Rujub, the Juggler by G. A. Henty
As soon as Bathurst began to remove the covering of the hole, a voice came from below.
"Is that you, Bathurst?"
"All right, Doctor."
"Heaven be praised! You are back sooner than I expected, by a long way. I heard voices talking, so I doubted whether it was you."
"The ladder is still there, I suppose, Doctor?"
"Yes; it is just as you got off it. What are you going to do about the hole?"
"Rujub is here; he will cover it up after me."
"Then you were right," the Doctor said, as Bathurst stepped down beside him; "and you found the juggler really waiting for you?"
"At the bungalow, Doctor, as I expected."
"And what have you done? You can hardly have seen Por Sing; it is not much over an hour since you left."
"I have seen him, Doctor; and what is more, he has pledged his word for our safety."
"Thank God for that, lad; it is more than I expected. This will be news indeed for the poor women. And do you think he will be strong enough to keep his pledge?"
"I think so; he asked me to wait until tomorrow afternoon before going out with a flag of truce, and said that by that time he would get the other Zemindars to stand by him, and would make terms whether the Sepoys liked it or not."
"Well, you shall tell us all about it afterwards, Bathurst; let us take the news in to them at once; it is long since they had good tidings of any kind; it would be cruel to keep them in suspense, even for five minutes."
There was no noisy outburst of joy when the news was told. Three weeks before it would have been received with the liveliest satisfaction, but now the bitterness of death was well nigh past; half the children lay in their graves in the garden, scarce one of the ladies but had lost husband or child, and while women murmured "Thank God!" as they clasped their children to them, the tears ran down as they thought how different it would have been had the news come sooner. The men, although equally quiet, yet showed more outward satisfaction than the women. Warm grasps of the hands were exchanged by those who had fought side by side during these terrible days, and a load seemed lifted at once off their shoulders.
Bathurst stayed but a moment in the room after this news was told, but went in with Dr. Wade to the Major, and reported to him in full the conversation that had taken place between himself and Por Sing.
"I think you are right, Bathurst; if the Oude men hold together, the Sepoys will scarcely risk a breach with them. Whether he will be able to secure our safety afterwards is another thing."
"I quite see that, Major; but it seems to me that we have no option but to accept his offer and hope for the best."
"That is it," the Doctor agreed. "It is certain death if we don't surrender; there is a chance that he will be able to protect us if we do. At any rate, we can be no worse off than we are here."
Isobel had been in with Mrs. Doolan nursing the sick children when Bathurst arrived, but they presently came out. Isobel shook hands with him without speaking.
"We are all heavily indebted to you, Mr. Bathurst," Mrs. Doolan said. "If we escape from this, it will be to you that we humanly owe our lives."
She spoke in a voice that all in the room could hear.
"Your are right, Mrs. Doolan," the Doctor said; "and I think that there are some who must regret now the manner in which they have behaved to Bathurst since this siege began."
"I do for one," Captain Doolan said, coming forward.
"I have regretted it for some time, though I have not had the manliness to say so. I am heartily sorry. I have done you a great and cruel injustice. I ought to have known that the Doctor, who knew you vastly better than I did, was not likely to be mistaken. Putting that aside, I ought to have seen, and I did see, though I would not acknowledge it even to myself, that no man has borne himself more calmly and steadfastly through this siege than you have, and that by twice venturing out among the enemy you gave proof that you possessed as much courage as any of us. I do hope that you will give me your hand."
All the others who had held aloof from Bathurst came forward and expressed their deep regret for what had occurred.
Bathurst heard them in silence.
"I do not feel that there is anything to forgive," he said quietly. "I am glad to hear what you say, and I know you mean it, and I accept the hands you offer, but what you felt towards me has affected me but little, for your contempt for me was as nothing to my contempt of myself. Nothing can alter the fact that here, where every man's hand was wanted to defend the ladies and children, my hand was paralyzed; that whatever I may be at other times, in the hour of battle I fail hopelessly; nothing that I can do can wipe out, from my own consciousness, that disgrace."
"You exaggerate it altogether, Bathurst," Wilson broke in hotly. "It is nonsense your talking like that, after the way you jumped down into the middle of them with that mace of yours. It was splendid."
"More than that, Mr. Bathurst," Mrs. Doolan said, "I think we women know what true courage is; and there is not one of us but has, since this siege began, been helped and strengthened by your calmness --not one but has reason to be grateful for your kindness to our children during this terrible time. I won't hear even you speak against yourself."
"Then I will not do so, Mrs. Doolan," he said, with a grave smile. "And now I will go and sit with the Major for a time. Things are quieter tonight than they have been for some time past, and I trust he will get some sleep."
So saying, he quietly left the room.
"I don't believe he has slept two hours at a time since the siege began," Mrs. Doolan said, with tears in her eyes. "We have all suffered--God only knows what we have suffered!--but I am sure that he has suffered more than any of us. As for you men, you may well say you are sorry and ashamed of your treatment of him. Coward, indeed! Mr. Bathurst may be nervous, but I am sure he has as much courage as anyone here. Come, Isobel, you were up all last night, and it's past two o'clock now. We must try to get a little sleep before morning, and I should advise everyone else off duty to do the same."
At daybreak firing commenced, and was kept up energetically all the morning. At two o'clock a white flag was hoisted from the terrace, and its appearance was greeted with shouts of triumph by the assailants. The firing at once ceased, and in a few minutes a native officer carrying a white flag advanced towards the walls.
"We wish to see the Zemindar Por Sing," Bathurst said, "to treat with him upon the subject of our surrender."
The officer withdrew, and returned in half an hour saying that he would conduct the officer in command to the presence of the chief of the besieging force. Captain Doolan, therefore, accompanied by Bathurst and Dr. Wade, went out. They were conducted to the great tent where all the Zemindars and the principal officers of the Sepoys were assembled. Bathurst acted as spokesman.
"Por Sing," he said, "and you Zemindars of Oude, Major Hannay being disabled, Captain Doolan, who is now in command of the garrison, has come to represent him and to offer to surrender to you under the condition that the lives of all British and natives within the walls be respected, and that you pledge us your faith and honor that we shall be permitted to go down the country without molestation. It is to you, Por Sing, and you nobles of Oude, that we surrender, and not to those who, being sworn soldiers, have mutinied against their officers, and have in many cases treacherously murdered them. With such men Major Hannay will have no dealings, and it is to you that we surrender. Major Hannay bids me say that if this offer is refused, we can for a long time prolong our resistance. We are amply supplied with provisions and munitions of war, and many as are the numbers of our assailants who have fallen already, yet more will die before you obtain possession of the house. More than that, in no case will we be taken prisoners, for one and all have firmly resolved to fire the magazine when resistance is no longer possible, and to bury ourselves and our assailants in the ruins."
When Bathurst ceased, a hubbub of voices arose, the Sepoy officers protesting that the surrender should be made to them. It was some minutes before anything like quietness was restored, and then one of the officers said, "Here is Rujub; he speaks in the name of Nana. What does he say to this?"
Rujub, who was handsomely attired, stepped forward.
"I have no orders from his highness on this subject," he said. "He certainly said that the prisoners were to be sent to him, but at present there are no prisoners, nor, if the siege continues, and the English carry out their threat, will there be any prisoners. I cannot think that Nana Sahib would wish to see some hundreds more of his countrymen slain or blown up, only that he may have these few men and women in his power."
"We have come here to take them and kill them," one of the officers said defiantly; "and we will do so."
Por Sing, who had been speaking with the Talookdars round him, rose from his seat.
"It seems to me that it is for us to decide this matter," he said. "It is upon us that the losses of this siege have fallen. At the order of Nana Sahib we collected our retainers, abandoned our homes, and have for three weeks supported the dangers of this siege. We follow the Nana, but we are not his vassals, nor do we even know what his wishes are in this matter, but it seems to us that we have done enough and more than enough. Numbers of our retainers and kinsmen have fallen, and to prolong the siege would cause greater loss, and what should we gain by it? The possession of a heap of stones. Therefore, we are all of opinion that this offer of surrender should be accepted. We war for the freedom of our country, and have no thirst for the blood of these English sahibs, still less for that of their wives and children."
Some of the officers angrily protested, but Por Sing stood firm, and the other chiefs were equally determined. Seeing this, the officers consulted together, and the highest in rank then said to the Talookdars, "We protest against these conditions being given, but since you are resolved, we stand aside, and are ready to agree for ourselves and our men to what you may decide."
"What pledges do you require?" Por Sing asked Bathurst.
"We are content, Rajah, with your personal oath that the lives of all within the house shall be respected, and your undertaking that they shall be allowed to go unharmed down the country. We have absolute faith in the honor of the nobles of Oude, and can desire no better guarantee."
"I will give it," Por Sing said, "and all my friends will join me in it. Tonight I will have boats collected on the river; I will furnish you with an escort of my troops, and will myself accompany you and see you safely on board. I will then not only give you a safe conduct, praying all to let you pass unharmed, but my son with ten men shall accompany you in the boats to inform all that my honor is concerned in your safety, and that I have given my personal pledge that no molestation shall be offered to you. I will take my oath, and my friends will do the same, and I doubt not that the commander of the Sepoy troops will join me in it."
Bathurst translated what had been said to Captain Doolan.
"It is impossible for him to do more than that," he concluded; "I do not think there is the least question as to his good faith."
"He is a fine old heathen," Captain Doolan said; "tell him that we accept his terms."
Bathurst at once signified this, and the Rajah then took a solemn oath to fulfill the conditions of the agreement, the other Talookdars doing the same, and the commander of the Sepoys also doing so without hesitation. Por Sing then promised that some carts should be collected before morning, to carry the ladies, the sick and wounded, down to the river, which was eight miles distant.
"You can sleep in quiet tonight," he added; "I will place a guard of my own men round the house, and see that none trouble you in any way."
A few other points were settled, and then the party returned to the house, to which they were followed a few minutes later by the son of Por Sing and three lads, sons of other Zemindars. Bathurst went down to meet them when their approach was noticed by the lookout on the roof.
"We have come to place ourselves in your hands as hostages, sahib," Por Sing's son said. "My father thought it likely that the Sepoys or others might make trouble, and he said that if we were in your hands as hostages, all our people would see that the agreement must be kept, and would oppose themselves more vigorously to the Sepoys."
"It was thoughtful and kind of your father," Bathurst said. "As far as accommodation is concerned, we can do little to make you comfortable, but in other respects we are not badly provided."
Some of the native servants were at once told off to erect an awning over a portion of the terrace. Tables and couches were placed here, and Bathurst undertook the work of entertaining the visitors.
He was glad of the precaution that had been taken in sending them, for with the glass he could make out that there was much disturbance in the Sepoy lines, men gathering in large groups, with much shouting and noise. Muskets were discharged in the direction of the house, and it was evident that the mutineers were very discontented with the decision that had been arrived at.
In a short time, however, a body, several hundred strong, of the Oude fighting men moved down and surrounded the house; and when a number of the Sepoys approached with excited and menacing gestures, one of the Zemindars went out to meet them, and Bathurst, watching the conference, could see by his pointing to the roof of the house that he was informing them that hostages had been given to the Europeans for the due observance of the treaty, and doubted not he was telling them that their lives would be endangered by any movement. Then he pointed to the batteries, as if threatening that if any attack was made the guns would be turned upon them. At any rate, after a time they moved away, and gradually the Sepoys could be seen returning to their lines.
There were but few preparations to be made by the garrison for their journey. It had been settled that they might take their personal effects with them, but it was at once agreed to take as little as possible, as there would probably be but little room in the boats, and the fewer things they carried the less there would be to tempt the cupidity of the natives.
"Well, Bathurst, what do you think of the outlook?" the Doctor asked, as late in the evening they sat together on some sandbags in a corner of the terrace.
"I think that if we get past Cawnpore in safety there is not much to fear. There is no other large place on the river, and the lower we get down the less likely the natives are to disturb us, knowing, as they are almost sure to do, that a force is gathering at Allahabad."
"After what you heard of the massacre of the prisoners at Cawnpore, whom the Nana and his officers had all sworn to allow to depart in safety, there is little hope that this scoundrel will respect the arrangements made here."
"We must pass the place at night, and trust to drifting down unobserved --the river is wide there--and keeping near the opposite shore, we may get past in the darkness without being perceived; and even if they do make us out, the chances are they will not hit us. There are so few of us that there is no reason why they should trouble greatly about us."
"I am sorry to say, Bathurst, that I don't like the appearance of the Major's wound. Everything has been against him; the heat, the close air, and his anxiety of mind have all told on him, he seems very low, and I have great doubts whether he will ever see Allahabad."
"I hope you are wrong, Doctor, but I thought myself there was a change for the worse when I saw him an hour ago; there was a drawn look about his face I did not like. He is a splendid fellow; nothing could have been kinder than he has been to me. I wish I could change places with him."
The Doctor grunted. "Well, as none of us may see Allahabad, Bathurst, you need not trouble yourself on that score. I wonder what has become of your friend the conjurer. I thought he might have been in to see you this afternoon."
"I did not expect him," Bathurst said; "I expect he went as far as he dared in what he said at the Durbar today. Probably he is doing all he can to keep matters quiet. Of course he may have gone down to Cawnpore to see Nana Sahib, but I should think it more probable that he would remain here until he knows we are safe on board the boats."
"Ah, here is Wilson," said the Doctor; "he is a fine young fellow, and I am very glad he has gone through it safely."
"So am I," Bathurst said warmly; "here we are, Wilson."
"I thought I would find you both smoking here," Wilson said, as he seated himself; "it is awfully hot below, and the ladies are all at work picking out the things they are going to take with them and packing them, and as I could not be of any use at that, I thought I would come up for a little fresh air, if one can call it fresh; but, in fact, I would rather sit over an open drain, for the stench is horrible. How quiet everything seems tonight! After crouching here for the last three weeks listening to the boom of their cannon and the rush of their balls overhead, or the crash as they hit something, it seems quite unnatural; one can't help thinking that something is going to happen. I don't believe I shall be able to sleep a wink tonight; while generally, in spite of the row, it has been as much as I could do to keep my eyes open. I suppose I shall get accustomed to it in time. At present it seems too unnatural to enjoy it."
"You had better get a good night's sleep, if you can, Wilson," the Doctor said. "There won't be much sleep for us in the boats till we see the walls of Allahabad."
"I suppose not, Doctor. I expect we shall be horribly cramped up. I long to be there. I hope to get attached to one of the regiments coming up, so as to help in giving the thrashing to these scoundrels that they deserve. I would give a year's pay to get that villain, Nana Sahib, within reach of my sword. It is awful to think of the news you brought in, Bathurst, and that there are hundreds of women and children in his power now. What a day it will be when we march into Cawnpore!"
"Don't count your chickens too soon, Wilson," the Doctor said, "The time I am looking forward to is when we shall have safely passed Cawnpore on our way down; that is quite enough for me to hope for at present."
"Yes, I was thinking of that myself," Wilson replied. "If the Nana could not be bound by the oath he had taken himself, he is not likely to respect the agreement made here."
"We must pass the place at night," Bathurst said, "and trust to not being seen. Even if they do make us out, we shan't be under fire long unless they follow us down the bank; but if the night is dark, they may not make us out at all. Fortunately there is no moon, and boats are not very large marks even by daylight, and at night it would only be a chance shot that would hit us."
"Yes, we should be as difficult to hit as a tiger," the Doctor put in.
"I have gained a lot of experience since then, Doctor. What ages that seems back! Years almost."
"It does indeed," the Doctor agreed; "we count time by incidents and not by days. Well, I think I shall turn in.. Are you coming, Bathurst?"
"No, I could not sleep," Bathurst said; "I shall watch till morning. I feel sure it is all safe, but the mutineers might attempt something."
The night, however, passed off quietly, and soon after daybreak eight bullock carts were seen approaching, with a strong body of Oude men. Half an hour later the luggage was packed, and the sick and wounded laid on straw in the wagons. Several of the ladies took their places with them, but Mrs. Doolan, Isobel, and Mary Hunter said they would walk for a while. It had been arranged that the men might carry out their arms with them, and each of the ten able to walk took their rifles, while all, even the women, had pistols about them. Just as they were ready, Por Sing and several of the Zemindars rode up on horseback.
"We shall see you to the boats," he said. "Have you taken provisions for your voyage? It would be better not to stop to buy anything on the way."
This precaution had been taken, and as soon as all was ready they set out, guarded by four hundred Oude matchlock men. The Sepoys had gathered near the house, and as soon as they left it there was a rush made to secure the plunder.
"I should have liked to have emptied the contents of some of my bottles into the wine," the Doctor growled; "it would not have been strictly professional, perhaps, but it would have been a good action."
"I am sure you would not have given them poison, Doctor," Wilson laughed; "but a reasonable dose of ipecacuanha might hardly have gone against your conscience."
"My conscience has nothing to do with it," the Doctor said. "These fellows came from Cawnpore, and I have no doubt took part in the massacre there. My conscience wouldn't have troubled me if I could have poisoned the whole of the scoundrels, or put a slow match in the magazine and blown them all into the air, but under the present conditions it would hardly have been politic, as one couldn't be sure of annihilating the whole of them. Well, Miss Hannay, what are you thinking of?"
"I am thinking that my uncle looks worse this morning, Doctor; does it not strike you so too?"
"We must hope that the fresh air will do him good. One could not expect anyone to get better in that place; it was enough to kill a healthy man, to say nothing of a sick one."
Isobel was walking by the side of the cart in which her uncle was lying, and it was not long before she took her place beside him.
The Doctor shook his head.
"Can you do nothing, Doctor?" Bathurst said, in a low tone.
"Nothing; he is weaker this morning, still the change of air may help him, and he may have strength to fight through; the wound itself is a serious one, but he would under other circumstances have got over it. As it is, I think his chance a very poor one, though I would not say as much to her."
After three hours' travel they reached the river. Here two large native boats were lying by the bank. The baggage and sick were soon placed on board, and the Europeans with the native servants were then divided between them, and the Rajah's son and six of the retainers took their places in one of the boats. The Doctor and Captain Doolan had settled how the party should be divided. The Major and the other sick men were all placed in one boat, and in this were the Doctor, Bathurst, and four civilians, with Isobel Hannay, Mrs. Hunter, and her daughter. Captain Doolan, his wife, Mrs. Rintoul, and the other three ladies, with the six children who had alone survived, and the rest of the party, were in the other boat.
Por Sing and his companions were thanked heartily for the protection they had given, and Bathurst handed them a document which had been signed by all the party, testifying to the service they had rendered.
"If we don't get down to Allahabad," Bathurst said, as he handed it to him, "this will insure you good treatment when the British troops come up. If we get there, we will represent your conduct in such a light that I think I can promise you that the part you took in the siege will be forgiven."
Then the boats pushed off and started on their way down the stream.
The distance by water to Cawnpore was over forty miles. It was already eleven o'clock, and slow progress only could be made with the heavy boats, but it was thought that they would be able to pass the town before daylight began to break next morning, and they therefore pushed on as rapidly as they could, the boatmen being encouraged to use their utmost efforts by the promise of a large reward upon their arrival at Allahabad.
There was but little talk in the boats. Now that the strain was over, all felt its effects severely. The Doctor attended to his patients; Isobel sat by the side of her uncle, giving him some broth that they had brought with them, from time to time, or moistening his lips with weak brandy and water. He spoke only occasionally.
"I don't much think I shall get down to Allahabad, Isobel," he said. "If I don't, go down to Calcutta, and go straight to Jamieson and Son; they are my agents, and they will supply you with money to take you home; they have a copy of my will; my agents in London have another copy. I had two made in case of accident."
"Oh, uncle, you will get better now you are out of that terrible place."
"I am afraid it is too late, my dear, though I should like to live for your sake. But I think I see happiness before you, if you choose to take it; he is a noble fellow, Isobel, in spite of that unfortunate weakness."
Isobel made no answer, but a slight pressure of the hand she was holding showed that she understood what he meant. It was no use to tell her uncle that she felt that what might have been was over now. Bathurst had chatted with her several times the evening before and during the march that morning, but she felt the difference between his tone and that in which he had addressed her in the old times before the troubles began. It was a subtle difference that she could hardly have explained even to herself, but she knew that it was as a friend, and as a friend only, that he would treat her in the future, and that the past was a closed book, which he was determined not to reopen.
Bathurst talked to Mrs. Hunter and her daughter, both of whom were mere shadows, worn out with grief, anxiety, and watching. At times he went forward to talk to the young noble, who had taken his seat there. Both boats had been arched in with a canopy of boughs to serve alike as a protection from the sun and to screen those within from the sight of natives in boats or on the banks.
"You don't look yourself, Bathurst," the Doctor said to him late in the afternoon. "Everything seems going on well. No boats have passed us, and the boatmen all say that we shall pass Cawnpore about one o'clock, at the rate at which we are going."
"I feel nervous, Doctor; more anxious than I have been ever since this began. There is an apprehension of danger weighing over me that I can't account for. As you say, everything seems going on well, and yet I feel that it is not so. I am afraid I am getting superstitious, but I feel as if Rujub knows of some danger impending, and that he is somehow conveying that impression to me. I know that there is nothing to be done, and that we are doing the only thing that we can do, unless we were to land and try and make our way down on foot, which would be sheer madness. That the man can in some way impress my mind at a distance is evident from that summons he gave me to meet him at the ruins of my bungalow, but I do not feel the same clear distinct perception of his wishes now as I did then. Perhaps he himself is not aware of the particulars of the danger that threatens, or, knowing them, he can see no way of escape out of them. It may be that at night, when everything is quiet, one's mind is more open to such impressions than it is when we are surrounded by other people and have other things to think of, but I feel an actual consciousness of danger."
"I don't think there can be any danger until we get down near Cawnpore. They may possibly be on the lookout for us there, and may even have boats out on the stream. It is possible that the Sepoys may have sent down word yesterday afternoon to Nana Sahib that we had surrendered, and should be starting by boat this morning, but I don't think there can be any danger till we get there. Should we meet native boats and be stopped, Por Sing's son will be able to induce them to let us pass. Certainly none of the villagers about here would be likely to disobey him. Once beyond Cawnpore, I believe that he would have sufficient influence, speaking, as he does, in the name, not only of his father, but of other powerful landowners, to induce any of these Oude people to let us pass. No, I regard Cawnpore as our one danger, and I believe it to be a very real one. I have been thinking, indeed, that it would be a good thing when we get within a couple of miles of the place for all who are able to walk, to land on the opposite bank, and make their way along past Cawnpore, and take to the boats again a mile below the town."
"That would be an excellent plan, Doctor; but if the boats were stopped and they found the sick, they would kill them to a certainty. I don't think we could leave them. I am quite sure Miss Hannay would not leave her uncle."
"I think we might get over even that, Bathurst. There are only the Major and the other two men, and Mrs. Forsyth and three children, too ill to walk. There are eight of the native servants, ourselves, and the young Rajah's retainers. We ought to have no difficulty in carrying the wounded. As to the luggage, that must be sacrificed, so that the boatmen can go down with empty benches. It must be pitched overboard. The loss would be of no real consequence; everyone could manage with what they have on until we get to Allahabad. There would be no difficulty in getting what we require there."
"I think the plan is an excellent one, Doctor. I will ask the young chief if his men will help us to carry the sick. If he says yes, we will go alongside the other boat and explain our plan to Doolan."
The young Rajah at once assented, and the boat being rowed up to the other, the plan was explained and approved of. No objection was raised by anyone, even to the proposal for getting rid of all the luggage; and as soon as the matter was arranged, a general disposition towards cheerfulness was manifested. Everyone had felt that the danger of passing Cawnpore would be immense, and this plan for avoiding it seemed to lift a load from their minds.
It was settled they should land at some spot where the river was bordered by bushes and young trees; that stout poles should be cut, and blankets fastened between them, so as to form stretchers on which the sick could be carried.
As far as possible the boats were kept on the left side of the river, but at times shallows rendered it necessary to keep over by the right bank. Whenever they were near the shore, silence was observed, lest the foreign tongue should be noticed by anyone near the bank.
Night fell, and they still continued their course. An hour after sunset they were rowing near the right bank--the Major had fallen into a sort of doze, and Isobel was sitting next to Bathurst, and they were talking in low tones together--when suddenly there was a hail from the shore, not fifty yards away.
"What boats are those?"
"Fishing boats going down the river," one of the boatmen answered.
"Row alongside, we must examine you."
There was a moment's pause, and then the Doctor said in the native language, "Row on, men," and the oars of both boats again dipped into the water.
"We are pressed for time," the young Zemindar shouted, and then, dropping his voice, urged the men to row at the top of their speed.
"Stop, or we fire," came from the shore.
No answer was returned from the boats; they were now nearly opposite the speaker. Then came the word--"Fire." Six cannon loaded with grape were discharged, and a crackle of musketry at the same moment broke out. The shot tore through the boats, killing and disabling many, and bringing down the arbor of boughs upon them.
A terrible cry arose, and all was confusion. Most of the rowers were killed, and the boats drifted helplessly amid the storm of rifle bullets.
As the cannon flashed out and the grape swept the boats Bathurst, with a sharp cry, sprang to his feet, and leaped overboard, as did several others from both boats. Diving, he kept under water for some distance, and then swam desperately till he reached shallow water on the other side of the river, and then fell head foremost on the sand. Eight or ten others also gained the shore in a body, and were running towards the bank, when the guns were again fired, and all but three were swept away by the iron hail. A few straggling musket shots were fired, then orders were shouted, and the splashing of an oar was heard, as one of the native boatmen rowed one of the two boats toward the shore. Bathurst rose to his feet and ran, stumbling like a drunken man, towards the bushes, and just as he reached them, fell heavily forward, and lay there insensible. Three men came out from the jungle and dragged him in. As they did so loud screams arose from the other bank, then half a dozen muskets were fired, and all was quiet.
It was not for a quarter of an hour that Bathurst was conscious of what was going on around him. Someone was rubbing his chest and hands.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Oh, it is you, Bathurst!" he heard Wilson's voice exclaim. "I thought it was you, but it is so dark now we are off that white sand that I could not see. Where are you hit?"
"I don't know," Bathurst said. "I felt a sort of shock as I got out of the water, but I don't know that I am hurt at all."
"Oh, you must be hit somewhere. Try and move your arms and legs."
"No, I don't think I am hit; if I am, it is on the head. I feel something warm round the back of my neck."
"By Jove, yes!" Wilson said; "here is where it is; there is a cut all along the top of your head; the bullet seems to have hit you at the back, and gone right along over the top. It can't have gone in, or else you would not be able to talk."
"Help me up," Bathurst said, and he was soon on his feet. He felt giddy and confused. "Who have you with you?" he asked.
"Two natives. I think one is the young chief, and the other is one of his followers."
Bathurst spoke to them in their native language, and found that Wilson was not mistaken. As soon as he found that he was understood, the young chief poured out a volley of curses upon those who had attacked them.
Bathurst stopped him. "We shall have time for that afterwards, Murad," he said; "the first thing is to see what had best be done. What has happened since I landed, Wilson?"
"Our boat was pretty nearly cut in two," Wilson said, "and was sinking when I jumped over; the other boat has been rowed ashore."
"What did you hear, Wilson?"
"I heard the women scream," Wilson said reluctantly, "and five or six shots were fired. There has been no sound since then."
Bathurst stood silent for a minute.
"I do not think they will have killed the women," he said; "they did not do so at Cawnpore. They will take them there. No doubt they killed the men. Let me think for a moment. Now," he said after a long pause, "we must be doing. Murad, your father and friends have given their word for the safety of those you took prisoners; that they have been massacred is no fault of your father or of you. This gentleman and myself are the only ones saved, as far as we know. Are you sure that none others came ashore?"
"The others were all killed, we alone remaining," Murad said. "I will go back to my father, and he will go to Cawnpore and demand vengeance."
"You can do that afterwards, Murad; the first thing is to fulfill your promise, and I charge you to take this sahib in safety down to Allahabad. You must push on at once, for they may be sending out from Cawnpore at daylight to search the bushes here to see if any have escaped. You must go on with him tonight as far as you can, and in the morning enter some village, buy native clothes, and disguise him, and then journey on to Allahabad."
"I will do that," the young Rajah said; "but what about yourself?"
"I shall go into Cawnpore and try to rescue any they may have taken. I have a native cloth round me under my other clothes, as I thought it might be necessary for me to land before we got to Cawnpore to see if danger threatened us. So I have everything I want for a disguise about me."
"What are you saying, Bathurst?" Wilson asked.
"I am arranging for Murad and his follower to take you down to Allahabad, Wilson. I shall stop at Cawnpore."
"Stop at Cawnpore! Are you mad, Bathurst?"
"No, I am not mad. I shall stop to see if any of the ladies have been taken prisoners, and if so, try to rescue them. Rujub, the juggler, is there, and I am confident he will help me."
"But if you can stay, I can, Bathurst. If Miss Hannay has been made prisoner, I would willingly be killed to rescue her."
"I know you would, Wilson, but you would be killed without being able to rescue her; and as I should share your fate, you would render her rescue impossible. I can speak the native language perfectly, and know native ways. I can move about among them without fear of exciting their suspicion. If you were with me this would be impossible; the first time you were addressed by a native you would be detected; your presence would add to my difficulties a hundredfold. It is not now a question of fighting. Were it only that, I should be delighted to have you with me. As it is, the thing is impossible. If anything is done, I must do it alone. If I ever reach Miss Hannay, she shall know that you were ready to run all risks to save her. No, no, you must go on to Allahabad, and if you cannot save her now, you will be with the force that will save her, if I should fail to do so, and which will avenge us both if it should arrive too late to rescue her. Now I must get you to bandage my head, for I feel faint with loss of blood. I will take off my shirt and tear it in strips. I have got a native disguise next to the skin. We may as well leave my clothes behind me here."
As soon as Wilson, with the assistance of Murad, had bandaged the wound, the party struck off from the river, and after four hours' walking came down upon it again two miles below Cawnpore. Here Bathurst said he would stop, stain his skin, and complete his disguise.
"I hate leaving you," Wilson said, in a broken voice. "There are only you and I left of all our party at Deennugghur. It is awful to think they have all gone--the good old chief, the Doctor, and Richards, and the ladies. There are only we two left. It does seem such a dirty, cowardly thing for me to be making off and leaving you here alone."
"It is not cowardly, Wilson, for I know you would willingly stay if you could be of the slightest use; but, as, on the contrary, you would only add to the danger, it must be as I have arranged. Goodby, lad; don't stay; it has to be done. God bless you! Goodby, Murad. Tell your father when you see him that I know no shadow of broken faith rests on him."
So saying, he turned and went into a clump of bushes, while Wilson, too overpowered to speak, started on his way down country with the two natives.