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The Strand Magazine, Volume V, Issue 25, January 1893 An Illustrated Monthly   By:

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THE

STRAND MAGAZINE

An Illustrated Monthly

EDITED BY

GEORGE NEWNES

Vol. V.

JANUARY TO JUNE

London :

GEORGE NEWNES, LTD., 8, 9, 10, & 11, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, AND EXETER STREET, STRAND.

1893.

THE

STRAND MAGAZINE

An Illustrated Monthly

Vol. 5, Issue. 25.

January 1893

[Illustration: "WE SWEAR!"

( Margarita, the Bond Queen of the Wandering Dhahs. )]

Shafts from an Eastern Quiver.

VII MARGARITA, THE BOND QUEEN OF THE WANDERING DHAHS.

BY CHARLES J. MANSFORD, B. A.

I.

"The Cingalese declare that the Queen of the Dhahs is a Sahibmem," said Hassan meaning by this expression an Englishwoman.

"I don't think that can be true," responded Denviers; "it is hardly possible that any civilized human being would care to reign over such a queer race as those just described appear to be "

"The Englishman is wrong in what he says," interrupted an indolent looking native, "for I once saw her myself!"

"You!" I exclaimed, "then tell us what you know about this queen." The native was, however, by no means disposed to conversation, or indeed to do anything that disturbed his serenity.

From Southern India we had crossed over to Ceylon, and after a somewhat prolonged stay at Colombo, struck into the interior of the island. We visited Kandi, and having travelled for some days in the hilly district which surrounds it, arrived at the palm covered hut of a Cingalese labourer, where, in spite of his protests, we stayed for a day to rest ourselves. Round the stems of the palms about us we saw, high up, that dead brushwood had been placed, by the rustling of which at night our unwilling host could tell if his few neighbours contemplated robbing him of the fruits of his toil. The only work, however, which he seemed to do was to stand at the door of his hut and gaze vacantly at the plantation of palm trees which he owned, and to shake his head usually in the negative whenever we attempted to entice him into a conversation.

"Well," said Denviers, looking with annoyance at our host, "if this Cingalese is too idle to tell us the full facts, I suppose we had better find them out for ourselves." Then turning to the man he asked:

"How far is the district over which these strange Dhahs are said to wander?" The native pointed slowly to the north and then answered:

[Illustration: "THE NATIVE POINTED TO THE NORTH."]

"The Dhahs were wandering afar in the forest when last I saw them, which was fully a day's journey from here, but the sun was hot and I grew tired." His remark certainly did not convey much information to us, but before an hour had elapsed we set out, guided only by the forest, which could be seen far away in the distance. Hour after hour passed until at last evening came, and even then we were only entering upon the fringe of the great forest which rose before us, and seemed to shut out the sky as we wandered into the thickness of the undergrowth and gazed up at the lofty tops of the trees which bent each other's branches as they interlaced one with another.

We stopped at last to rest and to refresh ourselves, after which we reclined upon the ground, facing a wide clearing in the forest, where we laid talking idly for some time, until the voice of Hassan warned us that someone was approaching. We listened attentively for a minute, but no sound could be heard by us save that of the fluttering of the wings of some bird among the branches above.

"You heard nothing, Hassan," said Denviers, "or else you mistook the rustling above for someone wandering in the forest glade." The Arab turned to my companion and then responded:

"Hassan has long been accustomed to distinguish different sounds from a distance, the one which was heard a minute ago was caused by a human foot." He pointed to a tangled clump a little to the right of us, as he continued:

"Listen, sahibs, for the sound of footsteps is surely drawing near... Continue reading book >>


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