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Told in the East   By: (1879-1940)

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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 heat.

"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... Continue reading book >>

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