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Then Lona and I held a general review, and I made them a little speech. I began by telling them that I had learned a good deal about them, and knew now where they came from. "We did not come from anywhere," they cried, interrupting me; "we are here!"
I told them that every one of them had a mother of his own, like the mother of the last baby; that I believed they had all been brought from Bulika when they were so small that they could not now remember it; that the wicked princess there was so afraid of babies, and so determined to destroy them, that their mothers had to carry them away and leave them where she could not find them; and that now we were going to Bulika, to find their mothers, and deliver them from the bad giantess.
"But I must tell you," I continued, "that there is danger before us, for, as you know, we may have to fight hard to take the city."
"We can fight! we are ready!" cried the boys.
"Yes, you can," I returned, "and I know you will: mothers are worth fighting for! Only mind, you must all keep together."
"Yes, yes; we'll take care of each other," they answered. "Nobody shall touch one of us but his own mother!"
"You must mind, every one, to do immediately what your officers tell you!"
"We will, we will!--Now we're quite ready! Let us go!"
"Another thing you must not forget," I went on: "when you strike, be sure you make it a downright swinging blow; when you shoot an arrow, draw it to the head; when you sling a stone, sling it strong and straight."
"That we will!" they cried with jubilant, fearless shout.
"Perhaps you will be hurt!"
"We don't mind that!--Do we, boys?"
"Not a bit!"
"Some of you may very possibly be killed!" I said.
"I don't mind being killed!" cried one of the finest of the smaller boys: he rode a beautiful little bull, which galloped and jumped like a horse.
"I don't either! I don't either!" came from all sides.
Then Lona, queen and mother and sister of them all, spoke from her big horse by my side:
"I would give my life," she said, "to have my mother! She might kill me if she liked! I should just kiss her and die!"
"Come along, boys!" cried a girl. "We're going to our mothers!"
A pang went through my heart.--But I could not draw back; it would be moral ruin to the Little Ones!
THE LITTLE ONES IN BULIKA
It was early in the morning when we set out, making, between the blue sky and the green grass, a gallant show on the wide plain. We would travel all the morning, and rest the afternoon; then go on at night, rest the next day, and start again in the short twilight. The latter part of our journey we would endeavour so to divide as to arrive at the city with the first of the morning, and be already inside the gates when discovered.
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