Then through the darkness into the dawn Dermot sped away with his companions from the City of Shame and the Palace of Death.
And Noreen woke later to learn that the man she loved had left her again without farewell, that the fog of misunderstanding between them was not yet lifted.
THE CAT AND THE TIGER
Several weeks had passed since the Durga Puja Festival. Over the Indian Empire the dark clouds were gathering fast. The Pathan tribes along the North-west Frontier were straining at the leash; Afridis, Yusufzais, Mohmands, all the Pukhtana, were restless and excited. The mullahs were preaching a holy war; and the maliks, or tribal elders, could not restrain their young men. Raids into British Indian territory were frequent.
There was worse menace behind. The Afghan troops, organised, trained, and equipped as they had never been before in their history, were massing near the Khyber Pass. Some of the Penlops, the great feudal chieftains of little-known Bhutan, were rumoured to have broken out into rebellion against the Maharajah because, loyal to his treaties with the Government of India, he had refused a Chinese army free passage through the country. All the masterless Bhuttia rogues on both sides of the border were sharpening their dahs and looking down greedily on the fertile plains below.
All India itself seemed trembling on the verge of revolt. The Punjaub was honeycombed with sedition. Men said that the warlike castes and races that had helped Britain to hold the land in the Black Year of the Mutiny would be the first to tear it from her now. In the Bengals outrages and open disloyalty were the order of the day. The curs that had fattened under England’s protection were the first to snap at her heels. The Day of Doom seemed very near. Only the great feudatories of the King-Emperor, the noble Princes of India, faithful to their oaths, were loyal.
Through the borderland of Bhutan Dermot and Badshah still ranged, watching the many gates through the walls of mountains better than battalions of spies. The man rarely slept in a bed. His nights were passed beside his faithful friend high up in the Himalayan passes, where the snow was already falling, or down in the jungles still reeking of fever and sweltering in tropic heat. By his instructions Parker and his two hundred sepoys toiled to improve the defences of Ranga Duar; and the subaltern was happy in the possession of several machine guns wrung from the Ordnance Department with difficulty.