“A johur, a last death-rush, is it not?”
“They will be smashed forever, and their lands taken.”
“But the King of Oudh has been promised a return to glory to join in this revolt. The fighting Rajputs—what of them? Backed by the English they should hold these black accursed Mahrattas in check.”
Barlow rose and, the wary eyes of the Chief on every move, stepped over to the table and pointed to a signature upon the document.
“That,” he said, “is the signature of the Rana of Mewar, meaning that he also passes the salt of friendship to Amir Khan.”
He turned the document over, and there written upon it was the figure “74 1/2.”
“Bismillah!” the Chief cried for he had not noticed this before; “it is the tilac, the Rana’s sealing of the document; it is the mystic number that means that the contents are sacred, that the curse of the Sack of Fort Chitor be upon him who violates the seal, it is the oath of all Rajputs—tilac, that which is forbidden. And the Sahibs have heard a rumour that Amir Khan has a hundred thousand horsemen to cut in with. Even Sindhia is afraid of me and desires my head. The Sahibs have heard and desire my friendship.”
“That is true, Chief.”
“This is the right way,” and the Pindari brought his palm down upon the Government message. “I have heard men say that the English were like children in the matter of knowing nothing but the speaking of truth; I have heard some laugh at this, accounting it easy to circumvent an enemy when one has knowledge of all his intentions, but truth is strength. We have faith in children because they have not yet learned the art of a lie. In two days, Captain Sahib, thou wilt be called to an audience.” He rose from his chair, and, with a hand to his forehead said: “Salaam, Sahib. May the protection of Allah be upon you!”
“Salaam, Chief,” Barlow answered, and he held out a hand with a boyish frankness that caused the Pindari to grasp it, and the two stood, two men looking into each other’s eyes.
“Go thou now, Sahib; thou art a man. Go alone and with quiet, for I would view this message and put it in yonder strong box before others enter.”
When Captain Barlow had gone Amir Khan took up the message and read it. Once he chuckled, for it was in his Oriental mind that the deceiving of Barlow as to his knowledge of writing was rather a joke. Once as he read the heavy silk purdah of the door swayed a little at one side as if a draught of wind had shifted it and an evil face appeared in the opening.