The bearer, running true to the tenets of native servants, put up the universal alibi—a flat denial.
“Sahib, you who are my father and my mother, be not angry, for I have not slept. I observed the Sahib pass, but as he spoke not, I thought he had matters of import upon his mind and wished not to be disturbed.”
“A liar—by Mother Gunga!” The chowkidar prodded him in the ribs with the end of his staff, and turning in disgust, passed out.
“Come, you fool!” Barlow commanded, returning to his room, and, sitting down wearily upon the bed, held up a leg.
The bearer knelt and in silence stripped the putties from his master’s limbs, unlaced the shoes, and pulled off the breeches.
When Barlow had slipped on the pyjamas handed him, he said: “Tell the chowkidar to come to me at his waking from the first call of the crows.”
An omen of dire import all thugs believe is to hear the cry of a kite between midnight and dawn; to hear it before midnight does not matter, for the sleeper in turning over smothers the impending disaster beneath his body. But Captain Barlow had put up no such defence if evil hung over him, for when the chowkidar stood outside the door calling softly, “Captain Sahib! Captain Sahib!” Barlow lay just as he had flopped on the bed, his tiredness having held him as one dead.
Gently the soft voice of the chowkidar pulled him back out of his Nirvana of non-existence, and he called sleepily, “What is it?”
“It is Jungwa,” the watchman answered, “and I have received the Sahib’s order to come at this hour.”
Then Barlow remembered. He swung his feet to the floor, saying, “Come!”
When the watchman had walked out of his sandals to approach in his bare feet, the Captain said, “Is your tongue still to remain in your mouth, Jungwa, or has it been made sacrifice to the knife for the sin of telling in the cookhouse tales of your Sahib and last night?”
“No, Sahib, I have not spoken. I am a Meena of the Ossary jat. In Jaipur we guard the treasury and the zenanna of the Raja, and it is our chief who puts the tika upon the forehead of the Maharaja when he ascends to the throne. Think you, then, Sahib, that an Ossary would betray a trust?”
Barlow fixed the lean saffron-hued face with a searching look, and muttered, “Damned if I don’t believe the old chap is straight!” “I think it is true,” he said. “Shut the door.” Then he continued: “The one who came last night is in the next room and you must take her out through the bathroom door, for there is cover of the crotons and oleanders, and then to the road. Acquire a gharry and go with her to where she directs you.”
“Salaam, Sahib! your servant will obey. And as to the chota hazri, Sahib?”
“By Jove! right you are, Jungwa”; for Barlow had forgotten that—the little breakfast, as it was called.