Hunsa had lain watching furtively the effect of the Commander’s words upon the others; now he said, “I will tell the truth, Hazari, for thou hast given a promise in the name of Allah that I am free of death at the hands of thy people.”
“Wait, dog of an infidel!” Kassim commanded: “quick, call the Mullah to write the confession, for this is a sin to be washed out in much blood, and the proof must be at hand so the guilty will have no plea for mercy. Also it is a matter of secrecy; we here being officers will have it on our honour, and the Mullah, because of his priesthood, will not speak of it: also he will bear witness of its sanctity.”
Soon a Pindari announced, “Commander Sahib, here is the holy one,” and at a word from Kassim the priest unrolled his sheets of yellow paper, and sitting cross-legged upon a cushion with a salaam to the dead Chief, dipped his quill in a little ink-horn and held it poised.
Then Hunsa, his eyes all the time furtively watching the scowling faces about him; fear and distrust in his heart over the gift of his life, but impelled by his knowledge that it was his only chance, narrated the story of Nana Sahib and the Dewan’s scheme to rid the Mahrattas of the leader they feared, Amir Khan; told that they knew that the British were sending overtures for an alliance, but that fearing to kill the messenger—unless it could be done so secretly it would never be discovered—they had determined to remove the Chief. When he spoke of the other Bagrees, Kassim realised that in the excitement of fixing the murder upon one there they had forgotten his troop associates, and a hurried order was passed for their capture.
Of course it was too late; the others, at the first alarm, had slipped away.
When the confession was finished Kassim commanded the Mullah to rub his cube of India ink over the thumb of the decoit and the mark was imprinted on the paper. Then he was taken to one of the cave cells cut out of the solid rock beneath the palace, and imprisoned for the night.
“Come, Jamadars,” Kassim said—and his voice that had been so coarse and rough now broke, and sobs floated the words scarce articulate—“and reverently let us lay Amir Khan upon his bed. Then, though there be no call of the muezzin, we will kneel here; even without our prayer carpets, and pray to Allah for the repose of the soul of a true Musselman and a great warrior. May his rest be one of peace!”
He passed his hand lovingly over the face of the Chief and down his beard, and his strong fearless eyes were wet.
Then Amir Khan was lifted by the Jamadars and carried to a bed in the room that adjoined the surya mahal.
When they had risen from their silent prayer, Kassim said: “Go ye to your tents. I will remain here with the guard who watch.”