Commander Kassim touched Barlow on the arm: “Captain Sahib, come with me. The death of that foul murderer does not take the weight off our hearts.”
“He deserved it,” Barlow declared.
Though filled with a sense of shuddering horror, he was compelled involuntarily to admit that it had been a most just punishment; less brutal, even more impressive—almost taking on the aspect of a religious execution—than if the Bagree had been tortured to death; hacked to pieces by the tulwars of the outraged Pindaris. He had been executed with no evidence of passion in those who witnessed his death. And as to the subtlety of the Commander in obtaining the confession, that, too, according to the ethics of Hindustan, was meritorious, not a thing to be condemned. Hunsa’s animal cunning had been over-matched by the clear intellect of this wise soldier.
“We will walk back to the Chamber of Audience,” Kassim said, “for now there are things to relate.”
He spoke to a soldier to have his horse led behind, and as they walked he explained: “With us, Sahib, as at the death of a Rana of Mewar, there is no interregnum; the dead wait upon the living, for it is dangerous that no one leads, even for an hour, men whose guard is their sword. So, as Amir Khan waits yonder where his body lies to be taken on his way to the arms of Allah in Paradise, they who have the welfare of our people at heart have selected one to lead, and one and all, the jamadars and the hazaris, have decreed that I shall, unworthily, sit upon the ghuddi (throne) that was Amir Khan’s, though with us it is but the back of a horse. And we have taken under advisement the message thou brought. It has come in good time for the Mahrattas are like wolves that have turned upon each other. Sindhia, Rao Holkar, both beaten by your armies, now fight amongst themselves, and suck like vampires the life-blood of the Rajputs. And Holkar has become insane. But lately, retreating through Mewar, he went to the shrine of Krishna and prostrating himself before his heathen image reviled the god as the cause of his disaster. When the priests, aghast at the profanity, expostulated, he levied a fine of three hundred thousand rupees upon them, and when, fearing an outrage to the image these infidels call a god, they sent the idol to Udaipur, he way-laid the men who had taken it and slew them to a man.”
“Your knowledge of affairs is great, Chief,” Barlow commented, for most of this was new to him.
“Yes, Captain Sahib, we Pindaris ride north, and east, and south, and west; we are almost as free as the eagles of the air, claiming that our home is where our cooking-pots are. We do not trust to ramparts such as Fort Chitor where we may be cooped up and slain—such as the Rajputs have been three times in the three famed sacks of Chitor—but also, Sahib, this is all wrong.”