The Meer made his appearance the following morning, and, after the usual compliments, to our great astonishment himself touched on the subject. “I have heard,” said he, “that you have sent out spies to see if the Bourj in the defile is occupied, and if any of my people are abroad to restrain your movements.” This was rather an ominous commencement: “but,” continued the old gentleman, “if such had been my intention, could I not have put the whole of you into confinement the moment you arrived? At all events, what could you and your party do against my force?” Sturt glanced his eye at the speaker; for an instant, too, it rested on me, as if to read my opinion; then he boldly answered, “You may outnumber us by thousands, but you will never capture us alive.” He said this so calmly, with such politeness of manner, and yet so firmly, that the Meer was evidently taken aback: at length he replied, “But no such piece of villainy has ever entered my head.” He then adroitly changed the subject, and shortly after took his leave.
When he was gone we held another council of war. It was by no means clear that the last declaration of the chief was a sincere one; but it might have been a temporizing answer elicited by the perhaps unexpected boldness of Sturt’s remark. We determined, at all events, to keep on the alert, guard against any surprise, avoid as much as possible offering any pretext for offence, and, if the worst came to the worst, make as good a resistance as we could.
The next day we received a polite message, requesting an interview, and asking us to visit him in his favourite garden. Under all circumstances we deemed it best to allow it to appear that our suspicions were dissipated, and we accordingly accepted the invitation, and found the Meer seated on the chabooka, or raised platform of masonry, under the shade of some magnificent trees. He immediately commenced saying, “The reason I did not go out to meet you as you approached my city is, that during the warm weather I sleep the greater portion of the day and sit up enjoying the coolness of the night air; but I sent a messenger to escort you in with all care, and unfortunately he missed the way.” Such an excuse was possible, but not at all probable. We did not give him credit for telling the truth about the guide, as there was only one road from Heibuk, and