O man of good will – why the sword?’
The old soldier looked as abashed as a child interrupted in his game of make-believe.
‘The sword,’ he said, fumbling it. ‘Oh, that was a fancy of mine, an old man’s fancy. Truly the police orders are that no man must bear weapons throughout Hind, but’ – he cheered up and slapped the hilt – ‘all the constabeels hereabout know me.’
‘It is not a good fancy,’ said the lama. ‘What profit to kill men?’
‘Very little – as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers. I do not speak without knowledge who have seen the land from Delhi south awash with blood.’
‘What madness was that, then?’
‘The Gods, who sent it for a plague, alone know. A madness ate into all the Army, and they turned against their officers. That was the first evil, but not past remedy if they had then held their hands. But they chose to kill the Sahibs’ wives and children. Then came the Sahibs from over the sea and called them to most strict account.’