Very early in the morning General and Mary Pettygree's train stopped at the village of Ramanujam to water the nearly dry locomotive. Infernal heat since departing Bombay had evaporated more water than expected. Further travel would seize up and stop the black behemoth.
Thinking she might find fresh fruit at the station stop, Mary rose telling a very sleepy William Pettygree her intention. "I'll dress and be...."
"Back soon dear with something scrumptious --- I daresay."
"Mary darling, though trouble is far to the north....have a care and...."
But seconds later, the General saw Mary abducted from the train!
Disappearing into the bush.
Crushing darkness overcame his senses immobilizing every muscle.
He was breathless as torrents of sweat drenched his clothing.
Utter helplessness and mortification tormented him.
Conductor Prettie, American Game hunter Mr. Winslogic and the station master had other troubles. The track ahead was blocked with felled trees. No forward progress would occur until the massive entanglement could be cleared.
"Conductor, we must tell the General there is serious trouble."
"Right, let's go."
"Sorry to trouble you General, but the track ahead is badly blocked."
"Winslogic's my name, Sir, at your service. An attack may be imminent."
"Assemble all armed men in the station. I'll be a few minutes."
"I'm glad you never got dressed and left the train, Mary."
"Your bad dream --- a premonition?"
"No. Dress quickly. Then get into the station."
"Your wife, General?"
"Right behind us."
THE TRAIN STATION
Villagers gathered to gawk at the obstruction.
As seven armed men from the train assembled on the station roof.
Even Siraj Jafer came to view the incident.
"How many more armed men do we have Conductor?"
Before he could answer, Pettygree exclaimed....
"Look. All the locals have disappeared. What shook them?"
"Load your weapons men and make ready."
Fortunately more travelers from the train gathered on the balcony.
"Here they come!"
Siraj Jafer's men.
Taking care to use covering terrain.
Knowing the Europeans would not fire on the water buffalo,
swordsmen shielded themselves behind it.
Arquebusiers approached the station behind buildings.
Then opened fire from front and....
Defenders spread out onto an adjacent roof to compensate.
None too soon because....
The swordsmen bolted into a charge....
Covered by arquebusiers on their right and left.
The charge was hopelessly suicidal. What could they hope to accomplish under the withering fire coming from the station? Much I'm afraid because the charge and covering fire was a ruse de l'guerre.
Diverting defender attention from the hidden menace creeping beside cover to the right.
They intended to scale the station....
The storming party could not believe it's luck coming this far without loss.
The ladder rose and the raiders climbed as their allies died for them.
Mr. Winslogic! Turn about Sir!
General Pettygree. You too!
Is this the end for the General?
But just then a slender arm fired a revolver through an open window.
Causing a devastating blow to one of the climbers.
Hearing the shot, General Pettygree whirled about. He fired into the body of a raider brandishing the yellow rumal of the Thugee strangling cult whilst another strangler killed Winslogic.
But he did not live long enough to earn the promised reward from his goddess Kali. Meanwhile, from that second story window below another shot fired.
Toppling another cultist to his death.
Nearby deadly comrades finished off a defender fallen from the balcony.
Then in an instant --- the storming party fled.
Followed by the swordsmen routing as well.
Siraj Jafer's attack had failed and the battle ended.
SIRAJ JAFER'S CAPTURE
"Mary, you saved us. Had you not fired that first shot, I might never have turned about. God knows if the cultists would have swept us all from the roof. A proper thank you must wait my dear because the foe may rally and attack again."
"I don't think so William because Siraj Jafer is coming in."
"The General Pettygree, I beg your forbearance."
"For what, I dare say?"
"The Thugees live here --- farm here --- some are relations.
They would kill all of us had I not attacked you."
"Siraj Jafer, my politicos pay you a handsome annual subsidy to keep the peace and the track open."
Shah-an-Shah Pettygree, you can rent us, but not buy us."
"You are a scoundrel. I should order you shot on the spot for this betrayal."
"Gladly Bara Sahib. --- If it is the will of Kali."
"No Siraj Jafer. You will not be shot today. Execution may be your fate but only after the divan decides your guilt or innocence."
"It will be the welcomed gift of Kali for my failure."
"Conductor Prettie, take him away and get the track cleared. Let's get underway again."
1. Thank you for your previous expressions of concern and alarm about the fate of Mary Pettygree. I appreciated that very much.
2. So no cliff hanger this time. All is well for the time being.
3. Please continue to follow the Pettygrees in their journey to Delhi.
4. Kindly place your remarks below at the word Comments. We all enjoy reading them.
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