|Chapter Title||A STARTLING SITUATION|
|Newspaper Title||Kyabram Union (Vic. : 1886 - 1894)|
|Trove Title||My Plucky Boy Tom; or, Searching for Curiosities in India for My Show|
THE YOUNG FOLKS. MY PLUCKY BOY TOM; OB, SEABORHING FOB tUIOSrrIES IN INDIA FOR MY SHOW. By P. T. BAxmiu. C rrena LV.-A S rnUsNo SIrarUo. Any reptile or animnal, with a modicum of sense, would have been glad, after receiving uch a tremendous whack as the lion ad ministered to the crocodile, to get off without any mnore serios consequences of his temerity. liut the suriani species is not famous for its intelligence, and the specimen that paid a visit to thue craft containing our friends and their curiosities, had some warrant for its self-contideice. It woo fully twenty-five feet long, and so old that its head and hack seemed to he encased in an armour of knobbed iron. A rifle-ballfired against this hide would glance off as if fronm the side ofian iron-clad frigate, thoughyou need not be told that the croco dile, like every creature that lives, has his vunerable parts, through which the tiny ellets of led mally be driven to the sent of ' M1y gracious I' exclaimed Tom Brad ford, 'lie's coming back again I i Let's give him at volley that will end him f' said Mr. Godldn. "Wait and see how the lion wll make out,' suggested Athoior, ' and if he needs our help, he tmllhuavo it.' The proposition struck all favourably, and they held their fire, ready however, to deliver it the moment required, and they were convinced they would have to doso very noon. The sweep of the beast's paw, a I have stated, was so terrific, that, landing as it did against the sids of the crocodile's head, it knocked him a considerable distance from the flat-boat, and turned him completely ovor, despite sis fierce struggles, whiel lashed the muddy water into foam. Having performed this exploit, the lion raised hunself in a sloping position, with his fore feet on the 9i nwalo of the craft, and his hlugo head touching the awning stretched ahove. His attitudo was one of defiance as he ghared at the creature that had dared to come within reach of his mighty paw. The fearful blow must have bewildered the saurian for a minute or so, for, havingrighted itself in the water, it swam rapidly around in a cicle; as af to get its bearings and then headed straight fortmse hbot again.'-I. *It was at this juncture that Tom Bradford uttered his exclamation, and theepartygrnspced their guns, ready to give their help should it ho needed. - That the reptile was without any' fear was proven by its savage and unhesitating attack the second time.' The hideous head' with its, enormous jiaws, was raised several feet aboob the water, and when it reached the sideof the craft, this horrid front slid six feet over the gunwale amid into the boat, tilheshort fore legs of the eeature grasping the side as though ho meant toeclirnb in. . SThe shock startled everyone; for it seemed enough to stave in die side of .the craft, and precpitato all into the water, but the plank ang .was stronger than would have been supposed, and resisted the charge without sojory. - The lion leaped nimbly back as the erocodilo's head grated over the gunwale, just escaping the vicious snap of the terrible Jews. You know the saurian species uses its tail as a. weapon with which to strike, but the oirounsat'meea s forbade such service in the present instance, and it is doubhtfdul whether it would have been effectnal, evenmuder mnore favourable circumstances. The ins:anmt the jaws came together, like those of a vast steel trap, the crocodile began working its fore legs in an actual effort to climb into the boat I It was while lie was thus employed, and at the moment that he was making some pro ress, that the king of beastaosteppedforward and delivered his occond blow. Tih power of this stroke was almost incon ceublt. ,Experienced es were the three adult inmnbers of the pierty, they had never before witnessed such iu exhibition of strengtlh on the part of any animal, and for a mmneut could luhrdly believe the evidence of their oem eves. All were loolking at the lion, when theysaw ili s msake one sweep of his right paw, so swift that the eye could baorely follw the novemnent. At the satno instant ii crashing ounma was heard, and the crocodile tunbled off ethe gasialo with the whole side of his Pilot. So frightful was the wound of the reptile, tlhat,ifter tumbling baIcke into the water, he floundered about in an awinihs way for only a inumto or tio,v when he sank lice a block to the bottom, leaving the current dyed crimsons for a space of several rods.
The-lion took the samo posture as before,, with his fore feet on thie ogunwalerendy for the return of his ansanilant; - but when he went to the bottom, the king of bneastsquictly: walked to his corner and lay down. iHe .had dono his work: well and was satisficd. - It was hard for our friends to suppressa theoir admiration. 'If I dared,' said Tomn lradford, 'I wotldd throw my amsn around his' neck and' thonk hnim for his bravery; h but Itellyou,'.hendded, with a serions expreasion of countennance, 'I feel timid myself after seeing what he can do.a It is a mystery to; me why an anitnmal with isuh ain awful power as he subtuits to being manarged by aluy one of ts.' 'It's the oovreignty of mind over matter,' remarked 31r. God ina; ' but I am free to say that Ishallbo relieved when we hlaie him eeoarely oitcd:'. ....... So, willI ,' added the lad, with a furtive glance atithe lion, that lrid closed his eyes as if fora nap. 'The fait that theo Imud been attacked; in this during manner by ann enormous cercodile aenused all, to fear they would receive attention from so01m otlherspctunen. It was decided that if anythirig of the kind took pilace, they would not allow the contest to be repeated, through fear of rousing the passionsa of the lion and tempting hlin to Itassuil smee On board. By seunding a bullet or two into the ycs of tihe reptile, or just back of one of his fore legs, where the skin is thin, they could eisily give him his quiotus. unubers of the reptiles were seen stretched along shore, partly in the mud and water, as motionless asso tlony logs.e . Now and then others nwere observed, swim ming lazily about or basking in tlie sun where the water was sIhallow, hbatthey showed no interest in the odd-looking craft drifting down stream. The real peril which threotened the party (ca01 frot Ia far different snurce. The afternoon was wearing tol a close, and the four, despite their wishi to keep wide awake, becamne drowsy antd sleepy. The only exception, if such hle milly ite considered, was Mr. Godlkitin. who wits lying at the front of thie bout, his legs crossed, his hands clasped behind his head, so as to serve for somethllinglike n pillow. Tihe rest were strethel. out in lazy ntti tudsc ot the bottom of-the boat and int slmaber, the lion, spittire, and iiouplilon seemiingly in the same uncons olmu state. As miighlt be suppIoseIl, Mr. .Godkin wasp, pulin nit ithis hooakilli, with hila eyes restitig on the awning overhead, and his thoughllts wanderitng wheresoever fancy chose to leid them. The first surprise tlhat came to the gentle man1 was wheni the lsurlmur of voices roached him. For it moment or two he thought it was na tquira of his own faicy, but, recalling his wvandering thoughts, he kneuw that other 1 Ipersons were within hearing. Wuithl uine effort, hle came to ia sitting 1sPstlre iand looked over the guiwtiale, glane mg first at one ahore and then it tlhe other, a in quest of the strangers. c A third look, lhowever, conveyed the in terestitlg inforoation thiit the- were not on the atid, buit an the water. t Some two or three hIundrel viaris hbehind was it srll llbolt, with ii brosad aulire sail,a comitug down stream.tn The sight wais o unusall l, that LMr. Godkin e scuttilnised it sna closely us iecouldd. Towardsl tlhe close of the sluw there was a c perceptible breeze which crinkled the surface a
of the strean, and propelled the other craft with such speed that it promised soon to overtako the flat-boat. Looking closely, he was able to make out the heads of several persons, but they were sitting so low, while the sail helped to obscure them, that he could not make certain there were more than three of the strangers. Mr. Godkhin's first thought was that they were a party of English hunters, and he welcomed the prospect of their company: but, as they drew nearer, he discovered they were natives. Their faces were swarthy and dark; they wore full beards, and their heads were sur mouu e'l y tie vsoluiinous turbans peculiar to the country. My friend touched the shoulder of Athoor, who instantly rose to a similar position and serutinsed the strangers. His remarks were astounding. 'That old ferryman to whom you showed nich liberality is a scoundrel: he has furnished those men with one of his boats, and given theni a sail, which he told us he did not have.' 'rI see nothing scoundrolly in that,' replied Mrr. Godkin, with ai smile at tho feeling of his friend. "You will see it sooner than you think. There are four persons in that boati and they are Thugs !' This was startling news indeed. Let'mo tell you about the famous Thugs of India. Nowhere on earth except in that country exists a class of men whose trade is blood, who follow murder as a profession, and even perform it as a religions duty. The Thuo s have flourished for hundreds of years with an organisation as perfect as that of the admirable system known as Free masonry. They are bound to each other by relentless oaths, and their members include the 'most infernal desperadoes that ever drew the breath of life. They commit murder, not in the heat of passion or revenge, nor when' excited by strong drink, but with the coolness and care that a painter delineates the hunan form on' canvas. Two generations ago these men plied their awful trade unmolested,' 'the native Government being totallyunable tocope with them. . They infested' 'the' publc" highways dis gased as merehants, travellers,. and fakirs; but invarisnbl "travelled in' anga; each member of ihi6bh' had his distumat part to play in ovary tragedy. They 'haoe.. iurdered thousanids pon thousiands of tiinocent parties in India, i n the name of an' accursed religion whaieh' comn mnands such orimeo'as a dut 'The Thugs ran riot during the 'Sepoy Miitiriy of "187, bult the Engish Govern mient set tofork'wiithlsiai ih as"ilr, after the suippression fth'at robelliois, 'lot the orgatni gttidn waas prottyv'troll broken up, though India has, l andreis of Thuiigs to-day that neglect no cliinicesto prosecute their awful work. ''The ferrymnan saw you had money,' added Athoor,'addieseii5 Mr. Godkin, iaind he told those Thngs; tlhey liko plinder as well as humlan life, and they took one of his Ibits, which he let them have for nothing, and have set out fo ovroitake is.' ' Theo man who kills a Thug does as much servics slhe who shoots a rabid dog,' - marked Mr. Godli; ''libit' I 'cannot feel imuch afear of those three nmiscreants.' "Thelie ai four, correctedAtlhoor, peering keonly over the gunwale; they are as trenelacrois as cobrasn, and they are deter mined to mnurder is. ' I caninot feel much alairm, for, our nunmbers are even, we are weil arnaed, 'and I do hot think anayone would: shrink' from a fight with thei s'.' '' lMeanwlhile the little craft 'coitaiuing the four nativodesperadoeshadapproached witlin a hundred yards'. DoBing: dirictly in the rear of the larger craft, the Thug who held the guiding oarsheered hiaboat to the left, so that its he came opposite the first boat, the distance was decreased still mnore. The heads and shoulders of tihe occuonto were shown, though glimscs were caught of the long gans they carried in their hands. All, as .I have said, wore full beards,.one quite long, while anotherliadhis let whiskers parted at the chin, after the Englishi fashion. Their turbans were of a dirty white colour, and their bodies, so fares visible,were ineased in plain, linen, close-fitting shirts that were gatlhered close about the neck., When at a point directly opposite the flat boat, everyone of the Thugs, with amazing quioeknel, brought his rifle to his shoulder and at the n rea ft; "Tho n t was 'so 'sudden that, before'Athboor arid Mr. Godkin'could duck their heads, the whistling bullets were buried in the planking 'within an inch or two of their faces.- : The reports of the lgun&sroused Zip and Tnii Bradford; who started up to learn the cause. D own! ' called 'Mr. Godkin, catching the arm of the lad, while Athoor did the same with Zip; ' n party of Thiugs have just fired at s.' 'Well, 'whnt'si the mnitter irith firing at a party of Thsugs ' was the pertinent question of Tnom,' who little fanoimdlthis shrinking from a danger that to him' did not seem so serious i it really was.'
C*AOIEve LTI.--TIss BvTTLr W'nT. TuE 7 Tous. os,. After discharging their volley the Thugs Ssank down in the bottom of theirboat, but were seen peering cautiously over; to discover the result of thcirtreaeherous nat. ":.:.. They must have learnedfrornthmold fedrry man the number and charsioteristici, so far as lhe knew them, of thio hunters; ind the forces bein eqiol they dared not make an open Still, if they had been fortunate enough to kill or disable two of our friends, they, would not hesitate to rush forward and attack the larger boat. The proposition of Tom Bradford ' struck flro,'-snd, without pausing to consider the wsdom of the course, the wholoe four showed their weapons over the gunwalo and let fly at the wretohes. This was an error of judgment, for not only did they fail to do any execution-the Thugs instantly dropping their heads, so that the best-aimed ssobt passd harmlessly by-lut they piroclimed that none of the defenders had been injured. Had the lItter pretended that half their number was struck, the Thugs would have assaulted, with the bchances of the utter ex tinguishment of their own party. All this time the sail of the small boat was carrying it faster down stream than the more awkward craft could move. Gradually it rounded toward the middle of the current, until, at a distance of a couple of hundred yams, it was directly in front, the relative situantion of the two having been ex changed. 'i sheots of our friends taught the Thugs the salutary lesson of caution, and, much as till four of the hunters longed to give them another broadside, the chance was not tempting enough to do so. The guns had been immediately reloaded after firing, andl you msay be sure that no opportunity w ro overlooked. 'I wonder lethler theyhave had enough,' said Mr. Godkin. ' By no means,' replied Athoor : 'we ar not done with them yet; we shall hear more of them before we reach tihe railway, and, if they do inot succeedl in murdering us, they are likely to keep on our trail aill the way to Madras.' ' We haove had warning enough to be on our gusrd,' sauid Tomn, ' and it seems to me we ought not to nrm into any special daugor.' 'Of course we ishall neglect no precaution; but it in like lighting a cohsm-be creeps upon you so stealthily in your sleep that you do not know hie is near until he strikes.' During this brief conversation Zip betrayed so mucsh ineasines, that the curiosity of the others was roused. He had risen to hIis feet and moved abosut the boat in ai way that would have drawn as shot from the Thugs had the intervening distanco warrantedl it. Then lie at down a smoient, rising iand walking to and fro again, and breatishing finst like olne labouring under unusual excite esseust. 'Whast's tihe matter with bins ' asked Mr. Godkin of Athoor, who smiled significantly as he answered:
'This is not Zip's first meeting with Thugs.' ' , how is that?' 'You have noticed that scar running along the right side of his face and under his chin ?' 'Of course; I suppose it was made by the claws of some wild animal.' 'No, it was caused by the knife of a Thug, who came within a hair of cutting off his head.' Zipknew he was the subject of convcran tion, but he said nothing, taking hi sat at the furthest extremity of the boat, near the muouphilon, and leaving to his comrade to give what ,rIn : J . .v There was no reason why Atboor should make such is secret of the matter, and he said a ' Zip's experience was such a dreadful one that heo is unwilling to talk about it, though I know ill the particulars. It was about five years ago that lie was living in Hyderabad, which is not a great many miles to the west ward of whero we are at this moment. He has aI wifo and child there now. Zip had been off on one of his hunts with me, and reasclhedI Hyderabad quite late at night. ' No thought of ersonal danger entered his had; and it is hard to know why the Thugs should have felt any particular enmity toward hirii; but, when passing through a dark street only a couple of squares from his own home, two dark forms sprang from a narrow alloy, and flow at him like a couple of tigers. *' Zipis an active and. powerful fellow, and he deferided himself with great bravery, but he was attacked with such suddenness that he was at is frightful disadvantaige. 'The Thugs always arrange their mode of assault beforelsad, and it is that which makes them so effective in their devilish work. The poor boggar at the side of the road; who prays you to let him mount your horse behind you, may be a Thug who has waited many hours for that chanlice. ' He willrids peacefully, until at some point on the higlhway agreed upon, he suddenly throws his wiry aisi around your neck and strangles you, sevenra of his com panions generallyrushing forward to his help, since they know beforehaud, the precise point where the murdor is to be committed. SOnoof the Thigsglnnded on the shoulders of Zip, and in the twinkling of an eye had dran his keen knife' along his face and throat..e ; , ..'IHo came within a hair of soverlig his head from his shoulders, `iad only the site prisi ie nativity and' alertness df Zip pro vented.; The-instant he felt the wrctns on hiis biak, lie dropped. his'hiead;: and by ai quick, poworfiul flirt of hliA shoulderis, flung thoiassassin over and beyond hlim - This took place at the iinstant'thel Thug strucek with hiis knife, aind proventedl the sdo cess of lisa effort. "Not onily that, but the skilfuld niiiiuuivre of Zip interposed thro body of, the 'IlThug between himself and tihe second msiurlerer, ti sucha way ita to bisflio llis it .toiiptiand bury hiis knife in his chest. 'It semIIs beyond belief, but itisa fisct tlhat, so resistless and sudden was the hurling of the first Tlhug over the heand of Zip, tlhat hle hid no time to make the first effort tosave himself. ' Io landed a dozen feet ivsay squarenly on Ihis crovlniind ivitlh his neck tbroklen,' seeing which the other scoundrel danshed otff in the darkness and vanishled witlhout having con tributed ianythling to the fight. i You can iilderstnild whavt a frightful ap ipearuuce Zip m-.usut havei had; when he staggered to his home. 'But he lihs i a strosg-minded wife, who in stsutly sent for a nltive siiseon, undsscoured the best possible attention for lher husband. It wiss a loug time before hie recovered, and wheri hle did so he was sorred for life. !-: - ' The body of the dead asasin:us was found by the inative police;,, who recognised? it as .that of one of the -most famous Thugs of Southern India, a wrotch that was known to Issive slain over two score innocent persons, most of thlem English, the list including ai number of women and children. After such an experience, you can understand why the sight of ai Thug mrkes Zip nervous.' lero as corT.ein.)