African Camp Fires eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about African Camp Fires.

XXXII.

THE BABU.

We stretched ourselves stiffly in the first gray of dawn, wondering where we could get a mouthful of breakfast.  On emerging from the station a strange and gladsome sight met our eyes—­namely, chop boxes and gun cases belonging to some sportsman not yet arrived.  Necessity knows no law; so we promptly helped ourselves to food and gun-cleaning implements.  Much refreshed, we lit our pipes and settled ourselves to wait for our delinquents.

Shortly after sunrise an Indian track inspector trundled in on a handcar propelled by two natives.  He was a suave and corpulent person with a very large umbrella and beautiful silken garments.  The natives upset the handcar off the track, and the newcomer settled himself for an enjoyable morning.  He and the babu discussed ethics and metaphysical philosophy for three solid hours.  Evidently they came from different parts of India, and their only common language was English.  Through the thin partition in the station building we could hear plainly every word.  It was very interesting.  Especially did we chortle with delight when the inspector began one of his arguments somewhat as follows:—­

“Now the two English who are here.  They possess great sums of wealth”—­F. nudged me delightedly—­“and they have weapons to kill, and much with which to do things, yet their savage minds—­”

It was plain, rank, eavesdropping, but most illuminating, thus to get at first hand the Eastern point of view as to ourselves; to hear the bloodless, gentle shell of Indian philosophy described by believers.  They discussed the most minute and impractical points, and involved themselves in the most uncompromising dilemmas.

Thus the gist of one argument was as follows:  “All sexual intercourse is sin, but the race must go forward by means of sexual intercourse; therefore the race is conceived in sin and is sinful; but it is a great sin for me, as an individual, not to carry forward the race, since the Divine Will decrees that in some way the race is necessary to it. Therefore it would seem that man is in sin whichever way you look at it—­”

“But,” interposes the inspector firmly but politely, “is it not possible that sexual sin and the sin of opposing Divine Will may be of balance in the spirit, so that in resisting one sort a man acquires virtue to commit the other without harm—­” And so on for hours.

At twelve-thirty the safari drifted in.  Consider that fact and what it meant.  The plain duty of the headman was, of course, to have seen that the men followed us in the day before.  But allowing, for the sake of argument, that this was impossible, and that the men had been forced by the exhaustion of some of their number to stop and camp, if they had arisen betimes they should have completed the journey in two hours at most.  That should have brought them in by half-past seven or eight o’clock.  But a noon arrival condemned them without the necessity of argument.  They had camped early, had risen very, very late, and had dawdled on the road.

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African Camp Fires from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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