The sentry tried to struggle, but warned by the weight of the dog on his breast and those sharp teeth ready to close upon his throat, murmured hoarsely, “It is only barred, but the bolts are difficult. If you will let me get up and call off your dog——”
But Roy took no heed of his words. “Keep him there, Tumbu,” he whispered as he ran to the gate.
Bolted and barred it was, and in the darkness of the archway it was hard to see, for the lantern had gone out in the scuffle. But there was no time to lose, for already beyond the archway it showed faintly light. One bar down! The sentry made a faint effort to stir, that was answered by an ominous growl from Tumbu.
Only one more bolt now!
Roy’s long fingers were at it—his whole strength went to it—it creaked—groaned—slid, and with a sob of exultation Roy felt the fresh air of dawn in his face as he stood outside the Bala Hissar.
But he had still much to do. The city must be skirted, the hill of Arkaban gained, and already a faint primrose streak in the eastern sky told of coming light.
Upon the Arkaban hill the artillery men were already at work. In those days guns were not what they are now, quick loading, quick firing.
It needed a good hour to ram the coarse powder down, adjust the round ball and prepare the priming; to say nothing of the task of aiming. So, long ere dawn, the glimmering lights were seen about the battery, which, perched on a hill, gave on the half-breached bastion. Between the two stretched an open space of undulating ground. Sumbal, “the master fireworker,” as he is called in the old history books, was up betimes seeing to his men, and with him came a grave, silent man, who, though he had no interest in the quarrels of Humayon and his brothers, was as eager as any to get within the walls of Kabul and find what he sought—a Rajput lad of whom word had been brought to a little half-desert Rajput state lying far away in the Jesulmer plain.
For the grave, silent man, who showed so much knowledge of warfare, who was keen to see everything new in weapons and the handling of them, was a messenger sent by a widowed mother to see if indeed it could be her long-lost son, of whom a certain old trooper had spoken on his return from Kabul.
“See you!” said Sumbal, who was a bit of a boaster, “give me time to aim and I’ll warrant me ‘Thunder of God’” (that was the name let in with gold on the breech of the gun) “will hit the mark within a yard every time. Thou shalt see it ere-long. There is a sort of pigeon place on the face of the bastion where I will aim, and thou shalt see the splinters of it spin!” He shaded his eyes with his hand and looked piercingly into the shadows. “’Tis too dark to see it yet, but so soon as it shows I will let fly, and then——”