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relish. But it won't do. There is a story I'd like to tell you, though," he added, with a sudden thought. "You know why I come here so much, don't you, Mrs. Estes - I mean outside of your kindness to me, and my liking you all so much, and our always having such good times together? You know, don't you?
Mrs. Estes smiled. "I suppose I do," she said.
"Well, that's right. That's right. I thought you did. Then I hope you 're my friend."
"If you mean that I wish you well, I do. But you can understand that I feel responsible for Miss Sheriff. I have sometimes thought I ought to let her mother know."
"Oh, her mother knows. She 's full of it. You might say she liked it. The trouble is n't there, you know, Mrs. Estes."
"No. She's a singular girl; very strong, very sweet. I've grown to love her dearly. She has wonderful courage. But I should like it better for her if she would give it up, and all that goes with it. She would be better married," she said meditatively.
Tarvin gazed at her admiringly. "How wise you are, Mrs. Estes! How wise you are!" he murmured." If I 've told her that once I 've told her a dozen times. Don't you think, also, that it would be better if she were married at once right away, without too much loss of time?"
His companion looked at him to see if he was in earnest. Tarvin was sometimes a little perplexing to her. "I think if you are clever you will leave it to the course of events," she replied, after a moment. "I have watched her work here, hoping that she might succeed where every one else has failed. But I know in my heart that she won't. There 's too much against her. She's working against thousands of years of traditions, and training, and habits of life. Sooner or later they are certain to defeat her; and then, whatever her courage, she must give in. I've thought sometimes lately that she might have trouble very soon. There's a good deal of dissatisfaction at the hospital. Lucien hears some stories that make me anxious."
"Anxious! I should say so. That's the worst of it. It is n't only that she won't come to me, Mrs. Estes, that you can understand,but she is running her head meanwhile into all sorts of impossible dangers. I have n't time to wait until she sees that point. I have n't time to wait until she sees any point at all but that this present moment, now and here, would be a good moment in which to marry Nicholas Tarvin. I've got to get out of Rhatore. That's the long and the short of it, Mrs. Estes. Don't ask me why. It's necessary. And I must take Kate with me. Help me if you love her."
To this appeal Mrs. Estes made the handsomest response in her power, by saying that she would go up and tell her that he wished to see her. This seemed to take some time; and Tarvin waited patiently, with a smile on his lips. He did not doubt that Kate would yield. In the glow of another success it was not possible to him to suppose that she would not come around now. Had he not the Naulahka? She went with it; she was indissolubly connected with it. Yet he was willing to impress into his service all the help he could get, and he was glad to believe that Mrs. Estes was talking to her.
It was an added prophecy of success when he found from a copy of a recent issue of the "Topaz Telegram," which he picked up while he waited, that the "Lingering Lode" had justified his expectations. The people he had left in charge had struck a true fissure vein, and were taking out $500 a week. He crushed the paper into his pocket, restraining an inclination to dance; it was perhaps safest, on reflection, to postpone that exercise until he had seen Kate. The little congratulatory whistle that he struck up instead he had to sober a moment later into a smile as Kate opened the door and came in to him. There could be no two ways about it with her now. His smile, do what he would, almost said as much.
A single glance at her face showed him, however, that the affair struck her less simply. He forgave her; she could not know the source of his inner certitude. He even took time to like the gray house-dress, trimmed with black velvet, that she was wearing in place of the white which had become habitual to her.
"I'm glad you 've dropped white for a moment," he said, as he rose to shake hands with her. "It's a sign. It represents a general abandonment and desertion of this blessed country; and that 's just the mood I want to find you in. I want you to drop it, chuck it, throw it up." He held her brown little hand in the swarthy fist he pushed out from his own white sleeve, and looked down into her eyes attentively.
She shook her head.
"No; don't say that, Kate. You must n't. It 's serious this time."
"Has n't it always been?" She sank into a chair. "It's always been serious enough for me-that I could n't do what you wish, I mean. Not doing it—that is, doing something else, the one thing I want to do-is the most serious thing in the world to me. Nothing has happened to change me, Nick. I would tell you in a moment if it had. How is it different for either of us?"
"Lots of ways. But that I've got to leave Rhatore for a sample. You don't think I'd leave you behind, I hope?"
She studied the hands she had folded in her lap for a moment. Then she looked up and faced him with her open gaze.
“Nick,” she said, "let me try to explain as clearly as I can how all this seems to me. You can correct me if I 'm wrong."
"Oh, you're sure to be wrong! " he cried;
but he leaned forward.
"Well, let me try. You ask me to marry you?"
"I do," answered Tarvin, solemnly. "Give me a chance of saying that before a clergyman, and you'll see.”
"I am grateful, Nick. It's a gift-the highest, the best; and I'm grateful. But what is it you really want? Shall you mind my asking that, Nick? You want me to round out your life; you want me to complete your other ambitions. Is n't that so? Tell me honestly, Nick; is n't that so?"
"No!" roared Tarvin.
"Ah, but it is! Marriage is that way. It is right. Marriage means that—to be absorbed into another's life: to live your own not as your own, but as another's. It is a good life. It's a woman's life. I can like it; I can believe in it. But I can't see myself in it. A woman gives the whole of herself in marriage-in all happy marriages. I have n't the whole of myself to give. It belongs to something else. And I could n't offer you a part; it is all the best men give to women, but from a woman it would do no man any good."
"You mean that you have the choice between giving up your work and giving up me, and that the last is easiest."
"I don't say that; but suppose I did, would it be so strange? Be honest, Nick. Suppose I asked you to give up the center and meaning of your life? Suppose I asked you to give up your work? And suppose I offered in exchange-marriage! No, no!" She shook her head. "Marriage is good; but what man would pay that price for it?"
My dearest girl, is n't that just the opportunity of women?"
VOL. XLIV.- 19.
"The opportunity of the happy women— yes; but it is n't given to every one to see marriage like that. Even for women there is more than one kind of devotion."
"Oh, look here, Kate! A man is n't an orphan-asylum or a home for the friendless. You take him too seriously. You talk as if you had to make him your leading charity, and give up everything to the business. Of course you have to pretend something of the kind at the start, but in practice you only have to eat a few dinners, attend a semiannual board-meeting, and a strawberry-festival or two to keep the thing going. It's just a general agreement to drink your coffee with a man in the morning, and be somewhere around, not too far from the fire, in not too ugly a dress, when he comes home in the evening. Come! It's an easy contract. Try me, Kate, and you 'll see how simple I'll make it for you. I know about the other things. I understand well enough that you would never care for a life which did n't allow you to make a lot of people happy besides your husband. I recognize that. I begin with it. And I say that 's just what I want. You have a talent for making folks happy. Well, I secure you on a special agreement to make me happy, and after you 've attended to that, I want you to sail in and make the whole world bloom with your kindness. And you'll do it, too. Confound it, Kate, we'll do it! No one knows how good two people could be if they formed a syndicate and made a business of it. It has n't been tried. Try it with me! O Kate, I love you, I need you, and if you 'll let me, I'll make a life for you!"
"I know, Nick, you would be kind. You would do all that a man can do. But it is n't the man who makes marriages happy or possible; it's the woman, and it must be. I should either do my part and shirk the other, and then I should be miserable; or I should shirk you, and be more miserable. Either way, such happiness is not for me."
Tarvin's hand found the Naulahka within his breast, and clutched it tightly. Strength seemed to go out of it into him-strength to restrain himself from losing all by a dozen savage words.
"Kate, my girl," he said quietly," we haven't time to conjure dangers. We have to face a real one. You are not safe here. I can't leave you in this place, and I 've got to go. That is why I ask you to marry me at once."
But I fear nothing. Who would harm me?" "Sitabhai," he answered grimly. "But what difference does it make? I tell you, you are not safe. Be sure that I know."
"Well, I always said that there was nothing like the climate of Topaz."
"You mean you are in danger - great danger, perhaps."
"Sitabhai is n't going round hunting for ways to save my precious life, that's a fact." He smiled at her.
"Then you must go away at once; you must not lose an hour. O Nick, you won't wait!"
"That's what I say. I can do without Rhatore; but I can't do without you. You must come."
"Do you mean that if I don't you will stay?" she asked desperately.
No; that would be a threat. I mean I'll wait for you." His eyes laughed at her.
"Nick, is this because of what I asked you to do?" she demanded suddenly.
"You did n't ask me," he defended. "Then it is, and I am much to blame." "What, because I spoke to the King? My dear girl, that is n't more than the introductory walk-round of this circus. Don't run away with any question of responsibility. The only thing you are responsible for at this moment is to run with me. flee, vamose, get out. Your life is n't worth an hour's purchase here. I'm convinced of that. And mine is n't worth a minute's." "You see what a situation you put me in," she said accusingly.
He shook his head. "I can't leave you. Ask that of some one else. Do you suppose a man who loves you can abandon you in this desert wilderness to take your chances? Do you suppose any man could do that? Kate, my darling, come with me. You torment me, you kill me, by forcing me to allow you a single moment out of my sight. I tell you, you are in imminent, deadly peril. You won't stay, knowing that. Surely you won't sacrifice your life for these creatures."
"Yes!" she cried, rising, with the uplifted look on her face-"yes! If it is good to live for them, it is good to die for them. I do not believe my life is necessary; but if it is necessary, that too!"
Tarvin gazed at her, baffled, disheartened, at a loss. "And you won't come?"
"I can't. Good-by, Nick. It's the end."
He took her hand. "Good afternoon," he responded. "It's end enough for to-day."
She pursued him anxiously with her eye as he turned away; suddenly she started after him. "But you will go?"
Go! No! No!" he shouted. "I'll stay now if I have to organize a standing army, declare myself king, and hold the rest-house as the seat of government. Go!"
She put forth a detaining, despairing hand, but he was gone.
Kate returned to the little Maharaj Kunwar, who had been allowed to lighten his convalescence by bringing down from the palace a number of his toys and pets. She sat down by the side of the bed, and cried for a long time silently.
"What is it, Miss Kate?" asked the Prince, after he had watched her for some minutes, wondering. "Indeed, I am quite well now, so there is nothing to cry for. When I go back to the palace I will tell my father all that you have done for me, and he will give you a village. We Rajputs do not forget."
"It's not that, Lalji," she said, stooping over him, drying her tear-stained eyes.
"Then my father will give you two villages. No one must cry when I am getting well, for I am a king's son. Where is Moti? I want him to sit upon a chair."
Kate rose obediently, and began to call for the Maharaj Kunwar's latest pet—a little gray monkey, with a gold collar, who wandered at liberty through the house and garden, and at night did his best to win a place for himself by the young Prince's side. He answered the call from the boughs of a tree in the garden, where he was arguing with the wild parrots, and entered the room, crooning softly in the monkey tongue.
"Come here, little Hanuman," said the Prince, raising one hand. The monkey bounded to his side. "I have heard of a king," said the Prince, playing with his golden collar, "who spent three lacs in marrying two monkeys. Moti, wouldst thou like a wife? No, no; a gold collar is enough for thee. We will spend our three lacs in marrying Miss Kate to Tarvin Sahib, when we get well, and thou shalt dance at the wedding." He was speaking in the vernacular, but Kate understood too well the coupling of her name with Tarvin's. "Don't, Lalji, don't!"
"Why not, Kate? Why, even I am married." "Yes, yes. But it is different. Kate would rather you did n't, Lalji."
"Very well," answered the Maharaj, with a pout. "Now I am only a little child. When I am well I will be a king again, and no one can refuse my gifts. Listen. Those are my father's trumpets. He is coming to see me." A bugle-call sounded in the distance. There
was a clattering of horses' feet, and a little later the Maharajah's carriage and escort thundered up to the door of the missionary's house. Kate looked anxiously to see if the noise irritated her young charge; but his eyes brightened, his nostrils quivered, and he whispered, as his hand tightened on the hilt of the sword always by his side:
That is very good! My father has brought all his sowars."
Before Kate could rise, Mr. Estes had ushered the Maharajah into the room, which was dwarfed by his bulk and by the bravery of his presence. He had been assisting at a review of his body-guard, and came therefore in his full uniform as commander-in-chief of the army of the state, which was no mean affair. The Maharaj Kunwar ran his eyes delightedly up and down the august figure of his father, beginning with the polished gold-spurred jackboots, and ascending to the snow-white doeskin breeches, the tunic blazing with gold, and the diamonds of the Order of the Star of India, ending with the saffron turban and its nodding emerald aigret. The King drew off his gantlets, and shook hands cordially with Kate. After an orgy it was noticeable that his Highness became more civilized.
"And is the child well?" he asked. "They told me that it was a little fever, and I too have had some fever."
"The Prince's trouble was much worse than that, I am afraid, Maharajah Sahib," said Kate. "Ah, little one," said the King, bending over his son very tenderly, and speaking in the vernacular, "this is the fault of eating too much." Nay, father, I did not eat, and I am quite well."
Kate stood at the head of the bed, stroking the boy's hair.
"How many troops paraded this morning?" "Both squadrons, my General," answered the father, his eye lighting with pride. "Thou art all a Rajput, my son."
"And my escort-where were they?" With Pertab Singh's troop. They led the charge at the end of the fight."
By the Sacred Horse!" said the Maharaj Kunwar, "they shall lead in true fight one day. Shall they not, my father? Thou on the right flank, and I on the left."
Even so. But to do these things a prince must not be ill, and he must learn many things." I know," returned the Prince, reflectively. My father, I have lain here some nights, thinking. Am I a little child?" He looked at Kate a minute, and whispered, "I would speak to my father. Let no one come in."
Kate left the room quickly, with a backward smile at the boy, and the King seated himself by the bed.
"No; I am not a little child," said the Prince. "In five years I shall be a man, and many men will obey me. But how shall I know the right or the wrong in giving an order?"
"It is necessary to learn many things," repeated the Maharajah, vaguely.
"Yes; I have thought of that lying here in the dark," said the Prince. "And it is in my mind that these things are not all learned within the walls of the palace, or from women. My father, let me go away to learn how to be a prince!"
"But whither wouldst thou go? Surely my kingdom is thy home, beloved."
"I know, I know," returned the boy. "And I will come back again, but do not let me be a laughing-stock to the other princes. At the wedding the Rawut of Bunnaul mocked me because my school-books were not so many as his. And he is only the son of an ennobled lord. He is without ancestry. But he has been up and down Rajputana as far as Delhi and Agra, ay, and Abu; and he is in the upper class of the Princes' School at Ajmir. Father, all the sons of the kings go there. They do not play with the women; they ride with men. And the air and the water are good at Ajmir. And I should like to go."
The face of the Maharajah grew troubled, for the boy was very dear to him.
"But an evil might befall thee, Lalji. Think again."
"I have thought," responded the Prince. "What evil can come to me under the charge of the Englishman there? The Rawut of Bunnaul told me that I should have my own rooms, my own servants, and my own stables, like the other princes-and that I should be much considered there."
"Yes," said the King, soothingly. "We be children of the sun, thou and I, my Prince."
"Then it concerns me to be as learned and as strong and as valiant as the best of my race. Father, I am sick of running about the rooms of the women, of listening to my mother and to the singing of the dance-girls; and they are always pressing their kisses on me. Let me go to Ajmir. Let me go to the Princes' School. And in a year, even in a year,-so says the Rawut of Bunnaul,- I shall be fit to lead my escort as a king should lead them. Is it a promise, my father?"
"When thou art well," answered the Maharajah, "we will speak of it again, not as a father to a child, but as a man to a man."
The Maharaj Kunwar's eyes grew bright with pleasure. "That is good," he said
a man to a man."
a little boy. Then he said, laughing, "Have I your leave to go?"
"O my father!" The Prince buried his head in his father's beard, and threw his arms around him. The Maharajah disengaged himself gently, and as gently went out into the veranda. Before Kate returned he had disappeared in a cloud of dust and a flourish of trumpets. As he was going, a messenger came to the house, bearing a grass-woven basket piled high with shaddock, banana, and pomegranate, emerald, gold, and copper,-which he laid at Kate's feet, saying, "It is a present from the Queen."
The little Prince within heard the voice, and cried joyfully, "Kate, my mother has sent you those. Are they big fruits? Oh, give me a pomegranate," he begged as she came back into his room. "I have tasted none since last winter." Kate set the basket on the table, and the Prince's mood changed. He wanted pomegranate sherbet, and Kate must mix the sugar and the milk and the syrup and the plump red seeds. Kate left the room for an instant to get a glass, and it occurred to Moti, who had been foiled in an attempt to appropriate the Prince's emeralds, and had hidden under the bed, to steal forth and seize upon a ripe banana. Knowing well that the Maharaj Kunwar could not move, Moti paid no attention to his voice, but settled himself deliberately on his haunches, chose his banana, stripped off the skin with his little black fingers, grinned at the Prince, and began to eat.
"Very well, Moti," said the Maharaj Kunwar, in the vernacular; "Kate says you are not a god, but only a little gray monkey, and I think so too. When she comes back you will be beaten, Hanuman."
Moti had eaten half the banana when Kate returned, but he did not try to escape. She cuffed the marauder lightly, and he fell over on his side.
"Why, Lalji, what's the matter with Moti?" she asked, regarding the monkey curiously. "He has been stealing, and now I suppose he is playing dead man. Hit him!"
Kate bent over the limp little body; but there was no need to chastise Moti. He was dead. She turned pale, and lifting the basket of fruit quickly to her nostrils, sniffed delicately at it. A faint, sweet, cloying odor rose from the brilliant pile. It was overpowering. She set the basket down, putting her hand to her head. The odor dizzied her.
that Moti had clasped so closely to his wicked little breast.
A parrot instantly swooped down from the trees on the morsel, and took it back to his perch in the branches. It was done before Kate, still unsteadied, could make a motion to stop it, and a moment later a little ball of green feathers fell from the covert of leaves, and the parrot also lay dead on the ground.
"No; the fruit is not good," she said mechanically, her eyes wide with terror, and her face blanched. Her thoughts leaped to Tarvin. Ah, the warnings and the entreaties that she had put from her! He had said that she was not safe. Was he not right? The awful subtlety of the danger in which she stood was a thing to shake a stronger woman than she. From where would it come next? Out of what covert might it not leap? The very air might be poisoned. She scarcely dared to breathe.
The audacity of the attack daunted her as much as its design. If this might be done in open day, under cover of friendship, immediately after the visit of the King, what might not the gipsy in the palace dare next? She and the Maharaj Kunwar were under the same roof; if Tarvin was right in supposing that Sitabhai could wish her harm, the fruit was evidently intended for them both. She shuddered to think how she herself might have given the fruit to the Maharaj innocently.
The Prince turned in his bed and regarded Kate. "You are not well?" he asked, with grave politeness. "Then do not trouble about the sherbet. Give me Moti to play with."
"O Lalji, Lalji!" cried Kate, tottering to the bed. She dropped beside the boy, cast her arms defendingly about him, and burst into tears.
"You have cried twice," said the Prince, watching her heaving shoulders curiously. “I shall tell Tarvin Sahib."
The word smote Kate's heart, and filled her with a bitter and fruitless longing. Oh, for a moment of the sure and saving strength she had just rejected! Where was he? she asked herself reproachfully. What had happened to the man she had sent from her to take the chances of life and death in this awful land?
At that hour Tarvin was sitting in his room at the rest-house, with both doors open to the stifling wind of the desert, that he might command all approaches clearly, his revolver on the table in front of him, and the Naulahka in his pocket, yearning to be gone, and loathing this conquest that did not include Kate.
THE evening and the long night gave Kate ample time for self-examination after she had locked up the treacherous fruit, and consoled