The Three Sapphires
A Story of Mystery and War Intrigue
W. A. Fraser
Author of “Mooswa,” “Thoroughbreds,” etc
Synopsis.—Lord Victor Gilfain and Captain Swinton,. presumably his guide but in reality Captain Herbert of the secret service, visit Rajah Darpore, who is suspected by the British authorities. Herbert finds that the Rajah is plotting to collect three sacred sapphires, in order that he may use to his advantage a Hindu superstition that the holder of the jewels is the true Buddha and will rule all India. One of the sapphires that, has been found around the neck of a wandering elephant is stolen by Darpore from Major Finnerty, keeper of the elephant keddah. A second has been set for the Rajah by a jewelry firm but is stolen by natives from a Bengali intrusted with its delivery, Baboo Dass. A third is in the possession of Captain Swinton. himself. A native is found murdered in front of the compound where Gilfain and Swinton are quartered and no motive can be found for the deed.
NEXT morning Swinton again rode alone, Lord Victor declaring he would have enough exercise in the hunt that day.
As Shabaz came out of his loping canter and steadied to a leisurely gait up the palace hill, Rada, the groom, overtook his master.
“Put a hand on the stirrup,” Swinton commanded, “for the hill is long and your legs are the legs of experience.” “As the sahib wishes; but I know little of her who rides the gray stallion,” Rada replied, grasping the iron. Swinton chuckled at the naive admission that the servant took it for granted he was to talk, being thus favored.
“It is the way of my people,” Rada resumed, when his breath came easier, “that when we make speech with a sahib we watch his eyes for a sign, and if it is one of displeasure we then tell lies to avert his anger; but with the captain sahib this may not be done.”
“Sahib knows the karait—the snake with an eye that is all red?”
. “Deadly as a cobra.”
“Yes, sahib; and our people say that if one looks for a long time into that red eye that never shifts nor blinks nor gives a sign, he will go mad.” “Delightful! And mine are like that, Rada?”
“No, sahib; only so far as that they give no sign. So if I make’speech that is displeasing, the presence must command me to be still. '
After a time'Rada said: “The Missie
Baba will not ride the gray, stallion today?” * A, if
“Why -not?” i u> ‘
“I know not,; except that she has reported that.-the stallion is lame; but the groom says he is not lame.”
D EACHING the plateau, Swinton fol-I'lowed a road that swung around the Place of Roses. Over the brick wall floated the sweet perfume of myriad flowers, to give place presently to the tang of animal life as they came to the tiger garden. A jungle clamor vibrated the morning air; cockatoos and parrakeets called shrilly beyond the brick wall; a hornbill sent forth his raucous screech; pigeons of all colors, green, blue, gray, fluttered free in the air, waiting for the grain that would presently be scattered by the keepers. The unpleasant, sputtering laugh of a hyena, raucouslv grating, mingled with the full, rich-toned monologue of leopards that paced restlessly their cages, eager for their meal of blood-drippini? meat.
Then the road crawled restfullv into the cool of a noble sal forest. To the right it branched presently, and he caught the glint of white marble splittine' the emerald green.
“The lady who rides the gray stallion lives yonder with the large sahib who is her uncle,” Rada explained; and as they came to a path on the left a little beyond, he continued: “This leads to Jadoo Nala, wherein is a pool.”
Captain Swinton turned Shabaz into the path, following it to the edge of the plateau and down its winding course to the pool.
Pointing to a covert in a pipal tree that overhung the pool, Rada said: “That is the rajah’s, but no one makes a kill here—it is but for the pleasure of the eye. Knowing this, the dwellers of the jungle come to drink of the waters that are sweet with salt, and depart in peace; though it is said that át times a spirit, in the shape of an evil leopard, creeps from yonder cave and makes the kill of a deer or a sambar. In the cave yonder, Buddha, who was once of our faith, lamented on the sins of the world till his tears made the stream sweet with salt, and so it has remained. The cave is an abode of evil spirits; lights have been seen, and deep noises heard such as the hill gods make.”
“Who comes to. the pool, Rada—for there is the retreat?”
Rada lifted his small, black, twitching eyes to the placid, opaque ones of Swinton. “The sahib knows what talk over a hookah is, each one trying to show great knowledge; but it is whispered at such times that the Missie Baba, who fears neither horse nor spirit, comes here at night.”
“For what purpose — to meet some
“Of that Rada knows nothing; that the evil gossips say it is the rajah is perhaps a lie.”
CWINTON turned Shabaz up the path, ~ and at the top rode a little tour of inspection, following a road that circled above the winding stream. Overlooking the Jadoo cave and the path that wound down the hillside, was a heavy wall built of stone that had been taken from the buried city. ' f>
“Most delightful place to plant a machine gun, or even a ‘three-inch,’” the captain muttered.
A reverberating tiger roar shook the ea'rth as Swinton rounded the Place of Roses on his way back, and past its wall he came suddenly upon Lord Victor in active controversy with a lop-eared native horse he was more or less astride of. Evidently the sudden tiger call had frightened the horse, for he was whirling, with his long ewe neck stretched high in air, his lop ears almost brushing the clinging rider’s face. Lord Victor had lost his stirrups; he was practically over the pommel of the saddle, sitting the razor-bladed wither. A country bred’s neck is like a piece of rubber hose, and Anglo-Indians have learned to sit tight and let him have his head; but Lord Victor climbed up the reins, pulling the brute’s head into his lap, and when to save himself he threw an arm around the lean neck, down went the head and he was sent flying, to sprawl on his back, where he lay eyeing the smiling captain.
Having unseated his rider, the country bred, forgetting all about the tiger, stood looking with complacent vacuity at the groom, who now held him by the
“Thought you weren’t riding this morning,” Swinton remarked, as they went down the hill.
“Changed my mind. You didn’t happen to see a young lady on a gray stalion this morning, did you, old chap?"'
“I did not. And the earl expects you to ride away from spins, not after them, out here.”
“The governor is optimistic. This is only curiosity^—to see the girl Ananda is going to make his queen.”
“Where did you hear that rot?”
“The usual source—my bearer.”
“Bad form. It’s all idle gossip, too; she’s the niece of old Boelke.” h
“Öh, now I know why you ride up on the hill every morning. Did your bearer tell you? Earl Craig expects
you to keep away from skirts while-
By Jove! What’s the bally shindy— are they planting another brass god in the temple?”
T ORD Victor’s sudden change in discourse had been caused by sounds of strife that came from a Hindu village that lay between Maha Bodhi Hill and Darpore City.
“The men of the temple and others who are followers of Mahadeo live yonder in Chota Darpore,” Rada said.
As eager as a boy at the clang of a fire bell, Lord Victor, his eyes alight with sporting fervor, cried: “Come on.
captain; every bally hour in this land of the poppy has its spiffing thrill.”
Arrived on the scene, a unique battle lay before their eyes. The center of the conflict was a silk-skinned, terrified little cow tied to a stake. A fanatical Mussulman priest, ordained to the bloodletting, waited with a sharp knife behind & battling line of Allah men for a chance to slit the cow’s throat. With the followers of Mohammed were ranged the adherents of Buddha in a battle line that checked the Hindus, who, with fierce cries of “Maro, maro!" fought to rescue t he cow and stop this offence against their gods—the slaying of a sacred animal.
Heads cracked beneath the fall of staves, and red blood spurted from a knife thrust or the cut of a tulwar. Swinton smiled grimly as he saw here and there a man in a green-and-gold jacket bring his baton down on the neck of a Mussulman—always a Mussulman, for these men of the green-and-gold jackets were the Hindu police of the maharajah. /'
Encouraged by their gaunt leader, the Hindus charged fiercely, and, seizing the cow, bore it toward their village, fighting a rear-guard action as the Mussulmans, with cries of “Allah! Allah!” charged over the bodies of men who lay in the silent indifference of death, or writhed in paih. There was a desperate melee, a maelstrom of fanatical fiends, out of which the Mussulmans emerged with the sacrificial victim to fight their way backward to the slaughter mound.
The tinkle of a bell, the “phrutphrut” of an elephant, caused Swinton to turn toward the road. It was Finnerty on Burra Moti.
The mahout, at a command from the major, drove Moti into the fray, where he, with gentle, admonishing touches from the mahout’s feet against her ears, picked1 up one combatant after another, tossing them without serious injury to one side. But the fanatics, religioncrazed, closed in again in Moti’s wake and smote as before. One Mussulman, whose red-dyed beard bespoke one who had been to Mecca, threw a heavy Pathan knife at Finnerty, just missin» his mark.
SUDDENLY a shrill voice rose in a screaming command; there was terror in the voice 'that came from the lips of a gigantic Tibetan priest, who stood with extended arm pointing to the tinkling bell on Moti’s neck As though strong wind had swept a field of grain, the Buddhists ceased the combat and stood with bowed heads. Even the Mussulmans, realizing from the priest’s attitude that it was something of holy import, rested from warfare.
“It is the sacred elephant of the Zyaat of Buddha Gautama!” the priest said, when the tumult had stilled.
Then spoke Finnerty, seizing upon this miraculous chance: “Cease from
strife! You who are of Chota Darpore, £0 back to,your village; you who are followers of the Prophet, the grace of Allah be upon vou, go your way, for even some of you are servants of mine at the keddah. As to the disciples of Buddha, the bell on the sacred elephant recalls them to peace. I will take away from strife the cow, so that there be no killing.”
He called to one of his Mussulmans, saying: “Come you, Amir Khan, and
take the cow to the keddah.”
The scarlet-whiskered Pathan who had thrown the knife stepped forward, and in his rough voice said: “Sahib, these
infidels, these black men, have descrated the shrine of Sheik Farid by tying there a pig, therefore it is injustice if we be not allowed to crack a few heads and spill the blood of a cow on the doorstep of their village.”
“You threw the knife, Hadjii; you’re a poor marksman,” Finnerty answered.
“Yes, sahib, it was an unlucky throw; but a man fell against my elbow at that point, or the sahib would have received my gift. Perhaps the next time I will have better luck.”
With a smile at the Pathan’s grim humor, Finnerty said: “The spirit of
a saint like Sheik Farid is not disturbed by the acts of infidels. I will speak to the rajah and have the village fined a matter of many rupees to be paid to your people, Hadjii.”
From the Buddhists, who stood in a semicircle eying Burra Moti with reverence, a priest came forward, saying: “We have fought with the idolators because the shrine rests on the ‘Rock of Buddha,’ and so is sacred to us, too. The sahib has seen in the flat rock the footprint of Prince Sakya Sinha where he stood and became Buddha?”
“But Buddha commanded peace, not strife,” Finnerty reminded the priest.
A T that instant Burra Moti, undoubt•‘A edly bored by inaction, reached back with her trunk and tinkled the bell. It was like a voice crying out of the temple. The Buddhists in' silence went away; Amir Khan, at a command, departed with the cow of discord.
Burra Moti was turned, and, with Lord Victor and Swinton riding at his side, Finnerty swept regally down the road.
“Your elephant seems deuced happy, major; she’s got a tooty little gurgie that suggests it. Where did --"u find your sapphire bell clapper?” Lord Victor queried.
“Oh, this isn’t-” Finnerty caught
the import of Swinton’s gasping cough in time to switch, adding: “This is a
clapper the old goldsmith fixed up for me, and it’s doing beautifully. Moti is like a woman that has found a necklace she had lost.” This latter for Captain Swinton’s edification.
“Why doesn’t Prince Ananda sit on these bally fire-eating worshipers—why do you have to keep them in hand, major?” Lord Victor wanted to know.
Finnerty pondered for a minute. He could have told the captain in a very few words his idea of Ananda’s reasons for keeping out of the matter, but with Lord Victor he would have to answer cautiously.
“The rajah’s police wallahs were there,” he answered; “but they’re never any good.i As for my part in it, the Maha Bodhi Temple is really under government supervision, being practically a national Buddhist institution. The government never interferes with either Hindus or the Buddhists there unless it might be in just such a case as this, to stop a riot. To tell you the truth, I’ve rather exceeded my authority, acting without an invitation from the maharajah or an order from the government; however, as it was a drawn battle, nobody will appeal to the powers. The keddah is something in the same way,” Finnerty added, as they jogged along; “it’s in Darpore territory, but the government has an arrangement with the maharajah, as this is an ideal spot as a center for our elephant catching all through the Siwalik Hills.”
At the fork in the roads the major called back: “After you’ve had break-
fast, get your hunting kit all ready, captain. I’ll meet you with the elephants at the same place as yesterday, at one o’clock. We mustn’t keep the old Banjar a waiting—we’re to be on the ground at two—his buffalo might stir up Stripes before we arrive.”
npHERE was a scowl on his face as Lord Victor, looking so pink and white after his bath, sat down to breakfast, growling: “There’s a bally London fog of that attar fume in my room; somebody’s been pawing my letter case, kit bag—everything. It isn’t my bearer, for he smells chiefly of dried fish and opium-”
“The attar would suggest a woman— a jealous woman looking for love letters ; but you haven’t been here long enough, Gilfain,” the captain remarked.
A servant entered with a broiled fish, and Swinton switched Lord Victor to a trivial discussion of food. When the servant reappeared later with curry, the captain said: “Leave it on the table,
Abdul, and sit without.” Then, rising, he added: “I’ll be back in a minute.” “My stuff has been censored, too,” he said, on his return.
“What’s the devilish idea—loot?”
“No; nothing missing.”
“Who’s doing it—servants?”
“This is India, youth; here we don’t bother chasing ‘who;’ we lock up everything, or destroy it.”
“I’m going to dash the bearer with an exam,” Lord Victor said decidedly.
“You’d get nothing but lies; you’d draw blank.”
The captain lapsed into a moody silence, completing a diagnosis of this disturbing matter mentally. The attar suggested that somebody on intimate terms with Prince Ananda had investigated. Doctor Boelke would do it; he could read papers written in English and assimilate their contents. If Swinton were under suspicion, Prince Ananda would look for proofs as to whether he was a secret-service man or just the companion of Lord Victor.
ARRIVED at the hunt ground with -‘A the keddah sahib, Finnerty, the Banjara, who was waiting, said: “My brothers have taken the buffalo to the west of the big growth of tall grass wherein is the slayer of my cow, because from that side blows the wind and it will carry the scent of the buffalo, and the tiger will move forward, not catching in his nostrils word of the guns which the sahib knows well how to place. When the sahib is ready, I will give the call of a buffalo, and my brothers will make the drive. Where will be the place of the young sahib, that I may remain near in the way of advice lest he shoot one of my people, or even a buffalo?”
“Where will the tiger break to, Lumbani?" Finnerty asked.
The Banjara stretched his long arm toward the north. “At that side of the cane fields lies a brook that carries a path up into the sal forest, and the tiger knows it well. If he is not annoyed with hurry, he will come that way out of the cane; and if the young sahib’s elephant is stationed in the brook, the tiger will come so close that even he can make the kill.”
“That’s the idea,” Finnerty declared. “Swinton, you and Lord Victor take your elephant to the stream—the Banjara will show you the very spot to stand; I’ll post the prince on our left when he arrives; I’ll keep the center, and if the tiger is coming my wav I can turn him off with old Moti—I’ll shoo him over to you. Here comes the prince now. Heavens, you'd think he was going to a marriage procession ! Look at the gorgeous howdah! And he has got old Boelke and the girl, too.”
The howdah was a regal affair, such as native princes affect on state occasions. The girl was almost hidden by the gilded sides of its canopied top; indeed, her features were comnletely masked by a veil draped fra™ the rim of her helmet. The heavy figure of Doctor Boelke bulged from the front of the howdah.
“Where are we stationed, major?” Ananda called, the mahout checkin" their elephant some distance away.
“To the left, beyond the pipa! tree.” Swinton chuckled, observing Gilfain stretching his long neck as the prince’s elephant plodded on; evidently there was to be no introduction.
“We’d better get placed at once,” Finnerty declared; “the buffalo may get out of hand—anything may happen. The elephants that will act as stops are already in place on the two sides; I sent them on ahead. The natives on their backs will keep tapping on "ongs to prevent the tiger from breaking through the sides; if he does break through, they’ll blow shrill blasts on their conch shells. Away you go, Swinton!”
A ND at an order from the mahout, their elephant trudged over to the point of honor, accompanied by the Banjara. In a few minutes his voice rose in the plaintive squeak of a buffalo, and in answer down the wind that rustled the feathered tops of the cane came a mild clamor of buffaloes, being driven, and men’s voices crying:
“Dut, dut! Gar! Aoi-aoi!’’
The buffalo were in a huge fan, advancing in a crescent troupe slowly, so that the tiger, not suddenly overrun, would keep slipping along in front.
Finnerty sat with his .450 Express across his knee, his eyes fixed on Gilfain, whose head he could just see above the bank of the stream, which was shallow where it struck the plain.
The turmoil of buffalo noises and their drivers’ cries, drawing near, had increased in the cane. To the left, on one of the stop elephants, a native beat vigorously on his brass gong, followed by voices crying from a stop elephant: “The tiger passes!” Then a conch shell sent out its warning screech.
“Gad! He’s broken through!” Finnerty growled.
Prince Ananda, thinking the tiger was escaping, had the elephant driven forward to give Boelke a shot at the fleeing beast; but just as they reached the grass there was a coughing roar, a flashing turmoil of brown and gold in the sun, and the elephant, terrified by the ferocious onslaught, whirled just as Boelke’s rifle barked. Straight back for the fringe of trees where Finnertv waited the elephant raced, the tiger clinging to his rump and striving to reach the howdah.
Burra Moti knew the elephant was running away, and, at a command, shuffled forward with the intent of peeling the tiger from his perch with her trunk. But the fleeing animal, taking Moti for a new enemy, swerved to the right under the pipai, a long arm of which swept away the howdah, leaving Herr Boelke sprawled on the limb like a huge gorilla and yelling: “Ach, Gott! Hel-lp!”
The tiger was carried away in the wreck, and now, thirty feet away, was crouched, his tail lashing from side to
'T'HE girl had struggled to her feet and stood dazed, clinging to the wrecked howdah. The tiger was in a nasty mood; he would charge the first move the girl made, Finnerty knew, and nothing but a miracle shot through the heart or brain could stop him in time to save her. Ordering the mahout to pick the girl up, he di-opped to the ground. Holding his gun from the hip, both barrels cocked, he slipped past the girl to stand between her and the snarling brute, saying; “Keep cool ! Keep your face to the tiger and step back; the elephant will pick
His blue, fearless, Irish eye lay along the gun barrels, looking into the yellow eyes of the tiger as he spoke to the girl. Well he knew how straight his shot must be, or that flat, sloping forehead, with its thick plate of bone, would glance the bullet like armor plate.
A little cry of pain, the thud of a falling body, told him that the girl had gone down at the first step. For a fraction of a second his eye had wavered from the gun sight, and the tiger, with a hoarse growl, rose in his catapult charge. Both barrels of Finnerty’s rifle blazed as he was swept backward by a push from Moti’s trunk, and the tiger landed upon two gleaming ivory swords that, with a twist of the mighty head, threw him twenty feet into the scrub.
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With a roar of disgruntled anger, he bounded away toward cover in the cane, pursued by Gilfain, whose mahout had driven the elephant across at the sound of the tiger’s charge.
Finnerty, telling the mahout to make Moti kneel, turned to the girl, who sat with a hand clasping an ankle, her face white with pain; and as he lifted her like a child, like a child she whispered with breaking passion : “You, you! God —why should it be you again?”
Then Finnerty commanded the mahout to retrieve Herr Boelke from his perch, pick up the prince, who had scuttled off some distance when he fell, and take them home.
When the prince had been lifted to the howdah on a curl of Moti’s trunk, he waved his hand to the major, calling: “Devilish plucky, old chap; thanks for the elephant.”
The elephant bearing Lord Victor and the captain returned, and the major tossed up a gold cigarette case he had found beside the broken howdah, saying: “You can give that to Prince Ananda; fancy he dropped it.”
It looked familiar to Lord Victor. “Yes,” he said, “I’m sure it’s his. I know I’ve seen it at Oxford.”
PLODDING homeward in the solemn dejection of an unsuccessful hunt, even the ears of their elephant flapping disconsolately like sails of a windless boat. Finnerty suggested: “If you chaps would like it, we can swing around to your bungalow across the plain.”
“Topping!” Lord Victor cried. “I’m so despondent I want a peg.’
At the bungalow Finnerty alighted for a whisky and soda; and Gilfain, after reading a note his servant had handed him, advised:
“The prince wants me at the palace for dinner, and a confab over old Oxford days; the note came after we had gone to the hunt Devilish fuzzy order, I call it—what! I can’t leave you to dine alone, old boy.”
“The captain can come with me—the very thing!” Major Finnerty declared eagerly.
The arrangement suited Swinton perfectly; it would give him an unplanned chance to talk with the major. And Gilfain would, of course, have to honor the prince’s invitation.
IT was a somewhat tame dinner for two;
though Ananda plied his lordship with wine of an alluring vintage, for he had a “hare to catch,” as the native proverb has it. He was most anxious to discover as much as possible about Captain Swinton’s mission. By a curious chance he had learned who Lord Victor’s companion was—that he was Captain Herbert, a secret-service man.
But Lord Victor was automatically unresponsive to the several subtle leads of his host, for the simple reason that he didn’t even know that Captain Swinton was in reality Captain Herbert; and as to the mission—any mission—why, it was to shoot game, to keep out of England for a season. Prince Ananda was puzzled. Either Lord Victor was cleverer than he had been at Oxford, or he knew absolutely nothing. Indeed, the subject of Captain Swinton bored Gilfain; he saw enough of his companion in the day. He was wishing Ananda would say something about the mysterious lady.
It was when the cigarettes were brought that he remembered the gold case. Drawing it from his pocket, he said: “Oh, devilish stupid! I forgot— brought your cigarette case.”
But Ananda disclaimed the ownership. "That’s not mine,” he said.
“Rather! Finnerty picked it up at the broken howdah. It’s the same one you had at Oxford, I think; I remember seeing it, anyway.”
Prince Ananda took the gold case and examined it thoughtfully; then said: “By Jove! I didn’t know I’d lost
it; thought it was in my shooting togs. Thanks, old chap.”
Of course, as it had been found at the howdah, it must belong to the girl —the Herr Boelke smoked cheroots— though the prince did not remember having seen it with her. But he said nothing as to its true ownership as he slipped it into his pocket.
Lord Victor, somewhat puzzled by Ananda's denial of ownership and then the admittance of it, concluded that the prince was still upset by the cropper he had come off the elephant.
But all down the hill, on his return, this curious incident kept recurring to him. He wasn’t a man to follow problems to a conclusion, however, and it simply hung in his mind as a fogging evçnt. Just as he was falling asleep, wondering why the captain had not returned, it suddenly dawned upon him with awakening force that perhaps the gold case belonged to the girl. Of course it did, he decided. The prince had treated the case as a stranger; his face had shown that he did not recognize it. And yet Gilfain had seen it in England, as he thought, in the prince’s possession. He fell asleep, unequal to . the task of wallowing through such a morass of mystery.
AFTER Finnerty and Gilfain left -‘T Swinton in the evening, the major said: “If you don’t mind, we’ll stick to
this elephant and ride on to the keddahs, where I’ll take the bell off Moti; I won’t take a chance of having the sapphire stolen by leaving it there all night. I am worrying now over letting Prince Ananda have Moti—I forgot all about the stone, really.”
“Worked beautifully to-day, didn’t it?” Swinton commented.
“Yes. I fancv it saved the girl’s life, at least; for if I’d not had Moti I’d have lost out on the mix-up with Stripes. I’ll get a metal clapper to-morrow, but I doubt its answering; it will clang, and the sapphire has a clinking note like ice in a glass. And, while an eleohant hasn’t very good eyesight, he’s got an abnormally acute sense of hearing. Moti would twig the slightest variation in the tone of that bell that she’s probably worn for a hundred years or more—maybe a thousand, for all I know. There’s a belief among the natives that a large elephant has been wandering around northern India for a thousand years; it is called the ‘Khaki Hethi—brown elephant.”
Swinton looked curiously at the major. “Do you believe that?”
“Each year in this wonderland I believe more; that is, I accept more without looking for proofs. It is the easiest way. Yes,” he added, in a reflective way, "I’ll have trouble with Moti, I’m afraid; elephants are the most suspicious creatures on earth, and she is particularly distrustful.”
“Don’t bother about the sapphire,” Swinton objected.
“Oh, yes, I will. I’ve got to take off the bell, anyway, to find some substitute. If I don’t, somebody’ll poison Moti if they can’t get the sapphire any other
A T the keddah the two dismounted and •UV walked over to where Moti was under her tamarind tree. Swinton became aware of the extraordinary affection the big creature had for Finnerty. She fondled his cheek with the fingers of her trunk, and put it over his shoulder, giving utterance to little guttural chuckles of satisfaction, as though she were saying: “We fooled the tiger, didn’t we?”
Finnerty called to a native to bring him some g hie cakes—little white cookies of rice Hour and honey that had been cooked in boiling gliie, butter made from buffalo’s milk—and when they were brought he gave the delighted elephant one. She smacked her lips and winked at Finnerty—at least to Swinton her actions were thus.
In obedience to the mahout, she knelt down; but as Finnerty unlaced the leather band that held the bell she cocked her ears apprehensively and waved her big head back and forth in nervous rhythm. Patting her forehead, Finnerty gave Moti the bell, and she clanged it in expostulation. Then he took it away, giving her a yhie cake. Several times he repeated this, retaining the bell longer each time, and always talking to her in his soft, rich voice.
Finally, telling the mahout to call him if Moti gave trouble, he said: “We can
walk to the bungalow from here; it isn’t far, captain.”
After dinner, as they sat on the veranda, Finnerty’s bearer appeared, and, prefaced by a prayerful salaam, said : “Huzoor, my mother is sick, and your slave asks that he may stay with her to-night. The sahib’s bed is all prepared, and in the morning I will bring the tea and toast.”
“All right,” the major said laconically; and as the bearer went on his mission of mercy he added: “Glad he’s
gone. I’ve a queer feeling of distrust of that chap, though he’s a good boy. He never took his eye off that bell till it was locked up in my box. The mahout told me at the keddah that Rajah Ananda was particularly pleased with Moti; hád a look at the bell and petted her when they got to the palace.” Finnerty laughed, but Swinton cursed softly.
“That means,” he said, “that we’ve got to look out.”
“Yes; can’t use the sapphire on Moti
Finnerty rose, stretched his bulk, traveled to both ends of the veranda, and looked about.
Swinton was struck by the extraordinary quiet of the big man’s movements. He walked on the balls of his feet—the athlete’s tread — with the graceful strength of a tiger. Coming back, he turned with catlike quickness and slipped into the bungalow, returning presently, drawing his chair close to Swinton as he sat down.
• “You remember my tussle with the Punjabi wrestler?”
Swinton laughed. “Rather!”
“It wasn’t a Punjabi—a European.” The captain gasped his astonishment. “One of Boelke’s imported Prussians.” Finnerty gave a dry chuckle. “Ananda isn’t the only man that can get information. I knew there was a Prussian wrestler heye, and that he was keeping fit for a bout with somebody; I had a suspicion that somebody was myself. You see’—and the major crossed his long legs—“in spite of all our talk about moral force in governing, physical superiority is what always appeals to the governed—Ananda knows that deuced well. Now, hereabouts I have quite an influence over the natives because while I give them a little more than justice in any dispute, I can put their best man on his back.”
“And Ananda, not being able to have you removed, wanted to shatter your prestige.”
“He thought that if I were humiliated in being beaten by a supposed native I’d • ask to be transferred.”
“Then it was all a plot, the other bout furnishing Boelke a chance to taunt you.”
“Yes, and clever. That final scene in the ‘love song’ doesn't belong there at all—I mean where the lover is resuscitated to challenge the gods to combat; that emanated in Ananda’s brain; and when I saw the second wrestler come out painted black to represent Bhairava, I was convinced there was deviltry afloat and that it was the German.”
Swinton laughed. “He got a surprise, major, though he was a dirty fighter.
I saw the toe hold, but didn’t see what happened to him.”
“I gave him a paralyzing something I had learned from a Jap in Calcutta. If you stand up, I’ll show you.”
Finnerty clutched the captain’s hip, and, with the tip of a finger, gave a quick pressure on a nerve in the “crest of the ilium” bone. The effect was extraordinary; a dulling numbness shot with galvanic force to the base of Swinton’s skull — needles penetrated his stomach.
“Marvellous!” the captain gasped, as he almost collapsed back into his chair.
The major smiled. “That was a new one on my German friend, for I cracked him there with the knuckles—almost brought the bone away.”
“How many Germans has Boelke got?” Swinton asked.
“I don’t know—three or four, and they’re all service men; one can tell the walk of a Prussian, soldier or officer. Nominally, they are archaeological men. Our paternal government actually supplied the prince with Doctor Boelke, for he was in government service in Madras Presidency, exploring old
“The prince is subtle.”
“He is. All this temple row is his. This Dharama who wants to put the brass Buddha in is really a half-caste— a tool of the prince’s. Ananda’s plan is so full of mystery, neither I nor any one else can get head or tail of it. He doesn’t appear in these rows, therefore the Buddhists think he is not a bigoted Hindu. So do the Mussulmans; and no doubt he will tell these two sects that I, as the British raj representative, fought against them. I think he’s trying to get these two fighting peoples, the Mussulmans and the Nepalese, with him against the British if he comes out as a liberator. He’s planning a propaganda so big that these three sects will bury their differences under a leader who does not stand for Brahmanism alone. I believe he’s almost insane on this idea that he can unite the natives, Mussulmans, Hindus, and Buddhists, against the British raj. He bids for the Mussulman support by removing himself from that nest of Brahmanism, the maharajah’s palace in the old fort, and secretly letting it be understood the Brahmans’ sway, with their tithe of a sixth of Darpore revenue, will cease when he sits on the guddi. There is an Asoka pillar in the Place of Roses that doesn’t belong there; he stole it from a temple, I fancy. On its polished sides is a line of weathering showing that it was buried deeper than it is now for centuries. He put it there to show the Buddhists that his palace is in a sacred place—the true spot where Buddha received knowledge. He knows that his own people will stick to his rule —they can’t do anything else—and he hopes to win the Buddhists by a crazy pose that he is the new Buddha—a war Buddha, ordained to the task of eivine them liberty.”
“With German help?”
“Yes, if the rumors of war between Germany and Britain come true and all Europe flames into a blaze, you’ll see Ananda strike.”
“Gad! If we could only nip him—find him with the guns!”
“That’s what he’s afraid of: that’s why he wants to get rid of me.”
“I have a feeling that he wishes I had not come,” Swinton said. “I fancy he suspects me. It’s all mystery and suspicion. He’ll hear about the Buddhists’ veneration for Burra Moti and you’ll have her stolen next.”
“Not without the sapphire in the bell— I won t put it in again. And I warn you, captain, that you’ll stand a good chance of getting a Thug’s towel about your neck, for they’ll know you have one of the sapphires.”
“Yes; the servants have it on their tongues now—they’ve been spying on us, I know.”
“That reminds me!” Finnerty rose, went to his room, opened his steel box, turned up the low-burning lamp, and unlaced the sapphire from the bell. Raising his head, he caught a glint of a shadowy something on the window; it was a shift of light, as though a face had been suddenly withdrawn.
“Damn it!” the major growled, locking the box. “Either somebody is peering over my shoulder all the time or this mystery is getting on to my nerve.”
1LJE went along to the veranda, and,
-1 putting the sapphire into Swinton’s palm, hiding its transference with his own hand, said: “Slip that quietly into
your pocket, and when you get home hide it.”
“I don’t value it much,” Swinton answered.
With an uncertain laugh, Finnerty declared: “I’d throw it in the sea. Like the baboo, I think it’s an evil god. I mean it will be if Ananda gets the three sapphires together; he’ll play up their miracle power; they’ll be worth fifty thousand sepoys to him.”
They smoked in silence till Swinton broke it: “I found a little notebook the
murderer of Perreira dropped that evidently belonged to a British officer, though leaves had been torn out here and there for the purpose of destroying his identity. The man himself didn’t do this, for there were entries in a different hand at the pages these leaves had been torn from—sort of memos, bearing on the destroyed matter.”
“If the identity were destroyed, captain, how do you know an officer owned it?”
“For one thing, he had used an army code, though changed so that I could only make out bits of it; and in two or three places the other has written the word ‘captain.’ One entry in code that I’ve partly worked out is significant: “Dar-
pore, March.” And that entry, I gather from other words surrounding it, was written in England. The second handwriting wasn’t Perreira’s; I have his on that envelope he addressed to me. The latter entries are in a woman’s hand.”
Strangely there was no comment from Finnerty. He had pulled the cheroot box toward him and was lighting a fresh smoke.
“What do you really know about the Boelke girl, major?” the captain asked pointedly, his blue-colored wax disks of eyes fixed in their placid, opaque way on Finnerty, who, throwing away the match he had held interminably to his cheroot, turned to answer;
“She popped into Darpore one day, and I don’t think even Doctor Boelke, who is supposed to be her uncle, expected her. You know India, captain—nothing that pertains to the sahibs can be kept quiet 7—and I hadn’t heard a word of her coming. Boelke gave out that she had been living in Calcutta while he was up here, but I don’t believe that; I think she came straight from Europe. I probably would not have met the girl—Marie is her name —but for an accident. Up on an elephant path that leads to an elephant highway, a great, broad trail, we have elephant traps—pits ten feet deep, covered over with bamboos, leaves, and earth that completely hides their presence. One day I was riding along this trail, inspecting, when I heard, just beyond a sharp turn in the path, a devil of a row, and, driving my mount forward, was just in time to throw myself off, grab that gray stallion by the nostrils, and choke him to a standstill. He had put a hoof through a pit covering and gone to his knees, the sudden lurch throwing the girl over his head; and there she was, her foot caught in a stirrup, being dragged in a circle by the crazed beast, for she was gamely hanging or to the rein.”
“She’d have been trampled to death only for you. And to-day you saved her life again.”
The major gave a dry laugh. “1 think she was in a temper over it, too.” “What’s this station gossip about Ananda’s intentions?”
“The girl doesn’t seem like that; to me she’s the greatest mystery in all this fogged thing. She speaks just like an English girl.”
“Perhaps she’s one of Ananda’s London flames, and the relationship with Boelke is only claimed in a chaperoning sense. He couldn’t marry her, having a princess now.”
“Rajahs arrange their domestic matters to suit themselves. Much can be done with a pinch of datura, or a little cobra venom collected in a piece of raw meat that has been put with a cobra in a pot that sits over a slow fire. But if
Ananda tries that gameYou saw
his brother-in-law, Darna Singh?”
Swinton nodded. “A Rajput!”
“Yes. Well, Darna Singh would stick a knife in the prince, knowing that he would become regent till Ananda’s little son came of age; that is, of course, after the maharajah had been settled, for in spite of all his magnificent appearance he’s just a shell—the usual thing, brandy in champagne and all the rest of it.”
'T'HE trembling whistle of a small owl -*■ coming from behind the bungalow caused Finnerty to turn his head and listen intently. He rose and slipped along the wall to the end rail, where he stood silently for two minutes. Then he dropped over the rail and came back to i Swinton from the other end, having circled the bungalow.
“An owl, wasn’t it?” the captain asked. “No; it was the call of an owl badly done by a native. There’s some game on.”
As he ceased speaking, there came floating up the road from a mango thicket the dreary, monotonous “tonk. tonk, tonk, tonk!” of the little, green-coated coppersmith bird. It sounded as if some one I tapped on a hollow pipe.
“What about that? Is that a bird?” Swinton whispered.
“A two-legged bird.” They both laughed softly. “I mean a native. If it had been a coppersmith bird, he wouldn’t have stopped at four notes; he’d have kept it up. That fellow is ' tapping off on a piece of metal an an! swer to the owl.”
“Here comes my tom-tom,” Swinton said, as a groom, leading a horse in the shafts of a dogcart, appeared, coming up the road. Rising, he touched Finj nerty on the arm and went into the bun! galow, w'here, taking the sapphire from his pocket, he said: “I wrish you’d put
this in your box for to-night; I’ve got a curious, flabby streak of depression— as if I’d lose the thing.”
•‘Have a peg—there’s the Scotch on the table—while I put it away,” and the major darted into his room.
“That’s not my horse; I’ve been driving a chestnut,” Swinton exclaimed, when they stood beside a cow-hocked, hogmaned bay whose eyes showed an evil spread of white.
“Yes, sahib; other pony going lame,” the groom explained.
“One of those devilish, fiddle-headed Cabul ponies—less brains than a coolie,” Finnerty growled. “You’ll have to watch him going downhill, or he’ll put you over the wall ; I never saw one yet that wouldn’t shy at a shadow.” He stood watching the scuttling first rush of the horse, the groom madly scrambling to the back seat, till they had vanished around a corner.
THE watchman, having heard his master’s guest depart, now came from the servants’ quarters to place his charpoy beside the door for his nightly sleep. Throwing away his cheroot and taking a loaded malacca cane from a rack, Finnerty said: “Gutra, there are rogues about; sit you in my room while I make a search.”
Reaching the mango thicket, he stood behind a tree from where his eye could command the moonlighted compound that surrounded the bungalow. At that instant from down the road floated up the call of a voice; there was a crash, and the high-pitched scream of a horse in terror. Finnerty was off; rounding a turn, he came head on into a fleeing groom, who was knocked flat, to lie there crying: “Oh, my lord, the sahib is eaten by a tiger!”
To be continued.