The principle was sound; but the consequences were such as usually follow when ideas which are simple in one continent are applied in another. Any man on the frontier could have told what would come of asking the Khusru Kheyel to respect and obey Mr Grish Chunder De. It was not a matter of religion or ability, but of history. The Khusru Kheyel had had relations with the countrymen of their new Head for generations and they were not relations of respect and obedience. How there was riot and some rapid blood-letting on the border, and how the new Head resigned his office before he had taken it over, is told as a warning that there is a wrong kind of simplicity in dealing with India. It is fatal to have invented simple and embracing phrases about a country which holds more races than all Europe; has had a long and private history of its own; has been more often conquered than Great Britain; and has had every sort of experience except that of being governed according to constitutional law.
This chapter being mainly devoted to rescuing Mr Kipling from his political admirers and censors, it may be well to conclude upon his vision of the devoted civilian Scott, the hero of a tale already quoted, the man who fed the Indian babies from a herd of goats fattened on the food which the starving people of the Deccan distrusted and refused. Scott appears in that story at sunset, delectable and humane, sneezing in the dust of a hundred little feet, “a god in a halo of gold dust, walking slowly at the head of his flocks, while at his knee ran small naked cupids.”
Clearly there is something wrong with the popular habit of regarding Mr Kipling as essentially concerned with the carving of men to the “nasty noise of beef-cutting on the block.” His “god in a halo of gold dust” seriously discourages any attempt to brand him with the mark of the reverting carnivor.
From Simla we have come down to the plains and the work of the English in Imperial India. Thence we pass to India herself. Concerning native India Mr Kipling’s principle thesis—a thesis illustrated with point and competency in many excellent tales—is that for the people of the West there can be no such thing as the real India—only here and there an understanding that wavers and frequently expires. Mr Kipling does not insolently explain that India is thus and thus. He allows the impression to grow upon us, as once it grew upon himself, that in India all the settled ways of the West are insecure, that at any moment we may be looking into the House of Suddhu.
“A stone’s throw
out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange:
Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
Shall bear us company to-night,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the Powers of Darkness range.”