Such is the man I am with to-day. His house is beautifully situated, overlooking a deep ravine, full of noble pine-trees, and surrounded by rhododendrons. The verandah is gay with geraniums and tall servants in Imperial red deeply encrusted with gold. Within, all is very respectable and nice, only the man is—not exactly vile, but certainly imperfect in a somewhat conspicuous degree. With the more attractive forms of sin he has no true sympathy. I can strike no concord with him on this umbrageous side of nature. I am seriously shocked to discover this, for he affects infirmity; but his humanity is weak. In his character I perceive the perfect animal outline, but the colour is wanting; the glorious sunshine, the profound glooms of humanity are not there.
Such a man is dangerous; he decoys you into confidences. Even Satan cannot respect a sinner of this complexion,—a sinner who is only fascinated by the sinfulness of sin. As for my poor host, I can see that he has never really graduated in sin at all; he has only sought the degree of sinner honoris causa. I am sure that he never had enough true vitality or enterprise to sin as a man ought to sin, if he does sin. [Of course a man ought not to sin; and the nobler sort try to reduce their sinning to a minimum; but when they do sin I hold that they sin like men. (I have heard it said that a man should sin like a gentleman; but I am much disposed to think that the gentleman nature appears in the non-sinning lucid intervals.)] When I speak of sin I will be understood to mean the venial offences of prevarication and sleeping in church. I am not thinking of sheep-stealing or highway robbery. My clever friend’s work consists chiefly in reducing files of correspondence on a particular subject to one or two leading thoughts. Upon these he casts the colour of his own opinions, and submits the subjective product to the Secretary or Member of Council above him for final orders. His mind is one of the many dense and refractive mediums through which the Government of India looks out upon India.
From time to time he is called upon to write a minute or a note on some given subject, and then it is that his thoughts and words expand freely. He feels bound to cover an area of paper proportionate to his own opinion, of his own importance; he feels bound to introduce a certain seasoning of foreign words and phrases; and he feels bound to create, if the occasion seems in any degree to warrant it, one of those cock-eyed, limping, stammering epigrams which belong exclusively to the official humour of Simla. [In writing thus, the figure of another Secretariat official rises before me with reproachful looks. I see the thought-worn face of that Secretary to whom the Rajas belong, and who is, in every particular, a striking contrast with the typical person whose portrait I sketch. The Secretary in the Foreign Department is a scholar and a man of letters by instinct. Whatever he writes is something more than correct and precise—it is impressed with the sweep and cadence of the sea; it is rhythmical, it is sonorous.]