The Kiplings and India: A Collection of Writings from British India, 1870-1900

My Christmas at the Ajaibgaum Exhibition

Summary and Keywords

In Two Chapters
Chapter I.

I WAS a proud man when my respected chief, the Editor of the Presidency Oracle, by way of giving me a Christmas holiday, arranged to send me down to represent the paper at the Ajaibgaum Exhibition. These tournaments of peace were new in India; but Sir Rupert Boldick, who then drove the South-West Provinces administration at high pressure speed, did not need the help of an Australian speculator to show him how to manage them. Though one of the first, it was perhaps the most successful of Indian Exhibitions; and I started with a determination to do justice to it in print. My worthy chief did not neglect to furnish me with letters  of introduction and much sage counsel as to my conduct on my first Mofussil trip. In a strain of fatherly exhortation, which reminded me of the advice of the estimable Polonius to the hot-blooded Laertes in Hamlet, he recommended a gravity of demeanour suitable to one on whose card was graven this legend:


 
 "In general society, my dear boy, mention the paper and your connection with it as little as possible; but let every official know who you are, and don't hesitate to ask for anything you want. Restrain your passion for talk and try to listen a little. Your old fashioned phiz may, with judicious silence, secure you the esteem of the good people at Ajaibgaum, who will have plenty to tell you. So don't try to instruct them, but let them instruct you. You look so precious wise in those gold spectacles out that, if you display a little tact, nobody need find out that you are-well-that you are comparatively inexperienced. Good Indian 'form' is a kind of knowing solemnity indicative of pent-up ' earnestness.' "
        “Any donkey can assume it; and it's worth your while to try. Don't make fun of anybody or anything,- except on paper; send us two columns every three days; get everybody's names and titles right for the opening ceremony description; ask Sir Rupert's Private Secretary for a copy of his opening speech, it will be ready printed ; mind you call on everybody, and be especially civil to Twitchley Crowdie, the Commissioner-indeed, to all the Twitchley Crowdies you ever meet, for they are one of those families that are as the lilies of the Indian field, for they toil not, neither do they spin. And, if your great namesake, Mr. Mudsworth, Consulting Engineer to the Secretary of State for Railway Crossings and Culverts, should come that way on his tour, try to get to know him and to learn something about the Jugpore and Bottleabad Chord Line that keeps the members of our Chamber of Commerce awake o' nights. He won't tell you anything; but you may get a hint from his silences if you are discreet. Mudsworth is not a common name; and you might discover you were a cousin of some kind. Good-bye! Have a pleasant time, and send me some good work."
        I arrived at Ajaibgaum in time for the opening of the Exhibition, which was an imposing ceremony. There was a grand procession of Rajas and Chiefs, with elephants, camels, horses and retainers. Brave English women had come in from many a weary mile round, and were as brilliantly arrayed as for a South Kensington horticultural fête. Committees and sub-Committees, decorated with rosettes, filed past and arranged themselves right and left of a daïs surmounted by a canopy; the native chiefs were marshalled in due order, and last of all came the great Sir Rupert Boldick. He stood in front of his gilded chair with folded arms and a sever expression of countenance, watching till all were in their places. Then with great deliberation he winked, - not humorously but slowly- a grave and politic wink, a preconcerted signal to the Executive Engineer who drew the side of his photographic camera with a startling click to secure a record of the scene for the illustrated papers. The Raja of Pagulnuggur at that instant detected the Nawab of Bewaqufabad edging closer up to the daÏs than he was entitled; and spoilt the picture by turning hastily to his Political Resident to complain. But it was a thrilling moment, pregnant, as I remarked in the Oracle, with a new and unwonted interest. Then Mr. Twitchley Crowdie read an address, composed by Sir Rupert, and full of compliments and congratulations.
        To this the great man replied in an eloquent oration, in which we were told that we were here presented with the best of all that East and West could produce. On one hand the products of Indian and all the splendour of the East; and, on the other, the spirit of order, the organisation, the spirit of progress, the genius of the Nineteenth Century and the passion of the present rulers of this country for beneficent, self-sacrificing labour, were offered for our consideration. This Exhibition was but the culmination and top-stone of a series of efforts to develop the resources, agricultural, commercial, artistic, industrial and economic, of a tract of country which, until a recent period, had been neglected. Then followed a brilliant sketch of the South-West Provinces, so skilfully touched in that it seemed as if the history of British India from the earliest periods had been shaping itself to no other issue than the glories of Sir Rupert Boldick's administration. Then everybody connected with the affair was praised- individually and collectively; in sections and groups; by committees and sub-divisions. The native gentlemen and Chiefs who exhibited were praised for their public spirit; and those who had purchased steam-ploughs and threshing machines were hailed with congratulations. The Raja of Pagulnuggur's energetic myrmidons had harried and looted his ryots of the best of their cereals, oil-seeds, tobacco and spices. He had bought a Shand and Mason's fire-engine- secretly intending to use it at the next Holi  to pump gulal on the dusky Cyprians of his capital. So Pagulnuggur was eulogised as "a Prince of singular enlightenment, whose alert and beneficient intelligence, with the heaven-gifted instinct of a natural ruler, had grasped the great Exhibition idea in its full significance." At the conclusion of the address a venerable Archdeacon stepped forward in his robes to read a prayer about brotherly love and the breaking down of the barriers between different races; and invoked a blessing on the under taking. The artillerymen outside fired a salute, and the Ajaibgaum Exhibition was open!
        And in sober earnest it was a very good Exhibition- so admirably catalogued, so minutely classified, so carefully numbered from one to several thousands in red, blue and green tickets, and so marked with distinguishing letters from A to Z in caps., small pica and italics, that, in addition to its merits as an Exhibition, it had all the charm of an elaborate puzzle.
        By way of improving the native taste the most brilliant examples of British textile fabrics were shown. Hearth-rugs from Halifax, on which white ponies, red roses, and brown retrievers were pictured in wool with more than pre-Raphaelite fidelity; machine-made lace curtains from Nottingham, worked with elephants, tigers and the Royal Arms of England as a special artistic novelty; calico-prints from Manchester blazing with all the colours of the rainbows, "in one red ruin blent;" merinoes, alpacas and cashmeres from Bedford iridescent with every possible shade of mauve, magenta, and all the baleful splendours of the aniline series of dyes, were only a few of the glories of this department. Hardware was no less fully represented.
        A fender and set of fire-irons in ormolu and polished steel from Sheffield so fascinated the Nawab of Bewaqufabad, that he insisted on buying and carrying them away on the spot; and straightway thrust the poker into his cummerbund among his jewelled pistols and jade sword-hilts, satisfied that he had acquired a lethal weapon of great beauty and unknown powers; while the leaders of his suite proudly shouldered the tongs and fire-shovel. Out of doors were beautiful ploughs and harrows, all shining steel, polished wood and cunning wheels. There were clod-crushers, sub-soil ploughs and seed drills from Beverly and Bedford, whose weight, complicated construction, and superb finish filled the minds of the native cultivators with awe at the unfathomable mystery of insanity of the English, who drew the heavens and the earth together to compass such simple acts as ploughing and sowing. But, as the mamlutdars and tahsildars had explained in a quiet way to the native gentry that the sure way to the good graces of the burra sahibs was to affect an interest in these wondrous mechanisms and to buy them, there was brisk competition for such things as sugar-cane mills- each costing as much as a year's produce of any two taluqas, and requiring a score of bullocks or a steam-engine to work them. Atmospheric churns on the newest hydrostatic principles with elliptic plungers and eccentric motions, worth several herds of kine, were not neglected; and there was even found a buyer for a patent Dipthong washing and wringing machine, full of wooden skittleballs and rollers, and capable of washing a thousand dhoturs in six hours at a cost per piece of 2 annas 3 pies for soap, washing-soda and fuel, and needing only three able-bodied men and a boy to work it.
        Cotton and its machinery filled a large department; for the time when America should contribute her full share of this staple to the world's market seemed then distant; and cotton was the prime cause of the prosperity of Ajaibgaum.
        The Exhibition was, however, only the centre of a host of attractions which the capital of the South-West Provinces then presented. Lawn-tennis was not in those days; but there was cricket, badminton and archery with picnics, dances and dinners, and field days of the Ajaibgaum Tent Club and a race-meeting- to say nothing of the fire-works and tumashas for the native population. The hospitality of the place was boundless; for though there were but few good houses, each was surrounded by a mushroom crop of tents. Sir Rupert Boldick inhabited a canvas town, fortified with lines of picketed horses and mounds of elephants and camels. In His Honour's Camp a distinguished Member of Parliament was hard at work making notes for a volume of travels. He was deeply interested in the natives, and shook hands with such as were presented to him with effusion; but when an Englishman was introduced to him he raised his eye-glass slowly, put his hands behind him, and bowed frigidly.
        All this, after months of plodding in the Oracle office, was new and fresh to me, and I felt that I was really seeing India at last. I regarded the stalwart men who strode about in knickerbockers, and the young civil, police and military officers in neat riding trim as they cantered along in the cool morning sunshine, with a feeling of envy. Why was it not given to me to live in a tent with rifles, hog-spears and hunting-crops hung about the walls and to be a ruler of men, instead of a pale bondslave to that insatiable Daughter of the Horse-leech- a daily paper?
        I felt my deficiencies sadly when Mr. Twitchley Crowdie presented me to Sir Rupert. The great man was most kind; and indicated at some length the points of interest to which the attention of the readers of the Oracle might be directed. He was about to pay a flying visit to Brinjalpur to see the famous irrigation bund and temple built by the celebrated Rani Lussonbhai. His Honour proposed to rebuild the bund, to dig the irrigation channels afresh, and to restore the halcyon days of Rani Lussonbhai to several hundred miles of now sterile country. Would I like to go? It was only about three days' ride; and Sir Rupert rode fifty miles a day? A seat in an office-chair is not good training for feats of this kind, and I had to decline the tempting offer. H. H. smiled softly to himself, and, after blinking at me for a minute and a half out of the corner of his left eye, sidled away and forgot my existence.
        Another introduction that I also owed to Mr. Twitchley Crowdie's kindness had more momentous results. Dining in the Commissioner's camp one evening he beckoned to him a pale, distraught man, whose head was crowned by a disorderly thatch of hay-like hair tinged with grey; and whose dreamy blue eyes had a melancholy expression.
         "Bubbleby, let me introduce you to Mr. Mudsworth. You will find him a congenial spirit. Clever, professional men like you ought to be acquainted; and, by the way, here is Miss Clara Bubbleby, looking charming." Then, sotto voce, to me- "You will have to sit next to Miss Clara at dinner, and you must entertain her, for the Judge who takes her in never talks except on the Bench." Our host then turned away, and Mr. Bubbleby introduced me to his wife and elder daughter. The mother was an acid and sharp-featured person, and Miss Bubbleby had dutifully inherited these characteristics; but Miss Clara, with a wisdom beyond her years, had devoted herself to plumpness and the cultivation of those qualities which go to make up what we call a "jolly girl."
        She was a delightful dinner neighbour, for she chattered and laughed continually; the rest of the family reconnoitring us from their several posts with an air of approval. I learnt that "poor dear Papa" was the Local Funds Engineer and sadly unappreciated; that he was always busy on some new invention the merit of which was denied by jealous people. "Pa is so very clever, you know; and he meets so few who can sympathise with him." Sympathy is my strong point; and glancing down the table at his towzled head and "lost-my-way" sort of countenance, I promised myself that I would sympathise my hardest with the parent of so delightful a creature as Clara Bubbleby.
        So little cold weather comes to Ajaibgaum that the residents make the most of it; and sitting on the windward side of a campfire mulling claret and brewing grog furnished a pleasing and Christmas-like after-dinner diversion. We were thus occupied when Mr. Bubbleby interrupted the little flirtation that Clara and I had set up, by deferentially claiming a few minutes conversation. He had to accompany His Honour to Brinjalpur; and wished to know if I could spare him half an hour in the early morning to look over his inventions. I thought of my proud position as a pries of the Temple of Fame and Special Correspondent of the Oracle; and gladly promised to do all in my power to make the fruits of his genius known. But remembering my chief's instructions I added:- "As a man of the world, Mr. Bubbleby, you will understand that I should like to look at these things with you as a private individual, absolutely unprejudiced, and without any reference to the use to be made of the information. In short, my dear Sir, we will talk them over and 'sink the shop.' "
        I flattered myself that I had thus secured the impersonality which, as all right-thinking journalists allow, ought to shroud the newspaper writer.
        The Engineer seized my hand impressively, and with an air of great mystery assured me that he understood me perfectly; and that he and his family would religiously abstain from any reference to what he was pleased to call my "position as a professional man." He then left, and the band of a neighbouring mess-tent striking up dance music, Mr. Twitchley Crowdie proposed a valse. The cheery Commissioner was plump but nimble. He quickly tired out of the Judge's wife and took Miss Clara for a turn. The gaily dressed couples revolving round the fire, now in gloom and now in the glare of the blazing wood, made a pretty picture; and the girlish grace of Miss Clara was in charming contrast to the rotundity of her partner, whose bald head shone in the firelight like a spinning billiard ball. Suddenly I saw him trip on the edge of a durree. He tried to recover himself and seemed to do so for a yard or two, but stumbled again. Desperately trying not to fall, and tightly clutching Miss Clara, he bore down on the fire; falling into it on his back and raising a fountain of sparks. The ladies screamed, but Mr. Twitchley Crowdie was active and had great presence of mind. He rolled, out of the fire, rapidly over and over Miss Clara with intent to "put her out" according to the plan recommended in books; and in this he certainly succeeded, for, when he was assisted to rise and I bent with infinite concern over the prostrate maiden, I found she was not in the least burn but very much dishevelled and out of breath. No bones were broken, however, and when I raised her the trembling girl laid her head on my shoulder and murmured- "Oh! Mr. Mudsworth, I am so frightened!"
        She soon recovered her self-possession however, and was pronounced no worse for the accident. The fire was flattened out and burnt dim and blue, a good deal of claret was spilt and the company dispersed, leaving the Commissioner ruefully examining the durree and wondering how on earth he came to fall.
        Mrs. Bubbleby insisted on my seeing them home in the family tonga; and, as I could not drive, it was arranged that I should sit behind with Clara and support her. I had to support her with my arm round her waist all the way. It was a thrilling experience.
        As we drove up I saw through a window the tangled head of "poor dear Pa" bent over a writing-table preparing, as I afterwards learned to my sorrow, statements for my information. Mrs. Bubbleby was pleased to consider me Clara's "preserver," and I received the effusive thanks of the family, but a pressure of the dear girl's hand was worth all the rest; and full of the memory of this I returned to my quarters.

Chapter II.

MR. BUBBLEBY looked sleepy as he appeared at the exhibition early next morning, carrying a mighty roll of papers. He led me to the building, and I asked his opinion on the machinery. He cared little for agricultural implements, but took me to a stall spread with a mysterious array of models, specifications and framed drawings. Over all was painted "INVENTIONS AND PATENTS BY A. BUBBLEBY, M.I.C.E., LOCAL FUNDS ENGINEER, AJAIBGAUM." I saw at a glance that Mr. Bubbleby was an inventor and an enthusiast and, I made up my mind to humour him. Nothing was easier. All I had to do was to say a word now and then; and to write a line from time to time in my note-book.
        Bubbleby's windmill pump; Bubbleby's self-acting punkah; his patent bullock-gearing- all were reviewed; but the features of the show upon which he dwelt most were the Bubbleby permanent-way; a railway carriage axle bearing the same name; a wonderful brake, all screws, springs and chains; and a patent coupling for railway carriages. I could well believe that but for the accident of his vegetating in Ajaibgaum these inventions would have procured him a European reputation, though an extraordinary jealousy and a combination of interested persons had hitherto prevented them from being accepted on Indian railways; and, being anxious to stand well with him, I flatter myself I passed for an expert. I warmed with his enthusiasm, and significantly hinted that the days of his obscurity were over; having already in my mind written several paragraphs on his inventive genius, and thought over some cutting things to say on the bonds of red tape which crippled the railway enterprise of India.
        Hist time was short, but before he went he unrolled his bundle of papers. There were a few sketches, hints, plans &c., of the inventions noted above, and of other matters connected with railways which might interest me. It was an appalling sight; and my blood curdled as I turned over the sheets. I longed to protest, but Mr. Bubbleby's time was up. He shook me by the hand in the most impressive manner. He said hope had dawned upon his path; and that he felt that he should have justice done to him at last. He further invited me during his absence to look up his wife and family, who would only be too happy to do all in their power for my entertainment; and then left me, helpless and aghast, before this heap of papers. Poor Bubbleby! He evidently was one of those who cherish exaggerated ideas of the power of the Press. We who move its levers know that it is a mighty engine; but when it comes to patent self-acting brakes and inventions connected with the permanent-way, the advertisement department of this great power would seem to be the proper handle to lay hold of. Still, here was a man of inventive genius, wistful of aspect, pale as Palissy, thin as Jacquard, and earnest as Hargreaves, who, by the accident of his living in India, had missed the rich rewards that fall to the lot of such mean as Fairbairn and Bessemer. Decidedly he must be dragged from his unmerited obscurity and held up to the admiration he deserved.
        It was natural that he should turn from uncongenial people who could not sympathise with his pursuits to a representative of Literature. His confidences did me honour, but I confess I was somewhat embarrassed by them; and I found when left alone before the patent brake and the rest of the puzzling models, that I remembered very little of what the enthusiastic inventor had said, and when I turned to my note-book my observations were so merely interjectional as to be useless. But Clara Bubbleby's eyes I recalled with photographic accuracy; while a certain piquant turn of her nose and a pretty pecularity in its chiselling where it joined the short upper lip, and the full red lips themselves, were all much more distinct to my mind's eye than Exhibitions full of models. As I rolled up my sheaf of plans and went to breakfast, I thought that my chief would admit, if he could see me, that I was doing my duty by the paper.
        In the afternoon I called on the Bubblebys, and was cordially welcomed to tea. A stalwart young gentleman connected with cotton machinery, who spoke with a strong Lancashire accent, did not seem to be pleased with the attentions I paid to Miss Clara; nor was the young lady herself in a comfortable frame of mind. Miss Bubbleby smiled on him with her acid aspect, and turned to me all honey. As acting it was admirable, but the rapidity of the change was more surprising than pleasant. I was evidently in the Lancashire man's way; and we were all relieved when he sulkily departed, and a system of telegraphy that had been flashing from eye to eye of the three ladies ceased.
        A drive in the family tonga was proposed; but Mrs. and Miss Bubbleby had to meet the chaplain's wife on business. That need not prevent Miss Clara and myself taking the air together.
        To the cold world, i.e. , to the people we met, I daresay we appeared to be merely jogging along with the uncomfortable motion peculiar to tongas; but dead Moslems are blest indeed if the cushioned clouds of Muhammad's paradise offer anything half so delightful as that seat by Clara Bubbleby's side was to me. Mr. Cheetham, the Lancashire man, met us and vouchsafed a louring nod in reply to the sweet girl's arch imitation of a coachman's salute with raised elbow.
        Looking back on that happy drive in a conveyance whose springs were not so elastic as our spirits, and on other little incidents of my brief acquaintance with the belle of Ajaibgaum, I am fain to admit that she was an egregious flirt and that I was a blind ass. This discovery has not the merit of novelty; but it may establish a claim to my reader's sympathy. For I doubt not that at some period of his or her existence he or she has been either one or the other.
        The lovely Clara, after the manner of her kind, enjoyed using me as a foil to the broad-shouldered and broader-tongued Cheetham. For three happy days I almost lived at the hospitable Bubbleby bungalow, where Mrs. Bubbleby treated me with a confidential and knowing air which was more amusing than intelligible. I did my best to be civil to the Lancashire interloper; but it was clear there was no love lost between us. He grunted contemptuously during my most entertaining conversation; he took a pleasure in not knowing and never having heard of things and people to which I referred; and when he did his utmost to be polite, there was an expression in his eye which could only be adequately rendered by the vulgar phrase- "I should like to punch your head." When the inventor returned he was more mysterious and confidential than ever, and bore a still bigger burden of papers. He dragged me once more to that dreadful stand, and was beginning his descriptions anew, when I hailed the appearance of Mr. Twitchley Crowdie at the head of a peripatetic jury deliberating on the merits of rival cotton-gins.
        "Hallo, Bubbleby! Back again I see. I have news for you. Mudsworth is coming."
        "Mr. Mudsworth is here with me," said the Engineer with complacent dignity.
        "Ah yes; but I mean the Mudsworth, you know, Consulting Engineer for Railway Crossings and Culverts."
        "And this gentleman?" said Mr. Bubbleby, pointing to me.
       'That's Mr. Mudsworth of the Presidency Oracle, you know?"  The designer of the patent brake and the parent of the fair Clara hastily gathered together his papers. His face was pale; his hair more tangled than ever. He tied up his precious documents with unnecessary tightness, and, as he turned to go, he thundered- "Sir, you are a hearthless imposter!"
        Mr. Twitchley Crowdie and the jurymen broke into a roar of laughter. It was a most embarrassing position that my obedience to instructions had brought about. I had carefully avoided mentioning the paper; but I had also forgotten all about the Mudsworth- the other and better known man who bore my name. The mysterious air of deference with which I had been treated, and other incidents which Clara's bright eyes had caused me to pass over without notice, were all now clear. I breathlessly explained the circumstances to Mr. Twitchley Crowdie and the gentlemen with him. I grew eloquent with a piteous earnestness seldom heard in private life; but those jovial jurors only laughed the more. They believed me, however; and their President invited me to join them at lunch.
        If they performed their judging functions in the large and comprehensive spirit in which they lunched, my friends were miracles of critical force. They had been awarding prizes all the morning; but after that generous meal there was a positive rain of decorations. And the Ajaibgaum Exhibition Medal was a thing to be proud of. On the obverse was a profile head of Sir Rupert Boldick in bold relief, crowned with a laurel wreath, like a Caesar or a victor in the Olympic games. On the reverse there was a picturesque heap of cows, astronomical telescopes, horses, ploughs, painters; palettes, books, sextants and cog-wheels surmounted by a palm-tree, which conveyed to the meanest capacity a general impression of Art, Science, Industry, Agriculture, Literature, and India. In the cheerful society of the dispensers of this brazen honour, I regained my spirits, which had been dashed by Mr. Bubbleby's rude remark. Their dry champagne sang consolatory anthems in my head; but, as I passed through the machinery department on my way to write an enthusiastic account of their conscientious labours, my way was suddenly barred by Mr. Cheetham, accompanied by several of his mechanical and engineering friends. His Lancashire accent was most unpleasantly strong as he cried: "Look here! This is the chap that comes swaggering about, pretending to be somebody, when he is nowt at all but a beggarly penny-a-liner!"
        Much more did this northern barbarian say to the same effect; but he did not know that I had been lunching with a jovial jury, and was not in a mood to be trifled with. I took off my spectacles and replied with equal vigour of speech.
        I would fain draw a veil over the sequel; but truth compels me to proceed. I lost my temper, and he revenged himself for all the lovely Clara had made him suffer. I am ignorant of the manly art of self-defence; while the brutal Cheetham was a scientific expert. One well-directed blow made all the stars in the firmament flash in my eyes; and a second, which flattened my nose on my face, felled me to the ground. His friends restrained my opponent from further violence. They picked me up and washed my disfigured countenance in the soapy water-trough of the adjacent Dipthong washing machine. They counselled the application of raw beefsteak, and saw me to my ticca-gharry, while the Lancashire Berserkir, though held back by his friends, showed a lively desire to repeat the dose.
        A quelque chose malheur est bon.  I had scarcely reached my quarters when a messenger arrived with a brief and stern note from Mr. Bubbleby demanding his papers. My eyes had black orbits, and my nose felt sad and strange, like somebody else's nose; but I had got rid of those detestable plans! In the evening I walked out to relieve an unaccountable stiffness in my limbs, taking an unfrequented road and musing on the evil chances that had befallen me. But other people had sought solitude; and I recognised the Bubbly tonga. This time Mr. Cheetham sat by the faithless Clara's side and flourished his whip in triumph as they passed; while she smiled lovingly in his face. I bore up as bravely as I could; but a broken nose is as ineffectual a disguise for a wounded spirit as are gold spectacles for a pair of black eyes.
        The worst of my misfortunes came later and in this wise. The local correspondent of the opposition paper was a friend of Mr. Bubbleby, and one of his letters contained this absurd paragraph: "Foremost among the visitors is Mr.Mudsworth, C.E., the great Railway Engineer, who takes copious amounts of notes of all subjects of interest, and has been greatly impressed by the inventive genius of our worth and accomplished Local Funds Engineer, and has promised to introduce his valuable inventions on all the railways in the Empire. A little bird also whispers that, at no distant date, the distinguished engineer and the younger daughter of our local inventor may be united in bonds more durable if possible than the patent carriage-coupling which is destined to make the latter famous."
        The wretch probably thought this very neatly turned; but the editor, instead of cutting it out, appended a note to the effect that there must be some mistake, as Mr. Mudsworth, C.E., had been married for years, and that confusion had probably been caused by the presence at Ajaibgaum of a "pushing person from the office of our Ditch Street contemporary who bore the same name, but who was as ignorant of Engineering as of most other subjects on which he wrote at such tedious length."
        I spent Christmas Day in treating my bruises, and in writing a long explanation to my chief of the Oracle. I wrote also to Mr. Bubbleby, and I had the satisfaction of being, to some extent, rehabilitated in his good graces. For, when the real Engineering Mudsworth was led up to the stand of models, he only said- "Ah, yes! Yes, very ingenious. Very  ingenious," and resolutely declined the sheaves of papers that had been thrust upon me. The inventor felt that the Press had been a better friend to him than Science in power, and he forgave me. But I went no more to tea with the ladies at the Bubbleby bungalow, and the Lancashire man had the coast clear for himself.
        So it was not a particularly merry Christmas, after all, that I spent at Ajaibgaum. And I do not think it was kind of Mr. Cheetham, two months later, to address me by name- enclosing postage stamps for two rupees- the notification of the "domestic occurrence" that united him for life to the fair Clara. Though he was an incult barbarian, he must have known that it is to the manager of a journal, and not to its literary staff, that communications of this kind should be addressed.


       

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  1. Mr Mudworth, Presidency Oracle