From this point, he dwelt upon his esteem for the commander of the Guardian-Mother, who had rendered a service to India in saving them from certain death, which they, better than he, could understand and appreciate.
Captain Ringgold and General Noury made fitting replies; and the party returned, escorted by a score of torch-bearers, to the “Garden of Pearls” as the summer palace in which they were lodged was called. They appeared early in the morning, and after they had taken their coffee Louis and Felix took a long walk outside the palace walls. At the gate they saw a little animal which seemed disposed to make friends with them. They had brought their guns with them, and Felix was on the point of firing at him when Louis interposed.
“That’s a mongoose,” said the latter. “Haven’t you heard of him?”
“The creature is a sort of ichneumon, with a long body, extending back of his hind legs, which gradually decreases in size till it becomes his tail. His body is long, even without the portion of it which belongs to his caudal appendage. He has a small head and a sharp nose, and is something like a weasel. He has the reputation of being the great serpent-killer of India, and many wonderful stories are told of him. He is very useful about a house in destroying rats and other small nuisances.”
The mongoose ran along ahead of the boys while Louis told what he knew about him. Felix protested that a little fellow like that couldn’t do anything with such a cobra as he had shot the day before, for the snake was a trifle more than five feet long. They had gone but a short distance farther before Khayrat stepped out from a tree which had concealed him.
“There’s a cobra in here somewhere,” said the officer, who was one of the king’s huntsmen. “I brought out my mongoose, but the little rascal has left me.”
“There he is, just ahead of us,” replied Louis. “He seems like a kitten, he is so tame.”
“He is my pet, and I am very fond of him, for I think he saved my life once. I was just on the point of stepping on a cobra when Dinky attacked the snake and killed him after a fight,” added Khayrat. “I think he is on the track of the enemy, for the serpent killed two chickens last night.”
“There he is!” exclaimed Felix, as he brought his gun to his shoulder.
“Don’t fire! Let Dinky take care of him; for my pet is spoiling for a fight, as one of the Americans said yesterday,” interposed Khayrat.
The serpent was a large one, though not equal in size to the one Felix had shot the day before. He had erected his head, and spread out his hood, and he looked as ugly as sin itself. He knows all about the mongoose, and seems to have an instinctive hatred of his little but mighty enemy.