The Project Gutenberg EBook of Yule-Tide Yarns, by Various

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Title: Yule-Tide Yarns

Author: Various

Editor: G. A. Henty

Release Date: June 18, 2015 [EBook #49229]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Cover for Yule Tide Yarns

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Yule-Tide Yarns

"The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man fell." Page 181.

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

Page 181.

Title Page for Yule-Tide Yarns


  Illustrated by Gordon Browne.
ADVENTURES OF A NIGHT. By John Bloundelle-Burton 54
  Illustrated by Enoch Ward.
AN OUTLAW'S FORTUNES. By W. C. Whistler 90
  Illustrated by J. Finnemore.
"A FLIGHT FROM JUSTICE." By Lieut.-Col. Percy Groves 123
  Illustrated by J. B. Greene.
LONGITUDE TEN DEGREES. By Robert Leighton 160
  Illustrated by W. S. Stacey.
A SOLDIER'S VOW. By David Ker 193
  Illustrated by J. A. Symington.
IN LUCK'S WAY. By Fred. Whishaw 228
  Illustrated by R. Wheelwright.
"SAMANA KAY." By Harry Collingwood 268
  Illustrated by Lancelot Speed.
"HARI RāM," THE DACOIT. By E. F. Pollard 296
  Illustrated by F. Feeler.
A JUNGLE DRAMA. By George Manville Fenn 332
  Illustrated by Lancelot Speed.


"The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man fell" Frontispiece
"The two valets had at night carried off his body" 4
"Lower your flag or I will sink you" 10
"It is I, Peter Vignerolles" 14
"Running forward, stepped into the water" 29
"Open the cover a little way to look at the compass" 36
"At them, lads" 39
"We buried them at the spot that we agreed on" 48
"Stab you under the shoulder in a dark alley" 61
"Kiss my hand—do something lover-like" 68
"I want your company" 74
"Fighting across the body of a third who lay prone and prostrate
with Giles' foot upon his body"
"This is the son of your king. I charge you with his care" 96
"Master Peel," she cried; "the house is empty and all in disorder" 108
"I shouted, and tried to reach my dagger" 116
"I got a fair blow at him from aloft" 119
"Knocked him fairly off his legs" 131
"I shall try to stop them" 137
"Major Warrington?" he said 146
"You are our prisoner" 155
"The sight and sounds that met him were such as he had never
before encountered"
"The woman shrank from him" 174
"The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man fell" 180
"You have come back to your senses, eh?" 189
"That hand no good—cut thumb off" 198
"Jist tie my 'ands agin, will yer, Tom?" 203
"The two men met like conflicting whirlwinds" 215
"Is it a h'angel?" 222
"Kittie, who played a much stronger game" 230
"You may have a visit from the blackguards before the night's out" 235
"The passing of a body of Mashona or Matabele warriors
on the warpath"
"Bruce felt impelled to look upon Uncle Ben's body once
more before leaving it"
"The lad picked up a stone to throw at the evil-looking creature" 265
"Suddenly there arose a wild yell aloft of 'Man overboard!'" 272
"Ned seemed to stumble or throw himself backwards over the
gunwale of the boat"
"I met with nothing remarkable until I reached its farther extremity" 291
"You'll know me when you next see me" 305
"Good sport! good sport!" 310
"In a second he would have torn Lindsay to pieces" 315
"He shall not be hanged" 323
"Hari Rām, if you make one step forward, I will shoot you
like a dog"
"They walked down to the bamboo landing-stage at the riverside" 335
"Of course: we must go on" 343
"The butt of his double gun crashed against the side of the
tyrant's head"
"The girls dashed along the bank" 363
"Crack!" 365





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

"The baron must be mad," he said, as he lowered the glass, "to remain there with his wife and two daughters, when he might long ago have managed to escape with them across the frontier into Italy. If he is so pig-headed as to determine to stop there himself, and have his head chopped off by the guillotine, he might at least have sent them to a place of safety. I have been brought up to admire the French nobles, but upon my word, if they are all like him they well deserve the fate that is falling upon them. Of course those who emigrate[2] have their estates forfeited, but it is a good deal better to lose your estate than your estate and head also."

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

Once or twice only had members of the senior branch paid a visit to London, and then not from any desire for travel, but simply because they were members of their embassy in London. These had brought back news that the Vignerolles held a high place in the Huguenot colony, that they lived in a fine old house at Hampstead, and[3] were generally liked and respected among the great families who lived near them.

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

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

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

Still greater did his indignation become when he heard of the capture of the Bastile, and that the king had been brought by the mob from Versailles to Paris. He himself at once posted off to the capital, and was one of the party of nobles who had implored the king to call upon the army to restore order, or at least[4] to bring in two or three regiments to form a royal guard. He was one of those who had fought to the last against the mob when they stormed the Tuileries, and had been left for dead. The two valets he had taken with him had at night carried off his body, which they were permitted to do by the mob, under the belief that he was dead. He had, however, recovered, and finding that the king had refused to countenance any attempt to rescue him by force, had returned to his château. He was no longer violent, but remained in a state of the most profound depression, seldom speaking, and wandering about the house murmuring, "Poor France, poor France!"

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

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

In vain his friends represented to him that the nobles[5] were everywhere being seized, and that for the sake of his wife and girls he ought to cross the frontier into Italy while there was yet time. He only replied, "It shall never be said that a de Vignerolles fled before this canaille. They can murder us, but they cannot make cowards of us." The baroness was a bright and kindly woman, and her daughters charming girls, though with some little of their father's pride of ancestry. The formal service of the house, the strict etiquette, and what the midshipman considered ridiculous pomposity, surprised and amused him as much as did his utter disregard of ceremony, his lively ways, merry and unrestrained laughter, amuse his far-away cousins. The baron, who might have been offended by it, paid no attention to what was going on around him, and his presence acted rather as a damper upon his visitor's high spirits; but when alone with the girls and their mother, he was free to say and do what he liked, and they felt their life, which was now an anxious one, brightened by his visits.

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


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

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

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

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

"It is disgusting—isn't it, Peter?" Harding, who was[7] two years junior to Vignerolles, said, after he too had taken a look at the château through the glass—"to think that your friends are there, and that the 'reds' from Marseilles may go up there any day and drag them off to prison."

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


"Will you go in disguise?"

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

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

"What does she look like?" Peter asked.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Get the ensign ready for hoisting," Peter said, when within a quarter of a mile of the Frenchman. The course had been accurately laid, and she crossed the trader's stern at a distance of some ten lengths; then the helm was put up, the sheets eased off, and in half a minute she was in the Frenchman's wake, laying her course north. "Bring her up alongside of her to windward," Peter ordered, at the same moment the tricolour was lowered and the white ensign run up. The instant this was done loud shouts were raised on board the Frenchman; there was a tramp of many feet, and it was evident that the wildest confusion reigned. The Alert went so fast through[10] the water that in three or four minutes she was alongside. Peter sprang on to the rail and shouted—

"Lower your flag or I will sink you."

"Lower your flag or I will sink you."

"Lower your flag or I will sink you." The order was not obeyed. "Take her alongside," he said to the helmsman; and then to the crew, "Now, men, prepare for boarding her." The sight of the thirty sailors armed[11] to the teeth completed the alarm on board the Frenchman, and their flag came fluttering down just as the sailors sprang on the deck. Numerically the French crew were considerably stronger than the British, but they were taken hopelessly by surprise. A few had caught up arms, and the tarpaulins had been hastily dragged from the guns, but the ammunition had not yet been brought on deck.

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

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

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

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

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

"How many hands do you carry?"

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

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

The prize was indeed a valuable one, for although she[12] had filled up at the French islands, she had previously traded along the South American coast, and was laden to her utmost capacity. The crew had been ordered into the forecastle, and a heavy cable had been coiled against the door.

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

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

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

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

"It is I, Peter Vignerolles."

"It is I, Peter Vignerolles."


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, as long as your father is here I suppose you cannot leave, but if the 'reds' come there is no reason why you and your mother should not fly; throwing away[17] your lives will benefit neither France nor your house. When this château is once taken, and your father a prisoner, there would be no common-sense in your hesitating about making your escape if there were an opportunity of doing so."

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

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

"I think that is a very good plan," Melanie said. "Even if we are carried away and murdered, it would be a satisfaction to us to know that our jewels—and you[18] know that they are very valuable—have not fallen into the hands of these wretches, but that they will still be the property of one of our family."

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

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

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

"We will bury the things here."

"Do it at night, Melanie."

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nothing happened, Mr. Harding?"

"No, sir, all has been quiet. The prisoners have tried the door once or twice, and I had to threaten to fire through it; since then they have been quiet. We made you out just before you showed your lights, and it was a relief when you did so; for although you were coming[20] from the right direction it might have been an enemy, and I had just told the men to stand to quarters."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is there any sign of wind?"

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

"This is an awkward place to be becalmed, Harding," Peter said to the midshipman, who had just rowed on board from the barque. "If it were not for the prize we might get all the men in the boats and tow the schooner.[21] We could get two and a half knots out of her, I should say, with the three boats ahead, but we can't tow her and the barque too; and I don't suppose that all hands would take that craft through the water more than a knot an hour, and divided between us the gain would be so little that it would not be worth while fatiguing the men. There is one thing, it is some thirty miles from where we are lying to Toulon, and as likely as not the naval people there won't think it worth while to send a gunboat out here when a breeze may spring up before they are half-way out. It is not as if it were in summer, when a calm will last for a week. Before an hour has passed we may have the wind coming down from the north with strength enough to take our mast out of us. No, I should say that the chances are that they will leave us alone, unless there happens to be a gunboat or two lying somewhere in shelter among these islands."

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

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

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

Five men were ordered into the boat, and in a couple of minutes they were on board the barque, which was lying only a few lengths away. Sail was shortened on board both vessels, and in a quarter of an hour they[22] were under very reduced canvas. Peter ran up the ratlines for some distance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, sir, and she is a valuable one; she is loaded with colonial products, coffee, sugar, tobacco, and so on. I thought that I had better bring her straight to you, for I should have weakened my crew too much if I had sent[23] her down to Gibraltar. I have brought her manifest on board. She is a new vessel, and carries twelve guns. We took her by surprise without a blow being struck. This is the report of her capture," and he handed the document that he had written out, together with the ship's papers, to the captain. The latter glanced down both papers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We will take charge of them."

The master and mate with fifteen men were at once sent on board the prize. Harding with his crew returned to the schooner, and ten more men from the frigate were sent on board her. Then the Alert dipped her ensign and laid her course west; while the frigate, escorting the[24] prize, headed south-west, as the captain intended to see her well past the French coast before he left her; for although no French men-of-war had, so far as he had learned, put out from Toulon, it was certain that French privateers would very soon be fitted out to prey upon British commerce. The breeze had sprung up again, and the schooner, slipping fast through the water, soon drew away from the others. A large ship was seen coming out from Toulon, but the Alert, sailing much faster, soon lost sight of her. Four days later, returning from the westward, the Alert, rounding a headland, came in sight of the château. Peter uttered an exclamation as his eye fell upon her, and he caught up the glass.

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

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

"It is no use waiting any longer," Peter said at last. "If they had escaped before the place was taken they would have been here long ago, and would, of course, have signalled as soon as they saw us. We will make straight out to sea for the present, we can do nothing[25] until it gets dark. I don't know, though. Put her head to the west again; I must go and see what is going on up there, and must run the risk of being caught. There is a battery in the next bay, and two or three villages farther on, so I must go at once. Get a boat down with four hands in it, while I run down and put on that fishing suit again. As soon as you pick the boat up make out to sea, and be here again at seven. Don't send the boat ashore unless you see me come down to the water's edge. If I am not there, stand off again, and come back two hours later; I may be detained. If I am not there then, come back at ten o'clock and send a boat in. Unless I come off then, you will know that I have got into some sort of mess. Cruise along as usual, and don't come back till evening the day after to-morrow. Then if I am not there, you had better find the Tartar, tell the captain that I went on shore to see if I could get my friends out of the hands of these scoundrels, and that as I have not returned I must certainly have been taken prisoner."

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

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

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

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

The sailors rowed at racing speed to the shore. All was still quiet. Peter jumped on to the beach, bidding the men row back as fast as they could; then he started at a quick run through the wood. When he approached the château he saw a crowd of some four or five hundred[26] men in front of him. All were armed, some with muskets, others with pikes, while some carried swords. Casks of wine had been brought up from the cellars, and half-a-dozen of these had been broached, and the men were gathered thickly round them.

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

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

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

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

"You see the tyrant is dead. He has saved the[27] guillotine trouble. As for the women, justice will be done on them."

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

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

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

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

"When will you start, comrade?"

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

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

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

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

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

"We have not received it yet," Peter said; "but I for one shall not be sorry to be on the deck of one of the[28] ships of war now at Toulon. Fishing is all very well, but that will soon be spoiled if the English war vessels come cruising along the coast; besides, now all the aristocrats are being killed, we shall get but poor prices for our fish."

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

As soon as he was out of sight he dashed off, and did not pause until he reached the shore. The schooner was a mile away, heading straight in. Glancing to the right, he saw a party of soldiers marching along the beach. They evidently came from the fort beyond the headland, and were about three or four hundred yards away from him. As he stopped they halted, and were evidently watching the schooner. Without hesitation he threw off his blouse and fisherman's boots, threw down his pistols, and, running forward, stepped into the water. He went easily for some twenty yards when he heard a shout and knew that he was seen. He now swam his hardest, and by the time the soldiers came up, was sixty or seventy yards from shore. They at once opened fire; but he dived and swam straight on under water, coming up occasionally to breathe, and then diving again until[31] he was a couple of hundred yards out, and beyond the reach of any chance ball. The schooner was now thrown up into the wind, and a boat had been lowered, and was rowing towards him. The schooner was, as usual, flying the French flag. In a few minutes the boat came up and took him in.

"Running forward, stepped into the water."

"Running forward, stepped into the water."

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, we will keep right out, and run in after it gets dark, seven or eight miles along the coast land, and take[32] post on the road from the château to Marseilles. As I have ridden over it two or three times I know it pretty well, and there is one point where it comes within a mile of the sea. It is pretty well dark by seven o'clock, and even if they start at five—and I don't think that there is much chance of that—we shall be there before they come along, for they won't be able to go more than two and a half, or at most three miles, an hour."

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

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

"How many men will you take with you?"

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

The men were presently told off for the work, and as soon as they learned that it was to be a landing party they[33] set to cleaning muskets and pistols, and getting a sharper edge put on their cutlasses. The general idea was that they were going to storm a battery, and perhaps cut out some craft of which the captain might have heard when he was ashore. Every hand was required, and the cook and steward were both to go with the landing party, and, with two seamen, were to act as boat-keepers when the others landed, and in this way Harding would have ten men all capable of working the guns left with him. When the Alert's head was again turned towards shore, Peter called the men aft.

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

"The spot where we shall attack them will be about a mile from the shore, and no doubt they will try pretty hard to arrest our progress. We must keep together without straggling, loading as we retire, and turning and giving them a volley from time to time. If they make a rush upon us, sling your muskets behind your backs, and go at them with cutlass and pistol. The great thing will be to ensure that we do not miss our way as we come back. We will take eight lanterns with us, and put one down at each gate or opening as we go along, so that we shall only[34] have to follow the line of lights. On our return, Mr. Jamieson, you with four men will act as a special guard to the ladies; you will keep some twenty yards ahead of us as we fall back, halting when we halt, and closing up to us if they get between us and the shore.

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

A cheer broke from the whole of the men, for those who had before been greatly disappointed that they were not to take part in the expedition, were satisfied now that they learned that they would not be altogether idle. Fortunately there was a haze on the water as the sun went down, and they were therefore able to approach the shore earlier than Peter had expected, and sounding carefully as they went, they dropped anchor some two hundred yards from the shore an hour after sunset. The greater[35] part of the sails had already been lowered, but had not been stowed, so that they could be hoisted at the shortest notice; the boats had been lowered, in order not only to save time, but because the sound of the tackle might be heard by any one on shore.

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

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

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

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

"Keep them some fifty yards off," Peter said to the four men who were to remain, two in each boat. "If you hear any one coming along the shore, lie down,[36] and don't make any answer if they hail you. Row nearer in as soon as you hear us coming, but don't come in close till we run down; they will know that we must have come from boats, and some of them may run on ahead to capture them before we arrive."

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

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

The ground rose somewhat steeply for fifty yards. On reaching the level a lantern was placed there, then the men formed fours and marched along. Peter, who carried with him a compass, went ahead. The lanterns were all in canvas covers to prevent their being seen until wanted, and a man carrying one walked by the side of Peter, so that he could occasionally open the cover a little way to look at the compass. From time to time the cover was removed from a lantern, and it was left on the ground. After twenty minutes' walking they arrived at the road. There[37] was no wall or hedge, and they kept along it until they came to a small copse. It was an hour before any sound was heard, and Peter began to get very anxious lest the "reds" should have gone past before he arrived. At last far away along the road they saw a dull glow, and in another ten minutes made out a number of lights.

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

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

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

Peter remained on his feet, a bush in front of him being sufficiently high to conceal him altogether. There was a roar of voices as the "reds" came along. They could hardly be said to be singing, but each was howling or yelling the Carmagnole. They were not so drunk as Peter had hoped they would be, the six-mile walk from the château having enabled them to partially shake off the effects of the wine they had imbibed; and indeed, their leaders had broken up the casks and spilled all the liquor two hours before the start was made. Many of them carried torches, while some had lanterns, for they had left Marseilles at midnight. They were a strange, wild-looking lot: all wore either red caps or cockades in their hats, their long hair[38] hung down on to their shoulders, and the plunder they bore added to the savagery of their appearance. About a hundred passed along; then came some men with pikes. At their head walked one holding aloft the head of the baron, and six others followed him with those of the servants that had fallen.

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

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

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

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

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

"At them, lads."

"At them, lads."


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

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

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

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

Three minutes later he gave the word, "Rear line, halt, face round, take steady aim, fire." Twelve muskets[42] flashed out, and yells of pain and fury rose from the mob.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were now not far from the shore, and the leaders shouted to the mob to run on and cut their enemies off from their boats. Fortunately they were in ignorance that the ladies with their escorts had been taken straight on, Peter having before he charged told them to make the best of the way forward. The sailors were now running fast. A few of the swiftest runners of the mob had got ahead of them, but these did not venture to oppose the rush of the sailors, and the latter broke into a loud cheer as they reached the edge of the[43] level ground and saw the sea before them. Peter called for a lantern, lighted a blue light, threw it on to the ground, and then rushed down to the boat. On each side of the party were a number of their foes, but these dared not close with them until joined by the rest. The ladies had already been placed in the largest of the two boats.

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

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

"Now, Madame la Baronne, this will be your cabin, and the two facing it will be for the girls. I have no time to talk now," he said, as they endeavoured to thank him; "I have to get the vessel under way, this firing may bring[44] the gunboats from Marseilles upon us. As soon as we are off I will get some coffee made; I am sure that you must want it terribly; the steward will bring it to you. As soon as you have drunk it go to bed. You will have plenty of time to talk in the morning."

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

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

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

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

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

In an hour and a half the gunboats were near enough[45] to open fire, and two balls struck the water at a short distance from the schooner. Peter called the men in from the boats. "We have got to fight now, my lads, and you may as well rest your arms for half-an-hour, for you will want your strength if they get alongside."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My dear Peter," the baroness began.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"We would much rather—" Julie began.

"Excuse me, but I would much rather that you went down below. It would make me very uncomfortable did I know that you were exposed to danger, and we are now[49] in the most dangerous part of the ship, for it is just at those stern-windows that the enemy will be aiming."

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

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

It was no easy matter for the Frenchmen to get alongside, owing to the vessels being so close together. At first they rowed on both sides, but the power of the helm was not sufficient to bring her suddenly round; and instead of coming alongside, she crossed the schooner's bows. The guns of the larboard side of the Alert were trained as far forward as possible, and poured their contents into the gunboat as she swept across them; while as soon as, with the greatest difficulty, the lugger brought her head round in order to board on the starboard side, the guns here swept their decks, killing great numbers of the men at the sweeps. At last, after suffering very heavy loss, the French captain[50] brought his craft alongside. The moment that he did so Peter and his crew leapt on board her with a loud cheer. The French were already greatly disheartened at the terrible loss that they had suffered, and although greatly superior in numbers, they gave way foot by foot; and when their captain, who had fought gallantly, got a bullet through his head, they threw down their arms, and rushed below. Hatches were clapped over them, and then Peter, for the first time, was able to look round. The other gunboat was rowing away with all speed; but a mile away the frigate, bringing down a fresh breeze with her, and with the water foaming at her bow, was sweeping along at a rate which would bring her alongside the gunboat long before the latter could reach Marseilles. As she neared the schooner the Tartar ran up the signal, "Well done, Alert," and her crew gave a hearty cheer, which was responded to by the crew of the schooner. The latter had lost eight men killed, and no less than twenty-three wounded, chiefly by splinters. As soon as the frigate had passed, Peter ran down below. The ladies had just come up into the cabin.

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

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

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

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

The frigate returned in an hour with the second gunboat, which, seeing escape impossible and resistance useless, had lowered her ensign as soon as the Tartar[51] opened fire upon her. When the Tartar came alongside, the captain hailed the schooner, and told Peter to come on board.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

On arriving at Gibraltar they found quite a fleet of merchantmen there waiting for a convoy, and before the repairs on board the Alert were executed he had the satisfaction of seeing the three ladies comfortably settled on board a large ship which with the others sailed on the following morning for England under the convoy of a frigate and two gun-brigs. Peter had been highly complimented by the naval officer commanding the station, and two days afterwards passed his examination, and was at once promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Ten days later he sailed again, and arriving after dark one evening at his old anchorage off the château, again landed in disguise, and accompanied by a couple of sailors, made his way up to the ruins, dug up the box, and brought it on board, and the first time he saw the Tartar he handed it to the[53] captain, asking him to send it to England by the first frigate or man-of-war going home.

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

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






I, Adrian Trent, now known as Lord Trent, and a captain of Les Mousquetaires Gris, sat in my little salon in the Lion d'Or, in the Rue Louis le Grand in Paris, on Midsummer Day, in the year of our Lord 1726. And in my hand I held a little perfumed billet, which I had turned over in my fingers a dozen times, and had, perhaps, read twice as often. For it recalled to me a strange meeting, and some strange scenes in which I had been concerned when I was but a porte-drapeau. Also it recalled to me some other things far sweeter, which, to a young man, must needs be pleasant recollections—to wit, things such as a lovely face flushed now and again with the colour that adorns the blushing rose of Provence; dark eyes, sometimes as soft as velvet, and sometimes sparkling like ice beneath the winter sun; black hair that once—in an awful moment of fear and extremity—I had seen adown the owner's back, almost to her feet; a supple girlish form, and other charms. A girl whom, although I had not seen her for five years, I had never forgotten, but whom I always strove to forget, because she was wealthy and I was poor; because, although I was a man of good rank in my own country, she was almost of the very highest in hers; because she was, in truth, as far above[55] me as the sun is above the earth. Yet once, for a little while, that girl and I had been the best of friends; once, too, it seemed as if that friendship had been very near to a softer and more tender emotion, and as if Adrian Trent and Ana, Princesa de Carbajal, were falling in love with each other—if they had not already done so.

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

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


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

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

An hour later I was outside the great door of the[56] Hôtel de Carbajal, and a lackey answering my summons, I learned that the Princess was within. Whereon I bade him say that Lord Trent waited below to pay his devoirs to her, if it might be that she would receive him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aged very much! Yes, she had aged, if being more beautiful than ever meant having aged. For now the sun dazzled me no longer, and I could see all her loveliness, I could observe that the tall, slim form had grown a little, just a little, more womanly; that the soft dark eyes[57] had just a little more of calmness in their gaze; that the scarlet lips were as full, and the small white teeth, which I had always admired so much, as brilliant.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

"Monseigneur the Cardinal Alberoni, if you please."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"Who is the fellow?"

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

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

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

"How? I'll do it."

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh! in public. But—in private! Then——"

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

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

"He does as a rule; but then, you see, Blu—my lord,"[60] and while she spoke she held a bonbon out tantalisingly before my eyes, "you have got to play a different part from the ordinary one of a lover to a princess. You will play it, won't you—Adrian?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Dangerous to whom, pray?" she demanded.

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

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

"Whom?" I asked now.

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

"I can think what I like," I said. "Even a slave's[61] thoughts are his own. But where's the danger, if you mean ordinary danger?"

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

For these haughty, arrogant Spanish-Austrians living in Paris had the impertinence to state that I, Adrian Trent, an English gentleman (to say nothing of my being also an English nobleman and an officer of French mousquetaires), was beneath the Princess, or—or Damaris, as I always thought of her. It made my blood boil, I can tell you, when I learned such was the case (and I hope it makes yours boil, too, who read, if you are a countryman of mine), and if there had ever been on my part any idea of drawing back from the part I had agreed to play with Damaris—which, in solemn truth, there was not—it only[63] confirmed me all the more in the determination to play that part out to the very end.

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

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

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

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

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

"I am going to the ball at the Hôtel d'Aragon, his house. But you are not—yet you will be there. See, here is his invitation to Monsieur—blank. That blank is left because I forced him to give me an invitation for a friend of mine, whose name I would fill up. Observe,[64] mon ami, I fill it up with yours." Whereon, stooping over a scrutoire, she wrote in the name of Lord Trent.

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

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

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

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

"Shall you be alone?"

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

"When he overhears!"

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


"Take your cue from me."

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

Through a vast crowd of ladies and of gentlemen in wigs and scarlet coats, with, for the former, flowered dresses[65] and hoops and panniers and Heaven knows what, I passed, looking right and left for where the Prince might be. Then, suddenly, on a little daïs I saw him seated with, for companion by his side, Damaris, or rather Ana, Princess of Carbajal; and he was bending over her, talking with what our beloved friends call empressement, and it seemed to me as though he were utterly oblivious of every other person there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Was she acting?" I asked myself, as I passed through the windows to the gardens beyond, to find and take up my station by the fountain in which was the statue of Hercules killing the Hydra; "was she acting when she[66] whispered my name and when she made that slight but perceptible clutch at her dress?" As for the tinge of red, I doubted if she could act that, since, so far as I knew, it was not to be accomplished—no! not even by La Gautier, whom I had seen often enough in the past at the Odéon. Still, I remembered she was a good actress—had she not impersonated a wandering singing-girl from Provence when I first knew her; and had she not deceived even so astute a beast as Marcieu, the spy who tried to arrest her! So I could not answer the question, but went on down the allées, and past stone fauns and satyrs, and gentlemen in togas and ladies in—well! not in gowns made by court furnishers—and, at last, in the centre of a great rond, covered with crushed shells and tiny pebbles that hurt the feet, I came upon the fountain and the figure of Hercules. Then, being there, I sat me down on the high stone rim of the basin, into which the water was falling from the hydra heads with a vastly cool and pleasing splash, and waited, beneath the moon, which sailed clear and cloudless in the skies, for the dénouement. That, however, was a little while in coming, and though more than one couple passed me, the vizard-masked face of the cavalier being almost invariably bent down over the upturned vizard-masked face of the accompanying dame (so that one might well guess it was the eternal romance being whispered in willing ears), she for whom I waited did not herself appear.

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

Down one of the little pleached alleys I heard the rustle of a woman's robe, and saw the long, lithe figure that I knew so well—that I had never forgotten since I first saw it in the spangled dress of the mountebank she pretended to be. I saw, too, the moonbeams glint upon the lovely face, and recognised it instantly, though she, too, wore her vizard-mask. Then she was close to me, close to where I had stepped out on to the shell-strewn[69] path, and calling "Adrian"—somewhat loudly, as I thought—while she drew near.

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

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

"Kiss my hand—do something lover-like."

"Kiss my hand—do something lover-like."

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

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

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

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

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

But she only laughed, showing her little white teeth, and went swiftly back up the alley she had come[70] down, turning once and saying in a fairly clear voice, "Remember."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

I had brought back to Paris from England with me a servant: a rough, queer creature, with an enormous appetite and a desire for sleep which I had never seen equalled; yet one who had served my dear father for many years, and had followed him about over Europe in those pilgrimages which I once told you he had been in the habit of making, in the footsteps of our King, James III. At Rome this man had been, also in Spain, and in these places he had picked up a smattering of tongues other than his own, as well as having the French very well; while, as he had earlier ridden trooper in the regiment of Blues, and, still earlier, had been a sailor for a time, he was a brave and valiant fellow. A rough kind of spaniel thing he was, which would cling close to its master's heels,[73] yet yap and snap and sniff at every one a-nigh that master until sure that such person boded no ill to him. Now, I went to wake him—for, as always, he slept when he had no work to do—from his slumbers in a cupboard on the landing.

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

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

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

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

For myself, I needed no buckling on of my blade. I had, since I returned from the Hôtel d'Aragon, changed my clothes, putting off my fashionable suit of black, and assuming a plainer one in which I travelled. My Flamberg was also already on my thigh, wherefore I felt equal to meeting any of the Prince of Csaba's Spanish asesinos whom he might see fit to send out to attack me in the neighbourhood of my sweetheart's house. That they would be Spanish I felt sure, for more reasons than one; the first of many such reasons being that the Prince was surrounded by a train of Spaniards; and the second, that[74] he would have had no time to procure Frenchmen, even if Frenchmen would have served him, which, since the French are not midnight cut-throats, whatever their other failings may be, I did not think very likely.

"I want your company."

"I want your company."

A little later and we drew near to where the Paris mansion of the Carbajals stood in the Marais, it being by this time hard on two o'clock of the morning, and all the streets around very still beneath the light of the moon as she sailed above. The revellers and wassailers seemed to have gone to their beds, and we scarce passed any one as we approached nearer and nearer to the spot we were making for, and all was very calm except for the barking of a dog once and again. Yet, notwithstanding the peacefulness of the night and the desolation of the streets, I observed my mastiff keeping his eyes ever open warily, and[75] glinting first one and then the other into dark corners and up alleys and ruelles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Silence," I said. "See, the wicket opens;" as in truth it did, and through the bars I saw a moment or so later a pair of soft roguish eyes glistening in the[76] moonlight—eyes that I knew well and loved to see, they making then, as always they have made, a summer in my heart by their glances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I thought," she whispered, "that English gentlemen,[77] English noblemen, did not ask payment from ladies for services rendered."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"More play-acting," I said to her, "more play-acting.[78] 'Tis like the night in Toulouse when you played a part."

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

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

"Well! he would not hurt me. He pretends to love me—does love me."

"He might carry you off."

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

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

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

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

Now, no sooner had my girl gotten down some yards[79] upon the broad walk—she having, as she went, thrown a common kind of hood, such as Spanish peasant women wear in the streets over her head—than she commenced, gently, but still audibly, to say, "Hst! hst! Isidore. I am here. Isidore, where are you? Have you kept tryst? Isidore, I say!" and then gave a little kind of muffled shriek as a figure, enshrouded in a cloak and wearing a mask (and followed by another attired in a similar manner), stepped out from behind a lemon-tree tub and seized her by the arm.



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

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

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

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

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

"Ah, monsieur! Ah, mon Dieu! You believe that! 'Tis a cold supper then! Look, monsieur, at the salle-a-manger."

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

"Ah! monsieur, would you believe that of the Princess! And all because she played a little jest upon a[80] foolish Englishman who pesters her with his attentions, a poor half-witted thing, who even now, at this moment, is dilly-dallying at the side-door, thinking he will be let in. Peste! he will wait a long while," and she began to sing a song out of Regnard's new comedy about a man waiting for a lady under an elm, and waiting a mighty long time too—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No," the other said, "I will not laugh at him. Rely[81] on me. There will be no laughing," and again he turned and went upon his way, accompanied by the other.

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

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

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

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

"What makes you think that?"

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

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

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

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

And then, as we drew near that door, we heard (and more especially we did so because Damaris had forgotten to close the little wicket after she had looked through it at me, so that noises outside, if any, might plainly be distinguished)[82] the clash of arms, a sound sweet enough to a soldier's ears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that last was the fact which would have made me laugh in any other circumstance, for, swiftly, I recalled how in the days of my childhood this very Giles had taken me to see Barton Booth in one of Mr. Sotherne's beautiful tragedies at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and how,[85] when the actor struck the villain down—exactly in the middle of the stage!—he had placed his foot upon his chest, and waved his triumphant sword over the fallen one. I recalled, too, how Giles had applauded, and had said, "O Master Adrian, Master Adrian, that is the way to conquer, to subdue a villain!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"Ay, wherefore?" repeated Damaris.

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

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

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

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

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

"It is impossible. He is beneath you."

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

"Hark you, I have heard these words before. But[87] now, unless you are an arrant cur—such as assassins always are—you shall retract them, or I will cram them down your throat. For if you say that not only I, but also any Englishman, high or low, gentle or simple, is not the equal of any foreigner, even though he be a prince of Austria or of Spain, then you lie. I say, you lie. Do you hear—you lie."

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

However, done it was at last, and we were wedded. And, although my wife could not take me to any of her[89] great possessions because she would not set foot in Spain while Philip ruled, and I could not take her to my home in Staffordshire (where the Trent rises) because of my political principles, we were very well content—since we were both young and hopeful!—and so we settled down in the old Paris house of the Carbajals in the Marais, and have, up to now, lived happy ever after, as the chapbooks say; a happiness which, you may be very sure, was not ruffled when we heard that the Prince of Csaba and Miranda Vitoria had married a princess of the ancient house of Ponte-Casoria (which is allied to the greater house of Bourbon), who was extremely rich, but as wizened as a monkey (as my wife told me), and who, report declared, led Csaba a terrible life.






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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fell to brittling the deer quickly when he was gone, for I was by no means so sure that he would not set the sheriff on me, as he had hinted. I did not think it likely that that quiet old worthy would trouble himself about me, with a battle raging at his very doors, as one might say; but so far he had heard nothing of me, and I could come and go into the town pretty freely when I would, though the chance of some Yorkist from my own country seeing me was an ever-present danger that kept me out of sight as much as possible if I did go. Still there were things that I needed that must be bought there now and then,[92] and it would be hard to have the place closed to me. Now, I thought it just as well to get the deer I had killed to my cave, in case I had to go into hiding; and I was glad that some old distrust of this man Cork had kept me from telling him of it when I first knew him.

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

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

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


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

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

I suppose that it was an hour after I had gone to sleep, with darkness, when my dog growled and woke me,[94] and I roused at once and quieted him. Then I went to the little opening that I left for fresh air in the stones with which I closed the cave, and listened. At first I heard nothing, though the night was clear and still. There was wind coming, however, for the clouds were racing across the sky under the bright moon. But the dog was not wont to rouse me for nothing, and I was sure that there must be somewhat to find out.

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

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

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

A woman was coming straight towards me across a little glade, leading with her a boy, whose feet seemed to fail for weariness, and I surely thought for a moment, as the moonlight glinted on her rich dress and showed her,[97] tall and stately, and seeming unafraid, that I saw a vision of Our Lady, so wondrous looked this one as she neared me unfaltering. For indeed had they but now escaped from the hands of the men I had heard, to meet with myself, armed and wild-looking as I was, with the unkempt locks and beard of forest life, might well have been fresh cause for fear to two such helpless ones. Yet the woman never stayed, though she must have seen me plainly as I saw her. A cloud passed over the moon for a moment, and when the light came again, she was close on me. Then I saw that her dress was torn and disordered, and that she had indeed been in no gentle hands. But for all that, I could do naught but doff my steel cap before her, for she was the most queenly woman that I had ever seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then as the dog growled fiercely at some fresh burst of noise that came from the road, making the young[98] prince shrink from him, I leapt up, rousing to the danger close at hand, for the Queen would be sought for directly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fire still smouldered in its far corner, where some fathomless cleft in the rock took its smoke far into the[99] heart of the hill and lost it there, and I stirred it to a blaze. I had long ago so screened it with a stone wall from the doorway that I might use it safely, for I had a mind to be in comfort when I spent the winter here. And indeed, to me at least, the cave seemed homelike enough. There was my couch of springy heather, skin-covered and warmly-blanketed, and the flat-topped stones that were my seats and table were set in order, and deerskins were on them also. My bows and quiver and spare arms were on the walls, with an antlered skull or two, and I was used to bare stone walls in my old tower in the bygone days. Yet, as I watched the weary face of the Queen, I knew how wretched all would seem to her.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

"Then, friend, we met with you. I thought you another of the robbers, but a Queen learns to read faces, and there was that in yours which told me that I could[101] trust you. So I am here in safety—and some day you shall know that Margaret of Anjou does not forget her friends."

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

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

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

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

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

"Madam," I said, "I think that there will be no great search for you as yet. The Yorkists will believe you to have escaped, and your servants will take word that you are a prisoner. It will be a long day before those mistakes are found out. The army of York will pass on, and your people will scatter, and go north in little parties, and I shall meet with them. Here you are safe, and you may sleep in peace, even were you to hear voices of men searching for you close at hand, for the secret of this cave is mine only. Now I must go, and I pray you to be content[102] until I return with news in the morning. I must close the cave carefully, and thereafter answer no call save that of my name, Barvill, for that is known here to none save yourself."

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I found that out, I had not far to seek for what I needed. A man lay in a dark doorway sleeping after overmuch ale, and I borrowed from him. He did not so much as stir when I took the twisted scrap of rag that[103] stood for the proud rose of York from his arm and pinned it to my own.

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

There were many things that were not all of revelry after victory that I saw as I sat and listened. One or two houses had been wrecked—those of known Lancastrians, as one would think—and one was burning out, fired early in the day. Many times I saw parties bringing in wounded men, and more than once a hush fell on those who drank and wrangled, as the sound of a little silver bell came down the street, and a priest and his servers passed, bearing the last sacrament to some man who had been brought here to die. There were more things to be seen also, and it was a heavy tale that I must take back with morning. The Lancastrian forces had been utterly scattered, and some said that the King had been taken. The great Duke of Somerset had been taken and beheaded here that evening, and it would seem that most of the Queen's best[104] followers had been slain or were prisoners. The only good hearing was that the Queen was thought to have escaped altogether, and that the army was to march on Bamborough Castle at once, for it was her best stronghold, and a likely rallying place. The way for her flight would soon be clear, therefore.

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded, and we went into the lane, which was empty now, by reason of the noise in the market-place, which had drawn all thither. We reached and tried the back-door, but it was locked, and now there was a sound as of wild wrecking in the house that made it useless to knock, and told us to hurry. So I put my shoulder to the door and it flew open, letting us into a long passage, from which opened larders and the like, and at the end of which was a great inner door, which plainly led to the guest room, where the riot was going on. And as the moonlight streamed in I saw a white figure at this door. It[105] was Annot herself; and she was putting up the heavy bar that was used to keep house and tavern apart, as one might say, if the great room were full of wild drovers and the like at fair-time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Outside the gate the soldier halted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ho, comrade, I am wanted, and must get back. That call is for guard changing, and my name is never missing on roll-call," he said. "Good luck go with you,[107] you are safe now. Forgive me, pretty lass, if I told you bad news over-roughly just now—but you can but ken the worst once."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I tried to say that no thanks were needed, but she was gone into the darkness of the stairway, and I would not call after her. But I lingered, for I did not like the[108] silence and open door at all. And I was right in doing so, for in a few minutes she was back, calling to me with fear in her voice.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

She looked at me eagerly, and answered at once—

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Now as I passed down a lane on my way back to the forest, I came suddenly on two men who sat under a hedge, and I heard a word or two of their talk before[112] they saw me. They were not speaking English, and at once I hoped that I had found some of De Brezè's men. So I gave them good-night, using passwords that the Queen had taught me—words that spoke of hope to the cause of the red rose if a man knew them—made in troubles like these two years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Varennes went to his men presently and all was planned well, so that in the grey of the next morning we rode safely northwards, joining presently the Duke[113] of Exeter, and some other nobles with their men, thus making a strong party against any attack. And even as I thought that all was well, there rose one shadow to dim my content, though I hardly knew why.

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

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

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

Maybe one may say that they were, for the trouble to come yet was the Queen's, and though I had part in it,[114] that is a different matter to being an outlaw on one's own account. Outlaw, as it were, in truth our poor mistress was yet, but in sharing her distress was truest honour.

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

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

That evening I went in attendance on De Brezè beyond the town to the house of a friend of the cause, in order to learn whether there were any better tidings for the Queen from Edinburgh. There were none, and we walked back to the town by the same roads we had passed in going, which is a thing that an outlaw learns not to do, for plain reasons enough. It was not very dark, and the road was[115] not lonely as we came near the town, for two men struck it from a by-path, and remained some fifty yards behind us, talking and laughing freely, so that we thought them lively company.

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

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

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

When I came round I was free so far as bonds were[116] concerned, but I was in the same place, and De Brezè was beside me, in the dark. The vessel was certainly at sea, and making her way against a light head-wind, for though she was steady she went about and rolled me against my comrade. Whereat I asked pardon.

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

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

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

I told him what I knew of Cork, and then it seemed plain to us that he had trapped us for the sake of the price that was on our heads, that for De Brezè's taking being very great, as one might suppose. We should[117] therefore be on our way to England, which was no pleasant thought, considering the fate of so many of the Queen's best followers. I think it likely that I was taken for Varennes, who was far more valuable, as one might say, than myself.

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

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

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

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

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


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

"At your word," I answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"How are you here?" I answered.

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

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

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

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

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

Here I and Annot my wife serve her yet, looking back[122] with content to the troubled days when we first learnt to love one another. For if it must be that we shall not see England again, our home is where the Queen is, and that is enough, and has been so since we served her for the first time in the cave under the shadow of the Hexham moors.



By Lieut.-Col. PERCY GROVES, Royal Guernsey Artillery
(late 27th Inniskillings)


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Yes, father."

"Well Septimus is a sound classical scholar, and has coached men at Oxford. He has just been ordained, and is coming here as curate and your tutor. He will soon[125] bring you on, and when you're sufficiently prepared you shall go up for matriculation. Good-night, Dick."

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

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

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

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

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

"Honestly I do, Kate," I answered. "With other work I get on well enough, as you know; but, though I try hard to pick up Latin and Greek, I never seem to make any progress. It's always the same work over and over again, until I'm fairly sick of it! If Cousin Septimus[126] would only let me go ahead I'm sure I'd do better, but really I sometimes fancy he——"

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

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

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

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

Foiled in his attempt to retard my classical studies, Septimus Blagg tried other means to attain his end: he sought to blacken my character, knowing well that my father had too much respect for his cloth to permit a reputed ne'er-do-well to enter the Church. Septimus was far too wary to speak against me himself, so he bribed his landlord, Joseph Dobbs, the parish constable, to do his[127] dirty work. Dobbs was a cowardly, bullying jack-in-office, quite unscrupulous; in fact the very man for the job. This rascal now began to play the spy upon me, and to report, with gross exaggerations, every boyish escapade. My father, however, knew Mr. Dobbs of old, and paid little heed to his reports. Indeed, on one occasion, when the fellow brought a palpably false charge against me, my indignant sire rated him soundly, threatened to deprive him of his office, and ordered John Fowles to turn him off the premises—an order which the ex-corporal cheerfully obeyed, and even exceeded by giving the slanderer a sound thrashing, on the plea that he "resisted the escort."

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

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

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

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

"Painful news, cousin!" I exclaimed.

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

Now Harry Symes was a particular favourite of mine. He had been in our service some three years, but I had known him since childhood. His father was one of the[128] most skilful and daring boatmen on the coast; he was also, unhappily, a notorious smuggler—a man who would stick at nothing when his blood was up. But though a determined law-breaker himself, William Symes had no wish that his only son should follow in his footsteps, so he had begged my father to take Harry into his service, and accordingly the lad was taken on as under-groom and to make himself generally useful indoors and out.

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

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

"And Harry was arrested?"

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

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

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

These last words decided me. For aught I knew[129] to the contrary, Harry Symes's life was in imminent peril, and I must save him if possible. The Charfield cage was an old ramshackle place, and if it was not watched I might be able to release my humble friend before Dobbs returned from the magistrate's. There was not a moment to lose, so bidding Septimus a curt good-night, I hastened to the stable and stalled and fed my mare without troubling the groom. Then, having procured a small crowbar from the tool-house, I ran to the cage, which stood quite apart from other buildings, and within five hundred yards of the rectory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I arrest you, Richard Wilmot, for attempting to rescue my prisoner," continued Dobbs. "Shove the darbies on t'other one, Bill, and do you, Seth, fetch the[130] cart. We'll take these young devils to Dover jail this very night. Look sharp, both on ye."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ecod! ye've done for the pair of 'em, I do believe,"[133] said Herd in scared tones, as he stooped to examine Dobbs's prostrate form. "Ye shouldn't have hit so mortal hard, lad; though it serves the rascal right."

"Knocked him fairly off his legs."

"Knocked him fairly off his legs."

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"This be a precious bad job, sir," said Harry; "I do[134] wish you'd let me stop in the cage. Fancy you getting into such a scrape for the likes of me!"

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

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

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

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

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

In my excited state it never occurred to me that after all Blagg and Dobbs might not have been fatally injured; on the contrary, I made sure that Dobbs was dead, and thought it more than probable that my tutor, if not killed outright, would not survive. But for this firm impression, I should have made the best of way to Bingley Manor, and confessed everything to my father, leaving him to decide what was to be done; as it was, the bare idea of being tried for murder, or even manslaughter, filled me with horror, and I resolved to endure any hardships or privations rather than the disgrace of appearing in the prisoner's dock on such a terrible charge. How bitterly I reproached myself for that fatal burst of passion!—that mad blow which had brought such dire trouble upon Harry and myself; ruining our prospects and compelling us to fly from home and friends. I thought, with[135] hot tears streaming down my cheeks, of my poor father and sister, how keenly they would feel the disgrace, and what fearful anxiety they would endure on my account. These mournful reflections were at length interrupted by Harry Symes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We must get out of England as soon as possible, and to do that we shall have to enlist or go to sea. I[136] think London will be a good place either to take the shilling or get a berth on board some ship."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

"What is it?" I asked.


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

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

"I shall try to stop them.

"I shall try to stop them."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I am Major Warrington, of the 14th Light Dragoons," said the officer, shaking me warmly by the hand. "May I[139] ask your name, young gentleman, and that of your—your companion?"

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

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

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

"Was he thrown, sir?" I asked.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"Well, I hope they'll be able to give me four[141] posters," the major said. "I could only get a pair at the last stage."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

"I am afraid it would," I sighed.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I shall also send a full account of the case to Lord Buckland, and beg him to use all his influence to get the affair hushed up," the major went on. "No doubt his[144] friendship with Mr. Wilmot will induce him to do all he can; but the fact of your having rendered me so great a service, at the risk of your life, will make him doubly anxious to help you. I feel pretty confident that the matter will be satisfactorily settled, and in a few months you will be able to return home without fear."

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


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

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

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

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

"Praise the saints! we'll be clear of this ould flea-trap in a few hours," exclaimed Doctor Mulcahy, the surgeon in medical charge of the drafts. "I give[145] ye me word of honour, major, that since I came on board, me life's been one prolonged scratch! As for the poor fellows on the troop-deck, their state just beggars description."

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

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

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

"What brig is that?"

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

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

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

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


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

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

"Major Warrington?" he said.

"Major Warrington?" he said.


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

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

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

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

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

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

"Before the Alacrity sailed?—yes, I think so," he replied. "The letters we wrote from Northfleet must have reached your father and Buckland by the 14th, and you may be sure they would not let the grass grow under their feet. I met Captain Calvert at Buckland, and he was then under orders to sail on the 30th March, but it appears he had to put to sea on the 25th. No doubt Lord Buckland knew of this, and took the opportunity to forward our letters."

"I hope they bring good news," I sighed. "I feel very anxious, major."


"Nonsense, boy; keep up your spirits, and I'll wager a guinea I shall be able to tell you that everything has been satisfactorily arranged as far as you are concerned. If it were bad news my brother-in-law would not have been in a hurry to write. Now I must not keep the captain's gig waiting, so I am off."

The major proved a true prophet. In less than half-an-hour he returned to the brig, bringing me a letter from my father. The letter was couched in most affectionate terms, without a single word of reproach. To my great relief I now learned that neither Septimus Blagg nor Dobbs had been seriously injured; but the latter got such a shock, that thinking he was dying he made a full confession of the plot which he and Septimus had hatched against me. As to wishing to prosecute, the two scoundrels were thankful to escape being indicted for conspiracy. My father wound up by saying that I could return home at once if I chose, but he thought that now I had started on a military career it would be well for me to keep to it, at any rate for the present. Harry Symes could go back to the rectory, or remain with me as he pleased. A banker's bill for £200 was enclosed, and the letter concluded with affectionate wishes for my welfare.

"Now, my boy," said Major Warrington, when I had finished reading the letter, "you will commence your military life with an easy mind! I have one more piece of news for you," he added. "Buckland has seen Lord L——, and obtained a promise that you shall have the first vacant cornetcy in the 14th. So, Wilmot, we must pray that there be no change in the Ministry for some little time to come."



Much to our annoyance, we were detained at Lisbon until the first week in July, when an order arrived for the draft to proceed at once to Salamanca. Lord Wellington had entered Salamanca at the end of June, and his forces were in position on the south bank of the Douro, while the French under Marmont occupied the northern. It was the general opinion there would be warm work before long, and we hoped to join the regiment in time to take part in it. During my four months' sojourn in the Portuguese capital I had made great progress with my drills, and Major Warrington pronounced me quite competent to command a troop or take charge of a picket or patrol.

About three weeks before we left Lisbon I received the welcome news of my appointment to a cornetcy in the 14th—thanks to the influence of Lord Buckland with his friend the Cabinet Minister.

"I wish you all success, my dear Wilmot," said Major Warrington when congratulating me on my good fortune. "After all, the trouble you got into has proved a blessing in disguise, for you have now a noble career before you, and I predict that you will make an excellent light-cavalry officer. Entre nous," he added with a smile, "I don't think you were ever cut out for a parson. To my mind no man should enter the Church unless he has a very decided leaning that way."

"I agree with you, sir," I replied; "and judging by his letter, my father seems to be of similar opinion. He must look out for a more worthy successor to our family living."

"Well, I trust he will not bestow it on Mr. Septimus Blagg," laughed the major.

"Little fear of that," I rejoined. "Cousin Septimus[150] is now, so my sister writes, an usher in a London school. I wish the poor boys joy of the fellow!"

I will pass over our long march, for we met with no adventures worth recording. Harry Symes proved an excellent servant on the line of march, and one might have thought he had been campaigning all his life, so smart and intelligent was he. I urged him to go in for promotion, but he declared he would rather be my servant than regimental sergeant-major.

We arrived at Salamanca about nine o'clock on the evening of the 22nd July, just too late to share in the glorious victory in which our comrades had distinguished themselves. We, however, pushed on without delay, and came up with the regiment shortly after it had ceased from pursuing the flying enemy.

The officers of the 14th Light Dragoons welcomed me very cordially, the colonel being especially warm in his greeting.

"I am sorry you missed the fight to-day," said he. "It was a glorious affair, and we have given Marmont a thorough trouncing. Our losses are severe, and the 14th have to deplore the death of several gallant comrades. We shall follow up the French to-morrow, so you may have an opportunity of seeing a little fighting after all."

"He will see plenty of it before the campaign is over, colonel," observed Major Warrington.

The brigade to which the 14th belonged—it consisted of ourselves and the 1st Hussars of the German Legion—advanced next morning, and early on the 25th reached Arevalo. Here we halted and bivouacked. Patrols were sent out on the several roads, and, to my great delight, I was ordered to take charge of one, consisting of a sergeant and four men of the 14th, and four German hussars. My instructions were to proceed towards Blanchez Sancho, a small town some distance from Arevalo, and ascertain[151] whether it was occupied by the enemy. Before we marched off, Major Warrington gave me a few words of advice and caution, and wished me good luck.

"You will hardly have a chance of distinguishing yourself," he concluded; "but it will please the colonel, who is already very well disposed towards you, if you carry out the duty intelligently, and do not get into a scrape."

The sergeant of my little party was a fine old soldier, William Hanley by name, who had been with the 14th at the passage of the Douro at Barca de Avinta, in May 1809, and in every engagement in which the regiment had fought since that date. He knew that part of the country well, and could speak a little Spanish. After riding four or five miles, we came to a small village—its name I forget—where I called a halt, as our horses were rather fatigued. The alcalde of the village welcomed us with many expressions of good feeling for the British and hatred for the French.

"As the old fellow seems so friendly, we might ask him to get a feed of corn for the horses," suggested Sergeant Hanley. "Poor beasts! they've had short rations and hard work these last four days, and we've a goodish distance to travel yet. Shall I ask him, sir?"

"Certainly, sergeant," I assented. "We might get some information from him as well."

The alcalde readily acceded to our modest request, and in a few minutes the corn was brought into the praça, where we sat. Having posted one of the German hussars on the church top, with orders to keep a sharp look-out, I gave the word to unbridle and feed. While the horses were feeding, Sergeant Hanley and I questioned the alcalde as to the whereabouts of the French, and he assured us that they were at Blanchez Sancho in some force.

The horses refreshed, we mounted and resumed our journey; three men being sent forward in advance, one[152] fifty paces in front, the second fifty to the right, and the third fifty to the left front. Their orders were to halt the moment they came in sight of the enemy, a town, or any strange object.

The advance moved on in this order until they reached the summit of a hill overlooking Blanchez Sancho, when in accordance with my instructions they halted. I beckoned them to fall back, and then ordered my men to dismount. Accompanied by Sergeant Hanley, I now walked up to the summit of the hill, and from that coign of vantage perceived a column of French infantry drawn up to the east of the town.

"They're being inspected, Mr. Wilmot," observed the sergeant, looking through my field-glass—a present from Major Warrington. "They'll be moving off directly, I reckons. Ah! I thought so." As he spoke, the column took ground to its right, broke into the Madrid road, and in about ten minutes disappeared from our view.

We waited a quarter of an hour or so, then hurrying down the hill, rejoined our men. I gave the word to mount, and away we galloped towards the town, making for that side of it from which the column had marched. I have called Blanchez Sancho a town, but it was little more than a village, with one straggling street, standing on an open plain, and without hedges, walls, or inclosures of any kind.

Cautiously we rode down the street, keeping a sharp look-out for stragglers or followers of the column. At the end of the street the road turned to the right, and we now descried three dismounted dragoons running from a barley-field towards a house which stood isolated on the plain. We gave chase, and quickly caught them up. On my questioning them, they informed me that they belonged to a picket occupying the solitary house, and had been out to get forage. I inquired the strength of the picket.

"A sous-officier and ten dragoons, beside ourselves,[153] m'sieur," was the reply, after a moment's hesitation. "Our comrades are now feeding their horses."

I interpreted the answer to Sergeant Hanley, and suggested that we might capture the entire picket if we could only take them by surprise.

"We can make the attempt, anyhow, Mr. Wilmot," the sergeant rejoined; "but, you'll excuse me, sir, we mustn't take all these chaps say for gospel. If they gives the strength of their party at fourteen, we'd best be prepared to tackle double that number."

"Ja wohl, mein herr," muttered one of the German troopers, nodding his head approvingly.

"And we'd better put it out of the power of these fellows to give the alarm," continued Sergeant Hanley. "With your leave we'll gag and pinion them."

This was quickly done, and placing the prisoners under charge of a hussar, we rode towards the house. It was a one-storeyed building, and in its rear was a high wall extending from its gable-ends, forming a yard or fodder-shed for feeding cattle in. This yard had only one means of ingress or egress, and that was by the door of the house through a narrow passage. We reached this door without being observed, and found it locked. It was quickly burst open. The French dragoons were in the yard feeding their horses and attending to stable duties for the night—so far our prisoners had spoken the truth. At the sound of the crash several of them rushed into the passage. Five of my men had dismounted, and they immediately opened fire with their carbines.

"Keep up a brisk fire, lads," I called to them, "and the enemy will think our strength is greater than it is."

Two or three of the Frenchmen returned our fire, but without effect, and they soon retired from the passage into the yard. While this was going on, I remained on horseback, giving orders as occasion required. Close to me was the open window of a room on the ground-floor,[154] and suddenly an officer, springing up from beneath the window-sill, discharged a pistol at my head, the ball passing through my shako, or cap as we called it in those days. Harry Symes was standing beside me, and seizing the officer, he dragged him through the window.

"Rendez vous, m'sieur!" I exclaimed, presenting a pistol. "You are our prisoner."

"It is the fortune of war!" he said, shrugging his shoulders; and unbuckling his sword he handed it to me.

This was an important capture, and I determined to make the most of it.

"M'sieur," I said to the lieutenant, for such was our prisoner's rank, "the brigade to which we belong is close at hand, and I call upon you to order your men to surrender before its arrival."

"What if they refuse?" he replied.

"I shall fire the premises, and not a man will escape."

"Sapristie! you must be a Spaniard, not an Englishman," he exclaimed. "I am in your power and must obey you."

"Bien, m'sieur," I answered; and calling one of the Germans who spoke French fluently, I bade him escort the officer to the yard.

In a few minutes they returned and informed me that the whole picket had surrendered, and awaited my further orders. After a short consultation with Sergeant Hanley, I told the officer to call upon his men to come out one by one, each leading his horse, but leaving his sword in the yard. There was just room in the passage for a man and horse to pass. My order was obeyed; and as each dragoon passed through the door his carbine was taken from him, the butt smashed, and the pieces thrown aside. In this manner the whole picket—numbering twenty-eight sous-officiers and troopers—passed out, and formed[157] up in ranks of four; each man standing at his horse's head, and his stirrups being crossed over his saddle. As soon as all the Frenchmen were out of the yard I gave the word to march, and we moved off; Sergeant Hanley and a German hussar heading the little column, three men riding on either flank, and Harry Symes and I, with the officer—whom I allowed to ride—between us, bringing up the rear.

"You are our prisoner."

"You are our prisoner."

The French dragoons marched very slowly, and it was nearly dark before we came in sight of the village where we had baited our horses on the way to Blanchez Sancho. The French officer now expressed his surprise that we had not fallen in with the brigade. I returned an evasive answer, and thinking it would be well to halt at the village for the night—at the pace we were travelling we should not have reached Arevalo before daybreak—I called Sergeant Hanley and told him to gallop on to the village and request our friend the alcalde to provide a secure resting-place for our prisoners, and, if possible, refreshment for man and beast.

"I fear the officer suspects that the brigade is not so near at hand as we led him to believe," I said in an undertone, "and it would be a risky job to march all these prisoners to Arevalo by night."

"True, sir," was the reply; "if they took it into their heads to make a sudden rush we'd have a warm time with 'em. I'll see the alcalde, sir, and arrange for their accommodation to-night, and then get a dozen or so of the villagers to come back with me and help guard 'em until we reach the village. There's nothing like being on the safe side!"

He then galloped off, and returned in about an hour's time accompanied by a score of villagers armed with sticks, pitchforks, and one or two old fowling-pieces.

"Mais, m'sieur! who are these rascals?" cried the Frenchman in some alarm.


"Do not fear, lieutenant," I answered, "these good people are the 'brigade'; they have come to escort you to the village."

"Sacré—you have deceived me!" he hissed, with all the venom of a Frenchman.

"Un ruse de guerre, mon ami, that is all," I retorted. "All is fair in love and war."

The Frenchman, however, was very sulky, and bitterly reproached me for the trick I had played him; it was not until we were seated in the alcalde's house, discussing a flask of good wine and a capital ham, that he recovered his good-humour.

At daybreak on the following morning we resumed our journey, and I had the satisfaction of bringing in my prisoners to Arevalo in safety.

I will here bring my story to a close, for my adventures in the Peninsula would fill a small volume. I served with the gallant 14th Light Dragoons until the Peace of 1814; and as I am now an old man, I hope the reader will not accuse me of vanity when I say that Major Warrington's prediction was fulfilled, and I gained the reputation of being "an excellent light-cavalry officer."

The 14th returned to England in July 1814; and as soon as I could obtain leave of absence I hastened to Charfield, Harry Symes accompanying me. The whole village turned out to welcome us, and we felt fully repaid for the hardships and dangers we had experienced by the affectionate greeting we received.

I remained in the army until 1830, when having entered into the married state, I thought it time to retire and settle down to private life. My father attained a ripe old age, and before he died had the satisfaction of seeing his grandson, the Rev. Richard Warrington—son of Colonel Sir Charles Warrington by his marriage with my[159] sister Kate—installed as Rector of Charfield; so the living did not go out of the family after all.

Harry Symes is now a prosperous farmer, and lives within a mile of our gates. He often pays me an evening visit to chat over the days "when we went soldiering," and I am sure that neither of us has ever regretted our "Flight from Justice."





"'T  is our best chance," Ben said, as he dipped the quill into the captain's silver ink-pot. "Nay, 'tis our only chance."

The brig was labouring heavily on the sweeping swell of the North Atlantic. From where he sat, facing the square stern windows that looked out upon the helpless vessel's wake, Ben could see the dark, pursuing rollers as they loomed up against the lighter rack of leaden clouds. All was silent, terribly silent, on board. There was no sound now of busy seamen's voices, no measured tread of patrolling feet upon the decks; nothing but the slow, monotonous creaking of the ship's oaken timbers as she lazily slid into the furrow and buoyantly rose to mount the glassy slope of the next on-coming wave.

"Yes, 'tis our only chance," the boy repeated, as he drew towards him the blank leaf of paper that he had torn from the log-book. "God grant that it may be of some avail!"

The plaintive cry of a distant gull startled him in his loneliness. It was like the cry of one of his dead shipmates calling upon him from another world. He glanced nervously through the open door of the captain's room, where the captain lay silent in his last sleep. Again he dipped the quill into the ink, and began to write the words that he had already prepared in his mind—

"God send speedie help to his Majesties brig Aurora, homeward[161] bound fr. S. John's to Plimouthe and in dyer distresse. N. Lat. 58°, W. Long. 10° as nere as can be made out. Benjamin Clews 27 July 1746."

This was the message upon which he rested his firmest hopes. And when it was written and the ink was dry, he folded up the paper, wrapped it in a piece of oilskin, and inclosed the packet in a little box-like boat which he had fashioned for the purpose. On the tightly fitting lid of the box he had carved the words "Pleas open," so that no one finding it should doubt there was something precious within.

It was already dusk when he carried the box from the cabin and strode forward along the brig's desolate deck. Mounting to the forecastle, he climbed up on one of the guns, and, leaning over the stout bulwarks, peered down into the darkening sea, with its flickering, phosphorescent lights. The vessel was still drifting, drifting eastward with the ocean current, as she had been drifting for many days.

"It may never be found," the lad sighed, as he flung the box far out upon the waves. "And even if perchance it be picked up, nothing may come of it." He walked slowly aft again. "'Tis not for myself that I care," he mused; "I'd die like the rest of 'em. But the brig is the King's. She is in my charge, so to speak, and I must save her if I can."

He glanced aloft at the close-reefed maintop-sail and at the two storm staysails, and wished in his heart that he had the skill and strength to unfurl more canvas, and thus bring the vessel more speedily to land. Sail had been shortened in the gale of twelve days before, when there had yet been seamen alive and well enough to work the ship. But the gale had fallen to a calm, and now the few small sails that were set only served to keep the brig before the light breeze that came from the westward over the sea.

Ben walked aft to the helm, luffed the Aurora up to[162] the wind, and again lashed the tiller. Then he went below to the cook's galley, where a fire was still burning, and lighted two lanterns. He left one of them on the deck outside the galley door, and taking the other in his hand, strode forward and descended to the lower deck.

Silently entering the petty officers' quarters, he approached one of the hammocks—the only one that was not empty—and gently rested his hand upon it. A slight movement satisfied him.

"How are you now, Mr. Avison?" he inquired, holding up the lantern.

The man turned and looked over the hammock's side. His face was unsightly with the eruption of the terrible disease that had decimated the Aurora's crew.

"Thank'ee, Ben, I'm a bit easier now," he answered, in a thin, weak voice. "What's o'clock? 'Tis after sundown, I see."

"It's five bells in the first night watch," said Ben. "You've been asleep these two watches. Could you eat something, think you, quartermaster? There's a canful of soup in the galley. 'Twould do you a vast of good. I could warm it, if you'd take a drop. Will you?"

"Well, my lad," returned the quartermaster, "I might try to manage just a little, if you'd be so kind. But you're too weary to do cook's work now, sure. How long might it be since you had a rest?"

Ben smiled a sickly smile. "Never mind me," he said, "I'm all right. I'd a watch below the day before yesterday, after the captain was past my help. Doctor Rayner forced me to have a snooze on top of his box; said he'd not forgive me unless I did. I tied a lanyard to my wrist and gave him the other end of it, so that he might haul tight and wake me if he wanted me for anything. He never did haul, though. When I awoke he'd slipped his moorings and sailed off on the long voyage, as Tom Harkiss would have said."


The quartermaster drew a sharp breath and leaned over, gazing at the boy with bleared and lustreless eyes.

"Dead?" he cried. "The surgeon dead?"

Ben nodded.

"God help us, then!" said the quartermaster. "And do you say, boy, that there's only me and you left?"

"That's all," answered Ben sadly. And then he added more cheerfully, "Now I'll lay aft and fetch that soup."

Some few minutes later Ben Clews returned with the flagon of warm soup, and proceeded slowly to feed his sick companion spoonful by spoonful. Very soon the quartermaster fell back exhausted.

"That's enough, boy," said he; "I can't manage no more. You'd best take what's left for yourself, and then get into your bunk. The brig's all safe for a day or two, so long as there's no wind. But if a wind should spring up, look you, we shall be as good as a derelict, short-handed as we are, and maybe be blown back again into the Roarin' Forties. You may lay we shan't run aground at the rate we're goin' now, though. I daresay I shall be well again afore we make land. I've got over the worst of it, and'll be able to lend a hand in a day or two. Then we must see about givin' the poor cap'n and the surgeon a decent buryin', as befits gen'lemen." He paused to take breath. "Of course, Ben, there aren't no sort of sign of land yet, eh? You've kep' a good look-out, I suppose?"

Ben was sitting on the corner of a sea-chest pulling off his boots. He leaned wearily back, and answered with a yawn—

"I can't say as I've seen any real sign," he said. "But somehow it seems to me we can't be very far off. A school of gulls flew over us this morning, and one of 'em—quite a young one—perched on the taffrail. She looked as if she'd just come off her roost."


"That should be a kind of sign," agreed the quartermaster. "What did the cap'n say when the last reckonin' was took? Did he give any word as to where we might make a landfall?"

Ben drowsily answered, "Somewheres off the west of Ireland, if I remember aright."

The quartermaster was silent for many moments. He was mentally calculating the chances of the Aurora reaching land in safety.

"Ben," he said presently, "d'ye think you could put your hand on a chart and find out our bearings?"

But Ben did not answer. He was sound asleep.

And while he slept, the message that he had cast upon the waters went drifting eastward. It drifted for many days, but always steadily eastward in the grip of the great Gulf Stream. And at last it was found. It was picked up by an Orkney fisherman off the west coast of Pomona Island. The slip of paper was duly passed from hand to hand until it came into the possession of Captain Speeding, whose little frigate the Firebrand, twenty-eight guns, was at that time stationed in Stromness Bay for the protection of fisheries and of trade.

Of course Captain Speeding could not think of quitting his comfortable quarters and sailing off on what, after all, was probably a wild-goose chase. How could he tell that the message was genuine? It might well be a mere hoax, a wily ruse of one of the Scapa Flow smugglers, or even (which was quite likely) a clever trick of John Goff, the redoubtable pirate of the Pentland Firth, to get his Majesty's ship Firebrand and her bristling guns temporarily away from the islands, so that he might run in his ill-gotten cargo undisturbed. Captain Speeding had been in active search of John Goff and his freebooting crew for months past, and it was not his intention to let the rascals slip through his fingers.

And yet, considering the matter from the point of view[165] of duty, he dared not ignore the summons that had come to him from across the sea. The distressed ship was one of his Majesty's, and if the writing of the appealing letter was to be credited, succour was urgent.

"Look here, Brown," cried the captain of the Firebrand, flinging the torn and sea-stained slip of paper across the wardroom table to his first lieutenant—"this thing troubles me. If there's anything in it, 'tis my bounden duty, I take it, to send relief of some sort—eh? Read it over again. Read it, and tell me if you think 'tis genuine."

Mr. Brown spread out the flimsy sheet in front of him, screwed up his eyes, and read aloud, slowly and deliberately, the words inscribed upon it—

"God send speedy help to his Majesty's brig Aurora, homeward bound from St. John's to Plymouth, and in dire distress. North latitude 58 degrees, west longitude 10 degrees, as near as can be made out. Benjamin Clews, 27th July 1746."

"Well?" interrogated the captain.

"I'd lay my life 'tis genuine," said Mr. Brown. "I know the Aurora. I saw her in Chatham dockyard three years ago. What's more, I believe my old messmate Arthur Vincent sailed with her on this same cruise. The only thing that troubles me is the writing on this thing." He tapped the paper with his fingers. "This is a youngster's hand—some swab of a ship's boy. Why didn't one of the officers write it? That's what I want to know."

Captain Speeding took a turn aft along the cabin floor with his hands clasped behind his back, and stood at the open port meditatively looking out across the calm, sunlit bay to where a faint film of blue peat smoke floated above the quaint old gabled houses of Stromness. Then he returned to the table, hastily took out his watch, and said decisively—

"Brown, get the chart of the North Atlantic. Find[166] the brig's position at the time when the word was sent off; allow for her being disabled, and calculate where she may be found. I am going to despatch Moreland in search with the cutter. The craft can't be far off, for, you see, this message has only been in the water fourteen days."

"I have already consulted the chart," remarked Mr. Brown. "I make out that the Aurora is somewhere in the neighbourhood of the St. Kilda Islands."

"I never heard of them," confessed the captain. "Are they inhabited?"

"God knows," said Mr. Brown.


"D'ye hear, Ben? D'ye hear?"

Ben woke up with a start and rubbed his eyes.

"Did you speak, quartermaster?"

"Speak? Lor' bless you, lad, I've been a-speakin' this half-hour past. What in thunder's all that noise? Listen! I've heard it ever since daybreak. I can't make it out nohow."

Ben sat up and listened. A prolonged half-roaring, half-musical sound filled the air from without.

"It do sound queer, don't it?" he said. "I wonder what 'tis?"

"Best tumble up and find out," advised the quartermaster. "I'd say 'twas birds if it wasn't so loud. Birds couldn't make all that row."

Ben pulled on his boots and went up to the forecastle deck. The sight and sounds that met him were such as he had never before encountered in all his three years' voyaging.

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

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

A fresh westerly breeze was blowing, filling the vessel's few sails. The sun was rising in the east, over a grey-blue[169] sea, and between it and the brig, scarcely, as it seemed, a mile away, lay a group of jagged, rocky islands, whose tallest point was a green-topped mountain, shining bright in the early sunlight like an emerald set in ebony. Above the islands there whirled in ceaseless movement, even as specks in a sunbeam, thousands and thousands of clamorous sea-birds. All around the ship, and as far as the boy's amazed sight could reach, the sea was dotted with swimming puffins and kittiwakes, gannets and fulmars. A green-backed shag was preening its feathers on the extremity of the Aurora's bowsprit; a fearless eider-duck strutted across the deck; along the rail a school of puffins sat, like charity children in their black tippets and white bibs.

But Ben Clews thought less of the sea-birds and their noisy voices than of the one great fact that land was near. He hurried below.

"Land, ho!" he cried, and again, "Land ho!"

"Where away?" called the quartermaster, in a feeble voice from his hammock.

"Right under our bows," answered Ben. "An island—three islands I counted, and we're drifting on to them, hand over hand!"

"Then if that be so, 'tis no place for you down here, my hearty," declared the quartermaster. "Don't think of me, but take your trick at the helm and look arter the ship; for you're cap'n, and crew as well, till I can move, God mend me! Our fate's in your hands for good or bad, and you may lay to that."

"Ay, ay," returned Ben; "but there aren't no hurry just yet a bit, quartermaster. There's time and to spare for me to see you snug. 'Tarn't as if we was bowling along under full sail. Why, we aren't making above a knot an hour at best, and the nearest land's a good mile off yet."

The boy lost no time, however, in making his companion[170] comfortable. Placing a prescribed dose of medicine, a dipper of water, and a softened biscuit within the quartermaster's easy reach, he returned to the deck and took up his post at the helm, heading the brig towards the lee side of the largest island. The rate at which the Aurora was drifting was less than he had calculated, and her distance from the land was greater. Yet slow though her progress was, the islands became more and more distinct with every half-hour. At first it had seemed that there were but three separate islands—a high, isolated rock, whose splintered outline with its many spires and pinnacles gave it the appearance of a great Gothic cathedral rising out of the blue sea on the larboard bow; to the southward, a smaller islet with a rounded, grassy top; and between these two sentinels, the long stretch of the main island with its dark, precipitous sides ascending to verdant slopes. But as the brig drew nearer still, many detached stacks and smaller rocks appeared, the frowning cliffs revealed their yawning caves and caverns, and thousands of tiny specks, that at first had looked like white pebbles in the rock, resolved themselves into roosting sea-birds.

Ben's alert eyes sought for an anchorage, and soon, near the western headland of the largest island, he caught a glimpse of sandy beach, and the gleaming white ribbon of a watercourse. The beach sloped down to a channel of calm sea that was sheltered behind the hill of a protecting island. The calm bay seemed to offer a likely refuge, and towards it Ben steered the brig. Another hour's slow sailing brought the little vessel into the safety of this roadstead, where she lost her headway and rode for the time secure on the swell of the clear green water.

Already Ben Clews had realised the impossibility of casting the heavy anchors. He was only a weak boy, and his weakness was greater than ordinary now, for he had but lately recovered from his own attack of the fell[171] disease which had been fatal to the Aurora's crew, and which now held the quartermaster helpless in his hammock. Ben had been the first in the ship's company to be laid up by the awful visitation. It had been caught from a distressed slave-ship which they had boarded off the Newfoundland Banks, and each of the brig's crew had taken it in his turn. Ben's attack had been only a slight one; but his face still told its tale, and his limbs were yet weak. But if he had not strength to move the anchor, he at least had the ingenuity to devise a workable substitute in the use of a pair of stout hawsers, which he paid out fore and aft, lashing them taut round convenient rocks, which he reached by the means of the ship's smallest boat.

In the afternoon the Aurora lay so snug at her moorings that even the quartermaster, when he heard Ben's report, was forced to express satisfaction.

"You have done well, boy," said he, with an approving nod; "but now that we've fetched land," he added, fixing his bleared eyes on the lad's marred face, "what d'ye mean for to do? Tell me that! It don't seem to me, lookin' at the matter all round, as you might say, that we're any better off than we was before. We've got victuals enough to last us for months, I know; but barrin' the cannibal savages, you can't say as we're in anywise more fortunate than that chap Robisson Crusoe. We haven't saved the Aurora yet, look you. You'd look queer if a gale was to spring up and her be smashed to pieces on them rocks you speak of, wouldn't you?"

"I was thinking we might manage to get a crew together," ventured Ben, somewhat downcast.

"A crew of auks and gannets, I suppose?" sneered the quartermaster.

"No," returned Ben; "I mean men, of course."

The quartermaster had been sitting up in his hammock to listen to the boy's account of how he had brought[172] the brig into the bay, but now he leaned back and lay watching the play of the reflected sunlight on the timbers above him.

"I thought you said as how you had made out no signs of houses?" he pursued.

Ben admitted that he had discovered no dwelling-places on the land. For all he knew, indeed, the islands might never have known human inhabitants. Certainly no fields nor growing crops were visible from this west bay. "But," he added more hopefully, "I saw a dead sheep on the hillside when I rowed ashore with the bight of the hawser; and where there's sheep, d'ye see, there's pretty sure to be men."

"I'll allow that," agreed the quartermaster. "But even if so be you find your men, you can't force 'em to come aboard a plague ship."

Ben lapsed into silence at this sane remark; but presently, as if a bright thought had struck him, he said—

"Anyhow, I've a mind to make a trip in the dingey and see if I can find some people. From what I can make out, these here islands must belong to Great Britain somehow; and if there's any one living on 'em, why, they'll speak our own tongue and tell us where we are, and that's something."

So when he had cooked some food and prepared a meal for himself and his companion, he set off upon his voyage of discovery. He pulled the little boat round under the tremendous cliffs of the north coast of the island, but sought in vain for a landing-place or for a sign of habitation. Sea-birds were everywhere—on the ledges of the cliffs, and in the long dark caverns; they filled the sunlit air, they speckled the sea, and the outlying skerries were white with them. The cries they made were mingled in a strange musical harmony that was like the pealing of a church organ. The short shrill treble of the auks and puffins, the trumpet cry of the wild swans, the[173] mewing notes of the kittiwakes, the tenors of the divers and guillemots, and the deep bass croaking of the cormorants and ravens united in a prolonged symphony, and through it all was the profound roar of the sea from the throats of countless caves.

If Ben had been a naturalist, instead of an ill-informed ship's boy, he would have recognised this as a paradise of birds. But he only thought of his sick companion on board the Aurora, and of how he might find human help. He rowed along the coast for some two miles without discovering even so much as a yard of beach. Once he came upon a floating log of driftwood—the remnant of some bygone shipwreck. Once, too, he heard what he took to be the bleating of a sheep, but there were no signs of human inhabitants. His little voyage was useless. So he went about, and returned disappointed towards the brig, resolving to make his next journey of exploration by land.

As he came again into the bay where the Aurora lay at her moorings, he glanced up the little glen that led up between the hills. The land was bare of trees—a barren moor, with tufts of purple heather growing among the boulders on the higher ground, and level beds of grass marking the course of a fresh-water stream.

On the heights he saw the figure of a man.

For a moment Ben questioned within himself if it would be wise to prolong his absence from the brig and go up to the man and speak with him; but as the stranger was only a short distance away, he decided to go ashore and follow him. He brought the boat in to the beach, pulled her up a yard or two above the tide, and set off in pursuit.

When he reached the spot where he had first seen him, the man had disappeared. Ben was about to turn and walk back to the boat when a movement near him on the heather attracted his eye. A dog approached him, smelt at his heels, and then scampered away. Ben[174] followed the animal over the brow of the hill, and at this point he came within view of the farther end of the island, and a wide bay that opened out between two great rocky headlands. He stood for a time contemplating the scene, almost forgetting the Aurora and her sick quartermaster.

A voice at his elbow startled him. It was a woman's voice, strangely gentle and sweet.

"You are a stranger here," she said. "Where have you come from?"

Ben turned. At sight of his scarred face the woman[175] shrank from him, and then the lad remembered the infection that was upon him.

"The woman shrank fromhim."

"The woman shrank from him."

"Stand back from me!" he cried. "I have been ill—it is the smallpox, as they call it—and all my shipmates are dead of it; all except one, who is now aboard the brig, across the hill there, in the bay." He stepped back as he spoke, and put her to the windward of him, so that the infection might not reach her.

"A ship!" she cried in agitation, clasping her hands. "At last! at last! And you can rescue me. You can carry me across to Scotland, and I shall no longer pine and languish on this barren, heaven-forsaken rock!"

The boy marvelled at her words, not understanding her meaning. He even wondered if she were in her right senses.

"How do you name these islands, ma'am?" he asked, as if to test her sanity.

She looked about her nervously, as though half afraid that the very birds should overhear her.

"This where we now are is called Hirta," she answered. "The rock to the north is Borrera. The one to the west is Soa. They are the St. Kilda islands, and they lie out some fourscore miles west from the mainland of Scotland."

As Ben listened to her voice, and contemplated her delicate hands and her refined face, he knew almost by instinct that, in spite of her coarse, homespun clothing, she was not of the common sort, but a woman of good birth. He stood silently watching her, wondering how it happened that a gentlewoman should be in such a place.

"From what land do you come?" she questioned. "You are English by your tongue."

"We are from Newfoundland," explained Ben. "But our ship is English—his Majesty's brig-of-war Aurora. And you, ma'am, how do it happen as a lady like you is here?"


"I am a prisoner," she answered. "I am Rachel Chiesley. My husband has imprisoned me here because I knew his secrets—his secrets that would be the hanging of him if they were known to the King. He told people that I was dead, and they believed him. There was a public funeral, but the coffin was filled with stones, and I, who was supposed to be buried, was secretly carried off by his agents and brought over here to St. Kilda. I have been here for five long years, living among islanders who are little more than savages, and who understand no word that I speak. No ship have I seen during all that time. But now yours has come. God has sent you, and you will rescue me!"

Ben hesitated for an instant. Then he said awkwardly—

"It might be done, ma'am, if so be you could get some of your savages to make up a crew and work our ship home to Plymouth. We're short-handed, d'ye see. In fact, barring myself, and the quartermaster, what's lying ill with the smallpox, there aren't nobody aboard to trim the sails or do anything."

The marooned woman made a step towards the boy, but he waved her back.

"Don't come nigh me!" he cried, "'tis dangerous."

She shook her head. "I am not afraid," she said, "and I would risk any danger to get away from this horrible place." She glanced swiftly westward to where a vast cloud of sea-birds now darkened the sky. "Something has disturbed the gulls," she added.

At the same moment the report of a firearm sounded faintly from the distance.

"It must be the shipwrecked seamen," explained the lady. "Their ship was broken on the crags in the storm last week, and they have been living in one of the caves. They are evil-looking men, and the islanders fear them."

"The shot seemed to me to come from where the[177] Aurora is lying," cried Ben in alarm. "I'll engage 'tis the quartermaster signalling to me to go back." And giving a hasty seaman's salute, he abruptly left his strange companion, and ran across the moor in the direction of the brig. An unaccountable dread of some impending disaster oppressed him as he ran. From the top of the hill he saw that the Aurora was still riding safe at her moorings; but his quick eye discovered the figures of two men moving upon her quarter-deck. Who could they be? He made his way down to the beach. He glanced at the water's edge where he had left his boat, but the boat was gone.


"I'm not by half so ill as Ben thinks," ruminated the quartermaster, as he lay in his lonely hammock pondering over the situation during Ben's absence. "I do believe I'm fit even now to take watch and watch about with him. 'Tis hard on the lad to leave him to do all the work, and me able to lend a hand." He glanced towards the open port, through which he could see a snowy-white seagull calmly floating on the green water. Then looking down at the deck below him, he added, "Blamed if I don't get out of this and see what I can do." He sat up, dangling his trembling legs over the side of his hammock; his toes were but a dozen inches from the flooring.

"I believe I can do it," he went on; and turning over, he gripped the hammock with his two hands, and swung himself slowly and cautiously down until his feet touched the boards.

His limbs were shaky, and his head seemed to swim; but stepping out, he succeeded in tottering across to the nearest bulkhead. Supporting himself by his outstretched hands, he went step by step along the gangway to the foot of the companion-way. Slowly he mounted the stairs,[178] until the fresh sea-air played upon his bare head. He sat on the top stair for a long time, drinking in the sweet cool atmosphere, and looking up into the blue sky and its sailing white clouds.

"Seems to me I'd best step aft to the cap'n's room," he muttered to himself. "'Tis no place for the likes o' me to enter, certainly; but being as Ben and me are in charge of the brig, why, 'tis no court-martial matter. Nay, now I come to think of it, 'tis my duty to go in." And rising with difficulty to his feet, he staggered aft and boldly but respectfully entered.

The first thing that caught his eye was the captain's silver ink-pot on the table; then it was the mingled red and blue folds of the Union Jack lying across the dead body of the captain in the inner sleeping-room.

"Good boy, Ben," he said. "You haven't forgot what's due to a king's officer. You and me'll have to act the parson soon, too, if we can lay our hands on a prayer-book. Mayhap you know the words without the book; you must ha' heard 'em pretty often lately. But I don't know 'em, except 'We therefore commit his body to the deep until the sea shall give up her dead——'"

An unexpected sound startled the quartermaster in his ruminations. It was a man's gruff voice, and it came from outside, below the brig's counter.

"I don't know what you bullies think," it said, "but it looks to me as if the crew'd all gone off on a holiday. Pull round to the gangway ladder, Alick, and let's get aboard of her. Crew or no crew, King's ship or merchantman, I'm going to take her, and the Jolly Roger shall fly at her gaff peak before——"

The quartermaster did not hear what limit of time the man allowed himself for the accomplishment of his daring proposal; but a thrill of terror ran through him as he realised what manner of men these were.

"God! Where is Ben?" he cried, and he looked[181] round the cabin for some weapon with which to defend himself and the ship. The captain's pistols were in their rack. With what speed his bodily weakness allowed him, he went to them and took a pair of them down. They were already loaded.

"It's one sick man against a boatload of pirates!" he said. "But, God helping me, they shall not take the ship while I'm alive!" As he passed to the door he caught sight of the reflection of his own face in the captain's mirror, and started back appalled. But the remembrance of the scourge that had killed off the Aurora's company leapt to his mind. "We've got at least one strong ally, me and the King," he cried, as he staggered out to the doorway under the poop. He stood there, steadying himself with one foot on the companion-ladder, not venturing to go nearer to the open gangway, where already he could hear the talk of the strangers on the ladder as they climbed up from their boat.

The quartermaster listened intently, trembling the while.

"Tumble up!" cried the one in authority. "Make for the quarter-deck."

A man sprang in upon the deck—a tall, evil-looking man, with a bushy black beard and bedraggled clothing, a naked cutlass in his hand. He was followed by three others, and then a fifth. The fifth man was young and handsome, and his blue coat was adorned with tarnished gold braid. The five of them advanced towards the poop. The quartermaster levelled his pistol at their bodies.

"Stand back!" he commanded. "Who are you? and what is your business on this ship? 'Tis King George's ship, look you, and——"

"Shut your ugly face!" cried the tall black-bearded man, with an oath.

The quartermaster fired his two pistols, and the man fell. His four companions hesitated, staring at the quartermaster's[182] disease-scarred countenance. None of them carried firearms; or if they did so, they were without ammunition. Their leader, the youngest of the band, stepped forward, sword in hand. The quartermaster, already exhausted, retreated into the cabin, banging to and bolting the door.

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

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

The pirates (for such he was now assured that they were) went up to the poop-deck, and from this point of vantage surveyed the ship.

"You're right, Goff," said one of them, addressing the leader. "The craft's got no crew—none, at least, except that strawberry-faced lubber that has shot poor Tom."

"It seems so, Alick," returned Goff. "But some of 'em must have gone ashore in the boat. They'll have gone across to St. Kilda village. One of you had better pull ashore to the cave and bring off our men while there's time. Phillips, go you. But you might take a bigger boat than the one we found. There's plenty of them, see. Lend a hand there, Flett, and you, Dewson, and launch that starboard boat. Well," he continued speaking to the man named Alick, "she's a real goddess, this Aurora. Not very clean about the decks, 'tis true, but well found, in a double sense, eh? I wonder how she came in here? She doesn't seem to have suffered much in the gale that was so fatal to our poor ship. But 'tis a mystery how she came to be so short-handed. Why, they've not even anchored her!"

He strode towards the men who were launching the boat, and gave them some directions, while Alick stepped to the skylight, and leaning over it, peered down into the cabin where the quartermaster had temporarily entrenched himself.

It was at this moment that Ben Clews came down to the beach and discovered that the brig's boat had disappeared. From behind the rock near which he had left it, he looked over at the Aurora in terrified amazement.[183] Who were these men that were aboard of her? And what was the meaning of the shot that he had heard? Surely there was something wrong! He blamed himself now for having left the brig. While he watched, he saw a boat put out from her, with one man at the oars, and his heart leapt with hope at the thought that it was coming shoreward for himself. He waved his hand; but the rower did not see, or disregarded, his signal, and pulled with steady, measured stroke through the sound in the direction of the western headland of the bay, soon to be lost to sight beyond the cliffs, where the homing sea-birds screamed.

Ben noted the drift of the current, and calculated the distance that divided him from the brig. The vessel's wide square stern was towards him, and from over her taffrail the stout hawser was stretched to the isolated rock round which he had bound it. The bight of the rope dipped into the water, making a rippled track as the brig rose and fell on the ocean swell. The rock was but a dozen yards away from him, separated from him by a deep channel of calm sea. Ben was not a great swimmer, but he thought he could cross those dozen yards; and reaching the rock, he would then be able to gain the ship, dragging himself hand over hand along the hawser. He pulled off his heavy sea-boots and left them on the shingle, waded breast deep into the sea, and throwing himself forward, struck out. The current was sweeping strong, but he had allowed for its carrying him out of the straight course. After a tough struggle, he came within a few feet of the rock. The tide was taking him past it, but he grabbed at a tangle of seaweed, caught it, and dragged himself into safety.

He rested for many minutes on the rock, shivering. Then he climbed up to the hawser and prepared for the final battle. With hands and legs at work, he slipped down the incline of the rope until his body was again in[184] the water. Hand over hand he pulled himself along. The upward ascent was more difficult, for his limbs were already tired and sore. Very soon he found that the task of swarming up to the brig's rail was impossible. Besides, he was not sure that the strange men were not still on the quarter-deck. So he dropped once again into the sea, and swam round to the Aurora's larboard side, where the small boat was dragging at her painter at the foot of the gangway ladder.

Exhausted and breathing heavily, he at last caught at a rung of the ladder, and climbed up a few steps. When he had rested and recovered his free breathing, he mounted farther, and peeped in through the open gangway. No one was in sight. Yet, what was that lying on the main deck? He shuddered as his eyes rested on the prostrate form of the huge black-bearded man, and the wet crimson stain that lay about it, and converged in two thin lines that ended at the scupper.

At sight of the dead man the boy drew back in horror. Murder had been committed, and he had not the courage to enter upon the deck. As he turned to go down the ladder a few steps, he looked towards the shore and saw the woman Rachel Chiesley standing there at the water's edge, waving her hand in signal to the ship. Ben descended and quietly stepped into the boat. No one in the brig saw him as he rowed away to where the woman waited.

"Take me with you!" she implored, as the boat's keel grounded on the shingle. "In mercy take me away in your ship!"

Ben bade her get into the dingey, and she obeyed. He felt that, with a human companion to encourage him, he could now go on board the brig with all his lost boldness. Neither spoke as the little craft was pulled back to the vessel's side. When he had secured the boat he got out and climbed the ladder, signing to the woman to follow.[185] He crept on board, rose to his feet, and sped forward and down the stairs to the lower deck. At the foot of the stairs he paused until Rachel Chiesley joined him; and there he pointed towards the open door of a tiny dark cabin, telling her to enter and remain in there until he should see that all was safe on board.

His heart seemed to cease its beating when, on going into the compartment where he had left the quartermaster, he discovered that the sick man's hammock was empty. What had happened? What was to be done?

He saw a cup of rum and water that the quartermaster had left untouched in the forenoon on the top of a chest. He drank some and it revived him. Leaving the cabin, he made his way through a dark passage along the lower deck to the gunner's storeroom; and there he provided himself with a cutlass, a brace of small pistols, a full powder-flask, and a handful of shot. He carefully charged the pistols, and when he was thus armed he returned to the main-deck and stole aft to the poop. The door of the captain's quarters was open now, and the splintered lock told its own tale. Voices came from within. Ben listened, crouching down on his hands and knees.

"You'd best come out of there, Mr. Strawberry-face," Goff was saying, "unless you want us to break in the door and drag you out. We'll not harm you. Come out and have a drink with us. 'Tis charming brandy, this." There was a clink of glasses. "Come," he added persuasively. "Join us in a glass, and tell us your yarn. We can get nothing from this silent shipmate of yours in the bunk here." Ben knew that the man was referring to the dead surgeon. "Twas the King's ship, you say. You may well say 'was'; for 'tis his no longer, but mine! mine! And I mean to set sail and be off on a glorious cruise so soon as my men come aboard. We'll run up the Jolly Roger and scour the seas, and send Jimmy Speeding and his Firebrands to the bottom of the[186] Pentland Firth to play with the mermaids. Won't we, Alick?"

"That we will," gurgled Alick into the mouth of his glass of brandy. "And Strawberry-face shall be our master-gunner, and share in the swag with the rest of us."

The quartermaster's voice came faintly from within the captain's sleeping-room.

"I'll see you all hanged first!" he growled with a fierce seaman's oath. "Wait till my mates come aboard. They'll let you know what it means to trespass on a king's ship."

"Mates?" cried Goff with a short laugh. "There can't be many of 'em if they all went ashore in the cockleshell we found on the beach!"

Ben knew now what these men were; knew, too, that the quartermaster was still alive and game. He crept out from his place of concealment, stole up to the quarter-deck, climbed over the rail, and with the help of a rope lowered himself down to the port-hole of the room in which the quartermaster had ensconced himself. The port-hole was open. He saw the quartermaster sitting on the edge of the dead captain's bunk with a pistol gripped in each hand.

"I'm here, quartermaster," whispered Ben. "Come to the port-hole."

"Thank God!" cried the quartermaster. And without preface or questioning he added in a whisper, "You see what these rats of pirates are up to. They're in possession, as you might say, and there's more of 'em coming. But we've got to save the brig, Ben, come what may. Listen! Have you got your pistols?" Ben nodded. "Right. Well, crawl round to the poop door. Stay there till you hear me cough. Then run in and let fly at 'em. Pick your men and be smart. I'll do the same. When we've killed 'em—the four of 'em—one[187] of the carronades'll help us to keep the others from boarding us, d'ye see?"

"I understand," returned Ben, and he moved quietly away to obey his instructions.

Many minutes passed before he heard the quartermaster's signal. From where he crouched in the shadow of the passage he saw the inner door of the captain's bedroom flung open. A moment afterwards four shots were fired, and three of the pirates fell. The fourth, Goff himself, had seen the quartermaster's uplifted pistols. One was levelled at himself. With the quickness of thought he snatched his dagger from its sheath and dexterously hurled it across the room. The flashing weapon turned in its flight and the point plunged into the quartermaster's bared throat. The pistol-shot, intended for Goff, buried itself in a cross-beam of the cabin ceiling.

Ben Clews and the pirate leader were now alone together. Ben gripped his cutlass and rushed forward in a desperate charge, but tripping over the body of one of the two men he himself had shot dead, he gave a false thrust. His cutlass was snatched from his grip by the pirate's left hand, while at the same instant a full brandy bottle, wielded as a bludgeon, came down upon his head with a blow that stunned him.


When Ben returned to consciousness he still lay upon the cabin floor. The blood from cuts made by the broken glass was dry upon his face. He heard the thud of waves against the brig's quarter. The vessel was heeling over, pitching as she sailed under a fresh breeze upon the open sea. From the deck above him came the sound of feet, the splash of water, and the scrubbing[188] of holystones. A shaft of sunlight came in through the stern windows, shedding light about the cabin. The door of the captain's inner room was open; the Union Jack coverlet was gone, and the bed was vacant. The surgeon's body and the bodies of the dead quartermaster and the three pirates had also been removed. On the table a white cloth was laid, and upon it were the remains of a meal. It was evident that the pirates were making themselves thoroughly at home, and that they had taken possession of the brig in good earnest.

Ben anxiously looked at the great iron-bound chest in which, as he knew, there had been inclosed certain State documents of greatest importance to the Government. The iron bands and the hinges had been tampered with, but they had withstood the assault, and the chest and its precious contents were still safe.

Some one entered the cabin. It was John Goff. He had apparently been helping himself to the captain's wardrobe, for he was now attired in the full naval costume of the time.

"So ho! my lad," said he, seeing that Ben had recovered. "You have come back to your senses, eh? That's good. Now you can tell me all about this ship. Where was she bound for?"

"Plymouth," answered Ben. "From St. John's. Newfoundland." And then, in response to further questioning, the boy told the whole history of the voyage, omitting only such facts as he deemed too sacred to betray. And when he had come to the end of the story the pirate thanked him, said he was a good lad, and that he should now be rated as a junior quarter-deck officer. Ben did not demur to this, but while seeming to agree to the proposal, resolved in his mind still to do what lay in his power to retake the brig and bring her into an English port. And for the days that followed he performed such duties as were expected of him, always[189] remembering that he was a servant of the King, and that the safety of the Aurora now depended solely upon his own life and his own integrity.

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

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

As soon as he was at liberty to move unsuspected about the ship, he made his way to the little cabin where he had left Rachel Chiesley. She had not yet been discovered by Goff or his men. Ben conducted her to a yet safer hiding-place in the ship where she could remain secure from the pirates; and every morning the lad secretly brought her food and attended to her wants. On one occasion when he was with her she told him more of her history, and he learned that Rachel Chiesley was but the name of her girlhood, and that her title now was[190] Lady Grange. Her husband was a notorious Jacobite, and it was because she had threatened to betray an evil plot which he was hatching that he had cruelly marooned her on the sea-girt rock of St. Kilda. This knowledge made Ben glad that he had chanced thus far to be of service to her, and for her sake, as well as for the sake of preserving the precious State documents that were in the cabin, he prayed that he might be able at last to save the ship.

He learned by degrees that it was Goff's intention to keep the brig beating about in the open sea until his crew of eleven men should have time so to disguise the vessel, by altering her rig and painting out her white stripe, that no one might recognise her again. This plan was helped by the fact that the brig was amply provisioned and was in good seaworthy trim. But the work progressed slowly, and ten days had gone by before Goff deemed it expedient to make a direct course and steer for the Orkneys.

Ben had been watching the crew day by day, little doubting that sooner or later the plague of which so many of his messmates had died would again assert itself. Already he observed that some of the men were beginning to move languidly and to look haggard and sick. On the twelfth day one of them took to his hammock. In the evening of the same day two others fell ill. Bold and careless of danger though these pirates were when it was a question of waylaying a merchant ship or engaging in an action with a vessel of war, they were one and all panic-stricken in contemplation of smallpox.

On the thirteenth day the Aurora was again within sight of the St. Kilda islands, giving them, however, a wide berth. Late in the evening Ben was in the watch on deck, when he espied a sail on the starboard bow. He did not report it, although it was the first that he had seen for many weeks. Instead, he strolled to the flag[191] locker, took out a white ensign, and boldly ran it up, reversed, to the gaff peak. The signal of distress was answered by the approaching vessel. Then Ben hauled down his flag, lest Goff, coming up on deck, should see it and guess its meaning. So far, none but the man at the helm had observed this action, and he, as it chanced, was so far advanced in the sickness that he minded nothing. Ben glanced into his face.

"Y'are looking sick, Allen," said he. "Give me the tiller for a spell, and go you below."

The man relinquished it willingly enough, and Ben, now alone on deck, steered the brig down upon the on-coming stranger. He had a brace of loaded pistols in his belt, prepared to fire upon Goff if he should appear from below and interfere.

When the two vessels drew nearer, Ben recognised, to his joy, that the stranger was a man-of-war's cutter. He waited until they drew within hailing distance of each other, then suddenly put over the helm, throwing the brig's sails aback. She lost her headway, and the cutter dropped alongside.

"Ahoy, there!" cried the young lieutenant from her bow. "What ship are you?"

Ben answered at the fullest pitch of his voice—

"His Majesty's brig Aurora. For the love of God stand by us!"

"The very craft we're in search of," returned Captain Speeding's messenger. "Throw us a line, and I'll come aboard you!"

Ben flung a coil of rope; but before he could see whether or not it had been caught, John Goff had run up on deck, furious and cursing.

"You young traitor!" he cried, seeing what was going on. "What are you up to?"

"I'm up to saving his Majesty's ship," coolly returned Ben, levelling his pistol at the pirate. "Stand back, John[192] Goff, or you're a dead man!" For full ten minutes he kept the man at bay. Perhaps he could not have done so if Goff had not been in the first stage of the sickness and too languid to act the bully. Once, indeed, Goff made a step forward as if with the intention of wresting the weapon from the boy's hand. Ben altered his aim a few inches and pulled the trigger. The shot entered Goff's shoulder. Ben took out his other pistol.

At this juncture the cutter's lieutenant leapt upon the brig's bulwarks, and in another moment appeared on the quarter-deck.

Lowering his weapon, Ben turned and saluted him. The lieutenant, however, had caught sight of the pirate and recognised him.

"Goff!" he cried.

"Ay, Goff," returned the pirate with meek submission. "You've got me at last, Master Firebrand—thanks to this meddlesome swab. I suppose I must surrender. I wouldn't do so if 'twere not that my men are all ill. This blessed craft's plague-stricken, Mr. Moreland. You'd best take care of your crew. Work the brig into Stromness, or any other handy port—even into Execution Dock if you will. I'll not interfere. I haven't the strength."

How Lieutenant Moreland succeeded in taking the Aurora into Stromness without endangering the health of his men; how the brig was there disinfected, remanned, and sent home to Plymouth, need not here be told. Lady Grange found that her evil husband had died a week before the ship brought her home, and she took possession of his estates, none questioning her rights; and she proved a good friend to Ben Clews, who was recompensed for his conduct by promotion to the quarter-deck, and as midshipman, lieutenant, and finally captain, served in the King's navy through war and through peace for many, many years, and always with honour.






"I f they're a-goin' to kill me, why don't they look sharp and git it over? If I 'ad the killin' o' them, I'd be quick enough about it, I knows that!"

So growled a solitary prisoner in the "black-hole" of a British outpost in Upper Bengal one hot May morning in 1803.

Though dark compared with the blistering glare outside, the cell was light enough to show its tenant in all his squalid and savage disorder. With his clothes almost torn from his back, his face smeared with dust and blood, and a scowl of sullen desperation on his hard, low-browed, ruffianly features, he looked like what too many of the Company's soldiers were, in days when it drew its recruits chiefly from the prison and the hulks, and often enough from the gallows itself.

His mouth was parched with thirst (for no one had thought of bringing him water), his bruised limbs were all one pain, his bound hands kept him from defending himself against the flies that swarmed around his wounded face, hardly to be scared away by incessant jerkings of his aching head. Well, what did it all matter? He would soon be past pain and thirst, and feeling of any kind; or,[194] if there really was anything after that—well, God couldn't be harder on him than the colonel had been, anyhow.

They would shoot him, of course; for he knew what a charge of "attempting to stir up mutiny" meant at a time when England's half-formed power in the East stood like a rock amid a thousand roaring waves, with all India raging around it. Well, let them! he would at least die game, and spite "Old Blue-Beard," who would want to see him flinch.

Just then a clear, childish voice was heard outside—the voice of the colonel's only child, a bright little lad of seven, who was the pet of the whole barrack, and even more loved (if such a thing could be) than his father was hated.

"Oh, please let me in; I do want to see poor Bob!"

"Can't, lovey, can't indeed," replied the sentry's deep tones; "it's yer par's orders as no one's to pass in. I'd let yer in if I could, I would indeed; but orders is orders, you know."

And the voices died away.

The doomed man's face softened for a moment into such a look as he might have worn long ago, when he was a child himself.

"He thought o' me, then, the little 'un did!" he muttered. "Bless his 'art for a kind little chap!"

Meanwhile his comrades outside, with a fellow-soldier's life swaying in the balance, were laughing loudly at the tricks of a native juggler, who had begged and obtained leave to enter the barrack-yard.

And why not? The same sudden and violent death might be their own lot any day. Ignorant, debauched, reckless, they, like too many of those who had cemented with their blood the foundations of Britain's Eastern empire, found their chief enjoyment in the mad whirl of[195] battle, and their chief ambition to be able to "git drunk and forget it all!"

The juggler, who was the centre of attraction, was a very remarkable-looking man, not at all like the average of his class. His tall, sinewy frame had a tiger-like elasticity in every movement, and through the fawning servility of his manner broke ever and anon a flash of something bolder and fiercer, which would have betrayed to any keen observer that he was not what he seemed.

But no such observer was to be found among the reckless soldiers, who were firmly convinced (like most "true Britons" of that age) that no one who had not had the luck to be born an Englishman could possess either courage or any other virtue—a theory to which the great Mahratta war of 1803 was just about to give the lie in a very startling way.

The juggler began by exhibiting some of the familiar feats that have amused India in all ages, including the swallowing of a sword and the famous "mango trick," which consisted in planting a mango-seed in a tiny basket of earth and then covering it with a cloth, the withdrawal of which a moment later showed the first green shoot already springing up. At the second lifting of the cloth, this shoot was seen to have grown into a miniature tree, on which, when uncovered once more, hung a tiny fruit, which the conjurer plucked and gave to one of the spectators to eat, as a proof that it was genuine.

Then the juggler turned to the nearest of the lookers-on, and said—

"Hey, Inglis sojeer! s'pose me give you one rupee, what you do?"

"Why, I'd take it, o' course," cried the soldier, with a loud laugh at the absurdity of such a question, hoarsely echoed by all the rest.

The other held out a silver coin, upon which the soldier's strong hand closed eagerly; but he opened it[196] again instantly with a start and an exclamation of disgust, and out fell a large, fat, wriggling worm, amid a fresh roar of laughter from his comrades.

Then the conjurer stepped forth into the midst, and called out—

"Look, see! you sojeer say you all plenty brave men."

"Say we are?" echoed a soldier angrily; "why, do you mean for to say as we ain't, you lyin', coffee-coloured thief?"

"No, no, not speak one such word!" said the Hindu humbly. "Inglis man no fear nothing, me sabbee (know) plenty well. S'pose Inglis sojeer hold out hand, me put lemon on sojeer hand; cut lemon in half wid sword. Who come first?"

But no one seemed in any haste to do so; for, bold as they were, such a challenge made even these reckless men look grave.

Though they had all heard of this feat, none of them had ever seen it done; and to lay one's bare hand beneath a sword-stroke that would certainly hew it off if the juggler happened to miss the lemon (and very possibly whether he did or not), was a matter about which the boldest man might well think twice.

"What? are ye all afeared?" cried a tall, sturdy, rather good-looking young fellow, with a markedly reckless and defiant air, as he shouldered his way to the front. "Well, no man shan't ever say as Tom Tuffen showed the white feather afore a blackamoor! Go ahead, old 'un, 'ere's my 'and to work on; but mind, if yer cuts it off, I'll kill yer with t'other 'and afore ye can sing out 'Help!'"

The gleam of stern joy that shone for a moment in the seeming juggler's keen, black eyes, was strangely out of keeping with his cringing manner; and there was a perceptible change in his tone as he said, while putting back the soldier's extended right hand—


"That hand no good—cut thumb off, try wid him—give other."

"That hand no good. Cut thumb off."

"That hand no good—cut thumb off."

The soldiers laughed again, thinking that the Hindu was going to "back out"; but Tom offered his left hand without a word, and the juggler, laying the lemon on the open palm, drew his short tulwar (sword).

The ring of spectators gave a sudden heave, and the boldest man among them held his breath as the Hindu stepped forward with uplifted weapon; but the young Englishman looked him full in the eyes, and held the extended hand as firm as a rock.

A flash—a whiz—a sudden chill across Tom's open hand, like the fall of a drop of cold water, and the lemon rolled on the ground in two clear halves, leaving the young soldier unharmed.[2]

A shout of applause from the lookers-on made the air ring, and under cover of it the pretended juggler, bending forward as if to satisfy himself that Tom's hand was indeed unhurt, said a few emphatic words to him, so low that no one else could hear them.

Whatever those words were, they seemed greatly to startle the hearer, who was about to reply, when the Hindu signed to him to be silent, and, letting drop, in passing, a second emphatic whisper (destined to bear, later on, strange and terrible fruit), glided by him and was gone.

All the rest of that day "Wild Tom" was unwontedly silent and thoughtful; and his gravity appeared to have infected his special crony, Sam Black (the man on whom the rupee trick had been played), with whom Tom had some talk apart as soon as the juggler had gone.

Meanwhile the prisoner in the "black hole" was fast sinking into a heavy torpor, which seemed proof against[200] even the ceaseless torment of the swarming flies, when the sound of a well-known and hated voice outside his prison roused him like the sudden shock of a blow.

"We shall be well rid of the rascal; such a fellow is a disgrace to the name of Englishman!"

"Am I?" growled Bob Burton through his set teeth. "And what are you?"

But just then his attention was diverted to a strange, rustling, scraping noise overhead, as if something were dragging itself along the roof of his prison. What could it be? A rat? a snake? and his hands were tied!

But the next moment appeared at the air-hole, high above him, a fresh, child-like face, framed in golden hair—the face of little Freddy Hardman, the colonel's son. An instant more, and the boy's slim figure had wormed itself through the opening (which was only just wide enough to let it pass), and had dropped lightly down on to the floor at Bob Burton's side.

"They wouldn't let me in to see you," said the little hero, with a gleeful laugh; "but I'd made up my mind that I would come, so I just went up into the store-house, and climbed through the window down on to this roof, and then squeezed through the air-hole, and here I am. Poor old Bob! why, your face is all bleeding, I declare; and how those horrid flies must have been plaguing you! Let me tie it up for you with my handkerchief."

And the kind little fingers tenderly wiped the dust and blood from the hurt, and bound it up dexterously enough.

"Ah! if only they was all like you!" said Burton brokenly; "you doesn't preach and jaw at a chap—you jist loves him!"

No words could have better summed up the secret of that power by which One whose very name poor Bob had never heard, save in the form of an oath, had conquered the whole world.


"And here's a banana that I've brought you, for I knew how thirsty you must be, shut up in this hot place," went on Freddy, as he tugged from his pocket a huge ripe plantain.

As Burton awkwardly held out his bound hands to take it, the boy saw for the first time that they were knotted together at the wrists, and flushed up indignantly.

"What? have they really tied your hands? What a shame! Well, eat this banana first, and then I'll untie them for you."

The thirsty man's parched lips sucked in the juicy pulp with a wolfish eagerness that told its own story; and then Freddy, eager to help him, went to work manfully upon the cruel cord, which at first resisted all his efforts.

"Best let it be," said Bob Burton gruffly. "Thank'ee all the same, little 'un; but ye'll only 'urt them little fingers o' your'n."

But the brave little champion was not to be so easily balked of his kind purpose; and, bruise his fingers as he might, he persevered gallantly, till at length the hastily and clumsily tied knot gave way, and Burton's stiffened, aching hands were free.

Free once more! And then, with that sense of recovered strength, the wild beast in that perverted nature started into life again, and there came to him a thought from hell.

His worst enemy's only son was alone with him, and wholly in his power; and one strangling clutch of his strong hands on that slender throat would acquit at once and for ever the heavy debt of revenge that he had so long hungered to repay. Ah! to see that hard, pitiless man's face as he bent over the corpse of his only child! and to watch him writhe, and mock his agony!

It was but for a moment, and then the hideous temptation was past and gone like the phantom of a nightmare;[202] but its tremendous reaction turned the overwrought man sick and faint, and he sank dizzily back against the wall.

The boy eyed him anxiously for an instant, and then, climbing on to his knee, began to wipe off, with the end of the sash that served him as a waist-belt, the big drops of moisture that beaded the tortured face.

"Do you know what this reminds me of, Bob?" said he; "of a picture I saw once of Christ nailed to the Cross, and a little tiny bird that was sorry for Him, trying hard with its poor wee beak to pull the nails out of His hands, and set Him free. I used to think I should like to be that bird; and now I have been like it in a sort of a way, for I've set your hands free, haven't I?"

A long shiver ran through the soldier's hardy frame, and he was about to speak, when a measured tramp was heard outside, a short, sharp order was given, and then the door swung back, revealing the uniforms of a corporal's guard.

But when the soldiers saw Freddy (whose absence had already been noticed and wondered at) in the cell with the prisoner, they exchanged looks of blank amazement, not wholly untinged with superstitious awe.

Was he indeed, then, what they had often called him—an angel sent down to undo the evil wrought by the merciless harshness of his iron-hearted father? How else could he have come into this lockfast place, with a sentry at its door, and (as they thought) no other available access?

One of the men entered the cell to bring out the prisoner, and Burton recognised his chum Tom Tuffen.

"What'll they do with me, Tom?" asked he in a whisper; "dose o' lead pills, eh?"

"No such luck, Bob," replied the other gloomily, in the same low tone; "down to the depot at Kalipur!"

"Then I knows wot I've got to expect," said the doomed man with a sickly smile. "That's wot they calls 'commutin' the death-penalty,' I s'pose; if they'd commuted the penalty to death, there 'ud ha' been more sense in it!—Jist tie my 'ands agin, will yer, Tom? I don't[204] want the little chap to git into trouble for undoin' 'em!"

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

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

"There's my father, and I must go to him," called out Freddy at that moment. "Good-bye, dear Bob—good-bye!"

"Good-bye, little 'un—I won't forget yer; and" (with a terrific scowl at the tall, upright, soldierly figure toward which the boy flew with outstretched hands) "I won't forget 'im, neither!"[3]



A few days later startling news came to the garrison of Huttee-Ghur (Elephant's Home).

An armed escort on its way down the valley from the fort to the town of Kalipur, with some empty store-waggons (taking Bob Burton with them as a prisoner), had been attacked on the march, just as evening was closing in, by a large body of native soldiers, or of native robbers (which meant very much the same thing), who were not beaten off without a sharp fight, in which the English lost several men, including Bob Burton himself, as well as Sam Black and Tom Tuffen.

Nor was this all. Several of the native drivers were nowhere to be found after the fighting was done, and[205] were believed to have gone over to the enemy in the confusion. Moreover, three or four of the soldiers stoutly declared that the leader of their assailants was the famous robber-chief Kala-Bagh (Black Tiger), the terror of the whole district, and further, that he was no other than the pretended juggler whose tricks had amused their barrack-square only a week before!

This would have been unwelcome news at any time; but it was doubly ominous just then.

The great war that had been threatening so long had fairly broken out at last. The Mahratta hosts were sweeping over the great central plain, the English troops advancing to meet them; and all Northern India was holding its breath, as it were, to see which would win. A single disaster to the British arms, and all the subject provinces would blaze at once into open insurrection; and the unheard-of boldness of these native banditti in daring to attack British soldiers in open daylight, plainly showed which of the two parties they thought more likely to get the best of it.

But the English officers at Huttee-Ghur hailed this prospect of open war as a positive relief from the nightmare feeling that had haunted them for weeks and months past, of being dogged at every step by secret treachery and sleepless murder, and slowly but surely entangled in an ever-tightening net of silent, viewless, implacable hatred.

In truth, there is no sorer trial of nerve on the face of the earth than to know, and never for a moment forget that you know, that the meek little water-carrier who fills your bath is probably in a plot to take your life—that the cook who dresses your dinner so well may have sprinkled poison on it—that the smart groom who obeys so promptly and intelligently your orders about your favourite horse, is calculating all the while how much he can get for it after he has cut your throat—and that the humble peasants[206] who crouch in the dust at your feet, hailing you as "protector of the poor," and whiningly calling you "their father and their mother," are just preparing to fire your house over your head, and burn or murder all within. Let any man be compelled to live for a time in a spot where the whole air is heavy with yellow fever or cholera, and where, whenever two men meet, each looks nervously in the other's face for the first signs of the fell destroyer—and he will know how it feels to be quartered in the midst of a disaffected Eastern population.

Not a word said Colonel Hardman when this attack, and the juggler's identity with the bandit chief who had led it, were reported to him. But the best of his native scouts, a jungle veteran, who had slain as many tigers as he had seen birthdays, knew enough of his master's ways to remark shrewdly to his comrades that evening—

"Brothers, there is evil in store for these Dacoits (robbers), whoever they be. When the Colonel Sahib looks fierce, and speaks angry words, it is as a strong wind that sweeps by and is gone; but when he says nothing, it is the hush before the thunderstorm."

In fact, the colonel (who, like Lord Goring, "always kept his temper when he was really angry"), had fully made up his mind that the "rabble of black thieves" who had dared to molest Englishmen should pay dearly for their insolence; and the means were ready to his hand, for the garrison had just been strongly reinforced, it being of the last importance, in the disturbed state of the whole country, to secure so important a post as Huttee-Ghur, which, so long as the English held it, would be an effectual curb on the surrounding population.

The old soldier's eye sparkled with stern approval as he saw filing into the fort three or four squadrons of Rajput horse (than whom there were no better riders or harder fighters in all India), and several companies of[207] Rohilla foot—men whom their greatest leader had rightly declared to be "the best of all Sepoys at the cold steel."

With such men at his back, the colonel would have faced a whole native army; and he lost no time in scouring the jungle in quest of his skulking foes.

His style of campaigning would have sorely displeased those learned gentlemen who, sitting at home in England over their books and diagrams, lay down the law about "throwing out flankers," and performing this or that manœuvre amid thickets as dense as themselves, through which you may struggle for hours without sight or sound of an enemy, while passing again and again so close to the hidden foe whom you are hunting, that he could touch you with his spear if he chose. (A fact.) But, unscientific as it might be, the colonel's mode of fighting was eminently successful, as the jackals and vultures of the jungle could have told for many a day.

The savage chief himself, indeed, managed to escape; but he was almost the only survivor of his band, and there was no more trouble with the Dacoits that season.

But hardly was the work done when a wild legend began to creep abroad, that the three slain British soldiers, Bob Burton, Sam Black, and Tom Tuffen had come to life again, and had been seen fighting in the ranks of the brigands! Several of Colonel Hardman's native followers had recognised them, and all told the same story.

But when the English Grenadiers heard the tale, they laughed it to scorn.

"Rubbish!" growled a hard-faced old fellow, whose scarred visage looked like an ill-drawn railway map. "Rise from the dead, indeed! if I was once dead, I'd never be sitch a fool as to git up and 'ave it all over agin, I knows that! They've jist desarted, and j'ined Kala Bagh. I remember now as I see'd him, when he was made-up as a juggler, say some'at to Tom, and to Sam Black too. They've desarted, that's wot they've done; and if it warn't[208] for the shame of herdin' with sitch scum as them coffee-coloured thieves yonder, I'm blowed if I wouldn't desart too."

"And so would I," muttered more than one of his hearers.

The story at last reached the ears of Colonel Hardman, who, at any other time, would have been goaded to frenzy by the very thought of any of his men deserting, and, worse still, deserting to join a gang of Hindu robbers. But he soon had something else to think of; for as the summer was drawing to a close, his little Freddy fell suddenly ill.

Then was seen a change such as the fort had never known since British redcoats first garrisoned it. No more songs and laughter, no more coarse jokes or boisterous oaths. The rough soldiers went to and fro as silently as shadows—the officers sat over their evening cigars without uttering a word; and no man who crossed the barrack square after dark ever failed to look up instinctively at the light that burned in an upper room of the colonel's quarters, showing where life and death were contending for the bright-eyed boy whom they all knew and loved.

But, as if to sweep away their last hope, the heat of that memorable summer endured longer than the oldest man could recollect. Even the nights were as sultry as the days, and, slowly but surely, the poor little life withered away, though the kind-hearted doctor (who had always been a special friend of their little favourite) wore himself to a shadow in striving to save him, and the stern father never quitted for an instant, save when his duty called him, the sick-bed on which lay all that he had left to love.

"As if there warn't men enough 'ere to die, and plenty as could be better spared!" growled a big soldier one evening; "and then to go and pick out 'im!"

"Hold yer jaw, can't yer?" broke in a second man savagely; "he shan't die, not if Death was to come for to[209] fetch him hisself, with a full-strength battalion o' devils to back him!"

"I wish I knowed how to pray, so as I could pray for 'im!" muttered a third—one of the wildest and worst men in the whole regiment.

"Well, look 'ere, boys!" cried a fourth; "s'pose we all volunteer to be put down on God's black list instead, mayhap He'll let the little 'un off for this once; for, whoever He is, He surely wouldn't be too hard on a sweet little chap like that!"

And then, doffing his cap as if in the presence of a superior, the rough fellow said, in a voice that he vainly tried to steady—

"O God, jist let 'im off this once, and do what you like with all of us. Amen."

"Amen!" echoed all his comrades with one voice; and, having offered up that strange supplication, the poor fellows actually felt somewhat less despondent, without knowing why.

Just then Colonel Hardman's tall form was seen to issue from the door of his quarters, and come straight toward them.

"'Ere he comes!" said one of the men eagerly; "I'll go and ax how the little 'un is."

"Are you crazy, Jim?" cried the man beside him, catching him by the arm. "Don't be a fool, lad; if he's worse'n a tiger in the or'nary way, what d'ye s'pose he'll be now?"

"I don't care," said Jim Barlow desperately; "here goes."

And stepping right up to the dreaded commandant, he saluted, and said huskily—

"Beg pardon, sir—is he any better?"

The white, rigid face looked vacantly at him for a moment, like one just aroused from sleep, and hardly understanding yet what was said to him; and then the grim man replied, in a low, weak voice—


"Thank you, my man, for asking. No, he is no better."

And Jim went back to his comrades in the lowest stage of depression.

"I'm afeared it's all up, boys," said he, "or Old Blue-Beard 'ud never have spoke to me so civil."

In truth, during those last few days, the stricken father's misery was such that even those who hated him most deeply might well have pitied him; for no torture on earth can compare with the unendurable torment of being forced to witness the sufferings of a helpless child, when powerless to alleviate them in any way. I have seen strong men die in agony, with none to help them; but they, at least, knew what was in store for them, and faced it like men, neither pitying themselves nor asking pity from others. But a child cannot tell why it suffers, or why its suffering cannot be removed; and it looks instinctively to you for relief, unable to conceive that you are not powerful enough to help it. I have seen such a sight only too often; I pray God I may never see the like again.

And now—as if this iron man were doomed to feel, in his turn, the full bitterness of the pain that his merciless harshness had so often inflicted upon others—the poor little sufferer's ceaseless cry was for "dear old Bob Burton," the very man whom his listening father's ill-judged severity had driven forth into the jungle to herd with thieves and murderers, and perhaps to die like the beasts that perish.

"O Bob, dear Bob, do put your hand on my head and cool it; it does burn so!"

"Doctor, can't you do anything?" said the colonel in a fierce whisper, seizing the other's wrist in a convulsive clutch that made the very joint crackle. "He was always fond of you—can't you help him somehow?"

"God knows I would if I could!" replied the doctor despairingly; "but this is beyond me. There is only one[211] man in all India who could deal with such a case, and I don't even know where he is just now."

Another night and another day went by, and brought the end nearer still. The overwrought doctor (who was on the point of breaking down himself) crept out about nightfall for a breath of the fresh air that he so much needed.

But ere he had been gone five minutes, he came hurrying back, with a face so startlingly changed that the colonel sprang up from his place by the sick-bed and caught him by both hands, though the question that he would have asked died upon his lips.

"God be thanked!" said the doctor, "there is a chance for us yet. I've just got word that my friend Skilman (whom I spoke of yesterday as the only man here that could deal with this case) has suddenly arrived at Kalipur. We must send off a swift messenger for him at once."

"I'll go myself," said Hardman, stepping towards the door.

"But—" began the dismayed doctor, through whose mind flashed instantly all the possible consequences of the commandant's absence from his post just when it might be attacked at any moment.

The colonel put aside the strong man like an infant, and said, in a tone which, though barely above a whisper, was terribly distinct—

"Don't talk to me—I'm going."

And, a few minutes later, he rode out of the fort into the deepening darkness, attended only by a Rajput trooper and his veteran scout, Lal Singh (Red Lion).

When the two Hindus saw their leader turn off from the high-road into the native path that led through the jungle to Kalipur, both knew well that although this way would save fully half the distance, they carried their lives in their hands by taking it, it being perilous not only from wild beasts and snakes, but from worse things still—for[212] the robbers were said to be astir again at the far end of the valley.

But, trained to exact obedience, there was no thought in their gallant hearts of wavering or hanging back. Had the whole Mahratta army barred their path, they would have simply repeated their usual formula, "Jo hookum" (it is an order), and gone without a murmur to certain death.

From first to last, that match against time with death was like one of those wild and feverish dreams, in which you are for ever rushing at full speed over a boundless waste, without advancing a single foot nearer to the goal. On, on, mile after mile—passing with bewildering suddenness from darkness to moonlight, and from moonlight into darkness again—now splashing through a swollen stream, now plunging down into a gloomy hollow, now bursting with a crash through a mass of tangled creepers, now checking their horses, barely in time, on the brink of a yawning chasm.

Once, the lights waved by the Hindus made a kind of broken rainbow on the scaly bulk of a monstrous snake, which, coiled round a tree above them, thrust out its huge flat head with an angry hiss, only to draw it back in affright at the sudden glare. Farther on, two flaming eyes broke the gloom for an instant, and then a long, gaunt, striped body vanished ghost-like into the surrounding blackness, with a snarl of mingled terror and rage; and, a few minutes later, a pack of prowling jackals, scared by the hoof-tramp and the lights, flitted spectrally away into the thickets, whimpering like frightened children.

But all this passed unheeded by Colonel Hardman. In place of the moonlit forest and the threatening monsters, his eyes saw only a sick-room that lay already miles behind him, where a tiny golden head was tossing in weary pain upon its restless pillow; and he clenched his teeth in desperation at the thought that the aid which he was perilling his life to bring might come too late after all.


But now they were more than half-way to Kalipur—and now but a quarter of the distance was left—and now, as they drew nearer and nearer to the goal, the father's heavy heart began to wax lighter with an ever-growing hope.

Ha! what was that red fire-glow that broke suddenly upon them from an open space just ahead? and what were these wild forms that sprang up around it, like spectres starting from their graves?

"Sahib," said Lal Singh as coolly as ever, "there are robbers in our path."

"Thank God," said the colonel.

So tremendous was the suppressed emotion that quivered through those half-whispered words, so ghastly this sudden revelation of that inward torment which could hail as a positive relief the prospect of blood and wounds, and death itself, that even the iron-nerved Hindu felt awed. But there was no time to think of it. Fixing themselves firmly in their saddles, the three men rushed upon the nineteen as tigers spring upon a herd of deer.[4]

Like a stone through a pane of glass, they broke through the straggling line of their enemies. Crushed beneath the horse-hoofs fell grim Ali Shere; Mulhar Rao's strong right hand spun six feet from his body, hewn off like a twig; gasping on the ground lay fierce Haji Ismail, cloven through neck and shoulder; and by him, with his whole side laid open, writhed his brother Abd'-Allah.

Lal Singh and the Rajput had each killed his man; and the three, slashing right and left like giants, were already almost clear of their foes, when there came a sudden crackle of shots from the rear, and Lal Singh dropped dead without a cry, while the Rajput's horse sank under him, mortally wounded!

Quick as thought, Colonel Hardman turned in his[214] saddle, and, seizing his trusty follower's arm, dragged him up on to his own horse.

A tall bandit sprang at them both with uplifted weapon, only to fall dead instantly, cut down through cap and skull to the very teeth; but Hardman's sword snapped with the force of the blow, and the robber-chief himself, the terrible "Black Tiger," thinking him disarmed and at his mercy, flew at the Englishman's throat with a laugh of savage joy.

The two men met like conflicting whirlwinds. A flash of steel—a whiz—a red stain on the colonel's white sleeve—a dull thud—a crunch like the breaking of a snow-crust—and Kala Bagh, the most dreaded bandit of the district, lay dead on the trampled earth, with his skull smashed in like an egg-shell, while over his corpse the colonel's horse and its double burden dashed away into the deeper shadows beyond.

"The two men met like conflicting whirlwinds."

"The two men met like conflicting whirlwinds."

For many a day after, the superstitious Mussulmans of Kalipur told to their friends, with bated breath and looks of awe, how, in the first grey of dawn, the Angel of Death had come rushing through their town in the likeness of an English warrior—stained with blood, and with a dead man behind him on his black horse—and had carried away the Hakeem Ingrez (English doctor) along with him. But, in the end, their angel of death proved to be an angel of life; for the new doctor did his work well, and the sick boy was saved!

The robbers, cowed by their formidable leader's fall, made no attempt at pursuit, and, in truth, there were but few of them left to pursue; for, out of nineteen men, six had been slain outright, and four more desperately wounded.

But, over and above the nineteen who had taken so active a part in the fray, there were three more of the gang who had been strangely backward from first to last.[217] All three were in Eastern dress, and almost as dark as their dusky comrades; but, had they been black as negroes, their speech would have told at once what they really were.

"Well done the old regiment!" cried the tallest of the three, with a look of savage and reluctant admiration after the vanishing form of the colonel. "It's hard to beat yet—ain't it, Tom?"

"Right you are, Sam," replied Tom Tuffen; "and the old country's 'ard to beat, too! One true Englishman agin a dozen o' these coffee-coloured thieves, any day!"

"I believe you, my boy," said Sam Black. "Did yer see that last blow o' his'n? how he did up Kala Bagh hisself with one lick of his sword-handle, arter the blade was broke! That's wot I calls fightin'!"

"Same here!" cried Tom. "Don't I remember how Kala Bagh said to me, when he fust axed me to jine his gang (that time he comed among us as a juggler, ye know), 'If thou fearest the colonel sahib,' he says to me, 'thou shalt see, when he and I meet in fight, that I am the stronger,' says he. Blow his Hindu impudence! he's found out by this time, I take it, whether Old Blue-Beard's stronger than 'im or not!"

Then the third man spoke for the first time, breaking at length, with a visible effort, the moody silence in which he had seemed to be sunk while his two comrades were talking.

"Look 'ere, Tom," said he, "why didn't you kill him when you had the chance?"

"Well, if it comes to that, Bob, why didn't you"? cried the other. "You've swore to do it, once and agin—I've heerd yer myself!"

Bob Burton made no answer for a moment, and his hard face worked convulsively. Then he looked up, and said fiercely, as if the words were wrung from him by a sudden spasm of pain—


"I couldn't!"

"No more couldn't I neither," said Tom Tuffen, visibly relieved by this frank admission on the part of his comrade. "I tell yer, boys, when he came chargin' in among us like that, and knockin' over them niggers like nine-pins, by Jingo, I almost forgot to hate him!"

"Aye, that's jist 'ow I felt too," put in Sam Black gruffly. "I had my gun all ready to let fly at him, but when I see'd him a-fightin' the whole lot of 'em like a hero—and lickin' 'em too—why, I felt as if, s'pose I was to pull trigger on him then, the very bullet 'ud turn round and hit me instead!"

"You're right, Sam," said Bob Burton with grim emphasis. "He's a thunderin' old tyrant, he is, and I hate him worse than Old Nick—and when I git another chance to pay him out, I won't let it slip so easy—but, curse him, he's a man every inch of him!"

Note.—This supposed desertion of British soldiers to join the ranks of Eastern marauders has, unhappily (as I have already shown in "The Boy Slave in Bokhara") only too much foundation in fact. During my first journey through Central Asia, not so many years ago, I was told of several Englishmen (my informants said seven) who were then serving in the so-called "army" of the Khan of Kokan; and all of these were deserters from British India.—D. K.



A year had gone by since that memorable night, and had brought great events in its train.

The power at which all India had so lately trembled was now broken at once and for ever. At Delhi, at Laswaree, at Assaye, at Argaum, the Mahratta conquerors of[219] Central India, with all odds of numbers and artillery in their favour, had fought gallantly to maintain their well-won renown; but numbers and artillery alike, and the utmost efforts of reckless valour, were all vain against the unconquerable "white faces from the West." From the Indian Ocean to the Bay of Bengal, not one native army was left that could look the soldiers of England in the face; and, both at home and throughout India, all men were full of the marvellous exploits of a promising young British commander, then known only as General Wellesley, but ere long to fill the whole world with the fame of the Duke of Wellington.

The East India Company's army had been increased by the formation of several new regiments; and one of the best of these was now commanded by Colonel Hardman, who had been transferred to a newly-built fort about a day's march from his former post at Huttee-Ghur.

Freddy was by this time quite well and strong again; but his father—from whose mind the haunting terror of that fearful summer was never wholly absent—had fully made up his mind to deprive himself of his son's company altogether, rather than take the risk of keeping him any longer in the fatal climate of India; and it had been settled that as soon as the country was quiet enough to make travelling safe, the boy should be sent down to Calcutta, and put on board of the first ship for England.

Evening was just beginning to darken into night, when a gaunt, haggard, wild-looking man in native dress, with a long gun on his shoulder, dragged his weary limbs heavily out of the matted thickets that fringed both sides of the road leading north-eastward to the border of Oude, and threw himself on the ground with a surly oath, which was hoarsely echoed by two other figures, as ragged and dusty as himself, that came creeping out after him.

Curiously enough, though all three were dressed as[220] Hindus, and were very nearly as dark in complexion, they all spoke in English.

"Plenty o' dead wood for a fire, anyhow," growled the first man; "but wot's the use? It's jist like our luck, ain't it, Tom, to have a good fire and nothin' to cook at it!"

"Well, it'll keep the tigers off, if it does nothin' else," said Tom Tuffen; "though, if they was to eat us, Bob," added he, with a meaning glance at his own lean hands, "they'd have pretty nigh as poor a supper as we're a-goin' to have ourselves."

"Why, there's some o' them chupatties (thin flour cakes) left yet, ain't there, Sam?" cried Bob Burton sharply.

"Two apiece, Bob—that's all!" replied Sam Black, producing the scanty provisions as he spoke, while his two comrades hastily scraped together and set on fire a heap of dead twigs and withered leaves, round which the wanderers stretched themselves in moody silence.

The meagre meal was eaten without a word; and, in truth, the three outcasts had but too good reason to be so silent and gloomy.

After the breaking up of the robber band which they had joined, they had taken service with one native prince after another, and had passed through all the vicissitudes of wild Eastern warfare. Now revelling in short-lived luxury—now fighting for their lives against terrible odds—now heading a mutiny for arrears of pay, and sacking the palace of their so-called master—one week filling their pockets with precious stones and gold mohurs (to be instantly flung away in the wildest freaks of excess), and then a week later, struggling half-starved through swamp and jungle, with a swarm of merciless foes in hot pursuit—they had compressed into those few months the perils and adventures of a whole lifetime.

And what had all this profited them? Nothing. All[221] their rich gains, all their daring feats, had left them as poor, and destitute, and hopeless as before.

In fact, their future seemed even darker than their past; for no one knew better than they that the savage despot of Oude—for whose court they were now making, as a last resource—even should he admit them among his soldiers, might any day reward them for their services by torturing them to death, or flinging them to the crocodiles of the Goomtee.[5]

"I'll tell yer wot hurts me most," muttered Bob Burton at last, in the tone of a man thinking aloud, rather than actually addressing his comrades; "to think o' them pals of our'n in the old regiment fightin' like men agin them coffee-coloured' heathens, one agin a dozen—and lickin' 'em too, every time—and every one in the old country's a-praisin' them, and calling 'em 'eroes; and we—wot have we been doin' all the while? Why, thievin' and murderin' along with a lot o' sneakin' blackamoors!"

"Aye," cried Tom Tuffen fiercely, "that's jist how I felt that time at Krishnabad, when I axed that old sepoy as comed there with the major, to give me a drink o' water. D'ye remember wot the old chap said? 'Ismail Beg gives his lotah (brass cup) to no man who is not worthy. I am a nimmuk-wallah[6]—I have been true to my salt; but what art thou?' Now, how do you think a Englishman feels when he finds out that even a common blackamoor's ashamed of him!"

"And d'ye see that 'ere flag yonder?" added Sam Black grimly, as he pointed to the British colours that waved jauntily in the last gleam of sunset, above the low[222] white wall of a fort not more than a mile away. "That's the English flag, that is; and here be three Englishmen as daren't show their faces a-nigh it!"

Then followed a long and gloomy silence, each of the three unhappy men being wholly absorbed in his own sombre thoughts, as if they had now begun to realise, for the first time, the full depth of their degradation, and felt at last the whole bitterness of the harrowing contrast between what they might have been and what they were.

"It's all his fault!" muttered Bob Burton at length, his voice sounding strange and hollow amid the deepening darkness. "If he hadn't druv us to it, we wouldn't have j'ined Kala Bagh's riff-raff; and if we hadn't took up with[223] them, we shouldn't ha' been where we are now. By Jingo, if I could have a wish granted me just this very minute, I knows wot it 'ud be!"

"To cotch 'im somewhere by hisself, and pay him out once for all—eh, Bob?" said Tom Tuffen, in a hoarse whisper.

Burton nodded silently, and Sam Black gave an assenting growl, as deadly in its meaning as the hiss of a rattlesnake.

But that menacing sound died away into a stifled gasp of terror, as there started out all at once from the encircling blackness into the ring of light cast by the fire—plain before the startled eyes of all three—a slender white figure, and a bright, smooth, child-like face, framed in golden hair!

"Is it a h'angel, Bob?" asked Sam Black, in a tremulous whisper.

"Is it a h'angel?"

"Is it a h'angel?"

"A h'angel, you fool!" said Burton, with grim scorn; "what have h'angels got to do with the likes of us? It's the devil as we b'longs to, and he'll have his own some day!"

But, at the sound of Burton's voice, the apparition sprang forward and called out joyfully, in accents that were familiar to them all—

"Is that you, Bob? Oh, I am so glad! Come along with me, quick!"

And the desperate man suddenly felt his hard, bony hand clutched by the small, soft fingers of a child.

"Why, if it ain't the little 'un hisself!" cried Sam Black, in a tone of joyful recognition, as he laid his strong hand caressingly on the boy's shoulder.

"How come you here, laddie, all by yourself?" asked Tom Tuffen, stepping forward on the other side.

"Father—come and help father!" was Freddy's only reply, as he caught hold of Tom's arm with his other hand.


"What, is he with you?" cried Burton, with a sudden and terrible change on his worn face, which was instantly answered by a murderous gleam in the eyes of his two comrades.

"The horse came down with us—it took fright at your fire, I think—and my father fell with his leg under it—and I tried to pull him out, and couldn't; so then I ran to fetch help."

The three castaways exchanged looks of terrible meaning, without uttering a word.

Seldom indeed have such men been tried by such a temptation. Here was the vengeance for which they had just been longing, placed all at once within their very grasp. Here was the man whom they most hated in all the world, lying bruised and helpless, and wholly at their mercy; and even if they did not care to kill him themselves, all that was needed was simply to leave him to his fate. But then the boy—the boy—!

"Make haste—how slow you are!" cried Freddy imperiously. "Come and get him out—quick!"

And, as if his overwhelming excitement had really made him stronger, for the moment, than the two big, hardy men whom he was urging on, both made a step forward as he spoke, with the mechanical, unconscious movement of men walking in their sleep.

But hardly had they turned toward the high-road (close beside which lay the hollow wherein the colonel and his horse had fallen), when the whole forest shook with a terrific roar—the roar of a hungry tiger springing on its prey.[7]

"Oh, the tiger—the tiger!" screamed Freddy, "he'll get father!"

And he flew like an arrow in the direction of the sound.


If ever Bob and his comrades had run in their lives, they did so then. But ere they could reach the fatal spot, there came a second roar, louder and fiercer than the last—a wild, despairing cry—and then all was still.

When the tiger made his spring upon the prostrate horse and rider, the cool old soldier, unarmed and helpless as he was, did not give himself up for lost even then, shrewdly guessing that between a large and well-fed horse and a lean dried-up man, the monster's choice would be soon made.

And so it proved. One crunch of the destroyer's mighty jaws broke the poor beast's neck, and in a moment more the tiger was rending the yet quivering carcass with tooth and claw.

And now, could the colonel have lain still where he was, all might yet have gone well. The tiger, when gorged, would probably have gone off without troubling itself about him; nay, it might perhaps have dragged away the dead horse to serve it for a second meal, and thus have freed the imprisoned man from the weight that kept him down.

But it was not to be. The pain of that heavy pressure on his hurt limb made him impatient; and his hitherto unyielding nerves were sorely shaken (as, in truth, they might well be) by thus hearing, close to his very face, the tearing of his favourite horse piecemeal by the cruel fangs that might at any moment be buried in his own flesh. Feeling the pressure of the dead beast lightened for an instant as the tiger tugged at it and rocked it to and fro, he imprudently attempted to drag himself out from beneath it.

It was a fatal error. The moment he stirred, the tiger was upon him!

For one instant, while his thick military cloak hampered the monster's teeth, he saw the fierce yellow eyes[226] glare into his, and felt the hot, foul, rank breath steaming on his face. Instinctively he uttered one last cry for help—and then—!

There was a trample of hurrying feet—a hoarse shout—the crackle of three shots fired in quick succession—and the terror of the jungle lay dead over his victim's body, just as a native patrol, alarmed by the noise, came racing up to the spot.

Hardman was promptly freed, and, to his son's vast relief, proved to have escaped with unbroken bones, though sorely bruised and shaken; for the tiger's fangs had not reached him, and the trench into which he had fallen had saved him from the full weight of the horse's body.

The lights carried by the patrol, as well as the cloudless splendour of the rising moon, made the whole scene as clear as day; and Colonel Hardman at once recognised his three rescuers, who, seeing that he knew them, and cut off from escape by the coming-up of the native soldiers, stood waiting in sullen silence to hear what he would say.

"I don't ask who you are, and I don't want to know," said the colonel to them, with a peculiar emphasis which all three fully understood. "I can see that you are Englishmen, and that you have been down on your luck; and, at all events, I owe you a good turn for saving my life. You look like the sort of fellows that I should like to have as recruits for my new regiment—what do you say?"

What they said no one heard save themselves and the colonel. But when, thirty-two years later, Colonel Hardman (General Hardman by that time), was laid at rest beneath the elms of the quiet English churchyard of his native village, foremost among those who bore him to the grave walked, side by side with his famous son, Major Frederick Hardman, a stalwart, grey-haired, soldier-like[227] man named Bob Burton, who had nursed the dying general, night and day, through the last hours of his final illness, and had felt amply repaid for all by the light of grateful affection that shone for a moment in the sunken eyes of his old enemy, just ere they settled into stillness for ever.




Matters were proceeding satisfactorily enough at Gerstonville, a farm lying some thirty miles north-east of Buluwayo, in Rhodesia. Richard Gerston had had the luck to peg out a fairly rich claim when, after the finish of the first Matabele war and the fall of old Lobengula, Buluwayo and the surrounding territories fell into the hands of the Company. Gerston had taken an honourable share in the fighting, and shared also in the privileges held out towards those who had been actively engaged in the war; and though his hopes—or dreams, as perhaps it would be more correct to call them—his dreams of finding gold upon his claim had not been realised, or had remained practically unrealised (for there were signs of gold here and there, though the precious metal had not been found in paying quantities), yet the soil was excellent, and his crops and his live-stock were doing wonders—so well indeed, that after a few months Gerston had felt justified in sending for his wife and two children from the Cape, where, for the present, they had remained waiting in anxious expectancy for the message which would enable them to start northwards in order to begin a new life in a new home in this new country.

For a year or two everything flourished. The farm had become a bit of England, though with African surroundings. Gerston's son Bruce, a lad of fifteen, was as much help to his father in the farm during working hours[229] as his sister Kittie was to her mother in the house; while in the evening English outdoor games were the vogue; squash cricket especially, in which all the family took part, including Mrs. Gerston, who, however, according to the dictum of Bruce, "wasn't much good," and Kittie, who "played a much stronger game." Bruce had even attempted to teach a few Mashona labourers employed on the farm to wield the willow, but the result had been conspicuous failure; for not one of them displayed the smallest capacity for understanding the rules of the game, nor much inclination to run about or exert themselves after the fatigues of the day's work on the farm.

"Kittie, who played a much stronger game."

"Kittie, who played a much stronger game."

It was a beautiful summer's evening, during one of these games of "squash cricket," which was played on the rough turf outside the house, that a stranger strolled into the enclosure, an Englishman, though a hot and unkempt one, and stood still for a moment or two as his eye fell upon the unusual scene (in this part of the world) being enacted before him.

"Lord!" he muttered, "that's good! It does one good to see it."

Then he came forward, and Gerston, who was batsman on this occasion, catching sight of him, handed his bat to Kittie, and advanced to meet the stranger.

"You're welcome," he said. "Have you come far? We don't often have a visitor here afoot."

The stranger was an elderly man, though evidently wiry and active as a cat. He carried a rifle, and was dressed in "veldt" boots and the usual and appropriate costume of the country, much travel-stained and out of repair; his bearded face was lined and worn; he looked in need of rest, though obviously a hard man.

"I've come a goodish number of miles, mate, one way or another, and on my feet all the way; pretty well all over Rhodesia, you might say, and I've spent two years and more in doing it. Ah, and spent 'em well, too!" he added, with a wink, "and don't you make any mistake about it."


Gerston smiled.

"Prospecting, I daresay," he said.

The stranger nodded. "I don't choose my claim in a hurry," he continued; "I prefer to go the round and look about me. This seems a nice place. Any gold?"

"Not much," laughed Gerston; "just enough to keep us hoping for more; but the land's A1, and I'm not doing so badly."

"Ah!" ejaculated the other. "Good, good; you employ these Mashona rascals, I see. Well, look out if you're wise."

Gerston laughed again.

"Oh yes," he said, "I will look out; my Mashona boys are thoroughly domesticated; besides, they know when they are well off."

"Maybe," said the stranger; "but there is trouble in the air. I have not tramped all Rhodesia for nothing. I have seen what I have seen, and I have heard what I have heard."

Gerston received this Sphinx-like pronouncement with a smile, and the pair having by this time reached the house, the stranger was shown to his room, as naturally as though he had been an invited and expected guest.

There was no question of his begging a bed, or of any expression by Gerston of apologetical regret that the house was full; his welcome was a matter of course, for in the veldt open house is kept after the old-established Dutch fashion, and no one possessing a white skin and a smattering of European civilisation need sleep out in the air for want of a bed and a meal inside of four walls, if there be a settler's dwelling within ken.

The stranger gave his name as "Uncle Ben," and stayed for several days. He paid, as he expressed it, for his keep by giving Gerston the benefit of his experience as a prospector for gold, tramping the claim from end to end, accompanied by the boy Bruce, to whom he seemed to[232] take a great fancy; but though this odd pair visited together every corner of the estate, and examined carefully every little kopje and gully in the place, Uncle Ben's verdict was quite unfavourable. There wasn't gold enough in the claim, he said, so far as he could judge, to coin a five-dollar piece, and the whole claim, from the point of view of the gold-seeker, was "not worth a tinker's curse."

As he delivered himself of this doleful dictum, the stranger suddenly produced a tobacco pouch, which he opened forthwith and held out to his host.

"See here," he said, "that's gold now—the real article, and I know—well, I know what I know."

"Which means, I suppose, that you could tell me where to find more of it," laughed Gerston. "Well, you're a lucky chap, and I wish you all success. When you want a partner to work the place you can come along to me."

"Ah!" said Uncle Ben sagely, "who knows?"

And Gerston, talking over this conversation afterwards with his wife, laughingly declared that he believed if the old fellow's pockets were overhauled, certain mysterious hieroglyphics intended to form a rough map would be found, and that this map would be the clue to some valuable gold shaft of which he had discovered, or imagined that he had discovered, the existence.

"There are plenty in Mashonaland," Gerston ended, "if only one could hit upon them."

Uncle Ben, as he insisted upon being called, proved a grand acquisition in the evenings, for he possessed a wonderful fund of stories, experiences of his own mostly; and these he was never tired of airing for the benefit of his listeners, of whom he had four in this house, all of the kind most charming to the narrator, because they were frankly and obviously interested and amused.

If his tales were to be believed—and the old man was[233] accustomed to vow most solemnly that the experiences narrated were absolutely authentic—he had certainly been through every kind of adventure that the ingenuity of a humorous destiny could have invented at his expense: adventures with lions, with elephants, with Matabele warriors; perils by water and by land; in a word, every kind of experience likely to interest and enthral a listener had been his; and though, perhaps, listeners of the age of Bruce were the most delighted by his tales, they pleased almost equally listeners of any age, for they bore the stamp of truth.

It was natural, therefore, that young Bruce soon began to look upon the sturdy old stranger as a hero of the first water, a king among men, a person to be admired and loved and imitated, if the opportunity should ever arise; a mental condition on the part of Bruce which was confirmed by each new story of triumph over lions or other beasts, or of barely escaped capture by Matabeles or other bad characters.

It was while in the midst of an exciting tale of a night spent in the bare veldt within a hundred or two paces of an entire Matabele impi, during the whole of which time he dared not sleep, and scarcely allowed himself to breathe lest they should hear him; and of how at a critical moment he had sneezed—it was, in fact, exactly as Uncle Ben had reached this most critical point in his story that the sound of galloping hoofs suddenly became distinctly audible in the breathless silence into which the old man had been pouring out his yarns.

"Stop one minute, mate," said Gerston, rising; "let us see who this is. The letter-carrier, I daresay, though he doesn't generally ride that pace."

Gerston rose and went to the door. A moment later the panting horse of the new arrival pulled up at the garden gate, and the rider threw the reins over his animal's neck.


"Give me a drink, mate," he said, "I'm dead parched. Anything will do—water, or milk, or cold tea. I've brought awful news, but I can't speak till I've drunk."

"Brandy and water?" suggested Gerston; and the stranger nodding acquiescence, he was soon in possession of the "long" drink he craved.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, setting down the empty glass, "that's better. Well, the natives are up; they have risen, and are murdering the English wherever they can find them. Are you well armed here? Can you hold the house against a siege? You may have a visit from the blackguards before the night's out."

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

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

The communication, absolutely unexpected by most of those present, fell like a bomb into the midst of the company. Gerston drew in his breath with a gasp, glancing at his wife and young Kittie, both of whom looked white and scared, though Mrs. Gerston showed her spirit by answering in a moment and with brave words her husband's eloquent glance—

"We've plenty of weapons and ammunition, and both Kittie and I can shoot a bit, if required," she said. "We shall know how to give you a helping hand, Dick; and we are not afraid, are we, Kittie?"

"Oh no, father," said Kittie, whose trembling lips proved, however, that she had not quite recovered the shock of the news.

"Well, ladies, you're a pair of the right sort, if I may say so," continued the new-comer, "and let me tell you, you'll want all your pluck and all your powder, for they can't relieve you from Buluwayo for several days; and you'll have to remember these blackguards don't spare women and children. I found poor Smithson and his wife both murdered and their house burned this very morning, before I got to their place to warn them. I'm on my rounds warning the farmers about; but God knows whether I can go any farther, for—see here—I've lost some blood; and to tell the truth, what with that and fatigue, I don't rightly know whether I'm standing on my heels or my head."


The stranger turned as he spoke, revealing a stained bandage beneath his Norfolk-coat at the neck.

"A spent assegai," he explained; "it caught me just in the fleshy bit between shoulder and neck; it was shied from an ambush as I galloped by; a few more inches one way and I should have been done for. That's the party which is heading in this direction."

"How far off was that?" asked Gerston, while his wife ran for warm water and a clean bandage.

"Ten miles," said the other, "more or less. You'd better begin fixing up your zareba at once. What's the nearest farm to yours, going east?"

"There isn't one nearer than Thomson's at the Black Kopje, twenty-five miles away; several places are bought up in between, but the owners haven't settled in yet."

"So much the better for them. Twenty-five miles? Lord! I don't know how I'm going to do it. You'd swop a horse for mine, no doubt; but in plain truth I'm fagged out, and this wound is burning like fire and fury just now!"

"Let me go instead of him, father!" suddenly exclaimed young Bruce. "I know the way, every inch of it; I could ride Donald over in an hour and a half."

Gerston looked pleased, but shook his head—

"No, no, my boy," he said, "that wouldn't do; you're not man enough yet, though I'm glad to see you've the spirit to offer. I shall ride across myself, for it's clear our poor friend here can go no farther to-day. Be getting Donald ready for me, Bruce lad, while I start with the defences."

But neither his wife nor Kittie would hear of allowing Gerston to leave them and go out upon this dangerous enterprise. He must stay, whoever else went, and look after his property and the lives of those who were dear to him.


"Let Bruce go rather than you," the mother ended, her eyes full of tears and a choke in her voice.

"Yes, do, father; let me go!" said Bruce.

"With apologies for interrupting family arrangements," began the old stranger, who chose to be called Uncle Ben, "I am the one that's got to go, and as soon as some of you have explained the road and lent me a nag, I'm off. You may be proud of this youngster of yours, boss; he's a lad of spirit, and he'll do well. Now which way do I go—north, south, east, or west?"

"I really don't know that we ought to allow you to risk your life," Gerston began hesitatingly. "The road's difficult to find if you don't know it, and it wouldn't do to get one's self lost in the veldt with those confounded chaps about, looking for white bodies to chuck their assegais at. You'd better let me go, mother; I can take pretty good care of myself; I shall be back by morning."

"Excuse me, mate," said Uncle Ben, "but I ain't one to be put off from his purpose by the danger of meeting a few Mashona fellows with assegais; I've something here that shoots straighter and harder and farther, in case it's wanted. Come, how does one steer, and what about a horse?"

It was obviously useless to waste argument upon the old fellow. His mind was made up, and it was quickly decided to let him have his way; the more so since, as a matter of fact, it was convenient enough that he should go, rather than Gerston, whose place was undoubtedly at the side of his wife and daughter, and at the head of those who would assist him to defend their lives and his property.

So Uncle Ben was duly instructed as to the road to Thomson's farm; and now it became evident that descriptions intended to direct a ride of twenty-five miles over the veldt are apt to bewilder as much as to enlighten, and that the old fellow's mind had been considerably mixed[238] by his instructions as to the way he should go on reaching this belt of jungle or that kopje.

"You'd better let me go with him, father!" said persistent Bruce; "the cleverest veldt-traveller might lose his way between here and Thomson's. I shall surely be all right with Uncle Ben. You can give me a revolver in case of accidents."

"You can bet your last sovereign nothing'll happen to him while old Ben Caldecott's breath is in his body!" added the old fellow. "If he's going to be hurt, then I'm dead first, mind you; but the Mashona beggars won't catch me napping, you may bet. Besides, the lad would run quite as much risk at home to-day as riding over the veldt, seeing as how you ain't going to be let alone to sleep comfortably in your beds."

And presently, after some little opposition from his weeping mother, hotly combated by Bruce himself, and almost as hotly by Kittie, who was all for giving Bruce a chance of showing his spirit and distinguishing himself, the lad was allowed to get himself ready for departure. Preparations were in full swing for the defence of the house as the adventurous pair rode out upon their dangerous enterprise. Every scrap of cover within one hundred and fifty yards of the house was being cut down and removed, in order that the niggers, when they came, must advance over an open area well watched and easily swept by the bullets of the defenders.

Besides this, barbed wire was stretched here and there across the open space and tightly fastened to pegs about one foot in height, in order to trip up the enemy in case of a rush, when, in the confusion of their overthrow, the defenders would have the opportunity to fire several times into "the brown," as Gerston expressed it, before they should have recovered themselves.

Within the house everything was made as secure as possible against assault and battery, and every rifle and[239] shot-gun (including two magazine rifles) was loaded and placed in the position laid down for it, only three windows being left unshuttered, for the use of sharpshooters. It had been intended to run up some kind of earthworks, surmounted by barbed wire, one hundred yards from the house, as a first line of defence; but when the native labourers were summoned to help in the work, not one of them was to be found, a significant fact which caused Gerston to look very grave.

"The rascals have had news of the rising, then," he said; "their messenger must have arrived almost as soon as ours—eh, Botley?"

Botley was the last arrival, he who had brought the disconcerting news of danger threatening.

"Before, probably," he replied. "I shouldn't wonder if it was one of your beauties that treated me to this little hole in the shoulder, on his way to join some murderous band which he and his fellows will presently bring down here to knock your head off, in gratitude for benefits conferred—the set of scurvy, thankless, godless black devils that they are!"

Without the native labourers it was quite impossible to undertake anything requiring so much expenditure in time and hard labour as earth defences, and the scheme had therefore to be abandoned.

Meanwhile we may leave Gerston and his little group of brave English hearts to defend their home and their lives as best they can against any overwhelming force that might be brought against them. Their good British spirit will not quail, we may assure ourselves, though they must fight against odds which might well appal hearts less easily daunted than theirs.

We therefore leave them with confidence to their enterprise, while we follow the steps of the oddly assorted pair to whose share has fallen the duty of riding out into unknown dangers, maybe to unavoidable disaster and death,[240] in order to carry the message of coming peril to their unsuspecting compatriots twenty-five miles away, rather than allow a neighbour to be surprised, and perhaps fallen upon and ruthlessly murdered, he and his, for want of a word of warning.

It was late in the afternoon when the two set out upon their journey, well armed with rifle and revolver, and mounted upon the two fastest horses that Gerston's stables could supply. Young Bruce was wild with delight, scarcely, perhaps, realising the full peril of the enterprise in which he had been so eager to take a part. They spoke but little during the first half-hour's ride, being anxious to push on as fast as possible during the waning daylight. Bruce led the way, and rode so rapidly that after a while his companion bade him pull up a bit.

"It's bad policy, youngster," he whispered, "to box all your strength away in the first round. Look at my beast, he's badly blown."

This was the case. The horses were not accustomed to the present headlong method of travelling. They were used to quiet jogging about the farm-lands, or carrying their master from settlement to settlement at a respectable rate of progression; they were not in training for this kind of emergency riding.

"We'd better climb down and let them breathe a minute or two," said Uncle Ben gravely. "See here." He had loosened the bridle, and his horse instantly lowered its neck until its distended nostrils almost reached the ground, panting and wheezing in a state of breathlessness bordering upon actual distress.

"That's Donald," said Bruce; "he's a good goer, too, but he isn't used to this pace."

"Well, he shall have three minutes' law," said Uncle Ben, "or more if he needs it. Sit down a bit and we'll talk, but don't speak up at full voice. How d'you like this yer adventure, sonnie?"


"I love it," said Bruce; "it's exactly the kind of thing I do like."

"Ah—ever been in a fight, or had to struggle for your life?"

"Oh no, not yet," said Bruce. "I'm a bit young; but I hope to."

"Nor seen blood, and so on?" continued the old fellow.

"Oh, accidents and that kind of thing. I don't mind the look of blood, if that's what you mean."

"Well, I tell you, this is no child's play we're at, sonnie; recollect that. We may be caught in an ambush and assegaied before we rightly know we've been done."

"I shan't mind so much if only I can get the revolver off at them first!" said truculent Bruce.

"We may be chased and surrounded."

"Not on horseback. They don't ride, these Mashona fellows; they've no horses. We can always ride them down and be off, even if we're surrounded."

"Ain't you afraid?" persisted Uncle Ben. "Mind you, it isn't too late to go home even now. I could find the way from here."

"What are you playing at? Why d'you want me to go back?" said Bruce indignantly. "There isn't anything to be afraid of yet."

"Ah, but there may be!" said the other.

"Well, wait till there is, and then see if I funk, before you insult me!" replied Bruce; and in his indignation he spoke no more for the next five minutes, though Uncle Ben said he was a likely lad, and attempted to conciliate him with other similar compliments.

He descended, however, from the lofty pedestal of offended dignity when Uncle Ben suddenly stopped in the middle of a sentence and stood silent, listening.

"What is it? What d'you hear?" asked Bruce, forgetting[242] dignity and everything else in the excitement of the moment.

Uncle Ben remained silent for a full minute.

"Don't you hear it?" he said. "Listen carefully. There; d'you catch it?"

Bruce listened with all his ears; but those organs, not having been tutored, as were his companion's, to catch every little sound of veldt life, could detect nothing as yet.

"You'll hear in a minute, for they're coming this way!" said Uncle Ben. "But they're a mile off or more."

"Who, who?" muttered Bruce, his throat quite dry with excitement. "The Mashona fellows?"

Uncle Ben nodded.

"Now listen again!" he said.

Bruce did so, and this time he distinctly heard the rhythmical tread of a body of men apparently moving at a quick march.

"Trotting and coming straight for us along this path," whispered the older man. "You hear them now, I see. Well, there's no cover for the horses hereabouts; what's to be done with them?"

"Why can't we charge right through the niggers?" asked Bruce, partly in ignorance, but partly in bravado, for he desired to prove to his elder that he felt no fear.

"Nonsense. Not unless you're tired of life! At any rate I ain't, though I've had more of it than you. There may be a couple of hundred men here. What's to be done about the horses, that's the point? We can hide our selves and let the rascals pass, but you can't hide the horses. Will you ride yours back, and then mine 'ud follow? You'd be able to warn them, too, up at your dad's place."

"They don't need warning; they're expecting an attack," said Bruce hotly. "I'm not going back, I tell[243] you. The horses will go by themselves if we can't keep them. They are often sent home that way when we are out a long distance from the house and don't want them hanging about all day. Let them loose and you'll see."

"Very well—stop—for the last time, now's your chance to go back; you'll be doing a service in warning the folks at home, and no one'll suspect your pluck."

Uncle Ben did not finish his sentence; for before he had delivered himself of it, Bruce had knotted the bridle over his horse's neck, turned the animal's head homewards, given it a sounding smack on the quarter, and the intelligent creature was in full trot for its stable, tossing its head and grunting with pleasure.

"Well," muttered the older man, "I've said all I can; it won't be my fault if you run your head into mischief after this!" And having thus absolved his conscience of all responsibility for his young companion's rashness, he followed the example of that determined young person, and sent his own horse careering after its companion upon the road for home.

"Now, sonnie, come off the path," he said, "and get behind the scrub with me. We'll see the rascals pass in five minutes, and when they're gone we'll push forward more safely."

"Aren't we going to have a shot at them as they pass?" asked Bruce.

The old man looked at his companion in surprise, not unmingled with admiration.

"Well," he said, "of all the gamecocks ever I met, you're the pluckiest. Give me your hand, sonnie. I'm sorry I spoke to offend you; it wasn't meant. No, we ain't going to shoot them as they pass, for we ain't anxious, either of us, for Kingdom Come. We might kill half-a-dozen maybe if we were lucky, but you may take your last oath that they'd kill two. Now, see here, I'm to[244] be boss of this campaign, and you're to obey orders; don't you shoot, now or ever, until you're told. You're a fine lad for courage, but there ain't enough solid wisdom and experience in you to stop a bad tooth. Now, down with you behind this rock; they'll be out of that scrub and in sight in a minute."

Uncle Ben and his young companion ducked behind their cover none too soon, for hardly had they done so when, scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, there came a line of dusky forms, four or five abreast, that broke out of the scrub cover into the open, followed at a few paces by other lines, in what appeared to Bruce to be interminable numbers. Uncle Ben, watching the lad's face, saw it flush and pale and then flush again; his hand went to the revolver at his belt, but there the old man's nervous grip arrested it.

"No, no," he whispered, "no fooling; not if you value your life."

Bruce tried to whisper back that he only meant to prepare in case of emergency, but he found himself tongue-tied, not precisely by fear, but by a numbing sensation which was the result of the sudden realisation of actual danger for the first time in his life. The feeling passed off in a few seconds, and Bruce became master once more of his nerves. And now he was able to enjoy a very unique and peculiar spectacle, the passing of a body of Mashona or Matabele warriors on the warpath. Puffing, groaning, moaning, and wheezing they went, running at a jog-trot; and almost every man of the hundred or so of them relieved his exhausted energies by uttering sounds of one description or another, from a low grunt to a loud wailing cry, all of which seemed very weird and alarming to Bruce's wondering intelligence.

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

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

"Off to your dad's!" whispered Uncle Ben, as the strange body of black fellows disappeared in the gathering dusk. "Come, we will waste no more time!"


Then the pair moved quickly forward; there were still fifteen miles to go, and every step of it must be done on foot, and quickly.

"Are you man enough to jog-trot a bit now and then," asked the older man, and Bruce, for reply, struck into a run, and led the way so quickly that his companion was glad enough when he stopped again for breath and walked. Darkness came on, and Bruce became uncertain of the way, though he knew it well by daylight.

"There's a ford, five miles from Thomson's place," he said; "if we could only hit upon that I should find the road from there on much easier."

"Take the direction as near as you can get it," said Uncle Ben, "and maybe we shall strike the river above or below the ford."

So on they trudged, now jogging at a trot, now slowing into a walk, but covering the ground quickly; for they remembered that upon their speed might hang for all they knew the lives of men and women.

A lion roared in the veldt, within a mile of the scudding humans. Bruce shuddered but went on, resolved that his companion should not see that he was frightened.

Presently the brute roared a second time, almost paralysing poor Bruce's limbs with terror; for undoubtedly the animal was much nearer at this second time of roaring. With difficulty dragging his limbs, but resolved to go through with the matter, Bruce jogged on.

He heard his companion click his rifle behind him. Suddenly there came a rush and a scurry of many swift feet, some hundred yards in front of them. The scudding throng of animals passed across the path and away, and Bruce heard a third and a fourth roar, and knew that the old lion had made his spring and had failed, and was angry over his discomfiture.

He stopped and sat down suddenly, too frightened to move forward.


"Ah," said Uncle Ben kindly, "you're pumped out, lad; we'll have a bit of a rest."

"No, it's the lion," said Bruce truthfully; "I never heard one so close before; it is awful—will he attack us?"

"Not he; he won't be such a fool; if he did, we could smash him in a minute, never fear. Why, lad, if you ain't afraid of the Matabeles, you needn't mind him! There he goes again, farther away, you see; he's thinking of his antelopes, not of us."

So up jumped Bruce and away he sped again, guessing the road as best he could by the direction, and presently the pair reached the bank of a precipitous nullah, and Bruce nearly "took a header" over the rocky edge.

"Ah!" said Uncle Ben, "good; follow the line of the nullah, it will be sure to lead us to the river."

This proved to be the case, and a mile or two farther on the river itself was reached, but at a point either above or below the ford, Bruce could not tell which.

"Why, Lord, what does it matter, we'll soon find the ford," said Uncle Ben; "you're a clever lad to have struck the river; I'm darned if I ever met a lad I liked better; work up to the left a mile or two, and if that's wrong we'll come back and try the other way, it's only a matter of a few minutes."

Bruce was getting very tired, and sighed to think that he might have to travel several unnecessary miles up and down the river; but he pulled himself together and trudged on, looking out keenly for the ford, which he should recognise if he saw it.

Once a company of antelopes—maybe they were his old friends—gave him a great scare. They had come down to drink, and the startled creatures nearly knocked him down as they rushed madly, stampeding and mobbing, from the waterside when surprised by the wanderers.

A mile was covered and part of another, and Bruce thought he began to recognise the look of the river.


"I think we are getting near the ford," he said over his shoulder.

"Good; good, lad!" replied his companion laconically, saving his breath.

But now suddenly confronted them the most crucial moment of the enterprise.

"Stop, lad!" hissed Uncle Ben from behind; "stop a moment, I hear something."

Bruce drew up instantly, crouching down as he saw his companion do.

"Listen," whispered Uncle Ben; "I think it's the Mashona fellows again; they are fording the river; we must be close to the ford; or it may be a hippopotamus or a crocodile."

Bruce listened, his heart thumping loudly at his breast. He heard splashing and grunting; a moment later came the sound of measured running.

"It is the niggers," whispered Uncle Ben hurriedly; "we cannot go back, and I see no cover inland; we must take to the water; quickly, lad, follow me into the reeds; never mind the cold, go right up to your neck if need be!"

Very quickly Uncle Ben waded into the water; it was not very cold, but the bank shelved rapidly, and a few yards out the pair were up to their chests.

The reeds were thick, and formed a good cover.

"Bend, and let the water cover you to the mouth," whispered the old man; "go right under if they seem to hear or see us, and stay under as long as your breath lasts."

Bruce nodded, shivering.

The pair of submerged Britons were not much too soon in assuming their uncomfortable position, for in a moment the Matabele fellows were practically upon them, passing abreast of them at full run, groaning and grunting after their fashion, travelling in irregular lines of three, four, or six.


Unfortunately the body of "niggers" had but half passed by when some creature of the water took occasion to splash loudly several times in close proximity to our submerged friends, but whether a crocodile, or a fish, or some animal which had waded in to drink, Bruce never knew.

"Down under water, quick!" muttered Uncle Ben; and Bruce, taking in a great gulp of breath, obeyed instantly.

As he did so he became aware of a sudden stinging sensation in the upper part of his arm. Putting his hand to the place, under water, he felt that his coat was torn.

"I must have rubbed it against a stake as I ducked," thought Bruce, and dismissing the subject, he devoted all his energy to economising the stock of breath he had laid in.

When that was exhausted, at the end of thirty or forty seconds, which seemed an eternity to him, Bruce cautiously raised the upper part of his head in order to take in a new supply. As he did so he observed the last row or two of Matabele fellows halted upon the bank, and one or two of them in the act of throwing their assegais at some object beyond him on the left. Down went Bruce again very quickly, and it was nearly a minute later that his yellow head made its reappearance above the surface. This time he saw no Matabeles, they had gone on; but the old man, Uncle Ben, had seized his arm somewhat violently, and was muttering.

Bruce shook the water out of his ears to listen.

"Come ashore quickly," said Uncle Ben. "Are you wounded, lad?"

"Wounded? Not I," said Bruce. "Why? Are you? Did they shy those assegais at us? Why, then, it may have been one that touched my arm."

"Ah, you have a scratch I see!" said the older man;[251] but he spoke in so strange a voice, that Bruce looked up from his own torn coat and slightly bleeding arm to see what ailed his companion.

"What's up, Uncle Ben?" he said. "Are you feeling bad? Why, you're never hit, are you?"

"Just a bit," gasped the old fellow—"here in the side. The blade of the thing's in me now. O Lord, the pain of it. I'll lie down awhile, that may make me better."

"O Uncle Ben, I'm so sorry. What can I do? Is it very bad?" cried poor Bruce weakly. He felt utterly helpless and frightened.

"I may be all right presently," said Uncle Ben. "Just give me a hand while I lie down. Oh! so, that's it; now I shall soon be better." And as though to prove how much better he felt for the change of position, the wounded man then and there fainted away.

Then Bruce, in his utter helplessness and misery, began to think how vain a thing is self-confidence and the pride of mere animal courage in an inexperienced lad of fifteen years. He had been ready and anxious to undertake the dangerous enterprise all by himself. What if he had been allowed to do so?

Well, he would probably have fallen into the hands of the enemy within half-an-hour of the start; if he had escaped the first danger, he would, maybe, have died of terror when within a stone's throw of the roaring lion. Again, he might have lost his way when, in the darkness, he missed the track; and now again, but for Uncle Ben's experience and alertness, he would assuredly have been caught and murdered by the Matabeles.

Sitting, helpless and miserable, over his unconscious companion, Bruce quickly realised all this, and with the realisation came a flood of tears, the first he had shed for many a day, and wrung from him now, not by fear, but by the sense of helplessness in this crisis.


What ought he to do—what could he do? Leave this poor wounded old man to recover consciousness or to die, or to fall, maybe, into the hands of a third band of rebel niggers, to be mutilated in their barbarous fashion before the breath was out of his body; to leave him lying here, and hasten up to Thomson's farm in order to warn the family? He could find the way from here easily enough. Or should he let the farm people take care of themselves, and attend to the duty which lay to his hand; namely, to keep faithful watch and ward over his wounded companion until day at any rate, when he might settle him comfortably somewhere under cover, and proceed upon his journey?

Bruce was no fool, and it occurred to him at this point of the reflections which passed in a kind of dazed procession through his brain that the last band of Matabeles had probably come from Thomson's. They had crossed the ford as though travelling from his farm; the chance was that Thomson was either already aware of the rebellion and in full defence of his property, or murdered, he and all his folk.

"No," thought Bruce, "I shall stay by Uncle Ben until he dies or recovers, and then go on by myself."

Bruce's fit of crying did him good. He put up a prayer for help in his terrible position, and that did him good also; and when at length old Ben sighed and opened his eyes, poor Bruce was feeling brave and confident once more, and ready to face destiny, whatever it might have in store for him. But he soon saw that there was little in the old man's condition to encourage him. Uncle Ben lay on his back quite still, gazing up at the stars, and Bruce sat still also, unwilling to disturb or perhaps startle him.

"Are you there, lad?" muttered the old man presently. "I don't feel as if I could move to look about me."


"I'm here, Uncle Ben," said Bruce. "Are you lying comfortable? Do you feel bad?"

"I'm going to die, lad, and that's the truth. Give me a drop of water—in your cap. Ah! now you listen to what I have to say, my boy. You be off at once to the farm and warn them. If they like to send down to fetch me when convenient, why, they may; if not, I'd as soon die here."

"I think these last Matabeles have been up there already," said Bruce, "else what were they doing at this ford? It isn't any use going there; I'd rather stay with you here, and see to you."

"Well, God bless you for the wish anyhow, lad; it's kind in you, and you may be right about the Matabeles. Stay on a bit if you like. I don't think I shall keep you long. Give me another drink. Lord! I'm hot, burning hot. Is the sun out?" The old man began to ramble in his talk, and Bruce, in his despair and inexperience, allowed him to wander on, saying nothing, but only dabbing a little water occasionally upon the old fellow's brow.

Suddenly Uncle Ben's manner changed. He spoke quietly and rationally once more.

"Are you still there, lad Bruce?" he asked. Bruce laid a cool, wet hand upon his forehead by way of reply.

"You're a darned good lad," continued the old man, "one of the best. I wish I had a son like you, you've stood by me till I died. Now, see here, sonnie; in my inner pocket is my baccy pouch; take it before you go away and leave me; it's full of gold dust; but that's of little account; what's more important is a paper with a map scrawled upon it. I did it before we started, case of accidents. The name of the village marked with a cross is Umdhana, thirteen miles north of Salisbury. The map'll tell you the rest. Lord, I can't talk any more. It's all[254] yours when I'm gone, for you're a good lad, one of the best!"

"Maybe you won't die, Uncle Ben!" said Bruce weakly; he knew there was not much doubt of it, but could think of nothing wiser to say.

Uncle Ben did not reply, but lay with closed eyes. After a while Bruce saw his lips move, and heard him muttering, but concluded that he was praying, and did not interrupt him. When he looked again the old man was still, nor—though Bruce watched him carefully for nearly half-an-hour—could he detect the slightest movement of breathing.

Then a great horror came over the boy, for he looked upon death for the first time; his heart failed him, and he trembled, and went away where he could not see the body; and here he sat awhile in nerveless terror, unable to collect his thoughts or to decide what was best to be done.

He sat, helpless and dazed, for an hour, by which time dawn was beginning to make faint promises of a day to come with its joy and brightness in its own good time.

"I will wait," thought Bruce, "until it is broad daylight, and then I will go to Thomson's farm."

Then he lay down and tried to fall asleep, but superstitious fears kept him mostly awake, though he dozed at intervals. Once or twice he heard stealthy noises, as though the beasts of the forest came timidly to the water to drink; but he was startled by no roarings of the greater animals, and there was nothing to alarm him save the presence, near by, of grim death. Nevertheless, when light came Bruce felt impelled to approach and look upon Uncle Ben's body once more before leaving it, and he was surprised to find that this time, and in God's fair light of day, he minded much less. He even bent and laid his hand in farewell upon the old fellow's cold forehead, and as he did so he remembered Uncle Ben's request that he would secure his "baccy pouch" and its contents. Bruce easily found this[255] pouch, and he pocketed it without much thought of its value, if any; and having thus secured his legacy, according to the testator's wish, he certainly thought no more about it.

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

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


Then the lad made for the ford, which was but a hundred yards or so away; and here an immense surprise was in store for him; for in the very act of crossing the ford there came towards him a figure which at first sight he took for that of a native, a Matabele warrior, though clothed, it appeared, in the tattered relics of an English suit—a flannel shirt and Norfolk coat and trousers, and carrying over his shoulder a rifle, and at his belt a long and a short assegai.

For an instant Bruce's heart failed him. He stopped dead and crouched, intending to drop upon his stomach and crawl into cover.

But the stranger, it seemed, was quick-eyed, and had already seen him.

"Aha!" he called out, "young boy Englishman! do not hide; I am not one to hurt those that have white skins!"

Bruce was soon upon his feet again at the sound of his own language, though it was spoken in an odd, guttural way, and with a peculiar accent. He stared at the stranger coming splashing through the shallow water.

"Who are you?" he blurted; "and why do you speak so curiously?"

"I am Umkopo, the white witch of the Matabele. English born, Matabele bred. What are you doing here? It is a wonder that you are alive. Death is abroad, death to the English. What do you want here, I say?"

Bruce had heard of this man Umkopo, "The White Witch" as he was called. No one as yet, however, knew much about the mysterious individual, who was seen from time to time indeed, and had often befriended Englishmen in moments of danger and distress, but as to whose identity the vaguest and most varied opinions prevailed. Since the day on which Bruce met him in the manner described his history has become well known both in[257] Rhodesia and in England; but this is not the place to recapitulate his romantic story, which, if he desires to know it, the reader may find elsewhere.

"I am on my way to Thomson's farm to warn them that the natives are up," said Bruce; "perhaps you have been upon the same errand?"

"Thomson is dead—murdered; so is his partner and the wife of his partner. Yesterday they were surprised and murdered. Bah! good English blood spilt by dogs of Matabele. Bah! I have done with them; I go with them no more; from this day I am an Englishman."

"Thomson murdered, and Hewetson and Mrs. Hewetson also!" ejaculated Bruce. "Then I am too late! Oh, how glad I am that father was warned in time!"

"Who is your father?" asked Umkopo.

"His name is Gerston. We farm the claim called Gerstonville——"

"I know," interrupted Umkopo; "and he sent you on here alone to warn Thomson. Does he hate you?"

"Rot!" said Bruce; "of course not. I was not alone; my companion is dead."

"Dead? What, killed by these dogs, like Thomson and the others? For each one I will kill ten Matabele, I swear it; and how have you escaped?"

"We hid in the water. Something splashed as they passed, and they threw an assegai and killed poor Uncle Ben; he lies just here, quite close."

"Ah, ah! show me! show me!" said Umkopo.

Bruce led his new friend to the place where lay the dead man, looking as though he slept quietly by the riverside, weary with travelling.

"Oh," cried Umkopo, with something very like a sob in his voice, "I knew him well; I have hunted with him. He was a good man—a brave man. I have learned from him many things."

To Bruce's immense surprise Umkopo threw himself[258] upon the ground, and lay rolling and groaning a while, evidently overcome with grief.

Suddenly he rose.

"Come," he said, "we will make a hole, and put him in it. If they find him here they will cut and tear his body, because he was better than they, and braver and wiser. They shall not have him."

So with a little help from Bruce poor old Uncle Ben received burial at the hands of Umkopo, and right glad was Bruce that it was not destined that his friend should be left to be mutilated by savage enemies, or to be eaten by savage beasts or vultures.

"Now," said Umkopo, when this good work was finished, "we go together to Gerstonville. If they were warned in time, they will not yet be overcome; and if they still hold out, you shall see what will happen when the Mashona dogs see that Umkopo has come."

Bruce did not quite like the stranger. His manner of speaking was so strange, and his appearance so weird and even alarming; but he was evidently friendly disposed, and it was certainly comforting to have an escort or a companion—Bruce preferred the word companion—as far as Gerstonville.

But his half-fear of the man and every feeling of dislike soon passed away in wonder and curiosity as, on the way homewards, Umkopo waxed garrulous, and spoke of his own career—of his deeds among the great beasts of the veldt; of his bearding, on a certain occasion, of the terrible old King Lobengula, whom all the world feared, excepting, apparently, this wonderful fellow; and of many adventures and struggles with the Matabele people, who would not, for many years, acknowledge him as their principal "Witch" or magician.

"It was this that persuaded them in the end," said Umkopo, concluding his story, and patting lovingly the butt of his rifle: "this is the real witch, not I."


So interesting and absorbing was the conversation of his new friend that Bruce scarcely had time to realise that he was terribly tired, as indeed he had every right to be; and the pair had come within a mile or so of home, when Umkopo suddenly stopped and assumed an attitude of listening. When he did so Bruce listened also, and distinctly heard the sound of shooting, continuous shooting.

"Ah!" said Umkopo, "good! the dogs have not got into your father's kennel; now you shall see how Umkopo will sweep them away like the leaves that fly in wind-time! Come."

Umkopo seized the boy's hand, and set off at so rapid a run that even Bruce—as active a lad as you would find in all Rhodesia—could scarcely keep up with him, and was obliged indeed to pant to him presently to stop.

"No, no, not stop," said Umkopo, "not far now—run; Umkopo has learned from the springbok!"

Bruce pulled himself together, took deep breaths, and struggled gamely on. Once they stopped for a moment or two, Umkopo having glanced in the lad's face, and seeing that he was really distressed for breath. During those moments Bruce caught sight of Umkopo's expression, and was astonished and almost supernaturally alarmed at it. Umkopo's eyes were wild and blazing with a weird lustre; he held his chin high and his shoulders back, and muttered words, as he gazed straight in front of him, which Bruce did not understand, and which he concluded were in the Matabele lingo. He looked, Bruce thought, like an inspired prophet, the White Witch all over, excepting that his skin was scarcely to be described as "white," being, as a matter of fact, about half-way between that pale tint and the hue of the Mashona native.

Then on they scudded once more, and in a minute or two they had reached a spot within a furlong of the[260] farmhouse, from which they saw plainly all that was being enacted at or about the building.

There were three separate groups of attacking natives, each hidden from the house by protecting cover of scrub or rock. Now and again a dark form or two rushed headlong towards the building, when a shot from an upper window would send the rash fellow either hurrying back into the cover or head first into the earth, where he would writhe and kick for a moment, and then lie still. Numbers of still, dark forms dotted the ground at all distances from the house, while a grim heap of the slain within forty yards of it, proved that some charge of the enemy en masse had with difficulty been stopped in time.

"Come," said Umkopo, suddenly and unexpectedly, "now you shall see!"

He started to walk rapidly towards the nearest body of natives. Bruce hesitated to follow, not quite comprehending his intentions, and more than half-mistrusting the wisdom of the proceeding.

"Come, I say!" repeated Umkopo, looking back over his shoulder; "fear nothing; I am Umkopo, the great White Witch!" And Bruce, rather than appear to be afraid, gripped his rifle and followed.

The Matabeles apparently recognised Umkopo at the instant of his appearance, for they sent up a babel of noise, every tongue of the two hundred there assembled seeming to contribute to the din of welcome, or the reverse—of delight or of rage, Bruce could not tell which, for the noise was deafening, and individual voices quite undistinguishable.

"They are angry," said Umkopo, "for they know that they act against my commands. What matter!"

A few individuals rushed forward, as though to fall upon Umkopo as he came; two threw assegais.

Without seeming to take aim Umkopo instantly shot both men; they fell dead almost at the same moment.


Then Umkopo said a few words in the native tongue, words which immediately raised a babel of din even louder than the first. Again Umkopo held up his hand and spoke, spoke fiercely and solemnly, as it seemed to Bruce, who could not, however, understand a word. One or two assegais were thrown, and again the aggressors were shot dead, almost before their weapons had left the hands that hurled them.

Then suddenly the whole body of men, with howls and yells and angry grimaces, turned and moved away, Umkopo standing, like implacable Fate, watching their departure. In five minutes they were a quarter of a mile away; in ten, they had disappeared out of sight.

"Go into the house, you," said Umkopo; "you have seen what you have seen. Tell them Umkopo will drive away the other dogs as he has driven these."

Full of wonder and admiration, Bruce did as Umkopo suggested. Yet, anxious as he was to see his parents and tell his story, he could not forbear to wait and watch Umkopo's dealings with the next batch of niggers before finally turning his back and hastening towards the house.

Here, it may be believed, a rapturous greeting awaited him; for, the horses having returned riderless, it had been a matter of miserable doubt to his parents whether Bruce was alive or dead.

Bruce enjoyed greatly the praise which was certainly his deserved portion, and he was still in the midst of the tale of his experiences when Umkopo suddenly reappeared. The White Witch made no greeting to any one present. He merely inquired "where the cartridges were kept—Winchester," and being shown the place, helped himself liberally and departed almost without a word. He did, however, honour Bruce with a whack on the shoulder.

"Aha!" he said, "we shall meet one day; you shall[262] be a fine Englishman when you are grown full-size—like Umkopo!"

There was no more trouble at Gerstonville that day from the rebel natives; but the family did not, on that account, relax in the slightest degree their watchfulness; for though Umkopo had apparently frightened these bands away, there was no certainty that they, or others, would not return.

But on the following afternoon a body of Englishmen, many of them known to Gerston, rode in from Buluwayo, and these were greatly relieved to find that Gerston and his family were safe; they had not expected it, they said.

"You are luckier than many," said the leader, "and that's the sad truth; this rising's a very serious business. Get your light valuables together and come along, all; Buluwayo itself's in danger, but you'll be safer there than here."

"What, leave my house, and farm, and all I have to the mercy of any rascally niggers that come along to loot and burn!" exclaimed Gerston; "not I!"

"It's unpleasant, I own; but you'll have to do it, mate. Better that than certain outrage and murder."

"We could hold out for a week!" persisted Gerston, unwilling to surrender his house and his goods.

"Very likely. But after that week, what then? This rising won't be quelled for many a week, my friend, take my word for it. You'll have to come. I tell you we expect to be attacked in Buluwayo itself."

"Then maybe we are as safe here as there," said poor Gerston, feeling that his argument was untenable, and that he must indeed, as Bromley said, leave all and retire with these good fellows to the capital. His house and farm, his furniture and goods, valued English things, which had come so far and cost so much, and which represented, in fact, his all—it was hard indeed to surrender them; but the lives of his wife and children[263] were dearer still, and must be saved at all costs, and he knew it, though in argument he fought awhile against the inevitable.

So poor Gerston collected his money and his papers, set his live-stock free to roam where they would, until the "Matabele thieves" should find and appropriate them, and set out for Buluwayo, in which growing city he was obliged perforce to remain until the native disturbance, which developed practically into a small war, was quelled.

Afterwards, as soon as he could do so safely, he lost no time in riding over with Bruce to the place where, until those evil days, had stood the homestead, with its farm-buildings and comfortable, though simply built, house and adequate cowsheds and stables. But alas! he found no trace of the home in which he had taken so great a pride and delight, excepting, indeed, sundry heaps of ashes and bits of blackened wood and twisted iron. Gerston stood and surveyed the scene of ruin and desolation. His heart felt very heavy, though he had scarcely expected to find any more favourable a state of affairs than this.

"I thought so, Bruce," he muttered; "we are ruined, my lad, through no fault of ours. We shall have to begin life over again. It is hard, but we will do it; the land is ours, but our capital has gone."

"We can have a try for Uncle Ben's gold, father," said Bruce unexpectedly. "Let you and I ride up north to the place shown in his map; mother and Kittie are all safe in Buluwayo. It's worth trying. He seemed very serious about his gold."

Gerston reflected. "I don't much believe in Rhodesian gold," he said; "but if your heart is set upon it, we may as well go. Meanwhile the authorities can be deciding what compensation is to be given to poor chaps who are ruined by their mismanagement of the natives."


So up northward went father and son, the latter full of sanguine hope, the former depressed and gloomy, having little belief in his lucky star, which seemed to have set so completely that it would never rise again. To the village called Umdhana they went, and there, using the old man's map, they searched far and wide for the old deserted gold shaft which, according to his scribbled directions, existed in this place, four miles from the village, at a spot designated in his rough plan. It was a wild-looking spot. Rank vegetation grew high and dense on every side, rendering the search for any object, especially when its location, within a few hundred yards, was uncertain, very difficult and discouraging.

For two days Bruce and his father wandered dejectedly about the veldt, hoping against hope that in the end they would stumble upon the old native crushing stones and the remains of the furnace which Uncle Ben's notes declared to be still in existence, and marking the very spot where, at a distant date, some enterprising Matabele fellow had endeavoured to exploit a vein of the precious metal, leaving it scarcely touched.

After two days of failure Gerston was tired of the search. He disbelieved in this gold mine. It existed, he said, only in the brain of a half-crazy old man, who imagined he had found what never actually existed. "We shall employ our time better, sonnie, felling trees at home, and building a new house where our poor old shanty stood."

"Perhaps, father!" Bruce sadly assented. He would much rather have stayed another day or two, being young and sanguine. "But I don't think Uncle Ben was even a bit crazy. We can't go on looking for ever, though." Bruce was angry and depressed. A vulture sat blinking upon a rock close by, and the lad picked up a stone to throw at the evil-looking creature, by way of working off his disappointment and chagrin.


He picked up his stone to throw it, but the vulture noticed his movement and heavily took wing. Bruce remained with the stone in his hand; it was a curious-looking stone, and he first glanced and then gazed carefully at it.

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

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

"Father," he said presently, "look at this; is it anything particular—I mean, is it, could it possibly be—" Bruce's face had gone red with a certain wild idea that suddenly entered his brain; his voice sounded dry and curious.

Gerston took the stone and looked carefully at it. "By all that's happy and wonderful, Bruce," he exclaimed, "I do believe it's a nugget."

A nugget it was; and though the old disused gold mine, which they presently found close to this very spot, proved, like most of the Rhodesian gold veins, somewhat disappointing, yet it yielded, together with Bruce's nugget, more than sufficient to enable Gerston to rebuild his house and farm buildings, and to stock and furnish both in a manner quite superior to their former style.

And when the Company "came down handsome" with a good sum for compensation, Gerston felt that things were rosy indeed, and that when young Bruce made friends one memorable afternoon with poor old Uncle Ben he had indeed been, little as he expected it, "in luck's way."

As for Uncle Ben's baccy pouch and the untidy hieroglyphic which did duty for a map or a plan, they are Bruce's very most treasured possessions. He would not part with them for the wealth of the Transvaal!




I was within a few days of reaching my twenty-third birthday when it was my fortune to secure a berth as only mate aboard a very smart and handsome little brig of two hundred and sixty-five tons, named the Lancashire Witch, hailing out of Liverpool, and bound from that port to Kingston, Jamaica, with a cargo of sugar-mill machinery and Manchester goods.

We sailed on the twenty-eighth of January 18—, with a piping north-easter blowing over our taffrail that swept us right away from the Bar Lightship into the north-east trades without obliging us to start tack or sheet, brace or halliard, from the moment when our "old man" took his departure from the Saltees light. The trade-winds were blowing fresh too, so that we made a phenomenally quick but otherwise uneventful run across the Atlantic until we arrived within some three hundred miles of the Turks Islands, where the wind suddenly failed us, and we fell in with light, hazy, rainy weather, with occasional short spells of flat calm, and variable shifting airs that obliged us to take in all our studding-sails and jockey the little hooker along as best we could under all plain sail. It was tedious, irritating work, for there was so much box-hauling of the yards that the watch could find time for nothing but tending the braces, and all hands of us, fore and aft, were driven nearly frantic.

At length, on the fourth day of this kind of work, the sky gradually thickened up in the southern board, the sun[269] became a pallid, shapeless blotch of watery light in the heavens, and there were other signs that a change of weather was brewing. Yet there was nothing to indicate that the change was imminent; we therefore contented ourselves with the maintenance of a watchful eye upon the signs of the times, and left all our flying kites abroad, in order that we might derive the utmost possible advantage from the languid and scarcely perceptible breathings of the atmosphere that reached us we scarcely knew from where, so light and evanescent were they.

Thus matters went with us throughout the day, the aspect of the sky altering so subtly and gradually, that it was only at the change of the watches, after a four hours' spell below, that one was able to detect any very marked difference. When, however, I was called at eight bells of the afternoon watch I at once noted so pronounced an increase in the threatening aspect of the sky that I felt assured of the near approach of the impending change; and as the skipper did not seem disposed to take the initiative, I suggested that all hands should go to work at once to snug down the ship and prepare her for the coming conflict. Unfortunately, however, the "old man" did not take the same view of the matter that I did; he had been on deck the whole afternoon, and the menacing appearance that had at once impressed me had been occurring so gradually and subtly that he had scarcely noticed it; moreover, there was now a small, hot breeze coming up from the southward that was fanning the nimble little brig along at a speed of nearly four knots, and he was evidently disinclined to forego so great an advantage.

"Yes," he said, when I expressed the opinion that we should have an outburst before long, "it is coming, slowly but surely; but I don't think we shall have it for another hour or two. I don't notice much difference from what it was at noon, except that the sun has vanished, and[270] there is perhaps a little more movement in the muck overhead. I believe we may venture to hang on for another half-hour or so; we shall still have plenty of time to snug down before dark."

I felt rather doubtful of this; but the skipper was a dreadfully opinionated, obstinate man, and I knew that argument, or anything approaching it, would be worse than useless with him. I therefore made no reply, but walked to the skylight, and took a peep at the barometer that hung there. The mercury had fallen more than half an inch since I had last glanced at it just before going to my cabin after dinner.

"Well," inquired the skipper, as I turned away, "what does it say?"

"Twenty-eight, thirty-five," I replied.

"Ay," he remarked, "it is going down steadily; it will be a regular teaser when it comes."

Yet he did not—as I hoped he would—give the order to shorten sail, although the wind was now steadily freshening in puffs, while the sky to windward was darkening and growing ever more threatening of aspect even as one watched it. Meanwhile all hands were on deck, evidently standing by for a call, and casting increasingly anxious glances alternately aft and to windward.

At length one bell struck; and while the sound was still vibrating in the air, the skipper—his obstinate spirit perhaps satisfied now that he had held on for the half-hour he had mentioned—gave the order for all hands to shorten sail.

"Clew up and furl everything except the main-topsail, which you may close-reef, Mr. Burt," he said to me, "and let the hands look smart about it."

"Ay, ay, sir," I answered. Then to the men: "Let go the royal, top-gallant, and fore-topsail sheets and halliards; also your jib, staysail, and main-topsail halliards; man your clew-lines, bunt-lines, and down-hauls, and get[271] the canvas off her as quickly as you can. A couple of hands aloft each to the fore and main royals and roll them up, stowing the top-gallant sails and the main-royal and top-gallant staysails on your way down; and, hark ye, lads, see that you make a snug stow of it, so that nothing blows adrift by-and-by in the darkness, to give us trouble. Now bowse out the reef tackles of your main-topsail; and after you have done that, man your fore and main clew-garnets, and get the courses snugged well up to the yards. Hurrah, bullies, be as lively as you like; let us get the barkie snug while we have light enough to see what we are about!"

The men, who had evidently been impatiently awaiting these orders, sprang about the decks like wild-cats, letting go, clewing up, and hauling down fore and aft with frantic energy, yet working with the method of men who not only knew thoroughly what they were about, but were also perfectly aware of the vital importance of getting through their work in the shortest possible amount of time. In a few minutes, therefore, every sail was off the ship, except the main-topsail, and the hands were on the yards, rolling up the canvas as though for dear life, while the skipper held the wheel, and I dashed hither and thither, letting go this rope and dragging upon that, as called upon by the men aloft. Meanwhile, to facilitate the operation of reefing and furling, the brig was kept broad away, or very nearly dead before the wind.

Suddenly there arose a wild yell aloft of "Man overboard!" and glancing up from what I was about at the moment, I was just in time to catch a glimpse of the body of a man flashing downward—apparently from the larboard mainyard-arm—ere it vanished, with scarce a splash, into the leaden-hued water alongside.

Suddenly there was a wild yell aloft of "Man overboard!"

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

Quick as thought the skipper whipped out his knife, and cut adrift a life-buoy that hung over the port quarter, letting it drop into the water within a fathom or two of[272] where a small blot of foam marked the spot of the man's disappearance; while I, forgetful of everything else, sprang to the port-quarter boat, and slashed away with my knife at the gripes that held her. In another moment I was joined by two men from aloft who had come down by way of the backstays; and while the skipper jammed the wheel hard down and brought the brig to the wind, with the canvas that remained unfurled, slatting and thrashing as though it would jerk the sticks out of her, the three of us lowered the boat somehow, and tumbled over the side into her, unhooking the tackles, and getting handsomely away from the ship without a mishap, although it was by this time breezing up fresh, and the brig must have been going through it at a speed of fully six knots.

The two men who were with me threw out their[273] oars and got the boat's head round, while I, grasping the yoke-lines, stood up in the stern-sheets watching for the man. Presently I caught sight of him; but heavens! what a long distance he was away from us, half a mile at least, and dead to windward, with the breeze freshening every moment, and a nasty, short, choppy sea getting up that seemed to stop the boat dead every time that a wave struck her.

"Pull, men!" I exclaimed anxiously; "bend your backs to it and put her along, or we shall lose the poor fellow after all. By the way, who is he?"

"Sam Pilcher, sir," answered the fellow who was pulling stroke. "He was at the yard-arm, and we was rollin' up the mainsail. The sail was thrashin' about a goodish bit, and it must ha' jerked him off."

"Perhaps so," I agreed. But I did not pursue the conversation, for I was getting terribly anxious; I had lost sight of the man of whom we were in search, and feared that he had gone down; the sky was momentarily growing blacker and assuming a more threatening appearance to windward; the wind and the sea were rising like magic; and the brig was driving away to leeward like smoke from a galley funnel. The men, too, were glancing anxiously over their shoulders and dragging away at the heavy oars like demons; it was evident that they fully shared the uneasiness that had taken possession of me, and were longing to complete their task and get the boat's nose round pointing toward the brig.

"See anything of him, sir?" at length demanded the man who had previously spoken.

"Not just at this moment," answered I, "but I expect we shall find him hanging on to the life-buoy. Ay, there is the buoy," I continued, as the small white circle swung up on the breast of a sea, "and—yes—yes—there is the man clinging to it. Give way, bullies; another five minutes and we shall have him!"


The two men toiled at their oars with superhuman energy, their laboured breathing and the sweat that literally poured off them bearing eloquent witness to their exertions, while the boat "squashed" viciously into every sea that met her, flinging the spray right aft and drenching us to the skin; yet despite it all we seemed to make little or no headway, and when a full five minutes had sped we were still quite fifty fathoms away from the man. Then I suddenly lost sight of the poor fellow. He was clinging to the buoy when it sank behind the crest of an on-coming sea; but when the buoy swept into view again on the next slope it was empty.

At this trying moment the sky suddenly darkened into a deeper and more menacing gloom, and the next moment I saw a dense rain-squall sweeping along toward us. The men noticed it too, and one of them anxiously inquired—

"How fur is he off now, Mr. Burt? Is there any chance of our gettin' hold of him afore that squall strikes us?"

"If we don't I doubt it's all up with un, for I can't keep on at this here game much longer," muttered the other.

"Try another spurt, lads!" I exclaimed; "another dozen strokes will do it!"

My little crew responded gallantly to my adjuration; but in another moment the squall was upon us, the rain descending like a cataract, and in an instant everything beyond the length of the boat was hidden by the dense curtain of falling water.

The rain lasted for nearly ten minutes, beating the sea down until its surface was like oil, and the men availed themselves of the opportunity to get a little more way upon the boat; but presently I bade them cease pulling, feeling convinced that we must be quite close to the buoy, although I could see nothing of it. Then the rain suddenly ceased, and the wind with it, revealing the buoy right under the boat's bows; but, alas, the man was gone! We recovered[275] the buoy, and then all stood up to see if we could discover our missing shipmate, and presently we saw his cap floating some ten fathoms away; but the owner had vanished. We shouted several times, thinking that possibly the poor fellow might have been washed off the buoy, yet be still afloat somewhere not far distant, although undistinguishable in the rapidly deepening gloom; but no answer came. Then I suddenly bethought me that night and storm were together closing down upon us, and I turned to look for the brig. There she was, just distinguishable in the thickness to leeward, with far too much of her canvas still blowing loose from her yards and stays, and I turned suddenly sick with anxiety for our own fate as I noticed that she was nearly three miles away.

Meanwhile the two men who constituted my boat's crew had risen to their feet and were, like myself, peering anxiously hither and thither in the hope of discovering the missing man. Failing to find him, however, we again shouted, and then paused, fruitlessly listening for a reply.

It was while we were thus breathlessly listening that a faint, low, moaning wail gradually made itself audible, strengthening and deepening in tone even as we listened, until within the space of a few seconds the sound had resolved itself into the unmistakable piping of rapidly rising wind. Instinctively our glances went, with one accord, into the fast-deepening blackness that loured in the southern quarter, and as we looked I saw a long line of pallid white stretching along the horizon and sweeping toward us at terrific speed. At the same instant one of the men with me yelled—

"O my God! look to wind'ard, Mr. Burt! See that white squall comin' down upon us, sir! What had we better do? It's no good tryin' to fetch the brig; she's a good three mile away, and the wind'll be on us in another two minutes!"

"No, no," I answered; "we must weather it out as[276] best we can. Lay the two oars together and bend the end of the painter round the pair of them in the middle, then veer them away as a floating anchor to keep her head to wind. It is our only chance."

No sooner said than done; but not a moment too soon; we had barely time to complete even these brief and simple preparations when the gale swept down upon us with a screaming yell that was absolutely terrifying, and in an instant we were enveloped in a gloom that was not night, but that yet resembled it in so far that we could scarcely see each other, while the white water boiled in over both gunwales, and the air was thick with scud-water that lashed our faces and hands so cruelly that we could not face it, but were fain to crouch in the bottom of the boat and allow our arched shoulders to take the full brunt of the pelting. As to attempting to do anything for the preservation of the boat and our own lives, it was out of the question; the wind smote us with such merciless fury that it was positively difficult for us to breathe, and had we been foolish enough to endeavour to use an oar it would have been torn from our grasp in an instant. Fortunately for us no such effort was needed, our impromptu sea-anchor kept the boat's head to the wind, and although the foam and scud-water were gradually filling our little craft, the process was so slow that I was not very seriously alarmed at it, believing that the squall would be over before our danger from that source became imminent.

The first spite of the squall lasted about ten minutes, after which it moderated to the strength of a strong gale, when the sea at once began to rise, and very soon it was breaking over the boat so vindictively that it kept the three of us busy baling all the time, and even then it was with the utmost difficulty that we were able to keep her free. Meanwhile the night had fallen upon us, dark as the inside of a cavern, and as for the brig, we had seen nothing of her since the first outburst of the squall. We were drenched[277] to the skin, and were both hungry and thirsty, with not a drop of fresh water or the smallest fragment of anything eatable in the boat, and no prospect of obtaining either until we should be picked up. Our plight was therefore by no means an enviable one. The two men who constituted my crew presently began to discuss the probability of the brig returning in search of us; but I must say that, for my own part, I had very little hope of any such thing, and still less that, in the event of the skipper undertaking such a search, he would be successful. But I did not think he would make any such attempt; he would probably believe that the boat had been swamped and all hands of us drowned at the outburst of the squall, and being now short-handed, he would consequently deem it his duty to waste no time upon what he would regard as an utterly useless search, but to make the best of his way to his port of destination. The two others thought differently, and were so completely overwhelmed with consternation at the mere suggestion that their view might be a wrong one, that I did not further attempt to rob them of the small fragment of hope to which they so desperately clung. Besides, there was the possibility—just the bare possibility—that the dawn might prove their surmise to be correct.

In about two hours' time from the outburst of the squall the gale broke, and by midnight—as nearly as it was possible for us to guess at the time—the wind had dwindled away to a fresh breeze, while the sea had so far gone down that it no longer broke into the boat, which we were consequently now enabled to bale dry.

With all the skipper's faults he had his good points, and one of them—much more common nowadays than it was at the period of my adventure—was to keep every item of a boat's equipment in her; and the great importance and advantage of this was now very strongly brought home to us. For not only had we with us the full complement of oars, rowlocks, and other ordinary fittings, but[278] there was also the boat's mast and sails—a sprit mainsail and foresail—snugly enwrapped in a painted canvas case and securely lashed to the thwarts. The moment, therefore, that it was safe to do so, we had the means to make sail.

It would probably be about two bells in the morning watch when, having stepped the mast, we bore up under a double-reefed mainsail, and ran away to the northward in search of the brig, which we hoped to find some ten miles to leeward of us. An hour later a brightening of the sky along the eastern horizon heralded the dawn, and shortly afterward the sun rose brilliantly, flushing the sky around him with a thousand delicate, evanescent tints of pink and gold, the presage of a fine day.

We at once inaugurated a keen look-out for the brig, or some other craft—I was in no wise particular, so long as we were picked up; but when we had run an estimated distance of ten miles to leeward the horizon was still bare. Then came the question of what was the next thing to be done—whether we should continue to run to leeward in further search of the brig; whether we should remain where we were, in the hope that she would shortly heave into view in search of us; or whether we should haul up on a westerly course and endeavour to intercept her. The latter was my suggestion, founded upon the opinion I had formed that the skipper had probably given us up as lost; but the idea conveyed was so unwelcome to my companions that eventually we determined to heave to and remain where we were, that the brig might have every chance to find us if the skipper should undertake the search. Accordingly we hauled the foresheet over to windward, lashed the helm hard down, and stripped for a wash-down in sea-water while our clothes were drying in the sun. One of the seamen was for going overboard for a swim, but I dissuaded him; and it was probably fortunate for him that he listened to me, for while we were still engaged upon our ablutions two big sharks made their[279] appearance close alongside the boat, and began to circle round her with a persistency and deliberation that unpleasantly suggested the impression that they had come to stay.

Meanwhile, with the appearance of the sun the wind dropped fast, until by about eight o'clock it had died away to a flat calm, leaving the water oil-smooth everywhere, save where the fins of the persistent sharks cleft the surface into two thin, wedge-like ripples as they lazily cruised to and fro, never widening the space between them and the boat by more than half-a-dozen fathoms.

Eight o'clock! breakfast time! and here were we three unfortunate men, keenly hungry, and our throats parched with a rapidly increasing thirst that threatened to quickly become a torment, without the smallest morsel of bread or the merest sip of water to divide between us, and with no hope of getting any either so long as the calm lasted—unless, indeed, we could find a ship by searching for her. Obviously this was the only thing to be done; so, not without a muttered curse or two at the cruelty of fortune, we rolled up the sails, unstepped the mast, threw out the oars, and headed the boat to the northward, in which direction we thought the brig might possibly be found. And, as we pulled, the two sharks doggedly followed us, swimming side by side, with their snouts about a fathom astern of the aftermost edge of the rudder, which distance they maintained as truly as though they had been in tow.

Noon arrived and passed, finding us still with nothing in sight, ravenously hungry, and with our mouths slimy with a thirst so imperious that the man who was pulling the bow oar suddenly stooped over the side, scooped up a little salt water in his palm, and quickly drank it, exclaiming in answer to my warning cry—

"I was bound to do it, Mr. Burt, even if I has to suffer for it a'terwards. This here thirst is just maddenin'!"


"Ay, Joey, it is that," agreed the other man. "Have your sup o' salt water done yer any good, mate?"

"No, I don't know as it have, Ned; I didn't take enough of it for that," was the reply.

No more was said; but about half-an-hour afterwards "Joey" snatched another sip, despite everything I could say to dissuade him; and a little later his mate followed his example.

"It's no good talkin', Mr. Burt," he replied to my expostulations; "drinkin' salt water may perhaps make a man mad, but I shall pretty soon go mad if I don't drink something, so what's the odds? And where's the brig; what's the 'old man' up to with her? why ain't he lookin' for us? He ain't lookin' for us, that's sartin, or we should have hove the old hooker into view long afore this. Dash me if I don't begin to think as you're right, Mr. Burt, about his havin' give us up for lost, or else where is he? He ain't hereabouts nowheres, and so he must be headin' for his port, leavin' us here to die o' hunger and thirst! It's murder, that's what it is; downright murder, and nothin' else! What right have he to go and suppose that this here boat foundered in the squall and drownded us? And what are we to do now, 'bandoned out here in the Hatlantic with never a bite nor a sup to keep the life in us?"

"There is no doubt in my mind," I answered, "that our best plan will be to head to the south'ard and west'ard for the Caycos Passage, and so give ourselves a chance to be picked up by either an outward or a homeward bound ship, for we shall be running right into the track of both. It is, of course, most unfortunate that it has fallen calm with us, but I do not believe it will last long; and when once a breeze springs up a sail may heave into view at any moment and pick us up."

It was difficult to fully persuade these two untutored men of the uselessness of searching further for the brig;[281] but eventually I won them round to my view, and we at once hauled up on a south-west course—as nearly as we could hit it off by the sun—pulling hard until sunset, in the hope that the brig might be found in this new direction, for we were convinced that she must be at no great distance from us. But at sunset the horizon was still bare, and the disappointment was so bitter that we were unable to resist any longer the exhaustion that had been steadily growing upon us all day, so the oars were laid in, and with one consent the three of us flung ourselves down in the bottom of the boat, with the result that I instantly fell into a deep slumber.

I slept all through the night, but was awakened next morning, just as the day was dawning, by the man Ned, who, I found, was shaking me furiously by the shoulder as he shouted, in terrified accents—

"Mr. Burt, Mr. Burt, wake up, sir! Where's Joey, where's Joey? He ain't in the boat! Lord ha' mussy upon us! have he gone overboard, d'ye think, sir?"

I started to my feet, vaguely comprehending that something was wrong, but scarcely realising what it was. I found that there was a pleasant little breeze blowing from the north-east—that could only have sprung up very recently, from the look of the water, which was merely rippled, without any sea—and that poor Ned, gaunt and cadaverous of feature, with his deeply-sunken eyes glowing with the scorching fever of long-continued thirst, was glaring at me with an expression of terror that was near akin to madness.

"What is the matter, Ned? Why are you glaring at me like that, man? and what is it you are saying about Joey?" I stammered, in the confusion of a sudden and violent awakening out of a profound sleep.

"What am I sayin' about Joey?" reiterated the fellow. "Why, I am sayin', Mr. Burt, that he ain't in the boat, and where is he? what's happened to 'im?"


Then I fully realised, for the first time, that there were but two of us in the boat, and that the man known as Joey had vanished as completely as though he had never been, leaving no sign or indication of what had become of him. One thing was certain, he was not in the boat, and that fact meant that he had gone overboard. Involuntarily I glanced astern, as though expecting to see him swimming near us; but there was no sign of him. There was a horribly significant fact, however, that instantly caught my attention, and that was, that whereas yesterday there had been two sharks following us, there was now but one!

"Ned," said I, "what is the use of asking me what has become of Joey; how do I know? I have been asleep the whole night until now; and when we all stretched out together you know as well as I do that Joey was with us. How long have you been awake?"

"Not five minutes, Mr. Burt, sir," answered Ned. "I just woke up, looked round, saw that Joey wasn't in the boat, and then I called you, sir, right off the reel."

"Well," said I, "there can be no doubt whatever as to poor Joey's fate, although neither of us happened to witness it; he has gone overboard, most probably during a fit of madness induced by drinking salt water. Let his fate be a lesson to you not to indulge that fatal practice, however greatly you may be tempted. And now, since poor Joe is gone, and we can do nothing to help him, let us get the canvas on the boat and make the best of this fine fair wind."

Sail was made upon the boat, and we soon had the satisfaction of finding ourselves sliding along before the wind at a speed of between four and five knots. I took the yoke-lines, believing that I could steer a truer course than Ned, while he maintained a sharp look-out for a sail. Hour after hour dragged wearily by however, and still the ocean remained deserted, save for our own tiny sail; and meanwhile our hunger and thirst grew apace, until[283] there were times when my torment was so exquisitely keen that I felt sorely tempted to follow Joey's example, and end it all.

As for Ned, although the springing up of the fair wind seemed to hearten him up a bit at first, I noticed that, as the day wore on without result, despair was taking an ever stronger clutch upon him; and several times he cried out that it was all over with us, and we might as well give up, finishing off with a whole string of bitter curses upon the skipper and his shipmates for deserting him. It was curious to note the intense selfishness that misfortune had so quickly developed in the man; he spoke of the misfortune as his, not ours; and he execrated the captain and crew for deserting him, not us.

And so the day dragged wearily on, and night—cool, placid, and brilliant with the countless millions of stars that jewelled the sky—fell upon us, finding us still alone and unrescued. Ned, with the new-born selfishness bred in him by his sufferings, coiled himself away in the bows of the boat and fell asleep—or seemed to do so—as soon as it fell dark, without excuse, apology, or offer to relieve me at the yoke-lines, although I had been steering all day. He remained thus for about an hour and a half, betraying great restlessness, and then, rising to his feet, half stumbled, half crawled aft into the stern-sheets.

"I can't sleep, so I might as well give up trying," he muttered. "You give me the lines, and lie down yourself, Mr. Burt; maybe you'll be luckier than me, and get a bit of a nap."

"Thanks, Ned, I will," answered I; and without further ado I stretched myself at his feet in the bottom of the boat, and straightway fell asleep.

I do not think I could have slept, however, more than ten minutes when I suddenly found myself broad awake again, with every nerve a-tingle and every muscle braced, as though I had suddenly and without warning been brought face to[284] face with some awful, deadly peril. I opened my eyes, and the first object that met my sight was the star-glint upon the long blade of a sheath-knife which my companion was poising above my breast. Another second, and the blade flashed downward, my hand instinctively dashing upward to meet and ward off the blow, and the next instant Ned and I were fighting together for life, my antagonist being uppermost, while my right hand gripped his right wrist so powerfully that presently he dropped his knife with a cry, and flinging himself upon me, strove to seize my throat with his disengaged hand. In the struggle that ensued I somehow managed to scramble to my feet, despite the efforts of my antagonist to keep me down, and my next endeavour was to force Ned forward into the eyes of the boat, so that I might securely lash him with the painter until the frenzy that seemed to have suddenly seized him should have passed off. Then—God knows how it happened, I swear it was not intentional on my part—all in a moment Ned seemed to stumble or throw himself backwards over the gunwale of the boat, and before I could do anything to save him he was gone. Instantly there was a savage rush and a furious swirl in the water alongside, the boat was struck a violent blow beneath her water-line, and in the icy starlight I distinctly saw the white gleam of a shark's belly as he turned on his side to seize my unfortunate shipmate. Then came another momentary swirl of water, in the midst of which the monster—without doubt the same shark that had been following us so persistently—disappeared, dragging the unfortunate seaman with him; and there was I, sick and faint with horror, left alone in the wide waste of waters.

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

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

What happened to me immediately upon the occurrence of this dreadful tragedy I do not know; but when I came to myself I found that I had somehow made my way back into the stern-sheets of the boat, and that I was grasping the yoke-lines and the mainsheet, while—quite[285] unconsciously, and by instinct—I was keeping the little craft dead before the wind.

I have only a very confused impression of how I spent the remainder of that terrible night; I think that horror and privation combined must have made me delirious, for I have a vague recollection of having caught myself alternately crying, laughing, cursing, and singing; with the one fixed idea that the boat must be kept dead before the wind predominating over everything else. I remember also complaining bitterly, aloud, at the inordinate length of the night, and then being dully surprised at the reappearance of the sun.

With the return of daylight, however, I seemed to get better again, in so far as that my senses fully returned to[286] me; but the anguish I endured from hunger and thirst is not to be described in words. And still, look where I would, the horizon remained bare; it really seemed as though I had unaccountably drifted into some spot of ocean unknown to navigation, yet I knew that I was actually in a well-frequented highway.

Suddenly, when the sun was about two hours high, I caught sight of a small floating object almost directly ahead and at no great distance from the boat, and, curiosity prompting me, I shifted my helm for it. At first I could not guess what it was, but when within half-a-dozen fathoms of it I saw that it was a small turtle, asleep. With infinite caution I steered the boat so as to pass it within arm's reach, and as I ranged up alongside I was fortunate enough to seize it by a fin, whereby I was enabled to lift it into the boat. The creature probably weighed about six pounds, but in my exhausted condition it taxed my strength to the utmost to secure it. No sooner was it in the boat, however, than I cut off its head with Ned's knife, and drank the blood, which restored me in a truly marvellous manner; then, with a lavish expenditure of time and trouble, I at length contrived to get the shells apart and to make a sparing meal of the raw flesh. Doubtless it was a sufficiently disgusting repast, but in my famished condition it seemed that I had never in all my life tasted anything half so delicious. Toward evening I devoured the remainder of the flesh, despite the fact that it had already grown perceptibly putrid; and then I must have fallen asleep, and slept soundly throughout the night, for when consciousness returned I was astonished to find that the day was breaking.

My good fortune of the previous day led me now to maintain a bright look-out for turtles as well as ships; but the day proved a blank in regard to both, as did the next day also, by the evening of which I seemed to be in as pitiable a condition as though I had never caught a[287] turtle at all. Then ensued a period of steadily increasing torment, that at length so far robbed me of reason that I lost all count of time, day and night becoming simply alternate eternities of indescribable anguish. Whether I instinctively retained control of the boat, or whether I allowed her to drift along at her own sweet will, I shall never know; but my next recollection is of awaking out of a kind of stupor to see—in a hazy, uncertain, dreamlike manner—a blotch of greyish-green upon the horizon ahead, to which I at first attached no significance, but which as the boat gradually neared it, impressed itself at length upon my semi-paralysed consciousness as land. Yet even when I comprehended thus much I still failed to realise the tremendous importance of my discovery, and I can only attribute it to instinct rather than reason that I took the boat round to the lee side of the island before beaching her. But when, as I rounded the low point and hauled up to the wind, I caught my first whiff of the land and what was growing upon it, my senses seemed to revive, and I looked about me, with a glimmer of returning intelligence, for a suitable spot at which to land.

And, as I looked, the gleam and sparkle of water trickling down the beach caught my eye; and instantly I seemed to go quite mad with joy, springing to my feet and laughing, shouting, singing, crying, dancing, and, in short, behaving like the demented being that I was. I headed the boat straight for that particular spot, and as she grounded I fell headlong overboard and crawled upon hands and knees through the shallow water and up the beach until I reached the tiny rivulet, into which I at once plunged my face.

Oh, the exquisite, indescribable delight and enjoyment of that first drink! I shall never forget it! Since then I have tasted the choicest vintages, and have partaken of beverages cunningly compounded to afford the utmost gratification to the palate, but never have I tasted anything[288] half so inexpressibly delicious as that draught of pure spring water! I fortunately had sense enough to drink very slowly and sparingly, and thus escaped the ill effects that would undoubtedly have otherwise ensued; and my next business was to look for something to eat. This presented itself in the form of a quantity of shell-fish, which I gathered without difficulty along the water's edge, and roasted in a fire kindled with the assistance of my flint and steel.

The absolute ease with which I had thus at once obtained food and water assured me that I need have no apprehension upon that score; and, with my mind thus relieved, I flung myself down upon the hot, dry sand, under the protecting shadow of an overhanging bush, and at once fell into a profound sleep.

It was within about an hour of sunset when I awoke, greatly refreshed, but with a ravenous appetite; and I had just time to procure, prepare, and consume another meal of roast shell-fish, and to take a long, satisfying draught of water, when night fell, and I again flung myself upon the sand, where I had previously rested, to sleep soundly until morning.

My first care when I awoke next morning was to find a spot where I might bathe without fear of sharks; and this was discovered at no great distance, in a large rock pool, deep enough to allow of my swimming in it. Greatly refreshed by my dip, I next set about providing breakfast; and when I had at length satisfied my appetite, I deemed it advisable to effect a thorough exploration of my island kingdom. My territory was of so limited an extent that this exploration was effectually accomplished by noon; the islet being of the kind known in the West Indies as a "Kay," with nothing very remarkable about it, except that in one part it rose to a height of about one hundred feet, and was covered with vegetation right down to high-water mark. These islets are frequently low; and[289] I considered myself fortunate in having come ashore upon one of some height, as I should thus be afforded an exceptional opportunity to survey the ocean and maintain a look-out for passing vessels.

I thought I could not better employ the afternoon than in ascending to the summit of this hill; and accordingly, as soon as I had provided and partaken of another meal, I started out from my "camp" with this intention. The ground was so densely overgrown everywhere that there appeared to be but scant choice as to route; I therefore plunged straight into the bush and began to force my way upward as well as I could, and a very hot and fatiguing task I found it. I made fairly good progress, however, for about half-an-hour; and then suddenly, and without any warning, I found myself sinking downward through a dense carpet of creepers, and before I could do anything to save myself, down I went, a distance of perhaps twenty feet, falling so heavily that I was stunned for several minutes, and when I revived I found that my head was cut and bleeding.

I was in profound darkness; but after sitting quietly for a time to recover my scattered senses I became conscious of a very faint and feeble glimmer of light, following which I eventually came to a mass of broken and fallen rock, through which the light filtered, and by working at this diligently for something like two hours I at length succeeded in removing enough to enable me to creep into the open air once more, when I found myself upon the weather side of the island, at the base of a low, crumbling, rocky cliff. I carefully noted the spot, determining to return on the morrow with torches to explore the cavern thus strangely discovered, and then made the best of my way back to my camp.

On the following morning I carried out my resolution, finding—as my experiences of the previous day had led me to suppose—that the cavern was of considerable[290] extent; but I met with nothing remarkable until I reached its farther extremity—close to the spot where I had fallen through—when I suddenly came upon several skeletons, clad in the ragged remains of what had once been clothing, and girt with leather belts, to which were buckled old-fashioned, rusty hangers, and into which, in most cases, were thrust one or a pair of rusty flintlock pistols. Moreover, several of these grisly relics of humanity grasped long, dagger-shaped knives or pistols in their bony hands; and after surveying their attitude and general grouping for some time, it gradually dawned upon me that I was gazing upon the result of a savage and protracted fight! Indeed, it looked as though a fierce and deadly quarrel had arisen over a gambling transaction of some sort, for a closer scrutiny revealed the fact that the sandy floor was strewn with gold and silver coins, which I subsequently discovered were Spanish.

My first impulse was to beat a precipitate retreat; my second to still further investigate. The second impulse prevailed; and richly was I rewarded, for right at the far extremity of the cavern I came upon a number of massive chests, which, upon breaking them open, I found to contain gold in coin, bars, and cups, vases, candlesticks, crosses, and other products of the goldsmith's art, all the articles being of most beautiful and elaborate workmanship, while many of them were thickly encrusted with gems that, to my inexperienced eye, seemed to be of almost fabulous value! There was no doubt about it, I had literally fallen upon one of those pirate hoards that one so often reads about but so very seldom discovers. Having completed my survey, I filled my pockets with gold coin, and returned to my camp to think matters over, taking care to block and conceal the entrance to the cave behind me.

"I met with nothing remarkable until I reached its further extremity."

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

My discovery had not robbed me of all appetite, and as I returned I industriously gathered shell-fish for my[293] dinner. It was while thus employed that, happening to instinctively glance at the horizon, as I repeatedly did, my gaze met the white upper canvas of a ship just showing above the ocean's edge. For a full quarter of an hour I watched her, at the end of which time it became evident that she would pass my island at a distance of some ten or twelve miles. In an instant my resolution was taken; and forgetting all about dinner, I dashed at full speed for my boat, flung myself into her, and pushed off to intercept the stranger. The course that she was steering favoured me; and at eight bells that afternoon I was standing on the deck of the barque British Queen, telling my story—except that part relating to the treasure, which I kept most religiously to myself. The British Queen happened to be bound to Kingston, and four days later I landed upon the wharf there, having meanwhile ascertained that my island was that known as Samana Kay. The Lancashire Witch had not arrived, nor was she ever afterwards heard of, the inference being that she had foundered in the squall which was the beginning of my adventure.

My first anxiety now was to convert my Spanish coin into British currency; and this, by the exercise of considerable patience and caution, I contrived to accomplish in about a week, without arousing any suspicion, so far as I was aware; the result being that I found myself the possessor of one hundred and twenty pounds sterling, which I have since had reason to believe was rather less than half what I ought to have received. With this sum, however, I had no difficulty in chartering and fitting out a stout little falucha of some forty tons, manned by four negroes—one of whom was her owner—in which, about a fortnight after my arrival in Kingston, I sailed for Samana Kay.

It took us eight days to reach the Kay, under the lee of which the falucha came to an anchor; and I lost no time in making my way to the cavern. I was terribly[294] afraid that—although it had evidently remained undiscovered for so many years—somebody might have found it and carried off the treasure during my absence; but no, everything was still there, just as I had left it; and little by little I conveyed the whole aboard the falucha and stowed it away in the stout cases I had provided, the negro crew taking no notice of me; indeed, when they were informed that I did not require their assistance, they needed no further encouragement to sleep all day. The labour of transferring the whole of the treasure to the falucha kept me busy for a trifle over three weeks; but I did not grudge it, for when at length we weighed for Kingston, with the whole of it in the falucha's hold, I considered that I was not far short of being a millionaire!

That same night—or, rather, during the small hours of the following morning—while I was vainly striving to sleep in the small, hot, cockroach-haunted cabin of the falucha, a terrific hubbub and shouting suddenly arose on deck, and as I leapt out of my bunk to ascertain the cause of the outcry, the little hooker staggered and reeled almost to her beam-ends under a violent blow, accompanied by the sounds of crashing and rending timber, and the loud inrush of a large volume of water. There was no need, now, for investigation; we had been run down; and, feeling that the falucha was rapidly sinking beneath my feet, I made a spring for the companion-ladder, and somehow contrived to claw my way on deck. While I was doing this the shouting on deck suddenly ceased, and as I emerged from the companion-way I was just in time to see the dark bulk of a large ship sliding rapidly away on a taut bowline. I shouted loudly for help, but the craft was already some fifty fathoms to windward, and my shouting evoked no reply. And while I had my hands to my mouth, and was taking breath for another hail, the falucha quietly cocked up her stern and plunged to the bottom, bows foremost, taking all my treasure with her,[295] and dragging me down for a considerable distance after her. At length, however, all but suffocated, I rose to the surface again, and found floating quite close to me the falucha's mast, with the yard and sail attached, and to this I held on until close upon noon next day, when the British ship Duchess of Devonshire, homeward bound, picked me up. Six weeks later I stepped ashore on the wharf of London Dock, with two pounds in my pockets, the joint contribution of the skipper and mates of the Duchess of Devonshire, and with the clothes I stood up in.




Author of "Roger the Ranger," "A New England Raid," &c. &c.


"H urrah! you are a brick, Frank!" and Gilbert Lindsay sprang across the room and came down with an energetic thud on his brother's shoulder. "Gently," said the young man, "no need to damage me by way of gratitude. I'm just as pleased as you are, lad."

"When shall we start?" asked Gilbert cheerily.

"As soon as we can get our outfit," said Frank, "and we will set about that to-day. I'm off to the city; you had better come with me."

So the two brothers started together in good spirits. Frank Lindsay was considerably relieved by the fact that he was not to be separated from Gilbert, his mother's last charge to him. He was himself only five-and-twenty, had been educated as an engineer, and was already noted as a man of promise. This had resulted in an offer of an appointment as chief engineer to the Ganges Coal mine, in the Damuda district of Bengal. He had, however, hesitated to accept what most men would have jumped at, as it meant separation from Gilbert, who was at an age when a boy needs either a father or brother's control. Gilbert was sixteen, still at school, with no home where he could spend his vacations, for the two brothers[297] were virtually alone in the world. Frank had therefore almost decided to make the sacrifice and throw the appointment over, when Gilbert said carelessly—

"Why not take me with you? I mean to be an engineer like yourself, and I might just as well begin my apprenticeship with you as go on grinding at school."

Frank said nothing at the time, but the next day he spoke to Mr. Jacob, one of the managers of the Company, who, having boys of his own, understood Frank's scruples. He therefore facilitated matters, and it was settled that Gilbert should accompany his brother to India as an articled pupil, and, as soon as he was of definite use, to receive suitable remuneration.

It was with a certain sense of elation that Gilbert bade his masters and schoolfellows farewell. Going to India was a step in life; he felt no longer a schoolboy, but a man.

"You'll be tiger and leopard hunting whilst we're grinding away at Homer and Virgil, scanning verses and all that rot," said his especial chum Harry Marsden, as they strolled round the old playground together for the last time.

"You shall have my first skin, Harry," answered Gilbert with magnanimous generosity.

"Thanks," answered Harry; but the prospect did not console him for the loss of his friend.

Both Frank and Gilbert soon found their sea-legs, and after the first few days thoroughly enjoyed the voyage.

On reaching Calcutta Frank found a telegram awaiting him, requesting him to use all possible despatch to reach the mines.

Upon inquiry he found there was a train leaving Calcutta at nine o'clock for Giridhi, the terminus of the East Indian Railway branch line running up to the Ganges[298] Coal-mines. He decided, therefore, to start that same night, by which means they would reach their destination the following morning about six o'clock, and arrive at the mines a couple of hours later.

"We've the whole day before us," said Frank, "so I think I'll hunt up my old friend Fergusson; he's in the police; and I'm pretty sure he's in Calcutta at the present time. I've got his address somewhere."

He looked in his pocket-book, where he found it, and calling a ghari, drove to Circular Road. Fergusson was delighted to see them; but when he heard where they were bound for, he burst out laughing and exclaimed: "Well, you're going into a nice hornet's nest, a district which is giving Government at this moment more trouble than any in the Presidency!"

"Indeed," said Frank, "and why?"

"It's overrun with Dacoits," answered Fergusson. "At their head they have a notorious rascal, named Hari Rām. Rumour runs that he is a sort of Robin Hood. He plunders the rich, and shares his booty with the poor, who consequently protect him in such a fashion that we cannot lay our hands on him; he just slips through our fingers. He politely declares he will do the English no harm, and so far he has kept his word. I have not heard of a single case of an Englishman being attacked; but the native merchants are having a bad time of it. He waylays their carts, carries off their bullocks, and robs them of their cotton, or cocoons, as the case may be. Not a day passes but what we have reports of Hari Rām's misdoings."

"Rather a bad look-out," said Frank. "It seems absurd that the Government cannot lay hands on him."

"It won't seem so absurd to you when you know the country better," answered Fergusson, "especially the native class; but, of course, it must be put a stop to. Caught he must be, and punished pretty severely, or the country[299] won't long be habitable; in its present state it's wholly unsafe."

Gilbert had listened to this conversation with considerable zest. He had not imagined there could be anything so delightful as Robin Hoods in India. Tigers and leopards he was prepared for, but to chase a real live robber was an adventure beyond his wildest imaginings.

"What do you call these robbers, sir?" he asked.

"Dacoits," answered Fergusson. "Are you inclined to give this one a chase?" he said with a smile. "I think you'll find him too tough for you. He's up, they say, to every imaginable dodge; no one can get near his hiding-place. Government is thinking of offering a reward for his capture; but I doubt if even that will have the least effect in his case. If he makes a haul he shares it with his fellows, so they have nothing to gain, indeed much to lose, by his capture."

"It would be decidedly mean of them," exclaimed Gilbert indignantly.

"That's of no account," said Fergusson, laughing. "An Indian's standard is considerably below par; as a rule, he will do anything for money. But now I must show you Calcutta."

It was already late in the afternoon and the heat had somewhat subsided, so ordering his ghari, he drove them to Garden Reach, and altogether entertained them with Anglo-Indian hospitality. In due time he accompanied them to the station at Hooghly to meet the nine o'clock express. So they parted with mutual satisfaction, and the hope of meeting at some future time. It was scarcely six o'clock when the Lindsays reached Giridhi, a most desolate sort of terminus. Frank was beginning to wonder how he should get to his destination, when a native came up and salaamed to him, talking rapidly. Being perfectly unacquainted with Hindustanee, Frank failed to understand a word he said, and only caught the repeated title "Sahib."


"What does the fellow want?" he asked, turning to one of the railway officials for explanation.

"He says he has been sent to meet you, sir, with a shari and ponies, and they are waiting outside the station; the ponies are very impatient."

"What about our luggage?" asked Frank.

"Coolies will carry it for you. You had better start without delay."

Following this advice, the two brothers signed to the chaprassi, and pointed out the different packages on the platform as being their possessions, to all of which the man acquiesced by salaaming, which amused Gilbert considerably.

On leaving the station they saw a small vehicle on high wheels, which rolled from side to side according as the prancing and kicking of the ponies jerked it first one way, then the other. The two young men looked at it curiously, questioning in their own minds how they were even so much as to get into it.

"Well!" said Gilbert, "if we're not thrown out of this concern before we've travelled a quarter of a mile we may think ourselves lucky."

"It does seem risky," said Frank; "but I suppose it's all right."

The syce had already sprung into his seat. There was much noise and screaming, and tramping of ponies' feet, but somehow Frank and Gilbert, being agile, managed to scramble into the vehicle. Then the ponies' heads were let loose and the animals dashed off, obliging the occupants to hold tight to the sides for fear of being thrown out. After a short time, however, they settled down, and became aware that though the mode of locomotion was intensely uncomfortable, it was by no means so dangerous as it seemed.

The country through which they passed was perfectly wild; there was indeed no main road, only what the[301] natives call a chachha road, which means a rough, unmade path.

After a short time the conveyance drew up before a bungalow, and the syce sprang to the ground.

"I suppose this is our destination," said Frank, and forthwith he and Gilbert swung themselves out of their rickety chariot with a certain thankful feeling at finding themselves once more on terra firma.

"Mr. Lindsay," said an English voice, and looking round, Frank recognised a fellow-countryman.

"I'm afraid you've had rather a bad time of it," the speaker continued.

"Oh! not at all," answered Frank, "it is a mere matter of habit; after the first we stuck on pretty firmly and felt no further alarm."

"Wretched concern," said their new acquaintance, "but I thought it better than a palki; at least it was quicker, and we want you badly. I must introduce myself—James Dickson, overseer," and he held out his hand, which both Frank and Gilbert shook heartily.

"I got a fright yesterday," continued Dickson; "we had a sort of slip in the mine and the machinery seemed to give way. But it's a shame to talk business after your journey, before you have had a bath and got some refreshment. Here, you fellows, show the sahibs to their rooms and see that the baths are ready, then we'll breakfast."

"We shall certainly be glad of both," said Frank; "but at the same time, if you consider my presence at the mine necessary, I'm quite ready to accompany you there at once."

"When you have had your baths and changed your clothes you will find me on the verandah," said Dickson. "We will breakfast and talk business at the same time; there are a few things I should like to explain to you before you go to the mines."

"Very good," said Frank, "we will not keep you waiting long."



The next few days Gilbert found himself cast on his own resources, for the condition of the mine was such as to require Frank's uninterrupted attention, and the lad, of course, could be of no use; the mere fact of seeing after him would have been a hindrance. The exploits of Hari Rām still retained their charm for him; he was never tired of talking of him, and he went about with the police officer gathering information as to the man's doings, to the great amusement of the station.

Scarcely a day passed but complaints were brought of robberies committed in the district by Hari Rām's gang. The authorities seemed perfectly incapable of tackling these men. They were utterly fearless, and roved about with impunity. In appearance and dress—if a dhoti[8] can be dignified by that name—they were just like the ordinary native, so it was difficult to identify them....

"Gilbert Lindsay!"

The lad started up in bed, and by the light of the moon saw Jenkins, the police superintendent, standing in the doorway.

"We've had a notice," he said, "and we're off, if you like to come with us."

"Rather!" answered Gilbert.

"Then hurry up," said Jenkins, "there's no time to be lost."

Gilbert needed no second bidding, slipped into his clothes, saying as he passed Frank's door—

"I'm off with Jenkins, Frank."

"Keep out of mischief," called out the elder brother.

"All right," answered Gilbert, and he joined the officer on the verandah.

A tumtum was waiting to take them to the neighbouring[303] station some miles off, from whence news had been received that a native merchant's house had been despoiled; it was believed the robbers were still lurking about in hiding. Superintendent Jenkins was in high spirits, for a runner had brought the news, so no time had been lost.

"We must nab some of them this time!" he said cheerily. "I wanted a clue to their whereabouts; now I've got it, and need only follow it up."

It was midnight when they started, and they were more than half-way to their destination, driving at a good pace through the jungle, when suddenly two naked figures leaped out from behind a group of trees, and springing at the horse's head, caused it to rear and prance, so as to endanger the safety of the occupants of the tumtum.

The superintendent stood up, pistol in hand, shouting—

"Let go, you rascals, or I'll fire!" and suiting the action to the word, he cocked his pistol and fired at the foremost figure. The shot missed, and almost instantaneously he perceived that the horse was loose—he guessed at once that the traces must have been cut; the tumtum swerved and turned on its side, depositing the superintendent on the road.

Like lightning the thought crossed Gilbert's mind—

"They want to prevent our reaching the village. If only I could checkmate them!"

With that he started at a quick run, trusting that in the still dim light he might escape observation. He had often won pretty stiff races at school, but he was out of training now, and had hardly covered half a mile when he heard the swift sound of naked feet gaining upon him. Still he would not give in. He knew, from having driven over the ground before, that he was on the road to a tea-planter's bungalow. If he could only reach that he could give the alarm; but the hope was soon squashed. He felt himself caught in a vigorous pair of arms.


"Now, young sahib, lie still; no harm happen to you. Hari Rām never hurt sahibs, only they must not stop his way or hinder his work."

"So you are Hari Rām, the great Dacoit?" said Gilbert. "I'm delighted to see you; at the same time I would rather you hadn't upset the tumtum and perhaps killed my friend. What are you going to do with me, may I ask?"

"Keep you quiet till evening; it is not good for sahibs to be out in the heat; then I'll put you on your way back to the mines. I mean you no harm. You wanted to catch the men who took some of the mahajan's[9] money, only a little, and they gave half to the poor; now I have stopped you doing so. These mahajans are bigger thieves than we are, and make the poor suffer; it is the will of Eshwar that they should be punished." Gilbert could just see that he was a tall muscular man with handsome features, the bold black eyes shining under his white turban; he was quite naked save for the dhoti, and his dark mahogany skin shone, from the frequent application of oil, like a well-polished piece of furniture. He stood Gilbert's scrutinising examination with perfect good-humour.

"You'll know me when you next see me," he said.

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

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

"Yes, I should know you anywhere," answered Gilbert.

Just at that moment they heard the clatter of horses' feet.

"It's the Miss Sahiba!" said Hari Rām, and instantly bolted. Turning round, Gilbert saw a girl coming quickly over the brushwood, mounted on a splendid horse and followed by a syce.

"This is luck!" thought Gilbert. The rider saw him, and checked her horse, asking—

"Has anything happened? It's unusual for an[305] Englishman to be alone in the jungle at this time in the morning."

Rapidly Gilbert recounted what had taken place. The girl listened attentively.

"Then you don't know what has become of your friend?" she said.

"Only that he was knocked over," said Gilbert.

"And you have been quietly entertaining Hari Rām?" she continued with a smile.

"Yes," said Gilbert; "but I am sorry to say he has[306] escaped. He was going to take me with him, but you startled the hare, and he was off like a shot."

"Oh! he always is," answered the girl. "But now we had better see after your friend. How far do you suppose he is from here?"

"Not half a mile," answered Gilbert. "If you will ride forward I will follow."

All this has been long to tell, but had really occupied but a short time. When Gilbert and the girl reached the spot where the attack had been made, they found the driver had secured the horse, but could not proceed because of the damage the tumtum had sustained; also Superintendent Jenkins had been considerably injured. He had fallen on his head and his face was badly cut about, but he was conscious.

When Jenkins saw Gilbert returning with a companion he was greatly relieved, and called out—

"Well, youngster, you've managed at least to fall on your feet."

"By a mere fluke," said Gilbert. "What shall we do now?"

"Do!" exclaimed the superintendent. "We're within a few miles of Pokharia, and if you hurry up you'll be there in no time. Let the police know what's happened, and that the rascal is on the loose somewhere in the neighbourhood; tell them to turn out as many men as they can and beat the jungle. Off with you, there's no time to lose!"

"All right," said Gilbert, and he prepared to go.

"I'll turn back with you to my father's house," said the girl; "it lies on your way." Then bending down to Jenkins she added, "We will send a palki as quickly as possible for you; it will not be long;" and therewith she and Gilbert went off.

"It's just as well you're not alone," she said, "as Hari Rām might pounce on you again to prevent your[307] getting on; he may be watching us now, so we'll take a cross road. I always ride the first thing in the morning," she continued, "the earlier the better; it's fortunate for you I started to-day even earlier than usual."

"It most certainly is," said Gilbert. "A minute later and I should have been far away in the jungle. I wonder where Hari Rām puts up."

"Anywhere and everywhere," answered his companion. "You're lucky to have seen him. I wish I had. He's an awfully fine fellow, you know, if he weren't a Dacoit. Other people may hear of his misdoings, but there's not a day passes but I hear of his kindnesses to his fellow-countrymen, and the natives worship the ground he treads on. We shall never catch him, and if the truth's told, I don't want him to be caught."

"Rank treason," said Gilbert laughing.

"There's our bungalow," said the girl, pointing to an unusually large thatched building, just distinguishable through the trees.

The syce had run all the way back, and told his master that some Englishmen had been attacked by the Dacoits, and that a young sahib had only just escaped being carried away by Hari Rām himself. Mr. Macgregor was on the point of starting to see what had happened when the two young people entered the compound.

"Hullo, Vansie, what's up?" he called out. "Is this the young man who was beset by the Dacoits?"

"Yes, father," said Vansie, springing lightly to the ground. "He's all right, but there's a smashed-up tumtum, and the police superintendent badly hurt. You must send for him at once."

The Scotchman whistled.

"I wonder what the Government is about, to let this thing go on?"

"It's a shameful state of affairs! a perfect disgrace!" said Mr. Macgregor indignantly. "Walk in, sir," and he[308] was leading the way into the bungalow, when his daughter interfered, saying—

"Father, you must send a palki off at once."

"Allah Baksh," called out Mr. Macgregor, "see that two palkis and bearers are got ready sharp. Tell Miss Sahiba's syce to go with you, he knows the place."

"If you will excuse me," said Gilbert, "I'll go on to Pokharia without delay. It is important that the people there should know we were coming with help, and how we have been stopped."

"Of course it is," said Mr. Macgregor, "but you cannot go alone. As soon as we've had breakfast, I'll go with you."

Though loth to delay, Gilbert could not very well refuse. It was still quite early, and it would not take more than half-an-hour to reach Pokharia. The khansamah was already laying the table on the verandah, and preparing chottâ hazari.[10] Mr. Macgregor was impatient, for he was very angry. These continual raids of the Dacoits, though they did not personally attack him, kept the whole country in a state of turmoil. He was a large tea-planter, a widower, and Vansie, the girl we have just introduced to our readers, was his only child. She was tall and lithe, only sixteen years of age, and yet she was a perfect woman, with a delicate olive complexion, of that peculiar whiteness consequent upon the climate. Her features were straight and delicate, the lips well cut and marvellously red; her eyes were dark, with a certain languor in them, made more so by the long curled eyelashes, and delicately-pencilled eyebrows. Gilbert thought he had never seen anything so beautiful.

"Why do you go to Pokharia; the men are sure to have escaped, and we know Hari Rām is far away by this time," she said to her father.

"That's not so certain," he answered; "he's pretty[309] daring, and is as likely as not to remain in the neighbourhood out of bravado."

Vansie pouted.

"Well, I think it's a horrid thing to be chasing a man who, after all, does us no harm."

"Do you call it doing no harm attacking the superintendent?" said her father. "Nonsense, Vansie; it's ridiculous for you to stand up for a thief and a robber!"

The girl moved away from the table, with a smile on her lips.

"Well, one thing is certain: you're not likely to catch him," she said. "I'll go and order the rooms to be got ready for the gentleman," and nodding to Gilbert as if they were old friends, she entered the house.

At that moment the horses came round.

"If you're ready we'll start at once," said Mr. Macgregor. "But you have not yet told me your name."

"Gilbert Lindsay. I'm brother to the new engineer of the Ganges mines."

"I've heard of him," said Macgregor, "I shall be glad to make his acquaintance."

"I'll tell him so," said Gilbert. "He has been much occupied since we came, but I'm sure he'll be delighted to know you."

When they mounted to ride away; Gilbert turned to look back at the bungalow, and saw Vansie standing on the steps. She waved her hands and called out mockingly—

"Good sport! good sport!"

"Good sport! good sport!"

"Good sport! good sport!"

Her father shook his fist at her, and said laughingly, "The misdeeds of this Hari Rām have fascinated her. I believe she would be quite angry if he were caught."

"He's a very handsome fellow," said Gilbert, "if he were only clothed like a Christian. He was by no means discourteous to me. I almost wish he had carried me off. I should like to have seen a little more of him."


"Well, I'd like to see him before a magistrate," said Macgregor, "hear him sentenced to a good term of imprisonment, and sent to the Andaman Islands; that's the only way we shall be rid of him and his whole gang; they would never hold together without him."

They were not long reaching Pokharia, and rode straight to the missionary's house.

"You are too late," said Mr. M'Call. "The rascals have got off again. The robbery took place early last evening just after sunset. Pooran was the man robbed. He happened to be out, and when he came back he found his house regularly looted. I sent a runner straight off to Damūdá for the police, but this delay has given the[311] Dacoits time to betake themselves to the hills or the jungle."

"Well, I propose we telegraph straight to head-quarters," said Macgregor. "I'm quite willing myself to ride to the first telegraphic station to send the message. Something must be done without delay."

Two or three of the principal natives of the village dropped in—one man who owned several carts, and who did a large business in raw cocoons, complained bitterly of the difficulty of transport. "The natives are half-hearted," he said. "Hari Rām is so open-handed amongst the poor that they think there is more to be lost than gained if he were apprehended. We, the mahajans, are obedient servants to Government, therefore Government ought to protect us."

"Of course it ought," said Macgregor; "but it's no use sending a couple of men; we must have a score, and that soon. I think the fact of the agent being injured in this last fray will have some effect. I'm willing to take the responsibility myself and ride at once to the telegraphic station if some of you will accompany me. I hardly think it safe for me to go alone."

"We will go with you, only don't let the servants hear," said Pooran. "They make a perfect idol of Hari Rām; he has spies all over the place."

The heat was too great to think of starting before evening, so they remained at the mission station. Then Mr. Macgregor, accompanied by two native merchants and their servants, set out. Gilbert with the missionary, who was also somewhat of a doctor, went to Macgregor's place to see after the wounded man. As they approached the house they saw an Indian woman crossing the compound, carrying a child on her hip. The missionary turned and looked at her.

"I know that woman," he said; "she was at Pokharia last week."


They found Jenkins the superintendent in a great measure recovered from his accident.

"I shall be all right to-morrow, and able to return to Damūdá," he said.

"Who was that handsome Indian woman we met as we came into the compound?" asked Gilbert of Vansie as they sat together on the verandah.

"She's Rajhani, my foster-sister; her mother was my dhai. She married and left the district, and I had not seen her for the last three or four years, when suddenly one day not long ago she appeared bringing me her baby, who was ill. I gave it some simple remedy, at least my ayah did, but to-day she came for her husband, who, she said, was down with fever. I asked her where she came from, and who her husband was, but she gave me no answer, and went off with barely a thank you."

"She is splendidly handsome," said Gilbert, "but has an evil face for all that."

"I think not," replied Vansie. "She rather looks as if she had some trouble. She seems to have heard of last night's attack, for she asked me how the sahibs were. I told her they were not much injured, but that I was afraid the Government would take active measures for finding Hari Rām.

"'They'll not get him, they'll never get him!' she said passionately, and I thought I saw tears in her eyes.

"'Do you know him, Rajhani?' I asked.

"'I've seen him,' she answered sullenly. Her manner was so strange that it struck me as just possible her husband might belong to the gang.

"'Well,' I said, 'perhaps you might warn him that he is going a little too far, and that he'll be caught some day unless he mends his ways.

"'He'll never do that as long as he is free,' she exclaimed, and went off."...

"You'll come out soon and see us again," Vansie said[313] to Gilbert the following morning before he left, "and bring your brother with you. Father will give you both some good shooting in the jungle."

"Certainly I will," said Gilbert, with a sense of pleasure at having found a place which was so homelike.

A week later, Superintendent Jenkins came into Frank's bungalow in a very irate state of mind.

"There," he said, throwing down a letter, "that's all the reward a man gets for doing his duty. The Commissioner declares we must be shilly-shallying with the natives, and he will himself come down and see whether he can't catch this Hari Rām."

"Let him; he'll soon find out his mistake," said Frank. "I was up with Gilbert at Macgregor's the day before yesterday, and he says it will be tremendous work to nab him. He's protected by all the natives, and can pass from one village to the other without fear of being betrayed."

"Well, that remains to be proved," said Jenkins. "At all events the Commissioner is coming in full force with a whole army of police."

"Ah! well, you must put the best face on it you can," said Frank. "If Hari Rām is caught it will be a good thing for the country. My opinion is that he's hovering somewhere about here. Let who will catch him, I'm glad it's not my business. I much prefer the prospect of a shooting party with Macgregor next week. He is really a nice fellow. Came over and asked Gilbert and me to go there. Of course we have accepted."

"I can understand it is preferable. Hunting Dacoits is not in your line of business," said Jenkins, and with that they parted.



On the day fixed Frank and Gilbert rode to Mr. Macgregor's place in the cool of the evening, arriving in time for dinner. The tiger hunt had been arranged for the following morning; there was known to be an almost impenetrable covert of vines and creepers in the thickest part of the jungle, and several natives affirmed that it was the lair of a tiger of unusual size and ferocity. He had been very destructive and had done considerable mischief in the neighbouring villages, so that the killing of him excited much interest.

Mr. Macgregor had invited two or three other gentlemen, planters like himself, to join the party; thus making up half-a-dozen Englishmen with breech-loaders and pistols; a dozen natives were told off to accompany them, so that it was a fairly large party.

The following morning when they started, Frank Lindsay and Mr. Macgregor rode foremost, a syce running before them. By degrees they found themselves some distance in advance of their party, and wishing to keep together, Mr. Macgregor rode back to tell the others to hurry up; thus Frank and the syce were, so to speak, isolated. At that very moment a tiger sprang upon the syce. Frank instantaneously flung himself off his horse and struck the animal across the loins with the butt of his heavy riding-whip. Dropping his prey, the tiger turned on his assailant, seized him by the thigh and hurled him to the ground. Instinctively Frank threw his arms round the head of the enraged animal, but in a second he would have been torn to pieces, had not a man leaped out of the jungle and fired at the tiger, who once more dropped his prey and retreated with an ominous growl into the thick jungle.

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

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


The man who did this deed of daring courage stood for a second over Frank and just asked—

"Are you all right, sahib?" to which Frank answered, "I'm alive, but desperately hurt, I'm afraid."

Then his rescuer drew himself up, waved his hand, and threw himself back into the thick jungle. Frank was quickly surrounded by his friends; he was in great agony, his leg was fearfully mauled and was bleeding profusely. The syce he had risked his life to save was dead. Macgregor, with the help of his friends, did his utmost to stop the bleeding, and ordered some of the natives to make a sort of stretcher with the branches of the trees; others he sent back to the bungalow to warn Vansie, and to get a doctor.

Gilbert was in despair; it was piteous to see his white agonised face as he held his brother in his arms.

"Will the brute come back?" he asked.

"Not likely," answered Macgregor. "I should think he was mortally wounded; the man took good aim."

"Do you know who he was?" asked Gilbert.

"No, but now I come to think of it, being a native he had no right to firearms; he must have been one of those outlaws."

"Pray don't quarrel with him. It's a mercy he was armed," said Frank with a groan.

"No, indeed we won't," answered Mr. Macgregor, "even if we came across him, we should have to let him go scot free, I think. There, are you easier now?"

With infinite care they slipped Frank on to the stretcher, but nevertheless the agony was so great that he lost consciousness. Gilbert thought he was dead; Macgregor laid his hand on his shoulder and said kindly—

"Steady, lad, he's only fainted."

"Oh!" said Gilbert with a short gasp, as he rose and stood on one side to let the bearers lift their burden.

Of course the hunt was over for that day. Two or[318] three of the party went into the jungle with some of the natives and found the tiger had fallen dead a couple of hundred yards from where he had been shot. He was a huge creature, and other men had to be fetched to enable them to skin him and take the trophy home.

The young native doctor, called in the emergency to attend Frank, assured Gilbert that though the wound was severe and likely to lay his brother up for some time, it was not mortal. As he could not be moved, Mr. Macgregor begged the brothers to consider his house their home; a chaprassi was therefore despatched to fetch clothes, &c., from their own bungalow and to notify Frank's accident to the authorities.

"Do you know who saved my brother's life?" Gilbert asked Vansie, the first time they found themselves alone.

"No, how should I?" she answered; "do you know?"

"It was Hari Rām himself," answered Gilbert. "I recognised him as he stood over my brother and then rushed back into the jungle. I was close to him, I think he saw me, for he smiled and waved his hand to me."

Vansie's eyes shone.

"I'm not surprised; it was exactly the sort of thing he'd do," she said.

"I was just going to call out 'Hari Rām' when I remembered he was an outlaw, and that every man's hand was against him, so I checked myself," continued Gilbert; "and now, whatever happens, I'll never run that man down or put any one on his track."

"Hari Rām does not understand he is doing wrong by taking the law into his own hands, and I do not suppose he ever will," said Vansie. "He knows the native merchants are liars and greedy after gain, and that Government winks at their extortions, so he settles the matter[319] according to his own ideas. I'm glad you have made up your mind not to meddle in the matter; let them catch him if they can."

Gilbert agreed with her, and so the matter dropped.

"Frank, has Miss Vansie told you the news?" and Gilbert threw himself into a chair beside his brother's invalid couch on the verandah.

"No, what news?" he said.

"The Commissioner arrived yesterday at Damūdá, his camp was pitched, and there was a great display of police about the place. He was questioning everybody, he even rode to Pokharia and interviewed the people there. He says he expects to catch his man and clear the country in a fortnight."

"I hope he may not be disappointed," said Frank dryly. "What does Jenkins say?"

He had hardly put the question when they saw the superintendent enter the compound. A syce ran to hold his horse from which he flung himself, and then the brothers saw he had a broad grin on his face and seemed immensely amused.

"What's up?" said Gilbert.

"The Commissioner's in a fine rage," he said. "Hari Rām has just done him in the neatest possible manner," and sitting down he burst out laughing.

The sound of merriment brought Vansie out.

"What is it?" she asked.

"A new exploit of Hari Rām's," said Frank; "come and hear it." She looked unusually serious.

"I wish he would stop or go away," said Gilbert; "he'll get himself hanged. What has he done now?"

"A perfect Robin Hood's exploit," said the superintendent. "It must have got to his ears that the Commissioner scoffed at him, and he determined he would give him a taste of his prowess, and he just has! Last night,[320] notwithstanding the cordon of police, he managed to wriggle himself into the Commissioner's tent, to carry off his watch, shirt studs, and all his money; not satisfied with this, he tickled the Commissioner's feet without awaking him, but he succeeded in making him wriggle his legs apart in such a fashion that Hari Rām drew his sword and stuck it up to the hilt through the mattress; this feat accomplished, he went off as silently as he came. Imagine the Commissioner's feelings when he awoke and saw the position he was in! He was in a white rage, I promise you, and to make matters worse, before he had recovered himself, a native policeman rode up and presented him with a small parcel which had been just left at the office, to be delivered immediately. Upon opening it he found his watch, chain, studs, and money, and on a slip of paper was written: 'With Hari Rām's humblest salutations to his High Mightiness Commissioner Gibson.' You should have seen his face, it was as good as a play!"

"It was cheek!" said Gilbert, rubbing his hands in a state of high delight. "What's the Commissioner going to do?"

"Move heaven and earth to catch his man," answered Jenkins. "It's already posted up at the mines: '500 rupees reward for whoever unearths Hari Rām, or gives information as to his whereabouts.'"

"It won't do," said Vansie. "The natives will never betray him."

"Well, they are not doing him really any kindness," said Jenkins, "for he'll only get a heavier punishment in the long run. At present he might escape with imprisonment, but presently it will mean hanging."

"He'd rather run the risk, I expect," said Frank.

After six weeks Frank was still invalided, so Gilbert went every day down to the mines, brought messages and queries in the evening, carrying back his orders the following morning.


He and Vansie grew to be great friends; they quarrelled and they made it up like girl and boy as they were.

Great excitement ensued when the reward was offered for the apprehension of Hari Rām; the subject caused endless discussion. Days and even weeks went by without producing any result; whether the warning had driven Hari Rām out of the district, or caused him to take extra precautions, the result was the same, nothing was heard of him. The Commissioner fumed and fretted.

"The man must be taken," he declared.

"My Lord, you will not do this thing; if you do, you will be caught and hung up like a dog."

So spake Rajhani, lying prostrate at the feet of her lord and husband, Hari Rām. He looked down upon her, frowning.

"Go hence!" he said; "who art thou to speak thus?"

"The Miss Sahiba told me yesterday that the Commissioner was like a raging lion, his men are everywhere; she bade me tell you so, if you are caught you will be hanged," said Rajhani.

In a fit of blind anger, Hari Rām stretched out his foot and kicked the woman.

"Dost think I will suffer that thief of a mahajan to go on draining the people? He is rich and he will not pay his drivers the price other merchants do. I will therefore stop his well-laden carts and pay them for him. Get thee gone!" and with another kick he turned away.

With a mingled expression of sorrow and anger in her face, Rajhani rose. She was not quite like other Indian women. Till her mother died she had been brought up with Vansie, then her father married her to Hari Rām and she left the district. Her nature was gentle and she had imbibed a certain amount of religious knowledge, but an Eastern woman is a thing with no personality, a creature to be driven to and fro like the leaves in autumn. So she had suffered and her soul was ofttimes angry within her.[322] Her love for Hari Rām was so strong and of so jealous a nature that she could not endure to be parted from him, but would follow him from place to place though the journeys were long and difficult. But for her cunning and great care it is doubtful whether he would so long have escaped detection.

Now she rose from the ground, and her large eyes were full of fierce passion and determination. She picked the little naked baby up from the floor of the mud hut, bound it on to her hip, muttering—

"He shall not be hanged," and went forth.

"Of course, if there is any fear of the man being attacked we must send him protection. You had better tell off a dozen men. At the same time I should keep the matter quiet. Let the mahajan start as if he knew nothing; but be in the neighbourhood, and if he is attacked show yourselves," the Commissioner spoke thus in answer to a report Superintendent Jenkins had just brought in.

At that very moment the tent curtain was pushed on one side and a chaprassi entered, followed by an Indian woman.

"Sahib," he said, salaaming, "this woman says she must speak with your Mightiness, so I have brought her to you."

The Commissioner looked up, and for a second examined the woman, who had stepped forward, and with outstretched hands, salaaming to the ground, said—

"I have news for you, my lord."

"Who is she? Do you know her, Jenkins?" asked the Commissioner.

"No, sir; and yet I have seen her somewhere more than once," he answered.

"I will tell the sahibs my name when I have made known my business," she said, speaking in English, and she drew forth a paper. "I come for that," she continued,[323] laying on the table before the Commissioner a large sheet, advertising the Government reward for the apprehension of Hari Rām.

"Well, have you come to inform upon the man?" said the Commissioner.

"If you take him, will you hang him?" she asked sullenly.

"He shall not be hanged."

"He shall not be hanged."

"We certainly shall if we take him red-handed, unless we shoot him first; but we should prefer getting hold of him and sending him out of the country. A man like Hari Rām does not care when death overtakes him; the galleys are a worse punishment."

"But they come back from there," said the woman.

"Oh yes," answered the Commissioner with a smile. "Are you thinking of saving his life?"

"I am Hari Rām's wife," she answered, drawing herself[324] up proudly and looking the Commissioner in the face.

The two officials glanced at each other in astonishment.

"And you have come to tell us where we can find your husband? You're a nice young woman," said Jenkins.

Under the dark skin the woman's face blushed.

"You will give me money and you will not kill him?" she said.

"Yes, we will give you the reward promised here," said the Commissioner; "and if we can take him quietly we will not hurt him."

"You speak truly, the Sahib Log do not lie. Weigh me out the five hundred rupees and I will take you to his hiding-place."

The Commissioner did as she asked; the money was weighed out, Rajhani watching the silver with a stern face as it was poured into a bag she had evidently brought with her for the purpose.

"She might be Judas," said Jenkins, turning away with disgust.

She heard him, and lifted her beautiful pathetic eyes for a second, then lowered them quickly, as the last rupee joined its fellows.

"I am ready," she said.

"I should like to see the end of this affair," said the Commissioner. "Tell off a squad, Jenkins; you had better come too."

He was in high spirits at the prospect before him.

"Just keep your eye on the woman," he said in a low voice to a subaltern; but Rajhani heard, and called out—

"You need have no fear, my lord sahib; life is better than death. What I have said I will do."

"There, you have but to go and take him," and Rajhani pointed to a mud hut, hidden in the very thickest part of the jungle.


"Let me not see my lord," she cried bitterly, and threw herself face downwards on the earth.

It was early morning, the Commissioner and his party had encamped for a few hours, to start again before dawn.

"Two of you stay behind and guard the woman in case she has played us false," commanded Superintendent Jenkins.

Through the long jungle grass the party advanced till within a few yards of the Dacoit's retreat, then they made a rush towards a narrow passage leading to the hut, and were met by a man, stark naked, brandishing a sword in his hand.

"Hari Rām, if you make one step forward I will shoot you like a dog," shouted the Commissioner, whilst two of his men sprang upon the Dacoit, seized him by the throat, tore the sword out of his hand, and tripped him to the ground. Where he fell he lay, a vanquished lion.

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

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

Whilst they were pinioning him he just asked—

"A woman betrayed me; is it not so?"

"Your own wife; none other. She preferred five hundred rupees to a husband who beats her," said one of the men laughing.

"You lie! I did not beat, I only kicked her," said Hari Rām. "Well, she has had her revenge; surely I shall have mine."

He was standing up now, his hands and feet manacled; looking round, as if he thought to see her, but he was disappointed. Just as his captors were marching him off, a child crept out of the hut and raised a piteous wail.

"The cub," said one of the men; "must we take him too?"

"No need," whispered another, "the tigress is not far off."

Hari Rām heard, and, lifting up his voice, shouted something in Hindustanee which made Rajhani shiver as[328] she lay on the ground; but she rose boldly and called back—

"Be of good courage, Hari Rām, my beloved, life is better than death. In captivity thou wilt learn wisdom."

"Five years at the penal settlement in the Andaman Island; that's the sentence, and every one says it's far more lenient than he deserves. Perhaps it is, but I'm awfully sorry for him. After the trial I went to see him in prison, and told him so. He thanked me in his courteous way, saying, 'I shall not die, I am strong. When I come out Rajhani may not perhaps think life is better than death,' and he smiled grimly."

Such was Gilbert's tale. He had just returned with Mr. Macgregor from attending Hari Rām's trial, the result of which both Vansie and Frank had anxiously awaited all day.

"What could possess her to do it?" Vansie repeated for the twentieth time.

"I have told you before," said Frank, "the Commissioner was spreading a net to catch him, and sooner or later, unless he desisted from his predatory habits, he would have fallen into his enemies' hands. If he were taken in the act of robbery, and may be of murder, his wife knew he would be hanged. From this she determined to save him, and she certainly has done so. She acted according to her lights; what more could be expected of her?"

"I said as much to Hari Rām," put in Gilbert; "but he answered—

"'A woman cannot think—a woman has no soul.'"

"What a shame!" said Vansie.

Frank turned and looked at her, and their eyes met.

"Yes, it is a shame," he said, smiling.

Gilbert saw the look.


"Oh, that's it," he thought. "Well, it will be pleasant to have her for my sister at least."

In due time this very thing came to pass. Frank's long convalescence threw him and Vansie so much together that it was not difficult to foresee the result. Frank fell desperately in love with the planter's daughter, and though socially he might have aimed higher if he had bided his time, he nevertheless considered himself the most fortunate of men when Vansie consented to be his wife. A few days before the marriage, Gilbert came to him and said—

"I don't think I will be an engineer, Frank; one in the family is enough. Mr. Macgregor has offered to take me on his estate, initiate me into the secrets of tea and coffee growing, and in time make me a partner. You know I have a few hundreds of my own when I come of age, so, if you'll consent, I should like to accept his offer. I'm sure the life will suit me better."

Frank hesitated; he would have preferred Gilbert following a profession, but he saw he was set upon the new plan, so he consented; and when Vansie came to live at Frank's bungalow, Gilbert took up his residence with Mr. Macgregor. But long before this happened, Hari Rām had been sent off to the Andaman Island to work out his sentence; and then a strange thing happened. Rajhani purchased carts and bullocks, and hired men to load them at the mines and transport the coal to the terminus at Giridhi. By degrees the business grew, and she managed it with such energy that the company decided to employ no one else for the conveyance of coal, and every one said she would soon be a rich woman, that the 500 rupees for which she had sold her husband were daily multiplying by her wise administration. But her existence was a hard one; she was hated and despised by her own people. More than once her life was threatened, but the order had gone forth among the natives—

"Let her alone; Hari Rām will be his own avenger."


A few months after her husband's banishment she suddenly appeared before Vansie leading her eldest boy by the hand and with a new-born babe slung at her side.

"See," she said proudly, "I have given him life and two sons, and now I will make him so rich that when he comes back he can give of his own to the poor, and need be no longer a Dacoit."

And so her motive became clear to Vansie. She laboured by night and by day to increase her store, living meanwhile poorly, denying herself all save the very necessaries of existence. A hunted look came into her eyes, and as time went on she faded into a mere shadow of her former self; but the wealth increased, and her boys grew, and were finer and handsomer than their fellows.

"My lord, thy servant craves forgiveness; behold, I received 500 rupees for selling thee into captivity. I bring thee 5000 rupees, with bullocks and carts; thou left me with but one son, I bring thee two."

So spake Rajhani, lying prostrate at Hari Rām's feet, as he landed after his long exile. The remembrance of those five years of misery was fresh upon him, the iron had entered into his soul, and he spurned her from him; but a young man touched his arm and called him by his name—

"Are you blind, Hari Rām?" he said; "surely she has done wisely. She has laboured for you in love and patience; you must see she betrayed you for very love, to save your life."

The Hindu stood as one dazed; through the mist of superstition and anger a faint gleam of something better crept into his soul. He had himself thought to redress wrongs, had failed, and had suffered. He turned and looked fixedly first at the woman still lying prostrate before him, then at Gilbert Lindsay, who had spoken.

"Sahib," he said, and his voice trembled.


"You are too brave a man to despise her for what she has done, Hari Rām," Gilbert continued. "See, she has come to you in all humility, with children and wealth, so that from henceforth you may live prosperously. Five years is but a little span in a man's life. Lift her up and go home with her and your children; let this hour be as the rising of the sun at the dawn of a new day."

Slowly, as a man feeling his way, Hari Rām stretched out his hand, and lo! it rested on the head of his eldest born. A smile crept over the stern features.

"You speak as a god, sahib," he said. "The evil day has surely passed away; she was right, it is good to live."





"W ell," said the major, "I hardly know what to do. It's very hot."

"Awful, sir," said Hollins, making an effort to take out his handkerchief to wipe his face. "I feel as if I were being stewed."

"Do you good," said the major smiling. "You'd be all the better for losing two stone weight."

"Yes," the great fellow sighed, in a melancholy tone, and he looked down at his huge proportions and gently shook his head.

"I should have thought you would have been content to sit under a shady tree, and if you must kill something, have a shot or two at the crocs as they come down to meet the tide, or fish for whatever there is from the banks."

"That's just what I should like, sir," said Hollins pathetically. "I don't want to go. It's all Beecher's doing. He's such a restless little beggar. I have told him over and over again that it's too hot to do anything."

Beecher looked up sharply and smiled.

The speakers were in their camp on the banks of the Loongie River, stationed there to overawe a couple of the native sultans, who had been trying to oust another Malay potentate, and divide his dominions between them. The said Rajah had appealed to the governor of the Straits[333] Settlements for help, and a couple of companies of the 800th Light Infantry were sent up the river in the Flash gunboat to settle the matter, whereupon the two sultans slunk back into their own dominions on either side of the river. The troops were landed, and went into camp at Ijong, the persecuted Rajah's capital of bamboo and woven palm. The gunboat went up the river as far as she could go, and, as Rob Hollins said, let off her poppers to startle the crows, and then went back to Penang, leaving the military to go on overawing the pugnacious Malays, which they did by going on parade every morning to make a show, after which they ate, drank, smoked, slept, and played games, leading a lazy life in a country which seems to have been made on purpose to do nothing in with all your might.

"Humph!" ejaculated the major, with his eyes half closed.

"He's just like a mongoose," grumbled Hollins slowly; "always jumping up and poking his nose into everything."

The major grunted.

"Look here, you two boys," he said, "I must have a nap, and your chatter's a nuisance. Do you want to get fever and sunstroke?"

Beecher laughed.

"I only want to go up the river in one of the bigger boats, sir, to be rowed up to the clear water beyond the tideway. We should be under the attap awning all the time, and I want to see if there are any fish to be caught, or any birds or beasts to be shot."

"Well, I suppose you must. You'll be back before dark, of course?"

"Oh no; I meant for us to camp for the night, and come back to-morrow. There wouldn't be time to go up far enough without."

"You'll get fever," said the major shortly. "The jungle teems with it."


"We should sleep in the boat," said Beecher.

"Humph! Well, take care of yourselves, and don't get into any trouble with the people."

"No fear, sir. Come along, Rob."

The big lieutenant rose with a sigh, the major sank back in his seat under the awning stretched in front of the native house he had made his head-quarters, and the sentry on duty, the barrel of whose rifle was hot as he presented arms, looked longingly at the young men as they walked down to the bamboo landing-stage at the river side, and selected one of the smallest and most attractive looking of the nagas or dragon boats swinging by its fibre rope to a post, with its crew of six on board squatting under the palm-leaf awning, and chewing betel till their protruding lips were scarlet with the juice.

Negotiations were opened up directly by Beecher, who had picked up enough of the Malay language to converse with a certain amount of ease; and he was all eagerness and animation as he spoke, while the tawny Malay boatmen remained apathetic in the extreme, and calmly enough gave the young man to understand that it was hot, that the work would be hard, and that it would be much better to sit as they were on their heels chewing sireh, lime, and betel-nut.

"But there'll be plenty of sport," said Beecher. "We shall shoot and fish, and take any amount of provisions, so that we can camp out comfortably high up the river for the night."

That would be quite out of the question, it seemed. The whole six would want to be back at the campong at sunset.

"Why?" asked Beecher impatiently.

Because they must be. What would their wives say?

"Gammon!" cried Beecher, flashing out the word in a way that made the men stare. Not that they understood its meaning, but they did the words in their own tongue[337] which followed it. "I don't believe you've any one of you got a wife."

"They walked down to the bamboo landing-stage at the river side."

"They walked down to the bamboo landing-stage at the
river side."

The young officer's haphazard shot had gone home, for a smile which broadened into a grin appeared on face after face, as the boatmen looked at each other, their sleepy eyes brightened, and, after a few words had been exchanged among themselves, the Malay who seemed most in authority turned to Beecher, and the negotiations were at an end.

"Get plenty of food for your own use," said the young officer. "We'll send our servants down with what we want, and we'll start in an hour."

The Malay nodded, and the officers turned away.

"Lazy beggars," said Hollins slowly. "How you can manage 'em, Dick! I couldn't have done that."

"You could if you liked to try," said Beecher. "Now then, let's see about our guns and tackle. Where are those fellows of ours? Never here when they're wanted."

Beecher was wrong, for a keen-looking young fellow who had been watching them ever since they left the major's side, suddenly stepped forward and saluted.

"Want me, sir?"

"Oh, there you are, Jerry. Here, we're going."

"Up the river, sir? Yes, sir; all right, sir. Guns, rods and tackle, landing net. Reevolvers and cartridges. Take anything to heat, sir?"

"Yes, of course; a good basketful of provisions. Coffee, kettle, and cups."

"I see, sir."

"And we shall sleep in the boat to-night."

"Exactly, sir. Skeeter net, blankets, and waterproof. Won't take a thin mattress, I suppose, sir?"

"Oh no: that will be enough. Where's Mr. Hollins's servant?"

"'Sleep, sir. Going to take him too?"


"Oh yes," broke in Hollins; "we'll have him. Can you wake him up, Jerry, and tell him to get my traps together, the same as you get for your master?"

"Can I, sir?" said the man, with a peculiar smile. "Oh yes, sir, I can wake him up."

"That's right; then I needn't trouble about it."

"No, sir; of course not, sir. I'll see that everything's put on board."

"The sooner the better," said Beecher. "Off with you."

In little more than an hour everything was on board the naga, which was pushed off from the landing-stage, the officers and their servants being under the light palm-leaf awning, and the crew sending the long light boat through the water at a pretty good rate, for the tide was with them, and in a very short time a bend in the river had hidden boats, native huts and houses, and the last traces of the little military camp.


There was a certain amount of monotony about the banks of the muddy winding river, but to Beecher, whose high spirits seemed to effervesce within his veins and through his nerves, all was bright and beautiful, and he laughed to himself as he noted now that the Malays seemed quite transformed, and they toiled away to force the boat through the water, chattering till one of them started a low sweet minor air, keeping time to the beat of the oars, and the rest joining in.

"Come, old chap," cried Beecher; "rouse up and load; we may get a shot at something soon."

"All right; you shoot then," answered Hollins, with a yawn. "I'll wait till it isn't so hot."


"It will be dark then, and you will not get a chance."

"All right. Don't want one. You shoot, and I'll look on."

"Ugh! what a lazy beggar you are!"

"'Tis my nature to, dear boy; but I say, load my gun while you're at it."

"What for, if you're not going to shoot?"

"Perhaps I am, boy. Anyhow, I'll be ready. I've been thinking."

"Sleeping, you mean."

"No, I don't. Thinking with my eyes shut."

"Well, what have you been thinking?"

"I've been thinking that we're a pair of jolly fools."

"Of course; but why?"

"To trust ourselves with these cut-throat scoundrels of Malays. Each one has his horrible wavy kris tucked in the folds of his sarong."

"Pooh! What of that? Custom of the country."

"Yes, and it's the custom to dig it into any one they don't like. Argal, as the chap in the play says, they don't like us."

"Rubbish! Aren't we going to feed them and give them silver dollars?"

"Yes, but they'd prefer to kris us for a set of infidels, and pitch us overboard to the crocs."

"You've no faith in them, then?"

"Not a bit."

The men kept on as if their thews and sinews were of steel, and would have continued to send the boat along at the same speed had not Beecher interfered and explained to the Malay leader that as the tide was in their favour all that was necessary was for two of the men to dip their oars from time to time so as to keep the naga's head straight. By this there would be more chance of a shot or two being obtained, while they would all be fresher when they reached the end of the tidal flow, where the[340] river was shallower, and they would have the stream to contend against.

The men laid in their oars, and for the next two or three hours of the glowing day the boat drifted steadily on, with the banks growing more and more beautiful, and shot after shot offering itself in the shape of gaily plumaged bird, monkey, or crocodile; but Beecher seemed to have grown as dreamy and thoughtful as his companion, and let chance after chance slip by.

"Why, you're not half bloodthirsty to-day, young 'un," said Hollins, rousing himself up a little at last. "Why don't you shoot?"

"Don't know," was the reply. "Perhaps it's because everything is so beautiful. It seems a shame to fire. It's like gliding along in some dream."

"Was," said Hollins, quite briskly. "I feel more awake now. There's another of those crocs!—Going to fire?"

"No, I don't want to kill anything now."

"Nor do I," said Hollins. "Let's have something to eat."

"Yes, sir; directly, sir," came from the stern of the boat, proving that every word uttered had been heard. "Now Joey, stir about and help."

The two men rapidly unpacked the basket of provisions, and a few minutes later the young officers were hard at work with knife and fork, while the Malay boatmen looked on curiously and wondered what Jerry meant to do with the wine bottle that he had been cooling by wrapping it up in wet flannel, dipping it in the river from time to time, and exposing it afterwards to the full force of the sun as if to keep it warm.

By this time the progress of the boat had grown slower and slower, the water less muddy, and as the young officers bade their servants give certain portions of the provisions to the boatmen and make their own[341] meal, they noted with satisfaction that the end of the tide had been reached. Thenceforth the river began to grow bright and clear, there was a cessation of muddy deposit upon the leaves and twigs which dipped below the surface, and the oars were laid in by the men who had been using them, a couple taking their places, one in front, the other astern, each armed with a long bamboo pole, with which they thrust the boat along against the clear rippling stream, now broken up into shallows and swirling deeps.

They had very little so-called sport, but plenty of enjoyment in spite of Hollins's growls; and that evening they cast their rough anchor beneath the shady trees of a little island in mid-stream, and soon after made themselves comfortable for the night, sleeping soundly, in spite of their novel position and the savage noises which came from the jungle on either side.


"Now then, wake up, old fellow!" cried Beecher; "breakfast's nearly ready."

Hollins started up, to find that Jerry was making the coffee ashore on the island, and soon after an excellent meal was enjoyed, before the boat was poled up stream once more.

"Likely places for fish," said Hollins again and again, as the boat glided by some beautiful dark pool.

"Why don't you have a try, then?" said Beecher.

"Oh, I don't know. Seems a pity to get lugging the poor things out of the cool water into this broiling sunshine."

"You'd have to catch them first," said Beecher drily.

"Yes, and I'm such an unlucky beggar with a rod.[342] You look out, and if you see anything like a big trout or a salmon basking, blow him out of the water."

"No fear," said Beecher coolly. "Nothing of the kind here. I don't suppose there's much beside those little gudgeony five-barbed fish they call Ikan Sambilang."

"Ikan Sambilang!" said the head-boatman, nodding, smiling, and pointing downwards.

"You hit the bull's-eye, boy," said Hollins. "Well, I'm not going to wet a line for the sake of catching fish like them. But what rubbish to come."

"Rubbish, man? Look on both sides. Did you ever see anything more beautiful?" cried Beecher enthusiastically.

"H'm! tidy," said Hollins.

"Tidy! It's glorious. Fancy all this lovely line of bank on either side, and no one to live here. What a home for a country gentleman anywhere."

"Bah! All humbug, lad. Looks very pretty from a boat, but inside it's all impenetrable jungle; soppy and squishy, and without a path."

The day glided by as they went gently onward higher and higher up the river, whose sides still looked like vast walls of verdure. They fished a little and shot less, for in spite of all that they said the beauties around seemed to have the effect of checking their desire to slay, so that very few birds fell to their guns.

"But it's very jolly all the same," said Beecher, as the great heat of the day began to grow less. "We don't get many adventures, and I must shoot something. Why—hullo! What does this mean?"

Hollins made no answer, but started from his place to look up the river, as a couple of banks of oars churned up the surface, sending a large prahu round a broad bend of the stream a quarter of a mile away.

"Don't know," said Hollins slowly. "She's full of[343] armed men, for you can see the spear heads glistening. Well, we mustn't go back, or they'll think we're afraid."

"Of course: we must go on."

"Of course: we must go on."

"Of course: we must go on."

"Yes, tell them to go on rowing or poling."

"Come, look sharp," cried Beecher. "Pull away, but give that big prahu plenty of room."

The men turned to their leader, who was frowning and looking as if he had not heard, gazing the while down stream.

"Do you hear me?" cried the young officer angrily. "Pull all of you, pull."

But the Malays sat perfectly still, looking gloomy and sullen, while Beecher's eyes began to flash with resentment.

"Steady, boy," growled Hollins. "This is a trap."

"A trap! What do you mean?"


"Look behind you, my lad, and don't jump out of your skin."

"Another prahu!" ejaculated the young officer, between his teeth, as he saw a vessel which looked to be fellow to the one gliding down stream, coming rapidly up from some five hundred yards below. "Why, where did that come from?"

"Some tree-curtained inlet, I suppose," growled Hollins. "What are we going to do?"

"Go on shooting; they're nothing to do with us."

"Aren't they? I'm afraid they are."

"Why do you say that?" said Beecher huskily.

"Look at our men—no: don't seem to notice them. I'm afraid it's like this: we asked them to take us up the river into a trap, and the beggars have done it. Dick, lad, they've uncovered the hilts of their krises—cleared for action."

"No, no, they wouldn't dare, with our men lying at the camp."

"I don't know that. It looks bad. Our lads can't help us now."

"Then we must help ourselves," said Beecher, through his teeth. "If that dog there has betrayed us into the hands of the enemy, curse him! he shall have the contents of my gun."

"Steady!" said Hollins gravely. "He knows what you are saying by your tone, and his right hand has stolen to the hilt of his kris. This is a time for diplomacy. We're not strong enough to fight."

"Strong or weak, I'm not going to give up without making some one pay for it. Here, Jerry, you two get hold of those revolvers, and if it comes to the worst, use them."

"Got hold on 'em, sir. I've been slipping in the cartridges ever since I see that boat."

"Then keep them out of sight," growled Hollins, in a[345] deep voice. "We're not the first Englishmen who have been in a tight place. Dick, lad, one of us'll have to come the British officer and do a bit of the bully. What's a Rajah or a Sultan to an officer of Her Majesty out for his pleasure?"

"That's the right form, Rob," said Beecher huskily. "You must do the talking, then. They'll be afraid of you."

"All right; only stand by me and tell me what to say."

"A kreasy boat in front, and a kreasy boat behind, and six of these here smudgy beggars waiting to cut our throats. Joey, this is coming out for a day's pleasure!" whispered Jerry. "I say, are you awake now?"

"Never more wide in my life, lad. All right: never say die. Form square."


Hollins's man supplemented his muttered command "Form square!" with a sharp double click made by the lock of the pistol he held with one hand in his breast, and this sound gave the final touch to his master's rousing up to act with decision in what was evidently a very critical case.

The next moment Beecher glanced at his friend admiringly, for, to use his own words, "Rob was all there," and the calm British officer was speaking.

"Keep that pistol quiet and out of sight, sir," he said sharply. "Sit down both of you."

And as his order was promptly obeyed he turned to Beecher.

"Throw your gun in the hollow of your arm, old lad," he said softly. "We're out shooting. I think I shall know what to say."


As he spoke he began to fill his pipe, keeping his eyes averted from the coming prahus, and then struck a match and lit up, calmly sending forth great clouds of smoke, before turning to watch the nearest boat, which was coming with a rush.

"They'll run us down, Rob," whispered Beecher huskily.

"No, they won't," was the calm reply. "They couldn't come here at all; the water's too shallow. Row well, don't they?" he continued, watching the prahu critically.

"Oh, how should I know?" cried Beecher.

"Look then," said Hollins coolly. "Why, they've got two brass pop-guns in their bows—Lelahs, don't they call them?"

"Look here, Rob," said Beecher hoarsely; "what's the good of going on like that? We must make a running fight of it. I'm going to present my two barrels at these fellows of ours, and tell them to row for their lives. It will be all down stream now."

"You're going to do nothing of the sort, my lad," growled Hollins. "We have not come to fight. It would only mean throwing away our lives. At the first menace on your part these brown beggars would chance the crocs and go overboard to swim to the nearest prahu. We must brazen it out. Funk means failure, so cucumbers must be red-hot pokers to the coolness we've got to show."

Almost as he spoke the prahu that was descending the stream crowded with men and bristling with razor-edged spears, was suddenly checked, the rowers then uttering a shout and backing water in obedience to a sharp tap on a gong.

So well was this managed that the light vessel was brought up where the channel ran deep, a dozen yards from the officers' boat, and kept there by means of bamboo poles thrust down fore and aft.

The next moment an order was shouted to the boatmen,[347] who lowered their oars with alacrity, and took a few strokes to lay the little naga alongside the prahu.

"Now's your time, Dick; let 'em have it. Ask what the devil are they up to, in Malay."

"I thought I was to coach you," said Beecher in a low tone; "but all right;" and he rose to the occasion, shouting angrily at their men, and then as the naga grazed against the sides of the prahu, he faced the swarthy-looking fellow in gay plaid sarong and natty scarlet cap who was frowning down at them.

"Hullo, old fellow," he cried. "What is it?"

"Come on board, all of you," was the fierce answer.

"All right; keep it up," said Hollins coolly, as he puffed away at his pipe.

"I'm not going on that miserable craft as a prisoner," said Beecher stubbornly.

"No, but we must go as visitors. Needs must when somebody drives. Keep it up, boy: we're fencing as to who shall go first. All right, then, I will," he cried cheerily, and, double gun in hand, pipe fast between his teeth, he stepped up and sprang over the side on to the split bamboo deck, facing the captain of the prahu and the fierce-looking crew of Malays, and closely followed by Beecher and their two men.

As Hollins, big, broad-shouldered, and manly, looking the very perfection of a muscular young Englishman, stepped on the deck, smiling, half-a-dozen of the spear-armed crew darted forward, and as many hands were outstretched to seize him by the shoulders, two of the men catching hold of his gun.

In an instant his aspect was changed. A fierce frown darkened his brows, and with an angry roar he swung himself round, snatching his gun from the detaining grasps, and clearing a space round him, as he cried in English—

"Keep back, you insolent dogs!"


Beecher's heart seemed to rise to his throat, as he dropped the barrels of his own gun in his left hand, in answer to the movement on the part of the Malays, a dozen spears being levelled at him, while the captain looked on frowning, his hand resting upon his kris.

"Tell the captain here that we are British officers up the river shooting, Dick, my lad, and say he is to order his men to treat us with respect."

Beecher turned to the captain, and spoke to him haughtily in the native tongue, making the Malay frown and sign to the men, who raised their spears on the instant.

"Whose men are you?" continued Beecher. "Sultan Salah's?"

The captain answered in the affirmative.

"Take us to him then at once."

The captain hesitated for a moment.

"Do you hear me?" cried Beecher sharply.

The Malay made a gesture, gave an order or two, and a couple of the men descended into the officers' boat, made it fast astern, and as the second prahu came up, the first was already in motion. Then a brief colloquy ensued between the captains of the two vessels as they glided by, and the second followed them down stream.

"Very prettily fired off, Dick, lad," said Hollins; "but put in a little more powder next time. There's nothing like making a good bang."

"I'm not such a big gun as you are," said Beecher.

"You fire sharply, though, my lad. There: come along; let's look round the boat. Take it coolly; we're not krissed yet, and if we give it the sultan in his bamboo palace in the same way he'll drop us both as 'taters too hot for handling."

"I only hope he may."

The fierce-looking Malay crew looked puzzled as the young men began to saunter about the prahu, as coolly[349] as if they were invited visitors, examining the rolled-up matting sails, the long sweeps used, and pausing long by the two little brass swivel guns.

"Ask him how far these will carry?" said Hollins.

Beecher turned to the captain and put the question, making the man frown; but he laughed directly after, and replied.

"Humph! poor clumsy things," growled Hollins contemptuously. "I could make better practice with a big gas-pipe plugged at one end."

"I'm not going to tell him that," said Beecher; "and I shouldn't like to stand at the plugged-up end."

"No," said Hollins with a laugh. "It wouldn't be very safe. Do best for a rocket-tube. Here, hold hard! Look at those two paroquets, Dick. We must have them."

A couple of brightly plumaged birds were crossing the river at a goodly height and quite fifty yards away, and quick as thought, Hollins raised his gun, fired right and left, and brought them down, when a murmur of surprise and admiration ran along the deck, as the birds fell into the gliding stream, and lay fluttering and splashing the surface.

"Tell our men to pick 'em up, lad.—Bah! Too late!" For all at once a hideous head appeared above the surface, there was a sharp snap repeated, the birds were gone, and the crocodile's head disappeared.

"Gone," said Hollins coolly, as he thrust in a couple more cartridges. "Hullo! where are we for now? Going to run us ashore?"

Beecher looked up as wonderingly as his companion, for the men, in obedience to an order, began to pull short, doubling their strokes, and the head of the prahu was turned for the leafy curtain on the right bank. Directly after swish, swish, they were driving right through the pendant boughs, which swept over the deck of the vessel,[350] lightly brushing the heads of rowers and armed men, and a minute later they were in a wide sluggish branch of the river, of whose existence a stranger would have been perfectly ignorant, it being as thoroughly concealed by the dense jungle as the clump of palm and bamboo built houses in the distance, which formed the campong or town.

At the first glimpse seen through the winding inlet this seemed to be small; but fresh houses and sheds kept opening out, the sluggish stream widened, showing scores of boats of various sizes, and to the young men's surprise seven or eight elephants could be seen tethered by the hind-leg to the stumps of trees.

A loud shout arose as the prahu, closely followed by its companion, glided into sight, and later on a few men came running towards them from a crowd gathered in an open space before one of the largest buildings, which looked like an ornamental barn raised up on posts.

Something important was evidently going on, for there was a strong body of armed men, some of whom were gaily dressed, their natty caps, sarongs, and kerchiefs being of brightly coloured silks, while their weapons flashed in the sunshine.

"Drawn up in honour of their English guests," said Hollins, laughing.

"No, they have two men bound in the middle there. Prisoners, I suppose," replied Beecher.

They had not much time given them for thought, the prahu being cleverly steered alongside a row of bamboo posts, upon which a kind of rough landing-stage had been made, and the captain advanced to his prisoners and bade them disembark.

"Certainly," said Hollins smiling. "Ask him where his chief is."

The captain pointed, and as he did so a stunted sickly-looking man, more quietly dressed than those around,[351] detached himself from the crowd and came towards the prahu, followed by about a dozen attendants and guards, some bearing krises by the blade with the ornamental handles resting upon their shoulders, while spearmen closed up behind.

The party on leaving the prahu was followed also by a guard of spearmen, and as they neared the chief approaching from the crowd, the captain gave a peremptory order and the party stopped short. But to his anger and astonishment Hollins turned to his companion.

"Come on, lad," he said; "we're not going to be marched up as prisoners. We're visitors to his swarthy highness," and he strode on with his gun resting in the hollow of his arm.

"Beg pardon, sir," came from behind, in Jerry's voice; "aren't we to come too?"

"Yes, of course," cried Hollins. "Both of you. Come on."

"There, didn't I say so?" cried Jerry, apostrophising one of the spearmen, who checked his advance. "Don't you hear what the guv'nors say?"

Without a moment's hesitation the two servants made a rush forward and took their places behind their masters, who strode up at once to the group in front, the sultan looking puzzled and clapping his hand to his kris, while his guards levelled their spears.

"Never mind their skewers, lad," said Hollins; "come straight on, and offer to shake hands. Tell him we're English officers, and his men have brought us to see him. I'll do the bounce and show."

Beecher played his part to the letter, and the puzzled chief shook hands, unwillingly enough, and then as if forced by his strange guests to offer them a friendly welcome, he led them to the large house, signed to them to enter, and in a few minutes later sultan and guests were seated upon the mat-covered bamboo floor,[352] partaking of a light meal, surrounded by attendants, the two English servants well to the front and carefully supplying their masters' wants.


"What's going to be the end of this?" said Beecher at last, as they sat sipping excellent coffee and smoking huge cigarettes, the tobacco being inclosed in a sheath of palm sprout.

"Don't know yet," replied Hollins coolly. "The sultan will give us some tiger-shooting off his elephants, perhaps.—No, no, not now, old chap," he added quickly. "It's too hot, and too soon after lunch.—What does he say, boy?"

"That he wishes us to come out and see something that we stopped, by arriving as we did."

"Oh, very well. If he really is going to treat us civilly we are at his service," cried Hollins, rearing his bulky form above the sultan, as he rose to his feet. "Here, give me your hand, my royal personage."

The sultan shrank as if staggered by his visitor's freedom, but the great hand was extended before him, and as if there were magnetic influence at work he slowly raised his own, allowed it to be grasped, and by its help rose erect.

"Come," he said, in his own tongue.

"Yes, I understand that," said Hollins.

"Be careful," whispered Beecher. "Don't overdo it, man."

"Not lay it on too thick? Must, or we shall never make them understand the colour of the paint. Here, you two lads keep close behind us," he cried, "and if they try to stop you, call to me."

The sultan led the way out to the crowd, which[353] remained evidently waiting for their chief's return, for a low murmur arose as they approached, while the two men kneeling bound in the midst, surrounded by guards, raised their heads to gaze with a half-stupefied, half-wistful stare in their direction.

"What does it mean?" said Hollins, in a low voice, as they followed the sultan's example and sat upon the seats placed ready. "We didn't interrupt an execution, did we?"

"Execution? Oh no. Punishment of some kind, though. Look at them. It can't be anything very bad, for they're chewing their betel calmly enough."

"So bad, I'm afraid, that I shouldn't like to change places with them.—Well," he said aloud to a couple of the Malays who like most of their fellows were glaring at them fiercely, "what do you think of an Englishman?"

"Think they don't like the look of you, old fellow," said Beecher smiling. "You're too big for their taste."

For every face they encountered was shadowed by an unpleasant scowl, and it seemed as if at a word every man's hand would have been raised against them.

"I don't know that we want to see these poor wretches punished," whispered Beecher.

"No," said Hollins in a low growl; "but we're in for it now."

"But it is evidently serious. There's a man behind them who looks like the executioner."

"Ah, that one," said Hollins. "I believe you're right: but they all look like executioners to me, and as if they'd make us take our turn next. Look here, lad, if they do begin any of their tricks, I'm going to turn ugly and make a rush for our boat. There she is, tied on to the stern of the prahu."

"Pst! Look," whispered Beecher, for the sultan glanced towards them, smiled, and then made a sign to his men.

Quick as thought a couple of Malays seized one of the[354] fettered men, jerked him forward, and then forced him back into a kneeling position.

The poor wretch was bare save for the check sarong bound about his loins, and he made no resistance, going on calmly chewing his scrap of betel-nut, and remaining erect in his kneeling position, as the men on either side hung away, holding each by his upper arm.

What followed was as rapid as it was horrible, the executioner going through a series of movements with a skill which seemed to prove him to be well accustomed to his dreadful task.

Beecher longed to retreat, but sat there as if fascinated, while the operator stepped swiftly and silently behind the victim—culprit, enemy, or murderer, who could say? In one hand the man had a tuft of white cotton-wool, in the other a small pistol-handled kris, with a thin perfectly straight blade.

He placed the cotton-wool like a pad upon the prisoner's shoulder with his left hand, just in the hollow by the collar-bone. Then with his right he passed the sharp point of his straight kris between the fingers which held the cotton pad in its place, closing them so that the little kris stood perfectly upright like a great nail waiting to be driven home.

The next instant the right hand delivered a sharp blow upon the hilt of the kris, and it was driven right down the victim's chest, and as sharply drawn out again through the cotton-wool, which wiped away every trace of blood, as the wretched creature fell forward upon his face without a struggle—pierced through the heart.

Beecher sat firm as a rock; but as the kris was withdrawn a spasm seemed to shoot through his own breast, and a thick mist gathered before his eyes like a veil.

It was apparently minutes before the cloud lifted, and Beecher once more saw clearly, shuddering as if with cold, as the executioner was withdrawing his kris through[355] the cotton pad, and he uttered a faint gasp as he realised the fact that this was the second victim falling forward upon his face.

There was a peculiar hissing noise behind where Beecher sat, as if some one had drawn his breath sharply through his teeth, and he turned quickly, to see the two regimental servants looking very white; but their faces were as hard as if cut in wood.

"Horrible!" said Hollins, in a low, hoarse voice; "and the people all looking on as if it were a fête! Ugh! I can stand leading our lads in a charge, and get warm at it, but this gives me the chilly blues."

"Yes, horrible!" said Beecher; "and that Rajah sits smiling as if he enjoyed it."

"Well, you haven't much room to talk; you sat through it all as coolly."

"I?" exclaimed Beecher.

"Yes; I watched you. Well, I suppose it's all over, and we may as well come to an understanding with my lord here. I want to go. But I say, I hope he didn't see me showing the white feather. Did he?"

"The white feather! Nonsense! You didn't move a muscle."

"Couldn't if I'd wanted to. Here: the sultan's speaking to you."

Beecher turned and faced the smiling chief.

"There are more to die," said the latter coolly.

It was on the tip of the young man's tongue to say, "After we have gone!" but he checked himself, feeling that they would lose all the prestige they had earned by shrinking now, and he simply bowed his head, rising as the sultan did, and walking in company with his string of attendants, some of whom bore the stools upon which they had been seated.

"Where are they going now?" growled Hollins; "to one of the prahus?"


It seemed like it, for the sultan stopped short opposite one of the vessels lying off the inlet shore.

Beecher caught his lower lip between his teeth, and gave a quick glance about him, taking in all he could without moving his head. There were the two prahus in front, crowded on the shore side with men, and a short distance to the left was the boat in which they had ascended the river, quite empty, for the crew were now in the first prahu. There were plenty of other boats near, lying tied up to posts, or the trees which overshadowed much of the inlet; but nothing seemed to offer an easy way of escape unless they could reach their boat after dark, cast off, and trust to the stream to bear them down to their camp.

"Seems to me," growled Hollins softly, breaking in upon his companion's musings, "that we fellows have only to put on a good face and bounce about a bit, to make these swarthy scoundrels respect us. I want to know, though, whether his High and Mightiness here will let us go peaceably after he has finished his show. Why, Dick, lad, we seem to have dropped in upon jail delivery day."

"What do you mean?" said Beecher sharply, as he heard Jerry once more draw a sharp hissing breath.

"More prisoners. They're bringing them out from that hut yonder."

"Ah!" exclaimed Beecher, in a low excited whisper; "the wretches, the fiends! They're surely not going to kill those two girls. Oh, I can't stand this!"

"Quiet, man!" growled Hollins. "It's as much as our lives are worth to interfere."

"My life will be nothing to me if I sit here and see this horror. Here, Rajah. Those women; they are not going to be killed?"

"Yes," said the sultan, showing his teeth in a pleasant smile. "They escaped, and were brought back. My wives."

"But to be killed?"


"Yes. They will go to the river; and there——"

He laughed pleasantly, and placed his hands together, the wrists touching, the palm and fingers widely apart, and then brought them together sharply, in imitation of the closing of a crocodile's jaws.

"But it is horrible!" cried Beecher excitedly. "The English Government will never allow this."

"Quiet, man," whispered Hollins excitedly. "What can the English Government do now?"

"It's duty," whispered back Beecher excitedly. "We represent it: two officers of her Majesty's forces."

"Four of us altogether," said Hollins sternly, "standing on the edge of danger ourselves. Why, man, there must be five hundred of the sultan's people here."

"I don't care if there are five thousand," said Beecher hoarsely. "I say it shall not go on."

"I thought I was to do the brag and bullying, lad?"

"Will you stand by me?" panted Beecher.

"Of course."

"Your gun is loaded?"



"Yes, sir," said the former sharply, and his companion's lips moved.

"You have the revolvers?"

"Yes, sir."


"Every chamber, sir."

"Stand by us, then, if we have to fight."

"Right, sir," said the man coolly, and Hollins's man nodded his head and tightened his lips till they looked like a thin red line drawn tightly over the lower part of his face.

"It's horribly rash, my lad, and we've no right to interfere with a Rajah's domestic institutions," said Hollins in a dry, harsh voice that did not sound like his own.


"You can't sit still and see those two women murdered."

"Don't suppose I can," was the reply. "What shall I do? Shoot the Rajah?"

"I don't know yet. Wait and see. Yes, I know.—Here, Jerry."


"There are crocodiles in this part of the river?"

"Yes, sir, waiting to take them two poor things under. Both pretty, sir, and don't look sixteen."

"Listen, then. If I give the word, dare you swim to our boat and cut it loose?"

"No, sir."


"Don't dare, sir, because of them great ugly efts; but you're my officer, sir; just you order me to, and I'm blessed if I don't try."

"Good words, matey," said Joe huskily. "If you don't, I will."

"Then if it comes to the worst, and I say, 'In the Queen's name,' dash in, cut the rope, and bring the boat ashore. Open your knife in your pocket now."

"'Tis open, sir—'case I wanted to stick it into one of these brutes o' niggers."

"Good. Wait till the people are watching those women, and slip the revolver into my hand."

"Right, sir."

Almost at that moment, while the two wretched girls were being brought, shrinking and trembling, towards where the sultan was seated, one of them seemed to have suddenly realised the horrible fate which awaited her: possibly she caught her first glimpse of the flashing water, and she uttered a wild shriek that as Jerry afterwards said went through him like a knife.

"That's done it, Dick," growled Hollins in a whisper.[359] "That's done it. I'm wound up now. Say when you're ready."

In the midst of the excitement, and every one's attention centred upon the girls, the second following her companion's example—shrieking and struggling wildly, as each was dragged towards the sultan by a couple of his followers, Beecher felt the handle of a revolver thrust into his hand, which closed upon it, and placed it in the waistband of his trousers.

The shrieks of the two unfortunate victims were now horrible, and as they were dragged close up to where the four Englishmen sat, thrilling with horror, panting with suppressed energy, they saw the girls stretch out their arms to the master whose wretched slaves they were, and mingled with their shrieks, which pierced the utter silence around, were inarticulate appeals for mercy.

The next moment the cries ceased as if a hand had been laid upon each pair of quivering lips, for Beecher suddenly sprang to his feet, shouting "Stop!" and turned to the sultan.

"Sir," he cried hoarsely, "we your guests appeal to you as Englishmen to pardon and spare these poor women, however much they have offended against you."

Every eye was fixed now upon the speaker, as he stood there bareheaded and quivering with excitement, and looking for the first time in his life, big, almost grand, his face flushed, his breast heaving, every inch an Englishman and soldier of his Queen.

"Sit down," said the sultan, smiling up at the speaker in the most imperturbable manner; and though Beecher did not see it, Hollins did: his hand stole softly to the folds of his silken sarong, where it rested upon his kris. "Sit down."

"And see this cruel murder? I cannot, sir. I appeal to you to spare their lives."

"Sit down," said the sultan in the same low tone;[360] but the smile was as ferocious as that of some beast of prey. "Sit down, or——"

His eyes flashed luridly now, and there was an ominous rustle from behind, which made Hollins give a sharp look back at the guards.

"Then In the Queens Name!" shouted Beecher, raising his double gun, and before the words had left his lips Jerry leaped past him, and in a series of bounds reached the edge of the water to disappear with a tremendous splash.

As Jerry made his first bound his master was in the act of rushing towards where the two girls were being now held down upon their knees by the men who had dragged them to the sultan's feet, when quick as lightning the savage chief made a blow at him with his kris, which fell short, for, driven with the full force of Hollins's tremendous arms, the butt of his double gun crashed against the side of the tyrant's head, and he rolled over and over among his attendants.

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

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

This daring attack on majesty seemed to have a paralysing effect upon the group of spearmen and swordbearers, who hung together for a few moments in utter wonder and dismay.

They were moments well utilised, for in that brief space of time the men who held the girls went over, two from blows dealt by Hollins with the butt of his gun, the others from strokes delivered by Beecher and Joe with the revolver he had drawn.

All this without a shot being fired, and for the moment the prisoners were free.

Fortunately for their would-be defenders, the girls were not timid creatures ready to faint, or cripple the arms of those who fought. For they sprang to their feet and looked wildly round for an opening by which to escape.

"To the naga—to the naga!" shouted Beecher, who[363] saw his man in the act of reaching the bows of the light boat, and as an arm rose above the water there was the flash of a knife-blade in the sunshine, and the boat was free and being urged with the stream towards the shore.

The girls dashed along the bank, fully grasping the fact that escape lay in that direction, and it was time, for a yell of suppressed rage now arose, as the Malays recovered from their panic, spears were levelled, krises flashed in the light, and they commenced their attack.

"The girls dashed along the bank."

"The girls dashed along the bank."

But their movements were slow and stealthy like those of the tiger preparing to spring, for three Englishmen faced them, each with deadly weapons ready to flash out destruction, as they backed in the direction of their boat.

"Don't fire, boys; don't fire," growled Hollins. "Give[364] the girls time to get on board. Look back, Joe, has Jerry got it ashore?"

"Pretty close, sir," said the man shortly. "Hooroar! One of the girls has jumped in. Yes, there goes the other. Won't leave us in the lurch, will they?—No. Hooroar again! they've took to the oars and are holding her in. Jerry's getting ashore again, legs and all, sir—not touched."

"Here you are, gents," came in that individual's familiar accents. "Let 'm have it hot, and make a run for it."

"No!" roared Hollins. "Keep your formation till we're abreast; then retire singly. You first, Joe."

There was a bristling hedge of spear-points approaching, and a snarling roar of voices rose, while suddenly a spear was thrown from the first prahu, but only to fall short of the retreating party, yards away upon the bank. Still that was the signal for a shower.

"They won't hurt," growled Hollins. "But if these brutes begin—Ah, I expected it.—Steady!—From the left.—Fire!"

A shot flashed from Beecher's gun as the spears began to fall about them, and a man dropped. Another fell from Hollins's fire, and another as Joe's revolver cracked. Then Beecher fired his second barrel, and drew his revolver.

At the same moment a dripping hand snatched the empty gun from his grasp, and a couple of cartridges from his sporting bandoleer.

"Good man and true," growled Hollins, as he fired. "Aboard now, Jerry; take more cartridges, and cover our retreat. Steady, and keep up a good covering fire. Steady, Joe, steady."

The firing was kept up, and the next minute they were abreast of the boat, which was held to the shore by the two brave girls.


"Right, man. Aboard now," cried Hollins calmly, as a shot from the boat's stern told that Jerry had begun work; and directly after a sharp crack came from the bows, telling that Joe had reached his place, men dropping at every carefully aimed shot.



"Hah!" ejaculated Beecher, as a spear passed through his sleeve.

"Hurt, lad?" growled Hollins. "Aboard if you can."

"Nothing much. Follow quickly," said Beecher, between his teeth, and the next moment Hollins stood alone upon the shore, to fire both barrels of his reloaded gun in succession, before turning and leaping aboard, the impetus given by his heavy body sending the boat yards from the bank, while the two girls began to row.


As soon as the last man left the bank the Malays rushed forward and began to hurl their spears, nearly every one striking the boat, till at a word from Hollins a little volley was fired, and, four less in number, the enemy shrank back.

"Now lads," said Hollins coolly, "let us have your pieces; we'll keep up the fire. You take two of the oars, and help the girls. Send her along with a rush, for they're beginning to unmoor that first prahu. Dick, lad, we must begin practice now on the men at the sweeps, or the game will soon be up. Oh, for half a company of our brave lads! But good heavens, man! are you much hurt?"

"No; only a cut, which bleeds a deal. Tie your handkerchief round, and I can fire steadily enough. They're unmooring the prahu. Can you hit that man casting off the rope there ashore?"


"Yes, that's downed him," said Hollins coolly reloading. "Hah! we're out of the reach of spears for the present."

"Till the prahu comes after us to run us down," muttered Beecher.—"Well, if ever they hear of it at home they'll say it was bravely done."


"Cease firing," said Hollins, after carefully wiping the breech of his piece, "and no bugle to sound. Are you all charged?"

"Yes—yes, sir," was the reply.

"That's right. I'd better relieve one of these ladies, for we must row for our lives. But how are you, Dick?"

"Sick as a dog, old chap," said the young man smiling; "but I haven't time to faint. I can take a shot[367] now and then, though, when they come in sight again." For as he spoke they swept round a bend, and the busy scene of excitement about the prahus and sampans, into which armed men were springing, passed from their sight.

"Good; I'll pull then. Wish we had a pair of sculls that I could take so as not to interfere."

"Why not put one of these oars over and I'll steer?" said Beecher faintly.

"We want no steering now, my lad," cried Hollins; "the thing is to go full speed for the hanging boughs, and rush through into the open river.—Here, hi!—What's the matter?" he cried excitedly.

"Better come and pull, sir," said Jerry excitedly; "these here dark misses want to go another way, I think."

The men had seized oars, and the girls dipped theirs vigorously, one of them pulling a few strokes with all her might, and then raising her blade and turning to look ahead, saying a word or two at intervals to her toiling sister in distress, who, after a few more dips, began to pull again with all her might.

The result was that the next minute the prow of their light boat was straight for what seemed to be the tree-studded bank, into which they rushed, with a sharp rustling sound as the hanging boughs swept over the roof of the palm-leaf awning, and they glided on into the gloomy shadow of a winding waterway some ten yards wide, the rowers softly dipping their oars, and one of them holding up a hand to enforce silence.

The sign was needed, for not many minutes had elapsed before there were shouts, the heavy beating of sweeps, and it was as evident to those in the boat as if they could see that a prahu had gone by the hidden opening through which they had passed, and was making at full speed for the river.

Hollins drew a deep breath, and passed his hand across his forehead.


"A respite, lad," he said; "but as soon as they see the main river clear they'll be back. Ask the girls if the men are to row again."

The question was not necessary, for one of the pair now signed to the two servants to resume their pulling, and the boat's speed was redoubled, while Beecher changed the form of his question, and the girl laughed.

"No," she said, shaking her head. "Prahu can't come along here. Water not deep enough."

"But the sampans?"

"Yes, and boats like this," said the girl. "Then you shoot and kill."

As she spoke she signed to the men to stop rowing, and the naga was turned into a side opening, and after a few minutes into another and another. For to the surprise of the young officers they found that this side of the river was one wide swamp full of dense vegetation, through which there was a perfect network of sluggish streams, forming a very labyrinth, in and out of whose mazy waterways they now rowed on and on in almost perfect silence, not a sound being heard but the dip of the oars and the soft washing of the agitated water among the straight columnar trunks which rose out of the black mud.

They went on for hours, till with the darkness the strange croaking and shrieking night sounds of the forest began. After many windings, they were amongst hanging boughs again which swept the top of their palm cabin, and the next minute were clear, with the bright stars overhead and the boat being carried seaward by the rushing stream.

Suddenly Hollins started and pointed to a light about a hundred yards away, and the girls began to row towards the opposite bank to avoid what was evidently the mooring light of a good-sized vessel anchored in mid-stream.

The moments which followed seemed to be the most[369] crucial through which they had passed, for they were forced by the sharp current very near a prahu, whose sides loomed up darkly, and at any moment it seemed that spears might come whirring into the boat.

But they cleared it unseen, to encounter fresh dangers from sunken trees, shoals, and other obstacles which they could not avoid in the darkness, and before they had drifted many hundred yards below the enemy there was a sharp jerk, a grinding sound, and they were fast upon a shoal, the boat only becoming more immovable with the efforts made to get her free.

There was nothing for it but to wait till daylight, when to their mortification they found that a thrust or two in the right direction was sufficient to set them free. Then the oars were seized and once more they rowed for life and in full expectation of seeing the prahu they had passed coming at full speed round one of the bends.

Within an hour their expectation was fulfilled, for one of the girls suddenly started up and pointed to the long light vessel with its oars flashing in the rising sunlight, as she came on at a speed double that which with every nerve strained they could get up in the naga.

"The game's up after all, Dick," muttered Hollins. "Well, we must do what we can with the guns. Plenty of cartridges, haven't we?"

Beecher looked at him wistfully, and slowly shook his head, but the next moment a thrill ran through his breast, and he rose up in his place, waving his hat.

"Saved!" he shouted. "Pull, lads, they'll see us soon."

Beecher was right, for a signal was made from a large boat a quarter of a mile down stream, manned by many rowers, and with the barrels of rifles glistening in the sun.

For at the first sign of day breaking a strong party with the regimental surgeon had started under the major in search of the missing officers, and it was none too soon,[370] the help arriving in the midst of a brave defence being made by the occupants of the naga.

A few shots from the rifles of the rescue party were sufficient though, to turn the tables, the prahu, after the loss of about a dozen men, beating a retreat up stream.

Two days later the sultan sent a couple of prahus full of armed men to demand the return of his wives.

Hollins and Beecher were both present when the sultan's officers were received in audience, and Beecher, whose arm was in a sling, acted as interpreter between them and the major.

"If I did what I liked, sir," said the young officer, "I'd bid them tell their master to come and fetch the girls."

"Well, that's not a bad message, Beecher," said the major, smiling; "it sounds British. Tell them that."

Beecher spoke out at once, and the embassy went off, as Hollins said, "with a flea in its ear."


Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
Edinburgh & London


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

[2] I need hardly say that this feat is quite authentic.—D. K.

[3] To show that I have not overstated the condition of the East India Company's armies during the rise of England's Eastern empire, it is sufficient to quote the description given by a great historian of the soldiers with whom Clive achieved the capture of Covelong and Chingleput: "The only force available for this purpose was of such a description that no one but Clive would risk his reputation by commanding it. It consisted of five hundred newly levied Sepoys, and two hundred recruits who had just landed from England, and who were the worst and lowest wretches that the Company's crimps could pick up in the 'flash-houses' of London."

[4] There are still men in India who can testify that this exploit, marvellous as it may appear to outsiders, has had more than one parallel.—D. K.

[5] It was not till 1856 (under the rule of Lord Dalhousie) that Oude was annexed to the British dominions; and, up to that time, the misrule of its native princes was the byword of all India. A favourite pastime with one of these model sovereigns was the sudden letting loose of a number of venomous snakes in the midst of a crowd of market-people!

[6] Literally "salt fellow"—a phrase implying that a man has been, as the Hindus say, "true to his salt."

[7] The presence of a tiger so close to a beaten road is (as I can bear witness from my own experience) not at all an unheard-of thing in Northern India even at the present day.—D. K.

[8] Loin cloth.

[9] Rich merchant.

[10] Little breakfast.


Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Otherwise, the author's original spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been left intact.

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