The Three Sapphires
A Story of Mystery and War Intrigue
W. A. Fraser
Author of “Mooswa,” “Toroughbreds," Etc.
FROM where they were on the marble terrace that reached from the palace to a little lake—the Lake of the Golden Coin—Lord Victor Gilfain and Captain Swinton could see the intricate maze of Darpore City’s lights down on the plain, six miles away.
Over the feather-topped sal forest behind the palace a gorgeous moon was flooding the earth with light, turning to ribbons of gold the circling ripples on the jade lake, where mahseer and burbel splashed in play.
Rajah Darpore was leaning lazily against the fretwork marble balustrade just where the ghat steps dipped down under the water. He was really Prince Ananda, the shazada, for down in the city of glittering lights still lived his father, the maharajah; but it had become customary to address the prince as rajah.
A servant came and took their empty sherry glasses.
Prince Ananda was saying in his soft Oriental voice that the Oxford training had set to truer rhythm: “After that
gallop up in the tonga I always find it restful to come out here and have my sherry and bitters before dinner.”
“It’s ripping; I mean that.” And Lord Victor Gilfain stretched his slim arm toward the blinking lights of Darpore.
“I hope you’re comfortable in the bungalow,” the prince said solicitously. “I hadn’t time when you arrived this morning to see just how you were placed. I haven’t any bungalows up here, either; they’re all in the cantonments.”
“We’re fitted up regal,” Lord Victor
answered ; “horses, servants—every-
“Well, I’m very glad you came,” Ananda said. “At Oxford we often talked about the shooting you were to have here, didn’t we?”
“But I never thought Earl Craig would let you come. Having lived in India in his younger days, I fancied he’d be gun shy of the country.”
Lord Victor laughed. “I got marching orders from the gov’nor.”
'T'HE prince tapped a cigarette on the marble rail, lighted it from the fireball a watchful servant glided into range with, blew a puff of smoke out toward the little lake, and, with a smile, murmured dreamily : “I wonder if I knew the girl?”
“You didn’t, old chap; though you’ve pipped the gov’nor’s idea all right. Swinton here is my keeper; he’s supposed to be immune.”
“Well, you’re safe at Darpore. There’s absolutely nobody here just now. Everybody’s in Calcutta.”
“I fancy the gov’nor cabled out to ask about that before he packed me off.” And Gilfain chuckled, a tribute to his reputation for gallantry.
“I should say you're in good hands, too.” Ananda’s white teeth showed in a smile that irritated Swinton. When Prince Ananda had met them at the train Swinton had seen his black eyes narrow in a hard look. He had been wondering if the prince knew his real position—that he was Captain Herbert, of the secret service. But that was impossible. Probably the prince was mistrustful of all Europeans.
Then Ananda resumed, in a n introspective way: “That’s England all over; they’re as much afraid of breaking caste by marrying
lower down as we are here. In fact”— Darpore raised his hand and pointed to the distant city—“the maharajah is sitting yonder, probably in his glass prayer room, listening to some wandering troubadour singing the amorous love songs of‘Krishna and the Milkmaids,’ and his mind is quite at rest, knowing that the Brahmin caste is so strong that it protects itself in the way of misalliance.” “But you?” Lord Victor blurted out boyishly. “Damn it, prince, you put your caste under the pillow at Oxford!”
Ananda laughed. “Personally it is still under the pillow. You see, when I crossed the ‘black water’ I broke my caste. When the time comes that it is necessary for the welfare of Darpore state that I take it on again—well, I may. To tell you the truth, the maharajah is not a Brahmin at all; he’s something very much greater, if he’d only think so; he’s a rajput of the Kshatri caste, the warrior caste.”
SWINTON, sitting back in his chair, had closed his eyes, experiencing a curious pantomimic effect in listening to the English voice leisurely drawling these curiously startling sentiments; then when he opened them suddenly there was the lithe figure of the Oriental, the Indian prince. It didn’t ring true; there was a disturbing something about it that kept his nerves tingling. Perhaps it was that he had come to delicately investigate.
EDITOR'S Note.—This is the first instalment of a new serial story by that great favorite of a few years ago, W. A. Fraser. He won a welldeserved reputation as one of the very finest of Canadian authors and the reading public suffered a loss when other interests drew him away from letters. Now he has “come back”— better than ever—and in MACLEAN'S, of course.
“And this,” Ananda continued, indicating the palace and the sal forest beyond. “I mean my desire for this and not that”
and the ruby point of his cigarette enveloped with a sweeping gesture the city in the plain—“is because of a Raj Gond cross away back. They were primitive nature worshippers—tiger gods and all that. Listen!” He held up a finger, his eyes tense, as from high up on the hills, deep in the forest, came the hoarse, grating call of a leopard. Immediately from just behind the palace the call was taken up and answered by another leopard.
“By Jove!” Gilfain sprang to his feet.
The prince laughed. “That’s one of my captives; I’ve got quite a menagerie. We’ll see them in the day, first time you re out. That’s the Raj Gond taint. I couldn’t stand it down there, so the maharajah let me build this bungalow up here. This whole plateau we’re on contains a buried city. Who built it or who lived in it nobody knows. The marble you see in the palace was all taken from the buildings beneath the roots of these sal trees. I’ll show you something; we’ve
got time before the others arrive for dinner.”
He led the two men down wide, marble steps to the water’s edge, and indicated a cable, the end of which, coming up out of the lake, crept into the bank beneath a large marble slab.
“What’s it attached to?” Lord Victor asked.
“This lake is artificial. If it were daylight, and we were up on the bank, we could see seven of them. The story of this cable runs that when the king of this city that is buried was dying be commanded that all his jewels and weapons and his body be placed in a golden boat and sunk in the centre of this lake. They say the boat is attached to the other end of this cable; I don’t know.”
“Has anybody ever tried to pull it up?” Swinton asked, still feeling that he was helping on the pantomime.
“Yes; once an avaricious nawab got together several elephants and many men, and, fastening to the cable, started to puli the boat up. It came easily at first, but just when they all got very careless and were starting to rush it the magic thing
slipped back, pulling them in, and they were all drowned. There’s a legend that if a holy man stands here at midnight of a full moon when the mhowa tree is in bloom, with the three sacred sapphires of our mythology in his hand, the king will rise in his golden boat if the holy man has been ordained of the gods to be a leader of his people.”
DACK on the terrace, Prince Ananda asked: Were you in the service out
here, captain?” Very inconsequential was the tone of this query that was so pointed in reality.
“I was on the Bombay side for a time; my health petered out, and I had to go back to Belati.”
“I see the lights of Major Finnerty’s dogcart coming up the hill,” Ananda announced.
“Coming to dinner with us—any ladies, prince?” Lord Victor queried.
“No; this is what I call a pilkana or play dinner. After we’ve dined I’m going to show you some Indian tamasha. I asked Finnerty because he’s great on
these jungle friends of mine—should be able to find you some tiger; I don’t shoot.” The moon showed an apologetic smile curving the lips clear of his brilliant white teeth as Ananda, turning to Swinton, added: “I never kill any of them
myself; I’m a Buddhist in that way.”
“Do you believe in reincarnation, prince?” Gilfain questioned.
“I’m afraid I don’t believe in anything that’s not demonstrable; but I do know that it is a good thing to not take life. Finnerty is the government keddah sahib here, and I’m going to ask his help in giving you some sport, Gilfain. My private archaeologist, Doctor Boelke, is coming for dinner also. The trouble about him is the more he drinks the more Teutonically sombre he becomes.”
The prince excused himself, saying: “I think they’re pretty well coming together.”
The two men could hear a heavy tonga clatter up, followed by the light, whirring grind of dogcart wheels and a medley of voices. As a group came through the palace, Swinton could hear the heavy guttural of a German’s “Ach, Gott!"
about something un pleasing.
There was a brief introduction and an immediate departure to the dining room.
AFTER dinner, as they sat at little tables on the moonlit terrace over their coffee and cheroots, Major Finnerty, taking from his pocket an oval stone the size of a hen’s egg, said : “I’ve got a curiosity, prince; I wonder if you can read the inscription on it.”
“What is it, major?” Darpore asked as he held it toward an electric lamp on the table.
“It’s a very fine sapphire in the rough. Where the end has been cut it is of the deepest pigeon blue.”
“I can’t read the characters because they are Persian, and I only know the Devanagari, but Professor Boelke can,” and Ananda passed it to the German.
“Yes, it is Persian,” Doctor Boelke said. With a pencil he wrote on a piece of paper some strangelooking characters. “It means Rikaz, and is nothing of mystery."
Swinton, who was watching the German’s eyes, felt that they were passing some hidden meaning to the prince.
“Rikan means a mine,” Doctor Boelke continued; “a place vhere stones or metal are found ; dot’s all.” Swinton intercepted the stone on its way back, and, after examining it, passed it on.
“Dot is a big sapphire, major,” Boelke said; “vhere did you get it? And for vat is der hole on der odder end from der inscription?” f
“It’s a curious story,” Finnerty answered. “A jungle hethni—female elephant—came down out of the forest and walked right in on us, by Jove! I’ll describe Burra Moti; that’s what we call her, the Big Pearl. She’s a female with large tusks; she has four toes on each hind foot and I haven’t another elephant that has more than three. She’s different in other ways ; has two fingers on the end of her trunk instead of one; she has immense ears and a hollow back; she never lies down.’ Doctor Boelke leaned forward, adjusted his big glasses, and said: “My friend, you haf described an African elephant.” “Yes,” the major answered; “that’s what Burra Moti is.”
“I admit it’s some mystery,” Finnerty said slowly; “it has bothered me. All I know is that Burra Moti, who is undoubtedly an African, came down out of the jungle to the keddah because she was going to calve. What taught her that she’d be safe with her calf in the keddah I don’t know; where she came from I don’t know. Around her neck was a strap of sambur skin to which was attached a bell, and morning and evening, at a certain hour, Burra Moti would reach up
with her trunk and ring the bell. Last evening the mahout didn’t hear it at the usual hour-—eight o’clock—so he went down to where Burra Moti stood under a big tamarind tree and found a native— looked to be a hillman—crushed flat where she had put her big foot on him. Beside him lay the bell, and the strap had been cut with a sharp knife. The bell was flattened out of shape, Moti in her rage evidently stepped on it. The clapper of that bell was this sapphire, hung by the little hole in the end.”
■‘By Jove!” Lord Victor ejaculated, “my gov’nor would give a few sous for that sapphire; he’s entirely daffy on the subject of Indian curios.”
“If it’s for sale, I’ll give a thousand rupees for it, major,” the prince added.
“I’ve got to fix that bell up again for Burra Moti,” Finnerty answered; “she’s been in a towering rage all day—keeps slipping her trunk up to her neck like a woman looking for a necklace she has lost.”
“Oh, I say!” Gilfain expostulated. “Rather tallish order, old chap, don’t you think? Almost too deuced human, what?”
\ TAJOR FINNERTY turned in his leisurely way to Gilfain: “If a chap spends several years with elephants he’ll come devilish near believing in reincarnation, my young friend.” Then, addressing Darpore more particularly, he added: “I want to tell you one extraordinary thing Burra Moti did when her calf was born. The little one was as though it were dead, not breathing. With her front foot the mother pressed the calf’s chest in and out gently—artificial respiration if you like, gentlemen—and kept it up until the calf breathed naturally. But I’m sorry to say the little one died next dav.”
Swinton waited for some comment on the sapphire-clappered bell. He now asked: “Do you suppose, major, it was
just a bell that the thief wanted?”
“No; that native had never been seen around the lines before. It’s not likely he would slip into a strange place and take chances of being killed for a thing of not much value—a bell.”
“Perhaps it’s one of those bally sacred things,” Lord Victor interjected.
Swinton saw Ananda’s eyes send a swift glance to the German’s face.
“Well,” Finnerty said meditatively, “I think the thief knew of the sapphire stone in that bell, and it may have belonged to some temple; I mean Burra Moti may have been a sacred elephant.”
“If that were the case,” Darpore objected, “they’d come and claim the elephant.”
“The stone being in the rough, there must be a mine near where the elephant was equipped with the bell,” Swinton suggested.
“I had an idea,” Finnerty said, ‘ that if I rode Burra Moti off into the jungle and let her drift she might go back to where she came from; I might find the mine that way.”
\ S Finnerty ceased speaking, the highi\ pitched voice of a woman singing floated down to them from higher up on the hill. Ananda clapped his hands; a servant slipped from a door in the palace, and, salaaming deeply, listened to an order from the prince. When he reentered the palace the row of lights that had illumined the terrace went out, leaving the sitters in the full glamour of a glorious moon.
Ananda made a gesture toward the hilb
from which the weird chant came. “That is the Afghan love song,” he explained. “The girl represents a princess who was in love with a common soldier. After a great battle she went out on the plain, searching for him among the wounded and slain; so now this girl will come down in her singing search.”
The listeners could now make out the weird music of the many-stringed fiddle that a companion played as accompaniment to the girl’s voice. The prince swept his hand toward the great disk of silver that had lifted above the sal trees, saying: “My people believe that lumin-
ous, dead planet up there is the soul of Purusha, Brahm the Creator; fitting light for the path of a princess who is singing out of the desolation of her soul.”
Nearer and nearer came the wailing plaint of the girl looking for her dead soldier. Once its vibrant tone stirred the leopard in his cage, and he called: “Wough-wa, wough-wa, wah!”
“That’s ‘Pard’s’ mating call,” the prince explained. “Even he, jungle devil, feels something in that love song—in the sorrowing voice that does not anger him.”
A peacock, wakened from his sleep by the leopard, sent out a warning call to jungle dwellers that a killer was afoot. “Meough, meough, meough!” he cried in shrill discordancy.
The song of love search drifted in from the sal trees, through the mango tope beyond the palace, along the banks of the Lake of the Golden Coin, and up the ghat to the terrace.
In the moonlight the girl’s face, as she came slowly up the steps, was beautiful: her grace of movement was exquisite. Followed by the musician, she passed along the terrace with no notice of the prince or his guests. At the far end, she dropped to her knees beside a figure that had lain there—her slain soldier lover. She lifted his head into her lap, and the song rose in an intensity of lament; then it died down to a croon; the desolate woman’s head drooped until her luxuriant hair shrouded the soldier’s face. Suddenly the crooning chant was stilled ; the girl’s face thrust up through its veil of hair, and the eyes, showing a gleam of madness in the moonlight, swept the vault above.
' “She has become crazed by the death of her lover,” the prince explained softly. As the girl commenced a low chant he added: “She now asks of the gods what she must do to receive back his life. She thinks, in her madness, they answer that if she dances so that it pleases Krishna' the soldier will be restored to life.”
npENDERLY the girl laid the head -*■ of her lover down, kissing him on the staring eyes, and then commenced a slow, sinuous dance, the violin, with its myriad wire strings, pulsating with sobs. The soft, enveloping moon shimmer lent a mystic touch of unreality to the elfin form that seemed to float in rhythmic waves against the dark background of the sal forest. Faster and faster grew the dance, more and more weird the wail of the violin, and the plaint from the girl for her lover’s life became a frenzied cry. Now she had failed; her strength was gone; death still held in its cold fingers the heart of her lover; she reeled in exhausted delirium, but, as she would have fallen, the lover rose from death and caught her to his breast.
But the gift of the gods—his life— had been but transitional—a bitter mockery—for the princess lay dead against his pulsing heart. Smothering the unresponsive eyes and lips with kisses, he gently placed the girl upon the ground, and, standing erect, defied the gods—called them to combat.
Prince Ananda interpreted the words and gestures of the gladiator as the moonlight painted in gold and copper his bronze form.
In answer to his challenge a sinister form glided from the shadow of the wall.
“Bhairava, the evil black god, who rides abroad at night,” Ananda explained, adding, as the combat began: “They are two Punjabi wrestlers. The lover is Balwant Singh, which means ‘Strong Lion’; Bhairava, whom you see is so grotesquely painted black, is Jai Singh, ‘Lion of Victory.’ ”
The struggle was Homeric, as Balwant Singh, the muscles on his back rising in ridges, strove to conquer the black god. In vain his strength, for the god, sinuous as a serpent, slipped from the lover’s grasp with ease. At last Jai Singh’s black arm lay across the lover’s throat, anchored to the shoulder by a hand grip ; there was a quick twist to the arm, a choking gasp from Balwant Singh, and, with startling suddenness, he was on his back, both shoulders pinned to the mat.
The tragic drama was at an end. The lover, slain by the gods he had defied, lay beside his dead princess.
“Ripping!” Lord Victor cried. “In Drury Lane that would cause no end of a sensation as a pantomine. Hello! By Jove! I say!”
FOR even as the young man cackled, some heavy shadow, some mystic trick of the Orient, had faded from their eyes the three figures of the drama.
Prince Ananda, with a soft laugh at Gilfain’s astonishment, said : “Bharitava, the evil god, has spirited the lover and the princess away.”
“My friends, dot to me brings of importance a question,” Doctor Boelke commented. “How is it dot a few Englishmen rule hundreds of millions, and we see
dot der Hindus are stronger as der white man; no Englishman could wrestle those men.”
“I fancy it's hardly a question of what we call brute force where England governs,” Swinton claimed.
“Oh, of course!” And Doctor Boelke laughed. “England alvays ruling people because of philanthropy. Ah, yes, I hear dot!”
“Do you mean to say, sir”—and Lord Victor’s voice was pitched to a high treble of indignation—“that we have no wrestlers at home as good as these Hindu chaps? Damn it, sir, it’s rot! A man like Fitzalban, who was at Oxford in my last year, would simply disjoint these chaps like wooden dolls.”
The doctor puffed his billowy cheeks in disdain, and Finnerty contributed: “Don’t underrate these Punjabi wrestlers, my young friend; there are devilish few professionals even who can take a fall out of them.”
“The major should know,” and Darpore nodded pleasantly; “he has grappled with the best that come out of the Punjab."
Gilfain, his spirit still ruffled by the Prussian’s sneer at England, declared peevishly: “I wish there was a chance to test the bally thing; I’d bet a hundred pounds on the Englishman, even if I’d never seen him wrestle.”
Boelke, with a sibilant smack of his lips, retorted: “You are quite safe, my young frient, with your hundred pounds because, you see, there is no Englishman here to put der poor Hindu on his back.”
“I’m not quite so sure about that, Herr Doctor."
Boelke turned in his chair at the deliberate, challenging tone of Finnerty’s voice. He looked at the major, then gave vent to an unpleasant laugh.
“There is one thing a Britisher does not allow to pass—a sneer at England by a German.” Finnerty hung over the word “German.”
“Veil,” the doctor asked innocently, “you vill prove I am wrong by wrestling der Punjabi, or are we to fight a duel?” And again came the disagreeable laugh.
“If the prince has no objection, I don’t know why I shouldn’t take a fall out of one of these chaps. It’s a game I’m very fond of.”
“And, Herr Doctor, I’ll have you on for the hundred,” Lord Victor cried eagerly.
“Just as you like, major,” the prince said. “There’ll be no loss of caste, especially if we sit on our sporting friend over there and curb his betting propensities.”
“Right you are, rajah,” Finnerty concurred. “We wrestle just to prove that Britain is not the poor old effete thing the Herr Doctor thinks she is.”
DRINCE ANANDA sent for his secre* tary, Baboo Chunder Sen, and when the baboo came said: “Ask Jai Singh if he^would like to try a fall with the major
Balwant Singh came back with the baboo when he had delivered this message. Salaaming, he said: “Huzoor, the keddah sahib has his name in our land, the Land of the Five Rivers. We who call men of strength brothers say that he is one of us. No one from my land has come back boasting that he has conquered the sahib. Jai Singh, in the favor of the gods, has achieved to victory over me, so Jai Singh will meet with the sahib.”
“Fine!” Finnerty commented. I’ll need wrestling togs, prince.”
“The baboo will take you to my room and get a suit for you.”
Finnerty put the sapphire in a silver cigarette box that was on the table, say-
ing: “I’ll leave this here,” and followed Chunder Sen into the palace.
“Devilish sporting, I call it; Finnerty is Irish, but he’s a Britisher,” Gilfain proclaimed. “He’ll jolly well play rugby with your friends, Herr Boekle.”
“In my country ve do not shout until der victory is obtained; ve vill see,” and the doctor puffed noisily at his cheroot.
But the fish eyes of the professor were conveying to Prince Ananda malevolent messages, Swinton fancied. The whole thing had left a disturbing impression on his mind; Boelke’s manner suggested a prearrangement with the prince.
The doctor's unpleasing physical contour would have furnished strong evidence against him on any charge of moral obliquity. He sat on the chair like a large-paunched gorilla, his round head topping the fatty mound like a cocoanut. His heavy-jowled face held a pair of cold, fishy eyes; coarse hair rose in an aggressive hedge from the seamed, low forehead, and white patches showed through the iron-gray thatch where little nicks had been made in the scalp by duelling swords at Heidelberg. He was a large man, but the suggestion of physical strength was destroyed by a depressing obeseness.
A tall, fine-looking rajput came across the terrace toward Darpore.
“Ah, Darna Singh,” the prince greeted, rising; “you are just in time to see a kushti that will delight your warrior heart. This is my brother-in-law, Nawab Darna Singh,” he continued, turning to Swinton and Gilfain and repeating their entitled narnt.
The rajput salaamed with grave dignity, saying the honor pleased him.
“Have a seat,” Ananda proffered.
“I have intruded, rajah,” Darna Sin eh explained, “because there is trouble at the temple. The mahanta is at the gate-”
“Show him in, Darna. I can’t see him privately just now; the keddah sahib and Jai Singh are going to make kushti.”
\VTHILE the rajput went to the gate for ’ ' the mahanta, Prince Ananda said apologetically: “Even a prince must show deference to the keeper of the temple.”
Darna Singh returned, accompanied by an animated skeleton of mummy hue. Draping the skin-covered bones was a loin cloth and a thread that hung diagonally from one shoulder to the waist.
With a deep salaam, the mahanta, trembling with indignation, panted: “Dharama comes in the morning with his Buddhistic devils to desecrate the temple by placing in it that brass Buddha—accursed image!—he has brought from the land of Japan.”
“Ah!” The exclamation was from Lord Victor as Finnerty appeared.
“Here. Darna.” Ananda cried, “hold the mahanta till this is over; I don’t want to miss it.”
Darna Singh led the Brahmin beyond the table at which the sahibs were grouped, explaining that Prince Ananda would speak to him presently.
■VTOW Finnerty, coming into the light,
1 ’ slipped a robe from his shoulders and stood beside Jai Singh, looking like a sculptured form of ivory.
Swinton caught his breath in a gasp of admiration; he had never seen such a superb being. Jai Singh, who a moment before had seemed of matchless mold, now suffered bv comparison. Each move of the Irishman was like the shifting of a supple gladiator. The shoulders, the
loins, the overlapping muscles of his arms were like those of Hercules.
Lord Victor was muttering: “My
word! Poor old decadent England— what!”
Several times as he sat there Swinton had felt vibrant thrills, as if eyes that blazed with intensity were on him, and always as he had turned in answer to the unseen influence he had instinctively looked to a jalousied balcony above them. Now he caught the glint of white fingers between the leaves of the lattice as if a hand vibrated them. He could have sworn Finnerty’s erect head had drooped in recognition.
From the first grapple there was evident savagery on the part of Jai Singh. He had toyed leisurely with Balwant; now he bore in like a savage beast.
“By gad.” Lord Victor growled once. “That Hindu bounder is fighting foul!”
Finnerty had gone to bis hands and knees in defence. The Punjabi, lying along the arched back, thrust his right hand under the major’s armpit as if seeking for a half nelson; but his hand, creeping up to the neck, straightened out to thrust two fingers into Finnerty’s nostrils, the big thumb wedged against the latter’s windpipe. In a flash the white man was in a vise, for Jai Singh had gripped the wrist of his fouling arm with his left hand, and was pressing the forearm upon the back of his opponent's
In his foul endeavor Jai Singh had lost defence. A hand took him by the left wrist, a corkscrew twist broke his hold, and he commenced to go over forward in tortured slowness, drawn by the wracking pain of his twisted joints. One of his shoulder blades lay against the mat when, by a mighty wrench, he freed his wrist and pirouetted on his round bullet head clear of Finnerty’s clutch.
Again, as they stood hand to shoulder, making a feint as if to grapple, Jai Singh tried a foul. The heel of Finnerty’s palm, thrust with dynamic force upward, caught him under the chin with such power that he all but turned a complete somersault backward.
This was too much for Lord Victor. With a cry of “Well bowled, old top!” he sprang to his feet, in his excitement careening his glass of whisky and soda, the liquid splashing across the fat legs of Doctor Boelke.
Like a hippopotamus emerging from a pool, Boelke reared upward; the table, at a thrust from his hand, reeled groggily on its frail legs and then volplaned, shooting its contents over the marble
“Never mind,” Prince Ananda admonished; “leave it to the servants.”
FINNERTY was wrestling with caution —-waiting for the inevitable careless chance that would give him victory.
Jai Singh’s foul tactics confirmed Swinton’s suspicion that the bout was a prearranged plot; the Punjabi was acting under orders. The captain had served in the Punjab and knew that native wrestlers were not given to such practices. He watched Prince Ananda, but the latter’s immobile face gave no sign of disapproval.
A startled gasp from Lord Victor caused him to look at the wrestlers. He had seen enough of wrestling to know what had happened. Jai Singh’s weight rested on one leg he had crooked behind Finnerty’s knee joint, and he was pulling up against this w7edge the major’s foot by a hold on the big toe. It was a barred hold in amateur wrestling; a chance to
administer pain, instead of an exhibition of strength or agility. The captain felt, with a sense of defeat, that Finnerty must yield to the pain or have his leg broken.
There was a hideous grin of triumph on the face of Jai Singh. Then, almost before Swinton’s brain could register these startling things, the leer of victory vanished; the Punjabi’s lips framed some startled cry, his hands fell to his side, his torso drooped forward, and he collapsed as though his legs were paralyzed.
Finnerty half rose and turned the Punjabi over on his back, pressing his shoulders to the mat; then he took the black nose between finger and thumb and tweaked it.
“Topping! Ripping!” Gilfain shouted the words. “It was coming to the cad!”
The others sat numbed to silence by the extraordinary suddenness of the collapse. Each one understood the debasing retribution the keddah sahib had meted out to his foul-fighting opponent.
Swinton, watching, saw consternation pale the heavy-jowled face of the Prus-
sian. The debonair air had fallen away from the prince. To hide his chagrin he called Darna Singh to bring the mahanta to him. He spoke rapidly in a low voice to the priest, and when he had finished, the latter departed, accompanied by Darna Singh.
WHEN Finnerty came back to them Prince Ananda had regained his sang-froid; he smiled a greeting, holding out his hand, and said: “You deserve to
“I should say so!” Gilfain added. “That rotter would have been mobbed at a bout in London.”
Boelke mumbled: “You are very
Finnerty, peeping into the silver box that had been replaced by the servants on the table, asked: “Any of you chaps got that bell clapper? I left it here.” Nobody had: nobody knew anything about it. Instinctively each one felt his pockets to be sure that, in the excitement of the struggle, he hadn’t put it away; then each one remembered that
he hadn’t seen it since the major deposited it in the silver box.
“The table was upset,” Swinton said. “Look on the floor.”
Even Prince Ananda joined in the search. Then the servants were questioned. They knew nothing of its whereabouts; all denied that they had seen the keddah sahib put it in the box.
A little constraint crept into the search. Prince Ananda’s brother-in-law and the temple priest had been thei'e and had departed; the prince’s servants had been going and coming.
“It may have rolled off the terrace into the water,” Prince Ananda suggested. “In the morning I’ll have the lake searched at this point.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Finnerty declared.
“It does, my dear major,” Ananda objected. “I’ll put pressure on the servants, for I’m very much afraid one of them has stolen it. At any rate, you’ve been looted in my house, and if I don’t find your sapphire you shall have the
Continued on page 96
and there, masters, spying at me is some old fellow of evil countenance; like a guru, with gray whiskers and big horn spectacles. But his eyes—0 Kuda! Very brave I stand up and say, ‘Go away, you old reprobate!’ because he is prying.” “Oh, my aunt!” Gilfain muttered softly.
“Then that old villain that is an evil spirit changes himself into a tiger and grins at me. Fangs like a shark has got—horrible! I call loudly for help because I have not firearms. Then I hear my lord’s voice out here in the room and I am saved.”
“Yes, sar, that is true,” Perreira affirmed. “I am not flustered, but hold the windows so tiger not climbing in.” Lord Victor, raising the lantern, looked into the captain’s eyes. “What do you make of these two bounders ?” “You’d better go back to bed, baboo,” Swinton advised; “you’ve just had a nightmare—eaten too much curry.”
But Baboo Dass swore he had seen a beast with his hands on the window.
“We’ll soon prove it. If the tiger stood up there, he will have left his pugs in the sand,” Swinton declared as he moved toward the door. He was followed by the baboo and Perreira, who hung close as they went down the steps and around the wall.
As Gilfain passed the lantern close to the sandy soil beneath the window, Swinton gave a gasp of astonishment, for there were footprints of a tiger, the largest he had even seen; their position, the marks of the claws in the earth, indicated that the great cat had actually stood up to look into the room.
“Well, he’s gone now, anyway,” the captain said, turning back to the driveway. “You’d better go to bed, baboo; he won’t trouble you any more to-night.”
BUT Mohun Dass wept and prayed for the sahib to stay and protect him; he would go mad in the bungalow without firearms.
“I say, Swinton,” Lord Victor interposed, “these poor chaps’ nerves seem pretty well shimmered, don’t you think? Shall we take them over to our bungalow and give them a brandy?”
The captain hesitated; he didn’t like baboos. But when Perreira acclaimed: “Yes, sar, a peg will stimulate our hearts—thank you, kind gentleman; and his highness, the rajah, will thank you for saving me, for I am important artisan,” his dead-blue eyes glinted.
“Come on, then!” said the captain, picking his way gingerly over the gravel.
Inside the bungalow, Swinton tossed his keys to the bearer, saying: “Bring
--” He turned to Perreira; “What.
will you have, brandy or whisky?”
The half-caste smacked his bluish lips. “Any one is good, sar.”
But Lall Mohun Dass interposed: “Salaam, my preserver, I am a man because of religious scruples teetotal, and whisky is conviva! beverage; but brandy is medicinal, prescribed by doctor.” Swinton nodded to the bearer,_ and when the latter, unlocking the liquor c abinet, brought the brandy and glasses, he said: “Put it on the table and go.” Then, at a suggestion, Perreira poured copious drafts for himself and Baboo Dass.
As the water of life scorched its way through the thin veins of the half-caste he underwent a metamorphosis. The face that had looked so pinched and blue gray with fear took on a warmer copper tint; his eyes that had been lustreless warmed till they glowed; his shoulders
squared up; the jaran coat sagged less.
“Ah, sahib, you are kind gentleman.” Without invitation, he dragged a chair to the table and sat down. At a nod from Swinton, the baboo drew up another. The captain and Lord Victor sat down, the latter rather puzzled over his companion’s mood. He knew Swinton’s rigid ideas about association with the natives; particularly what he called the “greasy Bengali baboo.”
THE brandy had quieted Mohun Dass’ terror. His eyes that had constantly sought the open door with apprehension now hovered benignantly upon the bottle that still graced the centre of the table.
“Yes, sar, kind gentleman,” Perreira said, “if I'd had a hooker of brandy like that and a gun like that ‘Certus Cordite’ ”—he pointed to the weapon Swinton had deposited on the floor—“I would go out and blow that fool tiger to hell.” Baboo Dass gave a fatty laugh. “Do not believe him, kind gentlemans—he make ungodly boast; he was crawled under the bed.”
“And you, baboo?” Perreira questioned. “Major sahib--■”
“I am not a major,” Swinton corrected; “we are just two Englishmen who have come out here for some shooting.”
This statement had a curious effect on Mohun Dass. All his class stood in awe of the military, but toward the globetrotting, sporting Englishman they could hardly conceal their natural arrogance. A look of assured familiarity crept into his fat countenance; he showed his white teeth with the little reddish lines between them, due to pan chewing. “You are globe-trotter gentlemans—I know. Will you writing book, too?”
The captain nodded.
“You will get Forbes’ Hindustani dictionary and spell bungalow ‘bangla,’ and the book will stink like the lamp because of academic propensity. Never mind, kind gentleman, the publics will think you know about India and caste,
The captain noting Perreira’s eyes devouring the bottle shoved it toward the half-caste. Gilfain, with a sigh of not understanding, rose, went along to their rooms, and returned with slippers and some cheroots.
Perreira had helped himself and the baboo to another generous drink, the latter protesting weakly.
“I see you know about guns, Perreira,” Swinton said, lifting the rifle to his knee. “How do you happen to know this is a Cordite?”
“Cordite? Ha, ha!” And the halfcaste’s cackle was a triumphant note. He put a pair of attenuated fingers into the top pocket of his jaran coat and drew from beneath a very dirty handkerchief a lump of something that resembled an unbaked biscuit. He flipped it to the table as though he were tossing a box of box of cigarettes. “Yes, sars, that is cordite—dynamite, whatever you like to call him.”
“Good God! I say, you silly ass!” And Lord Victor, pushing back his chair, stood up.
Baboo Dass, who had been sitting with his feet curled up under his fat thighs, tumbled from the chair, and, standing back from the table, and, Mera bap! Tigers eating and explosives producing eruption of death. O Kuda, my poor families!”
^ movPTïlPnt. nf TPÍTP:
an involuntary movement of retreat, and the compelling void of his eyes drew from the half-caste an explanation:
“Take seat, kind gentlemans and Baboo Lall Mohun Dass. This thing is innocent as baby of explosion. It is cordite not yet finish. I was in the government cordite factory here in -” He
checked, looked over his shoulder toward the front door, and then continued: “Yes, sar, I was gov’ment expert man to mix cordite. If you don’t believe, listen, gentlemans. Cordite is fifty-eight parts nitroglycerin, thirty-seven parts guncotton, five parts mineral jelly, and, of course, acetone is used as solvent. Now all that is mix by hand, and while these parts explode like hell when separate, when they are mix they are no harm. And I was expert for mixing. I am expert on smokeless powder and ail kinds of guns, because I am home in England working for Curtis & Harper Co. in their factory. That why Rajah Darport engage me.”
Swinton’s eyes twitched three times, but he gave no other sign.
Baboo Dass drew himself into the' conversation. “This man, Perreira, been at school in Howrah with me, but I am now B. A., and trusted head krannie for Hamilton Company, jewel -”
With a gasp he stopped and thrust a hand under bis jacket; then explained: “Sahib, I forgetting something because of strict attention to tiger business. You are honorable gentleman who has save my life, so I will show the satanic thing, and you can write story about some ghost jewels.”
He unclasped from his neck a heavy platinum chain, and, first casting a furtive glance toward the door, drew forth a pear-shaped casket of the same metal, saying: “You see, sar, not so glorified in splendor as to seduce thieves, but inside is marvel of thing.”
LJE thrust the casket toward Swinton, and laughed in toper glee when the captain explored vainly its smooth shell for a manner of opening it. “Allow me, sar,” and, Baboo Dass touching some hidden mechanism, the shell opened like a pea pod, exposing to the startled captain’s eyes an exact mate to the sapphire Finnery had lost.
Lord Victor, his unschooled eyes popping like a lobster’s, began: “Ob, 1
say -” Then he broke off with a
velp of pain, for Swinton’s heel had all but smashed his big toe beneath the
“I am bringing for the maharajah,” Baboo Dass explained. “The old boy is gourmand for articles of vertu.”
“Articles of virtue!” And Perreira leered foolishly. “Prince Ananda is the Johnnie to collect article of virtue; he imports from Europe.”
“Mr. Perreira is gay young dog!” Baboo Dass leaned heavily across the table. “Perhaps Shazada Ananda is in big hurry to sit on the throne.”
“There’s always a woman at the bottom of these things, sir,” and Perreira twisted his eyes into an owl-like look of wisdom.
“You see, sar,” the baboo elucidated, “Prince Ananda has give this to the maharajáh, and it is accursed agent of evil; because of it I am nearly eated of
On the sapphire was the same inscription Swinton had seen on the stolen stone.
“That is Persian characters, sahib,” Baboo Dass declared ponderously. “It is used for ‘mine,’ but in learned way madun is proper name for mine, and Rikaz, this word, means buried treasure.
I am learned in dead languages— Sanskrit, Pali. It is sacred stone. L' you possessing patience, sahib, I wil narrative obscure histories of Buddhism “Oh, my aunt!” The already boret Lord Victor yawned.
But Captain Swinton declared earnest ly: “If you do, baboo, I will place youi name in my book as an authority.” Mohun Dass’ breast swelled witl prospective glory.
“I say, old chappie, if we’re to sit ou the act I’m going to have a B. and S.,’ and Gilfain reached for the bottle.
“We’ll all have one,” declared thi captain to the delight of Perreira.
“Kind sar,” Baboo Dass pleaded, “d not speak these things to-morrow, foi my caste frowning against bacchanaliai feast.”
“We promise, old top!” Lord Victoi declared solemnly, and Swinton mentali; added: “The Lord forbid!”
“Now, sar,” began Baboo Daas, “il Buddhist book, ‘Paramamta Maju,’ i describe the Logha, the earth, telling i rests on three great sapphires, and be neath is big rock and plenty oceans And according to that book is threi sacred sapphires knocking aroundloose If any man have them three togethei he is the true Buddha and rules all India Prince Sakya Singha got those sapphire: and became Buddha; that was up on thi hill where is Maha Godhi Temple. Thi sapphires got hole because one is t hang in the temple, one hangs on i sacred elephant that guard the temple and one round the Buddha’s neck.” Baboo Dass lifted his glass, his heav; ox eyes peering over its top at Swinton who was thinking of Finnerty’s elephan. that had the sapphire.
Baboo Dass resumed: “And here, kini gentleman, is the hell of dilemma, fo one sapphire is Brahm, the Creator; oni Vishnu, the Preserver; and one Siva, thi Destroyer. So, if a man got one hi don’t know if it is loadstone for gooi fortune or it brings him to damnation.'
“But, baboo,” Swinton objected “those are Brahmin gods, and Buddhist: have practically no gods.”
“Sar, Buddhism is kind of revoltei Brahminism, and in the north the twi is mixed.”
THE baboo pointed gingerly at th sapphire in its platinum case: “Tha is the Siva stone, I believe. Maharaja) Darpore is sending to my company it Calcutta by special agent for them ti find other two stones like it. See, sahih he is foxy old boy. We make that chai: and casket—his order. That_ specia agent disappeared for ever—he is vanis the next day; the workman that fittei the stone in the case died of cholera some devil tried to steal the sapphire all the workmen get a secret it is evi god and they strike. The manager Rombey Sahib, swear plenty blasphem; and command me: ‘Baboo Dass, you ar brave mans, take the damn thing to oli Darpore and tell his banker I must havi rupees twenty thousand; they owe u sixty thousand.’ Rombsy Sahib know I will give the banker a commission, an the old thief will write a money order.” “What did the maharajah want of thi three sapphires?” Swinton asked ini nocently.
Baboo Dass leaned across the table! and in a gurgling whisper said: “Be cause of this foolish belief that h' would rule all India. The Buddhist would think he was a Buddha. Tha
Xikaz means, in theologie way, the man possesses the three sapis buried the treasure of holy dge.”
[ton, turning his head at a faint saw his bearer standing in the Dorway.
master call?” the servant asked. Go!”
tbling with apprehension, Baboo lipped the case back in his breast, fisión of bibulous despondency pssession of him; he slipped a SOtton sock from one of the feet pulled from their shoes in his »ncy, and wiped his eyes.
[oo Dass is right,” Perreira dethrusting into the gap. “On the p working like mole in the ground, ;ot my eye teeth looking when I the light. I am Britisher—PitCircus is home for me—if I work ive prince I don’t sell my mess of
îira tapped the breast pocket of xan coat. “I got little book —” The half-caste gulped; a i sea green swept over his face; gled “Sick,” and made a reeling >r the veranda. At the door, ho L with a yell of terror. The lived under the table.
KING it was the tiger, Swinton ibbed his rifle and sprang to the [discovering a native standing the wall.
it do you want?” the captain n rapid English.
ib, I am the night chowkidar of lpound.”
)n the steps there!” Swinton comat the table, he said: “Baboo, II Perreira go back to your bungaIv with the chowkidar, but I warn understands English.” bling, Perreira whispered: “That l»y. Please lending me rupees
0 Dass revived to encourage the ïying: “Mr. Perreira is honest
1 indorse for him rupees five .d.”
îcting that the requested loan mething to do with the eavesg chowkidar, Captain Swinton > his room, returning with the sillich he slipped quietly into Perpalm, saying in a low voice: to see me again.” He stood ig the three figures pass down >nlit road, and saw Perreira touch wkidar; then their hands met.
? to their rooms, Lord Victor Don’t see how the devil you had tience, captain. Are you really ; Go do a book and were mugging-
ay get something out of it,” the * answered enigmatically.
PAIN SWINTON had told his birer to call him early, his life in i aving taught him the full value CEjJorious early morning for a ride.
ictor had balked -at the idea of a -nwn pleasure trip on horseback, E'inton had not pressed the point, letery much desired to make a little c inspection off his own bat, a eon)l;ive ride free from the inane comts>f his young charge.
; he first soft drawn-out “Sah1 ! of his bearer, the captain was up ildierly precision. His eyes light-
ed with pleasure when he saw the saddle horse that had been provided for him from the maharajah’s stable. He was a fine, upstanding brown Arab, the eyes full and set wide. When Swinton patted the velvet muzzle the Arab gave a little sigh of satisfaction, expressing content; he liked to carry men who loved horses.
The bearer, officiously solicitous, had rubbed his jacket over the saddle and bridle reins, and, examining the result, said: “Huzoor, you have clean leathers; it is well. Also the steed has lucky marks and his name is Shabaz.”
Shabaz broke into a free-swinging canter as the captain took the road that stretched, like a red ribbon laid on a carpet of green, toward the hill, whereon, high up, gleamed a flat pearl, the palace of Prince Ananda.
On the hillside was a delicate.tracerv of waving bamboos, through which peeped cliffs of various hues—rosecolored, ebon black, pearl gray, vermilion red; and over all was a purple haze, where the golden shafts of the rising sun shot through lazy-rising vapors of the moist plain, he cliffs resembled castle walls rising from the buried city, mushrooming themselves into sudden arrogance. To the north a river wound its sinuous way through plains of sand, a silver serpent creeping over a cloth of gold. Back from either side of the river lay patches of wheat and barley, their jade green and golden bronze holding of grain suggesting gigantic plates of metal set out in the morning sun to dry.
'T'O the westward of the river lay Darpore City, looking like a box of scattered toys. Beyond the white palace the sal-covered hills lay heavy, mysterious, sombre, as if in rebuke to the eastern sky palpitating with the radiancy that flooded it from the great golden ball of heat that swept upward in regal majesty.
Yawning caves studding a ravine \vhich cut its climbing way up the hillside shattered the poetic spell which had driven from Swinton’s mind his real object in that solitary ride. The cave mouths suggested entrances to military underground passages. He was certain that the pearlike palace was a place of intrigue. The contour of the great hill conveyed the impression of a stronghold —a mighty fort, easy of defence. Indeed, as Swinton knew, that was what it had been. Its history, the story of Fort Karges, was in the India Office, and Prince Ananda must have lied the night before when he said he did not know what city lay beneath the palace.
Fort Kargez had been the stronghold of Joghendra Bahi, a Hindu rajah, when the Pathan emperor, Sher Ghaz, had swept through India to the undulating plains of Darpore.
Gazing at the formidable hill, Swinton chuckled over the wily Pathan’s manner of capturing Fort Kargez by diplomacy. He had made friends with Rajah Bahi, asking the favor of leaving his harem and vast store of jewels in that gentleman’s safe custody till his return from conquering Bengal.
Such a bait naturally appealed to the covetous Hindu. But the palanquins that carried the fair maids and the wealth of jewels had also hidden within enough men to hold the gate while a horde of Pathan s rushed the fort. But Rajah Bahi and many of his soldiers had escaped* to the underground passages, and either by accident or design—for the vaults had been mined—they were blown up, turning the fort over like a pancake,
burying the Pathan soldiers and the vase loot of gold and jewels. Then the jungle crept in, as it always does, and smothered the jagged surface beneath which lay the ruined walls. Many of the artificial lakes remained; they were just without the fort.
Climbing the zigzag roadway, Swinton fell to wondering if all the prince’s talk of a desire for removal from the bustle of Darpore City was simply a blind; if his real object weren’t a systematic exploration for the vast store of wealth in the buried city and also the preparation of a rebel stronghold.
On the plateau he took a road that forked to the right, leading between hedges of swordlike aloes to the palace gardens. At a gateway in a brick wall, his guide dropped to his haunches, saying: “There is but one gate, sahib; 1 will wait here.”
'T'URNING a corner of an oleander-borA dered path, Swinton suddenly pulled Shabaz to a halt. Twenty yards away, a girl sat a gray stallion, the poise of her head suggesting that she had heard the beat of his horse’s hoofs. A ripple of wind carried the scent of the Arab to the gray stallion; he arched his tapering neck and swung his head, the eyes gleaming with a desire for combat. A small gloved hand, with a quick slip of the rein, laid the curb chain against his jaw; a spur raked his flank, and, springing from its touch, he disappeared around a turn.
Piqued, his query of the night before, “Who was the woman?” recalled to his mind, Swinton followed the large hoofprints of the gray. They led to within six feet of the garden wall, where they suddenly vanished; they led neither to the right nor to the left of the sweeping path. •
“Good old land of mystery!” the captain muttered as, slipping from his saddle, he read out the enigma. Back, the greater stride told that the gray had gone to a rushing gallop. Here, six feet from the wall, he had taken off in a mighty leap; two holes cupped from the roadbed by the push of his hind feet told this tale. Swinton could just chin the wall—and he was a tall man. On the far side was a ferncovered terrace that fell away three feet to a roadbed, and just beyond the road the rim of a void a hundred feet deep showed.
“No end of nerve; she almost deserves to preserve her incognito,” Captain Swinton thought, remounting Shabaz.
On his way out the captain pass a heavy iron gate that connected t garden with the palace. And from b yond was now coming a babel of aí mal voices from the zoo. Minglii with the soft perfume of roses a stroi odor of cooking curry reminded hi of breakfast. At the gate he pick up his man, and, riding leisurely alon sought to learn from that wizened o Hindu the horsewoman’s name.
There came a keen look of cautioi concealment into the man’s little eyi as he answered: “Sahib, the lady knew not, neither is it of profit for O' of my labor to converse about fine pe pie, but as to the gray stallion we the stables allude to him as Sheitan.” “He jumps well, Radha.”
“Ha. sahib; all that he does is pe formed with strength, even when 1 tore an arm out of Stoll Sahib—he ( the Indigo.”
“How comes the lady to ride sue an evil horse?” the captain asked.
“The stallion’s name is Djalma, sahi' which means the favor of sacred Kud¡ but to the mem-sahib—lady—he com« from the maharani’s stable, which is different thing.”
“To bring her harm, even as Sto Sahib came by it?”
But Radha parried this talk of caus leading to effect by speech relating t Djalma. “It might be that the matte of Stoll Sahib’s hand was but an acc dent—I know not; but of evil omen; as twisted in the hair of a horse, w horsemen of repute all know. The gra stallion carries three marks of ill-favo. Beneath the saddle he has the shadoi maker, and that means gloom for hi owner: at the knee is a curl, with th tail of the curl running down to th fetlock—that means the withdrawal o the peg. That is to say, sahib, that hi owner’s rope pegs will have to b knocked out for lack of horses to ti to them.”
“He seems a bad lot, Radha,” Swin ton remarked as the attendant stoppe; to pick a thorn from his foot.
“Worst of all,” the little man addei dolefully, “is the wall eye.”
“Has the gray stallion that?”
A smile of satisfaction wreathed thi puckered lips of Radha. “The sahil knows, and does the sahib remembei the proverb?
“That not one will be left alive ir your house if you possess a horse wit! one white eye?” the captain said.
(To be continued)