His fellows nodded in agreement.
“So to-morrow we will break camp. There can be no mistake this time. There must be no points overlooked. The chase will cost much, but it will return a hundredfold. Khusru says that at last the white one has started back toward his herd, so that all can be taken in the same keddah. And the white sahib that holds the license is not to know that White-Coat is in the herd at all.”
The circle nodded again, and contracted toward the speaker.
“We will hire beaters and drivers, the best that can be found. To-morrow we will take the elephants and go.”
Langur Dass pretended to waken. “I have gone hungry many days,” he said. “If the drive is on, perhaps you will give your servant a place among the beaters.”
The circle turned and stared at him. It was one of the stories of Langur Dass that he never partook in the elephant hunts. Evidently poor living had broken his resolutions.
“You shall have your wish, if you know how to keep a closed mouth,” Ahmad Din replied. “There are other hunting parties in the hills.”
Langur nodded. He was very adept indeed at keeping a closed mouth. It is one of the first lessons of the jungle.
For another long hour they sat and perfected their plans. Then they lay down by the fire together, and sleep dropped over them one by one. At last Langur sat by the fire alone.
“You will watch the flame to-night,” Ahmad Din ordered. “We did not feed you to-night for pity on your grey hairs. And remember—a gipsy died in a tiger’s claws on this very slope—not six months past.”
Langur Dass was left alone with his thoughts. Soon he got up and stole out into the velvet darkness. The mists were over the hills as always.
“Have I followed the tales of your greatness all these years for this?” he muttered. “It is right for pigs with the hearts of pigs to break their backs in labour. But you, my Muztagh! Jewel among elephants! King of the jungle! Thou art of the true breed! Moreover I am minded that thy heart and mine are one!
“Thou art born ten thousand years after thy time, Muztagh,” he went on. “Thou art of the breed of masters, not of slaves! We are of the same womb, thou and I. Can I not understand? These are not my people—these brown men about the fire. I have not thy strength, Muztagh, or I would be out there with thee! Yet is not the saying that brother shall serve brother?”
He turned slowly back to the circle of the firelight. Then his brown, scrawny fingers clenched.
“Am I to desert my brother in his hour of need? Am I to see these brown pigs put chains around him, in the moment of his power? A king, falling to the place of a slave? Muztagh, we will see what can be done! Muztagh, my king, my pearl, my pink baby, for whom I dug grass in the long ago! Thy Langur Dass is old, and his whole strength is not that of thy trunk, and men look at him as a worm in the grass. But hai! perhaps thou wilt find him an ally not to be despised!”