The Naulahka: A Story of West and East, by Rudyard Kipling

XVIII

Now we are come to our Kingdom,
        And the State is thus and thus
Our legions wait at the palace gate —
        Little it profits us,
Now we are come to our Kingdom.

Now we are come to our Kingdom,
        The crown is ours to take —
With a naked sword at the council board,
        And under the throne the snake,
Now we are come to our Kingdom.

Now we are come to our Kingdom,
        But my love’s eyelids fall,
All that I wrought for, all that I fought for,
        Delight her nothing at all.
    My crown is withered leaves,
    For she sits in the dust and grieves,
Now we are come to our Kingdom.

— King Anthony.

The palace on its red rock seemed to be still asleep as he cantered across the empty plain. A man on a camel rode out of one of the city gates at right angles to his course, and Tarvin noted with interest how swiftly a long-legged camel of the desert can move. Familiar as he had now become with the ostrich-necked beasts, he could not help associating them with Barnum’s Circus and boyhood memories. The man drew near and crossed in front of him. Then, in the stillness of the morning, Tarvin heard the dry click of a voice he understood. It was the sound made by bringing up the cartridge of a repeating rifle. Mechanically he slipped from the saddle, and was on the other side of the horse as the rifle spoke, and a puff of blue smoke drifted up and hung motionless above the camel.

‘I might have known she’d get in her work early,’ he muttered, peering over his horse’s withers. ‘I can’t drop him at this distance with a revolver. What’s the fool waiting for?’

Then he perceived that, with characteristic native inaptitude, the man had contrived to jam his lever, and was beating it furiously on the forepart of the saddle. He remounted hastily, and galloped up, revolver in hand, to cover the blanched visage of Juggut Singh.

‘You! Why, Juggut, old man, this isn’t kind of you.’

‘It was an order,’ said Juggut, quivering with apprehension. ‘It was no fault of mine. I— I do not understand these things.’

‘I should smile. Let me show you.’ He took the rifle from the trembling hand. ‘The cartridge is jammed, my friend; it don’t shoot as well that way. It only needs a little knack — so! You ought to learn it, Juggut.’ He jerked the empty shell over his shoulder.

‘What will you do to me?’ cried the eunuch. ‘She would have killed me if I had not come.’

‘Don’t you believe it, Juggut. She’s a Jumbo at theory, but weak in practice. Go on ahead, please.’

They started back toward the city, Juggut leading the way on his camel, looking back apprehensively every minute. Tarvin smiled at him dryly but reassuringly, balancing on his hip the captured rifle. He observed that it was a very good rifle if properly used.

At the entrance to Sitabhai’s wing of the palace, Juggut Singh dismounted and slunk into the courtyard, the livid image of fear and shame. Tarvin clattered after him, and as the eunuch was about to disappear through a door, called him back.

‘You have forgotten your gun, Juggut,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid of it.’ Juggut was putting up a doubtful hand to take it from him. ‘It won’t hurt anybody this trip. Take yourself back to the lady, and tell her you are returned, with thanks.’

No sound came to his ear from behind the green shutters as he rode away, leaving Juggut staring after him. Nothing fell upon him from out of the arch, and the apes were tied securely. Sitabhai’s next move was evidently yet to be played.

His own next move he had already reckoned with. It was a case for bolting.

He rode to the mosque outside the city, routed out his old friend in dove-coloured satin, and made him send this message:—

‘MRS. MUTRIE, DENVER. — Necklace is yours. Get throat ready and lay that track into Topaz. — TARVIN.’

Then he turned his horse’s head toward Kate. He buttoned his coat tightly across his chest, and patted the resting-place of the Naulahka fondly, as he strode up the path to the missionary’s verandah, when he had tethered Fibby outside. His high good humour with himself and the world spoke through his eyes as he greeted Mrs. Estes at the door.

‘You have been hearing something pleasant,’ she said. ‘Won’t you come in?’

‘Well, either the pleasantest, or next to the pleasantest; I’m not sure which,’ he answered with a smile, as he followed her into the familiar sitting-room. ‘I’d like to tell you all about it, Mrs. Estes. I feel almightily like telling somebody. But it isn’t a healthy story for this neighbourhood.’ He glanced about him: ‘I’d hire the town crier and a few musical instruments and advertise it, if I had my way; and we’d all have a little Fourth of July celebration and a bonfire, and I’d read the Declaration of Independence over the natives with a 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 isn’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 isn’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 haven’t time to wait until she sees that point. I haven’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 grey 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.

‘What?’

‘India — the whole business. I want you to come with me.’ He spoke gently.

She looked up, and he saw in the quivering lines about her mouth signs of the contest on this theme she had passed through before coming down to him.

‘You are going? I’m so glad.’ She hesitated a moment. ‘You know why!’ she added, with what he saw was an intention of kindness.

Tarvin laughed as he seated himself. ‘I like that. Yes; I’m going,’ he said. ‘But I’m not going alone. You’re in the plan,’ he assured her, with a nod.

She shook her head.

‘No; don’t say that, Kate. You mustn’t. It’s serious this time.’

‘Hasn’t it always been?’ she sank into a chair. ‘It’s always been serious enough for me — that I couldn’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. Isn’t that so? Tell me honestly, Nick; isn’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 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 haven’t the whole of myself to give. It belongs to something else. And I couldn’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 centre 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, isn’t that just the opportunity of women?’

‘The opportunity of the happy women — yes; but it isn’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 isn’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 semi-annual 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 didn’t allow you to make a lot of people happy besides your husband. I recognise 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 hasn’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 isn’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 tight. 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.’

‘And you?’

‘Oh, I don’t count.’

‘The truth, Nick!’ she demanded.

‘Well, I always said that there was nothing like the climate of Topaz.’

‘You mean you are in danger — great danger, perhaps.’

‘Sitabhai isn’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 mustn’t 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 didn’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 isn’t more than the introductory walkaround 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, vamoose, get out! Your life isn’t worth an hour’s purchase here. I’m convinced of that. And mine isn’t worth a minute’s.’

‘You see what a situation you put me in,’ she said accusingly.

‘I don’t put you in it; but I offer you a simple solution.’

‘Yourself!’

‘Well, yes; I said it was simple. I don’t claim it’s brilliant. Almost any one could do more for you; and there are millions of better men, but there isn’t one who could love you better. O Kate, Kate,’ he cried, rising, ‘trust yourself to my love, and I’ll back myself against the world to make you happy.’

‘No, no,’ she exclaimed eagerly; ‘you must go away.’

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-bye, Nick. It’s the end.’

He took her hand. ‘Good afternoon,’ he responded. ‘It’s end enough for today.’

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 organise 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 grey 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 lakhs in marrying two monkeys. Moti, wouldst thou like a wife? No, no — a gold collar is enough for thee. We will spend our three lakhs 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 didn’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 bodyguard, and came therefore in his full uniform as commander-inchief 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 jack-boots, and ascending to the snowy-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 aigrette. The King drew off his gauntlets and shook hands cordially with Kate. After an orgy it was noticeable that his Highness became more civilised.

‘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 as 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 Englishmen 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 —‘as a man to a man.’

The Maharajah fondled him in his arms for a few minutes, and told him the small news of the palace — such things as would interest a little boy. Then he said laughing, ‘Have I your leave to go?’

‘Oh! 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 verandah. 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 grasswoven 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 pomeranate 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 grey monkey, and I think so too. When she comes back you will be beaten, Hanuman.’

Moti had half eaten 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 Mod. He was dead.

She turned pale, and, rising, took the basket of fruit quickly to her nostrils, and sniffed delicately at it. A faint, sweet, cloying odour rose from the brilliant pile. It was overpowering. She set the basket down, putting her hand to her head. The odour dizzied her.

‘Well?’ said the Prince, who could not see his dead pet. ‘I want my sherbet.’

‘The fruit is not quite good, I’m afraid, Lalji,’ she said, with an effort. As she spoke she tossed into the garden, through the open window, the uneaten fragment of the banana that Mod had clasped so closely to his wicked little breast.

A parrot swooped down on the morsel instantly from the trees, 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 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.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kipling/rudyard/naulahka/chapter18.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38