Thomas Hoover.

The Moghul online

. (page 49 of 52)
Online LibraryThomas HooverThe Moghul → online text (page 49 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

his men. Ahead his servants were already erecting a new chintz wall
around the _gulal bar _and replacing the tents for the _zenana_.
Hawksworth watched as carpets were unrolled from bullock carts and
carried inside the compound.

Jadar's elephant proceeded instinctively to the very entry of the
_gulal bar_, where it kneeled for him to dismount. Around him Rajputs
pushed forward to cheer and _teslim_. As he stood acknowledging them,
the other elephants also began to kneel. Jadar's servants rushed
forward to help Hawksworth and Shirin alight.

"This was the most horrible day I've ever known." Her arms closed
around his neck as her feet touched ground, and she held him for a long
moment, tears staining her cheeks. "I've never before seen so much
killing. I pray to Allah I never see it again."

Hawksworth returned her embrace, then looked at her sadly. "There'll be
a lot more before Jadar sees Agra, if he ever does. This is just one
battle, not the war. I'm not sure we want to be here to find out how it

She looked back at him and smiled wistfully in silence. Then she turned
and performed the _teslim _to Jadar.

The prince was scarcely recognizable. His helmet had been torn by
countless arrows, or matchlock fire, and his haughty face and beard
were smeared with dust and smoke. The emerald bow ring was missing from
his right thumb, which was now caked with blood. Beneath his armor the
torn leather of his right sleeve was stained blood-dark, where he had
ripped out an arrow. As he lifted his arms to acknowledge the rising
cheers, his eyes were shadowed and tired, but they betrayed no pain.

Hawksworth turned and examined Jadar's _howdah_. It was a forest of
arrows and broken spear shafts. Grooms from the stables had already
brought water and sugarcane for his elephant and begun extracting iron
arrowheads from its legs and from a section of its right shoulder where
its armor had been shot away.

As he watched the scene, Hawksworth slowly became aware of a pathway
being cleared through the camp toward the east. Next, the cheers of
some of Jadar's Rajputs began to swell through the smoky air. Through
the encroaching dark, there slowly emerged the form of another elephant
approaching. In the torchlight he could tell it was regal in size and
bore a gilded _howdah _shaded by a wide brocade umbrella. There were no
arrows in the side of this _howdah_, nor was there more than a trace of
dust on the elephant's gilded and enameled armor. With its elaborate
decoration of swinging yak tails and tinkling bells, it seemed more
suited for a royal procession than for a battlefield.

Jadar watched impassively as the elephant neared the center of the
clearing. While the Rajputs around him stood at attention, the elephant
performed a small bow, then began to kneel with practiced dignity.
Several Rajputs rushed forward to help the rider alight.

The man's jeweled turban and rows of finger rings sparkled in the
torchlight. As he moved directly toward Jadar, Hawksworth suddenly
recognized the walk and caught his breath.

It was Nadir Sharif.

The prime minister paused a few feet from Jadar and salaamed lightly.
He did not _teslim_, nor did he speak. As he stood waiting, from out of
the darkness of the _gulal bar _the figure of a woman emerged. She was
veiled, surrounded by her women, and accompanied by a line of eunuchs
wearing sheathed scimitars in their waist sash. She stopped and
performed the _teslim _to Jadar. Then she turned to Nadir Sharif.

He stared at her for a long moment, then said something in Persian.
Without a word she lifted her veil and threw it back. Next she turned
and gestured to one of the servants standing behind her. The servant
stepped forward with a bundle wrapped in a brocade satin blanket and
carried it directly to Nadir Sharif.

The prime minister stood for a moment as though unsure whether to take
it. Finally he reached out and lifted the blanket from the servant and
cradled it against one arm. He stared down for a long moment, his eyes
seeming to cloud, and then he pushed back part of the blanket to
examine its contents more closely. With a withered finger, he reached
in and stroked something inside the blanket. Then he looked up and
smiled and said something to Jadar in Persian. The prince laughed and
strolled to his side, taking the blanket in his own smoke-smeared hands
and peering down into it with Nadir Sharif. They exchanged more words
in Persian, laughed again, and then Nadir Sharif walked to the waiting
woman, whose dark eyes now brimmed with joy. He stood looking at her
for a long moment, then spoke to her in Persian and enfolded her in his

A cheer went up again from the onlookers, as they pushed forward to
watch. Hawksworth turned to Shirin.

"Is that who I think it is?"

Shirin nodded, her eyes misting. "It's Mumtaz, the first wife of Prince
Jadar and the only daughter of Nadir Sharif. He told Prince Jadar he
decided today he wanted to see his grandson, since he wanted to see the
face of the child who would be Moghul himself one day. Then he told
Mumtaz he will die in peace now, knowing that his blood will someday
flow in the veins of the Moghul of India." Shirin's voice started to
choke. "I can't tell you what this moment means. It's the beginning of
just rule for India. Nadir Sharif knew that if Prince Jadar was
defeated today, the child would be murdered by Janahara. By defecting
with his Rajputs, he saved Prince Jadar, and he saved his grandson."
She paused again. "And he saved us too."

"When do you think he decided to do this?"

"I don't know. I still can't believe it's true."

Hawksworth stopped for a moment, then whirled and seized her arm.
"Jadar knew! By Jesus, he knew last night! The cavalry. He said the
cavalry had to be held to the last. He knew they would turn on the
Imperial infantry if he began to lose._ He knew all along_."

Shirin examined him with a curious expression. "I wonder if Mumtaz
herself planned it. Perhaps she convinced Nadir Sharif to save his
grandson." She paused. "This must have been the most closely guarded
secret in all of Agra. Nadir Sharif somehow kept even the queen from
knowing he would defect with the Rajputs or she would have surely
killed him." Shirin's voice trailed off as she pondered the
implications. "He's astonishing. Janahara has never entirely trusted
him, but somehow he must have convinced her to let him command the
Rajput cavalry. What did he do to make her finally trust him?"

Nadir Sharif embraced Mumtaz once more, then bowed lightly again to
Jadar and turned to leave. As his glance swept the torchlit crowd, he
noticed Hawksworth. He stopped for a second, as though not believing
what he saw, then broke into a wide smile.

"By the beard of the Prophet! Can it be? My old guest?" He moved toward
Hawksworth, seeming not to notice Shirin. "May Allah preserve you,
Ambassador, everyone at court thinks you've fled India. For your sake I
almost wish you had. What in God's name are you doing here?"

"Someone tried to murder me at Fatehpur." Hawksworth turned and took
Shirin's arm. "And Shirin. It seemed like a good time to switch sides."

"Someone actually tried to kill you? I do hope you're jesting with me."

"Not at all. If Vasant Rao and his men hadn't appeared in time to help
us, we'd both be dead now."

Nadir Sharifs eyes darkened and he looked away for a moment. "I must
tell you that shocks even me." He turned back and smiled. "But I'm
pleased to see you're still very much alive."

Hawksworth studied Nadir Sharif for a moment. "Do you have any idea who
might have ordered it?"

"This world of ours is fraught with evil, Ambassador." Nadir Sharif
shook his head in resignation. "I sometimes marvel any of us survive
it." Then he looked back at Hawksworth and beamed. "But then I've
always found you to be a man blessed with rare fortune, Ambassador. I
think Allah must truly stand watch over you night and day. You seem to
live on coincidences. I was always amazed that just when His Majesty
ordered you out of Agra, the Portuguese decided to seize one of His
Majesty's personal cargo vessels and by that imprudent folly restored
you to favor. Now I hear you were attacked in the Fatehpur camp by some
scurrilous hirelings . . . at the very moment the prince's Rajputs just
happened to be nearby to protect you. I only wish I enjoyed a small
portion of your luck." He smiled. "But what will you be doing now? Will
you be joining with us or will you stay with the prince?"

"What do you mean?"

"I understand His Highness is striking camp tomorrow and marching west
for the Rajput city of Udaipur. The new _maharana _there, a
distinguished if somewhat renegade Rajput prince named Karan Singh,
apparently has offered his lake palace as a refuge for the prince."

"I don't seem to have much choice. I'm probably no more welcome in Agra
right now than you are."

Nadir Sharif examined him quizzically for a moment. "I'm not sure I
understand exactly what you mean." Then he broke into laughter.
"Ambassador, surely you don't assume I had anything to do with the
tragedy today. The honest truth is I used every means at my command to
dissuade the Rajput cavalry from their insidious treachery. They
absolutely refused to heed anything I said. In fact, I actually tried
to forewarn Her Majesty something just like this might happen."

"What are you talking about!"

"Their betrayal was astonishing, and I must tell you frankly, entirely
unaccountable. I intend to prepare a complete report for Her Majesty.
But this is merely a temporary setback for us, never fear." He turned
and bowed lightly to Shirin, acknowledging her for the first time. "I
really must be leaving for the Imperial camp now. We've scheduled a war
council tonight to plan our next strategy." He smiled. "I feel I should
counsel you once again that you've chosen very unsavory company. Prince
Jadar is a thorough disgrace to the empire." He bowed lightly once more
to Hawksworth, then to Shirin, and turned to remount his elephant.
"Good night, Ambassador. Perhaps someday soon we'll drink _sharbat
_together again in Agra."

Even as he spoke, his elephant rose and began to move out. His last
words were drowned by cheering Rajputs.

"He'll never get away with it." Hawksworth watched incredulously as the
elephant began delicately picking its way through the shattered camp.

"Oh yes he will. You don't know Nadir Sharif as I do."

Hawksworth turned to stare in bewilderment at Jadar. The prince was
standing next to Mumtaz, their faces expressionless. As Nadir Sharif's
elephant disappeared into the dark, Mumtaz said something in Persian
and gestured toward Shirin. She replied in the same language and they
moved together, embracing.

"Your face is still fresh as the dawn, though your _kohl _is the dust
of war." Mumtaz's Persian was delicate and laced with poetic allusions.
She kissed Shirin, then looked down and noticed her right hand. "And
what happened to your thumb?"

"I had no bow ring. You know we aren't supposed to shoot."

"Or do anything else except bear sons." Mumtaz flashed a mock frown in
the direction of Jadar. "If I would let him, His Highness would treat
me like some stupid Arab wet nurse instead of a Persian." She embraced
Shirin again and kissed her once more. "I also know you learned to fire
a matchlock today."

"How did you find out?"

"Some of the Rajputs saw you shoot a Bundella horseman who had breached
their lines and reached His Highness' elephant. One of them told my
eunuchs." Her voice dropped. "He said you saved His Highness' life. I
want to thank you."

"It was my duty."

"No, it was your love. I'm sorry I dare not tell His Highness what you
did. He must never find out. He's already worried about too many
obligations. You saw what just happened tonight with father. I think
he's very troubled about what price he may be asked to pay someday for
what happened today."

"I must tell you the English _feringhi _also shot the Bundella who had
mounted His Highness' elephant."

"Is he the one there?" Mumtaz nodded discreetly toward Hawksworth, who
stood uncomprehending, his haggard face and jerkin smeared with smoke.
Her voice had risen slightly and now her Persian was lilting again.

"He's the one."

Mumtaz scrutinized Hawksworth with a quick flick of her eyes, never
looking up. "He's interesting. Truly as striking as I'd heard."

"I love him more than my life. I wish you could know him." Shirin's
Persian was equally as genteel as that of Mumtaz.

"But is he yet a worthy lover in your bed?" Mumtaz's smile was almost
hidden. "I sent your message to father about the Hindu _devadasi_."

Shirin smiled and said nothing.

"Then you must bring him with us to Udaipur."

"If His Highness will have us there."

"/ will have you there." She laughed and looked again at Hawksworth.
"If you'll tell me sometime what it's like to share your pillow with a

"Captain Hawksworth." Jadar's martial voice rose above the assembled
crowd of congratulating Rajputs. "Didn't I notice you on the field
today? I thought I had assigned you to guard my _zenana_. Are you aware
the punishment for disobeying orders in an army in India is immediate
beheading? Of if you like, I can have you shot from a cannon, as is
sometimes done. Which would you prefer?"

"Your cannon were mostly overrun. I guess you'll have to behead me, if
you can find anyone left with a sword sharp enough."

Jadar roared and pulled out his own sword. There was a deep nick in the

"By tomorrow I'm sure we can find one. In the meantime I'll have to
confine you in the _gulal bar _to prevent your escape." He slipped the
sword back into his belt. "Tell me, did you manage to hit anything
today with your matchlocks?"

"Possibly. There were so many in the Imperial infantry I may have
succeeded in hitting someone."

Jadar laughed again. "From the looks of her thumb, it would seem the
woman in your _howdah _did most of the shooting. I'm astounded you'd
permit her such liberty."

"She has a mind of her own."

"Like all Persians." Jadar reached and lowered Mumtaz's veil over her
face. She let it hang for a moment, then shoved it back again. "Allah
protect us." He turned and stared a moment into the dark, toward the
direction Nadir Sharif had departed. "Yes, Allah protect us from all
Persians and from all Persian ambition." Then he suddenly remembered
himself and glanced back at Hawksworth. "So tonight we may eat lamb
together after all, if there's one still to be found. But not yet in
Paradise. For that you will have to wait a few days longer."

Hawksworth shifted uncomfortably. "What exactly do you mean?"

"Udaipur, Captain, tomorrow we strike camp and march for Udaipur. It's
a Rajput paradise." He turned and beckoned toward the Rajput commander
who had ridden from Fatehpur with them. "It's time you met my friend
Mahdu Singh, brother of His Highness, Rana Karan Singh, the Maharana of
Udaipur. The _maharana _has generously offered us his new guest palace,
on his island of Jagmandir. It's on Pichola Lake, in the Rajput capital
of Udaipur. He was only just building the palace when I was there
before, but I seem to remember it's designed in a very interesting new
style." He glanced at Mumtaz. "I think Her Highness will approve." Then
he continued. "Rajputana, Captain, is beautiful. What's more, its
mountains are impregnable. I led the only Moghul army ever to escape
defeat by the Rajputs who live in those mountains. But today I have
many loyal friends there." Mahdu Singh bowed lightly to Hawksworth
while Jadar watched in satisfaction. "His Highness, the Maharana, may
decide to make a Rajput out of you and keep you there, if you seem
worth the trouble. Who can tell?"

He turned and dismissed Mumtaz and her eunuchs with a wave. He watched
fondly as she disappeared into the _gulal bar_, then turned and joined
the waiting Rajputs. Together they moved out through the camp,
embracing and consoling.

"Did you hear what he said?" Hawksworth turned to Shirin, who stood
waiting, a light smile erasing some of the fatigue in her face. "He's
planning to recruit another army of Rajputs. This war is only
beginning. Good Christ, when will it end?"

"When he's Moghul. Nothing will stop him now." She took his hand, and
together they pushed through the shattered gulal bar toward the remains
of their tent.


The advance of Prince Jadar's army west toward the Rajput
stronghold of Udaipur was like nothing Brian Hawksworth had ever seen.
Jadar was marching into the heart of ancient Rajput country, and the
movement of his army suddenly came to resemble a triumphant victory

The heavy artillery formed the first contingent, drawn by teams of
elephants and bullocks. Two thousand infantry moved in front, smoothing
the ground with spades. The army's baggage animals followed the
artillery, and after this came Jadar's personal treasury - camels loaded
with gold and silver coin - together with his records and archives. Next
in the line of march were elephants carrying the _zenana _women's
jewels and a collection of ornate swords and daggers that Jadar
periodically gave to his officers as presents. Then came the water
camels, and finally Jadar's kitchen and provisions. The baggage was
followed by the ordinary cavalry, and after them rode Jadar and his
retinue of nobles. Behind him came his _zenana_. The rear of the
procession was brought up by women and servants, then elephants,
camels, and mules carrying the remainder of the baggage and tents.

Some of Jadar's _zenana _women traveled in gilded _chaudols _carried on
the shoulders of four bearers and shaded with netting of colored
embroidered silk. Others were transported in enclosed palanquins, also
covered with silk nets decorated with gold fringe and tassels. Still
others chose to ride in swaying litters suspended between two elephants
or two strong camels. A female slave walked near each litter carrying a
peacock tail to brush off dust and keep away flies.

Jadar's first and favorite wife, Mumtaz, seemed to scorn all these
comforts, displaying herself regally all day long from atop her own
personal elephant, riding in a gold _howdah _shaded by a vast tapestry
umbrella. Her elephant was festooned with embroideries, yak tails, and
large silver bells; and directly behind her, on six smaller elephants,
rode the women of her immediate household. Her eunuchs rode clustered
around her on horses, each carrying a wand signifying his office and
sweating profusely beneath his jeweled turban. A vanguard of footmen
with bamboo canes walked ahead of Mumtaz's elephant clearing a path
through the crowds.

Jadar himself traveled mainly on his favorite Arabian horse - except when
passing through cities, when he would switch to a conspicuously
bedecked elephant - surrounded by the high-ranking nobles. Trailing out
behind this first circle were the ranks of the lesser _mansabdars_, who
rode in full military dress, displaying swords, bows, shields. While
this procession inched along at its regal pace, Jadar and his nobles
frequently paused ostentatiously to bag tiger or chase stripe-eared
antelope with the prince's brace of hunting _chitahs_.

A complete set of tents for Jadar and his _zenana _traveled a day
ahead, to ensure that a fully prepared camp always awaited him and his
women when, at approximately three in the afternoon, the procession
would stop and begin to settle for the night. Each of his larger tents
could be disassembled into three separate sections, and all of these
together required a full fifty baggage elephants for transport. Moving
the smaller tents required almost a hundred camels. Wardrobes and
kitchen utensils were carried by some fifty mules, and special porters
carried by hand Jadar's personal porcelains, his gilt beds, and a few
of his silk tents.

The procession was a lavish display of all the wealth and arms Jadar
had remaining. And nothing about it hinted that his was an army on the
run . . . which in fact it was.

Hawksworth puzzled over Jadar's extravagant pomp for several days,
finding it uncharacteristic, and finally concluded it was a deliberate
Indian strategy.

Jadar has to raise another army and quickly. He'll not do it if he has
the look of a fugitive and loser about him. He's managed to hold the
Imperial army at bay for a while, wound them enough to escape
entrapment. But he's wounded too, and badly. The Imperial army may be
shattered for the moment, but Jadar's lost half his own men. The winner
will be the one who can rebuild first and attack. If Jadar doesn't make
some alliances and get some men soon, Inayat Latif and the queen will
chase him from one end of India to the other.

Along the way a few independent Rajput chieftains had come to his
banner, but not enough. When Hawksworth asked Shirin what she thought
Jadar's chances were of raising a Rajput army large enough to face
Inayat Latif, she had made no effort to conceal her concern.

"The greatest Rajput nobles are waiting to see whether Maharana Karan
Singh of Udaipur will decide to openly support him. He's the leader of
the ranas of Mewar, which is the name for the lands of Rajputana around
Udaipur, and they're the highest in rank of all the Rajput chieftains
of India. If Maharana Karan Singh agrees to support him with his own
army, the other ranas of Mewar may follow, and after them perhaps all
of Rajputana."

"What do you mean? He's providing Jadar a place to stay, or at least to
hide while he licks his wounds. That looks like support to me."

Shirin had tried to smile. "Permitting Prince Jadar to camp in Udaipur
doesn't necessarily imply support. It could also be interpreted merely
as traditional Rajput hospitality. It's one thing to open your
guesthouse to a son of the Moghul. It's something quite different to
commit your army to aid his rebellion." She drew her horse closer to
Hawksworth's. "You see, Maharana Karan Singh and his father Amar Singh
before him have had a treaty of peace with Arangbar for almost ten
years, after many decades of bloody war between Mewar and the Moghuls.
There are many Rajput chieftains in Mewar who do not want him to
renounce that treaty. They're weary of Moghul armies invading Rajputana
and burning their fields and cities. Prince Jadar will have to
negotiate with Maharana Karan Singh if he's to be persuaded to help.
The prince will have to offer him something in return for his aid. For
the risk he'll be taking should the prince lose. That's why the other
Rajputs are waiting. Everyone here knows the prince has no chance if
the maharana withholds his support."

A noticeable feeling of relief swept through the long columns of
Jadar's cavalry the afternoon that Maharana Karan Singh was sighted
riding out on his elephant, surrounded by a retinue of his personal
guard, to welcome Prince Jadar at the high stone gate leading through
the walls of the mountain city of Udaipur. Throughout the ranks of
Jadar's bedraggled army it was seen as a positive omen.

The army and the lesser _mansabdars _camped outside the city walls; the
highest-ranking nobles were invited to stay in the maharana's city
palace, set on a high cliff overlooking Pichola Lake; and Jadar, his
_zenana_, and his personal guards were ferried with much pomp across to
the new guest palace on Jagmandir Island, in the center of the lake. As
one of Arangbar's khans and a foreign ambassador, Brian Hawksworth was
installed by the maharana in a special suite in his city palace
reserved for dignitaries.

In an even more auspicious gesture, the maharana invited Prince Jadar
to dine with him in the palace that evening. The ancient Rajputana
tradition of hospitality did not normally require dining with your
guests, and the Rajput chieftains traveling with Jadar were again
heartened. Late in the afternoon, an invitation also arrived requesting
that Ambassador Hawksworth and Shirin, characterized as Jadar's
personal aide, join the dinner.

"Why do you think he wants us?" When the maharana's servants had left,
Hawksworth showed the gilded invitation to Shirin. She was on their
balcony watching white-necked cranes glide across the surface of
Pichola Lake, spreading out hundreds of feet below them.

"Perhaps the maharana is curious to meet a _feringhi_. I'm sure he's
never seen one before." She hesitated. "Or perhaps Prince Jadar
arranged for you to be there. To imply he has the support of the
English king's warships."

"You know I don't speak for King James on matters of war."

"Tonight you must appear to do so. I'm sure your king would help Prince

Online LibraryThomas HooverThe Moghul → online text (page 49 of 52)