When I first came out to this country I was placed in charge of three degrees of latitude and eight of longitude in Rajputana that I might learn the language. The soil was sandy, the tenure feudal (zabardast,[I] as we call it in India), and the Raja a lunatic by nature and a dipsomaniac by education. He had been educated by his grandmamma and the hereditary Minister. I found that his grandmamma and the hereditary Minister were most anxious to relieve me of the most embarrassing details of government, so I handed them a copy of the Ten Commandments, underlining two that I thought might be useful, and put them in charge. They were old-fashioned in their methods—like Sir Billy Jones; but the result was admirable. In two years the revenue was reduced from ten to two lakhs of rupees, and the expenditure proportionately increased. A bridge, a summer-house, and a school were built; and I wrote the longest “Administration Report” that has ever issued from the Zulmabad Residency. When I left money was so cheap and lightly regarded that I sold my old buggy horse for two thousand rupees to grandmamma, with many mutual expressions of good-will—through a curtain—and I have not been paid to this day. But since then the horse-market has been ruined in the native states by these imperial melas[J] and durbars. A poor Political has no chance against these Government of India people, who come down with strings of three-legged horses, and—no, I won’t say they sell them to the chiefs—I should be having a commission of my khidmatgars[K] sitting upon me, like poor Har Sahai, who was beaten by Mr. Saunders, and Malhar Rao Gaikwar, who fancied his Resident was going to poison him.
I like to see a Political up at Simla wooing that hoyden Promotion in her own sequestered bower. It is good to see Hercules toiling at the feet of Omphale. It is good to see Pistol fed upon leeks by Under-Secretaries and women. How simple he is! How boyish he can be, and yet how intense! He will play leap frog at Annandale; he will paddle about in the stream below the water-falls without shoes and stockings; but if you allude in the most distant way to rajas or durbars, he lets down his face a couple of holes and talks like a weather prophet. He will be so interesting that you can hardly bear it; so interesting that you will feel sorry he is not talking to the Governor-General up at Peterhoff.
[But I feel that an Agent to the Governor-General is looking over my shoulder, so perhaps I had better stop; though I know two or three things about Politicals.]—SIR ALI BABA, K.C.B.[L]
WITH THE COLLECTOR
[October 4, 1879.]
Was it not the Bishop of Bombay who said that man was an automaton plus the mirror of consciousness? The Government of every Indian province is an automaton plus the mirror of consciousness. The Secretariat is consciousness, and the Collectors form the automaton. The Collector works, and the Secretariat observes and registers.