The Home-Coming (Abdullah)
BY ACHMED ABDULLAH
YAR KHAN was off to his own country in the Month of Pilgrimages. He broke the long journey at Bokhara, to buy a horse for the trip South, to exchange his Egyptian money for a rupee draft on a Hindu banker in Afghanistan, and to buy sweets and silks for the many cousins in his native village.
He had left there sixteen years before, a child of seven, when his father, a poor man, but eager for gain, and sensing no chance for barter and profit in the crumbling basalt ridges of the foot-hills, had gone West—to Cairo. There he and his father—the mother had died in giving him birth—had lived all these years; all these years he had spent in that city of smoky purple and dull orange, but never had he been of Cairo. The tang of the home land had not left him; always his heart had called back to the sweep and snow of the hills, and he had fed his love with gossamer memories and with the brave tales which his father, Ali Khan, told him when the homesickness was in his nostrils and when the bazaar gold of Cairo seemed gray and useless dross.
Of gold there had come plenty. Ali Khan had prospered, and in his tight little shop in the Gamalyiehy, the Quarter of the Camel-Drivers, he had held his own with the Red Sea traders who meet there, and cheat and fight and give one another the full-flavored abuse of near-by Asia.
Yar Khan had lived the haphazard life of Eastern childhood, with no lessons but those of the crowded, crooked streets and an occasional word of prosy Koranic wisdom from some graybeard among his father's customers. When he had reached his fifteenth year, manhood had come—sudden and a little cruel as it comes to Asians. On that day, his father had taken him into the shop, and, with a great gesture of his lean arms, had pointed at the dusty confusion of his stock-in-trade; at the mattings full of yellow Persian tobacco, the pipe bowls of red clay, the palm-leaf bags containing coffee and coarse brown sugar, the flat green boxes filled with arsenic and rhubarb and antimony and tafl and sal-ammoniac.
"He of great head becomes a chief, and he of great feet a shepherd," Ali Khan had said, ridiculing Fate after the manner of the hill-bred. "Thou art blood of my blood. From this day on, thou wilt be a trader, and thou wilt prosper. Gold will come to thy hands—unasked, like a courtezan."
Ali Khan had been right. Together, father and son had prospered. They had heaped gold on clinking gold, and of gold, too, had been the father's endless talk, praising the cold metal at yawning length, dwelling, as it were, on the outer husk of things; and when Yar Khan's softer mind rebelled at the hard philosophy Ali Khan would laugh and say: "Thou art right, little son. Gold is the breath of a thief. Gold is a djinn. Gold is an infidel sect. But—" with a shrewd wink—"give gold to a mangy dog—and the people will call him Sir Dog. For gold is strength!"
It was only in the evenings, when they had put up the heavy wooden shutters of their shop and were returning to their tiny whitewashed living-house in the Suk-en-Nahassim, that often something like a veil of discontent would fall over the older man's shrill greed.
"Gold buys this—and that—and this," he would say, in a hushed voice, pointing at some rich Pasha's silent, extravagant house, with its projecting cornices, its bulbous balconies of fretted woodwork supported by gigantic corbels and brackets, and the dim oil lamp glimmering above the carved gate—"gold buys this—and no more!"—and when a woman of the Egyptians—a woman swathed from head to foot, with only the eyes showing—crossed his path, he would cry, "They do not wear veils, at home, in the hills." Then, quite suddenly, he would break into harsh laughter and add, "But veils cost gold. Yar Khan, and we sell veils ... thou and I—in the Gamalyieh!...
Yar Khan understood that his father was homesick. But when he begged him to return to the hills Ali Khan would reply with the proverb which says that the cock leaves home for four days only—and returns a peacock. He would add, with a crooked smile: "Of what use the peacock's green tail on the dung-hills? Of what use the gold of Egypt on the barren rocks?"—and then again the talk would he of seasons and of the gold which comes with the shifting seasons' swing.
But Yar Khan would not understand why his father did not return to the hills, why he preferred to live in Cairo—between the dusty shop, and the tiny whitewashed living-house—up and down, up and down, like a buffalo putting his shaggy back to the water-wheel—heavy and slow and blind. He only knew that his father was eating out his heart with longing for the chill, dark pines; and his own homesickness—though his memories were vague—would be upon his shoulder like a stinging brand.
Now his father was dead. There was no lack of gold; and once more the thought of home had come to Yar Khan like a sudden inrush of light after a long, leaden, unlifting day. He was off to his own country in the Month of Pilgrimages.
The old priest whom he met at Bokhara—mumbling his prayers and clicking his rosary beads in front of the little pink mosque of Bala-e-Hava—told him that there was a certain significance to the date—told him, too, after the thin, pretentious manner of Moslem hierarchy, that he did not know if the omen be bad or good—"For," he added, "there is no power nor strength save in Allah the Most High!" and Yar Khan, who had lost most of his respect for holy men in the blue, slippery mud of the Nile, snapped his fingers with gentle derision, threw the whining graybeard a handful ot chipped copper coins, and turned to the bazaars to buy presents for his cousins.
He bought and bought—embroidered silks from Khiva and from far Moscow, pink and green sweetmeats from across the Chinese border, and Persian silver filigree for the young girls. He paid royally, without bargaining; for to-day he was master—buying, not selling—and the smooth touch of the gold pieces as he took them from his twisted waist-band and clinked them down on the counter was pleasant. It was like a prophecy: of conquest and, in a way, of freedom. He swung the furry goat-skin bag which held his purchases over his supple shoulders and turned toward the open market-place to buy a horse.
Rapidly he passed through the bunched crowds—crowds of all Asia—solemn, impassive-looking Bokharans, gently ambling along on gaily caparisoned mules; straight-backed gipsies, swaggering with the beggars' arrogance of their race; melancholy Turkomans in immense fur-caps and plaited duffle coats; Greeks, cunning-faced and sleek and odiously handsome; green-turbaned, wide-stepping shareefs, the aristocracy of Islam; anxious-eyed, tawdry Armenians; Sarts bristling with weapons and impudence; here and there a bearded official of the Ameer's household, with his air of steely assurance, superb self-satisfaction hooded under his sharply curved eyelids—and once in a while a woman, in white from head to foot, a restful relief to the blaze of colors all around.
Yar Khan looked, but he felt no desire to linger. For him there was no fragrance in the blossom-burdened gardens, no music in the song of the koil bird, no beckoning in the life of the streets—motley and shrill and busy—with shaggy Northern dromedaries dragging along their loads and looming against the skyline like a gigantic scrawl of Asian handwriting, with the hundreds of tiny donkeys tripping daintily under their burdens of charcoal and fiery-colored vegetables, with numbers of two-wheeled arbas creaking in their heavy joints—with all the utter, riotous meaning of trade and barter and gold. He bought a horse, a dun stallion with high, peaked withers, and rode out of the Southern Gate without turning around. Down the long south trail he rode—toward the little steel-gray village perched on a flat, circular mountain top which is called The Hoof of the Wild Goat in the Afghan tongue.
He pulled into Balkh, white as a leper with the dust of the road, traded his stallion for a lean racing camel, which had a profusion of blue ribbons plaited into the bridle as protection against the djinns and ghouls of the desert—a superstition of his native land at which he smiled, quite without malice—filled his saddle-bags with slabs of grayish wheaten bread and with little hard, golden apricots, and was off again, crossing the Great River at the shock of dawn. He watched it for a long time; for, springing up in the Hindu Kush, storming through the granite gorges of the lower ranges, it was to him a messenger of the home he had dreamt of and longed for these many years. So he watched the impetuous, green-blue flood bearing down to the soft Persian lowlands with a shout and a roar, dashing against the bank as though trying to sweep it away bodily, then swirling by in two foaming streams on either side. And from the cool waters there rose a flavor of that utter, sharp freedom which was to him the breath, the reason, the soul of the hills as he remembered them.
Yar Khan gave a deep, throaty laugh of sheer joy. "Home—and the salt of the home winds!" he thought, and he thought the words in the Afghan tongue, the harsh tongue of his childhood which he had nearly forgotten in the gliding, purring gutturals of the Cairo streets. Impatience overtook him. "Home, lean daughter of unthinkable begetting!" he shouted at the snarling camel; he tickled its soft muzzle with the point of his dagger, urging it on to greater speed; and on the fifteenth day out of Bokhara, the thirtieth out of Cairo, he found himself in the valley below The Hoof of the Wild Goat.
He opened wide his lungs and filled them with the snow-sharp air, as though to cleanse himself from the shackling abominations of that far Egypt where he had lived the years of his youth. Already night had dropped down from the higher peaks; and in the purple depths of the cloudless sky hung a froth of stars that sparkled with the cold-white gleam of diamonds.
He jerked the camel to its knees and dismounted. But that night he did not stop to make camp, nor did he sit long at his meal. For above him, like a dream of freedom, stretched the rock-perched village of his birth, and every minute spent here in the valley was like another wasted year. So he sat down, picked up a handful of mulberries and ate them; and when a shaggy, skulking Afridi came wandering into the valley, a wire-bound Snider in his arms, and doubtless out to take a late shot at a blood-enemy, Yar Khan stopped him with a shouted friendly greeting and offered him the camel as a present. For he was anxious to tread the jagged rocks of The Hoof of the Wild Goat, and he knew that no plains-bred animal could find foothold on the narrow, winding path which led to the mountain top. Often his father had described the path to him, every foot of it—too, savoring every foot of it in the telling.
The price of the camel? "Masha, illah!" he thought, "my father bartered the years of his manhood for a waistbandful of coined gold; let me then throw away a handful for a minute of home!" and he put the bridle in the Afridi's eager hand, crooking two fingers in sign of a free present.
"Manda na bash—May your feet never be weary!" the grateful Afridi shouted after Yar Khan, who was already speeding up the dark path, the heavy goatskin bag punctuating each step, the joy in his heart as keen as a new-ground sword.
The night was a pall of deep brown, and the road twisted and dipped and turned. But he walked along steadily and sure-footed, though he had not seen the hills, except in dreams, since he was a lisping babe riding astride his nurse's stout hips. It seemed to him as if the flame in his heart was lighting up the uncharted night, as if the thought of home was serving him for an unerring beacon among the slippery timber-falls and the hidden, crumbling rock-slides;
on he pushed, toward the higher peaks cooled with the wailing Northern thunder, and, just before the break of day, turning a massive rock crowned with a stunted lone pine, he came upon the village which huddled, dwarfed and shapeless, among the jagged granite boulders—stretching on toward the North like a smudge of sooty gray below the glimmering band of the eternal snows.
"O Allah!" he mumbled, softly. "O Thou Raiser of the flags of increase to those who persevere in thanking Thee—I praise Thee and I bless and salute our Lord Mohammed, the excelling in dignity!" and again, with rising, high-pitched voice, O Allah!"—letting loose all his long-throttled love and longing in one great cry.
Then quite suddenly he was silent. He drew back a step. He listened intently. There was a faint stir of dry leaves, a soft crackling of steel and, the next moment, a squat form robed in sheepskins loomed up from a clump of thorn-trees; a wide-mouthed smooth-bore was pressed against Yar Khan's chest, and a raucous voice bade him state his name, the names of his father and grandfather, his race, his clan, his destination and his reasons for coming by night, unasked and unheralded, to The Hoof of the Wild Goat. "Speak quick, cow maiming-jackal spawn!" commanded the Afghan, with the ready abuse of the hills, and Yar Khan laughed delightedly. This was what he had expected, what he had hoped for, this greeting out of the wilderness; this savage, free call of his own people, his own blood—cousin and cousin again through frequent intermarriage.
Smiling, he looked at the face of his cousin—for cousin he must be—which was like a bearded smear of gold-flecked red in the dim light of the rising sun. He stated whence he came and why and whereto, winding up by saying, "I am Yar Khan, the son of Ali Khan, grandson of Abderrahman Khan—the Afghan—the Usbek-Khel," and, unknown to himself, a note of savage pride had crept into the telling of name and pedigree.
The other eyed him suspiciously, undecided what to do. He had heard of Ali Khan, the man who had left the hills and who had gone South, in search of gold. And this—he clutched his rifle with steady hands—this smooth-faced, leaky-tongued stranger claimed to be his son. But perhaps this night-prowler was a spy sent by the Governor of Kabul to look into the matter of certain bullocks that had strayed away from the valley. Still, All Khan had had a son—and—
Suddenly he gave a shrill, kitelike whistle, and, a moment later, a second sentinel dropped from a rock crest. Came a whispered colloquy between the two villagers, another rigorous cross-examination as to Yar Khan's pedigree and antecedents, and finally the new-comer declared himself satisfied. He walked up to Yar Khan, his right hand raised high In sign of peace.
"I am Jehan Hydar," he said, "the son of Shujah Ahmet, and I give thee peace—" and with a slight laugh he added, "O Egyptian!"
A great rage rose in Yar Khan's throat. Often, in the past, people had called him Egyptian. There was that gray-haired Englishwoman who had come to his father's shop, year after year during the cool season. In search of scarabs and damaskeened brass; always had she addressed him as "my little Egyptian," and he had not minded It. But this was different, somehow. Rash, bitter words crowded on his lips, but he suppressed them. He was home—home!—and he would not mar the first day with the whish and crackle of naked steel. Better far to turn away ridicule with a clear, true word.
"I am not an Egyptian, Jehan Hydar," he replied, "but an Afghan and cousin to thee—cousin to all this!"—making a great gesture which cut through the still air like a dramatic shadow and which took in the frowning gray hills, the huddled squat houses, and the deep-cleft valley at his feet; and as the other grudgingly admitted the relationship, he swung his goatskin bag from his shoulders, opened it, and groped among the presents he had bought In the bazaars of Bokhara. For his heart seemed suddenly filled to overflowing with the fine, impulsive generosity of youth. "Here, cousin mine," he laughed, "see what I have brought thee from—"
"Peace, peace!" interrupted the other, impatiently; "the night is for the sleep of the sleepers, not for the babble of the babblers," and, motioning Yar Khan to follow, he led him to a low stone hut and bade him enter.
In the middle of the room flickered a charcoal fire in an open brazier, and there was no furniture except a water jar and an earthen platform covered with coarse rugs and sheepskins. Jehan Hydar pointed to it without a word and left the hut, the tip of his steel scabbard bumping smartly against the hard ground.
Such was the home-coming of Yar Khan, the son of Ali Khan; and, as he stretched himself on the earthen platform and gathered the covers about him, he was conscious of a faint flavor of disappointment. They had accepted him, those two, but there had been no joy in the accepting, no generosity, no quick, warm-hearted friendship; and they were his cousins, blood of his blood and bone of his bone—and he had longed for them so!
For their sake he had left Cairo and the smooth gold of Cairo; for their sake he had traveled the many miles, riding till his spurs were red and his hands galled with the pull of the reins and his saddle broken across the tree. And they—Jehan Hydar and the other? Why, they had accepted him as a man accepts salt to his meat, and they had sneered—a little.
He drew himself up on his elbow and looked out of the tiny window which was set low into the wall. A stark black pine stood spectrally in the haggard, indifferent light of the young day. He shivered.
But again the impulsive magnanimity of youth came to his rescue, and he said to himself that these men were his cousins, hill-bred, their whole life a rough fact reduced to rougher order. And he? He was home, and nothing else mattered. Henceforth he, too, would be a hill-man, free and unshackled. The weaver of his own life he would be, running the woof and warp of it as he willed, away from wheedling barter, away from the crowded, fetid bazaars and the shrill trade cries of the market-place. To-morrow he would greet his clan, his family, and they would ask him about his dead father, about Cairo, and—yes—they would ask him about himself and give him a fair measure of honor. For he was coming among them, not as a beggar asking for asylum and bread because of kinship, but as a rich man bearing gifts bought with the red gold of Egypt.
"Home—Allah be praised!" he thought as he dropped into the dreamless sleep of youth.
"Ho, cousin mine! Ho, great lord out of Egypt!" . . . the voice seemed to come from a far distance, and Yar Khan thought that he was dreaming, perhaps of his cousin, Jehan Hydar, he who had addressed him as "Egyptian"; so he stretched his body luxuriously for a second sleep—and then he felt a hand touch his shoulder and shake him gently. At once he was wide awake. It was high day, with the cool golden mountain sun already in the upper arc of the heavens and weaving a lacy, ever-shifting pattern into the drab emptiness of the little hut.
"Ho, cousin mine!" again came the voice from the head of the bed. Slowly he raised himself upright. He turned and he—saw. A young girl was standing there, looking down at him with a smile, her narrow hand on his shoulder. And Yar Khan blushed and closed his eyes.
For be it remembered that all his life he had lived in Egypt and that, while he had seen foreign women walk about unveiled as well as old Moslem hags who were considered too old to spread the soft scent of temptation, he had never seen a young girl of his own race and faith without a veil. Nor had he ever spoken to such a one. He had dreamt of it—as boys dream—and there had been his father's tales of hill customs. Dreams and tales! And now he had seen—
For a moment he felt oddly checked and baffled. He did not know what to say, and what bereft him of speech was not embarrassment, but this new fact of different customs and manners slowly awakening in his consciousness. Quite suddenly it seemed to him that his great yearning for the hills had grown out of a far deeper foundation than he had yet thought of; subconsciously he felt that this young girl was at the root of it, and, with the thought, with the gathering conviction of it, he opened wide his eyes and looked at her.
She was tall and lean, with black hair which fell in heavy braids over either shoulder, a low white forehead, the reddest of lips, and huge gray eyes set deep below boldly curved brows. She was not beautiful. But there was about her something best described as a deep, luminous vivacity—something like an open, clashing response to the free life, the wild life, the clean life—the hills. And she was his cousin?
He formed the last thought into a wondering question, and her reply held both confirmation and, somehow, the flavor of prophecy. "Yes," she said, "I am Kumar Jan, the daughter of Rahmet Ullah, chief of The Hoof of the Wild Goat—I am cousin to thee. Thus were our fathers cousins and our grandfathers and our grandfathers' fathers—cousin aye mating with cousin, according to the rules of the hills"; and as he still stared at her, wide-eyed, unwinking, she asked him why he looked at her. "Am I then a dancing girl of the South or," she added, mockingly, "hast thou never seen a girl in all thy life?" And when Yar Khan replied truthfully that he had not, she was out of the hut with a silvery laugh and the parting advice to make haste and rise—"For thy clan is waiting for thee in full durbar!"
A few minutes later he left the hut and stepped out into the village street, his goatskin bag over his shoulder. A snow-bitten wind was drifting down from the higher peaks, and the harried sun shivered and hid among the clouds. But Yar Khan, South-bred though he was, did not feel the sleety, grained mountain chill; his heart seemed flushed with a hot June prime, and he raised his right hand with an exuberant gesture as he stepped into the council of the villagers who were squatting around a flickering camp-fire—behind every man his wife, unveiled, proudly erect, her hand on her lord's shoulder, and everywhere the sturdy children of the hills: boys of twelve and thirteen who were already trying to emulate the fierce, sullen swagger of their sires, little bold-eyed girls, fondling crude dolls made of stones and bits of string and wood, and wee babes, like tiny gold-colored puff-balls, playing about their fathers' knees or munching wheaten cakes with the solemn satisfaction of childhood.
"I have come—" began Yar Khan, and then he was silent and his heart sagged like a leaden weight. For no sound of greeting rose from the villagers, and the bearded faces which were turned toward him seemed impassive and cruel and slightly mocking. Yar Khan felt like an intruder; there was something like a crash in his brain, and suddenly he realized that he was longing for Cairo, for the busy, motley crowds, the gay cries of bazaar and market-place, and the dancing, red-flecking sunlight of the Southern sky.
He stood still, embarrassed, undecided what to do; and then a clear voice called to him. "Ho, cousin!"—it was the voice of Kumar Jan. He looked. She was standing behind a massive, white-bearded man who was squatting at the head of the durbar, evidently her father, Rahmet Ullah, chief of the tribe; and Yar Khan's flagging spirits rose, and he walked up to Rahmet Ullah, kissing the hem of his robe in sign of fealty.
Then—and often in his thoughts, since he had ridden out of Bokhara, had he enacted the scene—he threw the goatskin bag at the feet of the chief so that the gifts which he had brought tumbled out on the barren gray ground. "Presents for all of you, my cousins," he cried; "silks from Bokhara and sweetmeats from China ..."—suddenly he was silent. A hot red flushed his cheeks. For the uncomfortable thought came to him that he was praising the gifts as he had praised bartered wares across his father's dusty counter in the Gamalyieh; and there was a tense pause while some of the men and women stooped leisurely and fingered the presents, with now and then a short grunt of wonder at the touch of the glittering Northern silks, but with never a word to him—of thanks or joy or pleasure. Even Kumar Jan, to whom he had given a fine Khivan shawl with his own hands, took the offering in a matter-of-fact way. She threw it about her shoulders without a word, and Yar Khan was hurt and saddened; his soul seemed charged to the brim with an overpowering loneliness, and terror came to his heart—the terror of the mountains, of the far places which he did not understand.
His lips quivered. He was about to turn, to leave The Hoof of the Wild Goat, to rush down the steep path and to take the trail—the long trail, to Bokhara, to Cairo—when the voice of Rahmet Ullah cut sharply into his reverie. The chief welcomed him into the tribe with a few simple words, and, indicating the whole assembly, he added: "These be thy cousins, Yar Khan, son of Ali Khan! Their laws be thy laws, their customs thy customs, their weal thy weal, their woes thy woes, their feuds thy feuds! Thou art blood of our blood and bone of our bone! Whatever is ours is thine!"—and, one after the other, the villagers rose and walked up to him. They greeted him, pressing palm against palm, coldly, impassively, with short, rasping "Salaam Alekhum's" and now and then a graybeard's querulous reflection as to manners learned among foreigners and infidels—reflections spiced and sharpened with Afghan proverbs.
"If a man be ugly what can the mirror do?" croaked a battle-scarred grandfather who walked heavily with the aid of a straight-bladed British cavalry saber doubtless stolen during a raid across the Indian border; another chimed in with the even, passionless statement that the cock went to learn the walk of the goose and forgot his own, while a third—a gaunt old warrior with the bilious complexion of the hashish-smoker—inquired of the world at large why it was that in the estimation of some people the strings of their cotton drawers rivaled in splendor the Ameer's silken breeches. The girls and the children tittered at the last remark; and when the younger tribesmen came up to salute their cousin there were open sneers, and finally a loud, insulting question from Jehan Hydar who asked Yar Khan, pointing at his peach-colored Cairene waistcoat, if he had ever considered what a pig could do with a rose-bottle.
Yar Khan flushed an angry purple. This—he thought—was the fair measure of honor which he had expected, this the home-coming—and he had traveled the many weary miles, he had bought presents for them purchased with the bitter gold of exile, he had given them of his best in loyalty and desire and free-handed generosity! He was silent. He felt Kumar Jan's eyes resting upon him, wonderingly, expectantly—and what could she expect? He had gone to the hills in search of freedom, and now he was forfeit to the customs of the hills. He had gathered the swords of humiliation under his armpits, and the feeling of it was bitter and vain.
He looked up. Jehan Hydar was still standing in front of him, a mocking smile playing about his thin lips and in his oblique eyes a light like a high-eddying flame. "Cousin," he drawled, and the simple word held the soft thud of a hidden, deadly insult, "cousin to me, to all of us! Yet do I declare by the teeth of Allah," here his eyes sought those of Kumar Jan, who stood close by, her whole attitude one of tense expectancy, "yes! I declare by mine own honor that thou seemest more like an Egyptian, a foreigner, an eater of fish from the South—of stinking fish, belike," he added as an insulting afterthought; and there was mocking laughter all around, high-pitched, cruel, rasping; but clearest and sharpest rose the laughter from Kumar Jan's red lips.
It was then that Yar Khan's good-humor suddenly broke into a hundred splintering pieces. His rage surged in deadly crimson waves. He forgot that these men were his blood-kin. He forgot the yearning of the swinging years. He only saw the sneer which cleft Jehan Hydar's bold face; he only heard the laughter which bubbled from Kumar Jan's lips, and he stepped up close to the other.
"Better dried fish in the South," he cried, "than a naked dagger in the hills," and his knife leaped out with a soft whit-whit. But he had no time to strike, to stain his soul with the blood of kin; for, even as he spoke, even as the knife left the scabbard, a dozen stout arms were about him, hugging him close—and there were laughter and frantic shouts of joy. Bearded faces touched his; the children crowded about him and hailed him with shrill cries; the women bowed before him with a clank and jingle of silver ornaments; and again, clearest, sharpest, rose Kumar Jan's laughter—but this time it was not the laughter of derision.
Suddenly, Yar Khan understood. They had tested his manhood after the manner of the hills and they had not found him wanting; and so, when he walked away from the camp-fire with Kumar Jan by his side, the hard, pent rage which had bitten into his heart disappeared like chaff in the meeting of winds. He was home, home! He said to himself that these men were his kin, that their woes were his woes, their laws his laws, their feuds his feuds—and he knew why there had been no thanks when he had emptied his goat-skin bag at the feet of the chief. Yes! Whatever was his was theirs—thus the law of the hills—and then something in his heart seemed to flame upward.
He looked at Kumar Jan. She, too, had spoken of the law of the hills—the law which says that cousin shall aye mate with cousin; and she—she was his cousin. And then, thinking epically as hill-men do in moments of great emotion—he said to himself that the stroke and slash of his dagger were hers, that hers was his brain, hers the eloquence of his tongue, hers the strength of his body and the golden dreams of his soul.
He gripped her hand—and he knew that he had come home.