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The Young Russian Captain Of Dragoons







From: The Coming Conquest Of England

The news of Edith's kidnapping--for, in Heideck's opinion, this was the
only explanation, because she would otherwise have left a message for
him--fell upon Heideck as a crushing blow.

He remembered the terrible cruelties narrated of the period of the Sepoy
mutiny. And he only needed to remember his own experiences in Lahore to
be convinced that all those horrible stories were no exaggeration, but,
rather, well within the actual truth of the facts.

But if it was not a like fate that awaited Edith Irwin, yet perhaps
another ignominious lot would be hers, and this could not fail to
appear, to the man who loved her, more terrible even than death itself.

His alarm and deep despondency had not escaped the notice of the Prince.
He laid his hand sympathetically on Heideck's shoulder, and said--

"I am really quite miserable, comrade! for I now see what you and the
lady are to each other. But perhaps you make yourself uneasy without
cause; the departure of the lady is capable, perhaps, of a quite simple
explanation."

Heideck shook his head.

"I do not entertain any hope in this respect, for everything points to
the fact that the Maharajah of Chanidigot is the man who has got the
lady into his power. This sensual despot has for months past schemed how
to obtain possession of her. What, in Heaven's name, is to be done to
free the unhappy creature from his clutches?"

"I will inform the General, and doubt not that he will institute an
inquiry. If your supposition is correct, the Maharajah will, of course,
be compelled to set the lady free. But I doubt if this is the case. The
despot of Chanidigot is at present far away."

"That would not prevent others from acting on his orders. And do you
really believe that your General would, for the sake of an English
lady, offend an influential Indian prince, whose alliance would at this
present moment be very advantageous for Russia?"

"Oh, my dear friend, we are not the barbarians we are held to be in
Western Europe. We do not intend to be behind the rest of the world in
chivalrous actions, and we certainly should not begin our rule in India
by allowing execrable deeds of violence to take place before our very
eyes. I am convinced that the General does not in this matter think
differently from myself."

"You do not know what a great comfort it is to me to hear that; for I
shall myself be unable to do anything more for Mrs. Irwin. Since I know
that Germany is engaged in the war, I can have no further interest but
to join my army as quickly as possible."

"Of course! A soldier's duty first. But how shall you manage to get to
Germany? It will be a devilish hard job."

"I must try all the same. Under no circumstances could I remain quietly
here."

"Well, then, let us consider matters. The best plan would be for you to
return by sea from Bombay or some other port, like Calcutta, Madras,
or Karachi. Karachi is nearest. It has even been given the name of the
Entrance Gate to Central Asia. And from Lahore, Quetta, or Mooltan,
Karachi can be most readily reached by the railway. Steamship
communication between Karachi and Europe is only possible by way of
Bombay; there is thence no other direct line of steamers than that
plying up the Persian Gulf. You must accordingly go by one of the
English steamers of the P. and O. line, which start twice a week. The
French Messageries Maritimes, which usually sail between Karachi
and Marseilles, will, of course, have long since discontinued their
services. You could, therefore, just as well go by railway to Bombay.
Via Calcutta or Madras would be a roundabout journey."

"And I should be entirely dependent upon the English steamship lines?"

"I consider it quite out of the question that the ships of the North
German Lloyd or the Austrian Lloyd are still running."

"Then I shall have to give up the idea of this route altogether. For if
I am not to make use of a forged passport, which, moreover, will be very
hard to obtain, no English steamer will take me as a passenger."

"That is certainly very probable," the Prince rejoined, after some
thought. "And then--how are you to get to Bombay? The English are, of
course, destroying all the railways on their line of retreat."

"Well, so far as that is concerned, I could go on horseback."

"What! right through the English army? and at the risk of being arrested
for a spy? Are you not aware that the conquered are, as a rule, smarter
at shooting those whom they regard as spies than are the victors?"

Heideck could not suppress a smile.

"In this respect the promptness of the Russian procedure could
scarcely be excelled. But I allow, that your fears are quite justified.
Accordingly, only the road to the north remains open."

"Yes, you must go to the Khyber Pass on an empty train or with
a transport of English prisoners, and then on horseback through
Afghanistan to the frontier, and thence again by railway to
Kransnovodsk. Your journey would then be across the Caspian to Baku or
by railway by way of Tiflis to Poti on the Black Sea and thence by ship
to Constantinople. But, my dear comrade, that's a very long and arduous
journey."

"I shall have to attempt it all the same. Honour commands; and you
yourself say that there is no other route than that you have described."

"Right!--I will take care you are provided with a passport, and will
request the General to furnish you with an authority which will
enable you to have at any time an escort of Cossacks upon our lines of
communication through Afghanistan--But--"

A gleam of pleasure in his face showed that in his view he had hit upon
a very happy thought--"Might there not, perhaps, after all be found some
solution which would save you all this exertion? The Germans and the
Russians are allies. In the ranks of our army you would also be able to
serve your fatherland. And an officer who knows India as well as you,
would be invaluable to us at the present time. I will, if you like,
speak at once with the General; and I am certain that he will not
hesitate a moment to attach you to his staff with the rank that you hold
in the German army."

Heideck shook his friend's hand with emotion.

"You make it difficult for me to thank you as you deserve. Without your
intervention, my existence would have come to an inglorious close, and
the proposal you now make to me is a new proof of your amiable sympathy.
But you will not be vexed if I decline your offer--will you? It would
certainly be a great honour to serve in your splendid army, but you see
I cannot dispose of myself as I would, but must, as a soldier, return to
my post irrespective of the difficulties I may have to encounter. I beg
you--Lord! what's that? in this land of miracles even the dead come to
life again."

The astonishment that prompted this question was a very natural one, for
the lean, dark-skinned little man who had just appeared at the entrance
of the tent was no other than his faithful servant Morar Gopal whom he
had believed to be dead. Round his forehead he wore a fresh bandage. For
a moment he stood stock-still at the entrance to the tent, and his dark
eyes beamed with pleasure at having found his master again unharmed.

Hardly able to restrain his emotion, Morar Gopal advanced towards
Heideck, prostrated himself on the ground, Hindu fashion, in order to
touch the earth with his forehead, and then sprang to his feet with all
the appearance of the greatest joy.

But Heideck was scarcely less moved than the other, and pressed the
brown hand of his faithful servant warmly.

"These lunatics did not kill you after all then? But I saw you felled to
the ground by their blows."

Morar Gopal grinned cunningly.

"I threw myself down as soon as I saw that further resistance was
useless. And, because I was bleeding from a wound in the head, they
thought, I suppose, that they had finished me. Directly afterwards the
Cossacks came, and in front of their horses, which would otherwise have
trampled upon me, I quickly scrambled to my feet."

"You have great presence of mind! But where did you get this fine suit
of clothes?"

"I ran back to the hotel--through the back door, where the smoke was
not so stifling--because I thought that sahib would perhaps have taken
refuge there. I did not find sahib, but I found these clothes, and
thought it better to put them on than to leave them to burn."

"Quite right, my brave fellow! you will hardly be brought up for this
little theft."

"I looked for sahib everywhere, where English prisoners are; and when
I came to Anar Kali just at the moment that Mrs. Irwin was being driven
away in a carriage, I knew that I was at length on the track of my
master."

Heideck violently clutched his arm.

"You saw it? and you know, too, who it was that took her away?"

"Yes, sir, it was Siwalik, the Master of the Horse to Prince Tasatat;
and the lady is now with him on the road to Simla."

"Simla! How do you know that?"

"I was near enough to hear every word that the Indians spoke, and they
said that they were going to Simla."

"And Mrs. Irwin? She didn't resist? She didn't cry for help? She allowed
herself to be carried off quietly?"

"The lady was very proud. She did not say a word."

An orderly officer stepped into the tent and brought the Prince an order
to appear at once before the Commander-in-Chief.

"Do you know what about?" asked the Colonel.

"As far as I know, it concerns a report of Captain Obrutschev, who
commanded the file of men told off for the execution. He reported that
the Colonel had carried away a spy who was to be shot by order of the
court-martial."

Heideck was in consternation.

"Your act of grace is, after all, likely to land you in serious
difficulties," he said. "But, as I need now no longer conceal my quality
as German officer, I can, in case the field telegraph is working, be
able to establish my identity by inquiry at the General Staff of the
German Army."

"Certainly! and I entreat you not to be uneasy on my account; I shall
soon justify the action I have taken."

He disappeared in company of the orderly officer; and Heideck the
while plied the brave Morar Gopal afresh with questions as to the
circumstances connected with Edith's kidnapping.

But the Hindu could not tell him anything more, as he had not dared
approach Edith. He was only concerned with the endeavour to find his
master. He had learnt that Heideck had been carried off by Cossacks and
indefatigably pursued his investigations until at last, with the inborn
acumen peculiar to his race, he had found out everything. That he, from
this time forth, would share the lot of his adored sahib appeared to him
a matter of course. And Heideck had not the heart, in this hour of their
meeting again, to destroy his illusion.

After the lapse of half an hour Prince Tchajawadse returned. His joyous
countenance showed that he was the bearer of good news.

"All is settled. My word was bond enough for the General, and he
considered an inquiry in Berlin quite superfluous."

"In truth, you Russians do everything on a grand scale," exclaimed
Heideck. "A great Empire, a great army, a wide, far-seeing policy, and a
great comprehension for all things."

"I also talked to the General touching my suggestion to include you in
the ranks of our army, and he is completely of one mind with me in the
matter. He also considers the difficulties of a journey to Germany under
the present conditions to be almost unsurmountable. He makes you the
offer to enter his staff with the rank of captain. Under the most
favourable conditions you would only be able to reach Berlin after the
war is over."

"I do not believe that this war will be so soon at an end. Only reflect,
half the globe is in flames."

"All the same, you ought not to reject his offer. We could, to ease your
mind, make inquiries on your behalf in Berlin. The field telegraph
is open as far as Peshawar, and there is consequently connexion with
Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Berlin."

"I accept without further consideration. I should be happy, if
permission were granted, to fight in your ranks."

"There is no doubt of that whatever. I will at once procure you our
white summer uniform and that of a captain of dragoons; and this sword,
comrade, I hope you will accept from me as a small gift of friendship."

"I thank you from my heart, Colonel."

"I salute you as one of ours. I might even be in a position to give you
at once an order to carry out."

"But not without permission from Berlin, Prince?"

"Well, then, we will wait for it; but it would be a great pity if,
contrary to our expectation, it were to be delayed. The commission that
I was on the point of procuring for you would certainly have greatly
interested you."

"And may I ask--"

"The General has the intention to send a detachment to Simla."

"To Simla, the summer residence of the Viceroy?"

"Yes."

"But this mountain town is at the present moment not within the sphere
of hostilities; the Viceroy remains in Calcutta."

"Quite right; but that does not preclude the news of the occupation
of Simla having a great effect on the world at large. Moreover, in
the Government offices there there might possibly be found interesting
documents which it would be worth while to intercept."

"And you consider it possible that His Excellency would despatch me
thither?"

"As the detachment to which my dragoons, as well as some infantry and
two machine guns, would belong is under my command, I have begged the
General to attach you to the expedition."

Heideck understood the high-minded intentions of the Prince, and shook
his hands almost impetuously.

"Heaven grant that permission from Berlin comes in time! I desire
nothing in the world so earnestly as to accompany you to Simla."





Next: On The Road To Simla

Previous: Downing Street



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