Page images
PDF
EPUB

hut, the door was open, and a light issuing from it showed that the hut was full of men. They appeared to be drinking. Before the hut was a thatched verandah, in it was a row of earthen pots. From these I concluded that the hut was one of the shops licensed for the sale of liquors. Outside the hut were tethered several horses. One, which stood between us and the open door, was thrown into strong relief. I noticed that it was saddled, and that the saddle was English, with a high pommel and cantle.

[ocr errors]

I had hardly taken in the scene when Dillawar Khan exclaimed, in a sharp quick tone, Gallop for your lives; for your lives gallop your horses!' As he spoke he struck his own horse with his whip, and dashed forward. Mr. Joyce and I did the same. The tramp of our horses apparently reached the shed. A man ran out and shouted to us to stop, at the same time inquiring who we were and where we were going, riding thus at dead of night? Dillawar Khan turned his head, and called out in reply, 'That we were horsemen of the Emperor, proceeding to Agra on urgent business.' We heard a confused sound, as of a rush of men, shouts, and the clatter of horses. The sound was soon drowned in the splashing of the water as we galloped on, and in the patter of the rain. We galloped on for half a mile; my horse, never a fast one, was getting blown-he began to lag. I proposed to Dillawar to pull up and walk. He answered by telling me‘to use the whip! to use the whip! to push on for my life.' Thus exhorted I urged on my horse. After another half mile he became so blown that if further pressed I felt he might drop. I pulled up and told the others to do the same. Dillawar Khan now made no objection. We halted and listened. No sound came but the falling of the rain and the clanking of the fetters,

which told us that prisoners were still passing, though we did not see them.

When our horses had a little recovered their wind we went on again, but for some time only at a walk, partly to rest our horses, partly to enable our followers. to overtake us. None came. Our party was now reduced to Dillawar Khan, whom I regarded as one of ourselves, the two guides, and a lad who, when we galloped on at the hut, happened to be in front. As we rode on I inquired of Dillawar Khan what had alarmed him that he started off so suddenly. Mr. Joyce answered for him, by asking me if I had not noticed the saddle of the horse before the hut door. Dillawar Khan had served in the army. He had recognised the saddle as that of our regular cavalry, and knew thereby that the men inside the hut were troopers of the mutineer regiments. The presence of these troopers showed that we had got within the lines of the rebel army. We consulted what we should do. The guides proposed that we should retrace our steps, and endeavour to get back to Muttra, but that was simple madness. At all hazards I felt we must advance, and in this Dillawar agreed. We decided to keep well under the shade of the avenue, and if seen and challenged to represent ourselves as horsemen of the King of Delhi.

We presently came to a village. We passed it unnoticed, but beyond the village the avenue ceased for a space. As we came out of the shade we must have been observed. A trooper galloped suddenly up from the side, placed himself in the middle of the road, and demanded who we were. From his confident manner we made sure that he had comrades near. In this emergency Dillawar Khan showed great presence of mind. Without a moment's hesitation he dashed forward, called to us to do the same, shouting out to the trooper that we were

horsemen of the Emperor carrying dispatches to the army, and demanding what he meant by stopping us.

The trooper was taken by surprise. Seeing us come galloping towards him, he hurriedly got his horse to one side to avoid being ridden over. Before he recovered himself we were out of sight. We heard him shout, and heard voices answer him; but either he took us for friends, or his comrades were too lazy to follow. Anyhow, when we pulled up again we found that we were not pursued.

The avenue presently recommenced, and in accordance to what we had arranged, we rode under the trees on the left side. We had not proceeded far when we heard the tramp of horses, and a party of mutineer cavalry passed us riding along the central portion of the road. One of them challenged us; we made no answer, they passed on. Half a mile further we met another troop of mutineers. Like ourselves they were riding on a side avenue, and fortunately for us it was the one on the side opposite.

The stream of prisoners had been gradually getting smaller. We came on the prisoners at longer intervals, and then in fewer numbers. After we had passed this last troop of mutineers they ceased for a while altogether.

CHAPTER XVII.

A MIDNIGHT RIDE-continued.

WE had ridden some little distance, when on the side of the road to our right we saw a light which appeared to issue from a hut. Somewhere near here there resided a Fukkeer who subsisted on alms given him by travellers. Dillawar Khan thought that the light might proceed from his hut, and suggested that we should halt and send one of our men to ascertain. We accordingly pulled up, and Dillawar Khan addressing one of the guides, desired him to ride quietly up to the hut, and if it was the Fukkeer's to inquire the news. Instead of obeying the man began to make excuses, and to make them in a sullen, not to say insolent, tone. Dillawar Khan neither argued with him nor rebuked him, but turning to the other guide requested him to go forward. After a little hesitation the man obeyed and rode towards the light. We followed, but halting so soon as we arrived within ear shot.

The guide having approached the hut checked his horse, and called out the usual salutation. From within the hut a voice answered, inquiring who it was that addressed him. The guide replied as Dillawar had directed him. He said that he was a horseman of the Emperor on his way to Agra, and requested a drink of water and a few whiffs of tobacco. The inquiry was followed by

sounds of movement inside the hut. In a minute or two the Fukkeer came out of the hut and handed the guide a bowl of water and a small hookah; we could see the glow of the charcoal as he passed it. The guide drank the water, drew a puff or two from the hookah, and then inquired if all was well in front, and if he could proceed in safety.

[ocr errors]

We listened eagerly for the answer. It came as follows, All is well, my son, go on without fear; you will meet with no enemy.' We were elated, we did not at the moment consider to whom the term enemy was applied. We were shortly enlightened. The Fukkeer, who appeared very good-natured and communicative, proceeded to inform the horseman that the rebel army had advanced in the afternoon towards Agra, that the English soldiers had come out to meet them, that a battle had ensued, and the English had been beaten and had fled into the fort.

While the Fukkeer was talking a traveller came up and joined in the conversation; he confirmed the truth of the Fukkeer's story, and added some further particulars of his own. Among others, that the rebel army was besieging the fort, and had already knocked down one of the bastions.

In their eagerness to hear our men had advanced their horses. Some movement attracted the Fukkeer's notice; he looked up, startled, and pointing in our direction, inquired of the guide in a frightened tone who those men were.' The guide replied that they were his companions, also troopers of the Emperor. After some further conversation Dillawar Khan whispered to me that we had better leave. I moved on my horse, and after some difficulty the rest followed, the guide wishing the Fukkeer farewell.

« PreviousContinue »