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Banked Fires   By: (1865-1954)

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First Page:

BANKED FIRES

by

E. W. SAVI

Author of "The Daughter in Law," "Sinners All," Etc.

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." Proverbs xxxi., 10.

G. P. Putnam's Sons New York and London The Knickerbocker Press 1919

Copyright, 1919 by E. W. Savi

The Knickerbocker Press, New York

To MY SISTER, A. B. B. IN LOVING APPRECIATION OF HER INTEREST AND HELP

CONTENTS

I. The Lonely Encampment

II. Mainly Retrospective

III. The Civil Surgeon

IV. A Point of View

V. What Can't be Cured

VI. The Leading Lady

VII. An Anxious Experience

VIII. The Dinner Party

IX. A Moment of Relaxation

X. The Mission

XI. A Sunday Observance

XII. Infatuation

XIII. Vanished

XIV. The Indiscretion

XV. The Aftermath

XVI. Cornered

XVII. Breaking Bounds

XVIII. Secret Joys

XIX. The Deluge

XX. The "Ideal"

XXI. The Real Thing

XXII. A Desperate Resort

XXIII. Temporisings

XXIV. Suspense

XXV. The Meeting

XXVI. The Fair

XXVII. A Difficult Task

XXVIII. The Atonement

Epilogue: All's Well

BANKED FIRES

CHAPTER I

THE LONELY ENCAMPMENT

An autumn evening in Bengal was rapidly drawing to a close, with a brief afterglow from a vanished sun to soften the rich hues of the tropical foliage, and garb it fittingly for approaching night. The grass beside the Government tents showed grey in the gathering dusk, while a blue haze of smoke, creeping upward, gently veiled the sheltering trees. But for the modulated chatter of servants, the stillness was eerie. The flat, low lying fields, having yielded their corn to the harvester, were barren and without sign of life, for the cultivators had departed to their homesteads, and the roving cattle were housed.

Far in the misty distance were the huts of the peasantry grouped together, with their granaries, haystacks, and pens; their date palms, and the inevitable tank illustrating the typical Bengal village picturesque and insanitary; too far for noxious smells to annoy the senses, or the intermittent beating of the nocturnal "tom tom" to affect the nerves of the Magistrate and Collector during the writing of his judgments and reports.

The spot for the encampment had been well chosen by the blue turbaned chaukidar the sturdy watchman of the village who was experienced in the ways of touring officials; for even such a little matter as a site for pitching the tents of the hakim ,[1] had its influence for good or ill; and what might not be the effect of a good influence on the temper of a lawgiver?

[Footnote 1: Magistrate.]

This one, especially, instilled the fear of God and of the British, into his servants and underlings in spite of his sportsmanship and generosity, for he had a great understanding of native character and, like a wizard, could, in the twinkling of an eye, dissect the mind and betray the soul of a false witness! None could look him in the face and persist in falsehood. He was a just man, and courageous; and when roused to wrath, both fierce and fluent. But the diplomatic domestic and cautious coolie, alike, respect justice and fearlessness, determination, and a high hand.

Servants, engaged in culinary duties before open fire places, gossiped in lowered tones of standing grievances: It was like the exactness of the Great to require a five course dinner, served with due attention to refinement and etiquette in untoward circumstances, such as an improvised cooking range of clay and bricks, a hurried collection of twigs, some charcoal, and every convenience conspicuous by its absence! And what a village to rely upon! no shops; only a weekly market with nothing suitable to the wants of white men fastidious and difficult to please... Continue reading book >>




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