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CHAPTER XLV: Elephant Riding - Howdahs - The New Palace - The Prince's Excursion - Gold and Silver Artillery - A Vice-royal Visit - Remarkable Dog - The Bench Show - Augustin Daly's Back Door - Fakeer
It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Out of the town again; a long drive through open country, by winding roads among secluded villages nestling in the inviting shade of tropic vegetation, a Sabbath stillness everywhere, sometimes a pervading sense of solitude, but always barefoot natives gliding by like spirits, without sound of footfall, and others in the distance dissolving away and vanishing like the creatures of dreams. Now and then a string of stately camels passed by - always interesting things to look at - and they were velvet-shod by nature, and made no noise. Indeed, there were no noises of any sort in this paradise. Yes, once there was one, for a moment: a file of native convicts passed along in charge of an officer, and we caught the soft clink of their chains. In a retired spot, resting himself under a tree, was a holy person - a naked black fakeer, thin and skinny, and whitey-gray all over with ashes.
By and by to the elephant stables, and I took a ride; but it was by request - I did not ask for it, and didn't want it; but I took it, because otherwise they would have thought I was afraid, which I was. The elephant kneels down, by command - one end of him at a time - and you climb the ladder and get into the howdah, and then he gets up, one end at a time, just as a ship gets up over a wave; and after that, as he strides monstrously about, his motion is much like a ship's motion. The mahout bores into the back of his head with a great iron prod and you wonder at his temerity and at the elephant's patience, and you think that perhaps the patience will not last; but it does, and nothing happens. The mahout talks to the elephant in a low voice all the time, and the elephant seems to understand it all and to be pleased with it; and he obeys every order in the most contented and docile way. Among these twenty-five elephants were two which were larger than any I had ever seen before, and if I had thought I could learn to not be afraid, I would have taken one of them while the police were not looking.
In the howdah-house there were many howdahs that were made of silver, one of gold, and one of old ivory, and equipped with cushions and canopies of rich and costly stuffs. The wardrobe of the elephants was there, too; vast velvet covers stiff and heavy with gold embroidery; and bells of silver and gold; and ropes of these metals for fastening the things on harness, so to speak; and monster hoops of massive gold for the elephant to wear on his ankles when he is out in procession on business of state.
But we did not see the treasury of crown jewels, and that was a disappointment, for in mass and richness it ranks only second in India. By mistake we were taken to see the new palace instead, and we used up the last remnant of our spare time there. It was a pity, too; for the new palace is mixed modern American-European, and has not a merit except costliness. It is wholly foreign to India, and impudent and out of place. The architect has escaped. This comes of overdoing the suppression of the Thugs; they had their merits. The old palace is oriental and charming, and in consonance with the country. The old palace would still be great if there were nothing of it but the spacious and lofty hall where the durbars are held. It is not a good place to lecture in, on account of the echoes, but it is a good place to hold durbars in and regulate the affairs of a kingdom, and that is what it is for. If I had it I would have a durbar every day, instead of once or twice a year.
The prince is an educated gentleman. His culture is European. He has been in Europe five times. People say that this is costly amusement for him, since in crossing the sea he must sometimes be obliged to drink water from vessels that are more or less public, and thus damage his caste. To get it purified again he must make pilgrimage to some renowned Hindoo temples and contribute a fortune or two to them. His people are like the other Hindoos, profoundly religious; and they could not be content with a master who was impure.
We failed to see the jewels, but we saw the gold cannon and the silver one - they seemed to be six-pounders. They were not designed for business, but for salutes upon rare and particularly important state occasions. An ancestor of the present Gaikwar had the silver one made, and a subsequent ancestor had the gold one made, in order to outdo him.
This sort of artillery is in keeping with the traditions of Baroda, which was of old famous for style and show. It used to entertain visiting rajahs and viceroys with tiger-fights, elephant-fights, illuminations, and elephant-processions of the most glittering and gorgeous character.
It makes the circus a pale, poor thing.
In the train, during a part of the return journey from Baroda, we had the company of a gentleman who had with him a remarkable looking dog. I had not seen one of its kind before, as far as I could remember; though of course I might have seen one and not noticed it, for I am not acquainted with dogs, but only with cats. This dog's coat was smooth and shiny and black, and I think it had tan trimmings around the edges of the dog, and perhaps underneath. It was a long, low dog, with very short, strange legs - legs that curved inboard, something like parentheses wrong way (. Indeed, it was made on the plan of a bench for length and lowness. It seemed to be satisfied, but I thought the plan poor, and structurally weak, on account of the distance between the forward supports and those abaft. With age the dog's back was likely to sag; and it seemed to me that it would have been a stronger and more practicable dog if it had had some more legs. It had not begun to sag yet, but the shape of the legs showed that the undue weight imposed upon them was beginning to tell. It had a long nose, and floppy ears that hung down, and a resigned expression of countenance. I did not like to ask what kind of a dog it was, or how it came to be deformed, for it was plain that the gentleman was very fond of it, and naturally he could be sensitive about it. From delicacy I thought it best not to seem to notice it too much. No doubt a man with a dog like that feels just as a person does who has a child that is out of true. The gentleman was not merely fond of the dog, he was also proud of it - just the same again, as a mother feels about her child when it is an idiot. I could see that he was proud of it, notwithstanding it was such a long dog and looked so resigned and pious. It had been all over the world with him, and had been pilgriming like that for years and years. It had traveled 50,000 miles by sea and rail, and had ridden in front of him on his horse 8,000. It had a silver medal from the Geographical Society of Great Britain for its travels, and I saw it. It had won prizes in dog shows, both in India and in England - I saw them. He said its pedigree was on record in the Kennel Club, and that it was a well-known dog. He said a great many people in London could recognize it the moment they saw it. I did not say anything, but I did not think it anything strange; I should know that dog again, myself, yet I am not careful about noticing dogs. He said that when he walked along in London, people often stopped and looked at the dog. Of course I did not say anything, for I did not want to hurt his feelings, but I could have explained to him that if you take a great long low dog like that and waddle it along the street anywhere in the world and not charge anything, people will stop and look. He was gratified because the dog took prizes. But that was nothing; if I were built like that I could take prizes myself. I wished I knew what kind of a dog it was, and what it was for, but I could not very well ask, for that would show that I did not know. Not that I want a dog like that, but only to know the secret of its birth.
I think he was going to hunt elephants with it, because I know, from remarks dropped by him, that he has hunted large game in India and Africa, and likes it. But I think that if he tries to hunt elephants with it, he is going to be disappointed.
I do not believe that it is suited for elephants. It lacks energy, it lacks force of character, it lacks bitterness. These things all show in the meekness and resignation of its expression. It would not attack an elephant, I am sure of it. It might not run if it saw one coming, but it looked to me like a dog that would sit down and pray.
I wish he had told me what breed it was, if there are others; but I shall know the dog next time, and then if I can bring myself to it I will put delicacy aside and ask. If I seem strangely interested in dogs, I have a reason for it; for a dog saved me from an embarrassing position once, and that has made me grateful to these animals; and if by study I could learn to tell some of the kinds from the others, I should be greatly pleased. I only know one kind apart, yet, and that is the kind that saved me that time. I always know that kind when I meet it, and if it is hungry or lost I take care of it. The matter happened in this way
It was years and years ago. I had received a note from Mr. Augustin Daly of the Fifth Avenue Theatre, asking me to call the next time I should be in New York. I was writing plays, in those days, and he was admiring them and trying to get me a chance to get them played in Siberia. I took the first train - the early one - the one that leaves Hartford at 8.29 in the morning. At New Haven I bought a paper, and found it filled with glaring display-lines about a "bench-show" there. I had often heard of bench-shows, but had never felt any interest in them, because I supposed they were lectures that were not well attended. It turned out, now, that it was not that, but a dog-show. There was a double-leaded column about the king-feature of this one, which was called a Saint Bernard, and was worth $10,000, and was known to be the largest and finest of his species in the world. I read all this with interest, because out of my schoolboy readings I dimly remembered how the priests and pilgrims of St. Bernard used to go out in the storms and dig these dogs out of the snowdrifts when lost and exhausted, and give them brandy and save their lives, and drag them to the monastery and restore them with gruel.
Also, there was a picture of this prize-dog in the paper, a noble great creature with a benignant countenance, standing by a table. He was placed in that way so that one could get a right idea of his great dimensions. You could see that he was just a shade higher than the table - indeed, a huge fellow for a dog. Then there was a description which event into the details. It gave his enormous weight - 150 1/2 pounds, and his length 4 feet 2 inches, from stem to stern-post; and his height - 3 feet 1 inch, to the top of his back. The pictures and the figures so impressed me, that I could see the beautiful colossus before me, and I kept on thinking about him for the next two hours; then I reached New York, and he dropped out of my mind.
In the swirl and tumult of the hotel lobby I ran across Mr. Daly's comedian, the late James Lewis, of beloved memory, and I casually mentioned that I was going to call upon Mr. Daly in the evening at 8. He looked surprised, and said he reckoned not. For answer I handed him Mr. Daly's note. Its substance was: "Come to my private den, over the theater, where we cannot be interrupted. And come by the back way, not the front. No. 642 Sixth Avenue is a cigar shop; pass through it and you are in a paved court, with high buildings all around; enter the second door on the left, and come up stairs."
"Is this all?"
"Yes," I said.
"Well, you'll never get in"
"Because you won't. Or if you do you can draw on me for a hundred dollars; for you will be the first man that has accomplished it in twenty-five years. I can't think what Mr. Daly can have been absorbed in. He has forgotten a most important detail, and he will feel humiliated in the morning when he finds that you tried to get in and couldn't."
"Why, what is the trouble?"
"I'll tell you. You see - - "
At that point we were swept apart by the crowd, somebody detained me with a moment's talk, and we did not get together again. But it did not matter; I believed he was joking, anyway.
At eight in the evening I passed through the cigar shop and into the court and knocked at the second door.
I entered. It was a small room, carpetless, dusty, with a naked deal table, and two cheap wooden chairs for furniture. A giant Irishman was standing there, with shirt collar and vest unbuttoned, and no coat on. I put my hat on the table, and was about to say something, when the Irishman took the innings himself. And not with marked courtesy of tone:
"Well, sor, what will you have?"
I was a little disconcerted, and my easy confidence suffered a shrinkage. The man stood as motionless as Gibraltar, and kept his unblinking eye upon me. It was very embarrassing, very humiliating. I stammered at a false start or two; then - -
"I have just run down from - - "
"Av ye plaze, ye'll not smoke here, ye understand."
I laid my cigar on the window-ledge; chased my flighty thoughts a moment, then said in a placating manner:
"I - I have come to see Mr. Daly."
"Oh, ye have, have ye?"
"Well, ye'll not see him."
"But he asked me to come."
"Oh, he did, did he?"
"Yes, he sent me this note, and - - "
"Lemme see it."
For a moment I fancied there would be a change in the atmosphere, now; but this idea was premature. The big man was examining the note searchingly under the gas-jet. A glance showed me that he had it upside down - disheartening evidence that he could not read.
"Is ut his own handwrite?"
"Yes - he wrote it himself."
"He did, did he?"
"H'm. Well, then, why ud he write it like that?"
"How do you mean?"
"I mane, why wudn't he put his naime to ut?"
"His name is to it. That's not it - you are looking at my name."
I thought that that was a home shot, but he did not betray that he had been hit. He said:
"It's not an aisy one to spell; how do you pronounce ut?"
"H'm. H'm. Mike Train. H'm. I don't remember ut. What is it ye want to see him about?"
"It isn't I that want to see him, he wants to see me."
"Oh, he does, does he?"
"What does he want to see ye about?"
"I don't know."
"Ye don't know! And ye confess it, becod ! Well, I can tell ye wan thing - ye'll not see him. Are ye in the business?"
"The show business."
A fatal question. I recognized that I was defeated. If I answered no, he would cut the matter short and wave me to the door without the grace of a word - I saw it in his uncompromising eye; if I said I was a lecturer, he would despise me, and dismiss me with opprobrious words; if I said I was a dramatist, he would throw me out of the window. I saw that my case was hopeless, so I chose the course which seemed least humiliating: I would pocket my shame and glide out without answering. The silence was growing lengthy.
"I'll ask ye again. Are ye in the show business yerself?"
I said it with splendid confidence; for in that moment the very twin of that grand New Haven dog loafed into the room, and I saw that Irishman's eye light eloquently with pride and affection.
"Ye are? And what is it?"
"I've got a bench-show in New Haven."
The weather did change then.
"You don't say, sir! And that's your show, sir! Oh, it's a grand show, it's a wonderful show, sir, and a proud man I am to see your honor this day. And ye'll be an expert, sir, and ye'll know all about dogs - more than ever they know theirselves, I'll take me oath to ut."
I said, with modesty:
"I believe I have some reputation that way. In fact, my business requires it."
"Ye have some reputation, your honor! Bedad I believe you! There's not a jintleman in the worrld that can lay over ye in the judgmint of a dog, sir. Now I'll vinture that your honor'll know that dog's dimensions there better than he knows them his own self, and just by the casting of your educated eye upon him. Would you mind giving a guess, if ye'll be so good?"
I knew that upon my answer would depend my fate. If I made this dog bigger than the prize-dog, it would be bad diplomacy, and suspicious; if I fell too far short of the prizedog, that would be equally damaging. The dog was standing by the table, and I believed I knew the difference between him and the one whose picture I had seen in the newspaper to a shade. I spoke promptly up and said:
"It's no trouble to guess this noble creature's figures height, three feet; length, four feet and three-quarters of an inch; weight, a hundred and forty-eight and a quarter."
The man snatched his hat from its peg and danced on it with joy, shouting:
"Ye've hardly missed it the hair's breadth, hardly the shade of a shade, your honor! Oh, it's the miraculous eye ye've got, for the judgmint of a dog!"
And still pouring out his admiration of my capacities, he snatched off his vest and scoured off one of the wooden chairs with it, and scrubbed it and polished it, and said:
"There, sit down, your honor, I'm ashamed of meself that I forgot ye were standing all this time; and do put on your hat, ye mustn't take cold, it's a drafty place; and here is your cigar, sir, a getting cold, I'll give ye a light. There. The place is all yours, sir, and if ye'll just put your feet on the table and make yourself at home, I'll stir around and get a candle and light ye up the ould crazy stairs and see that ye don't come to anny harm, for be this time Mr. Daly'll be that impatient to see your honor that he'll be taking the roof off."
He conducted me cautiously and tenderly up the stairs, lighting the way and protecting me with friendly warnings, then pushed the door open and bowed me in and went his way, mumbling hearty things about my wonderful eye for points of a dog. Mr. Daly was writing and had his back to me. He glanced over his shoulder presently, then jumped up and said -
"Oh, dear me, I forgot all about giving instructions. I was just writing you to beg a thousand pardons. But how is it you are here? How did you get by that Irishman? You are the first man that's done it in five and twenty years. You didn't bribe him, I know that; there's not money enough in New York to do it. And you didn't persuade him; he is all ice and iron: there isn't a soft place nor a warm one in him anywhere. That is your secret? Look here; you owe me a hundred dollars for unintentionally giving you a chance to perform a miracle - for it is a miracle that you've done."
"That is all right," I said, "collect it of Jimmy Lewis."
That good dog not only did me that good turn in the time of my need, but he won for me the envious reputation among all the theatrical people from the Atlantic to the Pacific of being the only man in history who had ever run the blockade of Augustin Daly's back door.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XLVI: The Thugs - Government Efforts to Exterminate them - Choking a Victim A Fakeer Spared - Thief Strangled