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Based on real people (ca. 1620) - THE MOGHUL begins in a rip-roaring
sea battle north of Bombay in which the vastly out-gunned adventurer,
Brian Hawksworth, ship's captain and emissary of King James, blows
away a flotilla of Portuguese galleons to gain access to an Indian
port. He's come to open trade for "barbaric" England and squeeze out
the Portuguese, who try to kill him at every turn. But once on land,
he's captive: the beauty and romance of the exquisite Moghul Empire
seduce him from his material goals to a new quest - of supreme
sensuality in music, visions, and sacred lovemaking.
India, ruled by the son of great Akbar, is about to pass to one of his
sons. Hawksworth must choose sides, but will he choose right? The
future of England, and of India, depend on it. Assailed by intrigue
and assassination, tormented by a forbidden love, enthralled by a
mystic poet, Hawksworth engages war elephants, tiger hunts, the harem
of the Red Fort of Agra, the Rajput warriors at Udaipur, becomes
intimate champion to Shah Jahan, (builder of the Taj Mahal), and, in
his supreme test, plays the sitar with a touch that elicits from the
great Shah - "Finally, my English friend - you understand."
THE MOGHUL was immediately a European bestseller, optioned by Indian
producers who commissioned a six-hour mini-series, then Canadian
producers with the BBC.
A SWEEPING ADVENTURE THAT SWEPT THE CRITICS!
"IF YOU ENJOYED THE FAR PAVILIONS OR SHO-GUN, YOU SHOULD OBTAIN THOMAS
HOOVER'S NEW NOVEL ABOUT INDIA . . . ROBUST . . . ROUSING ...
ROLLICKING ADVENTURE . . . JUST ABOUT PERFECT'
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"HIGH ACTION . . . SPRAWLING"
- San Diego Union
"THOMAS HOOVER CAPTURES THE SOUNDS AND SMELLS AND ATMOSPHERE OF THE
TIME, FROM THE MYSTERIESOFTHE HAREM TOTHE BATTLES BETWEEN MASSED
- Milwaukee Journal
- Publishers Weekly
"GOOD ENTERTAINMENT ... I WOULD NOT HESITATE TO RECOMMEND THE MOGHUL TO
ANYONE WHO ENJOYS ROBUST HISTORICAL ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE"
- Omaha World-Herald
"PLENTY OF ACTION . . . FASCINATING ... A VIVIDLY TOLD TALE"
- Wichita Falls Times
BOOKS BY THOMAS HOOVER
The Zen Experience
Wall Street Samurai
(The Samurai Strategy)
All free as e-books at
ZEBRA BOOKS are published by Kensington Publishing Corp. 475 Park
Avenue South New York, N.Y. 10016
Copyright ¬© 1983 by Thomas Hoover
Reprinted by arrangement with Doubleday & Co., Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form
or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher,
excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
First Zebra Books printing: October 1984 Printed in the United States
Author: Thomas Hoover
Title: The Moghul
Moghul, India, Shah Jahan, British India, Taj Mahal, Portuguese India,
India, Shah Jahan, India History, Agra, Raj, Seventeenth-Century India
This tale is offered to the memory of one William Hawkins (1575-1613),
a brandy-drinking, Turkish-speaking seaman and adventurer who was the
first Englishman to reach the court of Jahangir, the Great Moghul of
India. There he delivered gifts from the new East India Company and a
letter from King James proposing direct trade, then a zealously
protected monopoly of Portugal. As he gradually adopted Indian ways,
Hawkins became a court favorite of the Moghul, who made him a knightly
_khan _and eventually tried to keep him in India. After several
Portuguese-instigated attempts to murder him, Hawkins attached himself
for safety to a certain willful Indian woman. The end of their story
eventually became a minor legend throughout the early East India
As astonishing as some of the elements in the historical landscape
described here may seem today, they are all by and large fictional re-
creations of actual events, practices, people - drawn from diaries of
seventeenth-century European travelers and from Indian historical
materials. Aside from the names, only the clocks in this remote world
have been knowingly altered. Years in historical time have become
months in these pages, months have become days. Several vicious naval
engagements between English frigates and Portuguese galleons, several
major land battles between Indian armies, have each been compressed
But the major occurrences in this faraway saga all happened. While
Shakespeare wrote of commoners and kings, while colonists hewed log
cabins from the wilds of the New World, a land ruled by violent
intrigue, powerful drugs, and sensual beauty lay hidden in that
legendary place known as Moghul India.
He watched from the quarterdeck as the chain fed through the whitecaps
of the bay, its staccato clatter muffled, hollow in the midday heat.
Then he sensed the anchor grab and felt an uneasy tremor pass along the
hull as the links snapped taut against the tide. The cannon were
already run in and cooling, but vagrant threads of smoke still traced
skyward through the scuttles and open hatch, curling ringlets over two
draped bodies by the mainmast. Along the main deck scurvy-blotched
seamen, haggard and shirtless to the sun, eased the wounded toward the
shade of the fo'c'sle.
He drew the last swallow of brandy from his hooped wooden tankard and
instinctively shifted his gaze aloft, squinting against the midday sun
to watch as two bosun's mates edged along the yards to furl the
mainsail. Then he turned to inspect the triangular lateen sail behind
him, parted into shreds by the first Portuguese cannon salvo, its
canvas now strewn among the mizzenmast shrouds.
A round of cheers told him the last two casks of salt pork had finally
emerged from the smoky hold, and he moved to the railing to watch as
they were rolled toward the cauldron boiling on deck. As he surveyed
the faces of the gathering men, he asked himself how many could still
chew the briny meat he had hoarded so carefully for this final morning
of the voyage.
The crowd parted as he moved down the companionway steps and onto the
deck. He was tall, with lines of fatigue etched down his angular face
and smoke residue laced through his unkempt hair and short beard. His
doublet was plain canvas, and his breeches and boots scarcely differed
from those of a common seaman. His only adornment was a small gold ring
in his left ear. Today he also wore a bloodstained binding around his
thigh, where a musket shot from a Portuguese maintop had furrowed the
He was Brian Hawksworth, captain of the five-hundred-ton English
frigate _Discovery _and Captain-General of the Third Voyage of
England's new East India Company. His commission, assigned in London
over seven months past, was to take two armed trading frigates around
the Cape of Good Hope, up the eastern coast of Africa, and then through
the Arabian Sea to the northwest coast of India. The Company had twice
before sailed eastward from the Cape, to the equatorial islands of the
Indies. No English vessel in history had ever sailed north for India.
The destination of this, the first English voyage to challenge Lisbon's
control of the India trade, was the port of Surat, twelve leagues
inland up the Tapti River, largest of the only two harbors on the
Indian subcontinent not controlled by Portugal.
He reached for the second tankard of brandy that had been brought and
squinted again toward the mouth of the Tapti, where four armed
Portuguese galleons had been anchored earlier that morning.
Damn the Company. No one planned on galleons at the river mouth. Not
now, not this early in the season. Did the Portugals somehow learn our
destination? . . . And if they knew that, do they know the rest of the
Since the Tapti had been badly silted for decades, navigable only by
cargo barge or small craft, he and the merchants must travel upriver to
Surat by pinnace, the twenty-foot sailboat lashed amidships on the
_Discovery_'s main deck. There the merchants would try to negotiate
England's first direct trade with India. And Brian Hawksworth would
undertake a separate mission, one the East India Company hoped might
someday change the course of trade throughout the Indies.
He remounted the steps to the quarterdeck and paused to study the green
shoreline circling their inlet. The low-lying hills undulated in the
sun's heat, washing the _Discovery _in the dense perfume of land.
Already India beckoned, the lure even stronger than all the legends
told. He smiled to himself and drank again, this time a toast to the
first English captain ever to hoist colors off the coast of India.
Then with a weary hand he reached for the telescope, an expensive new
Dutch invention, and trained it on his second frigate, the _Resolve_,
anchored a musket shot away. Like the _Discovery_, she rode easily at
anchor, bearing to lee. He noted with relief that her ship's carpenter
had finally sealed a patch of oakum and sail in the gash along her
portside bow. For a few hours now, the men on the pumps could retire
from the sweltering hold.
Finally, he directed the glass toward the remains of two Portuguese
galleons aground in the sandy shallows off his starboard quarter, black
smoke still streaming from gaps in their planking where explosions had
ripped through the hull. And for an instant his stomach tightened, just
as it had earlier that morning, when one of those same galleons had
laid deep shadows across the _Discovery's _decks, so close he could
almost read the eyes of the infantry poised with grapples to swing down
and board. The Portugals will be back, he told himself, and soon. With
He scanned the river mouth once more. It was deserted now. Even the
fishing craft had fled. But upriver would be another matter. Portuguese
longboats, launched with boarding parties of infantry, had been
stranded when the two galleons were lost. Together they had carried
easily a hundred, perhaps two hundred musketmen.
They made for the Tapti, he thought grimly, and they'll be upriver
waiting. We have to launch before they can set a blockade. Tonight. On
He revolved to find Giles Mackintosh, quartermaster of the _Discovery_,
waiting mutely by his side.
"Mackintosh, start outfitting the pinnace. We launch at sunset, before
the last dog watch."
The quartermaster pulled at his matted red curls in silence as he
studied the tree-lined river mouth. Then he turned abruptly to
Hawksworth. "Takin' the pinnace upriver'll be a death sentence, Cap'n,
I warrant you. Portugals'll be layin' for us, thicker'n whores at a
Tyburn hangin'." He paused deliberately and knotted the string holding
back hair from his smoke-darkened cheeks. "I say we weigh at the tide
and ease the frigates straight up their hell-bound river. She's wide as
the Thames at Woolwich. We'll run out the guns and hand the pox-rotted
Papists another taste o' English courtesy."
"Can you navigate the sandbars?"
"I've seen nae sign of bars."
"The Indian pilot we took on yesterday claims there's shallows
"All the more reason to sail. By my thinkin' the pilot's a full-bred
Moor. An' they're all the same, Indian or Turk." Mackintosh blew his
nose over the railing, punctuating his disgust. "Show me one that's na
a liar, a thief, or a damned Sodomite. Nae honest Christian'll credit
the word of a Moor."
"There's risk either way." Hawksworth drew slowly on the brandy,
appearing to weigh the Scotsman's views. "But there's the cargo to
think of. Taken for all, it's got to be the pinnace. And this Moorish
pilot's not like the Turks. I should know."
"Aye, Cap'n, as you will." Mackintosh nodded with seeming reluctance,
admiring how Hawksworth had retained mastery of their old game. Even
after two years apart. "But I'll be watchin' the bastard, e'ery move he
Hawksworth turned and slowly descended the quarterdeck steps. As he
entered the passageway leading aft to the Great Cabin and the
merchants' cabins, he saw the silhouette of George Elkington. The Chief
Merchant of the voyage was standing by the quarter gallery railing,
drawing on a long clay pipe as he urinated into the swells. When he
spotted Hawksworth, he whirled and marched heavily down the corridor,
perfunctorily securing the single remaining button of his breeches.
Elkington's once-pink jowls were slack and pasty, and his grease-
stained doublet sagged over what had been, seven months past, a
luxuriant belly. Sweat trickled down from the sides of his large hat,
streaming oily rivulets across his cheeks.
"Hawksworth, did I hear you order the pinnace launch'd tonight? E'en
before we've made safe anchorage for the cargo?"
"The sooner the better. The Portugals know we'll have to go upriver. By
tomorrow they'll be ready."
"Your first obligation, sirrah, is the goods. Every shilling the
Company subscrib'd is cargo'd in these two damn'd merchantmen. A fine
fortune in wool broadcloth, Devonshire kersey, pig iron, tin,
quicksilver. I've a good ten thousand pound of my own accounts
invest'd. And you'd leave it all hove to in this piss crock of a bay,
whilst the Portugals are doubtless crewin' up a dozen two-deckers down
the coast in Goa. 'Tis sure they'll be laid full about this anchorage
inside a fortnight."
Hawksworth inspected Elkington with loathing, musing what he disliked
about him most - his grating voice, or his small lifeless eyes.
And what you probably don't realize is they'll be back next time with
trained gunners. Not like today, when their gun crews clearly were
Lisbon dockside rabble, private traders who'd earned passage out to the
Indies on the easy claim they were gunners, half not knowing a linstock
from a lamppost.
"Elkington, I'll tell you as much of our plans as befits your place."
Hawksworth moved past him toward the door of the Great Cabin. "We're
taking the pinnace upriver tonight on the tide. And you'll be in it,
along with your coxcomb clerk. Captain Kerridge of the _Resolve_ will
take command of the ships. I've already prepared orders to move both
frigates to a new anchorage."
"I demand to know what damn'd fool scheme you've hatch'd."
"There's no reason you have to know. Right now the fewer who know the
better, particularly the men going upriver."
"Well, I know this much, Hawksworth. This voyage to India may well be
the East India Company's last chance to trade in the Indies. If we fail
three voyages in a row, we'd as well close down the Company and just
buy pepper and spice outright from the damn'd Hollanders. England's got
no goods that'll trade in the Spice Islands south o' here. Remember
Lancaster cargo'd wool down to the islands on the first two Company
voyages, thinkin' to swap it for pepper, and discover'd for himself
what I'd guess'd all along - a tribe of heathens sweatin' in the sun have
no call for woolen breeches. So either we trade up here in the north,
where they'll take wool, or we're finish'd."
"The anchorage I've found should keep the cargo - and the men - safe till
we make Surat. With luck you'll have your cargo aland before the
Portugals locate us." Hawksworth pushed open the heavy oak door of the
Great Cabin and entered, stranding Elkington in the passageway. "And
now I wish you good day."
The cabin's dark overhead beams were musty from the heat and its air
still dense with smoke from the cannon. The stern windows were partly
blocked now by the two bronze demi-culverin that had been run out aft,
"stern-chaser" cannon that could spit a nine-pound ball with deadly
accuracy - their lighter bronze permitting longer barrels than those of
the cast-iron guns below decks. He strode directly to the oil lantern
swaying over the great center desk and turned up the wick. The cabin
brightened slightly, but the face of the English lute wedged in the
corner seemed suddenly to come alive, shining gold over the cramped
quarters like a full moon. He stared at it wistfully for a moment, then
shook his head and settled himself behind the large oak desk. And asked
himself once more why he had ever agreed to the voyage.
To prove something? To the Company? To himself?
He reflected again on how it had come about, and why he had finally
accepted the Company's offer. . . .
It had been a dull morning in late October, the kind of day when all
London seems trapped in an icy gloom creeping up from the Thames. His
weekly lodgings were frigid as always, and his mind was still numb from
the previous night's tavern brandy. Back from Tunis scarcely a month,
he already had nothing left to pawn. Two years before, he had been
leading a convoy of merchantmen through the Mediterranean when their
ships and cargo were seized by Turkish corsairs, galleys owned by the
notorious _dey _of Tunis. He had finally managed to get back to London,
but now he was a captain without a ship. In years past this might have
been small matter to remedy. But no longer. England, he discovered, had
The change was apparent mainly to seamen. The lower house of Parliament
was still preoccupied fighting King James's new proposal that Scotland
be joined to England, viewed by most Englishmen as a sufferance of
proud beggars and ruffians upon a nation of uniformly upright
taxpayers; in London idle crowds still swarmed the bear gardens to
wager on the huge mastiffs pitted against the chained bears; rioting
tenant farmers continued to outrage propertied men by tearing down
enclosures and grazing their flocks on the gentry's private hunting
estates; and the new Puritans increasingly harassed everyone they
disapproved of, from clerics who wore vestments to women who wore
cosmetics to children who would play ball on Sunday.
Around London more talk turned on which handsome young courtier was the
latest favorite of their effeminate new king than on His Majesty's
enforcement of his new and strict decree forbidding privateering - the
staple occupation of England seamen for the last three decades of
Elizabeth's reign. King James had cravenly signed a treaty of peace
with Spain, and by that act brought ruin to half a hundred thousand
English "sea dogs." They awoke to discover their historic livelihood,
legally plundering the shipping of Spain and Portugal under wartime
letters of marque, had become a criminal offense.
For a captain without a ship, another commission by a trading company
seemed out of the question, and especially now, with experienced seamen
standing idle the length of London. Worst of all, the woman he had
hoped to return to, red-haired Maggie Tyne of Billingsgate, had
disappeared from her old lodgings and haunts leaving no trace. Rumor
had her married - some said to the master of a Newcastle coal barge,
others to a gentleman. London seemed empty now, and he passed the
vacant days with brandy and his lute, and thoughts of quitting the sea -
to do he knew not what.
Then in that cold early dawn appeared the letter, requesting his
immediate appearance at the Director's Office of the East India
Company, should this coincide with his convenience. He found its tone
ominous. Was some merchant planning to have him jailed for his loss of
cargo to the Turks? But he'd been sailing for the Levant Company, not
the East India Company. He debated with himself all morning, and
finally decided to go. And face the mercantile bastards.
The new offices of the Company already seemed embalmed in the smell of
lamp oil and sweat, their freshly painted wood timbers masked in dull
soot. A stale odor of ink, paper, and arid commerce assailed his senses
as he was announced and ushered through the heavy oak door of the
And he was astonished by what awaited. Standing hard by the Director's
desk - was Maggie. He'd searched the length of London in vain for her,
and here she was. But he almost didn't recognize her. Their two years
apart had brought a change beyond anything he could have imagined.
No one would have guessed what she once had been, a dockside girl
happiest at the Southwark bear-gardens, or in a goose-down bed. And
somehow she had always managed to turn a shilling at both - wagering with
a practiced eye on the snarling dogs brought in to bloody the bears, or
taking her pleasure only after deftly extracting some loan, to allay an
urgent need she inevitably remembered the moment she entered his
That morning, however, she reigned like an exotic flower, flourishing
amid the mercantile gloom. She was dressed and painted in the very
latest upper-class style - her red hair now bleached deep yellow,
sprinkled thick with gold dust, and buried under a feathered hat; her
crushed-velvet bodice low-necked, cut fashionably just below the
nipples, then tied at the neck with a silk lace ruff; her once-ruddy
breasts now painted pale, with blue veins penciled in; and her face
carefully powdered lead-white, save the red dye on her lips and cheeks
and the glued-on beauty patches of stars and half-moons. His dockside
girl had become a completely modern lady of fashion. He watched in
disbelief as she curtsied to him, awkwardly.
Then he noticed Sir Randolph Spencer, Director of the Company.
"Captain Hawksworth. So you're the man we've heard so much about?
Understand you escaped from Tunis under the very nose of the damned
Turks." He extended a manicured hand while he braced himself on the
silver knob of his cane. Although Spencer's flowing hair was pure
white, his face still clung tenuously to youth. His doublet was
expensive, and in the new longer waist-length style Hawksworth
remembered seeing on young men-about-town. "'Tis indeed a pleasure.
Nay, 'tis an honor." The tone was practiced and polite, a transparent
attempt at sincerity rendered difficult by Hawksworth's ragged
appearance. He had listened to Spencer mutely, suddenly realizing his
loss of cargo had been forgotten. He was being congratulated for coming
"'Twas the wife, Margaret here, set me thinkin' about you. Says you two
were lightly acquainted in younger years. Pity I never knew her then
myself." Spencer motioned him toward a carved wooden chair facing the
desk. "She ask'd to be here today to help me welcome you. Uncommonly
winsome lady, what say?"
Hawksworth looked at Maggie's gloating eyes and felt his heart turn. It
was obvious enough she'd found her price. At last she had what she'd
always really wanted, a rich widower. But why trouble to flaunt it?
He suspected he already knew. She simply couldn't resist.
"Now I pride myself on being a sound judge of humanity, Hawksworth, and
I've made sufficient inquiry to know you can work a ship with the best.
So I'll come right to it. I suppose 'tis common talk the Company's
dispatchin' another voyage down to the Indies this comin' spring. Soon
as our new frigate, the _Discovery_, is out of the yard. And this time
our first port of call's to be India." Spencer caught Hawksworth's
look, without realizing it was directed past him, at Maggie. "Aye, I
know. We all know. The damned Portugals've been there a hundred year,
thick as flies on pudding. But by Jesus we've no choice but to try
openin' India to English trade."
Spencer had paused and examined Hawksworth skeptically. A process of
sizing up seemed underway, of pondering whether this shipless captain
with the bloodshot eyes and gold earring was really the man. He looked
down and inspected his manicured nails for a long moment, then
"Now what I'm about to tell you mustn't go past this room. But first
let me ask you, Is everything I've heard about you true? 'Tis said the
_dey _of Tunis held you there after he took your merchantmen, in hopes
you'd teach his damned Turks how to use the English cannon you had on
"He's started building sailing bottoms now, thinking he'll replace the
galleys his Turkish pirates have used for so long. His shipwrights are
some English privateers who've relocated in Tunis to escape prison
here. And he was planning to outfit his new sailing ships with my