Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница

"What a scoundrel!"

"I should say he was. He never gave us enough to eat, and sometimes we

were so thirsty that we used to drink salt-water. I can taste that

salt-water still."

"Now tell me something about the harbor where the fight was fought."

"I didn't dream about that. I know it was a harbor, though; because we

were tied up to a ring on a white wall and all the face of the stone under

water was covered with wood to prevent our ram getting chipped when the

tide made us rock."

"That's curious. Our hero commanded the galley, didn't Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница he?"

"Didn't he just! He stood by the bows and shouted like a good 'un. He was

the man who killed the overseer."

"But you were all drowned together, Charlie, weren't you?"

"I can't make that fit quite," he said, with a puzzled look. "The galley

must have gone down with all hands, and yet I fancy that the hero went on

living afterward. Perhaps he climbed into the attacking ship. I wouldn't

see that, of course. I was dead, you know." He shivered slightly and

protested that he could remember no more.

I did not press him further, but Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница to satisfy myself that he lay in

ignorance of the workings of his own mind, deliberately introduced him to

Mortimer Collins's "Transmigration," and gave him a sketch of the plot

before he opened the pages.

"What rot it all is!" he said, frankly, at the end of an hour. "I don't

understand his nonsense about the Red Planet Mars and the King, and the

rest of it. Chuck me the Longfellow again."

I handed him the book and wrote out as much as I could remember of his

description of the sea-fight, appealing to him from time to time for

confirmation of fact Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница or detail. He would answer without raising his eyes

from the book, as assuredly as though all his knowledge lay before him on

the printed page. I spoke under the normal key of my voice that the

current might not be broken, and I know that he was not aware of what he

was saying, for his thoughts were out on the sea with Longfellow.

"Charlie," I asked, "when the rowers on the gallies mutinied how did they

kill their overseers?"

"Tore up the benches and brained 'em. That happened when a heavy sea was

running. An overseer on the lower deck slipped from the Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница centre plank and

fell among the rowers. They choked him to death against the side of the

ship with their chained hands quite quietly, and it was too dark for the

other overseer to see what had happened. When he asked, he was pulled down

too and choked, and the lower deck fought their way up deck by deck, with

the pieces of the broken benches banging behind 'em. How they howled!"

"And what happened after that?"

"I don't know. The hero went away--red hair and red beard and all. That

was after he had captured our galley, I think."

The sound of Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница my voice irritated him, and he motioned slightly with his

left hand as a man does when interruption jars.

"You never told me he was red-headed before, or that he captured your

galley," I said, after a discreet interval.

Charlie did not raise his eyes.

"He was as red as a red bear," said he, abstractedly. "He came from the

north; they said so in the galley when he looked for rowers--not slaves,

but free men. Afterward--years and years afterward--news came from another

ship, or else he came back"--

His lips moved in silence. He was rapturously retasting some Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница poem before

him.

"Where had he been, then?" I was almost whispering that the sentence might

come gentle to whichever section of Charlie's brain was working on my

behalf.

"To the Beaches--the Long and Wonderful Beaches!" was the reply, after a

minute of silence.

"To Furdurstrandi?" I asked, tingling from head to foot.

"Yes, to Furdurstrandi," he pronounced the word in a new fashion. "And I

too saw"----The voice failed.



"Do you know what you have said?" I shouted, incautiously.

He lifted his eyes, fully roused now, "No!" he snapped. "I wish you'd let

a chap go on reading. Hark to Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница this:

"'But Othere, the old sea captain,

He neither paused nor stirred

Till the king listened, and then

Once more took up his pen

And wrote down every word,

"'And to the King of the Saxons

In witness of the truth,

Raising his noble head,

He stretched his brown hand and said,

"Behold this walrus tooth."'

By Jove, what chaps those must have been, to go sailing all over the shop

never knowing where they'd fetch the land! Hah!"

"Charlie," I pleaded, "if you'll only be sensible for a minute or two I'll

make our hero in our tale every Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница inch as good as Othere."

"Umph! Longfellow wrote that poem. I don't care about writing things any

more. I want to read." He was thoroughly out of tune now, and raging over

my own ill-luck, I left him.

Conceive yourself at the door of the world's treasure-house guarded by a

child--an idle irresponsible child playing knuckle-bones--on whose favor

depends the gift of the key, and you will imagine one half my torment.

Till that evening Charlie had spoken nothing that might not lie within the

experiences of a Greek galley-slave. But now, or there was Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница no virtue in

books, he had talked of some desperate adventure of the Vikings, of

Thorfin Karlsefne's sailing to Wineland, which is America, in the ninth or

tenth century. The battle in the harbor he had seen; and his own death he

had described. But this was a much more startling plunge into the past.

Was it possible that he had skipped half a dozen lives and was then dimly

remembering some episode of a thousand years later? It was a maddening

jumble, and the worst of it was that Charlie Mears in his normal condition

was the last person in the world to clear it Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница up. I could only wait and

watch, but I went to bed that night full of the wildest imaginings. There

was nothing that was not possible if Charlie's detestable memory only held

good.

I might rewrite the Saga of Thorfin Karlsefne as it had never been written

before, might tell the story of the first discovery of America, myself the

discoverer. But I was entirely at Charlie's mercy, and so long as there

was a three-and-six-penny Bohn volume within his reach Charlie would not

tell. I dared not curse him openly; I hardly dared jog his memory, for I

was dealing with the experiences Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница of a thousand years ago, told through the

mouth of a boy of to-day; and a boy of to-day is affected by every change

of tone and gust of opinion, so that he lies even when he desires to speak

the truth.

I saw no more of him for nearly a week. When next I met him it was in

Gracechurch Street with a billhook chained to his waist. Business took him

over London Bridge and I accompanied him. He was very full of the

importance of that book and magnified it. As we passed over the Thames we

paused to Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница look at a steamer unloading great slabs of white and brown

marble. A barge drifted under the steamer's stern and a lonely cow in that

barge bellowed. Charlie's face changed from the face of the bank-clerk to

that of an unknown and--though he would not have believed this--a much

shrewder man. He flung out his arm across the parapet of the bridge and

laughing very loudly, said:

"When they heard _our_ bulls bellow the Skroelings ran away!"

I waited only for an instant, but the barge and the cow had disappeared

under the bows of the steamer before I answered Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница.

"Charlie, what do you suppose are Skroelings?"

"Never heard of 'em before. They sound like a new kind of seagull. What a

chap you are for asking questions!" he replied. "I have to go to the

cashier of the Omnibus Company yonder. Will you wait for me and we can

lunch somewhere together? I've a notion for a poem."

"No, thanks. I'm off. You're sure you know nothing about Skroelings?"

"Not unless he's been entered for the Liverpool Handicap." He nodded and

disappeared in the crowd.

Now it is written in the Saga of Eric the Red or that Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница of Thorfin

Karlsefne, that nine hundred years ago when Karlsefne's galleys came to

Leif's booths, which Leif had erected in the unknown land called Markland,

which may or may not have been Rhode Island, the Skroelings--and the Lord

He knows who these may or may not have been--came to trade with the

Vikings, and ran away because they were frightened at the bellowing of the

cattle which Thorfin had brought with him in the ships. But what in the

world could a Greek slave know of that affair? I wandered up and down

among the streets trying to unravel the mystery, and the more I Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница considered

it, the more baffling it grew. One thing only seemed certain, and that

certainty took away my breath for the moment. If I came to full knowledge

of anything at all it would not be one life of the soul in Charlie Mears's

body, but half a dozen--half a dozen several and separate existences spent

on blue water in the morning of the world!

Then I walked round the situation.

Obviously if I used my knowledge I should stand alone and unapproachable

until all men were as wise as myself. That would be something, but manlike

I was ungrateful. It seemed bitterly unfair Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница that Charlie's memory should

fail me when I needed it most. Great Powers above--I looked up at them

through the fog smoke--did the Lords of Life and Death know what this

meant to me? Nothing less than eternal fame of the best kind, that comes

from One, and is shared by one alone. I would be content--remembering

Clive, I stood astounded at my own moderation,--with the mere right to

tell one story, to work out one little contribution to the light

literature of the day. If Charlie were permitted full recollection for one

hour--for sixty short minutes--of existences Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница that had extended over a

thousand years--I would forego all profit and honor from all that I should

make of his speech. I would take no share in the commotion that would

follow throughout the particular corner of the earth that calls itself

"the world." The thing should be put forth anonymously. Nay, I would make

other men believe that they had written it. They would hire bull-hided

self-advertising Englishmen to bellow it abroad. Preachers would found a

fresh conduct of life upon it, swearing that it was new and that they had

lifted the fear of death from all mankind. Every Orientalist in Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница Europe

would patronize it discursively with Sanskrit and Pali texts. Terrible

women would invent unclean variants of the men's belief for the elevation

of their sisters. Churches and religions would war over it. Between the

hailing and re-starting of an omnibus I foresaw the scuffles that would

arise among half a dozen denominations all professing "the doctrine of the

True Metempsychosis as applied to the world and the New Era"; and saw,

too, the respectable English newspapers shying, like frightened kine, over

the beautiful simplicity of the tale. The mind leaped forward a

hundred--two hundred--a thousand years. I saw with sorrow that men would

mutilate and Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница garble the story; that rival creeds would turn it upside down

till, at last, the western world which clings to the dread of death more

closely than the hope of life, would set it aside as an interesting

superstition and stampede after some faith so long forgotten that it

seemed altogether new. Upon this I changed the terms of the bargain that I

would make with the Lords of Life and Death. Only let me know, let me

write, the story with sure knowledge that I wrote the truth, and I would

burn the manuscript as a solemn sacrifice. Five minutes after the last

line was written Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница I would destroy it all. But I must be allowed to write it

with absolute certainty.

There was no answer. The flaming colors of an Aquarium poster caught my

eye and I wondered whether it would be wise or prudent to lure Charlie

into the hands of the professional mesmerist, and whether, if he were

under his power, he would speak of his past lives. If he did, and if

people believed him ... but Charlie would be frightened and flustered, or

made conceited by the interviews. In either case he would begin to lie,

through fear or vanity. He was safest in my Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница own hands,

"They are very funny fools, your English," said a voice at my elbow, and

turning round I recognized a casual acquaintance, a young Bengali law

student, called Grish Chunder, whose father had sent him to England to

become civilized. The old man was a retired native official, and on an

income of five pounds a month contrived to allow his son two hundred

pounds a year, and the run of his teeth in a city where he could pretend

to be the cadet of a royal house, and tell stories of the brutal Indian

bureaucrats who ground the faces of the poor.

Grish Chunder was Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница a young, fat, full-bodied Bengali dressed with

scrupulous care in frock coat, tall hat, light trousers and tan gloves.

But I had known him in the days when the brutal Indian Government paid for

his university education, and he contributed cheap sedition to _Sachi

Durpan_, and intrigued with the wives of his schoolmates.

"That is very funny and very foolish," he said, nodding at the poster. "I

am going down to the Northbrook Club. Will you come too?"

I walked with him for some time. "You are not well," he said. "What is

there in your mind? You do not talk."

"Grish Chunder, you Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница've been too well educated to believe in a God, haven't

you?"

"Oah, yes, _here!_ But when I go home I must conciliate popular

superstition, and make ceremonies of purification, and my women will

anoint idols."

"And hang up _tulsi_ and feast the _purohit_, and take you back into caste

again and make a good _khuttri_ of you again, you advanced social

Free-thinker. And you'll eat _desi_ food, and like it all, from the smell

in the courtyard to the mustard oil over you."

"I shall very much like it," said Grish Chunder, unguardedly, "Once a

Hindu--always a Hindu Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница. But I like to know what the English think they

know."

"I'll tell you something that one Englishman knows. It's an old tale to

you."

I began to tell the story of Charlie in English, but Grish Chunder put a

question in the vernacular, and the history went forward naturally in the

tongue best suited for its telling. After all it could never have been

told in English. Grish Chunder heard me, nodding from time to time, and

then came up to my rooms where I finished the tale.

"_Beshak,_" he said, philosophically. "_Lekin darwaza band hai_. (Without

doubt, but the door is shut.) I have Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница heard of this remembering of previous

existences among my people. It is of course an old tale with us, but, to

happen to an Englishman--a cow-fed _Malechh_--an outcast. By Jove, that is

most peculiar!"

"Outcast yourself, Grish Chunder! You eat cow-beef every day. Let's think

the thing over. The boy remembers his incarnations."

"Does he know that?" said Grish Chunder, quietly, swinging his legs as he

sat on my table. He was speaking in English now.

"He does not know anything. Would I speak to you if he did? Go on!"

"There is no going on at all. If you Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница tell that to your friends they will

say you are mad and put it in the papers. Suppose, now, you prosecute for

libel."

"Let's leave that out of the question entirely. Is there any chance of his

being made to speak?"

"There is a chance. Oah, yess! But _if_ he spoke it would mean that all

this world would end now--_instanto_--fall down on your head. These things

are not allowed, you know. As I said, the door is shut."

"Not a ghost of a chance?"

"How can there be? You are a Christian, and it is forbidden to Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница eat, in

your books, of the Tree of Life, or else you would never die. How shall

you all fear death if you all know what your friend does not know that he

knows? I am afraid to be kicked, but I am not afraid to die, because I

know what I know. You are not afraid to be kicked, but you are afraid to

die. If you were not, by God! you English would be all over the shop in an

hour, upsetting the balances of power, and making commotions. It would not

be good. But no fear. He will remember a little and a Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница little less, and he

will call it dreams. Then he will forget altogether. When I passed my

First Arts Examination in Calcutta that was all in the cram-book on

Wordsworth. Trailing clouds of glory, you know."

"This seems to be an exception to the rule."

"There are no exceptions to rules. Some are not so hard-looking as others,

but they are all the same when you touch. If this friend of yours said

so-and-so and so-and-so, indicating that he remembered all his lost lives,

or one piece of a lost life, he would not be in the bank another Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница hour. He

would be what you called sack because he was mad, and they would send him

to an asylum for lunatics. You can see that, my friend."

"Of course I can, but I wasn't thinking of him. His name need never appear

in the story,"

"Ah! I see. That story will never be written. You can try,"

"I am going to."

"For your own credit and for the sake of money, _of_ course?"

"No. For the sake of writing the story. On my honor that will be all."

"Even then there is no chance. You cannot play with Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница the Gods. It is a very

pretty story now. As they say, Let it go on that--I mean at that. Be

quick; he will not last long."

"How do you mean?"

"What I say. He has never, so far, thought about a woman."

"Hasn't he, though!" I remembered some of Charlie's confidences.

"I mean no woman has thought about him. When that comes;

_bus_--_hogya_--all up! I know. There are millions of women here.

Housemaids, for instance."

I winced at the thought of my story being ruined by a housemaid. And yet

nothing was more probable.

Grish Chunder grinned.

"Yes Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница--also pretty girls--cousins of his house, and perhaps _not_ of his

house. One kiss that he gives back again and remembers will cure all this

nonsense, or else"--

"Or else what? Remember he does not know that he knows."

"I know that. Or else, if nothing happens he will become immersed in the

trade and the financial speculations like the rest. It must be so. You can

see that it must be so. But the woman will come first, _I_ think."

There was a rap at the door, and Charlie charged in impetuously. He had

been released from office, and by the look in Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница his eyes I could see that he

had come over for a long talk; most probably with poems in his pockets.

Charlie's poems were very wearying, but sometimes they led him to talk

about the galley.

Grish Chunder looked at him keenly for a minute.

"I beg your pardon," Charlie said, uneasily; "I didn't know you had any

one with you."

"I am going," said Grish Chunder,

He drew me into the lobby as he departed.

"That is your man," he said, quickly. "I tell you he will never speak all

you wish. That is rot--bosh. But he Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница would be most good to make to see

things. Suppose now we pretend that it was only play"--I had never seen

Grish Chunder so excited--"and pour the ink-pool into his hand. Eh, what

do you think? I tell you that he could see _anything_ that a man could

see. Let me get the ink and the camphor. He is a seer and he will tell us

very many things."

"He may be all you say, but I'm not going to trust him to your gods and

devils."

"It will not hurt him. He will only feel a little stupid and dull when he

wakes Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница up. You have seen boys look into the ink-pool before."

"That is the reason why I am not going to see it any more. You'd better

go, Grish Chunder."

He went, declaring far down the staircase that it was throwing away my

only chance of looking into the future.

This left me unmoved, for I was concerned for the past, and no peering of

hypnotized boys into mirrors and ink-pools would help me to that. But I

recognized Grish Chunder's point of view and sympathized with it.

"What a big black brute that was!" said Charlie Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница, when I returned to him.

"Well, look here, I've just done a poem; did it instead of playing

dominoes after lunch. May I read it?"

"Let me read it to myself."

"Then you miss the proper expression. Besides, you always make my things

sound as if the rhymes were all wrong."

"Read it aloud, then. You're like the rest of 'em."

Charlie mouthed me his poem, and it was not much worse than the average of

his verses. He had been reading his books faithfully, but he was not

pleased when I told him that I preferred my Longfellow undiluted with

Charlie.

Then we Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница began to go through the MS. line by line; Charlie parrying every

objection and correction with:

"Yes, that may be better, but you don't catch what I'm driving at."

Charles was, in one way at least, very like one kind of poet.

There was a pencil scrawl at the back of the paper and "What's that?" I

said.

"Oh that's not poetry at all. It's some rot I wrote last night before I

went to bed and it was too much bother to hunt for rhymes; so I made it a

sort of blank verse instead."

Here is Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница Charlie's "blank verse":

"We pulled for you when the wind was against us and the sails were low.

_Will you never let us go?_

We ate bread and onions when you took towns or ran aboard quickly when

you were beaten back by the foe,

The captains walked up and down the deck in fair weather singing songs,

but we were below,

We fainted with our chins on the oars and you did not see that we were

idle for we still swung to and fro.

_Will you never let us go?_

The salt made the oar bandies Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница like sharkskin; our knees were cut to the

bone with salt cracks; our hair was stuck to our foreheads; and our lips

were cut to our gums and you whipped us because we could not row,

_Will you never let us go?_

But in a little time we shall run out of the portholes as the water runs

along the oarblade, and though you tell the others to row after us you

will never catch us till you catch the oar-thresh and tie up the winds in

the belly of the sail. Aho!

_Will you never let us go?_"

"H'm. What's oar-thresh, Charlie Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница?"

"The water washed up by the oars. That's the sort of song they might sing

in the galley, y'know. Aren't you ever going to finish that story and give

me some of the profits?"

"It depends on yourself. If you had only told me more about your hero in

the first instance it might have been finished by now. You're so hazy in

your notions."

"I only want to give you the general notion of it--the knocking about from

place to place and the fighting and all that. Can't you fill in the rest

yourself? Make Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница the hero save a girl on a pirate-galley and marry her or do

something."

"You're a really helpful collaborator. I suppose the hero went through

some few adventures before he married."

"Well then, make him a very artful card--a low sort of man--a sort of

political man who went about making treaties and breaking them--a

black-haired chap who hid behind the mast when the fighting began."

"But you said the other day that he was red-haired."

"I couldn't have. Make him black-haired of course. You've no imagination."

Seeing that I had just discovered the entire principles Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница upon which the

half-memory falsely called imagination is based, I felt entitled to laugh,

but forbore, for the sake of the tale.

"You're right _You're_ the man with imagination. A black-haired chap in a

decked ship," I said.

"No, an open ship--like a big boat."

This was maddening.

"Your ship has been built and designed, closed and decked in; you said so

yourself," I protested.

"No, no, not that ship. That was open, or half decked because--By Jove

you're right You made me think of the hero as a red-haired chap. Of course

if Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница he were red, the ship would be an open one with painted sails,"

Surely, I thought, he would remember now that he had served in two galleys

at least--in a three-decked Greek one under the black-haired "political

man," and again in a Viking's open sea-serpent under the man "red as a red

bear" who went to Markland. The devil prompted me to speak.

"Why, 'of course,' Charlie?" said I.

"I don't know. Are you making fun of me?"

The current was broken for the time being. I took up a notebook and

pretended to make many entries in Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling 2 страница it.

"It's a pleasure to work with an imaginative chap like yourself," I said,

after a pause. "The way that you've brought out the character of the hero

is simply wonderful."

"Do you think so?" he answered, with a pleased flush. "I often tell myself

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