“But not without permission from Berlin, Prince?”
“Well, then, we will wait for it; but it would be a great pity if, contrary to our expectation, it were to be delayed. The commission that I was on the point of procuring for you would certainly have greatly interested you.”
“And may I ask—”
“The General has the intention to send a detachment to Simla.”
“To Simla, the summer residence of the Viceroy?”
“But this mountain town is at the present moment not within the sphere of hostilities; the Viceroy remains in Calcutta.”
“Quite right; but that does not preclude the news of the occupation of Simla having a great effect on the world at large. Moreover, in the Government offices there there might possibly be found interesting documents which it would be worth while to intercept.”
“And you consider it possible that His Excellency would despatch me thither?”
“As the detachment to which my dragoons, as well as some infantry and two machine guns, would belong is under my command, I have begged the General to attach you to the expedition.”
Heideck understood the high-minded intentions of the Prince, and shook his hands almost impetuously.
“Heaven grant that permission from Berlin comes in time! I desire nothing in the world so earnestly as to accompany you to Simla.”
ON THE ROAD TO SIMLA
Almost quicker than could have been expected, considering the heavy work imposed upon the telegraph wires, the communication arrived from Berlin that Captain Heideck should, for the time being, do duty in the Russian army, and that it should be left to his judgment to take the first favourable opportunity to return to Germany.
He forthwith waited upon the commanding general, was initiated into his new role formally and by handshake, and was in all due form attached as captain to the detachment that was commanded to proceed to Simla.
The next morning the cavalcade set out under the command of Prince Tchajawadse.
Their route led across a part of the battlefield lying east of Lahore, where the battle between the sepoys and the pursuing Russian cavalry had principally taken place.
The sight of this trampled, bloodstained plain was shockingly sad. Although numerous Indian and Russian soldiers under the military police were engaged in picking up the corpses, there still lay everywhere around the horribly mutilated bodies of the fallen in the postures in which they had been overtaken by a more or less painful death. An almost intolerable odour of putrefaction filled the air, and mingled with the biting, stifling smoke of the funeral pyres upon which the corpses were being burnt.
The greater part of the Russian army was in the camp and in the city. Only the advance guard, which had returned from the pursuit of the fleeing English, had taken up a position to the south of the city. The reinforcements which had been despatched from Peshawar, and which had been impatiently expected, had not yet arrived.