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his steps, the captured gun over his shoulder. Maharaj Kunwar, clearing the way for the "I wonder-no; I won't believe that she would dare to do anything to Kate. She knows enough of me to be sure that I 'd blow her and her old palace into to-morrow. If she 's half the woman she pretends to be, she 'll reckon with me before she goes much further.”
In vain he attempted to force himself into this belief. Sitabhai had shown him what sort of thing her mercy might be, and Kate might have tasted it ere this. To go to her now-to be maimed or crippled at the least if he went to her now-was impossible. Yet he decided that he would go. He returned hastily to Fibby, whom he had left not three minutes before flicking off flies in the sunshine at the back of the rest-house. But Fibby lay on his side groaning piteously, hamstrung and dying.
Tarvin could hear his groom industriously polishing a bit round the corner, and when the man came up in response to his call he flung himself down by the side of the horse, howling with grief.
"An enemy hath done this—an enemy hath done this!" he clamored. "My beautiful brown horse, that never did harm except when he kicked through fullness of meat! Where shall I find a new service if I let my charge die thus?" "I wish I knew! I wish I knew!" said Tarvin, puzzled, and almost despairing. "There'd be a bullet through one black head, if I were just a little surer. Get up, you! Fibby, old man, I forgive you all your sins. You were a good old boy, and-here 's luck."
The blue smoke enveloped Fibby's head for an instant, the head fell like a hammer, and the good horse was out of his pain. The groom, rising, rent the air with grief, till Tarvin kicked him out of the pickets and bade him be gone. Then it was noticeable that his cries ceased suddenly, and, as he retreated into his mudhouse to tie up his effects, he smiled, and dug up some silver from a hole under his bedstead. Tarvin, dismounted, looked east, west, north, south for help, as Sitabhai had looked on the dam. A wandering gang of gipsies with their lean bullocks and yelping dogs turned an angle of the city wall, and rested like a flock of unclean birds by the city gate. The sight in itself was not unusual, but city regulations forbade camping within a quarter of a mile of the walls. "Some of the lady's poor relatives, I suppose. They have blocked the way through the gate pretty well. Now, if I were to make a bolt of it to the missionary's, they'd have me, would n't they?" muttered Tarvin to himself. "On the whole, I 've seen prettier professions than trading with Eastern queens. They don't seem to understand the rules of the game."
At that moment a cloud of dust whirled ough the gipsy camp, as the escort of the
barouche, scattered the dark band to the left and right. Tarvin wondered what this might portend. The escort halted with the customary rattle of accoutrements at the rest-house door, the barouche behind them. A single trooper, two hundred yards or more in the rear, lifted his voice in a deferential shout as he pursued the carriage. He was answered by a chuckle from the escort, and two shrill screams of delight from the occupants of the barouche.
A child whom Tarvin had never before seen stood upright in the back of the carriage, and hurled a torrent of abuse in the vernacular at the retreating trooper. Again the escort laughed. "Tarvin Sahib! Tarvin Sahib!" piped the Maharaj Kunwar. "Come and look at us."
For a moment Tarvin fancied this a fresh device of the enemy; but reassured by the sight of his old and trusted ally, the Maharaj, he stepped forward.
"Prince," he said, as he took his hand, “you ought not to be out."
"Oh, it is all right," said the young man hastily, though his pale little face belied it. "I gave the order, and we came. Miss Kate gives me orders; but she took me over to the palace, and there I give orders. This is Umr Singh my brother, the little Prince; but I shall be king."
The second child raised his eyes slowly, and looked full at Tarvin. The eyes and the low, broad forehead were those of Sitabhai, and the mouth closed firmly over the little pearl-like teeth, as his mother's mouth had closed in the conflict on the Dungar Talao.
"He is from the other side of the palace," answered the Maharaj, still in English. "From the other side, where I must not go. But when I was in the palace I went to him,-ha! ha! Tarvin Sahib,- and he was killing a goat. Look! His hands are all red now."
Umr Singh opened a tiny palm at a word in the vernacular from the Maharaj, and flung it outward at Tarvin. It was dark with dried blood, and a bearded whisper ran among the escort. The commandant turned in his saddle, and, nodding at Tarvin, muttered, “Sitabhai kibeta!" Tarvin caught the first word, and it was sufficient for him. Providence had sent him help out of a clear sky. He framed a plan instantly.
"But how did you come here, you young imps?" he demanded.
"Oh, there are only women in the palace yonder, and I am a Rajput and a man. He cannot speak any English at all," he added, pointing to his companion; "but when we have played together I have told him about you, Tarvin Sahib, and about the day you picked me out of my saddle, and he wished to come
too, to see all the things you show me, so I gave the order very quietly, and we came out of the little door together. And so we are here. Salaam bolo, baba," he said patronizingly to the child at his side, and the child slowly and gravely raised his hand to his forehead, still gazing with fixed, incurious eyes on the stranger. Then he whispered something that made the Maharaj Kunwar laugh. "He says," said the Maharaj Kunwar, "that you are not so big as he thought. His mother told him that you were stronger than any man, but some of these troopers are bigger than you."
"Well, what do you want me to do?" asked
"Show him your gun, and how you shoot rupees, and what you do that makes horses quiet when they kick, and all those things." 'All right," said Tarvin. "But I can't show them here. Come over to Mr. Estes's with me." I do not like to go there. My monkey is dead. And I do not think Kate would like to see us. She is always crying now. She took me up to the palace yesterday, and this morning I went to her again; but she would not see
Tarvin could have hugged the child for the blessed assurance that Kate at least still lived. "Is n't she at the hospital, then?" he asked thickly.
"Oh, the hospital has all gone phut. There are no women now. They all ran away.” "No!" cried Tarvin. " 'Say that again, little man. What for?"
"Devils," said the Maharaj Kunwar, briefly. "What do I know? It was some women's talk. Show him how you ride, Tarvin Sahib."
Again Umr Singh whispered to his companion, and put one leg over the side of the barouche. "He says he will ride in front of you, as I told him I did," interpreted the Prince. "Gurdit Singh, dismount!"
A trooper flung himself out of the saddle at the word, and stood to attention at the horse's head. Tarvin, smiling to himself at the perfection of his opportunity, said nothing, but leaped into the saddle, picked Umr Singh out of the barouche, and placed him carefully before him. "Sitabhai would be rather restless if she could see me," he murmured to himself, as he tucked his arm round the lithe little figure. "I don't think there will be any Juggutting while I carry this young man in front of me."
As the escort opened to allow Tarvin to take his place at their head, a wandering priest, who had been watching the episode from a little distance, turned and shouted with all the strength of his lungs across the plain in the direction of the city. The cry was taken up by unseen voices, passed on to the city walls, and died away on the sands beyond.
VOL. XLIV.- 50.
Umr Singh smiled as the horse began to trot, and urged Tarvin to go faster. This the Maharaj forbade. He wished to see the sight comfortably from his seat in the barouche. As he passed the gipsy camp, men and women threw themselves down on the sands, crying, “Jai! Jungle da badshah jai!" and the faces of the troopers darkened.
"That means," cried the Maharaj Kunwar, "Victory to the king of the desert.' I have no money to give them. Have you, Tarvin Sahib?”
In his joy at being now safely on his way to Kate, Tarvin could have flung everything he possessed to the crowd-almost the Naulahka itself. He emptied a handful of copper and small silver among them, and the cry rose again, but bitter laughter was mingled with it, and the gipsy folk called to one another, mocking. The Maharaj Kunwar's face turned scarlet. He leaned forward, listening for an instant, and then shouted: "By Indur, it is for him! Scatter their tents!" At a wave of his hand the escort, wheeling, plunged through the camp in line, driving the light ash of the fires up in clouds, slashing the donkeys with the flat of their swords until they stampeded, and carrying away the frail brown tents on the butts of their reversed lances.
Tarvin looked on contentedly at the dispersal of the group, which he knew would have stopped him if he had been alone.
Umr Singh bit his lip. Then, turning to the Maharaj Kunwar, he smiled, and put forward from his belt the hilt of his sword in sign of fealty.
"It is just, my brother," he said in the vernacular. "But I"-here he raised his voice a little-"would not drive the gipsy folk too far. They always return."
"Aye," cried a voice from the huddled crowd, watching the wreck of the camp, significantly; "gipsies always return, my King."
"So does a dog," said the Maharaj, between his teeth. "Both are kicked. Drive on." And a pillar of dust came to Estes's house, Tarvin riding in safety in the midst of it.
Telling the boys to play until he came out, he swept into the house, taking the steps two at a time, and discovered Kate in a dark corner of the parlor with a bit of sewing in her hand. As she looked up he saw that she was crying.
"Nick!" she exclaimed voicelessly. “Nick!” He had stopped, hesitating on the threshold; she dropped her work, and rose breathless. "You have come back! It is you! You are alive!"
Tarvin smiled, and held out his arms. "Come and see!" She took a step forward. "Oh, I was afraid- -" "Come!"
She went doubtfully toward him. He caught achieved an instantaneous change of front, and her fast, and held her in his arms. met her, smiling.
For a moment she let her head lie on his breast. Then she looked up. "This is n't what I meant," she protested.
Oh, don't try to improve on it," Tarvin said hastily.
"She tried to poison me. I was sure when I heard nothing that she must have killed you. I fancied horrible things."
"Poor child! And your hospital has gone wrong! You have been having a hard time. But we will change all that. We must leave as soon as you can get ready. I've nipped her claws for a moment; I 'm holding a hostage. But we can't keep that up forever. We must get away."
"We?" she repeated feebly.
"Well, do you want to go alone?"
"Certainly," he said; "I have been working it as a blind."
"A blind?" she repeated. "To cover what?" "You."
"What do you mean?" she inquired, with a look in her eyes which made him uncomfortable.
"The Indian government allows no one to remain in the state without a definite purpose. I could n't tell Colonel Nolan that I had come courting you, could I?"
"I don't know. But you could have avoided taking the Maharajah's money to carry out this- this plan. An honest man would have avoided that."
"Oh, look here!" exclaimed Tarvin. "How could you cheat the King into think
She smiled as she released herself. “I want ing that there was a reason for your work? how you to."
"I'm not worth thinking of. I have failed. Everything I meant to do has fallen about me in a heap. I feel burnt out, Nick-burnt out!"
"All right. We 'll put in new works, and launch you on a fresh system. That's what I want. There shall be nothing to remind you that you ever saw Rhatore, dear."
"It was a mistake," she said. "What?"
"Everything. My coming. My thinking I could do it. It's not a girl's work. It's my work, perhaps; but it's not for me. I have given it up, Nick. Take me home."
Tarvin gave an unbecoming shout of joy, and folded her in his arms again. He told her that they must be married at once, and start that night, if she could manage it; and Kate, dreading what might befall him, assented doubtfully. She spoke of preparations; but Tarvin said that they would prepare after they had done it. They could buy things at Bombay-stacks of things. He was sweeping her forward with the onrush of his extempore plans when she said suddenly: "But what of the dam, Nick? You can't leave that "
"Shucks!" exclaimed Tarvin, heartily. "You don't suppose there's any gold in the old river, do you?"
She recoiled quickly from his arms, staring at him in accusation and reproach.
"Do you mean that you have always known that there was no gold there?" she asked.
Tarvin pulled himself together quickly, but not so quickly that she did not catch the confession in his eye.
"I see you have," she said coldly. Tarvin measured the crisis which had sudmy descended on him out of the clouds; he
could you let him give you the labor of a thousand men? how could you take his money? O Nick!"
He gazed at her for a vacant and hopeless minute. "Why, Kate,” he exclaimed, “do you know you are talking of the most stupendous joke the Indian empire has witnessed since the birth of time?"
This was pretty good, but it was not good enough. He plunged for a stronger hold as she answered, with a perilous little note of breakdown in her voice, " You make it worse."
"Well, your sense of humor never was your strongest point, you know, Kate." He took the seat next her, leaned over, and took her hand, as he went on. "Does n't it strike you as rather amusing, though, after all, to rip up half a state to be near a very small little girl
a very sweet, very extra lovely little girl, but still a rather tiny little girl in proportion to the size of the Amet Valley? Come, does n't it?"
"Is that all you have to say?" asked she. Tarvin turned pale. He knew the tone of finality he heard in her voice; it went with a certain look of scorn when she spoke of any form of moral baseness that moved her. He recognized his condemnation in it and shuddered. In the moment that passed while he still kept silence he recognized this for the crisis of his life. Then he took strong hold of himself, and said quietly, easily, unscrupulously:
"Why, you don't suppose that I'm not going to ask the Maharajah for his bill, do you?"
She gasped a little. Her acquaintance with Tarvin did not help her to follow his dizzying changes of front. His bird's skill in making his level flight, his reeling dips and circling returns upon himself, all seemed part of a single impulse, ever remaining confusing to her. But she rightly believed in his central intention to do the square thing, if he could find out what it
was; and her belief in his general strength helped her not to see at this moment that he was deriving his sense of the square thing from her. She could not know, and probably could not have imagined, how little his own sense of the square thing had to do with any system of morality, and how entirely he must always define morality as what pleased Kate. Other women liked confections; she preferred morality, and he meant she should have it, if he had to turn pirate to get it for her.
"You did n't think I was n't paying for the show?" he pursued bravely; but in his heart he was saying, "She loathes it. She hates it. Why did n't I think? Why did n't I think?" He added aloud: "I had my fun, and now I've got you. You 're both cheap at the price, and I'm going to step up and pay it like a little man. You must know that."
His smile met no answering smile. He mopped his forehead, and stared anxiously at her. All the easiness in the world could n't make him sure what she would say next. She said nothing, and he had to go on desperately, with a cold fear gathering about his heart. "Why, it's just like me, is n't it, Kate, to work a scheme on the old Rajah? It's like a man who owns a mine that 's turning out $2000 a month, to rig a game out in this desert country to do a confiding Indian prince out of a few thousand rupees?" He advanced this recently inspired conception of his conduct with an air of immemorial familiarity, born of desperation. "What mine?" she asked with dry lips. "The Lingering Lode,' of course. You've heard me speak of it?"
"Yes; but I did n't know—” "That it was doing that? Well, it is-right along. Want to see the assay?"
"No," she answered. "No. But that makes you
Why, but, Nick, that makes you—" "A rich man? Moderately, while the lead holds out. Too rich for petty larceny, I guess." He was joking for his life. The heart-sickening seriousness of his unseriousness was making a hole in his head; the tension was too much for him. In the mad fear of that moment his perceptions doubled their fineness. Something went through him as he said " larceny." Then his heart stopped. A sure, awful, luminous perception leaped upon him, and he knew himself for lost.
If she hated this, what would she say to the other? Innocent, successful, triumphant, even gay, it seemed to him; but what to her? He turned sick.
Kate or the Naulahka. He must choose. The Naulahka or Kate?
"Don't make light of it," she was saying. "You would be just as honest if you could n't afford it, Nick. Ah," she went on, laying her
hand on his lightly, in mute petition for having even seemed to doubt him, "I know you, Nick. You like to make the better seem the worse reason; you like to pretend to be wicked. But who is so honest? O Nick! I knew you had to be true. If you were n't, everything else would be wrong."
He took her in his arms. "Would it, little girl?" he asked, looking down at her. "We must keep the other things right, then, at any expense."
He heaved a deep sigh as he stooped and kissed her.
"Have you such a thing as a box?" he asked, after a long pause.
Any sort of box?" asked Kate, bewilderedly.
"No-well, it ought to be the finest box in the world, but I suppose one of those big grapeboxes will do. It is n't every day that one sends presents to a queen."
Kate handed him a large chip box in which long green grapes from Kabul had been packed. Discolored cotton-wool lay at the bottom.
"That was sold at the door the other day," she said. "Is it big enough?"
Tarvin turned away without answering, emptied something that clicked like a shower of pebbles upon the wool, and sighed deeply. Topaz was in that box. The voice of the Maharaj Kunwar lifted itself from the next room.
"Tarvin Sahib-Kate, we have eaten all the fruit, and now we want to do something else."
"One moment, little man," said Tarvin. With his back still toward Kate, he drew his hand caressingly, for the last time, over the blazing heap at the bottom of the box, fondling the stones one by one. The great green emerald pierced him, he thought, with a reproachful gaze. A mist crept into his eyes: the diamond was too bright. He shut the lid down upon the box hastily, and put it into Kate's hands with a decisive gesture; he made her hold it while he tied it in silence. Then, in a voice not his, he asked her to take the box to Sitabhai with his compliments. "No," he continued, seeing the alarm in her eyes; "she won't, she dare n't, hurt you now. Her child's coming along with us; and I'll go with you, of course, as far as I can. Glory be! it's the last journey that you 'll ever undertake in this infernal land. The last but one, that 's to say. We live at high pressure in Rhatore-too high pressure for me. Be quick, if you love me."
Kate hastened to put on her helmet, while Tarvin amused the two princes by allowing them to inspect his revolver, and promising at some more fitting season to shoot as many coins as they should demand. The lounging escort at the door was suddenly scattered by a trooper
from without, who flung his horse desperately consciously he clasped Umr Singh so closely through their ranks, shouting, "A letter for to his breast that the child cried out. Tarvin Sahib!"
Tarvin chuckled, and thrust the note into his waistcoat pocket. "There is no answer," he said; and to himself: "You 're a thoughtful girl, Sitabhai; but I'm afraid you 're just a little too thoughtful. That boy's wanted for the next half-hour. Are you ready, Kate?"
The princes lamented loudly when they were told that Tarvin was riding over to the palace at once, and that, if they hoped for further entertainment, they must both go with him. "We will go into the great Durbar Hall," said the Maharaj Kunwar, consolingly, to his companion at last," and make all the musicboxes play together."
"I want to see that man shoot," said Umr Singh. "I want to see him shoot something dead. I do not wish to go to the palace."
"You'll ride on my horse," said Tarvin, when the answer had been interpreted, "and I'll make him gallop all the way. Say, Prince, how fast do you think your carriage can go?" "As fast as Miss Kate dares."
Kate stepped in, and the cavalcade galloped to the palace, Tarvin riding always a little in front, with Umr Singh clapping his hands on the saddle-bow.
"We must pull up at Sitabhai's wing, dear," Tarvin said. "You won't be afraid to walk in under the arch with me?"
"I trust you, Nick," she answered simply, getting out of the carriage.
"Then go into the woman's wing, give the box into Sitabhai's hands, and tell her that I sent it back. You'll find she knows my name."
The horse trampled under the archway, Kate at its side, and Tarvin holding Umr Singh very much in evidence. The courtyard was empty, but as they came out into the sunshine by the central fountain the rustle and whisper behind the shutters rose, as the tiger-grass rustles when the wind blows through it.
"One minute, dear," said Tarvin, halting, "if you can bear this sun on your head."
A door opened, and a eunuch came out, beckoning silently to Kate. She followed him and disappeared, the door closing behind her. Tarvin's heart rose into his mouth, and un
The whisper rose, and it seemed to Tarvin as if some one were sobbing behind the shutters. Then followed a peal of low, soft laughter, and the muscles at the corner of Tarvin's mouth relaxed. Umr Singh began to struggle in his arms.
"Not yet, young man. You must wait until -ah! thank God!"
Kate reappeared, her little figure framed. against the darkness of the doorway. Behind her came the eunuch, crawling fearfully to Tarvin's side. Tarvin smiled affably, and dropped the amazed young Prince into his arms. Umr Singh was borne away kicking, and before they left the courtyard Tarvin heard the dry roar of an angry child, followed by an unmistakable yelp of pain. Tarvin smiled.
"They spank young princes in Rajputana. That 's one step on the path to progress. What did she say, Kate?"
"She said I was to be sure and tell you that she knew you were not afraid. "Tell Tarvin Sahib that I knew he was not afraid.""
"Where 's Umr Singh?" asked the Maharaj Kunwar from the barouche.
"He's gone to his mother. I'm afraid I can't amuse you just now, little man. I 've forty thousand things to do, and no time to do them in. Tell me where your father is."
"I do not know. There has been trouble and crying in the palace. The women are always crying, and that makes my father angry. I shall stay at Mr. Estes's, and play with Kate."
"Yes; let him stay," said Kate, quickly. "Nick, do you think I ought to leave him?
"That 's another of the things I must fix," said Tarvin. "But first I must find the Maharajah, if I have to dig up Rhatore for him. What's that, little one?"
A trooper whispered to the young Prince.
"This man says that he is there," said the Maharaj Kunwar. "He has been there since two days. I also have wished to see him." "Very good. Drive home, Kate. I'll wait here."
He reëntered the archway, and reined up. Again the whisper behind the shutter rose, and a man from a doorway demanded his business.
"I must see the Maharajah," said Tarvin. "Wait," said the man. And Tarvin waited for five minutes, using his time for concentrated thought.
Then the Maharajah emerged, and amiability sat on every hair of his newly oiled mustaches.
For some mysterious reason Sitabhai had withdrawn the light of her countenance from him for two days, and had sat raging in her own apartments. Now the mood had passed,