I owed my life to her, and, all other considerations aside, that was sufficient demand upon my gratitude and my honor to necessitate my suffering every inconvenience in her service. Too, she was queen of England. But, by far the most potent argument in her favor, she was a woman in distress--and a young and very beautiful one.
And so, though I wished a thousand times that she was back in her camp, I never let her guess it, but did all that lay within my power to serve and protect her. I thank God now that I did so.
With the lions still padding back and forth beyond the closed door, Victory and I crossed the room to one of the windows. I had outlined my plan to her, and she had assured me that she could descend the ivy without assistance. In fact, she smiled a trifle at my question.
Swinging myself outward, I began the descent, and had come to within a few feet of the ground, being just opposite a narrow window, when I was startled by a savage growl almost in my ear, and then a great taloned paw darted from the aperture to seize me, and I saw the snarling face of a lion within the embrasure.
Releasing my hold upon the ivy, I dropped the re-maining distance to the ground, saved from laceration only because the lion's paw struck the thick stem of ivy.
The creature was making a frightful racket now, leaping back and forth from the floor at the broad window ledge, tearing at the masonry with his claws in vain attempts to reach me. But the opening was too narrow, and the masonry too solid.
Victory had commenced the descent, but I called to her to stop just above the window, and, as the lion reappeared, growling and snarling, I put a .33 bullet in his face, and at the same moment Victory slipped quickly past him, dropping into my upraised arms that were awaiting her.
The roaring of the beasts that had discovered us, together with the report of my rifle, had set the balance of the fierce inmates of the palace into the most frightful uproar I have ever heard.
I feared that it would not be long before intelligence or instinct would draw them from the interiors and set them upon our trail, the river. Nor had we much more than reached it when a lion bounded around the corner of the edifice we had just quitted and stood looking about as though in search of us.