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But because the sons of Kings eat not with the outcasts, the Rana entered after, clothed in chain armor of blue steel, and having greeted him, bid him to the sight of that Treasure. And Allah-u-Din, his eyes swimming with wine, and yet not drunken, followed, and the two went alone.
Purdahs [curtains] of great splendour were hung in the great Hall that is called the Raja's Hall, exceeding rich with gold, and in front of the opening was a kneeling-cushion, and an a gold stool before it a polished mirror.
(Ahi! for gold and beauty, the scourges of the world!)
And the Rana was pale to the lips.
Now as the Princes stood by the purdah, a veiled woman, shrouded in white so that no shape could he seen in her, came forth from within, and kneeling upon the cushion, she unveiled her face bending until the mirror, like a pool of water, held it, and that only. And the King motioned his guest to look, and he looked over her veiled shoulder and saw. Very great was the bowed beauty that the mirror held, but Allah-u-Din turned to the Rana.
"By the Bread and the Salt, by the Guest-Right, by the Honour of thy House, I ask - is this the Treasure of Chitor?"
And since the Sun-Descended cannot lie, no, not though they perish, the Rana answered, flushing darkly, - "This is not the Treasure. Wilt thou spare?"
But he would not, and the woman slipped like a shadow behind the purdah and no word said.
Then was heard the tinkling of chooris, and the little noise fell upon the silence like a fear, and, parting the curtains, came a woman veiled like the other. She did not kneel, but took the mirror in her hand, and Allah-u-Din drew up behind her back. From her face she raised the veil of gold Dakka webs, and gazed into the mirror, holding it high, and that Accursed stumbled back, blinded with beauty, saying this only,- "I have seen the Treasure of Chitor."
So the purdah fell about her.
The next day, after the Imaum of the Accursed had called them to prayer, they departed, and Allah-u-Din, paying thanks to the Rana for honours given and taken, and swearing friendship, besought him to ride to his camp, to see the marvels of gold and steel armor brought down from the passes, swearing also safe-conduct. And because the Rajputs trust the word even of a foe, he went.
(A hi! that honour should strike hands with traitors!)
The hours went by, heavy-footed like mourners. Padmini the Rani knelt by the window in her tower that overlooks the plains. Motionless she knelt there, as the Goddess Uma lost in her penances, and she saw her Lord ride forth, and the sparkle of steel where the sun shone on them, and the Standard of the Cold Disk on its black ground. So the camp of the Moslem swallowed them up, and they returned no more. Still she knelt and none dared speak with her; and as the first shade of evening fell across the hills of Rajasthan, she saw a horseman spurting over the flat; and he rode like the wind, and, seeing, she implored the Gods.
Then entered the Twice-Born, that saint of clear eyes, and he bore a scroll; and she rose and seated herself, and he stood by her, as her ladies cowered like frightened doves before the woe in his face as he read.
"To the Rose of Beauty, The Pearl among Women, the Chosen of the Palace. Who, having seen thy loveliness, can look on another? Who, having tasted the wine of the Houris, but thirsts forever? Behold, I have thy King as hostage. Come thou and deliver him. I have sworn that he shall return in thy place."
And from a smaller scroll, the Brahman read this:-
"I am fallen in the snare. Act thou as becomes a Rajputni."
Then that Daughter of the Sun lifted her head, for the thronging of armed feet was heard in the Council Hall below. From the floor she caught her veil and veiled herself in haste, and the Brahman with bowed head followed, while her women mourned aloud. And, descending, between the folds of the purdah she appeared white and veiled, and the Brahman beside her, and the eyes of all the Princes were lowered to her shrouded feet, while the voice they had not heard fell silvery upon the air, and the echoes of the high roof repeated it.
"Chief of the Rajputs, what is your counsel?" And he of Marwar stepped forward, and not rais- ing his eyes above her feet, answered,-
"Queen, what is thine?"
For the Rajputs have ever heard the voice of their women.
And she said,-
"I counsel that I die and my head be sent to him, that my blood may quench his desire."
And each talked eagerly with the other, but amid the tumult the Twice-Born said,-
"This is not good talk. In his rage he will slay the King. By my yoga, I have seen it. Seek another way."
So they sought, but could determine nothing, and they feared to ride against the dog, for he held the life of the King; and the tumult was great, but all were for the King's safety.
Then once more she spoke.
"Seeing it is determined that the King's life is more than my honour, I go this night. In your hand I leave my little son, the Prince Ajeysi. Prepare my litters, seven hundred of the best, for all my women go with me. Depart now, for I have a thought from the Gods."
Then, returning to her bower, she spoke this letter to the saint, and he wrote it, and it was sent to the camp.
After salutations - "Wisdom and strength have attained their end. Have ready for release the Rana of Chitor, for this night I come with my ladies, the prize of the conqueror."
When the sun sank, a great procession with torches descended the steep way of Chitor - seven hundred litters, and in the first was borne the Queen, and all her women followed.
All the streets were thronged with women, weeping and beating their breasts. Very greatly they wept, and no men were seen, for their livers were black within them for shame as the Treasure of Chitor departed, nor would they look upon the sight. And across the plains went that procession; as if the stars had fallen upon the earth, so glittered the sorrowful lights of the Queen.
But in the camp was great rejoicing, for the Barbarians knew that many fair women attended on her.
Now, before the entrance to the camp they had made a great shamiana [tent] ready, hung with shawls of Kashmir and the plunder of Delhi; and there was set a silk divan for the Rani, and beside it stood the Loser and the Gainer, Allah-u-Din and the King, awaiting the Treasure.
Veiled she entered, stepping proudly, and taking no heed of the Moslem, she stood before her husband, and even through the veil he could feel the eyes he knew.
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The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories -by- L. Adams Beck