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In The Presence
by [?]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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