Chapter IV

At Gun Fire

The following day was Sunday, the 30th May​—​a day ever to be remembered in the history of Lucknow. Everything went on with its usual routine. A religious service was held which all the European troops in the cantonments attended. Sir Henry Lawrence, as was his custom on Sunday evening, invited his staff to dine with him at the Residency bungalow.

It was the quarter of an hour before dinner. Sir Henry Lawrence was surrounded by a group of officers who were talking eagerly on the position of affairs. Sir Henry took very little part in the conversation, he preferred to listen.

Lennard, who had been invited, was that evening more than usually impressed by the man upon whom so much depended. The sight of his attenuated but soldier-like form, the eyes already sunken with sleeplessness, the forehead furrowed with anxious thought, the soft hair cut short on the head, the long wavy beard descending to his breast, presented a noble and pathetic picture. Of all the men who came to the front, in that terrible time, not one was so beloved as Sir Henry Lawrence.

“Is it true?” exclaimed a young lieutenant, “that that unlucky beggar Jack Hawke has been seen in Lucknow?”

“Quite true,” replied the adjutant of the 71st. “I met him looking as if he had just come back from a tiger-hunt, and had had a severe mauling. I could get nothing out of him. He was inquiring for you, Sir Henry. Did he succeed in finding you?”

“Yes,” was the answer. “I saw him.”

Lennard watched the commissioner narrowly. Hawke must have made him acquainted with the horrible details of the Delhi murders, but by not the movement of a muscle did the staunch old man betray the possession of his knowledge. It was clear that besides Hawke and his comrade there were only three Europeans in Lucknow who at that moment knew of the Delhi tragedies. Those were Sir Henry Lawrence, Atherton and Lennard himself.

The conversation suddenly turned upon Hawke. He was freely discussed, the majority lamenting that so promising a young fellow should have gone to the bad. Drink, betting, gambling, dissipation of various kinds​—​Jack Hawke had indulged in all the social vices.

A good many of the men had been Hawke’s chums; and so engrossing was the topic that it was continued after the dinner was commenced.

“It’s the old story,” said the adjutant. “A woman was at the bottom of his misfortunes. He was madly in love with Agnes D’Arcy, and they were engaged. Then she jilted him, and he went to the devil as fast as he could.”

“Didn’t he pay a great deal of attention to that pretty widow, Mrs Sandilands, at the time he was engaged to Miss D’Arcy?” asked Major Walters of the 13th Native Infantry.

“What of that?” exclaimed the adjutant. “Mrs Sandilands was an awful flirt, and all the fellows went mad over her.”

“But,” said Colonel Lambert, “nothing excuses his dishonourable and shameful act afterwards. I mean the writing of the anonymous letters to George Holcombe, who married Agnes D’Arcy.”

“That was never proved against him, and he denied it,” said the adjutant.

“Well, the handwriting was exactly like his. His own orderly swore he posted the letters for his master, and when Holcombe challenged Hawke, he refused to fight.”

“That wasn’t because he was afraid of losing Jack Hawke’s one of the best swordsmen in the service, and a crack shot besides,” put in Lieutenant Savage of the 71st.

“Hang it all,” said the pompous colonel, “he was glad enough to exchange into another regiment and get out of Lucknow. That doesn’t look like innocence. I hope I sha’n’t have to meet him: I shall feel bound to give him a piece of my mind.”

“How generous,” whispered a pert young ensign to his neighbour, “considering how little he has to give.”

Sir Henry Lawrence was apparently either indifferent to this talk or he did not hear it. He was engaged in an earnest conversation with Lennard.

Colonel Lambert had just expressed his determination of acting the part of the censor when the door opened, and in walked the very man about whom they had been talking​—​Jack Hawke.

The wagging of tongues instantly ceased. Half of the diners looked at Hawke, the other half at Sir Henry Lawrence.

The latter rose and, beckoning to the new-comer, said:

“Captain Hawke, will you come to this end of the table? I’ve had a seat reserved for you.”

“A slap in the face for Lambert,” muttered the ensign. “What will he do now?”

The colonel did what was wisest under the circumstances​—​he held his tongue.

Hawke three hours before had reported himself to Sir Henry, and the latter had sent him to make cautious inquiries as to the state of affairs. A better man than Jack Hawke could not have been selected for the duty.

Before he had been transferred to the 38th Native Infantry he was a captain in the 71st, stationed at Lucknow and idolised by his men.

But this was some time since. The 71st were now regarded by Sir Henry Lawrence with considerable suspicion. And, indeed, but a few days before Hawke’s arrival, a number of the sepoys belonging to the regiment had been removed from the Mutcheebhawun on account of their suspected disaffection, and were stationed in the city.

“Well, have you found out anything, Hawke?” said Sir Henry in a low voice when Jack was seated.

“Yes. A man of my old company told me that at gun fire the signal to mutiny would be given.”

Sir Henry heard this disquieting piece of news with perfect equanimity.

“And what did you answer?” he asked.

“I laughed; but all the same, made inquiries elsewhere to see if I could find any confirmation, but I could learn nothing. Anyhow, the fellow was so positive, I’m afraid there’s something in it. Have you any commands for me, Sir Henry?”

“Only that you should make a good dinner. You have a good deal of leeway to make up in that direction,” said Sir Henry, with a kindly smile.

Hawke made no reply, but fell to, heedless of the astonished glances which were directed towards him from all sides.

Gun fire was at nine o’clock, and swiftly the minutes went by, then in the midst of the talk came the sullen boom of a single cannon.

Sir Henry leaned forward, and said almost jestingly to Hawke:

“Your friends are not punctual.”

Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the rattle of musketry shook the bungalow.

The Mutiny in Lucknow had begun.

At the sound of that volley, the ominous meaning of which all knew, Sir Henry Lawrence sprang to his feet, as did the officers.

“Gentlemen,” he cried, “if we have coolness and courage, it is now the time to show both. Each one knows his duty. To the lines.”

Not an instant was to be lost. Already a young lieutenant had rushed to the stables to hurry round the horses.

Lennard turned and looked at Jack Hawke. Hawke’s face was that of a man who had nerved himself to do some terrible deed.

“Lennard,” he muttered hoarsely, “I’ve been through the horrors of Delhi. I know what these devils will do if they once lose their heads. I’ve got a long score to wipe out in blood before I shall be satisfied. If they’d only stayed their hand when they came to the women! But they didn’t​—​and the poor little youngsters too. What about the Residency​—​is it safe?”

“Yes, I feel sure it is​—​at least, for the present. Sir Henry has taken care of that.”

“He’s a brick. There’s one woman there whom I hate, but I suppose I should save her life, even though she mightn’t thank me. There’s another​—​well, I know little about her; but I think she’d be worth dying for​—​the girl that neither you nor her father would introduce me to, and you were quite right. Everybody knows I’m a blackguard, but blackguards can sometimes fight. I wonder if Sir Henry has a spare mount for me? If not, I can walk.”

Hawke spoke in jerks. His manner almost suggested he was talking to himself rather than to Lennard. Meanwhile the two were crowding out with the staff to the verandah, where Sir Henry was awaiting his horse.

The moon was shining brilliantly, and everything​—​bushes, trees and buildings​—​stood out with microscopic sharpness. The volley of musketry had been succeeded by a few dropping shots, but now there was a pause of silence, the significance of which no one could fathom.

Suddenly fierce shouts of exultation were heard in the distance, and the next moment a tongue of flame shot into the air, followed by another and another. It was the firing of the mess-house bungalow, and the dry wood crackled and blazed with fury.

Sir Henry and his staff were standing in the full glare of the fierce ruddy light, and all their faces were recognisable. At that very moment the soubadhar of the sepoy guard on duty for the night at the Residency bungalow brought up his men, and halted them facing the group of officers under the verandah.

This, of course, was only in the ordinary course of things, but to-night in the light of that blazing bungalow, which was signalling to the million inhabitants of the city that rebellion had broken out, who could say what it might mean?

Going up to Captain Wilson and saluting him, the soubadhar said:

“Shall I order the guard to load with ball?”

Captain Wilson would not take upon himself to decide such a point at so critical a period.

“Are the men to load with ball, Sir Henry?” said he, turning to the commissioner.

Sir Henry Lawrence answered without a moment’s hesitation:

“Yes, let them load.”

“My God,” said Hawke in a low voice, “that’s plucky. He trusts them. Well, perhaps it’s the right thing.”

The loading then began, Sir Henry and the officers standing motionless as statues in the glare of the fire. The thud of ramming down the cartridges was distinctly heard, and sounded like a menace. Then the sepoys brought their muskets to the capping position. The caps were adjusted. What was to happen next?

All waited in anxious suspense.

Sir Henry Lawrence and other responsible military chiefs of the British force were at the mercy of these men. One bolder than the rest, with the spirit of rebellion at his heart, could at that moment have decided the fate of the city, and the fate of those who from the upper windows of the Residency were anxiously watching the red angry glare to the northward, and tremblingly listening for a renewal of the firing.

There was not one of these calm European men standing within the portico of the Residency who did not feel that their lives hung upon the merest chance. But not an action, not a gesture, not a word betrayed what was in their minds.

The capping was finished, the last movement would decide the point. The word of command rang out sharply. The guard shouldered their rifles. They marched to their posts. The crisis was past.

The next moment the horses arrived, and Sir Henry swung himself into the saddle. Then, followed by his staff, he started for the lines.

At first it was thought that the ringleaders of the outbreak were the disaffected men of the 71st Native Infantry, who, as already mentioned, had been removed from the Mutcheebhawun to the city. This proved to be not so. The real instigators were the men of another company of the same regiment in the cantonments. These turned out and commenced firing, while a body of about forty made straight for the mess-house, ransacked it and set it on fire. The officers were everywhere on the alert. Hearing the volley they at once left their messes, and rushed to the lines to try and reason with the men. All this happened simultaneously with the departure of Sir Henry Lawrence and his staff from the Residency bungalow.

Lennard and Hawke were left standing beneath the verandah. They watched the officers gallop away, and not until the party had skirted a line of buildings on the left, and were lost to sight, did the two men speak.

“We’re in for it now, Lennard,” said Hawke, drawing a deep breath. “I’m off to the stables. If I can find a horse I won’t be left out in the cold when fighting’s to be done.”

Without waiting for Lennard’s reply, Jack Hawke strode away.

The young doctor stood vaguely watching the flickering flames. Hawke’s reference to Jean Atherton as a girl worth dying for was still in his memory.

“Worth dying for?” he muttered. “Yes​—​a thousand times yes. But better worth living for. If Jack Hawke should fall in love with her, and she with him, what chance have I? Jack pretends to despise women. That’s all moonshine. And she​—​well, women don’t altogether dislike a handsome reprobate. She said ‘How brave of him.’ And it was my praise of Jack which caused her to utter the words.”

He spoke aloud with a bitterness in his voice he could not repress.

“Bah,” he continued, almost fiercely, “what does it matter? Maybe all that either Hawke or I can do will be to die for her.”

A rapid step on the verandah caused him to turn. It was Hawke.

“All the horses are gone,” cried the latter.

“What are you going to do?” asked the doctor.

“How can I tell? I can’t stop here anyway. Perhaps my old company of the 71st may listen to me. They would once, I’ll swear. It would be funny if the man who was almost drummed out of Lucknow turned out to be of use, wouldn’t it? What will you do​—​stay here?”

“No,” said Lennard slowly. “I shall try and get to the Residency. The women will be anxious to know what’s going on. I may be able to ascertain something on the way.”

“The Residency,” exclaimed Hawke, twisting his moustache. “Yes, you’re right. Lennard,” he added after a pause, “each of us carries his life in his hands. If you should never see me again, say a good word for me to that brown-eyed little girl. She will probably hear a few lies from Mrs Ross about Jack Hawke, and I should like her to know the truth.”

“Do you mean Jean Atherton?” said Lennard huskily.

“Yes. I can’t explain why, Lennard; but I swear to you that when I looked into the soft eyes of that girl I felt as though I had been seeking her all my life, and had at last found her.”

Lennard made no reply. He understood Hawke perfectly. He had had the same feeling himself.

At that moment the sharp rattle of musketry fire awoke the echoes.

“Musical, isn’t it?” cried Hawke. “What business have I to be standing here talking like a lovesick fool when there’s work to be done? Good-bye old chap.”

And turning abruptly, he rushed into the night.

The cantonments were northward of the city and to get to the latter Lennard would have to cross the bridge over the River Gumti. The Residency lay a little to the left of the bridge.

Cautiously he proceeded. It was a night of doubt, distrust, chaos. No one knew exactly the extent of the disaffection. The majority of the 71st were not to be relied upon, but a faithful few had not wavered in their allegiance.

But there were the 48th, the 13th, the 7th Light cavalry at Mudkheepore, about three miles away from the cantonments, to be reckoned with also. All the force that Sir Henry Lawrence had was a portion of one solitary regiment of British soldiers​—​the 32nd. The Europeans, military and civil, amounted to about 900, of whom only 300 were soldiers, and this handful might have to engage in a hand-to-hand struggle with over 4000 troops, fully equipped and trained to arms by European officers.

When Sir Henry Lawrence rode from the Residency bungalow that night to quell, if possible, the rising storm, he knew full well the formidable task which lay before him. On the very afternoon of the 30th, some six hours before the volley of musketry gave the signal for the sepoys to rise, he wrote to Mr Raikes, judge at Agra.

“If the Commander-in-Chief delay much longer, he may have to recover Cawnpore, Lucknow, Allahabad​—​indeed, all down to Calcutta. While we are entrenching two posts in the city​—​i.e. the Residency and the Mutcheebhawun​—​we are virtually besieging four regiments (in a quiet way) with 300 Europeans. Not a very pleasant diversion from my civil duties. I am daily in the town four miles off for some hours; but I reside in the cantonments, guarded by the gentlemen we are besieging.”

Lennard knew the terrible situation quite as well as if he had read the Commissioner’s letter. And as he cast his eyes round, and saw a circle of fire gradually gathering, he shuddered. He knew that Lucknow had been drawn into the vortex of rebellion. On all sides the officers’ bungalows were being fired. A hailstorm of musketry shots, now near, now far away, seemed to be descending. The fierce shouts mingled together sounded like the roar of an angry sea.

Yet he almost reached the lines of the 71st without meeting a soul. It was only when he was within five hundred yards or so of the native barracks that he heard the sound of a horse’s hoofs and the jingling of arms and accoutrements.

Were they friends or foes?

The next half minute decided the question. That solid tramp, tramp could not belong to the sepoys. It was the march of the British soldiers. The commander now came in sight. Lennard at once recognised him. It was Brigadier Handscomb, as fine an old soldier as ever put on uniform. A company of the 32nd followed him, and they came on at the double.

At the same moment appeared a mass of dusky heads and white uniforms from the lines of the 71st. An angry yell burst from them, but they did not advance. They had a wholesome dread of the Europeans, even though they outnumbered the little force by ten to one.

“Fix bayonets!”

The words rang out in the still air with a sharp metallic sound. Lennard could see that the men of the 32nd could hardly restrain their impatience.

“Gently, my lads,” cried the old brigadier, half turning round in his saddle. “Not a man must stir till the order is given. You might kill friends.”

The soldiers stood firm, and the brigadier rode ahead to address the mutineers. He had scarcely ridden twenty yards before a flash ran along the line of the sepoys with the rapidity of a fuse.

A hundred muskets were emptied, and the old commander was seen to fall from his horse. He was shot dead, riddled by a score of bullets.

“Charge, my lads,” shouted the officer second in command, almost beside himself with grief and rage. “No quarter to the murderous devils. What! you, Lennard? For heaven’s sake see to the Brigadier, though I fear it’s all up with him.”

Waving his sword, the young officer bounded away after his men. They needed no leading. They were mad to avenge the death of their chief.

“Dead​—​dead,” muttered Lennard, as he bent over the corpse of the old man. “The first victim in Lucknow. How many more will follow?”

The doctor dragged the body of the brigadier to a place of safety for burial on the morrow​—​he could do no more​—​and hastened onwards.

Meanwhile, the little band of the 32nd, with a yell of fury, dashed forward. The sepoys turned tail, and made haste to join their comrades, who had concentrated themselves to the extreme right of the lines. From here they intended to march to the city, but Sir Henry Lawrence had been one too many for them.

He saw from the first the importance of preventing, as far as possible, communication between the mutineers outside and the budmashery​—​that is, the bad and turbulent, the very scum of Lucknow. On leaving the Residency bungalow, Sir Henry took with him two guns and a company of the 32nd to occupy the road leading from the cantonments to the bridge.

Towards this point the 71st, mad with the taste of blood, rushed and opened a hot musketry fire. They were received with a deadly discharge of grape. Desisting at once from the attack, they returned to their lines, passing the infantry picket, composed of natives and commanded by Lieutenant Grant.

When the picket saw their comrades hurrying by in a kind of delirium, shouting, yelling, firing their muskets at random, they were seized with the infection of excitement.

The soubadhar was one of the few who kept his head cool.

“Hoozur​—​hoozur,” he cried to Lieutenant Grant. “Come with me. They mean to kill you.”

“Let them,” cried Grant firmly. “I shall stay where I am.”

“No​—​no. What can you do among so many? Come to my quarters,” pleaded the man.

The sepoys in the darkness had not seen Grant. But it was scarcely possible he could escape without attracting notice. He trusted the soubadhar, and followed him into the bungalow. Scarcely was he in one of the rooms before the mutineers were heard in the verandah.

“Under the charpoy” (native four-legged bedstead), whispered the soubadhar.

The infuriated mob rushed in.

“You are too late, brothers,” cried the soubadhar. “the hoozur has escaped.”

“Nur Singh lies,” cried the havildar of the picket. “The hoozur is there.”

The wretch pointed to the charpoy.

With a yell of brutal triumph, a score of men rushed at the bedstead. In a second it was overturned. Bayonet and sword finished the bloodthirsty work.

In the middle of the butchery came a pistol shot fired through the open window of the bungalow. The havildar, red with the blood of his victim, with a malignant grin on his fiendish countenance, dropped like a stone, shot through the head.

In a moment the sepoys stayed their hacking and slashing, though this mattered little to the murdered officer, and looked with scared faces at each other. The death of the havildar seemed like the punishment of Heaven. Then, recovering themselves, they rushed out of the bungalow. But those outside could tell them nothing. They had heard the shot, but that was all.

While the sepoys were running hither and thither, thrusting their bayonets into the thickets and yelling like very maniacs, Jack Hawke was creeping through the long grass at the back of the bungalow. It was he who had shot the havildar.

“You devils,” he muttered half aloud. “My own men too. I know them every one. I would have showed myself, but to what end? It was too late. They’d got the blood fever on them. They were seeing red.”

This was quite true. Jack knew the native temperament thoroughly.

“Anyhow, there’s one rascal less in the world,” he continued with a grim smile. “That dastardly havildar will murder no more.”

He crept rapidly, like one who was well acquainted with the ground, and knew the point he was aiming for. A very few minutes brought him to the road.

The moonlight showed about fifty men coming towards him, and Hawke shrank back into the grass till he had made out who they were. He soon determined, from their carriage and long, easy strides, they were Sikhs.

He waited till they were within a dozen yards or so, and then emerged from his concealment. He saw they were commanded by a European officer.

“Who goes there?” called out the latter.

“No stranger to you, Loughnan. I’m Jack Hawke.”

“What, dear old Jack? It can’t be. Hawke’s in Delhi.”

“He was, old chap. Never mind explanations now; what’s the game?”

“The rascally traitors of the 71st have secured the treasure and the colours; but they won’t have them long.”

“Not if John Loughnan’s on their track. I’m with you. Have you a spare sword?”

Loughnan turned round quickly, and taking a tulwar from one of the men, handed it to Hawke.

“It won’t be the first time you’ve made a stroke with a tulwar,” said he.

“Nor the last, I hope,” returned Hawke.

They wasted no time. While they were talking they were hurrying on to the cantonments, which now seemed one mass of flame. The officers’ bungalows had been fired in every direction​—​indeed, as was discovered the next day, only the Residency bungalow and one or two more escaped.

“The crash has come at last, Hawke,” said Lieutenant Loughnan. “We’ve been expecting it for the last three weeks. I’m not sorry; we’ve had a dog’s life.”


“You know the regulation ordering all the officers to sleep in the native lines. The object was, of course, to prevent or check conspiracy, and show confidence in the sepoys.”

“Confidence in the tiger,” broke in Hawke abruptly.

“Exactly​—​much about the same thing. The regulation was a stupid farce. As if the men couldn’t conspire and plot and intrigue just as well when we were present as when we were absent. All it did was to keep us in a state of constant worry. You know Farquhar of the 7th Cavalry?”

“I remember him.”

“He wrote home the other day, and he showed me the letter; and by heaven, every word he says is true. I only hope some newspaper in England will get hold of his letter and print it. He tells how all the officers of each regiment have had to sleep together armed to the teeth, and two or three of each regiment had to remain awake, taking two hours at a time, to watch over our men. That’s what we’ve had to do for the last month; and by Jove, we kept the watches strictly, you bet, when our throats depended on it. I’ve slept in my clothes every night for a fortnight, and I’m jolly well sick of it.”

“I know,” growled Hawke. “And yet, I suppose, some red tape, doddering fool at Calcutta, squatting in his armchair, will want to know why you didn’t disarm the native regiments.”

“Disarm? How the devil could we? If we’d a couple of European regiments and a few more guns we might have tried the game; but as we were​—​rot!”

They talked on in a low voice, for they did not want the Sikhs to hear​—​not that there was much danger of their being understood even if their words reached the ears of the men. Still, it was best to be on the safe side.

“For two pins,” said Loughnan, giving a half glance round, “my men would cut and join in the general scramble for plunder. The Sikhs are born looters. I’ve had to promise them handsome presents if we succeed in saving the treasure-chest.”

They had now entered the main street of the cantonments. On each side bungalows were burning. The contents which were at all portable were scattered on the ground. They would not remain there long. The camp followers, the villagers and the budmash, with which Lucknow swarmed would soon be on the scene of the plunder. A few sepoys were about, but they were too busy making off with booty to trouble about Loughnan and his Sikhs.

“This way, Jack. The bungalow containing the treasure is on the right. By Jove, we’re in time,” Loughnan muttered.

It had not been set on fire, but was filled with armed men, who were shouting and quarrelling over the division of the spoil.

Loughnan posted twenty of his men within the verandah, so as to command the windows. The rest he led softly within the doorway. Jack Hawke was by his side. Loughnan’s idea was to discharge a volley of musketry within the room. This he expected would drive the sepoys to the windows.

“Half-a-dozen of you kneel,” he whispered, “the rest fire over the others’ heads. Now.”

The interior consisted of a suite of three rooms. Probably there were at least a hundred men scattered about. At the discharge of the muskets they gave a hideous yell. Some, unarmed, sought the windows, others rushed to seize their muskets, which they had laid down so as to seize the spoil the readier.

The next moment Loughnan and Hawke, followed by their men, dashed in. A fierce hand-to-hand combat ensued. The sepoys had no stomach for fighting. Most of them, seizing what coin they could, fled. The treasure-chest containing the money for the payment of the troops had been forced open, and was lying in the middle of the centre room. Not far off was the dead body of a young English officer. He had given up his life rather than desert his post.

“Poor Fitzgerald!” muttered Loughnan, stopping a moment. “He was engaged to be married to a girl in Calcutta. It’ll break her heart.”

The two stooped to restore the rupees to their receptacle. The Sikhs were quite equal to the task of driving out the sepoys, and were doing their work well.

Hawke listened for the firing outside. Loughnan had given orders that as the sepoys came rushing out of the windows, the Sikhs he had stationed in the verandah should open fire. But not a shot had been heard.

“Something’s wrong!” suddenly exclaimed Hawke.

He rushed to the nearest window, pushing the soldiers right and left. The Sikhs outside had left their posts. Apparently they were fraternising with the sepoys. The glare of the burning bungalows on all sides made everything as clear as though it were day. He could see them a few yards away talking with the mutinous men of the 71st.

This was bad enough, but what he saw beyond was worse. Some two or three hundred men, attracted by the firing, were coming to the assistance of their comrades. If the Sikhs proved traitors, he and Loughnan would be caught like rats in a trap.

Not a moment was to be lost. Leaping out of the window, Hawke rushed to the Sikhs. Boldly thrusting himself in their midst, he asked them why they held parley with traitorous Hindoo dogs.

“Are we not your friends? Have you not eaten our bread? You, Ras Singh, are you, too, false to your oath?”

Ras Singh was the soubadhar, and Hawke remembered him well, though he had not seen the man for some two years. But he had once done the Sikh a service, and now was the time to ask for a requital.

Ras Singh’s answer was significant.

“We like our lieutenant and you, too, Hoozur, and we will not allow you to be harmed; but if the whole army turns, we must turn too.”

There was meaning in this. No doubt it explained the rising of many regiments who felt themselves bound to obey the mysterious and powerful authority of the “Fouj ki Bheera” or general will of the army. Hawke was far too masterful to permit the argument to override him.

“But the whole army hasn’t turned. You have not turned. I’ve just come from Delhi, and I tell you the Sikhs there are faithful.”

Ras Singh might have proved obdurate, but one of the sepoys hastened matters. He raised his musket, and pointed it at Hawke. He was in the act of cocking it when Jack sprang forward, swift as a greyhound. With one sweep of the tulwar, its short bent blade, keen as a razor, he buried it deep in the man’s neck. The sepoy dropped like a stone.

It was enough. The Sikh to whom the tulwar belonged was among those who were wavering. His blade had shed Hindoo blood. Heaven had ordained this. Therefore it was meant that he should be faithful to his salt.

“Come, brothers!” he shouted. “We were wrong. Let us follow the Hoozur.”

“Bless you for those words!” growled Hawke in his own vernacular, “you know which side your bread’s buttered.”

Then he shouted the order to close up. The sepoys heard the order and bolted. One volley from the Sikhs sufficed to disperse the advancing force. The critical moment was passed. Hawke returned in triumph to the bungalow, to find Loughnan on the point of coming to his assistance.

“Saved, old chap, and by the skin of our teeth!” cried Hawke. “On with the treasure!”

The coin chest, secured to a couple of poles, was carried by four study Sikhs towards the spot where Sir Henry had concentrated his little force of European soldiers.