The Return of Imray, Part 3

A detective thriller

By Rudyard Kipling


Strickland
It’s another detective thriller. After all, men don’t climb to the roofs of their bungalows to die, and they don’t fasten up the ceiling cloth behind em. Let’s think it out.
Me
Let’s think it out somewhere else.
Strickland
Excellent idea! Turn the lamps out. We’ll get into my room.
Me
I will not turn the lamps out, but I shall go into your room first, and allow you to make the darkness. Then follow me.
Strickland
Have a pipe of my tobacco and we will think. 
Me
You think. I shall smoke furiously, because I am afraid.
Strickland
Imray is back. The question is—-who killed Imray? Don’t talk, I’ve a notion of my own. When I took this bungalow I took over most of Imray’s servants. Imray was guileless and inoffensive, wasn’t he?
Me
I agree; though the heap under the cloth looks neither one thing nor the other.
Strickland
If I call in all the servants they will stand fast in a crowd and lie like Aryans. What do you suggest?
Me
Call em in one by one.
Strickland
They’ll run away and give the news to all their fellows. We must segregate em. Do you suppose your servant knows anything about it?
Me
He may, for aught I know; but I don’t think it’s likely. He has only been here two or three days. What’s your notion?
Strickland
I can’t quite tell. How the dickens did the man get the wrong side of the ceiling-cloth?

There was a heavy coughing outside Strickland’s bedroom door. This showed that Bahadur Khan, his body-servant, had waked from sleep and wished to put Strickland to bed.


Strickland
Come in. It’s a very warm night, isn’t it?
Bahadur Khan
It is a very warm night; but there is more rain pending, which, by your Honour’s favour, will bring relief to the country.
Strickland
It will be so, if God pleases. It is in my mind, Bahadur Khan, that I have worked thee remorselessly for many days—-ever since that time when thou first earnest into my service. What time was that?
Bahadur Khan
Has the Heaven-born forgotten? It was when Imray Sahib went secretly to Europe without warning given; and I-even I-came into the honoured service of the protector of the poor.
Strickland
But Imray Sahib went to Europe?
Bahadur Khan
It is so said among those who were his servants.  
Strickland
And thou wilt take service with him when he returns?
Bahadur Khan
Assuredly, Sahib. He was a good master, and cherished his dependants.
Strickland
That is true. I am very tired, but I go buck-shooting to-morrow. Give me the little sharp rifle that I use for black-buck; it is in the case yonder.

The man stooped over the case; handed barrels, stock, and fore-end to Strickland, who fitted all together, yawning dolefully. Then he reached down to the gun-case, took a solid-drawn cartridge, and slipped it into the breech of the 360 Express.

Strickland
And Imray Sahib has gone to Europe secretly! That is very strange, Bahadur Khan, is it not?
Bahadur Khan
What do I know of the ways of the white man, Heaven-born?
Strickland
Very little, truly. But thou shalt know more anon. It has reached me that Imray Sahib has returned from his so long journeyings, and that even now he lies in the next room, waiting his servant.
Bahadur Khan
Sahib!
Strickland
Go and look. Take a lamp. Thy master is tired, and he waits thee. Go!

The man picked up a lamp, and went into the dining-room, Strickland following, and almost pushing him with the muzzle of the rifle. He looked for a moment at the black depths behind the ceiling-cloth; at the writhing snake under foot; and last, a gray glaze settling on his face, at the thing under the tablecloth.

Strickland
  Hast thou seen? 
Bahadur Khan
I have seen. I am clay in the white man’s hands. What does the Presence do?
Strickland
Hang thee within the month. What else?
Bahadur Khan
For killing him? Nay, Sahib, consider. Walking among us, his servants, he cast his eyes upon my child, who was four years old. Him he bewitched, and in ten days he died of the fever—my child!
Strickland
What said Imray, Sahib?
Bahadur Khan
He said he was a handsome child, and patted him on the head; wherefore my child died. Therefore I killed Imray Sahib in the twilight, when he had come back from office, and was sleeping. Wherefore I dragged him up into the roof-beams and made all fast behind him. 
Strickland
Look at me, my old friend. Thou art witness to this saying? He has killed.

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