THE THREE SAPPHIRES
By W. A. FRASER
Author of “Mooswa,” “Thoroughbreds," etc.
LORD VICTOR, who had sprung to his feet, with a gasping cry at the girl’s appearance, stood limp with apprehension, his mind, so much of a boy’s mind, casting about futilely for some plan to help her, for there was dread in her face, and, like a boy’s mind, his found the solution of the difficulty in a trick, just such a trick as a schoolboy would pitch upon. The whole process of its evolution had taken but two seconds, so it really was an inspiration. He darted toward the horse, crying banteringly: “I say! Introduce me, old
top.” Then his foot caught in a visionary root, and he plungçd, his small, bare head all but burying itself in Swinton’s stomach.
The gray stallion leaped from the rake of a spur, his thundering gallop all but drowning the blasphemous reproach that issued from Swinton’s lips, as, in a fury of sudden passion, he took a deliberate swing at the young nobleman’s nose.
Finnerty unostentatiously crowded his bulk between the two, saying, with an inward laugh: “You’re a
dangerous man; you’ve winded the captain, and you’ve frightened that horse into a runaway. He may break the girl’s neck.”
They were a curious trio, each one holding a motive that the other two had not attained to, each one now dubious of the other’s full intent, and yet no one wishing to clear the air by questions or recriminations—not just yet, anyway.
“What the devil did the girl bolt for?” Swinton asked angrily.
“The horse bolted,” Finnerty answered, lying in an Irishman’s good cause—a woman.
“You clumsy young ass!” Swinton hurled at Gilfain.
“I wanted to-” Then the hot flush of temper, so
rare with him, was checked by his mastering passion —secretiveness.
Lord Victor laughed. “My dear and austere mentor,
I apologize. In my hurry to forestall you with the young lady whom you have ridden forth so many mornings to meet I bally well stumped your wicket, I’m afraid—and my own, too, for we’re both bowled.” Finnerty philosophically drew his leather cheroot case and proffered it to Swinton, saying: “Take a
THE captain complied, lighting it in an abstraction of remastery. He had made the astounding discovery that Marie was the young lady from whose evil influence Lord Victor presumably had been removed by sending him to Darpore, and, as an enlargement of this disturbing knowledge, was the now hammering conviction that she had brought the stolen papers to be delivered to traitorous Prince Ananda.
At that instant of his mental sequence the captain all but burned his nose, paralyzed by a flashing thought.
“Good Lord!” he groaned. “It is these papers that she seeks up this way; the somebody who is coming overland is bringing them for fear the authorities might have caught her on the steamer routes.
Then in relief to this came the remembrance that so far she had not met the some one, for she traveled alone. But now that she—as he read in her eyes—had recognized him—her very wild plunge to escape proved it—his chance of discovering anything would be practically nil; he would possibly receive the same hushing treatment that had been meted out to Perreira, the Vl
“Shall we go back now?” Lord Victor was asking. “It’s rather tame to-day; I’m not half fed up on tiger fights and elephant combats.”
“Presently,” Swinton answered, sitting down to still more methodically correlate the points of this newer vision. He could not confide any part of his discovery to Finnerty with Lord Victor present; he would decide later on whether he should, indeed, mention it at all. At first flush he had thought of galloping after the girl, but even if he had succeeded in overtaking her what could he do? If he searched her and found nothing, he would have ruined everything; probably Finnerty would have ranged up with the girl against this proceeding.
Further vibration of this human triangle, the three men of divors intent, was switched to startled expectancy by the clang of something upon the plateau— an iron-shod staff striking a stone or the impact of a horse’s hoof. This was followed by silence. Finnerty stepped gently across to his horse, unslung from the saddle his 10-bore, and slipped two cartridges into it as he returned to stand leisurely against a tree trunk, an
Synopsis.—Lord Victor Gilfain and Captain Swinton, presumably his guide but Í71 reality Captain Herbert of the secret service, visit Rajah Darpore, who is suspected by the British authorities. Herbert finds that the Rajah is plotting to collect three sacred sapphires, in order that he may use to his advantage a Hindu superstition that the holder of the jewels is the true Buddha and will rule all India. One of the sapphires that has been found around the neck of a wandering elephant is stolen by Darpore from Major Finnerty, keeper of the elephant keddah. A second has been set for the Rajah by a jewelry firm but is stolen by natives from a Bengali intrusted with its delivery, Baboo Dass. A third is in the possession of Captain Swinton himself. A native is found murdered in front of the compound where Gilfain and Swinton are quartered and no motive can be found for the deed. Later an effort is made to kill Swinton. A cheetah suddenly springs from the side of the road as he passes in a dog cart, but he escapes. That night the third sapphire is stolen by a native from the hills. Swinton and Finnerty receive word that the Rajah is to meet a woman at night who is supposed to be a German agent interested in running guns into India. They go to the rendezvous and find the woman there—with Lord Victor instead! Swinton gets home before Lord Victor and feigns ignorance of the other’s doings. Next day Swinton, Finnerty and Lord Victor set out to track the black leopard which has escaped from the Rajah’s zoo. They kill the leopard and on the way back recover Finnerty’s elephant with one of the sapphires. Next day they follow some hoof-prints into the hills and come face to face, with the woman of the. rendezvous.
uplifted finger commanding silence. They could now hear the shuffling, muffled noises which emanate from people w’ho travel a jungle trail no matter how cautiously they move, and something in the multiplicity of sounds intimated that several units composed the approaching caravan.
TWO Naga spearmen first appeared around the turn, their eager, searching eyes showing they were on the alert for something. The threatening maw of the 10-bore caused them to stand stock-still, their jungle cunning teaching them the value of implicit obedience. They made no outcry. In four seconds the shaggy head of a pony came in to view, and then his body, bearing in the saddle a sahib, and behind could be seen native carriers. The man on horseback reined up; then he laughed—a cynical, unmusical sneer it was. He touched H»e spur to his pony’s flank, brushed by the Naga spearmen, and, eying the 10-bore quizzically, asked: “Well, my dear boy, what’s the idea?”
Finnerty lowered the gun. answering: “Nothing; preparedness, that’s all. Thought it might be a war party of Naga head-hunters when I saw those two spearmen.”
The horseman slipped from his saddle and stood holding the rein; a lithe, sinewy, leanfaced man of forty-five years, his sharp gray eyes, a little too close set, holding a vulpine weariness.
Swinton had noticed his easy pose in the saddle, suggesting polo command, and now the two or three quick, precise steps forward spoke: “Service.”
To Finnerty the cynical, drawling voice rang familiar; it had a curious, metallic, high-pitched crispness that the drawl failed to smother, but the man’s face, caked with the drifting hill dust that sweat had matrixed, was like a mask. Finnerty proffered a cheroot, which the stranger accepted eagerly, saying: “Fancy my beggars bagged mine. I’ve had only some native mixture to puff from a crude clay pipe I made and baked in a fire.”
“Come from Tibet way?” the major queried.
“No; been up country buying cotton for Chittagong people, and got raided by dacoits; had to work out this way.”
This story, even fantastic and sudden-built as it sounded, might have passed ordinarily as just the rightful duplicity of a man not called upon to confide the reasons of his exploration trip to any one, had not the one word “Chittagong” burned like acid.
'Swinton felt that the stranger’s eyes were searching him, though his words were for Finnerty. Both knew the speaker was lying. His whole get-up was not the easy, indifferent, restful apparel of a man who had been some long time in the jungle. He wore brown leather riding boots instead of perhaps canvas shoes; his limbs were incased in cord breeches that spoke of a late Bond Street origin; a stock that had once been white held a horseshoe pin studded with moonstones, its lower ends passing beneath a gaudily checked vest. This very get-up dinned familiarity into the major’s mind; hè struggled with memory, mentally asking, “Where have I seen this chap?” The tawny mustache, bristling in pointed smoothness, had a rakish familiarity, and yet the echoes came from fnr back on the
path of life, as elusively haunting as a dream recalled in the morning.
ABSTRACTEDLY, as they talked, the stranger shifted his riding whip to his teeth, and, reaching down w'ith the liberated hand, gave a slight tug at his boot strap, and that instant Finnerty knew his man.
It was almost a gasping cry of recognition: “Captain Foley—by all the powers!”
The stranger’s face blanched, and Swinton sprang to his feet, galvanized by a tremendous revelation.
An amused cackle came from beneath the tawny mustache, followed by an even-worded drawl: “You
Johnnies are certainly out for a fine draw this morning; my name happens to be Blake-Hume—Charles Blake-Hume.”
Finnerty grinned. “The same old delightfully humorous Pat Foley that I knew in the Tenth Hussars at Umballa, when I was a griffin fresh out; even in the choice of a new name you’re aristocratic—‘BlakeHume!’ My dear boy, you could no more shed yourself than you could that desire for a fancy vest and the moonstone pin that you wore in a deviltry of revolt against the idea that moonstones were unlucky.”
Swinton was now’ convinced that Finnerty had made no mistake; he could see it in a sudden narrowing of the foxy eyes, and, taking a step closer to their visitor, he said: “Captain Foley, your daughter Marie has
just passed down the trail.”
This simple assertion had the comparative effect of a hand grenade dropped midway between Finnerty and the stranger; possibly the major was the more astounded one of the two.
“What, in the name of Heaven, are you saying, man?” he cried, though he still kept his steadfast blue eyes held on Captain Foley, for something in the latter’s attitude suggested danger.
“Simply this,” Swinton answered; “Captain Foley is the father of the girl known here as Marie Boelke, and it was she who stole a state paper from the possession of Earl Craig.”
“Candor seems to be a jewel above price m the jungles this morning, so my compliments to you, my dear Captain Herbert, government policeman,” Foley snarled.
Stung by the gratuitous sneer, Finnerty said with feeling: “Perhaps ‘Mad’ Foley”—he dropped the cap-
tain, knowing that Foley had been cast from the service
_“you also recognize me, but for certain pieces of
silver you would deny it. Do you remember the time I saved you n jolly good hiding that was fair coming to you for one of your crazy tricks?”
“Perfectly, my dear Finnerty; you were known to the mess as the ‘Ulster Babe’; it was just a humor of mine now to play you a little, and ns for the ‘bobby’ here, one could never mistake those bits of blue china that have been dubbed the ‘farthing eyes.’ Indeed I know you both quite well."
SWINTON, less edged than Finnerty, now’ tendered some cynical coin in payment: “Perhaps you know this young gentleman also; I think he has cause for remembering you." , ,
“Good morning, Lord Victor! \ou are in pleasant
company,” and Captain Foley let his irritating cackle escape. He gathered the bridle rein in his left hand, grasping the mane at his pony’s wither, and turned the stirrup outward to receive his foot as preparation for a leisurely lift to the saddle.
Ib answer to a hand signal, Finnerty lifted his 10-bore to cover Captain Foley as Swinton said:
“Just a moment, Mister Foley; there are certain formalities imposed upon suspected persons crossing the Nepal border, which include perhaps a search. We want the papers your daughter stole from Earl Craig under your influence, and for which you were paid German gold.”
“The bobby is devilish considerate, Lord Gilly, in not naming you as the careless one, isn’t he? Charmingly diffident sort of chap to put the onus on the venerable early. The old gent would be tremendously shocked to know he was accused of flirting wûth a young girl, don’t you think?”
“I do think something, w'hich is that you’re no end of a bounder to bring your daughter’s name into your flooey talk,” Lord Victor retorted angrily.
“Tell your coolies to open up everything,” and Swinton’s opaque eyes held Foley’s shifty ones menacingly. “As to yourself, strip !”
“The coolies are at his majesty’s service, Mister Bobby; as for myself I’ll see you damned first. I am in independent territory; Maharajah Darpore is, like myself, not a vassal of Johnnie Bull. If you put a hand on me I’ll blink those farthing eyes of yours, Mister Bloody Bobby.”
1VJEXT instant the speaker sprawled on his back, both ^ shoulders to the earthen mat, as Finnerty threw a quick wrestler’s hold across his neck. The big Irishman’s blood had been heated by the very words that had roused Lord Victor’s anger. Besides, this was the easier way; they had no time for international equity. Swinton quickly searched the prostrate man. His boots were pulled off. the insoles ripped out— even a knife blade inserted between the two laps of the outer soles, practically wrecking them. A Webley revolver that hung from a belt Foley wore was emptied of its shells; even its barrel was prodded for a hidden roll of thin paper. The search of the packs was most thorough, and fully devoid of results.
Foley laughed cynically when the two seax’chers stood empty-handed, discomfiture patent in their faces.
“You turned the paper over to your daughter,” Swinton accused in an unusually vex-bal mood.
“According to your own statement, my dear government spy, you had the young lady in your hands here; did you find this apocryphal document?”
Swinton’s eyes met Finnerty’s which were saying quite plainly: “The girl has beaten us out!” There
also lingered in the Irishman’s eyes, Swinton fancied, a pathetic look of regx-et that now there could be no doubt about her mission; he even heard a deep-drawn breath, such as a game better takes when he has lost heavily.
“A devilish nice mess you have made of your life and your daughter’s, Captain Foley,” Lord Victor suddenly ejaculated. “You were a ‘king’s bad bargain’ in the army, and you’re a man’s bad bargain out of it.”
Foley stared; then he sneered: “The young cock
must be cutting his spurs. Rather tallish order from a waster, Lord Gilly.” He turned to Captain Swinton. “Now that you have performed your police duties I have a bottle of Scotch, which no doubt you observed among my traps, and if you gentlemen have no objection to joining me we’ll drink a toast, ‘Happy to meet, sorry to part, and happy to meet again.’ ”
“I don’t drink with the king’s enemies!” Swinton clipped the words with a sound as if coins dropped. “Nor I—with thieves,” added Lord Victor.
“I’m sorry for you, my boy,” the major said solemnly. “I’m ashamed to refuse to drink with an Irishman, but I’m fed up on traitors.”
SWINTON drew the major to one side. When they had finished a discussion as to whether there was any benefit in detaining Foley or not, which was settled in the negative, Foley asked, a sneer curling the tawny mustache: “Well, you pair of bobbies, do I
“You may go—to hell!” Finnerty added the warm destination in bitterness of soul over his shattered dream.
The coolies had repacked their burdens; the two Naga spearmen at'a command trotted down the path; Foley swung into the saddle, and with a mocking, “Au revoir, Lord Gilly, Mister Bobby, and my dear Ulster Babe,” was gone.
“Dished” Finnerty exclaimed bitterly.
“The girl—we are outwitted by a woman!” Swinton admitted despondently.
“You two Johnnies have thrown up your tails,” Lord Victor objected. “If the girl has the document you’re so cocksure of, it’s something to know that it’s in Darpore. That’s what I call a deuced good clew.”
“My dear boy,” Finnerty said, under evident contx-ol. “you’re as innocent as a babe. You don’t happen to know that there’s a mutiny near ripe in Darpore, and it just needed a torch, such as this document, to set the whole state in a blaze.”
Swinton, galvanized out of his habitual control, added fiercely: “And, you young ass! You knew who the
girl was; we saw you at Jadoo Pool—we saved your life. If I'd known that it was Marie Foley I’d have
dogged every footstep she took-”
“But you knew when you had her here,” Lord Victor objected, momentarily forgetting his part in that episode.
“Yes, by Heaven, I did, and I can thank your sprawling interference for her escape! Why didn’t you tell us that it was the girl who had stolen these state papers?”
“I’ve got a float y idea that this lack of mutual confidence originated with your honorable self, Captain— Captain Herbert, as I now learn your name is. Do you think the earl would have countenanced my accepting the hospitality of a prince accompanied by a government spy?”
“You’ve answered your own question, Lord Victor,” Swinton said quietly. “Earl Craig belongs to the old school, the Exeter Hal! crowd who believe the Oriental is an Occidental — India for the Indians is their motto—and that the Hun is a civilized gentleman, not, as some of us know him, a rapacious brute who seeks to dominate the world. It is that cabal, the Haldane tribe, in psychic affinity with the soulless Hun, that makes it possible for this cuckoo creature, Boelke, to plant his eggs of sedition in the Darpore nest. Earl Craig would not have been a party to my way of unmasking or clearing the Darpores, father arid son; he’d call it un-English. But I may say I did not come out here to watch you ; there was no suspicion that you would come in contact with the stolen paper. My mission was concerned writh some arms that are headed for India. 1 hope you see vvhv it was thought advisable to keep you in ignorance of my status.”
Ï ORD Victor did not assimilate this rapidlyworded statement as quickly as it was offex-ed. He pondered a little, and then said: “I did not know that Marie Foley was here, and
she got no end of a surprise when I turned up. It was all a bally fluke her arranging to meet me; she funked it wThen that gold cigarette case was handed her by Prince Ananda with the information that I had found it. She thought I had recognized it, which I hadn’t; at least it dangled in my memory, but I hadn’t connected it with hex-. She rode down the hill, and when she saw me coming along dropped a note so that I saw it fall— devilish clever, I call it—making an appointment at Jadoo Pool, and there she made me promise not to denounce heit”
“Somewhat easy, I fancy,” Swinton said sarcastically; “thx-ewr the glamor of love over you.”
“You dear old bachelor! You have very visionary ideas of that matter. She doesn’t care two straws for me. It was purely a matter of ‘on honor’ business, because she gave me her solemn word that she hadn’t stolen the document, and that she hadn’t brought it out to Darpore. As to the ‘grand passion,’ I have a floaty idea that the handsome major, with his trick of lifesaving. has taken Marie’s fancy.”
Finnerty blushed, but Swinton said gloomily : “You
see the i-esult of believing her. She was just too fiendishly cunning; she hadn’t the paper, but knew that her traitor father was bringing it and that she, comparatively immune from search, could safely carry it to the last lap of its journev. She knew that we were liable to intercept the father and very probably search him.”
“Looks like it,” Finnerty commended. “I didn’t know Foley had a daughter; I heard he’d been
the army—gambled too “then, it being the only for, went at it professionally till he raced himself out of England. After that he drifted to Austria and married a Viennese, reported to be of noble family. Whether it was a chance to piant a spy in England or that the woman really fell in love with him I don’t know. Marie, of course, is the daughter, and between them the Foleys stole that document through a chance that came because of Lord Victor’s fancy for the girl.”
Swinton had spoken without any feeling in his voice -—automatically, like a witness giving evidence. Gilfain seemed to understand this, for he made no comment. But Finnerty said lugubriously; “Devilish nasty mess, and we’ve been dished.” He picked up the 10-bore, and, going over to his horse, strapped it under his saddle flap, saying: “We’d better jog back.”
npWO legs of the mental triangle somewhat folded to*gether as it dribbled down the forest path, .Finnerty and Swinton ridÿig in the lead and Lord Victor, with the depressing conviction that he had muddled things, behind.
“It’s pretty well cleared up,” Swinton remarked in a tone that just reached Finnerty.
“And looks rather bad for us being able to handle the situation without telegraphing headquarters,” the major answered despondently.
“Small chance for that,” and Swinton laughed in bitterness. “Our new Nana Sahib, Ananda, will have the wires cut or the operator under control; we’ll get no word out of here until the thing has happened.”
Finnerty also realized how completely they had been blanked. “By heavens, we’ve got to spike the guns ourselves! We’d better be killed in the attempt than be censured by Government,” he declared.
“I think so. They’ve left it to us so far, and the blame is really on our shoulders, old man.”
“We’ll never get the paper,” Finnerty said with conviction.
“I agree with you in that, but we’ve got to get the machine guns and their ammunition; without them they’d be an unarmed rabble, and no great harm could be done before a regiment from Dumdum or Lucknow could be thrown in here. It’s a crazy scheme of Ananda’s, anyway, but the Mad Mullah in the Sudan cost many a British life because he was held too lightly at first and got guns.
Finnerty had been restlessly eying the trail they traveled. Now he worded the reason, which he had carried unplaced in words before: “Going and
coming I’ve been looking for tracks left by that party of gun runners the Banjara told about, but I’ve seen none. This path that the girl followed is not the main trail leading up through Safed Jan Pass, and those accursed Huns, with their usual German thoroughness, built that drawbridge at the old temple so that Foley coula slip in without a chance of being met. The whole thing is as clear as mud; he was to wait, there till the girl came for the document. When we get lower down we’ll cut across the jungle to the regular trail—it’s an old elephant highway— and check up.”
“We’ve got to get into that underground fort,” Swinton said with solemn determination in his voice. “Jadoo Cave has got something to do with the entrance.”
A disconcerting thought struck Finnerty. “The minute we show up we’ll be surrounded by spies. They’re in my bungalow all the time; we’ll not get a chance.”
There was a warning cough from behind, and then Lord Victor, urging his horse closer, said: “Don’t
bar me, you fellows, from anything that’s on; I don’t want to be ‘sent to Coventry.’ If it’s a question of fight, for God’s sake give me a gun. I’d rather have you damn me like a bargee than be left out. I can t bally well plan anything—I’m not up to it—but I’m an Englishman.”
“My dear boy,” Finnerty answei'ed, “we know that. If we’d taken you in at the start we’d have given you a better chance, but we all make blunders.”
It was about four o’clock when Finnerty, halting, said: “I know where I’m at now; the other trail
lies due west, and if we keep our faces full on Old Sol we’ll make it.”
Through the jungle without a path their progress was slow. At times they were turned into big detours by interlaced walls of running elephant creeper and vast hedges of the sahbar kirnt, the “havepatience plant” that, with its hooked spikes, was like a fence of barbed wire. Their minds, tortured by the impending calamity, were oblivious to the clamor of
the jungle. A bear that had climbed a dead tree inhabited by bees scuttled down to the ground, an animated beehive, his face glued with honey, his paws dripping with it, and his thick fur palpitating with the beat of a million tiny wings. He humped away in a shuffling lope, unmolested; not even a laugh followed his grotesque form.
It was five o’clock when they struck the Safed Jan Trail and swung southward, Finnerty’s eyes taking up the reading of its page. Ah!” he ei'ied suddenly, and, pulling his horse to a standstill, he dropped to the ground.
In the new partnership he turned rather to Lord Victor, saying: “We’ve been told that machine guns
and ammunition have been run into Darpore over the same Chittagong route we think Mad Foley used, only they’ve come along this trail from the pass.” He dipped his thumb into one of the numerous deep heel prints, adding: “See! The carriers were heavy
loaded and there were many.”
From the varied weathering of the tracks it was apparent that carriers had passed at different intervals of time.
The major remounted, and they had ridden half an hour when his horse pricked his ears and the muscles of his neck quivered in an action of discovery. Finnerty slipped his 10-bore from its holding straps, passed his bridle rein to Swinton, and, dropping to the ground, went stealthily around a bend in the path. He saw nothing—no entrapping armed natives—but a voice came to him from its unseen owner, saying softly: “Salaam! I am the herdsman, and am here
for speech with the sahib.”
“All right;. Come forth!” the major answei'ed.
From a thick screen of brush the Banjara stepped out, saying: “My brother is beyond on the trail, and
from his perch in a tree he has given the call of a bird that I might know it was the keddah sahib that passed ; he will soon be here.”
Finnerty called, and Swinton and Lord Victor came forward. Presently the fellow arrived, and, Continued on page 52
Continued from page 29
at a word from the herdsman, said: “Nawab Darna Singh sends salaams to the keddah sahib.”
Finnerty started in amazement. “Why should he have sent you, knowing that a Banjara does not kiss the hand that has beaten him like a dog?”
“Because of that, huzoor. Darna Singh is also treated like a dog, for he is put in a cage, and those who are beaten join together against the whip.”
“Why is Darna Singh caged?”
The man cast an uneasy glance toward Lord Victor and hesitated. Sensing the reason for this, Finnerty said: “Speak the truth and fear not.”
“We of this country know that the sahibs are quick to anger if the memsahibs are spoken of, but it is because of the young mem-sahib that Darna Singh suffers. There is to be war, and Darna Singh came to know—though it may be a lie—that the mem-sahib would be made maharani—perhaps not a gudi maharani—and his sister would be taken with a fever and die. And it may be that in a passion over this he sought
to end the matter with a thrust of a knife, but I have heard that Rajah Ananda received but a slight cut.”
“I’m damned sorry for that, for the Nawab has a strong arm.”
“Darna Singh was indeed unlucky, sahib, for Rajah Ananda had been taught in Belati to strike with the hand and that saved him.”
“Where is the Nawab caged?”
“Below; where the guns are.” Finnerty caught a quick flash of the eye from S win ton.
“And if that is the truth, that you come from him must be a lie. for a jailer does not give entrance to friends of theprisoner.”
“True, sahib; but the rani is not caged, and she fears for the life of her brether. and knowing I had been beaten by the rajah and knowing that a Banjara does not forgive, for our tribe is many in her father’s state, she sent by a handmaid, who is also of our tribe, a ring of keys that were Darna Singh’s, and the Woman was taught to say, ‘Give these to the keddah sahib and tell him
that war comes to the sircar; that these keys open the way where are many guns and where now is Darna Singh.”
The man took from the folds of his turban a ring upon which were thi'ee keys. Finnerty received them in astonishment; then asked: “Where are the
“The black leopard came out from his cage through Jadoo Cave, and it may be that Darna Singh opened a door of the cave with one of these keys.”
“Damn it!” Swinton ejaculated. “That’s the whole thing.” But Finnerty objected: “We searched that cave, and
there was no door.”
“True, there is no door, but there is a passage high up in the gloom, and beyond that is a cave that was made by the foreigners, and in that is the door. And also it opens to the trail that we are now on.” The native messenger was explicit.
“By jove!” Finnerty exclaimed. “That’s how the leopard slipped away.” The herdsman said: “I did not know
of this, and perhaps wrongly accused that monkey-faced shikari of sleeping over his task.”
The messenger now said deprecatingly: “A -watchman knows the many'
manners of acquiring to the inside of a bungalow without being seen, and one way is to wait for darkness. Also they will watch the sahib’s bungalow for his return.”
“Very well,” Finnerty said: “if I am able to see to it, my faithful fellow, when this is over the sircar will give to you and your brother a village that you may collect the tithes from and have a home.”
“Sahib, I have received my pay in advance from the rajah; I am but serving in the manner of the pay.”
“Sit you then,” Finnerty commanded, “while we talk in plans.”
“We’ve a chance, major, now that we can get in,” Swinton declared. “I have my cordite rifle, you have your 10-bore, and if we can but get command of their ammunition we’ll blow the damn thing up, even if we go with it.”
17TNNERTY felt that there was no I1 question about the captain’s sincerity, the flat blue eyes transmitted nothing but fixed purpose.
“Oh, I say, am I in the discard?” Lord Victor asked plaintively, for the messenger’s information had been translated in a condensed form, Finnerty rather emphasizing the important part Marie played as the future maharani.
“I thought of that,” Swinton answered; “you will be a ‘reserve battalion.
I don’t mind being pipped in the way of duty—rather expect it some day—but I should rather like my family to know that I pegged out playing the game, and I shouldn’t wonder if we’re bagged in that cubby-hole, that it would never be known just how we had disappeared.” “Besides, youngster,” Finnerty added, “if you can work yourself into communication with the government wo want you to let them know what is trump.” The major spoke to the Banjara; then he turned to Lord Victor: “This chap will smuggle you ouL he says, and I think he can do it. Y our brother will bring you word if we get out, and even if he knows we’ve been captured he will come to tell you ; at any rate, if we're not reported safe before morning you had better take the horses and get away-—the Banjara can stick on one, he says.” ,,
“Dçn’t worry over us, Giifain, Swinton added; “just get word out as soon as you can.”
Then the watchman said: I be
sahib sent back out of the jungle the elephant with the bell, and it is a sacred elephant for such as worship the god that sits in sleep.”
“It is a sacred elephant to those who worship Buddha,” Finnerty answered.
“The woman who came from the maharani said that Rajah Ananda has taken the sacred elephant in his hand, for to-night is a night of omen at the Lake of the Golden Coin.”
“By gad!” Finnerty cried. Inat
swine has got the three sapphires together now. Nothing will ^stop him, he’ll be fannctically insane.”
A sibilant whistle from Swinton was his only comment. The thought was paralyzing.
“Well”—Finnerty sighed the words —“we’ll just sit here till it’s dark, and then play our last card.” He pulled his beit, in which was a hunting knife, a hole tighter, as if girding his loins for the fray.
The Banjara now said: “Rajah
Ananda will send out men to look for you on the trail, sahib, but if you will go east through the jungle to where there is a small path—one the sahib no doubt knows — my brother and I will lead the horses back up over this broad trail to a nala with a stony bed, and then through the jungle and back to where you wait, so that those who come torth will say: ‘The kecldah sahib and
his friends came down and then went back again to the hills, perhaps to follow a bison.’ ”
“Splendid!” Finnerty commented, and added in commendation: “‘To a
strong man a wrong done is more power.’ ”
'"pHEN Finnerty and his companion cut across through the jungle. It was a good ruse, for the rajah’s men, thinking the sahibs were up in the jungle, would not guard every approach.
The sun was now sinking on. the horizon, and with its usual bird clamor of eventide the day was passing. Once, as they waited, Lord Victor said: “I
don’t believe that girl would join herself to a native.”
“That’s because you’re in the full moon of faith, my young friend. At your age I believed in fairies, too,” Finnerty said.
“Just the sort of faith,” Swinton contributed, “that gives such women their power for mischief; a Prussian spy must do as she is told, and if she were allotted to Ananda, to Ananda she goes.”
A shrill note that might have been from a boatswin’s silver whistle or a red-breasted teal came floating up from whei’e they had left the Safed Jan Trail. It was answered from on toward the palace hill.
“Ananda’s men have found where the horses have turned to go back up into the hills,” Finnerty chuckled.
“Deucedly clever work of that Banjara,” Lord Victor declared; “sorry I ■hot. the old infidel’s dog.”
A little later the whistling note, repeated three times, came from higher up, where the Safed Jan Trail lay.
The forest was dark from the drop of night’s curtain when the Banjara and his brother came so softly along the scarce discernible trail that they were almost upon the sahibs before they were heard.
“The moon will appear in two hours, sahib, and its light would betray you, the herdsman advised, “so it is well that we take the horses down this path which no one travels at night, and when we have come close to Jadoo Nala I will remain with the horses and you will go with my brother into the cave.”
When they had come to a proper place to leave their horses in the jungle, Lord Victor said: “The strategy of
you two Johnnies isn’t what I’d call first chop. I’ll he a dub at this sortie game, for I don’t know the language.” “The Banjara does,” Finnerty said shortly.
“There’s another thing,” the youth resumed; “cither of you chaps are sort of serviceable to the king, probably cost him a thousand pounds up to date for your training, and I’m—as our delightful friend Foley phrased it—a waster. Sabe, my dear major?”
“My dear boy, you’re in training for the future carlship. A thoroughbred colt isn’t much benefit to the realm, but he generally develops into something worth while—sabe?”
“Thanks, old top! Rather think I'll -tow that away as a good tip. But to return : I’d feel rather thankful to
take a chance inside to—well, come back.”
“You mean about the girl? We just forget, all that., and are now trying to do the best we can for what’s to come, and your placo is just where you’ve
been stationed; that is, unless you’re in command.”
Lord Victor sprang to his feet, clicked his heels together, very erect and soldierly, for he had Ineen at Sandhurst, and saluted. With a laugh Finnerty said: “Fall out!” The discussion
E'ROM where they were they could * hear, at times, curious, muffled noises disturbing the evening quiet, coming from the palace hill. Finnerty now gave some final advice:
“It is now eight o’clock. If we do not come back for the horses or get you word before morning, make for the outside. Have you any money?”
“Not much,” Lord Victor answered. Finnerty and Swinton gave him the money they had, the former saying: “If we get caught in that cave we won’t need these rupees to pay board for long, I fancy.” He held out his hand, and the youth took it, saying “I’ll remember about the thoroughbred colt.” Swinton shook hands with him, saying: “Duty is the best tutor, Lord
Victor; it’s a steadier, eh?”
“Sorry about—well, the—that silly break of mine about secret service, you know.”
The Banjara, noting this completion of detail, said: “And the matter of a
village, huzoor—does the young Lord Sahib understand that he is to tell the sircar that me and my brother have been true to their salt?”
“I will tell him to not forget, my friend, for you will well deserve it,” the major answered.
When he had impressed this matter upon Gilfain, Finnerty held out his hand to the Banjara: “Brother, you
are a man.”
“We Banjaras are taught by our mothers that we are to become men,” the herdsman answered with simple dignity.
Like the sealing of a solemn compact between the members of a brotherhood was this exchange of handclasps, Swinton also taking the Banjara’s hand in a grasp of admiration.
As Finnerty and Swinton melted down the gloomed path with the Banjara’s brother, the herdsmian stood watching their going, repeating a tribal saying: “In the kingdom of men there
are no boundaries.”
When the two sahibs came out to where the Safed Jan Trail wound along the bed of anala approaching the palace plateau, their guide said: “Just be-
yond is the new cave. I will go forward to see that no one keeps the door,
for they will not think it strange that I should be about. If the sahibs hear the small cry of a tree cricket they may come forward.”
In five minutes the hissing pipe of a cicada came back to their ears, and, slipping from the jungle to the nala trail they noiselessly crept to the dark portal that yawned to the right of thenway. From the contour of the hill, outlined against an afterglow sky, Finnerty knew that they were on the reverse side of the jutting point that held Jadoo Cave. As they entered a gloom so intense they saw nothing, a whisper reassured them, and the native’s hand grasped Finnerty’s fingers. The major, understanding, reached back the stock of his 10-bore to Swinton, and they wont forward into blackness. Soon the watchman stopped and whispered: “Put out your hand, sahib, and fee) the spot that is here.”
By a grasp on his wrist Finnerty’s hand was placed upon a stone wall, and his fingers, moving up and down and across, detected a thin crack so truly perpendicular that it suggested mechanics.
The native whispered: “One of the
keys on the ring will unlock this that is a door.” Then, he fumbled the wall with his fingers, and presently found a square block of stone, saying: “The
keyhole is within.”
A long-stemmed key on the ring fitted the keyhole, but before Finnerty could shoot the bolt the native whispered: “Not yet, sahib.” He produced two candles and a box of matches. “Remember, sahib, that no man owns the light of a fire; here is an eye that makes no betraying light.” And he placed in Finnerty’s fingers a siim male-bamboo rod.
At a twist from Finnerty’s hand a heavy bolt in the lock glided back with noiseless ease; a pull caused the stonefaced door to swing forward in the same frictionless quiet, and beyond was a gloom as deep as that of the cave.
“I will watch, sahib,” the guide whispered, “and if it is known that evil has fallen upon you I will warn the Lord Sahib; if it please the gods that you come forth I will also carry to him that good tale.”
Closing the door behind them, the two adventurers stood in a void so opaque, so devoid of sound, that it produced a feeling of floating in blackened space with the earth obliterated. Finnerty’s big hand groped till it found the captain’s shoulder, where it rested for a second in heavy assurance.
To be concluded