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 Two days after his arrival at Cawnpore Dr. Wade moved into quarters of his own. “I like Dr. Wade very much indeed, you know, uncle, still I am glad to have you all to myself and to settle down into regular ways.”
“Yes, we have got to learn to know each other, Isobel.”
“Do you think so, uncle? Why, it seems to me that I know all about you, just the same as if we had always been together, and I am sure I always told you all about myself, even when I was bad at school and got into scrapes, because you said particularly that you liked me to tell you everything, and did not want to know only the good side of me.”
“Yes, that is so, my dear, and no doubt I have a fair idea as to what are your strong points and what are your weak ones, but neither one or the other affect greatly a person's ordinary everyday character. It is the little things, the trifles, the way of talking, the way of listening, the amount of sympathy shown, and so on, that make a man or woman popular. People do not ask whether he or she may be morally sleeping volcanoes, who, if fairly roused, might slay a rival or burn a city; they simply look at the surface—is a man or a woman pleasant, agreeable, easily pleased, ready to take a share in making things go, to show a certain amount of sympathy in other people's pleasures or troubles—in fact, to form a pleasant unit of the society of a station?
“So in the house you might be the most angelic temper in the world, but if you wore creaky boots, had a habit of slamming doors, little tricks of giggling or fidgeting with your hands or feet, you would be an unpleasant companion, for you would be constantly irritating one in small matters. Of course, it is just the same thing with your opinion of me. You have an idea that I am a good enough sort of fellow, because I have done my best to enable you to carry out your plans and wishes, but that has nothing to do at all with my character as a man to live with. Till we saw each other, when you got out of the gharry, we really knew nothing whatever of each other.”
Isobel shook her head decidedly.
“Nothing will persuade me that I didn't know everything about you, uncle. You are just exactly what I knew you would be in look, and voice, in manner and ways and everything. Of course, it is partly from what I remember, but I really did not see a great deal of you in those days; it is from your letters, I think, entirely that I knew all about you, and exactly what you were. Do you mean to say that I am not just what you thought I should be?”
“Well, not so clearly as all that, Isobel. Of course you were only a little child when I saw you, and except that you had big brown eyes, and long eyelashes, I confess that it struck me that you were rather a plain little thing, and I do not think that your mother's letters since conveyed to my mind the fact that there had been any material change since. Therefore I own that you are personally quite different from what I had expected to find you. I had expected to find you, I think, rather stumpy in figure, and square in build, with a very determined and businesslike manner.”
“Nonsense, uncle, you could not have expected that.”
“Well, my dear, I did, and you see I find I was utterly wrong.”
“But you are not discontented, uncle?” Isobel asked, with a smile.
“No, my dear, but perhaps not quite so contented as you may think I ought to be.”
“Why is that, uncle?”
“Well, my dear, if you had been what I had pictured you, I might have had you four or five years to myself. Possibly you might even have gone home with me, to keep house for me in England, when I retire. As it is now, I give myself six months at the outside.”
“What nonsense, uncle! You don't suppose I am going to fall in love with the first man who presents himself? Why, everyone says the sea voyage is a most trying time, and, you see, I came through that quite scathless.
“Besides, uncle,” and she laughed, “there is safety in multitude, and I think that a girl would be far more likely to fall in love in some country place, where she only saw one or two men, than where there are numbers of them. Besides, it seems to me that in India a girl cannot feel that she is chosen, as it were, from among other girls, as she would do at home. There are so few girls, and so many men here, there must be a sort of feeling that you are only appreciated because there is nothing better to be had.
“But, of course, uncle, you can understand that the idea of love making and marrying never entered my head at all until I went on board a ship. As you know, I always used to think that Robert and I would live together, and I am quite sure that I should never have left him if he had lived. If I had stopped in England I should have done the work I had trained myself to do, and it might have been years and years, and perhaps never, before anyone might have taken a fancy to me, or I to him. It seems strange, and I really don't think pleasant, uncle, for everyone to take it for granted that because a girl comes out to India she is a candidate for marriage. I think it is degrading, uncle.”
“The Doctor was telling me yesterday that you had some idea of that sort,” the Major said, with a slight smile, “and I think girls often start with that sort of idea. But it is like looking on at a game. You don't feel interested in it until you begin to play at it. Well, the longer you entertain those ideas the better I shall be pleased, Isobel. I only hope that you may long remain of the same mind, and that when your time does come your choice will be a wise one.”
There could be no doubt that the Major's niece was a great success in the regiment. Richards and Wilson, two lads who had joined six months before, succumbed at once, and mutual animosity succeeded the close friendship they had hitherto entertained for each other. Travers, the Senior Captain, a man who had hitherto been noted for his indifference to the charms of female society, went so far as to admit that Miss Hannay was a very nice, unaffected girl. Mrs. Doolan was quite enthusiastic about her.
“It is very lucky, Jim,” she said to her husband, “that you were a sober and respected married man before she came out, and that I am installed here as your lawful and wedded wife instead of being at Ballycrogin with only an engagement ring on my finger. I know your susceptible nature; you would have fallen in love with her, and she would not have had you, and we should both of us have been miserable.”
“How do you know she wouldn't have had me, Norah?”
“Because, my dear, she will be able to pick and choose just where she likes; and though no one recognizes your virtues more than I do, a company in an Indian regiment is hardly as attractive as a Residency or Lieutenant Governorship. But seriously, she is a dear girl, and as yet does not seem to have the least idea how pretty she is. How cordially some of them will hate her! I anticipate great fun in looking on. I am out of all that sort of thing myself.”
“That is news to me, Norah; I think you are just as fond of a quiet flirtation as you used to be.”
“Just of a very little one, Jim; fortunately not more. So I can look on complacently; but even I have suffered. Why, for weeks not a day has passed without young Richards dropping in for a chat, and when he came in yesterday he could talk about nothing but Miss Hannay, until I shut him up by telling him it was extremely bad form to talk to one lady about another. The boy colored up till I almost laughed in his face; in fact, I believe I did laugh.”
“That I will warrant you did, Norah.”
“I could not help it, especially when he assured me he was perfectly serious about Miss Hannay.”
“You did not encourage him, I hope, Norah.”
“No; I told him the Colonel set his face against married subalterns, and that he would injure himself seriously in his profession if he were to think of such a thing, and as I knew he had nothing but his pay, that would be fatal to him.”
Captain Doolan went off into a burst of laughter.
“And he took it all in, Norah? He did not see that you were humbugging him altogether?”
“Not a bit of it. They are very amusing, these boys, Jim. I was really quite sorry for Richards, but I told him he would get over it in time, for as far as I could learn you had been just as bad thirty-three times before I finally took pity on you, and that I only did it then because you were wearing away with your troubles. I advised him to put the best face he could on it, for that Miss Hannay would be the last person to be pleased, if he were to be going about with a face as long as if he had just come from his aunt's funeral.”
The race meeting came off three weeks after Miss Hannay arrived at Cawnpore. She had been to several dinners and parties by this time, and began to know most of the regular residents.
The races served as an excuse for people to come in from all the stations round. Men came over from Lucknow, Agra, and Allahabad, and from many a little outlying station; every bungalow in the cantonment was filled with guests, and tents were erected for the accommodation of the overflow.
Several of the officers of the 103d had horses and ponies entered in the various races. There was to be a dance at the club on the evening of the second day of the races, and a garden party at the General's on that of the first. Richards and Wilson had both ponies entered for the race confined to country tats which had never won a race, and both had endeavored to find without success what was Isobel's favorite color.
“But you must have some favorite color?” Wilson urged.
“Why must I, Mr. Wilson? One thing is suitable for one thing and one another, and I always like a color that is suitable for the occasion.”
“But what color are you going to wear at the races, Miss Hannay?”
“Well, you see, I have several dresses,” Isobel said gravely, “and I cannot say until the morning arrives which I may wear; it will depend a good deal how I feel. Besides, I might object to your wearing the same color as I do. You remember in the old times, knights, when they entered the lists, wore the favors that ladies had given them. Now I have no idea of giving you a favor. You have done nothing worthy of it. When you have won the Victoria Cross, and distinguished yourself by some extraordinarily gallant action, it will be quite time to think about it.”
“You see one has to send one's color in four days beforehand, in time for them to print it on the card,” the lad said; “and besides, one has to get a jacket and cap made.”
“But you don't reflect that it is quite possible your pony won't win after all, and supposing that I had colors, I certainly should not like to see them come in last in the race. Mr. Richards has been asking me just the same thing, and, of course, I gave him the same answer. I can only give you the advice I gave him.”
“What was that, Miss Hannay?” Wilson asked eagerly.
“Well, you see, it is not very long since either of you left school, so I should think the best thing for you to wear are your school colors, whatever they were.”
And with a merry laugh at his look of discomfiture, Isobel turned away and joined Mrs. Doolan and two or three other ladies who were sitting with her.
“There is one comfort,” Mrs. Doolan was just saying, “in this country, when there is anything coming off, there is no occasion to be anxious as to the weather; one knows that it will be hot, fine, and dusty. One can wear one's gayest dress without fear. In Ireland one never knew whether one wanted muslin or waterproof until the morning came, and even then one could not calculate with any certainty how it would be by twelve o'clock. This will be your first Indian festivity, Miss Hannay.”
“Do the natives come much?”
“I should think so! All Cawnpore will turn out, and we shall have the Lord of Bithoor and any number of Talookdars and Zemindars with their suites. A good many of them will have horses entered, and they have some good ones if they could but ride them. The Rajah of Bithoor is a most important personage. He talks English very well, and gives splendid entertainments. He is a most polite gentleman, and is always over here if there is anything going on. The general idea is that he has set his mind on having an English wife, the only difficulty being our objection to polygamy. He has every other advantage, and his wife would have jewels that a queen might envy.”
Isobel laughed. “I don't think jewels would count for much in my ideas of happiness.”
“It is not so much the jewels, my dear, in themselves, but the envy they would excite in every other woman.”
“I don't think I can understand that feeling, Mrs. Doolan. I can understand that there might be a satisfaction in being envied for being the happiest woman, or the most tastefully dressed woman, or even the prettiest woman, though that after all is a mere accident, but not for having the greatest number of bright stones, however valuable. I don't think the most lovely set of diamonds ever seen would give me as much satisfaction as a few choice flowers.”
“Ah, but that is because you are quite young,” Mrs. Doolan said. “Eve was tempted by an apple, but Eve had not lived long. You see, an apple will tempt a child, and flowers a young girl. Diamonds are the bait of a woman.”
“You would not care for diamonds yourself, Mrs. Doolan?”
“I don't know, my dear; the experiment was never tried—bog oak and Irish diamonds have been more in my line. Jim's pay has never run to diamonds, worse luck, but he has promised me that if he ever gets a chance of looting the palace of a native prince he will keep a special lookout for them for me. So far he has never had the chance. When he was an ensign there was some hard fighting with the Sikhs, but nothing of that sort fell to his share. I often tell him that he took me under false pretenses altogether. I had visions of returning some day and astonishing Ballycrogin, as a sort of begum covered with diamonds; but as far as I can see the children are the only jewels that I am likely to take back.”
“And very nice jewels too,” Isobel said heartily; “they are dear little things, Mrs. Doolan, and worth all the diamonds in the world. I hear, Mrs. Prothero, that your husband has a good chance of winning the race for Arabs; I intend to wager several pairs of gloves on his horse.”
“Yes, Seila is very fast. She won last year. But Nana Sahib has had the horse that won the cup at Poona last year, and is considered one of the fastest in India, brought across from Bombay. Our only hope is that he will put a native up, and in that case we ought to have a fair chance, for the natives have no idea of riding a waiting race, but go off at full speed, and take it all out of their horse before the end of the race.”
“Well, we must hope he will, Mrs. Prothero; that seems, from what I hear, the only chance there is of the regiment winning a prize. So all our sympathies will be with you.”
“Hunter and his wife and their two girls are coming,” the Major said, the next morning, as he opened his letters.
“Very well, uncle, then we will do as we arranged. The Miss Hunters shall have my room, and I will take the little passage room.”
“I am afraid it will put you out, Isobel; but they have been here for the last two years at the race times and I did not like not asking them again.”
“Of course, uncle. It will make no difference to me, and I don't require any very great space to apparel myself.”
“We must have dinners for twelve at least, the day before the races, and on the three days of the meeting.”
Isobel looked alarmed. “I hope you don't rely on me for the arrangements, uncle. At each of the four dinners we have been to I have done nothing but wonder how it was all done, and have been trembling over the thought that it would be our turn presently. It seemed a fearful responsibility; and four, one after the other, is an appalling prospect.”
“Rumzan will see to it all, my dear. He has always managed very well before. I will talk it over with him; besides, these will not be like regular set dinner parties. At race meetings everyone keeps pretty nearly open house. One does not ask any of the people at the station; they have all their own visitors. One trusts to chance to fill up the table, and one never finds any difficulty about it. It is lucky I got up a regular stock of china, and so on, in anticipation of your coming. Of course, as a bachelor, I have not been a dinner giver, except on occasions like this, when nobody expects anything like state, and things are conducted to a certain extent in picnic fashion. I have paid off my dinner obligations by having men to mess or the club. However, I will consult Rumzan, and we will have a regular parade of our materials, and you shall inspect our resources. If there is anything in the way of flower vases or center dishes, or anything of that sort, you think requisite, we must get them. Jestonjee has got a good stock of all that sort of thing. As to tablecloths and napkins and so on, I had a supply with the china, so you will find that all right. Of course you will get plenty of flowers; they are the principal things, after all, towards making the table look well. You have had no experience in arranging them, I suppose?”
“None at all, uncle; I never arranged a vase of flowers in my life.”
“Then I tell you what you had better do, Isobel. You coax the Doctor into coming in and undertaking it. He is famous in that way. He always has the decoration of the mess table on grand occasions; and when we give a dance the flowers and decorations are left to him as a matter of course.”
“I will ask him, uncle; but he is the last man in the world I should have thought of in connection with flowers and decorations.”
“He is a many sided man, my dear; he paints excellently, and has wonderful taste in the way of dress. I can assure you that no lady in the regiment is quite satisfied with a new costume until it has received the stamp of the Doctor's approval. When we were stationed at Delhi four years ago there was a fancy ball, and people who were judges of that sort of thing said that they had never seen so pretty a collection of dresses, and I should think fully half of them were manufactured from the Doctor's sketches.”
“I remember now,” Isobel laughed, “that he was very sarcastic on board ship as to the dresses of some of the people, but I thought it was only his way of grumbling at things in general, though certainly I generally agreed with him. He told me one day that my taste evidently inclined to the dowdy, but you see I wore half mourning until I arrived out here.”
The Doctor himself dropped in an hour later.
“I shall be glad, Doctor, if you will dine with us as often as you can during the four days of the races,” Major Hannay said. “Of course, I shall be doing the hospitable to people who come in from out stations, and as Isobel won't know any of them, it will be a little trying to her, acting for the first time in the capacity of hostess. As you know everybody, you will be able to make things go. I have got Hunter and his wife and their two girls coming in to stay. I calculate the table will hold fourteen comfortably enough. At any rate, come first night, even if you can't come on the others.”
“Certainly I will, Major, if you will let me bring Bathurst in with me; he is going to stay with me for the races.”
“By all means, Doctor; I like what I have seen of him very much.”
“Yes, he has got a lot in him,” the Doctor said, “only he is always head over heels in work. He will make a big mark before he has done. He is one of the few men out here who has thoroughly mastered the language; he can talk to the natives like one of themselves, and understands them so thoroughly that they are absolutely afraid to lie to him, which is the highest compliment a native can pay to an Indian official. It is very seldom he comes in to this sort of thing, but I seized him the other day and told him that I could see he would break down if he didn't give himself a holiday, and I fairly worried him into saying he would come over and stay for the races. I believe then he would not have come if I had not written to him that all the native swells would be here, and it would be an excellent opportunity for him to talk to them about the establishment of a school for the daughters of the upper class of natives; that is one of his fads at present.”
“But it would be a good thing surely, Doctor,” Isobel said.
“No doubt, my dear, no doubt; and so would scores of other things, if you could but persuade the natives so. But this is really one of the most impracticable schemes possible, simply because the whole of these unfortunate children get betrothed when they are two or three years old, and are married at twelve. Even if all parties were agreed, the husband's relations and the wife's relations and everyone else, what are you going to teach a child worth knowing before she gets to the age of twelve? Just enough to make her discontented with her lot. Once get the natives to alter their customs and to marry their women at the age of eighteen, and you may do something for them; but as long as they stick to this idiotic custom of marrying them off when they are still children, the case is hopeless.”
“There is something I wanted to ask you, Doctor,” Isobel said. “You know this is the first time I have had anything to do with entertaining, and I know nothing about decorating a table. Uncle says that you are a great hand at the arrangement of flowers. Would you mind seeing to it for me?”
The Doctor nodded. “With pleasure, Miss Hannay. It is a thing I enjoy. There is nothing more lamentable than to see the ignorant, and I may almost say brutal, way in which people bunch flowers up into great masses and call that decoration. They might just as well bunch up so many masses of bright colored rags. The shape of the flower, its manner of growth, and its individuality are altogether lost, and the sole effect produced is that of a confused mass of color. I will undertake that part of the business, and you had better leave the buying of the flowers to me.”
“Certainly, Doctor,” the Major said; “I will give you carte blanche.”
“Well, I must see your dinner service, Major, so that I may know about its color, and what you have got to put the flowers into.”
“I will have a regular parade tomorrow morning after breakfast, if it would be convenient for you to look in then, and at the same time I will get you to have a talk with Rumzan and the cook. I am almost as new to giving dinner parties as Isobel is. When one has half a dozen men to dine with one at the club, one gives the butler notice and chooses the wine, and one knows that it will be all right; but it is a very different thing when you have to go into the details yourself. Ordinarily I leave it entirely to Rumzan and the cook, and I am bound to say they do very well, but this is a different matter.”
“We will talk it over with them together, Major. You can seem to consult me, but it must come from you to them, or else you will be getting their backs up. Thank goodness, Indian servants don't give themselves the airs English ones do; but human nature is a good deal the same everywhere, and the first great rule, if you want any domestic arrangements to go off well, is to keep the servants in good temper.”
“We none of us like to be interfered with, Doctor.”
“A wise man is always ready to be taught,” the Doctor said sententiously.
“Well, there are exceptions, Doctor. I remember, soon after I joined, a man blew off two of his fingers. A young surgeon who was here wanted to amputate the hand; he was just going to set about it when a staff surgeon came in and said that it had better not be done, for that natives could not stand amputations. The young surgeon was very much annoyed. The staff surgeon went away next day. There was a good deal of inflammation, and the young surgeon decided to amputate. The man never rallied from the operation, and died next day.”
“I said, Major, that a wise man was always ready to listen to good advice. I was not a wise man in those days—I was a pig headed young fool. I thought I knew all about it, and I was quite right according to my experience in London hospitals. In the case of an Englishman, the hand would have been amputated, and the man would have been all right three weeks afterwards. But I knew nothing about these soft hearted Hindoos, and never dreamt that an operation which would be a trifle to an Englishman would be fatal to one of them, and that simply because, although they are plucky enough in some respects, they have no more heart than a mouse when anything is the matter with them. Yes, if it hadn't been for the old Colonel, who gave me a private hint to say nothing about the affair, but merely to put down in my report, 'Died from the effect of a gunshot wound,' I should have got into a deuce of a scrape over that affair. As it was, it only cost me a hundred rupees to satisfy the man's family and send them back to their native village. That was for years a standing joke against me, Miss Hannay; except your uncle and the Colonel, there is no one left in the regiment who was there, but it was a sore subject for a long time. Still, no doubt, it was a useful lesson, and my rule has been ever since, never amputate except as a forlorn hope, and even then don't amputate, for if you do the relatives of the man, as far as his fourth cousins, will inevitably regard you as his murderer. Well, I must be off; I will look in tomorrow morning, Major, and make an inspection of your resources.”
“I am glad to see the Hunters are going to bring over their carriage,” the Major said, two days later, as he looked through a letter. “I am very glad of that, for I put it off till too late. I have been trying everywhere for the last two days to hire one, but they are all engaged, and have been so for weeks, I hear. I was wondering what I should do, for my buggy will only hold two. I was thinking of asking Mrs. Doolan if she could take one of the Miss Hunters, and should have tried to find a place for the other. But this settles it all comfortably. They are going to send on their own horses halfway the day before, and hire native ponies for the first half. They have a good large family vehicle; I hoped that they would bring it, but, of course, I could not trust to it.”
The Doctor presently dropped in with Captain Doolan. After chatting for some time the former said, “I have had the satisfaction this morning, Miss Hannay, of relieving Mrs. Cromarty's mind of a great burden.”
“How was that, Doctor?”
“It was in relation to you, my dear.”
“Me, Doctor! how could I have been a weight on Mrs. Cromarty's mind?”
“She sent for me under the pretense of being feverish; said she had a headache, and so on. Her pulse was all right, and I told her at once I did not think there was much the matter with her; but I recommended her to keep out of the sun for two days. Then she begun a chat about the station. She knows that, somehow or other, I generally hear all that is going on. I wondered what was coming, till she said casually, 'Do you know what arrangement Major Hannay has made as to his niece for the races?' I said, of course, that the Hunters were coming over to stay. I could see at once that her spirit was instantly relieved of a heavy burden, but she only said, 'Of course, then, that settles the question. I had intended to send across to her this morning, to ask if she would like a seat in my carriage; having no lady with her, she could not very well have gone to the races alone. Naturally, I should have been very pleased to have had her with us. However, as Mrs. Hunter will be staying at the Major's, and will act as her chaperon, the matter is settled.'”
“Well, I think it was very kind of her thinking of it,” Isobel said, “and I don't think it is nice of you, Doctor, to say that it was an evident relief to her when she found I had someone else to take care of me. Why should it have been a relief?”
“I have no doubt it has weighed on her mind for the last fortnight,” the Doctor said; “she must have seen that as you were freshly joined, and the only unmarried girl in the regiment, except her own daughters, it was only the proper thing she should offer you a seat in her carriage. No doubt she decided to put it off as late as possible, in hopes that you might make some other arrangement. Had you not done so, she might have done the heroic thing and invited you, though I am by no means sure of it. Of course, now she will say the first time she meets you that she was quite disappointed at having heard from me that Mrs. Hunter would be with you, as she had hoped to have the pleasure of having you in her carriage with her.”
“But why shouldn't she like it?” Isobel said indignantly. “Surely I am not as disagreeable as all that! Come, Doctor!”
Captain Doolan laughed, while the Doctor said, “It is just the contrary, my dear; I am quite sure that if you were in Mrs. Cromarty's place, and had two tall, washed out looking daughters, you would not feel the slightest desire to place Miss Hannay in the same carriage with them.”
“I call that very disagreeable of you, Doctor,” Isobel said, flushing, “and I shall not like you at all if you take such unkind and malicious views of people. I don't suppose such an idea ever entered into Mrs. Cromarty's head, and even if it did, it makes it all the kinder that she should think of offering me a seat. I do think most men seem to consider that women think of nothing but looks, and that girls are always trying to attract men, and mothers always thinking of getting their daughters married. It is not at all nice, Doctor, to have such ideas, and I shall thank Mrs. Cromarty warmly, when I see her, for her kindness in thinking about me.”
Accordingly, that afternoon, when they met at the usual hour, when the band was playing, Isobel went up to the Colonel's wife.
“I want to thank you, Mrs. Cromarty. Dr. Wade has told me that you had intended to offer me a seat in your carriage to the races. It was very kind and nice of you to think of me, and I am very much obliged to you. I should have enjoyed it very much if it hadn't been that Mrs. Hunter is coming to stay with us, and, of course, I shall be under her wing. Still, I am just as much obliged to you for having thought of it.”
Mrs. Cromarty was pleased with the girl's warmth and manner, and afterwards mentioned to several of her friends that she thought that Miss Hannay seemed a very nice young woman.
“I was not quite favorably impressed at first,” she admitted. “She has the misfortune of being a little brusque in her manner, but, of course, her position is a difficult one, being alone out here, without any lady with her, and no doubt she feels it so. She was quite touchingly grateful, only because I offered her a seat in our carriage for the races, though she was unable to accept it, as the Major will have the Hunters staying with him.”

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