trot.

'To bring your gods to the Rajputs.'

'I have no gods,' declared Sunni.  'Kali is so ugly--I have no
heart for her.  Ganesh makes me laugh, with his elephant's head;
and Tooni says that Allah is not my God.'

'Tooni says,' Sunni went on reflectively, 'that my God is in her
little black book.  But I have never seen him.'

Perhaps this Englishman will show him to you,' suggested Moti.

'But His Highness, your father, will he allow strange gods to be
brought to the people?'

'No,' said Moti, 'the people will not look at them.  Every one has
been warned.  But the stranger is to remain, that he may teach me
English.  I do not wish to learn English--or anything.  It is
always so hot when the pundit comes.  But my father wishes it.'

A pundit is a wise old man who generally has a long white beard,
and thinks nothing in the world is so enjoyable as Sanskrit or
Arabic.  Sunni, too, found it hot when the pundit came.  But an
English pundit--

'Moti-ji,' said Sunni, laying his arm around the little prince's
neck as they rode together, 'do you love me?'

Moti caught Sunni's hand as it dropped over his shoulder.  'You
know that in my heart there is only my father's face and yours,
Sahib's son,' he said.

'Will you do one thing, then, for love of me?' asked Sunni eagerly.
'Will you ask of the Maharajah, your father, that I also may learn
English from the stranger?'

'No,' said Moti mischievously, 'because it is already spoken,
Sunni-ji.  I said that I would not learn unless you also were
compelled to learn, so that the time should not be lost between us.
Now let us gallop very fast past the jail, lest the Englishman
should think we wish to see him.  He is to be brought to me to-
morrow at sundown.'

The Englishman at that moment was unpacking his books and his
bottles, and thinking about how he could best begin the work he had
come to Lalpore to do.  He was a medical missionary, and as they
had every variety of disease in Lalpore, and the population was
entirely heathen, we may think it likely that he had too much on
his mind to run to the window to see such very young royalty ride

'Sunni-ji,' said Moti that afternoon in the garden, 'I am very
tired of talking of this Englishman.'

'I could talk of him for nine moons,' said Sunni; and then
something occurred which changed the subject as completely as even
the little prince could desire.  This was a garden for the pleasure
of the ladies of the court; they never came out in it, but their
apartments looked down upon it, and a very high wall screened it
from the rest of the world.  The Maharajah and Moti and Sunni were
the only people who might ever walk there.  As the boys turned at
the end of a path directly under the gratings, they heard a soft
voice say 'Moti!'

'That is Matiya,' said the little prince.  'I do not like Matiya.
What is it, Matiya?'

'It is not Matiya,' said the voice quickly, 'it is Tarra.  Here is
a gift from the heart of Tarra, little parrot, a gift for you, and
a gift for the Sahib's son; also a sweet cake, but the cake is for

'I am sure it was Matiya,' said Moti, running to pick the packet
out of the rose-bush it had fallen into; 'but Matiya was never kind

The packet held a necklace and an armlet.  The necklace was of
little pearls and big amethysts strung upon fine wire, three rows
of pearls, and then an amethyst, and was very lovely.  The armlet
was of gold, with small rubies and turquoises set in a pattern.
The boys looked at them more or less indifferently.  They had seen
so many jewels.

'Matiya--if you think it was Matiya--makes pretty gifts,' said
Sunni, 'and the Maharajah will keep your necklace for you for ever
in an iron box.  But this armlet will get broken just as the other
two armlets that were given to me have got broken.  I cannot wear
armlets and play polo, and I would rather play polo.'

'That is because you were clumsy,' Moti answered.  Moti was peevish
that afternoon.  The Maharajah had refused him a gun, and he
particularly wanted a gun, not to shoot anything, but to frighten
the crows with and perhaps the coolie-folk.  To console himself
Moti had eaten twice as many sweetmeats as were good for him, and
was in a bad temper accordingly.

'Now they are certainly of Tarra, these jewels,' exclaimed Sunni,
'I remember that necklace upon her neck, for every time Tarra has
kissed me, that fifth stone which has been broken in the cutting
has scratched my face.'

'In one word,' said Moti imperiously, 'it was the voice of Matiya.
And this perplexes me, for Matiya, hating my mother, hates me also,
I think.'

'Why did she hate your mother?' asked Sunni.

'How stupid you are to-day!  You have heard the story two hundred
times!  Because she thought that she should have been chosen to be
queen instead of my mother.  It is true that she was more
beautiful, but my mother was a pundita.  And she was not chosen.
She is only second in the palace.  And she has no children, while
my mother was the mother of a king.'

'No,' said Sunni, 'I never heard that before, Moti.'

'But I say you have!  Two hundred times!  And look, O thoughtless
one, you have gone between me and the sun, so that even now your
shadow falls upon my sugar-cake--my cake stuffed with almonds,
which is the kind I most love, and therefore I cannot eat it.
There,' cried Moti, contemptuously, 'take it yourself and eat it--
you have no caste to break.'

For a minute Sunni was as angry as possible.  Then he reflected
that it was silly to be angry with a person who was not very well.

'Listen, Moti,' he said, 'that was indeed a fault.  I should have
walked to the north.  But I will not eat your cake--let us give it
to the red and gold fishes in the fountain.'

'Some of it,' said Moti, appeased, 'and some to my new little
monkey--my talking monkey.'

The fishes darted up for the crumbs greedily, but the monkey was
not as grateful for her share as she ought to have been.  She took
it, smelt it, wiped it vigorously on the ground, smelt it again,
and chattered angrily at the boys; then she went nimbly hand over
hand to the very top of the banyan-tree she lived in; and then she
deliberately broke it into little pieces and pelted the givers with

'She is not hungry to-day,' said Moti.  'Let us take out the

Next morning the Maharajah was very much annoyed by the
intelligence that all the little red-spotted fishes were floating
flabby and flat and dead among the lily pads of the fountain--there
were few things except Moti that the Maharajah loved better than
his little red-spotted fishes.  He wanted very particularly to know
why they should have died in this unanimous and apparently
preconcerted way.  The gods had probably killed them by lightning,
but the Maharajah wanted to know.  So he sent for the Englishman,
who did not mind touching a dead thing, and the Englishman told him
that the little red-spotted fishes had undoubtedly been poisoned.
Moti was listening when the doctor said this.

'It could not have been the cake,' said Moti.

But when all was looked into, including one of the little fishes,
Dr. Roberts found that it undoubtedly had been the cake.  Scraps of
it were still lying about the banyan-tree to help him to this
conclusion, and the monkey chattered as if she could give evidence,
too, if anybody would listen.  But she gave evidence enough in not
eating it.  Everybody, that is, everybody in Rajputana, knows that
you can never poison a monkey.  The little prince maintained that
the voice he heard was the voice of Matiya, yet every one
recognised the jewels to be Tarra's.  There was nothing else to go
upon, and the Maharajah decided that it was impossible to tell
which of the two had wickedly tried to poison his eldest son.  He
arranged, however, that they should both disappear--he could not
possibly risk a mistake in the matter.  And I wish that had been
the greatest of the Maharajah's injustices.  When the truth came
out, later, that it was undoubtedly Matiya, the Maharajah said that
he had always been a good deal of that opinion, and built a
beautiful domed white marble tomb, partly in memory of Tarra and
partly, I fear, to commemorate his own sagacity, which may seem,
under the circumstances, a little odd.

The really curious thing was, however, that out of it all came
honour and glory for Sunni.  For what, asked the Maharajah, had
prevented the poisoning of his son?  What but the shadow of Sunni,
which fell upon the cake, so that Moti could not eat it!
Therefore, without doubt, Sunni had saved the life of a king; and
he could ask nothing that should not be granted to him; he should
stand always near the throne.  Sunni felt very proud and important,
he did not know exactly why; but he could not think of anything he
wanted, except to learn his own language from the Englishman.

'Oh, foolish bargainer!' cried Moti, 'when you know that has been
given already!'


Dr. Roberts, who lived, by the Maharajah's kind permission, in the
jail behind the monkey temple, soon found himself in rather an
awkward dilemma.  Not in regard to the monkeys.  They were
certainly troublesome.  They stole his biscuits, and made holes in
his roof, and tore up the reports he wrote for the S.P.C.K. in
England.  Dr. Roberts made allowance for the monkeys, however.  He
had come to take away their sacred character, and nobody could
expect them to like it.  If you had asked Dr. Roberts what his
difficulty was he would have shown you Sonny Sahib.  The discovery
was so wonderful that he had made.  He had found a yellow-haired,
blue-eyed English boy in a walled palace of Rajputana, five hundred
miles from any one of his race.  The boy was happy, healthy, and
well content.  That much the Maharajah had pointed out to him; that
much he could see for himself.  Beyond that the Maharajah had
discouraged Dr. Roberts' interest.  The boy's name was Sunni, he
had no other name, he had come 'under the protection' of the
Maharajah when he was very young; and that was all His Highness
could be induced to say.  Any more pointed inquiries he was
entirely unable to understand.  There seemed to be no one else who
knew.  Tooni could have told him, but Tooni was under orders that
she did not dare to disobey.  In the bazar two or three conflicting
stories, equally wonderful, were told of Sunni; but none that Dr.
Roberts could believe.  In the end he found out about Sunni from
Sunni himself, who had never forgotten one word of what Tooni told
the Maharajah.  Sunni mentioned also, with considerable pride, that
he had known three English words for a long time--'wass' and
'bruss' and 'isstockin'.'

Then Dr. Roberts, with his heart full of the awful grief of the
Mutiny, and thinking how gladly this waif and stray would be
received by somebody, hurried to the Maharajah, and begged that the
boy might be given back to his own people, that he, Dr. Roberts,
might take him back to his own people at his personal risk and
expense; that inquiries might at least be set on foot to find his

'Yes,' said the Maharajah, 'but not yet, ee-Wobbis.  The boy will
be well here for a year, and you shall teach him.  At the end of
that time we will speak again of this matter.'

Dr. Roberts was not satisfied.  He asked the Maharajah at all
events to allow Sunni to live with him in his empty jail, but His
Highness refused absolutely.

'And look you, ee-Wobbis,' said he, 'I have promised the Viceroy in
Calcutta that you shall be safe in my country, and you shall be
safe, though I never asked you to come here.  But if any khaber
goes to Calcutta about this boy, and if there is the least
confusion regarding him, your mouth shall be stopped, and you shall
not talk any more to my people.  For my part, I do not like your
medicines, and you have not yet cured Proteb Singh of his short
leg; he goes as lame as ever!'

This was Dr. Roberts' difficulty; his mouth would be stopped.  He
did not doubt the Maharajah.  If he wrote to Calcutta that a Rajput
prince still held a hostage from the Mutiny, and made a
disturbance, there would be an end to the work he had begun under
the shadow of the palace wall.  And the work was prospering so
well!  The people were listening now, Dr. Roberts thought, and
certainly he had been able to relieve a great deal of their
physical misery.  Would he be justified in writing to Calcutta?
Dr. Roberts thought about it very long and very seriously.  In the
end he believed that he would not be justified, at least until the
year was over of which the Maharajah spoke.  Then if His Highness
did not keep his promise, Dr. Roberts would see about it.

So the year went by; the months when the sun blazed straight across
the sky overhead, and everybody slept at noonday--the months when a
gray sheet of rain hung from the clouds for days together, and the
months when all the Maharajah's dominions were full of splendid
yellow lights and pleasant winds--when the teak wood trees dropped
their big dusty leaves, and the nights were sharply cold, and
Rajputana pretended that it was winter.  Dr. Roberts and Sunni were
very well then, but Moti shrivelled up and coughed the day through,
and the Maharajah, when he went out to drive, wrapped himself up in
Cashmere shawls, head and ears and all.

The boys learnt as much English as could possibly be expected of
them; Sunni learnt more, because Dr. Roberts made it a point that
he should.  Besides, he became a great friend of Dr. Roberts, who
began by begging that Sunni might be allowed to ride with him, then
to drive with him, and finally to spend two or three days at a time
with him.  Sunni had more to learn than Moti had.  He had a good
many things to forget, too, which gave him almost as much trouble.

The Maharajah found it as difficult as ever to like ee-Wobbis's
medicines, but he considered them excellent for Moti's cough, and
only complained that his son should be given so little of them.
The royal treasury would pay for a whole bottle--why should the
little prince get only a spoonful?  Nevertheless Dr. Roberts stood
well in the estimation of the Maharajah, who arranged that a great
many things should be done as the missionary suggested.  In one
case the Maharajah had the palace well, the oldest palace well,
cleaned out--a thing that nobody had ever thought of before; and he
was surprised to find what was at the bottom of it.  Dr. Roberts
advised putting down a few drains too, and making a road from the
city of the Maharajah to the great highways that led to the
Viceroy's India.  The Maharajah laid the drains, and said he would
think about the road.  Then Dr. Roberts suggested that a hospital
would be a good thing, and the Maharajah said he would think about
that too.

Sunni was growing fast; he was too tall and thin for nine years
old.  Dr. Roberts took anxious care of him, thinking of the unknown
grandfather and grandmother in England, and how he could best tell
them of this boy of theirs, who read Urdu better than English, and
wore embroidered slippers turned squarely up at the toes, and asked
such strange questions about his father's God.  But when he taxed
the Maharajah with his promise, His Highness simply repeated, in
somewhat more amiable terms, his answer of the year before.  And
the work was now prospering more than ever.  When once he had got
the hospital, Dr. Roberts made up his mind that he would take
definite measures; but he would get the hospital first.


I suppose it was about that time that Surji Rao began to consider
whether it was after all for the best interests of the State that
ee-Wobbis should remain in it.  Surji Rao was first Minister to the
Maharajah, and a very important person.  He had charge of the
Treasury, and it was his business to produce every day one hundred
fresh rupees to put into it.  This was his duty, and whether the
harvests had been good and the cattle many, or whether the locusts
and the drought had made the people poor, Surji Rao did his duty.
If ever he should fail, there hung a large and heavy shoe upon the
wall of the Maharajah's apartment, which daily suggested personal
chastisement and a possible loss of dignity to Surji Rao.

Dr. Roberts was making serious demands upon the Treasury, and
proposed to make others more serious still.  Worse than that, he
was supplanting Surji Rao in the confidence and affection of the
Maharajah.  Worse still, he was making a pundit of that outcast
boy, who had been already too much favoured in the palace, so that
he might very well grow up to be Minister of the Treasury instead
of Rasso, son of Surji Rao--a thing unendurable.  Surji Rao was the
fattest man in the State, so fat that it was said he sat down only
twice a day; but he lay awake on sultry nights for so many weeks
reflecting upon this, that he grew obviously, almost ostentatiously,
thin.  To this he added such an extremely dolorous expression of
countenance that it was impossible for the Maharajah, out of sheer
curiosity, to refrain from asking him what was the matter.

'My father and my mother!  I grow poor with thinking that the feet
of strangers are in the palace of the King, and what may come of

The Maharajah laughed and put his arm about the shoulders of Surji

'I will give you a tub of melted butter to grow fat upon again, and
two days to eat it, though indeed with less on your bones you were
a better Rajput.  What should come of it, Surji Rao?'

The Minister sheathed the anger that leapt up behind his eyes in a
smile.  Then he answered gravely--

'What should come of it but more strangers?  Is it not desired to
make a road for their guns and their horses?  And talk and
treaties, and tying of the hand and binding of the foot, until at
last that great Jan Larrens[1] himself will ride up to the gate of
the city and refuse to go away until Your Highness sends a bag of
gold mohurs to the British Raj, as he has done before.'

[1] John Lawrence, afterwards Lord Lawrence and Viceroy of India.

'I do not think I will make the road,' said the Maharajah

'King, you are the wisest of men, and therefore your own best
counsellor.  It is well decided.  But the Rajputs are all sons of
one father, and even now there is grief among the chief of them
that outcasts should be dwelling in the King's favour.'

'I will not make the road,' said the Maharajah.  'Enough!'

Surji Rao thought it was not quite enough, however, and took
various means to obtain more, means that would never be thought of
anywhere but in countries where the sun beats upon the plots of
Ministers and ferments fanaticism in the heads of the people.  He
talked to the Rajput chiefs, and persuaded them--they were not
difficult to persuade--that Dr. Roberts was an agent and a spy of
the English Government at Calcutta, that his medicines were a sham.
When it was necessary, Surji Rao said that the medicines were a
slow form of poison, but generally he said they were a sham.  He
persuaded as many of the chiefs as dared, to remonstrate with the
Maharajah, and to follow his example of going about looking as if
they were upon the brink of some terrible disaster.  Surji Rao's
wife was a clever woman, and she arranged such a feeling in the
Maharajah's zenana, that one day as Dr. Roberts passed along a
corridor to His Highness's apartment, a curtain opened swiftly, and
some one in the dark behind spat at him.  Amongst them they managed
to make His Highness extremely uncomfortable.  But the old man
continued to decline obstinately to send the missionary back.

Then it became obvious to Surji Rao that Dr. Roberts must be
disposed of otherwise.  He went about that in the same elaborate
and ingenious way.  His arrangements required time, but there is
always plenty of time in Rajputana.  He became friendly with Dr.
Roberts, and encouraged the hospital.  He did not wish in any way
to be complicated with his arrangements.  Nobody else became
friendly.  Surji Rao took care of that.  And at last one morning a
report went like wildfire about the palace and the city that the
missionary had killed a sacred bull, set free in honour of Krishna
at the birth of a son to Maun Rao, the chief of the Maharajah's
generals.  Certainly the bull was found slaughtered behind the
monkey temple, and certainly Dr. Roberts had beefsteak for
breakfast that day.  Such a clamour rang through the palace about
it that the Maharajah sent for the missionary, partly to inquire
into the matter, and partly with a view to protect him.

It was very unsatisfactory--the missionary did not know how the
bull came to be killed behind his house, and, in spite of all the
Maharajah's hints, would not invent a story to account for it.  The
Maharajah could have accounted for it fifty times over, if it had
happened to him.  Besides, Dr. Roberts freely admitted having
breakfasted upon beefsteak, and didn't know where it had come from!
He rode home through an angry crowd, and nobody at all came for
medicines that day.

Two days later the Rajput general's baby died--could anything else
have been expected?  The general went straight to the Maharajah to
ask for vengeance, but His Highness, knowing why the chief had
come, sent word that he was ill--he would see Maun Rao to-morrow.
To-morrow he had not recovered, nor even the day after; but in the
meantime he had been well enough to send word to Dr. Roberts that
if he wished to go away he should have two camels and an escort.
Dr. Roberts sent to ask whether Sunni might go with him, but to
this the Maharajah replied by an absolute 'No.'

So the missionary stayed.

It was Surji Rao who brought the final word to the Maharajah.

'My father and my mother!' he said, 'it is no longer possible to
hold the people back.  It is cried abroad that this English
hakkim[1] has given the people powder of pig's feet.  Even now they
have set upon his house.  And to-day is the festival of Krishna.
My heart is bursting with grief.'

[1] 'Doctor.'

'If Maun Rao strikes, I can do nothing,' said the Maharajah weakly.
'He thinks the Englishman killed his son.  But look you, send Sunni
to me.  HE saved mine.  And I tell you,' said the Maharajah,
looking at Surji Rao fiercely with his sunken black eyes, 'not so
much of his blood shall be shed as would stain a moth's wing.'

But Maun Rao struck, and the people being told that the missionary
was dead, went home hoping that Krishna had nothing more against
them; they had done what they could.

As to Sunni he told his grief to Tooni because it comforted him,
and went into mourning for nine days in defiance of public opinion,
because he owed it to the memory of a countryman.  He began, too,
to take long restless rambles beyond the gates, and once he asked
Tooni if she knew the road to Calcutta.

'It is fifty thousand miles,' said Tooni, who had an imagination;
'and the woods are full of tigers.'


The gates of Lalpore were shut, and all about her walls the yellow
sandy plains stretched silent and empty.  There did not seem to be
so much as a pariah dog outside.  Some pipal-trees looked over the
walls, and a couple of very antiquated cannon looked through them,
but nothing stirred.  It made a splendid picture at broad noon, the
blue sky and the old red-stone city on her little hill, holding up
her minarets and the white marble bubbles of her temples, and then
the yellow sand drifting up; but one could not look at it long.
Colonel Starr, from the door of his tent, half a mile away, had
looked at it pretty steadily for two hours, so steadily that his
eyes, red and smarting with the dust of a two hundred mile ride,
watered copiously, and made him several degrees more uncomfortable
than he had been before.

I doubt whether any idea of the beauty of Lalpore had a place in
the Colonel's mind, it was so full of other considerations.  He
thought more, probably, of the thickness of its walls than of their
colour, and speculated longer upon the position of the arsenal than
upon the curves of the temples.  Because, in the Colonel's opinion,
it had come to look very like fighting.  In the opinion of little
Lieutenant Pink the fighting should have been over and done with
yesterday, and the 17th Midlanders should be 'bagging' the
Maharajah's artillery by now.  Little Lieutenant Pink was spoiling
for the fray.  So were the men, most of them.  They wanted a change
of diet.  Thomas Jones, sergeant, entirely expressed the sentiments
of his company when he said that somebody ort to pay up for this
blessed march, they 'adn't wore the skins off their 'eels fer two
'undred mile to admire the bloomin' scenery.  Besides, for Thomas
Jones's part, he was tired of living on this yere bloomin' tinned
rock, he wanted a bit of fresh roast kid and a Lalpore curry.

Colonel Starr had been sent to 'arrange,' if possible, and to fight
if necessary.  Perhaps we need not inquire into the arrangements
the Government had commissioned Colonel Starr to make.  They were
arrangements of a kind frequently submitted to the princes of
independent States in India when they are troublesome, and their
result is that a great many native States are governed by English
political residents, while a great many native princes attend
parties at Government House in Calcutta.  The Maharajah of Chita
had been very troublesome indeed.  Twice in the year his people had
raided peaceful villages under British protection, and now he had
killed a missionary.  It was quite time to 'arrange' the Maharajah
of Chita, and Colonel Starr, with two guns and three hundred
troops, had been sent to do it.

His Highness, however, seemed indisposed to further his social
prospects in Calcutta and the good of his State.  For the twenty-
four hours they had been in camp under his walls the Maharajah had
taken no more notice of Colonel Starr and his three hundred
Midlanders than if they represented so many jungle bushes.  To all
Colonel Starr's messages, diplomatic, argumentative, threatening,
there had come the same unsatisfactory response--the Maharajah of
Chita had no word to say to the British Raj.  And still the gates
were shut, and still only the pipal-trees looked over the wall, and
only the cannon looked through.

By the time evening came Colonel Starr was at the end of his
patience.  He was not, unfortunately, simultaneously at the end of
his investigations.  He did not yet know the position or the
contents of the arsenal, the defensibility of the walls, the water
supply, or the number of men under arms in that silent, impassive
red city on the hill.  The reports of the peasantry had been
contradictory, and this ordinary means of ascertaining these things
had failed him, while he very particularly required to know them,
his force being small.  The Government had assured Colonel Starr
that the Maharajah of Chita would be easy to arrange; that he was a
tractable person, and that half the usual number of troops would be
ample, which made His Highness's conduct, if anything, more
annoying.  And Colonel Starr's commissariat, even in respect to
'tinned rock,' had not been supplied with the expectation of
besieging Lalpore.  The attack would be uncertain, and the Colonel
hesitated the more because his instructions had been not to take
the place if he could avoid it.  So the commanding officer paced
his tent, and composed fresh messages to the Maharajah, while
Lieutenant Pink wondered in noble disgust whether the expedition
was going to end in moonshine after all, and Thomas Jones,
sergeant, remarked hourly to his fellow-privates, 'The 17th 'aint
come two 'undred miles for this kind of a joke.  The bloomin'
Maharajer 'ull think we've got a funk on.'

But neither Colonel Starr nor Thomas Jones was acquainted with the
reason of the remarkable attitude of Lalpore.

A week before, when the news reached him that the Viceroy was
sending three hundred men and two guns to remonstrate with him for
his treatment of Dr. Roberts, the Maharajah smiled, thinking of the
bravery of his Chitans, the strength of his fortifications, the
depth of his walls, and the wheat stored in his city granaries.
No one had ever taken Lalpore since the Chitans took it--in all
Rajputana there were none so cunning and so brave as the Chitans.
As to bravery, greater than Rajput bravery simply did not exist.
The Maharajah held a council, and they all sported with the idea of
English soldiers coming to Lalpore.  Maun Rao begged to go out and
meet them to avenge the insult.

'Maharajah,' said he, 'the Chitans are sufficient against the
world; why should we speak of three hundred monkeys' grandsons?  If
the sky fell, our heads would be pillars to protect you!'

And after a long discussion the Maharajah agreed to Maun Rao's
proposal.  The English could come only one way.  A day's march from
Lalpore they would be compelled to ford a stream.  There the
Maharajah's army would meet them, ready, as Maun Rao said in the
council, to play at ball with their outcast heads.  There was a
feast afterwards, and everybody had twice as much opium as usual.
In the midst of the revelry they made a great calculation of
resources.  The Maharajah smiled again as he thought of the
temerity of the English in connection with the ten thousand rounds
of ammunition that had just come to him on camel back through
Afghanistan from Russia--it was a lucky and timely purchase.  Surji
Rao, Minister of the Treasury, when this was mentioned, did not
smile.  Surji Rao had bought the cartridges at a very large
discount, which did not appear in the bill, and he knew that not
even Chitan valour could make more than one in ten of them go off.
Therefore, when the Maharajah congratulated Surji Rao upon his
foresight in urging the replenishment of the arsenal at this
particular time, Surji Rao found it very difficult to congratulate

It all came out the day before the one fixed for the expedition.
His Highness, being in great spirits, had ordered a shooting
competition, and the men were served from the new stores supplied
to the State of Chita by Petroff Gortschakin of St. Petersburg.
The Maharajah drove out to the ranges to look on, and all his
Ministers with him.  All, that is, except the Minister of the
Treasury, who begged to be excused; he was so very unwell.

Some of the men knelt and clicked and reloaded half a dozen times
before they could fire; some were luckier, and fired the first time
or the third without reloading.  They glanced suspiciously at one
another and hesitated, while there grew a shining heap of
unexploded cartridges, a foot high, under the Maharajah's very
nose.  His Highness looked on stupefied for ten minutes, then burst
into blazing wrath.  Maun Rao rode madly about examining,
inquiring, threatening.

'Our cartridges are filled with powdered charcoal,' he cried,
smiting one of them between two stones to prove his words.  There
was an unexpected noise, and the noble General jumped into the air,
bereft of the largest half of his curled moustache.  That one was
not.  Then they all went furiously back to the palace.  The only
other incident of that day which it is worth our while to chronicle
is connected with Surji Rao and the big shoe.  The big shoe was
administered to Surji Rao by a man of low caste, in presence of the
entire court and as many of the people of Lalpore as chose to come
and look on.  It was very thoroughly administered, and afterwards
Surji Rao was put formally outside the city gates, and told that
the king desired never to look upon his black face again.  Which
was rubbing it in rather unfairly, as His Highness's own complexion
was precisely the same shade.  With great promptitude Surji Rao
took the road to meet the English and sell his information, but
this possibility occurred to the Maharajah soon enough to send men
after him to frustrate it.

'There shall be at least enough sound cartridges in his bargain for
that,' said His Highness grimly.

The Chitan spirit did not flourish quite so vaingloriously at the
council that night, and there was no more talk about the sky
falling upon dauntless Chitan heads.  The sky had fallen, and the
effect was rather quenching than otherwise.  The previous stores
were counted over, and it was found that the men could not be
served with three rounds apiece out of them.  When this was
announced, nobody thought of doubting the wisdom of the Maharajah's
decision to shut up the gates of the city, and trust to the
improbability of the English venturing to attack him in such small
numbers, not knowing his resources.  So that very night, lest any
word should go abroad of the strait of the warriors of Chita, the
gates were shut.  But all the city knew.  Moti knew.  Sunni knew.

Two days later, Moti and Sunni heard the English bugles half a mile
away.  They were playing 'Weel may the keel row!' the regimental
march-past, as Colonel Starr's Midlanders did the last half mile to
their camping-ground.  The boys were in the courtyard among the
horses, and Sunni dropped the new silver bit he was looking at,
held up his head, and listened.  He was the same yellow-haired,
blue-eyed Sunni, considerably tanned by the fierce winds of
Rajputana; but there came a brightness over his face as he
listened, that had not been there since he was a very little boy.

'How beautiful the music is!' said he to Moti.

Moti put his fingers in his ears.

'It is horrible,' he cried.  'It screams and it rushes.  How can
they be able to make it?  I shall tell my father to have it

Presently the bugles stopped of themselves, and Moti forgot about
them, but the brightness did not go out of Sunni's face, and all
day long he went about humming the air of 'Weel may the keel row,'
with such variations as might be expected.  He grew very thoughtful
toward evening, but his eyes shone brighter than any sapphires in
the Maharajah's iron boxes.  As to an old Mahomedan woman from
Rubbulgurh, who cooked her chupatties alone and somewhat despised,
she heard the march-past too, and was troubled all day long with
the foolish idea that the captain-sahib would presently come in to
tea, and would ask her, Tooni, where the memsahib was.


Sunni had his own room in the palace, a little square place with a
high white wall and a table and chair in it, which Dr. Roberts had
given him.  The table held his books, his pen and ink and paper.
There was a charpoy in one corner, and under the charpoy a locked
box.  There were no windows, and the narrow door opened into a
passage that ran abruptly into a wall, a few feet farther on.
So nobody saw Sunni when he carried his chirag, his little
chimneyless, smoking tin lamp, into his room, and set it in a niche
on the wall, took off his shoes, and threw himself down on his
charpoy at eleven o'clock that night.  For a long time he had been
listening to the bul-buls, the nightingales, in the garden, and
thinking of this moment.  Now it had come, and Sunni quivered and
throbbed all over with excitement.  He lay very still, though, on
the watch for footsteps, whispers, breathings in the passage.  Four
years in the palace had taught Sunni what these things meant.  He
lay still for more than two hours.

At last, very quietly, Sunni lifted himself up by his elbows, put
first one leg, and then the other, out of the charpoy, and got up.
More quietly still he drew the locked box from under the bed, took
a key from his pocket, and opened it.  The key squeaked in the
wood, and Sunni paused again for a long time, listening.  Then in
the smoky, uncertain light of the chirag flaring in the niche, he
took from the box three gold bangles, two broken armlets, enamelled
in red and blue, and a necklace of pearls with green enamelled
pendants.  Last, he drew out a little sword with rubies set in the
hilt.  For an instant Sunni hesitated; the ornaments were nothing,
but the sword was his chief possession and his pride.  It would be
so easy to carry away!  He looked at it lovingly for a minute, and
laid it with the rest.  All these things were his very own, but
something told him that he must not take them away.  Then he took
the long coarse white turban cloth from his head, and wrapped
everything skilfully in it.  Nothing jangled, and when the parcel
was made up it was flat and even.  Then Sunni, with his English
pen, printed in Urdu:

[Urdu text]

which in English letters would have been spelled 'Maharajah ka
wasti,' and which meant simply, 'For the Maharajah,' upon one side
of it.  Upon the other he wrote in the large round hand that Dr.
Roberts had taught him--

'To your Honner, the Maharajah of Chita.  Sunni will take your
Honner in his hart to his oun country, but the gifs are too

Sunni had certainly learned politeness at last among the Rajputs.
Then he put the parcel back into the box, softly locked it, and
laid the key on the cover.

Still nobody came his way.  Sunni took another turban cloth from
its nail in the wall, a finely-woven turban cloth, with blue and
gold stripes, nine yards long, for festivals.  He twisted it
carelessly round his neck, and blew out the chirag.  Then he
slipped softly into the passage, and from that into the close,
dark, high-walled corridors that led into the outer courts.  He
stepped quickly, but carefully; the corridors were full of sleeping
servants.  Twice he passed a sentinel.  The first was stupid with
opium, and did not notice him.  Mar Singh, the second, was very
wide awake.

'Where go you, Sunni-ji?' he asked, inquisitively.

'I go to speak with Tooni about a matter which troubles me so that
I cannot sleep,' answered Sunni; 'and afterwards I return to the
little south balcony that overlooks the river; it will be cooler
there if the wind blows.'

As Sunni went on, the thoughts of the sentinel became immediately
fixed upon the necessity of being awake when the sahib's son should
pass in again--the sahib's son had the ear of the Maharajah.

The ayah's hut was in the very farthest corner of the courtyard she
had begged for, somewhat apart from the others.  It was quite dark
inside when Sunni pushed open the door, but the old woman,
slumbering light, started up from her charpoy with a little cry.

'Choop!' said he in a low, quick tone; and Tooni, recognising his
voice, was instantly silent.

Sunni made his way to the side of the bed, and took one of her

'Listen, Tooni,' said he, in the same tone, 'I am come for what is
mine.  Give it to me.'

'Sonny Sahib!' quavered the old woman hoarsely, 'what have I to
give you?  Dil kushi,[1] I have nothing.'

[1] 'Heart's delight.'

'What from fear you have never given up, nor burnt, nor thrown
away,' said Sunni, firmly; 'what you said false words to ee-Wobbis
about, when you told him it had been stolen from you.  My little
black book, with my God in it.'

'Hazur!  I have it not.'

'Give it to me,' said Sunni.

The old woman raised herself in the bed.  'A sahib's promise is
written in gold,' said she; 'promise that the Maharajah shall never

'He shall never know,' said Sunni.

Tooni felt her way to the side of the hut; then her hand fumbled
along the top of the wall; it seemed to Sunni for an interminable
time.  At a certain place she parted the thatch and put her hand
into it with a little rustling that Sunni thought might be heard in
the very heart of the palace.  Then she drew out a small, tight
sewn, oilskin bag, that had taken the shape of the book inside it,
groped across the hut again, and gave it to Sunni.  The boy's hand
trembled as he took it, and without a word he slipped into the
darkness outside.

Then he stopped short and went back.  'Great thanks to you, Tooni-
ji,' he said softly into the darkness of the hut.  'When I find my
own country I will come back and take you there too.  And while I
am gone Moti will love you, Tooni-ji.  Peace be to you!'

Mar Singh was still awake when Sunni re-entered the palace.  The
wind had come, he said.  Sleep would rest upon the eyelids of
Sunni-ji in the south balcony.

It was a curious little place, the south balcony, really not a
balcony at all, but a round-pillared pavilion with a roof that
jutted out above the city wall.  It hung over a garden too, rather
a cramped garden, the wall and the river came so close, and one
that had been left a good deal to take care of itself.  Some fine
pipal-trees grew in it though, one of them towered within three
feet of the balcony, while the lower branches overspread the city
wall.  All day long the green parrakeets flashed in and out of the
pipal-trees, screaming and chattering, while the river wound blue
among the yellow sands outside the wall; but to-night the only
sound in them was the whispering of the leaves as the south wind
passed, and both the river and the sands lay silver gray in the
starlight.  Sunni, lying full length upon the balcony, listened
with all his might.  From the courtyard, away round to the right
where the stables were, came a pony's neigh, and Sunni, as he heard
it once--twice--thrice--felt his eyes fill with tears.  It was the
voice of his pony, of his 'Dhooplal,' his 'red sunlight,' and, he
would never ride Dhooplal again.  The south breeze brought no other
sound, the palace stretched on either side of him dark and still, a
sweet heavy fragrance from a frangipanni-tree in the garden floated
up, and that was all.  Sunni looked across the river, and saw that
a group of palms on the other side was beginning to stand
distinctly against the sky.  Then he remembered that he must make

The first thing he did was to unwind his long turban from his neck,
and cut it in two.  Two-thirds he twisted round his waist, the
other he made fast to one of the little red stone pillars of the
balcony.  It hung straight and black down into the shadows of the
pipal-tree.  Then, very gradually and cautiously, Sunni slipped
over the balcony's edge and let himself down, down, till he reached
a branch thick enough to cling to.  The turban was none too long,
the branches at the top were so slender.  Just as he grasped a
thick one, clutching it with both arms and legs, and swaying
desperately in the dark, he felt a rush of wings across his face,
and a great white owl flew out hooting in her panic.  The boy
almost missed his catch with fear, and the Maharajah, wakeful in
his apartments, lost another good hour's sleep through hearing the
owl's cry.  It was the worst of omens, the Maharajah believed, and
sometimes he believed it with less reason.

As quickly as he dared, Sunni let himself down branch by branch
till he reached the level of the wall.  Presently he stood upon it
in the subsiding rustle of the leaves, breathless and trembling..
He seemed to have disturbed every living thing within a hundred
yards.  A score of bats flew up from the wall crevices, a flying
fox struck him on the shoulder, at his feet something black and
slender twisted away into a darker place.  Sunni stood absolutely
still, gradually letting go his hold upon the pipal twigs.
Presently everything was as it had been before, except for the
little dark motionless figure on the wall; and the south wind was
bringing across the long, shrill, mournful howls of the jackals
that plundered the refuse of the British camp half a mile away.

Then Sunni lay down flat on the top of the wall, and began to work
himself with his hands and feet towards the nearest embrasure.  An
old cannon stood in this, and threatened with its wide black mouth
any foe that should be foolish enough to think of attacking the
fort from the river.  This venerable piece of ammunition had not
been fired for ten years, and would burst to a certainty if it were
fired now; but as nobody had ever dreamed of attacking Lalpore from
the river that didn't particularly matter.  When Sunni reached it,
he crouched down in its shadow--the grayness behind the palms was
spreading--and took the rest of his turban cloth from his waist.
Then he took off his coat, and began to unwind a rope from his
body--a rope made up of all sorts of ends, thick and thin, long and
short, and pieced out with leather thongs.  Sunni was considerably
more comfortable when he had divested himself of it.  He tied the
rope and the turban cloth together, and fastened the rope end to
the old gun's wheel.  He looked over for a second--no longer--but
it was too dark to tell how far down the face of the thirty-foot
wall his ragged contrivance hung.  It was too dark as well to see
whether the water rippled against the wall or not; but Sunni knew
that the river was low.  As a matter of fact he had only about five
feet to drop, and he went very comfortably into a thick bed of wet
sand.  Nor was anything known of his going in Lalpore until
daybreak, when one of the palace sweepers found the end of a blue
and gold turban flapping about the south balcony; and Moti, who
often went early to tell his dreams to Sunni, brought the Maharajah
a parcel.


'What's this?' said Colonel Starr, looking up from his camp table,
where he was writing a final message for translation to the
Maharajah.  The sun was on the point of rising, the air was crisp,
and the sky was splendid.  Lalpore, on her buttressed slope, sat as
proud and as silent as ever; but something like a blue ribbon
floated from the south wall over the river.

'What's this?' said Colonel Starr, with the deepest possible

'Pris'ner, sir,' answered Thomas Jones, saluting.

'WHAT?' said the Colonel.  'Nonsense!  Where did you get him?'

'Beg pardon, sir.  Peters were on duty, sir, at the second outpost,
sir.  It were about two hours ago as far as I could judge, sir, not
'avin' the time by me.  Peters seed pris'ner a-comin' strite fer
the camp across the sands from the river, sir.  Peters sings out
"Oo goes?" H'AND there been no notiss took, pints, sir.'

'Yes,' interposed Sunni, composedly, in his best English, 'he did.
But he did not fire.  And that was well, for he might have hit me.
I am not broken.'

'Go on, Jones,' said the Colonel.  'This is very queer.'

'Pris'ner were about ten yards off, sir, 'an, as 'e says, Peters
MIGHT 'a hit 'im,' said Sergeant Jones, with solemn humour, 'but
afore he'd made up 'is mind to fire, 'e'd come so close Peters saw
'ow small he was, an' therefore didn't, sir.'

'Quite right,' remarked Sunni.  'Peters might have killed me.'

The Colonel nodded.  He was looking with absorbed interest into
Sunni's eyes.  He came out of his instant of abstraction with a
start, while Jones went on with respectful volubility.

'Beggin' pardon, sir, Peters says as 'ow 'e were all struck of a
heap, sir, at 'earin' the young 'un call out in English, sir, an'
bein' so light complected fer a native, sir, an' even lighter in
that light, Peters didn't rightly know wot 'e might be firin' at,
sir.  Peters do be a bit superstitious.'

'Peters took him then, I suppose?'  The Colonel smiled ironically.

'Beggin' YOUR pardon, sir, it was rather 'im as took Peters.  'E
walked strite up to 'im, an' "Ware is the burra[1] sahib?" says 'e.
Peters sends 'im into the guard tent to me as 'e passed on his
beat, and pris'ner says "YOU ain't the burra sahib," says he.  Then
I says to pris'ner, "You bito[2] an' give an account of yerself,"
says I.  Says 'e quite 'aughty like, "I'll account fer myself to
the burra sahib," an' wouldn't take no chaff.  But 'e bitoes, an'
curls 'isself up in the sand, an' goes sound asleep in no time--an'
'ere 'e is, sir.'

[1] 'Principal.'

[2] 'Sit down on the ground.'

'Also,' corrected Sunni, 'he gave me some coffee.  He is a good
man.  Are you the burra sahib?' he asked the Colonel.

But Colonel Starr was not in a mood to answer questions regarding
his dignity.  He looked at the queer slender figure before him, in
its torn coat of embroidered silk, and its narrow, shapeless, dirty
cotton trousers; and especially he looked at the boy's hair and
eyes--his wavy yellow hair and his blue eyes.

'You are not a Rajput, you are an English boy,' he said finally,
with amazed conviction.

At another time the Colonel would have been wild with excitement at
such a discovery, but for the moment his mind was full of graver
things.  In an hour he meant to attack Lalpore.  He dismissed his
kindling enthusiasm, and added simply, 'How came you here?'

'I came by a rope from the palace to the pipal-tree, and thence to
the south wall, and thence to the river bed.  It was not hard.
Knowing the shallows of the river, I arrived quite easily by

'You come from the fort?  Are there any other English there?'  The
Colonel's voice was quick and eager.

'Not even one!  Ee-Wobbis was there, but he is killed.'

'Ah!' said Colonel Starr.  'When was he killed?'

'In the evening on the tenth day of the month.  I do not properly
know for why.  It was not the Maharajah,' added Sunni quickly; 'it
was Maun Rao.  Ee-Wobbis was my countryman, and I hate Maun Rao.'

The orderly came for the final message that was to be sent to the
Maharajah.  Colonel Starr told him it would be ready in half an

'Have they given you any breakfast?' he asked.

'No, thank you--not yet,' answered Sunni politely.

The Colonel wrote an order, and gave it to Thomas Jones.  'Be
smart,' he added.

Until Thomas Jones returned with some bread and bacon and a bowl of
milk, and until Sunni had eaten the bread and drunk the milk, the
Colonel looked at the boy as seldom as he could, and said only two
words.  'No bacon?' he asked.

Sunni flushed.  'If it is excusable,' said he, 'I do not eat of the

At which Colonel Starr's face expressed curiosity, amusement, and
interest all at once; but he kept silence until Sunni had finished.
'Now,' said he pleasantly, 'listen, my small prisoner.  I am sure
you have a great deal to tell me about yourself.  Very good, I will
hear it.  I should like to hear it.  But not now--there is no time.
Since you have taken the trouble to escape from this place, you do
not want to go back again, I suppose?'

'I want to go to my own country--with you,' said Sunni.  'I can

The Colonel smiled.  It was the smile of a brave man, and kindly.
His men knew it as well as they knew his sterner looks.  Sunni
thought it a beautiful smile.

'You shall go,' he said, 'but we are not quite ready to start yet.
Perhaps in a few days, perhaps in a few weeks, we shall be.  A good
deal depends on what you can tell me.'

Sunni looked straight into the Colonel's eyes, a little puzzled.

'How do they get water in Lalpore?' asked the Colonel, to begin

'There are four wells,' said Sunni, 'and two of them have no

'H'm!  And what is that white building with the round roof that we
see from here?'

'That is the mosque of Larulla,' said Sunni, 'but it is no longer
of consequence; there is so little Mussulmans in Lalpore.  The
soldiers hang their guns there now.'

'Ah!  And has the Maharajah many soldiers, and have they good guns--
new guns?'

Sunni looked into the Colonel's face with eager pleasure to reply;
but there he saw something that made him suddenly close his lips.
He had not lived ten years among the Rajputs without learning to
read faces, and in Colonel Starr's he saw that all this talk the
Colonel desired about Lalpore was not for Lalpore's good.  The boy
thought for a minute, and tightened his lips, while a little firm
line came on each side of his mouth.  He only opened them to say,
'Burra sahib, I cannot tell you that.'

'But you must tell me,' said Colonel Starr firmly.

'No,' returned Sunni, 'not that, nor any more informations about
the fort.'

The Colonel's face grew stern.  He was not accustomed to

'Come,' he said; 'out with it, boy.  I have no time to waste.'  His
tone was so serious that Sunni felt a little nervous thrill run all
over him.

'No,' said he.

The Colonel tried another way:

'Come, my little chap,' said he gently, 'you are English, are you

Sunni nodded.

Then you must serve the English Queen.  She has sent me here to
punish the Maharajah for killing the padre-sahib.  You must help

'The Maharajah DID NOT kill ee-Wobbis,' cried Sunni excitedly.  'I
have already once said that.  The Maharajah he LIKE ee-Wobbis.  I
am English, but the Maharajah is my father and my mother.  I cannot
speak against the Maharajah, burra sahib.'

There came a light into the Colonel's eyes which was not kindled by
anger.  He found himself liking this slip of a ragged urchin with
fair hair, who defied him--liking him tremendously.  But the crisis
was grave; he could not sacrifice his men to a child's scruple; he
could not let himself be defied.  He took out his watch, and made
his face hard.

'Then,' said he coldly, 'you are either the Maharajah's deserter or
his spy.  If you have deserted, I am disposed to send you back to
him, since you are of no use to us.  If you are his spy, it is my
duty to have you shot.  I will give you five minutes to save your
skin in.'

'But--but you are my COUNTRYMAN, burra sahib!'  There was a sob in
his voice.

The only possible answer to that was a hug, so it went unanswered.
Colonel Starr set himself to think of his Midlanders.

Sunni lifted his blue eyes entreatingly to the Colonel's face, but
he had turned it away.  He was watching a little brown lizard
sunning itself outside the tent door, and wondering how long he
could keep his disciplinary expression.  You could hear nothing in
the tent but the ticking of the watch.  Sunni looked down at the
lizard too, and so the minutes passed.

Three of them passed.  Colonel Starr found himself hoping even more
that the boy should stand firm than that he should speak.  Colonel
Starr began to say softly within himself, 'I am a brute.'  The
fifth minute was up.  'Will you speak?' asked the Colonel.

'Burra sahib, no,' said Sunni.

At that instant Lieutenant Pink galloped up to the door of the

'They've come to their senses at last, sir.  Six mounted men have
just left the north gate, signalling for a parley.'

The Colonel jumped to his feet and gave half a dozen orders without
stopping.  The last one was to Sunni.  'Stay here,' he said; 'you
shall soon go back to your own country.'

The Chitan horsemen had ridden out to announce the coming of the
Maharajah, so that the English officer might meet him half-way.
They gave the message gravely, and rode slowly back.  Half an hour
later there arose a great shouting and blowing of trumpets inside
the walls, the royal gate was flung open, and the Maharajah
appeared, swaying in a blaze of silk and jewels upon an enormous
elephant with a painted trunk and trappings fringed in gold and
silver.  Trumpeters and the crimson flag of Chita went before him;
Maun Rao and the other generals rode behind him; at his side sat
his bard, his poet laureate, with glowing eyes, speaking constantly
into his royal ear the glorious annals of his house.  Colonel Starr
and his little suite met this wonderful cavalcade a quarter of a
mile from the city, and the Maharajah and the Colonel dismounted.
Whereupon the magnificent Rajput, in his diamond aigrettes and his
silken swathings, and the broad shouldered British officer, in his
Queen's red coat, solemnly kissed each other.  They exchanged other
politenesses, spoke of the health of the Viceroy and of his 'good
friend' the Maharajah, and His Highness arranged a durbar to be
held in his hall of audience at two that afternoon, when he would
hear the desires of the British Raj.

Strangely enough, it occurred to nobody to wonder why the Maharajah
had so suddenly changed his mind.  To nobody, that is, except Sonny
Sahib.  He guessed the reason, and sitting all morning in a corner
of the Colonel's tent, as he had been told, he thought about it
very seriously.  Once or twice he had to swallow a lump in his
throat to help him to think.  The Maharajah's reason was that he
supposed that Sonny Sahib had told the English about Lalpore's
ammunition; and that, under the circumstances, was enough to bring
lumps into anybody's throat.

The Colonel was very busy, and took no notice of him, except to say
that he should have some dinner.  He heard talk of the Maharajah's
visit and of the durbar, and he revolved that too.  When the time
came, Sunni had concluded that he also must go to the durbar.  He
said so to Colonel Starr.

'Nonsense!' said the Colonel.  'And yet,' he added reflectively,
'it might be useful to have you there.  I daresay you will be safe
enough.  You are not afraid?'

Sunni said he was not afraid.  So they all went, and the Maharajah,
rising from his ivory chair, received them with much state and
ceremony.  He frowned when he saw Sunni, but said nothing.  His
Highness felt that he was not in a position to resent anything, and
thought bitterly of Petroff Gortschakin.

The durbar proceeded.  Formally, and according to strict
precedence, each man spoke.  With great amiability Colonel Starr
presented the demands of the English Government; with greater
amiability the Maharajah and his officers repelled them.  But
Colonel Starr was firm, and he had the unanswerable argument of
three hundred well-armed men and two nine-pounders, which Maun Rao
would have to meet with Petroff Gortschakin's cartridges.  After
duly and sadly reflecting upon this, the Maharajah concluded that
he would give up ee-Wobbis's murderers--one of them at any rate--
and let himself be arranged, at all events for the present.
Afterwards he would say to Maun Rao that it was only for the
present.  He summoned all his politeness to his aid, and said in
the end that such was his admiration for the English Lord Sahib in
Calcutta, such his friendship and respect, that he would welcome
any one who came to Lalpore in his name.

'Accompanied by a small force,' added Colonel Starr in the
vernacular, and the Maharajah also added, while Maun Rao behind him
ground his teeth, 'Accompanied by a small force.'

'One word more,' said the Maharajah, 'and the durbar is ended.  The
opium pledge will appear, and we will drink it with you.  From the
palm of your hand I will drink, and from the palm of my hand you
shall drink; but the lips of the boy who comes with you shall not
taste it.  The Rajputs do not drink opium with their betrayers.'

Sunni heard, and his face grew crimson.

'Maharajah!' he shouted, 'I did not tell; I did not tell.'

The Maharajah shrugged his shoulders contemptuously.

'He is not of our blood; why should he have kept silence?' said the
old man.

'But he did keep silence,' said the Colonel, looking straight into
the Chitan's sunken eyes.  'I asked him about your men and your
ammunition.  I commanded him, I threatened him.  I give you my word
of honour as a soldier that he would say nothing.'

The English in India are always believed.  A cry went up from the
other Chitans.  Moti clapped his hands together, Maun Rao caught
the boy up and kissed him.

'Then,' said the Maharajah slowly, 'I love you still, Sunni, and
you shall drink the opium with the rest.  Your son,' he added to
Colonel Starr, 'will bring praise to his father.'

The Colonel smiled.  'I have no children,' said he.  'I wish he
were indeed my son.'

'If he is not your son,' asked the Maharajah cunningly, 'why did
you bring him to the durbar?'

'Because he wished to come--'

'To say that I did not tell,' said Sunni.

'Call the woman,' ordered His Highness.

She was in the crowd in the courtyard, waiting to see her old
master pass again.  She came in bent and shaking, with her head-
covering over her face.  She threw herself at Colonel Starr's feet,
and kissed them.

'Captan Sahib!' she quavered, 'Captan Sahib!  Mirbani do!'[1]

[1] 'Give mercy.'

There was absolute silence in the audience hall.  A parrakeet
flashed through it screaming.  The shadows were creeping east over
the marble floor; a little sun flamed out on the hilt of Maun Rao's
sword.  The Colonel stooped over the old woman and raised her up.
His face whitened as he looked at her.

'It's Tooni!' he said, hoarsely.  And then, in a changed voice,
unconscious of the time and place, 'Tooni, what happened to the
memsahib?' he asked.

The ayah burst into an incoherent torrent of words and tears.  The
memsahib was very, very ill, she said.  There were not five breaths
left in her body.  The memsahib had gone in the cart--and the chota
baba[1]--the Sonny Sahib--had always had good milk--and she had
taken none of the memsahib's ornaments, only her little black book
with the charm in it

[1] 'The little baby.'

'That is true talk,' interposed Sunni, 'Tooni's words are all true.
Here is the little black book.'

Colonel Starr had the face of a man in a dream, half conscious and
trying to wake up.  His lips worked as he took the oilskin bag from
Sunni, and he looked at it helplessly.  Little Lieutenant Pink took
it gently from him, slit it down the side with a pocket-knife, and
put back into the Colonel's hand the small leather-bound book.  On
the back of it was printed, in tarnished gold letters, 'Common

It was a very little book, but the Colonel was obliged to hold it
with both hands.  Even then they trembled so that he could hardly
turn to the fly-leaf.  His eyes filled as he read there, 'Evelyn
Starr from John Starr, December 5th, 1855,' and remembered when he
had written that.  Still the shadows crept eastward, the mynas
chattered in the garden, the scent of the roses came across warm in
the sun.  The Rajputs looked at him curiously, but no one spoke.

The Colonel's eyes were fixed upon Sunni's face.  He made one or
two efforts to speak that did not succeed.  Then 'And this is the
baby,' he said.

'Hazur, ha!'[1] replied Tooni, 'Sonny Sahib hai!'

[1] 'Your Honour, yes.  It is Sonny Sahib.'

The Colonel looked at Sunni an instant longer, and the boy smiled
into his face.  'Yes,' said he assuredly, with a deep breath, 'it
is Sonny Sahib.'

'The woman saw your honour this morning, and the khaber was brought
to me then,' remarked the Maharajah complacently.

It was three weeks, after all, before the Maharajah of Chita was
satisfactorily arranged.  For three weeks Thomas Jones indulged in
roast kid and curry every day from Lalpore, and Lieutenant Pink,
having no more warlike way of amusing himself, made sanguinary
water-colour sketches of the city to send home to the Misses Pink
in England.  The day came at last when Colonel Starr and Sonny
Sahib went to pay their final respects to the Maharajah.  With his
hand upon his son's shoulder the Colonel turned once more after the
last courtesy had been exchanged.

'Your Highness will remember,' said the English soldier for the
pleasure of saying it, 'he did not tell.'


End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Story of Sonny Sahib
by Mrs. Everard Cotes


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