The Young Rajah, by W.H.G. Kingston.
The time is just before the Indian Mutiny. A young man returns to India in search of important papers of his father's. He arrives within the territory of the Rajah with whom his father had been associated. Various unrests and disturbances occur, during which it turns out that the young man is in fact the grandson of the ruling Rajah, and his heir. This is not very agreeable to the young man, as he does not like to be venerated.
There is a lot of good action in the book, and it would have been an easy read for the nineteenth century teenager.
THE YOUNG RAJAH, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
THE "GLAMORGAN CASTLE" ON HER VOYAGE TO INDIA—HER PASSENGERS—OUR HERO—COMBINED EFFECTS OF A KICK AND A ROLL—VIOLET ROSS—CUPID AT WORK—OUR HERO'S GALLANT EXPLOIT—THE SHIP REACHES THE HOOGHLY—PARTING OF REGINALD AND VIOLET.
The stout old Glamorgan Castle, with studding-sails on either side, was running before the trade-wind on her course to India. The passengers were lounging about on the poop, sheltered by an awning from the burning rays of the sun, which struck down with no inconsiderable force, making even the well-seasoned Indians grumble and incline to be quarrelsome. Of passengers the ship had her full complement, for all the cabins were full. There were among them generals, and judges, and officers of all ranks; as well as married dames returning to their husbands, and young ladies committed to their care; but few of them need be noticed. There were Colonel Ross, with his sweet, blooming daughter Violet; and Major Molony and his pretty little round wife, to whom he had lately been married; and Captain Hawkesford, going out to rejoin his regiment,—a handsome-looking man, but with a countenance not altogether prepossessing, for it betokened selfishness and want of feeling, or the lines about his firm set mouth, and large grey eyes, belied him.
The commander, Captain Lyford, was a fine specimen of a sailor. He made himself agreeable to his passengers, and kept his ship's company in good order. When nothing occurred to excite him, his face was calm and unimpassioned; but it lighted up in a moment, and his clear, ringing voice when issuing an order to the crew showed that there was no lack of courage and determination in his composition.
There were the usual disputes and misunderstandings on board, which gave the good skipper, who always acted as peacemaker, no little trouble to settle. The ladies not infrequently fell out; and their quarrels, he confessed, were the hardest matters to put to rights, especially when jealousy set them by the ears. Mrs Brigadier Bomanjoy considered that she did not receive the same attention which was paid to Mrs Lexicon, the wife of the judge; and Miss Martha Pelican, who was making her second expedition to the East, complained that the officers neglected her, while they devoted themselves to silly Miss Prettyman, who had no other qualifications than her pink cheeks and blue eyes to recommend her. The "griffins" not infrequently had warm disputes; but the captain quickly managed to settle their more noisy quarrels, and restore them to good-humour.
"Come, come, lads," he used to say, "let's hear what it's all about, and then we will get the whole matter into a nut-shell. It can be stowed away in less space than that, I've no doubt; and when it's there, we'll heave it overboard. Now then, shake hands, and forget all about it."
He did not, however, venture to interfere when husband and wife fell out, considering that a third person would only make matters worse; and more especially did he avoid interfering in the everlasting squabbles of Major and Mrs Molony—which were indeed rather amusing than otherwise, the object of the little lady being apparently to bring her lord and master under the complete subjection of her imperious will, to which he, good-tempered as he was, had no intention of yielding.
There were several very nice girls, of whom Miss Violet Ross was universally considered the most charming. She was young, and very pretty; fair as a lily, with blue eyes and rich auburn hair. But she had a good deal more than her beauty to recommend her. She was sweet-tempered, gentle, and high principled. Mrs Brigadier Bomanjoy declared that she was puritanical and prudish; but she was in reality truly religious and modest, without a particle of nonsense in her composition. Captain Hawkesford, generally supposed to be indifferent to female charms,—at least, to those of his own countrywomen,—paid her more attention than he did to any one else, although she evidently offered him no encouragement.
There was another person on board who must now be mentioned. Many inquiries had been made of the captain who he was, but no satisfactory answer had been given. His costume was that of a seaman, but no one could suppose that he was a common sailor. His manner was distinguished, his good looks remarkable, and the tone of his voice and language refined. He was still very young, being scarcely more than eighteen or nineteen years of age. He was on familiar terms with the officers of the ship, and mingled with the passengers without any objection being made by the captain. He spoke Hindostanee fluently, and addressed the Lascars in their own tongue; while he showed an intimate acquaintance with Indian manners and customs, as well as with those of China and the East generally. The hot suns of Eastern seas had tanned his cheeks and given him almost the appearance of an Oriental. The only account the captain gave of him was that his name was Reginald Hamerton, and that he had come home with him from India on his last voyage, and had, during a heavy gale, exhibited much courage and nautical knowledge. Many thought, from his dark skin, classical features, and flashing eye, that there was Indian blood in his veins; and it was whispered that he was the son of a resident at the court of some native prince, and that his mother was the rajah's daughter: but of this the captain said he knew nothing. He spoke English perfectly, was well educated, and had the manners of a young man accustomed to the best society. He conversed freely with every one, but it was observed that he was extremely reticent about himself, never alluding to his past life or his future prospects. Still he seemed perfectly at his ease about them; nor did he speak like a person who had any doubts as to what he should do on his arrival in India.
Altogether, there was a perfect mystery about him, which increased the interest his personal appearance was calculated to excite,—at all events, among the fairer portion of the passengers. He was courteous and attentive to all the ladies; but it was remarked at length that he was more frequently seen in conversation with Violet Ross than with any one else. If her eye brightened when he came near, that was but natural; as also that she should prefer talking to him to listening to the remarks made to her by the cynical Captain Hawkesford,—who evidently regarded young Hamerton with a feeling of dislike, which he exhibited whenever he had an opportunity by a haughty and contemptuous manner towards him. Colonel Ross, on the contrary, treated Reginald in a kind and friendly way, and appeared to have no objection to his conversing with Violet on deck, or to any of the attentions he paid her. The third officer being ill, young Hamerton, as he was generally called, took his place; and few could have failed to remark the officer-like style in which he carried on duty, or the clear, ringing voice in which he issued his orders,—displaying to advantage his well-knit figure as he walked the deck with telescope under his arm, or with his hand to his mouth, his fine head thrown back, shouting to the crew. Violet's eye was wont to watch him as he moved about the deck, and a gentle flush mounted on her cheek whenever he came near and bent down to speak to her.
Captain Hawkesford scarcely concealed his jealousy, and expressed it in remarks which he seemed to wish should reach Reginald's ear. "As the young sailor was to all appearance working his passage, he should not venture to make himself so familiar with those who were above him in rank and position. For his part, he was surprised that Captain Lyford allowed him to dine in the cabin, when he ought to mess with the other junior officers."
If Reginald did hear what was said, he took no notice of Captain Hawkesford's remarks, but appeared to be quite as much at his ease as at first.
One day while he was attending to some duty forward, Captain Hawkesford took a seat near Violet, and endeavoured to make himself agreeable to the best of his power. She listened, for without rudeness she could not avoid doing so; but no smile played around her mouth, while her answers were mostly in monosyllables. Colonel Ross at length coming near, she jumped up and took his arm, saying that she should like to enjoy a walk for a few minutes. Captain Hawkesford looked excessively annoyed, but did not attempt to accompany her. After a short time Reginald came aft, when the gong sounded for dinner. She said a few words to him as she went below; upon which he followed with a haste he seldom exhibited, and, as the passengers took their seats, slipped into a chair on one side of Violet, while her father sat on the other. Captain Hawkesford, on returning from his cabin, found the place he had intended to occupy already filled, and with an angry frown on his brow he went to the further end of the table. Most of the passengers had collected, when some one remarked that the chairs of Major and Mrs Molony were vacant.
"Why did they not come down?" asked Mrs Brigadier Bomanjoy.
"The little lady is in one of her tantrums," answered Miss Pelican. "The gallant major is endeavouring to bring her round, but she won't because she won't."
Just then the voice of the little lady was heard, mingled with the expostulations of her liege lord, coming down the open skylight, on the coamings of which she was seated, directly over the head of the table.
"Come, ladies and gentlemen, we must commence operations or the meat will get cold," observed the captain; and having said grace, he was about to begin carving a leg of mutton swimming in gravy placed before him, when there came a wild scream and a shout from the major,—"Arrah, my darling, where are you after going to?" though, before the words were well out of the speaker's mouth, down came flop on the top of the leg of mutton the rotund form of Mrs Major Molony, fortunately head uppermost, in a semi-sitting posture,—the joint of meat serving as a cushion to that part of her body which is usually thus accommodated, while one of her feet stuck into a dish of potatoes and the other into one of curry and rice, the gravy flying on all sides like the contents of a bursting bomb.
"Oh, where have I got to?" cried the little lady, panting and screaming with terror, though she was sufficiently aware of what had happened to make an endeavour to cover up her little round legs, which were more exposed than her modesty would have allowed.
Captain Lyford, with all the delicacy imaginable, though his sides were splitting with laughter, placed his arms under the little lady, and lifted her up ready to present to the major, who came rushing down wild with alarm, under the belief that she must have either broken her neck, or have been spitted on the carving knife and fork.
"Arrah now, my darling, is it killed you are entirely?" he exclaimed, as he caught sight of her.
The shouts of laughter proceeding from all sides, and in which even Violet and Reginald could not help joining, prevented her answer from being heard, as the major, taking her in his arms, bore her off to her cabin, that she might put a fresh skirt on in lieu of her gravy-bespattered dress.
The steward had in the meantime picked up the leg of mutton, which had been sent spinning out of the dish; and its tenderness was accounted for by the unusual pressure to which it had been subjected by the fair little dame.
It appeared, from the conversation of the major, who soon returned to the table, that at the moment his wife was kicking at him pettishly with her foot the ship gave a roll, and she, losing her balance, the catastrophe lately witnessed had occurred; a lesson, as he observed with a wink, by which he piously hoped she would in future profit.
"I congratulate you, my dear, that it did not happen to you," observed the brigadier to his better half.
"I never kick at my husband," answered the lady.
For the sake of the feelings of Mrs Molony the conversation was changed, when she at length appeared, considerably crestfallen, and took her seat meekly by her husband's side. Dinner was proceeded with; but every now and then some of the young ensigns burst out into uncontrollable fits of laughter, joined in by the rest like the fire of skirmishers, as one of them happened to recall the incident to mind,— the only one hitherto worth noting during the voyage, which promised to terminate without the occurrence of any of greater importance.
Some days had passed after this event, when, as the ship was still running before the wind, making eight or nine knots an hour, with a somewhat heavy sea on, a fine young lad—going out to join his father and mother, who had obtained some employment for him in the uncovenanted service—was skylarking aloft with some other youngsters, when, losing his hold, he fell into the foaming sea.
"Man overboard!" was the cry.
Captain Lyford was on deck in a moment, issuing orders to shorten sail and bring the ship to, that a boat might be lowered. The lad could swim, but suddenly finding himself plunged amid the foaming seas, he lost his presence of mind, and it appeared doubtful whether he would keep afloat. A couple of chairs and a hen-coop had been hove to him, but not till he had been left some way astern. Reginald, on hearing the cry, ran aft, and without waiting to take off even his hat, lowered himself into the water and struck out towards the wellnigh drowning lad. It was evening, and darkness was rapidly coming on. Intense was the excitement of all on board. Violet Ross did not exhibit her feelings, as some of the other ladies did, by shrieking and crying out, but she was seen standing on the poop, her gaze fixed on the two young swimmers.
Running at the rate the ship was going, they were soon lost to sight; for though the crew were under good discipline, it was not to be expected that sail could be shortened as rapidly as on board a man-of-war.
Opinions of all sorts were being hazarded. Some gave them up for lost, declaring that the best of swimmers could not keep afloat in such a sea.
"The young fellow may drown, for what I care," muttered Captain Hawkesford, as he turned forward, away from the rest of the lookers-on. The captain and officers were too busy to answer the questions put to them on the subject.
At length the ship was hove-to, and a boat with the first mate and a crew of volunteers was lowered. Away she pulled in the direction in which the swimmers had been last seen, the thick gathering gloom and the foaming seas surrounding her, and quickly hiding her from sight. The excitement on board was intense, even the captain could scarcely retain his composure. It would have been great had Jack Andrews, the lad who had fallen overboard, been alone; but young Hamerton had excited the interest of all, and even the stern old brigadier declared that he would be ready to give up all the loot he had bagged at the taking of Mooltan for the sake of recovering the lad; and those who knew the old soldier best, were aware that his feelings must have been highly excited to induce him to say so. Poor little Violet! Her father could not fail to remark her agitation, but believed that she would have felt the same if any other among her fellow-creatures had been placed in the fearful peril to which young Hamerton was exposed.
The moments seemed minutes, the minutes hours, as those on board watched anxiously for the return of the boat. At length the captain began to fear for her safety, as well as for that of the swimmers.
"Silence on deck," he cried. "Does any one see her?"
No reply was made. The ship had for some time been hove-to. The wind whistled through her rigging, and the seas washed up her sides as she surged slowly forward.
"Burn a blue light, Mr Timmins," he shouted to the boatswain, who had got one all ready; and as the bright fire burst forth it cast a lurid glare on the masts and rigging, and the countenances of the lookers-on, giving them the hue of death.
Colonel Ross, forgetting for a moment the effect always produced by the light, thought that his daughter was going off into a swoon. But her trembling voice reassured him.
"I am thankful to see that signal," she observed. "It will surely enable them to find their way to the ship."
"I hope that they will bring back our young friend, and the lad he has so gallantly hazarded his own life to save," said the colonel; "but the difficulty of finding them in the dark must be very great, unless they retain strength sufficient to make their position known by their voices."
"They will come! They will come!" exclaimed Violet. "Oh, father, it is very dreadful!" She could say no more.
The time went on. More blue lights were burned. Again and again the captain shouted, "Does any one see the boat?"
At length a seaman exclaimed, "There she is! There she is!" and others declared that they saw her. A cheer arose, joined in by most on board, but it was silenced by the captain. He now himself observed the boat approaching slowly, tossing up and down on the heaving seas. Oh, the horrible suspense to be endured till it could be got alongside, for it was impossible to see who was in her!
"Have you got them safe?" asked the captain, unable longer to restrain his anxiety. No answer came. Possibly the dashing of the seas drowned his voice. The boat came nearer and nearer, and willing hands stood ready to lift on board those she brought back. On she came. The oars were thrown in. The bowman caught the rope hove to him. Eager faces peered down into her to ascertain if the lads had been saved.
"All right; we have them safe!" at length cried a voice from the boat.
"They are saved! They are saved!" was echoed along the deck; and even the most phlegmatic of the passengers shook each other's hands, and expressed their satisfaction; while several of the ladies burst into tears,—as did one of the officers, as gallant a young fellow as ever lived. Violet darted forward, followed by the colonel, as Reginald was hoisted on deck. Though evidently exhausted, he was able to stand leaning on the shoulder of honest Dick Thuddichum, a seaman who had gone off in the boat, and had assisted him up the side. (Dick ought before to have been introduced. He was a fine specimen of a sailor, with his broad shoulders and big bushy beard and whiskers. He had come on board with the young officer, and, judging by the eager way in which he had leaped into the boat going off to his rescue, was attached to him with no ordinary attachment.) Violet stopped short as she got close to Reginald, for already he was surrounded by most of the officers and passengers, eager to shake him by the hand and compliment him on his intrepidity. Reginald saw her, and would have sprung forward, when, just as she had faintly murmured an expression of thankfulness, her father came up in time to save her, overcome by her feelings, from sinking on the deck. He then, after heartily congratulating Reginald, led his daughter into the cabin.
"Though I am thankful that the young man has been saved, I may have cause to regret that we have met him, if you allow too great an admiration of his gallantry and personal qualities to take possession of your heart," remarked the colonel. "Be cautious in future. We know nothing of his birth or position; and, attractive as are his manners, he may be merely an unprincipled adventurer—though I hope I should wrong him by thinking so. Now lie down and rest, for it may be better not to appear at the tea-table."
Violet promised to do as her father advised; but before throwing herself on her bed, she knelt down and poured out her grateful thanks to Heaven for Reginald's preservation.
The latter, meanwhile, nearly overwhelmed with compliments and congratulations, had been led by the doctor to his berth.
"Come, come, Mr Hamerton," said the medico; "I have looked after young Andrews, and I must now see to you. You may think yourself made of iron, but the human frame cannot endure the strain you have put on it without reaction; and we shall have you on the sick-list to-morrow, unless you take due precautions."
An unwonted sensation of weakness warned Reginald that the doctor was right; and following his advice, he turned in—inclined to be obedient also for the sake of avoiding the further compliments he felt sure the ladies would be disposed to pay him. The only gentleman who had not spoken to him was Captain Hawkesford, who had turned away when he saw that he was safe, uttering an expression of bitter ill-feeling.
"She will think more of the fellow than ever," he muttered. "Would that he were fathoms deep beneath the water!"
Thanks to the doctor's care, Reginald by the next morning was quite himself again; and as soon as he appeared on deck, young Andrews, who had also recovered, came to him and thanked him with hearty expressions of gratitude for saving his life.
"If it had not been for you, I should very soon have gone down. My great wish now is to serve you as long as I live; and I only hope that I may have the opportunity of doing so," he exclaimed.
"I only did for you what I would have done for any other man or boy," said Reginald; "but at the same time I shall be glad of your friendship, for, whatever our respective positions, we may be able to help each other."
Reginald, it must be confessed, looked with more than usual eagerness for the appearance of Violet, who had not yet come on deck—scarcely heeding the compliments he received from the other ladies, or being able to give any very clear answers to the numerous questions put to him about his gallant exploit, as they were pleased to call it. He did his best, however, to explain how, after having succeeded in reaching young Andrews, he had towed him to the hen-coop, to which he held him fast till the arrival of the boat.
"Yes, it was trying," he added; "but I never lost hope. My great fear was that the lad would sink from exhaustion, though I felt capable of holding on till the morning. I was sure, too, that the captain would not leave the spot till he had searched for us by daylight."
Violet at length came on deck. A blush rose to her cheek as she put out her hand to welcome Reginald. She said but little, however, her eyes speaking more eloquently than words. Her father remained by her side, and took an opportunity, as soon as he could do so without making his object too evident, of leading her to the other side among the ladies on deck. The gallant young officer was naturally the subject of conversation, and she heard with inward satisfaction his praises repeated by all around her. Much as Colonel Ross liked Reginald, he could not help regretting that Violet had ever met him. He could not be blind to his personal appearance and manners, but he naturally disliked the thought of his daughter marrying a man of whose birth and fortune he knew nothing; and he resolved to break off all connection with the young stranger as soon as they landed at Calcutta. Reginald, he supposed, was not likely to remain long in that city, and would be either again going to sea, or proceeding up the country; at least he fancied, from some remarks the young man let drop, such would be the case. Violet, too, was not likely to remain long without receiving an eligible offer, which he trusted she would have the sense to accept—although he was not the man to force her to do so against her inclination.
During the remainder of the voyage Reginald enjoyed frequent opportunities of conversing with Violet, though, by the colonel's management, they were but seldom left alone. They perfectly understood each other, however; and the day before the ship was off the Sunderbunds, Reginald told Violet that he loved her better than life; and although he confessed there was a mystery about his birth, he said he hoped ere long to clear it up, and to be in a position to offer her his hand.
"If I succeed, as I have every reason to hope I may, your father will have no cause to refuse me on account of my birth and fortune. More I may not tell you; but you will confide in my honour, dearest Violet: I know you will!" He took her hand, which she did not withdraw.
"I trust you implicitly. I know my kind father has a sincere regard for you, and he is only at present unwilling to sanction our engagement because he believes that it would not conduce to my happiness," she answered.
The following day the Glamorgan Castle dropped her anchor in the Hooghly. Shortly afterwards a man-of-war steamer hove in sight, and brought-to at a short distance from the ship. A boat from her came alongside, when Reginald came up to Colonel and Miss Ross.
"I must bid you farewell; but I hope that I may be allowed to call on you in Calcutta," he said with tolerable calmness.
The colonel hesitated in his reply.
"I cannot say where my duty will call me; but you may be assured, Mr Hamerton, that I shall not forget you," he at length answered evasively. "Farewell! I see your attendant at the gangway waiting for you."
Violet, pained at her father's manner, said but little. Reginald, however, understood her look and manner; and paying a hurried adieu to the rest of the passengers, he went towards the gangway, passing, as he did so, Captain Hawkesford, who cast at him a supercilious and angry glance, without returning his salute. Followed by Dick Thuddichum, he descended to the boat, which pulled towards the steamer.
Violet watched the vessel as she glided up the river, and observed Reginald, after shaking hands with the officers, standing on the paddle-box, with his eyes fixed on the Glamorgan Castle. She little thought at the time how long it would be before they would again meet!
REGINALD MEETS BURNETT—A BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT—VOYAGE UP THE GANGES— TIGER-SHOOTING AT NIGHT—TIGER ANECDOTES—TIGER-SHOOTING FROM THE BACK OF AN ELEPHANT—REGINALD SAVES FAITHFUL FROM A CROCODILE—HER GRATITUDE—JOURNEY TO ALLAHAPOOR—RECEPTION BY THE RAJAH—THE BEAUTIFUL NUNA—A BANQUET, AND BARBARIC ENTERTAINMENTS—COCHUT KHAN'S JEALOUSY— FAITHFUL WATCHES OVER REGINALD.
Reginald having ascertained where Colonel and Miss Ross were living, was making his way through the broad streets of the "city of palaces," intending to pay his respects to them, when he met a military-looking man in an undress suit, who, regarding him earnestly, advanced towards him with his hand extended.
"My dear boy, I am delighted to see you!" exclaimed the stranger. "Have you been successful? I long to hear."
"I am in a fair way, I trust, of succeeding, although there may be not a few difficulties in my path," answered Reginald. "I am truly thankful, however, to find you here, as I thought that you were far away—either in Pegu or at Delhi. Are you at liberty, my dear Burnett, or can you get leave of absence? If you could accompany me, you would be of the greatest possible assistance."
"Most fortunately, I obtained leave of absence for six months, only yesterday, and was contemplating making a shooting excursion with Knox and Jones; but they must excuse me, and I will devote myself to your service," answered Captain Burnett.
"Thank you, my dear fellow; thank you," exclaimed Reginald. "Your experience and knowledge of the people will smooth away many difficulties which beset my path, and I gladly accept your kind offer. I feel somewhat selfish, as I know you sacrifice your own convenience for my sake."
"Don't talk about that, Reginald," said Captain Burnett. "If you have nothing better to do, come to my quarters and inspect my sporting gear. We may get some shooting on the way; I always try to combine amusement with business."
"I will join you before long; but I have a visit to pay first to some friends who came out in the ship with me, and unless they detain me I shall soon be at liberty."
"You can easily excuse yourself; and I shall expect you at dinner, at all events," said Captain Burnett.
"But I would, I confess, rather dine with them, if they ask me," answered Reginald. "You would excuse me if you knew how I am circumstanced."
"Is a fair lady in the case?" asked Captain Burnett. "You need not say so; I am sure of it. Take care, Reginald; don't get entangled. Young fellows are apt to do so, and to be sorry for it afterwards. Come, let me advise you to leave your card at your friends, with a message that you are bound up country; and that will settle the matter. The lady will be married by the time you come back again."
"That I am sure she will not," exclaimed Reginald. "She is totally unlike the ordinary run of girls."
"Well, well! Take my advice in this matter, as you are ready to do in others, and retain your freedom of action," said Captain Burnett, in a serious tone.
Reginald, parting from his friend, hurried on, hoping to find Violet alone. A dark-skinned porter, in white dress and with turban on head, opened the door, and inquired his name. The sahib was not at home, and Miss Ross could receive no visitors, said the servant.
"Take up my card, and say that I am waiting," replied Reginald.
The porter, after carefully examining the card, gave it to another servant. The man gave a peculiar look as he obeyed the order. He was some time absent, and when he returned he delivered a note addressed to Reginald in Violet's handwriting. He did not venture to open it in the presence of the servants; but as soon as he got outside the house he eagerly scanned the few lines it contained.
"My father has positively forbidden me to see you," she wrote. "He hopes that time will obliterate your image; but that is impossible. Trust to me, as I do to you.—Yours, Violet."
Reginald was naturally bitterly disappointed; but yet he had faith in woman's constancy, and he went his way with hopes unabated, feeling sure, from what he knew of Colonel Ross, that he would use no harsh measures to compel his daughter to act contrary to her own inclinations. Still, he could not feel otherwise than pained and anxious. By the time, however, that he reached his friend's quarters, he had somewhat recovered his serenity of mind. He kept his own counsel, simply observing that Colonel Ross, on whom he had called, was not at home; and Captain Burnett forbore to ask further questions.
He had plenty of amusement in examining the rifles and various articles which Captain Burnett had prepared for his intended shooting expedition.
"You must accept this rifle from me, Reginald," he said, presenting a first-rate weapon; "and this brace of pistols. You may depend on their never missing fire, if properly attended to. And let me advise you always to load them yourself; never trust to a servant. I always do as I advise; one's life may be sacrificed from carelessness."
The following day the friends, attended by Dick Thuddichum and four native servants, were on their road to the north-west.
They had to proceed, for a considerable distance, up the river Ganges, in a budgerow. Though rudely built, she skimmed merrily over the water when the breeze was favourable. She was decked all over with bamboo; and on the after-part was erected a cottage of bamboo, which served as a cabin and baggage-room. In the fore-part were two small ranges of brick-work, raised a few inches above the deck, with small round holes, shaped like a lime-kiln, for holding charcoal, on which provisions were dressed. Above the cabin, and supported on upright bamboos, was a grating, on which the crew sat or stood to work the vessel. A long bamboo, with a circular board at the end fixed astern, served as a rudder; the oars also being long bamboos of the same description. The mast was a stout bamboo, carrying a squaresail and topsail of a coarse and flimsy canvas.
In this clumsy-looking craft the travellers made themselves comfortable, however. They had also a small canoe towing astern, in which, when the wind was contrary, and the budgerow had to bring up alongside the bank, they made excursions to the other side of the river or up one of its affluents.
Burnett, who was really a keen sportsman, never failed to take his gun, and generally came back with a good supply of game. One day, however, he was unwell, and Reginald started by himself to visit some interesting ruins a short distance ahead, the canoe being paddled by two of the crew. They had got some distance when he found that he had brought neither his rifle nor pistols: however, he did not think it worth while to return for them. They were at some little distance from the bank, when one of the crew cried out—
"See, sahib, see! Here comes a tiger!"
On looking in the direction in which the man pointed, he caught sight, not of a tiger, but of a huge panther, and a native about a hundred yards before him rushing at headlong speed, bounding and springing towards the river, while the panther with rapid leaps pursued its hoped-for prey. Reginald ordered the men to paddle in towards the shore, in the hope of rescuing the panting wretch from the jaws of the panther. Just before they reached the bank, the native bounded into the water, which rose up to his neck; but he was apparently too exhausted to swim towards the canoe, though with imploring accents he entreated the sahib to come to his rescue.
At that instant the dark snout of an enormous crocodile rose above the surface—the saurian, to Reginald's horror, making its way towards the struggling native.
"Crocodile! Crocodile!" shouted Reginald to the native; who, hearing him, after a moment's hesitation rushed back towards the bank, thus again facing the panther. The creature for a moment appeared disconcerted at the sudden movement of its expected victim and the approach of the canoe, towards which the man made a desperate spring; but the savage panther, eager for its prey, at the same moment leaped forward and seized the unhappy man by the leg, while Reginald grasped his arm. At that instant the crocodile, which had retreated a short distance, dashed up, and catching the miserable being—who gave vent to the most fearful shrieks—by the other leg, with one snap of its jaws bit it off.
In vain Reginald shouted to the crew to attack the creatures with their oars. The cowardly wretches, instead of moving, shrank down at the further end of the canoe; while the panther, peeling off the flesh of the leg, reached at length the ankle, where with a horrid crunch it severed the bone, and galloped away with the fearful mouthful.
Reginald drew the poor man—now quite senseless—into the canoe, and endeavoured to stanch the blood flowing from his wounds by tourniquets, formed of pieces of wood, round the upper parts of his legs; but his efforts were in vain, and before the canoe reached the budgerow the man was dead.
Continuing their course up the Ganges, visiting on their way several of the numerous towns, temples, and ruins of various sorts which adorn its banks, they at length landed, and continued their route by land. They were now in a woody district, bordering the banks of a river, when Captain Burnett's "shikaree wallah," or huntsman, informed them that it abounded in tigers, and that if they wished to kill a few they would have an opportunity of doing so. Although Reginald would gladly have pushed on, he sacrificed his own wishes for the sake of allowing his friend to enjoy a few days' sport.
Burnett had a friend (Major Sandford) living at a village not far off, who, hearing of their arrival, invited them to take up their abode at his bungalow. He confirmed the report of the abundance of tigers, which the superstitious Hindoos took no pains to destroy; observing—
"They believe that the souls of men pass after their death into the bodies of animals, and that it must be the soul of some great personage alone which is allowed to inhabit the ferocious tiger. They therefore allow the creatures to range about as they please; and when any poor fellow is seized by one of the brutes—as is frequently the case—he will humbly beg the tiger sahib to set him free, or to finish him mercifully. The natives, however, have no objection to my killing any of their lordships; and we will this evening go to a fort on the banks of the Ganges near which they are wont to pass on their way to drink at the river. We will carry provisions and liquor, so that we may pass our time agreeably till one of the brutes appears."
The party accordingly, accompanied by several natives of rank, with their servants, set out, and were not long in reaching their destination. The top of the fort offered a safe spot whence any number of wild beasts could be shot down without the slightest risk to the sportsmen of being attacked in return. A table and chairs were placed on the roof of the fort, and the English gentlemen and Hindoos sat in the cool of the evening quaffing their claret and conversing on various topics, with their rifles ready loaded placed against the parapet, while a lookout kept watch for the approach of a tiger, panther, or any other denizen of the forest.
"Few men have more narrowly escaped becoming tiger's meat than I have," said Major Sandford. "I carry some ugly marks about me to bear witness to the fact; besides having the slight 'halt' in my walk which you may have observed. I was, some eight years ago, out shooting with several companions, and being somewhat tired, I sat down on the side of the bank, having left my gun a few feet from me. The rest of the party had gone to a little distance, when, suddenly looking up, I saw a huge tiger spring out of the jungle, and before I had time to reach my gun the brute had seized me by the leg,—which I thought, by the fearful way he held it, he would have bitten off. The rest of the party, seeing my fearful condition, began to shout at the top of their voices, hoping to drive off the beast. They were afraid to fire, for fear of killing me. But the tiger was not to be disappointed of his expected dinner; so, throwing me over his back with one jerk, off he trotted. I did not, however, lose my presence of mind; but recollecting that I had a brace of pistols in my belt, I drew one and pulled the trigger. To my horror, it missed fire! I had still another. I managed to get hold of it, well knowing that if that missed my fate was sealed. Pointing the muzzle at the brute's head, I fired. The tiger gave a leap, and opening its mouth, let me drop, while it fell down dead by my side. I scrambled away as fast as I could, scarcely believing that I was safe, till my friends coming up assured me of the fact, and congratulated me on my merciful escape."
The subject of the "power of the human eye?" over the most savage animals was touched on.
"There can be no doubt about it," observed Captain Burnett. "I was once a short distance from a village, accompanied by my shikaree wallah, when we heard the cry of 'Help! Help!—a tiger! A tiger!' resounding through the forest. Having loaded our guns with bullets, and seen that our pistols were primed, we hurried towards the spot, when we came in sight of a native who stood facing a huge tiger. From our relative positions, it was somewhat difficult to shoot without running the risk of hitting the man; we therefore shouted together, to try and make the tiger move. He did so, and I at length got a shot at him; but though he was hit, off he went without his expected meal. The native then told us that while in the jungle he had suddenly caught sight of a beast about to spring on him, when, with admirable presence of mind, instead of running, he stood with his eye steadily fixed on the savage monster. The tiger, wavering before the human eye, slunk behind a bush; but every now and then he peered forth to see whether the man's glance was still fixed on him. The brute continued moving from bush to bush, as if endeavouring to avoid the undaunted gaze of his adversary, that he might have an opportunity of springing out and seizing him. Each time the tiger moved, the native turned facing his cunning foe, and shouting at the top of his voice, in the hope that assistance might come to him."
"I can narrate a still more wonderful instance of the same power," observed one of the native gentlemen.
But as he spoke the lookout, turning round, said in a low whisper—
"Here comes the tiger, sahib!" and the sportsmen, springing from their seats, seized their guns, ready to fire at the monster as soon as it should come within range. At a leisurely pace the tiger trotted on, the outline of its form seen clearly in the moonlight. It had just got close to the water, when, Burnett firing, the monstrous brute rolled over, casting a glance of defiance at the foe it had only then discovered. A second shot laid it lifeless on the ground. Both gentlemen reloaded; and Reginald proposed hurrying down to secure the skin.
"We may very likely, if we do so, lose our own," observed the major. "Let us wait, and before long we may add a few more tigers to our bag."
They were not disappointed. Another tiger and two panthers were shot. This being the most accessible part of the bank for some distance, it was evidently the watering-place of numerous wild animals. They had just killed their third tiger, and were agreeing that it was time to secure the skins and return home, when a fourth tiger appeared, stalking leisurely out of the jungle towards the water, coming much nearer the fort than any of the others had done. It stopped for a moment and looked up at its foes, without exhibiting the alarm which the others had displayed. Reginald declared that he caught the gleam of gold on its neck.
"It may be an enchanted prince, then," said Burnett; "or, as our friends here believe, the habitat of the soul of some great maharajah, who has not laid aside all the trappings of royalty;—but we shall soon learn."
As he spoke, he raised his rifle to fire. The tiger at that moment, however, gave a sudden bound and escaped the ball, and turning round, frightened by the noise, sprang back quick as lightning into the jungle, before any of the rest of the party could take steady aim.
No other wild beast appearing, the party descended; and while some kept watch to shoot any which might come out of the jungle, the others secured the skins of the beasts which had been slain. Packing them up on the backs of the elephants, they returned to Major Sandford's bungalow, well satisfied with their night's sport.
The next day they set out to visit the more distant part of the forest. The party had four elephants. Reginald and Burnett, with their friend, and several native gentlemen, were seated in howdahs on the backs of the elephants. The howdah is something like the body of a carriage, with an awning to shield the occupants from the heat of the sun. Gorgeously-ornamented cloths covered the backs of the huge animals, while the mahouts sat on their necks, to direct them where to go and what to do. Reginald, not accustomed to that style of shooting, thought it very dull work, and longed to be on foot, where he could encounter the savage monsters face to face.
On reaching the jungle, the elephants moved along the borders to some distance, while beaters, with loud shouts, endeavoured to dislodge any tiger which might be lurking there. At length up went the trunks of the elephants,—a sure sign that they had discovered a tiger at no great distance. The brute, seeing so many enemies, had apparently no stomach for the fight, and was observed stealing off amid the jungle. Three or four shots were fired at it, but so rapid and eccentric were its movements that it escaped them all. As no other tiger appeared, Reginald at last proposed to Burnett that they should seek the savage brutes in their lairs. Burnett agreed, but cautioned him to be on the alert, and to keep his attendants close to him, with their rifles loaded, that he might have another weapon at hand should he fail to kill the animal at the first shot.
"Remember, your life may depend on it; for, believe me, a wounded tiger is the most dangerous of antagonists."
Dismounting from the elephants which had carried them to the borders of the jungle, each gentleman, attended by a native carrying an additional gun, approached the jungle, into which the beaters fearlessly threw themselves. The forest was tolerably thick, so that they soon by some chance became separated. Reginald, hearing the beaters, and believing that they were driving a tiger towards him, made his way onward to a spot from whence he believed that he should have an opportunity of firing to advantage. It was near the river, with a small open space in front of him, through which there was every probability that the tiger would make its way. He took his post behind a thick tree, which would afford him shelter should he fail to bring down the animal at the first shot; while he charged his attendants to keep a watchful eye around, lest the creature might come out behind him. Scarcely had he taken up his post, when he heard a loud chattering, and looking up, saw that the trees were alive with monkeys, which were peering down upon him, wondering what had brought so strange-looking an animal into their domain. As he did not move, they grew bolder, and began frolicking about, swinging backwards and forwards, some with both paws, others with one, turning somersaults, and performing all sorts of strange antics.
"See, sahib! What is that?" said the shikaree wallah in a low voice, pointing to a sunny spot at no great distance off, where Reginald caught sight of the huge head of a crocodile, with its jaws open. The creature was apparently fast asleep, basking in the sun. Reginald raised his rifle, intending to shoot the saurian, when at that moment there was a rustling in the bush, and a magnificent young tigress walked out on her way to drink at the river. The creature had not advanced far when her eye fell on the crocodile, towards which she stealthily crept, her soft padded feet making not the slightest noise as they trod the ground. Reginald was thankful that he had not fired at the crocodile, as it probably would have brought the tigress upon himself at the very moment that he was unarmed. He considered whether he should shoot the magnificent creature, but he was curious to see what she would do with the crocodile. On she went, till she got within a little distance of the saurian, when, making a spring, she seized the creature's tongue, evidently with the intention of dragging it out. The attempt was a dangerous one. The instant the crocodile felt her paw in its mouth, it closed its huge jaws, and holding her foot fast, began to crawl towards the water. So great was the agony she suffered that she was unable to make any resistance, or to seize the head of the crocodile in her mouth. While she shrieked with pain, the crocodile slowly drew her on towards the river, into which, her instinct told her, should the saurian once dive, her fate would be sealed. In vain the tigress struggled to free herself, and drag back the crocodile. The monkeys, meantime, seemed to think the affair great fun; and seeing their two enemies engaged, began to descend the branches close to the ground; and one of them, more daring than the rest, actually tried to get hold of the ear of the tigress. She, however, lifting up her paw, was about to give it a blow which would have finished its existence, when, nimbly climbing up again, it got out of her way. Meanwhile, the crocodile was dragging the unfortunate tigress still nearer and nearer the river. She turned her eyes round, as if to look for some branch which she might grasp, and save herself from her impending fate. At that moment they fell on Reginald, when she gave him a look which seemed to implore his pity, as he thought. In a few seconds the crocodile would have reached the water; but just then the tigress caught a firm hold of the trunk of a tree projecting into the river, to which she held on, at the risk of having her paw bitten off. Possibly the saurian might, at the same time, have seen its human foes, or it might have been that the sudden jerk it received in consequence of the powerful resistance put forth by its captive, made it open its mouth. The tigress on this quickly drew out her fearfully-mangled paw, leaving the crocodile to plunge with a loud flop into the water, deprived of its expected prey; while she, fearing perhaps that it might again return to seize her, crawled back howling with pain towards the thicket.
"Shoot, sahib! Shoot!" exclaimed the shikaree wallah; but Reginald had not the heart to do so. Slowly the tigress crawled on, probably fearing him more than she had her late enemy, and turning a glance towards him, in which defiance was mingled with dread. Feeling herself unable to fight, it was evidently her intention to escape if she could; but overcome at length with the fearful pain she was suffering, she sank down exhausted on the ground. The native huntsman seemed to think it a piece of folly on the part of Reginald not at once to despatch her.
"No, I will not do that," said Reginald in answer to his expostulations. "It is not the custom of white men to slaughter a fallen foe. See! The poor tigress looks up as if imploring my assistance."
"As you think fit, sahib," answered the huntsman; "but if she recovers she will become the mother of numberless tigers and tigresses; and who can tell how many people they will destroy?"
This argument would have prevailed with Reginald, and he would, at all events, have allowed the huntsman to kill the tigress, had she not at that moment cast at him a look, which he seemed to fancy implored his mercy. As he approached, however, while she lay on the ground unable to move, she uttered a loud snarl of anger, and ground her teeth, and opened out the claws of her uninjured feet, as the feline race are wont to do, as if about to seize him. Still he persevered, wishing, if possible, to capture the animal alive. Speaking to her in a soothing voice, he got near her head, holding his rifle in such a position that he might fire in a moment, should she turn round and attempt to seize him; she was, however, too much hurt to move. Gradually he got close to her head, when, stooping down, he first patted it gently, still uttering the same soothing words. At first, while he continued to stroke it, she looked up suspiciously at him, as if to ask what he wanted; but soon understanding that his motives were friendly, she ceased her cries. At length she put out her lacerated limb, and seemed to ask him to do what he could to relieve her pain. He fortunately had a flask of spirits in his pocket, with which he bathed her foot; and then, taking out a handkerchief, he carefully bound it up. It seemed at once to relieve the animal of pain; and all the natural ferocity of her countenance disappearing, she cast at him a look full of gratitude, while she attempted to lick his hand.
Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the shikaree wallah and his companion,—who had during the time retired to a respectful distance,— when they saw the tigress get up and slowly follow Reginald, as a dog does its master. She, however, would not allow them to approach her, but snarled in a way which made them immediately take to flight. Reginald on this called them back, and stroking the head of the tigress, tried to make her understand that she was to treat them as friends. She understood him; and when they came near she no longer showed any signs of wishing to hurt them.
"Why, sahib," exclaimed the shikaree wallah, "see! She is not a wild tigress after all. There is a golden collar round her neck. She must have belonged to some great rajah, and made her escape from his palace."
On a closer examination, Reginald discovered what the quick eye of the native had detected, a band of gold, partly hidden by the creature's hair.
"There cannot be a doubt, then, that she is the very animal we saw last night," observed Reginald. "She is my property now, at all events; and I feel very sure that she will follow no one else."
By this time the shouts and cries of the beaters ceased to reach their ears, and Reginald knew that they must have gone in a different direction to that which he had followed. Several shots, however, the sound of which came from a distance, showed him that Burnett and his party had met with game; but as he found no real pleasure in tiger-shooting, he was anxious to get back to the bungalow, where they intended to stop till the next evening before resuming their journey. He wished, indeed, to astonish his friend, by exhibiting his prize, when Burnett was boasting, as he probably would, of the number of tigers he had killed. Leaving word with the elephant drivers that he had returned on foot, and bidding them say nothing about his captive, he hastened homeward, followed by his two astonished attendants.
"He is indeed a wonderful young man," observed the shikaree wallah. "How courageously he walked up to the tiger; it makes my knees even now tremble to think of it. Wallah, he is a brave youth."
As Reginald walked on, with his hand on the tigress's head, he considered what name he should give the animal. "She has evidently become attached to me, and will follow me about like a dog," he said to himself. "Very likely she may be of use, too, for I suspect that no robbers, nor even Thugs, would dare attack a man with a tigress as his protector. What shall I call her? Violet? Violet? No, certainly not. There is nothing in common, except I may say affection for me. Faithful? Yes, Faithful. That, I am sure, will prove the chief characteristic of the creature. Faithful shall be her name!"
By the time he had arrived at this decision he reached Major Sandford's bungalow. The sitting-room was of large extent, ornamented with the skins of antelopes, bison, and stag horns of various kinds, and with native swords, bows, arrows, spears, and battle-axes; while the floor was covered with the hides of bears, leopards, tigers, and deer; and a number of tables, sofas, and chairs of all shapes were scattered about on it. Placing three of the chairs in a row, Reginald covered them with skins, so as to form a screen; and calling to Faithful, he bade her lie down behind them. He threw himself on a sofa in front to await the arrival of his friends. Before long he caught sight of Burnett's elephant approaching.
"How comes it, you lazy fellow, that you return home without a single skin to show?" asked Captain Burnett, as he entered.
"Pardon me, but I have not returned without a skin," said Reginald. "Here, Faithful, show yourself."
As he spoke the tigress raised her head above the screen with a menacing expression in her countenance which made Burnett start back and draw one of his pistols.
"Don't fire!" exclaimed Reginald. "The brute is tame, though I only captured her this morning. See! I became her surgeon, and she is grateful for the service I rendered her."
Burnett could scarcely believe his senses, till the secret of her apparent sudden tameness was disclosed.
At dinner Faithful crouched down at her new master's feet, and gratefully accepted the small morsels thrown to her; though Burnett advised that she should have a more substantial meal, or she might take to helping herself, if pressed by hunger, to a human creature, if not to some of the tame animals they might meet with on the road. In the evening Reginald again dressed the tigress's foot, when she exhibited the same marks of gratitude as before.
Though the tigress was much better the next morning, she was still too lame to walk, and accordingly Reginald had a large wooden cage made for her, with a bed in it of dry grass, on which she might repose with perfect comfort. This cage was slung on the back of an elephant, counterbalanced by several heavy articles. It was some time, however, before the sagacious elephant, which knew perfectly well the contents of the cage, would allow it to be lifted up on its back. Faithful also felt very uneasy when brought near the elephant; and not till the cage had been completely covered up, so that the two animals could not see each other, were the drivers able to secure it.
The journey was resumed; and occasionally stopping to have a day's sport,—to which Reginald consented more for his friend's sake than his own,—greatly to his satisfaction, they at length arrived in sight of the domes and minarets of Allahapoor, the city in the far interior to which they were bound. They encamped outside, that they might get into order and present themselves in a becoming manner to the rajah, Meer Ali Singh, the despotic governor of the province. Captain Burnett put on his uniform, and all the attendants dressed themselves in their best costumes.
"I have made up my mind to appear in my seaman's dress," said Reginald; "from what I have heard of Meer Ali, he is more likely to give me a favourable reception should I present myself in an unpretending manner than with all the pomp I could assume. It will also have the effect of making his favourites less jealous of me, and unsuspicious of my object. I do not allude so much to the natives as to a European who is about the rajah, a certain Andre Cochut by name, originally a barber, who was my father's great enemy, and is now in high favour at court. I must be prepared for every obstruction he can throw in my way; but as he is not acquainted with the name I bear, he will not suspect who I am. You must appear as the person of chief importance, while you represent me as a friend whom you have brought for the sake of companionship. This will throw Cochut off his guard. And if we manage to play our cards well, we may gain the confidence of the rajah; when I hope that he may then be induced to deliver up my father's property, and the casket containing the valuable deeds I am in search of."
Captain Burnett agreed to the wisdom of Reginald's plan, and, in order to assume as much importance as possible, sent in to the rajah to announce their arrival, and to request that they might be permitted to pay their respects. The plan succeeded even better than they had expected. The next morning, as they were preparing to move, a suwarree, or retinue of elephants and horses, was seen approaching, headed by one of the rajah's principal officers. The train of elephants was splendidly equipped with silver howdahs, and accompanied by suwarrs, or horsemen, in red and yellow, followed by an irregular though picturesque body of infantry, armed with swords, long matchlock guns, and shields. Some had enormously long spears covered over with silver; while amid them were carried large triangular green banners. The silver howdahs, the flowing dresses, the glowing colours, and the majestic size of the animals which formed the most prominent part of the group, had altogether a wonderfully picturesque and scenic appearance. The strangers were invited to mount the elephants, and in a few minutes they found themselves forming part of the curious procession they had before been admiring. Thus they entered the gates of the ancient city. The houses they passed were closely packed and built of clay, the lanes dirty in the extreme, and so narrow that they frequently had to proceed in single file. Beggars swarmed at every angle, and on the steps of every door, while the whole population appeared armed either with matchlock gun or pistols. Some carried a short bent sword called a tulwar, with shield on shoulder. The traders walked about with tulwars by their sides, while the idlers carried both the pistol and the shield. The latter is of buffalo-hide, generally covered with brass knobs, and is worn on the left shoulder. The fierce-looking moustaches of the Rajpoots and Patans, and the black beards of the Mussulmans, with their tulwars and shields, as they swaggered about, gave them a particularly warlike air. Even grave-looking men, carried about in palanquins, and counting their beads, had several sword and buckler attendants. Some of the more consequential rode on elephants, also accompanied by a retinue of armed men. Even the people lounging at the shop doors were armed with swords, and had their shields over their shoulders. After passing through a number of these narrow and dirty streets, redeemed here and there by pretty mosques, well-filled bazaars, and a few large houses, the party entered a wide and handsome street,—bordered by colonnades of a highly ornamental style of architecture,—along which they proceeded, till they reached the house appointed by the rajah for their residence. It belonged to one of the European officers at the court, who was now absent, and possessed ample accommodation for a much larger party than theirs.
Reginald had kept Faithful secured in her cage. He was curious to know how she would behave in a city, and he waited anxiously for the arrival of their own elephants and baggage. They came at last. On the cage being placed on the ground, he took off the covering. Faithful was lying crouched down. She was evidently much put out at the way she had been treated, and the fierce expression of her eye made him doubt at first whether it would be wise to set her free. After speaking in soothing tones, and stroking her head for a short time, the expression changed, when opening the side of the cage so as to enable him to reach her paw, he stooped down and dressed it carefully. She looked up with an expression of gratitude in her countenance; and now telling her to follow him, he conducted her into the sitting-room, where he had left his friend. As Reginald took his seat at the dinner-table, Faithful lay down by his side, and thankfully ate the bits of food thrown to her. When afterwards visitors were announced, she remained perfectly quiet, eyeing them, however, narrowly. Next day an officer—no less a man than Andre Cochut, who had now become a khan or noble—arrived to summon them to his master the rajah, "the Refuge of the World," who was ready to allow them the honour of an audience.
"We will obey the summons, khan," said Captain Burnett; and he and Reginald immediately got ready.
The captain had prepared the presents which, according to Oriental etiquette, it is usual to offer to a ruling prince on being first introduced, and he had given the necessary instructions to Reginald. They each took four gold mohurs, which they placed on fine muslin handkerchiefs to be held in the palm of their hands.
"There, that will do," said Captain Burnett; "we must offer them in this style; and if the rajah is inclined to be gracious, we shall not be the losers by the transaction."
Putting the money and handkerchiefs in their pockets, they went out into the courtyard of their house, where they found richly-caparisoned steeds awaiting them. They mounted, Burnett accompanying the khan, and Reginald following in his usual nautical costume, attended by Dick Thuddichum, who sat his steed much in the style of sailors in general. His appearance contrasted greatly with that of the richly habited natives who rode on either side of him; and his attempts at conversation caused them a good deal of amusement, though none of those he addressed could understand a word he said, nor could he understand their remarks. The crowds in the streets made way for the khan, who was known to be in high favour at court, and was treated accordingly with every mark of respect.
The palace, which was at no great distance, was soon reached, when the ex-barber threw his reins with an air of importance to the syce, or groom, in attendance, telling the Englishmen to follow him. Entering the gates of the palace, they passed through several apartments adorned with beautiful chandeliers, and cabinets of rare woods and of silver or lacquered ware. Richly-decorated shields, arms, and suits of armour covered the walls, not always arranged in good taste, but offering a fair specimen of Oriental magnificence.
"You two come with me," said the ex-barber, addressing Burnett and Reginald.
As he led the way, they emerged into a small garden or courtyard with a fountain playing in the centre, beyond which was seen a pavilion. Crossing the garden, they approached the pavilion.
Neither Reginald nor Burnett were prepared for the scene which met their view. In a richly-ornamented alcove, seated on a pile of cushions, were two persons; one of whom they immediately knew must be the rajah. He was magnificently attired in Oriental costume, covered with gold ornaments; a turban covering his head, surmounted by a plume of bird of paradise feathers, with a sparkling aigrette in front. He had large moustaches, and an enormous white beard flowing over his breast. By his side reclined a lady, also handsomely dressed, her features of rare beauty, and her complexion scarcely darker than that of an Italian. The rajah was smoking a hookah of elegant workmanship. He took it from his lips when the strangers advanced, and expressed his satisfaction at receiving them.
"My grandchild, Nuna, desired to see you, as Englishmen at present rarely visit my court," he said, after the usual complimentary speeches had been exchanged; "except my worthy friend there, the khan, she has never set eyes on a white man."
While the rajah was speaking, Captain Burnett could with difficulty avoid fixing his gaze on the lovely features of the young girl, though he felt it would be contrary to court etiquette to do so.
"And what brought you to my city?" asked the rajah.
"We had heard of your highness's wisdom and renown, and as we desired to visit the chief objects of interest in this part of the world, we came to see your city, in the hope of enjoying the happiness of an interview with your highness," answered Burnett, who had considerable experience in the proper style of addressing Oriental potentates. The rajah looked pleased.
"And whence do you come? Do you belong to the Company?" he asked, turning to Reginald.
"Most of my days have been spent on the salt ocean, your highness," answered Reginald; "and my desire is to see the wonders of the interior part of the country."
"An extraordinary life yours must have been," observed the rajah. "They tell me that ships are tossed about on the waves like balls in the hands of jugglers, and sometimes are thrown on the rocks, and at others go down to the bottom. Extraordinary that men should be found to hazard their lives on so treacherous an element!"
"An existence on the ocean has its advantages as well as its dangers," answered Reginald. "Without ships men cannot visit other lands, or carry the produce of this magnificent country to England, and bring back her manufactures in return."
"You speak the truth, young sir," said the rajah, evidently pleased with Reginald's manner. "You and your friend are welcome to remain in Allahapoor as long as you please; and I shall be glad to see you again."
Captain Burnett, knowing that this was a signal for their departure, offered the presents which he and Reginald had brought. They were graciously accepted, the rajah placing them on a cushion by his side. Bowing low they withdrew, the captain taking another glance at the rajah's grand-daughter as he did so.
Andre Cochut accompanied them home, and by the questions he put it was evident that he wished to ascertain their real object in coming to Allahapoor. Captain Burnett replied cautiously, and took an opportunity of whispering to Reginald to be on his guard as to what he said. "I do not trust that individual," he observed as soon as the khan had taken his departure. "He fears that we may remain and supplant him in the good graces of the old rajah. If we can win him over, he may assist us; but the attempt to do so would excite his suspicion." Reginald promised to follow his friend's advice, and they agreed that they would simply be civil to Cochut, and appear to be only desirous of visiting the scenes of interest in the neighbourhood.
The following day they received another summons to visit the rajah in his usual hall of audience in the palace. He had a few guards and courtiers in attendance. Burnett looked round in vain in the hope of catching a glimpse of the beautiful Nuna, but she was nowhere to be seen; indeed, her appearance on the previous occasion had been contrary to the usual custom, as no Mohammedan or Hindoo women of high rank ever exhibit themselves in public. The rajah appeared more than ever pleased with them, and asked numerous questions, which they answered apparently to his satisfaction.
"I must not let you Englishmen live so far off," he said at length. "I should like to see you at all times of the day. You must come and live in the palace, where rooms shall be prepared for you. I must have no refusal. The matter is settled."
Burnett and Reginald expressed their gratitude at the favour shown them, and said they gladly accepted his highness's offer. Before they left, Khan Cochut overtook them; and though he contrived to conceal his feelings, it was clear that he was more than ever jealous and annoyed at the thought of their being about the person of his master. On returning with their attendants and luggage, they found, as had been promised, a handsome suite of rooms prepared for their reception. They quickly made themselves at home, Burnett observing that they had fallen into pleasant quarters. Before long, Khan Cochut came with a message from the rajah, inviting them to dinner. He again endeavoured to discover their object in visiting Allahapoor. Reginald, warned by his friend, answered very cautiously, and so the ex-barber had to take his departure without being wiser than he came. At the dinner-hour an attendant of the rajah came to summon them. They found the great man seated at table, in a hall furnished in a strangely-mixed Oriental and English fashion. The rajah sat on one side of the table, on a gilt armchair raised a few inches above the floor; the opposite side being left unoccupied, that whatever took place at the other end of the hall might be seen by the guests, while the servants could thus remove the dishes without difficulty. He beckoned to Burnett and Reginald to take their seats one on either side of him,—greatly to the disgust of Khan Cochut, who had to move further down the table. Several nobles and other courtiers were present. As soon as the party had taken their places, a curtain behind them was drawn on one side, when half-a-dozen young females issued forth, each carrying large fans of peacock's feathers, and noiselessly placed themselves behind the rajah's chair. The hue of their skins was scarcely darker than that of the women of Southern Europe; their hair, black as jet, drawn over the forehead, was twisted in rolls behind, and ornamented with pearls and silver pins, over which hung a muslin robe covering their shoulders—of a texture so fine, however, that their forms could be clearly seen through it. Gold-embroidered zones surrounded their waists and supported their Turkish trousers of bright crimson satin, which were also secured round their ankles by gold-embroidered belts. Two of them at a time advanced—their arms bare almost to the shoulder—and silently waved their fans in the most graceful manner above the head of the rajah. Here they remained the whole evening, relieving each other by turns, and attending to his hookah, supplying it with tobacco as might be required.
The first courses being removed, a group of nautch-girls, attended by musicians, entered the hall, and commenced their performances,—now advancing in graceful attitudes, now retiring; now with one hand held over the head, now with the other; the musicians during the time playing on lutes and tambourines behind them, and accompanying the instruments with their voices. While this was going on a puppet-show was introduced, in which the figures acted a play and danced almost in as lifelike a manner as performers on a stage. The nautch-girls continued their performances throughout the whole evening, but the other entertainments were varied. The puppet-show was succeeded by a band of tumblers, who tied themselves into knots, walked on their hands and heads, and twisted and turned about more actively than the most nimble of monkeys—their bodies apparently being destitute of bones, or possessing ten times the number of joints usually found in the human frame. They all received a reward—more or less, as the rajah was pleased with their performances.
Burnett, it must be confessed, looked in vain for the appearance of Nuna, who, it was possible, might have been among the audience behind the gauze curtain at the further end of the hall.
"And how have you enjoyed our evening's entertainment?" asked the rajah, turning to Reginald.
"The performances are very wonderful," he answered. Of course he could not say that he thought them very barbarous, and that they had afforded him anything but pleasure.
"Ah, we will show you things far more wonderful than these," observed the rajah. "You must accompany us out hunting. You Englishmen, I understand, are all huntsmen, and delight in the chase, and are not afraid to encounter tigers and wild boars, and even elephants."
Reginald confessed that sporting was much more in accordance with his taste, and that he should be glad to have an opportunity afforded him of seeing how the Orientals followed the chase.
At length the rajah, accompanied by the damsels, who continued fanning him, took his departure, and the banquet was at an end; but Reginald did not forget a scowl he had observed on the countenance of Khan Cochut as he and Burnett quitted the hall.
He had left Faithful the sole occupant of a stall in one of the stables. Before lying down at night, he went to pay his favourite a visit. The animal fawned on him, and seemed so unwilling to be left alone, that he led her out, intending to allow her to share his sleeping-room. She seemed highly pleased; and no sooner had Reginald thrown himself on the pile of cushions arranged on the floor for his couch, than she laid herself down, evidently prepared to keep watch during the night by his side. "Perhaps the creature's instinct tells her that some danger threatens me," he said to himself. "I am very sure that I may trust to her vigilance, and sleep soundly, without the risk of being attacked unawares." Thoughts of various sorts pressed on his mind, and before he fell asleep he saw Faithful get up several times and walk slowly round the room, sniffing in all the corners.
A MIDNIGHT INTRUDER—A HUNTING PARTY—CHEETAHS AND TRAINED DEER—A WARLIKE EXPEDITION—THE MARCH—THE WOMEN LEFT ENCAMPED—SURPRISED BY THE MOUNTAINEERS—ATTACK ON THE MOUNTAIN FORT—FAITHFUL SAVES THE RAJAH'S LIFE—THE CAVALRY TAKE TO FLIGHT—SURROUNDED BY FOES—RESCUED BY BURNETT.
Reginald had thrown himself on his couch without undressing, no bedclothes having been provided; his baggage, not very extensive, was placed in one corner of the room. His portmanteau contained some important documents, which he wished no eye but his own to scan till the time for producing them had arrived. Faithful lay down before him much like a dog, with her eyes half open. He had been for some time asleep when he was awakened by a low growl, and on looking up he saw Faithful on the point of rising, her eyes glaring towards the further end of the room. A curtain which served instead of a door was drawn aside, and by the faint light of a lamp, almost burned out, he observed a person steal into the room with a dagger in his hand. The intruder crept along close to the wall, apparently not observing the tigress; when she rose to her feet, and would in another instant have sprung upon him, had not he, on seeing her, bounded back through the doorway far more quickly than he had entered.
Reginald, unwilling to create a disturbance, called Faithful back. She obeyed instantly, and again lay down by his side. The intention of the midnight intruder was apparently either to murder him or to pilfer his baggage, though the dagger looked very suspicious.
"Good Faithful, you behaved admirably," said Reginald, patting his favourite's head. "I feel very sure that you will watch over me, so I will once more try to sleep."
Saying this, he again lay down, confident that, whatever had been the stranger's intention, he was not likely to repeat the attempt.
Captain Burnett, to whom he narrated the next morning what had occurred, declared that no one had entered his room. They agreed, however, to keep watch the next night, in order to try and catch the intruder.
"If we can catch the fellow, whoever he is, we must carry him before the rajah," observed Burnett. "And I must warn you also, Reginald, that we must be careful what we eat; these natives are adepts in poisoning, and would not scruple to exert that talent if they considered it convenient."
A handsome breakfast was served them, with all sorts of Oriental delicacies; and during the repast, at which several slaves attended, Captain Burnett described in Hindostanee, as if speaking to Reginald, a wonderful rod he possessed, which had the property of discovering poison—as also the poisoner, by whirling itself about as soon as he appeared, and pointing towards him. He spoke in a natural, offhand manner, as if there was nothing unusual in what he was saying.
Soon after the repast they were summoned into the presence of the rajah, who told them that one of his principal officers would take them on a hunting expedition, if they wished to see the style of sporting generally followed in his province. They of course expressed their gratitude, and at once accepted the offer.
"You may go this very day, as the khan is about to set out," said the rajah. "For myself, I am getting too old to engage in such sports for amusement. I may have ere long to lead my troops to battle; but that is a very different affair. Horses are already prepared for you."
In a few minutes Reginald and his friend found themselves in the midst of a large party of Oriental cavaliers in gay costumes, mounted on richly-caparisoned steeds, headed by the Khan Mukund Bhim, who was a remarkably good horseman. Off they set at a rate which, in little more than an hour, carried them to a distance of twelve miles or more from the city. They now entered a wild part of the country, on the borders of a forest, where a band of huntsmen, with several cheetahs and eight or ten trained stags, had been appointed to meet them.
"We will show you some fine sport presently," said the khan; and after allowing their horses a little rest, they again set forward. A party of bearers followed, carrying in a cage a cheetah or hunting leopard, an animal which may be described as in size and shape between the hound and the leopard. Its body is slenderer and more elevated than that of the latter animal, while it does not possess the graceful form of the common leopard; and its head, which is smaller, is peculiarly ugly; its tail is like that of a cat; and its body seems formed more for strong muscular exertion than for active and long-continued speed. Though possessing the sagacity and fidelity of the dog, it is undoubtedly feline in its habits. Its general colour is a bright yellowish-brown, lighter on the sides, and nearly white beneath, marked with numerous small black spots all over, which are continued along the tail so as to appear like rings; its ears are short and rounded, while from each eye a blackish mark runs down to the corners of the mouth, the extremity of the nose being black. The fur, instead of possessing that sleekness which distinguishes the feline race, is peculiarly crisp.
As the party neared the spot where it was expected that the deer would be found, the cheetah was taken out of its cage and led forward by a keeper with a chain, just as a large dog would be led—its head, of course, being covered. When led without any such protection, it is very difficult to manage. Should it scent a trail upon the ground, it begins to throw its head aloft and peer about. To restore its tranquillity, the keeper places a cocoanut shell sprinkled on the inside with salt to the animal's nose. The cheetah licks the salt, and losing the scent forgets the object which attracted its attention. As soon as it again exhibits signs of excitement, the cocoanut shell is applied to its nose, and it again becomes manageable.
At length several deer appeared at a short distance, on some marshy ground, with bushes intervening. The khan gave a signal to the keeper, who slipped the leash, and the cheetah began to steal cautiously towards the herd, taking advantage of the bushes and high grass to conceal itself. On it went like a cat, till it got within a short distance of the deer. They at length discovered its approach, and went bounding forward over everything that impeded their progress, jumping, running, and wading through the marsh with frantic energy. The cheetah's blood was up. It singled out one of the animals, and away it went, bounding catlike over the bushes; plunging into the morass, though hating water, rather than allow its prey to escape. Off started the hunting party, now keeping their eyes on the flying deer, now upon the persevering cheetah. It was no easy task, however, to keep the chase in sight, as they scampered over the marsh and thick grass. Indeed, they put the horsemanship of all the party to the test. While the rest of the deer escaped on either side, the one the cheetah had fixed on had kept a straight course, now by the side of a nullah, now over the wiry grass, now through thick bushes. The cheetah meanwhile skimmed over the surface of the ground, as if requiring no rest for its feet. The forest appeared ahead. Should the deer once reach it and force its way through, even the persevering cheetah would have a difficulty in following. The poor deer, however, worn out with the long chase, and overcome with fear at the indefatigable pursuit of its bloodthirsty foe, leaped headforemost into a thicket, under the belief that it was the commencement of the forest. Its branching horns were caught for a moment, and before it could extricate them, the ferocious cheetah, bounding forward, was upon it, and instantly seizing its neck, pulled it to the ground.
The khan and his companions arrived just as the poor creature was at its last gasp, turning up its beautiful eyes as if imploring mercy from its persecutors. The huntsmen soon put it out of its agony, and it was carried off by the bearers; while the panting cheetah allowed its keeper quietly to slip the chain over its head and lead it away to its cage.
"Come, we must now show you the way we hunt with our stags," said the khan.
Galloping on, they reached the spot where the trained stags, with their keepers, had been waiting for them. Proceeding to another part of the open forest, the party arrived at a spot towards which a band of beaters had driven a herd of deer. Here the animals stood grazing, protected by their watchful guardians, the most warlike and powerful of their males. They could be seen in the far distance. The tame deer were now set at liberty, and advanced at a gentle trot. The males in charge of the herd immediately advanced to meet them. At first they seemed to doubt whether the strange ones came as friends or foes. But the matter was soon settled. The two parties were quickly engaged in a fierce contest, the wild animals rushing forward with great fury, meeting the tame ones—antlers to antlers, and heads to heads. The latter, formidable-looking animals, stood generally on the defensive, each being engaged with a wild adversary, not mimicking war, but fighting desperately. As the hunting party advanced, the herd, catching sight of them, took to flight, but the combatants were too furiously engaged to observe the spectators of the fight. They saw before them only their adversaries, and did not even remark the party of native huntsmen on foot, who, stealing round to their rear, got between them and the forest. Concealing themselves, they advanced stealthily towards the combatants, with long knives gleaming in their hands. Had any one of the wild stags retreated and observed them, they would have been in imminent danger, but there was little fear of that. Getting up close behind the still fighting wild deer, with one stroke of their weapons they hamstrung the brave creatures. Having performed this deed, they hurried away; and the latter, pressed by their adversaries, fell to the ground, unable to move.
The keepers now called off the tame deer, who immediately obeyed, without attempting to follow up their victory. Many of them bore evidence of the severity of the contest by their gored chests, from which the blood was streaming. They seemed to disregard their wounds, however, as if proud of their success, and capered about joyously, tossing their antlers. Meanwhile the huntsmen approached and finished the butchery they had commenced, by cutting the throats of the noble stags, as they helplessly lay in various attitudes on the sward, looking up at their conquerors with those large black eyes of theirs in a way which seemed to ask how human beings could be guilty of such cruelty.
"But how do your people manage to catch and tame the deer which have just so well played their part?" asked Captain Burnett of the khan.
"I will show you," he answered. "We have still time, for this forest abounds in deer, and the hunters are ready."
Riding along the edge of the forest, they came to another open space, followed by the least injured tame deer, led by their keepers, who had been joined by a party of men carrying some large nets. Before long they came in sight of another herd; when the same scene as before was enacted. The tame deer advanced, and were met by an equal number of wild animals, with whom they were soon engaged in a desperate combat,— the well-trained and sagacious decoys slowly retreating, facing their foes, and keeping them engaged, as a skilful swordsman does his adversary, while he endeavours to make him lose his temper. The clash of their branching antlers was clearly heard as the animals fenced furiously at each other. While they were thus hotly engaged, the net-bearers crept round—each net borne by two men—till they got in the rear of the wild stags. They then cautiously approached; and their object was now evident. It was to throw the nets over the heads of the wild deer. This was no easy task. They might either catch the antlers of the tame animals, or might fail to cast the nets over those of the wild ones; in which case they ran the risk of being gored by the latter turning on them.
The first two men succeeded in throwing their net over one of the stags; its tame opponent, at a signal which it understood, springing back at the proper moment, when the men, dragging with all their might, brought their captive to the ground.
The next two men were not so fortunate. The wild stag, seeing what was taking place, wheeled suddenly round, and catching sight of its treacherous foes, rushed at them, with its antlers as sharp as lance points, and literally pinned one of them to the ground, his companion narrowly escaping his fate; then, fleet as the wind, off scampered the deer, and was far away before a shot could be fired at it. Before the hunters could reach the poor man who had been overthrown, he had breathed his last; his death, however, exciting no more sympathy than if a dog had been killed.
Four more deer were eventually captured and dragged off by the huntsmen, their limbs and heads completely enveloped in the nets. Then the hunt for the day being over, the party encamped, tents having been brought from Allahapoor for their convenience; and the next day they returned to the city.
"And how did you enjoy the sport?" asked the rajah, when Reginald and his friend again had the honour of an audience.
"Very well indeed," was the answer.
"Then I will enable you to have some more," said the rajah. "I intend to lead an expedition that will shortly set out from hence. It will afford you better sport, for we shall have two-footed instead of four-footed beasts to contend with. Some hill tribes to the north have dared to come down and plunder and kill my people in the plain, and they must be punished at all hazards. I shall be glad of your advice and assistance, for you Englishmen take naturally to fighting, whether you have been bred to it or not."
Reginald and Burnett thanked the rajah for the compliment he had paid them, but gave no promise. However, they discussed the subject afterwards in their own room, Dick Thuddichum being present.
"I think it will be wise to go," observed Captain Burnett. "We shall thus have an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with the rajah, and ingratiating ourselves, than we can here; and you will thus, on our return, more easily obtain the secret the rajah possesses."
"Dick, are you inclined to come and help the rajah to fight these savage mountaineers?" asked Reginald.
"I should think so! Wherever your honour goes, I am ready to follow," answered Dick.
"Well, then, Burnett, let us settle it. We will tell the rajah at once that we are ready to help him to bring his rebellious subjects into order."
The rajah was highly pleased. "If we succeed, you shall both be made great khans, and become the possessors of untold wealth; that I promise you!" he exclaimed.
The next day the army was on its march, the fighting-men scarcely so numerous as the camp-followers. The first were fierce-looking fellows,—partly cavalry and partly infantry. The cavalry were richly accoutred; the officers in gorgeous uniforms, with spears, carbines, and curved swords with jewelled hilts rattling by their sides. The foot-soldiers had more of a fighting look, with their shields and matchlocks. Then came elephants, carrying gaily-ornamented howdahs; camels—some for riding and others employed as beasts of burden—and horses innumerable; palanquins, conveying some of the female members of the rajah's family, without whom the old chief never moved from home,— the whole train forming an immense line of a mile or more in length. Burnett and Reginald, as they surveyed it, could not help thinking that an active foe might manage to get in the rear and plunder them before the fighting-men could arrive for their defence.
The villagers, as the troops marched through the country, were thrown into the greatest consternation; the soldiers, without ceremony, taking whatever they wanted, and maltreating those who resisted them. The villagers were also compelled to turn out and make the roads practicable, or to cut new ones, to enable the army to advance. Men and women were all set to work; the only pay they received being abuse and punishment when they were unable to accomplish their tasks as rapidly as the rajah desired.
The camp at night occupied a considerable extent of country; and as the act of encamping occupied some time, a halt was called an hour or more before sunset. The rajah's tent was pitched in the neighbourhood of an immense banyan-tree; those of his chief officers and attendants being placed, without much order, around it. Among these, one was appropriated for the use of Reginald and his friend. As they lay stretched at their length in the tent, smoking their hookahs, they could not fail to be struck by the picturesqueness of the curious scene. Near them lay the camels, chewing the cud in silence, and gracefully moving their bending necks as they brought up the balls of food into their mouths. The horses, picketed here and there, cropped their evening meal; while the elephants stood silently at a distance, occasionally moving their long trunks, or flapping their ears. The cries of the birds and the screams of the monkeys, as they composed themselves for the night, came forth from the neighbouring forest; while, at a distance, the devout Mussulmans were engaged in the muggreet, or evening prayer, as they knelt on their little mats, and bowed their heads to kiss the ground. Richly-dressed officers moved about amid the tents, and scantily-clothed warriors reclined in groups in all directions. The most actively engaged persons were the cooks, who were preparing the evening meal for their masters; the attendants standing ready to convey it to them as soon as it should be prepared. The setting sun, casting his lurid beams across the landscape, lighted up the figures of men and animals, and the tents and trees, with a golden hue.
Reginald had brought Faithful; who, indeed, would not have consented to have been left behind, and who now kept so strict a watch in his tent, that neither robber nor assassin would have ventured to enter it.
The only person of any consequence in the rajah's household who had not come was Khan Cochut. He had no fancy for encountering the dangers of war; and though the rajah had commanded his attendance, he excused himself on the plea of severe illness.
Again the troops moved on, and constant scenes of violence and cruelty were practised. The country became wilder as they advanced towards the mountains. There was no lack of inhabitants, and they were everywhere summoned from their homes to labour in the rajah's service. The rajah during part of the day rode on an elephant; but he generally mounted his horse after midday, and desired the two Englishmen to ride by his side. They had thus many opportunities of conversing with him. Captain Burnett endeavoured to draw from him his plan of the campaign. It was a very simple one. He intended to march on till he reached the territory of the rebels; and his purpose then was to burn the villages, and to cut off the heads of any of the rebels he could catch.
"It will frighten the rest, who will soon come to terms, and agree to pay any tribute I may demand," observed the rajah.
"But suppose, your highness, that the enemy were to evade us till they can gather in sufficient force to afford them good hopes of success, how do you then propose dealing with them?" asked Burnett.
"They will not dare to attack us," answered the rajah, stroking his beard. "They are sure to run away as we advance."
Of this, however, Burnett, who had been making inquiries about the character of the rebels from those who had been among them, was not so certain. It seemed to him much more likely that, though armed only with bows, arrows, swords, and spears, they would lie in ambush on the sides of several narrow gorges through which the army had to pass, whence they could take good aim with their unerring bows, and also send down large fragments of rock on the heads of their invaders. He accordingly urged the rajah to leave the women and baggage encamped in a secure position outside the mountains, while the troops made their way through the more difficult country.