They are being greeted by a lesser minion and escorted to 'rooms' in a distant wing of the palace, when suddenly every native in the courtyard prostrates themselves as if a wave has swept their collective knees from under them. The party turn to see the cause of this mass-prostration to see a smartly dressed european gentleman in his fifties.
The fearsome Abu Tabela turns out to be an intalian mercenary, ex-artilliery officer on Napoleons' staff, called PaoloDiAvitabile. Placed in charge of the 'difficult' region of Peshawar - only recently conquered by the Sikhs, he has taken over the governorship of the richest province of the sub-continent, and key town on the roads through the Kyber pass and [Hindu Kush].
He instantly takes the party to the finest quarters in the palace, placing Lady Elsbeth in querters fit for a queen and lavishing servants, clothing and resources upon her.. including the gift of some very fine 'costume' jewellery of real diamonds and sapphires.
The party are invited to dine with him that night, and he turns out to be a charming and interested host. When the party raise the issue of obtaining some mercenaries he is equally obliging and offers to have his troops parade for the party, especially Lady Elsbeth to whom he has taken quite a shine, the following morning.
The morning arrives and the troops are duly paraded, making a good show of it, and being thoroughly inspected by Gladstone who is grudgigly impressed. The party are then taken huntin, as Elsbeth happened to mention she liked hunting. They are presented with new horses for the day's ride 'while the stable staff rest their own horses after the long journey'. When Lady Elsbeth comments on the stunning quality of her mare Paolo instantly gives it to her as a gift. He assists her up into the saddle and an indescrete hand placement is greeted by a flying boot to the chin as Lady E gets into the saddle, Paolo recovers only just in time to stop his body-guard from attacking Lady Elsbeth.
Having recovered his decorum, Paolo discusses the cost of his troops as mercenaries, and it transpires to be £50 per head per month! The figures add up quickly in Hamiltons' mind and the negotiation begin, Paolo indicates that money is not really the problem, he has more of it than he knows what to do with - it's banking the money that's the problem! Hamilton & Gladstone consider matters and come up with a cunning business proposal...
Later, during the course of the hunt Paolo introduces the local East India Company Agent, one JohnLawrence. Hamilton has correctly deduced that army pay for the Army of the Indus in Afghanistan is a logistical nightmare, particularly it's transport over long distances through bandit ridden country. Hamilton arranges for Paolo to provide cash from his own reserves to pay for the British Army in afghanistan, and for the East India Company to pay the equivalent amount, plus what now amounts to a trivial extra amount for the mercenaries into an ITALIAN bank for Paolo - setting up a safe way for Paolo to get his money banked 'at home', a safer local way of paying the john company troops while they are up-county, and furnishing the Marharini with 400 well trained troops for the summer.
The party spend a fantastically comfortable week as guests of PaoloDiAvitabile, Wallace takes him to task over his cruel and unusual punsihment of the natives and they discuss it good naturedly but agree to differ. Hamilton helps JohnLawrence in his personal quest to end sutee by introducing him to a number of important local prices etc. and personally supporting him.