“And think you, Guru, that Ajeet will give you a present of rupees for this talk that is like the braying of an ass?” Hunsa growled.
But Sookdee objected, saying: “Guru Lal is a holy man of age, and his blood runs without heat, therefore if he speaks, the words are not a matter for passion, but to be considered. We will go upon a decoity, which is our duty, and leave the ordeal and all else in the hands of Bhowanee.”
Perhaps it was the customs official that told Dewan Sewlal about the Akbar Ka Diwa, the Lamp of Akbar, the ruby that was so called because of its gorgeous blood-red fire, as being in the iron box of the merchant.
This ruby had been an eye in one of the two gorgeous jewelled peacocks that surmounted the “Peacock Throne” at Delhi in the time of Akbar to the time when the Persian conqueror, Nadir Shah, sacked Delhi and took the Peacock Throne and the Kohinoor, and everything else of value back to Persia. But he didn’t get the ruby for the Vizier of the King of Delhi stole it. Then Alam, the eunuch, stole it from the Vizier. Its possession was desirable, not only because of its great value as a jewel, but because it held in its satanic glitter an unearthly power, either of preservation to its holder or malignant evil against his enemies.
At any rate Sewlal sent for Hunsa the night of the ordeal and explained to him, somewhat casually, that a jewel merchant passing through Mahrattaland had in his collection a ruby of no great value, but a stone that he would like to become possessed of because a ruby was his lucky gem. The Dewan intimated that Hunsa would get a nice private reward for this particular gem, if by chance he could, quite secretly, procure it for him.
Next day was a busy one in the Bagree camp.
Having followed the profession of decoits and thugs for generations it was with them a fine art; unlimited pains were taken over every detail. As it had been decided that they would go as a party of mendicants and bearers of family bones to Mother Ganges, there were many things to provide to carry out the masquerade—stage properties, as it were; red bags for the bones of females, and white bags for those of the males.
In two days one of the spies came with word that Ragganath, the merchant, had started on his journey, riding in a covered cart drawn by two of the slim, silk-skinned trotting bullocks, and was accompanied by six men, servants and guards; on the second night he would encamp at Sarorra. So a start was made the next morning.
Sookdee, Ajeet Singh, and Hunsa, accompanied by twenty men, and Gulab Begum took the road, the Gulab travelling in an enclosed cart as befitted the favourite of a raja, and with her rode the wife of Sookdee as her maid.
Ajeet rode a Marwari stallion, a black, roach-crested brute, with bad hocks and an evil eye. The Ajeet sat his horse a convincing figure, a Rajput Raja.