Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 742
Morrowbie Jukes’s strange ride occurs when he is weakened by a fever. Baying dogs disturb his sleep. He kills one of them and displays its body, hoping to deter the other dogs from their baying. Instead, they devour the body “and, as it seemed to me, sang their hymns of thanksgiving afterwards with renewed energy.” Morrowbie tries to shoot the loudest of the dogs, but the lightheadedness that accompanies his fever makes him miss the offending dog even though he unloads both barrels of his shotgun in its direction.
Finally, Morrowbie decides to go after the dog with his boar spear. He has his pony, Pornic, saddled and sets out. The pony runs at breakneck speed in a straight line, galloping past the baying dog and running for several miles beyond it. Suddenly Morrowbie sees the waters of the river Sutlej before him; then his pony stumbles and the two roll down a slope. Morrowbie loses consciousness.
When he awakes, he is inside a horseshoe-shaped crater, three sides of which are enclosed by high slopes slanting at about sixty-five degrees. The river provides the remaining boundary. Morrowbie tries to ride out of the crater, but he cannot conquer its steep slopes. Then he hears a gunshot from across the river, and a bullet lands close to Pornic’s head.
Some time passes before Morrowbie becomes aware that other people inhabit this wilderness. Slowly, about sixty-five people emerge from badger holes that Morrowbie thought were untenanted. Among them is Gunga Dass, a Brahman and a former telegraph master, whom Morrowbie once knew. Gunga Dass cries, “Sahib! Sahib!” Morrowbie recognizes him only by a scar on his cheek for which Morrowbie was apparently responsible. Gunga Dass commences to tell Morrowbie about this city of the living dead on which he has stumbled.
The crater and its barrows are inhabited by people who, thought to be dead from cholera, had been taken away for hasty cremation. Some of them were not dead, and when they stirred, those who were to have cremated them plastered their noses and mouths with mud. Those who did not die from suffocation as a result of this ministration were set loose, and many of them, including Gunga Dass, who almost died, ended up in this crater. A gunboat cruises the Sutlej by daylight to make sure that no one escapes from the place.
Gunga Dass takes all of Morrowbie’s money and wants to take his boots as well. He tells Morrowbie that he will look after him for a while but suggests that in time Morrowbie should wait on him, a suggestion that Morrowbie rejects. All at once, however, Morrowbie finds himself in the middle of a role reversal. He is no longer master. Gunga Dass controls him. On Morrowbie’s first night in the crater, its...
(The entire section contains 742 words.)
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