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HOME > Short Stories > Rujub, the Juggler > CHAPTER XIX.
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 Now alone, Bathurst threw himself down among the bashes in an attitude of utter depression. “Why wasn't I killed with the others?” he groaned. “Why was I not killed when I sat there by her side?”
So he lay for an hour, and then slowly rose and looked round. There was a faint light in the sky.
“It will be light in another hour,” he said to himself, and he again sat down. Suddenly he started. Had someone spoken, or had he fancied it?
“Wait till I come.”
He seemed to hear the words plainly, just as he had heard Rujub's summons before.
“That's it; it is Rujub. How is it that he can make me hear in this way? I am sure it was his voice. Anyhow, I will wait. It shows he is thinking of me, and I am sure he will help me. I know well enough I could do nothing by myself.”
Bathurst assumed with unquestioning faith that Isobel Hannay was alive. He had no reason for his confidence. That first shower of grape might have killed her as it killed others, but he would not admit the doubt in his mind. Wilson's description of what had happened while he was insensible was one of the grounds of this confidence.
He had heard women scream. Mrs. Hunter and her daughter were the only other women in the boat. Isobel would not have screamed had those muskets been pointed at her, nor did he think the others would have done so. They screamed when they saw the natives about to murder those who were with them. The three women were sitting together, and if one had fallen by the grape shot all would probably have been killed. He felt confident, therefore, that she had escaped; he believed he would have known it had she been killed.
“If I can be influenced by this juggler, surely I should have felt it had Isobel died,” he argued, and was satisfied that she was still alive.
What, however, more than anything else gave him hope was the picture on the smoke. “Everything else has come true,” he said to himself; “why should not that? Wilson spoke of the Doctor as dead. I will not believe it; for if he is dead, the picture is false. Why should that thing of all others have been shown to me unless it had been true? What seemed impossible to me—that I should be fighting like a brave man—has been verified. Why should not this? I should have laughed at such superstition six months ago; now I cling to it as my one ground for hope. Well, I will wait if I have to stay here until tomorrow night.”
Noiselessly he moved about in the little wood, going to the edge and looking out, pacing to and fro with quick steps, his face set in a frown, occasionally muttering to himself. He was in a fever of impatience. He longed to be doing something, even if that something led to his detention and death. He said to himself that he should not care so that Isobel Hannay did but know that he had died in trying to rescue her.
The sun rose, and he saw the peasants in the fields, and caught the note of a bugle sounding from the lines at Cawnpore. At last—it had seemed to him an age, but the sun had been up only an hour—he saw a figure coming along the river bank. As it approached he told himself that it was the juggler; if so, he had laid aside the garments in which he last saw him, and was now attired as when they first met. When he saw him turn off from the river bank and advance straight towards the wood, he had no doubt that it was the man he expected.
“Thanks be to the holy ones that you have escaped, sahib,” Rujub said, as soon as he came within speaking distance of Bathurst. “I was in an agony last night. I was with you in thought, and saw the boats approaching the ambuscade. I saw you leap over and swim to shore. I saw you fall, and I cried out. For a moment I thought you were killed. Then I saw you go on and fall again, and saw your friends carry you in. I watched you recover and come on here, and then I willed it that you should wait here till I came for you. I have brought you a disguise, for I did not know that you had one with you. But, first of all, sit down and let me dress your wound afresh. I have brought all that is necessary for it.”
“You are a true fried, Rujub. I relied upon you for aid; do you know why I waited here instead of going down with the others?”
“I know, sahib. I can tell your thoughts as easily when you are away from me as I can when we are together.”
“Can you do this with all people?”
“No, my lord; to be able to read another's thoughts it is necessary there should be a mystic relation established between them. As I walked beside your horse when you carried my daughter before you after saving her life, I felt that this relation had commenced, and that henceforward our fates were connected. It was necessary that you should have confidence in me, and it was for that reason that I showed you some of the feats that we rarely exhibit, and proved to you that I possessed powers with which you were unacquainted. But in thought reading my daughter has greater powers than I have, and it was she who last night followed you on your journey, sitting with her hand in mine, so that my mind followed hers.”
“Do you know all that happened last night, Rujub?” Bathurst said, summoning up courage to ask the question that had been on his lips from the first.
“I only know, my lord, that the party was destroyed, save three white women, who were brought in just as the sun rose this morning. One was the lady behind whose chair you stood the night I performed at Deennugghur, the lady about whom you are thinking. I do not know the other two; one was getting on in life, the other was a young one.”
The relief was so great that Bathurst turned away, unable for a while to continue the conversation. When he resumed the talk, he asked, “Did you see them yourself, Rujub?”
“I saw them, sahib; they were brought in on a gun carriage.”
“How did they look, Rujub?”
“The old one looked calm and sad. She did not seem to hear the shouts of the budmashes as they passed along. She held the young one close to her. That one seemed worn out with grief and terror. Your memsahib sat upright; she was very pale and changed from the time I saw her that evening, but she held her head high, and looked almost scornfully at the men who shook their fists and cried at her.”
“And they put them with the other women that they have taken prisoners?”
Rujub hesitated.
“They have put the other two there, sahib, but her they took to Bithoor.”
Bathurst started, and an exclamation of horror and rage burst from him.
“To the Rajah's!” he exclaimed. “To that scoundrel! Come, let us go. Why are we staying here?”
“We can do nothing for the moment. Before I started I sent off my daughter to Bithoor; she knows many there, and will find out what is being done and bring us word, for I dare not show myself there. The Rajah is furious with me because I did not support the Sepoys, and suffered conditions to be made with your people, but now that all has turned out as he wished, I will in a short time present myself before him again, but for the moment it was better that my daughter should go, as I had to come to you. But first you had better put on the disguise I have brought you. You are too big and strong to pass without notice in that peasant's dress. The one I have brought you is such as is worn by the rough people; the budmashes of Cawnpore. I can procure others afterwards when we see what had best be done. It will be easy enough to enter Bithoor, for all is confusion there, and men come and go as they choose, but it will be well nigh impossible for you to penetrate where the memsahib will be placed. Even for me, known as I am to all the Rajah's officers, it would be impossible to do so; it is my daughter in whom we shall have to trust.”
Bathurst rapidly put on the clothes that Rujub had brought with him, and thrust a sword, two daggers, and a brace of long barreled pistols into the sash round his waist.
“Your color is not dark enough, sahib. I have brought dye with me; but first I must dress the wound on your head, and bandage it more neatly, so that the blood stained swathings will not show below the folds of your turban.”
Bathurst submitted himself impatiently to Rujub's hands. The latter cut off all the hair that would show under the turban, dyed the skin the same color as the other parts, and finally, after darkening his eyebrows, eyelashes, and mustache, pronounced that he would pass anywhere without attracting attention. Then they started at a quick walk along the river, crossed by the ferryboat to Cawnpore, and made their way to a quiet street in the native town.
“This is my house for the present,” Rujub said, producing a key and unlocking a door. He shouted as he closed the door behind him, and an old woman appeared.
“Is the meal prepared?” he asked.
“It is ready,” she said.
“That is right. Tell Rhuman to put the pony into the cart.”
He then led the way into a comfortably furnished apartment where a meal was laid.
“Eat, my lord,” he said; “you need it, and will require your strength.”
Bathurst, who, during his walk, had felt the effects of the loss of blood and anxiety, at once seated himself at the table and ate, at first languidly, but as appetite came, more heartily, and felt still more benefited by a bottle of excellent wine Rujub had placed beside him. The latter returned to the room just as he had finished. He was now attired as he had been when Bathurst last met him at Deennugghur.
“I feel another man, Rujub, and fit for anything.”
“The cart is ready,” Rujub said. “I have already taken my meal; we do not eat meat, and live entirely on vegetables. Meat clouds the senses, and simple food, and little of it, is necessary for those who would enter the inner brotherhood.”
At the door a small native cart was standing with a pony in the shafts.
“You will go with us, Rhuman,” Rujub said, as he and Bathurst took their seats in the cart.
The boy squatted down at Rujub's feet, taking the reins and whip, and the pony started off at a brisk pace. Upon the way Rujub talked of various matters, of the reports of the force that was gathering at Allahabad, and the madness of the British in supposing that two or three thousand men could withstand the forces of the Nana.
“They would be eaten up,” he said; “the troops will go out to meet them; they will never arrive within sight of Cawnpore.”
As Bathurst saw that he was talking for the boy to hear, rather than to himself, he agreed loudly with all that he said, and boasted that even without the Nana's troops and the Sepoys, the people of Cawnpore could cut the English dogs to pieces.
The drive was not a long one, and the road was full of parties going to or returning from Bithoor—groups of Sepoy officers, parties of budmashes from Cawnpore, mounted messengers, landowners with their retainers, and others. Arriving within a quarter of a mile of the palace, Rujub ordered the boy to draw aside.
“Take the horse down that road,” he said, “and wait there until we return. We may be some time. If we are not back by the time the sun sets, you will return home.”
As they approached the palace Bathurst scanned every window, as if he hoped to see Isobel's face at one of them. Entering the garden, they avoided the terrace in front of the house, and sauntering through the groups of people who had gathered discussing the latest news, they took their seat in a secluded corner.
Bathurst thought of the last time he had been there, when there had been a fete given by the Rajah to the residents of Cawnpore, and contrasted the present with the past. Then the gardens were lighted up, and a crowd of officers and civilians with ladies in white dresses had strolled along the terrace to the sound of gay music, while their host moved about among them, courteous, pleasant, and smiling. Now the greater portion of the men were dead, the women were prisoners in the hands of the native who had professed such friendship for them.
“Tell me, Rujub,” he said presently, “more about this force at Allahabad. What is its strength likely to be?”
“They say there is one British regiment of the line, one of the plumed regiments with bare legs, and one of the white Madras regiments; they have a few guns, a very few horsemen; that is all, while there are twenty thousand troops here. How can they hope to win?”
“You will see they will win,” Bathurst said sternly. “They have often fought well, but they will fight now as they never fought before; every man will feel himself an avenger of the foul treachery and the brutal massacres that have been committed. Were it but one regiment that is coming up instead of three, I would back it against the blood stained wretches.”
“They are fighting for freedom,” Rujub said.
“They are fighting for nothing of the sort,” Bathurst replied hotly; “they are fighting for they know not what—change of masters, for license to plunder, and because they are ignorant and have been led away. I doubt not that at present, confident as they may be of victory, most of them in their hearts regret what they have done. They have forfeited their pensions, they have thrown away the benefits of their years of service, they have been faithless to their salt, and false to their oaths. It is true that they know they are fighting with ropes round their necks, but even that won't avail against the discipline and the fury of our troops. I feel as certain, Rujub, that, in spite of the odds against them, the English will triumph, as if I saw their column marching into the town. I don't profess to see the future as you do, but I know enough to tell you that ere long that palace you can see through the trees will be leveled to the ground, that it is as assuredly doomed as if fire had already been applied to its gilded beams.”
Rujub nodded. “I know the palace is doomed. While I have looked at it it has seemed hidden by a cloud of smoke, but I did not think it was the work of the British—I thought of an accident.”
“The Rajah may fire it with his own hands,” Bathurst said; “but if he does not, it will be done for him.”
“I have not told you yet, sahib,” Rujub said, changing the subject, “how it was that I could neither prevent the attack on the boats nor warn you that it was coming. I knew at Deennugghur that news had been sent of the surrender to the Nana. I remained till I knew you were safely in the boats, and then rode to Cawnpore. My daughter was at the house when I arrived, and told me that the Nana was furious with me, and that it would not be safe for me to go near the palace. Thus, although I feared that an attack was intended, I thought it would not be until the boats passed the town. It was late before I learnt that a battery of artillery and some infantry had set out that afternoon. Then I tried to warn you, but I felt that I failed. You were not in a mood when my mind could communicate itself to yours.”
“I felt very uneasy and restless,” Bathurst said, “but I had not the same feeling that you were speaking to me I had that night at Deennugghur; but even had I known of the danger, there would have been no avoiding it. Had we landed, we must have been overtaken, and it would have come to the same thing. Tell me, Rujub, had you any idea when I saw you at Deennugghur that if we were taken prisoners Miss Hannay was to be brought here instead of being placed with the other ladies?”
“Yes, I knew it, sahib; the orders he gave to the Sepoys were that every man was to be killed, and that the women and children were to be taken to Cawnpore, except Miss Hannay, who was to be carried here at once. The Rajah had noticed her more than once when she was at Cawnpore, and had made up his mind that she should go to his zenana.”
“Why did you not tell me when you were at Deennugghur?”
“What would have been the use, sahib? I hoped to save you all; besides, it was not until we saw her taken past this morning that we knew that the Miss Hannay who was to be taken to Bithoor was the lady whom my daughter, when she saw her with you that night, said at once that you loved. But had we known it, what good would it have done to have told you of the Rajah's orders? You could not have done more than you have done. But now we know, we will aid you to save her.”
“How long will your daughter be before she comes? It is horrible waiting here.”
“You must have patience, sahib. It will be no easy work to get the lady away. There will be guards and women to look after her. A lady is not to be stolen out of a zenana as a young bird is taken from its nest.”
“It is all very well to say 'Be patient,'” Bathurst said, getting up and walking up and down with quick angry strides. “It is maddening to sit here doing nothing. If it were not that I had confidence in your power and will to aid me, I would go into the palace and stab Nana Sahib to the heart, though I were cut to pieces for it the moment afterwards.”
“That would do no good to the lady, sahib,” Rujub said calmly. “She would only be left without a friend, and the Nana's death might be the signal for the murder of every white prisoner. Ah, here comes my daughter.”
Rabda came up quickly, and stopped before Bathurst with her head bowed and her arms crossed in an attitude of humility. She was dressed in the attire worn by the principal servants in attendance upon the zenana of a Hindoo prince.
“Well, what news, Rabda?” Bathurst asked eagerly.
“The light of my lord's heart is sick. She bore up till she arrived here and was handed over to the women. Then her strength failed her, and she fainted. She recovered, but she is lying weak and exhausted with all that she has gone through and suffered.”
“Where is she now?”
“She is in the zenana, looking out into the women's court, that no men are ever allowed to enter.”
“Has the Rajah seen her?”
“No, sahib. He was told the state that she was in, and the chief lady of the zenana sent him word that for the present she must have quiet and rest, bu............
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