The room was thick with smoke, and redolent of fumes of wine. Mechanically I led the chorus, straining every nerve to hear a sound from outside. I was growing dizzy with the movement, and, overwrought with the strain on my nerves. I knew a few minutes more would be the limit of endurance, when at last I heard a loud shout and tumult of voices.
“What’s that?” exclaimed the major, in thick tones, pausing as he spoke.
I dropped his hand, and, seizing my revolver, said:
“Some drunken row in barracks, major. Let ’em alone.”
“I must go,” he said. “Character—Aureataland—army—at stake.”
“Set a thief to catch a thief, eh, major?” said I.
“What do you mean, sir?” he stuttered. “Let me go.”
“If you move, I shoot, major,” said I, bringing out my weapon.
I never saw greater astonishment on human countenance. He swore loudly, and then cried:
“Hi, stop him—he’s mad—he’s going to shoot!”
A shout of laughter rose from the crew around us, for they felt exquisite appreciation of my supposed joke.
“Right you are, Martin!” cried one. “Keep him quiet. We won’t go home till morning.”
The major turned to the window. It was a moonlight night, and as I looked with him I saw the courtyard full of soldiers. Who was in command? The answer to that meant much to me.
This sight somewhat sobered the major.
“A mutiny!” he cried. “The soldiers have risen!”
“Go to bed,” said the junior ensign.
“Look out of window!” he cried.
They all staggered to the window. As the soldiers saw them, they raised a shout. I could not distinguish whether it was a greeting or a threat. They took it as the latter, and turned to the door.
“Stop!” I cried; “I shoot the first man who opens the door.”
In wonder they turned on me. I stood facing them, revolver in hand. They waited huddled together for an instant, then made a rush at me; I fired, but missed. I had a vision of a poised decanter; a second later, the missile caught me in the chest and hurled me back against the wall. As I fell I dropped my weapon, and they were upon me. I thought it was all over; but as they surged round, in the madness of drink and anger, I, looking through their ranks, saw the door open and a crowd of men rush in. Who was at their head? Thank God! it was the colonel, and his voice rose high above the tumult:
“Order, gentlemen, order!” Then to his men he added:
“Each mark your man, and two of you bring Mr. Martin here.”
I was saved. To explain how, I must tell you what had been happening at the Golden House, and how the night attack had fared.