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Bengal Dacoits and Tigers/Dacoit Stories/Two Chinese Dacoits

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TWO CHINESE DACOITS

In a large house in Calcutta there lived an Englishman, his wife and her sister. Mrs. C. was of a highly-strung and nervous disposition, and as her husband's business frequently occasioned his absence from home, they had persuaded her sister Ethel to come out to India on a long visit.

Ethel was a bright, lively girl, very practical and quite the opposite of her sister, whom she often rallied for her timidity. Once when Alice was more trying than usual, Ethel exclaimed: "Perhaps if I were a little like you, Alice, delicate, nervous and silly, I might get a husband who would fuss over me like Charlie does over you."

Alice laughed at her sister's earnestness and said: "If you were not healthy and strong-minded you would understand me better, Ethel."

Not long afterwards the two ladies were left alone for some days as Mr. C. was obliged to go upcountry on business. While he was away, Ethel slept with her sister. It was the cold weather when night closes in early and the evenings are long. Mrs. C. liked an early dinner, soon after which she always retired. Ethel liked to spend the long quiet evenings, reading or writing, and often sat up till midnight.

One afternoon, while they were at lunch, a telegram was brought in, and on opening it, Alice exclaimed delightedly "Charlie will be back in time for dinner".

The evening passed away till dinner time but Mr. C. did not arrive and the ladies waited till nine o'clock. Then they dined, and when the clock struck ten and still there was no arrival, Alice said she would go to bed, as Charlie must have missed his train and the next was not due till near midnight.

Ethel looked up from her book and said: "Well, I am sleeping in my own room."

"O! you know I hate to be alone," exclaimed Alice; "you might come and sleep in mine until Charlie comes in."

"Alice, you are selfish," retorted Ethel. "I shall barely be in bed before he walks in. The only thing for me is to go to bed in your room in my evening dress."

"How silly you are," said Alice peevishly; "why cannot you undress as usual? Charlie may not come at all to-night and I dread being alone."

"Oh, very well," said Ethel, "I will come and read in your room till Charlie does come. I shall never marry a man who is always away on business." With these words she forsook her easy chair and accompanied her sister into the large bed-room. She threw herself on the side of the bed and went on with her book.

Alice undressed, got into bed and was soon asleep. Ethel finished her book and then lay waiting for her brother-in-law. The lights in the hall and on the landing were not extinguished, but the house was still and quiet. It was near twelve and Alice was just wondering if Mr. C. would really arrive or if it would not be better for her to undress and get into bed comfortably when she heard gentle footsteps on the stairs.

"There's Charlie," she said to herself, "and how softly he is coming upstairs! he is a considerate husband."

She looked at her sister, saw that she was sleeping very soundly. "I will pretend to be asleep too," said Ethel to herself and she drew up the bed-clothes to hide her evening dress and put a pillow over her head.

To her disappointment, Charlie delayed his coming and she was wondering if he was dining when the door slowly opened, but instead of Mr. C. two Chinamen entered the room. Ethel stared at them from under her pillow with amazement. At first they stood motionless beside the door. Then, closing it noiselessly, they advanced into the room. Their quaint clothes, long pigtails and red eyes together with their stealthy movements and the hour of midnight, created an uncanny atmosphere in the room, and for the first time in her life Ethel began to understand what nerves mean. Never in her life had her pulses jumped and throbbed as they were doing now. She controlled her inclination to scream and from under her pillow watched the men.

They examined the room and one of them approached the toilette table and began to transfer the jewels and silver ornaments which lay upon it to a capacious bag. The other took a big cigar out of his pocket and lit it. Then he stepped to Mrs. C.'s side and began to puff the smoke into her face. She was sleeping upon her back and though she at first stirred uneasily she soon seemed to sink into a deeper sleep. After a few minutes by her side, the Chinaman moved round to Ethel's side of the bed; but seeing that her head was covered by a pillow and that she was apparently fast asleep, he turned to help his comrade.

At this moment Mr. C.'s voice sounded in the hall and he came running upstairs, whistling gaily. The robbers exchanged alarmed looks and hastily hid themselves and their bag of booty behind a large almirah. Charlie opened the door and came into the room, saying "Alice, where are you?" Approaching the bed he said "What, asleep!" and bent over his wife. But she was in a deep slumber and oblivious of her husband's presence. He noticed Ethel's form on the opposite side of the bed and, walking gently round, touched her arm and whispered: "Are you asleep too?"

She lifted the pillow, stretched her arms, and then sat up on the bed. He noticed her evening dress and was explaining his late arrival when she jumped up crossly from the bed and saying, "Look at your wife, is she not looking ghastly?" went out of the room. Charlie returned to his wife's side and looked closely at her. Her face seemed strangely pallid and her hands were cold. He endeavoured to wake her and was still trying to rouse her when Ethel returned to the room followed by several of the servants, who looked excited.

In answer to his question, "What is wrong with Alice?" Ethel said "There are two thieves hidden behind the almirah. Let the servants help you to secure them and then you will know what is wrong with Alice."

The two Chinamen were soon routed out from behind the almirah, captured and handed over to the police. A doctor was summoned and Alice was brought out of the stupor, she had been thrown into by the fumes of opium smoke.

 

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