“Come,” he said to Hunsa, “together we will go to the iron box and open it; then there can be no suspicion that the men of Alwar have been defrauded.”
Hunsa turned malignant eyes upon Sookdee, but, keys in hand, strode toward the tent.
Sookdee, thrusting in the fire a torch made from the feathery bark of the kujoor tree, followed.
Hunsa kneeling before the iron box was fitting the keys into the double locks. Then he drew the lids backward, and the two gasped at a glitter of precious stones that lay beneath a black velvet cloth Hunsa stripped from the gems.
Sookdee cried out in wonderment; and Hunsa, slobbering gutturals of avarice, patted the gems with his gorilla paws. He lifted a large square emerald entwined in a tracery of gold, delicate as the criss-cross of a spider’s web, and held it to his thick lips.
“A bribe for a princess!” he gloated. “Take you this, Sookdee, and hide it as you would your life, for a gift to the son of the Peshwa, who, methinks, is behind the Dewan in this, we will be men of honour. And this”—a gleaming diamond in a circlet of gold—“for Sirdar Baptiste,” and he rolled it in his loin cloth. “And this,”—a string of pearls, that as he laid it on the black velvet was like the tears of angels,—“This for the fat pig of a Dewan to set his four wives at each other’s throats. Let not the others know of these, Sookdee, of these that we have taken for the account.”
Suddenly there was a clamour of voices, cries, the clang of swords, the sharp crash of a shot, and the two jamadars, startled, eyes staring, stood with ears cocked toward the tumult.
“Soldiers!” Sookdee gasped. His hand brushed Hunsa’s bare arm as he thrust it into the chest and brought it forth clasping jewels, which he tied in a knot of his waistcloth. “Take you something, Hunsa, and lock the box till we see,” he said darting from the tent.
Hunsa filled a pocket of his brocaded Jacket, but he was looking for the Akbar Lamp, the ruby. He lifted out a tray and ran his grimy hands through the maze of gold and silver wrought ornaments below. His fingers touched, at the very bottom, a bag of leather. He tore it open, and a blaze of blood-red light glinted at him evilly where a ruby caught the flame of the torch that Sookdee had thrown to the earth floor as he fled.
With a snarl of gloating he rolled the ruby in a fold of his turban, locked the box, and darted after Sookdee.
He all but fell over the seven dead bodies of the merchant and his men as he raced to where a group was standing beyond. And there three more bodies lay upon the ground, and beside them, held, were two horses.
“It is Ajeet Singh,” Sookdee said pointing to where the Chief lay with his head in the lap of a decoit. “These two native soldiers of the English came riding in with swiftness, for behind them raced Ajeet who must have seen them pass.”