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Title: Tara - A Mahratta Tale
Author: Taylor, Philip Meadows
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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"For its rapid action, in fact, we have seldom read a better story, or
one which is more full of incidents, sanguinary, trenchant, and robust."


"A true and a wonderfully well-sustained piece of Oriental life and
striking history."


"This is a very remarkable book. It is a determined attempt to bring
the interior Hindoo and Mussulman life of a great Mahratta province
during the most exciting times home to the hearts and understandings
of Englishmen, to interest them in people with whom they have nothing
except human nature in common."


"'Tara' is a unique work. There is nothing like it in the English
literature of fiction. No other writer has ever attempted the portrayal
of Indian life, society, and interests, entirely free from any European
admixture of character or incident. The author himself now does so
for the first time. 'The Confessions of a Thug' related to British
jurisdiction in India. 'Tippoo Sultan' dealt with the gallant struggles
of that monarch against the encroaching British power, but 'Tara' is
all Indian."


"It is seldom that we meet with a work of fiction executed with
anything like the conscientious care and minute elaboration of Captain
Meadows Taylor's Indian Tale. His characters have mostly the clearness
and individuality of portraits, and his scenery exhibits all the marked
and decisive features of photographs taken on the spot. The work
throughout is evidently that of a master of Oriental life and character
in love with his subject, to whom nothing appears trivial or beneath
notice that can illustrate the peculiar traits of Asiatic nature, or
kindle an enthusiasm for knowing more of the history, manners, and
usages of our fellow-subjects in the east."


"In no one part of the work has Captain Taylor shown more thorough art
than in those pages in which he details the features of the Hindoo
and Mahomedan family life. He never overloads; his characters are not
lay figures attired in triple folds of gorgeous robes to hide their
nakedness. With a few subtle touches he shows us the interior life of
each household, and the morning springs of every character, and he
leaves us to fill in the obvious details for ourselves."


Each complete in 1 volume, Crown 8vo. Illustrated, price 6s.



[Illustration: "Now listen, all ye Brahmuns; I am true and pure, and I
am Sutee henceforth."
P. 461.]


  C.S.I., M.R.A.S., M.R.I.A., ETC., ETC.,



(_The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved._)





  _August, 1863_.


In the year 1839, I became acquainted with the late Professor Wilson;
and in course of conversation on the possibility of illustrating events
in Indian history by works of fiction, the details of the present
story, among other subjects, were slightly sketched out by me. He was
interested in them, and suggested my writing the tale for "Blackwood's
Magazine." I could not, however, then commence it, and deferred doing
so till my return to India; but, falling into political and civil
employment there, was never able to continue what I had begun, till my
return home.

The history of the period of this tale, A.D. 1657, will be found at
length in Scott's "Ferishta," and vol. i. of Grant Duff's "History of
the Mahrattas;" and to these works I beg to refer such of my readers as
may be curious in regard to its particulars, of which a slight sketch
may not, perhaps, be altogether out of place.

In A.D. 1347, a great portion of the Dekhan was consolidated into a
kingdom by Sultan Alla-oo-deen, who founded the Bahmuni dynasty. It
was divided into three great provinces, Dowlatabad, Beejapoor, and
Golconda, which, on the decay of the royal house, became separate
kingdoms under their several viceroys, who successively declared
their independence. Of these, Beejapoor was the largest, and became
by far the most important and powerful. Yoosuf Adil Shah, a Turk of
European descent, believed, indeed, to have been the son of a Sultan of
Constantinople, threw off his allegiance to the Bahmuni dynasty in A.D.
1489, and established himself at Beejapoor, which afterwards rose to be
the greatest, as it was the most magnificent, city of the Dekhan.

The prosperity of the Dekhan kingdoms excited the jealousy of the
Moghul Emperors of Dehli, and their subjugation was projected by
the Emperor Akbur; but it had made little progress at his death in
A.D. 1605. In the reign of his grandson Shah Jehán, the State of
Ahmednugger, or Dowlatabad, was finally subdued about 1630, and the
Moghul power so far established in the Dekhan. His son, Aurungzeeb,
pursued the reduction of the two remaining kingdoms, Beejapoor and
Golconda, with varying success, but untiring pertinacity; and, before
his death in 1707, they had succumbed to him. Beejapoor fell on the
15th October, 1686; Golconda in September, 1687.

Amidst the struggles of the Mahomedans, the predatory power of the
Mahratta people arose under Sivaji, and assumed a more definite form
than it had ever before possessed; and, as the author of the Mahratta
History observes, "stirred those latent embers till, like the parched
grass kindled amidst the forests of the Syhadree mountains, they burst
forth in spreading flame, and men afar wondered at the conflagration."

Of the many remarkable and romantic events connected with the rise of
the Mahratta power, those which form the subject of the present tale
are, of all, the most cherished by the people; and they are recited,
or sung in ballads, with an interest which time does not diminish, and
which has exalted the national hero, Sivaji Rajah, to the distinction
almost of a demigod.

At the period of the tale, 1657, though the political foundations of
Beejapoor were shaking, nothing had affected its material prosperity;
and the palaces, mosques, mausoleums, and other public buildings of the
capital, were in their greatest magnificence. The city itself, except
its vast fortifications, which are still perfect, has now, for the most
part, disappeared; and long lines of shapeless mounds, covering an
immense area, mark where its streets existed. In some quarters there
are villages, widely separated, which once formed part of the general
masses of habitations; and there are everywhere remains of mosques,
tombs, and palaces, which convey a true estimate of the wealth of
those for whom they were constructed, and the taste and skill of the

The citadel is still perfect as to walls, towers, and ditch, and is a
very complete and picturesque specimen of Puthán fortification. The
royal palaces situated in it, are, however, roofless, much ruined,
and advancing to destruction; and the gardens and terraces, with their
fountains, are covered by brushwood and tangled creepers. It is a
happy thing, however, that the liberality of the Indian Government has
arrested decay, wherever practicable, and that all the most beautiful
buildings have been restored, while repairs continue to be made as

The buildings so restored are--

  The Mausoleum of Ibrahim Adil Shah, called the Ibrahim Roza;
  The Mausoleum of Mahmood Adil Shah;
  The Méhturi Mahal;
  The Jumma Mosque;
  The Assar Shureef;
  The Royal Well, with its cloisters; and some others.

Of the above, the Assar Shureef is one of the ancient royal palaces,
which contains some sacred relics; and, being in the actual condition
in which it was left, is perhaps the most interesting of all.

By orders of Government also, drawings from actual measurement were
made a few years ago by a clever civil engineer and architect, of all
the principal buildings. These are now in the India Library in London;
and, to any one curious on the subject, will give a far better idea of
the superb Saracenic architecture of the Adil Shahy dynasty, than any
description. Mahomedan architecture in India is always beautiful; but
there is a combination of grandeur and grace about that of Beejapoor
which is not approached elsewhere, and a beauty of ornament and
execution nowhere exceeded. The Jumma Mosque, with its side aisles, was
constructed for the accommodation of eight thousand persons at prayer;
and the superb dome of the Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmood Adil Shah, built
of hewn stone, is the largest in its outward diameter in the world.

With these noble remains, the country around them, and its population
of all classes, I have been familiar for many years past; and such
descriptions of scenery and character as may be found in these volumes,
are the result of personal knowledge. The actors in my story are Hindus
and Mahomedans; but the same passions and affections exist among them
as among ourselves, and thus the motives and deeds of my characters
may, at least, be intelligible. I can only hope they may prove of

It was very strange, twenty-five years ago, to observe the remarkable
interval of exactly one hundred years, between the attack of Sivaji on
the Beejapoor Mahomedans in 1657, and the victory of Lord Clive over
those of Bengal at Plassey in 1757. Both results led directly to the
establishment of powers widely differing in their aims and characters,
but not the less irresistible by the Mahomedans; and the victory at
Pertâbgurh was as directly conducive to the establishment and extension
of the Mahratta authority, and the decadence of the Mahomedan, as
that of Plassey has been to our own sovereignty, and to the political
extinction of both. But this curious accordance of dates becomes
still more interesting, when we observe that, on the anniversary of
a third century, June, 1857, the heads of Mahomedan and Mahratta
power were leagued against that which had subdued both; and know that
their combined efforts however desperate, and their intrigues however
virulent, proved alike futile.



"Tara, O Tara! where art thou?"

"Mother, I am here. Is it time?"

"Yes; we should go with the offerings to the temple. Come, thy father
hath long been gone, and it will be broad day ere we can reach it.
Come," said her mother, entering a small open verandah which skirted
the inner court of the house, where the girl sat reading by the light
of a lamp, now paling before the dawn which was fast spreading over the

She shut her book with a reverential gesture, laid it aside in its
quilted cover, and stood up. How beautiful she was! Let us describe
this Brahmun girl to you, O reader! if we can, and tell you a little
concerning her.

There were many fair women of her sect in Tooljapoor, and they are
always the most remarkable of their country-women, but none so fair as
Tara, the daughter of Vyas Shastree.[1] From her earliest childhood
she had given promise of grace and beauty, and since that period--from
the time when, hanging shyly to the skirt of her mother's garment, she
passed daily through the crowded bazaar and street which led to the
upper gate of the temple--to the present, she had ever been an object
of remark and admiration; while the rank and learning of her father,
and his position as chief priest, had maintained for her a continued
and increasing interest as she grew up. None who had the privilege of
addressing her ever omitted a loving greeting or respectful salutation:
the public flower-sellers intrusted her with their choicest garlands
or nosegays to offer up at the shrine--the confectioners had ever a
delicate sweetmeat with which to tempt the child--and even the rudest
peasant or soldier looked at her, as she passed him, in wonder,
stretched out his hands to her, and kissed the tips of his fingers in a
worshipful salutation and benediction.

The promise of the child was more than fulfilled in the girl now
budding into early womanhood; and her appearance was so remarkable
that, while many of her old friends in the bazaar now rarely ventured
to accost her, and even turned aside their heads reverently as she
passed, she could not traverse the crowded street which led from her
house to the temple, or, indeed, move anywhere during the day without
attracting admiration from the crowds of strangers who, from all
parts of India, visited that renowned shrine of which her father was
the chief priest and manager. Many a pilgrim and worshipper gazed
wonderingly upon the calm, gentle face which met him at the earliest
dawn in its devotional perambulation round the temple, or followed
with his eye the graceful figure which, carrying the daily sacrificial
offerings, descended the flights of steps by which the shrine was
approached; and, far away in his native village, under the snows of
Himalaya, the burning sands of Raméshwur, or the green plains of
Bengal, told of the beautiful vision, and never forgot it.

Tara has been up since before the false dawn. She has assisted her
father with water to bathe, and in his private worship of the household
gods. She has bathed herself, and is now dressed in the simple saree,
or robe of all Hindu females. It is of dark blue silk, striped with
a fainter blue, and has a broad border of a light but rich pattern
harmonizing with the colours of the garment which, consisting of one
long piece only, is wound round her several times to form a skirt, then
passed about her body and over her head on the left side, whence the
end, which is of rich gold tissue interwoven with crimson flowers and
green leaves, hangs heavily over her right shoulder and back. Below the
garment is a closely-fitting bodice of striped orange silk only; but
no portion of it is visible except a little of the sleeve above the
elbow. Tara is holding the border of her dress close to her cheek, as
if to conceal it even from her mother; and the graceful outline of her
arm may be followed, from the tips of the taper fingers past the wrist
partly covered with purple bangles and a massive gold ring, along the
soft round arm to the dimpled elbow, whence it is lost among the folds
of the saree which falls over it.

Do you expect that her complexion will be fair like that of our own
northern girls? Ah, no! that would not harmonize with the dress or the
country; and yet it is very fair. Not a deep rich olive, but what seems
at a first glance pale and colourless; yet the skin is so glossy and
transparent that the warm glow of her blood is suffused under it with
the least passing emotion or excitement, which, as it fades, leaves, as
you think, a more beautiful tint behind.

And the features harmonized with the colour. To a casual observer their
expression was almost one of habitual sadness, yet it was not so in
reality: there was calm, which as yet had known no rude ruffling--a
sweetness that was index to a simple, loving, trustful mind. True, she
had cares beyond those of ordinary household occurrences, and these had
no doubt increased the pensive expression always remarkable. So her
countenance was not easy to describe: nor could you account very well
for the patient, care-enduring look which met you from one so young.
What every one saw first, were the soft brown eyes, shaded with long
eyelashes which rested upon the cheek. Ordinarily perhaps, or if seen
when cast down, these eyes appeared nowise remarkable; yet if passing
emotions were noticed, they closed when she was merry, till only a
bright spark of light remained glistening through the long lashes; and
again, if surprise, wonder, or admiration were excited, they suddenly
expanded, so that one looked into a depth of clear glowing colour,
violet and brown, the expression of which could not be fathomed. But
habitually they were modest, pensive, and gentle--full of intelligence,
and seemed to correspond with a low musical cadence of voice perfectly
natural, yet assisted, perhaps, by the habit of reading and studying
aloud, which she had learned from her father. In those calm eyes there
was as yet no passion of any kind. Some suffering, perhaps, but no
rough awakening to the reality of life.

The rest of her face left nothing to be desired. The Brahmuns of
Western India usually possess features more European in their character
than those of the same sect in other parts of the country, and in this
respect the women share them with the men, if they do not, indeed,
exceed them. So Tara had a soft oval face, with small full lips and
mouth, a thin straight nose with nostrils almost transparent, which
seemed to obey the passing emotions of her countenance. Though the
features were soft, they were neither insipid nor weak in character; on
the contrary, they appeared full of a woman's best strength--endurance
and patience; while, in the full glossy chin and throat, enough of
determination was expressed to show firmness and consistency of no
common order. Except the eyes, perhaps, there was no feature of the
face which could be called exactly beautiful, yet the whole combined to
create an expression which was irresistibly interesting and charming;
and where all harmonized, separate portions were not remarked.

Every movement of her lithe form was displayed by the soft silk drapery
which fell over it in those graceful folds which we see expressed in
ancient statues, and it was cast in those full yet delicately rounded
proportions which sculptors have best loved to imitate. Standing as she
was, the girl had fallen into an attitude which was most expressive:
her head raised and turned to meet her mother's entrance: a delicate
naked foot, with a chain anklet of gold resting on it, put out from
beneath her robe: her eyes open, yet not to their full width: and her
lips apart, disclosing the even glistening teeth:--she appeared, in her
arrested movement, as if she waited some further communication from her
mother, or had herself one to make before she stirred.

No wonder that, as each morning she left the house with her mother to
pay her devotions at the temple, and passed along with downcast eyes,
her graceful figure attracted increased attention day by day. Many a
good wish followed her--many a benediction from the aged poor of the
town, to whom her charities were liberally dispensed; and it might be,
too, that other admiration, less pure in its character, also rested
upon her, and often, unknown to her, dogged her steps.

The contrast between Tara and her mother was in most respects a
striking one. No one could deny that Anunda Bye was a handsome woman;
her neighbours and gossips told her so, and she quite believed it.
She looked, too, very young of her age; and as she sailed down or up
the street leading to the temple, and received the humble salutations
of shopkeepers, flower-sellers, and all the tradesmen of that busy
quarter, with an air which plainly showed how much she considered
it due to her rank and station--it would have been difficult to say
whether the timid girl following her, and screening her face from the
gaze of the people as she moved along, was her daughter or youngest
sister. Either she might be, and it seemed more probable the latter,
than the former.

Taller than her daughter as yet, Anunda Bye was not without much of the
same grace of figure; but it was cast on a bolder scale. The features
were more decided and prominent, the colour several shades darker.
The face, handsome as it was, had little of the softening element
of intellectuality in it; and Anunda was ignorant of everything but
household management, in which she excelled, in all departments, to
a degree that made her the envy of her female acquaintance, and her
husband the envied of his male associates whose domestic affairs were
not conducted with the same regularity, and whose cookery was not so

Enter the Shastree's house at any time, and you were at once struck
with its great neatness. The floor was always plastered with liquid
clay by the women-servants when he was absent at the temple for
morning worship, and retained a cool freshness while it dried, and,
indeed, during the day. It was generally decorated by pretty designs
in white and red chalk powder dropped between the finger and thumb,
in the execution of which both mother and daughter were very expert
and accomplished. The Shastree's seat, which was, in fact, a small
raised dais at one side of the large room, was usually decked with
flowers, while upon the floor before it, the greatest artistic skill
was expended in ornament by Tara and her mother. Above it were
pictures of favourite divinities, painted in distemper colour: the
amorous blue-throated Krishna playing to the damsels of Muttra; the
solemn four-armed Ganésha, sitting with a grave elephant's head on
his shoulders; the beautiful Lakshmee and Suruswuti, the goddesses
of wealth and learning, the objects of household adoration: and the
terrible six-armed Bhowani in her contest with the demon Mahéshwur,
in commemoration of which the temple had been erected--all surrounded
by wreaths of flowers interwoven with delicate border patterns;--had
been partly executed by the Shastree himself, and partly by Tara, who
followed his tastes and accomplishments after a pretty fashion. Thus
decorated, the dais had a cheerful effect in the room: and choice and
intimate friends only were admitted to the privilege of sitting upon it.

The house itself was perhaps in no degree remarkable. Outside, facing
the street, was a high wall, with a large door within a projecting
porch or archway, which had a seat on either hand as you entered. The
door-frame was richly carved, and on each side a horse's head projected
from the upper corner. Above the door, in a space left for the purpose,
was written in red Sanscrit letters, "Sree Martund Prussunn," "The holy
Martund protects;" and Martund was one of the appellations of Siva.
This legend was surrounded by wreaths of flowers in the same colour;
and across the whole was a garland of mango leaves now withered, which
had hung there since the last festival.

As you entered the court, the principal room was before you, on the
basement of the house, which you ascended by three steps. It was a wide
open verandah, extending the width of the court, supported upon seven
wooden pillars, also richly carved, on which crossed square capitals
were fixed, and from these, beams were laid to form the roof. This
verandah was double; the inner portion being raised a step above the
other to form a dais, and at each end of the inner portion were two
small rooms in the corners, one of which was the Shastree's library.
The whole of these verandahs could be shut in closely by heavy curtains
of quilted cotton, neatly ornamented by devices of birds and flowers,
which hung between the pillars; but usually all was open, or closed
only by transparent blinds of split cane suspended outside.

Having a northern aspect, this room was always cool, and was the
ordinary resort of the Shastree. Here he received his friends and
neighbours, held disputations, and instructed his pupils. The women
seldom entered it except in the evenings when undisturbed; for, though
unsecluded from men, a certain degree of reserve and retirement is
always observable in the women of Hindu families. There was no ornament
about the main apartment except the Shastree's dais, and the borders
painted about the niches and architraves of the doors; but it was kept
a pure white, and was scrupulously clean.

In the centre of the back wall of the inner verandah was a door which
opened into a second court, round which was a verandah also open, and,
leading from it on three sides, sleeping chambers and a bath-room. In
this verandah there was nothing but a few spinning-wheels and their
low stools; for Anunda Bye had no idea of allowing women-servants to
be idle, and when they were not working otherwise, they were spinning
cotton yarn for their own clothes. Anunda herself had her wheel, and
Tara hers, and sometimes they spun yarn fine enough for the Shastree's

On the fourth side of the court was the kitchen, and, passing by it, a
door led into a third court, more private, though not so large as the
second. In the centre of it was an altar painted in distemper, on which
grew a bush of toolsee or sweet basil, grateful to the gods; and in the
verandah, another altar, similar in form, on which burned the sacred
fire never extinguished. Close to it was the door of the private temple
of the house, which contained the household gods of the family. Here it
was that Tara best loved to sit when her share of domestic affairs was
completed. Here she tended the sacred fire, and offered worship, such
as a woman could perform, in the temple. She had a small garden in one
corner of the court, which contained a few jessamine bushes, marigolds,
and other common flowers, which she cultivated for offerings to the
household gods in the daily worship. Here she could study undisturbed,
and did so with all her heart--here, too, it was that her mother found

There was no decoration about the house, except, as we have already
mentioned, border patterns and quaintly designed birds and flowers upon
the walls. Furniture, such as we need, was unknown. A small cotton or
woollen carpet laid down here and there, with a heavy cotton pillow
covered with white calico, sufficed for sitting or reclining; and as
the goddess Bhowani, in her incarnation at Tooljapoor, does not choose,
as is believed, that any one in the town should lie upon a bed except
herself, a cotton mattress on the floor, or a cool mat, sufficed for

The house, therefore, would have appeared bare in any of my readers'
eyes; but it was neat and pleasant to look at: and one can imagine,
though decorated in a higher style of art, the Roman houses at Pompeii
to have been similar in most respects of plan and domestic arrangement.

There was no evidence of wealth, yet the Shastree was a prosperous
man; and could you have seen Anunda Bye's stores of copper and
brass utensils--large vessels for boiling vast quantities of rice on
festivals and household ceremonies--her brass lamps and candelabra,
her silver plates for eating from, and silver drinking vessels;--could
you have seen the contents of her private room, in which were sundry
large chests, full of sarees, or women's garments, of great value;
some heir-looms, woven with gold and silver thread, each having its
peculiar history; the shawls which belonged to her husband, the gifts
of princes and nobles, tributes to his learning, of which she was very
proud;--could you have seen, too, the strong box that lay hidden among
the clothes in the largest chest, full of family jewels and ornaments,
among which were two necklaces of fine pearls, massive gold ornaments
for ankles and wrists, for neck and ears;--could you have seen all
these, and the heavy gold cinctures round Anunda's and Tara's trim
waists, and their massive gold bracelets and anklets,--you would have
been envious, my dear reader, of considerable wealth in this particular.

Otherwise, indeed, the Shastree was a man of substance. Being an only
son, with no other sharers, at his father's death, he had inherited
a considerable property. He had himself earned, by his scholarly
abilities, a small estate in a neighbouring province, the rent of which
was punctually paid, and was improving, for he was a good landlord.
He derived a handsome income from the temple service, and from the
offerings made to him as head of the establishment. He farmed some
land, too, near the town, on the bank of the small river Bóree, and
had an excellent garden near the village of Sindphul, in the plain
below the hills, the daily supply of vegetables from which was very
profitable from the large and constant consumption in the town.
Finally, as one of the most learned Sanscrit scholars of the Dekhan,
his instruction was held in deserved repute, and his classes were
attended by young Brahmuns from all parts of the country, from whom he
received fees according to their means.


[1] For explanation of Oriental words, see Glossary.


In many respects Vyas Shastree was a remarkable man, and, very
deservedly, he was held in great respect throughout the country. No one
could look on him without being conscious of his extreme good breeding
and intellectuality. Well made, there was no appearance of great
strength, though in the town gymnasium, as a youth, he had held his
own among the wrestlers, and had even been famous as a sword-player.
Those were troubled times, when a knowledge of weapons was needed by
all men, and even peaceful merchants and priests did not neglect the
use of them; but, as he grew older, the Shastree had laid aside these
exercises, and spare, strong, muscular arms were perhaps the only
evidence of them that remained. Certainly the head and face were fine.
The forehead was high and broad, slightly wrinkled now, and furrowed
by parallel lines. The head was shaved, except the lock behind, and
its intellectual organs were prominent. The eyebrows, strongly marked,
but not bushy, projected boldly over expressive eyes of a deep steel
grey, which were very bright and clear, and a prominent nose of Roman
character, which corresponded with a well-shaped mouth and chin.
Certainly it was a handsome face--pale, sallow perhaps in colour,
yet healthy, and which occasionally assumed a noble and even haughty
expression; but, ordinarily, it was good-humoured: and evidently
elevated and purified in character by intellectual pursuits.

The Shastree was a man of note, as we have said, as to learning and
accomplishments. He was a profound Sanscrit scholar; and in law,
grammar, and logic, with the deep metaphysics of the Védas, and their
commentators, he had few superiors. With mathematics and astronomy
to calculate eclipses and positions of planets, he had sufficient
acquaintance to assist an old friend, who was infirm, in the
arrangement of the "Tooljapoor Almanac," a task by no means easy, as
it included calculation of the eclipses of the year, and astrological
tables. Of the popular Poorans he had less knowledge, or perhaps did
not believe them; and, as many do now in these later days, held more to
the ancient Vedantic theism than to the modern idolatry of the Pooranic
worship. The Shastree, as a devout Brahmun, had made pilgrimages, being
accompanied by his wife; and in disputations at Benares, Nuddea in
Bengal, and Gya--as well as at Madura and Conjevaram, in the south of
India--had gained credit, if not renown.

In lighter accomplishments, too, such as music, he had a fair amount of
knowledge, and sang sweetly the various Rāgs, Droopuds, and other
measures of the classic styles. He considered, perhaps, ordinary songs
below notice; yet when he relaxed, and was prevailed upon to sing some
of the plaintive ballads of his own Mahratta country, to his own Vina
accompaniment, or any of his own compositions, the effect was very
charming. Tara had been carefully taught by him, and the neighbours
often listened to her sweet voice in the morning and evening hymns, and
chants of the service, in the little temple of the house. Yet with all
this wealth, which he shared liberally with the poor--all this worldly
good and honour--Vyas Shastree had two great cares which pressed upon
him heavily, and were shared by his wife. The first was that he had
no son; the second, that his beautiful daughter was already a virgin
widow. And these were heavy griefs.

Anunda Bye had borne him two sons and a daughter, of which Tara was
the first-born. The others had followed, and had died successively
when giving promise of healthy childhood. In vain had the parents
made pilgrimages to the shrines in the Dekhan after the death of the
last son, and to Benares also, to propitiate Siva in his holiest of
temples, and had from time to time remitted propitiatory gifts to his
shrine--no further offspring followed. An heir was not only desirable
for the property, which, in default of one, must devolve upon a very
distant relative--but, in a higher degree, for the performance of those
ceremonies for himself and his family after death, which could only be
effectual from a son, real or adopted.

Often had Anunda urged him to marry again, and assured him of her
love and protection to a young wife, as a mother or elder sister;
and she had even named several parties of good family who would have
considered an alliance with the Shastree a positive honour. Why should
he not marry? He was yet comparatively young: men older than himself
had married twice, nay thrice, or till the object of their desire was
accomplished. Why should he not do the same? Was he too old at forty,
nay, even less? So urged his wife and his best friends.

Yet the Shastree had not consented. The fact was, he loved Anunda very
dearly; she had been a good and true wife to him. He feared, too, a
certain imperious tone of temper which he could control, but which, in
contact with a second and younger wife, might change to jealousy, and
become, to say the least, inconvenient. Or, if he made new connections,
there would be the usual tribe of new relations to provide for, or to
trouble him with importunate demands. On the whole, it might be better
to adopt a son of that distant cousin who lived at Nassuk, and bring
him up as his own. In any form, his necessity was urgent, and Anunda
grew more and more earnest about the matter, and had even induced Tara
to join in it.

"If you had a son," she would say to her husband, "he would be a young
man before you were old. Even if you died, the property would descend
to him, and the ceremonies would be properly performed. If you grew
old, and I were with you, he would take care of us and of Tara. Who
will do this now?"

Yes, the echo in his heart was sad enough. Who would do so? There
might be two widows, perhaps, mother and daughter, both left to the
mercies of distant relatives who had no personal knowledge of them,
and to whom they would be as ordinary widows only, no matter what
amount of property they had brought with them--shaven, dressed in the
coarsest and scantiest raiment, and used for menial offices--perhaps
worse. Yes! the echo--"who would do so?"--often as the words were
said, fell heavily on the Shastree's heart; and recently he had told
his wife that--"he would think about it if his life were spared
for another year; until after the next unfavourable conjunction of
planets"--"he would think about it;" and so Anunda, without making
any formal propositions, was yet collecting information as to the
appearance, character, property, and accomplishments of many girls in
the neighbourhood, and, in short, wherever she had any acquaintance.

Most heavily, however, of all domestic cares did the situation of
his daughter oppress the Shastree. She was growing very beautiful;
in his eyes supremely so. So kind, too, so loving, so thoughtful, so
unselfish, so clever a scholar! She might have been a happy wife--ere
this, perhaps, a happy mother--yet at sixteen she was a widow, with a
gloomy future: not felt as yet; for the girl had grown up with him, had
shared in his studies, and had in all respects so entirely enjoyed her
young and peaceful life, that any thought of change had never occurred
to her.

She had been married at an early age, according to the custom of her
sect--when, indeed, she was little more than six years old--to a youth,
the son of a friend, who was one of the chief priests of the temple of
Punderpoor, a lucrative office, and one which would devolve upon his
son by hereditary right. The family was opulent, and the young man gave
promise of learning and of character. No matter now; he was dead. Three
years after the marriage he had been cut off suddenly by a fever, to
the grief of his family and to the extinction of the Shastree's hopes
for his daughter. Since then, with no further worldly hope before her,
Tara had betaken herself to the study of the holy books in which her
father delighted; and, doomed as it were to a life of celibacy, had
vowed it to the performance of religious exercises after the manner of
her faith.

It was unusual then, that Brahmun girls were taught to read or
write--more so than it is now; and in accordance with the rules of
the sect and the customs of the country, Tara, had her husband lived,
would ere now have joined him, and become mistress of his household--a
sufficient distinction for a Brahmun girl; but before that event, the
application of the child to such rudimental teaching as her father had
given her was so remarkable, that in process of years the conventional
rules of the caste had been set aside, and it was a loving and grateful
task to the father to lead his widowed daughter through the difficult
mazes of Sanscrit lore, and find in hers an intellect and comprehension
little short of his own.

Many of his friends shrugged their shoulders at this strange innovation
of ordinary custom, and argued astutely, that it was a dangerous
thing to fill a girl's mind with learning. Others, his enemies, were
loud in their condemnation of the precedent it would afford to many,
and the bad uses it could be put to; and in disputes upon the subject,
texts were hurled at the Shastree by angry parties, to be answered,
however, by appeals to ancient times, as illustrated in holy books,
when women were deep scholars and emulated the men; and so Tara's
desultory education went on. "After all, what does it matter?" said her
father very frequently, if hard pressed by caste clamour; "she does not
belong to the world now: God has seen it good to cut off her hopes:
she has devoted herself to a religious life, and I am teaching her and
preparing her for it."

But this did not satisfy the adverse Pundits, still less the fact that
Tara as yet wore ordinary clothes, and her head as yet had not been
shaved. The degradation of Brahmun widowhood had not been put on her;
and she was too beautiful to escape notice, or the envious comments of
others, both male and female. The rites of widowhood must be performed
some time or other. Her father and mother both knew that; they would
have to take her to Punderpoor, or to Benares, or to Nassuk, or other
holy city, and after ceremonials of purification, all that beautiful
hair must be cut off and burned, the pretty chaste bodice discarded,
and she must be wrapped, ever after, in a coarse white cotton--or
silk--or woollen--sheet, and all other dresses of every kind or colour
be unknown to her.

Ah! it seemed cruel to disfigure that sweet face which they had looked
upon since she was a child, and had watched in all its growing beauty!
Any other less pure, less powerful parents, would long ago have been
obliged to comply with those cruel customs; and were they not performed
every day at the temple itself? "Why should the rite be delayed?" said
many; "the girl is too handsome; she will be a scandal to the caste.
The excuses of going to Benares, or to Nassuk, are mere devices to gain
time, and sinful." "The matter must be noticed to the Shastree himself,
and he must be publicly urged and warned to remove the scandal from his
house and from the sect, which had been growing worse day by day for
the last three years."

Yes, it was true--quite true. Tara herself knew it to be true, and
often urged it. What had she before her but a dreary widowhood? Why
should she yet be as one who ostensibly lived in the world, and yet did
not belong to it? For whom was she to dress herself and to braid her
hair every day? For whom deck herself in jewels? She did not remember
her husband so as to regret his memory. She had had no love for him.
Married as a child, she had seen him but a few times afterwards, when
he came to perform needful annual ceremonies in the house, and she had
then looked up to him with awe. He had rarely spoken to her, for she
was still a child when he died. Once she remembered, when he was on a
visit, her father had made her recite Sanscrit verses to him, and read
and expound portions of the Bhugwat Geeta, and had said in joke that
she would be a better Pundit than he was.

She remembered this incident better than any other, and soon after its
occurrence he had died. Now she felt that, had he lived, she might
have loved him, and the reproach of widowhood would not have belonged
to her. These thoughts welled up often from her heart with grief, and
yearning only known to herself, and as yet only half admitted: yet
which increased sensibly with time, and recurred, too, more frequently
and painfully, as girls of her own age, honoured wives and happy
mothers--girls who had already taken their places in life--met her at
the temple with laughing crowing children on their hips, proud of their
young maternity: or came to visit her, and spoke of domestic matters
commonly--interests which she could never create or enjoy, and yet for
which the natural yearning was ever present.

"Why did he go from me?" she would cry to herself, often with low
moaning; "why leave me alone? Why did they not make me Sutee with him?
Could I not even now be burned, and go to him?" And if these thoughts
changed, it was to the idea of a new wife for her father, who, perhaps,
would be as a sister. If a brother were born, what a new source of
pleasant care and occupation! Yet this had its dark side also. "Would
she be friendly to her and her mother? and if not----"

Her father and mother observed when gloomy thoughts beset her, and when
she became excitable and nervous in her manner, and they did their best
to cheer them away. "She might yet be happy in doing charitable acts,"
they said, "in reading holy books, in meditation, in pilgrimages; and
they would go with her to Benares and live there." "Why not," the
Shastree would say; "why not, daughter? We have but thee, and thou hast
only us; it will be good to live and die in the holy city."

Well, it sufficed for the time, and there were intervals when people's
tongues were quiet, and these were happy days because so tranquil, and
Tara had given herself and her destiny into her father's hands.

"Do with me as thou wilt, O father," she said; "what is good to thee is
best for me; but do not risk anything of thy honoured name for one so
hopeless as I am. Why should I be a mockery to myself? It may cost me a
pang to part with all these;" and she would pass her hand through those
long, glossy, curling tresses; "and ye too will grieve to see them
gone, and your poor Tara shaved and degraded; but there is no help for
it, and the honour of your house is more to your daughter than these
ornaments. Without them I should be a comfort to ye, and at peace
with the world and with myself; with them, only a source of disgrace
and calumny, and I were better dead. Yes, let us go to Benares, to
Nassuk--anywhere--so that I leave my shame behind me."

If that poor struggling heart were laid open, was there nothing in
its depths which, as she spoke it, combated this resolve fiercely and
unremittingly? If it had not been so, she would have been more than
human. There was the natural repugnant dread of this disfigurement
and disgrace. Worse, far worse, the endurance of the after-life--the
life of childless barren widowhood of which she knew and saw daily
sad examples. She knew of the bitter experience of such widows, when
all modest retirement, respect, and honour of virgin or married life
was discarded with the ceremonial rites, and men's insult and women's
contempt took their place: and that from this there was no refuge till

When she shuddered at these truths--they were no delusions, and her
soul rebelled against them--some ideal being, mingling his life with
hers, caressing the beauty she was conscious of possessing, would
present himself in dreamy visions, waking or sleeping, and beset her
in terribly seductive contrasts. The very books she read offered such
to her imagination. There were no demigods now, no heroes fighting
for the glory of Hinduism, as related in the Ramayun; but there were
ideal examples of nobility--of bravery--of beauty, which enthralled
her fancy, and led it to portray to her realities. Yet there was no
reality, and could be none. She had not seen any one to love, and
never could see any one. Who would care for her--a widow--who could
love a widow? And yet the dreams came nevertheless, and her poor heart
suffered terribly in these contests with its necessity. After all, it
was more the calmness of despair than conviction of higher motive which
brought to her lips words such as we have recorded:--"she would leave
her shame behind her."

But her parents did not go, and the rites were deferred indefinitely.
Last year they were to have gone to Nassuk for the purpose to their
relatives; but the planets were not propitious, or the business of
the temple and its ceremonies interfered. This year, when the cold
season was nearly over, in the spring, at the Bussunt festival, if the
conjunctions were favourable, "they would see about it." They did not
get over the--"if."

So here were the two great cares of the household. Which was the
heaviest? To the Shastree, certainly, Tara's ceremony of widowhood.
His own marriage was a thing which concerned himself only, and, at
the worst, he could adopt an heir; but that Tara should be a reproach
to him, the revered Shastree and priest, and remain a reproach among
women--it could not be. The caste were becoming urgent, and the
Gooroo, or spiritual prince, the "Shunkar Bhartee Swâmi," whose agents
travelled about enforcing discipline and reporting moral and ceremonial
transgressions, sent him word, privately and kindly, that the matter
should not be delayed. He quite approved of the ceremony being
performed at Benares or at Nassuk, out of sight, for the old man knew
Tara--knew her sad history, and admired her learning and perseverance
in study. At his last visit, two years before, he had put up in the
Shastree's house, and had treated the girl as his daughter; but the
requirements of the caste were absolute, and were she his own daughter
he dared not to have hesitated.

But we have made a long digression.

"Come, daughter," said Anunda, "cast that sheet about thy head. It
strikes me that men look at thee too earnestly now as we pass the
bazaar, and the morning air is chill from the night rain."

"Nay, dear mother, not so. Am I a Toorki woman to veil my face?" said
Tara, quickly. "Am I ashamed of it? Art thou, mother?"

"If thou wert not so beautiful, Tara. I dread men's evil eyes on thee,
my child, and I dread men's tongues more."

"Ah, mother! I dread neither," replied the girl. "They have done me
no harm as yet, and if my heart is pure and 'sutee' before God and
the Holy Mother, she will protect me. She has told me so often, and
I believe it. Come--I think--I think," she added, with an excited
manner, as she clasped her heavy gold zone about her waist, her bosom
heaving rapidly beneath the silken folds over it, and her eyes glowing
strangely, "I think, mother, she came to me last night in my dream. She
was very beautiful, O, very beautiful! She took hold of my hair, and
said, 'Serve me, Tara, I will keep it for thee.'"

"Tara! art thou dreaming still?" exclaimed Anunda. "Holy Mother! what
light is in thine eyes? Put the thought far from thee, O dearest; it is
but the echo of what thy father said last night when he comforted us
both--it will pass away."

"Perhaps so, mother," answered the girl, abstractedly. "Yet it seemed
so real, I think I feel the touch on my hair still. I looked at it
when I rose, and combed it out, but I saw nothing. Yes, it will pass
away--everything passes away."

"And what was she like, Tara?" asked her mother, unable to repress her

"O mother, I was almost too dazzled to see. I am even now dazzled, and
if I shut my eyes the vision is there. There!" cried the girl, closing
her eyes and pointing forward, "there, as I saw it! The features are
the same; she is small, shining like silver, and her eyes glowing, but
not with red fire like those in the temple. O mother, she is gone!"
she continued, after a pause, "she is gone, and I cannot describe her."

"Didst thou tell this to him--to thy father, Tara?" asked her mother,
much excited.

"Yes, mother. I awoke before him and could not sleep again. I got
up and drew water for him to bathe. I tended the fire, and sat down
to read. Then he went and bathed; and when he had come out of the
temple[2] and put on dry clothes, I read part of the 'Geeta' to him,
but I was trembling, and he thought I was cold. Gradually I told

"And what said he, daughter?" asked her mother, interrupting her.

"He seemed troubled, mother, and yet glad, I could not say which. He
said he would ask 'the Mother' after the morning hymn was ended."

"Come then, Tara, we will go to him at once. Nay, girl, as thou art,
thy words have given me strength, my pearl; come."


The Poorans relate that the goddess Doorga, Kalee, or Bhowani, the wife
of Siva, once slew a frightful giant named Muhésha, having the head of
a wild buffalo, to the great relief of the people who suffered from its
existence; and Hindus generally believe that this event took place at
Tooljapoor in the Dekhan. Toolja is another name for Bhowani or Kalee,
and hence Tooljapoor--the city of Toolja. After the monster was slain,
and the presence of the goddess was no longer required on earth, she
left the form she had appeared in as witness of what had been done,
changed it to stone, and it was in after years discovered in the ravine
where the monster had been slain.

The image still remains where it is alleged to have been first found,
and where certain miraculous indications of its presence were made.
A temple was built over it, and a town gradually gathered round the
temple, which became famous throughout India, and is frequented by
pilgrims from all quarters. It is now the idol worshipped there, and is
a figure of black marble, or perhaps basalt, highly polished, small,
but of elegant proportions, with features of the pure Hindu type. The
eyes are composed of large uncut rubies; and, as the image stands upon
its altar, clothed in a woman's garment, in the small dark sanctum of
the temple, they have always a strange, weird, and, to the worshippers,
a fascinating appearance, glittering through the gloom, and smoke of
lamps and incense always burning.

The temple is a very picturesque object, from its situation in
a deep glen, the bottom of which is nearly filled by it. Pious
worshippers, and votaries from time to time, have enriched it by
buildings and courts surrounded by cloisters, ascending one above
the other, connected by flights of steps: and in these courts are
several cisterns, filled from springs in the sides of the hill. One
of them, peculiarly sacred, as believed to come from the Ganges,
gushes from a cow's mouth carved in the rock, and enters a large basin
and reservoir: and in all these cisterns pilgrims to the shrine,
both male and female, must bathe before they can worship the image.
Crowded by these pilgrims from all parts of India, of various colours
and physiognomies, languages and costumes, men and women,--bathing,
ascending or descending the broad flights of steps, pouring into the
lower courts in dense throngs, chanting mystic adorations, and singing
hymns in different languages and accents; it is impossible to conceive
a more picturesque or exciting scene than they present on occasions of
particular festivals, or, in general, on the day of the full moon of
every month.

The town of Tooljapoor adjoins the temple walls on three sides, and
ascends from them--the terraced houses clinging, as it were, to ledges
of the rugged glen--on the north and south. On the east, the ascent is
more regular; and the principal street slopes from the crest of the
tableland down to the first flight of steps leading to the first court,
and thence down successive flights of steps, through other courts, to
the lowest, which is the largest, and in which stands the principal
shrine, surrounded by cloisters and other buildings. Large tamarind,
peepul, and other trees, have grown accidentally among the cliffs
around, or have been planted in the courts, and have flourished kindly,
affording grateful shade; so the result, in the mingling of foliage and
buildings of many styles in the temple--surrounded by the rugged sides
of the ravine, occasionally precipitous:--and the terraced houses,
temples, and other buildings of the town above them--is remarkably
picturesque, and even beautiful.

The temple ravine opens into another of large dimensions, which, in the
form of an irregular semicircle, is perhaps a mile long by nearly half
of a mile at the broadest part of the diameter, narrowing to its mouth.
It is called the Ram Durra, and opens gradually beyond the hills,
upon one of the great undulating plains of the Dekhan. To the north,
the large ravine presents the appearance of an amphitheatre with
precipitous sides, from which, in rainy weather, a number of small but
lofty cascades descend from the tableland above, and form the head of a
small river which eventually falls into the Bheema.

The hills which bound the ravine are about four hundred feet high,
and are, in fact, the edge of a very extensive plateau called the
Bâlâ Ghaut, which extends nearly a hundred miles, with only a slight
descent, towards the east; and, after ascending to the town of
Tooljapoor from the ravine, a flat plain is reached, on which the
greater portion of the town stands. One promontory of the entrance of
the great ravine juts out past and bounds the temple on the left or
south side, and along its face is the road by which the ascent is made
from the plain below. The hill then turns round sharp to the east, with
precipitous sides, leaving a level plain of a few hundred yards in
width between the town and the declivity.

On the edge of this precipitous side, to the south, are two other
temples, also holy. One, a tall octagon building, now covers the rock
on which the goddess is stated to have alighted from heaven when she
came to engage the monster who lived in the adjoining ravine; and the
other, a little further on, and much more ancient, is situated at, and
encloses the head of a spring which fills a cistern, as it trickles
down the precipice at all seasons of the year. This is also a sacred
place, and is called "Pâp-nâs," or "the sin destroyer;" and the legend
says that the goddess bathed in this spring, and washed the monster's
blood from her hands, after she had slain him; so it is held sacred.

Truly the whole corner of the plateau is very beautiful. The quaint
old town hanging literally on the mountain edge: the deep gloomy
ravine of the temple opening out to the larger one: the precipices
and rugged hills to the west and north, and the beautiful undulating
plain to the south, over which the eye wanders as over a map for fifty
miles or more, checkered with thriving villages and their rich fields
and gardens,--form a striking assemblage of objects. But the interest
centres in the temple itself, with its gilded spires and picturesque
groups of buildings, as well as its strange effect in the position in
which it has been placed, attesting, no doubt, in the opinion of the
people--if there were any question on the subject, the truth of the

It will be understood from the foregoing, that the town is situated
considerably above the temple, and part of it on the level ground of
the plateau or plain. The Shastree's house was on the edge of the crest
of the ground, looking to the south over the ravine of the temple,
the cliffs, and a portion of the town beyond, across the small plain
which lay between the edge of the temple ravine and the precipitous
side of the mountain, and thence over the plain which, in the far
distance, mingled with the sky. To the south-east the line of hills
was rugged and broken, descending by steep spurs into the lower plain;
but from its edge, all round to the north, the eye followed a fair,
rich country, sloping eastwards, covered with grain-fields, through
which the small river Bóree, here only a brook, pursued a quiet course
among the town gardens. Again, to the north and west, looking into and
across the large wild ravine, were the precipices of the Ram Durra, and
the rugged basalt hills beyond them. So, wherever you turned, it was a
fair or wild scene alternately; and standing upon the terrace of the
Shastree's house, or sitting in a small chamber which had been built
over one of the corner rooms, you could see all that has been told; and
very beautiful it was.

The Shastree had travelled in his pilgrimages all over India. He had
seen wilder and grander scenes perhaps, but none pleasanter to live
in, than this cool, breezy, healthful mountain town, enhanced by the
presence of one of the holiest shrines in the country. Here he must
bear his misfortune calmly; and though his necessity urged the change
we have alluded to, he never issued from his door and looked over the
fair prospect about him, or performed the sacrificial ceremonies at
the temple, without being strengthened in his desire to live and die
here; and therefore the struggle in regard to his daughter was the more

That morning he had risen unrefreshed--his sleep had been restless.
Something in one of the books he had been explaining to Tara in the
evening had brought up the subject of widowhood and its consequences
and obligations, and the message of his spiritual prince had been
discussed with much grief and misery to all. There seemed to be no
evasion of them possible--the rites must be fulfilled; and he had
again spoken of Benares, and Tara had simply and meekly given herself
into his hands, and prostrated herself before him and her mother in
submission. She was no doubt excited; and her first communication in
the morning startled him exceedingly.

You, O Christian reader! must not try his feelings by your own
standard. You live under a holier and simpler faith. If in the ordinary
occurrences of life, and its joys and sorrows, there is little
difference between you, it is very different in regard to faith. You
have but one object of calm, loving, trustful, humble adoration. He,
as all educated Hindus, believed in the same one God, but it was
overlaid by a gorgeous and picturesque mythology, and two distinctions
of--as he believed them to be--heavenly beings, to whom separately and
collectively worship was due, and yet whose interests and designs were
so different and apparently irreconcilable.

His household faith was for the most part a pure theism; but
circumstances arising out of hereditary rights had placed him at the
head of the local worship of the dread goddess, whom, either lovingly
or in deprecation of her possible wrath, he worshipped daily. But
the worship of Doorga or Bhowani, as the wife of the creating and
preserving power in her beneficence, and of the same power in her
destroying aspect--in her wrath terrible and unrelenting--is perhaps
more fascinating to women than to men; and, alternating with both
aspects, a woman, in all moods and in all necessities, may most
naturally perhaps apply to another woman, in whose power she believes,
for sympathy and assistance. Has it not ever been so? Greek, Roman,
Egyptian, Indian--nay, even Christian?

Nevertheless the Shastree believed, not lovingly perhaps, but in
deprecation of wrath; while his wife and daughter, unable to follow
the mystically subtle metaphysical creeds of the Véds and Shastras,
saw in their goddess enough to fill their hearts with practical faith
in, and reliance upon, her power over their destinies. To her, both
had addressed their vows and daily supplications, very simply and
earnestly, for this devotion of their lives to her was all they could
give, if their prayers were granted.

What wonder, then, that Tara's vision agitated him? The Shastree knew
of many women on whom the spirit of the goddess in divine afflatus had
descended. They were possessed by her: they spoke and prophesied when
they were full of her presence: and he dreaded them while he worshipped
the power displayed. As Tara told him her dream, and the service the
goddess had asked, could it be real? Could his daughter, as an inspired
priestess, ever speak before the image? That, however, must be tried
without delay, and he hastened more rapidly than usual to the temple,
having bid her follow when her mother was ready.

He arrived as the ceremonies of bathing and dressing the image were
being performed by the inferior priesthood, and, these concluded,
the morning service began. We need not detail it--the decking of the
altar with flowers, the marking the forehead of the image with the
sacred colours, the offerings of daily food and sacred elements with
flowers, and the singing of mystic hymns. Vyas Shastree was speedily
joined by other Brahmuns and priests, and bare-headed, naked to the
waist, carrying the sacred fire and sacrificial offerings, and chanting
hymns with the accompaniment of clashing cymbals and lutes. Thus the
procession was passing round and round the temple, and the simple but
strange melody rising and falling amidst the buildings, trees, and
cliffs, and filling the ravine with sound, as Tara and her mother
gained the outer gate, and began to descend the steps which led to the
lower court.

Ordinarily they did not bathe in the sacred cistern where, from
the carved stone cow's mouth, the stream of the holy spring gushed
sparkling into the basin; but Tara paused as they passed it. She had
felt more and more excited as she neared the temple, and the melody of
the hymn and the clashing of the cymbals, as they came up together
through the trees in the still air, had added to the effect already
produced in her mind by her dream.

"Mother," she said, hesitatingly--"mother, ought I not to bathe here?
Can I go into the presence, even with these garments on me, after what
the Holy Mother said last night? They should be wet and pure."

"It is too cold for thee, my child," replied Anunda. "Come, Tara, come
on; the hymn will be finished ere we can join--come."

"No, mother, I am hot--burning; something urges me to the well, and I
cannot resist it. Mother, I must be pure before the shrine. May I go?"

"The spirit of the goddess is with her, truly," thought her mother.
"Go, Tara, it may refresh thee," she said; "and there are dry clothes
in the temple. Go, be quick, my child!"

The girl descended the steps into the basin, and, turning to the east,
poured libations from her hands to the four quarters of the earth;
then the three libations to the sun, saying a short hymn from the
Véda. Then followed her prayer to the goddess. "Holy Mother, do what
thou wilt with me; take me, leave me, or use me as thou wilt, but do
not cast me away! Behold, I come!" Then she stepped forth from the
basin, her silk garment clinging to her sweet form, and revealing its
perfect proportions more than the innate modesty of her mind permitted;
hastily, therefore, she shook it free from her limbs, while her mother
wrung the water from the ends.

"I am ready now," she said, simply; "come, mother, I will go to her
pure, and sit before her. If she wants Tara she will speak. Come!"

Her mother had observed her glistening eye and glowing cheek, which
even the chill of the water did not subdue, and seeing the expression
of her face, as she ascended from the basin, was changed from its
habitual sadness to one of excited triumph, she caught the infection
herself, and seized Tara by the hand. "Come," she cried, "Jey Kalee,"
"Victory to Kalee!" And so they descended the steps more rapidly, while
the music of the hymn and the clash of the deep-toned cymbals resounded
through the lower court, and seemed to be echoed and repeated in the
cliffs and buildings above and around them.

The procession of Brahmuns and priests was turning the corner of the
temple as Tara and her mother met it in the full swell of the music.
Usually the girl and her mother fell in behind, reverentially and
calmly, and followed it as it passed round. Now, however, the Shastree
and his companions were amazed to see Tara separate herself from her
mother, and put herself at the head of the party, toss her arms into
the air, and join in the hymn they were singing--leading them on more
rapidly than they had moved before. The Shastree marked that she had
bathed, and that her wet garments dripped as she went along. "She is
pure," he thought; "she has prepared herself, and if the goddess will
take her, it is her will. There is something in this that cannot be

The other Brahmuns stopped, still chanting, and looked to Vyas Shastree
with wonder for some explanation, which was as quickly given. "The
goddess spoke to her last night, and will not be repelled," he said.
"Go on, do not stop her; let her do as she lists."

No one dared stop her, or touch Tara. The height of excitement, or,
as they thought, inspiration, was in her eye, and that sweet face was
lifted up with a holy rapture. She seemed to fly rather than to walk,
so completely had her feelings carried her forward; and as she moved
she looked behind to those following, still chanting with them, her
arms waved above her head, and beckoning them onwards. They could not
resist the influence. So they passed on, round and round the temple,
still singing. Other morning worshippers, attracted by the strange
sight, joined them, or stood by wondering till the hymn was finished.
Then Tara, noticing no one, entered the porch of the temple rapidly,
and advancing alone, knelt down before the door of the inner shrine in
front of the image, and they watched her silently.

What did she see to cause that earnest look? The image was familiar
to all. The light of the lamps within shone out strongly on the
kneeling figure, shrouded in its wet clinging drapery, but hardly
illuminated the gloomy space in the deep outer vestibule, around which
the spectators arranged themselves reverentially. The ruby eyes of
the goddess glittered with a weird brilliance from among the cloud of
incense burning before her; and the fragrant smoke, issuing from the
door, wreathed itself about her form and ascended to the roof, and hung
about the pillars of the room.

Those looking on almost expected the image would move, or speak, in
greeting or in reprehension of the young votary, and the silence was
becoming almost oppressive when the girl's lips moved: "Mother," she
cried, in her low musical voice--"Mother! O Holy Mother! Tara is here
before thee. What wouldst thou of her?" And she leant forward, swinging
her body to and fro restlessly, and stretching forth her hands.
"Mother, take me or leave me, but do not cast me away!" She could only
repeat this simple prayer, for the yearning at her heart could find no
other words; but her bosom heaved as though it would burst the bodice,
and her hands and arms, with her whole frame, trembled violently.

"She is possessed, brother," said another priest to her father. "What
hath come to her? When did this happen?"

"Peace," said the father, in a hoarse whisper; "disturb her not: let
what will happen, even if she die. She is in hands more powerful than
ours, and we are helpless. O Tara, my child! my child!"

"Mother, dost thou hear? I will do thy bidding," again murmured the
girl. "Come, come! as thou wast in my dream. So come to Tara! Ah, yes,
she comes to me! Yes, Holy Mother, I am with thee;" and, stretching
forth her arms, she sank down on her face, shuddering.

"She is dying; my child! my pearl!" cried her mother, frantically, who
had been with difficulty restrained and who rushed forward. "Will none
of ye help?"

"Touch her not, Anunda," exclaimed her husband, holding her back; "this
brooks no interference. Let her lie and do as the Mother would wish
her; this will pass away." So they gathered round Tara and watched
her. She was tranquil now, not shuddering: the fair round arms were
stretched out towards the shrine, and the light fell on the rippled
glossy hair, which had escaped from the knot behind, and hung over her
face and neck, shrouding them in its heavy waves.

"Let us chant the hymn to the praise of Doorga," said the old Pundit
who had before spoken; "brothers, this is no ordinary occurrence. Many
come and feign the divine afflatus, but there hath been nothing so
strange as this in my memory;" and, striking a few chords on the vina
he held in his hand, the hymn--a strange wild cadence--was begun. The
sound filled the vaulted chamber, and was taken up by those outside,
who crowded the entrance. Still she moved not, but lay tranquilly;
the full chorus of the men's voices and the clashing of the cymbals
were not apparently heeded by her. As it died away, there was a
faint movement of the arms, and gradually she raised herself to her
knees, tossed back the hair from her face and neck, which fell over
her shoulders and back, and looked around her wildly for a moment;
then, seeing her mother, she leaned towards her as she advanced, and,
stretching forth her arms and clasping her knees, hid her face in her
garment, and sobbed convulsively.

"My child, I am here; I am with thee," said Anunda, supporting her, and
herself sobbing hysterically. "Speak! what is it? What hast thou seen?
My daughter, my sweet one, O speak to us!"

"Water, mother, water! my throat is parched! I cannot speak. Is she

"Who, Tara?"

"The Holy Mother; she was with me--she entered into me. O mother, what
can I do? Where am I?"

"Here is water for thee, Tara; drink."

She tried to do so, but gasped at every attempt; at last she swallowed
a little, and was relieved. "She was not angry, mother," she said,
smiling. "Did you not hear her speak? What did I answer?"

"No, my child," said her father; "thou wert silent, and we feared the
goddess had taken thy spirit; but thou livest, and we are grateful."

Tara turned to her father with an imploring look for silence, and
again, but now calmly, prostrated herself before the image, while the
brilliant ruby eyes seemed, to those who beheld them, to glow still
more brightly through the smoke of the incense.

"Holy Mother of the gods," she said, in a low voice of prayer, "I am
thy slave. I fear thee no longer. Blessed Mother, I will love thee, who
art kind to Tara.... Here will I live and die with thee according to
thy word." Then she arose and continued to him: "Come, father; behold,
I am calm now."

"She is accepted, brethren," said the old priest, turning to the
others; "let us do her honour. With no life for the world, let her
widowhood remain in the Mother's keeping: she has chosen her, let no
man gainsay it. Come, daughter, let me mark thee as she would have it
done;" and, entering the shrine, he took several of the garlands from
the neck of the image, and a small vessel containing water in which
were the leaves of the sacred Toolsee; dipping his finger into which,
he marked her gently on the forehead, sprinkling some on her head, on
which he placed his hands as he said the incantation which denoted the
presence of the divinity. Then he hung the garlands about her neck, and
the fragrant red powder of the morning sacrifice being handed to him,
he drew some gently across her forehead and bade her stand up.

"Jey Toolja!" "Victory to Toolja!" was shouted by the attendant priests
and worshippers. "Victory to the Holy Mother!" "Victory to her votary!"
"Let us take her in procession!" "Let us go with her!" cried all around.

"Ah, no, friends," said the girl, rising modestly; "ye see but a poor
helpless child who was in grief, and whom the Mother has comforted.
Leave me! let me go! I would go home. Mother, take me away! Father, do
thou come with me!"

"It may not be, daughter," said the old priest, kindly; "we must
neglect nothing, else it were dangerous for thee and for us. Bring
a palkee," he shouted to the attendant priests, "and get the music
ready, and flowers too, and offerings for the Pâp-nâs. Yes, brother,"
he continued to her father, "for once I usurp thy office; thou knowest
what is needed. Come, let us not delay."

Tara looked imploringly at her father; she would fain have escaped
the public procession if she could. She only wanted now to get home
unperceived, and to hide herself in her chamber. What had she done to
be so honoured--to be so noticed?

"It must be, my child," he said; "this cannot be begun and abandoned;
let not thy heart fail thee, the Holy Mother will be with thee. Come!"

Tara yielded: she bent reverently before the old priest, and touched
his feet, then her father's, and going round the Brahmuns assembled she
did the same; last of all her mother's, who was sobbing, yet not in
sorrow. "Come," she said, "I am ready; do with me as ye list. Ye are my
elders, and I obey."


[2] Most Brahmuns perform their early morning worship after bathing in
cold water, and with their garments still wet.


So they led Tara forth and placed her in the open palankeen, and, as
they decked her with flowers, and strewed garlands over its canopy, the
temple music struck up a joyous marriage measure. Then, as the bearers
moved gently forward, her father and mother holding the sides of the
litter, the priests arranged themselves on all sides of it, and began
another solemn chant of victory to the goddess.

By this time, news of the event had passed on into the town, and it was
the hour when all the people were astir. Men and women, collected in
groups, heard strange tales of how the goddess had appeared to Tara and
taken her away to heaven; again, that she had died before the shrine,
and they were bringing away her body. The general conviction was, that
she had died, and many women, collected in knots, were weeping bitterly
and beating their breasts. But as the temple trumpets and conchs blew
a sudden and quivering blast, and the glad music was heard with the
chant, now rising, now falling, as the procession slowly ascended
the steps, and traversed the court,--and at last, as it emerged from
the gateway and entered the broad street which led to the centre of
the town,--the popular enthusiasm knew no bounds. "Jey Toolja!" "Jey
Kalee!" "Bome! Bome!" the cries of victory--were taken up from those
who led the procession, leaping and shouting. Many ran for incense or
for garlands: men and women thronged from street and alley and joined
the procession as it moved up; others stood upon the terraces of their
houses and waved garments or handkerchiefs, or hung out cloths from the
balconies and windows. "Jey Toolja!" "Jey Bhowani!" shouted all who
came. Pilgrims from the Ganges, Sunniasis holding aloft their withered
arms; Gosaees with their orange clothes and matted locks, strange,
wild, eerie folk,--issued from archways where they had slept, or vaults
where they had lodged; and still the crowd swelled, and the shouting,
and through all, and over all, the solemn chant and the hoarse and
shrill quivering notes of the trumpets.

Few knew why this was, but the procession advanced out of the temple
gate, so it belonged to it; and as the girl passed, seated calmly now
in her litter, flowers were cast on her, incense was burned before her,
and fragrant powder thrown over her, with blessings. Her old friends,
the flower-sellers, emptied their morning baskets of jessamine over
her, and touched her feet reverentially; and the old confectioner, who
had always kept a sweet morsel for his young friend, threw showers of
comfits upon her litter, and in his excitement generously flung the
contents of his baskets among the crowd.

So they passed on, through the eastern gate, and over the plain which
led to the Pâp-nâs temple, and the sun was now rising over the distant
purple hills in great glory among gorgeous golden clouds. As the first
beams fell upon the procession, the priests changed their hymn to that
in adoration of the Sun, from the Védas, which we adopt from a free

  "Risen in majestic blaze,
    Lo, the Universe's eye,
  Vast and wondrous host of rays,
    Shineth brightly in the sky.

         *       *       *       *       *

  "See, he followeth the Dawn,
    Brilliant in the path above,
  As a youth by beauty drawn
    Seeks the maiden of his love.

  "Hear us, O ye gods, this day!
    Hear us graciously, we pray;
  As the Sun his state begins,
    Free us from all heinous sins.

  "Mitra, Varun, Aditi--
    Hear, O hear us graciously!
  Powers of Ocean, Earth, and Air,
    Listen, listen, to our prayer."[3]

And the people still shouted the cry of the goddess, or joined in the
hymn of the priests, till the small temple was reached.

The ceremonies there were brief and simple. Tara bathed in the
sin-cleansing basin, but she would not change her wet garments, still
resisting her mother. Once more were holy texts and incantations said
over her by all the priests collectively; and for the last time they
led her round and round the little shrine and court of the spring,
chanting a hymn of praise; her father leading, but submitting to the
old priest who has already been mentioned. It was finished, and her
new life began. The excitement which had possessed her and carried her
on was already passing away, and giving place to a sick weariness and
irrepressible languor, which not only her face but her limbs expressed.

"She will need careful tending for a long time, brother," said the
old priest to her father. "Give her a cooling drink of toolsee and
tamarinds, sweetened with honey; put her into dry clothes, and let her
rest quietly; she may not even speak for many days; for so I have known
it. Let us take her home."

"I am thankful to ye all, friends and brethren," said the Shastree,
much affected. "This manifestation hath filled me with many cares, for
we were not votaries of the goddess. Now she hath come into the house,
and the service she exacts is rigid, yet we will obey and do her will.
If ye will depart and leave us, take my blessing."

"Nay, say not so," cried all who were near. "Let us take her home; and
in honour and duty let this rite be finished." So the procession was
again formed, and in the same order that it had reached the temple,
it again returned to the town-gate, and wound through the streets,
thronged with curious gazers, to the door of the Shastree's dwelling,
where the priest and Brahmuns were dismissed with thanks and those only
remained who were specially bidden to do so.

Tara's exhaustion had been increasing since the ceremony was concluded;
and the wet garments about her, which had not been felt while the
excitement lasted, now struck a chill into her which even dry clothes,
cast over her by her mother, did not remove. She could not speak,
and could hardly move from the litter as it was set down; and when,
supported by her mother and the servants, she reached the inner
apartment, she sank helplessly in her mother's arms. But she was now
in gentle, careful hands, and at rest; and though she did not speak as
yet, her grateful looks ere long expressed all the consciousness her
mother longed to see.

She had ever after only a confused recollection of what had occurred;
and even as they came home there was a vacancy in her look which had
seriously alarmed her parents. Her father could remember many such
votaries, in whom the light of reason had been utterly quenched, and
he trembled for his daughter. We can account for the occurrence by
rational causes: a long-continued mental excitement and suppressed care
brought on by the nature of her own belief in, to her, that goddess
of dread power, yet of sympathy with human requirements,--and its
hysterical effect; but to her father, and more so to her mother, as
also to all the priests of the temple and people of the town, it was a
manifestation of the divine interest, and a claiming of the girl for
her own peculiar service.

We will not follow the conference between the Shastree and his friends,
which related to ceremonies to be performed and sacrifices to be
offered: nothing must be neglected. One of them was the resident agent
of the spiritual prince before alluded to, who had only a few days
before delivered the friendly warning, now unneeded. "The Mother hath
settled this matter herself, friends," he said, "and no one can resist
it; we will write collectively to the 'Swâmi,' and tell him of it;
he, too, will be assured that this divine favour is the result of
Vyas Shastree's piety, and his daughter's devotion to religious rites;
better this than worldly allurements and ties, sweet as they are."

There was no dissentient voice. Nor in the town, nor among the caste,
could any one impugn the act. It had been involuntary and public.
Thousands had witnessed it, and they bore testimony of the holy fervour
which had animated all who accompanied Tara from the temple. All seemed
to have caught a portion of the divine manifestation and enthusiasm.

So every one said that the beautiful daughter of Vyas Shastree had
become a Moorlee or priestess of the temple, and that the goddess
herself had called her from her disgrace of widowhood to the glory of
her own service. Was not this better than worldly ties? Now she was

Did Tara think so? It was many weeks ere the feverish excitement passed
away, during which the loving eyes glowed with unnatural lustre, and a
fierce fire seemed to possess her. It was to be expected; and she had
skilful and tender attendance. With perfect rest and quiet, and simple
remedies, it would pass away, they said, and it did so gradually, and
Tara arose weaker, but calm. By-and-by she would be allowed to make her
sacrificial offerings, but not yet; and till then her beloved books,
the household worship, and occupation, were enough to occupy her.

"Time enough," said the old Pundit, who frequently visited her and had
become interested in her, "with a life of service to be done. When you
are strong you shall come to us, but not till then."

Was Tara satisfied? If the dread of her shame had been removed, the
void in her heart had not as yet been filled; but the new life had to
begin, and she would do her best, and so she comforted herself.

Were others satisfied? Yes. As we have said, most who knew her envied
her lot, but some sneered, and already shook their heads.

One man had looked at the distraught girl, as she was placed in the
litter and covered with garlands, who was satisfied, yet not as the
rest. More beautiful in the unconsciousness of her excitement than he
had ever seen her before,--far more so, to his sight, than she had
ever appeared while ordinarily attending the temple worship with her
mother, and where he had watched her for months past, Moro Trimmul had
joined the throng in order to observe her better. Being a Brahmun, he
had closed up to the edge of the litter bare-headed and unnoticed,
singing the hymns as one of the attendant priests, and had thus been
able to accompany the procession, gloating upon the girl's loveliness
with an unholy desire. As the litter was taken up he fell out of the
procession, and, watching it depart, sat down alone on the edge of
the cliff looking over the plain, and by the side of the small stream
which, issuing from the Pâp-nâs temple, fell down the face of the rock
in a sheet of foam. A girl's voice aroused him from a reverie which we
dare not follow.

"So the Pundit is not dancing back to the town as he came out, before
the new Moorlee," she said ironically.

"Nor thou either, Gunga. Dost thou not welcome a new priestess?"

"I marvel at it," she continued, with a sneer; "thou wast looking
enough at her. I dance before her? When she dances with us before the
Mother, then she will be a true Moorlee--not else. Now I hate her; I
shall always hate her."

"Ah! she will never join ye," he returned; "she is of another sort than
the rest of ye: Gunga, thou art jealous of her beauty, girl."

"By the Holy Mother, she shall not remain so, Moro Trimmul. She--a
widow--to think of setting herself above us! That cat-faced girl! If
she has chosen to serve the Mother she must obey her rules, and be one
of us. Think ye we will let her come there unless she is?"

The Brahmun shook his head. "I was thinking about her," he said,

The girl sighed. "I thought so," she replied, "and thou wilt love me no
more--no more now. Is it not so? say it, if it is to be so."

"Love thee!" returned the man, bitterly--"yes, as thou canst be
loved--by gold. Hark ye, Gunga, make her as thou art; get her into my
power, and I will give thee a waist-belt of gold."

"As heavy as hers?" cried the girl, excitedly.

"Thou shalt weigh the one against the other and thine shalt turn the
scale--will that content thee?"

"Wilt thou?--shall it? Swear on my neck and my feet to give this, and
I will do thy will. Yes, to humble her pride and her father's--who
drove me from the temple one day, and I have hated him ever since. I
shall hate thee too, afterwards; yet I will do it," cried the girl,
excitedly, clapping her hands--"yet I will do it."

"I swear," said the man, touching her neck. "Come and sit here by me."
She did so, but neither spoke for some time.

"Thou hast a sister, Moro Pundit, and she is beautiful. She ought to
have been married ere this. A little more time, and can it be done?"
she said, breaking the silence.

The Brahmun winced. "She was betrothed once," he said, "but the man

"Perhaps she was married," continued the girl, with a sneer, "and she
is as Tara Bye, or worse. Is it not so?"

"No! by the Holy Mother, no!" cried the Pundit, sharply, and with
flashing eyes. "Breathe such a thing and I will have thy life. Beware
what thou sayest, even to me! A word more, and I fling thee down the

"O, I fear not for my life," said the girl, carelessly, "the Mother
takes care of that, and I will say nothing, lest I should lose my
pretty gold zone. But what of thy sister? The Shastree wants a new
wife, we hear; Anunda Bye wants a son to cheer her and him, and why
should not thy sister be taken there? If I do not err, she can have her
chance. She is of a good age--why not? Could she understand what to do?
Could she be taught?"

"Ah!" said the Pundit, abstractedly, "I had thought of it too, but it
seemed impossible. I do not know him--yes--if----"

"If?--why if? Art thou afraid? The girl is here--let me see her and
know her, and leave the rest to us."

"Gunga," said the Brahmun, after a pause. "If thou canst bring this
about--if thou canst get me speech of this Shastree----"

"Let me speak to the girl first. 'Radha,' that is her name, is it not?
Let me see if she is resolute and as I hear of her. If she be, she
shall have her desire; thou shalt have thine; and I--ah, yes! I will
have more gold. Yes," she cried, clapping her hands again, "more gold!
I will have gold anklets, like Tara's. Why should she wear gold anklets
and mine be only silver? Wilt thou give them?--all I can hope, now she
hath taken thy love from me----"

"When my sister is Vyas Shastree's wife thou mayst have what thou wilt,
Gunga. I swear it to thee on thy neck and feet. Art thou content? Yes,
thou shalt see her now. Manage the matter as ye will, women's wits are
sharper than mine. Now follow me unobserved," he said, rising.

"Once more, Moro Pundit," continued Gunga, "tell me if the marriage can
be performed now? Is there a fitting conjunction of planets?--within a

"Yes; till the Now Râtree; after that not for a long time."

"Enough to do, enough to do, in the time," muttered the girl to
herself. "Hast thou any women with thee--any relations?"

"Yes, her mother's sister--a widow; no more. Our mother is dead, my
father is dead, and there are only ourselves left of a large family."

"Then the Shastree will like the connection all the better, and--ye are
rich, they say. Yes, I will bring the widow and Anunda together."

"We have enough. In that respect I can satisfy the Shastree fully."

"Ah! he will ask no questions. His wife is shrewd and clever, and will
guide him," she replied; "but he will be careful about the horoscope of
thy sister, for he is a great astrologer."

"My aunt is wise, as you will find when you know her; and as for the
rest, Gunga, it is in my hands. I, too, am an astrologer and can cast
Radha's nativity as I please."

The girl laughed heartily. "Yes, it will answer," she said. "Now go
by that path; we must not be seen together. I will come to thee before
noon; we have no time to lose. Only remember thine oath, Moro Trimmul,
and beware how thou triest to evade or deceive me. I would not hurt
thee willingly; and for the sake of----. No matter now," she continued,
gulping down what was rising in her throat, "no matter now. It is
gone--I see no more of it in thine eyes."

"I am in thy hands, Gunga, and may be trusted," he replied; "nay, more,
there may be better days for thee yet, girl----"

"No--no more. No more like the old ones," she said, shaking her head
mournfully. "Only the gold now--only the gold!"


[3] "Specimens of Old Indian Poetry, translated from the original
Sanskrit." By R. T. H. Griffith, A.M.


"Yes, surely it is strange that the two nativities should fit so
exactly," said Vyas Shastree to himself, some days after the events
recorded in the last chapter, as, seated by himself upon his dais,
and having given orders not to be disturbed, he appeared absorbed in
a table of nativity which lay before him; "yes, it is strange indeed.
The date of birth, the signs under which she was born, and the few
calculations which have been made by a master hand, all agree, as they
ought to do; and the result, as I have worked it out, is clear enough.
This girl, born at Wye, an utter stranger to me hitherto, and brought
here by a chance pilgrimage, is proposed for me; and Anunda, Tara, and
the old Josee will have it so. Yes, it is a curious coincidence indeed;
but let me test these formulæ again; there may be error."

While the Shastree is busy with some curiously abstruse calculations
upon his own and the other horoscope he is considering, we must digress
a little, to show by what steps Gunga's plans, roughly shadowed out to
Moro Trimmul, as we have recorded, were apparently fast approaching a
satisfactory completion.

Negotiations had been satisfactorily opened by Anunda with Sukya
Bye, the aunt of Moro Trimmul. This lady had, indeed, already become
a great favourite with Anunda and Tara, and she had been guided in
her intercourse with them by the directions of Gunga. Eventually,
the question of marriage, or otherwise, having passed the ladies
favourably, rested with the Shastree himself.

The contrivances by which this result had been brought about were
apparently too simple to cause suspicion. Yet they had been produced
by carefully designed arrangement. It was first of all necessary to
get Sukya Bye and Anunda acquainted, and this was brought about at the
temple on the night of the ceremonies of the last full moon. The wife
of the chief priest had the power to render the performance of the
necessary worship convenient to any one she pleased. She could direct
special attendance by assistant priests on her friends, and could
reserve seats for them, on which they could see and hear to the best
advantage. So as Sukya Bye, whose figure and dress bespoke her rank and
respectability, was apparently vainly endeavouring to reach the shrine
to make her offerings with other women,--Gunga, seeing her hustled and
pushed about, assisted her as far as possible; and, feigning to be
unable to do more, appealed to Anunda, who had herself noticed the old
lady's struggles, for assistance to her.

Sukya Bye was one with whom it was no degradation to be seen
associating. Her tall figure, dressed in the richest of plain silk
garments, and the heavy gold rings she wore round her arms, wrists, and
ankles, betokened wealth, as did her shaved head that she was a widow;
and the stout Mahratta serving-men, who, armed with sword and buckler,
attended her, proved that she was of some rank, certainly of very
respectable position.

Gunga had left her under Anunda's care, and ere the ceremony was
concluded the ladies had become excellent friends. It will be
remembered that Anunda herself was from the western provinces of the
Dekhan, and the dialect and intonation of the lady Sukya sounded
pleasantly in her ears. Questions were asked, some mutual acquaintances
discovered, and a visit by Anunda soon followed.

Moro Trimmul, his aunt, and sister, lived or lodged but a short
distance from the Shastree, and it soon came to pass that the ladies
visited each other frequently. Sukya had a point to gain, so had her
niece Radha, and both worked in concert with the girl Gunga, to whom
whatever happened was related. Her fresh instructions from day to day
guided them perfectly, not only to gaining the good will of mother and
daughter, but of establishing a more affectionate interest in their
concerns than would otherwise have arisen out of a common acquaintance.

Sukya, proud of her own birth and connections, found Anunda perfectly
in accord with herself on that subject. She saw the wealth and comfort
of the house, she led Anunda to detail their domestic cares, and
offered her sympathy, which was accepted. "Ah, yes, if the Shastree
would only marry again!" said Anunda to her in confidence, "and there
should be a son born, they would take him to Benares and devote him to
Siva. They had wealth; yet without this it was a weight and a care to
them, which increased rather than diminished."

During these visits of confidence between the elders, Tara and Radha
had their own pleasant time too, and Tara's trustful nature was easily
won by the other. Radha was ignorant, it was true, but she was to all
appearance open-hearted and simple, and she soon learned to feign that
reverential yet intimate association with the beautiful widow and her
mother, which Gunga counselled, and which was indeed necessary to the
success of the whole scheme.

For some days Anunda made no communication to Sukya Bye of the subject
nearest her heart; but as she saw the intimacy of the two girls
increase, and that the intercourse had served to turn Tara's thoughts
into new channels, and also that she herself, as she gradually gained
strength, always found some pretext for a daily visit to her young
friend, the thought gradually pressed the more upon her mind, that
here was a connection which was most desirable for her husband; and,
finally, the question alone remained, whether Radha's family would

Tara had no objection either. Indeed, from the first sight of
Radha's present extreme beauty, and promise of its development--from
her respectful, nay reverential, demeanour to her mother, and her
apparently loving trustfulness of herself--she, too, began to think
that a better selection could not be made, if her father were willing
to take a second wife, than this girl. So she grew to wish it.

Therefore, with much exhortation to privacy, and in the fullest
assurance of confidence, Anunda had ventured to ask Sukya Bye, after
all reserve had been broken down, whether the alliance might be hoped
for. She dwelt at length upon her husband's accomplishments and his
wealth. He was not old; many men married far beyond his age. Money was
no object--it could be paid if necessary; and she herself would be as
a mother, and Tara a sister, to the new wife. In short, Anunda opened
her whole heart to her new friend, and in the end found the sympathy
she had expected. Yes, the more Sukya Bye considered the matter, the
more, as she told Anunda, was she convinced it would be an admirable
arrangement. Radha had once been betrothed as a mere child; the person
had died lately, else they were to have been married this year.
Delay had occurred because the intended husband was poor. He had not
sufficient to pay the expenses of the ceremonies. Then Radha's father
had died, then her mother, when Moro Trimmul was as yet a youth. He
had made no provision for his sister. How could he? So she remained
unmarried. Another connection must have been sought for this year, and
Anunda's proposal was admirably timed.

Now, all this was true enough in some respects, but not entirely. It
was enough, however, for two persons to believe, whose affections were
already enlisted in the progress of the matter; and such inquiries
as they could make from people who knew Wye, confirmed what had been
told them by their new acquaintance. Was the girl herself willing?
Apparently she was. And she received, with all the bashfulness and
interest necessary to the occasion, the proposal made to her by Tara on
the part of her mother. Anunda had had her fears on this subject, lest
the young and beautiful girl should refuse to ratify what her aunt had
proposed; but beyond a natural shyness there seemed no objection.

One doubt only remained,--were the horoscopes of the parties in good
accordance? "Moro Trimmul," Sukya Bye said, "would never consent to
give his sister where the planets did not provide good fortune--in
short, till he was satisfied there was no ceremonial objection
or direct hindrance. And before the proposition was made to the
Shastree--before, in short, the men were to discuss the proposed
arrangement, Moro Trimmul wished to see the Shastree's horoscope,
in order that the last point of doubt should be removed." He also
would give his sister's to the Shastree, if the proposal were to be
persevered in.

Very unsuspectingly, therefore, did Anunda take the scheme of her
husband's nativity, his "Junum Putr," from the casket in which it was
kept, and, with many injunctions as to its safety, gave it to Sukya
Bye. It was not long detained; and she was gratified by hearing that
the Josee, seated in an adjoining apartment, considered it a most
happy one. "Might he copy a few portions? they had been so admirably
calculated." And the dame had no objection.

Certainly the plan had been well laid, and as yet well executed. No
very deep persuasions were necessary with these simple unsuspecting
people. The mother and daughter had yielded long ago; and the result
of the examination of the Shastree's Junum Putr had removed the last
obstacle which concerned him. The matter, as arranged, should be broken
to him that evening on his return from the temple. And the lady Sukya
suggested that he should examine her niece's horoscope as corroborative
of his own.

So Moro Trimmul had that day put the finishing touch to his work. He
had been concealed when the lady Anunda brought the paper we have
mentioned; he had rapidly copied the principal points in the table, and
noted all the most remarkable of the latter indications exhibited; and
he knew that, before evening, he could prepare a corresponding document
regarding his sister, which the Shastree himself could not detect.
This was a branch of science which Moro Trimmul had studied deeply;
and it was with perfect confidence that he followed the astrological
combinations relating to the Shastree, and constructed, yet not with
too minute detail, the table in his sister's name.

Few Hindu parents care to have the Junum Putr, or "birth letter," of
their daughters worked out; but after Moro Trimmul had cast the table
itself on an imaginary date of birth, two years later than the real
age of his sister, and as if it had been done carelessly and then
abandoned, he followed up several of the formulæ indicated, leaving
the last incomplete. He felt assured, therefore, when the paper was
submitted to the Shastree, that he would himself carry out the last
calculation, which had been so arranged as to lead to the present time,
and to a combination with his own.

All had been finished. The paper on which it was written was new,
but it was not paper of that part of the country; it was from his
own district. An ornamental border was quickly drawn round it, in
red, black, and yellow lines; the signatures of the witnesses to his
sister's original and true Junum Putr were carefully copied; finally,
the whole document was held over wood-smoke till it was of a proper
brown colour, then rubbed and frayed at the edges, and creased here and
there as if it had been often examined; and, lastly, it was perfumed
with camphor to remove the smell of wood-smoke, and with the odour of
benzoin and sweet pastille. No one, without much difficulty, could have
detected the forgery; and, without suspicion, the Shastree had set
himself to work out the problem left unfinished--the occupation which
we have already noted.

On leaving their friends, after this early visit, in which the Junum
Putr was taken, Anunda and Tara had determined to lose no further time
in breaking the matter to the Shastree. It was a fortunate day, as they
had been told by the old astrologer, the Shastree's friend, whom they
had consulted as they went home; whatever they did was sure to prosper.
The Shastree was in good humour with himself, with them, and with the
world generally, and for many reasons. His greatest care about Tara had
been removed. She had been accepted as a votary of the goddess, and
had already recovered from her excitement. He had written with others
a joint petition to the "Swâmi" on the subject, and she had been duly
recognized by her spiritual prince. No fear of reproach now existed;
and if the Shastree had at first winced at the idea of his daughter
becoming a Moorlee, a public votary at the temple, the feeling was
passing away. The gods forbid she should become as other girls, who
were devoted to the temple service! No; she desired to be pure, and
should continue so.

The long and expensive journey to Nassuk, or worse, to Benares, had
been saved, and half a year's rent had just come in from his estate.
The crops were fine; there were no remissions needed; prices were high,
and the rent had been punctually paid. The produce of the gardens and
farms was also good this year, and the fees and dues from pilgrims were
abundant. This was a special year for pilgrimages to the shrine, and
full moon after full moon the crowd would increase.

"What are we to do with it all?" Anunda would ask, as day after day the
bag containing the Shastree's dues was brought from the temple by the
attendant clerk, or as her husband gave over to her the liberal gifts
presented to him by wealthy visitors to the shrine.

As she asked this question of him, the Shastree laughed, and told her
it must increase, for the Now Râtree, or nine nights of the goddess,
then coming on, were attended by a wonderful conjunction of planets
foreboding marvellous events, and which could not indeed occur again
in many years--indeed, not under less than a cycle. There would be
thousands upon thousands of worshippers there, and the gain would be
enormous. What, indeed, were they to do with it all? "We must spend
it upon poor Brahmuns, dig wells in desert places, and give marriage
portions--all good works, and pleasing to the gods: what have Brahmuns
to do with wealth?" said the Shastree.

"Nay; but we will have a marriage at home," thought Anunda; and from
the time the alliance was shaped into form she began to hoard every
rupee she could get. Never had the gardeners found her so active in
coming down to Sindphul to look after the fruit and vegetables in the
garden there. Never had the sellers in the Bazar known her to be so
keen after the returns of sale. As she said to herself, if there is a
marriage, my lord shall have a good one.

This very plethora of wealth brought about the question with her
husband. "What can we do with it?" he said one day, on receiving an
unusually large gift.

"We will marry you," said the wife. "Tara and I have determined upon
it in our own minds; and oh, my dear honoured husband, you are not to
object! We have kept this from you as yet; but if you will agree, we
have found a treasure, a jewel, such as we can give to you, and be
proud and thankful to see you wear."

There was no circumlocution in the matter. Anunda, watching her
opportunity, as a wife best knows how to do, had gone direct to the
point, and, seconded by Tara, had smoothed away all difficulties and
won the victory.

The Shastree made but one condition--that which Moro Trimmul had
expected, and for which he had provided. "I care not for wealth or for
beauty," he said to his wife. "We are rich--too rich; and thou, Anunda,
art more beautiful than ever; but the 'birth letter' must accord; and
she must be pure and high in blood."

So Anunda had told him that, as to the first, she would ask for the
"birth letter," and hope it would be good; as to the second, what doubt
at all? She could vouch for good birth, as good as their own, and for
wealth if that were needed.

Now, therefore, that the matter all hinged upon the fitness or
otherwise of Radha's "birth letter," and the last link in Anunda's
chain was to be completed or for ever broken, it may be conceived that
she awaited her husband's decision on the subject with much anxiety.
He had requested not to be disturbed while he made the examination. So
Anunda and Tara waited within. The outer door of the court had been
fastened as well as that of the school, and he was, as we found him
at the beginning of this chapter, alone on his dais, absorbed in the
contents of the document before him.

"Yes," he said again aloud, "that it is strangely coincident, there can
be no doubt. Again and again I have checked these formulæ, and they
are right, and the abandoned calculation leads direct into my own. Ho,
Tara! Anunda!" he cried, "bring my Junum Putr, quick; I need it." And
Anunda took it, and, laying it before him, did not venture to stay or
to speak; but she saw by the expression of his face that he was deeply
interested, and she again withdrew.

He opened it, that strange shadowing of his life which, with a
fascination he could not resist, he had occasionally examined, yet
without daring to pry into the future. Enough that he could follow the
past as nearly as might be from the fallible nature of the science.
Now, he laid both papers together; and his eye passed from one to
another rapidly, as his chest heaved and his pulses throbbed with an
excitement to which he had long been a stranger, forcing from him the
exclamations of wonder which we have recorded.

"Marvellous and mysterious agents in our existence," he continued,
"who can withstand ye? who can refuse your directions? Here I bow
before ye, O mystic fates, lead me as ye will; this happiness, aided by
these heavenly indications, I dare not resist. Anunda! Tara! O wife! O
child!" he continued as they entered, stretching out his hands towards
them, "be it as ye will, beloved!"

That was a happy evening for the three. It was not too late to ratify
the act, and then the preparations were soon made. A few lumps of
sugar-candy and some spices were placed on a silver salver, and
garlands of fresh flowers procured from the flower-sellers. Anunda
dressed herself in one of her best suits, and Tara put on a simple
new garment befitting her position. Several of the servants who had
suspected the matter, poured forth their congratulations. A marriage,
with all the new clothes, and feasting; oh, it would be delightful! And
now the betrothal sugar was to be taken, so the matter was decided.
Might they accompany the lady? Yes, they were all to come, and one was
to go and prepare the lady Sukya; and so, finally, preceded by a pipe
and tabor, the little procession went forth into the street.

No concealment now. As the neighbours gathered at their doors they knew
why the lady Anunda and Tara went forth. Some wondered, some sneered;
but the majority thought Anunda wise. The Shastree was to marry again,
and there might again be a male child in the house.

The preparation by Sukya had been made, and the girl Radha, dressed by
her aunt and Gunga, who was there, in a rich saree of orange and gold,
with wreaths of flowers hanging about her, had been placed on the dais
in the house where they lodged. She wore heavy ornaments of gold, and
Anunda felt proud of her selection for her lord, as well for Radha's
great beauty as for the wealth of which she had evidence. No, she was
no common girl. Here were no crowds of poor relations; even money was
needless; but they would be too well bred to refuse it.

So they were. The music continued to play a merry measure suited to
the ceremony. The girl's forehead was marked with the sacred colours;
a fragrant paste rubbed upon her hands and arms, neck and bosom, by
Anunda and Tara. Rice and other grain, emblems of fertility, sprinkled
over her head, money poured into her lap, and sugar put into her mouth;
while the sacred hymn and incantation from the Véda was chanted by Tara
and her mother, and joined in by those who had collected around.

Then all went into the household temple of the dwelling and paid their
adoration to Bhowani and Lakshmee, and the rite was finished. Radha was
the betrothed wife of Vyas Shastree.

"Mayst thou be happy, O my sister!" said Moro Trimmul, who, though
present, had not interfered further than to direct the ceremonies.
"Surely this is a fortunate day for us all. Now I go to the temple to
lay my offerings before the Mother, and, with your permission, lady,
I will visit the Shastree to-morrow. Long have I desired to know him,
for the fame of his learning has gone far and wide; but who would make
a stranger known to him? and surely it is providential that our houses
have thus been united."

"You will be welcome, sir," said Anunda, as she rose to take her


Anunda was not a person to allow useless time to elapse between
the ascertained necessity of any act and its completion, and the
preparation for the marriage went on merrily. What stores of flour,
and rice and ghee, and condiments were laid in! What gorgeous dresses
selected! Ah, young English ladies, and indeed I may include mothers
also, who may read these pages, you are not to believe that wedding
trousseaux are confined to your own country and society! Very far from
it. A young Hindu lady, or Mahomedan either--there is not much to
choose between them in this respect--is as full of hope of a liberal,
a handsome, outfit on her marriage, as any fashionable young lady of
Belgravia or Mayfair; and believe me, is as proportionably delighted if
it be so.

There was much to spend, and no grudging. So one old cloth-seller had
been dispatched to Sholapoor, and another to Wyrāg; one to Nuldroog
also, then a large camp and emporium: and the result was, as we may
say, an overplus of riches. It was hard to select from the bales on
bales which were sent up from the shops; still, piece by piece, the
dresses accumulated, and were indeed lovely. Silk and gold sarees; silk
and cotton mixed; plain cotton with silk borders; bodice pieces, stiff
with gold and brocade--all betokening wealth and comfort. No milliner
required here. The garments of one piece, only remarkable for their
richness and diversity of colour and pattern, were such as were, and
are still, worn by the better classes of society. Anunda was determined
that no fault could be found with her own and Tara's selection, and
certainly it was better to be on the liberal side.

Then how busy the goldsmiths were! In the Shastree's school court,
half-a-dozen men, sometimes more, were to be seen sitting over pans of
charcoal, blowpipe in hand, beating silver or gold on small anvils, and
fashioning them into massive and quaintly beautiful ornaments. Anunda
had given some of her old things to be broken up and re-made. We will
not say how many ounces of virgin gold were added, but here too the
good lady was liberal--very liberal; and Tara, of her own accord, had
added from her own store some valuable jewels. Yes, the arrangements
for the marriage were to be pushed on; it must be completed within a
month, for after that, there was a "gutt" or planetary conjunction
averse to marriage, which was to last long. As yet the day had not
been fixed, but it must soon be; and the Shastree was passive when it
was mentioned. Not so those with whom he had now irrevocably connected

On the other side, preparations had been as active, though simpler.
Moro Trimmul's object was haste, and he had desired his aunt and
sister to spare nothing within their means. Strangers as they were in
the town, they found the girl Gunga, with whom, since the ceremony at
the temple, Sukya Bye had become intimate, a very useful ally. She
knew what Anunda was preparing. Her gossips--the flower-sellers, the
cloth-merchants, and the goldsmiths--detailed all that was being done,
and to aunt and niece they were amply satisfactory. They knew the
Shastree was wealthy, but the profusion they heard of surprised them.

"The Shastree loves thee, girl," the lady Sukya would say. "He will
spend his wealth on thee. What lucky chance brought us here, who can
tell? else who would have cared for thee? To whom could we have given
thee? Be content; he is not old; he will love thee, for thou art
beautiful. Wait and see."

Truly she was so! Not Tara's tranquil, pensive beauty; not Anunda's
even in her prime. This girl was very different from both. She was
darker than either--a warm, richly-tinted, clear, golden brown, with
a skin like velvet; a small head, oval face--perhaps more round than
oval--and a mass of thick wavy hair, which, if loosened, fell far below
her waist, curling at the ends; a low broad forehead, strongly marked
arched eyebrows, and a nose straight and delicate in outline, were
perhaps the ordinary possessions of a good-looking, well-bred Mahratta
girl; but the eyes and mouth were more remarkable, because they gave an
index to her character.

"We will not tell what she is like," Anunda said, as her husband
frequently asked her of Radha, for as yet he had not seen her. Perhaps
he was indifferent on the subject, yet hardly so; it would have been
unnatural not to care at all. Certainly, as the days passed, the
Shastree grew somewhat curious, and he had to wait many more ere he
should see her.

"Content thyself, husband," Anunda would say, as he questioned her;
"I have told thee she is beautiful, else I had not noticed her: she
hath a shape like a nymph, eyes like a deer, and a mouth like that of
Kāmdeo. What need to say more? Wait and see." So the Shastree waited
patiently. Another would have followed the girl--contrived to see her
by some means not perhaps over scrupulously; but the Shastree was very
honourable, and such an alternative did not even suggest itself to him.

But they were right. What Anunda had noticed, and Tara too, were only
the eyes and mouth and the figure. Who could pass them by unheeded?
Such eyes--so large, so soft in their velvet blackness when at rest,
yet if excited, how different! The long, thick lashes, which were
positively heavy in character, shaded them ordinarily, and produced a
soft, dreamy effect; but if the girl looked up, or was interested, or
suddenly roused, these eyes seemed to glow internally, and to assume a
character almost oppressively fascinating.

Radha well knew their power: since she was a child she had been told
of the beauty of her eyes, and she believed it--nay, added to their
expression by slightly staining the inner portion of her eyelids,
which gave to the already heavy lashes a softer character if the eyes
were at rest, or increased their effect if they were excited. Lately
a habit had grown upon her of contracting her brows, and dilating her
eyes till their effect was almost fierce, which both her brother and
aunt had tried to check, but it did not leave her easily. Sometimes it
gave place to a look of dreamy languor inexpressibly touching, and so
sorrowful in character that, had the girl been older, it might have
been attributed to some great grief lying at her heart, or some painful
recollection. As it was, it was unsuspected, except by those who knew
the cause.

The mouth followed the eyes. When they were excited by any emotion,
the lips at once closed and were firmly compressed; but ordinarily
they remained a little open in the centre, showing teeth white, pure,
and glistening with a pearly lustre. The lips were full, red, and
moist--the upper deeply arched and curved, with the corners falling
back into deep dimples; yet the mouth was small and delicate, pouting,
and decidedly voluptuous when at rest or smiling, yet capable of
being hardened into an expression of self-will and obstinacy, which
indicated an inflexible determination should there be occasion to
exercise it. No wonder that, seeing her in her most placable moods--for
the girl from the first had appeared charmed by the prospect of her
marriage--Anunda and Tara had been captivated by beauty so remarkable.
It would have been well, perhaps, could they have seen the face under
other expressions, and so been saved from what, under different
circumstances, had an irresistible fascination.

Need her figure be described? Being younger than Tara, there was not
the same development of form. The arms and throat were less rounded,
yet the lines were as graceful and full of promise of perfection as
hers. Eventually they would be about the same height--Radha, perhaps,
a shade taller, and both slighter than Anunda ever had been. Her hands
and feet were small and beautifully formed, more so, perhaps, than
Tara's; they were indeed, remarkable features in her figure--so much so
that, as Tara was bathing her one day, and washing them, she had held
them to her lips and kissed them in succession involuntarily.

It was difficult to tell her age. Her "birth letter" told the Shastree
she was not yet twelve. Had she exceeded much that age, to their
knowledge, Anunda would have objected to the marriage; indeed, she
could not have been married at all. But she was in reality fourteen,
nay more. Sometimes, when her features relaxed, her eyes soft and
dreamy, her mouth smiling, and her whole face assuming a loving
tenderness of expression, she appeared hardly the age she was said to
be; but when there was any change, and the rigid look already noticed
took its place, she appeared considerably older.

Now, Anunda was by no means desirous of a very young girl for
her husband's new wife. Many had been offered of very tender age
indeed, whom she had invariably declined. She could not be troubled
with a child; and if a thought that Radha might be older than she
was represented to be, ever crossed her mind, a bright smile, a
tender caress from the girl at once removed the doubt, and restored
confidence. As to her figure, it did but furnish earnest of mature
development. And were not many girls precocious? She had been so
herself. Yes, Radha was very beautiful; and, as day after day passed,
Anunda longed the more for the time when she should be able to clothe
her in one of those gorgeous dresses, to deck her with flowers and
jewels, and to present her to her husband a bride worthy of him--worthy
of her own affection--the most precious gift she could make to him.

We have said that Radha was older than she was represented--and perhaps
a brief sketch of her previous history is needful. She had been an
indulged and precocious child, of a vain, weak, but beautiful mother.
Her father, one of the hereditary Josees, or astrologers, of Wye,
had died some years before, and her mother shortly after him. Moro
Trimmul, on succeeding to the care of the house, had given charge of
his sister to his aunt, and betaken himself to the company of certain
wild associates, with whom, from his powers of learning, he had become
an especial favourite. The head of these was the Rajah Sivaji, whose
rapid career to independence was one of the remarkable events of the
times; and the wild exploits of the young prince, his raids against
the Moghuls and Mahomedans in general, had long since enlisted the
sympathies of the Mahratta people.

Sivaji's early career had been dissolute, but that was a venial
fault among the people. His companions were the young Mahratta
gentry,--yeomen, and farmers, whom he best loved to draw about him;
above all, young Brahmuns who would join him, whether as priests or
soldiers, or both, in his wild enterprises. Moro Trimmul was one of
these--one who had grown into his deepest confidence. So long as Moro's
father lived, he had in some degree restrained his son; but his private
meetings with his prince were still frequent; and in the plays and
recitations, of which Sivaji was passionately fond, Moro was generally
an actor and reciter. Thus it was that Sivaji frequently came to Wye,
and put up at the Josee's house; and so he came to know Radha--a
beautiful child then, whom he could caress without hindrance. He a
Mahratta, she a Brahmun--any union was impossible; and yet she grew to
be more than interesting to him as she advanced in age.

Eventually Radha's betrothed husband died. Other offers were made for
her, but were always refused, so peremptorily, that people believed the
report designedly set afoot by her brother and Sukya Bye, that she was
to be married to a distant relative who, now absent on pilgrimages,
would return and claim her, or she would have to be taken to him. And
so the girl grew, the time for marriage passed, and the Rajah's visits,
often clandestine, were encouraged by aunt and nephew, with what
ultimate hope of result might be imagined. Yet both were careful there
should be no scandal.

Perhaps their scheme might have succeeded had not Sivaji himself, now
feeling his way to power, seen the peril of the connection. Was she
wife or widow, there might have been fewer scruples, but, an unmarried
Brahmun girl would be a burden, a disgrace, which he dared not
encounter--one that would not fail to be resented by the priests, whom
it was his aim to gain. He could not spare one so devoted, so able, and
so unscrupulous as Moro Trimmul, nor could he replace him; he needed
many such, and he loved him too much to break with him on this point.

It was a hard struggle. But the young prince, whose firm will and
self-control finally won him a kingdom, successfully resisted
the opportunities deliberately offered. As the girl grew, as his
intercourse with the house became more and more unreserved, it
was clear to him that her love for him was growing as part of her
existence. The girl, for whom he had always a kind word and free
greeting, who claimed the privilege of serving "her Rajah," when he
put up at their house, became by degrees shy and reserved; cried if he
spoke kindly to her, and trembled if he approached her. He could not be
mistaken in those eyes: they told their own story--love.

Under such circumstances, among such people, love is passion. It has no
medium except in maturer age and constant association. The girl--still
a child in years--loved deeply, passionately; and as she grew older,
month by month, day by day, the news of her prince's exploits, now
beginning to be sung in ballads through the country, excited her
fearfully. Her aunt and brother had detected her in more than one
attempt to escape to him, and, fearful of the result, had prevented
it. Had he taken her away, would they have pursued? Surely not; but he
was careful--he admitted his own danger to himself--and he gradually
avoided the house, though he clung the more closely to Moro Trimmul.
Radha found means to send occasional messages to him--a child's love,
a child's yearning for him were told to him; and we know that, in some
instances, a child's love--there and here the same--is more passionate,
because more pure and more absorbing, than a woman's. What was marriage
to her? If she could only be with her Rajah--to serve him, to live with
him, to ride, nay, to fight with him--she would go, or die.

The last time Sivaji had seen her she had grown desperate. She had
never spoken so to him before; but she had told him she must die if he
did not take her away. "Nay, but I will come with thee," she cried,
"even if thou cast me out among thy servants." And he confided this
to her brother. "For my sake," he said, impressively, "if not for
thine and hers, keep her safe; take her away and have her married; the
farther away from hence the better. It is no use speaking to her. Moro
Trimmul! save me from the temptation, thyself from the contumely this
would bring upon us. I know what is in thy heart; but, beautiful as she
is, it cannot be."

So a plan was quickly arranged between them. Moro had an intimate
acquaintance with the Mahratta gentry of the Dekhan, and he was
despatched to canvass them. This necessitated journeys from place to
place. He was well provided with money, and he travelled, as one under
vows of pilgrimage, to different shrines. Thus opportunity might occur
for marrying Radha; and, leaving all servants behind him but a few
men in whom he had perfect confidence, he took his aunt Sukya Bye with
him as protection to his sister. No one cared to inquire who the young
prince's envoy and counsellor was, or what his family affairs were.
Enough that he had a sister and an aunt with him, and was conducting
his secret mission with admirable policy and address.

Thus he at length arrived at Tooljapoor alone. The rainy season had
set in, and travelling was no longer pleasant or easy. The town was a
good position for his purpose, and there were many rich families and
landholders in the "Bâlâ Ghaut" province to be brought over. For a
time he secluded himself, and lived humbly in a hired lodging or in
one of the courts of the temple. Here he had seen Gunga, and here also
he daily watched Tara as she and her mother performed their worship.
Even thus early the advantage of marrying his sister to the Shastree,
of whose household circumstances Gunga had told him, had appeared most
desirable; but as his passion for Tara grew, it was a thing to be
accomplished at all hazards. Gunga did not appear able to help him,
for it was clear that neither the Shastree nor his wife noticed the
inferior priestesses of her class, and Tara never spoke to them. He
therefore secured a good house for some months, and sent for his aunt
and Radha from Punderpoor, where he had left them: and, till their
arrival, had busied himself in obtaining local information for the
furtherance of his future designs.

On leaving their home at Wye, and after Radha's first paroxysms of
disappointment were past, Sukya Bye and Moro Trimmul had instructed
the girl what to do. Perhaps, in despair of accomplishing her ends, or
with the desire of all Hindu girls for an early settlement, she was an
apt scholar. Radha was to deny all knowledge of her age, to assume a
childish demeanour, to acquiesce modestly, and as she saw other girls
do, if she were proposed for. She was assured she would be given to
none but a man of wealth--her beauty would secure her this. If possible
he should be young; but this was a difficult point, and what matter if
he were old? She could have jewels, rich clothes, an establishment of
her own--she would have all these secured to her, and afterwards would
be her own mistress.

But if she refused, or opposed these efforts in her behalf, she would
soon be too old to be assisted at all. As it was, few would believe her
to be within the marriageable period for Brahmun girls. In a year, nay
less, her marriage would be impossible, and she must be treated like a
widow, shaven and degraded, or married to a dagger,[4] and turned into
a temple to shift for herself.

Was it wonderful that the girl submitted to, nay, even assisted in,
their deceptions, or that those eyes looked dreamily after her own
prince, while her spirit, chafing within, carried her, in those moments
of abstraction, away into his glorious mountains, to be loved and
caressed as she felt he, and, he only, could love and caress her if she
were with him?


[4] Female devotees are married to a sword or dagger, as emblematical
of union to the divinity to which they have been devoted.


After preparations for the Shastree's marriage had been actively
commenced on both sides, there was no further hindrance. Moro Trimmul
having been made known to the Shastree by Anunda, as she had promised,
the two men soon found a day in the calendar, so far unexceptionable
as regarded planetary influences, that they at once fixed upon it; and
the ladies, having been consulted, declared there were no objections or
hindrances now, for on both sides of the houses everything was prepared.

Meanwhile his new acquaintance was a delightful addition to Vyas
Shastree's circle of friends. Who more accomplished for his age than
Moro Trimmul, more fascinating in manner, or astute in argument and
judgment? He had not the refined beauty of his sister, except that
his eyes were, like hers, large, soft, and very black, with the same
habit of dilation, relaxing into an almost womanish tenderness: but
when aroused, their excited expression was infinitely more fierce
than Radha's, even to savage cruelty. The mouth was always coarse and
sensual, but there was at least good-humour about it if he were not
angered, and a strength of character in the countenance which could
not be mistaken. Now, nothing occurred to cause even a passing cloud,
and the days which intervened between the betrothal and the marriage
were pleasantly spent by all. Even Radha was interested, and clung
more closely to Tara than ever; for with Anunda, as with her aunt, she
preserved the habitual reserve and respect required by their positions.

"I will go to the temple, daughter," said Anunda one evening, "and keep
thy father there. Do thou bring Radha here, and let her look at the
dresses and jewels: if there is anything she wants in addition, tell
me, and we will get it." The good lady could not do too much.

Kind Anunda! it was so considerate. Could any doubt of her ultimate
happiness remain in the girl's heart? What other "sister wife" would
have cared so for her?

Oh, the girl's delight at those gorgeous clothes and jewels! She had
heard of splendid gifts at marriages, and there was one at Wye in
which she had helped to deck the bride; and when she had seen her--she
was but a mere child--dressed in a brocade garment stiff with gold, she
had wondered whether it would ever be possible to possess one like it.
There were several--green and gold, crimson and gold, purple and gold.
The most glossy of Pyetun silks, soft muslin sarees from Narrainpett
and Dhunwar, of which she had heard, but had never seen; they did not
come to her country: all were beautiful.

Then the ornaments. There were massive gold chain anklets, with small
bells to them, armlets, bracelets, ear-rings, necklaces. There was
the sacred "talee," which would be tied round her neck. Tara showed
them all as they were laid out in cotton upon a tray covered with red
muslin. How beautiful they were! and all would belong to her; they
would be put on her the day of the ceremony, and her own taken off as
she entered the house. Then the place where she was to be bathed and
dressed was newly coloured and plastered, and the comfort of the house
and its pretty decorations--all satisfied the girl's longing. It was
what she had pictured to herself; and Tara said her father was kind, so
kind--he would love his little wife after his quiet fashion, and deny
her nothing.

So it was not to be wondered at if any repugnance which she had felt
was fast passing away, and if, when her brother asked her whether she
would be content, she told him she was grateful for what he had done;
and for the time perhaps she was so.

Sukya Bye had told her nephew of Radha's visit to the Shastree's house
by stealth with Tara: she was afraid he might hear of it otherwise,
perhaps through the servants or Gunga, and was rejoiced that he
considered it a happy circumstance. "She will be satisfied with the
wealth," he said, "and all that she sees will excite the desire for
more, and so, aunt, we shall best hold her to our purposes. She cannot
recede now; and, while moulding the Shastree to her will, by-and-by she
need not forget Sivaji Rajah." But he did not tell this to Radha; and
neither by her brother, nor Sukya Bye, was any reference made to the
past. When all was beyond chance of disturbance, he would set her to
work to compass his own ends.

The Shastree and Pundit were of different schools of philosophy; the
former, as we know, belonged to the ancient, and, as he considered,
orthodox, Vedantic school of Véda Vasa; the Pundit to the more modern
Mimansa school of Jomiai, and to the doctrines and mythological
histories of the Poorans. So they had discussions, in which other
Brahmuns of the town joined, while the ladies sat behind a screen
and heard their disputations, and Tara explained to them what she
could follow. Or the friends played at chess, both having excellent
skill;--the Shastree calm and steady, the Pundit fiery and impetuous,
as were their natures; and so they had many an earnest battle.

It was not long before the politics which then agitated the country
began to be discussed between them. They lived under the same
Mahomedan government, that of Beejapoor: but while Tooljapoor and the
districts around it were as yet in entire subjection, those to the
west--particularly the wild rugged country beyond Wye, the Mawuls or
mountain-valleys of the Ghauts, stretching into the Dekhan--owed but
a slight allegiance to the Mahomedan dynasty, and perhaps had never
been completely subdued. Here it was that many of the oldest Mahratta
families had taken refuge after the overthrow of the Hindu dynasty of
Deogurh, the modern Dowlutabad, and the subsequent subjection of the
country by the Mahomedan Emperors of Delhi; and it was among these
families, the Bhóslays, Nimbalkurs, Morays, Ghoreparays, and others,
that the germs of that combination to resist--to them an oppressive and
corrupt government--existed, which was presently to be ripened into a
successful revolution.

On the other hand, this dynasty of Beejapoor had already been
attacked by the immense power of the Emperors of Delhi; and while
the independent kingdom of Ahmednugger--itself at one period little
inferior in splendour to that of Beejapoor--had been entirely
subdued, and the princes of its house annihilated by the Moghuls, any
combination to resist them by the two states had not only been rendered
impossible, but it was clear that Beejapoor would follow its example:
and those were not wanting who hoped, under a new power, to regain many
privileges which hitherto had been withheld from them.

But it was in the antagonism of the two contending Mahomedan powers
that the Hindu families of the Dekhan saw the means of emancipation
from both. It might be a work of time, and of immense labour and skill:
but the opportunity seemed to present itself; and while feigning
submission alike to the Moghuls, as after the conquest of Ahmednugger
their forces were poured into the provinces which had formed that
kingdom, and, on the other hand, to the older-established dynasty of
Beejapoor, a stirring spirit began to be aroused among the Mahrattas;
and that secret combination silently progressed, of which Moro Pundit
was one among many other agents employed by Sivaji, the prince to whom
all now looked as the present head, if not the instigator, of the

It had, in fact, already been some time covertly in progress. Shahji
Bhóslay, the father, of Sivaji, had commenced it in a series of wild
irregular forays and raids from his patrimonial estate, which was
situated among the Mawuls west of Poona, against the Mahomedan posts
and garrisons of the western provinces of Beejapoor. For a time he
was successful, but only as a mere freebooter; and in the end he was
defeated, taken prisoner, and confined in a dungeon in Beejapoor for
several years by the monarch Mahmood Adil Shah, the father of the king
reigning at Beejapoor at the period of our tale. But Mahmood was not
implacable. On the intercession of his mother, by whose wise counsels
he had often been guided, Shahji was not only released but raised to a
high command, and during the subsequent invasion of Beejapoor by the
Moghuls did good service, and so the progress of the Mahratta power was

Of his two sons, Sivaji early took the lead, and, encouraged by his
mother, a lady of high family and ambition, and admirable judgment,
he aspired to be the head of a Mahratta confederacy. What progress he
eventually made is already matter of history, which will have no record
in these pages; but at the time of which we write, he was strengthening
himself in his own wild country, collecting adherents, canvassing those
who still held aloof, fortifying rugged and inaccessible strongholds,
and, by the suddenness and successful issue of his continuous forays,
was rendering himself famous in the eyes of the people. While he
treated with both of the rival Mahomedan powers by turns, he took his
own course; and yielding alternately to each whenever their force was
locally in excess of his own, was in reality faithful to neither.

To Sivaji, also, belonged the prestige which none else had dared to
assume--that of receiving aid from heavenly powers. The goddess Bhowani
was the tutelar deity of his family; and it was the popular belief that
she had chosen his father as the champion of her faith, but that he had
transgressed warnings and visions, and, implacable as she was believed
to be, she had cast him off. It was otherwise, however, with his second
son Sivaji. She had chosen him to be the scourge of the cow-slaying,
impure, and licentious Mahomedans. The cries of her votaries had arisen
to her, and the land was to be purged of uncleanness. Temples would be
again filled with Brahmuns, and the sweet incense of pure sacrifice
would ascend to her. The mother of Sivaji, it was reported, saw and
recorded visions, too glorious to relate, in which her son was a
victorious conqueror, and the infidel Mahomedans were slain in tens of
thousands by the Mahratta people in those great battles which were to
ensue. And these visions were believed.

As yet these prophecies were circulated privately among the people,
but there was not a Mahratta, far or near, who did not know of them.
Ballads were written about them, and sung at fairs and markets. Women
composed and chanted extempore verses as the household mills flew
merrily round in the early morning. Men sang them to their oxen as
they ploughed, or drew water from their wells; and so a spirit spread
through the people which eventually became irresistibly powerful.

In this excitement, too, existed the incentive to the worship of
Bhowani at all her most celebrated shrines; and everywhere--to gather
her votaries together, to excite them to action, and to warn them to
be ready when the time arrived--were agents such as Moro Trimmul,
despatched by the young chieftain. Nothing appeared on the surface.
Experience had taught extreme caution. There were no assemblies of
armed men, no displays of force: an occasional successful raid or
resistance by Sivaji kept up what might well be called the national
spirit; but all delayed to strike, till, in the expressive Mahratta
phrase, Dônguras, lavilé Déva, "the fire was on the hills."

Very dexterously, therefore, and after having prepared him for the
communication, did Moro Trimmul confide to the Shastree some of
the popularly-reported plans of his friend and prince, and sought
his counsel and assistance, and partly also the purport of his own
mission. He asked information as to the families of the Bâlâ Ghaut,
the Nimbalkurs of Wasi, the Kallays of Nelinga, the Bhóslays and
Ghoreparays of Akalkote, all neighbours; and also respecting the
wealthy yeomen and farmers of the country. He did not mention Pahar
Singh, with whom, through the Gosaees of Kullianee, and their agency at
Tooljapoor, he had already opened negotiations, and found the robber
chieftain fickle and undecided, extravagant in his demands for estates,
for high command, and other rewards.

Nor did he disclose that weightier secret, known to his prince and
himself, on which, for the present, the success of their enterprise
rested. Khan Mahomed, the Wuzeer, or Prime Minister, of Beejapoor,
might be detached, it was said, from the royal interest of his house;
and he was then, with a large army, lying at and about Nuldroog, little
more than twenty miles distant from Tooljapoor. To this man, at his
own request, in phrases only to be interpreted by himself, a letter
had been forwarded through the Gosaee banker's agent at Tooljapoor;
but no reply had been received. Nor was Moro Trimmul sanguine on the
subject, for reports of the Wuzeer's intrigues in other quarters were
in men's mouths. No; it was from the Mahratta families alone that he
had expectations; and he knew that at the ensuing festival, all or most
of the province would assemble at Tooljapoor.

To say that he found a zealous coadjutor, or hoped for one, in the
Shastree, would not be correct. The Shastree was not ambitious. He
enjoyed already, as we know, a very lucrative and prominent position,
in which he was honoured and respected. He avoided all Mahomedans upon
principle; but the governors of the province often sought his advice
and assistance in civil and judicial matters regarding Hindus, and
he was not only never molested, but, on the contrary, respected and
treated with consideration, and had even been invited to court. He
had, therefore, no quarrel with the Mahomedans, and he well knew their
power. He had watched Shahji's failures, and he had noted the effect of
Sivaji's efforts; still he admitted there was more chance of success
now than before; and he agreed to assist Moro Trimmul, by bringing
him into communication with the gentry of the province, provided he
were not required to take any prominent part in what should follow.
To say that Vyas Shastree was indifferent in this matter, would be
incorrect; but to anticipate enthusiasm or personal zeal would have
been impossible from his character, and Moro Trimmul did not expect

"After the ceremony," he said to the Shastree, "Radha, of course, will
remain with you. Sukya Bye will return to Wye with the servants. Give
me, then, letters to the Nimbalkurs of Wasi, and to such others as you
please, and I will go alone. Introduce me as a reciter of plays, and
I will make my own way unnoticed and unsuspected. Here I can be of no
use, and may even attract suspicion."

To this plan Vyas Shastree gave his cordial consent. Moro Trimmul would
go before the Now Râtree, and return for the festival.


I am afraid it would take more time than the limits of this history
will afford, were I to describe minutely all the festivities and
observances of Radha's marriage. I assure you, dear readers, that a
proper, orthodox Hindu marriage, is a very tiresome affair; and, like
many other marriages, perhaps, everybody is glad when it is over.
Very noisy, tediously minute in ceremonial, liable to interruption
from disputes--it is often an arena for rival factions of families to
fight out all the ill feeling, discontent, and jealousy which have
accumulated for years. Sometimes the feasts provided are not eaten,
and have to be thrown away or given to beggars. Musicians won't play,
processions can't be formed, or are interrupted in progress: offence is
taken at trifles, and the whole proceeding rocks to and fro as though
it would tumble to pieces altogether, till it suddenly comes right, and
affairs go on--to a happy conclusion, or otherwise, as it may be.

When all prospers, it is a right merry affair; but I am afraid you,
dear young lady, would be very weary if you had to be married as Radha
was. No such thing as going to church comfortably in a luxurious
carriage, to be attended to the altar by six loving and lovely
bridesmaids, to hear there a short, simple, affecting service and
blessing, to sign your maiden name for the last time in the vestry,
and to go home, having dried your eyes on the most delicate of
lace-bordered cambric pocket-handkerchiefs, to a champagne breakfast,
all the delicacies of the season, a carriage and four, and--unlimited
bliss in prospect.

Ah, no! with Radha it was very different. Her marriage ceremonies--will
you believe it?--occupied ten days of really very hard work. So many
dressings and undressings; so many bathings; so many anointings; so
many changes of ornaments; such smotherings in flowers, and in large
sheets, lest her husband should see her; such being carried from place
to place by the servants, lest her feet might touch the ground--once
too by her husband, whom she could feel, but not see; and a rare
strong arm and hand his was, taking her up, she felt, as if she were a
child, and gently and respectfully too. Then worshippings at the great
temple, where she had never been before, and where the priests put
flowers on her and led her into the shrine where "the little Mother"
sat, with her weird red eyes blinking through the smoke, and Radha was
half frightened by them; greetings, too, from the people with whom the
marriage was popular; and the flower-sellers and comfit-makers poured
baskets of their stocks over her and her decorated litter, while she
looked curiously about her from under the veil of jessamine flowers
which covered her face, and acknowledged with shy timid gestures their
hearty salutations. No doubt a great deal of this was excellent fun,
and the girl's spirits rose with the genial joyousness; but at times
she was very weary.

Seldom had there been a merrier wedding. What jokes were played
off by her brother, who was a capital hand, as we know, at acting
plays, disguising himself, and personating characters, with which
he mercilessly interrupted the orthodox ceremonies. Now a Mahomedan
mendicant, whose intrusion was resisted by the servants, and whose
presence had polluted the food, proved to be he; or the pipers'
instruments were filled with wax, and they blew discordant screeches,
or could not blow at all; or a pertinacious begging Brahmun or Byragee
pestered them when most engaged, insisted on seeing the bride, or
threatened, otherwise, to cut himself and bring trouble on her. Now one
thing, now another; teasing his sister, playing a sly joke with Anunda,
tormenting the Shastree in all manner of ways, he was the life of the
meeting, and always so disguised as to dress, figure, and even voice,
that no one recognized him.

Then were there not all the pipers of the country? the temple
musicians, and drums of all kinds, tenor and bass? Such crashes of
noise! Village bands, the temple musicians, and the hired performers,
and dancing women, all playing different tunes at the same moment. The
horn-players and drums of half the country came in hopes of largess;
and there was one burly fellow from Andoora, near Nuldroog, whose
horn had wreaths of flowers tied to it, with gold and silver tinsel
ribbon, the wild screams of whose instrument, and sometimes its mellow
quivering notes, could be heard high above all the others.

And, to be sure, what feasting! The household cooking-pans were not
half big enough, and those from the temple had to be borrowed: and the
neighbours' kitchens, on both sides, were filled with cooks. Pecks and
bushels of rice, butter, vegetable stews, and curries; sweet things,
hot things, savoury things; and Anunda's famous "poorees," reserved for
the choicest guests--some even made by herself and Tara.

There was no room in the house or in the courts for eating, so the
street outside was swept and watered; and every day, early in the
afternoon, you might see a posse of stout young Brahmuns laying down
fresh green plantain-leaves in double rows on the ground, with broad
alleys between them, and then long files of clean-shaven Brahmuns sit
down behind them; and after them a procession of men bearing on their
shoulders huge pans full of rice, hot from the kitchen, and slung on
poles--baskets of hot bread, poorees, curries, stews, and the like,
would march down the middle, ladling out portions of all to each, and
helping liberally to melted butter, hot "chutnees," and other toothsome

And the men ate and ate till they could eat no more, and the crowds on
the house-terraces above them watched the eating, cheered the eaters,
and bandied free jokes from side to side of the street at themselves,
the eaters, the carriers of the viands, or the passengers. So they ate
and ate by hundreds and hundreds at a time; and many a hungry Brahmun,
hardly knowing how to get a meal of coarse jowaree cakes in his own
home, took his water-vessel and blanket, travelled from twenty to
thirty miles round to the wedding, received a hearty welcome, and ate
as he had perhaps never eaten before, and remembered it all his life

Yes, it was a capital wedding; and the village and town gossips who
criticised it at the time, and spoke of it afterwards, could actually
find no fault. There was not a poor old hag in Tooljapoor or Sindphul,
ay, and for the matter of that, in other villages further distant, who
did not get a hearty meal; or if she were too infirm to stay and eat,
a liberal dole of flour, or rice and butter, with salt and pepper. Not
a family of Mahrattas in the town, nor, indeed, respectable Mahomedans
either, who had not materials for a meal sent to them, accompanied by
pipe and tabor, horn and drum, or band and trumpets, according to the
scale of their rank. And from all friends, presents for the bride, in
proportion to their means, from the richest silken and gold sarees,
down to a humble cotton bodice, added to the stores with which Radha
was already provided.

One by one the ceremonies were finished. The last--the solemn rite of
actual marriage--as the bride and bridegroom sat side by side, when the
consecrated thread was wound round them by the attendant Brahmuns, and
the mystic hymns and invocations chanted; when their garments were tied
together in the irrevocable knot, and they repeated the promises and
vows, much like our own, to love and cherish each other--then Radha's
veil was raised; and though he had seen her form for many days in
succession, Vyas Shastree now saw his young wife's beautiful face for
the first time.

It was a happy look, in one of her happy moods. Those glorious eyes
were not excited, but soft, timid, and shyly raised to him in trust
and confidence. Anunda and Tara had watched for the effect upon him
with beating hearts and clasped hands. There could be no doubt of the
expression of his face--wonder first, then gratification, perhaps love.
"Thou wast right, wife," he said afterwards; "she hath a nymph's form,
a deer's eyes, and a mouth like Kāmdeo."

So it was all finished at last; the guests departed, the courts were
swept, and the house again cleaned out. The garlands of leaves and
flowers still hung at the gate, and from pillar to pillar of the
verandah; and certain post-nuptial ceremonies performed at the temple
was all that remained of the outer show of the marriage. Within was
the girl-bride, happy in being free from her brother, whom she feared
though she loved him, and from her aunt, whom she disliked as well as
feared; happy in her new sister-wife, to whom she felt like a daughter;
happier in Tara, a sister in truth, and she never had known one before;
content, too, to see the Shastree unreservedly, and to feel that her
beauty grew on him--for as yet, beyond a few words, they had not spoken.

As Moro Trimmul had determined, Sukya Bye was despatched to their home
a few days after the ceremony. She had pleaded hard to be allowed
to stay over the Now Râtree, and Anunda had asked the favour at her
instance; but her nephew was distinct in his refusal, yet not so as
to display anger or vexation. It was simply impossible, he said; she
had been too long absent from home, and he himself must go on his own
affairs. So she received parting gifts of rich silk cloths from Radha,
Anunda, and the Shastree, and departed to Wye.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last night that Moro Trimmul was to remain at Tooljapoor, he took
an opportunity of telling Radha that he should pretend to go out, but
conceal himself in the school court, which was not lighted, and that
she was to come to him when all were asleep or retired; he should wait
for her there, for he had much to say to her.

So he had. How he had restrained himself hitherto he knew not. How,
day by day, he had seen Tara, spoken to her, amused her, excited her,
gloated over her beauty, which, if remarkable abroad where she was
guarded, was in a thousand degrees more captivating and enthralling
in the free household intercourse--and yet had done nothing towards
possessing himself of her--was what he could neither understand nor
endure any longer. Gunga could not help him; he saw clearly that Tara
utterly refused communication with her: utterly refused to participate
in the lower degrees of ceremonies and orgies at which Gunga assisted
with a lower order of priests who officiated for the inferior castes
of the people; and she refused the mystic marriage to the sword of
the goddess, which the "Moorlees" performed in order to cloak their

Gunga, therefore, baffled for a while, bided her time; but she and her
sister priestesses had vowed revenge, and were all in Moro Trimmul's
interest. Meanwhile his sister must help him; and this, with cruel
perseverance, it was his object to effect through her at any risk.

He waited long, for the girl could not get away unobserved. At last she
came, scared and terrified lest her absence should be detected; but all
were asleep--Tara beside her in the verandah, the Shastree among his
books in the book-room, Anunda in her own sleeping-room within. She did
not find her brother in better temper for his detention.

"Take this," he said to her, returning a gold anklet of Tara's, which
Radha had borrowed from her to be copied; "for I go to-morrow early,
and shall not see thee again till the Now Râtree; but thou hast kept me
long, girl, and I had much to say to thee."

"The Shastree was awake reading: even till now I could not pass his
door," she said; "be quick, brother."

"Ah, thou art trembling. Is this the girl who would have fled to Sivaji
Rajah; and art thou changed already into a Shastree's wife?" he said,
with a sneer.

The girl shivered. "Do not say such things, brother. I strive to put
them away, and they will go, perhaps; yes, they will go, when no one
tells me of him."

Her brother laughed. "No, they shall not go, Radha, if I can prevent
it; but thou must be patient, girl. So much for thyself; now for me."

"What can I do, brother?"

"Thou canst gain Tara for me. Nay, Radha," he continued, as she
trembled still more, and hung to the court door in terror, "none of
this cowardice! I tell thee it must be, and thou must do it."

"Brother! brother!" gasped the girl, piteously. "Not I--not I! What can
I do? O, not I! O, not I!"

"What canst thou do? Much," he returned, sharply; "listen, Radha. Such
things are no sin. She is a Brahmun, as I am; she is a widow. She is a
Moorlee, as free as Gunga, or any of them, and she can please herself.
I know she is not indifferent to me: it is for thee to improve this.
Speak to her of me, lead her to think of me, tell her what deeds I have
done with thy Rajah--I am with him in them--and sing her our country
ballads. I tell thee, girl, if thou doest all this, it will gain her."

"Never, brother, never; she has no heart for thee. She shuddered
yesterday when I spoke of thee. I saw her--I could not be mistaken. Her
heart is with the gods, in her books, cold and dead. O brother, think
not of her! What can I do?"

"Is it so, sister?" he said sneeringly. "Then she must be awakened, and
that dead heart gain new life; Radha, thou must do it, thou!--else"--he
felt the girl shivering as he grasped her arm, and shook her
savagely--"else, wilt thou be long here? Would this Shastree keep thee
one hour in his house if he thought, much less if he knew, thou hadst
been married before, girl? Yes, married before! Ah, that touches thee!
And listen more, if my affair is not furthered he shall know it. What
if he cast thee out? Thou canst go to the temple like Tara; thou canst
go to him--to Sivaji--but thou wilt be a reproach and an outcast.
Choose!--to be happy as I have placed thee, or as I have said. One or
other, girl! the last, and what I have risked for thee--what I have
done for thee--will be repaid. O sister! what Sivaji Rajah is to thee,
a burning thought day and night, so Tara is to me, and more. Dost thou

"I--I," gasped the terrified girl, "I hear--I hear. O brother,
be not cruel, do not destroy me; or, if thou wilt, one blow of
thy knife--now--now--here," and she bared her breast. "It will be

"Poor fool," said Moro Trimmul, "I would not harm thee. Go, remember
what I have said, and do as I tell thee. If she be in the same mood
when I return, why then----Go," he continued, interrupting himself, "I
can wait no longer. Fear not, my blessing is on thee," and he put his
hands on her head. "For his sake, my lord, my prince and thine, thou
shalt come to no harm. Go!" And saying this he put her gently away from
him into the court, closed the door, and easily climbing the low wall,
dropped into the street beyond.

"One thing more ere the night passes," he said, as he walked rapidly
through the deserted streets to the house they had lived in, near the
Shastree's: "if she is there, well; if not, I must seek her. What she
wanted must have been brought ere this."

"She is within, master," said a man sitting at the gate, with a black
blanket round him, who spoke ere Moro Trimmul could ask; "she has been
here an hour or more; and here are some things the sonar brought this
evening when you were absent."

"Good," said the Pundit, passing in; "see that no one enters."

The man laughed. "It is too late, master, now. No one will come. Are we
to leave early?"

"Tell them to bring the horses at daylight," he replied; "we will get
on to Darasew before noon. We must be at Thair before night. Is all

"Yes, the saddle-bags are packed, and Bheema and myself remain; all the
rest went with the lady Sukya."

"Then go and sleep, for we have a long journey to-morrow. I do not need
thee. Give me the key of the court door. I can lock myself in, and I
shall be awake long before you in the morning."

He entered the court and locked the gate behind him. A lamp was burning
in a recess of the verandah, and its light fell upon the figure of the
girl Gunga, who had covered herself with a sheet, and, most likely
weary with waiting for him, had fallen asleep. She did not hear him;
and as he had left his shoes by the side of the outer door, there was
no noise whatever from his bare feet.

Moro Trimmul stood over her, and, as he did so, she moved uneasily in
her sleep, turned and said something; he could not catch the words.
Then some cruel thoughts passed suddenly through his mind. Gunga knew
too much; a blow of his knife would silence for ever all chance of
disclosure of what had been done for Radha; the gold he had to give her
would be saved. There was a large well or cistern behind the house;
the wall of the back-yard hung over it; it was a place where the women
of the town washed their clothes, and was so held to be unclean. That
would hide her. A Moorlee? What Moorlee had not jealousies and strifes?
Who would care for her? And he drew the dagger and stood over her in an
attitude to strike.

Why he hesitated he could never tell; certainly it was not from fear.
Perhaps some lingering feeling of compassion for one so young--perhaps
the memory of some caress--stayed the blow for an instant, for he did
not strike. The light fell full on her eyes and face as she turned, and
she smiled and awoke suddenly.

"I dreamed of thee, beloved," she said, stretching out her arms to
him, "and thou art here----But why the knife?" she continued, quickly
sitting up, as the light gleamed on the blade. "Moro!--I--I--I--fear
thee; why dost thou look at me so? Ah!" and she covered her eyes with
her hand, expecting death.

"Only to cut these strings," he said, with a hard laugh, recovering
himself and dividing the cord which was tied round the paper containing
the gold anklets. "Look, Gunga!" and he held them up to the light, and
shook them till the little bells on them clashed gently.

"Thou art good," she said, looking up as he held them above her, still
shaking them; "they are very, very beautiful, but thou wilt not give
them to me, for thou hast not got Tara. Ah! thou hast just come from
her, and wilt not give them. Go! go back to her."

"But my sister is her father's wife, and these are heavier than Tara's.
I have not broken faith with thee, Gunga," he replied, "nor my oath at
the Pâp-nâs temple. Take them--they are thine henceforth. And now wilt
thou go with me, Gunga? I have prepared a horse for thee, and Bheema
can walk."

"To the end of life," cried the girl, who had risen to her knees to put
on the anklets, and who now clasped his feet,--"to the end of life!
Kill me if thou wilt, Moro Trimmul, who would care? It would be no pain
to Gunga."


A thick heavy rain was falling, which had lasted nearly all day without
intermission, and the afternoon was now advanced. The sky was one
uniform tint of dark grey, in which, near the horizon, some yellowish,
lurid colour occasionally appeared. Dark masses of cloud came up slowly
from the south-west at times, causing a deeper gloom as they passed
overhead, accompanied by bursts of rain, which sometimes fell in
sheets, deluging the ground, and dashing up muddy spray from the soft
earth. The air was stifling; and there was a strong sulphurous smell
with the rain, which increased the disagreeable effect of the close,
hot atmosphere. Sometimes a gentle breeze, hardly sufficient to give
the rain a slanting direction, arose, and felt refreshing; but as the
heavy clouds passed, it died away, and the rain fell perpendicularly
again, with a constant monotonous plash, which, coming from a wide
plain, sounded like a dull roar.

Little could be seen of the plain itself; for not only was the rain too
thick to allow of any distance to appear definitely, but there was a
steamy mist rising from the previously heated earth, which increased
the already existing dimness and gloom. Sometimes a few trees in the
vicinity, which appeared tall and ghostly in the grey light and thick
air, stood out more in detail as the rain slackened for a while, and
seemed to give promise of breaking; and on these occasions two villages
became dimly visible; one of them nearly a mile distant, the other
perhaps half a mile farther, situated to the right and left of what,
in dry weather, was a well-beaten road-track, but which could only now
be known as such, by being bare of grass, and by the slightly raised
banks, covered here and there by low bushes, which bounded it.

The place we are about to describe occupied the summit of a small
eminence, below which, in a valley watered by a rivulet, was a
village surrounded by tall crops of grain, now coming into ear,
mingled with fields of cotton, as yet very low, and pulse, and other
cereals, generally about waist-high. This difference in the height
of the crops left the valley comparatively open; and the road-track
could be followed by the eye, whenever the mist and rain cleared a
little--through the fields to the gate of the first village, before
which there was an open piece of ground, past a small Hindu temple
surrounded with trees, and up a slight ascent beyond, to a plain, along
which it continued, till it disappeared among the tall jowaree fields
and other cultivation of the next village. These two villages were
called the greater and less Kinny.

The valley, or hollow, was little more than a descent in the undulation
of the country; but, when the rain fell heavily at the nearer village,
so as almost to conceal it, the effect from the eminence we describe
was, as though it were actually deep and broad; and then also the
farther village, with its trees, appeared distant, and sometimes was
not visible at all. Thus alternating, as sometimes plainly in view, and
at others not to be seen, these villages appeared to be objects of deep
interest to three men, who occupied the spot we have just mentioned.
Occasionally, and as the rain cleared a little, one or other of them
would proceed to the top of a heap of stones near at hand, and look
anxiously along the line of road, past the fields and the open space
before the gate of the first Kinny, up the ascent beyond, and over the
plain to the second; and there were moments when a man on horseback
might easily have been descried even at the further village, certainly
at the second, or between them, had such a person been upon the road;
but no one appeared.

The spot was remarkable as the highest point for a long distance either
way upon the road-track; and indeed, had the day been clear, a large
extent of country could have been seen from it in all directions. Now,
however, the view was very limited; and on the opposite sides from
the two villages nothing could be seen but a plain, thinly covered
with grass and bushes, and strewn thickly with black stones, which,
uncultivated as it was for miles, looked doubly desolate through the
misty air, being partially covered with pools of water of a yellowish
brown colour, the result of the present rain. Over this plain, three
roads or paths diverged from the place the men occupied. The main
track, which had the appearance of being somewhat beaten, was broader
than the others, and led westward to the town of Allund, about six
miles distant,--the others to villages from two to four miles to the
south and west.

The plain was, as we have said, very stony, and at the place we allude
to, the heap of stones had been formed gradually by travellers who,
coming from all sides, took up one from the path, and threw it, with
a prayer to the local divinity, upon the pile. This had been done, no
doubt, for centuries; still the stones upon the path appeared as thick
as ever, and sorely impeded and harassed all travellers, whether on
foot or horseback.

Over this heap of stones grew a large banian, and close to it several
scraggy neem trees; a peepul, too, had once existed, but was dead. Part
of the trunk and one large branch remained standing, white and dry, and
a portion of another lay on the ground, from which chips of firewood
had been cut from time to time. It looked as if it had been struck with
lightning, which, indeed, was not improbable, as several branches of
the banian were scathed and riven, probably from the same cause. Of
all these trees, however, the banian or "burr," as it is called in the
language of the country, was most remarkable.

Not possessed of the luxuriant foliage common to this tree in other
places, probably because the soil was too poor and rocky, its huge
gnarled boughs were bare of small branches and leaves; some were naked
and actually withered, others apparently so, and all stretched their
white gaunt arms into the sky, with a wild and ghastly effect against
the leaden grey of the clouds. In process of the centuries of its
existence, several boughs had become detached from the parent trunk,
and were upheld by stems which had once been pendant roots, and had
struck into the ground. These portions, if anything more bare, and more
gnarled and twisted than the parent tree, rose loftily into the air,
and with the same effect we have already noticed.

The larger boughs and stems were full of holes, which sheltered a
numerous colony of small grey tree owls, whose bright yellow eyes
stared from behind large boughs, and out of crevices in the trunks, or
from among the ornaments of the roof of the temple below; while they
kept up a perpetual twittering, as if they conversed together, which
indeed perhaps they did. On hot bright days lizards, large and small,
crept out of crevices and basked in the sun; and among them a family
of huge black ones, with bright eyes and scarlet throats, which they
inflated as they appeared to swell with importance. Shepherd boys
believed these to be evil spirits, and if they were brave, pelted them
with stones, or if otherwise ran off, as one of them issued forth and
looked about curiously.

Some large holes, too, near the top of the tree, contained great horned
owls, which, if attracted by any noise, sat, with stupidly-grave aspect
and wide saucer-eyes, looking down upon the road--the tufts of feathers
over their ears alternately erected and depressed--till they flew out
with a loud hoot to look for some more undisturbed retreat. These owls,
great and small, with the lizards, had the tree, for the most part, to
themselves. Probably there was not enough foliage to tempt other birds
to rest there; for except an occasional wandering flock of chattering
parroquets, mynas, or green pigeons, none frequented it by day. By
night, however, it was otherwise: for it was then the roosting-place
of the vultures, eagles, and other carrion birds of the district, with
whom the owls did not apparently interfere.

At the back, partly behind the parent tree and the heap of stones,
was a small and evidently ancient Hindu temple, consisting of one
chamber and a porch. The chamber was not much larger than sufficed to
contain the image, and allow a priest to officiate before it in case
of necessity, and was too low to admit of a man's standing upright.
The porch, which was supported in front by two roughly-hewn stone
pillars, was somewhat larger; and the three men we have mentioned,
were enabled to sit in it comfortably, protected from the rain. The
doorway was narrow and low, and the inside of the chamber was dark; but
a small Phallic emblem could be seen within set upon a low altar, and
a rudely-sculptured stone bull, in a sitting posture, had originally
been placed before the porch facing the image. The temple, image, and
bull showed that the grove had been originally dedicated to Siva, or
Mahadeo, in the form of that ancient "pillar and calf" worship so fatal
to the Israelites of old, and which for them possessed so strange a

The temple was deserted, and, except on the annual festival of the god,
when some priest from a neighbouring village swept out the chamber,
brought a light to burn before the image, poured the usual libations,
and hung a few garlands of jessamine and marigold flowers over it,
no one ever came with intent to worship, and the place was utterly
neglected. Last year's garlands were now but dry brown leaves hanging
to a cotton thread; the chamber was dirty, and strewn with dead leaves;
the stone bull in front was overthrown, and lying on its side, and
even in bright sunshine the place presented a melancholy, deserted
appearance. Sometimes, in the heat of the day, village lads, in charge
of goats and cattle, would meet there, but only in lack of other
shelter from the sun; for indeed the spot had an evil reputation, and
not without reason.

It is not surprising that it was believed to be the resort of
malignant spirits which love to dwell in such places, and of tricksy
and mischievous sprites which inhabited the large holes in the old
trunks, sharing them with the owls and lizards that lived there: vexed
travellers' horses, causing them to cast shoes in the stones, or led
wayfarers astray, especially at night, among the many paths over the
stony plain--or bewitched cows and buffaloes, and dried up their milk.
So, ofttimes, shepherds came with flowers, and poured libations of milk
and curds, after a rude fashion, over a few large stones which lay
among the gnarled roots of the great tree, and had been placed there as
devoted to the local divinities--Fauns and Dryads--and therefore held
in rude reverence; and these, on such occasions, were smeared with red
or black powder in a kind of deprecatory worship.

It was not for these reasons alone that the place was dreaded; it
had, from other causes, even a worse reputation. It was notorious as
the place of meeting for most of the gang robberies in the country;
for assemblies of parties of highway robbers, and the distribution of
stolen property. Watchmen on village towers at night, sometimes saw
fires twinkling about the temple, and well knew the cause of them;
and shepherd boys next day found rude clay crucibles and extinguished
charcoal fires in one place where the trunk was hollow at the root of
the tree, and thus knew that gold and silver had been melted there at

Murder, too, had been done there. On one occasion, not very long ago,
several fresh corpses had been found in the old well barely concealed
by leaves and bushes; and, more recently, a body found lying on
the road had been dragged from the line of one village boundary to
another--for several boundaries of village lands diverged from that
spot--to escape the king's fine, till it was eaten by vultures and
hyenas, and the bones lay and bleached under the great tree for many
a day, to the terror of all wayfarers. In short, the place was thus
esteemed evil for many reasons; and whether villagers or travellers
came past it by any of the roads over the plain, or from the two
Kinnys, alone or in company, they hurried past the temple, breathing a
spell or prayer against the ghosts and spirits which dwelt in it, and
heartily wishing themselves safe beyond its precincts.


The three persons who were sheltering themselves in the porch of the
temple had apparently no apprehensions. Each in turn, throwing a
coarse black blanket about him, mounted the heap of stones and looked
eagerly toward the villages and along the line of road. The others
sat together, rolling up leaves of the banian tree from time to time,
which they filled with tobacco from their pouches, and smoked as fast
as made. All three were heavily armed with long straight swords with
solid basket-handles, from which a spike projected below the hilt,
enabling the wearer to use his weapon double-handed, as well as to
protect the wrist; shields of stout hide, with brass bosses, hung at
their backs, and daggers of different forms were in their girdles. In
the chamber of the temple their three matchlocks leaned against the
wall--two being ordinary ones with long bright barrels, the other short
and handsomely inlaid with gold, evidently of superior value to the
others. The men wore their large crooked powder-horns, and bullet-bags,
with tinder-boxes, attached to soft leather waist-belts, and their
priming-horns, hung to the breast-buckles of their sword-belts, of buff
leather. The matchlocks were ready for instant use; for the matches
were lighted, and the smoke, from the match-ends, and that of a small
fire made of dried twigs, filled the chamber and issued from the door.

The two men who were sitting in the porch--one had just gone and
taken post again upon the stones--were stout square-built fellows,
of dark-brown complexion, with peculiarly round powerful shoulders,
which gave them almost the appearance of deformity. They wore coarse
cotton tunics and tight drawers, which reached to the knee, leaving
the lower part of the legs bare, and showing them to be sinewy and
well exercised by constant travel. They had not removed their sandals,
which were strong and studded with large-headed nails, and, as they
sat together, the resemblance in figure was very striking. They were,
in fact, twin-brothers, and, being Mahrattas, had been named, as is
usual, Rama and Lukshmun, after the popular heroes of the Mahabarut.
Even in features there was a strong resemblance; but the expression of
the elder, Rama, was as gloomy, if not savage, as that of the younger,
Lukshmun, was cheerful and good-natured.

The brothers had been long silent, and the third person, who, with a
heavy black blanket thrown over his head, had been sitting for some
time upon the stones, got up and returned to the porch as a fresh
cloud passed overhead, accompanied by heavier rain than before,
which gradually shut out the village and road from his view, shook
the wet from the blanket, and stood looking gloomily at the sky and
the torrents of water which were running off the ground towards the
declivity of the eminence. There was a great contrast between this
person and the others in every respect, and he merits, perhaps, a
separate description.

Though young, he was evidently the leader of the party, and his
comparatively fair complexion and regular features, as well as the
caste-mark on his forehead, showed him to be a Rajpoot, descended
from those emigrants from Northern India whom military service, even
at that period, had tempted from Oude and Delhi to the remote Dekhan.
In stature, as in powerful make, he much exceeded his companions, and
his carriage was soldierlike and graceful. He wore a quilted tunic of
what had once been gay red "mushroo," the strong satin of the country,
but now stained and frayed; long tight drawers, turned up to the
calf; a dark red turban, of fine texture, jauntily cocked aside, its
gold thread end being turned back over the top; and his powder-horn,
bullet-bag, and shield, as well as a little gold embroidery upon his
sword-belt, all of a better quality than the others, with a fine
single pearl ear-ring--proved him to be as much superior to them in
rank, as his expression and deportment were in intelligence.

Gopal Singh, for such was his name, was, in truth, decidedly
good-looking. Large black eyes, full of light, a prominent nose, bushy
whiskers, very neatly trimmed, and a small moustache twisted upwards
into close curls at the corners of a mouth delicately formed and almost
effeminate in character when relaxed, but which, when the lips were
compressed, seemed full of deep expression both for good and evil,--the
chin, clean-shaved and prominent, betokening firmness,--all combined
to form a countenance in which decision and energy were evident; but,
in spite of his good features, their general expression was repellant,
expressing cruelty and lawlessness of no common order.

"He will never get across the Benathoora to-day, my friends," he said,
stepping into a dry corner of the porch and sitting down; "and we have
a weary journey to Itga before us in this mud; yet I dare not face the
master, my uncle, without some news of him."

"Maharaj," replied Rama, respectfully, folding his hands--"Great
prince"--by which title (an ordinary one of respect), or that of
Jemadar, Gopal Singh was usually addressed by them--"I know the
Benathoora, and she will not come down before night; and if it be true
that the man left Kullianee yesterday, there is plenty of time for him
to be here by sunset. Depend upon it, he will make for Allund to-day,
and there will have been no deep mud for some hours after he left.
Couldst thou see nothing on the road?"

"Nothing, Rama. At one time I thought I saw him at the gate of the
village yonder, but as the rain cleared off, it was only some cattle
going in; then the mist closed up the view, and I could see no more,
and came away. By Krishna, but this rain is something to see! I
question whether he could cross the nulla down there before Kinny, it
seems filling so fast."

"Ah! he can ford it well enough if he is bent on coming," said
Lukshmun, "and he could not stop at either village, for I told the
Gowra this morning, if a stranger came, to send him on with a guide,
and to shut the gate if he wanted to stop. So, if he left Kullianee
yesterday, he ought to have come a good distance before night; and if
he started again this morning, there is no river, or nulla, between to
stop him but the Benathoora, and that will be fordable till midnight,
even with heavier rain than this. He would not stay for the rain to

"He must have left it," returned the Jemadar; "he dared not stay there.
One of old Lukmun Geer's disciples was to accompany him to a village
half-way to Allund yesterday, and send him on from thence with guides
from village to village. We offered escort, but he would take no
one--the fellow was suspicious."

"Then he is quite safe, Maharaj. The guides may plague him; but if he
started under injunctions from the old Bawa's disciple, he will be
passed on carefully," returned Rama.

"I hope he is, brothers. I would not lose our chance of the gold he has
for something--nor indeed of himself."

"Gold! Jemadar," cried both eagerly, in a breath.

"Yes, my friends; good royal mohurs, I know; for the day before
yesterday he rested at the Gosai's Mutt, and had a Hoondee cashed in
the shop. It was a goodly pouchful, I know, and it will come to us if
we wait patiently."

Gopal Singh lighted some tinder with his flint and steel, and then a
leaf cigarette, as we may call it, and began to smoke in silence which
was only broken by the dripping of the rain from the porch of the
temple and the tree, the general plash over the plain, and the loud and
continuous croaking of the frogs in the pools and puddles.

The Jemadar first broke silence. "Some one must look again," he
continued, after a while; "and it is brighter now. Go thou, Lukshmun,
take the blanket and sit close."

"It is not weather to turn out a dog," muttered the man, sulkily,
getting up and stepping down from the porch; "but I will go, Maharaj,
if it is your order. Shall I go on to Kinny," he continued, "and see
if I can get tidings of him? Better that than sitting up there like a
drenched scarecrow in a field."

"Good, brother, go! Try the nulla before you venture into the middle of
it, lest it be too strong for you," said Rama.

"And wait there for a time," added the Jemadar. "If he do not arrive
before night thou canst bring some flour, ghee, and sugar from the
Patel; for if we are to watch here all night we had need to eat, and
I must make some bread; but if the man comes, bring him on--he will
be well-mounted and will not fear the nulla, and thou canst invent
something about going back to Allund on urgent business."

"Trust me for that, Jemadar. If I have an ugly face I can speak soft
words when I choose, and I know enough of the camp language to make
him understand. Now, I am going." So saying, he doubled the blanket in
a peculiar manner, so as to form a cloak, threw it over his head and
shoulders, and folded the sides tightly about him; then taking off his
sandals, which he carried in his hand, he strode away in the rain, as
rapidly as the mud would admit.

"Take care of the thorns in the lane near the village; put on your
sandals there: we can't have you troubling us with a Bábool thorn in
your foot," shouted the Jemadar.

Lukshmun turned round and nodded his assent, and continued as before.
They watched him silently till he disappeared over the brow of the
eminence, when Rama said to his companion, "What if they have sent the
man on by the other road, or warned him, Jemadar?" There was another
road which passed about half a mile to the south of where they sat.

"He dare not, Rama; by his soul he dare not," replied the Jemadar,
with flashing eyes and distended nostrils. "Do you think he would dare
my uncle's vengeance? does he wish his cattle to be harried by Pahar
Singh, and his village burnt?"

"Perhaps not; and it would be likely enough to happen, Jemadar," said
Rama, laughing; "and, I suppose, we should have to come to do it. But
what is to be done with the man?--That?" and he pointed significantly
to the old well with his thumb.

"O no, Rama," returned the other, laughing in his turn. "Nothing of
that kind, now. The man himself is precious, why, the uncle knows, and
some more of them, though they have not told me. I only hope he will
not make a fight of it and get hurt."

"Then we could not help it, of course, Jemadar."

"No, indeed, friend. But we are three to one, and he is only a
Mutsuddee after all--not a man of war--he will be quiet enough, I dare

"Well, if I am to say the truth, Maharaj, I am glad of it," returned
Rama. "It is all very well to kill people in a fair foray, or if
anybody will fight in a Durôra, one's blood is up, and it does not
matter; but, somehow or other, the last affair here was not agreeable,
and ever since I have not liked the place at night. We need not add
to the people that lie yonder," and he pointed over his shoulder to a
corner of the tree, "unless, indeed, it is to be, then of course we
can't help it."

"Nor I either, Rama. It is only pleasant here when there are fifty
or sixty good fellows assembled, and the gold and silver are boiling
in the pots yonder. I don't like this new business as well as the
old----By Gunga, what a flash!"

Indeed the flash of lightning, which caused both to start to their
feet, was nearly blinding. Without warning, except by the passage of
another dark cloud above, it had fallen on part of the old tree which
was separate from the rest--a branch supported by two roots which
had struck into the ground--and had riven away part of it, which
fell across the mound of stones with a loud and heavy crash, and was
followed by a cracking peal of thunder, so loud and so near that the
men involuntarily put their hands to their ears.

"It would have killed him if he had been on the stones," said Rama, who
first spoke, as the peal, spreading itself over the heavens, was dying
into deep growls in the distance. "By all the gods! was there ever such

"It will break up the clouds, perhaps," returned the Jemadar, "and this
rain will then stop. Yes, it was a narrow escape, indeed, and we may be
thankful he went. It is a good omen for us, Rama!"

"I vow a rupee to be inlaid in the floor of the temple of Dévi,
at Tooljapoor, and to feed twenty-four Brahmuns," said the man,
reverently. "Yes," he added, looking up and over the plain, "I think it
will break up before sunset."

But we must follow the spy on his double errand, while the pair, who
still converse, speculate upon the probable issue of it, smoke by
turns, and long for a break in the rain. And there is another person,
too, who must needs be looked after on his journey hitherward.


A stout serving-man was holding a powerful grey horse, which, well,
if not handsomely, caparisoned, stood neighing loudly before the door
of an ordinary house in the main street of Surroori, a small village
nearly midway between the towns of Kullianee and Allund, as a person
within, evidently of a superior class, was girding up his waist with a
shawl, and otherwise preparing himself for a day's journey. Of middle
stature, thin but well-proportioned, with a light bamboo-coloured
complexion of a pale cast, and a slight habitual stoop, the man seemed
unaccustomed to rough exertion; and the sword he had just fastened into
his waist-belt, along with an ivory-handled poniard and knife, was
apparently more for ornament than for use--such a one as might be used
at court, or by a boy,--not the weapon of a soldier.

The man's face was clean shaven, except a long moustache, which
drooped very much at the corners, and the features were by no means
ill-favoured. A first glance showed an expression of much intelligence,
mingled, however, as you looked further, with much cunning. The eyes
were small, deep-set under bushy eyebrows, and of a light grey; the
nose high and aquiline, but broad across the nostrils, and hung
over the moustache in a peculiar manner; the forehead was wrinkled
into furrows by habitual elevation of the eyebrows; and, as far as
the upper part of the face was concerned, it had an appearance of
firmness, which the lower portion belied; for the mouth, drawn up at
the corners in a constant and apparently hypocritical attempt to smile,
was evidently performing an office foreign to its intention; and the
chin, which suddenly retreated into a somewhat bony throat, had no
character but decided weakness, if not, indeed, actual cowardice and
deceit. Thus, the whole features wore a restless, suspicious, and
hypocritical expression, which, most likely, was a true indication of
the possessor's mind.

Lalla Toolsee Das was not a native of the Dekhan, but had served for
the last two years, or nearly so, in the Dufter, or Record Office of
the Emperor Aurungzeeb. The Lalla had been sent from Delhi to his
uncle, who was in the Emperor's service: and, having given proofs of
ability as a Persian scholar, he had been appointed to a confidential
situation about the Emperor himself. What use the Lalla had made of his
position will appear hereafter, as also why he now undertook a long
journey alone, in a strange country, and at an inclement season of the
year. Meanwhile we have only to describe his progress, which, so far as
the weather is concerned, appears uncertain.

The Lalla had risen early, bathed, breakfasted, and packed his
saddle-bags. He had looked out several times since morning, but always
with the same result as to the sky, which continued of a dull, leaden
grey, with occasional rain. There was no wind, it was close and hot,
and his host, an old Byragee, who was a lay monk of the Mutt, or
monastery, at Kullianee, which the Lalla had left the day before, was
persuading him to remain. But the indifferent night's rest he had
endured from the venomous mosquitoes, the moaning of a cow over a
new-born calf, and other noises from cattle and goats,--from the women,
who ground at the mill so early in the house, singing a discordant
Canarese song--and, above all, his personal anxiety to proceed,--have
weighed against the weather.

"Ah, my poor Mootee," said the Lalla, as he heard his horse neigh,
"thou wilt have a hard day of it, I fear, in the mud. How far didst
thou say it was, Bawa Sahib?" he continued to his host.

"It is six coss, by our reckoning here, by one road--seven or eight by
the other," replied the Byragee, "which, in the coss you are accustomed
to in Hindustan, will be ten one way, and thirteen the other."

"And you recommend the longest road, Bawajee?"

"Well, sir, it is as you please. You will have somewhat less mud and
stones by the upper road than by the lower--that is all."

"Ah, friend," continued the Lalla, as we shall call him, "four coss
more at the end of a hard day is not pleasant, and so the less the
better. Let me see; here is my route. Ah, Kinny, little and great; I
suppose I can rest at either if I like, though I should prefer getting
on to the worthy Fathers' Mutt at Allund."

"Certainly," replied the old man; "but do not stop at Kinny, if you
can help; and, above all, do not shelter yourself at the temple on the
hill, under the 'Burr' tree. Ah, yes, there will be heavy rain to-day,
Lallajee, for it is so hot," he continued, looking up at the clouds,
now deepening into fringes of black here and there; "you had better

"No, Bawa, I must go on; and if it rains I can't help it. But about the
tree," the Lalla continued; "I suppose there are sprites and devils in
it as usual; and, to say the truth, I am not afraid of them. A man
that always lives among soldiers, you know, gets brave."

"Indeed," returned the Byragee dryly. "O, of course! But take my
advice, and when you change guides at Kinny, ask them to send you by
the south road; it's--it's the best, and some bad places are avoided.
But here is the Patel," he added, as that functionary, emerging
from his doorway opposite, with a striped blanket over his head and
shoulders, saluted the Lalla with a loud "Numascar Maharaj!" "He will
direct the guide himself, Lallajee, which will insure a speedy and safe

They followed the Patel through the village, which, under the steadily
increasing rain, looked sufficiently wretched to deter any one from
staying, who had not urgent necessity for doing so. This was not
the Lalla's predicament; and he now unfastened a large thick felt
travelling-cloak from the pommel of his cloth saddle, put it over his
head, and wrapped it around him so as to cover his legs, which were
protected by long, soft, Persian riding-boots.

Few people were astir. Under shelter of the house-walls the dogs had
assembled in groups, and, standing with their tails between their legs,
barked at the stranger as he passed. Pigs and fowls, being disturbed
by his horse, ran to and fro, with noisy grunt and cackle. Some cattle
stood together in parties near their owners' houses, a heavy steam from
their nostrils ascending into the thick air, and broke the silence by
an occasional hoarse low. Here and there a stout motherly dame, with a
child seated astride on her hip, and others hanging about her, stood,
nothing abashed, at her house door, looking at the Lalla as he passed;
or a farmer, with his blanket cast over his head, smoking his morning
cigarette, lounged under shelter of his own eaves, and exchanged a
morning greeting with the Patel. The spouts of terraced houses were
beginning to run fast, and small streams of water were already making
their way through the mud.

In the gateway were two or three "jowans," or young men, who watched
and guarded it, and acted as messengers. One of these was sent for a
guide, and the party stayed under shelter till he arrived, when the
Lalla and his bundle were formally made over to him, to be delivered up
at the next village, about two miles distant; and finally, the Lalla

"Don't forget the south road from Kinny," said the Byragee, wishing him
a good journey, as the Lalla, making his parting salutation, rode out
of the gateway.

"Who is that?" asked the Patel. "You kept him mighty close in your Mutt
last night."

"I don't know," returned the other; "but he goes on the government
business to Beejapoor, and you know the order which came with him. I
suppose it is some secret matter, else he would have had an escort."

"Well, he is gone, whoever he is," said the Patel; "and I would rather
he travelled than I, even on that good beast of his, to Allund, to-day.
It is going to rain badly--but it will do the grain good." And so they
fell to talking of their farms, and the prices of grain at the last
market, while the Lalla and his guide proceeded onward.

If the Lalla could have understood his guide, the way might have been
beguiled by pleasant gossip of the country round; but of the vernacular
of that part of the country he was profoundly ignorant, and every
attempt he made in the "Oordoo," or court language, was met with a curt
"Tillid-illa"--"don't understand"--or an occasional very expressive
pantomimic action on the part of the guide, who, looking back,
sometimes pointed to the bundle on his head, then to the rain, and
again tapped his own stomach, or stuffed his fingers into his mouth,
conveying the intimation that he expected to be well rewarded, and was
very hungry. Thus the next village was reached, the first guide was
dismissed with a little extra gratuity, and the Lalla again proceeded
with a fresh one.[5]

The ranges of low hills crossed from time to time had been stony but
firm ground, and as yet Motee had not suffered. The dreaded river,
which might have cut him off from Allund, was now behind him; and,
after ascending a small eminence, and a wide plain appeared before
him, our traveller congratulated himself on a speedy arrival at his
destination, having, as he considered, got over at least one half of
his journey.

Very soon, however, the rough, stony path changed into one which at
times was difficult to discern at all. The plain over which the road
now lay was cultivated as far as could be seen, but the fields were as
yet unsown. Step after step the mud appeared deeper, the stones in it
more numerous and slippery; and, in fact, after about a mile, during
which the rain had fallen more heavily than ever, the plain appeared
covered with water, which could not run off, and the black soil of the
road and fields to have turned into liquid mud, barely able to support
the stones which lay so thickly upon it. So long, too, as the rain had
not penetrated far below the surface, Motee's feet had at least the dry
earth to rest upon; but now not even that remained, and yet the gallant
horse struggled on, snorting, and occasionally plunging, but evidently
becoming wearied by efforts which had no respite. Still the guide led
on, sometimes by the road-track, sometimes by its grassy banks, and
again leaving both, struck into other paths through the fields which
promised firmer footing.

The rain continued to pour in torrents: indeed, it was more than ever
violent: and a flash of blinding lightning, followed by a roar of
thunder before them, promised worse weather. Poor Motee even winced,
evincing a strong determination to turn round and set his tail to it;
but a few words of encouragement from his master, and being led a few
paces by the guide, restored his temper, and he proceeded gallantly.

At the junction of two roads, the guide paused for a moment. One, it
was clear, led to a village they had seen for some time past, the trees
of which loomed large and heavy through the thick air, but it appeared
out of direction of the path. The Lalla's stock of Canarese was simply
nothing--of Mahratta not much more; but the name of his destination
was, at least, intelligible. "Allund," he said, holding out a rupee
between his finger and thumb, "Allund!"

The guide grinned as he took the coin. "Allund!" he returned
affirmatively, and striking into a path to the right, the Lalla could
see that, by avoiding the village to the left, the road led apparently
in the direction of what looked like a clump of trees standing out
against the sky. Was that the banian tree of which he had been warned
by the old Byragee at Surroori? The Lalla's little stock of Mahratta
was again put into requisition, and the guide seemed to understand it

Yes, the village to the left was Little Kinny; that to the right,
great Kinny, and that was the "Burr" tree beyond. Good; then he had
only to avoid the tree, if that indeed were necessary. Since the peal
of thunder the rain had decreased, and a breeze was springing up in
his face, which was very refreshing. The clouds, too, were breaking,
as appeared by patches of bright fringe in the south-west. The guide
pointed to them cheerfully, as he moved on at a steady pace; for the
plain, though muddy in parts, was now not so bad as what he had already
passed. So, as our friend is likely to reach Kinny without farther
trouble, let us see what Lukshmun has been doing since we left him.

The little rivulet in the valley was above his knees as he passed
it, and, to any one who did not know it, the ford would have been
dangerous; but Lukshmun waded through, without apprehension, and a few
minutes after, as he entered the village gateway and shook the rain
from his blanket, a group of people assembled there welcomed him with a
hearty shout of greeting.

"We thought you would have given it up and departed," said the old
Patel, who, with his son, a few of the village farmers, and the
Putwari, or accountant, were sitting in an open chamber of the deep
gateway, the usual place of business. "We thought you would have gone
away, else I would have sent up some milk. Why did you not come and sit
here, instead of in that ungodly place up yonder? Here, one of ye,"
he continued to a group of "jowans," who were sitting in the opposite
chamber, "take his blanket and dry it. Hast thou eaten to-day, friend?"

"Nothing but a bit of stale cake I had in my waist-cloth," replied the
man; "only that my teeth are strong, it would have broken them. The
'poor man's' bread in the Mutt at Kullianee is not dainty food, and the
flour was musty, O Patel!"

"Take him away to the house, and let them feed him; the women will have
something good, I dare say," replied the Patel. "Go and see."

"And no one has passed since morning?"

"Not a creature. It is not weather to send the dogs out; and the mud
from Kulmus to Kinny and hitherwards will be hopeless. No, he won't
come to-day; but go and eat, friend--go and eat."

"If I am wanted," said Lukshmun.

"Jee, jee! Ay, ay! I will not forget you. Go!"

"What does he want out such a day as this?" asked the Putwari. "What
has Pahar Singh in hand just now?"

"What does it matter to us, Rao Sahib?" returned the Patel; "all we
have to do is to keep his people in good humour, to save our cattle
from being harried, our stacks from being burned, and our people," he
added, looking round at the farmers and their wives, "from being robbed
when they come from market? That is worth what we pay him. Should we
have got the crops off that disputed land at Chitli if he had not sent
those spearmen?"

"No, no; do not interfere," said a chorus of farmers' voices, who, in
those unsettled times, might, unless their village were known to be
under the protection of some local chieftain, at any time have their
flocks and herds swept away by the people of a more powerful village,
or by any of the independent gentry, or barons, as we may call them,
of the country. "What have we to do with state affairs, or with Pahar
Singh either?"

So the assembly having voted non-interference with whatever might be
in hand, our friend Lukshmun was allowed to get his meal in peace.
Smoking--the impossibility of getting anything--and a tight waist-band,
had kept appetite down as yet; but with the Patel's kitchen in
prospect, it rose fiercely for the occasion as he approached the house.

Lukshmun washed his feet and hands before he entered and sat down.
O, what a smell of fried onions there was! and, as a girl set before
him a pile of hot, well-buttered jowaree cakes, a cup full of "char,"
or pepper-water with tamarind in it, a fresh leaf full of a savoury
stew of vegetables of all kinds, and some _dall_ or pease-pudding,
well-seasoned with red pepper and garlic, Lukshmun's heart expanded,
and he set to work with a good will. Every now and then a woman at the
fireplace asked him if he would have more, and it was brought him from
the pan, smoking hot. Lukshmun dallied with each morsel as he ate; and
when even reduced by repletion to licking his fingers, grudged the
summons brought by a man that he was to come.

"Couldst thou not give me a few cakes, O sweet one, and some dall?" he
said to the good-natured looking wench who had been serving him. "I
have a brother--hungry--all day in the rain--while I have eaten. Thou
art like the moon, O beauty, and thy heart as soft as butter. Give me
the cakes for a poor, weak, hungry brother."

"Was there ever such a tongue and such a face?" retorted the damsel,
laughing. "Look, Rookmee!"

The cook turned round and looked, too, laughing heartily; for
Lukshmun's attitude on one leg, with the sole of the other foot
pressed against the calf of it, his hands joined and stretched out
imploringly, and his seared face twisted into a grotesque expression of
supplication, was not to be resisted.

"Give him these cakes," said the cook, handing two to the girl.

"By your antelope eyes, O sweet ones, more!" he said, not altering his
posture. "Do you think two would fill a hungry man's belly? By your
lotos feet----"

"There, begone!" said the cook, handing him a few more and some dall;
"there is a meal for a Rajah. Go, if the mistress should hear you----"

"I am gone, O my beauties," continued Lukshmun, folding the cakes
into his waist-cloth, and tying them behind, then washing his hands
elaborately. "You have made my heart----"

"Come quickly, come," said a voice at the door; "they want thee. Wilt
thou eat all day?"

"I worship you, lovely nymphs, even as Rama adored----"

"Begone!" cried both the girls in a breath. "Here is the mistress
coming, and if she hear such nonsense thou wilt be whipped."

"Here is the man who will be your worship's guide," said the Patel
deferentially to our friend the Lalla, who, having arrived safely, was
now divested of his upper clothing, which some of the men were drying
in the opposite chamber, and seated in the place of honour of the
assembly; "but your worship should eat before you go on, and the Rao
Sahib here will take you to his house--a Brahmun's house," he added, as
the Lalla appeared to hesitate.

"Ah, no, sir," returned the traveller, who indeed was very hungry, "I
could not eat without I bathed, and I had better wait till I get to
Allund. Shookr, shookr! I should be too long about it, and my horse
has had his feed, and is ready to go on. And this is the guide?--not
beautiful exactly."

"No, Maharaj, I am not beautiful, truly," replied Lukshmun, with a
deprecatory gesture to the Patel, "but I may be useful to this noble
gentleman. You may trust me, my lord. The Patel knows me, and so do
all these worthy gentlemen; and am I not come for you?"

"They expect me, then, good fellow," replied the Lalla, amused by the
man's broken Oordoo, and his grotesque expression of face.

"Ah, yes, noble sir," answered the man, joining his hands, "ever since
morning; and as I was coming here on business I was told to bring you
on. And now let us proceed, else it will be night ere we reach Allund;
and," he added, with a wink to the Patel, "it is not good to be out
late on the roads."

"What, are they dangerous, then?" asked the Lalla, looking anxiously
around him.

"O no," cried Lukshmun, interposing readily; "there is no trouble in
the country, and my lord is armed, and so am I. O no, only in regard to
the mud and the stones. My lord will not find the road long, for I can
sing him Mahratta 'lownees' if he likes."

"There was a tree and a temple which I was told to avoid, and to ask to
be sent by the south road," said the Lalla, preparing to mount.

Lukshmun exchanged glances with the Patel and the Putwari. "Could any
one have warned the stranger?"

"A tree!" said the Patel, gravely. "What tree? dost thou know any,
Lukshmun? And the south road? what road?"

"O, I suppose the noble gentleman means that by Navindgee, and
Hoshully, and Chik-Wondully, and Hully Sullgarra," said Lukshmun,
rolling out a volley of hard Canarese village names. "That road? Why,
it is six coss further from here! They should have sent him by it from
Surroori. No," he continued, dropping the Lalla's stirrup, which he
had taken in his hand, "if the gentleman likes to go he can do so, of
course, but his slave begs to be excused;" and he put his joined hands
up to his nose.

"Very good," said the Lalla, "I don't know; only I was told----"

"By whom?" interrupted the Putwari.

"By Déo Bawa, the Byragee at Surroori."

"O, the old Bawa!" said the Patel, laughing. "Curious, is it not, noble
sir, that the old man thinks that there are devils in the tree? He
tells me he was bewitched there once, and I ought to cut it down."

"And I told him I was not afraid of them, Patel; but he said there was
something else," returned the Lalla.

"Robbers, I suppose," said Lukshmun, readily; "Pahar Singh's men,

"Perhaps," added the Lalla, "but he did not say so."

"Well for him," thought the Putwari, "or his stacks would have been
burnt to-morrow night."

"Ah! no fear of thieves when you have one of 'the hunchbacks' with
you," said Lukshmun. "Come, mount, my lord. Salaam, Maharaj," he
continued, making a mock salutation to the sun, which was just
struggling through a cloud. "Salaam! thou hast been moist to-day; come
out and dry thyself and us too. Now, noble gentleman, mount, and you
will see how fast the excellent dinner I have eaten in the Patel's
kitchen will take my feet to Allund, and the good horse, too, looks as
fresh as if he were but just starting," and he patted him. "Ah, well
done, sir!" he continued, as the Lalla mounted not ungracefully; "we
poor Dekhanies cannot compare ourselves on horseback with you northern
cavaliers. Come, sir, the road waits for us."

And with a salutation all round, the Lalla rode out of the gate, and
our friend Lukshmun, cutting a caper which showed his marvellous
activity by way, as he said, of getting the dinner out of his legs, and
calling to the guide who carried the bundle, they passed on over the
village common.

The Putwari sighed as the party left the gate.

"I tell thee, Seeta Ram," said the Patel, "he will come to no harm, and
he is gone away happy."

"I am glad he did not eat at my house; it is not pleasant feeding a man
who has death in his throat," returned the Putwari.

"I tell thee he is safe," retorted the Patel; "and if he is killed, it
is no affair of ours."

"No, it is no business of ours," said the Putwari, settling to his
accounts with a sigh which vexed the Patel. "No, it is no business of
ours," echoed the farmers.

At that time Rama, who was seated on the heap of stones, looking from
the top of the hill, exclaimed, as the three persons emerged from a
lane into a low field in which the road was distinctly visible.

"Jemadar! he is coming at last, and Lukshmun is with him; we must be
ready. Look, they are there!" he continued, as Gopal Singh joined him,
"between the village and the stream."

"Ah, I see them, Rama, and thy brother is as true as gold. We will join
them as they go on; he must not suspect us yet."


[5] Each village is obliged to furnish a guide to travellers on payment
of a small gratuity, and these men relieve themselves at every village.


Our friend the Lalla was soon at his ease with his new guide, whose
injunctions to Motee, bidding him "take care," "mind a stone," "lift up
his feet," and the like, encouraged the good beast, who now stepped out
briskly, while the curious mixture of Oordoo and Mahratta, in which the
small gossip and scandal of the neighbourhood was told him by Lukshmun,
amused him much. The mile or so which intervened between the village
and the temple was soon passed; and as they began to ascend the short
rising ground towards the temple and the tree, the latter could be seen
in all its wild picturesque detail, and was indeed a striking object.

The sun had now broken forth, and its beams shone slantingly through
its rugged trunks and gnarled branches, resting brightly upon the
glossy foliage sparkling with raindrops, and lighting up every
excrescence and furrow of the knotty bark, casting broad shadows on
the road below: while a slight parting shower, the large drops of
which flashed brightly in the air as they descended, pattered upon
the leaves, and spread out into the valley in a silver rain. As the
travellers gained the summit, the clear sky beyond to the west not
only caused the tree to stand out boldly and grandly against it, but
the brightness of the sun dispelled the gloomy associations which the
appearance of the place had suggested during the rain. A slight breeze,
which had hardly been felt in the hollow, rippled the little pools on
the roadway and on the plain beyond the tree, which, level and stony,
continued, apparently many miles, in the direction they had to go.

Motee paused at the summit of the eminence, and the Lalla could not
help stopping him to look back upon the road by which he had come. The
bright yellow gleams of the sun shone broadly upon the two villages,
and upon the rich green masses of their corn-fields. In the distance
both looked pretty and comfortable: and their terraced houses, several
white temples, and the dome of a small village mosque shone brightly
in the sun. Behind these, and to the south, the plain over which the
Lalla had come stretched away for many miles, showing the trees of a
village here and there, with the occasional sparkle of a white house
or temple among them; and behind all, the great black cloud of the
day's rain, upon which there was a rainbow forming of great beauty, and
against which a flight of white storks flashed like silver in the sun.
Away to the south, the eye followed hollow and rise, undulation after
undulation, till they were lost in a farther distance, which melted
tenderly into the sky.

"It is a fair country, friend, after all," said the Lalla, "though it
did not look well in the rain. That plain yonder is in the direction of
Beejapoor, perhaps?"

"It is, sir," returned Lukshmun; "that high land, near the sky yonder,
is beyond the Bheema river, and, if we were there, we should see the
tomb of the great Sultan Mahmood, now finished. It is very grand, sir,
and shines like silver when the sun is on it; and when I go there,"
continued the man, "I stand like a fool, looking at the King's palace,
the Ark fort, the great gun, and the 'Ibrahim Roza'--that's the place
where Ibrahim Adil Shah was buried, you know, sir----"

"Numascar Maharaj," cried a clear manly voice, now beside the Lalla's
horse, which appeared to him to rise out of the earth, for he had not
observed the approach of Gopal Singh and Rama from the temple.

"Who are these?" exclaimed the Lalla, starting and beginning to
tremble--"who are these?" and the warning of the old Byragee now
came upon him, with the distressing conviction that he ought to have
regarded it; but it was too late. "Who are ye?" he asked anxiously.

"O, this is my brother Rama," said Lukshmun, assuringly, "and that is
our Jemadar Gopal Singh; they only waited here while I went to Kinny."

"Be assured, noble sir," added the Jemadar, laughing, and in good
Oordoo, with a slight southern accent, which seemed to assure the
Lalla, "there is nothing to fear. Your worship is from Kullianee,

"Yes, from Kullianee yesterday."

"Ah, yes, I remember; you were at Poorungeer's Mutt. I was just about
leaving when you arrived, and the old man offered you escort of my
party, but you preferred staying."

"I--I--I--had business," replied the Lalla, stammering, not exactly
relishing Gopal Singh's bold looks, and yet unable to object to him. "I
was tired and needed rest, and you could not wait."

"You had come from the royal court, I think they said, and were going
to Beejapoor with letters for the King--proposals for peace, perhaps."

"So they said--who?" Of all things, the Lalla supposed his destination
and business were at least secret; yet they appeared known, and to a
perfect stranger, too, by the wayside. He did not feel able to reply,
and was almost inclined to trust to Motee's speed, and break through
the men; but Lukshmun, on receiving his matchlock from his brother,
fixed the match, which had been hanging loose upon the cock, in a very
precise manner, pressing the trigger to see if the match descended upon
the pan. The others, too, looked carelessly to the priming of their
guns, but to the Lalla's idea ominously, and as if he should understand
the action. Lukshmun's face, too, appeared changed--it was not so
pleasant as it had been.

"Come," said the Jemadar, "we have far to go to-night--what kept thee
so long, Lukshmun?"

"O, the Patel at Kinny said we were to escort this worthy gentleman, as
government orders had come about him from Allund; so I waited, as the
rain had delayed him."

The Lalla felt reassured; his arrival was no doubt expected. "Ah, yes,
sir," continued Gopal Singh, "you had better have come on with us
three days ago, but it does not matter now. That is a fine horse of
yours," he added, patting Motee's neck, "and from Hindustan, I think,
as my lord is. We, too--that is, my family--are also from thence,
Kanouj Khutrees; so is this good gun, too;" and he held out his own.
"Yes; one can hit a man on horseback at full speed half as far as to
the stream yonder."

It appeared to the Lalla as if the Jemadar was reading his thoughts as
clearly as if he were telling them himself.

"And if we were in battle," he continued, "and any one were trying to
get away from me, he would be shot between the shoulders before he
could even reach the tree yonder."

"I--I--have no doubt of it, Jemadar Sahib," returned the Lalla,--"no
doubt: and your speech is pleasant to hear after the rough language

"Come, come," cried Lukshmun, with seeming impatience, "if you want to
pay compliments, noble sir, wait till we get to the end of our journey.
Come!" and as he spoke he touched Motee's rein. "Come on, my son!" he
said, and the horse followed.

As they passed the little temple in its loneliness under the shadow of
the huge tree, it looked a place for evil deeds. A large horned owl on
the highest branch, now awakening for his evening flight, hooted loudly
above them, and was answered by another. It seemed an evil omen, and
struck to the Lalla's heart.

"Ah! we cannot pass you, my friend," said Gopal Singh. "Look, Lalla
Sahib, what my gun can do."

As he spoke, he raised the piece and fired. The aim was true and
deadly, and the huge bird fell down heavily close to Motee's feet with
a rushing sound, causing the horse to start back.

"I never miss," said the man, decidedly, and reloading his piece. "Now
come on."

"Shabash! Well shot," said the Lalla; but his heart was throbbing fast,
and it was a positive relief to him when the dark grove was behind
them, and they emerged upon the bare, wild, open plain beyond.

"A lonely place that, Jemadar," remarked the Lalla, turning to the man
who walked behind him; "and the old Byragee, where I slept, advised me
not to go by it; he said Pahar Singh's men might be about. Who is this
Pahar Singh?"

"Pahar Singh?" returned the Jemadar. "O, a worthy gentleman who
is quiet enough when not plagued. He is the lord of the marches
hereabouts--a valiant man, and a good soldier; and in these troubled
times, Lallajee, has his friends and his enemies, like most of us: 'tis
the way of the world."

After another mile, during which none of the party spoke, the Jemadar
proposed to the Lalla to dispense with the guide. "Evening was drawing
on," he said; "they knew the country, and the contents of the bundle
could be carried on the saddle or divided among them;" and, indeed,
it appeared necessary, as the guide, limping, declared he could go no
farther, and had a thorn in his foot. The necessary arrangements were
soon completed; and, between the Lalla's saddle-bags and his saddle,
the contents of the bundle were soon disposed of; the guide received a
small gratuity, and retraced his steps at a far more rapid pace than he
had advanced.

"He has no more a thorn in his foot than I have, Lalla Sahib," said
the Jemadar, laughing. "Look how he goes! but Bheema there is no worse
than his fellows, and does not like the idea of a night journey without
change. Now we shall get on better. Let the horse walk out, Lukshmun;
only keep by him."

Lukshmun let go the rein, but he did not leave his place, and though
the rate at which the horse now proceeded kept the men at a rapid walk,
and occasionally, indeed, at a trot, they preserved the positions they
had taken up without alteration, speaking little among themselves,
except occasionally in Mahratta or Canarese, with both of which
languages they appeared familiar.

The sun was setting in great glory. After the heavy clouds had passed
away to the eastward, a clear blue sky succeeded for a while; but as a
gentle breeze arose, it had brought up with it light, fleecy vapours,
which, as the wind again died away at sunset, became motionless, and,
gradually attracted to each other, formed piles of white clouds edged
with deep grey. As the sun declined, white became orange and gold
and crimson: while the sky itself, of an intense purple above, faded
into green, yellow, and rosy tints, on which the golden clouds seemed
to float in soft but brilliant masses: and, as it dipped below the
horizon, a flood of light suddenly shot up, tinging the lower edges of
all the lighter portions with vivid scarlet, and mingling with the deep
orange and purple hues above, gorgeously.

"The gods have a festival upon Mount Méru to-night, Lallajee. Does
the sun go down in that fashion in your country?" said the Jemadar,
pointing to the sky and breaking a long silence. "We have made good
work of it since the guide left us. Come, here is a little stream,
and you need a change of posture; dismount and rest, while I offer my
evening libations to the four elements."

"No, I will not dismount, Jemadar," returned the Lalla; "you will not
be long, and by all means let your men get a drink of water too, and
wash their feet. I will stay here."

"He is not to be trusted," said the Jemadar to his men in Canarese; "I
see it in his eyes. If he stirs, shoot him, and both of you stay by

Rama had fastened one of the horse's tether-ropes about his waist, and
he now proceeded to tie the end of it to the cheek-strap of the bridle
in a methodical manner.

"What are you doing?" cried the Lalla, alarmed at the action; "loose

"O, my lord will dismount," said Lukshmun, "and who is to hold the

"I am not going to move: loose it, I say!" cried the Lalla, impatiently.

But Rama sat down doggedly at a little distance, holding the rope, and
began deliberately to munch a cake his brother had unfastened from his
back, resting his gun across his knees.

"Loose it!" again cried the Lalla, "Jemadar, why have I been tied like
a thief?"

The Jemadar had divested himself of his upper clothing and stepped into
the stream; he was taking up water in his hands and pouring it to the
four quarters of the earth. His clothes and arms were on the river bank.

"There is no use in disturbing him, Maharaj," said Lukshmun, quietly;
"he is at his prayers, and can't hear. My brother, you see, doesn't
understand you, and he only does what the Jemadar told him; so get off
and walk about a little. Come, I will hold the stirrup for you."

"No; loose the rope!" cried the Lalla again, eagerly, and reaching over
to do so himself.

"Ah, Maharaj! you must not do that; you see my brother will be angry. I
advise you to be quiet," said Lukshmun, putting back the Lalla's hand,
and pulling the knot of the rope firmer.

But the Lalla could not now contain himself; his alarm was gradually
increasing. He thought he could break away from the men, and dash
through the stream ere they could fire at him. Touching Motee with the
bridle and his heel at the same time, he aroused him from the sluggish
position he had assumed, and moved him a little so as to face Rama,
who still sat eating; and the Lalla was quietly gathering up the reins
preparatory to urging the horse forward, when the keen practised eyes
of the men detected the intention. Excited by his rider, the horse
gathered himself on his haunches and made a bound; but Lukshmun,
leaping at the bridle, hung on to it, jerking it back so violently that
the horse reared, while the Lalla, whose right arm had been seized by
Rama, lost his balance, and fell heavily to the ground.

Hearing the cries of the men, Gopal Singh had run from the stream
hastily, taking up his sword, and reached the spot as the Lalla fell.

"Get up!" he cried, seizing his arm; "what folly is this? By the gods,
he has fainted! Thou hast not used thy knife, Rama?"

"Not I, Jemadar; but he fell heavily. What could I do? He would have
been off, for the horse is a strong beast, and I could hardly hold
him--only for the old trick. Get some water, Jemadar, he will drink
from thee. I will hold him up. Stay, here is his lota."

While the Jemadar ran for water, Rama knelt down and raised the Lalla's
head, who now opened his eyes. "Speak to him, Lukshmun; tell him to get
up and be quiet," said Rama to his brother.

"Do you hear, Maharaj? you are to get up and be quiet. Rama says so,"
cried Lukshmun, "and he is not a child."

"Nor I, Lalla," said the Jemadar, returning with the water. "By
Krishna, what made thee vex the hunchbacks? they were likely to be
rough enough if provoked. Art thou hurt?"

"No, my lord--that is, valiant sir--only a little," replied the Lalla,
moving his body about to ascertain the fact. "No; but my life!--O spare
my life!--do not kill me."

"I am more hurt than he is, Jemadar," said Rama, rubbing his arm, "for
he fell on me. Ah, you rascal!" he continued with a Mahratta oath,
"only for the Jemadar there I had settled accounts with thee; get up!"

"I petition," said Lukshmun, who led up Motee, now calmed, "as the
Lalla broke faith with us, that he walks; and Rama rides, as he is

"Ah, by your heads, no!" exclaimed the Lalla; "I never could walk a
coss in my life; and my feet would never go over these stones and
briars. Kill me, if ye will, but walk I cannot."

"Tie him up," suggested Rama, "if he can't walk; we must not trust him
in the dark on that good horse."

"A good thought," said the Jemadar; "give me his sheet from the saddle."

The Lalla guessed what had been said, and protested and resisted
vehemently; but he was as a child in the hands of the men, and in a
few moments his hands and arms were swathed to his body gently within
the sheet, but so that he could not use them: and he was raised to his
feet, trembling violently, while the bandage was fastened behind him.

"Ah, sir! do not shake so," said Lukshmun, smiling, and joining his
own hands in mock supplication; "if you do, you will go to pieces, and
there will be none of you left when we get to our uncle, Pahar Singh."

Pahar Singh! the Lalla's heart sank within him. But he had no time
for remonstrance. He was lifted like a child into the saddle, the men
resumed their arms and positions, and again set forward.

"Where are you going to take me, Jemadar?" asked the Lalla, trembling,
as they crossed the stream. "Ah, be merciful to----"

"So you have got speech at last," returned Gopal Singh. "Listen, Lalla,
if you had been quiet you should have ridden like a gentleman, now you
go as a thief. Pahar Singh, my uncle, is lord of these marches, and
knows what to do with you. One thing, however, I may tell you; if you
make any further attempt to escape, I will shoot you. It is not your
carcass that he wants, but what you have on it; the gold you got at
Kullianee. Now, beware, for you know the worst."

Of what use was resistance, and the Lalla clung to life. They might
take his gold. There remained, at least, the papers he possessed; and
if he begged his way on foot to Beejapoor, what matter, so that he got
there with them?

So they proceeded as rapidly as the ground would admit, still
continuing to avoid all villages by paths through the fields, with
which they seemed perfectly acquainted.

Before they reach their destination, which they will do in two or three
hours more, we may describe the person to whom they are proceeding.


As at the banian tree, when Lukshmun was guide, and the Lalla had
ridden up the rising ground, the sun had shone out brightly with
a broad gleam through its giant trunks and branches, and over the
villages and corn-fields beyond; so about the same time the light,
glittering through the watery particles which filled the air, spread
over a rich landscape, as viewed from a height above the pretty village
of Itga, whence, by a rough stony path, a company of horsemen were now
proceeding to the village itself.

There might have been twenty-five to thirty men, from the youth yet
unbearded to the grizzled trooper, whose swarthy sunburnt face, and
large whiskers and moustaches touched with grey, wiry frame, and
easy lounging seat on his saddle--as he balanced his heavy Mahratta
spear across his shoulders--showed the years of service he had done.
There was no richness of costume among the party; on the contrary,
the dresses were worn and weather-stained, and of a motley character.
Some wore thickly quilted white or chintz doublets, strong enough to
turn a sword-cut; or ordinary white cotton clothes, with back and
breast pieces of thick padded cloth, or light shirts of chain-mail,
with a piece of the same, or twisted wire, folded into their turbans;
and a few wore steel morions, with turbans tied round them, and steel
gauntlets which reached to the elbows, inlaid with gold and silver in
delicate arabesque patterns.

The caparisons of their horses were as shabby as the dresses; but some
had once been handsome, with embroidered reins and cruppers, and gay
muslin martingals. All were now, however, soiled by the wet and mud of
the day. It was clear that this party had ridden far, and the horses,
though excellent and in high condition, were, from their drooping
crests and sluggish action, evidently weary. Four of the men had been
wounded in some skirmish, for it was with difficulty they sat their
horses: and the bandages about them, covered with blood, showed the
wounds to have been severe. But the sight of the village appeared to
have revived the party; the horses were neighing and tossing their
heads, and the men, shifting their places in the saddles, pointed
eagerly to it, or, brandishing their spears, shouted one to another,
cheering up the wounded men.

Among these horsemen, as also over the valley below, the sun's gleams
shone brightly, casting long irregular shadows over the ground as they
moved, and, glinting from spear-head, morion, and steel armour as the
men swayed in their saddles, lighted up faces of varied character, all
now joyous, but wearing an expression of habitual recklessness and
lawless excitement.

Below them, at less than half a mile's distance, was the village
itself. In the centre of it, or rather more to the right hand, was
a high square castle, with round bastions at the corners, having
loopholed parapets, which, where it had not been wetted by the rain,
was of a warm grey, the colour of the mud or clay of which it had been
built. It was in perfect repair, and the close smooth plastering of the
walls and parapets showed that the weather was not allowed to injure it.

Inside the castle walls were the white terraced roofs of a
dwelling-house, and in the bastions in the east and north corners
several windows and other perforations in the curtain walls, which
showed that rooms were connected with them; but it was clear, from the
height of the parapets above the ground, which might be sixty feet,
that most of the inside must be a solid mass of earth, as indeed it was
as far as the courtyard, around which were the houses already noticed.
On one high bastion, in which several small cannon were placed, was a
flagstaff, and a large white flag, bordered with green, which floated
out lazily upon the evening breeze, showing the device--a figure cut
out in red cloth and sewn upon the white--of the monkey god Hunoomán,
who might be supposed to be, as he was, the tutelary divinity of the

To protect the gateway there was a double outwork with several narrow
traverses and large flanking bastions, but otherwise no additional
defence to the castle walls, which were quite inaccessible. Around
their foot, separated only by an open courtyard, surrounded by a low
wall with bastions at intervals, were the terraced houses of the
place, thickly placed together, and filling up the space between the
outer wall of the village and the castle itself. There was no doubt
that the community living there was thriving, and better protected than
those of the more open villages of the country. The houses, too, were
of a superior and more substantial character, and gave assurance of
habitual safety and wealth.

Outside all, ran a high wall, also of mud, with large round bastions at
intervals, loopholed and mounted with jinjalls, and other wall-pieces,
with two large gates, each defended by an outer work and traverse, and
heavy bastions on each side; and there were several smaller wickets or
posterns, each with a parapet wall before, and a tower beside it. The
whole formed a very strong position, impregnable against any attack by
marauding horse; and even in the event of a siege by a better organized
force, it could have held out stoutly.

The ground for some distance round Itga formed a clear natural
esplanade, over which it was impossible for anything to advance without
being seen from the castle walls. This was now like a carpet of emerald
green, on which fell the broad shadows of the tall trees near the
gates and a grove round a small Hindu temple, and several large herds
of cattle rested or browsed before entering the village walls for the
night. Beyond the open ground the irrigated fields and gardens of the
village commenced; and the bright yellow green of the sugar-cane, in
large patches, catching the sun's rays, glowed among the darker colours
of the grain crops and cotton, which spread up and down the valley as
far as could be seen, and on both sides of the stream flowing in the

Above the village the valley appeared to contract gradually, and the
stream to disappear behind a projecting bluff. Below, it opened out
considerably; and could be seen for several miles, showing other
villages in the distance, with their ghurries, or castles, of the same
character as that of Itga, but smaller, rising above the trees; while,
here and there, the white dome of a mosque, or steeple of Hindu temple,
with portions of the stream, sparkled in the evening sun.

A fair scene now when, over the rich crops and gardens, and spreading
over the tender distance, the bright evening light threw a mellow
radiance, resting with brilliant effect upon the projections and
bastions of the castle, upon the terraces of the houses, the heavy
gateways, the people passing to and fro, and the bright-coloured cattle
upon the village green. A fair scene, truly, and in strong contrast
with the character of the place, which, to say the truth, was evil
enough in some respects.

The owner of this village, and of several adjoining villages, was the
Pahar Singh, whom, casually, we have already had occasion to mention.
Nominally a frontier officer of the Beejapoor State, "Hazaree," or
commander of a thousand men, and holding the estate in maintenance of
a troop of horse and a number of foot soldiers, which, though somewhat
less, passed for a thousand in the royal musters of Beejapoor,--Pahar
Singh had by no means followed his father's example of steady devotion
to his duty, or confined his men to the purpose for which they were
intended. During his father's lifetime he had engaged with the most
dissolute and lawless of his father's retainers in border raids and
forays without number, and had not unfrequently defied the troops of
the State, bringing his father's good name into very questionable

After the old man's death, wilder times ensued, when a bold stroke,
here and there, decided a man's fortune; and proportionately as he was
powerful or otherwise locally, his influence, both at court and in the
provinces, extended. Pahar Singh had struck many such, with which,
however, we have no concern. Following the example of the Beydur chief
of Sugger, he had imposed a system of black-mail all over the frontier
near his estate, which, if not regularly paid, was enforced roughly
enough; while, on his part, his clients were protected from violence by
other parties. The system, in fact, extended to the capital itself, and
merchants and rich travellers paid Pahar Singh's dues as the best means
of escaping outrage if they had to travel across his marches.

To others but his own people, Pahar Singh was a merciless savage, for
the most part; and even his own relations, and those who knew him best,
could hardly account for the variation of temper which could watch
torture for the extortion of money--perhaps an agonized death--at one
moment, and at the next listen to a tale of distress, or need, or
sickness, and relieve it himself, or send it to his wife Rookminee,
with a message which insured prompt attention from that kind lady.

It is perhaps unnecessary to go far back into history for illustrations
of character like that of "the Hazaree." Such still exists among the
native states of India, and even among our own subjects, restrained
by the power of the paramount Government, if not by the spirit of the
times--but still restrained--from lives as reckless and lawless, from
savagery as deep and as unrelenting, as was that of Pahar Singh. With
such characters, evil passions have taken the form of sensuality in
its varied phases, which, as mostly concerning the individual himself,
blunts the exercise of all finer feelings, but does not occasion the
misery to others which would be the result of unfettered and misguided

The party we have mentioned had descended the small pass from the
tableland above, and had pressed merrily on to the village gate, where
they were met by friends, and welcomed by many a rough but kind
greeting, and by a discharge of wall-pieces from the bastions, and
shots from the castle, answered by the matchlocks of the party. Having
entered the deep arched gateway, they were now emerging irregularly
from its shadow into the main street, down which the sun streamed
brightly. The terraced houses were covered with women and children
waving cloths, or whatever they could catch up. The shopkeepers, for
the most part, descended from their seats and exchanged respectful
greetings with the leader; and as the small troop passed up towards
the open space below the castle, still firing shots, it was plain that
every one had forgotten the fatigue of the march in his safe return.

The horsemen remained mounted after the halt, and several stout
serving-men took the heavy bags of money which each in succession
loosed from his saddle-bow, and carried them into the castle. This
done, the leader dismounted, and the chief "Karkoon," or scribe,
delivered a short but pleasant message from the chief, and dismissed
the rest; and the men, wheeling round, discharged an irregular volley
from their matchlocks, and, passing back round the foot of the outer
bastion of the court, separated, each to his own house.

"He will not delay you long," said Amrut Rao, the Hazaree's chief
Karkoon, or scribe, to the leader; "but you are not to go, he says,
without seeing him."

"What temper is he in?" asked the person addressed.

"Not good--but no fear for you. He is angry at Gopal Singh's absence,
that is all; so be careful, Maun Singh, and do not cross him to-day.
Come, he has looked for you these many hours."

Maun Singh, an active, intelligent man, with a bright soldierly
bearing, was a cousin of the chief, and a valuable and trusty leader of
partisan expeditions. This foray had been remarkable for its success. A
convoy of treasure, belonging to the neighbouring kingdom of Golconda,
had been attacked on its way to the capital, its escort defeated, and
the money for the most part secured and brought in. The largest portion
of the force was returning by a different road; this, consisting of
picked men and horses, had pressed on home with the booty.

Maun Singh entered the gate with his companions, and ascended an
inclined plane leading to a court above, which, the outer one of the
interior of the castle, was that to which men were alone allowed
access. On two sides were open verandahs, consisting of double rows of
wooden arches, supported upon carved pillars, the floor of the inner
one being raised a little above that of the outer. On the east side, a
large chamber of some pretension, ended in an oriel window, fitted with
delicately carved shutters, which admitted light and air. This chamber
was three arches in depth, and the wood-work of the pillars was carved
in bold designs of flowers and leaves, the ends of the beams being
fancifully cut into dragons' heads, the lines of which were carried
gracefully into the general patterns of flowers and leaves. This was
the chamber, or hall, of audience.

On the fourth side of the court was a stable, and a door which led
to servants' rooms and offices, and there were folding-doors in the
verandahs on both sides communicating with women's apartments, and
stairs leading to the roofs of the buildings which formed the parapets
for defence of the castle.

As he entered the court, Maun Singh greeted, and was saluted in turn
by, those around; and a party of scribes, engaged in accounts at the
entrance of the hall, rose at his approach. Passing these, he went on
to his relative, who was sitting reclined against a large pillow in a
recess of the window, and who half rose as he returned his salutation,
but not courteously.

Pahar Singh was always remarkable--no one could look on him unmoved.
He had a strong-featured hard face, prominent aquiline nose, deep-set
black eyes, not so large, as penetrating in character, and covered by
bushy eyelashes. The eyes were restless and unsettled in character,
and, by this, and the general expression of his countenance, he was
nicknamed the falcon. None of the hair on his face was shaved, and the
whole was tied up in a knot and wound round his head in a thick heavy
mass, while the thin grey and sandy-coloured beard and moustaches,
divided in the centre, were usually passed over each ear, but could, if
he pleased, be worn flowing down to the waist. The forehead was high
and covered with deep wrinkles, and upon it the veins from the root of
the nose stood out roughly and with a knotted appearance, apparently
the result of habitual excitement. The mouth had hard cruel lines about
it, and the sinewy throat tended to increase the rugged character of
the whole countenance.

In age he appeared past forty. Naked to the waist, his figure was
wiry, and showed great power, particularly in his arms. Pahar Singh's
strength was proverbial in the country; and the large exercising clubs,
standing in a corner, which he used several times during the day, could
be wielded by none but himself.

"I received your letter, Maun Singh," he said, before that person was
seated. "Why did you delay? Why did you let that boy leave you? By
Gunga, if the boy dies, or comes to hurt, your life shall answer for

"Pahar Singh," replied the other, who always addressed his cousin by
name if he were angry, and who had less fear of him than any one else,
"I have done good work. There are more than twenty thousand rupees
yonder, and I have only lost one man."

"True, true, brother," cried the chief, waving his hand; "there is no
blame for that, only for the boy. What took him to Kullianee?"

"I sent him to Poorungeer, the banker, with the bills, to see if any
were negotiable. There he heard of something; and when all was quiet at
Muntalla, he departed at night without my knowledge. He only left word
that he had gone after some good business, and was not to be followed."

"Wrong, Maun Singh. Thou wert wrong not to watch him--not to send men
after him. If he dies, O Maun Singh, O brother, it were better thou
wert never born!" and the chief smote his pillow angrily with his
clenched fist.

"His fate is not in my hand, Pahar Singh," retorted the other; "and----"

"Do you answer me? do you answer me?" cried the chief, savagely
grasping the pillow, the veins of his forehead swelling and his
nostrils dilating as he spoke.

Amrut Rao knew the sign, and interposed. "Is this money to be counted?"
he said, pointing to the bags; "if so, give me the key of the treasury,
and let the Jemadar go home. He is tired, and you will like to see the
coin. It shall be counted before you."

"Good! Go, Maun Singh. I shall be quieter when you return," replied
the chief. "Ah, yes! we were once the same, brother. We could not be
stopped either," he said more gently, "if we had anything to do."

"The hunchbacks are with him, and they are all on foot, brother,"
returned Maun Singh: "fear not; but if thou art restless, give me some
fresh men and a fresh horse, and we will ride round the villages."

"No; go home--go home. No; let him hunt his own game," returned the

"But about the money? Déo Rao wants to get home now, for he is
starving," interposed the Karkoon.

"Let him go then!" exclaimed the chief tartly.

"No, he can't go till it is counted," retorted Amrut Rao.

"It need not be counted."

"It must be counted, Maharaj! If there is a rupee wrong we shall never
hear the last of it. The bags have never been opened--who knows what is
in them?"

"It may be gold, Amrut Rao. Come, who knows? yes, who knows? Come,"
exclaimed Pahar Singh excitedly.

Few could take the liberties in speech with the chief that were
permitted to Amrut Rao, and even he was not always successful; but now
the Suraffs, or money-changers, sent for had arrived, and Pahar Singh
watched the opening of every bag with an almost childish curiosity.
All anxiety for his nephew had departed before the sight of money.
Yet Gopal Singh was the life and stay of the house; precious as Pahar
Singh's heir, and more so as the husband of his daughter, who was as
yet a child.

"Good coin, good coin!" cried the chief exultingly, as the contents of
the bags passed through the experienced hands of the examiners without
one being rejected. "Good coin! O Amrut Rao, I vow all the light
weights to feed Brahmuns. Dost thou hear?"

"I am afraid their bellies will be empty enough," returned the Karkoon,
laughing. "No, Maharaj! do better: send five hundred to Vyas Shastree
to offer at the shrine of Sri Máta if Gopal Singh returns safe
to-night. You cannot disappoint her and be secure."

"Well spoken! well spoken! Yes, put the money aside; yes, put all the
light-weight coin and make it up; thou shalt have it--if--he comes.
Holy Gunga! what is that?" he exclaimed, suddenly, as a separate bag
rolled out of one then being emptied. "Gold, by all the gods! Give it
me; I will count it myself."


We must, however, return to our travellers, whose progress since night
set in had been anything but agreeable, considering the state of the
road; for though the light-footed men traversed it easily, poor Motee,
weary enough, stopped fairly where the mud was deepest, and quivered
in every limb in the intervals of stony ground. Indeed, he would have
given up long ago but for Lukshmun, whose cheery voice and hand, now
soothing, now encouraging, now remonstrating, urged him to put forth
his whole power; and as if the promises of a good stable, the sweetest
fodder, the best grain, which were repeated with every endearing
variation that Mahratta and Canarese, oddly intermixed with scraps of
Oordoo ballads, could supply, seemed to be understood by the gallant
beast as he toiled on. His master, since he had been swathed up in the
sheet, and had found it impossible to help himself, had fallen into
what might be called a passive frame of mind. Nothing was clear to him,
neither where he was, nor with whom or where he was going.

As before, villages were avoided, and it was evident that his guides
knew the country perfectly--threading lanes, then emerging into open
fields, again crossing waste ground, but still preserving, as nearly as
possible, the same direction, as the Lalla could see by the moon which,
struggling through masses of watery clouds that had risen since sunset,
threw a misty and indistinct light upon the path and what lay in its
immediate vicinity. Now and then they approached so near a village
that the watch-dogs within its walls bayed and howled, and they could
hear the hum of voices, or see lights high up in the ghurry, or the
watch-towers at the gates; but they did not stop. All the Lalla asked
occasionally was, "How far yet?" and received but one answer--"Coss
bur." The trees of village after village, and the dark square forms of
their ghurries, or castles, stood out against the moon in succession,
and each one he hoped might be the last; but still they went on,
through the same apparently endless succession of muddy lanes, and over
open fields and waste lands,--faster if the ground were firm, slower if
it were muddy.

Finding it of no use to speak to his companions, the Lalla's mind
reverted naturally to his own condition, and was as busy now, though
after a more dreamy fashion, than in the morning, when riches and
honours seemed within his grasp. For after some misgivings he had
argued himself into a belief of a positively agreeable reception by
Pahar Singh. He would not at once admit his errand to the Beejapoor
court, but reserve it for a confidential communication; and he would be
able to tell Pahar Singh about their own country. Yes--the Lalla had
framed, and was framing, many irresistibly polite speeches in his mind,
recalling verses to quote from Persian poets, and the replies to his
remarks would necessarily be in a similar strain. What else could be
expected of one of his own countrymen? and he would make allowances for
some omissions in strict etiquette and courtesy. Then what excellent
cookery he should enjoy--what luxurious rest!

Alas! these were but the delusions of hunger, thirst, and weariness,
and were but shortlived; for in their place would suddenly arise a
ghastly anticipation of violence--a dungeon and chains--ending in a
lingering or sudden death. Or, again, the loss of all his papers and
his money--both as yet safe. Or, perhaps, of being again taken to
the royal camp, and sold to the Emperor, a hasty doom following--an
elephant's foot, or _that_ executioner, always present, whom he so well

There was no denying that such thoughts would recur more vividly than
the others, causing the Lalla to writhe in his bonds, and to break
out into a cold sweat from head to foot, in, as it were, the very
bitterness of death. This past, he would sink once more into apathy
and weariness, while Motee groaned, trudged, and splashed, or Lukshmun
cheered or warned him; and the two others, in their old places, their
lighted matches glowing in the darkness, never varied in position or in

It might have been the close of the first watch of the night, perhaps
more, when the Lalla became sensible of a change in the demeanour of
the men. They talked more among themselves, and laughed heartily. Gopal
Singh even told him to be of good heart. The road, too, was more open
and less muddy. Before him was a rising ground, and upon it a tree
distinctly visible against the moon, to which they pointed, and stepped
out at a better pace. As they neared the tree they halted for a moment,
shook out their dresses, resettled their turbans, and rubbed up their
moustaches. Yes, they were most likely near the end of their journey,
but the Lalla dare not ask; his tongue was cleaving to his mouth with
that peculiarly exhaustive thirst which is the effect of weariness and
terror combined; and when all three men blew their matches, and shook
fresh priming into the pans of their guns, the Lalla shut his eyes and
expected death.

"Come, Lallajee," said Gopal Singh, in a cheery voice, "don't go to
sleep, good man, we are near home now; no more 'coss burs,' you know.
Ah, by-and-by, you will know what a Canarese coss is. Mind the horse as
we go downhill," he continued to Lukshmun. "I must have that beast; he
has done his work right well to-day."

Almost as the last word was spoken, they reached the brow of the
ascent, and looked down upon Itga from the place we have already
described. It appeared gloomy enough to the Lalla. The castle, or
ghurry, stood out, a black mass, against the setting moon, and the men
and horses were barely distinguishable in the faint light, while the
towers at the gate, and round the outer walls, seemed to be exaggerated
in height and dimensions. From the window over the castle gateway, a
light twinkled brightly in the dark mass of the walls, and there was
one also on a bastion of the gate, and a few here and there in the
village. Around the fields and trees were in the deepest gloom, the
upper portion of the trees, where the moon's rays caught the topmost
branches only, being visible, and a sparkle here and there in the
little river, as it brawled over the rocks and stones in its bed, its
hoarse murmur being distinctly audible as though it were in flood.

"Cheer up, Lallajee! be comforted; our master never keeps any one in
suspense very long," remarked Lukshmun pleasantly. "When he says ch-ck,
ch-ck, as I do to Motee here, we know exactly what to do."

"Be quiet, for a prating fool, as thou art!" cried Gopal Singh, "and
look after the horse. I would not have his knees broken for a thousand
rupees. Sit square, O Lalla! lean back, good man, and ease him as you
go down. Do not be afraid."

But for this assurance the Lalla had fainted. "Ah, Jemadar," he
exclaimed, "by your mother, I am too poor to notice--a stranger in a
strange land. I trust to you--pity me and be merciful, for the sake of
my children."

"Bichara! poor fellow, he has children--so have I," interrupted
Lukshmun; "and that makes it worse sometimes."

"Be silent, as you love your life," said the Jemadar, firing a shot
over the Lalla's head, which caused him to start violently, and was
followed by another each from the two men in succession; "be silent,
and mind your seat downhill. If Maun Singh has not arrived," he
continued to the men, "there will have been trouble enough by this

"They have passed not long ago, Jemadar," said Rama; "look, here are
the horses' footprints."

"That is good; and they see us now," continued Gopal Singh.

As he spoke, a vivid white flash, from the highest bastion turret of
the castle, increased in brightness, as a large Bengal light was burned
for an answering signal. The attitude of the signal-man, as he held an
iron cresset high above his head, could be distinctly seen; and while
the dazzling blaze continued, castle, and town, and village--even the
open ground beyond, and the trees and temple upon it--were revealed in
silvery brilliance. Then, as the first died out, another light took
its place, and burned out, leaving the gloom more intense than before.
Under any other circumstances, the effect would have been as surprising
to the Lalla as it was really beautiful, but, under the circumstances,
the sudden apparition of the castle, with its defences and outworks,
struck an additional chill to his heart, and as the last gleam of the
bright light went out, it seemed a type of the extinguishing of his own


Pahar Singh had been long watching from the window we have before
mentioned. There were three descents from the plain above to the
village, all within his view; and there were men on each of the
bastions also, watching in all directions. He was very restless and
moody; not even the gold found in several bags which he had taken to
his private apartments--not even the large amount of booty, which had
so few light coins in it--could dispel the gloom. He had ordered all
about him to be silent, and even Amrut Rao had obeyed him as yet;
and his little daughter, who was allowed to sit in the hall when no
strangers were present, had nestled to his side, but was afraid to

Ararat Rao knew, however, by experience, that the more his master
was allowed to brood over anything in this manner, the harder it was
to rally him; and as the account of the money had been made up, he
took the paper, trimmed the lamp, and stood in an attitude to read,
unchecked by the actual distortion of the chief's face in a repressed
fury, at which even his daughter concealed herself, and cowered into a
corner, and which soon broke out in violent oaths and abuse.

Amrut Rao bent to the storm, and did not reply. After an interval he
read slowly:--

"Twenty-seven thousand two hundred and ninety-three rupees; and the
five bags of ashruffees which you took inside--how many were in them?"

"What is that to you? do you want to steal them? By the gods! you are
over-familiar to-night, Amrut Rao. Did I not bid ye all be silent, and
dare you disobey? you--dare you?" cried the chief, raising himself,
while the foam gathered upon his lips, and the veins swelled on his
forehead. "Dare you?"

"My lord," replied Amrut Rao, joining his hands, "abuse of a Brahmun,
out of a noble mouth, is sin--unfitting to hear. Be reasonable. This is
the best booty which we have seen for many a day. If we knew the total
of the ashruffees we could add it, and you could sign the day-book, and
clear away all the bags. It is getting late."

"Let it be. No, I will not sign the paper," cried Pahar Singh,
petulantly. "What need have I with wealth? he will not come now. I will
go to Kasee, Jugunath, and Raméshwur; I will give up the world; I have
committed much sin, and will have no more of it. I will---- Ha, by the
gods! there is a shot on the road," he continued, as the sharp ring
of Gopal Singh's matchlock broke the silence without: "another, and
another! and a horse's neigh, too; and there were but the three. Can it
be they, Maun Singh? speak! by your soul, speak: why are you silent?"

"Let the cloud pass from your spirit, brother: it is they, sure enough.
I would swear to Gopal's gun by its ring anywhere."

"Burn a light from the upper bastion--two! it may cheer them down the
pass. Quick!" cried the chief; "answer their signal. O Maun Singh! if
I said anything bad, forgive me, brother; but I was distraught with
care for that boy. Yes, they will see that," as the first blue light
glittered over the village. "Burn another, Ranoba--a large one!" he
called from the window to the men above; "we may even see them. By
the gods! yes, Maun Singh, there they are: the three, and a man on
horseback muffled up--a large grey horse--who can it be? Get hot water
ready, and enough for all to eat. Bring a goat to kill before him. Tell
thy mother, O daughter, to see to this; tell her they are come. How
many short rupees were there, Amrut Rao?"

"My lord, it was as I said: the Brahmuns' bellies would be empty if we
trusted to short rupees; all we could find were nine doubtful ones."

"Then, count out fifty more--stay, a hundred: will that feed them?"

"You have not told me how much gold there was, Maharaj," continued the
Karkoon pertinaciously, not noticing the gift.

"Now, a plague on thee for an obstinate fool, Amrut Rao," replied the
chief, laughing; "did I not tell thee not to speak about it?"

"The total of the silver is twenty-seven thousand two hundred and
ninety-three rupees," returned the Karkoon; "and the gold must be added
to complete the account before we retire."

"Well, then, there were five bags, and fifty Akburi mohurs in each:
will that content you? or must you see them?"

"Why couldn't you tell me this at first?" continued Amrut Rao, writing
in the account, which he spread on his left hand; "there, at twenty
rupees each, another five thousand, that makes thirty-two thousand two
hundred and ninety-three rupees. My lord ordered fifty rupees for the
dole to-morrow; it might as well be the odd ninety-three."

"Ay, take that, and the two hundred over to boot, good fellow, if thou
wilt. Here, some of you, stop him, stop my son, and kill a goat before
him at the gate; see that lights are waved over him, and the evil eye
is taken off him. Quick! there are the torches flashing in the bazar."

"I have deducted the sum, Maharaj," said the Karkoon deliberately; "now
look at the total, and put your seal to it. Thirty-two thou----"

"By Krishna! thou wouldst leave me no peace, Amrut Rao," replied the
chief; "here is the seal; seal the memorandum, and begone. Yet stay;
thou art a good fellow after all; so take a handsome doopatta, or a
pair of dhotees, out of that coin for thyself."

"Not out of the Brahmuns' bellies," retorted the Karkoon; "thank you. I
shall have plenty of gifts by-and-by. Here is your seal."

The chief might have answered angrily, had his attention not been
diverted at the moment. "Ah, here they are," he cried, looking from the
window; "they have brought the man's horse up to the steps, and are
taking him off--bound, too! Ai Purméshwar! but there must be much to
hear. Why do they delay?"

In truth they had not delayed; for several torch-bearers, stationed
at the gate, hearing the shots on the hill, had run forward in the
direction of the pass, while the retainers and others from the bazar,
crowded up to bid the young man welcome; for the anxiety in the castle
had spread over the village. So Gopal Singh and his party entered the
gates among many eager faces, lighted up by torches tossing above them,
and were welcomed by noisy shouts as the men clustered round them. Then
a bevy of village women awaited them, some bearing brass dishes filled
with mustard-seed, and small lighted lamps, which were waved over him;
others with jars of water, which were poured out before him; and, as
others joined them, there was quite a procession up to the end of the
second traverse.

Farther on, at the gate of the castle, stood a body of the household
servants and retainers, one having a naked sword, and a goat before him
bleating loudly. As Gopal Singh advanced, the sword flashed in the air,
and the headless carcase struggled convulsively as the blood spouted
over the sill and step, and trickled down towards the Lalla, who,
lifted from his horse, shuddered as he was set down among it.

Again the ceremony of having lights waved over him by some of the
women-servants was repeated; and Gopal Singh, bidding Lukshmun and the
others search the Lalla carefully and keep what was found, ascended
to the court, and was met in a warm embrace by his uncle, and led to
the window, where, being seated, all present, including Maun Singh,
advanced to salute him in turn.

"What did I say, brother?" cried Maun Singh joyfully. "I knew he would
not disappoint us. Yet thou shouldst not have gone alone, Gopal."

"Nay, but I had the hunchbacks with me, and more would have spoiled
my small hunt, which, if not so grand as thine, uncle, may yet be
important," replied the young man.

"Ah, the boy, the boy!" exclaimed the chief, stroking the young man's
face, and kissing the tips of his own fingers; "have I not brought
him up since he was the height of my knee? And I thought him lost--Ai
Bhugwân, Bhugwân! Ai Purméshwar! He is safe and well--safe and well,
O Sri Máta! My heart swells. What did I say for the Brahmuns? Never
mind now. Go, bathe and eat, my son, and we will see to everything

"Not before that matter is settled, father--that is, about the man I
brought with me."

"Yes, I had forgotten--certainly. Light the large lamps," cried the
chief to the attendants at the lower end of the room; "let us see what
manner of man he is. Who is he, Gopal?"

"That we have to find out, father. They thought him a spy of the
Emperor's, and he came from Aurungabad, by Bheer, to Kullianee, to the
Gosai's. He changed some bills for gold, and he has got it. I offered
escort, but was refused; so I went from Muntalla to the Burr tree at
Kinny, for we heard he was going to sleep in the Mutt at Surroori. They
were sending him on privately, father."

"Shabash! well done, son. A spy? Well, if we are true to the King's
salt, he goes no farther; and he was being sent privately! Ah, the
old foxes! Here he is--what a sight!" cried the chief, breaking into
uncontrollable laughter. "Who art thou? What have they done to thee?

In truth the poor Lalla was a show. The order to search him had been
literally complied with, and while two stout fellows held his arms
wide apart, he was helpless to struggle. Rama and Lukshmun, who would
allow no one to touch him, had dived into every pocket, and felt every
possible place of concealment, even to the Lalla's hair, which was
loosened and hung about his shoulders. His turban had been removed and
shaken out, while one end was now fastened to his right arm. The bag of
gold, tied round his waist, his bundle of precious papers, his sword,
dagger, and waist-shawl, had all been taken from him and made into a
bundle, and the articles were deliberately counted by the hunchback
as they were deposited, one by one, in the centre of the shawl spread
out for the purpose. It was quite in vain that the Lalla entreated,
besought, struggled, or resisted by turns; the place, the rough men
around him, all forbade hope of pity, and he submitted. Finally,
Lukshmun dragging him by the end of his turban, Rama pushing him
behind, and several of the others assisting, the Lalla was brought into
the presence of the chief, where he sank down, stupidly staring about

Where were all the fine speeches he had contrived, which should have
carried the chief's heart at once? All the couplets, too, from the
Bôstan that he was to have quoted?--All gone. His head was bare, his
clothes untied and hanging loosely about him; his boots removed:
and his appearance of utter helplessness, and the hopeless, piteous
expression of despair in his face, might have excited compassion in any
but the hardened men by whom he was surrounded and confronted.

"Who art thou, knave? Speak," cried the chief, sternly, again raising
his voice and checking his laughter. "Who art thou?"

"There now, make a salaam to the 'Lion of the Jungle'" (as the chief
was called among his people), said Lukshmun, raising the right hand
of the Lalla to his head, which dropped helplessly. "Ah, I see he is
ashamed, poor man, of his naked head. There, Lallajee," and he wound
the turban round his head hastily, giving it a ludicrous cock to
one side, increasing, if possible, the grotesque expression of the
features--"there now, get up and make your Tusleemât, else my lord
may be angry; and he is not exactly safe when he is," he added in a
whisper. "Get up, and don't be afraid."

But the Lalla's terror was too great, his mouth too dry to speak.
"Amān, amān!--Mercy, mercy!" was all he could gasp.

"Who art thou, knave?" cried Pahar Singh again. "Whence art thou come?
Give a good account of thyself. Let go of him, rascals!" he continued
to the men who held him; "begone all of ye."

"Maharaj," cried Lukshmun beseechingly to the chief, "here are the
Lalla's things; who will take them? Look, Rao Sahib," he continued, to
Amrut Rao, "here they are: count them. I have done with them--for the
Lion is getting savage--let me go. Beware, O Lalla! take my advice, and
tell all about yourself, else I shall have to kill you somehow. You
don't know the Maharaj as I do."

This advice, and the diversion effected by the hunchback, afforded the
Lalla a little time for the recovery of his senses; but who could have
recognized the bland, accomplished Toolsee Das, in the abject figure
before them? Hastily pressing the turban straight upon his brows, the
Lalla arose, and, as well as he could, made the ordinary Tusleemât.

"Shabash!" cried the chief. "Well done, that was never learned in the
jungle. Now speak truly, and at once, who art thou?"

"Noble sir," returned the Lalla, "I claim your protection. There has
been a mistake about my treatment. My property has been taken, and I
have been misused----"

"I misuse thee, knave?" cried Pahar Singh, his brow darkening; "who art
thou to bandy words with Pahar Singh? I have never seen thee before."

"Beware, Lallajee," said Gopal Singh; "did I not warn thee? Say who
thou art at once, or I will not answer for thee. Do not eat dirt."

"Peace, boy!" interrupted the chief angrily; "the fellow looks like a
knave--a thief--his is no honest face. Speak; or, by the gods, there
will be scant ceremony with thee!"

"My lord, my lord!" cried the Lalla piteously; "mercy, I am no thief; I
am a poor Khayet of Delhi, travelling to Beejapoor, on business of my
own--a stranger--a poor stranger."

"What business, Lalla?"

"My lord, we are merchants, and have dealings with people there for
clothes and jewels. There is a dispute about the accounts, and I have
come to settle them," said the Lalla glibly enough. It was one of the
stories he had made up by the way.

"Who are the merchants?" asked the chief.

"The Gosais of the Mutt at Kullianee, where I was yesterday; they sent
me on," replied the Lalla.

"O, hear!" cried Gopal Singh; "they knew nothing about thee, except
that thou hadst a bill on them for a thousand rupees, and the money was
given thee in gold. Is not this true? Did I not hear it myself?"

"Thou art no merchant, dog," exclaimed Pahar Singh. "Did ever merchant
make an obeisance like that? Ah, we are true testers of gold here; the
true and the false are soon found out. Who art thou? speak truly, and
fear not."

"By the shrine at Muttra, by the Holy Mother, I am what I say, a poor
Khayet, a Mutsuddee only. O noble sirs," continued the Lalla, "give me
my property, and let me go. I will seek shelter in the bazar: let me
go, for the love of your children."

"I beg to petition," interposed Lukshmun, joining his hands, "that, as
I brought him, my share of the gold be given me before he goes. I took
care of him on the road--did I not, master?"

"Silence!" roared the chief; "any one who speaks shall be flogged. Who
art thou, O liar? Mutsuddee thou art, but whose? Thy speech betrays

"I have told you, noble sir. Thakoor Das, Preym Das is the name of the
firm; my name is Toolsee Das--Lalla Toolsee Das, your slave to command.
Ask at Kullianee, and the house will be known there. I--I--am a poor
man--a stranger; who knows me?" said the Lalla, now whimpering.

"A fool, a liar art thou, throwing away life," returned Gopal Singh.
"This is the second time I have warned thee. We know thou art from the
royal camp, and a spy to Beejapoor. Speak, else----"

"And the doom of a spy is death; and thou art a liar too, and a coward
to boot. Look at him now, Gopala," said his uncle, interrupting and
pointing to the man; "look at his coward face."

The Lalla was trembling violently. His knees shook, and his teeth
chattered audibly as he shivered. He could not speak, but looked
vacantly from one to another. "I am c-o-o-ld--c-o-o-o-ld," he said
faintly; "the wet, sirs, and the long travel. Amān, amān! I am
only a merchant, let me go."

"Thou art cold! then we will warm thee," cried the chief grimly. "Yet,
speak, O Lalla, ere I give the order. We would not hurt thee without

"Ai Narayun! Ai Rámchunder! believe me, I am no spy. I swear by God I
am no spy," he replied earnestly.

"Bind him!" cried the chief furiously. "A liar and a spy. Make torches
of his fingers! we will soon hear the truth."


Ere he knew what to do or say, the Lalla was a second time bound with
his own shawl; and Lukshmun, tearing a rag into strips, and soaking
them in the oil of the lamp, was tying them coolly upon the ends of his
fingers, one by one. "I told you, Lallajee," he said, "we are rough
people here, and you should be careful. When I light these you will not
like the pain, and if you bear that, he will do something worse. When
he says 'ch-ck, ch-ck,' you know----"

"Silence, knave! thou art over-familiar," cried Maun Singh; "beware!"

"Nay, but if I can save him from the torches, uncle," returned the
hunchback, with a grotesque grin, "he will perhaps be grateful, and
give his wealth to me."

"Is it ready?" asked the chief.

"Quite ready, my lord," answered Lukshmun, taking one of the lighted
wicks from the large lamp between his finger and thumb, "For your life,
speak, good fellow," he said earnestly and under his breath to the
Lalla, "and save yourself this torture. One word more from him, and I
dare not disobey; few bear it--speak!"

"O, my lord! my lord!" shrieked the Lalla, now comprehending what was
intended, and throwing himself prostrate on the ground, "do not burn me
alive. I will speak the truth. Why should I tell lies?"

"Very well," returned the chief, on whose lips the ominous foam
speckles were now visible. "Very well, get up; it is thine own
business. Thou hast not heard of our Dekhan customs, perhaps, else I
had not wasted words on thee. Speak, who sent thee? Alumgeer? He cannot
help thee now."

"He would have no mercy on me if he knew--if he had me in his power,"
murmured the Lalla. "Loose me, my lord, I am faint, and cannot speak;
yet I will speak the truth. And should all these hear? My lord knows
best. Loose me, and have these rags taken from my fingers."

"When thou hast told the truth, Lalla; not till then," said Pahar
Singh, slowly. "Dost thou hear? Away, all of ye!" he cried to the
attendants, who had crowded round the Lalla. "Keep the torch alight.
Now, Lalla," he continued, as the man stood alone below the dais,
"speak. Once more, and this is my last warning; if I hear any more lies
I will end that coward life of thine."

"Beware!" added Gopal Singh, "I would not be as thou art with that
lying tongue of thine--ugh! no, not for lakhs. Remember that he, my
uncle, never relents."

"I would rather speak to ye alone," said the Lalla.

"We three are as one. Yet stay," added the chief. "Go thou, Amrut Rao,
let him have his own chance for life--but remain without."

"Do any of ye know the seal of the Wuzeer of Beejapoor," said the
Lalla, when they were alone, "or do ye know the writing of Sivaji, the
Mahratta Rajah?" He spoke with great difficulty, for his mouth was
parched and clammy, and his lips white.

"Nay, but Sivaji cannot write, Lalla. This is some fool's story.
Beware, too, how thou takest the name of my lord the Wuzeer," said the
chief sternly.

"My lord, my lord, with death before me and one chance for life, I
cannot lie," returned the Lalla, sadly shaking his head. "My hands are
tied; but if one of you will open that bag, there will be truth enough
found in it to save me. There, Jemadar," he continued, as Gopal Singh
opened the bag, "in the side pocket are two Persian letters, fastened
up; look at them first; look at the seals. If I am wrong I am wrong--I
am helpless, do as ye like with me; I am helpless."

"It is the Wuzeer's seal, his private seal, uncle," said Gopal Singh
excitedly. "Of this there is no doubt; look at it yourself."

"Ai Ram! Ai Seeta Ram! what have we here? It is the seal truly," said
Pahar Singh, looking at the impressions on both letters, and rocking
himself to and fro.

"Do any of ye read Persian?" asked the Lalla; "if so, read for
yourselves. I need not speak; they will speak for me."

"I will try, uncle," said Gopal Singh; "give me the letters. By
Krishna, father!" he continued, breaking the silence, and after his
eye had glanced over a few lines, "I would rather go into the thickest
fight than read treachery like this. Narayun, keep us!"

"Ay, may the gods be merciful, Gopala! But what is it?--what is it?"
said the chief eagerly.

"He would sell our kingdom of Beejapoor to the Padshah of Delhi,

"People said so--people said so," said Pahar Singh, interrupting; "but
I did not believe it. What more, my son?"

"Nay, the style is too courtly for me to make much of it, but both the
letters are to the same effect. Where didst thou get these letters,

"Noble gentlemen, if ye are true to your King's salt," exclaimed the
Lalla, seeing that he had made an impression on his hearers, "then I
deserve naught but good at your hands. I am in the royal service; I saw
the papers; I read what danger threatened Ali Adil Shah; I took them; I
escaped from the camp with them, to carry them to him, and I am here.
O, noble sirs, put me not to loss and shame!"

On the next few words hung the Lalla's life. It were easy to kill him
and secure the papers. The Wuzeer had sent several urgent messages to
Pahar Singh lately. He had a matter of moment, attended with great
profit, to communicate. Was it about these letters? The Wuzeer would
give lakhs for them. The very threat of disclosure to the King would
extort any terms. Again, if he denied them--and what more easy than to
counterfeit his seal, or use it upon forged papers? If he took this
course, they would be in a false position: false to the King and to the
Wuzeer,--and the King's threats had of late been very menacing. So, as
they deliberated, the Lalla's life hung in the balance, now ascending,
now descending, in the eager consultation which the three men carried
on in Canarese. The Lalla looked from one to another in piteous
supplication, not daring to speak, his mouth parched, and trembling in
every limb; for he felt this quick discussion, and the increasingly
savage glances of the chief towards him, to be for life or for death.

"And this from Sivaji?" asked Gopal Singh, at length. "What of it,

"It was with the others, and there are some more of older date in the
bag," he replied, "and of the Wuzeer's also. Sivaji's letters had to
be translated to the Emperor: I had to copy the translations, and thus
I came to know their contents. Noble sirs, I am telling no lies; look
at the seal. They said in the Dufter it was Sivaji Bhóslay's. I do not
know it myself."

"Keep the others close, and show this to Amrut Rao," said the chief.
"Here," he continued, as the Karkoon, being called, advanced, "look at
this; what dost thou make of it?"

The Karkoon looked at the seal and started. "May I open it?" he said.

"Yes, read it to us," said the chief.

He read it over slowly twice.

"Well, what is it?" asked his master.

"What Moro Trimmul wrote from Tooljapoor--what they asked you, my lord,
to join in; and here is your name with five thousand men in figures
after it, and the Wuzeer's with a lakh."

"Is it genuine, think you? that is what we want to know," said Gopal

"Certainly," replied the Karkoon; "there is the private mark on the
seal, and the signature 'Hé Venunti'--'this supplication'--is all the
Maharaj can write. No one could forge that, it is too crooked. How did
that man get it?"

"He stole it, Amrut Rao," said the chief; "and we are discussing
whether he ought to live or to die. What dost thou think?"

"As a traitor to the salt he has eaten, he ought to die, master," said
the Karkoon, looking at the Lalla, who felt that his fate was in the
Brahmun's hands,--"but----"

"That is just what I said! he is not fit to live," interrupted the
chief. "Let him die. Ho!"

"But"--continued the Karkoon in Canarese, persistently interrupting
the chief, and waving back Lukshmun, Rama, and others, who were
advancing--"if I may speak. He says he wants to take them to Beejapoor.
Let him have his own way. A bargain may be made with Ali Adil Shah
through his secretary the Meerza--not by him" (and he pointed to the
Lalla), "but by us. The letters will not alter the matter one jot, and
my lord can act as he pleases afterwards. We can send people with the

"Excellently spoken, Amrut Rao; ye have all better brains than I have.
Then the papers are valuable?" said Pahar Singh.

"Yes, my lord, if properly vouched for; and the man who stole them can
give a better account of them than we can. The King might give any
money--a lakh of rupees--for them. He already more than suspects the
Wuzeer and Sivaji Bhóslay of being in league with the Emperor, and
would rejoice to get such proofs of their treachery."

"Hark ye, Lalla," cried the chief, changing the language to Oordoo,
which he spoke well, "what didst thou expect to get for these papers?
What is the price of them?"

"My lord," he replied, simpering and putting up his joined hands,
"they may be worth lakhs--so the Gosais at Kullianee told me--anything
I liked to ask. They will negotiate the matter with the secretary
and the King for me; and if my lord would only condescend to assist,
I--I--would give--yes, he might be sure of a share."

"I of a share!--of a bribe! Art _thou_ feeding me with a bribe?
O base dog, and son of a dog! Pig! I a share? O Lalla, thou
art surely mad, and fated to eat dirt. Enough of this! Ho,
without!--Lukshmun!--hunchbacks!--away with him; give him the
handkerchief in the outer court. Quick!" roared Pahar Singh, relapsing
into fury.

"Uncle! father! not now," cried Gopal Singh, entreatingly, and touching
his feet; then rising and stepping forward with joined hands, "calm
thyself. Not to-day, when I am safe; not to-day, when I promised him
life! Give his life to me for this day; after that, as thou wilt."

"It is valuable, my lord," added Amrut Rao. "These papers cannot tell
their own story. Where could we say we got them? He must go with them
to authenticate them. Gopal Singh and I can go to the city with him,
and, after all, he deserves well of Ali Adil Shah, though he has been a
traitor to his own King. Give him to us, my lord; we may get good out
of him."

"No," said the chief, after a moment's pause, "no, Rao Sahib, I will
go myself. I will see the end of this matter. Thou shalt come with me,
Maun Singh; and we can work through thy brother, Amrut Rao. A lakh,
saidst thou, O Lalla? Well, I will give thee a share if thou art true.
And now I give thy life to thee--buksheesh!--a free gift--a new life, O
Lalla. See that thou make good use of it, for what I give I can recall.
Go: they will see to thy food and comfort, and thou wilt eat in a
Rajpoot's house of the race of the Sun."

The Lalla would have said something about his gold and his horse; the
words were in his mouth, and it was well, perhaps, he could not speak.
The revulsion was too great for him, from life to apparently imminent
death, and again from death to life. Weary with travel and faint with
hunger, he had sunk down insensible, and they carried him away into the

"The King has been seeking my life, friends, for some time past," said
the chief musingly. "Perhaps it would be well to use these papers--that
is---- Yes," he continued, "I have eaten his salt--I and my father--and
we eat it now. My heart revolts at this treachery, and we can be
faithful with many another. Let us rouse the boy. There should be good
stuff in Mahmood Adil Shah's son, and I will try it. As for the Wuzeer,
I know what he would have me do, but I will not say it, else should we
have been left quiet so long, and the army so near us? Stay ye here,
Gopal and Amrut Rao. If he send for me, go to him at Nuldroog; 'tis but
a ride. Go and take his money, then come to me at the city. I shall be
in the old place; and bring the hunchbacks with you, there may be work
for them."

The Lalla recovered as they carried him gently into the open air, and
bathed his face with water.

"Ah!" said Lukshmun, who was the most active of his attendants, and was
unbinding the shawl, "see what care I take of thee, O Lalla; better
your fingers are sound than roasted; better your neck straight than
twisted; better have to eat good food here--it is so good--than have
thy mouth filled with mud and water in the river yonder----"

"My gold, my gold!" gasped the Lalla, interrupting him, "who has got
it? at least get that for me."

"He has got it," replied the hunchback, pointing with his thumb
backwards. "Better he, than I or my brother; we should only spend
it--he won't. Thy star is bright to-night, Lallajee. When thou art set
free do not forget us, that's all. Come."

They conducted him to a small chamber within, where two decently-clad
women awaited them--slaves or servants--and informed the Lalla that a
bath had been prepared for him, and food would be served to him in the

We are assured, therefore, that the Lalla was left in good hands. There
was perhaps a shade too much garlic in the cookery, he thought; but he
was not particular, and appetite returned with absence of fear. When
he had finished, he was summoned to the chief, and it was not without
apprehension that he went; but he was now received kindly, though with
a rough sort of civility, and motioned to sit near Gopal Singh. So
assured, the Lalla's habitual confidence soon returned, and he took his
part, with much ability, in the discussion that followed, in which his
information in regard to the Emperor's designs was most valuable.

How the consultation ended will hereafter appear in another locality,
to which we must now transport our readers.


The Azân, or evening call to prayers, had just ceased throughout
Beejapoor. From mosque to mosque, and minaret to minaret, the sonorous
and musical voices of the Muezzins had proclaimed the evening
invitation to worship. It was still light, though the vivid hues of
sunset were fading fast, and the warm red and orange tints, which had
rested upon the minarets, domes, and gilded pinnacles of the palaces,
mosques, and mausoleums of the superb city, were giving place to a
sober grey. Here and there a star already twinkled in the heavens,
and a few rosy clouds, on which the sun's rays rested lingeringly,
floated away eastwards before a gentle breeze, that rustled among the
tall palm trees. For a time the busy hum of the populous city seemed
to be hushed, and the stillness and seclusion of the spot we have to
describe, prompted those feelings of devotion which the time required.

It was one of those small yet elegant mosques, which are found
scattered everywhere about the ruins that now exist, surrounded by
enclosures that were once gardens, in which broken fountains and dry
watercourses now only suggest visions of their former elegance and
comfort, and where low brushwood and tangled grass have displaced the
fragrant flowers and useful fruit trees of former days. Here and there
a jessamine, now wild, trails over ruined walls and once trim garden
terraces, or a long-lived hardy lime tree struggles for existence in
the unwatered soil.

At the period of our tale, however, the building was in its full
freshness and beauty. A single arch, of low Saracenic form, led into
a square room vaulted by delicate groins, leading from the corners
to the base of a cupola above. The floor was formed of chequers of
black and white marble, highly polished; and the sides of the room,
deeply indented by arched niches, were finished with stucco, which
rivalled the marble in polish and purity of colour. Around the largest
niche, at the end opposite to the entrance, and the arch in which the
pulpit stood, were borders of delicate arabesque foliage, into which
texts from the Kôrán, in coloured enamel letters, were skilfully and
elegantly interwoven; while above the pulpit itself, in gold letters on
a black ground, was the Arabic text, "La Alla, il Alla, Mahomed russool
Alla;" "There is no God but one God, and Mahomed is the prophet of
God." Two plain cotton carpets, striped red and white, had been placed
before the pulpit, to be used by those who might come to the evening

Outside, the front of the mosque was composed of the dark-coloured
basalt used in all the buildings of the city, beautifully finished as
to the fitting of the stones, on which bold cornices and rosettes had
been executed round the entrance arch, and about the projecting portion
which supported the small minarets. Immediately above the archway,
broad stone eaves crossed the face of the building, resting upon deep
and richly carved brackets of black basalt, surmounted by a bold
cornice, over which were fleurs-de-lis, forming the upper ornament.
Under the projecting eaves, and on the crest of the entrance arch, were
bright flowers in coloured enamel, bordered by frames of delicate white
stucco work, which relieved the rich but monotonous tint of the stone,
without disturbing the chaste effect of the whole. In the centre of
the terrace, before the mosque, was a small fountain, for the purpose
of ablution, which threw up a tiny thread of water to some height in
the air, descending in a shower of light spray, and producing a faint,
plashing sound, very grateful to the ear.

Above the mosque, and mingling with its slender minarets and thin
gilded spires, a few cocoa-nut trees waved their graceful pendant
leaves; and with them the heavy foliage of the fragrant moulserry, and
the broad leaf of the plantain, with its tender yet vivid green, formed
an harmonious contrast. Nearer the terrace was a group of orange trees,
some weighed down by clusters of golden fruit, others covered with
blossom, which, with the tuberoses around the fountain, and the evening
jessamine now opening, gave forth to the cool evening air a fragrance
almost overpowering. By day, the sun hardly ever reached the mosque,
and it always appeared invitingly cool and quiet; but at this evening
hour, shadow was rapidly deepening into gloom, adding a solemn effect
which enhanced the beauty of this secluded spot.

Two persons stood by the fountain. They had just performed their
ablutions, as the last quivering chant of the Muezzin, "La illa,
il Ulla," issuing from the tall minaret of one of the neighbouring
mosques, floated to them on the soft breeze: yet they appeared to
hesitate ere they entered the mosque for the evening prayer. One
of them was an elderly woman, clad as befitted the position of the
favourite nurse and confidential female servant of a wealthy house,
in a blue cotton petticoat of thick but fine texture, over which,
and around her body and head, was a white muslin scarf. Her features
were homely, yet good-natured, and she evidently regarded her
companion,--who merits a fuller description,--with pride mingled with
deep affection.

And, in truth, there were few fairer maidens in Beejapoor, even among
the wealthy and high-born nobles, than Zyna, the only daughter of
Afzool Khan. Her features might be called irregular, according to any
European standard, but they were soft and inexpressibly charming; and
in her large lustrous eyes, of the deepest brown, there lurked a world
of deep feeling which the excitement of life would call into action.
About her rounded chin and small mouth, whose full and bow-shaped
lips had somewhat of a voluptuous expression, there played a thousand
charms, which, though they might not disclose themselves or be observed
while her features were at rest, yet, as her first timid reserve gave
place to the excitement of conversation or passing incident, exercised
a strange but irresistible fascination over those about her.

She was very fair for her country. Her mother's bright Georgian
complexion was but little deepened in her daughter's richer and browner
cast of colour; the skin appeared to possess that transparent softness
which gave a bewitching charm to the delicate yet decided features;
and her cheeks and neck flushed, under any excitement, with a warmth
which told of her southern and more excitable temperament. Whenever she
spoke, the upper lip was raised higher than usual, disclosing a rosy
mouth, with teeth which glistened like pearls, even and small; and from
the absence of any ornament in the nostril, it was evident that, as
yet, no marriage rite had been performed. Her age might be fourteen,
or even less; but her figure, from its rounded proportions and grace,
would have induced a presumption that she was older.

Yet it would have been only a passing thought. One look at that
innocent, almost childish face--where, though full of bright
intelligence, the world had as yet fixed no stamp of care to check the
natural joyousness of her spirit--would have dispelled it instantly;
and if the habitual brightness was sometimes dimmed, it was but as the
breath upon a mirror--the passing shadow of some gentle disappointment,
which enhanced the beauty as it passed away.

There was no mark of rank or wealth about her, except in the solid
gold anklets of heavy chainwork she wore, which fitted closely over
her high bare instep: a ring of gold hanging loosely about her neck,
and a rosary of large pearls usually worn there, but which were now
passing rapidly, and apparently mechanically, through her fingers,
as if the thoughts that urged them were somewhat agitated. There
was, too, a slight knitting of the brow while she idly, and perhaps
somewhat impatiently, dabbled with one naked foot in the water which
was welling over the rim of the fountain, sending circles of small
wavelets over its otherwise unruffled surface, as she looked eagerly
to the entrance-door of the garden as if in expectation of some one.
As she stood thus upon a step, her foot resting upon the raised rim of
the fountain--the vivid scarlet of her satin petticoat, and the white
of the fine muslin scarf which, wound about her person, and passed over
her head--were reflected in its trembling waters; and, with the mosque
and dark trees behind her, and the figure of the old nurse sitting on
the step at her feet, a picture was formed such as no man could have
looked on without emotion, and admiration of a being so eminently

"You are my witness, Goolab," she said at length, looking down on the
nurse, "that he said he would come to evening prayer, and that I have
waited thus long. The time is passing fast, and you know this is the
second night he has disappointed me. O, that he may not be careless
to God's service! He used not to be so. But I am not angry with him,
nurse," she continued, looking down to the attendant; and as she spoke,
every trace of displeasure, if it had ever existed, disappeared at once
before her habitual good humour and sweet smile; "he never disappointed
me, that he had not some very good reason for staying away--and yet----"

"Nay, my soul," returned the woman, "the Azân is but just said, and
there is yet ample time for prayer; the carpets have not been half
spread in the Jumma Mosque yet. Why should you be impatient? But
listen, was I not right? My young lord comes, so think him faithless no

As she spoke the door of the garden court opened, and with a cry of joy
Zyna sprang to meet her brother, as with rapid steps he traversed the
garden, and ascended the low terrace before the mosque.

Still of tender age, Fazil Khan was already a remarkable figure. The
down of youth had not yet hardened upon his lip and chin; but his tall
athletic frame, and erect and confident carriage, proved him to have
been engaged in the actions, if not the strife, of the world. His
animated features strongly resembled his sister's, but with a sterner
and bolder cast of expression, while his colour was much darker. A
large grey eye, with remarkably long lashes, which he had from his
mother, increased their grave, thoughtful, yet tender, and perhaps
almost mournful, expression; the same sweet smile as Zyna's played
about his mouth as he returned her joyous welcome, while his glistening
eye and excited manner proved that something unusual had occurred, not
only to delay him, but to cause an emotion he could not well repress.

"Ah, thou art a sad truant, Fazil," said Zyna, as, after their first
greeting, he laid aside his sword and shield, loosened his waist-band,
and prepared to perform his ablutions; "armed, too, more heavily
than usual, while thy face tells me thou hast met with some recent
adventure. Thou hast not been in danger.... Fazil, my brother!"

"Danger!" echoed the youth; "if to walk the streets of Beejapoor amidst
contending factions, where one can hardly tell a friend from an enemy,
be danger, why then, dear sister, I have had my share even now. But,
trust me, there is no real danger to me. Come then to prayer, for the
Azân is said, and the light already fails us."

So saying, they ascended the mosque steps together. Their carpets were
already spread, and they at once engaged in the service of the evening,
well known to the youth, but in the performance of which, his sister
was as yet only his gentle and docile pupil.

It would seem that their appearance, as they descended the steps of the
mosque together after the prayer was finished, and came out again upon
the terrace by the fountain, had more than ordinarily attracted the
nurse's attention, for she advanced, and passing her hands rapidly over
them from head to foot, pressed her knuckles against her temples; and
as they cracked loudly, ejaculated a fervent wish for a thousand years'
life and prosperity to each. Such acts are common to the privileged
native servants of India, and old Goolab had been their faithful
attendant since they were born, and had carefully watched their growth.
Both loved her warmly, and there was nothing either would have grudged,
to soothe the declining years of their old favourite.

"Enough, enough, Goolab," cried Fazil, as, after several repetitions
of the ceremony we have just mentioned, she stroked his chin with her
fingers, and kissed their tips; "what evil do you think has come to me
that you take it on yourself?"

"Alas, I know not!" said the nurse, sighing; and as she spoke her eyes
filled with tears; "but my lord said there had been danger, and I would
not have it so. And what evil glances may not have been cast on my
beautiful child all through the streets to-day?"

The youth made a slight gesture of impatience, but it was lost on the
fond old woman. Checking the feeling which had prompted it, he cried
cheerfully, "No, no, Goolab, believe me, I meant no more than ordinary
danger; are we not always in it? And who can tell the hour of his
death?" he added after a pause, and looking reverently upwards; "or
whether it is to come by a bullet or a sword-cut, long wasting fever
or sudden sickness; nay, here as we stand! When the message comes we
cannot stay."

"Hush, say not so, brother," said Zyna, gently laying her hand upon his
mouth; "talk not so of death."

"Nay, my rose, he says but the truth," added Goolab; "and who knew it
better, than the pure saint your mother, who sleeps yonder? Well, it
was God's will, and who shall gainsay it? Meah is right, my pet, but
death should not be sent to the like of you; only to the old servant
who is ripe for the harvest----"

"We linger," said Fazil to his sister, interrupting her; "and the
darkness is fast spreading. I have much to do ere midnight, and I must
go to prepare for it. I will meet thee at the evening meal before I
start----Yet once more to take leave of thee, O mother!" he said to
himself; "there may be danger to-night, and if it should be----Come,
Zyna," he resumed, "a few flowers for the tomb, and I must go. Get a
light, Goolab--the lamp may as well be lighted now."

"I had placed them before you came, Fazil; but come; again may she look
down on her children together," said his sister.

So saying, she gathered a few jessamine and moulserry flowers and, with
her brother following, passed to the end of the garden court, where,
among some others, stood a high tomb of polished black stone, with a
pillar at the back in which was a niche for lamps that were lighted
every evening.

Reverently and tenderly were the fresh flowers laid at the head and
feet of the tomb by both. One could see no morbid motive in the act,
and there were no tears or vain regret. Their creed, imbued as it
is with fatalism, had taught them submission, and the offering up
of flowers every evening after the Azân, as the lamps were lighted,
had become a simple duty, never committed to others. If those two
loving and simple hearts believed that their mother's spirit was thus
rejoiced, it will account to us for that constant remembrance of
the dead which is so affecting, and generally so sincere, among the
Mahomedan families of India.

"Come," said Fazil, "we must not delay; though indeed, O sweet mother!
I could stay long with thee to-night," he added, touching the foot of
the grave gently, and raising his hand to his head. "I kiss thy feet, O
mother! may thy blessing rest upon me. Be not far from us, O beloved!
Come, Goolab, give me the lamp, and I will place it myself to-night."

"What ails the boy?" said the nurse to herself, as Fazil advanced with
the lamp, lighted the others, and placed it in the niche with the
customary prayer. "What ails him to-night? Truly there is danger, and
he has done all those things himself that he may meet her----If it be
the will of Alla, who can gainsay it? but not so, O Protector!" she
muttered; "not so. I vow Fatehas at the mosque next Friday if he is
spared," she said inwardly, weeping.

Fazil's errand was done, and as he turned he saw the old nurse wiping
her eyes. "Ah, weeping, Goolab?" he said. "No, no, that is of no use

"No, Meah, truly of no use," she replied; "but memory is often too much
for me when I think upon her. Yet I will not weep--of what use would it

"None, old nurse, none; come, get me my dinner, for I have much to do
ere midnight."

"Will our father join us?" asked Zyna.

"I think not; I left him engaged with affairs of importance with the
King's secretary in the Durbar, and he did not speak of return. I will
wait a little for him, but should I not see him, thou must tell him,
Zyna, that I am gone on the King's business. But hurry the dinner; I go
only to give a few orders, and I will be with thee presently."

So saying he left them, and quitted the garden by another door which
led to the outer court, where the guard-houses allotted to the
retainers of his father's house were situated. Goolab followed to bar
the door after him, which was kept closed on the inside, and, returning
to Zyna, said, "Did he tell thee what he was going to do, my life?"

"No," said Zyna sadly; "he would not tell me, nurse, and I dared not
ask him. He said he would explain all by-and-by, and he will. I know he
will," she added, clapping her hands; "he always trusts me."

"I only hope he is in none of these plots that they say are going on,"
returned the nurse.

"What plots, Goolab?" asked Zyna with apprehension.

"O, I know not," replied the old woman, with a puzzled air, and passing
her hand across her eyes; "only people in the bazar say so; and the
Bangle woman, after she had put on your new set the other day, said
something about the Mahrattas and Sivaji Bhóslay."

"O, the Kafirs!" cried Zyna, laughing; "I have no fear for them, if
that is all. I was afraid of worse. But come, or we shall keep him


Entering another small court, in which there was a stone porch formed
of pillars connected by arches, supporting a dome in the shape of half
an octagon, projecting from a side-wall, which served as a private
place of audience--Fazil passed through a farther door into one of the
large exterior courts of the mansion, which contained an open hall
composed of a triple row of pointed arches covering a large space.
Generally, it was filled with the better classes of horse-soldiers;
Silladars, or cavaliers who rode their own horses and sat there when
not on duty; also by the officers and men of the young Khan's own
guard: and occasionally was used by his father when were held great
ceremonies, festivals, or rejoicings in the house.

On the three other sides of the court were arches or cloisters,
slightly raised from the ground, in which lounged or slept soldiers of
all classes, on duty or otherwise, generally collected into groups,
playing at chess, or pacheese, or cards, singing, or telling stories.
Just then, however, most were idle; for the lamps, which stood in
niches in the centre of each arch, had not been lighted. The large hall
was nearly empty; but in one corner a group of Karkoons, or clerks, sat
with a large brass lamp in the midst of them, occupied with accounts,
and making fair copies of letters to be despatched by that night's post.

All the men assembled here were strictly the retainers of the house;
for the guard of troops belonging to the King had another post in a
different court, and were comparatively few in number. Afzool Khan's
household force, or Päègah, as it was called, was supported out of
royal estates, granted or assigned for the purpose. It belonged
strictly to the royal service, but the men looked to their own lord for
employment and maintenance, followed him to the field, and were for
the most part hereditary retainers, with no claim upon, or expectation
from, royal favour. Such was the condition and constitution of the
greater portion of native armies at the period of our tale, and such it
continues to be in native states where troops are maintained.

Fazil Khan was the idol of his men, both Moslems and Hindus. His
martial exercises had begun early, and he had proved an apt scholar.
Any of the men who particularly excelled in the use of a particular
weapon had, in turn, the young noble for his pupil; and in all field
accomplishments necessary to the soldier and gentleman of those
days, the young Khan was well skilled. No doubt these, and his daily
systematic exercises, had developed a frame always strongly knit; and
his broad deep chest, round muscular arms, and thin flanks, amply
testified strength and activity.

On horseback with the Mahratta spear or matchlock, it was no hyperbole
to say that, at full gallop, he could pick up a tent-peg driven into
the ground with the former, or shatter one at a fair distance with
a bullet from the other. Such martial accomplishments never fail to
gain the respect and attachment of an inferior soldiery; and when
to these were added a disposition open and cheerful, somewhat hasty
perhaps at times, but in reality generous and affectionate,--a hearty
frank manner, which few could resist, and a countenance, not strictly
handsome, but which expressed all this and even more,--it will not be
thought strange, that the young Khan should have become a universal
favourite with his retainers, and the especial darling and idol of a

Chief, perhaps, among the latter, was Bulwunt Rao Bhóslay, who held
rank in the Päègah as Duffadar, or leader of a small "duffa," or
subdivision of men. He was a Mahratta of good, nay, originally noble
family--a Silladar, or cavalier who maintained not only his own horse
but five others, with which, mounted by dependants of his own, he had
originally visited the capital and joined the service of Afzool Khan.

Him, had the young Khan selected as his especial instructor in the use
of the sword; for at the annual festivals and games before the King's
palace, Bulwunt Rao's feats of slicing betel-nut on the ground, cutting
a lime in two on the palm of a man's hand, or a ripe guava on his head,
were unrivalled; and their yearly repetition was looked for by the
people with great interest, and always rewarded by hearty acclamations.

Bulwunt Rao was worthy of his young lord's confidence. Daring and
resolute, he had already led Fazil Khan into the midst of some sharp
cavalry affairs with the Moghuls, and brought him forth safe, while
he himself had been wounded several times in protecting him from
sword-cuts. Wily, yet full of energy, if there were any necessity
for action, open and frank in his manner, he had early won his young
lord's affectionate regard, which he very heartily returned, while he
rejoiced, with all a soldier's pride, to see him growing up as manly
and true of heart as his boyhood had promised.

Fazil's arrival among those assembled--so suddenly, and at an hour when
he usually withdrew to the zenana and his studies--caused no little
excitement among the men, and they eagerly crowded round him for the
news which he might have to tell them.

"What tidings hast thou for us, Meah Sahib?" cried a fine bearded
fellow of his own tribe of Pathans, also a favourite. "May thy prestige
increase! but there should be something by thy look,--a march against
those zenana dogs of Moghuls, or a fray over the border against

"A hunt of Moghuls!" echoed several. "What better sport, Meah? There
are some pickings of Delhi gold to be got in their waist-bands and

"And what has my lord for his servants to perform?" asked Bulwunt Rao,
now advancing with his usual easy yet deferential manner. "Speak but
the word, and we are in our saddles directly. Shall I order the Nagara
to be beaten, and cry to horse!"

"Not so, Bulwunt," said the young man, taking him aside; "what I have
to say is for your ear alone. Come into the private court and listen."

"For me alone, Meah?" returned Bulwunt Rao, laughing. "What brawl have
you fallen into? whom have you slain to-day, sir?"

"Let us all follow if ye are going out," cried several others; "don't
leave us behind."

"We have had nothing to do for a month," added one.

"And our swords have lost their edges, Meah," shouted several.

"Peace, all of ye," exclaimed the young Khan; "let no one follow us.
This is no fighting matter. Am I wont to plunge into street brawls,
Bulwunt Rao?"

"We were none of us with you, my lord, to-day," cried several, "and it
is not safe for you to be alone in the streets in these times."

"I had others of the King's, and was quite safe," returned Fazil; "but
come, Bulwunt, if you are fit to listen to me; I only fear that ganja
pipe of yours is at fault, and your brain is hardly clear. If not, I
had as well hold my tongue; yet I had rather trust you, old friend," he
continued seriously, "than any other."

Fazil's altered tone and manner had their effect upon his companion.
"Wait for a moment, Meah," he said, "I will join you instantly;" and so
saying, he ran quickly back to the spot where he had left his carpet,
seized a brass vessel of cool water, poured some into his hand and
dashed it upon his face, then swallowed several rapid and deep gulps,
and returned. "Now, I am fit to listen to the words of the holy Krishna
himself if he were on earth; therefore speak on, Meah Sahib, and behold
your servant ready to think for you, or to fight for you, as you

"Ay, there is some soberness about you now, Bulwunt," said the young
man; "less redness about the eyes, and they are looking straight out
of your head, instead of rolling about in it. Now, can I trust you not
to prate of this matter before the people yonder, or over the ganja

"Nay, Meah, be merciful, and pardon me for once," said Bulwunt, closing
his hands and putting them up to his forehead; "the ganja has grown on
me, but not to the discredit of my faithfulness, Meah; and when I smoke
I never talk. Now, say on, I will be silent as death."

Fazil proceeded some paces through the court without replying to his
retainer, and tried the garden door, but it was fastened inside. "We
must be content here," he said. "Go, shut the door, we shall at least
be safe from interruption."

"In the name of all the gods, Meah," said Bulwunt Rao, as he returned
and sat down on the step of the porch beside Fazil, "what hast thou to
say to me? Why all this need of caution? Has the Wuzeer revolted, or

"Silence," returned Fazil, "hear me. In one word, you are a
Mahratta--is Tannajee Maloosray known to you?"

The question seemed for an instant to stun the faculties of the hearer.
He passed his hand dreamily across his forehead and eyes, and, pausing,
seemed to gasp. Fazil thought it might be a sudden dizziness--the
consequence of the strong narcotic he had been smoking--and was about
to ask him, when Bulwunt Rao spoke.

"Tannajee Maloosray! Meah? Do I know Maloosray? Ay, truly, Khan; as the
wild dog and the wolf, as the wild boar and the tiger know each other,
so do I know Tannajee Maloosray. The destroyer of my house, the usurper
of my possessions, the plunderer of my ancestral wealth. Yes, there is
a feud between us which can be washed out only by blood. Listen, Meah,"
continued Bulwunt Rao, and he got up and walked rapidly to and fro:
"hast thou time to hear a short story about Tannajee?"

"Yes, speak on. I am listening."

"I was a youth," continued Bulwunt, "younger than you are by several
years, when Maloosray aimed his blow at my family. My father was dead;
had he lived, Tannajee dared not have done it. My uncle, Govind Rao,
was a timid man, looking only to the farms and to money-making while he
lived. At last he died also. But he left another brother, Ramdeo, whom
we loved much, and he took care of us all. My younger brother, Seeta
Ram--why speak of him, Meah? he would have been as beautiful as thou
art--and some of the women and myself, all lived together in the old
house. They came at midnight, Tannajee and a band of his Mawullees. I
do not remember much, Meah; but look here;" and he took off his turban
and showed a deep scar on his shaved head. "That is what I fell from,
under a blow of his sword. I don't think," he continued dreamily, "that
I have been quite right in my brain since, but it does not matter.

"Next morning there were seven stark corpses in the house, and great
pools of blood. My uncle, my grandmother, two servants--how can I say
it?--yes, my mother and my little brother, and my mother's sister, who
was a widow. One blow of a sword had killed my brother and my mother.
He was in her arms, and had clung to her. Enough; who could have done
this but Maloosray? There is not a sword in all Maharástra which could
have struck such a blow as that was--but Maloosray's.

"When I recovered consciousness in the morning, the women that
remained, and some servants, were wailing over the dead, but they were
barely alive from terror. Neighbours however came in, and some of our
tenants and servants, and the place was cleaned up. In the evening
there were seven piles made near the river for the seven corpses, and
they were burned. My wound had been sewn up by the barber, and I was
carried to perform the last ceremonies, and I then swore upon their
ashes to revenge them, and I will yet do it. Now, by thy father's salt,
tell me what thou knowest of that villain Maloosray, and how his name
comes into thy mouth?"

"And was nothing done for justice, Bulwunt? Was justice dead in that
country?" asked Fazil, deeply interested.

"Justice!" echoed Bulwunt Rao, "justice! Ah, Meah, what can the poor do
for justice? All the wealth of the house had been plundered. Maloosray
had brought a hundred of his brethren in that Duróra, and he had
promised them the plunder. His object was my life, but the gods spared
it, and I came here to serve the King, till--till Tannajee is dead, or
till I kill him, Meah! That is the only justice I want: that, and the
land he took from me. I thought to tell thee all some day, and now I
have said it; but, by thy soul, tell me how Maloosray's name is known
to thee, and why?"

"Should you know him again, Bulwunt, if you saw him?" asked Fazil.

"Know him, Meah--among a thousand--among a thousand. It is years since
we met; but, before that quarrel with my father about the land, he
came to us often, for he was my mother's relative. He hunted large game
on our hills, when I went with him, and I was a great favourite of
his. Most of the sword-play I know, he taught me. Know him? Yes. That
night I, a stripling, crossed swords with him. I had wounded one of his
men, and he heard the cry. He had been seeking for me. What could I
do, Meah, a weak boy, among a crowd of screaming women? Yet I crossed
swords with him; and there are few alive who would dare to do so.
Forget him? No, I should know him among a thousand. His eyes, Meah, his
eyes! Hast thou seen them?"

"Nay, I have not seen them yet, Bulwunt; but I think I know where he is
to be found," returned Fazil.

"Here, Meah? in Beejapoor? Tannajee Maloosray in the city?"

"Yes, here. You are always rambling about the city at night, and know
all the mudud khanas; canst thou guide me to one Rama's shop--Rama of
Ashtee? It is in the great kullal's bazar, and near a Hindu temple."

"I know it, Meah; I know it well. Rama sells the best ganja in
Beejapoor. Yes, I can take you there, but not in those clothes."

"Not now. Let the night wear on a little; they will not be there till
just before midnight," replied Fazil; "and we have to watch the temple,
too. Is there one near Rama's, with trees about it? Some people meet
there first, and then go to Rama's."

"Yes, Meah, there is the temple of Dévi, in the plain beyond, among the
tamarind trees; a lonely place it is, and Byragees put up there. Yes, I
know it."

"Then I am right," continued Fazil, "for I saw it myself to-day. Now,
as Maloosray is desperate, should we not take some picked men with us?
There is Raheem Khan, and----"

"Men?--to take Maloosray?" cried Bulwunt. "O Meah, you are simple to
think it. Maloosray will have twenty, aye fifty, spies out, and old
Rama is chief of them. One soldier a coss off, and Tannajee would be
warned. But why go, Meah?" he continued, after a pause. "I will take my
own men and bring him. O," cried Bulwunt, speaking through his teeth
and to himself, "for one good chance and a fair field with him now!"

"No, Bulwunt, I must go; it is the King's business," returned Fazil;
"besides Persian may be spoken, and you do not understand it."

"Persian, my lord? then this is a Moghul affair?"

"I cannot say, friend," returned Fazil; "all I have discovered is, that
Maloosray will be in the temple, or in the mudud khana, and a 'Lalla.'
There is no good, I am sure, at the bottom of it, and we must find out
what it is. We know the Moghul emissaries are busy, and it is important
to check their plots."

"And Sivaji Bhóslay's also, Meah, they bode no good; for my people
write to me that he and Tannajee have leagued together, and----; in
short, they write foolish things, sir."

"Bhóslay? that is your family name, Bulwunt," said Fazil, musing.

"Yes," he replied, "and we are of the same house; but he is rich
and I am poor. And now people tell wonderful things of him; how the
Mother--that is, Bhowani, speaks in him sometimes, and he prophesies
great events. One thing is certain, Meah, Sivaji Bhóslay is no friend
to Beejapoor, nor to any Mussulman; and if Maloosray has come here for
him, it is with some object which is worth the risk to discover."

"Then they are friends?" asked Fazil.

"Ay, Meah, as thou and I, and nearer still. Maloosray believes Sivaji
to be an incarnation of the gods, and would give his life for him. So,
too, many another; and the people have begun to write ballads about
him, which are sung in Beejapoor even sometimes, and they set one's
blood dancing. No wonder the people of the wild valleys love them; wild
places, Meah, which ye know little of as yet."

"Yes, it is worth the risk to find out what is doing. One thread
of those dark intrigues in my hand and I am not my father's son if
I do not discover more," replied Fazil; "but you said we should be

The Mahratta thought for a moment. "What sayest thou, Meah, to becoming
a Hindu for the time? I could paint the marks on thy forehead. Nay,"
he continued, as he saw the young man shrink from the idea, "they will
only be very temporary 'abominations,' as the old Khan calls them, and
water will remove them when we return."

"Good," returned Fazil. "I will suffer 'the abominations' in the cause
of the Shah and the faith. And, now, begone. I will come to thee here,
after the evening meal, and we can dress unobserved. But swear on my
neck, Bulwunt, no more ganja to-night."

"No, no, Meah," returned the man, laughing, and touching his young
lord's neck and feet; "I swear I will not touch it. We both need cool
heads for this work, and I will not fail you."

"Then go," added Fazil. "I will send Goolab to you when I am ready."


Fazil was as good as his word to his fair sister, and having seen
Bulwunt depart, gained the door which led to the private apartments,
and proceeded to that in which he knew he should find her.

The room was upon the first story, which, by means of deep stone
brackets, had been constructed so as to project somewhat over the
rooms beneath. It contained, indeed for the most part consisted of,
three large oriel windows, overhanging the line of the walls, so that
they commanded a view up and down the main street, which led to Toorweh
and the royal palaces. These windows were large enough for several
persons to sit in and enjoy the air; and the floor of the centre one,
which was the largest, was raised a step above that of the room, so as
to form a dais, on which a thickly-quilted cotton mattress, covered
with clean white muslin, was laid every day, and furnished with large
pillows, so that those sitting there could recline luxuriously, if they
pleased. Between the stone mullions of the windows, carved screens
or shutters of wood had been inserted, which were fixtures, except a
portion in the centre which opened on hinges. Without them were heavy
wooden shutters, lined with iron, with openings to fire from should it
be needed.

The other windows did not project so far, and were in fact single
arches, filled deep with carved latticework, closed during the day,
but open in the evening to admit the fresh air. Beside each was a
large Persian carpet and a pillow. The floor of the apartment had also
a thin carpet of quilted cotton cloth, covered with white muslin;
and the perfect neatness of the whole, the walls being pure white
without ornament, gave evidence of very vigilant superintendence by
the Khan's present wife, perhaps by Zyna herself. One lamp burned in a
corner, and, being agitated by the wind, which blew freely through the
apartment, gave a flickering light, which left much of the space in
actual gloom.

Zyna had been there some time, and the sweet freshness of the evening
air had tempted her to throw open the lattice window to admit it more
freely, as she sat in the balcony or oriel window already mentioned.
Looking out upon what was passing below her, she did not observe her
brother's entrance, and almost started as he spoke.

"I did not hear thee, brother," she said, rising and making way for
him. "Come and sit here, it is so fresh after the rain. What kept thee
so late? We hear the Durbar was very full to-day, and that there are
more rumours of war. O, I pray not, brother?"

"True, sister, there are such rumours," he replied; "but nothing new.
The Wuzeer is at Nuldroog with the army. The Emperor's forces lie about
Dowlutabad, so there is no change. But I was not in Durbar. I was
looking after some other matters. Come and sit here, Zyna, and I will
tell thee. See," he continued, as she seated herself by him, "the city
looks calm and beautiful, does it not? Yet, who can tell the wild acts
now in progress there, and the wild plots which disgrace it?"

In truth it was a fair scene. The house or palace of Afzool Khan stood
somewhat apart from other buildings, upon a slight eminence, and the
room they were in overlooked a large portion of the city to the south,
west, and north. Between the combined twilight and light of a moon
about half-full, the outlines of the city generally, and of some of
the most remarkable buildings, could be seen distinctly, and formed a
picture of great beauty. To the north, the large dome of the mausoleum
of Mahmood Adil Shah stood out boldly against the clear grey sky, as
well as the high dark masses of the King's palaces in the citadel, and
of that of the "Seven Stories" in particular, in the windows of which
lights already twinkled here and there, and disappeared.

A little on the left of the palace was the massive cavalier of the
"Oopree Boorje," with the King's flagstaff on its summit; below, the
dark lines of the fortifications, with lights gleaming from each
guard-room upon the bastions. Thence the eye travelled round the city,
resting here and there upon massive domes and slender minarets, shining
tenderly in the moon's rays, which also fell softly upon the outlines
of terraced houses and palaces, and upon the dark masses of foliage of
their gardens. Over the most populous parts of the city also nearer to
them, the evening smoke hovered like a thin mist, catching reflection
of the thousand lights and fires beneath: and a hum of voices arose
from thence:--otherwise, all was still around them, and the broad
street leading to Toorweh nearly deserted. Night was fast falling, and
a bright star here and there already sparkled in the sky.

"Yes, it is a fair scene, sister," he continued, as she drew closer to
him. "Yet, even now, men are plotting villany and treachery. There is
no peace in it."

"No peace, brother!" she said, echoing his words; "cannot others be as
we are--enjoying what Alla sends them without strife? Why should it not
be so?"

"Why, Zyna? because of ambition, which, with the hot thirst it begets,
dries up men's hearts; because of avarice, driving them to barter
kingdoms and honour for gold; because of fraud, and deceit, and lies,
and profligacy. Alas, girl, where ends the catalogue? Even now I fear
the evil thoughts and treacherous plots of our fair city."

Zyna shuddered, and nestled closer to her brother. "Why is thy speech
so sad to-night, Fazil?" she said timidly; "does aught threaten us or
our friends?"

"Listen, sister, and judge," he returned. "I cannot help these fancies.
Ah, Zyna! if I had one like thee to be with me always--to be more to
me even than thou art--perhaps the world, fair as it lies there, would
have few charms for me."

"She would be forgotten before a bright sword or a gallant horse,
brother," replied Zyna, in a tone of raillery.

"Not so, by the Prophet!--by your head and eyes; no, Zyna," cried her
brother earnestly. "Let such an one come, and thou wilt see what she
would be to me."

"Would it were so, brother! and yet I know of no one--not one as
yet--whom thou couldst love like me. None of the maidens of this city
are worthy of thee; no, not one, Fazil."

"Ah! nothing less than one of the blessed houris of Paradise would
content thee for me," returned the young man, laughing; "but one
like thyself would quite content me, sister. Perhaps even now thou
hast been thinking I have some love-secret to tell thee, for I have
not accounted for my delay these two evenings, but love there is
none, dearest. No--none at all," as she shook her head and laughed
incredulously,--"none. A graver matter, truly, if I am right. Listen,
Zyna, I have told thee of Kowas Khan before--my friend, the Wuzeer's

"What of him?" she returned, so abruptly that her tone of alarm
startled her brother. "Yes," she continued, correcting herself,
"surely--often--dear brother, hast thou not told me of his bravery when
the Moghuls besieged the city? but do not mention him, else I will go

"Nay, go not, Zyna. I will not tease thee," he replied, "yet why
should I not speak of him? Is he not a hero--a very Roostum? Is he not
beautiful?--a youth for a maiden to love, or a man to make his friend!
But enough of this," for he perceived the confusion his last words had
occasioned: "to say the truth, I am anxious for the whole family, and
there is much cause to fear; the Wuzeer is not keeping his faith with
the King. But for that, indeed----"

"Hush, brother!" said Zyna, again blushing, for she knew that she had
been sought in marriage by the Wuzeer for his son; "may God forbid evil
to him or any of them; and men have as yet spoken well of him. Why
should he be suspected?"

"Alas, who can say?" replied her brother sadly. "Who can tell to what
crimes pride and ambition may not urge a man? Truly, sister, it will
not be marvellous if the Wuzeer, seeing the danger of the Moghuls on
the one hand, of Sivaji Bhóslay on the other, and knowing better than
we do the divisions among our own nobles, should forget his faith,
and try to strike in for himself. 'Twas thus, so writes the historian
of honoured memory, Mahomed Kasim Ferishta, that our own kingly house
rose into existence, and the Nizam Shahy and Kootub Shahy dynasties
also; what wonder, then, that Khan Mahomed--the rich, the honoured, the
powerful--should be tempted to follow examples so successful and so

"What! and forget his King, who has raised him from--from----" she
could not add slavery; "forget honours, titles, lands, wealth? O

"Ah, Zyna," returned Fazil, sighing, "believe me, there are few minds
so noble, and so humble too, as to despise power in little things;
how much less a position so exalted as that of monarch of these
noble realms. Men have already forgotten 'Rehân' the slave, in 'Khan
Mahomed,' the Wuzeer of Beejapoor. We know what he was, we see what he
is, and we can think what he might be. If he is playing for the highest
stake, it is a game in which his life is of no account."

"I would I had not known of this, brother, from thy lips," said Zyna
sadly. "True, it seems to have a terrible distinctness: and his son?"

"Nay, by your head and eyes, he is pure, Zyna. My own dear friend," he
exclaimed, "I would answer for him with my life. As for the rest, 'tis
but suspicion as yet. Whatever the matter I know of may lead to, I am
resolved to see the last of it. Listen.

"Last evening I was coming from the Durbar, and, dismissing the men
who were with me, I rode to some open ground to exercise my horse.
It is not far from the King's palace at Toorweh: and to get there I
proceeded through the outskirts of the city, which lead to the quarter
of the lower orders of the people. I had not ridden far when I met
the palankeen of the King's secretary, attended by some horsemen. It
seemed strange to meet him there, because, when I left the audience
hall, he seemed immersed in business. So I rode up towards it with
the intention of saluting him again, when he shut the door as it were
carelessly, but, as I thought, with an evident desire not to be seen:
this stimulated my curiosity. I had no pretence for following him,
only there happened to be an acquaintance, who was in command of his
escort, and who called me. I joined him, unobserved by the Meerza, and
accompanied him under pretence of friendly chat. By-and-by, as the
better part of the town grew more distant, I asked him banteringly
what had brought so great a person as the King's Meerza into so mean a
quarter, and whether I might see the end of the adventure; and looking
about him--to be sure the rest of the escort were out of hearing--he
told me that, after leaving the court, the Meerza had first gone to
a respectable Hindu house in another quarter and remained there some
time; and when he came out he was attended to the door by a Hindu
soldier, who bade him depart, and told him not to forget the shop of
Rama of Ashtee, in the 'kullal's' quarter, and Tannajee Maloosray.
Thence a man was sent as guide to another house, and he showed him to
me then running with the bearers before the palankeen. 'So I can only
suppose it is some work of the King's,' added my friend, 'with which we
cavaliers have nothing to do.' I thought otherwise, for Tannajee's name
is famous; and we rode on.

"After some time the guide stopped at the door of a decent house,
which I think was a Jungum's Mutt. The Meerza did not get out of his
palankeen, and a man came to the doorway and began to speak in Persian,
after having looked round suspiciously at all of us. I shall not forget
the man, Zyna, for he had piercing grey eyes and a hooked nose. I
suppose he thought no one could understand him, for he did not speak
low. Still, as his head was partly inside the door of the secretary's
palankeen, I could not hear all, and could only approach, indeed,
on pretence of my horse being restless. I heard, however, the man's
direction to the secretary, a Hindu temple of Bhowani, in the plain
on the east of the fort, where papers were to be shown at midnight,
and the Wuzeer's name was mentioned. Thither I will go, 'Inshalla!'
to-night. I can disguise myself, and my speech is Mahratta or Canarese,
as I please, and Bulwunt Rao goes with me."

"Go not, my precious brother," said Zyna, interrupting him; "there
must be danger among these plotters. Remember what thou art to us all,

"If my love were not what it is for Khan Mahomed's son," he replied,
"I would not hazard this matter; but we, thy father and myself, owe
the Wuzeer many favours, and I should hold myself false did I hesitate
to peril something in their cause. Even thou, Zyna, hast not forgotten
how Kowas Khan and our brave Bulwunt Rao fought over me when I had been
stricken down in the Friday's fight with the Moghuls, and but for them
I had perished. Yes, sister, I must go."

"Go? whither, son?" said Afzool Khan, whose entrance had not been
observed by either; "whither wouldst thou go, and for what?"

"Father!" uttered both at the same moment, and, rising, saluted him

"Be seated, my children," he said; "I too will join you. Your mother
hath not been here?"

The allusion made was to their father's second wife, whom he had
married after the mother of his children died, and who received from
them all the honour and respect, if not the tender love, of their real
mother. Her name was Lurlee, to which her title of Khánum being added,
she was known among her friends and dependants as Lurlee Khánum; and
she will appear presently in her proper person.

"No, father," replied Zyna, "she was going to cook something for you,
and had something to do with her tables; and said that there was
something going to happen, for that Mars and the moon, or stay--really
I don't know, father, how it was--I forget."

"Ah," returned her father, smiling, "bicharee--poor thing!--those stars
are a sad trouble to her. But what art thou going to do, son?"

"Tell him all you have told me, brother," said Zyna.

Fazil recapitulated what he had told his sister, and finding his father
interested, again stated his intention of following up the secret,
whatever it might be.

"Go, my son," said the old Khan, "I cannot gainsay thee in this matter.
If we can protect Khan Mahomed or keep evil from his house, or if any
of these vile plots can be traced to those concerned in them, a few
sharp examples may deter others. But why not take some of the Päègah?
those are dangerous quarters by night."

"Impossible, father, they are too wary; and Bulwunt Rao says there will
be spies and scouts watching everywhere. So we are better alone, and
with your leave, father, I go to prepare myself."

Afzool Khan opened the casement, and looked out. He partly leaned
out of the window, and appeared to be gazing abstractedly over the
city. The young moon was now low in the sky, and the stars shone out
more brilliantly than before; but clouds were gathering fast in the
south-west, which, from the lightning flashing about their tops, boded
a storm. As yet, however, the gentle light of the moon pervaded all,
glinting from the bright gilded pinnacles of domes and minarets, and
resting tenderly upon the white terraces, walls, and projecting oriels
of houses near him--upon the tapering minarets of his own private
mosque, and the heavy but graceful foliage that hung about them.

"It is a type of what is coming," thought the Khan--"here the moonlight
only partially dispelling the gloom, which will increase; there heavy
night-clouds already threatening. Even so with our fair kingdom: the
tempest of sorrow may break over us. We cannot stop it, but we may at
least endure the trial, and be true to our salt."

He was long silent, and the beads which he had removed from his wrist
were passing rapidly through his fingers, while his lips moved as
though in prayer. Zyna dared not speak, yet he looked at her lovingly
as his lips still moved, and passing his arm round her, drew her to
him. Perhaps with that embrace more tender thoughts came into his
heart, some memories that were sad yet grateful.

"There will be no danger, Zyna," he said assuringly, as he felt her
trembling, and guessed her thoughts; "Fazil and Bulwunt Rao are both
wary. The moon, too, is setting, and it will be dark, perhaps raining.
He comes, daughter," continued the Khan, as Fazil's foot was heard on
the stairs; "let us look at him."

As he spoke, Fazil entered the room and made the Hindu salutation of
reverence to his father. "Should I be known as your son, father?" he

"Nemmo Narrayen Baba," cried Afzool Khan, laughing, and returning the
salutation in the same style. "If thou knowest thyself, it is more than
I can say of thee."

The disguise was indeed perfect. Fazil was naked to the waist, and a
coarse cloth of some length, which might serve as a sheet if unwound,
was crossed upon his shoulders and chest in thick folds. A long scarf
of thick soft muslin was tied about his loins, leaving his muscular
arms bare and free. On his chest and about his neck was a necklace,
consisting of several heavy rows of large wooden beads, which, with the
cloth, might turn a sword-cut, while both served to protect him from
the damp night wind. About his head was a turban of coarse cloth, and
a strip of finer material, passing under his chin, covered his mouth
and eyes, and was tied in a knot above his turban, leaving two hood
ends hanging down on each side. His face was smeared with white earth,
and above his nose the broad trident of Krishna was painted in white
and red, covering nearly the whole of his eyebrows and forehead. The
loose Mahomedan drawers had been changed for a Hindu waist-cloth, or
"punja," tied tightly about him, and reaching barely to his knee; while
the ends were rolled up, leaving his legs and most part of his thighs
bare, which, with his arms, were covered with brown earth to subdue
the fairness of the skin. The whole of his clothes were of one colour,
a deep reddish brown, which is called "bhugwa," and is the sacred and
distinctive colour of all religious devotees. At his back hung a broad
black shield with steel bosses upon it, and he held in his hand a sabre
with a plain steel hilt and black scabbard, which his father recognized
as a favourite weapon. Nothing could have been better suited for his
guise than the whole equipment, nor was there anything left to desire
in its perfect adaptation to resistance or flight, should either be

"Bulwunt waits for me in the garden, and I go. Thy blessing, my
father," said Fazil, stooping forward.

"Go. May Alla, and the saints, and the holy Emaon Zamin protect thee!"
said the Khan, rising, and placing his hands tenderly on his son's
head. "Go, and return victorious!"

"Ameen! ameen!" (amen!) sighed Zyna, for her heart was with her
brother, as he turned to depart upon his perhaps perilous mission.


"You have not stayed long, Meah, after all," cried the cheery voice
of Bulwunt Rao, as he saw his young master approaching the place of
meeting, a large peepul tree, which stood at a back entrance to the
garden. "And you are as good as your word. I thought there might be
some lecture from 'the Mastu,' and some remonstrances from the Khánum,
and possibly that the stars were not to be overcome; but all seems to
have gone well. Did they know you?"

"My sister seemed rather frightened as she saw me, and shrank back, but
my father declared me perfect, and bade me God-speed," replied Fazil;
"but look over me once more: dark as it is, it might be a matter of
life or death if we were discovered."

"Discovered, Meah! No, trust me for that!" replied Bulwunt. "Only keep
that courtly tongue of yours quiet, or if you speak at all, let it be
in Canara, which somehow suits you better than our soft Mahratta, and
let it be as broad as you can make it. Leave the rest to me. 'Mahrattas
know Mahrattas,' is one of our common proverbs, not untrue either. No
salaams, Meah! If there be occasion to salute any one, you know the
mode. So--join your hands and thumbs together, carry them up to your
nose. There, your thumbs along the nose--good. Now a gentle inclination
of the head, very little----Shabash! that was excellent. Take care that
no Bundagee or Salaam Alyèk--or other Moslem salutation escape you: if
you have need, a soft 'Numuscar Maharaj,' or if we meet a Gosai, 'Nemmo
Narrayen Bawa!' Or, better than all--why risk anything? keep a silent
tongue, and leave me to talk."

"Nay, not so fast, friend," cried the young Khan, smiling at his
follower's earnestness, "fear not for me; I know enough of the customs
of the dress I wear to bear me out if need be, and I would fain have my
tongue as my hands are--at liberty. No ganja, I hope, since your brain
is clear."

"By your head and eyes, no, Meah, I have only drunk water since you
first called me," he replied earnestly; "look here," and he executed
one of the most difficult of the movements which accompanied his sword
exercise,--"will that do?"

"Let us on then, friend, in the name of all the saints, for we have
enough to do ere morning, and it is some distance to the temple."

"Nearly a coss, Meah, and we have to pass some bad places beyond the
deer park. Come, let nothing induce you to enter into a brawl, or
notice insult, or we shall fail. If we are attacked, we can strike in
return. Come!"

So saying, they moved on rapidly and silently to the Hindu temple
which Bulwunt Rao knew of. Their appearance--for both were attired as
nearly as possible alike, except that Bulwunt had concealed more of
his face than his companion--was too common and unobtrusive to attract
attention, and they passed unnoticed through the respectable portions
of the city, meeting, however, few passers in the now dark and deserted

Passing the wall of the deer park, and skirting the walls and glacis
of the citadel, patches of open rocky ground succeeded, where a few
sleepless asses picked up a scanty night meal, and the houseless
dogs of the city snarled and fought over the carrion carcases of
cattle, or the offal which had been thrown out there, or disputed
their half-picked bones with troops of jackals. Now they met men at
intervals, who, with muffled faces and scarcely concealed weapons,
watched for unwary single passengers, from whom by threat or violence
they might be able to extort the means of temporary debauchery. Some
such looked scowlingly upon the friends, and sometimes even advanced
upon them; but seeing at a nearer glance no hope of anything but hard
blows, passed them by unheeded.

"Many a good fellow has had an end of him made hereabouts," said
Bulwunt in a low voice, as they passed a more conspicuous group than
usual, who seemed inclined to dispute the way with them. "How much
would there be found of a man by morning, to ascertain what he had been
in life, if his body were thrown upon one of those heaps of carrion,
which the hyenas, dogs, and jackals are fighting over? Do you not hear
them yelling?--Bah! that would be an ugly fate, and that is why I
seldom venture into this quarter by night."

"Then you come sometimes?"

"Why not, Meah? Are there not adventures enough for those who seek
them? I tell thee, many a young noble, ay, and old one too, that I
could name, come here after dark and amuse themselves gaily for an hour
or two; but thou art not of that sort, Meah; else I had brought thee
long ago."

"And that is the quarter yonder, I suppose," said the young man, "above
which the light gleams brightly."

"You are right, Meah; a few minutes more and we enter it."

A scene it was of coarse open profligacy. Shops of a low character for
the sale of spirits were everywhere open, filled with flaming lamps, or
before which stood large iron cressets filled with cotton seed soaked
in oil, that burned brightly, sending forth a thick ropy smoke, and
showing groups of men, women, and children too, sitting on the ground,
drinking the hot new liquor, or the more rapidly intoxicating juice of
the date palm-tree; which, contained in large earthen jars, was being
dispensed by ladlesful to people clustered around them. All this part
resounded with obscene abuse, and songs, and violent wrangling. In one
group two men had drawn their daggers, and were with difficulty held
back by women hanging about them. In another place, two women had hold
of each other's hair, and were beating and scratching each other with
their disengaged hands.

They passed through all; many a gibe and coarse invitation familiar
to Bulwunt Rao, who, had he been alone, could not have resisted them,
followed them from men and women. But he was for the time steady,
checked by the presence of his young chief, and with the fierce desire
of meeting his hereditary enemy burning at his heart. They were now
near the place in regard to which Bulwunt thought he could not be
mistaken. A little further there was a Hindu temple gaily decked out
with white and orange-coloured banners; people were singing evening
hymns within it, and their voices rose even above the hoarse murmur of
the crowd, and there was a clash of cymbals accompanying them. Bulwunt
stopped, and laid his hand on his companion's arm.

"That is the temple," he said, "by which I know the kullal's, and that
is where we shall meet Tannajee, if at all. That is Rama of Ashtee's
shop across the street."

"And is the other temple far off?" asked Fazil.

"Not now; a few more turns down the back lanes yonder, and we shall
find it among the tamarind trees in the plain. We will go there at

Bulwunt knew the place perfectly. A quiet secluded spot, where often,
stupid from the effects of ganja, or drink, he had gone to sleep off
the effects before he went home. A place where one or two Jogis, or
Gosais, or Sunniasis of ascetic orders, usually put up, or travellers
sometimes going eastwards, who had to be clear of the city before dawn.
The grove, too, was a favourite place for encampment, and droves of
Brinjarries, or other public carriers, halted there in fair weather.
Now, however, it was quite vacant, and the natural gloom of the place
was deepened by the darkness of the night, while the glare to which
their eyes had been exposed, caused it to seem more gloomy still.

"An evil-looking place, friend, at this hour," said Fazil.

"Ay, Meah, dark enough; yet better than the light we have left yonder,"
he replied, pausing and looking back to where the glare of the kullal's
quarter rose into the dark night air above the houses;--"better than
that. Yet it is a strange place to come to at night, unless there be
any one here. Be cautious, Meah, I will look in."

The temple was a small one, upon a low basement; the high conical
roof or steeple could hardly be traced among the heavy foliage that
enveloped it. There was a court around it, the wall of which was not so
high on one side but that a man standing on tip-toe might look over it;
and as Fazil was about to do so, Bulwunt Rao pulled him back.

"For your life, no," he whispered, "some one is there. I saw the
flicker of a fire yonder; come round to the back of the verandah. I
know of a hole in the wall which is not filled up."

Fazil followed. His companion was right. A hole had been left in the
wall for light or air, and some loose stones and bricks stuffed into
it. Just enough aperture remained for both to see plainly what was
therein. On two sides of the small court, opposite to the temple, was a
terraced building roughly built, the pillars supporting the clay roof
being of rudely-hewn timber. The basement was level with that of the
temple, and ascended by three low steps in the centre. Three persons
were sitting on the floor near the embers of a fire; two enveloped in
white sheets, which were drawn over their heads, and partly over their
faces; they might be Brahmuns, who had been worshipping at the temple.
The other was a "Jogi," or ascetic, who, in all his majesty of dirt and
ashes--his hair matted and twisted about his head like a turban, the
ends of a long grizzly beard tucked over his ears, and naked to the
waist--sat cross-legged upon a deer's skin before the embers, which
cast a dull and flickering light upon his naked body.

Occasionally, with his right hand, he took ashes from the fire
and rubbed them over his broad hairy chest and sinewy arms, and
occasionally over his face, telling his beads the while with his left.
None of the men spoke. Could they be the persons of whom they were in

"I fear we are wrong, Bulwunt," whispered Fazil, "these must be
Brahmuns with that Jogi."

"I know of no other temple, Meah," returned Bulwunt; "but wait here, I
will go round to the door and question them."

"Be careful, friend; I like not the look of the old Jogi; be careful,"
interrupted Fazil.

"Nay, I am not going to quarrel with him," continued Bulwunt Rao; "but
watch what they do. You will see all their faces if they turn to me."
And with cautious steps he moved in.

The door of the temple was in front. Bulwunt had seen it was partially
opened when they arrived. Fazil heard it creak on its hinges as Bulwunt
opened it, and saw him emerge from behind the basement of the temple;
and amidst a rough cry of "who comes?" "who art thou?" from the three
persons, walk slowly and firmly up to the basement of the verandah, and
make the customary reverential salutation.

"Thou art a bold fellow," exclaimed one of the men covered with a
sheet, who stood up, looking at Bulwunt from head to foot, "to intrude
upon respectable people unbidden. A Gosai, too, whence art thou?"

"I am a poor disciple of Amrut Geer, of Kullianee, if ye know the
town," answered Bulwunt, deferentially; "and they call me Poorungeer.
I have come to the city on business, and have travelled far to-day.
I often put up here, and, as I saw lights, I entered, in the hope
of shelter for the night. It will rain presently, and, with your
permission, I will take a drink of water and rest here."

"There is plenty of water in the well without," returned the man
sulkily; "and there are the iron bucket and cord--take them and begone.
There are a thousand Gosain's Mutts in Beejapoor, why shouldst thou
stay here?--begone!"

"Nay, be not inhospitable, O Bawa!" returned Bulwunt. "I am weary and
footsore; it is a long way to the only Mutt, I know, and it is not safe
for a man alone to pass the plain at night."

"I tell thee begone," said the Jogi; "there is no room for thee here;
begone, else we will turn thee out."

"Direct me, then, to a resting-place, good sirs," replied Bulwunt. "I
would give no offence; I pray ye be not angry." "Nay," he continued,
observing a gesture of impatience; "behold, I am gone. I would not be
unwelcome. Only say, O Jogi, what this temple is called?"

"This is the temple of Toolja Dévi, and dedicated to the Holy Mother
at Tooljapoor," replied the man. "If thou hast need to visit it, come
to-morrow, and thou wilt see the image. Depart now, or these worthy
men may be angry. Thou hast interrupted already a discourse on the

"Which would have benefited me, Bawa, also. I shall not forget their
inhospitality. Now I depart." And saluting the Jogi, who lifted his
hand to his head, and staring fixedly at the others, whose faces were
plainly visible by the light of the fire, which had blazed up, Bulwunt
Rao left them.

"Listen, Meah," whispered Bulwunt to Fazil, as he rejoined him. "These
are the people, no doubt; there are some holes in the wall behind them,
which I saw when within; come round to them, we shall see and hear
better, and can listen to the old Jogi's discourse on the mysteries;
no doubt it will be edifying. The old Jogi is some one, I think, in
disguise, but it is well done. Come, and tread softly."

The light tread of their naked feet was not heard amidst the rustling
of the trees above; and, as Bulwunt had said, there were several holes
in the wall which enabled them to see and hear perfectly, except when
the conversation was carried on in the lowest whispers. They were,
however, on the highest side of the court wall.

"We are right now," whispered Fazil; "but have the weapons ready in
case of need. I like not the Jogi nor his friends."

The inmates of the little building were silent for some time, and one
of them, who had kept his face concealed, at length lay down, and drew
his sheet over him. The other two smoked at intervals. Now one, now
the other, lighting the rude cocoa-nut hooka with embers from the fire
before them.

"Didst thou know that lad, Pahar Singh--that Gosai?" asked his
companion. "Methinks he was more than he seemed. I know most of that
old robber Amrut Geer's cheylas, too, but not him; he may be a new one
perhaps. Only I wish I had not seen him; there was an evil eye in his
head;" and the speaker's shoulders twitched as though a slight shudder
had passed through him.

"What dost thou care about evil eyes, Maun Singh?" replied the Jogi,
laughing. "I know not the man, and why should he trouble thee, brother?
Depend upon it he was no more than he seemed, else why should he have
named Amrut Geer of Tooljapoor? Why art thou thus suspicious?" And he
again applied himself to the hooka, whose bubbling rattle rang through
the building.

"Nay, it does not signify, only one does not like to be intruded upon,
that's all. I had as well shut the door of the temple, brother."

"Do not bolt it," cried the Jogi; "they will be here soon," as the man
went and closed it; then returned, and with another shrug or shiver,
lay down, when both relapsed into silence.

"Pahar Singh!" whispered Bulwunt to the young Khan; "the robber,
murderer, rebel, what you please. The man after whom we wandered so
long last year. Ah, 'tis a rare plot, Meah, if such be the instruments."

"Hush!" said Fazil; "they are speaking again. Listen!"

"Where did you get those papers, O Toolsee Das?" asked Pahar Singh of
the man who had been lying down. "What, hast thou been asleep? Tell me
again, lest I make a mistake."

"Not I, please your Highness," replied the person addressed, raising
himself upon his arm; "but if you talk in that gibberish language of
your country, what am I to do? It is dull work waiting when one's eyes
are heavy with sleep, and I am not rested from that fearful ride."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Pahar Singh; "that ride, Lalla! O man! it was but
a child's ride after all, only forty coss. You will be lively enough
by-and-by. Now, if you can speak without lying, tell me truly, are
those papers genuine or not?"

"My lord," replied the Lalla, sitting up; "they who come will best
know that. If they had not been genuine they would not have been worth
the stealing, nor these long journeys, to which your servant is not
accustomed, nor the risk of being compared with original documents. I
told my lord this before, and----"

"True, Lalla," said Pahar Singh, interrupting him; "but one likes
to hear a thing over again when it is pleasant. Ha, ha! when it is
pleasant, you know----"

"When the honour of great houses is at stake we Mutsuddees have to be
proportionably careful," returned the Lalla pompously; "and when your
poor servant saw what these were, you see--my consideration for the
king--for this state--may it flourish a thousand years--was great, and
I--I, ahem--brought them away----"

"You mean you stole them, Lalla? Out with the truth, good fellow."

"Well, sir, if you don't like my words. Yes, I stole them, and it
was a blessed chance which has enabled me to turn them to such good
account," said the Lalla, smiling blandly. "Excellent indeed, my lord;
and I," continued the Lalla, rubbing his hands, "ha! ha! my lord, and

"Ha! ha! ha!" responded Pahar Singh, interrupting him with a coarse
laugh. "We shall see. No blood in that robbery, Maun Singh. Ours are
seldom so neatly done, I think; but the Lalla is a master of his craft.
Well, and if they are genuine, you will have a rich reward. O, much
money; gold perhaps, who knows? and half is mine for not cutting that
lying coward throat of yours, or hanging you like a dog, Lallajee."

"Noble prince, I have not forgotten the agreement, nor my lord's
hospitality," returned the Lalla, joining his hands.

"Ah, that is well," returned Pahar Singh grimly. "One should not forget
obligations, and they are only five days old. By your child's head,
Maun Singh, he had a narrow escape, only for the boy and thee. Ah, it
was rare fun. A coward--a peculiar coward! He did not think he should
live, and he told us of the papers; only for that, they would have
gone into the river with his carcase. Ah, yes; it was well done. What
if they are false, O Lalla, and we have been brought so far in vain! O
man, think of that."

"Yes, think of that, Lallajee," returned Maun Singh, turning himself
lazily round to speak. "There are few like thee who are made guests of,
and fed instead of becoming food. Ha, ha, ha! art thou not afraid?"

"My lords, I can say no more. I have told you all I can, and the
rest is in their hands who come," said the Lalla, humbly putting up
his hands to his nose. In his heart, however, the man was chuckling,
secretly. He thought those who were to come would be attended by a
retinue, and he purposed to watch his opportunity and denounce the
robber, who would be seized on the bare mention of his name; and when
he, Toolsee Das, should not only get the price of the papers, but, he
felt sure, be rewarded for having enticed so wary a robber into a trap.
The Lalla, therefore, endured the raillery and coarse abuse expended
upon him with a peculiarly grim satisfaction.

"Yes, a cowardly knave, by your eyes, Maun Singh," continued Pahar
Singh, while both were laughing heartily. "Ah, how he begged for life!
And we have fed him well since too, though I am not sure that I did
right in bringing him here, after all. I think I ought to have sent
thee after thine ancestors, Lalla!"

"I doubt not, valiant sir, that your worship hath slain many of the
King's enemies," said the Lalla, trembling in spite of himself, but
inwardly determining to show no mercy, "and you are pleased to be

"Dog, if thou hast deceived me, and brought me fifty coss for nothing,
to save thy miserable life," said Pahar Singh, fiercely, "thou shalt
not escape me twice. Hark! what is that at the door?" for it was now
shaken violently; "they are come, Maun Singh. Remember, Lalla, I am
no Pahar Singh now, or thou diest on the spot. See what I have for
thee here," and he showed the shining naked blade of a sword concealed
under the ashes. "Enough, don't be frightened, only be discreet. Go,
Maun Singh, brother, open the wicket quickly," for those without
again shook it impatiently. "Two are to come, only the two; there
might be treachery with more. But ho, ho, ho! Pahar Singh is a match
for ten, is he not? Now, see thou speakest the truth, O Lalla," he
continued; "and my vows for the temple, and the well, they are not to
be forgotten--nor--the feeding--five thousand Brahmuns. Forget not this
on thy life. I am thy Gooroo, teaching thee 'the mysteries.'"

These words came from him, jerked out, as it were, by morsels, during
the brief interval that elapsed before those he expected arrived; and
which he employed in rubbing additional handfuls of ashes from the
edges of the fire upon his face, body, and limbs, so as to render his
disguise more complete, and in heaping up ashes on his sword, the hilt
of which lay towards him, ready for action. As he finished, he took a
string of wooden beads from his hair, and settled himself on his heels,
in an attitude of austere devotion; for, after a brief parley at the
gate, steps were heard advancing, and the Lalla, though his heart sank
within him at seeing only two persons accompanying Maun Singh, rose as
they ascended the steps of the basement, and were clearly visible by
the light of the fire, which Pahar Singh had caused to burn brightly.

Fazil Khan's heart beat fast as he saw that one of the persons who
ascended first was the King's secretary, his most trustworthy and
confidential servant. His handsome, grave, Persian face, and long grey
beard, with the lameness he was known by, which resulted from a wound,
were unmistakable. The other, who had his face partly concealed, and
who might be taken for an ordinary attendant to the Secretary, seemed
nowise remarkable; but, as the pair sat down before him, and this
person removed one fold of the scarf about his face--though he kept his
mouth and nose still covered, as if to exclude the night air--the large
sad eyes of the young King were plainly visible.

Fazil beheld him with an intensity of wondering interest, which it is
impossible to describe, and fairly panted with excitement. "If he had
known whom he was to meet here," he thought, "he would not have exposed
himself to this risk: Alla and the Prophet have sent us." And as this
escaped him, partly interjectionally and partly in devout prayer, the
young Khan seemed to swell with the consciousness that his King might
owe his safety, nay, even life, to them.

The Secretary was a veteran soldier, but he was unarmed, except a small
knife-dagger in his girdle. Fazil, therefore, loosened his sword in its
sheath. "Be ready," he whispered to his companion, who pressed his hand
silently, in acknowledgment of the caution. Bulwunt had evidently not
recognized the King; indeed, it was well perhaps that he could not see
the face, or have his suspicions awakened: he might not have preserved
the same composure as his young master.


The silence was becoming oppressive, though only of a few moments'
duration, when Fazil observed the Jogi twitch the sleeve of the Lalla's
garment as a sign to begin. Though it had cost him a pang to think he
had no present hope of securing the robber, Toolsee Das, in truth,
was pretty much at his ease. The position and rank of the King's
secretary were unequivocal; who the other person might be, he could not
conjecture--perhaps an assistant, perhaps a son--he might be either.
There was something, certainly, in the look of those great black eyes,
which was uncommon; but they gave no response to the Lalla's rapid but
curious investigation of them: they could not be fathomed at a glance.

There was nothing in the demeanour of either of the persons before him
to excite personal apprehension; and the Lalla was quite sure that
Pahar Singh would not give him up, or the papers either, without an
equivalent in money; and as he could not have Pahar Singh taken, it was
assuring to think that he need not be apprehended himself, for it was
quite certain that the robber would get more for the secret here than
if he and the papers had been conveyed to the Imperial camp. There, a
short questioning, and the executioner would be sure; and the Lalla
shuddered for an instant at the thought of what would have followed.
Here, as one who could give information of the enemy, and who could
disclose state counsels, to what might he not aspire? If the people and
their language were barbarous in northern estimation, yet he had seen
enough of the city to be satisfied of its beauty; and were not many of
the northern people already settling among the Dekhanies?

Such thoughts were flashing rapidly through the Lalla's mind--far more
rapidly than we can write them--when he felt the sudden twitch we
have already mentioned: he joined his hands together, and began, in a
mincing accent, some of those courtly Persian phrases of complimentary
welcome, common to the Mahomedans of the north, and which we need not
repeat. The Secretary, however, was not in a mood to endure them.

"Peace, Lallajee!" he said; "we are rougher people here than those from
whom you have brought these idle compliments, and you can keep them
till you get back. Now to business--do not detain us."

"Ah, yes. My lord desired to see some letters of which I spoke to him,"
he replied; "some that I mentioned yesterday."

"It is therefore that I have come, and it will be well if they can be
produced. You have higgled for them overmuch, good fellow," replied the
Secretary, curtly.

"Nay, if my lord regrets," said the Lalla, "there is no need to press
the matter further. Baba!" he continued to the pretended Jogi, "thou
canst burn them in the fire there, only perhaps the King----"

"Not so fast, good sir," said the Meerza, speaking more blandly. "I
remember all that has passed between us and that valiant gentleman
yonder," and he pointed to Maun Singh, "and I am willing to perform my
part of the bargain. And is this the Gooroo of whom ye spoke?"

"Sir, it is," replied the Lalla. "A holy man--one unused to the ways
of the world, and who travels from shrine to shrine in the performance
of sacred vows. Such were the Rishis; such are those from whom holy
actions emanate; and such are the virtuous Jogis of the present day,
of whom my Gooroo is a noble example. He, desiring the welfare of
the Shah--may his splendour increase, and live for ever!--sent me to
inform you, O fountain of eloquence and discretion! that they were in
existence----" Here the Jogi gave another twitch of interruption, and a
look, with a low growl, which the Lalla well understood, and continued--

"You see, noble sirs, he hath already suffered the interruption of his
devotional abstraction, and is uneasy; for he never speaks unless to
bless his disciples, or removes his eyes from the end of his nose: in
continuing which, and repeating to himself holy texts and spells of
wonderful power, he is pre-eminent in absorption of his faculties. So
my lord will excuse him, and will remember the condition attached to
the perusal of the papers."

"The gold, the gold--the money first!" growled the Jogi. "My son, my
vow, my vow!"

"Noble sirs," continued the Lalla in a deprecatory whine to both, which
appeared perfectly natural, as he looked from one to the other, with
his hands joined, "you must pardon him; he is not a man of courts or of
the world, but of temples, and holy shrines, and ascetic exercises; and
some time ago he made a vow to build a temple on a spot where he had an
ecstatic vision of heaven, and to dig a well, and feed five thousand
Brahmuns, and to pass the remainder of his days in assisting poor
travellers and in holy contemplation. A holy man, therefore, noble
gentlemen, and he is anxious about the gold, not as filthy lucre, but
for the sake of the temple and the well."

"Peace!" interrupted the Meerza. "What, in the name of the Shytan, are
the well and the temple to us? Let us get up and depart, Sahib," he
said to his companion, "they have no papers; this is but a scheme to
raise money. I like them not, my lord," he added in a whisper, "and
bitterly do I regret having brought you here unarmed and unattended.
May God and the Prophet take us safe hence!"

The Lalla was not watching their faces in vain; he felt that he had
gone far enough; and a fresh scowl from Pahar Singh, which was not to
be mistaken: and his action, as he turned up a corner of the deerskin
on which he sat, exhibiting a small red satin bag which might contain
papers, assured the Lalla that he need not delay longer.

"Nay, my lords, be not impatient," he said blandly. "When was--he,
he!--business of importance ever well done in a hurry? Behold!" added
the Lalla, taking up the bag, "here are the papers which the holy
father has kept safely for me beneath his deer's hide. Have I your
permission to open them, Baba?"

"Open, and be quick," was the short answer of the Jogi.

"Simply then, noble sirs," continued the obsequious Lalla, taking some
Persian letters out of the bag, "here they are; and if either of ye
know the handwriting, the signature, or the seals of Khan Mahomed,
Wuzeer of Beejapoor, he will, Inshalla! be able to recognize them. I
do not know them myself, but that makes no difference; they are no
forgeries. If you, my lord," he added to the Meerza, "know them, you
will find that your poor servant has spoken the truth. Look at them

The Meerza received the packet with trembling hands, but he said
firmly, "Thou knowest the penalty thou hast incurred if these be
forged; and if a slave like thee shouldst have dared to question
falsely the honour of one so exalted as the Wuzeer, beware!"

"I know--I know, O most exalted and worthy sir!" replied the Lalla,
humbly but confidently shutting his eyes, folding his hands upon his
breast, and bowing his head over them; "your worship told me before
it would be death. But it will not be so. O no! In your poor slave's
destiny is written favour and advancement at your hands, and his
planets are in a fortunate conjunction."

"I would hang him to the highest tree in Beejapoor, to the topmost
branch of the Goruk Imlee, to feed the crows and kites for a week. What
a rascal he is, Meah!" whispered Bulwunt.

"Hush, and be ready! there is a life on every word," returned Fazil,
hearing the King speak in Persian in an under-tone to the Meerza.

"There is no escape from death," he said in a sad tone, "if these
papers be not false."

"True!" exclaimed the Jogi, abruptly, but whether it had reference to
the Lalla's speech or the King's, could not be certain. The King looked
at him suspiciously, but the man appeared once more to have relapsed
into abstraction.

"O, that I know, worthy sir," returned the Lalla carelessly, "we must
all die in the end: we are all mortal: what saith Saadi?" and he quoted
a verse from the Bôstan. "I have no fear of them, noble gentlemen! May
it please you to look at them first, and then determine about killing
me afterwards. He, he, he!"

"He does not tremble under those eyes," whispered Fazil to his
companion. "This must be true. God help them all!"

"If there be faith in handwriting and seals," resumed the Lalla after
a pause, "I fear not. If these documents had not been so precious, why
should the asylum of the world, my master, have kept them so carefully
in his own writing-case? The time is not come, O Meerza! but you will
yet hear of a reward having been set upon your poor slave's head. Be it
so; I claim the protection of Ali Adil Shah for the service I now do
him, Bismilla! Open the packet there, and say whether I have death and
infamy before me, or life and honour in the King's service, for there
is more at stake in this matter than my lord knows of. Bismilla! open

The Meerza held the packet irresolutely, as one who almost feared a
knowledge of its contents, and looked for a moment to his companion----

"Bismilla!" said the King, eagerly speaking in Persian, "open it; this
suspense is intolerable. Dost thou fear for Khan Mahomed? art thou his

"By your head and eyes, by the King's salt, no," answered the other.
"For good or for evil, Bismilla! I open it,"--and he tore the cover

The heart of Fazil Khan beat so hard in his bosom that its throbbings
seemed painfully audible to himself, and he almost fancied they must be
heard by all inside; but he was still, as was also his companion.

As the wax-cloth covers were withdrawn, there appeared several letters
in the bundle,--large, and the paper covered with gilding, such as are
sent to persons of the most exalted rank only. Eagerly, most eagerly,
did the practised eye of the Secretary run over each superscription,
and each was narrowly scrutinized. One by one he passed them to the
King, and Fazil could see that, whatever they were, they caused the
deepest expression of interest in both their countenances. Suddenly the
Meerza came to one which, having examined even more narrowly than the
others, he passed on, with a deep sigh, to the King.

It was taken eagerly, and at once opened and read, while the Lalla
turned from one to the other with an intense expression of curiosity,
fear, and hope blended together, marked on his features.

"Does that Jogi understand Persian, thinkest thou?" asked the King of
the Lalla.

"Not a word, I will answer for it with my head," returned the man
confidently. "How should he?"

"And thyself?"

"Surely, excellent sir; I have long served in the royal Dufter, else
how should I have known what to take and what to leave?" He spoke now
in Persian, and the conversation continued in that language.

"If there were more, why didst thou not take all, Lalla?" asked the

"All, Meerza Sahib? that the theft might be discovered before I had
time to get away? Ah, no, good sir! A Mutsuddee may be a rogue, but
he should have discretion," and he quoted the Persian proverb to that
effect; "and to all appearance the royal desk still holds the same
packet which I made up with other papers, and sealed with the private
signet as it was before. No; the theft is not suspected yet, unless
that packet have been opened by the Emperor when I was missed----"

"And thou knowest the contents of this letter, Lalla?" inquired the

"I could say them to you, for I have them by heart, noble sir; perhaps
they are somewhat remarkable, for when I read them, I thought Ali Adil
Shah would like to hear them, so I committed them to memory. I will
even repeat the letter to you if this worthy Meerza have no objection.
I presume," he continued to the Secretary, "that your friend is in the
King's confidence as much as yourself."

"Surely," was the reply. "I may say that he is more in it than I am
myself, else I had not brought him."

"Enough," said the Lalla; "I am satisfied. Now, open the letter and
compare it with what I repeat. There is no Alkab."

"True," said the King, "he has drawn a Mudd at the top."

"Proceed after the Mudd, then," continued the Lalla, "the letter runs

 "_It has been the will of the all-powerful that the forces of my
 lord, the ruler of both worlds, should retire. Let not that trouble
 his heart. By the favour of the most merciful, matters will yet take
 a prosperous course for my lord's true interests. All here, with
 this poor suppliant for his bounty, are day and night labouring in
 his behalf: and already many, as by the endorsed list, with their
 adherents, have been gained_ _to the true cause. Others demur, but
 will repent; again, others are obstinate, and cannot be moved, but
 they are not many. A few months more, and when the season opens,
 the harvest will be ripe for the gathering. Then, there will be no
 turning back for my lord from this city; for its people, with this
 poor servant, rejoicing to escape tyranny, will at once turn to the
 asylum of the two worlds, and give my lord's fortunate footsteps a
 happy welcome. We are tired of the false religion; and as to the
 King, he is but yet a boy, and has neither power, knowledge, nor any
 friends: and are men of venerable age to submit tamely to his idle
 fancies? Surely not. He can be ultimately provided for. For the rest,
 my lord's promises are undeserved by the least of his servants, who
 is not fit to kiss his feet; but my lord can at least rely that his
 administration will be carried on entirely in his interest, and to
 his honour and glory. What need to write more? it would be beyond the
 bounds of respect. May the splendour of dominion and honour increase!
 The signature of Khan Mahomed, Wuzeer of Beejapoor._"

"Ay, what need of more?" sighed the young King. "Enough here--enough to
prove the man's treachery, the least deserved that ever the false world
saw. Yet, Meerza, there are still many true to the King: there are some
suspected ones in the list that we know of," he continued, his eye
running rapidly over it, "but Afzool Khan, and many of note, are not
here, and yet rumour has assailed them also."

"Yes, they are intimates," said the Secretary, "but no more, I think."

"Then I have won my reward and my life!" exclaimed the Lalla anxiously,
in his own tongue.

"Your life, surely," replied the Meerza; "but for the reward, we
need to make some further scrutiny into those papers ere that can be
disbursed: they must be compared with others in the King's possession.
Therefore I will take them with me to-night, and if you will come to
me--you know my house--early to-morrow, all will be arranged to your

"But, my lord--noble sirs," cried the Lalla, in evident dread,
"that was no part of the bargain. Did we not settle----" He could
not, however, finish the sentence on account of a rude and decisive

"I forbid it. I forbid one paper or one of you passing hence this night
till the money is paid," said the Jogi, severely.

"And who art thou?" demanded the Meerza, haughtily. "Peace! withdraw;
this is no place for thee, or the like of thee."

"Who am I?" retorted the ruffian. "Who am I? One who has the right, as
he has the power, to demand what he seeks." And as he spoke he snatched
from beneath the heap of ashes before him the heavy sword he had kept
concealed there, which flashed brightly in the firelight, and started
to his feet, as did also his follower. "Stir not!" he exclaimed to the
King and Secretary, who had been too much startled by the sudden action
to rise with the Jogi; "stir not, or ye die on the spot!" Drawing
himself up to his majestic height, Pahar Singh laughed scornfully. "Ha,
ha, ha! a boy and a penman against me! Ha, ha, ha! put up thy weapon,
Maun Singh, there is no need of it."

"Who art thou?" demanded the King, rising notwithstanding the threat,
and returning the glance as steadily as it was given.

"It concerns thee not," answered Pahar Singh. "Pay me the money
promised on those papers--ten thousand good rupees--on this spot, or
you pass not hence alive. Brother," he added to Maun Singh, "be ready.
They have brought the money, and we must get it."

It was a moment of intense anxiety to Fazil Khan and his companion. A
word--a sound from them, and the life of the young King was gone. Fazil
could see that, except a small dagger in each of their girdles, the
King and his Secretary were unarmed. To rush to them soon enough to be
of use, was a thing impossible; they would be dead ere he could strike
a blow. There was no absolute peril, however, as yet, and too much at
stake to risk anything. Pahar Singh appeared to have no evil intention;
but, if provoked, it was plain he might do violence, and would not
hesitate to use his weapon if rescue were attempted.

The King saw his danger. There was little avail in temporizing, and his
thought and action were alike prompt. His own life and his friend's
were both at stake; and what did the money signify? Not a feather in
the balance. Could his attendants, whom he had left at a distance, even
hear of his danger, he must perish ere they could approach him.

"Hold!" he cried, "whoever thou art, Jogi. If the Lalla says thou art
to have the money, it will be given. Our bargain was with him."

"And his with me," returned the man. "Give it me;" and as he spoke he
advanced close to the King.

"Pay it to him--let him have it," cried the Lalla to the King, "and
keep back your men if you have any with you, else there will be
bloodshed. He is desperate, noble sirs; do not provoke him."

"I would do him no harm," said Pahar Singh to the Secretary, "but it is
as well to be certain in case of treachery;" and he drew a small dagger
from his girdle with his left hand, and held it in an attitude to
strike into the King. "Go, if the money is here; bring it quickly; but
beware of any attempt to rescue him, or you will cause his death. You
could not reach me ere I had struck him down. Go then, Meerza Sahib,
my friend Maun Singh will bring the bags: he is strong enough."

"Go, friend," said the King, "do as he says. If the people ask
questions, say I am safe, and will be with them presently."

"And leave thee with him!" said the Meerza, anxiously. "I will not
stir; there is peril, and my place is beside thee."

"There is no peril if ye are true," said Pahar Singh; "much, if ye are
false. Go!"

"Go, friend, I will trust him; his object is money, not my poor life.
Go! I am not afraid of him, nor he of me," said the King.

"How noble he is!" whispered Fazil to his companion.

Both would have given all they possessed to have been by the King's
side to have struck down the ruffian.

"Ay, Meah, I would we were by his side," returned Bulwunt. "Who can he
be? Whoever he may be, he is indeed fearless; but he will not be harmed
if they bring the money. Hush! they may speak again."

The Meerza turned silently to go, and descended the step, accompanied
by Maun Singh.

"Come," said the latter to the Lalla; "help to carry the bags, good
man; it will save me another journey. Come!"

The Lalla followed, and the two remained standing face to face, the
young King and the outlaw looking steadily at each other.

"Afraid of thee?" said Pahar Singh in a low voice, and dropping the
arm which had held the dagger uplifted. "Afraid of thee? No, proud
boy: he who defied thy father's power at its greatest, hath little to
fear from thine. Ali Adil Shah, thinkest thou that this poor disguise
could conceal thee? Yet thou art bold and true, and I rejoice that I
have had proof of it, for men told me thou wert a coward--a boy of the
zenana--only fit to herd with women. Now thou hast met the 'Lion of the
Hill' bravely," he continued, using the play on his own name, "and he
will turn from thee peacefully. Thy life hath been in my hand--nay, is
now in it were I to strike--but I give it to thee freely; promise me
mine in return, and swear by thy father's spirit that, once gone from
this, thou wilt not turn back, nor suffer any one of thy retinue to do

The King started as the man covertly declared his name, and the
covering fell from his face.

"Thou Pahar Singh, the Lion of Allund?" he said.

"Even so, monarch," returned the chief. "Ha! ha! The man whom thy
slaves--cowards--tell thee they pursue. Aha! they dare not. Pahar Singh
is monarch of his own wilds; no royal troops dare to come near them.
But keep thine own counsel, and now listen. Thou mayst need me yet, and
I may do thee good service. Two thousand good hearts and stout arms,
such as thy money cannot hire, serve Pahar Singh. Swear to keep faith
with me, and I will be true. Hadst thou been a coward, and quailed at
the sight of this weapon, I should have been tempted to slay thee,
Adil Khan, like a dog, for never yet did coward sit on the throne
of Beejapoor. For what has happened, thou hast my respect. Enough!
remember Pahar Singh, and in two days or less I will send thee more
tidings, or come myself. Thou mayst kill the messenger, but he will
not tell of my hiding-place; and if harm come to him, I swear to thee,
by the Lady of Tooljapoor, my Holy Mother, that I will take a life for
every hair of his head, and burn a hundred villages. Now, silence! I
have spoken. Am I free to go, scathless as thou art? Thy hand upon it,

It was frankly given, and the rebel and outlaw, instead of taking it
rudely, and as if prompted suddenly by a kindly feeling of reverence
for his King, bent his head gently, touched it with his forehead, and
kissed it.

"Thy hand has touched my lips--put it upon my head, and swear by thy
father not to harm me," he said, quickly.

"I swear by my father not to harm thee, Pahar Singh: only be thou
henceforth faithful to thy King's salt," he replied, as he placed both
his hands upon the outlaw's head.

"Enough," returned Pahar Singh, removing them, pressing them again to
his forehead, and kissing them reverently; "I will be true to thy salt,
O King; but speak to no one of me, and wait patiently till I come--I
may have news for thee. A fakeer's rags and a beggar's cry admit me
everywhere--'Ulla dilâyâ to léonga'[6]--by night or by day, wherever
thou art, in durbar or zenana, whenever you hear it--admit me, or order
me to be confined, and send for me--I shall bawl loudly enough. If I
come not in two days, do not doubt me; but stir not in this matter till
I arrive--it may be very soon, I cannot say. Now cover thy face; they
come," and he resumed his former threatening attitude.

The Meerza, with the two others, emerged from behind the temple almost
as he spoke, and in a few moments had ascended the steps of the
apartment. Maun Singh drew a heavy bag from beneath the scarf which was
round his shoulders; but the eye of the robber at once detected its
small size.

"Those are not rupees, Meerza; beware of treachery with me. I have not
harmed him," he exclaimed.

"No, it is gold, holy Baba. Behold!" and he opened the bag, and poured
the contents carefully into a little heap on the floor near the fire.
"There is more than _he_ bargained for," he continued, pointing to the
Lalla, "but it does not matter; you are welcome to it, for the temple
and the well."

"Enough," returned Pahar Singh; "I am satisfied. Go, take your papers,
and begone; molest me no more." And, sitting down on his deer's hide,
he heaped up the gold coins carefully with his left hand, while his
right still held the sword.

"And my reward, O Meerza Sahib!" cried the Lalla eagerly, as he and the
King turned to depart; "thou wilt not abandon me to him."

"It is there with the rest," answered the Secretary; "Lallajee, help
yourself, we must begone."

"Nay, but I want it not; only take me away--take me away. I fear him,"
cried the man, in a piteous voice, and trembling violently.

"Peace, fool," exclaimed Pahar Singh, rising and holding him back
powerfully. "Peace, I will settle with thee!"


[6] "If God give I will take."


For a moment the natural presence of mind which Fazil possessed
deserted him, and his brain seemed to reel under conflicting thoughts,
and the weight and importance of the secret of which he had become
possessed. Should he disclose himself to the King as he passed out,
and urge him to allow Pahar Singh to be taken? The retinue which
awaited the monarch would be enough to surround the temple, and the
robber's capture or death was certain. It was a deed to do to prove
his devotion, and the country would be free of a bold and mischievous
marauder, who plundered it up to the gates of the city. But the King's
promise to the outlaw was for the time sacred, and there was, perhaps,
further service to be done by the man, which could not be delayed. As
regards the Wuzeer and his family, also, he must avow his knowledge of
the secret to the King, when he might be charged as his spy, and so
share the Wuzeer's fate. These thoughts checked the impulse which had
so nearly carried him on,--it might have been to destruction.

"Shall we follow him? shall we speak to the King?" asked Bulwunt
hurriedly, observing Fazil's irresolution. "Say quickly, Meah,--we have
not a moment to lose."

"No, no! we are better here," replied Fazil. "The avowed knowledge of
that secret might chance to be our death-warrant; and has not the King
given him kowl? Let us watch still--we may gather further particulars;
but to follow the King is madness. Listen! they are speaking." Again,
therefore, they resumed their respective positions.

A few sticks had been thrown on the embers, and Maun Singh was kneeling
down and blowing them into a flame, which, bursting through them in
small flashes with every breath, partially illumined the figures around
it and the blackened walls of the apartment. Pahar Singh sat with
the gold coins before him, counting them one by one. A large portion
were already laid on one side, which he proceeded to drop into the
bag. The expression of his coarse and savage features could now be
distinctly seen; for not only was the light from the fire becoming
steady, but he had removed from his original position, so that he sat
with his face nearly full towards Fazil, though from Bulwunt Rao he
was more concealed than before. It was a face which, once seen, could
never be forgotten. Men saw it and quailed before it: women saw it and
shuddered: and Fazil remembered how often old Goolab, when he was yet
a child, had frightened him by the mention of Pahar Singh: while tales
of his occasional frays and bloody deeds were of everyday report in the

There, then, he sat. Turban he had none: his matted hair, twisted into
a rough rope, was tied in a knot on the crown of his head, and covered
with ashes, showing the high narrow forehead--on which, though crossed
by deep wrinkles, the forked veins, swelled by his excitement, stood
out like ridges, betokening passions wild, fierce, and uncontrollable.
The eyes, always bright, glittered restlessly and suspiciously from
beneath the heavy brows, to which, and to the lids, the white ashes,
smeared on his face from time to time as he sat, had adhered; and his
hard grin disclosed the prominent eye-teeth, which he chose to call
tusks, in allusion to his name.

When we last saw this face at Itga, it was excited, but there was a
softening influence exercised by the presence of his adopted son, and
Pahar Singh was under some restraint. Now there was none, and it was
difficult to recognize the features at all under his disguise, which
served to increase the natural ferocity of the expression.

His rough moustaches, of a sandy-brown colour at the ends, mingled
with a straggling scanty beard, were usually parted in the middle, and
turned over his ears; but now, being loosened, they were tied together
in a knot under his chin, in the most approved Jogi fashion. His broad
chest was covered with grizzled hair of the same peculiar colour as
his beard; and his chin, originally fair, had become of a deep brown,
except where it retained some of its original colour. His arms, which
had appeared so muscular when he suddenly started up to threaten the
king, seemed even longer and more powerful, as he sat stretching out
one over the blaze, while the fingers of the other hand played among
the gold pieces before him. Pahar Singh's countenance was now very
repellant. It seemed to Fazil that mercy could never issue from those
pitiless lips which, with the full nostrils distending and contracting
rapidly under the action of feelings not yet expressed, produced an
effect which fascinated, while it shocked one unused to it.

"Lallajee," he said, every now and then looking up: "O friend, dost
thou love gold? See, this is red and pure--ah, yes, lovely--and so it
need be, coming out of the King's mint direct. More than ten thousand
rupees, too, they said. Well, there are just five hundred and fifty
ashruffees. That is--how much, Maun Singh? thou art a better accountant
than I am."

"Somewhere about eleven thousand rupees, I believe, Maharaj," said his

"Well, that will do, Lallajee," continued Pahar Singh. "That is my
share for taking care of thee, thou knowest, and getting thee a good
market for thy papers. The gods be praised! I vow ten of these to the
Holy Mother's necklace at Tooljapoor," and he took up ten pieces of the
number that remained.

"Nay, valiant sir," interposed the Lalla: "that is your Excellency's
share in the bag yonder. These are mine, not half, as we agreed, but
enough perhaps for the poor Lalla. It would be no merit for my lord if
he were to give to the goddess----"

He could not finish the sentence, whatever it might have been intended
to mean, for the rude interruption--"Ill-begotten!" cried the robber,
snatching a brand from the fire and striking the Lalla's hand, which
had advanced towards the heap,--"dare to touch the gold, and thou
diest! That for the like of thee!"

"I am your slave," whimpered the man, wringing his hand; "but why did
my lord strike so hard?"

"Listen to the coward, brother," said Pahar Singh with a sneer; "a
woman would not whine like that. Now, thy share, Maun Singh."

"Of course," said that worthy, "after being dallal in the matter, and
putting my head into jeopardy, running after that mad Secretary into
the very palace--where, had any one chanced to recognize me, I should
have been cut down or speared like a mad dog--truly, considering the
risk, and that day and night's ride to boot, mine comes next. Ah! thou
art a just man, O Jemadar."

"Well, then, hold out thine hand, brother," returned Pahar Singh,
taking up a few coins and dropping them into his hand. "One, two,
three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Good gold, good gold, Lallajee!"
he said, looking up: "but it is of no use giving it to him: he will
only spend it on women and liquor. Better I should have the rest, who
can take care of it, Lalla, and give it him as he needs it--dost thou
not think so? Yet, stay, I may as well--nine, ten, that's two hundred
rupees, brother--enough for thee. Who would have thought of a bundle
of old papers bringing so many bright ashruffees. And after all, O
Lalla--by your head--were they true or false, O mean thief?"

"True; I swear by your head and eyes, by the holy Krishna and his
temple at Muttra. Canst thou doubt, after what has passed, O Jemadar?"
cried the Lalla earnestly.

"Nay, how could I understand thy jabbering of Persian? That was no
honest talk, Maun Singh; they meant to cheat us by it, and this
slave joined in it. Twenty-one, twenty-two,"--he was counting the
remainder of the gold, and dropping the coins into his own bag as he
spoke, "twenty-three. Dost thou think, O Lalla, that I am a cheating
Mutsuddee, like thyself?--twenty-four, twenty-five.--Ill-begotten
clerk, say--am I--Pahar Singh--a liar and a thief like thyself?"----

"May I be your sacrifice, Maharaj, no," cried the Lalla, terrified at
his manner, and watching, with evident and ill-concealed uneasiness,
coin after coin disappearing into the bag. "Why should my lord be angry
if I spoke in Persian?"

"Ho, ho, thou art frightened again--art thou? Well, perhaps thou
couldst not help the Persian, as the letter had to be read; but I
understood it all the time, O Lalla. Thou couldst not have cheated
me--listen!" he continued in that language, speaking it with a broad
Mahratta accent; "what part of this sum dost thou expect for thy
share--twenty-six, twenty-seven. There is yet much, Lalla. What sayeth
the poet Saadi? Expectation----No matter, I forget the verses we used
to learn at school. How much?"

"Nay, Maharaj, I know not," returned the man in a bewildered manner.
"My lord said half would be mine, and the Meerza told us there were
more than ten thousand rupees."

"Good, O Lalla, thou patron of valiant men like me: but dost thou
expect it? Five thousand rupees! dost thou think that such a sum will
come to thee?" and his hand passed to the hilt of his sword.

"My lord! noble prince! I--I--I," stammered the now trembling wretch.
"I--I--mean the promise to me. Nay, look not so, Maharaj," as he
observed the robber's face distorted with suppressed rage, the veins
of his forehead swelled, and white foam gathering about the corners of
the mouth. "Nay, look not so angry! Behold, I kiss your feet: I am a
very poor man, and a stranger;" and he joined his hands in supplication
as he rose from his heels partly to a kneeling posture. "Would my lord
ever have known of the value of those papers had I not told it? Would
they not have been thrown away, scattered to the winds, if my poor life
had been taken at Itga?"

"My promise!--my promise to thee, O son of a base mother! Didst thou
not swear to me they would be worth thousands?--lakhs!" cried the
robber, raising his voice and gesticulating violently, as he now took
up the gold pieces by handfuls, and thrust them into the bag. "A lakh
of rupees! and here are only a few paltry coins, for which thou hast
brought me fifty coss! What will Anunt Geer of Kullianee say to this
poor instalment on his debt? Thief! get me the rest--the rest of the
gold they have put aside for thee. Didst thou not promise a lakh?"

He had now lashed himself into a fury, which had been his object
evidently from the first; and he struck the Lalla with his clenched
hand violently upon the head, so that he fell backwards, and lay
apparently stunned; but it was only fear.

"He will kill him--not that he does not deserve death, the mean hound!"
said Fazil Khan, hurriedly to his companion. "When was Pahar Singh ever
known to spare a victim? What is to be done, Bulwunt? shall we attack

"Alas, Meah!" returned the other, "what can be done?--a sound, a word,
and the man is dead. We cannot reach them; and the door was closed and
barred when the others went. Ai Bhowani! ai Khundôba! ai Bhugwân! save
him! O, that I had brought my gun with me, or even a pistol, Meah; but
he dare not kill him; he is only frightening him out of the money.
Hush, and listen!"

"Raise him, brother," continued Pahar Singh to his companion, laughing;
"we will soon see whether this fear is true or feigned; or is the
coward soul really gone out of his body?"

"Nay, Jemadar, but he breathes," said Maun Singh, raising the Lalla.
"Speak, O Toolsee Das! art thou alive?"

"My lords! O my lords!" gasped the terrified wretch; "what have I done?
what have I done? why am I beaten?"

"My thousands, I tell thee!" cried the robber hoarsely. "Where are
the papers that were to bring me thousands? Thou hast concealed
them to sell to others. Liar! liar, and base-born coward, as thou
art!----Enough, Maun Singh," he continued, in another language, which
was not understood either by Fazil Khan or his companion, and which
both often thought of afterwards; "he must die; the goddess has sent
him; he must die for her, lest he lead other men astray."

"Ay, he is good Bunij, Jemadar," returned the man coolly. "Methinks
this would have saved trouble long ago, and your worship's getting into
a passion. We ate the goor this morning----"

"Surely, brother, but no blood. I would not soil my sword with carrion
like him; and yours is a certain hand with the handkerchief."

What words can describe the terror of the devoted wretch? He could not
speak or cry out. Of what use if he had? He knew the temple was far
from men's abodes, and the wind moaned hoarsely in the trees above, as
the branches swayed to and fro before a brisk gale now rising with the
clouds. He tried to swallow, but in vain. He sat paralysed, as it were,
his eyes wandering vacantly from one to the other, while his lips were
tightened into a ghastly simper of fear. Neither of the men spoke; but
Maun Singh was carelessly twisting a handkerchief into a peculiar form,
and tying a knot at the end of it. "Thou wilt not feel it, Lallajee,"
he said jocularly, but in the strange tongue; "my hand is sure, and I
am the best Bhuttote in Allund."

What the Lalla understood or guessed it was impossible to conceive;
but Fazil felt assured that murder was to be done. "By Alla and his
Prophet!" he said to Bulwunt, "come what may of it, are we men to stand
by tamely and see foul murder committed before our eyes? Were the
wretch a hundred times more liar and coward, one good blow should be
struck against that ruffian. Ho, Pahar Singh! Maun Singh!" shouted the
young Khan before he could be prevented by his companion. "Hold! would
ye do murder?"

"Hur, Hur, Mahadeo!" cried his companion at the same moment, and both
rushed to the place where, on the side they had been standing, the wall
seemed the lowest; but it was still too high to be reached without a
scramble over rough stones, which delayed them longer than they had
thought. The top once gained, they leaped into the enclosure with drawn
weapons; but as they did so, Fazil saw one man on the top beyond,
another climbing up, aided by his companion. For him and Bulwunt Rao
to rush across the court was the act but of an instant; yet they were
too late: the Jogi--Pahar Singh--had escaped, and his companion was in
the act of dropping down, when, aided by a bound, the well-aimed weapon
of the young Khan reached him. Where or how Fazil Khan had wounded
the robber he knew not; but when he examined his bright blade, there
was a broad stain upon it which could not be mistaken. As he looked,
hesitating whether he should leap down and follow, he could just
distinguish two figures dimly, running at desperate speed through the
trees across the plain, which were quickly lost in the gloom.

Bulwunt Rao was at his side. "Another moment and we should have had
both: the gods have protected them; and it is of no use following,
Meah," he said.

"No, no, they are gone," returned Fazil; "it is useless to follow:
better for us to see after that poor wretch yonder--the villains may
have murdered him, after all;" and they hastened to him.

The flickering blaze was still playing about the little fire, and
served them with enough light to distinguish the objects by it,
disclosing, too, more of the apartment or verandah than they had yet
seen; and as both entered the place at the same moment, a cry of
execration burst simultaneously from them.

"The villains have been too sure! While we scrambled among those stones
they killed him. See, here is an ugly gash, Meah!" said Bulwunt Rao.

"That would not kill him," said Fazil, stooping to raise up the
body--"and he is quite warm. I most fear this cloth about his neck; but
look for some water. I would not have him die. So now--dash some in his
face--his heart beats, too--he lives, Bulwunt Rao!"

"Praise to Narayun! there is at least a chance for him," cried Bulwunt.
"Awake--arise, O Lalla! and fear not," he continued to the wounded man;
"your enemies are gone, and you are with friends who can protect you.
Here, drink some water. I am a Hindu who give it; and speak, O man with
a small liver!"

These cheering words, accompanied by a few gentle blows on his back,
and a little water forced into his mouth, restored something like
consciousness to the wretch. He opened his eyes and stared wildly
about, and into the faces of those who stood over him: then he put his
hand to his throat as if it hurt him.

"Ay, I dare say," continued Bulwunt--"I dare say they hurt thee badly;
but fear not, Sree Swâmi has sent you friends; drink, and it will do
you good. Tut, man, you need not be particular about caste; here is
my junwha, and there is no need to ask further. That's well--can you

"Ye are not they," said the Lalla huskily, and in a low tone. "Friends,
how came ye here? Hai, Hai!--alas, where is my gold? and where are the
robbers who would have killed me? May their mothers be defiled!"

"Perish the gold, meanhearted," cried Fazil; "with thy soul hovering
betwixt life and death, is thy first thought for thy gold?"

"I worship thy feet, brave Gosai," returned the Lalla; "but it was all
I had, for which I had risked much. Hai, Hai! it is all gone now, and I
am in a strange place without a copper or a friend;" and he turned to
the wall and sobbed bitterly.

"It was a round sum to lose, certainly," said Bulwunt; "but thy life is
safe, and thou hast only to steal again, Lallajee!"

"Better to have died--better to have died, sirs!" cried the man
distractedly. "When shall I see so much gold again? Look, noble sirs,
is all gone? has he taken all?"

"It was here they counted it," said Fazil; "look about--a piece or two
may be found; or they may have dropped some in their flight."

Bulwunt blew a dry stick into a blaze, and looked around. He was
fortunate--a few coins had escaped Pahar Singh, which he gave to the
Lalla, who tied them up in his waist-cloth.

"Look for more--look yonder, kind sir; and the blessings of a poor
Khayet be on you both," returned the Lalla. "My eyes are dim: alas!"
he exclaimed, as he put his hand to the back of his neck and felt
blood,--"I am killed--I am dying!"

"Peace, fool!" cried Fazil impatiently, "a child would have cut deeper:
it has been a strange escape. Give me your scarf--I will tie up the

"And here is some more money for you, too, Lallajee," said Bulwunt,
who had now returned, having picked up several gold pieces in the line
which Pahar Singh had taken across the court. "There may be more, and
if you come to-morrow early, you may find them."

"But now we cannot wait, Lalla," added Fazil; "there is no further fear
of your life. The clouds are gathering fast, and there will be rain; we
will see you safe to a guard-room, and I will have you cared for in the
morning; or you can sleep here if you like."

"Ah, leave me not, gentlemen! I am poor and in great pain," replied the
man. "My clothes and horse are a long way from hence: how shall I get
to them? Take me with you and I shall live, else he will find me out
and kill me--that Pahar Singh."

Supporting the wounded man between them, the two friends unfastened
the door of the courtyard and passed out. The glare and noise of the
bazar seemed only at a short distance, and knowing that a strong guard
was placed at night near the end nearest the city, they went to it as
directly as they could. A few questions were carelessly asked as to the
cause of the wound, and as vaguely answered. A traveller found wounded,
who had been robbed, was probably cause enough to account for his

"We cannot delay, Lalla," said Bulwunt, in answer to his cries that
one at least would stay with him. "We have far to go, and the night
is passing fast. The clouds, too, are gathering, and the thunder is
growling in the distance. Hark! there will be a storm. Come, Meah," he
whispered, "we may miss him whom we seek. See that the man's wounds are
dressed, Duffadar," he continued aloud to the officer of the guard,
"and let him sleep here."


As Fazil parted from the wounded man, the scenes of the night, the
horrid truth regarding the treachery of his friend's father, the danger
which threatened both, and indeed the whole family, caused him many
an anxious thought. His worst suspicions had only been too deeply
verified, and even now there arose some struggle between duty and
allegiance to his King, and affection for the Wuzeer's family, for the
sake of his son. Bulwunt had again avoided the principal street, and
they were once more in the open ground beyond the houses. Fazil walked
on rapidly and silently; but at length, the oppression of his thoughts
found vent in words. "Let him decide," he said aloud, in allusion to
his father; "wisdom abides with him; and in a matter like this his
advice is precious."

"And what think you of all this, Meah?" asked his companion, for an
instant slackening his pace; "what will the noble Khan Sahib say to
it?--not indeed that he and the Wuzeer are very intimate friends
either. I tell thee, were not my heart turning to that devil Tannajee
Maloosray, I should be lost in wonder at the Wuzeer's folly."

"Even so," said Fazil, sighing; "a man in whom I would have placed
confidence as in my own father--one who ought to be honoured and loved
for his faith--is but a poor knave, after all, Bulwunt--not better than
that miserable Lalla whom we have just left--a thing for men to spit
upon. Alas for the world's honesty, brother! A heap of gold, a few
empty titles, the smile of a woman,--and power--which does but make
its possessor miserable when he has gained it--turns right to wrong,
justice to oppression, virtue to vice, honesty to knavery, faith to
treachery. We look for it in the highest, but it flies from us; we seek
it in the lowest, and turn from them but too often in despair. Should
not one sigh at depravity like this, which finds no echo in one's own

"True, Meah, and may it long be so with you," returned his companion;
"but your experience of life is as yet small, and as it increases I
fear you will search in vain for the purity which your own heart now
pictures. Perhaps it may exist among women. Sree Swâmi knows, and you
may find it there. I have not, Meah; but in the world abroad, when you
have more to do with it, your sensitive spirit will become blunted by
degrees, and, though a serious matter like this will trouble it, you
will gradually learn to pass many a broad lie or rogue's trick which
now vexes you, without notice beyond a passing curse or a hasty blow.
Patience, Meah Sahib! thou hast much to learn yet; would it were good,
and not evil!"

"Ah, would it were, Bulwunt Rao! Your experience is from the crooked
ways and thoughts of your own people, of which men make proverbs; but
for a noble of the state to betray his salt in this base manner, makes
me sick at heart. But this is no time, friend, to think of aught but
the work we have to do; and what more has to come of the night we
know not. Hark! the thunder growls again, and the storm is coming up
fast--we had as well run on to shelter; and what more may follow, Alla

So saying, they hastened as rapidly as the rough ground and increased
darkness would admit, Bulwunt Rao guiding his young master through
narrow lanes and over deserted spaces, till they again emerged into the
now nearly deserted bazar. It was just past midnight, for the trumpeter
at the guard-house, taking up the signal from the fort gate, had blown
a flourish, which was understood by the keepers of liquor-shops in the
quarter. The booths were still open, as well as those of confectioners
and bhung or opium sellers; but the lights were being extinguished, and
the groups which had been concealed within turned into the street.

A wild company truly! Some staggering in the last stage of idiotic
drunkenness from opium, others tossing their arms wildly in the air,
while their obscene and fearful curses and imprecations mingled with
the low muttering of the thunder, which hardly ceased, and seemed to
grow nearer every moment. Many forms lay prostrate in the street--some
sleeping off the fumes of drink, or groaning in helpless intoxication;
and they were often beset by women, whose loosened hair and disordered
garments, and the wild leer of their glistening eyes, bespoke their
depraved condition. But, casting those who were most importunate
violently aside, they at length gained the temple, which was close to
the drinking-shop we have before mentioned, and paused for a moment
near the gate, which was now shut, while all was silent within.

"Let me look over thee, Meah," said his companion, "as we have a little
light, and are free from those drunken wretches. Dost thou know, Meah,
I have been like them sometimes, I fear; but this sight sickens and
sobers me."

"God grant it, friend, it is the only thing I have ever feared in you,"
he replied warmly.

"Yes, it will do," continued Bulwunt; "the disguise is complete.
So--the chin scarf a little more over the end of the nose: there--no
one would ever suspect you. Now, I have a plan in my head, which thou
wilt say could only come of a Mahratta's brain--crooked and wilful. It
is this: I think, from bazar gossip, that Tannajee and Pahar Singh are
one, and that they have met at Tooljapoor at the temple, or at that
old villain Bussunt Geer's, at whose Mutt Tannajee's people put up,
or that they have corresponded with each other through him. It is not
very long since I was there--about two months ago, Meah. They were very
busy--so much so that the old fox would hardly let me stay; but I was
certain there was something going on; and now I have seen Pahar Singh,
I am sure he came one day and held counsel with the old Gosai. Now, if
Tannajee has not been there--as I will find out, if possible--I can
personate Poorun Geer, the disciple of Bussunt Geer, and we may find
out more of this plot. But be thou silent--a vow of silence for a year.
I dread thy courtly speech breaking out even of our rough Mahratta
tongue or a Mussulmani oath. Trust to me, Meah: I will not fail thee if
we meet this fellow!"

"I would we had brought the guard with us, Bulwunt," said Fazil.

"Guard!" said his companion, laughing. "Look, there are his sentinels.
That fellow," pointing to a figure seated at a little distance on the
ground, muffled in a black blanket, and hardly to be distinguished from
an animal or a stone, "is one. I saw him shift his position so as to
watch us; and I see three others in different directions, Meah; one
will cough, or sneeze, or make some signal when we move--and there is
old Rama in the doorway, listening. Guard, Meah! no, no; we may kill
Tannajee if we are lucky, but were a guard to approach, he would be
off into the deserted ground at the back, and who could find him? Now,
come; and may the gods protect us!"

It was but a few steps. As they moved past, a low cough proceeded from
the sitting figure on the watch, and a light streamed from the doorway
as the publican, Rama, moved in.

"Did you see that?" whispered Bulwunt--"is it not as I told you? Keep
your sword ready, Meah; but be not hasty, whatever you may see or hear."

So saying, they stepped into the vestibule of the shop--an open space,
around which were benches of raised earth or brick, neatly plastered
over. A counter with some brass measures and a large copper vase,
brightly polished, containing spirit, stood at one side, and a lamp
burned in a niche.

Bulwunt took one of the brass drinking-cups and rattled it against
another as a signal; for, as he supposed, the owner of the place had
gone to an inside apartment. As he came forth, Bulwunt accosted him,
and requested two hookas to be filled--one with tobacco, the other with
ganja, and was advancing to the inner apartment when the man stopped

"There are no hookas to be had here to-night; it is past the hour,
Babajee," he said, "and I am out of ganja till to-morrow. Nor can you
go in there, for the place is engaged; and they who are within will not
brook being disturbed."

"Ha! then there is play going on, Rama; and that is what we came for--a
new hand is always welcome. Go and tell them there are two _gentlemen_
without who would join."

"Play? No, truly," cried the man--"they have other work to do. But go
your way, both of ye, for I cannot admit either of you at this time of
night, and have no hookas for you to smoke. Begone; there are plenty
of mudud khanas in the street besides mine, where you can get all you
want. Begone, ere the rain increases."

"Nay, be not inhospitable, good fellow," returned Bulwunt, soothingly;
"and here is a trifle for thee--even for shelter. Hark to the thunder!"
And as he spoke, another blinding flash of lightning illumined the
interior of the shop, while a crashing peal of thunder followed hard
upon it. "We shall have more of that, Rama; and as to stirring out in
the rain,"--for it had come plashing down with the thunder--"whose
dog am I that I should go out in it--I or my brother either? Is this a
night to turn two votaries of Sree Mahadeo into the streets--strangers,
too, who know no other place of shelter? And were we not told to come
to Rama's shop near the temple?" he added to Fazil; who, sitting down,
nodded assent, and followed his example.

"There is a Gosai's Mutt hard by, round the corner," returned the man
doggedly, "and a temple of Bhowani away yonder, in the plain at the
back, among the tamarind trees. You will find your brethren in one, and
shelter and water in the other, if ye need them. Begone, and trouble me
no more. Get up; why sit ye there unbidden? Get up!"

"Get up and go to a Mutt, indeed!" retorted Bulwunt, who did not move,
but, on the contrary, settled himself more determinedly and doggedly
upon a seat. "Not I--in this rain! How, brother?" he added to Fazil,
"shall we attempt to enter the Mutt at night through barred doors?--be
taken for thieves, and be fired upon for our pains, perhaps?" Fazil
shook his head. "No: we were told to come here to Rama's--is thy name
Rama, friend?--and here we are."

"Who told ye to come here?" asked the kullal.

"It concerns thee not, good man," replied Bulwunt, "unless they call
you Rama."

"That is my name; and what is your business with me?" he returned

"That you will know by-and-by," replied Bulwunt. "Meanwhile, as to the
Mutt and the temple, who knows whether there is either the one or the
other; and who can go to look in this storm? Wherefore, worthy sir,"
he continued to the keeper of the place, "we are very comfortable, and
intend to remain. We are not beasts to be turned out in rain like this.
So, kindly bring the hookas, and when we have smoked we will rest after
our long travel to-day. As to those here before us, we are not likely
to molest them; and if they do not let us alone, we have weapons, and
can defend ourselves. Therefore, be reasonable." Bulwunt spoke loudly,
that he might be heard by the men within.

"What noise is that?" suddenly asked a strange voice from behind a
partition close to which they were sitting. "Did I not tell thee, Rama,
to admit no one?"

"May I be your sacrifice, Rao Sahib," returned the kullal, joining his
hands together, and advancing to the door of the room, "your slave
desired these two Gosais to depart civilly, but they will not move;
they say they were told to come here, and ask for hookas. When I told
them to be gone, one fellow talked about his weapons, and I believe
they are drunk."

"About weapons, did he, Rama? and who art thou, mad youth, who
venturest here into the privacy of gentlemen?" said a tall man, who
now advanced from behind the partition with a sword in his left hand,
while, observing that Bulwunt Rao and Fazil were armed, his right hand
passed to his sword-hilt, and rested there, with a determined action.

How the stern tones of his voice thrilled to the heart of Bulwunt Rao,
as he listened to them after an interval of many years. When he last
heard them he was a mere youth. Shrieks of women were ringing in his
ears, and his enemy's fierce commands to kill and spare none--hurried
shouts, and the clash of steel. As he stood, the past recurred to
Bulwunt Rao so vividly that, though years had intervened, it seemed
only as if that night had gone, and morning had succeeded. There could
be no doubt he was in Maloosray's presence. The same grave, determined
manner--the same large black eye--as the proverb about him said,
"Gentle as a fawn's, or fierce as a tiger's"--the same deep-toned
voice. Time had hardly tinged his whiskers and moustaches with grey,
but his face was weather-beaten and seared, as it were, by the sun, and
his large bony frame more developed, than when they had last met--the
boy and the cruel fiery youth. The light from a rude lamp in a niche
of the wall threw a strong glare upon his face, which he did not seek
to evade; while the features of Bulwunt Rao and his companion were in
a great measure concealed by the shadow thrown upon them in the corner
where they sat.

"A poor Gosai," answered Bulwunt in the Mahratta tongue, but in a tone
as haughty as that in which he had been addressed, "who, with his
brother, has sought shelter here and refreshment. Why shouldst thou

"Ha! a proud speech, young sir; and your companion, why does he not
answer?" returned Maloosray.

"He has a vow of silence for a year, made at the shrine of our Mother
of Tooljapoor," returned Bulwunt, doggedly.

"Enough," cried Maloosray, "begone in her name! There is a temple of
hers a gunshot from hence; begone to it."

"We must know who it is that has the power to send us hence ere we stir
foot to depart," retorted Bulwunt, rising, and raising his really fine
figure to its full height; and as Fazil Khan followed his example,
both were ready to meet any sudden assault. "Who dares, I say, send us
out in such rain? Are we men or dogs, to be put out with insult from a
public place in such weather?"

Tannajee's sword was drawn in an instant, and flashed brightly in the
flickering glare of the lamp. The others were as rapidly unsheathed;
but both parties stood on the defensive,--neither struck.

"For the love of Mahadeo, for the love of Bhowani, by your fathers'
heads! no blood-shedding here, good sirs!" cried the keeper of the
house imploringly, passing between them, and stretching out his hands
deprecatingly to each in turn. "I shall be ruined! fined!--they will
hang me! Hold! there will be blood shed. Help! help!" he shrieked in a
frantic manner, seeing Tannajee advance a step.

Hearing his cries and the altercation, two men rushed from the inner
apartment with drawn weapons, and would have attacked the others at
once, but Tannajee withheld them.

"Peace!" he cried; "put down your weapons, friends. Peace, bold youth!"
he continued to Bulwunt Rao; "you have run a fearful risk unmoved,
which you do not know of. Who are you?" he asked rapidly.

"A Gosai: I have said it already," replied the other.

"A disciple of what teacher?"

"How are you to know, even if I tell it truly, who my Gooroo is?"
returned Bulwunt. "Is Bussunt Geer of Tooljapoor known to you?"

"Ha! Bussunt Geer of Tooljapoor? but his cheyla is Poorun Geer, not

"Maharaj, it is true; but I am the younger. Poorun Geer stays with the

"And your name?"


"When were you made a cheyla?"

"About a year ago; and I was at Bhaga Nugger and Golconda till lately;
in the house there."

"And what has brought you here?"

"I do not answer questions except upon the Gooroo's business," replied
Bulwunt haughtily.

"Good, thou art discreet, O Babajee! And thy companion?"

"He is a novitiate under a vow of silence for a year."

"Good. Let there be peace between us for a while, till I prove thee
true or false."

Bulwunt was about to make a passionate reply, when the imploring look
of Fazil met his eye. It seemed to say, Go on with this deception;
and, after a moment's thought, Bulwunt Rao determined to do so, and to
refrain from violence so long as it suited his purpose. Ready himself
to strike if needful, he might be able to throw Tannajee off his guard.

"Listen," continued Tannajee; "by one question I shall know if thou
art true or false. If true, well for thee, Baba; if false, by the holy
'Máta!' hadst thou ten men's lives, and ten others to back thee, thou
shouldst die like a dog."

"That is easier to say than to do," returned Bulwunt in a contemptuous
tone. "I have seen enough of bullies at Bhaga Nugger to fear big
words. But speak; if I can answer your question, well; if not, what is
in my hand may reply to anything further."

Maloosray laughed aloud--a short bitter laugh, very grating to hear.
"How much ganja hast thou smoked, O Baba?" he asked with a sneer; "but
stay, this is folly. If thou art Poorun Geer's cheyla, thou knowest
Pahar Singh?"

"What Pahar Singh?--him of Itga?"

"The same: we call him of Allund."

"The Hazaree?"

"Ay--Hazaree, robber, Gosai, murderer, if thou wilt. If he is known to
thee, why ask? By Khundôba! I distrust this fellow," he added to the
two others, who closed up to him; "why did he ask?"

"I know him," said Bulwunt doggedly, "he is here."


"He was in the temple of Bhowani behind there less than half an hour
ago, for I spoke to him."

"Thou? why?"

"I had a message from the Gooroo for him."

"And where is he now?"

"Nay, how should I know? I saw him there with one Maun Singh, and
another, whom I knew not."

"Strange that he should not have come," continued Maloosray, after a
pause. "Art thou sure of the man?"

"As sure as that----" Bulwunt had nearly spoken his adversary's name,
but a twitch from Fazil checked him. "As sure as that I see thee, O

"And who am I?"

"Nay, I know not, nor care. My message was to Pahar Singh, and it was
delivered. I was told to come here to meet some others; ye may be they.
Pahar Singh may be yet at the temple," observed Bulwunt, who trusted to
his ingenuity to get rid of one of the men. "Why not send for him?"

"A good thought," said Maloosray; "go at once, Abajee," he observed
to the smaller of the two men. "Here is my blanket--the rain will not
signify, and take one of the men with you."

"And bring Pahar Singh here, Maharaj?" asked the man, sheathing his
sword, and turning to look for his shoes, which were near a door they
had not observed.

"Yes. Tell him I am here with Bussunt Geer's cheyla, and that there is
no fear. If he be gone, come away; we will await you."

As Maloosray turned slightly to speak the last words, a look of
intelligence passed between Fazil and Bulwunt; but though the odds
against them had been withdrawn, Maloosray's suspicions had apparently
not relaxed in the least, for he stood, his weapon ready for action,
and his shield advanced before his body, so that Bulwunt had as yet
no opportunity to strike as he desired. His account of himself was
plausible enough, but it did not apparently satisfy the wily Mahratta.

"And Pahar Singh was there, Baba?" he asked; "know you for certain?
What message had you to him?"

"Nay, it was easy enough, Maharaj," returned Bulwunt; "all he told me
was, to meet Pahar Singh at the temple of Bhowani, near the kullal's
quarter, this night, and afterwards to come to Rama's shop near the
temple, where I should find some Mahrattas who would give me a message.
I have reached Beejapoor in four days, and must return to-morrow. If
you are the person I was to meet here, tell me what I am to say, and I
will go; for we need a lodging for the night, and our horses are in the

"Where?" asked Maloosray.

"At the Taj Bowree;[7] but I shall be away by early dawn."

"But the fort gate will be shut, Baba."

"I have a friend at the wicket who will let us in. Do not fear for
that, Maharaj!" replied Bulwunt confidently.

Maloosray thought for a moment. "It must be true," he added. "Now,
Baba, listen; if I trust thee, couldst thou help the cause Bussunt Geer
has at heart?"

"I will be faithful to him; is he not my Gooroo?"

"And thy companion?"

"Surely, as myself. We are one."

"Then listen," said Maloosray, for once thrown off his guard, and
now leaning upon his sword. "I believe this tale could not have been
invented, for no one knows, but the Gooroo, why Pahar Singh would
venture to Beejapoor, and what need he had to bring me here. I do not
care to see Pahar Singh, who is a stupid ruffian; but if thou wilt
deliver my message to Bussunt Geer in four days, it may save trouble
to many people, and help what we have in hand. Tell him if he can get
the Lalla's papers, to keep them; if Pahar Singh has them, to make
him keep them till Khan Mahomed can redeem them. They will be worth
thousands--lakhs, perhaps, if they are what I think. Tell the Gooroo
that Sivaji Bhóslay will not be unmindful of his care in this matter;
say also that Pahar Singh has disappointed me, and it is better the
message went through thee; for who can trust one who has a double face,
and who is with the King to-day, Sivaji the next, Alumgeer the day
after--fickle and covetous, looking only after gold. Yet, if he please
to meet me, he knows the place and the time. Hast thou comprehended all

"Fully; but thy name? Thou mayst be an impostor. Whom shall I tell him
I met at this place, and whose message am I to believe?"

"He did not tell thee? He was afraid, perhaps, my name should be heard
in Beejapoor; but I laugh at such precautions. Say that the servant of
Sivaji Bhóslay--one Tannajee Maloosray--bids thee say what I have told


"Ay! Tannajee Maloosray. If thou art from Poona thou mayst chance to
have heard of it."

"Maloosray of Rohéla?"

"The same; there is no other Tannajee Maloosray living----"

"And I, villain and murderer! am Bulwunt Rao of Sewnee," he shouted,
no longer able to control himself, and assaulting his hereditary enemy
with all his force. "Upon them, Meah, in the name of the King! Hur,
hur! Mahadeo!"

It was well for Maloosray that the point of Bulwunt's sword caught a
projecting rafter of the low roof as it descended, else he had never
spoken more. Nevertheless it reached him; and though a steel chain had
been woven into his turban, which prevented a severe wound, the force
of the blow somewhat stunned him; and so fierce and unexpected was the
assault, that for an instant his habitual presence of mind failed him.
But for an instant only. Ere Bulwunt could repeat the blow, Maloosray
had leaped aside, and began to press his impetuous adversary very
closely. Fazil, in his turn, had attacked the companion of Maloosray,
and found him a wary swordsman; and the place, confined as it was,
afforded no room for rapid movement; while the light was dim and
treacherous. Blows were, however, rapidly exchanged. The quarrel could
not continue long: for the shouts and cries of the keeper of the house,
and of several of Maloosray's scouts, who were unarmed, aroused the
guard, who rushed to the spot with loud exclamations and drawn weapons.

Tannajee felt in an instant that he had no chance if they entered, and
he knew that if taken his execution would be immediate and certain.
Just, therefore, as the dark figure of the foremost of the guard was
entering the shop behind Bulwunt, and by whose rapid tread and shouts
he was somewhat thrown off his guard, Tannajee gathered himself up
for a desperate blow, and delivered it with an abusive imprecation.
"Once I failed," he said--"not now!" As he spoke, the heavy weapon
descended with all his great strength; Bulwunt tried to stop it, but it
caught the edge, not the face of the shield, and, though he partially
succeeded, or he had never breathed more, glancing from the hard and
polished edge of the shield, it lighted upon Bulwunt's bare neck and
shoulder, cutting down to the bone in a ghastly manner.

Maloosray saw with exultation that the blood poured forth in a torrent,
and, as Bulwunt staggered and fell back, he called to his companion to
follow him, and both darted through the back apartments into a court
leading into a narrow street beyond, and as they passed they closed
both the doors behind them.

"Follow me!--a thousand rupees for Tannajee Maloosray's head!" cried
Fazil to the guard; and though they pursued him for a short distance,
all chance of capturing him was hopeless in that murky darkness and
heavy rain.


[7] The Royal well, which is surrounded by cloisters and rooms, where
travellers still put up.


It was no fear of Maloosray or lack of enterprise that caused the
young Khan to desist from his pursuit; but finding that his retainer
had not followed him, nor, indeed, any of the guard--the fear that
Bulwunt might have been wounded occurred to him, or that he had been
apprehended and detained. It was hopeless also to trace Maloosray, or
to ascertain which way he and his companion had proceeded, as they
issued from the door of the courtyard into the lane behind. Turning
back then, after he had run a few paces, by the way he had come, and
directed by the clamour inside the house, he passed rapidly through the
yard, and entered the room where the quarrel had taken place; this he
found filled with armed men, with several torch-bearers standing around
what appeared to be the dead body of his friend.

Fazil had observed Maloosray's violent attack upon him, and that
Bulwunt retreated a step or two to avoid it; while at the same time
he had advanced towards his own antagonist. The consequences of that
blow, therefore, were not immediately seen by him. Now inexpressibly
shocked and grieved by the result, Fazil heeded no one; but pressing
his way through those assembled, somewhat roughly, he threw himself on
his knees beside Bulwunt, who was quite insensible, and, laying aside
his sword, strove to raise him up. He saw indeed with great grief that
Bulwunt had received a very severe wound; and the pool of blood flowing
from the cut, which had not been stanched, and his apparently lifeless
condition, caused the most lively alarm.

"Will no one help me?" cried Fazil, looking round, while vainly
endeavouring to stanch the blood which occasionally welled from the
gaping wound, as Bulwunt breathed heavily. "For the love of God and the
Apostle lend me thy waist-band, good sir!" he continued, addressing
a respectable-looking man who had accompanied the soldiers, and who
was, in fact, the petty officer over them; "or bid some one loose my
waist-cloth, else he will perish. Alas, my true friend and brother!"

"And who are you," returned the man contemptuously, "who, in the dress
of a Kafir Gosai, dares to take the name of the holy Apostle?--on whom
be peace!--a thief or murderer, I warrant. How say you, brother! He may
have done this himself, and now mingles with us to pretend grief and
avoid suspicion. Here is some evil, depend upon it; seize him and bind
him fast."

"Yes, my lords," cried the keeper of the house, who now ventured
forward, "bind him fast. That is the fellow who did the murder. They
quarrelled over their ganja; and though I did all I could to prevent

"Peace!" cried Fazil, accustomed only to command, and who could ill
brook the measures threatened; for several men had closed about him at
their officer's order, while another had kicked away his sword, which
one of the men was picking up. "Peace, I say; raise him up! See, he is
badly wounded; have you no compassion? He will die!"

"Whether he dies or whether he lives, one would think it was little
concern of thine, boy," replied the man; "and there is blood on his
sword, too," he added, as the man who had possessed himself of it held
it up to the light. "Seize him, brother, and bind him fast; he will
have to answer for this in the morning. Who art thou, ill-born?"

As the leader of the party spoke, several of the soldiers had thrown
themselves upon Fazil, who still kneeled beside Bulwunt, and, holding
him down, pulled the turban rudely from his head, and in an instant
bound his arms with it so tightly behind his back that the act caused
him immediate and exquisite pain.

"Who art thou, knave?" asked the man again peremptorily.

"Speak," cried several of the men, shaking him rudely; "don't you hear
what his worship says to you? Speak!"

"It is useless for me now to say who I am," replied Fazil looking
round. "Enough that I am one of your own faith, as ye will know when
the morning breaks;--one who may be able to punish you for rough
uncivil usage, or reward you if that poor fellow is speedily aided.
I care little what happens to myself; but if ye know of a physician
near, or a skilful barber, I pray, good sir," he continued, addressing
himself to the officer, "send for him, that a valuable life may be

This speech was received with a shout of derision by most of the party;
but their leader was not unobservant, and he saw at once, by the manner
and speech of Fazil, that he was no common person; certainly not, what
his attire proclaimed him to be, a Gosai. There was a chance that
he might be some one of rank in disguise. The keeper of the house
had declared him to be the man who had struck down the unfortunate
Bulwunt; but, again, the consideration of his return to the spot, and
his sincere grief at the poor fellow's wound, went far to assure the
officer that his prisoner had not done the deed, and that whoever did
it had escaped. These thoughts rapidly occurring, caused the Duffadar
to doubt whether rigour was needful. "Art thou a Gosai?" he asked
again. "Answer truly!"

"There is no God but God, and Mahomed is the Prophet of God," exclaimed
Fazil, repeating the creed, and, as rapidly as possible, in Arabic, the
first part of the midnight prayer. "No, good sir, I am no Gosai, but a
humble disciple of the Prophet, on whom be peace!"

"Toba, Toba! now shame on me that I should have put a Mussulman to
disgrace," exclaimed the Duffadar. "Loose him, friends--we will see
to this; and run one of ye to the respectable Meer Hoosein, who lives
in the alley yonder, and is a skilful doctor; and, if I mistake not,
there is a clever barber, one Nunda, who lives near him, and who is
accustomed to matters of this kind. Bid him bring his needles to sew
up the wound. And, hark ye, no excuses from either about the rain and
lateness of the night; this is the King's business, and a matter of
life and death."

Then turning to Bulwunt, who had been raised up while Fazil's arms were
being unbound, and who appeared sensible, he spoke cheerfully to him,
bidding him not to be afraid, for he would be well treated.

"Water!" gasped the poor fellow, looking dreamily about him and
pointing to his mouth--"Water!"

"Here is a vessel full," cried a bearded soldier, advancing; "drink,

"Hold," said Fazil, "he is a Hindu; he will not take it from you. Where
is the kullal? Let him get some."

"Here, great sir," said the man, advancing with a brass vessel full.
"Who is he? May he take water from me?"

"He is a Mahratta," replied Fazil.

"Then there is no fear," added the kullal, and he knelt down and poured
a little into Bulwunt's mouth, who drank it eagerly, and, laying hold
of the vessel itself, took a long draught, which seemed to revive him;
while the kullal, untying the scarf about his chin, wetted it with
water and applied it to the wound; and, removing his turban, also
wetted his head.

This treatment soon revived Bulwunt, who now sat up and passed his hand
dreamily over his eyes, but did not speak.

"He seems recovering," said the Duffadar to Fazil, who had been pulled
to one side and was held by two men, though his arms were untied. "So
far thou art fortunate, young sir; but, in the name of the saints, why
didst thou strike him down? Was this well? 'Twas but yesterday that
the Kótwal swore on the Kôrán that he would have the right arm of the
first brawler who should do murder: pity such fate should befall thee,
young as thou art! Are there not enough of the Shah's enemies abroad
to try thy weapons upon, without mixing in midnight brawls? But speak
to thy friend, if friend he is. It may have been a hasty blow, deeply

"Sir, you are under some extraordinary mistake," said Fazil, who had
several times tried to interrupt the speaker. "I am not the man who did
this. Ho! Bulwunt, Bulwunt!" he continued, "speak if you can, and fear
not. I am here, and these are friends."

"Meah," said the poor fellow very faintly, "I am badly hurt. I may die,
Ai Narayun! Ai Bhugwân!--Water, Meah! I am faint and sick,"--and he
fell back almost insensible.

"Loose my arms, good sir," cried Fazil impatiently; "I am no thief to
run away. If there be a Hindu among you, give him some water. I may not
do so."

"Let him go," said the Duffadar to the men, "there is some mistake
here, I think, and no enmity between them; and do thou, Jewun Singh,
fetch a vessel of water--he will drink from thy hand freely."

Fazil's first act on being released was to examine the wound, which was
severe, and required care. The sabre of Maloosray had cut deep into the
neck, close to the shoulder, and the loss of blood had been very great.
A little higher up and the wound must have been instantly fatal. To
wring out the scarf which the kullal had placed upon it, and replace it
wetted, was Fazil's first care, and in this the Duffadar and some of
the men now lent a willing hand. Fresh cool water was also brought by
the man who had been sent for it, and Bulwunt Rao, having again drunk
freely, sat up supported by his young lord.

"Ask him now, Duffadar Sahib," said Fazil, "whether it was I who
wounded him, and, on his reply, give me liberty or not as seems good to
you. Speak, Bulwunt Rao, did I hurt you?"

"Now may his tongue rot who says so," replied the wounded man, looking
wildly about him. "But thou art safe, Meah!--and did they escape?"

"Who?" asked the Duffadar sharply.

"Tannajee Maloosray, the friend of Sivaji Bhóslay," returned Bulwunt.
"People know of him, perhaps!"

"Tannajee Maloosray? Thou art dreaming, friend," said the Duffadar,
with an incredulous smile. "Tannajee dared no more enter Beejapoor

"Than you, good sir, dare go to him, I suppose," said Fazil, ending the
sentence. "Nevertheless, he was here, and but for a mischance would
have been lying dead there."

"Tannajee here!" mused the Duffadar; "this must, then, be some deep
plot, and the city is full of plots. Sir," he said to the young Khan,
"the mention of that name, and all the events we have seen, cause
many suspicions in my mind which I am not competent to dispose of;
therefore, whoever thou art, release is impossible till the morning,
when I must give an account of all matters to the Kótwal, who has
cautioned the guards to be watchful against Mahratta parties and Moghul

"Willingly," replied Fazil. "I could not leave him now, nor till his
wound is dressed. As for myself, I am Fazil, the son of Afzool Khan,
though I may not tell why I am disguised as an infidel, and why found
in this place; suffice it to say it was in the King's service."

"Now may I receive my lord's pardon," cried the old man, presenting
humbly the hilt of his sword as an offering. "Why did he not tell
me sooner, and this offence and presumption would have been spared?
Who among us does not know the valiant Afzool Khan, and have not all
heard of his son Fazil Khan, the pillar of the state?" he added to the
men, who fell back, saluting the young man with mingled curiosity and

"Give me some water," said Fazil. "This dress and appearance are
against me, Duffadar," he continued, laughing; "and if I had told who I
was when ye seized me first, my arms might even have been bound a screw
tighter perhaps. It does not signify now, for you only did your duty,
as I can bear witness. Ah, the water is come--pour it over my hands,
good fellow, and after the paint has disappeared, some of ye may know

"I know you, my lord," said a youth who pressed forward, as Fazil
turned again to the light from the door where he had been washing his
face. "Yes, father," he continued to the Duffadar, "this is truly the
brave young Khan--no doubt of that;" and he stepped forward and touched
Fazil's feet.

"Too dangerous, too dangerous," said the Duffadar, "for one like him.
Yes, thou art right, Ashruf--now I know the face too; but the disguise
was perfect; who could have guessed it? Too dangerous: and thou the
only son of the noble Khan! Ah, sir, had any evil befallen thee----"

"No matter if I had died," cried Fazil, "it would have been in the
Shah's service; but here are the physician and barber, and my friend's
wound must be dressed; and do one of ye see for that kullal, who knows
more of Tannajee than any one else. Where is he?"

While some of the men went to search for the kullal, the barber, having
trimmed the lamp and increased the light by several wicks, unfastened a
leathern case containing razors and other instruments, and selecting
two crooked needles fitted with waxed silk thread, put them aside,
while he washed the wound clean in a careful and confident manner. A
few stitches brought the lips of the cut together, after which it was
bound up with fresh leaves of the neem tree, which cooled the wound and
refreshed the patient.

All this having been effected, Bulwunt Rao was carefully raised up and
borne by several of the men to the chowree, or guard-room, which was
hard by, but at the opposite side of the quarter to that in which the
Lalla had been lodged.


While search was being made for the kullal, Fazil's thoughts reverted
painfully to his father and sister. He could not leave Bulwunt without
exposing himself to further suspicion; but he might at least send news
of his safety, and his application to the Duffadar for a messenger was
promptly acceded to.

"Surely, Khan," was the prompt reply, "I could hardly refuse your going
yourself, if you asked; but it is better you stayed. Men's tongues are
bad, and I am only a humble man. Verily I will send my own son Ashruf,
and he will do the errand carefully. He is gone--that is, my son
Ashruf--my lord, to see the barber home, and will be here directly. A
brave youth, O Khan, and with a large heart. Does my lord remember the
Friday's fight with the Moghuls in the plain by Allapoor? Well, in that
my boy did good service, and in killing one of the enemy got a sharp
cut himself over the arm, but he did not care for it; and was he not
fighting on the strength of the King's salt?"

"Indeed, I remember it well, Duffadar," returned Fazil, "for I was
beaten down, and wellnigh killed myself, when this poor friend of mine
here rescued me. How, Bulwunt! was it not that day?"

"Ay, Meah, that very day," he said faintly; "the last battle Bulwunt
Rao will ever see in thy service. I am very faint, Meah. These films
before my eyes seem to precede death. I pray thee leave me not here."

"Nay, fear not," replied Fazil; "the barber said there was no danger of
life. Be of good heart, Bulwunt--no bones are cut; and though there is
much weakness from loss of blood, you will soon be well. Get to sleep,
we shall not leave before daylight."

"I do not fear, Meah. Death has no pain or regret for me. My only wish
was to die in the service of your house. I am the last of my race, and
have no one to mourn for me like thee, Meah! I would live for thee if
it be the will of God; and but for this, death would be welcome."

"Peace! do not speak, friend," returned Fazil; "go to sleep, and thou
wilt be strong ere morning. Does not the barber, I tell thee, say there
is no danger? so be comforted."

"None perhaps of life, Meah; but this arm, which was all I had to live
for, it will never hold sword more, Meah--never, never!" and he sobbed
like a child.

"Fear not," cried the Duffadar cheerily; "I have worse wounds on me
than that, Rao Sahib, and yet my arm can strike a blow for the Shah; so
be comforted, and get to sleep."

Bulwunt sighed. "If I had only slain him," he said, "and revenged the
dead, then I could have died; or if this arm had gone for that, its
best service in life would have been done. I shall never have such
a chance again, Meah. But the gods have need of him, and he has the
protection of Dévi. He and Sivaji Bhóslay both have it, as ye will see
hereafter, Meah. Who can resist them?"

"This is the youth of whom I spake, Khan Sahib," said the Duffadar; "a
brave boy--a brave boy he always was."

And truly there was much in the appearance of the youth to corroborate
this. An open, dare-devil, good-humoured countenance, with bright
merry eyes, which, as he spoke, seemed to close up till two bright
sparks only were visible; and a wide bow-shaped mouth, about which fun,
and perhaps some mischief, played in perpetual smiles, conveyed an
impression of recklessness of danger, as a lithe rapidity of movement
did of extreme activity of body, and perhaps endurance.

"A brave youth, doubtless, Duffadar Sahib," said Fazil; "his eye speaks
for him; a boy to be proud of. How sayst thou, lad? Wilt thou do an
errand for the son of Afzool Khan?"

"Ay will I," replied the boy promptly, while he presented his
sword-hilt to the young Khan, as his father had done; "and gladly too;
and if my lord will pardon me for saying it, I have long known him. Who
does not know the brave son of a brave father? Ah, Meah Sahib! if I had
only been on a horse when Afzool Khan's Paigah dashed into the Moghul's
that Friday, I would have struck a blow with you. I watched you as you
rode by close to the standard-bearer. Then there was a fierce fight,
and men said you were cut down. Ah! I was only on foot, for we are too
poor to ride; and I was--a little wounded," he added, dropping his eyes
modestly, "and father led me away. But for that, Meah Sahib, I would
have been with you, even on foot."

"Boldly spoken, and with a true heart, Ashruf!" exclaimed Fazil; "and
if you do this errand carefully and quickly for me, you shall ride
ever after with me in my troop--that is, if your father will permit
it. Afzool Khan's stables have enough horses to find one for you. Of
that, however, more hereafter. Go now to the house, ask for Goolab the
nurse; tell her I am safe, but that Bulwunt Rao is wounded badly, and
a palankeen must be sent for him with all speed, and my clothes and
shawls put into it. If my father be asleep, he is not to be awakened,
but my sister must know that I am safe. Now begone; here is my ring,
which will pass you through the fort. Let us see how soon you will

"Come, Shékh Hoosein," said the lad, addressing a young man standing
near; "we had better be two. Tie up thy waist-band tight, for we shall
not draw breath till we reach the city gate. Come!"

Both loosened their waist-scarfs, and retied them tighter, and after a
few words of caution from the Duffadar, they dashed down the street at
full speed.

As they left, several of the men came in, leading the kullal by the end
of his turban, with which his arms were tightly tied down. Bareheaded,
covered with mud, and bleeding slightly from his nose, his face
wearing an expression of fright and pain combined, Rama was a very
different-looking person to what he had appeared when Fazil Khan and
Bulwunt entered his shop. His first impulse was to cast himself on the
ground before Fazil, and lie at full length moaning. The men who were
with him did not interfere. The act was a deprecation of anger which it
would have been unmannerly to deny.

"Get up," cried Fazil; "get up, knave and liar! Say, was it I who
wounded that poor fellow yonder?"

"Pardon! pardon! Noble Meah, pardon! Your slave will not rise till he
has pardon," cried the man abjectly. "It was all a mistake; and how
could I know the son of Afzool Khan? Pardon! and I will tell all I

"If thou dost not, hound! thou wilt hang upon the highest branch of the
Goruk Imlee to feed the crows before morn," replied Fazil. "Get up! If
thou tellest the truth, I give thee kowl; if not--if I detect one word
of lie, nothing can save thee. Dost thou hear? Rise!"

"Get up, Kafir!" cried the man who held the turban, giving it a jerk,
which caused a corresponding exclamation of pain, "Don't you hear what
my lord says to you? He will give you pardon if you speak the truth.
Get up, and tell him all. My lord," he continued to Fazil, "he knows
much, and he has some papers which one of the fellows--Maloosray, he
says--dropped as he left the house. We wanted them, but he said you
would pardon him if he gave them himself. We found him hiding in the
wood stack near his still, and the fool must needs struggle and try to
wrestle with one of our men, and so got a fall; but he is not hurt."

"Loose my arms, noble Meah--tell them to loose my arms. They are
swelling already, and I am sick with pain," said the kullal, rising.

"If my lord allows me, I will loose him. There!" continued the soldier,
on receiving Fazil's sign in the affirmative; "see thou speak the
truth, else I will tie them tighter than ever, and they will not be
loosened again while thou art alive."

"My lord, don't threaten me, or I shall lose my senses," said the
kullal, the horrible vision of hanging, as he had seen many hang to the
branches of that famous tree, coming vividly to his mind. "If there
be a good Hindu among you, give me a drink of water. Ah, my arms!
my arms!" he cried, sitting down again, and sobbing as the rope was

"Here is water," said one of the men, advancing with a brass vessel
full. "I am a Rajpoot--drink."

The draught refreshed him, and he began his tale. It was in the
main correct, and as we have already related it. "Tannajee and his
companions had been at his shop only a few minutes before Fazil and
Bulwunt came in. They had been very careful, and before they entered
the house placed scouts to watch all the approaches. They spoke in low
tones, and, beyond a few words now and then, he had caught nothing of
their conversation. All that he could gather was, that Pahar Singh and
a Gosai from Tooljapoor were expected, and they were so impatient for
their arrival, that two of the men had by turns gone to see after them."

"Had they ever been at your shop before?" asked Fazil.

"Yesterday one of the men was there twice to say the place would be
wanted in the evening," replied the kullal; "and he gave me ten rupees
to say I had neither spirits nor ganja; so I told every one I had none,
and no one stayed but you."

"You might have suspected they were after no good," said the Duffadar.
"Why did you not give warning here?"

"Ah, sir, I am a poor fellow," returned the man, "with a large family;
and if gentlemen sometimes like a private room to smoke, to play, or to
talk in, am I to forbid them? Would they not get it elsewhere?"

"True enough--thou art not to blame," said Fazil; "but the papers--what
of them?"

"After you were taken away, my lord," replied the kullal, "I took the
lamp inside towards the door, for I thought I saw blood on the ground,
which indeed there was; and one of the two men who escaped must have
been wounded. I followed the trace of blood to the door of the yard,
and there I found this little bag, noble sir; here it is."

As he spoke he produced a small silken bag, apparently filled with
papers, from under his waist-cloth, and handed it to Fazil. In it
were several letters, and bundles of accounts written in the Mahratta

"I cannot read these, and they may be of importance; so we must wait,
for this poor fellow of mine is asleep," said Fazil.

"No, Meah, I was dozing while you spoke, and am easier now, for the
bandage has cooled my wound. Papers? What papers?" said Bulwunt, rising
slightly, and supporting himself on his left arm. "Give them to me."

"There are some in Mahratta, which Tannajee, or one of his companions,
dropped in their flight. Can you make out what they are, Bulwunt?"
asked Fazil.

"I will try, Meah; put the light here. Stay; open them separately. I
forget that I have but one arm now."

The papers were given to him one by one, and his eye glanced over
several in succession as if of no importance; but one appeared to
interest him greatly, and Fazil observed his eyes return, to the
commencement after having looked over it hastily, and his lips to move
as if reading it word by word, while the expression of his face changed
to one of intense concern.

"Yes, Meah, this is indeed important," he said; "but no one must hear
it but thyself or thy father. Listen," he continued, whispering; "that
is from the old Gosai at Tooljapoor, about those letters the King has
obtained. Those whom they concern are mentioned in feigned names, and
it will puzzle me not a little to understand their meaning fully; but
we have a clue in what occurred at the temple, and I will unravel
it when we get home. Now my eyes are too weary. Stay, there may be
something from Sivaji.... No," he continued, after he had looked at
them one by one, "there are none from him, but several from Yessjee,
who is his friend. No, they are too wary to write letters; but no doubt
there is much intrigue afoot, Meah--much."

"Enough," replied Fazil; "now go to sleep, Bulwunt, till daylight
brings people from the house. I too will rest, if I can, after all this
excitement, with your permission, Duffadar Sahib----"

But the old man had lain down on the floor while the papers were being
examined, and was fast asleep; so also were the men of the guard,
except one sitting at the doorway as sentinel, the gurgle of whose
hooka mingled with an occasional snore from a sleeper on the floor.
Those about the kullal, who had been removed to a little distance,
asked how he was to be disposed of.

"Take him to his house," said Fazil, "and keep him there till he is
wanted. Go with them, Rama," he continued to the man, "and be ready
when I send for thee. I will answer to the Kótwal for the night's

"That is all I wanted," he replied. "My lord is very kind and merciful."

"Not yet. I have much to ask and much to hear. If thou canst speak the
truth, well for thee; if not, beware!"


How slowly and wearily night passes when a sense of impending evil
overpowers sleep, and renders every faculty sharply sensible to sounds
and impressions otherwise of ordinary occurrence,--when a thousand
vague phantasies flit before the imagination hardly more definite than
the keenly-painful thoughts they awaken! How difficult thus to endure
delay or uncertainty, and to account for causes of either, so as to
gain consolation or assurance to one's self, far less to impart comfort
to others whose fears and apprehensions are perhaps greater than our

Thus heavily was hour after hour counted by Afzool Khan and his fair
daughter in the apartment we have already described. The Khan busied
himself, or seemed to do so, with a pile of Persian papers, on some
of which, from time to time, he made notes: but it was easy for his
daughter to see that his eye often followed vacantly the lines of the
writing, and that his thoughts wandered far from the subjects before

The Khan's wife, Lurlee, had come, and been dismissed with an
injunction not to interrupt him, and that he should be late. Zyna
did not disturb her father, and found a partial occupation in some
embroidery, which helped to dispel for a time her fears for her
brother; gradually, however, as the night wore on, it was easy for her
to see that her father's anxiety increased. It was true that Fazil's
return was not expected till after midnight; but that, under the
thought of his perilous errand, brought no consolation with it, and she
sat watching the expression of her father's countenance, yet not so
as to be observed, and withdrawing her eyes when he looked up. A few
careless words fell from time to time from both, and a few entreaties
by the Khan to his daughter that she would take rest, were met by
requests that she might be allowed to share his watch, for that she had
promised her brother to await his return.

Thus midnight came, and with it sleep to the young girl, that would
not be denied. She had folded her scarf about her person, and lay down
where she was; and her father now watched his sleeping child, almost
wondering at her beauty, as the light fell upon her, and projected a
shadow from the long eyelashes upon her soft downy cheek. So, with the
image of the dead before him--for he remembered her mother even such
an one as her child--Afzool Khan's thoughts wandered far back into
the past,--far back to the time when, with life before him and easy
competence, the servant of a noble and united kingdom, the future had
not concerned him, save only to wish that the happiness he possessed
might endure.

But that bright future was long past. The present was dark, uncertain,
menacing. Had there been any one to listen, the bitter sob of the old
Khan--a sob of exquisite pain as his thoughts alternated between the
happy past and a gloomy future--might have been heard,--such pain as
those alone can know whose affections and memories of the past arise
most vividly to augment any new suffering that may be present. The
years of happiness in his home, which might have been his lot had his
wife been spared to him, rose to the mind of Afzool Khan as a sad
mockery; for though the grave had long held her whose fair form seemed
renewed before him, it appeared almost as if she were again present to
him in all her beauty.

"Thou art a fair blossom. May God love thee! May the holy saints keep
thee! May thy mother watch thee, my child!" murmured the Khan, as he
bent over his sleeping daughter. "Even such was thy mother in those
first days, as guileless and as beautiful. Nay, thou art but the copy,
Zyna. And had she but lived to see thee and thy brother as ye are it
would have been well. Yet why not well as it is?" he resumed after a
pause; "surely Fate is good whatever it be. If my heart warns me of
coming ill--nay, if he too be gone from me, well; he is with her, and
the old man will soon follow, and there will be peace, peace, peace!
Yet I would live still a little for thee, my child--only for thee! else
the first shot or keen sword-cut were welcome to Afzool Khan."

So he thought and watched, and at times gently fanned his child with
the papers in his hand that her sleep might be the lighter, and again
resumed his occupation of reading. All was silent, but the night wind
sighed mournfully through the open trelliswork of the window, and
seemed rising; and as he listened, there were mutterings of a coming

Opening one of the small casements, he looked out. The city was dark
beneath him, and still; even the dogs seemed to have gone to sleep.
Far distant, the wailing howls of a pack of jackals came upon his ear
fitfully, and again ceased as the sound was blown away by the wind.
Over the face of the sky the wild dark clouds were now hurrying ragidly
along, disclosing here and there a star, which was again as instantly
hidden. In the west, the horizon was black and threatening, and the
edges of a heavy bank of cloud, now fast rising, pile over pile, were
illumined like burnished silver, as lightning flashed rapidly through
them, lighting up the city, and the bold domes and tall minarets of
the mosques and mausoleums, with a sickly glare for an instant, to
disappear as rapidly as a thought. One of the night-storms of the
season was evidently approaching, and the cool fresh wind was grateful
to the Khan, as he leaned forth and looked into the void of darkness

The papers he had been perusing had been the subject of consultation
that day at the court between the King, his Secretary, and himself.
They were reports from the governors of the west and north-west
provinces--a country which Afzool Khan had governed some years before,
and knew perfectly--and related to a growing disaffection and a rising
spirit among the people of the mountain valleys, which could not be
accounted for save by the intrigues and machinations of Sivaji Bhóslay
and his adherents. Sivaji, as a restless youth, had before risen in
petty insurrection, and had resisted small forces sent against him,
but had renewed his fidelity to the State, and had been pardoned.
Notwithstanding, however, he was believed to be active in evil designs;
and report assigned to him constant communication and intrigue with the
Moghul emperor Aurungzeeb, as well as endeavours, on his own account,
to excite the people.

Afzool Khan was no indifferent spectator of these events. He was one
of those who, with others of his rank, had received profuse promises
from the Emperor during his first invasion of the kingdom; and though
Aurungzeeb's intentions had not been finally declared, yet Afzool Khan
knew that if he favoured his cause, even secretly, for the present, he
was certain hereafter, should the Emperor prevail, of high rank and
rewards far beyond those which he now possessed, and also that the
weight and influence of a few men like himself would at once turn the
scale against Beejapoor, which already trembled in the balance.

The Moghul party, he well knew, was strong in the city. Many who had
been disappointed of court influence almost openly professed it:
they had nothing to lose and everything to hope for. But there were
others--like the prime-minister, Khan Mahomed, for instance--who, in
the enjoyment of large estates, high commands, and immense wealth,
still desired more; nay, even the partition of the kingdom, that they
might hold what they possessed as independent princes.

Again, Aurungzeeb's zeal for the cause of his faith was a well-known
element of his character. He was a strict Soonnee, who held the
heretical belief of the Sheeas in hereditary hatred; and the sight of
the noble domes of the mosques at Beejapoor filled him with a fervour
of bigotry even stronger than the lust of territorial dominion, to
subvert the royal house which held those detested tenets.

Afzool Khan was also an orthodox Soonnee. He looked with abomination
upon the Sheea ceremonies at the great mosque. He could not join in
prayer there, nor could he enter save with the certainty of being
offended and insulted by the religious ceremonies of his King. It was
equally certain that the doctrines he professed belonged to a strong
party in the city, who on all possible occasions urged amalgamation of
the country with the empire of Delhi, in order to insure the supremacy
of their own creed. Yet he was true.

Like him, the minister Khan Mahomed had been faithful through many
temptations; but of late, though he still preserved a fair and honest
appearance with the young King, rumour had become busy with his name,
and, intimate as was their friendship, the old Khan's trust in him
was much shaken under an accumulated mass of suspicion, though, as
yet, nothing definite had transpired. Hitherto also the minister's
apparently unflinching adherence to what was feared to be a falling
dynasty, and to a government which, under foreign invasion, and
internal disunion and distraction, had become weakened, had retained
Afzool Khan's respect and affection; for this, combined with Khan
Mahomed's professed devotion to the young King, who, with excellent
dispositions and a fair promise of ability, was yet without experience,
formed a strong bond of union between them.

Private friendship, and the free intercourse of camps and
battle-fields, had existed for many years; and as their children grew
up together, and the beauty of Zyna became notorious, the minister's
son, whom we have already mentioned, pressed upon his father, very
importunately, the necessity of formally asking her in marriage. But
under his own secret hopes of the eventual ascendancy of the Moghuls,
and his convictions that the obstinate fidelity of Afzool Khan would
sooner or later lead to a serious breach between them, the minister had
as yet refrained from taking any steps in the matter; and on his own
part Afzool Khan had been equally guarded.

The events of the night, however, would disclose the real tendency
of the Wuzeer's conduct; and the thought that there were grounds of
more than ordinary suspicion, could not fail to increase the feeling
that he was actually guilty, which for some time past had lain at
Afzool Khan's heart. He had fancied, too, a growing coldness on the
part of the Wuzeer towards him, unlike the spirit of their former
free and unrestrained intercourse; and he could not fail to observe,
in his visits to his court, that men to whom rumour attached the same
suspicions as to the Wuzeer, were preferred as counsellors to himself.

All this, however, had as yet produced no personal disagreement: it was
only mistrust, arising from suspicion on both sides; but the Wuzeer
well knew that, if his designs were discovered for certain in any
degree, he should find in Afzool Khan a powerful and bitter enemy,
whose fiery temper and habit of prompt action would make him a far
more dangerous enemy than the young King himself. No one, also, knew
better than the Wuzeer the temptations to which Afzool Khan had been
exposed, and through which he had come as yet unsullied. He knew that
in the Moghul army many ties of clanship and acquaintance existed for
the Afghan, which the service of Beejapoor did not afford, and that the
Emperor, desiring to gain one so faithful, brave, and skilled in the
field, who was also a Soonnee, had offered rank, titles, and estates,
with his personal friendship and confidence, as yet in vain.

There had been times when Afzool Khan, wearied by petty slights,
uncertain as to the future existence of Beejapoor as a kingdom, and
comparing the wide field of honour in the imperial service with the
narrow circle of Beejapoor, had felt tempted to accept these offers.
But the thought had been as often repelled, and had led to a more
steadfast and more healthy attachment to the young King; and when Ali
Adil Shah, who had but recently succeeded his father Mahmood, displayed
the possession of vigour and manly thought, and his disposition and
talent appeared really equal to the maintenance of his dignity,--Afzool
Khan's fidelity was no longer doubtful, and his openly-evinced
confidence in his King had rallied the wavering attachment of many.

A more than ordinary proof of this had been that day given by the King
in public Durbar. The Wuzeer was then absent from Beejapoor on service,
watching the frontier, with a force to oppose Moghul incursions;
and the King had, as an unusual act, invited Afzool Khan into his
private chamber, to discuss the contents of the letters of which we
have already seen the Khan in possession. They were many, and on many
subjects; and the King's trust in the old noble could not have been
more heartily evinced than by permitting him to take them home for
perusal alone.

They were a tangled skein of intrigue, alarm, and disaffection, of
exaggerated rumour and detail of actual occurrences, which were
not without signification in the aggregate. If, in reliance on the
gradually increasing ability of the King, Afzool Khan had no longer
hesitated, but, with the sincerity of an open and faithful heart,
showed that he for one no longer doubted, and that his allegiance
would be true--others as high in rank, and holding equal or greater
territorial possessions, were not so; and, as we have already stated,
there was much disaffection, not only in the city, but in the army, and
also in the provinces.

So long as the Moghuls had beleagured Beejapoor, men of all parties,
and, we may add, creeds also, had united in the common bond of
self-preservation; well knowing the plunder and devastation which
would ensue if the city were taken by storm or in the course of actual
war. This also had been foreseen by the Emperor; and his advices from
the traitors within, at the head of whom was the Wuzeer, led him to
the conclusion that nothing was to be gained by open force at present.
Enough that the seed of disaffection had been sown, which he trusted
would, in a comparatively short period, bear the fruit he desired.
On these considerations, Aurungzeeb had raised the siege, and lay at
a distance in seeming inaction; nevertheless watching the course of
events not only with eagerness, but with astute foresight and untiring
intrigue. Emissaries were busy in the city, and among the wavering
and discontented gained many converts. Money, promises and assurances
of protection were freely lavished, not only among the courtiers, but
among the frontier chieftains, powerful tributaries, feudatories, and
zemindars, who possessed influence over the people, and wherever else
it was possible. Village authorities were also canvassed; hereditary
rights and immunities guaranteed, with confirmation of former grants
from the Beejapoor princes.

All such were openly encouraged to revolt, to withhold payment of
revenue, and to harass the government of the State by every means in
their power. During the confusion attendant upon the Moghul invasion,
many districts had been wrested from the State which could not be
regained except at great cost and by the employment of separate
forces, which weakened the general efficiency of the army. In some
instances, those who had recovered and held such districts, had
themselves retained possession of them, fortifying the village ghurrees
or castles, occupying and repairing hill-forts, under pretence of
assisting the King's cause, but in reality to strengthen their own
positions. Of such, was the Mahratta prince, Sivaji Bhóslay.

The letters which Afzool Khan was perusing were of the tenor consequent
upon such events. They were chiefly from governors of provinces,
forwarding reports from their subordinates to make their own views
more intelligible. Most applied for the assistance of fresh troops,
permission to raise local levies, and funds to pay them; while they
gave accounts of opposition and imperial intrigue, which were only
too certain and progressive. Others detailed plots and rumours, or
preparations for revolt which should be checked.

Around Beejapoor itself there was perhaps no apprehension; but
everywhere at a distance the same confusion existed, and it seemed
to Afzool Khan as though it were impossible to provide against the
spread of growing disaffection which, if he had before only partially
guessed, was here developed in all its hideous and most perplexing
detail. Letter after letter was thus read and thrown aside, till, weary
of the subject, and sick at heart with apprehension, unable also to
determine upon any definite course of state policy, he had put aside
the correspondence, and was reviewing the detail in his own mind as he
looked out on the city from the window.

The question to be determined in particular was as regarded the
condition of the country to the west and north-west, which heretofore
had given no cause for alarm. When Afzool Khan himself had governed it,
he found the people, if ruder in manner than those nearer the capital,
yet peaceable and industrious farmers; and beyond checking local feuds,
there was little need for exertion or apprehension of any kind. Now
the governor wrote of large assemblages of armed men, of habitual
indifference to the authority of the officers of the State, and of the
growing influence of Sivaji Bhóslay, before which he felt it next to
impossible to maintain his own position or collect the revenue, much
less to bring him to subjection.

The latest letters, too, described emissaries from the imperial camp
having been traced in disguise to Sivaji's strongholds among the
mountains, and an increasing belief among the people that he was
destined to become a great prince for the subversion of all Mahomedans;
while it was very evident that, by some secret means, they were being
organized either to revolt for Sivaji himself, or in the cause of the

The writer was a personal friend of Afzool Khan's--one whom he had no
reason to believe would write either from fear or from an incorrect
view of existing circumstances; and on this account his recent letters
had not only become more important, but in a higher degree more
interesting. He had forces at his disposal sufficient to repress any
outbreak, but his knowledge of the people and the country, and the use
they might be put to by the Emperor against the State at any critical
moment, had confirmed apprehensions under which he had written,
temperately but firmly, to the King, not to neglect or underrate
those signs of the times; and to seek among the counsellors and
nobles at Beejapoor such advice in respect to the prevention of local
disaffection as might be practicable.

"If Fazil is right," murmured the Khan to himself, as he revolved these
questions in his mind, "we may obtain confirmation of the designs of
the Mahrattas and the Emperor, which will assist the comprehension
of these letters. But it is strange that they have any common cause,
or that such discordant elements should unite, even with the hope of
mutual assistance."

A low cry from his daughter aroused him from his reverie. As he drew
himself within the lattice, Zyna had raised herself, and was looking
about scared and half awake. "Fazil!" she said. "O father, I dreamed I
saw him laying before me, looking as though he were dead, and then he
seemed to change to you; and I was terrified and screamed out."

"Be calm, Zyna," he replied, supporting her tenderly; "thou hast been
much excited, and needest rest, and no wonder that an evil dream came
to thee. Fear not; he is safe, and I am beside thee."

"Safe, father? then he is returned, and I have been sleeping

"No, daughter, he is not come yet. He has most likely taken refuge from
the storm, which was severe."

"In my dream I heard the thunder, father, but it seemed as though it
were cannon. I marvel that I slept through all."

"And soundly too, Zyna; but look, the morning will be fair for their
return," and he opened the casement.

The black pall of clouds which had hung over the city had passed away,
and the wind had fallen, except a cool gentle breeze which blew freshly
in at the window, and rustled among the foliage of the garden. Here
and there the silence was broken by a gentle and distant murmur in the
city, for, early as it was, some were already astir.

"I will watch now, father," said Zyna; "surely you have not slept at
all. I am quite rested, and will wait for Fazil."

"It is near the third watch of the night, Zyna; thou art not afraid to
be alone if I sleep? If Fazil come not before dawn, I will mount the
Paigah, and we will soon bring him to thee; but I have no fear now,
and say this only to content thee. I will try and rest my head for
a while, daughter; for it is weary, and these papers have caused me
much thought." So saying, he lay down on the divan where he had been
sitting, covered his face with a shawl which Zyna gently cast over him,
and at once fell into a deep slumber.


Zyna sat beside her father, trimming the lamp as it needed, wondering
much at Fazil's strange absence, and occasionally taking up one of
the papers with which her father had been occupied, and reading it
vacantly. Zyna could read, which was unusual in girls of her age and
class: and, originally of a studious character, she had learned enough
Persian with her brother from their old teacher, a superannuated
secretary, to be of use both to her father and brother; more especially
to her father in his confidential correspondence. Apparently she
found nothing to interest her very much, for she laid down letter
after letter after reading the superscription, and looked out through
the lattice impatiently, as it were, for the coming dawn. The bright
morning star now appeared above the tops of the trees, and a glow
overspread the whole east--the false dawn; which, while it as yet gave
no definite form to the surrounding objects, yet relieved the extreme
darkness of the night. As Zyna sat, she fancied she heard a sound of
voices at the gate, but it died away. It could not be her brother;
he would have been admitted at once. Again, as she listened, and the
silence seemed painful, the murmur was renewed, and she started up.

"It is he--Fazil is come!" she cried eagerly to her father, awaking
him. "O, father, go to meet him; would I could go myself!"

Afzool Khan listened from the window, and Zyna could see that the
expression of his face increased in gladness, and the revulsion in her
own heart caused agitation which she could not restrain.

"He is not come," said her father; "it may be some messenger. God grant
there may be no evil tidings! Be calm, my child; I will go below and
ascertain, and will return or send word about him!"

Hurrying down to the gate, he found the sentinel in altercation with
the lad we have before mentioned. It was evident that the boy had been
there some time, and the sentinel, being informed that his young lord
was safe, had no idea of wakening any one before the usual hour of
morning prayer. As Afzool Khan approached the gate alone, he heard the
lad's earnest prayer for aid answered by a dogged refusal.

"Begone!" said the man through the wicket; "thy tale may be true
enough, and the Sahib Zadah[8] may be where he is; but, look you, the
great Khan Sahib is fast asleep, and cannot be awakened. Everybody is
asleep; there is no woman here to send to him in the zenana. Begone
therefore, or lay down at the gate. When morning prayer is over, thou
shalt have speech of the Khan. Till it is broad daylight, I draw no
bolt. If thou wilt not go, at least sit quiet, for there are gentleman
in the guard-room here who might treat thee roughly if disturbed in
their sleep."

The boy was turning away sadly, when the voice of Afzool Khan was heard
calling from the inner court, as he unfastened the door leading to the
larger one.

"Whose is that voice?--who speaks without?--why is he not admitted?" he

"My lord," replied the man on duty, "the Sahib Zadah is not here, but
there is a boy who says he knows of him."

"Was it well, Yousuf, to turn him away?" asked Afzool Khan. "Suppose my
son had had need of us."

"Nay; but my lord slept, and the Sahib Zadah was safe. Bulwunt Rao only
is wounded--and there were no women to send--and I did but tell him to
wait," stammered the man.

"No matter--where is the boy? Open the wicket," said Afzool Khan

"He does not consider who may be behind it," said the soldier, as he
unfastened the ponderous iron bars and unlocked the padlock of the
wickets, "and that this may be but a device to attack the gate. But he
will always be headstrong."

"I am here, Khódawund," said the lad, from without, and squeezing
himself through the opening between the wicket-door and the chain which
fastened it. "Behold I am now before you, valiant sir," he said to the
sentinel, "whom you took to be a thief; but I would have speech of the
noble Afzool Khan himself, if it be possible to have him aroused."

"I am he," returned the old Khan, stepping forward. "Speak on, if what
there is to be told may be said before these men;" for several had now
arisen, saluted their master, and were standing by him.

The boy touched the old Khan's feet reverently. "Fear not, noble sir,"
he said hastily, "for the Sahib Zadah is safe. He met with no hurt,
though he was in danger."

"Ul-humd-ul-illa!--Praise be to God," broke from the old man fervently,
and was heartily re-echoed by all around; for men were arriving every
moment from the different portions of the court, and crowding round to
hear the news. "Ul-humd-ul-illa! O holy Geesoo Duraz!"[9] he continued,
looking up, "I vow fatehas to thy tomb, and a new covering shall it
have of the costliest cloth-of-gold. But go on, boy, and fear not. Is
there aught for my private ear?"

"Nothing, my lord--nothing. There was a fray, and Meah Sahib's
attendant or friend was badly wounded. I want a palankeen for him; that
is all."

"And my son--why did he not come with thee? And who art thou?" asked
the Khan.

"They call me Ashruf, and I am the son of Peer Mahomed Duffadar, and
Meah Sahib could not come, because," added the lad, dropping his head,
"he was my father's prisoner--and----"

"By the Prophet, but this is too much!" exclaimed the fiery old Khan.
"Who art thou, knave, that dares to say the son of Afzool Khan is a
prisoner to any one?"

"May I be your sacrifice, O Khan," returned the boy, nothing daunted,
though the Khan's angry speech was re-echoed by all gathered around
him. "May I be your sacrifice, there is no harm meant to your noble
son, whom we all know and honour. He it was who in my hearing declared
that, in order to save my father, he would attend the Kótwal's court;
for it was but yesterday that the Kótwal swore he would have the
right hand of the first brawler taken, cut off, and hung up in the
chowke,[10] and that he would degrade the first officer who failed to
apprehend those concerned in any riot. Be not angry, therefore, noble
sir, for my father explained all this, and your son goes of his own
freewill. My father could not help it, you know, my lord," added the
boy, apologetically, "for a man had been wounded, and there was blood
on your son's sword."

"Ay! Jehándar Beg is likely to be a man of his word, too," said the
Khan to those about him, "and force will do no good. But it were as
well that my son should be attended, I think. What say you, gentlemen?
So be ready some twenty of you, and call up the spearmen; the palankeen
and bearers, too, for Bulwunt Rao. We could ill spare him, poor fellow,
from among us."

"Nothing could have happened if Meah had taken some of us with him,"
cried several of the men at once. "We all wanted to go," added Raheem
Khan, "but he bade us mind our own business, and took Bulwunt Rao with
him; and see what has come of ganja smoking."

"And Meah might have been wounded or killed," added several.

"My friends, there was need to do it," answered Afzool Khan; "a secret
service for the King cannot have too few witnesses. As to his life,
or mine, or that of any of you, do we not eat the salt of the King,
and should our lives be grudged? Peace, then, and hasten to get ready:
the morn is fast breaking, and by daylight we should be in the saddle.
Keep the boy; he must accompany us." So saying, he turned back into
the private court in order to seek his daughter, who had followed him.
Goolab had been beforehand with her, and had communicated the news in
her own way, with many marvellous additions, while the Khan was giving
his orders to the men. Now, therefore, on hearing her father's brief
confirmation of Fazil's safety, all past anxiety was at once forgotten,
and, with glistening eyes and a thankful heart, she clung to him as
they entered the small court of the zenana apartments together.

By this time, too, Zyna's second mother, who as yet has been barely
mentioned, had been aroused from her sleep by the prevailing bustle;
and as she habitually indulged in long rests, and disliked early
hours most particularly, she met the Khan and Zyna in a mood of very
querulous character, which arose partly from having been robbed of
a large portion of sleep, and partly from having heard Goolab's
exaggerated report of Fazil's danger. Now, the good lady had not even
known of his going out, nor, as her lord had requested not to be
disturbed, of the manner in which the weary night had passed.

"Blessed be the holy saints that he is safe!" was the exclamation of
Zyna, as she threw herself upon the lady's neck; "there will be no
delay now, and my father will bring him to us. O mother, are you not

"It was well done of thee, Khan," cried the lady ironically,
disengaging herself from Zyna, and not heeding her words, "to send that
poor boy out in such a night as the last has been. Such thunder and
lightning! Naked, too, I hear--to run the chance of cold and wounds.
Ugh! and thou sayest thou hast a father's love for him? Toba! toba! I
swear to thee, had he been my son, he should never stir out without my
permission. I would take care of that. He should not go hence, Khan
Sahib, until I knew that the planets were propitious--a thing--Alla
defend us!--that some people care as little about as--as ... and then
to think what a tempting of destiny it was to send the boy from home
without asking or caring for the positions of the stars, or finding
out whether there was not an adverse planet in a threatening house. As
it is, we hear that Fazil is wounded--that is, he might have been; and
that Bulwunt Rao has had his head cut off--that is, nearly, for he has
a horrible cut in his neck, and his head is hanging all on one side;
and," she continued, wiping her eyes with the end of her scarf, and in
a whimpering tone, "all this comes of not asking me. What am I in the
house but less than a dog? O Khan----"

"Peace, Lurlee!" returned Afzool Khan tartly. "What cross words are
these so early in the morning? Enough for thee that the boy is safe,
and that we have subject for thankfulness in his escape from danger,
and not of sorrow. Peace! is it thus Alla should see thee after His
mercy? Fazil will be here presently, and will tell thee perhaps as much
as I know."

"Ay, perhaps!" retorted Lurlee. "I, who am less than a cat in the
house, and as gentle as a sheep, am thus treated! O Khan! shame upon
thee that I know everything only when it is stale, and comes to me
through the bazar! Are not all your goings and comings hidden from me?
and now I hear you and Zyna sat up all night together; and I was told
you were not to be interrupted, and had to eat my dinner by myself, and
to get to sleep as best I might. O Khan! am I less than nobody? I who
am of the family of----"

"Thou wouldst only have been anxious and fretful, Lurlee," returned the
Khan soothingly. "The planets would have troubled thee. We meant only
well in not telling thee. It was an urgent matter, and we could not
wait for the astrologer to read the tables for us, or tell us what star
was in the ascendant. Go, see after some breakfast, or whatever can be
got for Fazil; we may be detained, and I'll warrant he is hungry enough
already. We cannot wait for lucky hours sometimes, but must take what
Alla sends us."

"I will not go, Khan. I will not be put off with empty words," she
cried, angrily; "and if you do not choose to read the stars, what
does it signify? are not the consequences of your error on your own
head? When was it that the stars were aught in your eyes? Have I
not read you many a warning, which, had it been heeded, would have
saved much trouble--much! When Fazil went forth to battle, did I not
warn you not to let him depart? and did he not come home wounded and
senseless? And when I told you one day, when one of the horses died,
that something bad must befall us because of the evil aspect of the
stars, I was only laughed at. Is this true or false? And yesterday,
if I had but been asked beforehand, could I not have told all that
was going to happen? Behold!" and the lady drew from her bodice a
table regularly constructed to aid her astrological predictions and
researches--"behold! were not Saturn and the Moon in conjunction? Is
not that bad enough? and cannot you see that is the reason why Bulwunt
Rao, poor fellow, has had his head cut off?"

"Peace, Lurlee!" again cried the Khan, to whom his wife's astrological
wisdom had long proved a serious annoyance. "If all the planets in
the sky had come together for good or evil, Fazil must have gone last
night, for it was an errand of life or death. Now all is safely over,
go and prepare some sheernee for distribution, and be thankful for what
is, rather than anxious about the stars----"

"Toba, toba!" exclaimed the lady, interrupting him; "for shame, for
shame! O Khan, to blaspheme the stars! May your sin be forgiven!"

"Nay, mother, but he did not blaspheme," urged the gentle voice of
Zyna. "He did but mean that Fazil was safe everywhere; for thou
knowest, dear mother, that he is in the hands of Alla, and that the
blessed Alla is above all."

"He is not above the stars," retorted the lady angrily,
and over-anxious to establish the truth of her favourite
superstition--"that is, He--I mean--He is above them; but then----"

"Ah, Lurlee; better leave them alone," cried the Khan, laughing. "Art
thou not sinking deep into the mire of thine own conceit, lady? Well,
thou art welcome to them if they will teach thee not to be wilful, and
not to do thine own desire, which is ever ill controlled and variable;
and as to their being higher than Him who made them--why, I have no
more to say."

"I said no such thing," retorted the lady doggedly; "but it is ever
thus. Take care, Khan, of wilful disregard of warnings."

"Another time, perhaps, wife. Now we cannot delay, for the Kótwal has
got hold of Fazil, and that is worse than an adverse conjunction of
planets. But fear not," he added, seeing that the countenance of Zyna
betrayed alarm; "a word from me, and he will be released."

"If he is not, I will go to my cousin the Wuzeer's wife, and beg for
him," replied Lurlee.

"Ay, in spite of the stars? Well, well, beebee, I hope it will not be
needed," said the Khan cheerily. "We are not yet come down to asking
favours of our cousins' wives. No, Lurlee; keep thine interest for
another time, and see to it that thy cousin doth not require thine aid
ere thou hast to ask hers."

"Impossible, Khan!" cried the lady sharply. "Thou art pleased this
morning to underrate my poor self and my relations. It is well, O
Afzool Khan!" (she meant to be very impressive when she called him by
name)--"it is well--I say it is very well, that you speak thus. See to
it that thou, too, want no aid from them."

"I do not need them, Lurlee," replied the Khan. "As to their aid to
me--nay, be not angry--I have not much hope of it; and for the rest, if
I am right in what I think, there is evil impending over the Wuzeer's
house, which all the stars will not tell thee of, nor him either. May
the saints avert it! If it be true, thou shalt know of it ere many
hours be past, and we will try to aid him; but at present let there be
peace between us. By-and-by thou wilt say to Fazil, It was well done,
though our news may not please thee. Go, girl, bring me my sword," he
continued to Zyna. "Bring a shawl too, for the morning air is chilly."

Zyna was glad to escape, for, in truth, bickerings such as we have
noted were too frequent in the house to be very tolerable, and
sometimes one side, sometimes the other, was in fault; most frequently
perhaps, the lady, who, having had no children of her own to care for,
and having in her youth been instructed in Persian, had turned to
divinity and astrology with great zeal. In the latter she had indeed
great faith, and professed herself able, as no doubt she was willing,
to direct all affairs of the house, as also of the state, by planetary
influences. Thus, no event could happen without its being, to her
perception, plainly written in the book of destiny, which the light of
the planets rendered easy reading; and if a dish happened to break, or
a cow or bullock died, or a horse had to be purchased or exchanged,
or any household rejoicing made, or trouble endured, all were found
to have connection with the planets, or to be the consequences of the
lucky or unlucky days and hours of which her life was composed.

Lurlee Khánum being a scholar, was also an object of envy to many of
her female friends, and was consulted by them upon various turns of
their fortunes; and in regard to lucky colours for dress, lucky moments
for putting on new clothes, settling matches and marriage days, the
weaning of children, putting them into new beds, cutting their hair
or nails, and the like domestic matters, she was an unquestionable
authority. She, according to the rules laid down in her book, had
written several charms, and given them to her friends, which, together
with the virtues of certain herbs and medicines, had been the cause
of relief to babies when cutting their teeth, and when they cried
at night, or had bad dreams, or infantine ailments; and had been
efficacious also in averting evil spirits, evil eyes, and the envious
wishes of others.

For these accomplishments--especially her skill in astrology,
which was believed to be very wonderful, indeed almost a special
revelation--Lurlee Khánum was held in vast respect by all classes in
her quarter of the city; and her opinions and interpretations of the
stars were decidedly preferred to those of Meer Anwur Ali, the old
Moolla of the public mosque nigh at hand; and a considerable feud
existed between them in consequence. For the Moolla considered her
as an interloper, and as one by no means instructed or qualified to
have converse with what she professed, whether astrology or medicine;
and had been known to say, irreverently no doubt, that more people
died of Lurlee Khánum's medicines than the angel of death knew what
to do with. In short, Lurlee Khánum, the second wife of Afzool Khan,
was a much more popular person than the first had been; who, being a
foreigner, and absorbed in her husband and children, cared little about
her neighbours; whereas her successor was in most respects the exact

Lurlee Beebee had once been handsome. She was of somewhat dark
complexion, but had very large lustrous eyes, with a prominent
nose, and had not escaped marks by smallpox, though they were not
disfiguring. When the Khan married her, her figure was perfect; but she
had lately, much to her mortification, increased in size; and though
she took many infallible receipts to prevent fat, it would accumulate.
For many years she had had hope of children, and had made vows to all
the shrines in Beejapoor, had sent gifts to those at Allund, Gulburgah,
and Gôgi, and had vowed to make vast distributions of money, and to
do other charitable acts, if her prayers were granted. Now she began
to fear she had no chance, which had vexed her not a little, and had
combined, with other troubles, to give a sour, grim expression to her
countenance, which rarely left it.

There were times, however, when she was bright and pleasant; for,
really kind at heart, few had greater powers of pleasing than Lurlee
Khánum; but as her husband became more and more occupied with public
affairs, estrangement had begun, and was progressing. There was one
fear which had beset Lurlee for many years--that her lord, seeing she
had no children, would marry again; and the idea of a sister-wife
was very intolerable: this, however, had passed away. The Khan was
advancing in years, his children were growing up, and she had no fear
of another usurping what affection remained, or interfering with her
household management.

To the Khan's children Lurlee was fondly attached; indeed, they were
now the principal links between her lord and herself. Their mother
had died when they were of tender age; and, after Lurlee's hopes of
children ceased, she took more kindly to them than before, and had done
her duty by them. Nor did their father interfere with that deference
to her judgment in matters concerning them, of which she had better
knowledge; but her increasing faith in her own infallibility had begun
to distress both, as they could not help estimating at its proper value
the superstition upon which the majority of her acts and opinions were
founded once for all.

Such was Lurlee Khánum, the only lady in the harem of Afzool Khan.
Other nobles of his rank would have married as often as the law
allowed, without reproach; but the old Khan's affections had seemingly
died with Zyna's mother; and the excitement of war, of political
events, and provincial government, together with the management of
his fine estate of Afzoolpoor, had apparently filled his mind to the
exclusion of other subjects.

In a few moments Zyna had returned, bearing the weapon, which her
father took from her; and having entered the garden with her, they
performed their ablutions in the mosque before mentioned, and went
through the usual forms of the early prayer. The Khan then returned to
the zenana, where Lurlee Khánum met him.

"I have put up some food in the palankeen," she said; "see that Fazil
eats it. I would all this were safely over," she added, after a pause.
"Thou art not angry with me, Khan--with your Lurlee? do not go forth
angry with me, my lord."

"No, no! not angry, dear one," returned the Khan, much moved and
softened. "I am not angry, but impatient; forgive me, Lurlee. Alla keep
you till I return: and you too, my child! Fear not; I will bring him
safely to both of you."

The Khan's horse awaited him in the outer court, and with it a strong
troop of his best horsemen, with a company of spearmen, whose combined
force seemed enough to have rescued Fazil, had there been need. Afzool
Khan was greeted heartily by all, and as he cast his eye over the
group of steady and oft-tried retainers, he felt that confidence which
results from habitual companionship with others, and that no danger
could reach Fazil which they could not share or overcome. The greeting
was as heartily returned as given; and the gates being thrown open
after a few questions to his son's messenger, and preceded by him and
the band of spearmen who ran before his horse, Afzool Khan and his
retainers pushed forward at a rapid pace.

It was now broad daylight, and the freshness of the morning, and its
clear bright atmosphere, rendered every object more beautiful than it
had been before the rain. Every stately mosque and minaret, palace and
mausoleum, with their bright gilded spires, caught the fast-increasing
light, and stood out boldly against the clear eastern sky; while the
rich foliage of the trees, unmoved by any wind as yet, hung in heavy
masses, and seemed refreshed by the moisture they still retained.
As they passed the various gardens, the rich fragrance of tuberose,
lime, and orange flowers loaded the air almost to excess; while the
very ground gave forth that refreshing earthy scent which, in India,
after rain, mingles so peculiarly and yet so gratefully with every
other perfume. Few persons were yet abroad; and with the exception of
an occasional devout Mahomedan proceeding to early morning prayer at
the mosque--a young rake, with a small band of sword-and-bucklermen,
returning from the night's questionable companionship--a few humble
carriers of fruit and vegetables coming from villages without the
walls to the morning market, with here and there small companies
of travellers starting on their daily journey,--all was silent and
deserted; and the heavy tramp of the horsemen, as they proceeded at a
rapid pace, sounded strange and suspicious at that unusual hour.


[8] The respectful title of a son--literally, "lord's son."

[9] _Huzrut Syud Geesoo Duraz_--"Prince of the Long Locks"--the name of
a celebrated Mahomedan saint, whose tomb at Gulburgah is esteemed the
most holy, as the saint is the greatest favourite of all, perhaps, in
the Dekhan.

[10] Market-place.


The young Ashruf ran lightly along before the party, leading them, by
narrow lanes and streets familiar to him, direct to the spot where the
occurrences of the night had taken place; and under such guidance--for
the boy's speed never flagged for a moment--Afzool Khan and his men
arrived at the building where Fazil was waiting, almost ere the sun's
rays were sparkling upon the tall minarets and domes of the city.

He had looked anxiously for their coming long ere dawn broke; for he
had awakened as usual for the morning prayer, in which he was joined by
the Duffadar and several other devout members of the guard: and since
its conclusion he had been sitting on the step of the guard-room, or
watching Bulwunt, who slept heavily but restlessly, and speculating
on the reason of his young messenger's delay. Truly cheering was it,
therefore, after hearing from a great distance the rapid advance of a
body of horsemen borne on the still morning air, to see the well-known
band of spearmen, led by the young Ashruf, turn the corner of the
street, and immediately following them the tall figure of his father,
and with him perhaps fifty of the Paigah.

A few moments served to bring the party to the spot. As his father
strove to alight rapidly, Fazil sprang to aid him with a joyful cry;
and when the old Khan could disengage himself from his stirrup,
a hearty embrace followed, to the no small wonder of a crowd of
neighbours, whom the unexpected appearance of a well-known nobleman and
his dashing escort had collected: and who could not understand the warm
greeting and embrace between what appeared to be a Hindu beggar, still
much besmeared with wood-ashes and paint, and so gallant a cavalier as
Afzool Khan.

Led by Fazil into the apartment we have already mentioned, the Khan
submitted to be seated upon a carpet; and the room being partially
cleared, he proceeded to inquire into the circumstances of his son's
detention, and of the fray of which Ashruf had informed him. Upon
Bulwunt, the sound of the old Khan's voice acted like a charm. Weakened
by loss of blood, he had fallen into a dreamy kind of doze rather than
sleep, which the trampling of the horses, and exclamations from their
riders as they arrived, had converted into an imaginary battle-field,
on which he lay wounded and helpless; but when the well-known voice of
his lord was no longer doubtful, he was aroused, and, raising himself
feebly, earnestly requested his master to come to him to hear, as he
thought them, his last words.

"He is not in fault, my lord," he said faintly, and pointing to Fazil.
"They would have made out that he wounded me--may their tongues rot!
He will tell you all that happened, and how the enemy of my house,
Tannajee Maloosray, has given me my death-blow."

"Not so, brave Bulwunt," said the Khan, cheerfully; "there is no fear
of thee, methinks. Thou art weak, and thy sight fails thee; but keep a
good heart, friend, thou will strike many a blow yet for Afzool Khan; a
few days' rest, and this trouble will be forgotten."

"Has he told you all?" asked Bulwunt.

"Not yet, not yet, friend; but I shall hear it ere long."

"Track him, track him, my lord," continued Bulwunt; "Maloosray cannot
be gone far. He is even now in the city, at one of the Mutts or Serais.
He could not escape if the gates were watched. He might even be found

But speech suddenly failed the poor fellow, and, exhausted with his
effort, he sank back, fainting, on the pillow.

"What did he say, son?" asked the Khan, quickly; "what of Tannajee
Maloosray? Him of Pertábgurh--the friend of Sivaji Bhóslay?"

"Even so, father," replied Fazil. "I did not mention him, as there
were so many listeners, and the matter was for your private ear; but,
as Bulwunt has said it, no matter now. Would that we knew his haunts!
Perhaps he knows, but he is too exhausted to speak."

"Tannajee Maloosray here!--in Beejapoor!" exclaimed the Khan, "and
hath done this deed! O that we knew where the villain were hiding!
Nevertheless, the gates shall be well guarded; that was a good thought
of thine, Bulwunt. Ho, without there! One of ye ride to each gate of
the city--tell those on guard there, that Maloosray hath been seen
within the city last night, and all that pass out are to be well looked
to. Do ye hear?"

"Jo Hookum," cried a number of the men who heard the order; and after a
brief consultation together, single horsemen dashed away to the several
places to which their errands tended.

"And now change thy dress, son," continued his father; "this disguise
is hardly seemly to thee. Here is a suit, and there will be water

"If the Duffadar here have no objection," returned the young man. "You
forget, father; I am his prisoner of my own free will."

"Chut, chut, boy! thou art no prisoner--be quick," cried the Khan.

"The saints forbid," interposed the Duffadar, "that any one of such
exalted faith as the son of Afzool Khan should be ever suspected of
being an infidel. When----"

"There, there, Fazil! go!" interrupted the Khan, laughing; "I have no
eyes for thee in that abomination; let us see thee in thy proper shape."

"Then follow me, father, into this apartment," replied Fazil; "I have
that to say which will not bear witnesses--much that is marvellous."

"That I doubt not, son. I will follow when Bulwunt is cared for; I see
they have brought up the palankeen."

So saying, the Khan tried to raise the wounded man, while he spoke
cheerily to him. Again, at the sound of his lord's voice, the spirit of
the retainer rallied, but it apparently hovered between life and death;
for, after another faint attempt to speak, he fell back exhausted.

"It is of no use," muttered the Khan; "he will die, I fear, and we
can ill spare him. Ho, without! bearers or spearmen! Come in some of
ye. And look ye," he added, as several entered, "take up Bulwunt Rao,
carefully, as he lies, by the corners of the blanket; put him into the
palankeen, and take him home at your easiest pace. He is to be lodged
in the private apartment of the Khilwut. Get a bed from the house, and
send for our physician directly, and the surgeon of the palace.... Now,

Carefully and gently the men raised him up, and bore him out. He
groaned heavily as he reached the open air, yet it seemed to revive
him, for he looked around. Some of his comrades who crowded round
spoke cheerily to him, and he recognized them and smiled. He was at
once placed in the litter, and the bearers, at a rapid but easy pace,
proceeded homewards.

"I dare not have spoken to thee, my son," said the old Khan, when he
had joined Fazil, who was busily engaged washing the ashes from his
face, neck, and arms, "before those people, though I was burning to do
so. So thou hast really discovered something by the night's adventure.
This Tannajee,--what of him? Tell me quickly?"

"Alas! father," returned the young man, sadly, "I know so much, and of
such weighty matters, that my soul trembles under them. I would almost
that I had not gone out last night, or that other lips than mine had to
tell thee a tale of treachery and wrong-doing."

"Son! I see it in thy face. The Wuzeer!" exclaimed the Khan, starting.

"He is false, father--false," continued Fazil.

"Ah, I feared so; but speak, boy, how is it? Who told thee?" cried
Afzool Khan, impatiently.

"I need not say more to confirm it than that the King knows it,"
returned Fazil; "and that he has papers now in his possession which
leave no doubt of Khan Mahomed's treachery; Mirza Anwur Ali and the
Shah took them last night, and paid for them."

"Ya Alla kureem! and where was this? By the Prophet, tell me, Fazil! My
soul eats your words! speak, boy, quickly."

Then Fazil rapidly sketched the scene of which the reader already
knows the detail, while the old Khan listened in silent amazement, his
forefinger between his teeth.

"Ya Khubeer-o! and hath all this been so easily found out?" he
exclaimed. "Ah, Khan Mahomed! often has your poor friend warned you;
but in vain. Now you are lost, alas, alas! and for that insane ambition
which would not be repressed."

"We must save him, father!" cried Fazil; "he must not perish. At the
risk of my own life would I do aught possible to avert the danger which
threatens him. What can we do? Implore the King to spare the ancient
friend of his house? or write and warn him? Ah, father, you are his
most valued friend, and his son is as a brother to me! Speak; what can
be done?"

"Alas, I know not yet, son," he replied, sadly; "but tell it again;
all, Fazil--all that the King said. I will think it over. Wishing to
save, we must not destroy."

Fazil again narrated what he had seen, and, as well as he could
remember them, the contents of the letter which the Lalla had repeated.
But the Khan thought long and deeply on the whole matter ere he could
see his way to action. At last he said to his son--

"What I have determined upon ought to suit both parties. I will go
instantly to the King, and try if his purpose as to the Wuzeer can be
discovered. I must take the papers he gave me in any case. Do thou,
Fazil, go to thy friend--it may be that he knows all; but, if not, he
can be warned of the danger. Timely submission may alone avert it; but
the peril is fearful."

"Alla is just, and it will be as He wills," returned his son, devoutly;
"but we must not forget that Lalla; his presence may be of moment, and
it were well he were cared for; his wound was a mere scratch, and he
may be able to ride; let us send for him."

So a messenger was despatched to bring him, or to ascertain, at least,
whether he could ride; as, if not, a litter would be provided. To the
vexation of Fazil, however, and his father, the messenger returned,
saying that a litter had already been sent by the Kótwal's orders,
about the time of morning prayer, and he had been taken away to that

"Jehándar Beg is faithful," said the old Khan. "He is as true to the
King's salt as I am myself, else I should have feared the result; but
who can hold the Lalla's tongue?--that is what I dread, Fazil."

"And he did not appear over-discreet either, father," replied Fazil;
"however, the best thing we can do is to follow up the information, and
go to the Kótwallee; it is my duty, too, to see the worthy old Duffadar
safe through the matter, for truly he did what he could."

"True, son," returned Afzool Khan; "and I will accompany thee. Jehándar
Beg may not have forgotten some matters in which I have been able to
befriend him now and then. No; that Lalla must not slip through our
hands, Fazil."

By this time Ashruf had saddled his father's ambling pony, and stood
waiting without, so the cavalcade was soon ready. The Khan's men were
all mounted, and a few of the Duffadar's guard attended as escort to
the kullal, for whom his own pony had been provided, so that there was
no delay; and as Fazil and his father stepped from the guard-room, the
young man's appearance was the signal for a shout of congratulation
from all, which being duly acknowledged, Fazil turned with a smile to
the old Duffadar, and told him "his prisoners" were ready.

"If I can but assist ye, noble gentlemen," said the old man,
respectfully, "in this matter, it will be a happy thing; and if my

"Bismilla!" exclaimed Afzool Khan, mounting his horse, and interrupting
him; "we are no evil-doers, to fear justice. Move forward!"

The building where the Kótwal's morning court was held, was at no very
great distance, in the city itself; the other court was within the
fort, not far from the King's palace; and they proceeded to the former
at a rapid pace. By-and-by, as they drew nearer the place of their
destination, a horseman dashed on to give notice of the near approach
of the Khan, in order that he might be met, and greeted in a manner due
to his rank.

"What can bring Afzool Khan, the pious and true, here?" asked one of
the under-officers on duty at the entrance guard-room of the outer
court. "He is no brawler or intriguer."

"Who knows, Meer Sahib," replied the person addressed. "In these days
the world is turning topsy-turvy, and one has to see and believe
strange things. There is already a report that the young Khan is in
fault, and has wounded the man who was brought in a little while ago
upon a bed, and killed another; for a body was found this morning near
a temple beyond the fort. I was at the Bazar mosque at early prayer,
and they said there it would be a bad business. What matter? Afzool
Khan has plenty of cash, and a sharp fine will set all straight."

"I pray it may be no worse, friend," returned the first speaker; "but
I have heard Jehándar Beg swear upon the holy book to spare no one if
blood hath been shed; and here is one man dead and one wounded to be
accounted for. A bad business, friend--a bad business; but we shall
see. God grant it may not lead to that!" and he pointed to the corner
of the court, where lay a hand in a pool of blood--a ghastly evidence
of summary justice on a criminal but just performed. "But we shall see;
the Khan is heavily attended, and methinks it would be as well to let
him alone."

"Ay, friend, he is one of the old stock, well tried and trusted; the
peace of God and the Prophet be upon him and his; and that is a brave
boy, 'tis a pity he should be in any trouble. Would we had more of them
about the King! Truth is lie, and lie is truth, friend, in these days;
and men whisper that Jehándar Beg is no friend to Afzool Khan, nor the
Wuzeer either, and they are of the same party; but we shall see. What
will be, will be."


Almost as they spoke, the Khan's retinue approached, and, preceded by
its band of spearmen, some horsemen, and the party of the old Duffadar,
swept round the corner of the adjoining street. Very conspicuous among
the cavalcade were the figures of the father and son riding together;
the Khan in his morning suit of heavy cloth-of-gold, which glittered
richly in the sun; his son, plainly dressed in white muslin.

Fazil rode a led horse of his father's, which he sat with perfect
confidence and control of the fiery animal; but his countenance
expressed anxiety which he could not restrain. In truth, he felt,
notwithstanding his assurance to his father, that if he were
subjected to a strict examination, he should be ill able to account
satisfactorily for the various events of the night without compromising
others. In regard to Maloosray, he had one witness in the kullal; and
there was nothing to implicate him in the occurrence at the temple, in
case it should form subject of inquiry. No, he could not now recede.

As to the old Khan himself, no thought of fear disquieted him.
He considered that he was only humouring a whim of his son's in
accompanying him, that he might insure the Duffadar's being freed from
blame. Suspicion of aught affecting the safety or honour of his house
had never entered his mind; and he had ridden along gaily, causing
his fine war-horse to caracole and bound, free from all thought of
uneasiness, except what might result from the delay.

As the party entered the gate, they were met by several persons deputed
to receive them, and returned the respectful and hearty greetings of
the soldiery on duty, to whom they were well known. Dismounting at the
end of the court, they passed through to the next, where already many
suitors and complainants were assembled. There, too, on a bed which
had been placed in a side-room, lay the Lalla, with a sheet drawn over
him, which Fazil saw was stained with blood. The Lalla had covered
his face; but the pink colour of his turban, and its peculiar tie,
were not to be mistaken. So, passing all, and receiving and returning
salutations, they entered the room of audience, where, surrounded by a
few Mutsuddees, or scribes, sat the Kótwal himself.

Jehándar Beg was a Persian by birth, a man of some learning and much
cunning, but really intelligent. Those were times when the service of
Indian princes was eagerly sought for by Persians, Turks, Affghans,
and even Abyssinians; and adventurers often rose to princely rank and
honour in their service. Jehándar Beg was one of these. When young he
had accompanied a relative to the Dekhan court, the prince of which
was a Sheea--his own faith--and where, among others of his countrymen,
the historian Mahomed Kasim Ferishta had been distinguished. He had
risen steadily in the King's service, and proved himself brave in the
field, as well as sagacious and trustworthy. Having attained to his
present office, he was, in the main, respected, and was the dread of
all night brawlers, sharpers, and thieves, whom he punished heavily;
but he was fond of money, and it was whispered that, in grave offences,
he had his private price. After all, what mattered that? Occasionally a
great person was fined, or otherwise punished, and so men's mouths were
stopped, and the Kótwal believed to be a great man.

Jehándar Beg's appearance was magnificent. He always wore the peaked
lamb's-wool cap of Khorassan, and the Persian robe; and his rich brown
complexion, and dark-brown curly beard, grave features, and large soft
black eyes, combined to render his face a remarkable one, not easily
forgotten. The expression seldom varied; nothing ever caused him to
laugh in his court--rarely to smile--nor did he ever express anger.
Happen what might, his habitual gravity never relaxed for a moment, and
there was no man who could tell a lie, conceal a fact, or change an
opinion--or, in the course of duty, order the torture, and look upon
it, with such perfect imperturbability as he did.

His office was at once arduous and difficult, but he was not restricted
in power. In cases of life and death, perhaps, and if the criminal were
of importance, reference might be made to the chief legal authority or
to the King; but, as far as minor punishments were needed, the lopping
off of an arm, a hand, or a foot,--torture and imprisonment, or the
like,--no one questioned the Kótwal's acts. As chief magistrate of
a city which contained a large proportion of lawless population, he
often found it necessary to make sudden and severe examples in order
to check disorder and crime: and, recently, the city had been agitated
by conspirators: parties ran high; and duels and brawls, generally
attended by fatal consequences, were frequent.

The old Duffadar was right when he told Fazil of the Kótwal's oath
to punish severely the first brawler who should be apprehended, and
he trembled for the consequences of the inquiry into the night's
disturbances. Here were two men wounded, and, as far as he knew,
another who had been taken off, or who had got away; and one dead body,
found near the temple of Bhowani among the tamarind trees, was fresh,
though torn by wild animals, and the blood had been traced back to the
temple wall, on the top of which some stones had been displaced.

Altogether, matters had an ugly appearance; and the old man could not
help thinking that Fazil was concerned in both affairs. "May God be
merciful to him," he said to himself, "for he is a brave youth, son of
a gallant father; better a hundred battle-fields, and a fair chance
man to man, than the crooked ways of this court, and the merciless
character of Jehándar Beg. Be wary, my lord," he whispered to Fazil,
as, having made his obeisance and report, he was falling back to get
free of the advancing parties; "Jehándar Beg's looks are not pleasant
this morning, and you need to be careful. I should not warn you without
there were need; be careful in what you say, and I will guide you by my
looks from time to time."

But Fazil had no fear. Unused to such scenes, he could only feel that
his word would pass him free from all suspicion, and that his father's
rank and good faith were above question.

To the old Khan, the Kótwal's greeting was one of respectful deference;
and the seat of honour was assigned to him. To Fazil, however, he
maintained a stiff reserve--so pointed, that the Khan could not but
notice and remark upon it.

"That is my son," he said, after an awkward pause which no one
apparently dared to break, "and I would have you acquainted with him,
Meerza Sahib. Shookr Ulla! he is not utterly unknown among the ranks of
those who are true to the King in Beejapoor, though he is but a youth."

There was no reply, however, given to this speech, and the
embarrassment of all grew more painful. The clerks and guards looked
from one to another, and the old Khan to them in succession, with
increasing indignation at their demeanour.

"By the Prophet!" he exclaimed at length, ironically, "ye seem
marvellously engaged, gentlemen," as, on hearing him speak, every one
looked away, or into the papers before them, "that a civil greeting
does not obtain a civil answer. Your politeness, Meerza Sahib, is
proverbial in the city; but it seems to have deserted you on this
occasion, or is reserved for thieves and loose women. Come, my
son--come; we intrude here. Jehándar Beg has his own private work to
do, no doubt, and does not need our company."

"Hold!" cried the Kótwal; and, as he spoke, several of the armed
attendants closed up the doorway with their long broad spears, while
others without blew the matches of their guns. "Hold! Thou mayst go,
Afzool Khan, for what may follow may grieve thy brave heart; but there
is blood on thy son's sword, and it must be inquired into. Young man,
what is this they say against thee? A man killed in a drunken brawl in
the worst quarter of the city? Was this to be expected from the son of
Afzool Khan? Speak, and speak truly, before God and his Prophet." The
Meerza's eyes flashed and dilated as he spoke; and as they rested upon
the young man, who had not seated himself, they were met by a gaze as
bold and fearless as his own.

"I am no brawler, Meerza Sahib," he exclaimed, in reply.
"Astagh-fur-oolla!--nor drunkard either. Peace, father! sit quiet; let
me answer for myself--I am not afraid," he added, as the Khan attempted
to rise, and was evidently provoked beyond endurance. "Ask the Duffadar
who accompanied me, and the man in whose house it happened, whether I
am to blame. Their statements will suffice."

"There are two matters to answer for, Meah Sahib," said the Kótwal.
"Were you not in the dress of a Gosai last night, and another with you?
Nay; no denial!"

"I have nothing to deny, Meerza Sahib," returned Fazil. "My father knew
of it, and I went by his permission."

"Good. Now, Peer Sahib, what happened to you?" asked the Kótwal of
another officer present.

"My lord, it was just before midnight," he replied, "when two men,
Gosais, brought a third person, who was slightly wounded, but
complained much of his neck. He is a foreigner, for he speaks the Delhi
language. They said he had been robbed, and told us to keep him safe
till the morning, when they would come for him; and as the man was
very helpless, we put him on a bed in the guard-room, and have brought
him here. Again at dawn, some of the men were going towards the temple
of Toolja Bhowani, when they saw the dead body of a man, with a deep
wound in his back and a stab in his breast--a Hindu, for he had on a
Brahmun's thread, so he may be a Rajpoot; but no one knew him. Several
mohurs were picked up by him and others between this place and the
temple:--the Mutsuddee has them--eleven, I think,--and there was blood
all the way along. It was a desperate cut; and how the man could have
run at all with those wounds, it is hard to say."

"He was murdered, then," thought Fazil; "would I had not struck him!
yet there is one traitor and robber the less."

"And the man who was brought in, what of him?" asked the Kótwal.

"He moaned and groaned, my lord, worse than a woman; said he had been
robbed at the temple; spoke of Pahar Singh who had wounded him, Maun
Singh who had throttled him, then of the Shah's secretary--may his name
be honoured!--and some ten thousand rupees. In short, noble sir, we
could make nothing of the matter, for he began to weep if we spoke to
him, and told us to take him to the King without delay. So we brought
him here, and must speak for himself. It appeared to me like the dream
of some opium-smoker," continued the speaker to those about him; "we
could not understand it at all."

"Shouldst thou know the men who brought him?"

"Well, my lord, I can't say for certain," replied the officer, "but one
of our people said they were not what they seemed; and he thought one
was Bulwunt Rao, who is a Silladar of the noble Khan yonder, and who
goes about bazars at night, sometimes; the other's face was tied up,
and he did not speak."

"I was the other, Meerza Sahib," interposed Fazil, quietly.

"I thought as much," said the Kótwal, drily. "Were they armed, Peer

"Yes, to be sure, my lord," he replied; "would any one go about in
those quarters at night without being armed? Yes, they had sword and

"Where are the weapons?"

"Here, my lord," replied the other Duffadar, who now interposed, "in
my keeping; the young Khan gave them up to me. He has another sword

"Yes, there is blood on the blade, and here are cuts, fresh ones, on
the shield," said Jehándar Beg, examining Fazil's weapons. "How, young
sir, do you account for these?"

"I will reserve what I have to say; it is no use speaking now,"
returned Fazil, who had observed his old friend shake his head, and who
again nodded approvingly.

"Bring in the wounded man," cried the Kótwal; and the bed on which
our poor friend the Lalla lay, was carried in and set down; "we must
confront the parties."

"Get up, good man," said an attendant Mutsuddee; "this is the Kótwal;
make your reverence, and tell what happened to you."

"Ah, protect me, befriend me. I have been robbed and murdered.... I
cannot get up.... I am a poor man and a stranger. Look at my blood,"
gasped the Lalla by turns to all about him.

"Who did it? and who art thou?" cried the Kótwal. "Where hast thou come

Now, it might be awkward for the Lalla to answer these questions.
He knew he had a few gold coins left, enough to keep him for some
time--for he had been used to poverty, and could endure it--if he could
only get free. Any man with quick wits, could do something for himself
in the city; and had he not done good service? These thoughts passed
rapidly through his mind ere he spoke.

"Asylum of justice!" he said, in his most humble tones, "I don't know
who did it, but I was robbed in the temple."

"Of ten thousand rupees? Speak truly."

"Ah no, sirs. What would a poor Khayet like me do with ten thousand
rupees? No, but of what I had in my humeana."

"And Pahar Singh? they tell me he was mentioned by thee."

"Ah, noble sir, I am a stranger and a foreigner; what do I know about
Pahar Singh, or anybody? I am very weak," added the Lalla, in a feeble
voice; "will no one help me?" and he lay down, as well to escape
further questioning, as to excite pity for his misfortunes.

"This will not serve thee, whoever thou art," returned the Kótwal;
"answer truly, where art thou come from, and what took thee to that
lonely temple at night?"

"My lord, I am a poor Khayet from the north, seeking service; and I
fell among thieves who decoyed me thither and robbed me. See, they
wounded me also, and tried to strangle me. What more can I say?"

"That is not enough, friend," resumed the Kótwal; "we must know how it
happened, for others here appear concerned in the matter, and murder
hath been done."

"Murder, my lord!" cried the Lalla, again raising himself; "there was
no murder, though perhaps they thought they had killed me when they
took what I had."

"Who, Lalla? be not afraid," said Jehándar Beg, soothingly.

"A seeming Jogi and another. They ran away, and left me senseless. Then
two Gosais came and raised me up, and gave me water, and took me to the
guard-room. May the gods recompense them, for they bound up my wound!"

"Two Gosais--ah, this may be some clue!" said the Kótwal; "this agrees
with the other statement. Then thou art one of them, Meah Sahib?"

"I have already said so," replied Fazil; "and my retainer, Bulwunt Rao,
was the other."

"What took you there?"

Fazil considered for a moment. What he had been witness of could not
now be related, and he replied, "It was a matter, Meerza Sahib, in
which I am not bound to answer you. If those it concerns are to hear of
it, they shall know otherwise."

"Beware, young sir!" said the Kótwal, gravely; "there can be no secrets

"Nevertheless, I cannot answer. It is enough that I have told my father
of it," returned Fazil.

"Yes, Jehándar Beg," said Afzool Khan, "he has said enough to prove he
was no robber, and that ought to content you."

"Yet there was murder done, my friend," replied the official, quickly;
"blood was on the wall of the court, and a corpse not far from it, and
there is blood on this sword of your son's. He should clear himself
of this horrible suspicion. But stay; there is the other affray to be
accounted for,--that in the wine-shop--a drunken brawl, I fear."

"I am no brawler, Meerza Sahib, nor drunkard," exclaimed Fazil,
indignantly. "The man is present in whose house it occurred; let him
say what happened."

"Let him be brought forward, and let Fureed Duffadar state what
happened," said the Kótwal, authoritatively. "Till then be silent,


The old Duffadar's account was clear and circumstantial, and the Kótwal
listened attentively. When it was finished, the Kullal was called, and,
prostrating himself, began by imploring protection, which was granted.

"It is a weighty matter, my lords," he said, "and needs much inquiry.
May it please you to listen," he continued, after a pause, as if to
collect his thoughts. "Your slave would represent that he heard a
conversation between the young Khan there and a man whose name may
hardly be mentioned in Beejapoor, Tannajee Maloosray."

"Maloosray!" echoed the Kótwal. "Protection of God! thou art not mad to
say this? or drunk?"

"May I be your sacrifice!" continued the man, evidently observing that
his words had made an impression, "I am not mad, and I have an oath
against wine. I swear by the King's salt, that he spoke with Maloosray."

"And he was disguised like a Gosai, Fureed?" asked the Kótwal of the
old Duffadar.

"Khódawund! what did he tell you himself he was?" replied the man. "He
changed his dress when his father came. Even now the ashes may be on
his body."

"What said the young Khan to Maloosray?" asked the Kótwal of the
Kullal. "Speak truly, or I will have thee flogged through the bazar,
and all thy property confiscated for irregular hours in thy shop."

This was what the man feared from the first. Had Fazil appeared in
favour he would have appealed to him for explanations in regard to the
affray, for which he dreaded he should be punished; but Fazil seemed
already unable to help himself, so he had determined to take his own
course in the opposite direction.

"Why should I tell a lie?" he replied, holding up his hands humbly and
with a gesture of supplication. "I swear by your feet it is true."
Pointing to Fazil, he continued--"He said he knew Pahar Singh was at
the temple, and they sent a man for him; and if he did not come, that
they should meet again. Then Maloosray said something about Sivaji
Bhóslay, and the Moghuls, and the Shah Aurungzeeb, and armies, and
there was another message to Pahar Singh. Then another man struck a
blow at the Maloosray, and they fought, and I screamed out for the
guard, and Maloosray ran off; but I secured him," and he pointed to

"O base-born!" exclaimed Fazil, "thy mouth is full of lies----"

"Hear him," interrupted the man; "he had me tied up till the blood
nearly burst from my fingers, and made me promise not to reveal this.
Behold, my lord, the marks of the cords, and how my arms are swelled.
By my child's head, it is true, noble sir, it is all true. How could I,
a poor seller of ganja and bhung, have dreamed such things of Tannajee
and Sivaji? Do not men tremble at their names? Search the young Khan,
he has papers which Maloosray gave him. I saw them myself----"

"Alas, it is but too clear to me," said the Kótwal, interrupting Afzool
Khan, who was about to speak, "that there is deep treachery here.
Deep plots are being laid, but this poor servant of God has a clue
to one at least. Inshalla! it will be sifted to the bottom. Enough of
suspicion was there against you, young sir, on the other matter, but
this is graver still. Yield, therefore, Afzool Khan, and you, Meah;
resistance is vain, and I would fain spare blood."

As he spoke, the soldiers and attendants, who had gradually gathered
round them, closed in so near that they could have been seized or
overpowered at once, if the old Khan's sword had not been drawn by him
the instant their movement was made. Now, as he stood prepared to meet
any attack, his eyes flashing and his tall figure drawn up to its full
height, no one ventured a step towards them, nor offered to seize his
son, who, on his part, made no attempt at resistance.

"Draw, Fazil, draw!" cried the Khan; "let us see which of these sons of
vile mothers will first die. O that we had a score of our fellows with
us, this insult would not have happened. Draw, boy! a few good strokes
will see us clear of this gang of executioners, and there are enough
men without to carry us through the city. Come on, in the name of God!

Saying this, the old man advanced a step, while those before him, so
sudden and determined was his movement, fell back as though they would
have allowed him egress. Fazil, however, saw his father's danger, not
only from the chance of a sword-thrust or blow in the struggle which
must ensue, and the certainty of an attempt at rescue by the men
without if they heard of it, but in the disgrace and suspicion which
would fall upon them if the inquiry were forcibly interrupted.

"Father, father!" he cried, passionately, "do not stir. I implore you,
move not. You know how false this base charge is, and I beseech you not
to let it be said that we feared to meet it, and evaded justice. Yes,
let it be first done on this lying dog, who has misled Jehándar Beg.
See, for one, I surrender myself and my weapons;" and, as he spoke, he
threw his sword and dagger on the floor, which were eagerly secured by
an attendant.

"Degenerate!" cried his father. "Dost thou fear death, boy? When did an
Affghan ever surrender his weapons but with his life? Fie on thee for a
coward, to hesitate to strike a blow for me!"

"Coward!" exclaimed the young man, sadly. "Father, you know not what
you say. Why such bitter words? is this a time for contention?"

"Khan Sahib," said Jehándar Beg, who had risen with the others, and
now advanced, "listen to your son's words of peace and reason. You are
alone, and, though one or two might fall, there would be no escape.
The blood of Afzool Khan, or his son, should not flow in a court of
justice, but against the King's enemies. Put up your weapon, and wear
it, Khan; and you, noble youth, yours. Appearances are against you
both; and these plots have been so long hidden from us, that your poor
servant, the slave of the King--may his splendour increase!--has no
alternative but to detain you till the pleasure of the Wuzeer is known."

"Father, I beseech you to listen to reason--to advice kindly given and
well meant," cried Fazil; "consider what is at stake, and that the
moment we have speech of the King there will be no fear."

Afzool Khan looked from one to the other and around him irresolutely,
and the tears rose to his eyes, and fell over in large drops. Any
advance would have decided him to an act of desperation; but his son
saw the struggle in his mind, and, throwing himself before him, grasped
his feet.

"Father, save your honour," he cried, earnestly; "save your life by
my example. Shall it be said that Afzool Khan died a traitor, or that
a breath of suspicion rested upon the truest, most loyal name in

A moment the old Khan hesitated, but his sword-point dropped, and he
dashed his hand across his eyes impatiently. "My spirit chafes at
the thought of restraint, Fazil," he said; "yet for thy sake, boy, I
submit. But I pray thee, Jehándar Beg, let thine errand to the Wuzeer
be done swiftly, or, by the Prophet, there be those in my service who
would reck little of a rescue. Stay, I had better write; that will
assure them more."

A few lines were hastily written by Fazil, and sealed with the Khan's
private signet. One of the escort was called up, and the note given to
him by Fazil himself, with an order to take the men home, and a caution
to be discreet. The soldier looked about him incredulously.

"Do you remain of your own pleasure, my lord?" he asked.

"Yes," replied the Khan; "we have business here for to-day which cannot
be deferred. Keep quiet, all of ye; but be ready," he added, in an
under-tone; "when I need ye I will send word."

"Very good," cried the man in a loud voice, in order to cover the
Khan's whisper, "very good; I understand; it shall be done."

"You had better withdraw to the private apartments, Khan," said the
Kótwal, respectfully. "I know too well the honour of a Puttán to
question you. Stay there till I return. Refreshment, too, shall be
provided; and I pray you to consider this poor house as your own while
you stay in it. The Wuzeer was at Almella yesterday, and is expected
this evening."

Afzool Khan hesitated, but his son whispered, "We shall be better
there, father, than amidst these curious gazers," and drew him along
gently. He did not resist, but followed passively. "Stay, however,"
added Fazil to the Kótwal; "where is Fureed Duffadar? I would speak
with him."

The man advanced a few steps. "I am here, my lord; what are your

"None from me," returned Fazil; "but look you, Meerza Sahib--for the
sake of justice ask of this good man what that Kullal told us; for it
is in the law that the word of a true believer is better than the oath
of a Kafir. And, pardon me, Meerza, but my father and myself, in the
name of the King, hold you responsible for the custody of that man. How
came Maloosray into his shop, or to remain there while a King's guard
was within ear-shot? Ah, liar," added the young man, as the Kullal
was advancing, with joined hands, and about to speak, "no more; thou
hast told enough lies for the present; by-and-by there will be other
questions. Beware of them."

So saying, he passed with his father into the door which the Kótwal
himself held open. It was a quiet, secluded place--a small apartment
supported upon wooden pillars and arches, which opened into a court
shaded with trees. Carpets and pillows were there in abundance, and the
place was cool and neatly furnished.

"The papers, whatever they are, Meah, remain with you," said the
Meerza. "Shall we examine them here privately?"

"They will be shown to the King only," said Fazil, dryly, "for they
concern no one else; meanwhile I am responsible for them."

"Then I will leave ye, noble sirs," returned the other; "be pleased to
rest yourselves."

"O for a moment's speech of the King!" cried the Khan, as they were
alone. "Now it is too late, and Khan Mahomed is lost. Nay, son, 'tis
a pretty court, and not unlike our own Khilwut; but I cannot breathe
freely. Canst thou, Fazil? it chokes me."

"Fear not, father; all will be well, I trust," replied his son.
"Unobserved, I gave a message to the lad Ashruf, who seems faithful, to
be delivered to Kowas Khan. If he comes, all will be well, for he can
warn his father. No harm can happen to us except from the Wuzeer, and
he may----"

"He dare not," cried Afzool Khan--"he dare not think of us; he
will have enough to do to save himself. If the Shah acts--acts
firmly--as--as--I would, son, were I in his place and were it my
dearest friend--he should die. O Khan Mahomed! O friend!" exclaimed the
old man bitterly, "how often have I remonstrated and implored, but you
have not listened! He spoke me fair, Fazil, always,--see what is in his
heart. But what is written, is written. Let it be; we cannot prevent

"Ameen, father! we can only do what is possible to save----"

"I tell thee, boy," resumed the Khan, interrupting him, "I doubt
whether it would be meet in us to interfere with God's designs, and to
help treachery to escape its deserts. The danger is too great to the
King, and, next to God and the Prophet, he is to us dear and honoured.
I tell thee, son, we had better not interfere; it may not be good for

"Nay, father," said Fazil, "so long as we speak friendly truth and
warning, there can be no fear; and what is written in the Wuzeer's
destiny will be fulfilled."

"Thou wilt see to that door with thy life, Nasir," whispered the Kótwal
to one of his chief attendants, a burly Abyssinian slave. "See that
no one passes out or in without my orders. If violence is attempted,
strike,--dost thou hear?--to the death! Proud as Afzool Khan is, he may
yet lower his head, perhaps with his life. And they have papers, which
we must take, Nasir--forcibly, if we cannot otherwise get them:--ere
the sun sets, too, or he passes hence."

"Are we strong enough to keep the Khan, my lord?" asked the man

"Ay, true; we need be stronger; send this ring," and he took off his
signet, "to the Wuzeer's son. Say we need five hundred men to reinforce
the guard. Yes, we should otherwise be too weak, if those mad Affghans
were to attempt a rescue. Return here when the messenger goes."

"On my head and eyes be it," replied the slave; "no one shall pass
hence save over my dead body."


Maloosray had too much at stake to risk aught by delay, and he and his
companions fled from the back door of the house already described,
screened by the rain and thick darkness, leaving, however, one of
the scouts to inform their companion of what had happened, and with
directions for both to join him at their place of concealment as
quickly as possible. They proceeded at a rapid pace, leaving the
suburb, and striking across the open plain, eastwards, in the direction
of the small hamlet of Allapoor, bearing the wounded man with them.
Heretofore, in his stealthy visits to the city, Maloosray had found
shelter and concealment in a Mutt or monastery of Jogis, who, in their
annual pilgrimages, had become known to him, and assuming their garb,
and even joining them in their morning perambulations in search of
alms, he had been enabled to visit those persons in the city with whom
his intrigues were being carried on. Now, however, the Jogis had warned
him that their Mutt was no longer safe. Jehándar Beg had received
information which led to several visits by his men at night; and though
not interfered with, or even aware of the reason of suspicion, the
Jogis knew they were watched.

But they were true to his interests, and had prepared a place more
secure, because without the walls, and more secluded, than their own
Mutt, which was the resort of travellers and devotees from all parts of
the country. This was the cloister of an old Hindu temple which stood
by itself in an unfrequented part of the plain, and which, either by
some act of desecration, or because of its inconvenient situation,
had been long neglected. The cloister round it was, however, in good
repair, and a little plastering with clay, and cleansing of the chamber
from the accumulated dust of years, made the place comfortable enough;
and one of the Jogis attended in turn, brought provisions, and acted as
cook to the party.

It was easy from thence to reach the city unobserved. Not far distant
was the small hamlet of Allapoor, yet sufficiently far to deter prying
persons from coming to see who lived in the deserted temple; and if
any one were observed, it was, to all appearance, only a Jogi. When,
therefore, the Patel, or chief elder of the village of Allapoor,
was told by the shepherd boys that some mendicants were repairing
the cloister of the old temple and staying there, he bade no one
interfere with them; and his goodwill was by-and-by secured by an
occasional present from time to time. No one suspected the place or its
inhabitants; and few frequented the plain about it, which, being hard
and stony, was uncultivated, as it still remains, and was used here and
there for cemeteries; but the greater part was left to nature, and to
flocks of hardy sheep and goats, which picked up a scanty subsistence.

It was not without some apprehension that Maloosray had first trusted
himself to the new shelter; but in the course of several visits he had
become accustomed to it, and found that he was at once freer and safer
there, than in his old quarters inside the walls. The horses, too,
were excellently provided for in the crypt of an adjoining Mahomedan
tomb, which had never been finished, nor had any use been made of it.
Below the foundation terrace was a spacious arched vault, above which
the walls of the mausoleum had been partly carried; and the entrance
was so overgrown with matted creepers and bushes, that it could not be
seen unless examined very closely. Within, three horses, and as many
stout ponies, found excellent shelter and concealment; and Maloosray's
scouts--who were, in fact, his retainers and escort--lived with them
and tended them.

To this place Maloosray proceeded as fast as the wet ground and the
rough by-paths would permit--supporting his companion when needful, and
helping him over stony places. The wound was not dangerous, yet it had
caused considerable loss of blood, and the hardy mountaineer was more
weakened than he liked to admit. Once they emerged upon the plain, the
temple was soon reached; and, after having the sword-cut dressed and
bound up, the wounded man was left to his repose.

Maloosray's next care was for his horses, and he proceeded to the
crypt. Safe now from observation, for it was long past midnight,
the men there were busy with preparations for the morning meal--for
they could cook only at night. Two were grinding millet-flour in the
hand-mill, which they always carried with them; another was kneading
dough in a wooden trough; a fourth shaping portions of it into cakes,
which he patted between his hands into the desired form, and a fifth
was baking them upon a large flat iron pan or griddle--which held
several at the same time--and removing them to the side of the fire to
harden, as fast as baked.

A goodly pile of bread had already accumulated; and in two earthen pots
simmered messes of vegetables and split-peas, from which a strong, and
not unsavoury, smell of onions and garlic proceeded. The fire, fed by
dry sticks from time to time, lighted up the space around, resting
upon the rough stone arches and heavy massive groins of the crypt; and
upon the forms of several men lying asleep, wrapped in their strong
cotton sheets or rough blankets, while others reclined lazily, talking
occasionally to those employed. There were three horses--two lay asleep
among the men, the other, a powerful silver-grey mare, was feeding, and
looking round occasionally to the man baking bread, expecting, with a
low whinny, her allowance of buttered cakes.

The scene was peculiar and striking: for the gloom of the vault was so
deep, except around the fire itself, that every object seemed to stand
out in sharp relief as the light caught it. Just then, too, a brighter
blaze than before rested upon the coat of the mare, and, shining on the
soft glossy skin, caused the graceful outline of her form to project
from the deep gloom behind it in a remarkable manner.

"What! awake, and no one guarding the door? Ah! would ye have the
Kótwal's men upon ye, my sons?" cried Maloosray, entering unobserved.
"Beware, all of ye, the risk is great."

"Master, we had the watch set," answered a man, standing up and making
a clumsy salutation, while others started to their feet. "I only came
in for a moment to see to the mare, for the rest were busy."

"Has she not slept?"

"O yes! She just now woke, got up, shook herself, and neighed. That was
what brought me in; I thought she had no fodder, and that the others
might be asleep."

"Then she is fresh for a journey, in case we have a rapid one, Ramjee?"

"Ay, master; you may be at Poona in three days if you will, or at
Pertâbgurh either. She will do it."

Maloosray approached the animal: she stretched her head towards him
with a low whinny, and rubbed her nose and eyes against him. "Yes,
Rookminee," he said, caressing her, "thou wilt have sharp work,
perhaps. Art ready, lass?"

There was another low whinny in reply, as she licked the hand held out
to her. She at least understood the caress, and responded to it. He
passed his hand over her sleek coat, which glistened like silver in
the firelight, and down each leg, and taking up each hoof, narrowly
examined every shoe and nail in it in succession.

"Ah! if you can find any fault there, master, you may do as you please
with me," said Ramjee. "No; Balla at Jutt knows his trade too well to
allow a nail to slack, and he knows, too, whose mare he is shoeing!
What does he say? When Sivaji Bhóslay comes with a hundred thousand
horse, then I will ride with him on his raid to the south, and not a
horse shall drop a shoe, be the journey ever so long."

"And he shall, Ramjee," cried Maloosray, laughing. "The fellow is a
braggart, but he is useful."

"Ah! master, that was a rare meeting. Was it not curious that so many
horses wanted shoeing that day? Well, so thought the royal horsemen
stationed there; and they went about twisting up their moustaches, and
swelling themselves out as you never saw, my lord. Many good fellows
there were, who would not have cared for a chance with some of those
gallants in the open plain. When are we to begin, master?"

"Ay, when?" echoed a number of the men, who ceased their occupation for
a moment, or raised themselves on their elbows while the answer was

"Not yet, my sons, not yet; we bide our time. And now for work,"
answered Maloosray. "Go thou, Ramjee, to the Paigah of Afzool Khan
early, and see if that dog Bulwunt Rao is dead. Well was it that I
tied chains in my turban folds last night, else he had cloven me to
the teeth. I have vowed a silver horse to the shrine of Khundôba at
Jejoori, for the deliverance."

"And was he slain, master, at last?"

"Nay, that is what I want to know," he replied. "But I had a fair blow
at him, and I rarely miss. Go, and bring news quickly."

"Master," said Ramjee in a tone of entreaty, and reverentially touching
Maloosray's feet, "I will go. Let there be no risks like this again.
What would the Maharaja do without you, and what is there to be gained
here that is worth such peril?"

"Ah, yes!" added another, "what if ten thousand such as we are were
expended, it would be nothing were Tannajee safe. Only that two of us
in the lane behind Rama's, misdirected a party of the King's men, ye
had been beset, before and behind; and if the King had got hold of any
of ye, the kites and crows of the 'Goruk Imlee' would have had full
bellies by this evening."

"Well, it was not of my seeking," returned Maloosray; "for Bulwunt
Rao was reported dead--killed in battle two years ago; so, at least,
we heard. It was like fighting a spirit, my sons; and I missed my
blows.... Hark! who is that without? Netta? What news, brother?" he
continued, as a slight, active-looking man entered hastily. "Didst thou
find Pahar Singh, the old robber?"

"Maharaj!" returned the man, "there was no Pahar Singh. We found a fire
burning in the verandah of the temple, and I took a lighted brand and
looked about. All we could discover was a little fresh blood on the
floor and three gold pieces among the ashes. But there was blood on the
wall too, and we tracked it for a few paces, when the torch went out in
the rain, so we went on and heard a man moaning in a nullah, and some
jackals were standing by him as we went up. Dost thou remember Maun
Singh, who is with Pahar Singh always? Well, we could hardly see, so
Limba went back for another brand, and brought it under his blanket,
and then we saw the man's face. He was terribly wounded, and could not
speak sensibly, but one or two names escaped him, one of which was
Pahar Singh, and Limba knew his face."

"Ye did not let him live, the foul traitor and liar?" cried Maloosray,
excitedly. "O that it had been 'the Lion' himself! Ye did not let him

"Master, he will speak no more, nor yet tell lies. I have made that
sure enough," said Limba, approaching and touching the feet of
Maloosray. "I knew him after what happened in the old Gosai's Mutt at
Tooljapoor, and Moro Punt would have had me kill him then and the other
too, only I could find no opportunity. They had some fifty horse with
him, and were as shy as deer. Now I have settled that account."

"Good, my son," replied Maloosray; "but what had happened, Netta? Was
there no further trace of them?"

"None, Maharaj; we were fairly puzzled. We returned, and stayed in the
temple by the fire, in hopes that Pahar Singh might come back; but it
was no use. Then we went and listened behind the guard-house, and heard
there was a man wounded in an affray--a 'Gosai'--and there was a barber
dressing his wound."

"Then he did not die? I had hoped he did."

"Holy Mother! was this thy work, master, and all of us away?" cried
several of the men.

"No; Ranoo remained with me," replied Maloosray, "and has got a
scratch; but what of the man wounded? What think ye of Bulwunt Rao, my
cousin, dead long since, as we thought, but come to life, Netta?"

"My curse on him! And he escaped you, Tannajee?"

"I am going to see if he be dead, brother," interposed Ramjee; "the
master's blows are not little ones."

"You see, friends, they--those two Gosais--as they appeared, must have
met Pahar Singh, who directed them. I see it all now--the villain's
attempt to decoy us into that trap by the temptation of news of the
Wuzeer. Depend upon it, he has been bought over, and is not to be
trusted; and he set them on our track."

"He never was," cried both the men; "he has only one king and one
god--that is money," added Netta; "and he has gone where he could get

"Yes, friends, those men knew us," continued Maloosray; "and to my mind
the place is no longer safe: so we had as well be ready. If they have
given the alarm--and Bulwunt would do so if he had any sense--we shall
have horsemen scouring the plains to-morrow, and that fine lad, Fazil
Khan, at the head of them. So away, some of you: watch the gates; let
the horses be kept saddled all day; and let them have bread as fast
as they can eat it. I would go at once, Nettajee," he added to that
person, taking him aside; "but the Wuzeer must be seen and spoken with
first. He was at Almella yesterday, and will be in the city by the
afternoon. Without having speech of him, I dare not show myself before
the master; and the object of our journey would be incomplete. I think
we may trust him."

"Alas! I fear not," replied Nettajee; "ye are too sanguine, you and
the Maharaja. Khan Mahomed will not league with us; he leans to the
Moghuls, and calls us 'Kafirs of Hindus,' and kills cows wherever he
can. I know it. Why do ye trust him, when he is faithless to his own
salt? Suppose he chose to turn round and hang up Tannajee Maloosray to
the 'Goruk Imlee tree,' would not that keep him fair in his master's
eyes, and blind them to his intrigues with the Padshah? Ah, brother,
trust him not: one who will deceive the master who has raised him to
what he is, will deceive you. A slave born, he will be one to the last;
and he is not fit to strike in with free men like us! Leave him to the
Moghuls, to whom he will be a slave, as he was to Beejapoor: we have
our own road between both. But come now to Ranoo: is he fit to travel?"

"He will be better after he has slept. We were owls, Nettajee, not to
see through those flimsy disguises," returned Maloosray.

"Bulwunt Rao is better living than dead, brother; and we may yet bring
him round," said Nettajee.

"I tell thee, O Netta," interrupted Tannajee, fiercely, and grinding
his teeth as he spoke, "I would cut him down with my own hand at the
feet of the Maharaja, rather than he should have speech of him. Never
name him to me, else we may differ."

"Ah, that blow of his still rings in your head, Tannajee," replied the
other, laughing. "But come; if you don't need sleep, I do. He sleeps,"
he continued, as they entered the cloister where the wounded man lay;
"that is well; and I will do the same, Tannajee;" and so saying, he
took down a sheet from a cord on which it was hanging, and, wrapping
himself in it, lay down, and was soon snoring loudly.

But Maloosray could not sleep, and after a while, got up, and
ascending the steps to the roof of the terrace, looked over the
plain suspiciously. All, however, was still. To the east, lightning
was playing about the tops of the clouds in dim flickering flashes.
Everywhere else the sky was clear, and the stars shone with great
lustre. A few jackals howled in the distance, and their cry was
answered successively in many directions. Then the drums and horns of
the several guards at the gates and on the outer walls and bastions
of the city, sounded deep and shrill one by one, and were taken up by
those in the "Ark" or citadel of the palace, and so died away in the

His eye followed the line of towers and battlements, and narrowly
watched every light which might betoken a stir among the troops
within; but there was none. The huge dome of the mausoleum of Mahmood
Adil Shah, not long completed, stood out in a dark heavy mass against
the clear sky: and beyond it the outlines of the Palace of the Seven
Stories--the great Cavalier--and a confused mass of trees and buildings
intermingled; nearer, too, the massive walls and arches of the tomb of
the mother of the late King, then, as now, unfinished.

All was still. High up in the palace a light twinkled now and then
faintly, on which Tannajee speculated dreamily. Was the King awake? the
light was in his private apartments. What could he be doing so late
in the night? for the drums and trumpets had sounded the third watch.
O that he would join heartily with his master, and defy the Moghuls!
Would no one tell him this was his best policy? Better a thousand times
to secure the fidelity of a large portion of his own subjects by timely
concession, than to defy and coerce their chieftain. Now, too, though
the Moghuls had been once beaten off, it would not be so again. They
were resting and gathering strength, and one by one the independent
kingdoms to the north had fallen before them.

How long would this remain?--this, the most extensive, most valuable,
and most heretical. Better far, then, to secure the Mahratta people,
than to lose all by a double war with them, and with the Moghuls. "Will
no one tell the boy this?" thought Maloosray. "We do not wish him evil;
but the master must be free, and will be free. The people will assemble
at the Dusséra, and the King can then have his choice between a lakh of
Mahrattas and a lakh of Moghuls, or both combined; and yet this old
family should not pass away--it should not pass away at our hands."

But we need not follow his thoughts further: better to transport
ourselves to that twinkling light high up in the Seven-storied Palace,
and see who sit beside it, and hear what they say.


The Palace of the Seven Stories still exists as one of the most noble
and picturesque ruins of the Fort of Beejapoor. Of the Seven Stories,
only five are now traceable; the two upper have been destroyed, perhaps
by lightning, or have fallen from decay and disrepair; and it is only
in the third that the remains of the beautiful chamber still existent
there convey an idea of the effect of the whole structure when it was
perfect. Even this has been much damaged. The gilding of the walls,
of the groins of the arches and fretted roof, and of its delicate
arabesque borders, has all been scraped off, and the fresco paintings
are so destroyed by exposure, that but little exists to tell the
history of the beautiful Bhagiruttee, the mistress of the monarch who
built the palace for her.

Enough, however, remains to show what the general design and execution
of the work were; enough to prove the exquisite taste which had
directed its completion, and the skill and boldness of the architect
who had raised the dizzy tower so high. Then, the spacious arches and
oriel windows were filled by richly carved panels and shutters of teak
wood, which admitted sufficient light and air: now, these are all gone,
the windows are open, and the rain and sun and wind are rapidly causing
decay and destruction of what remains. The upper stories are so broken
that they cannot be ascended; but in the one of which we speak, the
traveller will be tempted to sit a while looking over the masses of
ruins beneath him: and over the still perfect walls of the citadel.
Beyond, the undulating plain studded with mounds, shows lines of
streets, with broken arches, minarets, and some still perfect mosques,
mausoleums, and palaces, which have withstood the effects of time and
the spoiler, and remain as proofs of the splendour which once prevailed.

At the period of our tale all these were perfect. The city spread
away to the south and west, covering many miles of plain with those
streets and houses of which the lines of mounds alone remain. They are
interspersed with villages, which are probably portions of the old
city, never entirely deserted, and to which the descendants of the
population of those days have clung through all vicissitudes. To the
east and north, after looking over the greater part of the citadel,
the eye followed the plain beyond--the proper esplanade of the
fort--and the undulating rising ground to the north-east, from which
the Moghul batteries had so recently poured a storm of shot upon the
defences, yet happily with no effect.

The King's apartment opened to the west; and, like Afzool Khan about
the same time, he sat courting the breeze, which played gently round
the rich clustered mullions of the oriel window, and refreshed and
soothed him. The storm had died away, and the night was clear and
fresh; while, from the garden below, ascended the mingled perfume
of champas, limes, tuberoses, jessamine of various kinds, and other
sweet-scented flowers, which loaded the air almost to excess.

A silver lamp, on a tall silver stand, stood in a recess sheltered from
the open casement, and its seven wicks burned brightly, illuminating
the chamber, and by their strong light causing the gilded roof,
arches, and groins, with all their delicate colouring of rose-colour,
yellow, light-green, and blue enamel, to assume a soft harmony of
effect--different from the light of day, yet perhaps more beautiful.

Furniture there was none; but in the space enclosed by the oriel
window, there was spread a rich, soft, Persian carpet, which filled its
area, on which, in the corner near where the young King was sitting,
lay a thick quilted mattress of green satin brocaded with gold, and a
large pillow of the same material, both covered with fine muslin. This
had been the King's seat, and it was thickly strewn with papers--some
Persian, some Mahratta--which, to all appearance, had been under
examination, and he had evidently just left it and placed himself by
the casement which he had opened. He was alone, but, by the frequent
glances towards the doorway, which was covered by a heavy curtain, some
one seemed impatiently expected.

The events of the night had aroused unusual energy in the young King;
nor, since his accession to the throne, had any occurrence excited
him like the discovery of treason in the man he had, perhaps, most
trusted--his prime minister, Khan Mahomed. It was so unprovoked, so
undeserved. Early in life great ability and aptitude for business had
been remarked in the Abyssinian slave, Rehân, by the late King; and
he had risen, as favourites among Asiatic princes often do, rapidly
to rank and wealth, with every honour which an attached and grateful
prince could bestow upon him. Finally he had reached the rank of prime
minister or Wuzeer, as we have already mentioned, and, amidst all the
distractions and intrigues of faction, had succeeded in preserving his
monarch's attachment.

In this position he was maintained by the young King on his accession
to the throne, notwithstanding the insinuations of many that the
Wuzeer was unfaithful. The King had not heeded these suspicions, nor,
indeed, beyond mere rumour, was there anything which could lead to
confirmation of them; and as the Wuzeer desired it as a proof of his
fidelity, the Abyssinians under his command had been pushed on to
the north to watch the Moghul armies; for it was better to submit to
the turbulence of the Dekhan chieftains at the capital, who could be
controlled by neutral forces like those of Afzool Khan, than to risk
the possible misconduct of the others. Again, the Dekhanies could not
be trusted with the frontier; and the King, impressed with the fidelity
of Khan Mahomed, had left him at has post.

At this period the Dekhanies and Abyssinians were rival factions
in the state. The latter were more amenable to discipline than the
former, who were descendants of those Mahomedan warriors--Toorks,
Tartars, and Affghans--who, at the close of the thirteenth century,
under Alla-oo-Deen, had invaded the south of India, and wrested the
territory in which they had settled from the Mahrattas of Deogurh and
the Canarese dynasty of Beejanuggur. They had founded, and maintained
the dynasty of Gulburgah, against the attacks of powerful Hindu states,
and, when they separated from it, had attached themselves to the
founders of other dynasties, which rivalled, and, indeed, exceeded in
splendour, the parent one.

Those who were in Beejapoor had joined Ibrahim Adil Shah, when he
declared and established his independence of the Bahmani dynasty of
Gulburgah, and they had risen to rank and wealth with the state. They
had been led to victory by that monarch and his successors; they had
conquered province after province from the infidels of the southern
Hindu states, and they had at last finally subdued and overturned the
ancient Hindu monarchy of Beejanuggur, which, for several generations,
was their bitter enemy and rival. Was it wonderful that they at length
became arrogant, and that, to maintain an equipoise against them,
another element, the Abyssinian, was admitted into this state? It is
the old story in the history of the world of exclusive military power;
the old play which has always been played out when the characters are
brought together.

There were proud names among these old Dekhan families, which still
exist, Tartars and Toorks, who ill brooked the control of slaves like
Abyssinians. They were free, and held themselves equal in rank to their
own king--proud barons in fact, who seldom accepted administrative
service, and were rarely fit for it; men "who could fight, but
could not write," as they boasted; turbulent, arrogant, quarrelsome
among themselves, split into as many factions as they were families
and tribes. The "Dâgtorays," "Alla-ool-Moolks," "Bhylmees," "Kalla
Chuttrees," "Saféd Poshs," and a host of others, were faithful to their
own state, while they were an unceasing source of anxiety, and often
distress, to its administrators.

So long as the Moghul armies had threatened the capital, or there was
employment daily in the field to meet a common danger, these tribes and
their chiefs had found occupation against the common enemy, and had
fought valiantly and successfully. The best cavalry of the Moghul army
was no match for these fiery Dekhan cavaliers. Reckless of life, well
mounted, each tribe and appellation vying with each other, whenever
there was a chance in their broad plains, they had not neglected it,
and were ever in advance of the more disciplined though slower moving
bodies of Abyssinian horse and foot, whom they despised as slaves.

Between the extremes of party were those who, like Afzool Khan,
belonged to neither, who held a common interest and faith in the
dynasty they served, and whose arms had often been turned against
Abyssinians, and against Dekhanies, whenever revolts or mutinies of
either rendered it necessary.

Among these contending factions, and ever present rivalries, the course
of the young King had been difficult and devious since his accession;
but respect to his father's memory and experience, for he had been a
wise prince, a successful administrator, and a valiant warrior in the
field, had, in the end, induced him to continue the predominance of
the Abyssinian element in council; and to allow the Dekhanies scope
for their ambition in military commands and active service in distant
provinces of the kingdom, retaining those only at the capital who would
prove a counterpoise to the Abyssinians, in case of need. Influenced
by personal esteem, and even affection, for the man who had been his
father's most trusted counsellor and friend, he had retained Khan
Mahomed in office, notwithstanding the evil reports of his Dekhan
officers; and under these circumstances the distress, and even dismay,
of the young King at the discovery of the treachery, which had long
existed, was hard to endure. It was his first bitter lesson in life,
and there were few to fall back upon for advice or consolation.

In his extremity his thoughts had turned to Afzool Khan first, perhaps,
of all: but again, his known intimacy with the Wuzeer; the report that
the families would soon be united by the marriage of Khan Mahomed's
son to the old Khan's daughter; the notorious friendship of the young
men; and, above all, a certain reticence in Afzool Khan's expressions
whenever the Wuzeer's character or actions were discussed--recurred
to the King, and his thoughts turned from Afzool Khan to others in
succession, yet finding rest nowhere.

Of all his officers, on whom could he depend? Jehándar Beg, who should
have been his executive in any arrest of the Wuzeer, was known to be
his dependent: and thus speculating on each, he estimated bitterly how
really weak he was in personal adherents.

At first all appeared to be decided in his favour, but gradually
requests were made under one pretext or other, which disclosed the
true objects of his courtiers, and the young King had sufficient
discernment to estimate their professions at their full value. It
was these experiences which threw him back upon himself, and upon
the Wuzeer, who was, at least as he thought, moderate and unselfish.
Moderate, certainly, to him; yet, at heart, more grasping and more
treacherous than any.

There was no doubt of that now. Again and again had the King taken up
the letter we have before read, and examined it closely, and had each
time laid it down with increased conviction that it was genuine. There
could be no doubt either as to the seal or the writing. Khan Mahomed's
own hand was too peculiar to be imitated; yet he had doubted--still
doubted. It is hard to admit conviction of guilt when one's affections
are pleading innocence, but here it was not to be resisted; and, as
most generally follows such conviction, those very affections were fast
becoming the most unrelenting judges.

"Let them but confirm this," said the King, aloud, as he looked out,
and again turned to the papers, selected the letter, looked over it,
and hastily put it down with a shiver. "Let them but confirm it, and
then----O, my father! wert thou here it would be the same, and your son
will not flinch from the necessity, be it what it may."


As yet the King's thoughts had admitted nothing definitely; the blow
had been too sudden, the provocation too great, for aught but a
numbness of perception which checked conclusive determination; but this
was passing away fast, and it was becoming still more apparent that, if
Khan Mahomed's plan had succeeded, he must, if he survived it, be the
dependent of his own slave and his father's. Were the other letters,
which they had looked over hastily, true also? Men's tongues had before
been busy with the Wuzeer's reputation, and now were so again--the same
subject and the same man; and it was--"true, true!"

Unconsciously he had spoken aloud in his reverie, and the word seemed
to come as if an echo of his own thought.

"Who spoke?" he cried, looking round--"Who spoke?" His very question
seemed to make the silence more impressive; and, as he strained his
eyes into the gloom of the chamber, there was no sound but the gentle
sough of the night wind, laden with moisture, among the trees below
and the open latticework of the windows. "The spirits of the dead are
around me to-night," he continued to himself, shuddering. "Listen,
O father! Listen, sweet mother! O Prophet of God, on whom be peace,
assist and hear me! O thou fountain and dispenser of justice, make me
true and bold; make me, as I should be, thy agent among thy people.
If I have been a child till now, forgive me--that is past.... He
writes to the Emperor, that I am a boy!--that I am a boy! Inshalla!
No! that is past!" As he spoke, the sound of voices below, and of
footsteps ascending the narrow stair were distinctly audible, and he
paused to listen. "It is they at last, and the Meerza has not delayed.
Enter," he cried, as the steps appeared to reach the landing-place and
doorway--"enter, I am here."

The heavy quilted curtain was pushed aside, and three persons
advanced--one the Meerza or secretary we have before mentioned; the
other two we have not yet seen; but they had been often employed as
confidential advisers by the King, and he had now sent for them. When
they returned from the temple, the King and his secretary had examined
the papers they had obtained, with great care and anxiety, and they
proved to be far more voluminous and important than even our friend the
Lalla had imagined.

The dates of the letters extended over several years. Some, of later
date, within the year, had evidently been sent secretly, for they were
rolled up into the smallest possible compass, in lead, and so that they
could be put into the mouth, or otherwise hidden; the handwriting was
disguised, and several were written in cypher; but the most recent were
not disguised at all, and the seals were perfect. The whole formed a
series, and they had hastily put them together. Each letter confirmed
the other, or seemed to do so, and yet, considering the issue at stake,
neither cared to trust their own judgment: and the papers needed
confirmation, as well of their authenticity as of their reference to
former occurrences and dates.

Of the Mahratta documents, however, they could form no opinion, as
neither could read the character; but the secretary was familiar with
the seal, and even the rude signature, of Sivaji Bhóslay; and these
letters might throw some light on the subject of reputed intrigues with
the Emperor, and prove a guide to future proceedings.

The two persons who had been summoned so hastily to the night council
were, in the first place, Peer Dustageer Khaderi, a holy Syud, or
descendant of the Prophet, of the purest lineage, and the head of a
religious house or establishment of Durwaysh, or, as we familiarly call
them, "Dervishes," which had been largely endowed by the State, and
for whose ancestors, buried in the precincts of the shrine, miracles
were now becoming ostensibly claimed. As a consequence, the holy
influence of the "Peer" was decidedly on the increase; and as he had
been chosen as religious instructor to the King, he was at that time
his "Moorshid," or spiritual guide; and being a shrewd, well-educated
person, possessed of deep local experience, and, from his position,
able to obtain information of a trustworthy nature, he was frequently
consulted. To give him due credit, the Peer had proved, on more than
one occasion, to have rendered valuable service. Him, therefore, had
the King named as the person best fitted to be intrusted with the
secret they had obtained.

The other was an old Brahmun, who entered leaning upon a long stick
with a gold head, yet not so as to evince weakness, and was as
remarkable in his degree as the person whom he accompanied. Neelkunt
Rai Pansay, in the outset of his life a humble Karkoon, or clerk, in
the revenue department of the State, had served, in succession, three
generations of its kings, and, at upwards of eighty years old, was
still clear-headed, astute, and faithful. He had risen to the rank
of "Peshcar," or finance minister, by his valuable services in that
department; and though an "infidel," as he was termed by the Peer, was
beloved and respected, and consulted on occasions of more than ordinary
solemnity or embarrassment, more particularly in regard to the affairs
of his own people, the Hindus of the kingdom.

While the secretary advanced to the King, the others stood at the
further end of the apartment. Neither knew why they had been summoned,
and the hour of the night, the, to them, strange fact of being together
in the most private apartment of the palace, and in the King's
presence, caused them to look at each other wonderingly.

These were not persons who could ever unite in private friendship; for
the Peer, a bigoted follower of Mahomed, and a holy saint to boot,
was one of those who, as warriors of the faith, would have led armies
against the infidels, and utterly exterminated them. That king of
Gulburgah, Feroze Shah, was in his eyes a true Moslem, and now surely
enjoying Paradise, who, in pursuance of his vow, had slain a hundred
thousand of the infidels of Beejanuggur, and made pyramids of their
heads at the gate of his city. If the kings of Beejapoor had been such
it would have been well; but, alas! in his eyes they were degenerate.
Here was a proof: the infidel minister sent for to confer with him! the
Syud! "Astagh-fur-Ulla!" (God forbid it!) gurgled in his throat, and
he edged away and gathered up his garments with a gesture decidedly

This did not escape the old Brahmin's notice, but it was no time to
resent it, for they were called forward. A word from the secretary
had decided the King to have the Mahratta letters first examined.
Aroused from his sleep, and in the presence of a Brahmun, the Syud was
not likely to discuss any matter temperately with one; nor, indeed,
in a subject in which Mahomedan honour was involved, was it politic,
perhaps, to reveal particulars to a Hindu; but the fact or otherwise
of Sivaji Bhóslay's attachment or treachery so affected the Wuzeer's
position, that it could not be concealed from one who, whatever his
faults of religious arrogance might be, was at least a firm friend of
the young King and of his government.

"Salaam-o-alykoom! Khoosh amudeed! (you are welcome)," said the King,
using the Persian salutation to the Syud, and rising as he advanced.

"Salaam-o-alyk!" returned the holy man, advancing, as was his wont,
in a peculiar but characteristic manner; that is, he bent his head
forward, so as to assume a stoop which might be supposed reverential,
but which was, in fact, patronising in the extreme; stretching forth
his arms in an attitude of benediction, and, having set his feet nearly
at right angles, he shuffled with short steps towards the edge of the
carpet on which was the King's seat. "My lord's health is sound, and
his brain is clear?"

"I am well," returned the King; "be seated."

The Peer looked for a place as near the King as possible, and, with
another wave of his hands, settled himself upon his heels with two
motions--first, to drop on his knees, and second, to subside upon his
heels, very much after the fashion of a camel when it is to be loaded.
This done, he joined his hands together, and smiling blandly, again
ventured to ask whether "My lord and prince were well."

"By your favour and the mercy of God," replied the King, "I am well."

"Ul-humd-ul-illa! (Praise be to God!) Shookr! shookr! (thanks,
thanks!)" ejaculated the Peer devoutly, as he settled himself more
comfortably; then, taking his rosary from his waist, began to tell his
beads with great rapidity, as the old Brahmun, following to the edge
of the carpet, and making a humble and reverential salutation, stood
awaiting the King's pleasure.

"Be seated, Neelkunt Rai," said the King kindly; and as the old man
stooped to the ground, supporting himself by his stick, the secretary
compassionately put his hand under his arm, and let him down gently.
The scowl from the Peer at this unwonted act of courtesy was lost upon
the secretary, but not upon the old man himself; nor was his look of
thanks to the person who had assisted him unremarked by the Syud. "I
will watch them," he said inwardly: "these two seem to understand each


The King spoke first, breaking a silence which, though only lasting for
a few moments, seemed interminably oppressive.

"I have called you, Neelkunt Rai," he said, "to examine and read to
me some papers which have come into my possession. There is no one
about me from whom I can expect more true fidelity than from you in a
delicate matter. Give him the papers, Meerza; they are before you."

"May my lord's favour and condescension increase," returned the old
man, bowing humbly. "I have never deceived the State, and am too old to
begin; and as the grandson is now, so were the father and grandfather
always towards me; true confidence is rarely disappointed."

The King sighed. "Alas," he said, "would it were so! Read and judge for

Neelkunt Rai took the papers, cast his eyes over a few lines, put them
down, fumbled in his pockets for his spectacles, which finally were
found in a fold of his turban, put them on, and looked first at the end
of the paper.

"The letters are from Sivaji Bhóslay, my lord. Doubtless some renewal
of his former excesses, and his usual apologies for them. Shall I read

"If that were all, Neelkunt Rai, we could forgive them," replied the
King; "but read; we may perhaps be in error about them, though truly
our vassal grows in power, and heeds not warnings or advice."

"It is only a few months since he took the four forts," interposed
the Meerza, "and the letters given to Afzool Khan mention that he is
repairing and putting grain into them, and that Pertâbgurh, where he
lives, is now impregnable, and that----"

"Let him read, Meerza Sahib," said the Peer ironically: "one so high
in the favour of the King should not be interrupted;" and he stroked
his beard gently with one hand, while the beads of his rosary passed
rapidly through the fingers of the other, and his lips repeated the
particular invocation of the divinity which suited every bead. "Let him
read; my lord is already listening."

Neelkunt Rai proceeded. He had been deceived by the address, which
was that usually written to his own sovereign, and had read the
letter through unsuspiciously; but as its purport became evident, it
was clear, by his change of countenance, that this was no ordinary
communication, and after a while he stopped suddenly.

"It is not fit for my lord to hear," he said excitedly. "This is

"Be not afraid, Neelkunt Rai, we would know the worst," replied the

"Yes, my lord should know who are true and who are false," added the
Peer, pompously. "It is true wisdom!"

"As you will," returned the old man, bowing to the King, and not
noticing the Peer; "your servant is not responsible for what is
written, and you must be patient with it;" and he read and translated
as he went on.

There could be no doubt that the treason was unmasked and unconcealed.
The wrongs of his father, wrote Sivaji, who for four years had been
imprisoned in the dungeon of the citadel of Beejapoor, near the
gate, called for revenge; the wrongs of the people, suffering under
endless local oppression and exaction, called for redress, which it
was hopeless to expect at the hands of a boy, priest-ridden and under
the domination of bigoted and ignorant ministers. The conclusion was
characteristic of the writer. All he desired was confirmation of his
ancestral rights, and permission to serve, with his forces, in the
imperial interest.

Letter after letter was read, all much to the same purpose; those of
the latter dates being more particular, perhaps, than the former.

"Enough," cried the King at last, "we are weary of these details. What
dost thou think, Neelkunt Rai?"

"My lord," said the old man, joining his hands, "mine are not the words
of flattery; nor is my advice given without reason. I cannot control
men's tongues, nor can I hinder the actions of such as Sivaji Bhóslay;
nor yet am I a soldier, to estimate whether his means are proportionate
to the end he proposes to attain. If I may speak, I will do so truly,
and as one who is near death now; but my lord must not be offended,
else I am silent."

"Be careful, and do not transgress the bounds of propriety and
respect," said the priest.

"Let him speak as he will, Syud," cried the King, hastily; "do not
interrupt him. Fear not, Neelkunt Rai."

"I fear no one, because I have no reason to do so," returned the old
man simply, and looking steadily at the priest. "What I have to say is
this: the disaffection of Sivaji Bhóslay may spread, but it has not
yet become dangerous. That it will be so, if not checked, there is no
doubt, for the whole Mahratta people are with him; and there are many
signs among them that he will be great----"

"That he will be great?" echoed the King.

"My lord," interrupted the Syud, "I know all about that. Some of my
disciples who live at a distance, have come to me from time to time
lately, and told me of the damnable doings of the infidels; and how
this Sivaji is supposed to have revelations from their gods; but they
are but stones--they are but stones, and gold and silver. Now, what
saith the blessed Prophet, on whom be peace, about such infidels?"

"Spare us, good Syud," returned the King, interrupting him gently, "we
know the passages; but God hath seen fit to give our house subjects of
this faith; and they are all our children--they--as well as the true
believers. We can see no difference."

"Astagh-fur-oolla! No difference!" cried the Syud. "Is it not written
in the holy book, how they shall be burned in the fires of hell, and
thou sayest there is no difference! Some one hath surely bewitched thee
with sorcery, my son, and I will say exorcisms for thee--and----"

"Enough," returned the King, coldly; "we have not time to waste in
discussion on such matters now. Proceed, Neelkunt Rai."

"The Syud is a holy man," said the old minister, "and he and his house
are venerated, and he should be merciful and considerate to all; but
as he, too, hath heard the rumours in regard to Sivaji, my lord will
believe them. And it would be well not to disregard them entirely. A
people's enthusiasm is not to be trifled with."

"There is but one cure for it, if they are infidels, and that is the
sword," murmured the Syud. "What saith----"

"We cannot suffer these interruptions," interposed the King, haughtily.

"Peace, Meer Sahib," whispered the Meerza, laying his hand on the
other's arm, as he was about to rise. "Peace, and be still. In what
will come afterwards we have need of thee--much need; be still."

"My prince," said Neelkunt Rai, endeavouring to rise, "I have done what
was needed, and beg leave to depart in peace. My King knows the worst.
What his servant would advise will not now be listened to, were he even
to speak."

"Say on," cried the King, interrupting him; "thou hast a right to
speak. Say on; we will not prevent thee."

"But he will," returned the Karkoon, pointing to the Syud.

"If he speaks no irreverence against the people of the true faith, he
may talk till morning," said the Syud, with a wave of the hand. "I
shall be dumb and deaf."

"I have little to represent, my lord," replied the old man. "It is hard
to say whether rebellion such as this, should be crushed or forgiven.
If I should advise the former, can it be done? If the latter, I maybe
suspected of partiality. Ah, my prince, if you gird up your loins to
fight Sivaji, it will but be trying to grasp the wind; and your best
troops will be taken into his mountains, leaving their places empty for
the Moghuls to occupy, and that were a dangerous risk. No! send your
royal 'kowl' to the Bhóslay--invite him here--ennoble him--treat him as
your ancestors treated the Beyder chief of Suggur, and you will secure
him. If a time of trial should ever come, which may the gods avert, the
old Brahmun's words and cautions for the adoption of a merciful policy
will not be forgotten. May I depart?"

"Yes, you have permission to depart, Neelkunt Rai," said the King,
interrupting the Syud, who was about to speak angrily. "It is even as
we suspected in regard to those letters, and the Bhóslay's treachery
to the State. We would ask one thing more:--what force hath Sivaji in

"My prince," returned the Brahmun, rising and leaning on his staff,
"what shall I say? Have you no reports? Were not letters given to
Afzool Khan to read? Ask him; he knows that country better than I
do--far better. Ask the Syud what his disciples tell him."

"No, no; I will have your opinion," interrupted the King. "Speak! what
do your people, the Brahmuns, say about it?"

"May I be forgiven, my lord, if it prove untrue. Yet I will speak as
I hear," replied the old man. "My prince knows that I am not of this
country, nor of this people; I have no interest in them except as
Hindus; but you may be assured there is not a Mahratta breathing who
will not follow Sivaji, and the divine call he is believed to have
received. No man who can wield a sword or carry a gun, or who has a
horse to ride, that will not go to the places of meeting when--'the
fire is on the hills.' How many there may be, the gods only know!
Lakhs! lakhs! who can count them? Beware of them, my prince, and secure
their chief ere it be too late."

"What has passed here is secret, Neelkunt Rai," said the King. "Thou
mayst go; we will send for thee again in this matter ere it be
concluded," and with a deep reverence to the King, and salutations to
the others, the old man retreated a few paces backwards, then turned,
and passed out of the chamber.

"Blessed be God and the Prophet!" exclaimed the Syud when he was gone.
"The air was defiled by his breath! Ul-humd-ul-illa! a Kafir and a
traitor, may he----"

"Peace, Meer Sahib, we have dismissed him, and that is enough," said
the King. "Our father, on whose memory be peace, trusted him, and so
did his father,--so also do we."

"As my prince pleases," returned the holy man, with a humble gesture,
and checking the volley of curses he had prepared to hurl after the old
Brahmun. "In this matter it seemed to me that his counsel was cowardly
and dangerous. How say you, Meerza? Was Feroze Shah afraid of infidels
when he and his true believers slew them by lakhs, and the pyramids
of heads stood by the gates of Gulburgah? And is our prince less than
he was, or are these Mahratta Kafirs more powerful than those of
Beejanugger? Speak, man!"

"My opinion would be little worth," said the secretary, "even did my
lord desire it, and there are others more capable of judging of the
power of this Mahratta robber than I am. What you have to advise our
master upon is another matter, Syud."

"Explain it to him, Meerza," said the King, sadly: "I am sick of
treachery, which seems to be closing round me like a net on all sides."

"God and the Prophet forbid!" exclaimed both in a breath. "Treachery
known, is soon disposed of. That which sits crouching in hidden places
is alone to be dreaded," continued the Syud. "Ere I hear the detail, I
have my fears."

"Nay, read thyself and judge," said the King. "Give him the letters,

"I have compared the seals," said the secretary, "with those letters
recently received by the King, and the writing also. Judge for yourself
before you read."

The Syud obeyed. He examined and compared the seals, the
superscription, and the paper of all, with much care and evident
interest, as expressed in various ejaculations of wonder, and appeals
to the divinity under various appellations suited to the circumstances,
which may be spared. "No doubt, no doubt," he said, after the scrutiny
had been concluded, "no doubt of these, nor of the superscription. They
only confirm what hath long been in men's mouths, yet was undetected."

"Read," said the King. "Satisfy yourself."


"It is finished, my lord," said the Syud, looking up, after an
examination of the papers which had appeared interminable, and as
he spoke, the cry of the Muezzin of the Royal Mosque arose in the
invitation to morning prayer, sonorous and musical, "Alla hu Akbur!
Alla hu Akbur!" "It is finished," he continued, "and it is the will
of Alla that morning prayer should come with the last words. Come, my
lord, let us do this service, and ask a blessing on our deliberation.
Come to the terrace in the fresh morning air."

We need not follow them. As they returned and seated themselves again
by the oriel window, the first blush of dawn was stealing over the
sky, paling the stars, and the gentle breeze of morning rustled softly
among the leaves of the gardens below. The ceremony he had performed,
the ablution, and the air of the terrace outside to which they had
adjourned, had refreshed the King after this weary night.

"Speak, Syud," he said, as they resumed their seats. "What is it to be?"

"I need not, my lord," replied the Syud. "What Alla hath put into thy
heart I now see in thine eyes, and so be it! Ameen! ameen! ameen! It is
his destiny. He is not fit to live; let him die, perjured and faithless
as he is. My lord, he had sworn on the holy book to me to be true. He
had touched my feet and my neck as witness to his oath. Yet see, since
then, nay, within a few weeks, this letter--worst of all--was written.
But O, my prince! there must be no mistake. Even at the last, let not
the blood of a guiltless man be on our heads."

The Syud's resolution had wavered for a moment, but was rallied by the
secretary as the King shook his head, but did not reply.

"Meer Sahib," he said, "we have had the same doubts, my lord and I.
Considering how we obtained the letters, can there be uncertainty?"

"God forbid!" replied the Syud--"God forbid! it is enough. I see in
this revelation the hand of the All-wise, and we, his creatures, should
not resist His destinies and His justice. We cannot do so even if we
wished," and he bowed his head reverently over his beads. "Hark! what
is that?"

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga! Ulla dilâyâ to léonga! (If God give I will
take! If God give I will take)" was suddenly shouted in an outer court
of the palace by a powerful voice, and interrupted the priest for a

"Listen!" he continued, grasping the Meerza's arm. "What is that cry,
so strange, and so early?"

"It is but one of the city beggars," said the King, looking across to
his secretary with a peculiar glance of intelligence, "who perhaps has
not slept off his night's potions. One of thine own disciples, perhaps,

"I will go and listen," said the secretary, rising; and he proceeded to
the terrace where the morning prayer had been performed.

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!" arose in clear deep tones, now unchecked by
the heavy quilted curtain of the royal chamber. It was a common form of
cry of fakeers or other beggars; but there was something in the rough
tone of the voice which seemed to strike familiarly upon the Meerza's

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!"

The last cry was followed by a remonstrance from the soldiers below,
who, belonging to the guard of the private apartments, had evidently
stopped the intruder.

"Gently, O Syn," cried one; "what dost thou here so early? Do not bawl
so loud, friend, else they will be awakened up yonder, and thou wilt be
whipped and put in the stocks. Come and sit here, and rest thyself if
thou wilt."

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!" was the only reply.

"Nay, but thou canst not enter here, Syn. This is the private court of
the Hareem, and thou must be silent," continued the soldier.

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!"

"The fellow is mad or drunk. Here, Jemadar," cried another voice; "what
is to be done with this Fakeer?"

"Who can this be?" thought the Meerza. "This is no common cry. I must
see the worthy Syud out, and get speech of the crier."

"Ulla dilâyâ----"

The Fakeer's cry was broken off abruptly, and there was a noise as
if of a scuffle below. Could it be any one in the Wuzeer's interest,
seeking for information, or perhaps with deadly intent. "Ho there!"
cried the secretary; "what noise is that so early, disturbing the King?"

"Some drunken Fakeer, my lord," returned one of the guards, looking up,
"who has intruded, God knows how."

"Keep him, and I will come down presently," answered the Meerza, not
waiting for the reply, but re-entering the chamber.

"Some Fakeer, my lord," he continued to the King, but answering his
look of intelligence, "whom I have ordered to be confined till the
Darogah of the palace can deal with him for his insolence."

"If he be one of my men come after me," said the Syud, "he shall be
punished. And now, my lord, have I permission to depart? Delay not in
this matter; and may God give you a safe deliverance from a traitor!"

"You may go, Meer Sahib," said the King; "and we thank you for this
visit; but shall need you at noon."

"Your servant will be present without fail," returned the Syud, humbly.
"Would that his power were equal to his devotion in the King's service!"

"Return directly," said the King, in a whisper, to his secretary, as
the holy man waddled slowly to the door. "I know who it is; bring him
hither at once. Hast thou forgotten the Jogi of the temple?"

"Hither? that fearful man!"

"Yes, and at once--any excuse--say he does exorcism--anything."

The secretary hesitated.

"At once," continued the King, positively, "and without fail. I feared
him not then, when I was in his power and helpless, neither do I now.
Go, take this with thee," and he slipped his signet ring into the
Meerza's hand.

"I will have him searched at any rate," thought the Meerza, as he
descended the narrow stair. "Take care, Meer Sahib, the light is
uncertain. Ah, here we are. Who is that, Abdulla, that was crying out?"
he said to a eunuch, who, with others, kept guard at the foot of the

"I know not, my lord. He is some drunken Fakeer, no doubt; and they
have tied him up, I hear."

"He may be wanted above," whispered the Meerza. "Let him follow
me, and without notice or hindrance. Some exorcism is needed--you

The man stared, and only bowed assent over his crossed arms. "Who dared
question royal secrets?"

"Coming, Meer Sahib; I only looked for my shoes," cried the Meerza to
his companion, who had advanced a few paces.

Hearing the secretary's voice, several persons emerged from the
guard-room, holding the Fakeer tightly. His face was distinctly seen in
the morning light, and there could be no mistake.

"He is not one of my children," said the Syud, blandly, looking at the
man, and seating himself in his palankeen, which had been brought up;
"some drunken brawler, no doubt, who deserves a whipping. Send him to
the Kótwal, my sons. I am departing, Meerza Sahib."

"Khôda Hafiz! (God be with you!)" returned the secretary. "At noon, you

"Of course, Meerza Sahib, the royal commands are on my head and eyes.
Go on, my sons," and the bearers shuffled along at their usual pace.

"Shookr Oolla! (thank God!)" ejaculated the secretary, who had doubts
of the priest, as he had of most others. "Who art thou, fellow?" he
added to the prisoner.

"Bid them loose me," said Pahar Singh, for it was he, "and I will tell
thee. Hast thou forgotten so quickly?"

"My lord," said one of the soldiers, "let us turn him out into the

"How he got in here," added another, "no one knows; yet he is not
drunk, and he has done no harm beyond bawling and struggling. He has
the strength of a fiend."

"Loose him, my friends; he is an exorcist, and there has been some
trouble within," replied the secretary. "I must take him into the
presence. He has no arms? Behold the royal seal."

"I have the amulet which shall restore health to the sick," growled the
pretended Fakeer; "it is sorely needed, and time presses. The planetary
conjunction is passing."

"Come, Syn; I will lead thee in," said the secretary, taking his hand.

"He has no weapons--we searched him well; but he will answer no
questions," said several men, speaking together.

"Ah, my friends," replied the secretary, gravely, "those who cast out
evil spirits are not to be questioned. Come, Syn, follow me."

The men shrugged their shoulders incredulously. What could it mean?
To all except the Meerza the entry of such a character to the private
apartments at any hour would have been impossible--but now, and under
the King's seal? How had he entered the citadel? The guard at the gate
had not seen him pass; and this mystery, with the fact of his having
been expected, furnished plentiful cause of speculation to those who
had seized him.


"What is it?" asked the Meerza anxiously, as they passed into the inner
court. "Why hast thou come, Pahar Singh, thus early?"

"Is he above--Ali Adil Shah?" asked the robber; "what I have to say is
for him alone. And thou hast recognized me, O Meerza?"

"He is," replied the Meerza; "follow me and be silent. I will tell him.
Yes, I knew thee, and he trusts thee."

The eunuchs of the lower guard bowed their heads on their folded arms
as the two men passed and ascended the stair together. When they
reached the terrace, the Meerza stepped on and drew aside the curtain.

"He is come, my lord," he said in a low tone--"he--the robber."

"I thought so," replied the King; "bring him in."

As Pahar Singh entered, the light of the lamp shone full on him, and
revealed a haggard anxious face; his large eyes were gleaming wildly
from among the heavy masses of his matted hair, now hanging about his
shoulders; but the disguise as a Mahomedan mendicant was as complete
as that of the Hindu Jogi had been. He made no lowly reverence, but
advanced boldly--defiantly, as it were--to the edge of the carpet, and
the King involuntarily grasped the hilt of the short sword lying beside

"The King might kill me," said the man, observing the action; "a word,
and the head of Pahar Singh is struck from his body by those eunuchs
yonder. There is no escape hence--is it not so? Yet I have trusted
thee, O King, and do not fear thee, even as thou didst not fear me. I
am here, true to thy salt; and what I have to tell thee is as true as I

"Fear not," said the King, "and speak freely; thou art safe here."

"Does he know all?" asked the robber, pointing to the Meerza.

"All, friend. Was he not with me, and are not these the letters?"
returned the King. "Else----"

"I believe thee, Adil Khan," said Pahar Singh. "Now, listen: time is
short, and much has to be done ere thou art safe."

The King started. "Safe?" he cried.

"Ay, safe, my lord. Khan Mahomed was at Almella yesterday, and is on
his way hither now. He will be here about the third watch of the day,
or sooner. What brings him, think you?" said Pahar Singh, rapidly.

"I sent him a letter of assurance, and he believes it," said the King.

"Believes it, King? He?" exclaimed the man derisively. "He? Thou art
but a simple boy to think so. No, he has understood it rightly, and in
reply has brought some hundreds of my men with him. What for?--it is
in thine eyes to ask--what for? I will tell thee. Ah! thy heart tells
thee now: there is no need for me to speak."

"Then his designs are evil, friend," said the King, with a slight

"King! without that letter he was not to be trusted. After he
received it he knew his fate," returned Pahar Singh. "We--I--have an
evil reputation, they say: and he believed I would do anything for
money. He sent an express messenger for me from Nuldroog. I had come
here with those letters, but my son went. Money was offered to him:
rank--an estate--whatever he pleased. Money? yea, much money. A lakh
of rupees--more. Why? thou already knowest. Yes--to kill thee, O Adil
Khan, thou wert not to live over to-day. My son pleaded fatigue and my
absence--time also to collect the men. That is why Khan Mahomed did not
arrive yesterday. That is why he is at Almella now. My son is shrewd
and wise--he secured all he could of the Wuzeer's money; and then--ah,
blessed boy!--he rode on to meet me last night. Ha, ha! they thought
he had gone to Itga to hurry on the men; but he is a good youth--he
knew what to do. A gallant horse is that which that Lalla left with us;
thy life was on its feet, O Prince! and my boy was in sore temptation.
So he reached me last night, just as I had gained my hiding-place, of
which he knew. Ah, I was sick at heart, for my brother was dead----"

"Dead!" cried the secretary; "God forbid! he was with thee, and well."

"Ay, dead, Meerza," continued Pahar Singh. "Yes, murdered--perish the
cowardly hand that struck the blow in the dark. We were attacked by
robbers, who had watched us, and he was struck down in the fight. I
went for assistance to carry him, and when I returned he was dead, and
a knife-wound in his heart. Enough, master," continued Pahar Singh,
dashing his hand roughly across his eyes. "He died in thy service.
Enough for him."

"And then?" asked the King.

"My son had consented to do the work; and that slave, the Wuzeer,
believed him. The boy told me he pretended to hate the King, and that
there was a death feud between our house and thine, Adil Khan--was
it not good? O, he is a clever youth that. It was he who got those
letters, too: and now he has received money from the slave. Enough!
Speak, O King. Is the slave to be delivered into thy hand alive, or
wilt thou give him to me--to me, Pahar Singh? Dost thou doubt me? I
ask no money--no reward from thee. Thy house--thy very life--is in
peril: Pahar Singh can save both, and ask nothing but to be held true
to his master's salt. Nay, do not interrupt me," he continued, waving
his hand, while he wiped away the foam which, in his excitement, had
gathered on his lips. "Think, Adil Khan, was thy royal house ever so
threatened before? Hath not the Wuzeer prepared the enemy to make his
last swoop upon thee, even as a falcon on a hare; and wert thou dead,
with no son to rally men around him, and Khan Mahomed holding the
power,--could thy kingdom be preserved? Are the Moghuls idle? Is Sivaji
Bhóslay indifferent? Above all, could thy royal armies have saved thee
had I been a traitor?"

"Come hither," cried Adil Shah, from whose eyes the tears were welling
fast as he thought upon his defenceless state, the deep treachery which
had been meditated, and the rough earnest devotion of this strange man.
"Come hither: let me put my hand on thy head."

Pahar Singh advanced. The squalid mendicant covered with rags--to all
appearance what he seemed, so complete was the disguise--trod boldly
upon the royal bed of satin and velvet; but he bowed his head to meet
the hand which the King extended and laid upon it gently.

"As thou wilt, true servant," said the King, "for there is a stern and
fearful necessity to be encountered. Whatever reward thou mayst claim
hereafter is freely bestowed upon thee--all thou hast ever done against
me or my people is forgiven. Take that slave for thine own if thou
wilt, to deal with as it seemeth good to thee."

"Remember," cried Pahar Singh, seizing the King's hand and detaining it
upon his head, "these words cannot be revoked. Whatever happens, I do
but thy bidding, O King; and, only for the need for thee to know it, I
had done the same even though I had not seen thee. Now I go, whither ye
cannot trace me, but ye will hear of me ere the day is past."

"Go," replied the King. "I have no fear of thee or of thine acts. Alla
and the Prophet direct and keep thee, O true friend, whom he hath sent
me in my need. Go!"

"Only be careful," continued the man, withdrawing the King's hand
from his head, kissing it reverently, and then releasing it--"only be
careful! Stir not beyond the fort till the news comes to thee. The
guards on the gates and within are of the true party, and thou art
safe with them. Care not for revolt; the Wuzeer brings no men with him
but my own. My son prevented those he brought from coming on, and they
returned to Nuldroog from Almella. None of his party here dare stir.
Yet, if there be any movement, send for Afzool Khan and his son Fazil;
they are my bitter enemies, but they are true to thee. Nay more, the
Wuzeer's son is not with his father in this matter, and is true to
thee, O King, because of the young Fazil. And now I go. Send me beyond
the gate, for I must not depart as I came."

"I am ready to go," said the secretary. "They were marvelling at thy
sudden appearance. How was it?"

"I may tell thee some time or other," returned Pahar Singh, smiling;
"but come, it is almost day. Yet, ere I depart, my lord, I would kiss
thy feet. The reverence I once paid thy father, the noble Sultan
Mahmood, I would pay to thee." And so saying, he prostrated himself,
embracing the King's feet, and kissing them respectfully.

"Would thou wert a true believer, and thou wouldst be as a brother. O,
that I could reward thee adequately," said the King, with much emotion.

"I am better as I am--free," returned Pahar Singh. "When I have earned
reward, Adil Khan, I may ask it if I live; and if I die, remember there
was one true heart among thy people, and protect my Gopal--my son. Let
us not speak of reward; there is nothing now between us but true faith,
as thou art witness, O Meerza, and that faith was never yet given for

So saying, he turned and passed rapidly through the curtain, followed
by the secretary.

Was there any doubt in the young King's mind now? None; all was clear.
There was no thought of mercy--none of receding from determination.
There could be no question of Pahar Singh's story, else why had he,
outlaw and robber as he was, trusted himself in the very palace?
There was no appearance about that strange man which could lead to a
suspicion of deceit, and his grim devotion in this emergency affected
the King deeply. Even if Pahar Singh failed, the course was clear. The
Wuzeer must be confronted with the silent witnesses of his treachery;
and in Afzool Khan and a score of other trusty adherents, the King felt
he had ample protection.

No; it was no deception. After a short interval of silence, the
Fakeer's cry, "Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!" again arose more sonorously,
more confidently than before, and the King, stepping out on the
terrace, listened, speculating how far the man might be gone on his
deadly errand, and what would come of it, so absorbedly, that the
secretary's footsteps, as he ascended the stair, were not heard, and
the King started as he spoke once more.

"He is gone, my lord, on his work. I saw him pass beyond the gate."

"Did he say aught?"

"Nothing--he did not speak again. As he passed out of the court he
shouted his cry, and continued it, walking rapidly till he was beyond
the bridge of the ditch. Many of the men saluted him, and some offered
alms, but he answered no one, and, still shouting, pressed on so
quickly that I could hardly follow. When I last saw him, he had turned
by the 'Goruk Imlee' tree, and was running fast; and so God speed him!"

"Ameen!" sighed the King. "Thou must not leave me to-day, Anwur Ali.
Order a Durbar at noon, and there will we await the end. He or I,
Meerza, whichever God wills; but it shall not be said of Adil Khan that
he shrank from his fate into his zenana. Go; sleep there on my cushions
for a while; we both need rest," and by another doorway, the King
passed to the inner apartments.


The day wore on; and it may be imagined that the anxieties of the lady
Lurlee and the fair Zyna were not diminished by the continued absence
of the Khan and his son. As the former had left his wife, he had
requested her to have a "kichéri" of a particular kind, with kabobs,
prepared for him when he arrived. "He should be hungry," he said,
"after his ride so early, and Fazil too. It was a soldier's dish, and
would put him in mind of old days in the field, and--Lurlee could dress
it so capitally." We may remember a slight bandying of words between
the Khan and his lady before he went out; and he had ordered this dish
as a propitiatory meal at her hands, for he knew by experience that the
result would be satisfactory: the little acerbity would disappear, and
the planets, perhaps, would be forgotten.

Nothing could have been devised more soothing to the lady
Lurlee's temper--nothing more certain of dispelling any clouds of
dissatisfaction or disappointment--than this appeal to her affections
through her kitchen. Even in these intellectual days, a similar result
is not unfrequently attainable; proving that the motives and springs of
poor human nature, and its tempers, show but little difference at the
time of our history and among ourselves; and did we permit ourselves
to moralize after the fashion of the day, we might possibly deliver a
pretty lecture upon the subject.

But--and we may as well avow it once for all--we feel ourselves bound
to relate our story without any moralizing digressions whatever,
further than what may form part of its action; and therefore we will
not follow the changes of the lady's mind, from its first expectant
and interested condition after the mixing of the materials by her own
fair hands (for on such occasions she suffered no one to interfere),
to the setting them on the fire to be done exactly as her lord wished.
With the Khan's loving order, had come a flood of pleasant memories
to her--of old camp days, hard fights too, in which her lord--safe,
generally victorious, and restored to her prayers--found his wife
busy with some favourite dish; and they loved each other, in a homely
fashion, better for the cooking and the eating of it.

Now, as the lady sat over her private brazier, on which were her own
silver cooking-vessels, the Khan's special gift, she told Zyna of many
an old time and scene--of many a narrow escape--many a rough march
which she had shared with the old soldier, and done her part in binding
up his wounds if he were hurt, or cooking for him if he were hungry.

"Your mother was not of our rough Dekhani sort, daughter," she said;
"people tell me she never went out with the army: she was a weak,
fragile thing, I have heard, but very beautiful. Peace be with her,
for thy father loved her much, and hath never loved me as her. But
no children have come, Zyna--no children, that is it,"--and the lady
sighed, and perhaps tears gathered in her eyes, for she wiped them
hastily with the corner of her muslin scarf. "Well, it is God's will,
daughter; and though I could never understand it properly, there was
something wrong in the horoscope which they cast when I was betrothed.
You see, Zyna, my planet was then Mars, which represented water--no, it
was fire;--no, that's a male planet, and so it must have been Earth.
Yes, I think it was--Earth; and then he was Venus--no, that could not
be either; it must have been Saturn, and that's for air. So you see,
fire and air--no, let me see--air and water? no. What did I tell thee,
Zyna? Was it Earth?"

"I do not understand it, mother; how can I tell?" said Zyna demurely.

"But you are not listening, girl; ah, wait till your own time comes.
I'll warrant you anxious and curious enough to know whether you are
fire or earth, or air or water; and whether he is air, or water, or
whatever he may be. Now about myself. You see I was fire; no I am
wrong. 'Humul,' 'Sowr,' 'Jowza' (Aries, Taurus, Gemini)," continued the
lady Lurlee, telling off all the signs of the zodiac, in Arabic, upon
the ends of her fingers, and then the planets in succession, "'Mars,'
'Venus,' 'Mercury;' and now look, Zyna, if the house of the Lion is on
this middle finger, and the planet Mercury comes to it, you see Mercury
is in conjunction with--with the Crab. Did not I say the Crab, child?
Now attend, else I shall lose all my reckoning. 'Humul,' 'Sowr'----"

"Alas, mother, but I do not understand it, and I can never remember the
names of the planets or their houses,--indeed I cannot," said Zyna,
piteously. "But ah, mother, look, it is burning!"

And so it was. In her astrological involvement, Lurlee Khánum had
forgotten the kichéri, which, as the bottom of the pan became too hot,
sent up a most unsavoury odour, and brown smoke issued from under the

"God forgive me my neglect, daughter," exclaimed the lady, sorrowfully,
as she examined the pan: "it is surely quite spoiled, and thy father
is so particular. The least idea of burnt kichéri is enough to set him
mad, and I could not look at him for a day or more. And he will be
expecting this to be all ready." "Protection of the Prophet!" exclaimed
the lady suddenly, "there he is. What shall I do?--what shall I do?"

That which had startled Lurlee was the arrival of the Khan's escort,
and the beating of their kettle-drums in the outer court; and as
she listened, and stood up, ladle in hand, expecting her lord's
entrance, she was perhaps relieved by the appearance of Goolab who,
as the general outdoor scout, brought tidings from the courtyard of
occurrences of all kinds.

"They are not coming, lady," said the nurse. "They are gone to the
Kótwal's, and will stay there. That's the news brought by Peer Khan,
and a host of them. And there's Bulwunt Rao as good as dead; and he's
to be put into the private apartments, and the King's doctor is to be
sent for; and I must go and see to a bed for him, and a soft mattress,
and pillows and sheets; and then they'll all be spoilt with his blood.
His blood, indeed!"

"A blister on thy tongue, O prating woman!" cried Lurlee. "My lord
taken to the Kótwal's? _My_ lord! O Zyna! O girl, what is the world
come to? Thy father taken to that man of blood, Jehándar Beg; and those
cowards, the Paigah, have come here without him? O girl--what is it?
speak, hast thou no sense?"

Indeed, Zyna had very little; the mention of that dreaded name, the
certainty that if her father could have returned he would, and the fact
of Bulwunt Rao being dangerously wounded, all combined to terrify, and
Lurlee herself was no calmer.

"Was there no message, Goolab?" asked Zyna.

"O yes; that the Khan remains at the Kótwal's, and will eat his
breakfast there. He has business, and will stay. That is all, and that
Meah Sahib is well."

"That is all!" exclaimed Lurlee. "That is all! To have my lord in the
Kótwallee, and that dish of kichéri dressed in vain! O woman of little
grace that I am! why did I deserve this? what have I done? what have I

"But it was spoiled, mother," said Zyna innocently; "do not care about
it. Only thank God they are safe. O, I vow a Fateha----"

"Not care, child? and would it not have been the same had it been, as
it was, dressed like food for the Peris? would it not have been the
same? Would he have come to eat it? he, thy father? Why order it? why
affront me by leaving it here to be spoiled? why did he not come long
ago? This is not as it used to be of old. O, Afzool Khan! am I less
than dirt in thine eyes? am I--I--I----"

Now, the lady Lurlee, like all other Mahomedan ladies, only mentioned
her husband's name on very solemn occasions, or when excitement got
the better of discretion; and here was an instance of it. She sat down
upon the stool before her brazier, and, after rocking herself to and
fro for a while, burst into an uncontrollable fit of sobbing. It was
difficult to say, perhaps, what had most particularly affected her;
but undoubtedly the burning of the kichéri was at the bottom of all.
It had been so good. Then she knew how his face would have expanded
under its influence as he ate; it would have reminded him of some old
scene, whose history would have come out between the mouthfuls--he
might even have caressed her. Ah, all was now gone--her trouble, her
expectation of a loving greeting, all gone: and the sense of neglect
and indifference under which she habitually existed, had for the time
taken its place. But gradually the sobbing was soothed, and Lurlee,
laying her head against Zyna's bosom, seemed lost in thought.

"There must be unfavourable conjunctions among the planets to-day,
depend upon it, daughter," she said at length, rousing herself, and
drying her eyes, "else all this would not have happened. Now, let me
look steadily into it: perhaps we may learn something for our guidance."

"Look!" continued the lady after a pause, and a brief examination of
an astrological table, which she usually carried about her, "look
here. Ah, graceless and unfortunate that I am, I should have foreseen
all that has happened, and he should never have gone out at all. Why,
here is Saturn in the ascendant till the first watch of the day,
and then follows the Sun, and that's what spoilt my cooking. Let me
see--Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer," she continued, counting the signs
of the zodiac, as before, on her fingers, "Aries, Taurus--why, God be
merciful! here follows Mars, and he's an executioner--and they are in
the Kótwallee--the Prophet's mercy be on them! Yet, stay, Mars will
last for only three hours; then comes, let me see--Mars, Jupiter,
Mercury, Moon--no, Venus, Jupiter, Moon. Yes, I am right now, girl.
That means messenger, and Venus is propitious. Ah, yes, don't you see
it all, Zyna? Don't you understand? Look, first the Moon, that's we
ourselves, as messengers; and then Venus will save them, if we can get
past Mars. Of course it is quite plain. Don't you see?"

"Alas, no, mother! I do not," said Zyna, innocently. "I see figures and
numbers, and angles and signs, but it is hopeless to ask me about them.
You are a wise woman, and this is a marvellous science. Surely, and
please God, you are right."

"O, I see exactly what to do; and it is well I can pick out a path
among these mysteries," cried Lurlee, brightening, "or we had all been
lost long ago. But we will eat first; I am sure some of the kichéri
is good, and at any rate there are the kabobs, and Jameela will have
bread. Come and eat, daughter, it will support thee; come, we have much
to do ere noon. I see now, and when thou hast eaten I will tell thee.
Jameela! O Jameela!" she cried to the cook, who, when her mistress came
to usurp her functions, discreetly kept out of the way. "Jameela, bring
some bread and some pickle; we must eat now."

"But you have the kichéri," said the dame. "Surely it is not burnt,"
she continued, sniffing into the pan with a cook's experienced nose.

"Begone, graceless!" cried Lurlee, who well knew the old woman was
rejoicing in her heart over her discomfiture; "begone and get the

"There is none but the men's bread, and it is coarse enough, for the
meal was not sifted," returned Jameela. "When _you_ take to cooking, of
course I am not expected to be mindful of other light bread, and such
things; but----"

"Begone, and do as you are bid," cried her mistress, sharply. A look
from Zyna also, deprecating further discussion, was understood at once
by the old dame.

"I will bring the best of it, Khánum," she said, "and there is some
quite hot; but I can bake a few of your own 'phoolkas,' if you like;
they will be good with the kabobs ... which seem savoury," she
continued, craning over to look into the pot on the fire, and sniffing
into it.

"Where is Goolab? Ah yes, do so, Jameela, and bring them quickly,"
replied her mistress; "thou art a jewel."

"I will send her, lady," said the cook, departing; "and I would bring
the men's bread, only it is not fit for the likes of ye."

"Now, what is to be done?" asked Zyna. "O mother, thou seemest to
understand everything, and art confident, and I am distracted with
apprehension. O my father! O my brother! God keep you safe. I vow
lights at Peer Sahib's tomb, and to feed a hundred Fakeers there
to-morrow, if they be safe!"

"We must go to the palace, and inquire why thy father is detained,"
replied Lurlee decisively. "Ah, Goolab, where wert thou? But never
mind," she continued, as the dame entered. "Lay out clothes for us;
we must go to the palace; and bid some one go and say we pray to see
the Bégum Sahiba, and order the palankeens and an escort to be ready.
Inshalla! daughter, we will see what this evil-minded and base-born
Kótwal can do."

"And the jewels, Khánum?" asked Goolab.

"Ah! I had forgotten. Well, a few."

"No, mother, no!" cried Zyna, "not so. With our hearts heavy and sad,
it surely is no time to put on jewels. Let us rather go with sober
garments, and prostrate ourselves before the Peer's shrine on our way."

"I tell thee the Peer cannot help us," returned the dame tartly; "it is
the stars and the Bégum. When they are safe, then do thy Fateha if thou
wilt. Come here, eat, for we have much to do. Ah! Jameela-bee;" for
Lurlee always added the respectful addition of _bee_, for lady,--when
she was in good humour, to her cook, who now entered with a tray of hot
bread and delicate phoolkas, and a white cloth over her arm: "thou hast
been quick, friend."

It must be confessed that the lady Lurlee's appetite, sharpened perhaps
by her unusual fast and the process of her own cookery, did ample
justice to the meal. Her confidence in the stars sustained her far
better than Zyna's faith in her saint--that is, if one might judge by
the resolute and satisfied features of the elder face as it bent over
its plate, eating heartily, and the distressed, anxious, and tearful
expression of the younger, endeavouring almost vainly to eat at all. It
was of no avail that Lurlee encouraged her daughter, and even picked
out tempting morsels from the kabobs, and set them before her, with the
hottest of the phoolkas, as they were sent in short relays from the

"Ah, daughter! he would have enjoyed this," said Lurlee, as she washed
her hands over the ewer brought her at the conclusion of the meal,
and sighed in a manner which plainly signified her regret not to be
able to eat more. "Yes, the kabob was good, but thou hast scarcely
tasted it; a trifle more pepper would have been better, perhaps; yet it
was good. And now, girl, I am ready to face the Kótwal or the Bégum,
or--the peace of God be on him--Adil Shah himself. Inshalla! we will
see who dares to detain my lord when I, Lurlee Khánum, have cooked his


Enough had transpired in the examination of Afzool Khan and his son,
to satisfy Jehándar Beg that the young man and his father had attained
knowledge of some secret relating to the conspiracies in progress,
which they were reserving to tell the King; and we should be doing
that very astute officer injustice, if we did not at once admit that
he believed the secret known to them, or at least to Fazil, concerned
the Wuzeer very deeply. Why the King's secretary had been mentioned he
could not imagine. Did he know it also? Certainly it was important to
find out everything that could be discovered, previous to the Wuzeer's
arrival; and he purposed himself to go to his house, and have speech
of him, before he should attend the Durbar, and appear before the King
to inform him of the detention of Afzool Khan and his son, and of the
events connected with them.

But Jehándar Beg, as police minister of that large city, had other
sources of information; and whatever occurred at night was reported to
him by his spies before the true business of the day commenced. Had not
Afzool Khan come direct to the court, it is most probable that Jehándar
Beg would have heard some account of Fazil Khan's night adventure
before he appeared at all. As it was, there had been a reversion of
events: and we must now follow the magistrate briefly, in his reception
of the spies whom he summoned, directly the door of the court had
closed upon the Khan and his son.

The room in which these persons were received, was one which could be
entered from the large hall of audience: but there was a door also by
the back passage which led from a street behind, and persons could come
and go unobserved. There was nothing in this chamber--which indeed was
very small--but a large pillow and a carpet, on which the Kótwal's
sword-dagger, a heavy-bladed Persian or Affghan knife, and writing
materials, were placed. As he sat down and clapped his hands, a door
opposite was opened by a slave without, and a Brahmun, as was evident
by his dress and the caste marks on his forehead, was admitted.

"Be seated," said Jehándar Beg. "Have you anything for me to-day,

"Yes," answered the Brahmun, taking a pair of spectacles from a fold
in his turban, and placing them across his nose, and then producing
some papers from a pocket within his dress; "these have just arrived
by a special messenger from Moro Trimmul at Tooljapoor;" and he handed
to the Kótwal several letters sealed with the private Mahratta seal of
Sivaji Bhóslay, which Jehándar Beg examined closely; then, apparently
satisfied, he made a Persian memorandum on the corner of each, with the
date of receipt, very methodically, and put them into the side-pocket
of his robe.

"And," continued the Brahmun, looking over his letter as the Kótwal had
finished, "Moro Trimmul writes that his sister has been married to a
Shastree at Tooljapoor, and that he has not been idle; but he cannot
induce Pahar Singh to visit him or accept terms, and he is afraid to go
to Itga himself; so it were better your worship advised our master to
treat with him."

"Very good; I will mention it," returned the Kótwal; "but has Moro
Trimmul been to Nuldroog to see the Wuzeer? It is not far."

"No, my lord; he was afraid to go unless a 'Kowl' were sent to him."

"Curious that, O Pundit!" added Jehándar Beg, with a sneer; "he is not
scrupulous in general, I think."

"No, not in general, perhaps," replied the man; "but in this case he
is--he is--not sure."

"Not sure? Well, I suppose he is certain of my being able to apprehend
him, and make him so, on the Goruk Imlee tree."

"My lord is all-powerful; but Moro is careful--as much so as Sivaji
Bhóslay or Tannajee Maloosray," returned the Pundit, dryly.

"Ah yes; no doubt, friend; he thinks himself so," replied Jehándar Beg,
with a sneer; "but what of Tannajee himself? I heard just now that he
is here, and was seen last night."

"Tannajee is everywhere," returned the man, smiling, "or some one else
for him. If my lord requires him, he may be found at Wye: he would not
trust himself in Beejapoor, I think; yet----"

"Why not, Pundit?"

"My lord can best answer that. Like Moro Trimmul, he is better at a
distance till the time comes. He does not like 'those trees' of my

For once the Kótwal was at fault. It was necessary to gain over the
Mahratta interest, else the intrigue with the Emperor were abortive;
but it was clear none of the Mahratta agents would trust the Wuzeer's
party, without more assurance of its success than at present appeared
likely; and the Kótwal felt this keenly. He might threaten, imprison,
or even torture, but he could not penetrate beyond the surface.

"Tannajee was in the kullal's bazar last night," said Jehándar Beg,
after a pause, "and had a narrow escape. He ought not to place himself
in such peril."

"Indeed! I have said before there are Maloosrays everywhere," returned
the Brahmun dryly; "I know what has been told you, my lord; but," he
added, smiling, "I suppose you don't believe it."

"That is as may be proved hereafter. We shall know more
by-and-by--to-day, perhaps," replied Jehándar Beg.

The man shrugged his shoulders. "Does my lord wish me to stay?" he

"Not particularly. The master comes this afternoon, and may wish to see

"Certainly, I will attend; but about Maloosray? If he comes I will tell
you," continued the Pundit, laughing; "but do not listen, my lord, to
idle stories; Maloosray is everywhere, and in that is his safety. May I

"Yes, go;" and the man, making a respectful salute, departed.

The Pundit was a clever agent, deeply devoted, like all his countrymen,
to the Mahratta interest, apparently serving the Wuzeer's party through
Jehándar Beg, yet at the same time revealing only what was advisable to
be known, and gaining all the information he could. He had already seen
Maloosray, and went direct to Jehándar Beg, on purpose to mislead him,
in which he perfectly succeeded.

The Kótwal sat and mused a while on what had been told him. He believed
the Brahmun about Maloosray. "And Pahar Singh would not join them? That
is all he knows," said Jehándar Beg to himself. "My lord writes that
he is sure of the robber, and brings some of his men with him. What
can that be for?" He felt as though he had not been quite trusted;
still the Wuzeer was coming that day, and would tell all. He could not
perhaps write.

So another spy was admitted, evidently one of the royal eunuchs. He sat
down where the Brahmun had been seated, and for a time was silent.

"Well," said Jehándar Beg, "is thy brain heavy with drink, Mahmood, or
with secrets? Or is there bad news? Why art thou silent?"

"Good or bad, I know not, my lord," replied the man; "but it is at
least curious, and you may understand it. I do not."

"Indeed!--say on, friend," returned the Kótwal, settling himself into
an attitude of attention.

"My lord the secretary," said the man calmly, "was out late last night.
He went to a temple somewhere, and there was another with him. He then
returned to the palace, and the Peer Zadah and Neelkunt Rai were sent
for and admitted. They sat till nearly dawn, when a Fakeer came, and
was taken up to the Palace of the Seven Stories by the secretary."

Jehándar Beg took his beard in his hand, rubbed and stroked it, and
mused for several minutes. "Anything more?" he asked.

"Some money was taken," added the man. "That is all I know, except that
a Durbar is ordered after the mid-day prayer."

These tidings, strange as they seemed to be, troubled Jehándar Beg
sorely. He had not been told of the Durbar. What could have happened?
"Thou must go and find out who was with the secretary," he said.

"If I might speak," said the spy timidly, looking about him--"I think
it was--" and he advanced and whispered in the Kótwal's ear--"the King

"The King? Impossible; he never left the palace," returned the Kótwal,
aloud. "I know that he did not. The King?----"

"My lord cannot be mistaken," replied the spy, deferentially.
"Nevertheless, I heard it----"

"Quite impossible! He could not have gone without my knowing of it,
Mahmood; nor dare he venture out without being attended. Who were with
the secretary?"

"Bundagee Sahib, and five others only; and the man who went with the
secretary entered the private apartments with him when they returned.
This I saw, for I was watching."

"Thou shouldst have gone into the court with them," said the Kótwal.
"What neglect is this?"

"I was going, but the guard stopped me," said the spy, as if ashamed.
"They knew me, and turned me out of the fort-gate. What could I do?
Since the last time I was drunk, they will not admit me."

"And the Fakeer?"

"I heard him calling inside, 'Ulla dilâyâ to léonga;' and when he got
outside he ran, still shouting, towards the Goruk Imlee trees, and I
lost sight of him."

"Then who told you he went into the palace?"

"O, the men on guard said one of the ladies had seen demons, and that
the Syn had been sent for, to say incantations over her."

"Very likely," said the Kótwal, calmly. "Now go and bring me the news
I want. Was it the King who went with the Meerza, or his own son? Find
this out for me, and return directly."

"Jo hookum!" returned the spy, "your slave will do his best," and he

We need not follow Jehándar Beg in his other private audiences. He had
many spies over many people.

If he had not been delayed by these communications and his own
meditations upon them, and had gone to his prisoners at once, it is
possible, perhaps, that the Khan and his son might have been taken by
surprise; but they had been warned, and were prepared for him.

The lad Ashruf, who has been already mentioned, had been present
during the first examination. No one noticed him; but he was shrewd
and observant. He had asked his father whether he should run and bring
down the whole force of Afzool Khan's Paigah to rescue the Khan; and
perhaps the boy would have enjoyed a share in the mêlee which would
undoubtedly have followed; but his father, while checking him angrily
for the thought, bid him be on the watch, and should there be any
danger, to give information of it. So the lad had remained in the
Kuchéri, and was not noticed among the soldiers who lounged about
there. As the Kótwal entered his private room, and was known to be
generally occupied for some time, the various clerks and scribes took
advantage of his absence, and had for the most part gone out; a few
only remained, who seemed absorbed in their business. So, gradually,
the lad edged himself close to the private door, which, as sometimes
happens in Indian houses, did not close completely, on account of the
hinges being outside the door-post. The lad could not see, but he could
hear if he placed his ear, carelessly, to all appearance, against the
place where the door joined the door-frame, and in this attitude he
was not disturbed. Being questioned by a soldier, he answered lazily,
that he was ordered to wait for his father's return; and apparently was
settling quietly to sleep, leaning against the wall.

Ashruf had no idea at first of the results of the position in which he
had placed himself; but a few words awakened his attention perfectly.
To hear better also, he feigned to be sleepy, drew a part of his scarf
over his face, and lay down; and by this means he could see under the
door sufficiently to observe who came.

The Brahmun's communication did not interest him much; but as soon as
the eunuch was seated, whom he knew to be in disgrace for habitual
intemperance, he felt sure that his tidings would relate to the palace,
and he listened more carefully than ever. Very little escaped him. He
could not hear the eunuch's whisper, but the Kótwal had repeated the
name of the King aloud--that was enough. It was necessary, at least,
that the young Khan should know of it, and directly the eunuch had been
dismissed, the lad got up and looked about.

It is frequently the case that, in houses of one floor only, like
this, a staircase leads from the principal room to the roof; and in
the corner, not far from the door we have mentioned, was one of this
description. Ashruf watched his opportunity, and when no one was
observing him, slipped gently behind the wall at the entrance of the
steps, and ascended them quickly. He had remarked the direction of the
court where Afzool Khan and his son were detained, and, creeping on his
hands and knees to the edge of the terrace, looked into it.

At first he did not see them, because they were sitting upon the same
side under one of the arches; but a soft cry of "Huzrut! Huzrut!" ("My
prince! my prince!") in a voice very like a woman's, and a small piece
of plaster thrown into the court, induced Fazil to get up and attend
to the signal, whatever it might be. Looking up, he saw the lad's face
peeping through an aperture in the open stucco-work of the parapet,
and in a few moments had heard what he had to tell. It was important,
because putting them on their guard against further questioning, which
could only have one object, their continued detention; and thoughtful,
because proving a faithful interest, which Fazil trusted to reward. It
confirmed also, suspicions of the connection between the Wuzeer and the

"Can I do anything more, noble sir?" asked the boy, when his little
story was done; "be quick, else I may be seen and flogged."

"Yes, two things," replied Fazil; "first, run to Kowas Khan, the
Wuzeer's son; bid him come to me here well attended, but with no
appearance of force; and then go to the Lurlee Khánum, at our house,
with those papers"--and he threw what he had to him--"and tell her we
shall not be at home early, as we have to attend the King's Durbar, and
that we are well. She is to keep the papers till we come."

They saw the boy's face disappear, and heard him crawling back over the
terrace. Fortunately he had not been observed, and he gained the bottom
of the steps safely, and passed out among the soldiers, unchallenged,
on his double mission.

But while he is running at a steady, unvarying trot, not staying even
to take breath, we must follow what the Kótwal had to say to the old
Khan and his son, which may be of importance in the elucidation of this

"Fear not, my father," said Fazil to him, as voices were heard at the
door, "fear not, all will be well. The boy will do as he was told; and
without alarm or force of any kind we shall be soon free. But speak
not, let me talk; you are to know nothing, but that you went to fetch
me when I sent for you last night."


"Lady," said Goolab, again entering suddenly, "there is a boy in the
court who says he must have instant speech of you. He will tell no one
what he has to say, except that he has come from the master."

"A boy, Goolab? how old is he? can I see him? Quick, woman, my
veil--anything to cover me," exclaimed Lurlee.

"Take this, mother," said Zyna, unfastening her scarf; "what need of
concealment with a boy? I will go aside. Admit him, Goolab; he may have
news of them."

The lad entered and prostrated himself before the Khánum. "Take these
papers," he said. "My lord the Khan hath sent them; you are to keep
them, and no one is to see them. He and his son are well and safe, and
will go to the King in the afternoon."

"Prophet of God, what is this?" cried Lurlee. "Mahratta, too? Well, no
one shall take them from me;" and, so saying, she stuffed them into
that most convenient and unapproachable of all lady's hiding-places,
her bodice.

"I am going, lady," said the lad, who had observed the action; "they
are safe with thee now."

"Not before thou hast eaten, boy. There is some kichéri ready"--he will
not mind its being burnt, she thought--"thou must be hungry."

Ashruf was, to say the truth, hungry enough; but he resisted
temptation. "No, lady, let me go," he said; "I have another errand for
my lord. May your house prosper."

"Thou art right," returned Lurlee, as he saluted her and departed.
"Go; God speed thee; thou art a good lad. And now, Zyna, let us attire
ourselves in fitting garments, and go to the palace, for time presses,
and it is already past noon."

This, however, promised to be no easy task; and if Lurlee Khánum had
had time to consult her tables in a fitting manner, the colour and
particular kind of garment which would suit that period of the day, and
in which the wearer would be lucky or unlucky, must have been decided.
Goolab, too, and the other women, to whom the idea of the ladies going
to the palace could be no other than an occasion for the display of
the utmost magnificence, had laid out costly dresses of cloth-of-gold,
brocade, muslin, satin; and a petticoat of gorgeous purple Italian
velvet, trimmed with broad silver ribbon, with purple flowers upon it,
a recent acquisition to the wardrobe, was especially tempting.

"Pardon me, Khánum," said Kurreem-bee, the "Moghulanee," or household
dressmaker and mistress of the robes, "but on an occasion of this kind,
and when a petition is to be made, we should know something of the mood
her highness the Bégum is in, and the garments should agree with it.
Yellow or red, with gold or silver, might excite bile--blue or purple
would create phlegm; and when my lady Chand-bee, the wife of Jānee
Sahib Dāgtoray, went to visit----"

"Now, in the Prophet's name, cease, Kurreem-bee!" cried Lurlee,
interrupting her; "are we not in haste? and thou standest prating
about Chand-bee, who never could dress herself except like a public
dancing-girl. Peace, I say. Give me the green satin petticoat laced
with silver, and the plain white scarf with gold flowers; these, with a
shawl, will be enough."

Meanwhile Goolab and some other women-servants had made their
preparations. The old dame was aware that her red satin petticoat, one
of the Khánum's presents, would be much in her way, flapping about
her legs as she ran by the litter; and as the ladies were settling
themselves in their seats, she tucked it up, forming it, as it were,
into a very efficient pair of baggy breeches, reaching to her knees,
which could be shaken out when she arrived at the palace: and at the
same time tied her clean muslin scarf about her waist and shoulders,
in such a manner as to display a considerable amount of rotundity in
directions otherwise perhaps not remarkable.

"Ah, you may laugh, impudence," she cried, aiming a blow at a fine
sturdy lad, who, with others bearing spears, had just entered the
court--"you may laugh, but that's the way to run;" and she kicked out
first one leg, then the other, by way of proving whether the petticoat
arrangements were firm. "I have run ten coss a-day when my lord was
in the field, and carried my lady's hooka into the bargain. Peace,
impudent knaves!" she continued to the men, as the laugh against her
became more general when the bearers entered. "Take up the palankeen
and let us go. Bismilla!"

There was no time for further colloquy, for the men, who had been
turned out of the court while the ladies took their seats, now took
up the palankeens: and the band of spearmen, arranging themselves in
front, were joined in the outer court by a strong body of the Khan's
horsemen, and the little procession quickly traversed the city, and
arrived at its destination. There the litters, being carried into the
women's court of the Palace of the Seven Stories, were set down at the
foot of the stairs leading to the apartments in which the King had held
his night council.

Goolab, having shaken out her petticoat, and put into her ears and
about her neck, the gold ornaments she carried with her, appeared once
more in her proper character: and received the salutations of the royal
Mamas, who were to conduct the ladies to the chamber of audience.

We have before described this apartment; and the broad daylight, which
poured through the now open casements, fully displayed its richness and
beauty. Soft quilted cloths had been laid over the floor, and white
muslin sheets tacked to them, covered the whole. Large pillows had
been placed round the walls; and in the deep bays and oriel windows,
numerous groups of ladies and their children were sitting conversing
together merrily, and spread, as it were, upon every available space
except the centre, which was kept clear.

Lurlee Khánum was not prepared for the display of rich dresses which
had to be encountered, but assured by the kind tones in which she was
welcomed by the Queen, sailed up to her with measured steps, causing
her ample satin garment to swing in heavy folds from left to right, and
back again, after the most impressive and courtly fashion.

Fyz-ool-Nissa, the King's wife, was as yet a girl, not, indeed, much
older than Zyna herself. She could not be called beautiful, but there
was a frank pleasant expression in her fair countenance which was
irresistibly pleasing. The delicate hands and arms, sparkling with
jewels, were all that could be seen of her person, buried as it was
amidst the cloud of drapery which shrouded her as she sat on the King's
seat in the oriel, and seemed an earnest of its grace; as also, indeed,
her small graceful head and neck, which were loaded with costly pearl

"The wife and daughter of the noble Afzool Khan are always welcome,"
said the Bégum, in her low sweet voice. "Come and sit here by me; 'tis
a fair sight to see all the gallant people assembling, and they say it
will be a great Durbar. And this is Zyna-bee? Ah, girl, they have often
told me thou wert fair, but----Well, I had better not say it. Come
here, child, I am thy mother too; they tell me I have many children,"
she said, laughing. "O, so many!"

"May God fill your lap with them, may they climb about you, and may you
live a hundred years to see them!" said Lurlee, earnestly.

"And here is one already," said the Bégum, seating Zyna beside her.
"Ah, girl, we will have such a marriage for thee soon----"

As Zyna bowed down blushingly, Lurlee seized the opportunity of
pressing her suit.

"Lady," she said, putting up her hands in a respectful attitude, "thine
ear for a moment. I had a petition----"

"Ah, Khánum!" returned Fyz-ool-Nissa, with a look of disappointment;
"I had marked this day for rejoicing; for the heavy cloud which has
hung over my head so long is gone, and thou hast brought me a petition,
and I hate them. I never get matters arranged as I like, and am
vexed----To-morrow, lady?"

"Only for my husband would I speak," replied Lurlee, firmly. "He and
his son were decoyed to the Kótwallee early to-day, and they cannot
get to the King. It must not be that Afzool Khan is counted a laggard.
O lady----!" and here Lurlee, unable to contain herself longer, burst
into tears.

Fyz-ool-Nissa looked to Zyna, and saw a confirmation of Lurlee's tale
in the face--in those great eyes brimful of tears, and quivering lips.

"Hush!" said the Bégum, "this must not be known. O that there were any
one to write!"

"I--I can write," said Zyna, timidly.

"Thou, girl? well done! Now," she continued, as an attendant brought a
writing-case, "write what thou wilt, but be quick."

It was soon done. A few words, but enough for the purpose.

"Canst thou sign it, lady?" asked Zyna.

"Yes, child, 'tis all they could ever teach me," replied the Bégum,
laughing; "and here is my seal, too. Ah! thou art a little clerk."

"Her father makes her write his letters," said Lurlee, apologetically,
as the Bégum clapped her hands, and an old eunuch, who had been
standing at the foot of the room, advanced.

"This must go to my lord instantly," said the Queen; "some one thou
canst count on must take it, Daood, for me."

"Myself," he replied; "no other can do this errand. Fear not, lady," he
continued earnestly to Lurlee, "thy noble lord hath friends he knows
not of, and it is needful he should be in the Durbar to-day. Inshalla!
thou wilt soon see him? Is any of the Paigah here to-day?"

"Yes," returned Lurlee, joyfully, "more than fifty men; they will be
with the troops without."

"I will return presently," said the man, bowing over his crossed arms;
"and if ye will watch your men ye will see whether the errand be done
or not."

So the ladies sat and looked out. Bright flashed the sun's rays from
spear and sword, morion and gauntlet, matchlock and shield, of the
troops gathering before the hall where the King sat: while the gay
turbans, vests of cloth-of-gold, satins and brocades, glowed in the
bright sunlight like a bed of gorgeous flowers.

"There are ten thousand brave hearts throbbing for my lord!" cried the
young Queen, clapping her hands. "Look, lady! O Alla, such an array of
armed men is fearful, yet beautiful!"

"Ameen!" said Lurlee, earnestly. "A thousand times ten thousand are at
his call, if he will only lead them! Why shouldst thou fear, lady? I
have ridden with my lord in the battle and felt no fear. But look! a
thousand thanks and blessings be upon thee! Yes, they go, Raheem Khan
and all the spearmen. Dost thou not see them, Zyna?"

"Yes, to bring my father and Fazil," cried Zyna, in her turn clapping
her hands exultingly. "Yes, they will repay thee, O my queen--my
mother; they will repay thee with their lives."

"Nay, no tears now, girl," said Fyz-ool-Nissa gaily. "Look out over the
cavaliers yonder, and wait patiently. Inshalla! your people will return

So they sat, silently now, praying inwardly for their safety, though
the time seemed terribly long, as they looked over the gathering masses
of men: over the gardens, mosques, and palaces of the nobility: and
over the country beyond, where, in the quivering noonday light, and now
fervid heat, the blue distance seemed melting into the sky.


Jehándar Beg felt that the communications he had heard might have
somewhat disarranged his appearance, and he would not for the world
be suspected by Afzool Khan of agitation of any kind; his ample beard
must not be disordered, nor a hair of his eyebrows crooked. A glance in
a small mirror, which hung in the anteroom, proved that the barber's
skill was necessary, and he sent for his own servant. What other
hand, indeed, could be allowed to meddle with that glorious beard,
or to regulate the orthodox breadth of the moustache and eyebrows?
Who understood the proper darkening of the spot in the centre of the
forehead, as if it were always being rubbed against the ground in
perpetual prayer, like Habeeb Méhtur, the chief of his craft? and
finally, who so admirable a chronicler of all domestic scandal, in
which Beejapoor was at least as prolific as other cities of similar
size and peculiarity of social morals?

So Habeeb, having been summoned, found his master sitting alone where
we last left him, reclining against his pillow in the small room before
described, and saw, at a glance, that his spirit was troubled.

Having made his obeisance, which was not acknowledged, or barely so,
the barber at once set to work, removing the conical lambskin cap which
Jehándar Beg always wore, and subjecting the whole scalp to a series of
manipulations which were inexpressibly soothing. How lightly moved the
practised fingers along lines of muscles and nerves! how carefully was
every stray hair put back into its proper place, or deftly eradicated
with the sharp tweezers. Then, as the momentous matters of eyebrows,
moustache, and beard were severally approached, and where the Kótwal's
rough hand had rubbed his chin, pushed up the moustache, or disturbed
the eyebrows--till every hair seemed battling with its neighbour
or bristling in anger--all was soon reduced to order, and the cap
replaced. Jehándar Beg felt a refreshing coolness pervade his head,
the nervous excitement was removed, and a calmness supervened which he
required for what he had to do.

Yes, a master in his art! Habeeb had made a masterly performance; and
yet so quickly!--long enough, however, for those much-coveted papers
to be taken far from his master's chance of possession to a place of

"Shookr, Shookr, Habeeb!" (Thanks, thanks!), said the Kótwal at length.
"Hast thou any news, friend?"

What was the barber to say? News? yes, plenty! There was no lack of
that, such as his master relished; but would it be welcome?

"There was a grand entertainment at the Nawab Alla-ool-Moolk's last
night, and some new singers from the Carnatic were there. My lord
should hear one of them. She is very lovely," he replied cautiously.

"Except the blessed Mary, and Fáthma, and Ayésha--on whose names be
peace!--I wish all women were in the burning pit," said Jehándar Beg
savagely, and his hand approached his beard.

"Khóda na khasta bashud!" (God forbid!), exclaimed Habeeb, staying
it. "God forbid my lord should touch what has been done! Even in that
exclamation a hundred hairs have started up. May his slave ask what has
discomposed the fountain of justice this morning?"

"There was some one ill in the palace last night, and a Fakeer was sent
for, who shouted 'Ulla dilâyâ to léonga,' Who was that man? and who was
ill?" asked Jehándar Beg, not heeding the question.

"My lord, no one was ill that I know of. About the Fakeer I will
ascertain, if possible," replied the barber. "I can tell my lord one
thing, however: the Shah--may his splendour increase--went out, even
as the Khaleefa, of honoured memory, of whom we read--Haroun bin-al
Rasheed--was in the habit of doing, to see after his subjects for
himself, to hear with his own ears; and, if people say the truth, there
is enough for him to hear, if he chose to inquire."

The men understood each other perfectly, and exchanged glances.

"People will talk, friend," said the Kótwal; "but where did he go? if
thou'rt sure he went."

"Nay, that is more than your poor slave knows. They say he took the
young Fazil Khan with him, or else the Wuzeer's son. Sure he went?
yes, my lord, quite sure," said the man, emphatically. "I was in the
citadel, and saw him go out."

"Ay, indeed! Boy's tricks, boy's tricks, Habeeb; yet that Fazil Khan
was accounted a steady youth: but he is in trouble about last night."

"Ah, master! we have all been like him once," said the barber,
chuckling. "I suppose it was one of the new dancers----"

"Except that we did no murder, friend," returned the Kótwal,
interrupting him.

"Is my lord _very_ particular about a noble slaying a thief, or a night
brawler?" asked the barber.

"O no! and it will be settled. And now you may go, Habeeb--find out who
was visited last night; perhaps ... no matter ... and thou shalt have
thy mouth filled, after our Persian fashion, with gold zecchins and
sugar-candy. There are a couple in earnest of more."

"May the sun of your splendour increase in brightness, master!"
returned the man, taking the money, and retreating backwards till he
gained the door. "I will inquire----"

"And now for this boy and his rough father," said Jehándar Beg,
speaking to himself, as the door closed on the barber; "if they could
be gained? Well, I must see. If not--we cannot allow them to live; they
are too powerful," and he rose and went into the outer hall.

"And no one has passed here, Jaffur?" said Jehándar Beg to the Nubian
slave, who, with some others, watched the door of the court where
Afzool Khan was confined.

"No one, my lord, except the servants with their meal."

"Did they speak to him?"

"Not a word, my lord; I listened carefully."

"Have the Khan and his son been speaking to each other?"

"Yes, frequently; but as they have moved to the other side of the
court, which is now in shadow, I cannot hear them. My lord is going in?
Should we not attend? They are armed."

"I am not afraid, Jaffur; put up thy weapon. Keep the door ajar, but do
not enter, and, on your life, let no one listen. Do ye hear, all of ye?"

"Jo hookum!" (as you order), cried all together, dispersing as the
Kótwal entered.

Afzool Khan and his son were sitting, as Jaffur had described, in
the opposite corner of the court from the door; for the sun was now
shining with a painful glare of heat into that side by which the
Kótwal entered, while, opposite, the cool verandah was rendered more
refreshing from the shadow of a large champa tree, which fell over the
building and enclosure where they were. They rose courteously as the
Kótwal advanced, and, saluting him gravely, yet without any expression
of impatience at detention, requested him to be seated.

It was no part of Jehándar Beg's policy to attempt to bully. If he
could find out what the affair of the night had really been, or obtain
a clue to the truth of that which had been alleged of the King; in
short, anything which might serve as a guide to action, or as means of
warning to the Wuzeer, it would be enough.

"I trust my honoured guests have been fittingly attended to?" he asked,
as he subsided on his heels at a respectful distance from the old
Khan, joining his hands after the most deferential and most elegant
of Persian customs. "I trust the repast was served hot. My lords must
excuse my absence, and my being taken unawares. Had I expected the
honour of their company, then, indeed, Zoolficar's skill should have
been put forth."

"The kabobs and kichéri were excellent, Meerza Sahib," replied Afzool
Khan, politely. "I was to have had the same at my own house; and there
were other dishes, too. Verily, your cook must be a treasure; there is
not such another in the city."

"My lord, a poor slave, who followed me from my own dear country, and
has remained here with me. Yes, he has a pretty skill in the art, and
... but you have yet to know what he can do.... If I might send him one

"Shookr, shookr! (thanks), Meerza Sahib. Yes, we will see about
it. Inshalla! inshalla!" replied the Khan, cheerily, "an excellent
idea--and come yourself."

The Kótwal thought he had made a favourable impression. "After all,
there was nothing in the murder matter that you need care about, Meah
Sahib," he continued blandly, to Fazil Khan. "Pardon me if I was rude
this morning, but when we are at business, you know, there can be no
distinction of persons."

"None," said Fazil, gravely; "but who was the man found dead? You said
one had been killed."

"O, only a Kafir Hindu; some son of a burnt father, who is gone to
burn with him," laughed the Kótwal. "I don't know; the body is not yet
claimed. By the way, Meah, it was strange enough that you should have
been just in time to save that Lalla."

"Ah, yes; what has become of him?" asked Fazil innocently. "You
promised he should be seen to."

"And I have done as I promised, Meah. Habeeb has dressed the wound,
which is but a scratch, and the man has eaten heartily; perhaps he was
not much hurt, after all."

"Perhaps not," said Fazil, significantly, "but it was well he fell into
good hands."

"Yes," returned the Kótwal, musingly, "was it not strange what he told
the Duffadar about Pahar Singh and the Shah's secretary? I have heard
that my lord, the Meerza, was out last night late, and at a temple.
Could it have been there?"

"To meet Pahar Singh? I should hardly say it was likely," returned

"Nay, more, that the Asylum of the Faith--the King himself--was there
also. At least--at least----"

Fazil saw Jehándar Beg was not sure. It was a mere guess, for which
there was perhaps suspicion, but he laughed aloud and replied, "A good
joke, Meerza Sahib; perhaps they say I was with him!"

"Well," returned the Kótwal, wagging his head, "the fact is, they
do; and perhaps you were, my young friend. Let me see; his highness
is about your own age. When I was as old I remember the Shah, with
some others of us, used to have frolics now and then in the bazars of
Isfahan. Ah, Meah, there were----"

Fazil made a gesture, as if his father, who was sitting bolt upright,
with his eyes shut, might not like to hear the remainder.

"Yes," continued the Kótwal, "if ye did go, what matter?"

"I have before said that Bulwunt Rao was my companion, not the King;
and the rest you know of," interrupted the young Khan.

"Not all, Meah; but we are out of court now, and I am quite sure of my
young friend's good faith to let me know anything that concerns the
state interests, the King, or the Wuzeer; and so, Meah Sahib, if we
could examine those papers together----"

"Ah, yes! the papers, Meerza, you would not understand them--they were

"But we could find a Karkoon to read them, and you are known to speak
that language, Meah?"

"True, Meerza Sahib, I do; but the papers are not here----"

"Not here, sir!" cried Jehándar Beg, with an ominous scowl passing over
his face, at which Afzool Khan involuntarily allowed his hand to steal
to his sword hilt, as it lay on the ground. "Not here?"

"Not here," echoed Fazil demurely, dropping his eyes.

"But they were here when you came this morning?"

"Certainly they were; and one of our people took them home for me."

"Yet you promised they should be forthcoming whenever I required them?
Beware, Fazil Khan, how you entangle yourself in this matter," returned
the Kótwal, sternly.

"I do not think I made any promise, Meerza Sahib," replied Fazil;
"'tis you who must be mistaken, pardon me for saying so. I said they
concerned the King, our lord and master, and would be shown to him
only: and in Durbar to-day they will be presented to him. You will be
there, of course?"

"By Alla!" exclaimed the Kótwal; "but if----"

At the oath the old Khan fairly took his sword in his left hand, and
placed it across his knees, while he looked grimly at his host; and
Fazil saw the upper portion of his father's moustache, where it touched
his cheek, quivering with suppressed rage.

Jehándar Beg checked himself, and said, deferentially, "Forgive the
oath, Khan Sahib, and you know enough of Persians to excuse it. It
would have been pleasant, as fellow-servants of the King, to have
shared your confidence. As it is denied, I yield the point; and you are
welcome to all the credit of the service you will do my lord. But what
say you, gentlemen, to assisting me to re-examine that Khayet who is
detained without; you acknowledge, Meah Sahib, at least, that he was
rescued by you--perhaps from death?"

"You have a strange memory, Kótwal Sahib, to-day," said Fazil, smiling.
"I never said I rescued him, I think. Send for the man; no doubt you
will hear all you wish from him, and will believe him. I do not appear
to be very credible to you to-day."


As the Kótwal rose to go to the door, the old Khan whispered to his
son, "We can seize him, Fazil, if needs be, and put a dagger into him.
The man is not fit to live. He is even now plotting something; I know
it, trust him not, my son."

"If needs be, father, I am ready; but no violence yet," replied Fazil;
"wait till the Wuzeer's son is announced."

"The man has been sent for," said Jehándar Beg, returning to his seat,
"and will be here presently." He had given his own directions to the
guard outside to stand by the door, yet no nearer than was needful for

The Lalla was not long detained. Almost as Jehándar Beg had seated
himself--this time a little nearer to Fazil--he opened the door, which
was closed after him, and advanced towards the party in a courtly but
respectful manner. Fazil hardly recognized the man, so completely had
rest and good clothes improved him. His face was clean shaved, his
moustache and hair were trimmed and oiled. His small turban tied neatly
in the Nustalik fashion of the imperial court, which was strange at
Beejapoor. The clothes he wore, though somewhat too large, were yet
clean white muslin; and a handsome Persian shawl over his shoulders,
proved that his personal comfort had been well attended to under
Jehándar Beg's orders.

"I trust you are better now," said Fazil to the Lalla, kindly, as,
after his very courtly advance, in which he bowed his head very low,
turned out his toes very wide, and put his elbows as far behind him as
possible, he sat down much after the manner of Jehándar Beg, on the
left hand of the Kótwal.

"My lord's house will prosper for his kindness to a poor stranger,"
said the Lalla. "What more delightful to exercise, what more grateful
to God, than hospitality?" and he quoted a verse from the poet Saadi on
the subject, which he followed by another and another.

"Enough, friend," said Jehándar Beg, laughing. "No need to prove your
scholarly attainments; they are not needed at present. Now, we all bid
you not to fear; but tell us, in plain terms, what happened before this
brave young gentleman rescued you last night."

The Lalla was not very clear as to what course he was to take; he, too,
was watching his game.

"My lord, noble sirs, they were Gosais who found me in the temple, and
ye are Moslem gentlemen, or nobles."

"Very true," said Fazil. "Now, look at me carefully, and try if you
cannot remember me as one who lifted you up after you had been robbed."

"Ah, yes, noble sir, now I do remember," cried the Lalla; "I owe my
life to you, sir, my life. When I screamed, you must have heard me. I
pray you, let me kiss your feet."

The action was an ordinary one of gratitude, yet enough to admit of
Fazil's passing a well-known signal of silence to the man as he removed
his hands, while the old Khan cried grimly----

"Make your reverence to your God, if you have one, not to my son. Is he
an idol, that you bow down to him?"

"I mean no offence; pardon me, my lord," said the Lalla, humbly. "I was

The opening of the door interrupted the Lalla's speech, which would
have been very flowery and hyperbolic.

An attendant entered and spoke to the Kótwal. "My lord, Kowas Khan has
arrived; is he to be admitted?"

"Tell him I kiss his hands; I am engaged with these worthy gentlemen,"
returned Jehándar Beg, looking round; "and pray ask him to excuse me
for a short time. If he would like a hooka, or coffee, or sherbet, let
him have all he desires."

"And his attendants?"

"Let any of proper rank sit with him, the rest can remain in the outer

"Very good, my lord," said the servant, and he shut the door.

During this interruption, a very pretty piece of pantomime had been
executed between the eyes of Fazil and the Lalla. It would have been
more complete, perhaps, could Fazil have used his hands also, but he
dare not. As it was, however, the Lalla seemed to understand all that
was required; and the delightfully comprehensive manner in which he
half shut his eyes, bowed his head, and smiled blandly though almost
imperceptibly, would have been fit example for any diplomatist. Nothing
could be seen by the Kótwal, for, in order to speak to the servant, it
had been requisite for him to lean behind the Lalla's back.

Jehándar Beg lost two points by his movement; one we have seen, the
other was a more serious one. For as he moved, the letters which had
been given to him by Moro Trimmul's agent, and which he had put into
a side-pocket of his dress, protruded a little as he reached over,
and, when he settled himself again, remained projecting half out of
that receptacle. He was not aware of it, but they attracted Fazil's
immediate attention. These he must have at any risk--for he had seen
the seal of the rebel Rajah on them--and he again roused his father by
the short cough they had agreed upon.

"Now, Lallajee, tell us all. You see you are among friends; but we
are hungry for fruit--flowers do not satisfy us," said Jehándar Beg,
jocosely rubbing his hands, and speaking in Persian, his own language.

"My lords, what can I say?" returned the Lalla, simply. "I am what you
see, a poor scholar. Delhi is full of such, and we are starving. Every
one said, 'Go to the King of the Dekhan; he is wise, he is generous, he
is accomplished; he is a patron of literature.' So your poor servant
prepared two copies of verses; one in Sanscrit, in which the third
letter of every line is the same, T----"

"Mashalla!" said Jehándar Beg, laughing, "Te-tum--te te, te-ta-te to,
Te ta-hah! Like that, Lallajee? O yes; our Brahmuns here make odes,
in which all the words end in skri, pri, dri; or else msh, kshsh,
rshsh-dshush. One would think all the mud in the Dekhan was squelching
under their feet; but go on."

"My lord is pleased to be witty," returned the Lalla, with a bland
smile, turning towards his host and joining hands. "Then I had a
Persian ode. It was nothing--nothing--a poor thing altogether; only,
if my lords wish, I could repeat it. Methinks there was some elegance
about it, if nothing else."

"God forbid!" returned the Kótwal, echoed by Fazil and the Khan. "Go

"Well, my lords, as you wish," continued the Lalla. "Some other day
I may be more fortunate; and, with your permission, I will resume my
history. I had saved a few gold pieces, and I had enough to keep my
family for a year. I left them in my house, and I have gradually made
my way hither by Ahmednugger and Sholapoor. That is all."

"Go on," said Fazil. "How didst thou get here from Sholapoor?"

"I came with some Gosais, as they appeared to be, who met me at a
village, Al--, Al--. I forget--just after you cross the river Bheema."

"Almella," suggested the Khan, interrupting him.

"Yes, that was it. They said they knew of a comfortable lodging in
a temple or a mutt; but if we arrived late we must be content with
whatever shelter we could get. I do not know, sirs, whether they
purposely delayed me by the way--for, indeed, the roads were very
muddy; but we arrived after sunset, and they took me to a temple of
Bhowani, in a grove. So long as it was light the place did not look
amiss for temporary shelter; but when it grew dark, and the wind began
to moan in the trees, I thought, sirs, that the men's looks changed,
and--and I began to tremble, yet unable to help myself--as one lies
bound sometimes in a dream.

"What could your slave do, sirs? At length they talked together in an
unknown tongue, and all fell upon me, strangled me, and took what money
I had, and my clothes, and I knew no more till this valiant gentleman
and some one else roused me and took me to a guard-house, where I was
well cared for."

"Why do you tell lies?" said the Kótwal, who, though unable to make
objection to the very probable story which the Lalla had invented, felt
conscious there was no truth in it. "Ah, man with a burnt father, tell
the truth; we are no enemies of thine! Do not eat dirt at our hands!
Why did the Shah's secretary visit thee at the temple? Speak; it shall
be well for thee. We are all friends of his Majesty's here."

A very slight compression of Fazil's under lip was sufficient guide
for the Lalla. "The King's secretary? God defend us!" cried the Lalla,
innocently; "what should I have to do with the secretary? Ah, sirs, why
this oppression of a poor slave like me--a stranger without friends?
Did you see the secretary when you came to rescue me, noble sir?"

"Not I, indeed; thou wast lying among the ashes, senseless enough.
All we heard was a scream, which sounded like one in distress, and we
entered the court," said Fazil, simply.

The Kótwal looked from one to the other, but he could find out no sign
of intelligence. He was fairly puzzled.

"Then why that respectable Duffadar's account of what you said to him
in the guard-house?" cried Jehándar Beg, jerking himself suddenly round
so as to confront the Lalla, while he seconded the movement by an
emphatic blow on the floor. "What about Pahar Singh?"

As he did so, his sleeve caught one of the letters projecting from his
pocket, which flew into the centre of the group. Fazil picked it up,
and returned it with a polite bow, but not before he had distinctly
seen the seal of the Rajah Sivaji Bhóslay upon it, and the memorandum
in the corner, which Jehándar Beg had written for the Wuzeer, and
marked private. Jehándar Beg's confusion on receiving the letter could
not be concealed, and Fazil felt that, having seen what was not
intended for him, he was in greater danger than before.

"What about Pahar Singh?" echoed the Lalla, who had observed the
confused expression of Jehándar Beg's countenance, and seen also what
he was quite familiar with, the rebel Rajah's seal. "My lord, your
servant heard a great deal of him, as he came here through the country.
Everybody, from Ahmednugger to Sholapoor, spoke of Pahar Singh, and
warned me of Pahar Singh, but the Gosais did not appear to fear him,
and said he never touched companies of travelling beggars. I remember
now," continued the Lalla, dreamily, "I think some one asked me whether
Pahar Singh had robbed me. Perhaps I said yes, I don't know; I might
have said anything, good sirs, for I was like one in a hideous dream;
and this robber everybody appeared to know:--in the bazars, in temples,
mutts, serais--Pahar Singh, Pahar Singh--nothing but Pahar Singh all
the way. I heard enough of him."

"Thou liest, Lalla. I have warned thee once, and again warn
thee--beware of the torture!" cried Jehándar Beg savagely, and from
between his closed teeth; "a word and----"

"Jehándar Beg," said Afzool Khan, interrupting, "you and I are old
friends, and I am your guest, so also is this man. Good or evil of
him I know not, neither do I care: but torture shall not be used; and
so far as I know or have seen, he says nothing but the truth. We are
helpless enough here, my son and I, but we will not allow him to be
touched with any of your vile instruments. Question him otherwise as
you please, it is your duty."

The tone of the old Khan's voice, habitually stern, seemed more so than
usual to Jehándar Beg. Should he resent it and call in his men? It was
the thought of a moment. He would have done this, but that he knew the
Wuzeer's son sat without; he, at least, was faithful to Fazil, and
might not object to prove his devotion to the old Khan, in the hope of
its doing service in his suit for Zyna.

"Khan Sahib----" returned Jehándar Beg, putting up his joined hands.

He could not finish the sentence. Fazil, on pretence of arranging his
shawl about his shoulders, threw it with a sudden gesture over the
Kótwal's head, and closed it behind, throwing Jehándar Beg on his
face, while, at the same instant, a dagger flashed from the old Khan's
waist-band, and was held by him close to the Kótwal's heart, and so
that the point actually pricked the skin.

"Take out those letters, Lalla, from his pocket. In the name of the
Prophet--if one sound escape him, father--strike deep and hard. Here is
another traitor as bad as him we know of. There, hold his legs, Lalla.
Wah, wah! thou art a noble fellow; fear not, friend--we are not like
the Jogi. There, that will do; and well was it done," continued Fazil,
as the Lalla rapidly passed an end of his own scarf round the Kótwal's
arms, and tied it in a knot behind his back; "he is safe now. Where is
his ring? give it to me, quick."

"Beware, Jehándar Beg," growled Afzool Khan, who leant over the
prostrate man without altering his position, as the Lalla loosed the
ring, "I do not want to kill thee, good fellow; but, by Alla, if thou
strivest ever so little, this knife will go through thee. I am no
friend to traitors, as thou well knowest; so keep quiet."

It was a bold stroke; but in such emergencies desperate efforts are
generally the most successful. Fazil took the Kótwal's signet-ring, and
went to the door. The slave Jaffur looked at it for an instant, bowed
his head, and crossed his arms; while Fazil, looking round the hall,
beckoned to his friend, who, attended by some twenty of his followers,
sat upon the dais.

Kowas Khan arose instantly, and with him the men, who made their
salutations, and advanced towards the door. The slaves believed that
the Wuzeer's son had been sent for, and stood aside to let him pass:
and as the young men embraced in the doorway, Fazil whispered to his
friend to disarm them, and hold the door. A pressure of the hand was
the sure reply.

"I will return with my shawl," said Kowas Khan aloud, going back
towards his seat, "and I will follow you directly."

A moment afterwards Fazil and the Khan heard a few low cries, a
struggle, and a slight clash of arms. The surprise had been complete.
The slaves were disarmed, thrust into the Wuzeer's private room, and
the doors closed.

"Fear not, noble friends," cried the cheery voice of the Wuzeer's
son, as he stood in the doorway, "ye are safe, and no one is hurt. I
have five hundred men of my own body-guard in the courts, on foot and
horseback; and, Inshalla! we can hold the Kótwallee against an army.
May I come?"

"Ul-humd-ul-illa!" cried the Khan and his son together, "hazar shookr,
hazar shookr!--(A thousand thanks!) O holy 'Geesoo Duraz!' I vow to
thee a thousand lights, and a chain of gold for the canopy of thy
blessed sepulchre," continued the Khan, devoutly.

"Come, friend and brother," said Fazil; "come here and see what
treachery doth in the most trusted places--nay, fear us not, Jehándar
Beg," he continued; "we are not arbiters in your destiny--it rests in
higher hands than ours. Father, take away the knife from his heart."

"I don't know that I ought," said the old Khan, grimly. "I shall keep
it ready, and near thee, Jehándar Beg. I trust thee not, my friend."

"You are more lucky than I am," returned the Kótwal, sadly. "When a
man's fate deserts him, he need not struggle--he is helpless," and he
quoted a verse from the Gulistan to that effect.

"Shabash! a scholarly quotation," said the Lalla, gravely. "And now,
gentlemen, if ye will trust a poor Mutsuddee, who has some experience,
we will examine this worthy gentleman's pockets; and if he has any
private writing-cases, something might be found in them also."

"Peace, Lalla!" cried Fazil, sternly; "what we do concerns thee not.
But thou hast been faithful and intelligent, and we will see thee

What was found in the search will presently appear; meanwhile, we need
to see how those assembled with the King, in his royal court, were


The great Hall of Audience in the Citadel was only used on state
occasions of ceremony. It formed part of the oldest division of the
royal residence, and was built, as report had it, after a model in
Turkey or Persia, in both of which countries the founder of the
dynasty, Ibrahim Adil Shah, had resided. But as no such model is known
to exist, it is more probable that one of the Turkish architects whom
he had invited to his camp, and to whose Europeanized skill and taste
most of the noble Saracenic Gothic buildings of the city owed their
origin, had designed and executed the whole under the direction of his
munificent patron.

The "Ark," or Citadel of Beejapoor, is a fortress in itself, and the
area is surrounded by a beautiful stone wall, having heavy bastions at
intervals, and a fausse braye, also with bastions; both being protected
by a broad wet ditch. The main entrance is by a causeway, defended by
a gateway, flanked by bastions of great strength. The whole of the
interior was laid out in palaces, under various denominations, and
public buildings, such as the courts of civil and criminal justice, the
treasury, the military and revenue record offices, and the like, and
the great Hall of Audience, which now concerns us.

A broad road from the second gateway led nearly through the centre of
the Citadel, as you entered, to the Màidân, or plain of exercise. The
Palace of the Seven Stories, and the buildings connected with it, lay
on the left hand, and the "Sunget Mahal," or Palace of Assembly, with
other heavy blocks of building, public and private, to the right. All
these palaces, at the time of which we write, were interspersed with
courts and gardens; but the space before the great Hall, called the
Màidân or Plain, was kept exclusively for the assembly, inspection,
or exercise of royal troops on particular occasions, and also as the
waiting-place of the "sowarees," or retinues, which attended those who
visited the palace on ordinary business.

The hall itself was a very noble building. It stood upon a low
basement, beneath which were crypts, probably used for archives, or
as magazines; and was entered by flights of steps, which led into
corridors at each side. The front was entirely open, consisting of one
immense Gothic arch, ninety-two feet in span, and of proportionate
height, and of two narrow lancet-shaped arches of corresponding height,
one on each side, which opened on the side corridors.

The interior consisted of one immense room, unbroken to the roof; but
upon its south side, and partially also east and west, there were
projections built upon cloisters, which contained rooms and galleries;
especially to the south, where there was a closed latticed balcony,
where the ladies of the court might sit and look on at ceremonies of
reception or rejoicing, and where the King might receive the petitions
or salutations of the people without inconvenience. Above these
galleries and balconies was another story, with open turrets at the
corners, and suites of apartments above. As the building stands now, a
mere shell, bereft of roof and floors, and with all, except its noble
arches and cloisters, crumbling gradually to decay, it is a noble and
impressive structure, and enough remains to estimate what it must have
been when perfect.

A busy and interesting scene it was, even to those concerned. As
each "sowaree" arrived at the entrance steps, it was met by a number
of "chobdars," and mirdhas, or attendants, bearing massive gold and
silver sticks, or clubs covered with chased silver or gold; dressed
exclusively in white muslin, wearing small circular turbans, flattened
out at the sides, muslin tunics, tight to the waist, and descending
thence in thickly-gathered robes to the feet, which gave them the
appearance of petticoats. These men attended officers of higher rank,
who were, in fact, chamberlains, and whose duty it was to conduct
the various visitors to the presence of the King, to proclaim aloud
their titles, and to marshal them to their seats. Without, the royal
Abyssinian and Dekhani guards prevented violence among their retainers.

Once the broad corridor at either side was reached by the visitors
there was no further interruption; and though the war of struggle,
gibe, and quarrel, peculiar to such an assembly, came hoarsely and
with a stifled sound through the arches into the hall:--within, there
was a decorous, if not, indeed, a solemn and impressive silence. Men
spoke to each other hardly above their breath; and the soft murmur
arising from thousands of such half whispers ascended and seemed to
float tremblingly among the balconies, and up to the lofty roof of the

The King had early taken his seat. The musnud, or royal throne, was
under the centre of the balcony before mentioned, upon a dais, raised
a step above the general floor of the hall. There was no decoration
visible upon it; and it consisted of a wide cushion and pillows,
covered with white muslin, supported at the back and sides by a railing
of wood, covered with plates of gold which, indeed, appeared as if of
solid gold. On the right hand of the King, who was dressed in simple
white muslin, with a single gold ornament in his turban, sat the Peer
Bundagee Sahib, the religious instructor we have before mentioned; and
at the back of the rail the Secretary, with two young nobles, whose
hereditary office it was to wave over the King the jewelled Mórchas, or
fans of peacock feathers.

Farther again behind, among the arches, closing up the entrance to the
cloisters, and leaning against the pillars, were servants bearing the
King's weapons, the Aftábgeeree, or sun-shades, the royal umbrellas,
and the private guard of slaves, mostly Nubian eunuchs.

Like the monarch's seat, the whole of the floor was covered by quilted
cotton carpets, over which white muslin was spread; so that, with the
exception of here and there a coloured scarf or waist-belt, and an
occasional turban ornament, the whole of the persons seated wore the
same character of dress as the King, with little variation. In some
respects the assembly had a monotonous appearance; but, on the other
hand, the effect was chaste and solemn, and agreed with the plain
undecorated character of the building.

The privileged attendants, however, who were allowed entrance with
their masters, and who stood in files behind them against the wall,
were dressed in the brightest and gayest colours which could be
devised. Here were tunics of satin and cloth-of-gold, brocaded turbans
and scarfs of the richest materials, mingled together in the greatest
profusion; and this brilliant array, in which all hues seemed to blend
with a strangely gorgeous harmony, formed a powerful background in
relief of the white dresses, and white coverings of the floor.

Then beyond, the eye followed the graceful outline of the vast arch
against a deep blue sky, flecked with light clouds. Below, it rested
upon the plain, where, in the quivering heat, which gave a tremulous
movement to the atmosphere, stood the serried masses of royal troops
and sowarees, comparisoned elephants and led horses, litters and their
bearers--all in the glowing colours which we have already seen from the
Queen's balcony; and with bright arms and armour, which flashed and
glinted in a thousand sparkles as the wearers moved.

The Secretary and the Peer had noted, carefully and jealously, the
names of the several nobles and sirdars as they were announced by the
mirdhas in attendance--presented their customary nuzzurs or offerings,
according to their rank, and were conducted to their places; and
every now and then one or other whispered to the King, as neutral
or suspected persons passed, or when the appearance of a well-known
loyal friend gave assurance of support. Still Afzool Khan's place was
vacant, and that of the Wuzeer. It was true the latter could not yet be
expected, but his son might at least be present; and the double absence
cast a gloom over the King's face, which he could barely conceal.

"I had counted upon Afzool Khan and his son Fazil," said the King,
mournfully, to the Peer, "but you see they have not come. We might not
expect Kowas Khan without his father; but I had thought Afzool Khan
among the truest of my people--what think ye?"

The Peer could give but little consolation. He, too, had expected the
Khan, and had had no doubts of his fidelity; so also the Secretary; but
his unaccountable absence disturbed them both.

Just then the lady Lurlee's escort, entering the open space, wheeled up
among other troops, and the leader, Raheem Khan, dashed at speed to the
foot of the basement, made his reverence to the King, and followed his
men to the position they had taken up.

"Ah," cried the Peer, joyfully, to the King, "those are Afzool Khan's
'sowaree'; the old Khan and his son are not far off now, Shookr-Oolla;"
and he looked anxiously to the side entrance, in the hope of seeing him
advance with his son from the archway in the corridor. Others came on,
but neither appeared.

"What hinders Afzool Khan?" said the Secretary to the Peer, after a
while; "who is detaining him?"

"Send and inquire," said the King.

"Go," said the Peer to a mirdha in attendance, "and see if Afzool Khan
be in the corridor; if not, go to his officer and inquire where he
is,--not as if our Prince had asked, but from me." The King, to whom
the man looked for orders, nodded assent, and he departed and returned

"I examined both corridors, and he was not in either, Huzrut," he said
to the holy man, "so I went to Raheem Khan, who tells me he has come
with the Khánum;" and here his voice dropped almost to a whisper,
"that Afzool Khan hath been at the Kótwal's, at Jehándar Beg's, since
morning, and it is particular business, as both he and his son have
been in private consultation with him since sunrise."

The King had leaned over the rail to hear the detail, but he had not
noticed the first part of the message; and as the man receded among the
attendants behind, looked from one to the other of his friends, but
could gather no consolation from their faces.

"It is but too true, my lord," said the Secretary sadly; "we need not
expect them; for the Wuzeer's son, with a heavy body of horse and
foot, has just gone to the Kótwallee--he was seen with them not long
ago passing the fort gate. Jehándar Beg is not come, and it is clear to
me that they have garrisoned the Kótwallee, and will defend it till the
Wuzeer arrives, when they will declare revolt. Sending a party here is
but a blind."

"And who are here to check it?" asked the King apprehensively.

"Many, my lord," replied the Peer earnestly; "all the Dekhanies are my
disciples, and I will answer for them to a man. All the artillery are
with them. Fear not."

The King looked inquiringly to his Secretary.

"Yes, my Prince," he said, "fear not: we cannot wait for them; nothing
good ever came of vacillation or expediency. Bismilla! shall I order

"Bismilla-ir-rahman-ir-raheem!" exclaimed the King devoutly, looking
up. "I am ready. Order silence," he said to one of the mirdhas.

"Khámôsh! silence!" cried the man in a loud, deep voice, which rang
through the hall, and sounded strangely, interrupting the loose
murmuring chat which had prevailed before--"Khámôsh!"

"Khámôsh!" was reiterated by all the mirdhas and chobdars stationed
about the hall, and by the attendants behind, and was taken up by
those in the corridors, spreading to the crowd without, and to the

The silence that ensued was almost oppressive. In the hall itself,
after the men had once more settled themselves in their seats, there
was not a sound or murmur. The struggles and gibes without ceased,
and even the troops were still, save where a neigh, or the rattle of
caparisons, as horses tossed their heads or champed their bits, broke
the stillness; or an elephant, clashing his bells, and being admonished
by his driver, lifted his trunk, and gave a short scream.

It was the Secretary's office to open the business of the day, and just
as he was about to speak, the chief of the eunuchs entered, bearing
the Queen's billet, and kneeling down behind the rail, while he spoke
aside, covering his mouth, said to the King hastily--

"It is a matter of life or death. If Afzool Khan hath any favour in
your eyes, O King, save him! there may be time."

"This is some trick on thee, Daood," said the King sneeringly; "we know
where he is, and how employed. He is ours no longer, and hath left us
of his own free will."

"His wife and daughter are with the Bégum Sahiba. Read that, and you
will know why," answered the man firmly.

"Can it be true?" asked the King of the Peer, opening the note.
"Ya Khubeer, O!" he continued, after a pause: "this is wonderful!
wonderful! O friends! and yet we had suspected our noble friend. But he
is true; see, here is our royal signet to this; no doubt, no doubt."

"What is it?" cried both the Peer and the Secretary in a breath, seeing
the King much excited.

"Afzool Khan and his son are imprisoned at the Kótwallee, and prevented
from attending. They must be brought instantly."

"Imprisoned?" cried both together.

"Yes, friends," continued the King, "there is treachery in this, for
Jehándar Beg and the Wuzeer are one, it is clear now, and we must act
at once. Ismail Khan," continued he firmly, to an officer who stood
behind him clothed in a shirt of mail, "go thou with two hundred of
the royal guard, and some of the mirdhas, bring Jehándar Beg to the
presence, and with him Afzool Khan and his son."

"I beg to petition," said the eunuch, "that some of Afzool Khan's
Paigah are here, who came with their mistress; they might as well go,
if I might send them."

"Of course," replied the King, "why not send the whole Paigah?"

"Excellent," said the Peer; "take what are here with thee, Ismail Khan,
at once, and send for the rest. Raheem Khan will not fail thee."

"I am gone, my lord, and will take him with me; he is my son-in-law."

"Ah, I had forgotten. Go; fear not; bring them safely and quickly,
friend, for we have much need of their presence."

"Ya Ulla Kureem!" said the Peer devoutly, looking up, "this is thy
doing. O, dear old friend! thou art not gone from among us as we had
feared. Bismilla, let us proceed! first with these letters of Sivaji's,
then with the rest. Afzool Khan will be here by that time, and the
people will rise to his call as a man. Inshalla! your poor servant,
too, will do his best. Let silence be called again."

It was necessary: for the entrance of the eunuch, the delivery of the
note, followed as they were by the withdrawal of Afzool Khan's men,
and some of the royal guard, had excited no little curiosity in the
assembly. Afzool Khan's absence had been regretted by some, rejoiced
in by others, but noticed by all; and now that his men were sent away,
the speculations that ensued were various as to the cause; and while
some feared disclosures, others already rejoiced in the prospect of his
possible disgrace.

"Khámôsh!" again was cried by the same voice, which rung
clearly above the buzz of conversation, and was taken up as


"O nobles, and well-wishers of the State!" cried the Secretary, in a
strong, manly voice, "it is not mere ceremony for which ye have been
called together this day; and it is not that the present urgent matters
might not be disposed of by the Shah--may his splendour increase;--but
in affairs of such moment, he would have the advice and assistance of
older men, and of those who, for years past, have given their faith
and their blood freely for the kingdom, and for his family; and surely
nothing need be done in private, when ye, O Moslems! can be witnesses
before God and the Prophet.

"Lo, friends in the faith! he hath called ye together because of those
grievous rumours of treachery which prevail: and because of intrigues
which have sown distrust between man and man in this city. Of these,
two have been revealed to him by means little short of a miracle, and
yet so true, that a child may understand them. Hear, then, what my lord
the King will say to ye--listen!"

A low murmur arose through the assembly as men spoke in short, eager
whispers to each other. Who was to be accused? To whom did these
introductory remarks refer in particular? Many a secret traitor then
sitting there, trembled upon his seat. Were he denounced, he felt there
would be no alternative between detection and almost instant death, and
there were not a few who repeated to themselves the dying confession of
faith. If it was to be, it was to be; there was no escape now.

The King spoke from his seat, and though his voice was of a gentler
character than his Secretary's, its silvery ringing tones were even
more distinctly heard.

"O friends and subjects!" he said, "many words are hardly needful when
the understanding is to have clear scope for action, and I desire all
to consider what will be now put before ye. As God hath appointed me
His deputy on earth to govern this kingdom, so I am answerable to
Him for it, and for you, my people. This I clearly admit. If it be
glorious, are ye not so? If it be tranquil, are ye not safe? If it be
humbled, are ye not humbled likewise? Is any one weary of our service,
let him leave it, but for the rest, let us be united: let it not be
said by our enemies that we could be seduced and divided, or that our
foolish quarrels are worse than the petty jealousies of the women of a
divided house. O noble Dekhanies, put enmity and treachery from among
ye: is it come to this, that they exist? Listen."

The King paused, and seemed to be searching under his cushions, while
the sounds of his last words, rising to the vaulted roof, trembled in
a sweet faint murmur, and died away among its fretted recesses; and as
yet the rapt silence of the assembly was unbroken.

"A man," he continued, holding up a mass of papers to the view of
all--"one whom we had venerated as a father--into whose hands we were
given by our father on his deathbed--has been false. False to me, that
is nothing,--false to the kingdom and to you, that is more,--false to
his oath to an orphan as I am, and to God, that is most of all. Here
is his writing, here are his seals,--look at them. These letters to
the Padshah Alumgeer began ere that bad man were a king, and have been
continued within a month; and by them we read now, that him we speak of
would have given away our kingdom, but would have reserved his share.
And yet, O Khan Mahomed! if we wrong thee in this, we will do thee
justice before God and this assembly."

"Justice, justice!" echoed a thousand voices: "put out the treason!"
while many rose excitedly to their feet and were pulled down again by
their neighbours.

"Wait," continued the King. "Let him be heard in his own behalf when he
arrives; do not prejudge him. If these are untrue, there is no honour
we possess or can confer, that shall not be his. If true, let the just
Alla judge him before ye all."

"Ameen, ameen!" cried the Peer devoutly. "Ameen, ameen!" was echoed by
the assembly, in a hoarse roar, which filled the hall. Again there was

"The next is a more simple matter," continued the King, with increased
confidence. "Ye all know of Sivaji Bhóslay. How often his father
rebelled, and was punished, and again forgiven by our father. How
often the son hath been guilty of crimes. All these would have been
forgiven. As a wise father corrects, while he bears with and forgives
the errors of a wilful son,--so should we have forgiven also; but for
treachery. Look, friends, here, in the same packet with those we have
just mentioned, are these letters from Sivaji to the Padshah. We who
have fed this wolf, are his enemies; those who have hunted him, are
his friends. Here are lists of forts which will be taken and held for
the Moghuls, of districts to pay for armies, of men who will join with
their local levies. Between them they will share the Dekhan, and Sivaji
will be the imperial Vice-regent!

"Did ye hear, friends?" he continued, after a pause. "Do ye desire
to serve under the infidel? I am young. I have no experience. I am a
humble worm before God; but I am the son of one who led ye to victory.
I am one who has been nursed in war, and will lead ye again! Choose,
then, between them and the King of your ancient dynasty. If I have a
place in your hearts, bid me stay; if not, a Durwaysh's robe and staff
are mine, and at the blessed shrine of the Prophet I will abjure the
world and die. I will trouble ye no more. No, no more--me, or mine."

For an instant the same sweet trembling murmur of the King's voice
arose to the roof--but for an instant only. As if with one accord, a
shout of "Deen! Deen! for the faith! for the faith! we will die for
you!"--rang through the building, as men, no longer able to control
their emotions, started to their feet and shouted the war-cry of
Islam. Those who were without had observed the emotion in the hall,
but had not been aware of its cause. Now, however, the familiar
battle-shout fell on willing ears, and was returned, from the thousands
gathered there, with an enthusiasm which knew no bounds. "Deen! Deen!"
accompanied by the battle-cries of the various nobles and chiefs whose
escorts were drawn up together.

Just then, and as the excitement from within and without had somewhat
subsided, a strong body of horse, known to all as belonging to Afzool
Khan, swept round the corner of the building with its standard
unfurled, and its kettle-drums beating loudly. Among the serried mass
of horsemen could be seen a palankeen closely muffled and jealously
guarded, immediately behind which rode the brave old Khan and his son
Fazil, with several of his officers. It was evident to all that the
litter contained a person of consequence; and many from within the hall
looked around anxiously, as Afzool Khan, his son, and several others
with him, dismounted and placed themselves beside it. Could the Wuzeer
have returned? If so, he was already a prisoner, and there was no
hope. If not, whom could it be? The King had been about to address the
assembly again, but he paused and turned to those behind him.

"Ah," he cried exultingly, "Alla hath heard our prayers, and here are
our noble friends. I vow thank-offerings to thee, O Sofee Surmust![11]
O Geesoo Duraz! by thy hands, Peer Sahib, as thou wilt!"

"I said the planets assured me that my lord should destroy his enemies
to-day," said the Peer, wiping his eyes, for his love for Afzool Khan
was great, and he had feared seduction. "Shookr oolla! Shookr oolla!
Hazarha-Shookr! thousands of thanks do we offer at thy throne, O
merciful! and here he comes, Soobhán Ulla! Soobhán Ulla!"

Afzool Khan was well known, and a hearty shout had greeted him as he
dismounted, looked proudly about him, and returned the salutations of
his friends and the soldiery. The palankeen was, by his orders, taken
up the steps into the corridor; and, room being cleared for it by the
sticks and maces of the chobdars, it was carried on, the Khan and his
son accompanying it, through the entrance hall and into the centre of
the assembly before the throne, where, in spite of the remonstrances of
the chamberlains, it was set down. Then the Khan, disengaging his sword
from his belt, and bidding Fazil do the same, they advanced to the foot
of the musnud, and enveloping the hilts in their scarfs, presented them
as "nuzzurs" or offerings to the King, making, at the same time, their
customary obeisances.

"Pardon for this boldness, my prince," said the Khan, "but as the
merciful Alla delivered us strangely out of his hands who is there, we
thought we had better bring him to 'the presence' at once."

"Who?" asked the king excitedly. "The Wuzeer? Khan Mahomed?"

"No, my lord," returned the Khan, "but Jehándar Beg."

"God be praised thou art safe, Khan," returned the King, putting out
his hand and resting it upon the Khan's head, "and thou also, Fazil.
Now, we have no fear."

"Ah, old friend!" cried the Peer, the tears fairly running down his
cheeks while he pointed to the King; "he hath been so brave, so brave:
my boy--so eloquent. Stones would have cried out at his words. Didst
thou not hear the shouting?"

"Surely," returned the Khan; "but 'tis hardly a welcome sound in these
days unless one knows the reason, so we hurried on. Eloquent! I knew he
would be so. Brave! Ay, or he is no descendant of his royal race. May I
open the litter, my lord?" he asked of the King.

"Bismilla! open it," he replied; and some of the attendants hastily
untied the knots by which the cover had been fastened over the top. As
the last fold was removed, the figure of Jehándar Beg sitting upright,
his arms and hands swathed carefully in a shawl, and his eyes bound
with a handkerchief, was displayed to all. The bandage was removed, and
he looked wildly about him.

Jehándar Beg saw his position at once. He was no coward, and he
perceived that all chance of life had passed away. The Wuzeer was not
there, and Afzool Khan, stooping into the litter, took up the case
containing Jehándar Beg's most secret papers, and presented them to the
King. "May I be loosed?" said the Kótwal to the Khan. "My fate is in
the King's hands."

"Surely," replied the King; "we fear him not, nor any enemy," he
continued, looking round. "May God deliver them into our hands, even as
he hath this traitor."

"Ameen! Ameen!" cried a tumult of voices, followed by the loud Khámôsh
of the criers.

Afzool Khan spoke so as to be heard by all. We need not follow his
recital, for the particulars have been already related; but the words
were drunk in with avidity by the assembly. He disclosed no man's name;
the papers would speak for themselves.

One by one they were read, Persian and Mahratta in turn, clearly and
distinctly; while, by the King's command, several of them were taken
round by mutsuddees to the principal nobles and sirdars, that the seals
might be examined.

This necessarily occupied some time, during which, the litter having
been removed to the door, Jehándar Beg stood in the centre, as yet
boldly if not defiantly. Could the Wuzeer only arrive--and he was
expected momentarily--all would be changed. Before him the King, bold
as he seemed now, would quail; those friends in the assembly, who had
already exchanged glances with him, would at once rise. There might be
bloodshed, and of the result he had no doubt: it had been calculated
beforehand, and was certain. Much depended on a mysterious arrangement
of the Wuzeer's, which he suspected; but to the particulars of which he
had not been admitted. Need he deny the papers? He dare not. They were
facts which could neither be denied nor evaded.

"Unhappy, godless man," cried the King, when several had been read, and
others were being examined, "are these true? Dost thou admit them? Hast
thou eaten my salt and found it so bitter, that that of others seemed
sweeter to thee? Speak, Jehándar Beg! are these true? are they thine

Upon his reply hung many a life had he chosen to denounce those
present; but with all his bad faith, there was no meanness in the man.

"The letters, my prince, are true; as they are addressed. I have no
more to say. Whatever my fate is to be, let it come; I am ready to meet
it," returned the Kótwal, firmly.

"And these for Khan Mahomed? The writing in the corner is yours, and
the date of receipt is to-day."

"It is my writing; why should I tell a lie?" returned Jehándar Beg,
sullenly; "but I know not the contents."

"Enough," replied the King; "my friends, we would do no injustice. Let
us await the Wuzeer's arrival--it cannot be long now--and hear the
result from his own lips."


[11] A celebrated Mahomedan saint of the Dekhan, whose tomb is at


"My lord, my prince," whispered the officer of the royal guard,
stepping behind the rail in an agitated manner, "be careful of
yourself; there is disturbance without; we will close round you;
come away. The Wuzeer--the Wuzeer is--is--dead--killed, they say--at
the outer gate as he entered. Withdraw with us--quick," said the man
excitedly; "the news is spreading fast."

"Who hath done this?" cried the King, starting to his feet, and seizing
his sword and shield, which, according to custom, lay before him. "The
Wuzeer is dead, they say. Is there aught to fear? I move not, Afzool
Khan, come what may. If I am to die, let it be here, on my father's
judgment-seat. Will ye bear me company?"

"To death, to death!" exclaimed Afzool Khan. "Who dare harm you? Ho!
Alla-ool-Moolks, Bhylmees, Dâgtorays, all true men present,--rally
round the King," shouted the Khan. "Deen, deen!" and his familiar
battle-cry, "Futteh-i-Nubbee!" (Victory to the Prophet) rang high above
the hoarse murmur which had arisen among the assembly. Now, however,
those mentioned by the Khan sprang to their feet by scores, and their
example was followed by hundreds. "Deen, Deen!" was shouted with
increased enthusiasm.

"Here is one who brings particulars," said the Secretary, as an officer
was led in, who prostrated himself before the King.

"My lord, the Wuzeer is dead," said the man, sobbing bitterly. "They
murdered him at the gate. Those who did it went off across the plain,
but they were men who had ridden with him. I was upon the bastion over
the gate with a few others, and we saw them come rapidly along the
road from Allapoor. I knew my lord's piebald horse, and his elephant
was following at a little distance. We watched him till he was near
the gate; there were only a few of us. There was no one present but a
sentinel and one or two others, and a Kullunder Fakeer had spread his
carpet just within the walls, and was crying, 'Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!'
as passengers threw their cowrees to him. We were descending the steps
to present our nuzzurs, when several of the men behind dragged the
Wuzeer from his horse, and others on foot, who had been running with
him, killed him with a hundred wounds ere he could cry out. What could
we do, my lord? Ere we could mount the bastion again the whole had
dispersed. We fired on them, but it was no use."

"And what became of the Fakeer?" asked the King, looking towards the

"My prince, he stayed with the body, and shut the eyes," replied the
man. "Then, as the Wuzeer's elephant arrived, he told the driver to
take up the dead, and we saw him go towards the mosque, crying, as
before, 'Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!' Hark!" he continued, "there he is."

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga! Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!" The cry came nearer and
nearer, never changing or faltering in its cadence or time--heard above
all other noises and confusion within and without--"Ulla dilâyâ to
léonga!"--up the steps, along the great corridor, into the hall, where
every one made way before the brawny form and excited looks of the
crier--who paused not, nor yet looked right or left, till he reached
the dais. Afzool Khan and Fazil would have stopped him, but he strode

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!" he cried, looking at the King without saluting
him. "Khan Mahomed is dead, from a hundred wounds. As I closed his eyes
I saw this on the ground; it had fallen from him, so I have brought
it;" and flinging a case, containing papers, to the King, he turned
away without salutation; shouting the old, cry with his right arm
bare, and stretched high above his head, he strode out of the hall,
continuing it as he passed out of the building through the attendants
and troops, and so away.

"Among these papers," said the Secretary, whispering to the King, "are
many which, if now disclosed, might make men desperate; they are better
kept secret."

"I am weary of them all," cried the King impatiently; "look at the
judgment of God; we should own it reverently."

"Zoolm! Zoolm!" (injustice!) cried a knot of men who had collected at
one side of the hall, and had risen from their seats. "Is murder to be
done, and pass unchallenged?" Their tone was fierce and defiant, and
boded no good.

"Peace, O friends!" cried Afzool Khan, stretching out his hands to
them. "Is this a time for strife? who can say by whose hands he died?
Yet better dead, than for this guilt to be proved before all, by these
witnesses--his own hand and seals. O friends, brothers in the faith!
there is the throne we have to defend, and we should count it holy
martyrdom to die before it. We are ready; will ye be tardy?"

"Deen, Deen! listen to Afzool Khan! Futteh-i-Nubbee!" (Victory to the
Prophet) the Khan's battle-cry, was shouted with deafening clamour.
"Death to the unbelievers!"

"Silence, friends!" cried the Peer, as there was a short cessation
of the shouting; "listen to me. One traitor is dead, but are we less
than men that we permit Sivaji Bhóslay, his accomplice, to defile our
beards? Deen, Deen! cry to God for victory. Deen, Deen!" he continued,
rising and raising his voice to a shrill scream, as he stretched out
his arms, "the Prophet hears us, and Ali, and the holy martyrs, and so
will ye be martyrs and enjoy paradise if ye die."

Again, again his cry was raised, the fanatical cry of Islam, which no
Moslem can hear without emotion; and grave men hitherto unmoved, roused
with the rest to frantic enthusiasm by the holy man's words, threw
themselves on each other's necks and wept aloud.

"And now, friends," continued the King, when he could be heard,
"let him who would punish Sivaji Bhóslay for a thousand crimes and
treacheries, take up the gage I place here. In the name of God and
the Prophet, let who will take it, I accept him;" and so saying he
motioned to an attendant, who, bringing forward a salver covered with
a brocaded cloth, set it down on the edge of the dais before the King,
and uncovered it.

On the salver lay a single birra of Pân, covered with gold leaf, one of
those which, on the conclusion of the ceremony, would be distributed by
thousands. Who would take it up?

"Are ye laggards, my friends, in pursuit of honour? I thought yonder
gage would be a mark for men to strive for; are ye laggards, O
faithful?" cried the Peer.

The mass--for every one had risen to his feet--swayed to and fro with
emotion, but no one advanced; and out of it issued the hoarse ominous
murmur that had several times arisen, and which, in the absence of any
decisive action, caused involuntary apprehension.

At this moment Afzool Khan stepped boldly forward, and taking up the
gage, pressed it to his forehead, eyes, and lips, then, saluting the
King, held it high above his head for all to see.

"My prince, it is mine," he said, "if it be permitted, and if these my
friends will join me."

"Ye have heard," said the King, turning to the assembly, "I accept him."

It was the crowning point of the ceremony, and the people, no longer
withheld by court etiquette, swayed forward to the foot of the dais
with tumultuous shouts of joy. Those without only knew that war had
been proclaimed, and their cries mingled hoarsely with the rest.

"It is well this should cease, my lord," said the Secretary. "Men's
hearts are hot, and enough hath been done to-day."

"Good," replied the King, "let the criers proclaim the Burkhast; and
that there will be preaching in the Jumma Mosque daily, at noon, till
the army advances."

"Be that my care," said the Peer, "and their hearts shall be kept hot,
I promise you."

It was done. Attendants went round with trays of Pân, reserving Utr and
other sweet essences for those privileged to receive them. The King
sat to the last, and the great Hall was gradually emptied, save of the
royal guards,--Afzool Khan and his son,--Alla ool Moolk, and other
nobles, who had been desired to remain. The Kótwal's fate was yet in

"Bring forward Jehándar Beg," cried the King to the officer of the
guard; and the prisoner was again conducted to the front of the dais,
around which the nobles were now grouped. He saw no hope in those
stern, pitiless faces.

"See what that case of papers contains, Meerza Sahib," said the King;
"there should be no mistake in this matter."

"There is no need," said the Kótwal, sullenly, to the King. "If you had
died to-day, those who brought me here would ere now have been headless
corpses. I will answer no more questions. Do with me as you will;
except in prayer, my lips open no more."

"Take him away to death," said the King. "A kingdom that never punishes
is too weak to exist."

Jehándar Beg was led away through the private cloisters. His head had
fallen upon his bosom; but those who saw it never forgot the fire which
seemed to flash from his large eyes, and the scowl of deadly hate which
he cast upon all around him as he walked firmly on.

"We may now separate," said the King. "Forgive me, O friends, who have
as yet known me only as a boy playing about your knees, if I have acted
weakly in this first rough lesson of life. O noble Khan, there are
those who await you with tears of joy. What can I say for this service
you have done? This sword is known to you; wear it for the sake of Adil
Khan. And do thou, Fazil Khan, take these, the first marks of honour
thou hast won; but, Inshalla! not the last;" and removing the costly
jewel from his turban, and a heavy necklace of pearls from his neck, he
invested the young man with them with his own hands.

"I have but one boon to ask, my prince," said Fazil; "it is for my
friend, the Wuzeer's son. I will answer for him with my life, that he
was as true as I am. May I console him?"

"Take this to him," said the King, removing a gold ring from his wrist;
"tell him that from Adil Shah he need fear nothing."

"Altogether," said our friend the Lalla, who had accompanied the Khan
and Fazil, "these Dekhanies have some method in their rudeness; but,
after all, they are mad,--quite mad. Such ebullitions of temper could
not have been allowed in the Padshah's court. Mobaruk, mobaruk bâd,
Khan Sahib," he cried, heartily yet respectfully, to Afzool Khan and
Fazil, as they were passing out and receiving the warm greetings of
their friends,--and of all, high and low, who could reach them,--"let
your poor servant be honoured by his congratulation being accepted."

"Ah, friend, art thou there?" replied the Khan. "Well, thou must be
seen to; come to my house and we will arrange something for thee."

"May it please my lord to make me news-writer to his army," cried the
Lalla, joining his hands. "My style, Inshalla!--is----"

"Well," said Afzool Khan, interrupting him good-humouredly. "Son, wilt
thou have him?"

"I agree, father," said Fazil, smiling, "if he will serve under one who
may, after all, be only a Gosai."

"I am my lord's slave to death. I am but a poor Khayet, but I can be of
use to a discerning patron," returned the Lalla.

"Come, son," said the Khan, "let us see whether Kowas Khan be returned.
The King's message should be delivered ere we proceed home. Methinks he
and all his people would be safer with us for a few days, until men's
minds are calmer."

We will not follow the Khan on his benevolent errand; nor can we detail
how much mustard and coriander seed were burned with frankincense
before them to avert evil when they reached home: nor yet how often
Goolab, and the other women-servants, and even the lady Lurlee herself,
cracked their knuckles over them, till they would crack no more. One
thing, however, was certain: the worthy lady was more than ever assured
that she had read the planets aright, and, if she had not done so, a
great evil would have befallen the family.


Somewhat later in the day, a few groups of men were assembled near
those majestic Adansonian trees which still stand by the wayside
between the Citadel and the outer gate of the fort of Beejapoor. The
sun's rays fell slanting through their dense foliage, and cast broad
shadows upon the bright green sward, which, with the trees themselves,
glowed in the evening light. The wind had fallen, and not a leaf
stirred in the oppressive sultry calm which prevailed.

On one side, upon piece of faded carpet, torn and ragged, sat a Fakeer,
to all appearance, with long matted hair streaming over his shoulders
to his waist, and over his face also, so as partly to conceal it. Some
coarse rags hung loosely about him, but he wore the tall felt cap of
the Kullunders, and their quilted robe thrown over his shoulders. He
sat upon his heels, leaning upon a bright steel rod with prongs at the
end, which might serve either for support or defence, and spoke to no
one; but now and again a low cry of "Ulla dilâyâ to léonga," was rather
muttered than cried aloud. A few copper coins and cowries, which had
been thrown to him by passers-by, lay on the carpet.

At a little distance from him were two parties of armed men--some
Mussulmans, some Hindus--standing, lounging on the grass, and speaking
carelessly together. One of these, from his dress and hair, seemed
to be of more pretension than the rest, and might be the Jemadar,
or sub-officer of the party, and was attended by two men armed with
"Puttas," long, broad Toledo blades, set in steel gauntlets inlaid
with silver, which hung at their backs, the hilts projecting over
their shoulders. These men were both short, with round backs, and
very powerful frames; and, from this brief description, our previous
acquaintance with them under the banian tree will be remembered.

"Perhaps they have pardoned him, after all, and let him go," said Rama.
"The King is young, and soft as a woman; and what will the uncle yonder
say to that, I wonder?"

"Impossible," replied Lukshmun; "I was behind the guards all the time,
and heard Jehándar Beg ordered for execution under the Goruk Imlee.
No, the King was as firm as our uncle when----Look! what is that? Can
it be they?"

As he spoke, a small procession was seen approaching, a litter tied
up as though a lady were within; a few footmen ran beside it, and a
few horsemen rode before and behind. Unobtrusive in character, its
movements were nevertheless followed with the greatest interest by the
men we have mentioned, and even the Fakeer looked aside to watch it.

At first it seemed to be proceeding by the road in the direction of the
outer gate; but as it arrived opposite the trees, the leading horsemen
turned suddenly across the sward and halted under them, followed by the
bearers, who at once hastily put down the litter and retired apart. The
leader of the party drew up his own men at a little distance, while the
footmen were directed to remove the cover of the litter. As they did
so, the person within, who was pinioned, put his feet out of it, and
stood up.

"Where is Hoosein, the executioner?" cried the officer; "he was ordered
to be here; and this is no time for delay. Have any of ye seen him?" he
asked of the people around.

Some one answered, "He is not here;" and another cried carelessly,
"Hoosein does not like doing service for his own master;" and a third
called out sneeringly, "You will find him drunk in the bazar by this
time; go and look there."

"God forbid," said the officer, impatiently; "go, some of you, and see
if he be coming in any direction;" and several of the horsemen dashed
off at full speed.

"Enough, sir," said Jehándar Beg, sadly; "a keen sword is all that is
needed; and ye are soldiers. Loose my hands, I pray ye, that I may say
my last prayer before I die.... Peace for a while. Syn," he continued
to the Fakeer, whose chant had increased to a solemn wail; "here is
something for thee. See thou to my grave, and to the Fatehas after
death. This will be enough, perhaps," he continued, with a sad smile,
throwing some gold coins to the man, which lighted upon his carpet, but
were not noticed.

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!" was the only reply; but the tone, which had
been raised as Jehándar Beg appeared, now subsided into a low murmur.

"Let it be here," said Jehándar Beg, stepping forward to a piece of
smooth turf under one of the huge branches. "Will any one lend me a
scarf? Stay, this will do," he continued, loosing his own shawl from
his waist; "when I am dead, give it to the Durwaysh yonder." Then he
spread it out on the ground, and knelt down upon it, with his face
towards Mecca, settling the cap upon his head, smoothing his long curly
beard, and the glossy brown curls which fell upon his neck. "There
is no use asking for water for ablution," he muttered, "this will
suffice;" and taking up a little dry earth, he rubbed his hands with
it, allowing the dust to fall over his elbows.

Jehándar Beg looked once more around ere he began his prayer; above,
to the stately trees, and their heavy foliage, among which a flock of
noisy parroquets were fluttering from branch to branch, and screaming
loudly; over the green sward, to the King's fort and palaces, on
which, and upon the noble dome of the mausoleum of Mahmood Adil Shah,
his first benefactor and patron, the mellow light of evening rested
in a golden radiance, and away over trees, gardens, and minarets, all
glowing in the same soft beauty; then upon the group around him, for a
few chance passengers, seeing what was to happen, had gathered round
the spot.

A shiver seemed to pass through him as he closed his eyes slowly. Not
of fear, for the man, a Fatalist by creed and habit, was meeting his
doom stoically as a brave Moslem can do; but a thought had crossed
him which would not be put back--a vision of love and peace--of his
girl wife in her rosy beauty, and of her fair boy, far away at his own
village and home, in the blue mountains of Khorassan--and of a fond
aged mother who lived with them. This season they were to have come to
him. Who now would tell them of his fate?

"A word, Jemadar," he said to the officer. "Bid that Fakeer come

"Thou wilt do it," he said, as the man rose and advanced, "for the sake
of the gold. Give this ring to Afzool Khan--my worst enemy in life, and
yet the truest man in Beejapoor--and these papers; he will know what to
write to my--my--to my house. And now, friends, peace, and the peace
of God and the love of the Prophet be with ye! When I have said the
prayer, I would die."

It was finished, but as yet no executioner had arrived. Jehándar Beg
sat resting upon his heels, his eyes closed, while his beads passed
rapidly through his fingers as his lips moved in prayer.

"We cannot delay," cried the Jemadar to those around, "will none of ye
strike a blow for the King? Here is the warrant, and here is a bag of
money for any who will earn it."

"Go thou, Rama," said Lukshmun, nudging his brother, "thou art a surer
hand with the 'Putta' than I am; but if thou wilt not, I will try mine
on that rascal, who hath strung up many a better fellow than himself on
these trees. Hast thou forgotten what he did to our people?"

"Yes," added Gopal Singh; "go, Rama, and end this play. See thou do it
well, and they will give thee the money. Go!"

"If the uncle wills it," said Rama, hitching forward his long
weapon, as he looked for a moment to the Fakeer, who bowed his head,
imperceptibly to others, yet intelligibly to them, as he repeated his
cry. "Yes, I will do it," and drawing the broad blade, on which the
sun's rays flashed brightly, he felt its edge, then put his hand into
the gauntlet which reached to his elbow, and fastened the straps over
his wrist and arm carefully. He now advanced lightly, with circling
steps, flourishing the heavy weapon, as though it had been a stick,
round and round his head; yet, with every sweep, it was clear that he
was measuring his distance more carefully. Another moment--a bright
flash in the air--a whistling sound as the sword clove it--and the
head of Jehándar Beg rolled to the ground, the lips still moving with
the prayer which he had not finished, while the trunk fell forward

"The second to-day," said Rama, muttering to himself, as he wiped his
sword on the sward. "Enough, enough!"

"Soobhán Ulla!" exclaimed the Jemadar. "A brave stroke. Thou shouldst
be chief executioner thyself, friend."

"That is my brother, noble sir," said Lukshmun, interrupting the
speaker, "and he does not like being spoken to after he has cut off a
man's head. Give me the money, Jemadar Sahib, and let us begone; you
see he is cleaning his sword; he might dirty it again if he were vexed."

"Take it, friend," returned the officer, "and away with ye, for yonder
is Hoosein Jullâd coming, and ye may perchance quarrel over it. Begone!"

"Bid him and his party watch here till I bring men to bury the dead,"
said the seeming Fakeer, who had again risen and advanced, and who,
having removed the bloody shawl, was rolling it up. "Watch with them,
even though it should be night. This gold will suffice for all, and I
will return." So saying, he stalked away rapidly in the direction of
the fort, while his strange cry changed--"Ulla dilâyâ to leea, Ulla
dilâyâ to leea!" (God gave and I took, God gave and I took!)

"Sir, here are the executioner's men, and they will watch; we need not
stay," said one of the soldiers to their officer. "Let us go."

The litter was taken up, the soldiers moved rapidly away, and there
remained only the watchers and two women, wrapped closely in heavy
sheets, who had not been previously noticed, and who sat cowering
behind one of the giant trunks, sobbing bitterly. Perhaps----; but no
matter now.

The sun was sinking fast, and its rays fell upon a pool of blood,
glistening, as it dried among the blades of the close sward,--upon a
ghastly head, its face turned upwards to the sky,--and a headless trunk
beside it, from which the crimson stream was still oozing. Above, on
the high bare branches, sat foul birds and ravens, which had already
scented the blood, and whose hoarse croaks mingled with the heavy
rustle of the wings of vultures, assembling for a night feast;--no
unusual matter, perhaps, in that place.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A Fakeer says he must see you, my lord," said Goolab to Afzool Khan,
as he sat quietly in his accustomed seat after the evening prayer.
"He is in the court at the door, and will take no denial. He will not
go away, but cursed frightfully when we said you were tired, and were
resting in private."

"A Fakeer, Goolab! Do you know him?"

"All he says, master, is 'Ulla dilâyâ to leea,'" replied the woman,
"and he declared he would cut himself with a knife and throw his blood
upon us if we did not tell you. Hark! there is a shout."

"Ulla dilâyâ to leea!"

The Khan did not delay. "I know him, Goolab," he said. "Go, and say I

"Bid every one depart hence," said the man as Afzool Khan approached
him, attended by several servants. "What I have to say to thee brooks
no listeners. There," he continued, when all had gone; and flinging
down the bloody scarf at the Khan's feet, "look, it is his blood who
would have been true, but for him who went to hell before him. Here is
his last request to thee, Afzool Khan, for he trusted thee only, of all
this city. Take them, I have done his last bidding."

"His seal and these papers, Syn. More treason, perhaps. Did he say
aught of them?" said the Khan.

"Only that they belonged to his house, and I should give them to you;
and he died like a brave man as he was."

"Yes, as he was, Syn," echoed the Khan sadly--"as he was. And thou hast
buried him? Else----"

"I have cared for that; it doth not concern thee, Khan."

"And who art thou, Syn? We have met before to-day."

"Ay, Khan, and before that often. Am I safe with thee? Put thy hand on
my head; nay, fear not a poor servant of God, and I will tell thee who
I am."

"Surely, friend," replied Afzool Khan, putting out his hand upon the
high felt cap, "fear not."

"Not there, not there; on my head," cried the man, grasping the Khan's
hand, and kissing it while he removed the cap; "on my head, on my head.
Ask Ali Adil Shah of me, and remember--Pahar Singh."

"Pahar Singh!" exclaimed the Khan, starting back.

"Hush, fear not; I have been pardoned, and the Shah's hand hath been
before thine on his head; fear not, I will be true to thee, for thou
art faithful to him. Thy hand once more, Khan, freely and truly upon my

"Go, friend," said Afzool Khan, placing it as he desired. "Go, I doubt
thee not, for I have heard what happened last night; go in peace.
Whatever thou canst do for the Shah will not be forgotten."

"There is yet one more work to-day ere I sleep, Khan--one more, and I
go to do it. God be with you."

As he departed, the men on guard would have stopped him, but again the
old cry arose, and in his assumed character no one molested him, as the
shout, rising and falling on the air, died away in the far distance.

Afzool Khan took up the bloody scarf and gave it to an attendant. "Let
it be washed, and kept till I ask for it," he said. Not long afterwards
some Persian merchants were returning to their country, and they bore
the last requests of the unhappy Jehándar Beg, with such monies as
could be saved out of his property, to his family.

That evening the crypt under the old tomb was again empty. Maloosray's
scouts had brought him the news of Bulwunt Rao having survived his
wound; and of the occurrences in the Durbar of the King, of which he
had been advised by the Brahmun we have seen in communication with
Jehándar Beg. Watching from the terrace of the temple, he had seen the
Wuzeer's arrival at Allapoor; followed his course across the plain; and
guessed, by the confusion and shots at the gate, and the dispersion of
the horsemen with him, that something extraordinary had taken place,
the particulars of which, and of the subsequent execution of Jehándar
Beg, were related by his scouts. Under the presence of Pahar Singh,
therefore, Beejapoor was no longer safe; and as night closed, the whole
party, unobserved, left their hiding-place to its usual tenants, the
jackals and hyenas of the plain.


As night fell, and as Maloosray knew all the Mahomedans would be
engaged in their evening prayer, his little party emerged from the
crypt, and took their way westward across the plain, avoiding the
suburbs, and threading the narrow lanes among the fields, which on all
sides skirted the city. One by one his followers and scouts had been
despatched in advance to meet them at certain places; and a spot known
to all, where the great northern and western roads diverged, was fixed
upon as a final place of rendezvous. Thither, also, had been despatched
the wounded man, Ranojee, who, unable to ride far at a time, was to
proceed by easy stages with the scouts and other servants to Jutt, the
chieftain of which town was a sincere adherent to their cause.

Maloosray himself, taking Nettajee, and the chief scout Ramjee with two
others, to serve as grooms, had determined to visit Tooljapoor before
he returned to his master. There were many active partisans of weight
in the Bâlâ Ghaut; what had they determined upon, and what was his old
friend Jeswunt Rao Bhóslay of Sindphul doing? It was impossible to
write, and as long as personal communication can be insured, Mahrattas
never write letters. It was above all things necessary that Moro
Trimmul and Jeswunt Rao must have the first news of the Wuzeer's death;
and except it were reported by royal express to the camp at Nuldroog,
it could hardly be known at Tooljapoor next day. It was a long ride,
certainly, but it was possible to reach Tooljapoor, and to secure Moro
Trimmul's safety, in case it should be threatened.

The occurrences at Beejapoor had been very unexpected by Maloosray.
At first sight they appeared to be a sore discouragement to the plans
which had been almost matured; and for some time he rode in silence,
brooding over the catastrophe we have recorded. He could not account
for it. To all appearance the King and the Wuzeer had been on excellent
terms, and Jehándar Beg their confidant; yet in one day both had been
destroyed, and the party of Afzool Khan had suddenly become the leading
one in the State. Was he ambitious, he might be prime minister. In his
heart Maloosray acknowledged his fitness for the post. No other person
would command the allegiance of the army, with whom Khan Mahomed had
not been popular. "It will unite in the Khan, and we shall have enough
to do to escape it," he thought, "but the young tree will bend to the
storm when the old one will break, and we may find opportunity to
strengthen ourselves, while we do not weaken the royal house."

Now the moon shone out brightly. There had been no rain since the
storm of the previous night. The day had been hot and sultry; but as
the night fell, a delicious breeze, soft and cool, had succeeded the
calm of the evening, and the road was sufficiently dry to be travelled
without inconvenience. Maloosray's noble mare seemed to feel, with her
master, the invigorating effects of freedom of action,--and her light
and springy movements, which conveyed to the rider an involuntary
assurance of activity and endurance, excited within him a more hopeful
spirit than that with which he had quitted the city. Now and again, as
they passed some muddy rivulet, or stony portion of the road, a word
of encouragement or caution from her rider would be answered by a low
whinny, which was followed by a loving caress of her arched neck, and
thus a perfect accordance seemed to be established between them.

"Shall we reach the river before daylight, Sidda," said Maloosray to
his guide; "and can we get the boat? Will it be on this side?"

"The boatmen are all friends of mine, master," replied the man, "and
will cross me at any village or at any time; fear not, I will say I
have dispatches, and they believe in this stick that I am on the royal
service. No one will dare to stop one of the royal Hurkaras with this
as his warrant;" and as he spoke he flourished the weapon--a short
stout staff, gaily lacquered in rings of red, yellow, and black, with
a heavy tuft of black cotton yarn at the end, from whence projected a
formidable four-sided lance about a foot long, the point of which was
carefully sharpened--lightly round his head.

They rode on, keeping the main track; now and again passing villages,
where they were saluted by a chorus of barks and howls from the
village dogs; again traversing long intervals between others, where
the occasional piping of sleepless plovers, the wailing cries of
ever-wakeful restless lapwings, and an occasional burst of howls and
screams from packs of wandering jackals,--were the only sounds which
fell on their ears in those solitudes.

They met no one at that hour, but they did not pass the villages,
lying upon the road, unremarked. Here a shrill challenge was blown
upon a horn as they passed a gate; there a drum was beaten, and other
indications given of the village watch being on the alert, or a shot
was fired from a bastion or watch-tower, the bullet of which sung
harmlessly above their heads into the air. They were rough times those,
when men ploughed with their fire-arms slung at their backs, and when
the village cattle, while grazing, had to be guarded by parties of
matchlock men against the raids of more powerful neighbours.

The moon set soon after midnight, and the wind again arose, sighing as
it swept across the broad plains in fitful gusts, or rustling among
the tall fields of grain which bordered the road. Light clouds, too,
were rising from the westward, and hurrying across the face of the
sky, partly obscured the stars, and caused additional gloom. Under
other guidance Maloosray would have felt uncertain of the path; but the
Hurkara never diverted from the track, or slackened his pace; and the
party passed on unnoticed, at the greatest speed that the light and the
road would admit of, without distressing their horses.

As they ascended one of the long undulating eminences, which are the
characterizing features of the country, and which commanded a view
for some miles around, Maloosray's attention was attracted by a light
which, emerging from behind some grain fields from another direction,
was advancing rapidly towards them, and apparently would cross the road
a little in advance of them. It was evidently a torch, possibly that
of some travellers; yet it moved too swiftly and regularly for men on
foot; and to the keen practised ear of Maloosray himself, as well as of
his followers, the tread of a body of horse was heard, while the slight
occasional sparkles from weapons, and the dull red glow of matches,
were soon distinctly visible.

Could they have been followed? Had any one remarked their departure
from the city? The little party halted at once, and drew up out of
the track of the road to escape observation, and watched the movement
of the light before them with beating hearts. Nor were they long in
suspense. After disappearing for a moment in a hollow, the light
appeared again upon the road itself, and the body of horse, which might
be fifty or more, drew up across their way and halted.

Who could they be? Certain it was that the party was now posted there
to waylay some one who was expected, and the information they were
acting upon was apparently as sure as their movements were methodical.
Not a neigh escaped their horses, nor was there any commotion
apparently among the men. The place chosen was admirably adapted for
a surprise. The road, as we have said, led up a slight ascent or
spur of an undulation, the sides of which broke into small but rough
ravines and watercourses intermixed with large loose boulders of
basalt, difficult to be traversed on horseback even by day, and quite
impassable by night. These features were the same on both sides; and
the spur itself was a narrow neck, which widened, as the plain above
stretched out, into one of the usual broad expanses of waste and
cultivated lands.

"They have come by Hórtee," said the Hurkara in a whisper--"the village
there in the hollow--and are waiting for some one. Master, dost thou
fear them?--they will hardly molest travellers such as we are. Shall we
go on?"

It was a difficult point to decide. There was certainly no way of
avoiding them and yet keeping the road.

"Go, Ramjee," said Maloosray to his scout; "go and see who they are. Be
careful! my mind misgives me about them."

"Master," replied the man, "this ground is higher than theirs, and if
they put out the light they will see thee against the sky. Retire a
little lower, and Enkôba and I will find it all out for you."

Maloosray saw the intelligence of the advice, and acted promptly upon
it, while the two men, well accustomed to such proceedings, crept
warily along under cover of bushes and inequalities, of the ground,
till they entered a tall field of grain, in which they could move
without chance of observation up to the very party itself, and from
which they looked with safety upon the horsemen.

As they had supposed, the body was drawn up across the road. One flank
overlapped the corn-field, on the path by which they had come; the
other rested upon a declivity where the same path descended to the
westward. It was clear that the position could not be turned without
great risk, and it was impossible to say whether the path to Hórtee
might not be guarded also.

In front of the party, and near a man who held a torch which he
replenished with oil from time to time, were two persons mounted on
powerful horses, whose wet coats and panting flanks showed that they
had been ridden at a rapid rate; and it was also evident from the
condition of the rest, splashed with mud and with similar evidences of
fatigue, that, whatever might be the object, speed had not been spared
in its pursuit.

"They cannot pass this unobserved," said the elder of the two, "and
there can be no suspicion that we are on this road. Ah, there is no
such trap, boy, in the country, not a rat could get by it. Well, we
have not been idle; first Khan Mahomed, second the Kótwal, and now
Maloosray and his friend Nettajee."

"You have not got them yet," thought Ramjee, "and Tannajee is not game
for you, old fox. But for him, my dagger would have made acquaintance
with you that day in the Gosai's Mutt at Tooljapoor. Ah! who could have
told him of us?"

"I think, uncle, we had as well put out the torch," said a man, coming
forward, riding a tall grey mare. "Tannajee is not a moth to fly into a

"Good, Lukshmun," said the chief; "put it out."

"I think we were wrong, father," said the other leader; "a few men
would have surrounded that den under the tomb, and no one could have

"True; but you would not have taken Tannajee alive, and here he will be
helpless. No, it is better as it is; and he shall sit under the Goruk
Imlees, and die like Jehándar Beg, before me."

"And Rama shall help him on his way to the gods, master, if you like,"
said Lukshmun. "He says he is quite ready, and he got the Putta
sharpened again."

"Silence!" said the chief, as the light was extinguished, "not a word
must be spoken now, nor a horse stir. Be careful, all of ye."

The scouts had seen and heard enough. The rustling of the high
corn-stalks and their leaves, under the breeze, prevented their return
through them being heard, and in a few moments they had rejoined
Maloosray, who, with Nettajee, had descended the brow of the ascent for
a few paces, and could not be seen from above.

"Master," whispered the scout, "'tis the Old Lion, Pahar Singh, and his
cub, Gopal, and their men. I saw one of the hunchbacks, too, with them."

"Ha! the Old Lion thinks to have a feast to-day, Nettajee," said
Maloosray, "but the man is yet to be born who will take Tannajee alive.
And what did he say, Ramjee?"

"He said you should be taken alive, and that you should sit under the
Goruk Imlees, and have your head cut off, like Jehándar Beg, by Rama
the hunchback."

"Ah," said Tannajee, "he should not have brought a torch with him,
Netta, else it was not ill-contrived. By the Holy Mother, there had
been small chance for us had we got among them. And now, what is to be

"We must go back. Beyond the rivulet and the date grove yonder is a
path which leads to Boorga, and so to Churchan, if my lord does not
care for a few coss more," said the Hurkara; "and, after all, it is as
near as any other road to Mundroop."

"Good," said Tannajee; "let us be quick, they may advance."

So they moved carefully down the descent, beyond which was a small
rivulet bordered by thin date trees and other brushwood. "See," said
Netta, as they crossed the small stream, "we are but just in time:
there they are!" and as Tannajee looked up, he saw several figures
projected in outline against the sky, one of whom was pointing to the
road leading to Beejapoor.

"I thought the Old Lion had been more wary," he said, "than to show
himself in that manner; but he may cool his heart now; he had better
have made for the ferry!"

It had, however, been a narrow escape, and one for which Tannajee vowed
to feed a hundred Brahmuns at Tooljapoor; but the danger was past, and
after a somewhat rough track for a short distance westward, the guide
struck confidently into a broader road, which, like the preceding,
led northwards, and, as the day dawned, the river-bank at the ferry
beyond Churchan was safely reached. The guide's staff of office proved
irresistible. In a few moments they were seated in one of the large
circular coracle baskets of wicker-work, covered with hide, which serve
as ferry-boats; and with the two mares swimming in front, and guided by
the men who held them, and the skilful paddles of three lusty rowers,
the party crossed the stream, and were beyond danger of pursuit.


In his last letter to Beejapoor, Moro Trimmul had directed his agent
there to inform Maloosray that, at the day of which we write, there
would be recitations in the temple, and, under cloak of this, that
most of the heads of the Mahratta families were to assemble; it would,
therefore, be advisable if he could meet them. It was partly on this
account, but most particularly because of the murder of Khan Mahomed,
that Tannajee had left the city so abruptly, and ridden through the
night without a check.

Nor did Tannajee and his companion take rest anywhere during the day
following, except for such refreshment as was absolutely necessary.
They avoided all large towns and villages; and, as Tannajee knew
the country perfectly by day, he guided his friend by cross paths,
frequently through fields and waste lands, till, as the evening fell,
they drew up before the gate of Sindphul, the village below the pass of
Tooljapoor, which we have before had occasion to mention.

The owner, a distant relative of the Rajah Sivaji, by name Jeswunt
Rao Bhóslay, was an intimate friend of Maloosray's, and a true and
influential ally of the general cause in those districts. Maloosray's
sudden arrival surprised him little, for in consequence of what
Moro Trimmul had written, he had been expected; and, after a short
conference, Maloosray urged that the news he had brought should be
communicated to Moro Trimmul and those assembled with as little delay
as possible, and in this Jeswunt Rao concurred.

So, after a slight rest and hearty meal, which both needed, the stout
ponies, provided by their host, were announced to be ready in the
courtyard of the house, and, accompanied by half-a-score of stout
sword-and-buckler men, with matchlocks and lighted matches, they rode
out of the village gate.

The active ponies, though well accustomed to the rough mountain-road,
had paused for a moment to take breath on the level spot from whence
the buildings could be seen below--the glare of light, spreading up
both sides of the dell, revealing crag and rough wood, with the gilded
pinnacles of the temple glittering brightly through the smoke of
torches and of incense; but their impatient riders again urged them up
the rocky ascent with all the speed they were capable of exciting. At
the town gate there was no hindrance, for Jeswunt Rao was well known;
so they were admitted without difficulty, and, leaving the animals at
a house which belonged to him, adjoining the main street, the party
proceeded at once in the direction of the temple.

It was no easy matter, however, to get there. As they approached the
gate at the head of the steps descending into the ravine, and on the
steps themselves, the crowds were almost impassable, but good-humour
prevailed, and, after some struggles, the lower court and the great
assembly were safely reached.

It was a remarkable sight. The court itself was crowded with spectators
so closely packed that to move was impossible. They were sitting upon
the paved floor in rows facing the centre, where an open space had been
provided for the priests, and an avenue left for their communication
with the shrine. Around this the most distinguished of the guests
had been placed; and Maloosray observed with satisfaction, that many
influential persons whom he desired to see, were present. So far, his
visit could not have been better timed.

All round the court were huge cressets of iron, fixed into brackets in
the walls and arches of the court. These were filled with cotton-seed
which, fed with oil from time to time, threw a broad glare upon the
people, and lighted up not only the temple and its quaint and fanciful
ornaments, but the buildings around,--and above, the crags and
precipices, with the houses hanging to them.

There was not a spot unoccupied; even the ledges and projections of the
high pyramidal roof and spires of the temple were crowded, while the
terraces of the vestibule and cloisters around, reserved for the ladies
of the Hindu gentry of the neighbourhood, and of the chief visitors and
priests, glowed with the gay colours of their garments, which stood out
against the dark background of the mountain-side.

As the party advanced through the crowd, Moro Trimmul, who was among
the Brahmun reciters, saw the tall figure of Maloosray behind that of
Jeswunt Rao of Sindphul, who was struggling manfully with the crowd,
and advanced hastily to greet him. He had hardly expected so prompt a
compliance with his request, but was rejoiced that it had been made.
He greeted Maloosray and Palkur heartily, and led them to the reserved
space, where, recognized by many present, and speedily made known to
others, they received a hearty welcome, and took their seats.

A few words whispered, sufficed to explain to Moro Trimmul the
situation of affairs at Beejapoor, and the necessity for immediate

"We must dismiss the assembly earlier than usual," he said, in reply
to Maloosray's anxious question as to how long the ceremonies would be
continued, "and I will hasten what remains. Do not heed me; I have to
take my part now, and as the assembly rises I will rejoin you."

Thus saying, Moro Trimmul passed into the dark vestibule of the temple,
and was divesting himself of his upper garments and turban, when, from
a pillar behind, the girl Gunga came towards him.

"I have been searching for thee," she said; "they wanted thee. Where
hast thou been so long?"

"No matter where," he said gloomily. "Thou couldst have found me
without, if needful. What hast thou done?"

"Nothing," she replied. "I cannot get speech of her, and the rest will
not join me; they are afraid."

"So art thou, Gunga," he replied; "afraid, afraid of a girl? Ah, coward
and liar!"

"Thou art afraid thyself, Moro Trimmul," she retorted. "Go! take
her away. There she stands, no one will prevent thee; there, by the

Moro Trimmul stepped from behind the pillar, still keeping within the
gloom, and looked forward. Before the blaze of the shrine, and the
lamps without it, stood Tara, in the act of bearing garlands of flowers
to the altar. A number of them were hanging upon her left arm, while,
with her right hand extended, she was delivering some to the priest.

As she stood at the door, in the full glare of the lamps within, the
light fell upon her rich crimson silk drapery, its heavy borders and
ends of flowered gold, and the massive gold zone which confined it
round her waist; while the attitude she had involuntarily assumed, as
she turned towards the shrine, showed the graceful outlines of her
figure to peculiar advantage. She had wreathed a long garland of white
flowers into her hair, which fell about her neck and bosom; and another
was twisted round her brows, so as to form a coronet. It was a fanciful
but simple and beautiful decoration, which suited the character of her
small graceful head, and added to the charm of her attire.

Moro Trimmul watched her intently as she delivered the garlands to the
old priest; then, as if a service had been done, she advanced to the
centre of the doorway, and, making a low reverence, stepped aside and
stood erect, looking into the vestibule in expectation, as it were, of
further devotees. Moro Trimmul could see the sweet mouth parted in a
smile, the pearly teeth glistening within the rosy lips, and the soft
eyes flashing as the strong side light fell upon them. Beyond her the
deep gloom of the recesses of the temple could not be penetrated. So
her figure stood out against it in a power of effective relief which
was almost startling.

It was a strange contrast. Within, the dreaded image, richly attired
and covered with priceless jewels, the tiara on its head, and the weird
ruby eyes, now sparkling brightly, now changing and glowing fitfully
amidst the clouds of incense which was burning before it, and the
black, stony, changeless features, seeming even to vary in expression
with the passing effects of light and shadow. Without, Tara in her rich
attire and glowing beauty, and that rapt expression in her countenance,
which the excitement of the scene and the service of the "Holy Mother"
had caused it to assume.

Moro Trimmul sighed. With all the fierce desire which burned within
him, and which now gave him no rest night or day, there was mingled,
curiously perhaps, a loving reverence for the girl, which, as yet, had
restrained him both from violence and insult. It might be her character
and position which had excited it, but rather, perhaps, her own innate
purity and modesty of mind, and the charming simplicity of character,
which he saw in daily exercise in her house, that controlled the fiery
passions of his nature and his avowed unscrupulousness.

"If I were a man," sneered his companion, as she stood with him
concealed behind the large pillar, "I should not be a coward when such
a woman as that was burning at my heart. By the gods, she is no woman,
but an incarnation of beauty. Look at her now!"

"Peace, devil," cried the Brahmun in a hoarse whisper; "hast thou
forgotten the gold, and thy promise by the Pâp-nâs?"

"No, I have not forgotten," said Gunga, "I have part of it here;" and
she shook her foot, on which the gold anklets tinkled slightly; "and I
want to change this silver thing round my waist for a zone like hers
yonder. Ah, how it glows among the rich silk! But thou art a coward,
Moro Trimmul, else I had earned it long ago; and I could have helped

"Go and speak to her, Gunga, and I will believe thee braver than I am,"
he replied tauntingly. "If she cannot be spoken with, how wilt thou
earn the zone?"

The girl regarded him with a look of defiance, and, without reply,
stepped forward into the light, advanced towards the shrine, making a
slight reverence to the image, glided forwards, and stood opposite to

"Thou hast served many hours, sister," she said, in an assumed voice of
kindness, "and must be weary; sit down within for a while, and I will
do what is needed; 'tis my office," she continued, laughing, "as well
as thine."

Moro Trimmul marked the involuntary shudder of aversion which spread
over Tara's countenance, and the action of withdrawing the skirts of
her garment between her ankles, which accompanied it. Then she spoke.

"I am not weary of the Mother's service; when I am I will come no
more," she said gently. "Go away; I will not speak with thee or thy
people, and that thou knowest full well; go."

"And why should I go?" cried Gunga, excitedly; "am I not a Moorlee like
thyself, and have I not served the Mother longer than thee? To be sure,
I am neither a Brahmun nor a widow to be nice as thou art; yet I bid
thee go, and let me have my turn: thou hast had more than thy share of
money already to-day."

"It is all in the shrine before the Mother," said Tara, shrinking from
the bold glances and excited manner of the girl. "I have taken none of
it: I need it not."

"That does not matter," said Gunga; "I will have my turn now. Go away;
thou art not wanted. Those that will not dance before the Mother are
not worthy to serve her. Go, else some of us will push thee out."

"Me!" cried Tara, drawing up her slight figure proudly, her eyes
flashing, and her features quivering with indignation,--"me! you dare
not; you are impure, and the Mother loathes you: touch me, and she will
strike you dead!"

Gunga shrunk from the trial; and others of her sisterhood, who had
stood apart ready to advance, slunk again into the gloom behind the
pillars. Gunga looked round as if for countenance, but no one seemed
disposed to join her, while the old priest at the altar, who had caught
the sound of voices, came to the door, and, seeing Gunga, waved her off.

"Away with ye, and the like of ye!" he cried. "Outside do as ye please;
here ye are an offence. Away! let her stay;" and he pointed to Tara.
"Do not molest her."

"There is some spell about thee, Tara, which shuts my mouth; beware!"
muttered Gunga, retreating; "it may not always be so."

"Bear me witness," said Tara to the old priest, "she is threatening me."

"Ah, daughter," he replied, smiling, "fear not such as she; the Mother
is good to thee; and they cannot harm thee so long as thou art holy and

"I did not tell thee to quarrel with her," said Moro Trimmul angrily,
seizing Gunga's arm as she approached, and dragging her within the
shadow of the pillar. "Art thou mad, or has any one given thee drink,

"I spoke to her kindly, which is more than thou darest to do," retorted
the girl sharply. "What answer did I get? Pure? Why should she be pure?
I tell thee there is a spell about her neck--I saw it glittering among
the flowers--which put me back: I could not speak. Yes, Moro Trimmul,
if it be only to put that spell under my foot, and crush it with
her throat, I will do it; yes, I will earn the gold; let her see to

"Good," he replied; "then I can trust thee. Come to me to-morrow,
and fail not." And then, naked to the waist, with his soft glossy
hair falling over his shoulders, and his fine figure displayed to the
best advantage, Moro Trimmul passed out, and took his place among the

Gunga's eyes followed him. "Drink!" she muttered; "drink! he said that.
Well, better drink than this madness, which is worse." And, sitting
down, leaning against a pillar, she hid her face in her garment, and
sobbed bitterly.

Just then, one of the ordinary processions round the temple formed
opposite the shrine. Priests, bearing offerings of flowers and lighted
lamps, holy water and incense, preceded by musicians, and chanting
a hymn, passed out into the court. Several of the temple girls were
dancing before it; and Tara, led on by an excitement she could not
control, had seized a pair of cymbals, and began to clash them in the
cadence of the hymn as the procession moved.

Three times round and round did the priests pass, and at the second
Gunga joined it, dancing wildly and tossing her arms on high as she
circled with the rest. Tara, however, remained among the priests,
singing with them; yet, in the elastic grace of her step, as well as in
the expression of her face, it was evident that she shared the fervour
of the scene, and could not control herself, while her clear ringing
voice mingled sweetly with the deeper-toned chant of the men.

Maloosray saw Tara, and watched the eyes of Moro Trimmul wandering from
one girl to the other with an intense expression of passion. "Ah, my
poor friend!" he said to himself, "that is the devil sitting at thy
heart, and looking out of thine eyes! Alas! alas! who is she--that
girl?" he asked of Jeswunt Rao, who sat by him.

"She is our new Moorlee," replied the man; "is she not beautiful?--But
listen to Moro Trimmul."


Never had the Brahmun's art been so effectively exercised by him
before. In the recitation of passages from the Ramayun his voice, high
and sonorous, pervading every portion of the court, delivered the
appeals to war, the description of the demigod's forces, and portions
of the battles, with a power which was listened to with breathless
interest; while the pleadings of Seeta, the beloved wife, and her
passionate confessions of love, were accompanied by tender actions,
and tones as low and sweet as a woman's. Now rolled forth the majestic
Sanscrit verse in its measured numbers, and again it was changed to the
sweet Mahratta vernacular, that all could understand. At every interval
the applause of the whole assembly arose in hoarse murmurs and loud
clapping of hands, while many wept passionately.

No one would have moved till morning, but there was yet much to do;
and, as Moro Trimmul sat down, Vyas Shastree ordered the distribution
of wreaths of flowers to the chief guests, which announced the close of
recitation for the night. Now, therefore, the main body of the people
got up and began to separate, and in a short time only those were left
who had been specially requested to stay. Now, too, the cressets, no
longer fed with oil, went out one by one; and the deep gloom of night
was fast spreading over the courts and buildings around.

"Will you not remain, Shastree," said Moro Trimmul, "to speak with
these people?"

"No," he said; "no; there is no one to go home with the women. I
thought you would accompany them."

"It will be late," he replied, gloomily; "no, I cannot come to-night."

"Your declamation was noble, Moro Trimmul," said the Shastree; "I had
never heard the passages so spoken. Who taught you this style?"

"That is the way our master likes them said. No one taught me," he
replied; "and if you could hear the whole in one of his assemblies in
the deep forest, you would feel that you were a Mahratta."

"So I am--so I am," returned the Shastree quickly; "do you doubt it?"

"Not your faith, Vyas Shastree," replied Moro Trimmul, "only your
energy. But go; I will come early to-morrow;" and, turning away, he
entered the vestibule and joined Maloosray and others who awaited him.
Guards of men, he saw, had been placed at each of the porches, so that
no one could enter but those privileged.

A solitary lamp flickered on the altar where the image still rested,
and cast a feeble and uncertain light into that portion of the
vestibule which was immediately before it, and where Maloosray, Moro
Trimmul, and the rest now seated themselves. Otherwise the spacious
area was altogether in deep gloom, a portion only of its massive stone
pillars catching rays of light, and seeming like giants standing around
in solemn array.

We need hardly, perhaps, follow Maloosray in his narrative, which was
listened to with breathless interest by his hearers. He had never as
yet come among them, but his name and feats were well known through
many a rough ballad both of love and war. There he sat, face to face
with them; his large soft eyes flashing with excitement, and adding
force to the few but burning words he spoke. Tannajee was no novice in
the art of reading men's hearts; and among the mountains and valleys
where he lived, there were already thousands of the best youth of the
country at his command.

"Now," he said finally, "ye have heard all. We are before the Holy
Mother, who comes to our Prince in his dreams, and tells him what to
do; she who will scatter these impure cow-slaying Moslems like sheep
before the wolf. O Holy Mother!" he continued, rising and bowing with
joined hands in adoration to the image, "here are thy children; bless
them, make them bold and true; they will swear not to hang back when
'the fire is on the hills,' and when they can strike for thy honour.
Hear thou the oath, and accept it."

As he paused and looked round there was at first a low murmur of
acquiescence. Then they who had been sitting started to their feet, and
as many as could reach it rushed to the threshold of the sanctum and
touched it reverently:--those who could not, stretched out their arms
towards it over each other's heads, while wild cries of "Jey Kalee!"
"Jey Toolja Máta!" "Bome, Bome!" (We swear, we swear!) rang through the
vestibule, and were taken up by those without.

"Now, let us write the names," cried Maloosray, when the excitement had
in some degree subsided; "sit down again, friends, and if there be a
scribe among ye let him come forward."

The Putwari, or hereditary clerk of the temple, was there, with his
writing materials tied up in a bundle, and he sat down and took them

"Light one of the large lamps," said Moro Trimmul to an inferior
priest, "and set it in the midst; we are not afraid of our faces before
the Mother."

As the wicks were lighted, one by one, the assembly seemed to dilate.
Light after light flickered, but grew stronger. "A true omen," cried
Maloosray, with fervour; "that is as we shall be, my friends. Light
after light will appear to ye from afar; each may waver for a while,
but when 'the fire is on the hills' ye will see all plainly. Be silent
now, and let us write."

It was, indeed, a strange and impressive scene. In the midst sat
Maloosray and Moro Trimmul, with the scribe; around, the heads of local
families, Nimbalkurs, Bhóslays, Sindias, Ghoreparays, and a host of
others, each anxious to be named in the record, and leaning forward
to catch the eye of the scribe. Beyond them--some kneeling, others
standing--was a crowd of eager faces, all bearing the same expression
of excitement--one behind another on every side--while the light fell
upon their bronzed features and glistening eyes, till those in the
background were scarcely distinguishable.

One by one--chiefs, gentry, yeomen--gave in their names and complements
of men, and page after page was filled by the record till no more

"It is done, friends," said Maloosray, rising, as the Putwari had added
up the totals, and signed his name as the scribe; "there are more than
fifteen thousand men recorded. Enough for the time, and more hereafter.
By-and-by, when 'the fire is on the hills,' ye will be welcome; till
then, separate and be quiet, else Afzool Khan will come upon you, and
we can give you no help. We will abide the storm and let it pass over
us, and so must you all."

As he spoke the last words, those who had been sitting rose, and all
in turn saluting Maloosray, the meeting broke up. The retainers of
the respective leaders gathered round their masters, and the several
parties followed each other out of the temple precincts.

"I shall depart before daylight, Moro Trimmul," said Maloosray, as they
proceeded to the postern which led to the bottom of the ravine, below
which their ponies and attendants awaited their coming; "wilt thou

"I have more to do here, Tannajee," he replied; "but after the Now
Râtree I will come. I must watch Afzool Khan and Pahar Singh."

"Take care they do not watch thee," returned Maloosray. "Yet I fear not
for thy enemies; of them thou art careful. I fear for thee, because of
that girl who played the cymbals. She is the devil that I see sitting
at thy heart, and looking out of thine eyes. I watched thee as they
followed her. It were well for thee to come now, even now; come!"

"Impossible," returned the Brahmun, turning away. "Go!"

"As thou wilt, friend," returned Maloosray. "Words were always useless
with thee; but be wary."

Moro Trimmul watched the party as they descended the steps to the
tamarind trees below. He saw them mount and ride off, the torches
with them throwing a ruddy glare upon the crags and brushwood above
the path,--and his heart bade him follow; but as one of the temple
watchers was about to close and bar the door, he turned aside. All in
the building was dark and deserted now. The image had been taken from
the altar, and put into its silken bed for the night, and a faint lamp
occupied its place. A few attendants flitted hastily here and there
across the dark courts and still darker vestibule, anxious to get away,
and the watchers only were all that would soon remain.

"Maharaj!--Moro!" said a female voice in a low whisper, as he passed
between the pillars of the temple, "stop!"

Moro Trimmul knew the voice. "Why art thou so late here, Gunga?" he
said hastily. "Begone!"

"I feared you were angry with me," said the girl, putting her hand on
his arm. "You would not look at me as I danced, only at her. I could
not go till I had spoken with you. Ah, you are not angry with me? Lo!
I will do your bidding, though my heart break and I die. Sit here,
beloved, and speak to me; come," and she tried to draw him to her

"Thou art one of the devils that are pulling me into hell!" cried the
Brahmun fiercely; and, pushing her violently from him, he rushed wildly
across the court.

Gunga fell back heavily against the pillar nearest to her, and as
she recovered herself, the pain of the fall obliged her to sit down,
involuntarily leaning against it. She drew her hand with a gesture of
weariness across her face and brow, then looked to see if there were
blood upon it. "Hath it come to this?" she said bitterly; "hath it come
to this--and for her? Ah, me for her!"

The girl had listened unobserved, in a dark niche near the shrine,
to what had transpired at the meeting, and her first thought now was
revenge, sure and deadly. A word from her, and the Mahomedan officer
in charge of the town would seize Moro Trimmul, and imprison him
in Nuldroog. As the thought occurred to her she rose, and, hastily
traversing the court, began to mount the steps which led up the
ravine; but her heart failed, and ere she had ascended a few of them
she wavered, sat down, and wept bitterly.

"They would kill him," she said, "and he must not die. No; I was wrong,
and he will forgive me; and to-morrow I will go to him as he desired."
Hers was a callous heart: but it had softened to her lover, and refused
to do him harm.

Time or country, what matter? How often is the history of woman's
love and man's passion like this! how often does such erring love
frame excuse for bitter wrong, endured from him who,--of all the
world,--should least inflict it!


A few days had elapsed, and it was a quiet afternoon in the Shastree's
dwelling. The household work had long been done; the visit to the
temple and the noonday worship were over. Vyas Shastree had remained
there in discussion with other Brahmuns; Radha, complaining of a
headache, had fallen asleep; Tara had read all that her father had
appointed her to study during the day, and was waiting his return to
have certain passages explained to her before she proceeded with her

The house was perfectly still, and from the town no sound reached
them, for the heat without was great, and until evening there would be
comparatively few persons astir. It was calm, and large white clouds
were sailing slowly over an intensely blue sky, gathering into masses
pile upon pile, of dazzling brightness, as the sun's rays fell upon
them. The heat and peculiar state of the atmosphere caused the outlines
of buildings and of the mountains to waver; and wherever the eye rested
on any object, the air between seemed to quiver with a tremulous motion.

Hot as it was, Tara had not been deterred from her self-imposed duty.
Throwing a heavy folded sheet over her shoulders and head, she had
accompanied her father to the noonday service; nor, since the occasion
when she took upon herself the office of the priesthood, and devoted
herself to the duties of the shrine, had she on any pretence missed or
evaded the necessary attendance.

At first, perhaps, it was a severe trial. The licence, accorded by
general custom to the attendant priestesses, was to her abhorrent; and,
on the other hand, Tara's unapproachable purity had given offence to
them. While Gunga, therefore, and two or three others, proposed the
prohibition of Tara's service, the rest, fearing the consequences, and
having a real respect and love for the girl whom they had watched from
her childhood, refused to interfere with her. Tara did them no harm,
they said, and her father could punish all, were any annoyance given to
his daughter.

It is probable that matters might have continued in this state for
some time longer, but for the scene we have already recorded, and the
increasing jealousy of Gunga, expression of which could hardly be
repressed by her; and on the day we now write of, the girl's behaviour
had been studiously offensive to Tara until rebuked by the attendant
Brahmuns, when she retired sulkily.

More insulting than that, however, was Moro Trimmul's manner
to herself; and for the first time Tara had felt what she long
dreaded,--the shame, as it were, of her vocation--the unavoidable
exposure to any libertine glance which might fall on her; but she had
rallied herself at the shrine, and, secure in the protection of the
"Mother" she adored, had persevered in her duty without interruption.

There was, as we have said, perfect stillness in the house, only
broken by the dull monotonous whirr of the spinning-wheels, as her
own and her mother's flew swiftly round, with which the buzz of flies
in the verandah and court seemed to harmonize. Her mother appeared
particularly intent upon spinning some remarkably fine yarn; and as the
thread had broken on several occasions, when Tara had spoken to her,
and she had complained of it, both had fallen into a silence, which had
not been interrupted. Gradually, then, the small troubles which had
gathered about Tara returned to her recollection; and, as is generally
the case on such occasions, began, in spite of herself, to increase in

Tara's was not, however, a suspicious nature, and she had soon struck
out a course for herself in regard to the sisterhood. "It is the money
they want, not me: if I save it all, and give it to the Putwari to
divide amongst them daily, it will surely be enough," she thought; and
this she determined to do. In regard, however, to Moro Trimmul, it was
very different. "Why did he look at her as he had done that day?"

Then her thoughts reverted to the time when she had first remarked
him in the temple, a solitary stranger worshipper, to whom her
father had spoken kindly. Her memory followed clearly his gradual
steps to intimacy; but there was nothing she could charge him with,
as an approach to familiarity in their intercourse. Through all the
licence of the marriage time--through all her visits to his aunt and
sister--there had been no violation of propriety; on the contrary, an
habitual and respectful avoidance of her--or, at most, a distant and
courteous salutation. Why should it have altered?

But since the night on which Gunga had spoken to her, and Moro Trimmul
had made his famous declamation of the scene in the Ramayun, there had
been a change. He either avoided her altogether, or his eyes dropped
furtively as she passed, or met hers, as they had done that day, in a
glance new to her, and inexpressibly offensive. Tara shuddered as she
remembered it, and the action broke the thread she was spinning. She
did not resume her work, and her hands fell listlessly on her lap as
her foot ceased its motion. For a time her eyes wandered vacantly among
her flowers, about which some gay butterflies were flitting and chasing
each other in the bright sunlight; but suddenly a large dragonfly,
which had been hovering over them, darted at one and carried it off;
and as she started forward, gazing intently after it, a bird chased the
insect, caught it, and flew away.

Perhaps the sudden cessation of the whirr of Tara's wheel had attracted
her mother's attention; for after a while, as it was not resumed, she
looked up. "What dost thou see?" she asked, anxiously; for ever since
the day on which Tara said the goddess appeared to her, Anunda had been
anxious, she hardly knew why: but she dreaded a return of that strange
and violent excitement. "What dost thou see, beloved?"

Tara did not apparently hear the question, or did not notice it.
Her hands, which had been involuntarily extended, fell upon her lap
listlessly as before; but she turned towards her mother. "How long does
he remain, mother?" she asked abruptly.

"He! who, daughter?" returned Anunda.

"Radha's brother," replied the girl, as a shiver seemed to pass through
her; "Radha said he would go after the marriage, yet he delays. Why,
mother--why does he not go?"

"Nay, and how should I know?" replied Anunda. "What is he to me? All
I wanted was Radha, and we have got her; and he may go or come as he
pleases. Thy father told me he had business here with the Nimbalkur and
others till the Now Râtree was over, and he assists in the recitations.
More I know not. Why dost thou ask? What is he to thee, Tara?"

"Nothing, mother; but so long?--will he stay so long?"

"Radha told me yesterday he must soon rejoin his people in the west,
and leave her; and she was crying about it. Does that content thee,

"I would he were gone, mother," said Tara, rising from her low stool,
kneeling, and throwing her arms about Anunda as she sat on a similar
one, while she hid her face in her dress. "Cannot he go sooner?--cannot
Radha send him away?"

"Why, daughter? why?--Ah! he hath not spoken to thee, child; he dare
not! Tell me," she continued, in a more agitated tone, as her daughter
clung almost convulsively to her, "what is this? Why dost thou fear
him? Thou--thou dost not? ... thou canst not----"

"No, no, mother," cried the girl quickly, guessing her mother's
thoughts, and looking up innocently; "fear not. I am not a Moorlee to
love; ... fear not! But ah, mother, I dread him! I will not go to the
temple while he is there. I ... I dare not--I dare not go. May the Holy
Mother forgive me for neglect; but when he departs, I will serve her
night and day."

"Thou art very beautiful, my child," said her mother, smoothing back
the glossy hair and stroking the soft cheek which lay passively in her
lap. "Ah, thou art very beautiful; and I fear such as he! Yes, if it be
as thou sayest, it were better, indeed, to live secluded for a while. I
will tell thy father, and he will understand it."

"Yes, he will surely understand," said Tara absently; "but ah, mother,
was not that an omen? I thought it was, and I came to thee."

"What omen, Tara? I saw nothing, child."

"A thought came into my mind, mother," she said sadly, "that I was the
butterfly sporting among the flowers, and he the fierce glistening
insect that darted upon it and bore it away. But then, mother, the bird
came and took both. Why was that?"

"Thou art not well, Tara," replied her mother, not understanding her,
for she had not noticed the occurrence, and, seeing her shiver, thought
her feverish. "Thou art not well; lie in my arms for a while, and the
cold will pass away. O Holy Mother!" she cried aloud, as Tara, sobbing
convulsively, hid her face in her bosom, "let not evil come to this
child--thine and mine. O, be good to her, as thou hast taken her!"

"Would that it were so," said the girl, after a while, and still
sobbing. "I would go, mother, if she would take me. What use am I in
life? It would be bitter to leave the house and all of ye, but I should
be with her. Did she not promise this when she touched my hair? Ah,
yes; and she will not forget it."

"Hush, child; let this fancy pass from thee. Sleep, now, here. I will
sing thee the old song. Nay, thou shalt not leave me! There is room
at thy mother's heart, and strength still in her arms, to hold thee

As Tara laid herself softly down in the old place, and her
mother, rocking herself to and fro, sang the low sweet lullaby of
childhood,--the girl's sobbing gradually stopped, and a gentle sleep
fell upon her. Anunda watched the change anxiously. At first her brow
was contracted, as if with pain, and a broken sob came now and again
with her breathing; but gradually the head fell back on her arm, the
sweet mouth opened slightly, and tears, which had had no vent before,
welled gently from under the closed eyelids as the features relaxed
into a smile.

"Yes," thought Anunda, as she bent over her child, while her own tears
fell hot and fast, "the Mother is with her now, and she is again happy."

"What hath happened?" asked Radha soon afterwards, as, refreshed by
her sleep, she rose, and came gently towards the low spinning-chair on
which Anunda still sat. "Is she ill?"

"Hush!" returned Anunda, in a whisper. "If we can lay her down I will
tell thee, but we must not wake her. I think.... I think the Mother
hath been with her again; but I will tell thee."

Radha hastily spread out a soft mattress and pillow close to the stool,
and, raising Tara together, they laid her down upon it, as they would a
child. Her mother patted her gently as she lay, and gradually the same
sweet smile as at first again stole over her face.

"Look, she sees the Mother!" said Anunda reverently. "It is always so,
and nothing can wake her till the time is past. Ah, thou art happy now,
my child, be it ever so with thee!"

"What did she say, sister?" asked Radha, as, having thrown a light
sheet over the sleeping girl, they sat down to watch her apart, lest
the noise of the wheels--for Radha had taken Tara's and joined the
broken thread--should awaken her. "What did the goddess say?"

Anunda hesitated. As yet no difference had arisen between them, and
Radha still looked up to her, more with the respect of a child for
its mother than as a sister-wife would comport herself to her equal.
Should she tell Radha all? It had occurred to her that he had imposed
upon her some task which she hesitated to perform--that Radha had
some impatience of her brother's presence. It might be a demand for
money--it might be in relation to the political objects of his mission,
of which Anunda had a deep dread, lest her husband should become an
active party, and so be embroiled with the Mahomedan officers of the
country. She considered for a moment: but Anunda's was no timid nature.
She was not afraid of Radha; and with Tara's happiness at stake, she
could risk no ceremony with the sister of him who had evidently caused
more than a passing cloud.

"Radha," she said gently, "thou art more than a sister-wife to me. Nay,
as a daughter I have trusted to thee the happiness which lay nearest my
heart and hers; and I believe thee faithful to it, and that this home
and all in it is growing precious to thee."

"To me? Ah, yes, O sister and mother, too! Radha is new to you all,"
she replied, "but will be true now, very true, and will not fail! O
mother, if you could know what it is to me to have a loving home!"

"Then Tara must not be injured--no evil must come to her," said Anunda,
interrupting her.

"To Tara, mother? We are sisters, who will do her evil?"

"I fear thy brother, Radha--not thee. Hath he said aught to thee?"
returned Anunda.

"My brother! O, heed him not, he will soon go," returned Radha, her
features expressing distress and agitation, and she already feared the

"Ah, then, it is as I expected--as she dreaded. Radha, this must not
be. Hast thou any power over him?"

"None," said the girl, bursting into tears, for what she had most
apprehended appeared to have reached her at last--"none. He has been
wilful always--to me, to our father when he lived, and to all. Where
he goes--who are his companions--what he does--no one knows except
our Prince whom he serves, and Tannajee--who came so suddenly that
night--whom I showed to you. No, mother, I have no power and no
influence. What does he care about me?"

"He must care," said the matron stoutly, "or he must care for me;
and yet, for thy sake, I would not provoke him. But, O Radha! when
thou hast had a child lying at thy heart--drinking its life from thy
breast--climbing about thee--thou wilt understand what a woman can dare
for it--what I could dare for Tara! Wilt thou speak to him, or shall I?"

Radha feared her brother. She did not know the extent to which
his unscrupulous and profligate mind might carry him, but she had
not forgotten his threats. Though she felt assured that, with the
protection her husband could afford her, she was now beyond all
ordinary harm at his hands, she feared the consequences both to herself
and Tara with which he had before threatened her, and she dreaded his
violence. Could he have been mad enough to speak to Tara? Could he have
sent any insulting message to her? Something must have occurred, and
she felt too sick at heart to ask.

"Thou art silent, Radha," continued Anunda; "why?"

"I love Tara; I love him too," she said earnestly, the tears starting
to her eyes. "Yes, I will speak to him, even though he should strike
me. Mother, I can bear it from him. Can you send me to him?--now,
now!--or send for him? If I am to go, let it be at once, for this is
a matter in which I cannot hesitate. O dear mother!" she continued,
rising and advancing, "I am a child yet to thee. Let me put my head on
thy breast for once, and bless me there as thou wouldst Tara: bless me
ere I go to him. No, not so, not so; but as Tara lay on thy breast, so
would I too, for once."

"Come, Radha!" cried Anunda. "O child! O sister-wife! come; henceforth
between thee and me there is no veil. I had longed to draw it away,
but thou hast done it now, and I am happy. Yes, henceforth ye are to
me as one," she continued, smoothing the soft cheek as it lay at her
heart--"new and old, but alike."

"Enough; now I am content," cried the girl, rising and clapping her
hands, "and there shall be no fear for Tara. Send some one with me and
let me go; he should not come here."

"No, Radha," said Anunda, calling a trusty woman-servant to accompany
her, "not here. Go to him, and return soon."


"Is my brother within? has he returned from the temple?" asked Radha of
a man sitting in the porch of the house in which Moro Trimmul resided,
and, though in another street, was only a few steps distant. "Is he
come, Chimna?"

"Yes, lady, he is come," returned the man, who was an old retainer of
the family, and had known her from infancy; "but if you take my advice,
you will not go to him now: he has eaten nothing, and is in one of his
rough angry moods. I did but speak to him as he entered, and got as
many curses as will serve me for a month. Why not come another time?"

"Nay, Chimna, but it is an urgent matter, and I must now have speech
of him," she replied. "Go, say I am come, and that he must admit me.
Begone at once," she continued, seeing him hesitate, "else it will be
worse for you."

"I had rather you went yourself," returned the man, "what if he should
beat me? But no matter, I will go; perhaps I may not do you much more
service, for he speaks of departing."

"Ah, indeed! When?" exclaimed Radha. "He is not ill?"

"Soon, perhaps," replied the man, putting his finger to the side of his
nose, as a caution to secrecy, while he stepped across the court to
the verandah, "very soon, I think. No, he is not ill, only vexed with

Radha's heart beat fast in her bosom. O, if it were but true; and
that her brother, alarmed or repentant, no matter which, were about
to depart, it would solve all difficulties at once. That very
day--to-morrow! It seemed hard to wish him gone; yet there would be
peace to Tara and to her mother, which was endangered by his presence.
Surely he would see her. Yes; Chimna was now descending the steps of
the house, and beckoned to her with a smiling face. She crossed the
court at once, followed by the servant.

"He is in the upper room," he said, "and bid thee come alone: perhaps
he is not well, for he is lying down, and seems weary. No wonder he
was in ill-humour with me, after that long disputation with the Nassuk
Brahmun to-day in the temple,--some relation of the Shastree's, I
believe, lady."

"Enough, Chimna; take care of my servant till I return," said Radha.
"You can sit here; if I want you I will call;" and so saying she passed
through a door into the inner court, and up the steps which led to the
apartments above, which were steep and narrow. The door was closed at
the top of them, and she knocked before she opened it. Her brother
unfastened it inside. "Enter," he said quickly; "it is well thou art
come, I was thinking how I could see thee, Radha. Sit down there," and
he hastily arranged a few pillows and a travelling mattress for her,
"and speak to me;" and at the same time threw himself heavily upon a
low bed which was close to the seat he had contrived.

"O, I am weary, Radha," he continued, "very weary. I have no sleep, no
rest; I cannot eat, and there is a burning thirst ever with me. I shall
die if this lasts long."

"Brother, you are ill," she replied; "this place does not agree with
you? Why not go away for a time and change the air? Chimna says you
have eaten nothing; why is this? With all there is to do for the
master, this is no time to be ill. Is there nothing better for him than
lingering here? Surely Tannajee brought news of him?"

"Ay, sister, and there is more," and he pointed to a heap of letters
on the floor; "enough to make one tremble for the result of years
of toil and strife with the men of Islam. Listen: Maloosray brought
word of their preparations at Beejapoor, and they write that to-day
or to-morrow Afzool Khan and his son Fazil, with all the forces at
Nuldroog and Sholapoor, and many others, will begin a march upon Wye
and Purtâbgurh. What can we do?"

"Is this Moro Trimmul, my brother, who is speaking?" said the girl,
with some scorn in her tone, and drawing herself up. "I thought he,
like Tannajee and the master, could see no hindrance to the cause of
the Holy Mother but death. He used to say so in--in--the old times,"
she added tenderly.

"The old times?" he echoed. "Yes, the old times, when thou hadst a
royal lover, girl; not a drivelling book-worm!"

"Hush, Moro," returned Radha sharply; "no more of that. Thou hast
buried it in the marriage, and he is kind to me. Why remember it?"

"Is it to be forgotten? Dost thou forget it, Radha?--then, when we
brought thee back from him?"

"He never loved me," she returned; "he could not love a mad child; he
told me so when he gently put me away."

"Not for the mad child, but for the beautiful girl, would he care; he
does care, Radha. O sister, why was this hateful marriage done, so far
away from us?"

"Nay, brother, thou knowest best; but I am content--he is very kind to
me; and they all love Radha now, even Anunda."

"Radha," said her brother, raising himself on his arms and looking at
her intently, and till his eyes seemed to flash with a light glowing
beneath them. "Radha, do not lie. If thou art my sister, thy heart is
far away among the blue mountains and their deep forests, and with our
Prince. If it be not so, the witchcraft of that house hath compassed
thee with a spell, as it has me."

"Witchcraft, brother? they do no witchcraft," she replied simply.

"By the Mother, they do," he cried; "feel my hands, feel my head, they
are burning, and Tara has set me on fire."

"Moro, thou art ill; this is fever," returned his sister anxiously. "I
was like this yesterday, and Anunda gave me some medicine, and I slept,
and it passed away. Let me fetch some, or send the woman for it."

"No, no, Radha," he said hoarsely, "this is no fever; this is a spell
on me, and I cannot break it. This is the spell Tara wears round her
neck, Gunga told me of it. It would not let her speak; it draws me to
her, and then puts me away till I burn. O sister, I burn all over, and
at night when there is no one with me--O, it is terrible, terrible;
and she comes and mocks me, and holds out water and flowers, and then
snatches them away. I tell thee she is a witch, a devil, and she has
set me on fire. Bring her to me and I will tell her so."

"Brother, dear brother," said the girl, "you are ill, and there is no
one to tend you. I will stay; why did you not send for me? why not tell
me of this sooner? Now, I will not leave you, you must not be alone."

"Radha, I am not ill," he replied; "I need no tending. Was I ill
yesterday, when I overcame the Brahmuns from Punderpoor in the
discussion at night, and when I could have said the Ramayun by heart?
Was I ill to-day when I strove with the Nassuk Brahmuns in logic? No,
girl, I am not ill in body, only at heart. And when she comes to the
temple, and goes round the shrine crowned with flowers, clashing the
cymbals and singing hymns with the priests, then I see the charm on her
bosom, and it sparkles; and I hear her ringing voice, and I grow mad,
Radha--mad ... and this fever comes on me, and I burn as they do in
hell--as I do now. Look!" he cried in a shrill cry of pain, "look, she
is there, mocking me now, and pushing me in.... O Tara!" he continued
in a plaintive voice, after a pause, stretching out his hands and
shutting his eyes, as he turned away, "do not kill me, do not burn me;
I kiss your feet, I worship you, beloved! do not harm me!"

"What can I do? what can I do?" cried Radha, wringing her hands. "He
will die. Ho, Chimna!"

"Silence, Radha; for your life call no one. I will strike you if
you do," he said, raising his arm. "Look, she is gone! she was
there--there, even now. I turned away, for her eyes burned me; there
was no love in them--none. She came and mocked me, and you are witness
of it. Why did she come in the air? She is a spirit--a witch--and it is
always thus. There--look----"

Radha looked tremblingly where he pointed. It was impossible not to be
infected with the terror and misery of his face and voice. The room
had open arches of wood on one side, across which heavy curtains were
drawn; but they were partially open, and, looking through them, all she
saw was the terraces of the houses of the town gradually descending
into the great ravine: the crags and precipices of its further side:
with the trees, and gilded spires and pinnacles of the temple between.
Beyond these, the rugged mountain and the plain below, hazy with
quivering light, and melting into the sky.

"You see nothing, sister?" he said. "No, she is gone now."

"No, Moro, there is nothing there but the town and the temple. O Holy
Mother!" continued Radha, stretching out her hands to it, "save him;
save my brother! I vow to thee----"

"Make no vows for me, Radha," he said to her, sharply catching her arm;
"she is my enemy; I know it. She loves Tara better than me; she will
not give her to me. I asked her for Tara long ago; see what has come of
it. I have done all the secret rites that her worship enjoins, but she
is not content; she mocks me, and when I look at her eyes they glitter
with malice. To-day she seemed to glower at me from among the smoke,
and Tara was there offering flowers. They both mocked me. Yes, they are
devils; but I fear them no more, Radha. May her house be desolate, and
her shrine desecrated."

"Hush, brother!" cried the girl, putting her hand before his mouth, to
stop what she believed to be horrible and deadly blasphemy. "Hush! what
if she heard you? O Mother, gentle Mother, forgive him this madness. I
vow to thee----"

"You will make me curse you, Radha," he said, again grasping her arm
violently. "Did I not tell you I would have no vows to her, liar and
murderess as she is? Yes, I see it now. You, too, are one with them,
and are come to mock me; and yet, Radha," he continued, looking at
her tenderly, "was this good of you after all I have done for you? O,

"Moro," returned Radha, weeping sorely, and sobbing so that she could
hardly speak, "I am not faithless. I am true to you, even to death, my

"Good," he said gravely; but again fixing his eyes upon her, so that
she could hardly bear his intense gaze. "True? Ah, yes, if all are
false, Radha should be true--true to him and to me. Now, listen," he
continued, slowly and impressively, "if thou art true, tell Tara I am
in fear of her charm; bid her look kindly on me--bid her put it away
from her breast. I will kiss her feet; I will daily measure with my
body every step she takes round the shrine, so that she give me one
kind look,--so that I see that love in her eyes which is burning in me
day and night--day and night.

"But that is not all," he resumed, after a pause. "Am I mad? Dost thou
think me so for this raving? By the gods, no! Only for her. Let her
look to herself. And I say to thee calmly, sister, thou must say all
this to-night, else beware! Listen, I have but one desire in life, that
is Tara--one object only to live for, that is Tara. I plead nothing, I
say nothing, only that I am not mad.

"Now, listen again. You have much to live for--the pleasures
of life, the enjoyments of wealth--honour as the wife of Vyas
Shastree,--children to come, and your husband's love, with your
children's; but remember, Radha, they are all in my hand. A word from
me to him, and you are sunk lower than the Moorlees. All this joy will
pass from you. He will cast you out, and I will not shelter you. You
shall be worse than the vilest, and men shall mock you. By ----" and he
swore a horrible curse, "I will do this and more, Radha, if you refuse.
Answer me, girl," and he shook her violently and painfully in his

"Moro!" cried his sister, gasping for breath, "listen. I said once
before you might kill me if it pleased you, and I bared my breast to
you. Now again, if you dare to look at it without shame, it is before
you. But, listen to my words, I will do no treachery; no, brother, no
treachery. I am of the same blood and the same spirit as yourself, and
you well know I could be true and fearless once, and so may God and the
Mother help me, I will be fearless now in a better cause. Yes, strike,"
she continued, as, without speaking, he hastily raised himself, seized
a naked dagger that was concealed under his pillow, and brandished it
with one hand, while he pressed her down with his knee, and held her
forcibly against the wall with the other. "Strike! your blow will be
more merciful than your words," and she shut her eyes, expecting the
stroke, yet not flinching from it.

"Stay--hold!" cried a shrill woman's voice, as a hasty rustling of
silken garments was heard for an instant between the door and the bed,
and Moro Trimmul's hand was seized in a powerful grasp; "wouldst thou
do murder? Shame on thee, and she thy sister!"

"She is a devil, too, and mocked me," exclaimed the man moodily, but
dashing the knife to the ground. "Who let thee in, Gunga? Go, I want
thee not--away! tempt me no more, else I will strike!"

"Fear him not, lady," cried the girl, picking up the dagger hastily;
"he dare not strike you now, else,"--and her eyes flashed--"else, Moro
Trimmul, thou shalt do no more evil: none to me, none to her. Beware!
I have no fear, and no scruple; let her go safely, and I will stay with

"Go, Radha," he said. "Go, sister----"

"I will not go, Moro Trimmul," cried his sister excitedly. "I was not
afraid of you when that dagger's point was at my heart. For myself I
am not afraid of your threats, or your words. What you can do to me,
what you can say of me, I know not. Whatever it be, and this girl is
witness, I fear it not. What men would say of the Pundit who wronged
his sister--you know; and how they would revile and spit at you. Say
it, sir, and I follow you through Dekhan, through Hind, till I die by
your hand. If you make me shameless you shall be shameless with me; but
this remember, I warn them all in the house of you,--I warn Tara of
you,--and no harm shall come to her, for your honour is dearer to me,
than mine to you."

"If thou hast any influence over him," she continued to Gunga; "lead
him aright. Thou mayst have saved him a great crime to-day, for there
was blood in his eyes when he kneeled over me with the knife; but
better I should have died than harm should have come to them through
me. Lead him away from those evil thoughts, and Radha will be grateful
to thee all her life, and may often help thee."

"I love you, lady, and honour you," said the girl, reverently touching
Radha's feet; "but in this matter I have no power, much as I desire to
help you and him; nor, indeed, in any other now,--yet I will do what
I can. He loved me once," said the girl, bursting into tears, "before
he knew Tara; but that is gone, for she has his love and cares not for
it. Now he only curses me and beats me, yet I will not, I cannot leave
him, lady. Forgive the poor Moorlee; but it is better for me to bear
his wrath than for him to be left alone. Last night he was fearfully
excited, and threatened my life, but I escaped. He grows worse towards
evening; but fear not, I will not leave him."

"I will come and watch with thee," said Radha, in a whisper, for her
brother had again thrown himself on the bed, and covered himself with a
sheet, and she feared to excite him; "let me come?"

"It may not be, lady," replied the girl. "If he kill me, what matter?
who would miss the Moorlee, or grieve for her? But you, his sister,
must not meet this peril; the Holy Mother has already saved you from
one terrible danger, and fate is never to be dared twice. Only believe
that one as devoted as yourself watches him, and one to whom life is of
no account. Go, do not speak to him now. This madness will pass away,
and I will come and tell you of him."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Is she gone, Gunga?" said Moro Trimmul to the girl, who, after Radha's
departure, had sat down by the bed and was fanning him. "I hear no one
speaking to you."

"Yes, I sent her away. I feared for her," she replied.

"It was well done, Gunga, else--else I might have killed her----Ay,
girl," he resumed, after a pause, "I had killed her but for Tara. Why
did she come and not stay? Why did she take the knife from me?"

"Thou art always raving of that girl like a fool, Moro Trimmul," said
Gunga impatiently. "It was I that saved thy sister, else there was
blood in thine eyes, and a devil at thy heart; what if thou hadst
struck her?"

"She and Tara are one," he said gloomily; "yes, they are one, and thou,
too, wilt go to them. Go, Gunga, they will give thee money."

"May dirt fall on their money, and thine too," she replied sulkily. "I
want none of it."

"Thou art insolent, girl."

"I am a fool, Moro Trimmul, to bear with thee," she retorted, without
moving. The girl's quick perception showed her that any toleration of
his bad humour would only increase it, and of life she was utterly
reckless. What tie held her to the man who now seemed almost to loathe
her, she knew not: a fascination, perhaps, which she could not resist.

He was long silent, again drew the sheet over him, and lay quietly; at
length he removed it and sat up.

"Thou art not gone, Gunga?" he said; "why art thou here?"

"I know not," she returned, "except that I am a fool."

"Go," he continued, "they will be wanting thee in the temple."

"I am not going," she replied; "another will take my work. I will not
leave thee now."

"Gunga," he resumed, after a moody silence, "is there peace between us?"

"Such peace as thou wilt have," she replied.

"And if I love thee again?"

"Pah!" she cried; "love!--it is a thing to spit upon now. Can love go
from one to another, and return as it went? Can a garland of Champa
flowers be worn all night, and keep their freshness and fragrance till
the morning? Do not men fling them away as refuse?"

"Then, why come to me, girl? why follow me?"

"Thy heart tells thee already," she said, fixing her eyes full on him,
"we have one thing only in common now. That girl--I told thee so at the
Pâp-nâs that day, and I tell thee so again--when I trample that charm
of hers under my feet, and her throat with it, I shall be content,
and thou art safe. Yes, Moro Trimmul, but for hope of revenge on her,
I would have killed thee when thy love went to her. But thou art a
coward; I know it; thou wilt do nothing."

"Thou wilt not say so if I carry her off and put her to shame."

"Ah!" cried the girl, rising and standing over him, "is it so? I tell
thee, Moro Trimmul, I will follow her and fawn on her like a dog--I
will abase myself before her--I will lick the dust from her feet, if
that will help thee to do this."

"Listen to what I say," he continued, raising himself on his arm. "I
am calm now--quite calm--I burn no longer. I was mad when she--when
Radha--came. I thought I had a chance through her; but she defied me,
and there is none."

"Women know women best," said the girl. "I told thee so long ago, but I
was not believed."

"I believe thee now," he replied; "and we have only ourselves to rely
upon. Ah, surely this is a strange calmness which has come over me. It
is not before death, Gunga?"

"No, fear not," returned Gunga. "Love is passing into revenge; I know
what it is. Yes, thou wilt act now, Moro. Take her hence but for a day,
and she is thine for ever, and will become a Moorlee like me--like the
rest of us. Enough, Moro Trimmul. No other harm shalt thou do to her
than this? Hast thou the spirit--the courage?"

"I will do it," he said gloomily. "That is what I had determined on
myself. When can it be done?"

"On the last night of the ceremonies," she said; "I can get the key of
the postern, and keep it open unobserved; and as Maloosray and others
went that night, so canst thou take Tara; and I have friends among the
Ramoosees, who will help us. I am their priestess, and they dare not
refuse me. Take us both; I must see her humiliation. O Shakti powers!"
she cried, stretching out her arms, "aid me in this. Ye are more
powerful than the Mother, and ye hate her. Art thou determined, Moro

"I will not change," he said; "the illusion is past."

"Swear on my throat and feet, and I will believe thee."

"I swear," he replied, touching her neck.

"Now I will leave thee, Moro," said the girl. "I have no fear for thee;
there will be no more delirium with new thoughts."

"I will follow thee to the temple," he replied; "go on before. I dare
not stay here alone; she would come to me----"


Some days have passed at Beejapoor since we were last there, not idly,
certainly. A large army had to be prepared for the field, and for
a long, difficult, and perhaps hazardous service. The treasury was
opened, and the arrears of all troops disbursed; for the men had to
provide as well for their own wants as for those of their families
during their absence. The condition of the artillery was looked to
with particular care, and preparations made for rough roads and rougher
service than other parts of the Dekhan afforded. Sivaji's mountains
were high and steep, the jungle and forest next to impenetrable, yet
Afzool Khan had taken up the "birra," the gage of service, and had
determined to bring the rebel bound to the throne of his young King,
there to receive death or pardon, as might be most fitting.

But the old Khan was no boaster. He had seen something of that country
when, as a younger man, he had governed those provinces; and in his
tours through them had shared the hospitality of Shahji, the father
of Sivaji, and had been guided by Sivaji himself through many a rough
hunting expedition; he therefore remembered enough to adopt precautions
in all respects, and, so far as lay in his power, they were made.

That was not a country for the operations of cavalry, and it was
therefore more to the infantry and artillery that he trusted: and it
would not be wise to weaken the royal forces in and about the capital
too much, lest the Moghuls should take advantage of it, and make
incursions across the frontier, nay, even attack the capital itself.

His own Paigah, and troops that had been in quarters for the rainy
season at his own town of Afzoolpoor:--some of the Wuzeer's Abyssinian
levies, which were at Nuldroog,--some bodies of the old Dekhany horse
under Alla-ool-Moolk, the Dâgtorays and Bylmees, were particularly
selected; and, with some of the best infantry, the army was complete.

Nothing could exceed the spirit and devotion of the troops. In
the beautiful Jumma Mosque, where more than five thousand men
assembled daily for prayer, the preaching of the Peer, and the other
ecclesiastics of that noble edifice--which yet remains as perfect as
it was at the period of this history--eloquently set forth the merits
of the Jéhâd, or religious war, in the eyes of God and the Prophet;
and the certainty of paradise and its houris, to all who, falling by
sickness or in battle, would surely enjoy them. Nor was it in the Jumma
Mosque only that this fervour existed. In the royal Palace precincts,
the city mosques--at the tombs of the ancestors of the Kings--the
beauteous Ibrahim Roza, and noble mausoleum of Sultan Mahmood, nothing
was left undone by the preachers to make the war popular, and to
blacken the character and motives of the rebels. Frequently, indeed, to
such a pitch of excitement were men wrought, that it was difficult to
restrain them from attacking Hindus indiscriminately in the streets,
and, in the expressive language of the Peer, from "making a pyramid of
a lakh of heads before the palace gates." But it was no part of the
royal policy to allow such religious fury vent at the capital or by the
way: suffice it that, at the end of a long and toilsome journey, which
would be made light through religious fervour, there would be free
licence to slay, and the raid of Afzool Khan would become memorable in
the history of the kingdom.

As the camps of the different leaders, too, formed without the walls,
on that great plain which encompassed the city, bards and minstrels, in
companies or singly, balled-singers, and, above all, troops of dancing
women--thronged to them; and day and night, audiences were formed,
sometimes in the tents, sometimes in the open air, where the feats of
Sivaji and Maloosray were sung in the native Mahratta or Canarese, with
verses added for the occasion, urging the faithful to destroy them.

We may be sure that, if the old Khan and Fazil were active in the
field, Lurlee and Zyna were no less so in the house. To Lurlee war was
familiar. She had been long weary of a monotonous life in the city,
varied only by an occasional day's excursion to the royal palaces at
Toorweh, the Ibrahim Roza, or to the Khan's own garden, which was
without the walls; and she remembered vividly the time when, for months
together, the Khan's tent, or a temporary lodging in a village, were
her only home, moving hastily or leisurely, as the service required,
from place to place, in her palankeen or on horseback, as might be.

Ah! she was young and active then, and with the sharing of a rough
bivouac or hurried march,--scanty food, often cooked by herself, a
horse-cloth to lie upon, and a shelter contrived with four spears
and a sheet thrown over them--and hard fighting to boot,--were her
pleasantest memories of the Khan's love and her own happiness. If she
were not so young, the old spirit was at last roused; and, day by day,
as the preparations went on, the good lady told Zyna of the old wild
times, and excited her desire to share in the new expedition.

To Zyna's great joy her father had directed that the whole family was
to move. Lurlee was indispensable to the Khan in the field, where,
indeed, her truest value was apparent; and Fazil could not be denied
the command he had earned by his sagacity and valour. Who, then, could
protect Zyna, even did he desire to leave her? True, the royal Bégum
had offered a home, and with it her love to the maiden; she should
be her little secretary, and write the King's private letters to her
father while he was absent. But it could not be: that loving heart
would have pined without those whose daily converse had been its life
for years, and the invitation was affectionately but respectfully

We may, perhaps, also hint another reason, not more powerful,
certainly, than the love of those nearest and dearest to her, but
working with it, nevertheless, in no mean degree. Kowas Khan had not
suffered by his father's treachery. It was not only that Afzool Khan
and Fazil answered for him with their lives and honour; but it had
become clear to the King, and to those who had examined the late
Wuzeer's correspondence, that the son had been kept ignorant of his
father's plans; so, when the period of mourning was past, Kowas Khan
had been taken to the royal court by the Khan and his son, and invested
with robes of honour. Of the King's participation in the secret of
his father's murder Kowas Khan had no knowledge, and could have none.
It was believed to have been committed in revenge by some discharged
soldiers, and it were better that he died as he had done, than that his
treacherous intention should have succeeded, or that the ignominy of a
public execution should have followed its detection.

While, therefore, the young man was still residing at the Khan's house
with his mother, and other younger members of the family, he renewed
his proposals for Zyna, which were heartily seconded by her, and other
female relatives. It was, however, no time for such affairs; and with a
tacit consent that, when the campaign was over, there should be no more
delay in the marriage, Kowas Khan contented himself with being told by
Lurlee Khánum--when the worthy dame had retired behind a screen--that,
after a strict investigation, she had come to the conclusion that his
temperament was fire and Zyna's air, and that, in consequence, their
union promised to be felicitous in the highest degree; and that her
friend the Moolla agreed with her.

Did our space admit of it, we would tell how friends on both sides met
for the betrothal; and how,--there being no time for more lengthened
ceremonies,--they stood up and interchanged packets of betel-leaf
covered with gold and silver foil. How both sides swore that those
they represented should never swerve from the contract; how the first,
and hundred and tenth chapters of the Kôrán, were said devoutly by the
Moolla and the assembly; and what good things were provided at night by
Lurlee Khánum and her trusty cook Kurreema, for those who came to the
quiet ceremony. Many were the complaints of Lurlee's female friends,
and perhaps Zyna's also, that there was not greater rejoicing; but
Afzool Khan made it known that, when the marriage did take place,
there should be no stint; and so the neighbours were satisfied for the
present, and consoled themselves with hope for the future.

Bulwunt's wounds had proved of less consequence than was supposed
at first, and loss of blood had caused the weakness under which he
suffered on the night of the scene in the temple. He was now able to
move about, and even to ride, and in the ensuing campaign, in a country
which he knew thoroughly, his local experience would be of great use.
He was not, however, sanguine as to the result. As he expressed it,
hunting Sivaji and Maloosray would be like chasing the wind; it would
be heard and felt, but never seen. Nevertheless they might be brought
to terms, and hereafter become worthy servants of the royal house.

Everything, therefore, being prepared, and the royal astrologers having
fixed a fortunate day and hour for the commencement of the march,
the whole of the troops were drawn out in battle-array on the plain
north of the fort, and the young King bade the leaders God-speed.
Descending from his elephant, he embraced the old Khan, his son, and
other noblemen and gentlemen of note; and as the royal Nagárás, or
kettle-drums, which had been directed to accompany the force, struck up
a march, and were answered by those of every body of horse, infantry,
and artillery on the field,--the troops at once proceeded to their
several destinations, a few miles distant, shouting the war-cries of
their several leaders.

It was necessary, however, for the Khan himself, with his son and
Kowas Khan, to visit Nuldroog, where a great portion of the army lay,
and whence some of it was to accompany him; for though the troops at
Beejapoor, which had been under the late Wuzeer, had shown no signs of
disaffection, those at the fort were suspected, and their loyalty must
be put to the proof ere the army could proceed. Lurlee Khánum and Zyna,
therefore, were despatched under guidance and escort of Bulwunt Rao and
others, to Sholapoor, to await the Khan's arrival; and with a party of
horse lightly equipped, his son Fazil, the Peer--who had declared his
intention of witnessing in person the discomfiture of the infidels, and
seeing to the religious exercises of the army during its march--and
Kowas Khan, Afzool Khan proceeded by the direct road of his own town of
Afzoolpoor to the royal fort.

We need not follow their journey, for the country affords nothing
interesting or remarkable for description. After passing the town of
Almella, they crossed the Bheema, now falling rapidly, and already
fordable in some places for horsemen: and Afzoolpoor, lying near the
further bank, was safely reached on the third day.

Here the Khan found employment for two days more: for he was in no
hurry to leave his own town, and the various matters to which he found
he had to attend. His own last resting-place, a lofty, handsome,
square building, with a massive dome, and the mosque adjoining it,
were all but completed, and their consecration was necessary. This was
performed by the Peer, the Moollas of village mosques around, the Kazee
of Nuldroog, and the representative of the saint Boorhan Sahib, who
lived at the pretty village of Boorhanpoor, some miles to the north,
where the saint's tomb had been erected. "It was well," said the old
Khan, "to have the place ready; who could tell whether it might not
be required soon?" Who could tell indeed? and so the ceremonies were

Nor would the hospitable representative of the Boorhanpoor saint allow
the Khan's party to pass his village without entertainment. Parties of
leaders of the troops at Nuldroog, now only a few miles distant, came
to the festivities, and, in the meeting with them, all apprehensions
were removed from the Khan's mind. Swearing on the holy book before
the saint's shrine, they declared their fealty to the King, and their
attachment to their young master, in terms which could not be mistaken.


The Khan was to march early next morning for the fort, but his
departure was delayed purposely to allow of the troops to send out
parties to perform the ceremony of "Istikbal," or meeting; and, after
again partaking of the good Durwaysh's hospitality, the party rode on
without interruption.

The road from Boorhanpoor to Nuldroog leads up the pretty and fertile
valley of the Bóree river, which is skirted by low grassy hills for
several miles. Then leaving the river, as the hills grow bolder, it
rises gradually through passes among them, and, after several steep and
stony ascents, gains a level plateau, from whence the fort and town are
distinctly seen below.

Soon after leaving their post, the party began to meet others from the
fort, dressed in their gayest and best costumes; and these, having made
their salutes to the Khan, rode forward to the front, so that gradually
the men in advance swelled to a considerable number, and had all the
appearance of an independent body of cavalry. Out of this, wherever the
ground afforded room, and was free from ruts and stones, men dashed
at speed, wheeling and circling their horses, so that their movements
appeared like those of a real skirmish.

When they reached the level plain on the summit of the plateau above
the town, the Khan was met by the Killadar, or governor of the fort,
the principal officers of the troops, the civil authorities, and
others; some on horseback, others on gaily-caparisoned elephants with
clashing bells. Both parties dismounting, and the leaders having
embraced each other,--the officers presenting the hilts of their swords
as Nuzzurs, or offerings to the Khan,--the procession--for it had now
become one--moved on slowly in gorgeous array, amidst the firing of
matchlocks and camel swivels and welcome guns from the fort; and the
appearance of the Khan and his gallant son, as they rode together
through the main street and bazar, dressed in rich cloth-of-gold, was a
subject of general remark and approbation by all classes. The prospect
of a campaign, always pleasant to the soldiers, especially under so
renowned a leader as Afzool Khan, increased the general satisfaction of
all concerned.

As they passed its first gate, the booming of cannon from the ramparts
announced their arrival within the fort, and was answered by guns
from the encampment on the heights to the west. Passing the ditch by a
causeway, they entered the fausse-braye by a narrow passage, and thence
ascending slightly to the main entrance, with its massive flanking
bastions of black basalt, the interior was reached--at that time a busy
place, crowded with houses and shops in some parts, but in others laid
out in open gardens, and spaces where the troops could assemble.

A curious and picturesque spot in many respects is this fort. Built
upon a tongue of basalt, which is precipitous on three sides, and of
considerable height, it is joined to the level portion of the plateau
to the west, on which the town stands, by a neck considerably narrower
than the enceinte; and on this side a double wall with bastions, and
a deep dry ditch, form the defences. Round the edge of the precipices
of the hill itself, is a single wall of great strength, with large
bastions at intervals; and the river Bóree, lying deep in the valley
below, washes the base of the hill on two sides, north and east.

To the north, to secure a constant supply of water to the fort, a
stupendous dam of masonry has been thrown across the river upwards of
seventy feet high, and of proportional thickness, by which the water is
held up in the valley, so as to form a pretty lake of the same depth at
the dam, which extends above the town. On the other side of this dam is
another fort on a smaller knoll, which serves as a _tête-de-pont_ to
the dam, and completes the fortification.

To the old Khan the place was familiar. He had often taken turns of
duty there to watch the frontier, but to Fazil and his friend it
was new; and when ceremonies of reception and the introduction of
Kowas Khan to the officers of his father's levies, now his own, were
finished, the friends accepted the offer of the Killadar to examine the
marvels of the place.

The wonderful dam, through the upper sluices of which the stream was
precipitated into a deep pool at its foot, in two pretty cataracts;
the suite of apartments in the body of the dam itself, over which the
river rolled in flood, and fell in a sheet before its windows; and the
noble Cavalier at the east end, from the top of which extensive views
of the country on all sides were obtained, were duly admired. It was
evening when the friends reached the summit of the Cavalier, and they
sate there watching the glorious sunset, over town and fort and lake,
in which the piles of gold and crimson clouds broken with dark purple,
with the sombre masses of fort walls and bastions, and precipices on
which they stood, were reflected in its deep waters.

It was not so easy to prepare the troops required there as at the
capital; but the Khan was anxious that nothing should be wanting in
their equipment, and a few days was required to complete preparations
for the field. This delay enabled the chief officers of the country
to arrive and pay their respects, and, among others, Pahar Singh, no
longer disguised, but in his proper character as one of the wardens of
the frontier marches, attended and did service with a body of picked
men, both horse and foot, which rivalled, if they did not surpass, the
royal troops in completeness and splendour of appearance.

Very different were the chief and his nephew now, in comparison with
the time when we last saw them; and in the noble figure, dressed in
light chain armour and cloth-of-gold, riding a superb grey horse, and
giving commands to his men, no one could have recognized the old ragged
Fakeer and his cry of "Ulla dilâyâ to léonga," which still often rang
in the ears of those who had heard it.

The building, which went by the name of the King's Palace, and which
was kept for the use of royal officers of rank, or even for royalty
itself, should the King have occasion to visit the fort, had been
assigned to Afzool Khan and his retinue; and, after the transaction
of daily business in one of the public halls of the fort, he retired,
after evening prayer, to his apartments, finding relaxation in a game
of chess with the priest, who was a stout opponent, or hearing or
dictating his public correspondence.

It was the fourth evening after his arrival, after an unusually busy
day; the priest was occupied with a sermon in the mosque, and the Khan
had retired into one of the rooms of the house, which, being built into
part of the fort wall, possessed a projecting oriel window, commanding
a view of the whole of the east side of the fort, with its walls and
rugged cliffs. By day these precipices did not appear extraordinarily
remarkable; but when shrouded in the gloom of evening and night, with
the river brawling beneath them in its rocky bed, their height and
effect were indefinitely increased, and the murmur of the river below
became delightfully soothing.

One corner of this oriel, furnished with cushions, had become the
favourite resort of the Khan. Here he had been sitting alone and
undisturbed, and occupied with despatches and other papers the whole
of the evening; and he was about to retire to rest when an attendant
entered, somewhat abruptly.

"I said I was not to be disturbed, Allee," he cried; "what dost thou

"My lord, there is a man without, who says he has urgent business,
and he must have speech of you alone. I said it was impossible; but
he declared you would be angry with me if you knew he were denied,
and that I was to say to you, 'Ulla dilâyâ to léonga,' and you would

"Admit him, instantly," said the Khan, to his servant's astonishment.
"Ha, Pahar Singh again! what new work has he now got here for us?"

Muffled closely in a sheet, with his sword under his arm, the chief
approached the Khan, and bent lowly before him. "Send that man away,
and hear what I have to say," he said; "it is important."

Allee looked at the chief suspiciously, as though he were trusting his
master to a dangerous character; but, at a reiteration of the order, he
returned to depart.

"Take this weapon with you, friend," said the chief, laughing, "thou
art afraid of it, perhaps; not so thy lord,--nor of me. Keep it for me,
however, till I come out."

Allee took the sword. "I did not like the look of him," he said to
another without, who belonged to the fort. "Who is he?"

"Dost thou not know Pahar Singh?" returned the man; "that is his famous
sword Dévi, which has drank many a man's blood; come, let us look at
it. There will be something to do, surely, as he is with the Khan."

"I have but a few words to say, Afzool Khan," said Pahar Singh, as the
servant retired; "and I can do a good service, if it please you, my
lord, to join in it or aid it."

"If it be a service to the King's cause, why not?" said the Khan; "but
none of thy blood feuds, Pahar Singh; thou canst not use the royal
troops for thine own purposes."

"Nor do I need them, my lord," returned the chief, somewhat stiffly.
"I have enough men of my own to answer for those matters; nay, indeed,
for this also, if I have your permission; and only that my rascals are
somewhat too free of hand to be trusted in a town at night, I had done
it myself ere this."

"Thanks, friend, for thy caution," said the Khan, smiling; "we shall
know each other better by-and-by. But what is this scheme?"

"When I left you, Khan Sahib, the night of Jehándar Beg's execution,"
replied the chief, "I had knowledge that Tannajee Maloosray was in the
city, and I knew where he was. My people watched every bazar and street
during the day, and we had a strong party near the Goruk Imlee trees,
thinking he might like to come and see an old friend for the last time;
but he kept close, like a bear in his den, till night, and then stole
away. My boy and some of my people wanted to catch him in his den; but
I knew Tannajee could not be taken alive by mortal, and I wanted to
see him sit like Jehándar Beg under the trees, and die like a man; so
I took a body of my horse and rode after him towards Tooljapoor, where
he was going. We occupied the pass at Hórtee. But he escaped us there,
Khan; and hearing afterwards he had gone to Jutt, there appeared to
be no use in following him, as he had twenty-five coss start of us.
But I was a fool, my lord; and for once Tannajee outwitted me. He went
on next day to Tooljapoor; how, I know not. He was seen there in the
temple, and he left again that night, no one knows whither."

"To Tooljapoor in one day!" exclaimed the Khan, "no horse alive could
do it."

"Ah, my lord, your high-fed beasts would not, but ours can; and
Tannajee and his friend Netta Palkur have the best mares in the Dekhan.
No matter; he escaped us."

"He was--he is--the very bone and sinew of this rebellion," said the

"True, as Sivaji Rajah is the spirit; but he left some of the bones
behind him at Tooljapoor," returned the chief, with a grim smile; "and
I can pick them up for you, my lord, if you will either help me or let
me do it alone as best I can; only remember, if the town is plundered,
you know the cause, and I am not responsible for the blame."

"That you had better avoid, friend," said the Khan, "you are badly
spoken of already. But the bones, good fellow, the bones! who or what
are they?"

"Ah! I had forgotten them," continued Pahar Singh. "Well, there is Moro
Trimmul, Maloosray's agent and shadow; as wily, and more mischievous.
He is still at Tooljapoor, pretending to give recitations,--and they
are very good, my lord, in their way,--and to serve at the temple; but
I am not sure that one of the Moorlees is not at the bottom of it, and
when a man gets into women's hands, he is easily caught. Then there
are all those who will assemble there. Have you remarked, my lord,
that hardly one of the heads of the old Mahratta families have come to
present their Nuzzurs to you?"

"I have remarked it," returned the Khan, "but supposed they were afraid
of some demand for forage, or horses, or money, and therefore kept
clear of me."

"Not at all," returned the chief, "they have all sworn to aid Sivaji,
and Maloosray took an account of their quotas of horse and foot with
him to the Rajah."

"Then they met Maloosray?"

"They did, my lord, the night he came to the temple, and here are
their names. There are other people, you see, who have ears and eyes
besides Maloosray; and only that your Näik at Tooljapoor is an owl,
he had seen this conspiracy long ago, while I was too busy to watch
it. Better, perhaps, he did not; we can do our work more securely. And
now, do you wish to seize this gang of rebels or not? I advise you to
do so, because they are strong, and, should there be any difficulties
in the West, are capable of making a serious diversion, especially
if Maloosray, or even this Brahmun,--who is more of a soldier than a
priest,--get among them. These Nimbalkurs and Ghoreparays, my lord,
quiet as they look, are heavily supported by the people; and if the
Ramoosees rise with them, the country will be in a flame."

"And how dost thou know all this, Pahar Singh?" asked the Khan. "I must
have some warranty that it is true."

"Some months ago, my lord," he replied, "this very Moro Trimmul and
others canvassed me as to joining Sivaji's band, and offered me
whatever terms I pleased to ask. I refused, for I was content as I was."

"That means," remarked the Khan dryly, "that thou wouldst have joined
them if there had been anything to be got by it."

"My lord is still incredulous," returned the chief, "and perhaps I
deserve doubt till I have given him further proof. But I feel the
King's hand on my head still, and his pardon is more to me than
promises, of Mahratta, or Moghul either."

"Good!" said the Khan; "it is well said, and I believe thee. But about
these rebels; are they still there? and how many may there be of them?"

"They are there, my lord," replied the chief. "I was in the temple last
night disguised as a Byragee, with my nephew and four others: we heard
the recitations from the Ramayun, which, to Hindus, are very much what
the Peer Sahib is saying now in the mosque yonder, and said yesterday
at the Eedgah on the plain, when the whole force shouted 'Deen, deen!'
and it sounded like thunder. Jey Rao Nimbalkur was there, and some of
the Kallays----"

"How many?" said the Khan, impatiently interrupting him; "what care I
for their teeth-breaking names?"

"Five hundred perhaps, including followers."

"And is this temple a strong place? Do we require guns?"

"Strong enough to defend if they knew you were coming," returned Pahar
Singh, "but for the most part they will be unarmed, and looking at the
show. We need only cavalry to surround the town, and no one can escape
us. No guns, my lord; they could not be taken up the mountain at night,
and ours must be a surprise, else the temple will be dark as midnight."

"Ya Alla! ya Kabiz!" (destroyer of enemies), muttered the Khan to
himself, "a rare trap for these Kaffirs--let them die! Good," he
continued; "it shall be done; but when? I should march to-morrow for

"Do so, my lord, and halt at Tandoolwaree; 'tis half way. I will join
you there with some of my people the day after to-morrow, and lead
you by a pass in the hills which I know of at night, so that we can
surround the place unobserved. Take some of your own men and Ibrahim
Khan's Abyssinians; they know no fear, and are more certain than the
braggart, plundering Dekhanies, who are afraid of the Mother who sits
in the glen, though they are Mussulmans."

"What Mother, friend?"

"Only she in the temple; we Hindus call her the 'Mother'; and she, my
lord, must not be touched."

"No, no; nor her people, I will see to that," said, the Khan.

"And the affair must be kept secret, Khan," he continued.

"It is known to thee and me, Pahar Singh, and to no one else; not even
my son shall know of it till we march."

"Now let me depart," said the chief, "and the night after next I will

"God willing," replied the Khan, dismissing his strange visitor with a
courteous salutation.


On her return home, Tara being still asleep, Radha could not conceal
from Anunda the agitation which the scene with her brother had caused
her. As she reached the inner apartments, she threw herself upon
Anunda's neck, and the terror she felt at what she considered a narrow
escape from death, found relief in a flood of tears. The particulars
of that scene she dared not fully relate: but Anunda gathered enough
from her to believe that Moro Trimmul had threatened, if not struck his
sister, and that Tara's suspicions were but too deeply founded.

If Anunda had not felt assured of Tara's purity and devotion to the
worship of the goddess, in its spiritual sense only, she would have
prevented, at all hazards perhaps, her assumption of service as a
devotee. It was, she knew, one of the trials to which the girl would be
subject so long as her beauty remained, that her public avocation would
expose her to the gaze of all classes of people--the most persistent
and dangerous libertines, perhaps, being priests of her own sect. But
the act of Tara's profession of service was so sudden, so unlooked for,
and had been carried out so immediately, that there was no time to
consider the consequences.

Now, too, it was impossible to recede. Once she had vowed herself to
the dread goddess she dared not retract, nor could any attempt be made,
as they believed, to withdraw her without danger. Many instances of
such partial service and relinquishment of it, capricious or meditated,
had come to her knowledge, which had been followed by sudden death, or,
what was worse, loss of reason and raving madness.

Well, therefore, might the sister-wives tremble at the consequences
of transgression, even by temporary withdrawal of Tara's service. It
was the first thing that Radha counselled; but, under the instances of
punishment which she enumerated, Anunda declared it to be impossible.
She could not--dare not--expose Tara to such risk, nor herself be the
means of it; and, indeed, she was assured that Tara would never agree.
Gradually, however, Anunda's naturally cheerful and sanguine spirit
took courage.

"We cannot prevent men's eyes wandering to that sweet face," she said
to Radha, as she gently waved a fan over Tara, who still slept heavily,
"no more than I can prevent them looking at me if they like, or thee,
Radha; but we can protect her from insult and shame, and she is too
pure to be approached or spoken to. No; he may look as he pleases, but
he dare not speak to her: for thy sake, for the sake of his own honour
and station as a priest, he dare not; and his looks she shall not
fear--I will prevent them."

"Nevertheless," replied Radha, "let her not visit the temple for
several days to come, or, if she goes, we will both accompany her. This
will give her fresh assurance, and in a few days he will be gone."

Radha, however, knew her brother well--better than Anunda. She knew
that, with any scheme against Tara in view, no matter what it might
be, she was incapable of watching him so completely as to defeat his
intentions; but she could at least be wary, and gain information of
them, and a small purse of money with which Anunda supplied her, given
to Chimna, gained her constant information of her brother's movements,
such as she could not otherwise have obtained.

Moro Trimmul, however, to all appearance ceased to pursue Tara. For
several days she did not visit the temple. She herself feared collision
with him, and kept away. But gradually, a sense of neglect of her daily
duty, the loss of the satisfaction which had resulted from it, and the
dread of offending the terrible Being in whose exacting service she
believed,--wrought on her mind so as to render inaction intolerable.

And no wonder now. Her own small household tasks, which had previously
occupied her leisure hours, had been resigned to Radha; the temple
service required her presence for the greater part of the morning
and afternoon; and her studies, and some needful rest, absorbed the
remainder of the day. Now that she remained idle at home, therefore,
the time hung heavy on her hands, and she sighed for the occupation
and excitement which had become habitual to her; while the yearning
to serve "the Mother"--never to be absent from her--grew stronger and
stronger day by day, with a fascination she could not resist. Day by
day those weird, glowing, eerie eyes seemed to follow her about, seek
her in her sleep, and by turns threaten or entreat her.

"Mother," she said at last, and after a few days had passed in restless
idleness at home, "I feel that my life here is not what it was. The
Mother's eyes follow me, and she sits at my heart day and night. Why
dost thou not come to me, Tara? she says; fear not, but come; no one
dare harm thee, and I would have thee near me. This she whispers daily
when my time of service comes, and I am here and not with her. O
mother, I fear no longer; she gives me strength, and I will go. What
can he do to me? The dread of him is gone from me."

"We will go with thee, daughter," replied Anunda, "and remain with thee
daily. Before us, he dare neither look nor speak; and perhaps, too, thy
suspicions were misplaced."

"Perhaps," she replied; "and why should he do me wrong? I should be
sorry if I had thought ill of him without a cause."

So they went. The first day Moro Trimmul was not there. On the second
they met him, and received his distant and courteous salutation. He did
not even come to speak to his sister, and turned away directly. Gunga
was present on both occasions; and on the first day Tara was surprised,
and perhaps somewhat gratified, by the manner in which she and some of
her sisterhood met her; offered her garlands of flowers, even put them
into her hands, and tied them like bracelets round her arms, and into
her hair.

"You have been ill, sister," said Gunga, deferentially and
respectfully, "and we have done your work, and offered flowers for
your recovery to the Mother. Ah," she continued, "because we are poor,
and not as you are, Tara, do not look coldly upon us; have we not one
common Mother, and are we not sisters in her? So think of us, and we
will be your slaves and fellow-servants; for she has loved you more
than us, and sent you pure among us. We know, too, you are already
changed to us, for we have received the daily offerings as you have
kindly directed."

Poor Tara, there was no guile in her loving heart which bred or
fostered suspicion. What could she think but that those callous minds
had relented towards her? and perhaps the very offerings, which
she had thoughtlessly made over to the attendant priests, had been
the original cause of all their apparent enmity. Day after day the
Moorlees' respect seemed to increase; and while her work was rendered
lighter, her repugnance to acknowledge them as co-servitors seemed to
lessen. With all indeed, except Gunga, the respect was sincere, and
the deference unfeigned; but with her, intercourse seemed only to fan
the flame of revenge burning at her heart: and while she repressed it
with difficulty in public, in private she yielded to it with all the
unbridled rancour and jealousy of her nature.

Against Tara, therefore, these evil notions were now, for different
reasons, in perpetual and active combination. It was no part of Moro
Trimmul's plan to excite further suspicion. Brooding over fancied
neglects and slights, as well as revenge for hopelessness of passion,
had, as Gunga rightly guessed, mastered the softer feeling of
admiration and love for the gentle object of them; and the desire of
his life now was, to crush relentlessly and deface the purity which he
could not appreciate. His sister, he believed, had kept his counsel,
for she had made no further remonstrance; and the first occasion on
which Tara came with her father only, and trusted herself to the
companionship of the priestesses, was hailed by Gunga and the Brahmun
as conducive to their success.

We can believe that the worthy Shastree himself was utterly unconscious
of any element of disturbance in his quiet household. He was perfectly
satisfied with his new wife, and was even growing to love her dearly.
He was not demonstrative--very learned and studious men rarely are
so, perhaps; but Radha studied his disposition and his wants, and,
without interfering with Anunda's prerogatives, was supplying them
unobtrusively and lovingly; and he felt what he could not fail to
appreciate--the action of another tender hand about his daily life.

With Moro Trimmul he continued on the best of terms--nay, his love
and admiration of the man was much increased. These recitations in
the temple, the disputations on logic and law, the evident knowledge
which Moro possessed of the more secret rites and mysteries of the
Shasters and Tantras, increased the Shastree's respect. If Moro Trimmul
would not come to the house as often as he wished, he was at least no
stranger in the temple, and in the ceremonies now proceeding, he was of
the greatest possible use. He now frequently spoke of his approaching
departure, which only depended upon letters he should receive from his
Prince; and it was an event which, on every account of private and
public intercourse, Vyas Shastree was disposed to regret exceedingly.


The night of the Amáwas, or that which immediately precedes the new
moon, is necessarily the darkest of every month, and for several days
previous to it the sky had been overcast, as it frequently is at the
season we write of, though without rain. The ceremonies in the temple
would be protracted till, according to the astronomical calculations,
the old moon had passed away and the new one begun, which was some time
after midnight. The concourse in the town was perhaps greater than
usual. Several of the Mahratta chiefs were still there, each with a
complement of followers; and others who lived within a day's journey,
were arriving one by one, to attend the last series of recitations
which would be given until the next full moon. It was understood, also,
that this was the last night on which Moro Trimmul would officiate;
and his picturesque style of declamation was more attractive than the
measured and monotonous manner of the elder Pundits.

By the afternoon, therefore, the main bazar of Tooljapoor had become
a very lively scene. The number of people already in the town was
increased hourly by the arrival of visitors from the populous villages
round about, and even from Darasew, Thair, Baimlee, and others within
a day's ride; and as evening drew in, the passes leading to the town
from below, and the roads, too, from the level country above, still
showed parties,--some on horses, some on ponies, on foot, or on
oxen,--pressing forward to be in time for the opening ceremonies, which
would commence as the lamps were lighted.

Sweetmeat-sellers--parched rice--and chenna friers, were driving
a brisk trade in the bazars, and their booths were crowded with
customers receiving their several quantities hot and hot, as they could
be prepared. The night would be far advanced ere the whole of the
ceremonies were concluded, and, once seated, no one could move. Many
a careful dame, therefore, had tied up a bundle of sweet cakes before
she left home and carried them on her arm;--others, with less foresight
perhaps, were making provision for the night at the stalls we have
mentioned:--while flower-sellers were threading garlands of jessamine
and môtea blossoms, and, indeed, of many wild flowers, from fields and
hedges, in lack of other materials. Sellers of Pân leaves, tobacco and
betel-nut--incense-sticks and pastiles--and oil for the lights of the
shrine--were all as busy as a throng of eager purchasers could make

Among this crowd, the Shastree, with Anunda, Radha, and Tara, were
making their way to the temple before the assembly should render the
courts impassable. With the Shastree, who was walking before the women,
was Moro Trimmul, who had dined at his house, and who was now on his
way with him to the recitation. Chimna, two days before, had reported
to Radha that her brother was about to leave. He had, the man said,
purchased a palankeen and hired a set of bearers for it, and others had
been sent on the road to Sattara, so as to form relays for a night's
journey: and, except himself, and one or two who were to be mounted,
the other servants were to follow. Indeed, intimation of his intended
departure had been made that day privately to the Shastree and to his
sister by Moro himself.

He was afraid of staying, he said. Afzool Khan had arrived at Nuldroog;
the force there was about to march to Sholapoor, and thence westward.
If he preceded it, he could travel unnoticed, otherwise it would be
impossible to move at all in its rear, or to pass it without making
a considerable and inconvenient detour. As danger threatened the
Maharaja, he must be present to share it; and he would return as soon
as the storm, which was about to burst, had blown over.

It was no more than all had expected and some had hoped for. So long
as her brother's presence was a source of no actual uneasiness to
Radha, she was thankful to see him, although she feared a renewal of
his threats to her as regarded Tara; but since her last interview with
him, she had been possessed with a dread which beset her night and
day, either that he would do something desperate, as regarded Tara, or
that, in revenge for her not having assisted his licentious purpose, he
would put his threat, as regarded herself,--whatever it might be,--in

His proposed departure was, therefore, a positive relief, and, in
making the communication to her, Moro Trimmul had carefully acted his
part. He deplored the recent scene and his own violence. "Tara's love,"
he said, "was hopeless as it was criminal; and he thanked his sister
for having saved his honour in regard to that misplaced affection.
Girls who married could not always keep their relatives with them:
better indeed it were so, and in her case particularly; for no doubt he
had enemies, and were he denounced to Afzool Khan, he should have some
difficulty in escaping."

Could any one have doubted all this, or suspected that any sinister
motive lay below it? Impossible! It was the literal truth in most
respects, and open to no breath of suspicion.

To Anunda, and especially to Tara, the event was one of positive
rejoicing. The good matron had, as we have seen, no objection to Moro
Trimmul until Tara's suspicion had been aroused; and, secure in the
effect of her own precautions, she had become utterly indifferent
whether he remained or not. But with Tara it was otherwise; his
presence was the only check on her enjoyment of daily life. Were he
gone for good, her services, her household love, would be freed from
the incubus which had deadened her existence while he remained, and
she would be saved from any apprehension for the future. On all these
considerations, therefore, the female members of the Shastree's family
descended to the temple that night, with joyful and thankful hearts.

We know, however, partly what Moro Trimmul had determined upon, and
how he had proposed to execute it. So far as she was concerned, the
girl Gunga had never faltered in her plan. The only stipulation
she made with Moro Trimmul was, that she should accompany him,--an
arrangement to which he was very unwilling to consent. On this point,
however, he found her utterly unrelenting. When she saw his desire
to be rid of her, she declared that she would not only retire from
the affair altogether, but would denounce him to the Shastree and to
every Brahmun in Tooljapoor. She defied his threats; and he knew, by
previous experience, that no words could turn her from any purpose
which she had in view, and without her co-operation the execution of
the plan was quite impossible. What she proposed to do he knew not, she
would not tell him; but he had provided a stout horse for her which,
with his servants and the litter, were to wait in the ravine below
the temple. He did not fear pursuit. The Shastree kept no horse. He
could not obtain the services of any horsemen from the authorities at
night. Who would care for the ravings of a Brahmun, whose daughter, a
priestess of the temple, had eloped, as it would be considered, with
her lover? True, Anunda might revenge herself on Radha,--but to that,
the Shastree, for his own honour, would hardly consent.

So they descended the steps into the lower court of the temple
together; and while Tara, her mother, and the Shastree entered the
vestibule to make their salutation to the goddess, Moro Trimmul excused
himself on pretence of bringing his books, and went round to the back
of the shrine, where, near the wishing-stone,[12] he found Gunga and
several of the priestesses sitting idly on the basement, basking, as
it were, in the evening sun then setting. We have said it had been a
gloomy day, even now the heavens were overcast: but towards the horizon
the clouds were open, and a bright gleam of red light had broken
through them and fell upon the temple and sides of the glen in striking
brilliancy; while the rich dresses of the girls, and their heavy gold
and silver ornaments, glistened and sparkled in the glowing colour.

Gunga had apparently been giving some description of her new gold
anklets; for, as Moro Trimmul turned the corner, she had slid down from
her seat, and was moving her feet as to produce a faint clashing sound.

"One need not even put on the bells with these," she cried to her
friends, "listen how well they will sound to the music, and I shall
dance to-night as the processions move round."

As she spoke, the girl swayed round several times, half circling one
way, then another, tossing her arms in the air in time with the steps
in which she was moving her feet. There was something in the lithe
grace of her figure which struck Moro Trimmul as a new charm, and he
stopped to watch it for a few moments ere he was noticed. Perhaps the
thought she was not observed, perhaps the certainty that she should
that night triumph over her rival, had excited Gunga more than usual;
for she had thrown into her movements a spirit and beauty,--a majesty
of motion,--as it might be called, which was inexpressibly attractive.

"If thou dance like that to-night," cried one of the girls, "thou wilt
win back that lover of thine, Gunga. If he were mine I should not
quarrel with him. Ah!" she screamed, "there he is: what if he has heard
me!" and, sliding hastily from their seats, she, with the rest of her
companions, fled round the corner of the building.

Gunga did not move, but covered her face with the end of her garment.

"If I had known----" she said.

"Thou wouldst not have danced so well," he returned, interrupting her.
"By Krishna! girl, not even the Gopîs of Muttra danced more lovingly
before him than thou didst then in those few turns. Dance like that
to-night, and I shall not be able to resist thee."

"It would be a pity to turn thee from Tara now," she said, with scorn,
"so I shall not dance at all. Art thou ready?"

"Yes; I have taken leave of them, and prepared everything," he replied.
"Chimna will bring the horses and litter into the ravine, and wait near
the steps for us. Thou hast the key?"

"Look," she cried, crossing to the door, which was only a few steps
distant, and partly opening it, "it is already open, and the key is
here in my bodice. We can lock it outside, and throw the key into the
bushes. When I beckon to thee, come, for I will entice her here; but if
thy heart then fail thee, Moro Pundit, beware----"

He had need in truth to do so; but there was no occasion for threats,
they did but provoke him. "Enough," he said, "we must not be seen
together here. I will not fail thee."


[12] A large stone placed on the rear basement of the temple. Votaries
are directed to place a hand on each side of it, and make a wish. If it
turns to the right, the wish will be granted; if to the left, otherwise.


Just then, a company of well-equipped horsemen, in number about two
hundred, rode into Afzool Khan's camp at Tandoolwaree; and the same
gleam of sun, which had broken through the clouds and shone on the
temple at Tooljapoor, and upon Gunga as she danced, caught the tips of
their long spears,--and sparkled upon matchlock barrels, the bright
bosses of their shields, and the steel morion of the leader.

There was no regularity of dress or equipment among the horsemen, but
the fine condition and spirit of their horses, and the manner in which
they moved, proved them to be accustomed to act together, as the look
of the men gave assurance of their being well tried in war. In their
front was a man on a piebald horse, over which were slung two large
kettle-drums, which were occasionally beaten with a sonorous sound by
the person who sat behind them: and two men, both round-shouldered,
one of whom carried a small green standard, with a white figure of
Hunoomán, the monkey god, sewn upon it, rode beside him, one on each
side. Pahar Singh was true to his word; and, entering the camp at a
time when his arrival would create no particular observation, proceeded
to some vacant ground in a field on the west side of it, where, drawing
up his men, he bid them dismount, and, without unsaddling their
horses, tether them and await his coming.

"What is the uncle about to-night?" said our old friend, Lukshmun, to
the kettle-drummer, as the halt was made, "and why do we stop here? He
told us we were to go on to Sholapoor, to prepare forage for the Khan's

The man laughed. "Ah, brother!" he said, "dost thou not yet understand
the uncle's ways? Now, to my perception, as he has come to the west
of the camp, we shall have to go east. Home, perhaps, who knows?--the
devil,--if this be one of his errands,--as it most likely is. Certain
we have something to do out of the common way, else he would not have
stayed apart all day nor picked the men and the mares; nor would he
have brought you and Rama and the young master. Well, we shall soon
see, for he has gone off to the Khan's tents, where a Durbar appears to
be going on."

"Yes, he may be waiting for orders," returned the hunchback. "May the
Mother give him luck of them;--better luck than we had in that wild
ride after Maloosray, when neither mud, nor stones, nor rivers, stopped
us; and when we drew breath at the Hórtee pass, you could have heard
the mares breathing and snorting a coss off! That was not the way to
catch Maloosray! Yes, he had done too much that day; and the blood
had got up into his eyes and head," he continued, after a pause, and
wagging his head wisely, "but he is cool now; what will he do?"

"Something," said his companion; "what do we care? Now, help me to get
these kettles off the mare's back, Lukshmun, else I shall be whipped if
he comes and finds them on. Ho, Rama, come and help, brother. What ails
thee? art drunk?"

"May thy tongue rot," replied that worthy, dismounting from his mare;
"who told thee I was drunk?"

"Well, then, art thou sober? if that please thee better," returned the
man, laughing. "But what ails thee? thou hast not spoken a word since
we set out."

"No matter, my eyes are blinded with blood," returned Rama sulkily.
"What we are to do to-night will be evil. I saw an omen I did not like
before we set out, and three hares have crossed us since. Is that good?
I tell thee I cannot see in that direction," and he pointed to the
west, "for the blood that is in my eyes."

"The sun is bright enough, Rama," said Lukshmun, laughing, "and the
liquor was strong, brother. Thou wilt see better by-and-by, when the
night falls."

"Peace, ill-born," cried Rama, aiming a blow at him with his
spear-shaft; "only thou art my brother I had put it into thee."

"Ill or well born, we came of the same mother," retorted Lukshmun; "as
for me, with this hunch on my back, by the gods, thou sayest true. But
go to sleep, my friend, and get the blood out of thine eyes; I like it
not. He is generally right when he says this," continued Lukshmun to
the kettle-drummer. "Yes, we shall have work to do, and some of us may
have to sup with the gods to-night. I pray it may not be Rama, for his
wife is a devil; and as for his children--cubs of a wolf are easier to

Leaving these worthies to discuss the probabilities of the night,
which was also the theme of conversation among the men, we may follow
Pahar Singh and his nephew to the Durbar tent; where, seated at its
entrance, were Afzool Khan, his son, the Peer, and other officers of
the force, enjoying, as it were, the cool breeze of evening; while
reports were heard and read, papers signed, and orders given. Carpets
had been spread for some: others sat on the bare ground, or on their
saddle-cloths, removed for the purpose. All seemed merry, and the
Khan's face was beaming with pleasure. He was, in truth, enjoying his
old life, and his spirits had risen with it, with the hope, not only
that Pahar Singh would not fail him, but in the capture of the chief
malcontents of those provinces, that he should strike a deep blow at
the root of the widespread Mahratta confederacy.

Pahar Singh and his nephew dismounted, and, advancing, offered the
hilts of their swords to the Khan and those near him in succession, and
while receiving and replying to their welcome, took their seats among
the rest. "Our time will come, Gopal," said the chief; "wait patiently,
they will send for us after the evening prayer."

He was right. As the sun set, the assembly broke up. Performing their
ablutions, as a priest sang the Azân, or invitation to prayer, they
again collected, marshalled by the Peer, who took his seat in front,
looking towards Mecca. All present, joined by hundreds of others from
the camp, knelt on the ground in ranks, and obeying his movements,
rose--bowed themselves--or kneeled, in unison--as the various changes
of the Moslem liturgy required. When the service was over, all, wishing
each other peace, with the blessing of God and the Prophet, separated
for the night.

"Come into my tent," said the Khan to Pahar Singh, "thou art welcome.
What of the work?"

"I am ready," he said; "I have two hundred of my best people with me."

"And I am not behind thee; my people are ready also, and wait thy
pleasure," replied the Khan.

"Who is this, father?" cried Fazil, who now entered, having remained
to speak with some friends. Fazil had not recognized the Fakeer
of the King's Durbar, nor the Jogi of the temple; but there was a
vague impression on his mind that he had seen the face under other

"Pahar Singh, son; dost thou not know him?" he replied.

"A brave youth, the worthy son of a brave sire, may not object to
receive the offering of an old soldier," said the chief, putting out
his sword-hilt to Fazil, who touched it courteously; "and he shall have
his share of the work if he may, Khan Sahib."

"What work? what is this?" whispered Fazil to his father, and taking
him a step aside. "Do not trust him--he is one of them--all men say so.
He is not true."

"He is as true as I am," replied the Khan. "I have already proved him,
and thou wilt know all by-and-by. He has received the King's pardon,
and confirmation of all his possessions. Do not doubt him, for he can
render important service."

"Enough, father," said Fazil aloud; and, turning to Pahar Singh, "Where
you go I will follow; but who will lead us?"

"I will lead one party, and my son here another. Come thou with me,
Khan, and send thy son with mine," replied the chief promptly.

"Where are we to go?" asked Fazil.

"We cannot say till we are on the road," said the chief, smiling.
"'Thieves,' they say, 'have longer ears than asses.' I have one of my
trumpeters here; and when it is time to move, a shrill blast will be
blown: till then, eat and make your preparations, as I will mine;" and
saluting them, Pahar Singh and his son walked to their horses, and,
mounting them, rode away.

"And do we go with them alone, father?" asked Fazil, following the
chief with his eyes, and in a tone of apprehension.

"No," said the Khan, "the order I gave for the Paigah and the
Abyssinian horse to march to-night to Sholapoor is for this service,
and we shall lead them."

"Excellent," cried Fazil joyfully; "then I fear nothing; but who is
this Pahar Singh? Surely I have seen him before."

"Certainly, in the Durbar at Nuldroog, when the deed of confirmation
was given to him."

"I was not there, father: I heard of it."

"Ah, true! Well, then, dost thou remember the Kullunder Fakeer of the
King's Durbar?"

"Protection of God!" cried Fazil; "ay, and the Jogi of the temple.
Strange, I thought I had seen those eagle eyes somewhere. I had not
forgotten them. Now, father, I will go with him; but tell him not that
I was at the temple. He might resent the death of his follower, and
recede from us."

"An excellent caution, son; no, he shall never know it."

"What are the Abyssinians getting ready for?" asked the Peer, who came
up at that moment. "Some secret service at Sholapoor, as Ibrahim Khan
tells me? There is no mutiny, no disaffection, Khan?"

"It is a secret service, my friend," replied Afzool Khan, smiling,
"and Fazil and I are going with them; but there is no mutiny, or cause
for any, and we do not go to Sholapoor."

"Where, then?" cried the Peer. "Let me come; nay, I will take no
denial: whither thou goest I will follow."

"It were better not, Huzrut," replied the Khan; "it will be a rough
ride, and perhaps some rough work at the end of it; nevertheless, as
thou wilt. Come, sirs, we had need to eat first. Come, Bismilla!"


"A dark night, my lord," cried Pahar Singh, as the Khan and his son,
accompanied by the Peer, rode up to a large fire which, kindled by
dry thorns from the hedges, sent up a ruddy blaze high in the air as
some loose fodder was thrown on it, displaying the tall form of the
chief, as he stood there with his nephew and several others, "and ye
are welcome; and here are the rest, too," he continued, as the foremost
men of the body of cavalry crowded up, the strong light revealing the
dark faces of the Abyssinians and the noble horses on which they were
mounted. "Bismilla! as ye say, let us mount and depart."

"I have not kept you longer than I could help," said the Khan, "and the
men are divided into bodies, as you directed, under their own leaders.
With me are some of my people, and the noble Ibrahim Khan himself with
his; and I will remain with you as you proposed. The rest of my men go
with my son."

"When we get near the place, Khan," said Pahar Singh, "I will give
directions. And now, beat the drum, Lukshmun, and do you and Rama
look after the guides--you know the road; go on, and beat the drum
occasionally to let us know where you are."

"I would it were daylight, father," said Fazil; "it will be no easy
matter guiding all those men in the dark."

"Fear not, my lord," cried Pahar Singh, "we shall see better when we
are away from those fires, which only blind us. The roads are dry, and
your Beejapoor horses don't fear stones. In three hours or more we
shall be near the place, then a rest, and some arrangements; and after
that you can give your own orders, and we, your servants, can execute
them. Come, sirs, we can strike into the road at the end of the field
by the trees."

"Shall we have no torch on this unsainted errand?" said the Peer,
rather peevishly.

"Huzrut," said Pahar Singh, "this is hardly work for a man of God, and
the roads are rough. No; we must manage with what light the sky gives
us, for we have to deal with wary people, and 'twere a pity to take the
Khan so long a night ride and show him no sport. If you are afraid the
road will be too rough, do not come: but ride with the force to-morrow."

"Afraid!" cried the Peer contemptuously. "I, a servant of God, afraid!
Astagh-fur-oolla! If there is any work to do, thou shalt see whether a
priest cannot strike as hard a blow as a layman. The Khan can bear me
witness that wherever he goes I am ever beside him."

"Pardon me," cried the chief, laughing, "I will doubt no longer. I only
fear that, in catching thieves, there may be less need for our swords
than for contrivance to outwit them."

"And may not we know how, father," cried Fazil, riding to his father's
side, as they reached the end of the field, "what this contrivance is,
and where we go?"

"To Tooljapoor, my lord," replied Pahar Singh in a low voice, not so
as to be heard by the Peer: "a nest of traitors is assembled there,
and we need to take them out of it. Keep together, now, I pray ye,
gentlemen: I must ride before all for a short distance, and will rejoin
ye by-and-by."

"Tooljapoor!" exclaimed the Peer, when Pahar Singh had disappeared, "a
nest of idols and thieves, indeed. The haunt of a devil in the shape
of an old woman, whom they all worship. I know her, with her red eyes;
and when I have seen the idolatrous Kaffirs bow down before her by
thousands, I have longed for the sword of our lord the Prophet to be
among them. 'Inshalla!' when----"

"Peace, Huzrut," said the Khan, in a soothing tone, interrupting him.
"I have promised that the temple and the idol come to no harm, on
condition of taking none who are there, and----"

"Well, well, Khan," returned the Peer impatiently. "I am not a Roostum,
to slay all the unbelievers myself, or to overturn that abode of
devils! Do as thou wilt, friend; do as thou wilt. I will not strike
till thou dost--till I hear thy war-cry; after that--'Futteh-i-Nubbee'
(Victory to the Prophet) say I!"

"Ameen!" said the Khan dryly, "but I trust there will be no need of it.
Come, Fazil, let us turn into the road and keep it, before the main
body comes up. Listen," continued the Khan, as they rode on by an open
pathway among the fields of tall corn. "His plan is for the town to be
surrounded above, and a ravine below to be blocked up. He would give
thee the latter work, son, as the people will try to escape thence."

"By the Prophet, an excellent plan," said the priest,--"no better could
be devised. A few horsemen across the mouth of the glen will catch all
that come out of the temple like fish in a net. I know the place well.
No one could get up the sides of that glen at night,--no, not one."

"I would rather go with thee, father," said the young man; "my place
is with thee; surely any one could manage below, and if there be

"There will be no danger, son," he returned: "these people will be
caught in their own trap, worshipping their horrible idol, and will be
unarmed. I shall keep outside the gates, and watch for the fugitives.
Pahar Singh knows the men he wants, and will take his own people and
some of the Abyssinians inside. If needs be, we can meet in the temple,
but there must be no question in regard to this arrangement, which even
the Peer ratifies."

"Surely, my lord," said the priest, "it is the fittest in all respects;
and Pahar Singh, considering that he is an infidel and robber, seems a
man of some propriety of manner, and is doing our lord the King good

"Dost thou remember the cry, 'Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!' and the tall
Kullunder who brought the Wuzeer's papers to the Durbar?" asked the
Khan; "that was Pahar Singh."

"Ulla dilâyâ to léonga!" exclaimed the priest. "Yes, I remember.
'Puna-i-Khóda!' (protection of God) was that he? Then the night before
there was the same cry in the fort as I left the King; could that have
been he also? I thought it might have been some drunken Kullunder, as
they said it was."

"The night before Khan Mahomed was killed?" cried the Khan and Fazil in
a breath.

"Yes; why do you ask?" returned the priest; "it was near morning."

"It was curious enough," said the Khan carelessly, "but those
Kullunders are very early; they like to be on foot when the women are
grinding at their mills, to get a handful of flour."

"Yes, it was about that time," said the priest unsuspiciously, and the
conversation dropped.

It was almost impossible to reunite again; for the road, which was
pretty broad and free from stones at first, shrunk to a narrow path,
through corn-fields on each hand, and it was difficult for more than
two to ride abreast with comfort; and sometimes, indeed, that even
could not be managed. They passed several villages at irregular
intervals, and proceeded without check or halt. Pahar Singh, for the
most part, rode in front of his own troop; but returned occasionally
to the Khan and his son, who, being between the advanced guard and the
main body, were unimpeded by the crowding which elsewhere unavoidably

Whether it was that their eyes had become more accustomed to the
darkness, or that the gloom of the first part of the night had relaxed
in some respect, it hardly signified; for, without betraying their
presence at any distance, there was light enough to distinguish the
path; and to follow, without much inconvenience, the men who preceded
them. These were, as we know, ignorant of their destination: and most
believed it might be Puraindah, or somewhere on the western frontier,
where disturbance had occurred.

Those in advance, however, halted at length; and the rushing sound of
the trampling of the heavy body of horse, which had continued through
the night like a dull hoarse roar behind, gradually grew fainter as
the mass of men collected and stood still. The Khan and his son, with
the Peer, were speculating as to whether that was to be the place of
divergence, when Pahar Singh and his nephew rode up, and at once put an
end to the doubt.

"We separate here," he said; "and this, Meah Sahib, is my son who
will lead you; you will find him true and intelligent. Do not go to
Sindphul," he added to Gopal Singh; "Lukshmun knows the high-road to
Rutunjun by Uljapoor, and that will take you close under the pass
between Sindphul and the town. Keep in the hollow near the river, and
when you hear our shouts above, turn into the ravine, and get up as far
as you can. We will give you time before we ourselves move into the

A few words of farewell, as father and son dismounting, embraced each
other; a commending of each other to God and the Prophet; and Fazil and
his father separated.

The ground on which they had halted was level, and covered with thick
corn-fields, which extended, almost unbroken on their left hand, to the
south; but on their right, small watercourses and ravines rendered any
passage between the road westward and the hills impossible. Where they
stood, the hills were low, and a passage or gap in them to the right
was pointed out by Pahar Singh as the direction of the main body: in
front, they appeared to grow higher, and a bluff termination of one
bay, which stood out a dark gloomy mass against the sky, was pointed
out by Pahar Singh to the Khan as near the town, and a light which
seemed at times to glow in the air about its brow, as the illumination
of the town and the temple.

Ibrahim Khan, and several other officers of minor rank, had now joined
the group, and in a few words Pahar Singh explained how they were to
act. One body would turn to the right close to the town, and guard the
roads towards Little Tooljapoor and Bóree; another party would spread
to the left, on the plain which led to the top of the pass; the third,
which would be commanded by Pahar Singh and Ibrahim Khan, would enter
the town and seize the temple gate, where there could be no egress for
any one except through it, or the postern below. Up the precipices of
the glen, and over the high walls of the temple, escape was impossible.

"Come, sirs," said Pahar Singh, after a delay which, to the Khan,
appeared intolerably long; "they are now near enough: follow me;" and,
turning his horse up the pass, the men, taking the direction from those
in advance, moved after them as fast as the stony nature of the ascent
would allow.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had been a rare night of enjoyment to the crowds assembled in the
temple, and attracted by the unusual amount of entertainment, the town
itself was nearly deserted by its Hindu inhabitants, who--men, women,
and children of all ranks, classes, and ages--had betaken themselves
to the lower court, which was as full as it could well be packed: the
people sitting in rows, as we have described on a previous occasion,
on the ground, or perched upon terraces, the roofs of houses, and upon
that of the vestibule.

As the night wore on, and the assembly seemed in no humour to separate,
Anunda, foreseeing the confusion which would arise when the ceremonies
should conclude with the last procession, had proposed to Tara, as
she joined them for a while in their accustomed seat on the roof of
the vestibule, to retire before the crush began; but Tara herself was
in the highest spirits: she had no fear of Moro Trimmul; he had not
so much as saluted her or seemed to notice her. Gunga and the other
priestesses had exhibited a flattering deference, assisted her to
bring garlands, and danced before her, as the processions passed round
the shrine, singling her out as their object of respect--almost of

Few who had noticed Tara that night--and who did not?--ever forgot
the triumphant looks and gestures of the seemingly inspired girl as
she moved lightly and gracefully before the priests; or the sweet,
thrilling voice, which seemed to rise high above the rest in the solemn
hymns and chants of the ceremony. She felt secure in the protection of
her father, and even of the other girls, who had besought her to stay
till all was concluded; and the last service, more solemn and more
meritorious than the preceding, would be at the sacred hour of the
moon's change.

"Do thou and Radha go," she said; "it will be well. I cannot leave
anything unfinished, else the Mother will be angry, and I shall regret
it. I will stay near the shrine, and return with my father."

Anunda did not object, and she and Radha, congratulating themselves
upon having left early enough to escape inconvenience, gained the gate
of the temple unobserved, and made their way through the deserted
streets without interruption. There was no one in the house; all the
women-servants were absent at the ceremony. The watchman who guarded
the outer door of the house--one of the hereditary Ramoosees of the
town--sat with two of his men in the porch, and, when the women came
in, asked leave to go and see the last procession, which was readily
granted; so they were left alone: but without apprehension.

From the terraced roof they looked out for some time, for the brilliant
illumination lighted up the temple spires, and from the large
oil-cressets a heavy smoke arose, which, floating above the temple and
its glen, caught the glare below, and ascended high into the air; and
so still was the town, that the measured cadence of the recitation
could be heard, though not the words; while occasionally a burst of
music or solemn hymn suddenly broke the silence, which was otherwise

Radha heard her brother's voice when his turn came, and listening to
it, wept silently. When should she see him again?--would absence cure
the madness that now possessed him?

"Weep not, child," said Anunda, throwing her arm around her, and
guessing her thoughts; "it is well he goes. When he departs, thou wilt
trust us the more, and be dearer unto us."


Meanwhile the rites proceeded, and the recitations. Moro Trimmul
was declaiming, with unusually excited gestures and eloquence, the
impassioned passages which had been assigned to him, often interrupted
by the cries of "Jey Kalee! Jey Toolja!" and the clapping of hands
which proceeded from the people whenever a favourite sentiment or
allusion to the glorious days of Hindu power occurred in the text.
Before concluding his part, which was the last of the night's
performance, he had withdrawn to the back of the temple, and beckoned
to Gunga, and a brief colloquy passed between them.

There was no faltering in the purposes of either. Gunga had noticed
the departure of Anunda and Radha with exultation which she could
hardly conceal. She had gone to Tara after she resumed her position
at the shrine, touched her feet, and thanked her for remaining. Other
priestesses, too, had crowded round her, and, excited as they were,
all united in determining that the last procession should be unusually

"See," said Gunga, as she came to him, "all is ready. There is no one
by the door inside; but try it, and ascertain who are outside. Be
thou ready only, and trust to me for the rest. Nay, I will come with

The place was dark, for there was no illumination behind the temple,
and by its mass a broad shadow was thrown on the recess in which the
door was situated. The girl stepped into it, followed by the Brahmun,
and opened the door slightly. A number of dark forms were sitting
without on a small terrace, from whence descended a flight of steps
into the ravine. One rose. "Wagya!" she said in a low voice.

"I am here, lady," he replied; "is it time?"

"Not yet. When the next procession passes round the corner yonder, come
out to look at it; you will not be noticed. Have you the blanket?"

"It is here," he said, holding one up; "and they are all ready yonder,"
and he pointed to the trees, where there was a dull glow as of the
embers of a small fire--"palankeen, horses and all."

"Be careful of her as you carry her out," she continued. "If she is

The man laughed. "There is no fear," he said; "she will be carried
daintily like a child, and cannot struggle in this."

"Good," she replied; "now be careful, and watch."

"Art thou satisfied?" she continued to Moro Trimmul, who had remained
behind the door.

"Yes; thou art true, Gunga. I am true also, and here is the zone; put
it on, and let it shame hers," he replied, taking the ornament from
underneath his waist-cloth where he had concealed it.

"Ah!" she cried, taking it and clasping it round her waist, "thou

"What is that?" he cried, interrupting her and catching her arm; "there
is some disturbance without. What can it be? Listen!"

"I will look," she said; "stay thou here."

She turned the corner of the temple, but could proceed no farther.
Every one had risen: and there was a wild, struggling, heaving mass
of people before her, from among which piercing shrieks of women and
children, mingled with hoarse cries of men, were rising fast in a
dreadful clamour: while several shots, discharged in quick succession
at the gate above, seemed to add to the general terror and confusion.

"They are fighting at the gate!" cried a man near her; and a cry of
"the Toorks, the Toorks!" followed in agonizing tones from the women.

Gunga did not hesitate. She, perhaps, of all that crowd, was the most
collected. Darting to Moro Trimmul she said hastily, "Do not move--I
will bring her;" and so passed round to the back of the temple. As she
did so, she met Tara and several other girls, some screaming, others
silent from terror, but evidently making for the postern.

"My father! O Gunga, my father!" cried Tara piteously, "come with me,
we will find him. Come; I have none but thee, Gunga, who dare seek him;
come with me!"

"Yes," she said, "round this way; I saw him a moment ago. Come, we will
get down the steps; I know the way up the mountain from below. Come!"
cried Gunga with a shriek; and seeing that Tara hesitated, and that
people were crowding through the vestibule into the dark portion of the
court, and hiding themselves among the cloisters,--she caught her arm
and dragged her forward.

Moro Trimmul saw the action, and, unnoticed in the confusion, seized
Tara from behind and bore her to the postern. The girl's shrieks seemed
to ring high above all others in that horrible tumult, but they were
quickly stifled in the blanket thrown over her, while she was borne
rapidly down the steps by those stationed there, to whom Moro Trimmul
resigned her.

"Thou canst not return, Moro," said Gunga, who had closed and locked
the door unobserved and flung away the key; "let us fly for our lives.
Hark! they are fighting within, and may follow us."

"O for my sword to strike in once for those poor friends!" cried Moro
Trimmul with a groan. "They have been seeking me, and the rest will
suffer. What art thou but liar and murderess, O Toolja! that thou dost
not protect thy votaries? must they perish in thy very presence?"

"Hush, and come fast," cried Gunga, dragging him down the steps. "Fool,
wilt thou die with the rest? Away! mount and ride for thy life; I will
bring her after thee."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Khan and his companions, as they had arranged, separated into three
bodies as they reached the town; and as they filed off to the right and
left in succession, the Khan, with the Peer and others, rode into the
gate, and secured it. They had met no one outside the town; inside were
a few of the royal soldiery on duty, who, themselves surprised, could
have made no opposition, even had the Khan been an enemy.

Down the centre street, which was also empty, except of stragglers
coming from the temple, the horsemen poured, now pressing on fast from
the rear; and a body of them, dismounting in the centre of the town,
rushed forward down the bazar to secure the entrance to the temple.
Then some people, who were advancing, saw danger, and hastened to warn
those in charge to shut it, turning back with loud shouts, others
coming on. A party of the Nimbalkur's men, who were in attendance with
their chief's horses, and were around the entrance within, mounted the
small bastions at the sides, while others shut the doors.

Those who reached them first were Pahar Singh and Ibrahim Khan, with
some of the Abyssinians and other followers, mingled together, each
striving to be foremost.

"Open the gate; we mean no harm," cried Pahar Singh in Mahratta; "we
are on the King's service, and if you resist, your blood be on your own

"We will admit no one," cried a voice from the bastion. "Go! ye are
robbers, and we will fire on ye."

"I say it again," returned the chief, "we are a thousand men, and I
cannot save you if you hesitate. Open the gate!"

There was no reply, but several matchlocks were pointed from the
parapet above, which was loopholed.

"Hast thou the axe, Rama?" asked the chief.

"It is here," said the man, drawing a heavy axe-head from his waist:
and, coolly fitting a helve to it, lifted it above his head. "Shall I?"

"Strike!" cried Pahar Singh.

Several heavy blows fell on the gate, and a man called out from the
bastion, "Desist, or we fire."

But Rama heeded no warning. Again two crashing blows, struck with his
full force, had splintered some of the wood-work, and he had uplifted
his arm for another, when one of the men at a lower loophole fired.
Rama swayed to and fro for a moment, and, falling heavily to the
ground, the blood gushed from his mouth in a torrent.

Pahar Singh did not speak, but he gnashed his teeth in fury. Rama, of
all his inferior followers, was the one most devoted--and was brave to
recklessness. The chief saw that the shot must have been deadly. He
might have shared the same fate; but the men without, his own as well
as the Abyssinians, returned the fire, and distracted the aim of those

"By----" and the oath was lost in the clamour--he cried, putting his
sword between his teeth, seizing the axe, and striking at the door with
his whole force, "ye shall die, sons of vile Mahratta mothers. Every
one of ye shall howl in hell for that poor fellow."

Blow after blow followed; and as the panel near the lock broke under
them, a number of the chief's men and the Abyssinians rushed against
the door, which gave way under their combined weight and force, and
entrance was effected.

On the noise of the first shouts reaching them, the Khan, the priest,
and others, rushed down the street, and arrived at the scene of action.
The firing was increasing, and several of the Khan's followers and
Abyssinians had fallen. Some were already dead, others wounded; and,
wedged as they had been in a mass, every shot had told on them, while
those who defended the gate could not be seen. Its being forced,
however, changed the feature of the contest; and the Khan, who, in the
heat of the excitement, forgot his caution and warning to the men, now
shouted his battle-cry; while the priest, struggling in with the rest,
cried to the men--"Bismilla!--in the name of God and the Prophet--slay,
slay--ye true believers! Heed not death--ye will be martyrs! Let not
the Kaffirs live, who have killed the faithful. Send them to hell, to
perish with their devil's idols. Kill! kill!"

With such cries, had men of Islam been hounded on by their priests
before. Was he to be less? Here, in the very holiest of infidel
temples, should the might of Islam be felt.

But, in truth, the men needed but little excitement; what was there
before them was enough. Who did not remember that it was a Jéhâd,
a war of the faith, which had been preached to them daily? Who did
not remember that to slay infidels in war earned the blessing of the
Prophet and paradise? So, with Pahar Singh leading them, his sword
between his teeth, and striking down men right and left with every blow
of his axe, the infuriated soldiery rushed in a body down the steps and
into the large court below.

Who can describe the scene? Shrieking women and helpless men strove to
fly before them, but in vain; and the bloody work of their enemies,
as they pressed forward, hewing with their long sharp weapons at the
unresisting masses, was quick and deadly. Pahar Singh saw Nimbalkur and
several other chiefs standing resolutely before the entrance to the
shrine, sword in hand, awaiting the onset. "Yield," he cried, "your
lives will be spared; why shed blood? Jey Rao, be wise, down with your
sword;"--and for an instant the parties stood opposite to each other
glaring defiance. But bloodshed was not yet to be stayed. Some of
the infuriated Abyssinians again dashed into the mass of the people
with a shout of "Deen, Deen!" striking indiscriminately at all before
them, and the Mahratta chiefs were swept into the temple. As they were
followed, Vyas Shastree, who, remembering his old skill in weapons, and
unable to control himself, had seized sword and shield and mixed with
the rest,--struck at a huge negro who was foremost, and wounded him

"Dog of a Kaffir," cried the man, grinding his teeth, "get thee to
hell!" and had not his arm caught that of a fellow-soldier who was
near, depriving the cut of its force, Vyas Shastree had spoken no more.
As it was, the blow descended upon his bare head,--he fell senseless
among the crowd of dead and dying,--and those who entered the temple,
trampled over him as one of the slain.

Pahar Singh's object was to save the shrine if possible, but he felt
himself helpless against the crowd of Moslems who, headed by the
priest, now filled the vestibule, shouting their fanatic cry of "Deen,
Deen!" Life was dear to him, dearer than the idol, for which, in truth,
he had no particular veneration, though he had dread. "If thou canst
not save thyself, Mother," he muttered, "I am not going to die for
thee," and, stepping aside, the men of Islam pressed on.

The priest was among the foremost to enter the sanctum, where two old
Brahmuns, cowering beside the altar, were instantly slain; and, seizing
the necklaces of pearls and precious stones, he tore them away from the
neck of the image, with one hand flinging them out among the people,
while with the other he overthrew it, and, trampling it underfoot, spat
upon the face in scorn and contempt.

If the men in the temple courts, impelled by religious fury, showed
no mercy, and, hunting unresisting men and women into dark corners,
slew them indiscriminately till the areas were filled with dead and
dying, lying in heaps as they had fallen by the sword or had been
trampled down; those who had remained outside were, in their turn, no
more humane. Under the cry of "Deen, Deen!--for the faith, for the
faith!" more cruelty was perpetrated in Tooljapoor than it has ever
since forgotten; and daylight revealed a scene of plunder, rapine, and
destruction, such as may be conceived--but hardly described.

Anunda and Radha were safe at home, as we have already related; when,
after an indistinct murmur, for which she could not account, the shots
at the temple gate were suddenly heard; and, looking from the terrace,
they saw the confusion in the court commence. Both were brave, but the
terror of Anunda for her husband and Tara, was fast paralysing her

"I will die here," she said; "take the wealth and jewels and leave me.
Escape as thou canst, Radha; hide thyself, Moro will come and seek

But Radha would not leave her; and, descending to the lower apartments,
they sat cowering in their chamber, shivering at every sound, and,
having extinguished the light, remained in utter darkness.

"Lady, lady!" cried a man's voice in the outer verandah; "where art

"It is Jánoo Näik, the Ramoosee," said Anunda in a whisper. "God reward
him for coming; he is true; Radha, let us go with him."

"Lady, lady! the house is not safe! come, come," continued the man
earnestly; "leave all--my people will guard it--only come. Your honour
is more than wealth, and you can only save it by flight."

The terror of violence brought them forth. "Follow me," he said; "here
are twenty men to guard the house--no one will molest them."

The women followed silently, sobbing as they went. The Ramoosee led
them northwards out of the town to the edge of the great ravine, and
descended a steep path, which they knew led to a spring in one of the
broad steps or ledges of the mountain, near which was a recess in the
rock familiar to both. "Stay here," he said; "no one can see you. I
must return: here, I should only betray you."

"At least, take away our ornaments," said Anunda; "we dare not keep
them. Keep them thyself, or hide them somewhere;" and the women hastily
took off all they wore, and laid them on the ground before him.

Jánoo sat down on his hams, and counted them deliberately. "There are
thirteen pieces, large and small, gold and silver together. Yes, they
are safe with me. Now, take my blanket, though it be a Mang's; sit in
it till daylight. Ye can bathe afterwards and be clean. I will come
early if I can, and take ye down the hills to Afsinga, or else send my

So saying, and without waiting for a reply, he left them, ascended the
path rapidly, and disappeared over the ledge of the mountain; and the
women remained, shivering with fright and cold, and listening in terror
to the shots, which rose above the confused roar of screams and shouts
proceeding from the town.

On the other side, in the ravine, the progress of the band who carried
off Tara was but a short one. Struggling vainly with her captors, she
found resistance hopeless. Borne in the arms of two men, others held
her hands and feet; and over her one of the thick coarse blankets of
the common people had been thrown, which prevented cry of any kind.
Tara felt that the men were gentle with her, and in spite of her
terror, she retained her senses completely. She was aware that she
was taken down the steps, and hurried along rapidly at a run; then
there was a pause, and she was thrown into--rather than placed in--a
palankeen, the doors shut to violently, and kept closed. They were
carrying her away. Who could it be but Moro Trimmul, that was to leave
that night? Even now her father might hear her screams, and terror
lent strength to her voice; but in vain--succour from him was indeed

As may be supposed, nothing had prevented the progress of the party
under Fazil and Gopal Singh; and the latter, a pleasant companion,
had amused the young Khan with anecdotes of his uncle, and of their
border life. He knew the ground perfectly, and they soon reached
their destination; and while part of his men were drawn up between
the rivulet and the pass, and some even ascended the pass itself, he
conducted Fazil into the temple glen, which turned to the right out of
the main ravine. At its mouth was some level ground, and the horsemen
had just occupied it when the attack began above.

It would have been impossible for the bearers of Tara's litter to carry
it over that rough path in the dark; and as she had been put into it, a
torch was lighted, which was instantly seen by Fazil and Gopal Singh.

"Not a word from any one," cried the latter; "some one is escaping.
They cannot get away from us. Now, Meah, be careful."

"Strike, if any one resists," said Fazil to the men about him; "but
it is better to take them alive. Look, 'tis a litter--who can it be?
Peace, all of you; be silent!"

The gloom of night and some bushes concealed them, and the advancing
party saw and suspected nothing. Moro Trimmul was riding in front,
Gunga following him. The palankeen was behind with the Ramoosees and
servants around it on all sides. The baggage-ponies had already gone on

"Stop!" cried Fazil, as he laid hold of the Brahmun, and held his naked
sword over him. "Who art thou?--nay, struggle or attempt to escape, and
I will kill thee.--A Brahmun? Who art thou?"

Moro Pundit had had no time to dress himself for the journey. His
clothes were in the palankeen. Naked to the waist, with his hair
streaming about his shoulders, he had come as he had been reciting. He
had no weapons, nor means of resistance; and, though a powerful man,
was no match for Fazil, who held him like a vice.

"Moro Trimmul, by the gods!" exclaimed Gopal Singh, who recognized him
as the light from the torch fell upon him. "Ah, Maharaj!" he added,
"you don't know me, but I have seen you before."

"Then we are indeed fortunate, friends," said Fazil joyfully; "and who
is in the litter?"

"My wife," said the Brahmun sullenly; "do as ye will with me, but let
her and the servants go on."

"Then thou hast married only lately, Pundit?" said Gopal Singh dryly;
"thou hadst no wife three days ago. We had as well look at her, at all
events, Meah, and prevent her screaming."

"Open the door! release me! release me!" cried Tara from within in
piteous accents. "Let me go! let me go! Ah, sirs, for your mothers'
honour, release me!"

"Art thou his wife?" asked Fazil, dismounting and opening the door of
the palankeen; "if so, fear not, we have no war with women."

"Not so; I am not his wife," cried Tara hastily, disengaging herself
from the litter, and throwing herself at Fazil's feet. "O sir, save me!
Noble sir, by your mother's, by your sister's honour, save me from him;
he would have carried me away. Nay, I will not rise till you tell me
you will take me to my father. O return with me and rescue him, else he
will be slain! Come, I will lead ye back; he is a priest of the temple!"

"It cannot be, girl," said Fazil, more disturbed by Tara's beauty, and
more agitated than he cared to acknowledge to himself. "It cannot be
till daylight, and no one will touch your father if he be a Brahmun;
so sit in the litter and fear not. And thou art not his wife?" and he
pointed to Moro Trimmul.

"O no, my lord," said the girl trembling; "you have been sent by the
Holy Mother to deliver me, else he would have carried me away by force.
Do not give me to him, I beseech you."

"Fear not," said Fazil; "no harm shall come to thee here. There is more
in this matter than we can now find out, friends," he continued to
those about him; "but bind that Brahmun on his horse, and tie it to one
of your own."

"Ah, sir, I will do that beautifully," cried Lukshmun, "and with his
own waist-cloth too. But, friends, see that my wife does not run away,
while I am busy for the master there--to my mind she is the handsomest
of the two."

It was Gunga who, knowing the path, had turned from it when Moro
Trimmul met Fazil, and, slipping from her horse, had tried to escape
among the bushes; but the quick eye of Lukshmun had detected her, and
he had seized and dragged her forward.

"May earth fall on thee, dog!" cried the girl, struggling with him,
"foul hunchback as thou art, let me go."

"Not so," he said, "I know thee, Gunga. My lord, she is one of the
Moorlees of the Mother up yonder; and are not all women taken in war

"Peace," cried Fazil; "sit quiet there, girl; move not, else I will
have thee tied. Ah, that will do, friend," he continued, as Lukshmun
finished his careful binding up of Moro Trimmul; "you have not hurt

"Master," replied the man, wagging his head, "it is a plan of my own,
and while he is helpless to move, he is in no pain. Is it not so,
Maharaj? Now sit quiet on your horse, Punditjee, while I look after my
wife; she has a noble gold belt, which she has promised me. Is it not
so, O lotos-face?"

"My lord," said Gopal Singh, interrupting, "the disturbance above grows
worse--had we not as well send the women and others to the rear? If
there is any rush this way, they may come to harm."

"A good thought, friend," replied Fazil.

"It is no use," said Gunga, "the door is locked, and the key was thrown
away: no one can escape from thence by this road."

So they remained, while the tumult increased to a roar which filled
the glen, above which shots were now and then heard; then fell to a
dull murmur, and finally seemed to die away in the distant town. The
temple lights became dim, and went out one by one, and the ravine grew
dark. Then the stars shone out, and after a while dawn broke, and the
mountain, and the rugged precipices of the glen and town above, were
gradually revealed in the grey light.


A weary delay and suspense had been endured till the day broke. Tara
had been told, in kind and respectful tones, by the young Khan, whose
protection she had claimed, to rest in the palankeen, and he had
considerately shut the door to prevent annoyance to her by his men. So
she sat undisturbed, but listening to the fearful din from the town and
temple, shuddering at every cry and shriek; and when all was at last
silent, speculating upon the probable fate of her father, and of her
mother and Radha, in a dreamy uncertainty, mingled with extreme terror.

What had happened? That the town had been surrounded by the King's
troops there could be no doubt; yet why the violence? Who could the
young leader of the party be, by whom she had been arrested, who spoke
her own Mahratta tongue so softly and so well? A strange thing, for he
was evidently a Mussulman of rank. He had looked so grand and beautiful
as the torchlight flashed upon his bright steel morion and silvery coat
of mail. She had never seen aught like him before. He might resemble
the god Rámchunder, she thought, when he went to battle with the demon
Rawun; and she shut her eyes at a vision at once so beautiful and so
terrible. Her gentle mind was all confusion, mingled with dreadful and
undefined anticipation of misery; yet one thing was clear, she had
been saved by that noble youth from Moro Trimmul and Gunga's united
design--saved from worse than death.

The torch carried with her palankeen had been extinguished in the
surprise, but the torch-bearer had been detained, and she could see him
sitting near the litter pouring a drop or two of oil upon it now and
then to keep it alight, yet without flaring. Once it did blaze up, and
revealed for an instant the faces of the bearers sitting on their hams
in a group, and the horsemen with Fazil in his bright armour standing
around them; but all were strangers, else she would have spoken
again--anything to divert her brooding thoughts and misery.

As the grey light of dawn increased she could see, through the small
Venetian blinds of the litter, that the royal horsemen stood in groups
at a short distance, all with their swords drawn. One party watched
Moro Trimmul, who, tightly swathed in a cotton sheet so that he could
not use his arms, sat upon his horse, which was tied to another.
Gradually she could see his features, gloomy and stern; savage, indeed,
as he writhed in the bandage which he was powerless to remove. Near
him, on a strong pony, sat the girl Gunga, covered with a coarse white
sheet, which had been thrown over her. A short stout man was holding
her pony's head, and his own horse stood beside her. Around were the
soldiers, all mounted, and apart from them their young leader, on a
powerful white horse, which stood still, tossing its head, and champing
its bit occasionally.

Past this figure, upon which her eyes rested wonderingly, as the
growing daylight revealed it more fully, she looked up to the glen,
and temple, and town, where all was still--a silence she thought like
death. The usual sounds of waking life, the music at the temple, which
always played as daylight broke, the earliest morning hymns, and clash
of cymbals, were all wanting. They were at the mouth of the glen in a
small paddock, near an old temple; she knew the place perfectly, and
many a time had wandered there with her mother, or, with other girls,
in search of flowers, and pieces of frankincense from the ancient
trees which grew among some ruined walls. If the service in the temple
had not been interrupted, it would have been proceeding at this hour,
and the sound would come clearly to the place where they were; but the
stillness was not broken. The men about her occasionally conversed in
low tones or in whispers, but were for the most part silent.

It was now light enough to move, and the young Khan, calling to the
bearers, bade them take up the litter and proceed. They were about to
do so, when Tara again renewed her piteous appeal to him.

"O do not take me away!" she cried, "O release me! I can find my way up
the mountain. My father was in the temple; my mother and all my people
look for me. O noble sir, what am I to you? let me go; by your honour,
do not deceive me!"

"Not so, lady," said Fazil, stooping from his horse towards the litter.
"It is not fit for thee to go alone after last night's disturbance; and
there are rough folk up yonder, for whom I will not answer with one so
fair as thou art. No one ever relied in my honour that was deceived.
Still trust, lady, and I will see thee safe amongst thy people; fear

"O noble sir," said Tara sobbing, "I do trust, I will trust; but O,
give me not to him yonder, who is bound. He would have carried me away,
and dishonoured me. O sir, you have been my preserver from this danger,
and I kiss your feet. My father is Vyas Shastree, the chief priest of
the temple, and we are well known. Take me to him, or send for him, and
he and my mother will bless you. O noble sir, deceive not a helpless

"Vyas Shastree!" cried Gopal Singh, who had overheard the latter part
of Tara's passionate appeal; "then this, Meah Sahib, is his daughter
Tara, the strange new Moorlee; so beautiful that they say she bewitches
all men who see her. Art thou not she, O girl? art thou not Tara, the
Moorlee? Speak truly."

"I am Tara," she replied, "but no Moorlee. I serve only in the temple."

"It is a lie," cried Gunga sharply; "she is a Moorlee, and one of
us; do not believe her. Was she not dancing in the temple when the
disturbance began? He carry her off, Meah Sahib?" she cried to Fazil
Khan, pointing to Moro Trimmul. "I tell you we had all arranged to go
together, and because she is more dainty than I am, he got a palankeen
for her."

"Peace, girl," cried Fazil; "be not shameless."

"O noble sir," exclaimed Tara, interrupting him, "heed her not; what
matter what she says? only take me to my father, then you will know the
truth. Indeed, indeed, I am no Moorlee like her; and forgive me for
saying so much, but you are kind, and so I speak."

"Who is this girl?" said Fazil sternly to Moro Trimmul. "What art thou
doing with her? Is she Vyas Shastree's daughter?"

"I give no answer; find out for yourself. Why do you ask of me?"
replied Moro Trimmul sullenly. "Cut me to pieces, but you get no speech
from me."

"It is no use, Meah, asking him," said Gopal Singh; "let us take her up
into the town, and see after her people."

"Not yet," returned Fazil. "My father will most likely encamp at that
village yonder, among the trees. Let these persons remain here, and we
will go and see what they have been doing in the town. Stay thou here,
Shêre Khan, with the men. See that no one disturbs this girl; keep
the others apart, and wait for us by the trees yonder. Fear not," he
continued to Tara; "I will bring news of thy people; keep close within
the palankeen, and no one can harm thee;" and so saying, he turned his
horse in the direction of the pass.

"Fear not, lady," said Shêre Khan, a fine old soldier; "he will be
as good as his word. Ay, look after him; the bravest, gentlest, most
faithful master that ever men served under. Yes, trust to his honour;
he will not deceive thee, he is too brave and too innocent for that."

For the time it was a sweet assurance to Tara, and one utterly
unexpected; for Mussulmans--or Toorks, as the Mahrattas called
them--had hitherto been terrible people in her imagination; but the
dread for her father lying at her heart had as yet no relief, and her
suspense and terror continued.

Leaving Tara with his party below, Fazil Khan, with Gopal Singh, and
others, rode up the pass, as soon as the rugged path could be safely
traversed. What had happened in the temple? It was clear there had been
some fighting--that Fazil had expected from the Mahratta chiefs; they
would hardly be taken without resistance, and there was an undefined
dread lying at his heart, that if the fanatical spirit of the men had
been aroused by the Peer, some evil might have been done to the Hindu
people or to the temple. Again and again he regretted that that holy
person had not been sent on to Sholapoor with the main body of the
force, and blamed himself for not having foreseen mischief.

Fazil Khan by no means shared the grim detestation of Hindus as
infidels, in which his father gloried; and he had been no willing
listener to the denunciations poured out against them by the Peer and
other preachers, in the sermons on the Jéhâd or religious war, which
had been preached at the capital and in camp. True, his father and the
Peer, as well as others, resented the mingling, under the green banner
of the faith, of Mahratta infidels with Moslems; but Fazil knew them
to be good and true soldiers; and his friendship for Bulwunt Rao, and
experience of his devotion, had changed the young Khan's feelings
very materially. Perhaps, also, Bulwunt Rao's character had, in some
respects, softened the Khan's dislike of "infidels," "Kaffirs," as he
called them; but on occasions, the old fanatical spirit would break
through all restraint, and urge him to deeds for which he had but
little remorse. Too justly, therefore, Fazil feared this might have
been such an occasion.

They gained the summit of the pass as the sun's rays, rising through
lines of cloud which hung over the eastern horizon, spread like a rosy
fan into the blue and yellow sky above, tinging the lower lines of
cloud with tints of scarlet and gold, against which the dark purple
masses of mountain stretching into the plain stood out in bold relief.
About the space between the town and the edge of the mountain, some of
the Abyssinian horsemen were distributed in groups; while further on
were other bodies of men, some mounted, others leading their horses
up and down. The Nagarchees, or kettle-drummers of each body, were
beating the assembly vigorously, and single men were rapidly arriving
from other quarters and joining their divisions. Fazil rode on with
his companions, looking for somebody he knew, who might give him news
of his father, when, from behind a mass of buildings which formed the
corner of a street outside the town gate, a cavalcade approached, led
by men of his own Paigah, and in the midst of which rode his father,
the Peer, and Ibrahim Khan, the leader of the Abyssinians, accompanied
by the tall, martial figure of Pahar Singh.

A hearty greeting ensued from all, and Fazil saw that his father and
the Peer were flushed with excitement, while in the severe threatening
aspect of Pahar Singh, there was an expression which he could not
define, which might be either habitual--the result of the night's
fatigue, or something more--perhaps grief.

"Come on, my son," cried the Khan cheerily; "we have ordered up
provisions for the men, and can rest here in the Gosai's Mutt, before
we ride on to Sholapoor, and get some kichéri cooked, which our friend
Ibrahim Khan has promised to see after. Inshalla! we sent many a
Kaffir to hell last night before his time," he continued, twisting up
his moustaches, "and Tooljapoor will long remember firing upon Afzool
Khan's men and killing true believers! but we did not get that Brahmun
of Sivaji's,--what was his name, Pahar Singh?--though he was there when
we came; and that was a pity. M--M--M----"

"Moro Trimmul," said Pahar Singh, interposing.

"Ay, that was it--thanks, friend; and what hast thou done, my son?"

"I have taken him!--that Moro whom ye sought," returned Fazil, "with
two women and their servants."

"Now Alla be praised!" cried the Peer, "that he fell into thy hands,
Meah, for that crowns our work; and alive?"

"Alive and unhurt, Huzrut."

"Are you sure it is he?" asked Pahar Singh. "There are as many Moro
Trimmuls as there are Tannajee Maloosrays!"

"Your nephew says it is. He, and a humpbacked servant or retainer of
yours, both knew him," returned Fazil.

"Yes, uncle," cried Gopal Singh, who now joined the group, "it is the
true man; but he is sullen, and will not speak. We have left him below,
safely bound; Lukshmun is watching him as a dog watches a rat, and
there are all the young Khan's men and ours with him."

"Go, bring him up," said Afzool Khan; "let us examine him, and take his

"Good, my lord; my nephew will go for him, if a Hindu may be trusted,"
said Pahar Singh, as Fazil thought, with a sneer.

"Certainly," replied the Khan, "let him be brought."

"And the women, Meah?" asked Gopal Singh.

"Not yet," he replied; "let the Brahmun come first;" and the young man,
turning his horse, galloped towards the pass.

"What women?" asked the Khan carelessly.

"Two who were with him," replied his son. "I will tell you of them

The house they were going to was only a few yards distant; Ibrahim Khan
rode on, saluting them as he passed, and they dismounted and entered.
"Embrace me, son," said the Khan, before he seated himself, "and give
thanks to God for the victory. Alla has been merciful, and has----"

"Yes, he has permitted his servants to do vengeance on the infidels,"
said the Peer, interrupting Afzool Khan; "the idols of Satan have been
overthrown, and their altar sprinkled with the blood of their infidel

"Protection of God!" cried Fazil; "the temple has not been harmed, nor
its people, I trust? We had no war against priests, father."

"Not the temple, Meah--not the temple," returned the Peer, rubbing his
hands together complacently. "It would take a good deal of gunpowder
to blow it up, and we have none; but for the rest, the work was well
done. Inshalla! they will not be able to renew their devil-worship;
and when the King, on whom be peace, gives permission, I--I, Peer Syud
Bundagee--will come and destroy this house of idols, and build a mosque
upon it; and true believers will be feasted with cow's flesh slain
within its precincts. Ul-humd-ul-illa, who hath given us the victory!"

"Father," said the young man gravely, "is it as he says?"

"Even so, my son, and thank God for it; and I have vowed to give a
thousand rupees to the work, in memory of the victory," replied Afzool

Fazil turned away, sick at heart. What evil might not have been done?
more, even, than his fears had anticipated.

"And thou hast no congratulation for thy father, Fazil?" asked the
Khan, in a tone of disappointment.

"O father, a thousand that thou art safe through last night," cried
Fazil, "and----"

"No rejoicing for victory over the infidels?" asked the priest, with
a sneer. "Thou hast a rare sympathy with them, I know, Meah Sahib; is
this seemly in a Mussulman?"

"Not with rebels, not with the King's enemies," returned Fazil quickly;
"but I never warred against priests and women yet, nor did he. What
hath been done, father?"

"Well, son," replied the Khan, "they would not let us in after those
Mahratta rebels, and Pahar Singh there broke down the door; meanwhile
some of our men had been shot, for they fired first, and Huzrut there
cried 'Deen, Deen!' and we all rushed in pell-mell and cleared the
court; that is all." He said this apologetically, Fazil thought, and
feared to tell the rest.

"Will you come with me, Pahar Singh?" said the young man; "you know the
place; I would see it."

"Yes, I will come," said the chief, rising, and sighing as he replied;
"perhaps it could not be helped, and yet some things were done which
will stir Hindu minds sorely throughout the country. Come, Meah Sahib;
it is not a pleasant sight, but I will go with you."

"Keep the prisoner till I return, father," continued Fazil; "I would
fain hear what he says for himself."

"If thou wilt go, son, return quickly," replied the Khan, "but I had
rather thou didst not. What is the use of it? what is done is done;"
and Fazil thought his father sighed.

"I would rather see the worst with my own eyes, father," replied Fazil,
"than hear lies from others. Come, sir," he added to Pahar Singh, who
waited for him, "I attend you."

"He will be vexed at what he finds," said the Khan when Fazil was gone;
"and it will distress his young heart. He has never seen the like, and
it requires older eyes, like thine and mine, Huzrut, to look on such
sights unmoved."

"Ay, true," replied the Peer; "but one or two battle-fields will be
enough to cure him, and methinks he is over-tender to infidels. Well,
we shall see what he advises about this Brahmun, for he is clear in
council. The man ought to die."

"He will not care about the men," said the Khan, musing abstractedly,
"but about the women who are dead; and that loving heart of his
mother's which she gave him, will be grieved. God knows I would not
have had it so."

"Ameen!" said the Peer, "nor I, Khan. But they were only Kaffirs
after all, and did not Feroze Shah, of blessed memory, make a pile of
infidels' heads before the gate of Gulburgah fort?"

Afzool Khan did not answer--he appeared ill at ease: and the priest,
taking his beads from his waist-band, settled himself on his heels,
with his eyes shut, assuming an attitude of complacent meditation on
things divine, as they passed rapidly through his fingers.


Fazil and Pahar Singh went out together into the street. The latter led
the way through the gate and along the main streets of the town to its
centre, where a busy, motley scene now presented itself. The Amil, or
local civil officer, was seated in his Kuchéri, or hall of audience,
surrounded by a crowd of people to whom he was giving orders for flour,
grain, butter, sheep, forage, and the other countless necessities of
the force which had so suddenly come upon him. They did not pause
there, but turned down the main street leading to the temple, the
gilded spires and other portions of which appeared at the end of it,
the craggy sides of the glen, and, beyond all, the precipices of the
Ram Durra, which were veiled in the blue morning vapour.

Now there was no doubt of what had happened. The pavement of the bazar,
worn smooth by the naked feet of thousands of pilgrims and devotees in
centuries past, was stained with blood which, as they advanced, was
still wet and slippery in many places. Already had the town scavengers
begun to wash it away, and were pouring vessels of water on the flags
and sweeping them with brooms. A few shops only were open for the sale
of flour, butter, and groceries, the owners of which sat within, with
scared faces, evidently in the direst terror.

"They lay thick here," said Pahar Singh--the first words he had spoken,
"but have been removed, and they are burying them yonder, outside, all
together--infidels, as your father would say, and true believers. But
stay, Meah Sahib, there is one of my poor fellows lying here in a shop.
I thought him dead, but he is alive as yet; let us look at him. A poor
fellow," he said, repressing a sob; "a poor hunchback, but he was like
a dog to me--not a man. Perhaps he may know me now, or he may be dead;
let us see."

Pahar Singh turned to the right into a small courtyard, in an open
verandah of which several rough-looking men were sitting beside a body
laid on the ground, and partly covered with a bloody sheet. They rose
as the chief advanced, and saluted him.

"How is he now, Nursinga?" asked Pahar Singh; "will he live? Rama,"
he continued, bending over the man, whose eyes were evidently glazing
fast, "Rama, dost thou know me--the master?"

The man looked vacantly around, hearing the words, smiled, and felt
about with his hands, as if to clutch what it was denied him to see.
Suddenly, and as the chief put his own hand into that which sought it,
the dying eyes brightened, and met those of his master in a scared,
wild gaze at first, but one which softened tenderly into a look of rapt
affection. He tried to speak, but it was hopeless; to raise himself by
drawing his master's hand to him, and clasping that he had in both his
own--but in vain. The lips moved, and Pahar Singh bent his head down to
listen. The bystanders could hear nothing; but Pahar Singh said in his
ear loudly, "Yes, it shall all be done--all; fear not."

It was enough. Perhaps the man might have lingered a while if he had
not been excited; but the old chief's words had suddenly rallied the
flickering lamp of life. It had sparkled for a moment, and fell back,
dull and smouldering, into the socket; the eyes again glazed, and the
clasped hands relaxed their grasp, tried once more to recover it,
failed, and fell powerless beside him, and the rugged bronzed features
were fast growing into the strange majesty of Death.

"It is no use staying," said the chief, drawing away his hand to brush
the tears from his eyes, "he will not know me again. Come, Meah; I,
too, am growing a fool. See to him, all of you. If his brother come,
well and good; if not, bury him decently, and not with the rest."

"Have you any retainer who is loved and trusted as you would trust a
faithful hound?" asked Pahar Singh, suddenly turning round as they
were walking out of the court. "Ah! I forget, dogs are impure to you
Mussulmans," he continued; "forgive me."

"Nay, no forgiveness is needed," replied Fazil. "Yes, I have one as
true and faithful to me as that poor fellow was to you."

"What is he?" asked the chief abruptly--"Mussulman or Hindu?"

"Hindu," replied Fazil; "a Mahratta."

"A Mahratta," cried the chief; "one of the enemies of your race? I
marvel, and yet am glad. Yes, be true to him and he will never deceive
you; he will give his life for you. Only be true, as I have been to
mine. Two in a month," he muttered to himself; "one there, one here;
my best and truest. What matter, Meah?" he continued aloud; "sooner or
later the message reaches us all. Mine might have come last night, yet
I am here."

Was this the old Jogi of the temple of Beejapoor? the sordid lover
of gold, the pitiless robber and murderer? A strange contradiction
in character as in acts; and now, sobbing as he walked out into the
street, Fazil could see that tears were wet on his cheek, and glistened
on the grizzled moustache where they had fallen.

"He was shot here," said the chief, pausing at the gate, "while
breaking it in with his axe, and the shot came from that loophole. When
I got in, the man who fired it died with a blow where he sat, so thou
wert avenged, my poor hound. But what use is it, Meah, now my slave is
gone? Come; you have already seen enough of this misery, and what is
below there is worse. Will you go on?"

"Yes, I will go," returned Fazil. "I would know if one Vyas Shastree
was slain, with others."

"Vyas Shastree, Meah!" cried the chief. "Why, he was in the temple.
I saw him. Ah, the poor Shastree, I hope not, for I knew him well--a
learned Brahmun, sir; indeed come, search for him is at least an

It was a terrible sight as they advanced. Why dwell on it? Many bodies
had been removed, and all the wounded; but many still remained, men
and women together, as yet unclaimed, and there was blood everywhere,
glistening and drying in the sun. Near the temple porch were several
bodies in a heap. Pahar Singh looked at them all narrowly, but the
Shastree was not among them. One of the temple attendants was sitting
in the vestibule, weeping in stupid grief; the chief shook him roughly,
roused him, and he got up.

"Didst thou see Vyas Shastree?" he asked; "was he hurt last night?"

"He was killed," said the man, "there," and he pointed to the entrance.
"He was fighting, and a negro killed him. Ere day broke, they took him
up and carried him away."

"Dead?" asked Fazil.

"Dead," said the man,--"quite dead; I helped to put him upon the litter
they brought for him, and they have burned him by this time."

"And his wife?" asked the chief, "Anunda Bye?"

"Seek her at her house," said the man, turning away. "She was not here,
nor Radha Bye either. His daughter Tara was here, but no one knows what
became of her."

It was enough. The Shastree was dead. Another man who advanced from
behind the shrine said the same, and Fazil need ask no more. He looked
around--the place was slippery with blood, and dark, except for a dim
lamp in the shrine. He looked in,--the altar was bloody, and the image,
its rich clothes torn and dabbled in blood, lay beneath, on its back,
as it had fallen. The dim ray of the lamp fell upon it, upon a few gold
ornaments still about its neck and arms, and upon the weird ruby eyes,
that seemed to him to glow with a fiendish expression of malice.

"Evil spirit," he said, turning away, "if thou art in being among the
devils, thou art at least helpless to rise, or to avenge thyself--lie
there for ever. Why does the blessed Alla suffer thy abomination?"

"Come away," cried Pahar Singh to the young man. "Faugh! the place is
evil; come--go not near the Mother, she may hurt thee."

"Do you believe in her?" asked Fazil.

"I fear her," was the reply; "she is very greedy and very terrible: she
takes life for life, and more besides. Come--we will see after these
women: I know the Shastree's house."

Life for life, and more besides! Those words came back with a strange
vividness upon Fazil's memory in after times. Then, they but excited a
shudder of regret at the superstition which suggested them.

"O that I had come up here, instead of going below!" said Fazil to
his companion. "Had I but known the place, I would have done so. O my
father, why was this done?"

"It could not have been stayed, Meah. As they say in Persian,
'Shooduni-Shooduni'--what is to be, is to be," returned Pahar Singh;
"nay, for that matter, why did I bring your father and his men at all?
Some of those pig-headed servants of Nimbalkur's began it by shutting
the gate, and killing my poor Rama; and after the Peer Sahib's cry of
'Deen, Deen!' you might as well have tried to stop the Beema in flood
as the men. All I could do was to save Nimbalkur and others, while the
Peer was pulling down the Mother from her altar, and spitting on her.
Aha! holy priest! we shall see who is strongest, the Mother or thee.
Bless God for it, Meah, that thy father had nothing to do with that;
and when the Peer proposed to send for cows to slay there, he would not
have it done."

Fazil sighed. It was not that he feared the goddess Mother, though of
her power then, as now, there was an undefined dread among Mahomedans,
and ceremonies of propitiation, and deprecation of evil, were often
performed privately even among the most strict in religious matters;
but he dreaded the effect on the Mahratta people at large. No one could
know of the true reason of Afzool Khan's advance on the town; the
plunder and desecration of the temple would seem to all to have been
the actual purpose; and the deed would produce a shudder of execration,
he well knew, from one end of Maharástra to the other.

Thus conversing, they reached the upper gate, where one of the men in
attendance on the dying retainer met them. The tears on his face needed
no speech to explain them. "He is dead," said the man; "he never spoke

"My poor fellow!" exclaimed Pahar Singh. "Ah! Meah, the best swordsman,
the best rider--hunchback as he was--the best at all his weapons of all
that I have; and the truest heart too, rough and faithful. Well, no
matter now. Is Lukshmun there?" he continued.

"No, master, he is not. We have sent for him."

"Do not delay. Bury Rama at once. I do but accompany the young Khan;
and then the horn will sound. Be quick."

They passed on, turning to the left, into a street which ascended to a
higher level in the town. As they proceeded, evidences of plunder and
violence were but too visible. Here a patch of blood on the pavement
still wet--there portions of cloths,--brass and copper vessels dropped
in flight,--doors broken in with axes, and the interior courts of such
houses as were entered in dire confusion--women and men alike, weeping
and wailing bitterly.

"This is the Shastree's house, Meah," said Pahar Singh; "enter and see."

There was no one in it. They went to the end of the courts, even to
that in which was the temple and Tara's garden, all so trim and neat.
The body of an Abyssinian was lying among the flowers, and another of a
Mahratta near him. The sacred fire was still smouldering on the altar,
and Pahar Singh reverently lifted some logs of wood, and put them on
it. Here and there about the rooms were splashes of blood and marks of
violence, but none of the room doors were open.

"Their property is safe, Meah," said the chief; "but who are alive, and
who dead? There is no one here. Let us ask the neighbours."

They inquired of several. One man said that Jánoo Näik and the town
Ramoosees had defended the house and beaten off plunderers; but they
knew nothing of the women.

"Come," said Pahar Singh to Fazil, "we lose time here. Let us seek
Jánoo Näik. I know him. He will be at the Kuchéri, and will know;" and
they went.

Jánoo was found, but he had no idea of telling Pahar Singh, the robber
chief, and a good-looking Mussulman, where he had hidden Anunda and
Radha, who, now safely delivered from their night-watch on the ledge of
the rock, had been guided by his son at early daylight over the hill to
the village of Afsinga, where they were in safety. Jánoo had returned
to his post; and if Fazil and Pahar Singh had opened the kitchen door
they would have found five of his men in it, who had watched them
narrowly, and were on guard over the house.

To their united inquiries Jánoo had but one answer,--the Abyssinians
had attacked the house, carried off the women, and murdered them.
"Alas, alas!" he said, pretending to weep bitterly, "they had not even
Brahmuns' rites. They were flung into the trench without, and buried
with the rest. Alas, alas! and so beautiful as they were. Do ye doubt?
Look, here are some ornaments of theirs which I am going to give to the
Sirkar," and he showed a small bundle tied up in a bloody cloth, the
contents of which chinked as he handled it.

"We can do nothing more, Meah," said Pahar Singh.

"My lord, I ate their salt--why should I tell a lie?" he returned, with
a real expression of sorrow. "Go and see if they be in their house."
"They are after no good," thought Jánoo; "and if I could only find
Tara Bye, the Shastree would give me a gold kurra. At any rate, I have
prevented them asking more questions, I think."

"Poor girl," thought Fazil, "she is desolate indeed--father, mother,
all dead. Had they any relatives here?" he asked of the Ramoosee.

"None, my lord. The Shastree's elder wife came from Wye in the Concan,
they say; and the last one, Moro Trimmul's sister, also from thence.
Here there is no one; and I would not tell them if there were," he
added to himself. "What do they want with them?"

"We had better go, Meah Sahib," said Pahar Singh. "I will but tell
Boorhan-oo-deen the Näik to seal up the house of the Shastree, and
guard it from plunder, and join thee at thy father's. Do not wait for

Fazil went on sadly. The state of the girl whom he had already rescued
from violence, affected him deeply. So beautiful, so strangely
beautiful to him, unaccustomed to see the higher classes of Hindu
women. "O that Zyna was here," he thought. "She might be a sister
to her, and soothe away that grief. Who can break to her what has

As Pahar Singh had predicted, Fazil found his father and the Peer in
the act of dismissing the Mahratta sirdars, apparently with respect;
for there was a silver bottle of uttar standing upon a salver, and a
tray with betel leaves on it, on the floor, in the centre of the room.
Ibrahim Khan and several other officers were sitting around, and the
priest had apparently relaxed from his devotional position. A servant
took up the salver and tray as Fazil entered, and the chiefs prepared
to rise at the signal, as did also the Khan.

"Have we leave to depart, Khan Sahib?" said an elderly man, with long
white moustaches.

"Depart in peace," replied Afzool Khan. "I think you all understand
now, that it happened inadvertently. 'Shooduni-Shooduni,' you
know--what was to be, was to be; and what is done, is done. His Majesty
shall hear favourably of your visit to me. Inshalla! he will be
satisfied; and all intended fines and confiscations will be averted.
Only for that Brahmun intriguer ye had been safe. Did the royal troops
ever interfere with ye before? Mashalla, no! Ul-humd-ul-illa. No!
Astagh-fur-oolla! No! and never will again."

"And the bounty for restoration of the temple, Khan Sahib?" said the
old chief inquiringly.

"Ahem! Good. I will see about it; yes, I have no doubt the King will
be merciful. Go in peace," said the Khan decidedly; and, saluting them
again, they passed out.

"You see they are satisfied, son," said the Khan quickly; "we have told
them it could not have been helped, and they agree. Well, what didst
thou see? Did Pahar Singh tell thee how they fired first?"

"He did, father! he told me all, and I have seen all. I pray the
merciful Alla never to show me such a sight again. O father, how many
houses are desolate and in misery which were happy homes last night
before we came!"

"Ameen! my son," returned the Khan, sighing: "yes, we all say so now.
Do we not, Huzrut? But they fired first, and what was to be was to be!"

"And the idol was overthrown; that image of the devil's mother," cried
the priest grimly. "Didst thou see that, Meah?"

"I did," said Fazil, "and rejoiced, though those devilish red eyes
haunt me still."

"I spat on them, Meah, while they glared at me from the ground," said
the Peer savagely; "and I, too, see them still, flashing though the
priest's blood which gushed out upon them. But what fear, Meah, what
fear? What sayeth the holy book, chapter twenty-second? 'Verily the
idols which ye provoke, beside God, can never create even a single
fly;' no, nor hurt one either, my son. Wherefore there is no fear--no
fear; be comforted."

Fazil thought the priest shuddered as he shrugged his shoulders, and,
shutting his eyes, settled himself once more on his heels, and began
telling his beads with great devoutness. So a general silence fell
among them.


The silence was oppressive. The Khan was smoking, and the dull,
monotonous gurgle of the hookah went on incessantly, almost irritating
Fazil, and provoking him to speak again; but his father had shut his
eyes, and puffed mechanically, emitting the smoke through his nostrils,
and the priest was evidently absorbed in devotional contemplation. Any
interruption would be welcome.

"They have brought up the prisoner," said Ibrahim Khan, a strangely
silent man, but good soldier, who rarely spoke to any one. "He is now
entering the court door; shall he be ordered in?"

"Ay!" said Afzool Khan, "let him be disposed of before our breakfast.
That kichéri, Khan Sahib?"

"Inshalla, it will soon be ready; I will go and see to it," he replied;
and he got up and went out, as Gopal Singh, Lukshmun, and some others
entered. Moro Pundit was bound as before, with a turban round his
neck, the end of which was held by Lukshmun with one hand, while the
other grasped a heavy naked sabre. The girl Gunga followed them.

Afzool Khan, the priest, and Fazil looked at the Brahmun from head to
foot; but he did not quail, or betray any emotion whatever, except that
his broad chest was heaving under the bandage, and his hands, which
just appeared below it, were tightly clenched.

"This is Moro Trimmul", said Gopal Singh; "we all know him. He used
to lodge here with the Gosais, and they are all here to speak to him.
Is it not true, O Bawas?" he continued to some of the household who
crowded in.

"It is he, my lord, sure enough," cried several of the Gosais in a
breath; "it is Moro Trimmul, who lived here."

"Have ye got his papers?" asked the priest.

"They are most likely in the panniers and bags on the ponies," said
Gopal Singh, "or in the palankeen. What matter?--here is the man

"Ask him, my son, if he has aught to say. Ask him in his own tongue,"
said the Khan. "We would not destroy him unheard."

Fazil put the question.

"I did not intend to speak," said Moro Trimmul, "for I am in hands
which know no mercy, and I need none. All who take work like mine are
prepared to die at any hour. All I ask of ye is to let this girl go;
she is a poor Moorlee who was faithful to me. Let her go, Khan Sahib,
with the gold I gave her. As for me, as you have slain many innocent
Brahmuns, I am not to be spared, for I have done all I needed, and my
mission is ended."

"What hast thou done?" asked the priest.

"Thou art a priest of thy faith," answered the man, "I one of mine;
what thou dost and wouldst do for thy faith, I would do and have been
doing for mine. Does that content thee?"

"Enough!" cried the Khan, "he confesses. What shall we do with him?"

"Let him die, father," said Fazil solemnly. "He was contriving more
evil than you know of, as his face tells,--now look at it as I
speak,--yes: and he would have done it too. Let him die."

As Fazil spoke, a grey ashy paleness overspread the Brahmun's face, and
a shudder passed through him; but he did not answer, and taking, as it
were, a long inspiration, drew himself up to his full height, closing
his fingers convulsively.

"Fazil," asked his father, "dost thou say death, my son?"

"I do," said Fazil, "in justice for this man's evil deeds, which have
brought misery to hundreds, and will yet cause more."

"Shabash," cried the priest, "Ul-humd-ul-illa! there is good stuff in
thee yet, Meah. What sayeth the holy book, chapter forty-seven? 'When
ye encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads, until ye have
made a great slaughter.' Yes, let him die."

Afzool Khan mused for a while. The priest's quotation was correct, and
his own fanaticism confirmed it. Was he, however, so appalled by the
recent destruction of innocent Hindu life, that he hesitated as to this
one? or was it in regard to the fact that Moro Trimmul was a Brahmun,
and the popular objection to putting such men to death being great,
that he now hesitated? Both causes probably combined to influence him.

"I am not going to do it, Punditjee," said Lukshmun to Moro Trimmul in
a whisper, "because thou art a Brahmun; but there is no harm wishing
thee as sharp a sword as this is. See!"

Moro Trimmul looked askance at the hunchback as he would have done at
a reptile, and shrank instinctively from him. They saw his eye wander
along the edge of the bright blade from hilt to point; but though he
shuddered perceptibly, he said nothing.

Afzool Khan took his chin and beard in his hand, leaned his elbow on
his knee, looked furtively once or twice under his bushy eyebrows at
the priest and Fazil in turn, but did not speak, and again resumed
his position. The prisoner's large bright eyes were fixed on him with
an intensely inquisitive and earnest expression, and drops of sweat
gathered on his brow and temples; but though his life hung on a word,
there was no fear visible, and Fazil could not repress admiration of
the man's calm bearing and contempt of death.

"It cannot be, Huzrut, yet," said Afzool Khan at length; "we have much
to learn from him; and, after all, son, he was but doing his duty truly
and faithfully. If I had sent thee on such an errand, or the King had
sent thee, wouldst thou not have done the same? Take him away, put
irons on him. He must be sent to the King, and judged at Beejapoor."

"Where thou wilt die under the Goruk Imlee tree like Jehándar Beg,"
said Lukshmun. "Ah, yes, that was a clean stroke of Rama's; and they
don't care for Brahmuns there."

At that moment Pahar Singh entered. "Yes, that is the man," he said,
looking intently at the Brahmun. Then turning to his follower, "Go,
Lukshmun," he said, "they seek thee. Rama is dead, and thou shouldst go
and pour the water at his burial."

"Dead!" cried the man, starting back, and dropping the end of the
turban. "Dead! O no, master, not Rama!"

"Go, and thou wilt see," said the chief, turning away.

Lukshmun spoke no word. They saw his broad chest heaving, and he gasped
for breath. The shock was too sudden and great, and he fell senseless
against the wall. In doing so the gold zone which he had hung over his
arm rolled away.

"It is mine," said Gunga, picking it up, and clasping it about her
waist. "He gave it me, ask him;" and she pointed to the Brahmun; "ask
him; and that fellow would have stolen it. May I go?" she continued,
addressing the Khan; "I am only a poor Moorlee of the temple; you do
not need me."

"Surely," said the Khan, "we want no women. Go!" and she made a humble
salutation to him, and turned aside.

"Is he, too, dead?" asked Pahar Singh, turning to Lukshmun. "They were
twins, ye see, sirs," he said to the bystanders, "and his spirit may
have gone after his brother's."

But it was not so. Lukshmun had fainted, and revived as water was
poured down his throat and a man fanned him with a cloth. He looked
about him dreamily; then some one raised him up, and led him away.

"And he?" asked Pahar Singh of the Khan, pointing to Moro Trimmul. "Is
he to die? what will ye do with him, Khan Sahib?"

"Not yet; he will go to Beejapoor," returned the Khan, "and answer for
his deeds to the King."

"It is just," replied the chief; "he has only done what a good servant
should do. He tempted me for his master, as I could have tempted

"That is just what I said," said the Khan, interrupting.

"And he took no man's life," continued the chief, "and the law will
spare his."

"The law," interrupted the priest scornfully, "the blessed law is
not for infidels, save for their destruction. For what is written in
chapter forty-seven----"

"Peace," cried the Khan, who dreaded a dispute between them, "let it
pass. I have spared him. Take him away--keep him with the standard of
the Paigah, and let no man or woman have speech of him; he can cook his
own food."

They led Moro Trimmul away. He said nothing; but Fazil saw a smile of
triumph, he thought, flash over his grave features. When they looked
for the girl Gunga she had gone also, and was not to be seen. Fazil,
too, had disappeared. As the Khan's breakfast was brought, the kichéri
and kabobs he loved so well, he washed his hands, and waited awhile
for Fazil's return; but able to contain himself no longer, drew near
to the smoking dish, and crying, "Bismilla!" he, the priest, and those
present, after the necessary ablutions, plunged their hands into the
pile of rice, and ate heartily.

Fazil could no longer restrain himself. He had promised the girl he had
left below the pass, to get news of her people for her; and, taking
advantage of Pahar Singh's entrance, and the confusion occasioned
by Lukshmun's fall, had slipped out unobserved. It was but a short
distance, his horse was still saddled, and he mounted and rode as
rapidly as he could down the hill.

The men were where he had left them, under the trees by the rivulet.
Shêre Khan was on foot, standing by the palankeen, pointing to the road
and to Fazil as he descended. Some of the men were on horseback, others
lying in the shade holding their horses' bridles.

As he neared the palankeen, the old man slowly advanced, and Fazil
could see there were tears on his furrowed cheek. He saluted the young
Khan respectfully, and put his hand on his saddle-bow.

"I never saw grief like hers," he said, "nor such fear, nor misery, at
your delay. 'Why did he go?' was all she could say at first--and since
I soothed her, she has cried the more--'Why doth he delay?' Once I
persuaded her to go and wash her face at the river and drink water, and
she did so, and was the better of it. And, O Meah! she is so beautiful!
Even our rough men say she is a Peri, not a woman. Speak gently to her,

Fazil dismounted and walked on. A large space had been left about the
palankeen, and no one had intruded upon Tara. Towards the rivulet the
doors were open, and she was sitting on the edge of the litter, but
with her feet on the ground without, and her face buried in her knees.
She did not look up till the young man was close to her; then, with
irrepressible emotion, she threw herself at his feet.

"O take me to them!" she cried piteously--"take me to them! they are
waiting for me, they are looking for their Tara! O sir, they will not
rest, or eat, till they know I am safe. Let me go--take me to them. Why
am I detained? I have done no evil!"

"Rise," said Fazil, "rise--I may not touch thee to raise thee up; but
Alla has laid a heavy hand on thee, and thou must listen to true words,
though they bring thee such affliction as thou hast not known in thy
young life."

Tara raised herself to her knees and looked up. O, the misery of those
great eyes in which were no tears--red, dry, and glistening: while the
sweet features quivered under bewildering anticipations of what was to
follow. Fazil could not bear to look on her, and turned away. "Would
there were anyone else to tell thee but me," he said, "it would be

"Speak," she replied calmly, "there is no deceit in your tongue--he
whom you left with me says so; he told me you would not deceive me, and
this suspense is terrible, do not prolong it--speak. I will listen."

"Nor will I," returned Fazil; "sit down as thou wast, and may God keep
thy heart, as I tell thee of thy misery. Yesterday there were a father,
a mother, another wife, and thyself, in a happy home. Now three are
gone, and thou art here."

He saw her, as he spoke, clutching nervously at her throat, which was
heaving convulsively, and trying to swallow; and ere he could complete
the sentence she had fallen sideways from her seat against the door
of the litter, and lay there, powerless, for an instant. His habitual
respect for women would have prevented his touching her, but she was so
helpless that he raised her up, and, taking a pillow from the inside of
the palankeen, placed it behind her, supporting it with his arm.

Gradually she seemed to recover a little. "Dead," she said gently, "all
dead! O Holy Mother, why is this? Why am I not taken too?" and she
shuddered, and cowered down, shrinking from him.

Fazil thought the truth might rouse her, and he was right. He dreaded
her becoming insensible.

"Yes, so it has pleased God," he said. "Thy father was killed, fighting
in the temple; and in the confusion afterwards, robbers attacked the
house where your mother was and the other, and they also died."

"No--no, it could not be!" cried Tara, quickly and eagerly. "Jánoo Näik
would be there; he would fight for them and protect them."

"Jánoo himself told me this: he told me he saw them dead--two women,
very fair, the elder Anunda, and the younger wife, Radha Bye. Some of
Jánoo's people are killed in the house, and he could not save them. Thy
father?" he continued, as he saw her lips apparently moving, though
the word was not spoken. "Yes, two men, priests in the temple, Khundoo
Bhópey and Rama Bhópey--I asked their names--who lifted him upon the
litter in which he was carried away, said he was dead and already
burned. What can I do with thee or for thee now?" he continued. "Speak,
and I will do it, lady, truly and faithfully."

"Is it true?" she asked dreamily, and with a rough husky voice, and
staring at him with those great scared eyes. "The Bhópeys would not
tell lies."

"I swear it by the dead, it is true," replied Fazil. "I have neither
rested nor eaten till I found out the truth. Had there been any one,
even a servant, I would have sent for thee. Jánoo told me there was no
one belonging to thee in the town, no relatives;--and the Brahmuns are
all fled. Men say they will not return to a polluted shrine, and Jánoo
Näik and others said you had relatives at Wye, where we are going."

"Yes," she said calmly, and as if echoing his words, "there are
relatives at Wye. Sukya Bye is there--and--no matter. Yes. I will go
there--let me go."

"My mother and sister will be with us," added Fazil, "come to them.
Zyna will be a sister to thee, and no harm shall come nigh thee. I
would use no force--it must be of thine own free will; but the town
yonder is filled with dead and dying, the temple is desolate, there is
no one of thy people alive, and thou wouldst die of fear and sorrow.
Come with us; Shêre Khan will take care of thee, as of a daughter, till
we reach my sister. I will not come nigh thee, but he will tell me of
thee. O lady, I am not false! I am a stranger to thee; but Alla threw
me in thy path, when else, dishonour was before thee. From that, at
least, I saved thee, and thou knowest it."

"Who art thou?" she said gently; "yes, I was saved from worse than
death--who saved me?"

"I, Fazil, the son of Afzool Khan of Beejapoor," he said.

"They say Pathans respect women's honour," she returned, rousing
herself. "A poor orphan girl will not be without pity in your sight.
Ah! sir, I am sorely bewildered now," she continued, beating helplessly
with her hands on her lap. "I cannot think or speak, and my heart is
dried up; but he told me--that old man--that you were true, and they
loved you, all of them!--and so be kind to Tara, and do not deceive
her; she will die soon, and go away, and will trouble you no more."

"By Alla! by my sister's honour! I will be true to thee, O lady!"
cried Fazil earnestly; "truer than thou canst now think. Enough; when
thou art with Zyna thou wilt know all; till then thou wilt not see me.
Call the bearers," he continued, to Shêre Khan; "take her on to camp,
wherever it is; get guides from the next village yonder. Procure her
food by the way, if she will eat. Here are twenty men with the litter;
they will take thee into Sholapoor. Hark!" he continued to the men as
they approached, "take this palankeen into Sholapoor at once, and ye
shall have fifty rupees from Afzool Khan. Fear not, lady!" he said once
more to Tara; "thou wilt be Shêre Khan's daughter till thou art with my
sister." Then, mounting his horse, he rode rapidly up the pass.

Tara followed his figure with her eyes, and her heart went with them.
He was so kind, so gracious, and so beautiful. She could not realize
the fact of her sudden misery and desolation, and yet she could not
doubt it. As he disappeared behind a turn in the road, the sense of
that desolation became more acutely painful. But she had no time for
thought. Shêre Khan rode up, bid her shut the doors of the litter,
and told her he should not leave it; and a moment afterwards she felt
it was taken up, and carried forward at a rapid pace, while the old
soldier caracoled by her side, and the horsemen spread themselves
around her, to screen as well as to protect the conveyance in which she


Fazil Khan rode rapidly up the pass, for he knew his father would
await his coming ere he gave the final orders for the march. Truth to
say, he was hungry enough, and a breakfast upon Ibrahim Khan's kichéri
and kabobs would be very welcome. As he reached the top, a busy scene
presented itself. Wherever he looked, little fires were lighted between
three large stones, upon which the small cooking-pans used by the men,
and carried in their saddle-bags, were placed; and the savoury smells
which issued from them, and pervaded the air, proved that the stews and
curries within were in very satisfactory progress, and were certainly
very provocative of appetite. While one member of a small mess watched
the pot, others were kneading dough, or patting out "chupatees" or
unleavened cakes, with their hands, and baking them on their "towas" or
iron plates. Hundreds of these operations were going on simultaneously
in every direction; for the force had a long day's march before it to
Sholapoor. There would be no midway halt, and men and horses must alike
be fed. Everywhere, too, the merry laugh, the broad joke or banter
incidental to camp life, resounded among the rude soldiery, and the
cries of sellers of milk, curds, firewood, and fruit, mingled with them

Already was the scene of the night before forgotten. The dead for the
most part had been buried out of sight; and if grief and misery sat
at the heart of many a household in the town--mourning for relations
slain, or property plundered or destroyed,--in the camp without, no
such feelings existed among the fierce and fanatical men. A grim
satisfaction prevailed at having defiled one of the holiest shrines
of the Dekhan, plundered its property, and slain its priests. To all,
the night's events had been those of ordinary skirmish and excitement:
forgotten with the next petty cares of life, and anticipation of new
scenes of adventure,--and possibly of new plunder.

"Where hast thou been, Meah Sahib?" cried one of a knot of his own men,
whom he met almost as he reached the plain above the pass. "The Khan
Sahib has been searching for thee, and is anxious. Ah! when wilt thou
learn caution, and take some of us at least with thee? Remember this is
not Beejapoor, and the people are not in good humour after last night.
Any fellow with a gun behind one of those rocks----"

"Thanks, friend," said Fazil, interrupting him. "I did but go to Shêre
Khan and the rest of them below, and tell them to precede us; but
thanks for the caution nevertheless. Now, get ready soon, for I shall
not be long away from ye," and he cantered on to the town.

Giving directions for a led horse to be accoutred for him, in lieu of
that which had carried him through the night, Fazil entered the Mutt
where he had left his father, and found him girding himself for the

"Where hast thou been, son? we could not wait; but they have kept the
kichéri hot for thee, and the kabobs are good; only they have too much
pepper and garlic in them. The Khan's cookery is not refined, my son:
not like thy mother's. Inshalla! she will have a famous dish ready
for us this evening, for I am going to send on a camel. Hast thou any

Fazil knew by his father's volubility that he was in good humour. The
flurried, anxious expression of his face had departed, as well under
the influence of a hearty breakfast as owing to the feeling that,
under the circumstances, he had really done his best to smooth over
the events of the night. It was unfortunate, certainly, that they had
happened; but it could not be helped now. A donation from the King
would soothe the Brahmuns. So he had again sent for the local Näik,
and charged him to assure all of his sympathy and sorrow. Afzool Khan
had taken advantage of the Peer's absence to do this, for in his
presence he would have feared to commit himself by expression of any
consideration for infidels.

"I did but ride down the pass, father," replied Fazil, "to speak with
Shêre Khan, and send him on to camp. They will halt by-and-by, and
refresh themselves. Yes, truly, something to eat will be welcome;
therefore, sit down and rest. We have a long ride before us."

"The camel is ready," said the rider of it, entering. "What are your

"Write a line from me to thy mother, Fazil," said the Khan, "to say
she is to have kichéri and kabobs ready for us, and that we have won
a victory with little loss. That will cheer her, and put her in mind
of old days, and we shall have a glorious dish. Inshalla! we shall be
hungry, son!"

Fazil wrote what was needed to Lurlee, and added, on separate paper,
a few lines to Zyna, to take care of Tara on her arrival. There was
no time to write her story, but she would hear particulars from Tara
herself. "Take this at your best speed," he said to the man. "Give it
into the hands of Goolab Daee, and tell her it is for my sister only.
You will overtake Shêre Khan by the way. Tell him to stop where he
likes, refresh the men and horses, and push on. It is of moment that he
should arrive before us, and he is already far beyond Sindphul."

"Good," replied the man; "your orders are on my head and eyes, and
shall be done." In a few moments more, the clash of the bells of the
animal he rode were heard as he started, and then died away in the

What was best to be done?--to tell his father of Tara's being sent
on under escort of the men, or to leave explanation about her till
they reached Sholapoor? Fazil thought over this as he ate, and he ate
heartily what was brought, and did justice to it; while his father
sat and looked on approvingly, or told his son of what had been done
to assure the people, and what he would do, in spite of the Peer, to
obtain a donation for the temple. "Yes, it will be better to tell him,"
Fazil thought. "He will not object, as he is in this complacent humour,
and we are alone."

"I had no opportunity of speaking, father, before, else I would have
told you," he said, after he had washed his hands and sat down.

"What!" interrupted the Khan, who detected a tone of embarrassment in
Fazil's voice--"what has happened? Didst thou lose any men? Who is

"No, no, father, we had no fighting," replied Fazil. "All I had to
say was, that I sent the lady we took, with Shêre Khan. She had a
palankeen, and the bearers said they would take her to Sholapoor at
once. There were twenty of them, and it is only twelve coss."

"A lady, son! Who?" he answered in an indifferent tone.

"A Brahmun girl, father, of rank. She was escaping in a palankeen, and
we took her when we took Moro Pundit."

"Indeed! His wife perhaps?"

"No, father; she said not. She has nothing to do with him; but she was
in such grief at her people being killed in the town, that I could only
make out she had relatives at Wye, and I sent her on under Shêre Khan.
As she was richly dressed, and had valuable jewels on her, I feared to
send her back, and she was willing to go."

"Poor girl, poor girl," said the Khan, sighing; "and she is young, you
say. Alas, alas! to be so soon a widow!"

"Quite young, father--sixteen, perhaps--and very beautiful. O, so
beautiful! I never saw one like her before."

"Wonderful!" returned the Khan. "Then she let thee see her?... Ah,
Pahar Singh, well, so you are already prepared," he exclaimed, as the
chief entered the room suddenly, and saluted them. "Have you eaten? Are
your people ready? We go on to Sholapoor."

"I am come to bid you farewell, my lord," said the chief. "I have done
my work with you for the present. My duty is not with the army, but on
the marches; and I hear of a raid by the Golconda people which I must
see to. My nephew Gopal Singh would fain have accompanied your son, but
I cannot spare him. He is my only stay since--since ... no matter. My
men would be worse than useless to you, and you will not miss what I
could send. Nevertheless, if----"

"No, no," said the Khan, who in truth had dreaded rather than desired
Pahar Singh's company, and that of his lawless freebooters; "no, you
are better here in your own country, and I have already weakened the
force too much at Nuldroog to withdraw you."

"Then we may go, Khan?"

"Certainly; you are honourably dismissed with thanks, and mention will
be made of you, when I write, as you deserve."

"I have only one thing to say, Khan Sahib,--and I pray you to pardon my
saying it,--and that is, beware of Moro Pundit. Had I been a Mussulman
like you, I had not spared him: but as you have done so, it is not for
me, a Rajpoot, to be concerned in a Brahmun's death. He is faithful to
his cause, and he cannot be true to you."

"He can do no harm, friend," said the Khan, laughing. "I fancy the
Nimbalkur and others have had a good lesson, and will keep quiet; and,
for the rest, as I am going to scotch the head of the snake, we need
not fear if its tail writhes a little; it can do no harm: but I thank
you for your caution nevertheless, and you will see to my people of
Afzoolpoor and its villages?"

"Surely, Khan Sahib; be under no apprehension--nothing can molest them.
Now, put your hand on my head once more, embrace me, and let me go."

"Go," said the Khan, rising and doing as he wished--"go; be careful,
friend; remember the royal clemency, and be true."

"Will you come with me for a moment, Meah?" said Pahar Singh, as he
disengaged himself from the Khan's embrace.

Fazil got up and followed him. As they emerged from the courtyard into
the street, Fazil saw that Gopal Singh and others, ready mounted,
awaited their chief, and they saluted him courteously.

"Come hither, Lukshmun," said the chief.

The man was well mounted, and advanced. Fazil saw that his cheeks were
wet with tears, and his eyes red and swollen. Hideous as the face now
was, there was a dignity of sorrow in it which was not unimpressive.

"Meah," said the chief, "this is a foolish slave of mine, who implores
me to send him with you; he wants no pay,--only food and clothes, and
forage for his horse. He will be faithful to you in all danger and
trial, and knows no fear. When you return from the campaign, send him
to me again. Do you accept him?"

"I do, Pahar Singh, and will be to him as you were, that I promise,"
replied Fazil.

"Then dismount and kiss the young Khan's feet," said the chief.

Lukshmun obeyed him, dismounted, and prostrating himself before Fazil,
embraced his knees. He then did the same to his master, lying at his
feet, and sobbing bitterly.

"Get up, fool," said the chief kindly, drawing the back of his hand
roughly across his eyes. "Go, thou art safer with him than with me, go!
Take him, Meah," he continued, putting the man's hand into Fazil's,
who raised him up. "Take him; he will be to you the faithful hound he
was to me and my boy yonder: we can ill spare him, but, after what
has happened, he is better away for a while. And now, sir, we part.
Remember what I said to your father, and that while Mahrattas are weak
they will be treacherous. I wish you well; in the words of your people,
'Khôda Hafiz.'"

So saying, the chief mounted, caused his spirited horse to execute
several caracoles and plunges, and, with his nephew and followers, rode
off rapidly to the plain beyond, where the shrill horn and deep drum of
his troop were sounding the assembly.

"Had it been thus if you knew me, Pahar Singh?" thought Fazil, as the
last of the rough troopers passed round the corner of the buildings
to the plain beyond. "Hardly, I think; but it is well as it is, and
your goodwill is better than your spite." As he turned round he saw
the hunchback beside him. The bridle of his horse was hooked within
his left arm; his hands, joined together, were raised to his nose, and
he had balanced himself on his left leg, with the sole of the right
foot pressed against the calf of the left. His grotesque features were
twisted into a curious expression, in which grief and joy struggled for

"Your name is Lukshmun?" said Fazil.

"My lord, it is; I am your slave now and for ever:--till I die, if you
permit me to serve you in my own way."

"And that is?"

"No matter now," said the creature; "you will find out. If I displease
you, I will go away of my own accord and give no trouble; if I please
you, let me be near you, and that is enough."

"How is this? You talk like a woman."

"Do you know anything of them, master?" replied the man. "Perhaps not;
it takes a long life to know them, they say. Do I talk like a woman?
Ah no, sir; to me you are the woman who has bewitched me, and I follow
you blindly for the sake of the love I have for you, which sits in my

"Since when, friend?" said Fazil, laughing.

"Since last night, when you were kind to that poor Brahmun girl who
owes her honour to you, and long before that, of which I will tell you
another time. Can I do anything now?"

"Hast thou eaten?"

"Yes; and I have enough here to last me two days," and he pointed to a
bundle of cakes tied at his back. "I can give you one if you like, when
you are hungry."

"I do not want it--I have eaten," said Fazil. "Can I trust thee

"O, master!" cried the man piteously, as the tears started suddenly to
his eyes. "Do not say that! I am a poor hunchback, who cannot say fine
words, what is the use of my talking? If you mistrust me, bid me go. I
will return to him who gave me to you--better that, than be doubted.
Enough, shall I go?"

"No, stay," continued Fazil; "I will trust thee. Tie thy horse there,
and give him some fodder from the bundle yonder.... That is well. Now
go to the Kuchéri; say to the Näik, that Fazil Khan Meah wants the
bundle of things given to him by Jánoo Näik, and he is to give it."

"And what if Jánoo is there, master? he will not allow it."

"That is why I do not go myself," said Fazil; "but if there is any
difficulty I will come. Show this as a token, and it will suffice," and
he took off his signet-ring.

"I will bring them without this, Meah, and yet I take it. Tell some one
to mind the mare, else if she hears the horn she will break her rope;"
and the man, throwing his coarse black blanket over him, shambled off
at a quick pace towards the town. It was but a short distance. Fazil
waited there looking at his own horses which were picketed in the
street. He had no desire to rejoin his father, who was quietly smoking
within. Fortunately, too, the priest rode up; said he wanted a hookah,
dismounted, and went into the Mutt. He would be company enough.

Fazil watched the street narrowly. Had he done right in sending
Lukshmun--ought he not to have gone himself? He could yet go if there
were refusal, but there might be no occasion. In a little time, less
then he had supposed possible, he saw the hunchback coming up the
street at a sharp run, and as he reached Fazil, he put into his hand a
heavy bundle of what felt like ornaments of gold and silver, tied in a
cloth which was spotted with blood.

"Shabash!" cried Fazil, "it was well contrived. How didst thou get

"Jánoo Näik is an ass, and the father of all the asses in Tooljapoor.
I know him of old," returned Lukshmun. "He was there sitting like a
scared owl on the steps of the Kuchéri. 'Come and drink,' says he
to me. 'I will,' said I; 'wait, I have a message from the master to
deliver.' Then I went in, and said to a Karkoon, 'Give me what Jánoo
gave just now, the people are come for it.' He could not go in there,
for he is a Mang. 'Take them,' says a Karkoon, opening a box; 'I don't
like to touch them, they are bloody.' So I took them out, master, and
here they are. As I passed Jánoo, I gave him a rupee, and told him
to go to the Kullal's and get some drink ready, while I delivered my
message--and he is gone. O, the owl, the owl! he will be drunk by this
time; but, master, that man is as true as steel, and put these in
trust; they were not loot to him. Wilt thou sell them here? No, not

"Sell them!" cried Fazil, laughing; "no, surely--why?"

"O, the master never does--he always keeps the gold and silver, and
buys them at his own valuation; but he gives us a share, nevertheless,
and I shall miss mine of last night's work:--better, however, that the
women have it."

"Ah! friend, I fear thou wilt have no such luck with me," returned the
young man. "That is no loot, however; it will only go to its owner."

"Ah, Meah, I understand now," said the man quickly. "Yes, for her. Poor
child! poor child! and when she sees the blood!--better throw that
cloth away, and tie them up in a clean handkerchief."

"No," said Fazil, "keep it. It is evidence of the worst, and she needs
to know it; but let us count them. Thirteen, you see, gold and silver;
and look, there is blood on these anklets--let it stay. Yes, now I will
trust thee."

Just then the Khan and the priest came out of the court, both accoutred
for the march.

"I was seeing to the horses, father," said Fazil, in anticipation of
his father's remarks, "and questioning this gift of Pahar Singh's; look
at him--a strange being, is he not?"

Lukshmun advanced, prostrated himself, kissed the Khan's feet, but
said nothing. The priest was acknowledged by a distant but respectful
reverence only, and the hunchback seemed to regard him with antipathy.

"Strange enough, son," said the Khan, looking at him from head to foot:
"ask thy mother about his horoscope when we get to camp. He may be
lucky, after all--these hunchbacks often are so."

"My lord," said Lukshmun pleadingly, joining his hands, "all the
Brahmuns like to try their hands on my nativity, and they all say I am
lucky. For I am a twin, and they never could make out exactly which
of the two was the eldest born; but they believed Rama was, who was
always unlucky, and had a bad wife and worse children, and he was shot
yesterday; so the bad luck and bad stars--sun and moon, and all--went
with him; and now your slave is the luckiest of men, since he is the
property of the noble Afzool Khan and his son Fazil. Surely the stars
sent him."

"Thou hast a bold tongue," said the priest. "Peace, be silent."

"Ah, Maharaj!" returned the man, "holy men like you and the Brahmuns
think too much upon divine glories, to mind what a poor fool like me
says. I, too, know my prayers already, and shall become a Mussulman,
when I have heard a few more of your reverence's sermons. O, they are
wonderful! Bismilla--ir-rahman-ir-raheem!----"

"Come," said the Khan, "they are beating the Nagárás everywhere, and
as all are ready, we need not delay." So, mounting their horses,
which were being led about, they rode on to the plain where the men
were assembling fast, and closing in heavy masses upon their several
standards. In a few minutes, the Paigah of Afzool Khan, Moro Pundit
being in the midst closely guarded, moved on down the pass, followed by
the Abyssinian cavalry; and their bright steel morions, gay scarves,
trappings and standards, gleamed in the blazing sunshine. Yet it was
not hot enough to be oppressive; a fresh westerly wind had arisen,
driving before it large masses of fleecy cloud, which, as they passed,
threw broad chequers of light and shade over the plain, rustling among
the tall ripe corn, which bowed before it in golden wavy ripples, and
refreshing the men who, though few had slept, were as yet unconscious
of fatigue under the excitement they had gone through.

The people of the town watched the long line, that, owing to the rough
nature of the road, straggled down the pass, with thankful hearts
for deliverance from further molestation; and as the last of the
men disappeared behind a shoulder of the mountain, a faint shout of
"Jey Kalee! Jey Toolja!" rose from a group of men, consisting of the
Nimbalkur and other chiefs who were assembling at his house. Others
clustered about the edge of the tableland, and when they saw the long
line emerge upon the plain beyond the groves and gardens of Sindphul,
and heard the loud booming notes of the Nagárás growing fainter in the
distance, many a heart breathed a prayer of thanks for deliverance,
intermingled with defiance and deep curses on those from whose violence
they had suffered.

In the temple a group of priests were sitting about the shrine weeping,
and the image of the goddess still lay on its back, the ruby eyes
flashing in the glare of the lamps now lighted about it. No one,
as yet, dared to touch it, without some preliminary ceremonies of
deprecation of her wrath. Within, the blood had been washed away--but
without, in the court, it still lay in patches, blackening and cracking
in the sun.


There is nothing, perhaps, more effectual to deaden, if not to relieve
recent misery, than the sensation of rapid motion. Leaning back in
the palankeen, with the doors now shut, and the fresh breeze blowing
refreshingly through the open blinds, Tara felt herself hurried swiftly
and smoothly along, while her attention was at once occupied and
distracted by the occurrences of the journey. Sindphul, its temple and
trees: the lane which was the bed of the rivulet, through which the
bearers plashed rapidly: the village gate now shut, and its bastions
manned with men to keep out marauders: the long shady narrow lane,
overhung with trees;--then, beyond, the plain, covered with rich
crops of grain now ripening: the shouts of the men and boys, perched
upon their stages in the fields, slinging stones at birds: the song,
drawling and monotonous, of the bullock-drivers at the wells,--were all
familiar objects and sounds to the desolate girl being carried rapidly
by them. Would she ever see them again?

As they passed their own garden, she looked among the trees--perchance
she might see Sudba, the old bullock-driver, or Purésh-ram, the
gardener; but there was no one visible, else she had cried out to them.
Were they dead, too? Ah! how often had she wandered among the trees
there with her mother, and watched the butterflies among the flowers!
The bearers stopped to change opposite the wicket gate, and she could
see the bright beds of white jessamine, unpicked as yet, and large
marigolds, and white and yellow chrysanthemums, which the men were
saving for the Dusséra. Who would gather them now? Over them, the same
bright yellow and white butterflies were hovering in hundreds, and
the fierce green and blue dragonflies chasing each other, or darting
here and there, quick as thought, and glistening in the sun. Then she
remembered the omen in her garden as she sat spinning, and fell back on
the pillow shuddering. It was true. She remembered too that the bird
had sat for a while, and twittered a sweet low song. Was he that bird,
that noble, gracious youth, who had spoken to her so gently, so kindly?
She tried to follow the thread of this thought back, but failed. Her
mind was sadly confused and wandering, now reverting to the omen, now
to the objects she was passing, and the people they met:--who were
they? what doing? whither going?--to the horsemen, the monotonous tramp
of whose horses never ceased, some behind, some before, some around
her,--fierce, dark-bearded fellows, whose very proximity she would
have dreaded before,--who were now guarding her respectfully by his
order; while the kind old man, to whose charge she had been specially
committed, rode close to the side of the litter, and where the path was
narrow, asked her, through the blinds, if she were well, and wanted

Fazil, son of Afzool; she remembered the name. It was strange to
Hindu lips, but had a musical cadence, which her memory retained as
she repeated it to herself. Fazil, son of Afzool; and he had a sister
Zyna. What would she be like? Would she be kind and loving to her? like
Radha? Was he not beautiful, and very fair, almost ruddy.

Into all these channels, confused, and whirling her mind hither and
thither like dust and straws before the wind, her thoughts wandered
dreamily, apparently avoiding the bare, hideous fact that all were
dead whom she loved--all who had protected her up to last night. But
this would not long be denied its place. It was a horrible reality not
as yet fully understood:--which her gentle mind could not grasp.

Dead! who saw them die? They were alive last night,--who had killed
them? If she had seen them die, that, indeed, would be surety. No, it
was not true. They could not be dead,--they could not have left her
so helpless. It was some fraud, some deception. She had not gone far:
Sindphul was close by: she would run and sit in the garden, and wait
for her mother; and she half-opened the door of the litter. Shêre Khan
rode by it, erect and stern, but bowed down to her as the door moved.
"Do you want anything, lady?" he said. "Go to sleep; it will rest you."

The voice, kind as it was, dispelled the other thought, and brought
back the bitter reality of desolation and the events of the night.
How she had been lifted up--and the girl Gunga's laugh of triumph and
mockery rang in her ears, and was before her eyes now, as she pressed
her hands against them: the rude men who carried her down the steps:
the fearful shrieks and din in the temple: the shots and blows, growing
fainter as they carried her away: and, above all, the voice of Moro
Trimmul, exulting with Gunga that they were safe from death, and had
Tara captive. "To Rutunjun first," he had said, "and then----"

"From that worse than death he saved me," she thought, with a shudder.
"Fazil saved me--Fazil, son of Afzool--else I were helpless with
Moro now. And they were dead--her people, all dead? Yes, the detail
Fazil had related was brief and circumstantial. The Bhópeys would not
lie--why should they? They were weeping, and had taken him up dead.
Her father, a negro had killed him, they said. She felt no hope could
come out of this detail. They had lifted him up and put him.... No,
she could not follow that. That beloved father, dead--disfigured with
ghastly wounds!--mother, whom Jánoo had seen dead, and Radha ... all?
He had said so. How could he--Fazil--know of Jánoo, or the Bhópeys, her
father's dependants, so as to deceive her with names?"

So, round and round, whirling, dashing hither and thither like the
motes in a sunbeam, staying nowhere, sometimes utterly blank, the
girl's thoughts ministered to her fast growing misery. The hot dry
eyes, red and swollen, looked out sometimes vacantly as the bearers
changed shoulders. She felt powerless to move, careless as to what
became of her. As the reality of the death of all, pressed on her mind
occasionally with greater force, she sat up and gasped for breath,
and again fell back upon the cushions; then the monotonous cries of
the bearers as they shuffled along rapidly, and the dull tramp of the
horses, with the sense of motion, were relief from mental agony: and,
after a time, she slept.

The action of setting down the litter, awoke her with a start. Under
some trees not far from a village gate, there was the small hut of a
Fakeer. Shêre Khan was speaking to the old man, and the troopers were
dismounting from their horses. Shêre Khan came to her.

"I have sent for the Josee's wife," he said. "The Syn here says she is
a kind woman. She will bring you water and something to eat. We rest
here while the men get their breakfasts, and the horses are fed. Fear
nothing. Open the litter,--it is cool and pleasant in the shade under
the trees," and then he left her.

So it was. She opened the door and looked out. A small grove of mango
trees, with a smooth green sward below them, and some cattle and goats
grazing there in the cool shade; a boy and a girl tending them looked
inquisitively at her, and the girl came up shyly and sat down by her.

"Do you want water, lady?" she said. "I am the Josee's daughter, and
those are my goats. I will go and tell my mother you want water. You
are a Brahmun, are you not?"

Tara patted her head in assent--she could not speak; and the girl ran
away, crying to the lad not to let her goats stray.

By-and-by the child and mother returned, and the latter brought a
copper vessel of water and a drinking-cup.

"Here is water, lady," she said; "will you get out and wash your face?
Surely, I know you," she continued quickly, as Tara turned her face to
her. "Where have I seen you?"

"No matter," said Tara, "I do not know you."

"Perhaps not," said the dame drearily. "So many travellers come and go,
and ... but no matter. Shall I cook anything for you? will you come to
our house and bathe?"

"No," said Tara; "they will go on presently; I will stay here."

"Come hither, Ooma," she said to the girl, who was standing apart, and
she whispered to her; "go, and come quickly," she added aloud.

"Do not send for any one else," said Tara; "I am well."

"Are you not ill?" said the woman. "Ah, your eyes are red and swollen."

"I have a headache," replied Tara; "it is so hot."

"Yes," said the woman, sitting down, and putting her arm kindly round
Tara, and pressing her head against her own bosom,--"yes, you look
tired and weary, but it will pass away. Wash your face and hands,
and your feet--it will do you good, and refresh you. Put out your
feet--so--I will wash them."

The cool water was refreshing as it was poured over her hands and feet;
and after the woman had dried them with the end of her saree, she again
laid Tara's head against her breast, and patted her as though she were
her own child.

"You look so weary," she said; "have you travelled far?"

"From Tooljapoor," Tara replied.

"Is all well there?" asked the woman. It was a common question with no
meaning to the asker, but of how much to Tara!

She could not answer, but clung, almost convulsively, to the kind
breast on which she had laid her head.

"I see," said the woman; "so young and rich, and yet thou art in
sorrow, lady--rest here." And she drew her the more closely to her, and
patted her as before. So they sat till the child came back, who brought
upon a plate, covered with a handkerchief, a few simple sweetmeats and
some parched rice. "Eat," she said, "if ever so little; eat a bit of
'Luddoo,' and drink some water." Tara shook her head, and only nestled
the closer to the soft bosom: it was strangely like her mother's.

"Poor thing, poor thing," thought the woman to herself, "what can ail
her? Perhaps her husband is unkind. Eat, my rose," she said aloud,
"eat this." And she broke off a piece of the cake and put it to Tara's
mouth. "I made it myself, and it is quite pure and clean. Eat it; open
your mouth." Tara did so mechanically, and she put it in.

Tara tried to eat, but her mouth was dry and hot; she could not
swallow, and felt choking. The woman saw it, and rubbed her throat
gently. The hardness and constriction seemed to relax, and she was able
to swallow what she had taken, and to eat a little more, the woman
feeding her.

"Good," she said kindly, "try again by-and-by. O lady, what heavy grief
is on you that no tears come? Can I do aught for you?"

"Nothing," said Tara; "only do not leave me while they are absent."

So they sat silently. If Tara could have wept, it had been well; but
that blessed relief was not to come yet. She was quiet, however,
sitting there, almost stupified, resting her head against the woman's
breast, who still patted her. Every now and then the great, sore, hot
eyes looked out drearily. Some of the goats and cattle browsed under
the trees, others had lain down resting in the shade. There was no
sound but a faint rustle of the breeze among the leaves, the dim buzz
of flies, and the droning song of a man, at a well in a garden near,
singing to his bullocks, and the distant plashing rush of the water as
it was emptied from the bag into the cistern.

And so they sat, till one by one the bearers gathered near them, and
tied up their hookas on the palankeen as before. Then the horsemen came
up, and she heard Shêre Khan asking her if she were ready, and telling
the bearers to take up the palankeen. Tara had put the gifts she had
received at the shrine under her waist-band, and remembered them. As
the palankeen was taken up she took them out and put them into the
woman's hand, who, expecting perhaps a few copper coins, stood looking
at them in amazement.

"May your grief pass from you, and may God be merciful unto you, my
child," said the woman. Ere Tara could reply, a bearer had shut the
door, and the men ran on with renewed vigour.

Yes, the little change had refreshed her, and she again fell asleep,
mercifully: and it was evening, and the shadows were lengthening fast,
when she became aware that they approached a large town, passed through
a busy bazar crowded with people, then emerged from it; crossed over a
bridge, from which a large piece of water was visible on the left hand,
and the towers and bastions of a fort washed by it; then the gloom of
a deep-arched gateway, and light beyond. A respectably dressed elderly
woman, in Mahomedan costume, took hold of the side of the palankeen,
and ran along with it a short distance.

"Stop," she cried to the bearers,--"this is the place; put it down and
go away."

Then Tara saw several other women advance and hold up a heavy sheet so
as to screen her as she got out, and the door was opened; and Goolab,
for she it was, speaking a rough dialect of Mahratta, bid her come
forth. As she did so, and stood there, Goolab "took the evil off her,"
as was her custom;[13] and other women coming forward with plates,
on which were coriander and mustard seed, waved them over her. Thus
welcomed, Tara now stood waiting a signal to advance; and Goolab,
seeing her trembling violently, put her arm round her, looking with
wonder at the richness of her apparel and the heavy gold ornaments she
wore, her exceeding beauty causing respect and silence even from the
loquacious and privileged nurse.

"Enter," said a low sweet voice from within a curtain hanging across a
doorway, which was slightly opened.


[13] Women pass their hands over the person on whom the ceremony is
performed from head to foot; then, turning the backs of their hands
against their temples, make all their knuckles and finger-joints crack
loudly. This is done to avert consequences of Evil Eye.


Tara advanced, still trembling, and clinging to Goolab, and trying to
hide her face in the end of her garment; she was only sensible of the
same sweet voice, as a girl of great, and to her strange, beauty, took
her in her arms, embraced her, and said gently, "Peace be unto you! you
are welcome, with the peace and blessing of Alla upon you!" and that
another taller and older lady embraced her in like manner, and said the
same. After that for a long while she remembered nothing.

When she recovered, she was lying upon a soft bedding in a small room,
near an open window which looked out upon the lake that encircled
the fort, glowing with the reflection of piles of sunset-clouds. On
what seemed an island in the lake was a Hindu temple, with a high
pyramidical roof, around which hung the rich foliage of several
magnificent trees, and temple and trees were reflected double in the
still water. These were the first objects that met her sight.

Then, turning round, the same young face that she had seen on entering
the apartment bent over her, and a soft warm hand was passed over her
face, and the ends of the fingers kissed in loving greeting; but the
girl did not speak, though a sweet smile spread over her features, and
she seemed to beckon with her left hand to another person behind her,
whom Tara could not see. Another moment and her deliverer advanced,
saluting her respectfully.

Fazil had ridden fast to overtake Tara, but had not succeeded. Twenty
men, a light palankeen, and the hope of a liberal reward, had induced
the bearers to put out their utmost speed, and they had well redeemed
their promise of reaching their destination before sunset; but he had
arrived soon after.

"Go away, brother," said Zyna, "do not speak to her now; you have seen
that she is safe--that is enough."

"My sister," he replied in Persian, that Tara might not understand,
"not so. It will grieve her, and thee too, sorely, but she must know
the truth. Do not go away. I will speak to her in her own tongue, and
show her these sad memorials which I have brought. It is mercy not to
delay in such cases.--Can you listen to me, lady, a few moments?" he
continued to Tara; "what I have to tell you is not worse than what you
have already heard, but it will confirm it; and truth and reality are
ever better than doubt."

"If you please to say it, sir," said Tara, who had arisen directly she
saw Fazil approaching, and stood by the window.

"If--if--you saw anything that had belonged to them you would know it,
perhaps," said Fazil hesitatingly.

Tara's bosom heaved so that she could not speak. She appeared as if
gasping for breath, with the same distressing symptoms as when, in the
morning, he had told her first of her bereavement,--and she trembled
violently. She could not stand, and crouched down against the wall.

"O, not now, brother! not now," pleaded Zyna, who put her arm round
Tara, and was supporting her.

But Fazil was merciless. "It must be," he said. "And now, lady, listen.
If you had any doubt, these will remove it. After I left you the second
time I went to the Kuchéri, for what Jánoo Näik told me he had left
there, and these were given as having belonged to your mother, Anunda
Bye, and your stepmother, Radha Bye. Look at them."

As he spoke he untied a bundle he held, and poured the contents at her
feet; heavy gold and silver ornaments of some value, and a few rings.

Tara looked at them for a moment. The silver chain anklets, which were
her mother's, were dabbled with blood, now dry on them; the gold pair
had been made after those on her own feet for Radha's marriage, by her
brother Moro. Enough--all were familiar objects. They swam before her
eyes--the room seemed whirling round, and, weak as she was, she sank
down again utterly unconscious, with Zyna crying over her.

"Let them remain," said Fazil, "she must see them when she recovers,
else she will not believe. Show them to her one by one. I dare not
stay;" and he left the room.

Tara had not however fainted, but she was gasping for breath, and Zyna
called to Goolab to bring a fan, while she opened the casement of the
window still more, to let in air. "He said--he said," sobbed Tara,
trying to speak; "lady, I cannot speak--I am choking--O! why do I not
die? He said----"

"He said you were to look at them all, one by one," said Zyna, trying
to check her own sobs and tears. "He is kind. Fazil, my brother, would
not give you pain unless it were for good. Look! here they are," and
Zyna spread out the ornaments with her own hands, shuddering at the
blood upon them.

Tara looked earnestly at Zyna; the eyes were full of misery--so full
that Zyna could not bear them--passed her hands over her own, pressing
them tightly, then looked away. Tara turned the ornaments vacantly over
and over, sighing, and, as it were, catching her breath convulsively.
There was one, a ring with a sapphire set in it, with which she knew
her mother never parted, for she believed that without it evil would
happen to her, and that it had brought prosperity. It used sometimes
to be put on the altar when they worshipped Lakshmee, the Goddess of
Wealth--else it never left her mother's hand; but it was there. Zyna
did not know this then, but she saw Tara's hand tremble very much as
she took it up and looked at it carefully. There was a dark stain
inside, and Tara put down the ring, gasping, as it were, for breath,
then took it up again.

Zyna watched wonderingly, the changing expressions which passed over
the beautiful features: first despair; then, as it seemed to her,
prayers were murmured in a language she did not understand, and the
features appeared to relax, the upturned eyes glistened, there was
a look as if of hope or triumph upon the face. She moved closer to
Tara, still closer, as she thought she saw tears gathering in the hot
eyes. If Tara could only weep it would be well. Zyna passed her left
arm round her, and gently drew the girl's head on er own shoulder and
bosom; it fell softly there and rested; the hand which held the ring
dropped on her lap, beating restlessly; but the other grasped her so
that it almost caused pain. Kind nature did not suffer the terrible
struggle to continue longer, else Tara had died; and with almost a
shriek of pain, her tears burst forth uncontrollably.

"Thank God for it," said Lurlee, who had entered, and was standing
over them, and who now passed her hands over Tara, as Goolab had done;
"she will be easier for this, and the worst is past: let her weep.
The blessing of Alla and the Prophet on thee, my daughter," she said
to Tara. "I salute thee with peace! Thou hast entered at a fortunate
moment, and there is joy following thy grief. Fear not; thou hast come
to those who will be to thee what thou hast lost."

"She will require much care, mother," said Zyna; "feel how she is
trembling; I will not leave her. Ah, yes--that is the reason; take away
those things, Goolab; wash them and put them by."

Goolab took them up, and with all her choicest epithets of "Poor little
rose! my pretty dove! my lily! my own life!" she tried to soothe the
girl; but Tara heeded no one. Keeping the ring clutched in her own
hand, she hid her face in Zyna's bosom, then suffered her gradually to
lay her head down on her knee, and rock it softly. She dared not speak,
but tried to look up gratefully, sometimes, and then clung the closer
to her gentle nurse.

"Hush," said Zyna, as fresh bursts of tears often occurred, "I know
what has happened, and I will not leave thee, Tara; no, never now. And
he, my brother, says it too." So they sat and lay--the two girls--long
into the night; and gradually, unable to resist the kindness lavished
on her, Tara spoke a little, and Zyna encouraged it, and heard
wonderingly, Tara's simple tale of trial and sorrow.

That night, too, her future fate was the subject of earnest debate,
often approaching the verge of passion, between Afzool Khan, his son,
and the priest. What could they do with a Brahmun orphan, a heathen
unbeliever who was a captive, and a slave, by the laws of war? Long and
earnestly did the priest plead that she should forthwith be sent to the
royal harem. So beautiful a slave would be cherished, loved, and have
every luxury at her command; she might become the mother of princes,
and the head of the state; and Afzool Khan supported this opinion,
which was borne out by texts from the law, plausibly quoted by the Peer.

But Fazil opposed them both, gently yet firmly, and at last almost
fiercely. "She is my captive, if captive at all," he said; "my slave,
taken in war, according to your own texts, Huzrut--and I can release
her, or ransom her, or keep her, as I will. She has relatives at Wye,
where we are going, and with your permission, father, she can stay with
us till then; we will be her safeguard, honourably and truly. After
that," he added with some little confusion, "she can act for herself,
and of her own free will; but to send her to the palace, to be decked
out and noticed for a while, and then flung aside--no, father; better
she died, or better still that we now turned her into the street, to
shift for herself among her own people."

"That would be inhospitable, son, if no more," returned his father;
"well, boy, let her stay, and welcome. No matter," he thought to
himself, "if he have his own way in this thing." The Khan was decidedly
in good humour. The kichéri, kabobs, and some other dishes which were
especial favourites, had been dressed to perfection by Lurlee, and were
relished, as they can best be, with the zest insured by a long ride.

Lurlee had met him in good humour, and the stars were in propitious
conjunction to welcome his arrival. The lady had nothing but good to
say of Tara, whose beauty and sad history had at once deeply impressed
her. "What if she be an infidel," she said, "she will make the better
true believer. Let her stay with us, O Khan! she shall be a daughter to
me," and the lady sighed. "There is nothing unlucky about the period of
her arrival, for the sun was in conjunction with Jupiter, and she was
born under Venus, she says; and as she is a Brahmun she knows all about
her horoscope and the planets; besides, is not this Wednesday, and she
arrived between five and six in the evening, under Venus, so that she
is born to us under the same planet as she was born to her own parents?
Is not that curious? and by-and-by I shall call her Fazila, according
to the blessed scheme of nativity sent by the prophets. And listen
further, Khan," continued the lady, pausing and examining her book.
"Her name now begins with a T, and that stands for Air, and is lucky,
because----" and she was nearly saying it aloud, only she checked
herself in time, "because," she said to herself, "Fazil's name begins
with an F, and that means Fire, and fire and air always agree best,
because the one cannot exist apart from the other."

"I don't understand, Lurlee," said the Khan, "how it is. What about

"Never mind," replied the lady knowingly, "you will find out more
by-and-by, Khan! there is a good deal to be done before then."

So Tara escaped another great peril which she knew not of, and remained
as an honoured and welcome guest with her new protectors. And in a few
days, when Afzool Khan had made the necessary arrangements, his army
was ready to move on. These need no detail at our hands, except as
concerns two characters in our history who did not accompany it.

The first was Kowas Khan, who, recalled by the King to manage the
affairs of his own troops, returned from Sholapoor to the capital. The
young man regretted the necessity; for to share a campaign in real
service with his friend Fazil, had ever been one of his most cherished
plans. The King's order was, however, peremptory, and was obeyed. "When
we return," said the old Khan to him as they parted, "the days of
mourning will be expired, and thou shalt have thy desire."

With him was sent the Lalla, who, being naturally of an unwarlike
nature, rejoiced at the prospect of escaping hardships of no ordinary
kind. And was not Kowas Khan the late Wuzeer's son, and nominal Wuzeer
himself? He might become actually so, and what a field for advancement
was opened to him if this should be! "May your prosperity increase, may
you be victorious," he said to the father and son as he took leave of
them. "Inshalla! your poor servant will write you news of the city and
court, after the true imperial fashion, which is more his vocation than
recording battles; only remember that your slave is grateful."

Afzool Khan's army, now organized in all respects, set forward on its
march. A few miles only were traversed daily, and it would require a
month or more ere they could reach Wye. Sometimes a house was found for
the ladies in a village or town near which the forces encamped; but
more frequently they were in the Khan's tents, which were infinitely
pleasanter. The two girls grew together, the more as the first
restraint passed away; and the lady Lurlee and Zyna were never tired of
hearing from the lips of the beautiful heathen, the simple story of her
life, her widowhood, and her strange rescue from dishonour.

Was Tara happy? Yes; when she thought of what her fate must have
been had she not been rescued from Moro Trimmul, or even if Fazil
had yielded to her first entreaties, and let her go without inquiry.
She knew not then of the further escape from the royal harem which
Fazil had secured; but as it was, gratitude to him had already become
the main feeling of her life. Of her parents' death she had no doubt
whatever now. The other members of the family would have claimed the
property and cast her off. Widow and priestess combined, she would
have been helpless against the insult and profligacy of men of her own
faith, and now she was at least safe. She was grateful, therefore, and,
for the most part, happy too.

But often, as she wept bitterly under the old memories of an innocent
and happy home, the loving arms of her mother seemed clasped about her
once more, and her caresses almost palpably felt, while the glistening
eyes of the goddess appeared to follow her, sleeping and waking, with
a reproachful look of desertion. In these moments, Tara endured bitter
grief; but ever at hand were the gentle remonstrances of her new mother
and sister, and to them also were joined those of her deliverer which,
in the constant association which grew out of a camp life, she felt
becoming more and more powerful day by day.


Among the events which passed at Sholapoor after the arrival of the
Khan, was the disposition of the prisoner Moro Trimmul. Heavily ironed
and closely guarded, he had been brought from Tooljapoor on horseback,
his irons loosened from one leg, and, when they were again riveted, he
was consigned to the custody of the Khan's own troop. When the fate
of the Brahmun hung in a balance, and Fazil, fearing him, and knowing
his indefatigable and successful attempts in propagating the political
influence of the Mahrattas, had at first urged his execution, then his
transmission to Beejapoor,--there was not a dissentient voice in the
small council; but at Sholapoor the aspect of affairs had changed:
the priest and his father had sent for Moro Trimmul, and examined him
in private; and the sullenness of the man had apparently broken down
before the threats of being despatched to Beejapoor, and submitted to
his fate with the King.

The Khan and the priest were no believers in the honesty of Mahrattas;
and at the second of these examinations, the Brahmun was plied with
temptation such as was difficult to resist, and to which he yielded
with apparent reluctance, but yielded nevertheless. To assist them
in speaking with the prisoner (for though the priest spoke Mahratta
perfectly well, yet, as a language of infidels, rarely suffered it, as
he said, to defile his mouth; and if he did, subjected that organ to an
excessive purification at the hour of prayer),--a Brahmun, who belonged
to the accountant's department of the state, by name Punto Gopináth,
was employed by the Khan. Of this man he knew but little: but he was a
good Persian scholar, as well as an intelligent official servant of the
kingdom, and the Khan had no doubt of his fidelity.

Nor, indeed, Bulwunt Rao either; who, a bad interpreter himself,
had, on all occasions, been allowed to be present, as a check upon
the Brahmuns. Both had joined in trying to persuade Moro Trimmul to
disclose the intentions of his master, and had always been met with the
same answer, that the Prince only desired recognition of his rights,
and that when he heard for certain of the march of the force, he would
be sure to send ambassadors to explain what had occurred. So it had
come to this, that if ambassadors did arrive within a few days, Moro
Trimmul was to be confronted with them; otherwise, that he was to be
sent back to Beejapoor, to be dealt with as a traitor.

To Bulwunt Rao, whose Mahratta mind was capable of understanding and
appreciating an indirect motive of policy, the Khan's determination
seemed perfectly reasonable; and if Moro Trimmul could by any means be
brought to consent to lead the force through the defiles beyond Wye,
some effect upon the Rajah's position might be obtained. If not, who
was to do it?

To Fazil, however, the position taken up by his father was so
unintelligible, and so unlike his usual straightforward mode of
proceeding, that he feared some extraneous agency was at work. It was
not so, however: it was simply the power which strong minds exercise
over weaker; and by the Brahmun's cool contempt of death, his certainty
that Sivaji would beg for terms, and his willingness to assist if he
did,--the Khan's suspicions were overcome.

Nor was it strange, perhaps, that after a time the Khan appeared to
attach no particular culpability to Moro Trimmul's attempt to carry
off Tara. He had explained the act, by her father having tired of
her presence in the house as the jealous enemy of his sister, a new
and beautiful wife, and had requested him to take her away to Wye,
to devote her to one of the temples there. Some little force was,
no doubt, necessary; but her father had authorized its being used,
to prevent interference by her mother. What did he care about the
girl?--as a widow she was impure, and her not having performed the
rites of widowhood, placed her beyond the pale of respectability; yes,
the Khan might make a Mahomedan of her, send her to the King, or do
what he pleased with his slave, he had no concern for her now.

The Khan thought this state of the case on the whole more probable, in
all its aspects, than Tara's own story, heard through Lurlee and Zyna.
It did not affect her character, which Moro Trimmul spared no words to

So the Brahmun grew into favour; and as he did so, the flattery which
he distributed to the Khan and the priest had its effect, in procuring
him liberty, first from his irons, and then of speech with Gopináth and
other persons of his own sect, who came to converse with one so well
known by reputation. The position of all parties continued thus till a
few days after the force had left Sholapoor; when, one morning, as the
Khan reached the halting-place for the day, the arrival of envoys from
the Rajah Sivaji was announced in camp, and without delay they were
summoned to the Khan's presence.

We need not follow the negotiations which ensued; we have only to do
with those who took part in them. Most of us know, too, what Eastern
negotiations are, when weakness is covered by temporizing expedients
of falsehood or treachery. So it has been from the first, so it will
be to the end. Moro Trimmul had well guessed what his master's policy
would be when he laid his fate upon the result; and when he heard
from Bulwunt Rao that the envoys had proffered submission, and begged
of Afzool Khan to advance and partake of the Rajah's hospitality at
Pertâbgurh, where the affairs pending in dispute could be amicably
discussed, he was satisfied--he could understand what was to come.

His own liberation soon followed. Of what use was it confining an
irresponsible agent, when real ambassadors had voluntarily met the
Khan, and declared their master's intention to throw himself on the
royal clemency? So Moro Trimmul was set free.

His first act was to seek Gunga. So long as he had been kept within the
fort at Sholapoor he had heard nothing of her; but the day the force
marched, he had seen her, attended by two stout footmen with sword and
buckler, riding among the camp followers, as the division of horsemen,
under whose charge he was placed, rapidly passed a crowd of them
straggling onwards. She had not observed him, he thought, for she made
no sign of recognition. It had been otherwise, however; and we must
retrace a little this girl's proceedings, in order to comprehend her
present position.

Under that strange fascination which often impels women to endure
more from men who ill-use them than from those who caress them, she
had been unable to remain at Tooljapoor, and after a brief struggle
she had yielded to her destiny. When the Khan discharged her, and the
temporary insensibility of Lukshmun had procured her the gold zone,
which was valuable, the hard, mercenary nature which had grown out of
her vocation, rose as a wall between her and Moro Trimmul, and yet but
for a moment.

It said to her, "You have got all you can from this man, his fate is
evil; you have had many escapes from him, and this is the last. Go!
leave him, you could not save his life if you would; the Mussulmans
hate him, and will destroy him, or imprison him for life. Enough that
you have escaped; go, and be thankful." This was what she thought,
as she picked up the zone when it rolled away, fastened it round her
waist, and walked out of the room. Where was she to go? She dared not
visit the temple. Dead bodies were still lying there, and there was
blood about the streets. She went to Anunda's house, and looked into
all the courts. She saw the dead negro lying among the flowers, and,
horrified at the sight, she started back; and just as some men opened
a door and tried to intercept her, she fled away in terror. She dared
not trust herself in the quiet parts of the town nor in the camp; for
there were many who would have thought little of a stab with a dagger,
or open violence, to rid her of the zone and the valuable ornaments she
had about her. The bazar, however, was safe, and she might meet some
one she knew, and obtain protection.

There were many. Among them Jánoo the Ramoosee, now very tipsy, yet
able to recognize her. He knew she was no friend of Anunda's or Tara's,
and to her he told the same story as he had done to Fazil. "Dead, all
dead!" he cried, as he staggered away--"dishonoured and murdered by the
negroes; and they are buried in the hole beyond the well, without the
gate. Go and see--go and see."

She went up through the gate idly, and sat down beside the great well.
She dared not go beyond it. A large peepul tree hung over it, and a
number of Hindu soldiers were cooking under its shade. She asked for
a few hot cakes, and they gave them, and she ate them there. Then
she wandered into the fields and gardens beyond, and so round to the
Pâp-nâs temple, and sat down on the ledge of rock above the little
stream, which thence leapt plashing down the precipice, looking over
the broad plain, over which the light shadows of fleecy clouds were
chasing each other.

Her eyes filled with tears, for there came back to her, hard and
depraved as she was, many tender memories of the man whom she had loved
passionately;--feared, hated with bitter jealousy, and again loved with
that perversity which is part of the fiercest jealousy, and distorts
every semblance of truth to serve its own purpose. The scene of Tara's
inauguration came back to her memory, and her beauty. "It was not
his fault, Mother," she cried out aloud; "it was thine, to send that
lotos-faced girl to bewitch him, else he had been true to me, and thou
art rightly served for it. He said thou wast a fiend, and feared thee
not; nor do I."

Yes, Tara was gone; would the Mussulman boy, so grand, so beautiful,
ever give up so lovely a captive? Surely not. "Let him have her," she
said: "she will go away, far, far from me and him, and it is well. Yes,
it is well, and what have I to do but follow and watch,--follow and

Then she rose, remembering her store of money in a pot under the
fireplace, in a cloister of the temple, where she had lived. Her
clothes, her property, would be gone; what matter, if that were safe?

So she rose up and ran lightly along the plain, back to the gate,
avoiding the new graves; then passed down the bazar and into the temple
court. All the dead had been removed. The scavengers were washing the
court, which she crossed rapidly. As she expected, her room had been
plundered, all her clothes were gone, but the fireplace had not been
disturbed. She closed the door carefully, then sat down for a while
with a beating heart, to see whether she were followed or not; no one
came,--no one had cared to stop her, though she had been seen. With
a small iron bar which lay in a corner, she hastily dug up the clay
plastering of the hearth, and took out the brass vessel she had hidden
there, which contained her savings; there were upwards of a hundred
rupees in it--wealth to her.

Tying these coins carefully into her waist-band, she again went out
into the court, and proceeded to the temple. "Do not go there," cried a
man sweeping; "it is not washed." But she went on.

It was not washed, and was ghastly with dried and clotted blood. She
looked into the shrine, to see what had become of the image, venerated,
feared, and yet even detested. It lay there as it had fallen. No one
had yet dared to touch it, and the wicked eyes still glistened and
sparkled in the light of the lamp which had been placed beside it.
"Aha!" cried the girl exultingly; "lie there, liar and murdering devil,
as he called thee. He did not fear thee, nor do I. Lie there, till they
pick thee up; or why dost thou not rise thyself? Up, Mother, up! shall
I help thee?" she cried mockingly, as she seized the stone hand; but
she dropped it as instantly--it was wet and cold.

As she did so, she fancied the eyes turned spitefully towards her, and
a horrible superstitious terror came into her heart when she looked
at her hand and saw it was covered with blood. Then she shrieked and
fled shuddering, out of the front entrance to the vestibule, across
the court, up the steps, staying only for a moment to wash hurriedly
in the sacred cistern. Thus she went into the bazar, and sought out a
carrier who she knew possessed a strong pony, who agreed to take her to
Sholapoor; and, purchasing a heavy, coarse cotton sheet, she wrapped
herself in it, and, mingling with the crowd of camp-followers, rode
after the force to Sholapoor.

For many days she could get no speech of Moro Trimmul. She had seen him
taken to rivulets and wells to bathe, and he had also seen her; but
though she daily tried, on one pretence or other, to get near him, she
was repulsed. It was enough, however, that she knew where he was.

It was not long after his release ere he discovered her. She did not
importune him, and he could hardly resist the devotion which had
prompted her to abandon what had been her home and follow his fortunes.
He trusted also to induce her, gradually, again to further his designs
against Tara, which, now that her parents, and, as he believed, also
his own sister, were all dead, appeared more probable of success than

If ever this selfish man had felt a pang of real grief in his life, it
was when he had heard of his sister's death. Poor Radha! whom he had
settled at last so well, when any provision for her had become next to
hopeless--Radha, who, with all her faults, was part of his own rugged
nature, polished and set in a more beautiful frame. It was impossible
not to grieve for her. This was the first impression; afterwards there
ensued an element of rejoicing in it, which daily grew stronger. That
he was free--free to act: free from the keen perception and daring
opposition of his sister, which, ever protecting Tara as with a shield,
had only yielded to violence at the last.

Now Tara was within his reach, and, comparatively speaking, in a far
greater measure than before. He knew her to be safe in the family with
whom she had obtained protection. Their own high honour and strict
respectability were guarantee for this. Knowing her helplessness, Moro
Trimmul had but one source of alarm or apprehension: she might allow
herself to be converted to the Mahomedan faith, or it might be done
without her consent. Then, indeed, there would be no hope.

But, on the other hand, was she not a Brahmun--wonderfully learned
for a woman, proud of this learning, and, above all, a self-professed
devotee of the goddess?

"No," he thought, "they may attempt conversion, probably will do so,
but she will resist it: and yet she should not be too long exposed to
a double temptation." Now, therefore, as before, he discussed plans
with Gunga as to what means could be employed to separate Tara from
her new protectors, and carry her away into the wilds of his native
province, where she could be effectually concealed; and his pursuit of
the girl grew once more into a fierce and morbid passion, absorbing and
deadening all other feelings of his life.


"The gods be praised!" cried Jeyram Bhópey to Wamun Bhut, late in the
day after the attack upon the temple. "He has opened his eyes once
more. Speak, Vyas Shastree; you are safe amongst friends: the gods be
praised, and Toolja Máta, for this mercy, for we little expected to see
you live."

"Who are you?" said the Shastree faintly. "I see very dimly, and it
appears very dark.--Anunda! Tara!----"

"I, Wamun, speak to you," replied the elder of the two priests, "and
this is Jeyram Bhópey. We carried you away, and you are safe in
the house of Gunnésh Hurry, Putwari of Sindphul.--Look, friends,"
he continued, speaking to others without the door of the room,
"the Shastree is alive, and hath spoken, and asked for his wife and

Vyas Shastree was sensible that the room darkened again, as a number of
men crowded to the door; but, feeling sick and faint from the exertion
of speaking even those few words, thought himself dying, and relapsed
again into insensibility.

Very anxiously did all those friends watch around the wounded man;
and it was long before he showed any appearance of rallying strength.
Night passed, and they hardly expected he would see the day; but still
he breathed, and as morning was breaking, a warm moisture took the
place of the chill, clammy, deathlike state in which he had remained
previously, and then those attending him hoped that he would live.

He had received a fearful wound. Bareheaded as he was in the
performance of the ceremonies so rudely interrupted, he had not thought
of protecting himself; but, as the Abyssinians advanced, had caught a
sword and shield offered him by a man in the crowd, who drew back and
fled, and had passed to the front with some others, crying the shout
of the goddess, "Jey Kalee!" "Jey Toolja!" and catching blows on the
shield rather than returning them. But when a gigantic negro before him
was pressing upon the front rank of those who defended the entrance
to the vestibule, so heavily that it seemed as if they must give way,
the old soldier spirit within the Shastree was stirred, and he struck
desperately at the man. Stung by the pain of the wound, the negro
instantly returned the blow with a furious cut, which laid open the
crown of the Shastree's head from back to front. Well for him that the
shield had greatly broken the force of it, or he had died instantly;
as it was, the Shastree fell stunned, and was trampled upon by the
advancing crowd; and lay there, unconscious, until the early morning.

Then the two friends who had watch him fall, and who, concealed in the
recess behind the shrine, had escaped slaughter, came forth and sought
for him. They found him under a pile of dead, still breathing, but
utterly insensible. It was impossible to take him to his own house, for
the gateway and bazar were filled with Abyssinians, and they feared a
renewal of slaughter with the dawn; so they lifted the Shastree from
the ground, obtained a bedstead from one of the closed archway rooms,
put him upon it, and, being joined by several of the Bhópey priests,
had broken open the postern by which Tara had been taken away, and
carried him at once, unobserved, to Sindphul.

Had Tara remained where she had been first stopped, she must have seen
her father borne past her, and would have been saved; but Fazil Khan
had sent her palankeen to the trees by the back of the rivulet, about
a gunshot's distance from the path, out of sight; and though those who
carried the Shastree were challenged by Shêre Khan's horsemen, there
was nothing suspicious in the fact of a dead body, for so it seemed,
being carried away,--and the little procession had passed unnoticed.

Heera, the barber of Sindphul, was a skilful surgeon, and on his
arrival at the house of the Putwari or accountant of the village,
the Shastree's wound was examined. The barber had seldom seen worse,
and during the time which had elapsed since he had received it, the
Shastree had become weak from loss of blood. So Heera shook his head.
Still he did his best: the wound was sewn up skilfully