I have just secured a new charger, and he andI have to decide this evening whether I go where he wants to go, or hegoes where I want to go. I wheedled him into your compound by sheertrickery. The really definite issue will be settled forthwith on theGrand Trunk Road. For an instant he had a mad impulse to ask if she cared,but he crushed it ruthlessly, and his bantering reply gave no hint ofthe tumult in his breast. Yet he feared to meet her eyes, and was gladof a saluting sepoy who swaggered jauntily past the open gate.
You see, he is an Arabof mettle. If I am too rough with him, it will break his spirit; if toogentle, he will break my neck. Please forgive me! I really didn't intend to mention glovesagain. You are both horrid. You dine hereto-morrow night, my uncle said? I may be broughtthere, you know, against my will. Beneath its far-flung branches a syce was sitting in front of afinely-proportioned and unusually big Arab horse. Both animal and manseemed to be dozing, but they woke into activity when the sahibapproached.
The Arab pricked his ears, swished his long and arched tailviciously, and showed the whites of his eyes. A Bedouin of the desert, atrue scion of the incomparable breed of Nejd, he was suspicious ofcivilization, and his new owner was a stranger, as yet. He wasted notime over preliminaries.
Bidding the syce place his thumbs in the steelrings of the bridle, the young Englishman gathered the reins and a wispof gray mane in his left hand. Seizing a favorable moment, when thestruggling animal flinched from the touch of a low-lying branch on theoff side, he vaulted into the saddle. Chunga, the syce, held on untilhis master's feet had found the stirrups. Then he was told to let go,and Miss Winifred Mayne, niece of a Commissioner of Oudh, quite the mosteligible young lady the Meerut district could produce that year,witnessed a display of cool, resourceful horsemanship as the enragedArab plunged and curvetted through the main gate.
It left her rather flushed and breathless. Malcolm," she confided to herself with a little laugh, "buthis manner with women is distinctly brusque!
Catalog Record: The red year; a story of the Indian mutiny | HathiTrust Digital Library
I wonder why! To the left it led to thebazaar, the cantonment, and the civil lines; to the right, after passinga few houses tenanted by Europeans, it entered the open country on along stretch of over a thousand miles to Calcutta and the south. In no thoroughfare in the world equaled the Grand Trunk Road.
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Beginning atPeshawur, in the extreme north of India, it traversed the Punjab for sixhundred miles as far as Aligarh. Here it broke into the Calcutta andBombay branches, each nearly a thousand miles in length. Wide andstraight, well made and tree-lined throughout, it supplied the two greatarteries of Indian life. Malcolm had selected it as a training-groundthat evening, because he meant to weary and subdue his too highlyspirited charger.
Whether the pace was fast or slow, Nejdi would becompelled to meet many varieties of traffic, from artillery elephantsand snarling camels down to the humble bullock-cart of the ryot. Possibly, he would not shy at such monstrosities after twenty miles of alathering ride. The mad pace set by the Arab when he heard the clatter of his feet onthe hard road chimed in with the turbulent mood of his rider.
FrankMalcolm was a soldier by choice and instinct. When he joined the Indianarmy, and became a subaltern in a native cavalry regiment, he determinedto devote himself to his profession. He gave his whole thought to it andto nothing else. His interests lay in his work. He regarded everyundertaking from the point of view of its influence on his militaryeducation, so it may be conceded instantly that the arrival in Meerut ofan Oudh Commissioner's pretty niece should not have affected the peaceof mind of this budding Napoleon.
But a nice young woman can find joints in the armor of thesternest-souled young man. Her attack is all the more deadly ifit be unpremeditated, and Frank Malcolm had already reached theself-depreciatory stage wherein a comparatively impecunious subalternasks himself the sad question whether it be possible for such a one towoo and wed a maid of high degree, or her Anglo-Indian equivalent, anheiress of much prospective wealth and present social importance. But money and rank are artificial, the mere varnish of life, and the hotbreath of reality can soon scorch them out of existence.
Events werethen shaping themselves in India that were destined to sweep asideconvention for many a day. Had the young Englishman but known it, fivemiles from Meerut his Arab's hoofs threw pebbles over a swarthy moullah,lank and travel-stained, who was hastening towards the Punjab on adreadful errand.
The man turned and cursed him as he passed, and vowedwith bitter venom that when the time of reckoning came there would notbe a Feringhi left in all the land. Malcolm, however, would have laughedhad he heard. Affairs of state did not concern him. His only trouble wasthat Winifred Mayne stood on a pinnacle far removed from the beaten pathof a cavalry subaltern.
So, being in a rare fret and fume, he let thegray Arab gallop himself white, and, when the high-mettled Nejdi thoughtof easing the pace somewhat, he was urged onward with the slight bututterly unprecedented prick of a spur. That was a degradation not to be borne. The Calcutta Brahmin did notresent the Lascar's taunt more keenly. With a swerve that almostunseated Malcolm, the Arab dashed in front of a bullock-cart, sweptbetween the trees on the west side of the road, leaped a broad ditch,and crashed into a field of millet.
Another ditch, another field, breasthigh with tall castor-oil plants, a frantic race through a grove ofmangoes--when Malcolm had to lie flat on Nejdi's neck to avoid beingswept off by the low branches--and horse and man dived headlong intodeep water. The splash, far more than the ducking, frightened the horse.
Malcolm,in that instant of prior warning which the possessor of steady nerveslearns to use so well, disengaged his feet from the stirrups. He wasthrown clear, and, when he came to the surface, he saw that the Araband himself were floundering in a moat. Not the pleasantest ofbathing-places anywhere, in India such a sheet of almost stagnant waterhas excessive peculiarities.
Among other items, it breeds fever andharbors snakes, so Malcolm floundered rather than swam to the bank,where he had the negative satisfaction of catching Nejdi's bridle whenthat disconcerted steed scrambled out after him. The two were coated with green slime. Being obviously unhurt, theyprobably had a forlornly comic aspect. Did you mean to scale the fort on horseback? Andwhy not have chosen a spot where the water was cleaner?
She used the pure Persian of the court, and her dictionwas refined.
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The Story of the Indian Mutiny, First Edition
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The Indian mutiny and the British imagination
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