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ily at noon the wives set out to the fields where the ploughs are working, the last baby astride on the hip, a dish of food and a vessel of water balanced deftly on the head. The dusky little naked children are making their mudpies in the village lanes, and marking out miniature fields and irrigation channels. Even the village dogs look more contented and less like the badly stuffed skins in a village museum.

the rail-ghari goes swiftly, as you know. The Risaldar has got furlough and will be home shortly, and then there will be rejoicing. Are not the Risaldar's wife and his two sons in Pertáb Singh's house? Where else should they be? A Rajput does not take his wife with him on service, like those Madrási sepoys Pertáb once saw on the march. Sepoys indeed! They are good enough fellows, but what business have the like of them in the wars?

The sugarcane is a foot high or more. It has been watered constantly, but the rain has done it more good than all the irrigation. You can see it is full of juicy life. Farther afield great stretches of land are green with the broad leaves of the millets. Here and there in the better soil are darker patches where the cotton-plants are coming up strong. Through July and August the heavens are kindly. Cool continuous rain for five or six days, and then a break of bright sun, obscured now and again by a big, fleecy cloud, just long enough to get the crops weeded and the surface hoed, and then more rain before the young plants begin to droop. The ploughs are going all the time in the fields whose turn it is to be sown with wheat and barley after the rains have ceased. The farmers are in good heart, and plough follows plough, up the field and down again, in straight furrows. Five or six ploughings will do no harm. Away there are some large even fields in which eight ploughs are working; the oxen are big, white, well-favored beasts, the best you have seen. That is Pertáb Singh's own home farm, and there is the old man himself, standing leaning on his long staff. He has come out to see how the work is going on. He is quite cheerful now. There has been no trouble about the revenue. The timely rain opened Bullub Dass's purse, and the money was found for the rent, on the security of the sugar and cotton crops. A remittance too came from the Risaldar Sahib, whose regiment is far away at Peshawur maybe. Pertáb Singh has not much idea of geography, but he knows Peshawur is a long way off, a journey of three days even by rail, and

This was in July. We are in September now-nearly the end of September-and a great dread overhangs the land. For three long weeks the heavens have been shut, and not a drop of rain has fallen. The wells, wherever there are wells-there are not many in Gardanpur-have been working hard to keep the sugar alive and the cottonplants from withering. The great stretches of food crops-nothing could be done for them. They should be well over a man's head now, and the fields as thick as thick can be. They are not up to my knee, would not give shelter to a boar, and the leaves are all turning yellow at the tips. Here and there a little starveling head of grain, like a famine baby, has come prematurely. The cotton on which we count for rent

the same fate is overtaking it. The plants should be fine bushy plants, shrubs almost, three feet high, bright with their yellow and brown flowers. They are dwarfed, stunted things, like suburban wallflowers in a backward spring, and some of them have formed bolls already. There is no hope of a good crop. How is Bullub Dass to be paid? The wind is beginning to blow hot again and the ground to harden. The ploughed fields, waiting for the wheat and barley seed, are drying up, and the dust rises where the cattle tread as if it were May again. There will be little use in scattering seed on that thirsty soil. "Still there is hope. If the rain comes soon," the people say, "we may get half a crop from the millets. It will be short commons, but we shall not starve, and we can sow for next harvest. The wheat and barley will be good security for Bullub Dass."

So every man who has a well works it bravely, and the sugarcane is kept alive, whether men or oxen die over it. The pulley creaks and the great leathern buckets go up and down, while the patient men toil, and the more patient beasts drag the rope down and follow it up the inclined run of the well. Were there ever such patient men and such patient beasts?

Thus it is in the fields. In the village, Pertáb Singh is sitting in the covered gateway of his house. He is somewhat sad and stern again. The Risaldar and some of the other sons are round him. A fine, seasoned-looking soldier is the Risaldar. He is in his peasant's dress, and has nothing to distinguish him from the others but a necklace of big gold beads round his neck, and perhaps his turban is a little bigger and has a smarter set. But his gait and posture and the pride of his bearing mark his profession, and he has the air of a man having authority. For a Risaldar Sahib in the Bengal cavalry of the great queen is no mean person, especially if he has seen service and has three medals, and has been called out on parade and praised by the commander-in-chief himself-ay, in his own tongue too. He will love to talk to you if you have time, and to grip you by the hand. You are a civilian, it is true; but he knows you can walk and shoot and ride, and your brothers are in the army, and every English gentleman is a fighting man at heart, and welcomes and is welcomed by the Risaldar Sahib, who has fought so often beside and under Englishmen. Moreover, it is the civilians who have the power and can help a man out of trouble. So he welcomes you warmly.

But Pertáb Singh is sad, and the Risaldar is trying to comfort him by assurances that he and his brothers in the service will be able to raise enough to pay the mortgage interest, come what may. For the fear of another bad harvest is on the old man's heart, and he knows that his people will not be able to pay their rent should this new misfortune come. He has spoken to Bullub Dass, and Bullub Dass says he

can do no more. He cannot go on advancing money forever. He too has his sons and daughters to think of, and the honor of his own house, which has lent money and met its bills quite as long as the Rajput's people have owned the land.

No more Hope.

It is October, and still no rain. Still the pulleys of the wells creak and groan. The great patient oxen labor on as before, but their heads droop and their limbs drag wearily, and the bones show prominently through the loose skin. Their masters too look downcast, and their bodies, always spare, are nothing but tense muscle and skin. There is no actual want of food yet in Gardanpur, at least for such as have farms; for they have some little stores left still, and those who have any hope of a crop can borrow for a while yet. But it is a more than Lenten fast for them all, with never-ceasing toil superadded. A few weeks of such discipline might do good to many of us who choose to grumble because we have not more than enough.

There is no doubt now as to the fate of the village. The sugar has been saved to some extent. That means at the most one acre in twenty of the village area, for sugar needs to be irrigated, and there are few wells and no canal here. The cotton is dwarfed: it is not worth picking. The millets, which should have fed the village for the next five months, have hardly moved. The stalks, which should be so juicy, are almost dry. here and there an abortive head of grain, which women and children have diligently searched out and garnered. For the rest, it will do for fodder; and as the last remnant of grass has been torn off the hard surface by the famishing cattle, most men have turned their hungry beasts into the standing fields of jowar and bajra, and let them eat them down. If rain comes in three weeks or so, it may be possible to sow wheat and barley with some chance of a harvest, late in March or in April. If it comes not, then the last flicker of hope has died

away. Until the next rainy season, full eight months hence, the fertile plain will be a barren waste unproductive as the sand of the seashore.

hold out till the next rain comes, not nearly. He has looked into them yesterday. "The women and children must leave," he says to his father; "you cannot feed them here, and if you have to go you will not be able to take them with you." So it is settled that the Risaldar's and his brothers' wives and their children should go off under the escort of his two brothers to their fathers' houses in Rajputana. There they will be safe from harm or hunger, for letters have come to say that all is well there and sufficient rain has fallen.

Day follows day. There is no sign of a cloud now. The sun is bright and hot. But the nights are chill, and there is a keenness in the morning air that heralds the Indian winter and gives a glow to the pale faces of the Englishmen; generally a cheerful and welcome time, when the country is bright with the fresh green of the springing corn, and the heart of man is gladdened by the knowledge of one harvest gathered and the promise of another to There is no brightness or gladness here now. No harvest has been garnered, and the harvest to come is a harvest of bones, and the reaper is Death.



The Risaldar Sahib's leave is drawing to an end. He must go to his regiment. He is anxious and full of care. How is the revenue to be paid, and the interest due to Bullub Dass? How is the household to be fed? For there are many mouths dependent Pertáb Singh. There is the old man's wife, the mother of the stalwart sons; there are three of the sons' wives, besides the Risaldar's, and seven grandchildren, most of them very young. Then there are five or six women and men born in the house, slaves some might call them-they cannot be left to starve, and they too have children. There are the farm-servants also, but they must shift for themselves if famine comes. Besides these, there are two or three widows, whose husbands, cousins of Pertáb Singh, died when they were young, and left their child-wives to a dull life of drudgery; and two distant relatives, fat, lazy, loafing loons, with wives and children of course, who have quartered themselves on the old Rajput, having lost or dissipated their own means. God forbid that he should refuse them food and shelter, idle drones though they be! Altogether, Pertáb Singh will tell you when you begin to know him, he has "to carry some thirty souls on his one shoulder." "Where is food for all these to come from?" asks the Risaldar. The granaries will not


So the next day the family Brahmin is consulted. Pertáb Singh and his house are pious people, especially where the womenfolk are concerned, and a journey like this must not be lightly undertaken. The priest, therefore, is sent for, and fed and feed, and told to see which is the best day for setting out. Then the Brahmin looks very wise, and taking up his quarters in a raised verandah on one side of the gateway, consults his almanacs and the horoscopes of the family. A day or two go in this way, much to the vexation of the Risaldar, whose time is short, and who has lost his faith in these ceremonies. Does not the regiment march on whatever day it is told, without all this fuss? When they last marched with Lockhart Sahib across the frontier, was any Brahmin or other padre Sahib called to find the lucky day? Not a bit of it; and as for bad luck, why, they won every fight they went into. True, they lost some men, and Jones Sahib-he was a fine lad and had just joined-was shot through the head. But what of that? It was their fate, and it is a soldier's right to die fighting. But his mother and Pertáb Singh would have none of these free-thinking notions.

Meanwhile the women are packing their possessions in leather-covered baskets. Not so big as you see at railway stations in London or on tops of cabs and carriages, but handy things, two of which can be slung and balanced at the ends of a springy slip of bamboo, and carried by one man. There are no great tall feathered hats,

or bulky dresses of silk and lace that must not be crushed; no great stock of boots and shoes,-only a soft petticoat or two, a few bodices, a fine muslin sheet or veil, and on top or among them some heavy gold necklaces and bangles for which there is no room on the round arms and necks of the owners. One basket will hold two of the women's things, and perhaps a child's thrown in. The men are seeing that the big bullock-carriages are made ready and ship-shape,-two-wheeled carriages with dome-like tops of bamboo framework and curtains of thick red stuff, so that no one may see in, while there are convenient peep-holes for the women to look out. The curtains will be thrown up in the daytime when they are on the country roads, and no heed will be taken of the peasants they meet or of the people working in the fields. Who cares for them? But as they wind through the lanes of a village, or pass down the bazaar of a town, the curtains quickly drop; or if a traveller of the better class is met ambling along on a neighing pink-eyed piebald and followed by servants foot, still more if an Englishman should canter by, nothing but the bright eyes peering through the little window in the side will tell of the fair burden within.



And now the Brahmin has done his work, and the propitious time has come. It is the cold, still hour before dawn. The heavens are a deep, clear blue. The moon has just gone down, yet there is no darkness, for every star is shining as stars can shine in the East, and the planet of the morning outshines them all. It is a good and convenient time for beginning the journey, as well as auspicious. Brahmins, after all, are human, and astrology not an unreasonable science. Half the day's journey will be performed easily before a halt need be called for the midday meal, and before the afternoon heat, for the sun is still strong, raises the dust, and makes travelling toilsome for man and beast. The carriages are

now ready before the gate of Pertáb Singh's house. The oxen stand yoked, thick felt coverings thrown over their backs to protect them from the cold. For they are costly white animals, with dewlaps hanging low between the clean forelegs, and small heads showing their blood. Well groomed are they too, and sleek. The Risaldar Sahib has come out snugly clad in thick padded jacket of dark green, with a big handkerchief brought under his chin and over his ears and knotted on top of his head-partly because it is not a lucky thing to sleep with your ears exposed, but mainly to give the fashionable set to his black beard. He casts the eye of a smart cavalry officer over the turnout, to see that everything is in order. For the family honor must be maintained away there among the women's people in Rajputana, whatever stint there may be at home. The drivers, in thick jackets and heads tied up, are squatting on the ground warming their hands at a small fire which they have made in front of the gateway. It blazes up now and again as they feed it economically with a little straw and stalks of the millets from the refuse fodder, not casting it on recklessly as you or I would, but pushing each straw in endways as it is needed, so as to get the greatest service out of it. The yellow light flashes warmly on their dark faces, and lights up the front of the house and the overshadowing branches with a glow that contrasts with the cold starlight. The kahárs or bearers have made ready their loads and tried how they balance, and sit beside them, smoking their little gurgling and bubbling water-pipes, and shivering in their thin cotton jackets. They will soon be warm enough and to spare. A miserable cur or two, thinking that fire may betoken food, come prowling and sniffing about, soon to slink away envious and disappointed, while an early crow is perched watchfully on thenearest tree.

Soon there is a stir and a bustle inside the court, and the "chime of women's ankle-bells" is heard. The three ladies come shuffling out wrapped

from head to foot in thick rezais, each of good cheer. He will send them carrying a baby. Behind them come money to pay the mortgage interest. women-servants with blankets and No fear of that. His father is to lay in shawls, and little toddling children sufficient grain to keep the reduced clinging to their hands. Then Pertáb household until the famine has passed. Singh carrying his pet grandson, a fine His youngest brother, who remains at boy of five, who has his arm around his home, will see to it. He is a good son grandfather's neck, and his fat brown is the Risaldar Sahib, and has a heart face, with its great bead-like black eyes as true as his trusty sword. No wonder intensified by the lines painted round if the old people are sad when he has the eyelids, turned to the old man. The gone. young men follow, each with a child in his arms. They do not take farewell of the women-that has been done inside; but they fondle the children, loth to part. The women are weeping and wailing, as young wives mourn when they leave their father's house. Pertáb Singh and his wife are very proud and fond of the handsome girls who have given them grandsons, and they are beloved, especially by the old man, by their daughters-in-law. The women cry aloud, kneeling at Pertáb Singh's feet, and touching them with their hands; and the men weep openly, even the big soldier, for they have not been taught to suppress their feelings, and think it no shame to show their sorrow.


And now the strain is beginning to be felt severely in Gardanpur. The laborers and weavers are already thinking of moving from the village. They have little left, corn there is hardly a handful among them, their wives' ornaments have gone to the pawn-brokers. A few rupees, hoarded carefully for years in view of such a time as this, for the tradition and the teachings of past famines are strong in the land, most of them still possess. With the cultivators things are very little better. Their grain stores are either empty or very low. Their cattle are famishing, and every day makes it more difficult to keep them alive. It is very hard to go away and leave their fields-the fields where they and their forebears before them have sown and gathered for generations past. To them those fields are everything in the world-home, country, and life itself. They know no larger form of patriotism, for India is not a country, and there is no Indian nation.

It is easy enough for the low-caste leather workers and weavers to move. They have no ties to bind them to the land, and no cattle to think of. But it is otherwise for the Rajput or Brahmin farmer, who has his ancestral acres, narrow though they be, and his m and plough cattle, which cost much money, and the loss of which means ruin. "True," they say, "the government is going to make a new road some ten miles off, and those who are in need will find work and wages there. But our women cannot carry earth while we dig, like the chumars' wives. Nor will the cattle be kept alive on the road work. It is of no use to us."

There is a big gathering at the choupal, and all the village farmers are there. What is to be done to save the lives of their wives and children and the cattle?

And now they are all packed in some wonderful way, which Maskelyne & Cooke could not rival, into the small space afforded by the carriages. The drivers are seated, reins and goad in hand. The bearers have taken up their load. The two brothers, who are to go as escort, have mounted their small wiry ponies, and the cavalcade departs, while the Brahmin, sitting beside the gate, tells his beads and mutters charms, and the two widows and the wives of the poor relations make a background of humble mourners. Pertáb Singh and the Risaldar turn and walk slowly back into the house, where they sit down to smoke and to ponder on the mystery of life.

In a day or two the Risaldar also takes leave of his father and mother and rides away, his body-servant, and a groom who will lead back the horse, following on foot. Some twenty miles distant he will find the railway station where he can get the train which is to take him to his far-off cantonment. Before going he bids the old people to be

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