THE LITTLE ONES IN BULIKA 251
followed, but she had already vanished. We sprang up a stair, and went all over the house, to find no one. Darting down again, we spied a door under the stair, and got into a labyrinth of excavations. We had not gone far, however, when we met the leopardess with the child we sought across her back.
He told us that the woman he took for his mother threw him into a hole, saying she would give him to the leopardess. But the leopardess was a good one, and took him out.
Following in search of the other boy, we got into the next house more easily, but to find, alas, that we were too late: one of the savages had just killed the little captive! It consoled Lona, however, to learn which he was, for she had been expecting him to grow a bad giant, from which worst of fates death had saved him. The leopardess sprang upon his murderer, took him by the throat, dragged him into the street, and followed Lona with him, like a cat with a great rat in her jaws.
' Let us leave the horrible place,' said Lona; ' there are no mothers here! This people is not worth delivering.'
The leopardess dropped her burden, and charged into the crowd, this way and that, wherever it was thickest. The slaves cried out and ran, tumbling over each other in heaps.
When we got back to the army, we found it as we had left it, standing in order and ready.
But I was far from easy: the princess gave no sign, and what she might be plotting we did not know! Watch and ward must be kept the night through!
The Little Ones were such hardy creatures that they