Help via Ko-Fi


by Gordon McCreagh
Author of "Featuring Morton St. Clair" "The Brass Idol," etc.

"Oh, the East is East, and the West is West, and never the twain shall meet."

SIXTY-WAN—sebenty-three. Renshawe Sahib to play," sang out the Madrass marker with soulless monotony, and pushed the little ivory pointer along the scoreboard with the end of the cue-rest.

It was one of the four-handed games so popular in the Planters' Club of Darjiling. Renshawe's partner whooped and praised his maker aloud.

"Oh, Billy!" he yelled. "Look at your position. Our enemy is delivered bound into our hands. Here's the beginning of a twenty break, even for you."

Renshawe tore himself with visible reluctance from his occupation of gazing abstractedly out of the window across the intervening ranges and valleys at the tremendous snow-peaks of the Himalayas, and building dream-castles. Born in the shadow of the great range, where his earliest impressions had been built around the wonderful legends of the hill-people about that mysterious unexplored region, the silent beauty of the everlasting snow-caps had always drawn him with an indefinable desire to go look-see.

He came forward and looked at the lay; then he waved aside the proffered cue-rest and bent over on his toes. He was not tall—only five feet eight—and his great breadth of shoulder made him look even shorter.

"Easy now, with a good follow, and re- member you're against the nap," cautioned Crandall, the partner.

Renshawe bent his great shoulders over his cue, grunted an uncompromising "Huh!" of acknowledgment, and carefully followed his instructions.

Then Crandall took the name of the Lord in vain with fluency and point. He further improvised several variations while he strode around the table and tore his hair.

Renshawe smiled cheerfully and said nothing. What he thought nobody could tell.

Nobody ever could tell what Renshawe thought. His face, which wore a habitual smile of cheerful indifference to whatever fate the world might hold in store for him, was otherwise inscrutable, and gave not the least clue to what was going on behind the mask.

What he did for a living was equally a mystery; which, in India, where everybody knows everybody else's most intimate affairs, was unprecedented. They knew, of course, that, he had been born in the country, and that he had later been sent "home" to some city which they generalized vaguely as "America" to be educated; and that later again, he had returned and wandered for the last seven years all over the Far East. But what he did, and how he earned his money, of which he always seemed to have a reasonable supply, nobody had ever been able, to discover.

And at this, several old duennas who were exposing their wares in the shape of daughters and nieces and other relatives, in the recognized marriage market of the hill sanatorium, were considerably piqued; for in India the first requirement of the business, on which all calculations are based, is, "How much does he make?" And the next, "Is it a pensionable job?"

Mrs. Southerland, who was a walking "Who's Who?" of diabolic memory, and who wrote society notes for the Darjiling Standard, lost sleep on account of this engaging young man; for, she reflected, he dressed well, and had plenty of time on his hands—good omens. Further, the crafty old huntress deduced from his apparent silence and diffidence in the presence of women that he would be easy game, and Mrs. Southerland had a daughter on her hands with a figure like six o'clock and a complexion that looked as if the moths had got at it.

Wherefore she conspired with an infatuated subaltern of her string. The man of war proclaimed loudly that this was the simplest thing imaginable. Why, he would confront him and ask him point-blank. And, with the sheet-metal sensibilities of many of his kind, he did.

His colossal vanity lured him to select the club, of all places, as the scene of his discomfiture. With fatuous confidence he tackled Renshawe in the midst of a group who had appealed to him to settle a point of dispute about the best means of hunting mountain-sheep; for somehow people had got into the habit of going to Renshawe for information, and his information was always direct and accurate. The military genius broke in on the conversation with what he considered the psychological force of direct and unexpected attack.

"What's that?" said Renshawe, hardly believing that he had heard aright.

The trained fighting unit repeated—

"We were wondering what you intended to give as your ostensible means of livelihood for the new census, old man, and—er, we——"

"Ah, I see. And you thought you'd ask me? That was extraordinarily clever of you." The same careless smile flitted over the face, but the voice dropped to an even monotone. "I make my livelihood, Duchesne, by attending very carefully and most conscientiously to my business."

Which, of course, was an insult, direct and flagrant and the officer and gentleman should have properly resented it. But even while his face flushed and a blustering answer rose to his lips the cold, colorless light from the other's eyes, like a reflection from own beloved snow-peaks, seared into the lieutenant's soul. His eyeglass melted out of his eye, and he withdrew.

Renshawe went on quietly explaining that one of the youngest males is usually posted as a lookout, while the oldest and best head, following some mysterious instinct of self-preservation, nearly always managed to surround himself with females.

This was the man who couldn't play billiards, and whose partner cursed him soulfully while he smiled apologetically.

WAS it Ruskin who remarked, after watching a young man who played an extraordinarily good game, "There is the result of a wasted youth?" Meaning presumably that the same time and perseverance might have been spent to so much better advantage.

Nobody could accuse Renshawe in this respect; his life had been too strenuous. At baseball he was a joke. Cricket, to which the English pray, was of course a sealed book to him. At football he was futile. Tennis, to him, meant a series of terrific smashes that lost countless balls and ruined many rackets.

All the more refined and less profitable games found him wranting; but he could handle a sword like an officer of the Foreign Legion, he could box like an American, he could wrestle with all the skill and cunning of a Jap; and rolling these all into one, he could fight like—well, as little' Shannon, a profane but invaluable member of the Secret Service, who had once experienced the joy of witnessing him in action, said, he could fight like——

But these accomplishments were not of the kind that are usually displayed before an audience of admiring girls; wherefore many of the perspicacious folk among whom he lived regarded Renshawe with something of pity and condescension.

And Renshawe was perfectly well aware of it, and smiled away in complete and glorious indifference to their opinions.

Secret Service—Renshawe's frequent mysterious disappearances led many who knew him to speculate on this as his profession. But others, who knew him better, said no. Renshawe was the kind of turbulent and restless spirit that would never tie itself down to hold a job from any boss—much less the Government of India, which meant many bosses, each with a completely developed idea of his own Heaven-designed magnificence.

And they were right. Yet Secret Service was as near as one might well get to describing his profession. He was what the Natives call a "Go-Get-It-Man." He accepted commissions to procure anything from an ancient piece of china to a rare orchid or a young rhinoceros.

This repertoire included valuable information, in which connection he had, on several occasions, worked for the Secret Service. But he insisted on working independently, and strictly for results; he refused to cumber his time with tedious reports as to the how and why; he invariably procured what was required and declined to enter into long explanations, much to the inward rage of tape-bound officials. But still it was Renshawe they sent for when their own men failed, and Renshawe took a diabolic delight in treating them all as if they were plain human beings instead of gods, and in conscientiously flouting all prescribed, and therefore reverenced, procedure.

This was the man who cheerfully acquiesced while his partner beat upon his breast and called him a diplodocus, and an abysmal anthropoid. But then his small experience of billiards had been snatched during the infrequent and limited periods between his strenuous expeditions, which he called loafing. He had never been able to loaf long enough to acquire skill in games. Even the present period had reached its limit, and while his partner was still groaning, a servant announced with diffidence that a messenger insisted on seeing the Sahib immediately.

Renshawe excused himself and went out; but the unprecedented occurrence of a native insisting on seeing a white man was so extraordinary that the others followed.

"Now we're going to butt in on Billy's business," shouted one of them boisterously.

Renshawe looked rather annoyed at the intrusion; then he looked at the messenger, and grinned all around to the back of his neck.

"What the devil is he chortling about?" queried the partner.

Renshawe grinned some more, and then turned slowly and addressed the man in the Lepcha dialect. He had recognized the man's tribe at a glance, and he knew that there were only three white men in the world who could speak the language of the aboriginal hill-folk.

"Well, I'll be double ——!" announced the most eager of the interlopers in disgust as he led the way back to the billiard-room. "Boy! I require drink. Peg, bring it. What's yours, you fellows? Renshawe, you're an outcast; we drink alone."

"Well?" inquired Renshawe of the messenger.

"Sahib, there is one down at Bhutia Bust! arrived from the north who would speak with thee on a matter of importance, without delay."

"What is the affair, and who is the man who desires me to make this long journey at such short notice?"

"Sahib, the affair I know not; it is secret. And the man is a stranger—from Tibet. His speech shows that he is no Bhutia."

"That seems to me insufficient cause to make so long a journey."

"That is in the Sahib's derision. But the man sent a sign, saying, 'Show this to the white man, and he will come.'"

He groped in his bosom and produced a short stick of some dark wood, about six inches long, and exquisitely carved with Kiang-Hsi characters.

Renshawe did not need to take it into his hand.

"It is sufficient," he said quietly. "I come within the hour."

HE STRODE back to the billiard-room.

"Awfully sorry, you fellows," he began. "I must beg off the rest of the game. It's a matter of business which calls me to Bhutia Busti. I'll finish the match tonight if you don't mind waiting."

"Tonight! Hear him! Why man, there's no horse in Darjiling that can take you down to the Bhutia village and back by tonight."

"I know it; an' I ain' a goin' to ride no hawse. My go walkee, walkee. But I'll have to hurry. So long; reserve the table for after dinner. I'll surely be back and help Crandall lose his money."

He strode out, full of energy and vitality as a storage battery, singing, "Chul mera burria Tum-muka-too," which is a lewd song of the bazaars, to the huge delight of the club porter. But the significance of the song was lost on the white men, who merely grunted and called for more refreshment.

"If he gets back by tonight," announced Topleigh, "I'll eat the doth off the oldest table in the club. It's twelve miles and a drop of over five thousand feet."

"And I'll eat a set of snooker balls," supplemented Crandall. "A Pahari might do it. but there's been no European since old Cristensen's time who'd come near it."

But Renshawe never troubled to inquire what other people had done before him; he invariably set out to do his little best, which was, as often as not, just a little better than the other fellow's.

He traveled by the sheer up-and-down choar-batos of the hill-folk, and arrived at Bhutia Busti in just one hour and a half.

In the old tumble-down serai he found an aged lama just preparing to receive him, for the messenger had arrived only a few minutes before. The old man apologized profusely with infinite courtesy and peered at him through his great tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles. Then:

"Aie, aie. Just such a man as I was told," he muttered, and meandered off into a long Buddhist platitude on the virtues of promptness.

"My father, I have need of haste," gently reminded Renshawe.

"Ah, I might have known; such a man is ever in a hurry. It is well. My son, you have seen the sign?"

"Yes, my father. I know it well. It is from the Tesho-Lama at Lhassa, and I came, as you see, with speed."

"Good! The Great One said it would be even so. And he bade me remind you of a certain promise and say that the time was now come when you could-receive back your word by performing a service."

"I hear."

"My son, the matter stands thus. At the time of the great tribulation—" he referred to the recent Tibet Expedition, when, for the first time in history, a foreign force had entered the Forbidden City—"the Great Buddha with its attendant images was hidden from the eyes of the foreign devils; yet, for our sins in a past existence, it happened that some impious hand discovered the hiding-place and stole away the six lesser images. These, with much labor, we have since been tracing, and in this matter lies the service."

The old man peered narrowly at Renshawe again to observe what effect his speech was having. He might as well have gazed at the Sphinx.

"My father's words have my attention," said Renshawe gravely.

The lama continued:

"The image of silver, my son, which is as prescribed in the attitude of the Oath by the Earth with the great emerald set in the breast, we have followed through many hands till it has lately come into the possession of one Lutf-Ullah, a Dorabi. To him we sent an emissary to obtain the same by purchase; but the man is a man of violence. He slew our messenger, and is now returned to his own country. Therefore, my son——"

He paused with an expressive and inquiring look.

"What is the man's village?" said Renshawe noncommittally.

"Nay, we know not. He is of the Zukkha Khel, and was formerly a Dorabi in the Battery regiment."

Renshawe grunted and muttered, more to himself than to the old man:

"Hm! And the Tesho-Lama wants me to hunt up this cut-throat among his own people across the Afghan border and get the goods? A long quest, my father, and a difficult. Is there no further identification of the man?"

"Nay, my son, that is all. But this we know: the man is tall, having a black beard, and fierce. It is little enough; but the Great One said there was no other in his knowledge who could undertake the matter."

"Hm!" Renshawe grunted again, and sat a long time thinking.

"There is also suitable reward," the old man insinuated.

"I had no thought for that, my father; where the Tesho-Lama is concerned there is no need of bargaining. But this thing needs haste."

"It is indeed so, my son. Lest he sell, and the image be lost again."

"And I await a letter of much importance from my own country, which is not due for at least a week."

He thought a while longer in silence, while the old man watched him anxiously.

At last he arose, and his face showed that he had not a care in the world. The lama rose too, but his face was sorrowful.

"I see that my son has surely put this trouble away from him. The Great One's spirit will be heavy."

But that was only Renshawe's way. Having once come to a decision, his soul was free from care. Sufficient to the day was the evil thereof.

"Nay, my father," he said. "I start with tomorrow's sun."

The old man gaped with surprise; then he bowed to the ground.

"It is even as the Great One said," he muttered.

THE same evening Renshawe fell like a bomb into the club. Not that his coming was noisy; he walked in with the springy silent tread of the jungleman, but his appearance struck at least three of the members like a Nihilist demonstration.

Renshawe played execrably, but Crandall was too overcome by the shameful knowledge of his indigestible wager to raise a murmur.

"Well, it's good night, and good-by for a while, you fellows," said Renshawe when it was all over, and Crandall had paid his share. "I have to start for the Punjab frontier tomorrow."

"Hear him talk about the Punjab frontier as if it were only a week's journey!"

Renshawe grinned.

"And say, I wish you'd tell the clerk to hold all mail till I come back; I don't want it chasing all over the country after me and never finding me. Don't forget; this is important, now."

And the letter that Renshawe was so exercised about? That leads back to a year ago; and, of course, to a girl.

Renshawe had accumulated enough savings to take a trip home and visit his people; and there he had met the most wonderful girl in all the world, and, after the manner of strong men who have found but little time to cultivate women, he wondered how she had escaped from Heaven, and poured out seven years of pent-up devotion at her feet. He was a new type in her microscopic orbit, this clean-cut man of swift decision; and she had proceeded with alacrity to add his scalp to her collection. Then, another man had conic. Scalps, the exact counterpart of his, hung at her belt in rows, for she was very beautiful. There was nothing new about him. But—he possessed a motor-car; which, of course, made decision a matter of much difficulty.

Hitherto the most wonderful girl had found no trouble in controlling a many-stringed bow with neatness and despatch; but Renshawe was not of those lesser animals that are content to hunt in packs. His nature was too big to crave the support or tolerate the presence of others on his trails. Wherefore, since he was a product of centuries of Western civilization, and very much a man, he did not fall upon his rival and rend him with his teeth; but instead proposed very gently to the girl that, since he had to return to his work shortly in any case, he would give her a year in which to make up her mind, at the end of which time she should write and communicate her decision.

This she promised with tears and soft clinging arms, and many protestations that there was no need—she knew her mind. But the next day she went for an automobile ride just the same—West is West.

YAR MAHOMED of the Zukkha Khel clan climbed swiftly up a steep spur of the Sufed Koh range that overhung the Peiwar Kotal pass, and grunted fiercely as he swung his long limbs from crag to crag, leaping, clutching and scrambling as only a born mountaineer can.

Arrived at the summit, he wriggled into a nook well down from the skyline and peered out along the winding track that led through the Kurrum valley over the border into India.

He crouched, all careless of the precipice sheer to the pass at his side, and gazed out under his pent brows like some grim bird of prey. His keen, dark face with its great hooked nose and fierce eyes, and the very posture of his body, bunched forward with the lean neck outstretched, heightened the impression of a great eagle watching for its victim.

The eyes were the most peculiar part of the man—swift and keen, flashing incessantly from point to point. Not by any means shifty or afraid, but the alert eyes of the untamed creature constantly on the lookout for danger and prepared to minimize it by meeting it more than half-way.

After a long and careful scrutiny the grim mouth curled in disgust and the man spat vindictively into the pass below.

"Thukka-Allah! The dog delays," he muttered, and his talons curled caressingly around the stock of his rifle, a beautiful weapon which carried its own story.

For a long while he brooded, for all the world like a larger and fiercer edition of William Tell waiting for his Gessler. Then he spat again and climbed slowly down with the comforting reflection that if Allah willed, tomorrow; or if not, the day after; or the day after that. All time was before him; and, being an Oriental, he was blessed with infinite patience.

Yar Mahomed was by profession a man; and according to the conventions of his race and that part of the world he filled his job very thoroughly. That is to say, he made war upon his neighbors and hated his enemies. In these degenerate times of peace, and since the influence of the British had begun to make itself felt, it was astonishing how far a man of action had to travel to find suitable neighbors.

But whether on the Kurrum border, or down among the Beluchis, or away up in Baltistan, wherever there were wars and rumors of wars, Yar Mahomed arrived sooner or later with his trusty rifle—an older and less satisfactory' one; of the present weapon more anon—to enlist his services on whichever side looked like vanning; for there would be the most loot. For the rest, he was scrupulously honest, true to his salt, and possessed a very fine conception of his personal honor, an insult to which he would resent with an immediate knife-stroke. A whole man.

The rifle needs special mention to itself; for in that country the rifle is quite half the man. Yar Mahomed had long been dissatisfied with the weapon he had been carrying. It was an old Martini-Henry, acquired in one of the innumerable border-skirmishes with the British, and had supplanted his yet older native-made Jezail. For a Jong while his heart had been content; but there came a time when he had temporarily hired himself as a guide to a sporting Englishman who had come into the mountains to shoot.

This man possessed a wonderful weapon which would carry true as a hair for a thousand yards, and good enough to be certain of your man for a considerable distance farther; and Yar Mahomed's soul lusted for the beautiful thing. But he had taken the white man's pay, and therefore figuratively eaten his salt, and the rifle with all the other possessions of the white man were sacred.

Yar Mahomed beat his breast and groaned in anguish; and shortly Allah rewarded his honesty. The Englishman was so pleased with his guide in every way that he confided to him that a friend of his, a young lord from England, desired to come on a similar trip, and that he would surely tell his friend to seek out this prince among guides. The friend would be due in Bannu on the British side on such and such a date.

Yar Mahomed went out and prostrated himself many' times to the West. Allah was God, Allah was good, Inshallah!

I have said that Yar Mahomed was strictly honest; and he was, as was proven in the case of the Englishman. He would have stabbed anybody without hesitation who would have suggested to him that he should steal a horse, or a rupee, or a handful of grain. But rifles and ammunition are the gifts of God to mankind, free as the air they breathe and the water they drink, and as such belong naturally to whoever can acquire them and keep them.

Yar Mahomed praised God for his bounty, and was very- sure to make no mistake about eating salt this time. The lordling arrived and went into camp with strange guides, Punjabi Dogras, recommended by the Commissioner. It was child's play. The lordling slept as they sleep whose lives have been spent in perpetual security, and the Dogras were stuffed with unwonted luxury' in the neighboring tent—and the moon was flecked with fleeting shadows——

It was, as I have said, a beautiful weapon—a Ballard .303, high velocity, bolt-action; and Allah had further provided two hundred rounds of ammunition.

This was the man who daily climbed the Sufed Koh and perched above the Feiwar Kotal gazing across the valley with hungry eyes.

OF COURSE there was a girl in it, or rather, as they' are there designated, a woman. The most wonderful woman in all the world—tall, and straight as a young pine from carrying water-jars on her head. Yar Mahomed went straight to her father and offered forty-five good silver rupees, which was all he possessed.

The old man demurred; the girl was tall and strong, and would be able to extort quite an extensive patch of corn out of the bleak mountain side. Thereupon the ardent young man, with all the impetuosity of a lover, offered his old rifle, the Martini-Henry, which was really worth five or six girls. The old man snatched at the chance, and the bargain was struck.

Now it happened that there was some small bickering among the Waziri tribes, and thither hastened Yar Mahomed in the hope of acquiring the wherewithal to set up housekeeping, tie left the most beautiful embodiment of all the virtues in the care of her father, with many injunctions regarding her safe-keeping; quite forgetful, in his new sense of proprietorship, of the fact that the old man had managed to keep her in perfect safety hitherto. This duty accomplished, he cast care to the winds and hurried away, scenting the battle from afar, with eager, hawk's face and distended nostrils.

Meanwhile a cousin of his own family—a low fellow and a renegade, for he had taken service with the Indian Government —came home on leave and swaggered among the hill villages, twirling his mustache with a military air. And his evil fate brought it about that he, too, saw the woman. He made haste to meet the father, and w7as apprised of the bargain already struck with Yar Mahomed.

But the cousin was not bound by any foolish tribal conventions of honor; he was an enlightened man, he had traveled afar and seen the ways of the white men. He went direct to the woman and explained how he had many rupees saved up from his pay, and, above all, that he was a servant of the Sirkar and would eventually retire on a pension. Can the woman be blamed?

Yar Mahomed returned in due course, but, contrary to the procedure of Western civilization, was not immediately informed by sundry dear friends of the new state of affairs. Across the border, where strife means knife, swift and straight to the mark, those who are wise arc very careful to keep out of other people's quarrels, excepting always blood feuds, which are a matter of religious duty.

Wherefore it was some little time before Yar Mahomed discovered what his cousin had done to him; and, since he was the product of centuries of Eastern civilization, and very much a man, he set about seeking his cousin's blood.

But his cousin's leave had expired and he had returned to the protection of the Sirkar; and further, Yar Mahomed learned, his regiment, had been ordered to a far country, called Tibet.

That was two years ago; and word had now come through other soldiers on leave that the man was about to return to his own country.

Which explains why Yar Mahomed perched ominously on his pinnacle, shading his eyes under his hand and gazing so intensely across the valley of Kurrum.

On the fourteenth day his patience was rewarded; and he regarded the omen as good, for there were just thirteen little nicks in the stock of his new rifle, and just room for one more before commencing a new line. A speck had appeared in the far distance of the winding track, and long before it came within range Yar Mahomed, with the abnormal vision of the bird he so closely resembled, had made it out to be the man he sought.

He might have dropped him at twelve hundred yards with reasonable certainty by resting his rifle on a rock, and that would have been quite in keeping with the feudist ethics of his people; but Yar Mahomed, as I have said, was by profession a man.

He clambered swiftly down and hid in the pass till he could be reasonably certain that his enemy might not escape. Then he cautiously raised his head above the level of his sheltering rock and yelled:

"Ahoo, Lutf-Ullah, cousin of mine! Greeting!"

Lutf-Ullah dived behind a rock with the speed of a great hairy tarantula which he resembled, and brought his gun to the front before looking to see where the hail came from.

Yar Mahomed shouted like a schoolboy with glee at the surprise he had caused, and called again.

"It is met. It is well met, my cousin, servant of the Sirkar, who wouldst have had a pension if thou hadst lived."

Lutf-Ullah's reply was a shot that plowed up the ground twenty yards short. He was a soldier, and therefore no marksman.

He fired three times more while the other waited with cold-blooded alertness. Ammunition is always a scarcity across the border, and Yar Mahomed wanted to make quite certain of his first shot.

He did. As the crashing echoes raced down the overhanging cliffs he coolly blew the smoke from his barrel and strode down the pass. He surveyed the scene grimly and nodded his head with satisfaction.

"A good shot and a clean," he muttered. Then he took the rifle and cartridges, for they are legitimate loot; and, since Lutf-Ullah had been of his own family, he covered the body with boulders. After which he strode off with the feeling of a man who has accomplished a duty well done.

And when the woman would have turned to him again with the submission of the primitive female to the victor, his eyes flashed, and he spat on the ground and turned his broad shoulders in the uttermost scorn. East is East.


"But there is neither East nor West, border nor breed nor birth,
"When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth."

YAR MAHOMED returned to his own village of Munrood to rest up a while. His hands were clean and his conscience was clear, and he was respected of all men, for he had made his honor white. Further, he was a rich man, possessor of two good rifles besides his own, Lutf-Ullah's, and that other, the price of the girl, which he had forcibly recovered from the old man under a machine-gun hail of curses.

He decided that he owed himself a holiday after his weary vigil, and accordingly sprawled his great limbs luxuriously on a string cot while he opened up negotiations to trade the two rifles for the highest he could get over and above their weight in silver, that being the standard price of a good gun across the border.

His soul was full of content, when there dropped a bolt from the blue. News came, with the astonishing mouth-to-mouth telegraph of the East, that a certain white man was making cautious inquiries among the border villages for one Yar Mahomed.

This was disquieting. He had no apprehensions about the affair of Lutf-Ullah, for that had happened on his side of the border; but there had recently been a small matter of replenishing ammunition; and as his rifle took the .303 government cartridge, what more natural than that he should have gone across the border for it? True, it had been but a trifling affair—only twenty rounds, as he indignantly recollected; but these accursed Feringees were apt to make such a fuss over trifles.

He decided that he would go up to Hazwar and lie quiet till the white man went away again. Not that he was the least bit afraid; but the white men had been known to raise all sorts of unpleasant complications by bringing pressure to bear on the maliks, or head men.

In due course Renshawe arrived at Munrood and was entertained by the malik. His coming had long been expected and every move of his had been reported, but the old man professed the greatest surprise, and gave flowery expression to the honor it was to entertain so distinguished-looking a stranger. Renshawe gravely partook of the proffered meal of greasy kid stew, squatting on the floor opposite his host—who, of course, did not eat—and conversed on the probability of the rainfall, and the possibility of the great Bazid-Khel feud breaking out again, and every imaginable topic except that which was uppermost in his mind. It was not till the hookah had been lit and passed that he mentioned what he had really come for; for this was the custom.

The wily old malik, with the hereditary suspicion of ages, fenced carefully.

"Yar Mahomed? Yes, Sahib; such a man did indeed live here, but he is now absent."

"That is unfortunate, for I have journeyed far to have speech with him."

"So? This is indeed evil luck; but a week ago he was here. And is it permissible to inquire what this matter might be? Perhaps a messenger might— It is just possible if Allah wills. But who can say?"

Renshawe had to be careful. There was no means of finding out how much was known about the image.

"Well," he said, "it is this. I would purchase a certain thing that is in his possession, a thing that has come from across the border."

The old man with difficulty restrained a grin. He saw through the whole thing now; this foolish Feringee had given the game away. A certain thing from across the border? Why, of course, that would be his rifle. Such an old affair as that! Truly these white men were persistent!

And, "purchase?" Did the white man think to throw dust in his eyes thus easily? How childish he was! Well, he would send a messenger to try and overtake Yar Mahomed, but there was no great hope; he had gone to Kabul, and he traveled fast.

Renshawe thanked the crafty old patriarch and presently withdrew. He knew he was lying, but one doesn't voice such crude accusations across the border. However, there were other ways; men could always be found, renegades or fugitives from other tribes, who would exchange information for money.

THAT night Yar Mahomed received a message to the effect that the unbelieving dog was an officer of the Border Police, and that he came for the English lord's rifle. But that Yar Mahomed might rest in peace, for the Feringee was open-faced and foolish, and would accomplish nothing.

But three days later a breathless runner brought news that the Feringee was even then making his way to Hazwar. Yar Mahomed hastily gathered up his gear and moved far up the mountains to Faizkot, leaving information at Hazwar that he had gone west to Rohat. Faizkot was an almost inaccessible mountain village, and he had yet to meet the white man who could follow him in his own mountains.

In a week a rumor came up of a man winnowing the villages above Hazwar. Yar Mahomed cursed gutturally. This Feringee was not as others he had met; he was becoming a nuisance. In the first flush of fierce rage his primal impulse was to lie in wait for him and kill him; but he hesitated at that. The killing of a white man brought certain trouble with the Sirkar, and the paying of heavy fines, and perhaps white soldiers quartered in the hill villages; and he knew that his private troubles were not worth all that to the malika. He doubled back to Kurrurn.

To detail the long chase that ensued would fill a book. Yar Mahomed broke from his more familiar country' to the Ghilsai tribes, and from them to the Bazid-Khels. For the first time in his life he was forced to admit a touch of admiration for an unbeliever; and with it a feeling something akin to apprehension crept- into his soul, for there was something terrifying about this tireless, silent Nemesis.

Renshawe stuck doggedly to his quest, cruelly handicapped by the universally instinctive union of the colored man against the white. Frequently he lost all trace; the tribesmen lied through long habit, and whether they knew anything about the matter or no, they misdirected him on principle.

But by careful analysis and a judicious use of his keen knowledge of native character he always eventually picked up the trail again. Lately, for a long time, he had not been able to glean any information at all. The man seemed to have disappeared into the air; and this was because Yar Mahomed, recognizing that information as to his whereabouts leaked from the villages, had embarked on a new plan of camping out on the mountains alone. But Renshawe was nearer to him than he imagined and he became cognizant of the fact with startling unpleasantness.

As Renshawe toiled up a barren slope, doggedly but rather hopelessly, out of the corner of his eye he caught the puff of a thin feather of smoke that flashed out from a far ridge. Instantly he threw himself flat on his face, and at the same instant a thin whine sang over the place where he had stood.

The temptation had been too much for Yar Mahomed. Coming over the spur he had caught sight of his enemy, and the swift access of rage had overcome all other considerations. The fact that he had fired from ambush showed what a demoralizing effect this relentless pursuit was having on his nerves, if such a man could he said to have nerves.

Some inkling of this found its way into Renshawe's mind as he swiftly stalked the spot, for he grinned all over his face for the first time in many days. He considered himself almost at hand-grips now; for, though the spot was empty and there was no trace on the rocky' ground, only a few minutes separated him from the man whom he had hitherto been regarding as an elusive fugitive. But the sudden shot woke him up to the fact that he was dealing with a dangerous enemy.

Yar Mahomed, for his part, was thoroughly convinced of the fact. Having once opened hostilities, there would be no more running away—something which his fierce soul had rebelled against from the beginning.

The two men were stalking each other now; yet so many hiding-places did the mountains offer, and so well did each know how to take advantage of them, that it was not till the second evening that they came together.

Honors fell to the white man—white now only by courtesy; for so sunburnt and gaunt was his face from exposure, and so ragged his khaki shooting-suit, that he might easily have passed for a Gurkha from his own beloved hills.

He was cautiously working down a ridge when his quick eyes, trained to the observation of Nature, noticed a kite wheeling lazily in the sky. He watched it critically; then he rose with a seraphic grin and dropped swiftly down the ravine. Woodsman's deduction had told him that the bird was watching something alive below; alive and active, for it kept its distance. Had the object been sleeping, or perhaps dying, and therefore feeble, it would have swung much lower; had it been dead, the bird would have settled to feed.

He climbed the other side with eager anticipation just crackling out of his eyes. There would be a fight; this man who had given him such a long chase would surely fight; and, though it would have been a genuine shock to realize it, Renshawe reveled heathenishly in a good fight.

He peered carefully over the ridge, and almost shouted. Some two hundred yards farther, from behind an intervening hogback, rose a thin curl of smoke. He ran forward softly, with all the restrained eagerness of a panther following a grazing buck; he hurried, bending low, from rock to rock, craning his neck over each, and taking the craziest chances of making a noise in his eagerness to get over loose ground. But at the hogback caution returned. With infinite weariness he edged up to eye-level, his rifle ready for instant action—and then he boldly stood upright.

A hundred yards further, with his back to him, sat a man with a rifle under his thigh, preparing a meal.

Renshawe's great chest expanded with a deep breath. At last!

HE THRUST his rifle forward and hailed.

"Ohé, Yar Mahomed! Yield thee!"

And then, curiously enough, Yar Mahomed acted with the same hereditary instinct that Lutf-Ullah had shown on a very similar occasion. He took a flying dive for cover, and his bullet whizzed past Renshawe's head while he was almost yet in the air.

And some curious impulse common to the type caused Renshawe to throw back his head and shout with laughter at the ungainly figure cut by the tall Afghan.

He lifted his head a trifle incautiously after the outburst, and an immediate bullet cutting his hair showed him that his opponent certainly knew his weapon.

Curiously enough again, Yar Mahomed once more followed the example set by his late cousin. He fired wildly several times. But not from nervousness or fear; he was consumed with wild rage. The fact alone that he was face to face at last with his persecutor was enough to rouse him to fierce indignation; and that he, Yar Mahomed, had been caught by an unbelieving dog of a Feringee was an ineffaceable disgrace. The thought drove him nearly frantic. Also he had heard the laugh following on his first shot, and the knowledge that the accursed Feringee mocked him goaded him beyond all control of himself.

And Renshawre, perfectly cool and alert, held his fire, just as Yar Mahomed had done on that previous occasion.

Presently a dagger-stroke of thought struck through the Afghan's quivering rage with paralyzing force. Ammunition! This was ever a scarcity, and Yar Mahomed's scanty supply had already been much depleted in procuring food during the last month. A swift inspection of the magazine threw him for an instant into a cold sweat, to be followed immediately after by a fresh paroxysm of rabid fury. He had only one cartridge left.

The thought of capture by this accursed Feringee was frenzy. He tried to collect himself to make an end with his last shot. He could do it; he couldn't miss at a hundred yards if only he got a grip of himself. But Yar Mahomed came of a fanatical race; he saw a chance—a poor one; snatched at it, fired wildly—and then went ghazi.

Which is akin to amok, with the difference that the Ghazi has the Prophet's assurance of certain Paradise if he can but kill one Christian before he dies.

The tension had been too great. Yar Mahomed threw away his rifle and rushed up the slope, frothing at the mouth, blazing red from his eyes, and howling like a chained devil.

Renshawe stepped out to meet him, and without the least flurry brought the sights to bear on his broad chest.

If he had not had such a perfect control of a perfect nerve he might have fired; but as he waited his mind was running freely, and something out of the centuries of Western civilization came and implanted a vague impression that there was something of an unfair advantage in this. And hand in hand with it came the startling anomaly of a pre-adamite craving to get to grips with the enemy.

Renshawe softly laid down his rifle and drew the wicked Gurkha kukrie of his own hills from its sheath with a slow, grim smile that left his lips parted in an expression of fierce eagerness. The joy of battle blazed from his eyes.

Now there was by no means anything of chivalrous foolhardiness in this. It had been demonstrated time and again in the annals of the British army in India that the active little Gurkhas armed with their hacking blade were more than a match, hand to hand, for the big Afghans with their stabbing Khaibari knife. Renshawe was certainly carried beyond all resemblance to his normal self by the "fierce joy that warriors feel," or he might never have taken such a chance; but he felt perfect confidence in his own phenomenal quickness and trained muscles against a much bigger and clumsier opponent. And this is the God-given gift to all natural-born fighting-men—the supreme confidence of winning. That is why they are fighting-men.

He stepped forward to a level spot and waited with tense muscles slightly crouched, poised on the balls of his feet, and weaving the terrible curved blade in and out before him.

At any other time even such a man as Yar Mahomed might well have hesitated, and at least fought warily, but he was ghazi; he leaped in with a howl and a hissing stab of his great three-foot blade. But Renshawe easily evaded and returned with a swift swing at the stomach after the Gurkha manner.

Yet the long-limbed fanatic was no novice at knife-play. With a lightning recovery he met the blade on his own and whirled up for another slashing stroke.

Renshawe stepped swiftly inside the blow so that the man's arm jarred on his shoulder; and at the same time he drove heavily for the neck. And then his heart came up into his mouth where he could taste it, for the blade caught in the huge iron brooch that held the Afghan's sheepskin poshleen together at the shoulder, and twisted from his hand.

Yar Mohamed howled aloud with demoniac joy and heaved up his arm for a final stab. Renshawe's mind worked with the speed and accuracy of the well-kept machine that it was. In the second that elapsed between his disastrous stroke and the return he had rejected half a dozen possibilities and seized on the one which would serve him best; and here his jiu-jitsu skill stood him in good stead.

He leaped up at the raised arm, and their hands met with a soft smack. With a peculiar double grip, enclosing hand and hilt, he pressed away the driving stroke that whizzed by his side like a lightning bolt.

Again the same thing happened; and again. Then Renshawe saw his chance and slipped in close, turning his back to his opponent so that the stabbing arm came down over his shoulder. A little farther out, and the elbow would have struck his shoulder, and the swift jerk that he gave would have snapped it like a clay pipe-stem.

As it was, in his anxiety to get well within the blow he had not taken into account the Afghan's great length of limb; the fulcrum of his shoulder caught the upper part of the arm and the snapping wrench only availed to jerk the great knife from the paralyzed fingers.

IT WAS man against man now, breast against breast; trained muscle and phenomenal skill against brute strength and berserk fury. Their sinews cracked as they strained and stamped over the broken ground, working farther and farther down the slope.

Presently the maniac-light began to die out of the Afghan's eyes; the fanatical fury had spent itself, and he began to fight with more cunning, while he marveled at this comparatively small man who stood against him so evenly. As they swung with straining chests and hissing breath the loose stones made foothold impossible, and presently they fell to the ground with interlocked limbs.

There the mad struggle continued. They rolled ever lower and farther, neither gaining any marked advantage, and both growing equally spent.

Then a final heave carried them both over a small declivity, locked in a single clawing mass of venom and fight, which struck with a heavy thud and rolled apart.

Renshawe struggled slowly to his feet, badly shaken, and stood panting, expecting the other's attack; till he saw, to his immense relief, that the Afghan was evidently as badly jolted as himself, for he made no move to renew the combat.

And then, as they glared with bloodshot eyes and heaving lungs, from a nestling mountain village far below floated the boom of a gong and the clear call of the muezzin.

"Ella-a-hi ho Allah! Akhbar Alla-a-ah— God is the God! Praise be to God!"

Renshawe smiled painfully. The incongruity of it struck some hidden note of grim humor.

"It is thy time for prayer, O Mussulman—perchance the last. Take it," he advised. He felt that he would be glad of the respite.

The sweating Mohammedan thought the same. As for prayer—well, they were both out of reach of weapons and the white man could take no advantage; he would show him. And forthwith, with superb disdain, he turned his back and faced the west.

"Hear the voice of God!" chanted the muezzin.

And the follower of the Prophet knelt and raised his hands to his ears—and the white man drew in great life-giving drafts of air and thanked his own God for the rest.

When the last note had died away from below, the great Afghan rose gravely and surveyed his enemy with a thoughtful look, tinged with a man's admiration for a man.

"Sahib," he said at length, "what need that we two slay one another?"

"None," answered Renshawe promptly, "if thou wilt but deliver what I seek."

The battle-light began to come back in the other's eyes.

"Give thee my rifle? Nay, it is mine to me, by the law of conquest. My life first."

Rifle? muttered Renshawe wonderingly. "What need have I of thy rifle?"

"What matter is it then that thou hast followed me for this month past?"

"The matter of Lutf-Ullah."

"That was across the border," flashed Yar Mahomed hotly. "There is no penalty. It was a feud according to our custom."

"There is no talk of penalty. What have I to do with thy feuds? But the matter is this. Lutf-Ullah had with him a sacred image of the Buddha stolen from Tibet- it is this that I seek."

Yar Mahomed's face flashed again.

Naj, am I a thief?" he cried indignantly. "If the dog had any image, it is surely with his bones even now."

Renshawe looked into his eyes long and searchingly. Then he nodded slowly.

"True. I should have known," he said. "It is truce between us."

"It is truce," repeated Yar Mahomed. "My heart is glad. We be men, thou and I."

Together they clambered somewhat stiffly up the scene of the late struggle and come to the little camp, and the sight of the preparations reminded Yar Mahomed of his need for a meal and rest.

"The Sahib will eat?" he invited with grave courtesy.

Renshaw'e signified his willingness, and squatted down and waited while the Afghan kneaded his coarse flour with a little water and salt, and patted the flat unleavened cake between his hands.

When it was roasted in the ashes the Afghan broke the cake in two and handed a half to Renshawe with a curious look in his eyes. Renshaw'e received it through the smoke of the fire and ate.

Thereafter the Afghan addressed the white man as "Brother."

LATER, he accompanied him to the scene of his blood feud, and showed the piled boulders. Renshawe set to wnrk to remove these with some misgivings. It chilled him to think that perhaps the man had sold before leaving India. But as the bones, already picked clean by the great black ants, were disclosed, there sat the beautifully carved figure of dulled silver in its proper position, with the fingers of the right hand touching the ground in front of the knee in the prescribed attitude of taking the Oath by the Earth; and the great emerald winked up at them in the sunlight from its breast.

"Hm!" grunted Renshawe. "That puts me quits with the Tesho-Lama. Then he looked curiously at Yar Mahomed.

But the great Afghan leaned gaunt and stolid on his rifle. What did he wrant with images and stones? The dead man's weapon was now his. It was enough.

They parted at the border, after Renshawe had shamelessly promised to send many pounds of .303 cartridges cunningly hidden in kerosene oil-cans, in flagrant defiance of all government regulations and treaties.

In the fulfilment of time he arrived at Darjiling and found his letter. The momentous missive said "Come," but not very enthusiastically. And Renshawe thought for a long time; and curiously enough, the more he thought, the more certain became the gradually forming conviction of the past year that the most wonderful girl was alter all not quite so wonderful as she had at first seemed; and he decided to think a littie longer—which was a very lucky escape for him.

ALL of which goes to prove conclusively the great truth that there is after all very little difference between two strong men—though they come from the ends of the earth.