“Two Men Were Standing” is an originally untitled and unfinished short story by Robert E. Howard, set in the bustling bazaar of Delhi. This fragment provides a glimpse into Howard’s broad storytelling canvas beyond his better-known fantasy and horror genres, delving into the vivid atmosphere of early 20th century India. Despite its incomplete nature, the narrative captures the essence of Howard’s knack for crafting distinct, robust characters within a few lines.

150 words, unfinished.

This unfinished snippet from Howard provides a vivid tableau, capturing the dynamics of varied characters in a historical setting, each marked by distinctive cultural and physical characteristics that drive the narrative intrigue, even in its brief form.


The story begins with two men standing in a Delhi bazaar, described as tall and lean with the attire typical of the region. The first man is identified as an Afghan, noted for his hawk-like features and a prominent Khyber knife—a symbol of his heritage and martial prowess. His companion, a Sikh, is distinguished by his long saber and the confident demeanor of a skilled swordsman.

The Afghan, Ali Khan, expresses his impatience with the delay of their associates, criticizing the typical sluggishness he associates with babus. His Sikh friend responds with a smile, suggesting that their delay might be due to their friend, a Calcutta babu, preventing another companion, Ali Beg, from wasteful spending and flirtatious pursuits.

Soon, the awaited pair arrives. The first is the aforementioned Calcutta babu, a portly young man reflecting the bureaucratic class of the city. Accompanying him is a striking figure, Ali Beg of Turkestan. His appearance is markedly distinct with a dyed red beard, a wide Bokhariot girdle, and weapons that signal his northern origins and warrior status. His presence draws the attention of local women, both Hindu and Muslim, pleasing Ali Beg as they admire his exotic allure.

This brief narrative sets the stage for an intersection of cultures and characters, each bringing their own backgrounds and behaviors to the colorful chaos of the Delhi bazaar.


  • Ali Khan – Afghan, characterized by his thin, hawk-like features and carrying a Khyber knife, symbolizing his Afghan roots and martial background.
  • Sikh Swordsman – Companion to Ali Khan, a skilled swordsman identified by his long saber and confident bearing.
  • Calcutta Babu – A portly young man from Calcutta, depicted as a typical bureaucrat, possibly responsible for keeping his more unruly companions in check.
  • Ali Beg of Turkestan – A man from far north of Turkestan, notable for his red-dyed beard and flamboyant attire, which includes a Bokhariot girdle and a saber. His flamboyant demeanor and appearance make him a central figure of fascination in the bazaar.

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