In the great throne room of the palace at Mekran were assembled all the
dignitaries of the nation–sirdars, captains, kaids; muftis and mueddens
from the mosques; civil officers and judges from the towns; high and
lowly officials of the royal household. Even the obstinate and unbridled
Zirag had yielded to Kasam’s demand and, doubtless more through
curiosity than obedience, had left his camp to enter the city and
witness the day’s event.
Of the nature or character of this event all were alike ignorant. They
merely knew they were commanded to assemble, and the authority of the
khan, backed by that of the Grand Mufti Salaman, ranking next to him,
was sufficient to bring them to a man at the appointed hour.
The press was truly great, even in this spacious hall of audience. Upon
a raised dais sat Ahmed Khan, arrayed in his most magnificent robe of
state. At one side, but upon a lower platform, sat Prince Kasam, and at
the Khan’s right hand stood the Grand Mufti, wearing his decoration of
the jewelled star.
A silence bred of intense curiosity pervaded the assemblage. Even Zarig,
who, clad in his well-worn riding dress, had pressed close to the
platform, was awed by the dignity of the proceedings and glanced
nervously from Kasam to Ahmed and then upon the stately form of the
Presently the great Salaman stepped forward, offering a brief prayer
imploring the guidance of Moses, of Jesus, of Mahomet and of Allah the
All-Wise upon their deliberations. Then, drawing himself erect, he
addressed the people in these words:
“My friends and brothers, it is my duty to declare to you, as
representatives of all the people, that a great wrong has been done you.
It was not an intentional wrong, nor one which, having been discovered,
may not be fully redressed; nevertheless, you must hear the truth and
act upon it as you deem just and right.”
He paused, and a thrill of excitement swept over the throng. In all
their history no such thing as this had been known before.
“The man who sits before you as Ahmed Khan,” resumed the priest, in a
cold voice, “came to you purporting to be the grandson of Keedar Khan
and the son of Burah Khan, and thus entitled to rule over you. He is,
indeed, the legitimate grandson of the great Keedar; but he is no son of
Burah, being the offspring of Keedar’s younger brother Merad, who fled
to Persia an exile in his youth.”
Notwithstanding the astonishing nature of this intelligence the
assemblage maintained its silent, curious attitude. Many eyes were
turned upon the calm and dignified countenance of Ahmed Khan, but no
mark or token of unfriendliness was manifested in these glances.
The priest continued:
“Those among you who heard the dying Burah acknowledge this man to be
his son, before all the sirdars, will marvel that my statement can be
true. You must now know that at that time Burah had really been dead for
two days, and that another falsely took his place. It was this lawless
one who, masquerading as the khan, made the formal acknowledgment. For
this reason Ahmed has never legally been your khan. He is not your khan
At last a murmur burst from the throng; but to the listening ears of the
priest it seemed more a sound of amazement than of protest or
indignation. Ahmed arose from the throne, drew off his splendid robe of
office and laid it over the arm of the chair, disclosing to all eyes the
simple inner garb of a tribesman of Ugg. With dignified mien he stepped
from the dais to the lower platform and held up a hand to command
silence. Instantly every voice was hushed as if by magic.
“Brothers,” said he, “if I have wronged you I beg your forgiveness. Most
willingly I now resign the throne to which I am not entitled, and ask
you to choose for yourselves one more worthy than I to rule over you.”
As he paused a cry arose that quickly swelled to a clamorous shout:
“Ahmed! Give us Ahmed for our Khan! None shall rule us but Ahmed, the
grandson of Keedar Khan!”
Salaman turned pale at this unexpected denouement, which threatened to
wreck all his plans. He strode forward and seized Ahmed’s arm, dragging
him into the background and then returning himself to confront the
Higher and higher the shouts arose, while the priest waved his hands to
subdue the excitement that he might again be heard.
Zarig, scowling fiercely as the crowd pressed him against the edge of
the platform, fingered his dagger as if longing to still this unwelcome
homage to one of the hated tribe of Ugg; but so far as Salaman could
determine there were few others who did not join the enthusiastic
tribute to Ahmed.
But gradually the dignitaries tired of their unusual demonstration, and
remembering their official characters subsided to their accustomed
calm. The priest took advantage of the first moment that he could be
plainly heard.
“Listen well, chieftains and friends!” he cried. “It is clear to me that
your loyalty and admiration for Keedar’s grandson have clouded your
clearer judgment. Not that I denounce Ahmed as unworthy to rule, but
that before your eyes sits one entitled above all others to occupy the
throne of his forefathers–the descendant of seven generations of just
and worthy rulers of this land. Brothers, I present to you one who is a
native-born Baluch–the noblest of you all–Prince Kasam of Raab!”

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Kasam, who until now had been ignorant of the purposes of Salaman, and
was therefore as greatly astonished as any man present, obeyed the
beckoning finger of the priest and arose to face his people with that
air of proud dignity he knew so well how to assume.
Zarig shouted his name wildly: “Kasam! Kasam Khan!” and a few others,
carried away by the priest’s words, followed the sirdar’s lead. But the
shouts for Kasam were soon drowned by more lusty acclaims for Ahmed, and
Salaman hesitated, at a loss how to act, while Kasam shrank back as if
he keenly felt the humiliation of his rejection.
Driven to frenzy by the wild scene about him, Zarig sprang with one
bound to the platform.
“No Ahmed Khan for me!” he shouted, and drawing a slender dagger from
his belt he threw himself upon the American with the ferocity of a
But Kasam was even quicker. Before the multitude realized the tragic
nature of the scene being enacted, the Prince had fallen upon his sirdar
and plunged his knife twice into Zarig’s breast. The man fell to the
floor in a death agony, dragging Ahmed with him, while above them Kasam
stood grasping the weapon that had so promptly saved the life of the man
whom his people had preferred before him.
Then, indeed, a shout of admiration burst from the Baluchi, their
impulsive natures quick to respond to the generosity of such an act.
Ahmed, freeing himself from the dead sirdar, rose up and seizing the
royal robe he had discarded flung its brilliant folds over Kasam’s
shoulders. Then he knelt before his preserver, and Salaman, prompt to
take advantage of the diversion which was likely to turn the tide of
popular enthusiasm his way, knelt also at Kasam’s feet as if saluting
him as kahn.
Zarig had accomplished by his mad act all that he had once longed for in
life. The cries for Kasam grew stronger and more spontaneous, and Ahmed
was able to quietly withdraw from the platform without his absence being
Soon the people were as eager in shouting for Kasam as they had been for
Ahmed, and Salaman lost no time in completing the ceremony that
established the heir of seven generations of rulers firmly upon the
Janet met her husband at the entrance to the harem, where he had hurried
as soon as he could escape from the hall.
“Well, how did it end?” she asked. “They terrified me, at first, with
their cries for Ahmed Khan.”
“They terrified me, too, sweetheart,” he answered lightly. “But my
cousin Kasam is truly made of the right stuff, and turned the tide in
the nick of time. Now then, join me–all together, dear one!–hurrah for
Kasam Khan!”
And as their voices died away an answering shout, grave and stern, came
like an echo from the great audience chamber:
“_Kasam Khan!_”