I. THE CHOOSING OF THE MESSENGER
There was trouble at Mandakan.
You could not have guessed it from anything the eye
could see. In front of the Residency two soldiers
marched up and down sleepily, mechanically, between
two ten-pounders marking the limit of their patrol;
and an orderly stood at an open door, lazily shifting
his eyes from the sentinels to the black guns, which
gave out soft, quivering waves of heat, as a wheel,
spinning, throws off delicate spray. A hundred
yards away the sea spread out, languid and huge.
It was under-tinged with all the colours of a morning
sunrise over Mount Bobar not far beyond, lifting up
its somnolent and massive head into the Eastern sky.
“League-long rollers” came in as steady
as columns of infantry, with white streamers flying
along the line, and hovering a moment, split, and
ran on the shore in a crumbling foam, like myriads
of white mice hurrying up the sand.
A little cloud of tobacco smoke came
curling out of a window of the Residency. It
was sniffed up by the orderly, whose pipe was in barracks,
and must lie there untouched until evening at least;
for he had stood at this door since seven that morning,
waiting orders; and he knew by the look on Colonel
Cumner’s face that he might be there till to-morrow.
But the ordinary spectator could not
have noticed any difference in the general look of
things. All was quiet, too, in the big native
city. At the doorways the worker in brass and
silver hammered away at his metal, a sleepy, musical
assonance. The naked seller of sweetmeats went
by calling his wares in a gentle, unassertive voice;
in dark doorways worn-eyed women and men gossiped
in voices scarce above a whisper; and brown children
fondled each other, laughing noiselessly, or lay asleep
on rugs which would be costly elsewhere. In the
bazaars nothing was selling, and no man did anything
but mumble or eat, save the few scholars who, cross-legged
on their mats, read and laboured towards Nirvana.
Priests in their yellow robes and with bare shoulders
went by, oblivious of all things.
Yet, too, the keen observer could
have seen gathered into shaded corners here and there,
a few sombre, low-voiced men talking covertly to each
other. They were not the ordinary gossipers; in
the faces of some were the marks of furtive design,
of sinister suggestion. But it was all so deadly
The gayest, cheeriest person in Mandakan
was Colonel Cumner’s son. Down at the opal
beach, under a palm-tree, he sat, telling stories of
his pranks at college to Boonda Broke, the half-breed
son of a former Dakoon who had ruled the State of
Mandakan when first the English came. The saddest
person in Mandakan was the present Dakoon, in his palace
by the Fountain of the Sweet Waters, which was guarded
by four sacred warriors in stone and four brown men
armed with the naked kris.
The Dakoon was dying, though not a
score of people in the city knew it. He had drunk
of the Fountain of Sweet Waters, also of the well that
is by Bakbar; he had eaten of the sweetmeat called
the Flower of Bambaba, his chosen priests had prayed,
and his favourite wife had lain all day and all night
at the door of his room, pouring out her soul; but
nothing came of it.
And elsewhere Boonda Broke was showing
Cumner’s Son how to throw a kris towards one
object and make it hit another. He gave an illustration
by aiming at a palm-tree and sticking a passing dog
behind the shoulder. The dog belonged to Cumner’s
Son, and the lad’s face suddenly blazed with
anger. He ran to the dog, which had silently collapsed
like a punctured bag of silk, drew out the kris, then
swung towards Boonda Broke, whose cool, placid eyes
met his without emotion.
“You knew that was my dog,”
he said quickly in English, “and and
I tell you what, sir, I’ve had enough of you.
A man that’d hit a dog like that would hit a
man the same way.”
He was standing with the crimson kris
in his hand above the dog. His passion was frank,
vigorous, and natural.
Boonda Broke smiled passively.
“You mean, could hit a man the same way, honoured
“I mean what I said,”
answered the lad, and he turned on his heel; but presently
he faced about again, as though with a wish to give
his foe the benefit of any doubt. Though Boonda
Broke was smiling, the lad’s face flushed again
with anger, for the man’s real character had
been revealed to him on the instant, and he was yet
in the indignant warmth of the new experience.
If he had known that Boonda Broke had cultivated his
friendship for months, to worm out of him all the secrets
of the Residency, there might have been a violent
and immediate conclusion to the incident, for the
lad was fiery, and he had no fear in his heart; he
was combative, high-tempered, and daring. Boonda
Broke had learned no secrets of him, had been met
by an unconscious but steady resistance, and at length
his patience had given way in spite of himself.
He had white blood in his veins fighting
Irish blood which sometimes overcame his
smooth, Oriental secretiveness and cautious duplicity;
and this was one of those occasions. He had flung
the knife at the dog with a wish in his heart that
it was Cumner’s Son instead. As he stood
looking after the English lad, he said between his
teeth with a great hatred, though his face showed
“English dog, thou shalt be
dead like thy brother there when I am Dakoon of Mandakan.”
At this moment he saw hurrying towards
him one of those natives who, a little while before,
had been in close and furtive talk in the Bazaar.
Meanwhile the little cloud of smoke
kept curling out of the Governor’s door, and
the orderly could catch the fitful murmur of talk that
followed it. Presently rifle shots rang out somewhere.
Instantly a tall, broad-shouldered figure, in white
undress uniform, appeared in the doorway and spoke
quickly to the orderly. In a moment two troopers
were galloping out of the Residency Square and into
the city. Before two minutes had passed one had
ridden back to the orderly, who reported to the Colonel
that the Dakoon had commanded the shooting of five
men of the tribe of the outlaw hill-chief, Pango Dooni,
against the rear wall of the Palace, where the Dakoon
might look from his window and see the deed.
The Colonel sat up eagerly in his
chair, then brought his knuckles down smartly on the
table. He looked sharply at the three men who
sat with him.
“That clinches it,” said
he. “One of those fellows was Pango Dooni’s
nephew, another was his wife’s brother.
It’s the only thing to do some one
must go to Pango Dooni, tell him the truth, ask him
to come down and save the place, and sit up there
in the Dakoon’s place. He’ll stand
by us, and by England.”
No one answered at first. Every
face was gloomy. At last a grey-haired captain
of artillery spoke his mind in broken sentences:
“Never do have to
ride through a half-dozen sneaking tribes Pango
Dooni, rank robber steal like a barrack
cat besides, no man could get there.
Better stay where we are and fight it out till help
“Help!” said Cumner bitterly.
“We might wait six months before a man-of-war
put in. The danger is a matter of hours.
A hundred men, and a score of niggers what
would that be against thirty thousand natives?”
“Pango Dooni is as likely to
butcher us as the Dakoon,” said McDermot, the
captain of artillery. Every man in the garrison
had killed at least one of Pango Dooni’s men,
and every man of them was known from the Kimar Gate
to the Neck of Baroob, where Pango Dooni lived and
The Colonel was not to be moved.
“I’d ride the ninety miles myself, if
my place weren’t here no, don’t
think I doubt you, for I know you all! But consider
the nest of murderers that’ll be let loose here
when the Dakoon dies. Better a strong robber
with a strong robber’s honour to perch there
in the Palace, than Boonda Broke and his cut-throats ”
“Honour honour? Pango
Dooni!” broke out McDermot the gunner scornfully.
“I know the man,” said
the Governor gruffly; “I know the man, I tell
you, and I’d take his word for ten thousand pounds,
or a thousand head of cattle. Is there any of
you will ride to the Neck of Baroob for me? For
one it must be, and no more we can spare
scarce that, God knows!” he added sadly.
“The women and children ”
“I will go,” said a voice
behind them all; and Cumner’s Son stepped forward.
“I will go, if I may ride the big sorrel from
the Dakoon’s stud.”
The Colonel swung round in his chair
and stared mutely at the lad. He was only eighteen
years old, but of good stature, well-knit, and straight
as a sapling.
Seeing that no one answered him, but
sat and stared incredulously, he laughed a little,
frankly and boyishly. “The kris of Boonda
Broke is for the hearts of every one of us,”
said he. “He may throw it soon to-night to-morrow.
No man can leave here all are needed; but
a boy can ride; he is light in the saddle, and he may
pass where a man would be caught in a rain of bullets.
I have ridden the sorrel of the Dakoon often; he has
pressed it on me; I will go to the master of his stud,
and I will ride to the Neck of Baroob.”
“No, no,” said one after
the other, getting to his feet, “I will go.”
The Governor waved them down.
“The lad is right,” said he, and he looked
him closely and proudly in the eyes. “By
the mercy of God, you shall ride the ride,”
said he. “Once when Pango Dooni was in the
city, in disguise, aye, even in the Garden of the
Dakoon, the night of the Dance of the Yellow Fire,
I myself helped him to escape, for I stand for a fearless
robber before a cowardly saint.” His grey
moustache and eyebrows bristled with energy as he
added: “The lad shall go. He shall
carry in his breast the bracelet with the red stone
that Pango Dooni gave me. On the stone is written
the countersign that all hillsmen heed, and the tribe-call
I know also.”
“The danger the danger and
the lad so young!” said McDermot; but yet his
eyes rested lovingly on the boy.
The Colonel threw up his head in anger.
“If I, his father, can let him go, why should
you prate like women? The lad is my son, and he
shall win his spurs and more, and more,
maybe,” he added.
He took from his pocket Pango Dooni’s
gift and gave it to the lad, and three times he whispered
in his ear the tribe-call and the countersign that
he might know them. The lad repeated them three
times, and, with his finger, traced the countersign
upon the stone.
That night he rode silently out of
the Dakoon’s palace yard by a quiet gateway,
and came, by a roundabout, to a point near the Residency.
He halted under a flame-tree, and
a man came out of the darkness and laid a hand upon
“Ride straight and swift from
the Kimar Gate. Pause by the Koongat Bridge an
hour, rest three hours at the Bar of Balmud, and pause
again where the roof of the Brown Hermit drums to
the sorrel’s hoofs. Ride for the sake of
the women and children and for your own honour.
Ride like a Cumner, lad.”
The last sound of the sorrel’s
hoofs upon the red dust beat in the Colonel’s
ears all night long, as he sat waiting for news from
the Palace, the sentinels walking up and down, the
orderly at the door, and Boonda Broke plotting in
II. “Rest at the Koongat
bridge an hour”
There was no moon, and but few stars
were shining. When Cumner’s Son first set
out from Mandakan he could scarcely see at all, and
he kept his way through the native villages more by
instinct than by sight. As time passed he saw
more clearly; he could make out the figures of natives
lying under trees or rising from their mats to note
the flying horseman. Lights flickered here and
there in the houses and by the roadside. A late
traveller turned a cake in the ashes or stirred some
rice in a calabash; an anxious mother put some sandalwood
on the coals and added incense, that the gods might
be good to the ailing child on the mat; and thrice,
at forges in the village, he saw the smith languidly
beating iron into shape, while dark figures sat on
the floor near by, and smoked and murmured to each
These last showed alertness at the
sound of the flying sorrel’s hoofs, and all
at once a tall, keen-eyed horseman sprang to the broad
doorway and strained his eyes into the night after
Cumner’s Son. He waited a few moments;
then, as if with a sudden thought, he ran to a horse
tethered near by and vaulted into the saddle.
At a word his chestnut mare got away with telling
stride in pursuit of the unknown rider, passing up
the Gap of Mandakan like a ghost.
Cumner’s Son had a start by
about half a mile, but Tang-a-Dahit rode a mare that
had once belonged to Pango Dooni, and Pango Dooni had
got her from Colonel Cumner the night he escaped from
For this mare the hill-chief had returned
no gift save the gold bracelet which Cumner’s
Son now carried in his belt.
The mare leaned low on her bit, and
travelled like a thirsty hound to water, the sorrel
tugged at the snaffle, and went like a bullmoose hurrying
to his herd,
long low gallop that can tire
hounds’ deep hate or hunter’s fire.”
The pace was with the sorrel.
Cumner’s Son had not looked behind after the
first few miles, for then he had given up thought that
he might be followed. He sat in his saddle like
a plainsman; he listened like a hillsman; he endured
like an Arab water-carrier. There was not an ounce
of useless flesh on his body, and every limb, bone,
and sinew had been stretched and hardened by riding
with the Dakoon’s horsemen, by travelling through
the jungle for the tiger and the panther, by throwing
the kris with Boonda Broke, fencing with McDermot,
and by sabre practice with red-headed Sergeant Doolan
in the barracks by the Residency Square. After
twenty miles’ ride he was dry as a bone, after
thirty his skin was moist but not damp, and there
was not a drop of sweat on the skin-leather of his
fatigue cap. When he got to Koongat Bridge he
was like a racer after practice, ready for a fight
from start to finish. Yet he was not foolhardy.
He knew the danger that beset him, for he could not
tell, in the crisis come to Mandakan, what designs
might be abroad. He now saw through Boonda Broke’s
friendship for him, and he only found peace for his
mind upon the point by remembering that he had told
no secrets, had given no information of any use to
the foes of the Dakoon or the haters of the English.
On this hot, long, silent ride he
looked back carefully, but he could not see where
he had been to blame; and, if he were, he hoped to
strike a balance with his own conscience for having
been friendly to Boonda Broke, and to justify himself
in his father’s eyes. If he came through
all right, then “the Governor” as
he called his father, with the friendly affection
of a good comrade, and as all others in Mandakan called
him because of his position the Governor
then would say that whatever harm he had done indirectly
was now undone.
He got down at the Koongat Bridge,
and his fingers were still in the sorrel’s mane
when he heard the call of a bittern from the river
bank. He did not loose his fingers, but stood
still and listened intently, for there was scarcely
a sound of the plain, the river, or jungle he did
not know, and his ear was keen to balance ’twixt
the false note and the true. He waited for the
sound again. From that first call he could not
be sure which had startled him the night
was so still the voice of a bird or the
call between men lying in ambush. He tried the
trigger of his pistol softly, and prepared to mount.
As he did so, the call rang out across the water again,
a little louder, a little longer.
Now he was sure. It was not from
a bittern it was a human voice, of whose
tribe he knew not Pango Dooni’s, Boonda
Broke’s, the Dakoon’s, or the segments
of peoples belonging to none of these highway
robbers, cattle-stealers, or the men of the jungle,
those creatures as wild and secret as the beasts of
the bush and more cruel and more furtive.
The fear of the ambushed thing is
the worst fear of this world the sword
or the rifle-barrel you cannot see and the poisoned
wooden spear which the men of the jungle throw gives
a man ten deaths, instead of one.
Cumner’s Son mounted quickly,
straining his eyes to see and keeping his pistol cocked.
When he heard the call a second time he had for a moment
a thrill of fear, not in his body, but in his brain.
He had that fatal gift, imagination, which is more
alive than flesh and bone, stronger than iron and
steel. In his mind he saw a hundred men rise up
from ambush, surround him, and cut him down.
He saw himself firing a half-dozen shots, then drawing
his sword and fighting till he fell; but he did fall
in the end, and there was an end of it. It seemed
like years while these visions passed through his
mind, but it was no longer than it took to gather
the snaffle-rein close to the sorrel’s neck,
draw his sword, clinch it in his left hand with the
rein, and gather the pistol snugly in his right.
He listened again. As he touched the sorrel with
his knee he thought he heard a sound ahead.
The sorrel sprang forward, sniffed
the air, and threw up his head. His feet struck
the resounding timbers of the bridge, and, as they
did so, he shied; but Cumner’s Son, looking
down sharply, could see nothing to either the right
or left no movement anywhere save the dim
trees on the banks waving in the light wind which
had risen. A crocodile slipped off a log into
the water he knew that sound; a rank odour
came from the river bank he knew the smell
of the hippopotamus.
These very things gave him new courage.
Since he came from Eton to Mandakan he had hunted
often and well, and once he had helped to quarry the
Little Men of the Jungle when they carried off the
wife and daughter of a soldier of the Dakoon.
The smell and the sound of wild life roused all the
hunter in him. He had fear no longer; the primitive
emotion of fighting or self-defence was alive in him.
He had left the bridge behind by twice
the horse’s length, when, all at once, the call
of the red bittern rang out the third time, louder
than before; then again; and then the cry of a grey
wolf came in response.
His peril was upon him. He put
spurs to the sorrel. As he did so, dark figures
sprang up on all sides of him. Without a word
he drove the excited horse at his assailants.
Three caught his bridle-rein, and others snatched
at him to draw him from his horse.
“Hands off!” he cried,
in the language of Mandakan, and levelled his pistol.
“He is English!” said a voice. “Cut
“I am the Governor’s son,”
said the lad. “Let go.” “Cut
him down!” snarled the voice again.
He fired twice quickly.
Then he remembered the tribe-call
given his father by Pango Dooni. Rising in his
saddle and firing again, he called it out in a loud
voice. His plunging horse had broken away from
two of the murderers; but one still held on, and he
slashed the hand free with his sword.
The natives were made furious by the
call, and came on again, striking at him with their
krises. He shouted the tribe-call once more, but
this time it was done involuntarily. There was
no response in front of him; but one came from behind.
There was clattering of hoofs on Koongat Bridge, and
the password of the clan came back to the lad, even
as a kris struck him in the leg and drew out again.
Once again he called, and suddenly a horseman appeared
beside him, who clove through a native’s head
with a broadsword, and with a pistol fired at the fleeing
figures; for Boonda Broke’s men who were thus
infesting the highway up to Koongat Bridge, and even
beyond, up to the Bar of Balmud, hearing the newcomer
shout the dreaded name of Pango Dooni, scattered for
their lives, though they were yet twenty to two.
One stood his ground, and it would have gone ill for
Cumner’s Son, for this thief had him at fatal
advantage, had it not been for the horseman who had
followed the lad from the forge-fire to Koongat Bridge.
He stood up in his stirrups and cut down with his
broadsword, so that the blade was driven through the
head and shoulders of his foe as a woodsman splits
a log half through, and grunts with the power of his
Then he turned to the lad.
“What stranger calls by the word of our tribe?”
“I am Cumner’s Son,”
was the answer, “and my father is brother-in-blood
with Pango Dooni. I ride to Pango Dooni for the
women and children’s sake.”
“Proof! Proof! If you be Cumner’s
Son, another word should be yours.”
The Colonel’s Son took out the
bracelet from his breast. “It is safe hid
here,” said he, “and hid also under my
tongue. If you be from the Neck of Baroob you
will know it when I speak it;” and he spoke reverently
the sacred countersign.
By a little fire kindled in the road,
the bodies of their foe beside them, they vowed to
each other, mingling their blood from dagger pricks
in the arm. Then they mounted again and rode towards
the Neck of Baroob.
In silence they rode awhile, and at
last the hillsman said: “If fathers be
brothers-in-blood, behold it is good that sons be also.”
By this the lad knew that he was now
brother-in-blood to the son of Pango Dooni.
III. The Code of
the hills “You travel near to Mandakan!”
said the lad. “Do you ride with a thousand
“For a thousand men there are
ten thousand eyes to see; I travel alone and safe,”
“To thrust your head in the
tiger’s jaw,” said Cumner’s Son.
“Did you ride to be in at the death of the men
of your clan?”
“A man will ride for a face
that he loves, even to the Dreadful Gates,”
answered Tang-a-Dahit. “But what is this
of the men of my clan?”
Then the lad told him of those whose
heads hung on the rear Palace wall, where the Dakoon
lay dying, and why he rode to Pango Dooni.
“It is fighting and fighting,
naught but fighting,” said Tang-a-Dahit after
a pause; “and there is no peace. It is fighting
and fighting, for honour, and glory, and houses and
cattle, but naught for love, and naught that there
may be peace.”
Cumner’s Son turned round in
his saddle as if to read the face of the man, but
it was too dark.
“And naught that there maybe
peace.” Those were the words of a hillsman
who had followed him furiously in the night ready to
kill, who had cloven the head of a man like a piece
of soap, and had been riding even into Mandakan where
a price was set on his head.
For long they rode silently, and in
that time Cumner’s Son found new thoughts; and
these thoughts made him love the brown hillsman as
he had never loved any save his own father.
“When there is peace in Mandakan,”
said he at last, “when Boonda Broke is snapped
in two like a pencil, when Pango Dooni sits as Dakoon
in the Palace of Mandakan ”
“There is a maid in Mandakan,”
interrupted Tanga-Dahit, “and these two years
she has lain upon her bed, and she may not be moved,
for the bones of her body are as the soft stems of
the lily, but her face is a perfect face, and her
tongue has the wisdom of God.”
“You ride to her through the teeth of danger?”
“She may not come to me, and I must go to her,”
answered the hillsman.
There was silence again for a long
time, for Cumner’s Son was turning things over
in his mind; and all at once he felt that each man’s
acts must be judged by the blood that is in him and
the trail by which he has come.
The sorrel and the chestnut mare travelled
together as on one snaffle-bar, step by step, for
they were foaled in the same stable. Through
stretches of reed-beds and wastes of osiers they
passed, and again by a path through the jungle where
the briar-vines caught at them like eager fingers,
and a tiger crossed their track, disturbed in his
night’s rest. At length out of the dank
distance they saw the first colour of dawn.
“Ten miles,” said Tang-a-Dahit,
“and we shall come to the Bar of Balmud.
Then we shall be in my own country. See, the dawn
comes up! ’Twixt here and the Bar of Balmud
our danger lies. A hundred men may ambush there,
for Boonda Broke’s thieves have scattered all
the way from Mandakan to our borders.”
Cumner’s Son looked round.
There were hills and defiles everywhere, and a thousand
places where foes could hide. The quickest way,
but the most perilous, lay through the long defile
between the hills, flanked by boulders and rank scrub.
Tang-a-Dahit pointed out the ways that they might
go by the path to the left along the hills,
or through the green defile; and Cumner’s Son
instantly chose the latter way.
“If the fight were fair,”
said the hillsman, “and it were man to man,
the defile is the better way; but these be dogs of
cowards who strike from behind rocks. No one
of them has a heart truer than Boonda Broke’s,
the master of the carrion. We will go by the hills.
The way is harder but more open, and if we be prospered
we will rest awhile at the Bar of Balmud, and at noon
we will tether and eat in the Neck of Baroob.”
They made their way through the medlar
trees and scrub to the plateau above, and, the height
gained, they turned to look back. The sun was
up, and trailing rose and amber garments across the
great Eastern arch. Their path lay towards it,
for Pango Dooni hid in the hills, where the sun hung
a roof of gold above his stronghold.
“Forty to one!” said Tang-a-Dahit
suddenly. “Now indeed we ride for our lives!”
Looking down the track of the hillsman’s
glance Cumner’s Son saw a bunch of horsemen
galloping up the slope. Boonda Broke’s men!
The sorrel and the mare were fagged,
the horses of their foes were fresh; and forty to
one were odds that no man would care to take.
It might be that some of Pango Dooni’s men lay
between them and the Bar of Balmud, but the chance
“By the hand of Heaven,”
said the hillsman, “if we reach to the Bar of
Balmud, these dogs shall eat their own heads for dinner!”
They set their horses in the way,
and gave the sorrel and mare the bit and spur.
The beasts leaned again to their work as though they
had just come from a feeding-stall and knew their
riders’ needs. The men rode light and free,
and talked low to their horses as friend talks to
friend. Five miles or more they went so, and then
the mare stumbled. She got to her feet again,
but her head dropped low, her nostrils gaped red and
swollen, and the sorrel hung back with her, for a beast,
like a man, will travel farther two by two than one
by one. At another point where they had a long
view behind they looked back. Their pursuers were
gaining. Tang-a-Dahit spurred his horse on.
“There is one chance,”
said he, “and only one. See where the point
juts out beyond the great medlar tree. If, by
the mercy of God, we can but make it!”
The horses gallantly replied to call
and spur. They rounded a curve which made a sort
of apse to the side of the valley, and presently they
were hid from their pursuers. Looking back from
the thicket they saw the plainsmen riding hard.
All at once Tang-a-Dahit stopped.
“Give me the sorrel,”
said he. “Quick dismount!”
Cumner’s Son did as he was bid. Going a
little to one side, the hillsman pushed through a thick
hedge of bushes, rolled away a rock, and disclosed
an opening which led down a steep and rough-hewn way
to a great misty valley beneath, where was never a
bridle-path or causeway over the brawling streams and
“I will ride on. The mare
is done, but the sorrel can make the Bar of Balmud.”
Cumner’s Son opened his mouth
to question, but stopped, for the eyes of the hillsman
flared up, and Tang-a-Dahit said:
“My arm in blood has touched
thy arm, and thou art in my hills and not in thine
own country. Thy life is my life, and thy good
is my good. Speak not, but act. By the high
wall of the valley where no man bides there is a path
which leads to the Bar of Balmud; but leave it not,
whether it go up or down or be easy or hard. If
thy feet be steady, thine eye true, and thy heart
strong, thou shalt come by the Bar of Balmud among
Then he caught the hand of Cumner’s
Son in his own and kissed him between the eyes after
the manner of a kinsman, and, urging him into the
hole, rolled the great stone into its place again.
Mounting the sorrel he rode swiftly out into the open,
rounded the green point full in view of his pursuers,
and was hid from them in an instant. Then, dismounting,
he swiftly crept back through the long grass into the
thicket again, mounted the mare, and drove her at
laboured gallop also around the curve, so that it
seemed to the plainsmen following that both men had
gone that way. He mounted the sorrel again, and
loosing a long sash from his waist drew it through
the mare’s bit. The mare, lightened of the
weight, followed well. When the plainsmen came
to the cape of green, they paused not by the secret
place, for it seemed to them that two had ridden past
and not one.
The Son of Pango Dooni had drawn pursuit
after himself, for it is the law of the hills that
a hillsman shall give his life or all that he has
for a brother-in-blood.
When Cumner’s Son had gone a
little way he understood it all! And he would
have turned back, but he knew that the hillsman had
ridden far beyond his reach. So he ran as swiftly
as he could; he climbed where it might seem not even
a chamois could find a hold; his eyes scarcely seeing
the long, misty valley, where the haze lay like a vapour
from another world. There was no sound anywhere
save the brawling water or the lonely cry of the flute-bird.
Here was the last refuge of the hillsmen if they should
ever be driven from the Neck of Baroob. They
could close up every entrance, and live unscathed;
for here was land for tilling, and wood, and wild
fruit, and food for cattle.
Cumner’s Son was supple and
swift, and scarce an hour had passed ere he came to
a steep place on the other side, with rough niches
cut in the rocks, by which a strong man might lift
himself up to safety. He stood a moment and ate
some coffee-beans and drank some cold water from a
stream at the foot of the crag, and then began his
ascent. Once or twice he trembled, for he was
worn and tired; but he remembered the last words of
Tang-a-Dahit, and his fingers tightened their hold.
At last, with a strain and a gasp, he drew himself
up, and found himself on a shelf of rock with all
the great valley spread out beneath him. A moment
only he looked, resting himself, and then he searched
for a way into the hills; for everywhere there was
a close palisade of rocks and saplings. At last
he found an opening scarce bigger than might let a
cat through; but he laboured hard, and at last drew
himself out and looked down the path which led into
the Bar of Balmud the great natural escarpment
of giant rocks and monoliths and medlar trees, where
lay Pango Dooni’s men.
He ran with all his might, and presently
he was inside the huge defence. There was no
living being to be seen; only the rock-strewn plain
and the woods beyond.
He called aloud, but nothing answered;
he called again the tribe-call of Pango Dooni’s
men, and a hundred armed men sprang up.
“I am a brother-in-blood of
Pango Dooni’s Son,” said he. “Tang-a-Dahit
rides for his life to the Bar of Balmud. Ride
forth if ye would save him.”
“The lad speaks with the tongue
of a friend,” said a scowling hillsman, advancing,
“yet how know we but he lies?”
“Even by this,” said Cumner’s
Son, and he spoke the sacred countersign and showed
again the bracelet of Pango Dooni, and told what had
happened. Even as he spoke the hillsmen gave the
word, and two score men ran down behind the rocks,
mounted, and were instantly away by the road that
led to the Koongat Bridge.
The tall hillsman turned to the lad.
“You are beaten by travel,” said he.
“Come, eat and drink, and rest.”
“I have sworn to breakfast where
Pango Dooni bides, and there only will I rest and
eat,” answered the lad.
“The son of Pango Dooni knows
the lion’s cub from the tame dog’s whelp.
You shall keep your word. Though the sun ride
fast towards noon, faster shall we ride in the Neck
of Baroob,” said the hillsman.
It was half-way towards noon when
the hoof-beats drummed over the Brown Hermit’s
cave, and they rested not there; but it was noon and
no more when they rode through Pango Dooni’s
gates and into the square where he stood.
The tall hillsman dropped to the ground,
and Cumner’s Son made to do the same. Yet
he staggered, and would have fallen, but the hillsman
ran an arm around his shoulder. The lad put by
the arm, and drew him self up. He was most pale.
Pango Dooni stood looking at him, without a word, and
Cumner’s Son doffed his cap. There was no
blood in his lips, and his face was white and drawn.
“Since last night what time
the bugle blows in the Palace yard, I have ridden,”
At the sound of his voice the great
chief started. “The voice I know, but not
the face,” said he.
“I am Cumner’s Son,”
replied the lad, and once more he spoke the sacred
IV. By the old
well of Jahar To Cumner’s Son
when all was told, Pango Dooni said: “If
my son be dead where those jackals swarm, it is well
he died for his friend. If he be living, then
it is also well. If he be saved, we will march
to Mandakan, with all our men, he and I, and it shall
be as Cumner wills, if I stay in Mandakan or if I
return to my hills.”
“My father said in the council-room,
’Better the strong robber than the weak coward,’
and my father never lied,” said the lad dauntlessly.
The strong, tall chief, with the dark face and fierce
eyes, roused in him the regard of youth for strong
“A hundred years ago they stole
from my fathers the State of Mandakan,” answered
the chief, “and all that is here and all that
is there is mine. If I drive the kine of thieves
from the plains to my hills, the cattle were mine
ere I drove them. If I harry the rich in the midst
of the Dakoon’s men, it is gaining my own over
naked swords. If I save your tribe and Cumner’s
men from the half-bred jackal Boonda Broke, and hoist
your flag on the Palace wall, it is only I who should
Then he took the lad inside the house,
with the great wooden pillars and the high gates,
and the dark windows all barred up and down with iron,
and he led him to a court-yard where was a pool of
clear water. He made him bathe in it, and dark-skinned
natives brought him bread dipped in wine, and when
he had eaten they laid him on skins and rubbed him
dry, and rolled him in soft linen, and he drank the
coffee they gave him, and they sat by and fanned him
until he fell asleep.
The red birds on the window-sill sang
through his sleep into his dreams. In his dreams
he thought he was in the Dakoon’s Palace at Mandakan
with a thousand men before him, and three men came
forward and gave him a sword. And a bird came
flying through the great chambers and hung over him,
singing in a voice that he understood, and he spoke
to the three and to the thousand, in the words of
the bird, and said:
“It is fighting, and fighting
for honour and glory and houses and kine, but naught
for love, and naught that there may be peace.”
And the men said in reply: “It
is all for love and it is all for peace,” and
they still held out the sword to him. So he took
it and buckled it to his side, and the bird, flying
away out of the great window of the chamber, sang:
“Peace! Peace! Peace!” And Pango
Dooni’s Son standing by, with a shining face,
said, “Peace! Peace!” and the great
Cumner said, “Peace!” and a woman’s
voice, not louder than a bee’s, but clear above
all others, said, “Peace!”
He awoke and knew it was a dream;
and there beside him stood Pango Dooni, in his dress
of scarlet and gold and brown, his broadsword buckled
on, a kris at his belt, and a rich jewel in his cap.
“Ten of my captains and three
of my kinsmen are come to break bread with Cumner’s
Son,” said he. “They would hear the
tale of our kinsmen who died against the Palace wall,
by the will of the sick Dakoon.”
The lad sprang to his feet fresh and
well, the linen and skins falling away from his lithe,
clean body and limbs, and he took from the slaves
his clothes. The eye of the chief ran up and down
his form, from his keen blue eyes to his small strong
“It is the body of a perfect
man,” said he. “In the days when our
State was powerful and great, when men and not dogs
ruled at Mandakan, no man might be Dakoon save him
who was clear of mote or beam; of true bone and body,
like a high-bred yearling got from a perfect stud.
But two such are there that I have seen in Mandakan
to-day, and they are thyself and mine own son.”
The lad laughed. “I have
eaten good meat,” said he, “and I have
no muddy blood.”
When they came to the dining-hall,
the lad at first was abashed, for twenty men stood
up to meet him, and each held out his hand and spoke
the vow of a brother-in-blood, for the ride he had
made and his honest face together acted on them.
Moreover, whom the head of their clan honoured they
also willed to honour. They were tall, barbaric-looking
men, and some had a truculent look, but most were of
a daring open manner, and careless in speech and gay
Cumner’s Son told them of his
ride and of Tang-a-Dahit, and, at last, of the men
of their tribe who died by the Palace wall. With
one accord they rose in their places and swore over
bread and a drop of blood of their chief that they
would not sheathe their swords again till a thousand
of Boonda Broke’s and the Dakoon’s men
lay where their own kinsmen had fallen. If it
chanced that Tang-a-Dahit was dead, then they would
never rest until Boonda Broke and all his clan were
blotted out. Only Pango Dooni himself was silent,
for he was thinking much of what should be done at
They came out upon the plateau where
the fortress stood, and five hundred mounted men marched
past, with naked swords and bare krises in their belts,
and then wheeled suddenly and stood still, and shot
their swords up into the air the full length of the
arm, and called the battle-call of their tribe.
The chief looked on unmoved, save once when a tall
trooper rode near him. He suddenly called this
“Where hast thou been, brother?” he asked.
“Three days was I beyond the
Bar of Balmud, searching for the dog who robbed my
mother; three days did I ride to keep my word with
a foe, who gave me his horse when we were both unarmed
and spent, and with broken weapons could fight no
more; and two days did I ride to be by a woman’s
side when her great sickness should come upon her.
This is all, my lord, since I went forth, save this
jewel which I plucked from the cap of a gentleman
from the Palace. It was toll he paid even at the
gates of Mandakan.”
“Didst thou do all that thou didst promise?”
“All, my lord.”
“Even to the woman?” The chief’s
eye burned upon the man.
“A strong male child is come
into the world to serve my lord,” said the trooper,
and he bowed his head. “The jewel is thine
and not mine, brother,” said the chief softly,
and the fierceness of his eyes abated; “but
I will take the child.”
The trooper drew back among his fellows,
and the columns rode towards the farther end of the
plateau. Then all at once the horses plunged into
wild gallop, and the hillsmen came thundering down
towards the chief and Cumner’s Son, with swords
waving and cutting to right and left, calling aloud,
their teeth showing, death and valour in their eyes.
The chief glanced at Cumner’s Son. The
horses were not twenty feet from the lad, but he did
not stir a muscle. They were not ten feet from
him, and swords flashed before his eyes, but still
he did not stir a hair’s breadth. In response
to a cry the horses stopped in full career, not more
than three feet from him. Reaching out he could
have stroked the flaming nostril of the stallion nearest
Pango Dooni took from his side a short
gold-handled sword and handed it to him.
“A hundred years ago,”
said he, “it hung in the belt of the Dakoon of
Mandakan; it will hang as well in thine.”
Then he added, for he saw a strange look in the lad’s
eyes: “The father of my father’s father
wore it in the Palace, and it has come from his breed
to me, and it shall go from me to thee, and from thee
to thy breed, if thou wilt honour me.”
The lad stuck it in his belt with
pride, and taking from his pocket a silver-mounted
“This was the gift of a fighting
chief to a fighting chief when they met in a beleaguered
town, with spoil, and blood, and misery, and sick women
and children round them; and it goes to a strong man,
if he will take the gift of a lad.”
At that moment there was a cry from
beyond the troopers, and it was answered from among
them by a kinsman of Pango Dooni, and presently, the
troopers parting, down the line came Tang-a-Dahit,
with bandaged head and arm.
In greeting, Pango Dooni raised the
pistol which Cumner’s Son had given him and
fired it into the air. Straightway five hundred
men did the same.
Dismounting, Tang-a-Dahit stood before
his father. “Have the Dakoon’s vermin
fastened on the young bull at last?” asked Pango
Dooni, his eyes glowering. “They crawled
and fastened, but they have not fed,” answered
Tang-a-Dahit in a strong voice, for his wounds had
not sunk deep. “By the Old Well of Jahar,
which has one side to the mountain wall, and one to
the cliff edge, I halted and took my stand. The
mare and the sorrel of Cumner’s Son I put inside
the house that covers the well, and I lifted two stones
from the floor and set them against the entrance.
A beggar lay dead beside the well, and his dog licked
his body. I killed the cur, for, following its
master, it would have peace, and peace is more than
life. Then, with the pole of the waterpail, I
threw the dead dog across the entrance upon the paving
stones, for these vermin of plainsmen will not pass
where a dead dog lies, as my father knows well.
They came not by the entrance, but they swarmed elsewhere,
as ants swarm upon a sandhill, upon the roofs, and
at the little window where the lamp burns.
“I drove them from the window
and killed them through the doorway, but they were
forty to one. In the end the pest would have carried
me to death, as a jackal carries the broken meats
to his den, if our hillsmen had not come. For
an hour I fought, and five of them I killed and seven
wounded, and then at the shouts of our hillsmen they
fled at last. Nine of them fell by the hands
of our people. Thrice was I wounded, but my wounds
are no deeper than the scratches of a tiger’s
“Hadst thou fought for thyself
the deed were good,” said Pango Dooni, “but
thy blood was shed for another, and that is the pride
of good men. We have true men here, but thou
art a true chief and this shalt thou wear.”
He took the rich belt from his waist,
and fastened it round the waist of his son.
“Cumner’s Son carries
the sword that hung in the belt. We are for war,
and the sword should be out of the belt. When
we are at peace again ye shall put the sword in the
belt once more, and hang it upon the wall of the Palace
at Mandakan, even as ye who are brothers shall never
Two hours Tang-a-Dahit rested upon
skins by the bathing pool, and an hour did the slaves
knead him and rub him with oil, and give him food
and drink; and while yet the sun was but half-way down
the sky, they poured through the Neck of Baroob, over
five hundred fighting men, on horses that would kneel
and hide like dogs, and spring like deer, and that
knew each tone of their masters’ voices.
By the Bar of Balmud they gathered another fifty hillsmen,
and again half-way beyond the Old Well of Jahar they
met two score more, who had hunted Boonda Broke’s
men, and these moved into column. So that when
they came to Koongat Bridge, in the country infested
by the men of the Dakoon, seven hundred stalwart and
fearless men rode behind Pango Dooni. From the
Neck of Baroob to Koongat Bridge no man stayed them,
but they galloped on silently, swiftly, passing through
the night like a cloud, upon which the dwellers by
the wayside gazed in wonder and in fear.
At Koongat Bridge they rested for
two hours, and drank coffee, and broke bread, and
Cumner’s Son slept by the side of Tang-a-Dahit,
as brothers sleep by their mother’s bed.
And Pango Dooni sat on the ground near them and pondered,
and no man broke his meditation. When the two
hours were gone, they mounted again and rode on through
the dark villages towards Mandakan.
It was just at the close of the hour
before dawn that the squad of troopers who rode a
dozen rods before the columns, heard a cry from the
dark ahead. “Halt-in the name of the Dakoon!”
V. Choose ye whom ye
will serve The company drew rein. All
they could see in the darkness was a single mounted
figure in the middle of the road. The horseman
“Who are you?” asked the leader of the
“I keep the road for the Dakoon,
for it is said that Cumner’s Son has ridden
to the Neck of Baroob to bring Pango Dooni down.”
By this time the chief and his men
had ridden up. The horseman recognised the robber
chief, and raised his voice.
“Two hundred of us rode out
to face Pango Dooni in this road. We had not
come a mile from the Palace when we fell into an ambush,
even two thousand men led by Boonda Broke, who would
steal the roof and bed of the Dakoon before his death.
For an hour we fought but every man was cut down save
“And you?” asked Pango Dooni.
“I come to hold the road against Pango Dooni,
as the Dakoon bade me.”
Pango Dooni laughed. “Your
words are large,” said he. “What could
you, one man, do against Pango Dooni and his hillsman?”
“I could answer the Dakoon here
or elsewhere, that I kept the road till the hill-wolves
dragged me down.”
“We be the wolves from the hills,”
answered Pango Dooni. “You would scarce
serve a scrap of flesh for one hundred, and we are
“The wolves must rend me first,”
answered the man, and he spat upon the ground at Pango
A dozen men started forward, but the
chief called them back.
“You are no coward, but a fool,”
said he to the horseman. “Which is it better:
to die, or to turn with us and save Cumner and the
English, and serve Pango Dooni in the Dakoon’s
“No man knows that he must die
till the stroke falls, and I come to fight and not
to serve a robber mountaineer.”
Pango Dooni’s eyes blazed with
anger. “There shall be no fighting, but
a yelping cur shall be hung to a tree,” said
He was about to send his men upon
the stubborn horseman when the fellow said:
“If you be a man you will give
me a man to fight. We were two hundred.
If it chance that one of a company shall do as the
Dakoon hath said, then is all the company absolved;
and beyond the mists we can meet the Dakoon with open
eyes and unafraid when he saith, ’Did ye keep
“By the word of a hillsman,
but thou shalt have thy will,” said the chief.
“We are seven hundred men choose whom
“The oldest or the youngest,”
answered the man. “Pango Dooni or Cumner’s
Before the chief had time to speak,
Cumner’s Son struck the man with the flat of
his sword across the breast.
The man did not lift his arm, but
looked at the lad steadily for a moment. “Let
us speak together before we fight,” said he,
and to show his good faith he threw down his sword.
“Speak,” said Cumner’s
Son, and laid his sword across the pommel of his saddle.
“Does a man when he dies speak
his heart to the ears of a whole tribe?”
“Then choose another ear than
mine,” said Cumner’s Son. “In
war I have no secrets from my friends.”
A look of satisfaction came into Pango
Dooni’s face. “Speak with the man
alone,” said he, and he drew back.
Cumner’s Son drew a little to
one side with the man, who spoke quickly and low in
“I have spoken the truth,”
said he. “I am Cushnan Di” he
drew himself up “and once I had a
city of my own and five thousand men, but a plague
and then a war came, and the Dakoon entered upon my
city. I left my people and hid, and changed myself
that no one should know me, and I came to Mandakan.
It was noised abroad that I was dead. Little by
little I grew in favour with the Dakoon, and little
by little I gathered strong men about me-two hundred
in all at last. It was my purpose, when the day
seemed ripe, to seize upon the Palace as the Dakoon
had seized upon my little city. I knew from my
father, whose father built a new portion of the Palace,
of a secret way by the Aqueduct of the Failing Fountain,
even into the Palace itself. An army could ride
through and appear in the Palace yard like the mist-shapes
from the lost legions. When I had a thousand
men I would perform this thing, I thought.
“But day by day the Dakoon drew
me to him, and the thing seemed hard to do, even now
before I had the men. Then his sickness came,
and I could not strike an ailing man. When I
saw how he was beset by traitors, in my heart I swore
that he should not suffer by my hands. I heard
of your riding to the Neck of Baroob the
men of Boonda Broke brought word. So I told the
Dakoon, and I told him also that Boonda Broke was ready
to steal into his Palace even before he died.
He started up, and new life seemed given him.
Calling his servants, he clothed himself, and he came
forth and ordered out his troops. He bade me take
my men to keep the road against Pango Dooni.
Then he ranged his men before the Palace, and scattered
them at points in the city to resist Boonda Broke.
“So I rode forth, but I came
first to my daughter’s bedside. She lies
in a little house not a stone’s throw from the
Palace, and near to the Aqueduct of the Falling Fountain.
Once she was beautiful and tall and straight as a
bamboo stem, but now she is in body no more than a
piece of silken thread. Yet her face is like
the evening sky after a rain. She is much alone,
and only in the early mornings may I see her.
She is cared for by an old woman of our people, and
there she bides, and thinks strange thoughts, and
speaks words of wisdom.
“When I told her what the Dakoon
bade me do, and what I had sworn to perform when the
Dakoon was dead, she said:
“’But no. Go forth
as the Dakoon hath bidden. Stand in the road and
oppose the hillsmen. If Cumner’s Son be
with them, thou shalt tell him all. If he speak
for the hillsmen and say that all shall be well with
thee, and thy city be restored when Pango Dooni sits
in the Palace of the Dakoon, then shalt thou join
with them, that there may be peace in the land, for
Pango Dooni and the son of Pango Dooni be brave strong
men. But if he will not promise for the hillsmen,
then shalt thou keep the secret of the Palace, and
abide the will of God."’
“Dost thou know Pango Dooni’s
son?” asked the lad, for he was sure that this
man’s daughter was she of whom Tang-a-Dahit had
“Once when I was in my own city
and in my Palace I saw him. Then my daughter
was beautiful, and her body was like a swaying wand
of the boolda tree. But my city passed, and she
was broken like a trailing vine, and the young man
came no more.”
“But if he came again now?”
“He would not come.”
“But if he had come while she
lay there like a trailing vine, and listened to her
voice, and thought upon her words and loved her still.
If for her sake he came secretly, daring death, wouldst
thou stand ”
The man’s eyes lighted.
“If there were such truth in any man,”
he interrupted, “I would fight, follow him,
and serve him, and my city should be his city, and
the knowledge of my heart be open to his eye.”
Cumner’s Son turned and called
to Pango Dooni and his son, and they came forward.
Swiftly he told them all. When he had done so
the man sprang from his horse, and taking off the
thin necklet of beaten gold he wore round his throat,
without a word he offered it to Tang-a-Dahit, and
Tang-a-Dahit kissed him on the cheek and gave him the
thick, loose chain of gold he wore.
“For this was it you risked
your life going to Mandakan,” said Pango Dooni,
angrily, to his son; “for a maid with a body
like a withered gourd.” Then all at once,
with a new look in his face, he continued softly:
“Thou hast the soul of a woman, but thy deeds
are the deeds of a man. As thy mother was in
heart so art thou.”
Day was breaking over Mandakan, and
all the city was a tender pink. Tower and minaret
were like inverted cups of ruddy gold, and the streets
all velvet dust, as Pango Dooni, guided by Cushnan
Di, halted at the wood of wild peaches, and a
great thicket near to the Aqueduct of the Failing
Fountain, and looked out towards the Palace of the
Dakoon. It was the time of peach blossoms, and
all through the city the pink and white petals fell
like the gay crystals of a dissolving sunrise.
Yet there rose from the midst of it a long, rumbling,
intermittent murmur, and here and there marched columns
of men in good order, while again disorderly bands
ran hither and hither with krises waving in the sun,
and the red turban of war wound round their heads.
They could not see the front of the
Palace, nor yet the Residency Square, but, even as
they looked, a cannonade began, and the smoke of the
guns curled through the showering peach-trees.
Hoarse shoutings and cries came rolling over the pink
roofs, and Cumner’s Son could hear through all
the bugle-call of the artillery.
A moment later Cushnan Di was
leading them through a copse of pawpaw trees to a
secluded garden by the Aqueduct, overgrown with vines
and ancient rose trees, and cherry shrubs. After
an hour’s labour with spades, while pickets
guarded all approach, an opening was disclosed beneath
the great flag-stones of a ruined building. Here
was a wide natural corridor overhung with stalactites,
and it led on into an artificial passage which inclined
gradually upwards till it came into a mound above
the level by which they entered. Against this
mound was backed a little temple in the rear of the
Palace. A dozen men had remained behind to cover
up the entrance again. When these heard Pango
Dooni and the others in the Palace yard they were to
ride straight for a gate which should be opened to
There was delay in opening the stone
door which led into the temple, but at last they forced
their way. The place was empty, and they rode
through the Palace yard, pouring out like a stream
of spectral horsemen from the altar of the temple.
Not a word was spoken as Pango Dooni and his company
galloped towards the front of the Palace. Hundreds
of the Dakoon’s soldiers and terrified people
who had taken refuge in the great court-yard, ran
screaming into corners, or threw themselves in terror
upon the ground. The walls were lined with soldiers,
but not one raised his hand to strike so
sudden was the coming of the dreaded hillsman.
They knew him by the black flag and the yellow sunburst
Presently Pango Dooni gave the wild
battle-call of his tribe, and every one of his seven
hundred answered him as they rode impetuously to the
Palace front. Two thousand soldiers of the Dakoon,
under command of his nephew, Gis-yo-Bahim,
were gathered there. They were making ready to
march out and defend the Palace. When they saw
the flag and heard the battle-cry there was a movement
backward, as though this handful of men were an overwhelming
army coming at them. Scattered and disorderly
groups of men swayed here and there, and just before
the entrance of the Palace was a wailing group, by
which stood two priests with their yellow robes and
bare shoulders, speaking to them. From the walls
the soldiers paused from resisting the swarming herds
“The Dakoon is dead!” cried Tang-a-Dahit.
As if in response came the wailing
death-cry of the women of the Palace through the lattice
windows, and it was taken up by the discomfited crowd
before the Palace door.
“The Lord of all the Earth, the great Dakoon,
Pango Dooni rode straight upon the
group, who fled at his approach, and, driving the
priests indoors, he called aloud:
“The Dakoon is living. Fear not!”
For a moment there was no reply, and
he waved his men into place before the Palace, and
was about to ride down upon the native army, but Cumner’s
Son whispered to him, and an instant after the lad
was riding alone upon the dark legions. He reined
in his horse not ten feet away from the irregular
“You know me,” said he.
“I am Cumner’s Son. I rode into the
hills at the Governor’s word to bring a strong
man to rule you. Why do ye stand here idle?
My father, your friend, fights with a hundred men at
the Residency. Choose ye between Boonda Broke,
the mongrel, and Pango Dooni, the great hillsman.
If ye choose Boonda Broke, then shall your city be
levelled to the sea, and ye shall lose your name as
a people. Choose!”
One or two voices cried out; then
from the people, and presently from the whole dark
battalions, came the cry: “Long live Pango
Pango Dooni rode down with Tang-a-Dahit
and Cushnan Di. He bade all but five hundred
mounted men to lay down their arms. Then he put
over them a guard of near a hundred of his own horsemen.
Gathering the men from the rampart he did the same
with these, reserving only one hundred to remain upon
the walls under guard of ten hillsmen. Then, taking
his own six hundred men and five hundred of the Dakoon’s
horsemen, he bade the gates to be opened, and with
Cushnan Di marched out upon the town, leaving
Tanga-Dahit and Cumner’s Son in command at the
At least four thousand besiegers lay
before the walls, and, far beyond, they could see
the attack upon the Residency.
The gates of the Palace closed on
the last of Pango Dooni’s men, and with a wild
cry they rode like a monstrous wave upon the rebel
mob. There was no preparation to resist the onset.
The rush was like a storm out of the tropics, and
dread of Pango Dooni’s name alone was as death
The hillsmen clove the besiegers through
like a piece of pasteboard, and turning, rode back
again through the broken ranks, their battle-call
ringing high above the clash of steel. Again they
turned at the Palace wall, and, gathering impetus,
they rode at the detached and battered segments of
the miserable horde, and once more cut them down, then
furiously galloped towards the Residency.
They could hear one gun firing intermittently,
and the roars of Boonda Broke’s men. They
did not call or cry till within a few hundred yards
of the Residency Square. Then their battle-call
broke forth, and Boonda Broke turned to see seven
hundred bearing down on his ten thousand, the black
flag with the yellow sunburst over them.
Cumner, the Governor, and McDermot
heard the cry of the hillsmen, too, and took heart.
Boonda Broke tried to divide his force,
so that half of them should face the hillsmen, and
half the Residency; but there was not time enough;
and his men fought as they were attacked, those in
front against Pango Dooni, those behind against Cumner.
The hillsmen rode upon the frenzied rebels, and were
swallowed up by the great mass of them, so that they
seemed lost. But slowly, heavily, and with ferocious
hatred, they drove their hard path on. A head
and shoulders dropped out of sight here and there;
but the hillsmen were not counting their losses that
day, and when Pango Dooni at last came near to Boonda
Broke the men he had lost seemed found again, for
it was like water to the thirsty the sight of this
But suddenly there was a rush from
the Residency Square, and thirty men, under the command
of Cumner, rode in with sabres drawn.
There was a sudden swaying movement
of the shrieking mass between Boonda Broke and Pango
Dooni, and in the confusion and displacement Boonda
Broke had disappeared.
Panic and flight came after, and the
hillsmen and the little garrison were masters of the
“I have paid the debt of the
mare,” said Pango Dooni, laughing.
“No debt is paid till I see
the face of my son,” answered Cumner anxiously.
Pango Dooni pointed with his sword.
“In the Palace yard,” said he.
“In the Palace yard, alive?”
asked Cumner. Pango Dooni smiled. “Let
us go and see.”
Cumner wiped the sweat and dust and
blood from his face, and turned to McDermot.
“Was I right when I sent the
lad?” said he proudly. “The women
and children are safe.”
VI. Concerning the
daughter of Cushnan Di The British
flag flew half-mast from the Palace dome, and two others
flew behind it; one the black and yellow banner of
the hillsmen, the other the red and white pennant
of the dead Dakoon. In the Palace yard a thousand
men stood at attention, and at their head was Cushnan
Di with fifty hillsmen. At the Residency
another thousand men encamped, with a hundred hillsmen
and eighty English, under the command of Tang-a-Dahit
and McDermot. By the Fountain of the Sweet Waters,
which is over against the Tomb where the Dakoon should
sleep, another thousand men were patrolled, with a
hundred hillsmen, commanded by a kinsman of Pango
Dooni. Hovering near were gloomy, wistful crowds
of people, who drew close to the mystery of the House
of Death, as though the soul of a Dakoon were of more
moment than those of the thousand men who had fallen
that day. Along the line of the Bazaar ranged
another thousand men, armed only with krises, under
the command of the heir of the late Dakoon, and with
these were a hundred and fifty mounted hillsmen, watchful
and deliberate. These were also under the command
of a kinsman of Pango Dooni.
It was at this very point that the
danger lay, for the nephew of the Dakoon, Gis-yo-Bahim,
was a weak but treacherous man, ill-fitted to rule;
a coward, yet ambitious; distrusted by the people,
yet the heir to the throne. Cumner and Pango
Dooni had placed him at this point for no other reason
than to give him his chance for a blow, if he dared
to strike it, at the most advantageous place in the
city. The furtive hangers-on, cut-throats, mendicants,
followers of Boonda Broke, and haters of the English,
lurked in the Bazaars, and Gis-yo-Bahim should
be tempted for the first and the last time. Crushed
now, he could never rise again. Pango Dooni had
carefully picked the hillsmen whom he had sent to
the Bazaar, and their captain was the most fearless
and the wariest fighter from the Neck of Baroob, save
Pango Dooni himself.
Boonda Broke was abroad still.
He had escaped from the slaughter before the Residency
and was hidden somewhere in the city. There were
yet in Mandakan ten thousand men who would follow
him that would promise the most, and Boonda Broke
would promise the doors of Heaven as a gift to the
city, and the treasures of Solomon to the people, if
it might serve his purposes. But all was quiet
save where the mourners followed their dead to the
great funeral pyres, which were set on three little
hills just outside the city. These wailed as
they passed by. The smoke of the burnt powder
had been carried away by a gentle wind, and in its
place was the pervasive perfume of the peach and cherry
trees, and the aroma of the gugan wood which was like
cut sandal in the sun after a rain. In the homes
of a few rich folk there was feasting also, for it
mattered little to them whether Boonda Broke or Pango
Dooni ruled in Mandakan, so that their wealth was
left to them. But hundreds of tinkling little
bells broke the stillness. These were carried
by brown bare-footed boys, who ran lightly up and
down the streets, calling softly: “Corn
and tears and wine for the dead!” It was the
custom for mourners to place in the hands of the dead
a bottle of tears and wine, and a seed of corn, as
it is written in the Proverbs of Dol:
“When thou journeyest into the
Shadows, take not sweetmeats with thee, but a seed
of corn and a bottle of tears and wine; that thou mayest
have a garden in the land whither thou goest.”
It was yet hardly night when the pyres
were lighted on the little hills and a warm glow was
thrown over all the city, made warmer by roseate-hued
homes and the ruddy stones and velvety dust of the
streets. At midnight the Dakoon was to be brought
to the Tomb with the Blue Dome. Now in the Palace
yard his body lay under a canopy, the flags of Mandakan
and England over his breast, twenty of his own naked
body-guard stood round, and four of his high chiefs
stood at his head and four at his feet, and little
lads ran softly past, crying: “Corn and
tears and wine for the dead!” And behind all
these again were placed the dark battalions and the
hillsmen. It went abroad through the city that
Pango Dooni and Cumner paid great homage to the dead
Dakoon, and the dread of the hillsmen grew less.
But in one house there had been no
fear, for there, by the Aqueduct of the Failing Fountain,
lived Cushnan Di, a fallen chief, and his daughter
with the body like a trailing vine; for one knew the
sorrow of dispossession and defeat and the arm of
a leader of men, and the other knew Tang-a-Dahit and
the soul that was in him.
This night, while yet there was an
hour before the body of the dead Dakoon should go
to the Tomb with the Blue Dome, the daughter of Cushnan
Di lay watching for her door to open; for she
knew what had happened in the city, and there was
one whom her spirit longed for. An old woman sat
beside her with hands clasped about her knees.
“Dost thou hear nothing?”
said a voice from the bed. “Nothing but
the stir of the mandrake trees, beloved.”
“Nay, but dost thou not hear a step?”
“Naught, child of the heaven-flowers, but a
dog’s foot in the moss.”
“Thou art sure that my father is safe?”
“The Prince is safe, angel of
the high clouds. He led the hillsmen by the secret
way into the Palace yard.” There was silence
for a moment, and then the girl’s voice said
again: “Hush! but there was a footstep I
heard a breaking twig.”
Her face lighted, and the head slightly
turned towards the door. But the body did not
stir. It lay moveless, save where the bosom rose
and fell softly, quivering under the white robe.
A great wolf-dog raised its head at the foot of the
bed and pointed its ears, looking towards the door.
The face of the girl was beautiful.
A noble peace was upon it, and the eyes were like
lamps of dusky fire, as though they held all the strength
of the nerveless body. The love burning in them
was not the love of a maid for a man, but that which
comes after, through pain and trouble and wisdom.
It was the look that lasts after death, the look shot
forward from the Hereafter upon a living face which
has looked into the great mystery, but has not passed
behind the curtains.
There was a knock upon the door, and,
in response to a summons, Tang-a-Dahit stepped inside.
A beautiful smile settled upon the girl’s face,
and her eyes brooded tenderly upon the young hillsman.
“I am here, Mami,” said he.
“Friend of my heart,” she answered.
“It is so long!”
Then he told her how, through Cumner’s
Son, he had been turned from his visit two days before,
and of the journey down, and of the fighting, and
of all that had chanced.
She smiled, and assented with her
eyes her father had told her. “My
father knows that thou dost come to me, and he is not
angry,” she said.
Then she asked him what was to be
the end of all, and he shook his head. “The
young are not taken into counsel,” he answered,
“neither I nor Cumner’s Son.”
All at once her eyes brightened as
though a current of light had been suddenly sent through
them. “Cumner’s Son,” said she “Cumner’s
Son, and thou the future of Mandakan is
all with ye; neither with Cumner, nor with Pango Dooni,
nor with Cushnan Di. To the old is given
counsel, and device, and wisdom, and holding; but
to the young is given hope, and vision, and action,
and building, and peace.”
“Cumner’s Son is without,”
said he. “May I fetch him to thee?”
She looked grave, and shrank a little, then answered
“So strong, so brave, so young!”
she said, almost under her breath, as the young man
entered. Cumner’s Son stood abashed at first
to see this angelic head, so full of light and life,
like nothing he had ever seen, and the nerveless,
moveless body, like a flower with no roots.
“Thou art brave,” said
she, “and thy heart is without fear, for thou
hast no evil in thee. Great things shall come
to thee, and to thee,” she added, turning to
Tang-a-Dahit, “but by different ways.”
Tang-a-Dahit looked at her as one
would look at the face of a saint; and his fingers,
tired yet with the swinging of the sword, stroked the
white coverlet of her couch gently and abstractedly.
Once or twice Cumner’s Son tried to speak, but
failed; and at last all he could say was: “Thou
art good thou art good!” and then
he turned and stole quietly from the room.
At midnight they carried the Dakoon
to the resting-place of his fathers. A thousand
torches gleamed from the Palace gates through the Street
of Divers Pities, and along the Path by the Bazaar
to the Tomb with the Blue Dome. A hundred hillsmen
rode before, and a hundred behind, and between were
two thousand soldiers of Mandakan on foot and fifty
of the late Dakoon’s body-guard mounted and
brilliant in scarlet and gold. Behind the gun-carriage,
which bore the body, walked the nephew of the great
Dakoon, then came a clear space, and then Pango Dooni,
and Cumner, and behind these twenty men of the artillery,
at whose head rode McDermot and Cumner’s Son.
As they passed the Path by the Bazaar
every eye among the hillsmen and among the handful
of British was alert. Suddenly a savage murmuring
among the natives in the Bazaar broke into a loud snarl,
and it seemed as if a storm was about to break; but
as suddenly, at a call from Cumner, the hillsmen,
the British, and a thousand native soldiers, faced
the Bazaar in perfect silence, their lances, swords,
and rifles in a pose of menace. The whole procession
stood still for a moment. In the pause the crowds
in the Bazaar drew back, then came a loud voice calling
on them to rescue the dead Dakoon from murderers and
infidels; and a wave of dark bodies moved forward,
but suddenly cowered before the malicious stillness
of the hillsmen and the British, and the wave retreated.
Cumner’s Son had recognised
the voice, and his eye followed its direction with
a perfect certainty. Even as he saw the figure
of Boonda Broke disguised as a native soldier the
half-breed’s arm was raised, and a kris flew
from his hands, aimed at the heart of Pango Dooni.
But as the kris flew the youth spurred his horse out
of the ranks and down upon the murderer, who sprang
back into the Bazaar. The lad fearlessly rode
straight into the Bazaar, and galloped down upon the
fugitive, who suddenly swung round to meet him with
naked kris; but, as he did so, a dog ran across his
path, tripped him up, and he half fell. Before
he could recover himself a pistol was at his head.
“March!” said the lad; and even as ten
men of the artillery rode through the crowd to rescue
their Colonel’s son, he marched the murderer
on. But a sudden frenzy possessed Boonda Broke.
He turned like lightning on the lad, and raised his
kris to throw; but a bullet was quicker, and he leaped
into the air and fell dead without a cry, the kris
dropping from his hand.
As Cumner’s Son came forth into
the path the hills men and artillery cheered him,
the native troops took it up, and it was answered by
the people in all the thoroughfare.
Pango Dooni had also seen the kris
thrown at himself, but he could not escape it, though
he half swung round. It struck him in the shoulder,
and quivered where it struck, but he drew it out and
threw it down. A hillsman bound up the wound,
and he rode on to the Tomb.
The Dakoon was placed in his gorgeous
house of death, and every man cried: “Sleep,
lord of the earth!” Then Cumner stood up in his
saddle, and cried aloud:
“To-morrow, when the sun stands
over the gold dome of the Palace, ye shall come to
hear your Dakoon speak in the hall of the Heavenly
No man knew from Cumner’s speech
who was to be Dakoon, yet every man in Mandakan said
in the quiet of his home that night:
“To-morrow Pango Dooni will
be Dakoon. We will be as the stubble of the field
before him. But Pango Dooni is a strong man.”
VII. The red plague
promised he’d bring me a basket of posies,
garland of lilies, a garland of roses,
little straw hat to set off the blue ribbons
tie up my bonnie brown hair.”
This was the song McDermot sang to
himself as he walked up the great court-yard of the
Palace, past the lattice windows, behind which the
silent women of the late Dakoon’s household still
sat, passive and grief-stricken. How knew they
what the new Dakoon would do send them
off into the hills, or kill them? McDermot was
in a famous humour, for he had just come from Pango
Dooni, the possessor of a great secret, and he had
been paid high honour. He looked round on the
court-yard complacently, and with an air of familiarity
and possession which seemed hardly justified by his
position. He noted how the lattices stirred as
he passed through this inner court-yard where few strangers
were ever allowed to pass, and he cocked his head
vaingloriously. He smiled at the lizards hanging
on the foundation stones, he paused to dip his finger
in the basin of a fountain, he eyed good-humouredly
the beggars old pensioners of the late
Dakoon seated in the shade with outstretched
hands. One of them drew his attention, a slim,
cadaverous-looking wretch who still was superior to
his fellows, and who sat apart from them, evidently
by their wish as much as by his own.
McDermot was still humming the song
to himself as he neared the group; but he stopped
short, as he heard the isolated beggar repeat after
him in English:
“He promised he’d
bring me a bunch of blue ribbons,
To tie up my bonnie
He was startled. At first he
thought it might be an Englishman in disguise, but
the brown of the beggar’s face was real, and
there was no mistaking the high narrow forehead, the
slim fingers, and the sloe-black eyes. Yet he
seemed not a native of Mandakan. McDermot was
about to ask him who he was, when there was a rattle
of horse’s hoofs, and Cumner’s Son galloped
excitedly up the court-yard.
“Captain, captain,” said
he, “the Red Plague is on the city!”
McDermot staggered back in consternation.
“No, no,” cried he, “it is not so,
“The man, the first, lies at
the entrance of the Path by the Bazaar. No one
will pass near him, and all the city goes mad with
fear. What’s to be done? What’s
to be done? Is there no help for it?” the
lad cried in despair. “I’m going
to Pango Dooni. Where is he? In the Palace?”
McDermot shook his head mournfully,
for he knew the history of this plague, the horror
of its ravages, the tribes it had destroyed.
The beggar leaned back against the
cool wall and laughed. McDermot turned on him
in his fury, and would have kicked him, but Cumner’s
Son, struck by some astute intelligence in the man’s
“What do you know of the Red Plague?”
Again the beggar laughed. “Once
I saved the city of Nangoon from the plague, but they
forgot me, and when I complained and in my anger went
mad at the door of the Palace, the Rajah drove me from
the country. That was in India, where I learned
to speak English; and here am I at the door of a Palace
“Can you save the city from
the plague?” asked Cumner’s Son, coming
closer and eagerly questioning. “Is the
man dead?” asked the beggar.
“Not when I saw him he had just been
“Good. The city may be
saved if ” he looked at Cumner’s
Son, “if thou wilt save him with me. If
he be healed there is no danger; it is the odour of
death from the Red Plague which carries death abroad.”
“Why do you ask this?”
asked McDermot, nodding towards Cumner’s Son.
The beggar shrugged his shoulders.
“That he may not do with me as did the Rajah
“He is not Dakoon,” said McDermot.
“Will the young man promise me?”
“Promise what?” asked Cumner’s Son.
“A mat to pray on, a house,
a servant, and a loaf of bread, a bowl of goat’s
milk, and a silver najil every day till I die.”
“I am not Dakoon,” said
the lad, “but I promise for the Dakoon he
will do this thing to save the city.”
“And if thou shouldst break thy promise?”
“I keep my promises,” said the lad stoutly.
“But if not, wilt thou give thy life to redeem
The beggar laughed again and rose. “Come,”
“Don’t go it’s
absurd!” said McDermot, laying a hand on the
young man’s arm. “The plague cannot
“Yes, I will go,” answered
Cumner’s Son. “I believe he speaks
the truth. Go you to Pango Dooni and tell him
He spurred his horse and trotted away,
the beggar running beside him. They passed out
of the court-yard, and through the Gate by the Fountain
of Sweet Waters.
They had not gone far when they saw
Cumner, the Governor, and six men of the artillery
riding towards them. The Governor stopped, and
asked him where he was going.
The young man told him all.
The Colonel turned pale. “You
would do this thing!” said he dumfounded.
“Suppose this rascal,” nodding towards
the beggar, “speaks the truth; and suppose that,
after all, the sick man should die and ”
“Then the lad and myself would
be the first to follow him,” interrupted the
beggar, “and all the multitude would come after,
from the babe on the mat to the old man by the Palace
gates. But if the sick man lives ”
The Governor looked at his son partly
in admiration, partly in pain, and maybe a little
“Is there no one else? I tell you I ”
“There is no one else; the lad
or death for the city! I can believe the young;
the old have deceived me,” interposed the beggar
“Time passes,” said Cumner’s
Son anxiously. “The man may die. You
say yes to my going, sir?” he asked his father.
The Governor frowned, and the skin
of his cheeks tightened.
“Go-go, and good luck to you,
boy.” He made as if to ride on, but stopped
short, flung out his hand, and grasped the hand of
his son. “God be with you, lad,”
said he; then his jaws closed tightly, and he rode
on. It was easier for the lad than for him.
When he told the story to Pango Dooni
the chief was silent for a moment; then he said:
“Until we know whether it be
death or life, whether Cumner’s Son save the
city or lose his life for its sake, we will not call
the people together in the Hall of the Heavenly Hours.
I will send the heralds abroad, if it be thy pleasure,
At noon the hour when the
people had been bidden to cry, “Live, Prince
of the Everlasting Glory!” they were
moving restlessly, fearfully through the Bazaar and
the highways, and watching from a distance a little
white house, with blue curtains, where lay the man
who was sick with the Red Plague, and where watched
beside his bed Cumner’s Son and the beggar of
Nangoon. No one came near.
From the time the sick man had been
brought into the house, the beggar had worked with
him, giving him tinctures which he boiled with sweetmeat
called the Flower of Bambaba, while Cumner’s
Son rubbed an ointment into his body. Now and
again the young man went to the window and looked
out at the lines of people hundreds of yards away,
and the empty spaces where the only life that showed
was a gay-plumaged bird that drifted across the sunlight,
or a monkey that sat in the dust eating a nut.
All at once the awe and danger of his position fell
upon him. Imagination grew high in him in a moment that
beginning of fear and sorrow and heart-burning; yet,
too, the beginning of hope and wisdom and achievement.
For the first time in his life that knowledge overcame
him which masters us all sometimes. He had a
desire to fly the place; he felt like running from
the house, shrieking as he went. A sweat broke
out on his forehead, his lips clung to his teeth, his
mouth was dry, his breast seemed to contract, and
breathing hurt him.
“What a fool I was! What
a fool I was to come here!” he said.
He buried his head in his arms as
he leaned against the wall, and his legs trembled.
From that moment he passed from headlong, daring, lovable
youth, to manhood; understanding, fearful, conscientious,
and morally strong. Just as abject as was his
sudden fear, so triumphant was his reassertion of
“It was the only way,”
he said to himself, suddenly wresting his head from
his protecting arms. “There’s a chance
of life, anyhow, chance for all of us.”
He turned away to the sick man’s bed, to see
the beggar watching him with cold, passive eyes and
a curious, half-sneering smile. He braced himself
and met the passive, scrutinising looks firmly.
The beggar said nothing, but motioned to him to lift
the sick man upright, while he poured some tincture
down his throat, and bound the head and neck about
with saturated linen.
There came a knocking at the door.
The beggar frowned, but Cumner’s Son turned
eagerly. He had only been in this room ten hours,
but it seemed like years in which he had lived alone-alone.
But he met firmly the passive, inquisitorial eyes
of the healer of the plague, and he turned, dropped
another bar across the door, and bade the intruder
“It is I, Tang-a-Dahit.
Open!” came a loud, anxious voice.
“You may not come in.”
“I am thy brother-in-blood, and my life is thine.”
“Then keep it safe for those who prize it.
Go back to the Palace.”
“I am not needed there. My place is with
“Go, then, to the little house
by the Aqueduct.” There was silence for
a moment, and then Tang-a-Dahit said:
“Wilt thou not let me enter?”
The sudden wailing of the stricken
man drowned Tang-a-Dahit’s words, and without
a word Cumner’s Son turned again to the victim
of the Red Plague.
All day the people watched from afar,
and all day long soldiers and hillsmen drew a wide
cordon of quarantine round the house. Terror seized
the people when the sun went down, and to the watchers
the suspense grew. Ceaseless, alert, silent,
they had watched and waited, and at last the beggar
knelt with his eyes fixed on the sleeper, and did not
stir. A little way off from him stood Cumner’s
Son-patient, pale, worn, older by ten years than he
was three days before.
In the city dismay and misery ruled.
Boonda Broke and the dead Dakoon were forgotten.
The people were in the presence of a monster which
could sweep them from their homes as a hail-storm
scatters the hanging nests of wild bees. In a
thousand homes little red lights of propitiation were
shining, and the sweet boolda wood was burning at a
thousand shrines. Midnight came, then the long
lethargic hours after; then that moment when all cattle
of the field and beasts of the forest wake and stand
upon their feet, and lie down again, and the cocks
crow, and the birds flutter their wings, and all resign
themselves to sleep once more. It was in this
hour that the sick man opened his eyes and raised his
head, as though the mysterious influence of primitive
life were rousing him. He said nothing and did
nothing, but lay back and drew in a long, good breath
of air, and afterwards fell asleep.
The beggar got to his feet. “The man is
safe,” said he.
“I will go and tell them,”
said Cumner’s Son gladly, and he made as if
to open the door.
“Not till dawn,” commanded
the beggar. “Let them suffer for their sins.
We hold the knowledge of life and death in our hands.”
“But my father, and Tang-a-Dahit, and Pango
“Are they without sin?”
asked the beggar scornfully. “At dawn, only
So they sat and waited till dawn.
And when the sun was well risen, the beggar threw
wide open the door of the house, and called aloud to
the horsemen far off, and Cumner’s Son waved
with his hand; and McDermot came galloping to them.
He jumped from his horse and wrung the boy’s
hand, then that of the beggar, then talked in broken
sentences, which were spattered by the tears in his
throat. He told Cumner’s Son that his face
was as that of one who had lain in a grave, and he
called aloud in a blustering voice, and beckoned for
troopers to come. The whole line moved down on
them, horsemen and soldiers and people.
The city was saved from the Red Plague,
and the people, gone mad with joy, would have carried
Cumner’s Son to the Palace on their shoulders,
but he walked beside the beggar to his father’s
house, hillsmen in front and English soldiers behind;
and wasted and ghostly, from riding and fighting and
watching, he threw himself upon the bed in his own
room, and passed, as an eyelid blinks, into a deep
But the beggar sat down on a mat with
a loaf of bread, a bowl of goat’s milk, and
a long cigar which McDermot gave him, and he received
idly all who came, even to the sick man, who ere the
day was done was brought to the Residency, and, out
of danger and in his right mind, lay in the shade
of a banyan tree, thinking of nothing save the joy
VIII. The choosing
of the Dakoon It was noon again.
In the Hall of the Heavenly Hours all the chiefs and
great people of the land were gathered, and in the
Palace yard without were thousands of the people of
the Bazaars and the one-storied houses. The Bazaars
were almost empty, the streets deserted. Yet silken
banners of gorgeous colours flew above the pink terraces,
and the call of the silver horn of Mandakan, which
was made first when Tubal Cain was young, rang through
the long vacant avenues. A few hundred native
troops and a handful of hillsmen rode up and down,
and at the Residency fifty men kept guard under command
of Sergeant Doolan of the artillery his
superior officers and the rest of his comrades were
at the Palace.
In the shade of a banyan tree sat
the recovered victim of the Red Plague and the beggar
of Nangoon, playing a game of chuck-farthing, taught
them by Sergeant Doolan, a bowl of milk and a calabash
of rice beside them, and cigarettes in their mouths.
The beggar had a new turban and robe, and he sat on
a mat which came from the Palace.
He had gone to the Palace that morning
as Colonel Cumner had commanded, that he might receive
the thanks of the Dakoon for the people of Mandakan;
but he had tired of the great place, and had come back
to play at chuck-farthing. Already he had won
everything the other possessed, and was now playing
for his dinner. He was still chuckling over his
victory when an orderly and two troopers arrived with
a riderless horse, bearing the command of Colonel
Cumner for the beggar to appear at once at the Palace.
The beggar looked doubtfully at the orderly a moment,
then rose with an air of lassitude and languidly mounted
the horse. Before he had got half-way to the
Palace he suddenly slid from the horse and said:
“Why should I go? The son
of the great Cumner promised for the Dakoon.
He tells the truth. Light of my soul, but truth
is the greatest of all! I go to play chuck-farthing.”
So saying, he turned and ran lazily
back to the Residency and sat down beneath the banyan
tree. The orderly had no commands to bring him
by force, so he returned to the Palace, and entered
it as the English Governor was ending his speech to
the people. “We were in danger,”
said Cumner, “and the exalted chief, Pango Dooni,
came to save us. He shielded us from evil and
death and the dagger of the mongrel chief, Boonda
Broke. Children of heavenly Mandakan, Pango Dooni
has lived at variance with us, but now he is our friend.
A strong man should rule in the Palace of Mandakan
as my brother and the friend of my people. I
speak for Pango Dooni. For whom do you speak?”
As he had said, so said all the people
in the Hall of the Heavenly Hours, and it was taken
up with shouts by the people in the Palace yard.
Pango Dooni should be Dakoon!
Pango Dooni came forward and said:
“If as ye say I have saved ye, then will ye
do after my desire, if it be right. I am too long
at variance with this Palace to sit comfortably here.
Sometime, out of my bitter memories, I should smite
ye. Nay, let the young, who have no wrongs to
satisfy, let the young who have dreams and visions
and hopes, rule; not the old lion of the hills, who
loves too well himself and his rugged ease of body
and soul. But if ye owe me any debt, and if ye
mean me thanks, then will ye make my son Dakoon.
For he is braver than I, and between ye there is no
feud. Then will I be your friend, and because
my son shall be Dakoon I will harry ye no more, but
bide in my hills, free and friendly, and ready with
sword and lance to stand by the faith and fealty that
I promise. If this be your will, and the will
of the great Cumner, speak.”
Cumner bowed his head in assent, and
the people called in a loud voice for Tang-a-Dahit.
The young man stepped forth, and baring his head,
“It is meet that the race be
to the swift, to those who have proven their faith
and their swords; who have the gift for ruling, and
the talent of the sword to sustain it. For me,
if ye will hear me, I will go another way. I
will not rule. My father hath passed on this honour
to me, but I yield it up to one who hath saved ye
from a double death, even to the great Cumner’s
Son. He rode, as ye know, through peril to Pango
Dooni, bearing the call for help, and he hath helped
to save the whole land from the Red Plague. But
for him Mandakan would be only a place of graves.
Speak, children of heavenly Mandakan, whom will ye
choose?” When Cumner’s Son stood forth
he was pale and astounded before the cries of greeting
that were carried out through the Palace yard, through
the highways, and even to the banyan tree where sat
the beggar of Nangoon.
“I have done nothing, I have
done nothing,” said he sincerely. “It
was Pango Dooni, it was the beggar of Nangoon.
I am not fit to rule.”
He turned to his father, but saw no
help in his eyes for refusal. The lad read the
whole story of his father’s face, and he turned
again to the people.
“If ye will have it so, then,
by the grace of God, I will do right by this our land,”
A half-hour later he stood before
them, wearing the costly robe of yellow feathers and
gold and perfect silk of the Dakoon of Mandakan.
“The beggar of Nangoon who saved
our city, bid him come near,” he said; but the
orderly stepped forward and told his story of how the
beggar had returned to his banyan tree.
“Then tell the beggar of Nangoon,”
said he, “that if he will not visit me, I will
visit him; and all that I promised for the Dakoon of
Mandakan I will fulfil. Let Cushnan Di stand
forth,” he added, and the old man came near.
“The city which was yours is yours, again, and
all that was taken from it shall be restored,”
Then he called him by his real name,
and the people were amazed.
Cushnan Di, as he had been known to them, said
“If my Lord will give me place
near him as general of his armies and keeper of the
gates, I will not ask that my city be restored, and
I will live near to the Palace ”
“Nay, but in the Palace,”
interrupted Cumner’s Son, “and thy daughter
also, who hath the wisdom of heaven, that there be
always truth shining in these high places.”
An hour later the Dakoon passed through
the Path by the Bazaar.
“Whither goes the Dakoon?”
asked a native chief of McDermot.
“To visit a dirty beggar in
the Residency Square, and afterwards to the little
house of Cushnan Di,” was the reply.
IX. The prophet of peace
The years went by.
In the cool of a summer evening a
long procession of people passed through the avenues
of blossoming peach and cherry trees in Mandakan,
singing a high chant or song. It was sacred, yet
it was not solemn; peaceful, yet not sombre; rather
gentle, aspiring, and clear. The people were
not of the city alone, but they had been gathered from
all parts of the land many thousands, who
were now come on a pilgrimage to Mandakan.
At the head of the procession was
a tall, lithe figure, whose face shone, and whose
look was at once that of authority and love. Three
years’ labour had given him these followers and
many others. His dreams were coming true.
“Fighting, fighting, naught
but fighting for honour and glory and homes and kine,
but naught for love, and naught that there may be
peace.” This was no longer true; for
the sword of the young Dakoon was ever lifted for
love and for peace.
The great procession stopped near
a little house by the Aqueduct of the Failing Fountain,
and spread round it, and the leader stepped forward
to the door of the little house and entered.
A silence fell upon the crowd, for they were to look
upon the face of a dying girl, who chose to dwell
in her little home rather than in a palace.
She was carried forth on a litter,
and set down, and the long procession passed by her
as she lay. She smiled at all an ineffable smile
of peace, and her eyes had in them the light of a
good day drawing to its close. Only once did
she speak, and that was when all had passed, and a
fine troop of horsemen came riding up.
This was the Dakoon of Mandakan and
his retinue. When he dismounted and came to her,
and bent over her, he said something in a low tone
for her ear alone, and she smiled at him, and whispered
the one word “Peace!”
Then the Dakoon, who once was known
only as Cumner’s Son, turned and embraced the
prophet Sandoni, as he was now called, though once
he had been called Tang-a-Dahit the hillsman.
“What message shall I bear thy
father?” asked the Dakoon, after they had talked
Sandoni told him, and then the Dakoon said:
“Thy father and mine, who are
gone to settle a wild tribe of the hills in a peaceful
city, send thee a message.” And he held
up his arm, where a bracelet shone.
The Prophet read thereon the Sacred
Countersign of the hillsmen.