On the way to the mart they passed under the shadow of the grim prison walls of the palace. The elephants veered off here into a side street, toward the huge square where horses and cattle and elephants were bought and sold. The litter, in charge of the chief mahout, proceeded to the slave mart. Kathlyn glanced at the wall, wondering. Was her father alive? Was he in some bleak cell behind that crumbling masonry? Did he know that she was here? Or was he really dead? Ah, perhaps it were better that death should have taken him—better that than having his living heart wrung by the tale of his daughter’s unspeakable miseries.
Even as she sent a last lingering look at the prison the prisoner within, his head buried in his thin wasted hands, beheld her in a vision—but in a happy, joyous vision, busying about the living room of the bungalow.
And far away a younger man beheld a vision as very tenderly he gazed at Kathlyn’s discarded robe and resumed his determined quest. Often, standing beside his evening fires, he would ask the silence, “Kathlyn, where are you?” Even then he was riding fast toward Allaha.
A slave mart is a rare thing these days, but at the time these scenes were being enacted there existed many of them here and there across the face of the globe. Men buy and sell men and women these times—enlightened, so they say—but they do it by legal contract or from vile hiding places.
Allaha had been a famous mart in its prime. It had drawn the agents of princes from all over India. Persia, Beloochistan, Afghanistan, and even southern Russia had been rifled of their beauties to adorn the zenanas of the slothful Hindu princes.
The slave mart in the capital town of Allaha stood in the center of the bazaars, a great square platform with a roof, but open on all four sides. Here the slaves were exhibited, the poor things intended for dalliance and those who were to struggle and sweat and die under the overseer’s lash.
Every fortnight a day was set aside for the business of the mart. Owners and prospective buyers met, chewed betel-nut, smoked their hookas, sipped coffee and tea, and exchanged the tattle of the hour. It was as much an amusement as a business; indeed, it was the oriental idea of a club, and much the same things were discussed. Thus, Appaji bought a beautiful girl at the last barter and Roya found a male who was a good juggler, and only night before last they had traded. The bazaars were not what they used to be. Dewan Ali had sold his wife to a Punjab opium merchant. Aunut Singh’s daughter had run away with the son of a bheestee. All white people ate pig. And no one read the slokas, or moral, stanzas, any more. Yes, the English would come some day, when there would be enough money to warrant it.
All about there were barkers, and fruit sellers, and bangle wallas (for slave girls should have rings of rupee silver about their ankles and wrists), and solemn Brahmins, and men who painted red and ocher caste marks on one’s forehead, and ash covered fakirs with withered hands, Nautch girls, girls from the bazaars, peripatetic jewelers, kites, and red-headed vultures—this being a proper place for them.