Kassim again swept his hand toward the river and
his voice was horrible in its deadliness: "These chil
dren of the poor that are sacred to some of thy gods,
infidel, have been fed; five goats have allotted them
as sacrifice and they wait for thee. They serve Allah
and not thy gods to-day. Go, murderer, for we wait;
go unless thou art not only a murderer but a coward,
for it is the only way. It was promised that no Pin-
dari should wound or kill thee, dog, but they will help
thee on thy way."
Hunsa at this drew himself up, his gorilla face
seemed to fill out with resolve; he swept the vast
throng of horsemen with his eyes, and realised that it
was indeed true there was nothing left but the pool
and the faint, faint chance that, powerful swimmer
that he was, and with the knffe, he might cross. Once
his evil eyes rested on Kassim and involuntarily a
hand twitched toward the dagger hilt; but at that in
stant he was pinioned, both arms, by a Pindari on
either side. Then, standing rigid, he said:
"I am Hunsa, a Bagree, a servant of Bhowanee; I
am not afraid. May she bring the black plague upon
all the Pindaris, who are dogs that worship a false
He strode toward the waters, trie soldiers, still a
hand on either arm, marching beside him. On the
clay bank he put his hands to his forehead, calling in
a loud voice: "Kali Mia, receive me!" Then he
plunged head first into the pool.
A cry of "Allah! Allah!" went up from ten thou
sand throats as the Bagree shot from view, smothered
in the foam of the ruffled stream. And beyond the
waters were churned by huge ghoulish forms that the
blood of goats had gathered there. Five yards from
the bank the ugly head of Hunsa appeared; a brown
arm flashed once, in the fingers clutched a knife that
seemed red with fresh blood. The water was lashed
to foam; the tail of a giant mugger shot out and
struck flat upon the surface of the river like the crack
of a pistol. Again the head, and then the shoulders,
of the swimmer were seen; and as if something dragged
the torso below, two legs shot out from the water,
gyrated spasmodically, and disappeared.
Barlow waited, his soul full of horror, but there
was nothing more; just a little lower down in the basin
of the sluggish pool two bulbous protrusions above
the water where some crocodile, either gorged or dis
appointed, floated lazily.
A ghastly silence reigned no one spoke; ten thou
sand eyes stared out across the pool.
Then the voice of Kassim was heard, solemn and
deep, saying: "The covenant has been kept and Allah
has avenged the death of Amir Khan!"
Commander Kassim touched Barlow on the arm:
"Captain Sahib, come with me. The death of that
foul murderer does not take the weight off our hearts."
"He deserved it," Barlow declared.
Though filled with a sense of shuddering horror, he
was compelled involuntarily to admit that it had been
a most just punishment; less brutal, even more im
pressive almost taking on the aspect of a religious
execution than if the Bagree had been tortured to
death; hacked to pieces by the tulwars of the out
raged Pindaris. He had been executed with no evi
dence of passion in those who witnessed his death.
And as to the subtlety of the Commander in obtaining
the confession, that, too, according to the ethics of
Hindustan, was meritorious, not a thing to be con
demned. Hunsa's animal cunning had been over
matched by the clear intellect of this wise soldier.
"We will walk back to the Chamber of Audience,"
Kassim said, "for now there are things to relate."
He spoke to a soldier to have his horse led behind,
and as they walked he explained: "With us, Sahib, as
at the death of a Rana of Mewar, there is no inter
regnum; the dead wait upon the living, for it is dan
gerous that no one leads, even for an hour, men whose
guard is their sword. So, as Amir Khan waits yonder
where his body lies to be taken on his way to the
arms of Allah in Paradise,. they who have the welfare
of our people at heart have selected one to lead, and
one and all, the jamadars and the hazaris, have decreed
that I shall, unworthily, sit upon the ghuddi (throne)
that was Amir Khan's, though with us it is but the
back of a horse. And we have taken under advise
ment the message thou brought. It has come in good
time for the Mahrattas are like wolves that have
turned upon each other. Sindhia, Rao Holkar, both
beaten by your armies, now fight amongst themselves,
and suck like vampires the life-blood of the Rajputs.
And Holkar has become insane. But lately, retreat
ing through Mewar, he went to the shrine of Krishna
and prostrating himself before his heathen image re
viled the god as the cause of his disaster. When the
priests, aghast at the profanity, expostulated, he levied
a fine of three hundred thousand rupees upon them,
and when, fearing an outrage to the image these in
fidels call a god, they sent the idol to Udaipur, he way
laid the men who had taken it and slew them to a
"Your knowledge of affairs is great, Chief," Barlow
commented, for most of this was new to him.
"Yes, Captain Sahib, we Pindaris ride north, and
east, and south, and west; we are almost as free as
the eagles of the air, claiming that our home is where
our cooking-pots are. We do not trust to ramparts
such as Fort Chitor where we may be cooped up and
slain such as the Rajputs have been three times in
the three famed sacks of Chitor but also, Sahib, this
is all wrong."
The Chief halted and swept an arm in an encompass
ing embrace of the tent-studded plain.
"We are not a nation to muster an army because
now the cannon that belch forth a shower of death
mow horsemen down like ripened grain. It was the
dead Chief's ambition, but it is wrong."
Barlow was struck with the wise logic of this tall
wide-browed warrior, it was wrong. Massed together
Pindaris and Bundoolas assailed by the trained hordes
of Mahrattas, with their French and Portuguese gun
ners and officers, would be slaughtered like sheep.
And against the war-trained Line Regiments of the
British foot soldiers they would meet the same fate.
"You are right, Chief Kassim," Barlow declared;
"even if you cut in with the winning side, especially
Sindhia, he would turn on you and devour you and
"Yes, Sahib. The trade of a Pindari, if I may call
it so, has been that of loot in this land that has always
been a land of strife for possession. I rode with Chitu
as a jamadar when we swept through the Nizam's ter
ritory and put cities under a tribute of many lakhs,
but that was a force of five thousand only, and we
swooped through the land like a great flock of hawks.
But even at that Chitu, a wonderful chief, was killed
by wild animals in the jungle when he was fleeing from
disaster, almost alone."
They were now close to the palace, and as they
entered, just within the great hall Kassim said: "There
will be nothing to say on thy part, Captain Sahib ; the
officers will come even now to the audience and it is
all agreed upon. Thou wilt be given an assurance
to take back to the British, for by chance the others
have great confidence in me, even more in a matter of
diplomacy than they had in the dead leader, may
Allah rest his soul!"
And to the audience chamber where had sat oft
two long rows of minor chiefs, at their head on a raised
dais the Rajput Raja, a Seesodia ; one of the "Children
of the Sun," as the flaming yellow gypsum sun above
the dais attested now came in twos and threes the
wild-eyed whiskered riders of the desert. They were
lean, raw-boned, steel-muscled, tall, solemn-faced men,
their eyes set deep in skin wrinkled from the scorch of
sun on the white sands of the desert. And their eyes
beneath the black brows were like falcon's, predatory
like those of birds of prey. And the air of freedom,
of self-reliance, of independence was in every look, in
the firm swinging stride, and erect set of the shoulders.
They were men to swear by or to fear; verily men.
And somehow one sharp look of appraisement, and one
and all would have sworn by Allah that the Sahib in
the garb of an Afghan was a man.
As each one entered he strode to the centre of the
room, drew himself erect facing the heavy curtain
beyond which lay the dead Chief, and raising a hand
to brow, said in a deep voice: "Salaam, Amir Khan,
and may the Peace of Allah be upon thy spirit."
"Now, brothers," Kassim said, when the curtain
entrance had ceased to be thrust to one side, "we will
say what is to be said. One will stand guard just
without for this is a matter for the officers alone."
He took from his waist the silver chain and un
locked the iron box, brought forth the paper that
Barlow had carried, and holding it aloft, said: "This
is the message of brotherhood from the English Raj.
Are ye all agreed that it is acceptable to our people?"
"In the name of Allah we are," came as a sonorous
chorus from one and all.
"And are ye agreed that it shall be said to the
Captain Sahib, who is envoy from the Englay, that we
ride in peace to his people, or ride not at all in war?"
"Allah! it is agreed," came the response.
He turned to Barlow. "Captain Sahib, thou hast
heard. The word of a Pindari, taken in the name of
Allah, is inviolate. That is our answer to the message
from the Englay Chief. There is no writing to be
given, for a Pindari deals in yea and nay. Is it to be
considered, Captain Sahib; is it a message to send that
is worthy of men to men?"
"It is, Commander Kassim," Barlow answered.
"Then wait thou for the seal."
He raised his tulwar aloft, and as he did so the
steel of every jamadar and hazari flashed upward,
saying, "We Pindaris and Bundoolas who rode for
Amir Khan, and now ride for Kassim, swear in the
name of Allah, and on the Beard of Mahomet, who is
his Prophet, friendship to the Englay Raj."
"By Allah and the Beard of Mahomet, who is his
Prophet, we make oath!" the deep voices boomed
"It is all," Kassim said quietly. "I would make
speech for a little with the Captain."
As each officer passed toward the door he held out
a hand and gripped the hand of the Englishman.
When they had gone Kassim said: "Go thou back,
Sahib, to the one who is to receive our answer, and let
our promise be sent to the one who commands the
Englay army and is even now at Tonk, in Mewar, for
the purpose of putting the Mahrattas to the sword.
Tell the Sahib to strike and drive the accursed dogs
from Mewar, and have no fear that the Pindaris will
fall upon his flank. Even also our tulwars and our
spears are ready for service so be it there is a reward
in lands and gold."
The Pindari Chief paced the marble floor twice,
then with his eyes watching the effect of his words in
the face of Barlow he said: "Captain Sahib, it is of
an affair of feeling I would speak now. It relates to
the woman who has done us all a service, which but
shows what a perception Amir Khan had; a glance
and he knew a man for what he was. Therein was
his power over the Pindaris. And it seems, which is
rarer, that he knew what was in the heart of a woman,
for the Gulab is one to rouse in a man desire. And
I, myself, years of hard riding and combat having
taken me out of my colt-days, wondered why the Chief,
being busy otherwise, and a man of short temper,
should entail labour in the way of claiming* her regard.
I may say, Sahib, that a Pindari seizes upon what he
wants and backs the claiming with his sword. I3ut
now it is all explained the wise gentleness that really
was in the heart of one so fierce as the Chief Allah
rest his soul! What say thou, Captain Sahib?"
"Bootea is wonderful," Barlow answered fervidly;
"she is like a Rajput princess."
Kassim coughed, stroked his black beard, adjusted
the hilt of his tulwar, then coughed again.
"Inshalla! but thou hast said something." He
turned to face Barlow more squarely: "Captain Sahib,
the one who suffered the wrath of Allah to-day last
night sent a salaam that I would listen to a matter
of value. Not wishing to have the hated presence of
the murderer in the room near where was Amir Khan
I went below to where in a rock cell was this Hunsa.
This is the matter he spoke of, no doubt hoping that
it would make me more merciful, therefore, of a surety
I think it is a lie. It is well known, Sahib, that the
Rana of Udaipur had a beautiful daughter, and Raja
Jaipur and Raja Marwar both laid claim to her hand;
even Sindhia wanted the princess, but being a Mah-
ratta who are nothing in the way of breeding such
as are the Children of the Sun dust was thrown upon
his beard. But the Rajputs fly to the sword over
everything and a terrible war ensued in which Udaipur
was about ruined. Then one hyena, garbed as the
Minister of State, persuaded the cowardly Rana to
sacrifice Princess Kumari to save Udaipur.
"All this is known, Sahib, and that she, with the
courage of a Rajputni, drained the cup that contained
the poison brewed from poppy leaves, and died with a
smile on her lips, saying, 'Do not cry, mother; to give
my life for my country is nothing.' That is the known
story, Sahib. But what Hunsa related was that
Kumari did not die, but lives, and has the name of
Bootea the Gulab."
The Chief turned his eyes quizzically upon the Eng
lishman, who muttered a half -smothered cry of sur
"It can't be how could the princess be with men
"Better there than sacrifice. Hunsa learned of this
thing through listening beneath the wall of a tent at
night while one Ajeet Singh spoke of it to the Gulab.
It was that the Rana got a yogi, a man skilled in magi
cal things, either drugs or charms, and that Kumari
was given a potion that caused her to lie dead for days;
and when she was brought back to life of course she
had to be removed from where Jaipur or Marwar
might see her or hear of this thing, because they would
fly to the sword again."
Kassim ceased speaking and his eyes carried a look
of interrogation as if he were anxious for a sustaining
of his half -faith in the story.
"It's all entirely possible," Barlow declared em
phatically; "it's a common practice in India, this deceit
as to death where a death is necessary. It could all
be easily arranged, the Rana yielding to pressure to
save Mewar, and dreading the sin of being guilty of
the death of his daughter. Even the Gulab is like a
Princess of the Sesodias like a Rajputni of the high
"Indeed she is, Captain Sahib; the quality of breed
ing never lies."
"What discredits Hunsa's story," Barlow said
thoughtfully, "is that the Gulab was in the protection
of Ajeet Singh who was but a thakur at best really
a protector of deceits."
"To save Kumari's life she had been given to the
yogi, and he would act not out of affection for the
girl's standing as a princess, but to prevent discovery,
bloodshed, and, her life. It is also known that these
ascetics infidels, children of the Devil by charm, or
drugs, or otherwise, can cause something like death
for days a trance, and the one who goes thus knows
not who he was when he comes back," Kassim argued.
"Well," Barlow said, "it is a matter unsolvable, and
of no importance, for the Gulab, Kumari or otherwise,
is a princess, such as men fight and die for."
There was a little silence, Barlow carrying on in his
mind this, the main interest, so far as he was con
cerned, Bootea; as a woman appealing to the senses
or to the subtlest mentality she was the sweetest
woman he had ever known.
There was a flicker of grim humour in Kassim's
dark eyes: "Captain Sahib," he said, "that evil-faced
Bagree has a curious deep cunning, I believe. I'll
swear now by the hilt of my tulwar that he made up
the whole story for the purpose of having audience
with me, and in his heart was a favour desired, for, as
I was leaving, he asked that I would have his turban
given back to him to wear on his going; he pleaded
for it. Of course, Sahib, a turban is an affair of
caste, and I suppose he was feeling a disgrace in going
forth without it. It appears that Gulab had taken
it as an evidence that he had been killed, but when I
sent a man for it she told him that the cloth was pos
sessed of vermin and she had burned it."
"But still, Chief, though Hunsa has an animal cun
ning, yet he could not make up such a story he has
heard it somewhere."
Barlow felt his heart warm toward the grizzled old
warrior as he, dropping the nebulous matter of
Kumari, said: "And to think, Captain Sahib, that but
for the Gulab we would have slain you as the mur
derer of Amir Khan. As a Patan, even if I had wished
it, I could not have fended the tulwars from your
body. And you were a brave man, such as a Pindari
loves; rather than announce thyself as an Englay
the paper gone and thy mission failed thou wouldst
have stood up to death like a soldier."
He put his hand caressingly on Barlow's knee, add
ing: "By the Beard of the Prophet thou art a man!
But all this, Sahib, is to this end; we hold the Gulab
in reverence, as did Amir Khan, and if it is permitted,
I would have her put in thy hands for her going.
Those that were here in the camp with her fled at the
first alarm, and my riders discovered to-day, too late,
that they hid in an old mud-walled fort about three
miles from here whilst my Pindaris scoured the coun
try for them; then when my riders returned they
escaped. So the Gulab is alone. I will send a guard
of fifty horsemen and they will ride with thee till
thou turnest their horses' heads homeward, and for the
Gulab there will be a tonga, such as a Nawab might
use, drawn by well-fed, and well-shod horses. That,
too, she may keep to the end of her journey and after
wards, returning but the driver."
"My salaams to you, Chief, for your goodness.
To-morrow if it please you I will go with your prom
ises to the British."
"It is a command, Sahib to-morrow. And may
the Peace of Allah be upon thee and thy house al
ways ! "
He held out a hand and his large dark eyes hovered
lovingly over the face of the Englishman.
Captain Barlow walked along to the tent of Bootea
to tell her of the arrangement that had been made for
their leaving the camp so that she might be ready.
He could see in the girl's eyes the reflection of a dual
mental struggle, an ineffable sweetness varied by a
changing cloud of something that was apprehension
"The Sahib is a protector to Bootea," she said.
"Sometimes I wondered if such men lived; yet I sup
pose* a woman always has in her mind a vague concep
tion that such an one might be. But always that, that
is like a dream, is broken one wakes."
Prosaically taking the matter in hand Barlow said,
"You would wish to go back to your people at
Chunda is it not so?"
The girl's eyes flashed to his face, and her brows
wrinkled as if from pain. "Those who have fled will
be on their way to Chunda, and they will tell of the
slaying of Amir Khan. The Dewan will be pleased,
and they will be given honour and rich reward; they
will be allowed to return to Karowlee."
"Yes," Barlow interposed; "that Hunsa goes not
back will simply be taken as an affair of war, that he
was captured and killed; there will be nobody to relate
that you revealed the plot. When you arrive there
you, also, will be showered with favours, and Ajeet
Singh will owe his life to you; they will set him at
"And as to Nana Sahib?" Bootea asked, and there
was pathetic dread in her eyes.
"What is it you fear him?"
"Yes, Sahib, he will claim Bootea; a Mahratta never
keeps faith. There will be a fresh covenant, because
he is like a beast of the jungle."
Barlow paced back and forth the small confine of
the tent, muttering. "It's hell!" He pictured the
Gulab in the harem of Nana Sahib in a gaudy prison
chained to a serpent. To interfere on her behalf
would be to sacrifice what came first, his duty as an
officer of state, to what would be called, undoubtedly,
an infatuation. Elizabeth would take it that way;
even his superiors would call it at least inexpedient,
bad form. For a British officer to be interested or
mixed up with a native woman, no matter how noble
the impulse, would be a shatterment of both official
and personal caste.
"I won't allow that," he declared vehemently, shift
ing into words his mental traverse.
Bootea had followed with her eyes his struggle;
then she said: "The Sahib has heard of the women
of the Rajputs who, with smiles on their lips faced
death, who, when the time of the last danger came
were not afraid?"
"Yes, Gulab. But for you it is not that way. You
have said that I am your protector I will be."
There was a smile on the girl's lips as she raised
her eyes to Barlow's. "It is not permitted, Sahib;
the gods have the matter in their lap. For a little
yes, perhaps. It is the time of the pilgrimage to the
shrine of Omkar at Mandhatta, and Bootea will make
the pilgrimage; at the shrine is the priest that told
Bootea of her reincarnations, as I related to the
A curious superstitious chill struck with full force
upon the heart of Barlow. Kassim's story of Kumari
revivified itself with startling remembrance. Was
this the priest that, to save Kumari's sacrifice, had
wafted her by occult or drug method from one em
bodied form into another, from Kumari to Bootea?
It was so confusing, so overpowering in its clutch that
he did not speak of it.
The girl was adding: "It is on the Sahib's way to
Poona; there will be many from Karowlee at Mand
hatta and I can return with them."
This seemed reasonable to Barlow; she would there
be in the company of people not at war. And then,
erratically, rebelliously, he felt a heart hunger; but
he cursed this feeling as being vicious it was. He
smothered it, shoving it back into a niche of his mind,
thinking he had locked it up had turned a key in the
door of the closet to hide the skeleton.
He temporised, saying: "Well, we'll see, Gulab;
perhaps at Mandhatta I could wait while you made
an offering and a prayer to Omkar, and then you could
journey on to Chunda." To himself he muttered in
English: "By God! I'll not stand for that slimy brute,
Nana Sahib's, possession of the girl she's too good.
I know enough now to denounce him."
In council with himself, standing Captain Barlow
firmly on his feet to face the realities, he realised the
impossibility of being anything more to Bootea than
just a Sahib who had by fate been thrown into her
path temporarily. And then, feeling the sway, the
compelling force of a fascinating femininity he almost
trembled for himself. Weaker sahibs gad! he knew
several, one a Deputy Commissioner. A beautiful
little Kashmiri girl had nursed him through cholera
when even his own servants had fled. The Kashmiri,
who had the dainty flower-like sweetness of a Japanese
maid, and practically the same code, had lived in his
protection before this. After the nursing incident he
had married her, with benefit of clergy, and the result
had been hell, a living suicide, ostracism. A good
officer, he still remained Deputy Commissioner, the
highest official of the district, but the social excellence
was wiped out he was a pariah, an outcast. And the
girl, who now could not remain just a native, could not
attain to the dignity of a Deputy-Commissioner Mem-
Barlow knew several such. Of course of drifters
he knew also, the white inland beach-combers men
who had come out to India to fill subordinate positions
in the telegraph, or the railroad, or mills; and, as they
sloughed off European caste, and possessed of the eter
nal longing for woman companionship, had married
natives. Barlow shuddered at mentally rehearsed
visions of the degradation. Thus everything logical
was on that side of the ledger all against the Gulab.
On the other side was the fierce compelling fascination
that the girl held for him.
Yes, at Mandhatta they would both sacrifice to the
gods. Curiously Elizabeth stood in the computation
a cipher; probably he would marry her, but the escape
ment from disaster, from wreck, would not be because
of any moral sustaining from her, any invisible thread
of love binding him to the daughter of the Resident.
He knew that until he parted from Bootea at Mand
hatta his soul would be torn by a strife that was fool
ish, contemptible, that should never have originated. x
And next day when Barlow, sitting his horse, still
riding as the Afghan, went forth, his going was some