Maxwell's death had caused a profound shock in Kyauktada. It would
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cause a shock throughout the whole of Burma, and the case--'the
Kyauktada case, do you remember?'--would still be talked of years
after the wretched youth's name was forgotten. But in a purely
personal way no one was much distressed. Maxwell had been almost a
nonentity--just a 'good fellow' like any other of the ten thousand
ex colore good fellows of Burma--and with no close friends. No one
among the Europeans genuinely mourned for him. But that is not to
say that they were not angry. On the contrary, for the moment they
were almost mad with rage. For the unforgivable had happened--A
WHITE MAN had been killed. When that happens, a sort of shudder
runs through the English of the East. Eight hundred people,
possibly, are murdered every year in Burma; they matter nothing;
but the murder of A WHITE MAN is a monstrosity, a sacrilege. Poor
Maxwell would be avenged, that was certain. But only a servant or
two, and the Forest Ranger who had brought in his body and who had
been fond of him, shed any tears for his death.
On the other hand, no one was actually pleased, except U Po Kyin.
'This is a positive gift from heaven!' he told Ma Kin. 'I could
not have arranged it better myself. The one thing I needed to make
them take my rebellion seriously was a little bloodshed. And here
it is! I tell you, Ma Kin, every day I grow more certain that some
higher power is working on my behalf.'
'Ko Po Kyin, truly you are without shame! I do not know how you
dare to say such things. Do you not shudder to have murder upon
'What! I? Murder upon my soul? What are you talking about? I
have never killed so much as a chicken in my life.'
'But you are profiting by this poor boy's death.'
'Profiting by it! Of course I am profiting by it! And why not,
indeed? Am I to blame if somebody else choose to commit murder?
The fisherman catches fish, and he is damned for it. But are we
damned for eating the fish? Certainly not. Why NOT eat the fish,
once it is dead? You should study the Scriptures more carefully,
my dear Kin Kin.'
The funeral took place next morning, before breakfast. All the
Europeans were present, except Verrall, who was careering about the
maidan quite as usual, almost opposite the cemetery. Mr Macgregor
read the burial service. The little group of Englishmen stood
round the grave, their topis in their hands, sweating into the dark
suits that they had dug out from the bottom of their boxes. The
harsh morning light beat without mercy upon their faces, yellower
than ever against the ugly, shabby clothes. Every face except
Elizabeth's looked lined and old. Dr Veraswami and half a dozen
other Orientals were present, but they kept themselves decently in
the background. There were sixteen gravestones in the little
cemetery; assistants of timber firms, officials, soldiers killed in
'Sacred to the memory of John Henry Spagnall, late of the Indian
Imperial Police, who was cut down by cholera while in the unremitting
exercise of' etc., etc., etc.
Flory remembered Spagnall dimly. He had died very suddenly in camp
after his second go of delirium tremens. In a corner there were
some graves of Eurasians, with wooden crosses. The creeping
jasmine, with tiny orange-hearted flowers, had overgrown
everything. Among the jasmine, large rat-holes led down into the
Mr Macgregor concluded the burial service in a ripe, reverent
voice, and led the way out of the cemetery, holding his grey topi--
the Eastern equivalent of a top hat--against his stomach. Flory
lingered by the gate, hoping that Elizabeth would speak to him, but
she passed him without a glance. Everyone had shunned him this
morning. He was in disgrace; the murder had made his disloyalty of
last night seem somehow horrible. Ellis had caught Westfield by
the arm, and they halted at the grave-side, taking out their
cigarette-cases. Flory could hear their slangy voices coming
across the open grave.
'My God, Westfield, my God, when I think of that poor little b--
lying down there--oh, my God, how my blood does boil! I couldn't
sleep all night, I was so furious.'
'Pretty bloody, I grant. Never mind, promise you a couple of chaps
shall swing for it. Two corpses against their one--best we can
'Two! It ought to be fifty! We've got to raise heaven and hell to
get these fellows hanged. Have you got their names yet?'
'Yes, rather!! Whole blooming district knows who did it. We
always do know who's done it in these cases. Getting the bloody
villagers to talk--that's the only trouble.'
'Well, for God's sake get them to talk this time. Never mind the
bloody law. Whack it out of them. Torture them--anything. If you
want to bribe any witnesses, I'm good for a couple of hundred
Westfield sighed. 'Can't do that sort of thing, I'm afraid. Wish
we could. My chaps'd know how to put the screw on a witness if you
gave 'em the word. Tie 'em down on an ant-hill. Red peppers. But
that won't do nowadays. Got to keep our own bloody silly laws.
But never mind, those fellows'll swing all right. We've got all
the evidence we want.'
'Good! And when you've arrested them, if you aren't sure of
getting a conviction, shoot them, jolly well shoot them! Fake up
an escape or something. Anything sooner than let those b--s go
'They won't go free, don't you fear. We'll get 'em. Get SOMEBODY,
anyhow. Much better hang wrong fellow than no fellow,' he added,
'That's the stuff! I'll never sleep easy again till I've seen them
swinging,' said Ellis as they moved away from the grave. 'Christ!
Let's get out of this sun! I'm about perishing with thirst.'
Everyone was perishing, more or less, but it seemed hardly decent
to go down to the Club for drinks immediately after the funeral.
The Europeans scattered for their houses, while four sweepers with
mamooties flung the grey, cement-like earth back into the grave,
and shaped it into a rough mound.
After breakfast, Ellis was walking down to his office, cane in
hand. It was blinding hot. Ellis had bathed and changed back into
shirt and shorts, but wearing a thick suit even for an hour had
brought on his prickly heat abominably. Westfield had gone out
already, in his motor launch, with an inspector and half a dozen
men, to arrest the murderers. He had ordered Verrall to accompany
him--not that Verrall was needed, but, as Westfield said, it would
do the young swab good to have a spot of work.
Ellis wriggled his shoulders--his prickly heat was almost beyond
bearing. The rage was stewing in his body like a bitter juice. He
had brooded all night over what had happened. They had killed a
white man, killed A WHITE MAN, the bloody sods, the sneaking,
cowardly hounds! Oh, the swine, the swine, how they ought to be
made to suffer for it! Why did we make these cursed kid-glove laws?
Why did we take everything lying down? Just suppose this had
happened in a German colony, before the War! The good old Germans!
They knew how to treat the niggers. Reprisals! Rhinoceros hide
whips! Raid their villages, kill their cattle, burn their crops,
decimate them, blow them from the guns.
Ellis gazed into the horrible cascades of light that poured through
the gaps in the trees. His greenish eyes were large and mournful.
A mild, middle-aged Burman came by, balancing a huge bamboo, which
he shifted from one shoulder to the other with a grunt as he passed
Ellis. Ellis's grip tightened on his stick. If that swine, now,
would only attack you! Or even insult you--anything, so that you
had the right to smash him! If only these gutless curs would ever
show fight in any conceivable way! Instead of just sneaking past
you, keeping within the law so that you never had a chance to get
back at them. Ah, for a real rebellion--martial law proclaimed and
no quarter given! Lovely, sanguinary images moved through his
mind. Shrieking mounds of natives, soldiers slaughtering them.
Shoot them, ride them down, horses' hooves trample their guts out,
whips cut their faces in slices!
Five High School boys came down the road abreast. Ellis saw them
coming, a row of yellow, malicious faces--epicene faces, horribly
smooth and young, grinning at him with deliberate insolence. It
was in their minds to bait him, as a white man. Probably they had
heard of the murder, and--being Nationalists, like all schoolboys--
regarded it as a victory. They grinned full in Ellis's face as
they passed him. They were trying openly to provoke him, and they
knew that the law was on their side. Ellis felt his breast swell.
The look of their faces, jeering at him like a row of yellow
images, was maddening. He stopped short.
'Here! What are you laughing at, you young ticks?'
The boys turned.
'I said what the bloody hell are you laughing at?'
One of the boys answered, insolently--but perhaps his bad English
made him seem more insolent than he intended.
'Not your business.'
There was about a second during which Ellis did not know what he
was doing. In that second he had hit out with all his strength,
and the cane landed, crack! right across the boy's eyes. The boy
recoiled with a shriek, and in the same instant the other four had
thrown themselves upon Ellis. But he was too strong for them. He
flung them aside and sprang back, lashing out with his stick so
furiously that none of them dared come near.
'Keep your distance, you --s! Keep off, or by God I'll smash
another of you!' Though they were four to one he was so formidable
that they surged back in fright. The boy who was hurt had fallen
on his knees with his arms across his face, and was screaming 'I am
blinded! I am blinded!' Suddenly the other four turned and darted
for a pile of laterite, used for road-mending, which was twenty
yards away. One of Ellis's clerks had appeared on the veranda of
the office and was leaping up and down in agitation.
'Come up, sir come up at once. They will murder you!'
Ellis disdained to run, but he moved for the veranda steps. A lump
of laterite came sailing through the air and shattered itself
against a pillar, whereat the clerk scooted indoors. But Ellis
turned on the veranda to face the boys, who were below, each
carrying an armful of laterite. He was cackling with delight.
'You damned, dirty little niggers!' he shouted down at them. 'You
got a surprise that time, didn't you? Come up on this veranda and
fight me, all four of you! You daren't. Four to one and you
daren't face me! Do you call yourselves men? You sneaking, mangy
He broke into Burmese, calling them the incestuous children of
pigs. All the while they were pelting him with lumps of laterite,
but their arms were feeble and they threw ineptly. He dodged the
stones, and as each one missed him he cackled in triumph.
Presently there was a sound of shouts up the road, for the noise
had been heard at the police station, and some constables were
emerging to see what was the matter. The boys took fright and
bolted, leaving Ellis a complete victor.
Ellis had heartily enjoyed the affray, but he was furiously angry
as soon as it was over. He wrote a violent note to Mr Macgregor,
telling him that he had been wantonly assaulted and demanding
vengeance. Two clerks who had witnessed the scene, and a chaprassi,
were sent along to Mr Macgregor's office to corroborate the story.
They lied in perfect unison. 'The boys had attacked Mr Ellis
without any provocation whatever, he had defended himself,' etc.,
etc. Ellis, to do him justice, probably believed this to be a
truthful version of the story. Mr Macgregor was somewhat disturbed,
and ordered the police to find the four schoolboys and interrogate
them. The boys, however, had been expecting something of the kind,
and were lying very low; the police searched the bazaar all day
without finding them. In the evening the wounded boy was taken to
a Burmese doctor, who, by applying some poisonous concoction of
crushed leaves to his left eye, succeeded in blinding him.
The Europeans met at the Club as usual that evening, except for
Westfield and Verrall, who had not yet returned. Everyone was in a
bad mood. Coming on top of the murder, the unprovoked attack on
Ellis (for that was the accepted description of it) had scared them
as well as angered them. Mrs Lackersteen was twittering to the
tune of 'We shall all be murdered in our beds'. Mr Macgregor, to
reassure her, told her in cases of riot the European ladies were
always locked inside the jail until everything was over; but she
did not seem much comforted. Ellis was offensive to Flory, and
Elizabeth cut him almost dead. He had come down to the Club in the
insane hope of making up their quarrel, and her demeanour made him
so miserable that for the greater part of the evening he skulked in
the library. It was not till eight o'clock when everyone had
swallowed a number of drinks, that the atmosphere grew a little
more friendly, and Ellis said:
'What about sending a couple of chokras up to our houses and
getting our dinners sent down here? We might as well have a few
rubbers of bridge. Better than mooning about at home.'
Mrs Lackersteen, who was in dread of going home, jumped at the
suggestion. The Europeans occasionally dined at the Club when they
wanted to stay late. Two of the chokras were sent for, and on
being told what was wanted of them, immediately burst into tears.
It appeared that if they went up the hill they were certain of
encountering Maxwell's ghost. The mali was sent instead. As the
man set out Flory noticed that it was again the night of the full
moon--four weeks to a day since that evening, now unutterably
remote, when he had kissed Elizabeth under the frangipani tree.
They had just sat down at the bridge table, and Mrs Lackersteen had
just revoked out of pure nervousness, when there was a heavy thump
on the roof. Everyone started and look up.
'A coco-nut falling!' said Mr Macgregor.
'There aren't any coco-nut trees here,' said Ellis.
The next moment a number of things happened all together. There
was another and much louder bang, one of the petrol lamps broke
from its hook and crashed to the ground, narrowly missing Mr
Lackersteen, who jumped aside with a yelp, Mrs Lackersteen began
screaming, and the butler rushed into the room, bareheaded, his
face the colour of bad coffee.
'Sir, sir! Bad men come! Going to murder us all, sir!'
'What? Bad men? What do you mean?'
'Sir, all the villagers are outside! Big stick and dah in their
hands, and all dancing about! Going to cut master's throat, sir!'
Mrs Lackersteen threw herself backwards in her chair. She was
setting up such a din of screams as to drown the butler's voice.
'Oh, be quiet!' said Ellis sharply, turning on her. 'Listen, all
of you! Listen to that!'
There was a deep, murmurous, dangerous sound outside, like the
humming of an angry giant. Mr Macgregor, who had stood up,
stiffened as he heard it, and settled his spectacles pugnaciously
on his nose.
'This is some kind of disturbance! Butler, pick that lamp up.
Miss Lackersteen, look to your aunt. See if she is hurt. The rest
of you come with me!'
They all made for the front door, which someone, presumably the
butler, had closed. A fusillade of small pebbles was rattling
against it like hail. Mr Lackersteen wavered at the sound and
retreated behind the others.
'I say, dammit, bolt that bloody door, someone!' he said.
'No, no!' said Mr Macgregor. 'We must go outside. It's fatal not
to face them!'
He opened the door and presented himself boldly at the top of the
steps. There were about twenty Burmans on the path, with dahs or
sticks in their hands. Outside the fence, stretching up the road
in either direction and far out on to the maidan, was an enormous
crowd of people. It was like a sea of people, two thousand at the
least, black and white in the moon, with here and there a curved
dah glittering. Ellis had coolly placed himself beside Mr
Macgregor, with his hands in his pockets. Mr Lackersteen had
Mr Macgregor raised his hand for silence. 'What is the meaning of
this?' he shouted sternly.
There were yells, and some lumps of laterite the size of cricket
balls came sailing from the road, but fortunately hit no one. One
of the men on the path turned and waved his arms to the others,
shouting that they were not to begin throwing yet. Then he stepped
forward to address the Europeans. He was a strong debonair fellow
of about thirty, with down-curving moustaches, wearing a singlet,
with his longyi kilted to the knee.
'What is the meaning of this?' Mr Macgregor repeated.
The man spoke up with a cheerful grin, and not very insolently.
'We have no quarrel with you, min gyi. We have come for the timber
merchant, Ellis.' (He pronounced it Ellit.) 'The boy whom he
struck this morning has gone blind. You must send Ellit out to us
here, so that we can punish him. The rest of you will not be
'Just remember that fellow's face,' said Ellis over his shoulder to
Flory. 'We'll get him seven years for this afterwards.'
Mr Macgregor had turned temporarily quite purple. His rage was so
great that it almost choked him. For several moments he could not
speak, and when he did so it was in English.
'Whom do you think you are speaking to? In twenty years I have
never heard such insolence! Go away this instant, or I shall call
out the Military Police!'
'You'd better be quick, min gyi. We know that there is no justice
for us in your courts, so we must punish Ellit ourselves. Send him
out to us here. Otherwise, all of you will weep for it.'
Mr Macgregor made a furious motion with his fist, as though
hammering in a nail, 'Go away, son of a dog!' he cried, using his
first oath in many years.
There was a thunderous roar from the road, and such a shower of
stones, that everyone was hit, including the Burmans on the path.
One stone took Mr Macgregor full in the face, almost knocking him
down. The Europeans bolted hastily inside and barred the door. Mr
Macgregor's spectacles were smashed and his nose streaming blood.
They got back to the lounge to find Mrs Lackersteen looping about
in one of the long chairs like a hysterical snake, Mr Lackersteen
standing irresolutely in the middle of the room, holding an empty
bottle, the butler on his knees in the corner, crossing himself (he
was a Roman Catholic), the chokras crying, and only Elizabeth calm,
though she was very pale.
'What's happened?' she exclaimed.
'We're in the soup, that's what's happened!' said Ellis angrily,
feeling at the back of his neck where a stone had hit him. 'The
Burmans are all round, shying rocks. But keep calm! They haven't
the guts to break the doors in.'
'Call out the police at once!' said Mr Macgregor indistinctly, for
he was stanching his nose with his handkerchief.
'Can't!' said Ellis. 'I was looking round while you were talking
to them. They've cut us off, rot their damned souls! No one could
possibly get to the police lines. Veraswami's compound is full of
'Then we must wait. We can trust them to turn out of their own
accord. Calm yourself, my dear Mrs Lackersteen, PLEASE calm
yourself! The danger is very small.'
It did not sound small. There were no gaps in the noise now, and
the Burmans seemed to be pouring into the compounds by hundreds.
The din swelled suddenly to such a volume that no one could make
himself heard except by shouting. All the windows in the lounge
had been shut, and some perforated zinc shutters within, which were
sometimes used for keeping out insects, pulled to and bolted.
There was a series of crashes as the windows were broken, and then
a ceaseless thudding of stones from all sides, that shook the thin
wooden walls and seemed likely to split them. Ellis opened a
shutter and flung a bottle viciously among the crowd, but a dozen
stones came hurtling in and he had to close the shutter hurriedly.
The Burmans seemed to have no plan beyond flinging stones, yelling
and hammering at the walls, but the mere volume of noise was
unnerving. The Europeans were half dazed by it at first. None of
them thought to blame Ellis, the sole cause of this affair; their
common peril seemed, indeed, to draw them closer together for the
while. Mr Macgregor, half-blind without his spectacles, stood
distractedly in the middle of the room, yielding his right hand to
Mrs Lackersteen, who was caressing it, while a weeping chokra clung
to his left leg. Mr Lackersteen had vanished again. Ellis was
stamping furiously up and down, shaking his fist in the direction
of the police lines.
'Where are the police, the f-- cowardly sods?' he yelled, heedless
of the women. 'Why don't they turn out? My God, we won't get
another chance like this in a hundred years! If we'd only ten
rifles here, how we could slosh these b--s!'
'They'll be here presently!' Mr Macgregor shouted back. 'It will
take them some minutes to penetrate that crowd.'
'But why don't they use their rifles, the miserable sons of
bitches? They could slaughter them in bloody heaps if they'd only
open fire. Oh, God, to think of missing a chance like this!'
A lump of rock burst one of the zinc shutters. Another followed
through the hole it had made, stove in a 'Bonzo' picture, bounced
off, cut Elizabeth's elbow, and finally landed on the table. There
was a roar of triumph from outside, and then a succession of
tremendous thumps on the roof. Some children had climbed into the
trees and were having the time of their lives sliding down the roof
on their bottoms. Mrs Lackersteen outdid all previous efforts with
a shriek that rose easily above the din outside.
'Choke that bloody hag, somebody!' cried Ellis. 'Anyone'd think a
pig was being killed. We've got to do something. Flory, Macgregor,
come here! Think of a way out of this mess, someone!'
Elizabeth had suddenly lost her nerve and begun crying. The blow
from the stone had hurt her. To Flory's astonishment, he found her
clinging tightly to his arm. Even in that moment it made his heart
turn over. He had been watching the scene almost with detachment--
dazed by the noise, indeed, but not much frightened. He always
found it difficult to believe Orientals could be really dangerous.
Only when he felt Elizabeth's hand on his arm did he grasp the
seriousness of the situation.
'Oh, Mr Flory, please, please think of something! You can, you
can! Anything sooner than let those dreadful men get in here!'
'If only one of us could get to the police lines!' groaned Mr
Macgregor. 'A British officer to lead them! At the worst I must
try and go myself.'
'Don't be a fool! Only get your throat cut!' yelled Ellis. '_I_'ll
go if they really look like breaking in. But, oh, to be killed by
swine like that! How furious it'd make me! And to think we could
murder the whole bloody crowd if only we could get the police
'Couldn't someone get along the river bank?' Flory shouted
'Hopeless! Hundreds of them prowling up and down. We're cut off--
Burmans on three sides and the river on the other!'
One of those startling ideas that are overlooked simply because
they are so obvious had sprung into Flory's mind.
'The river! Of course! We can get to the police lines as easy as
winking. Don't you see?'
'Why, down the river--in the water! Swim!'
'Oh, good man!' cried Ellis, and smacked Flory on the shoulder.
Elizabeth squeezed his arm and actually danced a step or two in
glee. 'I'll go if you like!' Ellis shouted, but Flory shook his
head. He had already begun slipping his shoes off. There was
obviously no time to be lost. The Burmans had behaved like fools
hitherto, but there was no saying what might happen if they
succeeded in breaking in. The butler, who had got over his first
fright, prepared to open the window that gave on the lawn, and
glanced obliquely out. There were barely a score of Burmans on the
lawn. They had left the back of the Club unguarded, supposing that
the river cut off retreat.
'Rush down the lawn like hell!' Ellis shouted in Flory's ear.
'They'll scatter all right when they see you.'
'Order the police to open fire at once!' shouted Mr Macgregor from
the other side. 'You have my authority.'
'And tell them to aim low! No firing over their heads. Shoot to
kill. In the guts for choice!'
Flory leapt down from the veranda, hurting his feet on the hard
earth, and was at the river bank in six paces. As Ellis had said,
the Burmans recoiled for a moment when they saw him leaping down.
A few stones followed him, but no one pursued--they thought, no
doubt, that he was only attempting to escape, and in the clear
moonlight they could see that it was not Ellis. In another moment
he had pushed his way through the bushes and was in the water.
He sank deep down, and the horrible river ooze received him,
sucking him knee-deep so that it was several seconds before he
could free himself. When he came to the surface a tepid froth,
like the froth on stout, was lapping round his lips, and some
spongy thing had floated into his throat and was choking him. It
was a sprig of water hyacinth. He managed to spit it out, and
found that the swift current had floated him twenty yards already.
Burmans were rushing rather aimlessly up and down the bank,
yelling. With his eye at the level of the water, Flory could not
see the crowd besieging the Club; but he could hear their deep,
devilish roaring, which sounded even louder than it had sounded on
shore. By the time he was opposite the Military Police lines the
bank seemed almost bare of men. He managed to struggle out of the
current and flounder through the mud, which sucked off his left
sock. A little way down the bank two old men were sitting beside a
fence, sharpening fence-posts, as though there had not been a riot
within a hundred miles of them. Flory crawled ashore, clambered
over the fence and ran heavily across the moonwhite parade-ground,
his wet trousers sagging. As far as he could tell in the noise,
the lines were quite empty. In some stalls over to the right
Verrall's horses were plunging about in a panic. Flory ran out on
to the road, and saw what had happened.
The whole body of policemen, military and civil, about a hundred
and fifty men in all, had attacked the crowd from the rear, armed
only with sticks. They had been utterly engulfed. The crowd was
so dense that it was like an enormous swarm of bees seething and
rotating. Everywhere one could see policemen wedged helplessly
among the hordes of Burmans, struggling furiously but uselessly,
and too cramped even to use their sticks. Whole knots of men were
tangled Laocoon-like in the folds of unrolled pagris. There was a
terrific bellowing of oaths in three or four languages, clouds of
dust, and a suffocating stench of sweat and marigolds--but no one
seemed to have been seriously hurt. Probably the Burmans had not
used their daks for fear of provoking rifle-fire. Flory pushed his
way into the crowd and was immediately swallowed up like the
others. A sea of bodies closed in upon him and flung him from side
to side, bumping his ribs and choking him with their animal heat.
He struggled onwards with an almost dreamlike feeling, so absurd
and unreal was the situation. The whole riot had been ludicrous
from the start, and what was most ludicrous of all was that the
Burmans, who might have killed him, did not know what to do with
him now he was among them. Some yelled insults in his face, some
jostled him and stamped on his feet, some even tried to make way
for him, as a white man. He was not certain whether he was
fighting for his life, or merely pushing his way through the crowd.
For quite a long time he was jammed, helpless, with his arms pinned
against his sides, then he found himself wrestling with a stumpy
Burman much stronger than himself, then a dozen men rolled against
him like a wave and drove him deeper into the heart of the crowd.
Suddenly he felt an agonizing pain in his right big toe--someone in
boots had trodden on it. It was the Military Police subahdar, a
Rajput, very fat, moustachioed, with his pagri gone. He was
grasping a Burman by the throat and trying to hammer his face,
while the sweat rolled off his bare, bald crown. Flory threw his
arm round the subahdar's neck and managed to tear him away from his
adversary and shout in his ear. His Urdu deserted him, and he
bellowed in Burmese:
'Why did you not open fire?'
For a long time he could not hear the man's answer. Then he caught
'Hukm ne aya'--'I have had no order!'
At this moment another bunch of men drove against them, and for a
minute or two they were pinned and quite unable to move. Flory
realized that the subabdar had a whistle in his pocket and was
trying to get at it. Finally he got it loose and blew piercing
blasts, but there was no hope of rallying any men until they could
get into a clear space. It was a fearful labour to struggle our of
the crowd--it was like wading neck-deep through a viscous sea. At
times the exhaustion of Flory's limbs was so complete that he stood
passive, letting the crowd hold him and even drive him backwards.
At last, more from the natural eddying of the crowd than by his own
effort, he found himself flung out into the open. The subahdar had
also emerged, ten or fifteen sepoys, and a Burmese Inspector of
Police. Most of the sepoys collapsed on their haunches almost
falling with fatigue, and limping, their feet having been trampled
'Come on, get up! Run like hell for the lines! Get some rifles
and a clip of ammunition each.'
He was too overcome even to speak in Burmese, but the men understood
him and lopped heavily towards the police lines. Flory followed
them, to get away from the crowd before they turned on him again.
When he reached the gate the sepoys were returning with their rifles
and already preparing to fire.
'The sahib will give the order!' the subahdar panted.
'Here you!' cried Flory to the Inspector. 'Can you speak
'Then tell them to fire high, right over the people's heads. And
above all, to fire all together. Make them understand that.'
The fat Inspector, whose Hindustani was even worse than Flory's,
explained what was wanted, chiefly by leaping up and down and
gesticulating. The sepoys raised their rifles, there was a roar,
and a rolling echo from the hillside. For a moment Flory thought
that his order had been disregarded, for almost the entire section
of the crowd nearest them had fallen like a swath of hay. However,
they had only flung themselves down in panic. The sepoys fired a
second volley, but it was not needed. The crowd had immediately
begun to surge outwards from the Club like a river changing its
course. They came pouring down the road, saw the armed men barring
their way, and tried to recoil, whereupon there was a fresh battle
between those in front and those behind; finally the whole crowd
bulged outwards and began to roll slowly up the maidan. Flory and
the sepoys moved slowly towards the Club on the heels of the
retreating crowd. The policemen who had been engulfed were
straggling back by ones and twos. Their pagris were gone and their
puttees trailing yards behind them, but they had no damage worse
than bruises. The Civil Policemen were dragging a very few
prisoners among them. When they reached the Club compound the
Burmans were still pouring out, an endless line of young men
leaping gracefully through a gap in the hedge like a procession of
gazelles. It seemed to Flory that it was getting very dark. A
small white-clad figure extricated itself from the last of the
crowd and tumbled limply into Flory's arms. It was Dr Veraswami,
with his tie torn off but his spectacles miraculously unbroken.
'Ach, my friend! Ach, how I am exhausted!'
'What are you doing here? Were you right in the middle of that
'I was trying to restrain them, my friend. It was hopeless until
you came. But there is at least one man who bears the mark of
this, I think!'
He held out a small fist for Flory to see the damaged knuckles.
But it was certainly quite dark now. At the same moment Flory
heard a nasal voice behind him.
'Well, Mr Flory, so it's all over already! A mere flash in the pan
as usual. You and I together were a little too much for them--
It was U Po Kyin. He came towards them with a martial air,
carrying a huge stick, and with a revolver thrust into his belt.
His dress was a studious negligee--singlet and Shan trousers--to
give the impression that he had rushed out of his house post-haste.
He had been lying low until the danger should be over, and was now
hurrying forth to grab a share of any credit that might be going.
'A smart piece of work, sir!' he said enthusiastically. 'Look how
they are flying up the hillside! We have routed them most
'WE!' panted the doctor indignantly.
'Ah, my dear doctor! I did not perceive that you were there. It
is possible that YOU also have been in the fighting? YOU--risking
your most valuable life! Who would have believed such a thing?'
'You've taken your time getting here yourself!' said Flory angrily.
'Well, well sir, it is enough that we have dispersed them.
Although,' he added with a touch of satisfaction, for he had
noticed Flory's tone, 'they are going in the direction of the
European houses, you will observe. I fancy that it will occur to
them to do a little plundering on their way.'
One had to admire the man's impudence. He tucked his great stick
under his arm and strolled beside Flory in an almost patronizing
manner, while the doctor dropped behind, abashed in spite of
himself. At the Club gate all three men halted. It was now
extraordinarily dark, and the moon had vanished. Low overhead,
just visible, black clouds were streaming eastward like a pack of
hounds. A wind, almost cold, blew down the hillside and swept a
cloud of dust and fine water-vapour before it. There was a sudden
intensely rich scent of damp. The wind quickened, the trees
rustled, then began beating themselves furiously together, the big
frangipani tree by the tennis court flinging out a nebula of dimly
seen blossom. All three men turned and hurried for shelter, the
Orientals to their houses, Flory to the Club. It had begun