Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

to leave their posts and join the scrub. Mackintosh wrote the party round the wells. a hasty note: “I think a sudEvidently they thought an at- den attack stands a good chance tack most unlikely, and, more- of success; the look-out is over, the need for water for hourly becoming slacker. Try themselves and their horses was to arrive about midday. The becoming a pressing one. Arabs will have reached water

Mackintosh had arranged that by the afternoon," and apRand should send a messenger pended a rough sketch of the for orders at 10 A.M., by which positions at which Zambur still time he hoped to be in a posi- had a few watchmen posted. tion to estimate their chances Two more hours to be got of a successful attack. But as through somehow ! Mackinhe watched the rapid progress tosh, hot and cramped, felt all of the clearing operations, he the sympathy of a fellowbegan to fear that he had mis- sufferer for the toiling Arabs calculated the time, and that below. His orderly was althe Arabs would have reached ready asleep, and he felt himwater before Rand's messenger self strongly tempted to follow could return with his instruc- suit. Cautiously he moved into tions. Soon, however, he saw a more wideawake position, that his fears were groundless. and reached for his rifle, for At first it had been a simple through the bushes he had matter to dig away the soft caught sight of an Arab slowly yielding sand ; but as the ex- making his way towards their cavated holes became deeper, hiding - place. The orderly, the Arabs found that it tended awakened by the movement, to slide back again as fast as stretched out a hand and they could throw it out. They pulled down the rifle; his realised that to reach the actual keener eyes had recognised one wells they would have to clear of the Levies. Rand had sent broad craters, such as had ex- a second messenger, in case of isted before they were filled in any accident to the first-a by Rand's men. This was a piece of forethought which was task of some magnitude, but afterwards found to have been thirst drove them on; either fully justified, for the first man they must dig, or they must never returned. He was found return waterless across the dead only a few hundred yards burning sand dunes, and there from Mackintosh's coign of vancould be no doubt as to tage, and as no wound could which alternative was the more be found they could only conacceptable.

clude that he had been bitten The hours dragged on, and by one of the small poisonous the heat among the ithil bushes snakes sometimes found in that was growing intolerable, when region. at last Rand's messenger was A duplicate note written and seen carefully crawling through despatched, Mackintosh settled

down once more to his vigil. effect of grotesqueness, the Suddenly he heard a joyful black water-skins, now nearly shout, and saw Zambur's men empty, flapped ludicrously as crowding excitedly round the the horses galloped forward. wells. Had they found water For Zambur's startled tribesalready? Apparently it was men one glance at the khaki only one of the masonry well- tunics was enough. With a heads which they had reached, scared cry of “The English, but none the less the end of the English !” they dashed their task was drawing uncom- for their horses. But in the fortably near, from Mackin- eager search for water on their tosh's point of view. He began arrival at Abu Saba' many to fear that Rand would attack, of these had been left unnot an enemy weary, dispirited, tethered, and now, terrified by almost exhausted, but one re- the yells of Rand's men, were freshed and alert, and many already galloping away. Most times outnumbering his own of the weary men tamely surforce. Encouraged by their rendered, and Rand soon found find, the men fell to work again that he had three times as many with renewed energy, while the prisoners as the total number of last of the watchers, as though his own force; these were eager for their share of the quickly disarmed and put under longed-for water, or convinced a strong guard, while some of that no attack from Ajil was the Levies rode forward to see to be feared after so long an that the scattered fleeing reminterval, left their posts to join nant did not reform and atthe diggers.

tempt a counter-attack. All at once the hot still air Towards sunset, however, the was rent by fearsome yells. victory became a more comMackintosh sprang from his plete one than even Rand's most hiding-place, to see Rand's cav- sanguine hopes had led them alry charging across the open to expect. In twos and threes ground which separated the and small parties the fugitives two areas of growing corn. In returned to give themselves spite of himself he could not up, unable to face the long restrain his laughter, for it was waterless journey across the surely the maddest charge ever sand-dunes. They were all unled by a British officer. To armed, having, so they said, give the impression of greater dropped their rifles in their numbers, Rand had spread out hasty flight. his men in one long straggling When Mackintosh learned line; some of the less skilful that among the Arabs who had horsemen had already fallen so surrendered was Zambur from their saddles, and their himself, he sought out Rand, scared mounts, with tails well and told him to despatch the up, were leading the van; shaikh at once under a strong while to add to the general guard to the Mudir of Tarif.

“Yes, I know your men have to the conference. It was not had about enough,” he said, until midday that the Adviser seeing Rand's objection on the was at leisure to give Rand his tip of his tongue. “But it is promised explanation. absolutely essential that Zam As long as Zambur was bur should be got away at once. here we were in very real I'll tell you why later."

danger,” he said. “We had Early next morning a distant many more prisoners than we band of horsemen was seen by could guard properly, and, morethe sentries, who gave the over, those tales of dropped alarm; but it proved to be rifles were all bunkum-you nothing worse than Shaikh Ajil can bet what you like that and his men, returning in the they were all buried close by, hope of harassing the enemy. so that they should not have Their delight knew no bounds to be given up to us. If Zamon hearing that Zambur and bur had rallied his party in the more than half his gom had night and managed to unearth been captured, practically with- them, as was possibly his inout casualties. Ajil, once freed tention in surrendering, he could from the responsibility of his easily have turned the tables women - folk and possessions, on us, outnumbered as we were. was a very different man: he Luckily he didn't have the was now anxious to try con- chance." Mackintosh paused clusions with his enemy, though to light his pipe. admitting that the chances of “Then, of course, there are a further attack were very re- 'political considerations,'” he mote, since the alliance be- went on. “That is why I sent tween Zambur and Mohammad Zambur to Tarif instead of to was probably not so strong as headquarters, and why I don't to send the latter out in sup- want to take back three hunport of his defeated and cap- dred prisoners. They are all, tured ally. Even if Moham- strictly speaking, Persian submad decided on a raid, it would jects, and awkward questions take him some days to collect might be asked. I might even fighting men to replace those be accused of embroiling Engsent out on the first expedition ; land in a war with Persia ! and Ajil proposed making use No, for the present at any rate, of those few days of grace to we must keep our little exploit harvest the grain sown by quiet. But we have got what Zambur's tribe.

we wanted out of it. I've had Mackintosh, however, had a a talk with Mackenzie, the better plan, which was received spokesman of our prisonerswith delighted appreciation “Mackenzie ! ” exclaimed when he unfolded it to the old Rand. “Surely that redshaikh, and with rueful assent bearded old ruffian isn't deby the spokesman of the pris- scended from a countryman oners, who had been called in of yours ?”

“Not he," laughed Mackin- came men with seven-pronged tosh. “I asked him about mirwahs, primitive pitchforks that. It appears that his father of smoothly polished wood, once possessed a Mackenzie with which they tossed the rifle, of which he was so proud corn lightly in the air, so that that he named his son after it ! the grain fell to earth while But to continue. He and his the chaff was carried away by men are to reap and winnow the wind. Finally, the piles of all the grain sown by their winnowed corn were poured fellow-tribesmen in Ajil's land, into great sacks, and borne and when it is once safely away by the long string of carted away by Ajil, they and camels which came and went their shaikh will be free to between Abu Saba' and the return home.”

place of safety in which Ajil Though it meant giving up was garnering the precious harhis prisoners, Rand could not vest. but assent to the poetic justice " Verily I and my people of Mackintosh's scheme. The have reaped the reward of work of harvesting began at waiting," said the old man as once, and went on with sur the two British officers bade prising swiftness, for Zambur's him farewell. “But, by Allah men were eager to complete the and your head, we were set a task which was to be the price hard task when your Honour of their release. They cut down ordered us to stay our hands the wheat and barley with from driving out the tribesmen curved knives, and carried it of Zambur." on their heads to the threshing “Is not haste from the floors, open spaces of hard earth devil ? " quoted Mackintosh. in which donkeys, cows, and Ay, and patience from horses provided by Ajil walked Allah-may He be praised and round and round in circles, exalted ! ” piously concluded treading out the grain. Then Shaikh Ajil.

AN

“OLD TERM " AT WOOLWICH.

By MAJoR-GENERAL SIR GEORGE K. Scott-MoncRIEFF, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., C.I.E.

ON a summer afternoon in 1872 the present writer and his friend, Jock Shirres (afterwards one of the best mountain gunners in the Army, which is saying a great deal, and also about the finest biggame sportsman in the Punjab Frontier Force, which is saying a good deal more), approached a stately castellated building, from which stretched a broad carriage-drive, terminating in an iron gateway with an ivy-covered lodge. We travelled in a four-wheeled cab, with our luggage on the roof, and wore morning-coats and silk hats. At the lodge we were met by a coldly respectful sergeant of artillery, who inquired our names and our religion, and told us where we would find accommodation.

Shirres and I were “lastjoined ” cadets at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, the central building of which, dignified and stately, was the castle-like structure referred to. The spacious lawns in front, bisected by the broad carriage-drive, were separated by a sunk fence from Woolwich Common, on which there was evidently something very uncommon taking place, to judge by the crowd and the numerous carriages. Accordingly, having deposited our luggage and

finding ourselves not otherwise in request, Jock and I strolled over to see what was happening, and found in progress what I believe was the first polo match in England. It was between the 9th Lancers and one of the Household Cavalry regiments, and formed a society function of the first water. I think the numbers were six a side, and the ponies about 13 hands high. The ground was as rough as artillery wheels and galloping horses could make it, for it was the drill-ground of all the batteries in Woolwich, so the game was a different one from that of the present day. Among the spectators was the exEmperor Napoleon III., from Chislehurst, looking pale and ill. It was, I think, his last public appearance. Shirres and I belonged to a batch of about fifty young men who had passed the entrance examination some two months previously. The majority of our companions, who turned up at the same time, and with whom we soon became intimately acquainted, were from all the chief public schools of England, though a few, like Shirres and myself, hailed from similar schools in Scotland and Ireland. We were collectively alluded to, officially, as “the

« ZurückWeiter »