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camps that had been her home for most of their marriage. Mumtaz's
features were delicate, with high Persian cheeks, and she was well over
thirty - the age at which most Muslim women ceased to interest their
mates. But she had found ways to remain the center of Jadar's life, if
not dominate it.

The flash of her eyes told Jadar she was in an extreme temper.

"Pigeons arrived just after you left. The report from Agra

is astonishing."

"What 'report' do you mean? Do you and your women receive my dispatches
now?"

"Which are rarely worth the bother. No, I receive my own. From Father."
Mumtaz was the daughter of Nadir Sharif, prime minister of the Moghul
empire and brother of Queen Janahara. "I had the sense to leave him
pigeons for here at Ujjain. And also for Burhanpur . . . which may
prove to be vital for you, assuming that city is not overrun by
Deccanis by the time you reach it."

"What message did Nadir Sharif ever send that wasn't dictated by our
noble queen?"

"You're a fool not to trust him. But you'd do well to begin. And soon."
Mumtaz's eyes snapped momentary fire, matching the hard red jewel on
her forehead, and she eased herself slowly onto a well-traveled velvet
bolster to lighten the weight of the child. "I think you'll discover
your many friends may be difficult to find if we ever return to the
capital."

"Come to the point. I want to see into their tent. They killed well
today." Jadar was always amused by Mumtaz's temper. He had long ago
despaired of receiving proper respect from her. She defied him exactly
the way Janahara defied the Moghul. And he delighted in it. Perhaps all
Persian wives were incorrigible. Perhaps it was a racial trait.

"Very well. You should be pleased to know that His Majesty has already
forgotten you exist. He has agreed to the queen's outrageous scheme. An
affront to sense, but it will be the end of you nonetheless."

"Agreed to what?"

"The very marriage I warned you about, but you wouldn't listen. You
were too clever. Yes, you were brilliant. You sent the wrong brother
away from Agra. You sent Khusrav, the competent one. You should have
sent Allaudin."

"I don't believe it."

"I do. And I told you it would happen. The queen has foisted her
scrawny offspring, the simpering Princess Layla, onto Allaudin. But
it's the perfect match. The Moghul's youngest son, the notorious 'good-
for-nothing,' betrothed to that fumbling little sparrow. Both weak and
useless."

"What could Allaudin possibly do? Even Arangbar realizes he's
incompetent."

"But Arangbar will soon be dead. So what he knows won't matter. It's
perfect for the queen. She'll rule them both. In the meantime, she'll
make sure you're nowhere near Agra. Your next appointment will probably
be the Punjab, or perhaps the Himalayas. Where you can chase yak with
your leopards." Mumtaz could scarcely contain her anger and
frustration. "The time will come, and soon, when the Moghul will chance
his twenty glasses of wine and his twelve grains of opium one night too
many. And the next day, while you're somewhere sporting with your
_chitahs_, she'll summon her lackey general Inayat Latif and his Bengal
_mansabdars _to Agra. And declare Allaudin the next Moghul."

Jadar was stunned. Allaudin was incapable of anything, except bowing to
the queen's orders like a hand puppet. Once Moghul, he certainly could
not rule. She would rule for him. Or probably eliminate him entirely
after a few months.

So Janahara had finally made her move. To challenge Prince Jadar, the
son who had earned the throne, for his rightful place. The battle had
been joined.

"So what do you propose to do? She waited just long enough to trap you
in the Deccan." Mumtaz's fury was turning to despair. "If you go back
now, you'll be accused of abandoning Burhanpur. If you march on south,
you'll be unable to return for months. And by that time Allaudin will
be married. Father said she has convinced the Moghul to give him a
personal mansab rank of eight thousand _zat _and a horse rank of four
thousand _suwar_. Allaudin, who scarcely knows a bow from a wine bowl,
will now have his own cavalry."

Jadar was looking at her, but he no longer heard.

This changes everything. There'll be no silver. The queen will see to
that.

And no silver means no troops can be recalled from the Deccan
_mansabdars_.

Which means we lose the Deccan. But she'd gladly give the

Deccan to destroy me.

Jadar looked at Mumtaz and smiled. "Yes, I must do something. But right
now I'll see my _chitahs _fed." And he turned and strode briskly back
toward his tent.

A dense mantle of evening smoke enveloped the camp as the three
generals passed through the entry of the gulal bar. They advanced to
the front of the sarachah platform and halted to wait for Jadar. Each
had brought a silver cup, as Jadar had instructed.

All three were seasoned military leaders. Abdullah Khan, a young Moghul
warrior, had been promoted to a rank of three thousand _suwar _after
the successful siege at the northern fortress of Kangra. Under the
prince he had risen from the rank of foot soldier to cavalry, and now
he commanded his own division. The next was Abul Hasan, a cool-headed
Afghan strategist with rank of five thousand _suwar_, who had led
Prince Jadar to his first victory in the Deccan three years before.
Finally there was Raja Vikrama-jit, a bearded Rajput of royal blood,
who led the Hindus. He scorned matchlocks and fought only with his
sword, and he was the bravest man in battle that Jadar had ever known.

Moments later Prince Jadar emerged through the smoke, carrying his
heavy sword and accompanied by Vasant Rao. A servant trailed after them
bearing a crystal decanter of wine and two silver goblets on a tray.

The prince assumed his seat in the center of the platform and ordered
the servant to place the decanter on a small table by his side. Then he
motioned away the servant and all the surrounding guards.

"I propose we all take a glass of wine to clear our thoughts. It's
Persian, and I had it cooled in the saltpeter tent especially for this
evening."

Jadar personally poured wine for each of the men, then filled the two
goblets on the tray for Vasant Rao and for himself.

"I hereby propose a toast to Ahmadnagar, which Malik Ambar now calls
his own capital. And to its recapture within a hundred days."

The men raised their goblets and drank in silence. Skepticism filled
their eyes.

Jadar looked at them and smiled. "You do not agree? Then let me tell
you more. The situation is very bad. How bad even you do not yet know.
But battles are more than a matter of numbers. They are a test of the
will to win. That's why I called you here tonight." Jadar paused. "But
first, is the wine to your liking?"

The men nodded silent assent.

"Good. Drink deeply, for none of us will drink again until we drink in
Ahmadnagar. Now I will take your cups."

Jadar reached for each man's cup individually and placed them in a row
alongside the tray, together with his own and that of Vasant Rao. Then
he laid his own cup on its side on the tray and slowly drew his heavy
sword from its scabbard. With a fierce swing he sliced the cup in half.
Then the next cup, and the next, until all were destroyed. The men
watched him spellbound.

"Assemble your ranks in the bazaar at midnight. In full battle dress. I
will address them. And at dawn, we march."

Jadar rose and as quickly as he had come disappeared into the darkness.

Battle gear - helmets, buckles, pikes, swords, muskets - glistened in the
torchlight as Jadar rode a fully armored war elephant slowly down the
center of the main bazaar. The bristling infantry, arrayed in rows on
either side, watched him expectantly. A midnight muster was unheard of.
But rumors had already swept the camp telling of the pending marriage
of the queen's daughter to Allaudin. All knew Jadar had been betrayed.
And with him, all of them as well.

Then they noticed carts following him, with barrels of wine from
Jadar's tent. When the prince reached the center of the bazaar, he
raised his arms for silence.

For a moment all that could be heard was the neigh of horses from the
stables, and the cries of infants in the far reaches of the camp.

He began in Urdu, a hybrid camp tongue of Persian and

Hindi, his voice ringing toward Abul Hassan's Muslim troops.

"Tonight we are many." Jadar paused deliberately. "But in battle the
many are nothing. In battle there is only the one. Each of you is that
one." Again a pause. Then he shouted in a voice that carried to the far
hills. "Is there a Believer among us tonight who would fight to the
death for our victory?"

A roar of assent sounded from the men.

"Will you swear it? On the Holy Quran?"

This time the roar shook the tent poles of the bazaar.

"Is there one who would not?"

Silence.

Suddenly Jadar turned to the troops of Moghul lineage and
switched his language to exquisite Persian.

"Some here tonight swear to embrace death itself for our
victory. But I know not the will of all. Is there among you a man who
would give his life for us?"

Again a roar of assent.

"What man will swear it?"

The roar seemed to envelop the camp.

Without pausing, Jadar turned to the Rajput contingent,
addressing them easily in their native Rajasthani.

"Does any among you know how to fight?"

Cheers.

"Does any know how to die?"

More cheers. And then the Rajputs began banging their swords
on their bucklers. Jadar bellowed above the sudden dim.

"I know Hindus cannot take an oath. But if you could, would it
be to fight to the death for our victory?"

Bedlam seized the camp. And the chant "Jadar-o-Akbar," Jadar
is Great, swept through the ranks. Jadar let the chant continue for a
time, and as he listened, he saw that Mumtaz and her women had appeared
at the gateway of the gulal bar, as he had instructed them. All
activity had ceased in the camp, and even in the far background the
women had gathered in the shadows of the tents, listening intently.
Then Jadar motioned for silence and continued.

"Tonight we each will make a pledge. I to you. You to me. First my
pledge to you."

Jadar commanded his elephant to kneel, and he dismounted and walked
directly to the waiting wagons containing his wine barrels. He was
handed a silver-handled battle axe, and with a powerful overhand swing
he shattered the first barrel. Then he signaled his waiting guard, and
in moments every barrel had been axed. The center of the bazaar ran
red, and the air was filled with the wine's sweet Persian perfume.

Then he motioned toward the entry of the _gulal bar _and his women
emerged, followed by an elephant whose _howdah_, the livery on its
back, was filled with silver utensils. When the procession reached the
clearing where Jadar stood, the elephant's mahout commanded it to
kneel.

Without a word Jadar walked directly to the _howdah_. As though meeting
an enemy in ambush, he suddenly drew his long sword and swung it
through the livery, leaving a wide gash in its embroidered side. A
glittering array of silver and gold plate, goblets, jewelry poured onto
the ground. With a single motion he sheathed the sword and again took
the axe.

While the assembled camp watched spellbound, he quickly, methodically,
smashed each of the silver and gold objects into small shreds. Then he
broke the silver handle of the axe and again mounted the elephant.

"My pledge to you." His voice pierced the stunned silence of the camp
as he repeated each sentence in three languages. "My pledge to you is
not to touch wine, not to lie with women, not to look on silver or gold
until we have taken Ahmadnagar."

The camp seemed to come apart with the cheer that followed, and again
came the chant "Jadar-o-Akbar," "Jadar-o-Akbar." The sound was as one
voice, and now even the distant hills echoed back the sound. Again
Jadar stopped them.

"Your pledge to me must be the same. And together we will take
Ahmadnagar in a hundred days. By the head of the Prophet I swear it to
you."

Again the chant. And again Jadar stopped them.

"Tonight I offer to fight for you. You must be ready to fight for me.
And each must hold the other to his pledge."

More cheers.

"I have spilled my wine. I will stay apart from my women. I have
smashed my gold and silver. I will give it to you. Each tent will have
a shard. But my eyes must never see it again."

The roar of approval was deafening.

"That is my pledge. You must also give me yours. Leave your women in
their tents and lie beside me under the stars. Empty your wine flasks
into the Narbada River as we cross. As your oath to fight to the death.
And all your silver, that of your vessels, that on your saddles, that
on your women, must be brought here tonight. Mark it with your seal,
and leave it under guard in my own wagons, away from all eyes, until
the day we reach Ahmadnagar. Then we will drink wine, we will have
women, we will wear our finest in victory."

Jadar paused dramatically. "Tonight we are many. Tomorrow we are one.
We march at sunrise!"

The cheers began again, and immediately the pile of silver started to
grow. Muslim nobles began bringing silver-trimmed saddles, plates, even
jewelry. But the most silver came from the Hindu infantry, as their
women were stripped of the silver bracelets and massive silver anklets
that had been their dowries.

Jadar sat unmoving on his elephant as the men began to come forward
with items of silver. Soon there was a line stretching into the dark of
the tents. He watched the pile growing, and his calculations began.

Will it be enough? The weight must be enough or the Shahbandar,
motherless thief that he is, will never agree. But I think we will have
it.

He thought back over the plan. It had required almost the entire
afternoon to refine. But when he had convinced himself that it would
succeed, he had posted the pigeons to Surat.

Where, he had asked himself, can I find fifty lakhs of silver, five
million rupees, within a month, and have them at Burhanpur when we
arrive? I'll not squeeze a copper _pice_, penny, from Agra.

If not Agra, where?

And slowly in his mind a form had taken shape. He had

examined it, almost touched it, puzzled over it. And then he knew what
it was.

The mint at Surat. Where foreign coin is melted and recast as rupees.
Fifty lakhs of silver rupees would scarcely be missed. Especially if
the Shahbandar would allow his minters to work a normal day. The
backlog of foreign coin he holds unmelted, creating an artificial
shortage of silver, would easily cover fifty lakhs of rupees. I need
only borrow what I need, and with it buy back into service the cavalry
I need to reclaim the Deccan.

The Shahbandar.

But will he do it?

He will. If I can show him collateral.

I don't have enough collateral. Not in my own funds. Not even in the
local treasuries.

But there must be enough silver in eighteen thousand tents to assemble
five million rupees.

I will hold it, and give him a note of obligation using it as
collateral. If we reach Ahmadnagar, I will squeeze the five million
rupees many times over from every traitorous _mansabdar _I do not hang.
I will confiscate their _jagir_ estates and let them buy them back. I
can easily confiscate enough to return the Shahbandar his loan, and
then my men will have back their silver.

If we do not reach Ahmadnagar, it will be because we are dead. So what
will it matter? We will make an oath to reach the city or die.

Only one problem remains.

How to move the coin from Surat to Burhanpur. Secretly. No one must
know where it came from or that it's being transferred. But a train
with fifty lakhs of rupees must be heavily guarded. And the guards will
betray its value.

Unless there can be some other reason for a heavily guarded train from
Surat to Burhanpur. A reason that would not automatically evoke
suspicion. Possibly a person of importance. Someone whom all India
knows cannot be touched. Someone important to the Moghul.

And then the perfect answer came. The most obvious answer of all. Who
will soon be traveling from Surat to Burhanpur, en route to Agra, under
safe conduct of the Moghul? The Englishman.

The infidel _feringhi _need never know. That with him will be the
silver that will save Prince Jadar.




CHAPTER TEN


Brian Hawksworth stepped lightly off the prow of the barge as
it eased into the riverbank and worked his way through the knee-deep
tidal mud onto the sandy shore. Even here, across the harbor, the water
still stank of the sewers of Surat. Then he turned and surveyed the
sprawling city, back across the broad estuary, astonished that they
could have crossed the harbor so easily on nothing more substantial
than a wide raft of boards lashed with rope, what the Indians called a
bark.

Ahead, waiting on the shore, was a line of loaded bullock carts -
conveyances with two wooden wheels higher than a man's head, a flat bed
some six feet wide, and a heavy bamboo pole for a tongue - each yoked to
two tall, humpbacked gray cattle with conspicuous ribs. The carts
stretched down the muddy road that emerged from the tangle of coastal
scrub and were piled to overflowing with rolls of English wool cloth.
The turbaned drivers now shouted Hindi obscenities as they walked
alongside and lashed the sullen cattle into place for unloading. As
Hawksworth watched, the porters who had ridden with him splashed their
way toward the shore and began driving stakes to secure the mooring
lines of the bark. Wool would be ferried across the harbor and cotton
brought back with each trip.

Then Hawksworth caught sight of George Elkington's ragged hat bobbing
in the midday sunshine as the Chief Merchant and his aide, Humphrey
Spencer, climbed down from their two-wheeled Indian coach, drawn by two
white oxen, which had been loaned by Shahbandar. Farther down the line
of carts was a detail of English seamen, led by red-haired Mackintosh,
and all carrying muskets, who had walked the fifteen-mile, two-day trek
to guard the cargo.

The trading season was well underway, and over the past three weeks a
motley assemblage of cargo vessels from the length of the Indian Ocean
had appeared downriver at the bar to commence unlading. Foreign traders
normally transported goods inland to Surat on the barks that plied the
Tapti between the port and the shallow bar at the river mouth. But
these vessels had arrived at the bar with the blessings of Portugal,
for they all had acquired a Portuguese license and paid duty on their
cargo at some Portuguese-controlled tax point.

After evaluating the risk of exposing his English frigates at the bar -
where maneuverability was limited and the possibility of Portuguese
surprise great - Brian Hawksworth had elected to unlade directly onshore
from their protected anchorage north of the river mouth, the cove
called Swalley, then haul the goods overland to the banks of the Tapti
opposite Surat. There would be no risk of Portuguese interference
inland and, once across from the port, the goods could be easily barged
to the _maidan_.

He turned again toward the river and examined the town of Surat from
his new vantage. It was easy to see now why this location had been
chosen for the port, for here the river curved and widened, creating a
natural, protected harbor. The most conspicuous landmarks visible from
across the harbor were three stone villas along the riverfront, all
owned by the Shahbandar, and the square stone fort that stood on the
downriver side of the harbor, its heavy ordnance trained perpetually on
the water. The fort was surrounded by a moat on three sides and on the
fourth by the river. Entry could only be gained through a gate on the
riverside, or a drawbridge that connected its entrance to the open
_maidan_, the square where traders congregated.

The square had swarmed with merchants and brokers as they passed
through, and he had watched as two brokers stood together near its
center - one from Ahmedabad, up-country, and the other from Surat - arguing
loudly over the price and quality of a pile of indigo. The porters
explained that the Surat broker was accusing the other of mixing sand
with the indigo to increase its weight, then disguising his deception
by also adding enough oil that the indigo would still float on water,
the test used to establish purity of the dried extract of the indigo
leaf. As the argument grew more vigorous, Hawksworth noticed the men
join hands beneath a piece of cloth, where they began negotiating the
actual price by means of their fingers, a figure undoubtedly little
related to the movement of their tongues.

Now that the high trading season of September-January had begun,
Surat's narrow streets were one loud bazaar, swollen to almost two
hundred thousand grasping traders, bargaining seamen, hawking
merchants. A dozen languages stirred the air as a motley mélange of up-
country Indian traders, Arabs, Jains, Parsis, Persians, Jews,
Egyptians, Portuguese, and returning Muslim pilgrims - every nationality
known to the Indian Ocean - swaggered through the garbage-sodden mud
paths called streets.

Hawksworth gazed back at the city and reflected over the curious events
of the past three weeks. The English had, inexplicably, been received
first with open hostility, and then with suspiciously cordial
deference - first by the governor, and afterward by the Shahbandar.
Something is very wrong, he told himself. A contest of wills is
underway between the Shahbandar, Mirza Nuruddin, and the governor,
Mukarrab Khan. And so far, Mukarrab Khan seems to be winning. Or is he?

Six days before, the governor had suddenly reversed his policy of
noninterference in port affairs and authorized a license for the
English to sell their cargo in Surat and buy Indian goods, something
the Shahbandar had found one excuse after another to delay. However,
Mukarrab Khan had delivered this license directly to the English,
rather than forwarding it to the Shahbandar through normal channels,
leaving Brian Hawksworth the unpleasant responsibility of presenting
this document to the Shahbandar in person. But the meeting turned out
to be nothing like Hawksworth had expected.

"Once more you astound me, Captain." The close, torch-lit chamber of
the customs house office had fallen expectantly silent as the
Shahbandar drew slowly on his hookah and squinted with his opaque,
glassy eyes at the black seal of Mukarrab Khan affixed to the top of
the page. Hawksworth had waited for a glimmer of anger at this
insulting breach of port protocol - which surely was Mukarrab Khan's
reason for insisting the license be delivered by the English Captain-
General. But the Shahbandar's eyes never lost their noncommittal
squint. Instead he had turned to Hawksworth with a cordial smile. "Your
refusal to negotiate seems to have worked remarkable dispatch with His
Excellency's officials. I can't recall ever seeing them act this
quickly."

Hawksworth had been amazed. How could Mirza Nuruddin possibly know the
terms he had demanded of the governor: produce a license for trade
within ten days or the two English frigates would weigh anchor and
sail; and accept English sovereigns at bullion value rather than the
prevailing discount rate of 4 1/2 percent required to circumvent
"minting time," the weeks "required" by the Shahbandar's minters to
melt down foreign coin and re-mint it as Indian rupees.

No one could have been more surprised than Brian Hawksworth when
Mukarrab Khan had immediately conceded the English terms and approved
the license - valid for sixty days - to land goods, and to buy and sell.
Why had the governor agreed so readily, overriding the Shahbandar's
dawdling clerks?

"Naturally you'll need an officer here to schedule the river barks."
The Shahbandar's voice was even, but Hawksworth thought he sensed an
air of tension suddenly grip the room. "Normally barks are reserved
weeks in advance now during the high season, but we can always
accommodate friends of Mukarrab Khan."

It was then that Hawksworth had told the Shahbandar he would not be
bringing cargo up the river, that instead it would be transported
overland from their protected anchorage using bullock carts arranged
for by Mukarrab Khan.

"The cove you call Swalley is several leagues up the coast, Captain.
Foreign cargo has never before been unladed there, nor has it ever been
brought overland as you propose." He had seemed genuinely disturbed. "I
suggest it's both irregular and unworkable."

"I think you understand why we have to unlade from the cove. The
decision is made." Hawksworth tried to keep his voice as firm as that



Online LibraryThomas HooverThe Moghul → online text (page 15 of 52)