Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Blue Lights - Hot Work in the Soudan
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Blue Lights - Hot Work in the Soudan" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BLUE LIGHTS, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.



CHAPTER ONE.

HOT WORK IN THE SOUDAN.

THE FALSE STEP.

There is a dividing ridge in the great northern wilderness of America,
whereon lies a lakelet of not more than twenty yards in diameter.  It is
of crystal clearness and profound depth, and on the still evenings of
the Indian summer its surface forms a perfect mirror, which might serve
as a toilet-glass for a Redskin princess.

We have stood by the side of that lakelet and failed to note the
slightest symptom of motion in it, yet somewhere in its centre there was
going on a constant and mysterious division of watery particles, and
those of them which glided imperceptibly to the right flowed southward
to the Atlantic, while those that trembled to the left found a
resting-place by the frozen shores of Hudson's Bay.

As it is with the flow and final exit of those waters, so is it,
sometimes, if not always, with the spirit and destiny of man.

Miles Milton, our hero, at the age of nineteen, stood at the dividing
ridge of his life.  If the oscillating spirit, trembling between right
and wrong, had decided to lean to the right, what might have been his
fate no one can tell.  He paused on the balance a short time, then he
leaned over to the left, and what his fate was it is the purpose of this
volume to disclose.  At the outset, we may remark that it was not
unmixed good.  Neither was it unmitigated evil.

Miles had a strong body, a strong will, and a somewhat passionate
temper: a compound which is closely allied to dynamite!

His father, unfortunately, was composed of much the same materials.  The
consequences were sometimes explosive.  It might have profited the son
much had he studied the Scripture lesson, "Children, obey your parents
in the Lord."  Not less might it have benefited the father to have
pondered the words, "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath."

Young Milton had set his heart on going into the army.  Old Milton had
resolved to thwart the desire of his son.  The mother Milton, a meek and
loving soul, experienced some hard times between the two.  Both loved
_her_ intensely, and each loved himself, not better perhaps, but too
much!

It is a sad task to have to recount the disputes between a father and a
son.  We shrink from it and turn away.  Suffice it to say that one day
Miles and his father had a Vesuvian meeting on the subject of the army.
The son became petulant and unreasonable; the father fierce and
tyrannical.  The end was that they parted in anger.

"Go, sir," cried the father sternly; "when you are in a better frame of
mind you may return."

"Yes, father, I will go," cried the son, starting up, "and I will
_never_ return."

Poor youth!  He was both right and wrong in this prophetic speech.  He
did return home, but he did not return to his father.

With fevered pulse and throbbing heart he rushed into a plantation that
lay at the back of his father's house.  He had no definite intention
save to relieve his feelings by violent action.  Running at full speed,
he came suddenly to a disused quarry that was full of water.  It had
long been a familiar haunt as a bathing-pool.  Many a time in years past
had he leaped off its precipitous margin into the deep water, and
wantoned there in all the abandonment of exuberant youth.  The leap was
about thirty feet, the depth of water probably greater.  Constant
practice had rendered Miles so expert at diving and swimming that he had
come to feel as much at home in the water as a New-Zealander.

Casting off his garments, he took the accustomed plunge by way of
cooling his heart and brain.  He came up from the depths refreshed, but
not restored to equanimity.  While dressing, the sense of injustice
returned as strongly as before, and, with it, the hot indignation, so
that, on afterwards reaching the highway, he paused only for a few
moments.  This was the critical point.  Slowly but decidedly he leaned
to the left.  He turned his back on his father's house, and caused the
stones to spurt from under his heels as he walked rapidly away.

If Miles Milton had thought of his mother at that time he might have
escaped many a day of bitter repentance, for she was as gentle as her
husband was harsh; but the angry youth either forgot her at the moment,
or, more probably, thrust the thought of her away.

Poor mother! if she had only known what a conflict between good and evil
was going on in the breast of her boy, how she would have agonised in
prayer for him!  But she did not know.  There was, however, One who did
know, who loved him better even than his mother, and who watched and
guarded him throughout all his chequered career.

It is not improbable that in spite of his resolves Miles would have
relented before night and returned home had not a very singular incident
intervened and closed the door behind him.

That day a notorious swindler had been tracked by a red-haired detective
to the manufacturing city, to which Miles first directed his steps.  The
bills describing the swindler set forth that he was quite young, tall,
handsome, broad-shouldered, with black curling hair, and a budding
moustache; that he was dressed in grey tweeds, and had a prepossessing
manner.  Now this chanced to be in some respects an exact description of
Miles Milton!

The budding moustache, to be sure, was barely discernible, still it was
sufficiently so for a detective to found on.  His dress, too, was brown
tweed, not grey; but of course dresses can be changed; and as to his
manner, there could not be two opinions about that.

Now it chanced to be past one o'clock when Miles entered the town and
felt himself impelled by familiar sensations to pause in front of an
eating-house.  It was a poor eating-house in a low district, but Miles
was not particular; still further, it was a temperance coffee-house, but
Miles cared nothing for strong drink.  Strong health and spirits had
served his purpose admirably up to that date.

Inside the eating-house there sat several men of the artisan class, and
a few of the nondescript variety.  Among the latter was the red-haired
detective.  He was engaged with a solid beef-steak.

"Oho!" escaped softly from his lips, when his sharp eyes caught sight of
our hero.  So softly did he utter the exclamation that it might have
been a mere remark of appreciation addressed to the steak, from which he
did not again raise his eyes for a considerable time.

The place was very full of people--so full that there seemed scarcely
room for another guest; but by some almost imperceptible motion the
red-haired man made a little space close to himself.  The man next to
him, with a hook-nose, widened the space by similar action, and Miles,
perceiving that there was room, sat down.

"Bread and cheese," he said to the waiter.

"Bread an' cheese, sir?  Yessir."

Miles was soon actively engaged in mechanically feeding, while his mind
was busy as to future plans.

Presently he became aware that the men on either side of him were
scanning his features and person with peculiar attention.

"Coldish weather," remarked the red-haired man, looking at him in a
friendly way.

"It is," replied Miles, civilly enough.

"Rather cold for bathin', ain't it, sir?" continued the detective
carelessly, picking his teeth with a quill.

"How did you know that I've been bathing?" demanded Miles in surprise.

"I didn't know it."

"How did you guess it then?"

"Vell, it ain't difficult to guess that a young feller 'as bin 'avin' a
swim w'en you see the 'air of 'is 'ead hall vet, an' 'is
pocket-'ankercher lookin' as if it 'ad done dooty for a towel, not to
mention 'is veskit 'avin' bin putt on in a 'urry, so as the buttons
ain't got into the right 'oles, you see!"

Miles laughed, and resumed his bread and cheese.

"You are observant, I perceive," he said.

"Not wery partiklarly so," returned Redhair; "but I do obsarve that your
boots tell of country roads.  Was it a long way hout of town as you was
bathin' this forenoon, now?"

There was a free and easy familiarity about the man's tone which Miles
resented, but, not wishing to run the risk of a disagreement in such
company, he answered quietly--"Yes, a considerable distance; it was in
an old quarry where I often bathe, close to my father's house."

"Ha! jest so, about 'alf-way to the willage of Ramplin', w'ere you slep'
last night, if report speaks true, an' w'ere you left the _grey tweeds_,
unless, p'r'aps, you sunk 'em in the old quarry."

"Why, what on earth do you mean?" asked Miles, with a look of such
genuine surprise that Redhair was puzzled, and the man with the hooked
nose, who had been listening attentively, looked slightly confused.

"Read that, sir," said the detective, extracting a newspaper cutting
from his pocket and laying it on the table before Miles.

While he read, the two men watched him with interest, so did some of
those who sat near, for they began to perceive that something was "in
the wind."

The tell-tale blood sprang to the youth's brow as he read and perceived
the meaning of the man's remarks.  At this Redhair and Hook-nose nodded
to each other significantly.

"You don't mean to say," exclaimed Miles, in a tone of grand indignation
which confirmed the men in their suspicion, "that you think this
description applies to _me_?"

"I wouldn't insinivate too much, sir, though I have got my suspicions,"
said Redhair blandly; "but of course that's easy settled, for if your
father's 'ouse is anyw'ere hereabouts, your father won't object to
identify his son."

"Ridiculous!" exclaimed Miles, rising angrily at this interruption to
his plans.  The two men rose promptly at the same moment.  "Of course my
father will prove that you have made a mistake, but--"

He hesitated in some confusion, for the idea of re-appearing before his
father so soon, and in such company, after so stoutly asserting that he
would _never_ more return, was humiliating.  The detective observed the
hesitation and became jocose.

"If you'd rather not trouble your parent," said Redhair, "you've got no
call to do it.  The station ain't far off, and the sooner we get there
the better for all parties."

A slight clink of metal at this point made Miles aware of the fact that
Hook-nose was drawing a pair of handcuffs from one of his pockets.

The full significance of his position suddenly burst upon him.  The
thought of being led home a prisoner, or conveyed to the police-station
handcuffed, maddened him; and the idea of being thus unjustly checked at
the very outset of his independent career made him furious.  For a few
moments he stood so perfectly still and quiet that the detectives were
thrown slightly off their guard.  Then there was an explosion of some
sort within the breast of Miles Milton.  It expended itself in a sudden
impulse, which sent Redhead flat on the table among the crockery, and
drove Hook-nose into the fireplace among the fire-irons.  A fat little
man chanced to be standing in the door-way.  The same impulse, modified,
shot that little man into the street like a cork out of a bottle, and
next moment Miles was flying along the pavement at racing speed,
horrified at what he had done, but utterly reckless as to what might
follow!

Hearing the shouts of pursuers behind him, and being incommoded by
passers-by in the crowded thoroughfare, Miles turned sharply into a
by-street, and would have easily made his escape--being uncommonly swift
of foot--had he not been observed by an active little man of supple
frame and presumptuous tendencies.  Unlike the mass of mankind around
him--who stared and wondered--the active little man took in the
situation at a glance, joined in the pursuit, kept well up, thus forming
a sort of connecting-link between the fugitive and pursuers, and even
took upon himself to shout "Stop thief!" as he ran.  Miles endeavoured
to throw him off by putting on, as schoolboys have it, "a spurt."  But
the active little man also spurted and did not fall far behind.  Then
Miles tried a second double, and got into a narrow street, which a
single glance showed him was a blind alley!  Disappointment and anger
hereupon took possession of him, and he turned at bay with the
tiger-like resolve to run a-muck!

Fortunately for himself he observed a pot of whitewash standing near a
half-whitened wall, with a dirty canvas frock and a soiled billycock
lying beside it.  The owner of the property had left it inopportunely,
for, quick as thought, Miles wriggled into the frock, flung on the
billycock, seized the pot, and walked in a leisurely way to the head of
the alley.  He reached it just as the active little man turned into it,
at the rate of ten miles an hour.  A yell of "Stop thief!" issued from
the man's presumptuous lips at the moment.

His injunction was obeyed to the letter, for the would-be thief of an
honest man's character on insufficient evidence was stopped by Miles's
bulky person so violently that the whitewash was scattered all about,
and part of it went into the active man's eyes.

To squash the large brush into the little man's face, and thus
effectually complete what his own recklessness had begun, was the work
of an instant.  As he did it, Miles assumed the role of the injured
party, suiting his language to his condition.

"What d'ee mean by that, you houtrageous willain?" he cried savagely, to
the great amusement of the bystanders, who instantly formed a crowd
round them.  "Look wot a mess you've bin an' made o' my clean frock!
Don't you see?"

The poor little man could not see.  He could only cough and gasp and
wipe his face with his coat-tails.

"I'd give you in charge o' the pleece, I would, if it wasn't that you've
pretty well punished yourself a'ready," continued Miles.  "Take 'im to a
pump some o' you, 'cause I ain't got time.  Good-day, spider-legs, an'
don't go for to run into a hartist again, with a paint-pot in 'is 'and."

So saying, Miles pushed through the laughing crowd and sauntered away.
He turned into the first street he came to, and then went forward as
fast as was consistent with the idea of an artisan in a hurry.  Being
utterly ignorant of the particular locality into which he had
penetrated--though well enough acquainted with the main thoroughfares of
the city--his only care was to put as many intricate streets and lanes
as possible between himself and the detectives.  This was soon done, and
thereafter, turning into a darkish passage, he got rid of the paint-pot
and borrowed costume.

Fortunately he had thrust his own soft helmet-shaped cap into his breast
at the time he put on the billycock, and was thus enabled to issue from
the dark passage very much like his former self, with the exception of a
few spots of whitewash, which were soon removed.

Feeling now pretty safe, our hero walked a considerable distance through
the unknown parts of the city, before he ventured to inquire the way to
thoroughfares with which he was familiar.  Once in these, he proceeded
at a smart pace to one of the railway stations, intending to leave town,
though as yet he had formed no definite plan of action.  In truth, his
mind was much troubled and confused by the action of his conscience, for
when the thought of leaving home and entering the army as a private
soldier, against his father's wishes, crossed his mind, Conscience
faithfully shook his head; and when softer feelings prevailed, and the
question arose irresistibly, "Shall I return home?" the same faithful
friend whispered, "Yes."

In a state of indecision, Miles found himself borne along by a human
stream to the booking-office.  Immediately in front of him were two
soldiers,--one a sergeant, and the other a private of the line.

Both were tall handsome men, straight as arrows, and with that air of
self-sufficient power which is as far removed from arrogance as it is
from cowardice, and is by no means an uncommon feature in men of the
British army.

Miles felt a strong, unaccountable attraction towards the young private.
He had not yet heard his voice nor encountered his eye; indeed, being
behind him, he had only seen his side-face, and as the expression on it
was that of stern gravity, the attractive power could not have lain in
that.  It might have lain in the youthful look of the lad, for albeit a
goodly man in person, he was almost a boy in countenance, being
apparently not yet twenty years of age.

Miles was at last roused to the necessity for prompt and decisive action
by the voice of the sergeant saying in tones of authority--

"Portsmouth--third--two--single."

"That's the way to go it, lobster!" remarked a shabby man, next in the
line behind Miles.

The grave sergeant paid no more regard to this remark than if it had
been the squeak of a mouse.

"Now, then, sir, your carridge stops the way.  'Eave a'ead.  Shall I
'elp you?" said the shabby man.

Thus admonished, Miles, scarce knowing what he said, repeated the
sergeant's words--

"Portsmouth--third--two--single."

"Vy, you ain't agoin' to pay for _me_, are you?" exclaimed the shabby
man in smiling surprise.

"Oh! beg pardon.  I mean _one_," said Miles to the clerk, quickly.

The clerk retracted the second ticket with stolid indifference, and
Miles, hastening to the platform, sat down on a seat, deeply and
uncomfortably impressed with the fact that he possessed little or no
money!  This unsatisfactory state of things had suddenly burst upon him
while in the act of paying for his ticket.  He now made a careful
examination of his purse, and found its contents to be exactly seven
shillings and sixpence, besides a few coppers in his trousers-pocket.

Again indecision assailed him.  Should he return?  It was not too late.
"Yes," said Conscience, with emphasis.  "No," said Shame.  False pride
echoed the word, and Self-will re-echoed it.  Still our hero hesitated,
and there is no saying what the upshot might have been if the bell had
not rung at the moment, and, "Now, then, take your seats!" put an end to
the controversy.

Another minute, and Miles Milton was seated opposite the two soldiers,
rushing towards our great southern seaport at the rate of forty miles an
hour.



CHAPTER TWO.

SHOWS SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE FALSE STEP, AND INTRODUCES THE
READER TO PECULIAR COMPANY.

Our hero soon discovered that the sergeant was an old campaigner, having
been out in Egypt at the beginning of the war, and fought at the famous
battle of Tel-el-Kebir.

In his grave and undemonstrative way and quiet voice, this man related
some of his experiences, so as not only to gain the attention of his
companion in arms, but to fascinate all who chanced to be within earshot
of him--not the least interested among whom, of course, was our friend
Miles.

As the sergeant continued to expatiate on those incidents of the war
which had come under his own observation, three points impressed
themselves on our hero: first, that the sergeant was evidently a man of
serious, if not religious, spirit; second, that while he gave all due
credit to his comrades for their bravery in action, he dwelt chiefly on
those incidents which brought out the higher qualities of the men, such
as uncomplaining endurance, forbearance, etcetera, and he never boasted
of having given "a thorough licking" to the Egyptians, nor spoke
disparagingly of the native troops; lastly, that he seemed to lay
himself out with a special view to the unflagging entertainment of his
young comrade.

The reason for this last purpose he learned during a short halt at one
of the stations.  Seeing the sergeant standing alone there, Miles, after
accosting him with the inevitable references to the state of the
weather, remarked that his comrade seemed to be almost too young for the
rough work of soldiering.

"Yes, he is young enough, but older than he looks," answered the
sergeant.  "Poor lad!  I'm sorry for him."

"Indeed!  He does not seem to me a fit subject for pity.  Young, strong,
handsome, intelligent, he seems pretty well furnished to begin the
battle of life--especially in the army."

"`Things are not what they seem,'" returned the soldier, regarding his
young questioner with something between a compassionate and an amused
look.  "`All is not gold that glitters.'  Soldiering is not made up of
brass bands, swords, and red coats!"

"Having read a good deal of history I am well aware of that," retorted
Miles, who was somewhat offended by the implication contained in the
sergeant's remarks.

"Well, then, you see," continued the sergeant, "all the advantages that
you have mentioned, and which my comrade certainly possesses, weigh
nothing with him at all just now, because this sudden call to the wars
separates him from his poor young wife."

"Wife!" exclaimed Miles; "why, he seems to me little more than a boy--
except in size, and perhaps in gravity."

"He is over twenty, and, as to gravity--well, most young fellows would
be grave enough if they had to leave a pretty young wife after six
months of wedded life.  You see, he married without leave, and so, even
if it were a time of peace, his wife would not be recognised by the
service.  In wartime he must of course leave her behind him.  It has
been a hard job to prevent him from deserting, and now it's all I can do
to divert his attention from his sorrow by stirring him up with tales of
the recent wars."

At this point the inexorable bell rang, doors were banged, whistles
sounded, and the journey was resumed.

Arrived at Portsmouth, Miles was quickly involved in the bustle of the
platform.  He had made up his mind to have some private conversation
with the sergeant as to the possibility of entering her Majesty's
service as a private soldier, and was on the point of accompanying his
military travelling companions into the comparative quiet of the street
when a porter touched his cap--

"Any luggage, sir?"

"Luggage?--a--no--no luggage!"

It was the first moment since leaving home that the thought of luggage
had entered into his brain!  That thought naturally aroused other
thoughts, such as lodgings, food, friends, funds, and the like.  On
turning to the spot where his military companions had stood, he
discovered that they were gone.  Running to the nearest door-way he
found it to be the wrong one, and before he found the right one and
reached the street the two soldiers had vanished from the scene.

"You seem to be a stranger here, sir.  Can I direct you?" said an
insinuating voice at his elbow.

The speaker was an elderly man of shabby-genteel appearance and polite
address.  Miles did not quite like the look of him.  In the
circumstances, however, and with a strangely desolate feeling of
loneliness creeping over him, he did not see his way to reject a civil
offer.

"Thank you.  I am indeed a stranger, and happen to have neither friend
nor acquaintance in the town, so if you can put me in the way of finding
a respectable lodging--a--a _cheap_ one, you will greatly oblige me."

"With pleasure," said the man, "if you will accompany--"

"Stay, don't trouble yourself to show me the way," interrupted Miles;
"just name a house and the street, that will--"

"No trouble at all, sir," said the man.  "I happen to be going in the
direction of the docks, and know of excellent as well as cheap lodgings
there."

Making no further objection, Miles followed his new friend into the
street.  For some time, the crowd being considerable and noisy, they
walked in silence.

At the time we write of, Portsmouth was ringing with martial music and
preparations for war.

At all times the red-coats and the blue-jackets are prominent in the
streets of that seaport; for almost the whole of our army passes through
it at one period or another, either in going to or returning from
"foreign parts."  But at this time there was the additional bustle
resulting from the Egyptian war.  Exceptional activity prevailed in its
yards, and hurry in its streets.  Recruits, recently enlisted, flocked
into it from all quarters, while on its jetties were frequently landed
the sad fruits of war in the form of wounded men.

"Have you ever been in Portsmouth before?" asked the shabby-genteel man,
on reaching a part of the town which was more open and less crowded.

"Never.  I had no idea it was so large and bustling," said Miles.

"The crowding and bustling is largely increased just now, of course, in
consequence of the war in Egypt," returned the man.  "Troops are
constantly embarking, and others returning.  It is a noble service!  Men
start in thousands from this port young, hearty, healthy, and full of
spirit; they return--those of them who return at all--sickly,
broken-down, and with no spirit at all except what they soon get poured
into them by the publicans.  Yes; commend me to the service of my Queen
and country!"

There was a sneering tone in the man's voice which fired his companion's
easily roused indignation.

"Mind what you say about our Queen while in _my_ company," said Miles
sternly, stopping short and looking the man full in the face.  "I am a
loyal subject, and will listen to nothing said in disparagement of the
Queen or of her Majesty's forces."

"Bless you, sir," said the man quickly, "I'm a loyal subject myself, and
wouldn't for the world say a word against her Majesty.  No more would I
disparage her troops; but, after all, the army ain't perfect, you know.
Even _you_ must admit that, sir.  With all its noble qualities there's
room for improvement."

There was such an air of sincerity--or at least of assumed humility--in
the man's tone and manner that Miles felt it unjustifiable to retain his
indignation.  At the same time, he could not all at once repress it, and
was hesitating whether to fling off from the man or to forgive him, when
the sound of many voices, and of feet tramping in regular time, struck
his ear and diverted his attention.  Next moment the head of a regiment,
accompanied by a crowd of juvenile admirers, swept round the corner of
the street.  At the same instant a forest of bayonets gleamed upon the
youth's vision, and a brass band burst with crashing grandeur upon his
ear, sending a quiver of enthusiasm into the deepest recesses of his
soul, and stirring the very marrow in his bones!

Miles stood entranced until the regiment had passed, and the martial
strains were softened by distance; then he looked up and perceived that
his shabby companion was regarding him with a peculiar smile.

"I think you've a notion of being a soldier," he said, with a smile.

"Where is that regiment going?" asked Miles, instead of answering the
question.

"To barracks at present; to Egypt in a few days.  There'll be more
followin' it before long."

It was a distracting as well as an exciting walk that Miles had through
the town, for at every turn he passed couples or groups of soldiers, or
sailors, or marines, and innumerable questions sprang into and jostled
each other in his mind, while, at the same moment, his thoughts and
feelings were busy with his present circumstances and future prospects.
The distraction was increased by the remarks and comments of his guide,
and he would fain have got rid of him; but good-feeling, as well as
common-sense, forbade his casting him off without sufficient reason.

Presently he stopped, without very well knowing why, in front of a large
imposing edifice.  Looking up, he observed the words SOLDIERS' INSTITUTE
in large letters on the front of it.

"What sort of an Institute is that?" he asked.

"Oh! it's a miserable affair, where soldiers are taken in cheap, as they
say, an' done for," returned the shabby man hurriedly, as if the subject
were distasteful to him.  "Come along with me and I'll show you places
where soldiers--ay, and civilians too--can enjoy themselves like
gentlemen, an' get value for their money."

As he spoke, two fine-looking men issued from a small street close to
them, and crossed the road--one a soldier of the line, the other a
marine.

"Here it is, Jack," exclaimed the soldier to his friend; "Miss Sarah
Robinson's Institoot, that you've heard so much about.  Come an' I'll
show you where you can write your letter in peace--"

Thus much was overheard by Miles as they turned into a side-street, and
entered what was obviously one of the poorer districts of the town.

"Evidently that soldier's opinion does not agree with yours," remarked
Miles, as they walked along.

"More's the pity!" returned the shabby man, whose name he had informed
his companion was Sloper.  "Now we are getting among places, you see,
where there's a good deal of drinking going on."

"I scarcely require to be told that," returned Miles, curtly; for he was
beginning to feel his original dislike to Mister Sloper intensified.

It did not indeed require any better instructor than eyes and ears to
inform our hero that the grog-shops around him were full, and that a
large proportion of the shouting and swearing revellers inside were
soldiers and seamen.

By this time it was growing dark, and most of the gin-palaces were
beginning to send forth that glare of intense and warm light with which
they so knowingly attract the human moths that constitute their prey.

"Here we are," said Sloper, stopping in front of a public-house in a
narrow street.  "This is one o' the _respectable_ lodgin's.  Most o' the
others are disreputable.  It's not much of a neighbourhood, I admit."

"It certainly is not very attractive," said Miles, hesitating.

"You said you wanted a cheap one," returned Sloper, "and you can't
expect to have it cheap and fashionable, you know.  You've no occasion
to be afraid.  Come in."

The arguments of Mr Sloper might have failed to move Miles, but the
idea of his being _afraid_ to go anywhere was too much for him.

"Go in, then," he said, firmly, and followed.

The room into which he was ushered was a moderately large public-house,
with a bar and a number of tables round the room, at which many men and
a few women were seated; some gambling, others singing or disputing, and
all drinking and smoking.  It is only right to say that Miles was
shocked.  Hitherto he had lived a quiet and comparatively innocent
country life.  He knew of such places chiefly from books or hearsay, or
had gathered merely the superficial knowledge that comes through the
opening of a swing-door.  For the first time in his life he stood inside
a low drinking-shop, breathing its polluted atmosphere and listening to
its foul language.  His first impulse was to retreat, but false shame,
the knowledge that he had no friend in Portsmouth, or place to go to,
that the state of his purse forbade his indulging in more suitable
accommodation, and a certain pride of character which made him always
determine to carry out what he had resolved to do--all these
considerations and facts combined to prevent his acting on the better
impulse.  He doggedly followed his guide to a small round table and sat
down.

Prudence, however, began to operate within him.  He felt that he had
done wrong; but it was too late now, he thought, to retrace his steps.
He would, however, be on his guard; would not encourage the slightest
familiarity on the part of any one, and would keep his eyes open.  For a
youth who had seen nothing of the world this was a highly commendable
resolve.

"What'll you drink?" asked Mr Sloper.

Miles was on the point of saying "Coffee," but, reflecting that the
beverage might not be readily obtainable in such a place, he substituted
"Beer."

Instead of calling the waiter, Mr Sloper went himself to the bar to
fetch the liquor.  While he was thus engaged, Miles glanced round the
room, and was particularly struck with the appearance of a large,
fine-looking sailor who sat at the small table next to him, with hands
thrust deep into his trousers-pockets, his chin resting on his broad
chest, and a solemn, owlish stare in his semi-drunken yet manly
countenance.  He sat alone, and was obviously in a very sulky frame of
mind--a condition which he occasionally indicated through a growl of
dissatisfaction.

As Miles sat wondering what could have upset the temper of a tar whose
visage was marked by the unmistakable lines and dimples of good-humour,
he overheard part of the conversation that passed between the barman and
Mr Sloper.

"What! have they got hold o' Rattling Bill?" asked the former, as he
drew the beer.

"Ay, worse luck," returned Sloper.  "I saw the sergeant as I came along
lead him over to Miss Robinson's trap--confound her!"

"Don't you go fur to say anything agin Miss Robinson, old man," suddenly
growled the big sailor, in a voice so deep and strong that it silenced
for a moment the rest of the company.  "Leastways, you may if you like,
but if you do, I'll knock in your daylights, an' polish up your
figur'-head so as your own mother would mistake you fur a battered
saucepan!"

The seaman did not move from his semi-recumbent position as he uttered
this alarming threat, but he accompanied it with a portentous frown and
an owlish wink of both eyes.

"What! have _you_ joined the Blue Lights?" asked Sloper, with a smile,
referring to the name by which the religious and temperance men of the
army were known.

"No, I ha'n't.  Better for me, p'r'aps, if I had.  Here, waiter, fetch
me another gin-an'-warer.  An' more o' the gin than the warer, mind.
Heave ahead or I'll sink you!"

Having been supplied with a fresh dose of gin and water, the seaman
appeared to go to sleep, and Miles, for want of anything better to do,
accepted Sloper's invitation to play a game of dominoes.

"Are the beds here pretty good?" he asked, as they were about to begin.

"Yes, first-rate--for the money," answered Sloper.

"That's a lie!" growled the big sailor.  "They're bad at any price--
stuffed wi' cocoa-nuts and marline-spikes."

Mr Sloper received this observation with the smiling urbanity of a man
who eschews war at all costs.

"You don't drink," he said after a time, referring to Miles's pot of
beer, which he had not yet touched.

Miles made no reply, but by way of answer took up the pot and put it to
his lips.

He had not drunk much of it when the big seaman rose hurriedly and
staggered between the two tables.  In doing so, he accidentally knocked
the pot out of the youth's hand, and sent the contents into Mr Sloper's
face and down into his bosom, to the immense amusement of the company.

That man of peace accepted the baptism meekly, but Miles sprang up in
sudden anger.

The seaman turned to him, however, with a benignantly apologetic smile.

"Hallo! messmate.  I ax your parding.  They don't leave room even for a
scarecrow to go about in this here cabin.  I'll stand you another glass.
Give us your flipper!"

There was no resisting this, it was said so heartily.  Miles grasped the
huge hand that was extended and shook it warmly.

"All right," he said, laughing.  "I don't mind the beer, and there's
plenty more where that came from, but I fear you have done some damage
to my fr--"

"Your _friend_.  Out with it, sir.  Never be ashamed to acknowledge your
friends," exclaimed the shabby man, as he wiped his face.  "Hold on a
bit," he added, rising; "I'll have to change my shirt.  Won't keep you
waitin' long."

"Another pot o' beer for this 'ere gen'lem'n," said the sailor to the
barman as Sloper left the room.

Paying for the drink, he returned and put the pot on the table.  Then,
turning to Miles, he said in a low voice and with an intelligent look--

"Come outside for a bit, messmate.  I wants to speak to 'ee."

Miles rose and followed the man in much surprise.

"You'll excuse me, sir," he said, when a few yards away from the door;
"but I see that you're green, an' don't know what a rascally place
you've got into.  I've been fleeced there myself, and yet I'm fool
enough to go back!  Most o' the parties there--except the sailors an'
sodgers--are thieves an' blackguards.  They've drugged your beer, I
know; that's why I capsized it for you, and the feller that has got hold
o' you is a well-known decoy-duck.  I don't know how much of the ready
you may have about you, but this I does know, whether it be much or
little, you wouldn't have a rap of it in the mornin' if you stayed the
night in this here house."

"Are you sure of this, friend?" asked Miles, eyeing his companion
doubtfully.

"Ay, as sure as I am that my name's Jack Molloy."

"But you've been shamming drunk all this time.  How am I to know that
you are not shamming friendship now?"

"No, young man," returned the seaman with blinking solemnity.  "I'm not
shammin' drunk.  I on'y wish I was, for I'm three sheets in the wind at
this minute, an' I've a splittin' headache due i' the mornin'.  The way
as you've got to find out whether I'm fair an' above-board is to look me
straight in the face an' don't wink.  If that don't settle the question,
p'r'aps it'll convince you w'en I tells you that I don't care a rap
whether you go back to that there grog-shop or not.  Only I'll clear my
conscience--leastways, wot's left of it--by tellin' ye that if you do--
you--you'll wish as how you hadn't--supposin' they leave you the power
to wish anything at all."

"Well, I believe you are a true man, Mister Molloy--"

"Don't Mister me, mate," interrupted the seaman.

"My name's Jack Molloy, at your service, an' that name don't require no
handle--either Mister or Esquire--to prop it up."

The way in which the sailor squared his broad shoulders when he said
this rendered it necessary to prop himself up.  Seeing which, Miles
afforded the needful aid by taking his arm in a friendly way.

"But come, let us go back," he said.  "I must pay for my beer, you
know."

"Your beer is paid for, young man," said Molloy, stopping and refusing
to move.  "_I_ paid for it, so you've on'y got to settle with _me_.
Besides, if you go back you're done for.  And you've no call to go back
to say farewell to your dear friend Sloper, for he'll on'y grieve over
the loss of your tin.  As to the unpurliteness o' the partin'--he won't
break his heart over that.  No--you'll come wi' me down to the _Sailors'
Welcome_ near the dock-gates, where you can get a good bed for sixpence
a night, a heavy blow-out for tenpence, with a splendid readin'-room,
full o' rockin' chairs, an' all the rest of it for nothin'.  An there's
a lavatory--that's the name that they give to a place for cleanin' of
yourself up--a lavatory--where you can wash yourself, if you like, till
your skin comes off!  W'en I first putt up at the _Welcome_, the
messmate as took me there said to me, says he, `Jack,' says he, `you was
always fond o' water.'  `Right you are,' says I.  `Well,' says he,
`there's a place in the _Sailors' Welcome_ where you can wash yourself
all day, if you like, for nothing!'

"I do b'lieve it was that as indooced me to give in.  I went an' saw
this lavatory, an' I was so took up with it that I washed my hands in
every bason in the place--one arter the other--an' used up ever so much
soap, an'--would you believe it?--my hands wasn't clean after all!  Yes,
it's one the wery best things in Portsm'uth, is Miss Robinson's
Welcome--"

"Miss Robinson again!" exclaimed Miles.

"Ay--wot have you got to find fault wi' Miss Robinson?" demanded the
sailor sternly.

"No fault to find at all," replied Miles, suffering himself to be
hurried away by his new friend; "but wherever I have gone since arriving
in Portsmouth her name has cropped up!"

"In Portsmouth!" echoed the sailor.  "Let me tell you, young man, that
wherever you go all over the world, if there's a British soldier there,
Miss Sarah Robinson's name will be sure to crop up.  Why, don't you know
that she's `The Soldiers' Friend'?"

"I'm afraid I must confess to ignorance on the point--yet, stay, now you
couple her name with `The Soldier's Friend,' I have got a faint
remembrance of having heard it before.  Have I not heard of a Miss
Weston, too, in connection with a work of some sort among sailors?"

"Ay, no doubt ye have.  She has a grand Institoot in Portsm'uth too, but
she goes in for sailors _only_--all over the kingdom--w'ereas Miss
Robinson goes in for soldiers an' sailors both, though mainly for the
soldiers.  She set agoin' the _Sailors' Welcome_ before Miss Weston
began in Portsm'uth, an' so she keeps it up, but there ain't no
opposition or rivalry.  Their aims is pretty much alike, an' so they
keep stroke together wi' the oars.  But I'll tell you more about that
when you get inside.  Here we are!  There's the dock-gates, you see, and
that's Queen Street, an' the _Welcome's_ close at hand.  It's a teetotal
house, you know.  All Miss Robinson's Institoots is that."

"Indeed!  How comes it, then, that a man--excuse me--`three sheets in
the wind,' can gain admittance?"

"Oh! as to that, any sailor or soldier may get admittance, even if he's
as drunk as a fiddler, if he on'y behaves his-self.  But they won't
supply drink on the premises, or allow it to be brought in--'cept inside
o' you, of coorse.  Cause why? you can't help that--leastwise not
without the help of a stomach-pump.  Plenty o' men who ain't abstainers
go to sleep every night at the _Welcome_, 'cause they find the beds and
other things so comfortable.  In fact, some hard topers have been
indooced to take the pledge in consekince o' what they've heard an' seen
in this _Welcome_, though they came at first only for the readin'-room
an' beds.  Here, let me look at you under this here lamp.  Yes.  You'll
do.  You're something like a sea-dog already.  You won't object to
change hats wi' me?"

"Why?" asked Miles, somewhat amused.

"Never you mind that, mate.  You just putt yourself under my orders if
you'd sail comfortably before the wind.  I'll arrange matters, an' you
can square up in the morning."

As Miles saw no particular reason for objecting to this fancy of his
eccentric friend, he exchanged his soft cap for the sailor's straw hat,
and they entered the _Welcome_ together.



CHAPTER THREE.

THE "SAILORS' WELCOME"--MILES HAS A NIGHT OF IT AND ENLISTS--HIS FRIEND
ARMSTRONG HAS AN AGREEABLE SURPRISE AT THE SOLDIERS' INSTITUTE.

It was not long before our hero discovered the reason of Jack Molloy's
solicitude about his appearance.  It was that he, Miles, should pass for
a sailor, and thus be in a position to claim the hospitality of the
_Sailors' Welcome_,--to the inner life of which, civilians were not
admitted, though they were privileged, with the public in general, to
the use of the outer refreshment-room.

"Come here, Jack Molloy," he said, leading his friend aside, when he
made this discovery.  "You pride yourself on being a true-blue British
tar, don't you?"

"I does," said Jack, with a profound solemnity of decision that
comported well with his character and condition.

"And you would scorn to serve under the French flag, or the Turkish
flag, or the Black flag, or any flag but the Union Jack, wouldn't you?"

"Right you are, mate; them's my sentiments to a tee!"

"Well, then, you can't expect _me_ to sail under false colours any more
than yourself," continued Miles.  "I scorn to sail into this port under
your straw hat, so I'll strike these colours, bid you good-bye, and make
sail for another port where a civilian will be welcome."

Molloy frowned at the floor for some moments in stern perplexity.

"You've took the wind out o' my sails entirely, you have," he replied at
last; "an' you're right, young man, but I'm troubled about you.  If you
don't run into this here port you'll have to beat about in the offing
all night, or cast anchor in the streets, for I don't know of another
lodgin' in Portsm'uth w'ere you could hang out except them disrepitible
grog-shops.  In coorse, there's the big hotels; but I heerd you say to
Sloper that you was bound to do things cheap, bein' hard up."

"Never mind, my friend," said Miles quickly.  "I will manage somehow; so
good-night, and many thanks to you for the interest you have taken in--"

"Avast, mate! there's no call to go into action in sitch a hurry.  This
here _Sailors' Welcome_ opens the doors of its bar an' refreshment-room,
an' spreads its purvisions before all an' sundry as can afford to pay
its moderate demands.  It's on'y the after-cabin you're not free to.  So
you'll have a bit supper wi' me before you set sail on your night
cruise."

Being by that time rather hungry as well as fatigued, Miles agreed to
remain for supper.  While they were engaged with it, he was greatly
impressed with the number of sailors and marines who passed into the
reading-room beyond the bar, or who sat down at the numerous tables
around to have a hearty supper, which they washed down with tea and
coffee instead of beer or gin--apparently with tremendous appetite and
much satisfaction.

"Look ye here," said Jack Molloy, rising when their "feed" was about
concluded, "I've no doubt they won't object to your taking a squint at
the readin'-room, though they won't let you use it."  Following his
companion, Miles passed by a glass double door into an enormous
well-lighted, warm room, seventy feet long, and of proportionate width
and height, in which a goodly number of men of the sea were busy as
bees--some of them reading books or turning over illustrated papers and
magazines, others smoking their pipes, and enjoying themselves in
rocking-chairs in front of the glowing fire, chatting, laughing, and
yarning as free-and-easily as if in their native fo'c's'ls, while a few
were examining the pictures on the walls, or the large models of ships
which stood at one side of the room.  At the upper end a full-sized
billiard-table afforded amusement to several players, and profound
interest to a number of spectators, who passed their comments on the
play with that off-hand freedom which seems to be a product of fresh
gales and salt-water.  A door standing partly open at the upper end of
this apartment revealed a large hall, from which issued faintly the
sound of soft music.

"Ain't it snug? and there's no gamblin' agoin' on there," remarked
Molloy, as they returned to their table; "that's not allowed--nor
drinkin', nor card-playin', but that's all they putt a stop to.  She's a
wise woman is Miss Robinson.  She don't hamper us wi' no rules.  Why,
bless you, Jack ashore would never submit to rules!  He gits more than
enough o' them afloat.  No; it's liberty hall here.  We may come an' go
as we like, at all hours o' the day and night, an' do exactly as we
please, so long as we don't smash up the furnitur', or feed without
payin', or make ourselves a gineral noosance.  They don't even forbid
swearin'.  They say they leave the matter o' lingo to our own good taste
and good sense.  An' d'you know, it's wonderful what an' amount o' both
we've got w'en we ain't worried about it!  You'll scarce hear an oath in
this house from mornin' to evenin', though you'll hear a deal o' snorin'
doorin' the night!  That's how the place takes so well, d'ee see?"

"Then the _Welcome_ is well patronised, I suppose?"

"Patronised!" exclaimed the seaman; "that's so, an' no mistake.  Why,
mate--But what's your name?  I've forgot to ax you that all this time!"

"Call me Miles," said our hero, with some hesitation.

"_Call_ you Miles!  _Ain't_ you Miles?"

"Well, yes, I am; only there's more of my name than that, but that's
enough for your purpose, I daresay."

"All right.  Well, Miles, you was askin' how the house is patronised.
I'll tell 'ee.  They make up about two hundred an' twenty beds in it
altogether, an' these are chock-full a'most every night.  One way or
another they had forty-four thousand men, more or less, as slep' under
this roof last year--so I've bin told.  That's patronisin', ain't it?
To say nothin' o' the fellers as comes for--grub, which, as you've
found, is good for the money, and the attendants is civil.  You see,
they're always kind an' attentive here, 'cause they professes to think
more of our souls than our bodies--which we've no objection to, d'ee
see, for the lookin' arter our souls includes the lookin' arter our
bodies!  An' they don't bother us in no way to attend their
Bible-readin's an' sitchlike.  There they are in separate rooms; if you
want 'em you may go; if you don't, you can let 'em alone.  No
compulsion, which comes quite handy to some on us, for I don't myself
care much about sitchlike things.  So long's my body's all right, I
leaves my soul to look arter itself."

As the seaman said this with a good-natured smile of indifference, there
sprang to the mind of his young companion words that had often been
impressed on him by his mother: "What shall it profit a man if he should
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" but he made no reference
to this at the time.

"Hows'ever," continued Molloy, "as they don't worrit us about religion,
except to give us a good word an' a blessin' now an' again, and may-hap
a little book to read, we all patronises the house; an it's my opinion,
if it was twice as big as it is, we'd fill it chock-full.  I would board
as well as sleep in it myself--for it's full o' conveniences, sitch as
lockers to putt our things in, an' baths, and what not, besides all the
other things I've mentioned--but the want o' drink staggers me.  I can't
git along without a drop o' drink."

Miles thought that his nautical friend appeared to be unable to get
along without a good many drops of drink, but he was too polite to say
so.

"Man alive!" continued Jack Molloy, striking his huge fist on his thigh
with emphasis; "it's a wonderful place is this _Welcome_!  An' it's a
lively place too.  Why, a fellow hanged his-self in one o' the bunks
overhead not long ago."

"You don't mean that?" exclaimed Miles, rather shocked.

"In course I does.  But they heard 'im gaspin', an cut him down in time
to save him.  It was drink they say as made him do it, and they got him
to sign the pledge arterwards.  I believe he's kep' it too.  Leastwise I
know many a hard drinker as have bin indooced to give it up and stuck to
it--all through comin' here to have a snooze in a comfortable hunk.
They give the bunks names--cubicles they calls 'em in the lump.
Separately, there's the `Commodore Goodenough Cot,' an' the `Little
Nellie Cot,' an' the `Sunshine Cot'--so called 'cause it hain't got a
port-hole to let in the daylight at all; and the `Billy Rough 'un'--"

"The what?"

"`The Billy Rough 'un'--arter the ship o' that name, you know--"

"Oh! you mean the _Bellerophon_."

"Well, young man, an' didn't I _say_ the `Billy Rough 'un'?  Then
there's the--But what's your hurry?" said the seaman, as Miles rose.

"It's getting late now, friend.  If I'm to find another lodging I must
be off.  Doubtless, I'll find some respectable house to take me in for
the night."  Miles suppressed a yawn as he put on his cap.

"I don't believe you will," returned Molloy, also rising, and giving
full vent to a sympathetic and vociferous yawn.  "Hows'ever, w'en a
young feller insists on havin' his way, it's best to give him plenty of
cable and let him swing.  He's sure to find out his mistake by
experience.  But look ye here, Miles, I've took a fancy to you, an' I'd
be sorry to think you was in difficulties.  If," he continued, thrusting
a hand into his breeches-pocket, and bringing up therefrom a mass of
mixed gold, silver, and copper--"if you don't objec' to accep' of a loan
of--"

"Thank you--no, my friend.  It is very kind of you," said Miles quickly;
"but I have quite enough for present necessities.  So good-night."

"All right," returned the sailor, thrusting the money back into his
pocket.  "But if you should ever want a jaw with Jack Molloy while
you're in this here port you've only got to hail him at the _Sailors'
Welcome_, an' if he should happen to be out, they always can tell you
where he's cruisin'.  Good-night, an' luck go wi' ye!"

Another tremendous yawn finished the speech, and next moment Miles found
himself in the street, oppressed with a strange and miserable sensation
which he had never before experienced.  Indeed, he had to lean against
the house for a few minutes after coming out into the fresh air, and
felt as if the power of connected thought was leaving him.

He was aroused from this condition by the flashing of a light in his
eyes.  Opening them wide, he beheld a policeman looking at him
earnestly.

"Now, then, young fellow," said the guardian of the night; "d'you think
you can take care of yourself?"

"Oh! yes, quite well.  It's only a giddy feeling that came over me.  I'm
all right," said Miles, rousing himself and passing on.

He staggered slightly, however, and a short "Humph!" from the policeman
showed that he believed the youth to be something more than giddy.

Ashamed to be even unjustly supposed to be intoxicated, Miles hurried
away, wondering very much what could be the matter with him, for he had
not tasted a drop of strong drink, except the half-glass of beer he had
swallowed before Molloy chanced to knock it out of his hand.  Suddenly
he remembered that the sailor had said the beer was drugged.  If he
could have asked the barman who had served him, that worthy could have
told him that this was true; that the whole glassful, if swallowed,
would, ere long, have rendered him insensible, and that what he had
already taken was enough to do him considerable damage.

As he walked onward, he became rapidly worse; the people and the streets
seemed to swim before him; an intense desire to sleep overpowered every
other feeling, and at last, turning into a dark entry, he lay down and
pillowed his head on a door-step.  Here he was found by a policeman; a
stretcher was fetched, and he was conveyed to the station as "drunk and
incapable!"

When brought before the Inspector the following morning, shame and
reckless despair were the tenants of his breast.  Those tenants were not
expelled, but rather confirmed in possession, when the Inspector--after
numerous questions, to which Miles returned vague unsatisfactory
replies--adopted the role of the faithful friend, and gave him a great
deal of paternal advice, especially with reference to the avoidance of
strong drink and bad companions.

Miles had the wisdom, however, to conceal his feelings, and to take the
reproof and advice in good part.  Afterwards, on being set free, he met
a recruiting sergeant, who, regarding him as a suitable subject for the
service of her Majesty, immediately laid siege to him.  In his then
state of mind the siege was an easy one.  In short, he capitulated at
once and entered the Queen's service, under the name of John Miles.

We need scarcely say that his heart misgave him, that his conscience
condemned him, and that, do what he would, he could not shut out the
fact that his taking so hasty and irrevocable a step was a poor return
for all the care and anxiety of his parents in years gone by.  But, as
we have said, or hinted, Miles was one of those youths who, when they
have once made up their minds to a certain course of action, fancy that
they are bound to pursue it to the end.  Hence it was that he gave his
name as John Miles instead of Miles Milton, so that he might baffle any
inquiries as to what had become of him.

Once enlisted, he soon began to realise the fact that he was no longer a
free agent--at least not in the sense in which he had been so up to that
period of his life.  Constant drill was the order of the day for some
weeks; for there was a demand for more troops for Egypt at the time, and
regiments were being made up to their full strength as fast as possible.

During this period Miles saw little of his companions in arms
personally, save that group of recruits who were being "licked into
shape" along with him.  At first he was disappointed with these, for
most of them were shy, unlettered men; some, raw lads from the country;
and others, men who seemed to have been loafers before joining, and were
by no means attractive.

The drill-sergeant, however, was a good, though stern man, and soon
recognised the differences in character, aptitude, and willingness among
his raw recruits.  This man, whose name was Hardy, made a powerful
impression on our hero from the first; there was something so quiet and
even gentle about him, in spite of his firm and inflexible demands in
regard to the matters of drill and duty.  To please this man, Miles gave
himself heart and soul to his work, and was soon so efficient as to be
allowed to join the regiment.

And here he found, to his surprise and satisfaction, that the sergeant
and young soldier with whom he had travelled to Portsmouth, were members
of the company to which he was attached.  As we have said, Miles had
taken a great fancy at first sight to the young private, whose name was
William Armstrong.  Our hero was of an affectionate disposition, and
would have allowed his warm feelings to expend themselves on a dog
rather than have denied them free play.  No wonder, then, that he was
attracted by the handsome manly countenance and deferential manner of
Armstrong, who, although an uneducated youth, and reared in the lower
ranks of life, was gifted with those qualities of the true gentleman
which mere social position can neither bestow nor take away.  His
intellect also was of that active and vigorous fibre which cannot be
entirely repressed by the want of scholastic training.

The affection was mutual, for the contrasts and similarities of the two
men were alike calculated to draw them together.  Both were tall, broad,
square-shouldered, erect, and soldierly, yet, withal, modest as well in
demeanour as in feeling, and so exactly like to each other in size and
figure, and in the quiet gravity of their expressions, that they might
well have been taken for twin brothers.  When, in uniform, the two
strode along the streets of Portsmouth, people were apt to turn and look
at them, and think, no doubt, that with many such men in the British
army it would go hard with the foes of Old England!

The bond of union was still further strengthened by the fact that, while
the comparatively learned Miles was enthusiastic and communicative, the
unlettered Armstrong was inquisitive and receptive, fond of prying into
the nature of things, and always ready as well as competent to discuss--
not merely to _argue_.  Observe the distinction, good reader.
Discussion means the shaking of any subject into its component parts
with a desire to understand it.  Argument has come very much to signify
the enravelment of any subject with a view to the confusion and conquest
of an opponent.  Both young men abhorred the latter and liked the
former.  Hence much of their harmony and friendship.

"Will you come with me up town?" said Armstrong to Miles one day, as he
was about to quit the barrack-room.  "I'm going to see if there's any
news of my Emmy."

"I did not know you expected her," said Miles.  "Come along, I'm ready."

"I don't expect her yet," returned Armstrong, as they left the barracks;
"I only look for a letter, because it was on Wednesday that I wrote
telling her of my going to Egypt, and she can scarce have had time to
get ready to come down, poor girl!  In fact I am going to engage a room
for her.  By the way, I heard this morning that there's to be another
draft for Egypt, so you'll have a chance to go."

"I'm rejoiced to hear it," returned Miles; "for, to say the truth, I had
been growing envious of your good fortune in being ordered on active
service."

"Hooroo, Armstrong, where away now?" cried an unmistakably Irish voice,
as a smart little soldier crossed the street to them, and was introduced
to Miles as Corporal Flynn, belonging to another company in his own
regiment.

"My blissin' on ye, Miles.  John, is it?"

"Yes, John," replied our hero, much amused at the free-and-easy address
of the little corporal.

"Well, John Miles," he said, "I don't know whether ye'll laugh or cry
whin I tell ye that you'll likely be warned this evenin' for the draft
that's goin' to Aigypt."

"I certainly won't cry," returned Miles, with a laugh.  Yet the news
brought a sudden feeling into his breast which was strongly allied to
the opposite of laughter, for the thought of parting from father and
mother without bidding them farewell fell upon his spirit with crushing
weight; but, like too many men who know they are about to do wrong,
Miles hardened his heart with the delusive argument that, having fairly
taken the step, it was impossible for him now to retrace it.  He knew--
at least he thought--that there was still the possibility of being
bought off, and that his stern father would only be too glad to help
him.  He also knew that at least he had time to write and let them know
his circumstances, so that they might run down to Portsmouth and bid him
good-bye; but he had taken the bit in his teeth, and now he resolved to
abide the consequences.

Turning from his companions while they conversed, he looked into a
shop-window.

"Your chum's in the blues," said the lively corporal, in a lower voice.

"Young fellows are often in that state after joining, ain't they?"
returned Armstrong.

"True for ye--an' more shame to them, whin they ought to be as proud as
paycocks at wearin' her gracious Majesty's uniform.  But good luck to
'ee!  I must be off, for I'm bound for Aigypt mesilf."

"I am glad that I shall have the chance of seeing your wife, for I've
been much interested in her since your friend Sergeant Gilroy told me
about her," said Miles, as they resumed their walk.  "Surely it is hard
of them to refuse to let her go with the regiment."

"Well, it _is_ hard," returned the young soldier; "but after all I
cannot find fault with the powers that be, for I married with my eyes
open.  I knew the rule that those who marry without leave must leave
their wives at home, for only a certain number of families can go abroad
with a regiment--and that only in peace-time."

"It might have been well," continued Armstrong, slowly, while a sad
expression clouded his face for a few moments, "if I had waited, and
many a time has my conscience smitten me for my haste.  But what could I
do?  Emmy most unaccountably fell in love wi' me--_thank God_! for I do
think that the greatest earthly blessing that can be given to mortal man
is the love of a gentle, true-hearted girl.  The wealth of the Indies
cannot purchase that, and nothing else in life can supply the want of
it.  Can you wonder that I grasped the treasure when within my reach?"

"I certainly cannot; and as certainly I do not blame you," returned the
sympathetic Miles.

"Of course I fell in love with Emmy," continued the soldier, with a
slightly confused look.  "I could no more help that than I could help
growing up.  Could I?"

"Certainly not," said Miles.

"Well, you see," continued his friend, "as the affair was arranged in
heaven, according to general belief, what was I that I should resist?
You see, Emmy's father, who's a well-to-do farmer, was willing, and we
never gave a thought to Egypt or the war at the time.  She will be well
looked after while I'm away, and I'll send her every penny of my pay
that I can spare, but--"

He stopped abruptly, and Miles, respecting his feelings, remarked, by
way of changing the subject, that, the pay of a private soldier being so
small, very little could be saved out of that.

"Not much," assented his comrade; "but, little as it is, we can increase
it in various ways.  For one thing, I have given up smoking.  That will
save a little; though, to say truth, I have never expended much on
baccy.  Then I have joined Miss Robinson's Temperance Band--"

"Strange how often that lady's name has been in my ears since I came to
Portsmouth!" said Miles.

"Not so strange after all," returned Armstrong, "when one reflects that
she has been the means of almost changing the character of the town
within the last few years--as far at least as concerns the condition of
soldiers, as well as many of the poorer classes among its inhabitants--
so Sergeant Gilroy tells me."

As some of the information given by Sergeant Gilroy to the young soldier
may be interesting to many readers, we quote a few of his own words.

"Why, some years ago," he said, "the soldiers' wives, mothers, and
sisters who came down here to see the poor fellows set sail for foreign
parts, found it almost impossible to obtain lodgings, except in
drinking-houses which no respectable woman could enter.  Some poor women
even preferred to spend a winter night under railway arches, or some
such shelter, rather than enter these places.  And soldiers out of
barracks had nowhere else to go to for amusement, while sailors on leave
had to spend their nights in them or walk the streets.  Now all that is
changed.  The Soldiers' Institute supplies 140 beds, and furnishes board
and lodging to our sisters and wives at the lowest possible rates,
besides reception-rooms where we can meet our friends; a splendid
reading-room, where we find newspapers and magazines, and can write our
letters, if we like, in peace and quiet; a bar where tea and coffee,
bread and butter, buns, etcetera, can be had at all reasonable hours for
a mere trifle; a coffee and smoking room, opening out of which are two
billiard-rooms, and beyond these a garden, where we can get on the flat
roof of a house and watch the arrival and departure of shipping.  There
is a small charge to billiard-players, which pays all expenses of the
tables, so that not a penny of the Institute funds is spent on the
games.  Of course no gambling is allowed in any of Miss Robinson's
Institutes.  Then there are Bible-class rooms, and women's work-rooms,
and a lending library, and bathrooms, and a great hall, big enough to
hold a thousand people, where there are held temperance meetings,
lectures with dissolving views, entertainments, and `tea-fights,' and
Sunday services.  No wonder that, with such an agency at work for the
glory of God and the good of men, Portsmouth is almost a new place.
Indeed, although Miss Robinson met with powerful opposition at first
from the powers that be, her Institute is now heartily recognised and
encouraged in every way at the Horse Guards.  Indeed, it has recently
been visited by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, and
highly approved of by these and other grandees."

While the two soldiers were chatting about the past and present of the
Institute they arrived at its door.

"Here we are.  Come into the reception-room, Miles, while I make inquiry
about my letters."

They entered the house as he spoke.  The reception-room is on the right
of the passage.  Armstrong opened the door and looked in, but, instead
of advancing, he stood transfixed, gazing before him open-mouthed as
though he had seen a spectre, for there, in front of the fire, sat a
beautiful, refined-looking girl, with golden hair and blue eyes, gazing
pensively at the flickering flames.

Miles was not kept long in suspense as to who she was.

"Emmy!"

"Oh, Willie!"

These were exclamations which would have revealed all in a moment, even
though Emmy had not sprung up and rushed into Willie's open arms.  How
she ever emerged from the embrace of those arms with unbroken bones is a
mystery which cannot be solved, but she did emerge in safety, and with
some confusion on observing that Miles had witnessed the incident with
admiring gaze!

"Never mind him, Emmy," said the young soldier, laughing; "he's a good
friend, a comrade.  Shake hands with him."

The action, and the ease of manner with which Emmy obeyed, proved that
grace and small hands are not altogether dependent on rank or station.

"Excuse me," said Miles, after a few words of salutation; "I'll go and
have a look at the library."

So saying he quitted the room, leaving the young couple alone; for there
chanced to be no other visitors to the reception-room at the time.  In
the lobby he found several soldiers and a couple of sailors enjoying
coffee at the bar, and was about to join them when a man came forward
whose dress was that of a civilian, though his bearing proclaimed him a
soldier.

"Hallo, Brown," exclaimed one of the soldiers, "d'ye know that a
troop-ship has just come in!"

"Know it? of course I do; you may trust the people of this house to be
first in hearing such news."

"Mr Tufnell told me of it.  I'm just going down to the jetty to boil
the kettle for them."

As he spoke, two ladies of the Institute descended the broad staircase,
each with a basket on her arm.

They entered into conversation for a few minutes with the soldiers at
the bar, and it was abundantly evident to Miles, from the kindly tone of
the former and the respectful air of the latter, that they were familiar
acquaintances, and on the best of terms.

"Are you all ready, Brown?" asked one of the ladies of the soldier-like
civilian, whom we have already mentioned.

"All ready, Miss; a man has already gone to order the bread and butter
and light the fire.  I hear the vessel is crowded, so we may expect a
full house to-night."

Miles pricked up his ears on hearing this, and when Brown went out,
leaving the two ladies to finish their conversation with the soldiers,
he followed him.

"Pardon me," he said, on overtaking the man.  "Did I understand
correctly that a troop-ship has just arrived?"

"Right," said Brown.  "I am just going down to the embarkation jetty to
get coffee ready for the men.  You seem to have joined but a short time,
apparently, for though I am familiar with your uniform I have not seen
yourself before."

"True, it is not long since I joined, and this is my first visit to the
Institute."

"I hope it won't be the last, friend," returned Brown heartily.  "Every
soldier is welcome there, and, for the matter of that, so is every
sailor and marine."

"I have heard as much.  May I accompany you to this jetty to see the
troops arrive, and this coffee business that you speak of?"

"You may, and welcome," said Brown, leading his companion through the
town in the direction of the docks, and chatting, as they walked along,
about the army and navy; about his own experiences in the former; and
about the condition of soldiers at the present time as contrasted with
that of the days gone by.



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE EMBARKATION JETTY--AND NIPPED IN THE BUD.

Bronzed faces under white helmets crowded the ports and bulwarks of the
great white leviathan of the deep--the troop-ship _Orontes_--as she
steamed slowly and cautiously up to the embarkation jetty in Portsmouth
harbour.

On the jetty itself a few anxious wives, mothers, and sisters stood
eagerly scanning the sea of faces, in the almost hopeless endeavour to
distinguish those for which they sought.  Yet ever and anon an
exclamation on the jetty, and an answering wave of an arm on the
troop-ship, told that some at least of the anxious ones had been
successful in the search.

"Don't they look weather-beaten?" remarked Miles to his companion.

"Sure it's more like sun-dried they are," answered a voice at his side.
Brown had gone to the shed to prepare his coffee and bread against the
landing of the troops, and a stout Irishwoman had taken his place.
Close to her stood the two ladies from the Institute with baskets on
their arms.

"You are right," returned Miles, with a smile; "they look like men who
have seen service.  Is your husband among them?"

"Faix, I'd be sorprised if he _was_," returned the woman; "for I left
him in owld Ireland, in the only landed property he iver held in this
world--six futt by two, an' five deep.  He's been in possession six
years now, an' it wouldn't be aisy to drive him out o' that, anyhow.
No, it's my son Terence I've come to look afther.  Och! there he is!
Look, look, that's him close by the funnel!  Don't ye see 'im?  Blissins
on his good-lookin' face!  Hooroo!  Terence--Terence Flynn, don't ye
recognise yer owld mother?  Sure an' he does, though we haven't met for
tin year.  My! hasn't he got the hair on his lips too--an' his cheeks
are like shoe-leather--my darlint!"

As the enthusiastic mother spoke in the tones of a public orator, there
was a general laugh among those who were nearest to her; but she was
forgotten immediately, for all were too deeply intent on their own
interests to pay much regard to each other just then.

The great vessel was slow in getting alongside and making fast to the
jetty--slow at least in the estimation of the impatient--for although
she might leap and career grandly in wanton playfulness while on her
native billows, in port a careless touch from her ponderous sides would
have crushed part of the jetty into fragments.  Miles therefore had
ample time to look about him at the various groups around.

One young woman specially attracted his attention, for she stood apart
from every one, and seemed scarcely able to stand because of weakness.
She was young and good-looking.  Her face, which was deadly pale,
contrasted strongly with her glossy raven-black hair, and the character
of her dress denoted extreme poverty.

The ladies from the Institute had also observed this poor girl, and one
of them, going to her side, quietly addressed her.  Miles, from the
position in which he stood, could not avoid overhearing what was said.

"Yes, Miss, I expect my husband," said the woman in answer to a
question.  "He's coming home on sick-leave.  I had a letter from him a
good while ago saying he was coming home in the _Orontes_."

"I hope you will find that the sea air has done him good," said the
lady, in that tone of unobtrusive sympathy which is so powerfully
attractive,--especially to those who are in trouble.  "A sea voyage
frequently has a wonderful effect in restoring invalids.  What is his
name?"

"Martin--Fred Martin.  He's a corporal now."

"You have not recognised him yet, I suppose?"

"Not yet, Miss," answered Mrs Martin, with an anxious look, and
shivering slightly as she drew a thin worn shawl of many patches closer
round her shoulders.  "But he wouldn't expect me to meet him, you see,
knowing that I'm so poor, and live far from Portsmouth.  But I was so
anxious, you see, Miss, that our kind Vicar gave me enough money to come
down."

"Where did you spend the night?" asked the lady, quickly.

The poor woman hesitated, and at last said she had spent the night
walking about the streets.

"You see, Miss," she explained apologetically, "I didn't know a soul in
the town, and I couldn't a-bear to go into any o' the public-houses;
besides, I had no money, for the journey down took nearly all of it."

"Oh, I am so sorry that you didn't know of our Institute," said the
lady, with much sympathy in voice and look; "for we provide
accommodation for soldiers' wives who come, like you, to meet their
husbands returning from abroad, and we charge little, or even nothing,
if they are too poor to pay."

"Indeed, Miss!  I wish I had known of it.  But in the morning I had the
luck to meet a policeman who directed me to a coffee-tavern in a place
called Nobbs Lane--you'll not know it, Miss, for it's in a very poor
part o' the town--where I got a breakfast of as much hot pea-soup and
bread as I could eat for three-ha'pence, an' had a good rest beside the
fire too.  They told me it was kept by a Miss Robinson.  God bless her
whoever she is! for I do believe I should have been dead by now if I
hadn't got the rest and the breakfast."

The woman shivered again as she spoke, and drew the thin shawl still
closer, for a sharp east wind was blowing over the jetty at the time.

"Come with me; you are cold.  I know Nobbs Lane well.  We have a shed
and fire here on the jetty to shelter people while waiting.  There, you
need not fear to miss your husband, for the men won't land for a long
time yet."

"May I follow you, madam?" said Miles, stepping forward and touching his
cap in what he supposed to be the deferential manner of a private
soldier.  "I am interested in your work, and would like to see the shed
you speak of."

The lady looked up quickly at the tall young soldier who thus addressed
her.

"I saw you in the lobby of the Institute this morning, did I not?"

"You did, madam.  I was waiting for a friend who is a frequenter of the
Institute.  One of your own people brought me down here to see the
arrival of the _Orontes_, and the coffee-shed; but I have lost him in
the crowd, and know not where the shed is."

"Here it is," returned the lady, pointing to an iron structure just
behind them.  "You will find Mr Brown there busy with the coffee, and
that small shed beside it is the shelter-room.  You are welcome to
inspect all our buildings at any time."

So saying, the lady led Mrs Martin into the shed last referred to, and
Miles followed her.

There was a small stove, in the solitary iron room of which the shed
consisted, which diffused a genial warmth around.  Several soldiers'
wives and female relatives were seated beside it, engaged in quieting
refractory infants, or fitting a few woollen garments on children of
various ages.  These garments had been brought from the Institute,
chiefly for the purpose of supplying the wives and children returning
from warmer climes to England; and one of them, a thick knitted shawl,
was immediately presented to Mrs Martin as a gift, and placed round her
shoulders by the lady's own hands.

"You are _very_ kind, Miss," she said, an unbidden tear rolling down her
cheek as she surveyed the garment and folded it over her breast.

"Have you any children?" asked the lady.

"None.  We had one--a dear baby boy," answered the young wife sadly,
"born after his father left England.  God took him home when he was two
years old.  His father never saw him; but we shall all meet again," she
added, brightly, "in the better land."

"Ah! it makes me glad to hear you say that God took him _home_.  Only
the spirit of Jesus could make you regard heaven as the home where you
are all to meet again.  Now I would advise you to sit here and keep warm
till I go and make inquiry about your husband.  It is quite possible,
you know, that he may be in the sick bay, and they won't let any one on
board till the vessel is made fast.  You are quite sure, I suppose, that
it was the _Orontes_ in which your husband said he was coming?"

"Yes, quite sure."

The lady had asked the question because a vague fear possessed her
regarding the cause of the soldier's not having been seen looking
eagerly over the side like the other men.

Hurrying from the shed, with her basket on her arm, she made for the
gangway, which had just been placed in position.  She was accompanied by
her companion, also carrying her basket.  Miles took the liberty of
following them closely, but not obviously, for he formed only one of a
stream of men and women who pushed on board the instant that permission
was given.

While one of the ladies went in search of one of the chief officers, the
other quietly and unobtrusively advanced among the returning warriors,
and, opening her basket, drew therefrom and offered to each soldier an
envelope containing one or two booklets and texts, and a hearty
invitation to make free use of the Soldiers' Institute during their stay
in Portsmouth.

A most bewildering scene was presented on the deck of that great white
vessel.  There were hundreds of soldiers in her, returning home after
longer or shorter absences in China, India, the Cape, and other far-away
parts of the earth.  Some were stalwart and bronzed by the southern sun;
others were gaunt, weak, and cadaverous, from the effect of sickness,
exposure, or wounds; but all were more or less excited at having once
again set eyes on Old England, and at the near prospect of once more
embracing wives, mothers, and sweethearts, and meeting with old friends.
The continual noise of manly voices hailing, exclaiming, chaffing, or
conversing, and the general babel of sounds is indescribable.  To Miles
Milton, who had never before even imagined anything of the sort, it
seemed more like a vivid dream than a reality.  He became so bewildered
with trying to attend to everything at once that he lost sight of the
shorter of the ladies, whom he was following, but, pushing ahead, soon
found her again in the midst of a group of old friends--though still
young soldiers--who had known the Institute before leaving for foreign
service, and were eagerly inquiring after the health of Miss Robinson,
and Tufnell the manager, and others.

During his progress through this bustling scene, Miles observed that the
soldiers invariably received the gifts from the lady with respect, and,
many of them, with hearty expressions of thanks, while a few stopped her
to speak about the contents of the envelopes.  So numerous were the men
that the work had to be done with business-like celerity, but the
visitor was experienced.  While wasting no time in useless delay, she
never hurried her movements, or refused to stop and speak, or forced her
way through the moving throng.  Almost unobserved, save by the men who
chanced to be next to her, she glided in and out amongst them like a
spirit of light--which, in the highest sense, she was--intent on her
beneficent mission.  Her sole aim was to save the men from the
tremendous dangers that awaited them on landing in Portsmouth, and bring
them under Christian influence.

Those dangers may be imagined when it is told that soldiers returning
from abroad are often in possession of large sums of money, and that
harpies of all kinds are eagerly waiting to plunder them on their
arrival.  On one occasion a regiment came home, and in a few days
squandered three thousand pounds in Portsmouth.  Much more might be said
on this point, but enough has been indicated to move thoughtful minds--
and our story waits.

Suddenly the attention of Miles, and every one near him, was attracted
by the loud Hibernian yell of a female voice exclaiming--

"Oh, Terence, me darlin' son, here ye are; an' is it yersilf lookin'
purtier a long way than the day ye left me; an' niver so much as a
scratch on yer face for all the wars ye've bin in--bad luck to thim!"

Need we say that this was Mrs Flynn?  In her anxiety to meet her son
she had run against innumerable men and women, who remonstrated with her
variously, according to temperament, without, however, the slightest
effect.  Her wild career was not checked until she had flung herself
into the arms of a tall, stalwart trooper with drooping moustache, who
would have done credit to any nationality under the sun, and whose
enthusiasm at the happy meeting with his mother was almost as
demonstrative as her own, but more dignified.

Others there were, however, whose case was very different.  One who came
there to meet the strong healthy man, to whom she had said good-bye at
the same spot several years before, received him back a worn and wasted
invalid, upright still with the martial air of discipline, but feeble,
and with something like the stamp of death upon his brow.  Another woman
found her son, strong indeed and healthy, as of yore, but with an empty
sleeve where his right arm should have been--his days of warfare over
before his earthly sun had reached the zenith!

Whilst Miles was taking note of these things, and moralising in spite of
his distaste just then to that phase of mental occupation, the other
lady of the Institute appeared and spoke hurriedly to her companion.

"Go," she said, "tell Mrs Martin that her husband is _not_ on board the
_Orontes_.  Let Tufnell, if he is at the shed, or our missionary, take
her up to the Institute without delay.  Let them take this note to Miss
Robinson at the same time."

The younger lady looked inquiringly at her companion, but the latter
pushed on hurriedly and was soon lost in the crowd, so she went at once
on shore to obey her instructions.

Being thus left to look after himself, Miles went about gazing at the
varied, interesting, and curious scenes that the vessel presented.  No
one took any notice of him, for he was only one soldier among hundreds,
and so many people from the shore had been admitted by that time that
strange faces attracted no attention.

We have referred chiefly to soldiers' friends, but these, after all,
formed a small minority of the visitors, many of whom were tradesmen of
the town--tailors, shoemakers, and vendors of fancy articles--who had
come down with their wares to tempt the returning voyagers to part with
their superfluous cash.  Even in the midst of all the pushing and
confusion, one man was seen trying on a pair of boots; near to him was a
sailor, carefully inspecting a tailor's book of patterns with a view to
shore-going clothes; while another, more prompt in action, was already
being measured for a suit of the same.

Descending to the 'tween-decks, our hero found that the confusion and
noise there were naturally greater, the space being more limited and the
noise confined.  There was the addition of bad air and disagreeable
smells here; and Miles could not help reflecting on the prospect before
him of long voyages under cramped circumstances, in the midst of similar
surroundings.  But, being young and enthusiastic, he whispered to
himself that he was not particular, and was ready to "rough it" in his
country's cause!

In a remarkably dark region to which he penetrated, he found himself in
the women's quarters, the disagreeables of which were increased by the
cries of discontented children, and the yells of inconsolable infants--
some of whom had first seen the light of this world in the sad twilight
of 'tween-decks!  Shrinking from that locality, Miles pursued his
investigations, and gradually became aware that sundry parrots and other
pets which the soldiers and sailors had brought home were adding their
notes of discord to the chorus of sounds.

While he was looking at, and attempting to pat, a small monkey, which
received his advances with looks of astonished indignation, he became
conscious of the fact that a number of eyes were looking down on him
through a crevice at the top of a partition close to his side.

"Who are these?" he asked of a sailor, who stood near him.

"Why, them are the long-term men."

"I suppose you mean prisoners?"

"Yes; that's about it," replied the tar.  "Soldiers as has committed
murder--or suthin' o' that sort--an' got twenty year or more for all I
knows.  The other fellers further on there, in chains, is short-term
men.  Bin an' done suthin' or other not quite so bad, I suppose."

Miles advanced "further on," and found eight men seated on the deck and
leaning against the bulkhead.  If his attention had not been drawn to
them, he might have supposed they were merely resting, but a closer
glance showed that they were all chained to an iron bar.  They did not
seem very different from the other men around them, save that they were,
most of them, stern and silent.

A powerful feeling of compassion rose in our hero's breast as he looked
at these moral wrecks of humanity; for their characters and prospects
were ruined, though their physique was not much impaired.  It seemed to
him such an awful home-coming, after, perhaps, long years of absence,
thus, in the midst of all the bustle and joy of meetings and of pleasant
anticipations, to be waiting there for the arrival of the prison-van,
and looking forward to years of imprisonment instead of reunion with
friends and kindred.

At sight of them a thought sprang irresistibly into our hero's mind,
"This is the result of wrong-doing!"

His conscience was uncomfortably active and faithful that morning.
Somehow it pointed out to him that wrong-doing was a long ladder; that
the chained criminals before him had reached the foot; and that he stood
on the topmost rung.  That was all the difference between them and
himself--a difference of degree, not of principle.

Pushing his way a little closer to these men, he found that his was not
the only heart that pitied them.  His friend, the younger lady, was
there speaking to them.  He could not hear what she said, for the noise
drowned her voice; but her earnest, eager look and her gesticulations
told well enough that she was pointing them to the Saviour of sinners--
with what effect, of course, he could not tell, but it was evident that
the prisoners at least gave her their attention.

Leaving her thus engaged, Miles continued for a considerable time his
progress through the ship.  Afterwards he observed, by a movement among
the men, that a detachment was about to land.  Indeed he found that some
of the soldiers had already landed, and were making their way to the
coffee-shed.

Following these quickly to the same place, he found that innumerable
cups of hot coffee and solid slices of bread and butter were being
served out as fast as they could be filled and cut.  A large hole or
window opened in the side of the shed, the shutter of which was hinged
at the bottom, and when let down formed a convenient counter.

Behind this counter stood the two ubiquitous ladies of the Institute
acting the part of barmaids, as if to the manner born, and with the same
business-like, active, yet modest, ready-for-anything air which marked
all their proceedings.

And truly their post was no sinecure.  To supply the demands of hundreds
of hungry and thirsty warriors was not child's-play.  Inside the shed,
Miles found his friend Brown busy with a mighty caldron of hot water,
numerous packets of coffee, and immense quantities of sugar and
preserved milk.  Brown was the fountain-head.  The ladies were the
distributing pipes--if we may say so; and although the fountain produced
can after can of the coveted liquid with amazing rapidity, and with a
prodigality of material that would have made the hair of a private
housewife stand on end, it was barely possible to keep pace with the
demand.

At a large table one of the missionaries of the Institute cut up and
buttered loaves at a rate which gave the impression that he was a
conjurer engaged in a species of sleight-of-hand.  The butter, however,
troubled him, for, the weather being cold, it was hard, and would not
spread easily.  To overcome this he put a pound or so of it on a plate
beside the boiler-fire to soften.  Unfortunately, he temporarily forgot
it, and on afterwards going for it, found that it had been reduced to a
yellow liquid.  However, hungry soldiers, rejoicing in the fact of
having at last reached home, are not particular.  Some of them,
unaccustomed, no doubt, to be served by ladies, asked for their supply
deferentially, accepted it politely, and drank it with additional
appreciation.

"We want more, Brown," said one of the ladies, glancing back over her
shoulder as she poured out the last drop from her large jug; "and more
buns and bread, please."

"Here you are, Miss," cried Brown, who was warm by that time in spite of
the weather, as he bore his brimming and steaming pitcher to the
window--or hole in the wall--and replenished the jugs.  "The buns are
all done, an' the bread won't hold out long, but I've sent for more; it
won't be long.  I see we shall need several more brews," he added, as he
turned again towards the inexhaustible boiler.

"Shall I assist you?" said Miles, stepping into the shed and seizing a
loaf and a knife.

"Thank you.  Go ahead," said Brown.

"Put another lump of butter near the fire," said the missionary to our
hero; "not too close.  I melted the last lump altogether."

"A cup o' coffee for my Terence, an' wan for mesilf, my dear," exclaimed
a loud voice outside.

There was no mistaking the speaker.  Some of the men who crowded round
the counter laughed, others partially choked, when the strapping Terence
said in a hoarse whisper, "Whist, mother, be civil; don't ye see that
it's ladies, no less, is sarvin' of us?"

"Please, ma'am, can I 'ave some coffee?" asked a modest soldier's wife,
who looked pale and weary after the long voyage, with three children to
look after.

A cup was promptly supplied, and three of the newly-arrived buns stopped
the mouths of her clamorous offspring.

"Can ye give me a cup o' tea?" demanded another soldier's wife, who was
neither so polite nor so young as the previous applicant.

It is probable that the ladies did not observe the nature of her demand,
else they would doubtless have explained that they had no tea, but a cup
of coffee was silently handed to her.

"Ah! this is _real_ home-tea, this is," she said, smacking her lips
after the first sip.  "A mighty difference 'tween this an' what we've
bin used to in the ship."

"Yes, indeed," assented her companion.  Whether it was tea she had been
accustomed to drink on board the troop-ship we cannot tell, but probably
she was correct as to the "mighty difference."  It may be that the
beverages supplied in foreign lands had somewhat damaged the power of
discrimination as to matters of taste in these soldiers' wives.  At all
events an incident which occurred about the same time justifies this
belief.

"Mr Miles," said the missionary, pausing a moment to wipe his brow in
the midst of his labours, "will you fetch the butter now?"

Miles turned to obey with alacrity--with too much alacrity, indeed, for
in his haste he knocked the plate over, and sent the lump of butter into
the last prepared "brew" of coffee!

"Hallo!  I say!" exclaimed Brown, in consternation.  "More coffee,
Brown," demanded the ladies simultaneously, at that inauspicious moment.

"Yes, Miss, I--I'm coming--directly," cried Brown.

"Do be quick, please!"

"What's to be done?" said Brown, making futile endeavours to fish out
the slippery mass with the stirring-stick.

"Shove it down and stir it well about," suggested Miles.

Whether conscience was inoperative at that moment we know not, but Brown
acted on the suggestion, and briskly amalgamated the butter with the
coffee, while the crowd at the port-hole politely but continuously
demanded more.

"Don't be in a 'urry, Tom," cried a corporal, removing his pith helmet
in order to run his fingers through his hair; "it's a 'eavenly state o'
things now to what it was a few years ago, w'en we an' our poor wives
'ad to sit 'ere for hours in the heat or cold, wet or dry, without
shelter, or a morsel to eat, or a drop to drink, till we got away up
town to the grog-shops."

"Well, this _is_ civilisation at last!" remarked a handsome and hearty
young fellow, who had apparently been ignorant of the treat in store for
him, and who sauntered up to the shed just as the butter-brew was
beginning to be served out.

"Why, I declare, it's chocolate!" exclaimed one of the women, who had
been already served with a cup, and had resolved to "go in," as she
said, for another pennyworth.

"So it is.  My! ain't it nice?" said her companion, smacking her lips.

Whether the soldiers fell into the same mistake, or were too polite to
take notice of it, we cannot tell, for they drank it without comment,
and with evident satisfaction, like men of simple tastes and uncritical
minds.

We turn now to a very different scene.

In one of the private sitting-rooms of the Institute sat poor young Mrs
Martin, the very embodiment of blank despair.  The terrible truth that
her husband had died, and been buried at sea, had been gently and
tenderly broken to her by Miss Robinson.

At first the poor girl could not--would not--believe it.  Then, as the
truth gradually forced itself into her brain, she subsided into a
tearless, expressionless, state of quiescence that seemed to indicate a
mind unhinged.  In this state she remained for some time, apparently
unconscious of the kind words of Christian love that were addressed to
her.

At last she seemed to rouse herself and gazed wildly round the room.

"Let me go," she said.  "I will find him somewhere.  Don't hinder me,
please."

"But you cannot go anywhere till you have had food and rest, dear
child," said her sympathetic comforter, laying her hand gently on the
girl's arm.  "Come with me."

She sought to lead her away, but the girl shook her off.

"No," she exclaimed, starting up hastily, so that the mass of her dark
hair fell loose upon her shoulders, contrasting forcibly with the dead
whiteness of her face and lips.  "No.  I cannot go with you.  Fred will
be getting impatient.  D'you think I'll ever believe it?  Dead and
buried in the sea?  Never!"

Even while she spoke, the gasp in her voice, and the pressure of both
hands on her poor heart, told very plainly that the young widow did
indeed believe it.

"Oh! may God Himself comfort you, dear child," said the lady, taking her
softly by the hand.  "Come--come with me."

Mrs Martin no longer refused.  Her spirit, which had flashed up for a
moment, seemed to collapse, and without another word of remonstrance she
meekly suffered herself to be guided to a private room, where she was
put to bed.

She never rose from that bed.  Friendless, and without means, she would
probably have perished in the streets, or in one of the dens of
Portsmouth, had she not been led to this refuge.  As it was, they nursed
her there, and did all that human skill and Christian love could devise;
but her heart was broken.  Towards the end she told them, in a faint
voice, that her Fred had been stationed at Alexandria, and that while
there he had been led to put his trust in the Saviour.  She knew nothing
of the details.  All these, and much more, she had expected to hear from
his own lips.

"But he will tell me all about it soon, thank God!" were the last words
she uttered as she turned her eyes gratefully on the loving strangers
who had found and cared for her in the dark day of her calamity.



CHAPTER FIVE.

DIFFICULTIES MET AND OVERCOME.

Miles and his friend Brown, after their work at the jetty, had chanced
to return to the Institute at the moment referred to in the last
chapter, when the poor young widow, having become resigned, had been led
through the passage to her bedroom.  Our hero happened to catch sight of
her face, and it made a very powerful impression on him--an impression
which was greatly deepened afterwards on hearing of her death.

In the reception-room he found Armstrong still in earnest conversation
with his wife.

"Hallo, Armstrong! still here?  Have you been sitting there since I left
you?" he asked, with a smile and look of surprise.

"Oh no!" answered his friend; "not all the time.  We have been out
walking about town, and we have had dinner here--an excellent feed, let
me tell you, and cheap too.  But where did you run off to?"

"Sit down and I'll tell you," said Miles.

Thereupon he related all about his day's experiences.  When he had
finished, Armstrong told him that his own prospect of testing the merits
of a troop-ship were pretty fair, as he was ordered for inspection on
the following day.

"So you see," continued the young soldier, "if you are accepted--as you
are sure to be--you and I will go out together in the same vessel."

"I'm glad to hear that, anyhow," returned Miles.

"And _I_ am very glad too," said little Emily, with a beaming smile,
"for Willie has told me about you, Mr Miles; and how you first met and
took a fancy to each other; and it _will_ be so nice to think that
there's somebody to care about my Willie when he is far away from me."

The little woman blushed and half-laughed, and nearly cried as she said
this, for she felt that it was rather a bold thing to say to a stranger,
and yet she had such a strong desire to mitigate her husband's
desolation when absent from her that she forcibly overcame her modesty.
"And I want you to do me a favour, Mr Miles," she added.

"I'll do it with pleasure," returned our gallant hero.

"I want you to call him Willie," said the little woman, blushing and
looking down.

"Certainly I will--if your husband permits me."

"You see," she continued, "I want him to keep familiar with the name
I've been used to call him--for comrades will call him Armstrong, I
suppose, and--"

"Oh!  Emmy," interrupted the soldier reproachfully, "do you think I
require to be _kept in remembrance_ of that name?  Won't your voice,
repeating it, haunt me day and night till the happy day when I meet you
again on the Portsmouth jetty, or may-hap in this very room?"

Miles thought, when he heard this speech, of the hoped-for meeting
between poor Mrs Martin and her Fred; and a feeling of profound sadness
crept over him as he reflected how many chances there were against their
ever again meeting in this world.  Naturally these thoughts turned his
mind to his own case.  His sinful haste in quitting home, and the agony
of his mother on finding that he was really gone, were more than ever
impressed on him, but again the fatal idea that what was done could not
be undone, coupled with pride and false shame, kept him firm to his
purpose.

That evening, in barracks, Miles was told by his company sergeant to
hold himself in readiness to appear before the doctor next morning for
inspection as to his physical fitness for active service in Egypt.

Our hero was by this time beginning to find out that the life of a
private soldier, into which he had rushed, was a very different thing
indeed from that of an officer--to which he had aspired.  Here again
pride came to his aid--in a certain sense,--for if it could not
reconcile him to his position, it at all events closed his mouth, and
made him resolve to bear the consequences of his act like a man.

In the morning he had to turn out before daylight, and with a small band
of men similarly situated, to muster in the drill-shed a little after
eight.  Thence they marched to the doctor's quarters.

It was an anxious ordeal for all of them; for, like most young soldiers,
they were enthusiastically anxious to go on active service, and there
was, of course, some uncertainty as to their passing the examination.

The first man called came out of the inspection room with a beaming
countenance, saying that he was "all right," which raised the hopes and
spirits of the rest; but the second appeared after inspection with a
woe-begone countenance which required no interpretation.  No reason was
given for his rejection; he was simply told that it would be better for
him not to go.

Miles was the third called.

As he presented himself, the doctor yawned vociferously, as if he felt
that the hour for such work was unreasonably early.  Then he looked at
his subject with the critical air of a farmer inspecting a prize ox.

"How old are you?" he asked.

"Nineteen, sir."

"Are you married?"

Miles smiled.

"Did you hear me?" asked the doctor sharply.  "You don't need to smile.
Many a boy as long-legged and as young as you is fool enough to marry.
Are you married?"

Miles flushed, looked suddenly stern, squared his shoulders, drew
himself up with an air that implied, "You won't catch _me_ tripping
again;" and said firmly, yet quite respectfully--

"No, sir."

The doctor here took another good look at his subject, with a meaning
twinkle in his eye, as if he felt that he had touched a tender point.
Then he felt his victim's pulse, sounded his chest, and ordered him to
strip.  Being apparently satisfied with the result of his examination,
he asked him if he "felt all right."

Reflecting that his mother had often told him he was made up of body,
soul, and spirit, and that in regard to the latter two he was rather
hazy, Miles felt strongly inclined for a moment to say, "Certainly not,"
but, thinking better of it, he answered, "Yes, sir," with decision.

"Have you anything to complain of?" asked the doctor.

The mind of our hero was what we may style rapidly reflective.  In
regard to the decrees of Fate, things in general, and his father's
conduct in particular, he had a decided wish to complain, but again he
laid restraint on himself and said, "No, sir."

"And do you wish to go to Egypt?"

"Yes, sir!" was answered with prompt decision.

"Then you may go," said the doctor, turning away with an air of a man
who dismisses a subject from his mind.

When all the men had thus passed the medical examination, those of them
who were accepted mustered their bags and kits before Captain Lacey,
commander of the company to which they were attached, and those who
wanted anything were allowed to draw it from the stores.

Captain Lacey was a fine specimen of a British soldier--grave, but kind
in expression and in heart; tall, handsome, powerful, about thirty years
of age, with that urbanity of manner which wins affection at first
sight, and that cool, quiet decision of character which inspires
unlimited confidence.

As the troop-ship which was to convey them to Egypt was to start sooner
than had been intended, there was little time for thought during the few
hours in England that remained to the regiment.  The men had to draw
their pith helmets, and fit the ornaments thereon; then go the
quartermaster's stores to be fitted with white clothing, after which
they had to parade before the Colonel, fully arrayed in the martial
habiliments which were needful in tropical climes.  Besides these
matters there were friends to be seen, in some cases relatives to be
parted from, and letters innumerable to be written.  Miles Milton was
among those who, on the last day in Portsmouth, attempted to write home.
He had been taken by Sergeant Gilroy the previous night to one of the
Institute entertainments in the great hall.  The Sergeant had tried to
induce him to go to the Bible-class with him, but Miles was in no mood
for that at the time, and he was greatly relieved to find that neither
the Sergeant nor any of the people of the Institute annoyed him by
thrusting religious matters on his attention.  Food, lodging, games,
library, baths, Bible-classes, prayer-meetings, entertainments were all
there to be used or let alone as he chose; perfect freedom of action
being one of the methods by which it was sought to render the place
attractive to the soldiers.

But although Miles at once refused to go to the class, he had no
objection to go to the entertainment.

It was a curious mixture of song, recitation, addresses, and readings,
in which many noble sentiments were uttered, and not a few humorous
anecdotes and incidents related.  It was presided over by Tufnell, the
manager, a soldierly-looking man, who had himself originally been in the
army, and who had, for many years, been Miss Robinson's right-hand man.
There could not have been fewer than a thousand people in the hall, a
large proportion of whom were red-coats and blue-jackets, the rest being
civilians; and the way in which these applauded the sentiments, laughed
at the humour, and rejoiced in the music, showed that the provision for
their amusement was thoroughly appreciated.

Whether it was the feeling of good-fellowship and sympathy that pervaded
the meeting, or some word that was dropped at a venture and found root
in his heart, Miles could not tell, but certain it is that at that
entertainment he formed the resolution to write home before leaving.
Not that he had yet repented of the step he had taken, but he was sorry
for the manner in which he had done so, and for allowing so much time to
elapse that now the opportunity of seeing his parents before starting
was lost.

As it was impossible for him to write his letter in the noise of the
barrack-room, he went off next day to the reading-room of the Institute,
and there, with no other sounds to disturb him than the deep breathing
of some studious red-coats, and the chirping pen of a comrade engaged
like himself, he began to write.

But his thoughts somehow would not work.  His pen would not write.  He
even fancied that it had a sort of objection to spell.  So it had, when
not properly guided by his hesitating hand.  The first part went
swimmingly enough:--

  "Dearest mother,
  I'm so sorry--"

But here he stopped, for the memory of his father's severity re-aroused
his indignation, and he felt some doubt as to whether he really was
sorry.  Then, under the impulse of this doubt, he wrote a long letter,
in imagination, in which he defended his conduct pretty warmly, on the
ground that he had been driven to it.

"Driven to what?" asked Something within him.  "To the course which I
have taken and am now defending," replied Something-else within him
hotly.

"Then the course was a wrong one, else you wouldn't have to defend it!"
rejoined the first Something.

"Well--yes--n-no, it wasn't," returned the second Something doggedly.

Before this internal dispute could be carried further, Miles was aroused
by a sudden burst of noisy voices, as if a lunatic asylum had been let
loose into the hall below.  Rising quickly, he hurried down with his
studious comrades to see what it could be all about.

"It's only another troop-ship come in, and they've all come up here
without giving us warning to get ready," said Tufnell, as he bustled
about, endeavouring to introduce order into what appeared to Miles to be
the reproduction of Babel, _minus_ the bricks.

The fact was that a troop-ship having arrived rather suddenly, a
sergeant had driven up in hot haste from the docks to make arrangements
for the reception of the soldiers' wives and children!

"Look sharp!" he cried, on entering the hall abruptly; "sixteen families
are on their way to you."

"All right; we can take 'em in," was the prompt reply; and orders were
given to set the food-producing machinery of the establishment instantly
in motion.  But almost before the preparation had fairly begun, the
advance-guard of the army, largely composed of infantry, burst upon them
like a thunder-clap, and continued to pour in like a torrent.  There
were men shouting, women chattering, tired children whining, and excited
children laughing; babies yelling or crowing miscellaneously; parrots
screaming; people running up and down stairs in search of dormitories;
plates and cups clattering at the bar, as the overwhelmed barmaids did
their best to appease the impatient and supply the hungry; while the
rumbling of control-wagons bringing up the baggage formed a sort of bass
accompaniment to the concert.

"You see, it varies with us a good deal," remarked Brown to Miles,
during a lucid interval, "Sometimes we are almost empty, a few hours
later we are overflowing.  It comes hard on the housekeeper, of course.
But we lay our account wi' that, and, do you know, it is wonderful what
can be done in trying circumstances, when we lay our account wi' them!--
Yes, Miss, it's all ready!" shouted the speaker, in reply to a soft
female voice that came down the wide staircase, as it were, over the
heads of the turbulent crowd.

In a moment he disappeared, and Tufnell stood, as if by magic, in his
place.

"Yes," said the manager, taking up his discourse where the other had
left off; "and in a few minutes you'll see that most of these wives and
children of the soldiers will be distributed through the house in their
bed-rooms, when our ladies will set to work to make acquaintance with
them; and then we'll open our stores of warm clothing, of which the poor
things, coming as they do from warm climates, are often nearly or quite
destitute."

"But where do you get these supplies from?" asked Miles.

"From kind-hearted Christians throughout the country, who send us gifts
of old and new garments, boots and shoes, shawls and socks, etcetera,
which we have always in readiness to meet sudden demands; and I may add
that the demands are pretty constant.  Brown told you just now that we
have varied experience.  I remember once we got a message from the
Assistant Quartermaster-General's office to ask how many women and
children we could accommodate, as a shipful was expected.  We replied
that we could take 140, and set to work with preparations.  After all,
only one woman came!  To-day we expected nobody, and--you see what we
have got!"

The genial countenance of the manager beamed with satisfaction.  It was
evident that "what he had got" did not at all discompose him, as he
hurried away to look after his flock, while the originator--the heart
and soul of all this--although confined to her room at that time with
spine complaint, and unable to take part in the active work, as she had
been wont to do in years gone by, heard in her chamber the softened
sound of the human storm, and was able to thank God that her Soldiers'
Institute was fulfilling its destiny.

"Hallo!  Miles!" exclaimed Armstrong, over the heads of the crowd; "I've
been looking for you everywhere.  D'you know we run a chance of being
late?  Come along, quick!"

Our hero, who, in his interest in the scene, had forgotten the flight of
time, hurried out after his comrade as the band struck up "Home, sweet
Home," and returned to barracks, utterly oblivious of the fact that he
had left the unfinished letter to his mother on the table in the
reading-room.



CHAPTER SIX.

THE UNFINISHED LETTER--TOO LATE!

Next morning young Milton--or, as he was called by his comrades, John
Miles--rose with the depressing thought that it was to be his last day
in England.  As he was dressing, it flashed across him that he had left
his unfinished letter on the reading-room table, and, concluding that it
would be swept away in the rush of people there--at all events that, not
having been folded or addressed, it could not be posted--his depression
was deepened.

The first thing that roused him to a better frame of mind was the smell
of tea!

Most people are more or less familiar with teapots; with the few
teaspoonfuls of the precious leaf which thrifty housekeepers put into
these pots, and the fragrant liquid that results.  But who among
civilians, (save the informed), can imagine a barrack-room teapot?

Open your ears, O ye thrifty ones! while we state a few facts, and there
will be no need to tell you to open your eyes.

Into the teapot which supplied Miles with his morning cup there was put,
for _one_ making, eight pounds of tea!--not ounces, observe, but
pounds,--twenty-nine pounds of sugar, and six gallons--an absolute
cowful--of milk!  The pot itself consisted of eight enormous coppers,
which were filled with boiling water to the brim.

"Yes, sir," remarked the military cook, who concocted the beverage, to a
speechless visitor one day; "it _is_ a pretty extensive brew; but then,
you see, we have a large family!"

A considerable portion of this large family was soon actively engaged in
preparation for immediate embarkation for Egypt.  Then the General made
the men a farewell speech.  It was a peculiar speech--not altogether
suited to cheer timid hearts, had any such been there, but admirably
adapted to British soldiers.

"Men," said he, "I am very glad to see you parade looking so well and
clean and comfortable and ready for active service.  You will be dirty
enough, sometimes, where you are going, for the country is hot and
unhealthy, and not over clean.  You will have hardships, hard times, and
plenty of hard work, as well as hard beds now and then, and very likely
the most of you will never come back again; but you would be unworthy of
the name of British soldiers if you allowed such thoughts to trouble
your minds.  I sincerely express the hope, however, that you will all
come home again safe and sound.  I have not the slightest doubt that
every man of you will do his duty in the field faithfully and well; but
I'm not so sure of your wisdom in camp and barracks, so I will give you
a word of advice.  There is far more danger in getting drunk in hot
countries than in England.  Let me advise you, then, not to get drunk;
and I would warn you particularly against the vile stuff they will offer
for sale in Egypt.  It is rank poison.  If you had stomachs lined with
brass you might perhaps stand it--not otherwise.  Then I would warn you
against the sun.  In Egypt the sun is sometimes like a fiery furnace.
Never expose yourself when you can avoid doing so, and, above all, never
go outside your tents without your helmets on.  If you do, you'll repent
it, and repentance will probably come too late.  I wish you all a
prosperous voyage, and may God keep you all!"

Delivered in a sharp, stern, unsentimental tone, this brief speech had
probably a much more powerful effect on the men than a more elaborate
exhortation would have had.  The impression was deepened by the remarks
of an old officer, who made a very brief, soldierly speech after the
General, winding up with the information that he had himself been in
Egypt, and assuring them that if they did not take care of themselves
there was little chance of a man of them returning alive!

"May you have a pleasant passage out," he said, in conclusion; "and, in
the name of the Portsmouth Division, I wish you victory in all your
battles, and a hearty good-bye."

The men who were not going away were then called on to give their
departing friends three cheers, which they did with right good-will.
Captain Lacey, who was in charge of the detachment, stepped to the
front, drew his sword, gave the order to shoulder arms, form fours,
right turn, quick march, and away they went with the united bands of two
regiments playing "The girl I left behind me!"

The girls they were about to leave behind them were awaiting them at the
barrack-gates, with a considerable sprinkling of somewhat older girls to
keep them company.  Many of the poor creatures were in tears for the men
whom they might never see again, and lumps in several manly throats
rather interfered with the parting cheer delivered by the detachment at
the gate.  Most of them accompanied the soldiers as far as the Dockyard
gates.  Emily Armstrong was not among them.  She had parted the previous
night from her husband at his earnest request, and returned by rail to
her father's house, there to await, as patiently as she might, the
return of her "Willie."

"Noble defenders of our country!" observed an enthusiastic citizen, as
they passed through the gates.

"Food for powder," remarked a sarcastic publican, as he turned away to
resume his special work of robbing powder of its food and his country of
its defenders.

Proceeding to the Embarkation Jetty, the detachment was marched on board
the troop-ship, where the men were at once told off to their respective
messes, and proceeded without delay to make themselves at home by taking
possession of their allotted portion of the huge white-painted fabric
that was to bear them over the waves to distant lands.

Taking off their belts and stowing them overhead, they got hold of their
bags, exchanged their smart uniforms for old suits of clothes, and
otherwise prepared themselves for the endurance of life on board a
transport.

To his great satisfaction, Miles found that several of the comrades for
whom he had by that time acquired a special liking, were appointed to
the same mess with himself.  Among these were his friend Willie
Armstrong, Sergeants Gilroy and Hardy, Corporal Flynn, a private named
Gaspard Redgrave, who was a capital musician, and had a magnificent
tenor voice, Robert Macleod, a big-boned Scotsman, and Moses Pyne, a
long-legged, cadaverous nondescript, who was generally credited with
being half-mad, though with a good deal of method in his madness, and
who was possessed of gentleness of spirit, and a cheerful readiness to
oblige, which seemed a flat contradiction of his personal appearance,
and rendered him a general favourite.

While these were busy arranging their quarters a soldier passed with
several books in his hand, which he had just received from one of the
ladies from the Institute.

"Hallo, Jack!" cried Moses Pyne; "have the ladies been aboard?"

"Of course they have.  They've been all over the ship already
distributin' books an' good-byes.  If you want to see 'em you'll have to
look sharp, Moses, for they're just goin' on shore."

"See 'em!" echoed Moses; "of course I wants to see 'em.  But for them,
I'd be--"

The rest of the sentence was lost in the clatter of Moses' feet as he
stumbled up the ladder-way.  Remembering his letter at that moment,
Miles followed him, and reached the gangway just as the visitors were
leaving.

"Excuse me," he said to one of them, stopping her.

"Oh!  I'm so glad to have found you," she said.

"I have been looking for you everywhere.  Miss Robinson sent you this
little parcel of books, with her best wishes, and hopes that you will
read them."

"Thanks, very much.  I will, with pleasure.  And will you do me a
favour?  I left a letter on the reading-room table--"

A sudden and peremptory order of some sort caused a rush which separated
Miles from the visitor and cut short the sentence, and the necessity for
the immediate departure of all visitors rendered its being finished
impossible.

But Miss Robinson's representative did not require to be told that a
forgotten letter could only want posting.  On returning, therefore, to
the Institute, she went at once to the reading-room, where she found no
letter!  Making inquiry, she learned from one of the maids that a sheet
of paper had been found with nothing on it but the words, "Dearest
mother, I'm so sorry"; and that the same had been duly conveyed to Miss
Robinson's room.  Hasting to the apartment of her friend, she knocked,
and was bidden enter.

"You have got an unfinished letter, it seems?" she began.

"Yes; here it is," interrupted Miss Robinson, handing the sheet to her
assistant.  "What a pity that it gives no clew to the writer--no
address!"

"I am pretty sure as to the writer," returned the other.  "It must have
been that fine-looking young soldier, John Miles, of whom we have seen a
little and heard so much from Sergeant Gilroy."

Hereupon an account was given of the hurried and interrupted meeting on
board the troop-ship; and the two ladies came to the conclusion that as
nothing was known about the parents or former residence of John Miles no
steps of any kind were possible.  The letter was therefore carefully put
by.

That same evening there alighted at the railway station in Portsmouth an
elderly lady with an expression of great anxiety on her countenance, and
much perturbation in her manner.

"Any luggage, ma'am?" asked a sympathetic porter--for railway porters
are sometimes more sympathetic than might be expected of men so much
accustomed to witness abrupt and tender partings.

"No; no luggage.  Yes--a small valise--in the carriage.  That's it."

"Four-wheeler, ma'am?"

"Eh! no--yes--yes."

"Where to, ma'am?" asked the sympathetic porter, after the lady was
seated in the cab.

"Where to?" echoed Mrs Milton, (for it was she), in great distress.
"Oh! where--where shall I drive to?"

"Really, ma'am, I couldn't say," answered the porter, with a modest
look.

"I've--I--my son!  My dear boy!  Where shall I go to inquire?  Oh! what
_shall_ I do?"

These would have been perplexing utterances even to an unsympathetic
man.

Turning away from the window, and looking up at the driver, the porter
said solemnly--

"To the best 'otel you know of, cabby, that's not too dear.  An' if
you've bin gifted with compassion, cabby, don't overcharge your fare."

Accepting the direction, and exercising his discretion as well as his
compassion, that intelligent cabby drove, strange to say, straight to an
hotel styled the "Officers' House," which is an offshoot of Miss
Robinson's Institute, and stands close beside it!

"A hofficer's lady," said the inventive cabby to the boy who opened the
door.  "Wants to putt up in this 'ere 'ouse."

When poor Mrs Milton had calmed her feelings sufficiently to admit of
her talking with some degree of coherence, she rang the bell and sent
for the landlord.

Mr Tufnell, who was landlord of the Officers' House, as well as manager
of the Institute, soon presented himself, and to him the poor lady
confided her sorrows.

"You see, landlord," she said, whimpering, "I don't know a soul in
Portsmouth; and--and--in fact I don't even know how I came to your
hotel, for I never heard of it before; but I think I must have been sent
here, for I see from your looks that you will help me."

"You may depend on my helping you to the best of my power, madam.  May I
ask what you would have me do?"

With much earnestness, and not a few tears, poor Mrs Milton related as
much of her son's story as she thought necessary.

"Well, you could not have come to a better place," said Tufnell, "for
Miss Robinson and all her helpers sympathise deeply with soldiers.  If
any one can find out about your son, _they_ can.  How were you led to
suspect that he had come to Portsmouth?"

"A friend suggested that he might possibly have done so.  Indeed, it
seems natural, considering my dear boy's desire to enter the army, and
the number of soldiers, who are always passing through this town."

"Well, I will go at once and make inquiry.  The name Milton is not
familiar to me, but so many come and go that we sometimes forget names."

When poor Mrs Milton was afterwards introduced to Miss Robinson, she
found her both sympathetic and anxious to do her utmost to gain
information about her missing son, but the mother's graphic descriptions
of him did not avail much.  The fact that he was young, tall, handsome,
curly-haired, etcetera, applied to so many of the defenders of the
country as to be scarcely distinctive enough; but when she spoke of "My
dear Miles," a new light was thrown on the matter.  She was told that a
young soldier answering to the description of her son had been there
recently, but that his surname--not his Christian name--was Miles.
Would she recognise his handwriting?

"Recognise it?" exclaimed Mrs Milton, in a blaze of sudden hope.  "Ay,
that I would; didn't I teach him every letter myself?  Didn't he insist
on making his down-strokes crooked? and wasn't my heart almost broken
over his square O's?"

While the poor mother was speaking, the unfinished letter was laid
before her, and the handwriting at once recognised.

"That's his!  Bless him!  And he's sorry.  Didn't I say he would be
sorry?  Didn't I tell his father so?  Darling Miles, I--"

Here the poor creature broke down, and wept at the thought of her
repentant son.  It was well, perhaps, that the blow was thus softened,
for she almost fell on the floor when her new friend told her, in the
gentlest possible manner, that Miles had that very day set sail for
Egypt.

They kept her at the Institute that night, however, and consoled her
much, as well as aroused her gratitude, by telling of the good men who
formed part of her son's regiment; and of the books and kind words that
had been bestowed on him at parting; and by making the most they could
of the good hope that the fighting in Egypt would soon be over, and that
her son would ere long return to her, God willing, sound and well.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

MILES BEGINS TO DISCOVER HIMSELF--HAS A FEW ROUGH EXPERIENCES--AND FALLS
INTO PEA-SOUP, SALT-WATER, AND LOVE.

While his mother was hunting for him in Portsmouth, Miles Milton was
cleaving his way through the watery highway of the world, at the rate of
fifteen knots.

He was at the time in that lowest condition of misery, mental and
physical, which is not unfrequently the result of "a chopping sea in the
Channel."  It seemed to him, just then, an unbelievable mystery how he
could, at any time, have experienced pleasure at the contemplation of
food!  The heaving of the great white ship was nothing to the heaving--
well, it may perhaps be wiser to refrain from particulars; but he felt
that the beating of the two thousand horse-power engines--more or less--
was child's-play to the throbbing of his brain!

"And this," he thought, in the bitterness of his soul, "this is what I
have sacrificed home, friends, position, prospects in life for!  This
is--soldiering!"

The merest shadow of the power to reason--if such a shadow had been
left--might have convinced him that that was _not_ soldiering; that, as
far as it went, it was not even sailoring!

"You're very bad, I fear," remarked a gentle voice at the side of his
hammock.

Miles looked round.  It was good-natured, lanky, cadaverous Moses Pyne.

"Who told you I was bad?" asked Miles savagely, putting a wrong--but too
true--interpretation on the word.

"The colour of your cheeks tells me, poor fellow!"

"Bah!" exclaimed Miles.  He was too sick to say more.  He might have
said less with advantage.

"Shall I fetch you some soup?" asked Moses, in the kindness of his
heart.  Moses, you see, was one of those lucky individuals who are born
with an incapacity to be sick at sea, and was utterly ignorant of the
cruelty he perpetrated.  "Or some lobscouse?" he added.

"Go away!" gasped Miles.

"A basin of--"

Miles exploded, literally as well as metaphorically, and Moses retired.

"Strange," thought that healthy soldier, as he stalked away on further
errands of mercy, stooping as he went to avoid beams--"strange that
Miles is so changeable in character.  I had come to think him a steady,
reliable sort of chap."

Puzzling over this difficulty, he advanced to the side of another
hammock, from which heavy groans were issuing.

"Are you very bad, corporal?" he asked in his usual tone of sympathy.

"Bad is it?" said Flynn.  "Och! it's worse nor bad I am!  Couldn't ye ax
the captin to heave-to for a--"

The suggestive influence of heaving-to was too much for Flynn.  He
pulled up dead.  After a few moments he groaned--

"Arrah! be off, Moses, av ye don't want my fist on yer nose."

"Extraordinary!" murmured the kindly man, as he removed to another
hammock, the occupant of which was differently constituted.

"Moses," he said, as the visitant approached.

"Yes, Gaspard," was the eager reply, "can I do anything for you?"

"Yes; if you'd go on deck, refresh yourself with a walk, and leave us
all alone, you'll con--fer--on--"

Gaspard ceased to speak; he had already spoken too much; and Moses Pyne,
still wondering, quietly took his advice.

But if the Channel was bad, the Bay of Biscay was, according to Flynn,
"far badder."

Before reaching that celebrated bay, however, most of the men had
recovered, and, with more or less lugubrious aspects and yellow-green
complexions, were staggering about, attending to their various duties.
No doubt their movements about the vessel were for some time
characterised by that disagreement between action and will which is
sometimes observed in feeble chickens during a high wind, but, on the
whole, activity and cheerfulness soon began to re-animate the frames and
spirits of Britain's warriors.

And now Miles Milton began to find out, as well as to fix, in some
degree, his natural character.  Up to this period in his life, a mild
existence in a quiet home, under a fairly good though irascible father
and a loving Christian mother, had not afforded him much opportunity of
discovering what he was made of.  Recent events had taught him pretty
sharply that there was much room for improvement.  He also discovered
that he possessed a very determined will in the carrying out of his
intentions, especially when those intentions were based upon his
desires.  Whether he would be equally resolute in carrying out
intentions that did _not_ harmonise with his desires remained to be
seen.

His mother, among her other teachings, had often tried to impress on his
young mind the difference between obstinacy and firmness.

"My boy," she was wont to say, while smoothing his curly head, "don't
mistake obstinacy for firmness.  A man who says `I _will_ do this or
that in spite of all the world,' against advice, and simply because he
_wants_ to do it, is obstinate.  A man who says, `I _will_ do this or
that in spite of all the world,' against advice, against his own
desires, and simply because it is the right thing to do, is firm."

Remembering this, and repenting bitterly his having so cruelly forsaken
his mother, our hero cast about in his mind how best he could put some
of her precepts into practice, as being the only consolation that was
now possible to him.  You see, the good seed sown in those early days
was beginning to spring up in unlikely circumstances.  Of course the
habit of prayer, and reading a few verses from the Bible night and
morning, recurred to him.  This had been given up since he left home.
He now resumed it, though, for convenience, he prayed while stretched in
his hammock!

But this did not satisfy him.  He must needs undertake some disagreeable
work, and carry it out with that degree of obstinacy which would amount
to firmness.  After mature consideration, he sought and obtained
permission to become one of the two cooks to his mess.  Moses Pyne was
the other.

Nothing, he felt, could be more alien to his nature, more disgusting in
every way to his feelings--and he was right.  His dislike to the duties
seemed rather to increase than to diminish day by day.  Bitterly did he
repent of having undertaken the duty, and earnestly did he consider
whether there might not be some possible and honourable way of drawing
back, but he discovered none; and soon he proved--to himself as well as
to others--that he did indeed possess, at least in some degree, firmness
of character.

The duties that devolved on him were trying.  He had to scrub and keep
the mess clean and tidy; to draw all the provisions and prepare them for
cooking; then, to take them to the galley, and fetch them when cooked.
That this last was no simple matter, such as any shore-going tail-coated
waiter might undertake, was brought forcibly out one day during what
seamen style dirty weather.

It was raining at the time.  The sea was grey, the sky was greyer, and
as the steamer itself was whitey-grey, it was a grave business
altogether.

"Is the soup ready, Moses?" asked Miles, as he ascended towards the deck
and met his _confrere_ coming down.

"I don't know.  Shall I go an' see?"

"No; you can go and look after the table.  I will fetch the soup."

"A nasty sea on," remarked a voice, which sounded familiar in Miles's
ears as he stepped on deck.

"Hallo!  Jack Molloy!" he exclaimed, catching hold of a stanchion to
steady himself, as a tremendous roll of the vessel caused a sea to flash
over the side and send a shower-bath in his face.  "What part of the sky
did you drop from?  I thought I had left you snug in the _Sailors'
Welcome_."

"Werry likely you did, John Miles," answered the tar, balancing himself
with perfect ease, and caring no more for spray than if he had been a
dolphin; "but I'm here for all that--one o' the crew o' this here
transport, though I means to wolunteer for active sarvice when I gets
out.  An' no wonder we didn't come across each other sooner!  In sitch a
enormous tubful o' lobsters, etceterer, it's a wonder we've met at all.
An' p'r'aps you've bin a good deal under hatches since you come
a-boord?"

Molloy said this with a knowing look and a grin.  Miles met the remark
in a similar spirit.

"Yes, Jack, I've been paying tribute to Neptune lately."

"You looks like it, Miles, judgin' by the colour o' your jib.  Where
away now?"

"Going for our soup."

"What! made you cook o' the mess?"

"Ay; don't you wish you were me?"

Another roll and flash of spray ended the conversation and separated the
friends.

The pea-soup was ready when our hero reached the galley.  Having filled
the mess-tureen with the appetising mixture, he commenced the return
journey with great care, for he was now dependent entirely on his legs,
both hands being engaged.  Miles was handy, if we may say so, with his
legs.  Once or twice he had to rush and thrust a shoulder against the
bulwarks, and a dash of spray served for salt to the soup; but he was
progressing favourably and had traversed full three-quarters of the
distance to the hatch when a loud "Hooroo!" caused him to look round
smartly.

He had just time to see Corporal Flynn, who had slipped and fallen, come
rolling towards him like a sack of flour.  Next moment he was swept off
his legs, and went into the lee scuppers with his comrade in a bath of
pea-soup and salt-water!

Fortunately, the obliging wave which came in-board at the same moment
mingled with the soup, and saved both men from a scalding.

Such mishaps, however, were rare, and they served rather to enliven the
voyage than otherwise.

Besides the duties already mentioned, our hero had to wash up all the
dishes and other things at meal-hours; to polish up the mess-kettles and
tin dishes; and, generally, to put things away in their places, and keep
things in apple-pie order.  Recollecting another of his mother's
teachings--"Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well"--he
tried his best, and was so ably seconded by the amiable Moses, that the
Miles-Moses mess came to be at last regarded as the best-kept one on
board.

One morning, after clearing up the dishes and putting things in order,
Miles went on deck for a little fresh air.  On the way up he met an
elderly gentleman whose dress proclaimed him a clergyman.

He looked earnestly at our hero, and, nodding kindly, spoke a few words
to him in passing.  Miles had been aware that there was a clergyman on
board going out to Egypt with his family--whether in connection with the
troops or for health he did not know.  He was much impressed with the
looks and expression of this man.  It seemed to him as if there were
some sort of attractive power about him which was unaccountably strong,
and he felt quite interested in the prospect of hearing him preach on
the following Sunday.

While on deck the previous day, he had seen the figures of two ladies,
whom he rightly judged to be the family above referred to, but as there
was nearly the whole distance of the ship's length between them, he
could not distinguish their faces.

On taking his place when Sunday came, he observed that the family were
present, seated, however, in such a position that he could only see
their backs.  Speculating in a listless way as to what sort of faces
they had, he whiled away the few minutes before the service began.

He was recalled from this condition by the tones of the clergyman's
voice, which seemed to have the same effect on him as his look and
manner had the day they first met.  During the sermon Miles's attention
was riveted, insomuch that he almost forgot where he was.  The text was
a familiar one--"God is Love,"--but the treatment of it seemed entirely
new: the boundless nature of that love; its incomprehensible and
almighty force; its enduring certainty and its overwhelming immensity,
embracing, as it did, the whole universe in Christ, were themes on which
the preacher expatiated in a way that Miles had never before dreamed of.

"All subordinate love," said the preacher, in concluding, "has its
source in this.  No wonder, then, that it is spoken of in Scripture as a
love `which passeth knowledge.'"

When the men rose to leave, it could be easily seen that they were
deeply impressed.  As they went out slowly, Miles passed close to the
place where the ladies sat.  The slighter of the two was talking in a
low tone to her companion, and the young soldier was struck with the
wonderful resemblance in her tone to that of the preacher.  He wondered
if her face also resembled his in any degree, and glanced back, but the
head was turned away.

"I like that parson.  He has got _brains_," remarked Sergeant Hardy, as
he walked along the deck with Sergeant Gilroy and Corporal Flynn.

"Sur' an' I like him too," said the corporal, "for he's got _heart_!"

"Heart and brains," returned Gilroy: "a grand combination!  What more
could we want?"

"Don't you think that _tongue_ is also essential?" asked Miles.  "But
for the preacher's eloquence his heart and brain would have worked in
vain."

"Come now, John Miles, don't you be risin' up into poethry.  It's not
yer natur--though ye think it is.  Besides, av a man's heart an' brains
is all right, he can make good use of 'em widout much tongue.  Me own
notion is that it's thim as hasn't got much to spake of, aither of heart
or brain, as is over-fond o' waggin' the tongue."

"That's so, Flynn.  You're a living example of the truth of your own
opinion," retorted Miles.

"Och! is it angered ye are at gittin' the worst o' the argiment?"
rejoined the corporal.  "Niver mind, boy, you'll do better by and by--"

As Flynn descended the ladder while he spoke, the sense of what he said
was lost, but the truth of his opinion still continued to receive
illustration from the rumbling of his voice, until it was swallowed up
in the depths of the vessel.

Next day our hero received a shock from which he never finally
recovered!

Be not alarmed, reader; it was not paralytic in its nature.  It happened
on this wise:

Miles had occasion to go to the fore part of the ship on some culinary
business, without his coat, and with his sleeves rolled up above his
elbows.  Arrived there, he found that the captain was taking the ladies
round the ship to point out some of its interesting details.  As Miles
came up, the younger lady turned round so as to present her full face to
him.  It was then that poor Miles received the shock above referred to.
At that moment a little boy with wings and a bow stepped right in front
of the young lady and shot straight at Miles Milton!  The arrow entered
his heart, and he--no, he did not fall; true men in such circumstances
never fall!  They stand transfixed, sometimes, or stupefied.  Thus stood
Miles and stared.  Yes, though naturally modest and polite, he stood and
stared!

And small blame to him, as Flynn might have said, for before him stood
his ideal of a fairy, an angel, a sylph--or anything beautiful that best
suits your fancy, reader!  Sunny hair, sunny eyes--earnest and inquiring
eyes--sunny smiles, and eyebrows to match.  Yes, she had eyebrows
distinctly darker than her hair, and well-defined over a pair of large
brown eyes.

Poor Miles was stricken, as we have said; but--would you believe it?--
there were men there looking at that girl at that time who, to use their
own phraseology, would not have accepted a dozen of her for the girls
they had left behind them!  One young fellow in particular murmured to
himself as follows--"Yes, very well in her way, no doubt, but she
couldn't hold a candle to my Emmy!"  Perhaps the most cutting remark of
all--made mentally, of course--was that of Sergeant Grady, who, for
reasons best known to himself, had left a wife, describable as a stout
well-favoured girl of forty, behind him.

"In twenty years or so," he thought, "she may perhaps be near as
good-lookin' as my Susy, but she'll never come quite up to her--never!"

"Come this way, Mrs Drew," said the captain.  "I will show you the
men's quarters.  Out of the way, my man!"

Flushing to the roots of his hair, Miles stepped hastily aside.

As he did so there was heard an awful rend of a sort that tests the
temper of women!  It was followed by a musical scream.  The girl's dress
had caught on a block tackle.

Miles leaped forward and unhooked it.  He was rewarded with a smiling
"Thank you," which was followed by a blush of confusion as Miss Drew's
mother exclaimed, "Oh!  Marion--how _could_ you?" by way of making
things easier for her, no doubt!

"You did that, young man, about as smart as I could a' done it myself,"
growled a voice behind him.

The speaker was Jack Molloy, and a general titter followed Miles as he
hurried away.

As we have said, the weather became much worse when the troop-ship drew
near to the Bay of Biscay; and it soon became evident that they were not
to cross that famous portion of the Atlantic, without experiencing some
of the violent action for which it is famed.  But by that time most of
the soldiers, according to Molloy, had got their sea-legs on, and rather
enjoyed the tossing than otherwise.

"I do like this sort o' thing," said a beardless young fellow, as a
number of the men sat on camp-stools, or stood on the weather-side of
the deck, chatting together about past times and future prospects.

"Ha!" exclaimed a seaman, who stood near them coiling up a rope; "hold
on till you've got a taste o' the Bay.  This is a mill-pond to that.
And you'll have the chance to-night.  If you don't, I'm a Dutchman."

"If I do, you'll have a taste of it too, old salt-water, for we're in
the same boat," retorted the young red-coat.

"True, but we ain't in the same body;" returned the sailor.  "I should
just like to see your four-futt legs wobblin' about in a nor'-west gale.
You'd sing another song."

"Come, Macleod," cried Moses Pyne, "tip us a Gaelic song."

"Hoots, man, wull ye be wantin' to be made sea-seek?--for that's what'll
do it," said the big Scotsman.  "Na, na, let Gaspard sing us `The Bay o'
Biscay O!'  That'll be mair appropriate."

There was a general chorus of assent to this; and as Gaspard Redgrave
was an obliging man, untroubled by false modesty, he cleared his throat
and began.  His voice, being a really splendid one, attracted all the
men who chanced to be within range of it: among others, Miles, who was
passing at the moment with a bag of biscuits in one hand and a meat-can
in the other.  He leaned up against one of those funnels which send
fresh air down to the stokers of steam-ships.  He had listened only a
few moments when Marion Drew glided amongst the men, and seemed to stand
as if entranced with delight in front of him, steadying herself by a
rope, for the vessel was pitching a good deal as well as rolling
considerably.

At the first chorus the crowd burst forth with wild enthusiasm--

  "As we lay, on that day,
  In the Bay of Biscay O!"

Dwelling with unnecessary length and emphasis on the "O!"

At the close of the second verse the men were preparing to burst forth
again when Miles observed an approaching billow which caused him to
start in alarm.  Although unused to the aspect of waves, he had an
instinctive feeling that there was danger approaching.  Voices of
warning were promptly raised from different parts of the vessel, but
already the loud chorus had begun and drowned every other sound.  Miles
dropped his biscuits and sprang towards Marion, who, with flashing eyes
and parted lips, was gazing at Gaspard.  He just reached her when the
wave burst over the side, and, catching most of the men quite
unprepared, swept them with terrible violence towards the lee-side of
the deck.

Marion was standing directly in the line of this human cataract, but
Miles swung her deftly round into the lee of the funnel, a handle of
which she happily caught, and clung to it like a limpet.

Her preserver was not so fortunate.  The edge of the cataract struck
him, swept him off his legs, and hurled him with many comrades against
the lee bulwarks, where he lay stunned and helpless in the swishing
water.

Of course soldiers and sailors ran from all parts of the vessel to the
rescue, and soon the injured men were carried below and attended to by
the doctors; and, considering the nature of the accident, it was matter
for surprise that the result was no worse than some pretty severe
contusions and a few broken ribs.

When Miles recovered consciousness, he found himself in his hammock,
with considerable pain in various parts of his body, and the Reverend
James Drew bending over him.

"You're all right now, my fine fellow," he said, in a low comforting
voice.  "No bones broken, so the doctors say.  Only a little bruised."

"Tell me, sir," said Miles, rousing himself, "is--is your daughter
safe?"

"Yes, thanks be to God, and to your prompt assistance, she is none the
worse--save the fright and a wetting."

Miles sank back on his pillows with a feeling of profound satisfaction.

"Now, you must try to sleep if you can," said the clergyman; "it will do
you good."

But Miles did not want anything to do him good.  He was quite content to
lie still and enjoy the simple fact that he had rescued Marion, perhaps
from death--at all events from serious injury!  As for pain--what was
that to him? was he not a soldier--one whose profession requires him to
suffer _anything_ cheerfully in the discharge of duty!  And was not love
the highest duty?

On the strength of some such thoughts he forgot his pain and calmly went
to sleep.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

HAS REFERENCE TO MANY THINGS CONNECTED WITH MIND, MATTER, AND
AFFECTIONS.

The wave which had burst with such disastrous effect on the deck of the
troop-ship was but the herald of one of those short, wild storms which
occasionally sweep with desolating violence over the Atlantic Ocean, and
too frequently strew with wreck the western shores of Europe.

In the Bay of Biscay, as usual, the power of the gale was felt more
severely than elsewhere.

"There's some sort o' mystery about the matter," said Jack Molloy to
William Armstrong, as they cowered together under the shelter of the
bridge.  "Why the Atlantic should tumble into this 'ere bay with greater
wiolence than elsewhere is beyond my comprehension.  But any man wi'
half an eye can see that it _do_ do it!  Jist look at that!"

There was something indeed to look at, for, even while he spoke, a
mighty wave tumbled on board of the vessel, rushed over the fore deck
like Niagara rapids in miniature, and slushed wildly about for a
considerable time before it found its way through the scuppers, into the
grey wilderness of heaving billows from which it sprang.

The great ship quivered, and seemed for a moment to stagger under the
blow, while the wind shrieked through the rigging as if laughing at the
success of its efforts, but the whitey-grey hull rose heavily, yet
steadily, out of the churning foam, rode triumphant over the
broad-backed billow that had struck her, and dived ponderously into the
valley of waters beyond.

"Don't you think," said the young soldier, whose general knowledge was a
little more extensive than that of the seaman, "that the Gulf Stream may
have something to do with it?"

Molloy looked at the deck with philosophically solemn countenance.
Deriving no apparent inspiration from that quarter, he gazed on the
tumultuous chaos of salt-water with a perplexed expression.  Finally and
gravely he shook his weather-beaten head--

"Can't see that nohow," he said.  "In course I knows that the Gulf
Stream comes out the Gulf o' Mexico, cuts across the Atlantic in a
nor'-easterly direction, goes slap agin the west of England, Ireland,
and Scotland, and then scurries away up the coast o' Norway--though
_why_ it should do so is best known to itself; p'r'aps it's arter the
fashion of an angry woman, accordin' to its own sweet will; but what has
that got for to do wi' the Bay of Biscay O?  That's wot I wants to
know."

"More to do with it than you think, Jack," answered the soldier.  "In
the first place, you're not quite, though partly, correct about the Gulf
Stream--"

"Well, I ain't zactly a scienkrific stoodent, you know.  Don't purfess
to be."

"Just so, Jack.  Neither am I, but I have inquired into this matter in a
general way, an' here's _my_ notions about it."

"Draw it fine, Willum; don't be flowery," said the sailor, renewing his
quid.  "Moreover, if you'll take the advice of an old salt you'll keep a
tighter grip o' that belayin'-pin you've got hold of, unless you wants
to be washed overboard.  Now then, fire away!  I'm all attention, as the
cat said at the mouth o' the mouse-hole."

"Well, then," began Armstrong, with the slightly conscious air of
superior knowledge, "the Gulf Stream does _not_ rise in the Gulf of
Mexico--"

"Did I say that it did, Willum?"

"Well, you said that it _came out of_ the Gulf of Mexico--and, no doubt,
so far you are right, but what I mean is that it does not originate
there."

"W'y don't you say what you mean, then, Willum, instead o' pitchin' into
a poor chap as makes no pretence to be a purfessor?  Heave ahead!"

"Well, Jack," continued the soldier, with more care as to his
statements, "I believe, on the best authority, that the Gulf Stream is
only part of a great ocean current which originates at the equator, and
a small bit of which flows north into the Atlantic, where it drives into
the Gulf of Mexico.  Finding no outlet there it rushes violently round
the gulf--"

"Gits angry, no doubt, an' that's what makes it hot?" suggested the
sailor.

"Perhaps!  Anyhow, it then flows, as you say, in a nor'-easterly
direction to the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland.  But it does more
than that.  It spreads as it goes, and also rushes straight at the
coasts of France and Spain.  Here, however, it meets a strong counter
current running south along these same coasts of France an' Spain.  That
is difficulty number one.  It has to do battle wi' that current, and you
know, Jack, wherever there's a battle there's apt to be convulsions of
some sort.  Well, then, a nor'-westerly gale comes on and rolls the
whole o' the North Atlantic Ocean against these coasts.  So here you
have this part of the Gulf Stream caught in another direction--on the
port quarter, as you sailors might call it--"

"Never mind wot us sailors might call it, Willum.  Wotever you say on
that pint you're sure to be wrong.  Heave ahead!"

"Well, then," continued Armstrong, with a laugh, "that's trouble number
two; and these troubles, you'll observe, apply to the whole west coast
of both countries; but in the Bay of Biscay there is still another
difficulty, for when these rushing and tormented waters try to escape,
they are met fair in the face by the whole north coast of Spain, and
thus--"

"_I_ sees it!" exclaimed Molloy, with a sudden beam of intelligence,
"you've hit the nail on the head, Willum.  Gulf Stream flies at France
in a hot rage, finds a cool current, or customer, flowin' down south
that shouts `Belay there!'  At it they go, tooth an' nail, when down
comes a nor'-wester like a wolf on the fold, takes the Stream on the
port quarter, as you say, an' drives both it an' the cool customer into
the bay, where the north o' Spain cries `Avast heavin', both o' you!'
an' drives 'em back to where the nor'-wester's drivin' 'em on!  No
wonder there's a mortal hullaballoo in the Bay o' Biscay!  Why, mate,
where got ye all that larnin'?"

Before his friend could reply, a terrific plunge of the vessel, a
vicious shriek of the wind, and the entrance of another tremendous sea,
suggested that the elements were roused to unusual fury at having the
secrets of their operations thus ruthlessly revealed, and also suggested
the propriety of the two friends seeking better shelter down below.

While this storm was raging, Miles lay in his hammock, subjected to
storms of the bosom with occasional calms between.  He was enjoying one
of the calms when Armstrong passed his hammock and asked how he was
getting on.

"Very well, Willie.  Soon be all right, I think," he replied, with a
contented smile.

For at that moment he had been dwelling on the agreeable fact that he
had really rescued Marion Drew from probable death, and that her parents
gratefully recognised the service--as he learned from the clergyman
himself, who expressed his gratitude in the form of frequent visits to
and pleasant chats with the invalid.

The interest and sympathy which Miles had felt on first seeing this man
naturally increased, and at last he ventured to confide to him the story
of his departure from home, but said nothing about the changed name.  It
is needless to relate all that was said on the occasion.  One can easily
imagine the bearing of a good deal of it.  The result on Miles was not
very obvious at the time, but it bore fruit after many days.

The calm in our hero's breast was not, however, of long duration.  The
thought that, as a private in a marching regiment, he had not the means
to maintain Marion, in the social position to which she had been
accustomed, was a very bitter thought, and ruffled the sea of his
feelings with a stiff breeze.  This freshened to something like a gale
of rebellion when he reflected that his case was all but hopeless; for,
whatever might have been the truth of the statement regarding the French
army under Napoleon, that "every soldier carried a marshal's baton in
his knapsack," it did not follow that soldiers in the British army of
the present day carried commissions in _their_ knapsacks.  Indeed, he
knew it was by no means a common thing for men to rise from the ranks,
and he was well aware that those who did so were elevated in virtue of
qualities which he did not possess.

He was in the midst of one of his bosom storms when Sergeant Hardy came
to inquire how he did.

Somehow the quiet, grave, manly nature of that sergeant had a powerful
effect, not only on Miles but on every one with whom he came in contact.
It was not so much his words as his manner that commended him.  He was
curiously contradictory, so to speak, in character and appearance.  The
stern gravity of his countenance suggested a hard nature, but lines of
good-humour lurking about the eyes and mouth put to flight the
suggestion, and acts of womanly tenderness on many occasions turned the
scale the other way.  A strong, tall, stiffly upright and slow-moving
frame, led one to look only for elephantine force, but when
circumstances required prompt action our sergeant displayed powers of
cat-like activity, which were all the more tremendous that they seemed
incongruous and were unexpected.  From his lips you looked for a voice
of thunder--and at drill you were not disappointed--but on ordinary
occasions his speech was soft and low; bass indeed as to its quality,
but never harsh or loud.

"A gale is brewing up from the nor'-west, so Jack Molloy says," remarked
Hardy, as he was about to pass on.

"Why, I thought it was blowing a gale _now_!" returned Miles.  "At least
it seems so, if we may judge from the pitching and plunging."

"Ah, lad, you are judging from the landlubber's view-point," returned
the sergeant.  "Wait a bit, and you will understand better what Molloy
means when he calls this only a `capful of wind.'"

Miles had not to wait long.  The gale when fully "brewed up" proved to
be no mean descendant of the family of storms which have tormented the
celebrated bay since the present economy of nature began; and many of
those who were on board of the troop-ship at that time had their eyes
opened and their minds enlarged as to the nature of a thorough gale;
when hatches have to be battened down, and the dead-lights closed; when
steersmen have to be fastened in their places, and the maddened sea
seems to roar defiance to the howling blast, and all things movable on
deck are swept away as if they were straws, and many things not meant to
be movable are wrenched from their fastenings with a violence that
nothing formed by man can resist, and timbers creak and groan, and loose
furniture gyrates about until smashed to pieces, and well-guarded glass
and crockery leap out of bounds to irrecoverable ruin, and even the
seamen plunge about and stagger, and landsmen hold on to ring-bolts and
belaying-pins, or cling to bulkheads for dear life, while mighty
billows, thundering in-board, hiss along the decks, and everything,
above, below, and around, seems being swept into eternity by the besom
of destruction!

But the troop-ship weathered the storm nobly; and the good Lord sent
fine weather and moderate winds thereafter; and ere long the soldiers
were enjoying the sunshine, the sparkling waters, and the sight of the
lovely shores of the blue Mediterranean.

Soon after that broken bones began to mend, and bruises to disappear;
and our hero, thoroughly recovered from his accident, as well as greatly
improved in general health, returned to his duties.

But Miles was not a happy man, for day by day he felt more and more
severely that he had put himself in a false position.  Besides the
ever-increasing regret for having hastily forsaken home, he had now the
bitter reflection that he had voluntarily thrown away the right to
address Marion Drew as an equal.

During the whole voyage he had scarcely an opportunity of speaking a
word to her.  Of course the warm-hearted girl did not forget the
important service that had been rendered to her by the young soldier,
and she took more than one occasion to visit the fore part of the vessel
for the purpose of expressing her gratitude and asking about his health,
after he was able to come on deck; but as her father accompanied her on
these occasions, the conversation was conducted chiefly between him and
the reverend gentleman.  Still, it was some comfort to hear her voice
and see her eyes beaming kindly on him.

Once the youth inadvertently expressed his feelings in his look, so that
Marion's eye-lids dropped, and a blush suffused her face, to hide which
she instantly became unreasonably interested in the steam-winch beside
which they were standing, and wanted to understand principles of
engineering which had never troubled her before!

"What _is_ the use of that curious machine?" she asked, turning towards
it quickly.

"W'y, Miss," answered Jack Molloy, who chanced to be sitting on a spare
yard close at hand working a Turk's head on a manrope, "that's the
steam-winch, that is the thing wot we uses w'en we wants to hoist things
out o' the hold, or lower 'em into it."

"Come, Marion, we must not keep our friend from his duties," said Mr
Drew, nodding pleasantly to Miles as he turned away.

The remark was called forth by the fact that Miles had been arrested
while on his way to the galley with a dish of salt pork, and with his
shirt-sleeves, as usual, tucked up!

Only once during the voyage did our hero get the chance of talking with
Marion alone.  The opportunity, like most pieces of good fortune, came
unexpectedly.  It was on a magnificent night, just after the troop-ship
had left Malta.  The sea was perfectly calm, yet affected by that oily
motion which has the effect of breaking a reflected moon into a million
fragments.  All nature appeared to be hushed, and the stars were
resplendent.  It was enough, as Jack Molloy said, to make even a bad man
feel good!

"Do 'ee speak from personal experience, Jack?" asked a comrade on that
occasion.

"I might, Jim, if _you_ wasn't here," retorted Molloy; "but it's not
easy to feel bad alongside o' _you_."

"That's like a double-edged sword, Jack--cuts two ways.  W'ich way d'ee
mean it?"

"`W'ichever way you please,' as the man said w'en the alligator axed 'im
w'ether he'd prefer to be chawed up or bolted whole."

Concluding that, on the whole, the conversation of his friends did not
tend to edification, Miles left them and went to one of the starboard
gangways, from which he could take a contemplative view of Nature in her
beautiful robe of night.  Curiously enough, Marion chanced to saunter
towards the same gangway, and unexpectedly found him there.

"A lovely night, Mr Miles," she remarked.

Miles started, and turned with slight confusion in his face, which,
happily, the imperfect light concealed.

"Beautiful indeed!" he exclaimed, thinking of the face before him--not
of the night!

"A cool, beautiful night like this," continued the girl--who was of the
romantic age of sixteen--"will remain long, I should think, in your
memory, and perhaps mitigate, in some degree, the hardships that are
before you on the burning sand of Egypt."

"The memory of this night," returned Miles, with fervour, "will remain
with me _for ever_!  It will not only mitigate what you are pleased to
call hardships, but will cause me to forget them altogether--forget
_everything_!"

"Nay, that were impossible," rejoined Marion, with a slight laugh; "for
a true soldier cannot forget Duty!"

"True, true," said Miles dubiously; "at least it ought to be true; and I
have no doubt is so in many cases, but--"

What more he might have said cannot now be told, for they were
interrupted at the moment by Captain Lacey, who, happening to walk in
that direction, stopped and directed Miss Drew's attention to a
picturesque craft, with high lateen sails, which had just entered into
the silver pathway of the moon on the water.

Miles felt that it would be inappropriate in him to remain or to join in
the conversation.  With a heart full of disappointment and indignation
he retired, and sought refuge in the darkest recesses of the pantry, to
which he was welcome at all times, being a great favourite with the
steward.

Whether it was the smell of the cheese or the ketchup we know not, but
here better thoughts came over our hero.  Insignificant causes often
produce tremendous effects.  The touching of a trigger is but a small
matter; the effects of such a touch are sometimes deadly as well as
touching.  Possibly the sugar, if not the cinnamon, may have been an
element in his change of mind.  At all events it is safe to say that the
general smell of groceries was associated with it.

Under the benign influence of this change he betook himself to the berth
of the chief ship's-carpenter, with whom also he was a favourite.
Finding the berth empty, and a light burning in it, he sat down to wait
for his friend.  The place was comparatively quiet and retired.
Bethinking himself of the little packet which he had received at
Portsmouth, and which still lay unopened in the breast-pocket of his
shell-jacket, he pulled it out.  Besides a Testament, it contained
sundry prettily covered booklets written by Miss Robinson and others to
interest the public in our soldiers, as well as to amuse the soldiers
themselves.  In glancing through "Our Soldiers and Sailors," "Institute
Memories," "Our Warfare," "The Victory," "Heaven's Light our Guide,"
"Good-bye," and similar works, two facts were suddenly impressed upon
his mind, and strongly illuminated--namely, that there is such a thing
as living for the good of others, and that up to that time he had lived
simply and solely for himself!

The last sentence that had fallen from the lips of Marion that night was
also strongly impressed upon him:--"a true soldier cannot forget Duty!"
and he resolved that "Duty" should be his life's watchword
thenceforward.  Such is the influence that a noble-minded woman may
unconsciously have over even an unsteady man!

Soon after this the troop-ship reached the end of her voyage, and cast
anchor off the coast of Egypt, near the far-famed city of Alexandria.



CHAPTER NINE.

OUR HERO MEETS A FRIEND UNEXPECTEDLY IN PECULIAR CIRCUMSTANCES, AND HAS
A VERY STRANGE ENCOUNTER.

Miles Milton's first experience in Alexandria was rather curious, and,
like most surprising things, quite unlooked for.

The troops were not permitted to land immediately on arrival, but of
course no such prohibition lay on the passengers, who went off
immediately.  In the hurry of doing so, the clergyman and his family
missed saying good-bye to Miles, who happened to be on duty in some
remote part of the vessel at the time, and the shore-boat could not be
delayed.  This caused Mr and Mrs Drew much regret, but we cannot add
that it caused the same to Miss Drew, because that young lady possessed
considerable command of feature, and revealed no feeling at all on the
occasion.

Miles was greatly disappointed when he found that they had gone, but
consoled himself with the hope that he could make use of his first day's
leave to find them out in the town and say good-bye.

"But why encourage hope?" thought Miles to himself, with bitterness in
his heart; "I'm only a private.  Marion will never condescend to think
of _me_.  What have I to offer her except my worthless self?"  (you see
Miles was beginning to see through himself faintly.) "Even if my father
were a rich man, able to buy me out of the army and leave me a fortune--
which he is not--what right have I to expect that a girl like Marion
would risk her happiness with a fellow who has no profession, no means
of subsistence, and who has left home without money and without leave?
Bah!  Miles, you are about the greatest goose that ever put on a red
coat!"

He was getting on, you see!  If he had put "sinner" for "goose," his
shot would have been nearer the mark; as it was, all things considered,
it was not a miss.  He smarted considerably under the self-condemnation.
If a comrade had said as much he would have resented it hotly, but a
man is wonderfully lenient to himself!

Under the impulse of these feelings he sought and obtained leave to go
into the town.  He wished to see how the new Soldiers' Institute being
set up there was getting along.  He had promised Miss Robinson to pay it
a visit.  That was his plea.  He did not feel called upon to inform his
officer of his intention to visit the Drews!  That was quite a private
matter--yet it was the main matter; for, on landing, instead of
inquiring for the spot where the new Institute was being erected, he
began a search among the various hotels where English visitors were wont
to put up.  The search was successful.  He found the hotel, but the
family had gone out, he was told, and were not expected back till
evening.

Disappointment, of course, was the result; but he would wait.  It is
amazing what an amount of patience even impatient men will exercise when
under the influence of hope!  There was plenty of time to run down and
see the Institute, but he might miss his friends if they should chance
to come in and go out again during his absence.  What should he do?

"Bother the Institute!" he muttered to himself.  "It's only bricks an'
mortar after all, and I don't know a soul there."

He was wrong on both of these points, as we shall see.

"What's the use of my going?" he murmured, after a reflective pause.

"You promised the ladies of the Portsmouth Institute that you'd go to
see it, and report progress," said that extraordinary Something inside
of him, which had a most uncomfortable way of starting up and whispering
when least expected to do so.

"And," added Something, "every gentleman should keep his word."

"True," replied Miles, almost angrily, though inaudibly; "but I'm _not_
a gentleman, I'm only a private!"

"Goose!" retorted that pertinacious Something; "is not every private a
gentleman who acts like one?  And is not every gentleman a blackguard
who behaves as such?"

Miles was silenced.  He gave in, and went off at once to visit the
Institute.

As he walked down the long straight street leading to the Grand Square,
which had been almost destroyed by the bombardment, he passed numerous
dirty drinking-shops, and wondered that English soldiers would
condescend to enter such disgusting places.  He was but a young soldier,
and had yet to learn that, to men who have been fairly overcome by the
power of the fiend Strong Drink, no place is too disgusting, and no
action too mean, so that it but leads to the gratification of their
intolerable craving.  It is said that in two streets only there were 500
of these disreputable drinking-shops.

All sorts and conditions of men passed him as he went along: Turks,
Greeks, Arabs, Negroes, Frenchmen, Italians, and Englishmen, the gay
colours of whose picturesque costumes lent additional brilliancy to the
sunny scene.  The sight of the dark-skinned men and veiled women of the
Arab quarter did more, however, than anything else to convince our hero
that he had at last really reached the "East"--the land of the ancient
Pharaohs, the Pyramids, the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, and of
modern contention!

Presently he came upon the piece of waste ground which had been chosen
as the site of the new Institute.  It was covered with the ruins--
shattered cement, glass, tiles, and general wreckage--of the buildings
that had stood there before the bombardment, and on three sides it was
surrounded by heaps of stones, shattered walls, and rubbish, some acres
in extent.  But the place had the great advantage of being close to the
old harbour, not far from the spot where ancient Alexandria stood, and
was open to the fresh, cooling breezes that came in from the sea.

Arab workmen were busily employed at the time on the foundations of the
building, under the superintendence of an unmistakable and
soldierly-looking Englishman, whose broad back was presented to Miles as
he approached.  Turning suddenly round, Mr Tufnell, the manager of the
Portsmouth Institute, confronted the visitor with a stern but perspiring
visage, which instantly became illuminated with a beaming smile.

"What!  Tufnell!" exclaimed our hero, in amazement.

"Ay, Miles; as large as life."

"Larger than life, if anything," said Miles, grasping the proffered
hand, and shaking it warmly.  "Why, man, the air of Egypt seems to
magnify you."

"More likely that the heat of Egypt is making me grow.  What are you
rubbing your eyes for?"

"To make sure that they do not deceive," answered Miles.  "Did I not
leave you behind me at Portsmouth?"

"So you did, friend; but the voyage in a troop-ship is not the fastest
method of reaching Egypt.  As you see, I've overshot you in the race.  I
have come to put up the new building.  But come to my palace here and
have a talk and a cup of coffee.  Glad to see that the voyage has agreed
with you."

They reached the palace to which the manager referred, and found it to
be a cottage of corrugated iron amidst the rubbish.

"Here," said Tufnell, offering his friend a chair, "I spend all my time
and reign supreme--monarch of all I survey.  These are my subjects," he
added, pointing to the Arab workmen; "that wilderness of rubbish is my
kingdom; and yon heap of iron and stone, is the material out of which we
mean to construct our Alexandria Institute.  To save time, (the most
valuable article in the world, if you'll believe me), Miss Robinson, as,
perhaps, you may have heard, bought an old iron edifice in London, known
as the Brompton Oratory, and sent it out here--like a convict--at
Government expense.  You see, not only the public, but Government, have
now come to recognise the value of her work for soldiers."

"And your subjects, the Arabs--are they obedient and loyal?" asked
Miles.

"Pretty well; but they give me some trouble now and then.  The other
day, for instance, we had a sad accident, which at one time I feared
would land us in serious difficulties.  It is necessary, you must know,
in laying foundations here, to dig through the sand some twelve to
fifteen feet till water is reached, and then we lay a solid stone
foundation about nine feet wide.  Well, while digging this foundation,
the sand fell in on one of the workmen.  I off coat at once and set to
work with a shovel, shouting to the fellows to help me.  Instead of
helping, they rushed at me in a body to prevent my interfering in the
matter.  Then they quarrelled among themselves as to the best way of
getting the man out, and the result was that the poor fellow was
suffocated, though he might easily have been rescued by prompt action.
But that was not the end of it!  The relations and friends of the man
came down, made Eastern howling and lamentation over him, and laid his
corpse at the door of my cottage, holding me responsible for his life,
and demanding compensation!  And it was not till I had paid a few francs
to every brother and cousin and relative belonging to him that their
grief was appeased and the dead body carried away.

"Still the matter did not end here, for next day the workmen said the
accident was owing to the omission of a sacrifice at the commencement of
the work, and they must have a lamb to kill on the ground, or more lives
would certainly be lost.  So I bought them a lamb, which they duly
killed, cooked, and ate, after sprinkling its blood on the four corners
of the foundation and on the walls.  I had the skin of this lamb dressed
and sent home as a curiosity."  See note 1.

"You appear to have pretty rough times of it then, on the whole," said
Miles.

"I never counted on smooth times," returned Tufnell; "besides, being
used to roughing it, I am always glad to do so in a good cause.  My
palace, as you see, is not a bad one, though small.  It is pretty hot
too, as you seem to feel; and they tell me there will be some
interesting variety in my experiences when the rainy season sets in!  I
wouldn't mind it so much if I could only be left to sleep in peace at
nights.  I stay here, you see, night and day, and what wi' the Arabs
prowling around, whispering and trying to get in, and the wild dogs
makin' the neighbourhood a place o' public meeting--barking, howling,
and quarrelling over their sorrows like human bein's, they don't give me
much rest."

"I have read of these dogs before," said Miles.  "Are they really as
wild and dangerous as they get credit for?"

"If you'd seen the fight I had wi' them the other night you'd have no
doubt on that point.  Why, a gang of 'em made a regular attack on me,
and if it hadn't been that I was pretty active with my sword-stick,
they'd have torn me in bits.  Let me advise you never to go out after
nightfall without one.  Is that one in your hand?"

"No, it is merely a cane."

"Well, exchange with me.  There's no saying when you may want it."

Tufnell took a light sword-stick which lay on the table and handed it to
Miles, who accepted it laughingly, and without the slightest belief that
he should ever have occasion to use it.

In chatting about the plans of the building and the prospects of
success, our hero became at last so deeply interested--partly, no doubt,
because of his friend's enthusiasm--that he forgot the flight of time,
and the evening was advancing before he rose to leave.

"Now, Tufnell," he said suddenly, "I must be off, I have another call of
importance to make."

"What! won't you stop and have a cup of coffee with me?"

"Impossible.  My business is urgent.  I want to see friends whom I may
not have the chance of seeing again.  Good-night."

"Good-night, then, and have a care of the dogs, specially after
nightfall."

On returning to the hotel shortly after sunset, Miles came to the
conclusion that his love must certainly be "true," for its course was
not running "smooth."  His friends had not yet returned.  Mrs Drew had
indeed come back, alone in a cab, but she had "von headik an' vas go to
the bed."

Waiting about in front of the hotel for an hoar or two proved to be too
much for our hero's nerves; he therefore made up his mind to exhaust his
nervous system by means of a smart walk.  Soon he found himself in a
lonely place, half-way between the Grand Square and the Ramleh Gate,
with a deliciously cool breeze playing on his brow, and a full moon
sailing overhead.

No one was moving about on the road along which he walked.  He had it
all to himself at first, and the evening would have been quiet as well
as beautiful but for the yelping dogs which had, by that time, come out
of their day-dens to search and fight for food and hold their nightly
revels.

All round him were the heaps of rubbish caused by bombardment, and the
ruined houses which war had rendered tenantless, though here and there
the uprising of new buildings proved that the indomitable energy of man
was not to be quelled by war or anything else.  A flickering oil-lamp
placed here and there at intervals threw a sickly yellow light into dark
recesses which the moonbeams failed to reach.  Intermingled with these
were a few date-palms and bananas.  After a time he observed a couple of
figures in advance of him--a man and woman--walking slowly in the same
direction.

Not wishing to have his thoughts disturbed, he pushed on, intending to
pass the wayfarers.  He had got to within a hundred paces of them when
he became aware of a violent pattering sound behind him.  Stopping and
looking back he saw a pack of eight or nine of the wild, half-famished
dogs of the place coming along the road at full gallop.  He was quite
aware that they were the savage, masterless creatures which keep close
in hiding during the day, and come out at night to search for something
to devour, but he could not bring himself to believe that any sort of
dog was a dangerous animal.  He therefore merely looked at them with
interest as being natives of the place!

They passed without taking notice of him--as ugly and wolfish a pack as
one could wish to see--led by a big fellow like a ragged disreputable
collie.  They also passed, with apparent indifference, the wayfarers in
advance, who had stopped to look at them.

Suddenly, and without a note of warning, the whole pack turned and
rushed back, yelling fiercely, towards the man and woman.  The latter
clung to the left arm of the former, who raised his stick, and brought
it down with such good-will on the skull of the foremost dog that it
reeled back with an angry howl.  It was not cowed, however, for it came
on again, but the man, instead of striking it, thrust the end of his
stick down its throat and checked it a second time.  Still unsubdued,
the fierce animal flew at him once more, and would certainly have
overcome him if Miles had not run to the rescue at the first sign of
attack.  Coming up quickly, he brought his cane down on the dog's head
with all his might, having quite forgotten the sword in the excitement
of the moment!  The blow did nothing to the dog, but it shattered the
cane, leaving the sword exposed!  This was fortunate.  A quick thrust
sent the dog flying away with yells of pain and fear, followed by all
his companions, who seemed to take their cue entirely from their leader.

Turning to congratulate the wayfarers on their escape, Miles confronted
Mr Drew and his daughter Marion!

If he had encountered the glare of the great sea-serpent he could
scarcely have been taken more completely aback.

"My dear young friend," said the clergyman, recovering himself and
grasping the passive hand of the young soldier with enthusiasm, though
he could not help smiling at his obvious embarrassment, "you seem to
have been raised up to be our rescuer!"

"I hope I have been raised up for something even more satisfactory than
that," thought Miles, but he did not say so!  What he did say--in a
stammering fashion--was to the effect that he hoped he might be called
on to--to--render many more such trifling services--no--he did not quite
mean that, but _if_ they should ever again be in danger, he hoped they
would call on him to--to--that is--

"But I hope sincerely," he added, changing the subject abruptly, "that
you are not hurt, Miss Drew?"

"Oh dear no; only a little frightened.  But, father, are you sure that
_you_ are not hurt?"

"Quite sure; only a little sprain, I think, or twist in my right ankle.
The attack was so sudden, you see, that in the hurry to meet it my foot
turned over.  Give me your arm, my young friend.  There; it will be all
right in a few minutes.  How you tremble, Marion!  Your nerves have
received a greater shock than you imagine, and a lame man is but a poor
support.  Give her your other arm, Mr Miles.  You are stout enough to
support us both."

Stout enough to support them both!  Ay, at that moment Miles felt stout
enough to support the entire world, like Atlas, on his own broad
shoulders!  With a blush, that the moon generously refused to reveal,
Marion laid her hand lightly on the soldier's arm.  It was much too
light a touch, and did not distribute with fairness the weight of his
burden, for the old gentleman hung heavily on the other arm.  Mr Drew
walked very slowly, and with evident pain, for the twist of the ankle
had been much more severe than he at first imagined.

"You will come in and sup with us," said Mr Drew, on at last reaching
the hotel door.

"Impossible.  I am exceedingly sorry, but my time has almost expired.
Indeed, I fear it has expired already, and duty comes before everything
else.  Your daughter taught me that lesson, sir, on board ship!"

"Oh you hypocrite!" remarked his familiar and plain-spoken internal
friend; "where was this grand sense of duty when you left home in a rage
without `by your leave' to father or mother?"  Miles could make no
reply.  He had a tendency to silence when this friend spoke, and
returned to barracks in a pensive mood, just in time, as Armstrong said,
to save his bacon.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  This fleece is now, among other curiosities, at the Portsmouth
Institute.



CHAPTER TEN.

OFF TO THE WARS.

The troops sent out to Egypt at that time were much wanted to reinforce
the southern frontier and defend it from the attacks of Osman Digna,
who, with a large host of the dusky warriors of the Soudan, was giving
the defenders much trouble, and keeping them incessantly on the _qui
vive_.

Miles Milton had no time while in Alexandria for anything but duty.  He
saw Marion only once again before leaving, but did not find an
opportunity to converse with her alone.  To do him justice, he had not
the most distant intention of declaring the state of his feelings, even
if the opportunity had been given.  He merely desired to be in her
company for a little on any terms whatever!

On that occasion, however, he contrived to scorch his heart with a
double dose of jealousy, for he found two young men visiting the
clergyman, each of whom seemed to be a friend of the family.  One was a
spendthrift named Rentworth--a young traveller of that loose, easy-going
type which is occasionally met with in foreign parts, squandering the
money of a rich father.  He was a decidedly handsome young fellow, but
with the stamp of dissipation already on his countenance.  The other was
a telegraph engineer, with honesty and good-nature in every line of his
plain countenance.

Both of these youths paid marked attention to Marion--at least Miles
thought so--and he hated them both accordingly; all the more that he
_felt_ their eyes to be fixed upon him while he was bidding her
"farewell."  He did not say "Good-bye."  That was too commonplace--in
the circumstances almost childish.

There was one gleam of comfort in the fact, however, that Marion echoed
the word, and that he thought--indeed he was sure--her hand trembled
slightly as she returned, or rather received, his squeeze.  Miles was
very stern of countenance and remarkably upright in figure while these
adieux were being said--for the glare of his rivals, he thought, was
upon him.

How the poor fellow got through the preparations and packing and parades
that were necessary when the order came abruptly for the regiment to
start for Suez we cannot tell.  He went about everything mechanically,
or like a man in a dream.  And it was not till they had fairly started
in the railway train that he became alive to the serious fact that he
was actually off to the wars!

The accommodation for passengers in that train was not good.  Distinctly
bad, indeed, would be the proper term to apply to the kind of
cattle-truck, in which Miles found himself with a detachment of the
gallant 310th Infantry; and soon the blinding dust of Egypt reminded our
young soldier that the real battle of life had fairly begun.

"You'll get over it in time, my poor fellow," said his friend Armstrong,
who sat beside him.

"You need the same consolation yourself, friend Willie," retorted Miles,
wiping the dust out of the corners of his eyes.

"I didn't mean _that_," returned his friend.  "_You_ know what I mean!
But cheer up; absence makes the heart grow fonder--at the same time it
makes a fellow fit for duty.  I have gone through it myself, and know
all about it."

Miles flushed and felt inclined at first to resent this allusion to the
state of his affections, but he was fortunately saved from taking any
notice of it by a sudden burst of laughter among the men at a remark
from Corporal Flynn, who, although this was his first visit to Egypt,
had undertaken to point out to his comrades the various localities which
he chose to assume were more or less connected with Scripture history!

The first part of the journey was not particularly interesting, and what
with the fine sand and the great heat, the men began to experience the
discomforts of an Eastern climate, and to make frequent application to
their water-bottles.  It would have been well if they had contented
themselves with water, and with the cold tea which some of them had been
provident enough to save up at breakfast; but when they reached the
first station where there was a five minutes' halt, some of them managed
to smuggle strong drink into the train.  One immediate result was that
the men became more noisy.

"Come, give us a song, Gaspard," cried several voices, apparently
inspired at the same moment with the same idea and desire.

"Wan wid a rousin' chorus, boy," cried Flynn.

Gaspard complied, being ever ready to oblige, but whether it was the
heat, or the dust, or the "rousin'" chorus, or the drink, the song was a
partial failure.  Perhaps it was the excess of _tremulo_ induced by the
motion of the train!  At all events it fell flat, and, when finished, a
hilarious loud-voiced man named Simkin, or Rattling Bill, struck up
"Rule Britannia," which more than made amends for the other, and was
sung with intense vigour till the next station was reached.

Here more drink was smuggled on board the train, and, as a natural
consequence, men became troublesome.  A morose man named Sutherland, who
was apt to grow argumentative and quarrelsome in his cups, made an
assertion in reference to something terrestrial, which had no particular
interest for any mortal man.  Simkin contradicted it.  Sutherland
repeated it.  Simkin knocked Sutherland's helmet overboard.  Sutherland
returned the compliment in kind, and their comrades had to quell an
intestine war, while the lost head-pieces were left on the arid plain,
where they were last seen surrounded by wonder-stricken and long-legged
natives of the Flamingo tribe.

This loss was a serious one, for exposure of the head to the sun in such
a climate is exceedingly dangerous, and the old hands had great
difficulty in impressing the fact on Rattling Bill and Sutherland, who,
with the obstinacy of "greenhorns," made light of the danger, and
expressed disbelief in sunstroke.

Of course considerable interest was manifested when the station of
Tel-el-Kebir was reached.

"It's two mile from this, I've bin towld," said Flynn, "where the great
battle was fowt."

"How d'ee know that, Flynn?" asked one.

"How do I know anything I'm towld but by belaivin' it?" returned the
corporal.

"It's my opeenion," said the big Scotsman Macleod, "that if there had
been ony better troops than Egeeptians to fecht wi', oor men an' my Lord
Wolseley wadna hae fund it sic an easy job."

"But it is said that the Egyptians were brave enough, and fought and
died like men till they were fairly overpowered," said Moses Pyne, who,
being young and ardent, besides just, felt bound to stand up for dead
foes.

"I'm no objeckin' to their bravery," returned the Scot.  "They did the
best they could; but what was to be expeckit o' a wheen men that was
dragged to the field against their wull, an' made to fecht afore they
weel kent hoo to use their airms?"

"Anyhow they gave us a chance to show what British soldiers can do,"
said Rattling Bill.

"An' sure there's plenty more where they came from to give us another
chance," said Flynn.

"That's true, boys.  Three cheers for the heroes of Tel-el-Kebir, dead
and livin'!" cried Armstrong, setting the example.

The response was prompt and hearty, and for a few moments a forest of
white helmets waved in the air.

The enthusiasm was not allowed to cool, for the next station was
Kassassin, where the Life Guards and our cavalry made their midnight
charges; and where there occurred, perhaps, one of the longest day's
fighting in the war of 1882.  Here, also, they saw the graves of the
poor fellows who fell at that time, but the sight did not depress the
men much.  The somewhat lugubrious Sutherland alone seemed to take a
serious view of such matters.

"It's a' vera weel for licht-hearted lads like you to laugh an' cheer,"
he said, "but there's naething mair certain than that some o' you that's
laughin' an' cheerin' yenoo, an' boastin' o' lickin' the Soudan neegers,
'll fill sandy graves afore lang."

"You don't know that, Scotty.  Pr'a'ps we'll _all_ escape and return to
old England together," said one of his comrades.

"Arrah! if I _did_ git into wan o' the sandy graves ye spake of,"
remarked Flynn, "I do belaive I'd rise out of it just for the pleasure
o' contradictin' you, Sutherland."

"H'm! nae doot.  Contradictiousness whiles maks fowk lively that wad be
dull an' deed eneuch withoot it.  But did onybody iver hear o' a
reg'ment gaun' oot to the wars an' comin' back jist as it went?  That's
the question--"

"As Hamlet's ghost said when he was takin' a night-walk to cool
his-self," interposed Simkin.

"It wasna his ghost; it was his faither's ghost," cried Sutherland; "an'
I'm no' sure that--"

"Howld yer tongues, both o' ye!" cried Flynn; "sure the loss o' yer
helmets is beginning to tell on yer heads already.  What can the line be
I see in the distance over there?  I do belaive it's another o' thim
broad rivers that seem to cut up this land all into stripes."

"Why, it's the canal, man," cried Moses Pyne, who was more or less
enthusiastic about all the sights and scenes they were passing.  "Don't
ye see the ships?"

"Sure enough, you're right, Moses, as ye ginerally are whin you're not
wrong.  There's some ships comin' wan way, an' some goin' the other.
Och! but he _is_ a great jainius that Frenchman as tied the two says
togither--Lips--Lisps--what is it they calls him?  I've clane forgot."

"Lesseps," said Miles, as he gazed with unusual interest on this
wonderful highway of nations.

The troops reached Suez after a ten hours' journey, the distance being
about 230 miles.  Our hero made the acquaintance here of a private of
marines named Stevenson, with whom he afterwards served in the Soudan,
and with whom he became very friendly, not only because their spirits
were sympathetic, but because, having been brought up in the same part
of England, they had similar memories and associations in regard to
"home."  Only those who have wandered long and far from their native
land can understand the attractive influence that arises between men who
meet abroad, and find that they can chat about the same places and
persons in the "old country."

It was Saturday when the troops arrived at Suez, and the heavy dew that
fell rendered the night bitterly cold, and felt to be so all the more
because of the intense heat of the day.  Sunday began with "rousing out"
at six, breakfast at seven, parade at eight, and "divine service"
thereafter.  As there was no clergyman at the place at the time, the
duty was performed by one of the officers.  Doubtless among the officers
there are men who not only can "read prayers" well, but who have the
spirit of prayer in them.  That such, however, is not always the case
may be gathered from the remark of one of the men upon this occasion.

"W'y, you know, Tom," said this rather severe critic to his comrade
confidentially, "there's one advantage in fast readin', that it gets the
business soon over, which is some sort o' comfort to fellows that has
got to attend whether they like it or not, hot or cold, fresh or tired,
unless dooty prevents.  But the hofficer that did dooty to-day seemed to
me to 'ave made a wager to read the prayers against time, an' that can
do no good at all to any one, you know.  Far better, in my opinion, to
'ave no service at all.  No wonder men won't listen.  Why, it's a
mockery--that's what it is."

A walk round Suez with Armstrong and Stevenson till tattoo at 9:30
finished the day, and convinced Miles and his friends that the sooner
they bade adieu to that place the better for all of them.

Their wishes were gratified almost sooner than they wished!



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

NEW AND SAD MINGLED WITH CURIOUS EXPERIENCES.

At Suez Miles Milton first made acquaintance with the shady side of war.

Before the commanding officer, after parade next morning, they received
marching orders, and kit-muster followed.  In the afternoon the
_Loch-Ard_ steamer came in from Suakim, with sick, wounded, and
invalids, and a large party was told off to assist in landing them and
their baggage.  Miles was one of the party.  The dock where the vessel
lay was three miles off, and the greater part of this distance the
invalids were brought by train; but the latter part of the journey had
to be done on foot by those who could walk, and on stretchers by those
who could not.

Oh! it was pitiful to see those battered, sunburnt, bloodless young men,
with deep lines of suffering on their faces, aged before their time, and
the mere wrecks of what they once were.  Men who had gone to that region
strong, active, ruddy, enthusiastic, and who, after a few months,
returned thus feeble and shattered--some irreparably so; others with
perhaps years of joyless life before them; a few with the unmistakable
stamp of death already on their brows.

There were about forty altogether.  Some, as we have said, were carried
from the vessel, and not one of the forlorn band could get on without
the assistance of their fresh comrades from England.

One tall, deep-chested young soldier, who must have been a splendid
specimen of manhood when he landed in Egypt, was supported on one side
by Miles, and on the other by Stevenson.

"Halt a moment," said the invalid, in a weak voice and with an
apologetic smile.  "I--I can't get along quite as fast as I used to."

His trembling legs and bowed back did not require the tongue or the
large sunken eyes to confirm that obvious truth.

"Poor fellow!" said Miles--with difficulty, owing to the lump in his
throat--"you ought to have had a stretcher.  Here, sit down a bit on
this stone.  Have you been wounded?"

"Ay," returned the man with a look of quiet resignation that seemed to
have become habitual to him, "I have been wounded, but not by spear or
bullet.  It's the climate that has done for me.  I used to think that
nothing under the sun could quell me, but the Lord has seen fit to bring
down my pride in that matter.  At the same time, it's only fair to say
that He has also raised me up, and given me greater blessings than He
has taken away.  They told me in Portsmouth that He would, and it has
come true."

"At the Institute?" asked Stevenson, eagerly.

"Ay--the Soldiers' Institute," answered the invalid.

"God bless you!" returned the marine, grasping his hand.  "It was there
I was brought to God myself.  Cheer up, brother!  You'll soon be in
hospital, where good food an' physic an' nursing will bring you round,
may-hap, an' make you as ship-shape as ever."

"It may be so, if He wills it so," returned the trooper softly; "but I
have a little book called `Our Warfare,' and a letter from the
`Soldier's Friend' in my pocket, which has done me more good than all
the hospitals and physic in Egypt can do.  Come, let us go on.  I'm
better now."

Rising and putting a long arm round the shoulders of each of his new
friends, the trooper slowly brought up the rear of the touching
procession which had already passed them on its way to Suez.

In the vessel which had brought those unfortunate men from Suakim, Miles
and his comrades soon found themselves advancing down that region of
sweltering heat called the Red Sea.  The sight of the disabled men had
naturally, at first, a depressing effect on the men; but the influence
of robust health, youth, strong hope, and that light-hearted courage
which makes the British soldier so formidable to his foes, soon restored
to most of them their wonted free-and-easy enjoyment of the present and
disregard for the future.  Even the serving out of cholera-belts and
pocket-filters failed to allay their exuberant spirits.

The _Loch-Ard_, although doubtless a good ship for carrying coals, was
very ill-suited to convey troops.  But in times of war, and in distant
lands, soldiers lay their account with roughing it.

They soon found that a little of the physic which is supposed to be
"rough on rats" would have been of advantage; for the very first night
many of the men were awakened by those creatures nibbling at their toes!
Everything on board was dirty: the tin pannikins were rusty, the
biscuit was mouldy and full of creatures that the captain called weevils
and Macleod styled wee-deevils.  Some of the biscuit was so bad that it
had to be thrown away, and the remainder eaten, as Moses said, with
closed eyes!

"It's an ill wind that blaws naebody guid," said Macleod to Moses Pyne,
as he came on deck to enjoy a pipe after their first dinner on board.
"What d'ee think that queer cratur Flynn is doin' doon below?"

"Nothing very useful, I daresay," said Moses.

"Ye're wrang for ance.  He's lyin' in ambush there, makin' war on the
rats--ay, an' he's killed twa or three a'ready!"

"You don't say so!  I'll go and see the fun."

So saying Moses went below, but had just reached the foot of the ladder
when a boot caught him violently on the shins.

"Hi! hallo! ho!" shouted Moses.

"Och! git out o' the line o' fire wid ye!  There's another!" growled
Flynn, as he fired a second boot, which whizzed past the intruder, and a
sharp squeak told that it had not been fired in vain!

Moses beat a hasty retreat, and the Irishman continued the fight with
that indomitable perseverance for which his countrymen are famous.
There is no saying how long the action would have lasted, but in his
energy he knocked away the support of a shelf behind him and a small
cask of large nails, taking him in rear, sent him sprawling on the deck
and routed him.

This misadventure did not, however, terminate the war.  On the contrary,
rat-hunting became a favourite pastime during the voyage down the Red
Sea.  Our hero, of course, took his turn at the fighting, but we believe
that he never received a medal for his share in that war.

They spent one Sunday on the deep, but the only record made of it, in
the journal of the soldier from which most of our facts are gathered, is
that they "had prayers in racing style--against time!"

As if to cleanse themselves from the impropriety of this act the
soldiers had a grand washing of clothes on the following day, and the
day after that they arrived at Suakim.

"It is what I call a dreary, dismal-looking town," said Miles to
Armstrong, as they approached.

"Might be worse," replied his friend.

"Ye aye tak a cheery view o' things, Airmstrong."

"An' what for no?" asked Sutherland.

"You may well ask why not," said Sergeant Hardy.  "I think it wisest to
look always on the bright side of things."

"Whether it's dreary or pleasant we'll have to make the best we can of
it, boys," said Stevenson; "for this is to be our home for some time to
come."

"Horrible!" growled Simkin, whose spirit was essentially rebellious.

"Ochone!" sighed Flynn, who, we need scarcely say, was essentially
jolly.

Further remark was cut short by the voice of Captain Lacey ordering the
men to fall in, as the colonel in command was coming on board to inspect
them.

The night of the arrival of the 310th was dreadfully hot, insomuch that
many of the men found it impossible to sleep.  But in the silence of
that night food for reflection was supplied to the wakeful, in the form
of sounds that were new to many, but soon became familiar to all--
namely, the boom of big guns and the rattle of musketry.  Osman Digna
was making one of his customary attacks on the town, and the defenders
were repelling him.  Of course the sanguine among the new arrivals were
much excited, and eager to join in the fray; but their services were not
required that night.  Osman and his dusky hordes were being repulsed as
usual, and the reinforcements were obliged to content themselves with
merely listening to the sounds of war.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

IN ACTION AT LAST.

No time was lost in sending the newly-arrived troops to their sphere of
duty.

There was something appropriate in their landing on that day of
gunpowdery memories, the 5th of November.  It was four o'clock when they
disembarked.  By four-thirty they were drawn up and inspected by the
General, and immediately thereafter marched off in detachments to their
respective stations--to Sphinx Redoubt, Fort Commodore, Bulimba, and
other points of defence.

The detachment in which Miles Milton found himself was led by Captain
Lacey to Sphinx Redoubt, where he was greatly pleased to find that his
new friend, private Stevenson of the marines, was also stationed with
some of his comrades.

There are probably times in the experiences of most of us when we seem
to awake out of a long dream and begin to appreciate fully that the
circumstances in which we are placed are stern realities after all.
Such a time of awakening came to our hero when he and his comrades each
received fifty rounds of ball-cartridge, and stood ready to repel
assault on the defences of Suakim.

Hitherto drill and reviews had seemed to him a good deal like playing at
soldiers.  Even when the distant sound of the big guns and the rattle of
small arms touched his ear, the slumber of unbelief was only broken--not
quite dispelled.  But now, weighted with the deadly missiles, with rifle
in hand, with ears alert to every sound, and eyes open to every object
that might present itself on the sandy waste beyond the redoubt, and a
general feeling of expectancy pervading his thoughts and feelings, he
became clearly convinced that the recent past was no flight of the
imagination--that he was in very truth a soldier, and that his fighting
career had in reality begun!

Now, it may not be out of place here to state that our hero was not by
nature a combative man.  We think it necessary to point this out,
because the somewhat pugnacious introduction of Miles into our story may
have misled the reader on this point.  His desire for a soldier's life
was founded on a notion that it would prove to be a roving, jovial,
hilarious sort of life, with plenty of sport and adventure in foreign
lands.  Of course he knew that it implied fighting also, and he was
quite ready for that when it should be required of him; but it did not
occur to him to reflect very profoundly that soldiering also meant, in
some instances, exposure to withering heat during the day and stifling
heat during the night; to thirst that seems unquenchable, and fatigue
from prolonged duty that seems irreparable; to fits of sickness that
appear to eliminate from stalwart frames all the strength they had ever
possessed; and fits of the "blues" that render the termination of life a
subject of rather pleasant contemplation than otherwise.  But all these
things he found out at Suakim!

Moreover, it had not occurred to him to think deeply on the fact that
fighting meant rushing at a fellow-man whose acquaintance he had not
made before; against whom he had not the slightest feeling of ill-will,
and skewering him with a bayonet, or sending a bullet into him which
would terminate his career in mid-life, and leave a wife and children--
perhaps a mother also--disconsolate.  But he also found that out at
Suakim!

We repeat that Miles had no desire to fight, though, of course, he had
no objection.  When the officer in command sent him and his comrades to
their station--after the ball-cartridge supply just referred to--and
told them to keep a sharp look-out, for Osman Digna was giving them a
great deal of trouble at the time, and pointed out where they were to go
if attacked, and warned them to be ready to turn out on the instant that
the bugle should sound the alarm, Miles was as full of energy and
determination to fight and die for his country as the best of his
comrades, though he did not express so strong a wish for a "brush with
the enemy," as some of them did, or sympathise much with Corporal Flynn
when he said--

"It's wishin' I am that Osman an' his dirty naygurs would come down on
us this night, for we're fresh an' hearty, just off the say, burnin' for
fame an' glory, ivery mother's son of us, an' fit to cut the black
bastes up into mince-meat.  Och! but it's thirsty I am!"

"If ye spoke less an' thocht mair ye wadna be sae dry, maybe," remarked
Saunders, in a cynical tone.

"Hoots, man, let the cratur alane," said Macleod, as he busied himself
polishing up some dim parts of his rifle.  "It's no muckle pleesure
we're like to hae in this het place.  Let the puir thing enjoy his
boastin' while he may."

"Sure an' we're not widout consolation anyhow," retorted the corporal;
"for as long as we've got you, Mac, and your countryman, to cheer us wid
your wise an' lively talk we'll niver die o' the blues."

As he spoke a tremendous explosion not far off caused the redoubt to
tremble to its foundations.  At the same moment the alarm sounded, the
men sprang up, seized their arms, and stood ready for an attack; but to
their surprise no attack was made.

"Surely it must have been one of the mines you were telling me about,"
said Miles, in a low voice to Sergeant Gilroy, who stood near to him.

"It was one of them unquestionably, for a corporal of the Berkshire
regiment told me Lieutenant Young placed the mine there yesterday."

While Gilroy was speaking, Lieutenant Young himself came along, engaged
in earnest conversation with Captain Lacey, and stood still close beside
Miles.

"What puzzles me, is that they have not followed it up with a few
volleys, according to their usual custom," said the former, in a low
voice.  "Luckily they seldom do any harm, for they are uncommonly bad
shots, but they generally try their best to do us mischief, and always
make a good deal of noise about it."

"Perhaps," suggested Captain Lacey, "your mine has done so much
execution this time, and killed so many men, that they've got a fright
and run away."

"It may be so, but I think not.  The Soudanese are not easily
frightened, as we have some cause to know."

"Have you many mines about?" asked the captain.

"Yes, we have a good many.  And they form a most important part of our
defence, for we are not very well supplied with men, and the Egyptian
troops are not to be depended on unless backed up by ours.  These mines
require to be carefully handled, however, for our shepherds take the
cattle out to graze every day, so that if I were to fail to disconnect
any of them in the mornings, we should have some of our cattle blown up;
and if I failed to connect them again at night, the enemy would attack
us more vigorously.  As it is, they are very nervous about the mines.
They have pluck to face any foe that they can see, but the idea of an
unseen foe, who lurks underground anywhere, and may suddenly send them
into the sky like rockets, daunts them a bit."

"And little wonder!" returned the captain.  "From what you say I judge
that you have the management of most of the mines."

"Of all of them," answered the lieutenant, with a modest look.

There was more than modesty in this young officer of Engineers; there
was heroism also.  He might have added, (though he did not), that this
duty of connecting and disconnecting the mines each night and morning
was such a dangerous service that he declined to take men out with him,
and invariably did the work personally and alone.

The mystery of the explosion on the night we write of was explained next
morning when a party sallied forth to see what damage had been done.
They found, instead of dismembered men, the remnants of a poor little
hare which had strayed across the fatal line of danger and been blown to
atoms.  Thus do the lives of the innocent too often fall a sacrifice to
the misdeeds of the guilty!

Next night, however, the defenders were roused by a real attack.

The day had been one of the most trying that the new arrivals had yet
experienced.  The seasoned men, who had been formed by Nature,
apparently, of indestructible material, said it was awful.  The
thermometer stood at above 110 degrees in the shade; there was not a
breath of air moving; the men were panting, almost choking.  Even the
negroes groaned, and, drawing brackish water from a well in the fort,
poured it over their heads and bodies--but with little benefit, for the
water itself was between 95 and 100 degrees!

"It'll try some o' the new-comers to-night, if I'm not mistaken,"
remarked one of the indestructible men above referred to, as he rose
from dinner and proceeded to fill his pipe.

"Why d'you think so?" asked Sergeant Hardy, whose name was appropriate,
for he continued for a long time to be one of the indestructibles.

"'Cause it's always like this when we're goin' to have a horrible
night."

"Do the nights vary much?" asked Armstrong, who was still busy with his
knife and fork.

"Of course they do," returned the man.  "Sometimes you have it quite
chilly after a hot day.  Other times you have it suffocatin'--like the
Black Hole of Calcutta--as it'll be to-night."

"What sort o' hole was that?" asked Simkin, whose knowledge of history
was not extensive.

"It was a small room or prison into which they stuffed a lot of our men
once, in India, in awful hot weather, an' kep' them there waitin' till
the Great Mogul, or some chap o' that sort, should say what was to be
done wi' them.  But his Majesty was asleep at the time, an' it was as
much as their lives was worth to waken him.  So they had to wait, an'
afore he awakened out o' that sleep most o' the men was dead--suffocated
for want o' fresh air."

"I say, Mac, pass the water," said Moses Pyne.  "It makes a feller feel
quite gaspy to think of."

The weather-prophet proved to be right.  That night no one could sleep a
wink, except the big Scotsman Macleod.  To make matters worse, the
insects of the place were unusually active.  One of them especially, not
much bigger than a pin-point, was irritating out of all proportion to
its size, and it kept up, during the night, the warfare which the
innumerable flies had waged during the day.

"It's no use trying to sleep, Willie," said Miles to Armstrong, who was
next to him, as they lay on the flat roof of the redoubt, with their
rifles resting on the sandbags which formed a slight protection from the
enemy's fire when one of the frequent attacks was made on the town.

"So I find," returned his friend.  "I have tried everything.  Counting
up to hundreds of thousands has made me rather more wakeful.  I find
that thinking of Emmy does me most good, but even that won't produce
sleep."

"Strange!" remarked Miles.  "I have been trying the same sort of thing--
without success.  And I've had an unusually hard day of it, so that I
ought to be ready for sleep.  You were in luck, being on police-duty."

"H'm!  I don't think much of my luck.  But let's hear what you have been
up to all day."

"Well, first, I began by turning out at 5:30 a.m.," said Miles, rolling
with a sigh on his other side, for a uniform, cross-belts, boots,
ammunition, etcetera, don't, after all, form an easy night-dress.
"After a cup of coffee I fell in with a lot of our fellows, and was told
off for fatigue-duty.  Worked away till 7:30.  Then breakfast.  After
that I had to clear up the mess; then got ready for inspection parade at
9:30, after which I had to scrub belts, and clean up generally.  Dinner
over, I was warned to go on night-guard; but, for some reason which was
not stated to me, that was changed, and I'm not sorry for it, because
the heat has taken a good deal out of me, and I prefer lying here beside
you, Willie, to standing sentry, blinking at the desert, and fancying
every bush and stone to be a dusky skirmisher of Osman Digna.  By the
way, if that mountain range where the enemy lies is twelve or fourteen
miles distant from the town, they have a long way to come when they take
a fancy to attack us--which is pretty often too.  They say he has got
two hundred thousand men with him.  D'you think that can be true?"

A gentle trumpet-note from his friend's nose told Miles that he had
brought about what thoughts of Emmy had failed to accomplish!

Thoughts of Marion had very nearly brought himself to a similar
condition, when a trumpet-blast, the reverse of gentle, roused the whole
line of defence, and, immediately after, sharp firing was heard in the
direction of the right Water fort, which was manned by marines with two
Krupp guns and a Gardner.  A few rounds from the big guns drove the
enemy back in that direction.

Miles and those around him, however, had not to turn out.  Owing to
their position on the roof of the Sphinx Redoubt, they had only to roll
on their fronts, rest their rifles on the sandbags, and they were at
once ready for action.

Round the various forts and redoubts deep and broad trenches had been
dug, and they were rendered otherwise as strong as possible.  The right
and left Water forts formed the first line of defence.  The latter fort,
being manned by Egyptian troops, was more frequently favoured with the
attentions of Osman than the others, for the marines were splendid men,
and the native chief was well aware of that.  All the places around,
which offered the slightest shelter to the enemy, had been carefully
measured as to distance, so that the exact range could be fixed at a
moment's notice.  Then the war-vessels and one of the forts were
furnished with electric lights, so that, by bringing these to bear on
the foe, as well as the big and little guns--not to mention mines and
rifles--the attacking host had always a warm reception when they paid a
visit to the town, and never stayed long!

The defenders required all these aids, however; for, besides a regiment
of Egyptian infantry, a company of Royal Engineers, and about 500
marines, there was only one small battalion of British troops and a
regiment of Egyptian cavalry.  These last were extremely useful.  Every
day they went out scouting and clearing around Suakim, and had frequent
skirmishes with the enemy, in all of which they were said to have
behaved very well indeed.

Our party on the redoubt had not lain there long when a sheet of flame
seemed to flash out of the darkness in front of them.  It was followed
by the rattle of small arms.  Instantly the redoubt replied; bullets
whizzed overhead, and our hero received what has of late been called a
"baptism of fire."

But he was so busy plying his own weapon that he scarcely realised the
fact that death was ever and anon within a few inches of him, until a
bullet ripped the sandbag on which his rifle rested and drove the sand
into his face.  He became a wiser man from that hour, and soon acquired
the art of performing his duty with the least possible exposure of his
person, and that for the briefest possible space of time!

Like a first-rate detective, the electric light sought out and exposed
their foes; then withering volleys sent them scurrying across the
country back to their native hills.

"Sure it's wid wan eye open we've got to slape whin the murtherin'
rascals come down on us like that," observed Corporal Flynn, when the
firing had slackened to a few dropping shots on both sides.

"Av they'd only stand fornint us in the open, it's short work we'd make
o' them.  There's no more pluck in them than in my smallest finger."

It seemed as if righteous retribution were being meted out that night,
for a spent ball entered the fort at that moment and, strange to say,
hit the extreme tip of the corporal's little finger!

A howl, as much of surprise as pain, apprised his comrades of the fact,
and a hearty laugh followed when the trifling extent of the injury was
ascertained.

"Serves you right, Flynn, for boasting," said Armstrong, with a grim
smile, as he stretched himself out and rested his head on a sandbag.
"Moreover, you are unjust, for these black fellows are as brave a lot o'
men as British troops have ever had to face.  Good-night, boys, I'm off
to the land of Nod!"



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

TELLS OF SOME OF THE TRIALS, UNCERTAINTIES, DANGERS, AND DISASTERS OF
WAR.

Uncertain moonlight, with a multitude of cloudlets drifting slowly
across the sky so as to reveal, veil, partially obscure, or sometimes
totally blot out the orb of night, may be a somewhat romantic, but is
not a desirable, state of things in an enemy's country, especially when
that enemy is prowling among the bushes.

But such was the state of things one very sultry night when our hero
found himself standing in the open alone, and with thoughts of a varied
and not wholly agreeable nature for his companions.

He was on sentry duty.

It was intensely dark when the clouds partially veiled the moon, for she
was juvenile at the time--in her first quarter; and when the veil was
partially removed, the desert, for it was little better, assumed an
indistinct and ghostly-grey appearance.

Sombre thoughts naturally filled the mind of our young soldier as he
stood there, alert, watchful, with weapons ready, ears open to the
slightest sound, and eyes glancing sharply at the perplexing shadows
that chased each other over the ground like wanton Soudanese at play.
His faculties were intensely strung at what may well be styled
"attention," and riveted on that desert land to which Fate--as he called
his own conduct--had driven him.  Yet, strange to say, his mysterious
spirit found leisure to fly back to old England and revisit the scenes
of childhood.  But he had robbed himself of pleasure in that usually
pleasant retrospect.  He could see only the mild, sorrowful, slightly
reproachful, yet always loving face of his mother when in imagination he
returned home.  It was more than he could bear.  He turned to pleasanter
memories.  He was back again at Portsmouth, in the reading-room of the
Soldiers' Institute, with red-coated comrades around him, busy with
newspaper and illustrated magazine, while the sweet sound of familiar
music came from the adjoining rooms, where a number of Blue Lights, or
rather red-coats, who were not ashamed to own and serve their Maker,
were engaged with songs of praise.

Suddenly he was back in Egypt with his heart thumping at his ribs.  An
object seemed to move on the plain in front of him.  The ready bayonet
was lowered, the trigger was touched.  Only for a moment, however.  The
shadow of a cloud had passed from behind a bush--that was all; yet it
was strange how very like to a real object it seemed to his
highly-strung vision.  A bright moonbeam next moment showed him that
nothing to cause alarm was visible.

Mind is not so easily controlled as matter.  Like a statue he stood
there in body, but in mind he had again deserted his post.  Yet not to
so great a distance as before.  He only went the length of Alexandria,
and thought of Marion!  The thought produced a glow, not of physical
heat--that was impossible to one whose temperature had already risen to
the utmost attainable height--but a glow of soul.  He became heroic!  He
remembered Marion's burning words, and resolved that Duty should
henceforth be his guiding-star!

Duty!  His heart sank as he thought of the word, for the Something
within him became suddenly active, and whispered, "How about your duty
to parents?  You left them in a rage.  You spent some time in
Portsmouth, surrounded by good influences, and might have written home,
but you didn't.  You made some feeble attempts, indeed, but failed.  You
might have done it several times since you landed in this country, but
you haven't.  You know quite well that you have not fully repented even
yet!"

While the whispering was going on, the active fancy of the youth saw the
lovely face of Marion looking at him with mournful interest, as it had
been the face of an angel, and then there came to his memory words which
had been spoken to him that very day by his earnest friend Stevenson the
marine: "No man can fully do his duty to his fellows until he has begun
to do his duty to God."

The words had not been used in reference to himself but in connection
with a discussion as to the motives generally which influence men.  But
the words were made use of by the Spirit as arrows to pierce the youth's
heart.

"Guilty!" he exclaimed aloud, and almost involuntary followed, "God
forgive me!"

Again the watchful ear distinguished unwonted sounds, and the sharp
eye--wonderfully sharpened by frequent danger--perceived objects in
motion on the plain.  This time the objects were real.  They approached.
It was "the rounds" who visited the sentries six times during each
night.

In another part of the ground, at a considerable distance from the spot
where our hero mounted guard, stood a youthful soldier, also on guard,
and thinking, no doubt, of home.  He was much too young for service in
such a climate--almost a boy.  He was a ruddy, healthy lad, with plenty
of courage and high spirit, who was willing to encounter anything
cheerfully, so long as, in so doing, he could serve his Queen and
country.  But he was careless of his own comfort and safety.  Several
times he had been found fault with for going out in the sun without his
white helmet.  Miles had taken a fancy to the lad, and had spoken
seriously, but very kindly, to him that very day about the folly of
exposing himself in a way that had already cost so many men their lives.

But young Lewis laughed good-naturedly, and said that he was too tough
to be killed by the sun.

The suffocating heat of that night told upon him, however, severely--
tough though he was or supposed himself to be--while he kept his lonely
watch on the sandy plain.

Presently a dark figure was seen approaching.  The sentinel at once
challenged, and brought his rifle to the "ready."  The man, who was a
native, gave the password all right, and made some apparently
commonplace remark as he passed, which, coupled with his easy manner and
the correct countersign, threw the young soldier off his guard.
Suddenly a long sharp knife gleamed in the faint light and was drawn
across the body of Lewis before he could raise a hand to defend himself.
He fell instantly, mortally wounded, with his entrails cut open.  At
the same moment the tramp of the rounds was heard, and the native glided
back into the darkness from which he had so recently emerged.

When the soldiers came to the post they found the poor young soldier
dying.  He was able to tell what had occurred while they were making
preparations to carry him away, but when they reached the fort they
found that his brief career had ended.

A damp was cast on the spirits of the men of his company when they
learned next day what had occurred, for the lad had been a great
favourite; but soldiers in time of war are too much accustomed to look
upon death in every form to be deeply or for long affected by incidents
of the kind.  Only the comrades who had become unusually attached to
this poor youth mourned his death as if he had been a brother in the
flesh as well as in the ranks.

"He was a good lad," said Sergeant Gilroy, as they kept watch on the
roof of the fort that night.  "Since we came here he has never missed
writing to his mother a single mail.  It is true, being an amiable lad,
and easily led through his affections, he had given way to drink to some
extent, but no later than yesterday I prevailed upon him to join our
temperance band--"

"What? become a Blue Light!" exclaimed Sutherland, with something of a
sneer in his tone.

"Ah, comrade; and I hope to live to see you join our band also, and
become one of the bluest lights among us," returned the sergeant
good-humouredly.

"Never!" replied Sutherland, with emphasis; "you'll never live to see
that."

"Perhaps not, but if I don't live to see it some one else will,"
rejoined the sergeant, laying his hand gently on the man's shoulder.

"Is that you again?  It's wishin' I am that I had you in ould Ireland,"
growled Corporal Flynn, referring to Osman Digna, whose men had opened
fire on the neighbouring fort, and again roused the whole garrison.
"Slape is out o' the question wi' such a muskitos buzzin' about.  Bad
luck to 'ee!"

"What good would it do to send him to Ireland?" asked Simkin, as he
yawned, rolled over, and, like the rest of his comrades, loaded his
rifle.

"Why, man, don't ye see, av he was in ould Ireland he couldn't be
disturbin' our night's rest here.  Moreover, they'd make a dacent man of
'im there in no time.  It's always the way; if an English blackguard
goes over to Ireland he's almost sure to return home more or less of a
gintleman.  That's why I've always advised you to go over, boy.  An'
maybe if Osman wint he'd--Hallo!"

A flash of light and whistling of bullets overhead effectually stopped
the Irishman's discourse.  Not that he was at all alarmed by the
familiar incident, but being a change of subject it became more
absorbingly interesting than the conversation, besides necessitating
some active precautions.

The firing seemed to indicate an attack in several places along the line
of defence.  At one of the posts called the New House the attack was
very sharp.  The enemy could not have been much, if at all, over three
hundred yards distant in the shelter of three large pits.  Of course the
fire was vigorously returned.  A colonel and major were there on the
redoubt, with powerful field-glasses, and directed the men where to fire
until the General himself appeared on the scene and took command.  On
the left, from Quarantine Island, the Royal Engineers kept up a heavy
cross-fire, and on the right they were helped by a fort which was manned
by Egyptian troops.  From these three points a heavy fire was kept up,
and continued till six o'clock in the morning.

By that time, the enemy having been finally driven out of the pits, a
party was sent across to see what execution had been done.  It was
wonderfully little, considering the amount of ammunition and energy
expended.  In the first pit one man was found dead; a bullet had entered
his forehead and come out at the back of his head.  Moving him a little
on one side they found another man under him, shot in the same way.  All
round the pit inside were large pools of blood, but no bodies, for the
natives invariably dragged or carried away their dead when that was
possible.  In the other two pits large pools of blood were also found,
but no bodies.  Beyond them, however, one man was discovered shot
through the heart.  He had evidently been dragged along the sand, but
the tremendous fire of the defenders had compelled the enemy to drop
him.  Still further on they found twelve more corpses which had been
dragged a short way and then left.

Close to these they observed that the sand had been disturbed, and on
turning it up found that a dozen of bodies had been hastily buried
there.  Altogether they calculated that at least fifty of the enemy had
been killed on that occasion--a calculation which was curiously verified
by the friendly tribes asking permission to bury the dead according to
the Soudanese custom.  This was granted, of course, and thus the exact
number killed was ascertained, but how many had been wounded no one
could tell.

"Fifty desolated homes!" remarked one of the men, when the number of
killed was announced at mess that day.  He was a cynical, sour-visaged
man, who had just come out of hospital after a pretty severe illness.
"Fifty widows, may-hap," he continued, "to say nothin' o' child'n--that
are just as fond o' husbands an' fathers as _ours_ are!"

"Why, Jack Hall, if these are your sentiments you should never have
enlisted," cried Simkin, with a laugh.

"I 'listed when I was drunk," returned Hall savagely.

"Och, then, it sarves ye right!" said Flynn.  "Even a pig would be
ashamed to do anythin' whin it was in liquor."

The corporal's remark prevented the conversation taking a lugubrious
turn, to the satisfaction of a few of the men who could not endure to
look at anything from a serious point of view.

"What's the use," one of them asked, "of pullin' a long face over what
you can't change?  Here we are, boys, to kill or be killed.  My creed
is, `Take things as they come, and be jolly!'  It won't mend matters to
think about wives and child'n."

"Won't it?" cried Armstrong, looking up with a bright expression from a
sheet of paper, on which he had just been writing.  "Here am I writin'
home to _my_ wife--in a hurry too, for I've only just heard that word
has been passed, the mail for England goes to-day.  I'm warned for guard
to-night, too; an' if the night takes after the day we're in for a
chance o' suffocation, to say nothing o' insects--as you all know.  Now,
won't it mend matters that I've got a dear girl over the sea to think
about, and to say `God bless her, body and soul?'"

"No doubt," retorted the take-things-as-they-come-and-be-jolly man,
"but--but--"

"But," cried Hall, coming promptly to his rescue, "have not the
Soudanese got wives an' children as well as us?"

"I daresay they have--some of 'em."

"Well, does the thought of your respective wives an' children prevent
your shooting or sticking each other when you get the chance?"

"Of course it don't!" returned Armstrong, with a laugh as he resumed his
pencil.  "What would be the use o' comin' here if we didn't do that?
But I haven't time to argue with you just now, Hall.  All I know is that
it's my duty to write to my wife, an' I won't let the chance slip when
I've got it."

"Bah!" exclaimed the cynic, relighting his pipe, which in the heat of
debate he had allowed to go out.

Several of the other men, having been reminded of the mail by the
conversation, also betook themselves to pen and pencil, though their
hands were more familiar with rifle and bayonet.  Among these was Miles
Milton.  Mindful of his recent thoughts, and re-impressed with the word
_Duty_, which his friend had just emphasised, he sat down and wrote a
distinctly self-condemnatory letter home.  There was not a word of
excuse, explanation, or palliation in it from beginning to end.  In
short, it expressed one idea throughout, and that was--Guilty! and of
course this was followed by his asking forgiveness.  He had
forgiveness--though he knew it not--long before he asked it.  His
broken-hearted father and his ever-hopeful mother had forgiven him in
their hearts long before--even before they received that treasured
fragment from Portsmouth, which began and ended with:

"Dearest Mother, I am sorry--"

After finishing and despatching the letter, Miles went out with a
feeling of lightness about his heart that he had not felt since that
wretched day when he forsook his father's house.

As it was still early in the afternoon he resolved to take a ramble in
the town, but, seeing Sergeant Gilroy and another man busy with the
Gardner gun on the roof of the redoubt, he turned aside to ask the
sergeant to accompany him; for Gilroy was a very genial Christian, and
Miles had lately begun to relish his earnest, intelligent talk, dashed
as it was with many a touch of humour.

The gun they were working with at the time had been used the day before
in ascertaining the exact range of several objects on the ground in
front.

"I'll be happy to go with you, Miles, after I've given this gun a
clean-out," said Gilroy.  "Turn the handle, Sutherland."

"I'll turn the handle if it's a' richt," said the cautious Scot, with
some hesitation.

"It is all right," returned the sergeant.  "We ran the feeder out last
night, you know, and I want to have the barrels cleaned.  Turn away."

Thus ordered a second time, Sutherland obeyed and turned the handle.
The gun went off, and its contents passed through the sergeant's groin,
making a hole through which a man could have passed his arm.

He dropped at once, and while some ran for the doctor, and some for
water, others brought a stretcher to carry the poor fellow to hospital.
Meanwhile Miles, going down on his knees beside him, raised his head and
moistened his pale lips with water.  He could hardly speak, but a smile
passed over his face as he said faintly, "She'll get my presents by this
mail.  Write, Miles--break it to her--we'll meet again--by the side of
Jesus--God be praised!"

He ceased, and never spoke again.

Gilroy was a married man, with five children.  Just before the accident
he had written to his wife enclosing gifts for his little ones, and
telling, in a thankful spirit, of continued health and safety.  Before
the mail-steamer with his letter on board was out of sight he was dead!



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

DESCRIBES SOME OF OSMAN DIGNA'S ECCENTRICITIES AND OTHER MATTERS.

One day Miles and his friend Armstrong went to have a ramble in the town
of Suakim, and were proceeding through the bazaar when they encountered
Simkin hurrying towards them with a much too serious expression on his
face!

"Have you heard the n-news?" he asked, on coming up.

"No; what's up?"

"The old shep-shepherd's bin killed; all the c-cattle c-captured, an'
the Egyptian c-cavalry's bin sent out after them."

"Nonsense!  You're dreaming, or you've bin drinking," said Miles.

"Neither dreamin' nor drinkin'," returned Simkin, with indignation, as
he suddenly delivered a blow at our hero's face.  Miles stopped it,
however, gave him a playful punch in the chest, and passed on.

At first Simkin seemed inclined to resent this, but, while he swayed
about in frowning indecision, his comrades left him; shaking his head,
therefore, with intense gravity, he walked away muttering, "Not a bad
fellow Miles, after all, if he w-wasn't so fond o' the b-bottle!"

Miles was at the same moment making the same remark to his friend in
reference to Simkin, and with greater truth.

"But I don't wonder that the men who drink, go in for it harder than
ever here," continued Miles.  "There is such hard work, and constant
exposure, and so little recreation of any sort.  Yet it is a pity that
men should give way to it, for too many of our comrades are on the
sick-list because of it, and some under the sod."

"It is far more than a pity," returned Armstrong, with unwonted energy.
"Drink with its attendant evils is one of the great curses of the army.
I have been told, and I can well believe it, that drink causes more loss
to an army than war, the dangers of foreign service, and unhealthy
climates, all put together."

"That's a strong statement, Willie, and would need to be founded on good
authority.  Who told you?"

"Our new parson told me, and he is in my opinion a good authority,
because he is a Christian, if ever a man was; and he is an elderly man,
besides being uncommonly clever and well informed.  He told us a great
many strong facts at the temperance meeting we held last night.  I wish
you had been there, Miles.  It would have warmed your heart, I think."

"Have you joined them, Willie?"

"Yes, I have; and, God helping me, I mean to stick by them!"

"I would have gone to the meeting myself," said Miles thoughtfully, "if
I had been asked."

"Strange," returned Armstrong, "that Sergeant Hardy said to me he
thought of asking you to accompany us, but had an idea that you wouldn't
care to go.  Now, just look at that lot there beside the grog-shop door.
What a commentary on the evils of drink!"

The lot to which he referred consisted of a group of miserable loungers
in filthy garments and fez-caps, who, in monkey-like excitement, or
solemn stupidity, stood squabbling in front of one of the many Greek
drinking-shops, with which the town was cursed.

Passing by at the moment, with the stately contempt engendered by a
splendid physique and a red coat, strode a trooper--one of the defenders
of the town.  His gait was steady enough, but there was that
unmistakable something in the expression of his face which told that he
was in the grip of the same fiend that had captured the men round the
grog-shop door.  He was well-known to both Armstrong and Miles.

"Hallo!  Johnson," cried the latter.  "Is there any truth in the--"

He stopped, and looked steadily in the trooper's eyes without speaking.

"Oh yes, I know what you mean," said Johnson, with a reckless air.  "I
know that I'm drunk."

"I wouldn't say exactly that of you," returned Miles; "but--"

"Well, well, I say it of myself," continued the trooper.  "It's no use
humbuggin' about it.  I'm swimmin' wi' the current.  Goin' to the dogs
like a runaway locomotive.  Of course I see well enough that men like
Sergeant Hardy, an' Stevenson of the Marines, who have been temperance
men all their lives, enjoy good health--would to God I was like 'em!
And I know that drinkers are dyin' off like sheep, but that makes it all
the worse for me, for, to tell you the honest truth, boys--an' I don't
care who knows it--I _can't_ leave off drinkin'.  It's killin' me by
inches.  I know, likewise, that all the old hard drinkers here are soon
sent home ruined for life--such of 'em at least as don't leave their
miserable bones in the sand, and I know that I'm on the road to
destruction, but I can't--I _won't_ give it up!"

"Ha!  Johnson," said Armstrong, "these are the very words quoted by the
new parson at the temperance meetin' last night--an' he's a splendid
fellow with his tongue.  `Hard drinker,' says he, `you are humbuggin'
yourself.  You say you _can't_ give up the drink.  The real truth is, my
man, that you _won't_ give it up.  If only I could persuade you, in
God's strength, to say "I _will_," you'd soon come all right.'  Now,
Johnson, if you'll come with me to the next meetin'--"

"What! _me_ go to a temperance meetin'?" cried the trooper with
something of scorn in his laugh.  "You might as well ask the devil to go
to church!  No, no, Armstrong, I'm past prayin' for--thank you all the
same for invitin' me.  But what was you askin' about news bein' true?
What news?"

"Why, that the old shepherd has been killed, and all our cattle are
captured, and the Egyptian cavalry sent after them."

"You don't say so!" cried the trooper, with the air of a man who
suddenly shakes off a heavy burden.  "If that's so, they'll be wantin'
us also, no doubt."

Without another word he turned and strode away as fast as his long legs
could carry him.

Although there might possibly be a call for infantry to follow, Miles
and his friend did not see that it was needful to make for their fort at
more than their ordinary pace.

It was a curious and crowded scene they had to traverse.  Besides the
grog-shops already mentioned there were numerous coffee-houses, where,
from diminutive cups, natives of temperate habits slaked their thirst
and discussed the news--of which, by the way, there was no lack at the
time; for, besides the activity of Osman Digna and his hordes, there
were frequent arrivals of mails, and sometimes of reinforcements, from
Lower Egypt.  In the side-streets were many smithies, where lance-heads
and knives were being forged by men who had not the most distant belief
that such weapons would ever be turned into pruning-hooks.  There were
also workers in leather, who sewed up passages of the Koran in leathern
cases and sold them as amulets to be worn on necks and arms.  Elsewhere,
hairdressers were busy greasing and powdering with the dust of red-wood
the bushy locks of Hadendoa dandies.  In short, all the activities of
Eastern city life were being carried on as energetically as if the place
were in perfect security, though the only bulwark that preserved it,
hour by hour, from being swept by the innumerable hordes of Soudan
savagery, consisted of a few hundreds of British and Egyptian soldiers!

Arrived at the Sphinx Fort, the friends found that the news was only too
true.

The stolen cattle belonged to the people of Suakim.  Every morning at
six o'clock it was the custom of the shepherds to go out with their
herds and flocks to graze, there being no forage in or near the town.
All had to be back by sunset, when the gates were locked, and no one was
allowed out or in till six the next morning.  The women, who carried all
the water used in the waterless town, had of course to conform to the
same rule.  Like most men who are constantly exposed to danger, the
shepherds became careless or foolhardy, and wandered rather far with
their herds.  Osman was too astute to neglect his opportunities.  On
this occasion an old shepherd, who was well-known at Sphinx Redoubt, had
strayed too far.  The Soudanese swept down, cut off his retreat, killed
him, and, as we have said, carried off his cattle.

It was to retrieve, if possible, or avenge this disaster that the
Egyptian cavalry sallied forth.  They were seen galloping after the foe
when Miles reached the roof of the redoubt, where some of his comrades
were on duty, while Captain Lacey and several officers were looking on
with field-glasses.

"They are too late, I fear, to do much good," remarked one of the
officers.

"Don't I wish I was goin' wid them!" whispered Corporal Flynn to a
comrade.

"Ye wad be a queer objec' on the ootside o' a horse," remarked Macleod
cynically.

"Why, Mac, ye wouldn't have me go _inside_ of a horse, would ye?"

"It wad be much the same which way ye went," returned the Scot.

"Ah, thin, the horse wouldn't think so, unless he was a donkey!"

"Well done!" exclaimed Captain Lacey at that moment, as the cavalry cut
off and succeeded in recapturing a few of the cattle, and gave the enemy
several volleys, which caused them to beat a hasty retreat.  This,
however, turned out to be a _ruse_ on the part of Osman, who had his men
concealed in strong force there.  He tried to draw the cavalry away from
Suakim, and was very nearly successful.  In the ardour of pursuit the
Egyptians failed to observe that the Soudanese were creeping round their
rear to cut off retreat.  On discovering their mistake, and finding that
their small force of two hundred men was being surrounded by thousands
of Arab warriors, it was almost too late.  Turning at once, they
galloped back, and could be seen, through the field-glasses, turning now
and then gallantly to engage the pursuing foe.

No help could be rendered them at first, as they were beyond the range
of all the forts; nevertheless, they got in safely, with little injury
to man or beast, and driving before them the animals that had been
recovered.

Next day the body of the poor old shepherd was brought in and buried,
without a coffin, by his relations.

Miles, being off duty at the time, went to see the funeral, and found
that Eastern and Western ideas on this point, as on many others, are
wide as the poles asunder.  No doubt the grief of the near relations was
as real as it was demonstrative, but it required more credulity than he
possessed to enable him to believe that the howling, shouting, and
singing of many mourners was indicative of genuine feeling.  The
creation of noise, indeed, seemed to be their chief method of paying
respect to the dead.

As deaths in Suakim were very numerous at this time, owing to much
sickness among natives as well as troops, the sounds of mourning,
whether by volley or voice, became so frequent that orders were at last
given to cease firing over the soldiers' graves when they were buried.

Just ahead of the shepherd's body came some poor women, who were
weeping, falling down at intervals, and kissing the ground.  On reaching
the wall round the land side of the town these women stopped, formed a
circle, and kneeled on the sand while the body was passing them, then
they leaned forward and kissed the ground, continuing in that position
till all the procession had passed.  There the women remained, not being
allowed to go to the grave, and the singing and shouting were continued
by boys, who kept running round the bier as it was borne along.  On
reaching the grave the body was put in with the face toward the east,
and covered up with stones and mortar.  Then the grave was filled up
with sand, a brief prayer was offered--the mourners kneeling--after
which the people went home.

Sad thoughts filled the mind of our young soldier as he returned to the
fort, but the sadness was soon turned to indignation when he got there.

For some time past a Soudanese youth of about seventeen or eighteen
years of age had been coming about the Sphinx Redoubt and ingratiating
himself with the men, who took a great fancy to him, because he was
amiable in disposition, somewhat humorous as well as lively, and
handsome, though black!  They used to give him something to eat every
time he came, and made quite a pet of him.  One day while he was out in
the open country, Osman's men captured this youth and took him at once
before their leader, who, probably regarding him as a deserter, ordered
both his hands to be cut off close to the wrists.  The cruel deed was
done, and the poor lad was sent back to Suakim.  It was this that roused
the wrath of Miles as well as that of his comrades.  When they saw the
raw stumps and the haggard look of the poor fellow, who had suffered
much from loss of blood, they got into a state of mind that would have
made them ready to sally forth, if so required, and assault the entire
Soudan in arms!

"Och! av I only had 'im here," said Flynn, clenching his teeth and fists
at the same time.  "It's--it's--it's--"

"Mince-meat you'd make of him," said Moses.

"No--it's _cat's_ mate--the baste!"

The others were equally angry, though not quite so emphatic, but they
did not waste their time in useless regrets.  They hurried the young
Soudanese to the doctor, who carefully dressed his wounds, and every
care was thereafter taken of him by the men, until completely restored
to health.

It may interest the reader to know that this poor fellow was afterwards
well looked after.  Some sort of employment in the garrison was obtained
for him, and he was found to be a useful and willing servant, despite
the absence of his hands.

That night a furious sand-storm burst upon the town, accompanied by
oppressive heat.

"It always seems to me," said Miles to Gaspard Redgrave, who lay next
him, "that mosquitoes and sand-flies, cats and dogs, and in fact the
whole brute creation, becomes more lively when the weather is unusually
hot.  Just listen to these cats!"

"Like a colony of small children being murdered," said Gaspard.

"It's awfu'," observed Saunders, in a kind of solemn astonishment as a
frightful caterwaul burst upon their ears.  "I wadna like to hear
teegers in the same state o' mind."

"Or elephants," murmured Moses Pyne, who was more than half asleep.

The cats were indeed a great nuisance, for, not satisfied with getting
on the flat roofs of the houses at nights, and keeping up a species of
war-dance there, they invaded the soldiers' quarters, upsetting things
in the dark--thus demonstrating the absurdity of the proverb that cats
see best in the dark--stealing whatever they could lay hold of, and
inducing half-slumbering men to fling boots and shoes, or whatever came
most handy, at them.

Rats also were innumerable, and, to the great surprise--not to say
indignation--of the men, neither dogs nor cats paid the least attention
to the rats!

After a time the storm, both of animate and inanimate nature, began to
abate, and the weary overworked soldiers were dropping off to sleep when
a tremendous explosion effectually roused them.

"There goes another mine!" cried Armstrong, starting up.

"It don't require a prophet to tell us that," growled Gaspard, as he
yawned and slowly picked up his rifle.

Explosions were of quite common occurrence at that time, but had to be
attended to nevertheless.

That Osman had taken advantage of the very dark night to make an earlier
attack than usual was evident, for shots were fired immediately after
the explosion occurred, as usual.  These were replied to, but the effect
of the explosion, it was supposed, must have been unusually severe, for
the enemy withdrew after exchanging only a few shots.

This surmise was afterwards proved to be correct.  On going to the spot
the following morning, they found that at least a dozen of their foes
must have been blown up, for legs and arms and other human remains were
picked up in all directions.  These the soldiers gathered, with the aid
of the friendly natives, and burned.

No attack was made for four days after that, but then the untiring enemy
became as troublesome as ever.

Spies afterwards said that when Osman heard of this incident, and of the
number of men killed, he said, "it served them right.  They had no
business to go touching things that did not belong to them!"



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

ATHLETICS--A NEW ACQUAINTANCE TURNS UP--AN EXPEDITION UNDERTAKEN,
FOLLOWED BY A RACE FOR LIFE.

Energetic and exhilarating exercise has sometimes the effect of driving
away sickness which doctors' stuff and treatment fail to cope with
successfully.  In saying this we intend no slight either to doctors'
stuff or treatment!

After the troops had been some time at Suakim the effect of the climate
began to tell on them so severely that a very large proportion of
Europeans were in hospital, and many who strove hard to brave it out
were scarcely fit for duty.

Great heat did not, however, interfere with Miles Milton's health.  He
was one of those fortunates who seem to have been made of tougher clay
than the average of humanity.  But his friend Armstrong was laid up for
a considerable time.  Even Robert Macleod was knocked over for a brief
period, and the lively Corporal Flynn succumbed at last.  Moses Pyne,
however, stood the test of hard work and bad climate well, and so, for a
time, did Sergeant Hardy.  It was found generally that the abstainers
from strong drink suffered less from bad health and unwholesome
surroundings than their fellows, and as there were a good many in the
regiment, who were constantly endeavouring to convince their comrades of
the advantages of total-abstinence, things were not so bad as they might
have been.

It was about this time that one of the generals who visited Suakim
instituted athletic games, thereby vastly improving the health and
spirits of the men.  And now Miles Milton learned, for the first time,
what an immense power there lies in "scientific training!"

One evening, when out walking with Stevenson, he took it into his head
to race with him, and, having been a crack runner at school, he beat him
easily.

"Why, Miles," said his friend, when the short race was over, "I had no
idea you could run so well.  If you choose I will put you in training
for the coming sports.  You must know that I have run and walked and
competed in the track many a time at home, and have trained and brought
out runners, who had no notion of what was in them, till I proved it to
them by training.  Will you go in for it, and promise to do as I bid
you?"

"I have no objection," replied Miles, with a light laugh.

If he had known what his friend intended to do he might not have agreed
so readily, for, from that hour till the day of the sports, Stevenson
made him go through an amount of running--even after being made stiff by
previous runs--that he would never have agreed to undertake unless
forced to do so.  We say _forced_, because our hero regarded a promise
once given as sacred.  His was a curiously compound nature, so that
while in some points of conduct he was lax--as we have seen--in others
he was very strict.  He was peculiarly so in regard to promises.  His
comrades soon came to know this, and ultimately came to consider him a
very reliable man.

Having, then, promised his friend to keep sternly to his work, he did
so, with the result that his strength increased wonderfully.  Another
result was that he carried off the first prize in all the races.

In order to make the most of time and avoid the evils of noonday heat,
it was arranged that the races, etcetera, for the Egyptian soldiers and
natives in Government employ should come off in the morning, and that
the British troops should run in the later and cooler parts of the day.
With the temperature at 120 degrees in the shade it would have been
dangerous for Europeans to compete.  The sports, including our familiar
cricket, were greatly enjoyed, and the result was a decided improvement
in the health of the whole force.

Boat-races were also included in these sports.  At the conclusion of one
of these, Miles, to his great surprise, encountered his old acquaintance
of the _Sailors' Welcome_, big Jack Molloy.

"Why, Jack!" exclaimed Miles, as the hearty tar wrung his hand, "who'd
have expected to see _you_ here?"

"Ah, who indeed? an' I may say ditto."

"I'm _very_ glad to see you, Molloy, for, to say truth, I thought I had
seen the last of you when we parted in the troop-ship.  I've often
thought of you since, and of our first evening together in the--the--
what was its name?"

"The _Sailors' Welcome_--man alive!  I wonder you've forgot it.
Blessin's on it!  _I_ ain't likely to forget it.  Why, it was there,
(did I ever tell you?) the wery night arter I met you, that a messmate
took me to the big hall, back o' the readin'-room.  It's no use me
tryin' fur to tell you all I heard in that there big hall, but when I
come out--blow'd if I didn't sign the pledge right away, an' I ain't
took a drop o' grog since!"

"Glad to hear it, Jack, for, to say truth, I never saw the evil of grog
so clearly as I have since coming out here and seeing strong stout men
cast down by it in dozens,--many of them kind-hearted, right-thinking
men, whom I would have thought safe from such a thing.  Indeed I have
more than half a mind to join the Good Templars myself."

"Young man," said Molloy, sternly, "if it takes the death of dozens o'
stout kind-hearted men to force you to make up half your mind, how many
d'ee want to die before you make up the whole of it?"

"But I said that my mind was _more_ than half made up," returned Miles,
with a smile.

"Now lookee here," rejoined the sailor earnestly, "it's all wery well
for milksops an' nincompoops and landlubbers to go in for half-an'-half
work like that, but you're not the man I takes you for if you ain't game
for more than that, so I ax you to promise me that you'll sign the
pledge right off, as I did, first time you gits the chance."

"But you forget I'm only a landlubber who, according to you, is fit for
only half-an-half measures," said Miles, who, not being addicted to much
wine, felt disinclined to bind himself.

"No matter," returned the sailor, with deepening earnestness, "if you go
in fur it you'll _never_ repent it!  Take my word for that.  Now, I ax
ye to promise."

"Well, I _do_ promise--the very first time I get the chance; and that
will be to-morrow night, for our new parson has started temperance
meetings, and he is a great teetotaller."

"An' you promise to stick to it?" added Molloy.

"When I give a promise I _always_ stick to it!" returned Miles gravely.

"Right you are, lad.  Give us your flipper!"

The foregoing conversation took place at the harbour, a little apart
from the noisy group of soldiers and sailors who were discussing the
circumstances of the recent boat-race.

Immediately after it Molloy returned to his ship in the harbour, and our
hero to his post in the line of defence.

One of those who had been conspicuous that day in arranging and starting
the races, acting as umpire at the cricket, and, generally, putting
heart and spirit into everything by his quiet good-nature and
self-denying activity, was the young officer of Engineers, who has been
already mentioned as the manager of the mines that were laid around
Suakim.  Poor fellow! little did he imagine that that was to be his last
day on earth!

Every morning, as before mentioned, this young officer went out alone to
perform the dangerous work of disconnecting the mines, so that the
inhabitants of the town might go out and in and move about during the
day-time in safety.  Again, a little before sunset every evening, he
went out and reconnected them, so that the enemy could not approach the
place without the risk of being blown to pieces.  At the same time the
gates were closed, and no one was allowed to leave or enter the town.

On this particular evening the lieutenant went out as usual on his
dangerous mission just after six o'clock.  He had not been long gone
when a loud explosion was heard, and a cloud of smoke was seen where one
of the mines had been laid down.  A party at once sallied out, and
found, as they had feared, that the brave young fellow had perished.  He
had been literally blown to pieces, his head being found in one place,
while other portions of his body were scattered around.

This melancholy incident cast a gloom over the whole place.  The remains
of the heroic young engineer were buried next day with military honours.
The garrison was not, however, left long in peace to think over his sad
fate, for the very next night a determined attack was made all along the
line.  The annoying persistency of these attacks seemed to have stirred
the indignation of the general in command, for he ordered out a small
force of cavalry to carry the war into the enemy's country.

Critics say that this act was ill advised, and that the cavalry should
not have been despatched without the support of infantry.  Critics are
not always or necessarily right.  Indeed, we may venture to say that
they are often wrong!  We do not pretend to judge, but, be this as it
may, the cavalry was ordered to destroy the village of Handoub about
fifteen miles inland on the caravan route to Berber, and to blow up the
enemy's magazine there.

The force consisted of a troop of the 19th Hussars, and another of
Egyptian cavalry--about fifty men all told--under command of Captain
Apthorp.  Our intemperate friend Johnson was one of the little band.  He
was sober then, however, as he sat bolt upright on his powerful steed,
with a very stern and grave visage, for he had a strong impression that
the duty before them was no child's-play.

A four hours' ride brought them to the village.  The few Arabs who dwelt
in it fled at once on their approach, and in a very short time the place
was effectually destroyed, along with a large quantity of ammunition.

But no sooner had the soldiers finished the work, and begun to prepare
for their return, than they discovered that a large force of the enemy
was assembling to cut off their retreat.

No time for thought after that!  At least six thousand of the foe,
having heard of the expedition, had crept down through the thick bush
from the direction of Hasheen, thirsting for vengeance.  Two miles on
the Suakim side of Handoub they formed a line and opened fire on the
leading cavalry scouts.

Seeing that the Arabs were in such force, Captain Apthorp at once made
for their flank, in the direction of the sea-coast.  At full speed, with
horses fatigued by a fifteen miles' journey, they had to ride for life.
It was neck or nothing now!  The Egyptian cavalry, under Captain
Gregorie, and accompanied by Captain Stopford of the Grenadier Guards
and other officers, followed closely.

As they went along at racing speed, with more than a dozen miles of
wilderness to traverse, and death behind them, Private King of the
Hussars fell from his horse wounded.  Captain Gregorie came up with him,
stopped, and took the wounded man up behind him.  It was a generous but
desperate act, for what could be expected of a double-weighted horse in
such a region and with such a race before it?

For about half a mile he carried the wounded trooper, who then swooned
and fell off, dragging the captain along with him, the freed horse
rejoining its troop, while the Arabs came yelling on not a hundred and
fifty yards behind.

There would have been but little chance for Captain Gregorie at that
terrible crisis if self-denying courage equal to his own had not dwelt
in the breast of Private Baker of the Hussars.  Seeing what had
occurred, this hero coolly rode back, took the captain up behind him,
(see frontispiece,) and, regaining his troop, enabled the latter to
capture and remount his own steed.  Of course poor King--whether dead or
alive they could not tell--had to be left to his fate.

Heroism would seem to feed upon itself and multiply, for this same
Private Baker, soon afterwards, saw two more troopers, and shouted to a
comrade to turn back with him to their rescue.  The comrade, however,
did not see his way to do so.  Perchance he did not hear!  Anyhow he
galloped on, but Captain Gregorie hearing the summons, at once answered
it, turned, and galloped back with Baker.

They were only just in time to take up and rescue the two men.  At the
same time Captain Stopford performed a similar gallant act in rescuing a
dismounted trooper.

It is deeds of self-sacrifice and heroism such as these--not the
storming of a breach, or the fighting against overwhelming odds--that
bring out the noblest qualities of our soldiers, and arouse the
admiration of mankind!

The race for life was so close run that when the force at last reached
the sea-shore it was little more than sixty yards in advance of the foe,
and so exhausted were the horses that eight of them fell, and their
riders were captured--four being Englishmen and four Egyptians.  It is
right to add that one of the Egyptians also displayed conspicuous
courage in rescuing a comrade.

While these stirring incidents were taking place on the plain, Miles and
some of his comrades were seated on the roof of the redoubt, looking out
anxiously for the return of the cavalry.  At last, in the afternoon, a
cloud of dust was seen on the horizon, and the officers who had glasses
could soon make out that the men appeared to be racing towards the town
at full speed, while the enemy, on camels and horses, and on foot, were
racing down to the sea to cut off their retreat.  No sooner was this
understood than our men rose with an uncontrollable burst, seized their
rifles, flung on ammunition-belts, and rushed out to the rescue,
regardless for the moment of the officers shouting to them to come back.
The news spread like wildfire, and the men ran out just as they were--
some in white jackets, some in red, others in blue; many in their
shirts, with their sleeves rolled up; cavalry, artillery, marines,
infantry--all going helter-skelter towards the enemy.  Fortunately they
saw from the ships what was going on, and quickly got their guns to
bear, so that the moment our men had escaped clear of the enemy they
opened fire.  But for this more men would certainly have been lost, for
the overtaxed horses were beginning to give in and lose ground.  Had
they been a few minutes later in reaching the sea, it is probable that
not a man of that force would have returned to Suakim.

As it was, the men came in pale and terribly fatigued.  The horses could
scarcely walk, and two of them died on the following day.

Note.--Since the foregoing was written, we have learned, with profound
regret, that the gallant Captain Gregorie was killed by his horse
falling with him in 1886.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

LETTERS FROM HOME--FLYNN IS EXALTED AND BROUGHT LOW--RUMOURS OF WAR IN
THE AIR.

Events in life sometimes ripple along like the waters of a little stream
in summer.  At other times they rush with the wild impetuosity of a
hill-torrent in winter.

For some time after the incidents just narrated the life of our hero
rippled--but of course it must be clearly understood that a Suakim
ripple bore some resemblance to a respectable freshet elsewhere!  Osman
Digna either waited for reinforcements before delivering a grand
assault, or found sufficient entertainment to his mind, and satisfaction
to his ambition, in acting the part of a mosquito, by almost nightly
harassment of the garrison, which was thus kept continually on the
alert.

But there came a time at length when a change occurred in the
soldier-life at Suakim.  Events began to evolve themselves in rapid
succession, as well as in magnified intensity, until, on one particular
day, there came--metaphorically speaking--what is known among the
Scottish hills as a spate.

It began with the arrival of a mail from England.  This was not indeed a
matter of rare occurrence, but it was one of those incidents of the
campaign which never lost its freshness, and always sent a thrill of
pleasure to the hearts of the men--powerfully in the case of those who
received letters and packets; sympathetically in those who got none.

"At long last!" exclaimed Corporal Flynn, who was observed by his
comrades, after the delivery of the mail, to be tenderly struggling with
the complicated folds of a remarkable letter--remarkable for its
crookedness, size, dirt, and hieroglyphic superscription.

"What is it, Flynn?" asked Moses--one of the unfortunates who had
received no letter by that mail.

"A letter, sure.  Haven't ye got eyes, Moses?"

"From your wife, corporal?"

"Wife!" exclaimed Flynn, with scorn; "no!  It's mesilf wouldn't take the
gift of a wife gratis.  The letter is from me owld grandmother, an'
she's better to me than a dozen wives rowled into wan.  It's hard work
the writin' of it cost her too--poor owld sowl!  But she'd tear her eyes
out to plaze me, she would.  `Corporal, darlint,'--that's always the way
she begins her letters now; she's that proud o' me since I got the
stripes.  I thowt me mother or brother would have writ me too, but
they're not half as proud of me as my--"

"Shut up, Flynn!" cried one of the men, who was trying to decipher a
letter, the penmanship of which was obviously the work of an
unaccustomed hand.

"Howld it upside down; sometimes they're easier to read that way--more
sinsible-like," retorted the corporal.

"Blessin's on your sweet face!" exclaimed Armstrong, looking at a
photograph which he had just extracted from his letter.

"Hallo, Bill! that your sweetheart?" asked Sergeant Hardy, who was busy
untying a parcel.

"Ay, sweetheart an' wife too," answered the young soldier, with
animation.

"Let me see it, Willie," said Miles, who was also one of the
disconsolate non-receivers, disconsolate because he had fully expected a
reply to the penitent letter which he had written to his mother.

"First-rate, that's Emmy to a tee.  A splendid likeness!" exclaimed
Miles, holding the photograph to the light.

"Arrah! then, it's dead he must be!"

The extreme perplexity displayed in Flynn's face as he said this and
scratched his head produced a hearty laugh.

"It's no laughin' matter, boys," cried the corporal, looking up with an
expression so solemn that his comrades almost believed it to be genuine.
"There's my owld uncle Macgrath gone to his long home, an' he was the
support o' me grandmother.  Och! what'll she do now wid him gone an' me
away at the wars?"

"Won't some other relation look after her, Flynn?" suggested Moses.

"Other relation!" exclaimed the corporal; "I've got no other relations,
an' them that I have are as poor as rats.  No, uncle Macgrath was the
only wan wid a kind heart an' a big purse.  You see, boys, he was rich--
for an Irishman.  He had a grand farm, an' a beautiful bit o' bog.  Och!
it'll go hard wid--"

"Read on, Flynn, and hold your tongue," cried one of his comrades;
"p-r-aps he's left the old woman a legacy."

The corporal did read on, and during the perusal of the letter the
change in his visage was marvellous, exhibiting as it did an almost
magical transition from profound woe, through abrupt gradations of
surprise, to intense joy.

"Hooray!" he shouted, leaping up and bestowing a vigorous slap on his
thigh.  "He's gone an' left the whole farm an' the beautiful bog to ME!"

"What hae ye got there, sergeant?" asked Saunders, refolding the letter
he had been quietly perusing without paying any regard to the Irishman's
good news.

"A parcel of booklets from the Institute," answered Hardy, turning over
the leaves of one of the pamphlets.  "Ain't it good of 'em?"

"Right you are, Hardy!  The ladies there never forget us," said Moses
Pyne.  "Hand 'em round, sergeant.  It does a fellow's heart good to get
a bit o' readin' in an out-o'-the-way place like this."

"Comes like light in a dark place, don't it, comrade?" said Stevenson,
the marine, who paid them a visit at that moment, bringing a letter
which had been carried to the wrong quarter by mistake.  It was for
Miles Milton.  "I know'd you expected it, an' would be awfully
disappointed at finding nothing, so I brought it over at once."

"_You_ come like a gleam of sunshine in a dark place.  Thanks,
Stevenson, many thanks," said Miles, springing up and opening the letter
eagerly.

The first words sent a chill to his heart, for it told of his father
having been very ill, but words of comfort immediately followed--he was
getting slowly but surely better, and his own letter had done the old
man more good in a few days than all the doctor's physic had done in
many weeks.  Forgiveness was freely granted, and unalterable love
breathed in every line.  With a relieved and thankful heart he went on
reading, when he was arrested by a sudden summons of his company to fall
in.  Grasping his rifle he ran out with the rest.

"What is it?" he whispered to a sergeant, as he took his place in the
ranks.  "Osman again?"

"No, he's too sly a fox to show face in the day-time.  It's a steamer
coming with troops aboard.  We're goin' down to receive them, I
believe."

Soon after, the overworked garrison had the immense satisfaction and
excitement of bidding welcome to reinforcements with a stirring British
cheer.

These formed only the advance-guard.  For some time after that troops
were landed at Suakim every day.  Among them the 15th Sikhs, a splendid
body of men, with grand physique and fierce aspect, like men who "meant
business."  Then came the Coldstream Guards, the Scots and the Grenadier
Guards, closely followed by the Engineers and Hospital and Transport
Corps, the Shropshire Regiment, and many others.  The desire of these
fresh troops to meet the enemy was naturally strong, and the earnest
hope of every one was that they would soon sally forth and "have a go,"
as Corporal Flynn expressed it, "at Osman Digna on his own ground."

Poor Corporal Flynn!  His days of soldiering were nearly over!

Whether it was the excess of strong feeling raised in the poor fellow's
breast by the news of the grand and unexpected legacy, or the excitement
caused by the arrival of so many splendid troops and the prospect of
immediate action--or all put together--we cannot say, but certain it is
that the corporal fell sick, and when the doctors examined the men with
a view to decide who should march to the front, and who should remain to
guard the town, he was pronounced unfit for active service.  Worse than
that, he was reported to have entered upon that journey from which no
traveller returns.

But poor Flynn would not admit it, though he grew weaker from day to
day.  At last it was reported that he was dying, and Sergeant Hardy got
leave to go off to the hospital ship to see him, and convey to him many
a kind message from his sorrowful comrades, who felt that the regiment
could ill spare his lively, humorous spirit.

The sergeant found him the picture of death, and almost too weak to
speak.

"My dear fellow," said Hardy, sitting down by his cot and gently taking
his hand, "I'm sorry to see you like this.  I'm afraid you are goin' to
leave us."

The corporal made a slight motion with his head, as if of dissent, and
his lips moved.

Hardy bent his ear over them.

"Niver a bit, owld man," whispered Flynn.

"Shall I read the Bible to you, lad?" inquired the sergeant.

The corporal smiled faintly, and nodded.

After reading a few verses Hardy began to talk kindly and earnestly to
the dying man, who lay with his eyes closed.

When he was about to leave, Flynn looked up, and, giving his comrade's
hand a gentle squeeze, said, in a stronger whisper than before--

"Thankee, sergeant.  It's kind o' ye to be so consarned about my sowl,
and I agrees wid ivery word ye say; but I'm not goin' away yit, av ye
plaze."

He ceased to speak, and again closed his eyes.  The doctor and the
chaplain chanced to enter the hospital together as Hardy retired.  The
result of their visit was that they said the corporal was dead, and
orders were given to make his coffin.  A firing party was also told off
to bury him the next morning with military honours.  Early next morning,
accordingly, the firing party started for the hospital ship with the
coffin, but, before getting half-way to it, they were signalled to go
back, for the man was not yet dead!

In short, Corporal Flynn had begun to talk in a wild way about his
estate in Ireland, and his owld grandmother; and either the influence of
these thoughts, or Hardy's visit, had given him such a fillip that from
that day he began to revive.  Nevertheless he had received a very severe
shake, and, not very long after, was invalided home.  Meanwhile, as we
have said, busy preparations were being made by General Graham--who had
arrived and taken command of the forces--to offer battle to Osman's
troops.

In the midst of all the excitement and turmoil, however, the new
chaplain, who turned out to be "a trump," managed to hold a temperance
meeting; and the men who desired to serve God as well as their Queen and
country became more energetic than ever in trying to influence their
fellows and save themselves from the curse of strong drink, which had
already played such havoc among the troops at Suakim.

Miles attended the meeting, and, according to promise, signed the
total-abstinence pledge.  Owing to the postponement of meetings and the
press of duty he had not been able to do it sooner.

Shortly after that he was passed by the doctors as fit for duty in the
field.  So were Armstrong, Moses Pyne, and most of those strong and
healthy men whose fortunes we have followed thus far.

Then came the bustle and excitement of preparation to go out and attack
the enemy, and in the midst of it all the air was full of conflicting
rumours--to the effect that Osman Digna was about to surrender
unconditionally; that he would attack the town in force; that he was
dead; or that he had been summoned to a conference by the Mahdi!

"You may rest assured," said Sergeant Hardy one day to his comrades, as
they were smoking their pipes after dinner, "that nobody knows anything
at all for certain about the rebel chief."

"I heard that a spy has just come in with the information that he has
determined not to wait for our attack, if we go out, but to attack us in
our zereba," said Miles.  "He is evidently resolved not to commit the
same mistake he made last year of letting us attack _him_."

"He has pluck for anything," remarked Moses.

Osman proved, that same evening, that he had at least pluck enough to
send a pithy defiance to his foes, for an insulting letter was received
by General Graham, in which Osman, recounting the victories he had
gained over Hicks and Baker Pasha, boasted of his having destroyed their
armies, and dared the general to come out and fight him.  To this the
British General replied, reminding Osman of our victories of El-Teb and
Tamai, and advising him to surrender unless he wanted a worse beating
than he had got before!

Mutual defiance having been thus comfortably hurled, the troops were at
once detailed for service in the field, and the very next day set forth.
As our hero did not, however, accompany that expedition, and as it
returned to Suakim without doing anything remarkable--except some
energetic and even heroic fighting, which is by no means remarkable in
British troops,--we will pass on to the expedition which was sent out
immediately after it, and in which Miles Milton not only took an active
part, but distinguished himself.  With several of his comrades he also
entered on a new and somewhat unusual phase of a soldier's career.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

THE EXPEDITION--ENEMY REPORTED--MILES IN A DILEMMA.

Every one has heard of the expedition, sent out under Sir John McNeill,
in which that gallant general and his brave troops fought with
indomitable heroism, not only against courageous foes, but against
errors which, as a civilian, we will not presume to criticise, and
against local difficulties which were said to be absolutely
insurmountable.

Blame was due somewhere in connection with that expedition.  Wherever it
lay, we have a strong conviction--founded on the opinion of one who was
present--that it did not rest with the commander of the force.  It is
not, however, our part to comment, but to describe those events which
bore upon the fortunes of our hero and his immediate friends and
comrades.

It was about four o'clock on an uncommonly hot morning that the bugle
sounded in Suakim, and soon the place was alive with men of all arms,
devouring a hasty breakfast and mustering eagerly, for they were elated
at the near prospect of having "another slap at Osman!"

Strange, the unaccountably exultant joy which so many men experience at
the prospect of killing each other!  No doubt the Briton maintains that
it is all in defence of Queen and country, hearth and home.  An
excellent reason, of course!  But may not the Soudanese claim that the
defence of chief and country, tent and home, is an equally good reason--
especially when he rises to defend himself from the exactions and
cruelty of those superlative tyrants, the Turks, or rather, the Turkish
Pashas?--for we verily believe that the rank and file of all civilised
nations would gladly live at peace if their rulers would deal in
arbitration instead of war!  We almost feel that an apology is due for
introducing such a remark in a book about soldiers, for their duty is
clear as well as hard, and bravely is it done too.  Moreover, they are
in no way responsible for the deeds of those:

  "Fine old English gentlemen
  Who sit at home at ease,
  And send them forth to fight and die
  Beyond the stormy seas!"

The troops composing this expedition consisted of one squadron of the
5th Lancers, one battalion Berkshire Regiment, one battalion of Marines,
one Field Company Royal Engineers, a detachment of the Royal Navy in
charge of four Gardner guns, a regiment of Sikhs, Bengal Native
Infantry, Bombay Native Infantry, and a body of Madras Sappers.  Along
with these was sent an immense convoy of 1500 camels, besides a large
number of mules with carts bearing iron water-tanks.

The orders for the expedition were that they should proceed eight miles
into the bush, and there make three zerebas, or defensive enclosures of
bushes, capable of sheltering the entire force.

The march was begun by McNeill moving off with his European troops in
square formation.  The Indian contingent, under General Hudson,
followed, also in square, and in charge of the transport.

"A goodly force!" remarked Armstrong, in a low tone to Miles, as they
stepped off, shoulder to shoulder, for, being both about the same size,
and unusually tall, they marched together on the right flank of their
company.

"Don't speak in the ranks, Willie," returned Miles, with a slight smile,
for he could not shut his eyes to the fact that this strict regard for
orders was due more to Marion Drew's remarks about a soldier's _duty_
than to principle.

"H'm!" grunted Robert Macleod, who marched next to them, and had no
conscientious scruples about talking, "we may mairch oot smert eneugh,
but some o' us'll no' come back sae hearty."

"Some of us will never come back at all," replied Armstrong, gravely.

By six o'clock the rear-guard had left Suakim, and the whole of the
force moved across the plain, in parts of which the men and carts sank
deep in the soft sand, while in other parts the formations were partly
broken by thick bush, in which the force became somewhat entangled.  The
cavalry went in advance as scouts.  The guns, water-carts, and
ammunition-wagons were in the centre, and the Indian Brigade came last,
surrounding the unwieldy mass of baggage-animals.  Last of all came the
telegraph detachment, unrolling as they went the wire that kept open
communication with head-quarters.

That a mistake had been made somewhere was obvious; but as the soul of
military discipline is obedience without question, the gallant leader
pressed forward, silently and steadily, whatever he may have thought.

Soon the force became so hopelessly entangled in the difficulties of the
way, that the rate of advance dwindled down to little more than one mile
an hour.

Not long after starting a trooper was seen galloping back, and Miles,
who marched at the right corner of his square, observed that it was his
friend Johnson, looking very stern indeed.  Their eyes met.

"Not half enough of cavalry," he growled, as he flew past to report,
"The enemy in sight--retiring in small parties in the direction of
Tamai."

In returning, Johnson again rode close past the same corner of the
square, and, bending low in his saddle for a moment, said to Miles, "I
have signed the pledge, my boy."

A slight laugh from several of those who heard him greeted the
information, but he probably did not hear it, for next moment his
charger cleared a low bush in a magnificent stride, and in a few seconds
man and horse were lost to sight in the bush.

"More need to sign his will," remarked Simkin, in a somewhat cynical
tone.

"He has done that too," said Armstrong.  "I heard him say so before we
started."

The troops were halted to enable the two generals to consult at this
point.

While the men stood at ease, enjoying the brief rest from severe toil
under such a burning sun, our hero heard a low voice at his elbow say--

"Have _you_ signed your will, John Miles?"  It was a startling, as well
as a sudden, question!

Miles turned quickly and found that it was Captain Lacey who had put it.

The feeling of dislike with which our young soldier had regarded the
captain ever since his interruption of the conversation between himself
and Marion, on board ship, had abated, but had not by any means
disappeared.  He had too much sense, however, to allow the state of his
feelings to influence his looks or bearing.

"Yes, sir," he replied; "I made it out last night, as you advised me, in
the service form.  It was witnessed by our colonel and Captain Smart and
the doctor.  To say truth, I thought it absurd for a man who has nothing
to leave to make his will, but as you said, sir, I should like my dear
mother to get my kit and any arrears of pay that may be due to me after
I'm gone."

"I did not mean you to take such a gloomy view of your prospects," said
Captain Lacey, with a laugh.  "But you know in our profession we always
carry our lives in our hands, and it would be foolish not to take
ordinary precautions--"

The order to resume the march here cut short the conversation, and the
force continued its slow and all but impossible advance.  Indeed it was
soon seen that to reach the distance of eight miles out, in the
circumstances, was quite beyond the power of the troops, willing,
anxious, and vigorous though they were, for the bush became closer and
higher as they advanced, so that a mounted man could not see over it,
and so dense that the squares, though only a short distance apart, could
not see each other.  This state of things rendered the management of the
baggage-animals extremely difficult, for mules are proverbially
intractable, and camels--so meek in pictures!--are perhaps the most
snarling, biting, kicking, ill-tempered animals in the world.

The day was advancing and the heat increasing, while the dust raised by
the passage of such a host caused so much distress to man and beast that
the general began to fear that, if an attack should be made by the enemy
at that time, the greater part of the transport would have to be
sacrificed.  The force was therefore halted a second time, and the
generals again met to consult.

They were very unwilling to give in.  Another effort to advance was
made, but things grew worse and worse.  The day, as Moses remarked, was
boiling red-hot!  The carts with the heavy water-tanks sank deep in the
soft sand; many of the camels' loads fell off, and these had to be
replaced.  Replacing a camel's load implies prevailing on a hideously
tall and horribly stubborn creature to kneel, and this in the centre of
a square which was already blocked up with carts and animals, as well as
shouting, angry, and exhausted drivers!

At last it became evident that further progress that day was out of the
question.  The rear face of Hudson's square was obliterated by the
straggling and struggling multitude; camels and loads were down in all
directions, and despair of maintaining their formation was settling down
on all ranks.

In these circumstances it became absolutely necessary to halt and form
their zerebas where they stood--and that without delay.  The best place
they could find was selected.  The European square formed a guard, while
the rest threw off jackets, and, with axes and choppers, went to work
with a will.  Some cut down bushes, some filled sandbags to form a
breastwork for guns and ammunition, and others erected the bushy walls
of their woodland fortification.  The Lancers covered about three miles
of country as scouts.  Hudson--who had to return to Suakim that night
before dark--was ordered, with three regiments in line and advanced
files, to cover McNeill and the working-party, while the commander
himself went about encouraging the tired men, and urging them to
increased exertion.

While the soldiers of all arms were thus busily engaged, a body of
sailors was ordered to run one of their Gardner guns up to the corner of
the square where Miles and Armstrong stood.  They halted close to them,
and then Miles became aware that one of the nautical gunners was no
other than Jack Molloy.

"Hallo, Jack!  Why, you've got a knack of turning up unexpectedly
everywhere!" he exclaimed, when his friend was at leisure.

"That's wery much your own case," retorted the seaman heartily.  "What
brought _you_ here?"

Miles slapped one of his legs by way of indicating the mode of
conveyance.

"Ay, lad, and they'd need to be stout timbers too, to make headway
through such a sea of sand," returned Molloy, feeling his own limbs with
tenderness.  "D'ee think we're in for a brush to-night, lad?"

Before the latter could reply, an aide-de-camp ran up and spoke a few
hurried words to Captain Lacey, who turned to his company and called
them to attention.

"Fours, right--quick march!" he said, and away they went, past the flank
of Hudson's men, to guard a hollow which left that part of the square
somewhat exposed.  When halted and drawn up in line several files were
thrown out in advance.  Miles and Sutherland formed the flanking file on
the right, the latter being rear-rank man to the former.

"It's a grand hiding-hole," observed Sutherland, as he peered cautiously
over the edge of a low bank into a hollow where rocks and undergrowth
were thickly intermingled.

"Keep a sharp look-out on your left, Sutherland," said Miles, "I will
guard the right--"

He stopped abruptly and threw forward his rifle, for at that moment he
observed a swarthy, black-bearded Arab, of large proportions and
muscular frame, creeping forward a short distance below him.  Evidently
he had not heard or seen the approach of the two soldiers, for he was
gazing in a different direction from them.

Miles raised his rifle and took aim at the man, but he felt an
unconquerable repugnance to shoot.  He had never yet met the enemy
hand-to-hand.  His experience heretofore had been confined to long-range
firing at men who were firing at himself and his comrades, and in which,
of course, he could not be sure that his bullets took effect.  But now
he was within fifty yards of a splendid-looking man who did not see him,
who was, at the moment, innocent of any intention of injuring him, and
whose expressive side-face he could clearly distinguish as he crept
along with great caution towards a rock which hid the zereba of the
Europeans from his view.

Miles was a good rifle-shot.  A touch of the trigger he knew would be
certain death to the Arab.

"I _cannot_ do it!" he muttered, as he lowered his weapon and looked
back over his shoulder at his comrade.  The Scot, who was something of a
naturalist, was engrossed at the moment in the contemplation of a little
bird which was twittering on a twig in quite an opposite direction.

Miles glanced again at the Arab in a flutter of agitation as to what was
his duty.  The man _might_ be one of the friendly natives!  He could not
tell.

At that moment another man appeared on the scene.  He was a thin but
powerful native, and armed with a short spear, such as is used when
fighting at close quarters.  He obviously was not troubled with scruples
about committing murder, and Miles soon became aware that the thin man
was "stalking" the big Arab--with what intent, of course, our soldier
could only guess, but the malignant expression of the savage's
countenance left little doubt on that point.

Here was a complication!  Our hero was on the point of calling
Sutherland from the contemplation of his little bird when he saw the
thin native pounce on the Arab, who was still creeping on hands and
knees.  He turned just in time to divert the first spear-thrust, but not
in time to draw his own long knife from its sheath as he fell.  The thin
savage holding him down, and having him at terrible disadvantage on his
back, raised his spear, and was about to repeat the deadly thrust when
Miles fired and shot him in the head.

The Arab rose, shook himself clear of the dying man, and, with
astounding coolness, walked calmly towards a large rock, though Miles
was reloading in haste, and Sutherland was taking steady aim at him.  He
looked at the soldiers and held up his hand with something like a smile
of remonstrance, as Sutherland pulled the trigger.  At the same moment
Miles struck up the muzzle, and the ball whizzed over the Arab's head as
he passed behind the rock and disappeared.

"What for did ye that?" demanded the Scot fiercely.

"Would you kill a man that was smiling at you?" retorted Miles.

The two men ran back to report to their company what they had seen.  At
the same moment, the company, being recalled, doubled back to its
position in the square.

Here they found the defence work so far advanced that the generals were
beginning to feel some confidence in their being able to repel any
attack.  At the same time the men were working with tremendous energy,
for news had just come in that the enemy was advancing in strong force.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

WHEREIN ARE DESCRIBED AN ASSAULT, A FURIOUS FIGHT, AND SOME STRANGE
PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS.

It was nearly two o'clock in the afternoon when Captain Lacey and his
company resumed their place in the square.

About that time an officer of the Berkshire Regiment represented the
condition of his men as requiring attention.  They certainly did require
it, for they had been without food since four o'clock that morning, and
were consequently in urgent need of provender as well as rest and
water--the last having been all consumed.

As it was imperative that the work should go on, it was found necessary
to serve out food by wings.

Accordingly, the men of one half-battalion received rations and water,
and were then sent to their zereba with the Gardner guns, while the
other half, still lying in reserve by their piled arms, received their
rations.

The marines also sat down for brief rest and refreshment.  Among them
was our sedate friend Stevenson, who invariably carried his small Bible
with him in all his campaigns.  After quickly consuming his allowance,
and while waiting for water, he sat down to read a few verses of the
23rd Psalm,--for Stevenson was one of those quiet, fearless men who
cannot be laughed out of doing right, and who have no fear of the face
of man, whether scowling in anger or sneering in contempt.

"Hallo, Tom!" said a light-hearted comrade near him, "this is a queer
time to be readin' your Bible.  We'll be havin' you sayin' your prayers
next!"

"I've said _them_ already, Fred," replied the marine, replacing the book
in his pouch.  "As you say, it _is_ a queer time to be readin' the Word,
but not an unsuitable time, for this may be the last chance that you and
I will ever have of readin' it.  Our next orders may be to meet God face
to face."

Stevenson was yet speaking when a Lancer was seen approaching at a wild
gallop.  He dashed up to the generals and informed them that the enemy
was gathering in front.

The message was barely delivered when another Lancer rode up and
reported the enemy close at hand.

The order, "Stand to your arms!" was promptly given and as promptly
obeyed, without flurry or disorder.

Next minute a wild uproar was heard, and the Lancers were seen galloping
towards the square with thousands of the swarthy warriors of the desert
at their heels--nay, even mixed up with them!

On they came, a dark, frantic, yelling host, with irresistible fury,
and, perchance, patriotism!  Shall we deny to those men what we claim
for ourselves--love of hearth and home, of country, of freedom?  Can we
not sympathise with men who groaned under an insolent and tyrannical
yoke, and who, failing to understand or appreciate, the purity of the
motives by which we British were actuated, could see nothing in us
except the supporters of their enemies?

They hurled themselves on that part of the large zereba which was
defended by the Bengal Native Infantry.  These fired a volley, but
failed to check the impetuous rush.  Everything went down before the
savages, and the Native Infantry broke and fled, throwing into dire
confusion the transport animals which stood in their immediate rear.

General McNeill himself dashed in among the panic-stricken men and
sought to arrest them.  He succeeded for a time in rallying some of them
in Number 1 zereba, but another rush of the Arabs sent them flying a
second time, and some of the enemy got into the square, it is said, to
the number of 112.  The Berkshire men, however, stood fast, and not a
soul who got into that square ever got out of it alive.  In this
wretched affair the 17th Bengal Native Infantry lost their brave
commander.  He was killed while trying to rally them.

The confusion was now increased by the enemy driving the baggage-animals
hither and thither, especially on to another half-battalion square of
the Berkshire Regiment.  Here, however, they were effectually checked.
As the Atlantic billows burst in impotent turmoil on the cliffs of
Cornwall, so the enemy fell upon and were hurled back by the steadfast
Berkshire Regiment, which scarcely lost a man, while over two hundred of
their opponents lay dead around them.

The Bombay Regiment also stood fast, and redeemed, to some extent, the
credit of their country; while the Sikhs, as might have been expected of
them, never flinched for a moment, but strewed the plain around them
with dead and dying men.

There was horrible carnage for some time--unflinching valour being
opposed to desperate courage; and while a burning sense of injury, with
a resolve to conquer or die, was the motive power, no doubt, on one
side, on the other there was the high sense of duty to Queen and
country, and the pride of historical renown.

Owing to the suddenness of the attack, and the occupation of the troops
at the moment, there was some mixing up of men of different regiments.
One company of Sikhs, who were helping to unload the camels when the
fight began, having been prevented from joining their own regiment, cast
in their lot with the marines.  The better to help their European
comrades these vigorous fellows leaped outside the zereba and lay down
in front of it, and the two bodies together gave the charging foe such a
warm reception that they never got within twenty yards of them.

But there was a fearful scene of butchery among the baggage-animals, and
many unequal hand-to-hand conflicts.  There was terrible slaughter also
among the working parties that had gone out to cut bushes with which to
finish the zerebas, with coats off and away from their arms.  Some
individuals of the marines, who, as a body, suffered severely, were
surrounded by a dozen Arabs, and their bodies were afterwards found
covered with spear-wounds.  This was the case with a sergeant named
Mitchel, who had charge of a wood-cutting party and had been quietly
chatting with our friend Stevenson just before the attack.  Another case
was that of Private Stanton, who had been through the Egyptian campaign
of 1882, had fought at Kassassin, Tel-el-Kebir, El-Teb, and Tamai.  When
this expedition of which we write was arranged, he was one of the first
to volunteer.  He chanced to be outside the zereba when the attack was
made, and failed to appear at muster.  Next day he was found dead, with
many spear-wounds, at some distance from the force.  Poor fellow! he had
not been killed outright, and had attempted to crawl towards the
zerebas, but in his confusion had crept away in the wrong direction, and
had slowly bled to death on the sands of the desert.

During the rapid progress of this terrible scene of bloodshed, Miles and
his friend Armstrong stood and fought shoulder to shoulder in the front
rank at their allotted corner of the square--chiefly with bullet, but
also, on several occasions, with bayonet, when the rush of the enemy
threatened to break through all barriers, and drive in the line of
defenders.  They would certainly have succeeded, had these defenders
been less powerful and resolute.

"Well done!" exclaimed a deep bass voice, in evident enthusiasm, close
to Miles.

The latter glanced round.  It was the voice of his friend Jack Molloy,
who helped to work the Gardner gun, and who was at the moment admiring
the daring act of an officer of Sikhs.

Two men of the Berkshire Regiment, who had been employed outside the
zereba, were pursued by several Arabs, and it was evident that their
death was almost certain, when the Sikh officer referred to rushed out
to the rescue, sprang between the men and their pursuers, killed three
of the latter in succession with three rapid sword-cuts, and enabled the
soldiers to escape, besides which, he checked the rush at that part of
the square, and returned to his post in safety.

The cheer of the Berkshire men and others who witnessed this feat was
heard to rise above even the yells of combatants, the shrieks of the
wounded, the rattle and crash of fire-arms, and the general turmoil and
din of war.

In one of the working parties that were out when the assault began was
our friend Moses Pyne and his comrade Rattling Bill Simkin.  These had
been separated from the rest of their party when the first wild rush was
made by the foe.  The formation of the ground favoured their dropping
into a place of concealment, thus for the moment saving them from the
fate of being surrounded and cut to pieces, like too many of their
straggling comrades.  For a few seconds they lay close while the enemy
rushed past like a torrent, to the assault just described.

Then Moses uprose, with an expression of stern resolve on his usually
meek countenance.

"Simkin," he said, as his comrade also got up, "I'm not goin' to lie
hidin' here while our boys are engaged wi' the savages."

"No more am I, Moses," returned Rattling Bill, with something of the
jovially reckless air still lingering on his solemnised visage.  "But
we've not much chance of getting back to the zerebas without arms."

"What d'ee call _that_?" asked Moses, holding out his chopper.

"A very good weapon to fight the bush with," answered Simkin, "but not
worth much against Arab spears.  However, comrade, choppers are all we
have got, so we must make the most of 'em.  They say a good workman can
work with any tools.  What d'ee propose to try?  I'll put myself under
your orders, Moses; for, although you are a meekish sort of a fellow, I
really believe you have a better headpiece than most of us."

"I propose that we simply go at 'em," said Moses.  "Take 'em in rear,
cut our way through, and get into the zereba--that's all.  It don't take
much of a headpiece to think that out."

"Go ahead, then!  I'll back you," said Rattling Bill, without the least
touch of bravado, as he bared his right arm to the shoulder.  Both men
were in shirts and trousers, with sleeves tucked up and their brawny
arms exposed--Arabesquely brown up to the elbow, and infantinely white
above that!

The intended rush might have been successful, but for a change in the
tactics of the enemy.  Seeing that they were severely repulsed at the
corner of the square, where Molloy and his tars worked the Gardner gun,
while Miles and his comrades plied bullet and bayonet, the Arab chief
sent a body of his followers to reinforce this point.  It was just at
the moment that Moses and Simkin made the dash from their place of
concealment, so that they actually leaped, without having intended it,
into the very midst of the reinforcements!

Two of the Arabs went down before the choppers instantly, and the
others--almost panic-stricken by the suddenness and severity of the
assault--turned to fly, supposing, no doubt, that an ambush had caught
them.  But seeing only two men they ran back, and would certainly have
made short work of them if rescuers had not come up.

And at this point in the fight there was exhibited a curious instance of
the power of friendship to render steady men reckless.  The incident we
have just described was witnessed by the troops, for, the moment the two
soldiers left their place of concealment they were in full view of the
large zereba.

"That's Moses!" exclaimed Armstrong excitedly.

Without a moment's hesitation he sprang over the defence-works and ran
to the rescue, clubbing his rifle as he went and felling two Arabs
therewith.

"You shan't die alone, Willie!" muttered our hero, as he also leaped the
fence and followed his friend, just in time to save him from three Arabs
who made at him simultaneously.  Two of these Miles knocked down; his
comrade felled the other.  Then they turned back to back; Moses and
Simkin did the same, and thus formed a little _impromptu_ rallying
square.  This delayed the catastrophe, which seemed, however,
inevitable.  The brave little quartette, being surrounded by foes, could
do nothing but parry with almost lightning speed the spear-thrusts that
were made at them continually.

Seeing this, the heart of Jack Molloy bounded within him, and friendship
for the moment overcame the sense of duty.

"You can only die once, Jack!" he exclaimed, drew his cutlass, leaped
out of the zereba, and went at the foe with a thunderous roar, which,
for a moment, actually made them quail.

Infected with a similar spirit, Stevenson, the marine, also lost his
head, if we may say so.  Resolving to run a-muck for friendship's sake,
he followed the sailor, and increased the rallying square to five, while
Molloy skirmished round it, parrying spear-thrusts, at once with left
arm and cutlass, in quite a miraculous manner, roaring all the time like
an infuriated lion, and causing the enemy to give back in horror
wherever he made a rush.

A root, however, tripped him up at last, and he fell forward headlong to
the ground.  A dozen spears were pointed at his broad back, when a tall
majestic Arab sprang forward and held up one hand, while with the other
he waved a sword.

At that moment a strong force of the enemy came down with an impetuous
rush on that corner of the zereba, and, coming between it and the little
knot of combatants, hid them from view.

The attack at this point was very determined, and for a few moments the
issue seemed doubtful, for although the enemy fell in heaps they came on
in such numbers that the defenders were almost overwhelmed.  Steadiness,
however, combined with indomitable courage, prevailed.  Everywhere they
were repulsed with tremendous loss.  Many instances of personal bravery
occurred, of course, besides those we have described, but we may not
pause to enumerate these.  Tenacity of life, also, was curiously
exhibited in the case of some of the desperately wounded.

One man in charge of two mules outside the zereba was trying to bring
them in when he was attacked, and received three terrible spear-wounds
in the back and one in the arm, which cut all the muscles and sinews.
Yet this man ultimately recovered, though, of course, with the loss of
his arm.

Another man lost a leg and an arm, and was badly wounded in the other
leg and in the hand, and, lastly, he was shot in the jaw.  After being
operated on, and having his wounds dressed, the doctor asked him how he
felt.

"All right, sir," he answered.  "They've crippled me in arms and legs,
and they've broke my jaw, but, thank God, they have not broke my heart
yet!"

It was eight minutes to three when the Arabs made their first rush, and
it was just ten minutes past three when the enemy was finally repelled
and the bugle sounded "Cease firing."  Yet into these pregnant eighteen
minutes all that we have described, and a vast deal more, was crowded.
Nearly four hundred of our men were killed and wounded, while the enemy,
it is believed, lost over two thousand.

It is said by those who were present at the engagement that the officers
of the 17th Bengal Infantry were heard to say that if their men had not
given way, there would have been no "disaster" at all, and General
McNeill instead of being accused of permitting himself to be surprised,
would have got credit for a heroic defence against overwhelming odds.
If he had carried out his instructions, and pressed on to the end of
eight miles, instead of prudently halting when he did, there can be no
doubt that the force would have been surprised and absolutely cut to
pieces.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

REFERS TO SERGEANT HARDY, AMYTOOR-LAWYER SUTHERLAND, AND OTHER MATTERS.

Among the wounded in the great fight which we have just described was
Hardy the sergeant.

His position at the time the Arabs broke into the square was close to
the right flank of the Indian Native Regiment, which gave way, so that
it was he and a number of the flank men of his company who had to do
most of the hand-to-hand fighting necessary to repair the disaster and
drive back the enemy.  Of course every soldier engaged in that part of
the fight was, for a time, almost overwhelmed in the confusion, and many
of them were surrounded and severely wounded.

When the Native Infantry broke, Hardy's captain sprang to the front,
sword in hand, and cut down two of the foe.  As he did so, he was, for a
moment, separated from his company and surrounded.  A powerful Arab was
on the point of thrusting his spear into the captain's back when Hardy
observed his danger, bayoneted the Arab, and saved the officer.  But it
was almost at the cost of his own life, for another Arab, with whom he
had been fighting at the moment, took advantage of the opportunity to
thrust his spear into the chest of the sergeant, who fell, as was
thought, mortally wounded.

This, however, was not the case, for when the fight was over, his wound,
although dangerous, was not supposed to be fatal, and he went into
hospital on returning to Suakim.  He was a Blue Light, and his
temperance habits told in his favour.  So did his religion, for the calm
equanimity with which he submitted to the will of God, and bore his
sufferings, went far to assist the doctor in grappling with his wound.
But his religion did more than that, for when he thought of the heaven
that awaited him, if he should die, and of being "for ever with the
Lord," his heart was filled with joy; and joy not only "does not
kill,"--it is absolutely a source of life.  In the sergeant's case it
formed an important factor in restoring him to partial health.

One evening, some time after the battle of McNeill's zereba, Sutherland
and Gaspard Redgrave were seated beside the sergeant's bed--cheering him
up a bit, as they said--and chatting about the details of the recent
fight.  Once or twice the sergeant had tried to lead the conversation to
religious subjects, but without success, for neither Sutherland nor
Gaspard were seriously disposed, and both fought shy of such matters.

"Well, it's very kind of you to come an' cheer me up, lads," said Hardy
at last; "and I hope I may live to do the same for you, if either of you
ever gets knocked over.  Now, I want each of you to do me a favour.
Will you promise?"

"Of course we will," said Gaspard quickly.

"If we can," said the more cautious Scot.

"Well, then, Gaspard, will you sing me a song?  I think it would do me
good."

"With the greatest pleasure," answered the soldier; "but," he added,
looking round doubtfully, "I don't know how they might like it here."

"They'll not object; besides, you can sing low.  You've got the knack of
singin' soft--better than any man I ever heard."

"Well, what shall it be?" returned the gratified Gaspard.

"One of Sankey's hymns," said the sergeant, with the remotest semblance
of a twinkle in his eye, as he took a small hymn-book from under his
pillow and gave it to his friend.

Gaspard did not seem to relish the idea of singing hymns, but he had
often heard the Blue Lights sing them, and could not plead ignorance of
the tunes; besides, being a man of his word, he would not refuse to
fulfil his promise.

"Sing Number 68, `Shall we gather at the river?'  I'm very fond of that
hymn."

In a sweet, soft, mellow voice, that charmed all who were within
hearing, Gaspard began the hymn, and when he had finished there was
heard more than one "Amen" and "Thank God" from the neighbouring beds.

"Yes, comrades, we shall gather there," said the sergeant, after a brief
pause, "for the same Almighty Saviour who saved _me_ died for _you_ as
well.  I ain't used to wettin' my cheeks, as _you_ know, lads, but I
s'pose my wound has weakened me a bit!  Now Sutherland, the favour I
have to ask of--"

"If ye're thinkin' o' askin' me to pray," broke in the alarmed Scotsman,
"ye may save your breath.  When I promised, I said, `if I _can_.'  Noo,
I can _not_ pray, an' it's nae use askin' me to try.  Whatever I may
come to in this warld, I'll no be a heepycrit for ony leevin' man."

"Quite right, Sutherland--quite right.  I had no intention of asking you
to pray," replied Hardy, with a faint smile.  "What I want you to do is
to draw out my will for me."

"Oh!  I'm quite willin' to do that," returned the relieved Scot.

"You see," continued the sergeant, "one never knows what may be the
result of a bad wound in a climate like this, and if it pleases my
Father in heaven to call me home, I should like the few trifles I
possess to go in the right direction."

"That's a wise-like sentiment," returned his friend, with an approving
nod and thoughtful frown.

"Now, as you write a capital hand, and know how to express yourself on
paper," continued Hardy, "it strikes me that you will do the job better
than any one else; and, being a friend, I feel that I can talk freely to
you on my private affairs.  So you'll help me?"

"I'm wullin' to try, serjint, and ac' the legal adviser--amytoor-like,
ye ken."

"Thank you.  Can you come to-morrow morning?"

"No, serjint, I canna, because I've to start airly the morn's mornin'
wi' a pairty to meet the Scots Gairds comin' back frae Tamai, but the
moment I come back I'll come to ye."

"That will do--thank you.  And now, Gaspard, what's the news from
England?  I hear that a mail has just come in."

"News that will make your blood boil," said Gaspard sternly.

"It would take a good deal of powerful news to boil the little blood
that is left in me," said Hardy, languidly.

"Well, I don't know.  Anyhow it makes mine boil.  What d'you think of
McNeill's brave defence being represented in the papers as a disaster?"

"You don't mean that!"

"Indeed I do.  They say that it was a disaster! whereas it was a
splendid defence under singularly adverse circumstances!  They say that
General McNeill permitted himself to be surprised!  If he had tried to
carry out his instructions to the full extent, it would indeed have been
such a surprise that the surprising thing would have been if a single
man of us had returned alive to tell the tale--as you and I know full
well.  The truth is, it was the fault of the Intelligence Department
that nearly wrecked us, and it was McNeill's prudence and our pluck that
saved us, and yet these quill-drivers at home--bah!"

The soldier rose in hot indignation and strode from the room.

"He's a wee thing roosed!" remarked Sutherland, with a good-humoured yet
slightly cynical grin.  "But guid-nicht to ye, ma man.  Keep up hert an'
I'll come an' draft yer wull i' the mornin'."

So saying the "amytoor" lawyer took his departure, and was soon tramping
over the desert sands with a band of his comrades.

They were not, however, permitted to tramp in peace, for their
indefatigable foe hung on their skirts and annoyed them the greater part
of the way.  Toward evening they met the Guards, and as it was too late
to return to Suakim the force bivouacked in McNeill's deserted zereba,
surrounded by graves and scarcely buried corpses.

Only those who were there can fully understand what that meant.  All
round the zereba, and for three miles on the Suakim side of it, the
ground was strewn thickly with the graves of Europeans, Indians, and
Arabs, and so shallow were these that from each of them there oozed a
dark, dreadful stain.  To add to the horrors of the scene, portions of
mangled and putrefying corpses protruded from many of them--ghastly
skulls, from the sockets of which the eyes had been picked by vultures
and other obscene birds.  Limbs of brave men upon which the hyena had
already begun his dreadful work, and half-skeleton hands, with fingers
spread and bent as if still clutching the foe in death-agony, protruded
above the surface; mixed with these, and unburied, were the putrefying
carcases of camels and mules--the whole filling the air with a horrible
stench, and the soul with a fearful loathing, which ordinary language is
powerless to describe, and the inexperienced imagination cannot
conceive.

Oh! it is terrible to think that from the Fall till now man has gone on
continually producing and reproducing scenes like this--sometimes, no
doubt, unavoidably; but often, too often, because of some trifling
error, or insult, on the part of statesmen, or some paltry dispute about
a boundary, or, not infrequently, on grounds so shadowy and complex that
succeeding historians have found it almost impossible to convey the
meaning thereof to the intellects of average men!

Amid these dreadful memorials of the recent fight the party bivouacked!

Next day the troops returned to Suakim, and Sutherland, after breakfast,
and what he called a wash-up, went to see his friend Sergeant Hardy,
with pen, ink, and paper.

"Weel, serjint, hoo are ye the day?"

"Pretty well, thank you--pretty well.  Ah!  Sutherland, I have been
thinking what an important thing it is for men to come to Jesus for
salvation while in their health and strength; for now, instead of being
anxious about my soul, as so many are when the end approaches, I am
rejoicing in the thought of soon meeting God--my Father!  Sutherland, my
good fellow, it is foolish as well as wrong to think only of this life.
Of all men in the world we soldiers ought to know this."

The sergeant spoke so earnestly, and his eyes withal looked so solemnly
from their sunken sockets, that his friend could not help being
impressed.

"I believe ye're no' far wrang, serjint, an' I tak' shame to mysel' that
I've been sic a harum-scarum sinner up to this time."

Sutherland said this with a look so honest that Hardy was moved to put
out his large wasted hand and grasp that of his friend.

"Comrade," he said, "God is waiting to be gracious.  Jesus is ever ready
and willing to save."

Sutherland returned the pressure but made no reply; and Hardy, praying
for a blessing on the little that had been said, changed the subject by
saying--

"You have brought paper and ink, I see."

"Ay, but, man, ye mauna be speakin' o' takin' yer depairture yet.  This
draftin' o' yer wull is only a precaution."

"Quite right, lad.  I mean it only as a precaution," returned Hardy, in
a cheerful tone.  "But you seem to have caught a cold--eh?  What makes
you cough and clear your throat so?"

"A cauld!  I wush it was only a cauld!  Man, it's the stink o' thae
corps that I canna get oot o' my nose an' thrapple."

Hereupon Sutherland, by way of entertaining his invalid friend, launched
out into a graphic account of the scene he had so recently witnessed at
McNeill's zereba.  When that subject was exhausted, he arranged his
writing materials and began with all the solemnity of a lawyer.

"Noo, serjeant, what div ye want me to pit doon?"

"Well, I must explain first that I have very little to leave, and no one
to leave it to."

"What!  Nae frien's ava?"

"Not one.  I have neither wife nor child, brother nor sister.  I have
indeed one old cousin, but he is rich, and would not be benefited by my
poor little possessions; besides, he's a cross-grained old fellow, and
does not deserve anything, even though I had something worth leaving.
However, I bear him no ill-will, poor man, only I don't want what I do
leave to go to him, which it would if I were to die without a will;
because, of course, he is my natural heir, and--"

"Haud ye there, man," said the Scot abruptly but slowly.  "If he's your
nait'ral heir, ye're _his_ nait'ral heir tae, ye ken."

"Of course, I am aware of that," returned the sergeant with an amused
look; "but the old man is eccentric, and has always boasted that he
means to leave his wealth to some charity.  Indeed, I know that he has
already made his will, leaving his money to build an hospital--for
incurables of some sort, I believe."

"Ma certy!  If I was his lawyer," said Sutherland, with ineffable scorn,
"I wad advise him to erec' an hospital in his lifetime for incurable
eediots, an' to gang in himsel' as the first patient.  But, come awa wi'
yer wull, serjint."

"Get ready, then, my lawyer, and see that you put it down all
ship-shape, as poor Molloy would have said."

"Oh, ye needna fear," said the Scot, "I'm no' sic an ass as to trust to
my ain legal knowledge.  But jist you say what ye want an' I'll pit it
doon, and then write it into a form in the reg'lar way."

After mentioning a few trifling legacies to various comrades, Hardy said
that he had managed to save a hundred pounds during his career, which he
wished to divide between his two comrades, John Miles and Willie
Armstrong, for whom he expressed strong regard.

Sutherland, instead of noting this down, looked at his friend in sad
surprise, thinking that weakness had caused his mind to wander.

"Ye forget, serjint," he said softly, "that Miles an' Airmstrang are
baith deed."

"No, lad; no one can say they are certainly dead."

"Aweel--we canna exactly say it, but when ye consider o' the born
deevils that have gotten haud o' them, we are entitled to _think_ them
deed ony way."

"They are reported as `missing,' that is all, and that is enough for me.
You write down what I tell you, lad.  Now, have you got it down?"

"Ay, fifty to each."

"There may be some interest due on the account," said the sergeant
thoughtfully; "besides, there may be a few things in my kit that I have
forgotten--and it's not worth while dividing such trifles between them."

"Weel, weel, ye've only to mak yin o' them yer residooary legitee, an'
that'll pit it a' richt."

"True, my lawyer.  Let it be so," said Hardy, with a short laugh at the
thought of making so much ado about nothing.  "Make Miles my residuary
legatee.  And now, be off, draw it out fair, an' leave me to rest, for
I'm a trifle tired after all this legal work."

The will thus carefully considered was duly made out, signed, and
witnessed, after which Sergeant Hardy awaited with cheerful resignation
whatever fate should be appointed to him.

His strong frame and constitution, undamaged by youthful excess, fought
a vigorous battle for life, and he began slowly to mend; but the climate
of Suakim was so bad for him that he was finally sent down to the
hospital at Alexandria, where, under much more favourable circumstances,
he began to recover rapidly.

One of the nurses there was very kind to him.  Finding that the sergeant
was an earnest Christian, she had many interesting talks with him on the
subject nearest his heart.

One day she said to him with unusual animation:

"The doctor says you may go down to the Soldiers' Institute that has
recently been set up here, and stay for some time to recruit.  It is not
intended for invalids, you know, but the ladies in charge are intimate
friends of mine, and have agreed to let you have a room.  The Institute
stands on a very pleasant part of the shore, exposed to the fresh
sea-breezes; and there are lots of books and newspapers and games, as
well as lectures, concerts, prayer-meetings, Bible-readings, and--"

"Ay, just like Miss Robinson's Institute at Portsmouth," interrupted
Hardy.  "I know the sort o' thing well."

"The Alexandrian Soldiers' Institute is _also_ Miss Robinson's,"
returned the nurse, with a pleased look; "so if you know the one at
Portsmouth, there is no need for my describing the other to you.  The
change will do you more good in a week than months at this place.  And
I'll come to see you frequently.  There is a widow lady staying there
just now to whom I will introduce you.  She has been helping us to nurse
here, for she has great regard for soldiers; but her health having
broken-down somewhat, she has transferred her services to the Institute
for a time.  She is the widow of a clergyman who came out here not long
ago and died suddenly.  You will find her a very sympathetic soul."



CHAPTER TWENTY.

OLD FRIENDS IN NEW ASPECTS.

On the evening of the third day after the conversation narrated in the
last chapter, Sergeant Hardy sat in an easy-chair on the verandah of the
Soldiers' Institute at Alexandria, in the enjoyment of a refreshing
breeze, which, after ruffling the blue waters of the Mediterranean, came
like a cool hand on a hot brow, to bless for a short time the land of
Egypt.

Like one of Aladdin's palaces the Institute had sprung up--not exactly
in a night, but in a marvellously short space of time.  There was more
of interest about it, too, than about the Aladdin buildings; for whereas
the latter were evolved magically out of that mysterious and undefinable
region termed Nowhere, the Miss Robinson edifice came direct from smoky,
romantic London, without the advantage of supernatural assistance.

When Miss Robinson's soldier friends were leaving for the seat of war in
Egypt, some of them had said to her, "Three thousand miles from home are
three thousand good reasons why you should think of us!"  The "Soldiers'
Friend" took these words to heart--also to God.  She did think of them,
and she persuaded other friends to think of them, to such good purpose
that she soon found herself in possession of funds sufficient to begin
the work.

As we have seen, her energetic servant and fellow-worker, Mr Thomas
Tufnell, was sent out to Egypt to select a site for the building.  The
old iron and wood Oratory at Brompton was bought, and sent out at
Government expense--a fact which speaks volumes for the Government
opinion of the value of Miss Robinson's work among soldiers.

In putting up the old Oratory, Tufnell had transformed it to an extent
that might almost have made Aladdin's Slave of the Lamp jealous.
Certainly, those who were wont to "orate" in the building when it stood
in Brompton would have failed to recognise the edifice as it arose in
Egypt on the Boulevard Ramleh, between the Grand Square of Alexandria
and the sea.

The nave of the old Oratory had been converted into a room, ninety-nine
feet long, with couches and tables running down both sides, a
billiard-table in the centre, writing materials in abundance, and
pictures on the walls.  At one end of the room stood a pianoforte,
couches, and easy-chairs, and a door opened into a garden facing the
sea.  Over the door were arranged several flags, and above these, in
large letters, the appropriate words, "In the name of the Lord will we
set up our banners."  At the other end was a temperance refreshment bar.
On a verandah facing the sea men could repose on easy-chairs and smoke
their pipes or cigars, while contemplating the peculiarities of an
Eastern climate.

It was here that our friend Sergeant Hardy was enjoying that blessed
state of convalescence which may be described as gazing straight forward
and thinking of nothing!

Of course there were all the other appliances of a well-equipped
Institute--such as sleeping-cabins, manager's room, Bible-class room,
lavatory, and all the rest of it, while a handsome new stone building
close beside it contained sitting-rooms, bed-rooms, club-room for
officers, kitchens, and, by no means least, though last, a large
lecture-hall.

But to these and many other things we must not devote too much space,
for old friends in new aspects claim our attention.  Only, in passing
from such details, it may not be out of place to say that it has been
remarked that the sight of Miss Robinson's buildings, steadily rising
from the midst of acres of ruins, while men's minds were agitated by the
bombardment and its results, produced a sense of security which had a
most beneficial and quietening effect on the town!  Indeed, one officer
of high rank went so far as to say that the Institute scheme had given
the inhabitants more confidence in the intentions of England than
anything yet done or promised by Government!

In a rocking-chair beside the sergeant reclined a shadow in loose--
remarkably loose--fitting soldier's costume.

"What a blessed place to sit in and rest after the toils and sufferings
of war," said Hardy, to the shadow, "and how thankful I am to God for
bringing me here!"

"It's a hivenly place intirely," responded the shadow, "an' 'tis mesilf
as is thankful too--what's left o' me anyhow, an' that's not much.  Sure
I've had some quare thoughts in me mind since I come here.  Wan o' them
was--what is the smallest amount o' skin an' bone that's capable of
howldin' a thankful spirit?"

"I never studied algebra, Flynn, so it's of no use puttin' the question
to me," said Hardy; "besides, I'm not well enough yet to tackle
difficult questions, but I'm real glad to see you, my boy, though there
_is_ so little of you to see."

"That's it, sarjint; that's just where it lies," returned Flynn, in a
slow, weak voice.  "I've bin occupied wi' that question too--namely, how
thin may a man git widout losin' the power to howld up his clo'es?"

"You needn't be uneasy on that score," said Hardy, casting an amused
glance at his companion, "for there's plenty o' flesh left yet to keep
ye goin' till you get to old Ireland.  It rejoices my heart to see you
beside me, thin though you are, for the report up country was that you
had died on the way to Suez."

"Bad luck to their reports!  That's always the way of it.  I do think
the best way to take reports is to belaive the exact opposite o' what's
towld ye, an' so ye'll come nearest the truth.  It's thrue I had a close
shave.  Wan day I felt a sort o' light-hiddedness--as if I was a kind o'
livin' balloon--and was floatin' away, whin the doctor came an' looked
at me.

"`He's gone,' says he.

"`That's a lie!' says I, with more truth than purliteness, maybe.

"An' would ye belave it?--I began to mind from that hour!  It was the
doctor saved me widout intindin' to--good luck to him!  Anyhow he kep'
me from slippin' my cable that time, but it was the good nursin' as
brought me back--my blissin' on the dear ladies as give their hearts to
this work all for love!  By the way," continued Flynn, coughing and
looking very stern, for he was ashamed of a tear or two which _would_
rise and almost overflow in spite of his efforts to restrain them--but
then, you see, he was very weak!  "By the way," he said, "you'll niver
guess who wan o' the nurses is.  Who d'ee think?--guess!"

"I never _could_ guess right, Flynn."

"Try."

"Well, little Mrs Armstrong."

"Nonsense, man!  Why, she's nursin' her old father in England, I
s'pose."

"Miss Robinson, then?"

"H'm!  You might as well say the Prime Minister.  How d'ee s'pose the
Portsmuth Institute could git along widout _her_?  No, it's our friend
Mrs Drew!"

"What!  The wife o' the reverend gentleman as came out with us in the
troop-ship?"

"That same--though she's no longer the wife of the riverend gintleman,
for he's dead--good man," said Flynn, in a sad voice.

"I'm grieved to hear that, for he _was_ a good man.  And the pretty
daughter, what of her?"

"That's more nor I can tell ye, boy.  Sometimes her mother brings her to
the hospital to let her see how they manage, but I fancy she thinks her
too young yet to go in for sitch work by hersilf.  Anyhow I've seen her
only now an' then; but the poor widdy comes rig'lar--though I do belave
she does it widout pay.  The husband died of a flyer caught in the
hospital a good while since.  They say that lots o' young fellows are
afther the daughter, for though the Drews are as poor as church rats,
she's got such a swate purty face, and such innocent ways wid her, that
I'd try for her mesilf av it wasn't that I've swore niver to forsake me
owld grandmother."

Chatting thus about times past and present, while they watched the
soldiers and seamen who passed continuously in and out of the
Institute--intent on a game, or some non-intoxicant refreshment, or a
lounge, a look at the papers, a confab with a comrade, or a bit of
reading--the two invalids enjoyed their rest to the full, and frequently
blessed the lady who provided such a retreat, as well as her
warm-hearted assistants, who, for the love of Christ and human souls,
had devoted themselves to carry on the work in that far-off land.

"I often think--" said Hardy.

But what he thought was never revealed; for at that moment two ladies in
deep mourning approached, whom the sergeant recognised at a glance as
Mrs Drew and her daughter Marion.  The faces of both were pale and
sorrowful; but the beauty of the younger was rather enhanced than
otherwise by this, and by contrast with her sombre garments.

They both recognised the sergeant at once, and, hastening forward, so as
to prevent his rising, greeted him with the kindly warmth of old
friends.

"It seems such a long time since we met," said the elder lady, "but we
have never forgotten you or the comrades with whom we used to have such
pleasant talks in the troop-ship."

"Sure am I, madam," said the sergeant, "that they have never forgotten
_you_ and your kind--kind--"

"Yes, my husband was _very_ kind to you all," said the widow, observing
the delicacy of feeling which stopped the soldier's utterance; "he was
kind to every one.  But we have heard some rumours that have made me and
my daughter very sad.  Is it true that a great many men of your regiment
were killed and wounded at the battle fought by General McNeill?"

"Quite true, madam," answered the sergeant, glancing at the daughter
with some surprise; for Marion was gazing at him with an intensely
anxious look and parted lips.  "But, thank God, many were spared!"

"And--and--how are the two fine-looking young men that were so fond of
each other--like twins almost--"

"Sure, didn't I tell ye, misthress, that they was both ki--"

"Hold your tongue, Flynn," interrupted the widow, with a forced smile.
"You are one of my most talkative patients!  I want to hear the truth of
this matter from a man who has come more recently from the scene of
action than yourself.  What do you think, Mr Hardy?"

"You refer to John Miles and William Armstrong, no doubt, madam," said
the sergeant, in a somewhat encouraging tone.  "Well, if Flynn says they
were killed he has no ground whatever for saying so.  They are only
reported missing.  Of course that is bad enough, but as long as a man is
only missing there is plenty of room for hope.  You see, they may have
managed to hide, or been carried off as prisoners into the interior; and
you may be sure the Arabs would not be such fools as to kill two men
like Miles and Armstrong; they'd rather make slaves of 'em, in which
case there will be a chance of their escaping, or, if we should become
friendly again wi' these fellows, they'd be set free."

"I'm so glad to hear you say so, and I felt sure that my desponding
patient here was taking too gloomy a view of the matter," said Mrs
Drew, with a significant glance at Marion, who seemed to breathe more
freely and to lose some of her anxious expression after the sergeant's
remarks.

Perhaps at this point a little conversation that took place between Mrs
Drew and her daughter that same evening may not be out of place.

"Dear May," said the former, "did I not tell you that Flynn took too
gloomy a view of the case of these young soldiers, in whom your dear
father was so much interested?  But, darling, is it not foolish in you
to think so much about Miles?"

"It may be foolish, mother, but I cannot help it," said Marion, blushing
deeply; for she was very modest as well as simple.

"May, dear, I wonder that you can make such an admission!" said the
mother remonstratively.

"Is it wrong to make such an admission to one's own mother, when it is
true?" asked Marion, still blushing, but looking straight in her
mother's eyes; for she was very straightforward as well as modest and
simple!

"Of course not, dear, but--but--in short, Miles is only a--a--soldier,
you know, and--"

"_Only_ a soldier!" interrupted Marion, with a flash from her soft brown
eyes; for she was an enthusiast as well as straightforward, modest, and
simple!  "I suppose you mean that he is only a private, but what then?
May not the poorest private in the army rise, if he be but noble-minded
and worthy and capable, to the rank of a general, or higher--if there is
anything higher?  Possibly the Commander-in-Chief-ship may be open to
him!"

"True, my love, but in the meantime his social position is--"

"Is quite as good as our own," interrupted Marion; for she was a
desperate little radical as well as an enthusiast, straightforward,
modest, and simple!

"You know he let out something about his parents and position, and _of
course_ he told the truth.  Besides, I repeat that I cannot _help_
loving him, and surely we are not responsible for our affections.  We
cannot love and hate to order.  I might fall in love with--with--well,
it's no good talking; but, anyhow, I could not help it.  I could be
silent if you like, but I could not help myself."

Mrs Drew seemed a little puzzled how to deal with her impetuous
daughter, and had begun to reply, when May interrupted her.  Flushing
deeply, for she was very sensitive, and with a feeling that amounted
almost to indignation, she continued--

"I wonder at you, mother--it's so unlike you; as if those unworthy
considerations of difference of rank and station could influence, or
ought to influence, one in such a question as this!"

Mrs Drew paused for a moment.  She knew that her daughter gave
expression to the views that had marked the dealings of the husband and
father, so lately lost to them, in every action of his life.  Marion's
happiness, too, during the remainder of her days, might be involved in
the result of the present conversation, and she was moved to say--

"My dear, has John Miles ever spoken to you?"

"Oh! mother, how can you ask me?  If he had done so, would I have
delayed one minute in letting you know?"

"Forgive me, dearest.  I did you wrong in admitting the thought even for
a moment.  But you spoke so earnestly--as if you might have some reason
for thinking that he cared for you."

"Don't you know," answered Marion, looking down, and a little confused,
"that men can speak with their eyes as well as their lips?  I not only
feel sure that he cares for me, but I feel sure, from the sentiments he
expressed to me on the voyage, that _nothing_ would induce him to talk
to me of love while in his present position."

"How does all this consist, my love," asked Mrs Drew, "with your
knowledge of the fact that he left home in anger, and would not be
persuaded, even by your dear father, to write home a penitent letter?"

Marion was silent.  This had not occurred to her before.  But love is
not to be turned from its object by trifles.  She was all that we have
more than once described her to be; but she was not a meta-physician or
a philosopher, capable of comprehending and explaining occult mysteries.
Enough for her if she loved Miles and Miles loved her, and then, even
if he did not deserve her love, she would remain true--secretly but
unalterably true--to him as the needle is to the pole!

"Has it not occurred to you, dear," said her mother, pursuing her
advantage in a meditative tone, "that if Miles has been so plain-spoken
and eloquent with his blue eye, that your pretty brown ones may have
said something to _him_?"

"Never!" exclaimed the girl, with an indignant flash.  "Oh! mother, can
you believe me capable of--of--no, I never looked at him except with the
air of a perfect stranger--at least of a--a--but why should I try to
deny what could not possibly be true?"

Mrs Drew felt that nothing was to be gained from pursuing the subject--
or one aspect of it--further.

"At any rate," she said, "I am glad, for his own sake, poor young
fellow, that Sergeant Hardy spoke so hopefully."

"And for his comrades' sakes as well," said Marion.  "You know, mother,
that his friend Armstrong is also reported as missing, and Stevenson the
marine, as well as that dear big bluff sailor, Jack Molloy.  By the way,
do you feel well enough to go to the lecture to-night?  It is to be a
very interesting one, I am told, with magic-lantern illustrations, and I
don't like to go alone."

"I am going to-night, so you may make your mind easy," said her mother.
"I would not miss this lecturer, because I am told that he is a
remarkably good one, and the hall is likely to be quite full."

In regard to this lecture and some other things connected with the
Alexandrian Institute, our friend Sergeant Hardy learned a good deal
from the lady at the head of it, not long after the time that Mrs Drew
had the foregoing conversation with Marion.

It is scarcely needful to say that the Lady-Superintendent was a capable
Christian as well as an enthusiast in her work.

"Come to my room, Sergeant Hardy, and I'll tell you all about it," she
said, leading the way to her apartment, where the sergeant placed
himself upon a chair, bolt upright, as if he were going to have a tooth
drawn, or were about to illustrate some new species of sitting-drill.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

SHOWS HOW THE LADY OF THE INSTITUTE DISCOURSES TO THE SERGEANT, HOW
JACK-TARS GO OUT ON THE SPREE, AND HOW MUSIC CONQUERS WARRIORS.

"It seems wonderful to me, madam," said Sergeant Hardy, looking round
the lady's room with an admiring gaze, "how quickly you have got things
into working order here.  When I remember that last year this place was
a heap of rubbish, it seems like magic."

"Ah! the work of God on earth seems magical the more we reflect on it,"
returned the lady.  "The fact that our Institute was conceived, planned,
and carried into successful operation by an invalid lady, in spite of
discouragement, and, at first, with inadequate means, is itself little
short of miraculous, but what is even more surprising is the fact that
the Government, which began by throwing cold water on her Portsmouth
work, has ended by recognising it and by affording us every facility
here in Alexandria."

"Well, you see, madam, I suppose it's because they see that we soldiers
and sailors likes it, an' it does a power o' good--don't you think?"

"No doubt, but whatever may be the reason, Sergeant, we are very
thankful for the encouragement.  I suppose you have heard what a grand
occasion our opening day was?"

"No, madam, I haven't.  You see, away at Suakim we was so constantly
taken up with the attentions of Osman Digna that we had little time for
anything but eatin' and sleepin' when we wasn't on sentry an' fightin',
so that we often missed bits of news.  Was there a great turn-out o'
men?"

"Indeed there was," returned the lady, with animation; "and not only of
men, but of all the Alexandrian notables.  It was on the 23rd of
February last (1885) that our Institute was opened by Major-General
Lennox, V.C., C.B., who was in command of the garrison.  This was not
the first time by any means that the soldiers had paid us a visit.  A
number of men, who, like yourself, Sergeant Hardy, sympathise with our
work in its spiritual aspects, had been frequently coming to see how we
were getting on, and many a pleasant hour's prayer and singing we had
enjoyed with them, accompanied by our little harmonium, which had been
sent to us by kind friends in England; and every Sunday evening we had
had a little service in the midst of the shavings and carpenters'
benches.

"But on this grand opening day the men came down in hundreds, and a
great surprise some of them got--especially the sceptical among them.
The entrance was decorated with palms.  At the further end of the
reading-room the trophy of Union Jacks and the Royal Standard, which you
see there now, was put up by a band of Jack-tars who had come to help us
as well as to see the fun.  Over the trophy was our text, `In the name
of the Lord will we set up our banners,' for we liked to feel that we
had taken possession of this little spot in Egypt for God--and we
believe that it will always be His.

"Everything was bright and hearty.  There were about five hundred
soldiers and sailors, and between two and three hundred officers and
civilians of all nationalities.  On the platform we had Osman Pasha--"

"Ha!" interrupted the sympathetic sergeant, "I only wish we could have
had Osman Digna there too!  It would do more to pacify the Soudan than
killing his men does!"

"I daresay it would," responded the lady with a laugh, "but have
patience, Hardy; we shall have him there yet, and perhaps the Mahdi
too--or some future grand occasion.  Well, as I was saying, we had
Osman, the Governor of Alexandria, on our platform, and a lot of
big-wigs that you know nothing about, but whose influence was of
importance, and whose appearance went far to make the place look gay.
Of course we had music, beginning with `God save the Queen,' and
speeches--brilliant as well as heavy; sententious and comic--like all
other similar gatherings, and the enthusiasm was unbounded.  How could
it be otherwise with sailors to cheer and soldiers to back them up?  And
you may be sure that in such a meeting the enthusiasm about the
undertaking did not fail to extend to the `Soldiers' Friend' who had
originated the whole.  In short, it was a splendid success."

"Of course it was," said the sergeant, with emphasis; "first, because of
God's blessing, an', second, because the Institoot was greatly needed.
Why, madam, if it wasn't for this place the thousands of soldiers
stationed here, not to mention the sailors, would have no place to go to
spend their leave and leisure time but the drinkin' dens o' the town; an
_you_ know well, though p'r'aps not so well as I do, what terrible
places these are, where men are tempted, fleeced, debauched, and
sometimes murdered."

"Quite true, Hardy.  Did you hear of the case that occurred just two
days ago?  A sergeant of one of the regiments, I forget which, after
paying his fare to a donkey-boy, turned quietly to walk away, when the
scoundrel felled him with a stick and robbed him of one pound 10
shillings.  The case is before the law-court now, and no doubt the
robber will receive a just reward.

"Well, as I was remarking, the opening day carried us to high tide, so
to speak, and there has been no ebb from that day to this.  One comical
incident, however, occurred just at the beginning, which might have done
us damage.  The day after the opening all was prepared for the reception
of our soldier and sailor friends.  The tables were arranged with books
and games, the writing-table with pens, ink, and blotting-paper, and the
bar with all sorts of eatables, magnificent urns, coloured glass,
etcetera.  About one o'clock William, our barman, tasted the coffee.
His usual expression of self-satisfaction gave place to one of horror.
He tasted the coffee again.  The look of horror deepened.  He ran to the
boiler, and the mystery was cleared up.  The boiler had been filled with
salt-water!  Our Arab, Ibraim, who carries up seawater daily to fill our
baths, had filled the boiler with the same.  Luckily there was time to
correct the mistake, and when our friends came trooping in at four
o'clock they found the coffee quite to their taste.

"You know very well," continued the superintendent, "our rules never to
force religion on any of our customers, our object being to _attract_ by
all the legitimate means in our power.  We have our Bible-classes,
prayer-meetings, temperance soirees, and the like, distinct--as at
Portsmouth--from the other advantages of the Institute; and are quite
content if some, who come at first from mere curiosity or for the
enjoyment of temporal good things, should afterwards continue to come
from higher and spiritual motives.  But if our military friends prefer
to read our papers and books, and play our games, and use our bar, they
are at perfect liberty to do so, without what I may style religious
interference.  It's all fair and above-board, you see.  We fully
recognise the freedom of will that God has bestowed on man.  If you
don't care for our spiritual fare you may let it alone.  If you relish
it--there it is, and you are welcome.  Yet we hold by our right to win
men if we can.  In point of fact, we have been very successful already
in this way, for our motive power from beginning to end is Love.

"One of our most helpful soldier friends--a sergeant--has brought
several men to the Saviour, who are now our steady supporters.  One of
these men, whom our sergeant was the means of bringing in, was a
professed unbeliever of good standing and ability.  The first time he
was prevailed on to come to a prayer-meeting, he sat bolt upright while
we knelt, being a straightforward sort of man who refused to pretend
when he could not really pray.  He is now a happy follower of Jesus.

"Our large rooms are constantly filled with soldiers, some chatting,
some making up for past privations by having a good English meal, and
others reading or playing games.  Just now happens to be our quietest
hour, but it won't be long before we have a bustling scene."

As if to verify the lady's words there came through the doorways at that
moment a sound of shouting and cheering, which caused all the staff of
the Institute to start into active life.

"There they come!" exclaimed the lady, with an intelligent smile, as she
hurried from the room, leaving Hardy to follow at a pace that was more
consistent with his dignity--and, we may add, his physical weakness.

The shouts proceeded from a party of sailors on leave from one of the
ironclads lying in the harbour.  These, being out for the day--on a
spree as some of them styled it--had hired donkeys, and come in a body
to the Institute, where they knew that food of the best, dressed in
British fashion, and familiar games, were to be had, along with British
cheer and sympathy.

When Hardy reached the door he found the place swarming with
blue-jackets, trooping up at intervals on various animals, but none on
foot, save those who had fallen off their mounts and were trying to get
on again.

"They're all donkeyfied together," remarked a sarcastic old salt--not
one of the party--who stood beside Hardy, looking complacently on, and
smoking his pipe.

"They don't steer as well on land as on sea," replied Hardy.

"'Cause they ain't used to such craft, you see--that's w'ere it is,
sarjint," said the old salt, removing his pipe for a moment.  "Just look
at 'em--some comin' along sidewise like crabs, others stern foremost.
W'y, there's that grey craft wi' the broad little man holdin' on to its
tail to prevent his slidin' over its head.  I've watched that grey craft
for some minutes, and its hind propellers have bin so often in the air
that it do seem as if it was walkin' upon its front legs.  Hallo!  I was
sure he'd go down by the head at last."

The donkey in question had indeed gone down by the head, and rolled
over, pitching its rider on his broad shoulders, which, however, seemed
none the worse for the fall.

"Ketch hold of his tail, Bill," cried another man, "and hold his stern
down--see if that won't cure his plungin'.  He's like a Dutchman in a
cross sea."

"Keep clear o' this fellow's heels, Jack, he's agoin' to fire another
broadside."

"If he does he'll unship you," cried Jack, who was himself at the same
moment unshipped, while the owner of the donkey, and of the other
donkeys, shouted advice, if nothing worse, in Arabic and broken English.

In a few minutes the sailors "boarded" the Institute, and drew the whole
force of the establishment to the bar in order to supply the demand.

"Ah! thin, ye've got Irish whisky, haven't ye?" demanded a facetious
seaman.

"Yes, plenty, but we call it coffee here!" answered the equally
facetious barman, whose satellites were distributing hot and cold drinks
with a degree of speed that could only be the fruit of much practice.

"You'll have to be jolly on mild swipes," said one; "no tostikatin'
liquors allowed, Dick."

"H'm!" growled Dick.

"Got any wittles here?" demanded another man, wiping his lips with his
sleeve.

"Yes, plenty.  Sit down and order what you want."

"For nothin'?" asked the tar.

"For _next_ to nothing!" was the prompt reply.  Meanwhile, those whose
appetites were not quite so urgent had distributed themselves about the
place, and were already busy with draughts, billiards, etcetera, while
those who were of more sedate and inquiring temperament were deep in the
columns of the English papers and magazines.

"I say, Fred Thorley, ain't it bang up?" remarked a sturdy little man,
through a huge slice of cake, with which he had just filled his mouth.

"Fuss-rate!" responded Fred, as he finished a cup of coffee at a draught
and called for more.  "Didn't I tell you, Sam, that you'd like it better
than the native grog-shops?"

"If they'd on'y got bitter beer!" sighed Sam.

"They've got better beer," said his friend; "try some ginger-pop."

"No thankee.  If I can't git it strong, let's at least have it hot.
But, I say, what's come o' the lobsters?  Don't seem to be many about.
I thought this here Institoot was got up a-purpose for _them_.

"So it was, lad, includin' us; but you don't suppose that because _you_
are out on the spree, everybody else is.  They're on dooty just now.
Wait a bit an' you'll see plenty of 'em afore long."

"Are all that come here Blue Lights?" asked Sam, with a somewhat doleful
visage.

"By no manner o' means," returned his friend, with a laugh; "tho' for
the matter o' that they wouldn't be worse men if they was, but many of
'em are no better than they should be, an' d'ee know, Sam, there are
some of 'em actually as great blackguards a'most as yourself!"

"There's some comfort in that anyhow," returned Sam, with a pleasant
smile, "for I hates to be pecooliar.  By the way, Fred, p'r'aps they may
be able to give you some noos here, if you ax 'em, about your friend
Jack Molloy.  _He_ was a Blue Light, wasn't he?"

"Not w'en I know'd 'im, but he was a fuss-rate seaman an' a good friend,
though he _was_ fond of his glass, like yourself, Sam."

It chanced that at this point Sergeant Hardy, in moving about the place,
taking profound interest in all that he saw, came within earshot of the
two friends, to whom he at once went up and introduced himself as a
friend of Jack Molloy.

"Indeed," said he, "Molloy and I fought pretty near to each other in
that last affair under General McNeill, so I can give you the latest
news of him."

"Can you, old man?  Come, sit down here, an' let's have it then," said
Thorley.  "Jack was an old messmate o' mine.  What'll you take to drink,
mate?"

"Nothing, thankee.  I'm allowanced by the doctor even in the matter o'
tea and coffee," said the sergeant.  "As to bein' an' old man--well, I
ain't much older than yourself, I daresay, though wounds and sickness
and physic are apt to age a man in looks."

Sitting down beside the sailors, Hardy told of the great fight at
McNeill's zereba, and how Molloy and others of his friends had gone to
rescue a comrade and been cut off.  He relieved Fred's mind, however, by
taking the most hopeful view of the matter, as he had previously
relieved the feelings of Marion.  And then the three fell to chatting on
things in general and the war in particular.

"Now don't this feel homelike?" said Sam, looking round the room with
great satisfaction.  "If it wasn't for the heat I'd a'most think we was
in a temperance coffee-house in old England."

"Or owld Ireland," chimed in a sailor at the neighbouring table.

"To say naething o' auld Scotland," added a rugged man in red hair, who
sat beside him.

"Well, messmate," assented Fred, "it _do_ feel homelike, an' no mistake.
Why, what ever is _that_?"

The sailor paused, and held up a finger as if to impose silence while he
listened, but there was no need to enforce silence, for at that moment
the sweet strains of a harmonium were heard at the other end of the long
room, and quietude profound descended on the company as a rich baritone
voice sang, with wonderful pathos, the familiar notes and words of
"Home, Sweet Home!"

Before that song was finished many a warrior there had to fight
desperately with his own spirit to conceal the fact that his eyes were
full of tears.  Indeed, not a few of them refused to fight at all, but,
ingloriously lowering their colours, allowed the tell-tale drops to
course over their bronzed faces, as they thought of sweethearts and
wives and friends and home circles and "the light of other days."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

LED INTO CAPTIVITY.

We turn once more to the Nubian desert, where, it will be remembered, we
left several of our friends, cut off from McNeill's zereba at a critical
moment when they were all but overwhelmed by a host of foes.

The grand-looking Arab who had so opportunely appeared on the scene and
arrested the spears which were about to finish the career of Jack Molloy
was no other than the man who had been saved by Miles from the bullet of
his comrade Rattling Bill.  A kind act had in this case received its
appropriate reward, for a brief though slight glance, and a gracious
inclination of the Arab's head, convinced our hero that the whole party
owed their lives to this man's gratitude.

They were not however exempt from indignity, for at the moment when Jack
Molloy fell they were overwhelmed by numbers, their arms were wrenched
from their grasp, and their hands were bound behind their backs.  Thus
they were led, the reverse of gently, into the thick bush by a strong
party of natives, while the others, headed by the black-bearded chief,
continued their attack on the zereba.

It soon became evident that the men who had charge of the prisoners did
not share, or sympathise with, the feelings of the chief who had spared
their lives, for they not only forced them to hurry forward as fast as
they could go, but gave them occasional pricks with their spear-points
when any of them chanced to trip or stumble.  One of the warriors in
particular--a fiery man--sometimes struck them with the shaft of his
spear and otherwise maltreated them.  It may be easily understood that
men with unbroken spirits and high courage did not submit to this
treatment with a good grace!

Miles was the first to be tested in this way.  On reaching a piece of
broken ground his foot caught in something and he stumbled forward.  His
hands being bound behind him he could not protect his head, and the
result was that he plunged into a prickly shrub, out of which he arose
with flushed and bleeding countenance.  This was bad enough, but when
the fiery Arab brought a lance down heavily on his shoulders his temper
gave way, and he rushed at the man in a towering rage, striving at the
same time, with intense violence, to burst his bonds.  Of course he
failed, and was rewarded by a blow on the head, which for a moment or
two stunned him.

Seeing this, Armstrong's power of restraint gave way, and he sprang to
the rescue of his friend, but only to meet the same fate at the hands of
the fiery Arab.

Stunned and bleeding, though not subdued, they were compelled to move on
again at the head of the party--spurred on now and then by a touch from
the point of the fiery man's lance.  Indeed it seemed as if this man's
passionate nature would induce him ere long to risk his chief's wrath by
disobeying orders and stabbing the prisoners!

Stevenson, the marine, was the next to suffer, for his foot slipped on a
stone, and he fell with such violence as to be unable to rise for a few
minutes.  Impatient of the delay, the fiery man struck him so savagely
with the spear-shaft that even his own comrades remonstrated.

"If I could only burst this cord!" growled Simkin between his teeth,
"I'd--"

He stopped, for he felt that it was unmanly, as well as idle, to boast
in the circumstances.

"We must have patience, comrade," said Stevenson, as he rose pale and
bloodstained from the ground.  "Our Great Captain sometimes gives us the
order to submit and suffer and--"

A prick in the fleshy part of his thigh caused him to stop abruptly.

At this point the endurance of Jack Molloy failed him, and he also "went
in" for violent action!  But Jack was a genius as well as a sailor, and
profited by the failures of his comrades.  Instead of making futile
efforts to break his bonds like them, he lowered his hairy head, and,
with a howl and a tremendous rush, like a fish-torpedo, launched
himself, or, as it were, took "a header," into the fiery man!

"No fellow," as Jack himself afterwards remarked, "could receive fifteen
stone ten into his bread-basket and go on smiling!"  On the contrary, he
went down like a nine-pin, and remained where he fell, for his
comrades--who evidently did not love him--merely laughed and went on
their way, leaving him to revive at his leisure.

The prisoners advanced somewhat more cheerfully after this event, for,
besides being freed from pricks of the spear-point, there was that
feeling of elation which usually arises in every well-balanced mind from
the sight of demerit meeting with its appropriate reward.

The region over which they were thus led, or driven, was rather more
varied than the level country behind them, and towards evening it
changed still further, becoming more decidedly hill-country.  At night
the party found themselves in the neighbourhood of one of the
all-important wells of the land, beside which they encamped under a
small tree.

Here the prisoners were allowed to sit down on the ground, with one man
to guard them, while the others kindled a fire and otherwise arranged
the encampment.

Supper--consisting of a small quantity of boiled corn and dried flesh--
was given to the prisoners, whose hands were set free, though their
elbows were loosely lashed together, and their feet tied to prevent
their escape.  No such idea, however, entered into the heads of any of
them, for they were by that time in the heart of an unknown range of
hills, in a country which swarmed with foes, besides which, they would
not have known in what direction to fly had they been free to do so;
they possessed neither arms, ammunition, nor provisions, and were at the
time greatly exhausted by their forced march.

Perhaps Jack Molloy was the only man of the unfortunate party who at
that moment retained either the wish or the power to make a dash for
freedom.  But then Jack was an eccentric and exceptional man in every
respect.  Nothing could quell his spirit, and it was all but impossible
to subdue his body.  He was what we may term a composite character.  His
frame was a mixture of gutta-percha, leather, and brass.  His brain was
a compound of vivid fancy and slow perception.  His heart was a union of
highly inflammable oil and deeply impressible butter, with something
remarkably tough in the centre of it.  Had he been a Red Indian he would
have been a chief.  If born a nigger he would have been a king.  In the
tenth century he might have been a Sea-king or something similar.  Born
as he was in the nineteenth century, he was only a Jack-tar and a hero!

It is safe to conclude that if Molloy had been set free that evening
with a cutlass in his hand he would--after supper of course--have
attacked single-handed the united band of forty Arabs, killed at least
ten of them, and left the remaining thirty to mourn over their mangled
bodies and the loss of numerous thumbs and noses, to say nothing of
other wounds and bruises.

Luckily for his comrades he was _not_ free that night.

"Boys," said he, after finishing his scanty meal, and resting on an
elbow as he looked contemplatively up at the stars which were beginning
to twinkle in the darkening sky, "it do seem to me, now that I've had
time to think over it quietly, that our only chance o' gittin' out o'
this here scrape is to keep quiet, an' pretend that we're uncommon fond
of our _dear_ Arab friends, till we throws 'em off their guard, an'
then, some fine night, give 'em the slip an' make sail across the desert
for Suakim."

"No doubt you're right," answered Miles, with a sigh, for, being tired
and sleepy just then, he was not nearly as sanguine as the seaman, "but
I have not much hope of gaining their confidence--especially after your
acting the thunderbolt so effectively on one of them."

"Why, man alive! they won't mind that.  It was all in the way of fair
fight," said Molloy; "an' the rascal was no favourite, I could see
that."

"It's a wonder to me you could see anything at all after such a ram!"
remarked Moses Pyne, with a yawn, as he lay back and rested his head on
a tuft of grass.  "The shock seemed to me fit to sink an iron-clad."

"But why _pretend_ to be fond of the Arabs?" asked Stevenson.  "Don't
you think it would be sufficient that we should obey orders quietly
without any humbug or pretence at all about it, till a chance to escape
shall come in our way?"

"Don't you think, Stevenson," said Miles, "that there's a certain amount
of humbug and pretence even in quiet obedience to orders, when such
obedience is not the result of submission, but of a desire to throw
people off their guard?"

"But my obedience _is_ the result of submission," returned the marine
stoutly.  "I do really submit--first, because it is God's will, for I
cannot help it; second, because it is the only course that will enable
me to escape bad treatment; third, because I wish to gain the good-will
of the men who have me in their power whether I escape or not; and,
fourth--"

"Hallo! old man, how many heads are you goin' to give us in that there
sermon?" asked Moses.

"This is the last head, Moses, and you needn't be anxious, for I ain't
going to enlarge on any of 'em.  My fourth reason is, that by doing as
common-sense bids me, our foes will be brought thereby to that state of
mind which will be favourable to everything--our escape included--and I
can't help that, you know.  It ain't my fault if they become trustful,
is it?"

"No, nor it ain't no part o' your dooty to spoil their trustfulness by
failin' to take advantage of it," said Molloy, with a grin; "but it do
seem to me, Stevenson, as if there wor a strong smack o' the Jesuit, in
what you say."

"I hope not," replied the marine.  "Anyhow, no one would expect me,
surely, to go an' say straight out to these fellows, `I'm goin' to obey
orders an' be as meek as a lamb, in order to throw you off your guard
an' bolt when I get the chance!'"

"Cer'nly not.  'Cause why?  Firstly, you couldn't say it at all till
you'd learned Arabic," returned Molloy; "secondly--if I may be allowed
for to follow suit an' sermonise--'cause you shouldn't say it if you
could; an', thirdly, 'cause you'd be a most awful Jack-ass to say it if
you did.  Now, it's my advice, boys, that we go to sleep, for we won't
have an easy day of it to-morrow, if I may judge from to-day."

Having delivered this piece of advice with much decision, the seaman
extended himself at full length on the ground, and went to sleep with a
pleased smile on his face, as if the desert sand had been his familiar
couch from infancy.

Some of the other members of the unfortunate party were not, however,
quite so ready for sleep.  Miles and his friend Armstrong sat long
talking over their fate--which they mutually agreed was a very sad one;
but at last, overcome by exhaustion, if not anxiety, they sank into
much-needed repose, and the only sound that broke the stillness of the
night was the tread of the Arab sentinel as he paced slowly to and fro.

The country, as they advanced, became more and more rugged, until they
found themselves at last in the midst of a hill region, in the valleys
of which there grew a considerable amount of herbage and underwood.  The
journey here became very severe to the captives, for, although they did
not suffer from thirst so much as on the plains, the difficulty of
ascending steep and rugged paths with their hands bound was very great.
It is true the position of the hands was changed, for after the second
day they had been bound in front of them, but this did not render their
toil easy, though it was thereby made a little less laborious.

By this time the captives had learned from experience that if they
wished to avoid the spear-points they must walk in advance of their
captors at a very smart pace.  Fortunately, being all strong and healthy
men, they were well able to do so.

Rattling Bill, perhaps, suffered most, although, after Molloy, he was
physically one of the strongest of the party.

Observing that he lagged behind a little on one occasion while they were
traversing a somewhat level valley, Stevenson offered him his arm.

"Don't be ashamed to take it, old boy," said the marine kindly, as his
comrade hesitated.  "You know, a fellow sometimes feels out o' sorts,
and not up to much, however stout he may be when well, so just you lay
hold, for somehow I happen to feel as strong as an elephant to-day."

"But I _ain't_ ill," returned Simkin, still declining, "and I don't see
why I shouldn't be as able as you are to carry my own weight."

"Of course you are better able to do it than I am, in a general way,"
returned his friend, "but I said that sometimes, you know, a fellow
gives in, he don't well know why or how, an' then, of course, his
comrades that are still strong are bound to help him.  Here, hook on and
pocket your pride.  You'll have to do the same thing for me to-morrow,
may-hap, when _I_ give in.  And if it does come to that I'll lean heavy,
I promise you."

"You're a good fellow, Stevenson, even though you _are_ a Blue Light,"
said Simkin, taking the proffered arm.

"Perhaps it's _because_ I am a Blue Light," returned the marine, with a
laugh.  "At all events, it is certain that whatever good there may be
about me at all is the result of that Light which is as free to you as
to me."

For some minutes the couple walked along in silence.  At last Rattling
Bill spoke.

"I wonder," he said, "why it is that a young and healthy fellow like me
should break down sooner than you, Stevenson, for I'm both bigger and
stronger--and yet, look at us new.  Ain't it strange!  I wonder why it
is."

"It is strange, indeed," returned the marine quietly.  "P'r'aps the
climate suits me better than you."

"I know what you're thinkin'," said Simkin, almost testily.  "Why don't
you say that _drink_ is the cause of it--straight out, like a man?"

"Because I knew you were saying that to yourself, lad, so there was no
need for me to say it," returned his friend, with a side-glance and a
twinkle of the eyes.

"Well, whoever says it, it's a fact," continued Simkin, almost sternly,
"an' I make no bones of admitting it.  I have bin soakin' away, right
and left, since I came to this country, in spite o' warnin's from you
and other men like you, and now I feel as if all my boasted strength was
goin' out at my heels."

Stevenson was silent.

"Why don't you say `I told you so?'" asked Simkin, sharply.

"Because I _never_ say that!  It only riles people; besides," continued
the marine, earnestly, "I was asking God at the moment to enable me to
answer you wisely.  You see, I think it only fair to reveal some of my
private thoughts to _you_, since you are making a father-confessor of
_me_.  But as you admit that drink has done you damage, my dear fellow,
there is no need for me to say anything more on that subject.  What you
want now is encouragement as to the future and advice as to the present.
Shall I give you both just now, or shall I wait?"

"`Commence firing!'" replied Simkin, with a half-jesting smile.

"Well, then, as to encouragement," said Stevenson.  "A point of vital
importance with men who have gone in for drink as much as you have, is
total-abstinence; and I regard it as an evidence of God's love to you
that He has brought you here--"

"God's love that brought me _here_!" exclaimed the soldier in surprise.
"Well, that _is_ a view o' the case that don't seem quite plain."

"Plain enough if you open your eyes wide enough.  See here: If you was
in camp now, with your present notions, and was to determine to give up
drink, you'd have to face and fight two most tremendous devils.  One
devil is called Craving, the other is called Temptation, and all the
Arabs in the Soudan rolled into one are not so terrible or so strong as
these two when a man is left to fight them by himself.  Now, is it not a
sign of our Father's love that he has, by bringing you here, removed the
devil Temptation entirely out of your way, for you can't get strong
drink here for love or money.  So, you see, you have only got Craving to
fight, and that's encouraging, ain't it?"

"D'ye know, I believe you are not far wrong," said Simkin, gravely; "and
it _is_ encouraging to know that Temptation's out o' the way, for I feel
that the other devil has got me by the throat even now, and that it's
him as has weakened me so much."

"That's it, friend.  You've got the truth by the tail now, so hold on;
but, at the same time, don't be too hard on Craving.  It's not _his_
fault that he's here.  You have poured liquor down your throat to him
daily, and cultivated his acquaintance, and helped him to increase his
strength regularly, for many months--it may be for years.  I don't want
to be hard on you, lad, but it's of no use shiftin' the burden on to the
wrong shoulders.  It is not Craving but _you_ who are the sinner.  Now,
as to advice: do you really want it?"

"Well," replied Simkin, with a "humph!" "it will be time enough for you
to shut up when I sound the `cease firing!'"

"My advice, then, is that you go down on your knees, plead _guilty_
straight off, and ask for grace to help you in your time of need."

"What! go down on my knees here before all them Arabs?  If I did, they'd
not only laugh at me, but they'd soon rouse me up with their spears."

"I'm not so sure about that, Simkin.  Arabs are accustomed to go on
their own knees a good deal in public.  It is chiefly Christians who,
strange to say, are ashamed to be caught in that position at odd times.
But I speak not of ceremonies, but of realities.  A man may go on his
knees, without bending a joint, any time and everywhere.  Now, listen:
there is this difference between the courts of men and the court of
heaven, that in the former, when a man pleads guilty, his sentence is
only modified and softened, but in the latter, the man who pleads guilty
receives a free pardon and ultimate deliverance from _all_ sin for the
sake of Jesus Christ.  Will you accept this deliverance, my friend?"

What the soldier replied in his heart we cannot tell, for his voice was
silent.  Before the conversation could be resumed a halt was called, to
partake of the midday meal and rest.

That evening the party came upon a strange and animated scene.  It was
one of the mountain camps of Osman Digna, where men were assembling from
all quarters, to swell the hordes with which their chief hoped to drive
the hated Europeans into the Red Sea.  Camels and other beasts of burden
were bringing in supplies for the vast army, and to this spot had been
brought the poor fellows who had been wounded in recent battles.

Here the captives were thrust into a small dark hut and left to their
meditations, while a couple of Arab sentries guarded the door.



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

SHOWS THAT SUFFERING TENDS TO DRAW OUT SYMPATHY.

The word _captivity_, even when it refers to civilised lands and
peoples, conveys, we suspect, but a feeble and incorrect idea to the
minds of those who have never been in a state of personal bondage.
Still less do we fully appreciate its dread significance when it refers
to foreign lands and barbarous people.

It was not so much the indignities to which the captive Britons were
subjected that told upon them ultimately, as the hard, grinding,
restless toil, and the insufficient food and rest--sometimes accompanied
with absolute corporeal pain.

"A merciful man is merciful to his beast."  There is not much of mercy
to his beast in an Arab.  We have seen an Arab, in Algiers, who made use
of a sore on his donkey's back as a sort of convenient spur!  It is
exhausting to belabour a thick-skinned and obstinate animal with a
stick.  It is much easier, and much more effective, to tickle up a sore,
kept open for the purpose, with a little bit of stick, while comfortably
seated on the creature's back.  The fellow we refer to did that.  We do
not say or think that all Arabs are cruel; very far from it, but we hold
that, as a race, they are so.  Their great prophet taught them cruelty
by example and precept, and the records of history, as well as of the
African slave-trade, bear witness to the fact that their "tender
mercies" are not and never have been conspicuous!

At first, as we have shown, indignities told pretty severely on the
unfortunate Englishmen.  But, as time went on, and they were taken
further and further into the interior, and heavy burdens were daily
bound on their shoulders, and the lash was frequently applied to urge
them on, the keen sense of insult which had at first stirred them into
wild anger became blunted, and at last they reached that condition of
partial apathy which renders men almost indifferent to everything save
rest and food.  Even the submissive Stevenson was growing callous.  In
short, that process had begun which usually ends in making men either
brutes or martyrs.

As before, we must remark that Jack Molloy was to some extent an
exception.  It did seem as if nothing but death itself could subdue that
remarkable man.  His huge frame was so powerful that he seemed to be
capable of sustaining any weight his tyrants chose to put upon him.  And
the influence of hope was so strong within him that it raised him almost
entirely above the region of despondency.

This was fortunate for his comrades in misfortune, for it served to keep
up their less vigorous spirits.

There was one thing about the seaman, however, which they could not
quite reconcile with his known character.  This was a tendency to groan
heavily when he was being loaded.  To be sure, there was not much reason
for wonder, seeing that the Arabs forced the Herculean man to carry
nearly double the weight borne by any of his companions, but then, as
Miles once confidentially remarked to Armstrong, "I thought that Jack
Molloy would rather have died than have groaned on account of the weight
of his burden; but, after all, it _is_ a tremendously heavy one--poor
fellow!"

One day the Arabs seemed to be filled with an unusual desire to torment
their victims.  A man had passed the band that day on a fast dromedary,
and the prisoners conjectured that he might have brought news of some
defeat of their friends, which would account for their increased
cruelty.  They were particularly hard on Molloy that day, as if they
regarded him as typical of British strength, and, therefore, an
appropriate object of revenge.  After the midday rest, they not only put
on him his ordinary burden, but added to the enormous weight
considerably, so that the poor fellow staggered under it, and finally
fell down beneath it, with a very dismal groan indeed!

Of course the lash was at once applied, and under its influence the
sailor rose with great difficulty, and staggered forward a few paces,
but only to fall again.  This time, however, he did not wait for the
lash, but made very determined efforts of his own accord to rise and
advance, without showing the smallest sign of resentment.  Even his
captors seemed touched, for one of them removed a small portion of his
burden, so that, thereafter, the poor fellow proceeded with less
difficulty, though still with a little staggering and an occasional
groan.

That night they reached a village near the banks of a broad river, where
they put up for the night.  After their usual not too heavy supper was
over, the prisoners were thrust into a sort of hut or cattle-shed, and
left to make themselves as comfortable as they could on the bare floor.

"I don't feel quite so much inclined for sleep to-night," said Miles to
Molloy.

"No more do I," remarked the sailor, stretching himself like a wearied
Goliath on the earthen floor, and placing his arms under his head for a
pillow.

"I feel pretty well used up too," said Simkin, throwing himself down
with a sigh that was more eloquent than his tongue.  He was indeed
anything but Rattling Bill by that time.

Moses Pyne being, like his great namesake, a meek man, sympathised with
the others, but said nothing about himself, though his looks betrayed
him.  Armstrong and Stevenson were silent.  They seemed too much
exhausted to indulge in speech.

"Poor fellow!" said Moses to Molloy, "I don't wonder you are tired, for
you not only carried twice as much as any of us, but you took part of
_my_ load.  Indeed he did, comrades," added Moses, turning to his
friends with an apologetic air.  "I didn't want him to do it, but he
jerked part o' my load suddenly out o' my hand an' wouldn't give it up
again; an', you know, I didn't dare to make a row, for that would have
brought the lash down on both of us.  But I didn't want him to carry so
much, an' him so tired."

"Tired!" exclaimed the sailor, with a loud laugh.  "Why, I warn't tired
a bit.  An', you know, you'd have dropped down, Moses, if I hadn't
helped ye at that time."

"Well, I confess I _was_ ready to drop," returned Moses, with a humbled
look; "but I would much rather have dropped than have added to your
burden.  How can you say you wasn't tired when you had fallen down only
five minutes before, an' groaned heavily when you rose, and your legs
trembled so?  I could _see_ it!"

To this the seaman's only reply was the expansion of his huge but
handsome mouth, the display of magnificent teeth, the disappearance of
both eyes, and a prolonged quiet chuckle.

"Why, what's the matter with you, Jack?" asked Stevenson.

"Nothin's the matter wi' me, old man--'cept--"

Here he indulged in another chuckle.

"Goin' mad, with over-fatigue," said Simkin, looking suspiciously at
him.

"Ay, that's it, messmate, clean mad wi' over-fatigue."

He wiped his eyes with the hairy back of his hand, for the chuckling,
being hearty, had produced a few tears.

"No, but really, Jack, what is it you're laughing at?" asked Armstrong.
"If there _is_ a joke you might as well let us have the benefit of
laughing along wi' you, for we stand much in need of something to cheer
us here."

"Well, Billy boy, I may as well make a clean breast of it," said Molloy,
raising himself on one elbow and becoming grave.  "I do confess to
feelin' raither ashamed o' myself, but you mustn't be hard on me, lads,
for circumstances alters cases, you know, as Solomon said--leastwise if
it warn't him it was Job or somebody else.  The fact is, I've bin
shammin', mates!"

"Shamming!"

"Ay, shammin' _weak_.  Purtendin' that I was shaky on the legs, an' so
not quite up to the cargo they were puttin' aboard o' me."

"If what you've been doing means shamming _weak_, I'd like to see you
coming out _strong_," observed Miles, with a short laugh.

"Well, p'r'aps you'll see that too some day," returned the sailor, with
an amiable look.

"But do you really mean that all that groaning--which I confess to have
been surprised at--was mere pretence?"

"All sham.  Downright sneakin'!" said Molloy.  "The short an' the long
of it is, that I see'd from the first the on'y way to humbug them
yellow-faced baboons was to circumwent 'em.  So I set to work at the
wery beginnin'."

"Ah, by takin' a header," said Simkin, "into one o' their
bread-baskets!"

"No, no!" returned the seaman, "that, I confess, was a mistake.  But
you'll admit, I've made no more mistakes o' the same sort since then.
You see, I perceived that, as my strength is considerable above the
average, the baboons would be likely to overload me, so, arter profound
excogitation wi' myself, I made up my mind what to do, an' when they had
clapped on a little more than the rest o' you carried I began to groan,
then I began to shake a bit in my timbers, an' look as if I was agoin'
to founder.  It didn't check 'em much, for they're awful cruel, so I
went fairly down by the head.  I had a pretty fair guess that this would
bring the lash about my shoulders, an' I was right, but I got up wery
slowly an' broken-down-like, so that the baboons was fairly humbugged,
and stopped loadin' of me long afore I'd taken in a full cargo--so, you
see, boys, I've bin sailin' raither light than otherwise."

"But do you mean to tell me that the load you've bin carryin' is not too
heavy for you?" asked Moses.

"That's just what I does mean to tell you, lad.  I could carry a good
deal more, an' dance with it.  You see, they ain't used to men o' my
size, so I was able to humbug 'em into a miscalkilation.  I on'y wish I
could have helped you all to do the same, but they're too 'cute, as the
Yankees say.  Anyway, Moses, you don't need to trouble your head when I
gives you a helpin' hand again."

"Ah, that expression, `a helping hand,' sounds familiar in my ears,"
said Stevenson, in a sad tone.

"Yes, what do it recall, lad?" asked Molloy, extending himself again on
his broad back.

"It recalls places and friends in Portsmouth, Jack, that we may never
again set eyes on.  You remember the Institoot?  Well, they've got a new
branch o' the work there for the surrounding civilian poor, called the
_Helping Hand_.  You see, Miss Robinson understands us soldiers out and
out.  She knew that those among us who gave up drink and sin, and put on
the blue-ribbon, were not goin' to keep all the benefit to ourselves.
She knew that we understood the meaning of the word `enlist' That we'd
think very little o' the poor-spirited fellow who'd take the Queen's
shillin' and put on her uniform, and then shirk fightin' her battles and
honouring her flag.  So when some of us put on the Lord's uniform--
which, like that of the Austrians, is white--and unfurled His flag, she
knew we'd soon be wantin' to fight His battles against sin--especially
against drink; so instead of lookin' after our welfare alone, she
encouraged us to hold out a _helpin' hand_ to the poorest and most
miserable people in Portsmouth, an' she found us ready to answer to the
call."

"Ah, they was grand times, these," continued the marine, with kindly
enthusiasm, as he observed that his comrades in sorrow were becoming
interested, and forgetting for the moment their own sorrows and
sufferings.  "The Blue-Ribbon move was strong in Portsmouth at the time,
and many of the soldiers and sailors joined it.  Some time after we had
held out a helping hand to the poor civilians, we took it into our heads
to invite some of 'em to a grand tea-fight in the big hall, so we asked
a lot o' the poorest who had faithfully kept the pledge through their
first teetotal Christmas; and it _was_ a scrimmage, I can tell you.  We
got together more than forty of 'em, men and women, and there were about
three hundred soldiers and sailors, and their wives to wait on 'em an'
keep 'em company!"

"Capital!" exclaimed Miles, who had a sympathetic spirit--especially for
the poor.

"Good--good!" said Molloy, nodding his head.  "That was the right thing
to do, an' I suppose they enjoyed theirselves?"

"Enjoyed themselves!" exclaimed the marine, with a laugh.  "I should
just think they did.  Trust Miss Robinson for knowin' how to make poor
folk enjoy themselves--and, for the matter of that, rich folk too!  How
they did stuff, to be sure!  Many of 'em, poor things, hadn't got such a
blow-out in all their lives before.  You see, they was the very poorest
of the poor.  You may believe what I say, for I went round myself with
one o' the Institoot ladies to invite 'em, and I do declare to you that
I never saw even pigs or dogs in such a state of destitootion--nothin'
whatever to lie on but the bare boards."

"You don't say so?" murmured Moses, with deep commiseration, and
seemingly oblivious of the fact that he was himself pretty much in
similar destitution at that moment.

"Indeed I do.  Look here," continued the marine, becoming more earnest
as he went on; "thousands of people don't know--can't understand--what
misery and want and suffering is going on around 'em.  City missionaries
and the like tell 'em about it, and write about it, but telling and
writin' _don't_ make people _know_ some things.  They must _see_, ay,
sometimes they must _feel_, before they can rightly understand.

"One of the rooms we visited," continued Stevenson, in pathetic tones,
"belonged to a poor old couple who had been great drinkers, but had been
induced to put on the blue-ribbon.  It was a pigeon-hole of a room,
narrow, up a dark stair.  They had no means of support.  The room was
empty.  Everything had been pawned.  The last thing given up was the
woman's shawl to pay the rent, and they were starving."

"Why didn't they go to the work'us?" asked Simkin.

"'Cause the workhouse separates man and wife, in defiance of the Divine
law--`Whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.'  They was
fond of each other, was that old man and woman, and had lived long
together, an' didn't want to part till death.  So they had managed to
stick to the old home, ay, and they had stuck to their colours, for the
bit o' blue was still pinned to the tattered coat o' the man and the
thin gown o' the woman, (neither coat nor gown would fetch anything at
the pawn-shop!) and there was no smell o' drink in the room.  Well, that
old couple went to the tea-fight.  It was a bitter cold night, but they
came all the same, with nothing to cover the woman's thin old arms.

"The moment they appeared, away went one o' Miss Robinson's workers to
the room where they keep chests full of clothes sent by charitable folk
to the Institoot, an' you should have seen that old woman's wrinkled
face when the worker returned wi' the thickest worsted shawl she could
lay hold of, an' put it on her shoulders as tenderly as if the old woman
had been her own mother!  At the same time they gave a big-coat to the
old man."

"But, I say," interrupted Simkin, "that Christmas feed an' shawl an'
coat wouldn't keep the couple for a twel'month, if they was sent home to
starve as before, would it?"

"Of course not," returned the marine, "but they wasn't sent off to
starve; they was looked after.  Ay, an' the people o' the whole
neighbourhood are now looked after, for Miss Robinson has bought up a
grog-shop in Nobbs Lane--one o' the worst places in Portsmouth--an'
converted it into a temperance coffee-house, wi' lots of beds to send
people to when the Institoot overflows, an' a soup-kitchen for the
destitoot poor, an' a wash'us for them and the soldiers' wives, an', in
short, it has changed the whole place; but if I go on like this I'll
send Moses to sleep, for I've heard 'im smotherin' his yawns more than
once a'ready!"

"It's not for want of interest in what you're sayin' though, old man,"
returned Moses, with a tremendous unsmothered yawn, which of course set
all his comrades off, and confirmed them in the belief that it was time
to seek repose.

Scarcely a single comment was made on the narrative, as each laid his
weary head on his arm or on a folded garment, and stretched himself out
on the hard ground, in nearly as destitute a condition as the poor folk,
about whom they had been hearing; for while their bed was as hard as
theirs, and the covering as scant, the meal they had recently consumed
was by no means what hungry men would call satisfying.

There is reason to believe, however, that their consideration of the sad
lot of "the poor" at home did not render less profound or sweet that
night's repose in the great African wilderness.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

ADVENTURES AMONG THE SOUDANESE, AND STRANGE MEETING WITH THE MAHDI.

Day after day, for many days, our captives were thus driven over the
burning desert, suffering intensely from heat and thirst and hunger, as
well as from fatigue, and treated with more or less cruelty according to
the varying moods of their guards.

At last one afternoon they arrived at a city of considerable size,
through the streets of which they were driven with unusual harshness by
the Arab soldiers, who seemed to take pleasure in thus publicly heaping
contempt on Christian captives in the sight of the Mohammedan
population.

Their case seemed truly desperate to Miles, as he and his comrades
passed through the narrow streets, for no pitying eye, but many a frown,
was cast on them by the crowds who stopped to gaze and scoff.

What city they had reached they had no means of finding out, being
ignorant of Arabic.  Indeed, even though they had been able to converse
with their guards, it is probable that these would have refused to hold
communication with them.

Turning out of what appeared to be a sort of market-place, they were
driven, rather than conducted, to a whitewashed building, into which
they entered through a low strong door, studded with large iron-headed
nails.  As they entered a dark passage, the door was slammed and locked
behind them.  At first, owing to their sudden entrance out of intensely
bright day, they seemed to be in profound darkness, but when they became
accustomed to the dim light, they found that they were in the presence
of several powerful men, who carried long Eastern-like pistols in their
girdles, and curved naked swords in their hands.  These stood like
statues against the wall of the small room, silently awaiting the orders
of one whose dress betokened him of superior rank, and who was engaged
in writing with a reed in Persian characters.  A tall, very
black-skinned negro stood beside this officer.

After a few minutes the latter laid down the reed, rose up, and
confronted the prisoners, at the same time addressing some remark to his
attendant.

"Who is you, an' where you come fro?" asked the negro, addressing
himself to Miles, whom he seemed intuitively to recognise as the chief
of his party.

"We are British soldiers!" said Miles, drawing himself up with an air of
dignity that would have done credit to the Emperor of China.  You see,
at that moment he felt himself to be the spokesman for, and, with his
comrades, the representative of, the entire British army, and was put
upon his mettle accordingly.  "We come from Suakim--"

"Ay, black-face!" broke in Jack Molloy at that moment, "and you may tell
him that if he has the pluck to go to Suakim, he'll see plenty more
British soldiers--an' British seamen too--who'll give him an' his
friends a hot and hearty welcome wi' bullet, bayonet, and cutlash
whenever he feels inclined."

"Are you officer?" asked the negro of Miles, and not paying the smallest
attention to Molloy's warlike invitation.

"No, I am not."

Turning to the armed men, the officer gave them an order which caused
them to advance and stand close to the Englishmen--two beside each
prisoner--with drawn swords.  An extra man took up his position behind
Molloy, evidently having regard to his superior size!  Then two men, who
looked like jailers, advanced to Stevenson, cut the cords that bound his
arms, and proceeded to put iron fetters on his wrists.

"Comrades," said Molloy, in a low voice, when he perceived that his turn
was coming, "shall we make a burst for it--kill them all, get out into
street, cut and slash through the town, and make a grand run for it--or
die like men?"

"Die like fools!" growled Simkin, as he suffered his hands to be
manacled.

"No, no, Jack," said Armstrong; "don't be rash.  Let's bide our time.
There's no sayin' what'll turn up."

"Well, well," sighed Molloy, resigning himself to his fate, "there's
only one thing now that's sartin sure to turn up, an' that is the sod
that'll cover our graves."

"You're not sure even of that, man," said Moses Pyne, who was beginning
to give way to despair, "for may-hap they'll only dig a hole in the
sand, an' shove us in."

"More likely to leave the dogs an' vultures to clear us out o' the way,"
said Simkin, whose powers of hope were being tested almost beyond
endurance.

While the prisoners indulged in these gloomy anticipations, the
operation of fixing their irons was finished, after which they were
taken across an inner court which was open to the sky.  At the other
side of this they came to another heavy iron-studded door, which, when
opened, disclosed a flight of steps descending into profound darkness.

"Go in!" said the negro, who had accompanied them.

Molloy, who was first, hesitated, and the tremendous flush on his face,
and frown on his shaggy brows, seemed to indicate that even yet he
meditated attempting his favourite "burst"!  But Stevenson, pushing past
him, at once descended, saying, as he went, "Don't be foolish, Jack; we
_must_ learn to submit."

There were only three steps, and at the bottom a room about fifteen feet
square, to enlighten which there was a small hole high up in one of the
walls.  It did little more, however, than render darkness visible.

"God help us!" exclaimed Miles, with a sensation of sinking at the heart
which he had never felt before.

And little wonder, for, as their eyes became accustomed to the dim
light, it was seen that the walls were blank, with nothing on them to
relieve the eye save the little hole or window just mentioned; that the
floor was of hard earth, and that there was not a scrap of furniture in
the room--not even a stool, or a bundle of straw on which to lie down.

"`I will trust, and not be afraid,'" said Stevenson, in a low voice.

"Who will you trust?" asked Simkin, who was not aware that his comrade
had quoted Scripture.

"I will trust God," answered the marine.

"I wouldn't give much for your trust, then," returned Simkin bitterly,
as well as contemptuously, for he had given way to despair.  "You Blue
Lights and Christians think yourselves so much better than everybody
else, because you make so much talk about prayin' an' singin', an' doin'
your duty, an' servin' God, an' submitting.  It's all hypocrisy."

"Don't you believe that Sergeant Hardy is a good soldier?" asked
Stevenson.

"Of course I do," replied Simkin, in some surprise at the question.

"An' _he_ doesn't think much of himself, does he?" continued the marine.

"Certainly not.  He's one o' the kindest an' humblest men in the
regiment, as I have good reason to know."

"Yet he frequently talks to us of attendin' to our duty, an' doin'
credit to the British Flag, an' faithfully serving the Queen.  If this
is praiseworthy in the sergeant, why should the talk of duty an' service
an' honour to God be hypocrisy in the Christian?  Does it not seem
strange that we Blue Lights--who have discovered ourselves to be much
worse than we thought ourselves, an' gladly accept Jesus as our Saviour
from sin--should be charged with thinkin' ourselves `_better_ than other
people'!"

"Come now," cried Jack Molloy, seating himself on the floor, and leaning
his back against the wall; "it do seem to me, as you putt it, Stevenson,
that the charge ought to be all the other way; for we, who make no
purfession of religion at all, thinks ourselves so far righteous that
we've got no need of a Saviour.  Suppose, now, as we've got to as low a
state o' the dumps as men can well come to, we all sits down in a row
an' have a palaver about this matter--Parson Stevenson bein' the chief
spokesman."

They all readily agreed to this proposal.  Indeed, in the circumstances,
any proposal that offered the faintest hope of diverting their minds
from present trouble would have been welcome to them at that moment.
The marine was nothing loath to fall in with the fancy of his
irrepressible comrade, but we do not propose to follow them in the talk
that ensued.  We will rather turn at once to those events which affected
more immediately the fortunes of the captives.

On the morning after their arrival in the city there was assembled in
the principal square a considerable concourse of Soudan warriors.  They
stood chatting together in various groups in front of a public building,
as if awaiting some chief or great man, whose richly caparisoned steed
stood in front of the main entrance, with its out-runner standing before
it.

This runner was a splendid specimen of physical manhood.  He was as
black as coal, as graceful as Apollo, and apparently as powerful as
Hercules,--if one might judge from the great muscles which stood out
prominently on all his limbs, he wore but little clothing--merely a pair
of short Arab drawers of white cotton, a red fez on his head, and a
small tippet on his shoulders.  Unlike negroes in general, his features
were cast in a mould which one is more accustomed to see in the
Caucasian race of mankind--the nose being straight, the lips
comparatively thin, and the face oval, while his bearing was that of a
man accustomed to command.

The appearance of a few soldiers traversing the square drew the eyes of
all in their direction, and caused a brief pause in the hum of
conversation.  Our friends, the captives, were in the midst of these
soldiers, and beside them marched the negro interpreter whom they had
first met with in the prison.

At the door of the public building the soldiers drew up and allowed the
captives to pass in, guarded by two officers and the interpreter.
Inside they found a number of military men and dignitaries grouped
around, conversing with a stern man of strongly marked features.  This
man--towards whom all of them showed great deference--was engaged when
the captives entered; they were therefore obliged to stand aside for a
few minutes.

"Who is he?" asked Molloy of the negro interpreter.

"Our great leader," said the negro, "the Mahdi."

"What! the scoundrel that's bin the cause o' all this kick-up?" asked
Jack Molloy, in surprise.

The interpreter did not quite understand the seaman's peculiar language,
but he seemed to have some idea of the drift of it, for he turned up his
up-turned nose in scorn and made no reply.

In a few minutes an officer led the captives before the Mahdi, who
regarded them with a dark frown, directing his attention particularly to
Jack Molloy, as being the most conspicuous member of the party, perhaps,
also, because Molloy looked at him with an air and expression of stern
defiance.

Selecting him as a spokesman for the others, the Mahdi, using the negro
as an interpreter, put him through the following examination:--

"Where do you come from?" he asked, sternly.

"From Suakim," answered Molloy, quite as sternly.

"What brought you here?"

"Your dirty-faced baboons!"

It is probable that the negro used some discretion in translating this
reply, for the chief did not seem at all offended, but with the same
manner and tone continued--

"Do you know the number of men in Suakim?"

"Yes."

"Tell me--how many?"

To this Molloy answered slowly, "Quite enough--if you had only the pluck
to come out into the open an' fight like men--to give you such a lickin'
that there wouldn't be a baboon o' you left in the whole Soudan!"

Again it is probable that the interpreter did not give this speech
verbatim, for while he was delivering it, the Mahdi was scanning the
features of the group of prisoners with a calm but keen eye.

Making a sign to one of his attendants to lead Molloy to one side, he
said a few words to another, who thereupon placed Miles in front of his
master.

"Are you an officer?" was the first question put.

"No," answered our hero, with quiet dignity, but without the slightest
tinge of defiance either in tone or look.

"Will you tell me how many men you have in Suakim?"

"No."

"Dare you refuse?"

"Yes; it is against the principles of a British soldier to give
information to an enemy."

"That's right, John Miles," said Molloy, in an encouraging tone; "give
it 'im hot!  They can only kill us once, an'--"

"Silence!" hissed the Mahdi between his teeth.

"Silence!" echoed the interpreter.

"All right, you nigger!  Tell the baboon to go on.  I won't run foul of
him again; he ain't worth it."

This was said with free-and-easy contempt.

"Do you not know," resumed the Mahdi, turning again to Miles with a
fierce expression, "that I have power to take your life?"

"You have no power at all beyond what God gives to you," said Miles
quietly.

Even the angry Mahdi was impressed with the obvious truth of this
statement, but his anger was not much allayed by it.

"Know you not," he continued, "that I have the power to torture you to
death?"

Our hero did not at once reply.  He felt that a grand crisis in his life
had arrived, that he stood there before an assemblage of "unbelievers,"
and that, to some extent, the credit of his countrymen for courage,
fidelity, and Christianity was placed in his hands.

"Mahdi," he said, impressively, as he drew himself up, "you have indeed
the power to torture and kill me, but you have _not_ the power to open
my lips, or cause me to bring dishonour on my country!"

"Brayvo, Johnny!  Pitch into him!" cried the delighted Molloy.

"Fool!" exclaimed the Mahdi, whose ire was rekindled as much by the
seaman's uncomprehended comment as by our hero's fearless look and tone,
"you cannot bring dishonour on a country which is already dishonoured.
What dishonour can exceed that of being leagued with the oppressor
against the oppressed?  Go!  You shall be taught to sympathise with the
oppressed by suffering oppression!"

He waved his hand, and, quickly leaving the court, walked towards his
horse, where the fine-looking negro runner stood and held his stirrup,
while he prepared to mount.  Instead of mounting, however, he stood for
a few seconds looking thoughtfully at the ground.  Then he spoke a few
words to the runner, who bowed his head slightly as his master mounted
and rode away.

Grasping a small lance and flag, which seemed to be the emblems of his
office, he ran off at full speed in front of the horse to clear the way
for his master.

At the entrance to the building an official of some sort took hold of
Miles's arm and led him away.  He glanced back and observed that two
armed men followed.  At the same time he saw Molloy's head towering
above the surrounding crowd, as he and his comrades were led away in
another direction.  That was the last he saw of some at least, of his
friends for a considerable time.

Poor Miles was too much distressed at this sudden and unexpected
separation to take much note of the things around him.  He was brought
back to a somewhat anxious consideration of his own affairs by being
halted at the gate of a building which was more imposing, both in size
and appearance, than the houses around it.  Entering at the bidding of
his conductors, he found himself in an open court, and heard the heavy
door closed and bolted behind him.

Thereafter he was conducted to a small chamber, which, although
extremely simple, and almost devoid of furniture, was both cleaner and
lighter than that in which he and his comrades had been at first
immured.  He observed, however, with a feeling of despondency, that it
was lighted only by small square holes in the roof, and that the door
was very substantial!

Here his conductor left him without saying a word and bolted the door.
As he listened to the retreating steps of his jailer echoing on the
marble pavement of the court, a feeling of profound dejection fell upon
our hero's spirit, and he experienced an almost irresistible tendency to
give way to unmanly tears.  Shame, however, came to his aid and enabled
him to restrain them.

In one corner of the little room there was a piece of thick matting.
Sitting down on it with his back against the wall, the poor youth laid
his face in his hands and began to think and to pray.  But the prayer
was not audible; and who can describe the wide range of thought--the
grief, the anxiety for comrades as well as for himself, the remorse, the
intense longing to recall the past, the wish that he might awake and
find that it was only a wild dream, and, above all, the bitter--almost
vengeful--self-condemnation!

He was aroused from this condition by the entrance of a slave bearing a
round wooden tray, on which were a bowl of food and a jug of water.

Placing these before him, the slave retired without speaking, though he
bestowed a glance of curiosity on the "white infidel dog," before
closing the door.

Appetite had ever been a staunch friend to Miles Milton.  It did not
fail him now.  Soldier-life has usually the effect of making its
devotees acutely careful to take advantage of all opportunities!  He set
to work on the bowlful of food with a will, and was not solicitous to
ascertain what it consisted of until it was safely washed down with a
draught from the jug.  Being then too late to enter on an inquiry as to
its nature, he contented himself with a pleasing recollection that the
main body of the compost was rice, one of the constituents oil, and that
the whole was by no means bad.  He also wished that there had been more
of it, and then resumed his previous--and only possible--amusement of
meditation.

Thinking, like fighting, is better done on a full stomach!  He had
gradually thought himself into a more hopeful state of mind, when he was
again interrupted by the entrance of visitors--two armed men, and the
magnificent negro runner whom he had observed holding the Mahdi's horse.
One of the armed men carried a small bundle, which he deposited on the
ground, and then stood beside his companion.  Both stood like sentinels
with drawn swords, ready, apparently, to obey the commands of the
runner.

Advancing to the captive, the latter, producing a key, unlocked and
removed his manacles.  These he handed to one of the men, and, turning
again to Miles, said, to his great surprise, in English--

"Undress, and put on de t'ings in bundle."

We may here observe that up to this time Miles and his comrades in
adversity had worn, day and night, the garments in which they had been
captured.  Our hero was not sorry, therefore, at the prospect of a
change.  Untying the bundle to see what substitute was given for his
uniform, he found that it contained only a pair of loose cotton drawers
and a red fez.

"Is this all?" he asked, in surprise.

"All," answered the negro.

"And what if I refuse to undress?" asked Miles.

"Your clo'es will be tore off your back and you be bastinado!"

This was said so calmly, and the three grave, powerful men seemed so
thoroughly capable of performing the deed, that our hero wisely
submitted to the inevitable and took off his uniform, which one of the
guards gathered up piece by piece as it was removed.  Then he pulled on
the drawers, which covered him from the waist to a little below the
knees.  When he had put on the red fez he found himself clothed in
exactly the same costume as the runner, with the exception of a small
green tippet which barely covered the top of his shoulders, and seemed
to be worn rather as an ornament than a piece of clothing, though
perhaps it formed a slight protection from the sun.

In this cool costume they left him, carrying away his uniform, as if
more thoroughly to impress on him what uncommonly cool things they were
capable of doing in the hot regions of the Soudan!



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

MILES IS PROMOTED--MOLLOY OVERTHROWS THE MAHDI, AND IS ELEVATED FOR SO
DOING.

Next day Miles Milton became painfully aware of the fact that his life
in captivity was not to be one of ease or idleness.

Soon after daybreak the door of his prison creaked on its ponderous
hinges, and he started up from the mat on which he had slept without
covering of any kind.  His visitor was the Mahdi's runner, who, after
closing the door, came and sat down beside him, cross legged _a la_ Turk
and tailor.

For a brief space the handsome black stared steadily at Miles, who
returned the compliment as steadily, not being sure whether curiosity or
insolence lay at the foundation of the stare.

"Englishmin," said the runner at last, "you is unfortnit."

"I am indeed," returned Miles; "at the same time I am fortunate in so
unexpectedly finding one who recognises the fact, and who can tell me so
in my own tongue.  May I venture to hope that you are friendly towards
me?"

"Yes; I am your friend, but my friendness can do for you not'ing.  Like
youself, I am captive--slave.  But in my own land I was a chief, and
friend of the great and good Gordon, so I is friend to all Englishmin.
Once I was 'terpreter to Gordon, but the Mahdi came.  I fell into his
hands, and now I do run befront his horse, an' hold de stirrup!  I comes
to you from the Mahdi wid bad news."

"Indeed!  But I need not wonder.  You could scarcely come from him with
good news.  What have you to tell?"

"The Mahdi has made you his runner," answered the negro.

"That is strange news rather than bad, is it not?"

"No; it is bad.  He do dis 'cause he hate you.  Somehow you has anger
him.  He say he will tame you.  He try to tame _me_," said the negro,
with sudden and tremendous ferocity, "an' him t'ink he do it!  But I
only waits my chance to kill him.

"Now he send me again to dirty work, an' put you in my place to humble
you--to insult you before every one, who will say, `Look! de bold
Christin dog lick de dust now, an' hold de Mahdi's stirrup.'"

"This is indeed bad news.  But how is it that you, who seem to be free,
do not use your opportunity to escape?  I saw you holding the Mahdi's
horse.  It seems to be a splendid one.  Why did you not jump on its back
and fly?"

The runner frowned, and then, changing his mood, smiled sadly.

"You is young," he said, "and knows not'ing.  At night I am locked up
like yourself.  In de day-time de city is full of enemies, who all knows
me.  Do you t'ink dey will salute, and say, `Go in peace,' to de runner
of de Mahdi when he is running away with his best horse?"

"Perhaps not," said Miles, "but I would try if I were you."

"You will be me very soon," returned the runner, "and you can try.  I
did try--twice.  I was caught both times and beat near to death.  But I
did not die!  I learn wisdom; and now I submit and wait my chance to
kill him.  If you is wise you begin _at once_ to submit and wait too."

"There is truth in what you say," rejoined Miles, after a few minutes'
thought.  "I will take your advice and submit and wait, but only till
the opportunity to escape offers.  I would not murder the man even if I
had the chance."

"Your words remind me of de good Gordon.  He was not vengeful.  He loved
God," said the runner, in a low and very different tone.  "But," he
added, "Gordon was a white man.  He did not--could not--understand de
feelings of de black chief."

As the last remark opened up ground which Miles was not prepared to
traverse, he made no rejoinder but asked the runner what the Mahdi
required of him in his new capacity.

"He require you to learn de city, so as you know how to run when you is
told--an' I is to teach you, so you come wid me," said the runner,
rising.

"But am I to go in this costume, or rather in this half-naked state?"
asked Miles, rising and spreading out his hands as he looked down at his
unclothed chest and lower limbs.

"You not cause for be ashamed," replied the runner, with a nod.

This was true, for the hard travelling which Miles had recently endured,
and the heavy burdens which he had borne, had developed his muscles to
such an extent that his frame was almost equal to that of the negro, and
a fit subject for the sculptor's chisel.

"Your white skin will p'r'aps blister at first," continued the runner,
"but your master will be glad for dat.  Here is a t'ing, however, will
save you shoulders.  Now, you makes fuss-rate runner."

He took the little green tippet off his own shoulders and fastened it on
those of his successor.

"Come now," he added, "let us see how you can run."

They passed out into the street together, and then poor Miles felt the
full sense of his degradation, when he saw some of the passers-by stop
to gaze with looks of hatred or contempt or amusement at the "Christian
captive."

But he had not much leisure to think or feel, for the negro ran him down
one street and up another at a pace which would soon have exhausted him
if, besides being a naturally good runner, he had not recently been
forced to undergo such severe training.  During the run his guide
pointed out and named most of the chief places, buildings, and mosques.

"You will do," said the negro, pausing at length and turning towards his
companion with a look of approval, "You a'most so good as myself!"

With this compliment he proceeded to instruct the new runner in his
duties, and at night Miles found himself again in his prison, ready to
do full justice to his bowl of rice-compost, and to enjoy his
blanket-less mat bed--if a man can be said to enjoy anything about which
he is profoundly unconscious during the time of its enjoyment!

Next morning he awoke with a sensation that led him for a moment to
fancy he must have gone supper-less to bed.  While he was waiting
impatiently for breakfast he revolved several ideas in his mind, one of
which was that, come what might, he would not suffer any indignity,
however gross, to get the better of him.  He would take a leaf out of
his friend Stevenson's book, and bear patiently whatever was sent to
him, in the hope that by so doing he might gain the good-will of his
captors, and thus, perhaps, be in a better position to take advantage of
any opportunity to escape that might occur.

He was very confident of his power of self-restraint, and trusted a good
deal to that determination of will which we have before referred to as
being one of his characteristics.  That same day his powers were
severely tested.

All the morning he was left in his prison to fret in idleness, but
towards the afternoon he was called by his friend the ex-runner to go
out to his work.

"Do what you is told an' hold you tongue, an' keep your eyes on de
ground.  Dems my advice," said the negro, as he resigned the bridle of
the Mahdi's steed to his successor, and placed the lance of office in
his hand.

Just as he did so the Mahdi came out of a door-way and advanced towards
them, while the negro retired and mingled with the crowd which had
assembled to see the chief mount his horse.

Miles tried faithfully to attend to his friend's injunctions, but could
not resist one glance at his new master, which showed him that a cynical
smile rested on his swarthy countenance, a smile which he also observed
was copied by those of the crowd who did not prefer to regard him with
scowling looks--for the people of the Soudan were, naturally enough,
filled with indignation against all Europeans, and especially against
the British, at that time.

The glance did not improve Miles's state of mind, nevertheless he forced
himself to look at the ground with an utterly expressionless face, as he
held the Mahdi's stirrup.  He received a slight push from his master's
foot instead of thanks when he had mounted, but Miles resolutely kept
his eyes on the ground and restrained his rising wrath, ignorant of the
fact that the Mahdi wished to point out the direction in which he was to
run.

A smart blow from the riding-switch on his naked back aroused him to his
duty, and caused a slight laugh among the onlookers.

Never before, perhaps, was the Mahdi so near his end as at that moment,
for, as our hero felt the sting, and heard the low laugh, all the blood
in his body seemed to leap into his brow, and the lance of office
quivered as his hand tightened on it.  The fact that two guards with
drawn swords stood at his side, and that their weapons would have been
in his heart before he could have accomplished the deed, would probably
have failed to restrain him had not his pride of purpose, as we may
style it, come to his aid.  He looked up, with a frown indeed, but
without uttering a word.  The Mahdi pointed along one of the streets,
and Miles instantly bounded away--heartily glad to be able to let off
his superfluous feeling in violent action.

For several hours his master kept him running--evidently on purpose to
try his powers, as a jockey might test the qualities of a new horse,
and, strong though he was, the poor youth began at last to feel greatly
distressed, and to pant a good deal.  Still his pride and a
determination not to be beaten sustained him.

At one point of his course he was passing a band of slaves who were
labouring to lift a large beam of wood, when the sound of a familiar
voice caused him to look up, and then he saw his friend Jack Molloy, in
costume like his own, _minus_ the fez and tippet, with one of his great
shoulders under the beam, and the sweat pouring down his face.

"Hallo, Miles!" exclaimed the seaman.

But our hero did not dare to pause, and could not speak.  His glancing
aside, however, had the effect of causing him to stumble, and, being too
much exhausted at the time to recover himself, he fell heavily to the
ground.  As he slowly rose up, half-stunned, the Mahdi could scarcely
avoid riding him down.  As it was, he stooped, and, a second time laid
his riding-switch smartly on the poor youth's naked shoulders.

Jack Molloy, who saw the cruel act, lost all control of himself, uttered
one of his leonine roars, sprang into the middle of the road, and seized
the reins of the Mahdi's horse.  The startled animal reared and
attempted to swerve.  Molloy assisted the swerve by a violent side-pull
at the reins.  At the same time he caught one of the upraised forelegs,
and, with an almost superhuman exertion of strength hurled both horse
and rider to the ground!

A very howl of consternation and amazement burst from the populace as
they beheld their Mahdi lying flat and motionless on his back as if
dead!

Of course Jack Molloy was instantly seized by an overpowering number of
soldiers, bound hand and foot, and carried back to his dungeon, while
the Mahdi was tenderly raised and conveyed to the house which he
inhabited at that time.

Miles had also been seized and dragged somewhat violently back to his
prison.  As for the other members of the captive band, none of them were
there at the time.  They were all separated at the time our hero was
taken from them, and each remained for a considerable time in ignorance
of the fate of his fellows.  We may say at once here that they were all
put to severe and menial labour.  Each also had his uniform exchanged
for a pair of Arabian drawers, and a felt cap or a fez, so that they
were little better than naked.  This would have mattered little--the
weather being very warm--if their skins had been accustomed to the
powerful rays of a tropical sun.  But the effect on them was so severe
that their taskmasters, in an unwonted gush of pity, at last gave them
each a loose garment of sacking, which served as a partial protection.

After the incident which has just been related, Miles was permitted to
remain during the rest of that day and night in his room.  Not so Jack
Molloy.  The anger of the populace was so powerfully aroused against the
impetuous sailor that they clamoured for his instant execution, and at
last, unable or unwilling to resist the pressure of public opinion, the
officers in charge of him gave in.  They put a rope round his neck, and
led him to a spot where criminals were wont to be executed.

As he went along and saw only scowling faces whenever he looked round in
the hope of meeting some pitying eye, the poor man began to feel
convinced that his last hour had in very truth arrived.

"Well, well, who'd ha' thowt it would ever come to this?" he sighed,
shaking his head mournfully as he came in sight of the place of
execution.  "But, after all, ye richly desarve it, John Molloy, for
you've bin a bad lot the greater part o' your life!"

Again he looked on either side of him, for hope was strongly enshrined
in his broad bosom, but not a friendly or even pitiful face could he see
among all the hundreds that surrounded him.

Arrived at the place, he glanced up at the beam over his head, and for
one moment thought of trying, like Samson, to burst the bonds that held
him; but it was only for a moment.  The impossibility of freeing himself
was too obvious.  He meekly bowed his head.  Another instant and the
rope tightened round his neck, and he felt himself swinging in the air.

Before his senses had quite left him, however, he felt his feet again
touch the ground.  The choking sensation passed away, and he found
himself supported by two men.  A burst of mocking laughter then proved
to the wretched man that his tormentors had practised on him the refined
cruelty of half-hanging him.  If he had had any doubt on this subject,
the remark of the interpreter, as he afterwards left him in his cell to
recover as best he might, would have dispelled it--

"We will 'ang you _dead_ de nex' time!"



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

CRUEL TREATMENT--DESPAIR FOLLOWED BY HOPE AND A JOYFUL DISCOVERY.

After the rough treatment he had received, the Mahdi, as we may well
believe, did not feel more amiably disposed towards his prisoners.

Of course he had no reason for blaming Miles for what had occurred,
nevertheless he vented his wrath against white men in general on him, by
keeping him constantly on the move, and enforcing prolonged and unusual
speed while running, besides subjecting him publicly to many insults.

It was a strange school in which to learn self-restraint and humility.
But our hero profited by the schooling.  Necessity is a stern teacher,
and she was the head-mistress of that school.  Among other things she
taught Miles to reason extensively--not very profoundly, perhaps, nor
always correctly, but at all events in a way that he never reasoned
before.  The best way to convey to the reader the state of his mind will
be to let him speak for himself.  As he had a habit of thinking aloud--
for sociability, as it were--in the dark cell to which he had been
relegated, we have only to bend down our ear and listen.

One night, about a week after the overthrow of his tyrant master, Miles
was seated on the hard floor of his cell, leaning against the wall, with
his knees drawn up and his face in his hands--his usual attitude when
engaged in meditation after a hard day's work.

"I wouldn't mind so much," he murmured, "if I only saw the faintest
prospect of its coming to an end, but to go on thus from day to day,
perhaps year to year, is terrible.  No, that cannot be; if we cannot
escape it won't be long till the end comes.  (A pause.)  The end!--the
end of a rope with a noose on it is likely to be _my_ end, unless I
burst up and run a-muck.  No, no, Miles Milton, don't you think of that!
What good would it do to kill half-a-dozen Arabs to accompany you into
the next world?  The poor wretches are only defending their country
after all.  (Another pause.)  Besides, you deserve what you've got for
so meanly forsaking your poor mother; think o' that, Miles, when you
feel tempted to stick your lance into the Mahdi's gizzard, as Molloy
would have said.  Ah! poor Molloy!  I fear that I shall never see you
again in this life.  After giving the Mahdi and his steed such a
tremendous heave they would be sure to kill you; perhaps they tortured
you to--"

He stopped at this point with an involuntary shudder.

"I hope not," he resumed, after another pause.  "I hope we may yet meet
and devise some means of escape.  God grant it!  True, the desert is
vast and scorching and almost waterless--I may as well say foodless too!
And it swarms with foes, but what then?  Have not most of the great
deeds of earth, been accomplished in the face of what seemed
insurmountable difficulties?  Besides--"

He paused again here, and for a longer time, because there came suddenly
into his mind words that had been spoken to him long ago by his mother:
"With God _all things_ are possible."

"Yes, Miles," he continued, "you must make up your mind to restrain your
anger and indignation, because it is useless to give vent to them.
That's but a low motive after all.  Is it worthy of an intelligent man?
I get a slap in the face, and bear it patiently, because I can't help
myself.  I get the same slap in the face in circumstances where I _can_
help myself, and I resent it fiercely.  Humble when I _must_ be so;
fierce when I've got the power.  Is not this unmanly--childish--humbug?
There is no principle here.  Principle!  I do believe I never had any
principle in me worthy of the name.  I have been drifting, up to this
time, before the winds of caprice and selfish inclination.  (A long
pause here.)  Well, it just comes to this, that whatever happens I must
submit with a good grace--at least, as good grace as I can--and hope
that an opportunity to escape may occur before long.  I have made up my
mind to do it--and when I once make up my mind, I--"

He paused once more at this point, and the pause was so long that he
turned it into a full stop by laying his head on the block of wood which
formed his pillow and going to sleep.

It will be seen from the above candid remarks that our hero was not
quite as confident of his power of will as he used to be,--also, that he
was learning a few useful facts in the school of adversity.

One evening, after a harder day than usual, Miles was conducted to the
prison in which he and his companions had been confined on the day of
their arrival.

Looking round the cell, he observed, on becoming accustomed to the dim
light, that only one other prisoner was there.  He was lying on the bare
ground in a corner, coiled up like a dog, and with his face to the wall.
Relieved to find that he was not to be altogether alone, Miles sat down
with his back against the opposite wall, and awaited the waking of his
companion with some interest, for although his face was not visible, and
his body was clothed in a sort of sacking, his neck and lower limbs
showed that he was a white man.  But the sleeper did not seem inclined
to waken just then.  On the contrary, he began, ere long, to snore
heavily.

Miles gradually fell into a train of thought that seemed to bring back
reminiscences of a vague, indefinable sort.  Then he suddenly became
aware that the snore of the snorer was not unfamiliar.  He was on the
point of rising to investigate this when the sleeper awoke with a start,
sat bolt upright with a look of owlish gravity, and presented the
features of Jack Molloy.

"Miles, my lad!" cried Jack, springing up to greet his friend warmly, "I
thought you was dead."

"And, Jack, my dear friend," returned Miles, "I thought--at least I
feared--that you must have been tortured to death."

"An' you wasn't far wrong, my boy.  Stand close to me, and look me
straight in the eyes.  D'ee think I'm any taller?"

"Not much--at least, not to my perception.  Why?"

"I wonder at that, now," said Molloy, "for I've bin hanged three times,
an' should have bin pulled out a bit by this time, considering my
weight."

His friend smiled incredulously.

"You may laugh, lad, but it's no laughin' matter," said Molloy, feeling
his neck tenderly.  "The last time, I really thought it was all up wi'
me, for the knot somehow got agin my windpipe an' I was all but choked.
If they had kep' me up half a minute longer it would have bin all over:
I a'most wished they had, for though I never was much troubled wi' the
narves, I'm beginnin' now to have a little fellow-feelin' for the
sufferin's o' the narvish."

"Do you really mean, my dear fellow, that the monsters have been
torturing you in this way?" asked Miles, with looks of sympathy.

"Ay, John Miles, that's just what I does mean," returned the seaman,
with an anxious and startled look at the door, on the other side of
which a slight noise was heard at the moment.  "They've half-hanged me
three times already.  The last time was only yesterday, an' at any
moment they may come to give me another turn.  It's the uncertainty o'
the thing that tries my narves.  I used to boast that I hadn't got none
once, but the Arabs know how to take the boastin' out of a fellow.  If
they'd only take me out to be hanged right off an' done with it, I
wouldn't mind it so much, but it's the constant tenter-hooks of
uncertainty that floors me.  Hows'ever, I ain't quite floored yet.  But
let's hear about yourself, Miles.  Come, sit down.  I gets tired sooner
than I used to do since they took to hangin' me.  How have they bin
sarvin' you out since I last saw ye?"

"Not near so badly as they have been serving you, old boy," said Miles,
as he sat down and began to detail his own experiences.

"But tell me," he added, "have you heard anything of our unfortunate
comrades since we parted?"

"Nothing--at least nothing that I can trust to.  I did hear that poor
Moses Pyne is dead; that they had treated him the same as me, and that
his narves couldn't stand it; that he broke down under the strain an'
died.  But I don't believe it.  Not that these Arabs wouldn't kill him
that way, but the interpreter who told me has got falsehood so plainly
writ in his ugly face that I would fain hope our kind-hearted friend is
yet alive."

"God grant it may be so!" said Miles fervently.  "And I scarcely think
that even the cruellest of men would persevere in torturing such a
gentle fellow as Moses."

"May-hap you're right," returned Molloy; "anyhow, we'll take what
comfort we can out o' the hope.  Talkin' o' comfort, what d'ee think has
bin comfortin' me in a most wonderful way?  You'll never guess."

"What is it, then?"

"One o' them little books as Miss Robinson writes, and gives to soldiers
and sailors--`The Victory' it's called, havin' a good deal in it about
Nelson's flagship and Nelson himself; but there's a deal more than that
in it--words that has gone straight to my heart, and made me see God's
love in Christ as I never saw it before.  Our comrade Stevenson gave it
to me before we was nabbed by the Arabs, an' I've kep' it in the linin'
o' my straw hat ever since.  You see it's a thin little thing--though
there's oceans o' truth in it--an' it's easy stowed away.

"I forgot all about it till I was left alone in this place, and then I
got it out, an' God in his marcy made it like a light in the dark to me.

"Stevenson came by it in a strange way.  He told me he was goin' over a
battle-field after a scrimmage near Suakim, lookin' out for the wounded,
when he noticed somethin' clasped in a dead man's hand.  The hand
gripped it tight, as if unwillin' to part with it, an' when Stevenson
got it he found that it was this little book, `The Victory.'  Here it
is.  I wouldn't change it for a golden sov, to every page."

As he spoke, footsteps were heard approaching the door.  With a startled
air Molloy thrust the book into its place and sprang up.

"See there, now!" he said remonstratively, "who'd ever ha' thowt that
I'd come to jerk about like that?"

Before the door opened, however, the momentary weakness had passed away,
and our seaman stood upright, with stern brow and compressed lips,
presenting to those who entered as firm and self-possessed a man of
courage as one could wish to see.

"I knowed it!" he said in a quiet voice to his friend, as two strong
armed men advanced and seized him, while two with drawn swords stood
behind him.  At the same time, two others stood guard over Miles.
"They're goin' to give me another turn.  God grant that it may be the
last!"

"Yes--de last.  You be surely dead dis time," said the interpreter, with
a malignant smile.

"If _you_ hadn't said it, I would have had some hope that the end was
come!" said Molloy, as they put a rope round his neck and led him away.

"Good-bye, Miles," he added, looking over his shoulder; "if I never come
back, an' you ever gets home again, give my kind regards to Miss
Robinson--God bless her!"

Next moment the door closed, and Miles was left alone.

It is impossible to describe the state of mind in which our hero paced
his cell during the next hour.  The intense pity, mingled with anxiety
and fierce indignation, that burned in his bosom were almost unbearable.
"Oh!" he thought, "if I were only once more free, for one moment, with
a weapon in my hand, I'd--"

He wisely checked himself in the train of useless thought at this point.
Then he sat down on the floor, covered his face with his hands, and
tried to pray, but could not.  Starting up, he again paced wildly about
the cell like a caged tiger.  After what seemed to him an age he heard
footsteps in the outer court.  The door opened, and the sailor was
thrust in.  Staggering forward a step or two, he was on the point of
falling when Miles caught him in his arms, and let him sink gently on
the ground, and, sitting down beside him, laid his head upon his knee.
From the inflamed red mark which encircled the seaman's powerful neck,
it was obvious enough that the cruel monsters had again put him to the
tremendous mental agony of supposing that his last hour had come.

"Help me up, lad, and set my back agin the wall," he said, in a low
voice.

As Miles complied, one or two tears that would not be repressed fell
from his eyes on the sailor's cheek.

"You're a good fellow," said Molloy, looking up.  "I thank the Lord for
sendin' you to comfort me, and I _do_ need comfort a bit just now, d'ee
know.  There--I'm better a'ready, an' I'll be upside wi' them next time,
for I feels, somehow, that I couldn't stand another turn.  Poor Moses!
I do hope that the interpreter is the liar he looks, and that they
haven't treated the poor fellow to this sort o' thing."

Even while he spoke, the door of the cell again opened and armed men
entered.

"Ay, here you are," cried the sailor, rising quickly and attempting to
draw himself up and show a bold front.  "Come away an' welcome.  I'm
ready for 'ee."

But the men had not come for Molloy.  They wanted Miles, over whom there
came a sudden and dreadful feeling of horror, as he thought they were
perhaps going to subject him to the same ordeal as his friend.

"Keep up heart, lad, and trust in the Lord," said the sailor, in an
encouraging tone as they led our hero away.

The words were fitly spoken, and went far to restore to the poor youth
the courage that for a moment had forsaken him.  As he emerged into the
bright light, which dazzled him after the darkness of his prison-house,
he thought of the Sun of Righteousness, and of the dear mother who had
sought so earnestly to lead him to God in his boyhood.

One thing that greatly encouraged him was the fact that no rope had been
put round his neck, as had been done to Molloy, and he also observed
that his guards did not treat him roughly.  Moreover, they led him in
quite a different direction from the open place where he well knew that
criminals were executed.  He glanced at the interpreter who marched
beside him, and thought for a moment of asking him what might be his
impending fate, but the man's look was so forbidding that he forbore to
speak.

Presently they stopped before a door, which was opened by a negro slave,
and the guards remained outside while Miles and the interpreter entered.
The court into which they were ushered was open to the sky, and
contained a fountain in the centre, with boxes of flowers and shrubs
around it.  At the inner end of it stood a tall powerful Arab, leaning
on a curved sword.

Miles saw at a glance that he was the same man whose life he had saved,
and who had come so opportunely to the rescue of his friend Molloy.  But
the Arab gave him no sign of recognition.  On the contrary, the glance
which he bestowed on him was one of calm, stern indifference.

"Ask him," he said at once to the interpreter, "where are the Christian
dogs who were captured with him?"

"Tell him," replied Miles, when this was translated, "that I know
nothing about the fate of any of them except one."

"Which one is that?"

"The sailor," answered Miles.

"Where is he?"

"In the prison I have just left."

"And you know nothing about the others?"

"Nothing whatever."

The Arab seemed to ponder these replies for a few minutes.  Then,
turning to the interpreter, he spoke in a tone that seemed to Miles to
imply the giving of some strict orders, after which, with a wave of his
hand, and a majestic inclination of the head, he dismissed them.

Although there was little in the interview to afford encouragement,
Miles nevertheless was rendered much more hopeful by it, all the more
that he observed a distinct difference in the bearing of the interpreter
towards him as they went out.

"Who is that?" he ventured to ask as he walked back to the prison.

"That is Mohammed, the Mahdi's cousin," answered the interpreter.

Miles was about to put some more questions when he was brought to a
sudden stand, and rendered for the moment speechless by the sight of
Moses Pyne--not bearing heavy burdens, or labouring in chains, as might
have been expected, but standing in a shallow recess or niche in the
wall of a house, busily engaged over a small brazier, cooking beans in
oil, and selling the same to the passers-by!

"What you see?" demanded the interpreter.

"I see an old friend and comrade.  May I speak to him?" asked Miles,
eagerly.

"You may," answered the interpreter.

The surprise and joy of Moses when his friend slapped him on the
shoulder and saluted him by name is not easily described.

"I _am_ so glad to see you, old fellow!" he said, with sparkling eyes.
"I thought you must be dead, for I've tried so often to find out what
had become of you.  Have some beans and oil?"

He dipped a huge ladleful out of the pot, as if he were going to
administer a dose on the spot.

"No, thank you, Moses, I'm a prisoner.  These are my guards.  I wonder
they have allowed me even to exchange a word with you.  Must be quick.
They told us you had been half-hanged till you were frightened to
death."

"They told you lies, then.  I've been very well treated, but what
troubles me is I can't find out where any of our comrades have gone to."

"I can tell only of one.  Molloy is alive.  I wish I could say he's
well.  Of the others I'm as ignorant as yourself.  But I've seen a
friend who--"

At this point he was interrupted by the interpreter and told to move on,
which he was fain to do with a cheery good-bye to Moses and a wave of
the hand.

Arrived at the prison, he found that Molloy had been removed to a more
comfortable room, into which he was also ushered, and there they were
left alone together.

"D'you feel better now, my poor fellow?" asked Miles, when the door was
shut.

"Better, bless you, yes!  I feels far too well.  They've given me a rare
blow-out of beans an' oil since you were taken off to be hanged, and I
feels so strong that the next turn off won't finish me!  I could never
have eaten 'em, thinkin' of you, but, d'ee know, I was quite sure, from
the way they treated you as you went out, that it warn't to be hangin'
wi' you this time.  An' when they putt me into this here room, an'
produced the beans an' oil, I began to feel quite easy in my mind about
you.  It was the man that brought your marchin' orders that told 'em to
putt me here.  D'ee know, lad, I can't help feelin' that a friend o'
some sort must have bin raised up to us."

"You're right, Jack, I have just seen the Arab whose life I saved, and
who saved yours!  It's very strange, too, that beans and oil should have
been your fare to-day, for I have also seen Moses Pyne in the street,
not half-an-hour since, cooking and selling beans and oil!"

"You don't mean that?"

"Indeed I do.  I've spoken to him."

Sitting down on a stool--for they were promoted to a furnished
apartment--Miles entered into an elaborate account of all that had
befallen him since the hour that he had been taken out, as they both
thought, to be hanged!



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

IN WHICH HOPES AND FEARS RISE AND FALL.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men," undoubtedly, and the tide in
the affairs of Miles Milton and his comrades appeared to have reached
low-water at this time, for, on the day mentioned in the last chapter,
it began to turn, and continued for a considerable time to rise.

The first clear evidence of the change was the "blow-out" of beans and
oil, coupled with the change of prison.  The next was the sudden
appearance of the beans-and-oil-man himself.

"Why, I do believe--it's--it's Moses," exclaimed Molloy, as his old
comrade entered the prison.  "Give us your flipper.  Man alive! but I'm
right glad to see you.  We thought you was--let's have a look at your
neck.  No; nothing there.  I knowed as that interpreter was a liar.  But
what brings you _here_, lad?  What mischief have 'ee bin up to?"

"That's what puzzles myself, Jack," said Moses, shaking hands warmly
with Miles.  "I've done nothing that I know of except sell beans and
oil.  It's true I burned 'em sometimes a bit, but they'd hardly put a
fellow in jail for that--would they?  However, I'm glad they've done it,
whatever the reason, seeing that it has brought us three together again.
But, I say," continued Moses, while a look of anxiety came over his
innocent face, "what can have become of our other comrades?"

"You may well ask that, lad.  I've asked the same question of myself for
many a day, but have never bin able to get from myself a satisfactory
answer.  I'm wery much afeared that we'll never see 'em again."

It seemed almost to be a spring-tide in the affairs of the trio at that
time, for while the seaman was speaking--as if to rebuke his want of
faith--the door opened and their comrade Armstrong walked in.

For a few moments they were all rendered speechless!  Then Miles sprang
up, seized his friend by both shoulders, and gazed into his face; it was
a very thin and careworn face at that time, as if much of the bloom of
youth had been wiped from it for ever.

"Willie!  Am I dreaming?" exclaimed Miles.

"If you are, so must I be," replied his friend, "for when I saw you last
you had not taken to half-nakedness as a costume!"

"Come now," retorted Miles, "you have not much to boast of in that way
yourself."

"There you are wrong, Miles, for I have to boast that I made my garment
myself.  True, it's only a sack, but I cut the hole in the bottom of it
for my head with my own hand, and stitched on the short sleeves with a
packing-needle.  But, I say, what's been the matter with Molloy?  Have
they been working you too hard, Jack?"

"No, Willum, no, I can't exactly say that, but they've bin hangin' me
too hard.  I'll tell 'ee all about it in coorse o' time.  Man alive! but
they _have_ took the flesh off your bones somehow; let's see--no, your
neck's all right.  Must have bin some other way."

"The way was simple enough," returned the other.  "When they separated
us all at first, they set me to the hardest work they could find--to
dig, draw water, carry burdens that a horse might object to, sweep, and
clean up; in fact, everything and anything, and they've kep' us hard at
it ever since.  I say _us_, because Rattlin' Bill Simkin was set to help
me after the first day, an' we've worked all along together.  Poor
Simkin, there ain't much rattle in him now, except his bones.  I don't
know why they sent me here and not him.  And I can't well make out
whether I'm sent here for extra punishment or as a favour!"

"Have you seen or heard anything of Stevenson?" asked Moses.

"I saw him once, about a week ago, staggering under a great log--whether
in connection with house-builders or not I can't tell.  It was only for
a minute, and I got a tremendous cut across the back with a cane for
merely trying to attract his attention."

The tide, it will be seen, had been rising pretty fast that afternoon.
It may be said to have come in with a rush, when, towards evening, the
door of their prison once more opened and Simkin with Stevenson were
ushered in together, both clothed alike in an extemporised sack-garment
and short drawers, with this difference, that the one wore a species of
felt hat, the other a fez.

They were still in the midst of delighted surprise at the turn events
seemed to be taking, when two men entered bearing trays, on which were
six smoking bowls of beans and oil!

"Hallo!  Moses, your business follows you even to prison," exclaimed
Molloy.

"True, Jack, and I'll follow my business up!" returned Moses, sitting
down on the ground, which formed their convenient table, and going to
work.

We need scarcely say that his comrades were not slow to follow his
example.

The tide may be said to have reached at least half-flood, if not more,
when, on the following morning, the captives were brought out and told
by the interpreter that they were to accompany a body of troops which
were about to quit the place under the command of Mohammed, the Mahdi's
cousin.

"Does the Mahdi accompany us?"  Miles ventured to ask.

"No.  The Mahdi has gone to Khartoum," returned the interpreter, who
then walked away as if he objected to be further questioned.

The hopes which had been recently raised in the breasts of the captives
to a rather high pitch were, however, somewhat reduced when they found
that their supposed friend Mohammed treated them with cool indifference,
did not even recognise them, and the disappointment was deepened still
more when all of them, except Miles, were loaded with heavy burdens, and
made to march among the baggage-animals as if they were mere beasts of
burden.  The savage warriors also treated them with great rudeness and
contempt.

Miles soon found that he was destined to fill his old post of runner in
front of Mohammed, his new master.  This seemed to him unaccountable,
for runners, he understood, were required only in towns and cities, not
on a march.  But the hardships attendant on the post, and the
indignities to which he was subjected, at last convinced him that the
Mahdi must have set the mind of his kinsman against him, and that he was
now undergoing extra punishment as well as unique degradation.

The force that took the field on this occasion was a very considerable
one--with what precise object in view was of course unknown to all
except its chiefs, but the fact that it marched towards the frontiers of
Egypt left no doubt in the mind of any one.  It was a wild barbaric
host, badly armed and worse drilled, but fired with a hatred of all
Europeans and a burning sense of wrong.

"What think ye now, Miles?" asked Armstrong, as the captives sat grouped
together in the midst of the host on the first night of their camping
out in the desert.

"I think that everything seems to be going wrong," answered Miles, in a
desponding tone.  "At first I thought that Mohammed was our friend, but
he has treated me so badly that I can think so no longer."

"Don't you think he may be doing that to blind his followers as to his
friendship?" said Moses; "for myself, I can't help thinkin' he must be
grateful for what you did, Miles."

"I only wish you had not touched my rifle that day," said Rattling Bill,
fiercely--being fatigued and out of temper--"for the blackguard would
have bin in `Kingdom come' by this time.  There's _no_ gratitude in an
Arab.  I have no hope at all now."

"My hope is in God," said Stevenson.

"Well, mate, common-sense tells me that that _should_ be our best ground
of hope," observed Molloy; "but common experience tells me that the
Almighty often lets His own people come to grief."

"God _never_ lets 'em come to grief in the sense that you mean,"
returned the marine.  "If He kills His people, He takes them away from
the evil to come, and death is but a door-way into glory.  If he sends
grief and suffering, it is that they may at last reach a higher state of
joy."

"Pooh! according to that view, _nothing_ can go wrong with them that you
call His people," said Simkin, with contempt.

"Right you are, comrade," rejoined Stevenson; "_nothing_ can go wrong
with us; _nothing_ can separate us from the love of God which is in
Christ Jesus our lord; and _you_ may be one of `_us_' this minute if you
will accept God's offer of free salvation in Christ."

Silence followed, for Simkin was too angry, as well as worn out, to give
his mind seriously to anything at that time, and the others were more or
less uncertain, as to the truth of what was advanced.

Sleep, profound and dreamless, soon banished these and all other
subjects from their minds.  Blessed sleep! so aptly as well as
beautifully styled, "Tired Nature's sweet restorer."  That great host of
dusky warriors--some unquestionably devout, many cruel and relentless,
not a few, probably, indifferent to everything except self, and all bent
on the extermination of their white-skinned foes,--lay down beside their
weapons, and shared in that rest which is sent alike to the just and to
the unjust, through the grand impartiality, forbearance, and love of a
God whom many people apparently believe to be a "respecter of persons!"

A few days later the little army came to the edge of a range of hills,
beyond which lay the plains of the vast Nubian desert.  At night they
encamped at the base of the hill-country, through which they had been
travelling, and the captives were directed to take up their position in
front of an old ruined hut, where masses of broken stones and rubbish
made the ground unsuitable for camping on.

"Just like them!" growled Simkin, looking about for a fairly level spot.
"There's not a place big enough for a dog to lie on!"

Supper made Rattling Bill a little more amiable, though not much more
forgiving to his foes.  A three-quarters moon soon afterwards shed a
faint light on the host, which, except the sentries, was sound asleep.

Towards midnight a solitary figure moved slowly towards the place where
the captives lay and awakened Miles, who sat up, stared, winked, and
rubbed his eyes two or three times before he could bring himself to
believe that his visitor was no other than the chief of the host--
Mohammed!

"Rise.  Com.  I speak small Engleesh."

Miles rose at once and followed the chief into the ruined hut.

"Clear de ground," he said, pointing to the centre of the floor.

Our hero obeyed, and, when the loose rubbish was cleared away, the
moonbeams, shining through the ruined roof, fell on a ring bolt.  Being
ordered to pull it, he raised a cover or trap-door, and discovered
beneath what appeared to be a cellar.

"Now," said Mohammed, "listen: you an' friends go down--all.  I shut
door and cover up--rubsh.  When we all go 'way, com out and go home.
See, yonder is _home_."

He pointed to the north-eastward, where a glowing star seemed to hang
over the margin of the great level desert.

"You are generous--you are kind!" exclaimed Miles, with a burst of
enthusiasm.

"Me grateful," said Mohammed, extending his hand in European fashion,
which Miles grasped warmly.  "Go, wake you comerads.  Tell what me say,
and com quick!"

Miles was much too well-disciplined a soldier to hesitate, though he
would have liked much to suggest that some of the troops might, before
starting, take a fancy to explore the ruin, and to ask how long they
should remain in the cellar before venturing out.  Quietly awaking all
his comrades, and drawing their surprised heads together, he whispered
his tale in their wondering ears.  After that they were quite prepared
to act, and accompanied him noiselessly into the ruin.

"Is the cellar deep?" asked Miles, as he was about to descend.

"No; not deep."

"But what about grub--whittles, meat, an' water--you know," said Molloy,
with difficulty accommodating his words to a foreigner.  "We'll starve
if we go adrift on the desert with nothin' to eat or drink."

"Here--food," said Mohammed, unslinging a well-filled haversack from his
shoulders and transferring it to those of the sailor.  "Stop there," he
continued, pointing to the cellar, "till you hears guns--shoot--noise.
I have make prep'rations!  After that, silence.  Then, com out, an' go
_home_."  Once again he pointed towards the glowing star in the
north-east.

"Mohammed," exclaimed Molloy, becoming suddenly impressed with the
generous nature of the Arab's action, "I don't know as you're a
descendant o' the Prophet, but I do know that you're a brick.  Give us
your flipper before we part!"

With a grave expression of kindliness and humour the chief shook hands
with the seaman.  Then the captives all descended into the hole, which
was not more than four feet deep, after which the Arab shut the trap,
covered it as before with a little rubbish, and went away.

"Suppose he has bolted the door!" suggested Moses.

"Hold your tongue, man, and listen for the signal," said Miles.

"I forget what he said the signal was to be," observed Simkin.

"Guns--shoot--noise--after that silence!" said Armstrong.  "It's a queer
signal."

"But not difficult to recognise when we hear it," remarked Miles.

The time seemed tremendously long as they sat there listening--the
cellar was too low for them to stand--and they began to fancy that all
kinds of horrible shapes and faces appeared in the intense darkness
around them.  When they listened intensely, kept silent, and held their
breath, their hearts took to beating the drums of their ears, and when a
sudden breath or sigh escaped it seemed as if some African monster were
approaching from the surrounding gloom.

"Is that you, Simkin, that's breathin' like a grampus?" asked Molloy,
after a long pause.

"I was just goin' to ask you to stop snorin'," retorted the soldier.

"Hush!  There's a shot!"

It was indeed a distant shot, followed immediately by several more.
Then a rattle of musketry followed--nearer at hand.

Instantly, as if the earth had just given birth to them, the host of
dusky warriors sprang up with yells of surprise and defiance, and, spear
in hand, rushed in the direction of the firing.  For a few minutes the
listeners in the cellar heard as it had been a mighty torrent surging
past the ruined hut.  Gradually the force of the rush began to abate,
while the yells and firing became more distant; at last all sounds
ceased, and the listeners were again oppressed by the beating on the
drums of their ears.

"They're all gone--every mother's son," said Molloy at last, breaking
the oppressive silence.

"That's so," said Rattling Bill; "up wi' the trap, Miles.  You're under
it, ain't you?  I'm suffocating in this hole."

"I'm not under it.  Molloy came down last," said Miles.

"What if we can't find it?" suggested Stevenson.

"Horrible!" said Moses, in a hoarse whisper, "and this may be a huge
cavern, with miles of space around us, instead of a small cellar!"

"Here it is!" cried the sailor, making a heave with his broad back.  "I
say--it won't move!  Ah, I wasn't rightly under it.  Yo! heave-o!"  Up
went the door with a crash, and the soft moonlight streamed in upon
them.

A few seconds more and they stood outside the hut--apparently the only
living beings in all that region, which had been so full of human life
but a few minutes before.

"Now we must lose no time in getting away from this place, and covering
as much of the desert as we can during the night," said Miles, "for it
strikes me that we'll have to lie quiet during the day, for fear of
being seen and chased."

They spoke together in whispers for a few minutes, deciding the course
they meant to pursue.  Then Molloy shouldered the provision bag, Miles
grasped his official lance--the only weapon they had among them,--and
off they set on their journey across the desert, like a ship entering on
an unknown sea, without the smallest idea of how far they were from the
frontier of Egypt, and but a vague notion of the direction in which they
ought to go.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

A Horrible Situation.

All that night our fugitives walked steadily in the direction of their
guiding-star, until the dawn of day began to absorb its light.  Then
they selected a couple of prominent bushes on the horizon, and, by
keeping these always in their relative positions, were enabled to shape
their course in what they believed to be the right direction.  By
repeating the process continuously they were enabled to advance in a
fairly straight line.

Molloy, as we have said, carried the provision bag, and, although it was
a very heavy one, he refused to let his comrades relieve him of it until
breakfast-time.  Then it was discovered that inside of the large bag
there were rolled tight up four smaller bags with shoulder-straps to
them.

"A knowin' feller that Mohammed is," said Jack Molloy, as he handed a
bag to each; "he understands how to manage things.  Let's see what sort
o' grub he has.  Corn-cakes, I do believe, an' dates, or some sort o'
dried fruit, an'--water-bottles! well, that is a comfort.  Now then,
boys, go ahead.  We can't afford to waste time over our meals."

The others so thoroughly agreed with their friend on this point that
they began to eat forthwith, almost in silence.  Then, the provisions
having been distributed, they resumed their march, which was almost a
forced one, so anxious were they to get as far away as possible from the
Arab army.

Coming to a large mimosa bush in the course of the morning they halted
and sat down to rest a little, and hold what the sailor called a
"palaver."

"You see, boys," he said, "it'll be of no manner of use our scuddin'
away before the wind under a press o' canvas like this, without some
settled plan--"

"Ain't our plan to git away from the Arabs as fast as we can?" said
Moses Pyne, who sat on a stone at the sailor's feet.

"Yes, Moses, but that's only part of it," returned Molloy.  "We must
keep away as well as get away--an' that won't be quite so easy, for the
country is swarmin' wi' the dark-skinned rascals, as the many tracks we
have already passed shows us.  If we was to fall in wi' a band of 'em--
even a small one--we would be took again for sartin', for we've got
nothin' to fight wi' but our fists."

"These would offer but poor resistance to bullet and steel," said
Armstrong, "and that lance you're so fond of, Miles, wouldn't be worth
much."

"Not much," admitted Miles, surveying the badge of his late office, "but
better than nothing."

"What if the Arabs should change their course and fall in with us
again?" asked Moses.

"No fear o' that, seein' that Mohammed himself gave us our sailin'
orders, an' laid our course for us; but it would never do to fall in wi'
other bands, so I proposes that we cast anchor where we are, for there's
pretty good holdin' ground among them bushes, keep quiet all day, an'
travel only at night.  I've got the krect bearin's just now, so w'en the
stars come out we'll be able to fix on one layin' in the right
direction, and clap on all sail, slow and aloft--stu'n s'ls,
sky-scrapers, an' all the rest on it."

"A good plan, Jack," said Armstrong, "but what if it should come cloudy
and blot out the stars?"

"Besides," added Miles, "you forget that men of the desert are skilled
in observing signs and in following tracks.  Should any of them pass
near this little clump of bushes, and observe our footsteps going
towards it, they will at once come to see if we are still here."

Molloy put his head on one side and looked perplexed for a moment.

"Never mind.  Let 'em come," he said, with a sudden look of sagacity,
"we'll circumwent 'em.  There's nothin' like circumwention w'en you've
got into a fix.  See here.  We'll dig a hole in a sandbank big enough to
hold us all, an' we'll cut a big bush an' stick it in front of the hole
so as they'll never see it.  We can keep a bright look-out, you know,
an' if anything heaves in sight on the horizon, down we go into the
hole, stick up the bush, an there you are--all safe under hatches till
the enemy clears off."

"But they will trace our footsteps up to the hole or the bush," said
Miles, "and wonder why they can trace them no further.  What then?"

Again the seaman fell into perplexed meditation, out of which he emerged
with a beaming smile.

"Why, then, my lad, we'll bamboozle 'em.  There's nothin' like
bamboozlement w'en circumwention fails.  Putt the two together an'
they're like a hurricane in the tropics, carries all before it!  We'll
bamboozle 'em by runnin' for an hour or two all over the place, so as no
mortal man seein' our footprints will be able to tell where we comed
from, or what we've bin a-doin' of."

"You don't know the men of the desert, Jack," rejoined Miles, with a
laugh.  "They'd just walk in a circle round the place where you propose
to run about and bamboozle them, till they found where our tracks
_entered_ this bit of bush.  Then, as they'd see no tracks _leaving_ it,
of course they'd know that we were still there.  D'you see?"

"That's a puzzler for you, Jack," remarked Moses, as he watched the
perplexed expression looming up again like a cloud on the sailor's face.

"By no manner o' means," retorted Molloy, with sudden gravity.  "I sees
my way quite clear out o' that.  You remember the broad track, not half
a mile off from where we now sit?"

"Yes; made I suppose by a pretty big band o' some sort crossin' the
desert," said Moses.

"Well, lad, arter runnin' about in the bush to bamboozle of 'em, as
aforesaid, we'll march back to that track on the sou'-west'ard--as it
may be--an' then do the same on the nor'-west'ard--so to speak--an' so
lead 'em to suppose we was a small party as broke off, or was sent off,
from the main body to reconnoitre the bit o' bush, an' had rejoined the
main body further on.  That's what I call circumwentin', d'ee see?"

While this palaver was going on, Stevenson and Bill Simkin were standing
a short way off taking observation of something in the far distance.  In
a few minutes they ran towards their comrades with the information that
a band of men were visible on the horizon, moving, they thought, in an
opposite direction to their line of march.

"It may be so," said Miles, after a brief survey, "but we can't be sure.
We must put part of your plan in force anyhow, Jack Molloy.  Away into
the scrub all of you, and stoop as you go."

In saying this, our hero, almost unintentionally, took command of the
little party, which at once tacitly accorded him the position.  Leading
them--as every leader ought--he proceeded to the centre of the clump of
bushes, where, finding a natural hollow or hole in the sand, at the root
of a mimosa bush, three of them went down on hands and knees to scoop it
out deeper, while the others cut branches with Molloy's clasp-knife.

Using flat stones, chips of wood, and hands as shovels, they managed to
dig out a hole big enough to conceal them all, the opening to which was
easily covered by a mass of branches.

It is doubtful whether this ingenious contrivance would have availed
them, if "men of the desert" had passed that way, but fortune favoured
them.  The band, whether friends or foes, passed far off to the
westward, leaving them to enjoy their place of fancied security.

To pass the first day there was not difficult.  The novelty of the
position was great; the interest of the thing immense.  Indefinite hopes
of the future were strong, and they had plenty to say and speculate
about during the passing hours.  When night came, preparation was made
for departure.  The provision bags were slung, a moderate sip of water
indulged in, and they set forth, after a very brief prayer by Stevenson,
that God would guide them safely on their way.  There was no formality
in that prayer.  The marine did not ask his comrades to kneel or to
agree with him.  He offered it aloud, in a few seconds, in the name of
Jesus, leaving his hearers to join him or not as they pleased.

"See that you lay your course fair now, Molloy," said Miles, as they
sallied out upon the darkening plain.

"Trust me, lad, I've taken my bearin's."

It was very dark the first part of the night, as the moon did not rise
till late, but there was quite enough light to enable them to proceed
with caution, though not enough to prevent their taking an occasional
bush or stump for an advancing foe.  All went well, however, until dawn
the following morning, when they began to look about for a suitable
clump of bushes, in which to conceal themselves.  No such spot could
they find.

"Never mind, lads," said the inexhaustible Molloy, "we'll just go on
till we find a place.  We're pretty tough just now, that's one comfort."

They were indeed so tough that they went the whole of that day, with
only one or two brief halts to feed.  Towards evening, however, they
began to feel wearied, and, with one consent, determined to encamp on a
slight eminence a short way in advance, the sides of which were covered
with low scrub.

As they approached the spot an unpleasant odour reached them.  It became
worse as they advanced.  At last, on arriving, they found to their
surprise and horror that the spot had been a recent battle-field, and
was strewn with corpses and broken weapons.  Some days must have elapsed
since the fight which strewed them there, for the bodies had been all
stripped, and many of them were partially buried, while others had been
hauled half out of their graves by those scavengers of the desert,
hyenas and vultures.

"Impossible to halt here," said Armstrong.  "I never witness a sight
like this that it does not force on me the madness of warfare!  What
territorial gain can make up for these lost lives--the flower of the
manhood of both parties?"

"But what are we to do?" objected Molloy.  "Men must defend their
rights!"

"Not necessarily so," said Stevenson.  "Men have to learn to bear and
forbear."

"I have learned to take advantage of what luck throws in my way," said
Rattling Bill, picking up a rifle which must have escaped the
observation of the plunderers who had followed the army.

The body of the poor fellow who had owned it was found concealed under a
bush not far off.  He was an English soldier, and a very brief
inspection showed that the battle had been fought by a party of British
and Egyptian troops against the Soudanese.

It seemed as if the plunderers had on this occasion been scared from
their horrible work before completing it, for after a careful search
they found rifles with bayonets, and pouches full of ammunition, more
than sufficient to arm the whole party.

"There are uniforms enough, too, to fit us all out," said Simkin, as
they were about to leave the scene of slaughter.

"No dead men's clo'es for me," said Moses Pyne, with a shrug of disgust.

Jack Molloy declared that he had become so used to loose cotton drawers,
and an easy-fittin' sack, that for his part he had no desire to go back
to civilised costume! and as the rest were of much the same opinion, no
change was made in the habiliments of the party, except that each
appropriated a pair of boots, and Miles exchanged his green tippet for a
flannel shirt and a pith helmet.  He also took a revolver, with some
difficulty, from the dead hand of a soldier, and stuck it in his belt.

Thus improved in circumstances, they gladly quitted the ghastly scene,
and made for a bushy hillock a few hundred yards in advance.

On the way they were arrested by the sound of distant firing.

"Mohammed must have met our countrymen!" exclaimed Molloy, with excited
looks, as they halted to listen.

"It may be so, but there are other bands about besides his," said Miles.
"What's that? a cheer?"

"Ay, a British cheer in the far distance, replied to by yells of
defiance."  Molloy echoed the cheer in spite of his better judgment.

"Let's run an' jine 'em!" he exclaimed.

"Come along, then!" cried Miles, with the ardour of inexperienced youth.

"Stop! are ye mad?" cried Stevenson.  "Don't it stand to reason that the
enemy must be between us an' Suakim? and that's the same as sayin'
they're between us an' our friends.  Moreover, the cheerin' proves that
our side must be gettin' the best of it, an' are drivin' the enemy this
way, so all we've got to do is to hide on that hillock an' bide our
time."

"Right you are, comrade," cried Rattling Bill, examining his cartridges,
and asserting with an oath that nothing would afford him greater
pleasure than a good hand-to-hand fight with the black, (and something
worse), scoundrels.

"Don't swear at your enemies, Simkin," said the marine quietly; "but
when you get the chance fire low!"

Agreeing with Stevenson's advice to "bide their time," the little band
was soon on the top of the hillock, and took up the best position for
defending the place, also for observing the fight, which, they could now
see, was drawing gradually nearer to them.

They were not kept waiting long, for the natives were in full flight,
hotly pursued by the English and Indian cavalry.  A slight breeze
blowing from the north carried not only the noise, but soon the smoke of
the combat towards them.  As they drew nearer a large detachment of
native spearmen was seen to make for the hillock, evidently intending to
make a stand there.

"Now comes _our_ turn," said Armstrong, examining the lock of his rifle
to see that all was right.

"`England expec's every man,' etceterer," said Molloy, with a glance at
Miles.  "Capting, you may as well let us know your plans, so as we may
work together."

Miles was not long in making up his mind.

"You'll fire at first by command," he said quickly, but decidedly; "then
down on your faces flat, and load.  After that wait for orders.  When it
comes to the push--as it's sure to do at last--we'll stand back to back
and do our best.  God help us to do it well!  Don't hurry, boys--
especially in square.  Let every shot tell."

He had barely concluded this brief address when the yelling savages
reached the hillock.  Miles could even see the gleaming of their teeth
and eyes, and the blood of the slightly wounded coursing down their
black skins as they rushed panting towards the place where he and his
little party were crouching.  Then he gave the word: "Ready--present!"

The smoke, fire, and death to the leading men, which belched from the
bushes, did not check the rush for more than a moment.  And even that
check was the result of surprise more than fear.  A party of those Arabs
who were armed with rifles instantly replied, but the bullets passed
harmlessly over the prostrate men.

Again the voice of Miles was heard: "Ready--present!" and again the
leading men of the enemy fell, but the rushing host only divided, and
swept round the hillock, so as to take it on both sides at once.

"Now--form square! and pick each man," cried Miles, springing up and
standing back to back with Armstrong.  Molloy stood shoulder to shoulder
with him and backed Bill Simkin, while Stevenson did the same for Moses
Pyne.  The bushes did not rise much above their waists, and as the dusky
host suddenly beheld the knot of strange-looking men, whose bristling
bayonets glistened in the setting sunshine, and whose active rifles were
still dealing death among their ranks, they dashed at the hill-top with
a yell of mingled rage and surprise.  Another moment and spearmen were
dancing round the little square like incarnate fiends, but the white men
made no sound.  Each confined himself to two acts--namely, load and
fire--and at every shot a foremost savage fell, until the square became
encircled with dead men.

Another moment and a party of Arab riflemen ran to the front and took
aim.  Just then a tremendous cheer was heard.  The defenders of the
hillock made a wild reply, which was drowned in a furious fusillade.
The entire savage host seemed to rush over the spot, sweeping all before
it, while smoke rolled after them as well as lead and fire.  In the
midst of the hideous turmoil, Miles received a blow which shattered his
left wrist.  Grasping his rifle with his right hand he laid about him as
best he could.  Next moment a blow on the head from behind stretched him
senseless on the ground.

The return of our hero to consciousness revealed to him that he was
still lying on the battle-field, that it was night, and that an
intolerable weight oppressed his chest.  This last was caused by a dead
native having fallen across him.  On trying to get rid of the corpse he
made the further discovery that nearly all his strength was gone, and
that he could scarcely move his right arm, although it was free, and, as
far as he could make out, unwounded.  Making a desperate effort, he
partially relieved himself, and, raising his head, tried to look round.
His ears had already told him that near to him wounded men were groaning
away the little of life that remained to them; he now saw that he was
surrounded by heaps of dead men.  Excepting the groans referred to, the
night was silent, and the moon shone down on hundreds of up-turned
faces--the bloodless grey of the black men contrasting strangely with
the deadly pallor of the white, all quiet and passionless enough now--
here and there the head of a warrior resting peacefully on the bosom or
shoulder of the foe who had killed him!

A slight noise on his right caused Miles to turn his head in that
direction, where he saw a wounded comrade make feeble efforts to raise
himself, and then fall back with a deep groan.  In other circumstances
our hero would have sprung to his assistance, but at that moment he felt
as if absolutely helpless; indeed, he was nearly so from loss of blood.
He made one or two efforts to rise, but the weight of the dead man held
him down, and after a few brief attempts he fainted.

Recovering again, he looked round, attracted by the sound of a struggle
on his right.  One of those fiends in human form, the plunderers of a
battle-field, had, in his ghoulish progress, come across the wounded man
who lay close to Miles, and the man was resisting him.  The other put a
quick end to the strife by drawing a knife across the throat of the poor
fellow.  A horror of great darkness seemed to overwhelm Miles as he saw
the blood gush in a deluge from the gaping wound.  He tried to shout,
but, as in a nightmare, he could neither speak nor move.

As the murderer went on rifling his victim, Miles partially recovered
from his trance of horror, and anxiety for his own life nerved him to
attempt action of some sort.  He thought of the revolver for the first
time at that moment, and the remembrance seemed to infuse new life into
him.  Putting his right hand to his belt, he found it there, but drew it
with difficulty.  Doubting his power to discharge it by means of the
trigger alone, he made a desperate effort and cocked it.

The click made the murderer start.  He raised himself and looked round.
Our hero shut his eyes and lay perfectly still.  Supposing probably that
he must have been mistaken, the man resumed his work.  Miles could have
easily shot him where he kneeled if he had retained power to lift his
arm and take an aim.  As it was, he had strength only to retain the
weapon in his grasp.

After a short time, that seemed an age to the helpless watcher, the
murderer rose and turned his attention to another dead man, but passing
him, came towards Miles, whose spirit turned for one moment to God in an
agonising prayer for help.  The help came in the form of revived
courage.  Calm, cool, firm self-possession seemed to overbear all other
feelings.  He half closed his eyes as the murderer approached, and
gently turned the muzzle of the revolver upwards.  He even let the man
bend over him and look close into his face to see if he were dead, then
he pulled the trigger.

Miles had aimed, he thought, at the man's breast, but the bullet entered
under his chin and went crashing into his brain.  A gush of warm blood
spouted over Miles's face as the wretch plunged over him, head first,
and fell close by his side.  He did not die at once.  The nature of the
ground prevented Miles from seeing him, but he could hear him gradually
gasp his life away.

A few minutes later and footsteps were heard ascending the hillock.
Miles grasped his revolver with a hand that now trembled from increasing
weakness, but he was by that time unable to put the weapon on full cock.
Despair had well-nigh seized him, when a familiar voice was heard.

"This way, lads.  I'm sure it was hereabouts that I saw the flash."

"Macleod!" gasped Miles, as the big Scotsman was about to pass.

"Losh me!  John Miles, is that you?  Are ye leevin?"

"Scarcely!" was all that the poor youth could utter ere he became again
insensible.

A fatigue party tramped up with a stretcher at the moment.  Macleod with
a handkerchief checked the ebbing tide of life, and they bore away from
the bloody field what seemed little more than the mortal remains of poor
Miles Milton.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

DESCRIBES A FEW MEETINGS AND SEVERAL SURPRISES.

The fight described in the last chapter was only one of the numerous
skirmishes that were taking place almost daily near Suakim at that time.
But it turned out to be a serious occasion to our hero, for it cost him
one of his hands, and put an end to his soldiering days for ever.

On being taken to the British lines the surgeons saw at once that
amputation a little above the wrist was absolutely necessary.  Of course
Miles--although overwhelmed with dismay on hearing the fiat of the
doctors--could offer no objection.  With the informal celerity of
surgical operations as practised in the field, the shattered limb was
removed, and almost before he could realise the full significance of
what was being done our poor hero was _minus_ his left hand!  Besides
this, he was so cut and battered about, that most of his hair had to be
cut off, and his head bandaged and plastered so that those of his old
comrades who chanced to be with the troops at the time could recognise
him only by his voice.  Even that was scarcely audible when he was
carried into Suakim.

At this time the hospitals at Suakim were overcrowded to such an extent
that many of the wounded and invalids had to be sent on by sea to Suez
and the hospitals at Ramleh.  Miles was sent on along with these, and
finally found rest at Alexandria.

And great was the poor fellow's need of rest, for, besides the terrible
sufferings and hardships he had endured while in captivity, the wounds
and bruises, the loss of blood and of his left hand, and the fatigue of
the voyage, his mind was overwhelmed by the consideration that even if
he should recover he was seriously maimed for life.  In addition to all
this suffering, Miles, while at Suakim, had received a blow which
well-nigh killed him.  A letter came informing him of the sudden death
of his father, and bitter remorse was added to his misery as he lay
helpless in his cot on the Red Sea.

The consequent depression, acting on his already exhausted powers after
he reached Alexandria, brought him to the verge of the grave.  Indeed,
one of the nurses said one day to one of her fellows, with a shake of
her head, "Ah! poor fellow, he won't last long!"

"Won't he!" thought Miles, with a feeling of strong indignation.  "Much
_you_ know about it!"

You see Miles possessed a tendency to abstract reasoning, and could
meditate upon his own case without, so to speak, much reference to
himself!  His indignation was roused by the fact that any one, calling
herself a nurse, should be so stupid as to whisper beside a patient
words that he should not hear.  He did not know that the nurse in
question was a new one--not thoroughly alive to her duties and
responsibilities.  Strange to say, her stupidity helped to render her
own prophecy incorrect, for the indignation quickened the soldier's
feeble pulse, and that gave him a fillip in the right direction.

The prostration, however, was very great, and for some time the life of
our hero seemed to hang by a thread.  During this dark period the value
of a godly mother's teaching became deeply impressed on him, by the fact
that texts from God's Word, which had been taught him in childhood, and
which he seemed to have quite forgotten, came trooping into his mind,
and went a long way to calm and comfort him.  He dwelt with special
pleasure on those that told of love and mercy in Jesus to the thankless
and undeserving; for, now that strength, health, and the high hopes of a
brilliant career were shattered at one blow, his eyes were cleared of
life's glamour to see that in his existence hitherto he had been
ungodly--not in the sense of his being much worse than ordinary people,
but in the sense of his being quite indifferent to his Maker, and that
his fancied condition of not-so-badness would not stand the test of a
dying hour.

About this time, too, he became desperately anxious to write to his
mother, not by dictation, but with his own hand.  This being impossible
in the circumstances, he began to fret, and his power to sleep at length
failed him.  Then a strange desire to possess a rose seized him--perhaps
because he knew it to be his mother's favourite flower.  Whatever the
cause, the longing increased his insomnia, and as he did not say,
perhaps did not know, that the want of a rose had anything to do with
his complaint, no one at first thought of procuring one for him.

He was lying meditating, wakefully, about many things one day when one
of the nurses approached his bed.  He did not see her at first, because
his head was so swathed in bandages that only one eye was permitted to
do duty, and that, as Molloy might have said, was on the lee-side of his
nose--supposing the side next the nurse to represent the wind'ard side!

"I have been laid up a long time," said a lady, who accompanied the
nurse, "and have been longing to resume my visits here, as one or two
patients whom I used to nurse are still in hospital."

The heart of Miles gave a bound such as it had not attempted since the
night he witnessed the murder on the battle-field, for the voice was
that of Mrs Drew.

"This is one of our latest arrivals," remarked the nurse, lowering her
voice as they advanced.  "A poor young soldier--lost a hand and badly
wounded--can't sleep.  He has taken a strange longing of late for a
rose, and I have asked a friend to fetch one for him."

"How lucky that we happen to have one with us!" said Mrs Drew, looking
back over her shoulder where her daughter stood, concealed from view by
her ample person.  "Marion, dear, will you part with your rose-bud to a
wounded soldier?"

"Certainly, mother, I will give it him myself."

She stepped quickly forward, and looked sadly at the solitary, glowing
eye which gazed at her, as she unfastened a rose-bud from her bosom.  It
was evident that she did not recognise Miles, and no wonder, for,
besides the mass of bandages from out of which his one eye glowed, there
was a strip of plaster across the bridge of his nose, a puffy swelling
in one of the cheeks, and the handsome mouth and chin were somewhat
veiled by a rapidly developing moustache and beard.

Miles did not speak--he could not speak; he scarcely dared to breathe as
the girl placed a red rose-bud in his thin hand.  His trembling fingers
not only took the rose, but the hand that gave it, and pressed it feebly
to his lips.

With a few words of comfort and good wishes the ladies passed on.  Then
Miles drew the rose down under the bed-clothes, put it to his lips, and,
with a fervently thankful mind, fell into the first profound slumber
that he had enjoyed for many days.

This was a turning-point.  From that day Miles began to mend.  He did
not see Marion again for some time, for her visit had been quite
incidental, but he was satisfied to learn that she was staying at the
Institute with her mother, assisting the workers there.  He wisely
resolved to do and say nothing at that time, but patiently to wait and
get well, for he had a shrewd suspicion that to present himself to
Marion under existing circumstances would be, to say the least,
injudicious.

Meanwhile, time, which "waits for no man," passed on.  As Miles became
stronger he began to go about the hospital, chatting with the
convalescent patients and trying to make himself generally useful.  On
one of these occasions he met with a man who gave him the sorrowful news
that Sergeant Hardy was dead, leaving Miles his executor and residuary
legatee.  He also learned, to his joy, that his five comrades,
Armstrong, Molloy, Stevenson, Moses, and Simkin, had escaped with their
lives from the fight on the hillock where he fell, and that, though all
were more or less severely wounded, they were doing well at Suakim.
"Moreover," continued his informant, "I expect to hear more about 'em
to-night, for the mail is due, and I've got a brother in Suakim."

That night not only brought news of the five heroes, but also brought
themselves, for, having all been wounded at the same time, all had been
sent to Alexandria together.  As they were informed at Suakim that their
comrade Miles had been invalided home, they did not, of course, make
further inquiry about him there.

While they stayed there, awaiting the troop-ship which was to take them
home, they made Miss Robinson's Institute their constant rendezvous, for
there they not only found all the comforts of English life, but the joy
of meeting with many old comrades, not a few of whom were either drawn,
or being drawn, to God by the influences of the place.

It chanced that at the time of their arrival Mrs Drew and her daughter
had gone to visit an English family living in the city, and did not for
several days return to the Institute; thus the invalids failed to meet
their lady friends at first.  But about this time there was announced a
source of attraction in the large hall which brought them together.
This attraction--which unites all creeds and classes and nationalities
in one great bond of sympathy--we need hardly say was music!  A concert
was to take place in the great hall of the Institute for some local
charity, we believe, but are not sure, at which the _elite_ of
Alexandria was expected, and the musical talent of Alexandria was to
perform--among others the band of the somethingth Regiment.  And let us
impress on you, reader, that the band of the somethingth Regiment was
something to be proud of!

This brought numerous friends to the "Officers' House," and great
numbers of soldiers and Jack-tars to the various rooms of the Institute.

In one of these rooms, towards evening, our friend Stevenson was
engaged, at the request of the Superintendent, in relating to a number
of earnest-minded men a brief account of the wonderful experiences that
he and his comrades had recently had in the Soudan, and Jack Molloy sat
near him, emphasising with a nod of his shaggy head, or a "Right you
are, messmate," or a slap on his thigh, all the marine's points,
especially those in which his friend, passing over second causes,
referred all their blessings and deliverances direct to his loving God
and Father.  In another room a Bible-reading was going on, accompanied
by prayer and praise.  In the larger rooms, tea, coffee, etcetera, were
being consumed to an extent that "no fellow can understand," except
those who did it!  Games and newspapers and illustrated magazines,
etcetera, were rife elsewhere, while a continuous roar, rather the
conventional "buzz," of conversation was going on everywhere.  But,
apparently, not a single oath in the midst of it all!  The moral
atmosphere of the place was so pure that even bad men respected--perhaps
approved--it.

Just before the hour of the concert our friends, the five invalids, sat
grouped round a table near the door.  They were drinking tea, and most
of them talking with tremendous animation--for not one of them had been
wounded in the tongue!  Indeed it did not appear that any of them had
been very seriously wounded anywhere.

While they were yet in the midst of their talk two lady-workers came
down the long room, followed by two other ladies in deep mourning, the
younger of whom suddenly sprang towards our quintet, and, clasping her
hands, stood speechless before them, staring particularly at Jack
Molloy, who returned the gaze with interest.

"Beg pard'n, Miss Drew," exclaimed the sailor, starting up in confusion,
and pulling his forelock, "but you've hove me all aback!"

"Mr Molloy!" gasped Marion, grasping his hand and looking furtively
round, "is it possible?  Have you _all_ escaped?  Is--is--"

"Yes, Miss, we've all escaped, thank God, an' we're all here--'cept John
Miles, in coorse, for he's bin invalided home--"

"He's no more invalided home than yourself, Jack," said a seaman, who
was enjoying his coffee at a neighbouring table; "leastwise I seed John
Miles myself yesterday in hospital wi' my own two eyes, as isn't apt to
deceive me."

"Are ye sure o' that, mate?" cried Molloy, turning in excitement to the
man, and totally forgetting Marion.

"Mother, let us go out!" whispered the latter, leaning heavily on Mrs
Drew's arm.

They passed out to the verandah--scarcely observed, owing to the
excitement of the quintet at the sailor's news--and there she would have
fallen down if she had not been caught in the arms of a soldier who was
advancing towards the door.

"Mr Miles!" exclaimed Mrs Drew, as she looked up in amazement at the
scarred and worn face.

"Ay, Mrs Drew, through God's mercy I am here.  But help me: I have not
strength to carry her _now_."

Marion had nearly fainted, and was led with the assistance of her mother
to a retired part of the garden, and placed in an easy-chair.  Seeing
that the girl was recovering, the other ladies judiciously left them,
and Miles explained to the mother, while she applied smelling-salts to
Marion, that he had come on purpose to meet them, hoping and expecting
that they would be attracted to the concert, like all the rest of the
world, though he had scarcely looked for so peculiar a meeting!

"But how did you know we were here at all?" asked Mrs Drew in surprise.

"I saw you in the hospital," replied Miles, with a peculiar look.  "Your
kind daughter gave me a rose!"

He pointed as he spoke to a withered bud which was fastened to his coat.

"But--but--that young man had lost his hand; the nurse told us so,"
exclaimed Mrs Drew, with a puzzled look.

Miles silently pointed to the handless arm which hung at his left side.

Marion had turned towards him with a half-frightened look.  She now
leaned back in her chair and covered her face with both hands.

"Mr Miles," said the wise old lady, with a sudden and violent change of
subject, "your friends Armstrong and Molloy are in the Institute at this
moment waiting for you!"

Our hero needed no second hint.  Next minute he dashed into the entrance
hall, with wonderful vigour for an invalid, for he heard the bass voice
of Molloy exclaiming--

"I don't care a button, leave or no leave, I'll make my way to John Mi--
Hallo!"

The "Hallo!" was caused by his being rushed into by the impetuous Miles
with such force that they both staggered.

"Why, John, you're like the ram of an iron-clad!  Is it really yourself?
Give us your flipper, my boy!"

But the flipper was already in that of Willie Armstrong, while the
others crowded round him with congratulations.

"Wot on airth's all the noise about in that there corner?" exclaimed a
Jack-tar, who was trying hard to tell an interminable story to a quiet
shipmate in spite of the din.

"It's only that we've diskivered our captin," cried Molloy, eager to get
any one to sympathise.

"Wot captin's that?" growled the Jack-tar.

"Why, him as led us on the hillock, to be sure, at Suakim."

When acts of heroism and personal prowess are of frequent occurrence,
deeds of daring are not apt to draw general attention, unless they rise
above the average.  The "affair of the hillock," however, as it got to
be called, although unnoticed in despatches, or the public prints, was
well-known among the rank and file who did the work in those hot
regions.  When, therefore, it became known that the six heroes, who had
distinguished themselves on that hillock, were present, a great deal of
interest was exhibited.  This culminated when a little man rushed
suddenly into the room, and, with a wild "hooroo!" seized Molloy round
the waist--he wasn't tall enough to get him comfortably by the neck--and
appeared to wrestle with him.

"It's Corporal Flynn--or his ghost!" exclaimed Molloy.

"Sure an' it's both him an' his ghost togither!" exclaimed the corporal,
shaking hands violently all round.

"I thought ye was sent home," said Moses.

"Niver a bit, man; they tell awful lies where you've come from.  I
wouldn't take their consciences as a gift.  I'm as well as iver, and
better; but I'm goin' home for all that, to see me owld grandmother.  Ye
needn't laugh, you spalpeens.  Come, three cheers, boys, for the `heroes
o' the hillock!'"

Most heartily did the men there assembled respond to this call, and then
the entire assembly cleared off to the concert, with the exception of
Miles Milton.  "He," as Corporal Flynn knowingly observed, "had other
fish to fry."  He fried these fish in company with Mrs and Marion Drew;
but as the details of this culinary proceeding were related to us in
strict confidence, we refuse to divulge them, and now draw the curtain
down on the ancient land of Egypt.



CHAPTER THIRTY.

CONCLUSION.

Once more we return to the embarkation jetty at Portsmouth.

There, as of old, we find a huge, white-painted troop-ship warping
slowly in, her bulwarks and ports crowded with white helmets, and eager
faces gazing at the equally eager but anxious faces on shore.

Miss Robinson's coffee-shed shows signs of life!  Our friend Brown is
stimulating the boiler.  The great solitary port-hole has been opened,
and the never-failing lady-workers are there, preparing their ammunition
and getting ready for action, for every troop-ship that comes to
Portsmouth from foreign shores, laden with the bronzed warriors of
Britain, has to face the certainty of going into action with that
unconquerable little coffee-shed!

We do not, however, mean to draw the reader again through the old scene,
further than to point out that, among the many faces that loom over
these bulwarks, five are familiar, namely, those of our friends Miles
Milton, William Armstrong, Moses Pyne, Stevenson, and Simkin.  Jack
Molloy is not with them, because he has preferred to remain in Egypt,
believing himself to be capable of still further service to Queen and
country.

A feeling of great disappointment oppresses Miles and his friend
Armstrong, for they fail to recognise in the eager crowd those whom they
had expected to see.

"My mother must be ill," muttered Miles.

"So must my Emmy," murmured his friend.

There was a very anxious little widow on the jetty who could _not_
manage to distinguish individuals in the sea of brown faces and white
helmets, because the tears in her eyes mixed them all up most
perplexingly.  It is not surprising that Miles had totally failed to
recognise the mother of old in the unfamiliar widow's weeds--especially
when it is considered that his was a shrinking, timid mother, who kept
well in the background of the demonstrative crowd.  Their eyes met at
last, however, and those of the widow opened wide with surprise at the
change in the son, while those of the son were suddenly blinded with
tears at the change in the mother.

Then they met--and such a meeting!--in the midst of men and women,
elbowing, crowding, embracing, exclaiming, rejoicing, chaffing, weeping!
It was an awkward state of things, but as every one else was in the
same predicament, and as all were more or less swallowed up in their own
affairs, Miles and his mother were fain to make the best of it.  They
retired under the partial shelter of a bulkhead, where block-tackles and
nautical debris interfered with their footing, and tarry odours regaled
their noses, and there, in semi-publicity, they interchanged their first
confidences.

Suddenly Mrs Milton observed a tall young fellow standing not far off,
looking wistfully at the bewildering scene, apparently in deep
dejection.

"Who is that, Miles?" she asked.

"Why, that's my comrade, chum, and friend, whom I have so often written
about, Willie Armstrong.  Come.  I will introduce you."

"Oh! how selfish of me!" cried the widow, starting forward and not
waiting for the introduction; "Mr Armstrong--I'm _so_ sorry; forgive
me!  I promised to let you know that your wife waits to meet you at the
Soldiers' Institute."

The difference between darkness and light seemed to pass over the
soldier's face, then a slight shade of anxiety clouded it.  "She is not
ill, is she?"

"No, no, _quite_ well," said Mrs Milton, with a peculiar smile; "but
she thought it wiser not to risk a meeting on the jetty as the east wind
is sharp.  I'm so sorry I did not tell you at once, but I selfishly
thought only--"

"Pray make no apology, madam," interrupted Armstrong.  "I'm so thankful
that all is well.  I had begun to fear that something must be wrong, for
my Emmy _never_ disappoints me.  If she thinks it wiser not to meet on
the jetty, it _is_ wiser!"

A crowd of men pushed between them at this moment.  Immediately after, a
female shout was heard, followed by the words, "There he is!  Och, it's
himsilf--the darlint!"

Mrs Flynn had discovered the little corporal, and her trooper son,
Terence, who had come down with her, stood by to see fair-play while the
two embraced.

Drifting with a rather rapid tide of mingled human beings, Miles and his
mother soon found themselves stranded beside the coffee-shed.  Retiring
behind this they continued their conference there, disturbed only by
wind and weather, while the distribution of hot coffee was going on in
front.

Meanwhile, when leave was obtained, Armstrong made his way to the
Institute, where the old scene of bustle and hilarity on the arrival of
a troop-ship was going on.  Here, in a private room, he discovered Emmy
and the _cause_ of her not appearing on the jetty.

"Look at him--Willie the second!" cried the little woman, holding up a
bundle of some sort.  The soldier was staggered for a moment--the only
infantry that had ever staggered him!--for his wife had said nothing
about this bundle in her letters.  He recovered, however, and striding
across the room embraced the wife and the bundle in one tremendous hug!

The wife did not object, but the bundle did, and instantly set up a howl
that quite alarmed the father, and was sweetest music in the mother's
ears!

"Now tell me," said the little woman, after calming the baby and putting
it in a crib; "have you brought Miles Milton home all safe?"

"Yes, all right, Emmy."

"And is he married to that dear girl you wrote about?"

"No, not yet--of course."

"But are they engaged?"

"No.  Miles told me that he would not presume to ask her while he had no
home to offer her."

"Pooh!  He's a goose!  He ought to make sure of _her_, and let the home
look after itself.  He may lose her.  Girls, you know, are changeable,
giddy things!"

"I know nothing of the sort, Emmy."

The young wife laughed, and--well, there is no need to say what else she
did.

About the same time, Mrs Milton and her son were seated in another
private room of the Institute finishing off that interchange of
confidences which had begun in such confusion.  As it happened, they
were conversing on the same subject that occupied Emmy and her husband.

"You have acted rightly, Miles," said the mother, "for it would have
been unfair and selfish to have induced the poor girl to accept you
until you had some prospect of a home to give her.  God will bless you
for doing _the right_, and trusting to Him.  And now, dear boy, are you
prepared for bad news?"

"Prepared for anything!" answered Miles, pressing his mother's hand,
"but I hope the bad news does not affect you, mother."

"It does.  Your dear father died a bankrupt.  I shrank from telling you
this when you were wounded and ill.  So you have to begin again the
battle of life with only one hand, my poor boy, for the annuity I have
of twenty pounds a year will not go far to keep us both."

Mrs Milton tried to speak lightly on this point, by way of breaking it
to her son, but she nearly broke down, for she had already begun to feel
the pinch of extreme poverty, and knew it to be very, very different
from what "well-off" people fancy.  The grave manner in which her son
received this news filled her with anxiety.

"Mother," he said, after pondering in silence for a few moments, and
taking her hand in his while he slipped the handless arm round her
waist, "the news is indeed serious, but our Father whom you have trusted
so long will not fail us now.  Happily it is my right hand that has been
spared, and wonders, you know, may be wrought with a strong right hand,
especially if assisted by a strong left stump, into which spoons, forks,
hooks, and all manner of ingenious contrivances can be fitted.  Now,
cheer up, little mother, and I'll tell you what we will do.  But first,
is there _nothing_ left?  Do the creditors take everything?"

"All, I believe, except some of the furniture which has been kindly left
for us to start afresh with.  But we must quit the old home next month.
At least, so I am told by my kind little lawyer, who looks after
everything, for _I_ understand nothing."

"Your mention of a lawyer reminds me, mother, that a poor sergeant, who
died a short time ago in Egypt, made me his executor, and as I am
painfully ignorant of the duties of an executor I'll go and see this
`kind little lawyer' if you will give me his address."

Leaving Miles to consult his lawyer, we will now turn to a meeting--a
grand tea-fight--in the great hall of the Institute, that took place a
few days after the return of the troop-ship which brought our hero and
his friends to England.  Some telling incidents occurred at this fight
which render it worthy of notice.

First, Miss Robinson herself presided and gave a stirring address,
which, if not of much interest to readers who did not hear it, was a
point of immense attraction to the hundreds of soldiers, sailors, and
civilians to whom it was delivered, for it was full of sympathy, and
information, and humour, and encouragement, and, above all, of the
Gospel.

Everybody worth mentioning was there--that is, everybody connected with
our tale who was in England at the time.  Miles and his mother of course
were there, and Armstrong with Emmy--ay, and with Willie the second
too--who was pronounced on all hands to be the born image of his father.
Alas for his father, if that had been true!  A round piece of dough
with three holes punched in it and a little knot in the midst would have
borne as strong a resemblance to Miles as that baby did.  Nevertheless,
it was a "magnificent" baby! and "_so_ good," undeniably good, for it
slept soundly in its little mother's lap the whole evening!

Stevenson was also there, you may be sure; and so were Moses and
Sutherland, and Rattling Bill Simkin and Corporal Flynn, with his mother
and Terence the Irish trooper, who fraternised with Johnson the English
trooper, who was also home on the sick-list--though he seemed to have a
marvellous colour and appetite for a sick man.

"Is that the `Soldiers Friend?'" asked Simkin, in a whisper, of a man
who stood near him, as a lady came on the platform and took the chair.

"Ay, that's her," answered the man--and the speaker was Thomas Tufnell,
the ex-trooper of the Queen's Bays, and the present manager of the
Institute--"Ay, that's the `Soldier's Friend.'"

"Well, I might have guessed it," returned Simkin, "from the kindly way
in which she shook hands with a lot of soldiers just now."

"Yes, she has shook hands with a good many red-coats in her day, has the
`Soldier's Friend,'" returned the manager.  "Why, I remember on one
occasion when she was giving a lecture to soldiers, and so many men came
forward to shake hands with her that, as she told me herself, her hand
was stiff and swelled all night after it!"

"But it's not so much for what she has done for ourselves that we're
grateful to her," remarked a corporal, who sat on Simkin's right, "as
for what she has done for our wives, widows, and children, through the
_Soldiers' and Sailors' Wives' Aid Association_.  Lookin' arter them
when we're away fightin' our country's battles has endeared her to us
more than anything else."

Thus favourably predisposed, Simkin was open to good impressions that
night.  But, indeed, there was an atmosphere--a spirit of good-will--in
the hall that night which rendered many others besides Simkin open to
good impressions.  Among the civilians there was a man named Sloper, who
had for some time past been carefully fished for by an enthusiastic
young red-coat whom he had basely misled and swindled.  He had been at
last hooked by the young red-coat, played, and finally landed in the
hall, with his captor beside him to keep him there--for Sloper was a
slippery fish, with much of the eel in his nature.

Perhaps the most unexpected visitors to the hall were two ladies in
mourning, who had just arrived from Egypt by way of Brindisi.  Mrs and
Miss Drew, having occasion to pass through Portsmouth on their way home,
learned that there was to be a tea-fight at the Institute, and Marion
immediately said, "I should like _so_ much to see it!"

However much "_so_ much" was, Mrs Drew said she would like to see it
_as_ much, so away they went, and were conducted to the front row.
There Miles saw them!  With his heart in his mouth, and his head in
confusion, he quietly rose, bade his wondering mother get up; conducted
her to the front seat, and, setting her down beside the Drews,
introduced them.  Then, sitting down beside Marion, he went in for a
pleasant evening.

And it _was_ a pleasant evening!  Besides preliminary tea and buns,
there were speeches, songs, recitations, etcetera,--all being received
with immense satisfaction by a crowded house, which had not yet risen to
the unenviable heights of classical taste and _blaseism_.  As for Miles
and Marion, nothing came amiss to them!  If a singer had put B flat in
the place of A natural they would have accepted it as quite natural.  If
a humourist had said the circle was a square, they would have believed
it--in a sense--and tried to square their reason accordingly.

But nothing is without alloy in this life.  To the surprise of Miles and
his mother, their "kind little lawyer" also made his appearance in the
hall.  More than that, he insisted, by signs, that Miles should go out
and speak with him.  But Miles was obdurate.  He was anchored, and
nothing but cutting the cable could move him from his anchorage.

At last the "kind little man" pushed his way through the crowd.

"I _must_ have a word with you, my dear sir.  It is of importance," he
said.

Thus adjured, Miles unwillingly cut the cable, and drifted into a
passage.

"My dear sir," said the little man, seizing his hand, "I congratulate
you."

"You're very kind, but pray, explain why."

"I find that you are heir to a considerable fortune."

Miles was somewhat interested in this, and asked, "How's that?"

"Well, you remember Hardy's will, which you put into my hands a few days
ago?"

"Yes; what then?  _That_ can't be the fortune!"

"Indeed it is.  Hardy, you remember, made you his residuary legatee.  I
find, on inquiry, that the old cousin you told me about, who meant to
leave all his money to build a hospital, changed his mind at the last
and made out a will in favour of Hardy, who was his only relative.  So,
you see, you, being Hardy's heir, have come into possession of something
like two thousand a year."

To this Miles replied by a whistle of surprise, and then said, "Is that
all?"

"Upon my word, sir," said the `kind little lawyer,' in a blaze of
astonishment, "you appear to take this communication in a peculiar
manner!"

"You mistake me," returned Miles, with a laugh.  "I don't mean `is that
all the fortune?' but `is that all you have to say?'"

"It is, and to my mind I have said a good deal."

"You certainly have.  And, believe me, I am not indifferent or
unthankful, but--but--the fact is, that at present I am _particularly_
engaged.  Good-bye, and thank you."

So saying, Miles shook the puzzled old gentleman heartily by the hand,
and hurried back to his anchorage in the hall.

"I've done it, mother!" whispered Miles, two days thereafter, in the
privacy of the Institute reading-room.

"Miles!" said the startled lady, with a reproachful look, "I thought you
said that nothing would induce you--"

"Circumstances have altered, mother.  I have had a long consultation
with your `kind little lawyer,' and he has related some interesting
facts to me."

Here followed a detailed account of the facts.

"So, you see, I went and proposed at once--not to the lawyer--to
Marion."

"And was accepted?"

"Well--yes.  I could hardly believe it at the time.  I scarcely believe
it now, so I'm going back this afternoon to make quite sure."

"I congratulate you, my darling boy, for a good wife is God's best gift
to man."

"How do you know she is good, mother?"

"I know it, because--I know it!  Anybody looking in her face can _see_
it.  And with two thousand a year, why--"

"One thousand, mother."

"I thought you said two, my son."

"So I did.  That is the amount of the fortune left by the eccentric old
hospital-for-incurables founder.  When poor Hardy made out his will he
made me residuary legatee because the trifle he had to leave--his kit,
etcetera,--was not worth dividing between me and Armstrong.  If it had
been worth much he would have divided it.  It is therefore my duty now
to divide it with my friend."

But in our anxiety to tell you these interesting facts, dear reader, we
have run ahead of the tea-fight!  To detail all its incidents, all its
bearings, all its grand issues and blessed influences, would require a
whole volume.  We return to it only to mention one or two gratifying
facts.

It was essentially a temperance--that is, a total-abstinence, a
blue-ribbon--meeting, and, at the end, the "Soldiers' Friend" earnestly
invited all who felt so disposed to come forward and sign the pledge.
At the same time, medals and prizes were presented to those among the
civilians who had loyally kept their pledge intact for certain periods
of time.  On an average, over a thousand pledges a year are taken at the
Institute, and we cannot help thinking that the year we are writing of
must have exceeded the average--to judge from the numbers that pressed
forward on this particular night.

There were soldiers, sailors, and civilians; men, women, and children.
Amongst the first, Rattling Bill Simkin walked to the front--his moral
courage restored to an equality with his physical heroism--and put down
his name.  So did Johnson and Sutherland--the former as timid before the
audience as he had been plucky before the Soudanese, but walking erect,
nevertheless, as men do when conscious that they are in the right; the
latter "as bold as brass"--as if to defy the world in arms to make him
ever again drink another drop of anything stronger than tea.

Moses Pyne also "put on the blue," although, to do him justice, he
required no protection of that sort, and so did Corporal Flynn and
Terence and their mother--which last, if truth must be told, stood more
in need of the pledge than her stout sons.

Among the civilians several noted personages were influenced in the
right direction.  Chief among these was sodden, blear-eyed, disreputable
Sloper, whose trembling hand scrawled a hieroglyphic, supposed to
represent his name, which began indeed with an S, but ended in a
mysterious prolongation, and was further rendered indecipherable by a
penitent tear which fell upon it from the point of his red, red nose!

Some people laughed, and said that there was no use in getting Sloper to
put on the blue-ribbon, that he was an utterly demoralised man, that he
had no strength of character, that no power on earth could save _him_!
They were right.  No power on earth could save him--or them!  These
people forgot that it is not the righteous but sinners who are called to
repentance.

Time passed away and wrought its wonted changes.  Among other things, it
brought back to Portsmouth big, burly Jack Molloy, as hearty and
vigorous as he was when being half-hanged in the Soudan, but--_minus_ a
leg!  Poor Jack! a spent cannon-ball--would that it had been spent in
vain!--removed it, below the knee, much more promptly than it could have
been taken off by the surgeon's knife.  But what was loss to the Royal
Navy was gain to Portsmouth, for Jack Molloy came home and devoted
himself, heart and soul, to the lending of "a helping hand" to his
fellow-creatures in distress--devoting his attentions chiefly to the
region lying round Nobbs Lane, and causing himself to be adored
principally by old women and children.  And there and thus he probably
works to this day--at least, some very like him do.

When not thus engaged he is prone to take a cruise to a certain rural
district in the south of England, where he finds congenial company in
two very tall, erect, moustached, dignified gentlemen, who have a
tendency to keep step as they walk, one of whom has lost his left hand,
and who dwell in two farm-houses close together.

These two gentlemen have remarkably pretty wives, and wonderfully
boisterous children, and the uproar which these children make when
Molloy comes to cast anchor among them, is stupendous!  As for the
appearance of the brood, and of Jack after a spree among the hay, the
word has yet to be invented which will correctly describe it.

The two military-looking farmers are spoken of by the people around as
philanthropists.  Like true philanthropists, whose foundation-motive is
love to God, they do not limit their attentions to their own little
neighbourhood, but allow their sympathies and their benefactions to run
riot round the world--wheresoever there is anything that is true,
honourable, just, pure, lovely, or of good report to be thought of, or
done, or assisted.

Only one of these acts of sympathy and benefaction we will mention.
Every Christmas there is received by Miss Robinson at the Soldiers'
Institute, Portsmouth, a huge hamper full of old and new garments of all
kinds--shoes, boots, gowns, frocks, trousers, shawls, comforters,
etcetera,--with the words written inside the lid--"Blessed are they that
consider the poor."  And on the same day come two cheques in a letter.
We refuse, for the best of all reasons, to divulge the amount of those
cheques, but we consider it no breach of confidence to reveal the fact
that the letter containing them is signed by two old and grateful Blue
Lights.

THE END.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Blue Lights - Hot Work in the Soudan" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home