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 o 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. Later an effort is made to kill Swinton. A cheetah stuidcnly springs from the side of the road as he passes in a dog cart, but he escapes. That night the third sapphire is stolen by a native from the hills. Swinton and Finnerty receive word that the Rajah is to meet a woman at night who is supposed to be a German agent interested in running guns into India. They go to the rendezvous and find the woman therewith Lord Victor instead!
AFTER a little, Finnerty said: “Fancy we may go back now. I wonder how much of this business the Banjara knew; how much of it is a twist of fate upsetting somebody’s plans.” And as they climbed the hill path from Jadoo Nala he continued: “To-morrow morning we’ll
follow the pugs of that black devil; there’ll be blood enough for the shikari to track him down, I think; he’ll have stiffened up from his wound by then and we’ll get him.”
With irrelevance the captain blurted, in a voice filled with disgust: “That young
Finnerty laughed softly. “The dear old earl sent him to India to.be out of the way of skirts. It can’t be done!”
“But how did he get a meeting with that foolish virgin; he’s only been here three days! And how did the Banjara know; and how did—oh, one’s life here is a damn big query mark!”
“I should say that there’s been a note written, either by the girl to his giddy lordship or vice versa; Darna Singh has made the mistake of supposing Prince Ananda was the man she was to meet; that’s why the black leopard was turned
“Do you think it really was the prince’s
“Yes; that’s why he didn’t run when the light flashed. He’s accustomed to it in
the zoo grounds. But it was a fiendish caper, and Gilfain is fortunate.”
“I think it proves the girl is a spy; she probably, at the prince’s suggestion, led the young fool on.
I’m glad he doesn’t know anything about-” Swinton broke off sud-
denly, as the heavy gloom of the forest interior was brushed aside like a curtain, disclosin gto their eyes a fairy scene—the prince’s palace.
THE moon, which had leaped high above barrier of the forest, poured a flood of yellow light across the open plateau, gilding with gold leaf the mosquelike dome roof of a turret and shimmering a white marble minaret till it sparkled like a fretwork thing of silver. The Lake of the Golden Coin was a maze of ribboned colors where the mahseer rose to its surface in play or in pursuit of night flies. A dreamy quiet lay over all the mass of gleaming white and purple shadow as they swung to the road that circled the gardens. Coming to the big teakwood, Finnerty clutched the captain’s arm, bringing him to a halt as a sigh from its rusty hinges told it had just been closed by some one.
“I saw him,” Finnerty whispered as they passed on. “It was Ananda, I swear.”
Over the walls floated the perfume of rose and jasmine and tuberose; so sensuous, so drugged the heavy night air that it suggested unreality, mysticism, dreams, and beyond, rounding a curve, to their nostrils came the pungent, acrid smell of a hookah from the servants’ quarters. Even deeper of the Orient, of the subtle Swinton spat on the roadway, and Finnerty, knowing it as a token of disgust, muttered: “Ali Baba and the Forty
As they dipped down a hill toward the path that led to Finnerty’s bungalow, they came upon Lord Victor’s horse leisurely dawdling along, stopping at times for a juicy snack from some succulent bush, and altogether loafing, a broken rein dangling from the bit to occasionally bring him up with a jerk as he stepped on it. At their approach he scuttled off into the jungle.
Gilfain’s nag!” Finnerty commented. “Wishing to keep this metting secret, he’s left the groom at home and tied the pony to a tree up there somewhere; the shot probably frightened it.”
“What’s the horse doing on this road?” Swinton asked.
“It’s a shorter cut down to the maharajah’s stables in Darpore town than by the tonga road. Lord Victor will have to walk; we couldn’t catch that harebrained weed even if we wanted to.”
“Come on, major,” Swinton cried, pushing forward; “I’ve got an idea. You give me a horse and I’ll gallop back to my
bungalow, getting there ahead of the young ass.”
“I see,” Finnerty grunted as they strode swiftly along. “You’ll tell his lordship that you’ve been in bed for hours, and let him guess who was his audience at Jadoo Pool. The Banjara didn’t deliver that note or his lordship wouldn’t have been there.”
As they hurried along, Swinton panted: “Devil of a hole for a flirtation; he must be an enthusiast!”
'T'HEY swung into the bungalow, and Finnerty sent the watchman to have a groom bring “Phyu,” adding that if there was delay a most proper beating would eventuate. As the watchman hurried away on his mission the major said: “Phyu is a Shan pony; he’s only thirteen hands, but you can gallop him down that hill without fear of bucking his shins, and you couldn’t do that with an Arab.” While they waited, Finnerty explained: “The girl made that appointment for some reason. She would know that nobody would see them together there, as natives don’t travel that path at night, and she would know that tiger and leopard do not ordinarily come to the pool.” “How did the Banjara know?”
“India, my dear boy—and servants; but he only half knew at that; he thought it would be the prince. I think even if
Lord Victor did kill his dog, having been paid for it, had he known a sahib was the proposed victim he would have told us.”
A gray, sturdy Shan pony, led by a running groom, dashed around the bungalow, and as Swinton mounted, Finnerty said: “I’ll send for Mahadua right
away and make ready for a peep-o’-day follow-up of that wounded leopard; we can’t let him roam to kill natives. Meet me at the top of the tonga road at daybreak. In the meantime—well, you know how to handle his lordship.”
Then the captain pounded down the mountain road at an unreasonable rate, though his speed was really unnecessary, for, clad in pyjamas, he had half finished a long cheroot in an armchair on the veranda when he saw the form of Gilfain coming wearily up the graveled road.
\AtHEN Swinton knocked the ash from ' ' his cheroot, disclosing the lighted end, the pedestrian acquired an instantaneous limp; his rather lethargic mentality was quickened by an inspiration, and he hobbled up the,steps and along the veranda at pathefié'pace.
“Been long home, anxious guardian?” he gasped, sinking into a chair.
“About an hour,” Swinton answered blithely.
“I got moony lonesome,” Lord Victor explained as the smoker evinced no cur-
“And went for a walk, eh? Where did you go—down to the bazaar?”
Even to Gilfain’s unperceptive mind the opening for a sweeping lie seemed a trifle too wide. Indeed, the fact that he had on riding boots was rather against this proposition. He didn’t answer at once, a twinge in his newly injured ankle giving him an opportunity for a pause.
“You didn’t see my groom about, did you?” he asked as a feeler.
“No; why—weren’t you walking?”
“No; I went for a bit of a ride—down by the river—and just where the roa ' forks over by that nala where we took the elephant after the tiger something Sprang out of the jungle, let an awful roar out of him, and that fool country bred of mine bolted—he’s a s ;perb ass of a horse—jinked at a shadow, and went over a cut bank into a little st’-eam kind of a place; I came a cropper, with my foot caught in a stirrup, and was dragged a bit. In fact, I went by-by for a few minutes. How the devil my foot came out of the stirrup I don’t know. When I came to that three-toed creature they call a horse had vanished, and it’s taken me rather well over an hour to limp
Then the cripple, holding his ankle in both hands across his knee, leaned back in his chair with eyes closed as if in agony, inwardly muttering: “Gad! I
wonder if that bally romance hangs together.”
“Was it a tiger or a leopard?” Swinton asked in an even voice.
“I—I rather fancy it was a leopard. I didn’t see overmuch of the silly brute, my mount being in such an ecstasy of fright.”
“What about the groom; perhaps the leopard nailed him?” the captain asked solicitously.
“Hardly think it; I didn’t see the bloomer after I left the bungalow. Oh!” It was the ankle.
This cry of pain galvanized Swinton into compassion; it also gave him an idea of how to mete out retribution to the awful liar beside him.
“We’ve got to fix up that ankle right away,” he declared, rising.
“Oh, don’t bother, old chap; I’ll just bathe it.”
“Worst thing you could do,” Swinton declared professionally. “I’ve got a powerful white liniment; it stings like the juice of Hades. Probably peel the bark off, but it will prevent swelling.”
^l/ITH a sigh Lord Victor surrendered, ' * and Swinton, bringing out his bottle, rubbed the romancer’s ankle until he groaned—not from an imaginative pain. Then the limb was bound up in a bandage that all but checked the circulation.
“Feel better now; that give you relief?” And Swinton’s voice was as solicitously tender as a mother’s
“Oh, yes—thanks!” And inwardly the exasperated patient swore.
Of course a whisky and soda was part of the treatment, doctor and patient both taking the medicine. As they sipped, the patient asked cautiously: “What did you and the major do in the evening?”
“Oh, we took a stroll up on the hill.”
“Eh, what! Oh, heavens—my ankle!” The guilty conscience had all but betrayed its possessor. “Go up to see the prince?” he asked, his voice holding an assumed casualness.
“We didn’t go quite that far.” Gilfain breathed easier. “Finnerty is a great chap on birds’ nests, and we saw some rather curious ones.”
Lord Victor, in sudden inspiration, put his hand on Swinton’s arm and gave it a knowing pinch. “You didn’t happen to meet fräulein, old boy, did you?” And he laughed.
“Not bad, by Jove!” Swinton confided to himself; then aloud: “I’m not inter-
ested; also I’m going to bed. I believe I’ll take a gun early in the morning and see if I can pick up the tracks of that leopard.”
“The one that—that—charged your
“Oh. yes, of course. But Lord bless me, man, he may be miles away by the morning.”
“Come on, Gilfain; I’ll give you an arm in to bed. You hadn’t better get up in the morning. In fact, you’d better lie up all day to-morrow; in this hot climate a wrench like that may produce black inflammation.”
“Black inflammation sounds good, anyway,” Swinton thought as the young man, leaning heavily on his arm, hobbled to his bedroom.
Swinton fell asleep pondering over the proverbial thought that no man can serve two masters, he being that no man in his now divided duty. In the earl’s interests he should remove that nobleman’s son from the vicinity of Fraulein Marie at once. A most dangerous woman she was. no doubt. In the interest of his real master, the government, he should stay on the spot and nip Ananda’s intrigue.
CWINTON had left instructions to be ^ wakened before the first raucousvoiced crow had opened his piratical beak, so, in the chill dawn half light, a gray mist from the river bed still hovering like a shroud over the plain, the voice of his bearer calling softly: “Sahe-e-b!
Sahe-e-b!” brought him out of a deep slumber. Dressing, he chuckled over the apocryphal sprained ankle that had relieved him of Lord Victor’s company or offer of it. Passing that young nobleman’s room, lamp in hand, he saw, through the
open door, a very red ankle, devoid of its bandage, hanging over the bed. Swinton chuckled, muttering: “Bad patient!”
His horse was waiting, and with a rifle across the saddle he went up the hill, meeting Finnerty, with whom was Mahadua, at the appointed place.
“We’ll leave our gee-gees here with the groom,” Finnerty said, “and Mahadua will take us by a short-cut path along the edge of the hill to Jadoo Pool.”
At Jadoo Pool, they rested while Mahadua, as keen as a “black tracker,” searched the ground for the leopard’s
Finnerty had imparted to the shikari nothing beyond the fact that a leopard had been seen in that immediate vicinity, and it was supposed he was wounded. The shikari had declared emphatically that it would prove to be the leopard with the man-eater’s rosettes, and, no doubt, was the animal that came out of the cave, giving rise on the belief that a ghost homed there.
THIRST, Mahadua passed to the plastic " clay banks of the little stream that trickled into the pool ; there he picked up the pugs of a leopard, following them unerringly to where the cunning brute had backed away and circled when he saw Finnerty in the machan. On this circling trail a stick freshly turned, a nestlike hollow in the loose leaves where a soft paw had pushed, guided the tracker, so close to instinct in his faculties, till he came upon blood spots and torn-up earth where the leopard had been shot.
For twenty minutes Finnerty and Swinton waited, and then Mahadua came back, saying: “Chita has been shot in a hind
leg, for his jumps in running are not big, and though he went to the deep jungle at first he is now back at the cave.”
As they went up Jadoo Nala there were no blood spots on its stony bed, but Mahadua explained: “Chita remained
hid in the jungle for a time, and the bleeding stopped.”
Coming to the doorlike entrance of the cave, Finnerty peered cautiously in, and, seeing nothing, passed beyond, his eyes searching for tracks. A dozen paces and a sibilant whistle from behind whirled him about to see Mahadua facing the opening, his little ax poised for a blow of defense.
When Finnerty, cocking both barrels of his Paradox, raced back, the shikari said : “Chita stuck his head out to look
at the sahib’s back, but when I whistled he disappeared.”
“Was it ‘Spots’ or a black leopard, Mahadua?”
“Black, sahib,” he answered.
“A black leopard is the most vicious thing on earth,” Finnerty said in English, his gun holding guard, “and one wounded and in a cave is a matter for consideróle won’t come out; that’s sure,” Swinton commented.
“Not before night—if we’re here— and we can’t afford the time to wait that long.” “Smoke him out,” Swinton suggested. “Difficult; smoke won’t go where you want it to, but I’ll ask Mahadua if it’s possible.”
“The cave is too big,” the shikari replied to the query.
“How big?” Swinton asked with sudden interest.
“I don’t know,” and the native’s eyes were evasive. “I have heard it said that the cave went far in, but I have no desire to go into the home of the spirits.”
“My Rampore hounds would draw him.” Finnerty said thoughtfully: “but I don’t
want to get them mauled—perhaps killed.”
The name Rampore conveyed to Mahadua the sahib’s -meaning, though the English words were unintelligible. “The Banjara would send in dogs if the sahib would pay him well,” he suggested.
“He would not risk his Banjara hounds,” the major objected.
“True, huzoor,, but he also has ‘bobbery’ dogs—half Banjara breed—and they being trained to the hunt will go in after the wounded chita.”
“It’s a good idea, Swinton,” Finnerty declared. “We’ve done the very thing I was bucking about last night; we’ve set adrift a wounded leopard who’ll likely turn man-eater if he doesn’t die, and we’ll be responsible for every native he kills.”
“We’ve simply got to finish him off,” Swinton concurred.
“We must. If you’ll wait here with the shikari, keeping your eye on that hole so he doesn’t sneak away, I’ll pick up my horse and gallop down to get the Banjara and his ‘bobbery pack.’ ”
DERHAPS the going of Finnerty, with
' his large virility, had taken something of mental sustenance from the shikari, for he now lost somewhat his buoyant nonchalance.
“Sit you here, sahib, on this flat rock,” he advised, “for here you face well the cave door, and if the evil brute makes a sudden rush you will have an advantage. As to the dogs, if it is a spirit they will not enter the cave, and if they do enter it will be because the spirit has gone.”
“But, Mahadua, we saw him. How will he disappear through the rock walls of a cave?”
“As to the ways of a spirit not even the priest at my village of Gaum could say aught.”
"Did you ever see a spirit, Mahadua?” Swinton queried, with the double purpose of whiling away the time as they waited and drawing from the man one of those eerie tales that originate with the halfwild forest dwellers.
“Sahib, I never saw my father, but there is no doubt that I had one; it was said that he died before I was born, and I believe it.”
“Well, did you then know of one from people you believed in?”
“Yes, sahib. The priest of Gaum, which is my village, knew well the tiger that was named the ‘One Who Looks Up.’ You know, sahib, a tiger when he walks through the jungle never looks up at the trees, there being nothing there in the way of his food nor that he fears; though if he be shot at from a machan, after that, if he catches in his nostrils the taint of a sahib, he will remember, and will see such a trap.”
“Tell me of the One Who Looks Up,” Swinton begged.
The shikari’s voice suddenly dropnrl to a whisper, and without the move of a muscle he said : “Look at the cave mouth
and you will see chita watching you. Move very slow and you may get a shot.”
Swinton’s gun was lying across his knee, and gently pulling back the hammers he slowly carried the stock toward his shoulder. As their eyes met, the leopard’s lip curled in a snarl that bared his hooked fangs, and his ears flattened back, giving the head a cobralike look. Inch by inch the gun crept upward, the unblinking eyes viewing this move with malevolent interest.
As the stock touched Swinton’s shoulder he drooped his head to train his eye along the sights, for the shot must go true to
the small brain beneath that sloping skull, or, stung by the wound, the leopard would charge and there would be no escape from a mauling; but his eye, traveling along the barrels, looked into the dark void of the cave. In a brief second the cunning beast had vanished.
“He will not return for some time, sahib; he knows what a gun is. Perhaps even it is a spirit,”, the shikari said.
Dropping the gun to his knee, Swinton sat immobile.
FOR some time Mahadua sat facing the cave, turning over in his mind a little business venture; then raising his head, he looked into Swinton’s dead-blue eyes, only to turn away in blinking haste before their disconcerting inertia. He coughed,
• adjusted his little brown cap, and said: “Sahib, as to this one in the cave we shall know when the dogs come if it is a spirit; but if we had made an offering to the shrine, or even promised Safed Jan, who guards the mountain pass, a goat in sacrifice, all might have been well.”
“It is too late now,” Swinton suggested. “If the sahib will bestow a silver rupee for the sacrifice of a goat to Safed Jan, Mahadua will make a ceremony over the gun and the bullet will not be turned by the spirit.”
Swinton smiled at this wily touch while the man’s master was away, but drawing forth a rupee be bestowed it upon the man who had capitalized a spirit. Very gravely Mahadua plucked a handful of grass, and, wrapping the coin in this, rubbed it along the barrels of Swinton’s gun, tapped the locks with it, and then slipped the rupee into his jacket pocket, saying in a voice blithesome with relief— or cupidity: “If Safed Jan has ob-
served, luck will follow.”
pARIAHLIKE yowls came up the pass, L and Finnerty, with the herdsman and his brother holding in leash six dogs, appeared. The pack was a motley one, a canine kaleidoscope that, as it tumbled in the sunshine, showed all the various hues of ancestry from red Irish terrier to mizzled collie. One had a bulldog head and the lank, scraggy body of a village pariah; two had the powerfully boned frame of the Banjara hound; but all showed the uncertain, treacherous temper of their pariah cross.
Each dog was held by a rawhide leash fastened to a wide leather collar studded with iron spikes to prevent a leopard from taking his favorite jugular-severing jaw grip of the neck.
As he sat down for a minutes’ rest, the major said: “I fancy this may cost me
a pretty penny, for my friend, the herdsman, has made me agree to pay ten rupees for each dog killed, and five apiece for the mauled ones. He was deuced curious over the night’s work, but I told him we saw no one. He admitted that he didn’t deliver the note to Lord Victor, saying he had lost it.”
“Do you think by any chance he had an inkling Lord Victor was going there, and didn't want him to know we’d be there?”
“No. He says we saw no one because we spoiled the hunt by going like a marriage procession; that we went by the road, and that his brother, the watchman, saw Prince Ananda watching us, both going and coming.”
“The sahib will have rested now, and the sun is hot,” the Banjara interposed.
Mahadua’s face grew grave as, instead of the tumult of a fierce battle, stillness held within the cavern; the eager yelps
of the dogs as they had scrambled over loose stones to enter the cave had ceased. The leopard was, no doubt, a spirit, and had perhaps hushed the dogs. At any rate, a flesh-and-blood leopard would now be giving battle and voices of pain and passion would be filling the cavern with
Finnerty was muttering: “Damn if I can make it out; it’s a rummy go !”
At that instant the pack came stringing out, and the leader stood looking wonderingly at the sahibs.
“They are afraid,” Mahadua jeered; “they went in thinking it was a hare. Oh, they are a true Banjara pack!”
The herdsman put a hand on a long knife in his belt, and with fury in his eyes said: “Will the Presence take a
slipper to this monkey's mouth or shall I open its windpipe? The leopard is not within, for my dogs do not lie.”
The pack was now running about in the silly, aimless manner of gaze dogs wherethere is no quarry to see, and only a scent that is cold to their very dull nose sense.
The shikari pointed this out, saying: “Keeper of mud cows, if the leopard had but just passed out in the fear of your coming, he would have left a fresh scent trail that even your dogs, who hunt but by the eye, would have found, and if thechita is not a spirit he is still within.”
The Banjara drew his long, vicious knife, but as Finnerty grasped his arm he said, pointing in disdain at Maha ja: “This is a knife for game, not for cutting the throat of a chicken ; I go into thecave to prove that of dog or shikari theshikari is the liar.”
At this his brother also drew a knife, and, calling to the dogs, who sprang at his bidding to the cave, the two Banjaras followed at their heels.
“We might have a look; it’s altogether mysterious,” Finnerty said, turning to the captain.
The latter nodded. “I’ve got an idea; we’d better go in!”
THEY passed into a long, narrow chamber—so long that it reached inte deep gloom, with no end wall showing. They could see the dogs pass into the mysterious black shadow beyond and again reappear; always, going and coming, they sniffed at one spot. Here Finnerty struck a match, and Mahadua dropping to his knees, examined the rock, saying: “The leopard rested here—there is blood.”
Led by Finnerty, they followed the dogs along the corridor, coming upon a blank wall. There was no leopard ; he had vanished as mystically as a spirit might have done. Finnerty lighted matches, but there were only the sullen walls on three sides.
“It is as I have said,” the Banjara growled; “Mahadua, who has grown too old for the hunt, gave forth so much monkey chatter that the sahib saw not the leopard pass.”
Mahadua lifted his cap. “See, hunter • of cow tics, I take off my head cover to thee as a great shikari. Sahib,” he pleaded, “turn back this owner of mongrels, for I know where the chita will be found”
“Where?” Finnerty questioned.
“He will go up in the hills to the village of Kohima, where he was caught in a trap. It is said he killed many people near that village, for he was a man-eater.”
“How far is Kohima?”
“It is six miles, or perhaps eight, and
again it might be that it is ten by the
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Continued from page 36
road, but the chita will go through the jungle in a matter of half that distance.” The Banjara laughed, clapping a cupped palm over his mouth, giving vent to a note of derision. “The little monkey has a desire in his belly, sahib,” he said, ceasing his popping mirth. “The women of Kohima are famed for the arak they distill, so Mahadua, with the sahib to pay for it, would get in a state to see leopards even in the village.”
“I think we’d better get rid of this argument,” Finnerty remarked, adding: “Come to the bungalow for your pay, Lumbani.”
Calling their dogs, the Banjara and his brother departed.
“Now we’re up against n mental dead
wall, captain. What shall we do?” Finnerty asked.
“You’d like to go after Burra Moti, of course—”
“Yes; but I’d rather pot this black devil. I don’t want any natives’ blood on my head.”
“But we haven’t got a trail to follow; I believe we'll find that leopard back in his
“Good heavens, man, he couldn’t get through the solid wall!”
“But he did.”
L'lNNERTY blinked his eyes in unison A with his rapid thoughts. Ä suspicion lingered in his mind that the animal had really slipped from the cave without
Swinton seeing him—perhaps through his attention having been taken up by Mahadua. Indeed it was the only reasonable explanation of his astounding disappearance. With boyish diffidence he asked. “Did you and Mahadua do anything; that is, did he take up your attention with—well, he’s a garrulous old cuss, especially on spirits.”
Swinton in candor related what had occurred, and when he told of the rupeegun ceremony the major, with a start, exclaimed: “Ah!”
“I know what you mean by that, major,” Swinton said, with a little laugh, “but I never took my eyes off that hole in the wall.”
But Finnerty shook his head. “Do you know what they call the leopard in every mess in India?—‘The Artful Dodger.’ ” Then he added hastily : “We’ll settle your theory first, captain. On our way back to have some breakfast we’ll look in at the zoo, and if there’s a black leopard there with a wound it will be the one we’re after; if there is one without a wound it will mean that we shot a jungle beast last night; if the cage is empty the brute either slipped your vigilance or is, as Mahadua says, a spirit.”
The word leopard being familiar to the servant, he knew what the sahibs were discussing, and contributed: “Our eyes
were always on the door, sahib, and if a spirit took the leopard through the walls he would lead him to Kohima, for it is said that all his kills were made through the aid of one he acquired there.”
“Come on!” Finnerty said. “We’re in a fit condition of mystification to almost accept the little man’s thesis.”
A strange attendant was at the teakwood gate, but when the major explained that they simply wanted a look at the animals, being sahibs he swung the gate for their entrance, closing it from the inside to stand near them. The heavily barred cage was empty, and there was no movement in the den behind to which a small door gave entrance.
“Where is the black leopard?” Finnerty asked quite casually.
A frown of reticence clouded the native’s face as he answered : “I don’t know,
With a covert movement, the major slipped into the man’s fingers a rupee, The gateman coughed, adjusted his belt, and said: “The Burra Sahib, Nawab
Darna Singh, sent away the man who was on the gate; that is why I am now here.” “Did the man sleep at his post?”
“It may be that he did, sahib, and that way the black leopard escaped ; but he was beaten by the rajah—no doubt he deserved it—and Nawab Darna Singh thinks that in anger he may have freed the dangerous one, for a small door was left open.”
“And the leopard has not been seen today?”
“No, sahib; but it is said he was shot, by whom or where I have not heard.”
Then the two passed through the gate as mystified as when they entered.
“That destroys my solution of the mystery,” Swinton declared.
With a laugh, Finnerty said : “Mahadua has the only unassailable belief—that it is a spirit. But now for some breakfast. Our horses are just around the turn. We’ll slip over to my bungalow, and while we’re eating send down for Lord Victor.”
VUHEN Captain Swinton and Major ' ' Finnerty arrived at the bungalow a note was sent to Lord Victor asking him
to come up on horseback, as they were going off into the jungle.
Knowing that servants' ears were animate dictaphones, the two sahibs ate breakfast in comparative silence, the strenuous morning after the black leopard having braced their appetites.
Later, at restful ease in big chairs, the major said: “In this accursed land of
spies one must find a place where his eyes reach farther than his voice. That, by the way, was a trick of a clever tiger I killed, the Gharwaila man-eater, through discovering that when he had made a kill he would drag the body to a certain bare hilltop from which he could watch for danger. He’d been driven up to a gun so often that he was shy of secret places. There was something gruesome about that tiger’s fiendish cunning. His favorite trick was to crouch in cover that overhung a roadway, and as a bullock cart came along pick off the driver with a flying leap and carry him to this hilltop for a leisurely meal. There was a pool close by, and, after eating, he would take a drink, roll in the sand, and then go quite a mile to thick cover for a sleep. I potted him when he was having one of his sand baths. You’ve seen a dog roll on a rug in the ecstasy of a full stomach, but with this chap there was something wondrously beautiful—if ene could forget the horribleness of it—in the play of those terrible muscles and the undulating curves of the striped body as he rolled in luxurious ease, paws fanning the air and his ivory-studded jaws showing in an afterdinner yawn. I watched him for ten minutes, fascinated by the charm of subtle movement combined with strength, for I was well hidden in a thick growth of rose bramble, its mottled coloring of pink and gray and green deceiving his quick eye. I was lying flat, my 10-bore covering him. When I gave a low whistle the big head faced me, and the eyes, hardened to a yellow-green murder look, were straight on. But just below the jaw was a spot with no hard skull to deflect the heavy, soft-lead ball, and behind that feathered curl of white hair was the motor of that powerful machine—the heart. He never knew what struck him. The whole cavity was just pulp—heart and lungs—when we skinned him.”
A native who had come in from the jungle now came to the veranda. “Huzoor,” he began, “we knew that Burra Moti was near in the night, for Raj Bahadar was restless, cocking his ears and making soft speech through his trunk to the cunning old lady; but maybe on account of the camp fire, which we had lighted to show her that it was but a party of men who would eat and had sweet cakes for elephants who approached in a friendly spirit, she came not in. We could hear
the bell tinkle, tinkle, tinkle-
“You fool! Why do you mix lies in your report; the elephant had no bell.” Undismayed, the man answered: “The mahout maintained as much, sahib, but we all heard the bell, and Moti was in a sweet temper, for she laughed, as elephants do when they are pleased.”
“It was a bird you heard—the sweetsinging shama, or a chakvva calling to his mate across a stream. Did you see her?”
“It was still dark, but we could hear Moti sigh as though her heart was troubled because she could not come to partake of the cakes we burned so that they would be known in her nostrils.” “Couldn’t come! She was free.”
“As to a chain, it is true; but the sahib knows that evil attaches to things that are sacred of a temple when they have fallen into the hands of others.”
“Speak!” Finnerty commanded, as the native hesitated.
“It is saidemdash;perhaps it is but a rumor of the bazaaremdash;that Moti was of a temple up in the hills, and that in the bell was a sacred sapphire.”
“But how came Moti to my place? Know you that, sage one?”
npHE native dismissed the sarcasm with a salaam, answering: “It is said that the temple was looted of jewels that were buried beneath a pillar.”
With a start, Finnerty asked : “And
the stone pillaremdash;was it taken?” And he laughed as if in derision.
“I have heard that the pillar is in a new place, sahib.”
“Is it in the prince’s grounds?” And Finnerty swept an arm toward the palace hill.
“There is a stone standing there that did not grow with the roses,” the native answered enigmatically.
“Just another move in our deranged friend’s plot,” Finnerty commented. He turned to the native: “Was the lama of the temple killed?”
“Men who are dead do not come to the market place to complain, and as the priest has not spoken it may be that he is
“Here comes our friend in perpetuity, the Banjara!” Finnerty exclaimed. He rose, and, going into the bungalow, returned to drop a rupee in the native’s hand, saying: “Go back to Raj Bahadar and tell the mahout I will be along shortly.” He turned to the captain.
“Swinton, all one’s servants may know the thing a man is risking his life to discover, and he be none the wiser till some one babbles it like a child.”
“And in the mutiny,” Swinton suggested. “Our officials saw cow dung plastered on the treesemdash;some few heard what they called ‘silly whispers,’ but all native India knew, and all India remained hushed till the dead silence was shattered by the tornado.”
“Exactly. And while we say Ananda is insane, and all these things are child’s play, think of the trifling things that were used as factors to breed that holocaust of hate. The Mussulmans told that the British Raj had greased the cartridges they had to bite with pig’s fat to defile their religion; that suttee had been abolished to break the Hindu faith by filling the land with widow prostitutes; that water the Hindu sepoys drank had come in contact with leather valves made from the skin of a cow. There were other trivial things lied into mountains of sins. Ananda knows all that; he has the cunning of a serpent and the viciousness of a black leopard.”
'T'HE Banjara had arrived, and Finnerty counted out five rupees; then, with a touch of Irish humor, he added another, saying, with a smile: “This for
your disappointment is not having a dog killed.”
“If the monkey man, Mahadua, had been true to his caste, which is to watch and not talk, there would have been profit for both sidesemdash;the sahib would have obtained a kill.”
When be had tucked away his money, the Banjara said: “My brother is not now keeper at the tiger garden.”
“Why? I-or whose sin does he suffer?”
“Darna Singh let the black leopard out to meet Rajah Ananda at Jadoo Pool.”
“The rajah wasn’t there,” Finnerty declared in a drawing way.
“No; there was some talk that was
either a lie or a mistake ; it was another at the pool.”
“The horse of the young sahib was found on the hill, and the mem-sahib was seen between the pool and her bungalow.”
“A ghost story, Banjara, and it’s all finished.”
“A bullock that is dead is dead, but a herdsman watches that the other bullocks do not also die from the same thing.”
“I trust you, Banjara,” Finnerty said, seemingly at an irrelevant angle. .
“The mem-sahib rides every day up into the hills, and the roads are not good for pleasure. Packets of cotton that have stomachs come down over the road; cotton grows here.”
“What has cotton to do with the one who rides?”
“Perhaps the mem-sahib rides to meet the one who comes behind the packets. My brother, who was the son of a Banjara priest, one who had visions that all the tribe believed, has also had a vision. Perhaps the beating caused a fever, for visions come thus.”
“What saw he?” Finnerty asked knowing that the herdsman had something of moment to tell in this way.
“There was a full moon in the sky, and by its light he saw a rajah, and the rajah had many guns and soldiersemdash;even sahibs as soldiersemdash;and he was driving out the sircar. And the guns were hidden behind bales of cotton.”
“Is that all?” Finnerty asked, for the herdsman had stopped.
“My brother woke at that point, huzoor, and his eyes fell upon a mhowa tree in full bloom.”
“Which means that the mhowa is in bloom now?”
“Of the interpreting of visions I know nothing, but it might be that way.”
The Banjara now departed, and Swinton said: “Do you remember Prince
Ananda saying that if a holy man stood by the Lake of the Golden Coin in the full of the moon, when the mhowa was in bloom, having the three sacred sapphires, he would see the dead king rise in his golden boat?”
“Yes, and this cowherd’s chatter means an uprising soon. I hear hoofs; that will be Lord Victor. Are we going to accuse him of being at the pool?”
“I think not. We know as much now as we shall if we question him. But we’ll keep him with us; a young ass like that isn’t safe without a keeperemdash;he’s no match for as clever a traitor as this girl.”
FINNERTY’S chair groaned as though it had received a twist from his big frame, but his voice was devoid of protest: “I can’t make the girl out. My
mind is in a psychological state, and I suppose I’m influenced by the apparent candor in her eyes. They seem to express trouble, too, as if she were searching for a moral finger post, for a way out of darkness.” Then the major expressed an apologetic phrase, adding: “I’m afraid I’m a bit awkward at psychology; jungle dwellers are more in my line.”
Swinton put his hand on the big man’s shoulder. “My dear major, I wish I’d had a brother like you. My family was baked in the crucible of government service for generations; we’re executive automatons.”
“I understand; you’re an Englishman. Damn it, I mean, in youth you never roamed the hills like shaggy-haired colts as we do in Ireland.”
“If I had I wouldn’t have made a good Raj policeman. But to hark back. The
German machine, more soulless than our own, knows the value of Mona Lisa eyes, and Marie was probably picked for this delicate mission for the very quality that has won your sympathy—her appealing womanhood.”
“And yet perhaps my sympathy for the girl was birthed by accident, not design on her part.”
“What is an attractive girl doing here so close to Prince Ananda? Why is she here with a Prussian who is an enemy of the British Raj? Why is she averse to being approached? What is she searching for in the hills? It’s the road to China, and guns have already arrived, according to our Banjara.”
“I haven’t an answer for any one of your queries, captain, but we must investigate those packets.”
I ORD VICTOR arrived now, and as he had not yet seen the skin of Pundit Bagh he was taken to where it was pegged out on the ground and being rubbed with ashes and alum. This kill of a tiger was probably the first incident in his life calculated to raise elation in the hearts of his friends.
“Something to tack to, eh?” he cried joyfully. “Fancy I hear the chaps in fluffy old London saying as I pass, ‘That’s the man that shot a big man-eater on foot.' No swank to that, major, for I did. You know that dicky little chapel dedicated to the tiger god?”
“Yes; the one down in the plain.”
“It’s simply buried under devotee brica-brac this morning. They should have a sign up ‘Wet Paint,’ for it's gory blood red. When I came along a fat black man, rolled in white muslin, cursed me—absolutely bowled at my wicket with a ball of brimstone. Now what do you make of that, major? It wasn’t about the cow dog, for the bounder had one English word, ‘tiger,’ which he simply sprayed his lingo
Mahadua had come to accompany the party, and, somewhat perplexed, Finnerty turned to the shikari for an explan-
“Yes, sahib,” Mahadua said, “Pundit Bagh was a jungle god, and they are making prayer to the shrine so that the spirit may return again as a tiger to protect them from such as the black leopard.”
Finnerty interpreted; “They feel that you have slain one who defended them against leopards and pig and deer that ate their crops.”
“Oh, I say! Sort of a gentleman burglar who did not murder his victims.”
The shikari explained that the man who had visited verbal wrath upon Lord Victor was a money lender who lent money at a high rate to the farmers to buy bullocks when the tiger had killed their plow beasts, so he was angry at this loss of revenue. He also said that some one was telling the natives that the sahibs were trying to destroy their religion by killing their jungle gods.
“Who tells them this?” Finnerty asked.
The shikari answered evasively: “This is not my country, so they do not tell me what is in the hidden room.”
YfAJOR FINNERTY had made arAI rangements for a full day after Burra Moti. Coolies had been sent on with provisions in round wicker baskets slung from a bamboo yoke, and soon the three sahibs started.
Perhaps it was the absence of imme-
diate haste, a lack of pressing action, that allowed their minds to rest on their surroundings. Really, though, it was Lord Victor who drew them to a recognition of their arboreal surroundings with: “I
say! Look at that bonfire-—but it’s glorious!” his riding whip indicating a gold mohur tree that, clothed in its gorgeous spring mantle of vivid red bloom, suggested its native name of “Forest on Fire.”
“Yes,” Finnerty said, “it seems to add to the heat of the sun, and, as if that weren’t enough, listen to that damn cuckoo, the brain-fever bird, vocal in his knowledge that we’ll soon be frying in Hades.”
The bird of fiendish iteration squeaked: “Fee-e-e-ver, fee-e-e-ver, fee-e-e-ver!” till he came to a startled hush, as, with noisy cackle, a wood-pecker, all golden beak and red crest atop his black-and-white waistcoat, shot from the delicate green foliage.
“It’s a land of gorgeous coloring,” Finnerty commented; “trees and birds alike.”
“Minus the scent and song,” Swinton added as a hornbill opened his yellow coffin beak to screech in jarring discord.
Perhaps India, populous with bird and animal life as well as human, was always as much on parade as it seemed this morning, and that they now but observed closer. At any rate, as they left the richer-garbed foothills for the heavier somberness of the forest, their eyes were caught by the antics of a black-plumaged bird who had seized the rudder of a magpie and was being towed along by that squawking, frightened mischief-maker.
With a chuckle, Finnerty explained: “He’s a king crow, known to all as the ‘police wallah,’ for he’s eternally putting others to rights. That ‘pie’ has been looting some nest, and the king crow is driving him over into the next county.”
Screened from the sun’s glare, but warming to his generous heat, the forest held an indescribable perfume—the nutty, delicious air which, drawn into expanded lungs, fills one with holy calm, with the delight of being, of living, and so they rode in silent ecstasy, wrapped in the mystic charm of the Creator’s work.
A N hour of travel and they met a party of Finnerty’s men carrying one of their number slung from a bamboo pole. He had been mauled by the black leopard. The story was soon told. The whole party with Bahadar had moved forward on Moti’s trail, stopping when they felt she was near, the men spreading out with the object of bringing her in. In one of these encircling movements they had surrounded, without knowing it, the black leopard, and, in breaking through, the vicious animal had mauled one so that he would probably die.
The shikari, after he had asked the locality of this encounter, said: “It is
“This shows that he is not a spirit, Mahadua; that he hasn’t dissolved into
“Still, sahib, a spirit, leopard or tiger, can always change back.”
“It proves to me,” Swinton declared, “that there’s an exit to that cave which we did not discover.”
They had forgotten Lord Victor’s presence, but the young man said blithely: “I say, I heard you two Johnnies had gone out after a leopard this morning. What luck?”
“He got away; he’s just mauled this man. And it means"—Finnerty turned
and faced Swinton—“that we’ve got to follow him up.”
Finnerty’s voice had scarcely ceased when the trumpeting of an elephant, loud and shrill, sounded ahead. “That’s Raj Bahadar,” Finnerty declared. “I expect Moti has come back with another walloping.”
THEY urged their horses, and came to where the party had camped through the night, a fresh trail showing that the men had moved on. Following this, they came within hearing of human voices, high-pitched in a babel of commands and exhortations and calls, drowned at times by the trumpet of Bahadar. Emerging from a thick clump of trees, they could see the natives darting and hopping about something that looked like the top of a submarine emerging from the waters.
“Bahadar has fallen into a pit,” Finnerty declared.
Before the three sahibs reached Bahadar there was an encouraging “phrut, phrut” from beyond, and Moti’s gleaming tusks showed through the jungle; and then the old lady herself halted just beyond the pit for a brief survey, as if to make sure that it wasn’t a game to trap her. Then she advanced gingerly, feeling the ground, and thrust out her trunk for Bahadar to grasp with his. The natives saw that Moti had come to help Bahadar and not to belabor him. With sticks and jungle axes some of them started to tear down to a slope the end wall of the pit, while the others gathered sticks and branches and threw them beneath the trapped elephant as a gradually rising-
Finnerty dismounted, and, calling a man, said: “While Moti is busy noose
both her hind legs, leaving the ropes in the hands of men so that she will not find the strain, and when Bahadar is out fasten them quickly around trees.”
Moti was for all the world like the “anchor man” on a tug-of-war team. Clasping the bull elephant’s trunk in a close hitch, she leaned her great bulk back and pulled with little grunts of encouragement. Bahadar soon was able to catch hisbig toes in the partly broken bank, and helped the natives in its leveling.
At last he was out, and, seeming to recognize what Moti had done, was rubbing his trunk over her forehead and blowing little whiffs of endearment into her ears, while she stood warily watchingthe puny creatures who kept beyond reach of a sudden throw of her trunk.
A NATIVE with a noose, watching hischance, darted in and slipped it over a forefoot, and Moti, in a second, was moored, fore and aft, to strong trees. Either in a cunning wait or from a feeling of resignation to fate, she put up nofight beyond a querulous “phrump, phrump!” as if she would say: “My
reward, you traitors!”
Bahadar was cut about the legs, for the pit, being an elephant trap dug by Nagas who captured elephants for their meat and ivory, was studded with upright bamboo spears, and, unlike the local pits with their sloped sides, its walls were perpendicular to its full depth of ten feet.
“Tell me why you left the main trail, and how Bahadar stepped into this pit?” Finnerty demanded of Gothya, the mahout.
“We heard the bell, sahib-”
“Fool!” and Finnerty pointed to Moti’s neck, on which was nothing.
“We all heard it, sahib, and some talk between a voice and Moti, who would
answer ‘E-e-eu-eu—phrut ! E-e-eu-eu— phrut!’ as though she were saying, ‘Wait, brother!’ No doubt, sahib, it was a jungle spirit that was drawing Moti along for our destruction, for, as we followed this old Naga trail, Bahadar suddenly went through the covering of leaves and dead limbs that was over the pit.”
Tu he continued