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   Chapter 3 A GIRL OF THE TERAI

The Elephant God By Gordon Casserly Characters: 32060

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"How beautiful! How wonderful!" murmured the girl on the verandah, her eyes turned to the long line of the Himalayas filling the horizon to the north.

Clear against the blue sky the shining, ice-clad peaks of Kinchinjunga, a hundred miles away, towered high in air. Mystic, lovely, they seemed to float above the earth, as unsubstantial as the clouds from which they rose. They belonged to another world, a fairy world altogether apart from the rugged, tumbled masses, the awe-inspiring precipices and tremendous cliffs, of the nearer mountains. These were majestic, overpowering, but plainly of this earth, unlike the pure, white summits that seemed unreal, impossible in their beauty.

"Do come and look, Fred," said the girl aloud. "I've never seen the Snows so clearly."

She spoke to the solitary occupant of the dining-room of the bungalow. The young man at the breakfast table answered laughingly:

"I don't want to look at those confounded hills, Sis. I've seen them, nothing but them, all through these long months, until I begin to hate the sight of them."

"Oh, but do come, dear!" she pleaded. "Kinchinjunga has never seemed so beautiful as it does this morning. And it looks so near. Who could believe that it was all those miles away?"

With an air of pretended boredom and martyr-like resignation, her brother put down his coffee-cup and came out on the verandah.

"Isn't it like Fairyland?" said the girl in an awed voice.

He put his arm affectionately round her, as he replied:

"Then it's where you belong, kiddie, for you look like a fairy this morning."

The hackneyed compliment, unusual from the lips of a brother, was not far-fetched. If a dainty little figure, an exquisitely pretty dimpled face, a shell-pink complexion, violet eyes with long, thick lashes, and naturally wavy golden hair be the hallmarks of the fairies, then Noreen Daleham might claim to be one. Her face in repose had a somewhat sad expression, due to the pathetic droop of the corners of her little mouth and a wistful look in her eyes that made most men instinctively desire to caress and console her. But the sadness and the wistfulness were unconscious and untrue, for the girl was of a sunny and happy disposition. And the men that desired to pet her were kept at a distance by her natural self-respect, which made them respect her, too.

She was, perhaps, somewhat unusual in her generation in that she did not indulge in flirtations and would have strongly objected to being the object of promiscuous caresses and light lovemaking. Her innate purity and innocence kept such things at a distance from her. It never occurred to her that a girl might indulge in a hundred flirtations without reproach. Without being sentimental she had her own inward, unexpressed feelings of romance and vague dreams of Love and a Lover-but not of loves and lovers in the plural.

No one so far had shattered her belief in the chivalrous feeling of respect of the other sex for her own. Men as a rule, especially British men-though they are no more virtuous than those of alien nations-treat a woman as she inwardly wants them to treat her. And, although this girl was over twenty, she had never yet had reason to suspect that men could behave to her with anything but respect.

Her small and shapely figure looked to advantage in the well-cut riding costume of khaki drill that she wore this morning. A cloth habit would have been too warm for even these early days of an Eastern Bengal hot weather. She was ready to accompany her brother in his early ride through the tea-garden (of which he was assistant manager) in the Duars, as this district of the Terai below the mountains is called. From the verandah on which they stood they could look over acres of trim and tidy bushes planted in orderly rows, a strong contrast to the wild disorder of the big trees and masses of foliage of the forest that lay beyond them and stretched to and along the foothills of the Himalayas only a few miles away.

Daleham's father, a retired colonel, had died just as the boy was preparing to go up for the entrance examination for the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. To his great grief he was obliged to give up all hope of becoming a soldier, and, when he left school, entered an office in the city. Passionately desirous of an open-air and active life he had afterwards eagerly snatched at an offer of employment by one of the great tea companies that are dotting the Terai with their plantations and sweeping away glorious spaces of wild, primeval forest to replace the trees by orderly rows of tea-bushes and unsightly iron-roofed factories.

Left with a small income inherited from her mother, Noreen Daleham, who was two years her brother's junior, had gladly given up the dulness of a home with an aunt in a small country town to accompany her brother and keep house for him.

To most girls life on an Indian tea-garden would not seem alluring; for they would find themselves far from social gaieties and the society of their kind. Existence is lonely and lacking in the comforts, as well as the luxuries, of civilisation. Dances, theatres, concerts, even shops, are far, very far away. A woman must have mental resources to enable her to face contentedly life in a scantily-furnished, comfortless bungalow, dumped down in a monotonous stretch of unlovely tea-bushes. With little to occupy her she must rely for days at a time on the sole companionship of her man. To a young bride very much in love that may seem no hardship. But when the glamour has vanished she may change her mind.

To Noreen, however, the isolation was infinitely preferable to the narrow-minded and unfriendly intimacy of society in a country town with its snobbery and cliques. To be mistress of her own home and to be able to look after and mother her dearly-loved brother was a pleasant change from her position as a cipher in the household of a crotchetty, unsympathetic, maiden aunt. And fortunately for her the charm of the silent forest around them, the romance of the mysterious jungle with its dangers and its wonders, appealed strongly to her, and she preferred them to all the pleasures that London could offer. And yet the delights of town were not unknown to her. Her father's first cousin, who had loved him but married a rich man, often invited the girl to stay with her in her house in Grosvenor Square. These visits gave her an insight into life in Mayfair with its attendant pleasures of dances in smart houses, dinners and suppers in expensive restaurants, the Opera and theatres, and afternoons at Ranelagh and Hurlingham. She enjoyed them all; she had enough money to dress well; and she was very popular. But London could not hold her. Her relative, who was childless, was anxious that Noreen should remain always with her, at least until she married-and the older woman determined that the girl should make an advantageous marriage. But the latter knew that her income was very welcome to her aunt and, with a spirit of self-sacrifice not usual in the young, gave up a gay, fashionable life for the dull existence of a paying drudge in the house of an ungrateful, embittered elderly spinster. Yet her heart rejoiced when she conscientiously felt that her brother needed her more and had a greater claim upon her; and gladly she went to keep house for him in India.

And she was happier than he in their new life. For in this land that is essentially a soldier's country, won by the sword, held by the sword, in spite of all that ignorant demagogues in England may say, Fred Daleham felt all the more keenly the disappointment of his inability to follow the career that he would have chosen. However, he was a healthy-minded young man, not given to brooding and vain regrets.

"Are you ready to start, dear?" he said to his sister now. "Shall I order the ponies?"

"I am ready. But have you finished your coffee?"

"Thanks, yes. We'll go off at once then, for I have a long morning's work, and we had better get our ride over while it's cool."

He shouted to his "boy" to order the syces, or grooms, to bring the ponies.

"Where are we going today, dear?" asked the girl, putting on her pith helmet.

"To the nursery first. I want to see if the young plants have suffered much from that hailstorm yesterday."

"Wasn't it awful? What would people in England say if they got hailstones like that on their heads?"

"Chunerbutty and I measured one that I picked up outside the withering shed," said the brother. "It was a solid lump of clear ice two inches long and one and a half broad."

"I couldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen them," observed the girl. "I wonder that everyone who is caught out in such a storm is not killed."

"Animals often are-and men, too, for that matter," replied Daleham.

Noreen tapped her smart little riding-boot with her whip.

"I'm glad we're going out to the nursery," she said. "It's my favourite ride."

"I know it is, but I don't like taking you there, Sis," replied her brother. "I always funk that short cut through the bit of jungle to it. I never feel sure that we won't meet a wild elephant in it."

"Oh; but I don't believe they are dangerous; and I do love the ride through that exquisite patch of forest. The trees look so lovely, now that the orchids on them are in flower."

"My dear girl, get that silly idea that elephants are not dangerous out of your head," said Daleham decidedly. "You ask any of the fellows."

"Mr. Parry says they're not."

"Old Parr's never seen any elephant but a tame one, unless it's a pink or speckled one with a brass tail climbing up the wall of his room when he's got D.T's. He never went out shooting in the jungle in his life. But you ask Payne or Reynolds or any of the chaps on the other gardens who know anything of the jungle."

The girl was unwilling to believe that her beloved forest could prove perilous to her, and she feared lest her excursions into it should be forbidden.

"Well, perhaps a rogue might be dangerous," she admitted grudgingly. "But I don't believe that even a rogue would attack you unprovoked."

"Wouldn't it? From all I've heard about them I'd be very sorry to give one of them the chance," said her brother. "I'd almost like you to meet one, just to teach you not to be such a cocksure young woman. Lord! wouldn't I laugh to see you trying to climb a tree-that is, if I were safe up one myself!"

The arrival of the ponies cut short the discussion. Daleham swung his sister up into the saddle of her smart little countrybred and mounted his own waler.

Out along the road through the estate they trotted in the cool northerly breeze that swept down from the mountains and tempered the sun's heat. The panorama of the Himalayas was glorious, although Kinchinjunga had now drawn up his covering of clouds over his face and the Snows had disappeared. The long orderly lines of tea-bushes were dotted here and there with splashes of colour from the bright-hued puggris, or turbans, of the men and the saris and petticoats of the female coolies, who were busy among the plants, pruning them or tending their wounds after the storm.

The brother and sister quickened their pace and, racing along the soft earthern road, soon reached the patch of forest that intervened between the garden and the nursery.

"I say, Noreen, I think we'd better go the long way round," said Daleham apprehensively, as he pulled up his waler.

"Oh, no, Fred. Don't funk it. Do come on," urged the girl. "If you don't, I'll go on by myself and meet you at the nursery."

The dispute was a daily occurrence and always ended in the man weakly giving in.

"That's a dear boy," said his sister consolingly, when she had gained her point.

"Yes, that's all very well," grumbled the brother. "You've got your own way, as usual. I hope you won't have cause to regret it one day."

"Don't be silly, dear. Come on!" she replied, touching her pony with the whip. The animal seemed to dislike entering the forest as much as the man did. "Oh, do go on, Kitty. Don't be tiresome."

The pony balked, but finally gave way under protest, and they rode on into the jungle. A bridle path wound through the undergrowth and between the trees, and this they followed.

It was easy to understand the girl's enthusiasm and desire to be in the forest. After the tameness of the tea-garden the wild beauty of the giant trees, their huge limbs clothed in the green leaves and drooping trails of blossoms of the orchids, the tangled pattern of the interlaced creepers, the flower-decked bushes and the high ferns, looked all the lovelier in their untrammelled profusion.

The nursery was visited and the damage done to the young plants inspected. Then they turned their ponies' heads towards home and went back through the strip of jungle. They rode over the whole estate, including the untidy ramshackle village of bamboo and palm-thatched huts of the garden coolies, where the little, naked, brown babies rushed out to salaam and smile at their friend Noreen.

As they came in sight of the ugly buildings of the engine and drying-houses with their corrugated iron roofs and rusty stove-pipe chimneys, Daleham said:

"Look here, old girl, while I go to the factory, you'd better hurry on and see to the drinks and things we've got to send to the club. I hope you haven't forgotten that it's our day to be 'at home' there."

"Of course I haven't, Fred. Is it likely?" exclaimed the justly-indignant housewife. "Long before you were awake I helped the cook to pack the cold meat and sweets and cakes, and they went off before we left the bungalow."

They were referring to a custom that obtains in the colonies of tea-planters who are scattered in ones, twos, and threes on widely-separated estates. Their one chance of meeting others of their colour is at the weekly gathering in the so-called club of the district. This is very unlike the institutions known by that name to dwellers in civilised cities. No marble or granite palace is it, but a rough wooden shed with one or two rooms built out in the forest far from human habitations, but in a spot as central and equi-distant to all the planters of the district as possible. A few tennis courts are made beside it, or perhaps a stretch of jungle is cleared, the more obtrusive roots grubbed up, and the result is called a polo-ground, and on it the game is played fast and furiously.

A certain day in the week is selected as the one which the planters from the gardens for ten or twenty miles around will come together to it. Across rivers, through forest, jungle, and peril of wild beasts they journey on their ponies to meet their fellow men. Some of them may not have seen another white face since the last weekly gathering.

Each of them in turn acts as host. By lumbering bullock-cart or on the heads of coolies he sends in charge of his servants to the club-house miles away from his bungalow food and drink, crockery, cutlery, and glasses, for the entertainment of all who will foregather there.

And for a few crowded hours this lonely spot in the jungle is filled with the sound of human voices, with laughter, friendliness, and good fellowship. Men who have been isolated for a week rub off the cobwebs, lunch, play tennis, polo, and cards, and swap stories at the bar until the declining sun warns them of the necessity for departing before night falls on the forest. After hearty farewells they swing themselves up into the saddle again and dash off at breakneck speed to escape being trapped by the darkness.

Many and strange are the adventures that befall them on the rough roads or in the trackless wilds. Sometimes an elephant, a bear, or a tiger confronts them on their way. But the intrepid planter, and his not less courageous women-folk, if he has any to accompany him, gallops fearlessly by it or, perhaps, rides unarmed at the astonished beast and scares it by wild cries. Then on again to another w

eek of lonely labour.

This day it had fallen to the lot of the Dalehams to be the hosts of their community. Noreen had superintended the preparation and despatch of the supplies for their guests and could ride home now with a clear conscience to wait for her brother to return for their second breakfast. The early morning repast, the chota hazri of an Anglo-Indian household, is a very light and frugal one, consisting of a cup of coffee or tea, a slice of toast, and one or two bananas.

As she pulled up her pony in front of the bungalow a man came down the steps of the verandah and helped her to dismount.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Chunerbutty," she exclaimed, "and good morning."

"Good morning, Miss Daleham. Just back from your ride with Fred, I suppose?"

The newcomer was the engineer of the estate. The staff of the tea-garden of Malpura consisted of three persons, the manager, a hard-drinking old Welshman called Parry; the assistant manager, Daleham; and this man. As a rule the employees of these estates are Europeans. Chunerbutty was an exception. A Bengali Brahmin by birth, the son of a minor official in the service of a petty rajah of Eastern Bengal, he had chosen engineering instead of medicine or law, the two professions that appeal most to his compatriots. A certain amount of native money was invested in the company that owned the Malpura garden; and the directors apparently thought it good policy to employ an Indian on it.

Like many other young Hindus who have studied in England, Chunerbutty professed to be completely Anglicised. In the presence of Europeans he sneered at the customs, beliefs, and religions of his fellow-countrymen and posed as an agnostic. It galled him that Englishmen in India thought none the more of him for foreswearing his native land, and he contrasted bitterly their manner to him with the reception that he had met with in the circles in which he moved in England. He had been regarded as a hero in London boarding-houses. His well-cut features and dark complexion had played havoc with the affections of shop-girls of a certain class and that debased type of young Englishwoman whose perverted and unnatural taste leads her to admire coloured men.

In one of these boarding-houses he had met Daleham, when the latter was a clerk in the city. It was at Chunerbutty's suggestion and with an introduction from him that Fred had sought for and obtained employment in the tea company, and as a result the young Englishman had ever since felt in the Bengali's debt. He inspired his sister with the same belief, and in consequence Noreen always endeavoured to show her gratitude to Chunerbutty by frank friendliness. They had all three sailed to India in the same ship, and on the voyage she had resented what seemed to her the illiberal prejudice of other English ladies on board to the Hindu. And all the more since she had an uncomfortable suspicion that deep down in her heart she shared their feeling. So she tried to seem the friendlier to Chunerbutty.

It said much for her own and her brother's popularity with the planters that their intimacy with him did not cause them to be disliked. These men as a class are not unjust to natives, but intimate acquaintance with the Bengali does not tend to make them love him. For the Dalehams' sake most of the men in the district received Chunerbutty with courtesy. But his manager, a rough Welshman of the bad old school, who openly declared that he "loathed all niggers," treated him with invariable rudeness.

As the Hindu engineer and Noreen ascended the steps of the verandah together, the girl said:

"You are coming to the club this afternoon, are you not?"

"Yes, Miss Daleham, that is why I have been waiting at your bungalow to see you. I wanted to ask if we'd ride over together."

"Of course. We must start early, though. I want to see that the servants have everything ready."

"I don't think I'd be anxious to go if it were not your 'At Home' day," said the Bengali, as they seated themselves in the drawing-room that Noreen had made as pretty as she could with her limited resources. "I don't like the club as a rule. The fellows are so stand-offish."

"You mustn't think so, Mr. Chunerbutty. They aren't really. You know Englishmen as a rule are not expansive. They often seem unfriendly when they don't mean to be."

"Oh, they mean it right enough here," replied the Hindu bitterly. "They all think they're better than I am, just because I am an Indian. It is that hateful prejudice of the English man and woman in this country. It is different in England. You know I was made a lot of in London. You saw how all the men in that boarding-house we stayed at before we sailed were my friends."

"Yes; that was so, Mr. Chunerbutty," replied Noreen, who was secretly tired of the subject, with which he regaled her every day.

"And as for the women-Of course I don't want to boast, but all the girls were keen to have me take them out and were proud to be seen with me. I know that if I liked I could have picked up lots of ladies, real ladies, I mean, not shop-girls. You should have seen the way they ogled me in the street. I can assure you that little red-haired girl from Manchester in the boarding-house, Lily--"

Noreen broke in quickly.

"Please don't tell me anything about her, Mr. Chunerbutty. You know that I don't like to hear you speak disrespectfully of ladies." Then, to change the disagreeable subject, she continued: "Fred will be back to breakfast soon. Will you stay for it? Then we can all ride together to the club."

"Thank you. I should like to," replied Chunerbutty. To show his freedom from caste prejudices he not only ate with Europeans, but even showed no objection to beef, much to the horror of all orthodox Hindus. That a Brahmin, of all men, should partake of the sacred flesh of the almost divine cow was an appalling sacrilege in their eyes.

Leaving him with a book she attended to the cares of her household, disorganised by the absence of cook and butler, who had gone on ahead to the club with the supplies.

When, after an eight miles' ride, the Dalehams and Chunerbutty reached the wooden shanty that was the rendezvous of the day, they found that they were not the first arrivals. Four or five young men swooped joyously down on Noreen and quarrelled over the right to help her from the saddle. While they were disputing vehemently and pushing each other away the laughing girl slipped unaided to the ground and ran up the wooden steps of the verandah. She was instantly pursued by the men, who followed her to the back verandah where she had gone to interview her servants. They clamoured to be allowed to help in any capacity, and she had to assume an indignation and a severity she was far from feeling to drive them away.

"Oh, do go away, please," she said. "You are only in the way. How can I look after tiffin if you interfere with me like this? Now do be good boys and go off. There's Mrs. Rice arriving. Help her out of her trap."

They went reluctantly to the aid of the only other lady of their little community, who was apparently unable to climb down from her bamboo cart without help. Her husband and Daleham were already proferring their services, but they were seemingly insufficient.

Mrs. Rice belonged to the type of woman altogether unsuited to the life of a planter's wife. She was a shallow, empty-headed person devoid of mental resources and incapable of taking interest in her household or her husband's affairs. In her girlhood she had been pretty in a common style, and she refused to recognise that the days of her youth and good looks had gone by. On the garden she spent her time lounging in her bungalow in an untidy dressing-gown, skimming through light novels and the fashion papers and writing interminable letters to her family in Balham. Her elderly husband, a weak, easy-going man, tired of her constant reproaches for having dragged her away from the gay life of her London suburb to the isolation of a tea-garden, spent as much of his day as possible in the factory. In the bungalow he drank methodically and steadily until he was in a state of mellow contentment and indifferent to his wife's tongue.

On club days Mrs. Rice was a different woman. She arrayed herself in the latest fashions, or the nearest approach to them that could be reached by a native tailor working on her back verandah with the guidance of the fashion plates in ladies' journals. Her face thickly coated with most of the creams, powders, and complexion beautifiers on the market, she swathed her head in a thick veil thrown over her sun-hat. Then, prepared for conquest, she climbed into the strong, country-built bamboo cart in which her husband was graciously permitted to drive her to the club. Fortunately for her a passable road to it ran from her bungalow, for she could not ride.

Arrived at the weekly gathering-place she delighted to surround herself with all the men that she could cajole from the bar running down the side of the one room of the building. With the extraordinary power of self-deception of vain women she believed that most of them were secretly in love with her.

Noreen's arrival in the district the previous year and her instant popularity were galling to the older woman. But after a while, finding that her sneers and thinly-veiled bitter speeches against the girl had no effect on the men, she changed her tactics and pretended to make a bosom friend of her.

When all the company had assembled at the club, luncheon was served at a long, rough wooden table. Beside Noreen sat the man she liked best in the little colony, a grey-haired planter named Payne. Many of the younger men had striven hard to win her favour, and several had wished to marry her; but, liking them all, none had touched her heart. She felt most at ease with Payne, who was a quiet, elderly man and a confirmed bachelor. And he cordially reciprocated her liking.

During tiffin Fred Daleham called out from the far end of the table:

"I say, Payne, I wish you'd convince that young sister of mine that wild elephants can be dangerous beasts."

"They can indeed," replied Payne, turning to Noreen. "Take my advice and keep out of their way."

"Oh, but isn't it only rogues that one need be afraid of?" the girl asked. "And aren't they rare?"

"These jungles are full of them, Miss Daleham," said another planter. "We've had two men on our garden killed already this year."

"The Forest Officer told me that several guards and wood-cutters have been attacked lately," joined in another. "One brute has held up the jungles around Mendabari for months."

"Oh, don't tell us any more, Mr. Lane," cried Mrs. Rice with affected timidity. "I shall be afraid to leave the bungalow."

"I heard that the fellow commanding the Military Police detachment at Ranga Duar was nearly killed by a rogue lately," remarked an engineer named Goddard. "Our mahout had the story from one of the mahouts of the Fort. He had a cock-and-bull yarn about the sahib being saved by his tame elephant, a single-tusker, which drove off the rogue. But, as the latter was a double tusker, it's not a very likely tale."

"They've got a still more wonderful story about that fellow in Ranga Duar," remarked a planter named Lulworth. "They say he can do anything with wild elephants, goes about the jungle with a herd and they obey him like a pack of hounds."

The men near him laughed.

"Good old Lulworth!" said one. "That beats Goddard's yarn. Did you make it up on the spot or did it take you long to think it out?"

Lulworth smiled good humouredly.

"Oh, it's not an original lie," he replied. "I had it from a half-bred Gurkha living in the forest village near my garden."

"Who is commanding Ranga Duar?" asked Lane.

"A fellow called Dermot; a Major," replied Goddard.

"Dermot? I wonder if by any chance it's a man who used to be in these parts before-commanded Buxa Duar when there was a detachment of an Indian regiment there," said Payne.

"I believe it's the same," replied Goddard. "He knows these jungles well and did a lot of shooting in them. He bagged that budmash (rogue) elephant that killed so many people. You heard of it. He chased the brute for a fortnight."

"That's the man," said Payne. "I'm glad he's back. We used to be rather pals and stay with each other."

"Oh, do ask him again, Mr. Payne, and bring him to the club," chimed in Mrs. Rice. "It would be such a pleasant change to have some of the officers here. They are so nice, such men of the world."

A smile went round the table. All were so used to the lady's tactless remarks that they only amused. They had long lost the power to irritate.

"I'm afraid Dermot wouldn't suit you, Mrs. Rice," said Payne laughing. "He's not a lady's man."

"Indeed? Is he married?" she asked.

"No, he hasn't that reason to dislike your sex. At least, he wasn't married when I knew him. I wonder how he's escaped, for he's very well off for a man in the Indian Army and heir to an uncle who is a baronet. Good-looking chap, too. Clever beggar, well read and a good soldier, I believe. He has a wonderful way with animals. I had a pony that was a regular mad beast. It killed one syce and savaged another. It nearly did for me. I sent it to Dermot, and in a week he had it eating out of his hand."

"He seems an Admiral what-d'you-call-him-you know, that play they had in town about a wonderful butler," said Mrs. Rice.

"Admirable Crichton, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was the name. Well, your Major seems a wonderful chap," she said. "Do ask him. Perhaps he'll bring some of his officers here."

"I hope he won't, Mrs. Rice," remarked Goddard. "If he does, it's evident that none of us will have a look in with you."

She smirked, well pleased, as she caught Noreen's eye and rose from the table.

Sets of tennis were arranged and the game was soon in full swing. Some of the men walked round to the back of the building to select a spot to be cleared to make a polo ground. Others gathered at the bar to chat.

Noreen had a small court round her, Chunerbutty clinging closely to her all the afternoon, to her secret annoyance. For whenever he accompanied her to the club he seemed to make a point of emphasising the friendly terms on which they were for the benefit of all beholders. As a matter of fact he did so purposely, because he knew that it annoyed all the other men of the community to see him apparently on intimate terms with the girl.

On the afternoon, when at her request he had gone out to the back verandah to tell her servants to prepare tea, he called to her across the club and addressed her by her Christian name. Noreen took it to be an accidental slip, but she fancied that it made Mrs. Rice smile unpleasantly and several of the men regard her curiously.

The day passed all too quickly for these exiled Britons, whose one bright spot of amusement and companionship it was in the week. The setting sun gave the signal for departure. After exchanging good-byes with their guests, the Malpura party mounted their ponies and cantered home.

One morning, a week later, Noreen over-slept herself, and, when she came out of her room for her chota hazri, she found that her brother had already started off to ride over the garden. Ordering her pony she followed him. She guessed that he had gone first to the nursery, and when she reached the short cut through the forest she rejoiced at being able to enter it without the usual battle. She urged the reluctant Kitty on, and rode into it carelessly.

Suddenly her pony balked and shied, flinging her to the ground. Then it turned and galloped madly home.

As Noreen, half stunned by the fall, picked herself up stiffly and stood dazed and shaken, she shrieked in terror. She was in the middle of a herd of wild elephants which surrounded her on every side; and, as she gazed panic-stricken at them, they advanced slowly upon her.

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