Hurriedly, as though to escape all further expressions of gratitude, the Prince left the tent.
Sound though Heideck’s sleep was, the confused din that penetrated through the sides of the tent would have recalled an unconscious person to life. Confused and drowsy as he was, he hurried out just in time to prevent a wild-looking, dark-skinned Indian from dealing a heavy blow with a thick staff, which he held in his right hand, upon a thin, black-garbed gentleman, who was surrounded by a whole band of natives. The European, with his emaciated, beardless face, looked like a clergyman, and all the greater was Heideck’s surprise that none of the Russian non-commissioned officers and soldiers, who were spectators of the assault, raised a hand to protect him. It was certainly not his duty to act in this place as one in authority, but the danger in which he perceived this perfectly defenceless man to be, made him forget all personal considerations. With a menacing shout he drove off the excited Indians, and, taking the stranger’s arm, led him into the tent.
None of the Russian military prevented his doing so. He had been seen in confidential conversation with the Colonel, and his position as a friend of the Prince procured him respect.
The stranger, half dead from fear, gratefully accepted the glass of wine which Heideck poured out for him, and, having recovered somewhat, thanked his protector in simple, but cordial terms. He introduced himself as Professor Proctor, of Acheson College, and explained that he had come to the camp to look after a relation who had probably been seriously wounded. He had on a sudden found himself threatened by a band of excited Indians, who were probably misled by his dress to take him for a cleric.
“You, also, are no Russian, sir. Judging from your accent, I should take you for a German.”
Heideck assented, and narrated his history in a few words. Having done so, he could not help expressing his amazement at the attack of which the Professor had been the victim.
“Never during my whole stay in India have I ever before observed any outburst of hatred on the part of the Indian natives against the English clergy,” he said.
To this the Professor replied: “Even a few days ago not one of them would, I should think, have had anything to fear; but in the face of such terrible upheavals as are now taking place all ideas are thrown into confusion, all slumbering passions are unfettered. I do not venture to think of the horrors that will take place throughout the whole of India now that the bridle that curbed the people has been rent asunder; and the worst of all is that we have only ourselves to blame.”
“Do you mean on account of the carelessness with which the defence of the country was organised?”
“I do not mean that alone. Our fault is that we have ignored an eternal truth, the truth that all political questions are only the external expression, the dress, so to say, of religious questions.”