The Beluchistan League
A Most Original Baseball Story
Allen C. Shore
A SHORT distance south of the border of Afghanistan, in Beluchistan, was a mine from which a soft, shaly, lignite coal was dug. This coal was then compacted into briquettes and used on the Government railways, thereby saving a long and expensive haul from the coal pits of Bengal. It was very difficult stuff tb mine. On account of its extreme friableness timbers could not be used for support of its workings, and much ingenuity had to be employed, walls of bags, made out of tough cactus leaves, filled with pit dumpage, being built as stays. That, however, was but one of the difficulties of the situation. The labor available was one of the oddest assortments of humanity ever assembled — Beluchis, Pathans, and a dozen breeds, half, and quarter breeds, that flourish in that strange land.
When to these factors in the problem were added the perils of battle, murder, and extremely sudden death from raiding invaders, it may be seen that there were the Massachusetts Yankee. The years immediately preceding 1914 were quite brisk ones in the hills. Afghan tribes are ceaselessly feeling with furtive hands along the Border fence, seeking weak places through which they might break profitably, lifting cattle, guns, ammunition, and women, and destroying the evil works of the Unbeliever. During these years there had been quite an influx of holy men into Afghanistan, German born and bred, who came along from Constantinople, travelling along the southern shores of the Black and Caspian Seas, and working their way into Northern Afghanistan. Others of them followed the new Baghdad route, swinging east through Persia, and trickling over the line where Persia, Afghanistan, and Beluchistan touch : An historic land, swept by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Khubla Khan, Tamerlane, and the great Caliphs, and destined again in the immediate future to wake from its long slumber, and play once more distinguished part in the history of the race. Through this land, whose people are first-class fighting people and the fiercest of Mahommedan fanatics, the emissaries of the Kaiser went, preaching the coming downfall of the British Empire in India, and stirring up the zeal of the natives to play their part, and gain the profits, in the great overthrow that was to come.
AS this, in the main, is Carswell’s story, it is necessary to explain how he came into the hill land of Beluchistan. It is a rather regrettable relation, in some of its details, particularly in these days of dryness, but it is truthful. The happening was something after this fashion. Bill was a native of Stogumber in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and he said that while Stogumber might be all right for those who liked such places, it lacked the precise shade of color and degree of picturesqueness his soul craved. Drabs and browns and greys had never appealëd violently or even alluringly to him. He was an engineer, and all Stogumber’s engineering was connected with punching a time clock, and fooling over the same old kind of jobs. He wanted to know why the world had been made so various. He was not a man to poke about places like Stogumber all his days, with nothing in prospect at the finish but a cemetery plot, with “His end was peace” on the tombstone. Wise folks told him that rolling stones gather no moss, but he replied that moss was the very last thing on his list of desirable acquisitions.
Now and again in the ten years that followed he went home. If he had transportation funds and facilities he managed to arrive in time for the World’s Baseball Series, then went on to Stogumber to make quite sure that his earlier judgment had not been at fault. He found his ex-girls married, his pals running to double chins and snugly drawing vests and settled down to clock punching, or mugging from nine to five in an office or shop. So Bill Carswell always thanked God he was still master of his soul and pulled out joyously on the long trail again.
It was in Karachi, near the spot where the lordly Indus makes his multifarious marriages with the Arabian Sea, that he met Jim Winstanley. Jim came from Wigan, in Lancashire, a quiet, competent, masterful man, in his own world, easy to get on with, and a born native administrator. An earthquake could not stir him. All the troubles of that troublous land, amalgamated in a mass rush, would find him rock-like on his feet, and when the whirlwind was past, and the dust settled down, Jim would still be somewhere there or thereabouts. Jim was not only superintendent of the Government mines, but father, mother,, lord and master of a horde of the least manageable natives the world could assemble. He had come down to Hyderabad to see a missionary friend, and thence had passed on to Karachi to attend to some business.
The night was furnace hot, so the reader must make charitable allowances. When a man has spent many lonely months on a Beluchistan coal dump, the solitary white among an extremely native populace, one should not scrutinize too severely his one night’s relaxation in near-civilization. Jim was a sound, good chap, and there was nothing wicked in his ease-taking, but he was sociable, and, as I have said, Karachi was like the mouth of the pit.
SOMETHING of the same latitude should be accorded to one who had existed for the greater part of a year in a sweating, hot-oil stinking engine room of a tramp steamer, swashing round the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. This had been Bill’s recent manner of life. At Karachi his engagement was up, so he decided to have a look at India, and add another tube of color to the stock from which he was painting life’s canvas. There he met Jim Winstanley, also suffering from heat, ennui, and the efforts to alleviate both. Their beverages induced controversy. They discussed quite a number of live, controversial topics—the Revolutionary War, who licked and was licked in 1812, and so forth. Jim taunted Bill with some details regarding the Spanish War, Bill retorting with pungent observations on the Boer fracas. Bill laid it down that Ty Cobb was the best hitter, base runner, all-round everything else on the diamond that the world had ever seen. Jim denied it on principle, admitting that while the Cobb chap wrote some good tales, he was no good at the bat, or as a runner. Things were looking dark when an amiable fat man, who spoke English Teutonically, started in to pour oil on the troubled waters, whereupon both turned on him wrathfully, demanding the instant production of his license, as a German, to butt in between bosom friends.
“You've got to come with me,” said Jim firmly, so they strolled into the street arm in arm.
“Surest thing you know,” replied Bill. “Get a taxi right off.” And, leaning against a post, he did his best to whistle.
“Disgraceful thing, no taxis. Make complaint,” said Jim sadly. “No, perhaps better not. Taxis all gone to fetch nice, lil' gals from theatres. Wouldn’t take taxis from nice, lil’ gals, and make ’em walk, and get their nice, lil’, teeny-weeny feet all tired. No, sir! You and me
And, with this chivalrous resolve, they made the attempt, which was not good.
“Toss, subway or ’levated,” suggested Bill. The spun coin jingled on the sidewalk, and rolled playfully out of sight.
“Leave it for chambermaid,” said Jim, and they agreed.
It is an excellent rule in India not to pick up casual acquaintances, but the rule has exceptions. Between engineers there is a kind of freemasonry, and, in this instance, little was left to chance. Jim needed an assistant. He wired to Bombay next morning, Carswell was investigated and approved by cable, and the day after the two went north to their kingdom.
THE Winstanley bungalow stood on a terraced plateau, midway down the bare hillside. The mines were below in the valley. To the north, not far away, ran the southern border of Afghanistan, westward lay Persia. At the back of the estate the road ran south to Kelat, north to Quetta, thence on to Kandahar and Kabul— the town of sun and dust.
A desolate, verdureless land it is of arid sand and sunscorched rocks; a land of browns and blacks, canopied in the daytime by a sky of intense blue, and, with the setting sun, a riot of brilliant colors, infinite in their shades and tones of unimaginable beauty. Over the bare, staring hills, Sphinxlike in their air of contemplation and challenge, a restless spirit ever broods. Its quiet is never slumberous, but rather the intent stillness of the ambuscade’s watcher. In its most silent moment one feels the glance of the ever watching eye. A hair-trigger land, its inhabitants are hair-trigger people. When the Big War is over, and the eastern curtains lifted, there will be stirring stories to be told of Borderland intrigue and its results during an epochal year or two.
There will be the tale of the seven great raids, Prussian inspired, into the southland, that followed the withdrawal of Tommy, the kilted Jock and Johnny Gurka. It required time for the territorial who took their place to catch on, and in the schooling process there were thrilling incidents.
There is a story, too, of the surprise new guns, that took the place of the old mountain batteries and screw guns, and the introduction of the Pathan ambusher to the new explosive T. N. T. Then again, the awed tribesmen tell weird stories of great birds that fly with amazing swiftness, carrying devils on their backs, and drop terrible eggs in their flight. And there is the tale of Lahore, and the narrow shave it had.
Truly a hair-trigger land, with hairtrigger people, and in 1914, and the months that led up to the epochal date, hair-trigger times!
DOSANQUET, of the Political Service, who used to drop in now and again, kept Winstanley and Bill posted, as well as he could, on happenings over the line. He would have had a guard sent, had the two men asked for or desired one. With the mines put out of commission by raiders, and the wild men of the hills not lacking for skilled agents to help them along, there might arise very serious transport difficulties in important emergencies. On the other hand, any sign of fear might precipitate the evils they desired to guard against. A small guard would be of no use to ward off the mischief that might bf l?ne in the Pits by any of the thousand workers who entered and left them on the various shifts. It seemed to the two white overlords the safest plan to keep a cool head, a reasonably close watch on the men, and a careful eye on the comings and goings of po2S*b e tr°uble makers.
\h-er® is no doubt that the Mullah of Heshwar was the.bane of the gay young lives of Jim and Bill. He was a sort of itinerant minister, a missionary, a circuit-rider, who visited the mine colony from time M> time to administer spiritual ginger and tonics. He was a cocky, old bird, with a sly, impudent, malicious look on his ancient bearded countenance. There was that in his face, when he met the white sahibs, that said, plain as any words :
“I know you’d love to run me out of town, but you don’t dare. It would not be policy, so I come and go, and make all the fuss and trouble for you I damn well please. Yah, dogs of unbelievers!”
Metaphorically he put his grimy thumb to his hooked nose, and twiddled his fincontinued calmly and systematically to poke up the pious hatred of the true believers.
“He drifts along,” explained Jim to his associate, “on a sort of hit-the-trail revival mission, once in every so often, when the folks show signs of being mg reasonably content, the old blighter arrives, and gives them beans for backsliding, exhorting them to meritorious ootings and murders. The old buck knows the Government objects to providIree haloes for his kind of saints, so he has a lot of room to splash round in. ve cudgelled my brains to know how to even up on the old hornet, but to no purP°se' It must not be force, or anything that can be twisted into interference with his preachments. Any fool could rush him, but our line is different. We’ve got to queer him with his own folks. They’re big kids, and if we could get them to make him the goat, trouble would pack up and quit here. At present we hold by white man s prestige. If we showed the trace of fear going round they’d be on us like thousand of bricks.”
DILL was a democratic soul, and it grated on him to be met everywhere with a sullen half-hostility. He was in closer touch with the men than even Jim, ÏÏ1? direct boss of the workings, while Winstanley had the oversight of everything. There could be no approach to friendliness that would not be misunderstood by the men whose friendship he desired to make so he had to wait for luck to throw something his way. The first bit of luck came one day, while he was exploring a distant part of the workings with his native understrapper, Shere Din, a big Pathan headman. There was a swift slide of the shaly coal that buried them both. Bill, by sheer good luck, managed to work himself free, and then he pitched in, and after a great effort, dug his companion out. Shere Din was rather mashed up. A leg was broken, he was half suffocated and there was enough coal dust inside him to pay for mining. However, Bill managed to bring him round and then lugged him to the foot of the shaft, and brought him up, a going concern, though much the worse for wear. To kill a Pathan one has to do it in sections.
Shere Din was really grateful. He quoted the Koran appositely, intimated that henceforth Bill was to be regarded as his highly esteemed brother, and that anybody who wished to die painfully could achieve his ambition readily by making himself unpleasant to Carswell Sahib.
After this there was a change in the popular regard, not by any means ostentations or fussy, but sufficient for both the white men to perceive it. The ice was broken, and prospects were brighter.
CTRICTLY speaking, it could not be . called an inspiration. A hard, chunky piece of rock, propelled by a vigorous young arm, smiting in its rapid career a fat little man in the small of the back, can scarcely be thus denominated. As Bill saw it, the fat little man, arrayed in little more than turban and breech-clout, felt aggrieved by some personal observations addressed to him by the slim, mischievous lad. Bill, as yet, was not deeply versed in the Pushto vernacular, but he understood enough to grasp that the boy was characterising rather coarsely the man’s tubbiness. Fat men, all the world over, are apt to be touchy on the subject of their plumpness, and this member of the club grabbed the lad, cuffed him satisfactorily, and proceeded on his way. There was fire in the young Pathan’s eyes, extreme wrath on his visage. He shouted some more compliments after his assailant, and then threw the rock. It caught the fat little man, as has been said, in the small of the back. He squealed, then roared, cursing the kid, his remote ancestors, his prospective progeny. The lad, hearing a suppressed chuckle behind him, turned and saw Carswell Sahib. Whereupon he fled like the wind, making a headlong dive into the doorway of one of the stone huts.
Bill went on his way. Inspiration had come to him. “I’ve got it,” he said to Jim, after dinner that evening. “Got what?” the other asked, fussing with his pipe stem. “What’s on these poor, unfortunate blighters’ minds is monotony, hopeless monotony, the lack of color, pep, in their daily lives. They feel like I felt down in Stogumber,” explained Bill. “You know how it is in jail?”
“Not yet,” answered Jim. “Luck’s been with me so far.”
“But you’ve read about those prisonreforming ginks?” asked Bill. “They get up things for the birds—concerts, sports, bridge parties, and Old Home Weeks. They’ve got the right pig by the tail. Vary the monotony of oakum picking and broaden the man’s spirit. We are all the same kind of folk, down at the roots— white, black, and intermediate shades.” And he narrated the tale of the fat man, the hard rock, and the agency by which one was introduced to the other.
“I’ve seen the own brother of that kid selling papers in New York City, playing ball on sand lots, and nicking apples off the fruit stall while Giuseppe was smiling his winningest to some lady customer,” said Bill.
“And the whip of him!” he went on. “He had that brick scooped up and into the small of the chocolate coon’s back in one slick sweep, neat as Rabbit Maranville could have done it. And the way he lit out for the home plate! And the slide across ! He was like a little thunderbolt in half mourning. This is going to be a baseball town, Jimmy. We’re going to put the skids under the Mullah of Heshwar and his Holy War Jehads. We’ll make old Xerxes and Cyrus, from over beyond, wish they hadn’t died so soon, and coax Omar Khayam to leave his tree shade, and bring his jug and girl to the bleachers, where he can holler for the home talent, and take pot shots at the umpire.”
LUCK was with Bill, for he managed to get an outfit in Bombay—bats, balls, mitts, mask, and the rest of the paraphernalia. With the preparation of the ground, the East turned in its sleep, if not in Matthew Arnold’s disdain, with something approaching wakefulness. It was a spot to discourage any but the invincible optimist. Rocks and sand it was with precious little sand—but Bill went to it. Presently the worst of the jags were taken out, and it looked less like a harrow with the teeth turned upside, though sliding would be a fearsome business without a coat of mail.
The whole town turned out to see the diamond marked, standing well back of the whitewashed lines for fear of some spell being laid upon them.
It was magic, the mob decided after much whispering and gesticulating, but whether good or evil magic did not yet appear. Some suggested it was a spell to bar evil spirits from approaching the mines, others that it was a strange temple for the Infidel to worship his gods in.
The wiser hinted that it had something to do with the tales that were being whispered in the hills, of great events that were coming, war, and the driving of the English into the sea. This was doubtless some preparation, for the English were very stubborn and truly they had curious and terrible weapons.
When the marking was finished, Bill produced a couple of white balls, and began to toss them to Winstanley Sahib, who caught them deftly, and flung them back. • Assuredly that, too, was magic, or why should the great white lords so act? It must be the conjuring of the English, but of a truth, it was not very wonderful. The Carswell Sahib was not very clever, for now and again he let the ball slip away from him, to be pounced upon, after fearful hesitation, by the bolder spirits. Presently a number of the more adventurous youths joined in the game of catching the ball, and for many days this strange sport drew the town.
THEN Bill produced another marvel. The plot was developing. This time the surprise was a splendid, shiny, varnished bat. Bill scattered the players about the country, and began hitting the ball out to them. It was wonderful, and the crowd went wild with merriment. Up and down the magic line strode Shere Din, in great authority and pride.
“Stand back! Stand back, ye people ! Do not come across the white line lest the magic ball, smitten by the Sahib do evil to you.
“Aie! can’st thou see, Dost Mahomed, that it has descended on the nose of Yussuf, causing much blood to flow?” “Aie! Ai—e! Lo, it has struck the belly of Abdur very fiercely. Truly a very devil of a ball!”
The process of teaching the rules was a long one, requiring patience and practice, but the people were keen and apt. Shere Din made a close study of the game, under Bill’s tuition, and his explanations were lucidity itself.
“Behold, and hearken unto me, who understand the law of the magic ball and stick!” he proclaimed to a respectfully attentive gathering. “The just ball that goeth over the piece of iron on the ground, is one that must be smitten, or the cadi will adjudge it St—tr—ike. The other ball that doth pot go
over the iron is also just, but need not be smitten, is called Ba—al. The unjust ball that being smitten goes to an unlawful place is called Fo—ill! Likewise the unjust ball that smitteth the body of the stickman, of this the cadi saith Take Base! and the smitten man goeth to the first little bag that lieth on the ground. And there is the ball, that being smitten, flieth like a bird, and doth permit the smiter to flee to the bag on the ground, and, arriving there before the ball, he findeth safety, with great joy.
“And when he hath compassed the four little bags, in spite of the tricks of the magic ball and the players who wish the smiter evil things, he hath acquired the merit of a run, and his fellows accord him praise with smitings on the back, as one who hath returned from the fight with much booty and many women.
“And there in the centre of the magic place is the cadi, the fat man from Bengal, who writes strange characters with the pen, in the company’s offices. He is a man of naught, being from the plains, but he hath made a great study of the law of the magic ball. It is he who declareth the law, but he findeth little favor with the players, who cry, when he hath spoken, strange words of the English, as uttered by Winstanley Sahib and Carswell Sahib, the words being: Oh, Punk! and Oh, Rot— ten, Rot—ten! Which signifieth that the fat man from Bengal is unjust, a thief and a liar, fit but for the carrion of the hills, that the evil birds devour.
“And there is also the strange cry of Carswell Sahib, in extreme anguish, because of the injustice of the fat writing man from Bengal: Oh, for a Pop Bot— tie!”
“At first,” continued Shere Dm. I would have removed the fat man from Bengal, who is as carrion, and have slain him, for he runs but slowly, and has great fear in his heart. But is not Carswell Sahib our Lord, whom to disobey is a great evil? And hath not Carswell Sahib delivered me, Shere Din, from death, when the coal fell upon me in the pit? And the Sahib was merciful, and bade me spare the man. ‘For, lo!’saith the Sahib. ‘Even he, the fat man from Bengal, is as God hath made him.’ Which is true and pious, though the Sahib is but an Infidel.”
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Continued from page 21
But the crowning mystery was when Winstanley put on mask and pad, to assume the duties of catcher.
“Behold!” said Shere Din, explaining his thought of the matter. “Carswell Sahib placed the head of Winstanley Sahib in a cage of iron, and arrayed him in a strange coat, and put on his hand a mighty glove, like the gloves the Sahibs use when they battle like young bucks in the Springtime, smiting each other on the head and body very swiftly and fiercely, only this glove was far more great and terrible. We thought that Winstanley Sahib had done some evil, or that Carswell Sahib hath made war to take away from Winstanley Sahib the over-lordship of the Mines. But this is not so. The cage for the head, and the coat for the belly are to protect the body of the Sahib from being smitten by the magic ball.
“And sometimes the ball is smitten, and the player doth run, and there are other strange cries, as spoken by the Sahibs. Sli—ide! You damn bone-edd, sli—ide! and also Oh misbegotten one! Wherefore didst thou not touch the little bag? and O, thou whelp of the devil, wherefore hast thou the fingers that are of butter when the weather is hot?
“But they ever return to the misdeeds of the fat man from Bengal, cursing him greatly for his rottenness, and the fat man brings forth the book tremblingly, showing it to the Sahibs, who are compassionate, for who may know the purpose of Allah in the things he hath 'made? There is the wolf and tiger and snake, and also the fat man from Bengal.”
“It’s just like the Polo Grounds, when the Giants and Cubs are scrapping it out, with Byron and John McGraw in form,” said Bill, when he had rescued the Bengal unfortunate for the tenth time, magnanimously ordering that no violence be done to him, despite his iniquities.
\VTHEN things were in good working 'V order, and the streets were unsafe owing to sunburnt Walter Johnsons practising their fast ones, and lacking control, Bill decided on a Town League. There were too many players for one or two teams, and all had to be put to work, so a League it had to be. He called a great Palaver, and made a mighty address, Shere Din and Jim doing the translating.
A great honor had come to the town, it had been put on the baseball map. No other town in India had a League, explained Bill. Baseball was the sport of the great of the earth. The Emperor of India went to see the game when he got the chance. The chief of the American land sorrowed heavily wheft affairs of State prevented him from sitting on the bleachers and rebuking severely the rottenness of the cadi, and crying Oh Punk! The great players who excelled in skill received large sums of money, the people bowed down before them, garlands of flowers were placed about their necks, precious stones, shining like suns, were given them to wear on their chests, and carriages that ran without horses were bestowed upon them.
So here in the Beluchistan League there would be great honors bestowed on those who excelled. The team that won would receive a flag of great magnificence. The players who belonged to it would have a gold medal to be hung about the neck. But greatest of all, two titles of honor would be given to the players who attained supremest skill. He who smote with the stick most successfully, would receive the title, Ti—Kob!
And he who propelled the ball best would have given him the dignity of Mat—tit
And so with a great clatter of tongues the new league was organized.
“The Mullah’s name’s Mud,” announced Bill, when he got home from the meeting. “There isn’t a town in the States as ratty on baseball as this rock dump in Central
DINNER was over. The two Sahibs left the lighted dining-room and sought a pleasantly dark corner of the veranda for cigars. Bill was still greatly worked up over the success of his scheme.
“Don’t you be too sure about the Mullah,” said Jim. “He won’t take it lying down. There’s grit enough in the old buck to make a pair of grindstones.” “He’s licked so bad he won’t poke his whiskers over the line till the Millenium comes,” declared Bill.
There was a singing whine, something like a bee’s flitting hum, and a bullet whacked the light framework of the dining-room window, and plunked into the woodwork of the further wall. Both men sat up startled. Then Jim laughed.
“There’s the old chap’s indignant retort. The Mullah’s back on the job again,” he said. “Rather neat visiting card, eh? The bullet means that, speaking as man to man, the old chap’s feelings are hurt by your new-fangled weapons. Not much good hunting the blighter’s nest out this time of night. I’ve tumbled over enough rocks, stretching out base hits on that Mount Everest diamond of yours, to last awhile.”
“Guess I did speak too soon,” grinned Bill. “Wonder if he means to keep 01 being snappy like that? For I want t( go to bed.”
“Not he,” replied Jim. “It’s a dignifiei hint that he’s got a kick left in him still.’
There was no more shooting, and thi men went to bed. The sound of the sho was reported to them next morning by thi mine watchmen, but neither made ani fuss about it.
T ATE in the afternoon, Bosanquet up to pay a call, and spent the night.
“How’s the rounders tournament pro gressing, Bill?” he enquired affably ovei a peg of something refreshing.
“Rounders, you slanderous ingrate!’ exclaimed that worthy. “Baseball has done and is doing more for this strip oj the border, than all the polo and cricketplaying political officers in the depart-
“Shouldn’t be surprised,” concédée Bosanquet. “A man never knows whal crazy notion catches on with the Pathan mind. But, old dear, just wait till the Mullah comes along. The old chap’s some pitcher when he gets his arm in working order.”
“We had a message from him last night, wireless special,” said Jim. "Come and have a look at his card.”
“Which means, being interpreted, that he accepts the challenge, and, if intentions go any way, he’ll break up your game so that you won’t be able to find the pieces.” And Bosanquet examined the Jezail slug with interest. “I heard he was heading this way on one, of his episcopal visitations. He’ll hold back a day or two, after handing his card in, just to make the formal alibi good, and give you time for reflection. I am told there is another chap patrolling the beat with him, fellow all the way from Arabia and the grand pilgrimage, with all the latest tips on Jehads, and much palaver about the great Caliph in Berlin, who has abjured the Christian faith, and is yearning for the release of his brethren from British oppression. From what I’ve heard, I believe he’s got his knife into your baseball stunt, Bill, and means to puncture it beyond repair. Joking apart, how’s the pulse of the town?”
“Pulse normal. Patient taking his food regularly,” replied Bill.
“Well, I think it’s real business this time,” said Bosanquet. “We have had lots of alarms, and fizzy little wars, but we are going to be put through the big test, biggest since the Mutiny. The Ameer of Afghanistan has been tried high, tempted with all manner of bribes, cash, territory and glory, but he stands fast, and will stand, I believe. The native princes are staunch to the last man. They have pretty near broken the Kaiser’s heart, after all the windy paper talk about India seething with sedition. The native soldiery is what we know it to be, first-grade, not only in ability but loyalty. There will be Border trouble, though, on a big scale, and we shall not be over well equipped to meet it. If war breaks out in Europe, as seems certain, the old army men will be withdrawn, and we’ll have to depend on territorials, who are game enough but don’t know the rules of border fighting. How about you boys here? Can you hold your crowd? They will be tried high. That’s what the Mullah and his curate are after and, if they can do mischief with the mines, we’ll have our transport tied up awkwardly.” “I think we can hold our own,” said Winstanley thoughtfully. “If you sent I soldiers they might help repel an outside attack, but they would be useless and worse than useless unless we closed down \ the mines, for any damage that would be done by inside agents.”
“And you can’t close them down,” answered Bosanquet. “We’ll want every pound of stuff you can get out.”
“The men are all right,” interposed Bill. “There’s Shere Din. He’s the king pin, and for us from the word go. The young men are staunch, and they’ll pull the rest of the crowd. We’re ready for a show down any time.”
“The Mullah says this new sport is an evil invention, a damnable soul-destroying invention of the devil, concocted in his laboratory in the bottomless pit,” grinned Bosanquet.
“He does, does be?” snorted Bill violent-
“That’s only part. And Bosanquet helped himself again to the stuff in the tantalus. “He says the prophet who is with him has visited America, and has seen the infernal influence of baseball on popular morals, which are quite deplorable. Better keep your eye peeled, old
“I’ll fix his clock for him,” threatened Bill. “Been in the States, has he? Well, he can try to bust up the British Empire if he wants, but if he comes this way, knocking baseball, he’ll get into trouble.”
SURE enough the Mullah came to town, with his assistant, and got down to work without any preliminary warming up. They kept out of the white men’s sight. Shere Din reported to Bill that the stranger was getting up a big head of steam by meditation and prayer. He came out only in the evenings when the Sahibs had gone to their quarters for the night, leaving the native world to its own peculiar devices.
“I’m going down to see what goes on,” said Bill to Bosanquet and Jim one evening after dinner. “That’s about the only chance we’ll get of seeing the pair at
The two went with him without much persuasion. Turning a corner of one of the streets, they ran into the holy men, a knot of people round them, all jabbering like niggers at a rooster fight. The Mullah suddenly looked up, saw the white men, and assumed his customary scowl of recognition. Then he plucked the sleeve of his companion, who shut off as if the tap had been suddenly turned. The new-comer was a tallish man, his bearded face burnt black-brown by eastern suns and the hot desert dusts. Bill assumed his most cordial smile and greeted the stranger.
“Wiry, hello there, Heinie! How’s the boy? A couple of hot dogs and a drop of musty wouldn’t go half bad to-night. But who’d have thought of picking you up here? What’s your line, petticoat peddling?” And he touched the man’s robe. “Good notion, too, for really some of the girls in this town—-well, I am not what they call a Puritan, but if they were seen in Stogumber, the W. C. T. U. would have a word to say.”
The holy man's face grew reddish under the tan, and he shook his head.
“Yes, by gosh, no wonder you blush. I used to, till I got hardened,” added Bill.
The fakir jabbered very violently in Pushto.
“The holy man says he cannot understand what the Sahib tells him,” explained Shere Din, who was an interested spec-
“The holy man’s a--. Well, never mind. If he’s stuck up since he hit the trail, I’m proud too. It’s nothing to be ashamed of if he was bar-tending in the States. Some of our most distinguished meff'have done a spell at it. It was darned good musty too, and there were no better hot dogs in the East.”
The. Mullah and his friend padded away àtviftly. Bosanquet and Jim walked on a bit to hide their grins. Bill was glumly solemn, Shere Din very curious.
“Bluffs he don’t know me!” exclaimed Bill. “What do you know about that, Shere Din?”
“But hot dogs, Sahib?” enquired by Pathan soothingly, but in vast perplexity.
“Hot dogs! You don’t know what hot dogs are ?” said Bill. “They are sausages. Little bags of meat, pork—pig meat, and cow meat, and the Lord knows what else in the way of meat. You eat them. Well, may be you wouldn’t but I did, and they were darn good.”
“Pig meat!” said Shere Din, greatly disgusted. “And, Musty, Sahib?” enquiring for further enlightenment.
Musty! Oh, ale—beer—booze—what the devil’s the name? oh, yes! Bhang. Pig meat and Bhang,” explained Carswell Sahib. “If he isn’t the man who peddled out the pig meat and Bhang in Tom Sheridan’s Bhang emporium in New York city, I’ll eat my hat. He said he had been in the land of America, and the evil city of the infidel, New York, didn’t he?”
“He said so in my own ears,” answered Shere Din solemnly.
“Well, there you are.” And Bill shook his head sadly, and went up the hill with his friends.
TPHE Mullah and his friend did not abandon their crusade, despite the encounter with Carswell Sahib, but they kept out of sight in the day-time. When they had worked up to the grand climax, they gathered the people together one night, and had a great meeting. The Mullah pulled out all his stops, and told of the call that was shortly coming to the faithful to rise, fling off the yoke of the foreigner, and take possession of the rich lands to the south, with all their wondrous booty.
A great deliverer had been raised up. one of the true faith, a leader of great mightiness. Then he took a whack at the infidel Carswell Sahib, and his devil game of the magic ball and stick, wherewith he was alienating the faithful from true religion. But altogether, the Mullah had what is known to orators, who rely much on emotion, as a hard time. The people seemed to have lost ginger, snap, pep, fire, steam. Sentiments that formerly had gone off like flaring rockets, were the dampest of squibs, not a sputter even in them. Then the Mullah got angry, tore at his garments and beard, foamed at the mouth, and threw fits of religious fervor. But the audience was like a theatre mob on Hook night, more critical than sympathetic.
Then the holy stranger got going. He spoke the language of the people with accuracy. He had come from far lands, and had seen wonderful sights. Allah had given him a message of cheer to deliver to them.
The night was vanishing, the dawn at hand. There had indeed been given to them a mighty deliverer, a true follower of Mahomet, who once had been an unbeliever, but had been brought by Allah the Compassionate, the Ever-Merciful, to see the error of his ways, and the light at the same time. He was the mightiest Caliph was world had ever known, with countless armies, the greatest war ships, and riches that could not be counted. His heart had been moved by the sorrows of his brethren. His mighty hand had wrought great wonders for the people of their faith in Turkey. He would drive the English out of Egypt and India, and confine them to their own little island in the midst of the seas. Those of the Border folk who rose against the English would receive great rewards from this mighty Caliph. Those who wrought destruction upon the possessions of the Government would be richly paid.
'T'HERE was a deep silence when he had -*■ finished, then the crowd began to stir uneasily. The fakir resumed, with impassioned appeals to them to bring forward the devil implements wherewith Carswell Sahib had seduced them from the faith, and solemnly burn them, in token of their turning from backsliding ways. Again there was a silence, broken at last by a faint chuckle at the back of the room, and a shrill voice sounded.
“Oh, Punk!” was all it said.
“Rot—ten! Oh, Rotten!” wailed another
The orator infuriated, burst into English, and showed the possibilities of that language for vituperative purposes. Whereupon Shere Din arose, mighty in frame, dignified in bearing.
“Wherefore, O holy man, didst thou lie to me, when thou saidst thou didst not understand the tongue of Carswell Sahib?” he demanded. “Aie! Truly a most holy man art thou! Wast thou not, in the land called Mer-Can, a seller of the dogs that are cooked, little bags of meat, pig meat, and cow meat, and Allah knows what other kinds of meats, which are called dogs that are hot by the Mer-Can people? And wast thou not also a seller of Bhang, that is called Musty in the country of Carswell Sahib, over the black waters?
“The baseball magic is a true magic. The Englishman, who is our chief lord, the Mer-Can man who is also our lord, and to whom my life belongeth, the Beluchi, the Pathan from the hills, all play the magic game together as brothers, and strive for the honor of the flag of great magnificence, the medals made of gold, and the great honor of the Ti-Kob and the Mat■—ti. It is good, and defileth no man’s faith. Aie! No true son of the Faith art thou, O seller of dogs that are hot and Bhang, that is called Musty.”
Again there fell a deep silence on the throng. Once more there came a voice, wailing aspiration with heart-touching intensity.
“Oh, for a Pop Bot—tie!”
The fakir rose and strove to stem the tide of jeers and laughter. He shouted out denials and denunciations of the infamous Sahib, but his hour had gone. A vast, roaring confusion broke up the meeting, and the Mullah of Heshwar and the Fakir vanished into the night, and were seen no more in that vicinity.
“ A ND was he a bar-tender, Bill?” asked Bosanquet.
“Lord knows! Like enough,” replied Carswell Sahib. “You don’t think all diplomats are in the political service, do you? Bill Bryan wasn’t the last man to stampede a mob with a speech. And take my word for it, no man can come here and slur the Beluchistan Baseball League and get away with it.”
So, while other parts of the Border were raiding and rioting and raising Cain generally in 1914 and the next year, the bailiwick of Jim Winstanley and Bill Carswell was peaceful as Stogumber, Mass., on a wet Sunday afternoon, except at such times as the fat man from Bengal went wrong on balls and strikes.