The first of these three, about forty years of age, is poorly clad in the European fashion; his pale, almost white, complexion, announces that he belongs to the mixed race, being offspring of a white father and Indian mother.
The second is a robust African negro, with thick lips, vigorous shoulders, and lank legs; his woolly hair is beginning to turn gray; he is covered with rags, and stands close beside the Indian. The third personage is asleep, and stretched on a mat in the corner of the hovel.
These three men are the three Thuggee chiefs, who, obliged to fly from the continent of India, have taken refuge in Java, under the guidance of Mahal the Smuggler.
“The Malay does not return,” said the half-blood, named Faringhea, the most redoubtable chief of this homicidal sect: “in executing our orders, he has perhaps been killed by Djalma.”
“The storm of this morning brought every reptile out of the earth,” said the negro; “the Malay must have been bitten, and his body ere now a nest of serpents.”
“To serve the good work,” proceeded Faringhea, with a gloomy air, “one must know how to brave death.”
“And to inflict it,” added the negro.
A stifled cry, followed by some inarticulate words, here drew the attention of these two men, who hastily turned their heads in the direction of the sleeper. This latter was thirty years old at most. His beardless face, of a bright copper color, his robe of coarse stuff, his turban striped brown and yellow, showed that he belonged to the pure Hindoo race. His sleep appeared agitated by some painful vision; an abundant sweat streamed over his countenance, contracted by terror; he spoke in his dream, but his words were brief and broken, and accompanied with convulsive starts.
“Again that dream!” said Faringhea to the negro. “Always the remembrance of that man.”
“Do you not remember, how, five years ago, that savage, Colonel Kennedy, butcher of the Indians, came to the banks of the Ganges, to hunt the tiger, with twenty horses, four elephants, and fifty servants?”
“Yes, yes,” said the negro; “and we three, hunters of men, made a better day’s sport than he did. Kennedy, his horses, his elephants, and his numerous servants did not get their tiger—but we got ours,” he added, with grim irony. “Yes; Kennedy, that tiger with a human face, fell into our ambush, and the brothers of the good work offered up their fine prey to our goddess Bowanee.”
“If you remember, it was just at the moment when we gave the last tug to the cord round Kennedy’s neck, that we perceived on a sudden a traveller close at hand. He had seen us, and it was necessary to make away with him. Now, since that time,” added Faringhea, “the remembrance of the murder of that man pursues our brother in his dreams,” and he pointed to the sleeping Indian.
“And even when he is awake,” said the negro, looking at Faringhea with a significant air.