Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

B . M. Croker: The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor

B . M. Croker, The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor, Tales of mystery, Relatos de terror, Horror stories, Short stories, Science fiction stories, Anthology of horror, Antología de terror, Anthology of mystery, Antología de misterio, Scary stories, Scary Tales, Science Fiction Short Stories, Historias de ciencia ficcion


When shall these phantoms flicker away,
Like the smoke of the guns on the wind-swept hill;
Like the sounds and colours of yesterday,
And the soul have rest, and the air be still?
Sir A. Lyall*


‘And so you two young women are going off on a three days’ journey, all by yourselves, in a bullock tonga,* to spend Christmas with your husbands in the jungle?’

The speaker was Mrs Duff, the wife of our deputy commissioner, and the two enterprising young women were Mrs Goodchild, the wife of the police officer of the district, and myself, wife of the forest officer. We were the only ladies in Karwassa, a little up-country station, more than a hundred miles from the line of rail. Karwassa was a pretty place, an oasis of civilization, amid leagues and leagues of surrounding forest and jungle; it boasted a post-office, public gardens (with tennis courts), a tiny church, a few well-kept shady roads, and half a dozen thatched bungalows, surrounded by luxuriant gardens. In the hot weather all the community were at home, under the shelter of their own roof-trees and punkahs, and within reach of ice––for we actually boasted an ice machine! During these hot months we had, so to speak, our ‘season.’ The deputy commissioner, forest officer, police officer, doctor, and engineer were all ‘in,’ and our gaieties took the form of tennis at daybreak, moonlight picnics, whist-parties, little dinners, and now and then a beat for tiger, on which occasions we ladies were safely roosted in trustworthy trees.

It is whispered that in small and isolated stations the fair sex are either mortal enemies or bosom-friends! I am proud to be in a position to state that we ladies of Karwassa came under the latter head. Mrs Goodchild and I were especially intimate; we were nearly the same age, we were young, we had been married in the same year and tasted our first experiences of India together. We lent each other books, we read each other our home letters, helped to compose one another’s dirzee-made costumes, and poured little confidences into
one another’s ears. We had made numerous joint excursions in the cold season, had been out in the same camp for a month at a time, and when our husbands were in a malarious or uncivilized district, had journeyed on horseback or in a bullock tonga and joined them at some accessible spot, in the regions of dâk bungalows and bazaar fowl.

Mrs Duff, stout, elderly, and averse to locomotion, contented herself with her comfortable bungalow at Karwassa, her weekly budget of letters from her numerous olive-branches in England, and with adventures and thrilling experiences at secondhand.

‘And so you are off to-morrow,’ she continued, addressing herself to Mrs Goodchild. ‘I suppose you know where you are going?’

‘Yes,’ returned my companion promptly, unfolding a piece of foolscap as she spoke; ‘I had a letter from Frank this morning, and he has enclosed a plan copied from the D. P. W. map. We go straight along the trunk road for two days, stopping at Korai bungalow the first night and Kular the second, you see; then we turn off to the left on the Old Jubbulpore Road and make a march of twenty-five miles, halting at a place called Chanda.* Frank and Mr Loyd will meet us there on Christmas Day.’



‘Chanda––Chanda,’ repeated Mrs Duff, with her hand to her head. ‘Isn’t there some queer story about a bungalow near there ––that is unhealthy ––or haunted––or something?’

Julia Goodchild and I glanced at one another significantly.
Mrs Duff had set her face against our expedition all along; she
wanted us to remain in the station and spend Christmas with her,
instead of going this wild-goose chase into a part of the district we
had never been in before. She assured us that we would be short of
bullocks, and would probably have to walk miles; she had harangued
us on the subject of fever and cholera and bad water, had warned us
solemnly against dacoits,* and now she was hinting at ghosts.

‘Frank says that the travellers’ bungalows after we leave the main
road are not in very good repair ––the road is so little used now that
the new railway line comes within twenty miles; but he says that the
one at Chanda is very decent, and we will push on there,’ returned
Julia, firmly. Julia was nothing if not firm; she particularly prided
herself on never swerving from any fixed resolution or plan. ‘We take


B. M. Croker
my bullock tonga, and Mr Loyd’s peon Abdul,* who is a treasure, as
you know; he can cook, interpret, forage for provisions, and drive
bullocks if the worst comes to the worst.’

‘And what about bullocks for three days’ journey ––a hundred
miles if it’s a yard?’ inquired Mrs Duff, sarcastically.

‘Oh, the bazaar master has sent on a chuprassie* and five natives,
and we shall find a pair every five miles at the usual stages. As to
food, we are taking tea, bread, plenty of tinned stores, and the plumpudding.
We shall have a capital outing, I assure you, and I only wish
we could have persuaded you into coming with us.’

‘Thank you, my dear,’ said Mrs Duff, with a patronizing smile.
‘I’m too old, and I hope too sensible to take a trip of a hundred miles
in a bullock tonga, risking fever and dacoits and dâk bungalows full
of bandicoots, just for the sentimental pleasure of eating a pudding
with my husband. However, you are both young and hardy and full
of spirits, and I wish you a happy Christmas, a speedy journey and
safe return. Mind you take plenty of quinine ––and a revolver;’ and,
with this cheerful parting suggestion, she conducted us into the
front verandah and dismissed us each with a kiss, that was at once a
remonstrance and a valediction.

Behold us the next morning, at sunrise, jogging off, behind a pair
of big white bullocks, in the highest spirits. In the front seat of the
tonga we had stowed a well-filled tiffin basket, two Gladstone bags,
our blankets and pillows, a hamper of provisions, and last, not least,
Abdul. Julia and I and Julia’s dog ‘Boss’ occupied the back seat,
and as we rumbled past Mrs Duff’s bungalow, with its still silent
compound and closed venetians, we mutually agreed that she was ‘a
silly old thing,’ that she would have far more enjoyment of life if
she was as enterprising as we were.

Our first day’s journey went off without a hitch. Fresh and
well-behaved cattle punctually awaited us at every stage. The country
we passed through was picturesque and well wooded; doves, peacocks,
and squirrels enlivened the roads; big black-faced monkeys
peered at us from amid the crops that they were ravaging within a
stone’s throw of our route. The haunt of a well-known man-eating
tiger was impressively pointed out to us by our cicerone Abdul ––this
beast resided in some dense jungle, that was unpleasantly close to
human traffic. Morning and afternoon wore away speedily, and at
sundown we found ourselves in front of the very neat travellers’


The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor

bungalow at Korai. The interior was scrupulously clean, and
contained the usual furniture: two beds, two tables, four chairs,
lamps, baths, a motley collection of teacups and plates, and last,
not least, the framed rules of the establishment and visitors’ book.
The khansamah* cooked us an excellent dinner (for a travellers’
bungalow), and, tired out, we soon went to bed and slept the sleep of
the just. The second day was the same as the first ––highly successful
in every respect.

On the third morning we left the great highway and turned to the
left, on to what was called the Old Jubbulpore Road, and here our
troubles commenced! Bullocks were bad, lame, small, or unbroken;
one of Mrs Duff’s dismal prophecies came to pass, for after enduring
bullocks who lay down, who kicked and ran off the road into their
owners’ houses, or rushed violently down steep places, we arrived
at one stage where there were no bullocks at all! It was four o’clock,
and we were still sixteen miles from Chanda. After a short consultation,
Julia and I agreed to walk on to the next stage or village,
leaving Abdul to draw the neighbourhood for a pair of cattle and
then to overtake us at express speed.

‘No one coming much this road now, mem sahib,’ he explained
apologetically; ‘village people never keeping tonga bullocks ––only
plough bullocks, and plenty bobbery.’*


‘Bobbery or not, get them,’ said Julia with much decision; ‘no
matter if you pay four times the usual fare. We shall expect you to
overtake us in half an hour.’ And having issued this edict we walked
on, leaving Abdul, a bullock-man, and two villagers all talking
together and yelling at one another at the top of their voices.

Our road was dry and sandy, and lay through a perfectly flat
country. It was lined here and there by rows of graceful trees,
covered with wreaths of yellow flowers; now and then it was
bordered by a rude thorn hedge, inside of which waved a golden field
of ripe jawarri; in distant dips in the landscape we beheld noble topes
of forest trees and a few red-roofed dwellings ––the abodes of the
tillers of the soil; but, on the whole, the country was silent and
lonely; the few people we encountered driving their primitive little
carts stared hard at us in utter stupefaction, as well they might ––two
mem sahibs trudging along, with no escort except a panting white
dog. The insolent crows and lazy blue buffaloes all gazed at us
in undisguised amazement as we wended our way through this


100 B. M. Croker


monotonous and melancholy scene. One milestone was passed and
then another, and yet another, and still no sign of Abdul, much less
the tonga. At length we came in sight of a large village that stretched
in a ragged way at either side of the road. There were the usual little
mud hovels, shops displaying, say, two bunches of plantains and a
few handfuls of grain, the usual collection of gaunt red pariah dogs,
naked children, and unearthly-looking cats and poultry.

Julia and I halted afar off under a tree, preferring to wait for
Abdul to chaperon us, ere we ran the gauntlet of the village streets.
Time was getting on, the sun was setting; men were returning from
the fields, driving bony bullocks before them; women were returning
from the well, with water and the last bit of scandal; at last, to our
great relief, we beheld Abdul approaching with the tonga, and our
spirits rose, for we had begun to ask one another if we were to spend
the night sitting on a stone under a tamarind tree without the village.

‘No bullocks,’ was Abdul’s explanation. The same tired pair had
come on most reluctantly, and in this village of cats and cocks and
hens it was the same story––‘no bullocks.’ Abdul brought us this
heavy and unexpected intelligence after a long and animated interview
with the head man of the place.

‘What is to be done?’ we demanded in a breath.

‘Stop here all night; going on to-morrow.’

‘Stop where?’ we almost screamed.

‘Over there,’ rejoined Abdul, pointing to a grove of trees at some
little distance. ‘There is a travellers’ bungalow; Chanda is twelve
miles off.’

A travellers’ bungalow! Sure enough there was a building of some
kind beyond the bamboos, and we lost no time in getting into the
tonga and having ourselves driven in that direction. As we passed the
village street, many came out and stared, and one old woman shook
her hand in a warning manner, and called out something in a shrill
cracked voice.

An avenue of feathery bamboos led to our destination, which
proved to be the usual travellers’ rest-house, with white walls, red
roof, and roomy verandah; but when we came closer, we discovered
that the drive was as grass-grown as a field; jungle grew up to the
back of the house, heavy wooden shutters closed all the windows,
and the door was locked. There was a forlorn, desolate, dismal
appearance about the place; it looked as if it had not been visited for


The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor

years. In answer to our shouts and calls no one appeared; but, as we
were fully resolved to spend the night there, we had the tonga
unloaded and our effects placed in the verandah, the bullocks
untackled and turned out among the long rank grass. At length an
old man in dirty ragged clothes, and with a villainous expression of
countenance, appeared from some back cook-house, and seemed
anything but pleased to see us. When Abdul told him of our intention
of occupying the house, he would not hear of it. ‘The bungalow
was out of repair; it had not been opened for years; it was full of rats;
it was unhealthy; plenty fever coming. We must go on to Chanda.’

Naturally we declined his hospitable suggestion. ‘Was he the
khansamah––caretaker of the place?’ we inquired imperiously.

‘Yees,’ he admitted with a grunt.

‘Drawing government pay, and refusing to open a government
travellers’ bungalow!’ screamed Julia. ‘Let us have no more of this
nonsense; open the house at once and get it ready for us, or I shall
report you to the commissioner sahib.’

The khansamah gave her an evil look, said ‘Missus please,’
shrugged his shoulders and hobbled away ––as we hoped, to get the
key; but after waiting ten minutes we sent Abdul to search for him,
and found that he had departed ––his lair was empty. There was
nothing for it but to break the padlock on the door, which Abdul
effected with a stone, and as soon as the door moved slowly back on
its hinges Julia and I hurried in. What a dark, damp place! What a
smell of earth, and what numbers of bats; they flew right in our faces
as we stood in the doorway and tried to make out the interior. Abdul
and the bullock-man quickly removed the shutters and let in the
light, and then we beheld the usual dâk sitting-room ––a table, chairs,
and two charpoys (native beds), and an old pair of candlesticks; the
table and chairs were covered with mould; cobwebs hung from the
ceiling in dreadful festoons, and the walls were streaked with dreary
green stains. I could not restrain an involuntary shudder as I looked
about me rather blankly.

‘I should think this was an unhealthy place!’ I remarked to Julia.
‘It looks feverish; and see ––the jungle comes right up to the back
verandah; fever plants, castor-oil plants, young bamboos, all growing
up to the very walls.’

‘It will do very well for to-night,’ she returned. ‘Come out and
walk down the road whilst Abdul and the bullock-man clean out the


102 B. M. Croker


rooms and get dinner. Abdul is a wonderful man ––and we won’t know
the place in an hour’s time; it’s just the same as any other travellers’
bungalow, only it has been neglected for years. I shall certainly
report that old wretch! The idea of a dâk bungalow caretaker refusing
admittance and running away with the key! What is the name of this
place?’ she asked, deliberately taking out her pocket-book; ‘did you
hear?’

‘Yes; I believe it is called Dakor.’

‘Ah, well! I shall not forget to tell Frank about the way we were
treated at Dakor bungalow.’

The red, red sun had set at last ––gone down, as it were, abruptly
behind the flat horizon; the air began to feel chilly, and the owl
and the jackal were commencing to make themselves heard, so we
sauntered back to the bungalow, and found it indeed transformed:
swept and garnished, and clean. The table was neatly laid for dinner,
and one of our own fine hurricane lamps blazed upon it; our beds
had been made up with our rugs and blankets, one at either end of
the room; hot water and towels were prepared in a bath-room, and we
saw a roaring fire in the cook-house in the jungle. Dinner, consisting
of a sudden-death fowl, curry, bread, and pâté de foie gras, was,
to our unjaded palates, an excellent meal. Our spirits rose to normal,
the result of food and light, and we declared to one another that this
old bungalow was a capital find, and that it was really both comfortable
and cheerful, despite a slight arrière pensée* of earth in the atmosphere!

Before going to bed we explored the next room, a smaller one than
that we occupied, and empty save for a rickety camp table, which held
some dilapidated crockery and a press. Need you ask if we opened
this press? The press smelt strongly of mushrooms, and contained a
man’s topee,* inch-deep with mould, a tiffin basket, and the bungalow
visitors’ book. We carried this away with us to read at leisure, for the
visitors’ book in dâk bungalows occasionally contains some rather
amusing observations. There was nothing funny in this musty old
volume! Merely a statement of who came, and how long they stayed,
and what they paid, with a few remarks, not by any means complimentary
to the khansamah: ‘A dirty, lazy rascal,’ said one; ‘A
murderous-looking ruffian,’ said another; ‘An insolent, drunken
hound,’ said a third ––the last entry was dated seven years previously.

‘Let us write our names,’ said Julia, taking out her pencil;
‘ “Mrs Goodchild and Mrs Loyd, December 23rd. Bungalow


The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor

deserted, and very dirty khansamah.” What shall we say?’ she asked,
glancing at me interrogatively.

‘Why, there he is!’ I returned with a little jump; and there he was
sure enough, gazing in through the window. It was the face of some
malicious animal, more than the face of a man, that glowered out
beneath his filthy red turban. His eyes glared and rolled as if they
would leave their sockets; his teeth were fangs, like dogs’ teeth,
and stood out almost perpendicularly from his hideous mouth. He
surveyed us for a few seconds in savage silence, and then melted
away into the surrounding darkness as suddenly as he appeared.

‘He reminds me of the Cheshire cat in “Alice in Wonderland,” ’
said Julia with would-be facetiousness, but I noticed that she looked
rather pale.

‘Let us have the shutters up at once,’ I replied, ‘and have them
well barred and the doors bolted. That man looked as if he could cut
our throats.’

In a very short time the house was made fast. Abdul and the
bullock-man spread their mats in the front verandah, and Julia and I
retired for the night. Before going to bed we had a controversy about
the lamp. I wished to keep it burning all night (I am a coward at
heart), but Julia would not hear of this ––impossible for her to sleep
with a light in the room––and in the end I was compelled to be
content with a candle and matches on a chair beside me. I fell asleep
very soon. I fancy I must have slept long and soundly, when I was
awoke by a bright light shining in my eyes. So, after the ridiculous
fuss she had made, Julia had lit the candle after all! This was my first
thought, but when I was fully awake I found I was mistaken, or
dreaming. No, I was not dreaming, for I pinched my arm and rubbed
my eyes. There was a man in the room, apparently another traveller,
who appeared to be totally unaware of our vicinity, and to have made
himself completely at home. A gun-case, a tiffin basket, a bundle of
pillows and rugs ––the usual Indian traveller’s belongings ––lay carelessly
scattered about on the chairs and the floor. I leant up on my
elbow and gazed at the intruder in profound amazement. He did not
notice me, no more than if I had no existence; true, my charpoy was
in a corner of the room and rather in the shade, so was Julia’s. Julia
was sound asleep and (low be it spoken) snoring. The stranger was
writing a letter at the table facing me. Both candles were drawn up
close to him, and threw a searching light upon his features. He was


104 B. M. Croker


young and good-looking, but very, very pale; possibly he had just
recovered from some long illness. I could not see his eyes, they were
bent upon the paper before him; his hands, I noticed, were well
shaped, white, and very thin. He wore a signet-ring on the third
finger of the left hand, and was dressed with a care and finish not
often met with in the jungle. He wore some kind of light Norfolk
jacket and a blue bird’s-eye tie. In front of him stood an open
despatch-box, very shabby and scratched, and I could see that the
upper tray contained a stout roundabout bag, presumably full of
rupees, a thick roll of notes, and a gold watch. When I had deliberately
taken in every item, the unutterable calmness of this stranger,
thus establishing himself in our room, came home to me most forcibly,
and clearing my throat I coughed ––a clear decided cough of
expostulation, to draw his attention to the enormity of the situation.
It had no effect––he must be stone-deaf ! He went on writing as
indefatigably as ever. What he was writing was evidently a pleasant
theme, possibly a love-letter, for he smiled as he scribbled. All at
once I observed that the door was ajar. Two faces were peering in ––a
strange servant in a yellow turban, with cruel, greedy eyes, and the
khansamah! Their gaze was riveted on the open despatch-box, the
money, the roll of notes, and the watch. Presently the traveller’s
servant stole up behind his master noiselessly, and seemed to hold
his breath; he drew a long knife from his sleeve. At this moment the
stranger raised his eyes and looked at me. Oh, what a sad, strange
look! a look of appeal. The next instant I saw the flash of the knife––
it was buried in his back; he fell forward over his letter with a crash
and a groan, and all was darkness. I tried to scream, but I could not.
My tongue seemed paralyzed. I covered my head up in the clothes,
and oh, how my heart beat! thump, thump, thump ––surely they must
hear it, and discover me? Half suffocated, at length I ventured to
peer out for a second. All was still, black darkness. There was nothing
to be seen, but much to be heard ––the dragging of a heavy body,
a dead body, across the room; then, after an appreciable pause, the
sounds of digging outside the bungalow. Finally, the splashing of
water ––some one washing the floor. When I awoke the next morning,
or came to myself –– for I believe I had fainted ––daylight was
demanding admittance at every crevice in the shutters; night, its
dark hours and its horrors, was past. The torture, the agony of fear,
that had held me captive, had now released me, and, worn out, I fell


The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor

fast asleep. It was actually nine o’clock when I opened my eyes. Julia
was standing over me and shaking me vigorously, and saying, ‘Nellie,
Nellie, wake; I’ve been up and out this two hours; I’ve seen the head
man of the village.’

‘Have you?’ I assented sleepily.

‘Yes, and he says there are no bullocks to be had until to-morrow;
we must pass another night here.’

‘Never!’ I almost shrieked. ‘Never! Oh, Julia, I’ve had such a
night. I’ve seen a murder!’ And straightway I commenced, and told
her of my awful experiences. ‘That khansamah murdered him. He is
buried just outside the front step,’ I concluded tearfully. ‘Sooner
than stay here another night I’ll walk to Chanda.’

‘Ghosts! murders! walk to Chanda!’ she echoed scornfully. ‘Why,
you silly girl, did I not sleep here in this very room, and sleep as
sound as a top? It was all the pâté de foie gras. You know it never
agrees with you.’

‘I know nothing about pâté de foie gras,’ I answered angrily; ‘but I
know what I saw. Sooner than sleep another night in this room I’d
die. I might as well ––for such another night would kill me!’

Bath, breakfast, and Julia brought me round to a certain extent. I
thought better of tearing off to Chanda alone and on foot, especially
as we heard (per coolie) that our respective husbands would be with
us the next morning ––Christmas Day. We spent the day cooking,
exploring the country, and writing for the English mail. As night fell,
I became more and more nervous, and less amenable to Julia and
Julia’s jokes. I would sleep in the verandah; either there, or in the
compound. In the bungalow again ––never. An old witch of a native
woman, who was helping Abdul to cook, agreed to place her mat in
the same locality as my mattress, and Julia Goodchild valiantly occupied
the big room within, alone. In the middle of the night I and my
protector were awoke by the most piercing, frightful shrieks. We lit a
candle and ran into the bungalow, and found Julia lying on the floor
in a dead faint. She did not come round for more than an hour, and
when she opened her eyes she gazed about her with a shudder and
displayed symptoms of going off again, so I instantly hunted up our
flask and administered some raw brandy, and presently she found her
tongue and attacked the old native woman quite viciously.

‘Tell the truth about this place!’ she said fiercely. ‘What is it that is
here, in this room?’


106 B. M. Croker


‘Devils,’ was the prompt and laconic reply.

‘Nonsense! Murder has been done here; tell the truth.’

‘How I knowing?’ she whined. ‘I only poor native woman.’

‘An English sahib was murdered here seven years ago; stabbed and
dragged out, and buried under the steps.’

‘Ah, bah! ah, bah! How I telling? this not my country,’ she wailed
most piteously.

‘Tell all you know,’ persisted Julia. ‘You do know! My husband is
coming to-day; he is a police officer. You had better tell me than him.’

After much whimpering and hand-wringing, we extracted the
following information in jerks and quavers: ––

The bungalow had a bad name, no one ever entered it, and in spite
of the wooden shutters there were lights in the windows every night
up to twelve o’clock. One day (so the villagers said), many years ago,
a young sahib came to this bungalow and stayed three days. He was
alone. He was in the Forest Department. The last evening he sent his
horses and servants on to Chanda, and said he would follow in the
morning after having some shooting, he and his ‘boy;’ but though his
people waited two weeks, he never appeared ––was never seen again.
The khansamah declared that he and his servant had left in the early
morning, but no one met them. The khansamah became suddenly
very rich; said he had found a treasure; also, he sold a fine gold watch
in Jubbulpore, and took to drink. He had a bad name, and the bungalow
had a bad name. No one would stay there more than one night,
and no one had stayed there for many years till we came. The
khansamah lived in the cook-house; he was always drunk. People
said there were devils in the house, and no one would go near it after
sundown. This was all she knew.

‘Poor fellow, he was so good-looking!’ sighed Julia when we were
alone. ‘Poor fellow, and he was murdered and buried here!’

‘So I told you,’ I replied, ‘and you would not believe me, but
insisted on staying to see for yourself.’

‘I wish I had not––oh, I wish I had not! I shall never, never forget
last night as long as I live.’

‘That must have been his topee and tiffin basket that we saw in the
press,’ I exclaimed. ‘As soon as your husband comes, we will tell him
everything, and set him on the track of the murderers.’

Breakfast on Christmas morning was a very doleful meal; our
nerves were completely shattered by our recent experiences, and we


The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor

could only rouse ourselves up to offer a very melancholy sort of
welcome to our two husbands, when they cantered briskly into the
compound. In reply to their eager questions as to the cause of our
lugubrious appearance, pale faces, and general air of mourning, we
favoured them with a vivid description of our two nights in the
bungalow. Of course, they were loudly, rudely incredulous, and, of
course, we were very angry; vainly we re-stated our case, and displayed
the old topee and tiffin basket; they merely laughed still more
heartily and talked of ‘nightmare,’ and gave themselves such airs of
offensive superiority, that Julia’s soul flew to arms.

‘Look here,’ she cried passionately, ‘I laughed at Nellie as you
laugh at us. We will go out of this compound, whilst you two dig, or
get people to dig, below the front verandah and in front of the steps,
and if you don’t find the skeleton of a murdered man, then you may
laugh at us for ever.’

With Julia impulse meant action, and before I could say three
words I was out of the compound, with my arm wedged under hers;
we went and sat on a little stone bridge within a stone’s throw of the
bungalow, glum and silent enough. What a Christmas Day! Half an
hour’s delay was as much as Julia’s patience could brook. We then
retraced our steps and discovered what seemed to be the whole village
in the dâk bungalow compound. Frank came hurrying towards us,
waving us frantically away. No need for questions; his face was
enough. They had found it.

*


Frank Goodchild had known him ––he was in his own department, a
promising and most popular young fellow; his name was Gordon
Forbes; he had been missed but never traced, and there was a report
that he had been gored and killed in the jungle by a wild buffalo. In
the same grave was found the battered despatch-box, by which the
skeleton was identified. Mr Goodchild and my husband re-interred
the body under a tree, and read the Burial Service over it, Nellie and
I and all the village patriarchs attending as mourners. The khansamah
was eagerly searched for ––alas! in vain. He disappeared from
that part of the country, and was said to have been devoured by a
tiger in the Jhanas jungles; but this is too good to be true. We left the
hateful bungalow with all speed that same afternoon, and spent the
remainder of the Christmas Day at Chanda; it was the least merry


108 B. M. Croker


Christmas we ever remembered. The Goodehilds and ourselves have
subscribed and placed a granite cross, with his name and the date of
his death, over Gordon Forbes’s lonely grave, and the news of the
discovery of the skeleton was duly forwarded to the proper authorities,
and also to the unfortunate young man’s relations, and to these
were sent the despatch-box, letters, and ring.

Mrs Duff was full of curiosity concerning our trip. We informed
her that we spent Christmas at Chanda, as we had originally intended,
with our husbands, that they had provided an excellent dinner of
black buck and jungle fowl, that the plum-pudding surpassed all
expectations; but we never told her a word about our two nights’ halt
at Dakor bungalow.

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Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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