The Three Sapphires
A Story of Mystery and War Intrigue
W. A. Fraser
Author of “Mooswa,” “Thoroughbreds,” etc
THEY now slipped from the hill road to the plain, and the Arab broke into a swinging canter.
The captain’s breakfast was waiting, so was Gilfain and also—which caused him to swear as he slipped from the saddle—was Baboo Lall Mohun Dass.
In the genial morning sun the baboo looked more heroic in his spotless muslin and embroidered velvet cap sitting jauntly atop his heavy, black, well-oiled hair.
“Wanting to speak to master, sar, this morning,” he said. “After debauch, in the morning wisdom smiles like benign god. I am showing to master last night property of maharajah, and he is terrible old boy for raising hell; I am hear the sahib will make call of honor, and, say, I am beseeching you will not confide to his highness them peccadillos.”
“All right, baboo. But excuse me; I’ve got to have a tub and breakfast.”
When Lord Victor and Captain Swinton had finished their breakfast a huge barouche of archaic structure, drawn by a pair of gaunt Waler horses, arrived to take them to the maharajah. On the box seat were two liveried coachmen, while behind rode the grooms.
As they rolled along the red road through the cantonments they overtook Baboo Mohun Dass plugging along in an elephantine strut beneath a gaudy green umbrella. When they drew abreast he salaamed and said: “Masters, kind
gentlemen!” The coachman drew the horses to a walk, and the baboo, keeping pace asked: “Will you, kind gentlemans, if you see a vehicle, please send to meet me? I have commanded that one be sent for me, but a humbugging fellow betray my interest, so I am pedestrian.” His big, bovine eyes rested hungrily on the capacious, leather-cushioned seat alluringly vacant in the chariot.
“All right, baboo!” Then Swinton raised his eyes to the coachman, who was looking over his shoulder, and ordered : “Hurry!”
The big-framed, alien horses, always tired in that climate, were whipped up, and a rising cloud of dust hid the carriage from Baboo Dass’ glaring eyes.
Indignation drove a shower of perspiration through the baboo’s greasy pores. He turned toward the sal-covered hills, and in loud resentment appealed to Kali, the dispenser of cholera, beseeching the goddess to punish the sahibs.
DABOO DASS was startled by a voice, a soft, feminine voice, that issued from a carriage that had approached unheard. He deserted the evil goddess and turned to the woman in the carriage. She was attractive; many gold bangles graced her slender arms; on her fingers were rings that held in setting divers stones, even diamonds. A large mirror ring indicated that she was coquettish, and yet a certain modesty told that she was not from Amritsar Bazaar.
Her voice had asked: “What illness
troubles you, baboo?”
Now, as he salaamed, she offered him a ride into Darpore town.
Baboo Dass climbed into the vehicle, expressing his gratitude, explaining, as they bowled along, that he was a man of affairs, having business with the maharajah that morning, and that by mischance he had been forced to walk. In reciprocal confidence the lady explained she was the wife of a Marwari banker.
The baboo’s resentment welled up afresh; also a little boasting might impress his pleasing companion. “To think, lady,” he said, “last night we are roystering together, those two sahibs, who are lords, and me, who am a man of importance in Hamilton Company, and now they are coming in the maharajah’s carriage and they pass me as if I am some low-caste fellow in their own country that works with his hands.”
“That is the way of the foreigners,” the Marwari woman answered softly; “they will put the yoke on your neck and say ‘Thank you.’ On their lips are the words of friendship, in their hand is the knotted whip.”
“When they see I am important man with his highness they will not feel so elegant.”
“I will take you to the drawbridge where it crosses the moat to the gate in the big wall,” the Marwari woman offered.
“It is undignified for a man of my importance to approach the palace on foot,” declared Baboo Dass.
The Marwari woman smiled, her stained red lips parting mischievously. “But also, Baboo Dass, it would not be proper for you to arrive with me. I have a way to arrange it that will save both our good standing. We will drive to my place of banking, then my carriage will take you to the palace, and the sahibs will not see you walk in.”
The baboo was delighted. In India opulent people did not call on rajahs afoot; also the carriage was a prosperouslooking vehicle, and the two country-bred horses were well fed.
As they neared the palace, that lay hidden behind massive brick walls, they left the main thoroughfare, and, after divers turnings, entered a street so narow that their vehicle passed the mud-walled shops with difficulty. A sharp turn, and the carriage stopped in a little court.
HOUR burly natives rose up from the * mud step on which they had been sitting, and, at a word from the Marwari woman, seized her companion. The baboo struggled and sought to cry out for help, but the lady’s soft hand deftly twisted a handkerchief into his mouth, hushing his clamor. He was torn from the carriage none too gently, hustled through an open door, and clapped into a chair, where he was firmly held by his four attendants.
A little old man seized a cup wherein was a piece of soap, and with his brush beat up a lather, saying softly. “Do not struggle, baboo: it is for your good. These fevers burn the liver and affect the brain; in no time I will have taken the accursed fever from your head.”
Then with scissors he nimbly clipped the profuse locks of the baboo’s head, the latter, having managed to spit out the handkerchief, protesting that it was an outrage, that he was a jewel merchant from Calcutta waiting upon the rajah.
“Yes, yes,” the little man told the four stalwarts as he whipped at the lather, “it is even so; his wife spoke of a strange fancy he was possessed of that he was a dealer in jewels, whereas he is but a clerk. And no wonder, with a fever in the blood and with a crown of hair such as a mountain sheep wears.”
Then he lathered the scalp, stroked the razor on the skin of his forearm, and proceeded to scrape.
The baboo yelled and struggled; the razor took a nick out of his scalp. At last the blue-gray poll, bearing many red nicks, was clear of hair, and he was released. His first thought was of the jewel. His searching palm fell flat against his chest, it was gone! With a cry of despair he made for the door; the carriage had vanished.
Whirling about, he accused his captors of the theft. The barber, to soothe the fever-demented one, said: “Of a surety, baboo, your wife has taken the jewel because it was an evil stone that but increased the fever that was in your blood.”
The plot dawned upon Baboo Dass. He flung out the door and made for the
“It does not matter,” the barber said; “his wife is a woman of business, and this morning when she spoke of bringing the sick man she paid in advance.” He put in the palm of each of the four a rupee, adding: “The afflicted man will now go home and sleep, his head being cooler, and the fever will go out of his blood, for so the doctor told his wife, who is a woman of method.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE EIRST INSTALMENT Lord Victor Gilfain and Captain Swinton, the latter 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 Finner ty, keeper of the elephant keddah. A second has been set for the Rajah by a jewelry firm and is being delivered by a Bengali, Baboo Dass. The latter shows it to Swinton after the latter has saved the Baboo from a tiger.
PRINCE ANANDA had welcomed Lord Victor and Captain Swinton on a wide black-marble veranda from which two marvelously carved doors gave them entrance through a lordly hall to a majestic reception chamber.
“This is the ‘Cavern of Lies,* ” Ananda said, with a smile, “for here come all who wish to do up the governor—a n d he’s pliant. That, for instance”—h e pointed to a billowy sea of glass prisms which hid the ceiling —countless chandeliers jostling each other like huge snowflakes.
“No end of an idea,
I call it—fetching!”
Lord Victor acclaimed.
Prince Ananda laughed. “The governor went into a big china shop in Calcutta one day when Maharajah Jobungha was there. The two maharajahs are not any too friendly,
I may say, and when the governor was told Jobungha had already bought something he took a fancy to, he pointed to the other side of the store, which happened to be the lot of glass junk you see above, and told the shop manager to send the whole thing to Darpore. Ah, here comes the maharajah !” the prince added.
At the far end of the reception room heavy silk curtains had been parted by a gold-and-crimson uniformed servant, who announced in a rich, full voice: “His highness, the Maharajah of Darpore! Salaam, all who are in his noble presence!”
A centurion had stepped into the room; a re-awakened, bronze-skinned Roman gladiator was coming down the center of the room, his head thrown up like some lordly animal. He was regal in the splendor of his robes. Above the massive torso of the king, with its velvet jacket buttoned by emeralds, the glossy black beard, luxuriantly full, as fine as a woman’s hair, was drawn up over the ears, its Rembrandt black throwing into relief a rose tint that flushed the oliveskinned cheek. Deep in the shadow of a massive brow were brilliant, fearless
eyes that softened as they fell on Ananda’s face. In the gold-edged robe a clasp of gold held blue-white diamonds that gleamed like a cascade of falling water. A short sword was thrust in a silk sash, its ruby-studded hilt glinting like red wine. f(i ^
When Prince Ananda presented Swinton and Lord Gilfain, the latter as the son of Earl Craig, the maharajah’s face lighted up; he held out his hand impulsively with simple dignity, saying in Hindustani: “Sit down, sahibs. The young lord’s father was my brother; at court his ear heard my heartbeat.”
A turmoil of vocal strife fell upon their ears^ from without. The baboo had ar-
“Oh, murder!” Swinton groaned, recog-
nizing the Dass voice demanding admit-
The rabble sound was coming down the hall as ineffectually two attendants clung to the ponderous Bengali, mad with his affliction. The words: “The maharajah’s jewel is stolen!” caused Prince Ananda to dart to the door. Seeing him, the servants released their grasp of Baboo Dass, and the prince, not daring to leave the king’s presence, allowed the halfcrazed man to enter the room, where he groveled before the maharajah, bumping his forehead to the marble floor and clawing at the royal feet.
When, at the king’s command the baboo rose, Lord Victor clapped his hand over his mouth to smother his mirth, gasping: “Oh, my aunt! That head!”
Like the rattle of a machine gun, Baboo Dass poured out his tale of woe. When he had finished, the maharajah said calmly: “It doesn’t matter,” and with a graceful sweep of his hand suggested that Baboo Dass might retire.
Once more the baboo’s voice bubbled forth.
“Begone!” And the handsome face of the maharajah took on a tigerish look. For a second it was terrifying; the change was electric. Baboo Dass recoiled and fled.
Then the maharajah’s voice was soft, like a rich-toned organ, as he said in Hindustani : “India has two afflictions— famine and the Bengali.”
Beside the rajah was a magnificently carved teakwood chair, a padlocked gold chain across the arms indicating that it was not to be used. The carving was
marvelous, each side representing a combat between a tiger and a huge python, the graceful curve of whose form constituted the arm. At a question of interest from Gilfain, Prince Ananda spoke in Urdu to his father. The latter nodded, and Ananda, crossing to a silver cabinet, unlocked it and returned bearing a gold casket, upon the top of which was inset a large pearl. Within the casket was a half-smoked cigarette.
AS if carried away by the sight of this, the maharajah, speaking in Hindustani, which he saw Swinton understood, said: “That cigarette was smoked by the Prince of Wales sitting in this chair
which has since been locked. He shook hands with me, sahib; we were friends; he, the son of the empress, and I a king, who was also a son to the empress.”
His voice had grown rich and soft and full; the fierce, black, warlike rajput eyes were luminous as though tears lay behind. The maharajah remained silent while Swinton translated this to Lord Victor. “Ah, sahibs, if kings could sit down together and explain, there would not be war nor distrust nor oppression. When your father”—he turned his face toward Gilfain—“was a councillor in Calcutta, close to the viceroy, I had honor; when I crossed the bridge from Howra as many guns would speak welcome from Fort William as did for Maharajah Jobungha. But I now go no more to Calcutta.
If Swinton had been troubled in his analysis of the prince’s motives and character, he now swam in a sea of similar tribulation. The maharajah was big. Was he capable of gigantic subtlety, such as his words would veil? He could see
that Prince Ananda was abstracted; his face had lost its jaunty, debonair air; worry lines mapped its surface. The loss of the sapphire had hit Ananda hard, but if the robbery had affected the king, he was subtle in a remarkable sense, for he gave no sign.
The maharajah now rose, clapped his hands, and when a servant appeared gave a rapid order. The servant disappeared, and almost immediately returned with a silver salver upon which were two long gold chains of delicate workmanship and an open bottle of attar of rose. The maharajah placed a chain about the neck of each sahib, and sprinkled them with the attar, saying, with a trace of a smile curving his handsome lips: “Sometimes, sahibs, this ceremony is just etiquette, but to-day my heart pains with pleasure because the son of my friend is here.” He held out his hand, adding “Prince Ananda must see that you have the best our land affords.”
SWINTON was glad when he saw his dogcart turn into the compound to take him to the keddah sahib’s for tiffin. Lord Victor had been hypnotized by the splendor of Maharajah Darpore; he went around the bungalow giving vent to ebullitions of praise. “My aunt, but the old Johnnie is a corker! And all the tommyrot one hears at home about another mutiny brewing! Damn it, Swinton, the war chiefs who want every bally Englishman trained to carry a gun like a Prussian ought to be put in the Tower!” An hour of this sort of thing, and with a silent whoop of joy the captain clambered into his dogcart and sped away, as he bowled along his mind troubled by the maharajah angle of the espionage game.
After tiffin with the major, and out on the veranda, where they were clear of the servant’s ears, Swinton asked: “Who is
the mysterious lady that rides a gray Persian?”
He was conscious of a quick turn of Finnerty’s head; a half-checked movement of the hand that held a lighted match to a cheroot, and as the keddah sahib proceeded to finish the ignition he described the woman and her flight over the brick wall.
“She’s Doctor Boelke’s niece; she has been here about a month,” Finnerty answered, when Captain Swinton had fin-
“I wonder why she risked her neck to avoid me, major?”
“Well, she’s German for one thing, and I suppose she knows there’s a growing tension between the two peoples.”
Captain Swinton allowed a smile to surprise his always set face. “Do you know why I am here, major; that is, have you had advice?”
“Yes,” the major answered.
“Very good,” Captain Swinton declared. “I’ll give you some data. Lord Victor’s father, Earl Craig, is undersecretary to India. There was some extraordinary jumble of a state document intended for the Viceroy of India. Whether its misleading phraseology was carelessness or traitorous work on the part of a clerk, nobody knows, but it read that the sircar was to practically conscript Indians —Mussulman and Hindu alike—to fight against the Turks and Germans in the war that we all feel is about to come. This paper bore the official seal ; had even been signed. Then Earl Craig’s copy of it disappeared—was stolen from Lord Victor, who was acting as his secretary. A girl, with whom the young man was in-
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Continued from page 49
fatuated, was supposed to have taken it for the Prussians for use in India. The girl disappeared, and Lord Victor was sent out here for fear he would get in communication with her again. Neither Lord Victor nor the earl knows I am a secretservice man. Maharajah Darpore is marked Tow visibility’ in the viceroy’s book of rajah rating, and as Earl Craig wanted an Anglo-Indian as a companion to his son, this seemed a good chance to investigate quietly. There’s another little matter,” the captain continued quietly as he drew from his pocket a sapphire in the rough.
“Where the devil did you get that, captain? I thought that old professor pirate had stolen it,” Finnerty gasped.
“That’s not the stone you lost last night, major.”
C'lNNERTY looked at Swinton incredulously as the latter handed him the sapphire, for it was exactly like the stolen stone, even to the inscription.
“Let me explain,” Captain Swinton said. “Some time since one Akka, a hillman, came down out of Kululand into Simla leading a donkey that carried two
bags of sapphires in the rough. Nobody knew what they were, so, of course, he found it hard to sell his blue stones That nigbf the stones disappeared, and Akka was found in the morning at the bottom of an abyss with a jade-handled knife sticking in his back. He must have dropped over the rocks so quickly the killer hadn’t time to withdraw his knife. About Akka’s neck, hidden under his dirty felt coat, was hung this sapphire, and it was given to me, as I was put on the case. I took a trip up into Kululand with a hillman who claimed to have come in with Akka as guide. I got a very fine bharal head—almost a record pair of horns—and a bullet in my left leg that still gives me a limp at times, but as to sapphires in the rough I never saw another until last night.”
Finnerty laughed, “India is one devil of a place for mystery.”
Swinton related the incidents of the night before, and Baboo Dass’ story of the three sapphires, adding: “Of course that’s
Hindu mythology up to date, the attributing of miraculous powers of good and evil to those blue stones.”
Finnerty shifted uneasily in his chair;
then, with a little, apologetic smile, said: “I’m getting less dogmatic about beliefs and their trimmings—absolute superstition, I suppose—and if a sapphire, or anything else, were associated in my mind with disaster I’d chuck the devilish thing in the river.”
“At any rate, major, the main thing, so far as my mission is concerned, is that if Prince Ananda happens to get possession of the three sapphires every Buddhist— which means all the fighting Nepalese— will Relieve the expected Buddha has ar-
“By gad! And the three sapphires are in Darpore—the one that was stolen from me last night, the one stolen from Baboo Dass, and this one.”
“Prince Ananda has yours; I saw Boelke purposely tip over that table. But who stole the one from the baboo I don’t know; it couldn’t have been a raj agent, for it belonged to the maharajah.”
“Where did they come from?” Finnerty queried.
“Yours, of course, was on Burra Moti’s neck, and she must have been attached to some temple; Akka probably murdered some lama who had this one about his neck ; where Prince Ananda got the third one I don’t know.”
“By Jove!” Finnerty ejaculated. “It was a hillman that Moti put her foot on. He had been sent to steal that bell, as he couldn’t carry the elephant.”
“IIJERE’S another thing,” Captain 11 Swinton said. “In the United States there has been arrested a clique of Hindus who have sold a great quantity of rare old jewels, gold ornaments, and sapphires in the rough. Machine guns and ammunition were bought with the money obtained, and quite a consignment is somewhere on the road now between China and India.”
“Great Scott ! Up this way—to come in through Nepal?”
“The stuff was shipped from San Francisco to Hongkong, and though the British government had every road leading out of that city watched, they never got track of it. Our men there think it was transshipped in Hongkong harbor and is being brought around to India by water.”
“Does the government think the maharajah is mixed up in this?”
“I’m here to find out. He mystified me to-day. Gilfain thinks he’s magnificent— as natural as a child. But he’s too big for me to judge; I can’t docket him like I can Ananda. He was as regally disinterested over the disappearance of that sapphire as the Duke of Buckingham was when his famous string of black pearls broke and scattered over the floor at the Tuileries; but the prince was seething.”
Finnerty waved his cheroot in the direction of the palace hill. “The trouble is up there. Ananda is wily; he’s like a moon bear he has there in a cage that smiles and invites you to tickle the back of his neck; then, before you know it, the first joint of a finger is gone.”
A LITTLE lull in the talk bewteen Swin■rA ton and Finnerty was broken by a turmoil that wound its volcanic force around the bungalow from the stables. Finnerty sprang to his feet as a pair reached the drive, galloping toward a tall native at whose heels came a big hunting dog.
“Faith, I was just in time,” Finnerty said as he led the two hounds to the veranda, a finger under each collar; “they’d soon have chewed up that Banjara’s dog.”
The Rampores were very like an English greyhound that had been shaved; they were perhaps coarser, a little heavier in the jaw. A panting keeper now appeared, and the dogs were leashed.
Seeing this, the native approached, and in a deep, somber voice said: “Salaam,
Sahib Bahadur!” Having announced himself, the Banjara came up the steps and squatted on his heels ; the long male-bamboo staff he carried betokened he was a herdsman.
“What do you want, Lumbani?” Finnerty queried.
“Yes, sahib, I am a Banjara of the Lumbani caste. The sahib who is so strong is also wise in the ways of my people.”
“I wonder what this will cost me in wasted time,” the major lamented in English. “I judge his soul is weighted with matters of deep import.” Then, in Hindustani: “That’s a true Banjara dog, Lumbani.”
“Yes, sahib, he is one of that great breed. Also in the sahib’s hands are two thoroughbred Rampores; they be true dogs of the Tazi breed, the breed that came from Tazi who slept by the bedside of Nawab Faizz Mahomed five generations since. The sahib must be in high favor with the Nawab of Rampore, for such dogs are only given in esteem ; they are not got as one buys bullocks.”
“What is it you want?” queried Finnerty.
The Banjara looked at Swinton; he coughed; then he loosened the loin cloth that pinched at his lean stomach.
“This dog, sahib—Handa is the noble creature’s name—has the yellow eyes that Krishna is pleased with; that is a true sign of a Banjara.” He held out his hand, and Banda came up the steps to crouch at his side.
AT this intrusion of the native’s dog, the patrician Rampores sprang the full length of their leash with all the ferocity that is inherent in this breed. A pariah dog would have slunk away in affright, but the Banjara’s yellow eyes gleamed with fighting defiance; he rose on his powerful, straight legs, and his long fangs shone between curled lips.
“Good stuff!” Finnerty commented, and to his groom added: “Take the bounds
away. He’s a sure enough Banjara, Swinton,” he resumed in English. “Look at that terrier cast in the face, as though there were a streak of Irish or Airedale
Indeed, the dog was a beauty, with his piercing bright eyes set in the long, flat head that carried punishing jaws studded with strong teeth. The neck was long, rising from flat, sloping shoulders, backed up by well-rounded ribs and arched loins leading to well-developed quarters. The chest was narrow and deep, and the flanks tucked up.
“They’re game, too,” Finnerty declared. He turned to the owner. “Will Banda tackle a panther?”
“He and his sons have been in at the death of more than one; they will follow a leopard into a cave.”
“How much will you take for him?” Swinton asked.
The native looked his scorn. He turned to Finnerty as though his sarcasm might be wasted upon this sahib who thought a Banjara would sell one of the famous breed. “Perhaps the strange sahib will go to Umar Khap, at Shaphur, and buy one of the Salt Range horses—a mare of the Unmool breed. When he has I will sell him Banda.”
Swinton laughed, and, taking a rupee
from his pocket, passed it to the native, saying: “Food for Banda. The sar-
casm was worth it.” He added in English: “An Unmool mare being above
“All this talk of the dogs,” Finnerty declared, “is that our friend has something on his mind. He was studying you, but you’ve broken the ice with your silver hammer.”
npHE native salaamed, tucked the rupee in his loin cloth, and the questioning, furtive look that had been in his eyes disappeared. He turned to the major: “Huzoor, I am a man of many buffaloes, robbing none, going in peace with my herds up into the hills in the hot weather when the new grass comes green and strong from the ashes of the fire that has been set out in the spring, and coming back to the plains when the weather is cold.”
“Where is your country?” Finnerty queried.
“Where my grain bags and my cooking pots are is my country, my fathers holding that all lands were theirs to travel in. For fifteen years in this moon have I remained down yonder by the river with my herd, just where the heavy kagar grass makes good hunting for tiger, and always on good terms of friendship with him.” “Gad! I thought so,” Finnerty ejaculated. “We’ll get news of a kill in a minute.”
“If we met in the path—that is, your slave and tiger—I would say: ‘Khuda-
wand, pass here, for the thorns in the bush are bad for thy feet,’ and if tiger was inclined he would pass, or he would turn. Often lying on the broad back of a buffalo as we crossed where the muck is deep I would see tiger lying in wait for pig or chinkara, and I would call, ‘Kludowind, good hunting!’ Then what think you, sahib, if after years of such living in peace, this depraved outcast, begotten of a hyena, makes the kill of a cow?”
“A tiger, like a woman, is to be watched,” Finnerty declared, quoting a tribal adage.
“And all in the way of evil temper, sahib, for the cow lies yonder with no mark beyond a broken neck, while in the jungles rajah tiger is growling abuse. A young cow, sahib, in full milk. For the sake of all, sahib, come and slay the brute.”
'T'HE Banjara had worked himself into -*• a passion; tears of rage stood in his eyes. “And to think that I had saved the life of this depraved one,” he wailed.
“You saved the tiger’s life, Lumbani?” “Surely, sahib. Of the Banjaras some are Mussulmans—outcasts that lot are— and some are Hindus, as is your servant, so we are careful in the matter of a kill, lest we slay one of our own people who has returned. This slayer of my cow always took pleasure in being near the buffalo. Why, huzoor, I have seen him up in the hills looking as though he had felt lonesome without the herd. Noting that, it was in my mind that perhaps a Banjara herdsman had been born again as a tiger. That is why I saved his life from the red dogs of the jungle; nothing can stand before them when they are many. From the back of a buffalo I saw one of these jungle devils standing on high ground, beckoning, with his tail stuck up like a flag, to others of his kind.”
“I’ve seen that trick,” Finnerty commented.
“The tiger had been caught in a snare of the Naga people as he came to partake of a goat they had tied up, as he thought,
for his eating; the sahib knows of what like a snare is to retain a tiger. A stronggrowing bamboo, young and with great spring, had been bent down and held by a trip so that tiger, putting his paw in the noose, it sprang up, and there he was dancing around like a Nautch girl, on the rope that held his wrist being a loose bamboo too big for a grip of his teeth; it spun around on the rope. The red dogs, hearing his roars, knew he was trapped, and were gathering to settle an old dispute as to the eating of a kill. They would have made an end of him. A mongoose kills a cobra because he is too quick for the snake, and they were too quick for the tiger; so, taking pity upon him as an old friend, with my staff I drove them off; then, climbing into the bamboos, cut the rope.”
“Did you tackle them alone, Lumbani?” “Surely, sahib; jungle dogs run from a man that is not afraid.”
Tj'INNERTY’S shikari, Mahadua the Ahnd, who had come to the veranda, now said: “The tiger this herder of
buffalo tells of is ‘Pundit Bagh’; he is well known to all.”
“And you never brought word that we might make the hunt,” Finnerty reproached.
“Sahib, we Ahnd people when we know a tiger is possessed of a spirit do not seek to destroy that one.”
“Why is he called Pundit? Is he the ghost of a teacher?”
“This is the story of Pundit Bagh, sahib: Long ago there was a pundit that had a drug that would change him into an animal, and if he took another it would change him back again.”
The Ahnd’s little bead eyes watched his master’s face furtively.
“One day as the pundit and his wife were walking through the jungle a leopard stepped out in the path to destroy them. He gave his wife one powder to hold, saying: ‘I will take this one and
change into a tiger, and when I have frightened the leopard away give me the other that I may change back to myself.’ But the poor woman when she saw her tiger husband spring on the leopard dropped the powder and ran away; so the pundit has remained a tiger, and is so cunning that it will be small use to make the hunt.”
“But. coming and going as he must, Mahadua, how know you it is the same
“By the spectacles of the pundit, sahib; there is but one tiger that wears them.” Finnerty laughed. “Does he never drop
them, little man?”
“Sahib, they are but black rings around his eyes—such as are on the back of a cobra’s head—like unto the horn glasses the pundit wore.”
“Baboo Dass declared the tiger that peeped in his window wore spectacles; it must have been this same legendary chap,” Swinton remarked.
An old man came running up the road, between its walls of pipal trees, beating his mouth with the palm of his hand in a staccato lament. At the veranda he fell to his knees and clasped Finnerty’s feet, crying: “Oh, sahib, Ramia has been
mauled by a tiger the size of an elephant, and from the fields all have run away. Come, sahib, and slay him.”
“Pundit Bagh keeps busy,” the major said; “but by the time we make all our arrangements it will be near evening, and if we wound him we can’t follow up in the dark. Go back and keep watch on the
tiger; to-morrow we will make the hunt,” he told the old man.
To the Hindu to-morrow meant never; when people did not mean to do things they said “to-morrow.” Perhaps the sahib was afraid; perhaps he had presented the tiger in too fearful a light, so he hedged. “Come, protector of the poor, come even now, for we are afraid to go into the grass for Ramia. The tiger is not big—he is old and lame; one ball from the sahib’s gun will kill him. Indeed, sahib, he is an old tiger without teeth.”
FINNERTY laughed; but the Banjara flamed into wrath at this trifling. “Son of filth ! Skinner of dead cattle ! Think’s thou the sahib is afraid? And did an old, toothless tiger kill a buffalo of mine? Begone! When the sahib goes to the hunt, he goes.”
The Ahnd now said: “Have patience, man of buffaloes; perhaps another, a leopard, is the guilty one. Pundit Bagh acts not thus; in fact, in the little village of Picklapara, which he guards, more than once when the villagers have made offering to him of a goat has he driven awa.' a leopard that had carried off an old woman or a child.”
“Fool! Does a leopard break the neck of a bullock? Does he not slit the throat for the blood? And always does not a '"opard first tear open the stomach and eat the heart and the liver? I say it was the tiger,” and the Banjara glared at Mahadi a.
“It vas a small, old tiger,” the Hindu declared again.
“Seems a bit of luck; evidently ‘Stripes’ is inviting trouble,” Swinton observed.
“You’ll want Lord Victor to have a chance at his first tiger, I suppose, cap-
“If not too much trouble.”
“I fancy our best way will be to make the hunt from elephants,” Finnerty said musingly. “We can beat him out of the grass.” He spoke to the old Hindu sternly: “Tell me the truth. Is Ramia still
with the tiger?”
The Hindu blinked his eyes in fear. “It may be, huzoor, that he ran away to his home, but there is a big cut in his shoulder where the beast smote him.”
“Sahib,” the Banjara advised, “if the Presence will go on foot, even as he does many times, I will go with him, carrying the spare gun; the tiger knows me well and will wait till we are able to pull his whiskers.”
“These Banjaras haven’t a bit of fear,” Finnerty commented. “Is it good ground for elephants?” he asked.
The Banjara’s face clouded. “Sahib, the elephants make much noise. Perhaps the tiger will escape; perhaps if he comes out in an evil way of mind the elephant will run away.”
“Well, Swinton, if you’ll ride back and get Gilfain—what guns have you?”
“I’ve a Certus Cordite and my old .450 Express.”
“Good as any. Soft-nosed bullets?” “Yes, I have some.”
“Well, use them; we’ll be pretty close, and you’ll want a stopping bullet if the old chap charges. What’s Gilfain got?” “A battery—a little of everything, from a .22 Mannlicher up to a double-barrel, ten-bore Paradox.”
“Tell him to bring the Paradox—it won’t take as much sighting as the rifle; Gilfain has probably done considerable grouse shooting. He’s almost sure to miss his first tiger; nerves go to pieces generally. I’ll get two elephants—you and Lord Victor in one howdah, and I’ll take Mahadua in the other.”
“If you’ve got a bullet-proof howdah I’d use it, major; I’ve seen that young man do some bally fool things.”
“I wish I could take Burra Moti,” Finnerty said regretfully; “she’sa good hunting elephant, but without her bell I couldn’t depend on her.”
“Use the stone I’ve got for a clapper.” “No, thanks.”
“Why not? It will be under your eye all the time. You can take it off at night and put it in your box. Besides, nobody will suspect that there’s another sapphire in the bell.”
“I won’t have time to have a goldsmith beat the bell into shape to-day.”
SWINTON drove back to get Lord Victor. When his two elephants were ready, Finnerty, with the Banjara marching at his side, took the road that, halfway to Darpore City, forked off into a wide stretch of dusty plain that was cut here and there by small streams and backwaters, these latter places growing a heavy rush grass that made good cover for both the tiger and his prey—swamp deer and pig.
Swinton and Lord Victor were at the fork in the road, the latter attired in a wondrous Bond Street outfit. “Awfully good of you, old chap,” he bubbled. “Devilish quick work, I call it; I’ll feel like cabling the governor in the morning if I bag that mankiller.”
“If I had Burra Moti under me, I’d think that we as good as had the tiger padded,” the major declared ; “but I don’t know anything about my mount to-day. I don’t know whether he’ll stand a charge or bolt. Keep your feet under those iron straps; they’re the stirrups, Lord Victor.” “Right-o.”
They went down off the hill, with its big rhododendron trees, and out on to the wide plain, directed by the Banjara. In an hour they came to a small stream fringed by green rushes; along this for half a mile, and the Banjara pointed with his bamboo to a heavy, oval clump of grass, saying: “The outcast of the jungle is in that cover, sahib.”
“Now this is the plan,” Finnerty outlined to Swinton. “Stripes is evidently pretty well fed, and hasn’t been shot at, so he’s cheeky. He won’t leave that grass in this hot sun unless he has to—that’s tiger in general—but this cuss may have some variations. He’s quite aware that we’re here. Hark back on this road that we’ve come by till you reach that old, dry river bed, and go down that till you come to a pala that runs out of this big patch of grass. I’ll wait till you’re posted there, then I’ll beat in slowly through the grass from this side, not making much fuss so that Stripes won’t think I’m driving him. When he breaks cover from the other end he’ll make for that nala. Don’t shoot till you’re sure of your shot; just behind the shoulder, if possible, but raking forward —that’s the spot.”
“Sahib,” and the Banjara pointed with his bamboo to where a small bird was circling and darting with angry cries above the canes.
“Yes, that’s where he is,” Finnerty declared; “that’s a bulbul—pugnacious little cuss—trying to drive Stripes away.”
L'lNNERTY waited until he was quite sure Swinton and his companion would be in position; then at a command his mahout prodded the elephant with a hooked spear, crying: “Dut-dut, king of all elephants, dut-dut!”
With a fretful squeak of objection the
elephant, curling his trunk between his tusks for its safety, forged ponderously ahead. Like a streamer from the topmast of a yacht the bulbul, weaving back and forth, showed Finnerty the tiger was on the move. The major did not hurry him, knowing that if pressed too close he might break back, thinking he was being driven into a trap.
The Banjara, anxious to see the finish of the beast that had slain his cow, worked his way along the grass patch, watching the bulbul and Finnerty’s howdah, which just showed above the canes. As the tiger stealthily slipped away from the advancing elephant other jungle dwellers in the kagar grass moved forward to escape from the killer. Knowledge of this movement of game was scenting the wind that smote on the Banjara hound’s nostrils. He was a hunting dog; his very living depended on it. He saw a honey badger slip from the reeds and disappear in a hole in a bank; he caught a glimpse of a mouse deer, and all the time his master was shaping his course and timing it by the bulbul. Where there were so many small dwellers of the jungle afoot there surely would be some eating, so the hound slipped into the cane and drifted ahead of the tiger.
The wind that had been blowing across the grass now took a slant and came riffling the feathered tops of the heavy cane from the opposite point, carrying a taint of the Gilfain party.
The tiger, who had been slowly working his way in that direction, stopping every few feet to look back over his shoulder; threw up his head and read the warning message—the sahib scent that was so different from that of the cocoanut-oiled natives.
The sun, slanting in between the reeds, threw shadow streaks of gold and brown and back. The tiger knew what that meant —that with his synthetic-striped skin he was all but invisible at ten paces. He circled to the left, and when he had found a thick tangle of cane that promised cover, burrowed into it like a jungle pig. With his head flat to his forepaws, hiding his white ruff—so like the chin whiskers of an old man—he easily might be passed without discovery.
The bulbul eyed this performance thoughtfully; a tiger lying down for a sleep was something not to waste time over. With a little tweak of triumph he settled for an instant on the bare arm of leafless, leper-marked dalbergia tree; then, catching sight of something he disliked even more than a tiger, and still in a warlike mood, he continued on with the dog.
UIEN Gilfain’s mahout pointed with his goad to the bulbul’s squawking approach, the Englishman cocked both barrels of his Paradox and waited.
The dog gradually worked up to the edge of the cane, and lay down just within its cover, ready for a sudden spring on any small animal that might come ahead of the tiger.
“There is the tiger, just within the tall grass. He has seen us and will not come out,” the mahout advised.
“What shall we do, captain?” Lord Victor asked. “Go in and beat him out?”
“No; he’ll break back or take to the side for it. If we wait till Finnerty beats up, the tiger will make a dash across to that other big stretch of heavy grass on our right. There’s a game path between the two, and he’ll stick to that.”
“But I can’t hit him on the gallop—not in a vital spot.”
“If you get a chance at him before he
breaks cdver let go; if you don’t bowl him over I’ll take a pot shot.”
Suddenly Lord Victor, quivering with excitement, his heart beating a tattoo that drowned something Swinton whispered, drew a bead on a patch of rufous fur that showed between the quivering reeds.
Back in the canes sounded a squealing trumpet note from Finnerty’s elephant. With his keen scent he had discovered the tiger. Their elephant answered the call, and Lord Victor, fearing the animal his gun covered would break back, pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, and by chance, his aim was good.
A howl of canine agony followed the report, and the Banjara’s dog pitched headfirst out of the cover, sat up on his haunches, looked at them in a stupid, dazed way, then raised his head and howled from the pain of a red-dripping wound in his shoulder.
Pandemonium broke loose. Down in
the cane there was the coughing roar of a r charging tiger; the squeal of a frightened elephant; the bark of a gun; and out to one side the harsh voice of the Banjara calling, the growing cadence of his tones suggesting he was approaching with alacrity.
Lord Victor, a presentiment of ribald retribution because of his too excellent markmanship flashing through his mind, sprang to his feet just as the elephant, excited by all these wondrous noises, commenced a ponderous buck; that is to say, an attempt to bolt. At the first stride a huge foot went into the soft, black cotton soil, and the young nobleman, thrown off his balance, dove headfirst out of the howdah. The soft muck saved him from a broken neck; it also nearly smothered him. Eyes, nose, mouth full—it was squirted in large quantities down his
(To Be Continued)