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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter VIII: The Captive

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The sweet soul turned towards me with a sickly smile as I entered, and almost fainted in my arms; but alas! it was not love which caused in her bosom an emotion so strong--it was hunger! "Oh! my Goliah," whispered she, "for three days I have not tasted food--I could not eat that horrid elephant yesterday; but now--oh! Heaven!--" She could say no more, but sank almost lifeless on my shoulder. I administered to her a trifling dram of rum, which revived her for a moment, and then rushed downstairs, determined that if it were a piece of my own leg, she should still have something to satisfy her hunger. Luckily I remembered that three or four elephants were still lying in the field, having been killed by us in the first action, two days before. Necessity, thought I, has no law; my adorable girl must eat elephant, until she can get something better.

I rushed into the court where the men were, for the most part, assembled. "Men," said I, "our larder is empty; we must fill it as we did the day before yesterday. Who will follow Gahagan on a foraging party?" I expected that, as on former occasions, every man would offer to accompany me.

To my astonishment, not a soul moved--a murmur arose among the troops; and at last one of the oldest and bravest came forward.

"Captain," he said, "it is of no use; we cannot feed upon elephants for ever; we have not a grain of powder left, and must give up the fort when the attack is made to-morrow. We may as well be prisoners now as then, and we won't go elephant-hunting any more."

"Ruffian!" I said, "he who first talks of surrender, dies!" and I cut him down. "Is there anyone else who wishes to speak?"

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No one stirred.

"Cowards! miserable cowards!" shouted I; "what, you dare not move for fear of death at the hands of those wretches who even now fled before your arms--what, do I say your arms?--before MINE!--alone I did it; and as alone I routed the foe, alone I will victual the fortress! Ho! open the gate!"

I rushed out; not a single man would follow. The bodies of the elephants that we had killed still lay on the ground where they had fallen, about four hundred yards from the fort. I descended calmly the hill, a very steep one, and coming to the spot, took my pick of the animals, choosing a tolerably small and plump one, of about thirteen feet high, which the vultures had respected. I threw this animal over my shoulders, and made for the fort.

As I marched up the acclivity, whizz--piff--whirr! came the balls over my head; and pitter-patter, pitter-patter! they fell on the body of the elephant like drops of rain. The enemy were behind me; I knew it, and quickened my pace. I heard the gallop of their horse: they came nearer, nearer; I was within a hundred yards of the fort--seventy--fifty! I strained every nerve; I panted with the superhuman exertion--I ran--could a man run very fast with such a tremendous weight on his shoulders?

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The Tremendous Adventures of Major Gahagan
William Makepeace Thackeray

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