My Lord is deeply stirred. He believes the Asian mystery has been solved. He returns to Government House and gives vent to his overwrought feelings in smoke—Parascho cigarettes; then he telegraphs himself to sleep. Dreams sweep over him, issuing from the fabled gates of shining ivory.
Meanwhile the Gryphon speeds on, yearning like a god in pain for his far-away aphelion in Kabul. Morning bashfully overtakes him; and the train dances into stations festooned with branches of olive and palm. A feu-de-joie of champagne corks is fired; special correspondents in clean white trousers enliven the scene; Baron Reuter’s ubiquitous young man turns on rapturous telegrams; and a faint smile dawns darkly on the Gryphon’s scorn-worn face.
Merrily shrieks the whistling engine as the Punjab comes sliding down, the round world to welcome its curled darling. It spurns with contemptuous piston the vulgar corn-growing provinces of Couper; it seeks the fields that are sown with dragon’s teeth; it hisses forward with furious joy, like the flaming chariot of some Heaven-booked Prophet. Already Egerton anticipates its welcome advent. He can hardly sit still on his pro-consular throne; he smiles in dockets and demi-officials; he walks up and down his alabaster halls, and out into his gardens of asphodel, and snuffs the air. It is redolent with some rare effluvium; pomatum-laden winds breathe across the daffadown dillies from the warm chambers of the south. A cloud crosses His Honour’s face, a summer cloud dissolving into sunshine. “It is the pomade of Saul:—but it is our own glorious David whose unctuous curls carry the Elysian fragrance.” Then taking up his harp and dancing an ecstatic measure, he sings—
“He is coming,
my Gryphon, my swell;
Were it ever so laden with care,
My heart would know him, and smell
The grease in his coal-black hair.”
The whole of the Punjab is astir. Deputy Commissioners, and Extra Assistant Commissioners, and Kookas, and Sikhs, and Mazhabi-Sikhs crowd the stations; but the Gryphon passes fiercely onwards. The light of battle is now in his eye; he is in uniform; a political sword hangs from his divine waist; a looking-glass poses itself before him. Life burns wildly in his heart: time throbs along in hot seconds; Eternity unfolds around her far-receding horizons of glory.
The train emits telegrams as it hurls itself forward: “the Gryphon is well:—he is in the presence of his Future:—History watches him:—he is drinking a peg:—the Civil and Military Gazette has caught a glimpse of him:—glory, glory, glory, to the Gryphon, the mock turtle is his wash-pot, over Lyall will he cast his shoe.”
Earthquakes are felt all along the line from Peshawar to Kabul. Strings of camels laden with portmanteaus stretch from the rising to the setting sun. The whole of the Guides and Bengal Cavalry have resolved themselves into orderlies, and are riding behind the Gryphon. Tens of thousands of insurgents are lining the road and making holiday to see the Gryphon pass.