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The Ape-Man: his Kith and Kin
A collection of texts which prepared the advent of Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Val and I; or,
The Wandering Boy of the Jungle
VAL AND I CONTENTS
Intro | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Art
Zoola’s house was reached in due course, and Harry was shown to a room, which she ordered should be set apart for his use. To his great joy he now heard that Yunacka was in the castle, the horse having brought him there, and then galloped off again, before anybody could seize it. The wild creature had fought bravely against the attempts made to capture him, but was overpowered at last, and placed in a cage which had once been occupied by a tiger. He was in an awful rage at being cramped up in such a small crib, and shook the bars with all his might. Harry soon pacified him, and obtained his release, taking him to his own room. Zoola, who appeared to do as she liked, invited both Harry and Yunacka to her apartment, and treated them right royally.
“My father is coming here to see me,” she said, as she dipped her fingers in a saucer of rose-water, and dabbled them about. “Would you like to see him?”
“I’m too insignificant to take much notice of,” said Harry, somewhat sulkily.
“Does he want to go home to his ladylove?” she remarked, in a bantering tone. “Zoola isn’t good enough for him, is she, pet?” — this to Yunacka, who was sitting at her feet, eating sweets.
“Let me entreat of you to let me depart,” said Harry earnestly, “Oh Zoola! why are you so cruel to me? Did I not help to save you from Goroob’s violence when your own followers deserted you?”
“Ah,” she said, with a smile, “that reminds me of something I haven’t done. I must have the cowards punished; my father will teach them to be braver another time. And now let me tell you that you shall not stir from here until I like. Do you know, Harry, I begin to love you?”
“I feel flattered. I’m afraid your father would not care to know that, Zoola.”
“Oh, he wouldn’t mind; he lets me do exactly as I please. Doesn’t your father?”
“I haven’t one, Zola; I’m an orphan.”
“Poor little man,” she said, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him, just as a fat female attendant entered with a dish of sweet cakes. Yunacka was particularly fond of these things, and being impatient to obtain his share, jumped upon the woman and knocked her down, sending the dish and its contents on the floor.
“Oh, sweet mistress!” she shrieked, “it’s the Evil One himself! Ah — oh! he’s pulling my hair! Save me!”
Zoola went almost into convulsions of laughter at the comical sight. Yunacka every time the woman shrieked stuffed a piece of cake in her mouth, which she threw out, spluttering and crying for help.
So unwieldy was she that she was unable to rise without help from Harry, who assisted her to her feet, saying — “Don’t be afraid, madam; he is only playing with you.”
“Playing with me!” she indignantly replied. “I’d rather he didn’t. It isn’t pleasant for the Evil One himself to be feeding you. Faugh! I taste the brimstone from his fingers even now.”
How much further she would have proceeded to vilify Yunacka is hard to say, if a man, clad in chain armour and spiked helmet, had not appeared at the door. Taking Fatima, the attendant, by the shoulder, he swung her out of the way, and then held out his arms to Zoola, who rushed into them. It was Rajah Pindeah, her father.
“Well, my rose of India; do I see you well after your journey?” he asked, as he kissed her affectionately. Then catching sight of Harry, he said —“Who is this, Zoola? and — I declare it’s an ape; as fine a specimen as I have seen, Where did you get him?”
“Which? — the boy or the monkey?” she asked, as she played with his beard.
“Well, the boy is my cousin Holkar. I found him making for here, and he had the ape, as you call it, with him. He says it’s a wild boy.”
The rajah was looking intently at Harry, who felt rather uncomfortable under the scrutiny.
“Well, young sir,” he remarked, “have you no word to say to your uncle? Ah, that’s right; actions, not words.”
Instead of speaking Harry gave the military salute, which pleased the rajah greatly. Yunacka, who had been watching his friend, imitated the salute so comically that the prince burst out laughing.
“Is he good at tricks, youngster?”
Harry did not answer, fearing lest his voice should betray him.
“Have you no tongue? Speak up; your brother knows how to talk.”
“Yes, he knows a lot,” the boy replied. “He can go through his drill as well as any sepoy.”
“Then I’ll take him back with me to Delhi; and you too, Holkar. I’ll make a man of you; let you smell powder, and hear the roar of cannon. What say you — would you like to go?”
Before Harry could answer Zoola said — “Don’t take him away from me so soon. He’s going to be my little husband, and Yunacka is to keep us company; he’s so amusing.”
“I’d rather go with you, sir,” pleaded Harry; “I want to be a man. It’s all very well for girls to stay at home; they’re used to it.”
Before Zoola could give utterance to the retort which was on her tongue, an officer came to report that the English force, which had been expected for some days past, had appeared in sight, and were encamped about three miles off.
“Draw up the bridge, captain, flood the moat, and place sentries on the battlements. We must stay here till the Feringhees have moved off. Call me if you see any cause of alarm.”
The intelligence afforded Harry great pleasure. If he could only make good his escape in time he might reach the British camp, and lead a small force to the relief of his beleaguered friends. He saw Zoola’s eyes fixed on him, as if she was reading his inmost thoughts, and perceived that in anything he intended to do he must be very, very cautious. That she had taken a violent liking for him was evident; her every look and action showed it. It was just as likely that she being a child of impulse and varied whims would get tired of him as suddenly as she had grown fond of him. This was the only consolation in the trouble that surrounded him. His greatest danger now lay in the risk which he ran of being found out. The rajah in that case would have no mercy; swift punishment would follow, and meant — death! Having given his instructions, the rajah invited Harry to sup wish him, to which he could not but consent, though with great reluctance. Yunacka, meanwhile, guided by the smell of food, had made his way to the dining-room, and nobody being present, proceeded to help himself. Possessing himself of a savoury dish of rice called ”kedgerie,” he got under the table, well knowing that he was doing wrong, and began to enjoy himself. Afraid of being discovered and punished, he kept perfectly still, when the rajah and Harry entered.
Presently he crept on all fours from under the table, just behind the rajah’s chair, and surveyed the table. Harry saw him but took no notice; he wanted to keep himself in the background, for the very best of all motives — self-preservation. Yunacka sat up and began scratching himself like a monkey would, and bestowing friendly glances on his young friend.
Close to the rajah was a dish of fowl curry, which had a very appetising odour. The wild boy could not withstand the temptation. The rajah was not looking. Heigh! presto! the coveted dish was whisked off the table, and the fingers of the wild boy were soon buried deep into the savoury mess. It was hot though, full of chilies and other fiery compounds, and it burnt the lad’s mouth and throat to an extent which he did not at all relish. Near the rajah stood a flagon of wine, the finest claret.
Yunacka, reckless of consequences, stood up, seized the wine, and began drinking. He presented a curious sight; his hands and face, smothered with curry of a yellowish hue, contrasted with his long, thick hair, and darker skin, and gave him the appearance of a demon. Harry could not help laughing; then looked round, saw the apparition, snatched at the flagon, and received a lot of the wine in his face, in the tussle that ensued.
The rajah half drew his sword to resent the supposed insult; but fortune favoured poor Yunacka.
The rajah half drew his sword to resent the supposed insult.
Heavy firing shook the building, and caused the infuriated prince to forget all about Yunacka, in his eagerness to ascertain the cause of the din. Hardly had he rushed out than Zoola peeped in and called to Harry, saying — “Come with me. We can see the fighting from the roof. I have a splendid pair of field glasses.”
Yunacka remained behind to cram himself with the good things. Quite as eager as Zoola to see the battle, which he rightly conjectured was begun by the English, before it was expected by the rebels, he followed her to the roof, where the rajah, and many of his officers had already collected. The mutineers had anticipated the coming of the British, and prepared for it, by erecting batteries and cutting up the roads to prevent the passage of heavy artillery. The scene of the fight was within half-a-mile of the rajah’s castle, a fact that did not make him feel at ease. If victorious, the British might turn their attention to him next, and carry the place by assault. In this case, what would happen to Zoola and the ladies of his household?
Perhaps the English soldiers would treat them as the Sepoys were wont to act towards theirs. Calling his chief eunuch aside, he held a whispered colloquy with him, the substance of which was that in certain eventualities, Zoola’s honour was to be considered of more importance than her life. This, of course, meant that she and her ladies were to be honourably despatched to save them the defiling touch of the infidel English.
“Look at them,” said Zoola, animation beaming in her lovely face, as she handed the glasses to Harry. “See how they gallop; puff, puff! grand! There’s the cannon! Oh, what wouldn’t I give to bear aloft the holy banner of our faith, and lead our men on to victory or death!”
Harry could not help admiring Zoola’s face at this moment, it was so full of strength of will and purpose. The battle raged furiously! The English horse artillery was at work, pounding away with iron messengers of death at the serried columns of the enemy. Then came the cavalry, speeding like an arrow from a bow, against the overwhelming odds opposed to them. On they come with drawn sabres, which glisten in the sun, the sheen of which seems to light up the day even. Shoulder to shoulder — the infantry march to take a battery.
Officers wave their swords, men cheer, bang! bang! — puffs of smoke — hail of death — gallant men fall. The ranks close up as, pell-mell, helter-skelter, the enemy flee, not caring to await the shock of battle, or to be trodden under the iron heel of British foes.
“It’s glorious; see they fly,” cried Harry enthusiastically.
“What’s glorious — who run?” asked a harsh voice at Harry’s elbow.
Turning, he saw the rajah, with flaming eyes and distended nostrils.
“The English,” said Zoola, answering for him, “they are running, ain’t they?”
“Yes, after the black ruffians,” muttered Harry, who was so excited as to have no fear of the rajah or his myrmidons.
The rajah had grasped the lad’s arm, and his grip tightened, as his excitement increased.
“Bah! the cowards,” he almost hissed, “why do they run? Why do they flee before men whose faces are white?”
“Because they are cowards,” said Harry, “and the English are heroes.”
“Insolent whelp,” cried the furious man, as he raised the slim boy in his arms, and was about to throw him from the housetop, a sheer fall of fifty feet, or more, when Zoola with a shriek clutched Harry’s legs.
“Help! Father, spare him; for Allah’s sake be merciful.”
Not one of the bystanders dare interfere, for the rajab when enraged was like a wild beast, and destroyed those who obstructed his murderous whims. Zoola alone had any influence with him at such times. With a muttered oath he put Harry down, and catching up the field glasses, watched the battle.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, “the infidels are being mowed down now, our cavalry has driven them into square. By Allah! That volley was terrific. See, see! horses are riderless! Bah! All is lost; the English are victorious.”
Harry had unconsciously wiped the perspiration off his face; and in doing so had removed some of the dye, disclosing his white skin.
“Allah! Allah! wonderful,” said an old fellow, on observing the boy’s face. “See, fear has turned his skin white. Waugh, waugh! Allah is good, and Mahomet’s his prophet.”
Zoola’s countenance paled as she caught sight of the expression on her father’s face as he looked at Harry. Drawing a dagger from his belt, he raised it with the intention of burying it to the hilt in the boy’s heart, when Zoola interposed by shielding him with her body.
“Stand aside, girl,” he thundered, “the lad is a base spy.”
“The fault is mine — slay me, my father,” she replied, looking him full in the face, and not shrinking before the tigerish glare of his eyes, “he saved my life, he is under my protection, you have broken bread and eaten salt with him, his life is therefore sacred.”
Sheathing his dagger, the rajah said sternly — “Away with him to the Cage! If he escape your lives shall pay the forfeit.”
Open curses and menacing actions accompanied the removal of Harry, who betrayed no fear. The "cage" was a small wooden house, with iron bars, half a foot asunder, with a post in the centre, to which the prisoner was chained like a wild beast, and exposed to the gaze of passers by, after the fashion of the pillory of old. Harry kept up a brave heart in the midst of this misfortune, which might end in his death. The only solace he had in this extremity, was to listen to the thunder of the English artillery, as the rebels fled upon Delhi, henceforth to be the stronghold of the gigantic military insurrection. Whilst he was wondering how matters were progressing with the devoted little garrison he had left, a trumpet sounded, and be heard the chains of the drawbridge clank as it was lowered.
Taking advantage of the confusion consequent upon the new arrivals, Zoola drew near the cage and spoke to Harry, accompanying her speech with looks of pity.
“My poor friend,” she said, “I do feel sorry. Can you forgive me? I ought to have let you go on to Delhi when you asked me.”
“I must escape somehow, Zoola. The lives of my friends depend upon it. You can help me, I am sure, if you will.”
“Yes, when my father is gone. And I’ll accompany you on your journey.”
“You? Think of the danger.”
“Bah! I suppose you think all girls are cowards. But hist! nobody’s looking. There’s a knife and a pistol. Can you manage to pick them up?”
She threw them adroitly between the bars, and drawing them towards him with his feet, Harry stooped and secured them.
“I have very little hope now, Zoola,” he said. “Look, there’s Goroob himself — and yes, Hassan. Poor fellow, he does not see me yet.”
“Leave the sergeant to me, Harry. I’ve only got to tell my father of his conduct, and he’ll be trampled to death by elephants. Good-bye, now. I’ll see you again presently. I wish I could kiss you. You must marry me, Harry, and then well be always together.”
He felt comforted by the knowledge that he had friends in the castle. Yunacka was not long in discovering Harry, and went into a fit of rage when he found he could not reach him. He was up and down the cage, putting his arm through the bars, and expending his rage in efforts to displace them. The squadron of cavalry which had just arrived was a part of the main body of the rebels, who were in full retreat. Goroob had recovered from his faint, and made his way to the main road, where he fell in with his compatriots, and came on to the castle. He was too anxious to get something to eat and drink to pay attention to anything else, and thus Harry passed unnoticed by him.
Hassan, however, was not long in discovering Harry and setting his teeth together, he hissed through them — “I’ll save that boy, or die in the attempt!”
Zoola sought an interview with Hassan, and at once plunged into the subject of aiding in Harry’s escape.
“Who keeps the key?” Hassan asked.
“The captain of the guard,” she replied.
“And is he easy to reach?”
“How do you mean?”
“No; except with drink. He’s a regular toper, and rarely goes to bed sober. I have an idea how to manage the affair. Will you help me?”
“Will I not? What would I not do for our friend?”
“I’ll dress up as a monkey. I have often done so in fun, and when I think the captain is tipsy enough, will set to work to abstract the key.” said Zoola.
“But what of the sentry over the cage?” asked Hassan.
“I’ve thought of that. You must overpower him if you can. It’s the only thing to do that I can see.”
“I might kill him.”
“It’s a life for a life, Hassan. Everybody must be sacrificed to Harry’s safety. Do you understand?”
“Yes; the hour, though?”
“I’ll be ready.”
This conversation took place in a retired spot near the ramparts, as the conspirators wished to avoid eavesdroppers. But Goroob was seated close by, devouring some food he had stolen, and overheard some of the conversation, sufficient to make him curious as to who the speakers were.
“Hassan and the princess,’’ he muttered, as he peeped cautiously round a corner of one of the bastions. “That young Englishman is in trouble, and they’re going to help him out of it. I must have a finger in that pie. The rajah must know of this.”
Ignorant of the danger their plan ran of being defeated, Hassan and, Zoola looked forward hopefully, to the hour when Harry would be free. Goroob’s difficulty was to get a hearing of the rajah, who was difficult of access. The sergeant managed to get the ear of the captain of the guard, and was so mysterious in his manner, hinting at the discovery of a plot, that the officer conducted him to his highness. His mortification was great on finding Zoola was with her father, and that he had to speak before her.
He was a man of resource, however, and on being interrogated about his business, said — “I overheard a plot, your highness.”
“Ah! Who are concerned?”
Zoola was looking straight at him, and his eyes fell before hers.
"They were strangers to me, but they belonged to your retinue. You have a prisoner; an English boy."
"Well, what, of that?"
“His escape is to be aided at midnight.”
“The sentries will be doubled. What is your name?”
“Goroob,” said Zoola, before he could reply.
“What, my bul-bul” said her father, “you know the fellow?”
“Yes, father; I met him in the jungle. Perhaps he will tell you how he acted there.”
“I was reconnoitring, your highness. A party of Feringhees are besieged by our braves in a bungalow in the jungle.”
“A waste of time. Better far that our men should join the army in Delhi.”
“My father is wise,” said Zoola, with a loving caress.
“There is plenty of loot, your highness; gold, jewels, and valuables of all kinds, besides a lovely girl, fit to be the bride of an emperor.”
“By the beard of the prophet, this is news,” said the rajah, “The place has fallen by this time, surely?”
“I fear not, your highness. Major Custonjee has made several attacks. Our men have fallen before the death-dealing rifles of the Feringhees like corn before the sickle. May their fathers’ graves be defiled.”
“The English boy has come from there?”
“Yes, father. Surely we ought not to make war on women and boys?” said Zoola. “Let him go; he would be safe at Delhi.”
“I will consider it.”
There was a hum of voices outside, and the captain of the guard entered to announce the capture of an English prisoner.
“Shoot or hang the dog!” said the rajah. “You know I do not care to be troubled with prisoners.”
“Your highness, he is of high rank, I believe. A colonel I think, and a relative of the English boy, called Harry, I imagine, since they spoke affectionately to each other.”
“Bring him here, then; but mind he has no arms about him.”
The rajah feared a repetition of a tragic affair in which an English officer was a prominent actor. He shot several of his captors with a revolver, and then put a bullet through his own brain. The prisoner was led in, looking calm and defiant. He was a fine, handsome man, fully six feet high, and of Herculean proportions. Yunacka entered with him, and immediately took up his position close to Zoola.
“You have an English boy here,” said Colonel Hutchinson; “he is a nephew of mine. Please send him to Delhi. He is but a child yet.”
This was spoken in fluent Hindoostani, in which tongue the colonel was an adept.
“Your own safety ought to be your first concern,” remarked the rajah. “Who are you, and what is your rank?”
“I ought to be no stranger to you, Runjeet Singh. Do you not remember Hutchinson, who fought by your side in the Sikh war, when you had a commission in the East India Company’s service, and who saved your life by carrying you from the field under a heavy fire?”
“Are you indeed my dear friend Hutchinson, sahib?” said the rajah with emotion. “My very friend of friends?”
“Yes. I am changed, I know; but I knew you instantly. You had no title then, if you remember.”
“Release him and retire,” said the rajah, who seemed well pleased to meet his friend.
“May I plead for my nephew’s release, too?” said the colonel. “May he not come here?”
“Softly, my friend,” remarked the rajah. “Remember the blood fever is on my men. The castle is full of fellows who have slain Europeans by the score, and hope to lay hands on more. If I were to favour your nephew as well as yourself they would mutiny, and both your lives, as well as my own, perhaps, would be sacrificed.”
“He is miserably lodged; chained to a post like a wild beast. Cannot you alter that, rajah?”
“Yes. My daughter here will see to that, while we have a smoke and a chat; won’t you, Zoola?”
“With great pleasure,” was the prompt reply. “Come, Yunacka, let us go and see Harry.”
The colonel explained to the rajah how it was he had been taken prisoner. He was despatched from Delhi to act as guide to the British troops advancing from the direction of Meerut. In that day’s engagement he fell on the field insensible, and was thought to be dead. On recovering consciousness he wandered about, and was taken prisoner near the rajah’s castle.
“You must escape,” said the rajah gravely. “I cannot guarantee your safety for four and twenty hours.”
“Thanks; and my nephew?”
“My daughter will see to him, no doubt. Are you content?”
“Yes. Who knows but that I in my turn may be of service to you before this cruel rebellion is at an end?”
“Allah is great and to be feared. He has led us together again. Your nephew will owe his life to you, colonel. Let me show you to your room; but first let me give you arms. There are plenty — select for yourself.”
Colonel Hutchinson was shown to a room and supplied with a rope-ladder. The rajah, disguised as a common trooper, kept watch and guard outside the door.
Meanwhile, how fared it with Harry Coverdale? Badly, in both mind and body. He had seen and spoken to his uncle, but knew not what fate had befallen him since. His body and limbs ached, and altogether he was not what might be termed comfortable. It was some time, too, before his anxiety was allayed by Zoola entering his cage, which was unlocked by the captain of the guard, in obedience to his master’s order, transmitted through her. The chains were taken off the boy, and a bed placed on the floor for his use; also food and drink.
“What has become of the English officer?” Harry asked in a whisper.
“Safe. My father is his friend.”
“Thank Heaven! Can’t I see him, Zoola? He is my uncle.”
“Yes. Be quiet, and listen to me. We’ll leave Yunacka here in place of you. Coax him to lie down.”
This was effected without much trouble; the faithful creature seemed to understand that Harry’s safety was in somewise dependent on him, and was very tractable. The darkness favoured Harry’s retreat. Zoola took him to her father’s private apartment, where they had a chat about their future proceedings.
She found a note addressed to her from the rajah, which she read and then handed to Harry.
“Are you satisfied now?” she asked. “Is not my father your friend?”
“Yes, but how shall we communicate with Hassan?”
He promised to be at the ’cage’ by midnight. Goroob overheard our plan for your escape; however, he can do no harm now that my father is on our side.”
The more immediate matters connected with the proposed escape were now discussed by the pair, and settled; the only thing Harry objected to being her proposal to accompany them.
“We may be exposed to great dangers, Zoola,” he urged, “It would ill repay your father’s kindness were I not to point this out to you.”
“Think of your danger, too, Harry, While I am with you I can protect you. My fathers name is well known and respected by all classes of his countrymen. A word from me would be of great use to you and your uncle, Harry.”
Perceiving how useless it was to attempt to dissuade her, he said no more on the subject.
“Wait here a short while,” she remarked, with a merry twinkle in her eye; “I won’t be long. If a pet monkey of mine comes in don’t interfere with it. You can call it Zoola if you like, though.”
Harry was rather uneasy about the madcap Zoola. Suddenly a monkey bounded into the room, and jumped on his back, pulled his hair and ears, and tweaked his nose.
“Quiet, Zoola,” he said. “I’ll tell your mistress.”
He was astounded at the merry laughter which came from the supposed monkey.
“What, Harry!” said the mischievous princess, “didn’t you know me?”
“’Pon my word, I was never more taken in in my life,” said Harry. “Suppose we commence work now. I want so to see my uncle.”
“Don’t tell my father who I am,” she said. “Promise me, Harry.”
“I do promise, Zoola. Be careful, whatever you do. Remember the castle is full of lawless soldiery, who cannot be expected to see through your disguise.”
“I’m able to take care of myself, Harry. Come along.”
“Is that you, Zoola?” the rajah asked, as the pair approached his post.
The monkey gave Harry a pinch to remind him of his promise.
“No, your highness; it’s me Harry Coverdale, the English boy, and Yunacka, the wild boy.”
“You mustn’t recognise me again, lad,” said the rajah; “I don’t want myself known. I have a reason. Go in to your uncle now, and wait my signal.”
A gentle tap at the door caused it to open, and both Harry and Zoola entered. The former was soon in his uncle’s arms, who welcomed him heartily.
Meanwhile Zoola, with a view to the safety of the prisoner, locked the door from the inside — a precaution the colonel had neglected.
“Is aunt safe?” was Harry’s first inquiry.
“Yes, boy; perfectly. And so are Colonel Aubrey and family. But where’s Val?”
“I left him safe in garrison.”
Hereupon Harry gave an account of the position of the besieged, to which his uncle listened attentively.
“Is Mr. Fitzmaurice and his people in a position to hold out much longer, Harry?”
“I think so. But Custonjee seems determined to push matters to extremities.”
When we get away from here we must of the best plan for bringing them relief,” he remarked. “Heaven only knows it will all end.”
Zoola kept near the door, and seemed to be listening intently. A noise of heavy, footsteps attracted the attention of those in the room. The rajah’s gruff challenge was next heard.
“Who comes there?”
“Enemies of the English,” said a voice, which Harry and Zoola recognised as Goroob’s. “We mean to settle with the colonel first, and the young cub afterwards.”
“The rajah has placed me here. Back, I say!” said the royal sentinel, as with bare scimitar, and foot well planted, he awaited the advance of the miscreants.
“The rajah won’t care a fig. Open the door. Our swords are sharp, and want using.”
“You enter not this apartment. Think of the rajah’s indignation and the punishment that will follow.”
“Back I say! You enter not this apartment,” cried the Rajah.
“Who cares? Come on, comrades; we want a little practice on white carcases.”
There was a clash of steel, followed by exclamations of rage and pain. Goroob and his fellows were not prepared for this resistance on the part of the supposed sentry. His sword was sharp, and his arm strong, as they discovered in the short encounter they had had with him. In the confusion the door opened, and the rajah was dragged into the room by Colonel Hutchinson.
“Your life is too valuable,” he said, “to sacrifice it to the caprice of a pack of half-drunken ruffians.”
“You and your friends must escape at once. Make haste; they are hammering at the door and may break it in.”
Goroob and his party rushed at the door and tried to batter it in.
“The rope ladder is ready. Harry, you go first,” said the colonel.
“Oh, sir, do not ask me,” pleaded Harry. “You’re life is more valuable than mine.”
“Obedience is a necessity now, lad,” was the almost stern reply. “Go!”
Zoola sprang upon the window and commenced the descent. Harry followed.
“Hear that?” said Zoola, as there came the sound of a door crashing off its hinges. “I hope my father will escape their fury.”
Colonel Hutchinson dropped to the ground, followed by the rajah. Both were only just in time to escape the furious group that burst into the room. Loud oaths followed the discovery of the escape of the Englishmen and the sentry.
“The boy; we can get him,” shouted Goroob, who led the way downstairs, followed by the mad crowd.
The rajah summoned the assistance of the guard to quell the disturbance. His object in doing this was to leave the way clear for the escape of the colonel and his companions. In arranging matters thus he ran a great risk of being attacked by the soldiers. The guard surrounded the cage in which Yunacka, tired out, was fast asleep.
“Hasten, now is your time,” said the rajah. “Stay, I will see you safely through the gate.”
The drawbridge was lowered, and the trio passed over in safety. The drawbridge was raised slowly, and the fugitives were shut off from capture, from that quarter, at least.
We must now see how it fared with the garrison since Harry left them. The presence of the sepoys remained a source of distrust. Fitzmaurice gave instructions to keep, a watch on their actions. Dana fell ill now that the reaction had set in, and gave her friends some concern. Dr. O’Shaughnessy prescribed perfect rest. A burning fever set in, and the beautiful girl, so brave and patient in health, now became exacting and fretful. Mention has been made of the danger there was in obtaining water, which in peaceable times was so plentiful. The natives fought shy of the well, except at night, as it was almost certain death to be seen near it in the light of day. Even moonlight nights were dangerous to the undertaking.
A misfortune happened to a chatty (earthenware vessel), in which a supply of water was kept. A bullet straying into the bungalow, broke the chatty, and the precious fluid was lost. Val run in and out to look to Dana and give her medicine and water, as there was no one to nurse her, all the native women having been sent to a place of safety before the siege.
“Water, water!” was all her cry, as she tossed restlessly on her bed.
The rebels amused themselves with firing round shot occasionally, which did very little damage to anything but the house, in which few people, except the sick and wounded, took refuge. The place began to look in a dilapidated condition, but it was still habitable. Val could not well ask anybody else to expose their lives in the attempt to obtain a supply of water, and so he resolved to run the risk himself. Exposure to danger had sharpened the lad’s wits. He set them to work now to circumvent the enemy’s marksmen, who were located in trees, from which they could only be dislodged by making a sortie at the risk of great loss. A splendid tiger skin hung against the wall.
“The very thing,” he muttered. “I’ll have a lark with those black beasts.”
Securing the "mussuck" (a water-bag made of pig skin) to his body, he put the tiger’s skin over all and made his way to the well, followed by the laughter of his comrades. He looked so comical, and anything but a royal Bengal tiger in his movements. To keep up appearances, the members of the garrison shouted and began to fire, with blank I cartridges only. Val’s heart was in his mouth as he went with very unsteady gait on all-fours, and got in view of the enemy’s sharpshooters. A random shot might knock him over and end his life. He reached the well, but the water had to be drawn, by far the most difficult and dangerous part of the undertaking. Not a shot had been fired by the enemy. In fact, there was an unusual stillness in the direction of the foe. He let the bucket down. Still, no firing from the marksmen in the trees.
What could it all mean? Perhaps reinforcements were approaching to help the garrison, which stood solely in need of it. He filled his bag, and was debating how to get it home when the earth trembled. There was a dull roar, and a cloud of dust rose in the air, followed by a terrific fire of musketry and the fuller notes of cannon. Slinging the mussuck across his back, Harry ran as fast as he could to the bungalow. Having given Dana a drink, he caught up his rifle and made haste out to join his comrades. The enemy had sprung a mine, which blew down a portion of the stockade, through which the besiegers began to pour.
The sepoys who had only recently joined were brave, true hearted friends.
No further need of watching them. They bit their cartridges with the most loyal among the defenders, and fired at the fellows in the breach. Custonjee was there, sword in hand, encouraging his men to the attack, and seemingly bearing a charmed life, while others fell around him. Smoke and flame rolled along the trenches, where devoted men crouched and fired, never giving a thought as to whether one of the hundreds of bullets whistling in the air would strike them or not. Val and Clarence attended to their gum, which belched forth death in no uncertain manner.
Inside, the sick and wounded sat up in bed, and those who were able; loaded their rifles, and with compressed lips awaited the possible coming of the foe. The doctor attended to the wounded cases brought in from time to time. Suddenly a girl with golden hair and a face flushed with fever appeared in the trenches. It was Dana. The noise had quickened her pulses and increased the fever in her veins.
“Death! death!” she almost shrieked. “Spare not. Slay! slay!”
When Harry and his companions found themselves outside the castle gates, it behoved them to decide upon their future course of action.
“This monkey will be in the way,” Colonel Hutchinson remarked. “What are we to do with him?”
“Allow him to accompany us, uncle; it’s a great favourite of mine and helped to save my life.”
Zoola was delighted to hear this; she longed to see the world, to take part in adventures, and to behold Dana, of whom she felt jealous. Whether Harry liked it or not, the princess had fallen over head and ears in love with him, and being a spoilt child of fortune, one who was never denied anything, she resolved to be near him.
“Shall we linger about here for awhile, uncle?” Harry asked; “our friend Hassan may escape.”
“I think not,” was the prompt reply; “let us be moving towards Delhi.”
Of course, Harry at once complied with this suggestion, as was his duty, considering that the colonel was older and far more experienced in matters requiring decision and promptitude.
“Do you think we can obtain reinforcements for the garrison uncle?” Harry asked.
“Heaven only knows, my boy. Men are wanted to cope with the rebels who are swarming into Delhi. I have more than half a mind to make my way to your friends, under your guidance. Harry. Custonjee might listen to me, and draw off his men.”
“Half a company of English troops would be more than sufficient for our purpose,” remarked Harry; “but listen, some one or something is coming. Stoop, uncle — Zoola, down.”
The trio hid themselves in a dry watercourse, and waited to discover whether the noise they heard proceeded from friend or foe. It was moonlight now, a fortunate thing for the travellers, as they would be enabled to see anything approaching. That foes were about was to be expected, as the country swarmed with scoundrels who made a trade of robbing and murdering anybody they fell in with, especially if they appeared well to do. Such creatures as these always hang on the skirts of a rebel army; fellows who will neither fight nor work, but live by plunder. Caution was necessary on the part of Colonel Hutchinson, because he was a European and was not disguised. Such as he could expect no mercy; his dress and face were sufficient to sign his death warrant, if he fell in with the mutineers.
“It’s an elephant, I believe,” said Harry. “Yes, it is, uncle; see, there’s a party of armed men on its back; they look like Europeans. Shall we hail them?”
“Wait; listen to their voices,” was the reply. “I suppose we’re going in the right direction, a voice said.
“Halt!” cried the colonel, springing into the road in his eagerness to bring the party to a stand.
A bullet whizzed unpleasantly past his ears.
“I am an Englishman!” he cried; “you are going right into the jaws of death. Halt!”
“A thousand pardons,” said a hearty voice; “one of my men who’s nervous fired at you. You are not hurt, I hope?”
“No. Are you bound for Delhi?” the colonel asked.
“Yes, we missed the main column and have wandered about on the back of this brute; bitooh, you rascal,” (this to the elephant.)
The intelligent animal knelt, and the person who had acted as spokesman alighted and joined the colonel.
“I hardly think it safe for you to proceed along the high road,” said the colonel; the rebels have closed in on our columns, and will be sure to fall across you. Besides, you’re going back again by continuing your present direction.”
“What had we better do?” the commissariat officer asked (his name being Redwood.) ”I don’t like parting with the elephant, it’s government property.”
“The jungle is close at hand,” said Harry, joining in the conversation for the first time; “it would be safer to go there.”
“Hadn’t we better all keep together?” said the colonel. “We would be able to protect ourselves the better. What do you say, Captain Redwood?”
“I place myself and party under your orders, colonel,” was the prompt reply.
“How many men have you with you?”
“Three. We can make room for you and your companion. Is that a monkey you have with you? Of course, we won’t take it with us, not unless you wish it, colonel.”
Harry thought it was high time to tell his uncle the truth, and, with an apology, drew him aside, saying in a low tone — “Uncle, the pretended monkey is the rajah’s daughter in disguise, She saved my life, and was of service to you. We can’t desert her, or send her back.”
“How embarrassing, Harry!”
“Yes, it is all that; but it can’t be helped now. I advised her not to come.”
“You are talking of me, I know,” said Zoola, drawing near. “I am in the way, I suppose, and must shift for myself.”
“No, Zoola,” said Harry, placing his arm around her. “I won’t desert you, nor will my uncle either, I know.”
“What will your father think?” remarked the colonel.
“He won’t care; I don’t care if he does. I like Harry, and he likes me; and I like adventure, and so does he; and he’s not married, no more am I, and —”
“Stop, stop, my dear,” said the colonel, laughing, “you have given me ample reason already to satisfy all my scruples. You shall accompany us, if you wish it.
“This,” he said, presenting her to the captain, “is a young lady in disguise, a friend of my nephew, and the daughter of a man of wealth and position; her sex alone will be sufficient to recommend her to our joint protection.”
This matter was soon settled, and the three wayfarers were seated on the back of the elephant. As the animal was not very tractable under the drivership of the captain, Zoola volunteered to take the position of mahout or driver. Under her guidance and the influence of her voice the animal became perfectly controllable and as gentle as a pony.Acting on Harry’s advice, the high road was abandoned for the jungle, which, though less open, was perfectly safe to travel through, as long as the huge beast remained manageable.The danger to be guarded against was the risk they all ran of the elephant running under the trees, when its human load would be swept off its back, maimed or killed.
Presently the sound of approaching horse men placed the party on the qui vivo. It was a detachment of cavalry on the way to join the rebels, and Harry and his friends realised in a moment the terrible danger to which they were now exposed. The accoutrements and appointments of the advancing cavalry shone in the moonlight like burnished silver, and made a very pretty spectacle. But their drawn swords did not present an agreeable sight, held as they were by cruel wretches, who would have been delighted to hack and hew the little party to pieces.
There was no escaping the sowars, so the colonel whispered his orders for perfect silence, and told Zoola to bring the elephant to a halt under a towering tamarind tree, the branches of which would veil their faces. Colonel Hutchinson was an accomplished linguist, and could speak Hindostanee like a native.
“You will help me out of this difficulty, won’t you, if necessary?” he whispered to Zoola.
“Certainly; tell any amount of stories,” she answered. “I’ll father them, colonel. It will be quite a treat to mislead these cavalry men.”
Nothing could tame the girl’s spirits. Had the occasion permitted it she would have chatted away gaily, but silence was imperative, and she had, perforce, to hold her tongue. The moment the leader of the sowars arrived opposite the tree under which the elephant stood he gave orders to his men to surround the spot.
“Who are you?” he asked, “and why are you here?”
“Let me answer him, uncle,” said Harry, in a whisper. “I know exactly what to say.”
“For Heaven’s sake, be careful then, boy.”
“We are on our way to join Major Custonjee,” said Harry.
“Where? not at Delhi surely? This is not the road there.”
“No, my lord,” replied the Colonel, anticipating Harry; “he is besieging the pigs of English in a bungalow. We are on our way to exterminate them —bismillah! but our swords thirst for their blood.”
“Is there loot to be had there?” asked the officer of sowars.
The one idea of the rebels was to rob friend and foe alike, but they preferred plundering the English if the opportunity came in their way.
“Plenty, my lord,” Harry replied, on the impulse of the moment.
His uncle pulled his sleeve too late to stop him.
“Then we’ll join you,” was the instant reply. “Our swords want fleshing.”
“Better join Runjet Singh,” remarked Zoola; “he will lead you to glory. Custonjee won’t like to divide the honours with you, I’m afraid.”
“ Never mind,” was the half angry reply, “I’ve made up my mind. My men will follow me, so there’s an end of that. We have as much right to the gold mohurs of the Feringhees as any one else, and mean to have our share; what say you, comrades?”
A chorus of assents greeted this question.
“Do you want further convincing?” asked the officer. “If you do you’ll get it in a shape you won’t much relish; dismount and cook for my men; they are gentlemen, and haven’t been used to wait on themselves.”
This was a terrible dilemma to be placed in; if the order was disobeyed a conflict might ensue in which they could not hope for victory, the odds against them were so great.
“Let us proceed on our way at once,” suggested Colonel Hutchinson. “The garrison has been reinforced, and our services will be required by the major.”
The officer of sowars was firm, and insisted on his orders’ being obeyed, observing — “I give you five minutes to make up your minds. At the end of that time if you refuse we shall see who’s the strongest.”
The colonel, Captain Redwood and Harry resolved themselves into a council of war to decide upon a course of action. If they obeyed the tyrannical order, a discovery, would ensue, and every man would be butchered without mercy. If they refused the issue would be decided by the sword; what could seven do against so many?
“We’ll be shot down like partridges if we remain on the back of the elephant,” remarked Captain Redwood.
“If we dismount our state won’t be bettered. Break through and trust to the speed of the elephant to get us safely out of the mess,” suggested Harry.
“Bah, I wonder where your wits are?” said Zoola. “Why, an owl would see what to do.”
Her hearers couldn’t help smiling.
“Well, young lady! what would you suggest?” asked the colonel.
“Hide in the tree; if they fire, they’ll miss most likely; you’ll hit some of them every shot you fire.”
“What will become of the elephant?” asked Redwood; “it’s government property, you know.”
Harry was minded to say, “Let it go to Jericho for all I care,” but he didn’t.
It seemed so odd to him that anybody could give a thought to the safety of a mere brute at a time when the lives of seven human beings hung in the balance. Zoola’s suggestion seemed to hit the happy mean, and it was decided to act upon it.
The word was passed to the three European soldiers to make their way into the tree quietly, one at a time, and to take their firearms with them. By standing upon the elephant’s back they were able to do this easily. Luckily the branches hung down pretty low, and screened the operation. All were up with the exception of Zoola, when the officer of sowars asked them to dismount in accordance with his previous order.
“Clear the way there!” screamed Zoola, as if seized with a sudden alarm, “the elephant is savage. Tell your men to get out of the brute’s way. I can’t keep him in.”
Urging the animal forward, it made straight for the officer, whose horse curveted and pranced, and at last fairly bolted.
“Take care,’’ shrieked Zoola, acting her part to perfection. “Take care — quick!”
Whether the animal was frightened or not, it is a.fact that it unhorsed a couple of sowars’ with its trunk, and struck consternation into the ranks of their comrades. It is hard to say how matters would have ended, perhaps favourably for Harry and his comrades, when one of the soldier’s muskets went off by accident and shot a sowar. This was the signal for an attack upon the tree, and quite a shower of balls from the sowars’ pistols whistled through the foliage, harmlessly as it happened. One horseman fell after another, horses curveted and pranced, some lay in the agonies of death with their riders crushed under them, and the echoes were awakened far and near.
In ten minutes’ time only, the dead and wounded remained on the spot; the remainder cleared away as fast as their chargers could take them.
“Victory! thank Heaven for it!” said Colonel Hutchinson. “How is it with you all, comrades?”
“All well, I believe,” replied Captain Redwood. “But where’s that plucky girl?”
“All right somewhere, I’ll wager,” replied Harry. “I expect to see her back soon.”
The Europeans did not descend from the tree for some time.
“Listen to that,” said the colonel; “it sounds like distant firing; a cannonade, as far I can judge. It can’t be from Delhi; it’s too far off for the sound to reach this spot.”
“It’s the garrison defending itself for dear life,” replied Harry, “Heaven preserve all my brave friends.”
The rajah having seen the fugitives safely across the drawbridge, threw off his disguise, and rushed to the scene of the disorderly soldiers.
“The keys I saw, old blockhead!” shouted Goroob. “If you don’t give them up I’ll pluck every hair out of your beard. The keys!”
“Make way there, men,” said the rajah sternly. “Guard, do your duty.”
He elbowed his way with difficulty in the direction of the spot where Goroob was standing, but was too late to prevent his getting possession of the key from the terrified captain of the guard. The giant opened the cage, and bending down pushed in his arm, seized Yunacka by the leg, and commenced pulling him out very roughly. The wild boy disliking this treatment, doubled himself forward as if he had been made of india-rubber, and his teeth met in Goroob’s hand, who give a yell and fell backwards.
The next moment Yunacka bounded out, leaped on the heads of the bystanders, who stood wedged together like sardines, and making a bridge of their skulls, escaped into the house. Hassan was standing on the outskirts of the throng, and saw Yunacka, but wondered greatly what had become of Harry, and where Zoola was. The rajah was endeavouring to get near enough to Goroob to make an example of him. He succeeded in this at last, and presenting a pistol at his huge carcase, shot him.
Some one raised the cry ”The rajah is shot!”
It was taken up and spread far and near, amid quite an infernal din.He was a great favourite with his own men, who turned out en masse to avenge his supposed death.A free fight ensued; too free, in fact, for the object the loyal portion of the garrison had in view.Friends shot and stabbed friends; blood flowed freely, corpses strewed the ground, and the groans of the wounded arose on all sides. Some one raised the cry ”The English are upon us!” when the panic became something terrible. Men strove like demons to get clear of the crowd, and on succeeding, rushed wildly hither and thither seeking a spot wherein to hide. Many fled to the drawbridge and lowered it, rushing wildly into the open country, some in their eagerness defeating their object by tumbling into the moat and drowning. When order and quiet were restored, the rajah, who had escaped unhurt, looked round for his daughter in vain. He concluded at last that she fled when the stampede took place.
When morning dawned he gathered his force together, and made his way in the direction of Delhi, accompanied by Hassan and Yunacka, the latter riding a horse as bravely as any of them. At the first halt Hassan spoke to the rajah about Zoola.
“Depend upon it, your highness,” he remarked, “she is with the English officer and the boy. Let me go in search of her. I promise you faithfully to see her safely to your castle. Have I your permission?”
“You swear this on the Koran?”
“I do. May Allah desert me here and hereafter if I do not keep my word.”
“Go. Heaven be with you.”
Taking a heavy gold chain from around his neck, he placed it about Hassan’s.
“May I take the wild boy with me, your highness?”
“You may. Speed. Spare nothing to restore my daughter to me, and your reward shall be great.”
Hassan drew Yunacka’s horse out of the ranks, and by signs made him understand that he was to follow him. The pair left the cavalcade, and Hassan acting as guide, shaped his course towards Delhi, whither he conjectured Harry and his companions would make for. Yunacka was delighted with his position, and was never better pleased than when his steed was at full gallop. Such antics did he cut, and shrieks and screams of delight did he utter that the animal he bestrode took fright, and fairly bolted, taking obstructions in gallant style, while his wild rider kept on, now in the saddle, anon on the beast’s neck.
As for shaking him off, it was out of the question; he stuck to his seat like a leech, and seemed rather pleased than otherwise with the novelty of the situation. Hassan followed in his wake, and being a fearless rider, kept up with him pretty well. Yunacka’s horse was blown when a wood was reached. Hassan was anxious to push on, but the cattle were too exhausted by their spin to be able to do this until they had been rested sufficiently. Fruit grew about wild; a fact which did not escape the boy’s notice. He was soon climbing tree after tree, throwing down guavas, cocoa-nuts and other fruit in abundance.
Whilst he was thus engaged a band of a dozen desperadoes rushed out of a sanunee house (temple), seized Hassan, robbed him of all he possessed, and then bound him to a tree.
A band of desperadoes seized Hassan and bound him to a tree.
Yunacka had been looking down at these high-handed proceedings, unable to decide whether the fellows were friends or foes. In his own eccentric fashion he resolved to find out the truth for himself, and accordingly dropped a cocoa-nut on the pate of one of the banditti, a fellow with huge whiskers and a ferocious moustache. Coming from such a height it did not fall very light, and the fellow shrieked in a most undignified manner. A comrade who went to his assistance, received a nut on his arm, which nearly broke it. Looking up, the fellow discovered Yunacka, who grinned as he kept on pelting them.
One of the ruffians raised his musket to fire, when Yunacka snatched a pistol from his belt and pulled the trigger. The shot fired, almost at random, took effect, and the man staggered back with a bullet in his shoulder.
“Is it a man or a monkey?” asked one of the bandits. “Allah! but it is wonderful.”
“He is a demon,” replied Hassan; “a wild man of the woods. He not only kills but eats people. I suppose he has murdered my companion. Have you never heard of him?”
While he was talking Yunacka was descending, and jumped from a height of over eight feet right among the scoundrels. Snatching a musket from one of them, he began using it as a club, and soon put them to flight. One of them in his terror leaped on the boy’s horse and was galloping off, when Yunacka raised the musket and fired, bringing the fellow out of the saddle, with a bullet through his brain. To release Hassan from his bonds was the work of a few moments.
On the person of the dead man Hassan fortunately found the most of the things looted from him, the rajah’s gift being among them. The horse too was recovered, and they resumed their journey, reaching the British camp late at night. They were taken before the officer in charge of the main guard, to whom Hassan told his story.
Colonel Aubrey was the officer, and questioned him closely as to the position of the garrison, and the force against which it had to contend. Custonjee was known to him, of course, and when Hassan spoke of Harry and Val, he was at no loss to understand who they were.
“Did you hear the name of the officer who escaped from the rajah’s castle?” he asked.
“No, but I believe he was a friend of the lad Harry’s. They escaped together. I expected to find they had reached here before this.”
Yunacka came in for his share of notice, and was soon a favourite with the men of the guard, who were pleased with his antics. Unfortunately no one could be spared from the camp to go to the assistance of the beleaguered garrison, much as Colonel Aubrey pressed the matter, and offered to head any detachment detailed for the duty. All he could obtain was permission to visit the garrison to encourage them to hold out until aid could be sent to them, which would not be delayed when the proper moment arrived. This refusal may appear cruel considering that the lives of so many depended on assistance being sent.
But the truth was the English had enough to do to hold their own with the resources at their disposal, for the enemy made frequent sorties, which had to be repulsed, and kept the little force on the qui vive. Colonel Aubrey, Val’s father, accompanied by his two friends, left Delhi, the former disguised as a native, and all well armed.
When Zoola caused the diversion in favour of her companions she had no idea that the elephant would bolt as he did and become uncontrollable. She did not get frightened, although being alone on the back of a refractory elephant, in the heart of an Indian jungle, was not calculated to soothe one’s nerves, or allay one’s fears.
“This is fun,” she muttered, with a little laugh. “I wonder what will become of Harry, dear fellow that he is, and his comrades. This old elephant has turned out a bad fellow. I believe he and I will fall out yet.”
Her great fear was the chance she ran of falling in with the sowars again, or with some band of plunderers.
Luckily for her the elephant did not take it into his head to run a-muck at the trees, or to do anything to imperil her safety, save in taking her away from the protection of Harry and his friends. It was a lovely night, and she quite enjoyed the situation.
Stupid little thing that she was, it never occurred to her to slip down from her exalted position and join her friends, leaving the huge beast to take his walks abroad alone.
The aspect of the jungle began to change as she went on, until at last she began to perceive that she was getting right into the heart of the wild tract. Tigresses and their cubs sported about like cats and kittens, as full of fun as the most harmless of living things. She brought the elephant to a standstill under a mango tree, and while it fed off the tender twigs, she watched the wild creatures at their play.
“Pretty darlings,” she murmured, as the cubs crawled in the direction of the elephant.
The mother, anticipating no danger, allowed her progeny to move about freely, and to get almost under the feet of the huge beast. One unlucky cub, too venturesome, or too curious, got in among the provender which the elephant had provided for itself, and was lifted in its trunk to its capacious mouth, and then was thrown aside so roughly as to make it mew piteously. The mother gave a warning cry, which brought her little ones to her, save the one the elephant had treated so roughly. With a menacing growl the tigress advanced against the elephant, and when it came near enough received a blow from its trunk, which fairly doubled it up. Roaring savagely, it sprang at the huge beast again, when Zoola, seeing how things were going, sprang into the branches overhead, and made her way out of reach of the belligerents, but taking up a position from whence she could see the fight. Beaten off again, the tigress roared, and was answered by its mate, who came tearing upon the scene of action.
Evidently tigers have a language of their own, for the pair commenced an attack on the elephant, which trumpeted forth a kind of challenge as it faced round, its hind-quarters protected by the trunk of the tree. The sagacity of the brute in taking up this position was wonderful, since tigers are fond of attacking elephants in the rear, and making their way from thence to the animal’s head, when they blind them with their claws. Now the creature’s trunk came into requisition. The tiger was received on it, and enveloped in its coil, was dashed against the earth, and then thrown aside, much hurt, but still game. The animal’s blood was up, and it evidently did not fear its huge antagonist, which towered above it like a mountain.
Meanwhile the tigress had assailed the elephant’s right flank, and was trying to work its way upward with its sharp claws, which were dug into the beast’s hide, leaving white marks or scratches wherever they touched. The pliant trunk was swung round, and the savage beast dislodged. As may be readily conceived, all this was not carried on quietly. The tigers roared, and the elephant trumpeted loudly.
These cries were taken up by other beasts, and soon a concert of discordant sounds awoke the echoes far and wide. Zoola had seen encounters between wild beasts at her father’s castle, and at the courts of native princes, but had never witnessed anything like the present combat; the tigers being in splendid fettle, the arena the leafy glades of the jungle, overshadowed by the blue canopy of heaven, spangled with stars. The monkeys in the tree in which she had taken refuge woke up, and became very active. Perceiving a stranger, they resented the intrusion by making faces and swearing at her. Her attention, however, was soon diverted from the monkeys to what was going on below. The tigers had been joined by two others, and the four made common cause against their huge foe.
It was a novel spectacle, this combat between four agile, sinewy creatures and a huge moving tower of flesh and bone. From quarrelling with the elephant the male tigers fought with each other, and the combat was a desperate one. While they were locked in a deadly embrace, biting at each other’s necks, the elephant, who was smarting under severe wounds, advanced and dealt the pair vicious blows with its trunk, and then made off into the jungle, trumpeting, but whether through fear or a feeling that it was victorious it is hard to say. Zoola found herself alone now that the elephant had gone. Selecting the fork of the tree, she settled herself to sleep, and was soon oblivious of her surroundings in happy dreamland. Monkeys flitted about, wondering at the strange creature who reposed in their leafy dwelling. A tree-snake glided down the branches and hissed on nearing her, but passed her by harmlessly. Zoola slept on.
It was broad daylight when she awoke and looked round with astonishment not unmixed with delight at the novelty of her position. Being in a good condition of health, she began to think of breakfast. The tree in which she sat contained nothing to satisfy her cravings. Descending, she gazed with curiosity at the body of one of the tigers, killed in last night’s encounter, and then walked leisurely forward, picking wild plums from bushes, and taking an occasional draught from a crystal rill.
A special Providence seemed to be watching over the girl, in her wanderings, which took her past the haunts of wild beasts and the home of reptiles, whose bite was fatal.
“I wonder where Harry is,” she muttered. “I ought to have stayed with him.”
Harry was wondering about the same time where she was, and blaming himself for having lost sight of her. But she felt anything but miserable, and walked on. She thought she heard the sound of firing occasionally, but it was so indistinct and uncertain that she paid little heed to it. Presently a cheetah made towards her. Bounding almost to her feet, it stood in a playful attitude, looking into her face with anything but a vicious expression. It was Azraal, Dana’s favourite, out roaming; the confinement to the house and the continual noise of the firing being anything but pleasant to it. Zoola ventured to pat the beautiful creature’s head, and spoke to it gently, when it raced round like a dog, giving expression to its pleasure by short barks. She knew by this that she was safe from the tame creature, and she also concluded that it must have an owner, or it would not have been brought into such a state. Azraal kept near her while she walked on, whiling away the time by talking to it.
Tired out at last, she placed her back to a tree and went asleep, Azraal lying at her feet, its head on its paw, and its eyes fastened on her face. It was a pretty sight, at least so thought three horsemen who, a few hours later, and while she still slept, came up. Azraal awoke and growled. Yunacka, for he was one of the newcomers, threw himself off his horse, and rushing forward, flung his arms round the cheetah’s neck.
Zoola awoke, and seeing him, cried — “Halloa, wild boy! Where’s Harry?”
“Colonel Aubrey and Hassan dismounted, the latter recognising the princess.
“Where is Harry, your highness?” he asked.
“Safe enough somewhere, with his uncle, and four other Europeans,” she replied.
Zoola was glad to find herself with friends again.
“Did you hear the name of Harry’s companions?” Colonel Aubrey asked, as he sat near her.
“He called one of them uncle,” she replied.
“Colonel Hutchinson was it?”
“Yes. He was an old friend of my father’s. I hope they are all safe.”
“No doubt they are. Half-a-dozen resolute men will be quite an accession to the little garrison. Perhaps we may drop across the party soon. Shall we go on?”
“Yes. Have you come far to-day?”
“From Delhi; but we’ve ridden hard.”
“And my father — what of him?” she asked.
“Perhaps Hassan can give you some information on that head,” the colonel remarked.
“I left him yesterday,” Hassan observed. “He was quite well then, and extracted a promise from me to see you back in safety to the castle.”
“He is a dear fellow, but you can’t take me back just yet, Hassan. I want to see some fighting, and I’m dying to see Dana and Val. I’ve heard so much of them.”
While this conversation was going on, Yunacka and Azraal went off on an exploring expedition together. Azraal killed a deer, which his companion dragged in triumph behind him, and threw at the feet of his comrades. The morning ride had given them capital appetites, and they were ready for the venison steaks.
Azraal had his share of the carcase; Yunacka took an active part in the cooking arrangements. He gathered sticks, blew the fire, and cut up the meat. Zoola laughed at the comical appearance he presented. The steaks were pronounced capital, and Zoola, princess though she was, enjoyed her food more than she had done for many a day.
After lunch the entire party started. Suddenly they came in sight of Harry and his companions, who like themselves were making their way to the garrison. A hearty cheer greeted the recognition, and they were soon shaking hands and comparing notes. Harry, as may be imagined, was only too delighted to meet with Zoola again, whom he had well nigh given up as lost. In a locality like that they were traversing, to lose oneself was a very serious matter.
“Zoola, how could you give me such a fright?” he asked.
“Harry? I couldn’t help it. If you were on a great elephant, and he ran away with you, what could you do?”
“Get down while he was running away, you little puss; that’s what I would do,” said Harry. “But there, I forgive you.”
“Won’t Dana be glad to see somebody?” she remarked, changing the conversation, and looking up archly into his face, as they walked apart from their companions.
“Yes, she will. I’m afraid something’s wrong with her; I have had bad dreams.”
“You love her, I suppose, Harry?”
“Yes, to that question; with all my heart. Although I have not known her long, yet I seem to have been her friend for years. I feel towards her —”
“Just as she does for you, no doubt, Harry. I think I’ll get Hassan to take me back home.”
Tears rushed into her eyes, and her tones were full of spite and envy. Harry playfully pinched the girl’s ear, and said — “Why, Zoola, what ails you?”
“I am nobody in your eyes. You — you never have bad dreams about me, Harry,” she replied.
He could not help laughing at this display of jealousy on her part, and said — “I think, Zoola, you could not do better than go home with Hassan. Remember, fighting is going on.”
“What of that, am I a coward?” she asked, with flashing eyes and quivering nostrils. “If Dana is not afraid, why should I be? I’m a princess, and would die rather than show signs of fear; besides, to die is only to sleep, Harry.”
He listened to this in silence, and felt the girl loved him.
He felt pleased at the conquest he had made, and, boy-like, looked forward with pleasure to meeting Val, and doing a little boasting about having secured the affections of a princess. He was thinking of how he could best manage to pacify her, when a bullet whistled unpleasantly near his head. Catching Zoola by the hand, he raced back to his companions, who were preparing for the anticipated attack. It turned out to be a false alarm, and that Yunacka had inadvertently discharged his rifle, and nearly shot Harry.
“The scare won’t do us much harm,” remarked Colonel Aubrey; “it will remind us that we are in an enemy’s country, and must take every precaution to guard against surprise.”
Hardly had he finished speaking than the sounds of firing close by caused the little party to spring to arms again. The next moment a figure was seen.
“Val, as I live!” exclaimed Harry, rushing forward. “Hi, Val, it’s Harry and a lot of friends!”
“Look out for the enemy then,” shouted Val, as he raised his rifle and fired.
“Deploy as skirmishers,” said Colonel Aubrey.
The little party soon found itself engaged in beating off several sepoys, who had been in pursuit of Val. Finding that friends had unexpectedly come to the rescue, they retreated, leaving one of their number dead on the ground. Val was soon folded in his father’s arms, and shaking hands warmly with Colonel Hutchinson, and exchanging greetings with the other Europeans.
“Now that’s over, old boy,” he said to Harry, “let me ask you how you are, and who is this?”
“Let me answer by asking you a question, “how’s Dana?”
“Not wounded, Val?”
“No. Sunstroke and fever; she’s in the fakir’s cave.”
“I am so glad; and how’s all the others, Val?”
“As well as can be expected. Clarence and Fitzmaurice are both wounded, and we’ve lost several in a desperate affair.”
“Another attack since I left, I suppose?”
“Yes, beat all the others into fits, Harry. Sprang a mine on us, blew up a portion of the stockade. We fought like demons, regular hand-to-hand work, the sepoys and the servants behaved splendidly.”
“Is the garrison safe for the present, Val? Hadn’t we better get in to their help?”
“The place is too closely invested to manage that by day; wait till night. I had to get Dana out last night; was seen while out searching for food just now, and chased; but where did you pick up that odd creature?”
“She’s a princess, Val,” said Harry, somewhat proudly.”
“Come, come, old chum, draw it mild,” was the sarcastic reply, “A what?”
“A princess, old boy; let me introduce you. Her father is Runjeet Singh, a friend of my uncle; she saved my life, and I saved hers.”
“One good turn deserves another. Case of spoons, I suppose?”
“Well, she does love me, Val; but let me introduce you.”
“What are you to do when introduced to a princess in a monkey’s dress?” asked Val, in perplexity.
“Why, shake hands; she’s an awfully jolly girl, full of fun and mischief, and as brave as a lioness.”
The pair were introduced, and then Yunacka appeared, and came in for his share of notice, as did Azraal also. A council of war was held, and Val gave his opinion about the advisability of deferring action against the enemy until night closed in.
“We can find shelter in the fakir’s cave,” he remarked; “if we are attacked while there we can defend ourselves, the only drawback is that the inner cave is infested by large serpents.”
“I can vouch for that,” said Harry; “but serpents are not so deadly as sepoys.”
It was decided to proceed to the cave at once.
“Perhaps Yunacka can get in to the garrison with a note,” Harry remarked.
The suggestion was a happy one, and received consideration.
Having determined upon the course of action, the party made its way to the cave in skirmishing order, determined not to be taken by surprise. If the garrison only knew of the gallant little band which was approaching to its aid, rejoicing hearts would be the result. Before reaching the cave the sound of an elephant trumpeting reached them. “It’s my rogue of an elephant,” said Zoola. “I believe he is up to some mischief again; see there he is. What’s his name, captain?” This to Redwood.
“Mallea,” was the reply.
“Down, Mallea, down,” said Zoola, running towards the huge beast, which, strange to say, obeyed the command, allowing her to ascend and seat herself upon his neck.
At this instant another elephant, guided by a proper mahout, came into view.It belonged to the mutineers, and the driver had brought it out to give it an opportunity to gather food for itself. Mallea trumpeted out a challenge, which the other responded to by a shriller noise, and both having suddenly made up their minds for an encounter, advanced to the attack. Harry was horror-stricken at the danger which threatened Zoola, whilst Hassan was in a little better state, having in view the promise he had made to her father, to restore her to his arms again.
“Zoola, drop down,” shouted Harry, a request that was seconded by all his companions, who were alarmed for her safety.
But she only laughed and urged the huge brute forward. The mahout, however, endeavoured to turn his elephant aside, but the animal would not obey him. With trunks and tails aloft the elephants shuffled up to each other with considerable speed, after their unwieldy fashion, trumpeting in mutual defiance.
With trunks and tails aloft the elephants shuffled up to each other.
This is the ordinary attitude of attack of the elephant. He puts his trunk up perpendicularly, in order that it may be out of harm’s way. His tail is similarly raised from excitement; his trumpeting consists of a series of quick blasts between roars and grunts. The sound of their huge heads coming into violent collision might have been heard at the distance at nearly half-a-mile. Having struck their first blow, both elephants now set themselves vigorously to push against each other with their foreheads.
“Heavens!” exclaimed Harry, “she will fall. Her life will be sacrificed — ’tis horrible! Oh, Zoola! she is lost —lost!”
The lad’s anguish was indescribable. To see the beautiful girl stamped beneath the feet of the huge beast, crushed out of all semblance to humanity, was a prospect enough to fill one with horror. But the danger was not so great as might have been anticipated, for both trunks were still elevated, and their tusks interlaced.
These were the tactics observed by the antagonists in their combat. Zoola and the mahout became so excited that they shouted their encouragements, and endeavoured to incite their chargers to victory. It was a spectacle to engage one’s whole attention, and to send the blood coursing through one’s veins. Mallea and his foe kept pushing for a time without victory inclining to either; but at length the former began to gain the advantage. The fore leg of his antagonist was raised, and it soon became evident, that it was not to advance, but to retreat.
With a sudden leap backwards, the vanquished beast tore himself from his antagonist, and fled; but unluckily the mahout fell right before the infuriated Mallea, whose eyes were full of wild fury. There was just time to see that the man had fallen, when the huge foot of the elephant was placed upon his chest. There was a cry of horror, as the cracking of bone was heard, and the body of man was crushed into a shapeless mass!
The enraged animal, still keeping his foot on the man’s chest, seized one arm with his trunk, and tore it from the body. By this time Zoola was safe by Harry’s side, she having scrambled over the beast’s back down his tail to the ground.
“Isn’t it horrible?” she whispered, as the severed arm was hurled high up into the air.
The still enraged elephant rushed after its retreating foe, trumpeting aloud. A number of irregular cavalry, belonging to Custonjee’s force, suddenly made their appearance, and opened fire, which was quickly replied to, the result being nil on either side, owing to the sowars beating a too hasty retreat.
“Let us push on as fast as we can,” said Colonel Hutchinson. “We may be taken in ambush, and cut to pieces. The cave is our safest resort.”
The cave was reached, and while Harry was kneeling by Dana’s side, talking to her in affectionate whispers, his uncle, together with Val’s father, were engaged in attending to measures of defence.
“Is this Yunacka?” Dana asked — she having recovered from her delirium, which, however, had left her very weak — on catching sight of Zoola.
“No, Dana; it’s Zoola, a young friend of mine; a princess, the daughter of a friend of my uncle’s.”
“Won’t you kiss me, Zoola? What a pretty name,” said Dana, as she held out her hand.
“I will. You are Harry’s friend; that is enough for me,” Zoola replied, as she stooped and kissed the beautiful English girl, adding — “I hope you will soon be better.”
“Is Val all right?” she asked.
“Yes; we have six Europeans more come to help us, Dana.”
“Surely that’s the sound of firing, Harry,” said Dana. “Quick! give me my rifle and belt. I must be up and doing. The enemy’s upon us again!”
The brave girl tried to spring from her couch of sweet grass, but sank back with a sigh of weakness.
“Zoola will attend to you, Dana,” said Harry. “Heaven bless you both.”
He hurried to the mouth of the cave, and then passed out to join his comrades, who were concealed in bushes and behind trees, keeping up a brisk fire on Custonjee’s men. Some of the bullets made their way into the cave and flattened themselves against the rocky sides, but without endangering the safety of Dana or her companion, who were securely located in a corner where such missiles could not reach them. Custonjee seemed resolved on this occasion to spare no effort to score a victory. He was well aware that the accession in strength to the garrison of half-a-dozen Englishmen was morally worth a great deal more than the actual numbers represented.
This determined him to prevent the newcomers joining the garrison, which was holding out a great deal longer than he had imagined it would be able to do.
His losses had been severe, and he was afraid that in the end he would have to retire, unless he could infuse new courage into his men. They had expected an easy victory, and plenty of loot at the finish, and were disappointed.
Harry was lying down near his uncle, firing away at the sepoys, when the former said — “What a pity it is the garrison does not make a sortie now; it would punish the rebels, and cause them to withdraw their attentions from us.”
“Mr. Fitzmaurice would do anything to help us, if he only knew.”
“I’m sure he would,” Harry replied. “Don’t you think he would. Val?”
His chum was lying next to him, and on hearing the question replied promptly — “He’s the best fellow in the world, and would indeed help us in any way. Where is Yunacka? He might be useful on such an errand.”
The wild boy had gone off with Azraal somewhere.
“I think I can manage either to convey, or have conveyed, the necessary information to the garrison,” said Val.
“I don’t want to interfere,” said Harry, laughing, and running his eye along the barrel of his rifle.
“Splendid!” shouted Val, as a sepoy sprang a couple of feet into the air, shot dead, through the heart. “Now I’m off. Keep them at bay as long as you can.”
Stooping, he ran along and got through the mouth of the cave uninjured.
“Dana, how are you now?” he asked, as soon as he reached her side. “Better, I hope.”
“Yes, Val; but isn’t it cruel to be mewed up here unable to tire a shot, at a time like this? Zoola is with me, or I’m sure I should go mad.”
“May I have your rifle, Dana, and go and join Harry?” Zoola asked. “Not that I want to leave you, but it seems wrong to let the men beat us in acts of bravery.”
Before a reply could be made to this the fakir entered from the inner cave, followed by his escort, with the addition of several snakes, which hissed at the intruders. A word from him, however, pacified the venomous creatures.
“What is this?” he asked sternly. “Why is the sanctity of my house interfered with?”
“Ask the ruffians who are carrying murder and plunder through this fair region,” said Val. “But let me warn you, there’s danger where you’re standing. You’re in the line of fire.”
“Death has no terrors for me,” said the fakir. “I have sought it in the haunts of men, and of wild beasts, but it has not come, although I have often prayed for it.”
“Holy father,” said Val, “time presses. The hand of an implacable enemy is at our throat. We must shake it off, or it will strangle us. Will you help us?”
“My inclination and my duty favour your request. Speak!”
“If Mr. Fitzmaurice knew of our predicament he would try to help us. Can you assist me to convey a message to him?”
“I can; I will. Come!”
He led the way towards the inner cave.
But Val held back, saying — “That way leads nowhere, holy father.”
“Come!” was the laconic reply, as staff in hand, the fakir walked to a niche and took therefrom a torch, which he lit, and then preceded Val, the rear being brought up by the weird escort.
When the pair had disappeared, Zoola said in a whisper — “Was it right for your friend to trust himself with that strange-looking man?”
“Yes, dear Zoola; he could not be in safer hands.”
Yet Zoola was glad, despite this assurance, that Harry was not in the company of such a queer lot as the fakir and his escort.
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