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message after message, always receiving the same reply, that they would arrive immediately. There was a great bustle in the yard below, and it seemed to me that the house was in some confusion. I resolved to wait no longer. My companions accompanied us to the head of the stairs, made a last attempt to dissuade us from going by land, and then we bade each other farewell, like those who, on this earth, might not meet again.
At the barricade our horses were drawn up, behind them were our men. I noticed also some men of the Seths', who informed me that they were to accompany us to the outside of the city. I attributed this attention to politeness. I afterwards learnt, as I shall relate, that it was due to other reasons. As we were wishing good-bye to our servants and office people there was a slight movement behind, the crowd opened, and the two Seths appeared. They had come, they said, to bid us again. farewell, and to see us safely depart.
Just then two more horsemen rode up-a neighbouring landholder and his son. I had lately done him some kindness. He said that he wished to show his sense of it by accompanying us to Agra. I was glad of his company, for two more men were a welcome addition to our party, especially men such as these, in whom I thought I could place confidence.
The Seths were anxious for us to wait for the additional escort and the spare horses, which they assured us were now approaching. But of this I did not feel confident, nor, if we were to reach Agra before morning, was it prudent to delay our departure. I was armed with sword and revolver; I had also a dagger and three guns. I gave one of the guns to the chief of my horsemen, old Dillawar Khan, and the other two to the landholder and his son, and desired them to ride close beside. I then
wished good-bye to the Seths, thanking them for all their kindness, and having done so Mr. Joyce and I passed through the wicket. I remembered afterwards that the Seths took extreme precautions for our safety as we did so, keeping close beside us, and placing some of their most confidential servants on the other side. Having passed the wicket we mounted our horses, and I gave the word to proceed.
A MIDNIGHT RIDE.
I AND Mr. Joyce rode side by side, two men in advance, the remainder following in double file. It was nearly full moon, but the sky was concealed by a canopy of clouds too thick for its rays to penetrate; as we advanced beyond the space illuminated by the glare of the torches we plunged into darkness.
We passed one or two The men in advance re
The streets were silent and deserted; their silence impressed us with a feeling of awe. It seemed but a few minutes since we had seen them full of life. The houses on either side were dimly visible. The canopy of clouds. seemed to rest on their summits, giving to the street the appearance of a covered passage. watchmen, who challenged us. plied that we were horsemen of the Government going to patrol the road. On reaching the city gates the same explanation was given. The sentry knew the men; he opened the gate and let us pass without further inquiry. It was with a feeling of relief that we found ourselves again in the open country. We were no longer as it were in a cage, and, whatever happened, we could at least make a run for our lives. It presently began to rain-the falling rain cooled the air. I took advantage of the coolness to put our horses to a canter, which we continued till we reached the cantonments. At the
corner of the road that ran up to the gaol was a shed, where I had lately stationed a body of police for the purpose of patrolling the roads. As we approached the shed we pulled up our horses, and proceeded at a walk, keeping on the side of the road where the surface was soft and the tramp of the horses would least resound. The precaution was unnecessary. As we passed the station no one challenged us, nor could we discern the form of any sentry. The guard were either asleep or had run away.
We now pushed on again, but this time at a trot. The rain continued falling, and refreshed both ourselves and our horses. I had been very sleepy at starting; the cool air and the motion had by this time quite aroused me. Both I and Mr. Joyce felt more cheerful now that we were well outside the city, and very confident that we should safely make our way to Agra.
We presently approached the village of Aurungabad. Mr. Joyce and I were well disguised, but before we entered the village Dillawar Khan thought it would be prudent to halt and rearrange our party, so that we should occupy the centre, and thus, as far as was possible, be concealed from observation. At the entrance of the village was a police-station, the same where we had rested on our flight from Hodul. As we passed the sentry challenged us: our men made some reply which satisfied him. He let us proceed without further questioning. The high road runs through the village; on either side were shops. They were all closed, but through the chinks of some of the shutters came the feeble rays of little lamps, showing that the owners were still awake and examining their account-books. Otherwise there was no sign of life—the village was buried in silence and darkness.
At the further end of the village stood a stable, where
two horsemen were stationed. I had sent on a man in advance, to desire them to get ready and accompany me. When we arrived at the stable we halted, and I called to the horsemen to come out. They did not appear, and, from the sounds that issued from the stable yard, there seemed to be some discussion going on between them and the man I had sent to warn them. There was no time to ascertain what the dispute was about. I told the man to come out of the yard and fall in; and desiring the two horsemen to follow and join us, we moved on, passed through the ruined gateway, and came again into the open country.
The rain had now ceased to fall, and, though it was still extremely dark, there were occasional breaks in the clouds, through which the moonlight faintly shone. These breaks made us anxious, for in India, when the clouds begin to break, the sky often clears with great rapidity. In the bright moonlight it might be perceived that Mr. Joyce and I were not natives.
All along the road, at short intervals, I had stationed. parties of police; they had received the strictest orders to patrol the road incessantly, and only the previous day they had made the most solemn promises to do so. Of the value of these promises, and also of the attention paid to those orders, I had now experience. Since leaving Muttra we had not met a single patrol, nor had we been challenged at any one of the stations.
We had ridden on for some time, when Mr. Joyce called my attention to a point in the sky, on the horizon to our left. I looked in the direction to which he pointed, and through a break in the clouds I perceived a dull light. Mr. Joyce asked me what I thought the light could be. From the tone of his voice I perceived that he was anxious. I looked again and more attentively. The light appeared to come from behind the river, and