By the hoof of the Wild Goat up-tossed
From the Cliff where She lay in the Sun,
Fell the Stone
To the Tarn where the daylight is lost;
So She fell from the light of the Sun,
Now the fall was ordained from the first,
With the Goat and the Cliff and the Tarn,
But the Stone
Knows only Her life is accursed,
As She sinks in the depths of the Tarn,
Oh, Thou who hast builded the world!
Oh, Thou who hast lighted the Sun!
Oh, Thou who hast darkened the Tarn!
The sin of the Stone that was hurled
By the Goat from the light of the Sun,
As She sinks in the mire of the Tarn,
Even now–even now–even now!
–From the Unpublished Papers of McIntosh Jellaluidin.
“Say is it dawn, is it dusk in thy Bower, Thou whom I long for, who longest for me? Oh, be it night–be it”–Here he fell over a little camel-colt that was sleeping in the Serai where the horse-traders and the best of the blackguards from Central Asia live; and, because he was very drunk indeed and the night was dark, he could not rise again till I helped him. That was the beginning of my acquaintance with McIntosh Jellaludin, When a loafer, and drunk, sings “The Song of the Bower,” he must be worth cultivating. He got off the camel’s back and said, rather thickly, “I–I–I’m a bit screwed, but a dip in Loggerhead will put me right again; and, I say, have you spoken to Symonds about the mare’s knees?”
Now Loggerhead was six thousand weary miles away from us, close to Mesopotamia, where you mustn’t fish and poaching is impossible, and Charley Symonds’ stable a half mile farther across the paddocks. It was strange to hear all the old names, on a May night, among the horses and camels of the Sultan Caravanserai. Then the man seemed to remember himself and sober down at the same time. We leaned against the camel and pointed to a corner of the Serai where a lamp was burning.
“I live there,” said he, “and I should be extremely obliged if you would be good enough to help my mutinous feet thither; for I am more than usually drunk–most–most phenomenally tight But not in respect to my head. ‘My brain cries out against’–how does it go? But my head rides on the–rolls on the dunghill I should have said, and controls the qualm.”
I helped him through the gangs of tethered horses and he collapsed on the edge of the veranda in front of the line of native quarters.
“Thanks–a thousand thanks! O Moon and little, little Stars! To think that a man should so shamelessly … Infamous liquor too. Ovid in exile drank no worse. Better. It was frozen. Alas! I had no ice. Good-night. I would introduce you to my wife were I sober–or she civilized.”
A native woman came out of the darkness of the room, and began calling the man names; so I went away. He was the most interesting loafer that I had had the pleasure of knowing for a long time; and later on, he became a friend of mine. He was a tall, well-built, fair man, fearfully shaken with drink, and he looked nearer fifty than the thirty-five which, he said, was his real age. When a man begins to sink in India, and is not sent Home by his friends as soon as may be, he falls very low from a respectable point of view. By the time that he changes his creed, as did McIntosh, he is past redemption.
In most big cities, natives will tell you of two or three Sahibs, generally low-caste, who have turned Hindu or Mussulman, and who live more or less as such, But it is not often that you can get to know them. As McIntosh himself used to say, “If I change my religion for my stomach’s sake, I do not seek to become a martyr to missionaries, nor am I anxious for notoriety.”