The Opal of Delhi [II] (Fragment)

Clark Ashton Smith

Back in the old days, before India ever heard of the Feringhees, when the great Akbar sat on is throne in Delhi, and ruled Hindustan from Kashmere to Comrin, there dwelt in that city a certain Mussulmani butcher. This butcher’s place of business was situated near the Ajmir gate.

On a certain day it came about that he went into the country to buy cattle, and was absent a good part of the day. Near evening he returned, driving his purchases before him, and at the same time addressing derisive remarks to some passing Hindoos on what he intended to do to the sacred cattle. As he was laughing at their horror, he suddenly observed something lying in he deep mud at his feet; something which shone and glittered with blue flame in the rays of the evening sun. The butcher picked up the object which was about the size of a pigeon’s egg, and saw immediately as he was a good judge of jewels that it was a very large, and certainly most valuable opal. The Mussulman came to the conclusion that some soldier had lost it while passing along the road. As a matter of fact, the stone had originally been the property of a rich and powerful Rajpoot Prince from whose palace it had been stolen by one of Akbar’s soldiers, who, as he neared the Ajmere gate on his return to Delhi, had lost his treasure in the mud. Here, as before related it was found by the Mussulmani butcher. This person, after secreting the jewel in the folds of his cummerbund returned home, forebearing, by the . . .

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Editor's Note::
I find it interesting that Clark approached this story in such radically different ways. Both show advances in skill, and the glimmerings of that subtlety which became so polished in his later works, of slipping in an inference that sets up an entire scenario—as the interchange between the butcher and the natives indicates in the second version. It is not unlikely that the second version is later than the first; certain elements strike me as more accomplished.

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