E-text prepared by Martin Robb
THE TIGER OF MYSORE:
A Story of the War with Tippoo Saib
G. A. HENTY.
Illustrated by W. H. Margetson
Preface. Chapter 1: A Lost Father. Chapter 2: A Brush With Privateers. Chapter 3: The Rajah. Chapter 4: First Impressions. Chapter 5: War Declared. Chapter 6: A Perilous Adventure. Chapter 7: Besieged. Chapter 8: The Invasion Of Mysore. Chapter 9: News Of The Captive. Chapter 10: In Disguise. Chapter 11: A Useful Friend. Chapter 12: A Tiger In A Zenana. Chapter 13: Officers Of The Palace. Chapter 14: A Surprise. Chapter 15: Escape. Chapter 16: The Journey. Chapter 17: Back At Tripataly. Chapter 18: A Narrow Escape. Chapter 19: Found At Last. Chapter 20: The Escape. Chapter 21: Home.
While some of our wars in India are open to the charge that they were undertaken on slight provocation, and were forced on by us in order that we might have an excuse for annexation, our struggle with Tippoo Saib was, on the other hand, marked by a long endurance of wrong, and a toleration of abominable cruelties perpetrated upon Englishmen and our native allies. Hyder Ali was a conqueror of the true Eastern type. He was ambitious in the extreme. He dreamed of becoming the Lord of the whole of Southern India. He was an able leader, and, though ruthless where it was his policy to strike terror, he was not cruel from choice.
His son, Tippoo, on the contrary, revelled in acts of the most abominable cruelty. It would seem that he massacred for the very pleasure of massacring, and hundreds of British captives were killed by famine, poison, or torture, simply to gratify his lust for murder. Patience was shown towards this monster until patience became a fault, and our inaction was naturally ascribed by him to fear. Had firmness been shown by Lord Cornwallis, when Seringapatam was practically in his power, the second war would have been avoided and thousands of lives spared. The blunder was a costly one to us, for the work had to be done all over again, and the fault of Lord Cornwallis retrieved by the energy and firmness of the Marquis of Wellesley.
The story of the campaign is taken from various sources, and the details of the treatment of the prisoners from the published narratives of two officers who effected their escape from prisons.
G. A. Henty.
Chapter 1: A Lost Father.
"There is no saying, lad, no saying at all. All I know is that your father, the captain, was washed ashore at the same time as I was. As you have heard me say, I owed my life to him. I was pretty nigh gone when I caught sight of him, holding on to a spar. Spent as I was, I managed to give a shout loud enough to catch his ear. He looked round. I waved my hand and shouted, 'Goodbye, Captain!' Then I sank lower and lower, and felt that it was all over, when, half in a dream, I heard your father's voice shout, 'Hold on, Ben!' I gave one more struggle, and then I felt him catch me by the arm. I don't remember what happened, until I found myself lashed to the spar beside him.
"'That is right, Ben,' he said cheerily, as I held up my head; 'you will do now. I had a sharp tussle to get you here, but it is all right. We are setting inshore fast. Pull yourself together, for we shall have a rough time of it in the surf. Anyhow, we will stick together, come what may.'
"As the waves lifted us up, I saw the coast, with its groves of coconuts almost down to the water's edge, and white sheets of surf running up high on the sandy beach. It was not more than a hundred yards away, and the captain sang out,
"'Hurrah! There are some natives coming down. They will give us a hand.'
"Next time we came up on a wave, he said, 'When we get close, Ben, we must cut ourselves adrift from this spar, or it will crush the life out of us; but before we do that, I will tie the two of us together.'
"He cut a bit of rope from the raffle hanging from the spar, and tied one end round my waist and the other round his own, leaving about five fathoms loose between us.
"'There,' he shouted in my ear. 'If either of us gets chucked well up, and the natives get a hold of him, the other must come up, too. Now mind, Ben, keep broadside on to the wave if you can, and let it roll you up as far as it will take you. Then, when you feel that its force is spent, stick your fingers and toes into the sand, and hold on like grim death.'
"Well, we drifted nearer and nearer until, just as we got to the point where the great waves tumbled over, the captain cut the lashings and swam a little away, so as to be clear of the spar. Then a big wave came towering up. I was carried along like a straw in a whirlpool. Then there was a crash that pretty nigh knocked the senses out of me. I do not know what happened afterwards. It was a confusion of white water rushing past and over me. Then for a moment I stopped, and at once made a clutch at the ground that I had been rolling over. There was a big strain, and I was hauled backwards as if a team of wild horses were pulling at me. Then there was a jerk, and I knew nothing more, till I woke up and found myself on the sands, out of reach of the surf.
"Your father did not come to for half an hour. He had been hurt a bit worse than I had, but at last he came round.
"Well, we were kept three months in a sort of castle place; and then one day a party of chaps, with guns and swords, came into the yard where we were sitting. The man, who seemed the head of the fellows who had been keeping us prisoners, walked up with one who was evidently an officer over the chaps as had just arrived. He looked at us both, and then laid his hand on the captain. Then the others came up.
"The captain had just time to say, 'We are going to be parted, Ben. God bless you! If ever you get back, give my love to my wife, and tell her what has happened to me, and that she must keep up her heart, for I shall make a bolt of it the first time I get a chance.'
"The next day, I was taken off to a place they call Calicut. There I stopped a year, and then the rajah of the place joined the English against Tippoo, who was lord of all the country, and I was released. I had got, by that time, to talk their lingo pretty well, though I have forgotten it all now, and I had found out that the chaps who had taken your father away were a party sent down by Tippoo, who, having heard that two Englishmen had been cast on shore, had insisted upon one of them being handed over to him.
"It is known that a great many of the prisoners in Tippoo's hands have been murdered in their dungeons. He has sworn, over and over again, that he has no European prisoners, but every one knows that he has numbers of them in his hands. Whether the captain is one of those who have been murdered, or whether he is still in one of Tippoo's dungeons, is more than I or any one else can say."
"Well, as I have told you, Ben, that is what we mean to find out."
"I know that is what your mother has often said, lad, but it seems to me that you have more chance of finding the man in the moon than you have of learning whether your father is alive, or not."
"Well, we are going to try, anyhow, Ben. I know it's a difficult job, but Mother and I have talked it over, ever since you came home with the news, three years ago; so I have made up my mind, and nothing can change me. You see, I have more chances than most people would have. Being a boy is all in my favour; and then, you know, I talk the language just as well as English."
"Yes, of course that is a pull, and a big one; but it is a desperate undertaking, lad, and I can't say as I see how it is to be done."
"I don't see either, Ben, and I don't expect to see until we get out there; but, desperate or not, Mother and I are going to try."
Dick Holland, the speaker, was a lad of some fifteen years of age. His father, who was captain of a fine East Indiaman, had sailed from London when he was nine, and had never returned. No news had been received of the ship after she touched at the Cape, and it was supposed that she had gone down with all hands; until, nearly three years later, her boatswain, Ben Birket, had entered the East India Company's office, and reported that he himself, and the captain, had been cast ashore on the territories of the Rajah of Coorg; the sole survivors, as far as he knew, of the Hooghley.
After an interview with the Directors, he had gone straight to the house at Shadwell inhabited by Mrs. Holland. She had left there, but had removed to a smaller one a short distance away, where she lived upon the interest of the sum that her husband had invested from his savings, and from a small pension granted to her by the Company.
Mrs. Holland was a half caste, the daughter of an English woman who had married a young rajah. Her mother's life had been a happy one; but when her daughter had reached the age of sixteen, she died, obtaining on her deathbed the rajah's consent that the girl should be sent to England to be educated, while her son, who was three years younger, should remain with his father.
Over him she had exercised but little influence. He had been brought up like the sons of other native princes, and, save for his somewhat light complexion, the English blood in his veins would never have been suspected.
Margaret, on the other hand, had been under her mother's care, and as the latter had always hoped that the girl would, at any rate for a time, go to her family in England, she had always conversed with her in that language, and had, until her decreasing strength rendered it no longer possible, given her an English education.
In complexion and appearance, she took far more after her English mother than the boy had done; and, save for her soft, dark eyes, and glossy, jet-black hair, might have passed as of pure English blood. When she sailed, it was with the intention of returning to India, in the course of a few years; but this arrangement was overthrown by the fact that on the voyage, John Holland, the handsome young first mate of the Indiaman, completely won her heart, and they were married a fortnight after the vessel came up the Thames.
The matter would not have been so hurried had not a letter she posted on landing, to her mother's sister, who had promised her a home, received an answer written in a strain which determined her to yield, at once, to John Holland's pressing entreaties that they should be married without delay. Her aunt had replied that she had consented to overlook the conduct of her mother, in uniting herself to a native, and to receive her for a year at the rectory; but that her behaviour, in so precipitately engaging herself to a rough sailor, rendered it impossible to countenance her. As she stated that she had come over with a sum sufficient to pay her expenses, while in England, she advised her to ask the captain—who, by the way, must have grossly neglected his duties by allowing an intimacy between her and his mate—to place her in some school, where she would be well looked after until her return to India.
The Indian blood in Margaret's veins boiled fiercely, and she wrote her aunt a letter which caused that lady to congratulate herself on the good fortune that had prevented her from having to receive, under her roof, a girl of so objectionable and violent a character.
Although the language that John Holland used concerning this letter was strong, indeed, he was well satisfied, as he had foreseen that it was not probable Margaret's friends would have allowed her to marry him, without communicating with her father; and that the rajah might have projects of his own for her disposal. He laid the case before the captain, who placed her in charge of his wife, until the marriage took place.
Except for the long absences of her husband, Margaret's life had been a very happy one, and she was looking forward to the time when, after another voyage, he would be able to give up his profession and settle down upon his savings.
When months passed by, and no news came of the Hooghley having reached port, Mrs. Holland at once gave up her house and moved into a smaller one; for, although her income would have been sufficient to enable her to remain where she was, she determined to save every penny she was able, for the sake of her boy. She was possessed of strong common sense and firmness of character, and when Ben Birket returned with his tale, he was surprised at the composure with which she received it.
"I have always," she said, "had a conviction that John was still alive, and have not allowed Dick to think of his father as dead; and now I believe, as firmly as before, that someday John will be restored to me. I myself can do nothing towards aiding him. A woman can do little, here. She can do nothing in India, save among her own people. I shall wait patiently, for a time. It may be that this war will result in his release. But in the meantime, I shall continue to prepare Dick to take up the search for him, as soon as he is old enough.
"I hear, once a year, from my brother, who is now rajah; and he will be able to aid my boy, in many ways. However, for a time I must be patient and wait. I have learnt to wait, during my husband's long absences; and besides, I think that the women of India are a patient race. I trust that John will yet come home to me, but if not, when it is time, we will try to rescue him."
Ben said nothing, at the time, to damp her courage; but he shook his head, as he left the cottage.
"Poor creature," he said. "I would not say anything to discourage her, but for a woman and boy to try to get a captive out of the claws of the Tiger of Mysore is just madness."
Each time he returned from a voyage, Ben called upon Mrs. Holland. He himself had given up every vestige of hope, when it was known that the name of her husband was not among the list of those whom Tippoo had been forced to release. Margaret Holland, however, still clung to hope. Her face was paler, and there was a set, pathetic expression in it; so, when she spoke of her husband as being still alive, Ben would sooner have cut out his tongue than allow the slightest word, indicative of his own feeling of certainty as to the captain's fate, to escape him; and he always made a pretence of entering warmly into her plans.
The training, as she considered it, of her son went on steadily. She always conversed with him in her father's language, and he was able to speak it as well as English. She was ever impressing upon him that he must be strong and active. When he was twelve, she engaged an old soldier, who had set up a sort of academy, to instruct him in the use of the sword; and in such exercises as were calculated to strengthen his muscles, and to give him strength and agility.
Unlike most mothers, she had no word of reproach when he returned home from school with a puffed face, or cut lips; the signs of battle.
"I do not want you to be quarrelsome," she often said to him, "but I have heard your father say that a man who can use his fists well is sure to be cool and quick, in any emergency. You know what is before you, and these qualities are of far more importance, in your case, than any book learning. Therefore, Dick, I say, never quarrel on your own account, but whenever you see a boy bullying a smaller one, take the opportunity of giving him a lesson while learning one yourself. In the days of old, you know, the first duty of a true knight was to succour the oppressed, and I want you to be a true knight. You will get thrashed sometimes, no doubt, but don't mind that. Perhaps, next time, you will turn the tables."
Dick acted upon this advice and, by the time he was fifteen, had established a reputation among, not only the boys of his own school, but of the district. In addition to his strength and quickness, he had a fund of dogged endurance, and imperturbable good temper, that did not fail him; even on the rare occasions when, in combats with boys much older than himself, he was forced to admit himself defeated.
The fact that he fought, not because he was angry, but as if it were a matter of business, gave him a great advantage; and his readiness to take up the cause of any boy ill-treated by another was so notorious, that "I will tell Dick Holland" became a threat that saved many a boy from being burned.
Ten days before his conversation with Ben, his mother had said:
"Dick, I can stand this no longer. I have tried to be patient, for six years, but I can be patient no longer. I feel that another year of suspense would kill me. Therefore, I have made up my mind to sail at once. The voyage will take us five months, and perhaps you may have to remain some little time, at my brother's, before you can start.
"Now that the time is come, I think that perhaps I am about to do wrong, and that it may cost you your life. But I cannot help it, Dick. I dream of your father almost every night, and I wake up thinking that I hear him calling upon me to help him. I feel that I should go mad, if this were to last much longer."
"I am ready, Mother," the boy said, earnestly. "I have been hoping, for some time, that you would say you would start soon; and though I have not, of course, the strength of a man, I think that will be more than made up by the advantage I should have, as a boy, in looking for my father; and at any rate, from what you tell me, I should think that I am quite as strong as an average native of your country.
"Anyhow, Mother, I am sure that it will be best for us to go now. It must have been awful for you, waiting all this time; and though you have never said anything about it, I have noticed for a long time that you were looking ill, and was sure that you were worrying terribly. What would be the use of staying any longer? I should not be very much stronger in another year than I am now, and a year would seem an age, to Father."
And so it was settled, and Mrs. Holland at once began to make preparations for their departure. She had already, without saying anything to Dick, given notice that she should give up the house. She had, during the six years, saved a sum of money amply sufficient for the expenses of the journey and outfit, and she had now only to order clothes for herself and Dick, and to part with her furniture.
Ben, on his return, had heard with grave apprehension that she was about to carry out her intention; but, as he saw that any remonstrance on his part would be worse than useless, he abstained from offering any, and warmly entered into her plans. After an hour's talk, he had proposed to Dick to go out for a stroll with him.
"I am glad to have a talk with you, Ben," Dick said. "Of course, I have heard, from Mother, what you told her when you came home; but I shall be glad to hear it from you, so as to know exactly how it all was. You know she feels sure that Father is still alive. I should like to know what your opinion really is about it. Of course, it will make no difference, as I should never say anything to her; but I should like to know whether you think there is any possibility of his being alive."
To this Ben had replied as already related. He was silent when Dick asserted that, desperate or not, he intended to carry out his mother's plan.
"I would not say as I think it altogether desperate, as far as you are concerned," he said thoughtfully. "It don't seem to me as there is much chance of your ever getting news of your father, lad; and as to getting him out of prison, if you do come to hear of him; why, honest, I would not give a quid of 'baccy for your chance; but I don't say as I think that it is an altogether desperate job, as far as you are concerned, yourself. Talking their lingo as you do, it's just possible as you might be able to travel about, in disguise, without anyone finding you out; especially as the Rajah, your uncle, ought to be able to help you a bit, and put you in the way of things, and perhaps send some trusty chap along with you. There is no doubt you are strong for your age, and being thin, and nothing but muscle, you would pass better as a native than if you had been thick and chunky. My old woman tells me as you have a regular name as a fighter, and that you have given a lesson to many a bully in the neighbourhood. Altogether, there is a lot in your favour, and I don't see why you should not pull through all right; at any rate, even should the worst come to the worst, and you do get news, somehow, that your poor father has gone down, I am sure it will be better for your mother than going on as she has done for the last six years, just wearing herself out with anxiety."
"I am sure it will, Ben. I can tell you that it is as much as I can do, sometimes, not to burst out crying when I see her sitting, by the hour, with her eyes open, but not seeing anything, or moving as much as a finger—just thinking, and thinking, and thinking.
"I wish we were going out in your ship, Ben."
"I wish you was, lad; but it will be five or six weeks before we are off again. Anyhow, the ship you are going in—the Madras—is a fine craft, and the captain bears as high a character as anyone in the Company's fleet.
"Well, lad, I hope that it will all turn out well. If I could have talked the lingo like a native, I would have been glad to have gone with you, and taken my chances. The captain saved my life in that wreck, and it would only have been right that I should risk mine for him, if there was but a shadow of chance of its being of use. But I know that, in a job of this sort, I could be of no good whatsomever, and should be getting you into trouble before we had gone a mile together."
"I am sure that you would help, if you could, Ben; but, of course, you could be of no use."
"And when do you think of being home again, lad?"
"There is no saying, Ben—it may be years. But, however long it takes, I sha'n't give it up until I find out, for certain, what has become of my father."
"And ain't there a chance of hearing how you are getting on, Dick? I shall think of you and your mother, often and often, when I am on deck keeping my watch at night; and it will seem hard that I mayn't be able to hear, for years, as to what you are doing."
"The only thing that I can do, Ben, will be to write if I get a chance of sending a messenger, or for my mother to write to you, to the office."
"That is it. You send a letter to Ben Birket, boatswain of the Madeira, care of East India Company, Leadenhall Street; and I shall get it, sooner or later. Of course, I shall not expect a long yarn, but just two or three words to tell me how you are getting on, and whether you have got any news of your father. And if you come back to England, leave your address at the Company's office for me; for it ain't an easy matter to find anyone out, in London, unless you have got their bearings right."
Ten days later, Mrs. Holland and Dick embarked on the Madras. Dick had been warned, by his mother, to say nothing to anyone on board as to the object of their voyage.
"I shall mention," she said, "that I am going out to make some inquiries respecting the truth of a report that has reached me, that some of those on board the Hooghley, of which my husband was captain, survived the wreck, and were taken up the country. That will be quite sufficient. Say nothing about my having been born in India, or that my father was a native rajah. Some of these officials—and still more, their wives—are very prejudiced, and consider themselves to be quite different beings to the natives of the country. I found it so on my voyage to England.
"At any rate, we don't want our affairs talked about. It will be quite sufficient for people to know that we are, as I said, going out to make some inquiries about the truth of this rumour."
"All right, Mother. At any rate, the captain has told you that he will look after you, and make things comfortable for you, so we need not care about anything else."
"We certainly need not care, Dick; but it is much more agreeable to get on nicely with everyone. I was very pleased when Captain Barstow called yesterday and said that, having heard at the office that the Mrs. Holland on the passenger list was the widow of his old shipmate, John Holland, he had come round to see if there was anything that he could do for her, and he promised to do all in his power to make us comfortable. Of course, I told him that I did not regard myself as Captain Holland's widow—that all we knew was that he had got safely ashore, and had been taken up to Mysore; and, as I had a strong conviction he was still alive, I was going out to endeavour to ascertain, from native sources, whether he was still living.
"'Well, ma'am, I hope that you will succeed,' he said. 'All this is new to me. I thought he was drowned, when the Hooghley went ashore. Anyhow, Mrs. Holland, I honour you for making this journey, just on the off chance of hearing something of your husband, and you may be sure I will do all I can to make the voyage a pleasant one for you.'
"So you see, we shall start favourably, Dick; for the captain can do a great deal towards adding to the comfort of a passenger. When it is known, by the purser and steward, that a lady is under the special care of the captain, it ensures her a larger share of civility, and special attentions, than she might otherwise obtain."
As soon as they went on board, indeed, the captain came up to them.
"Good morning, Mrs. Holland," he said. "You have done quite right to come on board early. It gives you a chance of being attended to, before the stewards are being called for by twenty people at once."
He beckoned to a midshipman.
"Mr. Hart, please tell the purser I wish to speak to him.
"So this is your son, Mrs. Holland? A fine, straight-looking young fellow. Are you going to put him in the Service? You have a strong claim, you know, which I am sure the Board would acknowledge."
"Do you know, Captain, it is a matter that I have hardly thought of—in fact, I have, for years, been so determined to go out and try and obtain some news of my husband, as soon as Dick was old enough to journey about as my protector, that I have not thought, as I ought to have done, what profession he should follow. However, he is only fifteen yet, and there will be time enough when he gets back."
"If he is to go into the service, the sooner the better, ma'am—one can hardly begin too young. However, I don't say there are not plenty of good sailors, afloat, who did not enter until a couple of years older than he is—there is no strict rule as to age.
"Only fifteen, is he? I should have taken him for at least a year older. However, if you like, Mrs. Holland, I will put him in the way of learning a good deal, during the voyage. He might as well be doing that as loafing about the deck all day."
"Much better, Captain. I am very much obliged to you, and I am sure that he will be, too."
"I should like it immensely, Captain," Dick exclaimed.
At this moment, the purser came up.
"Mr. Stevenson," the captain said, "this is Mrs. Holland. She is the wife of my old friend, John Holland—we were midshipmen together on board the Ganges. He commanded the Hooghley, which was lost, you know, five or six years ago, somewhere near Calicut. There were two or three survivors, and he was one of them, and it seems that he was taken up the country; so Mrs. Holland is going out to endeavour to ascertain whether he may not be still alive, though perhaps detained by one of those native princes.
"Please do everything you can to make her comfortable, and tell the head steward that it is my particular wish she shall be well attended to. Who is she berthed with?"
The purser took the passenger list from his pocket.
"She is with Mrs. Colonel Williamson, and the wife of Commissioner Larkins."
The captain gave a grunt of dissatisfaction. The purser went on.
"There is a small cabin vacant, Captain. Two ladies who were to have it—a mother and daughter—have, I hear this morning, been unexpectedly detained, owing to the sudden illness of one of them. Their heavy baggage is all in the hold, and must go on, and they will follow in the next ship. Shall I put Mrs. Holland in there?"
"Certainly. This is most fortunate.
"I don't think that you would have been comfortable, with the other two, Mrs. Holland. I don't know the colonel's wife, but Mrs. Larkins has travelled with us before, and I had quite enough of her on that voyage."
"Thank you very much, Captain. It will indeed be a comfort to have a cabin to myself."
Dick found that he was berthed with two young cadets, whose names, he learned from the cards fastened over the bunks, were Latham and Fellows.
Half an hour after the arrival of the Hollands on board, the passengers began to pour in rapidly, and the deck of the Madras was soon crowded with them, their friends, and their luggage. Below, all was bustle and confusion. Men shouted angrily to stewards; women, laden with parcels, blocked the gangway, and appealed helplessly to every one for information and aid; sailors carried down trunks and portmanteaus; and Mrs. Holland, when she emerged from her cabin, having stowed away her belongings and made things tidy, congratulated herself on having been the first on board, and so had not only avoided all this confusion, but obtained a separate cabin, which she might not otherwise have been able to do, as the captain would have been too busy to devote any special attention to her.
After having handed her over to the care of the purser, Captain Barstow had spoken to the second officer, who happened to be passing.
"Mr. Rawlinson," he said, "this is the son of my old friend, Captain Holland. He is going out with his mother. I wish you would keep your eye upon him, and let him join the midshipmen in their studies with you, in the morning. Possibly he may enter the Service, and it will be a great advantage to him to have got up navigation, a bit, before he does so. At any rate, it will occupy his mind and keep him out of mischief. A lad of his age would be like a fish out of water, among the passengers on the quarterdeck."
"Ay, ay, sir. I will do what I can for him."
And he hurried away.
Dick saw that, for the present, there was nothing to be done but to look on, and it was not until the next morning, when the Madras was making her way south, outside the Goodwins, that the second officer spoke to him.
"Ah, there you are, lad! I have been too busy to think of you, and it will be another day or two before we settle down to regular work. However, I will introduce you to one or two of the midshipmen, and they will make you free of the ship."
Dick was, indeed, already beginning to feel at home. The long table, full from end to end, had presented such a contrast to his quiet dinner with his mother, that, as he sat down beside her and looked round, he thought he should never get to speak to anyone throughout the voyage. However, he had scarcely settled himself when a gentleman in a naval uniform, next to him, made the remark:
"Well, youngster, what do you think of all this? I suppose it is all new to you?"
"It is, sir. It seems very strange, at first, but I suppose I shall get accustomed to it."
"Oh, yes. You will find it pleasant enough, by and bye. I am the ship's doctor. The purser has been telling me about you and your mother.
"I made one voyage with your father. It was my first, and a kinder captain I never sailed with. I heard, from the purser, that there seems to be a chance of his being still alive, and that your mother is going out to try and find out something about him. I hope, most sincerely, that she may succeed in doing so; but he has been missing a long time now. Still, that is no reason why she should not find him. There have been instances where men have been kept for years by some of these rascally natives—why, goodness only knows, except, I suppose, because they fear and hate us; and think that, some time or other, an English prisoner may be useful to them.
"Your mother looks far from strong," he went on, as he glanced across Dick to Mrs. Holland, who was talking to a lady on the other side of her. "Has she been ill?"
"No, sir. I have never known her ill, yet. She has been worrying herself a great deal. She has waited so long, because she did not like to go out until she could take me with her. She has no friends in England with whom she could leave me. She looks a good deal better, now, than she did a month ago. I think, directly she settled to come out, and had something to do, she became better."
"That is quite natural," the doctor said. "There is nothing so trying as inactivity. I have no doubt that the sea air will quite set her up again. It performs almost miracles on the homeward-bound passengers. They come on board looking pale, and listless, and washed out; at the end of a month at sea, they are different creatures altogether."
The purser had taken pains to seat Mrs. Holland, at table, next to a person who would be a pleasant companion for her; and the lady she was now talking to was the wife of a chaplain in the army. She had, a year before, returned from India in the Madras, and he knew her to be a kind and pleasant woman.
Dick did not care for his cabin mates. They were young fellows of about eighteen years of age. One was a nephew of a Director of the Company, the other the son of a high Indian official. They paid but little attention to him, generally ignoring him altogether, and conversing about things and people in India, in the tone of men to whom such matters were quite familiar.
In three or four days, Dick became on good terms with the six midshipmen the Madras carried. Two of them were younger than himself, two somewhat older, while the others were nearly out of their time, and hoped that this would be their last trip in the midshipmen's berth. The four younger lads studied, two hours every morning, under the second officer's instruction; and Dick took his place at the table regularly with them.
Mathematics had been the only subject in which he had at all distinguished himself at school, and he found himself able to give satisfaction to Mr. Rawlinson, in his studies of navigation. After this work was over, they had an hour's practical instruction by the boatswain's mate, in knotting and splicing ropes, and in other similar matters.
In a fortnight, he had learned the names and uses of what had, at first, seemed to him the innumerable ropes; and long before that, had accompanied one of the midshipmen aloft. On the first occasion that he did so, two of the topmen followed him, with the intention of carrying out the usual custom of lashing him to the ratlines, until he paid his footing. Seeing them coming up, the midshipman laughed, and told Dick what was in store for him.
The boy had been as awkward as most beginners in climbing the shrouds, the looseness and give of the ratlines puzzling him; but he had, for years, practised climbing ropes in the gymnasium at Shadwell, and was confident in his power to do anything in that way. The consequence was that, as soon as the sailors gained the top, where he and the midshipman were standing, Dick seized one of the halliards and, with a merry laugh, came down hand over hand. A minute later, he stood on the deck.
"Well done, youngster," said the boatswain's mate, who happened to be standing by, as Dick's feet touched the deck. "This may be the first time you have been on board a ship, but it is easy to see that it isn't the first, by a long way, that you have been on a rope. Could you go up again?"
"Yes, I should think so," Dick said. "I have never climbed so high as that, because I have never had the chance; but it ought to be easy enough."
The man laughed.
"There are not many sailors who can do it," he said. "Well, let us see how high you will get."
As Dick was accustomed to go up a rope thirty feet high, hand over hand, without using his legs, he was confident that, with their assistance, he could get up to the main top, lofty as it was, and he at once threw off his jacket and started. He found the task harder than he had anticipated, but he did it without a pause. He was glad, however, when the two sailors above grasped him by the arms, and placed him beside them on the main top.
"Well, sir," one said, admiringly, "we thought you was a Johnny Newcome, by the way you went up the ratlines, but you came up that rope like a monkey.
"Well, sir, you are free up here, and if you weren't it would not make much odds to you, for it would take half the ship's company to capture you."
"I don't want to get off paying my footing," Dick said, pulling five shillings from his pocket and handing them to the sailors; for his mother had told him that it was the custom, on first going aloft, to make a present to them, and had given him the money for the purpose. "I can climb, but I don't know anything about ropes, and I shall be very much obliged if you will teach me all you can."
Chapter 2: A Brush With Privateers.
Dick was surprised when, on descending to the deck, he found that what seemed to him a by no means very difficult feat had attracted general attention. Not only did half a dozen of the sailors pat him on the back, with exclamations expressive of their surprise and admiration, but the other midshipmen spoke quite as warmly, the eldest saying:
"I could have got up the rope, Holland, but I could not have gone up straight, as you did, without stopping for a bit to take breath. You don't look so very strong, either."
"I think that it is knack more than strength," Dick replied. "I have done a lot of practice at climbing, for I have always wanted to get strong, and I heard that there was no better exercise."
When, presently, Dick went aft to the quarterdeck, Captain Barstow said to him:
"You have astonished us all, lad. I could hardly believe my eyes, when I saw you going up that rope. I first caught sight of you when you had climbed but twenty feet, and wondered how far you would get, at that pace. I would have wagered a hundred guineas to one that you would not have kept it up to the top.
"Well, lad, whatever profession you take to, it is certain that you will be a good sailor spoilt."
They had now been three weeks out, but had made slow progress, for the winds had been light, and mostly from the southwest.
"This is very dull work," the doctor said to Dick one day, at dinner. "Here we are, three weeks out, and still hardly beyond the Channel. There is one consolation. It is not the fault of the ship. She has been doing well, under the circumstances, but the fates have been against her, thus far. I have no doubt there are a score of ships still lying in the Downs, that were there when we passed; and, tedious as it has been beating down the Channel, with scarce wind enough most of the time to keep our sails full, it would have been worse lying there, all the time."
"Still, we have gained a good bit on them, sir."
"If the wind were to change round, say to the northeast, and they brought it along with them, they would soon make up for lost time, for it would not take them three days to run here. However, we shall begin to do better, soon. I heard the captain say that he should change his course tomorrow. We are somewhere off Cork, and when he makes a few miles more westing, he will bear away south. If we had had a favourable wind, we should have taken our departure from the Start, but with it in this quarter we are obliged to make more westing, before we lay her head on her course, or we should risk getting in too close to the French coast; and their privateers are as thick as peas, there."
"But we should not be afraid of a French privateer, doctor?"
"Well, not altogether afraid of one, but they very often go in couples; and sometimes three of them will work together. I don't think one privateer alone would venture to attack us, though she might harass us a bit, and keep up a distant fire, in hopes that another might hear it and bear down to her aid. But it is always as well to keep free of them, if one can. You see, an unlucky shot might knock one of our sticks out of us, which would mean delay and trouble, if no worse.
"We had a sharp brush with two of them, on the last voyage, but we beat them off. We were stronger then than we are now, for we had two hundred troops on board, and should have astonished them if they had come close enough to try boarding—in fact, we were slackening our fire, to tempt them to do so, when they made out that a large craft coming up astern was an English frigate, and sheered off.
"I don't know what the end of it was, but I rather fancy they were taken. The frigate followed them, gaining fast; and, later on, we could hear guns in the distance."
"You did not join in the chase then, doctor?"
"Oh, no. Our business is not fighting. If we are attacked, of course we defend ourselves; but we don't go a foot out of our way, if we can help it."
Three weeks at sea had done wonders for Mrs. Holland. Now that she was fairly embarked upon her quest, the expression of anxiety gradually died out. The sea air braced up her nerves, and, what was of still greater benefit to her, she was able to sleep soundly and dreamlessly, a thing she had not done for years. Dick was delighted at the change in her.
"You look quite a different woman, Mother," he said. "I don't think your friends at Shadwell would know you, if they were to see you now."
"I feel a different woman, Dick. I have not felt so well and so bright since your father sailed on his last voyage. I am more convinced than ever that we shall succeed. I have been trying very hard, for years, to be hopeful, but now I feel so without trying. Of course, it is partly this lovely weather and the sea air, and sleeping so well; and partly because everyone is so kind and pleasant."
As soon as the Madras had been headed for the south, she began to make better way. The wind freshened somewhat, but continued in the same quarter. Grumbling ceased over the bad luck they were having, and hopeful anticipations that, after all, they would make a quick passage were freely indulged in.
On the fourth day after changing her course, she was off the coast of Spain, which was but a hundred and fifty miles distant. At noon that day the wind dropped suddenly, and, an hour later, it was a dead calm.
"We are going to have a change, Dick," the doctor said, as he stopped by the lad, who was leaning against the bulwark watching a flock of seabirds that were following a shoal of fish, dashing down among them with loud cries, and too intent upon their work to notice the ship, lying motionless a hundred yards away.
"What sort of a change, doctor?"
"Most likely a strong blow, though from what quarter it is too soon to say. However, we have no reason to grumble. After nearly a month of light winds, we must expect a turn of bad weather. I hope it will come from the north. That will take us down to the latitude of Madeira, and beyond that we may calculate upon another spell of fine weather, until we cross the Line."
As the afternoon wore on, the weather became more dull. There were no clouds in the sky, but the deep blue was dimmed by a sort of haze. Presently, after a talk between the captain and the first officer, the latter gave the order, "All hands take in sail."
The order had been expected, and the men at once swarmed up the rigging. In a quarter of an hour all the upper sails were furled. The light spars were then sent down to the deck.
"You may as well get the top-gallant sails off her, too, Mr. Green," the captain said to the first officer. "It is as well to be prepared for the worst. It is sure to blow pretty hard, when the change comes."
The top-gallant sails were got in, and when the courses had been brailed up and secured, the hands were called down. Presently the captain, after going to his cabin, rejoined Mr. Green.
"The glass has gone up again," Dick heard him say.
"That looks as if it were coming from the north, sir."
"Yes, with some east in it. It could not come from a better quarter."
He turned and gazed steadily in that direction.
"Yes, there is dark water over there."
"So there is, sir. That is all right. I don't mind how hard it blows, so that it does but come on gradually."
"I agree with you. These hurricane bursts, when one is becalmed, are always dangerous, even when one is under bare poles."
Gradually the dark line on the horizon crept up towards the ship. As it reached her the sails bellied out, and she began to move through the water. The wind increased in strength rapidly, and in half an hour she was running south at ten or eleven knots an hour. The thermometer had fallen many degrees, and as the sun set, the passengers were glad to go below for shelter.
Before going to bed, Dick went up on deck for a few minutes. The topsails had been reefed down, but the Madras was rushing through the water at a high rate of speed. The sea was getting up, and the waves were crested with foam. Above, the stars were shining brilliantly.
"Well, lad, this is a change, is it not?" the captain said, as he came along in a pea jacket.
"We seem to be going splendidly, Captain."
"Yes, we are walking along grandly, and making up for lost time."
"It is blowing hard, sir."
"It will blow a good deal harder before morning, lad, but I do not think it will be anything very severe. Things won't be so comfortable downstairs, for the next day or two, but that is likely to be the worst of it."
The motion of the ship kept Dick awake for some time, but, wedging himself tightly in his berth, he presently fell off to sleep, and did not wake again until morning. His two cabin mates were suffering terribly from seasickness, but he felt perfectly well, although it took him a long time to dress, so great was the motion of the ship.
On making his way on deck, he found that overhead the sky was blue and bright, and the sun shining brilliantly. The wind was blowing much harder than on the previous evening, and a heavy sea was running; but as the sun sparkled on the white crests of the waves, the scene was far less awe inspiring than it had been when he looked out before retiring to his berth. The ship, under closely-reefed main and fore-top sails, was tearing through the water at a high rate of speed, throwing clouds of spray from her bows, and occasionally taking a wave over them that sent a deluge of water along the deck.
"What do you think of this, lad?" Mr. Rawlinson, who was in charge of the watch, asked him; as, after watching his opportunity, he made a rush to the side and caught a firm hold of a shroud.
"It is splendid, sir," he said. "Has she been going like this all night?"
The officer nodded.
"How long do you think it will last, sir?"
"Two or three days."
"Will it be any worse, sir?"
"Not likely to be. It is taking us along rarely, and it is doing us good in more ways than one.
"Look there;" and as they rose on a wave, he pointed across the water, behind Dick.
The lad turned, and saw a brig running parallel to their course, half a mile distant.
"What of her, sir?"
"That is a French privateer, unless I am greatly mistaken."
"But she has the British ensign flying, sir."
"Ay, but that goes for nothing. She may possibly be a trader, on her way down to the Guinea coast, but by the cut of her sails and the look of her hull, I have no doubt that she is a Frenchman."
"We are passing her, sir."
"Oh, yes. In a gale and a heavy sea, weight tells, and we shall soon leave her astern; but in fine weather, I expect she could sail round and round us. If the French could fight their ships as well as they can build them, we should not be in it with them."
"Why don't we fire at her, Mr. Rawlinson?"
The officer laughed.
"How are you going to work your guns, with the ship rolling like this? No, lad, we are like two muzzled dogs at present—we can do nothing but watch each other. I am sorry to say that I don't think the fellow is alone. Two or three times I have fancied that I caught a glimpse of a sail on our starboard quarter. I could not swear to it, but I don't think I was mistaken, and I called the captain's attention that way, just before he went down ten minutes ago, and he thought he saw it, too. However, as there was nothing to be done, he went down for a caulk. He had not left the deck since noon, yesterday."
"But if she is no bigger than the other, I suppose we shall leave her behind, too, Mr. Rawlinson?"
"Ay, lad, we shall leave them both behind presently; but if they are what I think, we are likely to hear more of them, later on. They would not be so far offshore as this, unless they were on the lookout for Indiamen, which of course keep much farther out than ships bound up the Mediterranean; and, having once spotted us, they will follow us like hounds on a deer's trail. However, I think they are likely to find that they have caught a tartar, when they come up to us.
"Ah! Here is the doctor.
"Well, doctor, what is the report below?"
"Only the usual number of casualties—a sprained wrist, a few contusions, and three or four cases of hysterics."
"Is Mother all right, doctor?" Dick asked.
"As I have heard nothing of her, I have no doubt she is. I am quite sure that she will not trouble me with hysterics. Women who have had real trouble to bear, Dick, can be trusted to keep their nerves steady in a gale."
"I suppose you call this a gale, doctor?"
"Certainly. It is a stiff north-easterly gale, and if we were facing it, instead of running before it, you would not want to ask the question.
"That is a suspicious-looking craft, Rawlinson," he broke off, catching sight of the brig, now on their port quarter.
"Yes, she is a privateer I have no doubt, and, unless I am mistaken, she has a consort somewhere out there to starboard. However, we need not trouble about them. Travelling as we are, we are going two knots an hour faster than the brig."
"So much the better," the doctor said, shortly. "We can laugh at one of these fellows, but when it comes to two of them, I own that I don't care for their company. So the longer this gale holds on, the better."
The mate nodded.
"Well, Dick," the doctor went on, "do you feel as if you will be able to eat your breakfast?"
"I shall be ready enough for it, doctor, but I don't see how it will be possible to eat it, with the vessel rolling like this."
"You certainly will not be able to sit down to it—nothing would stay on the table a minute. There will be no regular breakfast today. You must get the steward to cut you a chunk of cold meat, put it between two slices of bread, and make a sandwich of it. As to tea, ask him to give you a bottle and to pour your tea into that; then, if you wedge yourself into a corner, you will find that you are able to manage your breakfast comfortably, and can amuse yourself watching people trying to balance a cup of tea in their hand."
Not more than half a dozen passengers ventured on deck, for the next two days, but at the end of that time the force of the wind gradually abated, and on the following morning the Madras had all her sails set, to a light but still favourable breeze. Madeira had been passed, to Dick's disappointment; but, except for a fresh supply of vegetables, there was no occasion to put in there, and the captain grudged the loss of a day, while so favourable a wind was taking them along.
"Do you think we shall see anything of that brig again, doctor?" Dick asked, as, for the first time since the wind sprang up, the passengers sat down to a comfortable breakfast.
"There is no saying, Dick. If we gained two knots an hour during the blow (and I don't suppose we gained more than one and a half), they must be a hundred and twenty miles or so astern of us; after all, that is only half a day's run. I think they are pretty sure to follow us for a bit, for they will know that, in light winds, they travel faster than we do; and if we get becalmed, while they still hold the breeze, they will come up hand over hand. It is likely enough that, in another three days or so, we may get a sight of them behind us."
This was evidently the captain's opinion also, for during the day the guns were overhauled, and their carriages examined, and the muskets brought up on deck and cleaned. On the following day the men were practised at the guns, and then had pike and cutlass exercise.
None of the passengers particularly noticed these proceedings, for Dick had been warned by the captain to say nothing about the brig; and as he was the only passenger on deck at the time, no whisper of the privateers had come to the ears of the others.
The party were just going down to lunch, on the third day, when a lookout in the maintop hailed the deck:
"A sail astern."
"How does she bear?"
"She is dead astern of us, sir, and I can only make out her upper sails. I should say that they are her royals."
Mr. Green ran up, with his telescope slung over his shoulder.
"I cannot make much out of her, sir," he shouted to the captain. "She may be anything. She must be nearly thirty miles astern. I think, with Pearson, that it is her royals we see."
"Take a look round, Mr. Green."
The mate did so, and presently called down:
"I can make out something else away on the starboard quarter, but so far astern that I can scarce swear to her. Still, it can be nothing but a sail."
"Thank you, Mr. Green. I daresay that we shall know more about her, later on."
When the captain joined the passengers at table, one of the ladies said:
"You seem interested in that ship astern of us, captain."
"Yes, Mrs. Seaforth. One is always interested in a ship, when one gets down as far as this. She may be another Indiaman, and although the Madras has no claim to any great speed in a light breeze like this, one never likes being passed."
The explanation was considered as sufficient, and nothing more was said on the subject. By sunset, the upper sails of the stranger could be made out from the deck of the Madras. Mr. Green again went up, and had a look at her.
"She is coming up fast," he said, when he rejoined the captain. "She keeps so dead in our wake that I can't make out whether she is a brig or a three master; but I fancy that she is a brig, by the size and cut of her sails. I can see the other craft plainly enough now; she is eight or ten miles west of the other, and has closed in towards her since I made her out before. I have no doubt that she is a large schooner."
"Well, it is a comfort that they are not a few miles nearer, Mr. Green. There is no chance of their overtaking us before morning, so we shall be able to keep our watches as usual, and shall have time to get ready for a fight, if there is to be one."
"The sooner the better sir, so that it is daylight. It is quite certain that they have the legs of us."
In the morning, when Dick came up, he found that the wind had quite died away, and the sails hung loosely from the yards. Looking astern, he saw two vessels. They were some six miles away, and perhaps two miles apart. As they lay without steerage way, they had swung partly round, and he saw that they were a brig and a schooner. The former he had no doubt, from her lofty masts and general appearance, was the same the Madras had passed six days before. As the passengers came up, they were full of curiosity as to the vessels.
"Of course, we know no more actually than you do yourselves," the captain said, as some of them gathered round and questioned him, "but I may as well tell you, frankly, that we have very little doubt about their being two French privateers. We passed them during the gale, and had some hopes that we should not see them again; but, in the light breeze we have been having during the last few days, they have made up lost ground, and I am afraid we shall have to fight them."
Exclamations of alarm broke from some of the ladies who heard his words.
"You need not be alarmed, ladies," he went on. "We carry twelve guns, you know, and I expect that all of them are of heavier metal than theirs. The Madras is a strongly-built ship, and will stand a good deal more hammering than those light craft will, so that I have no doubt we shall give a good account of ourselves."
After breakfast, the hatches were opened and the gun cases belonging to the passengers brought on deck. Scarce one of them but had a rifle, and many had, in addition, a shotgun. The day passed without any change in the positions of the vessels, for they still lay becalmed.
"Why don't they get out their boats, and tow their vessels up?" Dick asked the doctor.
"Because they would be throwing away their chances, if they did so. They know that we cannot get away from them, and we might smash up their boats as soon as they came within range. Besides, their speed and superior handiness give them a pull over us, when fighting under sail. They may try to tow up during the night, if they think they are strong enough to take us by boarding, but I hardly think they will do so."
The night, however, passed off quietly. But in the morning a light breeze sprang up from the east, the sails were trimmed, and the Madras again began to move through the water. By breakfast time, the craft behind had visibly decreased their distance.
The meal was a silent one. When it was over, the captain said:
"As soon as those fellows open fire, ladies, I must ask you all to go down into the hold. The sailors have already cleared a space, below the waterline, large enough for you; and they will take down some cushions, and so on, to make you as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances. Pray do not be alarmed at any noises you may hear. You will be below the waterline, and perfectly safe from their shot; and you may be sure that we shall do our best to keep the scoundrels from boarding us; and I will let you know, from time to time, how matters are going."
The unmarried men at once went up on deck. The others lingered for a short time behind, talking to their wives and daughters, and then followed.
"The wind has strengthened a bit, Mr. Green," the captain said, "and I fancy we shall get more."
"I think so, too, Captain."
"Then you may as well get off the upper sails, and make her snug. Get off everything above the top gallant. Then, if the wind increases, we shall not want to call the men away from the guns."
The crew had, without orders, already mustered at quarters. The lashings had been cast off the guns, the boatswain had opened the magazines, and a pile of shot stood by each gun, together with cases of canister and grapeshot for close work. Boarding pikes and cutlasses were ranged along by the bulwarks. The men had thrown aside their jackets, and many of those at the guns were stripped to the waist. Some of them were laughing and talking, and Dick saw, by their air of confidence, that they had no doubt of their ability to beat off the assault of the privateers.
The latter were the first to open the ball. A puff of smoke burst out from the brig's bows, followed almost instantly by one from the schooner. Both shots fell short, and, for a quarter of an hour, the three vessels kept on their way.
"We have heavier metal than that," the captain said, cheerfully, "and I have no doubt we could reach them. But it is not our game to play at long bowls, for it is probable that both of them carry a long pivot gun, and if they were to draw off a bit, they could annoy us amazingly, while we could not reach them."
Presently the privateers opened fire again. They were now about a mile away, and the same distance from each other. Their shot fell close to the Indiaman, and two or three passed through her sails.
Still no reply was made. The men at the guns fidgeted, and kept casting glances towards the poop, in expectation of an order. It came at last, but was not what they had expected.
"Double shot your guns, men," the captain said.
Scarcely was the order obeyed when the brig, which was now on the port quarter, luffed up a little into the wind, and fired a broadside of eight guns. There was a crashing of wood. The Madras was hulled in three places; two more holes appeared in her sails; while the other shot passed harmlessly just astern of her.
There was an angry growl among the sailors, as the schooner bore away a little, and also fired her broadside. Except that a man was struck down by a splinter from the bulwarks, no damage was done.
"Bear up a little," the captain said to the second officer, who was standing by the helmsman. "I want to edge in a little towards the brig, but not enough for them to notice it.
"Now, gentlemen," he went on, to the passengers, "I have no doubt that most of you are good shots, and I want you, after we have fired our broadside, to direct your attention to the brig's helmsmen. If you can render it impossible for the men to stand at the wheel, we will make mincemeat of this fellow in no time. Directly I have fired our port broadside, I am going to bring her up into the wind on the opposite tack, and give him the starboard broadside at close quarters. Don't fire until we have gone about, and then pick off the helmsmen, if you can.
"Get ready, men."
The brig was now but a little more than a quarter of a mile distant.
"Aim at the foot of his mainmast," he went on. "Let each man fire as he gets the mast on his sight."
A moment later the first gun fired, and the whole broadside followed in quick succession.
"Down with the helm! Hard down, sheets and tacks!"
The men whose duty it was to trim the sails ran to the sheets and braces. The Madras swept up into the wind, and, as her sails drew on the other tack, she came along on a course that would take her within a hundred yards of the brig.
As she approached, three rifles cracked out on her poop. One of the men at the helm of the brig fell, and as he did so, half a dozen more shots were fired; and as his companion dropped beside him, the brig, deprived of her helm, flew up into the wind.
Three men ran aft to the wheel, but the deadly rifles spoke out again. Two of them fell. The third dived under the bulwark, for shelter.
"Steady, men!" the captain shouted. "Fetch her mainmast out of her!"
As they swept along under the stern of the brig, each gun of their other broadside poured in its fire in succession, raking the crowded deck from end to end. A moment later, the mainmast was seen to sway, and a tremendous cheer broke from the Madras as it went over the side, dragging with it the foretopmast, with all its gear.
"Down with the helm again!" the captain shouted. "Bring her head to wind, and keep her there!"
The first officer sprang forward, to see that the order was carried into effect, and a minute later the Indiaman lay, with her sails aback, at a distance of a hundred yards, on the quarter of the brig.
"Grape and canister!" the captain shouted, and broadside after broadside swept the decks of the brig, which, hampered by her wreckage, was lying almost motionless in the water. So terrible was the fire, that the privateer's men threw down the axes with which they were striving to cut away the floating spars, and ran below.
"Double shot your guns, and give her one broadside between wind and water!" the captain ordered.
"Haul on the sheets and braces, Mr. Green, and get her on her course again—the schooner won't trouble us, now."
That craft had indeed, at first, luffed up, to come to the assistance of her consort; but on seeing the fall of the latter's mast, and that she was incapable of rendering any assistance, had again altered her course, feeling her incapacity to engage so redoubtable an opponent, single handed. Three hearty cheers broke from all on board the Madras as, after pouring in a broadside at a distance of fifty yards, she left the brig behind her, and proceeded on her way.
"Then you don't care about taking prizes, captain?" one of the passengers said, as they crowded round to congratulate him upon his easy, and almost bloodless, victory.
"No, taking prizes is not my business; and were I to weaken my crew, by sending some of them off in a prize, I might find myself short-handed if we met another of these gentlemen, or fell in with bad weather. Besides, she would not be worth sending home."
"The brig is signalling to her consort, sir," Mr. Green said, coming up.
"Ay, ay. I expect she wants help badly enough. I saw the chips fly close to her waterline, as we gave her that last broadside."
"They are lowering a boat," one of the passengers said.
"So they are. I expect they haven't got more than one that can swim.
"I think she is settling down," the captain said, as he looked earnestly at the wreck astern. "See how they are crowding into that boat, and how some of the others are cutting and slashing, to get the wreckage clear of her."
"She is certainly a good bit lower in the water than she was," the first officer agreed. "The schooner has come round, and won't be long before she is alongside of her."
There was no doubt that the brig was settling down fast. Men stood on the bulwarks, and waved their caps frantically to the schooner. Others could be seen, by the aid of a glass, casting spars, hen coops, and other articles overboard, and jumping into the water after them; and soon the sea around the wreck was dotted with heads and floating fragments, while the wreckage of the mainmast was clustered with men.
When the Madras was a mile away, the schooner was lying, thrown up head to wind, fifty yards from the brig; and her boats were already engaged in picking up the swimmers. Suddenly the brig gave a heavy lurch.
"There she goes!" the captain exclaimed.
A moment later the hull had disappeared, and the schooner remained alone.
By this time, the whole of the ladies had ascended from their place of safety to the poop, and a general exclamation broke from the passengers, as the brig disappeared.
"The schooner will pick them all up," the captain said. "They must have suffered heavily from our fire, but I don't think any will have gone down with her. The boat, which has already reached the schooner, must have taken a good many, and the mainmast and foretopmast and spars would support the rest, to say nothing of the things they have thrown overboard. There is one wasp the less afloat."
No further adventure was met with, throughout the voyage. They had a spell of bad weather off the Cape, but the captain said it was nothing to the gales they often encountered there, and that the voyage, as a whole, was an exceptionally good one; for, even after the delays they had encountered at the start, the passage had lasted but four months and a half.
They touched at Point de Galle for news, and to ascertain whether any French warships had been seen, of late, along the coast. A supply of fresh vegetables and fruit was taken on board, as the vessel, after touching at Madras, was to go on to Calcutta. A few of the passengers landed at Point de Galle, but neither Dick nor his mother went ashore.
"You will have plenty of opportunities of seeing Indians, later on, Dick," Mrs. Holland had said; "and, as the gigs will not take all ashore, we may as well stop quietly here. I heard the captain say that he would weigh anchor again, in four hours."
Dick was rather disappointed, but, as they would be at Madras before long, he did not much mind.
Ten days later, they anchored off that town. Little was to be seen except the fort, a number of warehouses, and the native town, while the scenery contrasted strongly with that of Ceylon, with its masses of green foliage, with hills rising behind.
For the last fortnight, Mrs. Holland had been somewhat depressed. Now that the voyage was nearly over, the difficulties of the task before her seemed greater than they had done when viewed from a distance, and she asked herself whether, after all, it would not have been wiser to have waited another two or three years, until Dick had attained greater strength and manhood. The boy, however, when she confided her doubts to him, laughed at the idea.
"Why, you know, Mother," he said, "we agreed that I had a much greater chance, as a boy, of going about unsuspected, than I should have as a man. Besides, we could never have let Father remain any longer, without trying to get him out.
"No, no, Mother, you know we have gone through it over and over again, and talked about every chance. We have had a first-rate voyage, and everything is going on just as we could have wished, and it would never do to begin to have doubts now. We have both felt confident, all along. It seems to me that, of all things, we must keep on being confident, at any rate until there is something to give us cause to doubt."
On the following morning, they landed in a surf boat, and were fortunate in getting ashore without being drenched. There was a rush of wild looking and half-naked natives to seize their baggage; but upon Mrs. Holland, with quiet decision, accosting the men in their own language, and picking out four of them to carry the baggage up, to one of the vehicles standing on the road that ran along the top of the high beach, the rest fell back, and the matter was arranged without difficulty.
After a drive of twenty minutes, they stopped at a hotel.
"It is not like a hotel, Mother," Dick remarked, as they drew up. "It is more like a gentleman's house, standing in its own park."
"Almost all the European houses are built so, here, Dick, and it is much more pleasant than when they are packed together."
"Much nicer," Dick agreed. "If each house has a lot of ground like this, the place must cover a tremendous extent of country."
"It does, Dick; but, as every one keeps horses and carriages, that does not matter much. Blacktown, as they call the native town, stands quite apart from the European quarter."
As soon as they were settled in their rooms, which seemed to Dick singularly bare and unfurnished, mother and son went out for a drive, in one of the carriages belonging to the hotel. Dick had learned so much about India from her that, although extremely interested, he was scarcely surprised at the various scenes that met his eye, or at the bright and varied costumes of the natives.
Many changes had taken place, during the seventeen years that had elapsed since Mrs. Holland had left India. The town had increased greatly in size. All signs of the effects of the siege by the French, thirty years before, had been long since obliterated. Large and handsome government buildings had been erected, and evidences of wealth and prosperity were everywhere present.
Chapter 3: The Rajah.
"Now, Mother, let us talk over our plans," Dick said as, after dinner, they seated themselves in two chairs in the veranda, at some little distance from the other guests at the hotel. "How are we going to begin?"
"In the first place, Dick, we shall tomorrow send out a messenger to Tripataly, to tell my brother of our arrival here."
"How far is it, Mother?"
"It is about a hundred and twenty miles, in a straight line, I think; but a good bit farther than that, by the way we shall go."
"How shall we travel, Mother?"
"I will make some inquiries tomorrow, but I think that the pleasantest way will be to drive from here to Conjeveram. I think that is about forty miles. There we can take a native boat, and go up the river Palar, past Arcot and Vellore, to Vaniambaddy. From there it is only about fifteen miles to Tripataly.
"I shall tell my brother the way I propose going. Of course, if he thinks any other way will be better, we shall go by that."
"Are we going to travel as we are, Mother, or in native dress?"
"That is a point that I have been thinking over, Dick. I will wait, and ask my brother which he thinks will be the best. When out there I always dressed as a native, and never put on English clothes, except at Madras. I used to come down here two or three times every year, with my mother, and generally stayed for a fortnight or three weeks. During that time, we always dressed in English fashion, as by so doing we could live at the hotel, and take our meals at public tables without exciting comment. My mother knew several families here, and liked getting back to English ways, occasionally.
"Of course, I shall dress in Indian fashion while I stay at my brother's, so it is only the question of how we shall journey there, and I think I should prefer going as we are. We shall excite no special observation, travelling as English, as it will only be supposed that we are on our way to pay a visit to some of our officers, at Arcot. At Conjeveram, which is a large place, there is sure to be a hotel of some sort or other, for it is on the main road from Madras south. On the way up, by water, we shall of course sleep on board, and we shall go direct from the boat to Tripataly.
"However, we need not decide until we get an answer to my letter, for it will take a very short time to get the necessary dresses for us both. I think it most likely that my brother will send down one of his officers to meet us, or possibly may come down himself.
"You heard what they were all talking about, at dinner, Dick?"
"Yes, Mother, it was something about Tippoo attacking the Rajah of Travancore, but I did not pay much attention to it. I was looking at the servants, in their curious dresses."
"It is very important, Dick, and will probably change all our plans. Travancore is in alliance with us, and every one thinks that Tippoo's attack on it will end in our being engaged in war with him. I was talking to the officer who sat next to me, and he told me that, if there had been a capable man at the head of government here, war would have been declared as soon as the Sultan moved against Travancore. Now that General Meadows had been appointed governor and commander-in-chief, there was no doubt, he said, that an army would move against Tippoo in a very short time—that it was already being collected, and that a force was marching down here from Bengal.
"So you see, my boy, if this war really breaks out, the English may march to Seringapatam, and compel Tippoo to give up all the captives he has in his hands."
"That would be splendid, Mother."
"At any rate, Dick, as long as there is a hope of your father being rescued, in that way, our plans must be put aside."
"Well, Mother, that will be better, in some respects; for of course, if Father is not rescued by our army, I can try afterwards as we arranged. It would be an advantage, in one way, as I should then be quite accustomed to the country, and more fit to make my way about."
A week later, an old officer arrived from Tripataly.
"Ah, Rajbullub," Mrs. Holland exclaimed, as he came up with a deep salaam; "I am, indeed, glad to see you again. I knew you were alive, for my brother mentioned you when he wrote last year."
Rajbullub was evidently greatly pleased at the recognition.
"I think I should have known you, lady," he said; "but eighteen years makes more changes in the young than in the old. Truly I am glad to see you again. There was great joy among us, who knew you as a child, when the Rajah told us that you were here. He has sent me on to say that he will arrive, tomorrow. I am to see to his apartments, and to have all in readiness. He intends to stay here, some days, before returning to Tripataly."
"Will he come to this hotel?"
"No, lady, he will take the house he always has, when he is here. It is kept for the use of our princes, when they come down to Madras. He bade me say that he hopes you will remain here, for that none of the rooms could be got ready, at such a short notice.
"He has not written, for he hates writing, which is a thing that he has small occasion for. I was to tell you that his heart rejoiced, at the thought of seeing you again, and that his love for you is as warm as it was when you were a boy and girl together."
"This is my son, Rajbullub. He has often heard me speak of you."
"Yes, indeed," Dick said, warmly. "I heard how you saved her from being bitten by a cobra, when she was a little girl."
"Ah! The young lord speaks our tongue," Rajbullub said, with great pleasure. "We wondered whether you would have taught it to him. If it had not been that you always wrote to my lord in our language, we should have thought that you, yourself, would surely have forgotten it, after dwelling so long among the white sahibs."
"No, we always speak it when together, Rajbullub. I thought that he might, some day, come out here, and that he would find it very useful; and I, too, have been looking forward to returning, for a time, to the home where I was born."
There were many questions to ask about her brother, his wife and two sons. They were younger than Dick, for Mrs. Holland was three years senior to the Rajah.
At last, she said, "I will not detain you longer, Rajbullub. I know that you will have a great deal to do, to get ready for my brother's coming. At what time will he arrive?"
"He hopes to be here by ten in the morning, before the heat of the day sets in."
"I shall, of course, be there to meet him."
"So he hoped, lady. He said that he would have come straight here, first, but he thought it would be more pleasant for you to meet him in privacy."
"Assuredly it would," she agreed.
"I will bring a carriage for you, here, at nine o'clock; and take you and my young lord to the Rajah's house."
At the appointed time, a handsome carriage and pair drove up to the door of the hotel, and in ten minutes Mrs. Holland and Dick alighted in the courtyard of a large house. Four native servants were at the door, and the old officer led the way to a spacious room. This was carpeted with handsome rugs. Soft cushions were piled on the divan, running round the room, the divan itself being covered with velvet and silk rugs. Looking glasses were ranged upon the walls; a handsome chandelier hung from the roof; draperies of gauze, lightly embroidered with gold, hung across the windows.
"Why, Rajbullub, you have done wonders—that is, if the house was unfurnished, yesterday."
"It is simple," the Hindoo said. "My lord your brother, like other rajahs who use the house when they come down here, has a room upstairs; in which are kept, locked up, everything required for furnishing the rooms he uses. Four of his servants came down here, with me. We had but to call in sweepers, to clear the house from dust and wash down the marble floors, and then everything was put into its place. The cook, who also came down, has hired assistants, and all will be ready for my lord, when he arrives."
In half an hour, one of the servants ran in, and announced that the Rajah was in the courtyard. There was a great trampling of hoofs, and a minute later he ascended the stairs, and was met by his sister and Dick at the door of the room.
Mrs. Holland had attired herself handsomely, not so much for the sake of her brother, but that, as his sister, those with him would expect to see in her an English lady of position; and Dick thought that he had never seen her looking so well as when, in a dress of rich brocade, and with a flush of pleasure and expectation on her cheeks, she advanced to the door. She was still but a little over thirty-three years old, and although the long years of anxiety and sorrow had left their traces on her face, the rest and quiet of the sea voyage had done much to restore the fulness of her cheeks, and to soften the outline of her figure.
The Rajah, a young and handsome-looking man of thirty, ascended the stairs with an eagerness and speed that were somewhat at variance with Dick's preconceived ideas of the stateliness of an Eastern prince.
"My sister Margaret!" he exclaimed, in English, and embraced her with a warmth that showed that his affection for her was unimpaired by the years that had passed since he last saw her.
Then he stood with his hands on her shoulders, looking earnestly at her.
"I know you again," he said. "You are changed, but I can recall your face well. You are welcome, Margaret, most welcome.
"And this is my nephew?" he went on, turning to Dick, and holding out both his hands to him. "You are taller than I expected—well nigh as tall as I am. You are like your mother and my mother; and you are bold and active and strong, she writes me. My boys are longing to see you, and you will be most welcome at Tripataly.
"I have almost forgotten my English, Margaret "—and, indeed, he spoke with some difficulty, evidently choosing his words—"I should quite have forgotten it, had not I often had occasion to speak it with English officers. I see, by your letters, that you have not forgotten our tongue."
"Not in the least, Mortiz. I have, for years, spoken nothing else with Dick, and he speaks it as well as I do."
"That is good," the Rajah replied, in his own tongue, and in a tone of relief. "I was wondering how he would get on with us.
"Now, let us sit down. We have so much to tell each other, and, moreover, I am ravenous for breakfast, as I have ridden forty miles since sunrise."
Breakfast was speedily served, the Rajah eating in English fashion.
"I cling to some of our mother's ways, you see, Margaret. As I have grown older, I have become more English than I was. Naturally, as a boy of thirteen, as I was when you last saw me, I listened to the talk of those around me, and was guided by their opinions a good deal. Among them, there was a feeling of regret that our father had married an English woman; and I, of course, was ever trying my hardest to show that in riding, or the chase, or in exercises of any kind, I was as worthy to be the son of an Indian rajah as if I had no white blood in my veins.
"As I grew up, I became wiser. I saw how great the English were, how steadily they extended their dominions, and how vastly better off were our people, under their sway, than they were in the days when every rajah made war against his neighbour, and the land never had rest. Then I grew proud of my English blood, and although I am, to my people, Rajah of Tripataly, a native prince and lord of their destinies, keeping up the same state as my father, and ruling them in native fashion, in my inner house I have adopted many English ways.
"My wife has no rival in the zenana. I encourage her to go about, as our mother did, to look after the affairs of the house, to sit at table with me, and to be my companion, and not a mere plaything. I am sure, Margaret, your stay with us will do her much good, and she will learn a great deal from you."
"You have heard no news since you last wrote, Mortiz?"
A slight cloud passed across the Rajah's animated face.
"None, Margaret. We have little news from beyond the mountains. Tippoo hates us, who are the friends of the English, as much as he hates the English themselves, so there is little communication between Mysore and the possessions of the Nabob of Arcot. We will talk, later on, of the plans you wrote of in your last letter to me."
"You do not think that they are hopeless, Mortiz?" Mrs. Holland asked, anxiously.
"I would not say that they are hopeless," he said gently, "although it seems to me that, after all these years, the chances are slight, indeed, that your husband can be alive; and the peril and danger of the enterprise that, so far as I understood you, you intend your son to undertake, would be terrible, indeed."
"We see that, Mortiz. Dick and I have talked it over, a thousand times. But so long as there is but a shadow of a chance of his finding his father, he is ready to undertake the search. He is a boy in years, but he has been trained for the undertaking, and will, when the trial comes, bear himself as well as a man."
"Well, Margaret, I shall have plenty of opportunities for forming my own judgment; because, of course, he will stay with us a long time before he starts on the quest, and it will be better to say no more of this, now.