Page images
PDF
EPUB

means

Suc

coarse

and discipline, a bare hundred rifles the far-shooting weapons, whose was by no

an overwhelming powers, almost devilish in their workforce with which to overawe a district ing and effect, he could trust and adof anything from ten to fifteen square inire while but half understanding; miles, thickly inhabited-if their and finally a glut of looting and daring and pugnacity could be ac- good cheer, the recital of all which curately gauged from the exploits at- would establish him for ever, beyond tributed to them-by a people of un- fear of relapse, in the good graces of usually formidable qualities. The ab- the gentle Fatima, agape with awe sence of a doctor was scarcely felt, and admiration. He saw even further for Henson himself possessed a prac- than this. The hand of Fatima might tical skill in this direction, founded at lose its skill. Her cooking might dean early period of his career by a teriorate. Then, if it came (by the three years' course in a London hos- will of God) to the choice of a pital, and maintained fresh and prac- cessor, there was not a maiden in Ilo tical by the constant calls for "first who would not be proud to receive aid" made on him by native patients the advances of a warrior steeped in hopeless of efficient treatment from so irresistible a glamor. In the light healers of their own race.

of this dazzling vision his former life The military lines, consisting of and profession seemed to him for the rows of round mud-walled huts

first time pale and commonplace. thatched with

dry grass, Even

the

memory of his public presented a vivid scene of bustle and abasement in Manga at the hands of commotion. There was the Maxim the unknown Englishman faded comgun to be tested and the belts filled pletely from his outer consciousness, with cartridges, ammunition to be and when the two long lines of armed distributed and packed away in the men stood motionless at dawn next leather pouches which each

morning to undergo the last critical carried on him, rifles and equipment review by their commander before to be cleaned, carriers to be enrolled setting forth, Baban Miji, living only and apportioned to their loads, and a in the stirring present, gripped his dozen other things to be seen to. rifle ecstatically as Fitzgerald passed Baban Miji, now readily replying to him, and a thrill of pride and self. his adopted

name,-he had been confidence and glorious anticipation forced to plead deafness on

swept through his blood. earlier occasions to explain an other- The long winding string of soldiers wise unaccountable lack of response and carriers arrived at Marin Fassa to its utterance,-soon found himself without incident. Mortimer's vigorous involved in the general activity. The personality had in the interim found primitive man in him, upspringing work eminently appropriate to it, the through all the superimposed strata of results of which were manifest in the habit, responded eagerly to this pros- piled baskets of yams and guineapect of a fight in which, as it seemed corn flour which they found awaitto him, the possibility of a defeat ing them. Here a few lame ducks scarcely existed. He saw before him were ieft behind with a dozen soldiers a swift descent on the homes of the as escort, and the column, revictualled terrified pagan, the traditional enemy and refreshed, at once pushed on into of even the most nominal and leth

the pagan

domain. Baban Miji argic Mohammedan; a headlong and marched in the foremost section, in overwhelming victory by means of front of which Fitzgerald rode side by

man

some

zon.

!

side with the Commissioner. Behind The leading section was now thrown them came the Maxim gun, carried forward in skirmishing order, and dismembered by three of the strongest Baban Miji, with rifle at the trail, carriers, the remainder of whom fol- pressed eagerly on, glancing every lowed immediately in rear. Last now and then towards Fitzgerald in in order came the remaining three anticipation of any fresh signal or sections of soldiers, seventy odd men, word of command. The ring of hills with Mortimer at the tail riding easily, grew nearer and larger, until every but alert, with a fly-switch of horse- detail of stone and fissure was clearly hair jauntily balanced on his hip. In visible to the eye. Flung without apthis order, and directed by the sole in- parent plan over all the face of the habitant of Marin Fassa who could be rocky slopes was a vast multitude of persuaded to confess even a hazy bee-hive huts packed together in topographical knowledge of the coun- clumps of varying sizes, through try they were in, the expedition which the path, growing ever more threaded its way onwards. They were precipitous, wound circuitously before now in the midst of a wide treeless them till it disappeared over the hori. plain. On the far western horizon

The skirmishers fell once more loomed a great dim semicircle of hills, into single file, reducing the distance which their guide informed them between themselves and the rest of marked the centre and capital of the the column to about 100 yards, pagan confederation.

Through all the rocky heights not a "As for me," he said, halting and sound was to be heard but their own looking upwards to reply to the Com- regular footfalls, and the rhythmic missioner's inquiries, “I have never beat of a hundred bayonet-scabbards reached the hills. It was the selling rapping softly against a hundred of salt that brought me here; the thighs. The three Englishmen could pagans lacked salt for many months, have felt assured that this unexpected and I, who am exceedingly brave, air of desertion betokened desertion carried salt to them here in the itself but for

tell-tale sight. plain"-he pointed to a spot a short Through the thatched roofs of one or distance ahead—"and received a skin- two huts a thin smoke coiled strugful of oil in return. The price was glingly into the air, the smoke of small, but how should I dispute it, I fires but recently extinguished, and alone and they so many, naked, and even now not entirely out. When the with spears and arrows every man? high ground was reached which had With speed I returned home. The skin formed their horizon while yet in the is even now in my house, so that none lower plain, the path was seen to may gainsay my daring."

slope gently downwards through a "And eye for the main chance!" defile bordered on either side by a added Henson with a smile. "You de- steep ascent of bare rock. Two served a better bargain. Well, Fitz parties of soldiers, led respectively by gerald, I think the fellow's about Fitzgerald and the native company right. You can see that dull gleam sergeant-major,

deflected over the hills in front? It's not rock, either flank for the purpose of reconI fancy, but the sun's reflection on old noitring the high ground, while the thatch. If so, it's an uncommonly big remainder, under Mortimer, after town, or collection of villages, and we waiting a few moments for the flank. ought to be up against them within ing parties to gain the heights, prothe next hour or so."

ceeded cautiously

their way

1

one

were

to

on

rose

no

of

was

saw

through the gorge. In this manner

above the din. “Prepare to another five hundreds yards were charge!" he shouted, and hurried passed, and still the lifeless rocks round the square repeating the comgave sign of hidden enemies. mand. As he passed, Baban Miji, Mortimer halted and glanced swiftly drawing his bayonet, looked closely around. The interval since the last at him, and with the look came recogsignal had been given from above that nition. He knew now why, even in all was clear seemed to be growing the commotion of the flight, the strong dangerously long. At the same in- clear voice had strangely stirred the stant came the sound of a sharp tap deeps of memory. "Charge!" yelled on the stones a few paces in front of Mortimer. Baban Miji sprang inhim. His eyes had scarcely turned in stinctively to his feet and began to that direction when there followed ru. The shower

arrows another similar sound close beside visibly thinning. Mortimer was now him. Simultaneously he what close beside him, leaping from rock looked like a slim, bare, yellow reed to rock. Baban Miji, profiting by fall point foremost on a rock and re- bare feet and native agility, had just bound to the ground. “Form square!" passed him when an arrow, soaring he shouted, and the long twisting line high up in the air, began descending behind him broke into a mass of run- in a direct line for Mortimer.

“Ga ning figures. The confusion was only kibia—an arrow!” he cried, and ran apparent. In a wonderfully short obliquely across. Mortimer crashed space of time the rapidly moving into him. “What the devil—" he becrowd had sorted itself and assumed gan, and then stopped, as he saw the comparative quiescence, presenting to soldier begin to tug at the arrow shaft an onlooker the spectacle of a close- which hung from his forearm. “This huddled crowd of men crouching be- way!” said Mortimer breathlessly, side their boxes and buudles, and en- and led him forward. “We shall find tirely surrounded by irregular our doctor on ahead, and you must circle of khaki-clad soldiers, who lie down and take the medicine he knelt firing and loading with mechanic gives you.” Thus the two proceeded cal swiftness, while among

and until a sudden faintness came around them arrows fell like rain. In Baban Miji, and he sank gently in front and on both sides innumerable heap to the ground. By him raced a black heads peered momentarily over crowd of charging men, shouting trithe rocks, and as suddenly vanished umphantly. again. Baban Miji continued firing till the hot barrel blistered his left Henson raised the flap, and emerged hand, and his right grew numb and from the green canvas tent that stiff as in feverish alternation it flung served as field-hospital. the sliding bolt of his rifle backwards "Where's Fitzgerald ?” he asked. and forwards, and pulled the trigger. “Going round the picquet line,” reThen, redoubling the echoes so that plied Mortimer, who lay bareheaded, they roared without ceasing over the his shoulders against a rock. "He hills, bursts of fire were heard from doesn't expect any trouble to-night. the heights on either hand. The flank- We've given them far to big a haming parties, delayed by an unexpectedly mering for that, but one can't be too precipitous ascent, had at last closed careful after to-day's experiences. in on the pagans. Mortimer caught How are your casualties?” the added sound, and again his voice "Oh, there's only one

I have any LIVING AGE VOL. LX. 3164

an

over

а

on

on

a

can

fear about, and that's the man you said Mortimer. “One of them nearly brought to me. The others—there are finished my meteoric career." only four of them—will be fit for duty Fitzgerald and Mortimer prepared again in a week or two, though Ser- for sleep, while Henson returned to geant Adamu will carry a nasty scar, the stricken man in the tent. Baban I'm afraid."

Miji lay in a corner the ground "I'm going to help you to-night," covered with blankets. A hand lansaid Mortimer. “That fellow Musa is tern hung above him, throwing its dim one of our newly joined, and I've an rays on the wounded arm that lay idea that when he crossed me in that bandaged across his chest. At intercharge it wasn't altogether accidental. vals he murmured unintelligible Anyhow, but for him running in words. Henson sat

box front I should certainly be in your beside him and waited. At last care at this moment, if not beyond it.” the muttering stopped and Baban Miji

Henson sat down, and began to roll opened his eyes. They looked clear up a coil of linen.

and intelligent. "I daresay you're right," he said; "I want to speak to Dan Giwa," he "but you can help best by getting a said, giving the name by which Mortigood night's sleep. I manage mer was known to the soldiery. “With well enough, and you've done the work Dan Giwa alone." of three men to-day."

Henson roused Mortimer. "Well, anyhow," the other went on, “I don't think he'll last long," he "if the fellow is going to peg out I whispered, “though at present he shal! expect you to wake me. Now, seems collected enough. He says he you quite understand that?"

wants to see you. Call me if he gets "All right," said Henson, a little worse." surprised at this unusual manifesta- Mortimer entered the tent, and tion of sympathy. "To tell you the stood facing the figure under the truth," he added gravely, "I shouldn't blankets. The indistinct muttering be surprised if he did peg out. The had begun again. poison must have been fresh, and an "No mark at all! Let all behold, artery was pierced. Ah! here comes there is no mark of any kind!" Fitzgerald."

Mortimer caught the words, rapidly In the fast deepening twilight the uttered, and started. The bandaged three men divided a rude meal of arm was raised a moment in the air biscuits and tinned beef.

and then sank downwards. Presently “We have fairly given them the the eyes opened again and gazed long knock." said Fitzgerald, lighting a at Mortimer. pipe. "A hundred and fifty counted "Thou it is," the voice whispered dead, and lots more carried away." from the darkness, “thou—thou-at

"Yes," said Henson; "the back of Manga the thing is broken. They've begun The words died away into silence. coming in already asking for peace. The unwounded hand was lifted, and It seems they had massed here in full all the fingers straightened themselves strength, hoping to surprise us, and with their tips towards Mortimer, half their leading men are among the who had knelt down in the attitude of killed. It will be my turn with them one who receives a bitter reproach. A now, I expect, and you fellows will moment later he had hurried from the have to sheathe your swords."

tent. “Well, don't let them off too lightly," "You had better go to him now,"

9

he said to Henson, clearing his breathing alone broke the intense throat.

quiet. Nothing stirred under the Henson passed quickly behind the lamp. canvas, stood still, and listened. For Then some invisible insect banged some minutes his Own suppressed noisily against the glass chimney. Blackwood's Magazine.

R. S. Fletcher.

SEAGULLS.

one

So glorious is the flight of the seagull that it tempts us to fling aside the dryasdust theories of mechanism of flexed wings, coefficient of air resistance, and all the abracadabra of the mathematical biologist, and just to give thanks for a sight so inspiring as that of gulls ringing high in the eye of the wind over hissing combers that break on sloping beaches or around jagged rocks. These birds are with the sea, knowing no fear of that protean monster which, since earth's beginning, has always, with its unfathomable mystery, its insatiable cruelty, its tremendous strength, been a source of terror to the land animals that dwell in sight of it. Yet the gulls sit on the curling rollers as much at their ease as swimmers in a pond, and give an impression of unconscious courage very remarkable in creatures that seem frail. Hunger

may drive them inland, or instincts equally irresistible at the breeding season, but never the worst gale that lashes the sea to fury, for they dread it in its hour of rage as little as on still summer nights when, in their hundreds, they fly off the land to roost on the water outside the headlands.

It is curious that there should be no mention of them in the sacred writings. We read of quails coming in from the sea, likewise of “four great beasts,” but of seafowl never a word, though one sees them in abundance on the coast near Jaffa, and the Hebrew writers might have been expected to weave them into the rich fabric of their

poetic imagery as they did the pelican, the eagle and other birds less familiar. Although seagulls have of late years been increasingly in evidence beside the bridges of London, they are still, to the majority of folk living far inland, symbolical of the August holiday at the coast, and their splendid flight and raucous cries are among the most enduring memories of that yearly escape from the smoke of cities.

The voice of gulls can with difficulty be regarded as musical, yet those of us who live the clock round by the sea find their plaintive mewing as nicely tuned to that wild environment as the amorous gurgling of nightingales to moonlit woods in May. Their voice may have no great range, but at any rate it is not lacking in variety, suggesting to the playful imagination laughter, tears, and other human moods to which they are in all probability strangers. The curious similarity between the note of the seagull and the whining of a cat bereft of her kittens is very striking, and was on one occasion the cause of my being taken in by one of these birds in a deep and beautiful backwater of the Sea of Marmora, beside which I spent one pleasant summer. In this particular gulf, at the head of which stands the ancient town of Ismidt, gulls, though plentiful in the open sea, are rarely in evidence, being replaced by herons and pelicans. I had not therefore set eyes on a seagull for many weeks, when early one morning I heard from the far: ther side of a wooded headland, a new

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »