Yet sometimes a murmur rises like a summer zephyr even from the soft lap of luxury and ease. Even the hardened criminal, dandled on the knee of a patriarchal Government, will sometimes complain and try to give the Doctor trouble. But the Doctor has a specific—a brief incantation that allays every species of inflammatory discontent. “Look here, my man! If I hear any more of this infernal nonsense, I’ll turn you out of the gaol neck and crop.” This is a threat that never fails to produce the desired effect. To be expelled from gaol and driven, like Cain, into the rude and wicked world, a wanderer, an outcast—this would indeed be a cruel ban. Before such a presentiment the well-ordered mind of the criminal recoils with horror.
The Civil Surgeon is also a rain doctor, and takes charge of the Imperial gauge. If a pint more or a pint less than usual falls, he at once telegraphs this priceless gossip to the Press Commissioner, Oracle Grotto, Delphi, Elysium. This is one of our precautions to guard against famine. Mr. Caird is the other.
[I was once in a very small station where our Civil Surgeon was an Eurasian. He was a pompous little fellow, but a capital doctor, gaoler, and metereologist.
“Omnis Aristippum decint, color et status, et res.”
We liked him so much that we all got ill; crime increased, the gaol filled, and no one ever passed the rain-gauge without either emptying it or pouring in a brandy-and-soda. With women and children he was a great favourite; for he had not become brutalised by familiarity with suffering in hospitals. His heart was still tender, his voice soft, and he had a gentle way with his hands. I never knew anyone who was so unwilling to inflict pain; yet he was not unnerved when it had to be done. But, poor little physician! he was not able to cure himself when fever laid her hot hand on him. He tried to go on with his work and live it down; but the recuperative forces of Nature were weak within him, and he died. “The good die first, and those whose hearts are dry as summer dust burn to the socket.” Our cow-buffalo doctor is still alive, I fear.]—ALI BABA, K.C.B.
[November 29, 1879.]
I have come out to spend a day in the jungle with him, to see him play on his own stage. His little flock of white tents has flown many a march to meet me, and have now alighted at this accessible spot near a poor hamlet on the verge of cultivation. I feel that I have only to yield myself for a few days to its hospitable importunities and it will waft me away to profound forest depths, to the awful penetralia of the bison and the tiger. Even here everything is strange to me; the common native has become a Bheel, the sparrowhawk an eagle, the grass of the field a vast, reedy growth in which an elephant becomes a mere field mouse. Out of the leaves come strange bird-notes, a strange silence broods over us; it is broken by strange rustlings and cries; it closes over us again strangely. Nature swoons in its glory of sunshine and weird music; it has put forth its powers in colossal timber and howling beasts of prey; it faints amid little wild flowers, fanned by breezes and butterflies.