The effect of our sudden arrival from above was extraordinary. Scared by the rush and the noise, the lions gave way, then bolted in every direction, the wounded cub, which could not, or would not move, being stabbed to death where it stood over Higgs and Japhet.
Five minutes more and all of us were safe in the mouth of the tunnel.
That was how we rescued Higgs from the den of the sacred lions which guarded the idol of the Fung.
THE ADVENTURES OF HIGGS
A more weary and dishevelled set of people than that which about the hour of dawn finally emerged from the mouth of the ancient shaft on to the cliffs of Mur it has seldom been my lot to behold. Yet with a single exception the party was a happy one, for we had come triumphant through great dangers, and actually effected our object—the rescue of Higgs, which, under the circumstances most people would have thought impossible. Yes, there he was in the flesh before us, having injured his knee and lost his hat, but otherwise quite sound save for a few trifling scratches inflicted by the cub, and still wearing what the natives called his “black windows.”
Even the Prince Joshua was happy, though wrapped in a piece of coarse sacking because the lion had taken most of his posterior clothing, and terribly sore from the deep cuts left by the claws.
Had he not dared the dangers of the den, and thus proved himself a hero whose fame would last for generations? Had I not assured him that his honourable wounds, though painful (as a matter of fact, after they had set, they kept him stiff as a mummy for some days, so that unless he stood upon his feet, he had to be carried, or lie rigid on his face) would probably not prove fatal? And had he not actually survived to reach the upper air again, which was more than he ever expected to do? No wonder that he was happy.
I alone could not share in the general joy, since, although my friend was restored to me, my son still remained a prisoner among the Fung. Yet even in this matter things might have been worse, since I learned that he was well treated, and in no danger. But of that I will write presently.
Never shall I forget the scene after the arrival of Higgs in our hole, when the swinging boulder had been closed and made secure and the lamps lighted. There he sat on the floor, his red hair glowing like a torch, his clothes torn and bloody, his beard ragged and stretching in a Newgate frill to his ears. Indeed, his whole appearance, accentuated by the blue spectacles with wire gauze side-pieces, was more disreputable than words can tell; moreover, he smelt horribly of lion. He put his hand into his pocket, and produced his big pipe, which had remained unbroken in its case.
“Some tobacco, please,” he said. (Those were his first words to us!) “I have finished mine, saved up the last to smoke just before they put me into that stinking basket.”