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Title: Yule-Tide Yarns
Author: Various
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Yule-Tide Yarns" ***

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  Yule-Tide Yarns



  [Illustration: "The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man
  fell."

     _Page 181._
  ]



  Yule-Tide Yarns

  Edited by
  G. A. Henty

  With Forty-five Illustrations


  [Illustration]


  Longmans, Green, and Co.
  39 Paternoster Row, London
  New York and Bombay
  1899

  _All rights  reserved_



  CONTENTS


                                                                  PAGE

  CHÂTEAU AND SHIP.   By G. A. HENTY                                 1
    _Illustrated by_ GORDON BROWNE.

  ADVENTURES OF A NIGHT.   By JOHN BLOUNDELLE-BURTON                54
    _Illustrated by_ ENOCH WARD.

  AN OUTLAW'S FORTUNES.   By W. C. WHISTLER                         90
    _Illustrated by_ J. FINNEMORE.

  "A FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE."  By Lieut.-Col. PERCY GROVES            123
    _Illustrated by_ J. B. GREENE.

  LONGITUDE TEN DEGREES.  By ROBERT LEIGHTON                       160
    _Illustrated by_ W. S. STACEY.

  A SOLDIER'S VOW.  By DAVID KER                                   193
    _Illustrated by_ J. A. SYMINGTON.

  IN LUCK'S WAY.  By FRED. WHISHAW                                 228
    _Illustrated by_ R. WHEELWRIGHT.

  "SAMANA KAY."  By HARRY COLLINGWOOD                              268
    _Illustrated by_ LANCELOT SPEED.

  "HARI RAM," THE DACOIT.  By E. F. POLLARD                        296
    _Illustrated by_ F. FEELER.

  A JUNGLE DRAMA.   By GEORGE MANVILLE FENN                        332
    _Illustrated by_ LANCELOT SPEED.



  LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  "The quartermaster fired his two pistols,
     and the man fell"                                  _Frontispiece_

                                                                  PAGE

  "The two valets had at night carried off his body"                 4

  "Lower your flag or I will sink you"                              10

  "It is I, Peter Vignerolles"                                      14

  "Running forward, stepped into the water"                         29

  "Open the cover a little way to look at the compass"              36

  "At them, lads"                                                   39

  "We buried them at the spot that we agreed on"                    48

  "Stab you under the shoulder in a dark alley"                     61

  "Kiss my hand--do something lover-like"                           68

  "I want your company"                                             74

  "Fighting across the body of a third who lay prone and
     prostrate with Giles' foot upon his body"                      83

  "This is the son of your king. I charge you with his care"        96

  "Master Peel," she cried; "the house is empty and all in
     disorder"                                                     108

  "I shouted, and tried to reach my dagger"                        116

  "I got a fair blow at him from aloft"                            119

  "Knocked him fairly off his legs"                                131

  "I shall try to stop them"                                       137

  "Major Warrington?" he said                                      146

  "You are our prisoner"                                           155

  "The sight and sounds that met him were such as he had never
     before encountered"                                           167

  "The woman shrank from him"                                      174

  "The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man fell"      180

  "You have come back to your senses, eh?"                         189

  "That hand no good--cut thumb off"                               198

  "Jist tie my 'ands agin, will yer, Tom?"                         203

  "The two men met like conflicting whirlwinds"                    215

  "Is it a h'angel?"                                               222

  "Kittie, who played a much stronger game"                        230

  "You may have a visit from the blackguards before the
     night's out"                                                  235

  "The passing of a body of Mashona or Matabele warriors
     on the warpath"                                               245

  "Bruce felt impelled to look upon Uncle Ben's body once more
     before leaving it"                                            255

  "The lad picked up a stone to throw at the evil-looking
     creature"                                                     265

  "Suddenly there arose a wild yell aloft of 'Man overboard!'"     272

  "Ned seemed to stumble or throw himself backwards over the
     gunwale of the boat"                                          285

  "I met with nothing remarkable until I reached its farther
     extremity"                                                    291

  "You'll know me when you next see me"                            305

  "Good sport! good sport!"                                        310

  "In a second he would have torn Lindsay to pieces"               315

  "He shall not be hanged"                                         323

  "Hari Rām, if you make one step forward, I will shoot you
     like a dog"                                                   326

  "They walked down to the bamboo landing-stage at the
     riverside"                                                  335

  "Of course: we must go on"                                       343

  "The butt of his double gun crashed against the side of the
     tyrant's head"                                                361

  "The girls dashed along the bank"                                363

  "Crack!"                                                         365



CHÂTEAU AND SHIP

_A TALE OF THE TERROR_

BY G. A. HENTY


The _Alert_, a handsome schooner of some 200 tons burden, was in April
1793 cruising along the southern shore of France. She had been captured
a fortnight before by his Majesty's frigate _Tartar_, a week after the
declaration of war between France and England. As she was a very fast
vessel, the captain of the _Tartar_ had placed thirty men on board her,
under the command of his senior midshipman, Vignerolles, in order that
he might gather news of the movements of any hostile craft from Toulon
or Marseilles, and pick up any French merchantmen returning from abroad
and ignorant that war had begun. The young commander was standing on
the quarter-deck with his glass fixed upon a large château standing
some four miles back from the sea on a lofty eminence.

"The baron must be mad," he said, as he lowered the glass, "to remain
there with his wife and two daughters, when he might long ago have
managed to escape with them across the frontier into Italy. If he is
so pig-headed as to determine to stop there himself, and have his head
chopped off by the guillotine, he might at least have sent _them_ to a
place of safety. I have been brought up to admire the French nobles,
but upon my word, if they are all like him they well deserve the fate
that is falling upon them. Of course those who emigrate have their
estates forfeited, but it is a good deal better to lose your estate
than your estate and head also."

Vignerolles belonged to an old Huguenot family which had emigrated
to England upon the revocation of the edict of Nantes. They had sold
their property, and possessed considerable means when they arrived
in England. Chiefly for the sake of assisting the many exiles of
their religion, they had joined two or three others in erecting a
silk manufactory at Spitalfields. As time went on, the heirs of those
who had joined them in the enterprise had gone out of it, and the
de Vignerolles of the time had become sole proprietor of the silk
factory. It had gone down from father to son in unbroken succession.
The younger sons had gone out into the world and made their ways
in other directions, but it had become a tradition that the eldest
son should take the business, which was now a very flourishing one.
They had dropped the French prefix, and now simply called themselves
Vignerolles. Their branch of the family had been the younger one. The
Barons de Vignerolles had remained Catholics, and had possessed their
wide estates in peace, being among the largest landowners in Provence.
The connection between the two branches had been always maintained,
and from time to time members of the English branch went out for a
visit to the ancestral château, where they were always hospitably
entertained; the fact that they had gone into trade, which would have
been considered a terrible disgrace in France, being condoned on the
ground that being among a nation of traders it was only natural they
should do as their neighbours did.

Once or twice only had members of the senior branch paid a visit to
London, and then not from any desire for travel, but simply because
they were members of their embassy in London. These had brought back
news that the Vignerolles held a high place in the Huguenot colony,
that they lived in a fine old house at Hampstead, and were generally
liked and respected among the great families who lived near them.

The _Tartar_ had for the last three years been on the Mediterranean
station. Although the English people regarded with the utmost horror
the events that were taking place in France, there was no open breach
between the two nations, and it was only when the king was brought to
trial, and executed on 21st January 1793, that the popular feeling
reached a height that rendered war inevitable; the French ambassador
was ordered to leave England, and on 1st February the National
Convention declared war.

During the three previous years Vignerolles had twice been granted
a fortnight's leave of absence to visit the château of his distant
kinsman, and he had thoroughly enjoyed his stay there. The midshipman
was as strange to the baron and his family as they were to him. The
baron was a typical specimen of French noble: he was kindly by nature,
and an easy lord to his tenants; but he exercised all the seigneurial
rights of his ancestors, regarded the lower class with supreme
contempt, and was an uncompromising opponent of the changes that were
being instituted by the States-general.

"They are ruining France!" he exclaimed. "The idea of a parliament of
advocates and doctors, men of low birth, giving laws to France, and
treating the chambers of the lords and clergy as if they were of no
account, is monstrous. Were I the king I would send down a couple of
regiments, close the chamber, and hang a score of their leaders."

Still greater did his indignation become when he heard of the capture
of the Bastile, and that the king had been brought by the mob from
Versailles to Paris. He himself at once posted off to the capital,
and was one of the party of nobles who had implored the king to call
upon the army to restore order, or at least to bring in two or three
regiments to form a royal guard. He was one of those who had fought
to the last against the mob when they stormed the Tuileries, and had
been left for dead. The two valets he had taken with him had at night
carried off his body, which they were permitted to do by the mob, under
the belief that he was dead. He had, however, recovered, and finding
that the king had refused to countenance any attempt to rescue him
by force, had returned to his château. He was no longer violent, but
remained in a state of the most profound depression, seldom speaking,
and wandering about the house murmuring, "Poor France, poor France!"

[Illustration: "The two valets had at night carried off his body."]

In vain his friends represented to him that the nobles were everywhere
being seized, and that for the sake of his wife and girls he ought
to cross the frontier into Italy while there was yet time. He only
replied, "It shall never be said that a de Vignerolles fled before this
canaille. They can murder us, but they cannot make cowards of us." The
baroness was a bright and kindly woman, and her daughters charming
girls, though with some little of their father's pride of ancestry.
The formal service of the house, the strict etiquette, and what the
midshipman considered ridiculous pomposity, surprised and amused him as
much as did his utter disregard of ceremony, his lively ways, merry and
unrestrained laughter, amuse his far-away cousins. The baron, who might
have been offended by it, paid no attention to what was going on around
him, and his presence acted rather as a damper upon his visitor's high
spirits; but when alone with the girls and their mother, he was free to
say and do what he liked, and they felt their life, which was now an
anxious one, brightened by his visits.

When Peter Vignerolles was appointed to the command of the newly
captured schooner, the captain of the _Tartar_ said to him: "As senior
midshipman I should in any case have given you the command of the
_Alert_, but I know that you will be specially pleased to be in command
of her now. There can be no question that the position of your friends
at the château is a most precarious one, and the baron himself must
be mad to compel his family to run such a frightful risk. If he likes
to throw away his own life, well and good; but he has no right to
expose his family to such frightful dangers; and he has not the excuse
of ignorance, for scores of noble ladies have been murdered by this
bloodthirsty mob. It may be that at the last moment there will be a
chance for them to escape, and if you can in any way assist them to do
so without running too much risk, I think that you will be justified in
acting.

"I do not authorise you to take any action, because I know nothing of
the circumstances; but our general instructions always have been to
give shelter to French royalists, and to carry them to the nearest port
where they can be landed with safety to themselves, and I certainly
should not myself hesitate to send a boat ashore to take them off. You
know the first time that you paid them a visit after we came out here
you brought the baroness and her two daughters to see the frigate, and
I feel therefore personally interested in them, and shall be glad to
hear that they have made their escape; so that if you get a message
saying that they will come down to the shore you will be more than
justified in sending a boat for them, and even in running a certain
amount of risk. However, I must leave the matter to your discretion."

"Thank you, sir; but I am afraid that the baron will neither take any
step for his own safety, nor permit them to leave the château without
him; still I shall do anything that I possibly can to look after them."

"I shall send young Harding with you, and the boatswain's mate. If you
capture any prizes you had best turn the crews adrift in their own
boats with a couple of oars; we don't want to cumber ourselves with
prisoners. You had better keep the prizes with you until we come across
you again; in that case five men would be enough to man one of them,
while if you were to send them down to Gibraltar you would want a petty
officer and eight or ten men. Don't cumber yourself with worthless
prizes, burn or sink any small craft; but, of course, if you get hold
of a ship returning full of goods from one of their colonies, she would
be worth convoying there at once."

And so Peter Vignerolles had sailed away in the _Alert_, the crew being
as pleased as he was at the prospect of an expedition on their own
account away from the frigate.

"It is disgusting--isn't it, Peter?" Harding, who was two years junior
to Vignerolles, said, after he too had taken a look at the château
through the glass--"to think that your friends are there, and that the
'reds' from Marseilles may go up there any day and drag them off to
prison."

"The brutes!" Peter said savagely. "Look here, Harding; I mean to land
to-night and go up and see the ladies. I shall not see the baron. I
regard him as half-cracked, and he would be just as likely as not to
take it into his head that now the two countries are at war, it would
be his duty to hand me over to the authorities. Besides, it is just as
well to keep him in the dark about it altogether. I want to let them
know that I am in command of this schooner. Of course I am supposed to
cruise generally along the French coast; but I intend to keep pretty
close here, of course running out to sea and picking up any craft that
are making for Marseilles or Cette. The _Tartar_ will be watching
Toulon, and although my orders are for general cruising, I know by
what the captain said that he will not be put out if I keep a good
deal in this neighbourhood, where, indeed, I have a better chance of
picking up prizes than I should have if I went farther west. Anyhow,
I want to let them know that we are here, and shall be ready to take
them off if necessary. If they want to speak to us, I shall tell the
girls to hang out a red curtain from their window; if they want to come
off, they are to hang out a white one. We can make them out plainly
enough with a glass from here. Of course I cannot guarantee that we
shall be here when we are most needed, for no doubt the gunboats from
Cette and Marseilles will both be patrolling the coast; besides, we may
be a hundred miles away in pursuit of a prize. However, it will be a
satisfaction for me to know that I have done all that is possible, and
it may be some comfort to them to know that if they can find their way
down to the shore, and signal from there when they see us, they will
have a chance of escape."

"Will you go in disguise?"

"Yes. We took two or three suits of clothes from that fishing-boat that
we overhauled yesterday. I did so on purpose. You see, if one was going
on such a business among what you might call civilised people, I should
go in uniform, for then if I were caught I should not be shot as a spy;
but among these ruffians the uniform would be no protection for me, and
I shall therefore go in one of the fishermen's suits. You see I speak
French as well as English, and shall run very small risk. Of course I
shall take a brace of pistols and a good heavy stick, and if any one
interferes with me they must take the consequences."

After proceeding a mile farther along the coast the schooner's head
was turned seaward, and she ran twenty miles off the coast. Just
as Vignerolles was about to give the order to bring her head round
again, the look-out from the cross-trees shouted down, "A sail on the
weather-bow."

"What does she look like?" Peter asked.

"I can't make her out yet, sir, her upper sails are only just up, but I
should say that she was a large craft."

Peter gave the order to lower the top-sails. "We had better keep out
of her sight as long as we can, Harding; she may be a French frigate
or man-of-war making for Toulon, and as she has the wind pretty nearly
free, it would be as well to give her a wide berth. If she is a
merchantman, we will sail out to meet her. It is not likely that she
has got news yet of war being declared, and she won't suspect any harm
until too late."

It was some time before the man at the mast-head again hailed them.

"She is a three-masted ship, sir, but I don't fancy from the cut of her
sails that she is a ship of war."

"I will come up and have a look at her myself," Peter said, and
slinging his glass over his shoulder he made his way aloft.

"Yes, she is certainly a trader," he said, after a long look at her.
"Let her go two points more off the wind. Mr. Harding, we shall cross
her course a little ahead of her, and that will put Cette nearly dead
astern of us, and she will suppose that we have only just come out and
are making for Corsica."

The top-sails were hoisted again, and the schooner ran along fast, for
the breeze just suited her, being sufficiently strong to carry all sail
with comfort. They rose the other ship fast. There was no longer any
doubt whatever as to her being a trader. They could presently make out
that she carried twelve guns, six on each side. Peter went to the man
at the wheel--

"Keep her up a point," he said; "we will pass a couple of cable lengths
under his stern."

In the meantime the guns had been loaded, and all the crew save ten
ordered to sit down under the shelter of the bulwarks, so that those
watching her should not see that she carried more hands than the usual
company of a craft of her size. The manner in which the vessel kept on
her course without making any alteration in her sail spread, showed
that there was no suspicion whatever in the minds of her officers that
she was an enemy. The _Alert_ was flying the French flag.

"Get the ensign ready for hoisting," Peter said, when within a quarter
of a mile of the Frenchman. The course had been accurately laid, and
she crossed the trader's stern at a distance of some ten lengths; then
the helm was put up, the sheets eased off, and in half a minute she
was in the Frenchman's wake, laying her course north. "Bring her up
alongside of her to windward," Peter ordered, at the same moment the
tricolour was lowered and the white ensign run up. The instant this was
done loud shouts were raised on board the Frenchman; there was a tramp
of many feet, and it was evident that the wildest confusion reigned.
The _Alert_ went so fast through the water that in three or four
minutes she was alongside. Peter sprang on to the rail and shouted--

[Illustration: "Lower your flag or I will sink you."]

"Lower your flag or I will sink you." The order was not obeyed. "Take
her alongside," he said to the helmsman; and then to the crew, "Now,
men, prepare for boarding her." The sight of the thirty sailors
armed to the teeth completed the alarm on board the Frenchman, and
their flag came fluttering down just as the sailors sprang on the
deck. Numerically the French crew were considerably stronger than the
British, but they were taken hopelessly by surprise. A few had caught
up arms, and the tarpaulins had been hastily dragged from the guns, but
the ammunition had not yet been brought on deck.

"What is the meaning of this, sir?" the French captain exclaimed, as
Peter leapt down on to the deck.

"It means, sir, that there is a state of war between England and
France, and that you are my lawful prize." The captain uttered a string
of French oaths and dashed his cap down on the deck in comic despair.
"It is the fortune of war, monsieur," Peter said quietly. "I have no
doubt that if you had been prepared you would have offered a gallant
resistance, but you see it has been a complete surprise, and of course
a very unpleasant one. What ship is this?"

"The _Martinique_, 800 tons burden, laden with coffee and other
colonial produce."

"Thank you, captain. She is a prize worth taking; she looks a new
vessel."

"It is her first voyage," the captain said.

"How many hands do you carry?"

"Forty-five all told, and, as you see, twelve guns. Ah, monsieur, if we
had had time to load and arm ourselves you would have had a different
reception."

"No doubt, no doubt; but you see we sail three feet to your two, which
more than counterbalances the difference in strength, and it would have
been a pity indeed to have knocked such a fine ship about and to have
killed a good many of your men when it would have come to the same
thing at last. Now, I should like to have a look at your papers."

The prize was indeed a valuable one, for although she had filled up at
the French islands, she had previously traded along the South American
coast, and was laden to her utmost capacity. The crew had been ordered
into the forecastle, and a heavy cable had been coiled against the door.

"We will run in, Harding, to within ten or fifteen miles of the land,
then we will lay her to. It will be dark by that time. I will leave
you with twelve men in charge of her. You will, of course, bring up
ammunition and load the guns. I shall run in and anchor as close as
I can to the land--of course showing no lights--and then make my way
up to the château. It will take me an hour to go there and an hour to
return. I may have some little difficulty in getting speech with them,
but certainly in two hours I shall be on my way back. With this wind I
ought to get ashore by half-past eight, and by half-past twelve shall
be on board again. Show no lights till two o'clock, and then hoist one
above another. I shall know by looking at the list the captain gave me,
where the _Tartar_ is likely to be to-morrow, and shall make straight
for her, and cruise about until she comes up. The ship and her contents
are worth, I should say, from twenty to twenty-five thousand pounds. I
shall hand her over to the _Tartar_, and let them put a prize crew in
her. It would never do to weaken ourselves by sending ten or twelve men
in her to Gib. No doubt the _Tartar_ will convoy her till she is off
the coast of Spain."

Consulting the list that his captain had given him, he found that the
_Tartar_ was to put in for fresh provisions at Genoa, and intended
to be back on the following day and take up her station outside the
southernmost of the Isles of Hyères.

"It could not be better," he said to Harding. "I doubt with this wind
whether she will be there, but we shall only have to keep on east till
we meet her."

"Then you won't land the prisoners to-night?"

[Illustration: "It is I, Peter Vignerolles."]

"No; they would make their way to Marseilles, and it would soon be
known that this schooner is English, of which at present they must be
in doubt, as we have always kept the French flag flying. If we don't
fall in with the _Tartar_ to-morrow we will land them east of Toulon;
the authorities there are not so likely to worry themselves over a
merchantman being captured as they are at Marseilles."

This arrangement was carried out, and it was just half-past eight when
the _Alert_ dropped anchor half a mile off the shore, and repeating his
order that no lights should be shown, Peter was rowed ashore by eight
well-armed sailors.

"Lie off a couple of hundred yards till you hear my call. You had
better drop your grapnel, or you will drift along and have to keep on
rowing, and I might have a difficulty in finding you."

When within thirty yards of the shore they stopped and listened for a
minute or two. No sound was heard, and rowing ashore, Peter leapt out.
There was no moon, but the stars were bright, and he had no difficulty
in keeping his course towards the château. He was anxious to be back
on board again, and on striking a road broke into a run, and in
three-quarters of an hour stood outside the house. There were lights in
the window of the room in which the girls slept, and taking a handful
of small stones he threw them up against the casement. He saw a figure
appear and then go away again. He threw up a second shower of pebbles,
and two figures now came to the window and opened it.

"It is I, Peter Vignerolles," he said; "I want urgently to speak to
you."

There were two exclamations of surprise; then the eldest of the girls
leaned out. "We will come down in ten minutes. Go to the window of
the dining-room. We cannot come until we are sure that every one has
retired to bed."

"All right," he said; "only don't be longer than you can help; I have a
boat waiting to take me off again."

In a few minutes the window, which extended down to the ground, opened,
and the two girls stepped out.

"Isn't it very dangerous your landing, Peter," the younger one said,
"now that your people are at war with us?"

"That is to say, at war with your enemies, Julie. No, I don't think
that there is any danger in it. Did you notice a schooner coming along
the coast at ten o'clock this morning?"

"Yes," the girls answered together, "a French schooner."

"Well, she was French, but just at present she is British, and is
tender to the _Tartar_, and I am in command of her. Now what I have
come ashore for is to arrange for you to make signals to us if you want
either to see me or to come on board with your mother. I know that it
is hopeless to expect your father to accompany you."

"There is no hope of that," she said. "Since the king's murder he has
been worse than ever. I do think that he is going out of his mind.
Nothing would induce him to fly. He has armed all the servants, and
declares that he will defend the château till the last."

"It is most unfortunate, Julie, for only one end can come of it; the
place is not defensible for a moment. I suppose that there is no hope
of persuading your mother and you to come at once."

"Not in the least, and we would not ask her," the elder girl replied.
"We are de Vignerolles too, and if our father thinks it right to remain
here, we shall certainly do so. We can die as hundreds of other noble
ladies have done."

"Well, as long as your father is here I suppose you cannot leave, but
if the 'reds' come there is no reason why you and your mother should
not fly; throwing away your lives will benefit neither France nor your
house. When this château is once taken, and your father a prisoner,
there would be no common-sense in your hesitating about making your
escape if there were an opportunity of doing so."

"No; then we would escape if we could; but once in the hands of the
'reds,' there will be little chance of that."

"Well, that would be my business. At any rate I want you to arrange
signals. We can see the window of your room from the sea. I shall be
cruising backwards and forwards; sometimes I may be away for two or
three days, because I have to attend to my duty. At any rate I want
you to hang out a red curtain when you see us come along, if you wish
to see me, and to hang out a white curtain as a signal that these
scoundrels are approaching the château or have taken it. If I see the
white curtain I shall be pretty sure that you will already be prisoners
in their hands. Then of course I shall be guided by circumstances. But
my advice and my earnest prayer is, that if the 'reds' are coming, and
your father still persists in his mad idea of defending the house, you
and your mother should have disguises ready, and, after having hung
out the signal, slip out and conceal yourselves until they have gone.
Another thing: I should advise your mother at once to pack up all the
family jewels, and the title-deeds, and other valuables, and that you
should bury them in the shrubbery without loss of time; then we could
dig them up later, and they will come in useful to you indeed should
you escape to England. It would be a good thing for you to fix upon the
spot where you will bury them now, so that I may be able to come for
them without its being necessary for one of you to act as a guide to
the place."

"I think that is a very good plan," Melanie said. "Even if we are
carried away and murdered, it would be a satisfaction to us to know
that our jewels--and you know that they are very valuable--have not
fallen into the hands of these wretches, but that they will still be
the property of one of our family."

"You didn't think, Melanie," Peter said, in a tone of pain, "that I
ever dreamt of such a thing when I made the suggestion."

"Of course not," the girl said indignantly. "How could you fancy such
a monstrous thing! Of course you were only thinking of us; but at the
same time what I say is true, that we should all be very glad to know
that these canaille have not got the de Vignerolles jewels. Now let us
choose a place."

They went out into the shrubbery at the side of the house, and fixed
upon a spot within forty or fifty paces of the trunk of a large tree.

"We will bury the things here."

"Do it at night, Melanie."

"Certainly; we will come down, as we have done now, when the house
is all asleep. We will get a shovel during the day, and hide it in
readiness. We won't forget the signals. Of course we shall not want to
see you unless, which is not likely, our father consents to leave the
country with us."

"I fear that is hopeless indeed, Melanie; still there is a possibility;
and if I see the signal you may be sure that I shall be up here the
same evening."

They had by this time returned to the window. "I must be off now," he
said; "we have captured a valuable prize to-day, and I shall be anxious
about her safety until we are alongside of her again. Keep a sharp
look-out for us. When I do come I shall try to pass along the coast
here between ten and eleven o'clock in the morning, so that you will
know when to look out for me. God bless you both. I wish that I could
get a month's leave and stay here; then I could make pretty sure of
saving you and your mother."

"Good-bye, Peter. If we never see you again we shall remember to the
last how kind you were and how you did your best to save us."

He kissed them both for the first time, and as he knew, perhaps for
the last. He then, as they closed the window, turned and ran hastily
away, with his cheeks wet with tears. He had been gone little over two
hours when he again reached the shore and hailed the boat. Two men
were on watch, and the rest, who were stretched in the bottom, at once
scrambled up. The grapnel was speedily hauled in and the boat rowed to
shore. Peter jumped in.

"Back all," he said; "now pull bow and three, then lay out, for I want
to be on board as soon as I can."

"We were not expecting you back so soon, sir," the man who was rowing
the stroke oar said apologetically, "or else we should all have been on
the look-out."

"No; I have been fortunate, and have not been more than half the time I
expected to be."

As soon as he was on board, the anchor was run up to the bow, the sails
hoisted, and the _Alert_ was under way again. Peter went to the wheel.

"Be very careful with your steering," he said; "the course is
south-east by south, a half south. They will not have shown her lights
by the time we get there, so we must mind that we don't miss her."

When he judged that they were within a couple of miles of the barque,
the same signal was hoisted that the latter was to have shown, and
a minute later two lights appeared straight ahead of them, and they
presently heard the clank of the windlass.

"Nothing happened, Mr. Harding?"

"No, sir, all has been quiet. The prisoners have tried the door once or
twice, and I had to threaten to fire through it; since then they have
been quiet. We made you out just before you showed your lights, and it
was a relief when you did so; for although you were coming from the
right direction it might have been an enemy, and I had just told the
men to stand to quarters."

"Quite right; and now is your anchor up?"

"Yes, it is at the cat-head, sir."

"Well, get sail on her as quickly as you can, and then steer east by
south. I will keep near you. You may as well show a light at your
stern."

Ten minutes later the vessels were both on the course given, and the
schooner under reduced sail following the prize. By twelve o'clock
the next day they were off Toulon, with the Isles of Hyères ahead of
them. When off the most southern of these they lay to. The wind was now
very light, and they had during the last half-hour made but little way
through the water.

"They are signalling on that island," Harding said.

"Yes, I see they are, Harding. If I had known that the wind was going
to drop so light I would have kept farther off. The worst of it is,
that what tide there is, has just turned against us, and the wind is
dropping every minute. In half-an-hour it will be a stark calm, and
I should not be surprised if they send gunboats out from Toulon when
they hear that a schooner and a barque, the latter probably a prize,
are lying here becalmed. If so, we shall have to fight for it. Johnson,
take my glass, and go up to the mast-head and see if you can make out
the _Tartar_."

"I can see the top-sails of a square-rigged craft some twenty miles
away, sir; I have no doubt that it is the _Tartar_."

"Is there any sign of wind?"

"No, sir, there does not seem to be a cat's-paw on the water anywheres."

"This is an awkward place to be becalmed, Harding," Peter said to the
midshipman, who had just rowed on board from the barque. "If it were
not for the prize we might get all the men in the boats and tow the
schooner. We could get two and a half knots out of her, I should
say, with the three boats ahead, but we can't tow her and the barque
too; and I don't suppose that all hands would take that craft through
the water more than a knot an hour, and divided between us the gain
would be so little that it would not be worth while fatiguing the men.
There is one thing, it is some thirty miles from where we are lying
to Toulon, and as likely as not the naval people there won't think it
worth while to send a gunboat out here when a breeze may spring up
before they are half-way out. It is not as if it were in summer, when
a calm will last for a week. Before an hour has passed we may have the
wind coming down from the north with strength enough to take our mast
out of us. No, I should say that the chances are that they will leave
us alone, unless there happens to be a gunboat or two lying somewhere
in shelter among these islands."

Half-an-hour later the look-out at the mast-head hailed again--

"It seems to me that there is a dark line coming across the water from
the north, sir, and some fishing-boats close in shore have just lowered
some of their sails."

"You had better go on board again at once, Harding; take five more men
with you; we can manage very well with fifteen here. Get her royals and
topgallant-sails furled, and it will be as well if you take a reef in
your top-sails too. These squalls come down desperately hard, though
they don't last long. We will keep together. If by any chance we get
separated, make for Genoa--that is, if you cannot join the _Tartar_.
However, I hope that it is not going to blow as hard as all that. I
want to hand her over as soon as I can."

Five men were ordered into the boat, and in a couple of minutes they
were on board the barque, which was lying only a few lengths away. Sail
was shortened on board both vessels, and in a quarter of an hour they
were under very reduced canvas. Peter ran up the ratlines for some
distance.

"It is coming along like a racehorse, Mr. Harding," he shouted. "You
had better put two or three men in a boat alongside, and get her head
round, so that it will take her aft."

The vessels were still becalmed, and although the white line of water
was still a mile away, the sound of the ripple was plainly perceptible.
The schooner's head was also taken round, and both craft were ready
for the squall when it struck them. It was well that they had been
got round in time, for lying motionless they might have been capsized
before they could get way on them, had they been caught broadside to
the wind. As it was, both were driven down until the water almost came
over the bows; then as they gathered way they sprang forward.

"I don't think that it is going to last long, Jamieson," Peter said to
the gunner's mate.

"No, I don't think so, sir; these squalls which begin so hard generally
blow themselves out in half-an-hour, or else settle down into a steady
breeze."

After running for half-an-hour the squall had so far abated that they
were put on their course again, and ran rapidly down to the frigate,
the wind dropping gradually, until when within a mile of the _Tartar_,
which was still lying becalmed, it left them altogether. Peter ordered
eight men into the cutter with the tow-rope, Harding did the same, and
after an hour's rowing the craft were within hailing distance of the
_Tartar_. Peter got into the boat and was rowed on board.

"So you have taken a prize I see, Mr. Vignerolles," the captain said.

"Yes, sir, and she is a valuable one; she is loaded with colonial
products, coffee, sugar, tobacco, and so on. I thought that I had
better bring her straight to you, for I should have weakened my crew
too much if I had sent her down to Gibraltar. I have brought her
manifest on board. She is a new vessel, and carries twelve guns. We
took her by surprise without a blow being struck. This is the report
of her capture," and he handed the document that he had written out,
together with the ship's papers, to the captain. The latter glanced
down both papers.

"Very smartly done, Mr. Vignerolles, the surprise was very well
managed; for had they had a suspicion that you were an enemy, it might
have cost you some hard fighting before you took her, as her guns are
heavier than yours are, and her crew stronger; besides, you might have
knocked her about, and as she is a new vessel that would have been a
pity. She is a very valuable prize. I suppose you want me to take her
in charge, and to let you have your crew again?"

"If you please, sir; we are not very strong-handed now, and if I had to
put men on board another prize I should be quite crippled--even now I
can hardly work all my guns."

The captain smiled. "That is to say that you would like ten more men,
Mr. Vignerolles?"

"I should indeed, sir, if you would be kind enough to give them to me."

"Well, as you have brought us in a prize worth, I should say at least,
twenty thousand pounds, I think that I must let you have them. How
about your prisoners?"

"They are shut up in the fo'castle, sir; we have a heavy coil of rope
against the door. Mr. Harding tells me that they have tried to break
out twice, and that he has had to threaten to fire upon them."

"We will take charge of them."

The master and mate with fifteen men were at once sent on board the
prize. Harding with his crew returned to the schooner, and ten more
men from the frigate were sent on board her. Then the _Alert_ dipped
her ensign and laid her course west; while the frigate, escorting the
prize, headed south-west, as the captain intended to see her well past
the French coast before he left her; for although no French men-of-war
had, so far as he had learned, put out from Toulon, it was certain that
French privateers would very soon be fitted out to prey upon British
commerce. The breeze had sprung up again, and the schooner, slipping
fast through the water, soon drew away from the others. A large ship
was seen coming out from Toulon, but the _Alert_, sailing much faster,
soon lost sight of her. Four days later, returning from the westward,
the _Alert_, rounding a headland, came in sight of the château. Peter
uttered an exclamation as his eye fell upon her, and he caught up the
glass.

"Good Heavens, Harding, the château is on fire, there is smoke pouring
out of two of the lower windows, and--Yes, I can make out a white sheet
or something outside the window where the signal was to be shown. I am
afraid the château is in the hands of those ruffians of Marseilles. No
doubt, directly they were seen coming the girls hung it out, though
they would know that we should not be along here until eleven o'clock.
Probably the place was taken some hours ago. You may be sure that the
scoundrels would not set it on fire until they had sacked it from top
to bottom. The only chance is that they may be hiding somewhere near
the shore."

He threw the schooner up into the wind, and for an hour she lay there
while the two midshipmen examined every stone and tree near the water
through their glasses, but without seeing the slightest sign of any one
hiding there.

"It is no use waiting any longer," Peter said at last. "If they had
escaped before the place was taken they would have been here long ago,
and would, of course, have signalled as soon as they saw us. We will
make straight out to sea for the present, we can do nothing until it
gets dark. I don't know, though. Put her head to the west again; I must
go and see what is going on up there, and must run the risk of being
caught. There is a battery in the next bay, and two or three villages
farther on, so I must go at once. Get a boat down with four hands in
it, while I run down and put on that fishing suit again. As soon as you
pick the boat up make out to sea, and be here again at seven. Don't
send the boat ashore unless you see me come down to the water's edge.
If I am not there, stand off again, and come back two hours later; I
may be detained. If I am not there then, come back at ten o'clock and
send a boat in. Unless I come off then, you will know that I have got
into some sort of mess. Cruise along as usual, and don't come back till
evening the day after to-morrow. Then if I am not there, you had better
find the _Tartar_, tell the captain that I went on shore to see if I
could get my friends out of the hands of these scoundrels, and that as
I have not returned I must certainly have been taken prisoner."

He ran down below and hastily put on his disguise, hid two brace of
pistols under the blouse, and went up again. The boat was already
alongside. Harding was examining the shore with his glass.

"I don't see a soul moving, sir."

"Throw her up into the wind at once; if you go any farther they will
make us out from the fort beyond the headland."

The sailors were armed with pistols and cutlasses. "Now, lads, take
me ashore as quickly as you can, so that I can get well into the wood
before any one who happens to see the boat come off can get there."

The sailors rowed at racing speed to the shore. All was still quiet.
Peter jumped on to the beach, bidding the men row back as fast as
they could; then he started at a quick run through the wood. When he
approached the château he saw a crowd of some four or five hundred men
in front of him. All were armed, some with muskets, others with pikes,
while some carried swords. Casks of wine had been brought up from the
cellars, and half-a-dozen of these had been broached, and the men were
gathered thickly round them.

"Drink away, you brutes," Peter muttered to himself. "I wish I could
drop a couple of handfuls of arsenic into each of those barrels--not
many of you would get back to Marseilles."

As Peter could speak French as well as English he had no fear of his
disguise being suspected, and he sauntered up boldly to the crowd. No
one paid any attention to him. It was natural enough that fishermen,
seeing the flames which were now pouring out from almost every window
in the house, should come up and see what was going on. Very many of
the crowd were already showing signs that their draughts had been deep
ones. They were shouting out scraps of the revolutionary songs; some
were howling, "Death to the aristocrats!" In front of the principal
entrance a pike was stuck up with a head upon it. Peter strolled
towards it, and, as he had feared, soon recognised the features of the
baron. Passing by, he came to the entrance; a dozen dead bodies were
lying there. It was evident that the baron had, as he said he would,
defended it with his servants, and that all had fallen, but not until
they had killed at least an equal number of their assailants. Looking
about he saw a small group of men standing apart from the house. He
directed his steps in that direction, and saw sitting on the ground in
their midst the baroness and her two daughters. One of the men who were
guarding them came up to him.

"Have you just come up from the sea, comrade?"

"Yes; we were in our boat and saw the flames, so I landed to see what
was the matter."

"You see the tyrant is dead. He has saved the guillotine trouble. As
for the women, justice will be done on them."

"No doubt, no doubt," Peter said; "but aristocrats though they are,
they were kind to tenants on their estate."

"Bah! when every sou had been wrung from them they flung a few back.
What goodness was there in that? The aristocrats must be stamped out
root and branch; they have fattened too long on the people."

"Yes, the de Vignerolles have been here a long time--hundreds of years
they say."

"Yes; think of that, draining the life-blood of France for hundreds of
years. However, it is our turn now. Well, by to-morrow morning they
will be lodged in the prison, to-morrow they will be tried, and the
next morning the guillotine will have the last word with them--we don't
waste time with these people. Go over there and get a drink--they have
got wine, the nobles have, while we who tend the vines are obliged to
drink water."

"When will you start, comrade?"

"Not for three or four hours yet. We left Marseilles at midnight, and
had well-nigh twenty miles to march, and the men must have a rest
before they go back."

Peter had now learned all that he wanted to know; but he felt that it
were better that he should linger for a while, so he sauntered across
to one of the groups. A cup of wine was held out to him by one of the
men who had installed himself as server.

"Drink death to all tyrants, my friend," he said.

"That will I heartily. 'Death to all tyrants,'" and he drank off the
wine.

"You will soon be on board a ship fighting the English," the Frenchman
said. "There was an order yesterday that all fishermen were to repair
at once to Toulon to man the ships there."

"We have not received it yet," Peter said; "but I for one shall not
be sorry to be on the deck of one of the ships of war now at Toulon.
Fishing is all very well, but that will soon be spoiled if the English
war vessels come cruising along the coast; besides, now all the
aristocrats are being killed, we shall get but poor prices for our
fish."

He remained for another half-hour watching what was going on. There was
scarce one of the crowd that had not some portion of the booty about
him; costly curtains, rich hangings, and even ladies' dresses were
wrapped round and round their bodies, or tied up so as to form scarves
over their shoulders. Some had made up bundles to be carried on their
muskets. One ruffian was swaggering along with the Baron's hat on his
head. Many had already lain down on the grass to sleep off the effects
of the wine and the fatigue of their night march. One party of men,
more drunk than others, had joined hand-in-hand, and were dancing round
the pike on which was the baron's head, singing a _Ça ira_. Peter's
fingers itched to grasp his pistols, but he restrained his fury until
he reached the farthest group, and then walked at a leisurely pace away
into the shrubbery.

As soon as he was out of sight he dashed off, and did not pause until
he reached the shore. The schooner was a mile away, heading straight
in. Glancing to the right, he saw a party of soldiers marching along
the beach. They evidently came from the fort beyond the headland, and
were about three or four hundred yards away from him. As he stopped
they halted, and were evidently watching the schooner. Without
hesitation he threw off his blouse and fisherman's boots, threw down
his pistols, and, running forward, stepped into the water. He went
easily for some twenty yards when he heard a shout and knew that he was
seen. He now swam his hardest, and by the time the soldiers came up,
was sixty or seventy yards from shore. They at once opened fire; but
he dived and swam straight on under water, coming up occasionally to
breathe, and then diving again until he was a couple of hundred yards
out, and beyond the reach of any chance ball. The schooner was now
thrown up into the wind, and a boat had been lowered, and was rowing
towards him. The schooner was, as usual, flying the French flag. In a
few minutes the boat came up and took him in.

[Illustration: "Running forward, stepped into the water."]

"That was a close shave," he said to the cockswain; "if I had not swam
out you would never have been able to take me off."

"We made them out, sir, and thinking, I suppose, that you could not get
off nohow while they were there, Mr. Harding had given the word to go
about, when we saw you run out and take to the water. We were not long
in getting the boat down and starting, you may be sure."

"What is the news, Peter?" Harding asked, as he stepped on to the deck.

"Just what I expected, Harding. The villains have murdered the baron
and taken the ladies prisoners, and they are going to march with them
to Marseilles this afternoon. The scoundrels were drinking heavily,
and I don't think they will move until five o'clock, then I expect
there will be a good many left behind. We will stand out to sea now.
We daren't land till dusk, for you may be sure those soldiers who were
firing at me will be watching us. I expect they don't know what to make
of it. No doubt they have had their eye on the schooner for the last
week, and I should think that they have put us down as a privateer from
Marseilles or Toulon. I hope they will think that I was one of the crew
who had been landed to see what was going on at the château, though it
will puzzle them, why in that case I risked being shot.

"Yes, that is certain to rouse their suspicions."

"Well, we will keep right out, and run in after it gets dark, seven
or eight miles along the coast land, and take post on the road from
the château to Marseilles. As I have ridden over it two or three times
I know it pretty well, and there is one point where it comes within
a mile of the sea. It is pretty well dark by seven o'clock, and even
if they start at five--and I don't think that there is much chance of
that--we shall be there before they come along, for they won't be able
to go more than two and a half, or at most three miles, an hour."

"I wish I could go with you, Peter!"

"I wish you could, but you see you must remain on board. It would never
do to leave the ship without an officer; besides, I may want your
guns to cover our retreat. I have no fear of being able to rescue the
ladies by a sudden attack, but the brutes will no doubt follow us up
closely. I shall leave the boats when a good mile off shore; but you
must come in as close as you can. Keep the lead going, and anchor with
only a foot or two of water under your keel; what tide there is will be
rising. When we get to the edge of the steep ground going down to the
beach I shall send half the men down with the ladies to get into the
boats, and to stand ready to push them off. I will take a blue light
with me, and will fire it, and drop it as soon as we make our rush
down. Then you will be able to make them out, and open with grape over
our heads. Perhaps the first shot or two had better be with ball, grape
are apt to scatter too much; but as soon as we are fairly away from the
shore you can give them grape."

"How many men will you take with you?"

"Thirty; it was for that that I got the extra ten hands from the
captain. There are three or four hundred of them, and about half
their number have got muskets. I don't expect that they will be in a
condition to shoot very straight; but half-drunk as most of them will
be, they may try to rush us, and thirty men won't be any too many."

The men were presently told off for the work, and as soon as they
learned that it was to be a landing party they set to cleaning muskets
and pistols, and getting a sharper edge put on their cutlasses. The
general idea was that they were going to storm a battery, and perhaps
cut out some craft of which the captain might have heard when he was
ashore. Every hand was required, and the cook and steward were both
to go with the landing party, and, with two seamen, were to act as
boat-keepers when the others landed, and in this way Harding would
have ten men all capable of working the guns left with him. When the
_Alert's_ head was again turned towards shore, Peter called the men aft.

"Now, lads," he said, "you are going on an expedition which as British
sailors you will, I know, like. The ruffians from Marseilles have
burned that château you saw in flames, they have murdered its owner,
and they are taking back with them his wife and two daughters, and of
a certainty these will share the fate that has befallen so many other
ladies of noble families. Now, my men, my object in going ashore is
to rescue these three ladies from the hands of these blood-stained
villains. There are something like three hundred of these fellows; but
as the best part of them will be more or less drunk, I don't think the
odds are too great for you, especially as we shall have the advantage
of a surprise, and shall be able to carry off the ladies before they
can rally; but we may expect some hard fighting on our way back.

"The spot where we shall attack them will be about a mile from the
shore, and no doubt they will try pretty hard to arrest our progress.
We must keep together without straggling, loading as we retire, and
turning and giving them a volley from time to time. If they make a rush
upon us, sling your muskets behind your backs, and go at them with
cutlass and pistol. The great thing will be to ensure that we do not
miss our way as we come back. We will take eight lanterns with us, and
put one down at each gate or opening as we go along, so that we shall
only have to follow the line of lights. On our return, Mr. Jamieson,
you with four men will act as a special guard to the ladies; you will
keep some twenty yards ahead of us as we fall back, halting when we
halt, and closing up to us if they get between us and the shore.

"I hope that they won't do this; they will be taken so much by surprise
that we shall get a considerable start before they can get under way
to pursue us, and as, of course, we shall go at the double, we may be
half-way before they will be near enough to make any serious attack on
us. We shall take six stretchers with us; the ladies will be utterly
worn out after the fatigues of such a terrible day, and possibly one
or all of them will need to be carried. At any rate, we shall want
stretchers in case any are wounded; we must not allow any one to fall
alive into the hands of these bloodthirsty scoundrels. Now, my lads,
you know what you have got to do, and how you have to do it. I know
that there is not one of you who will not be glad to have a chance at
once of saving the lives of these ladies, and of striking a blow at
the men who have been murdering their fellow-countrymen and women by
thousands. As to you who remain on board ship, you will have your share
in the affair: it will be your duty to cover us with the fire of the
guns as we come down to the boats, and it may possibly be that one of
the gunboats from Marseilles will come along while we are away, and in
that case you will have harder work than we shall."

A cheer broke from the whole of the men, for those who had before been
greatly disappointed that they were not to take part in the expedition,
were satisfied now that they learned that they would not be altogether
idle. Fortunately there was a haze on the water as the sun went down,
and they were therefore able to approach the shore earlier than Peter
had expected, and sounding carefully as they went, they dropped anchor
some two hundred yards from the shore an hour after sunset. The
greater part of the sails had already been lowered, but had not been
stowed, so that they could be hoisted at the shortest notice; the boats
had been lowered, in order not only to save time, but because the sound
of the tackle might be heard by any one on shore.

"Take your places quietly in the boats," Peter said. "Let the men told
off to carry the lanterns and stretchers get in first." Then when all
the men had taken their places in the boat, he turned to his comrade--

"Remember, Harding, if the gunboat should unfortunately come along, you
must fight at anchor. You have got a good stock of hand-grenades if
they should try and board you by boats; and as they won't know how weak
your crew is, it will be a case of big guns for some time. If the worst
comes to the worst, and should they lay her alongside and board you,
we shall do our best to recapture you. The wind is very light now, and
even if they tried to tow you off, we should be able to overtake you. I
hope it won't come to that, but it is just as well to arrange for all
contingencies. Don't show a light on any account unless you find that
you are getting the worst of it, then hang one over the stern in order
that we may be able to follow when they get up sail."

So saying, he stepped down the accommodation ladder, and took his place
in the stern-sheets of the largest boat.

"Row on," he said, "but be as quiet as you can." The oars had all been
muffled, and the men rowed so silently that scarce a sound was heard.
"Easy all," Peter ordered when they were within twenty yards of shore,
"the way will carry us in. Keep a sharp look-out in the bow, there may
be rocks sticking up anywhere; we don't know what the coast is like."
No obstacles were met with, and the boats ran quietly on to the sand.

"Keep them some fifty yards off," Peter said to the four men who were
to remain, two in each boat. "If you hear any one coming along the
shore, lie down, and don't make any answer if they hail you. Row
nearer in as soon as you hear us coming, but don't come in close till
we run down; they will know that we must have come from boats, and some
of them may run on ahead to capture them before we arrive."

[Illustration: "Open the cover a little way to look at the compass."]

The ground rose somewhat steeply for fifty yards. On reaching the level
a lantern was placed there, then the men formed fours and marched
along. Peter, who carried with him a compass, went ahead. The lanterns
were all in canvas covers to prevent their being seen until wanted,
and a man carrying one walked by the side of Peter, so that he could
occasionally open the cover a little way to look at the compass. From
time to time the cover was removed from a lantern, and it was left on
the ground. After twenty minutes' walking they arrived at the road.
There was no wall or hedge, and they kept along it until they came to
a small copse. It was an hour before any sound was heard, and Peter
began to get very anxious lest the "reds" should have gone past before
he arrived. At last far away along the road they saw a dull glow, and
in another ten minutes made out a number of lights.

"They have got torches and lanterns," he said to Jamieson, who was
standing next to him. "Now, my lads, all crouch or kneel down as you
like. You have got your muskets slung behind you?"

"Ay, ay, sir," ran along the line.

"Remember not a shot is to be fired until the ladies are in our
hands. I shall pass the word along quietly. Get through the bushes as
noiselessly as you can. When I say 'Now' make a rush at them, and use
your cutlasses as freely as you like. The moment Jamieson and his party
have surrounded the ladies I will fire a pistol; you might not hear my
voice in the din. The moment you hear it, cease your attack, run back
to the corner of this copse, and as soon as Jamieson with the ladies
has got ahead of you, make straight for the lantern. Luckily we put the
last one on a big stone, and we can just see it from here. Keep in good
order, and run in a double line."

Peter remained on his feet, a bush in front of him being sufficiently
high to conceal him altogether. There was a roar of voices as the
"reds" came along. They could hardly be said to be singing, but each
was howling or yelling the Carmagnole. They were not so drunk as Peter
had hoped they would be, the six-mile walk from the château having
enabled them to partially shake off the effects of the wine they had
imbibed; and indeed, their leaders had broken up the casks and spilled
all the liquor two hours before the start was made. Many of them
carried torches, while some had lanterns, for they had left Marseilles
at midnight. They were a strange, wild-looking lot: all wore either
red caps or cockades in their hats, their long hair hung down on to
their shoulders, and the plunder they bore added to the savagery of
their appearance. About a hundred passed along; then came some men with
pikes. At their head walked one holding aloft the head of the baron,
and six others followed him with those of the servants that had fallen.

Immediately behind these came twenty men with muskets marching in two
lines, and between them were the baroness and her daughters. Though
weak with grief and fatigue they walked along unaided, holding their
heads erect, and without casting a look to the right or left. As the
pikemen came along Peter passed the word, and the sailors crawled out
through the bushes, any noise they made being deadened by the roar
of the mob. Then Peter shouted "At them, lads," and in a moment the
sailors were among the men with the muskets, the whole of whom were
cut down before they had time to fire a shot. Then, according to the
orders they had received, half turned each way; one party fell upon the
pikemen with their ghastly burdens, the other on those following the
men with muskets. Peter, followed closely by Jamieson and his four men,
had sprung at once to the ladies' side.

"Thank God I have rescued you," he exclaimed. "But there is no time for
talk now--keep with these men--we will cover your retreat. If you are
unable to walk they have stretchers to carry you along."

They were clinging together bewildered by the sudden combat that had
broken out around them.

"Robbins," Peter called to a sailor close by him, "do you join
Jamieson's party, then there will be two to each stretcher. Directly
you get off the road, put the ladies on to them, go off at a trot; you
will take them along a great deal faster than they can walk."

He hurried the ladies off the road. The stretchers were laid down on
the ground.

[Illustration: "At them, lads."]

"Please lie down on them at once," he said, "there is not a moment to
be lost."

Almost mechanically they did as he told them, and the six men caught
up their burdens and went off at a swinging trot, the weight being
hardly felt by them. Peter ran back on to the road. At present it could
scarcely be said that there was any fighting; taken wholly by surprise,
astounded at finding themselves attacked by British sailors, those
near them thought at first only of flight, and the tars were chasing
and cutting them down ruthlessly, maddened by the sight of the heads
carried on the pikes.

Peter waited for a minute and then fired his pistol. In a moment the
pursuit ceased; the two parties of sailors came running back, fell
into two lines, and, headed by him, followed the direction taken by
the first party. For two or three minutes confusion reigned among the
mob. Those in front and those behind were alike ignorant of the nature
of the fray which had suddenly taken place in the centre; but some of
the more intelligent of their leaders shouted that it was but a handful
of sailors that had attacked them, and starting with those round them,
took up the pursuit, the others following them, though as yet without
any clear comprehension of what had taken place, many discharging their
muskets wildly in the direction in which the fugitives had made off.
When they reached the first lantern Peter dashed it to the ground. He
and his men had now come up with the first party, and moderated their
pace. They had gone fully half a mile before the crowd came up to
within fifty yards of them, then they began to fire.

"When I give the word the rear line will turn and fire a volley. Aim
low, lads; don't be in any hurry; take steady aim; never mind about
being all together. Slacken down your pace a bit now; we will let them
come up to within twenty yards."

Three minutes later he gave the word, "Rear line, halt, face round,
take steady aim, fire." Twelve muskets flashed out, and yells of pain
and fury rose from the mob.

"Second line, halt; first line, take place behind them, and load."

As soon as this was done, he gave the order, "Steady, aim, fire," and
twelve more bullets were sent into the thick of the mob. But though
almost every shot told, and those among whom the volleys had been
fired, first hesitated and then ran back, those on the flanks still
pressed on; but as soon as the sailors fired they continued their
retreat, running fast now to overtake Jamieson's party. When they did
so they completed their loading, and again their volleys kept the crowd
in check. Three times this was repeated, and then urged on by their
leaders the crowd rushed forward.

"Sling your muskets, out pistols and cutlass, charge," Peter shouted,
and with a cheer the men rushed at their pursuers. For a moment these
stood their ground, but the attack was too fierce for them. Keeping
well together, the sailors burst their way through them, cutlass and
pistol doing their work, till at last the crowd they had charged turned
and fled.

"Any one down?" Peter asked, as he halted the men.

"Bill Hopkins has got a ball in his leg, sir."

"Well, four of you catch him up and carry him. That is right; now, on
we go again."

They were now not far from the shore, and the leaders shouted to the
mob to run on and cut their enemies off from their boats. Fortunately
they were in ignorance that the ladies with their escorts had been
taken straight on, Peter having before he charged told them to make the
best of the way forward. The sailors were now running fast. A few of
the swiftest runners of the mob had got ahead of them, but these did
not venture to oppose the rush of the sailors, and the latter broke
into a loud cheer as they reached the edge of the level ground and
saw the sea before them. Peter called for a lantern, lighted a blue
light, threw it on to the ground, and then rushed down to the boat. On
each side of the party were a number of their foes, but these dared not
close with them until joined by the rest. The ladies had already been
placed in the largest of the two boats.

"Stand on the thwarts and fire over our heads," Peter shouted. "Take
your places quietly, men, two by two; the rest face round." But as a
mass of men appeared on the crest behind them there was a loud report,
a ball hummed over their heads and plumped into the crowd behind, and
another followed; the Marseillais recoiled, and the men rapidly took
their places in the boat. But the sight of their prey escaping them
was too much, and the infuriated crowd rushed down the slope; then
gun after gun was discharged from the schooner, and the grape-shot
swept through the mob. The volley from the boats completed their
discomfiture, and leaving numbers of their companions behind, they
rushed back for shelter; while, as the boats pushed off from shore, a
shout of triumph rose from the sailors, and stretching to the oars,
they were soon alongside the schooner, which was sending round after
round of grape in the direction which the fugitives had taken.

The ladies were helped up the ladder. The two girls had several times
asked their carriers to set them down, as they were able now to walk;
but the sailors replied, "We have orders to carry you down, miss, and
you are no weight at all. We would much rather go on as we are; it will
be time enough to set you down if there is any fighting to be done."
Peter at once led them into his cabin.

"Now, Madame la Baronne, this will be your cabin, and the two facing it
will be for the girls. I have no time to talk now," he said, as they
endeavoured to thank him; "I have to get the vessel under way, this
firing may bring the gunboats from Marseilles upon us. As soon as we
are off I will get some coffee made; I am sure that you must want it
terribly; the steward will bring it to you. As soon as you have drunk
it go to bed. You will have plenty of time to talk in the morning."

So saying, he left them at once and went up on deck, seeing they
were so shaken that they would break down altogether unless left to
themselves. The anchor was at once got up, the sails hoisted, and the
schooner made her way out to sea. The wind was very light, and Peter
said--

"You have had some hard work, lads, but you must do a little more; we
must get well off shore before morning. Even if they have not heard the
guns at Marseilles, some of those fellows will soon be there with the
news, and they will be sending a couple of gunboats after us, and in
so light a wind they will be more than a match for us, so you must tow
her out. The ten men who have been on board will man one of the boats,
and ten of you the other; after a couple of hours the other twenty will
take their places. Don't let any wounded man be among the first ten; we
must look to them, and see who is fit for service."

Ordering the course to be set south-west, he and Harding proceeded to
examine the wounds. With the exception of Bill Hopkins's broken leg,
none of these were serious. Two had flesh wounds from musket balls,
three or four had received cuts from swords, or thrusts with pikes, but
none of these required more than bandaging. As soon as day broke a man
was sent to the mast-head.

"There are two black specks behind, sir; they have both lug-sails, and
I fancy that they are rowing."

"Get two of the guns well aft," Peter ordered, "so as to fire over the
taffrail. I hope we shall have some wind soon; and at any rate they are
likely to find that they have caught a tartar."

In an hour and a half the gunboats were near enough to open fire, and
two balls struck the water at a short distance from the schooner. Peter
called the men in from the boats. "We have got to fight now, my lads,
and you may as well rest your arms for half-an-hour, for you will want
your strength if they get alongside."

"Shall we open fire, sir?" Jamieson, who was in charge of the two guns,
asked.

"No, I think their guns are heavier than ours; we had better wait till
we are sure that they are well within our range."

"There is a sail ahead, sir," the man at the mast-head shouted down. "I
think it is the frigate."

"Thank God for that, Harding! We might tackle one of those gunboats;
but I don't think that we should have much chance with two of them. I
expect they each carry double the number of men that we do."

"The frigate has changed her course, sir," Harding said; "she is
heading straight for us now. She must have heard the guns, and she
looks as if she was bringing down a breeze with her."

"I hope that the gunboats will not get sight of her until it is too
late for them to escape; but I fear that is too good to be even hoped
for. I feel sure we can manage to keep them at bay until she comes up,
unless indeed they knock away some important spar; and we are more
likely to hit them than they are to damage us, for you don't get so
quiet a platform in a boat that is being rowed as you do in one moving
with sails only. Now then, Jamieson, suppose we give them a taste of
your quality. I should lay both guns on the same craft, for if we can
but cripple one we can fight it out with the other."

The first shot passed through the gunboat's sails. The second was
received with loud cheers by the crew of the _Alert_, for striking the
water some twenty yards in front of the gunboat, it ricochetted along
the line of oars on one side, smashing the whole of them short off.

"Well done," Peter exclaimed. "That is almost as good as if you had
knocked one of her masts over."

Several more shots were fired, but with less success. At last one
struck the foremast just above the deck and brought it down.

"That puts them out of it, Harding. I don't say that if they cut the
gear away at once, and rowed with half their oars on each side they
would not go faster through the water than we are doing, but it must
cause a delay, and as, no doubt, they think the other fellow strong
enough to do the work alone, it is likely enough that they will set to
work to get up a jury-mast before they do anything else."

The other gunboat was now fast closing up. Jamieson had knocked two
or three holes in her bow, and they could see by the confusion caused
that two of the shot at least swept the whole length of the deck--one
of the guns having been dismounted, and several men killed. To Peter's
satisfaction he saw from the course that the gunboat was taking that
her commander intended to fight him broadside to broadside before
endeavouring to board. As she came nearly abreast, the oars were laid
in, and for half-an-hour the two craft lay to and hammered each other,
at a distance of fifty yards apart.

As soon as the gunboats had been seen, Peter had run below, and called
through the doors for the ladies to get up and dress at once, as two
gunboats had come out from Marseilles.

"They won't be within gunshot for another hour," he said, "and the
steward will have breakfast for you as soon as you are ready, and after
that we will take you down to a place in the hold where you will be
quite out of reach of shot."

As soon as the steward told him that the ladies had left their cabin he
ran down again.

"My dear Peter," the baroness began.

"You must really defer your thanks for the present, madame, especially
as you have by no means made your escape yet. We are going to have a
bout with two gunboats behind us. No doubt they were sent off from
Marseilles as soon as that mob of scoundrels returned there."

"But you will beat them off, will you not, Peter?" Melanie said
confidently.

"Well, I shall try my best," Peter replied. "I fancy that we have every
chance of doing so. My gunner is a capital shot, and it will be very
hard if he does not cripple one of them, and I think that we shall be
men enough to thrash the other. Besides, I think it very likely that
the _Tartar_ will be along this morning. She was going to convoy a
prize we took, and it is about time for her to be back again, and you
may be sure that the gunboats will make off as fast as they can if they
see her coming. I am going to breakfast with you," he went on--"in the
first place, because I want breakfast; and in the second place, because
very likely you would eat next to nothing if I were not here with you."

"We saw you come along at eleven o'clock yesterday morning," Julie
said. "We were able to get a view of the sea between our guards. We saw
you sail away from the shore, and it cheered us very much, for we felt
sure that you would try to do something."

"I was close to you an hour later, Julie. I landed in disguise directly
I saw your signal and the smoke rising from the lower windows, and
stayed an hour talking with those wretches. Of course what one
wanted to learn was the time at which they would start with you for
Marseilles. As soon as I had learned that, I got on board again at
once. Everything worked well. We came back after dark, set an ambush
on the road, carried you off, and took you on board. How about the
jewels?"

"We buried them at the spot that we agreed on," Julie said; "ours and
mother's."

[Illustration: "We buried them at the spot that we agreed on."]

"That is good. I will make a trip and bring them off the next time we
come along here. Now I must run up again. You need not go down till the
first gun is fired."

"We would much rather--" Julie began.

"Excuse me, but I would much rather that you went down below. It would
make me very uncomfortable did I know that you were exposed to danger,
and we are now in the most dangerous part of the ship, for it is just
at those stern-windows that the enemy will be aiming."

At the end of the half-hour, during which a furious cannonade
continued, both vessels had suffered a good deal, the gunboat's
cannon being of heavier metal than those of the schooner; but at
close quarters this advantage was not very great, and was more than
counterbalanced by the much greater speed with which the English
sailors handled their guns. The sides of both vessels were torn and
splintered; there were yawning holes in the bulwarks; the sails,
dropping idly, for the wind had entirely failed them, were riddled
with holes; the gaff of the gunboat's mainsail had been shot asunder,
and the foremast had been so badly wounded that it would certainly be
carried away directly a breeze filled the sail. The schooner's bowsprit
had been carried away, and the gaff halliards of the mainsail cut
asunder. The execution among the French crew was very much heavier than
that among the British, as there were so many more of them on deck. It
became evident at last that the Frenchmen were getting the worst of the
duel, for their fire suddenly slackened and the sweeps were run out
again.

"Clap a charge of grape in over your shot," Peter shouted.

It was no easy matter for the Frenchmen to get alongside, owing to the
vessels being so close together. At first they rowed on both sides, but
the power of the helm was not sufficient to bring her suddenly round;
and instead of coming alongside, she crossed the schooner's bows. The
guns of the larboard side of the _Alert_ were trained as far forward
as possible, and poured their contents into the gunboat as she swept
across them; while as soon as, with the greatest difficulty, the lugger
brought her head round in order to board on the starboard side, the
guns here swept their decks, killing great numbers of the men at the
sweeps. At last, after suffering very heavy loss, the French captain
brought his craft alongside. The moment that he did so Peter and his
crew leapt on board her with a loud cheer. The French were already
greatly disheartened at the terrible loss that they had suffered, and
although greatly superior in numbers, they gave way foot by foot; and
when their captain, who had fought gallantly, got a bullet through
his head, they threw down their arms, and rushed below. Hatches were
clapped over them, and then Peter, for the first time, was able to
look round. The other gunboat was rowing away with all speed; but a
mile away the frigate, bringing down a fresh breeze with her, and with
the water foaming at her bow, was sweeping along at a rate which would
bring her alongside the gunboat long before the latter could reach
Marseilles. As she neared the schooner the _Tartar_ ran up the signal,
"Well done, _Alert_," and her crew gave a hearty cheer, which was
responded to by the crew of the schooner. The latter had lost eight men
killed, and no less than twenty-three wounded, chiefly by splinters. As
soon as the frigate had passed, Peter ran down below. The ladies had
just come up into the cabin.

"We heard your men cheering and knew that you had won," the baroness
said.

"Yes, we have captured one of them, and the frigate will have the
other. It is well that she came up when she did, for if the second
boat, instead of stopping to repair damages, had rowed up to aid her
consort, it would have gone hard with us."

"You are wounded, I see!" Julie exclaimed.

"Oh, it is only a flesh wound," he said; "a splinter struck me in the
shoulder; a bandage will set that all right in a day or two. I wish
that none of my men had worse wounds."

The frigate returned in an hour with the second gunboat, which, seeing
escape impossible and resistance useless, had lowered her ensign as
soon as the _Tartar_ opened fire upon her. When the _Tartar_ came
alongside, the captain hailed the schooner, and told Peter to come on
board.

"There is not a boat that can swim either on board us or the gunboat,
sir."

"Very well, then, I will come to you and bring the doctor with me. I am
afraid that you have a heavy list of casualties."

"I am sorry to say that we have, sir, and the Frenchmen have three
times as many."

The captain was at once rowed on board with the surgeon. The latter
immediately set to work to attend to the wounded, while the captain
learned from Peter the events that had taken place.

"I congratulate you heartily, Mr. Vignerolles," he said when he heard
the story, "and I am glad indeed that you succeeded in rescuing the
ladies. You say you had no one killed in doing so?"

"No, sir; there was only one man seriously hurt."

"Well, of course, you must report that affair as well as the fight, but
I should cut that part of the business as short as possible, and merely
say that you landed a party and rescued the Baroness de Vignerolles and
her daughters from the hands of a mob from Marseilles, and brought them
on board without any loss of life among your party, but with a very
heavy loss to the mob. Of course we have general orders to give shelter
to Royalists trying to make their escape from France, but the Admiralty
might not perhaps approve of quite such a dangerous expedition as
that you undertook. I will send a couple of boatloads of men on board
to help your fellows to repair the damages to the schooner and her
prize. It is clear that you must go down to Gibraltar for repairs. I
will man both the prizes and send them down with you; and even if you
come across a couple of French privateers, they will hardly venture to
attack you."

By evening the damage was sufficiently repaired. The more seriously
wounded of the _Alert's_ men were taken on board the frigate, and an
equal number of men sent to take their places. Twenty men were placed
on board each of the gunboats, and the _Tartar_ then sailed eastward,
while the other three craft started for Gibraltar.

"There is no getting your jewels now, madame," Peter said, as, after
sail was made, he went down into the cabin. "Next time I cruise along
here I will get them for you; but at present I am under orders for
Gibraltar, and must go straight there. I shall have no difficulty in
arranging passages for you to England, and you may be sure of a most
hospitable reception when you get to my father's. It is perhaps just as
well that you should not take the jewels with you, for it is possible
that the vessel you go home from Gib by may be captured by French
privateers. Indeed I should recommend your staying at Gibraltar until
a convoy is made up there, say under the protection of a frigate; and
in the meantime I shall, of course, be your banker. I shall hold your
jewels, you see, as security for the loan."

On arriving at Gibraltar they found quite a fleet of merchantmen there
waiting for a convoy, and before the repairs on board the _Alert_ were
executed he had the satisfaction of seeing the three ladies comfortably
settled on board a large ship which with the others sailed on the
following morning for England under the convoy of a frigate and two
gun-brigs. Peter had been highly complimented by the naval officer
commanding the station, and two days afterwards passed his examination,
and was at once promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Ten days later he
sailed again, and arriving after dark one evening at his old anchorage
off the château, again landed in disguise, and accompanied by a couple
of sailors, made his way up to the ruins, dug up the box, and brought
it on board, and the first time he saw the _Tartar_ he handed it to
the captain, asking him to send it to England by the first frigate or
man-of-war going home.

"I am afraid to keep it on board, sir, for the contents are valuable,
and it would be a heavy weight upon my mind if we got into action with
a superior force. It contains the family jewels of the de Vignerolles."

A month later the box reached its destination, and some time afterwards
a letter from his father informed him that he had disposed of the
greater portion of the jewels at the request of the baroness, and that
she and her daughters were now established at a house within a few
minutes' walk of his. Four years later Peter returned home with the
rank of commander; and two marriages took place while he was at home on
leave, his elder brother marrying Melanie de Vignerolles, while he and
Julie paired off together. Five years later Peter, now a post-captain,
retired from active service on half-pay, a cannon-ball having carried
his right leg off just below the knee. Julie, far from regretting the
event, declared openly that she considered the wound to be a most
fortunate one, for that the war might go on for any time, and it was
vastly better to have him at home, even with half a leg, than to be in
constant anxiety lest she should hear that he had fallen. The jewels
had fetched a large sum, and the greater portion of this the baroness
divided between her two daughters, she herself taking up her residence,
at Peter's earnest request, with him and Julie, until her death, which
took place ten years later.



THE ADVENTURES OF A NIGHT

BY JOHN BLOUNDELLE-BURTON



CHAPTER I

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE


I, Adrian Trent, now known as Lord Trent, and a captain of _Les
Mousquetaires Gris_, sat in my little salon in the Lion d'Or, in the
Rue Louis le Grand in Paris, on Midsummer Day, in the year of our Lord
1726. And in my hand I held a little perfumed billet, which I had
turned over in my fingers a dozen times, and had, perhaps, read twice
as often. For it recalled to me a strange meeting, and some strange
scenes in which I had been concerned when I was but a _porte-drapeau_.
Also it recalled to me some other things far sweeter, which, to a
young man, must needs be pleasant recollections--to wit, things such
as a lovely face flushed now and again with the colour that adorns the
blushing rose of Provence; dark eyes, sometimes as soft as velvet, and
sometimes sparkling like ice beneath the winter sun; black hair that
once--in an awful moment of fear and extremity--I had seen adown the
owner's back, almost to her feet; a supple girlish form, and other
charms. A girl whom, although I had not seen her for five years, I had
never forgotten, but whom I always strove to forget, because she was
wealthy and I was poor; because, although I was a man of good rank in
my own country, she was almost of the very highest in hers; because
she was, in truth, as far above me as the sun is above the earth.
Yet once, for a little while, that girl and I had been the best of
friends; once, too, it seemed as if that friendship had been very near
to a softer and more tender emotion, and as if Adrian Trent and Ana,
Princesa de Carbajal, were falling in love with each other--if they had
not already done so.

Whereupon, thinking over all these things, I again turned the letter in
my hands, and again I read it.

 "So you are back in Paris, I hear," it ran; "and would you not
 like to see a girl called Damaris whom once you knew? I think you
 would--perhaps in memory of having saved that girl's life on one
 occasion;[1] of also having once called her by the prettiest epithet
 a man can bestow on any woman, and of having been much teased and
 pestered by that girl. If so, then come to the Marais, to the Rue des
 Vraies Femmes, and to the house which bears the name of my family, and
 if you come at the proper time I will give you some chocolate and a
 bonbon. I wonder if you are much changed, and if you will find me so!

     DAMARIS."

[1] See "Yule Logs," 1898 (Longmans & Co.), "The King of Spain's Will."

The prettiest epithet a man can bestow on any woman! So she remembered
it! remembered that I had called her "sweetheart" in all the impudence
of boyhood and the possession of my guidon in the _mousquetaires_, and
when I did not know that she was a princess of one of the most ancient
and powerful families in Catalonia, and in possession of enormous
estates and great wealth.

But did she remember another thing also--namely, that after being
highly indignant with me for my presumption, she had laughed and
whispered that pretty word to me in return? Did she remember that? If
not, I did. And now I would see for it.

An hour later I was outside the great door of the Hôtel de Carbajal,
and a lackey answering my summons, I learned that the Princess was
within. Whereon I bade him say that Lord Trent waited below to pay his
devoirs to her, if it might be that she would receive him.

"Her Highness expects milor," the man said. "Will milor give himself
the trouble to follow me?"

Whereon "milor," attired in his best black satin suit--for, alas!
he had but recently returned from England, and the funeral of his
father--and silver lace, did follow the man through the great gloomy
house, and along corridor after corridor, he thinking all the time
of what the fellow had said--that "her Highness expected him." "So,"
"milor" said to himself, "she knew I would come."

Then the door opened, and the footman announced "Milor Trent," and for
some reason the midsummer sun seemed to dazzle my eyes, and I saw a
figure spring--that is the word, "spring"--from a deep fauteuil, and I
felt two slim hands in mine, and I heard a well-remembered voice say,
"So you have come, my lord."

"Yes, I have come, your Highness. You knew very well that I should
come. Yet, yet," for, somehow, I at once began to grow bold, "there was
no word of 'Highness' nor of 'lord' in the old days. Then you were 'a
girl called Damaris,' and----"

"And," she interrupted, with a soft laugh, "you were an impudent young
soldier called Blue Eyes. But now we are old, staid people. I am
twenty-four."

"And I am twenty-five," I interrupted in my turn.

"Wherefore we have grown sober and steady. Still, notwithstanding that,
you may tell me if you choose whether you think I have aged very much."

Aged very much! Yes, she had aged, if being more beautiful than ever
meant having aged. For now the sun dazzled me no longer, and I could
see all her loveliness, I could observe that the tall, slim form had
grown a little, just a little, more womanly; that the soft dark eyes
had just a little more of calmness in their gaze; that the scarlet lips
were as full, and the small white teeth, which I had always admired so
much, as brilliant.

"But all the same," she said, while I surveyed her, "you need not hold
my hand so long. One does not look at another with their fingers."

Then, when I had released that hand, which, I protest, I did not know
I was holding, she bade me sit down by her side, she herself taking a
seat upon a great Segovian ottoman close by, and drawing up to her a
little ebony table upon which was a little gilt coach, with the doors
and windows of glass, and with four little silver horses to it, and a
coachman and footman in gold. And she opened one of the doors of this
little coach and popped her long slim fingers in and drew out a bonbon,
and, I thought, was going to pop it in my mouth too. But, if that had
been her intention, she considered better of it, perhaps because she
was now "sober and steady," and so, instead, laid it gravely down on
the ebony table, and pointed to it, and said, "Eat it;" which I did.

"Now," she said, "we will drink something, _à la bonne chance_. I drink
chocolate; but since you are a great big _mousquetaire_ you may have
some wine if you choose. Let me see; there is Florence wine, and Lunel
and Muscadine, and----"

"I shall drink the chocolate or nothing," I said firmly, since I was
not going to sit toping like a rude _mousquetaire_ before my Princess
while she drank the other. Whereon she told me to ring the bell and
order the chocolate, and in ten minutes we were discussing that
beverage, and the footman had left us alone.

"Oh!" she exclaimed volatilely, "do you remember, Blue Eyes--I mean, my
lord--when I sat on the table in the inn at Toulouse and drank wine out
of your cup, surrounded by you and your huge troopers, and when I was
supposed to be a wandering vagrant girl called Damaris?"

"You will always be Damaris to me. _I_ shan't call you 'Princess' nor
'Highness,' and I wish you would not call me by that silly title of
'lord.' And I've only been one a month, and have not grown used to it."

"But what am I to call you? I mustn't call you Blue Eyes any more,
because we are now grave and staid; and Adrian is too familiar. I
should poniard you if you were to call me Ana."

"There was another name exchanged between us once," I said--"one
alluded to in your letter received by me to-day."

"Ah!" she said, with a little shriek, "don't recall that. How dare you!
I only wrote it to bring myself back to your memory."

"Oh!" I said, "did you? Well, now, what did your high--I mean you,
Damaris--send for me for at all, if it was only to be so haughty and
distant? There are no more burning houses to save you from; and as
for--for--old Alberoni----"

"Monseigneur the Cardinal Alberoni, if you please."

"As for Monseigneur the Cardinal Alberoni--well! what has become of
him? He has finished his sch--politics--I suppose?"

"He lives the life of a saint at Piacenza. But--but I did not send for
you to talk about his Eminence."

"What then, Da--I mean--well!--you understand?"

"You remember," she said, "that you did save my life once? Of course
you do; you have but just referred to it."

"Is it in danger now? And am I to save it again?"

"My happiness is. I want you to save me from a man--a man who, though
perhaps it may surprise you, wants to marry me."

"Ah! bah!" I said, forgetting my manners and jumping out of my chair,
and beginning to walk about the room. "Bah! A man wants to marry you,
indeed!" and I felt quite angry at the very idea of such a thing.

"It is strange that he should desire to do so, is it not?" she said,
with a queer little, but very pretty, grimace. "All the same, it's the
truth. It is indeed, Blue--I mean, my lord."

"Who is the fellow?"

"Oh!" she said, with another of her little shrieks. "The fellow!
Why--er--Lord Trent--he is one of the scions of our royal house--of
Austria and Spain."

"Shall I run him through? I will if he wants to marry
you--and--and--you bid me do so."

"You might have to run more than one through, at that rate, Blue Eyes,"
and this time she forgot to correct herself, which, if I remember
rightly, seemed to please me; "I think you might, indeed. But, no! I
imagine you can do better than that."

"How? I'll do it."

"Will you, my lord?" ("Vengeance confound that title!" thought I.) "I
wonder if you will?"

"What shall I do? Tell me and it shall be done, Damaris," forgetting
myself also in my agitation.

"I suppose," she said, speaking slowly, and with a wondrous look in
those witching eyes, "you would not condescend to play at being my
lover, would you?--only for a little while--say for a week or so."

"Wouldn't I! Try me! But--but--am I to have all the privileges of a
lover during that week or so? Eh, Damaris?"

"Don't call me Damaris; it is not respectful. Yes, you may have all the
privileges of a lover--in public."

"Oh! in _public_. But--in private! Then----"

"Then I am the Princesa de Carbajal and you are Lord Trent."

"What are a lover's privileges in public--I mean with princesses and
scions of ancient houses? He has to be a kind of slave, a worshipper,
does he not?"

"He does as a rule; but then, you see, Blu--my lord," and while she
spoke she held a bonbon out tantalisingly before my eyes, "you have
got to play a different part from the ordinary one of a lover to a
princess. You will play it, won't you--Adrian?"

"I'll play anything," I said, much agitated by the last word she
uttered.

"_Bueno!_ Well, now, see. You must be a humble lover--one beneath me,
with whom I have fallen in love in a manner discreditable to my rank.
And, thereby, you will make my suitor jealous--oh! so jealous--because
we will play such tricks upon him that he will renounce me. Oh! I have
invented such schemes to make him do so. Neither Quevedo nor Vega ever
thought of such tricks."

"It will be a dangerous game," I said meditatively.

"Dangerous! Dangerous!" she exclaimed. "Why, Blue Eyes, you are not
afraid of a Spanish don although he is of the royal house, are you?
Fie! and you a soldier."

"That isn't the danger I meant," I replied quietly, so quietly that
she guessed my meaning in a moment, as I saw by the rich crimson which
mantled her cheek instantly, and the increased brilliancy of her
lovely, starlike eyes.

"Dangerous to whom, pray?" she demanded.

"To me!" I answered boldly; "because I shall lo----"

"Hsh! hsh! hsh!" she said, putting her hand up quickly. "None of that!
none of that! Yet, nevertheless, there will be danger--to----"

"Whom?" I asked now.

"To you, of course. Oh! not to me, Blue Eyes. Oh no! no!" she continued
somewhat nervously, I thought. "Not to me. Oh no. Think not that, my
lord."

"I can think what I like," I said. "Even a _slave's_ thoughts are his
own. But where's the danger, if you mean ordinary danger?"

"He is great," she almost whispered now, "and powerful, even in Paris.
He is, too, enormously rich, richer than I am, and can hire people
to do whatsoever he wishes. He _might_ hire vagabonds to assault
you--to--to--oh! Adrian!--throw you into the Seine with your throat
cut, or stab you under the shoulder in a dark alley, and--and--all
because you do this out of friendship for me, and with no hope of
reward."

[Illustration: "Stab you under the shoulder in a dark alley."]

"I shall get my reward," I said quietly.

For a moment she regarded me calmly; then she said, "You are very
confident, very masterful."

"Yes," I replied, "very confident, and--well! very masterful."



CHAPTER II

DANGER AHEAD


In looking back upon the events of those days--as I now do from the
calm autumn of my life--I am always struck by the extraordinary fact
that I am still alive. For, from the moment that it began to be
whispered about in the fashionable parts of Paris that the Princesa Ana
de Carbajal was tricking his Highness the Prince of Csaba (in Hungary)
and Miranda Vitoria (in Spain), who, although of the Royal House of
Austria, intended to espouse her morganatically if he possibly could,
my life began to be in danger. That is to say, it would begin to be
in danger directly the Prince of Csaba learned, as he very soon must
learn, that the Princess was being gallanted about by an Englishman,
who was considered to be so far her inferior as to cause it to be said
that she had contracted a love affair with a person beneath her.

For these haughty, arrogant Spanish-Austrians living in Paris had the
impertinence to state that I, Adrian Trent, an English gentleman (to
say nothing of my being also an English nobleman and an officer of
French _mousquetaires_), was beneath the Princess, or--or Damaris, as
I always thought of her. It made my blood boil, I can tell you, when
I learned such was the case (and I hope it makes yours boil, too, who
read, if you are a countryman of mine), and if there had ever been on
my part any idea of drawing back from the part I had agreed to play
with Damaris--which, in solemn truth, there was not--it only confirmed
me all the more in the determination to play that part out to the very
end.

I would, I swore to myself, so enact the part of the girl's lover that
Csaba should have nothing left to do but to retire from his position of
_prétendu_ and _aspirant_ and resign all claims to her hand; and also,
which I hoped would be the case, I would so irritate his absurd hidalgo
pride as to draw him into an embroglio with me; and then--even though
he were forty times the hidalgo and don he was, and had forty times the
blood of _Charles qui triche_ and of that murderer, Philip II. in his
veins--I would so humiliate him and all his following that they would
never dare to be insolent to any English gentleman again.

Only--I forgot one thing. Or, perhaps, I did not know one thing which
I should have known. I should not have forgotten that no descendant of
Philip, nor any one who was related to him, was likely to meet me in
a fair and open way. Not they! Be sure of that. And it was from this
lack of knowledge, or this forgetfulness, that I nearly got caught in
a trap, that I was nearly done barbarously to death, and that I nearly
lost the great happiness of my life. However, this you shall read.

But Damaris knew, and, knowing, she did not mean to have me fall into
the trap. And all this you are to read as well.

"Now, my lord," she said to me one fine night, when I had waited on
her, "this is the very occasion when we are to begin to arouse the
demon of jealousy in Csaba's manly bosom. To-night we are going to sow
the poison seed. Therefore prepare yourself."

"I am prepared. What is to be done?"

"I am going to the ball at the Hôtel d'Aragon, his house. But you
are not--yet you will be there. See, here is his invitation to
Monsieur--blank. That blank is left because I forced him to give
me an invitation for a friend of mine, whose name I would fill up.
Observe, _mon ami_, I fill it up with yours." Whereon, stooping over a
scrutoire, she wrote in the name of Lord Trent.

"It will be pleasant to go to the ball," I said. "I presume I shall
have one dance with you?"

"You will not go to the ball, and you will not dance with me."

"What am I to do then? Go to bed, perhaps!"

"Nor that either. In a manner of speaking, indeed, you will go to
the ball, but only to pass through the great apartments, making your
obeisance to Csaba as you do so; then--well, then--you will go out into
the garden and wait until I come to you. Wait by a fountain in the
middle of the garden--within it, in the centre, a representation of
Hercules destroying the Hydra. Wait, and do exactly what I tell you."

"Shall you be alone?"

"Nay, nay," she replied, with one of her usual smiles. "Ah no, he
will be with me. But of that take no notice. Do exactly what I tell
you--when we meet--and when he _overhears_ what I say."

"When he overhears!"

"'Tis so. Now, for last instructions, take these. Come not to the Hôtel
d'Aragon till midnight strikes. I shall be there earlier, but come not
yourself till then."

"And----?"

"Take your cue from me."

At midnight I _was_ there, outside the great doors of the Hôtel
d'Aragon, descending from my _chaise-roulante_ and seeing a few late
arrivals like myself pass in, as well as perceiving through those wide
open doors a mighty great assembly within. Whereon I, too, went in,
the Prince's menials bawling out my name, though, as not one of them
pronounced it aright, simple though it was, they might as well not have
done so at all.

Through a vast crowd of ladies and of gentlemen in wigs and scarlet
coats, with, for the former, flowered dresses and hoops and panniers
and Heaven knows what, I passed, looking right and left for where the
Prince might be. Then, suddenly, on a little daïs I saw him seated
with, for companion by his side, Damaris, or rather Ana, Princess of
Carbajal; and he was bending over her, talking with what our beloved
friends call _empressement_, and it seemed to me as though he were
utterly oblivious of every other person there.

But, since I stood at the foot of the daïs waiting to attract his
attention and then pay my respects to him, I observed that she--my
confederate--or rather she whose confederate I was--gave a slight
start, and into her face there came a lovely, heavenly tinge of red,
while from between her parted lips I heard the whispered word "Adrian."
Also I saw her left hand, which lay along her dress, clutch a fold or
so of that dress as though in agitation extreme.

And the Prince heard the word too, since, after a momentary glance at
her, he cast his eyes in my direction and then again bent them on the
girl.

"Monseigneur," she said, "it is the gentleman for whom I demanded an
invitation."

"Ha!" he said, rising and bowing somewhat stiffly to me I thought. "Ha!
a gentleman named Adrian."

"Nay," she replied; "a gentleman, an English nobleman, called Lord
Trent."

"I ask a thousand pardons," he said, bending low before her. "I thought
you uttered the name Adrian." Then he turned to me, saying coldly, "My
lord, you are welcome," after which he turned away and began talking to
his companion again, whereon I sought the garden as she had bid me do.

"Was she acting?" I asked myself, as I passed through the windows to
the gardens beyond, to find and take up my station by the fountain
in which was the statue of Hercules killing the Hydra; "was she
acting when she whispered my name and when she made that slight
but perceptible clutch at her dress?" As for the tinge of red, I
doubted if she could act that, since, so far as I knew, it was not
to be accomplished--no! not even by La Gautier, whom I had seen
often enough in the past at the Odéon. Still, I remembered she was a
good actress--had she not impersonated a wandering singing-girl from
Provence when I first knew her; and had she not deceived even so astute
a beast as Marcieu, the spy who tried to arrest her! So I could not
answer the question, but went on down the _allées_, and past stone
fauns and satyrs, and gentlemen in togas and ladies in--well! not in
gowns made by court furnishers--and, at last, in the centre of a great
_rond_, covered with crushed shells and tiny pebbles that hurt the
feet, I came upon the fountain and the figure of Hercules. Then, being
there, I sat me down on the high stone rim of the basin, into which the
water was falling from the hydra heads with a vastly cool and pleasing
splash, and waited, beneath the moon, which sailed clear and cloudless
in the skies, for the dénouement. That, however, was a little while in
coming, and though more than one couple passed me, the vizard-masked
face of the cavalier being almost invariably bent down over the
upturned vizard-masked face of the accompanying dame (so that one might
well guess it was the eternal romance being whispered in willing ears),
she for whom I waited did not herself appear.

Not for a little while, as I have said--yet, at last.

Down one of the little pleached alleys I heard the rustle of a woman's
robe, and saw the long, lithe figure that I knew so well--that I had
never forgotten since I first saw it in the spangled dress of the
mountebank she pretended to be. I saw, too, the moonbeams glint upon
the lovely face, and recognised it instantly, though she, too, wore her
vizard-mask. Then she was close to me, close to where I had stepped out
on to the shell-strewn path, and calling "Adrian"--somewhat loudly, as
I thought--while she drew near.

"I am here," I said, joining her.

Then, speaking in a lower tone now, she said, "He is close
behind--behind a bosquet in the alley. He is watching us, I know. Kiss
my hand--do something lover-like--call me by some lover's name of
endearment. And speak in French; he knows no English."

[Illustration: "Kiss my hand--do something lover-like."]

"_A la fin! ma mie_," I said, falling in with her cue at once, and
going on in the tongue she bade me speak. "I thought you would never
come;" after which, remembering her injunction, I stooped and kissed
her hand, holding it to my lips for some seconds, while all the time
the great jewels on her fingers sparkled in the moonlight.

"Farewell," she said, "I may not stay. To-night--to-night," and now
she spoke loudly again, clearly, so that none within fifty paces of us
could fail to hear her words--"to-night at two o'clock come to supper
with me at my house. I await you. Till then, adieu. And come to the
side-door, that opening on to the Rue des Fleurs. Till then, adieu."

"Do you mean it?" I whispered now, wondering if this was play-acting
too. "Do you mean it, Damaris?"

"Ay, I mean it. We must play the comedy out. But," and now she spoke in
English, and her voice sunk to its deepest whisper, "forget not your
rapier. You may need it."

"I shall not forget." Then, while again she had given me her hand,
which, at this moment, she was making great pretence of withdrawing
from my grasp, I whispered, also in English, "But this has got to be
paid for, Damaris; and the reward I shall demand will be enormous."

But she only laughed, showing her little white teeth, and went swiftly
back up the alley she had come down, turning once and saying in a
fairly clear voice, "Remember."

Whereon, when she had gone and joined her companion, as I could tell
very well by overhearing them talking as they withdrew, I sat me down
on the stone edge of the fountain and fell a-musing.

"Bring my rapier, she said," I muttered to myself. "Ay, and so I
will. But not this plaything by my side, fit only to match a court
suit. Instead, my good Flamberg. 'Ware that, my illustrious rival,
if you come near me! Ay, I will in truth bring it. And so--so--so--I
shall win her. For though Damaris were forty thousand times a Spanish
and Austrian Princess, this thing has gone too far to stop here. She
has got to sink her title now in a lowlier one, namely, that of the
Viscountess Trent, or--or----"

I paused. Adown another path than that along which she had come to me
there was advancing a tall and stately gentleman, alone. A man with a
peaked beard, and dressed all in black satin--like myself; a man who
walked with gravity extreme. Then, as he drew close to me, he removed
the hat he wore, and standing stock-still before me, said in French--

"Have I the honour to address the Milord Trent?"

"That, sir, is my name," I said, rising from my seat and removing also
my hat, since I could not allow myself to be outdone in politeness by a
foreigner, by which I mean a man who was not an Englishman.

"I have a little message," he proceeded, "from my master, the Prince of
Csaba and Miranda Vitoria--from your host of the moment."

"I shall be honoured to receive it, sir."

"It is," the grave and courteous gentleman said, "a warning, a hint.
The Prince, my master, desires me to tell you that it will not be
for your good to go out to supper to-night--not for the good of your
health."

"The Prince, your master, being aware, sir," I demanded, "that it is to
an Englishman he sends this message?"

"I imagine his Highness may be aware that such is the case."

"Will you, sir, then, in your courtesy, constitute yourself the bearer
of my reply?"

"I am your servant, sir; I shall deem it an honour to do so."

"Sir, you place me in your debt. And, such being the case, will you
please to tell the Prince, your master, that I look forward with
eagerness to my supper to-night, to which I shall proceed without fail;
also that my health is most excellent, as are both my appetite and
digestion; and, likewise, that when I require a doctor's advice I shall
not insult so illustrious a person as the Prince by asking him to take
so humble a function as that on himself? Sir, I salute you."

Whereon, with the exchange of most polite bows between us, I strode
away, leaving him alone.



CHAPTER III

DANGER CLOSE AT HAND


By now it was half after one o'clock, and I, leaning out of my salon
window in the Lion d'Or, knew that it was time for me to be away; to
reach Damaris--"my Damaris" I called her now, since I had resolved that
mine she had got to be--and see what sort of a supper she proposed
to offer me. For my part, I thought the dishes were as like as not
to consist of some unwholesome cold steel, or a leaden bullet out of
a Spanish _trabuco_ or musquetoon--that is to say, offered but not
accepted, if I was to have any word in the matter.

Dallying idly over the window-sill, I thought, I say, of all this,
while at the same time there rose ever before me the beauteous features
and the laughing eyes of the Princess. And I wondered if she would
laugh if she heard the clash of arms outside her side-door in the Rue
des Fleurs. Likewise, I wondered if she would laugh, too, when she
learnt, after this pleasing little entertainment of the small hours was
over, of how masterful an individual I could be--it was her own term,
you will please to remember; her very own!--and how I was the sort of
man who would know how to turn this "playing" at being her lover into
being her lover in true and actual fact. Poor Damaris! Poor, stately,
yet roguish Damaris, what a come-down it would seem to her!--to give up
her great position to become my wife.

But would it? Would it? Well! I did not quite know. She was a
Spaniard, and the Spaniards had the reputation of being very firm in
their affections when once they were set in a certain direction. And
I thought, only thought--though, perhaps, I hoped too--that those
affections were set more or less in my direction. And now, to-night, I
was going to see.

I had brought back to Paris from England with me a servant: a rough,
queer creature, with an enormous appetite and a desire for sleep which
I had never seen equalled; yet one who had served my dear father for
many years, and had followed him about over Europe in those pilgrimages
which I once told you he had been in the habit of making, in the
footsteps of _our_ King, James III. At Rome this man had been, also in
Spain, and in these places he had picked up a smattering of tongues
other than his own, as well as having the French very well; while, as
he had earlier ridden trooper in the regiment of Blues, and, still
earlier, had been a sailor for a time, he was a brave and valiant
fellow. A rough kind of spaniel thing he was, which would cling close
to its master's heels, yet yap and snap and sniff at every one a-nigh
that master until sure that such person boded no ill to him. Now, I
went to wake him--for, as always, he slept when he had no work to
do--from his slumbers in a cupboard on the landing.

"Get up, Giles" (for Giles Bates was his name, and a good honest
English one, too, though it had no spot of Norman in it), I cried,
stamping on the floor at the same time to wake him. "Get up at once."

"Is the house afire?" he asked, yawning and rubbing his eyes all the
time. "I would not be surprised if 'twere so in this silly land. Or is
the breakfast ready? I am mortal hungry. Oh!" he exclaimed, seeing me,
his master, "it is you, my lord. What is to do now, my lord?"

"I am going to supper at a lady's house, or, at least, I am going to
a lady's house. Don't roll your eyes up like that, you fool! the lady
will be my wife ere long, I hope. Meanwhile, I have enemies, rivals,
and may be attacked, and I want your company."

In a minute he was up off his pallet and had seized his sword and
was buckling it on to him, his gooseberry-looking eyes gleaming with
delight; for Giles Bates loved a fight as well as any of our island
breed, and was ever ready for one.

For myself, I needed no buckling on of my blade. I had, since I
returned from the Hôtel d'Aragon, changed my clothes, putting off
my fashionable suit of black, and assuming a plainer one in which I
travelled. My Flamberg was also already on my thigh, wherefore I felt
equal to meeting any of the Prince of Csaba's Spanish _asesinos_ whom
he might see fit to send out to attack me in the neighbourhood of my
sweetheart's house. That they would be Spanish I felt sure, for more
reasons than one; the first of many such reasons being that the Prince
was surrounded by a train of Spaniards; and the second, that he would
have had no time to procure Frenchmen, even if Frenchmen would have
served him, which, since the French are not midnight cut-throats,
whatever their other failings may be, I did not think very likely.

[Illustration: "I want your company."]

A little later and we drew near to where the Paris mansion of the
Carbajals stood in the Marais, it being by this time hard on two
o'clock of the morning, and all the streets around very still beneath
the light of the moon as she sailed above. The revellers and wassailers
seemed to have gone to their beds, and we scarce passed any one as we
approached nearer and nearer to the spot we were making for, and all
was very calm except for the barking of a dog once and again. Yet,
notwithstanding the peacefulness of the night and the desolation of the
streets, I observed my mastiff keeping his eyes ever open warily, and
glinting first one and then the other into dark corners and up alleys
and _ruelles_.

"A sweet fine night," he muttered to himself, "for a fight. Oh! 'twould
make a shark sob" (he had been a sailor, amongst other things, as I
have said) "to think we should not come to loggerheads with some one on
such a night as this."

"Be still," I said; "we draw near to the house, to----"

"My lady's bower!" he murmured, regarding me with his fish-like eyes,
so that I knew not whether he meant to be impertinent--which I did not
think he did--or was quoting from some of the sheets of love-ballads I
had more than once caught him poring over. "Oh, love! love! love!"

"Peace, fool!" I said, "and hold your silly tongue. We are there."

And so we were; we being now outside a small oak door let into the
side of the Carbajal mansion, which stood up grey and solemn in the
moonlight.

"Now," I continued, "to get in."

"Ay, my lord," said Giles; "and to get out again afterwards. Do I enter
with you?"

"You shall know later. Meanwhile, stand back in the shadow. And take my
cloak; 'twill but encumber me if there should be any sword-play inside."

"And serve as guard for my arm if twisted round it," said Giles, as he
took the cloak, "if there should be any outside. 'Tis four years since
I fleshed a Spaniard. 'Twas by the Puerta del Sol, and he was attacking
a Northumbrian Jacobite gentleman, who, alas! was lurching about like
the _Royal Sovereign_ in a gale----"

"Silence," I said. "See, the wicket opens;" as in truth it did, and
through the bars I saw a moment or so later a pair of soft roguish eyes
glistening in the moonlight--eyes that I knew well and loved to see,
they making then, as always they have made, a summer in my heart by
their glances.

"Are you alone, Adrian?" a gentle voice, equally dear to me as the
eyes, whispered.

"Alone," I whispered back, "except for a fool mastiff creature, who is,
however, faithful, and can fight as well as be trusted."

"Ay, he can," I heard my follower mutter to himself, "and will not be
contented if he fight not to-night."

"Come in," Damaris said, opening now the door (in which the wicket was)
about half a foot, so that I might squeeze in, "and leave your watchdog
there. He may be attacked----"

"So much the better," growled Giles, he hearing all.

"You understand?" I said to him; "you understand? You may be attacked."

"Ay, my lord, I understand. I am not afeard. Yet I wish I had the
wherewithal for supper. I am parlous hungry----"

"Bah! Keep watch well." Whereon I entered by the half-open door, and
joined Damaris.

It was quite dark in the passage when I got there--except for the rays
of the moon, which glinted and glistened from windows on high--there
being no lights in the house so far as I could see. Then, while I was
noting this, my girl whispered to me, "There are two in the garden now.
I have seen them! have been close to them! Do you know what they are
here for, in their long cloaks and vizard-masks?"

"I can guess well enough. Who are they?"

"Menials, I take it. Menials come to--to--O Adrian!"

"I understand. Damaris, you have got to pay me for this service."

"I thought," she whispered, "that English gentlemen, English noblemen,
did not ask payment from ladies for services rendered."

"One payment it is always permissible to ask. I mean to have it too."

"It is impossible," she said--"impossible."

"I intend to make it possible. You told me I was very masterful, and I
shall be--if I live through this night."

Whereon she only whispered again, "O Adrian!" and then said, "Come and
see these men; and--and--loosen your sword in its sheath."

"Never fear," said I. "That's ready."

After which I followed her along the dark corridor or passage, and
through a hall, large and lofty--they had built good houses in the
old days in that portion of Paris known as the Marais--from out of
which there opened the reception saloons, as well as a great _salle_
or banqueting-room. Now, into that hall there shone, from two great
windows high up on either side of it, the full moon, so that I could
perceive the form of my young princess almost as clearly as I might
have done in daylight, and to my intense astonishment I observed that
she was very little like a princess now, if such personages are to be
judged by the garb they wear. For, now, she was arrayed in the dark
Nîmes serge of a waiting-maid; upon her head was the provincial cap
worn by so many of those women, hers being the head-dress of Brittany,
which, as all the travelled world knows, hides every hair upon a
woman's head and quite destroys any good looks that a serving-girl may
happen to possess. And I noticed, too, that her hands were no longer
adorned with flashing gems; nor were they either the little white
snowflakes I had always gazed upon with such rapture--since now they
were of a discoloured yellow-brown hue, and the nails discoloured also.

"More play-acting," I said to her, "more play-acting. 'Tis like the
night in Toulouse when you played a part."

"Ay, 'tis," she answered; "and, I protest, as necessary now as then
that I should play it well. And," she went on, "I am going to play one,
and you shall see me do it. Now," she continued, "I must leave you, as
I am about to go into the garden."

"Then I go too," I said. "Why! suppose one is Csaba--the Prince."

"Well! he would not hurt me. He pretends to love me--_does_ love me."

"He might carry you off."

"Might he! What! with my faithful Adrian looking at him out of the
darkness of this room, and ready to spring forth like a great fierce
English lion--that great lion that is so dominating and contemptuous
over all the other beasts and fowls of Europe. Might he? Not he. Nor
will he while I have this," and, in the moonbeams, I saw her draw a
little stiletto from out the pocket of her serving-woman's gown. "Now,"
she said, "you stay here till I come back. Be a good boy, Blue Eyes,
and do what I tell you."

"You do love me, don't you, Damaris? That's understood."

"It is understood that you do as I tell you. Now I go."

Whereon she went through the door from the hall and into the great
_salle_, and then down the huge steps leading from the verandah on
to the broad walk, on which there stood large tubs, having in them
oleanders and orange and lemon trees. And be sure that, creeping after
her, I followed as far as I might without exposing myself to the view
of any who might be in the garden; and then, from behind the heavy
window-hangings, I gazed out, while listening with all my ears.

Now, no sooner had my girl gotten down some yards upon the broad
walk--she having, as she went, thrown a common kind of hood, such as
Spanish peasant women wear in the streets over her head--than she
commenced, gently, but still audibly, to say, "Hst! hst! Isidore. I am
here. Isidore, where are you? Have you kept tryst? Isidore, I say!" and
then gave a little kind of muffled shriek as a figure, enshrouded in a
cloak and wearing a mask (and followed by another attired in a similar
manner), stepped out from behind a lemon-tree tub and seized her by the
arm.



CHAPTER IV

A FINALE


That figure stepped forth and seized her by the arm while saying, in
tones quite loud enough for me to hear, "What are you making that noise
for here? and who are you? and who, in the fiend's name, is Isidore?"

"O kind sir! O monsieur!" I heard the girl answer. "Oh! please, sir,
don't kill me, and don't wake the Princess. Oh! what are you doing in
her garden at this hour?"

"Who is Isidore?" the masked one asked sternly.

"O kind sir, he is the coachman. We are to be married soon, and we make
a little tryst at night when it is fine above. O sir, if the Princess
should wake?"

"Wake! How should she be asleep? Is she not entertaining some
Englishman to supper to-night?"

"Ah, monsieur! Ah, _mon Dieu_! You believe that! 'Tis a cold supper
then! Look, monsieur, at the _salle-a-manger_."

"Bah! She has a boudoir, I suppose?"

"Ah! monsieur, would you believe that of the Princess! And all because
she played a little jest upon a foolish Englishman who pesters her
with his attentions, a poor half-witted thing, who even now, at this
moment, is dilly-dallying at the side-door, thinking he will be let in.
_Peste!_ he will wait a long while," and she began to sing a song out
of Regnard's new comedy about a man waiting for a lady under an elm,
and waiting a mighty long time too--

"Attendez-moi sous l'orme," she sang, "vous m'attendrez longtemps."

"A little jest," the cloaked and masked man said, turning round to his
companion; "a little jest. And the animal is by the side-door. Is this
the truth?" re-turning his face towards the girl.

"Ah! monsieur. The truth! How can it be aught else--when--when the
Prince of Csaba and Miranda Vitoria honours her with his admiration."

"Come," the man said to his companion now. "Come. We, too, will go
round to the side-door and see this ardent lover--and, perhaps, punish
his insolence. These English are insupportable. As for you--go to your
Isidore, your coachman."

"Oh! _non, monsieur, non!_ He will not come now. There will be no
Isidore to-night. He is timorous. If he has seen monsieur, he will have
shrunk away."

"Go then to your bed, and stay in it; and, above all, say nothing to
the Princess of our being in this garden to-night."

"For certain, monsieur, otherwise I should have to say I was here
too. Good-night, monsieur." Then, as the man turned to move away, she
suddenly stopped him by catching the end of his cloak, and, thereby,
forcing him to turn; he saying somewhat haughtily, "What is it, good
woman? What?"

"Only that monsieur will not laugh at the poor Englishman, will not
deride him. They cannot bear that!"

"No," the other said, "I will not laugh at him. Rely on me. There will
be no laughing," and again he turned and went upon his way, accompanied
by the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You have done a fine thing for poor Giles," I said to the Princess,
as now she rejoined me in the great _salle_. "A fine thing. I must get
back to him at once and lend a hand if I would not find him hacked to
pieces by those two cut-throats sent out by your precious Prince."

"Why," she said calmly, "I thought you said he was a fighter. Is he not
so?" she went on, while all the time she was unwrapping the hood from
her head and--next--taking off the horrible Brittany cap which hid her
beautiful hair that, now it was no longer obscured, gleamed a superb
dark chestnut in the rays of the moon.

"He is that," I replied, "and a good one, as most men who have been
soldier and sailor both, to say nothing of wandering about Europe as
an adherent of an unhappy cause, are like to be. But the man is a good
tilter who can hold his own against two."

"Perhaps he will not have to fight two of them," she said, still very
calmly. "One has, I imagine, no fighting in him."

"What makes you think that?"

"Oh! Oh! Well, let us wait and see. Perhaps--well! I can't say."

"You observed that fellow well, anyhow. And heard his voice."

"Yes, yes!" she said; "yes, but it was no---- Come," she said, "let us
go and look after the watchdog."

Whereon we now retraced our steps, passing out of the great hall and
down the corridor towards where the side-door with the little wicket in
it was.

And then, as we drew near that door, we heard (and more especially we
did so because Damaris had forgotten to close the little wicket after
she had looked through it at me, so that noises outside, if any, might
plainly be distinguished) the clash of arms, a sound sweet enough to a
soldier's ears.

"Hark!" I said, redoubling my pace as I did so, and catching hold of
the girl's hand, whereby she was compelled also to move more swiftly,
though, in sober truth, I think she was as anxious to reach the door
and get it open as I was myself. "Hark! they have set upon him. And
there _were_ two. Oh! this is cowardly, murderous! I must take my
share."

"Pray Heaven he, your man, kills not two of them. That would cause a
terrible stir, and--and--and would part us for ever, Adrian."

"Nothing shall do that," I muttered determinately, perhaps grimly,
through my lips. "Nothing!"

Then, we being by this time close to the door, I seized the latch and
opened it, running out into the little open _place_ in front of it,
which was flooded by the glorious splendour of the full moon.

What a strange scene it was upon which my eyes lit, even as I heard my
sweetheart murmur, "God be praised! he, at least, is not slain--yet."

A strange scene indeed, though with a ludicrous side to it; one that
might have made me laugh, maybe, at any other time, and if I had not
myself been concerned deeply in all that was a-doing. For there was my
brave, courageous servitor, this man who had been a wandering sailor as
well as soldier, and also a faithful follower of a hardly-treated race,
standing up manfully against another swordsman who was making swift
passes at him, they fighting across the body of a third who lay prone
and prostrate with Giles's foot upon his body.

And that last was the fact which would have made me laugh in any other
circumstance, for, swiftly, I recalled how in the days of my childhood
this very Giles had taken me to see Barton Booth in one of Mr.
Sotherne's beautiful tragedies at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields,
and how, when the actor struck the villain down--exactly in the middle
of the stage!--he had placed his foot upon his chest, and waved his
triumphant sword over the fallen one. I recalled, too, how Giles had
applauded, and had said, "O Master Adrian, Master Adrian, that is the
way to conquer, to subdue a villain!"

[Illustration: "Fighting across the body of a third who lay prone and
prostrate with Giles's foot upon his body."]

And now the poor faithful, honest fool had himself struck a villain
down, and with his foot upon that villain's chest--in a splendid,
tragic, and theatrical manner--was as like to strike another one down
ere long; for, even as I tore open the little door, and rushed out
followed by Damaris, he disarmed the other fighter, lunged at him, and,
missing his heart, yet brought him to his knee, while he drew back his
sword once more to plunge it through the other's body.

"Stop!" rang out the Princess's voice, clear and imperious; "stop, man,
I command you. Adrian, forbid him. It is the Prince," she whispered in
my ear; "I recognised his voice easily in the garden."

"Why?" I asked, hot and excited myself now, "why stop? Why should he,
this midnight assassin, be spared?"

"'Tis Csaba, I tell you," she said. "'Tis the Prince. If he is slain
there can never be," and she lowered her voice more deeply still, "any
union betwixt _England_ and _Spain_."

"Hold your weapon, Giles," I cried, understanding in a moment what
she would convey, and, in honest truth, not deeming this contemptible
Prince's life worth the cost of a broken union 'twixt an Englishman and
a Spanish girl who loved each other. "Hold up. Be still, I say."

And, obedient to my command, perhaps obedient also to those earlier,
haughtier commands uttered in the girl's clear tones, Giles did hold,
yet muttering while doing so that he would have been through the
other's lungs in a moment.

"So, monseigneur," my sweetheart said, addressing the masked Prince,
who now rose from off the knee on to which he had been beaten, "you are
content to play the part of murderer, are you? And on a serving-man!
For shame!"

"He wore his master's cloak," a deep, muffled voice said. "Until that
master appeared just now at your side I thought I was fighting with
him."

"Therefore you and your confederate," and I glanced at the dead man at
our feet, "sought to murder me. Wherefore?"

"Ay, wherefore?" repeated Damaris.

"Because you loved him, and--and I loved you."

"Nay," she said softly, "I did not love him then; I--I do not think I
did, though, in honesty, I will say I deemed him the brightest, most
worthy, pleasant man I have ever known. But now----"

"Now!" came from both our pairs of lips, from Csaba's and from mine.

"Now I love him, and no other man shall ever have my heart."

For a moment there was silence amongst us all, though I stole my hand
towards that of Damaris, and, finding it, held it fast; yet but a
little later Csaba muttered--

"It is impossible. He is beneath you."

Now, though I had heard those sweet words of the girl's only a moment
before, these latter ones angered me, drove me beside myself, for I
was weary of hearing so often that I, an Englishman, was unworthy to
be the mate of any one, no matter how high that one might be placed.
Wherefore, furious, and stepping up to this man, this prince who
skulked about in the night with secret murder in his heart, I said,
bending my face forward so that it was very near to his, and doing so
with a desire to give weight to my words--

"Hark you, I have heard these words before. But now, unless you are an
arrant cur--such as assassins always are--you shall retract them, or I
will cram them down your throat. For if you say that not only I, but
also any Englishman, high or low, gentle or simple, is not the equal of
any foreigner, even though he be a prince of Austria or of Spain, then
you lie. I say, you lie. Do you hear--you lie."

While, even as he started and staggered back, clutching his cloak
convulsively with the hand that held its folds together, I continued--

"Now, if there is any fight left in you after the defeat you have
received at the hands of this simple, honest English peasant, take your
sword in hand and let us see whether you will justify your words or
swallow mine." Then, turning to Giles, I said, "Pick up this fellow's
weapon and give it to him."

"No," exclaimed Damaris; while, looking round as Giles did as I bade
him, I saw her standing by me, pale, and like a statue, yet with her
beautiful eyes ablaze. "No, you shall not fight with him, Adrian.
Prince as he is, and, alas! of my land, he is unworthy to cross swords
with you.--As for you," she said, addressing Csaba, "begone. Begone
from off this _place_, which belongs to my hotel and is mine, and let
me never see your face again. Go," she said, stamping her foot on the
rough cobblestones; "go, I say."

Yet still he did not move, but, instead, stood there looking like some
great black statue in his long cloak and mask, and with his head bent
towards the ground, so that I concluded he knew not what to do, but, in
his pride and rage, was determined not to quit the ground at her orders.

And she, seeing this, and, as she told me afterwards, understanding
very well the tempest that must be raging in his heart, said, "Come,
Adrian. Since he will not go, we must."

Wherefore we went back to her house followed by Giles, and leaving the
Prince of Csaba and Miranda Vitoria still standing in the open space
before the little door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now the story is done--done, that is, unless you would desire me to
tell you what you doubtless can very well imagine; namely, that it
was not long before the Princess and I became man and wife. Yet hard
enough that marriage was in making, I can assure you, and one which I
thought would never be completed. For, although my girl, having once
acknowledged that she loved me, was as willing to be my wife as I was
eager to have her, the forms and ceremonies we had to go through to get
what Giles called "triced up" were enough to irritate one of Damaris's
own saints; for there was the Consul of Spain--the Consul of the, by
her, hated Philip V.--to be invoked, and the English ambassador to be
consulted, who, since he represented King George, was not agreeable to
me; and the permission of the Archbishop of Lyons, Primate of France,
to be obtained, and a permission sent over from England from the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of my church. And we went through
all kinds of ceremonies, and were half-married a week before we were
finally allowed to consider ourselves man and wife, while I became very
irritable through it all, and Damaris muttered all kinds of strange
little expletives in Spanish through her pretty teeth and scarlet lips,
which, she told me afterwards, would not have sounded so nicely in
English. Also, I should not forget to say that Giles signed countless
papers and parchments as a witness, and looked very important over it
all, and whispered lines of love-ballads to me at intervals to cheer me
up, and ate enormously at every opportunity which offered.

However, done it was at last, and we were wedded. And, although my
wife could not take me to any of her great possessions because she
would not set foot in Spain while Philip ruled, and I could not take
her to my home in Staffordshire (where the Trent rises) because of my
political principles, we were very well content--since we were both
young and hopeful!--and so we settled down in the old Paris house of
the Carbajals in the Marais, and have, up to now, lived happy ever
after, as the chapbooks say; a happiness which, you may be very sure,
was not ruffled when we heard that the Prince of Csaba and Miranda
Vitoria had married a princess of the ancient house of Ponte-Casoria
(which is allied to the greater house of Bourbon), who was extremely
rich, but as wizened as a monkey (as my wife told me), and who, report
declared, led Csaba a terrible life.



AN OUTLAW'S FORTUNES

BY W. C. WHISTLER


"Forest-dweller and outlaw I may be, Master Cork," I said; "but I would
have you remember that I was an honest man before I was driven here,
and an honest man I am still, though I must needs be in hiding for
speaking up for the weaker side."

"Honest men don't slay the king's deer," sneered Cork. "It seems to me
that you have run into a fair noose by this time, for all your fine
talk, seeing that deer-slaying is a hanging matter--for the king is the
king, whether you choose to own him or not."

"Hungry men cannot stay to think of that," I answered shortly. But I
knew that he was right, and that I must needs, with every honest door
closed to me, go on sinking in the mire, as it were.

"Hungry forsooth!" he said. "And gold to be had to-night for the
picking up! Come with me, I say, and the forest will know you no
longer. Listen! yonder fall more bedizened nobles, with good gold
nobles in their purses moreover to prove their nobility!"

I had heard plainly enough. The cold wind of Maytime set from far-off
Hexham level to where we were standing under the shadow of Blockhill,
and not for the first time that day the heavy sound of cannon came
down it, like and yet unlike thunder. There was another battle on hand
between the white rose and the red. Margaret of Anjou was making one
more struggle, for herself and her son and husband, against Edward of
York.

"Outlaw and fallen as I am," I said bitterly, "I will have no share in
robbing the dead."

And then the thought of what this ruffian had proposed to me came over
me in all its horror--that he and I should prowl over the field of
battle when night fell, and seek for riches among the quiet slain--and
I shrank from him. Whereat he grinned evilly, and that turned my
contempt to wrath, so that my hand went to the hilt of the broad
forester's hanger that I wore.

"Away with you," I said, "I will have no more of you."

"Well, well; be not so hasty, I pray you. I did but jest," he
stammered, giving back a pace or two.

But I knew better. No true man jests with such things, and I told him
so, once more bidding him begone.

"Well, I will go," he growled; "but, mind you, there is a reward for
him who brings a deer-slayer to justice."

"You can do as you like about earning that," I answered. "It seems all
one to you how you get wealth, so that it comes easily."

So he went, looking back now and then to see, I suppose, if I was in
earnest. I took my bow from the tree where I had set it, and plucked
the arrow from the slain deer at my feet, at which he hastened to put
as many tree trunks between me and himself as possible, and I lost
sight of him.

I fell to brittling the deer quickly when he was gone, for I was by
no means so sure that he would not set the sheriff on me, as he had
hinted. I did not think it likely that that quiet old worthy would
trouble himself about me, with a battle raging at his very doors, as
one might say; but so far he had heard nothing of me, and I could come
and go into the town pretty freely when I would, though the chance of
some Yorkist from my own country seeing me was an ever-present danger
that kept me out of sight as much as possible if I did go. Still there
were things that I needed that must be bought there now and then, and
it would be hard to have the place closed to me. Now, I thought it just
as well to get the deer I had killed to my cave, in case I had to go
into hiding; and I was glad that some old distrust of this man Cork had
kept me from telling him of it when I first knew him.

That was about two years ago, when I had to fly from Yorkshire with a
price on my head as a Lancastrian, while those who had come to take me
lighted my way north across the moors by burning my own stronghold, the
little Peel tower of which I had been as proud as of the old name of
Barvill that I dared own no longer, behind me.

I had taken no part in the strife of the Roses, having enough fighting
from time to time with the Scots raiders who had slain my father six
years ago. But I had always been brought up to reverence King Henry,
and made no secret thereof, which was quite enough to ruin me in the
days when York first had the upper hand and meant to keep it.

So at last I had wandered to these Hexham moorlands, where none knew
me, and where game was in plenty on hillside and in forest, and whence
the rangers and their lords had gone by reason of the wars. Here,
too, I had found by chance the cave of which I had spoken, under the
slope of Blockhill, and close to the brook that runs in the valley.
It was so warm and dry, and so easily hidden, that I bided in it the
first winter of my outlawry, and taking kindly to the forest life, as
a strong man of twenty-two who loves the open, and has none to think
for but himself, will. Here I had bided for a second winter, ranging
the country widely in the summer, even as far as the Scottish border,
gathering thereby knowledge of the by-paths that was to be useful to
others besides myself in time. Maybe I should have joined the company
of some Border knight at last, for a good spear is always welcome
without question; but there was to be another service for me, as will
be seen.

There were other men, outlaws also, whom I would meet in the forest;
but being a Barvill, and proud, I had nought much to do with them. Some
were men ruined by the wars, like myself, but more were robbers at the
best, and outlawed for their misdeeds. These kept away from the town,
laying wait for harmless travellers and packmen in the wild passes; but
there were other ways of making what money one needed wherewith to buy
bread and arrowheads, wine, or clothing, than by robbery, and herein
Master Cork saw his chance of profit, if not in any very honest way.
He was a small householder on the outskirts of the town, and would buy
our stolen deerskins or game at his own prices, and sell them at some
distant market, doubtless to his great advantage. Therefore he was
useful to me, and I saw him often enough, though, as I say, I always
distrusted him.

To-day the woods were full of deer, and I had killed nearer home than
usual, for I suppose that the great battle of Hedgley, of which I had
heard, had driven them hither in terror. Now, with this fresh battle on
hand, our woods would be deserted by them, and therefore I had taken
the first chance that came. Thus Cork had stumbled across me first on
his way to find some associate for his night's work. He had told me
that it was not myself whom he was seeking specially, and made a great
show of friendship in telling me his plan. After he had gone, I got
my venison to my cave, and cooked some for my supper. Then I sat on
the stream bank and watched the birds and beasts for a while before I
slept. The sounds of battle had long ceased, and I mind that I heard
the cuckoo that evening for the first time that year. It was late, even
for the North. Then I went into my cave, built up its mouth in the way
I had found the best, and troubled no more about anything.

I suppose that it was an hour after I had gone to sleep, with darkness,
when my dog growled and woke me, and I roused at once and quieted him.
Then I went to the little opening that I left for fresh air in the
stones with which I closed the cave, and listened. At first I heard
nothing, though the night was clear and still. There was wind coming,
however, for the clouds were racing across the sky under the bright
moon. But the dog was not wont to rouse me for nothing, and I was sure
that there must be somewhat to find out.

Then as I waited there came a far-off shout, and then, clear through
the air, a woman's scream. Then more shouting, and silence.

If it had been shouting only, I should have thought little of it,
for I knew that the pursuit of the flying might pass this way. But
the woman's voice roused me, and without staying to think, I armed
myself, and hurried away towards the place whence the noise seemed to
come. An ancient trackway, worn by ages of timber hauling, lay in that
direction, and it was likely that some fugitives who had taken it as
a road away from the pursuers, might have fallen in with some of the
robber outlaws. At least I might be able to help the side that had a
woman to protect if things went badly for them.

I went very quickly, knowing the woods so well, but I heard nothing
more until I reached a little rise that overlooked the hollow in which
the old lane ran. Then the voices, as of men quarrelling, were plain
enough now and then to my left as I stood still to listen. The woman's
voice was not to be heard among them, however, and I began to think
that there was no need for me to trouble about the business. Still, I
waited for a few minutes, and then my dog warned me that some one was
at hand, and I turned.

A woman was coming straight towards me across a little glade, leading
with her a boy, whose feet seemed to fail for weariness, and I surely
thought for a moment, as the moonlight glinted on her rich dress
and showed her, tall and stately, and seeming unafraid, that I saw
a vision of Our Lady, so wondrous looked this one as she neared me
unfaltering. For indeed had they but now escaped from the hands of the
men I had heard, to meet with myself, armed and wild-looking as I was,
with the unkempt locks and beard of forest life, might well have been
fresh cause for fear to two such helpless ones. Yet the woman never
stayed, though she must have seen me plainly as I saw her. A cloud
passed over the moon for a moment, and when the light came again, she
was close on me. Then I saw that her dress was torn and disordered,
and that she had indeed been in no gentle hands. But for all that, I
could do naught but doff my steel cap before her, for she was the most
queenly woman that I had ever seen.

[Illustration: "This is the son of your king. I charge you with his
care."]

Then she spoke to me, low and quickly, drawing the slender, handsome
boy before her and towards me.

"Friend, I am Margaret the Queen. This is the son of your king. I
charge you with his care--see that you are worthy of such an honour."

And then, as I stared at her in amazement, stepping back a pace, she
added, "Hide him in your forest till danger is past, and hereafter
his palace shall be free to you--baron of England shall you be if you
will. See! Is it fitting that a Prince of Wales should wander with no
attendants?"

But I was on one knee before her by this time, needing and thinking of
no promise of reward or honour. It was enough that I was asked for help
by her who had been, and to me yet was, the highest in the land. And my
heart ached that she should have to seek for succour from such as I.

"On my life be it, Queen Margaret," I stammered, "I will give life for
you willingly."

But then as the dog growled fiercely at some fresh burst of noise that
came from the road, making the young prince shrink from him, I leapt
up, rousing to the danger close at hand, for the Queen would be sought
for directly.

"Follow me, I pray you, Madam," I said, "it is not far to a safe place.
Come, my prince, you are weary; fear not the good hound, but let me
carry you."

"Aye, friend, I am aweary," he said, with a little smile, "but I am
sorely heavy for you, and you are armed moreover."

But the weight of a slight boy of twelve is nothing, and I took him up,
laughing to reassure him. The Queen followed me without a word, and
we went back to my place by the way I had come--surely the strangest,
saddest little company in all England.

I marvel how our Queen kept up in that rough walk until the cave was
reached, but she never faltered. Once I pressed on her the boar spear
that I carried, that she might use it as a staff, but she would not
have it, and she never so much as put out her hand to my arm when she
stumbled over root or jutting rock. It was a rough road for her, but I
dared take no path lest we should be more easily followed. And all the
way I listened for the voices of men who hunted us, but I heard none.

So we came to my cave without mischance and were safe. I set the
half-sleeping prince on a heather-covered bank while I pulled away the
stones of its entrance, and the Queen stood by him watching him, and
I thought how any other woman had surely sunk down to rest after that
weary flight. But she seemed tireless in this as in all else that she
took in hand.

When the way was clear, I prayed her to enter, and she took the hand
of the prince and led him in without a word, while I followed, hanging
the great wild bull's skin that I used as a curtain across the as yet
unblocked doorway, that no light might betray the place.

The fire still smouldered in its far corner, where some fathomless
cleft in the rock took its smoke far into the heart of the hill and
lost it there, and I stirred it to a blaze. I had long ago so screened
it with a stone wall from the doorway that I might use it safely, for I
had a mind to be in comfort when I spent the winter here. And indeed,
to me at least, the cave seemed homelike enough. There was my couch of
springy heather, skin-covered and warmly-blanketed, and the flat-topped
stones that were my seats and table were set in order, and deerskins
were on them also. My bows and quiver and spare arms were on the walls,
with an antlered skull or two, and I was used to bare stone walls in my
old tower in the bygone days. Yet, as I watched the weary face of the
Queen, I knew how wretched all would seem to her.

"It is no fit place for you, Madam," I said, "but it is safe. When
daylight comes again your people will be searching for you, and I will
meet them and bring them to you, and all will be well."

"They fled from me even now," she said in a cold voice, "and here I do
not even know the name of the friend who has come by chance to me."

"My name is Richard Barvill, Madam," I said--and it was good to own the
honest old name once more--"I will say, even before my Queen, that I
have no cause to be ashamed of it, being a forest dweller only because
of the troubles."

This I added, lest the thought of being in the hands of some wrong-doer
might cause her trouble presently when I left her and passed beyond her
sight. One could not tell what fears of treachery might come into her
mind.

"Because of the troubles," she repeated softly, "and they say that I am
the main cause of them all. Yet I have my share in bearing them for his
sake," and she looked towards the young prince, who was now asleep in
earnest on my couch, where he had thrown himself at once when we came
in.

I made no answer, for all this was beyond me, though I did think that
now perhaps for the first time the Queen understood rightly the plight
of many whom the wars had ruined. Instead of replying I busied myself
in bringing out and setting on my table the best food that I had in
the place, and then stood to wait her pleasure. There was cold venison
and good wheaten bread and one flask of red wine, if the platters were
wooden and the cups of pewter, and it was no bad meal for one who was
hungry with a forest hunger.

When the Queen saw that all was ready she rose up from the seat she had
taken beside the fire and thanked me as she roused the prince. Then I
served them both as best I knew how, and presently the Queen spoke to
me of what we might do next.

"Now I am outlaw and forester even as yourself, friend," she said with
a wan smile. "For once I have no plans in my mind, for I am helpless
here. Tell me what we can do."

Now I had been thinking of that even as we crossed the forest, and
there were one or two things that I must know. So I begged leave to ask
her somewhat, and she gave it.

Then I learnt how she had fled from the battle with but few attendants,
and those of no rank, carrying with her some of the crown jewels and
other treasure, and meaning to make for the Scotch border. In the old
lane her servants had fled at the first attack, and both she and the
prince had been dragged from their horses and roughly handled for
the sake of their jewels. Then their captors had forgotten them in a
quarrel over the treasure in the waggon, and she had been able to slip
away with the prince.

"Then, friend, we met with you. I thought you another of the robbers,
but a Queen learns to read faces, and there was that in yours which
told me that I could trust you. So I am here in safety--and some day
you shall know that Margaret of Anjou does not forget her friends."

"Queen Margaret," I said, "there are many things to be seen before I
deserve such a name from you, but I will try to earn it."

And then, because I did not rightly know what else to say, I asked if
these plunderers were Yorkists.

"Outlaws rather," she answered decidedly. "York's men had not let me
escape, for to take me had been worth more than treasure to them. Nor
was there one who wore the badge of the white rose. I heard the name of
their leader--they called him Cork--and I shall not forget him."

So this man must have followed the treasure, if not the Queen, from the
field, and if he knew her there might be trouble in store. But I saw
that if ever the red rose bloomed again Cork's case would be a hard one.

But at least the Yorkists were not scouring the woods in search of
the Queen, and that was good hearing. Probably I was the only man who
knew that she was in them, unless Cork guessed that the woman who had
slipped through his hands were she. If he did so, however, he would
be likely to keep the knowledge to himself, in order to have all the
credit of what he would expect to be an easy capture presently.

"Madam," I said, "I think that there will be no great search for you as
yet. The Yorkists will believe you to have escaped, and your servants
will take word that you are a prisoner. It will be a long day before
those mistakes are found out. The army of York will pass on, and your
people will scatter, and go north in little parties, and I shall meet
with them. Here you are safe, and you may sleep in peace, even were
you to hear voices of men searching for you close at hand, for the
secret of this cave is mine only. Now I must go, and I pray you to be
content until I return with news in the morning. I must close the cave
carefully, and thereafter answer no call save that of my name, Barvill,
for that is known here to none save yourself."

Then I knelt and kissed her hand, and was going, but she asked me, very
kindly--

"Friend Barvill, what of yourself? We have taken your place, and for
our sakes again you are homeless."

"I have other hiding-places, if I need them," I answered, "but now I
have work to do, for your sake and the prince's."

I went out of the cave and built up the doorway, as I was wont when
I left it for some long time, with the Queen's words of thanks in my
ears. More than all else that might bind me to her was this, that not
so much as by a look did she show one sign of distrust of me or of my
word.

When my work was done, so that even from a yard or two away one might
not tell that any cave was there, I went away and left my dog in a
hollow tree that was one of my hiding-places to which he was used, and
then took my way to Hexham, to learn what I might.

It was close on midnight when I came there, and yet the town was alive
with men, as if it were fair-time. Every house was lighted up, and
great fires, round which were gathered groups of noisy men, burned in
the market-place and in the wider streets. One would have thought that
all the army was gathered there to drink after victory, but these were
only stragglers, for the camp was on the battlefield, some miles to the
southward. All of these men wore the badge of the white rose, however,
in some form or other, and to mix with them I must do likewise.

When I found that out, I had not far to seek for what I needed. A man
lay in a dark doorway sleeping after overmuch ale, and I borrowed from
him. He did not so much as stir when I took the twisted scrap of rag
that stood for the proud rose of York from his arm and pinned it to my
own.

So marked, I went boldly to the market-place, and followed a press of
men into the chief inn of the place in order to get a can of ale, that
I might be welcome at one of the fires, where I should best hear what
was to be told. Inside the tavern all was confusion, the good old host
and his tapster being hard put to with a noisy crowd thronging them for
ale that could not be drawn fast enough. I knew the old man by repute,
but well I knew his orphan niece, fair Mistress Annot, whose face, when
she stayed at a mill, where I was welcome, made me feel my loneliness
overmuch at times, for she did not scorn a forest man with whom her
cousin, the miller, had friendly dealings. So as the throng shouted and
pushed round me, the thought of the girl's terror with this wild mob in
the house came over me. But I could do nothing for her, and presently
I got a can of ale and went out and across to a big fire, and sat down
in a place left vacant when a man rose. None heeded me, for there was
constant coming and going.

There were many things that were not all of revelry after victory that
I saw as I sat and listened. One or two houses had been wrecked--those
of known Lancastrians, as one would think--and one was burning out,
fired early in the day. Many times I saw parties bringing in wounded
men, and more than once a hush fell on those who drank and wrangled, as
the sound of a little silver bell came down the street, and a priest
and his servers passed, bearing the last sacrament to some man who had
been brought here to die. There were more things to be seen also, and
it was a heavy tale that I must take back with morning. The Lancastrian
forces had been utterly scattered, and some said that the King had been
taken. The great Duke of Somerset had been taken and beheaded here that
evening, and it would seem that most of the Queen's best followers
had been slain or were prisoners. The only good hearing was that the
Queen was thought to have escaped altogether, and that the army was to
march on Bamborough Castle at once, for it was her best stronghold, and
a likely rallying place. The way for her flight would soon be clear,
therefore.

Then, all in a moment, I forgot even the Queen, for from the tavern
came the noise of a riot, and some leapt up and ran thither, I with the
fear for Annot again. Men came tumbling out of the doorway, and I asked
a grey-haired and well-armed man, who almost upset me in his haste,
what was amiss.

"The butts are all empty," he said, "and the sorry knaves have struck
down the host for telling them so--have slain him, I think. Then some
struck his slayer, and now there is fighting enough."

The man was plainly an honest soldier, and sober, and I told him,
therefore, that there was a lone girl in the house, who would be
frightened, adding, "Maybe they will wreck the house yet."

"Likely enough, for they are camp followers, with none over them. Do
you know the house?"

"Not well, but the yard is down yon lane, and the back-door opens into
it. I know the girl's friends, if you will help me to get her away."

He nodded, and we went into the lane, which was empty now, by reason of
the noise in the market-place, which had drawn all thither. We reached
and tried the back-door, but it was locked, and now there was a sound
as of wild wrecking in the house that made it useless to knock, and
told us to hurry. So I put my shoulder to the door and it flew open,
letting us into a long passage, from which opened larders and the like,
and at the end of which was a great inner door, which plainly led to
the guest room, where the riot was going on. And as the moonlight
streamed in I saw a white figure at this door. It was Annot herself;
and she was putting up the heavy bar that was used to keep house and
tavern apart, as one might say, if the great room were full of wild
drovers and the like at fair-time.

She turned in terror when the door burst open, but my companion spoke
quickly to reassure her.

"Eh, my lass, that is well done, and bravely thought of! But the place
is over-noisy for you now, and we have come to take you into a safer.
See, here is a friend of yours, if I make no mistake."

He had almost to shout, so wild was the clamour on the other side of
the door, and though she answered, we could not hear what she said; but
I saw that she knew me at least.

"Get her away," my comrade howled in my ear; "they will be round to the
back directly."

Then blows fell on the door that had just been barred, and Annot
started away from it towards us. And at that my comrade, not in the
least knowing who this girl was, and most likely thinking her but a
servant, went close to her.

"Come away, lass, I tell thee. The master is slain, and the knaves will
likely burn the house."

She turned to me with a blanched face, as if to ask if this could be
true, and I could only nod in assent, and I thought that she was about
to faint; so did my comrade, and we took her arms and led her out into
the yard, where the noise was less.

"Come, Mistress Annot," I said, "it may not be so bad as that, but it
is true that you must leave here. Let us take you to the miller, and I
will come back for your uncle."

"I am frightened," she said, "and cannot rightly understand. Were you
sent for me?"

"Ay--sent--both of us," answered the soldier promptly. "Miller could
not come himself, in times like these. Quickly, mistress, or they will
catch us."

"I will go with you," she said, "but it is cold, and I would find a
cloak."

But there was no time for that now. The barred door was splintering as
men swung a bench against it, and that sight decided her. She bade us
lead her, and we hurried out into the lane, and away down it in the
direction opposite to that in which the market-place lay. Across that
end of the lane the crowd that the scuffle had attracted was gathering
thickly, and for that reason, perhaps, the lane was empty. But I knew
that it would not be long before outsiders would take part in wrecking
a tavern, and then a rush would be made to the back, of course.

Outside the gate the soldier halted.

"Any more lasses in the house?" he asked.

"They have all gone," Annot answered. "I and uncle, and the man, were
all who stayed when the cannons began this morning. The rest left us."

"Thy uncle? eh! poor lass, poor lass! come away," he said on that.
"Where do we take her, comrade?"

"Out of the town, to a mill a mile or more eastward down the river. It
will be safe going enough, for we can get away by by-lanes."

So we went on hastily, meeting few people at that hour in the dark
alleys of the town, and were soon across a breach in the old useless
walls, and in the quiet meadows along the Tyne side. Annot walked
quickly and firmly enough, though she was hard put to it not to weep
now and then.

We had hardly gone the breadth of two meadows beyond the last cottages,
when a trumpet call rang sharply through the night, and the soldier
pricked up his ears.

"Ho, comrade, I am wanted, and must get back. That call is for guard
changing, and my name is never missing on roll-call," he said. "Good
luck go with you, you are safe now. Forgive me, pretty lass, if I told
you bad news over-roughly just now--but you can but ken the worst once."

With that he nodded to me, and was off, but he turned to call once
more, "Name of John Sykes of Birkbeck's company. Bring me word how you
fare."

There were more half-lost words about ale-drinking over the adventure,
but he was running fast, and I hardly listened, for Annot was speaking
to me, calling me by the name I had taken when my own was not to be
used any longer. They were wont to call me "Barvill of the Peel" in the
old days, and so I kept some remembrance of the name, as it were.

"Master Peel," she said, "is all true that the soldier said?"

"True it is, Mistress Annot, I fear. But presently I will go back and
find that out for certain."

She sobbed a little, and hurried on, and it was not long before we saw
the mill, and heard the rush of the water through its sluices.

As one might have expected, there were no lights to be seen about the
house, but when we came to the door, we found that open, which seemed
strange, and, to me at least, of ill omen at such a time of trouble.
But Annot, who knew the ways of the place, went into the dark entry and
called softly. There was no answer, and she came out to me again.

"I suppose that miller has gone to see to the sluices, leaving the
door open, as he often will. He will be back anon. I will go up to the
wife's room and wake her, that she may not be frightened." And then she
added, "I think that I have much to thank you for, Master Peel, but I
must not stay now."

I tried to say that no thanks were needed, but she was gone into
the darkness of the stairway, and I would not call after her. But I
lingered, for I did not like the silence and open door at all. And I
was right in doing so, for in a few minutes she was back, calling to me
with fear in her voice.

She had found a lantern in some accustomed place, and had lighted it,
and in its dim light I saw that she was more terrified than even in the
town.

"Master Peel," she cried breathlessly; "the house is empty and all in
disorder. What can be wrong, and what shall I do?"

[Illustration: "Master Peel," she cried; "the house is empty and all in
disorder."]

It was plain to me then that the poor folk had fled from some raid of
the Yorkist troops. Possibly the house had been searched for fugitives,
and the miller arrested, with some unfortunate found on the place, as a
sympathiser. But I would not say so at once.

"Let us make certain," I said; "maybe all are in the mill."

We went round the buildings and called, but there was no answer
anywhere. And all the while I was thinking what I could do now for this
poor girl who was thus dependent on me. Perhaps she had other friends
in the town, but, if they lived in the broad streets, I dared not take
her back through a mob whose ways would not grow quieter as night went
on. If she had any other refuge outside the town it were well.

But she had not; nor was there any house to which she dared go in
Hexham now. I had to ask her this directly, for it was plain that the
mill was deserted. And I will say that she met the trouble bravely.

"I will bide here," she said. "Mayhap they will come back now that all
is quiet."

At first that plan seemed good, but then I remembered that the first
place where the purveyors for the army would seek for forage of all
sorts would be in a miller's stores. There would be no real refuge
here for more than the few hours of darkness left. Then, of course, as
I thought of keeping guard here, the remembrance of what my cave held
came back to me plainly. I cannot say that it had ever been forgotten,
but this trouble had seemed but a passing one. Now that I found it more
than that, the other duty came forward again.

Even as I realised that I owed all to the Queen first, I saw what I
might do both for her and Annot. The girl had trusted me, and I would
trust her entirely, for with her as an attendant our Queen would at
least feel her captivity less.

"Annot," I said, "there is one place to which I can take you where you
will be safe till all is quiet again, and there you will be with a lady
who is a fugitive like yourself from these people."

She looked at me eagerly, and answered at once--

"Take me there, I pray you, Master Peel. I trust myself to you in all
things."

"Ay, and now the trust must be altogether on my side, for, if I take
you to this lady, I am putting the greatest of secrets in your charge."

"If some poor lady is hiding alone, let me go to her," she answered;
"then I may feel that my own trouble has brought help to another. Truly
I have trusted you, good friend, for, from the moment we came here, I
knew that you could not have been sent for me, as the soldier said."

"I will answer with trust for trust," I said. "Come, we will borrow
some cloak or blanket from the mill, that you may go warmly."

Then we went in. The place had not been plundered, and I gathered
things that would be of use to the Queen also. I was glad of the chance
of thus getting food and other comforts without having to ask for them,
and so, perhaps, drawing suspicion on me. At last I asked Annot if the
miller had any wine by some chance.

"Plenty," she said, wondering; "but we must not take that."

"You may need it," I said, "but the lady will need it more. And she is
one to whom nothing must be refused."

"Almost do you speak as if she were the Queen herself."

"I am speaking of the Queen," I said plainly.

"And she is alone!" the girl said, with wide sad eyes. "Oh, had you
asked me to go to her, even from my uncle's house, I would have gone."

Then she too gathered things and hurried me, and at last we were on our
way to my cave. And as we went I told her how I had met with the Queen,
and gave her many instructions as to the care of the hiding and the
like, that I might have the less to say in the Queen's presence. It was
a long way, and the day was breaking when we came there, and the Queen
answered from within to the call of my own name.

Now how those two met I can hardly say, for I told the Queen whom I
had brought as I opened the cave mouth, and when I saw the look of
thanks she gave me, and saw Annot fall on her knees and kiss her hand,
I turned away with a sort of lump in my throat, for even that night
alone in the place that was home to me had brought a look to the face
of Margaret of Anjou that was terrible.

So I went aside a little way and sat down until Annot called me, and
then went back and spoke long with her and the Queen. All that we said
need not be set down, nor how the Queen mourned over the news that I
must needs give her. But the end of it all was that I was to seek out
the Sire de Brezè, the leader of her Angevin levies, and bring him
here. She could be patient now with Annot to cheer her.

Therefore I went all day among our outlaws, hearing what they knew of
the flight, and at last heard of De Brezè, as the foreigner who had
passed through the forest. Then I saw the march of the Yorkist army
from Hexham towards the coast, and my heart grew lighter for their
going. None had seen Cork that day, and so he had not been scouring
the wood, but presently I went to the place where the Queen had been
robbed, and the waggon was yet in the lane, empty. Cork and his men
must have gone away with the plunder.

I went into Hexham at nightfall, and the place was in confusion and
wretchedness. There were many who had been plundered of all, and I
learnt without going to the market-place that Annot's uncle was indeed
slain. The tavern had been wrecked, but no worse, though they told me
that several men had lost their lives in the riot before the provost
marshal had ended it too late.

Now as I passed down a lane on my way back to the forest, I came
suddenly on two men who sat under a hedge, and I heard a word or two of
their talk before they saw me. They were not speaking English, and at
once I hoped that I had found some of De Brezè's men. So I gave them
good-night, using passwords that the Queen had taught me--words that
spoke of hope to the cause of the red rose if a man knew them--made in
troubles like these two years ago.

"Good-even, friends. One had wished for a brighter sunset."

"Ay, but the morn may be redder," one answered in good English enough.

"A red morning is a sign of storm," I said, passing on.

"A storm is needed to clear the air," he replied; "then the rose may
bloom once more."

With that the two leapt up and followed me, and when they caught me up
they passed another word or two for certainty, and then spoke freely
enough. Then I learnt that I had met with none other than De Brezè
himself and his squire Varennes, who had come back to seek their lost
Queen, leaving their few followers in some nook of the hills to wait
their return.

What their joy was when they heard all that I had to tell them, and how
they met the Queen, is beyond my writing; but I had heavy news for poor
Annot, which filled my thoughts now that the care of the Queen seemed
to be shifted from my shoulders for a little.

She bore them very bravely, having made up her mind for the worst, and
she told me that now she would bide with the Queen as long as she had
need of her. I had promised the same to De Brezè, for I could guide the
flight across the moors well, and so I was content, for I should be at
hand to help Annot if need was, while doubtless the Queen would find
her some place in a great house in Scotland, were she asked.

Now Varennes went to his men presently and all was planned well, so
that in the grey of the next morning we rode safely northwards, joining
presently the Duke of Exeter, and some other nobles with their men,
thus making a strong party against any attack. And even as I thought
that all was well, there rose one shadow to dim my content, though I
hardly knew why.

Across the moor rode toward us one man, who hastened to put a stretch
of boggy land between us and him before he met us, and that was natural
enough in that place and time, so that we paid no heed to him. But, as
we passed nearer, I knew him, and it was Cork himself; and I thought,
as he reined up and stared after us, that he recognised the Queen as
his captive, and that what he had found in the waggon had told him whom
he had lost. I said nothing, however, for we had no time to waste in
chasing him, and I could not see what harm he could do, since, ride as
hard as he might, he could not bring any force on us in time to stay
our passing the border. Yet, as I say, he brought me a feeling as of
ill omen, and I was uneasy until we could see him no longer. I thought
that he lingered as if watching us, though indeed one might have
wondered if any man did not do so.

Now our journey was safe and unhindered, and well was I thanked for
my guidance. I thought that I should be dismissed when we reached
Scotland, but the Queen herself asked me if I would not remain
in her service, taking my place as a Barvill should among her
gentlemen-at-arms, for she would prove that she was not ungrateful for
what I had done for her and the prince. And one may suppose that I
gladly did so, the more willingly that I should be near Annot, if the
truth is told.

Thus, for good or ill, my fortunes were cast in with Margaret of Anjou,
and I thought that my troubles were over.

Maybe one may say that they were, for the trouble to come yet was the
Queen's, and though I had part in it, that is a different matter to
being an outlaw on one's own account. Outlaw, as it were, in truth our
poor mistress was yet, but in sharing her distress was truest honour.

For no sooner were we over the border than we learnt that all that the
Queen could hope for was to be unnoticed at the most. The surrender of
Berwick, that should have made Scotland her lasting friend, had been
forgotten in new treaties made with York, and she was warned that she
might even be given up to him. So we rode westward along the border
until we came to Kirkcudbright, where the Queen had been in hiding
before, and there bided in poor lodgings enough as nothing more than
a noble Lancastrian lady with her household. None knew her to be the
Queen, but even were she to be recognised, we supposed that the Scots
king would hear no more than he knew already of her whereabouts.

So resting there we passed a quiet week, and then one day as I wandered
on the town quay, watching the vessels alongside, the remembrance of
Cork was brought back to me by the walk and bearing of a man who was
boarding a small trading buss. His back was towards me, and he seemed
to be a seaman altogether, but, I suppose because the thought of Cork
was always unpleasant to me, I asked who yon man might be, and was
told that he was master of the buss, and given his name also. So I was
somewhat angry with myself for letting such a ruffian as my former
acquaintance trouble my mind at all, and thought no more of him.

That evening I went in attendance on De Brezè beyond the town to the
house of a friend of the cause, in order to learn whether there were
any better tidings for the Queen from Edinburgh. There were none, and
we walked back to the town by the same roads we had passed in going,
which is a thing that an outlaw learns not to do, for plain reasons
enough. It was not very dark, and the road was not lonely as we came
near the town, for two men struck it from a by-path, and remained some
fifty yards behind us, talking and laughing freely, so that we thought
them lively company.

Just where the street down which we passed comes to the quay it grows
narrow, and at the corner house three men were quarrelling in a
half-drunken sort of way. However, they stumbled aside as we came near
them, and lest I should oblige my leader to pass too close to them, I
dropped back a pace or two, and we went quickly. Then one of the men
seemed to push another, and sent him falling right across de Brezè's
feet, causing him to stumble heavily. I sprang forward to save him from
the fall, and in a moment was down also, with the weight of several
men on me. The two men had run up from behind us and had thrown me. I
shouted, and tried to reach my dagger, but I was pinioned and gagged
quickly, and De Brezè was being treated in the same way.

Then the men set us on our feet, and the first man my eyes lit on was
Cork himself. He did not know me because half my face was covered with
a thick cloth, and besides that I no longer wore the wild hair and
beard of the forest. Then I knew that it was indeed he whom I had seen
this morning, and now we were in his hands and helpless, as his men
dragged us across the quay and to his vessel. The place was deserted,
for the townsfolk did not love late hours.

They took us on board the buss, and half threw us into a small
ill-smelling fore-peak under the high forecastle, through a low door
under the break of the deck and down three steps. Bound as I was, I
stumbled and could not save myself, and so fell headlong, with De Brezè
on me. My head came heavily against a timber, and that was all I knew
for a time.

When I came round I was free so far as bonds were concerned, but I was
in the same place, and De Brezè was beside me, in the dark. The vessel
was certainly at sea, and making her way against a light head-wind, for
though she was steady she went about and rolled me against my comrade.
Whereat I asked pardon.

"Why, that is well," he answered in a low voice, "for your senses have
suffered no hurt. I thought your neck might be broken, for when I had
managed to wrench my own bonds off and free you, you never stirred.
Now, what may all this mean? We put to sea directly after we were
taken, and have been out of harbour for two hours or so."

[Illustration: "I shouted, and tried to reach my dagger."]

I told him what I knew of Cork, and then it seemed plain to us that
he had trapped us for the sake of the price that was on our heads,
that for De Brezè's taking being very great, as one might suppose.
We should therefore be on our way to England, which was no pleasant
thought, considering the fate of so many of the Queen's best followers.
I think it likely that I was taken for Varennes, who was far more
valuable, as one might say, than myself.

"Why, then," said De Brezè, "they will come presently and offer us our
freedom if we will promise to behave ourselves. Then we may see if
anything can be done to make the bargain not all on one side, as we
have the use of our hands already."

I saw what he meant, and we began to plan many ways of surprising
our captors. It seemed as well to be slain in making a bold try for
liberty as to be given up to York to be beheaded. But we must wait for
daylight, and so we tried to sleep in turns, though I do not know if
either of us did so.

Presently the sun rose, and the light streamed through the chinks of
the bulkhead that closed the break of the deck, and I crept to one of
them and looked aft. There were but three men to be seen, one of whom
was Cork, and another the helmsman on the high poop. Cork and the third
man were on the main deck, leaning against the rail that was all the
bulwark that went round the waist, and both were armed. How many more
men there might be I could not tell, but the vessel was small, and I
thought that the five who had taken us might be the whole crew. De
Brezè came and peered out also.

"So far there are only two to one," he said, "for the helmsman cannot
leave his place. If we can settle with these two with a rush the rest
comes easily enough. But where shall we find weapons?"

All that I could see were the sweeps of the vessel, twenty-foot oars
that rested on chocks amidships and were not lashed. I pointed these
out, saying that one might handle them well as one uses a border spear,
and at that De Brezè made up his mind.

"They thought us so well bound that the door is only latched," he said
with a chuckle. "Are you ready?"

"At your word," I answered.

"Well, then, I go first and take an oar from the right side of the mast
and make for the right-hand man. Do you take the left, and then we
shall clear one another."

He turned up his long sleeves, shook hands with me, and was out through
the low door in a moment with myself at his heels, and we had the long
oars in our hands and were charging the two men before they knew that
we were not some of their own crew. Then Cork shouted and drew his
sword, making for me just as my comrade's levelled weapon struck his
man fairly in the chest, so that he doubled up with a howl and was
hurled under the rail into the sea. Perhaps the sudden shifting of the
deck as the helmsman threw the vessel's head into the wind put me out,
for I missed Cork, and in a moment he was inside my guard, and I had
hard work for a time to keep away from his sword, using the oar as a
quarter-staff.

Then I got a fair blow at him from aloft, and that ended all scores
between me and him in good time, for De Brezè was fighting two more
men who had come on deck from a forward hatch. He had the sword of the
first man he had set on, and one might see that he was a master of the
weapon.

Two to one was unfair, however, and I thought that the helmsman might
take part, so I swept one of these two overboard with a lucky swing of
the oar, and de Brezè ended the matter with the other at once. Whereon
the helmsman cried for quarter, and it was plain that there were no
more men on board. Then as De Brezè and I looked at one another, the
door of the cabin under the high poop opened, and in it, frightened and
pale, stood Annot herself. She gave a little cry of relief when she saw
me, and I sprang towards her.

[Illustration: "I got a fair blow at him from aloft."]

"What is it all, Richard?" she said, using my name for the first time
thus.

"How are you here?" I answered.

But before either of us had replied, a stately figure crossed the rough
threshold of the cabin, and the Queen herself was before me, looking on
the bodies of the slain with disdainful eyes, in which was no fear, for
the field of battle was not new to her.

"There is ever hope for the Red Rose while I have such arms to strike
for me," she said, as De Brezè and I knelt before her in wonder.

Then we learnt that almost as soon as we were taken both Queen
and prince had been decoyed from the house by some crafty message
purporting to come from a dying Lancastrian who would fain see them
before he passed. Varennes had gone to Edinburgh to seek for tidings of
the king, and so taking only Annot with her, the Queen had gone out,
only to be seized and hurried on board the buss, which had at once put
to sea. Doubtless Cork had meant to take his captives to England for
the sake of the great reward that would be his, but if my forebodings
concerning him were justified, he had met his deserts at my hand.

Then we made the helmsman put about, and were soon back in harbour
with the light breeze that had kept the vessel in sight of land in our
favour.

Now in a few days Varennes returned, and it was plain that no help
could be looked for from Scotland, nor was it known where the king was
for many a long day. Then we must wander from place to place in hiding
always, until at last, on a short sea passage on the east coast, stress
of storm took us to Flanders, and then came the end of troubles, for
though the Duke Of Burgundy was a foe, he was a noble one, and sent our
Queen home to her own people in Angers in all honour, at last.

Here I and Annot my wife serve her yet, looking back with content to
the troubled days when we first learnt to love one another. For if it
must be that we shall not see England again, our home is where the
Queen is, and that is enough, and has been so since we served her for
the first time in the cave under the shadow of the Hexham moors.



"A FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE;"
_OR, HOW I BECAME A LIGHT DRAGOON_

BY LIEUT.-COL. PERCY GROVES, ROYAL GUERNSEY ARTILLERY
(LATE 27TH INNISKILLINGS)



CHAPTER I


I was born in 1795, at the Kentish village of Charfield, of which
my father, the Rev. James Wilmot, was patron and rector. My mother
died before I was a week old, commending me with her latest breath
to the care of a trusted servant, the wife of our factotum John
Fowles--"Corporal Jack," as the villagers commonly called him. Nancy
Fowles had also charge of my sister Kate, who was six years my senior.

In his youth my father had held a cornet's commission in the 17th Light
Dragoons, but being severely wounded at Bunker's Hill, he was invalided
home. He then retired from the service, went to Oxford, took his
degree, was ordained, got married, and on the death of his father, in
1788, succeeded to our family living.

When my father returned from America he was accompanied by Corporal
John Fowles (who had also received a wound while rescuing his disabled
cornet from the enemy), and on quitting the army he purchased the
corporal's discharge, and took him as his body-servant. Three years
before I was born, Fowles married my mother's maid, Nancy Buck; they
never had children, so continued in their respective situations.

A strong, healthy child, I grew into a strong, healthy boy, with more
than a fair share of animal spirits, and a most impetuous temper.
I loved to "roam the fields for health unbought," to box and play
single-stick with John Fowles, ride about the country with my sister,
and take an occasional cruise in a Deal lugger--for Deal was barely an
hour's walk from Charfield Rectory, and I knew nearly every fisherman
on that part of the coast. Meanwhile my education was not neglected,
as I studied daily with our curate, and with Mademoiselle Hettier,
Kate's governess, an _emigrée_ whose relatives had all perished during
the "Terror." Thus passed my life until I attained my fourteenth year,
by which time I was well instructed in the "three Rs," history and
geography, could speak French fluently and with a tolerable accent,
knew a very little Latin, and was able to stammer through the Greek
alphabet.

"I wish to speak about your future," said my father one evening when I
bade him good-night. "You are now fourteen, and it is quite time that I
expressed my views on that subject. My great desire is, that you should
take orders and eventually succeed to the living. Do you like the
prospect?"

"Ye--es, sir," I hesitatingly replied; "yes, I think so--that is, if it
wasn't for Latin and Greek. I am very poor at them, you know."

"That's not altogether your fault, my boy," was his rejoinder. "Mr.
Scott owns he does not possess the gift of teaching, but he is leaving
us, on preferment, next week, and the new curate I have engaged is a
very competent tutor. You have heard me mention my nephew Septimus
Blagg?"

"Yes, father."

"Well Septimus is a sound classical scholar, and has coached men at
Oxford. He has just been ordained, and is coming here as curate and
your tutor. He will soon bring you on, and when you're sufficiently
prepared you shall go up for matriculation. Good-night, Dick."

"Good-night, sir." And I retired, not quite sure whether I felt pleased
or the contrary.

Septimus Blagg arrived at Charfield in due course. He was a lanky,
sallow-faced, red-haired young man, with a fawning manner and a low
purring voice. From the very first, Kate and I disliked and mistrusted
him. The new tutor was, no doubt, a fine scholar, and apparently took
considerable pains to instruct me; but somehow or other, I did not
seem to make much progress with my classical studies; we were always
doing the same work over and over again; never going ahead. At the end
of twelve months, Septimus informed my father that I had no talent
whatever for Latin or Greek, and recommended him to choose for me some
profession in which a knowledge of classics was not indispensable.

"No, nephew, no! Dick must stick to the Church," was the decided reply.
"He's still but a boy, and I'll wager he will easily matriculate when
the time comes. With you for his tutor he is certain to succeed," my
father added; for he had a high opinion of his curate, who made himself
useful in many ways, and had completely hoodwinked his easy-going
rector.

"As you please, sir," responded Septimus. "It was my duty to warn you
of the possibility, nay, I must say the _probability_ of failure; but
of course I will continue to do my utmost for dear Richard." And the
subject dropped.

Now Kate chanced to overhear this conversation, and asked me whether I
really tried to profit by our cousin's teaching.

"Honestly I do, Kate," I answered. "With other work I get on well
enough, as you know; but, though I try hard to pick up Latin and Greek,
I never seem to make any progress. It's always the same work over and
over again, until I'm fairly sick of it! If Cousin Septimus would only
let me go ahead I'm sure I'd do better, but really I sometimes fancy
he----"

"Keeps you back on purpose," interposed Kate, taking the words out of
my mouth. "That is exactly what I think, Dick. I believe the wretch
will do all he can to prevent you taking orders, in the hope of getting
Charfield for himself. _That_ is the reason you do not get on with your
classics!"

"Egad! you're right," I exclaimed. "What shall we do--speak to father?"

"No, dear boy; we have no proof, and may be wrong in our suspicions,"
my sister replied. "We must try to outwit the man. Do your utmost,
Dick, to master Latin and Greek in spite of his endeavours to hinder
you; pick up all you can from him, but trust chiefly to your own
efforts. Ma'moiselle could, I am sure, help you with Latin, for she is
so clever at languages. I will speak to her."

I followed Kate's advice to the letter, and never hinted to my father
that I doubted Mr. Blagg's good faith; but setting to work with a
determination to succeed, by dint of hard study and the assistance of
Mademoiselle Hettier--who still lived with us as Kate's companion--I
made such progress that in a year's time all doubt of my being
able to matriculate and subsequently take a respectable degree was
removed. My father was delighted; my tutor unmistakably puzzled and
discomfited--though he received with complaisance the compliments of
his unsuspecting uncle, for Kate and I kept our secret.

Foiled in his attempt to retard my classical studies, Septimus Blagg
tried other means to attain his end: he sought to blacken my character,
knowing well that my father had too much respect for his cloth to
permit a reputed ne'er-do-well to enter the Church. Septimus was far
too wary to speak against me himself, so he bribed his landlord,
Joseph Dobbs, the parish constable, to do his dirty work. Dobbs was a
cowardly, bullying jack-in-office, quite unscrupulous; in fact the very
man for the job. This rascal now began to play the spy upon me, and to
report, with gross exaggerations, every boyish escapade. My father,
however, knew Mr. Dobbs of old, and paid little heed to his reports.
Indeed, on one occasion, when the fellow brought a palpably false
charge against me, my indignant sire rated him soundly, threatened to
deprive him of his office, and ordered John Fowles to turn him off the
premises--an order which the ex-corporal cheerfully obeyed, and even
exceeded by giving the slanderer a sound thrashing, on the plea that he
"resisted the escort."

At this time I had no suspicion that Septimus Blagg was the instigator
of these malicious charges, or I should certainly have shown him up.

For a few months after his warm reception at the rectory, Dobbs let me
alone, but he was only biding his opportunity, and ere long he and his
scoundrelly employer succeeded in landing me in a rare scrape.

In the month of March 1812, my father, Kate, and Mademoiselle Hettier
went on a visit to Bingley Manor, twenty odd miles from Charfield. On
Tuesday, March the 11th--I have good reason to remember the day!--I
rode over to Bingley with an important letter, and did not reach home
until after dark. As I entered the village Septimus Blagg stopped me.

"I am glad you have returned, Richard; in fact, I have been watching
for you," he said. "There is painful news to tell you."

"Painful news, cousin!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, Richard," he rejoined. "Your young servant Harry Symes has been
arrested on a very grave charge."

Now Harry Symes was a particular favourite of mine. He had been in our
service some three years, but I had known him since childhood. His
father was one of the most skilful and daring boatmen on the coast;
he was also, unhappily, a notorious smuggler--a man who would stick
at nothing when his blood was up. But though a determined law-breaker
himself, William Symes had no wish that his only son should follow
in his footsteps, so he had begged my father to take Harry into his
service, and accordingly the lad was taken on as under-groom and to
make himself generally useful indoors and out.

"What is Harry accused of?" I anxiously inquired. "Nothing disgraceful,
I'll swear!"

"His father and other smugglers attempted to run a cargo before
daybreak this morning, and were surprised by the Preventive Service
officers. They made a desperate resistance, lives being lost on both
sides. William Symes managed to escape, and came here to borrow some
money from his son. He was seen by Joseph Dobbs, who very properly
arrested him, but Harry interfered, assaulted Dobbs and his assistant
with a hay-fork, and enabled his father to get clear away."

"And Harry was arrested?"

"Certainly he was, Richard, but not before he had dealt Dobbs a severe
blow on the head, rendering him nearly insensible," answered Septimus.
"He is now in the village cage, and I am uneasy lest any of his friends
should attempt to rescue him. I shall advise Dobbs to keep watch over
the cage all night, and remove the prisoner to Deal in the morning."

"Better mind your own business," I muttered; adding aloud, "Isn't the
cage guarded at present?"

"No, Richard. Your father being absent, Dobbs has gone to Mr. Hardy's
to report the arrest and ask for instructions; while his assistants,
I believe, are on William Symes's track. Poor Harry! I fear he has
committed a capital offence, and if so, his days are numbered."

These last words decided me. For aught I knew to the contrary, Harry
Symes's life was in imminent peril, and I must save him if possible.
The Charfield cage was an old ramshackle place, and if it was not
watched I might be able to release my humble friend before Dobbs
returned from the magistrate's. There was not a moment to lose, so
bidding Septimus a curt good-night, I hastened to the stable and
stalled and fed my mare without troubling the groom. Then, having
procured a small crowbar from the tool-house, I ran to the cage, which
stood quite apart from other buildings, and within five hundred yards
of the rectory.

Not a soul was about, as far as I could see, so I whistled softly.

"That you, Master Dick?" whispered Harry, looking through the narrow
grated window.

"Yes; I've come to release you. Keep very quiet."

The door of the cage was secured by a massive-looking staple and
padlock, but both were old and eaten with rust; so a vigorous
application of the crowbar wrenched them off. Pushing open the door, I
entered the cage.

"Master Dick, you shouldn't have done this," Harry exclaimed. "You'll
get yourself into rare trouble, I'm feared."

"Hush, you foolish fellow," I answered under my breath. "Take this
money and cut away while the road's clear. I will meet you at the
Dragon, Canterbury, early to-morrow, and we----"

"Not so fast, Master Wilmot," said a gruff voice, while a heavy
hand fell on my shoulder, and turning quickly round, I found myself
confronted by Dobbs and Septimus Blagg, behind whom stood the former's
assistants--William Herd and Seth Fogg.

"I arrest you, Richard Wilmot, for attempting to rescue my prisoner,"
continued Dobbs. "Shove the darbies on t'other one, Bill, and do you,
Seth, fetch the cart. We'll take these young devils to Dover jail this
very night. Look sharp, both on ye."

Fogg went off on his errand with evident reluctance, and Herd, after
fumbling in his pockets, declared that he must have left the handcuffs
at home. Harry and I were so taken aback at the unexpected appearance
of Dobbs and his companions that we stood stock-still, offering neither
resistance nor remonstrance; but now Septimus Blagg came cringing up to
me and, with well-feigned emotion, said: "Richard! Richard! has it come
to this? Alas! what will my poor deluded uncle say?"

The sound of his hated voice roused me in a moment. Looking him fair
in the face, I saw that his expression was one of triumph rather than
regret. Then a sudden thought flashed across my mind--I had been
betrayed by that fawning hypocrite!

"You hound!" I shouted in a fury. "You have set a trap for me--I'll
swear it!"

"I reckon ye're not far wrong, Master Dick," muttered William Herd,
casting an angry glance at the now trembling curate. "A darned dirty
job it be!"

The man's remark, and my tutor's confusion, convinced me I had hit
the right nail on the head--that Dodds and Septimus had deliberately
planned to tempt me to rescue Harry Symes, there could be no reasonable
doubt--and losing all control of my temper, and utterly regardless of
the consequences, I rushed at Septimus Blagg and knocked him fairly
off his legs. In falling his head came in violent contact with the
half-open door, and he rolled over stunned and bleeding profusely.

"The young vill'n's killed the parson!" cried Dobbs, seizing me by the
collar. "Help! Murder! Help!"

Snatching up a stool--the only piece of furniture in the cage--Harry
Symes flew to my aid, and with a swashing blow stretched Dobbs
senseless on the floor.

"Ecod! ye've done for the pair of 'em, I do believe," said Herd in
scared tones, as he stooped to examine Dobbs's prostrate form. "Ye
shouldn't have hit so mortal hard, lad; though it serves the rascal
right."

[Illustration: "Knocked him fairly off his legs."]

"Is he dead, Bill?" asked poor Harry anxiously.

"I'm feared so, lad," replied the old man, looking up. "Ye must get
clear of the country both on ye, for it'll be a hangin' job if ye're
cotched. Be off, lads, afore Seth Fogg comes back, and put a score of
miles betwixt ye and Charfeld by mornin'."

"But you will get into trouble if we escape now, William," I said,
hesitating to act on his advice.

"Never fear, Master Dick," he rejoined. "How could an old chap like me
stop a couple of active lads such as ye be? Not as how I'd try, if I
was as strong as Samson."

"That's true, sir," put in Harry; "and everybody in Charfield 'll know
it."

"In course they will," said Herd. "Come, be off afore 'tis too late,
and I'll take mighty good care that ye gets a fair start. And look ye,
Master Dick," the old fellow went on, "I'll see that Parson Wilmot
knows the rights of this business, never you fear. Now away ye goes,
lads, and good luck go with ye!" And with that he pushed us out of the
cage.



CHAPTER II


Fairly dismayed at our unfortunate position, we went off like hares,
and turning out of the road, made our way across country in the
direction of Ashford. It was a moonlight night and we could see our way
fairly well, so on we ran until we were a good league from Charfield,
when, hearing no sounds of pursuit, we threw ourselves down under a
hay-stack to draw breath.

"This be a precious bad job, sir," said Harry; "I do wish you'd let me
stop in the cage. Fancy you getting into such a scrape for the likes of
me!"

"What is done cannot be undone, worse luck!" I answered dejectedly. "It
is really my fault that we're in such a horrible mess, for had I not
lost my temper and struck Mr. Blagg, I do believe they would have let
us both go."

"Surely, Master Dick, they'd never have done that?"

"I think they would for their own sakes, Harry. You see, they knew I
had guessed their plot, and that William Herd had an inkling of it, and
I feel sure they would have gladly released us on our promising to hold
our tongues."

"There's something in that, sir," assented my companion. "Mr. Blagg was
regular skeert when you spoke your mind to him, and that's for sure."

"Yes; and had I only kept my hands off him, it would have been all
right; but now the wretched affair cannot possibly be hushed up, and if
we wish to save our liberty--if not our lives--we must fly the country."

In my excited state it never occurred to me that after all Blagg and
Dobbs might not have been fatally injured; on the contrary, I made
sure that Dobbs was dead, and thought it more than probable that my
tutor, if not killed outright, would not survive. But for this firm
impression, I should have made the best of way to Bingley Manor, and
confessed everything to my father, leaving him to decide what was to
be done; as it was, the bare idea of being tried for murder, or even
manslaughter, filled me with horror, and I resolved to endure any
hardships or privations rather than the disgrace of appearing in the
prisoner's dock on such a terrible charge. How bitterly I reproached
myself for that fatal burst of passion!--that mad blow which had
brought such dire trouble upon Harry and myself; ruining our prospects
and compelling us to fly from home and friends. I thought, with hot
tears streaming down my cheeks, of my poor father and sister, how
keenly they would feel the disgrace, and what fearful anxiety they
would endure on my account. These mournful reflections were at length
interrupted by Harry Symes.

"Don't you think, sir, that we should have made sure that Mr. Blagg was
killed afore we run off?" he said.

"Herd declared that Dobbs was dead, and if caught we should be tried
for his murder," I answered. "As far as our fate goes, it matters
little whether my cousin is alive or not. I hope most sincerely that he
is, poor fellow, though it would not save us."

"But _you_ did not kill Dobbs, Master Dick," rejoined Harry. "That was
_my_ doing--may God forgive me for it!--and they can't punish you for
my crime. Look ye, sir, let me go back and give myself up, and I'll
warrant they won't trouble themselves about you once they gets hold of
me."

This, of course, I would not hear of, and I told Harry that we were
both in the same boat, and would sink or swim together. We were now
fairly rested, so I proposed that we should continue on our way.

"Where are we bound for, sir?" he inquired.

"I hardly know, Harry. Suppose we make for Ashford and catch the early
coach to London? I have five or six pounds with me, and my watch is
worth as much more."

"I doubt Ashford would be safe, Master Dick," he replied. "As like as
not the news of our escape will be brought by the early coach, and
you're well known in Ashford. If we make for London we'd best take
another road. But, sir, what'll we do in London when we get there? I
reckon them Bow Street runners, as they talks so much of, will soon run
us to ground."

"We must get out of England as soon as possible, and to do that we
shall have to enlist or go to sea. I think London will be a good place
either to take the shilling or get a berth on board some ship."

"Surely you never means to go for a soldier, Master Dick?" cried Harry
aghast.

"Better that than be tried for murder at next assizes," I answered;
adding, "Unless you would rather go to sea?"

"Not I, sir," was the reply. "Taint of myself I'm thinkin'; it's you,
Master Dick. But if so be as your mind is made up, I'm with you. I'd as
lief be a soldier as anything."

"Then come along, Harry; we'll take 'the king's shilling' together.
Now, which way had we better follow?"

"The Maidstone road, I think, sir. Yon's Sheldon wood, and the lane as
skirts it leads into the highway near Squire Cotton's, about two mile
from here."

"True; we cannot do better. Come, lad! it is close on eleven o'clock,
and we must be far on our way by daybreak."

"Beg pardon, sir," said my companion, touching his hat; "but hadn't you
best take your spurs off in case we meets any folk?"

"Egad! I quite forgot I had them on," I laughed. "There! now we will
put our best foot foremost."



CHAPTER III


In less than half-an-hour we reached the high-road, along which we
proceeded at a brisk pace. Occupied with our thoughts--they were not
of a pleasant nature--we conversed but little; in fact, we had walked
in absolute silence for the last couple of miles, when Harry suddenly
stopped and clapped hand to ear.

"What is it?" I asked.

"There's a carriage coming up behind us, sir," he replied. "At a hard
pace too."

Turning round, I attentively listened, and, sure enough, heard the
rattle of wheels and the sound of horses galloping furiously. The road
was quite straight, and we had a clear view of a quarter of a mile or
more. In a few moments a post-chaise came in sight, the horses tearing
along, and evidently not under control.

[Illustration: "I shall try to stop them."]

"See, Master Dick, there's no post-boy," cried my companion. "It's a
runaway!"

Now, not fifty yards beyond where we stood was a very steep hill, and
I knew that if the horses took the chaise down that hill at the pace
they were going, a serious accident would be the almost inevitable
result--nothing short of a miracle could prevent it. To stop the horses
before they reached the hill would be a risky job, but in my present
mood I cared very little about risk to life or limb, and so determined
to make the attempt.

"Harry, lad, I shall try to stop them."

"Right, sir, I'm with you," was the prompt reply. "You take the near
horse and I'll go for the off. Come on, sir."

We moved a few yards up the road, and the moment the horses came
abreast of us we made a dash at them. Running by the near horse's
head, I managed to catch his bridle close by the bit; at the same
time throwing my right arm over his withers, I got a firm grip of the
collar, and hung on like grim death. Harry was equally fortunate, and,
after being dragged a short distance, we succeeded in bringing the
runaways to a standstill, just as they reached the brow of the hill. As
soon as the horses stopped the door of the chaise was flung open, and a
gentleman, wearing an undress cavalry uniform, jumped out.

"Splendidly done, lads!" he exclaimed, clapping me on the shoulder.
"You have undoubtedly saved me from a serious, if not fatal accident,
and I thank you heartily. You're not hurt, I hope?"

"A bit shaken, that's all, thank you, sir," I answered. "Are you all
right, Harry?"

"Yes, Master Dick. 'Twas a near thing, though! Another ten yards, and
we'd gone full tear down the hill."

"I am Major Warrington, of the 14th Light Dragoons," said the officer,
shaking me warmly by the hand. "May I ask your name, young gentleman,
and that of your--your companion?"

"My name is Wilmot, sir," I replied, somewhat hesitatingly, for, under
the circumstances, I did not much care to tell my name to a stranger.

"And I am Mr. Wilmot's servant, your honour," said Harry.

"Well, Mr. Wilmot, and you, my brave lad, I am very grateful for
the service you have rendered me," rejoined Major Warrington; "very
grateful indeed. To say nothing of my escape from bodily injury, I am
thankful that the horses and chaise have not been damaged, as it is
of the utmost importance that my journey should not be hindered. I am
hastening to Northfleet, to join a transport which sails for Lisbon at
ten o'clock in the morning, and even now I shall be pushed for time."
Then with a laugh he added, "I suppose I must ride post myself, or
else drive from the perch, for the rest of the stage, as there's small
chance of my post-boy turning up."

"Was he thrown, sir?" I asked.

"No. What happened was this," the major replied. "I was fast asleep,
when the sudden stopping of the chaise roused me. Looking out, I saw
the boy knocking at the door of a cottage. Before I had time to inquire
what he wanted, the door opened, and--startled, I presume, by the
flash of light--the horses went off at full speed. Of course, it was
impossible for me to stop them, so I let down the windows, covered
myself with cloak, rug, and cushions, and awaited events. We must have
come full six miles, at almost racing speed; and I certainly never
expected to get clear of the chaise with whole bones."

"And what became of the post-boy?" I asked.

"When the horses bolted he was at the cottage door, and possibly he
may have followed me, but I cannot wait on the chance of his coming
up. I must get forward to the next stage without delay, and be my own
post-boy."

"Beg pardon, sir," Harry chimed in, "Master Dick and I are going London
way, and it willn't be much out of our road, if we come with you as far
as Shelwick--that's the next stage, sir. I can ride post, if you'll
take Master Dick in the chay? I know the road well."

Harry's most unexpected suggestion took me fairly aback, and annoyed
me not a little; but I did not like to offer any objection, so held my
tongue. Major Warrington, too, was evidently surprised at the proposal,
and looked inquiringly first at me and then at Harry.

"That will suit me admirably, Mr. Wilmot," he said, after an awkward
pause. "It will be a pleasure to have your company as far as Shelwick;
or farther, if our roads lie together. What say you?"

"I am willing, Major Warrington," I replied in a half-hearted manner;
but seeing that he appeared hurt at my reluctant assent, I added,
"Indeed I shall be very glad to accompany you."

"Then we'll be off at once," he rejoined. "Jump up, my lad."

"One moment, your honour," said Harry. "Master Dick, will you put the
shoe on? We shall want it going down the hill." And as I went round
the chaise to fix the drag-shoe, he whispered, "Tell the gentleman
everything, sir. I'm sure he'll give you good advice, and maybe help
us."



CHAPTER IV


"Drive on," said Major Warrington, stepping into the chaise and seating
himself beside me. "Twenty past one"--looking at his watch--"have you
any idea how far we are from Shelwick?"

"Nearly six miles from the posting-house, which is some little distance
beyond the village," I answered.

"Well, I hope they'll be able to give me four posters," the major
said. "I could only get a pair at the last stage."

"Have you come far to-night, sir?" I inquired.

"From Bingley, Mr. Wilmot. I have been staying with my brother-in-law,
Lord Buckland, at Buckland Court. My servant started with the baggage
for Northfleet on Monday, but urgent business detained me until this,
or rather last evening. By the way, do you know Colonel Gascoigne
of Bingley Manor? I ask because there is a Mr. Wilmot, a clergyman,
staying at the Manor; probably you are related to him?"

This was indeed a home question! What should I say? Should I follow
Harry Symes's advice, and make a clean breast of everything to the
major? I hesitated; then--for I could not bring myself to deny my
father--I said, almost in a whisper, "I am Mr. Wilmot's son." And,
unable to control my emotion, I burst into tears.

"My dear boy!" exclaimed Major Warrington, laying his hand on my arm,
"what is wrong with you? I fear you have got into some trouble--is it
not so?"

"Into very great trouble, sir; but I--I dare not tell you what it is."

"Nonsense, Wilmot," he rejoined; "do not be foolish. Tell everything
without reserve, and if it is in my power to help you I will. Anyhow,
you may be sure that I will respect your confidence. Remember, my
dear boy," he went on, seeing that I hesitated, "I am under great
obligations to you and your servant, and it will be a pleasure to me to
assist or advise you. Come! confide in me without fear."

So, touched by his kind manner and evident desire to help me, I told
the whole story.

"Umph! You and Harry Symes are certainly in an awkward scrape," said
Major Warrington, when I had finished; "but I do not consider you have
done anything disgraceful."

"Thank you for saying that, sir," I murmured.

"You have acted foolishly--very foolishly!--by walking, almost with
your eyes open, into the trap set for you by those scoundrels the
tutor and his confederate," the major went on; "and thereby have
committed a serious offence against the law. As for the tutor and
parish-constable," he added, "their conduct was most disgraceful, and
they richly deserve punishment, in addition to the rough handling they
got from you."

"But, sir, I fear the constable was _killed_ in the scuffle," I put in,
thinking he might not have understood me. "His assistant, William Herd,
said----"

"Never mind what William Herd said; it is more than probable he was
mistaken," interrupted Major Warrington. "You do not _know_ the fellow
was killed, and in discussing this affair it is better that we should
stick to facts, and facts only. We _do_ know that you have committed
a serious legal offence by breaking into the Charfield lock-up and
assisting a prisoner to escape, and what we have to consider is how you
are to be saved from the consequences of your foolish action."

"What do you advise, sir?" I asked anxiously, after a brief silence.

"No doubt I _ought_ to advise you to return home and surrender
yourselves, but such a step would place your father in a very painful
position--as a magistrate he must of necessity commit you to prison;
the more so, because you are his son. Once you are arrested, the law
must take its course, and I am afraid it would go hard with you both."

"I am afraid it would," I sighed.

"On the other hand," pursued the major, "I believe that if you can
avoid arrest for a time, and proper influence is brought to bear, the
matter may be hushed up. Therefore I advise you to keep out of the way
for a time, and if possible leave the country."

"That was our intention, sir," I rejoined. "We are going up to London
to enlist."

"You need not go to London, my boy," said Major Warrington. "I am both
able and willing to assist you, and my proposal is that you and Symes
should accompany me to the Peninsula. Now what say you to that?"

"Can such an arrangement be made?" I exclaimed half incredulously.

"Certainly it can," was the reply, "otherwise I should not have made
the offer. I am in command of the drafts going out in the _Morning
Star_, and nobody will raise any objection if I choose to take a couple
of likely recruits with me. The question is--are you willing to come?"

"Indeed I am, Major Warrington!" I answered joyfully. "Thank you most
heartily for the offer; you are truly 'a friend in need'!"

"And the lad Symes--will he care to go on active service?"

"Yes, sir. I can answer for that."

"Then that point is settled," said the major. "Symes will enlist in
the 14th, and you shall join us as a gentleman volunteer; the colonel
will, I am sure, accept you on my recommendation. Before we embark," he
continued, "I will write to your father, explaining how I chanced to
fall in with you, and my reasons for advising you to take this step.
You, too, must send him a dutiful letter, giving full particulars of
the _fracas_ at Charfield, and stating your reasons for supposing that
your tutor and the constable laid a trap for you."

"William Herd promised to tell my father everything, sir," I
interposed; "but, of course, I will write as you suggest."

"I shall also send a full account of the case to Lord Buckland, and beg
him to use all his influence to get the affair hushed up," the major
went on. "No doubt his friendship with Mr. Wilmot will induce him
to do all he can; but the fact of your having rendered me so great a
service, at the risk of your life, will make him doubly anxious to help
you. I feel pretty confident that the matter will be satisfactorily
settled, and in a few months you will be able to return home without
fear."

"I think, sir, that once in the army I should like to stick to it," I
remarked. "My father would not object, as after this scrape I couldn't
very well enter the Church, and if all goes well I shall beg him to get
me a commission. We're at the bottom of the hill now; I will jump out
and take off the shoe."



CHAPTER V


"Rock of Lisbon's just sighted, gentlemen," the steward informed us as
we sat at breakfast in the cuddy of the _Morning Star_, a wall-sided
old brig which the transport authorities considered quite good enough
to convey his Majesty's troops from the Thames to the Tagus.

Three weeks and five days had elapsed since we embarked at Northfleet,
and we were all heartily sick of being cooped up in our dirty "floating
home." The voyage had been unusually tedious, owing to bad weather,
head winds, and the wretched sailing of the brig, so the prospect of
once more stretching our legs on _terra firma_ was very welcome.

"We should be at anchor before dusk," said Major Warrington.

"What a blessing!" ejaculated Frank Bradley, a newly fledged cornet,
and the only 14th officer on board besides the major.

"Praise the saints! we'll be clear of this ould flea-trap in a few
hours," exclaimed Doctor Mulcahy, the surgeon in medical charge of the
drafts. "I give ye me word of honour, major, that since I came on
board, me life's been one prolonged scratch! As for the poor fellows on
the troop-deck, their state just beggars description."

"Then pray don't attempt to describe it, doctor," laughed the major.
"We know by experience that your descriptions are sometimes rather too
vivid. Come on deck, Wilmot, and take your first look at Portugal."

Major Warrington had treated me with the greatest kindness and
generosity, and but for my anxiety to receive some news from home, I
should have felt perfectly happy and contented despite the discomforts
of the voyage. As I had only a few pounds with me, and no "kit" except
what I stood up in, the major insisted on being my banker until I could
get remittances from my father. I had purchased some necessaries at
Northfleet, and young Bradley was very glad to part with superfluous
articles of the preposterous outfit with which a London tailor had
saddled him; thus I was able to present a respectable appearance as a
gentleman volunteer.

The _Morning Star_ anchored in the Tagus, just abreast of Belem, in the
afternoon of the 5th April. Hardly was our anchor down when we were
hailed from the deck of a British corvette which lay in the river half
a cable's length ahead of us.

"What brig is that?"

"_Mornin' Star_, transport; with drafts of the 14th Light Dragoons and
3rd and 66th Regiments. One hundred and fifty-eight all told," shouted
our skipper. "Three weeks out of the Thames."

"Have you a Major Warrington of the 14th on board?" was the next
question.

"We has," bawled the skipper. "He commands the troops."

"What can they want with me?" said the major, who had just come on
deck.

"You'll soon know, major," observed Bradley, "for they're sending a
boat off. Here she comes! Look at the Portuguese bumboats scuttling out
of her way!" And the next minute the corvette's gig ran alongside, and
a smart little midshipman sprang up the accommodation ladder.

"Major Warrington?" he said, looking inquiringly round.

[Illustration: "Major Warrington?" he said.]

"My name is Warrington, young gentleman," the major answered, stepping
forward.

"Captain Calvert's compliments, sir, and will you kindly come on board
the _Alacrity_. He has brought out a packet of letters for you."

"Do you belong to the _Alacrity_?" said the major in a tone of
surprise. "Why, when did she sail from Portsmouth?"

"On the 25th of last month, sir, and anchored here this morning," the
middy replied. "We met with beastly weather in the Bay, or should have
got in two days ago." Then with an impudent look on his chubby face,
he said to our skipper, "You left the Thames on the 12th, I believe?
By George! your old hooker has taken her time over the passage. How
many knots can she do at a pinch?" But the surly old shellback walked
forward without vouchsafing an answer, beyond growling something about
the "cheek of them young reefers."

Telling the middy that he would be with him in five minutes, Major
Warrington took me aside, and informed me that Captain Calvert of the
_Alacrity_ was Lord Buckland's cousin, and that probably the letters he
had brought out referred to my case.

"Would they have had time to write, sir?" I questioned.

"Before the _Alacrity_ sailed?--yes, I think so," he replied. "The
letters we wrote from Northfleet must have reached your father and
Buckland by the 14th, and you may be sure they would not let the grass
grow under their feet. I met Captain Calvert at Buckland, and he was
then under orders to sail on the 30th March, but it appears he had to
put to sea on the 25th. No doubt Lord Buckland knew of this, and took
the opportunity to forward our letters."

"I hope they bring good news," I sighed. "I feel very anxious, major."

"Nonsense, boy; keep up your spirits, and I'll wager a guinea I shall
be able to tell you that everything has been satisfactorily arranged as
far as you are concerned. If it were bad news my brother-in-law would
not have been in a hurry to write. Now I must not keep the captain's
gig waiting, so I am off."

The major proved a true prophet. In less than half-an-hour he returned
to the brig, bringing me a letter from my father. The letter was
couched in most affectionate terms, without a single word of reproach.
To my great relief I now learned that neither Septimus Blagg nor Dobbs
had been seriously injured; but the latter got such a shock, that
thinking he was dying he made a full confession of the plot which he
and Septimus had hatched against me. As to wishing to prosecute, the
two scoundrels were thankful to escape being indicted for conspiracy.
My father wound up by saying that I could return home at once if I
chose, but he thought that now I had started on a military career it
would be well for me to keep to it, at any rate for the present. Harry
Symes could go back to the rectory, or remain with me as he pleased.
A banker's bill for £200 was enclosed, and the letter concluded with
affectionate wishes for my welfare.

"Now, my boy," said Major Warrington, when I had finished reading the
letter, "you will commence your military life with an easy mind! I have
one more piece of news for you," he added. "Buckland has seen Lord
L----, and obtained a promise that you shall have the first vacant
cornetcy in the 14th. So, Wilmot, we must pray that there be no change
in the Ministry for some little time to come."



CHAPTER VI


Much to our annoyance, we were detained at Lisbon until the first week
in July, when an order arrived for the draft to proceed at once to
Salamanca. Lord Wellington had entered Salamanca at the end of June,
and his forces were in position on the south bank of the Douro, while
the French under Marmont occupied the northern. It was the general
opinion there would be warm work before long, and we hoped to join the
regiment in time to take part in it. During my four months' sojourn in
the Portuguese capital I had made great progress with my drills, and
Major Warrington pronounced me quite competent to command a troop or
take charge of a picket or patrol.

About three weeks before we left Lisbon I received the welcome news of
my appointment to a cornetcy in the 14th--thanks to the influence of
Lord Buckland with his friend the Cabinet Minister.

"I wish you all success, my dear Wilmot," said Major Warrington when
congratulating me on my good fortune. "After all, the trouble you got
into has proved a blessing in disguise, for you have now a noble career
before you, and I predict that you will make an excellent light-cavalry
officer. _Entre nous_," he added with a smile, "I don't think you were
ever cut out for a parson. To my mind no man should enter the Church
unless he has a very decided leaning that way."

"I agree with you, sir," I replied; "and judging by his letter, my
father seems to be of similar opinion. He must look out for a more
worthy successor to our family living."

"Well, I trust he will not bestow it on Mr. Septimus Blagg," laughed
the major.

"Little fear of that," I rejoined. "Cousin Septimus is now, so my
sister writes, an usher in a London school. I wish the poor boys joy of
the fellow!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I will pass over our long march, for we met with no adventures worth
recording. Harry Symes proved an excellent servant on the line of
march, and one might have thought he had been campaigning all his life,
so smart and intelligent was he. I urged him to go in for promotion,
but he declared he would rather be my servant than regimental
sergeant-major.

We arrived at Salamanca about nine o'clock on the evening of the 22nd
July, just too late to share in the glorious victory in which our
comrades had distinguished themselves. We, however, pushed on without
delay, and came up with the regiment shortly after it had ceased from
pursuing the flying enemy.

The officers of the 14th Light Dragoons welcomed me very cordially, the
colonel being especially warm in his greeting.

"I am sorry you missed the fight to-day," said he. "It was a glorious
affair, and we have given Marmont a thorough trouncing. Our losses
are severe, and the 14th have to deplore the death of several gallant
comrades. We shall follow up the French to-morrow, so you may have an
opportunity of seeing a little fighting after all."

"He will see plenty of it before the campaign is over, colonel,"
observed Major Warrington.

The brigade to which the 14th belonged--it consisted of ourselves and
the 1st Hussars of the German Legion--advanced next morning, and early
on the 25th reached Arevalo. Here we halted and bivouacked. Patrols
were sent out on the several roads, and, to my great delight, I was
ordered to take charge of one, consisting of a sergeant and four men
of the 14th, and four German hussars. My instructions were to proceed
towards Blanchez Sancho, a small town some distance from Arevalo, and
ascertain whether it was occupied by the enemy. Before we marched off,
Major Warrington gave me a few words of advice and caution, and wished
me good luck.

"You will hardly have a chance of distinguishing yourself," he
concluded; "but it will please the colonel, who is already very well
disposed towards you, if you carry out the duty intelligently, and do
not get into a scrape."

The sergeant of my little party was a fine old soldier, William Hanley
by name, who had been with the 14th at the passage of the Douro at
Barca de Avinta, in May 1809, and in every engagement in which the
regiment had fought since that date. He knew that part of the country
well, and could speak a little Spanish. After riding four or five
miles, we came to a small village--its name I forget--where I called a
halt, as our horses were rather fatigued. The alcalde of the village
welcomed us with many expressions of good feeling for the British and
hatred for the French.

"As the old fellow seems so friendly, we might ask him to get a feed of
corn for the horses," suggested Sergeant Hanley. "Poor beasts! they've
had short rations and hard work these last four days, and we've a
goodish distance to travel yet. Shall I ask him, sir?"

"Certainly, sergeant," I assented. "We might get some information from
him as well."

The alcalde readily acceded to our modest request, and in a few minutes
the corn was brought into the _praça_, where we sat. Having posted
one of the German hussars on the church top, with orders to keep a
sharp look-out, I gave the word to unbridle and feed. While the horses
were feeding, Sergeant Hanley and I questioned the alcalde as to the
whereabouts of the French, and he assured us that they were at Blanchez
Sancho in some force.

The horses refreshed, we mounted and resumed our journey; three men
being sent forward in advance, one fifty paces in front, the second
fifty to the right, and the third fifty to the left front. Their orders
were to halt the moment they came in sight of the enemy, a town, or any
strange object.

The advance moved on in this order until they reached the summit
of a hill overlooking Blanchez Sancho, when in accordance with my
instructions they halted. I beckoned them to fall back, and then
ordered my men to dismount. Accompanied by Sergeant Hanley, I now
walked up to the summit of the hill, and from that coign of vantage
perceived a column of French infantry drawn up to the east of the town.

"They're being inspected, Mr. Wilmot," observed the sergeant, looking
through my field-glass--a present from Major Warrington. "They'll be
moving off directly, I reckons. Ah! I thought so." As he spoke, the
column took ground to its right, broke into the Madrid road, and in
about ten minutes disappeared from our view.

We waited a quarter of an hour or so, then hurrying down the hill,
rejoined our men. I gave the word to mount, and away we galloped
towards the town, making for that side of it from which the column had
marched. I have called Blanchez Sancho a town, but it was little more
than a village, with one straggling street, standing on an open plain,
and without hedges, walls, or inclosures of any kind.

Cautiously we rode down the street, keeping a sharp look-out for
stragglers or followers of the column. At the end of the street the
road turned to the right, and we now descried three dismounted dragoons
running from a barley-field towards a house which stood isolated on the
plain. We gave chase, and quickly caught them up. On my questioning
them, they informed me that they belonged to a picket occupying the
solitary house, and had been out to get forage. I inquired the strength
of the picket.

"A _sous-officier_ and ten dragoons, beside ourselves, m'sieur," was
the reply, after a moment's hesitation. "Our comrades are now feeding
their horses."

I interpreted the answer to Sergeant Hanley, and suggested that we
might capture the entire picket if we could only take them by surprise.

"We can make the attempt, anyhow, Mr. Wilmot," the sergeant rejoined;
"but, you'll excuse me, sir, we mustn't take all these chaps say for
gospel. If they gives the strength of their party at fourteen, we'd
best be prepared to tackle double that number."

"_Ja wohl, mein herr_," muttered one of the German troopers, nodding
his head approvingly.

"And we'd better put it out of the power of these fellows to give the
alarm," continued Sergeant Hanley. "With your leave we'll gag and
pinion them."

This was quickly done, and placing the prisoners under charge of a
hussar, we rode towards the house. It was a one-storeyed building, and
in its rear was a high wall extending from its gable-ends, forming a
yard or fodder-shed for feeding cattle in. This yard had only one means
of ingress or egress, and that was by the door of the house through
a narrow passage. We reached this door without being observed, and
found it locked. It was quickly burst open. The French dragoons were
in the yard feeding their horses and attending to stable duties for
the night--so far our prisoners had spoken the truth. At the sound of
the crash several of them rushed into the passage. Five of my men had
dismounted, and they immediately opened fire with their carbines.

"Keep up a brisk fire, lads," I called to them, "and the enemy will
think our strength is greater than it is."

Two or three of the Frenchmen returned our fire, but without effect,
and they soon retired from the passage into the yard. While this was
going on, I remained on horseback, giving orders as occasion required.
Close to me was the open window of a room on the ground-floor, and
suddenly an officer, springing up from beneath the window-sill,
discharged a pistol at my head, the ball passing through my shako, or
cap as we called it in those days. Harry Symes was standing beside me,
and seizing the officer, he dragged him through the window.

"_Rendez vous, m'sieur!_" I exclaimed, presenting a pistol. "You are
our prisoner."

"It is the fortune of war!" he said, shrugging his shoulders; and
unbuckling his sword he handed it to me.

This was an important capture, and I determined to make the most of it.

"M'sieur," I said to the lieutenant, for such was our prisoner's rank,
"the brigade to which we belong is close at hand, and I call upon you
to order your men to surrender before its arrival."

"What if they refuse?" he replied.

"I shall fire the premises, and not a man will escape."

"_Sapristie!_ you must be a Spaniard, not an Englishman," he exclaimed.
"I am in your power and must obey you."

"_Bien, m'sieur_," I answered; and calling one of the Germans who spoke
French fluently, I bade him escort the officer to the yard.

In a few minutes they returned and informed me that the whole picket
had surrendered, and awaited my further orders. After a short
consultation with Sergeant Hanley, I told the officer to call upon
his men to come out one by one, each leading his horse, but leaving
his sword in the yard. There was just room in the passage for a man
and horse to pass. My order was obeyed; and as each dragoon passed
through the door his carbine was taken from him, the butt smashed, and
the pieces thrown aside. In this manner the whole picket--numbering
twenty-eight _sous-officiers_ and troopers--passed out, and formed
up in ranks of four; each man standing at his horse's head, and his
stirrups being crossed over his saddle. As soon as all the Frenchmen
were out of the yard I gave the word to march, and we moved off;
Sergeant Hanley and a German hussar heading the little column,
three men riding on either flank, and Harry Symes and I, with the
officer--whom I allowed to ride--between us, bringing up the rear.

[Illustration: "You are our prisoner."]

The French dragoons marched very slowly, and it was nearly dark before
we came in sight of the village where we had baited our horses on the
way to Blanchez Sancho. The French officer now expressed his surprise
that we had not fallen in with the brigade. I returned an evasive
answer, and thinking it would be well to halt at the village for the
night--at the pace we were travelling we should not have reached
Arevalo before daybreak--I called Sergeant Hanley and told him to
gallop on to the village and request our friend the alcalde to provide
a secure resting-place for our prisoners, and, if possible, refreshment
for man and beast.

"I fear the officer suspects that the brigade is not so near at hand
as we led him to believe," I said in an undertone, "and it would be a
risky job to march all these prisoners to Arevalo by night."

"True, sir," was the reply; "if they took it into their heads to make a
sudden rush we'd have a warm time with 'em. I'll see the alcalde, sir,
and arrange for their accommodation to-night, and then get a dozen or
so of the villagers to come back with me and help guard 'em until we
reach the village. There's nothing like being on the safe side!"

He then galloped off, and returned in about an hour's time accompanied
by a score of villagers armed with sticks, pitchforks, and one or two
old fowling-pieces.

"_Mais, m'sieur!_ who are these rascals?" cried the Frenchman in some
alarm.

"Do not fear, lieutenant," I answered, "these good people are the
'brigade'; they have come to escort you to the village."

"_Sacré_--you have deceived me!" he hissed, with all the venom of a
Frenchman.

"_Un ruse de guerre, mon ami_, that is all," I retorted. "All is fair
in love and war."

The Frenchman, however, was very sulky, and bitterly reproached me for
the trick I had played him; it was not until we were seated in the
alcalde's house, discussing a flask of good wine and a capital ham,
that he recovered his good-humour.

At daybreak on the following morning we resumed our journey, and I had
the satisfaction of bringing in my prisoners to Arevalo in safety.

       *       *       *       *       *

I will here bring my story to a close, for my adventures in the
Peninsula would fill a small volume. I served with the gallant 14th
Light Dragoons until the Peace of 1814; and as I am now an old man,
I hope the reader will not accuse me of vanity when I say that Major
Warrington's prediction was fulfilled, and I gained the reputation of
being "an excellent light-cavalry officer."

The 14th returned to England in July 1814; and as soon as I could
obtain leave of absence I hastened to Charfield, Harry Symes
accompanying me. The whole village turned out to welcome us, and we
felt fully repaid for the hardships and dangers we had experienced by
the affectionate greeting we received.

I remained in the army until 1830, when having entered into the married
state, I thought it time to retire and settle down to private life. My
father attained a ripe old age, and before he died had the satisfaction
of seeing his grandson, the Rev. Richard Warrington--son of Colonel Sir
Charles Warrington by his marriage with my sister Kate--installed as
Rector of Charfield; so the living did not go out of the family after
all.

Harry Symes is now a prosperous farmer, and lives within a mile of our
gates. He often pays me an evening visit to chat over the days "when we
went soldiering," and I am sure that neither of us has ever regretted
our "Flight from Justice."



LONGITUDE TEN DEGREES

BY ROBERT LEIGHTON



I


"'Tis our best chance," Ben said, as he dipped the quill into the
captain's silver ink-pot. "Nay, 'tis our only chance."

The brig was labouring heavily on the sweeping swell of the North
Atlantic. From where he sat, facing the square stern windows that
looked out upon the helpless vessel's wake, Ben could see the dark,
pursuing rollers as they loomed up against the lighter rack of leaden
clouds. All was silent, terribly silent, on board. There was no sound
now of busy seamen's voices, no measured tread of patrolling feet upon
the decks; nothing but the slow, monotonous creaking of the ship's
oaken timbers as she lazily slid into the furrow and buoyantly rose to
mount the glassy slope of the next on-coming wave.

"Yes, 'tis our only chance," the boy repeated, as he drew towards him
the blank leaf of paper that he had torn from the log-book. "God grant
that it may be of some avail!"

The plaintive cry of a distant gull startled him in his loneliness.
It was like the cry of one of his dead shipmates calling upon him
from another world. He glanced nervously through the open door of the
captain's room, where the captain lay silent in his last sleep. Again
he dipped the quill into the ink, and began to write the words that he
had already prepared in his mind--

"_God send speedie help to his Majesties brig Aurora, homeward bound
fr. S. John's to Plimouthe and in dyer distresse. N. Lat. 58°, W. Long.
10° as nere as can be made out. Benjamin Clews 27 July 1746._"

This was the message upon which he rested his firmest hopes. And when
it was written and the ink was dry, he folded up the paper, wrapped it
in a piece of oilskin, and inclosed the packet in a little box-like
boat which he had fashioned for the purpose. On the tightly fitting lid
of the box he had carved the words "Pleas open," so that no one finding
it should doubt there was something precious within.

It was already dusk when he carried the box from the cabin and strode
forward along the brig's desolate deck. Mounting to the forecastle, he
climbed up on one of the guns, and, leaning over the stout bulwarks,
peered down into the darkening sea, with its flickering, phosphorescent
lights. The vessel was still drifting, drifting eastward with the ocean
current, as she had been drifting for many days.

"It may never be found," the lad sighed, as he flung the box far out
upon the waves. "And even if perchance it be picked up, nothing may
come of it." He walked slowly aft again. "'Tis not for myself that I
care," he mused; "I'd die like the rest of 'em. But the brig is the
King's. She is in my charge, so to speak, and I must save her if I can."

He glanced aloft at the close-reefed maintop-sail and at the two storm
staysails, and wished in his heart that he had the skill and strength
to unfurl more canvas, and thus bring the vessel more speedily to land.
Sail had been shortened in the gale of twelve days before, when there
had yet been seamen alive and well enough to work the ship. But the
gale had fallen to a calm, and now the few small sails that were set
only served to keep the brig before the light breeze that came from the
westward over the sea.

Ben walked aft to the helm, luffed the _Aurora_ up to the wind, and
again lashed the tiller. Then he went below to the cook's galley, where
a fire was still burning, and lighted two lanterns. He left one of them
on the deck outside the galley door, and taking the other in his hand,
strode forward and descended to the lower deck.

Silently entering the petty officers' quarters, he approached one of
the hammocks--the only one that was not empty--and gently rested his
hand upon it. A slight movement satisfied him.

"How are you now, Mr. Avison?" he inquired, holding up the lantern.

The man turned and looked over the hammock's side. His face was
unsightly with the eruption of the terrible disease that had decimated
the _Aurora's_ crew.

"Thank'ee, Ben, I'm a bit easier now," he answered, in a thin, weak
voice. "What's o'clock? 'Tis after sundown, I see."

"It's five bells in the first night watch," said Ben. "You've been
asleep these two watches. Could you eat something, think you,
quartermaster? There's a canful of soup in the galley. 'Twould do you a
vast of good. I could warm it, if you'd take a drop. Will you?"

"Well, my lad," returned the quartermaster, "I might try to manage just
a little, if you'd be so kind. But you're too weary to do cook's work
now, sure. How long might it be since you had a rest?"

Ben smiled a sickly smile. "Never mind me," he said, "I'm all right.
I'd a watch below the day before yesterday, after the captain was past
my help. Doctor Rayner forced me to have a snooze on top of his box;
said he'd not forgive me unless I did. I tied a lanyard to my wrist and
gave him the other end of it, so that he might haul tight and wake me
if he wanted me for anything. He never did haul, though. When I awoke
he'd slipped his moorings and sailed off on the long voyage, as Tom
Harkiss would have said."

The quartermaster drew a sharp breath and leaned over, gazing at the
boy with bleared and lustreless eyes.

"Dead?" he cried. "The surgeon dead?"

Ben nodded.

"God help us, then!" said the quartermaster. "And do you say, boy, that
there's only me and you left?"

"That's all," answered Ben sadly. And then he added more cheerfully,
"Now I'll lay aft and fetch that soup."

Some few minutes later Ben Clews returned with the flagon of warm soup,
and proceeded slowly to feed his sick companion spoonful by spoonful.
Very soon the quartermaster fell back exhausted.

"That's enough, boy," said he; "I can't manage no more. You'd best take
what's left for yourself, and then get into your bunk. The brig's all
safe for a day or two, so long as there's no wind. But if a wind should
spring up, look you, we shall be as good as a derelict, short-handed
as we are, and maybe be blown back again into the Roarin' Forties. You
may lay we shan't run aground at the rate we're goin' now, though. I
daresay I shall be well again afore we make land. I've got over the
worst of it, and'll be able to lend a hand in a day or two. Then we
must see about givin' the poor cap'n and the surgeon a decent buryin',
as befits gen'lemen." He paused to take breath. "Of course, Ben, there
aren't no sort of sign of land yet, eh? You've kep' a good look-out, I
suppose?"

Ben was sitting on the corner of a sea-chest pulling off his boots. He
leaned wearily back, and answered with a yawn--

"I can't say as I've seen any real sign," he said. "But somehow it
seems to me we can't be very far off. A school of gulls flew over
us this morning, and one of 'em--quite a young one--perched on the
taffrail. She looked as if she'd just come off her roost."

"That should be a kind of sign," agreed the quartermaster. "What did
the cap'n say when the last reckonin' was took? Did he give any word as
to where we might make a landfall?"

Ben drowsily answered, "Somewheres off the west of Ireland, if I
remember aright."

The quartermaster was silent for many moments. He was mentally
calculating the chances of the _Aurora_ reaching land in safety.

"Ben," he said presently, "d'ye think you could put your hand on a
chart and find out our bearings?"

But Ben did not answer. He was sound asleep.

And while he slept, the message that he had cast upon the waters went
drifting eastward. It drifted for many days, but always steadily
eastward in the grip of the great Gulf Stream. And at last it was
found. It was picked up by an Orkney fisherman off the west coast of
Pomona Island. The slip of paper was duly passed from hand to hand
until it came into the possession of Captain Speeding, whose little
frigate the _Firebrand_, twenty-eight guns, was at that time stationed
in Stromness Bay for the protection of fisheries and of trade.

Of course Captain Speeding could not think of quitting his comfortable
quarters and sailing off on what, after all, was probably a wild-goose
chase. How could he tell that the message was genuine? It might well be
a mere hoax, a wily ruse of one of the Scapa Flow smugglers, or even
(which was quite likely) a clever trick of John Goff, the redoubtable
pirate of the Pentland Firth, to get his Majesty's ship _Firebrand_
and her bristling guns temporarily away from the islands, so that he
might run in his ill-gotten cargo undisturbed. Captain Speeding had
been in active search of John Goff and his freebooting crew for months
past, and it was not his intention to let the rascals slip through his
fingers.

And yet, considering the matter from the point of view of duty, he
dared not ignore the summons that had come to him from across the sea.
The distressed ship was one of his Majesty's, and if the writing of the
appealing letter was to be credited, succour was urgent.

"Look here, Brown," cried the captain of the _Firebrand_, flinging the
torn and sea-stained slip of paper across the wardroom table to his
first lieutenant--"this thing troubles me. If there's anything in it,
'tis my bounden duty, I take it, to send relief of some sort--eh? Read
it over again. Read it, and tell me if you think 'tis genuine."

Mr. Brown spread out the flimsy sheet in front of him, screwed up his
eyes, and read aloud, slowly and deliberately, the words inscribed upon
it--

"God send speedy help to his Majesty's brig _Aurora_, homeward bound
from St. John's to Plymouth, and in dire distress. North latitude
58 degrees, west longitude 10 degrees, as near as can be made out.
Benjamin Clews, 27th July 1746."

"Well?" interrogated the captain.

"I'd lay my life 'tis genuine," said Mr. Brown. "I know the _Aurora_.
I saw her in Chatham dockyard three years ago. What's more, I believe
my old messmate Arthur Vincent sailed with her on this same cruise. The
only thing that troubles me is the writing on this thing." He tapped
the paper with his fingers. "This is a youngster's hand--some swab of a
ship's boy. Why didn't one of the officers write it? That's what I want
to know."

Captain Speeding took a turn aft along the cabin floor with his hands
clasped behind his back, and stood at the open port meditatively
looking out across the calm, sunlit bay to where a faint film of blue
peat smoke floated above the quaint old gabled houses of Stromness.
Then he returned to the table, hastily took out his watch, and said
decisively--

"Brown, get the chart of the North Atlantic. Find the brig's position
at the time when the word was sent off; allow for her being disabled,
and calculate where she may be found. I am going to despatch Moreland
in search with the cutter. The craft can't be far off, for, you see,
this message has only been in the water fourteen days."

"I have already consulted the chart," remarked Mr. Brown. "I make out
that the _Aurora_ is somewhere in the neighbourhood of the St. Kilda
Islands."

"I never heard of them," confessed the captain. "Are they inhabited?"

"God knows," said Mr. Brown.



II


"D'ye hear, Ben? D'ye hear?"

Ben woke up with a start and rubbed his eyes.

"Did you speak, quartermaster?"

"Speak? Lor' bless you, lad, I've been a-speakin' this half-hour past.
What in thunder's all that noise? Listen! I've heard it ever since
daybreak. I can't make it out nohow."

Ben sat up and listened. A prolonged half-roaring, half-musical sound
filled the air from without.

"It do sound queer, don't it?" he said. "I wonder what 'tis?"

"Best tumble up and find out," advised the quartermaster. "I'd say
'twas birds if it wasn't so loud. Birds couldn't make all that row."

Ben pulled on his boots and went up to the forecastle deck. The sight
and sounds that met him were such as he had never before encountered in
all his three years' voyaging.

[Illustration: "The sight and sounds that met him were such as he had
never before encountered."]

A fresh westerly breeze was blowing, filling the vessel's few sails.
The sun was rising in the east, over a grey-blue sea, and between
it and the brig, scarcely, as it seemed, a mile away, lay a group of
jagged, rocky islands, whose tallest point was a green-topped mountain,
shining bright in the early sunlight like an emerald set in ebony.
Above the islands there whirled in ceaseless movement, even as specks
in a sunbeam, thousands and thousands of clamorous sea-birds. All
around the ship, and as far as the boy's amazed sight could reach,
the sea was dotted with swimming puffins and kittiwakes, gannets and
fulmars. A green-backed shag was preening its feathers on the extremity
of the _Aurora's_ bowsprit; a fearless eider-duck strutted across the
deck; along the rail a school of puffins sat, like charity children in
their black tippets and white bibs.


But Ben Clews thought less of the sea-birds and their noisy voices than
of the one great fact that land was near. He hurried below.

"Land, ho!" he cried, and again, "Land ho!"

"Where away?" called the quartermaster, in a feeble voice from his
hammock.

"Right under our bows," answered Ben. "An island--three islands I
counted, and we're drifting on to them, hand over hand!"

"Then if that be so, 'tis no place for you down here, my hearty,"
declared the quartermaster. "Don't think of me, but take your trick at
the helm and look arter the ship; for you're cap'n, and crew as well,
till I can move, God mend me! Our fate's in your hands for good or bad,
and you may lay to that."

"Ay, ay," returned Ben; "but there aren't no hurry just yet a bit,
quartermaster. There's time and to spare for me to see you snug.
'Tarn't as if we was bowling along under full sail. Why, we aren't
making above a knot an hour at best, and the nearest land's a good mile
off yet."

The boy lost no time, however, in making his companion comfortable.
Placing a prescribed dose of medicine, a dipper of water, and a
softened biscuit within the quartermaster's easy reach, he returned to
the deck and took up his post at the helm, heading the brig towards
the lee side of the largest island. The rate at which the _Aurora_
was drifting was less than he had calculated, and her distance from
the land was greater. Yet slow though her progress was, the islands
became more and more distinct with every half-hour. At first it had
seemed that there were but three separate islands--a high, isolated
rock, whose splintered outline with its many spires and pinnacles
gave it the appearance of a great Gothic cathedral rising out of the
blue sea on the larboard bow; to the southward, a smaller islet with
a rounded, grassy top; and between these two sentinels, the long
stretch of the main island with its dark, precipitous sides ascending
to verdant slopes. But as the brig drew nearer still, many detached
stacks and smaller rocks appeared, the frowning cliffs revealed their
yawning caves and caverns, and thousands of tiny specks, that at first
had looked like white pebbles in the rock, resolved themselves into
roosting sea-birds.

Ben's alert eyes sought for an anchorage, and soon, near the western
headland of the largest island, he caught a glimpse of sandy beach, and
the gleaming white ribbon of a watercourse. The beach sloped down to a
channel of calm sea that was sheltered behind the hill of a protecting
island. The calm bay seemed to offer a likely refuge, and towards it
Ben steered the brig. Another hour's slow sailing brought the little
vessel into the safety of this roadstead, where she lost her headway
and rode for the time secure on the swell of the clear green water.

Already Ben Clews had realised the impossibility of casting the heavy
anchors. He was only a weak boy, and his weakness was greater than
ordinary now, for he had but lately recovered from his own attack of
the fell disease which had been fatal to the _Aurora's_ crew, and
which now held the quartermaster helpless in his hammock. Ben had been
the first in the ship's company to be laid up by the awful visitation.
It had been caught from a distressed slave-ship which they had boarded
off the Newfoundland Banks, and each of the brig's crew had taken it
in his turn. Ben's attack had been only a slight one; but his face
still told its tale, and his limbs were yet weak. But if he had not
strength to move the anchor, he at least had the ingenuity to devise
a workable substitute in the use of a pair of stout hawsers, which he
paid out fore and aft, lashing them taut round convenient rocks, which
he reached by the means of the ship's smallest boat.

In the afternoon the _Aurora_ lay so snug at her moorings that even
the quartermaster, when he heard Ben's report, was forced to express
satisfaction.

"You have done well, boy," said he, with an approving nod; "but now
that we've fetched land," he added, fixing his bleared eyes on the
lad's marred face, "what d'ye mean for to do? Tell me that! It don't
seem to me, lookin' at the matter all round, as you might say, that
we're any better off than we was before. We've got victuals enough to
last us for months, I know; but barrin' the cannibal savages, you can't
say as we're in anywise more fortunate than that chap Robisson Crusoe.
We haven't saved the _Aurora_ yet, look you. You'd look queer if a gale
was to spring up and her be smashed to pieces on them rocks you speak
of, wouldn't you?"

"I was thinking we might manage to get a crew together," ventured Ben,
somewhat downcast.

"A crew of auks and gannets, I suppose?" sneered the quartermaster.

"No," returned Ben; "I mean men, of course."

The quartermaster had been sitting up in his hammock to listen to the
boy's account of how he had brought the brig into the bay, but now he
leaned back and lay watching the play of the reflected sunlight on the
timbers above him.

"I thought you said as how you had made out no signs of houses?" he
pursued.

Ben admitted that he had discovered no dwelling-places on the land.
For all he knew, indeed, the islands might never have known human
inhabitants. Certainly no fields nor growing crops were visible from
this west bay. "But," he added more hopefully, "I saw a dead sheep on
the hillside when I rowed ashore with the bight of the hawser; and
where there's sheep, d'ye see, there's pretty sure to be men."

"I'll allow that," agreed the quartermaster. "But even if so be you
find your men, you can't force 'em to come aboard a plague ship."

Ben lapsed into silence at this sane remark; but presently, as if a
bright thought had struck him, he said--

"Anyhow, I've a mind to make a trip in the dingey and see if I can
find some people. From what I can make out, these here islands must
belong to Great Britain somehow; and if there's any one living on 'em,
why, they'll speak our own tongue and tell us where we are, and that's
something."

So when he had cooked some food and prepared a meal for himself and
his companion, he set off upon his voyage of discovery. He pulled the
little boat round under the tremendous cliffs of the north coast of
the island, but sought in vain for a landing-place or for a sign of
habitation. Sea-birds were everywhere--on the ledges of the cliffs, and
in the long dark caverns; they filled the sunlit air, they speckled
the sea, and the outlying skerries were white with them. The cries
they made were mingled in a strange musical harmony that was like the
pealing of a church organ. The short shrill treble of the auks and
puffins, the trumpet cry of the wild swans, the mewing notes of the
kittiwakes, the tenors of the divers and guillemots, and the deep bass
croaking of the cormorants and ravens united in a prolonged symphony,
and through it all was the profound roar of the sea from the throats of
countless caves.

If Ben had been a naturalist, instead of an ill-informed ship's boy, he
would have recognised this as a paradise of birds. But he only thought
of his sick companion on board the _Aurora_, and of how he might
find human help. He rowed along the coast for some two miles without
discovering even so much as a yard of beach. Once he came upon a
floating log of driftwood--the remnant of some bygone shipwreck. Once,
too, he heard what he took to be the bleating of a sheep, but there
were no signs of human inhabitants. His little voyage was useless. So
he went about, and returned disappointed towards the brig, resolving to
make his next journey of exploration by land.

As he came again into the bay where the _Aurora_ lay at her moorings,
he glanced up the little glen that led up between the hills. The land
was bare of trees--a barren moor, with tufts of purple heather growing
among the boulders on the higher ground, and level beds of grass
marking the course of a fresh-water stream.

On the heights he saw the figure of a man.

For a moment Ben questioned within himself if it would be wise to
prolong his absence from the brig and go up to the man and speak with
him; but as the stranger was only a short distance away, he decided to
go ashore and follow him. He brought the boat in to the beach, pulled
her up a yard or two above the tide, and set off in pursuit.

When he reached the spot where he had first seen him, the man had
disappeared. Ben was about to turn and walk back to the boat when a
movement near him on the heather attracted his eye. A dog approached
him, smelt at his heels, and then scampered away. Ben followed the
animal over the brow of the hill, and at this point he came within
view of the farther end of the island, and a wide bay that opened out
between two great rocky headlands. He stood for a time contemplating
the scene, almost forgetting the _Aurora_ and her sick quartermaster.

A voice at his elbow startled him. It was a woman's voice, strangely
gentle and sweet.

"You are a stranger here," she said. "Where have you come from?"

Ben turned. At sight of his scarred face the woman shrank from him,
and then the lad remembered the infection that was upon him.

[Illustration: "The woman shrank from him."]

"Stand back from me!" he cried. "I have been ill--it is the smallpox,
as they call it--and all my shipmates are dead of it; all except one,
who is now aboard the brig, across the hill there, in the bay." He
stepped back as he spoke, and put her to the windward of him, so that
the infection might not reach her.

"A ship!" she cried in agitation, clasping her hands. "At last! at
last! And you can rescue me. You can carry me across to Scotland, and I
shall no longer pine and languish on this barren, heaven-forsaken rock!"

The boy marvelled at her words, not understanding her meaning. He even
wondered if she were in her right senses.

"How do you name these islands, ma'am?" he asked, as if to test her
sanity.

She looked about her nervously, as though half afraid that the very
birds should overhear her.

"This where we now are is called Hirta," she answered. "The rock to the
north is Borrera. The one to the west is Soa. They are the St. Kilda
islands, and they lie out some fourscore miles west from the mainland
of Scotland."

As Ben listened to her voice, and contemplated her delicate hands
and her refined face, he knew almost by instinct that, in spite of
her coarse, homespun clothing, she was not of the common sort, but a
woman of good birth. He stood silently watching her, wondering how it
happened that a gentlewoman should be in such a place.

"From what land do you come?" she questioned. "You are English by your
tongue."

"We are from Newfoundland," explained Ben. "But our ship is
English--his Majesty's brig-of-war _Aurora_. And you, ma'am, how do it
happen as a lady like you is here?"

"I am a prisoner," she answered. "I am Rachel Chiesley. My husband has
imprisoned me here because I knew his secrets--his secrets that would
be the hanging of him if they were known to the King. He told people
that I was dead, and they believed him. There was a public funeral,
but the coffin was filled with stones, and I, who was supposed to be
buried, was secretly carried off by his agents and brought over here to
St. Kilda. I have been here for five long years, living among islanders
who are little more than savages, and who understand no word that I
speak. No ship have I seen during all that time. But now yours has
come. God has sent you, and you will rescue me!"

Ben hesitated for an instant. Then he said awkwardly--

"It might be done, ma'am, if so be you could get some of your
savages to make up a crew and work our ship home to Plymouth. We're
short-handed, d'ye see. In fact, barring myself, and the quartermaster,
what's lying ill with the smallpox, there aren't nobody aboard to trim
the sails or do anything."

The marooned woman made a step towards the boy, but he waved her back.

"Don't come nigh me!" he cried, "'tis dangerous."

She shook her head. "I am not afraid," she said, "and I would risk
any danger to get away from this horrible place." She glanced swiftly
westward to where a vast cloud of sea-birds now darkened the sky.
"Something has disturbed the gulls," she added.

At the same moment the report of a firearm sounded faintly from the
distance.

"It must be the shipwrecked seamen," explained the lady. "Their
ship was broken on the crags in the storm last week, and they have
been living in one of the caves. They are evil-looking men, and the
islanders fear them."

"The shot seemed to me to come from where the _Aurora_ is lying,"
cried Ben in alarm. "I'll engage 'tis the quartermaster signalling to
me to go back." And giving a hasty seaman's salute, he abruptly left
his strange companion, and ran across the moor in the direction of the
brig. An unaccountable dread of some impending disaster oppressed him
as he ran. From the top of the hill he saw that the _Aurora_ was still
riding safe at her moorings; but his quick eye discovered the figures
of two men moving upon her quarter-deck. Who could they be? He made his
way down to the beach. He glanced at the water's edge where he had left
his boat, but the boat was gone.



III


"I'm not by half so ill as Ben thinks," ruminated the quartermaster,
as he lay in his lonely hammock pondering over the situation during
Ben's absence. "I do believe I'm fit even now to take watch and watch
about with him. 'Tis hard on the lad to leave him to do all the work,
and me able to lend a hand." He glanced towards the open port, through
which he could see a snowy-white seagull calmly floating on the green
water. Then looking down at the deck below him, he added, "Blamed if I
don't get out of this and see what I can do." He sat up, dangling his
trembling legs over the side of his hammock; his toes were but a dozen
inches from the flooring.

"I believe I can do it," he went on; and turning over, he gripped the
hammock with his two hands, and swung himself slowly and cautiously
down until his feet touched the boards.

His limbs were shaky, and his head seemed to swim; but stepping out,
he succeeded in tottering across to the nearest bulkhead. Supporting
himself by his outstretched hands, he went step by step along the
gangway to the foot of the companion-way. Slowly he mounted the
stairs, until the fresh sea-air played upon his bare head. He sat on
the top stair for a long time, drinking in the sweet cool atmosphere,
and looking up into the blue sky and its sailing white clouds.

"Seems to me I'd best step aft to the cap'n's room," he muttered to
himself. "'Tis no place for the likes o' me to enter, certainly;
but being as Ben and me are in charge of the brig, why, 'tis no
court-martial matter. Nay, now I come to think of it, 'tis my duty to
go in." And rising with difficulty to his feet, he staggered aft and
boldly but respectfully entered.

The first thing that caught his eye was the captain's silver ink-pot on
the table; then it was the mingled red and blue folds of the Union Jack
lying across the dead body of the captain in the inner sleeping-room.

"Good boy, Ben," he said. "You haven't forgot what's due to a king's
officer. You and me'll have to act the parson soon, too, if we can
lay our hands on a prayer-book. Mayhap you know the words without the
book; you must ha' heard 'em pretty often lately. But I don't know 'em,
except 'We therefore commit his body to the deep until the sea shall
give up her dead----'"

An unexpected sound startled the quartermaster in his ruminations. It
was a man's gruff voice, and it came from outside, below the brig's
counter.

"I don't know what you bullies think," it said, "but it looks to me
as if the crew'd all gone off on a holiday. Pull round to the gangway
ladder, Alick, and let's get aboard of her. Crew or no crew, King's
ship or merchantman, I'm going to take her, and the Jolly Roger shall
fly at her gaff peak before----"

The quartermaster did not hear what limit of time the man allowed
himself for the accomplishment of his daring proposal; but a thrill of
terror ran through him as he realised what manner of men these were.

"God! Where is Ben?" he cried, and he looked round the cabin for some
weapon with which to defend himself and the ship. The captain's pistols
were in their rack. With what speed his bodily weakness allowed him, he
went to them and took a pair of them down. They were already loaded.

"It's one sick man against a boatload of pirates!" he said. "But, God
helping me, they shall not take the ship while I'm alive!" As he passed
to the door he caught sight of the reflection of his own face in the
captain's mirror, and started back appalled. But the remembrance of the
scourge that had killed off the _Aurora's_ company leapt to his mind.
"We've got at least one strong ally, me and the King," he cried, as he
staggered out to the doorway under the poop. He stood there, steadying
himself with one foot on the companion-ladder, not venturing to go
nearer to the open gangway, where already he could hear the talk of the
strangers on the ladder as they climbed up from their boat.

The quartermaster listened intently, trembling the while.

"Tumble up!" cried the one in authority. "Make for the quarter-deck."

A man sprang in upon the deck--a tall, evil-looking man, with a bushy
black beard and bedraggled clothing, a naked cutlass in his hand. He
was followed by three others, and then a fifth. The fifth man was young
and handsome, and his blue coat was adorned with tarnished gold braid.
The five of them advanced towards the poop. The quartermaster levelled
his pistol at their bodies.

"Stand back!" he commanded. "Who are you? and what is your business on
this ship? 'Tis King George's ship, look you, and----"

"Shut your ugly face!" cried the tall black-bearded man, with an oath.

The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man fell. His four
companions hesitated, staring at the quartermaster's disease-scarred
countenance. None of them carried firearms; or if they did so, they
were without ammunition. Their leader, the youngest of the band,
stepped forward, sword in hand. The quartermaster, already exhausted,
retreated into the cabin, banging to and bolting the door.

[Illustration: "The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man
fell."]

The pirates (for such he was now assured that they were) went up to the
poop-deck, and from this point of vantage surveyed the ship.

"You're right, Goff," said one of them, addressing the leader. "The
craft's got no crew--none, at least, except that strawberry-faced
lubber that has shot poor Tom."

"It seems so, Alick," returned Goff. "But some of 'em must have gone
ashore in the boat. They'll have gone across to St. Kilda village.
One of you had better pull ashore to the cave and bring off our men
while there's time. Phillips, go you. But you might take a bigger boat
than the one we found. There's plenty of them, see. Lend a hand there,
Flett, and you, Dewson, and launch that starboard boat. Well," he
continued speaking to the man named Alick, "she's a real goddess, this
_Aurora_. Not very clean about the decks, 'tis true, but well found,
in a double sense, eh? I wonder how she came in here? She doesn't seem
to have suffered much in the gale that was so fatal to our poor ship.
But 'tis a mystery how she came to be so short-handed. Why, they've not
even anchored her!"

He strode towards the men who were launching the boat, and gave them
some directions, while Alick stepped to the skylight, and leaning over
it, peered down into the cabin where the quartermaster had temporarily
entrenched himself.

It was at this moment that Ben Clews came down to the beach and
discovered that the brig's boat had disappeared. From behind the
rock near which he had left it, he looked over at the _Aurora_ in
terrified amazement. Who were these men that were aboard of her?
And what was the meaning of the shot that he had heard? Surely there
was something wrong! He blamed himself now for having left the brig.
While he watched, he saw a boat put out from her, with one man at the
oars, and his heart leapt with hope at the thought that it was coming
shoreward for himself. He waved his hand; but the rower did not see,
or disregarded, his signal, and pulled with steady, measured stroke
through the sound in the direction of the western headland of the bay,
soon to be lost to sight beyond the cliffs, where the homing sea-birds
screamed.

Ben noted the drift of the current, and calculated the distance that
divided him from the brig. The vessel's wide square stern was towards
him, and from over her taffrail the stout hawser was stretched to
the isolated rock round which he had bound it. The bight of the rope
dipped into the water, making a rippled track as the brig rose and
fell on the ocean swell. The rock was but a dozen yards away from him,
separated from him by a deep channel of calm sea. Ben was not a great
swimmer, but he thought he could cross those dozen yards; and reaching
the rock, he would then be able to gain the ship, dragging himself
hand over hand along the hawser. He pulled off his heavy sea-boots and
left them on the shingle, waded breast deep into the sea, and throwing
himself forward, struck out. The current was sweeping strong, but he
had allowed for its carrying him out of the straight course. After a
tough struggle, he came within a few feet of the rock. The tide was
taking him past it, but he grabbed at a tangle of seaweed, caught it,
and dragged himself into safety.

He rested for many minutes on the rock, shivering. Then he climbed up
to the hawser and prepared for the final battle. With hands and legs
at work, he slipped down the incline of the rope until his body was
again in the water. Hand over hand he pulled himself along. The upward
ascent was more difficult, for his limbs were already tired and sore.
Very soon he found that the task of swarming up to the brig's rail was
impossible. Besides, he was not sure that the strange men were not
still on the quarter-deck. So he dropped once again into the sea, and
swam round to the _Aurora's_ larboard side, where the small boat was
dragging at her painter at the foot of the gangway ladder.

Exhausted and breathing heavily, he at last caught at a rung of the
ladder, and climbed up a few steps. When he had rested and recovered
his free breathing, he mounted farther, and peeped in through the open
gangway. No one was in sight. Yet, what was that lying on the main
deck? He shuddered as his eyes rested on the prostrate form of the huge
black-bearded man, and the wet crimson stain that lay about it, and
converged in two thin lines that ended at the scupper.

At sight of the dead man the boy drew back in horror. Murder had been
committed, and he had not the courage to enter upon the deck. As he
turned to go down the ladder a few steps, he looked towards the shore
and saw the woman Rachel Chiesley standing there at the water's edge,
waving her hand in signal to the ship. Ben descended and quietly
stepped into the boat. No one in the brig saw him as he rowed away to
where the woman waited.

"Take me with you!" she implored, as the boat's keel grounded on the
shingle. "In mercy take me away in your ship!"

Ben bade her get into the dingey, and she obeyed. He felt that, with
a human companion to encourage him, he could now go on board the brig
with all his lost boldness. Neither spoke as the little craft was
pulled back to the vessel's side. When he had secured the boat he got
out and climbed the ladder, signing to the woman to follow. He crept
on board, rose to his feet, and sped forward and down the stairs to the
lower deck. At the foot of the stairs he paused until Rachel Chiesley
joined him; and there he pointed towards the open door of a tiny dark
cabin, telling her to enter and remain in there until he should see
that all was safe on board.

His heart seemed to cease its beating when, on going into the
compartment where he had left the quartermaster, he discovered that the
sick man's hammock was empty. What had happened? What was to be done?

He saw a cup of rum and water that the quartermaster had left untouched
in the forenoon on the top of a chest. He drank some and it revived
him. Leaving the cabin, he made his way through a dark passage along
the lower deck to the gunner's storeroom; and there he provided himself
with a cutlass, a brace of small pistols, a full powder-flask, and a
handful of shot. He carefully charged the pistols, and when he was thus
armed he returned to the main-deck and stole aft to the poop. The door
of the captain's quarters was open now, and the splintered lock told
its own tale. Voices came from within. Ben listened, crouching down on
his hands and knees.

"You'd best come out of there, Mr. Strawberry-face," Goff was saying,
"unless you want us to break in the door and drag you out. We'll not
harm you. Come out and have a drink with us. 'Tis charming brandy,
this." There was a clink of glasses. "Come," he added persuasively.
"Join us in a glass, and tell us your yarn. We can get nothing from
this silent shipmate of yours in the bunk here." Ben knew that the man
was referring to the dead surgeon. "Twas the King's ship, you say. You
may well say 'was'; for 'tis his no longer, but mine! mine! And I mean
to set sail and be off on a glorious cruise so soon as my men come
aboard. We'll run up the Jolly Roger and scour the seas, and send Jimmy
Speeding and his Firebrands to the bottom of the Pentland Firth to
play with the mermaids. Won't we, Alick?"

"That we will," gurgled Alick into the mouth of his glass of brandy.
"And Strawberry-face shall be our master-gunner, and share in the swag
with the rest of us."

The quartermaster's voice came faintly from within the captain's
sleeping-room.

"I'll see you all hanged first!" he growled with a fierce seaman's
oath. "Wait till my mates come aboard. They'll let you know what it
means to trespass on a king's ship."

"Mates?" cried Goff with a short laugh. "There can't be many of 'em if
they all went ashore in the cockleshell we found on the beach!"

Ben knew now what these men were; knew, too, that the quartermaster
was still alive and game. He crept out from his place of concealment,
stole up to the quarter-deck, climbed over the rail, and with the help
of a rope lowered himself down to the port-hole of the room in which
the quartermaster had ensconced himself. The port-hole was open. He saw
the quartermaster sitting on the edge of the dead captain's bunk with a
pistol gripped in each hand.

"I'm here, quartermaster," whispered Ben. "Come to the port-hole."

"Thank God!" cried the quartermaster. And without preface or
questioning he added in a whisper, "You see what these rats of pirates
are up to. They're in possession, as you might say, and there's more of
'em coming. But we've got to save the brig, Ben, come what may. Listen!
Have you got your pistols?" Ben nodded. "Right. Well, crawl round to
the poop door. Stay there till you hear me cough. Then run in and let
fly at 'em. Pick your men and be smart. I'll do the same. When we've
killed 'em--the four of 'em--one of the carronades'll help us to keep
the others from boarding us, d'ye see?"

"I understand," returned Ben, and he moved quietly away to obey his
instructions.

Many minutes passed before he heard the quartermaster's signal. From
where he crouched in the shadow of the passage he saw the inner door
of the captain's bedroom flung open. A moment afterwards four shots
were fired, and three of the pirates fell. The fourth, Goff himself,
had seen the quartermaster's uplifted pistols. One was levelled at
himself. With the quickness of thought he snatched his dagger from its
sheath and dexterously hurled it across the room. The flashing weapon
turned in its flight and the point plunged into the quartermaster's
bared throat. The pistol-shot, intended for Goff, buried itself in a
cross-beam of the cabin ceiling.

Ben Clews and the pirate leader were now alone together. Ben gripped
his cutlass and rushed forward in a desperate charge, but tripping
over the body of one of the two men he himself had shot dead, he gave
a false thrust. His cutlass was snatched from his grip by the pirate's
left hand, while at the same instant a full brandy bottle, wielded as a
bludgeon, came down upon his head with a blow that stunned him.



IV


When Ben returned to consciousness he still lay upon the cabin floor.
The blood from cuts made by the broken glass was dry upon his face.
He heard the thud of waves against the brig's quarter. The vessel was
heeling over, pitching as she sailed under a fresh breeze upon the open
sea. From the deck above him came the sound of feet, the splash of
water, and the scrubbing of holystones. A shaft of sunlight came in
through the stern windows, shedding light about the cabin. The door of
the captain's inner room was open; the Union Jack coverlet was gone,
and the bed was vacant. The surgeon's body and the bodies of the dead
quartermaster and the three pirates had also been removed. On the table
a white cloth was laid, and upon it were the remains of a meal. It was
evident that the pirates were making themselves thoroughly at home, and
that they had taken possession of the brig in good earnest.

Ben anxiously looked at the great iron-bound chest in which, as he
knew, there had been inclosed certain State documents of greatest
importance to the Government. The iron bands and the hinges had been
tampered with, but they had withstood the assault, and the chest and
its precious contents were still safe.

Some one entered the cabin. It was John Goff. He had apparently been
helping himself to the captain's wardrobe, for he was now attired in
the full naval costume of the time.

"So ho! my lad," said he, seeing that Ben had recovered. "You have come
back to your senses, eh? That's good. Now you can tell me all about
this ship. Where was she bound for?"

"Plymouth," answered Ben. "From St. John's. Newfoundland." And then,
in response to further questioning, the boy told the whole history of
the voyage, omitting only such facts as he deemed too sacred to betray.
And when he had come to the end of the story the pirate thanked him,
said he was a good lad, and that he should now be rated as a junior
quarter-deck officer. Ben did not demur to this, but while seeming to
agree to the proposal, resolved in his mind still to do what lay in his
power to retake the brig and bring her into an English port. And for
the days that followed he performed such duties as were expected of
him, always remembering that he was a servant of the King, and that
the safety of the _Aurora_ now depended solely upon his own life and
his own integrity.

[Illustration: "You have come back to your senses, eh?"]

As soon as he was at liberty to move unsuspected about the ship, he
made his way to the little cabin where he had left Rachel Chiesley.
She had not yet been discovered by Goff or his men. Ben conducted her
to a yet safer hiding-place in the ship where she could remain secure
from the pirates; and every morning the lad secretly brought her food
and attended to her wants. On one occasion when he was with her she
told him more of her history, and he learned that Rachel Chiesley was
but the name of her girlhood, and that her title now was Lady Grange.
Her husband was a notorious Jacobite, and it was because she had
threatened to betray an evil plot which he was hatching that he had
cruelly marooned her on the sea-girt rock of St. Kilda. This knowledge
made Ben glad that he had chanced thus far to be of service to her, and
for her sake, as well as for the sake of preserving the precious State
documents that were in the cabin, he prayed that he might be able at
last to save the ship.

He learned by degrees that it was Goff's intention to keep the brig
beating about in the open sea until his crew of eleven men should have
time so to disguise the vessel, by altering her rig and painting out
her white stripe, that no one might recognise her again. This plan was
helped by the fact that the brig was amply provisioned and was in good
seaworthy trim. But the work progressed slowly, and ten days had gone
by before Goff deemed it expedient to make a direct course and steer
for the Orkneys.

Ben had been watching the crew day by day, little doubting that sooner
or later the plague of which so many of his messmates had died would
again assert itself. Already he observed that some of the men were
beginning to move languidly and to look haggard and sick. On the
twelfth day one of them took to his hammock. In the evening of the
same day two others fell ill. Bold and careless of danger though these
pirates were when it was a question of waylaying a merchant ship or
engaging in an action with a vessel of war, they were one and all
panic-stricken in contemplation of smallpox.

On the thirteenth day the _Aurora_ was again within sight of the St.
Kilda islands, giving them, however, a wide berth. Late in the evening
Ben was in the watch on deck, when he espied a sail on the starboard
bow. He did not report it, although it was the first that he had seen
for many weeks. Instead, he strolled to the flag locker, took out a
white ensign, and boldly ran it up, reversed, to the gaff peak. The
signal of distress was answered by the approaching vessel. Then Ben
hauled down his flag, lest Goff, coming up on deck, should see it and
guess its meaning. So far, none but the man at the helm had observed
this action, and he, as it chanced, was so far advanced in the sickness
that he minded nothing. Ben glanced into his face.

"Y'are looking sick, Allen," said he. "Give me the tiller for a spell,
and go you below."

The man relinquished it willingly enough, and Ben, now alone on deck,
steered the brig down upon the on-coming stranger. He had a brace of
loaded pistols in his belt, prepared to fire upon Goff if he should
appear from below and interfere.

When the two vessels drew nearer, Ben recognised, to his joy, that the
stranger was a man-of-war's cutter. He waited until they drew within
hailing distance of each other, then suddenly put over the helm,
throwing the brig's sails aback. She lost her headway, and the cutter
dropped alongside.

"Ahoy, there!" cried the young lieutenant from her bow. "What ship are
you?"

Ben answered at the fullest pitch of his voice--

"His Majesty's brig _Aurora_. For the love of God stand by us!"

"The very craft we're in search of," returned Captain Speeding's
messenger. "Throw us a line, and I'll come aboard you!"

Ben flung a coil of rope; but before he could see whether or not it had
been caught, John Goff had run up on deck, furious and cursing.

"You young traitor!" he cried, seeing what was going on. "What are you
up to?"

"I'm up to saving his Majesty's ship," coolly returned Ben, levelling
his pistol at the pirate. "Stand back, John Goff, or you're a dead
man!" For full ten minutes he kept the man at bay. Perhaps he could not
have done so if Goff had not been in the first stage of the sickness
and too languid to act the bully. Once, indeed, Goff made a step
forward as if with the intention of wresting the weapon from the boy's
hand. Ben altered his aim a few inches and pulled the trigger. The shot
entered Goff's shoulder. Ben took out his other pistol.

At this juncture the cutter's lieutenant leapt upon the brig's
bulwarks, and in another moment appeared on the quarter-deck.

Lowering his weapon, Ben turned and saluted him. The lieutenant,
however, had caught sight of the pirate and recognised him.

"Goff!" he cried.

"Ay, Goff," returned the pirate with meek submission. "You've got me
at last, Master Firebrand--thanks to this meddlesome swab. I suppose
I must surrender. I wouldn't do so if 'twere not that my men are all
ill. This blessed craft's plague-stricken, Mr. Moreland. You'd best
take care of your crew. Work the brig into Stromness, or any other
handy port--even into Execution Dock if you will. I'll not interfere. I
haven't the strength."

       *       *       *       *       *

How Lieutenant Moreland succeeded in taking the _Aurora_ into Stromness
without endangering the health of his men; how the brig was there
disinfected, remanned, and sent home to Plymouth, need not here be
told. Lady Grange found that her evil husband had died a week before
the ship brought her home, and she took possession of his estates, none
questioning her rights; and she proved a good friend to Ben Clews, who
was recompensed for his conduct by promotion to the quarter-deck, and
as midshipman, lieutenant, and finally captain, served in the King's
navy through war and through peace for many, many years, and always
with honour.



A SOLDIER'S VOW, AND HOW HE KEPT IT

BY DAVID KER



CHAPTER I

HOW THE VOW WAS MADE


"If they're a-goin' to kill me, why don't they look sharp and git it
over? If _I_ 'ad the killin' o' _them_, I'd be quick enough about it, I
knows that!"

So growled a solitary prisoner in the "black-hole" of a British outpost
in Upper Bengal one hot May morning in 1803.

Though dark compared with the blistering glare outside, the cell was
light enough to show its tenant in all his squalid and savage disorder.
With his clothes almost torn from his back, his face smeared with dust
and blood, and a scowl of sullen desperation on his hard, low-browed,
ruffianly features, he looked like what too many of the Company's
soldiers were, in days when it drew its recruits chiefly from the
prison and the hulks, and often enough from the gallows itself.

His mouth was parched with thirst (for no one had thought of bringing
him water), his bruised limbs were all one pain, his bound hands kept
him from defending himself against the flies that swarmed around his
wounded face, hardly to be scared away by incessant jerkings of his
aching head. Well, what did it all matter? He would soon be past
pain and thirst, and feeling of any kind; or, if there really _was_
anything after that--well, God couldn't be harder on him than the
colonel had been, anyhow.

They would shoot him, of course; for he knew what a charge of
"attempting to stir up mutiny" meant at a time when England's
half-formed power in the East stood like a rock amid a thousand roaring
waves, with all India raging around it. Well, let them! he would at
least die game, and spite "Old Blue-Beard," who would want to see him
flinch.

Just then a clear, childish voice was heard outside--the voice of the
colonel's only child, a bright little lad of seven, who was the pet of
the whole barrack, and even more loved (if such a thing could be) than
his father was hated.

"Oh, please let me in; I _do_ want to see poor Bob!"

"Can't, lovey, can't indeed," replied the sentry's deep tones; "it's
yer par's orders as no one's to pass in. I'd let yer in if I could, I
would indeed; but orders is orders, you know."

And the voices died away.

The doomed man's face softened for a moment into such a look as he
might have worn long ago, when he was a child himself.

"He thought o' me, then, the little 'un did!" he muttered. "Bless his
'art for a kind little chap!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile his comrades outside, with a fellow-soldier's life swaying in
the balance, were laughing loudly at the tricks of a native juggler,
who had begged and obtained leave to enter the barrack-yard.

And why not? The same sudden and violent death might be their own lot
any day. Ignorant, debauched, reckless, they, like too many of those
who had cemented with their blood the foundations of Britain's Eastern
empire, found their chief enjoyment in the mad whirl of battle, and
their chief ambition to be able to "git drunk and forget it all!"

The juggler, who was the centre of attraction, was a very
remarkable-looking man, not at all like the average of his class. His
tall, sinewy frame had a tiger-like elasticity in every movement, and
through the fawning servility of his manner broke ever and anon a flash
of something bolder and fiercer, which would have betrayed to any keen
observer that he was not what he seemed.

But no such observer was to be found among the reckless soldiers, who
were firmly convinced (like most "true Britons" of that age) that no
one who had not had the luck to be born an Englishman could possess
either courage or any other virtue--a theory to which the great
Mahratta war of 1803 was just about to give the lie in a very startling
way.

The juggler began by exhibiting some of the familiar feats that have
amused India in all ages, including the swallowing of a sword and the
famous "mango trick," which consisted in planting a mango-seed in a
tiny basket of earth and then covering it with a cloth, the withdrawal
of which a moment later showed the first green shoot already springing
up. At the second lifting of the cloth, this shoot was seen to have
grown into a miniature tree, on which, when uncovered once more,
hung a tiny fruit, which the conjurer plucked and gave to one of the
spectators to eat, as a proof that it was genuine.

Then the juggler turned to the nearest of the lookers-on, and said--

"Hey, Inglis sojeer! s'pose me give you one rupee, what you do?"

"Why, I'd take it, o' course," cried the soldier, with a loud laugh at
the absurdity of such a question, hoarsely echoed by all the rest.

The other held out a silver coin, upon which the soldier's strong hand
closed eagerly; but he opened it again instantly with a start and an
exclamation of disgust, and out fell a large, fat, wriggling worm, amid
a fresh roar of laughter from his comrades.

Then the conjurer stepped forth into the midst, and called out--

"Look, see! you sojeer say you all plenty brave men."

"Say we are?" echoed a soldier angrily; "why, do you mean for to say as
we _ain't_, you lyin', coffee-coloured thief?"

"No, no, not speak one such word!" said the Hindu humbly. "Inglis man
no fear nothing, me _sabbee_ (know) plenty well. S'pose Inglis sojeer
hold out hand, me put lemon on sojeer hand; cut lemon in half wid
sword. Who come first?"

But no one seemed in any haste to do so; for, bold as they were, such a
challenge made even these reckless men look grave.

Though they had all heard of this feat, none of them had ever seen it
done; and to lay one's bare hand beneath a sword-stroke that would
certainly hew it off if the juggler happened to miss the lemon (and
very possibly whether he did or not), was a matter about which the
boldest man might well think twice.

"What? are ye all afeared?" cried a tall, sturdy, rather good-looking
young fellow, with a markedly reckless and defiant air, as he
shouldered his way to the front. "Well, no man shan't ever say as Tom
Tuffen showed the white feather afore a blackamoor! Go ahead, old 'un,
'ere's _my_ 'and to work on; but mind, if yer cuts it off, I'll kill
yer with t'other 'and afore ye can sing out 'Help!'"

The gleam of stern joy that shone for a moment in the seeming juggler's
keen, black eyes, was strangely out of keeping with his cringing
manner; and there was a perceptible change in his tone as he said,
while putting back the soldier's extended right hand--

"That hand no good--cut thumb off, try wid him--give other."

[Illustration: "That hand no good--cut thumb off."]

The soldiers laughed again, thinking that the Hindu was going to "back
out"; but Tom offered his left hand without a word, and the juggler,
laying the lemon on the open palm, drew his short _tulwar_ (sword).

The ring of spectators gave a sudden heave, and the boldest man among
them held his breath as the Hindu stepped forward with uplifted weapon;
but the young Englishman looked him full in the eyes, and held the
extended hand as firm as a rock.

A flash--a whiz--a sudden chill across Tom's open hand, like the fall
of a drop of cold water, and the lemon rolled on the ground in two
clear halves, leaving the young soldier unharmed.[2]

[2] I need hardly say that this feat is quite authentic.--D. K.

A shout of applause from the lookers-on made the air ring, and under
cover of it the pretended juggler, bending forward as if to satisfy
himself that Tom's hand was indeed unhurt, said a few emphatic words to
him, so low that no one else could hear them.

Whatever those words were, they seemed greatly to startle the hearer,
who was about to reply, when the Hindu signed to him to be silent, and,
letting drop, in passing, a second emphatic whisper (destined to bear,
later on, strange and terrible fruit), glided by him and was gone.

All the rest of that day "Wild Tom" was unwontedly silent and
thoughtful; and his gravity appeared to have infected his special
crony, Sam Black (the man on whom the rupee trick had been played),
with whom Tom had some talk apart as soon as the juggler had gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile the prisoner in the "black hole" was fast sinking into a
heavy torpor, which seemed proof against even the ceaseless torment
of the swarming flies, when the sound of a well-known and hated voice
outside his prison roused him like the sudden shock of a blow.

"We shall be well rid of the rascal; such a fellow is a disgrace to the
name of Englishman!"

"Am I?" growled Bob Burton through his set teeth. "And what are _you_?"

But just then his attention was diverted to a strange, rustling,
scraping noise overhead, as if something were dragging itself along the
roof of his prison. What could it be? A rat? a snake? and his hands
were tied!

But the next moment appeared at the air-hole, high above him, a fresh,
child-like face, framed in golden hair--the face of little Freddy
Hardman, the colonel's son. An instant more, and the boy's slim figure
had wormed itself through the opening (which was only just wide enough
to let it pass), and had dropped lightly down on to the floor at Bob
Burton's side.

"They wouldn't let me in to see you," said the little hero, with a
gleeful laugh; "but I'd made up my mind that I _would_ come, so I just
went up into the store-house, and climbed through the window down on
to this roof, and then squeezed through the air-hole, and here I am.
Poor old Bob! why, your face is all bleeding, I declare; and how those
horrid flies must have been plaguing you! Let me tie it up for you with
my handkerchief."

And the kind little fingers tenderly wiped the dust and blood from the
hurt, and bound it up dexterously enough.

"Ah! if only they was all like you!" said Burton brokenly; "you doesn't
preach and jaw at a chap--you jist _loves_ him!"

No words could have better summed up the secret of that power by which
One whose very name poor Bob had never heard, save in the form of an
oath, had conquered the whole world.

"And here's a banana that I've brought you, for I knew how thirsty you
must be, shut up in this hot place," went on Freddy, as he tugged from
his pocket a huge ripe plantain.

As Burton awkwardly held out his bound hands to take it, the boy saw
for the first time that they were knotted together at the wrists, and
flushed up indignantly.

"What? have they really tied your hands? What a shame! Well, eat this
banana first, and then I'll untie them for you."

The thirsty man's parched lips sucked in the juicy pulp with a wolfish
eagerness that told its own story; and then Freddy, eager to help him,
went to work manfully upon the cruel cord, which at first resisted all
his efforts.

"Best let it be," said Bob Burton gruffly. "Thank'ee all the same,
little 'un; but ye'll only 'urt them little fingers o' your'n."

But the brave little champion was not to be so easily balked of his
kind purpose; and, bruise his fingers as he might, he persevered
gallantly, till at length the hastily and clumsily tied knot gave way,
and Burton's stiffened, aching hands were free.

Free once more! And then, with that sense of recovered strength, the
wild beast in that perverted nature started into life again, and there
came to him a thought from hell.

His worst enemy's only son was alone with him, and wholly in his power;
and one strangling clutch of his strong hands on that slender throat
would acquit at once and for ever the heavy debt of revenge that he had
so long hungered to repay. Ah! to see that hard, pitiless man's face as
he bent over the corpse of his only child! and to watch him writhe, and
mock his agony!

It was but for a moment, and then the hideous temptation was past and
gone like the phantom of a nightmare; but its tremendous reaction
turned the overwrought man sick and faint, and he sank dizzily back
against the wall.

The boy eyed him anxiously for an instant, and then, climbing on to his
knee, began to wipe off, with the end of the sash that served him as a
waist-belt, the big drops of moisture that beaded the tortured face.

"Do you know what this reminds me of, Bob?" said he; "of a picture I
saw once of Christ nailed to the Cross, and a little tiny bird that was
sorry for Him, trying hard with its poor wee beak to pull the nails out
of His hands, and set Him free. I used to think I should like to be
that bird; and now I _have_ been like it in a sort of a way, for I've
set _your_ hands free, haven't I?"

A long shiver ran through the soldier's hardy frame, and he was about
to speak, when a measured tramp was heard outside, a short, sharp order
was given, and then the door swung back, revealing the uniforms of a
corporal's guard.

But when the soldiers saw Freddy (whose absence had already been
noticed and wondered at) in the cell with the prisoner, they exchanged
looks of blank amazement, not wholly untinged with superstitious awe.

Was he indeed, then, what they had often called him--an angel sent down
to undo the evil wrought by the merciless harshness of his iron-hearted
father? How else could he have come into this lockfast place, with a
sentry at its door, and (as they thought) no other available access?

One of the men entered the cell to bring out the prisoner, and Burton
recognised his chum Tom Tuffen.

"What'll they do with me, Tom?" asked he in a whisper; "dose o' lead
pills, eh?"

"No such _luck_, Bob," replied the other gloomily, in the same low
tone; "down to the depot at Kalipur!"

"Then I knows wot I've got to expect," said the doomed man with a
sickly smile. "That's wot they calls 'commutin' the death-penalty,' I
s'pose; if they'd commuted the penalty _to_ death, there 'ud ha' been
more sense in it!--Jist tie my 'ands agin, will yer, Tom? I don't want
the little chap to git into trouble for undoin' 'em!"

[Illustration: "Jist tie my 'ands agin, will yer, Tom?"]

"There's my father, and I must go to him," called out Freddy at that
moment. "Good-bye, dear Bob--good-bye!"

"Good-bye, little 'un--I won't forget yer; and" (with a terrific scowl
at the tall, upright, soldierly figure toward which the boy flew with
outstretched hands) "I won't forget '_im_, neither!"[3]

[3] To show that I have not overstated the condition of the East
India Company's armies during the rise of England's Eastern empire,
it is sufficient to quote the description given by a great historian
of the soldiers with whom Clive achieved the capture of Covelong and
Chingleput: "The only force available for this purpose was of such
a description that no one but Clive would risk his reputation by
commanding it. It consisted of five hundred newly levied Sepoys, and
two hundred recruits who had just landed from England, and who were the
worst and lowest wretches that the Company's crimps could pick up in
the 'flash-houses' of London."



CHAPTER II

HOW THE VOW WAS RENEWED


A few days later startling news came to the garrison of Huttee-Ghur
(Elephant's Home).

An armed escort on its way down the valley from the fort to the town
of Kalipur, with some empty store-waggons (taking Bob Burton with them
as a prisoner), had been attacked on the march, just as evening was
closing in, by a large body of native soldiers, or of native robbers
(which meant very much the same thing), who were not beaten off without
a sharp fight, in which the English lost several men, including Bob
Burton himself, as well as Sam Black and Tom Tuffen.

Nor was this all. Several of the native drivers were nowhere to be
found after the fighting was done, and were believed to have gone over
to the enemy in the confusion. Moreover, three or four of the soldiers
stoutly declared that the leader of their assailants was the famous
robber-chief Kala-Bagh (Black Tiger), the terror of the whole district,
and further, that he was no other than the pretended juggler whose
tricks had amused their barrack-square only a week before!

This would have been unwelcome news at any time; but it was doubly
ominous just then.

The great war that had been threatening so long had fairly broken out
at last. The Mahratta hosts were sweeping over the great central plain,
the English troops advancing to meet them; and all Northern India
was holding its breath, as it were, to see which would win. A single
disaster to the British arms, and all the subject provinces would blaze
at once into open insurrection; and the unheard-of boldness of these
native banditti in daring to attack British soldiers in open daylight,
plainly showed which of the two parties _they_ thought more likely to
get the best of it.

But the English officers at Huttee-Ghur hailed this prospect of open
war as a positive relief from the nightmare feeling that had haunted
them for weeks and months past, of being dogged at every step by secret
treachery and sleepless murder, and slowly but surely entangled in an
ever-tightening net of silent, viewless, implacable hatred.

In truth, there is no sorer trial of nerve on the face of the earth
than to know, and never for a moment forget that you know, that the
meek little water-carrier who fills your bath is probably in a plot
to take your life--that the cook who dresses your dinner so well
may have sprinkled poison on it--that the smart groom who obeys so
promptly and intelligently your orders about your favourite horse,
is calculating all the while how much he can get for it after he has
cut your throat--and that the humble peasants who crouch in the dust
at your feet, hailing you as "protector of the poor," and whiningly
calling you "their father and their mother," are just preparing to fire
your house over your head, and burn or murder all within. Let any man
be compelled to live for a time in a spot where the whole air is heavy
with yellow fever or cholera, and where, whenever two men meet, each
looks nervously in the other's face for the first signs of the fell
destroyer--and he will know how it feels to be quartered in the midst
of a disaffected Eastern population.

Not a word said Colonel Hardman when this attack, and the juggler's
identity with the bandit chief who had led it, were reported to him.
But the best of his native scouts, a jungle veteran, who had slain as
many tigers as he had seen birthdays, knew enough of his master's ways
to remark shrewdly to his comrades that evening--

"Brothers, there is evil in store for these Dacoits (robbers), whoever
they be. When the Colonel Sahib looks fierce, and speaks angry words,
it is as a strong wind that sweeps by and is gone; but when he says
nothing, it is the hush before the thunderstorm."

In fact, the colonel (who, like Lord Goring, "always kept his temper
when he was _really_ angry"), had fully made up his mind that the
"rabble of black thieves" who had dared to molest Englishmen should pay
dearly for their insolence; and the means were ready to his hand, for
the garrison had just been strongly reinforced, it being of the last
importance, in the disturbed state of the whole country, to secure so
important a post as Huttee-Ghur, which, so long as the English held it,
would be an effectual curb on the surrounding population.

The old soldier's eye sparkled with stern approval as he saw filing
into the fort three or four squadrons of Rajput horse (than whom there
were no better riders or harder fighters in all India), and several
companies of Rohilla foot--men whom their greatest leader had rightly
declared to be "the best of all Sepoys at the cold steel."

With such men at his back, the colonel would have faced a whole native
army; and he lost no time in scouring the jungle in quest of his
skulking foes.

His style of campaigning would have sorely displeased those learned
gentlemen who, sitting at home in England over their books and
diagrams, lay down the law about "throwing out flankers," and
performing this or that manœuvre amid thickets as dense as themselves,
through which you may struggle for hours without sight or sound of an
enemy, while passing again and again so close to the hidden foe whom
you are hunting, that he could touch you with his spear if he chose. (A
fact.) But, unscientific as it might be, the colonel's mode of fighting
was eminently successful, as the jackals and vultures of the jungle
could have told for many a day.

The savage chief himself, indeed, managed to escape; but he was almost
the only survivor of his band, and there was no more trouble with the
Dacoits that season.

But hardly was the work done when a wild legend began to creep abroad,
that the three slain British soldiers, Bob Burton, Sam Black, and Tom
Tuffen had come to life again, and had been seen fighting in the ranks
of the brigands! Several of Colonel Hardman's native followers had
recognised them, and all told the same story.

But when the English Grenadiers heard the tale, they laughed it to
scorn.

"Rubbish!" growled a hard-faced old fellow, whose scarred visage looked
like an ill-drawn railway map. "Rise from the dead, indeed! if _I_
was once dead, I'd never be sitch a fool as to git up and 'ave it all
over agin, I knows that! They've jist desarted, and j'ined Kala Bagh.
I remember now as I see'd him, when he was made-up as a juggler, say
some'at to Tom, and to Sam Black too. They've desarted, that's wot
they've done; and if it warn't for the shame of herdin' with sitch
scum as them coffee-coloured thieves yonder, I'm blowed if _I_ wouldn't
desart too."

"And so would I," muttered more than one of his hearers.

The story at last reached the ears of Colonel Hardman, who, at any
other time, would have been goaded to frenzy by the very thought of any
of _his_ men deserting, and, worse still, deserting to join a gang of
Hindu robbers. But he soon had something else to think of; for as the
summer was drawing to a close, his little Freddy fell suddenly ill.

Then was seen a change such as the fort had never known since British
redcoats first garrisoned it. No more songs and laughter, no more
coarse jokes or boisterous oaths. The rough soldiers went to and fro as
silently as shadows--the officers sat over their evening cigars without
uttering a word; and no man who crossed the barrack square after dark
ever failed to look up instinctively at the light that burned in an
upper room of the colonel's quarters, showing where life and death were
contending for the bright-eyed boy whom they all knew and loved.

But, as if to sweep away their last hope, the heat of that memorable
summer endured longer than the oldest man could recollect. Even the
nights were as sultry as the days, and, slowly but surely, the poor
little life withered away, though the kind-hearted doctor (who had
always been a special friend of their little favourite) wore himself to
a shadow in striving to save him, and the stern father never quitted
for an instant, save when his duty called him, the sick-bed on which
lay all that he had left to love.

"As if there warn't _men_ enough 'ere to die, and plenty as could be
better spared!" growled a big soldier one evening; "and then to go and
pick out _'im_!"

"Hold yer jaw, can't yer?" broke in a second man savagely; "he _shan't_
die, not if Death was to come for to fetch him hisself, with a
full-strength battalion o' devils to back him!"

"I wish I knowed how to pray, so as I could pray for _'im_!" muttered a
third--one of the wildest and worst men in the whole regiment.

"Well, look 'ere, boys!" cried a fourth; "s'pose we all volunteer to be
put down on God's black list instead, mayhap He'll let the little 'un
off for this once; for, whoever He is, He surely wouldn't be too hard
on a sweet little chap like that!"

And then, doffing his cap as if in the presence of a superior, the
rough fellow said, in a voice that he vainly tried to steady--

"O God, jist let _'im_ off this once, and do what you like with all of
_us_. Amen."

"Amen!" echoed all his comrades with one voice; and, having offered up
that strange supplication, the poor fellows actually felt somewhat less
despondent, without knowing why.

Just then Colonel Hardman's tall form was seen to issue from the door
of his quarters, and come straight toward them.

"'Ere he comes!" said one of the men eagerly; "I'll go and ax how the
little 'un is."

"Are you crazy, Jim?" cried the man beside him, catching him by the
arm. "Don't be a fool, lad; if he's worse'n a tiger in the or'nary way,
what d'ye s'pose he'll be _now_?"

"I don't care," said Jim Barlow desperately; "here goes."

And stepping right up to the dreaded commandant, he saluted, and said
huskily--

"Beg pardon, sir--_is_ he any better?"

The white, rigid face looked vacantly at him for a moment, like one
just aroused from sleep, and hardly understanding yet what was said to
him; and then the grim man replied, in a low, weak voice--

"Thank you, my man, for asking. No, he is no better."

And Jim went back to his comrades in the lowest stage of depression.

"I'm afeared it's all up, boys," said he, "or Old Blue-Beard 'ud never
have spoke to me so civil."

In truth, during those last few days, the stricken father's misery was
such that even those who hated him most deeply might well have pitied
him; for no torture on earth can compare with the unendurable torment
of being forced to witness the sufferings of a helpless child, when
powerless to alleviate them in any way. I have seen strong men die in
agony, with none to help them; but _they_, at least, knew what was in
store for them, and faced it like men, neither pitying themselves nor
asking pity from others. But a child cannot tell why it suffers, or why
its suffering cannot be removed; and it looks instinctively to you for
relief, unable to conceive that you are not powerful enough to help it.
I have seen such a sight only too often; I pray God I may never see the
like again.

And now--as if this iron man were doomed to feel, in his turn, the
full bitterness of the pain that his merciless harshness had so often
inflicted upon others--the poor little sufferer's ceaseless cry was
for "dear old Bob Burton," the very man whom his listening father's
ill-judged severity had driven forth into the jungle to herd with
thieves and murderers, and perhaps to die like the beasts that perish.

"O Bob, dear Bob, do put your hand on my head and cool it; it _does_
burn so!"

"Doctor, can't you do _anything_?" said the colonel in a fierce
whisper, seizing the other's wrist in a convulsive clutch that made the
very joint crackle. "He was always fond of _you_--can't you help him
somehow?"

"God knows I would if I could!" replied the doctor despairingly; "but
this is beyond me. There is only one man in all India who could deal
with such a case, and I don't even know where he is just now."

Another night and another day went by, and brought the end nearer
still. The overwrought doctor (who was on the point of breaking down
himself) crept out about nightfall for a breath of the fresh air that
he so much needed.

But ere he had been gone five minutes, he came hurrying back, with a
face so startlingly changed that the colonel sprang up from his place
by the sick-bed and caught him by both hands, though the question that
he would have asked died upon his lips.

"God be thanked!" said the doctor, "there _is_ a chance for us yet.
I've just got word that my friend Skilman (whom I spoke of yesterday as
the only man here that could deal with this case) has suddenly arrived
at Kalipur. We must send off a swift messenger for him at once."

"I'll go myself," said Hardman, stepping towards the door.

"But--" began the dismayed doctor, through whose mind flashed instantly
all the possible consequences of the commandant's absence from his post
just when it might be attacked at any moment.

The colonel put aside the strong man like an infant, and said, in a
tone which, though barely above a whisper, was terribly distinct--

"Don't talk to me--I'm going."

And, a few minutes later, he rode out of the fort into the deepening
darkness, attended only by a Rajput trooper and his veteran scout, Lal
Singh (Red Lion).

When the two Hindus saw their leader turn off from the high-road into
the native path that led through the jungle to Kalipur, both knew well
that although this way would save fully half the distance, they carried
their lives in their hands by taking it, it being perilous not only
from wild beasts and snakes, but from worse things still--for the
robbers were said to be astir again at the far end of the valley.

But, trained to exact obedience, there was no thought in their gallant
hearts of wavering or hanging back. Had the whole Mahratta army barred
their path, they would have simply repeated their usual formula, "_Jo
hookum_" (it is an order), and gone without a murmur to certain death.

From first to last, that match against time with death was like one
of those wild and feverish dreams, in which you are for ever rushing
at full speed over a boundless waste, without advancing a single foot
nearer to the goal. On, on, mile after mile--passing with bewildering
suddenness from darkness to moonlight, and from moonlight into darkness
again--now splashing through a swollen stream, now plunging down into
a gloomy hollow, now bursting with a crash through a mass of tangled
creepers, now checking their horses, barely in time, on the brink of a
yawning chasm.

Once, the lights waved by the Hindus made a kind of broken rainbow on
the scaly bulk of a monstrous snake, which, coiled round a tree above
them, thrust out its huge flat head with an angry hiss, only to draw
it back in affright at the sudden glare. Farther on, two flaming eyes
broke the gloom for an instant, and then a long, gaunt, striped body
vanished ghost-like into the surrounding blackness, with a snarl of
mingled terror and rage; and, a few minutes later, a pack of prowling
jackals, scared by the hoof-tramp and the lights, flitted spectrally
away into the thickets, whimpering like frightened children.

But all this passed unheeded by Colonel Hardman. In place of the
moonlit forest and the threatening monsters, _his_ eyes saw only a
sick-room that lay already miles behind him, where a tiny golden head
was tossing in weary pain upon its restless pillow; and he clenched his
teeth in desperation at the thought that the aid which he was perilling
his life to bring might come too late after all.

But now they were more than half-way to Kalipur--and now but a quarter
of the distance was left--and now, as they drew nearer and nearer
to the goal, the father's heavy heart began to wax lighter with an
ever-growing hope.

Ha! what was that red fire-glow that broke suddenly upon them from an
open space just ahead? and what were these wild forms that sprang up
around it, like spectres starting from their graves?

"Sahib," said Lal Singh as coolly as ever, "there are robbers in our
path."

"Thank God," said the colonel.

So tremendous was the suppressed emotion that quivered through those
half-whispered words, so ghastly this sudden revelation of that inward
torment which could hail as a positive relief the prospect of blood and
wounds, and death itself, that even the iron-nerved Hindu felt awed.
But there was no time to think of it. Fixing themselves firmly in their
saddles, the three men rushed upon the nineteen as tigers spring upon a
herd of deer.[4]

[4] There are still men in India who can testify that this exploit,
marvellous as it may appear to outsiders, has had more than one
parallel.--D. K.

Like a stone through a pane of glass, they broke through the straggling
line of their enemies. Crushed beneath the horse-hoofs fell grim Ali
Shere; Mulhar Rao's strong right hand spun six feet from his body, hewn
off like a twig; gasping on the ground lay fierce Haji Ismail, cloven
through neck and shoulder; and by him, with his whole side laid open,
writhed his brother Abd'-Allah.

Lal Singh and the Rajput had each killed his man; and the three,
slashing right and left like giants, were already almost clear of their
foes, when there came a sudden crackle of shots from the rear, and Lal
Singh dropped dead without a cry, while the Rajput's horse sank under
him, mortally wounded!

Quick as thought, Colonel Hardman turned in his saddle, and, seizing
his trusty follower's arm, dragged him up on to his own horse.

A tall bandit sprang at them both with uplifted weapon, only to fall
dead instantly, cut down through cap and skull to the very teeth;
but Hardman's sword snapped with the force of the blow, and the
robber-chief himself, the terrible "Black Tiger," thinking him disarmed
and at his mercy, flew at the Englishman's throat with a laugh of
savage joy.

The two men met like conflicting whirlwinds. A flash of steel--a
whiz--a red stain on the colonel's white sleeve--a dull thud--a crunch
like the breaking of a snow-crust--and Kala Bagh, the most dreaded
bandit of the district, lay dead on the trampled earth, with his skull
smashed in like an egg-shell, while over his corpse the colonel's horse
and its double burden dashed away into the deeper shadows beyond.

[Illustration: "The two men met like conflicting whirlwinds."]

For many a day after, the superstitious Mussulmans of Kalipur told to
their friends, with bated breath and looks of awe, how, in the first
grey of dawn, the Angel of Death had come rushing through their town in
the likeness of an English warrior--stained with blood, and with a dead
man behind him on his black horse--and had carried away the _Hakeem
Ingrez_ (English doctor) along with him. But, in the end, their angel
of death proved to be an angel of life; for the new doctor did his work
well, and the sick boy was saved!

       *       *       *       *       *

The robbers, cowed by their formidable leader's fall, made no attempt
at pursuit, and, in truth, there were but few of them left to pursue;
for, out of nineteen men, six had been slain outright, and four more
desperately wounded.

But, over and above the nineteen who had taken so active a part in the
fray, there were three more of the gang who had been strangely backward
from first to last. All three were in Eastern dress, and almost as
dark as their dusky comrades; but, had they been black as negroes,
their speech would have told at once what they really were.

"Well done the old regiment!" cried the tallest of the three, with a
look of savage and reluctant admiration after the vanishing form of the
colonel. "It's hard to beat yet--ain't it, Tom?"

"Right you are, Sam," replied Tom Tuffen; "and the old country's 'ard
to beat, too! One true Englishman agin a dozen o' these coffee-coloured
thieves, any day!"

"I believe you, my boy," said Sam Black. "Did yer see that last
blow o' his'n? how he did up Kala Bagh hisself with one lick of his
sword-handle, arter the blade was broke! That's wot _I_ calls fightin'!"

"Same here!" cried Tom. "Don't I remember how Kala Bagh said to me,
when he fust axed me to jine his gang (that time he comed among us as a
juggler, ye know), 'If thou fearest the colonel sahib,' he says to me,
'thou shalt see, when he and I meet in fight, that I am the stronger,'
says he. Blow his Hindu impudence! he's found out by this time, I take
it, whether Old Blue-Beard's stronger than _'im_ or not!"

Then the third man spoke for the first time, breaking at length, with
a visible effort, the moody silence in which he had seemed to be sunk
while his two comrades were talking.

"Look 'ere, Tom," said he, "why didn't you kill him when you had the
chance?"

"Well, if it comes to that, Bob, why didn't _you_"? cried the other.
"You've swore to do it, once and agin--I've heerd yer myself!"

Bob Burton made no answer for a moment, and his hard face worked
convulsively. Then he looked up, and said fiercely, as if the words
were wrung from him by a sudden spasm of pain--

"I _couldn't_!"

"No more couldn't I neither," said Tom Tuffen, visibly relieved by this
frank admission on the part of his comrade. "I tell yer, boys, when he
came chargin' in among us like that, and knockin' over them niggers
like nine-pins, by Jingo, I almost forgot to hate him!"

"Aye, that's jist 'ow I felt too," put in Sam Black gruffly. "I had my
gun all ready to let fly at him, but when I see'd him a-fightin' the
whole lot of 'em like a hero--and lickin' 'em too--why, I felt as if,
s'pose I was to pull trigger on him _then_, the very bullet 'ud turn
round and hit _me_ instead!"

"You're right, Sam," said Bob Burton with grim emphasis. "He's a
thunderin' old tyrant, he is, and I hate him worse than Old Nick--and
when I git another chance to pay him out, I won't let it slip so
easy--but, curse him, he's a man every inch of him!"

 _Note._--This supposed desertion of British soldiers to join the ranks
 of Eastern marauders has, unhappily (as I have already shown in "The
 Boy Slave in Bokhara") only too much foundation in fact. During my
 first journey through Central Asia, not so many years ago, I was told
 of several Englishmen (my informants said seven) who were then serving
 in the so-called "army" of the Khan of Kokan; and all of these were
 deserters from British India.--D. K.



CHAPTER III

HOW THE VOW WAS KEPT


A year had gone by since that memorable night, and had brought great
events in its train.

The power at which all India had so lately trembled was now broken
at once and for ever. At Delhi, at Laswaree, at Assaye, at Argaum,
the Mahratta conquerors of Central India, with all odds of numbers
and artillery in their favour, had fought gallantly to maintain their
well-won renown; but numbers and artillery alike, and the utmost
efforts of reckless valour, were all vain against the unconquerable
"white faces from the West." From the Indian Ocean to the Bay of
Bengal, not one native army was left that could look the soldiers of
England in the face; and, both at home and throughout India, all men
were full of the marvellous exploits of a promising young British
commander, then known only as General Wellesley, but ere long to fill
the whole world with the fame of the Duke of Wellington.

The East India Company's army had been increased by the formation of
several new regiments; and one of the best of these was now commanded
by Colonel Hardman, who had been transferred to a newly-built fort
about a day's march from his former post at Huttee-Ghur.

Freddy was by this time quite well and strong again; but his
father--from whose mind the haunting terror of that fearful summer was
never wholly absent--had fully made up his mind to deprive himself of
his son's company altogether, rather than take the risk of keeping him
any longer in the fatal climate of India; and it had been settled that
as soon as the country was quiet enough to make travelling safe, the
boy should be sent down to Calcutta, and put on board of the first ship
for England.

       *       *       *       *       *

Evening was just beginning to darken into night, when a gaunt, haggard,
wild-looking man in native dress, with a long gun on his shoulder,
dragged his weary limbs heavily out of the matted thickets that fringed
both sides of the road leading north-eastward to the border of Oude,
and threw himself on the ground with a surly oath, which was hoarsely
echoed by two other figures, as ragged and dusty as himself, that came
creeping out after him.

Curiously enough, though all three were dressed as Hindus, and were
very nearly as dark in complexion, they all spoke in _English_.

"Plenty o' dead wood for a fire, anyhow," growled the first man; "but
wot's the use? It's jist like our luck, ain't it, Tom, to have a good
fire and nothin' to cook at it!"

"Well, it'll keep the tigers off, if it does nothin' else," said Tom
Tuffen; "though, if they _was_ to eat us, Bob," added he, with a
meaning glance at his own lean hands, "they'd have pretty nigh as poor
a supper as we're a-goin' to have ourselves."

"Why, there's some o' them _chupatties_ (thin flour cakes) left yet,
ain't there, Sam?" cried Bob Burton sharply.

"Two apiece, Bob--that's all!" replied Sam Black, producing the scanty
provisions as he spoke, while his two comrades hastily scraped together
and set on fire a heap of dead twigs and withered leaves, round which
the wanderers stretched themselves in moody silence.

The meagre meal was eaten without a word; and, in truth, the three
outcasts had but too good reason to be so silent and gloomy.

After the breaking up of the robber band which they had joined, they
had taken service with one native prince after another, and had passed
through all the vicissitudes of wild Eastern warfare. Now revelling
in short-lived luxury--now fighting for their lives against terrible
odds--now heading a mutiny for arrears of pay, and sacking the palace
of their so-called master--one week filling their pockets with precious
stones and gold _mohurs_ (to be instantly flung away in the wildest
freaks of excess), and then a week later, struggling half-starved
through swamp and jungle, with a swarm of merciless foes in hot
pursuit--they had compressed into those few months the perils and
adventures of a whole lifetime.

And what had all this profited them? Nothing. All their rich gains,
all their daring feats, had left them as poor, and destitute, and
hopeless as before.

In fact, their future seemed even darker than their past; for no one
knew better than they that the savage despot of Oude--for whose court
they were now making, as a last resource--even should he admit them
among his soldiers, might any day reward them for their services by
torturing them to death, or flinging them to the crocodiles of the
Goomtee.[5]

[5] It was not till 1856 (under the rule of Lord Dalhousie) that Oude
was annexed to the British dominions; and, up to that time, the misrule
of its native princes was the byword of all India. A favourite pastime
with one of these model sovereigns was the sudden letting loose of a
number of venomous snakes in the midst of a crowd of market-people!

"I'll tell yer wot hurts _me_ most," muttered Bob Burton at last, in
the tone of a man thinking aloud, rather than actually addressing his
comrades; "to think o' them pals of our'n in the old regiment fightin'
like men agin them coffee-coloured' heathens, one agin a dozen--and
lickin' 'em too, every time--and every one in the old country's
a-praisin' _them_, and calling 'em 'eroes; and we--wot have _we_ been
doin' all the while? Why, thievin' and murderin' along with a lot o'
sneakin' blackamoors!"

"Aye," cried Tom Tuffen fiercely, "that's jist how _I_ felt that time
at Krishnabad, when I axed that old sepoy as comed there with the
major, to give me a drink o' water. D'ye remember wot the old chap
said? 'Ismail Beg gives his _lotah_ (brass cup) to no man who is not
worthy. I am a _nimmuk-wallah_[6]--I have been true to my salt; but
what art _thou_?' Now, how do you think a Englishman feels when he
finds out that even a common blackamoor's ashamed of him!"

[6] Literally "salt fellow"--a phrase implying that a man has been, as
the Hindus say, "true to his salt."

"And d'ye see that 'ere flag yonder?" added Sam Black grimly, as he
pointed to the British colours that waved jauntily in the last gleam of
sunset, above the low white wall of a fort not more than a mile away.
"That's the English flag, that is; and here be three Englishmen as
daren't show their faces a-nigh it!"

Then followed a long and gloomy silence, each of the three unhappy
men being wholly absorbed in his own sombre thoughts, as if they had
now begun to realise, for the first time, the full depth of their
degradation, and felt at last the whole bitterness of the harrowing
contrast between what they might have been and what they were.

"It's all _his_ fault!" muttered Bob Burton at length, his voice
sounding strange and hollow amid the deepening darkness. "If he hadn't
druv us to it, we wouldn't have j'ined Kala Bagh's riff-raff; and if we
hadn't took up with them, we shouldn't ha' been where we are now. By
Jingo, if I could have a wish granted me just this very minute, I knows
wot it 'ud be!"

"To cotch _'im_ somewhere by hisself, and pay him out once for all--eh,
Bob?" said Tom Tuffen, in a hoarse whisper.

Burton nodded silently, and Sam Black gave an assenting growl, as
deadly in its meaning as the hiss of a rattlesnake.

But that menacing sound died away into a stifled gasp of terror, as
there started out all at once from the encircling blackness into the
ring of light cast by the fire--plain before the startled eyes of all
three--a slender white figure, and a bright, smooth, child-like face,
framed in golden hair!

"Is it a h'angel, Bob?" asked Sam Black, in a tremulous whisper.

[Illustration: "Is it a h'angel?"]

"A h'angel, you fool!" said Burton, with grim scorn; "what have
h'angels got to do with the likes of us? It's the devil as _we_ b'longs
to, and he'll have his own some day!"

But, at the sound of Burton's voice, the apparition sprang forward and
called out joyfully, in accents that were familiar to them all--

"Is that you, Bob? Oh, I _am_ so glad! Come along with me, quick!"

And the desperate man suddenly felt his hard, bony hand clutched by the
small, soft fingers of a child.

"Why, if it ain't the little 'un hisself!" cried Sam Black, in a tone
of joyful recognition, as he laid his strong hand caressingly on the
boy's shoulder.

"How come _you_ here, laddie, all by yourself?" asked Tom Tuffen,
stepping forward on the other side.

"Father--come and help father!" was Freddy's only reply, as he caught
hold of Tom's arm with his other hand.

"What, is _he_ with you?" cried Burton, with a sudden and terrible
change on his worn face, which was instantly answered by a murderous
gleam in the eyes of his two comrades.

"The horse came down with us--it took fright at your fire, I think--and
my father fell with his leg under it--and I tried to pull him out, and
couldn't; so then I ran to fetch help."

The three castaways exchanged looks of terrible meaning, without
uttering a word.

Seldom indeed have such men been tried by such a temptation. Here was
the vengeance for which they had just been longing, placed all at once
within their very grasp. Here was the man whom they most hated in all
the world, lying bruised and helpless, and wholly at their mercy; and
even if they did not care to kill him themselves, all that was needed
was simply to leave him to his fate. But then the boy--the boy--!

"Make haste--how slow you are!" cried Freddy imperiously. "Come and get
him out--quick!"

And, as if his overwhelming excitement had really made him stronger,
for the moment, than the two big, hardy men whom he was urging on,
both made a step forward as he spoke, with the mechanical, unconscious
movement of men walking in their sleep.

But hardly had they turned toward the high-road (close beside which
lay the hollow wherein the colonel and his horse had fallen), when the
whole forest shook with a terrific roar--the roar of a hungry tiger
springing on its prey.[7]

[7] The presence of a tiger so close to a beaten road is (as I can
bear witness from my own experience) not at all an unheard-of thing in
Northern India even at the present day.--D. K.

"Oh, the tiger--the tiger!" screamed Freddy, "he'll get father!"

And he flew like an arrow in the direction of the sound.

If ever Bob and his comrades had run in their lives, they did so then.
But ere they could reach the fatal spot, there came a second roar,
louder and fiercer than the last--a wild, despairing cry--and then all
was still.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the tiger made his spring upon the prostrate horse and rider, the
cool old soldier, unarmed and helpless as he was, did not give himself
up for lost even then, shrewdly guessing that between a large and
well-fed horse and a lean dried-up man, the monster's choice would be
soon made.

And so it proved. One crunch of the destroyer's mighty jaws broke the
poor beast's neck, and in a moment more the tiger was rending the yet
quivering carcass with tooth and claw.

And now, could the colonel have lain still where he was, all might
yet have gone well. The tiger, when gorged, would probably have gone
off without troubling itself about _him_; nay, it might perhaps have
dragged away the dead horse to serve it for a second meal, and thus
have freed the imprisoned man from the weight that kept him down.

But it was not to be. The pain of that heavy pressure on his hurt limb
made him impatient; and his hitherto unyielding nerves were sorely
shaken (as, in truth, they might well be) by thus hearing, close to his
very face, the tearing of his favourite horse piecemeal by the cruel
fangs that might at any moment be buried in his own flesh. Feeling
the pressure of the dead beast lightened for an instant as the tiger
tugged at it and rocked it to and fro, he imprudently attempted to drag
himself out from beneath it.

It was a fatal error. The moment he stirred, the tiger was upon him!

For one instant, while his thick military cloak hampered the monster's
teeth, he saw the fierce yellow eyes glare into his, and felt the hot,
foul, rank breath steaming on his face. Instinctively he uttered one
last cry for help--and then--!

There was a trample of hurrying feet--a hoarse shout--the crackle of
three shots fired in quick succession--and the terror of the jungle lay
dead over his victim's body, just as a native patrol, alarmed by the
noise, came racing up to the spot.

Hardman was promptly freed, and, to his son's vast relief, proved to
have escaped with unbroken bones, though sorely bruised and shaken; for
the tiger's fangs had not reached him, and the trench into which he had
fallen had saved him from the full weight of the horse's body.

The lights carried by the patrol, as well as the cloudless splendour
of the rising moon, made the whole scene as clear as day; and Colonel
Hardman at once recognised his three rescuers, who, seeing that he knew
them, and cut off from escape by the coming-up of the native soldiers,
stood waiting in sullen silence to hear what he would say.

"I don't ask who you are, and I don't want to know," said the colonel
to them, with a peculiar emphasis which all three fully understood. "I
can see that you are Englishmen, and that you have been down on your
luck; and, at all events, I owe you a good turn for saving my life. You
look like the sort of fellows that I should like to have as recruits
for my new regiment--what do you say?"

What they said no one heard save themselves and the colonel. But when,
thirty-two years later, Colonel Hardman (General Hardman by that time),
was laid at rest beneath the elms of the quiet English churchyard of
his native village, foremost among those who bore him to the grave
walked, side by side with his famous son, Major Frederick Hardman, a
stalwart, grey-haired, soldier-like man named Bob Burton, who had
nursed the dying general, night and day, through the last hours of
his final illness, and had felt amply repaid for all by the light of
grateful affection that shone for a moment in the sunken eyes of his
old enemy, just ere they settled into stillness for ever.



IN LUCK'S WAY

BY FRED. WHISHAW


Matters were proceeding satisfactorily enough at Gerstonville, a farm
lying some thirty miles north-east of Buluwayo, in Rhodesia. Richard
Gerston had had the luck to peg out a fairly rich claim when, after
the finish of the first Matabele war and the fall of old Lobengula,
Buluwayo and the surrounding territories fell into the hands of the
Company. Gerston had taken an honourable share in the fighting, and
shared also in the privileges held out towards those who had been
actively engaged in the war; and though his hopes--or dreams, as
perhaps it would be more correct to call them--his dreams of finding
gold upon his claim had not been realised, or had remained practically
unrealised (for there were signs of gold here and there, though the
precious metal had not been found in paying quantities), yet the soil
was excellent, and his crops and his live-stock were doing wonders--so
well indeed, that after a few months Gerston had felt justified in
sending for his wife and two children from the Cape, where, for the
present, they had remained waiting in anxious expectancy for the
message which would enable them to start northwards in order to begin a
new life in a new home in this new country.

For a year or two everything flourished. The farm had become a bit of
England, though with African surroundings. Gerston's son Bruce, a lad
of fifteen, was as much help to his father in the farm during working
hours as his sister Kittie was to her mother in the house; while
in the evening English outdoor games were the vogue; squash cricket
especially, in which all the family took part, including Mrs. Gerston,
who, however, according to the dictum of Bruce, "wasn't much good," and
Kittie, who "played a much stronger game." Bruce had even attempted
to teach a few Mashona labourers employed on the farm to wield the
willow, but the result had been conspicuous failure; for not one of
them displayed the smallest capacity for understanding the rules of the
game, nor much inclination to run about or exert themselves after the
fatigues of the day's work on the farm.

[Illustration: "Kittie, who played a much stronger game."]

It was a beautiful summer's evening, during one of these games of
"squash cricket," which was played on the rough turf outside the house,
that a stranger strolled into the enclosure, an Englishman, though a
hot and unkempt one, and stood still for a moment or two as his eye
fell upon the unusual scene (in this part of the world) being enacted
before him.

"Lord!" he muttered, "that's good! It does one good to see it."

Then he came forward, and Gerston, who was batsman on this occasion,
catching sight of him, handed his bat to Kittie, and advanced to meet
the stranger.

"You're welcome," he said. "Have you come far? We don't often have a
visitor here afoot."

The stranger was an elderly man, though evidently wiry and active as a
cat. He carried a rifle, and was dressed in "veldt" boots and the usual
and appropriate costume of the country, much travel-stained and out of
repair; his bearded face was lined and worn; he looked in need of rest,
though obviously a hard man.

"I've come a goodish number of miles, mate, one way or another, and
on my feet all the way; pretty well all over Rhodesia, you might say,
and I've spent two years and more in doing it. Ah, and spent 'em well,
too!" he added, with a wink, "and don't you make any mistake about
it."

Gerston smiled.

"Prospecting, I daresay," he said.

The stranger nodded. "I don't choose my claim in a hurry," he
continued; "I prefer to go the round and look about me. This seems a
nice place. Any gold?"

"Not much," laughed Gerston; "just enough to keep us hoping for more;
but the land's A1, and I'm not doing so badly."

"Ah!" ejaculated the other. "Good, good; you employ these Mashona
rascals, I see. Well, look out if you're wise."

Gerston laughed again.

"Oh yes," he said, "I will look out; my Mashona boys are thoroughly
domesticated; besides, they know when they are well off."

"Maybe," said the stranger; "but there is trouble in the air. I have
not tramped all Rhodesia for nothing. I have seen what I have seen, and
I have heard what I have heard."

Gerston received this Sphinx-like pronouncement with a smile, and the
pair having by this time reached the house, the stranger was shown to
his room, as naturally as though he had been an invited and expected
guest.

There was no question of his begging a bed, or of any expression by
Gerston of apologetical regret that the house was full; his welcome
was a matter of course, for in the veldt open house is kept after the
old-established Dutch fashion, and no one possessing a white skin and
a smattering of European civilisation need sleep out in the air for
want of a bed and a meal inside of four walls, if there be a settler's
dwelling within ken.

The stranger gave his name as "Uncle Ben," and stayed for several days.
He paid, as he expressed it, for his keep by giving Gerston the benefit
of his experience as a prospector for gold, tramping the claim from
end to end, accompanied by the boy Bruce, to whom he seemed to take
a great fancy; but though this odd pair visited together every corner
of the estate, and examined carefully every little kopje and gully in
the place, Uncle Ben's verdict was quite unfavourable. There wasn't
gold enough in the claim, he said, so far as he could judge, to coin a
five-dollar piece, and the whole claim, from the point of view of the
gold-seeker, was "not worth a tinker's curse."

As he delivered himself of this doleful dictum, the stranger suddenly
produced a tobacco pouch, which he opened forthwith and held out to his
host.

"See here," he said, "_that's_ gold now--the real article, and I
know--well, I know what I know."

"Which means, I suppose, that you could tell me where to find more of
it," laughed Gerston. "Well, you're a lucky chap, and I wish you all
success. When you want a partner to work the place you can come along
to me."

"Ah!" said Uncle Ben sagely, "who knows?"

And Gerston, talking over this conversation afterwards with his wife,
laughingly declared that he believed if the old fellow's pockets
were overhauled, certain mysterious hieroglyphics intended to form a
rough map would be found, and that this map would be the clue to some
valuable gold shaft of which he had discovered, or imagined that he had
discovered, the existence.

"There are plenty in Mashonaland," Gerston ended, "if only one could
hit upon them."

Uncle Ben, as he insisted upon being called, proved a grand acquisition
in the evenings, for he possessed a wonderful fund of stories,
experiences of his own mostly; and these he was never tired of airing
for the benefit of his listeners, of whom he had four in this house,
all of the kind most charming to the narrator, because they were
frankly and obviously interested and amused.

If his tales were to be believed--and the old man was accustomed
to vow most solemnly that the experiences narrated were absolutely
authentic--he had certainly been through every kind of adventure that
the ingenuity of a humorous destiny could have invented at his expense:
adventures with lions, with elephants, with Matabele warriors; perils
by water and by land; in a word, every kind of experience likely to
interest and enthral a listener had been his; and though, perhaps,
listeners of the age of Bruce were the most delighted by his tales,
they pleased almost equally listeners of any age, for they bore the
stamp of truth.

It was natural, therefore, that young Bruce soon began to look upon the
sturdy old stranger as a hero of the first water, a king among men, a
person to be admired and loved and imitated, if the opportunity should
ever arise; a mental condition on the part of Bruce which was confirmed
by each new story of triumph over lions or other beasts, or of barely
escaped capture by Matabeles or other bad characters.

It was while in the midst of an exciting tale of a night spent in
the bare veldt within a hundred or two paces of an entire Matabele
_impi_, during the whole of which time he dared not sleep, and scarcely
allowed himself to breathe lest they should hear him; and of how at a
critical moment he had sneezed--it was, in fact, exactly as Uncle Ben
had reached this most critical point in his story that the sound of
galloping hoofs suddenly became distinctly audible in the breathless
silence into which the old man had been pouring out his yarns.

"Stop one minute, mate," said Gerston, rising; "let us see who this is.
The letter-carrier, I daresay, though he doesn't generally ride that
pace."

Gerston rose and went to the door. A moment later the panting horse of
the new arrival pulled up at the garden gate, and the rider threw the
reins over his animal's neck.

"Give me a drink, mate," he said, "I'm dead parched. Anything will
do--water, or milk, or cold tea. I've brought awful news, but I can't
speak till I've drunk."

"Brandy and water?" suggested Gerston; and the stranger nodding
acquiescence, he was soon in possession of the "long" drink he craved.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, setting down the empty glass, "that's better. Well,
the natives are up; they have risen, and are murdering the English
wherever they can find them. Are you well armed here? Can you hold the
house against a siege? You may have a visit from the blackguards before
the night's out."

[Illustration: "You may have a visit from the blackguards before the
night's out."]

The communication, absolutely unexpected by most of those present, fell
like a bomb into the midst of the company. Gerston drew in his breath
with a gasp, glancing at his wife and young Kittie, both of whom looked
white and scared, though Mrs. Gerston showed her spirit by answering in
a moment and with brave words her husband's eloquent glance--

"We've plenty of weapons and ammunition, and both Kittie and I can
shoot a bit, if required," she said. "We shall know how to give you a
helping hand, Dick; and we are not afraid, are we, Kittie?"

"Oh no, father," said Kittie, whose trembling lips proved, however,
that she had not quite recovered the shock of the news.

"Well, ladies, you're a pair of the right sort, if I may say so,"
continued the new-comer, "and let me tell you, you'll want all your
pluck and all your powder, for they can't relieve you from Buluwayo for
several days; and you'll have to remember these blackguards don't spare
women and children. I found poor Smithson and his wife both murdered
and their house burned this very morning, before I got to their place
to warn them. I'm on my rounds warning the farmers about; but God knows
whether I can go any farther, for--see here--I've lost some blood; and
to tell the truth, what with that and fatigue, I don't rightly know
whether I'm standing on my heels or my head."

The stranger turned as he spoke, revealing a stained bandage beneath
his Norfolk-coat at the neck.

"A spent assegai," he explained; "it caught me just in the fleshy bit
between shoulder and neck; it was shied from an ambush as I galloped
by; a few more inches one way and I should have been done for. That's
the party which is heading in this direction."

"How far off was that?" asked Gerston, while his wife ran for warm
water and a clean bandage.

"Ten miles," said the other, "more or less. You'd better begin fixing
up your zareba at once. What's the nearest farm to yours, going east?"

"There isn't one nearer than Thomson's at the Black Kopje, twenty-five
miles away; several places are bought up in between, but the owners
haven't settled in yet."

"So much the better for them. Twenty-five miles? Lord! I don't know how
I'm going to do it. You'd swop a horse for mine, no doubt; but in plain
truth I'm fagged out, and this wound is burning like fire and fury just
now!"

"Let me go instead of him, father!" suddenly exclaimed young Bruce. "I
know the way, every inch of it; I could ride Donald over in an hour and
a half."

Gerston looked pleased, but shook his head--

"No, no, my boy," he said, "that wouldn't do; you're not man enough
yet, though I'm glad to see you've the spirit to offer. I shall ride
across myself, for it's clear our poor friend here can go no farther
to-day. Be getting Donald ready for me, Bruce lad, while I start with
the defences."

But neither his wife nor Kittie would hear of allowing Gerston to leave
them and go out upon this dangerous enterprise. He must stay, whoever
else went, and look after his property and the lives of those who were
dear to him.

"Let Bruce go rather than you," the mother ended, her eyes full of
tears and a choke in her voice.

"Yes, do, father; let me go!" said Bruce.

"With apologies for interrupting family arrangements," began the old
stranger, who chose to be called Uncle Ben, "I am the one that's got to
go, and as soon as some of you have explained the road and lent me a
nag, I'm off. You may be proud of this youngster of yours, boss; he's a
lad of spirit, and he'll do well. Now which way do I go--north, south,
east, or west?"

"I really don't know that we ought to allow you to risk your life,"
Gerston began hesitatingly. "The road's difficult to find if you don't
know it, and it wouldn't do to get one's self lost in the veldt with
those confounded chaps about, looking for white bodies to chuck their
assegais at. You'd better let me go, mother; I can take pretty good
care of myself; I shall be back by morning."

"Excuse me, mate," said Uncle Ben, "but I ain't one to be put off
from his purpose by the danger of meeting a few Mashona fellows with
assegais; I've something here that shoots straighter and harder and
farther, in case it's wanted. Come, how does one steer, and what about
a horse?"

It was obviously useless to waste argument upon the old fellow. His
mind was made up, and it was quickly decided to let him have his way;
the more so since, as a matter of fact, it was convenient enough that
he should go, rather than Gerston, whose place was undoubtedly at the
side of his wife and daughter, and at the head of those who would
assist him to defend their lives and his property.

So Uncle Ben was duly instructed as to the road to Thomson's farm;
and now it became evident that descriptions intended to direct a ride
of twenty-five miles over the veldt are apt to bewilder as much as to
enlighten, and that the old fellow's mind had been considerably mixed
by his instructions as to the way he should go on reaching this belt of
jungle or that kopje.

"You'd better let me go with him, father!" said persistent Bruce;
"the cleverest veldt-traveller might lose his way between here and
Thomson's. I shall surely be all right with Uncle Ben. You can give me
a revolver in case of accidents."

"You can bet your last sovereign nothing'll happen to him while old
Ben Caldecott's breath is in his body!" added the old fellow. "If
he's going to be hurt, then I'm dead first, mind you; but the Mashona
beggars won't catch me napping, you may bet. Besides, the lad would run
quite as much risk at home to-day as riding over the veldt, seeing as
how you ain't going to be let alone to sleep comfortably in your beds."

And presently, after some little opposition from his weeping mother,
hotly combated by Bruce himself, and almost as hotly by Kittie, who was
all for giving Bruce a chance of showing his spirit and distinguishing
himself, the lad was allowed to get himself ready for departure.
Preparations were in full swing for the defence of the house as the
adventurous pair rode out upon their dangerous enterprise. Every scrap
of cover within one hundred and fifty yards of the house was being
cut down and removed, in order that the niggers, when they came, must
advance over an open area well watched and easily swept by the bullets
of the defenders.

Besides this, barbed wire was stretched here and there across the open
space and tightly fastened to pegs about one foot in height, in order
to trip up the enemy in case of a rush, when, in the confusion of their
overthrow, the defenders would have the opportunity to fire several
times into "the brown," as Gerston expressed it, before they should
have recovered themselves.

Within the house everything was made as secure as possible against
assault and battery, and every rifle and shot-gun (including two
magazine rifles) was loaded and placed in the position laid down
for it, only three windows being left unshuttered, for the use of
sharpshooters. It had been intended to run up some kind of earthworks,
surmounted by barbed wire, one hundred yards from the house, as a first
line of defence; but when the native labourers were summoned to help
in the work, not one of them was to be found, a significant fact which
caused Gerston to look very grave.

"The rascals have had news of the rising, then," he said; "their
messenger must have arrived almost as soon as ours--eh, Botley?"

Botley was the last arrival, he who had brought the disconcerting news
of danger threatening.

"Before, probably," he replied. "I shouldn't wonder if it was one of
your beauties that treated me to this little hole in the shoulder,
on his way to join some murderous band which he and his fellows will
presently bring down here to knock your head off, in gratitude for
benefits conferred--the set of scurvy, thankless, godless black devils
that they are!"

Without the native labourers it was quite impossible to undertake
anything requiring so much expenditure in time and hard labour as earth
defences, and the scheme had therefore to be abandoned.

Meanwhile we may leave Gerston and his little group of brave English
hearts to defend their home and their lives as best they can against
any overwhelming force that might be brought against them. Their good
British spirit will not quail, we may assure ourselves, though they
must fight against odds which might well appal hearts less easily
daunted than theirs.

We therefore leave them with confidence to their enterprise, while we
follow the steps of the oddly assorted pair to whose share has fallen
the duty of riding out into unknown dangers, maybe to unavoidable
disaster and death, in order to carry the message of coming peril
to their unsuspecting compatriots twenty-five miles away, rather
than allow a neighbour to be surprised, and perhaps fallen upon and
ruthlessly murdered, he and his, for want of a word of warning.

It was late in the afternoon when the two set out upon their journey,
well armed with rifle and revolver, and mounted upon the two fastest
horses that Gerston's stables could supply. Young Bruce was wild with
delight, scarcely, perhaps, realising the full peril of the enterprise
in which he had been so eager to take a part. They spoke but little
during the first half-hour's ride, being anxious to push on as fast as
possible during the waning daylight. Bruce led the way, and rode so
rapidly that after a while his companion bade him pull up a bit.

"It's bad policy, youngster," he whispered, "to box all your strength
away in the first round. Look at my beast, he's badly blown."

This was the case. The horses were not accustomed to the present
headlong method of travelling. They were used to quiet jogging about
the farm-lands, or carrying their master from settlement to settlement
at a respectable rate of progression; they were not in training for
this kind of emergency riding.

"We'd better climb down and let them breathe a minute or two," said
Uncle Ben gravely. "See here." He had loosened the bridle, and his
horse instantly lowered its neck until its distended nostrils almost
reached the ground, panting and wheezing in a state of breathlessness
bordering upon actual distress.

"That's Donald," said Bruce; "he's a good goer, too, but he isn't used
to this pace."

"Well, he shall have three minutes' law," said Uncle Ben, "or more if
he needs it. Sit down a bit and we'll talk, but don't speak up at full
voice. How d'you like this yer adventure, sonnie?"

"I love it," said Bruce; "it's exactly the kind of thing I _do_ like."

"Ah--ever been in a fight, or had to struggle for your life?"

"Oh no, not yet," said Bruce. "I'm a bit young; but I hope to."

"Nor seen blood, and so on?" continued the old fellow.

"Oh, accidents and that kind of thing. I don't mind the look of blood,
if that's what you mean."

"Well, I tell you, this is no child's play we're at, sonnie; recollect
that. We may be caught in an ambush and assegaied before we rightly
know we've been done."

"I shan't mind so much if only I can get the revolver off at them
first!" said truculent Bruce.

"We may be chased and surrounded."

"Not on horseback. They don't ride, these Mashona fellows; they've
no horses. We can always ride them down and be off, even if we're
surrounded."

"Ain't you afraid?" persisted Uncle Ben. "Mind you, it isn't too late
to go home even now. I could find the way from here."

"What are you playing at? Why d'you want me to go back?" said Bruce
indignantly. "There isn't anything to be afraid of yet."

"Ah, but there may be!" said the other.

"Well, wait till there is, and then see if I funk, before you insult
me!" replied Bruce; and in his indignation he spoke no more for the
next five minutes, though Uncle Ben said he was a likely lad, and
attempted to conciliate him with other similar compliments.

He descended, however, from the lofty pedestal of offended dignity
when Uncle Ben suddenly stopped in the middle of a sentence and stood
silent, listening.

"What is it? What d'you hear?" asked Bruce, forgetting dignity and
everything else in the excitement of the moment.

Uncle Ben remained silent for a full minute.

"Don't you hear it?" he said. "Listen carefully. There; d'you catch it?"

Bruce listened with all his ears; but those organs, not having been
tutored, as were his companion's, to catch every little sound of veldt
life, could detect nothing as yet.

"You'll hear in a minute, for they're coming this way!" said Uncle Ben.
"But they're a mile off or more."

"Who, who?" muttered Bruce, his throat quite dry with excitement. "The
Mashona fellows?"

Uncle Ben nodded.

"Now listen again!" he said.

Bruce did so, and this time he distinctly heard the rhythmical tread of
a body of men apparently moving at a quick march.

"Trotting and coming straight for us along this path," whispered the
older man. "You hear them now, I see. Well, there's no cover for the
horses hereabouts; what's to be done with them?"

"Why can't we charge right through the niggers?" asked Bruce, partly in
ignorance, but partly in bravado, for he desired to prove to his elder
that he felt no fear.

"Nonsense. Not unless you're tired of life! At any rate I ain't, though
I've had more of it than you. There may be a couple of hundred men
here. What's to be done about the horses, that's the point? We can hide
our selves and let the rascals pass, but you can't hide the horses.
Will you ride yours back, and then mine 'ud follow? You'd be able to
warn them, too, up at your dad's place."

"They don't need warning; they're expecting an attack," said Bruce
hotly. "I'm not going back, I tell you. The horses will go by
themselves if we can't keep them. They are often sent home that way
when we are out a long distance from the house and don't want them
hanging about all day. Let them loose and you'll see."

"Very well--stop--for the last time, now's your chance to go back;
you'll be doing a service in warning the folks at home, and no one'll
suspect your pluck."

Uncle Ben did not finish his sentence; for before he had delivered
himself of it, Bruce had knotted the bridle over his horse's neck,
turned the animal's head homewards, given it a sounding smack on the
quarter, and the intelligent creature was in full trot for its stable,
tossing its head and grunting with pleasure.

"Well," muttered the older man, "I've said all I can; it won't be my
fault if you run your head into mischief after this!" And having thus
absolved his conscience of all responsibility for his young companion's
rashness, he followed the example of that determined young person, and
sent his own horse careering after its companion upon the road for home.

"Now, sonnie, come off the path," he said, "and get behind the scrub
with me. We'll see the rascals pass in five minutes, and when they're
gone we'll push forward more safely."

"Aren't we going to have a shot at them as they pass?" asked Bruce.

The old man looked at his companion in surprise, not unmingled with
admiration.

"Well," he said, "of all the gamecocks ever I met, you're the
pluckiest. Give me your hand, sonnie. I'm sorry I spoke to offend
you; it wasn't meant. No, we ain't going to shoot them as they pass,
for we ain't anxious, either of us, for Kingdom Come. We might kill
half-a-dozen maybe if we were lucky, but you may take your last
oath that they'd kill _two_. Now, see here, I'm to be boss of this
campaign, and you're to obey orders; don't you shoot, now or ever,
until you're told. You're a fine lad for courage, but there ain't
enough solid wisdom and experience in you to stop a bad tooth. Now,
down with you behind this rock; they'll be out of that scrub and in
sight in a minute."

Uncle Ben and his young companion ducked behind their cover none too
soon, for hardly had they done so when, scarcely a couple of hundred
yards away, there came a line of dusky forms, four or five abreast,
that broke out of the scrub cover into the open, followed at a few
paces by other lines, in what appeared to Bruce to be interminable
numbers. Uncle Ben, watching the lad's face, saw it flush and pale and
then flush again; his hand went to the revolver at his belt, but there
the old man's nervous grip arrested it.

"No, no," he whispered, "no fooling; not if you value your life."

Bruce tried to whisper back that he only meant to prepare in case of
emergency, but he found himself tongue-tied, not precisely by fear, but
by a numbing sensation which was the result of the sudden realisation
of actual danger for the first time in his life. The feeling passed
off in a few seconds, and Bruce became master once more of his nerves.
And now he was able to enjoy a very unique and peculiar spectacle,
the passing of a body of Mashona or Matabele warriors on the warpath.
Puffing, groaning, moaning, and wheezing they went, running at a
jog-trot; and almost every man of the hundred or so of them relieved
his exhausted energies by uttering sounds of one description or
another, from a low grunt to a loud wailing cry, all of which seemed
very weird and alarming to Bruce's wondering intelligence.

[Illustration: "The passing of a body of Mashona or Matabele warriors
on the warpath."]

"Off to your dad's!" whispered Uncle Ben, as the strange body of black
fellows disappeared in the gathering dusk. "Come, we will waste no more
time!"

Then the pair moved quickly forward; there were still fifteen miles to
go, and every step of it must be done on foot, and quickly.

"Are you man enough to jog-trot a bit now and then," asked the older
man, and Bruce, for reply, struck into a run, and led the way so
quickly that his companion was glad enough when he stopped again for
breath and walked. Darkness came on, and Bruce became uncertain of the
way, though he knew it well by daylight.

"There's a ford, five miles from Thomson's place," he said; "if we
could only hit upon that I should find the road from there on much
easier."

"Take the direction as near as you can get it," said Uncle Ben, "and
maybe we shall strike the river above or below the ford."

So on they trudged, now jogging at a trot, now slowing into a walk, but
covering the ground quickly; for they remembered that upon their speed
might hang for all they knew the lives of men and women.

A lion roared in the veldt, within a mile of the scudding humans. Bruce
shuddered but went on, resolved that his companion should not see that
he was frightened.

Presently the brute roared a second time, almost paralysing poor
Bruce's limbs with terror; for undoubtedly the animal was much nearer
at this second time of roaring. With difficulty dragging his limbs, but
resolved to go through with the matter, Bruce jogged on.

He heard his companion click his rifle behind him. Suddenly there came
a rush and a scurry of many swift feet, some hundred yards in front of
them. The scudding throng of animals passed across the path and away,
and Bruce heard a third and a fourth roar, and knew that the old lion
had made his spring and had failed, and was angry over his discomfiture.

He stopped and sat down suddenly, too frightened to move forward.

"Ah," said Uncle Ben kindly, "you're pumped out, lad; we'll have a bit
of a rest."

"No, it's the lion," said Bruce truthfully; "I never heard one so close
before; it is awful--will he attack us?"

"Not he; he won't be such a fool; if he did, we could smash him in a
minute, never fear. Why, lad, if you ain't afraid of the Matabeles,
you needn't mind him! There he goes again, farther away, you see; he's
thinking of his antelopes, not of us."

So up jumped Bruce and away he sped again, guessing the road as best
he could by the direction, and presently the pair reached the bank of
a precipitous nullah, and Bruce nearly "took a header" over the rocky
edge.

"Ah!" said Uncle Ben, "good; follow the line of the nullah, it will be
sure to lead us to the river."

This proved to be the case, and a mile or two farther on the river
itself was reached, but at a point either above or below the ford,
Bruce could not tell which.

"Why, Lord, what does it matter, we'll soon find the ford," said Uncle
Ben; "you're a clever lad to have struck the river; I'm darned if I
ever met a lad I liked better; work up to the left a mile or two, and
if that's wrong we'll come back and try the other way, it's only a
matter of a few minutes."

Bruce was getting very tired, and sighed to think that he might have to
travel several unnecessary miles up and down the river; but he pulled
himself together and trudged on, looking out keenly for the ford, which
he should recognise if he saw it.

Once a company of antelopes--maybe they were his old friends--gave him
a great scare. They had come down to drink, and the startled creatures
nearly knocked him down as they rushed madly, stampeding and mobbing,
from the waterside when surprised by the wanderers.

A mile was covered and part of another, and Bruce thought he began to
recognise the look of the river.

"I think we are getting near the ford," he said over his shoulder.

"Good; good, lad!" replied his companion laconically, saving his breath.

But now suddenly confronted them the most crucial moment of the
enterprise.

"Stop, lad!" hissed Uncle Ben from behind; "stop a moment, I hear
something."

Bruce drew up instantly, crouching down as he saw his companion do.

"Listen," whispered Uncle Ben; "I think it's the Mashona fellows again;
they are fording the river; we must be close to the ford; or it may be
a hippopotamus or a crocodile."

Bruce listened, his heart thumping loudly at his breast. He heard
splashing and grunting; a moment later came the sound of measured
running.

"It is the niggers," whispered Uncle Ben hurriedly; "we cannot go back,
and I see no cover inland; we must take to the water; quickly, lad,
follow me into the reeds; never mind the cold, go right up to your neck
if need be!"

Very quickly Uncle Ben waded into the water; it was not very cold, but
the bank shelved rapidly, and a few yards out the pair were up to their
chests.

The reeds were thick, and formed a good cover.

"Bend, and let the water cover you to the mouth," whispered the old
man; "go right under if they seem to hear or see us, and stay under as
long as your breath lasts."

Bruce nodded, shivering.

The pair of submerged Britons were not much too soon in assuming their
uncomfortable position, for in a moment the Matabele fellows were
practically upon them, passing abreast of them at full run, groaning
and grunting after their fashion, travelling in irregular lines of
three, four, or six.

Unfortunately the body of "niggers" had but half passed by when some
creature of the water took occasion to splash loudly several times in
close proximity to our submerged friends, but whether a crocodile, or a
fish, or some animal which had waded in to drink, Bruce never knew.

"Down under water, quick!" muttered Uncle Ben; and Bruce, taking in a
great gulp of breath, obeyed instantly.

As he did so he became aware of a sudden stinging sensation in the
upper part of his arm. Putting his hand to the place, under water, he
felt that his coat was torn.

"I must have rubbed it against a stake as I ducked," thought Bruce, and
dismissing the subject, he devoted all his energy to economising the
stock of breath he had laid in.

When that was exhausted, at the end of thirty or forty seconds, which
seemed an eternity to him, Bruce cautiously raised the upper part of
his head in order to take in a new supply. As he did so he observed
the last row or two of Matabele fellows halted upon the bank, and one
or two of them in the act of throwing their assegais at some object
beyond him on the left. Down went Bruce again very quickly, and it was
nearly a minute later that his yellow head made its reappearance above
the surface. This time he saw no Matabeles, they had gone on; but the
old man, Uncle Ben, had seized his arm somewhat violently, and was
muttering.

Bruce shook the water out of his ears to listen.

"Come ashore quickly," said Uncle Ben. "Are you wounded, lad?"

"Wounded? Not I," said Bruce. "Why? Are you? Did they shy those
assegais at _us_? Why, then, it may have been one that touched my arm."

"Ah, you have a scratch I see!" said the older man; but he spoke in
so strange a voice, that Bruce looked up from his own torn coat and
slightly bleeding arm to see what ailed his companion.

"What's up, Uncle Ben?" he said. "Are you feeling bad? Why, you're
never hit, are you?"

"Just a bit," gasped the old fellow--"here in the side. The blade of
the thing's in me now. O Lord, the pain of it. I'll lie down awhile,
that may make me better."

"O Uncle Ben, I'm so sorry. What can I do? Is it very bad?" cried poor
Bruce weakly. He felt utterly helpless and frightened.

"I may be all right presently," said Uncle Ben. "Just give me a hand
while I lie down. Oh! so, that's it; now I shall soon be better." And
as though to prove how much better he felt for the change of position,
the wounded man then and there fainted away.

Then Bruce, in his utter helplessness and misery, began to think how
vain a thing is self-confidence and the pride of mere animal courage in
an inexperienced lad of fifteen years. He had been ready and anxious to
undertake the dangerous enterprise all by himself. What if he had been
allowed to do so?

Well, he would probably have fallen into the hands of the enemy within
half-an-hour of the start; if he had escaped the first danger, he
would, maybe, have died of terror when within a stone's throw of the
roaring lion. Again, he might have lost his way when, in the darkness,
he missed the track; and now again, but for Uncle Ben's experience and
alertness, he would assuredly have been caught and murdered by the
Matabeles.

Sitting, helpless and miserable, over his unconscious companion, Bruce
quickly realised all this, and with the realisation came a flood of
tears, the first he had shed for many a day, and wrung from him now,
not by fear, but by the sense of helplessness in this crisis.

What ought he to do--what _could_ he do? Leave this poor wounded old
man to recover consciousness or to die, or to fall, maybe, into the
hands of a third band of rebel niggers, to be mutilated in their
barbarous fashion before the breath was out of his body; to leave
him lying here, and hasten up to Thomson's farm in order to warn the
family? He could find the way from here easily enough. Or should he
let the farm people take care of themselves, and attend to the duty
which lay to his hand; namely, to keep faithful watch and ward over
his wounded companion until day at any rate, when he might settle him
comfortably somewhere under cover, and proceed upon his journey?

Bruce was no fool, and it occurred to him at this point of the
reflections which passed in a kind of dazed procession through his
brain that the last band of Matabeles had probably come from Thomson's.
They had crossed the ford as though travelling from his farm; the
chance was that Thomson was either already aware of the rebellion and
in full defence of his property, or murdered, he and all his folk.

"No," thought Bruce, "I shall stay by Uncle Ben until he dies or
recovers, and then go on by myself."

Bruce's fit of crying did him good. He put up a prayer for help in
his terrible position, and that did him good also; and when at length
old Ben sighed and opened his eyes, poor Bruce was feeling brave and
confident once more, and ready to face destiny, whatever it might
have in store for him. But he soon saw that there was little in the
old man's condition to encourage him. Uncle Ben lay on his back quite
still, gazing up at the stars, and Bruce sat still also, unwilling to
disturb or perhaps startle him.

"Are you there, lad?" muttered the old man presently. "I don't feel as
if I could move to look about me."

"I'm here, Uncle Ben," said Bruce. "Are you lying comfortable? Do you
feel bad?"

"I'm going to die, lad, and that's the truth. Give me a drop of
water--in your cap. Ah! now you listen to what I have to say, my boy.
You be off at once to the farm and warn them. If they like to send down
to fetch me when convenient, why, they may; if not, I'd as soon die
here."

"I think these last Matabeles have been up there already," said Bruce,
"else what were they doing at this ford? It isn't any use going there;
I'd rather stay with you here, and see to you."

"Well, God bless you for the wish anyhow, lad; it's kind in you, and
you may be right about the Matabeles. Stay on a bit if you like. I
don't think I shall keep you long. Give me another drink. Lord! I'm
hot, burning hot. Is the sun out?" The old man began to ramble in his
talk, and Bruce, in his despair and inexperience, allowed him to wander
on, saying nothing, but only dabbing a little water occasionally upon
the old fellow's brow.

Suddenly Uncle Ben's manner changed. He spoke quietly and rationally
once more.

"Are you still there, lad Bruce?" he asked. Bruce laid a cool, wet hand
upon his forehead by way of reply.

"You're a darned good lad," continued the old man, "one of the best.
I wish I had a son like you, you've stood by me till I died. Now, see
here, sonnie; in my inner pocket is my baccy pouch; take it before you
go away and leave me; it's full of gold dust; but that's of little
account; what's more important is a paper with a map scrawled upon it.
I did it before we started, case of accidents. The name of the village
marked with a cross is Umdhana, thirteen miles north of Salisbury. The
map'll tell you the rest. Lord, I can't talk any more. It's all yours
when I'm gone, for you're a good lad, one of the best!"

"Maybe you won't die, Uncle Ben!" said Bruce weakly; he knew there was
not much doubt of it, but could think of nothing wiser to say.

Uncle Ben did not reply, but lay with closed eyes. After a while
Bruce saw his lips move, and heard him muttering, but concluded that
he was praying, and did not interrupt him. When he looked again the
old man was still, nor--though Bruce watched him carefully for nearly
half-an-hour--could he detect the slightest movement of breathing.

Then a great horror came over the boy, for he looked upon death for the
first time; his heart failed him, and he trembled, and went away where
he could not see the body; and here he sat awhile in nerveless terror,
unable to collect his thoughts or to decide what was best to be done.

He sat, helpless and dazed, for an hour, by which time dawn was
beginning to make faint promises of a day to come with its joy and
brightness in its own good time.

"I will wait," thought Bruce, "until it is broad daylight, and then I
will go to Thomson's farm."

Then he lay down and tried to fall asleep, but superstitious fears kept
him mostly awake, though he dozed at intervals. Once or twice he heard
stealthy noises, as though the beasts of the forest came timidly to
the water to drink; but he was startled by no roarings of the greater
animals, and there was nothing to alarm him save the presence, near by,
of grim death. Nevertheless, when light came Bruce felt impelled to
approach and look upon Uncle Ben's body once more before leaving it,
and he was surprised to find that this time, and in God's fair light of
day, he minded much less. He even bent and laid his hand in farewell
upon the old fellow's cold forehead, and as he did so he remembered
Uncle Ben's request that he would secure his "baccy pouch" and its
contents. Bruce easily found this pouch, and he pocketed it without
much thought of its value, if any; and having thus secured his legacy,
according to the testator's wish, he certainly thought no more about
it.

[Illustration: "Bruce felt impelled to look upon Uncle Ben's body once
more before leaving it."]

Then the lad made for the ford, which was but a hundred yards or so
away; and here an immense surprise was in store for him; for in the
very act of crossing the ford there came towards him a figure which at
first sight he took for that of a native, a Matabele warrior, though
clothed, it appeared, in the tattered relics of an English suit--a
flannel shirt and Norfolk coat and trousers, and carrying over his
shoulder a rifle, and at his belt a long and a short assegai.

For an instant Bruce's heart failed him. He stopped dead and crouched,
intending to drop upon his stomach and crawl into cover.

But the stranger, it seemed, was quick-eyed, and had already seen him.

"Aha!" he called out, "young boy Englishman! do not hide; I am not one
to hurt those that have white skins!"

Bruce was soon upon his feet again at the sound of his own language,
though it was spoken in an odd, guttural way, and with a peculiar
accent. He stared at the stranger coming splashing through the shallow
water.

"Who are you?" he blurted; "and why do you speak so curiously?"

"I am Umkopo, the white witch of the Matabele. English born, Matabele
bred. What are you doing here? It is a wonder that you are alive. Death
is abroad, death to the English. What do you want here, I say?"

Bruce had heard of this man Umkopo, "The White Witch" as he was called.
No one as yet, however, knew much about the mysterious individual, who
was seen from time to time indeed, and had often befriended Englishmen
in moments of danger and distress, but as to whose identity the vaguest
and most varied opinions prevailed. Since the day on which Bruce met
him in the manner described his history has become well known both in
Rhodesia and in England; but this is not the place to recapitulate his
romantic story, which, if he desires to know it, the reader may find
elsewhere.

"I am on my way to Thomson's farm to warn them that the natives are
up," said Bruce; "perhaps you have been upon the same errand?"

"Thomson is dead--murdered; so is his partner and the wife of his
partner. Yesterday they were surprised and murdered. Bah! good English
blood spilt by dogs of Matabele. Bah! I have done with them; I go with
them no more; from this day I am an Englishman."

"Thomson murdered, and Hewetson and Mrs. Hewetson also!" ejaculated
Bruce. "Then I am too late! Oh, how glad I am that father was warned in
time!"

"Who is your father?" asked Umkopo.

"His name is Gerston. We farm the claim called Gerstonville----"

"I know," interrupted Umkopo; "and he sent you on here _alone_ to warn
Thomson. Does he hate you?"

"Rot!" said Bruce; "of course not. I was not alone; my companion is
dead."

"Dead? What, killed by these dogs, like Thomson and the others? For
each one I will kill ten Matabele, I swear it; and how have you
escaped?"

"We hid in the water. Something splashed as they passed, and they threw
an assegai and killed poor Uncle Ben; he lies just here, quite close."

"Ah, ah! show me! show me!" said Umkopo.

Bruce led his new friend to the place where lay the dead man, looking
as though he slept quietly by the riverside, weary with travelling.

"Oh," cried Umkopo, with something very like a sob in his voice, "I
knew him well; I have hunted with him. He was a good man--a brave man.
I have learned from him many things."

To Bruce's immense surprise Umkopo threw himself upon the ground, and
lay rolling and groaning a while, evidently overcome with grief.

Suddenly he rose.

"Come," he said, "we will make a hole, and put him in it. If they find
him here they will cut and tear his body, because he was better than
they, and braver and wiser. They shall not have him."

So with a little help from Bruce poor old Uncle Ben received burial at
the hands of Umkopo, and right glad was Bruce that it was not destined
that his friend should be left to be mutilated by savage enemies, or to
be eaten by savage beasts or vultures.

"Now," said Umkopo, when this good work was finished, "we go together
to Gerstonville. If they were warned in time, they will not yet be
overcome; and if they still hold out, you shall see what will happen
when the Mashona dogs see that Umkopo has come."

Bruce did not quite like the stranger. His manner of speaking was so
strange, and his appearance so weird and even alarming; but he was
evidently friendly disposed, and it was certainly comforting to have an
escort or a companion--Bruce preferred the word companion--as far as
Gerstonville.

But his half-fear of the man and every feeling of dislike soon passed
away in wonder and curiosity as, on the way homewards, Umkopo waxed
garrulous, and spoke of his own career--of his deeds among the great
beasts of the veldt; of his bearding, on a certain occasion, of the
terrible old King Lobengula, whom all the world feared, excepting,
apparently, this wonderful fellow; and of many adventures and struggles
with the Matabele people, who would not, for many years, acknowledge
him as their principal "Witch" or magician.

"It was this that persuaded them in the end," said Umkopo, concluding
his story, and patting lovingly the butt of his rifle: "this is the
real witch, not I."

So interesting and absorbing was the conversation of his new friend
that Bruce scarcely had time to realise that he was terribly tired, as
indeed he had every right to be; and the pair had come within a mile
or so of home, when Umkopo suddenly stopped and assumed an attitude of
listening. When he did so Bruce listened also, and distinctly heard the
sound of shooting, continuous shooting.

"Ah!" said Umkopo, "good! the dogs have not got into your father's
kennel; now you shall see how Umkopo will sweep them away like the
leaves that fly in wind-time! Come."

Umkopo seized the boy's hand, and set off at so rapid a run that
even Bruce--as active a lad as you would find in all Rhodesia--could
scarcely keep up with him, and was obliged indeed to pant to him
presently to stop.

"No, no, not stop," said Umkopo, "not far now--run; Umkopo has learned
from the springbok!"

Bruce pulled himself together, took deep breaths, and struggled gamely
on. Once they stopped for a moment or two, Umkopo having glanced in
the lad's face, and seeing that he was really distressed for breath.
During those moments Bruce caught sight of Umkopo's expression, and
was astonished and almost supernaturally alarmed at it. Umkopo's eyes
were wild and blazing with a weird lustre; he held his chin high and
his shoulders back, and muttered words, as he gazed straight in front
of him, which Bruce did not understand, and which he concluded were in
the Matabele lingo. He looked, Bruce thought, like an inspired prophet,
the White Witch all over, excepting that his skin was scarcely to
be described as "white," being, as a matter of fact, about half-way
between that pale tint and the hue of the Mashona native.

Then on they scudded once more, and in a minute or two they had reached
a spot within a furlong of the farmhouse, from which they saw plainly
all that was being enacted at or about the building.

There were three separate groups of attacking natives, each hidden from
the house by protecting cover of scrub or rock. Now and again a dark
form or two rushed headlong towards the building, when a shot from an
upper window would send the rash fellow either hurrying back into the
cover or head first into the earth, where he would writhe and kick for
a moment, and then lie still. Numbers of still, dark forms dotted the
ground at all distances from the house, while a grim heap of the slain
within forty yards of it, proved that some charge of the enemy _en
masse_ had with difficulty been stopped in time.

"Come," said Umkopo, suddenly and unexpectedly, "now you shall see!"

He started to walk rapidly towards the nearest body of natives. Bruce
hesitated to follow, not quite comprehending his intentions, and more
than half-mistrusting the wisdom of the proceeding.

"Come, I say!" repeated Umkopo, looking back over his shoulder; "fear
nothing; I am Umkopo, the great White Witch!" And Bruce, rather than
appear to be afraid, gripped his rifle and followed.

The Matabeles apparently recognised Umkopo at the instant of his
appearance, for they sent up a babel of noise, every tongue of the two
hundred there assembled seeming to contribute to the din of welcome, or
the reverse--of delight or of rage, Bruce could not tell which, for the
noise was deafening, and individual voices quite undistinguishable.

"They are angry," said Umkopo, "for they know that they act against my
commands. What matter!"

A few individuals rushed forward, as though to fall upon Umkopo as he
came; two threw assegais.

Without seeming to take aim Umkopo instantly shot both men; they fell
dead almost at the same moment.

Then Umkopo said a few words in the native tongue, words which
immediately raised a babel of din even louder than the first. Again
Umkopo held up his hand and spoke, spoke fiercely and solemnly, as it
seemed to Bruce, who could not, however, understand a word. One or two
assegais were thrown, and again the aggressors were shot dead, almost
before their weapons had left the hands that hurled them.

Then suddenly the whole body of men, with howls and yells and angry
grimaces, turned and moved away, Umkopo standing, like implacable Fate,
watching their departure. In five minutes they were a quarter of a mile
away; in ten, they had disappeared out of sight.

"Go into the house, you," said Umkopo; "you have seen what you have
seen. Tell them Umkopo will drive away the other dogs as he has driven
these."

Full of wonder and admiration, Bruce did as Umkopo suggested. Yet,
anxious as he was to see his parents and tell his story, he could not
forbear to wait and watch Umkopo's dealings with the next batch of
niggers before finally turning his back and hastening towards the house.

Here, it may be believed, a rapturous greeting awaited him; for, the
horses having returned riderless, it had been a matter of miserable
doubt to his parents whether Bruce was alive or dead.

Bruce enjoyed greatly the praise which was certainly his deserved
portion, and he was still in the midst of the tale of his experiences
when Umkopo suddenly reappeared. The White Witch made no greeting
to any one present. He merely inquired "where the cartridges were
kept--Winchester," and being shown the place, helped himself liberally
and departed almost without a word. He did, however, honour Bruce with
a whack on the shoulder.

"Aha!" he said, "we shall meet one day; you shall be a fine Englishman
when you are grown full-size--like Umkopo!"

There was no more trouble at Gerstonville that day from the rebel
natives; but the family did not, on that account, relax in the
slightest degree their watchfulness; for though Umkopo had apparently
frightened these bands away, there was no certainty that they, or
others, would not return.

But on the following afternoon a body of Englishmen, many of them known
to Gerston, rode in from Buluwayo, and these were greatly relieved to
find that Gerston and his family were safe; they had not expected it,
they said.

"You are luckier than many," said the leader, "and that's the sad
truth; this rising's a very serious business. Get your light valuables
together and come along, all; Buluwayo itself's in danger, but you'll
be safer there than here."

"What, leave my house, and farm, and all I have to the mercy of any
rascally niggers that come along to loot and burn!" exclaimed Gerston;
"not I!"

"It's unpleasant, I own; but you'll have to do it, mate. Better that
than certain outrage and murder."

"We could hold out for a week!" persisted Gerston, unwilling to
surrender his house and his goods.

"Very likely. But after that week, what then? This rising won't be
quelled for many a week, my friend, take my word for it. You'll have to
come. I tell you we expect to be attacked in Buluwayo itself."

"Then maybe we are as safe here as there," said poor Gerston, feeling
that his argument was untenable, and that he must indeed, as Bromley
said, leave all and retire with these good fellows to the capital. His
house and farm, his furniture and goods, valued English things, which
had come so far and cost so much, and which represented, in fact, his
all--it was hard indeed to surrender them; but the lives of his wife
and children were dearer still, and must be saved at all costs, and he
knew it, though in argument he fought awhile against the inevitable.

So poor Gerston collected his money and his papers, set his live-stock
free to roam where they would, until the "Matabele thieves" should find
and appropriate them, and set out for Buluwayo, in which growing city
he was obliged perforce to remain until the native disturbance, which
developed practically into a small war, was quelled.

Afterwards, as soon as he could do so safely, he lost no time in riding
over with Bruce to the place where, until those evil days, had stood
the homestead, with its farm-buildings and comfortable, though simply
built, house and adequate cowsheds and stables. But alas! he found no
trace of the home in which he had taken so great a pride and delight,
excepting, indeed, sundry heaps of ashes and bits of blackened wood
and twisted iron. Gerston stood and surveyed the scene of ruin and
desolation. His heart felt very heavy, though he had scarcely expected
to find any more favourable a state of affairs than this.

"I thought so, Bruce," he muttered; "we are ruined, my lad, through no
fault of ours. We shall have to begin life over again. It is hard, but
we will do it; the land is ours, but our capital has gone."

"We can have a try for Uncle Ben's gold, father," said Bruce
unexpectedly. "Let you and I ride up north to the place shown in his
map; mother and Kittie are all safe in Buluwayo. It's worth trying. He
seemed very serious about his gold."

Gerston reflected. "I don't much believe in Rhodesian gold," he said;
"but if your heart is set upon it, we may as well go. Meanwhile the
authorities can be deciding what compensation is to be given to poor
chaps who are ruined by their mismanagement of the natives."

So up northward went father and son, the latter full of sanguine hope,
the former depressed and gloomy, having little belief in his lucky
star, which seemed to have set so completely that it would never rise
again. To the village called Umdhana they went, and there, using the
old man's map, they searched far and wide for the old deserted gold
shaft which, according to his scribbled directions, existed in this
place, four miles from the village, at a spot designated in his rough
plan. It was a wild-looking spot. Rank vegetation grew high and dense
on every side, rendering the search for any object, especially when its
location, within a few hundred yards, was uncertain, very difficult and
discouraging.

For two days Bruce and his father wandered dejectedly about the veldt,
hoping against hope that in the end they would stumble upon the old
native crushing stones and the remains of the furnace which Uncle
Ben's notes declared to be still in existence, and marking the very
spot where, at a distant date, some enterprising Matabele fellow
had endeavoured to exploit a vein of the precious metal, leaving it
scarcely touched.

After two days of failure Gerston was tired of the search. He
disbelieved in this gold mine. It existed, he said, only in the brain
of a half-crazy old man, who imagined he had found what never actually
existed. "We shall employ our time better, sonnie, felling trees at
home, and building a new house where our poor old shanty stood."

"Perhaps, father!" Bruce sadly assented. He would much rather have
stayed another day or two, being young and sanguine. "But I don't
think Uncle Ben was even a bit crazy. We can't go on looking for
ever, though." Bruce was angry and depressed. A vulture sat blinking
upon a rock close by, and the lad picked up a stone to throw at the
evil-looking creature, by way of working off his disappointment and
chagrin.

He picked up his stone to throw it, but the vulture noticed his
movement and heavily took wing. Bruce remained with the stone in his
hand; it was a curious-looking stone, and he first glanced and then
gazed carefully at it.

[Illustration: "The lad picked up a stone to throw at the evil-looking
creature."]

"Father," he said presently, "look at this; is it anything
particular--I mean, is it, could it possibly be--" Bruce's face had
gone red with a certain wild idea that suddenly entered his brain; his
voice sounded dry and curious.

Gerston took the stone and looked carefully at it. "By all that's happy
and wonderful, Bruce," he exclaimed, "I do believe it's a nugget."

       *       *       *       *       *

A nugget it was; and though the old disused gold mine, which they
presently found close to this very spot, proved, like most of the
Rhodesian gold veins, somewhat disappointing, yet it yielded, together
with Bruce's nugget, more than sufficient to enable Gerston to rebuild
his house and farm buildings, and to stock and furnish both in a manner
quite superior to their former style.

And when the Company "came down handsome" with a good sum for
compensation, Gerston felt that things were rosy indeed, and that when
young Bruce made friends one memorable afternoon with poor old Uncle
Ben he had indeed been, little as he expected it, "in luck's way."

As for Uncle Ben's baccy pouch and the untidy hieroglyphic which
did duty for a map or a plan, they are Bruce's very most treasured
possessions. He would not part with them for the wealth of the
Transvaal!



"SAMANA KAY"

BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD


I was within a few days of reaching my twenty-third birthday when it
was my fortune to secure a berth as only mate aboard a very smart and
handsome little brig of two hundred and sixty-five tons, named the
_Lancashire Witch_, hailing out of Liverpool, and bound from that
port to Kingston, Jamaica, with a cargo of sugar-mill machinery and
Manchester goods.

We sailed on the twenty-eighth of January 18--, with a piping
north-easter blowing over our taffrail that swept us right away from
the Bar Lightship into the north-east trades without obliging us to
start tack or sheet, brace or halliard, from the moment when our "old
man" took his departure from the Saltees light. The trade-winds were
blowing fresh too, so that we made a phenomenally quick but otherwise
uneventful run across the Atlantic until we arrived within some three
hundred miles of the Turks Islands, where the wind suddenly failed us,
and we fell in with light, hazy, rainy weather, with occasional short
spells of flat calm, and variable shifting airs that obliged us to take
in all our studding-sails and jockey the little hooker along as best we
could under all plain sail. It was tedious, irritating work, for there
was so much box-hauling of the yards that the watch could find time for
nothing but tending the braces, and all hands of us, fore and aft, were
driven nearly frantic.

At length, on the fourth day of this kind of work, the sky gradually
thickened up in the southern board, the sun became a pallid, shapeless
blotch of watery light in the heavens, and there were other signs that
a change of weather was brewing. Yet there was nothing to indicate that
the change was imminent; we therefore contented ourselves with the
maintenance of a watchful eye upon the signs of the times, and left
all our flying kites abroad, in order that we might derive the utmost
possible advantage from the languid and scarcely perceptible breathings
of the atmosphere that reached us we scarcely knew from where, so light
and evanescent were they.

Thus matters went with us throughout the day, the aspect of the sky
altering so subtly and gradually, that it was only at the change of the
watches, after a four hours' spell below, that one was able to detect
any very marked difference. When, however, I was called at eight bells
of the afternoon watch I at once noted so pronounced an increase in the
threatening aspect of the sky that I felt assured of the near approach
of the impending change; and as the skipper did not seem disposed to
take the initiative, I suggested that all hands should go to work at
once to snug down the ship and prepare her for the coming conflict.
Unfortunately, however, the "old man" did not take the same view of the
matter that I did; he had been on deck the whole afternoon, and the
menacing appearance that had at once impressed me had been occurring
so gradually and subtly that he had scarcely noticed it; moreover,
there was now a small, hot breeze coming up from the southward that was
fanning the nimble little brig along at a speed of nearly four knots,
and he was evidently disinclined to forego so great an advantage.

"Yes," he said, when I expressed the opinion that we should have an
outburst before long, "it is coming, slowly but surely; but I don't
think we shall have it for another hour or two. I don't notice much
difference from what it was at noon, except that the sun has vanished,
and there is perhaps a little more movement in the muck overhead. I
believe we may venture to hang on for another half-hour or so; we shall
still have plenty of time to snug down before dark."

I felt rather doubtful of this; but the skipper was a dreadfully
opinionated, obstinate man, and I knew that argument, or anything
approaching it, would be worse than useless with him. I therefore made
no reply, but walked to the skylight, and took a peep at the barometer
that hung there. The mercury had fallen more than half an inch since I
had last glanced at it just before going to my cabin after dinner.

"Well," inquired the skipper, as I turned away, "what does it say?"

"Twenty-eight, thirty-five," I replied.

"Ay," he remarked, "it is going down steadily; it will be a regular
teaser when it comes."

Yet he did not--as I hoped he would--give the order to shorten sail,
although the wind was now steadily freshening in puffs, while the sky
to windward was darkening and growing ever more threatening of aspect
even as one watched it. Meanwhile all hands were on deck, evidently
standing by for a call, and casting increasingly anxious glances
alternately aft and to windward.

At length one bell struck; and while the sound was still vibrating in
the air, the skipper--his obstinate spirit perhaps satisfied now that
he had held on for the half-hour he had mentioned--gave the order for
all hands to shorten sail.

"Clew up and furl everything except the main-topsail, which you may
close-reef, Mr. Burt," he said to me, "and let the hands look smart
about it."

"Ay, ay, sir," I answered. Then to the men: "Let go the royal,
top-gallant, and fore-topsail sheets and halliards; also your jib,
staysail, and main-topsail halliards; man your clew-lines, bunt-lines,
and down-hauls, and get the canvas off her as quickly as you can. A
couple of hands aloft each to the fore and main royals and roll them
up, stowing the top-gallant sails and the main-royal and top-gallant
staysails on your way down; and, hark ye, lads, see that you make
a snug stow of it, so that nothing blows adrift by-and-by in the
darkness, to give us trouble. Now bowse out the reef tackles of your
main-topsail; and after you have done that, man your fore and main
clew-garnets, and get the courses snugged well up to the yards. Hurrah,
bullies, be as lively as you like; let us get the barkie snug while we
have light enough to see what we are about!"

The men, who had evidently been impatiently awaiting these orders,
sprang about the decks like wild-cats, letting go, clewing up, and
hauling down fore and aft with frantic energy, yet working with the
method of men who not only knew thoroughly what they were about, but
were also perfectly aware of the vital importance of getting through
their work in the shortest possible amount of time. In a few minutes,
therefore, every sail was off the ship, except the main-topsail, and
the hands were on the yards, rolling up the canvas as though for
dear life, while the skipper held the wheel, and I dashed hither and
thither, letting go this rope and dragging upon that, as called upon by
the men aloft. Meanwhile, to facilitate the operation of reefing and
furling, the brig was kept broad away, or very nearly dead before the
wind.

Suddenly there arose a wild yell aloft of "Man overboard!" and glancing
up from what I was about at the moment, I was just in time to catch a
glimpse of the body of a man flashing downward--apparently from the
larboard mainyard-arm--ere it vanished, with scarce a splash, into the
leaden-hued water alongside.

[Illustration: Suddenly there arose a wild yell aloft of "Man
overboard!"]

Quick as thought the skipper whipped out his knife, and cut adrift a
life-buoy that hung over the port quarter, letting it drop into the
water within a fathom or two of where a small blot of foam marked the
spot of the man's disappearance; while I, forgetful of everything else,
sprang to the port-quarter boat, and slashed away with my knife at the
gripes that held her. In another moment I was joined by two men from
aloft who had come down by way of the backstays; and while the skipper
jammed the wheel hard down and brought the brig to the wind, with the
canvas that remained unfurled, slatting and thrashing as though it
would jerk the sticks out of her, the three of us lowered the boat
somehow, and tumbled over the side into her, unhooking the tackles, and
getting handsomely away from the ship without a mishap, although it
was by this time breezing up fresh, and the brig must have been going
through it at a speed of fully six knots.

The two men who were with me threw out their oars and got the
boat's head round, while I, grasping the yoke-lines, stood up in the
stern-sheets watching for the man. Presently I caught sight of him;
but heavens! what a long distance he was away from us, half a mile at
least, and dead to windward, with the breeze freshening every moment,
and a nasty, short, choppy sea getting up that seemed to stop the boat
dead every time that a wave struck her.

"Pull, men!" I exclaimed anxiously; "bend your backs to it and put her
along, or we shall lose the poor fellow after all. By the way, who is
he?"

"Sam Pilcher, sir," answered the fellow who was pulling stroke. "He
was at the yard-arm, and we was rollin' up the mainsail. The sail was
thrashin' about a goodish bit, and it must ha' jerked him off."

"Perhaps so," I agreed. But I did not pursue the conversation, for
I was getting terribly anxious; I had lost sight of the man of whom
we were in search, and feared that he had gone down; the sky was
momentarily growing blacker and assuming a more threatening appearance
to windward; the wind and the sea were rising like magic; and the brig
was driving away to leeward like smoke from a galley funnel. The men,
too, were glancing anxiously over their shoulders and dragging away
at the heavy oars like demons; it was evident that they fully shared
the uneasiness that had taken possession of me, and were longing to
complete their task and get the boat's nose round pointing toward the
brig.

"See anything of him, sir?" at length demanded the man who had
previously spoken.

"Not just at this moment," answered I, "but I expect we shall
find him hanging on to the life-buoy. Ay, there is the buoy," I
continued, as the small white circle swung up on the breast of a sea,
"and--yes--yes--there is the man clinging to it. Give way, bullies;
another five minutes and we shall have him!"

The two men toiled at their oars with superhuman energy, their laboured
breathing and the sweat that literally poured off them bearing eloquent
witness to their exertions, while the boat "squashed" viciously into
every sea that met her, flinging the spray right aft and drenching us
to the skin; yet despite it all we seemed to make little or no headway,
and when a full five minutes had sped we were still quite fifty fathoms
away from the man. Then I suddenly lost sight of the poor fellow. He
was clinging to the buoy when it sank behind the crest of an on-coming
sea; but when the buoy swept into view again on the next slope it was
empty.

At this trying moment the sky suddenly darkened into a deeper and more
menacing gloom, and the next moment I saw a dense rain-squall sweeping
along toward us. The men noticed it too, and one of them anxiously
inquired--

"How fur is he off now, Mr. Burt? Is there any chance of our gettin'
hold of him afore that squall strikes us?"

"If we don't I doubt it's all up with un, for I can't keep on at this
here game much longer," muttered the other.

"Try another spurt, lads!" I exclaimed; "another dozen strokes will do
it!"

My little crew responded gallantly to my adjuration; but in another
moment the squall was upon us, the rain descending like a cataract, and
in an instant everything beyond the length of the boat was hidden by
the dense curtain of falling water.

The rain lasted for nearly ten minutes, beating the sea down until its
surface was like oil, and the men availed themselves of the opportunity
to get a little more way upon the boat; but presently I bade them cease
pulling, feeling convinced that we must be quite close to the buoy,
although I could see nothing of it. Then the rain suddenly ceased, and
the wind with it, revealing the buoy right under the boat's bows; but,
alas, the man was gone! We recovered the buoy, and then all stood up
to see if we could discover our missing shipmate, and presently we saw
his cap floating some ten fathoms away; but the owner had vanished. We
shouted several times, thinking that possibly the poor fellow might
have been washed off the buoy, yet be still afloat somewhere not far
distant, although undistinguishable in the rapidly deepening gloom; but
no answer came. Then I suddenly bethought me that night and storm were
together closing down upon us, and I turned to look for the brig. There
she was, just distinguishable in the thickness to leeward, with far too
much of her canvas still blowing loose from her yards and stays, and I
turned suddenly sick with anxiety for our own fate as I noticed that
she was nearly three miles away.

Meanwhile the two men who constituted my boat's crew had risen to their
feet and were, like myself, peering anxiously hither and thither in the
hope of discovering the missing man. Failing to find him, however, we
again shouted, and then paused, fruitlessly listening for a reply.

It was while we were thus breathlessly listening that a faint, low,
moaning wail gradually made itself audible, strengthening and deepening
in tone even as we listened, until within the space of a few seconds
the sound had resolved itself into the unmistakable piping of rapidly
rising wind. Instinctively our glances went, with one accord, into the
fast-deepening blackness that loured in the southern quarter, and as we
looked I saw a long line of pallid white stretching along the horizon
and sweeping toward us at terrific speed. At the same instant one of
the men with me yelled--

"O my God! look to wind'ard, Mr. Burt! See that white squall comin'
down upon us, sir! What had we better do? It's no good tryin' to fetch
the brig; she's a good three mile away, and the wind'll be on us in
another two minutes!"

"No, no," I answered; "we must weather it out as best we can. Lay the
two oars together and bend the end of the painter round the pair of
them in the middle, then veer them away as a floating anchor to keep
her head to wind. It is our only chance."

No sooner said than done; but not a moment too soon; we had barely
time to complete even these brief and simple preparations when the
gale swept down upon us with a screaming yell that was absolutely
terrifying, and in an instant we were enveloped in a gloom that was
not night, but that yet resembled it in so far that we could scarcely
see each other, while the white water boiled in over both gunwales,
and the air was thick with scud-water that lashed our faces and hands
so cruelly that we could not face it, but were fain to crouch in
the bottom of the boat and allow our arched shoulders to take the
full brunt of the pelting. As to attempting to do anything for the
preservation of the boat and our own lives, it was out of the question;
the wind smote us with such merciless fury that it was positively
difficult for us to breathe, and had we been foolish enough to
endeavour to use an oar it would have been torn from our grasp in an
instant. Fortunately for us no such effort was needed, our impromptu
sea-anchor kept the boat's head to the wind, and although the foam and
scud-water were gradually filling our little craft, the process was so
slow that I was not very seriously alarmed at it, believing that the
squall would be over before our danger from that source became imminent.

The first spite of the squall lasted about ten minutes, after which it
moderated to the strength of a strong gale, when the sea at once began
to rise, and very soon it was breaking over the boat so vindictively
that it kept the three of us busy baling all the time, and even then
it was with the utmost difficulty that we were able to keep her
free. Meanwhile the night had fallen upon us, dark as the inside of
a cavern, and as for the brig, we had seen nothing of her since the
first outburst of the squall. We were drenched to the skin, and were
both hungry and thirsty, with not a drop of fresh water or the smallest
fragment of anything eatable in the boat, and no prospect of obtaining
either until we should be picked up. Our plight was therefore by no
means an enviable one. The two men who constituted my crew presently
began to discuss the probability of the brig returning in search of
us; but I must say that, for my own part, I had very little hope of
any such thing, and still less that, in the event of the skipper
undertaking such a search, he would be successful. But I did not think
he would make any such attempt; he would probably believe that the boat
had been swamped and all hands of us drowned at the outburst of the
squall, and being now short-handed, he would consequently deem it his
duty to waste no time upon what he would regard as an utterly useless
search, but to make the best of his way to his port of destination. The
two others thought differently, and were so completely overwhelmed with
consternation at the mere suggestion that their view might be a wrong
one, that I did not further attempt to rob them of the small fragment
of hope to which they so desperately clung. Besides, there was the
possibility--just the bare possibility--that the dawn might prove their
surmise to be correct.

In about two hours' time from the outburst of the squall the gale
broke, and by midnight--as nearly as it was possible for us to guess at
the time--the wind had dwindled away to a fresh breeze, while the sea
had so far gone down that it no longer broke into the boat, which we
were consequently now enabled to bale dry.

With all the skipper's faults he had his good points, and one of
them--much more common nowadays than it was at the period of my
adventure--was to keep every item of a boat's equipment in her; and the
great importance and advantage of this was now very strongly brought
home to us. For not only had we with us the full complement of oars,
rowlocks, and other ordinary fittings, but there was also the boat's
mast and sails--a sprit mainsail and foresail--snugly enwrapped in a
painted canvas case and securely lashed to the thwarts. The moment,
therefore, that it was safe to do so, we had the means to make sail.

It would probably be about two bells in the morning watch when, having
stepped the mast, we bore up under a double-reefed mainsail, and ran
away to the northward in search of the brig, which we hoped to find
some ten miles to leeward of us. An hour later a brightening of the
sky along the eastern horizon heralded the dawn, and shortly afterward
the sun rose brilliantly, flushing the sky around him with a thousand
delicate, evanescent tints of pink and gold, the presage of a fine day.

We at once inaugurated a keen look-out for the brig, or some other
craft--I was in no wise particular, so long as we were picked up; but
when we had run an estimated distance of ten miles to leeward the
horizon was still bare. Then came the question of what was the next
thing to be done--whether we should continue to run to leeward in
further search of the brig; whether we should remain where we were,
in the hope that she would shortly heave into view in search of us;
or whether we should haul up on a westerly course and endeavour to
intercept her. The latter was my suggestion, founded upon the opinion
I had formed that the skipper had probably given us up as lost; but
the idea conveyed was so unwelcome to my companions that eventually
we determined to heave to and remain where we were, that the brig
might have every chance to find us if the skipper should undertake
the search. Accordingly we hauled the foresheet over to windward,
lashed the helm hard down, and stripped for a wash-down in sea-water
while our clothes were drying in the sun. One of the seamen was for
going overboard for a swim, but I dissuaded him; and it was probably
fortunate for him that he listened to me, for while we were still
engaged upon our ablutions two big sharks made their appearance close
alongside the boat, and began to circle round her with a persistency
and deliberation that unpleasantly suggested the impression that they
had come to stay.

Meanwhile, with the appearance of the sun the wind dropped fast, until
by about eight o'clock it had died away to a flat calm, leaving the
water oil-smooth everywhere, save where the fins of the persistent
sharks cleft the surface into two thin, wedge-like ripples as they
lazily cruised to and fro, never widening the space between them and
the boat by more than half-a-dozen fathoms.

Eight o'clock! breakfast time! and here were we three unfortunate men,
keenly hungry, and our throats parched with a rapidly increasing thirst
that threatened to quickly become a torment, without the smallest
morsel of bread or the merest sip of water to divide between us, and
with no hope of getting any either so long as the calm lasted--unless,
indeed, we could find a ship by searching for her. Obviously this was
the only thing to be done; so, not without a muttered curse or two at
the cruelty of fortune, we rolled up the sails, unstepped the mast,
threw out the oars, and headed the boat to the northward, in which
direction we thought the brig might possibly be found. And, as we
pulled, the two sharks doggedly followed us, swimming side by side,
with their snouts about a fathom astern of the aftermost edge of the
rudder, which distance they maintained as truly as though they had been
in tow.

Noon arrived and passed, finding us still with nothing in sight,
ravenously hungry, and with our mouths slimy with a thirst so imperious
that the man who was pulling the bow oar suddenly stooped over the
side, scooped up a little salt water in his palm, and quickly drank it,
exclaiming in answer to my warning cry--

"I was _bound_ to do it, Mr. Burt, even if I has to suffer for it
a'terwards. This here thirst is just maddenin'!"

"Ay, Joey, it _is_ that," agreed the other man. "Have your sup o' salt
water done yer any good, mate?"

"No, I don't know as it have, Ned; I didn't take enough of it for
that," was the reply.

No more was said; but about half-an-hour afterwards "Joey" snatched
another sip, despite everything I could say to dissuade him; and a
little later his mate followed his example.

"It's no good talkin', Mr. Burt," he replied to my expostulations;
"drinkin' salt water _may_ perhaps make a man mad, but I shall pretty
soon go mad if I _don't_ drink something, so what's the odds? And
where's the brig; what's the 'old man' up to with her? why ain't he
lookin' for us? He _ain't_ lookin' for us, that's sartin, or we should
have hove the old hooker into view long afore this. Dash me if I don't
begin to think as you're right, Mr. Burt, about his havin' give us up
for lost, or else where is he? He ain't hereabouts nowheres, and so
he _must_ be headin' for his port, leavin' us here to die o' hunger
and thirst! It's murder, that's what it is; downright murder, and
nothin' else! What right have he to go and suppose that this here boat
foundered in the squall and drownded us? And what are we to do now,
'bandoned out here in the Hatlantic with never a bite nor a sup to keep
the life in us?"

"There is no doubt in my mind," I answered, "that our best plan will
be to head to the south'ard and west'ard for the Caycos Passage, and
so give ourselves a chance to be picked up by either an outward or a
homeward bound ship, for we shall be running right into the track of
both. It is, of course, most unfortunate that it has fallen calm with
us, but I do not believe it will last long; and when once a breeze
springs up a sail may heave into view at any moment and pick us up."

It was difficult to fully persuade these two untutored men of the
uselessness of searching further for the brig; but eventually I
won them round to my view, and we at once hauled up on a south-west
course--as nearly as we could hit it off by the sun--pulling hard until
sunset, in the hope that the brig might be found in this new direction,
for we were convinced that she must be at no great distance from us.
But at sunset the horizon was still bare, and the disappointment was so
bitter that we were unable to resist any longer the exhaustion that had
been steadily growing upon us all day, so the oars were laid in, and
with one consent the three of us flung ourselves down in the bottom of
the boat, with the result that I instantly fell into a deep slumber.

I slept all through the night, but was awakened next morning, just
as the day was dawning, by the man Ned, who, I found, was shaking me
furiously by the shoulder as he shouted, in terrified accents--

"Mr. Burt, Mr. Burt, wake up, sir! Where's Joey, where's Joey? He ain't
in the boat! Lord ha' mussy upon us! have he gone overboard, d'ye
think, sir?"

I started to my feet, vaguely comprehending that something was wrong,
but scarcely realising what it was. I found that there was a pleasant
little breeze blowing from the north-east--that could only have sprung
up very recently, from the look of the water, which was merely rippled,
without any sea--and that poor Ned, gaunt and cadaverous of feature,
with his deeply-sunken eyes glowing with the scorching fever of
long-continued thirst, was glaring at me with an expression of terror
that was near akin to madness.

"What is the matter, Ned? Why are you glaring at me like that, man? and
what is it you are saying about Joey?" I stammered, in the confusion of
a sudden and violent awakening out of a profound sleep.

"What am I sayin' about Joey?" reiterated the fellow. "Why, I am
sayin', Mr. Burt, that he ain't in the boat, and where is he? what's
happened to 'im?"

Then I fully realised, for the first time, that there were but two
of us in the boat, and that the man known as Joey had vanished as
completely as though he had never been, leaving no sign or indication
of what had become of him. One thing was certain, he was not in the
boat, and that fact meant that he had gone overboard. Involuntarily
I glanced astern, as though expecting to see him swimming near us;
but there was no sign of him. There was a horribly significant fact,
however, that instantly caught my attention, and that was, that whereas
yesterday there had been _two_ sharks following us, there was now but
one!

"Ned," said I, "what is the use of asking _me_ what has become of Joey;
how do _I_ know? I have been asleep the whole night until now; and when
we all stretched out together you know as well as I do that Joey was
with us. How long have _you_ been awake?"

"Not five minutes, Mr. Burt, sir," answered Ned. "I just woke up,
looked round, saw that Joey wasn't in the boat, and then I called you,
sir, right off the reel."

"Well," said I, "there can be no doubt whatever as to poor Joey's fate,
although neither of us happened to witness it; he has gone overboard,
most probably during a fit of madness induced by drinking salt water.
Let his fate be a lesson to you not to indulge that fatal practice,
however greatly you may be tempted. And now, since poor Joe is gone,
and we can do nothing to help him, let us get the canvas on the boat
and make the best of this fine fair wind."

Sail was made upon the boat, and we soon had the satisfaction of
finding ourselves sliding along before the wind at a speed of between
four and five knots. I took the yoke-lines, believing that I could
steer a truer course than Ned, while he maintained a sharp look-out for
a sail. Hour after hour dragged wearily by however, and still the ocean
remained deserted, save for our own tiny sail; and meanwhile our hunger
and thirst grew apace, until there were times when my torment was so
exquisitely keen that I felt sorely tempted to follow Joey's example,
and end it all.

As for Ned, although the springing up of the fair wind seemed to
hearten him up a bit at first, I noticed that, as the day wore on
without result, despair was taking an ever stronger clutch upon him;
and several times he cried out that it was all over with us, and we
might as well give up, finishing off with a whole string of bitter
curses upon the skipper and his shipmates for deserting him. It was
curious to note the intense selfishness that misfortune had so quickly
developed in the man; he spoke of the misfortune as _his_, not _ours_;
and he execrated the captain and crew for deserting _him_, not _us_.

And so the day dragged wearily on, and night--cool, placid, and
brilliant with the countless millions of stars that jewelled the
sky--fell upon us, finding us still alone and unrescued. Ned, with the
new-born selfishness bred in him by his sufferings, coiled himself
away in the bows of the boat and fell asleep--or seemed to do so--as
soon as it fell dark, without excuse, apology, or offer to relieve me
at the yoke-lines, although I had been steering all day. He remained
thus for about an hour and a half, betraying great restlessness, and
then, rising to his feet, half stumbled, half crawled aft into the
stern-sheets.

"I can't sleep, so I might as well give up trying," he muttered. "You
give me the lines, and lie down yourself, Mr. Burt; maybe you'll be
luckier than me, and get a bit of a nap."

"Thanks, Ned, I will," answered I; and without further ado I stretched
myself at his feet in the bottom of the boat, and straightway fell
asleep.

I do not think I could have slept, however, more than ten minutes when
I suddenly found myself broad awake again, with every nerve a-tingle
and every muscle braced, as though I had suddenly and without warning
been brought face to face with some awful, deadly peril. I opened my
eyes, and the first object that met my sight was the star-glint upon
the long blade of a sheath-knife which my companion was poising above
my breast. Another second, and the blade flashed downward, my hand
instinctively dashing upward to meet and ward off the blow, and the
next instant Ned and I were fighting together for life, my antagonist
being uppermost, while my right hand gripped his right wrist so
powerfully that presently he dropped his knife with a cry, and flinging
himself upon me, strove to seize my throat with his disengaged hand.
In the struggle that ensued I somehow managed to scramble to my feet,
despite the efforts of my antagonist to keep me down, and my next
endeavour was to force Ned forward into the eyes of the boat, so that I
might securely lash him with the painter until the frenzy that seemed
to have suddenly seized him should have passed off. Then--God knows how
it happened, I swear it was not intentional on my part--all in a moment
Ned seemed to stumble or throw himself backwards over the gunwale of
the boat, and before I could do anything to save him he was gone.
Instantly there was a savage rush and a furious swirl in the water
alongside, the boat was struck a violent blow beneath her water-line,
and in the icy starlight I distinctly saw the white gleam of a shark's
belly as he turned on his side to seize my unfortunate shipmate. Then
came another momentary swirl of water, in the midst of which the
monster--without doubt the same shark that had been following us so
persistently--disappeared, dragging the unfortunate seaman with him;
and there was I, sick and faint with horror, left alone in the wide
waste of waters.

[Illustration: "Ned seemed to stumble or throw himself backwards over
the gunwale of the boat."]

What happened to me immediately upon the occurrence of this dreadful
tragedy I do not know; but when I came to myself I found that I had
somehow made my way back into the stern-sheets of the boat, and
that I was grasping the yoke-lines and the mainsheet, while--quite
unconsciously, and by instinct--I was keeping the little craft dead
before the wind.

I have only a very confused impression of how I spent the remainder
of that terrible night; I think that horror and privation combined
must have made me delirious, for I have a vague recollection of having
caught myself alternately crying, laughing, cursing, and singing;
with the one fixed idea that the boat _must_ be kept dead before the
wind predominating over everything else. I remember also complaining
bitterly, aloud, at the inordinate length of the night, and then being
dully surprised at the reappearance of the sun.

With the return of daylight, however, I seemed to get better again,
in so far as that my senses fully returned to me; but the anguish I
endured from hunger and thirst is not to be described in words. And
still, look where I would, the horizon remained bare; it really seemed
as though I had unaccountably drifted into some spot of ocean unknown
to navigation, yet I knew that I was actually in a well-frequented
highway.

Suddenly, when the sun was about two hours high, I caught sight of a
small floating object almost directly ahead and at no great distance
from the boat, and, curiosity prompting me, I shifted my helm for it.
At first I could not guess what it was, but when within half-a-dozen
fathoms of it I saw that it was a small turtle, asleep. With infinite
caution I steered the boat so as to pass it within arm's reach, and
as I ranged up alongside I was fortunate enough to seize it by a fin,
whereby I was enabled to lift it into the boat. The creature probably
weighed about six pounds, but in my exhausted condition it taxed my
strength to the utmost to secure it. No sooner was it in the boat,
however, than I cut off its head with Ned's knife, and drank the blood,
which restored me in a truly marvellous manner; then, with a lavish
expenditure of time and trouble, I at length contrived to get the
shells apart and to make a sparing meal of the raw flesh. Doubtless
it was a sufficiently disgusting repast, but in my famished condition
it seemed that I had never in all my life tasted anything half so
delicious. Toward evening I devoured the remainder of the flesh,
despite the fact that it had already grown perceptibly putrid; and then
I must have fallen asleep, and slept soundly throughout the night, for
when consciousness returned I was astonished to find that the day was
breaking.

My good fortune of the previous day led me now to maintain a bright
look-out for turtles as well as ships; but the day proved a blank in
regard to both, as did the next day also, by the evening of which
I seemed to be in as pitiable a condition as though I had never
caught a turtle at all. Then ensued a period of steadily increasing
torment, that at length so far robbed me of reason that I lost all
count of time, day and night becoming simply alternate eternities of
indescribable anguish. Whether I instinctively retained control of the
boat, or whether I allowed her to drift along at her own sweet will,
I shall never know; but my next recollection is of awaking out of a
kind of stupor to see--in a hazy, uncertain, dreamlike manner--a blotch
of greyish-green upon the horizon ahead, to which I at first attached
no significance, but which as the boat gradually neared it, impressed
itself at length upon my semi-paralysed consciousness as land. Yet even
when I comprehended thus much I still failed to realise the tremendous
importance of my discovery, and I can only attribute it to instinct
rather than reason that I took the boat round to the lee side of the
island before beaching her. But when, as I rounded the low point and
hauled up to the wind, I caught my first whiff of the land and what was
growing upon it, my senses seemed to revive, and I looked about me,
with a glimmer of returning intelligence, for a suitable spot at which
to land.

And, as I looked, the gleam and sparkle of water trickling down the
beach caught my eye; and instantly I seemed to go quite mad with joy,
springing to my feet and laughing, shouting, singing, crying, dancing,
and, in short, behaving like the demented being that I was. I headed
the boat straight for that particular spot, and as she grounded I fell
headlong overboard and crawled upon hands and knees through the shallow
water and up the beach until I reached the tiny rivulet, into which I
at once plunged my face.

Oh, the exquisite, indescribable delight and enjoyment of that first
drink! I shall never forget it! Since then I have tasted the choicest
vintages, and have partaken of beverages cunningly compounded to
afford the utmost gratification to the palate, but never have I tasted
anything half so inexpressibly delicious as that draught of pure
spring water! I fortunately had sense enough to drink very slowly and
sparingly, and thus escaped the ill effects that would undoubtedly
have otherwise ensued; and my next business was to look for something
to eat. This presented itself in the form of a quantity of shell-fish,
which I gathered without difficulty along the water's edge, and roasted
in a fire kindled with the assistance of my flint and steel.

The absolute ease with which I had thus at once obtained food and water
assured me that I need have no apprehension upon that score; and, with
my mind thus relieved, I flung myself down upon the hot, dry sand,
under the protecting shadow of an overhanging bush, and at once fell
into a profound sleep.

It was within about an hour of sunset when I awoke, greatly refreshed,
but with a ravenous appetite; and I had just time to procure, prepare,
and consume another meal of roast shell-fish, and to take a long,
satisfying draught of water, when night fell, and I again flung myself
upon the sand, where I had previously rested, to sleep soundly until
morning.

My first care when I awoke next morning was to find a spot where I
might bathe without fear of sharks; and this was discovered at no great
distance, in a large rock pool, deep enough to allow of my swimming in
it. Greatly refreshed by my dip, I next set about providing breakfast;
and when I had at length satisfied my appetite, I deemed it advisable
to effect a thorough exploration of my island kingdom. My territory
was of so limited an extent that this exploration was effectually
accomplished by noon; the islet being of the kind known in the West
Indies as a "Kay," with nothing very remarkable about it, except that
in one part it rose to a height of about one hundred feet, and was
covered with vegetation right down to high-water mark. These islets
are frequently low; and I considered myself fortunate in having
come ashore upon one of some height, as I should thus be afforded an
exceptional opportunity to survey the ocean and maintain a look-out for
passing vessels.

I thought I could not better employ the afternoon than in ascending to
the summit of this hill; and accordingly, as soon as I had provided
and partaken of another meal, I started out from my "camp" with this
intention. The ground was so densely overgrown everywhere that there
appeared to be but scant choice as to route; I therefore plunged
straight into the bush and began to force my way upward as well as I
could, and a very hot and fatiguing task I found it. I made fairly
good progress, however, for about half-an-hour; and then suddenly, and
without any warning, I found myself sinking downward through a dense
carpet of creepers, and before I could do anything to save myself, down
I went, a distance of perhaps twenty feet, falling so heavily that I
was stunned for several minutes, and when I revived I found that my
head was cut and bleeding.

I was in profound darkness; but after sitting quietly for a time to
recover my scattered senses I became conscious of a very faint and
feeble glimmer of light, following which I eventually came to a mass
of broken and fallen rock, through which the light filtered, and by
working at this diligently for something like two hours I at length
succeeded in removing enough to enable me to creep into the open air
once more, when I found myself upon the weather side of the island, at
the base of a low, crumbling, rocky cliff. I carefully noted the spot,
determining to return on the morrow with torches to explore the cavern
thus strangely discovered, and then made the best of my way back to my
camp.

On the following morning I carried out my resolution, finding--as my
experiences of the previous day had led me to suppose--that the cavern
was of considerable extent; but I met with nothing remarkable until
I reached its farther extremity--close to the spot where I had fallen
through--when I suddenly came upon several skeletons, clad in the
ragged remains of what had once been clothing, and girt with leather
belts, to which were buckled old-fashioned, rusty hangers, and into
which, in most cases, were thrust one or a pair of rusty flintlock
pistols. Moreover, several of these grisly relics of humanity grasped
long, dagger-shaped knives or pistols in their bony hands; and after
surveying their attitude and general grouping for some time, it
gradually dawned upon me that I was gazing upon the result of a savage
and protracted fight! Indeed, it looked as though a fierce and deadly
quarrel had arisen over a gambling transaction of some sort, for a
closer scrutiny revealed the fact that the sandy floor was strewn with
gold and silver coins, which I subsequently discovered were Spanish.

My first impulse was to beat a precipitate retreat; my second to still
further investigate. The second impulse prevailed; and richly was I
rewarded, for right at the far extremity of the cavern I came upon a
number of massive chests, which, upon breaking them open, I found to
contain gold in coin, bars, and cups, vases, candlesticks, crosses, and
other products of the goldsmith's art, all the articles being of most
beautiful and elaborate workmanship, while many of them were thickly
encrusted with gems that, to my inexperienced eye, seemed to be of
almost fabulous value! There was no doubt about it, I had literally
fallen upon one of those pirate hoards that one so often reads about
but so very seldom discovers. Having completed my survey, I filled my
pockets with gold coin, and returned to my camp to think matters over,
taking care to block and conceal the entrance to the cave behind me.

[Illustration: "I met with nothing remarkable until I reached its
farther extremity."]

My discovery had not robbed me of all appetite, and as I returned I
industriously gathered shell-fish for my dinner. It was while thus
employed that, happening to instinctively glance at the horizon, as
I repeatedly did, my gaze met the white upper canvas of a ship just
showing above the ocean's edge. For a full quarter of an hour I watched
her, at the end of which time it became evident that she would pass
my island at a distance of some ten or twelve miles. In an instant my
resolution was taken; and forgetting all about dinner, I dashed at full
speed for my boat, flung myself into her, and pushed off to intercept
the stranger. The course that she was steering favoured me; and at
eight bells that afternoon I was standing on the deck of the barque
_British Queen_, telling my story--except that part relating to the
treasure, which I kept most religiously to myself. The _British Queen_
happened to be bound to Kingston, and four days later I landed upon the
wharf there, having meanwhile ascertained that my island was that known
as Samana Kay. The _Lancashire Witch_ had not arrived, nor was she ever
afterwards heard of, the inference being that she had foundered in the
squall which was the beginning of my adventure.

My first anxiety now was to convert my Spanish coin into British
currency; and this, by the exercise of considerable patience and
caution, I contrived to accomplish in about a week, without arousing
any suspicion, so far as I was aware; the result being that I found
myself the possessor of one hundred and twenty pounds sterling, which
I have since had reason to believe was rather less than half what I
ought to have received. With this sum, however, I had no difficulty in
chartering and fitting out a stout little falucha of some forty tons,
manned by four negroes--one of whom was her owner--in which, about a
fortnight after my arrival in Kingston, I sailed for Samana Kay.

It took us eight days to reach the Kay, under the lee of which the
falucha came to an anchor; and I lost no time in making my way to
the cavern. I was terribly afraid that--although it had evidently
remained undiscovered for so many years--somebody might have found it
and carried off the treasure during my absence; but no, everything was
still there, just as I had left it; and little by little I conveyed
the whole aboard the falucha and stowed it away in the stout cases I
had provided, the negro crew taking no notice of me; indeed, when they
were informed that I did not require their assistance, they needed no
further encouragement to sleep all day. The labour of transferring the
whole of the treasure to the falucha kept me busy for a trifle over
three weeks; but I did not grudge it, for when at length we weighed for
Kingston, with the whole of it in the falucha's hold, I considered that
I was not far short of being a millionaire!

That same night--or, rather, during the small hours of the following
morning--while I was vainly striving to sleep in the small, hot,
cockroach-haunted cabin of the falucha, a terrific hubbub and shouting
suddenly arose on deck, and as I leapt out of my bunk to ascertain the
cause of the outcry, the little hooker staggered and reeled almost
to her beam-ends under a violent blow, accompanied by the sounds of
crashing and rending timber, and the loud inrush of a large volume
of water. There was no need, now, for investigation; we had been run
down; and, feeling that the falucha was rapidly sinking beneath my
feet, I made a spring for the companion-ladder, and somehow contrived
to claw my way on deck. While I was doing this the shouting on deck
suddenly ceased, and as I emerged from the companion-way I was just
in time to see the dark bulk of a large ship sliding rapidly away on
a taut bowline. I shouted loudly for help, but the craft was already
some fifty fathoms to windward, and my shouting evoked no reply. And
while I had my hands to my mouth, and was taking breath for another
hail, the falucha quietly cocked up her stern and plunged to the
bottom, bows foremost, taking all my treasure with her, and dragging
me down for a considerable distance after her. At length, however, all
but suffocated, I rose to the surface again, and found floating quite
close to me the falucha's mast, with the yard and sail attached, and
to this I held on until close upon noon next day, when the British
ship _Duchess of Devonshire_, homeward bound, picked me up. Six weeks
later I stepped ashore on the wharf of London Dock, with two pounds
in my pockets, the joint contribution of the skipper and mates of the
_Duchess of Devonshire_, and with the clothes I stood up in.



"HARI RĀM, THE DACOIT"

BY E. F. POLLARD

_Author of "Roger the Ranger," "A New England Raid," &c. &c._



CHAPTER I


"Hurrah! you are a brick, Frank!" and Gilbert Lindsay sprang across
the room and came down with an energetic thud on his brother's
shoulder. "Gently," said the young man, "no need to damage me by way of
gratitude. I'm just as pleased as you are, lad."

"When shall we start?" asked Gilbert cheerily.

"As soon as we can get our outfit," said Frank, "and we will set about
that to-day. I'm off to the city; you had better come with me."

So the two brothers started together in good spirits. Frank Lindsay
was considerably relieved by the fact that he was not to be separated
from Gilbert, his mother's last charge to him. He was himself only
five-and-twenty, had been educated as an engineer, and was already
noted as a man of promise. This had resulted in an offer of an
appointment as chief engineer to the Ganges Coal mine, in the Damuda
district of Bengal. He had, however, hesitated to accept what most men
would have jumped at, as it meant separation from Gilbert, who was at
an age when a boy needs either a father or brother's control. Gilbert
was sixteen, still at school, with no home where he could spend his
vacations, for the two brothers were virtually alone in the world.
Frank had therefore almost decided to make the sacrifice and throw the
appointment over, when Gilbert said carelessly--

"Why not take me with you? I mean to be an engineer like yourself, and
I might just as well begin my apprenticeship with you as go on grinding
at school."

Frank said nothing at the time, but the next day he spoke to Mr. Jacob,
one of the managers of the Company, who, having boys of his own,
understood Frank's scruples. He therefore facilitated matters, and it
was settled that Gilbert should accompany his brother to India as an
articled pupil, and, as soon as he was of definite use, to receive
suitable remuneration.

It was with a certain sense of elation that Gilbert bade his masters
and schoolfellows farewell. Going to India was a step in life; he felt
no longer a schoolboy, but a man.

"You'll be tiger and leopard hunting whilst we're grinding away at
Homer and Virgil, scanning verses and all that rot," said his especial
chum Harry Marsden, as they strolled round the old playground together
for the last time.

"You shall have my first skin, Harry," answered Gilbert with
magnanimous generosity.

"Thanks," answered Harry; but the prospect did not console him for the
loss of his friend.

       *       *       *       *       *

Both Frank and Gilbert soon found their sea-legs, and after the first
few days thoroughly enjoyed the voyage.

On reaching Calcutta Frank found a telegram awaiting him, requesting
him to use all possible despatch to reach the mines.

Upon inquiry he found there was a train leaving Calcutta at nine
o'clock for Giridhi, the terminus of the East Indian Railway branch
line running up to the Ganges Coal-mines. He decided, therefore,
to start that same night, by which means they would reach their
destination the following morning about six o'clock, and arrive at the
mines a couple of hours later.

"We've the whole day before us," said Frank, "so I think I'll hunt up
my old friend Fergusson; he's in the police; and I'm pretty sure he's
in Calcutta at the present time. I've got his address somewhere."

He looked in his pocket-book, where he found it, and calling a ghari,
drove to Circular Road. Fergusson was delighted to see them; but
when he heard where they were bound for, he burst out laughing and
exclaimed: "Well, you're going into a nice hornet's nest, a district
which is giving Government at this moment more trouble than any in the
Presidency!"

"Indeed," said Frank, "and why?"

"It's overrun with Dacoits," answered Fergusson. "At their head they
have a notorious rascal, named Hari Rām. Rumour runs that he is a
sort of Robin Hood. He plunders the rich, and shares his booty with
the poor, who consequently protect him in such a fashion that we
cannot lay our hands on him; he just slips through our fingers. He
politely declares he will do the English no harm, and so far he has
kept his word. I have not heard of a single case of an Englishman being
attacked; but the native merchants are having a bad time of it. He
waylays their carts, carries off their bullocks, and robs them of their
cotton, or cocoons, as the case may be. Not a day passes but what we
have reports of Hari Rām's misdoings."

"Rather a bad look-out," said Frank. "It seems absurd that the
Government cannot lay hands on him."

"It won't seem so absurd to you when you know the country better,"
answered Fergusson, "especially the native class; but, of course, it
must be put a stop to. Caught he must be, and punished pretty severely,
or the country won't long be habitable; in its present state it's
wholly unsafe."

Gilbert had listened to this conversation with considerable zest. He
had not imagined there could be anything so delightful as Robin Hoods
in India. Tigers and leopards he was prepared for, but to chase a real
live robber was an adventure beyond his wildest imaginings.

"What do you call these robbers, sir?" he asked.

"Dacoits," answered Fergusson. "Are you inclined to give this one a
chase?" he said with a smile. "I think you'll find him too tough for
you. He's up, they say, to every imaginable dodge; no one can get near
his hiding-place. Government is thinking of offering a reward for his
capture; but I doubt if even that will have the least effect in his
case. If he makes a haul he shares it with his fellows, so they have
nothing to gain, indeed much to lose, by his capture."

"It would be decidedly mean of them," exclaimed Gilbert indignantly.

"That's of no account," said Fergusson, laughing. "An Indian's standard
is considerably below par; as a rule, he will do anything for money.
But now I must show you Calcutta."

It was already late in the afternoon and the heat had somewhat
subsided, so ordering his ghari, he drove them to Garden Reach, and
altogether entertained them with Anglo-Indian hospitality. In due
time he accompanied them to the station at Hooghly to meet the nine
o'clock express. So they parted with mutual satisfaction, and the
hope of meeting at some future time. It was scarcely six o'clock when
the Lindsays reached Giridhi, a most desolate sort of terminus. Frank
was beginning to wonder how he should get to his destination, when a
native came up and salaamed to him, talking rapidly. Being perfectly
unacquainted with Hindustanee, Frank failed to understand a word he
said, and only caught the repeated title "Sahib."

"What does the fellow want?" he asked, turning to one of the railway
officials for explanation.

"He says he has been sent to meet you, sir, with a shari and ponies,
and they are waiting outside the station; the ponies are very
impatient."

"What about our luggage?" asked Frank.

"Coolies will carry it for you. You had better start without delay."

Following this advice, the two brothers signed to the chaprassi, and
pointed out the different packages on the platform as being their
possessions, to all of which the man acquiesced by salaaming, which
amused Gilbert considerably.

On leaving the station they saw a small vehicle on high wheels, which
rolled from side to side according as the prancing and kicking of the
ponies jerked it first one way, then the other. The two young men
looked at it curiously, questioning in their own minds how they were
even so much as to get into it.

"Well!" said Gilbert, "if we're not thrown out of this concern before
we've travelled a quarter of a mile we may think ourselves lucky."

"It does seem risky," said Frank; "but I suppose it's all right."

The syce had already sprung into his seat. There was much noise and
screaming, and tramping of ponies' feet, but somehow Frank and Gilbert,
being agile, managed to scramble into the vehicle. Then the ponies'
heads were let loose and the animals dashed off, obliging the occupants
to hold tight to the sides for fear of being thrown out. After a short
time, however, they settled down, and became aware that though the
mode of locomotion was intensely uncomfortable, it was by no means so
dangerous as it seemed.

The country through which they passed was perfectly wild; there was
indeed no main road, only what the natives call a chachha road, which
means a rough, unmade path.

After a short time the conveyance drew up before a bungalow, and the
syce sprang to the ground.

"I suppose this is our destination," said Frank, and forthwith he and
Gilbert swung themselves out of their rickety chariot with a certain
thankful feeling at finding themselves once more on _terra firma_.

"Mr. Lindsay," said an English voice, and looking round, Frank
recognised a fellow-countryman.

"I'm afraid you've had rather a bad time of it," the speaker continued.

"Oh! not at all," answered Frank, "it is a mere matter of habit; after
the first we stuck on pretty firmly and felt no further alarm."

"Wretched concern," said their new acquaintance, "but I thought it
better than a palki; at least it was quicker, and we want you badly. I
must introduce myself--James Dickson, overseer," and he held out his
hand, which both Frank and Gilbert shook heartily.

"I got a fright yesterday," continued Dickson; "we had a sort of slip
in the mine and the machinery seemed to give way. But it's a shame to
talk business after your journey, before you have had a bath and got
some refreshment. Here, you fellows, show the sahibs to their rooms and
see that the baths are ready, then we'll breakfast."

"We shall certainly be glad of both," said Frank; "but at the same
time, if you consider my presence at the mine necessary, I'm quite
ready to accompany you there at once."

"When you have had your baths and changed your clothes you will find me
on the verandah," said Dickson. "We will breakfast and talk business at
the same time; there are a few things I should like to explain to you
before you go to the mines."

"Very good," said Frank, "we will not keep you waiting long."



CHAPTER II


The next few days Gilbert found himself cast on his own resources, for
the condition of the mine was such as to require Frank's uninterrupted
attention, and the lad, of course, could be of no use; the mere fact
of seeing after him would have been a hindrance. The exploits of Hari
Rām still retained their charm for him; he was never tired of
talking of him, and he went about with the police officer gathering
information as to the man's doings, to the great amusement of the
station.

Scarcely a day passed but complaints were brought of robberies
committed in the district by Hari Rām's gang. The authorities seemed
perfectly incapable of tackling these men. They were utterly fearless,
and roved about with impunity. In appearance and dress--if a dhoti[8]
can be dignified by that name--they were just like the ordinary native,
so it was difficult to identify them....

[8] Loin cloth.

"Gilbert Lindsay!"

The lad started up in bed, and by the light of the moon saw Jenkins,
the police superintendent, standing in the doorway.

"We've had a notice," he said, "and we're off, if you like to come with
us."

"Rather!" answered Gilbert.

"Then hurry up," said Jenkins, "there's no time to be lost."

Gilbert needed no second bidding, slipped into his clothes, saying as
he passed Frank's door--

"I'm off with Jenkins, Frank."

"Keep out of mischief," called out the elder brother.

"All right," answered Gilbert, and he joined the officer on the
verandah.

A tumtum was waiting to take them to the neighbouring station some
miles off, from whence news had been received that a native merchant's
house had been despoiled; it was believed the robbers were still
lurking about in hiding. Superintendent Jenkins was in high spirits,
for a runner had brought the news, so no time had been lost.

"We must nab some of them this time!" he said cheerily. "I wanted a
clue to their whereabouts; now I've got it, and need only follow it up."

It was midnight when they started, and they were more than half-way
to their destination, driving at a good pace through the jungle, when
suddenly two naked figures leaped out from behind a group of trees, and
springing at the horse's head, caused it to rear and prance, so as to
endanger the safety of the occupants of the tumtum.

The superintendent stood up, pistol in hand, shouting--

"Let go, you rascals, or I'll fire!" and suiting the action to the
word, he cocked his pistol and fired at the foremost figure. The shot
missed, and almost instantaneously he perceived that the horse was
loose--he guessed at once that the traces must have been cut; the
tumtum swerved and turned on its side, depositing the superintendent on
the road.

Like lightning the thought crossed Gilbert's mind--

"They want to prevent our reaching the village. If only I could
checkmate them!"

With that he started at a quick run, trusting that in the still dim
light he might escape observation. He had often won pretty stiff races
at school, but he was out of training now, and had hardly covered half
a mile when he heard the swift sound of naked feet gaining upon him.
Still he would not give in. He knew, from having driven over the ground
before, that he was on the road to a tea-planter's bungalow. If he
could only reach that he could give the alarm; but the hope was soon
squashed. He felt himself caught in a vigorous pair of arms.

"Now, young sahib, lie still; no harm happen to you. Hari Rām never
hurt sahibs, only they must not stop his way or hinder his work."

"So you are Hari Rām, the great Dacoit?" said Gilbert. "I'm
delighted to see you; at the same time I would rather you hadn't upset
the tumtum and perhaps killed my friend. What are you going to do with
me, may I ask?"

"Keep you quiet till evening; it is not good for sahibs to be out in
the heat; then I'll put you on your way back to the mines. I mean you
no harm. You wanted to catch the men who took some of the mahajan's[9]
money, only a little, and they gave half to the poor; now I have
stopped you doing so. These mahajans are bigger thieves than we are,
and make the poor suffer; it is the will of Eshwar that they should be
punished." Gilbert could just see that he was a tall muscular man with
handsome features, the bold black eyes shining under his white turban;
he was quite naked save for the dhoti, and his dark mahogany skin
shone, from the frequent application of oil, like a well-polished piece
of furniture. He stood Gilbert's scrutinising examination with perfect
good-humour.

[9] Rich merchant.

"You'll know me when you next see me," he said.

[Illustration: "You'll know me when you next see me."]

"Yes, I should know you anywhere," answered Gilbert.

Just at that moment they heard the clatter of horses' feet.

"It's the Miss Sahiba!" said Hari Rām, and instantly bolted. Turning
round, Gilbert saw a girl coming quickly over the brushwood, mounted on
a splendid horse and followed by a syce.

"This is luck!" thought Gilbert. The rider saw him, and checked her
horse, asking--

"Has anything happened? It's unusual for an Englishman to be alone in
the jungle at this time in the morning."

Rapidly Gilbert recounted what had taken place. The girl listened
attentively.

"Then you don't know what has become of your friend?" she said.

"Only that he was knocked over," said Gilbert.

"And you have been quietly entertaining Hari Rām?" she continued
with a smile.

"Yes," said Gilbert; "but I am sorry to say he has escaped. He was
going to take me with him, but you startled the hare, and he was off
like a shot."

"Oh! he always is," answered the girl. "But now we had better see after
your friend. How far do you suppose he is from here?"

"Not half a mile," answered Gilbert. "If you will ride forward I will
follow."

All this has been long to tell, but had really occupied but a short
time. When Gilbert and the girl reached the spot where the attack had
been made, they found the driver had secured the horse, but could
not proceed because of the damage the tumtum had sustained; also
Superintendent Jenkins had been considerably injured. He had fallen on
his head and his face was badly cut about, but he was conscious.

When Jenkins saw Gilbert returning with a companion he was greatly
relieved, and called out--

"Well, youngster, you've managed at least to fall on your feet."

"By a mere fluke," said Gilbert. "What shall we do now?"

"Do!" exclaimed the superintendent. "We're within a few miles of
Pokharia, and if you hurry up you'll be there in no time. Let the
police know what's happened, and that the rascal is on the loose
somewhere in the neighbourhood; tell them to turn out as many men as
they can and beat the jungle. Off with you, there's no time to lose!"

"All right," said Gilbert, and he prepared to go.

"I'll turn back with you to my father's house," said the girl; "it
lies on your way." Then bending down to Jenkins she added, "We will
send a palki as quickly as possible for you; it will not be long;" and
therewith she and Gilbert went off.

"It's just as well you're not alone," she said, "as Hari Rām might
pounce on you again to prevent your getting on; he may be watching us
now, so we'll take a cross road. I always ride the first thing in the
morning," she continued, "the earlier the better; it's fortunate for
you I started to-day even earlier than usual."

"It most certainly is," said Gilbert. "A minute later and I should have
been far away in the jungle. I wonder where Hari Rām puts up."

"Anywhere and everywhere," answered his companion. "You're lucky to
have seen him. I wish I had. He's an awfully fine fellow, you know,
if he weren't a Dacoit. Other people may hear of his misdoings,
but there's not a day passes but I hear of his kindnesses to his
fellow-countrymen, and the natives worship the ground he treads on. We
shall never catch him, and if the truth's told, I don't want him to be
caught."

"Rank treason," said Gilbert laughing.

"There's our bungalow," said the girl, pointing to an unusually large
thatched building, just distinguishable through the trees.

The syce had run all the way back, and told his master that some
Englishmen had been attacked by the Dacoits, and that a young sahib
had only just escaped being carried away by Hari Rām himself. Mr.
Macgregor was on the point of starting to see what had happened when
the two young people entered the compound.

"Hullo, Vansie, what's up?" he called out. "Is this the young man who
was beset by the Dacoits?"

"Yes, father," said Vansie, springing lightly to the ground.
"_He's_ all right, but there's a smashed-up tumtum, and the police
superintendent badly hurt. You must send for him at once."

The Scotchman whistled.

"I wonder what the Government is about, to let this thing go on?"

"It's a shameful state of affairs! a perfect disgrace!" said Mr.
Macgregor indignantly. "Walk in, sir," and he was leading the way into
the bungalow, when his daughter interfered, saying--

"Father, you must send a palki off at once."

"Allah Baksh," called out Mr. Macgregor, "see that two palkis and
bearers are got ready sharp. Tell Miss Sahiba's syce to go with you, he
knows the place."

"If you will excuse me," said Gilbert, "I'll go on to Pokharia without
delay. It is important that the people there should know we were coming
with help, and how we have been stopped."

"Of course it is," said Mr. Macgregor, "but you cannot go alone. As
soon as we've had breakfast, I'll go with you."

Though loth to delay, Gilbert could not very well refuse. It was still
quite early, and it would not take more than half-an-hour to reach
Pokharia. The khansamah was already laying the table on the verandah,
and preparing chottâ hazari.[10] Mr. Macgregor was impatient, for he
was very angry. These continual raids of the Dacoits, though they did
not personally attack _him_, kept the whole country in a state of
turmoil. He was a large tea-planter, a widower, and Vansie, the girl
we have just introduced to our readers, was his only child. She was
tall and lithe, only sixteen years of age, and yet she was a perfect
woman, with a delicate olive complexion, of that peculiar whiteness
consequent upon the climate. Her features were straight and delicate,
the lips well cut and marvellously red; her eyes were dark, with a
certain languor in them, made more so by the long curled eyelashes,
and delicately-pencilled eyebrows. Gilbert thought he had never seen
anything so beautiful.

[10] Little breakfast.

"Why do you go to Pokharia; the men are sure to have escaped, and we
know Hari Rām is far away by this time," she said to her father.

"That's not so certain," he answered; "he's pretty daring, and is as
likely as not to remain in the neighbourhood out of bravado."

Vansie pouted.

"Well, I think it's a horrid thing to be chasing a man who, after all,
does us no harm."

"Do you call it doing no harm attacking the superintendent?" said her
father. "Nonsense, Vansie; it's ridiculous for you to stand up for a
thief and a robber!"

The girl moved away from the table, with a smile on her lips.

"Well, one thing is certain: you're not likely to catch him," she said.
"I'll go and order the rooms to be got ready for the gentleman," and
nodding to Gilbert as if they were old friends, she entered the house.

At that moment the horses came round.

"If you're ready we'll start at once," said Mr. Macgregor. "But you
have not yet told me your name."

"Gilbert Lindsay. I'm brother to the new engineer of the Ganges mines."

"I've heard of him," said Macgregor, "I shall be glad to make his
acquaintance."

"I'll tell him so," said Gilbert. "He has been much occupied since we
came, but I'm sure he'll be delighted to know you."

When they mounted to ride away; Gilbert turned to look back at the
bungalow, and saw Vansie standing on the steps. She waved her hands and
called out mockingly--

"Good sport! good sport!"

[Illustration: "Good sport! good sport!"]

Her father shook his fist at her, and said laughingly, "The misdeeds
of this Hari Rām have fascinated her. I believe she would be quite
angry if he were caught."

"He's a very handsome fellow," said Gilbert, "if he were only clothed
like a Christian. He was by no means discourteous to me. I almost wish
he had carried me off. I should like to have seen a little more of
him."

"Well, I'd like to see him before a magistrate," said Macgregor, "hear
him sentenced to a good term of imprisonment, and sent to the Andaman
Islands; that's the only way we shall be rid of him and his whole gang;
they would never hold together without him."

They were not long reaching Pokharia, and rode straight to the
missionary's house.

"You are too late," said Mr. M'Call. "The rascals have got off again.
The robbery took place early last evening just after sunset. Pooran was
the man robbed. He happened to be out, and when he came back he found
his house regularly looted. I sent a runner straight off to Damūdá
for the police, but this delay has given the Dacoits time to betake
themselves to the hills or the jungle."

"Well, I propose we telegraph straight to head-quarters," said
Macgregor. "I'm quite willing myself to ride to the first telegraphic
station to send the message. Something must be done without delay."

Two or three of the principal natives of the village dropped in--one
man who owned several carts, and who did a large business in raw
cocoons, complained bitterly of the difficulty of transport. "The
natives are half-hearted," he said. "Hari Rām is so open-handed
amongst the poor that they think there is more to be lost than gained
if he were apprehended. We, the mahajans, are obedient servants to
Government, therefore Government ought to protect us."

"Of course it ought," said Macgregor; "but it's no use sending a
couple of men; we must have a score, and that soon. I think the fact
of the agent being injured in this last fray will have some effect.
I'm willing to take the responsibility myself and ride at once to the
telegraphic station if some of you will accompany me. I hardly think it
safe for me to go alone."

"We will go with you, only don't let the servants hear," said Pooran.
"They make a perfect idol of Hari Rām; he has spies all over the
place."

The heat was too great to think of starting before evening, so they
remained at the mission station. Then Mr. Macgregor, accompanied by
two native merchants and their servants, set out. Gilbert with the
missionary, who was also somewhat of a doctor, went to Macgregor's
place to see after the wounded man. As they approached the house they
saw an Indian woman crossing the compound, carrying a child on her hip.
The missionary turned and looked at her.

"I know that woman," he said; "she was at Pokharia last week."

They found Jenkins the superintendent in a great measure recovered from
his accident.

"I shall be all right to-morrow, and able to return to Damūdá," he
said.

"Who was that handsome Indian woman we met as we came into the
compound?" asked Gilbert of Vansie as they sat together on the verandah.

"She's Rajhani, my foster-sister; her mother was my dhai. She married
and left the district, and I had not seen her for the last three or
four years, when suddenly one day not long ago she appeared bringing me
her baby, who was ill. I gave it some simple remedy, at least my ayah
did, but to-day she came for her husband, who, she said, was down with
fever. I asked her where she came from, and who her husband was, but
she gave me no answer, and went off with barely a thank you."

"She is splendidly handsome," said Gilbert, "but has an evil face for
all that."

"I think not," replied Vansie. "She rather looks as if she had some
trouble. She seems to have heard of last night's attack, for she asked
me how the sahibs were. I told her they were not much injured, but that
I was afraid the Government would take active measures for finding Hari
Rām.

"'They'll not get him, they'll never get him!' she said passionately,
and I thought I saw tears in her eyes.

"'Do you know him, Rajhani?' I asked.

"'I've seen him,' she answered sullenly. Her manner was so strange that
it struck me as just possible her husband might belong to the gang.

"'Well,' I said, 'perhaps you might warn him that he is going a little
too far, and that he'll be caught some day unless he mends his ways.

"'He'll never do that as long as he is free,' she exclaimed, and went
off."...

"You'll come out soon and see us again," Vansie said to Gilbert the
following morning before he left, "and bring your brother with you.
Father will give you both some good shooting in the jungle."

"Certainly I will," said Gilbert, with a sense of pleasure at having
found a place which was so homelike.

A week later, Superintendent Jenkins came into Frank's bungalow in a
very irate state of mind.

"There," he said, throwing down a letter, "that's all the reward a
man gets for doing his duty. The Commissioner declares we must be
shilly-shallying with the natives, and he will himself come down and
see whether he can't catch this Hari Rām."

"Let him; he'll soon find out his mistake," said Frank. "I was up with
Gilbert at Macgregor's the day before yesterday, and he says it will be
tremendous work to nab him. He's protected by all the natives, and can
pass from one village to the other without fear of being betrayed."

"Well, that remains to be proved," said Jenkins. "At all events the
Commissioner is coming in full force with a whole army of police."

"Ah! well, you must put the best face on it you can," said Frank. "If
Hari Rām is caught it will be a good thing for the country. My
opinion is that he's hovering somewhere about here. Let who will catch
him, I'm glad it's not my business. I much prefer the prospect of a
shooting party with Macgregor next week. He is really a nice fellow.
Came over and asked Gilbert and me to go there. Of course we have
accepted."

"I can understand it is preferable. Hunting Dacoits is not in your line
of business," said Jenkins, and with that they parted.



CHAPTER III


On the day fixed Frank and Gilbert rode to Mr. Macgregor's place in
the cool of the evening, arriving in time for dinner. The tiger hunt
had been arranged for the following morning; there was known to be an
almost impenetrable covert of vines and creepers in the thickest part
of the jungle, and several natives affirmed that it was the lair of a
tiger of unusual size and ferocity. He had been very destructive and
had done considerable mischief in the neighbouring villages, so that
the killing of him excited much interest.

Mr. Macgregor had invited two or three other gentlemen, planters like
himself, to join the party; thus making up half-a-dozen Englishmen with
breech-loaders and pistols; a dozen natives were told off to accompany
them, so that it was a fairly large party.

The following morning when they started, Frank Lindsay and Mr.
Macgregor rode foremost, a syce running before them. By degrees they
found themselves some distance in advance of their party, and wishing
to keep together, Mr. Macgregor rode back to tell the others to hurry
up; thus Frank and the syce were, so to speak, isolated. At that very
moment a tiger sprang upon the syce. Frank instantaneously flung
himself off his horse and struck the animal across the loins with the
butt of his heavy riding-whip. Dropping his prey, the tiger turned on
his assailant, seized him by the thigh and hurled him to the ground.
Instinctively Frank threw his arms round the head of the enraged
animal, but in a second he would have been torn to pieces, had not a
man leaped out of the jungle and fired at the tiger, who once more
dropped his prey and retreated with an ominous growl into the thick
jungle.

[Illustration: "In a second he would have torn Lindsay to pieces."]

The man who did this deed of daring courage stood for a second over
Frank and just asked--

"Are you all right, sahib?" to which Frank answered, "I'm alive, but
desperately hurt, I'm afraid."

Then his rescuer drew himself up, waved his hand, and threw himself
back into the thick jungle. Frank was quickly surrounded by his
friends; he was in great agony, his leg was fearfully mauled and was
bleeding profusely. The syce he had risked his life to save was dead.
Macgregor, with the help of his friends, did his utmost to stop the
bleeding, and ordered some of the natives to make a sort of stretcher
with the branches of the trees; others he sent back to the bungalow to
warn Vansie, and to get a doctor.

Gilbert was in despair; it was piteous to see his white agonised face
as he held his brother in his arms.

"Will the brute come back?" he asked.

"Not likely," answered Macgregor. "I should think he was mortally
wounded; the man took good aim."

"Do you know who he was?" asked Gilbert.

"No, but now I come to think of it, being a native he had no right to
firearms; he must have been one of those outlaws."

"Pray don't quarrel with him. It's a mercy he was armed," said Frank
with a groan.

"No, indeed we won't," answered Mr. Macgregor, "even if we came across
him, we should have to let him go scot free, I think. There, are you
easier now?"

With infinite care they slipped Frank on to the stretcher, but
nevertheless the agony was so great that he lost consciousness. Gilbert
thought he was dead; Macgregor laid his hand on his shoulder and said
kindly--

"Steady, lad, he's only fainted."

"Oh!" said Gilbert with a short gasp, as he rose and stood on one side
to let the bearers lift their burden.

Of course the hunt was over for that day. Two or three of the party
went into the jungle with some of the natives and found the tiger had
fallen dead a couple of hundred yards from where he had been shot. He
was a huge creature, and other men had to be fetched to enable them to
skin him and take the trophy home.

       *       *       *       *       *

The young native doctor, called in the emergency to attend Frank,
assured Gilbert that though the wound was severe and likely to lay his
brother up for some time, it was not mortal. As he could not be moved,
Mr. Macgregor begged the brothers to consider his house their home; a
chaprassi was therefore despatched to fetch clothes, &c., from their
own bungalow and to notify Frank's accident to the authorities.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Do you know who saved my brother's life?" Gilbert asked Vansie, the
first time they found themselves alone.

"No, how should I?" she answered; "do you know?"

"It was Hari Rām himself," answered Gilbert. "I recognised him as he
stood over my brother and then rushed back into the jungle. I was close
to him, I think he saw me, for he smiled and waved his hand to me."

Vansie's eyes shone.

"I'm not surprised; it was exactly the sort of thing he'd do," she said.

"I was just going to call out 'Hari Rām' when I remembered he was
an outlaw, and that every man's hand was against him, so I checked
myself," continued Gilbert; "and now, whatever happens, I'll never run
that man down or put any one on his track."

"Hari Rām does not understand he is doing wrong by taking the law
into his own hands, and I do not suppose he ever will," said Vansie.
"He knows the native merchants are liars and greedy after gain, and
that Government winks at their extortions, so he settles the matter
according to his own ideas. I'm glad you have made up your mind not to
meddle in the matter; let them catch him if they can."

Gilbert agreed with her, and so the matter dropped.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Frank, has Miss Vansie told you the news?" and Gilbert threw himself
into a chair beside his brother's invalid couch on the verandah.

"No, what news?" he said.

"The Commissioner arrived yesterday at Damūdá, his camp was pitched,
and there was a great display of police about the place. He was
questioning everybody, he even rode to Pokharia and interviewed the
people there. He says he expects to catch his man and clear the country
in a fortnight."

"I hope he may not be disappointed," said Frank dryly. "What does
Jenkins say?"

He had hardly put the question when they saw the superintendent enter
the compound. A syce ran to hold his horse from which he flung himself,
and then the brothers saw he had a broad grin on his face and seemed
immensely amused.

"What's up?" said Gilbert.

"The Commissioner's in a fine rage," he said. "Hari Rām has just
done him in the neatest possible manner," and sitting down he burst out
laughing.

The sound of merriment brought Vansie out.

"What is it?" she asked.

"A new exploit of Hari Rām's," said Frank; "come and hear it." She
looked unusually serious.

"I wish he would stop or go away," said Gilbert; "he'll get himself
hanged. What has he done now?"

"A perfect Robin Hood's exploit," said the superintendent. "It must
have got to his ears that the Commissioner scoffed at him, and he
determined he would give him a taste of his prowess, and he just has!
Last night, notwithstanding the cordon of police, he managed to
wriggle himself into the Commissioner's tent, to carry off his watch,
shirt studs, and all his money; not satisfied with this, he tickled
the Commissioner's feet without awaking him, but he succeeded in
making him wriggle his legs apart in such a fashion that Hari Rām
drew his sword and stuck it up to the hilt through the mattress;
this feat accomplished, he went off as silently as he came. Imagine
the Commissioner's feelings when he awoke and saw the position he
was in! He was in a white rage, I promise you, and to make matters
worse, before he had recovered himself, a native policeman rode up
and presented him with a small parcel which had been just left at the
office, to be delivered immediately. Upon opening it he found his
watch, chain, studs, and money, and on a slip of paper was written:
'With Hari Rām's humblest salutations to his High Mightiness
Commissioner Gibson.' You should have seen his face, it was as good as
a play!"

"It was cheek!" said Gilbert, rubbing his hands in a state of high
delight. "What's the Commissioner going to do?"

"Move heaven and earth to catch his man," answered Jenkins. "It's
already posted up at the mines: '500 rupees reward for whoever unearths
Hari Rām, or gives information as to his whereabouts.'"

"It won't do," said Vansie. "The natives will never betray him."

"Well, they are not doing him really any kindness," said Jenkins, "for
he'll only get a heavier punishment in the long run. At present he
might escape with imprisonment, but presently it will mean hanging."

"He'd rather run the risk, I expect," said Frank.

After six weeks Frank was still invalided, so Gilbert went every
day down to the mines, brought messages and queries in the evening,
carrying back his orders the following morning.

He and Vansie grew to be great friends; they quarrelled and they made
it up like girl and boy as they were.

Great excitement ensued when the reward was offered for the
apprehension of Hari Rām; the subject caused endless discussion.
Days and even weeks went by without producing any result; whether the
warning had driven Hari Rām out of the district, or caused him to
take extra precautions, the result was the same, nothing was heard of
him. The Commissioner fumed and fretted.

"The man must be taken," he declared.

"My Lord, you will not do this thing; if you do, you will be caught and
hung up like a dog."

So spake Rajhani, lying prostrate at the feet of her lord and husband,
Hari Rām. He looked down upon her, frowning.

"Go hence!" he said; "who art thou to speak thus?"

"The Miss Sahiba told me yesterday that the Commissioner was like a
raging lion, his men are everywhere; she bade me tell you so, if you
are caught you will be hanged," said Rajhani.

In a fit of blind anger, Hari Rām stretched out his foot and kicked
the woman.

"Dost think I will suffer that thief of a mahajan to go on draining
the people? He is rich and he will not pay his drivers the price other
merchants do. I will therefore stop his well-laden carts and pay them
for him. Get thee gone!" and with another kick he turned away.

With a mingled expression of sorrow and anger in her face, Rajhani
rose. She was not quite like other Indian women. Till her mother died
she had been brought up with Vansie, then her father married her to
Hari Rām and she left the district. Her nature was gentle and she
had imbibed a certain amount of religious knowledge, but an Eastern
woman is a thing with no personality, a creature to be driven to and
fro like the leaves in autumn. So she had suffered and her soul was
ofttimes angry within her. Her love for Hari Rām was so strong and
of so jealous a nature that she could not endure to be parted from
him, but would follow him from place to place though the journeys were
long and difficult. But for her cunning and great care it is doubtful
whether he would so long have escaped detection.

Now she rose from the ground, and her large eyes were full of fierce
passion and determination. She picked the little naked baby up from the
floor of the mud hut, bound it on to her hip, muttering--

"He shall not be hanged," and went forth.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Of course, if there is any fear of the man being attacked we must
send him protection. You had better tell off a dozen men. At the same
time I should keep the matter quiet. Let the mahajan start as if he
knew nothing; but be in the neighbourhood, and if he is attacked
show yourselves," the Commissioner spoke thus in answer to a report
Superintendent Jenkins had just brought in.

At that very moment the tent curtain was pushed on one side and a
chaprassi entered, followed by an Indian woman.

"Sahib," he said, salaaming, "this woman says she must speak with your
Mightiness, so I have brought her to you."

The Commissioner looked up, and for a second examined the woman, who
had stepped forward, and with outstretched hands, salaaming to the
ground, said--

"I have news for you, my lord."

"Who is she? Do you know her, Jenkins?" asked the Commissioner.

"No, sir; and yet I have seen her somewhere more than once," he
answered.

"I will tell the sahibs my name when I have made known my business,"
she said, speaking in English, and she drew forth a paper. "I come for
that," she continued, laying on the table before the Commissioner a
large sheet, advertising the Government reward for the apprehension of
Hari Rām.

"Well, have you come to inform upon the man?" said the Commissioner.

"If you take him, will you hang him?" she asked sullenly.

[Illustration: "He shall not be hanged."]

"We certainly shall if we take him red-handed, unless we shoot him
first; but we should prefer getting hold of him and sending him out of
the country. A man like Hari Rām does not care when death overtakes
him; the galleys are a worse punishment."

"But they come back from there," said the woman.

"Oh yes," answered the Commissioner with a smile. "Are you thinking of
saving his life?"

"I am Hari Rām's wife," she answered, drawing herself up proudly
and looking the Commissioner in the face.

The two officials glanced at each other in astonishment.

"And you have come to tell us where we can find your husband? You're a
nice young woman," said Jenkins.

Under the dark skin the woman's face blushed.

"You will give me money and you will not kill him?" she said.

"Yes, we will give you the reward promised here," said the
Commissioner; "and if we can take him quietly we will not hurt him."

"You speak truly, the Sahib Log do not lie. Weigh me out the five
hundred rupees and I will take you to his hiding-place."

The Commissioner did as she asked; the money was weighed out, Rajhani
watching the silver with a stern face as it was poured into a bag she
had evidently brought with her for the purpose.

"She might be Judas," said Jenkins, turning away with disgust.

She heard him, and lifted her beautiful pathetic eyes for a second,
then lowered them quickly, as the last rupee joined its fellows.

"I am ready," she said.

"I should like to see the end of this affair," said the Commissioner.
"Tell off a squad, Jenkins; you had better come too."

He was in high spirits at the prospect before him.

"Just keep your eye on the woman," he said in a low voice to a
subaltern; but Rajhani heard, and called out--

"You need have no fear, my lord sahib; life is better than death. What
I have said I will do."

       *       *       *       *       *

"There, you have but to go and take him," and Rajhani pointed to a mud
hut, hidden in the very thickest part of the jungle.

"Let me not see my lord," she cried bitterly, and threw herself face
downwards on the earth.

It was early morning, the Commissioner and his party had encamped for a
few hours, to start again before dawn.

"Two of you stay behind and guard the woman in case she has played us
false," commanded Superintendent Jenkins.

Through the long jungle grass the party advanced till within a few
yards of the Dacoit's retreat, then they made a rush towards a narrow
passage leading to the hut, and were met by a man, stark naked,
brandishing a sword in his hand.

"Hari Rām, if you make one step forward I will shoot you like a
dog," shouted the Commissioner, whilst two of his men sprang upon the
Dacoit, seized him by the throat, tore the sword out of his hand, and
tripped him to the ground. Where he fell he lay, a vanquished lion.

[Illustration: "Hari Rām, if you make one step forward, I will shoot
you like a dog."]

Whilst they were pinioning him he just asked--

"A woman betrayed me; is it not so?"

"Your own wife; none other. She preferred five hundred rupees to a
husband who beats her," said one of the men laughing.

"You lie! I did not beat, I only kicked her," said Hari Rām. "Well,
she has had her revenge; surely I shall have mine."

He was standing up now, his hands and feet manacled; looking round, as
if he thought to see her, but he was disappointed. Just as his captors
were marching him off, a child crept out of the hut and raised a
piteous wail.

"The cub," said one of the men; "must we take him too?"

"No need," whispered another, "the tigress is not far off."

Hari Rām heard, and, lifting up his voice, shouted something in
Hindustanee which made Rajhani shiver as she lay on the ground; but
she rose boldly and called back--

"Be of good courage, Hari Rām, my beloved, life is better than
death. In captivity thou wilt learn wisdom."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Five years at the penal settlement in the Andaman Island; that's the
sentence, and every one says it's far more lenient than he deserves.
Perhaps it is, but I'm awfully sorry for him. After the trial I went to
see him in prison, and told him so. He thanked me in his courteous way,
saying, 'I shall not die, I am strong. When I come out Rajhani may not
perhaps think life is better than death,' and he smiled grimly."

Such was Gilbert's tale. He had just returned with Mr. Macgregor from
attending Hari Rām's trial, the result of which both Vansie and
Frank had anxiously awaited all day.

"What could possess her to do it?" Vansie repeated for the twentieth
time.

"I have told you before," said Frank, "the Commissioner was spreading
a net to catch him, and sooner or later, unless he desisted from his
predatory habits, he would have fallen into his enemies' hands. If
he were taken in the act of robbery, and may be of murder, his wife
knew he would be hanged. From this she determined to save him, and she
certainly has done so. She acted according to her lights; what more
could be expected of her?"

"I said as much to Hari Rām," put in Gilbert; "but he answered--

"'A woman cannot think--a woman has no soul.'"

"What a shame!" said Vansie.

Frank turned and looked at her, and their eyes met.

"Yes, it is a shame," he said, smiling.

Gilbert saw the look.

"Oh, that's it," he thought. "Well, it will be pleasant to have her for
my sister at least."

In due time this very thing came to pass. Frank's long convalescence
threw him and Vansie so much together that it was not difficult to
foresee the result. Frank fell desperately in love with the planter's
daughter, and though socially he might have aimed higher if he had
bided his time, he nevertheless considered himself the most fortunate
of men when Vansie consented to be his wife. A few days before the
marriage, Gilbert came to him and said--

"I don't think I will be an engineer, Frank; one in the family is
enough. Mr. Macgregor has offered to take me on his estate, initiate
me into the secrets of tea and coffee growing, and in time make me a
partner. You know I have a few hundreds of my own when I come of age,
so, if you'll consent, I should like to accept his offer. I'm sure the
life will suit me better."

Frank hesitated; he would have preferred Gilbert following a
profession, but he saw he was set upon the new plan, so he consented;
and when Vansie came to live at Frank's bungalow, Gilbert took up
his residence with Mr. Macgregor. But long before this happened,
Hari Rām had been sent off to the Andaman Island to work out his
sentence; and then a strange thing happened. Rajhani purchased carts
and bullocks, and hired men to load them at the mines and transport the
coal to the terminus at Giridhi. By degrees the business grew, and she
managed it with such energy that the company decided to employ no one
else for the conveyance of coal, and every one said she would soon be
a rich woman, that the 500 rupees for which she had sold her husband
were daily multiplying by her wise administration. But her existence
was a hard one; she was hated and despised by her own people. More than
once her life was threatened, but the order had gone forth among the
natives--

"Let her alone; Hari Rām will be his own avenger."

A few months after her husband's banishment she suddenly appeared
before Vansie leading her eldest boy by the hand and with a new-born
babe slung at her side.

"See," she said proudly, "I have given him life and two sons, and now I
will make him so rich that when he comes back he can give of his own to
the poor, and need be no longer a Dacoit."

And so her motive became clear to Vansie. She laboured by night and by
day to increase her store, living meanwhile poorly, denying herself all
save the very necessaries of existence. A hunted look came into her
eyes, and as time went on she faded into a mere shadow of her former
self; but the wealth increased, and her boys grew, and were finer and
handsomer than their fellows.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My lord, thy servant craves forgiveness; behold, I received 500
rupees for selling thee into captivity. I bring thee 5000 rupees, with
bullocks and carts; thou left me with but one son, I bring thee two."

So spake Rajhani, lying prostrate at Hari Rām's feet, as he landed
after his long exile. The remembrance of those five years of misery was
fresh upon him, the iron had entered into his soul, and he spurned her
from him; but a young man touched his arm and called him by his name--

"Are you blind, Hari Rām?" he said; "surely she has done wisely. She
has laboured for you in love and patience; you must see she betrayed
you for very love, to save your life."

The Hindu stood as one dazed; through the mist of superstition and
anger a faint gleam of something better crept into his soul. He had
himself thought to redress wrongs, had failed, and had suffered. He
turned and looked fixedly first at the woman still lying prostrate
before him, then at Gilbert Lindsay, who had spoken.

"Sahib," he said, and his voice trembled.

"You are too brave a man to despise her for what she has done, Hari
Rām," Gilbert continued. "See, she has come to you in all humility,
with children and wealth, so that from henceforth you may live
prosperously. Five years is but a little span in a man's life. Lift
her up and go home with her and your children; let this hour be as the
rising of the sun at the dawn of a new day."

Slowly, as a man feeling his way, Hari Rām stretched out his hand,
and lo! it rested on the head of his eldest born. A smile crept over
the stern features.

"You speak as a god, sahib," he said. "The evil day has surely passed
away; she was right, _it is_ good to live."



A JUNGLE DRAMA

BY GEO. MANVILLE FENN



CHAPTER I


"Well," said the major, "I hardly know what to do. It's very hot."

"Awful, sir," said Hollins, making an effort to take out his
handkerchief to wipe his face. "I feel as if I were being stewed."

"Do you good," said the major smiling. "You'd be all the better for
losing two stone weight."

"Yes," the great fellow sighed, in a melancholy tone, and he looked
down at his huge proportions and gently shook his head.

"I should have thought you would have been content to sit under a shady
tree, and if you must kill something, have a shot or two at the crocs
as they come down to meet the tide, or fish for whatever there is from
the banks."

"That's just what I should like, sir," said Hollins pathetically. "I
don't want to go. It's all Beecher's doing. He's such a restless little
beggar. I have told him over and over again that it's too hot to do
anything."

Beecher looked up sharply and smiled.

The speakers were in their camp on the banks of the Loongie River,
stationed there to overawe a couple of the native sultans, who had
been trying to oust another Malay potentate, and divide his dominions
between them. The said Rajah had appealed to the governor of the
Straits Settlements for help, and a couple of companies of the 800th
Light Infantry were sent up the river in the _Flash_ gunboat to settle
the matter, whereupon the two sultans slunk back into their own
dominions on either side of the river. The troops were landed, and went
into camp at Ijong, the persecuted Rajah's capital of bamboo and woven
palm. The gunboat went up the river as far as she could go, and, as Rob
Hollins said, let off her poppers to startle the crows, and then went
back to Penang, leaving the military to go on overawing the pugnacious
Malays, which they did by going on parade every morning to make a show,
after which they ate, drank, smoked, slept, and played games, leading a
lazy life in a country which seems to have been made on purpose to do
nothing in with all your might.

"Humph!" ejaculated the major, with his eyes half closed.

"He's just like a mongoose," grumbled Hollins slowly; "always jumping
up and poking his nose into everything."

The major grunted.

"Look here, you two boys," he said, "I must have a nap, and your
chatter's a nuisance. Do you want to get fever and sunstroke?"

Beecher laughed.

"I only want to go up the river in one of the bigger boats, sir, to be
rowed up to the clear water beyond the tideway. We should be under the
attap awning all the time, and I want to see if there are any fish to
be caught, or any birds or beasts to be shot."

"Well, I suppose you must. You'll be back before dark, of course?"

"Oh no; I meant for us to camp for the night, and come back to-morrow.
There wouldn't be time to go up far enough without."

"You'll get fever," said the major shortly. "The jungle teems with it."

"We should sleep in the boat," said Beecher.

"Humph! Well, take care of yourselves, and don't get into any trouble
with the people."

"No fear, sir. Come along, Rob."

The big lieutenant rose with a sigh, the major sank back in his seat
under the awning stretched in front of the native house he had made his
head-quarters, and the sentry on duty, the barrel of whose rifle was
hot as he presented arms, looked longingly at the young men as they
walked down to the bamboo landing-stage at the river side, and selected
one of the smallest and most attractive looking of the nagas or dragon
boats swinging by its fibre rope to a post, with its crew of six on
board squatting under the palm-leaf awning, and chewing betel till
their protruding lips were scarlet with the juice.

Negotiations were opened up directly by Beecher, who had picked up
enough of the Malay language to converse with a certain amount of ease;
and he was all eagerness and animation as he spoke, while the tawny
Malay boatmen remained apathetic in the extreme, and calmly enough
gave the young man to understand that it was hot, that the work would
be hard, and that it would be much better to sit as they were on their
heels chewing sireh, lime, and betel-nut.

"But there'll be plenty of sport," said Beecher. "We shall shoot and
fish, and take any amount of provisions, so that we can camp out
comfortably high up the river for the night."

That would be quite out of the question, it seemed. The whole six would
want to be back at the campong at sunset.

"Why?" asked Beecher impatiently.

Because they must be. What would their wives say?

"Gammon!" cried Beecher, flashing out the word in a way that made the
men stare. Not that they understood its meaning, but they did the words
in their own tongue which followed it. "I don't believe you've any one
of you got a wife."

[Illustration: "They walked down to the bamboo landing-stage at the
river side."]

The young officer's haphazard shot had gone home, for a smile which
broadened into a grin appeared on face after face, as the boatmen
looked at each other, their sleepy eyes brightened, and, after a few
words had been exchanged among themselves, the Malay who seemed most in
authority turned to Beecher, and the negotiations were at an end.

"Get plenty of food for your own use," said the young officer. "We'll
send our servants down with what we want, and we'll start in an hour."

The Malay nodded, and the officers turned away.

"Lazy beggars," said Hollins slowly. "How you can manage 'em, Dick! I
couldn't have done that."

"You could if you liked to try," said Beecher. "Now then, let's see
about our guns and tackle. Where are those fellows of ours? Never here
when they're wanted."

Beecher was wrong, for a keen-looking young fellow who had been
watching them ever since they left the major's side, suddenly stepped
forward and saluted.

"Want me, sir?"

"Oh, there you are, Jerry. Here, we're going."

"Up the river, sir? Yes, sir; all right, sir. Guns, rods and tackle,
landing net. Reevolvers and cartridges. Take anything to heat, sir?"

"Yes, of course; a good basketful of provisions. Coffee, kettle, and
cups."

"I see, sir."

"And we shall sleep in the boat to-night."

"Exactly, sir. Skeeter net, blankets, and waterproof. Won't take a thin
mattress, I suppose, sir?"

"Oh no: that will be enough. Where's Mr. Hollins's servant?"

"'Sleep, sir. Going to take him too?"

"Oh yes," broke in Hollins; "we'll have him. Can you wake him up,
Jerry, and tell him to get my traps together, the same as you get for
your master?"

"Can I, sir?" said the man, with a peculiar smile. "Oh yes, sir, I can
wake him up."

"That's right; then I needn't trouble about it."

"No, sir; of course not, sir. I'll see that everything's put on board."

"The sooner the better," said Beecher. "Off with you."

In little more than an hour everything was on board the naga, which
was pushed off from the landing-stage, the officers and their servants
being under the light palm-leaf awning, and the crew sending the long
light boat through the water at a pretty good rate, for the tide was
with them, and in a very short time a bend in the river had hidden
boats, native huts and houses, and the last traces of the little
military camp.



CHAPTER II


There was a certain amount of monotony about the banks of the muddy
winding river, but to Beecher, whose high spirits seemed to effervesce
within his veins and through his nerves, all was bright and beautiful,
and he laughed to himself as he noted now that the Malays seemed quite
transformed, and they toiled away to force the boat through the water,
chattering till one of them started a low sweet minor air, keeping time
to the beat of the oars, and the rest joining in.

"Come, old chap," cried Beecher; "rouse up and load; we may get a shot
at something soon."

"All right; you shoot then," answered Hollins, with a yawn. "I'll wait
till it isn't so hot."

"It will be dark then, and you will not get a chance."

"All right. Don't want one. You shoot, and I'll look on."

"Ugh! what a lazy beggar you are!"

"'Tis my nature to, dear boy; but I say, load my gun while you're at
it."

"What for, if you're not going to shoot?"

"Perhaps I am, boy. Anyhow, I'll be ready. I've been thinking."

"Sleeping, you mean."

"No, I don't. Thinking with my eyes shut."

"Well, what have you been thinking?"

"I've been thinking that we're a pair of jolly fools."

"Of course; but why?"

"To trust ourselves with these cut-throat scoundrels of Malays. Each
one has his horrible wavy kris tucked in the folds of his sarong."

"Pooh! What of that? Custom of the country."

"Yes, and it's the custom to dig it into any one they don't like.
Argal, as the chap in the play says, they don't like us."

"Rubbish! Aren't we going to feed them and give them silver dollars?"

"Yes, but they'd prefer to kris us for a set of infidels, and pitch us
overboard to the crocs."

"You've no faith in them, then?"

"Not a bit."

The men kept on as if their thews and sinews were of steel, and would
have continued to send the boat along at the same speed had not Beecher
interfered and explained to the Malay leader that as the tide was in
their favour all that was necessary was for two of the men to dip their
oars from time to time so as to keep the naga's head straight. By this
there would be more chance of a shot or two being obtained, while they
would all be fresher when they reached the end of the tidal flow, where
the river was shallower, and they would have the stream to contend
against.

The men laid in their oars, and for the next two or three hours of the
glowing day the boat drifted steadily on, with the banks growing more
and more beautiful, and shot after shot offering itself in the shape of
gaily plumaged bird, monkey, or crocodile; but Beecher seemed to have
grown as dreamy and thoughtful as his companion, and let chance after
chance slip by.

"Why, you're not half bloodthirsty to-day, young 'un," said Hollins,
rousing himself up a little at last. "Why don't you shoot?"

"Don't know," was the reply. "Perhaps it's because everything is so
beautiful. It seems a shame to fire. It's like gliding along in some
dream."

"Was," said Hollins, quite briskly. "I feel more awake now. There's
another of those crocs!--Going to fire?"

"No, I don't want to kill anything now."

"Nor do I," said Hollins. "Let's have something to eat."

"Yes, sir; directly, sir," came from the stern of the boat, proving
that every word uttered had been heard. "Now Joey, stir about and help."

The two men rapidly unpacked the basket of provisions, and a few
minutes later the young officers were hard at work with knife and fork,
while the Malay boatmen looked on curiously and wondered what Jerry
meant to do with the wine bottle that he had been cooling by wrapping
it up in wet flannel, dipping it in the river from time to time, and
exposing it afterwards to the full force of the sun as if to keep it
warm.

By this time the progress of the boat had grown slower and slower,
the water less muddy, and as the young officers bade their servants
give certain portions of the provisions to the boatmen and make their
own meal, they noted with satisfaction that the end of the tide had
been reached. Thenceforth the river began to grow bright and clear,
there was a cessation of muddy deposit upon the leaves and twigs which
dipped below the surface, and the oars were laid in by the men who had
been using them, a couple taking their places, one in front, the other
astern, each armed with a long bamboo pole, with which they thrust
the boat along against the clear rippling stream, now broken up into
shallows and swirling deeps.

They had very little so-called sport, but plenty of enjoyment in spite
of Hollins's growls; and that evening they cast their rough anchor
beneath the shady trees of a little island in mid-stream, and soon
after made themselves comfortable for the night, sleeping soundly, in
spite of their novel position and the savage noises which came from the
jungle on either side.



CHAPTER III


"Now then, wake up, old fellow!" cried Beecher; "breakfast's nearly
ready."

Hollins started up, to find that Jerry was making the coffee ashore on
the island, and soon after an excellent meal was enjoyed, before the
boat was poled up stream once more.

"Likely places for fish," said Hollins again and again, as the boat
glided by some beautiful dark pool.

"Why don't you have a try, then?" said Beecher.

"Oh, I don't know. Seems a pity to get lugging the poor things out of
the cool water into this broiling sunshine."

"You'd have to catch them first," said Beecher drily.

"Yes, and I'm such an unlucky beggar with a rod. You look out, and if
you see anything like a big trout or a salmon basking, blow him out of
the water."

"No fear," said Beecher coolly. "Nothing of the kind here. I don't
suppose there's much beside those little gudgeony five-barbed fish they
call Ikan Sambilang."

"Ikan Sambilang!" said the head-boatman, nodding, smiling, and pointing
downwards.

"You hit the bull's-eye, boy," said Hollins. "Well, I'm not going to
wet a line for the sake of catching fish like them. But what rubbish to
come."

"Rubbish, man? Look on both sides. Did you ever see anything more
beautiful?" cried Beecher enthusiastically.

"H'm! tidy," said Hollins.

"Tidy! It's glorious. Fancy all this lovely line of bank on either
side, and no one to live here. What a home for a country gentleman
anywhere."

"Bah! All humbug, lad. Looks very pretty from a boat, but inside it's
all impenetrable jungle; soppy and squishy, and without a path."

The day glided by as they went gently onward higher and higher up the
river, whose sides still looked like vast walls of verdure. They fished
a little and shot less, for in spite of all that they said the beauties
around seemed to have the effect of checking their desire to slay, so
that very few birds fell to their guns.

"But it's very jolly all the same," said Beecher, as the great heat of
the day began to grow less. "We don't get many adventures, and I must
shoot something. Why--hullo! What does this mean?"

Hollins made no answer, but started from his place to look up the
river, as a couple of banks of oars churned up the surface, sending a
large prahu round a broad bend of the stream a quarter of a mile away.

"Don't know," said Hollins slowly. "She's full of armed men, for
you can see the spear heads glistening. Well, we mustn't go back, or
they'll think we're afraid."

"Of course: we must go on."

[Illustration: "Of course: we must go on."]

"Yes, tell them to go on rowing or poling."

"Come, look sharp," cried Beecher. "Pull away, but give that big prahu
plenty of room."

The men turned to their leader, who was frowning and looking as if he
had not heard, gazing the while down stream.

"Do you hear me?" cried the young officer angrily. "Pull all of you,
pull."

But the Malays sat perfectly still, looking gloomy and sullen, while
Beecher's eyes began to flash with resentment.

"Steady, boy," growled Hollins. "This is a trap."

"A trap! What do you mean?"

"Look behind you, my lad, and don't jump out of your skin."

"Another prahu!" ejaculated the young officer, between his teeth, as he
saw a vessel which looked to be fellow to the one gliding down stream,
coming rapidly up from some five hundred yards below. "Why, where did
that come from?"

"Some tree-curtained inlet, I suppose," growled Hollins. "What are we
going to do?"

"Go on shooting; they're nothing to do with us."

"Aren't they? I'm afraid they are."

"Why do you say that?" said Beecher huskily.

"Look at our men--no: don't seem to notice them. I'm afraid it's like
this: we asked them to take us up the river into a trap, and the
beggars have done it. Dick, lad, they've uncovered the hilts of their
krises--cleared for action."

"No, no, they wouldn't dare, with our men lying at the camp."

"I don't know that. It looks bad. Our lads can't help us now."

"Then we must help ourselves," said Beecher, through his teeth. "If
that dog there has betrayed us into the hands of the enemy, curse him!
he shall have the contents of my gun."

"Steady!" said Hollins gravely. "He knows what you are saying by your
tone, and his right hand has stolen to the hilt of his kris. This is a
time for diplomacy. We're not strong enough to fight."

"Strong or weak, I'm not going to give up without making some one pay
for it. Here, Jerry, you two get hold of those revolvers, and if it
comes to the worst, use them."

"Got hold on 'em, sir. I've been slipping in the cartridges ever since
I see that boat."

"Then keep them out of sight," growled Hollins, in a deep voice.
"We're not the first Englishmen who have been in a tight place. Dick,
lad, one of us'll have to come the British officer and do a bit of the
bully. What's a Rajah or a Sultan to an officer of Her Majesty out for
his pleasure?"

"That's the right form, Rob," said Beecher huskily. "You must do the
talking, then. They'll be afraid of you."

"All right; only stand by me and tell me what to say."

"A kreasy boat in front, and a kreasy boat behind, and six of these
here smudgy beggars waiting to cut our throats. Joey, this is coming
out for a day's pleasure!" whispered Jerry. "I say, are you awake now?"

"Never more wide in my life, lad. All right: never say die. Form
square."



CHAPTER IV


Hollins's man supplemented his muttered command "Form square!" with a
sharp double _click_ made by the lock of the pistol he held with one
hand in his breast, and this sound gave the final touch to his master's
rousing up to act with decision in what was evidently a very critical
case.

The next moment Beecher glanced at his friend admiringly, for, to use
his own words, "Rob was all there," and the calm British officer was
speaking.

"Keep that pistol quiet and out of sight, sir," he said sharply. "Sit
down both of you."

And as his order was promptly obeyed he turned to Beecher.

"Throw your gun in the hollow of your arm, old lad," he said softly.
"We're out shooting. I think I shall know what to say."

As he spoke he began to fill his pipe, keeping his eyes averted from
the coming prahus, and then struck a match and lit up, calmly sending
forth great clouds of smoke, before turning to watch the nearest boat,
which was coming with a rush.

"They'll run us down, Rob," whispered Beecher huskily.

"No, they won't," was the calm reply. "They couldn't come here at all;
the water's too shallow. Row well, don't they?" he continued, watching
the prahu critically.

"Oh, how should I know?" cried Beecher.

"Look then," said Hollins coolly. "Why, they've got two brass pop-guns
in their bows--_Lelahs_, don't they call them?"

"Look here, Rob," said Beecher hoarsely; "what's the good of going on
like that? We must make a running fight of it. I'm going to present my
two barrels at these fellows of ours, and tell them to row for their
lives. It will be all down stream now."

"You're going to do nothing of the sort, my lad," growled Hollins. "We
have not come to fight. It would only mean throwing away our lives.
At the first menace on your part these brown beggars would chance the
crocs and go overboard to swim to the nearest prahu. We must brazen it
out. Funk means failure, so cucumbers must be red-hot pokers to the
coolness we've got to show."

Almost as he spoke the prahu that was descending the stream crowded
with men and bristling with razor-edged spears, was suddenly checked,
the rowers then uttering a shout and backing water in obedience to a
sharp tap on a gong.

So well was this managed that the light vessel was brought up where the
channel ran deep, a dozen yards from the officers' boat, and kept there
by means of bamboo poles thrust down fore and aft.

The next moment an order was shouted to the boatmen, who lowered their
oars with alacrity, and took a few strokes to lay the little naga
alongside the prahu.

"Now's your time, Dick; let 'em have it. Ask what the devil are they up
to, in Malay."

"I thought I was to coach you," said Beecher in a low tone; "but all
right;" and he rose to the occasion, shouting angrily at their men, and
then as the naga grazed against the sides of the prahu, he faced the
swarthy-looking fellow in gay plaid sarong and natty scarlet cap who
was frowning down at them.

"Hullo, old fellow," he cried. "What is it?"

"Come on board, all of you," was the fierce answer.

"All right; keep it up," said Hollins coolly, as he puffed away at his
pipe.

"I'm not going on that miserable craft as a prisoner," said Beecher
stubbornly.

"No, but we must go as visitors. Needs must when somebody drives. Keep
it up, boy: we're fencing as to who shall go first. All right, then, I
will," he cried cheerily, and, double gun in hand, pipe fast between
his teeth, he stepped up and sprang over the side on to the split
bamboo deck, facing the captain of the prahu and the fierce-looking
crew of Malays, and closely followed by Beecher and their two men.

As Hollins, big, broad-shouldered, and manly, looking the very
perfection of a muscular young Englishman, stepped on the deck,
smiling, half-a-dozen of the spear-armed crew darted forward, and as
many hands were outstretched to seize him by the shoulders, two of the
men catching hold of his gun.

In an instant his aspect was changed. A fierce frown darkened his
brows, and with an angry roar he swung himself round, snatching his gun
from the detaining grasps, and clearing a space round him, as he cried
in English--

"Keep back, you insolent dogs!"

Beecher's heart seemed to rise to his throat, as he dropped the barrels
of his own gun in his left hand, in answer to the movement on the part
of the Malays, a dozen spears being levelled at him, while the captain
looked on frowning, his hand resting upon his kris.

"Tell the captain here that we are British officers up the river
shooting, Dick, my lad, and say he is to order his men to treat us with
respect."

Beecher turned to the captain, and spoke to him haughtily in the native
tongue, making the Malay frown and sign to the men, who raised their
spears on the instant.

"Whose men are you?" continued Beecher. "Sultan Salah's?"

The captain answered in the affirmative.

"Take us to him then at once."

The captain hesitated for a moment.

"Do you hear me?" cried Beecher sharply.

The Malay made a gesture, gave an order or two, and a couple of the
men descended into the officers' boat, made it fast astern, and as the
second prahu came up, the first was already in motion. Then a brief
colloquy ensued between the captains of the two vessels as they glided
by, and the second followed them down stream.

"Very prettily fired off, Dick, lad," said Hollins; "but put in a
little more powder next time. There's nothing like making a good bang."

"I'm not such a big gun as you are," said Beecher.

"You fire sharply, though, my lad. There: come along; let's look round
the boat. Take it coolly; we're not krissed yet, and if we give it
the sultan in his bamboo palace in the same way he'll drop us both as
'taters too hot for handling."

"I only hope he may."

The fierce-looking Malay crew looked puzzled as the young men began to
saunter about the prahu, as coolly as if they were invited visitors,
examining the rolled-up matting sails, the long sweeps used, and
pausing long by the two little brass swivel guns.

"Ask him how far these will carry?" said Hollins.

Beecher turned to the captain and put the question, making the man
frown; but he laughed directly after, and replied.

"Humph! poor clumsy things," growled Hollins contemptuously. "I could
make better practice with a big gas-pipe plugged at one end."

"I'm not going to tell him that," said Beecher; "and I shouldn't like
to stand at the plugged-up end."

"No," said Hollins with a laugh. "It wouldn't be very safe. Do best for
a rocket-tube. Here, hold hard! Look at those two paroquets, Dick. We
must have them."

A couple of brightly plumaged birds were crossing the river at a goodly
height and quite fifty yards away, and quick as thought, Hollins raised
his gun, fired right and left, and brought them down, when a murmur of
surprise and admiration ran along the deck, as the birds fell into the
gliding stream, and lay fluttering and splashing the surface.

"Tell our men to pick 'em up, lad.--Bah! Too late!" For all at once
a hideous head appeared above the surface, there was a sharp snap
repeated, the birds were gone, and the crocodile's head disappeared.

"Gone," said Hollins coolly, as he thrust in a couple more cartridges.
"Hullo! where are we for now? Going to run us ashore?"

Beecher looked up as wonderingly as his companion, for the men, in
obedience to an order, began to pull short, doubling their strokes,
and the head of the prahu was turned for the leafy curtain on the
right bank. Directly after _swish, swish_, they were driving right
through the pendant boughs, which swept over the deck of the vessel,
lightly brushing the heads of rowers and armed men, and a minute later
they were in a wide sluggish branch of the river, of whose existence
a stranger would have been perfectly ignorant, it being as thoroughly
concealed by the dense jungle as the clump of palm and bamboo built
houses in the distance, which formed the campong or town.

At the first glimpse seen through the winding inlet this seemed to be
small; but fresh houses and sheds kept opening out, the sluggish stream
widened, showing scores of boats of various sizes, and to the young
men's surprise seven or eight elephants could be seen tethered by the
hind-leg to the stumps of trees.

A loud shout arose as the prahu, closely followed by its companion,
glided into sight, and later on a few men came running towards them
from a crowd gathered in an open space before one of the largest
buildings, which looked like an ornamental barn raised up on posts.

Something important was evidently going on, for there was a strong
body of armed men, some of whom were gaily dressed, their natty caps,
sarongs, and kerchiefs being of brightly coloured silks, while their
weapons flashed in the sunshine.

"Drawn up in honour of their English guests," said Hollins, laughing.

"No, they have two men bound in the middle there. Prisoners, I
suppose," replied Beecher.

They had not much time given them for thought, the prahu being cleverly
steered alongside a row of bamboo posts, upon which a kind of rough
landing-stage had been made, and the captain advanced to his prisoners
and bade them disembark.

"Certainly," said Hollins smiling. "Ask him where his chief is."

The captain pointed, and as he did so a stunted sickly-looking man,
more quietly dressed than those around, detached himself from the
crowd and came towards the prahu, followed by about a dozen attendants
and guards, some bearing krises by the blade with the ornamental
handles resting upon their shoulders, while spearmen closed up behind.

The party on leaving the prahu was followed also by a guard of
spearmen, and as they neared the chief approaching from the crowd, the
captain gave a peremptory order and the party stopped short. But to his
anger and astonishment Hollins turned to his companion.

"Come on, lad," he said; "we're not going to be marched up as
prisoners. We're visitors to his swarthy highness," and he strode on
with his gun resting in the hollow of his arm.

"Beg pardon, sir," came from behind, in Jerry's voice; "aren't we to
come too?"

"Yes, of course," cried Hollins. "Both of you. Come on."

"There, didn't I say so?" cried Jerry, apostrophising one of the
spearmen, who checked his advance. "Don't you hear what the guv'nors
say?"

Without a moment's hesitation the two servants made a rush forward and
took their places behind their masters, who strode up at once to the
group in front, the sultan looking puzzled and clapping his hand to his
kris, while his guards levelled their spears.

"Never mind their skewers, lad," said Hollins; "come straight on, and
offer to shake hands. Tell him we're English officers, and his men have
brought us to see him. I'll do the bounce and show."

Beecher played his part to the letter, and the puzzled chief shook
hands, unwillingly enough, and then as if forced by his strange guests
to offer them a friendly welcome, he led them to the large house,
signed to them to enter, and in a few minutes later sultan and guests
were seated upon the mat-covered bamboo floor, partaking of a light
meal, surrounded by attendants, the two English servants well to the
front and carefully supplying their masters' wants.



CHAPTER V


"What's going to be the end of this?" said Beecher at last, as they sat
sipping excellent coffee and smoking huge cigarettes, the tobacco being
inclosed in a sheath of palm sprout.

"Don't know yet," replied Hollins coolly. "The sultan will give us some
tiger-shooting off his elephants, perhaps.--No, no, not now, old chap,"
he added quickly. "It's too hot, and too soon after lunch.--What does
he say, boy?"

"That he wishes us to come out and see something that we stopped, by
arriving as we did."

"Oh, very well. If he really is going to treat us civilly we are at his
service," cried Hollins, rearing his bulky form above the sultan, as he
rose to his feet. "Here, give me your hand, my royal personage."

The sultan shrank as if staggered by his visitor's freedom, but the
great hand was extended before him, and as if there were magnetic
influence at work he slowly raised his own, allowed it to be grasped,
and by its help rose erect.

"Come," he said, in his own tongue.

"Yes, I understand that," said Hollins.

"Be careful," whispered Beecher. "Don't overdo it, man."

"Not lay it on too thick? Must, or we shall never make them understand
the colour of the paint. Here, you two lads keep close behind us," he
cried, "and if they try to stop you, call to me."

The sultan led the way out to the crowd, which remained evidently
waiting for their chief's return, for a low murmur arose as they
approached, while the two men kneeling bound in the midst, surrounded
by guards, raised their heads to gaze with a half-stupefied,
half-wistful stare in their direction.

"What does it mean?" said Hollins, in a low voice, as they followed
the sultan's example and sat upon the seats placed ready. "We didn't
interrupt an execution, did we?"

"Execution? Oh no. Punishment of some kind, though. Look at them. It
can't be anything very bad, for they're chewing their betel calmly
enough."

"So bad, I'm afraid, that I shouldn't like to change places with
them.--Well," he said aloud to a couple of the Malays who like most of
their fellows were glaring at them fiercely, "what do you think of an
Englishman?"

"Think they don't like the look of you, old fellow," said Beecher
smiling. "You're too big for their taste."

For every face they encountered was shadowed by an unpleasant scowl,
and it seemed as if at a word every man's hand would have been raised
against them.

"I don't know that we want to see these poor wretches punished,"
whispered Beecher.

"No," said Hollins in a low growl; "but we're in for it now."

"But it is evidently serious. There's a man behind them who looks like
the executioner."

"Ah, that one," said Hollins. "I believe you're right: but they all
look like executioners to me, and as if they'd make us take our turn
next. Look here, lad, if they do begin any of their tricks, I'm going
to turn ugly and make a rush for our boat. There she is, tied on to the
stern of the prahu."

"Pst! Look," whispered Beecher, for the sultan glanced towards them,
smiled, and then made a sign to his men.

Quick as thought a couple of Malays seized one of the fettered men,
jerked him forward, and then forced him back into a kneeling position.

The poor wretch was bare save for the check sarong bound about his
loins, and he made no resistance, going on calmly chewing his scrap of
betel-nut, and remaining erect in his kneeling position, as the men on
either side hung away, holding each by his upper arm.

What followed was as rapid as it was horrible, the executioner going
through a series of movements with a skill which seemed to prove him to
be well accustomed to his dreadful task.

Beecher longed to retreat, but sat there as if fascinated, while the
operator stepped swiftly and silently behind the victim--culprit,
enemy, or murderer, who could say? In one hand the man had a tuft of
white cotton-wool, in the other a small pistol-handled kris, with a
thin perfectly straight blade.

He placed the cotton-wool like a pad upon the prisoner's shoulder
with his left hand, just in the hollow by the collar-bone. Then with
his right he passed the sharp point of his straight kris between the
fingers which held the cotton pad in its place, closing them so that
the little kris stood perfectly upright like a great nail waiting to be
driven home.

The next instant the right hand delivered a sharp blow upon the hilt
of the kris, and it was driven right down the victim's chest, and as
sharply drawn out again through the cotton-wool, which wiped away every
trace of blood, as the wretched creature fell forward upon his face
without a struggle--pierced through the heart.

Beecher sat firm as a rock; but as the kris was withdrawn a spasm
seemed to shoot through his own breast, and a thick mist gathered
before his eyes like a veil.

It was apparently minutes before the cloud lifted, and Beecher once
more saw clearly, shuddering as if with cold, as the executioner was
withdrawing his kris through the cotton pad, and he uttered a faint
gasp as he realised the fact that this was the second victim falling
forward upon his face.

There was a peculiar hissing noise behind where Beecher sat, as if
some one had drawn his breath sharply through his teeth, and he turned
quickly, to see the two regimental servants looking very white; but
their faces were as hard as if cut in wood.

"Horrible!" said Hollins, in a low, hoarse voice; "and the people all
looking on as if it were a fête! Ugh! I can stand leading our lads in a
charge, and get warm at it, but this gives me the chilly blues."

"Yes, horrible!" said Beecher; "and that Rajah sits smiling as if he
enjoyed it."

"Well, you haven't much room to talk; you sat through it all as coolly."

"I?" exclaimed Beecher.

"Yes; I watched you. Well, I suppose it's all over, and we may as well
come to an understanding with my lord here. I want to go. But I say, I
hope he didn't see me showing the white feather. Did he?"

"The white feather! Nonsense! You didn't move a muscle."

"Couldn't if I'd wanted to. Here: the sultan's speaking to you."

Beecher turned and faced the smiling chief.

"There are more to die," said the latter coolly.

It was on the tip of the young man's tongue to say, "After we have
gone!" but he checked himself, feeling that they would lose all the
prestige they had earned by shrinking now, and he simply bowed his
head, rising as the sultan did, and walking in company with his string
of attendants, some of whom bore the stools upon which they had been
seated.

"Where are they going now?" growled Hollins; "to one of the prahus?"

It seemed like it, for the sultan stopped short opposite one of the
vessels lying off the inlet shore.

Beecher caught his lower lip between his teeth, and gave a quick glance
about him, taking in all he could without moving his head. There were
the two prahus in front, crowded on the shore side with men, and a
short distance to the left was the boat in which they had ascended the
river, quite empty, for the crew were now in the first prahu. There
were plenty of other boats near, lying tied up to posts, or the trees
which overshadowed much of the inlet; but nothing seemed to offer an
easy way of escape unless they could reach their boat after dark, cast
off, and trust to the stream to bear them down to their camp.

"Seems to me," growled Hollins softly, breaking in upon his companion's
musings, "that we fellows have only to put on a good face and bounce
about a bit, to make these swarthy scoundrels respect us. I want to
know, though, whether his High and Mightiness here will let us go
peaceably after he has finished his show. Why, Dick, lad, we seem to
have dropped in upon jail delivery day."

"What do you mean?" said Beecher sharply, as he heard Jerry once more
draw a sharp hissing breath.

"More prisoners. They're bringing them out from that hut yonder."

"Ah!" exclaimed Beecher, in a low excited whisper; "the wretches, the
fiends! They're surely not going to kill those two girls. Oh, I can't
stand this!"

"Quiet, man!" growled Hollins. "It's as much as our lives are worth to
interfere."

"My life will be nothing to me if I sit here and see this horror. Here,
Rajah. Those women; they are not going to be killed?"

"Yes," said the sultan, showing his teeth in a pleasant smile. "They
escaped, and were brought back. My wives."

"But to be killed?"

"Yes. They will go to the river; and there----"

He laughed pleasantly, and placed his hands together, the wrists
touching, the palm and fingers widely apart, and then brought them
together sharply, in imitation of the closing of a crocodile's jaws.

"But it is horrible!" cried Beecher excitedly. "The English Government
will never allow this."

"Quiet, man," whispered Hollins excitedly. "What can the English
Government do now?"

"It's duty," whispered back Beecher excitedly. "We represent it: two
officers of her Majesty's forces."

"Four of us altogether," said Hollins sternly, "standing on the edge of
danger ourselves. Why, man, there must be five hundred of the sultan's
people here."

"I don't care if there are five thousand," said Beecher hoarsely. "I
say it shall not go on."

"I thought I was to do the brag and bullying, lad?"

"Will you stand by me?" panted Beecher.

"Of course."

"Your gun is loaded?"

"Yes."

"Jerry--Joe."

"Yes, sir," said the former sharply, and his companion's lips moved.

"You have the revolvers?"

"Yes, sir."

"Loaded?"

"Every chamber, sir."

"Stand by us, then, if we have to fight."

"Right, sir," said the man coolly, and Hollins's man nodded his head
and tightened his lips till they looked like a thin red line drawn
tightly over the lower part of his face.

"It's horribly rash, my lad, and we've no right to interfere with a
Rajah's domestic institutions," said Hollins in a dry, harsh voice that
did not sound like his own.

"You can't sit still and see those two women murdered."

"Don't suppose I can," was the reply. "What shall I do? Shoot the
Rajah?"

"I don't know yet. Wait and see. Yes, I know.--Here, Jerry."

"Sir."

"There are crocodiles in this part of the river?"

"Yes, sir, waiting to take them two poor things under. Both pretty,
sir, and don't look sixteen."

"Listen, then. If I give the word, dare you swim to our boat and cut it
loose?"

"No, sir."

"What?"

"Don't dare, sir, because of them great ugly efts; but you're my
officer, sir; just you order me to, and I'm blessed if I don't try."

"Good words, matey," said Joe huskily. "If you don't, I will."

"Then if it comes to the worst, and I say, 'In the Queen's name,' dash
in, cut the rope, and bring the boat ashore. Open your knife in your
pocket now."

"'Tis open, sir--'case I wanted to stick it into one of these brutes o'
niggers."

"Good. Wait till the people are watching those women, and slip the
revolver into my hand."

"Right, sir."

Almost at that moment, while the two wretched girls were being brought,
shrinking and trembling, towards where the sultan was seated, one of
them seemed to have suddenly realised the horrible fate which awaited
her: possibly she caught her first glimpse of the flashing water, and
she uttered a wild shriek that as Jerry afterwards said went through
him like a knife.

"That's done it, Dick," growled Hollins in a whisper. "That's done it.
I'm wound up now. Say when you're ready."

In the midst of the excitement, and every one's attention centred upon
the girls, the second following her companion's example--shrieking and
struggling wildly, as each was dragged towards the sultan by a couple
of his followers, Beecher felt the handle of a revolver thrust into
his hand, which closed upon it, and placed it in the waistband of his
trousers.

The shrieks of the two unfortunate victims were now horrible, and as
they were dragged close up to where the four Englishmen sat, thrilling
with horror, panting with suppressed energy, they saw the girls stretch
out their arms to the master whose wretched slaves they were, and
mingled with their shrieks, which pierced the utter silence around,
were inarticulate appeals for mercy.

The next moment the cries ceased as if a hand had been laid upon each
pair of quivering lips, for Beecher suddenly sprang to his feet,
shouting "Stop!" and turned to the sultan.

"Sir," he cried hoarsely, "we your guests appeal to you as Englishmen
to pardon and spare these poor women, however much they have offended
against you."

Every eye was fixed now upon the speaker, as he stood there bareheaded
and quivering with excitement, and looking for the first time in his
life, big, almost grand, his face flushed, his breast heaving, every
inch an Englishman and soldier of his Queen.

"Sit down," said the sultan, smiling up at the speaker in the most
imperturbable manner; and though Beecher did not see it, Hollins did:
his hand stole softly to the folds of his silken sarong, where it
rested upon his kris. "Sit down."

"And see this cruel murder? I cannot, sir. I appeal to you to spare
their lives."

"Sit down," said the sultan in the same low tone; but the smile was as
ferocious as that of some beast of prey. "Sit down, or----"

His eyes flashed luridly now, and there was an ominous rustle from
behind, which made Hollins give a sharp look back at the guards.

"Then _In the Queens Name!_" shouted Beecher, raising his double gun,
and before the words had left his lips Jerry leaped past him, and in
a series of bounds reached the edge of the water to disappear with a
tremendous splash.

As Jerry made his first bound his master was in the act of rushing
towards where the two girls were being now held down upon their knees
by the men who had dragged them to the sultan's feet, when quick as
lightning the savage chief made a blow at him with his kris, which fell
short, for, driven with the full force of Hollins's tremendous arms,
the butt of his double gun crashed against the side of the tyrant's
head, and he rolled over and over among his attendants.

[Illustration: "The butt of his double gun crashed against the side of
the tyrant's head."]

This daring attack on majesty seemed to have a paralysing effect upon
the group of spearmen and swordbearers, who hung together for a few
moments in utter wonder and dismay.

They were moments well utilised, for in that brief space of time the
men who held the girls went over, two from blows dealt by Hollins with
the butt of his gun, the others from strokes delivered by Beecher and
Joe with the revolver he had drawn.

All this without a shot being fired, and for the moment the prisoners
were free.

Fortunately for their would-be defenders, the girls were not timid
creatures ready to faint, or cripple the arms of those who fought. For
they sprang to their feet and looked wildly round for an opening by
which to escape.

"To the naga--to the naga!" shouted Beecher, who saw his man in the
act of reaching the bows of the light boat, and as an arm rose above
the water there was the flash of a knife-blade in the sunshine, and the
boat was free and being urged with the stream towards the shore.

The girls dashed along the bank, fully grasping the fact that escape
lay in that direction, and it was time, for a yell of suppressed rage
now arose, as the Malays recovered from their panic, spears were
levelled, krises flashed in the light, and they commenced their attack.

[Illustration: "The girls dashed along the bank."]

But their movements were slow and stealthy like those of the tiger
preparing to spring, for three Englishmen faced them, each with deadly
weapons ready to flash out destruction, as they backed in the direction
of their boat.

"Don't fire, boys; don't fire," growled Hollins. "Give the girls time
to get on board. Look back, Joe, has Jerry got it ashore?"

"Pretty close, sir," said the man shortly. "Hooroar! One of the girls
has jumped in. Yes, there goes the other. Won't leave us in the lurch,
will they?--No. Hooroar again! they've took to the oars and are holding
her in. Jerry's getting ashore again, legs and all, sir--not touched."

"Here you are, gents," came in that individual's familiar accents. "Let
'm have it hot, and make a run for it."

"No!" roared Hollins. "Keep your formation till we're abreast; then
retire singly. You first, Joe."

There was a bristling hedge of spear-points approaching, and a snarling
roar of voices rose, while suddenly a spear was thrown from the first
prahu, but only to fall short of the retreating party, yards away upon
the bank. Still that was the signal for a shower.

"They won't hurt," growled Hollins. "But if these brutes begin--Ah, I
expected it.--Steady!--From the left.--Fire!"

A shot flashed from Beecher's gun as the spears began to fall about
them, and a man dropped. Another fell from Hollins's fire, and another
as Joe's revolver cracked. Then Beecher fired his second barrel, and
drew his revolver.

At the same moment a dripping hand snatched the empty gun from his
grasp, and a couple of cartridges from his sporting bandoleer.

"Good man and true," growled Hollins, as he fired. "Aboard now, Jerry;
take more cartridges, and cover our retreat. Steady, and keep up a good
covering fire. Steady, Joe, steady."

The firing was kept up, and the next minute they were abreast of the
boat, which was held to the shore by the two brave girls.

"Right, man. Aboard now," cried Hollins calmly, as a shot from the
boat's stern told that Jerry had begun work; and directly after a sharp
crack came from the bows, telling that Joe had reached his place, men
dropping at every carefully aimed shot.

[Illustration: "Crack!"]

"Hah!" ejaculated Beecher, as a spear passed through his sleeve.

"Hurt, lad?" growled Hollins. "Aboard if you can."

"Nothing much. Follow quickly," said Beecher, between his teeth, and
the next moment Hollins stood alone upon the shore, to fire both
barrels of his reloaded gun in succession, before turning and leaping
aboard, the impetus given by his heavy body sending the boat yards from
the bank, while the two girls began to row.

As soon as the last man left the bank the Malays rushed forward and
began to hurl their spears, nearly every one striking the boat, till
at a word from Hollins a little volley was fired, and, four less in
number, the enemy shrank back.

"Now lads," said Hollins coolly, "let us have your pieces; we'll keep
up the fire. You take two of the oars, and help the girls. Send her
along with a rush, for they're beginning to unmoor that first prahu.
Dick, lad, we must begin practice now on the men at the sweeps, or the
game will soon be up. Oh, for half a company of our brave lads! But
good heavens, man! are you much hurt?"

"No; only a cut, which bleeds a deal. Tie your handkerchief round, and
I can fire steadily enough. They're unmooring the prahu. Can you hit
that man casting off the rope there ashore?"

_Crack!_

"Yes, that's downed him," said Hollins coolly reloading. "Hah! we're
out of the reach of spears for the present."

"Till the prahu comes after us to run us down," muttered
Beecher.--"Well, if ever they hear of it at home they'll say it was
bravely done."



CHAPTER VI


"Cease firing," said Hollins, after carefully wiping the breech of his
piece, "and no bugle to sound. Are you all charged?"

"Yes--yes, sir," was the reply.

"That's right. I'd better relieve one of these ladies, for we must row
for our lives. But how are you, Dick?"

"Sick as a dog, old chap," said the young man smiling; "but I haven't
time to faint. I can take a shot now and then, though, when they come
in sight again." For as he spoke they swept round a bend, and the busy
scene of excitement about the prahus and sampans, into which armed men
were springing, passed from their sight.

"Good; I'll pull then. Wish we had a pair of sculls that I could take
so as not to interfere."

"Why not put one of these oars over and I'll steer?" said Beecher
faintly.

"We want no steering now, my lad," cried Hollins; "the thing is to
go full speed for the hanging boughs, and rush through into the open
river.--Here, hi!--What's the matter?" he cried excitedly.

"Better come and pull, sir," said Jerry excitedly; "these here dark
misses want to go another way, I think."

The men had seized oars, and the girls dipped theirs vigorously, one
of them pulling a few strokes with all her might, and then raising her
blade and turning to look ahead, saying a word or two at intervals to
her toiling sister in distress, who, after a few more dips, began to
pull again with all her might.

The result was that the next minute the prow of their light boat was
straight for what seemed to be the tree-studded bank, into which they
rushed, with a sharp rustling sound as the hanging boughs swept over
the roof of the palm-leaf awning, and they glided on into the gloomy
shadow of a winding waterway some ten yards wide, the rowers softly
dipping their oars, and one of them holding up a hand to enforce
silence.

The sign was needed, for not many minutes had elapsed before there were
shouts, the heavy beating of sweeps, and it was as evident to those
in the boat as if they could see that a prahu had gone by the hidden
opening through which they had passed, and was making at full speed for
the river.

Hollins drew a deep breath, and passed his hand across his forehead.

"A respite, lad," he said; "but as soon as they see the main river
clear they'll be back. Ask the girls if the men are to row again."

The question was not necessary, for one of the pair now signed to
the two servants to resume their pulling, and the boat's speed was
redoubled, while Beecher changed the form of his question, and the girl
laughed.

"No," she said, shaking her head. "Prahu can't come along here. Water
not deep enough."

"But the sampans?"

"Yes, and boats like this," said the girl. "Then you shoot and kill."

As she spoke she signed to the men to stop rowing, and the naga was
turned into a side opening, and after a few minutes into another and
another. For to the surprise of the young officers they found that this
side of the river was one wide swamp full of dense vegetation, through
which there was a perfect network of sluggish streams, forming a very
labyrinth, in and out of whose mazy waterways they now rowed on and
on in almost perfect silence, not a sound being heard but the dip of
the oars and the soft washing of the agitated water among the straight
columnar trunks which rose out of the black mud.

They went on for hours, till with the darkness the strange croaking and
shrieking night sounds of the forest began. After many windings, they
were amongst hanging boughs again which swept the top of their palm
cabin, and the next minute were clear, with the bright stars overhead
and the boat being carried seaward by the rushing stream.

Suddenly Hollins started and pointed to a light about a hundred yards
away, and the girls began to row towards the opposite bank to avoid
what was evidently the mooring light of a good-sized vessel anchored in
mid-stream.

The moments which followed seemed to be the most crucial through which
they had passed, for they were forced by the sharp current very near a
prahu, whose sides loomed up darkly, and at any moment it seemed that
spears might come whirring into the boat.

But they cleared it unseen, to encounter fresh dangers from sunken
trees, shoals, and other obstacles which they could not avoid in the
darkness, and before they had drifted many hundred yards below the
enemy there was a sharp jerk, a grinding sound, and they were fast upon
a shoal, the boat only becoming more immovable with the efforts made to
get her free.

There was nothing for it but to wait till daylight, when to their
mortification they found that a thrust or two in the right direction
was sufficient to set them free. Then the oars were seized and once
more they rowed for life and in full expectation of seeing the prahu
they had passed coming at full speed round one of the bends.

Within an hour their expectation was fulfilled, for one of the girls
suddenly started up and pointed to the long light vessel with its oars
flashing in the rising sunlight, as she came on at a speed double that
which with every nerve strained they could get up in the naga.

"The game's up after all, Dick," muttered Hollins. "Well, we must do
what we can with the guns. Plenty of cartridges, haven't we?"

Beecher looked at him wistfully, and slowly shook his head, but the
next moment a thrill ran through his breast, and he rose up in his
place, waving his hat.

"Saved!" he shouted. "Pull, lads, they'll see us soon."

Beecher was right, for a signal was made from a large boat a quarter
of a mile down stream, manned by many rowers, and with the barrels of
rifles glistening in the sun.

For at the first sign of day breaking a strong party with the
regimental surgeon had started under the major in search of the missing
officers, and it was none too soon, the help arriving in the midst of
a brave defence being made by the occupants of the naga.

A few shots from the rifles of the rescue party were sufficient though,
to turn the tables, the prahu, after the loss of about a dozen men,
beating a retreat up stream.

Two days later the sultan sent a couple of prahus full of armed men to
demand the return of his wives.

Hollins and Beecher were both present when the sultan's officers were
received in audience, and Beecher, whose arm was in a sling, acted as
interpreter between them and the major.

"If I did what I liked, sir," said the young officer, "I'd bid them
tell their master to come and fetch the girls."

"Well, that's not a bad message, Beecher," said the major, smiling; "it
sounds British. Tell them that."

Beecher spoke out at once, and the embassy went off, as Hollins said,
"with a flea in its ear."


     THE END


  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
  Edinburgh & London



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Otherwise, the author's
original spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been left intact.





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