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In The Presence
by [?]

‘So, on the third day, Rutton Singh also made shinan, and the youngest of the brethren shot him also in the head, and he abandoned his body.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Stories? What stories? I know all the stories about England,’ said the Chaplain. ‘I know that terains run underneath their bazaars there, and as for their streets stinking with mota kahars, only this morning I was nearly killed by Duggan Sahib’s mota-kahar. That young man is a devil.’

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

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

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