“Yes, Sahib, they were stripped and the bodies thrown in the pit with the others. Eight rupees were taken, but as to papers I know nothing.”
“Where is the woman you call the Gulab?”
“She will be in the hands of Nana Sahib,” Ajeet answered; “and because of that I have come to confess so your Honour will save my life from him for he will make accusation that I was Chief of those who killed the soldiers of the British; and that the Sahib will cause to have returned to me the Gulab.”
The Resident took from a drawer a form, and his pen scratched irritably at blanks here and there. He tossed it over to Barlow saying, “I’m going to give this decoit this provisional pardon; perhaps it will nail him. What he has confessed is of value. You translate this to him while I think; I can’t make mistakes—I must not.”
Captain Barlow read to Ajeet the pardon, which was the form adopted by the British government to be issued to certain thugs and decoits who became spies, called Approvers, for the British.
“You, Ajeet Singh, are promised exemption from the punishment of death and transportation beyond seas for all past offences, and such reasonable indulgence as your services may seem to merit, and may be compatible with your safe custody on condition:—1st, that you make full confession of all the decoities in which you have been engaged; 2nd, that you mention truly the names of all your associates in these crimes, and assist to the utmost of your power in their arrest and conviction. If you act contrary to these conditions—conceal any of the circumstances of the decoities in which you have been engaged—screen any of your friends—attempt to escape—or accuse any innocent person—you shall be considered to have forfeited thereby all claims to such exemption and indulgence.”
When the Captain had finished interpreting this the Resident passed it to the decoit, saying: “This will protect you from the British. You are now bound to the British; and I want you to bring me any papers that may have been found upon the two soldiers. Bring here this woman, the Gulab, if you can find her. Go now.”
When Ajeet, with a deep salaam, had gone from the room Hodson threw himself back in his chair wearily and sighed. Then he said: “A woman! the jamadar was lying—all that stuff about Nana Sahib. There’s been some deviltry; they’ve used this woman to trap the messengers; that’s India. It’s the papers they were after; they must have known they were coming; and they’ve hidden the woman. We’ve got to lay hands upon her, Captain—she’s the key-note.”
Barlow had waited until the decoit would have gone before showing the papers that were in his pocket because it was an advantage that the enemy should think them lost. He was checked now as he put a hand in his pocket to produce them by the entrance of Elizabeth, and he fancied there was a sneer on her thin lips.