By Talbot Mundy

[[Original Book edition published by Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1920.

Source of the following edition is the omnibus "Romances of India" which

was a reprint of three of Talbot Mundy's novels.]]

Romances of India

By Talbot Mundy - King of the Khyber Rifles

- Guns of the Gods

- Told in the East


Hookum Hai.............1 For The Salt Which He Had Eaten............129

Machassan Ah............235




A Blood-red sun rested its huge disk upon a low mud wall that crested

a rise to westward, and flattened at the bottom from its own weight

apparently. A dozen dried-out false-acacia-trees shivered as the

faintest puff in all the world of stifling wind moved through them; and

a hundred thousand tiny squirrels kept up their aimless scampering in

search of food that was not there.

A coppersmith was about the only living thing that seemed to care

whether the sun went down or not. He seemed in a hurry to get a job

done, and his reiterated "Bong-bong-bong!"--that had never ceased since

sunrise, and had driven nearly mad the few humans who were there to hear

it--quickened and grew louder. At last Brown came out of a square mud

house, to see about the sunset.

He was nobody but plain Bill Brown--or Sergeant William Brown, to give

him his full name and entitlements--and the price of him was two rupees

per day.

He stared straight at the dull red disk of the sun, and spat with

eloquence. Then he wiped the sweat from his forehead, and scratched a

place where the prickly heat was bothering him. Next, he buttoned up

his tunic, and brushed it down neatly and precisely. There was official

business to be done, and a man did that with due formality, heat or no


"Guard, turn out!" he ordered.

Twelve men filed out, one behind the other, from the hut that he had

left. They seemed to feel the heat more than Brown did, as they fell in

line before Brown's sword. There was no flag, and no flag-pole in that

nameless health-resort, so the sword, without its scabbard, was doing

duty, point downward in the ground, as a totem-pole of Empire. Brown had

stuck it there, like Boanerges' boots, and there it stayed from sunrise

until sunset, to be displaced by whoever dared to do it, at his peril.

They had no clock. They had nothing, except the uniforms and arms of

the Honorable East India Company, as issued in this year of Our

Lord, 1857--a cooking-pot or two, a kettle, a little money and a

butcher-knife. Their supper bleated miserably some twenty yards away,

tied to a tree, and a lean. Punjabi squatted near it in readiness to buy

the skin. It was a big goat, but it was mangy, so he held only two annas

in his hand. The other anna (in case that Brown should prove adamant)

was twisted in the folds of his pugree, but he was prepared to perjure

himself a dozen times, and take the names of all his female ancestors in

vain, before he produced it.

The sun flattened a little more at the bottom, and began to move

quickly, as it does in India--anxious apparently to get away from the

day's ill deeds.

"Shoulder umms!" commanded Brown. "General salute! Present-umms!"

The red sun slid below the sky-line, and the night was on them, as

though somebody had shut the lid. Brown stepped to the sword, jerked it

out of the ground and returned it to his scabbard in three motions.

"Shoulder-umms! Order-umms! Dismiss!" The men filed back into the hut

again, disconsolately, without swearing and without mirth. They had

put the sun to bed with proper military decency. They would have seen

humor--perhaps--or an excuse for blasphemy in the omission of such a

detail, but it was much too hot to swear at the execution of it.

Besides, Brown was a strange individual who detested swearing, and it

was a very useful thing, and wise, to humor him. He had a way of his

own, and usually got it.

Brown posted a sentry at the hut-door, and another at the crossroads

which he was to guard, then went round behind the but to bargain with

the goatskin-merchant. But he stopped before he reached the tree.

"Boy!" he called, and a low-caste native servant came toward him at a


"Is that fakir there still?"

"Ha, sahib!"

"Ha? Can't you learn to say 'yes,' like a human being?"

"Yes, sahib!"

"All right. I'm going to have a talk with him. Kill the goat, and tell

the Punjabi to wait, if he wants to buy the skin."

"Ha, sahib!"

Brown spun round on his heel, and the servant wilted.

"Yes, sahib!" he corrected.

Brown left him then, with a nod that conveyed remission of cardinal sin,

and a warning not to repeat the offence. As the native ran off to get

the butcher-knife and sharpen it, it was noticeable that he wore a

chastened look.

"Send Sidiki after me!" Brown shouted after him, and a minute later a

nearly naked Beluchi struck a match and emerged from the darkness, with

the light of a lantern gleaming on his skin. He followed like a snake,

and only Brown's sharp, authority-conveying footfalls could be heard as

he trudged sturdily--straight-backed, eyes straight in front of him--to

where an age-old baobab loomed like a phantom in the night. He marched

like a man in armor. Not even the terrific heat of a Central-Indian

night could take the stiffening out of him.

The Beluchi ran ahead, just before they reached the tree. He stopped and

held the lantern up to let its light fall on some object that was close

against the tree-trunk. At a good ten-pace distance from the object

Brown stopped and stared. The lamplight fell on two little dots that

gleamed. Brown stepped two paces nearer. Two deadly, malicious human

eyes blinked once, and then stared back at him.

"Does he never sleep?" asked Brown.

The Beluchi said something or other in a language that was full of harsh

hard gutturals, and the owner of the eyes chuckled. His voice seemed

to be coming from the tree itself, and there was nothing of him visible

except the cruel keen eyes that had not blinked once since Brown drew



"Sahib, he does not answer."

"Tell him I'm tired of his not answering. Tell him that if he can't

learn to give a civil answer to a civilly put question I'll exercise my

authority on him!"

The Beluchi translated, or pretended to. Brown was not sure which, for

he was rewarded with nothing but another chuckle, which sounded like

water gurgling down a drain.

"Does he still say nothing?"

"Absolutely nothing, sahib."

Brown stepped up closer yet, and peered into the blackness, looking

straight into the eyes that glared at him, and from them down at the

body of the owner of them. The Beluchi shrank away.

"Have a care, sahib! It is dangerous! This very holy--most holy--most

religious man!"

"Bring that lantern back."

"He will curse you, sahib!"

"Do you hear me?"

The Beluchi came nearer again, trembling with fright. Brown snatched the

lamp away from him, and pushed it forward toward the fakir, moving it

up and down to get a view of the whole of him. There was nothing that

he saw that would reassure or comfort or please a devil even. It was

ultradevilish; both by design and accident--conceived and calculated

ghastliness, peculiar to India. Brown shuddered as he looked, and it

took more than the merely horrible to make him betray emotion.

"What god do you say he worships?"

"Sahib, I know not. I am a Mussulman. These Hindus worship many gods."

The fakir chuckled again, and Brown held the lantern yet nearer to him

to get a better view. The fakir's skin was not oily, and for all the

blanket-heat it did not glisten, so his form was barely outlined against

the blackness that was all but tangible behind him.

Brown spat again, as he drew away a step. He could contrive to express

more disgust and more grim determination in that one rudimentary act

than even a Stamboul Softa can.

"So he's holy, is he?"

"Very, very holy, sahib!"

Again the fakir chuckled, and again Brown held his breath and pushed the

lantern closer to him.

"I believe the brute understands the Queen's English!"

"He understanding all things, sahib! He knowing all things what will

happen! Mind, sahib! He may curse you!"

But Brown appeared indifferent to the danger that he ran. To the fakir's

unconcealed discomfort, he proceeded to examine him minutely, going over

him with the aid of the lantern inch by inch, from the toe-nails upward.

"Well," he commented aloud, "if the army's got an opposite, here's it!

I'd give a month's pay for the privilege of washing this brute, just as

a beginning!"

The man's toe-nails--for he really was a man!--were at least two inches

long. They were twisted spirally, and some of them were curled back on

themselves into disgusting-looking knots. What walking he had ever done

had been on his heels. His feet were bent upward, and fixed upward, by a

deliberately cultivated cramp.

His legs, twisted one above the other in a squatting attitude, were lean

and hairy, and covered with open sores which were kept open by the swarm

of insects that infested him. His loin-cloth was rotting from him. His

emaciated body--powdered and smeared with ashes and dust and worse--was

perched bolt-up-right on a flat earth dais that had once on a time been

the throne of a crossroads idol. One arm, his right one, hung by

his side in an almost normal attitude, and his right fingers moved

incessantly like a man's who is kneading clay. But his other arm was

rigid--straight up in the air above his head; set, fixed, cramped,

paralyzed in that position, with the fist clenched. And through the back

of the closed fist the fakir's nails were growing.

But, worse than the horror of the arm was the creature's face, with

the evidence of torture on it, and fiendish delight in torture for the

torture's sake. His eyes were his only organs that really lived still,

and they expressed the steely hate and cruelty, the mad fanaticism,

the greedy self-love--self-immolating for the sake of self--that is the

thoroughgoing fakir's stock in trade. And his lips were like the

graven lips of a Hindu temple god, self-satisfied, self-worshiping,

contemptuous and cruel. He chuckled again, as Brown finished his


"So that crittur's holy, is he? Well, tell him that I'm set here to

watch these crossroads. Tell him I'm supposed to question every one who

comes, and find out what his business is, and arrest him if he can't

give a proper account of himself. Say he's been here three days now, and

that that's long enough for any one to find his tongue in. Tell him if I

don't get an answer from him here and now I'll put him in the clink!"

"But, sahib--"

"You tell him what I say, d'you hear?"

The Beluchi made haste to translate, trembling as he spoke, and wilting

visibly when the baleful eyes of the fakir rested on him for a second.

The fakir answered something in a guttural undertone.

"What does he say?"

"That he will curse you, sahib!"

"Sentry!" shouted Brown.

"Sir!" came the ready answer, and the sling-swivels of a rifle clicked

as the man on guard at the crossroads shouldered it. There are some men

who are called "sir" without any title to it, just as there are some

sergeants who receive a colonel's share of deference when out on a

non-commissioned officer's command. Bill Brown was one of them.

"Come here, will you!"

There came the sound of heavy footfalls, and a thud as a rifle-butt

descended to the earth again. Brown moved the lamp, and its beams fell

on a rifleman who stood close beside him at attention--like a jinnee

formed suddenly from empty blackness.

"Arrest this fakir. Cram him in the clink."

"Very good, sir!"

The sentry took one step forward, with his fixed bayonet at the

"charge," and the fakir sat still and eyed him.

"Oh, have a care, sahib!" wailed the Beluchi. "This is very holy man!"

"Silence!" ordered Brown. "Here. Hold the lamp."

The bayonet-point pressed against the fakir's ribs, and he drew back an

inch or two to get away from it. He was evidently able to feel pain when

it was inflicted by any other than himself.

"Come on," growled the sentry. "Forward. Quick march. If you don't want

two inches in you!"

"Don't use the point!" commanded Brown. "You might do him an injury.

Treat him to a sample of the butt!"

The sentry swung his rifle round with an under-handed motion that all

riflemen used to practise in the short-range-rifle days. The fakir

winced, and gabbled something in a hurry to the man who held the lamp.

"He says that he will speak, sahib!"

"Halt, then," commanded Brown. "Order arms. Tell him to hurry up!"

The Beluchi translated, and the fakir answered him, in a voice that

sounded hard and distant and emotionless.

"He says that he, too, is here to watch the crossroads, sahib! He says

that he will curse you if you touch him!"

"Tell him to curse away!"

"He says not unless you touch him, sahib."

"Prog him off his perch!" commanded Brown.

The rifle leaped up at the word, and its butt landed neatly on the

fakir's ribs, sending him reeling backward off his balance, but not

upsetting him completely. He recovered his poise with quite astonishing

activity, and shuffled himself back again to the center of the dais. His

eyes blazed with hate and indignation, and his breath came now in sharp

gasps that sounded like escaping steam. He needed no further invitation

to commence his cursing. It burst out with a rush, and paused for better

effect, and burst out again in a torrent. The Beluchi hid his face

between his hands.

"Now translate that!" commanded Brown, when the fakir stopped for lack

of breath.

"Sahib, I dare not! Sahib--"

Brown took a threatening step toward him, and the Beluchi changed his

mind. Brown's disciplining methods were a too recently encountered fact

to be outdone by a fakir's promise of any kind of not-yet-met damnation.

"Sahib, he says that because your man has touched him, both you and

your man shall lie within a week helpless upon an anthill, still living,

while the ants run in and out among your wounds. He says that the ants

shall eat your eyes, sahib, and that you shall cry for water, and there

shall be no water within reach--only the sound of water just beyond you.

He says that first you shall be beaten, both of you, until your backs

  • aimless [´eimlis] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.没有目标;无目的的   (初中英语单词)
  • driven [´driv(ə)n] 移动到这儿单词发声  drive 的过去分词   (初中英语单词)
  • forehead [´fɔrid] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.额,前部   (初中英语单词)
  • sunset [´sʌnset] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.日落;晚霞   (初中英语单词)
  • kettle [´ketl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.水壶   (初中英语单词)
  • female [´fi:meil] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.女(性)的 n.女人   (初中英语单词)
  • bargain [´bɑ:gin] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.买卖合同 v.议(价)   (初中英语单词)
  • deadly [´dedli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.致命的 ad.死一般地   (初中英语单词)
  • fright [frait] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.惊吓;恐怖;怪人   (初中英语单词)
  • peculiar [pi´kju:liə] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.特有的;奇异的   (初中英语单词)
  • horrible [´hɔrəbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.可怕的;恐怖的   (初中英语单词)
  • betray [bi´trei] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.背叛;辜负;暴露   (初中英语单词)
  • worship [´wə:ʃip] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&v.崇拜;敬仰   (初中英语单词)
  • barely [´beəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.公开地;仅仅   (初中英语单词)
  • disgust [dis´gʌst] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.厌恶 vt.令(人)作呕   (初中英语单词)
  • breath [breθ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.呼吸;气息   (初中英语单词)
  • knowing [´nəuiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.会意的,心照不宣的   (初中英语单词)
  • privilege [´privilidʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.特权 vt.给….特权   (初中英语单词)
  • upward [´ʌpwəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.&ad.向上(的);以上   (初中英语单词)
  • normal [´nɔ:məl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.正规的 n.正常状态   (初中英语单词)
  • horror [´hɔrə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.恐怖;战栗   (初中英语单词)
  • torture [´tɔ:tʃə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vt.折磨;痛苦;拷问   (初中英语单词)
  • greedy [´gri:di] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.贪婪的;馋的   (初中英语单词)
  • temple [´tempəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.庙宇;寺院;太阳穴   (初中英语单词)
  • supposed [sə´pəuzd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.想象的;假定的   (初中英语单词)
  • arrest [ə´rest] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.逮捕 n.逮捕;停止   (初中英语单词)
  • account [ə´kaunt] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.说明 vt.认为 n.帐目   (初中英语单词)
  • evidently [´evidəntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.明显地   (初中英语单词)
  • sample [´sæmpl, ´sɑ:mpəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.样品;试样 vt.尝试   (初中英语单词)
  • practise [´præktis] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.实践(行,施);提倡   (初中英语单词)
  • backward [´bækwəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.向后 a.向后的   (初中英语单词)
  • commence [kə´mens] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.&vi.开始   (初中英语单词)
  • helpless [´helpləs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.无助的,无依靠的   (初中英语单词)
  • beaten [´bi:tn] 移动到这儿单词发声  beat 的过去分词   (初中英语单词)
  • edition [i´diʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.版本;很相似的   (高中英语单词)
  • westward [´westwəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.向西的 n.西方;西部   (高中英语单词)
  • sergeant [´sɑ:dʒənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.警官;军士   (高中英语单词)
  • precisely [pri´saisli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.精确地;刻板地   (高中英语单词)
  • downward [´daunwəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.下降的,向下的   (高中英语单词)
  • whoever [hu:´evə] 移动到这儿单词发声  pron.任何人,无论谁   (高中英语单词)
  • apparently [ə´pærəntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.显然,表面上地   (高中英语单词)
  • execution [,eksi´kju:ʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.执行;演奏;表演   (高中英语单词)
  • cardinal [´kɑ:dinəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.主要的 n.深红色   (高中英语单词)
  • sharpen [´ʃɑ:pən] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.削尖,(使)锐利   (高中英语单词)
  • lantern [´læntən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.灯笼;提灯   (高中英语单词)
  • terrific [tə´rifik] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.可怕的;极大的   (高中英语单词)
  • chuckle [´tʃʌkl] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.&n.轻声笑;暗自笑   (高中英语单词)
  • reassure [,ri:ə´ʃuə] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.使放心   (高中英语单词)
  • glisten [´glisən] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.&n.闪烁,闪闪发光   (高中英语单词)
  • contrive [kən´traiv] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.发明;设计;图谋   (高中英语单词)
  • determination [di,tə:mi´neiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.决心;决定   (高中英语单词)
  • indifferent [in´difrənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不关心的;中立的   (高中英语单词)
  • throne [θrəun] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.宝座;王位   (高中英语单词)
  • cruelty [´kru:əlti] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.残忍;残酷行为   (高中英语单词)
  • translate [trænz´leit, træns-] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.翻译;解释;说明   (高中英语单词)
  • motion [´məuʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.手势 vt.打手势   (高中英语单词)
  • indignation [,indig´neiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.愤慨;气愤   (高中英语单词)
  • torrent [´tɔrənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.奔流,激流,洪流;迸发   (高中英语单词)
  • formality [fɔ:´mæliti] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.形式;礼仪;拘谨   (英语四级单词)
  • readiness [´redinis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.准备就绪;愿意   (英语四级单词)
  • warning [´wɔ:niŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.警告;前兆 a.预告的   (英语四级单词)
  • noticeable [´nəutisəbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.显著的;值得注意的   (英语四级单词)
  • blackness [´blæknis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.黑色;阴险   (英语四级单词)
  • bayonet [´beiənit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.刺刀 vt.用刺刀刺   (英语四级单词)
  • miserably [´mizərəbli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.悲惨地;糟糕地   (英语六级单词)
  • decency [´di:sənsi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.正派;体面   (英语六级单词)
  • blasphemy [´blæsfimi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.亵渎;辱骂   (英语六级单词)
  • omission [əu´miʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.省略;遗漏;失职   (英语六级单词)
  • sentry [´sentri] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.哨兵 v.站岗,放哨   (英语六级单词)
  • phantom [´fæntəm] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.幽灵;幻影 a.幻想的   (英语六级单词)
  • malicious [mə´liʃəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.恶意的;预谋的   (英语六级单词)
  • shrank [ʃræŋk] 移动到这儿单词发声  shrink的过去式   (英语六级单词)
  • discomfort [dis´kʌmfət] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.不适;不安;困难   (英语六级单词)
  • cultivated [´kʌltiveitid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.在耕作的;有教养的   (英语六级单词)

  • 上传人 欢乐鱼 分享于 2017-06-26 17:09:51
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