As Spurstow was arranging the sheet, a big straight-necked hunting-spur tumbled on the ground. The doctor groaned. The personal servant peeped at the body.
'What do you think, Chuma?' said Spurstow, catching the look on the dark face.
'Heaven-born, in my poor opinion, this that was my master has descended into the Dark Places, and there has been caught because he was not able to escape with sufficient speed. We have the spur for evidence that he fought with Fear. Thus have I seen men of my race do with thorns when a spell was laid upon them to overtake them in their sleeping hours and they dared not sleep.'
'Chuma, you're a mud-head. Go out and prepare seals to be set on the Sahib's property.'
'God has made the Heaven-born. God has made me. Who are we, to enquire into the dispensations of God? I will bid the other servants hold aloof while you are reckoning the tale of the Sahib's property. They are all thieves, and would steal.'
'As far as I can make out, he died from - oh, anything; stoppage of the heart's action, heat-apoplexy, or some other visitation,' said Spurstow to his companions. 'We must make an inventory of his effects, and so on.'
'He was scared to death,' insisted Lowndes. 'Look at those eyes! For pity's sake don't let him be buried with them open!'
'Whatever it was, he's clear of all the trouble now,' said Mottram softly.
Spurstow was peering into the open eyes.
'Come here,' said he. 'Can you see anything there?'
'I can't face it!' whimpered Lowndes. 'Cover up the face! Is there any fear on earth that can turn a man into that likeness? It's ghastly. Oh, Spurstow, cover it up!'
'No fear - on earth,' said Spurstow. Mottram leaned over his shoulder and looked intently.
'I see nothing except some grey blurs in the pupil. There can be nothing there, you know.'
'Even so. Well, let's think. It'll take half a day to knock up any sort of coffin; and he must have died at midnight. Lowndes, old man, go out and tell the coolies to break ground next to Jevins's grave. Mottram, go round the house with Chuma and see that the seals are put on things. Send a couple of men to me here, and I'll arrange.'
The strong-armed servants when they returned to their own kind told a strange story of the doctor Sahib vainly trying to call their master back to life by magic arts - to wit, the holding of a little green box that clicked to each of the dead man's eyes, and of a bewildered muttering on the part of the doctor Sahib, who took the little green box away with him.
The resonant hammering of a coffin-lid is no pleasant thing to hear, but those who have experience maintain that much more terrible is the soft swish of the bed-linen, the reeving and unreeving of the bed-tapes, when he who has fallen by the roadside is apparelled for burial, sinking gradually as the tapes are tied over, till the swaddled shape touches the floor and there is no protest against the indignity of hasty disposal.
At the last moment Lowndes was seized with scruples of conscience. 'Ought you to read the service, from beginning to end?' said he to Spurstow.
'I intend to. You're my senior as a civilian. You can take it if you like.'
'I didn't mean that for a moment. I only thought if we could get a chaplain from somewhere, I'm willing to ride anywhere, and give poor Hummil a better chance. That's all.'
'Bosh!' said Spurstow, as he framed his lips to the tremendous words that stand at the head of the burial service.
After breakfast they smoked a pipe in silence to the memory of the dead. Then Spurstow said absently -
'Tisn't medical science.'
'Things in a dead man's eye.'
'For goodness' sake leave that horror alone!' said Lowndes. 'I've seen a native die of pure fright when a tiger chivied him. I know what killed Hummil.'
'The deuce you do! I'm going to try to see.' Arid the doctor retreated into the bathroom with a Kodak camera. After a few minutes there was the sound of something being hammered to pieces, and he emerged, very white indeed.
'Have you got a picture?' said Mottram. 'What does the thing look like?'
'It was impossible, of course. You needn't look, Mottram. I've torn up the films. There was nothing there. It was impossible.'