In Clive's Command eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 515 pages of information about In Clive's Command.

His fellow prisoners spoke Urdu among themselves, and Desmond found some alleviation of the monotony of his life in learning the lingua franca of India under the Babu’s tuition.  He was encouraged to persevere in the study by the fact that the Babu proved to be an excellent storyteller, often beguiling the tedium of wakeful hours in the shed by relating interminable narratives from the Hindu mythology, and in particular the exploits of the legendary hero Vikramaditya.  So accomplished was he in this very oriental art that it was not uncommon for one or other of the sentries to listen to him through the opening in the shed wall, and the head warder who locked the prisoners’ fetters would himself sometimes squat down at the door before leaving them at night, and remain an interested auditor until the blast of a horn warned all in the fort and town that the hour of sleep had come.  It was some time before Desmond was sufficiently familiar with the language to pick up more than a few words of the stories here and there, but in three months he found himself able to follow the narrative with ease.

Meanwhile he was growing apace.  The constant work in the open air, clad, save during the rains, in nothing but a thin dhoti {a cloth worn round the waist, passed between the legs and tucked in behind the back}, developed his physique and, even in that hot climate, hardened his muscles.  The Babu one day remarked with envy that he would soon be deemed worthy of promotion to Angria’s own gallivat, whose crew consisted of picked men of all nationalities.

This was an honor Desmond by no means coveted.  As a dockyard workman, earning his food by the sweat of his brow, he did not come in contact with Angria, and was indeed less hardly used than he had been on board the Good Intent.  But to become a galley slave seemed to him a different thing, and the prospect of pulling an oar in the Pirate’s gallivat served to intensify his longing to escape.

For, though he proved so willing and docile in the dockyard, not a day passed but he pondered the idea of escape.  He seized every opportunity of learning the topography of the fort and town, being aided in this unwittingly by Govinda, who employed him more and more often, as he became familiar with the language, in conveying messages from one part of the settlement to another.  But he was forced to confess to himself that the chances of escape were very slight.  Gheria was many miles from the nearest European settlement where he might find refuge.  To escape by sea seemed impossible; if he fled through the town and got clear of Angria’s territory he would almost certainly fall into the hands of the Peshwa’s {the prime minister and real ruler of the Maratha kingdom} people, and although the Peshwa was nominally an ally of the Company, his subjects—­a lawless, turbulent, predatory race—­were not likely to be specially friendly to a solitary English lad.  A half-felt hope that he might be able to reach Suwarndrug,

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In Clive's Command from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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