Nana Sahib was filled with delight—his evil soul revelled in this discord. Then and there, if he could have managed it, he would have suggested to the Captain that he would arrange for the Gulab to meet him—might even have her sent to his bungalow. But he had the waiting subtlety of a tiger that crouches by a pool for hours waiting for a kill; so, somewhat reluctantly, he let the opportunity pass. While he considered Barlow to be an Englishman possessed of rather slow perception, he knew that the Captain had a quixotic sense of honour, and possibly such a proposal might destroy his influence.
And Bootea went back to the camp with Ajeet, suffused to silence by the strange thing that had happened, the strange infatuation—for it was that—that had so suddenly filled her heart for the handsome sahib whose soft, brave eyes had looked through hers into her very soul.
Nana Sahib had assumed a gracious manner toward Ajeet Singh when Bootea had been brought to the nautch. He had bestowed a handsome gift upon the Chief, ten gold mohrs; and for Bootea there had been the gift of a ruby, also ten gold mohrs.
This munificence,—for Hunsa and Sookdee declared it to be a rare extravagance,—was not so much as reward for Bootea’s nautch as a desire on the part of the astute Prince to prepare for the greater service required.
The Dewan also was very gracious to Ajeet over his compliance; but, at the same time, declared that an order had been passed by Baptiste that if the Bagrees would not obey the command to go after Amir Khan he would not pay them a thousand rupees a day out of the treasury. He put all this very affably; raised his two fat hands toward heaven declaring that he was helpless in the matter—Baptiste was the commander, and he was but a dewan. With a curious furtive look in his ox-eyes he advised Ajeet to consult with Hunsa over a method of obtaining money for the decoits. He would not commit himself as to making a decoity, for when they had seized upon the Chief for the crime Ajeet could not then say that the Dewan had instigated it; there would be only Hunsa’s word for this, and, of course, he would deny that the Minister was the father of the scheme.
And in the camp Hunsa and Sookdee were clamouring at Ajeet to undertake a decoity for they were all in need, and to be idle was not their way of life.
Hunsa went the length of telling Ajeet that the Dewan would even send them word where a decoity of much loot could be made and in a safe way, too, for the Dewan would take care that neither sepoys nor police would be in the way.
And then one day there came to the Bagree camp a mysterious message. A yogi, his hair matted with filth till it stood twisted and writhed on his head like the serpent tresses of Medusa, his lean skeleton ash-daubed body clothed in yellow, on his forehead the crescent of Eklinga, in his hand a pair of clanking iron tongs, crawled wearily to the tents where were the decoits, and bleared out of blood-shot blobs of faded brown at Ajeet Singh.