Told in the East by Talbot Mundy Page 1 of 279

HOOKUM HAI

I.

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.



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