Rujub, the Juggler by G. A. Henty
"Rujub, the Juggler," is mainly an historical tale for young and old, dealing with the Sepoy Mutiny, in India, during the years 1857 to 1859.
This famous mutiny occurred while the reins of British rule in India were in the hands of Lord Canning. Chupattees (cakes of flour and water) were circulated among the natives, placards protesting against British rule were posted at Delhi, and when the Enfield rifle with its greased cartridges was introduced among the Sepoy soldiers serving the Queen it was rumored that the cartridges were smeared with the forbidden pig's fat, so that the power of the Sepoys might forever be destroyed.
Fanatical to the last degree, the Sepoys were not long in bringing the mutiny to a head. The first outbreak occurred at Meerut, where were stationed about two thousand English soldiers and three thousand native troops. The native troops refused to use the cartridges supplied to them and eighty-two were placed under arrest. On the day following the native troops rebelled in a body, broke open the guardhouse and released the prisoners, and a severe battle followed, and Meerut was given over to the flames. The mutineers then marched upon Delhi, thirty-two miles away, and took possession. At Bithoor the Rajah had always professed a strong friendship for the English, but he secretly plotted against them, and, later on, General Wheeler was compelled to surrender to the Rajah at Cawnpore, and did so with the understanding that the lives of all in the place should be spared. Shortly after the surrender the English officers and soldiers were shot down, and all of the women and children butchered.
The mutiny was now at its height, and for a while it was feared that British rule in India must cease. The Europeans at Lucknow were besieged for about three months and were on the point of giving up, when they were relieved through the heroic march of General Havelock. Sir Colin Campbell followed, and soon the city was once more in the complete possession of the British. Oude was speedily reduced to submission, many of the rebel leaders were either shot or hanged, and gradually the mutiny, which had cost the lives of thousands, was brought to an end.
The tale, however, is not all of war. In its pages are given many true to life pictures of life in India, in the barracks of the soldiers and elsewhere. A most important part is played by Rujub, the juggler, who is a warm friend to the hero of the narrative. Rujub is no common conjuror, but one of the higher men of mystery, who perform partly as a religious duty and who accept no pay for such performances. The acts of these persons are but little understood, even at this late day, and it is possible that many of their arts will sooner or later be utterly lost to the world at large. That they can do some wonderful things in juggling, mind reading, and in second sight, is testified to by thousands of people who have witnessed their performances in India; how they do these things has never yet been explained.
Strange as it may seem, the hero of the tale is a natural born coward, who cannot stand the noise of gunfire. He realizes his shortcomings, and they are frequently brought home to him through the taunts of his fellow soldiers. A doctor proves that the dread of noise is hereditary, but this only adds to the young soldier's misery. To make himself brave he rushes to the front in a most desperate fight, and engages in scout work which means almost certain death. In the end he masters his fear, and gives a practical lesson of what stern and unbending will power can accomplish.
In many respects "Rujub, the Juggler," will be found one of the strongest of Mr. Henty's works, and this is saying much when one considers all of the many stories this well known author has already penned for the entertainment of young and old. As a picture of life in the English Army in India it is unexcelled.