But they were now at their camp, and the jamadars, standing together for a little, settled it that the omens being favourable, and the wrath of the Dewan feared, they would take the way to the Pindari camp next day.
Dewan Sewlal had warned Hunsa and Sookdee against their natural proclivities for making a decoity while travelling to the Pindari camp, as the mission was more important than loot—an enterprise that might cause them to be killed or arrested. Indeed the Gulab had made this a condition of her going with them. She was practically put in command. Both Nana Sahib and the Dewan were pleased over what they deemed her sensible acquiescence in the scheme. As has been said, the Dewan, recognising the debased ferocity of Hunsa, had promised him the torture when he returned if Bootea had any cause of complaint.
The decoit, believing that Bootea was designed for Nana Sahib’s harem, knew that as one favoured in the Prince’s eyes, he would surely be put to death if he offended her.
So, travelling with the almost incessant swift progress which was an art with all decoits, in a few days they arrived at Rajgar, the town to which Amir Khan had shifted. He had taken possession of a palace belonging to the Rajput Raja as his head-quarters, and his army of horsemen were encamped in tents on the vast sandy plain that extended from both sides of the river Nahal: the local name of this river was “The Stream of Blood,” so named because a fierce force of Arab mercenaries in the employ of Sindhia, many years before, had butchered the entire tribe of Nahals—man, woman, and child,—higher up in the hills.
As had been planned, some of the decoits had come as recruits to the Pindari standard. This created no suspicion, because free-lance soldiers, adventurous spirits, from all over India flocked to a force that was known to be massed for the purpose of loot. It was an easy service; little discipline; a regular Moslem fighting horde, holding little in reverence but the daily prayer and the trim of a spear, or the edge of a sword. Amir Khan was the law, the army regulation, the one thing to obey. As to the matter of prayers, for those who were not followers of the Prophet, who carried no little prayer carpet to kneel upon, face to Mecca, there was, it being a Rajput town, always the shrine of Shiva and his elephant-headed son, Ganesh, to receive obeisance from the Hindus. And those who had come as players, wrestlers, were welcomed joyously, for, there being no immediate matter of a raid and throat-cutting, and little of disciplinary duties, time hung heavy on the hands of these grown-up children.
Hunsa was remembered by several of the Pindaris as having ridden with them before; and he also had suffered an apostacy of faith for he now swore by the Beard of the Prophet, and turned out at the call of the muezzin, and testified to the fact that there was but one god—Allah. And he had known his Amir Khan well when he had told the Dewan that the fierce Pindari was gentle enough when it came to a matter of feminine beauty, for Bootea made an impression.