He was somewhat amazed to find that none of his troopers had attempted to leave the village before he was there to lead. This, when he thought of the eagerness and bloodthirstiness of the men, was certainly a fair promise of submissiveness on the field of battle. To be sure, the restraint was almost unendurable to the fierce fellows who had caught up their shields and spears long before he came in from the river. The excitement was intense, the jabbering frightful. Here, there, everywhere danced the frantic warriors, tossing their weapons in the air and screaming with a loyalty that savored very much of impotent rage.
“Heavens, I’d give little for a man’s life if he crossed these devils to-night,” thought Hugh as King Pootoo detached himself from the horde and raced unmajestically over to meet him, almost, forgetting to prostrate himself in his frenzy. Grossly exaggerated by the flare of the torches, the spectacle was enough to strike terror to the strongest heart. The king subdued himself sufficiently to grasp the meaning of Hugh’s signs and set about to bring order out of chaos—a difficult task for even a king. Gradually the excitement subsided and the band stood at rest, awaiting the command to move to the hills across the river. They reminded Hugh of dogs he had seen. We all have held a chunk of meat high above a dog’s nose and we have seen him sit in enforced patience, hoping for the fall thereof. And we all know that after a certain time he will throw patience to the winds and leap frantically upward in the effort to secure the prize.
A force of fully one hundred young fellows was to be left in the village as a guard against disaster in case the enemy should force its way through the pass. Lady Tennys was to have a bodyguard, even though it crippled the fighting force at the front. The men comprising this reserve did not relish the plan, but their objections were relentlessly overruled by the white Izor and King Pootoo. With sulky heads they seated themselves as directed near the temple they were to protect with their lives.
It required but a few minutes of time for Ridgeway to find that his little army was ready to move. After some hesitation he went to the temple door to bid farewell to his fellow-castaway. She was still leaning against the doorpost and did not move as he approached.
“We’re off now,” he said as he came up. “Don’t worry, little woman; we’ll come home victorious as sure as fate. See these fellows? They are your guard, your own soldiers. You can command them to do as you wish.”
“Mine?” she asked slowly, as if not comprehending.
“Yes; they are the Lady Tennys Reserves,” he said, smiling. A glad light suddenly broke in her eyes, her face brightened and her whole mien changed from despair to delight.
“Thank you, Hugh. I shall never forget you for this. You will never know how happy I am to have these men to do my bidding. If it is necessary I will show you that a woman of England can fight as valiantly as her brothers, the bravest men in all the world.” In her eyes there were tears as she uttered these words,—tears of courage and pride.