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´╗┐Title: Through Three Campaigns - A Story of Chitral, Tirah and Ashanti
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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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 "Through Three Campaigns - A Story of Chitral, Tirah and Ashanti" ***

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Through Three Campaigns:
A Story of Chitral, Tirah and Ashanti
by G. A. Henty.
Illustrated by Wal Paget.

Contents

Preface.
Chapter 1:   An Expedition.
Chapter 2:   The Start.
Chapter 3:   The First Fight.
Chapter 4:   In The Passes
Chapter 5:   Promoted.
Chapter 6:   Unfair Play.
Chapter 7:   Tales Of War.
Chapter 8:   The Dargai Pass.
Chapter 9:  Captured.
Chapter 10: Through The Mohmund Country.
Chapter 11: An Arduous March.
Chapter 12: A Tribal Fight.
Chapter 13: The V.C.
Chapter 14: Forest Fighting.
Chapter 15: A Narrow Escape.
Chapter 16: The Relief Of Coomassie.
Chapter 17: Stockades And War Camps.
Chapter 18: A Night Surprise.
Chapter 19: Lost In The Forest.
Chapter 20: At Home.

Illustrations

Map illustrating the Chitral Campaign.
Lisle gives the alarm.
He carefully aimed and fired.
They charged the attacking force from end to end.
Map illustrating the Tirah Campaign.
A party of Afridis rushed down upon him.
It was the dead body of an Afridi.
"My horse must carry two, sir," Lisle replied.
Map illustrating the Ashanti Campaign.
Two of them fell before Lisle's revolver.
They saw a strong party of the enemy crossing the road.



Preface.


Our little wars attract far less attention among the people of this
country than they deserve. They are frequently carried out in
circumstances of the most adverse kind. Our enemies, although
ignorant of military discipline are, as a rule, extremely brave;
and are thoroughly capable of using the natural advantages of their
country. Our men are called upon to bear enormous fatigue, and
endure extremes in climate. The fighting is incessant, the peril
constant. Nevertheless, they show a magnificent contempt for danger
and difficulty; and fight with a valour and determination worthy of
the highest praise.

I have chosen, as an illustration of this, three campaigns; namely,
the relief of Chitral, the Tirah campaign, and the relief of
Coomassie. The first two were conducted in a mountainous country,
affording every advantage to the enemy; where passes had to be
scaled, torrents to be forded, and deep snow to be crossed. In the
other, the country was a combination of morass and thick forest,
frequently intersected by wide and deep rivers. The work, moreover,
had to be done in a tropical climate, during the rainy season. The
conditions, therefore, were much more trying than in the case of
former expeditions which had crossed the same ground and, in
addition, the enemy were vastly more numerous and more determined;
and had, in recent years, mastered the art of building extremely
formidable stockades.

The country has a right to be proud, indeed, of the prowess both of
our own troops and of our native regiments. Boys who wish to obtain
fuller details of these campaigns I would refer to Sir George
Robertson's Chitral; H. C. Thomson's Chitral Campaign; Lieutenant
Beynon's With Kelly to Chitral; Colonel Hutchison's Campaign in
Tirah; Viscount Fincastle and P. C. Eliott Lockhart's A Frontier
Campaign; and Captain Harold C. J. Biss's The Relief of Kumasi,
from which I have principally drawn the historical portion of my
story.

G. A. Henty.



Chapter 1: An Expedition.


"Well, Lisle, my boy, the time is drawing very near when you will
have to go home. My brother John will look after you, and choose
some good crammer to push you on. You are nearly sixteen, now, and
it is high time you buckled to."

"But you have always taught me, father!"

"Yes, that is all very well, but I could not devote three hours a
day to you. I think I may say that you are thoroughly well
grounded--I hope as well as most public-school boys of your own
age--but I can go no further with you. You have no idea what
cramming is necessary, now, for a young fellow to pass into the
army. Still I think that, by hard work with some man who prepares
students for the army, you may be able to rub through. I have
always saved up money for this, for my brother is by no means a
rich man, and crammers are very expensive; so the next time I see a
chance of sending you down to Calcutta, down you go. My agents
there will see you on board a ship, and do everything that is
necessary."

"Of course, father, if I must go, I must; but it will be beastly,
after the jolly time I have spent in the regiment, to set to and do
nothing but grind, for the next three years."

"We all have to do a good many unpleasant things, Lisle; and as we
have decided that you shall enter the army, you must make up your
mind to do the necessary work, even though it be disagreeable."

"All right, father! I know what depends upon it, and I will set
to."

"I have no doubt you will, Lisle, for you have plenty of common
sense, though you are a little inclined to mischief--not that you
are altogether to blame for that, for the officers encourage you in
it."

This conversation took place between Captain Bullen, of the 32nd
Pioneers, and his son. The regiment was in cantonments near the
northern frontier of India. The captain had lost his wife some
years before and, as their two youngest children had also died, he
had not been able to bring himself to send the remaining boy home.
The climate was excellent, and the boy enjoyed as good health as if
he had been in England. Captain Bullen had taken a great deal of
pains with his son's education but, as he said, he had now taught
the boy all that he knew; and felt that he ought to go to England,
and be regularly coached for the army.

Next day the captain entered his quarters, hurriedly.

"I am off," he said. "Those rascally Afridis have come down and
looted several villages; and I am to go up, in command of a couple
of companies, to give them a lesson."

"They are not very strong, are they, father?"

"No, I don't suppose they can put a couple of hundred men in the
field. We shall take the two mountain guns with us, and batter
holes in their fortresses, and then attack and carry them easily.
There is no sign of movement among the other tribes, so we need not
expect any serious opposition."

A week later, the little detachment entered the valley in which the
Afridi villages lay. The work had been fatiguing, for the country
was very rough; and the mules that carried the guns met with such
difficulties that the infantry had to turn to, and improve the
paths--if paths they could be called, for they were often little
better than undefined tracks. As the expedition moved up the
valley, the tribesmen opened on them a distant fire; but scattered
after a few shells from the mountain guns were thrown among them.
The fortified houses, however, were stubbornly held; and indeed,
were only carried after the guns had broken in the doors, or made a
breach in the walls.

During the attack on the last house, a shot struck Captain Bullen
in the chest, and he instantly fell. When they saw this, the
Pioneers dashed forward with a howl of rage, carried the fort, and
bayoneted its defenders. The doctor of the party at once examined
the wound, and saw that it would probably be fatal.

"Patch me up, Lloyd, so that I may get back to camp and see my boy
again," the wounded man whispered.

"I will do my best," the doctor said, "but I doubt whether you will
be able to stand the journey."

The Pioneers, after setting fire to all the houses in the valley,
started at once for home. Captain Bullen was placed on a stretcher,
and four men at a time carried him down, taking the utmost pains
not to jolt or shake him. His face was covered with light boughs,
to keep off the flies; and everything that was possible was done to
conduce to his comfort.

The doctor watched him anxiously. His condition became more
serious, every day. As they neared the camp, a messenger was sent
down with a report from the native officer of what had happened;
and the Pioneers all came out to see their favourite officer
brought in; and stood, mournful and silent, as he was carried to
his bungalow.

"Don't come in yet, lad," the surgeon said, to Lisle. "Your father,
at present, is incapable of speaking; and he must have a little
rest before you see him, for the slightest excitement would
probably cause a gush of blood to the wound, which would be fatal."

Lisle's grief was unbounded. He could not listen to the kind words
with which the officers tried to soothe him, but wandered away out
of camp and, throwing himself down, wept unrestrainedly for an
hour. Then he roused himself, and walked slowly back. By a mighty
effort he had composed himself, for he knew that he must be calm
when he saw his father.

Half an hour later, the doctor beckoned him in.

"He is conscious now," he said, "and has whispered that he wishes
to see you. He has been very calm, all the way down, and has spoken
of you often."

"I will do my best," Lisle muttered, keeping down his tears with a
tremendous effort; and then went into his father's room.

He could not trust himself to speak a word but, walking up, took
his father's hand and, kneeling down, pressed it to his lips, his
whole form shaking with agitation.

"I am glad I have held out until I got back," his father said, in a
low voice. "It is all up with me, my boy, and I have only a few
hours to live, at most. I am sorry, now, that you did not start for
England before this happened; but I have no doubt that it is all
for the best. I shall die, as I should wish to die, doing my duty
and, except for leaving you, I shall feel small regret."

"Must you leave me, father?" Lisle sobbed.

"Yes, my boy, I have known it from the first. It is only my intense
desire to see you again that has kept me up. The doctor said he did
not expect that I should last more than two or three days, at most.

"You will bear in mind what I said to you, the day before we
started. I have no fear about you, Lisle; I am sure you will make
an honest gentleman and a brave soldier, and will do credit to our
name. I should stay here a few weeks longer, if I were you, until
some others are going down. The officers are all fond of you, and
it would be better for you to have company, than to make the long
journey to the coast alone.

"My voice is failing me, lad, and I can say no more, now; but you
can sit here with me, till the end comes. It will not be long. When
you have completed your training, the fact that I have died in this
way will give you a good claim to a commission."

Lisle sat with his father for some hours. Occasionally the dying
man moved and, leaning over him, he could catch the words "God
bless you!" Before midnight the brave spirit had passed away, and
Lisle went out and cried like a child, till morning.

The funeral took place next day. After it was over, the colonel
sent for Lisle; who had now, after a hard struggle, recovered his
composure.

"Did your father give you any instructions, Lisle? You may be sure
that whatever he said we will carry out."

"He said that he thought it would be best for me to stay here for a
few weeks as, among so many kind friends, I should be able to bear
it better than if I went down at once."

"Quite right, lad! We shall all be very glad to have you with us.
You can remain in the bungalow as long as you like. It is not
likely to be wanted, for some months. Your father's butler and one
or two servants will be enough to look after you; and you will, of
course, remain a member of the mess. In this way, I hope you will
have recovered some of your cheerfulness before you start."

It was a hard time for Lisle for the next week or two, for
everything reminded him of his father. The risaldar major and the
other native officers, with all of whom he was familiar, grasped
him by the hand when they met, in token of their sympathy; and the
sepoys stood at attention, with mournful faces, when he passed
them. He spent the heat of the day with his books, and only stirred
out in the early morning and evening, meals being considerately
sent down to him from the mess. At the end of a fortnight he made a
great effort and joined the mess, and the kindness with which the
officers spoke to him gradually cheered him.

Then there came an excitement which cheered him further. There were
rumours of disaffection among the hill tribes, and the chances of a
campaign were discussed with animation, both among officers and
soldiers. The regiment was a very fine one, composed of sturdy
Punjabis; and all agreed that, if there were an expedition, they
would probably form part of it. Lisle entered fully into the
general feeling, and his eyes glistened as he listened to the
sepoys talking of the expeditions in which they had taken part.

"It would be splendid to go," he said to himself, "but I don't see
how the colonel could take me. I shall certainly ask him, when the
time comes; but I feel sure that he will refuse. Of course, I ought
to be starting before long for Calcutta; but the expedition will
probably not last many weeks and, if I were to go with it, the
excitement would keep me from thinking, and do me a lot of good.
Besides, a few weeks could make no difference in my working up for
the examination."

The more he thought of it, the more he felt determined to go with
the column. He felt sure that he could disguise himself so that no
one would suspect who he was. He had been so long associated with
the regiment that he talked Punjabi as well as English.

His father had now been dead two months and, as the rumours from
across the frontier grew more and more serious, he was filled with
fear lest an opportunity should occur to send him down country
before the regiment marched; in which case all his plans would be
upset. Day after day passed, however, without his hearing anything
about it, till one day the colonel sent for him.

"The time has come, lad, when we must part. We shall all be very
sorry to lose you, but it cannot be helped. I have received orders,
this morning, to go up to Chitral; and am sending down some sick,
at once. You must start with them. When you reach the railway, you
will be able to get a through ticket to Calcutta.

"As long as it was likely that we should be going down ourselves, I
was glad to keep you here; but now that we have got orders to go
off and have a talk with these tribes in the north, it is clearly
impossible for us to keep you any longer. I am very sorry, my boy,
for you know we all like you, for your own sake and for your good
father's."

"I am awfully obliged to you all, colonel. You have been very good
to me, since my father was killed. I feel that I have had no right
to stop here so long; but I quite understand that, now you are
moving up into the hills, you cannot keep me.

"I suppose I could not go as a volunteer, colonel?" he asked,
wistfully.

"Quite impossible," the colonel said, decidedly. "Even if you had
been older, I could not have taken you. Every mouth will have to be
fed, and the difficulties of transport will be great. There is no
possibility, whatever, of our smuggling a lad of your age up with
us.

"Besides, you know that you ought to go to England, without further
delay. You want to gain a commission, and to do that you must pass
a very stiff examination, indeed. So for your own sake, it is
advisable that you should get to work without any unnecessary
delay.

"A party of invalids will be going down tomorrow, and you can go
with them as far as Peshawar. There, of course, you will take train
either to Calcutta or Bombay. I know that you have plenty of funds
for your journey to England. I think you said that it was an uncle
to whom you were going. Mind you impress upon him the fact that it
is absolutely necessary that you should go to a first-rate school
or, better still, to a private crammer, if you are to have a chance
of getting into the service by a competitive examination."

"Very well, colonel. I am sure that I am very grateful to you, and
all the officers of the regiment, for the kindness you have shown
me, especially since my father's death. I shall always remember
it."

"That is all right, Lisle. It has been a pleasure to have you with
us. I am sure we shall all be sorry to lose you, but I hope that
some day we shall meet again, when you are an officer in one of our
regiments."

Lisle returned to the bungalow and called the butler, the only
servant he had retained.

"Look here, Robah, the colonel says that I must go down with a sick
party, tomorrow. As I have told you, I am determined to go up
country with the troops. Of course, I must be in disguise. How do
you think that I had better go?"

The man shook his head.

"The young sahib had better join his friends in England."

"It is useless to talk about that," Lisle said. "I have told you I
mean to go up, and go up I will. There ought to be no difficulty
about it. I speak three or four of these frontier languages, as
well as I speak English. I have at least learnt that. I have picked
them up by talking to the natives, and partly from the moonshee I
have had, for four years. My dear father always impressed upon me
the utility of these to an officer; and said that, if I could take
up native languages in my examinations, it would go a long way
towards making up for other deficiencies. So I am all right, so far
as language is concerned.

"It seems to me that my best plan will be to go up as a mule
driver."

"It is as the sahib wills," the old man said. "His servant will do
all he can to help him."

"Well, Robah, I want you in the first place to get me a disguise.
You may as well get two suits. I am sure to get wet, sometimes, and
shall require a change. I shall take a couple of my own vests and
drawers, to wear under them; for we shall probably experience very
cold weather in the mountains."

"They are serving out clothes to the carriers, sahib."

"Yes, I forgot that. Well, I want you to go into their camp, and
arrange with one of the headmen to let me take the place of one of
the drivers. Some of the men will be willing enough to get off the
job, and a tip of forty rupees would completely settle the matter
with him. Of course, I shall start with the sick escort but, as
there will be several waggons going down with them, they will not
travel far; and at the first halting place I can slip away, and
come back here. You will be waiting for me on the road outside the
camp, early in the morning, and take me to the headman.

"By the way, I shall want you to make up a bottle of stain for my
hands and feet; for of course I shall go in the native sandals."

"I will do these things, sahib. How about your luggage?"

"Before I leave the camp tonight I shall put fresh labels on them,
directing them to be taken to the store of Messieurs Parfit, who
were my father's agents; and to be left there until I send for
them. I shall give the sergeant, who goes down with the sick, money
to pay for their carriage to Calcutta.

"And about yourself, Robah?"

"I shall stay here at the bungalow till another regiment comes up
to take your place. Perhaps you will give me a chit, saying that I
have been in your father's service fourteen years, and that you
have found me faithful and useful. If I cannot find employment, I
shall go home. I have saved enough money."

An hour later, Robah again entered the room.

"I have been thinking, sahib, of a better plan. You wish to see
fighting, do you not?"

"Certainly I do."

"Well, sahib, if you go in the baggage train you might be miles
away, and see nothing of it. Now, it seems to me that it would be
almost as easy for you to go as a soldier in the regiment, as in
the transport train."

"Do you think so, Robah?" Lisle exclaimed excitedly.

"I think so, sahib. You see, you know all the native officers, and
your father was a great favourite among them. If you were dressed
in uniform, and took your place in the ranks, it is very unlikely
that any of the English officers would notice you. These matters
are left in the hands of the native officers.

"Yesterday a young private died, who had but just passed the
recruit stage, and had been only once or twice on parade. You might
take his name. It is most unlikely that any of the white officers
will notice that your face is a fresh one and, if they did ask the
question, the native officer would give that name. The English
officer would not be at all likely to notice that this was the name
of a man who had died. Deaths are not uncommon and, as the regiment
is just moving, the matter would receive no attention. The book of
this man would be handed to you, and it would all seem regular."

"That is a splendid idea, Robah. Which officer do you think I had
better speak to?"

"I should speak to Risaldar Gholam Singh. He was the chief native
officer in your father's wing of the regiment. If he consents, he
would order all the native officers under him to hold their tongues
and, as you are a favourite with them all, your secret would be
kept."

"It is a grand idea, and I certainly don't see why it should not
work out properly."

"I have no doubt that the risaldar major will do all he can for
you."

"Do you think so, Robah?"

"I am sure he will. He was very much attached to your father, and
felt his loss as much as anyone. Indeed, I think that every one of
the native officers will do all he can for you."

"That would make it very easy for me," Lisle said. "Till you
suggested it, the idea of going as a soldier never occurred to me
but, with their assistance, it will not be difficult."

"Shall I go and fetch the risaldar here, sahib?"

"Do so. I shall be on thorns until I see him."

In a few minutes the officer, a tall and stately Punjabi, entered.

"Risaldar," Lisle said, "I know you were very much attached to my
father."

"I was, sahib."

"Well, I want you to do something for me."

"It would be a pleasure for me to do so, and you have only to ask
for me to grant it, if it is in my power."

"I think it is in your power," Lisle said. "I will tell you what I
want. I have made up my mind to go with this expedition. I thought
of disguising myself, and going as a baggage coolie; but in that
case I should be always in the rear and see none of the fighting,
and I have made up my mind to go as a private in the ranks."

"As a private, sahib?" the officer exclaimed, in astonishment.
"Surely that would be impossible. You would be detected at the
first halt. Besides, how could the son of our dear captain go as a
private?"

"I do not object to go as a private, risaldar. Of course I should
stain myself and, in uniform, it is not likely that any of the
white officers would notice a strange face."

"But you would have to eat with the others, to mix with them as one
of themselves, to suffer all sorts of hardships."

"All that is nothing," Lisle said. "I have been with the regiment
so long that I know all the ways of the men, and I don't think that
I should be likely to make any mistake that would attract their
attention. As to the language, I know it perfectly."

"I hardly dare do such a thing, sahib. If you were discovered on
the march, the colonel and officers would be very angry with me."

"Even if I were discovered, it need not be known that you had
assisted me, risaldar. You may be sure that I should never tell. If
you were questioned, you could declare that you had taken me for an
ordinary recruit. If I deceived everyone else, I might very well
deceive you."

The risaldar stood thoughtful for some time.

"It might possibly be managed," he said at last. "I would do much
for Captain Bullen's son, even risk the anger of the colonel."

"I understand that a sepoy died yesterday. He was quite a young
recruit, and the white officers had not come to know his face. I
might say that I am a relation of his, and am very anxious to take
his place."

"You could take his place in the ranks under his name."

"That would certainly be a good plan, if it could be carried out. I
should only be asked a few questions by the sepoys of my company.
It would seem to them natural that I should take my cousin's place;
and that, as the regiment was moving, and there was no time to
teach me drill, I should be expected to pick up what I could on the
way. But indeed, I have watched the regiment so often that I think
I know all the commands and movements, and could go through them
without hesitation. Besides, there won't be much drilling on the
march. There will probably be a good deal of skirmishing, and
perhaps some rough fighting."

"But if you were to be killed, sahib, what then?"

"I don't mean to be killed if I can help it," Lisle said; "but if I
am, I shall be buried as one of the sepoys. The officers will all
believe that I have gone home and, though they may wonder a little
that I never write to them, they will think it is because I am too
busy. It will be a long time, indeed, before any of my friends
write to ask about me; and then it will be supposed that I have
been accidentally killed or drowned.

"At any rate, I should have the satisfaction of being killed in the
Queen's service. All the men are delighted at going, and they will
run the same risk as I do."

"Well, sahib," the risaldar said, "I will do it. I would very much
prefer that you had never asked me, but I cannot say 'no' to you. I
will think it over; and tell you, tomorrow morning, what seems to
me the best plan. I don't see, at present, how you are to disappear
and join the regiment."

"That is easy enough," Lisle said. "I am going to start tomorrow
with the sick convoy; but shall slip away from them, after I have
gone a short distance. Robah will meet me with my uniform and
rifle; and I shall come into the camp again, in uniform, after it
is dark."

"You appear to have thought it all out," the officer said, "and if
your scheme can be carried out, there should be no difficulty,
after the first day or two. You are more likely to pass unnoticed,
on a march, than you would be if you were staying here. The men
will have other things to think about, and you will only have three
men marching with you in the column to ask questions. Indeed, there
is very little talking on the line of march.

"Well, I will think it over, and see you in the morning."

This was as good as consent, and Lisle was highly delighted. In the
morning, the risaldar called again.

"I have spoken," the risaldar said, "to the three officers of the
company to which the soldier Mutteh Ghar belonged; and they all
agreed, willingly, to help you to carry out your scheme, and think
that there is very little probability of the fact that you are a
new recruit being noticed. The general discipline of the regiment
is in our hands. The British officers direct, but we carry out
their orders. As the man was only on parade twice and, on neither
of these occasions, came under general inspection of the white
officers, it is probable that they do not know his face. It is
certainly best that you should take Mutteh Ghar's name, as the
soldiers will see nothing strange in our placing a young recruit in
the ranks, after his cousin had died in the regiment. We are all of
opinion, therefore, that you can take your place without
difficulty; and that the chance of the change being detected by the
British officers is extremely slight. We think, however, that it
will be next to impossible for you always to keep up your
character, and believe that you will find it so hard to live under
the same conditions as the others that you yourself will tire of
it."

"I can assure you that there is no fear of that," Lisle said
earnestly. "I want to take part in the expedition, and am quite
prepared to share in the habits and hardships of the men, whatever
they may be. You know, if I were discovered I should be sent off at
once, even if a fight were imminent. I think I can say that, when I
undertake a thing, I will carry it through.

"I cannot tell you how grateful I feel to you all, for aiding me to
carry out my wish. Will you kindly convey my thanks to the officers
of the company, and particularly urge upon them that they must show
me no favour, and pay no more attention to me than to the other
men? Anything of that sort would certainly give rise to comment and
suspicion."

"I have already told them that," the officer said, "and I think
they thoroughly understand how they must act.

"The sick party are to start tomorrow morning. How do you wish the
uniform of your supposed cousin to be sent to you?"

"If you hand it over to Robah, he will bring it out to me. The
rifle, of course, should be handed quietly to me when I return to
camp. I cannot march in with it. I shall not come in till after
dark. Then the havildar must take me to one of the sepoy tents, and
mention to the men there that I am Mutteh Ghar's cousin; and that,
as a great favour, I am to be allowed to accompany the regiment."

"Of course, you will take with you the usual underclothes to put
on, when you lay aside your uniform; and especially the loincloth,
and light linen jacket, which the men use in undress."

"I will see to all that, risaldar. I can assure you that, so far
from finding it a trouble to act as a native, I shall really enjoy
it; and shall make very light of any hardships that I may have to
undergo. When it comes to fighting I am, as you know, a very good
shot; and should certainly be able to do my part, with credit."

"I will tell the havildar to be on the lookout for you, when you
come into camp, and to bring you straight to me. I will then see
that your uniforms and belts are properly put on, before I send you
off under his charge. I hope the matter may turn out well. If it
does not, you must remember that I have done my part because you
urged it upon me, and prayed me to assist you for your father's
sake."

"I shall never forget that, Gholam Singh, and shall always feel
deeply indebted to you."

When the risaldar had left, Lisle called Robah in.

"All is arranged, Robah; and now it remains only to carry out the
details. In the first place, you must get me the stain; in the
second, you must go into the bazaar and buy me a loincloth and
light jacket, such as the soldiers wear when they lay aside their
uniforms. As to the uniform, that is already arranged for; and I
shall, of course, have one of the sheepskin greatcoats that have
just been served out, and which I expect I shall find indispensable.
Put in my kit bag one pair of my thickest woollen vests and drawers.
I cannot carry more, for I mean to take one suit of my own clothes
to put on in case, by any accident, I should be discovered and sent
back. I can get that carried on the baggage waggon.

"Tomorrow we shall start at five o'clock in the morning and, at the
first halt, I shall leave the party quietly. I have no doubt that
Gholam Singh will give orders, to the native officer in charge,
that I am to be permitted to do so without remark. As soon as I
leave the convoy you must join me with my uniform and, above all,
with the stain. You can bring out a bag with some provisions for
the day, for I shall not return to camp until after dark."

When Robah went away to make the necessary purchases, Lisle packed
up his baggage and labelled it. His father's effects had all been
sold, a few days after his death; as it would not have paid to send
them home. They had fetched good prices, and had been gladly bought
up by the other officers; some as mementoes of their late comrade,
and some because they were useful.

Several of the officers came in and chatted with him while he was
packing, all expressing regret that he was leaving. At mess that
evening they drank his health, and a pleasant journey; and he
gravely returned thanks. When the mess broke up he returned to the
bungalow, and packed a small canvas bag with the suit he was going
to take with him.

Then he examined and tried on the uniform of the dead sepoy; which
Robah had, that evening, received from the risaldar. It fitted him
fairly well. In addition to the regular uniform there was a
posteen, or sheepskin coat; loose boots made of soft skin, so that
the feet could be wrapped up in cloth before they were put on; and
putties, or leggings, consisting of a very long strip of cloth
terminating with a shorter strip of leather. These things had been
served out that day to the troops, and were to be put on over the
usual leg wrappings when they came to snow-covered country. They
were to be carried with the men's kits till required. For ordinary
wear there were the regular boots, which were strapped on like
sandals.

"Well, I think I ought to be able to stand anything in the way of
cold, with this sheepskin coat and the leggings, together with my
own warm underclothing."

"You are sure," Robah said, "that you understand the proper folding
of your turban?"

"I think so, Robah. I have seen them done up hundreds of times but,
nevertheless, you shall give me a lesson when you join me tomorrow.
We shall have plenty of time for it.

"Now, can you think of anything else that would be useful? If so,
you can buy it tomorrow before you come out to meet me."

"No, sahib. There are the warm mittens that have been served out
for mountain work; and you might take a pair of your own gloves to
wear under them for, from all I hear, you will want them when you
are standing out all night on picket work, among the hills."

"No, I won't take the gloves, Robah. With two pairs on, my fingers
would be so muffled that I should not be able to do good shooting."

"Well, it will be cold work, for it is very late in the season and,
you know, goggles have been served out to all the men to save them
from snow blindness, from which they would otherwise suffer
severely. I have been on expeditions in which a third of the men
were quite blind, when they returned to camp."

"It must look very rum to see a whole regiment marching in
goggles," Lisle laughed; "still, anything is better than being
blinded."

"I shall see you sometimes, sahib; for the major engaged me, this
morning, to go with him as his personal servant, as his own man is
in feeble health and, though I am now getting on in years, I am
still strong enough to travel with the regiment."

"I am delighted, indeed, to hear that, Robah. I shall be very glad
to steal away sometimes, and have a chat with you. It will be a
great pleasure to have someone I can talk to, who knows me. Of
course, the native officer in command of my company will not be
able to show me any favour, nor should I wish him to do so. It
seems like keeping one friend, while I am cut off from all others;
though I dare say I shall make some new ones among the sepoys. I
have no doubt you will be very comfortable with the major."

"Yes, sahib, I am sure that he is a kind master. I shall be able, I
hope, sometimes to give you a small quantity of whisky, to mix with
the water in your bottle."

"No, no, Robah, when the baggage is cut down there will be very
little of that taken and, however much there might be, I could not
accept any that you had taken from the major's store. I must fare
just the same as the others."

"Well, sahib, I hope that, at any rate, you will carry a small
flask of it under your uniform. You may not want it but, if you
were wounded and lying in the snow, it would be very valuable to
you for, mixed with the water in your bottle, and taken from time
to time, it would sustain you until you could be carried down to
camp."

"That is a very good idea, Robah, and I will certainly adopt it. I
will carry half a pint about with me, for emergencies such as you
describe. If I do not want it, myself, it may turn out useful to
keep up some wounded comrade. It will not add much to the load that
I shall have to carry, and which I expect I shall feel, when we
first march. As I am now, I think I could keep up with the best
marcher in the regiment but, with the weight of the clothes and
pouches, a hundred and twenty rounds of ammunition, and my rifle,
it will be a very different thing; and I shall be desperately
tired, by the time we get to the end of the day's march.

"Now it is twelve o'clock, and time to turn in, for we march at
five."

The next morning, when the sick convoy started, the white officers
came up to say goodbye to Lisle; and all expressed their regret
that he could not accompany the regiment. The butler had gone on
ahead and, as soon as Lisle slipped away, he came up to him and
assisted him to make his toilet. He stained him from head to foot,
dyed his hair, and fastened in it some long bunches of black horse
hair, which he would wear in the Punjabi fashion on the top of his
head. With the same dye he darkened his eyelashes and, when he had
put on his uniform, he said:

"As far as looks go, sahib, it is certain that no one would suspect
that you were not a native. There is a large bottle of stain. You
will only have to do yourself over, afresh, about once in ten days.
A little of this mixed with three times the amount of water will be
sufficient for, if you were to put it on by itself, it would make
you a great deal too dark."

They spent the day in a grove and, when evening approached,
returned to camp.

"And now, goodbye, sahib! The regiment will march tomorrow morning,
at daybreak. I may not have an opportunity of seeing you again,
before we start. I hope I have done right, in aiding you in your
desire to accompany the expedition; but I have done it for the
best, and you must not blame me if harm comes of it."

"That you may be sure I will not, and I am greatly obliged to you.
Now, for the present, goodbye!"



Chapter 2: The Start.


The havildar was on the lookout for Lisle when he entered the camp;
but he did not know him, in his changed attire and stained face,
until the lad spoke to him.

"You are well disguised, indeed, sahib," he said. "I had no idea
that it was you. Now, my instructions are to take you to Gholam
Singh's tent."

Here Lisle found the risaldar and the other two native officers. He
saluted as he entered. The risaldar examined him carefully, before
speaking.

"Good!" he said; "I did not think that a white sahib could ever
disguise himself to pass as a native, though I know that it has
been done before now. Certainly I have no fear of any of the white
officers finding that you are not what you seem to be. I am more
afraid, however, of the men. Still, even if they guessed who you
are, they would not, I am sure, betray you.

"Here are your rifle and bayonet. These complete your outfit. I see
that you have brought your kit with you. It is rather more bulky
than usual, but will pass with the rest.

"The subadar will take you down to the men's lines. I have arranged
that you shall be on the baggage guard, at first, so that you will
gradually begin to know a few men of your company. They will report
to the rest the story you tell them, and you will soon be received
as one of themselves.

"I will see that that sack of yours goes with the rest of the kits
in the baggage waggon. These officers of your company all
understand that you are to be treated like the rest of the men, and
not to be shown any favour. At the same time, when in camp, if
there is anything that you desire, or any complaint you have to
make, you can talk quietly to one of them; and he will report it to
me, in which case you may be sure that I shall set the matter
right, if possible."

"I don't think there is any fear of that, risaldar. I am pretty
well able to take care of myself. My father gave me many lessons in
boxing; and I fancy that, although most of the men are a great deal
bigger and stronger than I am, I shall be able to hold my own."

"I hope so, Bullen," the havildar said gravely, "but I trust that
there will be no occasion to show your skill. We Punjabis are a
quiet race of men; and though, of course, quarrels occasionally
occur among us, they generally end in abuse, and very seldom come
to blows. The greater portion of the regiment has been with us for
some years. They know each other well, and are not given to
quarrelling. They will scarcely even permit their juniors to go to
extremes, and I need not say that the officers of the company would
interfere, at once, if they saw any signs of a disturbance.

"I have had a meal cooked, which I hope you will eat with us. It is
the last you are likely to be able to enjoy, for some time. We
shall feel honoured if you will sit down with us."

An excellent repast was served, and Lisle did it full justice. Then
the officers all shook him by the hand, and he started with the
subadar for the men's lines, with hearty thanks to the others. When
they arrived at the huts, the subadar led the way in.

"Here is a new comrade," he said, as some of the men roused
themselves from the ground on his entrance. "He is a cousin of
Mutteh Ghar, and bears the same name. It seems that he has served
in another regiment, for a short time; but was discharged, owing to
sickness. He has now perfectly recovered health, and has come to
join his cousin; who, on his arrival, he finds to be dead. He is
very anxious to accompany the regiment and, as he understands his
work, the risaldar has consented to let him go, instead of
remaining behind at the depot.

"He is, of course, much affected by the loss of his cousin; and
hopes that he will not be worried by questions. He will be on
baggage guard tomorrow, and so will be left alone, until he
recovers somewhat from his disappointment and grief."

"I will see to it, subadar," one of the sergeants said. "Mutteh
Ghar was a nice young fellow, and we shall all welcome his cousin
among us, if he is at all like him."

"Thank you, sergeant! I am sure you will all like him, when you
come to know him; for he is a well-spoken young fellow, and I hope
that he will make as good a soldier. Good night!"

So saying, he turned and left the tent.

Half an hour later, Lisle was on parade. There were but eight
British officers; including the colonel, major, and adjutant, and
one company officer to each two companies. The inspection was a
brief one. The company officer walked along the line, paying but
little attention to the men; but carefully scrutinizing their arms,
to see that they were in perfect order. The regiment was put
through a few simple manoeuvres; and then dismissed, as work in
earnest would begin on the following morning.

Four men in each company were then told off to pack the baggage in
the carts. Lisle was one of those furnished by his company. There
was little talk while they were at work. In two hours the carts
were packed. Then, as they returned to the lines, his three
comrades entered into conversation with him.

"You are lucky to be taken," one said, "being only a recruit. I
suppose it was done so that you might fill the place of your
cousin?"

"Yes, that was it. They said that I had a claim; so that, if I
chose, I could send money home to his family."

"They are good men, the white officers," another said. "They are
like fathers to us, and we will follow them anywhere. We lately
lost one of them, and miss him sorely. However, they are all good.

"We are all glad to be going on service. It is dull work in
cantonments."

On arriving at the lines of the company, one of them said:

"The risaldar said that you will take your cousin's place. He slept
in the same hut as I. You will soon find yourself at home with us."

He introduced Lisle to the other occupants of the hut, eighteen in
number. Lisle then proceeded to follow the example of the others,
by taking off his uniform and stripping to the loincloth, and a
little calico jacket. He felt very strange at first, accustomed
though he was to see the soldiers return to their native costume.

"Your rations are there, and those of our new comrade," one of the
party said.

Several fires were burning, and Lisle followed the example of his
comrade, and took the lota which formed part of his equipment,
filled it with water, and put it in the ashes; adding, as soon as
it boiled, the handful of rice, some ghee, and a tiny portion of
meat. In an hour the meal was cooked and, taking it from the fire,
he sat down in a place apart; as is usual among the native troops,
who generally have an objection to eat before others.

"Those who have money," his comrade said, "can buy herbs and
condiments of the little traders, and greatly improve their mess."

This Lisle knew well.

"I have a few pice," he said, "but must be careful till I get my
pay."

As soon as night fell all turned in, as they were to start at
daylight.

"Here is room for you at my side, comrade," the sergeant said. "You
had better get to sleep, as soon as you can. Of course, you have
your blanket with you?"

"Yes, sergeant."

Lisle rolled himself in his blanket and lay down, covering his
face, as is the habit of all natives of India. It was some time
before he went to sleep. The events of the day had been exciting,
and he was overjoyed at finding that his plan had so far succeeded.
He was now one of the regiment and, unless something altogether
unexpected happened, he was certain to take part in a stirring
campaign.

While it was still dark, he was aroused by the sound of a bugle.

"The men told off to the baggage guard will at once proceed to pack
the waggons," the sergeant said.

Lisle at once got up and put on his uniform, as did three other men
in the tent. The kits and baggage had already been packed, the
night before; and the men of the guard, consisting of a half
company, proceeded to the waggons. Half an hour afterwards, another
bugle roused the remainder of the regiment, and they soon fell in.

It was broad daylight when they started, the baggage followed a
little later. The havildar who was in charge of them was,
fortunately, one of those of Lisle's company. There was but little
talk at the hurried start. Two men accompanied each of the twelve
company waggons. Half the remainder marched in front, and the
others behind. Lisle had been told off to the first waggon.

It was a long march, two ordinary stages being done in one. As the
animals were fresh, the transport arrived at the camping ground
within an hour of the main column. Accustomed though he was to
exercise, Lisle found the weight of his rifle, pouches, and
ammunition tell terribly upon him. He was not used to the boots
and, before half the journey was completed, began to limp. The
havildar, noticing this, ordered him to take his place on the top
of the baggage on his waggon.

"It is natural that you should feel it, at first, Mutteh Ghar," he
said. "You will find it easy enough to keep up with them, after a
few days' rest."

Lisle was thankful, indeed, for he had begun to feel that he should
never be able to hold on to the end of the march. He remained on
the baggage for a couple of hours, and then again took his place by
the side of the waggon; receiving an approving nod from the
havildar, as he did so.

When the halt was called, the men at once crowded round the
waggons. The kits were distributed and, in a few minutes, the
regiment had the appearance of a concourse of peaceable peasants.
No tents had been taken with them. Waterproof sheets had been
provided and, with these, little shelters had been erected, each
accommodating three men. The sergeant told Lisle off to share one
of these shelters with two other men. A party meanwhile had gone to
collect firewood and, in half an hour, the men were cooking their
rice.

"Well, how did you like the march?" one of them said to Lisle.

"I found it very hard work," Lisle said, "but the havildar let me
ride on the top of one of the waggons for a couple of hours and,
after that, I was able to march in with the rest."

"It was a rough march for a recruit," the other said, "but you will
soon get used to that. Grease your feet well before you put on your
bandages. You will find that that will ease them very much, and
that you will not get sore feet, as you would if you marched
without preparation."

Lisle took the advice, and devoted a portion of his rations for the
purpose, the last thing at night; and found that it abated the heat
in his feet, and he was able to get about in comfort.

Each soldier carried a little cooking pot. Although the regiment
was composed principally of Punjabis, many of the men were of
different nationalities and, although the Punjabis are much less
particular about caste than the people of Southern India, every man
prepared his meal separately. The rations consisted of rice, ghee,
a little curry powder, and a portion of mutton. From these Lisle
managed to concoct a savoury mess, as he had often watched the men
cooking their meals.

The sergeant had evidently chosen two good men to share the tent
with Lisle. They were both old soldiers, not given to much talking;
and were kind to their young comrade, giving him hints about
cooking and making himself comfortable, and abstaining from asking
many questions. They were easily satisfied with his answers and,
after the meal was eaten, sat down with him and talked of the
coming campaign. Neither of them had ever been to Chitral, but they
knew by hearsay the nature of the road, and discussed the
probability of the point at which serious opposition would begin;
both agreeing that the difficulties of crossing the passes, now
that these would be covered with snow, would be far greater than
any stand the tribesmen might make.

"They are tough fighters, no doubt," one of them said; "and we
shall have more difficulty, with them, than we have ever had
before; for they say that a great many of them are armed with good
rifles, and will therefore be able to annoy us at a distance, when
their old matchlocks would have been useless."

"And they are good shots, too."

"There is no doubt about that; quite as good as we are, I should
say. There will be a tremendous lot of flanking work to keep them
at a distance but, when it comes to anything like regular fighting,
we shall sweep them before us.

"From what I hear, however, we shall only have three or four guns
with us. That is a pity for, though the tribesmen can stand against
a heavy rifle fire, they have a profound respect for guns. I
expect, therefore, that we shall have some stiff fighting.

"How do you like the prospect, Mutteh Ghar?"

"I don't suppose I shall mind it when I get accustomed to it,"
Lisle said. "It was because I heard that the regiment was about to
advance that I hurried up to join. I don't think I should have
enlisted, had it been going to stay in the cantonment."

"That is the right spirit," the other said approvingly. "It is the
same with all of us. There is no difficulty in getting recruits,
when there is fighting to be done. It is the dull life in camp that
prevents men from joining. We have enlisted twice as many men, in
the past three months, as in three years before."

So they talked till night fell and then turned in; putting Lisle
between them, that being the warmest position.

In the morning the march was resumed in the same order, Lisle again
taking his place with the baggage guard. The march this time was
only a single one; but it was long, nevertheless. Lisle was able to
keep his place till the end, feeling great benefit from the ghee
which he had rubbed on his feet. The havildar, at starting, said a
few cheering words to him; and told him that, when he felt tired,
he could put his rifle and pouch in the waggon, as there was no
possibility of their being wanted.

His two comrades, when they heard that he had accomplished the
march without falling out, praised him highly.

"You have showed good courage in holding on," one of them said.
"The march was nothing to us seasoned men, but it must have been
trying to you, especially as your feet cannot have recovered from
yesterday. I see that you will make a good soldier, and one who
will not shirk his work. Another week, and you will march as well
as the best of us."

"I hope so," Lisle said. "I have always been considered a good
walker. As soon as I get accustomed to the weight of the rifle and
pouch, I have no doubt that I shall get on well enough."

"I am sure you will," the other said cordially, "and I think we are
as good marchers as any in India. We certainly have that reputation
and, no doubt, it was for that reason we were chosen for the
expedition, although there are several other regiments nearer to
the spot.

"From what I hear, Colonel Kelly will be the commanding officer of
the column, and we could not wish for a better. I hear that there
is another column, and a much stronger one, going from Peshawar.
That will put us all on our mettle, and I will warrant that we
shall be the first to arrive there; not only because we are good
marchers, but because the larger the column, the more trouble it
has with its baggage.

"Baggage is the curse of these expeditions. What has to be
considered is not how far the troops can go, but how far the
baggage animals can keep up with them. Some of the animals are no
doubt good, but many of them are altogether unfitted for the work.
When these break down they block a whole line; and often, even if
the march is a short one, it is very late at night before the last
of the baggage comes in; which means that we get neither kit,
blankets, nor food, and think ourselves lucky if we get them the
next morning.

"The government is, we all think, much to blame in these matters.
Instead of procuring strong animals, and paying a fair price for
them; they buy animals that are not fit to do one good day's march.
Of course, in the end this stinginess costs them more in money, and
lives, than if they had provided suitable animals at the outset."

Lisle had had a great deal of practice with the rifle, and had
carried away several prizes shot for by the officers; but he was
unaccustomed to carry one for so many hours, and he felt grateful,
indeed, when a halt was sounded. Fires were lighted, and food
cooked; and then all lay down, or sat in groups in the shade of a
grove. The sense of the strangeness of his condition had begun to
wear off, and he laughed and talked with the others, without
restraint.

Up to the time when he joined the regiment, Lisle had heard a good
deal of the state of affairs at Chitral; and his impression of the
natives was that they were as savage and treacherous a race as was
to be found in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Beyond that, he had not
interested himself in the matter; but now, from the talk of his
companions, he gained a pretty clear idea of the situation.

Illustration: Map illustrating the Chitral Campaign.

Old Aman-ul-mulk had died in August, 1892. He had reigned long; and
had, by various conquests and judicious marriages, raised Chitral
to a position of importance. The Chitralis are an Aryan race, and
not Pathans; and have a deep-rooted hatred of the Afghans.

In 1878 Aman placed Chitral under the nominal suzerainty of the
Maharajah of Kashmir and, Kashmir being one of the tributary states
of the Indian Empire, this brought them into direct communication
with the government of India; and Aman received with great
cordiality two missions sent to him. When he died, his eldest son
Nizam was away from Chitral; and the government was seized by his
second son, Afzul; who, however, was murdered by his uncle, Sher
Afzul. Nizam at once hurried to Chitral; and Sher Afzul fled to
Cabul, Nizam becoming the head of the state or, as it was called,
Mehtar. Being weak, he asked for a political officer to reside in
his territory; and Captain Younghusband, with an escort of Sikhs,
was accordingly sent to Mastuj, a fort in Upper Chitral.

However, in November Nizam was also murdered, by a younger brother,
Amir. Amir hurried to Chitral, and demanded recognition from
Lieutenant Gurdon; who was, at the time, acting as assistant
British agent. He replied that he had no power to grant
recognition, until he was instructed by the government in India.
Amir thereupon stopped his letters, and for a long time he was in
imminent danger, as he had only an escort of eight Sikhs.

On the 8th of January, fifty men of the 14th Sikhs marched down
from Mastuj and, on the 1st of February, Mr. Robertson, the British
agent, arrived from Gilgit. He had with him an escort of two
hundred and eighty men of the 4th Kashmir Rifles, and thirty-three
Sikhs; and was accompanied by three European officers. When he
arrived he heard that Umra Khan had, at the invitation of Amir,
marched into Chitral; but that his progress had been barred by the
strong fort of Drosh. As the Chitralis hate the Pathans, they were
not inclined to yield to the orders of Amir to surrender the fort,
and were consequently attacked. The place, however, was surrendered
by the treachery of the governor. Amir then advanced, and was
joined by Sher Afzul.

Mr. Robertson wrote to Amir Khan, saying that he must leave the
Chitral territory. Amir paid no attention to the order, and Mr.
Robertson reported this to the government of India. They issued, in
March, 1895, a proclamation warning the Chitralis to abstain from
giving assistance to Amir Khan, and intimating that a force
sufficient to overcome all resistance was being assembled; but that
as soon as it had attained its object, it would be withdrawn.

The Chitralis, who now preferred Sher Afzul to Amir, made common
cause with the former. Mr. Robertson learned that men were already
at work, breaking up the road between Chitral and Mastuj; and
accordingly moved from the house he had occupied to the fort, which
was large enough to receive the force with him.

On the 1st of March, all communications between Mr. Robertson and
Mastuj had ceased; and troops were at once ordered to assemble, to
march to his relief. It was clearly impossible for our agent to
retire as, in order to do so, he would have to negotiate several
terrible passes, where a mere handful of men could destroy a
regiment. Thus it was that the Pioneers had been ordered to break
up their cantonment, and advance with all speed to Gilgit.

Hostilities had already begun. A native officer had started, with
forty men and sixty boxes of ammunition, for Chitral; and had
reached Buni, when he received information that his advance was
likely to be opposed. He accordingly halted and wrote to Lieutenant
Moberley, special duty officer with the Kashmir troops in Mastuj.
The local men reported to Moberley that no hostile attack upon the
troops was at all likely but, as there was a spirit of unrest in
the air, he wrote to Captain Ross, who was with Lieutenant Jones,
and requested him to make a double march into Mastuj. This Captain
Ross did and, on the evening of the 4th of March, started to
reinforce the little body of men that was blocked at Buni.

On the same day a party of sappers and miners, under Lieutenants
Fowler and Edwards, also marched forward to Mastuj. When Captain
Ross arrived at Buni he found that all was quiet, and he therefore
returned to Mastuj, with news to that effect. The party of sappers
were to march, the next morning, with the ammunition escort.

On the evening of that day a note was received from Lieutenant
Edwards, dated from a small village two miles beyond Buni, saying
that he heard that he was to be attacked in a defile, a short
distance away. He started with a force of ninety-six men, in all.
They carried with them nine days' rations, and one hundred and
forty rounds of ammunition.

Captain Ross at once marched for Buni, and arrived there the same
evening. Here he left a young native officer and thirty-three rank
and file while, with Lieutenant Jones and the rest of his little
force, he marched for Reshun, where Lieutenant Edwards' party were
detained. They halted in the middle of the day; and arrived, at one
o'clock, at a hamlet halfway to Reshun.

Shortly after starting, they were attacked. Lieutenant Jones, one
of the few survivors of the party, handed in the following report
of this bad business.

"Half a mile after leaving Koragh the road enters a narrow defile.
The hills on the left bank consist of a succession of large stone
shoots, with precipitous spurs in between. The road at the entrance
to the defile, for about one hundred yards, runs quite close to the
river; after that it lies along a narrow maidan, some thirty or
forty yards in width, and is on the top of the river bank, which is
here a cliff. This continues for about half a mile, then it ascends
a steep spur.

"When the advanced party reached about halfway up this spur, it was
fired on from a sangar which had been built across the road and, at
the same time, men appeared on all the mountain tops and ridges,
and stones were rolled down all the shoots. Captain Ross, who was
with the advanced guard, fell back on the main body. All the
coolies dropped their loads and bolted, as soon as the first shot
was fired. Captain Ross, after looking at the enemy's position,
decided to fall back upon Koragh; as it would have been useless to
go on to Reshun, leaving an enemy in such a position behind us."

Captain Ross ordered Lieutenant Jones to fall back with ten men,
seize the lower end of the defile, and cover the retreat. No fewer
than eight of his men were wounded, as he fell back. Captain Ross,
on hearing this, ordered him to return, and the whole party took
refuge in two caves, it being the intention of their commander to
wait there until the moon rose, and then try to force his way out.

But when they started, they were assailed from above with such a
torrent of rocks that they again retired to the caves. They then
made an attempt to get to the top of the mountain, but their way
was barred by a precipice; and they once more went back to the
cave, where they remained all the next day.

It was then decided to make an attempt to cut their way out. They
started at two in the morning. The enemy at once opened fire, and
many were killed, among them Captain Ross himself. Lieutenant Jones
with seventeen men reached the little maidan, and there remained
for some minutes, keeping up a heavy fire on the enemy on both
banks of the river, in order to help more men to get through.

Twice the enemy attempted to charge, but each time retired with
heavy loss. Lieutenant Jones then again fell back, two of his party
having been killed and one mortally wounded, and the lieutenant and
nine sepoys wounded. When they reached Buni they prepared a house
for defence, and remained there for seven days until reinforcements
came up.

In the meantime the 20th Bengal Sappers and Miners, and the 42nd
Kashmir Infantry had gone on, beyond the point where Captain Ross's
detachment had been all but annihilated, and reached Reshun; and
Lieutenants Edwards and Fowler, with the Bengal Sappers and ten
Kashmir Infantry, went on to repair a break in the road, a few
miles beyond that place. They took every precaution to guard
against surprise. Lieutenant Fowler was sent to scale the heights
on the left bank, so as to be able to look down into some sangars
on the opposite side. With some difficulty, he found a way up the
hillside. When he was examining the opposite cliff a shot was
fired, and about two hundred men rushed out from the village and
entered the sangars.

As Fowler was well above them, he kept up a heavy fire, and did
great execution. The enemy, however, began to ascend the hills, and
some appeared above him and began rolling down stones and firing
into his party. Fowler himself was wounded in the back, a corporal
was killed, and two other men wounded. He managed, however, to
effect his retreat, and joined the main body.

As the enemy were now swarming on the hills, the party began to
fall back to Reshun, which was two miles distant. They had an open
plain to cross and a spur, a thousand feet high, to climb. During
this part of the retreat an officer and several men were wounded
but, on reaching the crest, the party halted and opened a steady
fire upon the enemy; whom they thus managed to keep at a distance
till they reached Reshun, which they did without further loss.

The force here were occupying a sangar they had formed, but so
heavy a fire was opened, from the surrounding hills, that it was
found impossible to hold the position. They therefore retired to
some houses, where firewood and other supplies were found. The only
drawback to this place was that it was more than a hundred yards
from the river, and there was consequently great danger of their
being cut off from the water.

As soon as they reached the houses they began to fortify them. The
roofs were flat and, by piling stones along the edges, they
converted them into sangars. The walls were loopholed, the
entrances blocked up, and passages of communication opened between
the houses. A party of Kashmir volunteers then went down to the
other sangar and brought the wounded in, under a heavy fire.

At sunset the enemy's fire ceased, as it was the month of Ramzam,
during which Mahomedans have to fast all day between sunrise and
sunset. As night came on the little party took their places on the
roofs, and remained there till daylight. By this time all were
greatly exhausted for, during their terrible experiences of the
previous day, they had had no food and little water.

When day dawned half the men were withdrawn from their posts, and a
meal was cooked from the flour that had been found in the houses. A
small ration of meat was also served out. During the day the enemy
kept up a continuous fire but, as they showed no intention of
attacking, the men were allowed to sleep by turns.

After dark Lieutenant Fowler and some volunteers started for the
river, to bring in water. They made two trips, and filled up all
the storage vessels at the disposal of the garrison. The night
passed quietly but, just before dawn, the enemy charged down
through the surrounding houses. Lieutenant Edwards and his party at
once opened fire, at about twenty yards' range. Tom-toms were
beaten furiously, to encourage the assailants; but the tribesmen
could not pluck up courage to make a charge and, at nine o'clock,
they all retired. During the attack four of the sepoys were killed,
and six wounded.

Next night another effort was made to obtain water. Two sangars
were stormed, and most of their occupants killed. The way to the
water was now opened but, at this moment, heavy firing broke out at
the fort; and Lieutenant Fowler, who was in command, recalled his
men and returned to assist the garrison.

On the following day a white flag was hoisted, and an emissary from
Sher Afzul said that all fighting had ceased. An armistice was
accordingly arranged. All this, however, was but a snare for, a few
days later, when the two British officers went out to witness a
polo match, they were seized, bound with ropes, and carried off. At
the same moment a fierce attack was made on a party of sepoys who
had also come out. These fought stoutly, but were overpowered, most
of them being killed.

The garrison of the post, however, under the command of Lieutenant
Gurdon, continued to hold the little fort; and refused all
invitation to come out to parley, after the treachery that had been
shown to their comrades. The two officers were taken to Chitral,
where they were received with kindness by Amir Khan.

The news of this disaster was carried to Peshawar by a native
Mussulman officer, who had been liberated, where it created great
excitement. As all communication with Chitral had ceased, the
assistant British agent at Gilgit called up the Pioneers; who
marched into Gilgit, four hundred strong, on the 20th of March. On
the 21st news was received of the cutting up of Ross's party, and
it was naturally supposed that that of Edwards was also destroyed.

Colonel Kelly of the Pioneers now commanded the troops, and all
civil powers; and Major Borradale commanded the Pioneers. The
available force consisted of the four hundred Pioneers, and the
Guides. Lieutenant Stewart joined them with two guns of the Kashmir
battery.

Two hundred Pioneers and the Guides started on the 23rd. The
gazetteer states that it never rains in Gilgit, but it rained when
the detachment started, and continued to pour for two days. The men
had marched without tents. Colonel Kelly, the doctor, Leward, and a
staff officer followed in the afternoon, and overtook the main body
that evening.

The troops had made up little tents with their waterproof sheets.
Colonel Kelly had a small tent, and the other officers turned in to
a cow shed. The force was so small that the Pioneers asked the
others to mess with them, each man providing himself with his own
knife, fork, and spoon, and the pots being all collected for the
cooking.

The next march was long and, in some places, severe. They were well
received by the natives, whose chiefs always came out to greet them
and, on the third day, reached Gupis, where a fort had been built
by the Kashmir troops. At this point the horses and mules were all
left behind, as the passes were said to be impassable for animals;
and native coolies were hired to carry the baggage.

Lisle had enjoyed the march, and the strange life that he was
leading. He was now quite at home with his company and, by the time
they reached Gupis, had become a general favourite. At the end of
the day, when a meal had been cooked and eaten, he would join in
their songs round the fire and, as he had picked up several he had
heard them sing, and had a fair voice, he was often called upon for
a contribution. His vivacity and good spirits surprised the sepoys
who, as a whole, were grave men, though they bore their hardships
uncomplainingly. He had soon got over the feeling of discomfort of
going about with naked legs, and was as glad as the soldiers,
themselves, to lay aside his uniform and get into native attire.

The sepoys had now regular rations of meat. It was always mutton,
as beef was unobtainable; but it was much relished by the men, who
cut it up into slices and broiled it over a fire.

Not for one moment did Lisle regret the step he had taken. Young
and active, he thoroughly enjoyed the life; and looked forward
eagerly to the time when they should meet the enemy, for no doubt
whatever was now felt that they would meet with a desperate
resistance on their march to Chitral. Fears were entertained,
however, that when they got there, they would find that the
garrison had been overpowered; for it was certain that against this
force the chief attack of the enemy would be directed. The
overthrow of Ross and his party showed that the enemy were sturdy
fighters; and they were known to be armed with breech-loading
rifles, of as good a quality as those carried by the troops.

In the open field all felt that, however numerous the tribesmen
might be, they would stand no chance whatever; but the passes
afforded them immense advantage, and rendered drill and discipline
of little avail.



Chapter 3: The First Fight.


And yet, though he kept up a cheerful appearance, Lisle's heart was
often very heavy. The sight of the British officers continually
recalled his father to his memory. But a short time back he had
been with him, and now he was gone for ever. At times it seemed
almost impossible that it could be so. He had been his constant
companion when off duty; had devoted much time to helping him
forward in his studies; had never, so far as he could remember,
spoken a harsh word to him.

It seemed like a dream, those last hours he had passed by his
father's bedside. Many times he lay awake in the night, his face
wet with tears. But with reveille he would be up, laughing and
joking with the soldiers, and raising a smile even on the face of
the gravest.

It had taken him but a very short time to make himself at home in
the regiment. The men sometimes looked at him with surprise, he was
so different from themselves. They bore their hardships well, but
it was with stern faces and grim determination; while this young
soldier made a joke of them.

Sometimes he was questioned closely, but he always turned the
questions off with a laugh. He had learned the place where his
supposed cousin came from and, while sticking to this, he said that
a good fairy must have presided over his birth; information that
was much more gravely received than given, for the natives have
their superstitions, and believe, as firmly as the inhabitants of
these British islands did, two or three hundred years ago, in the
existence of supernatural beings, good and bad.

"If you have been blessed by a fairy," one of the elder men
suggested, "doubtless you will go through this campaign without
harm. They are very powerful, some of these good people, and can
bestow long life as well as other gifts."

"I don't know whether she will do that. She certainly gave me high
spirits. I used to believe that what my mother said happened to
her, the night after I was born, was not true, but only a dream.
She solemnly declared that it was not, but I have always been
famous for good spirits; and she may have been right, after all."

There was nothing Lisle liked better than being on night picket
duty. Other men shirked it, but to him there was something
delightful to stand there almost alone, rifle in hand, watching the
expanse of snow for a moving figure. There was a charm in the dead
silence. He liked to think quietly of the past and, somehow, he
could do so far better, while engaged on this duty, than when lying
awake in his little tent. The expanse and stillness calmed him, and
agreed far more with his mood than the camp.

His sight was keen, even when his thoughts were farthest away and,
three times, he sent a bullet through a lurking Pathan who was
crawling up towards him, astonishing his comrades by the accuracy
of his aim.

"I suppose," he said, when congratulated upon the third occasion on
which he had laid one of the enemy low, "that the good fairy must
have given me a quick eye, as well as good spirits."

"It is indeed extraordinary that you, a young recruit, should not
only make out a man whom none of us saw; but that you should, each
time, fetch him down at a distance of three or four hundred yards."

"I used to practice with my father's rifle," he said. "He was very
fond of shikari, and I often went out with him. It needs a keener
sight to put a bullet between the eyes of a tiger, than to hit a
lurking Pathan."

So noted did he become for the accuracy of his aim that one of the
native officers asked him, privately, if he would like to be always
put on night duty.

"I should like it every other night," he said. "By resting every
alternate night, and by snatching a couple of hours' sleep before
going on duty, when we arrive at the end of a day's march in good
time, I can manage very well."

"I will arrange that for you," the officer said. "Certainly, no one
would grudge you the duty."

One night, when there had been but little opposition during the
day, Lisle was posted on a hill where the picket consisted of ten
men; five of whom were on the crest, while the other five lay down
in the snow. The day had been a hard one, and Lisle was less
watchful than usual. It seemed to him that he had not closed his
eyes for a minute, as he leant on his rifle; but it must have been
much longer, for he suddenly started with a feeling that something
was wrong, and saw a number of dark figures advancing along the
crest towards him. He at once fired a shot, and fell back upon the
next sentry. Dropping behind rocks, they answered the fire which
the enemy had already opened upon them.

The whole picket quickly gathered and, for a time, checked the
advance of the enemy; but these were too numerous to be kept at a
distance, and parties of them pressed forward on each flank.

"We must retire till we can find better shelter," the sub-officer
in command said. "We shall soon have reinforcements up from the
camp, when it is seen that we are seriously engaged. Fall back,
men, steadily. Take advantage of every bit of cover, but keep as
well together as possible, without risk."

Firing steadily, they made their way down the hill, and finally
took up a position among a clump of rocks. Two had been shot dead,
and two others were wounded; and it was because these could not be
left behind that the stand was made. The two wounded men, though
partially disabled and unable to crawl, could still use their
rifles; and the little party kept up so hot a fire that, though the
enemy were massed from twenty to thirty yards away, they could not
be brought to unite in a general attack; not even by the shouts and
yells of their comrades behind, and a furious beating of tom-toms.

Illustration: Lisle gives the alarm.

The defenders were all lying down, each of them having chosen a
position where he could see through a crevice between the rocks.
Lisle was lying next to the sergeant. Presently the latter gave an
exclamation, fired his rifle, and shifted his position behind the
rock.

"Mutteh Ghar," he said, "I have seen you bring down three of the
skulking ruffians. Do you see those two there close together, about
forty yards away? There is a man behind them who has just carried
off two of my fingers.

"Keep your eye on those rocks. Just above where they touch each
other there is an opening, through which you can see the snow
behind. That is where he fired from. Oblige me by putting a ball in
his head, when he raises it."

A couple of minutes passed. Lisle was lying with his rifle on the
spot. Presently the opening was obscured, and he fired at once.

"Thank you!" the sergeant said. "You got him, sure enough. The head
did not disappear to one side or to the other, but went straight
back. I fancy that you must have hit him between the eyes."

Presently the enemy's fire became still more furious and, several
times, some of them rose and ran two paces forward, but only to
fall prone under the defenders' fire.

"I expect they see help coming up," Lisle said, "and are making a
last effort to wipe us out before they arrive.

"I think they will try a rush," he continued, in a louder voice;
"see that your magazines are filled up, lads, and don't waste a
shot if they come at us."

A minute later there was a shrill and prolonged cry and, at once,
twenty dark figures burst from their shelter and rushed forward.
The defenders also sprang to their feet, and their rifles flashed
out with a stream of fire. But the vacancies thus caused in the
enemy's ranks were immediately filled.

"Now with your bayonets," the sergeant shouted. "Keep in a close
body, and do you two wounded men cover us with a constant fire."

Then, with a cheer, the six men and the sergeant rushed forward.
Much as the Afridis feared the bayonet, confident in their strength
they withstood the charge. They had, fortunately, emptied their
rifles before rushing forward but, drawing their knives, they
fought fiercely. These, however, were no match for the bayonets
and, consequently, they suffered heavily.

Three of the Pioneers received severe gashes. The group were
brought to a standstill, and they stood in a little circle while
the attack continued. One sepoy was stabbed to the heart by a
fanatic, who rushed at his bayonet and, pushing himself along, fell
dead as he struck his fatal blow.

Things were looking very bad. Scarce one had escaped without a
wound, and the sergeant had dropped, bleeding profusely; when, to
their delight, a volley burst from within fifty yards of them and,
in an instant, their assailants turned and bolted.

After the sergeant had dropped, Lisle had somehow taken his place,
cheering the men on and lending his aid to those most severely
pressed. Once or twice he managed, after despatching an assailant,
to slip a couple of cartridges into his rifle, and so added to the
execution. Indeed, it was in no small account due to his exertions,
after the sergeant fell, that the resistance was maintained.

A minute later, the active little Ghoorkhas rushed forward; and
those who first arrived passed the little knot of defenders with a
cheer, and set off in pursuit of the enemy. Presently, however, one
of their officers came up.

"You have had a stiff fight, lads," he said, "and by the look of
the ground round about, you must have defended yourselves
gallantly; for there are a dozen dead bodies lying near you, and I
can see many more, a little way up the hill. What have been your
losses?"

The sergeant raised himself on his elbow.

"We had two killed, as we came down," he said, "and two others
wounded. I believe one has fallen here, and I think most of us are
wounded with knife thrusts."

"Well, you have done splendidly, sergeant. I will detach men to
help to carry you and the wounded men down to the camp. The others
can accompany them. We shall take up the work, now; but I am afraid
we sha'n't have any fighting, though we may shoot down a few as
they make off. I fancy, however, that the lesson you have given the
beggars has taken all fight out of them."

When half down the hill, they met a party of the Pioneers coming
out. The Ghoorkhas at once handed the wounded over to them, and
started up the hill again. The sergeant had fainted from loss of
blood, and no questions were asked till the injured men were all
placed in little hospital tents, and their wounds attended to. Two
of them had bullet wounds, and three had received knife wounds on
the shoulder or arm. Only Lisle and one other escaped unhurt. As
soon as the wounds had been attended to all, except the sergeant,
and two more seriously wounded than the others, were sent off to
their tents.

One of these was Lisle's tent fellow. He said:

"Mutteh Ghar, I don't know what to say to you. You seem but a lad,
and a light-hearted one; but you have proved yourself the best of
us all. I was lying next to you, and I will swear that you brought
down eight of them with your rifle, before they charged. Even while
I was fighting I always heard your voice, like a trumpet; and after
the sergeant had fallen you seemed to take command, as if it was
your right. You saved my life when you bayoneted two of the three
who were grappling with me, and you seemed to be everywhere."

"I did what little I could," Lisle said. "I certainly did not
intend to take the command, when the sergeant fell; but somehow I
could not help shouting and, as our circle had closed in so, I
slipped out of my place and fought wherever the pressure was
greatest."

"There is no doubt," the soldier said seriously, "that your
mother's statement was a true one, and that a fairy did promise her
to look after you. Out of the eleven of us, only one besides
yourself has escaped without a wound; and yet none of us exposed
himself more than you did. I shall not forget that I owe my life to
you. We must find some other name for you. You can't be called 'the
boy' any longer."

In the morning, one of the colonel's orderlies was told to fetch
Lisle.

"The colonel wishes to see you, Mutteh Ghar."

Lisle put on his uniform with some uneasiness. He was conscious
that, in the excitement of the fight of the night before, he had
frequently shouted in English; and he feared that the sergeant had
reported this. However, he marched to the spot where the colonel
and a group of officers were standing, and then stood at attention.

"Mutteh Ghar," the colonel said, "the sergeant this morning made
his report; and he states that, though all his men behaved
admirably, you distinguished yourself in a singular manner. He says
that before the final attack began you had killed eight or ten of
the Pathans, that you were fighting beside him when he was wounded,
and that you then seemed to take the command. Although lying on the
ground, he was able to see what was going on; and he says that but
for your cheers, and for the manner in which you went to the
assistance of men hard pressed, he is convinced that the whole
detachment would have been killed before the Ghoorkhas arrived."

"I had no idea of assuming the command, sir; but my tongue always
runs fast, and I dare say I did shout, almost unconsciously. I
think the sergeant has made more of my doings than I deserved."

"I don't think it likely. It is no small thing for so young a
soldier to so distinguish himself. The sergeant will not be able to
resume his duties for some time, and I therefore appoint you a
corporal; and shall put your name in orders, today, for very
distinguished service. How long is it since you joined the
regiment?"

"A short time before we marched."

"Well, you have done honour to the corps and, in the name of myself
and my officers, I thank you."

Lisle saluted, and returned to the lines.

"The colonel has made me a corporal," he answered, as the others
gathered round and questioned him.

A cheer burst from them, for his tent companion, and the other men
who had returned, had all spoken in the highest terms of his
conduct. Lisle was quite confused by the heartiness of their
reception.

"He is a wonderfully young fellow," the colonel said, as he left
them. "The sergeant said that he was young, but really he looks
little more than a boy. Curiously, his face reminds me of someone,
though I cannot say whom; and yet, if he only joined a short time
before we marched, it is not likely that I should have noticed him
before."

"It was the same thing with me, colonel," the major said. "I have
noticed him several times on the march and, while the rest of the
regiment were plodding on in silence, he always seemed the centre
of a merry group. I have often said, to myself, I wished we had a
few more men in the regiment who could take the hardships they had
to undergo as lightly and as merrily as he does. His face has also
struck me as being somehow familiar.

"I was speaking to the sergeant about him, and he said that he was
the most popular man in his company, and a general favourite. His
temperament is altogether different from that of the majority of
our soldiers, which is earnest and quiet."

Two or three of the other officers also spoke of noticing the
cheerful influence he seemed to have on the men.

"I must have a talk with him," the colonel said, "after the
campaign is over, and find out something about it. It is quite
evident that his pluck is as great as his cheerfulness, and it is
certainly very extraordinary that a young and recently-joined
soldier should have such an influence with men many years older
than himself. If I am not mistaken, we shall find him in the ranks
of the native officers, before long. Considering his age, and what
he has already done, he may well hope some day, if he escapes being
killed, to be risaldar major of the regiment.

"I should almost fancy that he must be the son of some native of
good family, but without influence to secure him a post as officer;
and that he has run away to endeavour to fight his way up to a
commission."

Henceforth Lisle stood in high regard among his comrades, and was
known as the 'fighting boy' in the regiment. He himself was always
ready to answer to any name by which he was addressed. He had no
desire to push himself forward to any prominence among them, or of
thinking himself any way above his comrades; but naturally he was
pleased at finding himself generally liked. He had come to see the
fighting, and take part in it, and had no thought of distinguishing
himself especially; as he intended to leave the regiment as soon as
the campaign was over, and carry out the plan which his father had
formed for him. He feared to excite the jealousy of his comrades
and, though there were no signs of this, he felt that his promotion
caused some difference in the manner of other men towards him.

This was so marked, indeed, that he could not help thinking that
the men by whose side he had fought had reported to their comrades
that, in the heat of the fight, he had several times shouted in
English; and that there were general suspicions as to his identity.
As long as this was not communicated to the officers it did not
matter; and indeed this was not likely for, if the feeling was
noticed by the native officers, it would soon come to the ears of
Gholam Singh, who would at once order the men to keep silence
concerning it.

Gradually his nickname changed, and he became known among the
sepoys of the regiment as the "young sahib." He protested against
it, but in vain. It was not, however, without its advantages. At
the end of a long march, the men who had brought in firewood always
handed him some. Men would offer to clean his rifle, cook his
dinner, and do other little offices for him. He would, however,
never accept these kind offers.

"Why do they call you sahib?" one of the English officers asked
him, when he heard him so addressed.

"I do not know," he answered. "It is a silly joke of the men. I
have protested against it, without success. If they chose to call
me 'colonel,' I could not help it. I suppose it is because they see
that I am, like the white officers, always cheerful and good
tempered. There is certainly no other reason that I know of."

"The regiment have taken to call Mutteh Ghar 'the young sahib,'"
the officer reported, at mess that day. "I asked him about it, and
he says no doubt it is because he is, like us, always good tempered
and cheerful."

"He is certainly very unlike the others," the major said. "I have
no doubt the men consider it a great compliment, to him, to call
him so."

"Do you know, colonel," one of the subalterns said, "the idea has
struck me that he may be young Bullen, who may have joined the
regiment surreptitiously, instead of going down to Calcutta."

There was silence among the others.

"It can hardly be that, Macdonald," the colonel said, "though it is
certainly curious that we seemed to feel that we knew his face,
when he came up before us. The young scamp could never have played
such an audacious trick upon us."

"I don't know, colonel," the major said, "he is just the sort of
lad that would try such a scheme. I know I have twice seen him
talking with my butler; who was, as you know, Captain Bullen's
servant."

"Well, it may possibly be so," the colonel said, "but at any rate
it is only suspicion, and we had better leave the matter as it
stands. If it is young Bullen, I don't know that he has done a bad
thing for himself. If he goes on as he has begun, his experience
will go a long way towards getting him a commission; and he will be
a great deal better off than if he were grinding up for two years
in England. Such a strong recommendation as I could give him would
be of great value to him and, moreover, he has a claim on the
ground that his father was killed on service.

"At any rate, we must take no action, whatever, at present. It is
no slight thing he has done; that is, if it be he. Few of us would
care to go through this campaign as sepoys--their work is terribly
hard, poor fellows--to say nothing of the unpleasantness of having
to live among the natives. I certainly shall consider that he has
well earned a commission, if he comes through the campaign."

"But he is too young for one," the major said.

"I should not think it necessary to mention his age, in
recommending him," the colonel said. "We know that he is doing a
man's work, manfully. He has earned, as you say, the general liking
of the men; and is a deal better fitted for a commission than half
the fellows they send out to us.

"Well, we may all be mistaken, and he may only be a brave young
fellow of good ancestry; so we will think no more of it, at
present, and we will wait to see how things turn out, before
showing any signs of our suspicions."

Now, however, that the idea had been mooted, the officers, as they
went up and down the line, looked closer at Lisle than they had
hitherto done; and all agreed that, in spite of his uniform and his
colour, he was Captain Bullen's son. Ignorant of their suspicions,
Lisle carried out his work, as usual, as a sub-officer. He shared
the shelter tents of the men, and performed his duties regularly.
He still carried a rifle; and indeed, if this had not been the rule
he would not have accepted his promotion, as he preferred fighting
with a weapon to which he was accustomed.

His work during the day was but little changed. When the regiment
was marching in a column, four abreast, he had his appointed place
by the side of it and, when they arrived in camp, it was part of
his duty to see that the little tents were all pitched, rations
distributed, kits handed over, and the men made as comfortable as
possible. No sub-officer was obeyed with greater alacrity and, when
he returned from his picket in the early morning, he always found
his ration ready cooked for him.

It was impossible for him to help feeling pleased at these signs of
the liking of the men, and he redoubled his efforts to cheer them
on the line of march; and to aid any men who seemed unable to climb
up through the snow, by carrying their rifles and ammunition
pouches for them. He had long since grown accustomed to carrying
weights, and was able to keep up with the most seasoned marchers.

On two or three occasions Gholam Singh was able to report
favourably of his conduct, in thus relieving men of their arms. The
colonel always took these communications in the ordinary way.

"There is no doubt," he said, when the conversation turned on the
subject, "that Gholam Singh must have been an accessory to young
Bullen's plot. I have been looking up the list of the deceased
sepoys, and I find that a recruit of the same name died, two days
before we marched. In some way young Bullen, if it is really the
boy, contrived to take the dead man's place and name. This could
have been very well done, without any of us knowing. None of us
were familiar with the dead man's appearance, and Gholam Singh, and
some of the other native officers, must have arranged that he
should take his place. If this has been the case I shall, of
course, be obliged to speak sharply to the risaldar major; but in
reality I shall not be very angry with him, for he will certainly
have done young Bullen a good turn."

"I am sure it is Bullen," one of the officers said, "for when I came
up suddenly behind him, today, I heard him whistling an English tune.
Of course, it may have been played by the band when we were in camp,
but whistling is not a common Punjabi accomplishment, and I don't
know that I ever heard native boys whistle before. He stopped directly
I came up, but I could make no mistake about the tune; for I hung
behind a little, and was amused at seeing the men marching by him
trying to keep step, while they were over their knees in snow. I
caught a grin on their faces at their failure, though they looked as
grave as usual when they saw me."

"Well, we must let things go on as they are," the colonel said,
"until we get to Chitral. Then we will have him up, and get to the
bottom of the affair. If it turns out to be Bullen, he must at once
leave the ranks and join us again. I shall then have to ask for a
commission for him, and give him temporary rank as junior
lieutenant, until an answer to my recommendation arrives. Even if
it is not Bullen, it may be--unlikely as it seems--some other
Englishman; but in any case, we could not allow an Englishman to be
in the ranks."

"I don't think there is any doubt about it, colonel," the major
said. "I have had a good look at him, several times, and could
almost swear to his identity, well as he is got up."

Lisle pursued the regular course of his work, in happy
unconsciousness that any suspicion as to his identity entered the
minds of his officers. His spirits were now not forced; the
fatiguing marches, the night pickets, and the pressure of his duty
so occupied his thoughts that he had little time to dwell upon his
loss. It was now three months since his father had died, and yet it
seemed to him in the far distance, so much had happened since.
Occasionally he thought with disgust that, when this was all over,
he must return to England to the uncle he had never seen, and
become a schoolboy, spending his days in study; and perhaps, in the
end, fail to pass his examination. He would be a stranger amongst
strangers. He could not expect that his uncle should feel any
particular interest in a lad he had never before seen, and he drew
pictures to himself of the long, friendless interval before, even
at the best, he could again don a uniform.

But upon such thoughts he did not allow himself to dwell. It had to
be done, and he would, he supposed, get through it all right. He
might find friends among the fellows at the same crammer's. At any
rate, three years would soon pass, and he must make the best of it.

"I suppose the crammer will be in London," he said. "Everything
there will be new to me and, no doubt, I shall find it very
interesting. They say that it is an immense place, to which even
the biggest Indian city is but a mere trifle. It will be curious to
see everyone in dark clothes, with none of the gay colouring of
India.

"Father often said that the pleasantest time of his life was the
years he spent in England, while he was cramming for his exam.
There were theatres, and all sorts of other places of amusement. He
had the best of companions and, after they had finished their work,
they were at liberty to do pretty nearly whatever they liked.

"I think I shall get my uncle to send me to the same crammer as
father went to, if he is still alive. I put down his address once,
in my pocketbook, and shall be able to find it again when I get
down to Calcutta, and recover my traps.

"Well, I need not worry myself by thinking of it, now. It will all
come some day, and I dare say I shall find it pleasant enough, when
I once get accustomed to it."

Such thoughts often passed through his mind at night for, during
the day, he had not a minute to himself. He was almost sure, now,
that the men had discovered his identity, by the many little marks
of kindness they had shown him, and by the manner in which his
fellow sub-officers always spoke to him with a certain air of
respect. This, however, did not worry him. He felt certain that
they would keep the secret; and at the end of the campaign he must,
of course, disclose himself and obtain his discharge. Until then,
no one would have time to think much of the matter, still less find
any opportunity of reporting it to Colonel Kelly.

He wondered how the colonel would take it, when he went up to say
who he was. He did not think he would be very seriously angry,
though probably he would wig him sharply. At any rate he had not
done badly, and had brought no discredit to the regiment.

He had unconsciously adopted the regimental belief that he was a
lucky man, and should get through the campaign unhurt. He was
particularly anxious that he should do so as, were he confined in
hospital for a few days, he would have no opportunity of renewing
his stain; in which case he would undoubtedly be detected. They had
advanced so far now, however, that even if he were discovered, they
could hardly send him back before he got to Chitral. He might, of
course, be detained at Reshun, which would be a horrible nuisance.

One night his camp mate said to him:

"You ought to be with the officers, Bullen sahib. It is not right
for you to be working as we do."

"Why do you call me Bullen Sahib, Pertusal?"

"Everyone knows it, sahib. Little by little we nave found you out.
We had some suspicions from the first, but now we are sure of it.
Only your father's son would have fought as you did on the hill
and, when we came to look very closely at you, we all recognized
you, in spite of your dye."

"Then I wish I hadn't fought quite so hard, Pertusal, for I had
hoped that I had altogether escaped recognition. I thought that I
could have gone through the campaign without anyone suspecting who
I was."

"We did not suspect at first, sahib. We quite took you for one of
ourselves. No, the cheerfulness with which you bore your hardships,
and your readiness to assist anyone, surprised us. You were so
different from us all that we could not help wondering who you
were; but I don't think any of us really suspected that you were
Captain Bullen's son, till that fight. I know that when I was busy
fighting, sorely pushed as we were, I wondered when I heard you
shout in English; and I had heard you call out so often, when you
were playing cricket with the officers, that I recognized your
voice at once.

"Then the wonder that we felt about you ceased. It seemed for a
moment impossible, for I had seen you go off with the sick convoy.
Then it seemed to me that it was just the thing that Captain
Bullen's son might be expected to do. You would naturally want to
see fighting, but I did wonder how you managed to come back and get
enlisted into the regiment. I remember, now, that I wondered a
little the first night you joined. You were in uniform and, as a
rule, recruits don't go into uniform for some time after they have
joined. It was therefore remarkable that you should turn up in
uniform, rifle and all."

"It was the uniform of the original Mutteh Ghar," Lisle said. "My
servant had managed to get it; and the story that I was the man's
cousin, and was therefore permitted to take his place, was natural
enough to pass."

"But some of our officers must have helped you, sahib?"

"Well, I won't say anything about that. I did manage to join in the
way I wanted, and you and your comrade were both very kind to me."

"That was natural enough, sahib. You were a young recruit, and we
understood that you were put with us two old soldiers in order that
we might teach you your duty. It was not long, however, before we
found that there was very little teaching necessary for, at the end
of a week, you knew your work as well as any man in the regiment.
We thought you a wonder, but we kept our thoughts to ourselves.

"Now that we know who you are, all the regiment is proud that your
father's son has come among us, and shared our lot down to the
smallest detail. I noticed that you were rather clumsy with your
cooking, but even in that respect you soon learned how things
should be done.

"I suppose, sahib, we shall lose you at the end of the campaign?"

"Yes; I shall have to start for England, at once; for in order to
gain a commission, I must study hard for two or three years. Of
course, I shall then have to declare myself to the officers, in
order to get my discharge. I am afraid that the colonel will be
very angry, but I cannot help that. I am quite sure, however, that
he will let me go, as soon as he knows who I am. It will be rather
fun to see the surprise of the officers."

"I don't think the colonel will be angry, sahib. He might have
been, if you had not done so well; but as it is, he cannot but be
pleased that Captain Bullen's son should have so distinguished
himself, even in the 32nd Pioneers, who have the reputation of
being one of the best fighting regiments in all India."

"Well, I hope so, Pertusal. At any rate, I am extremely glad I
came. I have seen what fighting is, and that under the most severe
conditions. I have proved to myself that I can bear hardships
without flinching; and I shall certainly be proud, all my life,
that I have been one in the column for the relief of Chitral--that
is to say, if we are the first."

"We shall be the first," the soldier said, positively. "It is hard
work enough getting our baggage over the passes; but it will be
harder still for the Peshawar force, encumbered with such a train
as they will have to take with them.

"Ah! Sahib, if only our food were so condensed that we could carry
a supply for twelve days about us, what would we not be able to do?
We could rout the fiercest tribe on the frontier, without
difficulty. We could march about fifteen or twenty miles a day, and
more than that, if necessary. We could do wonders, indeed."

"I am afraid we shall never discover that," Lisle said. "The German
soldiers do indeed carry condensed meat in sausages, and can take
three or four days' supplies with them; but we have not yet
discovered anything like food of which men could carry twelve days'
supply. We may some day be able to do it but, even if it weighed
but a pound a day, it would add heavily to the load to be carried."

"No one would mind that," Pertusal said. "Think what a comfort it
would be, if we could make our breakfast before starting, eat a
little in the middle of the day, and be sure of supper directly we
got into camp; instead of having to wait hours and hours, and
perhaps till the next morning, before the baggage train arrived. I
would willingly carry double my present load, if I felt sure that I
would gain that advantage. I know that the officers have tins of
condensed milk, one of which can make more than a gallon; and that
they carry cocoa, and other things, of which a little goes a long
way. Now, if they could condense rice and ghee like that, we should
be able to carry all that is necessary with us for twelve days.
Mutton we could always get on a campaign, for the enemy's flocks
are at our disposal; and it must be a bare place, indeed, where we
could not find enough meat to keep us going. It is against our
religion to eat beef, but few of us would hesitate to do so, on a
campaign; and oxen are even more common than sheep.

"It is very little baggage we should have to take with us, then.
Twenty ponies would carry sufficient for the regiment; and if
government did but buy us good mules, we could always rely upon
getting them into camp before dark. See what an advantage that
would be! Ten men would do for the escort; whereas, at present, a
hundred is not sufficient."

"Well, I wish it could be so," Lisle said. "But although some
articles of food might be compressed, I don't think we should ever
be able to compress rice or ghee. A handful of rice, when it is
boiled, makes enough for a meal; and I don't imagine that it could
possibly be condensed more than that."

"Well, it is getting late, and we march at daylight. Fortunately we
have not to undress, but have only to turn in as we are."



Chapter 4: In The Passes


The march after leaving Dahimol was a short one. Here they were met
by the governor of the upper parts of the valley, and he gave them
very useful details of the state of parties in Chitral, and of the
roads they would have to follow. He accompanied the force on the
next day's march, and billeted all the troops in the villages; for
which they were thankful enough, for they were now getting pretty
high up in the hills, and the nights were decidedly cold.

They were now crossing a serious pass, and had reached the snow
line; and the troops put on the goggles they had brought with them
to protect their eyes from the dazzling glare of the snow. At two
o'clock they reached the post at Ghizr, which was held by a body of
Kashmir sappers and miners. The place had been fortified, and
surrounded by a strong zereba. The troops were billeted in the
neighbouring houses, and they halted for a day, in order to allow
the second detachment of the Pioneers and the guns to come up.
Here, also, they were joined by a hundred men of the native levies.

When they prepared for the start, the next morning, they found that
a hundred of the coolies had bolted during the night. Two officers
were despatched to find and fetch them back. Fifty were fortunately
discovered, in a village not far off, and with these and some
country ponies the force started. They passed up the valley and
came upon a narrow plain. Here the snow was waist deep, and the men
were forced to move in single file, the leaders changing places
every hundred yards or so.

At last they came to a stop. The gun mules sank to their girths in
the snow and, even then, were unable to obtain a footing. Men were
sent out to try the depth of the snow on both sides of the valley,
but they found no improvement. Obviously it was absolutely
impossible for the mules and ponies to get farther over the snow,
in its present state. It was already three o'clock in the
afternoon, and only eight miles had been covered. The force
therefore retired to the last village in the valley. Two hundred
Pioneers under Borradaile, the sappers, and the Hunza levies were
left here, with all the coolie transport.

Borradaile's orders were to force his way across the pass, next
day; and entrench himself at Laspur, the first village on the other
side. He was then to send back the coolies, in order that the
remainder of the force might follow. With immense trouble and
difficulty, the kits of the party that were to proceed were sorted
out from the rest, the ammunition was divided and, at seven
o'clock, the troops who were to return to Ghizr started on their
cold march. They reached their destination after having been on
foot some fifteen hours.

Lisle was with the advance party. They were all told off to houses
in the little village. Fires were lighted and the weary men cooked
their food and, huddling close together, and keeping the fires
alight, slept in some sort of comfort. Next morning at daybreak
they turned out and found, to their disgust, that the snow was
coming down heavily, and that the difficulties would be even
greater than on the previous day. Borradaile therefore sent back
one of the levies, with a letter saying that it was impossible to
advance; but that if the sky cleared, he would start on the
following morning.

The Kashmir troops at Ghizr volunteered to go forward, and make a
rush through the snow; and Stewart and his lieutenant, Gough, set
out with fifty of them, taking with them half a dozen sledges that
had been made out of boxes. On arriving at Tern, Stewart found
fodder enough for the mules, and begged that the guns might be sent
up. Borradaile had started early; and Stewart with the fifty
Kashmir troops followed, staggering along dragging the guns and
ammunition. The snow had ceased, but there was a bitter wind, and
the glare from the newly-fallen snow was terrible.

The guns, wheels, and ammunition had been told off to different
squads, who were relieved every fifty yards. In spite of the cold,
the men were pouring with perspiration. At one point in the march a
stream had to be crossed. This was done only with great difficulty,
and the rear guard did not reach the camping ground, at the mouth
of the Shandur Pass, until eleven at night; and even then the guns
had to be left a mile behind. Then the weary men had to cut fuel to
light fires. Many of them were too exhausted to attempt to cook
food, and at once went to sleep round the fires.

Early the next morning, the Pioneers and levies started to cross
the pass. The Kashmir men brought up the guns into camp but, though
the distance was short, the work took them the best part of the
day. The march was not more than ten miles; but Borradaile's party,
though they left Langar at daylight, did not reach Laspur till
seven o'clock at night. The slope over the pass was a gradual one,
and it was the depth of the snow, alone, that caused so much delay.
The men suffered greatly from thirst, but refused to eat the snow,
having a fixed belief that, if they did so, it would bring on
violent illness.

On arriving at the top of the pass, the Hunza levies skirmished
ahead. So unexpected was their arrival that the inhabitants of the
village were all caught and, naturally, they expressed their
extreme delight at this visit, and said that they would be glad to
help us in any way. They were taken at their word, and sent back to
bring up the guns. Their surprise was not feigned, for the
Chitralis were convinced that it would be impossible to cross the
pass, and letters were found stating that the British force was
lying at Ghizr.

The feat, indeed, was a splendid one. Some two hundred and fifty
men, Hindoos and Mussulmans had, at the worst time of the year,
brought two mountain guns, with their carriages and ammunition,
across a pass which was blocked for some twenty miles by deep, soft
snow; at the same time carrying their own rifles, eighty rounds of
ammunition, and heavy sheepskin coats. They had slept for two
nights on the snow and, from dawn till dark, had been at work to
the waist at every step, suffering acutely from the blinding glare
and the bitter wind. Stewart and Gough had both taken their turns
in carrying the guns, and both gave their snow glasses to sepoys
who were without them.

Borradaile's first step was to put the place in a state of defence,
and collect supplies and coolies. In the evening the guns were
brought in by the Kashmir troops, who were loudly cheered by the
Pioneers.

Lisle had borne his share in the hardships and had done so bravely,
making light of the difficulties and cheering his comrades by his
jokes. He had escaped the thirst which had been felt by so many,
and was one of those who volunteered to assist in erecting
defences, on the evening of their arrival at Laspur.

At two o'clock the next day, the rest of the force came into camp.
A reconnoitring party went out and, three miles ahead, came upon
the campfires of the enemy. They were seen, three miles farther
down the valley, engaged in building sangars; but as the force
consisted of only one hundred and fifty men, it was not thought
advisable to attack, and the troops consequently returned to camp.

The next day was spent in making all the arrangements for the
advance. Messengers were sent out to all the villages, calling on
the men to come in and make their submission. This they did, at the
same time bringing in supplies and, by night, a sufficient number
of native coolies had been secured to carry all the baggage,
including ammunition and guns.

A native chief came in with a levy of ninety native coolies. These
were found most valuable, both in the work and in obtaining
information. From their knowledge of the habits of the people, they
were able to discover where the natives had hidden their supplies;
which was generally in the most unlikely places.

The reconnoitring party had found that, some six miles on, the snow
ceased; and all looked forward with delight to the change. A small
garrison of about a hundred, principally levies, were left at
Laspur; with instructions to come on when the second party arrived.
The main force started at nine o'clock.

At Rahman the snow was left behind. Here they learned that the
enemy would certainly fight, between the next village and Mastuj.
Lieutenant Beynon went on with a party of levies and gained a hill,
from which he could view the whole of the enemy's position. Here he
could, with the aid of his glasses, count the men in each sangar,
and make out the paths leading up the cliffs from the river. When
he had concluded his observations, he returned and reported to
Colonel Kelly; and orders were issued for the attack, the next day.

The levies were expected to join the next morning. They were to
advance with a guide, and turn out the enemy from the top of a
dangerous shoot; from which they would be enabled to hurl down
rocks upon the main body, as it advanced. Beynon was to start, at
six, to work through the hills to the right rear of the enemy's
position. The main body were to move forward at nine o'clock.

Beynon encountered enormous difficulties and, in many places, he
and his men had to go on all fours to get along. He succeeded,
however, in driving off the enemy; who occupied a number of sangars
on the hills, and who could have greatly harassed the main body by
rolling down rocks upon them.

The enemy's principal position consisted of sangars blocking the
roads to the river, up to a fan-shaped alluvial piece of ground.
The road led across this ground to the foot of a steep shoot,
within five hundred yards of sangars on the opposite side of the
river and, as it was totally devoid of any sort of shelter, it
could be swept by avalanches of stones, by a few men placed on the
heights for the purpose.

When the troops arrived within eight hundred yards, volley firing
was opened; and the guns threw shells on the sangar on the extreme
right of the enemy's position. The enemy were soon seen leaving it,
and the fire was then directed on the next place, with the same
result. Meanwhile Beynon had driven down those of the enemy who
were posted on the hill; and general panic set in, the guns pouring
shrapnel into them until they were beyond range.

The action was over in an hour after the firing of the first shot.
The losses on our side were only one man severely, and three
slightly wounded. After a short rest, the force again proceeded,
and halted at a small village a mile and a half in advance. A ford
was found, and the column again started. Presently they met a
portion of the garrison who, finding the besieging force moving
away, came out to see the reason.

In the meantime, the baggage column was being fiercely attacked;
and an officer rode up, with the order that the 4th company were to
go back to their assistance. The company was standing in reserve,
eager to go forward to join in the fight and, without delay, they
now went off at the double.

They were badly wanted. The baggage was struggling up the last
kotal that the troops had passed, and the rear guard were engaged
in a fierce fight with a great number of the enemy; some of whom
were posted on a rise, while others came down so boldly that the
struggle was sometimes hand to hand. When the 4th company reached
the scene, they were at once scattered along the line of baggage.

For a time the enemy fell back but, seeing that the reinforcement
was not a strong one, they were emboldened to attack again. Their
assaults were repulsed with loss, but the column suffered severely
from the fire on the heights.

"We must stop here," the officer in command said, "or we shall not
get the baggage through before nightfall; and then they would have
us pretty well at their mercy. The Punjabis must go up and clear
the enemy off the hill, till the baggage has got through."

The Punjabis were soon gathered and, led by an English officer,
they advanced up the hill at a running pace, until they came to a
point so precipitous that they were sheltered from the enemy's
fire. Here they were halted for a couple of minutes to gain breath,
and then the order was given to climb the precipitous hill, which
was some seventy feet high.

It was desperate work, for there were points so steep that the men
were obliged to help each other up. Happily they were in shelter
until they got to within twenty feet of its summit, the intervening
distance being a steep slope. At this point they waited until the
whole party had come up; and then, with a cheer, dashed up the
slope.

The effect was instantaneous. The enemy, though outnumbering them
by five to one, could not for a moment withstand the line of
glittering bayonets; and fled precipitately, receiving volley after
volley from the Pioneers. As the situation was commanded by still
higher slopes, the men were at once ordered to form a breastwork,
from the stones that were lying about thickly. After a quarter of
an hour's severe work, this was raised to a height of three feet,
which was sufficient to enable the men to lie down in safety.

By the time the work was done, the enemy were again firing heavily,
at a distance of four hundred yards, their bullets pattering
against the stones. The Punjabis, however, did not return the fire
but, turning round, directed their attention to the enemy on the
other side of the valley, who were also in considerable force.

Illustration: He carefully aimed and fired.

"Here!" the officer said to Lisle, "do you think you can pick off
that fellow in the white burnoose? He is evidently an important
leader, and it is through his efforts that the enemy continues to
make such fierce attacks."

"I will try, sir," Lisle replied in Punjabi; "but I take it that
the range must be from nine hundred to a thousand yards, which is a
long distance for a shot at a single man."

Lying down at full length, he carefully aimed and fired. The
officer was watching through his field glass.

"That was a good shot," he said. "You missed the man, but you
killed a fellow closely following him. Lower your back sight a
trifle, and try again."

The next shot also missed, but the third was correctly aimed, and
the Pathan dropped to the ground. Some of his men at once carried
off his body. His fall created much dismay; and as, at that moment,
the whole of the Punjabis began to pepper his followers with volley
firing, they lost heart and quickly retired up the hill.

"Put up your sights to twelve hundred yards," the officer said.
"You must drive them higher up, if you can; for they do us as much
harm, firing from there, as they would lower down. Fire
independently. Don't hurry, but take good aim.

"That was a fine shot of yours, Mutteh Ghar," he said to Lisle, by
whose side he was still standing; for they had gone so far down the
slope that they were sheltered from the fire behind. "But for his
fall, the baggage guard would have had to fight hard, for he was
evidently inciting his men to make a combined rush. His fall,
however, took the steam out of them altogether. How came you to be
such a good shot?"

"My father was fond of shooting," Lisle said, "and I used often to
go out with him."

"Well, you benefited by his teaching, anyhow," the officer said. "I
doubt if there is any man in the regiment who could have picked off
that fellow, at such a distance, in three shots. That has really
been the turning point of the day.

"See, the baggage is moving on again. In another hour they will be
all through.

"Now, lads, turn your attention to those fellows on the hill
behind. As we have not been firing at them for some time, they will
probably think we are short of ammunition. Let us show them that
our pouches are still pretty full! We must drive them farther away
for, if we do not, we shall get it hot when we go down to join the
rear guard. Begin with a volley, and then continue with independent
firing, at four hundred yards."

The tribesmen were standing up against the skyline.

"Now, be careful. At this distance, everyone ought to bring down
his man."

Although that was not accomplished, a number of men were seen to
fall, and the rest retired out of sight. Presently heads appeared,
as the more resolute crawled back to the edge of the crest; and a
regular duel now ensued. Four hundred yards is a short range with a
Martini rifle, and it was not long before the Punjabis proved that
they were at least as good shots as the tribesmen. They had the
advantage, too, of the breastwork behind which to load, and had
only to lift their heads to fire; whereas the Pathans were obliged
to load as they lay.

Presently the firing ceased, but the many black heads dotting the
edge of the crest testified to the accurate aim of the troops. The
tribesmen, seeing that their friends on the other side of the
valley had withdrawn, and finding that their own fire did not avail
to drive their assailants back, had at last moved off.

For half an hour the Pioneers lay, watching the progress of the
baggage and, when the last animal was seen to pass, they retired,
taking up their position behind the rear guard. The column arrived
in camp just as night fell.

"That young Bullen can shoot," the officer who commanded the
company said, that evening, as the officers gathered round their
fire. "When, as I told you, we had driven off the fellows on the
right of the valley, things were looking bad on the left, where a
chief in a white burnoose was working up a strong force to make a
rush. I put young Bullen on to pick him off. The range was about
nine hundred and fifty yards. His first shot went behind the chief.
I did not see where the next shot struck, but I have no doubt it
was close to him. Anyhow, the third rolled him over. I call that
splendid shooting, especially as it was from a height, which makes
it much more difficult to judge distance.

"The chief's fall took all the pluck out of the tribesmen and, as
we opened upon them in volleys, they soon went to the right about.
We peppered them all the way up the hill and, as I could see from
my glasses, killed a good many of them. However, it took all the
fight out of them, and they made no fresh attempt to harass the
column."

"The young fellow was a first-rate shot," the colonel said. "If you
remember he carried off several prizes, and certainly shot better
than most of us; though there were one or two of the men who were
his match. You did not speak to him in English, I hope, Villiers?"

"No, no, colonel. You said that he was to go on as if we did not
know him, till we reached Chitral; and of course spoke to him in
Punjabi.

"One thing is certain: if he had not brought down that chief, the
enemy would have been among the baggage in a minute or two; so his
shot was really the turning point of the fight."

"I will make him a present of twenty rupees, in the morning," the
colonel said. "That is what I should have given to any sepoy who
made so useful a shot, and it will be rather fun to see how he
takes it."

"You will see he will take it without winking," the major said. "He
will know very well that any hesitation would be noticed, and he
will take it as calmly as if he were a native."

Accordingly the next morning, as the regiment fell in, the colonel
called Lisle out from the ranks.

"Mutteh Ghar," he said, "Lieutenant Villiers reports that you did
great service, yesterday, in picking off the leader of the Pathans
who were attacking the column from the left. Here are twenty
rupees, as a token of my satisfaction."

Lisle did not hesitate for a moment, but took off his turban, and
held it out for the colonel to drop the money into it; murmuring
his thanks as he did so. Then he put on his turban again, saluted,
and retired.

"I told you he would not hesitate, colonel," the major laughed.
"The young beggar was as cool as a cucumber, and I doubt if we
should catch him napping, however much we tried."

"He is a fine young fellow, major, and will make a splendid
officer. I shall be disappointed, indeed, if I fail to get him a
commission."

"I don't think you are likely to fail, colonel. The young fellow
has really distinguished himself greatly. Even without that, the
fact that he enlisted to go through the campaign, and took his
share with the troops both in their fighting and their hardships,
would show that he really deserved a commission; even putting aside
the fact of his father's death. It would be a thousand pities if
such a promising young fellow should have to waste the next three
years of his life, cramming up classics and mathematics. It would
be like putting a young thoroughbred into a cart."

"That is so," the colonel said; "but there is no answering for the
War Office, or saying what view they may take of any given subject.
However, if we get first to Chitral, as I feel sure we shall do, I
suppose I shall be in high favour; and they won't like to refuse so
small a request, backed as it is by the facts of the case."

At half-past five the force marched into Mastuj, and found the
garrison comfortably settled there, and well fed. The fort was a
square building, with a tower at each corner and at the gateway.
Late in the evening the baggage came in. The enemy had made no
serious attack upon the place; and Moberley, who was in command,
had even been able to send a force to Buni, whence they brought off
Jones and the survivors of Ross's force.

The next day a fatigue party were sent out to destroy the enemy's
sangars and, on the same day, the remaining half of the Pioneers
came up. The day was spent by those in the fort in examining the
state of supplies; and despatching messengers to all the villages
round ordering them to send in supplies, and coolies to carry the
baggage.

On the morning of the 1st of April, Beynon was sent on to
reconnoitre the enemy's position; and returned with the report that
it was a strong one. They had got very close to it, and had a fair
view of the position. Next morning the force started, the levies
being ahead. It was a fine, bright morning. They crossed the river
on a bridge built by the sappers.

Whe they reached the maidan, they found that it was a gentle,
grassy slope. The levies were in advance, with two companies in the
firing line, two in support, and the Kashmir company in reserve In
this order they pushed on, until they came under the fire of the
sangars. Stewart brought his guns into action. After a time, the
fire of the levies drove the enemy from the nearest sangar; while
three of the Pioneer companies paid attention to another sangar.

Beynon was sent on, to find some way down into the valley. He found
no path leading to the nullah. The drop from the edge was sheer,
for some seventy feet; then came a ledge from which he thought they
could scramble down to the edge of the stream, and thence to the
opposite side, where he noticed a track. With this information, he
went back to report to Colonel Kelly.

The sappers were brought up and, also, a reserve company of Kashmir
troops. When Beynon got back to the nullah, he found the Pioneers
extended along the edge, and Oldham's sappers already at work.
These, aided by ropes and scaling ladders, got down to the ledge;
and from this point they and Oldham slung themselves down to the
bed of the stream, by the same means. A few sappers had followed,
when a box of dynamite exploded with a violent detonation, and the
rest of the company were called back.

Lisle happened to be stationed at the point where the descent was
made, and when the explosion took place he seized the rope and,
sliding down, joined the two officers and the eleven sappers who
had passed. They scrambled to the opposite side, and saw that the
Pioneers were moving down the nullah towards the river, while the
levies were nearing the sangars. The enemy were seen bolting, and
the little party opened fire upon them. The sappers were armed only
with carbines, which were uncertain at so long a range; but Lisle,
with his rifle, brought down an enemy at every shot.

"That is a good one," he muttered, as a mounted officer at whom he
had aimed fell from his horse.

He was startled when the man behind him said:

"Hillo, young fellow, who on earth are you?

"I will tell you after it is done, sir," Lisle said. "But I hope
you will keep my secret."

Some of the levies and a few Pioneers now came up, and they learned
what had been the cause of the explosion. The Kashmir company had
not followed and, as the sappers were at work, they had laid down
cakes of dynamite at the head of the pass. One of the enemy's
bullets striking these had ignited them, and the troops there were
called upon to retire. The enemy, seeing our men falling back,
rushed out of their sangars and opened fire; but were speedily
driven in again by volleys from the Pioneers. Just then the levies
showed on the ridge, and the Pioneers moved down the nullah, by a
goat track they had found.

The battle was now over, and a company of Pioneers were sent ahead
to the next village, while the rest of the force encamped. When all
were settled down, Lisle saw Lieutenant Moberley walking along the
lines of the regiment, and evidently looking for someone. Lisle
hesitated a minute. If he remained quiet he might not be recognized
by the officer, but in that case the latter might report what he
had heard, and an investigation might be made. He therefore went
forward to the officer.

"Ah!" the latter said, "you are the man I heard speak in English."

"It was very foolish, sir, but I had no idea that I should be
overheard."

"Well, who are you, and how in the world is it that you are a
private in the Pioneers?"

"My father was Captain Bullen, who was killed in a native raid. I
remained with the regiment for a time, because there was no
opportunity of my being sent home. I wanted to see the campaign, so
I took the place of a sepoy who had died and, as I speak the
language perfectly, it has never been suspected that I was anything
but what I seem."

"Well, lad, I will keep your secret for a time, but when we get to
Chitral I think it will be my duty to tell the colonel; especially
as I shall report that you were with me, and behaved with the
greatest coolness, accounting for at least eight of the enemy. The
campaign will be over, then, for we know that the Peshawar column
are also near Chitral, so that there will be no chance of further
fighting.

"I don't suppose you will be sent home. You have shown yourself a
man, and I have no doubt that Colonel Kelly will make some mention
in his report of your conduct, and strongly recommend you for a
commission. In the circumstances, I should think it would be
granted."

"Thank you indeed, sir! I am very comfortable as I am."

"How old are you?

"I am nearly sixteen, sir."

"Well, it won't be necessary to report that, for the people at home
would consider you too young. I am sure you deserve a commission
for the pluck you showed, in taking your place as a private among
the natives. Your knowledge of the language, too, will be an
argument in your favour.

"How was it that you joined our little party?"

"I acted on the impulse of the moment. I happened to be at the spot
when your party were going down, and I saw that you would soon be
in the thick of it, while we were only firing. I was just thinking
about it, when there was a great burst of flame behind me. I did
not know what it was, but that decided me. I caught hold of the
rope and slipped down.

"Thank you very much for your promise, sir," and, saluting, Lisle
drew back to his comrades.

"What was he saying to you?" one asked.

"He was asking how it was that I came to be among his party; and
when I explained how it was that I left my place, he seemed
perfectly satisfied; so I don't expect I shall hear anything more
about it."

On the first day's march they came upon a deserted fort, where
enough grain was discovered to last the force for months. Enough
flour was also found to give a shovelful to each of the coolies;
who were highly gratified, for most of them were altogether without
food. The remainder of the flour was distributed among the sepoys,
and as much grain was taken as carriage could be found for.

The next day's march was through a cultivated country. Six more
marches took them to Chitral. They met with no opposition whatever,
and their greatest trouble was in crossing rivers, the bridges
having been destroyed.

When within a day's march from Chitral, they met a man bearing
letters from the town. It was from Mr. Robertson, saying that Sher
Afzul had fled on the night of the 18th of April; and that on that
night the siege was raised. It also contained a list of the
casualties, to be forwarded to England; the number being a hundred
and four killed and wounded, out of one thousand and seventy
combatants.

The force marched in at noon, the next day; and were received with
great joy by the garrison. They bivouacked round the castle and, on
the following day, the Kashmir garrison came out and camped with
them; rejoicing much at the change from the poisoned atmosphere of
the fort. They were mere walking skeletons.

Some days later the 3rd Brigade under General Gatacre arrived,
followed by General Low and the headquarter staff.

The day after their arrival at Chitral, one of Kelly's orderlies
came into the line and enquired for Mutteh Ghar. A short time
before, Lisle had noticed Gholam Singh leave the colonel's tent;
and guessed that he had been sharply questioned, by the colonel, as
to the name he had gone under in the regiment. He at once followed
the orderly to the tent.

"This is a nice trick you have played us, Lisle," the colonel said,
as he entered. "To think that while we all thought you on your way
down to Calcutta, you were acting as a private in the regiment! It
was very wrong of Gholam Singh to consent to your doing so; but I
was so pleased to know that you were here that I could not bring it
in my heart to blow him up as he deserved. Unquestionably, he acted
from the respect and affection that he felt for your father.

"What put the idea into your head?"

"I had quite made up my mind to go with the regiment, sir; and
should have come as a mule driver or a coolie, if I had not got
into the ranks."

"Well, it is done and cannot be undone. Lieutenant Moberley has
reported most favourably of your conduct in the last fight, and
Gholam Singh says that your conduct as a private has been
excellent. You have become a great favourite with the men, by the
cheerfulness with which you bore the hardships of the march; and
kept up the spirits of the men by your jokes and example.

"But of course, this cannot go on. You must again become one of us
and, on the march down, do officer's duty. I shall not fail to
report the matter, and shall recommend you for a commission. I feel
sure that, as the son of Captain Bullen, and for the services you
have rendered during the campaign, together with your knowledge of
the language, my recommendation will be effective.

"But I don't know what we can do about clothes. We are all
practically in rags, and have only the things that we stand in."

"I have brought a suit with me in my kit, sir; and as we have had
no inspection of kits, since we marched, they have not been
noticed."

"Very well, lad. Put them on, and come back again in an hour. I
will have the other officers of the regiment here. They will, I am
sure, all be heartily glad to see you again.

"I suppose that stain won't get off you, for some time?"

"I don't think it will last over a week, sir; for I have had no
chance of renewing it since our last fight. It is not so dark as it
was, by a good bit; and I had intended to steal away, today, and
renew it."

"We are all so sun burnt, or rather so snow burnt, that you are not
much darker than the rest of us. Well, then, I shall expect you in
an hour. You will, of course, hand over your uniform, rifle, and
accoutrements to the quartermaster sergeant."

"Yes, sir."

Lisle went back to the lines and, taking his kit, went some little
distance out of camp. Here he took off his uniform and put on the
clothes he had worn before starting. He folded the uniform up and
placed it, with his rifle and accoutrements, in a little heap.

Then he went to the tent where Robah's master lived. He had often
spoken to Robah during the march and, waiting till he could catch
his eye, he beckoned to him to come to him. Robah was immensely
surprised at seeing him in his civilian dress, and hurried up to
him.

"I have been found out, Robah, and am to join the officers on the
march down. I am at present a young gentleman at large. You see
that tree up there? At the foot you will find my uniform, rifle,
and accoutrements. I want you to carry them to the quartermaster
sergeant, and tell him to put them in store, as Mutteh Ghar has
left the regiment. Of course, the story will soon be known, but I
don't wish it to get about till I have seen the colonel again. I am
glad to say that he is not angry with me; and has not reprimanded
Gholam Singh, very severely, for aiding me in the matter."

Robah at once started on his mission, and Lisle then went into the
camp, and strolled about until it was time to repair to the
colonel's tent. He found the eight officers of the regiment
gathered there.

"We were not mistaken, gentlemen," the colonel said. "This young
scamp, instead of going down to Calcutta, left the convoy after it
had marched a mile or two. Gholam Singh was in the secret, and had
furnished him with the uniform and rifle of a man who had died, the
day before. He put this on and marched boldly in. The other native
officers of the company were in the secret, and gave out to the men
that this was a new recruit, a cousin of the man we had just lost.

"Under that title he has passed through the campaign; living with
the soldiers, sharing all their hardships; and being, for a time at
least, altogether unsuspected of being aught but what he appeared.
Gholam Singh said that his conduct was excellent; that he was a
great favourite, with the men, for the good humour with which he
bore the hardships. He was with Beynon and Moberley, and showed
great pluck and steadiness in picking off several of the enemy, as
they fled.

"Fortunately, Moberley overheard him mutter to himself in English,
and so the matter came out. Moberley promised to keep silence till
we got here and, this morning, he told the whole story. Of course,
we could not have poor Bullen's son remaining a private in the
Pioneers, and he has joined us under the old conditions. I have
given him the rank of lieutenant, and shall recommend him for a
commission; which I have no doubt he will get, not only as the son
of an officer who had done excellent service, but for the pluck and
enterprise he has shown. His perfect knowledge of Punjabi will
also, of course, count in his favour."

The officers all shook hands cordially with him, and congratulated
him on the manner in which he had carried out his disguise; and he
was at once made a member of the mess. Afterwards, two or three of
them walked with him down to the lines of his company. The men
regarded them with interest, and then burst into a loud cheer.

"That is good," the officer said. "It shows that you like him.
Henceforth he will rank as one of the officers; and I hope you will
all like him, in that capacity, as well as you did when he was one
of yourselves."

They then walked off, leaving the company in a state of excitement.

In the afternoon, at mess, Lisle learned the whole details of the
siege, which had been gathered from the officers of the garrison.
On March 2nd, Mr. Robertson received information that Sher Afzul
had arrived in the valley and, the next day, news came that he was,
with a large following, at a small house in a ravine, about a mile
and a quarter from the fort. Captain Campbell, with two hundred of
the Kashmir Rifles, was sent out to make a reconnaissance. He was
accompanied by Captains Townshend and Baird, and by Surgeon Captain
Whitchurch and Lieutenant Gurdon. The rest were left in the bazaar,
to hold the road.

The enemy, one hundred and fifty strong, were seen on the bare spur
which forms the right bank of the ravine. To test whether or not
they were hostile, a single shot was fired over them. They at once
opened a heavy fire on the party and, at the same time, Captain
Townshend became engaged with some of the enemy who were in hiding
among rocks--evidently in considerable strength. It was
subsequently discovered that, very shortly after Captain Campbell's
party left the fort, and before hostilities began, the enemy had
opened fire on the fort, and had crossed the river.

Captain Baird now advanced across the mouth of the ravine, and
charged up the spur; the enemy retreating before them, firing as
they went. Captain Baird fell, mortally wounded; and Lieutenant
Gurdon, who had carried a message to him, was left in command. The
enemy descended into the ravine and, crossing to the left bank,
took Gurdon in rear.

In the meantime, affairs had not been going well with Captain
Townshend's party. He had advanced within two hundred yards of the
hamlet, keeping his men as well as he could under shelter, and
firing in volleys. The enemy, however, kept on advancing, and
overlapping his force on both flanks. They were well armed and
skilful marksmen, and took shelter in such a marvellous way that
there was nothing for our men to fire at, except a few puffs of
smoke.

Captain Campbell then ordered a charge with the bayonet, to clear
the hamlet. It was gallantly led, by Captain Townshend and two
native officers. The ground being perfectly open, and the fire of
the enemy being steady and continuous, the two native officers and
four sepoys were killed at once.

When they got within forty yards of the village, which was
concealed in a grove of trees, they found that it was a large
place; with a wall, three hundred feet in length, behind which the
enemy were posted in perfect cover. There was nothing for it but to
retreat. Captain Campbell was, at this moment, shot in the knee;
and Captain Townshend assumed the command. Captain Campbell was
carried to the rear, and the force retired in alternate parties.

The retreat, however, was conducted slowly and deliberately; though
the enemy, who came running out, soon overlapped the little
column--some even getting behind it, while groups of fanatic
swordsmen, from time to time, charged furiously down upon it. From
all the hamlets they passed through, a fire was opened upon them by
the Chitralis, those who were supposed to be friendly having gone
over to the other side. So heavy was the fire that, at last,
Townshend ordered his men to double. This they did with great
steadiness; and he was able to rally them, without difficulty, at a
small hamlet, where he found Mr. Robertson encouraging the men he
had brought out. A message was sent to the fort for reinforcements,
and Lieutenant Harley led out fifty of the Sikhs, and covered the
retreat to the fort.

In the meantime Gurdon, with his detachment and Captain Baird, were
still far away on the steep side of the ravine. Dr. Whitchurch, who
had dressed Baird's wound, was sent to take him to the rear; and it
was then that Townshend's party began to retreat and, after fierce
fighting, arrived at the fort, where they found that Whitchurch had
not arrived.

The doctor had with him a handful of sepoys and Kashmir Rifles, and
some stretcher bearers, under the command of a native officer.
Matters had developed so rapidly that, in a very short time, they
were behind Townshend's retreating parties, round which the enemy
were swarming; and when the retirement became a rapid retreat, they
dropped farther behind. Small detached parties soon became aware of
their position, and attacked them. Three men, who were carrying the
stretcher, were killed by successive shots and, when the fourth was
hit, the stretcher could be no longer carried; so Captain Baird was
partly carried, and partly dragged along the ground.

The enemy's fire became so hot that the party were compelled to
make for the river bank. They had to charge, and carry, two or
three stone walls. Once they were completely surrounded, but the
gallant Kashmirs charged the enemy so furiously with rifle and
bayonet that, at last, they made a way through them and reached the
fort, where they had been given up for lost. Thirteen men, in all,
came in; but only seven of these had fought their way through with
Whitchurch; the other sis being fugitives, who had joined him just
before he had reached the fort. Half of Whitchurch's little party
were killed, and Baird had been, again, twice wounded. Whitchurch,
himself, marvellously escaped without a wound. No finer action was
ever performed than that by this little body.

The total casualties of the day were very heavy. Of the hundred and
fifty men actually engaged, twenty non-commissioned officers and
men were killed, and twenty-eight wounded. Of the officers, Captain
Campbell was badly wounded, and Captain Baird died on the following
morning. The two native officers were killed.

The enemy's strength was computed to be from a thousand to twelve
hundred men. Of these, five hundred were Umra Khan's men, who were
armed with Martinis. Many of the others carried Sniders.

The whole of the Chitralis had now joined Sher Afzul, most of them
doubtless being forced to do so, by fear of the consequences that
would ensue should they refuse. The little fort thus stood
isolated, in the midst of a powerful enemy and a hostile
population. The villages stood on higher ground than the fort and,
from all of them, a constant fusillade was kept up on the garrison,
while they were engaged in the difficult work of putting the fort
into a better condition of defence.

The first thing to be done was, of course, to take stock of the
stores; and the next to estimate how many days it would last.
Everyone was put upon half rations, and it was calculated that they
could hold out two and a half months. It was found that they had
two hundred and eighty rounds per man, besides Snider ammunition
for the Kashmir Rifles, and three hundred rounds of Martini
ammunition for the Sikhs.

When the fort was first occupied, it was found that there was an
exposed approach to the river from the water tower, about thirty
yards in width; and a covered way was at once built, going right
down into the water. All through the siege this covered way was the
main object of the enemy's attack; for they knew that, if they
could cut off the water, they could easily reduce the garrison.

An abutment in the south wall of the fort, overlooking the garden,
had been converted into a little bastion. The worst feature of the
fort, however, was the large number of little buildings immediately
outside the walls. These and the walls of the garden were
demolished by moonlight. The stables, which were on the river face
near the water tower, were loopholed; and efforts were made to
loophole the basement walls of the tower, but these had to be
abandoned, as there was a danger of disturbing the foundations.

Among the various ingenious plans hit upon by the besieged, one
proved particularly useful. Loopholes were made in the gun tower; a
wall was built up in the face of the water gate; and fireplaces
were constructed by which the wood, being laid on a slab of stone,
was pushed out some feet from the wall, and could be drawn into the
fort when it was necessary to replenish the fire, without those
attending it being exposed. These fires proved invaluable, when
attacks were made upon dark nights. Projecting, as they did, seven
feet from the wall, they threw it into shadow, so that the enemy
could not see what to fire at; and, at the same time, they lit up
the ground in front brilliantly, so that the defenders could make
out their assailants, and fire with accuracy.

The fort was eighty yards in length. The walls were twenty-five
feet in height, and the five towers fifty feet. It lay in a hollow
in the lowest part of the valley, and was commanded on all sides by
hills, on which the enemy erected numerous sangars. As, from these,
the men moving about inside the fort were clearly visible to the
enemy, barricades of stones had to be erected, along the sides of
the yards, to afford cover to the men as they went to and from
their posts.

On March 5th a letter was received from Umra Khan, stating that the
British troops must leave Chitral at once, and that he would
guarantee them a safe conduct. The offer was, naturally, refused.
Next night the enemy, about two hundred strong, made a determined
effort to fire the water tower. They brought faggots with them and,
in spite of the heavy volleys poured upon them managed, under cover
of the darkness, to creep into the tunnel leading to the water, and
to light a large fire underneath the tower. They were, however,
driven out; and three water carriers went into the tunnel, and put
out the fire. They were just in time, for the flames had taken a
firm hold of the wooden beams.

After this, twenty-five men were always stationed in the tower and,
at night, another picket of twenty-five men were placed in the
covered way leading to the water. The entrance to this, at the
water side, was exposed to the enemy's fire; but a barricade of
stones, with interstices to allow the water to go through, was
built into the river, and formed an efficient screen to the water
bearers.

On the night of the 14th, the enemy again made an attack on the
water bearers, but were repulsed with loss. The water way was,
indeed, a source of constant anxiety. Between it, and the trees at
the northwest corner of the fort, there was a stretch of seventy
yards of sandy beach; lying underneath an overhanging bank, which
entirely covered it from the fire of the fort, so that the enemy
were able to get right up to the water tunnel without exposing
themselves.

On the 15th, Sher Afzul sent in a messenger, to say that a party of
sepoys had been defeated at Reshun, and that an officer was captive
in his camp. The next day a letter was received from Lieutenant
Edwardes. A truce was made for three days and, afterwards, extended
to six; but this came to an end on the 23rd of March, and
hostilities again began.

The prospect was gloomy. The men were beginning to suffer ni health
from their long confinement, the paucity of their rations, and the
terribly insanitary condition of the fort; and they had not heard
of the approach of either Colonel Kelly's force or that under Sir
Robert Low.

During the truce, a union jack had been made, and this was now
hoisted on the flag tower, as a symbol of defiance. This cheered
the spirits of the men and depressed those of the enemy, who began
to see that the task before them was far more serious than they had
hitherto supposed.

Gradually the attacks of the enemy became more feeble and, although
the firing was almost continuous, it seemed as if the assailants
trusted rather to famine, to reduce the fort, than to any exertion
on their part. On April 6th they were very active, making two large
sangars close to the main gate. Near these, and only fifty yards
away from the gun tower, they were also hard at work, all day, in
the summer house to the east of the fort.

The garrison, however, now received the news that a relief force
had already arrived at Mastuj; in consequence of which they were
saved from a further diminution of their scanty rations, which was
already under discussion. The officers were comparatively well off,
as they had plenty of horse flesh; but this the sepoys would not
eat. The supply of ghee, which forms so prominent a part in the
diet of the natives, had already given out; and the sepoys had
nothing but a scanty allowance of flour to maintain life.

The news that the relief party had arrived at Mastuj greatly
cheered the garrison. That relief would come, sooner or later, they
had no doubt; but they had not even hoped that it could be so near.
While, however, the news thus raised the spirits of the defenders,
it at the same time showed their assailants that, unless they
obtained a speedy success, the game would be altogether up.

Before daybreak on the morning of the 7th, a terrific fire was
opened upon the walls. The enemy were evidently in great strength.
In an instant everyone was at his post, and steady volleys were
poured into the darkness, on the garden side of the fort, whence
the chief attack seemed to be coming. Suddenly a strong light was
seen near the gun tower, and it was found that the enemy had heaped
faggots against the walls. These, being constructed partly of wood,
gradually caught fire.

Mr. Robertson, with some of the levies, horse keepers, and
servants, at once set to work to extinguish the flames; but the
conflagration was too much for them. The troops in reserve were
then sent to aid them. The work was dangerous and difficult, the
flames raged fiercely, and the enemy kept up a tremendous fire from
behind the walls of the summer house. Nevertheless the men worked
their hardest, throwing down earth and water on the fire.

Many were wounded at the work. The fire was so fierce that large
holes had to be knocked through the lower stories of the tower,
through which to attack the flames; and it was not until ten
o'clock that the efforts of the besieged were crowned with success,
and all was again quiet. Nothing could have exceeded the bravery
and devotion shown by the native levies, the non-combatants,
officers' servants, water carriers, syces, and even the Chitralis.

Great precautions were taken to prevent similar attempts to fire
any of the towers. Earth was brought up, and water stored. The
water carriers slept with the great leathern bags which they
carried, full; and a special fire picket was organized. When, on
the evening of the 15th, the enemy again tried to fire the gun
tower, they were repulsed without difficulty. On the following
night a determined attack in force was made, on all sides of the
fort; but was defeated with much loss.

The enemy now began to make a great noise, with drums and pipes, in
the summer house. This lasted continuously for several days, and
one of the natives, who was aware that the enemy had started
tunnelling, guessed that this stir might possibly be made to drown
the noise of the mining. Men were put on to listen and, at
midnight, the sentry in the gun tower reported that he heard the
noise and, next morning, the sound was distinctly audible within a
few feet of the tower.

It was evident that there was no time to be lost and, at four
o'clock in the afternoon, Lieutenant Harley and a hundred men
issued from the fort, at the garden gate, and rushed at the summer
house. It was held by forty of the enemy, who fired a volley, and
fled after some sharp hand-to-hand fighting. The head of the mine
was found to be in the summer house, and the tunnel was full of
Chitralis.

Harley stationed his men in the summer house to repel any attack
and, with five sepoys, jumped down into the mine. The Chitralis,
about thirty in number, came swarming out but, after a fierce
fight, they were bayoneted. The mine was then cleared, and
gunpowder placed in position.

Two Chitralis, who had lain quiet at the other end of the tunnel,
tried to make their escape in the turmoil. One of the sepoys fired,
and must have hit a bag of gunpowder; for immediately there was a
violent explosion, and the mine was blown up, from end to end.
Harley was knocked over, and the Sikhs who were with him had their
hair and clothes singed; but none of the party were otherwise hurt.

All this time, the sepoys in the summer house had been subject to a
heavy fusillade from a breastwork, close by, and from the loopholed
walls in the garden; while from all the distant sangars and hills a
continuous fire was opened, the natives evidently believing that
the garrison were making a last and desperate sortie.

The work done, Harley and his men hurried back to the fort, having
been out of it an hour and ten minutes. Of the hundred that went
out twenty-two were hit, nine mortally. In and around the summer
house, thirty-five of the enemy were bayoneted, and a dozen more
shot. That evening the garrison began to drive a couple of counter
mines, to intercept any other mines that the enemy might attempt to
make.

On the 18th the enemy were very quiet and, in the middle of the
night, a man approached the fort and called out that Sher Afzul had
fled, and that the relieving force was near at hand. Lieutenant
Gurdon was sent out to reconnoitre, and he found that the whole
place was deserted. The next afternoon, Colonel Kelly's force
arrived.



Chapter 5: Promoted.


As he was not now in uniform, Lisle kept carefully out of sight
when General Gatacre's force marched in, which it did very shortly
after Colonel Kelly's arrival. This was probably unnecessary
caution for, in addition to Mr. Robertson, there were two or three
other civilians in the garrison; but he was desirous of escaping
observation until General Low, who would arrive next day, should
have heard of his escapade.

At mess, however, several officers of General Gatacre's force dined
with the regiment; who had exerted themselves to the utmost to
provide a banquet for their guests. Most of these had, at one time
or other, been cantoned with the Pioneers. Two or three of the
junior officers were introduced to the newcomers, among them Lisle.

"This gentleman," the colonel said, "is Mr. Lisle Bullen, son of
the late Captain Bullen; who you have doubtless heard was killed,
some little time ago, while storming a hill fort. He is at present
acting as temporary lieutenant of my regiment."

The officers looked with some surprise at Lisle's still darkened
face.

"I see you are surprised, gentlemen," the colonel said, "but there
is a tale that hangs to that colour. I will relate it to you after
dinner; but I may say that Bullen is not a half caste, as you might
think, but of pure English blood."

At this moment dinner was announced. A temporary mess tent had been
erected. It was open at the sides, and composed of many-coloured
cloths. The party sat down under this. There was no cloth, and the
dinner was served on a miscellaneous variety of dishes, for the
most part of tin. Each guest brought his own knife, fork, and
stool. It was a merry party and, after the table had been cleared,
the colonel said:

"In the first place, Maneisty, you must give us the story of your
doings; of which we have, at the present, heard only the barest
outline."

"It is rather a long story, colonel."

"We have nothing else to talk about, here. We have seen no
newspapers for a long time, and know nothing of what is going on
outside; and therefore can't argue about it, or express opinions as
to whether or not the government have, as usual, blundered.
Therefore, the more detail you tell us, the better pleased we shall
be."

"As you know, the first army corps, fourteen thousand strong, were
ordered early in March to concentrate; so that when the news came
that the garrison of Chitral were in serious danger, the manoeuvres
were being carried out, but it was not until late in the day that
the troops were able to move forward. The brigade marched to
Jellala without tents, taking with them supplies sufficient for
twenty days. The next morning the 2nd and 3rd Brigade went on to
Dargai. The weather was cold and wet, and the roads soft.

"It had been given out that the 1st Brigade were to go by the
Shakot Pass. This was only a ruse to deceive the enemy, and keep
them from concentrating on the Malakand. Subsequently an officer
rode up the Shakot Pass, and found it to be much more difficult
than the Malakand, and more strongly fortified. Orders were sent,
in the middle of the night, for the 1st Brigade to proceed at once
to Dargai. Early in the morning a reconnaissance was made by
General Blood, and a large body of the enemy were seen. It was
evident that the passage of the pass was to be disputed.

"Starting from Dargai, the pass went through a gradually narrowing
valley for about two miles; then bending to the northeast for a
mile and a half, the hills on the west rising precipitously to a
great height. On reaching the bend, the pass was strongly held on
the west side.

"The 4th Sikhs went out on the flank. The Guides Infantry were
directed to ascend the highest point of the western hill and, from
this, to enfilade the enemy. It was a most arduous task, as they
had to ascend the highest peak of the range, some fifteen hundred
feet. Here several sangars had been erected by the enemy, who
hurled down rocks and stones.

"In the meantime the main force advanced, and could make out the
general position of the enemy. They occupied the whole of the crest
of the western hill, having constructed numerous sangars down its
side, each commanding the one below it. The greater part of their
force was more than halfway down the hill, at the point where it
descended precipitously into the valley. It was only at this point
that the western side of the pass was held.

"Three batteries were sent up on this side. These attacked position
after position on the eastern slope, and their fire was so accurate
that it effectually prevented the enemy on the eastern side from
concentrating.

"When the advance began, it was evident that little could be done
until the Guides had secured the position they had been ordered to
take. It was soon seen that they were very seriously outnumbered.
The Gordon Highlanders had moved up the crest of the western hill,
at the point where it touched the valley. The Scottish Borderers
had hastened up the centre spur; the 60th Rifles were ordered up
the slope, farther back in the line; while the Bedfordshire and
37th Dogras rounded the point on which the Gordon Highlanders began
the ascent and, turning to the left, climbed the hill from the
northern side. The 15th Sikhs were held in reserve.

"The brunt of the fighting fell upon the Gordon Highlanders and the
Borderers. Making as they did a direct attack, they met with a
sturdy resistance. Several of the sangars were carried by
hand-to-hand fighting; indeed, had the advance not been so well
covered by the fire of our guns, it is doubtful whether the
position could have been captured.

"It was one of the finest scenes I ever saw. The hillside was
literally covered with fire. We could see the two Scotch regiments
pushing on, and attacking the sangars by rushes; while above them
the shells from the guns and fire from the Maxims prevented the
holders of the upper sangars from coming down to the assistance of
those below. The moment the attacking troops reached the top, the
enemy fled down the western slopes. The action began at 8:30 A.M.,
and concluded at 2 P.M. The enemy's loss was admitted, by
themselves, to be about five hundred; ours was only eleven killed,
and eight officers and thirty-nine men wounded.

"The 1st Brigade remained at the top of the pass, while its baggage
mules moved up. The path was so bad that only a few mules reached
the top that night. It was afterwards found that, if we had taken
the path, we should have suffered most severely; as it was
discovered that the walls of the sangars had been perforated with
lateral slits, commanding every turn.

"On the following day the 1st Brigade descended into the Swat
Valley. Its place on the pass was taken by the 2nd. As soon as the
1st Brigade got free of the pass, they were fired upon by the
enemy, who had taken up a position on the Amandarra.

"The mountain battery was at once brought into action, and began
shelling the sangars. Under its cover the Bedfordshires moved
forward, and drove the enemy from their position. Here they fought
with extreme obstinacy. The 37th Dogras carried a spur to the left,
and sent back news that a great body of the enemy were advancing. A
squadron of the Guides cavalry charged them, killing about thirty,
and putting the rest to flight.

"The transport was now being gradually pushed up, and the brigade
encamped at Khar, at half-past seven. As the enemy were in great
force on the surrounding hills, a night attack was expected, and
the troops lay down with fixed bayonets.

"The capture of these passes spread great consternation through the
Swat valleys, as the tribes had always believed that they were
impregnable, and boasted that an enemy had never entered their
territory. They had fought with desperate bravery to defeat us;
although we had no quarrel with them, and merely wished to get
through their country to reach Chitral. Curiously enough, they had
a strong belief in our magnanimity, and several of their wounded
actually came into camp to be attended to by our surgeons.

"On the 5th of April the 1st Brigade remained all day in camp, the
2nd Brigade going on seven or eight miles farther. Early on the
morning of the 7th, a party went down the river to make a bridge. A
heavy fire was opened upon them, and the whole of the 2nd Brigade
and the 15th Sikhs from the 1st Brigade went out in support.

"While the 11th Bengal Lancers were searching for a ford, they came
under a heavy fire from a village at the foot of a knoll, 600 yards
from the river. A mountain battery quickly silenced this fire, and
two squadrons of Bengal Lancers and one of the Guides, crossing the
ford, pursued the enemy five or six miles, and cut off about a
hundred of them. Opposite the village they discovered another ford,
where two could pass at once and, the next day, the rest of the
brigade followed them. The people of the Swat Valley speedily
accommodated themselves to the situation, and brought in sheep,
fowls, and other things for sale.

"On the 9th, headquarters joined the 2nd Brigade at Chakdara, and
the 3rd Brigade encamped on the south side of the river. On the
11th the headquarters and the 2nd Brigade arrived at the Panjkora
River. A bridge had to be built across this but, on the 13th, just
as it was finished, a flood came down and washed it away.

"A party were sent across at daybreak to burn the villages; which
had, during the night, been firing on the advance guard of the 2nd
Brigade. They accomplished their work but, while engaged upon it,
were attacked by a very large force. The carrying away of the
bridge rendered the position extremely dangerous, and the force was
ordered, by signal, to fall back upon the river; while the Brigade
covered their retreat from the opposite bank. The retreating column
was sorely pressed, although the Maxim guns and the mountain
battery opened fire upon the enemy. Colonel Battye was mortally
wounded, and so hotly did the Afridis follow up their attack that a
company of the Guides fixed bayonets, and charged them.

"As, however, the enemy still persisted in their attack, the force
set to work to entrench themselves. This they managed to do, with
the aid of a Maxim gun of the 11th; which had crossed one of the
branches of the river, and got into a position flanking the
entrenchments. All night the enemy kept up a heavy fire. In the
morning the force were still unable to pass. However, during the
day the 4th Sikhs came across on rafts, and passed the night with
them. The force was much exhausted, for they had been more than
forty-eight hours without a meal.

"Working day and night, in forty-eight hours another bridge was
constructed, on the suspension system, with telegraph wires. Until
it was finished, communication was maintained with the other bank
by means of a skin raft, handled by two active boatmen.

"We had only one more fight, and that was a slight one. Then the
news reached us that the position of Chitral was serious, and
General Gatacre was hurried forward with our force."

"You had some tough fighting," the colonel said, "but the number of
your casualties would seem to show that ours was the stiffer task.
At the same time we must admit that, if you hadn't been detained
for six or seven days at that river, you would have beaten us in
the race."

"Yes, we were all mad, as you may well imagine, at being detained
so long there. Our only hope was that your small force would not be
able to fight its way through, until our advance took the spirit
out of the natives. Certainly they fought very pluckily, in their
attacks upon the force that had crossed; and that action came very
close to being a serious disaster.

"The flood that washed away our bridge upset all our calculations.
I almost wonder that the natives, when they found that we could not
cross the river, did not hurry up to the assistance of the force
that was opposing you. If they had done so, it would have been very
awkward."

"It would have gone very hard with us, for they are splendid
skirmishers and, if we had not had guns with us to effectually
prevent them from concentrating anywhere, and had had to depend
upon rifle fire alone, I have some doubts whether our little force
would have been able to make its way through the defiles."

"Well, it has been a good undertaking, altogether; and I hope that
the punishment that has been inflicted will keep the tribes quiet
for some years."

"They will probably be quiet," the officer said, "till trouble
breaks out in some other quarter, and then they will be swarming
out like bees."

"It is their nature to be troublesome," the colonel said. "They are
born fighters, and there is no doubt that the fact that most of
them have got rifles has puffed them up with the idea that, while
they could before hold their passes against all intruders, it would
be now quite impossible for us to force our way in, when they could
pick us off at twelve hundred paces.

"I wish we could get hold of some of the rascally traders who
supply them with rifles of this kind. I would hang them without
mercy. Of course, a few of the rifles have been stolen; but that
would not account in any way for the numbers they have in their
hands. A law ought to be passed, making it punishable by death for
any trader to sell a musket to a native; not only on the frontier,
but throughout India. The custom-house officers should be forced to
search for them in every ship that arrives; the arms and ammunition
should be confiscated; and the people to whom they are consigned
should be fined ten pounds on every rifle, unless it could be
proved that the consignment was made to some of the native princes,
who had desired them for the troops raised as subsidiary forces to
our own."

The colonel then related Lisle's story in the campaign, which
created unbounded surprise among the guests.

"It was a marvellous undertaking for a young fellow to plan and
carry out," one of them said. "There are few men who could have
kept up the character; fewer still who would have attempted it,
even to take part in a campaign. I am sure, colonel, that we all
hope your application for a commission for him will be granted; for
he certainly deserves it, if ever a fellow did."

There was a general murmur of assent and, shortly afterwards, the
meeting broke up; for it was already a very late hour.

The rest of the campaign was uneventful. Lisle speedily fell back
into the life he had led before the campaign began, except that he
now acted as an officer. He already knew so much of the work that
he had no difficulty, whatever, in picking up the rest of his
duties. He was greatly pleased that the colonel said nothing more
to Gholam Singh, and the native officers of his company and, by the
time the regiment marched back to Peshawar, he was as efficient as
other officers of his rank.

He had, after his father's death, written down to his agents at
Calcutta; and had received a thousand rupees of the sum standing to
his account, in their hands. He was therefore able to pay his share
of the mess expenses; which were indeed very small for, with the
exception of fowls and milk, it was impossible to buy anything to
add to the rations given to them.

The march down was a pleasant one. There was no longer any occasion
for speed. The snow had melted in the passes, the men were in high
spirits at the success that had attended their advance, and the
fact that they had been the first to arrive to the rescue of the
garrison of Chitral.

A month after they reached Peshawar, Lisle was sent for by Colonel
Kelly.

"I am pleased, indeed, to be able to inform you that my urgent
recommendation of you has received attention, and that you have
been gazetted as lieutenant, dating from the day of our arrival at
Chitral. I congratulate you most heartily."

"I am indeed most delighted, sir. I certainly owe my promotion
entirely to your kindness."

"Certainly not, Lisle; you well deserve it. I am sorry to say that
you will have to leave us; for you are gazetted to the 103rd
Punjabi Regiment, who are stationed at Rawalpindi."

"I am sorry indeed to hear that, sir; though of course, I could
hardly have expected to remain with you. I shall be awfully sorry
to leave. You have all been so kind to me, and I have known you all
so long. Still, it is splendid that I have got my commission. I
might have waited three or four years, in England; and then been
spun at the examination."

Lisle marched down with the regiment to Peshawar. Here he had his
uniforms made, laid in a stock of requisites, and then, after a
hearty farewell from his friends, proceeded to join his regiment,
which was lying at Rawalpindi. He took with him Robah, whom the
major relinquished in his favour.

On his arrival at the station, he at once reported himself to the
colonel.

"Ah! I saw your name in the gazette, a short time since. You must
have lost no time in coming out from England."

"I was in India when I was gazetted, sir."

"Well, I am glad that you have joined so speedily; for I am short
of officers, at present. There is a spare tent, which my orderly
will show you. We shall have tiffin in half an hour, when I can
introduce you to the other officers."

When Lisle entered the mess tent, he was introduced to the other
officers, one of whom asked him when he had arrived from England.

"I have never been to England. I was born out here. My father was a
captain in the 32nd Punjabis, and was killed in an attack on a hill
fort. That was some months ago, and I remained with the regiment,
whose quarters had always been my home, until there should be an
opportunity for my being sent down to Calcutta."

"Well, it is very decent of the War Office to give you a
commission; though, of course, it is the right thing to do--but it
is not often that they do the right thing. Your regiment did some
sharp fighting on their way up to Chitral, but of course you saw
nothing of that."

"Yes; I accompanied the regiment."

"The deuce you did!" the colonel said. "I wonder you managed to get
up with it, or that Colonel Kelly gave you leave. I certainly
should not, myself, have dreamed of taking a civilian with me on
such an expedition."

Lisle nodded.

"The colonel did not give me leave, sir. With the aid of one of the
native officers, with whom my father was a favourite, I obtained a
native uniform; and went through the campaign as a private."

The officers all looked upon him with astonishment.

"Do you mean to say that you cooked with them, fought with them,
and lived with them, as one of themselves?"

"That was so, sir; and it was only at the last fight that the truth
came out, for then one of the officers heard me make a remark to
myself, in English. Fortunately, the native officers gave a very
good account of my conduct. I was one of a small party that
descended a cliff with ropes, and did a good deal towards driving
the Chitralis out of their position."

"But how was it that you were not recognized by the soldiers?"

"I speak the language as well as I speak my own," Lisle said
quietly. "Having lived with the regiment all my life, I learned to
speak it like a native."

"Well," the colonel said, "it was a plucky thing for you to do. The
idea of disguising yourself in that way was a very happy one; but
not many officers would like to go through such a campaign as a
private in the Pioneers, or any other Indian regiment.

"Well, I congratulate myself in having acquired an officer who
must, at any rate, understand a great deal of his work, and who can
talk to the men in their own language; instead of, as I expected, a
raw lad.

"How old are you, Mr. Bullen? You look very young."

"I am only a little past sixteen," Lisle said, with a laugh; "but I
don't suppose the War Office knew that. Colonel Kelly was kind
enough to send in a strong recommendation on my behalf; stating, I
believe, the fact, that I had disguised myself as a private in
order to go to Chitral with the regiment, and that, as he was
pleased to say, I distinguished myself. He at once appointed me,
temporarily, as an officer; and as such I remained with the corps,
until their return to Peshawar. He also, of course, mentioned the
fact that I am the son of Captain Bullen, who lost his life in
bravely attacking a hill fort. I don't think he thought it
necessary to mention my age."

"Well, you have certainly managed very cleverly, Mr. Bullen. I am
sure you will be an acquisition to the regiment. I think we can say
safely that you are the youngest officer in the service.

"Gentlemen, will you drink to the health of our new comrade, who
has already shown that he is of the right sort, and of whom we may
be proud?"

The next day the colonel received a letter from Colonel Kelly. It
ought to have arrived before Lisle himself, but had been delayed by
the post. It spoke in very high terms of his conduct, and then said
that he was a general favourite in the regiment, and that he was
sure that he would do credit to the corps he had joined.

The next year and a half passed quietly. Lisle was soon as much
liked, in his new regiment, as he had been by the Pioneers. The men
would have done anything for him, for he was always ready to chat
with them, to enter into their little grievances, and to do many a
kind action.



Chapter 6: Unfair Play.


Five or six of the officers were married men, and had their wives
with them. These, when they learned that the young subaltern had
disguised himself, and enlisted in the Pioneers in order to go up
with them to the front, took a lively interest in him, and made
quite a pet of him. Two other regiments were at the station at the
time and, consequently, there was a good deal of gaiety in the way
of lawn tennis and croquet parties, small dinners and dances and,
after mess, billiards and whist. Lisle soon became an expert in the
former games, but he never touched either a billiard cue or a card,
though he was an interested spectator when others were playing.

Baccarat was very popular with the faster set. At this game play
sometimes ran high, and there was a captain in one of the other
regiments who scarcely ever sat down without winning. At the
beginning of the evening, when play was low, he generally lost; but
was certain to get back his losings, and sometimes a considerable
sum over, as the stakes rose higher. One of the lieutenants who was
a chum of Lisle's was particularly unlucky. He was of an excitable
disposition, and played high as the evening went on. Lisle noticed
that he often paid in chits, instead of money. This was not an
unusual custom, as officers are often short of cash, and settle up
when they receive their month's pay. Lisle frequently remonstrated
with his friend on the folly of his proceedings, and the young
fellow declared that he would retire from the table, if luck went
against him. But the mania was too strong for him.

"It is extraordinary what bad luck I have," he said, one day. "I
almost always win at the beginning of the evening; and then, when I
get thoroughly set, my winnings are swept away."

"Why don't you get up when you are a winner?"

"That would be very bad form, Bullen; a fellow who did that would
be considered a cad."

"I should strongly advise you to give it up, altogether."

Lisle observed with regret that his friend's spirits fell, and that
he became moody and irritable. One day, when he went into his
quarters, he found him sitting with a look of misery upon his face.

"What is it, Gordon?" he asked. "I hope I am not in the way?"

"Well, it has come to this," the young officer said. "I am at the
end of my tether. I shall have to leave the regiment."

"Nonsense!" Lisle replied.

"It is true. I owe a lot of money to that fellow Sanders. He has
bought up all my chits, and this is a note from him, saying that he
has waited two or three months, but must now request me to pay up
without further delay. Besides my pay, I have only eighteen hundred
pounds, that was left me by an old aunt; but that will barely cover
what I owe. Of course I can hold on on my pay; but the loss of so
much money will make a lot of difference, and I fear I shall have
to transfer. It is hard lines, because I am now pretty high on the
list of lieutenants; and shall, of course, have to go to the bottom
of the list.

"The only alternative would be to enlist in some white regiment
that has lately come out. There are plenty of gentlemen in the
ranks. I certainly see no other way."

"I had no idea it was so bad as that, Gordon. Surely there must be
some other way out of the difficulty. I could lend you a couple of
hundred pounds."

"Thank you, old fellow! But I am so deeply in debt that that would
make no difference."

"I am not sure that there is not something else to be done," said
Lisle. "While I sit watching the play, I can see more than the
players can; and since I have noticed that Sanders persistently
wins, directly the stakes get high, I have watched him very
closely, and am convinced that he does not play fair. It has struck
me that he withdraws the money on his cards when he sees that the
dealer has a strong hand, and adds to his stake when he considers
that the dealer is weak.

"Now my testimony as a youngster would go a very little way, if
unsupported against his; but if you will give me a solemn promise
that you will never play baccarat again, I will get two or three
fellows to watch him. Then, if we can prove that he plays unfairly,
of course you will be able to repudiate payment of the money he has
won of you."

"Good heaven! It would be the saving of me, and I will willingly
give you the promise you want. But you must surely be mistaken!
Sanders certainly has had wonderful luck, but I have never heard a
suggestion that he does not play fair. I only know that there is a
good deal of shyness about playing with him. You see, it is a
frightful thing to accuse a man of cheating."

"I admit that it is not pleasant; but if a man cheats, and is found
out, it is the duty of every honest man to denounce him, if they
detect him.

"Well, if you don't mind, I will take Lindsay, Holmes, and Tritton
into my confidence. They all play occasionally, and you must let me
mention that you are altogether in his power; and that, unless he
is detected, you will have to leave the regiment. Mind, don't you
watch him yourself. Play even more recklessly than usual; that will
make him a bit careless."

"Well, there is a possibility that you are right, Bullen, and if
you can but detect him, you will save me from frightful disgrace."

"I will try, anyhow."

Bullen sent a note to the officers he had mentioned, asking them to
come to his quarters, as he particularly wished to speak to them.
In a quarter of an hour they joined him.

"Well, what is up, Bullen?" Tritton said. "What do you want with
us?"

"It is a serious business, Tritton. That fellow Sanders owns chits
of Gordon's to the amount of fifteen hundred pounds."

An exclamation of dismay broke from his hearers.

"Good heavens!" Tritton exclaimed, "how could he possibly have lost
so much as that? I know that the play has been high; but still,
even with the worst luck, a man could hardly lose so much as that."

"I fancy that, after the party in the mess room has broken up,
several of them used to adjourn to Sanders' quarters; and it was
there that the great bulk of the money was lost."

"What a fool Gordon has been!" Lindsay said. "What a madman! Such a
good fellow, too!

"Well, of course, nothing can be done. If it were only a hundred or
two, the money would be subscribed at once; but fifteen hundred is
utterly beyond us. What is he thinking of doing?"

"Well, he has eighteen hundred pounds, and he talked of drawing out
the amount and paying up, and then exchanging into some other
regiment. The question, however, is, whether he ought to pay."

The others looked up at him in surprise.

"Why, of course he must pay," Tritton said; "at least he must pay,
or quit the service, a disgraced man."

"I think there is an alternative," Lisle said, "and that is why I
have sent for you."

"What alternative can there be?"

"Well, you know I don't play; but I like sitting watching the game,
and I am quite convinced that Sanders doesn't play fair."

"You don't say so!" Tritton said. "That is a very serious
accusation to make, you know, Bullen!"

"I am perfectly aware of that, and I feel that it would be mad for
me to make an unsupported accusation against Sanders. But I want
you three fellows to join me in watching Sanders play. My word,
unsupported, would be of no avail; but if four of us swore that we
saw him cheating, there could be no doubt about the result.

"For one thing, Sanders would have to leave the army. That would be
no loss to the service, for he is an overbearing brute; to say
nothing of the fact that several young officers have had to leave
the service, owing to their losses at play with him."

"I know of two cases," Lindsay said. "There was a very strong
feeling against him, but no one suspected him of unfair play. It
was he who introduced baccarat here, when his regiment first came
up. It had never been played here before, and you may notice that
very few of his fellow officers ever take a hand.

"Well, there will be no harm in our watching. It is a thing that
one doesn't like doing but, when it comes to a fellow officer being
swindled, it is clearly our duty to expose the man who is doing
it."

"Very well, then, this evening two of us will take our stand behind
Gordon, and the other two behind Sanders."

"But how did he cheat? It seems a fair game enough."

"He does it in this way. He puts five sovereigns under his hand.
That is the limit, you know. Then he looks at his card, and pushes
it out. With his hand still touching it, he watches the dealer and,
if he can see by his face that his card is a good one--and you can
generally tell that--he withdraws his hand with four of the
sovereigns, leaving only one on the card. If, on the other hand, he
thinks it is a bad one, he leaves the whole five there. He does the
trick cleverly enough; but I am certain that I have, four or five
times, seen him do it.

"Keep your eyes on his hand. You will see that he takes up five
sovereigns from the heap before him, and that he has them in his
hand when he pushes the card out. You will notice how he fixes his
eye upon the dealer, and that he leaves either one or five, as I
have said. He does it, at times, all through the evening,
especially when Gordon is dealing; for I can tell, myself, by
Gordon's face whether he has a good or a bad card. Of course, he
can see it, too.

"I want you all to nod to me, when you see it done. We shall let
him do it two or three times, so that we can all swear to it."

All agreed to do so, and Lisle then went to Gordon's quarter's.

"Tritton, Lindsay, and Holmes are going to watch with me tonight. I
think the best thing will be for you to answer Sanders' note, and
tell him that you will require time to draw your money from England
to pay him; but that you will play again tonight, to see if luck
turns."

That evening the four young officers took their places, as
arranged. Now that their attention had been directed to it, they
saw that several times Sanders, although he took up five pounds,
only left one on the card; and that he kept his hand upon it, up to
the last moment. Each in turn nodded to Lisle.

All noticed how intently Sanders watched the dealer. Generally he
left two sovereigns on the card, apparently when the dealer had a
moderate card; but when he had a very low or a very high one, the
trick was played. After fully satisfying himself that he had good
proofs, just as Sanders was again withdrawing his hand with four
sovereigns in it, Lisle threw himself forward, jerked the hand
upwards, and showed the four sovereigns lying under it.

"I accuse Captain Sanders of cheating. I have seen him do this
trick half a dozen times."

Sanders shook himself free, and aimed a heavy blow at Lisle; who,
however, stepped aside and, before he could repeat it, he was
seized by the officers standing round. A tremendous hubbub arose,
in the midst of which the colonel entered the room.

"What is all this about?" he enquired.

The din subsided at once, and two or three officers said:

"Bullen accused Captain Sanders of cheating."

"This is a very serious accusation, Bullen," the colonel said
sternly, "and unless you can substantiate it, may be of very
serious consequences to yourself. Will you tell me what you saw?"

Lisle related the circumstances, and how the fraud was
accomplished.

"You mean to say that, by watching the dealer's eye, Captain
Sanders leaves one pound or five on his card?"

"That is what I said, sir. I have seen him do it on several nights.
Tonight I determined to expose him, and Tritton, Lindsay, and
Holmes have been watching him with me. I was induced to do so by
the fact that the man has rooked Lieutenant Gordon of something
like fifteen hundred pounds, for which he holds his chits."

"Mr. Tritton, you hear what Mr. Bullen says. Have you also observed
the act of cheating of which he accuses Captain Sanders?"

"Yes, sir; I have seen him do it several times this evening. I
believe he has done it more, but I am prepared to swear to seven
times."

The colonel looked at Lindsay, who said:

"I have seen suspicious movements eleven times, but I should not
like to swear to more than four."

"And you, Mr. Holmes?"

"I can swear to five times, but I believe he did it much oftener
than that."

"What have you to say, Captain Sanders?"

"I say it is a conspiracy on the part of these four young officers
to ruin me. It is a lie from beginning to end."

"I am afraid, Captain Sanders, that you will find it very difficult
to persuade anyone that four officers, who as far as I know have no
ill feeling against you, should conspire to bring such a charge.
However, I shall report the matter to your colonel, tomorrow, with
a written statement from these four officers of what they saw. He
will, of course, take such steps in the matter as he thinks fit."

Without a word, Sanders turned on his heel and left the room,
followed by the angry glances of all who were present.

"Mr. Bullen, you have behaved with great discretion," the colonel
said, "in not making a charge on your first impression, but getting
three other officers to watch that man's behaviour. Tomorrow I
shall hold a court of enquiry, at which the major, the adjutant,
and two other officers will sit with me. You will all, of course,
be called, and will have to repeat your story in full.

"Lieutenant Gordon, I am shocked to hear that an officer of my
regiment should gamble to such an extent as you have done. You
will, of course, be called tomorrow. I think that, at the best, you
will be advised to change into another regiment. I need not say
that, after this exposure, the chits that you have given to Captain
Sanders become null and void.

"This room will be closed for the rest of the evening."

The officers, however, gathered in the room below, and talked the
matter over. There was not a whisper of regret at the disgrace that
had fallen upon Sanders. His reputation was a bad one. Since his
regiment had been in India one young officer had shot himself, and
three had been obliged to leave the army, and in all cases it was
known that these had lost large sums to him; but the matter had
been hushed up, as such scandals generally are in the army. Still,
the truth had been whispered about, and it was because none of the
officers in his regiment would play with him that he had come
habitually to the mess of the Pioneers; by which, his own regiment
having been quartered in southern India until six months
previously, nothing was known of his antecedents.

"We shall all have to be very careful, when you are looking on at
our play, Bullen," one said, laughing. "I hadn't given you credit
for having such sharp eyes; and certainly Sanders did not, either,
or he would never have tried his games on, while you were standing
watching him."

"I was not playing, you see," Lisle said, "and the players do not
trouble about onlookers, but keep their attention directed to the
dealer. Standing there evening after evening, it was really easy to
see what he was doing; for he, too, kept his attention fixed on the
dealer, and paid no heed to us who were looking on. He occasionally
did look up at us, but evidently he concluded that we were only
innocent spectators. When my suspicions were aroused, there was
really no difficulty in detecting him."

"How was it that you did not interfere before?"

"Because it was only my word against that of Sanders, and it was
only after Gordon told me how much he was in debt to the man; and
that the latter had, that morning, written to him calling upon him
to pay up, that I saw that something must be done. So I asked
Tritton, Lindsay, and Holmes to watch him closely this evening,
along with me."

"Well, I hope Gordon won't have to go," the other said. "He is an
awfully good fellow, though he has made an abject ass of himself."

"Don't you think, Prosser, that if we were all to sign a petition
to the colonel, to ask him to overlook the matter, as Gordon has
received a lesson that will certainly last his lifetime, he might
do so."

"It depends upon how much the matter becomes public. Of course,
there must be a court of enquiry in the other regiment; and if, as
is certain, a report is sent to the commander-in-chief, Sanders
will be cashiered; and I should fancy that Gordon would be called
upon to resign. Of course, you four and Gordon will have to give
evidence before the commission. It depends, of course, how his
colonel takes it; but it is certain that Sanders will have to go,
and I fear Gordon will, too. I expect our colonel will get a
wigging for allowing high play; though, as you say, the greater
part of the money was lost in private play, in Sanders' room.

"Anyhow, it will be a somewhat ugly thing for the regiment in
general, and we shall get the nickname of 'the gamblers' throughout
the army."

The next morning, at eight o'clock, the little committee met. The
four young officers gave their evidence, which was put on paper in
duplicate and signed by them, a copy being sent to the colonel of
Sanders' regiment. In a short time that officer was seen to go into
the colonel's tent and, half an hour later, he came out again and
went away. A few minutes after he had left, the four officers were
summoned.

"I hope," the colonel said, "that we have heard the last of this
most unpleasant business. His colonel tells me that this morning,
as soon as he turned out, Sanders called upon him and said that he
had to go to England, on urgent family business; and that, on his
arrival there, he should send in his papers and retire. He gave him
leave to go at once, and Sanders disposed of his horse and traps,
and started by the eight o'clock train for Calcutta. In these
circumstances we have decided, for the credit of both regiments,
that the matter shall be held over. If, as is morally certain, he
leaves the army, nothing more need be said about it. Of course, if
he should return, it will be brought up.

"I should say, however, that there is no chance whatever of that. I
beg of you to impress upon the officers of the regiment; which,
indeed, I shall myself do at mess, to make no allusion whatever,
outside the regiment, to what has occurred. The less said about it,
the better. If it were at all known, and got to the ears of the
commander-in-chief--and you know how gossip of this kind
spreads--both his colonel and myself would get a severe wigging,
for not sending in a report of it. In that case a committee would
be appointed to go into the whole matter and, as a result, the
regiment would probably be sent to the worst possible cantonment
they could find for us, and Gordon would be called upon to retire.
I will therefore ask you to give me your word that the matter shall
not be alluded to, outside the regiment. There is no fear of any of
Sanders' regiment hearing anything about it, as none of them were
present last night.

"Upon further consideration, I think that it would be better to
summon all the officers of the regiment, at once, and to impress
upon them the necessity for keeping silence on the matter."

Five minutes later the officers' call sounded and, when all were
assembled in the anteroom, the colonel repeated to them what he had
said to Lisle and his companions; and obtained an undertaking from
them, individually, that they would maintain an absolute silence on
the matter.

The affair greatly added to the estimation in which Lisle was held
in the regiment. His quickness in detecting the swindle, and the
steps he had taken to obtain proof of his suspicions, showed that
he possessed other qualities besides pluck and determination.

It is to be feared that some, at least, of the married officers
either did not regard the promise of silence as affecting their
wives, or had told them what had taken place before they were
requested to abstain from alluding to it; for three or four of the
ladies made sly allusions, when talking to Lisle, which showed that
they were cognizant of what had taken place.

"Well, Mr. Bullen," one of them said, "I have up till now regarded
you as little more than a boy, in spite of your pluck in going up
as a native soldier to Chitral. Now I shall hold you in much higher
respect, and shall regard you as a young man with an exceptionally
sharp eye, and exceptionally keen discernment."

"I don't think I quite understand you, Mrs. Merritt," Lisle said
innocently.

"It is all very well for you to put on that air of ignorance. You
don't suppose that married men can keep matters like this from
their wives? I can tell you we all admire, very much, the manner in
which you saved Lieutenant Gordon from having to leave the service.
He is a favourite with us all and, though he seems to have made a
great fool of himself, we should all be sorry if he had had to
leave us."

"Well, you see, Mrs. Merritt, I am not a married man--"

"I should think not," the lady laughed.

"And do not know how much married men feel themselves bound to keep
secrets from their wives; and I can therefore neither confess nor
deny that I took any part in the incident to which you are
referring."

"You silly boy! Don't you see that I know all about it, and that it
is ridiculous for you to pretend to misunderstand me?"

"I do not pretend, Mrs. Merritt. I only know that I have given my
promise that I will keep absolute silence on the matter, and that
no exception was made as to the ladies of the regiment. That, of
course, lies between them and their husbands."

"Well, whether that is so or not, Mr. Bullen, I can tell you that
the affair has very greatly raised you in our esteem. We all liked
you before; but we really did regard you only as a young officer
who had proved that he possessed an uncommon amount of pluck and
determination. In future, we shall regard you as a gentleman who
was ready to take no inconsiderable risk on behalf of a fellow
officer."

"Thank you, Mrs. Merritt! I can assure you that I do not feel a bit
more of a man than I did before; but I feel happy in having gained
the good opinion of the ladies of the regiment."

After this, Lisle came to be regarded as the special pet of the
ladies of the regiment. Among the officers he became a very general
favourite, and his popularity was increased by the fact that he was
not only one of the best shots, but one of their best cricketers;
and several times did efficient service, by his bowling, in the
matches between the regiment and the others cantoned with them.

Then came the news that the tribes had risen, that the Malakand had
been attacked, that Chakdara, the fortified post on the Swat river,
was invested, and that the tribes on this side of the Panjkora were
in revolt. This, however, was soon followed by a report that the
post had been relieved, that heavy losses had been inflicted upon
the tribesmen, and that the trouble was over.

For some time the frontier had been in a state of tension. The
Mullahs, or priests, had been inciting the tribesmen to
insurrection; and one especially, who was called the Mad Mullah,
had gone about from tribe to tribe, stirring the people up. He
professed to be a successor of the great Akhund of Swat, and to
have inherited his powers. He claimed to be able to work miracles.
The Heavenly host were, he said, on his side.

His excited appeals, to the fanaticism which exists in every
Pathan, were responded to in a marvellous manner. The villagers
flew to arms. Still, it was thought and hoped that, when the first
excitement caused by his appeals had died away, matters would calm
down again. The hope, however, was short lived for, before long,
the startling news came that the Mohmunds, a tribe whose territory
lay near Peshawar, were in revolt; and that Shabkadr, a village
within our frontier, had been raided and destroyed.

Within the next few days the Samana was invested, and the Khyber
Pass was in the hands of the Afridis. The Peshawar movable column,
of four guns, two squadrons of native horse, and the 20th Punjabi
regiment, with a few companies of the Somersets, were sent out to
Shabkadr. On arriving there they found that the bazaar had been
burnt, and that the enemy had taken up a position facing the fort,
about a mile and a half distant.

The cavalry skirted the cultivated ground between the force and the
plateau, and pushed the enemy backward, with severe loss, into the
low hills that skirt the border. Next morning the enemy were seen
in possession of the lower hill, and the force moved out to attack
them. They were found to be in great strength, numbering nearly
seven thousand. Leaving a strong force to face the column, flanking
parties came down concealed by the low hills.

Illustration: They charged the attacking force from end to end.

The infantry retired in two sections, but the artillery came into
action. The cavalry made their way up one of the ravines and, when
they got within charging distance, they went at the enemy at a
gallop. Taking the entire length of the plateau, about a mile and a
half, they charged the attacking force from end to end; and drove
them, demoralized, into the hills. The severity of the morning's
fighting may be judged from the fact that sixty percent of the
force engaged suffered casualties.

From that time, until it was determined to send an expedition into
the Mohmund country, the force remained as a corps of observation.
A force drawn chiefly from the Peshawar garrison was speedily got
together and, on 11th September, had concentrated at or about
Shabkadr fort; a general advance having been arranged for, on the
15th of the month.

In the meantime, more serious troubles had arisen with the
Zakka-Khels. This tribe was the most powerful of the Pathans. They
were at all times troublesome, and frequently made raids across the
frontier, carrying off large quantities of cattle; and living,
indeed, entirely upon plunder. The Zakhels and the Kukukbels had
joined them, as well as several other smaller tribes. They believed
that they could do this with impunity, for no Englishman had ever
visited their wild country, with its tremendous gorges and passes.
A large proportion of them were furnished with Martini and
Lee-Metford rifles, and many of the others carried Sniders.

To operate against such formidable enemies, possessing almost
impregnable positions, a large force was needed; and time was
required to collect the troops. Still more, an enormous train of
baggage animals would be required, and a vast amount of stores of
all kinds.

It was clear that the time that would be occupied in the
preparations of the campaign would be very considerable; but, while
these were being made, it was determined that the expedition from
Peshawar should move, at once, into the Mohmund country, and finish
with that tribe before the main operation began; and that the
Malakand division, and the Mohmund field force should carry out the
work of punishment, in the stretch of country lying between Lalpura
and the Swat River.

It was known that Chakdara was holding out, but that it was hardly
pressed, and the first step was to relieve the garrison. Colonel
Meiklejohn pushed forward, with a comparatively small force, and
arrived at the Malakand on the 1st of August. The reinforcement that
had reached that garrison had enabled them to take the offensive,
and orders were issued for a strong cavalry reconnaissance to the
Amandara valley, five miles away. They found the enemy in such force
that the cavalry were obliged to retire, and they effected their
retreat with great difficulty, under a very heavy fire. As the path
was narrow, cavalry could only proceed in single file, exposed the
while to the fire of the enemy.

Sir Bindon Blood arrived, that evening, to take the command. The
main body were to move down the road; while a force under Colonel
Goldney advanced up the hill to the right, and turned the enemy's
flank. Colonel Goldney's attack was perfectly successful. The enemy
were taken completely unawares, and entirely routed. The march of
the main column, therefore, met with no opposition for some
distance; then the enemy opened fire, from among the rocks on the
hills.

A party of the Guides and the 45th Sikhs were ordered to take the
position, at the point of the bayonet. The enemy, however, stuck to
their position until they were bayoneted, or driven over the rocks.
The 34th and 55th Sikhs stormed some sangars on the left and,
pushing their way pluckily up the steep slopes, slowly gained the
heights, step by step and, in spite of the hot fire and the showers
of rocks and stones, drove the enemy out of their strongholds. On
this the tribesmen lost heart and fled, hotly pursued by the
cavalry, who cut them up in great numbers.

During the fighting at the Malakand, previous to the arrival of the
relief, our casualties were one hundred and seventy-three killed
and wounded, including thirteen British officers and seven natives.
The siege of the small fort of Chakdara had been a severe one. The
garrison consisted of two companies of the 45th Sikhs, with
cavalry. On the evening of the 26th they were attacked, but
repulsed their assailants with loss. Next morning Captain Wright,
with a company of forty troopers, arrived from the Malakand, having
run the gauntlet of large parties of the enemy. The whole of the
day was spent in repelling rushes of the enemy and, for the next
few days, Wright's garrison were unable to leave their posts.

On the 29th the enemy attacked the tower and endeavoured to burn it
down; but were again repulsed, with heavy loss.



Chapter 7: Tales Of War.


As soon as it became evident that the Afridis were up, and that
there would be stern fighting, the conversation in the mess room
naturally turned on past expeditions against the wild tribesmen.
Two or three of the officers had exchanged into the regiment, when
their own went home. Having been two or three years on the
frontier, they had many tales of hill fighting to tell; and these
were eagerly listened to by all the younger officers, as they felt
certain that they too would, ere long, be taking part in such
struggles.

"A fine instance of defence," one of the junior captains said, "was
that of Thobal in 1891. As you all know, I am a ranker, and I
received my commission for that business. I was with a mere handful
of men, thirty Ghoorkhas and fifty rifles of the 12th Burmah
Infantry. We were commanded by Lieutenant Grant. I was with him as
quartermaster sergeant, and general assistant. The Ghoorkhas had
sixty rounds per man for their Martini rifles, the Burmah men one
hundred and sixty rounds per man for their Sniders. They were a
pretty rough lot, only twenty of them being old soldiers, the rest
recruits.

"One morning we received news that Mr. Quintin with four civil
officers, and an escort of seven British officers and four hundred
and fifty-four Ghoorkhas, who had gone up to Manipur, had been
massacred. Happily the news was exaggerated, but a treacherous
attack was made upon the party, and Mr. Quintin and many others
killed. Grant thought that this was probably the case, and
determined to push on with his little force, in the hope of
rescuing some survivors.

"The distance from Tamu to Manipur is about fifty-five miles. We
started at half-past five, on the morning of the 28th. The
difficulties were so great that we only moved at the rate of a mile
an hour. At two in the morning we started again, and marched about
ten miles; in the course of which we were occasionally fired at by
the enemy. The moon rose at eleven, and the advance was continued.

"The resistance now became severe. The telegraph wires had been
cut, taken down from the poles, and twisted about the road; and
trees had also been felled across it. While we were endeavouring to
clear away the obstacles, a heavy fire was poured into us. Small
parties were therefore sent out to disperse the enemy, and this
they did most successfully, capturing three guns and a good deal of
ammunition.

"Pushing on, we issued, at six in the morning, on the hills. Before
us was the village of Palel, which was garrisoned by two hundred
Manipur soldiers. You must remember that Manipur had been a sort of
subsidiary state, and had a regular army, drilled by Europeans.
However, Grant attacked them at once, and drove them out with loss.

"After halting at Palel for some hours a start was made, at eleven
o'clock at night; and at daybreak we came upon some villages, each
house in which was standing alone in a large enclosure, surrounded
by a wall, ditch, and hedge. We went at them and carried them, one
by one, without any great loss to ourselves. Issuing on the other
side, we came upon a plain about a thousand yards across. Beyond
this was a bridge, on fire. The enemy were strongly posted in
trenches and behind hedges.

"Grant decided to attack, and to try and save the bridge. He
advanced across the plain with two sections of ten men each,
supported by another section of the same strength. The rest of his
force, consisting of forty men, he kept in reserve.

"I own that it seemed to me a desperately risky thing; for, from
what we could see, we judged that the enemy were about a thousand
strong. Grant himself led the party, and he put me in charge of the
reserve. A very heavy fire was opened by the enemy; but Grant and
his men steadily advanced, and succeeded in getting within a
hundred yards of the enemy. Here I came up with him; and we dashed
into the river, carried the enemy's trenches at the point of the
bayonet, and hunted them out, from enclosure to enclosure, till
they all drew off.

"By the side of the bridge was the village of Thobal; and as, with
so small a force, it was impossible to advance against the
overwhelming numbers that would meet us before we got to Manipur,
fifteen miles away, Grant determined to hold Thobal; where he
could, he thought, defend himself, and afford refuge to any who had
escaped the massacre. As soon as the enemy had retired, we all set
to work to prepare a defensive position; by setting fire to the
crops, so as to prevent the enemy from creeping up unseen, and by
making an abattis.

"The night passed off quietly. At six in the morning the enemy were
seen advancing in force, but Lieutenant Grant sent out thirty men
to the farthest wall of the village, some four hundred yards in
advance of the enclosure; and their fire checked the enemy, and
forced them to retire. At three in the afternoon the enemy advanced
in great force, their line being over a mile long. Grant again
occupied the front wall, and held his fire till the enemy reached a
point which had been carefully marked as being six hundred yards
away. Fire was then opened, the muskets being sighted for this
known range. The tribesmen fell in great numbers, and drew back
under the protection of their artillery, who now opened fire at a
range of about a thousand yards. In half an hour they were
completely silenced.

"They then withdrew to another hill, five hundred yards farther off but,
even at this range, we got at them with our Martinis, and they soon
began firing wildly. The infantry advanced several times, but were
always driven back as soon as they reached the six-hundred-yards limit.

"It was now becoming dark, and the enemy were working round on our
flank. We therefore fell back on the entrenched position and,
though the enemy kept up a heavy fire till two in the morning,
ammunition was too scanty to allow us to waste a cartridge, and no
reply was made. At three we set to work to strengthen the defences,
using baskets filled with earth and sacks filled with sand, as well
as adding to the abattis.

"In the course of the day the enemy sent in a flag of truce,
offering to allow us to retreat. This Grant refused to do, till all
prisoners still in the hands of the Manipuris were delivered over
to him. In order to deceive the enemy as to his strength, Grant put
on a colonel's badge and uniform and, in his communications with
the enemy, spoke and behaved as if he had the whole regiment under
his command in the village. The enemy were undoubtedly misled, and
wasted three days in negotiations.

"Then fighting recommenced and, at daybreak, the enemy made a
determined attack upon the advance, with artillery. By eight
o'clock they had pushed the attack home, and passed the line of
walls and hedges a hundred yards from our position. The situation
was growing serious when, leaving me in command, Grant went out
with ten Ghoorkhas, crept along unobserved to the end of one of the
walls and, turning this, made a sudden attack upon the enemy from
behind. Taken wholly by surprise they fled, leaving six or seven
dead behind them.

"At eleven o'clock they were again pressing hotly and, encouraged
by the success of his first sortie, Grant determined to make
another. This time he took me with him. With six Ghoorkhas he had
driven the enemy from one hedge, when he discovered a party of
about sixty men behind a wall, twenty yards distant.

"'Now, my lads,' he said, 'we have got to run the gauntlet, but you
need not be afraid of their fire. Seeing us so close to them, it is
sure to be wild.'

"Then, with a cheer, we dashed across the open. The enemy blazed at
us, but their fire was wild and confused; and we were among them
before they could reload, killing a dozen, and sending the rest to
the right about, many of them wounded.

"On returning to the camp, we found that there were only fifty
rounds left for the Snider rifles, and thirty rounds each for the
Martinis. Strict orders were therefore given that no one was to
fire till the enemy were within close range. However, there was no
doubt that the fight was all taken out of them, by the spirit with
which those two little sorties had been made. They kept up a steady
fire till nightfall, but took good care not to show themselves; and
they retired, as soon as they could do so, in the darkness.

"That was really the end of the fighting. Three days passed, and
then a letter arrived from the officer in command of the
expedition, ordering him to fall back to Tamu, whence a detachment
had been despatched to meet him. This order had fallen into the
hands of the enemy. They no doubt informed themselves of its
contents, and were so utterly glad to get rid of us, without
further loss, that they gladly sent it in to us. That night there
was a heavy thunderstorm, with a tremendous downpour of rain, and
under cover of it we withdrew quietly, and before long were met by
the relieving force."

"That was a splendid resistance."

"Magnificent! You certainly earned your commission well, Towers.

"Now, Major, let us hear the story of the battle of Ahmed Kheyl,
where you met the fanatics in force. I doubt whether the Afridis
will fight in the same way; but they may and, at any rate, the
story will be instructive."

"Well, it is seventeen years ago, now," the major said, "and I was
a junior lieutenant. I was, as you all know, marching from Kandahar
to Kabul under Sir Donald Stewart; and at Ahmed Kheyl, twenty-three
miles south of Ghuzni, we met the Afghans in force, estimated at
fifteen thousand foot and a thousand horse. For several days we had
known that they were in the neighbourhood. Their cavalry scouts
could be seen marching parallel to us, about eight miles away, on
the right flank.

"On the 19th of April we marched at daybreak. The advance guard
consisted of seven hundred rifles, seven hundred and fifty cavalry,
and six guns; the main body of somewhat over a thousand rifles,
three hundred and forty-nine sabres, and ten guns; then came the
trains and hospitals, guarded by strong detachments on each flank;
while the rear guard was fourteen hundred infantry, three hundred
and sixteen cavalry, and six mountain guns. The length of the
column was about six miles.

"Its head had marched about seven miles, when the cavalry in
advance caught sight of the enemy, in position, three miles ahead.
Preparations were made for receiving an attack and, at eight
o'clock, the march was resumed. Half a squadron of Bengal Lancers
were sent to cover the left front of the infantry brigade, which
was now close to a range of low hills that ran parallel to the line
of march for some distance, then made a bend to the east. The enemy
were seen in position, covering the point of passage through the
hills, and also upon the hills flanking the road by which the
division would advance.

"When within a mile and a half of the enemy, two batteries moved
out and took up positions to shell them in front; while the
infantry deployed, the line on the left facing the enemy on the
hills. The 2nd Punjab Cavalry were on the right of the guns, whose
escort consisted of a squadron of 19th Bengal Lancers, and a
company of Punjab Infantry.

"It was the general's intention to advance to the attack but, at
nine o'clock, before his dispositions were completed, the whole
crest of the hills held by the enemy seemed to be swarming with
men. Scarcely had the guns opened fire, when the enemy swept down
from the hills, in successive lines of swordsmen, stretching out
far beyond either flank of our force. At the same time a large body
of horse rode along the hills, threatening the left flank.

"As the swordsmen swept down on the infantry and guns, the Afghan
horse came out of two ravines, and charged the Bengal Lancers
before they could acquire sufficient speed to meet them fairly. The
Lancers were forced back, disorganizing the 3rd Ghoorkhas, who
composed the left battalion of the line. The colonel of the
Ghoorkhas threw his men into company squares, and they stood their
ground; but the Lancers could not be rallied until they had swept
along almost the whole rear of the infantry.

"In the meantime the swordsmen on foot swept down with fanatical
fury, and it became necessary to bring up the whole reserve into
the fighting line. The two batteries of artillery on the right were
now firing grape shot, at close range, into the mass of Afghans;
but neither this, nor the fire of the infantry supporting them,
could check the advance of the enemy. The batteries, having used up
all their case shot, were compelled to retire two hundred yards;
and the right of the infantry line was also forced back.

"The situation at this moment was horribly critical: both our
flanks were turned, and the troops were a good deal shaken by the
suddenness and fierceness of the attack. The enemy's horsemen,
however, pushing round to the left flank, were checked by the
firmness of the 3rd Ghoorkhas--who stood their ground bravely--and
by the fire of the batteries on that flank. On the right the 2nd
Punjab Cavalry charged and drove back the enemy, thus giving time
for the two batteries to take up their fresh position, and again
come into action.

"The infantry on the right also recovered from the confusion into
which they had been temporarily thrown, and poured a withering fire
into the Afghans. In the centre the 2nd Sikhs maintained, through
out the fight, a steady and unyielding front. The steady and
well-directed fire of the whole line, aided by the batteries, was
creating terrible havoc among the enemy and, after an hour's
gallant and strenuous exertion on both our flanks, their efforts
began to slacken and, before long, the whole of them were in
flight, leaving a thousand dead and wounded on the ground.

"It was calculated that they had at least two thousand casualties,
while our own loss amounted to only one hundred and forty-one. They
were not pursued, as the cavalry were required to guard the
baggage."

"It was a grand fight, Major," the colonel said; "but you were at
Maiwand also, were you not?"

"Yes; and it would be hard to find a greater contrast to the fight
I have just described. The two British forces were attacked under
almost precisely similar circumstances. One was splendidly
commanded; and the other, it must be confessed, was badly led.

"There was a good deal against us. The day was in July, and
terribly hot and, at every step the troops took, they found the
power of the sun increasing, until the heat became intense. A
solitary traveller, in such circumstances, would make but poor
travelling; and of course it was vastly worse for troops, advancing
heavily laden and formed in column. The 66th Foot had had tea, and
a light breakfast before starting; but the native troops had had
nothing to eat since the night before. One regiment, indeed, had no
water; but the others had managed to fill their canteens during the
halt at half-past nine.

"The brigade, at the end of the march, were again ordered to change
front. The Grenadiers, which was a pivot regiment, did not slacken
their pace and, consequently, the centre were greatly exhausted in
trying to keep up with it, and were certainly in no condition to
take part in the battle at midday.

"The whole thing was a hideous mistake. General Burrows had brought
his line into such a position that behind him lay a great nullah
and, during the course of the battle, the enemy were enabled to
bring guns up to within five hundred yards on front and flank. It
was a ghastly day. Both flanks were driven back, and the line
became bent into the form of a horseshoe. The two cavalry
regiments, whose support should have been invaluable, behaved badly
and, early in the fight, left the field.

"After the first line gave way, everything went badly. Some of the
troops stood and died on the ground they held, others soon became a
mob of fugitives. The loss, as long as they held their positions,
was comparatively slight; but the grand total mounted up, during
the retreat.

"It was a hideous business, and one that I do not like to recall.
Men staggered along, overpowered by heat and thirst; falling, in
many cases without resistance, under the sabre of the pursuing
enemy. Had these fought properly, it is probable that not a single
man, except the cowardly cavalry, would have reached Kandahar to
tell the tale."

"Thank you, Major. You were also, I believe, in two or three
dashing affairs before Maiwand?"

"Yes, Colonel. Certainly one of the most successful was that which
Cavagnari, who was afterwards murdered at Kabul, made. It was not
much of an affair, but it shows what can be done with dash.

"In 1877 we were making a canal, to tap the Swat river at a point
where it enters British territory. Naturally, the Swat villagers on
the other side of the frontier considered that the operation was a
deep-laid plot for injuring them; and it was at the village of
Sappri that the chief went down, with a number of desperate men,
and murdered all the coolies engaged in the work. Cavagnari issued
orders that the chief must pay a heavy fine, in money and cattle;
and that the actual murderers must be tried for their crime. The
Khan, however, took no notice of the demand.

"Forty miles southeast of Sappri was the British cantonment of
Murdan, where the corps of Guides is permanently quartered. The
greater portion of these were, however, absent on another
expedition; and there remained available a few squadrons of
cavalry, and eleven companies of infantry.

"Cavagnari kept his plans a profound secret. He did not even give
the slightest hint of his intentions to their commanding officer,
Captain Wigram Battye. So well, indeed, was the secret kept, that
the officers were playing a game at racket when they were called
upon to start. The first intimation that the men had of the
movement was the serving out of ball cartridge, when the gates of
the fort were closed in the evening. The old soldiers were well
aware that this meant that fighting was at hand; and they gave a
great shout, which was the first intimation to the officers that
something was on foot. We were as glad as the men.

"Mules had been got in readiness, and the small detachment set off
on its long night march. The mules were picked animals and in good
condition, and were able to keep up with the men. After covering
thirty-two miles in seven hours, we halted at the frontier fort of
Abazai, seven miles south of Sappri.

"Beyond this point the country was impracticable for cavalry; and
the force, now consisting of two hundred and twelve men, dismounted
and marched forward on foot. After seven miles of severe toil, they
arrived in the vicinity of the hostile village; and Captain Battye
placed his men on the surrounding high ground, so as to completely
command the place, and cut off all retreat. His disposition had
been completed without arousing the enemy and, in a short time, day
broke.

"Cavagnari immediately sent in a demand, to the Khan, to surrender
the outlaws and pay the fine. The Khan refused to comply with the
terms. There was a short but desperate fight, in which the Guides
were victorious, the Khan and many of his leading men were killed,
and the village captured. The fine was then exacted, and the troops
marched back to Fort Abazai.

"This was a fine example of a punitive expedition thoroughly well
managed. The movements were made with secrecy and rapidity. Horses,
men, and mules were all in readiness. The cavalry were, on an
emergency, prepared to perform the role of infantry; while the
little party of infantry were ready to ride thirty miles, on mules,
with the cavalry. In this raid the Guides covered forty-eight
miles, without a halt; but the perfect success that attended the
expedition is not often attained, especially when, as in this case,
the force is unprovided with guns. Two or three little mountain
guns make all the difference in expeditions of this kind for,
though the Afridis will stand musketry fire pluckily enough, they
begin to flinch as soon as guns, however small, open upon them.

"There is no more awkward business than an attack upon hill forts
that are well held, for some of them are really formidable. I was
present at the storming of Nilt fort, and the fight near
Chillas--both of them awkward affairs--and in the fight at
Malandrai. There had, for some time, been a state of hostilities
between Malandrai, two miles across the border, and Rustam on our
side of it. Information was received that several of the most
important of the enemy's raiders, and a considerable number of
cattle would, on a certain night, be at Malandrai; and it was
arranged that two companies of Guides should start in the afternoon
for Rustam, twenty-five miles distant, which they would reach after
dark. At this place they were to take a short rest, and were then
to follow the difficult tracks through the hills, and appear on a
commanding spur in the rear of the village, at dawn. The frontal
attack was to be made by six companies, who were to arrive before
the bridge in the small hours of the morning. A squadron of Bengal
cavalry were to move independently, and to cut off any of the enemy
who might escape from the frontal attack.

"The turning party arrived after a march of eighteen hours, through
a terribly rough country. The main body, unfortunately,
miscalculated their distance and, instead of halting in the gorge
leading to the village, in which it was known that pickets had been
placed, they came suddenly upon the enemy's outposts. These fired a
volley, killing the colonel and some of the men. The surprise,
therefore, as a surprise failed; but an attack was made in the
morning, the village taken, and the turning party extricated from
its dangerous position. That is a good example of the difficulty of
attacking a hill fort.

"Another instance is the attack upon Nilt fort. The place was one
of great natural strength; the fort, which was a large one, faced
the junction of three precipitous cliffs, several hundred feet
high, where a great ravine runs into the Hunza river. Owing to the
nature of the ground, the fort could not be seen till the force was
within three hundred yards of it; and fire could not be properly
opened upon it until within two hundred and fifty yards.

"The walls of the fort were of solid stone, cemented by mud, and
strengthened by strong timbers. They were fourteen feet in height,
and eight feet in thickness; and were surmounted by flanking towers
and battlements, which afforded the defenders a perfect cover. In
front of the main gate was a loopholed wall, completely hiding the
gateway; and in front of this again was a very deep ditch, filled
with abattis; while a broad band of abattis filled the space
between the ditch, and a precipitous spur from the adjacent
mountain. This spur was, unfortunately, inaccessible for guns and,
though our infantry mounted it, their fire had no effect upon the
enemy, sheltered as they were behind their battlements.

"It was therefore necessary to make a direct attack, and storm the
fort on a front of only sixty yards. After a vain attempt to make
some impression on the forts with mountain guns, the order was
given to advance; and the Ghoorkhas, two hundred strong, and a
company of sappers dashed forward into the ravine facing the west
wall. A few of them managed to force their way into a weak point of
the abattis, under a heavy fire from the fort; and worked round to
a gateway. This was soon hacked down, and then they burst into the
courtyard.

"Captain Aylmer, R.E., set to work to place a charge of gun cotton
against the main entrenchment of the fort. After repeated failures,
the fuse was lighted and the gate blown in. Captain Aylmer was
severely wounded, in three places; and several of the men killed.

"So far the attack had been so astonishingly bold and quick that
the main body were unaware of the success; and Colonel Duran,
thinking the explosion was caused by the bursting of one of the
enemy's guns, continued steadily firing at the fort. The position
of the twenty men and three officers was precarious, indeed, as
they were thus exposed to a heavy fire from behind, as well as in
front. With splendid heroism, however, they held on to the
advantage they had gained till some reinforcements came up; and
then, pressing on through the shattered gate, they captured the
fort.

"For a fortnight after this the force remained inactive, for no way
of ascending the great ravine was known. At last, however, an
enterprising sepoy discovered a way, and on the 19th of December a
hundred men, under two lieutenants, were ordered to leave Nilt fort
under cover of darkness, drop silently down into the bed of the
ravine, and there await daylight.

"The portion of the enemy's position that had been selected for
attack was on the extreme left, on the crest of a cliff which rose,
without a break, fifteen hundred feet from the bed of the ravine.
Another force, a hundred and thirty-five men and six British
officers, with two guns, was to cover the advance of the storming
party. At eight o'clock in the morning, fire was opened upon the
enemy, as it was anticipated that the storming party were well up
the cliff by this time; but unfortunately, after ascending the
precipice halfway, they reached a point where the cliff was
absolutely impracticable, and were obliged to descend again into
the ravine.

"At two o'clock, having discovered a more practicable way, they
ascended again, foot by foot; their commander working his way up
with admirable judgment, moving from point to point, as opportunity
offered, between the showers of stones. The enemy were now fully
aware that the precipice was being scaled, and it was only the
well-directed fire of the covering party that prevented them from
issuing from their defences, and annihilating the party with rocks
and boulders.

"The summit was reached at half-past eleven, and the first of the
enemy's works captured. They rushed sangar after sangar, taking
them in rear and driving out the enemy pell mell, killing many and
capturing a large number of prisoners. At last the passage of the
great ravine was gained, and the British force enabled to move
forward again.

"The greatest credit was due to Lieutenant Manners-Smith; whose
conduct, in storming the height in broad daylight, was simply
magnificent; and the result showed the manner in which even young
officers can distinguish themselves, and how the native troops will
follow them, unhesitatingly, through dangers which would well appal
even the bravest.

"It is possible, however, to demand too much from our troops; as
was shown in the defence of Chillas. The post was held, in '93, by
three hundred men of the Kashmir Maharajah's bodyguard, under the
command of two British officers, Major Daniels and Lieutenant
Moberley. For some time, Daniels had been warned that he might be
attacked on the night of a Mohammedan feast. It was understood that
this was on the 3rd of March and, when the night passed quietly, it
was considered that the alarm had been a false one. During the next
night, however, a determined attack was made, by about a thousand
men; but was repulsed by steady volleys.

"Major Daniels then determined to take the offensive and attack the
enemy, who were swarming in great numbers into a neighbouring
village. At half-past three Moberley, with thirty-five men, went
out to attack the village. After severe fighting, and some loss, he
effected a lodgment in an outer line of houses; but being himself
badly wounded, and finding the village too strongly held for a
small party to make any further progress, he retired with his
detachment to the fort.

"The enemy continued a heavy fire until half-past eight, when Major
Daniels determined to attack them again; although their numbers
were now swollen to between four thousand and five thousand men. He
had with him only a hundred and forty available men, a number being
required to garrison the fort. Dividing his little force, however,
he attacked the village on two sides. The fight went on for two
hours, during which one of the two attacking parties gained a
partial footing in the village; but wounded men began to struggle
back to the fort, and reported that Major Daniels and many men had
been killed; and the remnants of the attacking party were brought
back, by a native officer, at half-past eleven. The casualties in
killed and wounded were very heavy, including the two British
officers, four native officers, and forty-six rank and file.
Fortunately the natives; believing, no doubt, that reinforcements
would arrive, scattered to their homes without further action.

"Here was a case in which the native troops were ordered to perform
what verged on the impossible. The houses in these native villages
are almost always fortified; and to take a hundred and fifty men,
to attack a place held by five thousand, was asking more than the
best British soldiers could be expected to achieve.

"At any rate, the stories I have told you will give you some idea
of the work we have before us. We may quite assume that such a
force as is now being collected can be trusted to defeat the
Afridis, if they venture to meet us in open fight; but if they
resort solely to harassing tactics, we shall have our work cut out
for us. It must be remembered, too, that the Afridis are far better
fighters, more warlike, and of far better physique than the men
engaged in the fights that I have been speaking of. They are
splendid shots, and are almost all armed with breech-loading
rifles, Sniders and Martinis. Their country is tremendously hilly
and, although it is wholly unknown to us, we do know that there are
ravines to be passed where a handful of men could keep an army at
bay."

"I was with the Sikhim expedition, in '88," one of the captains
said. "At that time I was in the Derbyshires. In this case it was
the wildness of the country, rather than the stoutness of the
defence of the Thibetans, that caused our difficulty. The force
consisted of a mountain battery of four guns, two hundred men of
our regiment, four hundred of the Bengal Infantry, and seven
hundred men of the 32nd Pioneers. The men were all picked and of
good physique, as it was known that the campaign would be a most
arduous one. In addition to the usual entrenching tools, a hundred
and twenty short swords were issued to each regiment, and fifty per
cent of the followers were also supplied. These swords were to be
used for clearing away jungle. The country was very rugged, and the
work had to be done at the altitude of twelve thousand feet, where
the mountains are mostly covered with forest trees and undergrowth.

"The base from which we started was thirty miles northeast of
Darjeeling, and the first objective of the expedition was the fort
of Lingtu, forty miles distant. The advance was made in two
columns; the first consisting of two mountain guns, a hundred men
of the Derbyshires, and three hundred of the 32nd Pioneers, which
were to make for Lingtu; while the rest were to operate towards
Intchi, where the Rajah of Sikhim resided, and thus prevent
reinforcements from being sent to Lingtu.

"The latter column met with no opposition and, after accomplishing
their work, retired. The first column came across the enemy at
Jeluk, five miles short of Lingtu. Here the Thibetans had erected a
strong stockade, at the top of a very steep ascent; and had
barricaded the road with stone breastworks.

"The position was attacked, at seven in the morning, by a hundred
men of the 32nd Pioneers; supported by seventy-eight men of my
regiment. The guns had had to be left behind. The advance was slow
and, owing to the dense bamboo jungle through which we had to pass,
and the steepness of the road, great caution was necessary.

"When we had reached a spot within a few hundred yards of the
stockade, fire was suddenly opened on the Pioneers. These, however,
moved on steadily, without replying till, having worked their way
close up to the stockade, they fired a volley; and then, with a
loud cheer, charged with bayonets fixed. The Derbyshire detachment
moved up into support, and the position was captured after a sharp
struggle.

"A small turning party, under Captain Lumsden, had been detached to
the left but, after proceeding a short distance, they found that
the road had been cleared to where it passed round a precipice; and
that it was defended by a party of the enemy, behind a stone
breastwork, at ten yards' range. Captain Lumsden and several of his
men were knocked over, and the party were brought to a complete
stand. So thick was the jungle that they did not know what was
going on, on either side; and the first intimation they received,
of the capture of the fort, was the descent of a party of
Derbyshires in the rear of the breastworks.

"The stockade, when it was examined, turned out to be a most
formidable one; about two hundred yards long, both flanks resting
on impassable precipices. It was constructed of logs laid
horizontally, with a thick abattis of twelve trees.

"Next morning the advance on Lingtu was continued, in a dense mist.
Information was obtained, from a prisoner, that they would have to
cross a spot where there was a stone shoot, down which an avalanche
of rocks could be hurled by the defenders. They therefore advanced
with great caution, while a party of the Pioneers crept along the
crest of the ridge, and attacked from the rear the party gathered
at the head of the stone shoot. The road was steep and broken, and
the partially-melted snow lay two feet deep on it. The Pioneers
captured the stone shoot without loss, and then pushed on over the
hills and, without firing a shot, charged straight at the fort; and
burst their way through the main gate, before the astonished
Thibetans had realized what was happening.

"Of course, as it was against an enemy of such poor fighting
quality as the Thibetans, this little affair affords no idea of the
resistance that we can expect in the Tirah; but it does show what
can be accomplished by our men, in the face of immense natural
difficulties."



Chapter 8: The Dargai Pass.


There was the greatest joy among the Pioneers, when they received
instructions to prepare for an advance to Khusalghar. Officers and
men alike were in the highest spirits, and not the least pleased
was Lisle, who had begun to tire of the monotony of camp life. The
mention of the place at which they were to assemble put an end to
the discussion, that had long taken place, as to route to be
followed. Six days' easy march along a good road would take them to
Shinawari and, in three or four days more, they would get into the
heart of the Tirah.

Illustration: Map illustrating the Tirah Campaign.

Much would depend on the conduct of the Orakzais, a powerful tribe
whose country lay between Kenmora and that of the Zakka-Khels. The
latter had indeed declared against us, but they were known to be
very half hearted; for they felt that, lying as they did close to
the British frontier, they would be sure to suffer most if we
obtained the upper hand. It was hoped therefore that, after making
a show of resistance, they would try to come to terms with us.

The regiment was told that it would have to provide its own
carriage, and two or three days were spent in buying up all the
ponies and mules in the neighbourhood. All the heavy baggage was
packed up and left in store, and the regiment marched from the town
in light order, with their drums and fifes playing a merry march,
and the men in high spirits.

"It is worth two years in a dull cantonment, Bullen," one of the
lieutenants remarked to Lisle.

"It is glorious," Lisle said, "though I expect we shall have some
hard fighting; for they say that the Zakka-Khels and their allies
can place fifty thousand in the fighting line and, as our column is
reported to be twenty thousand strong, we shall all have our work
to do. In the open they would, of course, have no chance with us
but, as the fighting will be done in guerrilla fashion, from hills
and precipices, our task will be no easy one. The guarding of the
tremendous convoy we must take with us will, in itself, be
extremely difficult."

"Yes, I expect we shall get it hot. The loss is almost sure to be
heavy, but that will not prevent us from turning them out of their
fastnesses."

"I wish they would let us all carry rifles, instead of swords,"
Lisle said. "It will be beastly having nothing to do but wave one's
sword, while they are potting at us. I don't think I should mind
the heaviest fire, if I could reply to it; but to be compelled to
stand by idly, while the men are blazing away, would be enough to
drive me mad."

"I dare say when the fighting begins, Bullen, you will soon find
that there are plenty of rifles disengaged; and I don't see any
reason why an officer should not pick up one of them, and take his
share in firing, till he has to lead the men on to an attack."

Lisle was now nearly eighteen, of medium height, with light active
figure, and likely to be able to undergo any hardships.

On their arrival at Khusalghar, they found that several regiments
were already there, with an enormous amount of stores and baggage.
The officers lost no time in examining the fort, that had been so
nobly held by a party of Sikhs who, having for a long time held the
enemy in check, had fought to the last when they burst in. One by
one the noble fellows fell. One wounded man, lying on a pallet,
shot three of the enemy before he was killed; and the last survivor
of the little force shut himself up in a little chamber, and killed
twenty of his assailants before he was overcome. Not a single man
escaped, and their defence of the little fort is a splendid example
of the fidelity and bravery of our Sikh soldiers.

After a few days' stay at this place, the regiment marched on to
Shinawari; and here remained for some little time, until the column
was made up. It was known that the Zakka-Khels and their allies had
marched down and taken up their position near the Dargai hill; and
that the Orakzais had, in spite of the pressure brought to bear
upon them by the other tribes, determined to remain neutral. This
Dargai hill must not be confused with the hill, of the same name,
at which fierce fighting took place in the expedition to Chitral,
two years before.

At last the welcome news came that the advance was about to take
place. General Lockhart, with another column, was at Fort Lockhart,
some thirty miles away; but the intermediate ground was so broken,
and the force of the enemy watching him so strong, that no
assistance could be obtained from him. The force assembled at
Shinawari was a strong one. The King's Own Scottish Borderers, a
battery of Royal Artillery, the 1st Battalion of Gordons, 1st
Dorsets with a mountain battery, the Yorkshire Regiment, the Royal
West Surrey, and a company of the 4th Ghoorkhas were all there. The
3rd Sikhs, with two guns, moved to the left in the Khuram Valley.

Altogether, something like fifty thousand transport animals
accompanied them, with sixty thousand camp followers. The transport
presented an extraordinary appearance. It included every class of
bullock vehicle, lines of ill-fed camels, mules, ponies, and even
tiny donkeys.

On October 17th orders were received, from General Lockhart, that
the division at Shinawari was to make a reconnaissance in force
towards the Khanki Valley, as the enemy had been seen moving about
on the hills. A force consisting of the 3rd and 4th Brigades moved
forward. The object of the reconnaissance was the summit of the
hill, directly overlooking Shinawari, and over two thousand feet
high. From the plain the ascent appeared to be simple but, when
they started to climb, they found that it was rugged and almost
impassable. There was no semblance of road, and the men had to toil
up the goat paths and sheep tracks.

The Dargai ridge was from a thousand to fifteen hundred feet above
the spot from which they started. On the near side it was almost a
sheer precipice, and the only means of access to the top was up
three steep waterways, which converged to the left of the position.
It was only two hundred and fifty yards' range from the summit but,
as soon as it was crossed, the steepness of the cliff afforded the
assailants shelter from the enemy's fire. From this point the path
zigzags up, until men in single file can reach the summit. The
ridge then dips into the hollow plateau where the village lies, and
then runs up two hundred feet to the cliff, making a descent of the
better part of a mile. On the far side the hill slopes away to the
Khanki Valley.

"We are going to begin with a sharpish climb," Lisle said to
another officer. "If those fellows on the top of the cliff stick to
their work, we shall have a very hot time of it."

"I expect the guns will clear them off," the other said.

"They may do that for a moment but, as we get up to the top, they
will rush forward again; if they have the same pluck as the fellows
I fought against, before."

As soon as the advance began, the enemy came into action; but the
two batteries opened upon them, and their fire slackened somewhat.
The climb was a severe one, indeed; the road became worse and worse
as they advanced and, at one place, a ridge between two spurs had
to be crossed with barely a foot of purchase way, and a sheer drop
on both sides. When they were within two hundred yards from the
summit, they had to cross an open space. The Borderers and
Ghoorkhas were in front; and the latter were ordered to carry the
position, while the Borderers covered their advance.

The Ghoorkhas advanced in a couple of rushes and, as they neared
the summit, the enemy bolted. The Goorkhas pursued; but they did
not go far, as the general, who had been with the advance guard
throughout, recalled them. It was found that a village lay in the
hollow of the plateau, and that sangars had been built all along
the summit, and high up on the hill which covered the crest.

General Westmacott waited for two hours on the summit and,
supposing that General Kempster could not make his way up, was
about to withdraw his men; as large bodies of the enemy were seen,
moving in a direction which threatened the left rear. As they did
so, General Kempster arrived. He had experienced considerable
resistance, and had lost two officers.

"That has been hard work, Lisle," his companion said, as they
returned to camp.

"Yes, but the hardness consisted more in the climbing than in the
fighting. I wonder we are brought back again. We shall probably
have a great deal harder work, next time; for all the enemy in the
Khanki Valley will no doubt be up there, waiting for us."

That evening, there was much discussion at the mess upon the
expediency of evacuating the pass, when it had once been occupied.
The general opinion, however, was that it was necessary.

General Lockhart was at the fort bearing his name, with a regiment
of the 4th Brigade. The 2nd Battalion had remained in camp at
Shinawari, and the 1st Division was still on the march to that
place. It was General Lockhart's intention to divide the great
force known to be in the Khanki Valley. The reconnaissance had been
ordered to ascertain if a road really existed, and if it was
passable for baggage. The reasons for the retirement were that a
complete brigade would have been required to take the place, that
the picketing of the road would have taken half a brigade, and that
no commissariat arrangements had been made for the supply of a
force on the plateau. Further, not a drop of water was available;
and lastly, if Dargai had been held, the enemy would have massed
their whole force against it; whereas, when the force withdrew, the
tribesmen would be compelled to divide their force in order to
watch the other road.

The conclusion arrived at, by the members of the mess, was that the
retirement was probably necessary; but that the next advance would
assuredly meet with much greater opposition than the first.

Three days passed; and then, at half-past four in the morning, the
advance guard of General Yeatman-Biggs' column left the camp, under
General Kempster, and proceeded up the Chagru Pass. It was a long,
weary pull up the hill. The sappers had been working hard on the
road, for the past ten days; but it was still very narrow for a
whole division, and three mountain batteries. At half-past eight
the force reached the summit, and the advance guard sent back news
that the crest of the Dargai was held, by the enemy, in force. The
enemy could be plainly made out. They had with them a black banner,
which showed that they were Kambar Khels. On the far side of the
opposite range could be seen great masses of tribesmen, with a
dozen standards.

The 1st and 2nd Ghoorkhas, the Dorsets, and the Derbys were sent
on; while the Gordons took up a position to cover the advance, with
long-range volleys. As the regiments climbed up, three mountain
guns massed on the Chagru Kotal; and another one, which had come in
with the Northampton from Fort Lockhart, opened fire. The enemy
replied, at long range, upon the advance guard of the Ghoorkhas, as
they went up the centre nullah. The little Ghoorkhas came steadily
on and, at six hundred yards, opened fire in volleys. This and the
fire of the guns was too much for the tribesmen, who ceased to show
themselves. The Dorsets had now joined the Ghoorkhas and, after a
halt, again made a rush across the open to reach the cover, the
Derbys firing heavily to assist them.

Until our men showed in the open, they had no knowledge in what
force the position was held. Three companies of Ghoorkhas managed
to reach cover beneath the cliff, but the path was strewn with the
dead and dying. Captain Robinson, after getting across with his
men, tried to rejoin the main body, but fell. Then the Dorsets
endeavoured to join the three gallant companies of Ghoorkhas. Rush
after rush was made, but the head of each melted away, as soon as
the fatal spot was reached. At last, after three fruitless
attempts, the helio flashed back to the general that the position
was impregnable, and that further attempts would be but a useless
waste of life.

Matters were looking serious. It was twelve o'clock, and the enemy
still held their position. General Yeatman-Biggs realized that a
check would seriously alter the course of the campaign, and he told
General Kempster that the summit must be taken, at any cost. The
latter started at once, taking with him the Gordons and 3rd Sikhs.
It took the fresh troops the best part of an hour to climb up; and
when the five regiments of infantry, the Highlanders, English,
Sikhs, and Ghoorkhas, stood massed in the nullah, General Kempster
helioed to the guns, asking three minutes' concentrated fire on the
summit.

There were two ways to reach the cover where the company of
Ghoorkhas had been lying, for three hours. The top ridge had been
proved to be absolutely a death passage, but there was another
path, by which General Westmacott had forced his way up, three days
before, and which was shorter across the open zone of fire. A fresh
regiment was to take the lead.

The colonel collected his men at the edge of the nullah, and said:

"Gordons, the general says that the position must be taken, at all
costs. The Gordons are to do it!"

The signal was given, the batteries at once opened fire, and the
cliff was crowned with a circle of bursting shrapnel. Then the
officers of the Gordons dashed over the nullah, the pipes rolled
out the charge and, with clenched teeth, the Highlanders burst into
the open. The length of the exposed zone was swept with the leaden
stream. The head of the upper column melted away; but a few
struggled on, and others took the places of the fallen. The Sikhs,
Derbys, and Ghoorkhas followed in rushes, as the firing slackened,
and the cover halfway was won. A moment was allowed for breath, and
then the men were up again; another terrible rush, another terrible
slaughter, and the three companies of Ghoorkhas were reached.

When the enemy saw that the space was crossed, they left their
sangars and streamed down the reverse slope of the hill. They could
not face the men who had passed that terrible passage. Forming at
the bend of the perpendicular rock, they waited till they had
recovered their breath, and then proceeded up the zigzag path
leading to the summit of the hill.

The fighting was over, but the loss had been great. Four officers
had been killed and ten wounded, one of them mortally. The total
casualties were a hundred and ninety-four killed and wounded. Of
these thirty were Gordons, and the majority of the remainder were
Dorsets and Ghoorkhas. Few of those who fell wounded escaped with
their lives. Their comrades made desperate efforts to carry them
off; but the storm of bullets, fired at so short a range, rendered
it impossible; while the wounded who attempted to rise and return
were riddled with bullets, as soon as they moved. When the fight
was over, the whole force encamped on the Chagru Kotal.

The assailants were unable to make out why the enemy did not defend
the zigzag path. Only two men could climb it abreast, and the
advancing files could have been destroyed by a dozen marksmen with
breech loaders. The only reasonable supposition was that, having
been engaged for five hours, their ammunition was practically
exhausted.

Several acts of heroism were performed in the battle. One of the
pipers, Lance Corporal Milne, was shot through both legs; but still
continued to play his pipes, in a sitting position. Four other
pipers played right across the fatal passage, three of them being
wounded. Lieutenant Tillard was the first man across. He was a fast
runner, but he stopped to encourage his men, midway.

By the 25th, the whole of the two divisions were encamped on the
two low hills at the mouth of the Kapagh Pass; while the stream of
transport came gradually up. By that day six thousand four hundred
British troops, eleven thousand two hundred and eighty native
troops, seventeen thousand followers, and two thousand four hundred
camels were gathered there.

In the morning a foraging party went out and, when they were
returning to camp with supplies, and also with a hundred head of
cattle, the enemy lined the neighbouring heights. The mountain
battery came into action, and the rearmost regiment covered the
retreat by volleys; but the tribesmen had all the advantage of
position and, with the utmost determination, they followed. They
even opened fire on the camp, causing several casualties, the total
losses being over thirty.

By this time the troops were all convinced that the campaign would
be a most serious one. Before them lay a country of which they were
absolutely ignorant, into which no Englishman had ever penetrated;
and defended by an enemy who were, for the most part, armed with
first-class rifles, and were marvellous skirmishers. If the
tribesmen kept to guerrilla warfare, there was no saying how long
the campaign would last.

Lisle had passed through the fight unhurt. He had been almost
bewildered as he crossed the fatal path, running at top speed, with
men falling thickly around him. Halfway across Lieutenant Blunt,
who was one of his great chums, and had joined just before him,
fell. Lisle sheathed his sword and threw himself down beside him,
pressing him to the ground to prevent him from moving; while he
himself remained perfectly still. When the next rush of men came
along, he lifted his wounded friend with great effort on to his
back, and then ran on. Blunt was again twice hit; but Lisle
escaped, almost by a miracle, and arrived at the foot of the
precipice a minute after the last man got in. He was loudly
cheered, by the men, as he did so.

He had the satisfaction of knowing that Blunt's wounds, although
serious, were not considered mortal. When the regiment halted on
the plateau, Lisle was warmly congratulated by the colonel and
officers on the feat he had performed; but he disclaimed any
particular merit.

"When Blunt fell," he said, "it was the most natural thing in the
world that I should go and pick him up; and I did so almost
mechanically. Luckily he was a light man but, even if he had been a
heavy one, I don't think I should have felt his weight. I was
scarcely conscious of the bullets whistling round me. When he fell,
I knew that the tribesmen would shoot any wounded man who tried to
rise, and that the only chance was to lie perfectly still, until
another batch of men came along."

"You showed no end of coolness," the colonel said, "and the idea of
pressing him down, and yourself lying quietly beside him showed
that, in spite of confusion, your brain was clear, and that you had
all your senses about you. It was a gallant action, which I shall
not forget to mention when I send in my report. You deserve the
V.C., but I don't suppose you will get it; so many gallant deeds
were done that only a few can get the cross."

The two divisions marched on the morning of the 28th. The
Northamptons and 36th Sikhs had been detached to an extremely high
hill, to cover the advance. It had already been found that,
although the Afridis could fight well, so long as they had the
advantage of position, they were nevertheless extremely careful of
their skins. After the heavy firing into camp, on the night of the
return of the reconnaissance, the place had been greatly
strengthened; and the positions were changed every night, a fact
which so entirely surprised the enemy that, for a time, night
attacks ceased altogether.

General Westmacott's brigade advanced up the Khanki nullah to the
foot of the Sampagha Pass. General Gazelee's division moved along
the hills, and halted at the village of Ghandaki. In the afternoon
a reconnaissance pushed forward, and returned with the news that
the pass appeared to be simple, and the road a good one. Tribesmen
were seen upon nearly every crest. They were apparently building
sangars upon the roadway.

General Gazelee was to make his attack next morning. General
Westmacott, General Kempster, and General Hart, with the batteries
of both divisions, were to occupy a knoll at the foot of the pass,
to support the advance. The troops moved forward in the following
order: the Queens, the 2nd and 4th Ghoorkhas, Yorks, and 3rd Sikhs
were first; and they were followed by the 30th Sikhs, the Scottish
Borderers, and the Northamptons.

In the dim light of the early morning, the distant crests were
marked by the fires of the enemy. Some delay was caused by the
batteries missing the tracks, but by daybreak they advanced. At
half-past six the enemy fired the first shot, and then fell rapidly
back. The regiments in the first line moved steadily on and, at
half-past seven, the guns opened. A few shells were sufficient for
the enemy's advance party, and they scuttled back. When the
Ghoorkhas and Queens reached the first ridge in the pass, the enemy
opened fire; but they could not stand the accurate fire of the six
batteries.

A mountain battery pushed up the pass, and came into action on the
enemy's first position. The pass widened out from this point, and
the two leading regiments moved forward to the sloping crest of the
third position. The Queens had advanced on the right, with the
Ghoorkhas on their flank. The pathway was covered by the fire of
the enemy, hidden behind rocks; and this was so accurate that men
could hardly show themselves on the path, without being immediately
shot down. The Sikhs and Borderers, however, pushed up the hill and
drove the enemy out.

The defence of the pass was not so determined as had been expected,
after the stand shown at Dargai. The reason, no doubt, was that
though they were good skirmishers, the enemy did not care to expose
themselves, either to artillery fire or close-quarter fighting.
When the last crest had been gained, the force proceeded down into
the Mastura Valley. The tribesmen had deserted, and set fire to,
their homesteads. The villages were only a few hundred yards apart,
and were well built. The valley contained many beautiful groves.
There was little food in the camp, and the Ghoorkhas set to work to
make chupatties, with coarse flour found in the villages.

There had been very few casualties during the day, and the men
began to hope that, after the lesson taught the enemy at Dargai, no
other resolute stand would be made. After a day of rest in the
valley, orders were issued for the 3rd and 4th Brigades to move, at
daybreak. The 2nd Brigade was to follow, the 1st being left to
garrison the camp. The path was across a low ridge connecting
higher ones, and offered no great facilities for resistance, and
was overcome with the exchange of a few shots, only.

From the top of the Karanghur Pass was seen the valley of Maidan,
the spot which the Afridis were wont to boast no infidel had ever
gazed upon. The view was magnificent. From the foot of the slope
stretched a valley, broken here and there by ravines and nullahs.
Every inch of it seemed to be cultivated; and it was one wide
expanse of terraced fields, sprinkled with groves and dotted with
countless habitations. There was scarce an acre which had not a
fortified block house, as each family built a homestead for itself,
and fortified itself against all comers.

As the column entered the valley, they found that their arrival had
not been expected. The livestock had been removed, but every house
in the valley was stocked with supplies. Indian corn, wheat,
barley, and other grain were found in abundance; and there was an
ample stock of honey, potatoes, walnuts, and onions.

Bagh was the tribal centre, the Afridi parliament ground. Its
mosque was situated about four miles farther up the valley. It was
at this spot that orders were issued to make war upon the British.
It was an insignificant building, with a mud roof supported by
twenty-one pillars. The mosque was not interfered with.

It was thought that, as such little opposition was offered in the
last pass, the enemy had lost all heart; but a foraging party, the
next day, found the tribesmen in great force at the other end of
the valley, and were compelled to retire. Another party of the
enemy attempted to rush a picket of the 36th Sikhs; and a strong
force pounced upon the baggage train, and killed several of the
drivers; then, retiring till the main guard had passed, dashed out
again and killed three of the guards, and wounded several others.

For the present, no damage was done to the homesteads; as it was
hoped that the Afridis would come in and surrender. Next day a
foraging party was hotly attacked and, at night, there was severe
fighting round the camp. A party of elders came in, to ask what
terms would be given; and were told that the tribesmen would have
to deliver up their rifles, and pay a heavy fine. It was evident,
from their manner, that although they would be ready to pay a fine,
they would certainly not deliver up their rifles.

The troops had now settled down comfortably. They had ten days'
rations in camp, and the camel convoys were coming in daily. The
weather was delightful, and the nightly firing into the camp,
alone, disturbed them.

A small party of foragers was, a few days later, fiercely attacked.
Captain Rowcroft, who was in command, had with him only a subadar
and half a dozen sepoys, when a heavy fire was opened upon him. The
party could have retired, but one of the men was shot through the
thigh, and it took three others to carry him. He was presently left
behind, and Rowcroft went back to the body, to assure himself that
the man was dead. This pause gave the enemy time to close up, and
the subadar was shot, as well as the man tending him.

A mule was luckily found, and the subadar was sent to the rear.
After this two men were hit, one for the second time and, as it was
impossible for the four sound men to carry off their wounded, and
face the enemy as well, Rowcroft chose the best spot, and
determined to halt and wait for help. The Afridis could not bring
themselves to rush the little party, but confined themselves to
keeping up a heavy fire. Another Sikh was wounded; and the dust
caused by the bullets almost blinded the others, who could scarcely
see to reply. At last, just in the nick of time, a relieving party
arrived and carried them off.

On the 8th General Westmacott started, with his brigade, to punish
the Zakka-Khels for the continued night firing which, our commander
had learned from prisoners, was kept up by that tribe. The brigade
did its work thoroughly and, by evening, the whole of the eastern
valley was in flames. That same evening, however, Captain Watson, a
commissariat officer, was shot dead, as he stood at his own door. A
curious fatality seemed to accompany this night firing. Out of the
many thousands in camp, four officers only had been hit. Captain
Sullivan, of the 36th Sikhs, was shot ten minutes after he had
arrived in camp, having travelled post haste from England.

On the 9th a reconnaissance was ordered to Saransur, a lofty peak
to the east of the Maidan valley. Across this is a pass, on one of
the roads to Peshawar. General Westmacott, who was in command, took
with him four regiments--two British and two Sikhs--two batteries,
and a company of Madras Sappers. The foot of the hill to be scaled
was less than three miles from camp, but the intervening ground was
extraordinarily broken. It was, in fact, a series of hummocks from
seventy to a hundred feet high; which were covered with boulders,
and intersected by a river. This main nullah was also broken, on
both sides, by smaller nullahs almost every hundred yards. Beyond
this rugged ground there was a severe ascent. The hill had two
spurs; one wooded, especially towards the summit, the other bare.
The path wound up the latter, then crossed a ridge beyond, and yet
another ridge behind that, with a sheer summit very like the Dargai
cliff.

The force left camp at half-past seven. When they had gone about a
mile, desultory shots were fired at them, from a series of
well-built sangars facing the termination of the nullah. On
reaching the foot of the hillside, General Westmacott was much
concerned about the Dorsets on the left; who were engaged in
desultory firing, and were making little progress up the nullah.
Staff officer after staff officer was despatched, to direct the
Dorsets to the intended line.

A little before ten the Northamptons, and Sikhs covering them in
the rear, began the ascent. It was a stiff climb of a thousand
feet. When the first brow was reached General Westmacott called a
halt, in order that the men might get their breath and fix
bayonets. Then they climbed to the next top cover, and rushed
forward. The enemy evidently knew its range, and advance companies
found themselves under magazine fire. Nevertheless they pushed on.
An open kotal had to be passed. The men crossed it at the double
and, although a heavy fire was kept up again, there was no
casualty.

The advance guard was now at the foot of the sheer cliff. No news
had been received of the Dorsets, who were in a very rough country,
wooded almost to the summit; and the general could only hope that
they were working up through this. The force pushed on and, a few
minutes past eleven, the whole summit was in our possession, and
the last of the visible enemy put to flight.

The intelligence officers busied themselves sketching the country.
It was evident that the Saransur was the retreat of the Maidan
Zakka-Khels, for all round were evidences of encampments:
fire-stained walls, caves, and bags of grain. It was deserted by
the tribesmen, who had been taken by surprise, and had left
hurriedly. General Westmacott was anxious to be off, as it was
probable that the fighting men of the enemy had merely hurried off
to place their families under cover, and would return as soon as
they had done so.

At two o'clock the return march began. A company of the
Northamptons were placed within range of the wooded slope, which
should have been covered by the Dorsets, had they come up. They
were suddenly fired upon, and the men fell fast. Another company
came up to help them. The enemy could not be seen, but volleys were
fired into the wood. The 36th Sikhs went back to reinforce them,
and the whole force were withdrawn without further casualty.

As the Northamptons were retiring across the wooded zone, the first
four companies were allowed to pass unmolested; but when the fifth
reached the clear ground, they were greeted with a blaze of fire.
The carriage of the wounded delayed the retirement, and it was not
until dusk that the foot of the hill was reached.

The enemy had taken every advantage that their knowledge of the
country gave them. They had now begun to creep up the ravines, and
their number increased every minute. Men were falling fast. Each
man carrying a wounded comrade became a target. The Dorsets also
were severely engaged. The Northamptons stuck to their work, and
slowly withdrew their wounded; but the number of casualties
increased alarmingly.

Then an unfortunate occurrence took place. A party of Northamptons,
under Lieutenant Macintyre and Lieutenant Sergeant Luckin, turning
a corner, were cut off. It appeared that they sacrificed themselves
to their wounded comrades. One of the party was despatched for
help, and evidently came across a small group of Dorsets. The story
was, that the party were surrounded at short range when he left;
for, had they left their wounded and followed him, they might have
saved themselves. Next morning their bodies were found. In every
case they had been wounded by bullets, before the Pathans came up
and gashed them; which showed that they had fought till the last
man dropped.

Lisle was not one of those who returned to camp and, in the
confusion that occurred as the result of the late arrival of the
troops, his absence was not discovered until the next morning. On
enquiries being made, it was found that he was last seen high up in
the mountains. He had been sent down, with eight men, to request
the guns to direct their fire against the enemy, who were pressing
the regiment during the retreat; but as he had not arrived at the
guns, a strong party was at once sent out, to search for his body
and those of the men with him.

Lisle had, in fact, pushed down halfway to the spot where the guns
were placed, and had dismounted at the top of a nullah; when a
large party of the enemy opened fire upon him. One of the sepoys at
once fell dead, and another was wounded. It was impossible for him
to fight his way through this force. Twilight was already falling
and, owing to the rugged nature of the ground, he was by no means
sure of his position.

While the men returned the enemy's fire, he looked round for some
vantage ground. Fifty yards away there was a small blockhouse and,
when he saw this, he at once determined to shelter in it. He and
one of the men therefore lifted their wounded comrade, and Lisle
shouted to the others:

"Use your magazines, and then make a rush for the hut, keeping well
together."

The little party charged, meanwhile keeping up so heavy a fire,
with their magazines, that the Afridis who stood between them and
the house cleared off, leaving a dozen of their dead on the ground.
Before they reached the block house, two more of the men were
wounded but, fortunately, not severely enough to prevent them from
keeping up with the others. The place was untenanted, and they
rushed in and at once began to pile its contents against the door.

Lisle ordered the unwounded men to take their places at the
loopholes, which served for windows in the Afridi buildings, while
he himself attended to the wounds of the others. He warned the men
who were firing to withdraw quickly after every shot, for the
Afridis were such admirable marksmen that their bullets frequently
entered the loopholes.



Chapter 9: Captured.


When he had completed the dressing of the wounds, Lisle mounted to
the upper story, which was a feature of every house in the valley.
While the lower part was of stone; the upper one was built of
wicker work, thickly plastered with mud, and quite useless as a
protection against rifle bullets. He set to work to cut a dozen
small loopholes, a few inches above the floor. From these he
commanded a view all round. Then he called up the two wounded men,
who were still able to use their rifles, and ordered them to lie
down, one at each of the side walls; while he himself took his
place over the doorway, with the rifle of the disabled man.

From here he picked off several of the enemy. His fire was returned
but, as he took care to lie well back, the bullets all went over
his head.

When darkness fell, he went down and directed the sepoys to man
only the loopholes in the front wall. This released three men, whom
he brought upstairs and posted above the door.

The Afridis continued to riddle the upper wall and the door with
bullets. Several times they attempted a rush, but were unable to
withstand the heavy magazine fire which met them, when within
twenty yards of the house. Twice they attempted to pile faggots at
the side of the door, but the defence was so strong that many of
the bearers were killed, and the survivors fled.

Knowing that the Afridis were in the habit of hiding their store of
grain, Lisle prodded the floor in all directions with his bayonet
and, at last, found a good supply in one corner of the room.
Unfortunately, however, there was only one vessel, half full of
water. It would not have done to light a fire to cook the grain, as
any illumination within the house would have shown the exact place
of the loopholes to the enemy. Lisle therefore served out some
grain to each of the soldiers, to eat raw. He gave some of the
water to the three wounded men, and served out a mouthful to each
of the others; telling them that they might not be relieved for
some time, and that the little supply must be made to last as long
as possible.

The enemy still kept up a heavy fire but, after the lessons they
had received, there was but small chance that they would attempt
another hand-to-hand attack. Lisle therefore told all the men to
lie down and sleep, while he himself took up his place at the
loophole nearest the door, and kept watch.

No attempt was made until daybreak was approaching; when, with wild
yells, the Afridis again rushed forward. The men were instantly on
their feet, and eight rifles flashed out.

"Magazine firing!" Lisle shouted, "but don't fire unless you see a
man, and make sure of bringing him down. We must husband our
ammunition."

Quietly and steadily, the men kept up their fire. This time the
enemy reached the door, and Lisle was compelled to call down the
two men from above. The Afridis gathered thickly round the door,
tried to push it in with their heavy knives, and battered it with
the butt ends of their rifles. Gradually, in spite of the fire of
the defenders, they splintered it; but the barricade behind still
held and, from this, the besieged poured through the broken door so
galling a fire--one half emptying their magazines, and then falling
back to reload while the others took their places--till at last,
after suffering a loss of some thirty men, the enemy retired again,
and were soon hidden in the darkness. As soon as they had gone, the
garrison brought down all available material from the upper floor
to strengthen the barricade.

"I don't think they will try again, lads," Lisle said.

The numbers of the besieged were, unfortunately, dwindling. One had
been shot through the head, two others had been wounded, and Lisle
himself had received a bullet in his shoulder. There were now but
two unwounded men; but the other four were all capable of using
their rifles, at a pinch. It was a relief, indeed, when day fairly
broke; for then they could see their foes at a distance and, by a
steady fire, force them to take to shelter. When they got into
cover, the tribesmen continued to fire upon the block house; but
the besieged did not reply, for they had only twenty rounds per man
left.

Another mouthful of water was now served to all and, the two
unwounded men having been placed in the upper story to keep watch,
the others sat down under the loopholes, in readiness to leap to
their feet and fire, if an alarm was given.

At length, about eleven o'clock, the fire of the enemy suddenly
ceased and, a few minutes later, a relief party marched up. The men
cheered lustily as the barricade was removed, and Lisle and the six
men came out. The officers ran forward and warmly greeted Lisle,
shaking hands with him and the men of his little party.

"Thank God we have found you alive, Bullen! We hadn't even a hope
that you had survived; for we found poor Macintyre and his party,
all killed and cut up. We started this morning, as soon as your
absence was discovered, and have been searching ever since; but I
doubt if we should ever have found you, had we not heard firing
going on up here. I don't think men were ever so pleased as ours,
when we heard it; for it showed that you, or some of your party,
were still holding out.

"You must have had desperate fighting, for there are some forty
bodies lying near the door; and we know that the enemy always carry
off their dead, when they can. You must have accounted for a good
many more, who have been taken away in the darkness."

"We have done our best, you may be sure," Lisle said. "We have lost
two men killed, and four out of the others are wounded. I myself
have got a rifle ball in my shoulder; at least, it is not there
now, for it went right through. Fortunately it missed the bone, so
I shall be all right again, in a day or two."

"How many were you attacked by?"

"I should say there must have been two hundred. That was about the
number, when they first attacked."

"You must have been exposed to a tremendous fire. The walls are
everywhere pitted with bullet marks, and the upper story seems
perfectly riddled with balls; but of course none of you were up
there."

"Yes, we used it as a lookout. As you see, I made four loopholes in
each side and, as we lay well back, their bullets passed over our
heads.

"What we want now is water. We drank the last drop, when we saw you
coming. We had scarcely a mouthful each, and we have not had much
more during the siege."

Flasks were instantly produced, and each man drank his fill.

"And now we had better be off," the officer in command of the
relief party said. "Likely enough the Afridis will be down upon us,
as soon as we move."

They were, indeed, several times fired at, as they made their way
down to the camp, and at one time the resistance was formidable;
but they were presently joined by another party from the camp, and
the Afridis therefore drew off.

Lisle received many hearty congratulations on his return, and many
officers of other regiments came in to shake his hand.

"I shall send in your name again, Mr. Bullen," his colonel said,
after Lisle had made his report. "It was a most gallant action, to
defend yourself so long, with only seven men, against a couple of
hundred of the enemy; and the loss you inflicted upon them has been
very severe, for forty fell close to the house, so that their
bodies could not be carried off. I certainly should reckon that you
must have killed or wounded a good many more."

"I don't think so, Colonel. No doubt we killed some more but, as it
was dark for the greater part of the time, we could only fire at
the flashes of their rifles. Certainly I saw twelve or fourteen
fall, before it became quite dark and, as they several times tried
to rush us, others might have fallen far enough from the house to
be carried off by their friends."

That day General Lockhart placed, in the order of the day, the
names of Lisle and his little party as having shown conspicuous
gallantry, in defending themselves against a vastly superior force.

Two days later General Lockhart, himself, went out with a strong
force to the top of Saransur; but met with little resistance, and
the force returned at a much earlier hour than on the previous
occasion, and reached camp before nightfall.

In warfare of this kind, it is the wounded who are the cause of
disaster. A wounded man means six men out of the fighting
line--four to carry him, and one to take charge of their rifles. A
few casualties greatly reduce the fighting strength of the party.
In European warfare this would not take place, as the wounded would
be left behind, and would be cared for by the enemy.

The next day representatives of all the Orakzai tribes came in, and
asked for terms. They were told that they must restore all stolen
property, give up five hundred rifles, and pay a fine of thirty
thousand rupees, and the cost of rebuilding the post they had
destroyed. Representatives of three other tribes also came in, and
similar terms were imposed upon them. Two of these, the
Kambar-Khels and the Malikdins, were in the habit of migrating to
British territory in cold weather; but the Kuki-Khels sent their
families and goods, in winter quarters, to the Bara valley. The
other Maidan tribes would probably have come in at the same time,
but for their fear of the Zakka-Khels.

There was trouble the next day in the Mastura valley, where two
officers and four men were wounded. The following night the camp
was fired into, by an enemy who had crept within a hundred and
fifty yards of it. News came that General Kempster, with his
detached brigade, had met with little opposition; and his search
over the hills showed that the Zakka-Khels, in that direction, were
severely punished.

On the 13th, the 3rd Brigade left the camp to cross the Kotal
towards Saransur. Except for a few long-range shots, there was no
opposition. Next day a Mullah's house was destroyed, documents
found there showing that he had taken a vigorous part in the
rising.

Two days later the brigade started on their return march. The 1st
and 3rd Ghoorkhas were to cover the retirement, and the 15th Sikhs
to hold the Kotal. The baggage train reached the Kotal by twelve
o'clock, and the camp at three. The Ghoorkhas, however, had to
fight hard; and were so done up that, instead of continuing to
cover the retirement they passed on, leaving the Sikhs to cover.

The enemy, thinking that only a small rear guard had been left,
came down in great force; but the fire was so heavy that they fell
back, leaving the ground strewn with their dead. The action,
however, now became general, all along the hill. Ammunition was
running short, and Captain Abbott felt that, in the face of so
large a force, and with fifteen or sixteen wounded, he could not
retire down the ravine or valley without support. He therefore
signalled for assistance; and the 46th, and two companies of the
Dorsets, were detached for that purpose.

Colonel Houghton of the 36th, who was now in command, retiring
steadily, found himself hampered with wounded in the rough country;
while the enemy were surrounding him in increasing numbers. He was
suffering heavily from the fire of the enemy posted in a small
village; and he determined to seize it, and hold it for the night.
Three companies of the 15th and two of the 36th therefore rushed up
the hill, and were into the buildings before the Pathans were aware
that they were moving against them. Those that delayed were
bayoneted, the rest fled precipitately into the darkness. Their
fire, however, had cost us an officer and five men killed.

Major Des Voeux on the right, having rushed a clump of buildings
opposite to him, made for a second one on the far side of the
nullah, in which was a small square building. The roof of the house
had been burnt, and the charred beams were lying on the ground. The
men rolled these, and what litter they could find into the gaps of
the building; but the breastwork was barely two feet high. When the
enemy returned to the attack they rushed right up to the house but,
luckily, they fired high in their excitement, and the Sikhs swept
them back again. The breastwork was then completed, a sentry was
placed at each side of the house, and the rest lay down.

Colonel Houghton's post, which was a strong one, was not much
troubled. A disaster, however, occurred to a half company, under
two officers, who tried to push their way back to camp. Their
bodies were found in a nullah, in the morning.

The next morning the parties were relieved by a force from camp.

On the same day General Westmacott, with the 4th Brigade, marched
out. For the past three days the Malikdins and Kambar-Khels had
shown a disposition to be friendly, and had made some attempt to
open a grain traffic. Major Sullivan, with three other officers,
pushed forward to prospect a site for a camp. Some apparently
friendly and unarmed tribesmen approached them; but Major
Sullivan's suspicions were excited when he saw that, instead of
coming down direct, they were making a sweep that would cut off his
little party. He therefore whistled for the others to join him.

When the tribesmen saw that the game was up, they poured in two
volleys. Luckily the shots went high, and the four officers gained
the cover of a house, and were soon joined by a Ghoorkha company.
There was no doubt that the enemy had played the game of friendlies
for the purpose of obtaining four officers, alive, to use as
hostages.

The force then retired, bringing in the baggage animals, loaded
with forage. The return was now decided upon. It was considered by
the authorities that it would be less expensive to organize another
expedition in the spring, when the sowing had begun; than to
maintain a large force in the Tirah during the winter. The Afridis
would not come down, and orders were therefore issued for
destroying all the villages. These were burned, and the axe laid to
the roots of the beautiful groves.

The tribal representatives of the Kambar-Khels, Alla-Khels,
Malikdin-Khels, and Kuki-Khels came in. They were ordered to send
in eight hundred serviceable rifles, fifty thousand rupees in cash,
and all property that had been stolen.

When the force arrived at Bagh there was a sharp action, and the
casualties amounted to twenty-two wounded and seven killed. The
Ghoorkhas reported that they had found the enemy in great force, in
the valley.

On the 22nd of November, Sir William Lockhart made a reconnaissance
to Dwatoi and the Bara valley. He took with him a strong brigade,
under General Westmacott. Every precaution was taken in entering
this unknown country, as the road led down a defile commanded by
high peaks. The Yorkshire Regiment was told off to hold the right
of the advance, the 1st and 2nd Ghoorkhas were to do the same work
on the left. The column was headed by the 3rd Ghoorkhas; followed
by the 28th Bombay Volunteers, two companies of the Sappers and
Miners, the Borderers, and the baggage; the rear guard being
furnished by the 36th Sikhs.

Within a mile of camp, the Ghoorkhas were engaged with stray
riflemen. A mile farther they were met by the main body, and were
unable to proceed farther without support. The flanking regiments,
however, presently came up, and the advance continued. The road lay
in the river bed, and the men were plodding, waist deep, in water.
The passage became narrower and narrower, and so rapid was the
decline that the river bed became impassable, and the men made
their way along by its side. The road was almost dark, so high were
the cliffs and so narrow the passage between them.

Here the resistance became very formidable. The Ghoorkhas were all
engaged in clearing the ridges, and the Bombay Pioneers pushed
forward an advance guard, the Borderers moving up to their support.
The deepest gorge was enfiladed by a party of tribesmen, with
Martinis. One man fell with a broken leg. The man helping him was
shot a moment later and, when a stretcher was brought back, two
more of the Borderers were hit. A section of the 3rd Sikhs was
detached to turn the enemy out, and then the ravine was rushed by
all the rest. There was another gorge to be passed, and the enemy
were pressing on both sides; but a battery was now brought into
action, and soon drove them off.

Thus Dwatoi was reached, where the force encamped. It was but a
small open plain, some five hundred yards across. Three miles away
a gorge opened into the Rajgul valley, and it appeared that, beyond
this, lay Wira valley.

All the summits were strongly picketed. Night fell, and there was
no sign of the baggage. The troops were wet to the waist, there
were seventeen degrees of frost, and the men had neither blankets
nor food.

When morning broke there were still no signs of baggage, but at
eleven it began to appear. At noon fighting began again, and the
rest of the train did not arrive till about five o'clock. Fighting
had been incessant the whole day. It was so severe that Sir William
Lockhart determined to return to Bagh, the following day.

The arrangements were admirable. The baggage was loaded up before
daybreak. The Ghoorkhas were to ascend the hills flanking the
village, three companies of the Borderers were to form the advance
guard, the wounded on stretchers were to follow, and the mountain
battery was to take up a position to cover the retirement. By eight
o'clock the last of the baggage was near the nullah. The helio then
flashed to the pickets. They came in and joined the rear guard of
the Sikhs, and were well in the nullah before a shot was fired.

When the Afridis fairly took the offensive they attacked with fury,
and the Sikhs were obliged to signal for help. They were joined by
a company of the Borderers. A party of Pathans dashed forward to
seize the baggage; they had not, however, seen the few files that
formed the rearmost guard, and were therefore caught between two
bodies of troops, and almost annihilated. This sudden reversal of
the situation seemed to paralyse the tribesmen, and the rest of the
gorge was safely passed. Though the natives followed up the rear
guard to within two miles of the camp, they never made another
determined attack. The force lost, in all, five officers wounded,
and a hundred men killed and wounded, from the 36th.

During the course of the reconnaissance Lisle had been with the
rear guard, and had fallen in the torrent with a rifle ball through
his leg. As every man was engaged in fighting, the fall was
unnoticed and, as he could not recover his footing, he was washed
helplessly down to the mouth of the defile. As he managed to reach
the shore, a party of Afridis rushed down upon him with drawn
tulwars; but a man who was evidently their leader stopped them, as
they were about to fall upon him.

Illustration: A party of Afridis rushed down upon him.

"He is an officer," he said. "We must keep him for a hostage. It
will be better, so, than killing him."

Accordingly he was carried back to a village which the troops had
left that evening. Here some women were told to attend to his
wound, and the party who captured him went off to join in the
attack on the British rear guard.

In the evening, the man who had saved his life returned. He was, it
seemed, the headman of the village; and had been with his force in
the Bara valley, where the natives of the village had retired on
the approach of the British force. There Lisle lay for ten days, by
which time the inflammation from the wound had begun to subside.
The bullet had luckily grazed, and not broken the bone. At the end
of that time, some of the principal men came to him and, by signs,
directed him to write a letter to the British commander, saying
that he was a prisoner, that he was held as a hostage against any
further attempt to penetrate into the valley; and that, in the
event of another British force approaching, he would be at once put
to death.

Four of the Afridis always sat at the entrance to the house, which
was one of the largest in the valley. He was served regularly with
food; of which, as the valley had not been entered, there was, of
course, abundance. The women in the house seldom came in to see
him, except when they brought him his meals; and then it was
evident, from their surly manner, that they strongly objected to
his presence.

As he lay on his rough pallet, he resolved to maintain the
appearance of being unable to walk, as long as possible. He knew
very well that, if General Lockhart had to make another movement
against the Bara valley, he could not be averted from his purpose
by the fact that the Afridis held one officer prisoner, though he
would assuredly revenge his murder, by destroying every house in
the valley; and that he must accordingly trust only to himself to
make his escape. To do this, it would be absolutely necessary to
procure a disguise; and this, at present, he did not see his way to
accomplish.

The guards below were relieved every few hours, and kept up their
watch every day. Still, as they watched only the door, it might be
possible for him to let himself down from the window at the back of
the house.

On the tenth day he found himself really able to walk, without very
great difficulty. Looking out of the window, one morning, he saw
that the women of the house were all gathered round the guards, and
talking excitedly. Evidently some messenger had come in with news
from the Tirah valley. He knew, by this time, how many there were
in the house, and was satisfied that they were all there.

He at once made his way down to the floor below; feeling confident
that, for the moment, he would not be disturbed. Hanging against
the wall were several men's dresses and clothes. He hastily took
down sufficient for a disguise. They were summer clothes--for the
Afridis, when leaving to act against our troops in the mountains,
wear sheepskin garments. At any rate, there was little fear that
their loss would be discovered until the men returned from the
front.

He took the clothes up to his room, and hid them under the pallet.
Then, having ascertained that the women were still engaged in
talking, he took off his boots and made his way down to the lowest
story, which was principally used as a storehouse. Here, among bags
of corn and other stores, he saw a coil of rope. This he carried
upstairs and, having hidden it, lay down again.

The rest of the day passed quietly. It was apparent that the
clothes had not been missed and, with a strong feeling of
hopefulness, he awaited the night. When the house was quiet he
looked out. Four men were sitting, as usual, at the front of the
door. Then he took off his uniform and put on his disguise,
fastened one end of the rope securely, and slid down noiselessly to
the ground.

Keeping the house between him and the guard, he started. Making a
detour, he got free of the village, and then turned to the upper
end of the valley. Half an hour's walking took him to where the
force had encamped, and he soon reached the mouth of the gorge.

Here he plunged into the river. His leg hurt him a good deal, but
he waded on and, after great exertions, reached the head of the
gorge. His leg was now hurting him so much that he could proceed no
farther so, turning off, he mounted the hills and lay down among
the rocks, where there was little chance of his being discovered.

Here he dozed till morning. When he took the rope, he had thrust
several handfuls of grain into his pocket; and this he had tied up
in the skirt of his garment, when he started. He now munched some
of it, and lay, watching the mouth of the gorge below.

Two hours after daybreak, he saw a small party of tribesmen come
hurrying up through the gorge. They did not stop, but kept on their
course, evidently supposing that he had pushed on to join the
British camp. All day he lay hidden and, before dark, he saw the
men come back again. They had evidently given up the chase and, as
he had seen no searchers upon the hills, the idea that he was
hiding had evidently not occurred to them.

He felt, however, that he must give his leg another day's rest
before proceeding. On the following day he suffered a good deal
from thirst, and dared not venture down to the river. When it was
dark, however, he continued his way.

Illustration: It was the dead body of an Afridi.

Presently he saw something white, huddled up behind a rock and,
climbing up, he found that it was the dead body of an Afridi, who
had fallen in the fight. Beside him lay his Lee-Metford rifle. This
was indeed a find. In the scanty garments that he had alone dared
to take, he would be known at once by anyone who happened to pass
near him. He now set to work, and dressed himself in the dead
warrior's garments; and took up his rifle and pouch of ammunition.

"Now," he said, "I only want something to stain my face and hands,
and I shall be able to pass anywhere, if it does not come to
talking."

He kept his eyes about him, and presently saw the plant which he
knew Robah had used in preparing the dye for him. Pulling all the
leaves off, he pounded them with the stock of his rifle, and rubbed
his face with juice from the leaves. There was sufficient to stain
both his face and hands.

By nightfall he entered the Maidan. Here he saw many natives
gathered round the ruined houses. As he approached it, he saw that
heavy firing was going on round the camp. It was greatly reduced in
extent, and he guessed that a considerable proportion of the force
had moved off on some punitive expedition. Between him and it, he
could see many of the Afridis crouched among the rocks, ready to
attack any small parties that might issue out.

He saw at once that it would be impossible to reach the camp
without being questioned, and he therefore determined to fall in
with the column that had gone out. For this purpose, he made a wide
detour until he came upon a track where there were innumerable
signs that a column had recently passed. Crushed shrubs would, in
themselves, have been a sufficient guide; but there were many other
tokens of the path of the army: grain dropped from a hole in a
sack, scratches on the rock by the shod feet of the transport
animals, an empty cartridge case, and a broken earthenware pot.

He pushed on rapidly, keeping a sharp lookout for the enemy. Some
of them, passing along the hill, shouted to him to join them; but
with a wave of his rifle and a gesture, showing that he intended to
keep to the track, he went on.

Late in the afternoon, on mounting a high pass, he could distinctly
hear firing in the distance; and his heart beat at the thought that
he was near his friends. Still, between him and them the Afridis
might be swarming. The risk, however, must be run.

Ascending the slope of the hill, he obtained a view of the
conflict. A body of British troops was firing steadily, and another
regiment was coming up to their assistance. The Afridis were
swarming round in great numbers, and keeping up a continuous fire.
Waiting until he saw where the Afridis were thickest, he made his
way down to the firing line, and took up his position behind a
rock; there being none of the natives within fifty yards of him. He
now began to fire, taking pains to see that his bullets went far
over the heads of the British. This he continued until nightfall,
by which time the conflict had come to an end, and the British
regiments, with the convoy which they were protecting, had reached
camp.



Chapter 10: Through The Mohmund Country.


For a time the firing ceased entirely but, soon after nightfall, a
scattered fire opened round the camp. Lisle now made his way down
fearlessly, until within four hundred yards of the camp. He was
able to make out the white dresses of the Afridis, lying crouched
behind rocks. No one paid any attention to him and, as soon as he
had passed them, he dropped on his hands and knees and began
crawling forward; keeping himself carefully behind cover for, at
any moment, the pickets might open fire. When he approached the
British lines, he stopped behind a rock and shouted:

"Don't fire! I am a friend."

"Come on, friend, and let us have a look at you," the officer in
charge of the picket answered.

Rising, he ran forward.

"Who on earth are you?" the officer asked when he came up. "You
look like one of the Afridis, but your tongue is English."

"I am Lieutenant Bullen," he said; and a burst of cheering rose
from the men, who belonged to his own regiment.

"Why, we all thought you were killed, in that fight in the
torrent!"

"No; I was hit, and my leg so disabled that I was washed down by
the torrent; and the men were, I suppose, too much occupied in
keeping the Afridis at bay to notice me. On getting to the other
side of the pass I crawled ashore, and was made prisoner. No doubt
the Afridis thought that, as I was an officer, they would hold me
as a hostage, and so make better terms.

"I was put into the upper story of one of their houses but, after
ten days, my wounds healed sufficiently to allow me to walk; and I
have got here without any serious adventure."

"Well, I must congratulate you heartily. I will send two of the men
into camp with you, for otherwise you would have a good chance of
being shot down."

On arriving at the spot where the officers of the regiment were
sitting round a campfire, his escort left him. As he came into the
light of the fire, several of the officers jumped up, with their
hands on their revolvers.

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" Lisle exclaimed, with a laugh. "I can
assure you that I am perfectly harmless."

"It is Bullen's voice," one of them exclaimed, and all crowded
round him, and wrung his hands and patted him on the back.

"This is the second time, Bullen, that you have come back to us
from the dead; and this time, like Hamlet's father, you have come
back with very questionable disguise. Now, sit down and take a cup
of tea, which is all we have to offer you."

"I will," Lisle said, "and I shall be glad of some cold meat; for I
have been living, for the past three days, on uncooked grain."

The meat was brought, and Lisle ate it ravenously, declining to
answer any questions until he had finished.

"Now," he said, "I will tell you a plain, unvarnished tale;" and he
gave them, in full detail, the adventure he had gone through.

"Upon my word, Lisle, you are as full of resources as an egg is
full of meat. Your pluck, in going down to the lower story of that
house while the women were chatting outside, was wonderful. It was,
of course, sheer luck that you found that dead Pathan, and so got
suitable clothes; but how you dyed your face that colour, I cannot
understand."

Lisle explained how he had found a plant which was, as he knew,
used for that purpose; and how he had extracted the colouring
matter from it.

"You had wonderful luck in making your way through the Pathans,
without being questioned; but, as we know, fortune favours the
brave. Well, I shall have another yarn to tell General Lockhart, in
the morning; but how we are to rig you out, I don't know."

Several of the officers, however, had managed to carry one or two
spare garments in their kits. These were produced; and Lisle, with
great satisfaction, threw off the dirt-stained Pathan garments, and
arrayed himself in uniform.

Pleased as all the others were at his return, no one was so
delighted as Robah, who fairly cried over his master, whom he had
believed to be lost for ever.

"We shall not be uneasy about you again, Bullen," the colonel said,
as they lay down for the night. "Whenever we miss you we shall know
that, sooner or later, you will turn up, like a bad penny. If you
hadn't got that wound in the leg--which, by the way, the surgeon
had better dress and examine in the morning--I should have said
that you were invulnerable to Afridi bullets. The next time there
is some desperate service to be done, I shall certainly appoint you
to undertake it; feeling convinced that, whatever it might be, and
however great the risk, you will return unscathed. You don't carry
a charm about with you, do you?"

"No," Lisle laughed, "I wish I did; but anything I carry would not
be respected by a Pathan bullet."

Next morning the colonel reported Lisle's return, and Sir William
Lockhart sent for him and obtained, from his lips, the story of the
adventure.

"You managed excellently, sir," the general said, when he had
finished. "Of course, I cannot report your adventure in full, but
can merely say that Lieutenant Bullen, whom I had reported killed,
was wounded and taken prisoner by the Pathans; and has managed,
with great resource, to make his escape and rejoin the force. Your
last adventure, sir, showed remarkable courage; and this time you
have proved that you possess an equal amount of calmness and
judgment. If you go on as you have begun, sir, you will make a very
distinguished officer."

During the day Lisle had to repeat his story, again and again, to
the officers of other regiments; who came in to congratulate him on
making his escape, and to learn the particulars.

"I shall have," he said, laughing, "to get the printing officer to
strike off a number of copies of my statement, and to issue one to
each regiment. There, I think I would rather go through the
adventure again, than have to keep on repeating it."

He had received a hearty cheer, from the regiment, when he appeared
upon parade that morning; a reception that showed that he was a
general favourite, and that sincere pleasure was felt at his
return.

Lisle had been known among the men as 'the boy' when he first
joined, but he was a boy no longer. He was now eighteen; and had,
from the experiences he had gone through, a much older appearance.
He learned, on the evening of his return, that he was now a full
lieutenant; for there had been several changes in the regiment.
When in cantonments other officers had joined, junior to himself;
and four or five had been killed during the fighting.

"If this goes on much longer, Mr. Bullen, you will be a captain
before we get back to India," one of the officers said.

"I am sure I hope not," he replied. "I don't wish to gain steps by
the death of my friends. However, I hope that there is no chance of
it coming to that."

After the visit of the commander to the Mohmund hill force, the
troops under General Lockhart learned the history of the operations
of that force, of which they had hitherto been in complete
ignorance. On the 28th of August the force was concentrated. It
consisted of the troops which, under Sir Bindon Blood, had just
pacified the Upper Swat Valley; with a brigade, under Brigadier
General Jeffreys and General Wodehouse, mobilized near Malakand. On
the 6th of September orders were issued to march to Banjour,
through the Mohmund country to Shabkadr, near Peshawar, and operate
with a force under Major General Ellis. A force had already been
despatched, under General Wodehouse, to seize the bridge over the
Panjkora. This was successfully accomplished, the force arriving
just in time, as a large body of the enemy came up only a few hours
later.

General Meiklejohn was in command of the line of communication, and
the 2nd and 3rd Brigades crossed the Panjkora without opposition.
On the 13th of September the Rambuck Pass was reconnoitred, and the
two brigades arrived at Nawagai. General Jeffreys encamped near the
foot of the Ramjak Pass; and part of his force was detached, to
prepare the road for the passage of the expedition, and to bivouac
there for the night. The road was partially made, and the brigade
would have passed over but, about eight o'clock in the evening, the
camp at the foot of the pass was suddenly attacked. All lights were
at once extinguished, and the men fell in rapidly; the trenches
opening fire on the unseen enemy, who moved gradually round to the
other side of the camp. It was pitch dark, for the moon had not yet
risen; and the enemy poured in a murderous fire, but did not
attempt to rush the camp. The troops were firing almost at random
for, in spite of star shells being fired, very few of the enemy
could be made out.

The fire was hottest from the side occupied by the 38th Dogras, who
determined to make a sortie, for the purpose of clearing the enemy
away from that flank. In spite of the fact that the ground was
swept by bullets, several volunteered for the sortie. The fire,
however, was too hot. Captain Tomkins and Lieutenant Bailey fell,
almost the instant they rose to their feet. Lieutenant Harrington
received a mortal wound, and several men were also killed and
wounded, and the sortie was given up.

All night a heavy fire was kept up by the enemy, but they moved off
in the morning. The camp presented a sad sight, when day broke;
dead horses and mules were lying about among the tents and
shelters, which had been hurriedly thrown down at the first attack.
When it was learned that the assailants belonged to the Banjour
tribes, living in the Mohmund Valley, a squadron of Bengal Lancers
were sent off in pursuit and, overtaking them in a village at the
entrance of their valley, killed many, pursuing them for four or
five miles. When they returned to the village, they were joined by
the Guides Infantry and a mountain battery. This was too small a
force to follow the enemy into their hills, but they destroyed the
fortifications of several small villages and, before night, General
Jeffreys, with the rest of the brigade, arrived.

Night passed without interruption and, in the morning, the force
marched in three columns; the centre keeping straight up the
valley, while the other two were to destroy the villages on each
side. When the centre column had advanced six miles up the valley,
they saw the enemy in a village on the hill; and a detachment of
the Buffs went out to dislodge them. The remainder of the column
pushed on.

Two companies of the 35th Sikhs, who were in advance, went too far;
and were suddenly attacked by a great number of the enemy. Fighting
sturdily they fell back but, being hampered by their wounded, many
of the men were unable to return the fire of the tribesmen; who
formed round them, keeping up a heavy fire at close quarters. The
Ghazis, seeing their opportunity, came closer and closer; their
swordsmen charging in and cutting down the Sikhs in the ranks.
Seventeen were thus killed or wounded. Presently, however, the
Buffs arrived in support, and a squadron of the 11th Bengal Lancers
charged the Ghazis, and speared many of them before they could
reach the shelter of the hills; and the Buffs soon drove them away,
with heavy loss.

While this was going on the third detachment, which had destroyed
many of the numerous villages, was called in to join the main body.
The guns had been doing good work among the flying tribesmen. A
company and a half of the 35th Sikhs were told to take post, on a
high hill, to cover the guns. This force, when the troops returned,
diverged somewhat from the line of march which the main body were
following. It was hard pressed by the tribesmen, hampered by the
wounded, and was running short of ammunition; and was obliged to
send for help. The general ordered the Guides to go to their
assistance but, fortunately, a half company of that regiment with
some ammunition had already reached them, and the party could be
seen fighting their way up a steep rocky spur.

The tribesmen, confident that they could cut off the small band
from the main force, rushed at them with their swords. Both the
officers were severely wounded. When, however, the rest of the
Guides arrived on the hill, they poured several volleys into the
enemy, and so checked their advance. A Havildar then volunteered to
mount the hill with ammunition. He reached the party with seventy
cartridges, and carried back a wounded native officer. Other Guides
followed his example, and all reached the valley as evening was
closing in.

The Ghazis crept up the ravine, and maintained a hot fire upon
them. It soon became pitch dark, and the difficulty of the march
was increased by a heavy storm. The force lost the line of retreat
and, but for the vivid lightning, would have found it impossible to
make their way across the deep ravine. At ten o'clock they reached
the camp.

Here they found that General Jeffreys, with part of his brigade,
had not yet returned. At dawn, however, the general appeared, with
his mountain battery and a small escort. They had become separated
from the remainder of the brigade, and the general decided to
bivouac in a village. Defences were at once formed. The trenching
tools were with the main body, but the sappers used their bayonets
to make a hasty shelter.

The enemy took possession of the unoccupied part of the village,
and opened fire on the trenches. This grew so hot that it became
absolutely necessary to clear the village. Three attempts were
made, but failed; the handful of available men being altogether
insufficient for the purpose.

The enemy now tried to rush the troops, and a continuous fire was
poured into a small enclosure, packed with men and mules. The
casualties were frequent, but the men now threw up a fresh
defensive work, with mule saddles and ammunition boxes. The fury of
the storm, which came on at nine o'clock, somewhat checked the
ardour of the assailants; and the water was invaluable to the
wounded.

At midnight four companies, who had gone out in search of the
general, arrived and cleared the enemy out of the village. The
casualties had been heavy, two officers and thirty-six men having
been killed, and five officers and a hundred and two men wounded.

Next day the force started on their way up the valley. Their object
was to attack a strongly-fortified village on the eastern side of
the valley, about six miles distant from the camp. When they were
within two thousand yards of the enemy's position, the tribesmen
could be seen, making their disposition for the attack.

The Sikhs, Dogras, and Buffs stormed the heights on either side;
but the enemy made no attempt to stand. The Guides advanced
straight on the village, which was destroyed without loss. The
grain found there was carried into camp. Several other villages
were captured and, though the enemy were several times gathered in
force, the appearance of a squadron of Bengal Lancers, in every
case, put them to flight.

In the meantime, the 3rd Brigade were encamped at Nawagai. The news
of the attack on General Jeffreys' column had upset the
arrangements. It was of the utmost importance to hold Nawagai,
which separated the country of the Hadda Mullah and the Mamunds. As
the whole country was hostile, and would rise at the first
opportunity, the force was not strong enough to march against the
Hadda Mullah, and leave a sufficient body to guard the camp. It was
therefore decided to wait, until they were joined by General Ellis'
force.

Skirmishing went on daily. On the 17th, heliographic communication
was opened with General Ellis. On the following day an order was
flashed to them, to join General Jeffreys in the Mamund valley.
This was impracticable, however, until General Ellis should arrive.

Next night a couple of hundred swordsmen crept up to a ravine,
within fifty yards of the camp, and suddenly fell upon the West
Surrey regiment. They were met by such a hail of bullets that most
of them dropped, and of the remainder not a man reached Hallal.

On the following day a messenger arrived, from General Ellis,
asking Sir Bindon Blood to meet him ten miles away. That afternoon
a reconnaissance was made, as news had been received that large
reinforcements had been received by Hadda Mullah. The enemy showed
themselves in great force, but kept out of range of the guns
though, during the return march, they followed the troops and, when
darkness set in, were but two miles from camp.

At nine in the evening the enemy, who had crept silently up,
attempted to rush the camp on three sides. The troops were well
prepared, and maintained a steady fire; although the enemy's
swordsmen hurled themselves against our entrenchments in great
numbers. The star shells were fired by the mountain battery, and
their reflection enabled the infantry to pour deadly volleys into
the midst of the enemy, who were but a few yards distant. The
tribesmen, however, completely surrounded the camp, their riflemen
keeping up a heavy fire, and their swordsmen making repeated
rushes.

The tents had all been struck, and the troops lay flat on the
ground while the enemy's bullets swept the camp. This was kept up
till two o'clock in the morning, the fire never slackening for a
minute; and the monotony of the struggle was only broken by an
occasional mad, fanatical rush of the Ghazis. The entrenchments
were so well made that only thirty-two casualties occurred, but a
hundred and fifteen horses and transport animals were killed.

The effect of this decisive repulse, of an attack which the enemy
thought would certainly be successful, was shown by the complete
dispersal of the enemy. Their losses had been terrible. It was
ascertained that, in the surrounding villages alone, three hundred
and thirty had been killed; while a great number of dead and
wounded had been carried away over the passes.

On the following day General Ellis arrived. It was arranged that
the 3rd Brigade should join his command. Thus reinforced, he could
deal with the Hadda Mullah, and General Blood would be at liberty
to join the 2nd Brigade in the Mamund Valley.

General Ellis took up a position, with the two brigades at his
disposal, at the mouth of the Bedmanai Pass; and sniping went on
all night. Next morning the troops moved forward to the attack.
Covered by the rest of the force, the 20th Punjabis, with the 3rd
Ghoorkhas in support, were ordered to make the assault, and to
secure the hills commanding the pass. The enemy fought stubbornly,
but were gradually driven back; their numbers being greatly reduced
by deserters, after the attack on the camp. The Hadda Mullah had
fled, directly the fight began; but the Suffi Mullah was seen
constantly rallying his followers.

On the following morning, General Westmacott's brigade marched to a
village situated at the mouth of the Jarobi gorge--a terrible
defile, with precipitous cliffs on either side, the crests of which
were well wooded. The resistance, however, was slight, and the
force pushed through and burned the houses, towers, and forts of
the Hadda Mullah. They were harassed, however, on their return to
camp.

In the meantime, Sir Bindon Blood had joined General Jeffreys'
brigade, which was still engaged in operations against the Mamunds.
Several villages were burned, and large supplies of game and fodder
carried off. The Mamunds at last sent in a party to negotiate; but
it soon appeared that they had no intention of surrendering, for
they had been joined by a considerable number of Afghans, and were
ready for a fresh campaign. The Afghan borderers were in a good
position, and were able to bring their forces to the assistance of
the Mamunds with the assurance that, if they were repulsed, they
could return to their homes.

General Jeffreys therefore recommenced operations, by an attack
upon two fortified villages. These were situated on the lower slope
of a steep and ragged hill, near enough to give support to each
other, and protected by rocky spurs. The inhabitants sallied out to
attack, but were checked by the appearance of our cavalry. The
force then pressed forward to the high jungle.

It was evident that the spurs on either side must be captured,
before the village could be stormed. The Guides were ordered to
clear the spur to the left, the 31st Punjab Infantry and the Dogras
the centre ridge between the two hills, while the West Kents
advanced straight up the hill.

The Guides dashed up the hill with a wild yell. This so intimidated
the tribesmen that, after firing a volley so wild that not a single
man was wounded in the attacking column, they fled in a panic.

The Punjabis, on the other hill, were stubbornly fighting their
way. The ground consisted, for the most part, of terraced fields,
commanded by strongly-built sangars. Colonel O'Brien was killed,
while gallantly leading his men on to the assault; but the Punjabis
persisted, under the covering fire of the mountain battery, and
dropped shell after shell into the Mamunds; who, however, although
losing heavily, stuck manfully to their rocks and boulders, and
finally were only driven out at the point of the bayonet.

The 31st were now joined by the West Kent, who came down from a
spur on the west, and were able to drive the enemy out of several
strong positions above the other village. On their way a half
company, on reaching a sangar, were suddenly charged by a body of
Ghazis. From the melee which ensued, many of the West Kents were
killed and wounded, among them the officer in command.

As it was now late, it was decided to return to camp for the night.
This was done steadily and deliberately, although the enemy kept up
a heavy fire. The casualties of the day were sixty-one, no fewer
than eight British officers being killed or wounded.

Two days' rest was given the troops, and then they marched against
Badelai. The attack was almost unopposed. The tribesmen imagined
that we were again going to attack their former position, and they
were unable to return in time to defend the village. Their loss,
however, was severe, as they came down to the open ground, and were
swept by the guns of the mountain battery.

A few days afterwards the campaign was brought to an end, the enemy
coming in and offering a general surrender. The expedition had been
very successful, twenty-six villages having been destroyed, and all
the hoards of grain having been carried off.

On the 13th of October the Mamund valley was evacuated, and the
force moved into Matassa. The inhabitants here were perfectly
peaceable and, beyond the blowing up of the fort of a chief, who
had continued hostile, there was no fighting. The force then
returned to Malakand, where it remained for two months.

Two tribes yet remained to be dealt with, namely the Bulas and
Chamlas. Both refused to comply with the reasonable terms imposed
upon them, by the government, for their complicity in the
rebellion.

The force selected for their punishment consisted of two brigades,
under General Meiklejohn and General Jeffreys. These advanced to
the assault on the Tangi Pass. The Guides, 31st Punjabis, three
squadrons of the Bengal Lancers, and two squadrons of the Guide
cavalry were sent to Rustam, a place which threatened three passes
leading into Buner. The enemy, being thus compelled to watch all
three routes, were prevented from assembling in any force.

Sir Bindon Blood encamped the two brigades on Thursday, the 6th of
January, at the mouth of the Tangi Pass. The detached column was to
protect an entrance over the Pirsai Pass. The assault was made by
the column under General Meiklejohn, and so well was the force
distributed--the hills on either side being captured, while three
batteries opened fire on the hill with shrapnel--that the tribesmen
were unable to maintain their position. The pass was captured with
only one casualty, and the troops marched triumphantly down into
Buner, the first British troops who had ever entered the country.

They halted at the first village. As this place was plentifully
stocked with goats and chickens, they found abundance of food.

The detached column were equally successful in their attack on the
Pirsai Pass, for they met with scarcely any resistance. Our
success, in capturing the two passes hitherto deemed impregnable,
brought about a complete collapse of the enemy. Deputations came in
from all the surrounding villages, and the tribesmen complied with
the terms imposed upon them.



Chapter 11: An Arduous March.


Lisle had heard of the operations that had been carried on by the
brigade under General Gazelee, under the general supervision of Sir
William Lockhart. The object was to cross by the Zolaznu Pass, to
punish two of the hostile tribes on the other side; to effect a
meeting with the Khuram column; and to concentrate and operate
against the Chamkannis, a tribe of inveterate robbers. On the 26th
General Gazelee started, and the newly-arrived wing of the Scottish
Fusiliers, and two companies of the Yorkshires was to follow, on
the 28th.

The approach to the pass, which was four miles to the left, was
across a very rough country; and as, after advancing four and a
half miles, a severe opposition was met with, most of the day was
spent in dislodging the tribesmen from the villages, and turning
them out of the spurs which covered the approach to the pass.
Finding it impossible to make the summit that night, they encamped
and, although they were fired into heavily, but little damage was
done.

At dawn the expedition started again but, by accident, they
ascended another pass parallel with the Lozacca. At nine o'clock
the Ghoorkhas and Sikhs arrived at the top of the pass. It was very
difficult and, as the baggage animals gave great trouble on the
ascent, and were unable to go farther, the party camped on the top
of the pass.

General Lockhart left the camp early that morning, but was also
opposed so vigorously that he was obliged to encamp, three miles
from the top of the pass, after having burnt all the villages from
which he had been fired upon. In the morning he joined the advance
party, and went ten miles down the pass. On arriving there, he
found that the Queen's and the 3rd Sikhs had pushed on farther to
Dargai. This was not the place previously visited of this name,
which appears to be a common one in the Tirah. Plenty of hay and
straw stores were found, and the troops were vastly more
comfortable than on the previous night.

It was here that Lisle had overtaken the column.

Next day the whole force was encamped at Dargai, where they were
received in a friendly manner by the villagers; who expressed
themselves willing to pay their share of the fines imposed, and
also to picket the hills. The rear guard, of two companies of
Ghoorkhas and two companies of Scottish Fusiliers, arrived late in
the day. They had met with great opposition. The tribesmen would,
indeed, have succeeded in carrying off the guns, had not a company
of the Ghoorkhas come up and, fighting stubbornly, driven them off.

Next morning the headmen of the village were summoned, to explain
why they had failed to pay the number of rifles they had promised;
and fire was applied to one of their houses. This had an
instantaneous effect and, in a quarter of an hour, the rifles were
forthcoming and the fine paid.

The force then moved on to Esor, where helio communication with the
Khuram column had been effected and, that day, Sir William Lockhart
and Colonel Hill--who commanded it--met. The country traversed was
a beautiful one. It was admirably cultivated, and the houses were
substantially built.

That day two columns went out: one under General Gazelee, to
collect the fines from one of the tribes; the other commanded by
Colonel Hill, to punish the Chamkannis. This was a small, but
extremely warlike and hardy tribe. A short time before, they had
raided a thousand head of cattle from across our border, and got
clear away with them.

A portion of the force was told off, to work its way into the
valley by the river gorge, while the main body ascended the path
over the Kotal. They reached this at a quarter-past ten and, while
they were waiting for the head of the column that had gone up the
gorge to appear, fire was opened upon them. This, however, was kept
down by the guns. It was an hour before the column appeared, but
the whole force was not through the defile until it was too late to
carry out the destruction of the villages. The column therefore
retired, severely harassed, the while, by the enemy.

Next day Colonel Hill was again sent forward, with the Border
Scouts, the 4th and 5th Ghoorkhas, part of the Queen's, and the
Khoat Battery. They were over the Kotal at nine o'clock, and the
5th Ghoorkhas and the scouts were sent to hold the hills on the
left. The Chamkannis had anticipated a sudden visit, and were in
force on the left, where they had erected several sangars.

The little body of scouts, eighty men strong, fought their way up
the hill; and waited there for the leading company of the 5th.
Lieutenant Lucas, who commanded them, told off half his company to
sweep the sangar, and then the remainder dashed at it.

The Chamkannis stood more firmly than any of the tribesmen had
hitherto done. They met the charge with a volley, and then drew
their knives to receive it. The fire of the covering party
destroyed their composure and, when the scouts were within thirty
yards, they bolted for the next sangar.

Lucas carried three of these defences, one after another, and drove
the enemy off the hill. The Ghoorkhas scouts, who had been engaged
thirty-six times during the campaign, had killed more than their
own strength of the enemy, and had lost but one man killed and two
wounded; and this without taking count of the many nights they had
spent in driving off prowlers round the camp.

The work of destruction now began. Over sixty villages were
destroyed in the valley and, on the following day, the expedition
started to withdraw. The lesson had been so severe that no attempt
was made, by the tribesmen, to harass the movement.

The column marched down to the camp in the Maidan--the Adam Khels,
through whose country they passed, paying the fine, and so
picketing many of the adjacent heights as to guard the camp from
the attacks of hostile tribesmen. When they reached Bara they
decided to rejoin the Peshawar column, without delay, as the
outlook was not promising. The evacuation began on the 7th of
December, but the rear guard did not leave till the 9th. It was
divided into two divisions in order, as much as possible, to avoid
the delay caused by the large baggage column. The 1st Division was
to march down on the Mastura Valley, while General Lockhart's 2nd
Division would again face the Dwatoi defile. Both the forces were
due to join the Peshawar column, on or about the 14th.

General Symonds, with the 1st Division, was unmolested by the way.
It was very different, however, with Lockhart.

The movement was not made a day too soon. Clouds were gathering,
the wind was blowing from the north, and there was every prospect
of a fall of snow, which would have rendered the passage of the
Bara Pass impossible. The 3rd Ghoorkhas led the way, followed by
the Borderers, with the half battalion of the Scottish Regiment and
the Dorsets. Behind them came the baggage of the brigade and
headquarters, the rear of the leading column being brought up by
the 36th Sikhs. General Kempster's Brigade followed, in as close
order as possible; having detached portions of the 1st and 2nd
Ghoorkhas, and the 2nd Punjab Infantry, to flank the whole force.

The Malikdin Khels were staunch to their word, and not a single
shot was fired till the force had passed through the defile. The
difficulties, however, were great, for the troops, baggage, and
followers had to wade through the torrent, two-thirds of the way.
The flanking had used up all the Ghoorkhas, and the Borderers now
became the advance guard.

Everything seemed peaceful, and the regiment was halfway across the
small valley, when a heavy fire was opened on the opposite hill.
General Westmacott was in command of the brigade. The Borderers
were to take and hold the opposite hill, supported by a company of
Dorsets and of Scottish Fusiliers. The battery opened fire, while a
party turned the nearest sangars on the right flank. By three
o'clock the whole of the crests were held, and the baggage streamed
into camp. Fighting continued, however, on the peaks, far into the
night.

No explanations were forthcoming why the enemy should have allowed
the force to pass through the defile, without obstruction, when a
determined body of riflemen could have kept the whole of them at
bay; for the artillery could not have been brought into position,
as the defile was the most difficult, of its kind, that a British
division had ever crossed.

The day following the withdrawal of the rear guard, it rained in
the Bara Valley, which meant snow in the Maidan. The pickets on the
heights had a bad time of it that night, as some of them were
constantly attacked; and it was not till three in the morning that
the baggage came in, the rear guard arriving in camp about ten.

The camp presented a wonderful sight that day, crowded as it was
with men and animals. The weather was bitterly cold, and the men
were busy gathering wood to make fires. On the hills all round, the
Sikhs could be seen engaged with the enemy, the guns aiding them
with their work. The 36th Sikhs, as soon as they arrived, were sent
off to occupy a peak, two miles distant, which covered the advance
into the Rajgul defile. The enemy mustered strong, but were turned
out of the position.

The next morning the villages were white with snow. A party was
sent on into the Rajgul valley, where they destroyed a big village.

Immediately after leaving Dwatoi, the valley broadened out till it
was nearly a mile wide. On the right it was commanded by steep
hills; on the left it was, to some extent, cultivated. The 4th
Brigade this time led the way, the 3rd bringing up the rear.

From the moment when the troops fell in on the 10th, till they
reached Barkai on the 14th, there was a general action from front
to rear. The advance guard marched at half-past seven. At eight
o'clock flanking parties were engaged with the enemy in the hills
and spurs. Serious opposition, however, did not take place until
five and a half miles of the valley had been passed.

Here the river turned to the right, and the front of the advance
was exposed to the fire of a strongly-fortified village, nestling
on the lower slope of a hill, on a terrace plateau. The village was
furnished with no fewer than ten towers, and from these a very
heavy fire was kept up.

The battery shelled the spur; while the Sikhs, in open order,
skirmished up the terraces to the plateau and, after a brisk
fusillade, took the village and burnt it.

A mile farther, the head of the column reached the camping place,
which was a strong village built into the river cleft. On the left
the 36th Sikhs and part of the Ghoorkhas cleared the way; while the
Bombay Pioneers, and the rest of the Ghoorkhas, became heavily
engaged with the enemy in some villages on the right. All along the
line a brisk engagement went on. The camp pickets took up their
positions early in the afternoon, and a foraging party went out and
brought in supplies, after some fighting.

Kempster's Brigade had not been able to reach the camp, and settled
itself for the night three miles farther up the valley. It, too,
had its share of fighting.

All night it rained heavily, and the morning of the 11th broke cold
and miserable. It was freezing hard; the hilltops, a hundred feet
above the camp, were wrapped in snow; and the river had swollen
greatly. The advance guard waded out into the river bed, and the
whole of the brigade followed, the Ghoorkhas clearing the sides of
the valley. In a short time they passed into the Zakka-Khel section
of the Bara Valley.

Curiously enough, the opposition ceased here. It may be that the
enemy feared to show themselves on the snow on the hilltops; or
that, being short of ammunition, they decided to reserve themselves
for an attack upon the other brigade. Scarcely a shot was fired
until the valley broadened out into the Akerkhel, where some small
opposition was offered by villagers on either bank. This, however,
was easily brushed aside.

The advance guard of the 3rd Brigade almost caught up the rear
guard of the 4th and, by four in the afternoon, its baggage was
coming along nicely, so that all would be in before nightfall. The
rear guard of the brigade, consisting of the Gordons, Ghoorkhas,
and 2nd Punjab Infantry, had been harassed as soon as they started
and, as the day wore on, the enemy increased greatly in numbers. As
the flanking parties fell back to join the rear guard, they were so
pressed that it was as much as they could do to keep them at bay.

When about three miles from camp, the baggage took a wrong road. In
trying a piece of level ground, they became helplessly mixed up in
swampy rice fields. The enemy, seeing the opportunity they had
waited for, outflanked the rear guard, and began pouring a heavy
fire into the baggage. The flanking parties were weak, for the
strain had been so severe that many men from the hospital escort
and baggage guard had been withdrawn, to dislodge the enemy from
the surrounding spurs.

The Pathans were almost among the baggage, when a panic seized the
followers. As night began to fall, the officer commanding the
Gordons, with two weak companies of his regiment, two companies of
the Ghoorkhas, and a company of the 2nd Punjab Infantry and some
Ghoorkhas, found himself in a most serious position. The guns had
limbered up and pushed on, and the rear guard remained, surrounded
by the enemy, hampered with its wounded, and stranded with doolies.
As the native bearers had fled these doolies were, in many cases,
being carried by the native officers.

The enemy grew more and more daring, and a few yards, only, divided
the combatants. Captain Uniacke, retiring with a few of the
Gordons, saw that there was only one course left: they must
entrench for the night. He was in advance of the actual rear guard,
attempting to hold a house against the fire of quite a hundred
tribesmen.

Collecting four men of his regiment, and shouting wildly, he rushed
at the doorway. In the dusk the enemy were uncertain of the number
of their assailants and, in their horror of the bayonet, they fired
one wild volley and fled. To continue the ruse, Captain Uniacke
climbed to the roof, shouting words of command, as if he had a
company behind him. Then he blew his whistle, to attract the rear
guard as it passed, in the dark.

The whistle was heard and, in little groups, they fell back with
the wounded to the house. It was a poor place, but capable of
defence; and the Pathans drew off, knowing that there was loot in
abundance to be gained down by the river.

As night wore on the greatest anxiety prevailed, when transport
officers and small parties straggled in, and reported that
tribesmen were looting and cutting up followers, within a mile of
camp; and that they had no news to give of the men who composed the
rear guard. So anxious were the headquarter staff that a company of
the Borderers were sent out, to do what they could.

Lieutenant Macalister took them out and, going a mile up the river,
was able to collect many followers and baggage animals, but could
find no signs of the rear guard. Early in the morning a company of
the 2nd Punjab Infantry went out, as a search party, and got into
communication with the rear guard. They were safe in the house; but
could not move, as they were hampered with the wounded, and were
surrounded by the enemy. Two regiments and a mountain battery
therefore went out and rescued them from their awkward predicament,
bringing them into camp, with as much baggage as could be found.

The casualties of the day amounted to a hundred and fifty animals,
and a hundred followers killed. Of the combatants two officers were
wounded, and fourteen Gordons were wounded, and four killed.

Owing to the necessity of sending out part of the 4th Brigade, to
support the cut-off rear of the 3rd Brigade, it was impossible to
continue the march that day. Next morning, the order of the brigade
was changed. The 23rd was to lead, handing over a battery of
artillery to the 4th, for service in the rear guard. It was also
ordered that flanking parties were to remain in position, until the
baggage had passed. The advance guard consisted of the 2nd Punjab
Infantry, and the 1st and 2nd Ghoorkhas. The others were told off
to burn and destroy all villages on either side of the nullah. The
baggage of the whole division followed the main guard.

Directly the camp was left, the sides of the nullah enlarged and,
for half a mile, the road lay through a narrow ravine. The drop was
rapid; for the river, swollen by the fallen snow, had become
literally a torrent; and the scene with the baggage was one of
extreme confusion. The recent disaster had given a frenzied impulse
to the generally calm followers, and all felt anxiety to press
forward, with an impetus almost impossible to control. The mass of
baggage became mixed in the ravine, but at last was cleared off
and, when the valley opened, they moved forward at their greatest
speed, but now under perfect control.

After this the opposition became less, and the village of Gulikhel
was reached by the 3rd Brigade. The village stands on the left bank
of the Bara. Immediately below it a nullah becomes a narrow gorge,
almost impassable in the present state of the river. It is several
miles long. There was, however, a road over a neighbouring saddle.
The path up from the river was narrow, but sufficient to allow two
loaded mules to pass abreast. It wound for some seven miles, over a
low hill, until the river bed was again reached.

The next ford was Barkhe. The advance guard was well up in the
hills by midday, when it met the Oxfordshire Regiment, which had
come out seven miles to meet the force; but the baggage of a
division, filing out of the river bed in pairs, is a serious
matter, and there was necessarily a block in the rear.

General Westmacott moved as soon as the baggage was off but, long
before it was through the first defile, his pickets were engaged,
and a general action followed. The enemy, fighting with
extraordinary boldness, kept within a few yards of the pickets.
Followers with baggage animals were constantly hit, as they came up
but, at half-past ten, the rear guard regiments marched out of
camp, under cover of artillery fire.

The fighting was so severe that, within an hour, the ammunition of
the 3rd Ghoorkhas was expended and, shortly afterwards, the two
regiments of the rear guard were forced to call up their first
reserve ammunition mules. The march was continued at a rapid pace,
until they reached the block caused by the narrowness of the path.
Here the whole river reach became choked with animals and doolies.
The wounded were coming in fast, when the Pathans, taking advantage
of the block, attacked in great force, hoping to compel the
retreating force to make their way down the long river defile.

General Westmacott, however, defended his right with energy; the
rear-guard regiments supporting each other, while the batteries
were in continual action. The Borderers, Sikhs, and Ghoorkhas stood
well to their task, till the last of the baggage animals were got
out of the river bed.

The country now had become a rolling plateau, intersected by
ravines and thickly covered with low jungle, in which the enemy
could creep up to within three or four yards of the fighting line.
Progress was, consequently, very slow. To be benighted in such a
country would have meant disaster, so General Westmacott selected a
ridge, which he determined to hold for the night. The wearied men
were just filing up, when a tremendous rush was made by the
Afridis. For a moment, it seemed as if they would all be enveloped
and swept away; but the officers threw themselves into the ranks,
magazines were worked freely, and the very bushes seemed to melt
away before the hail of shot. The tribesmen were swept back in the
darkness, and they never tried a second rush. Their firing also
slackened very much, and this permitted the men to form a camp, and
see to the wounded.

That day the rear guard lost one officer killed and three wounded,
eighteen men killed, eighty-three wounded, and six missing. The
night in camp was a terrible experience. The troops had been
fighting since early morning, the frost was bitter, and they had
neither water, food, nor blankets. General Westmacott passed the
night with the sentry line.

Early in the morning the action recommenced and, stubbornly
contesting each foot, at times almost in hand-to-hand conflict with
tribesmen in the bushes, the rear guard fell back. The summit of
the Kotal was passed; but the enemy continued to harass their
retirement down to the river, where the picket post of the 9th
Ghoorkhas was reached. The retirement from the Tirah had cost a
hundred and sixty-four killed and wounded. As a military
achievement, this march of Lockhart's 2nd Division should have a
prominent place in the history of the British army.

After a quiet day, the force marched into Swaikot. Next morning the
troops in camp there gathered on each side of the road, cheering
their battle-grimed comrades, and bringing down hot cakes to them.
It was a depressing sight. The men were all pinched and
dishevelled, and bore on their faces marks of the terrible ordeal
through which they had just passed.

The advance guard were followed by the wounded. The 4th Brigade
followed. They were even more marked by hardship and strife than
those who had preceded them. Then the rear guard marched in, and
the first phase of the Tirah expedition was at an end.

The expedition had carried out its object successfully. The Afridis
had been severely punished, and had been taught what they had
hitherto believed impossible, that their defiles were not
impregnable, and that the long arm of the British Government could
reach them in their recesses. The lesson had been a very severe
one, but it had been attained at a terrible cost. It is to be hoped
that it will never have to be repeated.

But while the regiment were resting quietly in their cantonment,
there had been serious fighting on the road to Chitral. After some
hesitation, the government had decided that this post should remain
in our hands, and a strong force was therefore stationed at the
Malakand. This, after clearing the country, remained quietly at the
station; until news was received of the attack on our fort at
Shabkadr, near Peshawar, by the Mohmunds and, two days later, news
came that a large council had been held by the fanatics of various
tribes, at which they decided to join the tribes in the Upper
Valley of Swat.

On the 14th of August the force set out from Thana, under Sir
Bindon Blood, on their march for the Upper Swat. The 11th Bengal
Lancers were sent forward in order to reconnoitre the country. The
enemy were found in force near Jelala, at the entrance to the Upper
Swat river, their advance post being established in some Buddhist
ruins on a ridge. The Royal West Kent, however, advanced and drove
them off.

Then news came that several thousand of the enemy occupied a front,
of some two miles, along the height; their right flank resting on
the steep cliffs, and their left reaching to the top of the higher
hills. The battery opened fire upon them; and the infantry, coming
into action at nine o'clock in the morning, did much execution
among the crowded Ghazis.

The 31st and 24th Punjab Infantry, under General Meiklejohn, had a
long and arduous march on the enemy's left. The movement was
successfully carried out; and the enemy, knowing that their line of
retreat towards the Morah Pass was threatened, broke up, a large
portion streaming away to their left. The remainder soon lost heart
and, although a desperate charge by a handful of Ghazis took place,
these only sacrificed their lives, without altering the course of
events.

The enemy gathered on a ridge in the rear but, by eleven, the
heights commanding the road were in the hands of our troops, and
the Guides cavalry began to file past. When they got into the pass
behind the ridge, the enemy were more than a mile away; and could
be seen in great numbers, separated by several ravines.

Captain Palmer, who had pushed forward in pursuit, soon found
himself ahead of his men. Near him were Lieutenant Greaves and,
thirty yards behind, Colonel Adams and Lieutenant Norman. Seeing
that the enemy were in considerable force, Colonel Adams directed
the troop of cavalry who were coming up to hold a graveyard,
through which they had passed, until the infantry could arrive.
Owing, however, to the noise of the firing, Palmer and Greaves did
not hear him; and charged up to the foot of the hill, hoping to cut
off the tribesmen who were hurrying towards them. Palmer's horse
was at once killed, and Greaves fell among the Pathans.

Adams and Fincastle, and two soldiers, galloped forward to their
assistance, and were able to help Palmer back to the shelter of the
graveyard. Meanwhile Fincastle, who had had his horse killed, tried
to help Greaves on to Adams' horse. While doing so, Greaves was
again shot through the body, and Adams' horse wounded. The two
troopers came to their assistance; and Maclean, having first
dismounted his squadron in the graveyard, pluckily rode out with
four of his men. In this way the wounded were successfully brought
in; but Maclean was shot through both thighs, and died almost
instantly. The loss of the two officers, who were both extremely
popular, was greatly felt by the force.

The infantry and guns now having arrived, the enemy retired to a
village, two miles in the rear. Here they were attacked by a
squadron of the Guides, who dispersed them and drove them up into
the hills. In the meantime our camp had been attacked, but the
guard repulsed the assailants, with some loss.

The enemy had lost so heavily that they scattered to the villages,
and sent in to make their submission. This fight effectually cooled
the courage of the natives, and the column marched through their
country unopposed, and the tribesmen remained comparatively quiet
during the after events.



Chapter 12: A Tribal Fight.


Two days after Lisle's return he was sent for by General Lockhart,
who requested him to give him a full account of his capture and
escape.

"This is the second time, Mr. Bullen, that your conduct has been
brought before me. Your defence of that hut, when you were unable
to make your retirement to the camp, with a handful of men, was a
singularly gallant affair. I lost one of my aides-de-camp in the
last fight, and I am pleased to offer you the vacancy. You may take
possession of his horse until we return; when it will, of course,
be sold. I shall be glad to have a young officer of so much courage
and resource on my staff."

"Thank you, sir! I am extremely obliged to you for the offer, which
I gladly accept; and feel it a very high honour, indeed, to be
attached to your staff."

"Very well, Mr. Bullen, I will put you in orders, tomorrow
morning."

On his return to the regiment, Lisle was warmly congratulated when
they heard the honour that had been bestowed on him; but there were
many expressions of regret at his leaving them.

"It will not be for long," he said, "for I suppose that, in another
fortnight, we shall be across the frontier. If it had been at the
beginning of the campaign, I should certainly have refused to
accept the general's offer; for I should much rather have remained
with the regiment. As it was, however, I could hardly refuse."

"Certainly not," said one. "It is always a pull having been on the
staff, even for a short time. The staff always get their names in
orders, and that gives a fellow much better chances in the future.
Besides, in a campaign like this, where the division gets often
broken up, there is plenty of work to do.

"Well, I hope you will soon be back with us again."

Next morning Lisle took up his new duties, and was soon fully
occupied in carrying messages from and to headquarters. One day he
received orders to accompany one of the senior members of the
staff, to reconnoitre a pass two miles from camp. It was a level
ride to the mouth of the gorge. They had scarcely entered it when,
from behind a rock a hundred yards away, a heavy volley was fired.
The colonel's horse was shot dead and he, himself, was shot through
the leg. Lisle was unwounded, and leapt from his horse.

"Ride for your life, Bullen!" the colonel said. "I am shot through
the leg."

Illustration: 'My horse must carry two, sir,' Lisle replied.

"My horse must carry two, sir," Lisle replied, lifting the officer,
who was not wholly disabled, and placing him in the saddle.

"Jump up!" the officer said.

But the tribesmen were now within twenty yards, and Lisle drew his
sword and gave the animal a sharp prick. It was already frightened
with the shouting of the tribesmen, and went off like an arrow.
Lisle, seeing that resistance was absolutely useless, threw down
his sword; and stood with his arms folded, facing the natives. An
order was shouted by a man who was evidently their leader and,
pausing, those who were armed with breech loaders fired after the
flying horseman; totally disregarding Lisle, who had the
satisfaction of finding that his sacrifice had been effectual, for
the horse pursued its way without faltering.

When it was out of range, the chief turned to Lisle. The Afridis
value courage above all things, and were filled with admiration at
the manner in which this young officer sacrificed himself for his
superior. He signalled to Lisle to accompany him and, surrounded by
the tribesmen, he was taken back to the rock from which they had
first fired. Then, guarded by four armed men, he was conducted to a
little village standing high among the hills.

"This is just my luck," he said to himself, when he was taken to a
room in the principal house. "Here I am a prisoner again, just as
the troops are going to march away. It is awfully bad luck. Still,
if I ever do get back, I suppose the fact that I have saved Colonel
Houghton's life will count for something in my favour. It was
unlucky that there was not time for me to jump up behind him, but
my horse was in bad condition, and we should have been a good deal
longer under fire.

"However, I ought not to grumble at my luck. I believe I am the
only officer who has been taken prisoner and, as it looks as if I
am to be kept as a hostage, my life would seem to be safe. I
certainly expected nothing but instant death when they rushed down
upon me. I have no doubt that, by this time, a messenger has
reached camp saying that they have got me; and that, if there is
any farther advance, they will put me to death. As I know that the
general did not intend to go any farther, and that every day is of
importance in getting the troops down before winter sets in in
earnest, I have no doubt that he will send back a message saying
that, if any harm comes to me, they will, in the spring, return and
destroy every house belonging to the tribe.

"I think I may consider myself safe, and shall find plenty of
employment in learning their language, which may be useful to me at
some time or other. I expect that, as soon as we leave, the people
here will go down into one of their valleys. The cold up here must
be getting frightful and, as there is not a tree anywhere near,
they would not be able even to keep up fires.

"As to escape, I fear that will be impossible. The passes will all
be closed by snow, and I have no doubt that, until they are sure of
that, they will keep a sharp lookout after me."

Later in the day the tribesmen returned. The chief came into the
room and, by means of signs and the few words that Lisle had picked
up, when he was before a prisoner, he signified to him that if he
attempted to make his escape he would at once be killed; but
otherwise he would be well treated. For four or five days a
vigilant watch was kept over him. Then it was relaxed, and he felt
sure that the army had marched away.

Then preparations for a move began. Lisle volunteered to assist,
and aided to pack up the scanty belongings, and filled bags with
corn. The chief was evidently pleased with his willingness and,
several times, gave him a friendly nod. At last all was in
readiness; and the occupants of the village, together with their
animals--all heavily laden, even the women carrying heavy
burdens--started on their way. It was five days' journey, and they
halted at last at a small village--which was evidently private
property--down in the plains at the foot of the mountains and, as
Lisle judged, at no very great distance from the frontier line.

Lisle now mixed a good deal with the natives, and thus he began to
pick up a good many words of their language. Now that they were
down on the plains, two men with rifles were always on guard over
him, but he was allowed to move freely about, as he liked.

A fortnight after they were established in their new quarters
another party of natives arrived, and there was a long and angry
talk. As far as Lisle could understand, these were the permanent
occupants of that portion of the plain, and had been accustomed to
receive a small tribute from the hill people who came down to them.
It seemed that, on the present occasion, they demanded a largely
increased sum in cattle and sheep; on the ground that so many of
the hill tribesmen had come down that their land was eaten up by
them. The amount now demanded was larger than the hill people could
pay. They, therefore, flatly rejected the terms offered them; and
the newcomers retired, with threats of exterminating them.

For the next few days, the tribesmen were busy in putting the
village in a state of defence. A deep ditch was dug round it, and
this was surmounted by an abattis of bushes. Fresh loopholes were
pierced in the tower, and stones were gathered in the upper story,
in readiness to throw down on any assailants.

As soon as the work was begun, Lisle signified to the chief that he
was ready to take part in it, and to aid in the defence. The chief
was pleased with his offer, and gladly accepted it. Lisle worked
hard among them. He needed to give them no advice. Accustomed to
tribal war, the men were perfectly competent to carry out the work.
There were but three towers capable of defence, and in these the
whole of the villagers were now gathered. Men and women alike
worked at the defences. Their sheep and cattle were driven into the
exterior line, and were only allowed to go out to graze under a
strong guard.

A fortnight passed before there were any signs of the enemy, and
then a dark mass was seen approachingg. The cattle were hastily
driven in, and the men gathered behind the hedge. Lisle asked the
chief for a rifle, but the latter shook his head.

"We have not enough for ourselves," he said. "Here is a pistol we
took from you, and a sword. You must do the best you can with them.
It is probable that, before the fight goes on long, there will be
rifles without masters, and you will be able to find one. Are you a
good shot?"

"Yes, a very good one."

"Very well, the first that becomes free you shall have."

The assailants halted five hundred yards from the village. Then one
rode forward. When he came within a hundred yards he halted, and
shouted:

"Are you ready to pay the tribute fixed upon?"

"We are not," the chief said. "If you took all we have it would not
be sufficient and, without our animals, we should starve when we
got back to the hills; but I will pay twice the amount previously
demanded."

"Then we will come and take them all," the messenger said.

"Come and take them," the chief shouted, and the messenger retired
to the main body; who at once broke up, when they learned the
answer, and proceeded to surround the village.

"Do you think," the chief said to Lisle, "that you could hit that
man who is directing them?"

"I don't know the exact distance," Lisle said, "but I think that,
if I had two or three shots, I could certainly knock him over."

"Give me your rifle," the chief said, to one of the tribesmen
standing near him.

"Now, sahib, let us see what you can do."

Lisle took the rifle, and examined it to see that it was all right;
and then, leaning down on a small rise of ground that permitted him
to see over the hedge, he took steady aim and fired. The man he
aimed at fell, at once.

"Well done, indeed!" the chief exclaimed, "you are a good shot. I
will lend you my rifle. It is one of the best; but I only got it a
short time since, and am not accustomed to it."

"Thank you, chief! I will do my best." Then, waving his arm round,
he said, "You will do more good by looking after your men."

The chief went up to his house, and returned with an old
smooth-bore gun and a bag of slugs.

"I shall do better with this," he said, "when they get close."

A heavy fire was opened on both sides; but the defenders, lying
behind the hedge, had a considerable advantage; which almost
neutralized the great superiority in numbers of the assailants, who
were in the open. Lisle, lying down behind the bank from which he
had fired, and only lifting his head above the crest to take aim,
occupied himself exclusively with the men who appeared to be the
leaders of the attack, and brought down several of them. The
assailants presently drew off, and gathered together.

It was evident to Lisle, from his lookout, that there was a
considerable difference of opinion among them; but at last they
scattered again round the village and, lying down and taking
advantage of every tuft of grass, they began to crawl forward on
their stomachs. Although, as the line closed in, several were
killed, it was evident that they would soon get near enough to make
a rush.

The chief was evidently of the same opinion, for he shouted an
order, and the defenders all leapt to their feet and ran to the
three fortified houses. There were only three-and-twenty of them,
in all. Lisle saw with satisfaction that they had evidently
received orders, beforehand, from the chief; for seven were running
to the chief's house, making up its garrison, altogether, to nine
men; and seven were running to each of the others.

As the enemy burst through the bushes, which were but some
twenty-five yards from the houses, the defenders opened fire from
every loophole. At so short a distance every shot told; and the
assailants recoiled, leaving more than a dozen dead behind them,
while several of the others were wounded.

They now took up their places in the ditch, and fired through the
hedge. Lisle at once signed to the chief to order his men to cease
firing, and to withdraw from the loopholes.

"It is no good to fire now," he said. "Let them waste their
ammunition."

The chief at once shouted orders to his men to cease firing, and to
take their place on the lower story; the walls of which, being
strongly built of stone, were impenetrable by bullets; while these
passed freely through the lightly-built story above. The enemy
continued to fire rapidly for some time; and then, finding that no
reply was made, gradually stopped. There was a long pause.

"I think they are waiting till it is dark," Lisle said. "Tell the
men to make torches, and thrust them out through the loopholes when
the enemy come."

The chief nodded, after Lisle had repeated the sentence in a dozen
different ways. He at once ordered the men to bring up ropes, and
to soak them with oil; and then in a low voice, so that the
assailants should not hear, repeated the order to the men in the
other houses.

The ropes were cut up into lengths of three feet, and then there
was nothing to do but to wait. The attack had begun at three in the
afternoon, and by six it was quite dark. A loud yell gave the
signal, and the enemy rushed through the hedge and surrounded the
three houses. All had walls round them and, while the assailants
battered at the doors, which had been backed up with earth and
stones, the defenders lighted their torches and thrust them out,
through loopholes in the upper stories, and then retired again to
the ground floor.

The doors soon gave way to the attacks upon them, and the
assailants rushed in, in a crowd. As they did so, the defenders
poured in a terrible fire from their magazine rifles. The heads of
the columns melted away, and the assailants fell back, hastily.

"I do not think they will try again," Lisle said. "If they have
lost as heavily, in the other two houses, as they have here, their
loss must have been heavy, indeed."

The torches were kept burning all night, but there was no
repetition of the attack and, in the morning, the assailants were
seen gathered half a mile away. Presently a man was observed
approaching, waving a green bough. He was met at the hedge by the
chief. He brought an offer that, if the Afridis were allowed to
carry off their dead and wounded, they would be content that the
same tribute as of old should be paid; and to take oath that it
should not, in the future, be increased. The chief agreed to the
terms, on condition that only twenty men should be allowed to pass
the hedge, and that they should there hand over the dead to their
companions.

On returning to his house, he made Lisle understand that, after the
heavy loss they had inflicted on their assailants, there would
forever be a blood feud between them; and that, in future, they
would have to retire for the winter to some valley far away, and
keep a constant watch until spring came again. When Lisle had, with
great difficulty, understood what the chief said, he nodded.

"I can understand that, chief," he said, "and I think you should
keep a very strong guard, every night, till we move away."

"Good man," the chief said, "you have fought by our side, and are
no longer a prisoner but a friend. When spring comes, you shall go
back to your own people."

It took some hours to remove the dead, of whom there were
forty-three; and the badly wounded, who numbered twenty-two--but
there was no doubt that many more had managed to crawl away.

Lisle now set to work to learn the language, in earnest. A boy was
told off by the chief to be his companion and, at the end of two
months, Lisle was able to converse without difficulty. The chief
had already told him that he could leave when he liked, but that it
would be very dangerous for him to endeavour to make his way to the
frontier, especially as the tribe they had fought against occupied
the intervening country.

"When we get among the hills, I will give you four men to act as
your escort down the passes; but you will have to go in disguise
for, after the fighting that has taken place, and the destruction
of the villages, even if peace is made it would not be safe for a
white man to travel among the mountains. He would certainly be
killed."

Every precaution was taken against attack, and six men were
stationed at the hedge, all night. Two or three times noises were
heard, which seemed to proceed from a considerable body of men. The
guard fired, but nothing more was heard. Evidently a surprise had
been intended but, directly it was found that the garrison were on
watch, and prepared, the idea was abandoned; for the lesson had
been so severe that even the hope of revenge was not sufficient to
induce them to run the risk of its repetition.

Lisle did not fret at his enforced stay. He was very popular in the
little village, and was quite at home with the chief's family. The
choicest bits of meat were always sent to him; and he was treated
as an honoured guest, in every way.

"When you return to your people," the chief said, one day, "please
tell them that, henceforth, we shall regard them as friends; and
that, if they choose to march through our country, we will do all
we can to aid them, by every means in our power."

"I will certainly tell them so," Lisle replied, "and the kindness
you have shown me will assuredly be rewarded."

"I regret that we fought against you," the chief said, "but we were
misled. They will not take away our rifles from us, I hope; for
without them we should be at the mercy of the other tribes. These
may give up many rifles, but they are sure to retain some and,
though there are other villages of our clan, we should be an easy
prey, if it were known that we were unarmed."

"I think I can promise that, after your friendly conduct to me, you
will not be required to make any payment, whatever; and indeed, for
so small a matter as twenty rifles, your assurances, that these
would never again be used against us, would be taken into
consideration."

When Lisle had been in the village about three months, one of the
men came up to him and spoke in Punjabi.

"Why, how did you learn Punjabi?" he said, in surprise; "and why
did you not speak to me in it, before? It would have saved me an
immense deal of trouble, when I first came."

"I am sorry," the man said, "but the thought that you could speak
Punjabi did not enter my mind. I thought that you were a young
white officer who had just come out from England. I learnt it
because I served, for fifteen years, in the 32nd Punjabis."

"You did?" Lisle said; "why, the 32nd Punjabis was my father's
regiment! How long have you left it?"

"Six years ago, sahib."

"Then you must remember my father, Captain Bullen."

"Truly I remember him," the man said. "He was one of our best and
kindest officers. And he was your father?"

"Yes. You might remember me too, I must have been eleven or twelve
years old."

The man looked hard at him.

"I think, sir, that I remember your face; but of course you have
changed a good deal, since then. I remember you well, for you often
came down our lines; and you could speak the language fluently, and
were fond of talking to us.

"And your father, is he well?"

"He was killed, three years ago," Lisle said, "in an attack on a
hill fort."

"I am sorry, very sorry. He was a good man. And so you are an
officer in his regiment?"

"No," Lisle said, "I left the regiment in the march to the relief
of Chitral. They wanted to send me home, so I darkened my skin and
enlisted in the regiment, by the aid of Gholam Singh; and went
through the campaign without even being suspected, till just at the
end."

"You went as a soldier?" the man said, in surprise; "never before
have I heard of a white sahib passing as a native, and enlisting in
the ranks. You lived and fought with the men, without being
discovered! Truly, it is wonderful."

"I did not manage quite so well as I ought to have done; for I
found, afterwards, that I had been suspected before we got to
Chitral. Then Colonel Kelly took me out of the ranks and made me a
temporary officer, and afterwards got a commission for me."

"It is truly wonderful," the man repeated.

From that time the native took every pains to show him respect and
liking for the son of his old officer; and the account he gave, to
the others, of the affection with which the young sahib's father
was regarded by the regiment, much increased the cordiality with
which he was generally treated. Spring came at last, and the snow
line gradually rose among the distant hills and, at last, the chief
announced that they could now start for their summer home.

The news was received with general satisfaction, for the night
watches and the constant expectation of attack weighed heavily upon
them all. The decision was announced at dawn and, three hours
afterwards, the animals were packed and they set out on the march.
They had started a fortnight earlier than usual for, if they had
waited till the usual time, their old enemies would probably have
placed an ambush.

They travelled without a halt, until they were well among the
hills. Then the wearied beasts were unladen, fires were lighted,
and a meal cooked. But even yet they were not altogether safe from
attack; and sentries were posted, some distance down the hill, to
give notice of the approach of an enemy. The night, however, passed
quietly; and the next evening they were high among the hills, and
camped, for the first time for three months, with a sense of
security.

It was determined to rest here for a few days, for they had almost
reached the snow line. This was receding fast, under the hot rays
of the sun, but it was certain that the gorges would be full of
fierce torrents; and that, until these abated somewhat, they would
be absolutely impassable. A week was extended into a fortnight. As
the snow melted the grass grew, as if by magic; and the animals
rapidly regained condition and strength. Then they started again
and, after encountering no little difficulty and hardship, arrived
at their mountain home.

"Now, sahib," the chief said the next morning, "I will keep my
promise to you, and will send four of my men with you to Peshawar.
The sun and the glare from the snow have browned you almost to our
colour, so there will be no occasion for you to stain your face
and, in Afghan costume, you could pass anywhere. Besides, you speak
our language so well that, even if you were questioned, no one
would suspect that you are not one of ourselves."

"How many days will it take, chief?"

"In five days you will be at Peshawar. I know not whether you will
find an army assembled there, to march again into our country; but
I hope that peace has been settled. It will take the tribes all the
year to rebuild their houses. It will be years before their flocks
and herds increase to what they were before and, now they have
found that British troops can force their way through their
strongest passes, that they can no longer defy white men to enter
their lands, they will be very careful not to draw down the anger
of the white man upon themselves. They will have a hard year of it
to repair, in any way, the damages they have incurred; to say
nothing of the loss of life that they have suffered. They have also
had to give up great numbers of their rifles; and this, alone, will
render them careful, at any rate until they replace them; so I do
not think that there will be any chance of fighting this year, or
for some years to come. I am sure I hope not."

"I hope not, also," Lisle said. "We too have lost heavily, and the
expense has been immense. We shall be as glad as your people to
live at peace. I think I may safely say that, if the country is
quiet, a messenger will be sent up from Peshawar with the general's
thanks for the way in which I have been treated; and with
assurances that, whatever may happen, your village will be
respected by any force that may march into the country. Probably
such an assurance will be sent by the men who go with me."

Another fortnight was spent in the village, for the rivers were
still filled to the brim; but as soon as the chief thought that the
passes were practicable, Lisle, in Afridi costume, started with
four of the men. All the village turned out to bid him goodbye;
several of the women, and many of the children, crying at his
departure.

The journey down was accomplished without adventure; the men giving
out, at the villages at which they stopped, that they were on their
way to Peshawar, to give assurances to the British there that they
were ready to submit to terms. On nearing Peshawar, Lisle abandoned
his Afridi costume and resumed his khaki uniform.

When he arrived at the town, he went at once to headquarters. The
sentry at the door belonged to his own regiment; and he started,
and his rifle almost fell from his hand, as his eye fell upon
Lisle.

"I am not a ghost," Lisle laughed, "but am very much alive.

"I am glad to see you again, Wilkins," and he passed in at the
door.

"Is the general engaged?" he asked the orderly who, like the
soldier at the door, stood gazing at him stupidly.

"No, sir," the man gasped.

"Then I will go in unannounced."

General Lockhart looked up from the papers he was reading, and gave
a sudden start.

"I have come to report myself ready for duty, sir," Lisle said,
with a smile.

"Good heavens! Mr. Bullen, you have given me quite a turn! We had
all regarded your death as certain; and your name appeared in the
list of casualties, five months ago.

"I am truly glad to see you again," and he heartily shook Lisle's
hand. "There is another in here who will be glad to see you."

He opened the door, and said:

"Colonel Houghton, will you step in here, for a moment?"

As the colonel entered the room, and his eye fell upon Lisle, he
stood as if suddenly paralysed. The blood rushed from his cheeks.

"I am glad to see that you have recovered from your wound, sir,"
Lisle said.

The blood surged back into the colonel's face. He strode forward
and, grasping both Lisle's hands in his own, said in broken
accents:

"So it is really you, alive and well! This is indeed a load off my
mind. I have always blamed myself for saving my life at the expense
of your own. It would have embittered my life to the end of my
days.

"And you are really alive! I thank God for it. I tried in vain to
check my horse, but it got the bit between its teeth and, with my
wounded leg, I had no power to turn him. As I rode, I pictured to
myself your last defence; how you died fighting.

"How has this all come about?" and he looked at the general, as if
expecting an answer.

"I know no more than yourself, Houghton. He had but just entered
when I called you in."

"Now, Mr. Bullen, let us hear how it happened."

"It was very simple, sir. The Afridis were but twenty paces away,
when I started the colonel's horse. I saw that fighting would be
hopeless, so threw down my sword and pistol. I should have been cut
up at once, had not their chief shouted to them to leave me alone,
and to fire after Colonel Houghton. This they did and, I was happy
to see, without success."

"Then the chief sent me off, under the guard of four men, to his
village; with the intention, as I afterwards heard, of holding me
as a hostage. A week later we moved down to the plain. When we had
been settled in our winter quarters for about two months, we were
attacked by a neighbouring tribe.

"By this time I had begun to pick up enough of the language to make
myself understood. I volunteered to aid in the defence. The chief
gave me his rifle, and I picked off a few of the leading
assailants, and aided in the defence of the village. The enemy were
beaten off with very heavy loss, and the chief was pleased to
attribute their defeat to my advice.

"He at once declared that I was to regard myself no longer as a
prisoner, but as a guest. I spent the next three months in getting
up their language, which I can now speak fluently enough for all
purposes.

"All this time, a vigilant watch had been kept against another
attack and, as soon as the snow began to melt, we returned to the
mountains. There we remained until the passes were open; and then
the chief sent me down, with an escort of four, and I arrived here
a quarter of an hour before I reported myself.

"I believe that I owe my life, in the first place, to the Afridi's
surprise at my sending off Colonel Houghton on my horse."

"No wonder he was surprised, Mr. Bullen. It was a splendid action;
and in reporting your death, I spoke of it in the warmest terms;
and said that, had you returned alive, I should have recommended
you for the V.C.

"I shall, of course renew the recommendation, now that you have
returned."

Turning to Colonel Houghton, he said:

"You no doubt wish to have a further chat with Lieutenant Bullen
and, as there is no special work here today, pray consider yourself
at liberty to take him down to your quarters."

"Thank you, sir! I shall certainly be glad to learn further about
the affair."

"If you please, General," Lisle said, "I have a message to give
you, from the chief. He says that, henceforth, he will be friends
with the British; and that if you ever enter his country again, he
will do all in his power to aid you. He hopes that you will allow
them to retain their rifles and, as they only amount to some three
or four and twenty fighting men, I was tempted to promise him that
you would."

"You were quite right, Mr. Bullen. I suppose the men who
accompanied you are still here?"

"Yes."

"Tell them not to go away. I will myself send a message to their
chief."

"We will write him a letter, Colonel Houghton, thanking him for his
kindness to his prisoner; sending him a permit to retain his arms,
and a present which will enable his tribe to increase their flocks
and herds."

"Thank you very much, sir! I shall myself, of course, send a
present of some sort, in return for his kindness."

"You talk the Pathan language with facility?"

"Yes, sir. I was five months with them, and devoted the chief part
of my time to picking it up."

"You shall be examined at the first opportunity, Mr. Bullen; and
the acquisition of their language, as well as your proficiency in
Punjabi will, of course, greatly add to your claim to be placed on
staff appointments; and will add somewhat to your income.

"I hope you will dine with me, this evening; when you can give me a
full account of your life in the village, and of that fight you
spoke of. It will be highly interesting to learn the details of one
of these tribal fights."

Lisle accompanied Colonel Houghton to his quarters with a little
reluctance, for he was anxious to rejoin his comrades in the
regiment.

"Now, Bullen, tell me all about it," the colonel said. "I know that
you lifted me on to your horse. I called to you to jump up behind,
as the Afridis were close upon us; and I have never been able to
make out why the horse should have gone off at a mad gallop, with
me; but no doubt it was scared by the yells of the Afridis."

"When I lifted you up, sir, I certainly intended to get up behind
you; but the Afridis were so close that I felt that it was
impossible to do so, and that we should both be shot down before we
got out of range; so I gave the horse a prod with my sword and, as
I saw him go off at a gallop, I threw down my arms, as I told you."

"As it has turned out," the colonel said, "there is no doubt that
the tribesmen, valiant fighters themselves, admire courage. If you
had resisted, no doubt you would have been cut down; but your
action must have appeared so extraordinary, to them, that they
spared you.

"I have often bitterly reproached myself that I was unable to share
your fate. You are still young, and I am old enough to be your
father. I am unmarried, with no particular ties in the world. You
have given me new interest in life. It will be a great pleasure for
me to watch your career.

"If you have no objection I shall formally adopt you; and shall,
tomorrow, draw out a will appointing you heir to all I possess--which
I may tell you is something like fifteen thousand pounds--and shall
make it my business to push you forward."

"It is too much altogether, Colonel."

"Not at all, Bullen; you saved my life, when certain death seemed
to be staring you in the face; and it is a small thing, when I have
no longer need of it, that you should inherit what I leave behind.

"In the meantime, I shall make you an allowance of a couple of
hundred a year, as my adopted son. Say no more about it; you are
not stepping into anyone else's shoes, for I have no near relation,
no one who has a right to expect a penny at my death; and I have
hitherto not even taken the trouble to make a will. You will, I
hope, consider me, in the future, as standing in the place of the
brave father you lost, some years ago."

Lisle remained chatting with the officer for an hour, and then the
latter said:

"I won't keep you any longer, now. I am sure you must be wanting to
see your friends in the camp."

As soon as Lisle neared the lines of the regiment, he saw the
soldiers waiting about in groups. These closed up as he approached.
The sentry to whom he had spoken had been relieved, and had told
the news of his return to his comrades and, as he came along, the
whole regiment gathered round Lisle, and cheer after cheer went up.
He had gone but a few paces when he was seized and placed upon the
shoulders of two of the men; and carried in triumph, surrounded by
the other men, still cheering, to the front of the mess room. He
was so affected, by the warmth of the greeting, that the tears were
running down his cheeks when he was allowed to alight.

The officers, who had, of course, received the news, gathered at
the mess room when he was seen approaching. Before going up to them
Lisle turned and, raising his hand for silence, said:

"I thank you with all my heart, men, for the welcome you have given
me; and the proof that you have afforded me of your liking for me.
I thank you again and again, and shall never forget this
reception."

There was a fresh outburst of cheering, and Lisle then turned, and
ascended the four steps leading up to the mess room.



Chapter 13: The V.C.


The colonel was standing, surrounded by his officers.

"I welcome you back, Mr. Bullen," he said, as he shook the lad's
hand heartily, "in the name of the officers of the regiment, and my
own. We are proud of you, sir. How you escaped death, we know not;
it is enough for us that you are back, and are safe and sound.

"Your deed, in saving Colonel Houghton's life at what seemed the
sacrifice of your own, had been a sore trial and a grief to all of
us. No doubt existed in our minds that you had been cut to pieces,
and you seem to have almost come back from the dead."

The other officers then crowded round him, shaking his hand and
congratulating him on his escape.

"Now, come in and tell us how this miracle has come about. We can
understand that you have been held as a hostage, but how is it that
you are here?

"Now, do you get up on a chair, and give us a true and faithful
account of all that happened to you, and how it is that you
effected your escape."

"I did not effect my escape at all," Lisle said, as he mounted the
chair; "I was released without any terms being made and, for the
past three months, have been treated as an honoured guest by the
Afridi chief into whose hands I fell."

"Well, tell the story from the beginning," the colonel said; "what
you have said only adds to our wonder."

Lisle modestly told the story, amid frequent cross questioning.

"Well, there is no doubt that you were lucky, Lisle," the colonel
said, when he had brought his story to a conclusion. "The pluck of
your action, in getting Colonel Houghton off and staying yourself,
appealed strongly to the Afridis; and caused their chief to decide
to retain you as a hostage, instead of killing you at once. I do
not suppose that he really thought that he would gain much, by
saving you; for he must have known that we are in a hurry to get
down through the passes, and must consider it very doubtful whether
we should ever return. Still, no doubt he would have detained you
and, in the spring, sent down to say that you were in his hands;
and in that way would have endeavoured to make terms for your
release. But your assistance when he was attacked, and your
readiness to take part with his people, entirely changed his
attitude towards you.

"However, I don't suppose he will lose by it. The general is sure
to send back a handsome present to him, for his conduct towards
you.

"Have you seen Houghton yet?"

"Yes, sir; I have been with him for the past hour. He has been more
than kind to me and, as he has no near relations, has been good
enough to say that he will adopt me as his heir. So I have indeed
been amply rewarded for the service I did him."

"I congratulate you most heartily," the colonel said; "you have
well earned it, and I am sure that there is not a man in the army
who will envy your good fortune. There is only one thing wanting to
complete it, and that is the V.C.; which I have not the least doubt
in the world will be awarded to you, and all my fellow officers
will agree with me that never was it more nobly earned. You courted
what seemed certain death.

"The greater portion of the crosses have been earned by men for
carrying in wounded comrades, under a heavy fire; but that is
nothing to your case. Those actions were done on the spur of the
moment, and there was every probability that the men would get back
unhurt. Yours was the facing of a certain death. I can assure you
that it will be the occasion of rejoicings, on the part of the
whole regiment, when you appear for the first time with a cross on
your breast."

He rang the bell and, when one of the mess waiters appeared, told
him to bring half a dozen bottles of champagne. Lisle's health was
then drunk, with three hearty cheers. Lunch was on the table, and
Lisle was heartily glad when the subject of his own deeds was
dropped, and they started to discuss the meal.

"Now, Mr. Bullen," the colonel said, when the meal was finished, "I
must carry you off to the ladies. They have all rejoined, and will
be as anxious as we were to hear of your return."

"Must I go, Colonel?" Lisle asked shyly.

"Of course you must, Bullen. When a man performs brave deeds, he
must be expected to be patted on the back--metaphorically, at any
rate--by the ladies. So you have got to go through it all and, as I
have sent word round that I shall bring you to my bungalow, you
will be able to get it all over at once."

"Well, sir, I suppose I must do it, though I would much rather not.
Still, as you say, it were best to get it all over at once."

Six ladies were gathered at the bungalow, as Lisle entered with the
colonel. All rose as they entered, and pressed round him, shaking
his hand.

"I have come to tell you how pleased we all were," the colonel's
wife said, "to hear that you had returned, and how eager we have
all been to learn how it has come about. We think it very unkind of
you to stay so long in the mess room, when you must have known that
we are all on thorns to hear about it. I can assure you that we
have missed you terribly, since the regiment returned, and we are
awfully glad to have you back again.

"Now, please tell us all about it. We know, of course, how you got
Colonel Houghton off, and remained to die; and how proud all the
regiment has been of your exploit; so you can start and tell us how
it was that you escaped from being cut to mince-meat."

Lisle again went through the story.

"Why did you not return at once, when the chief who captured you
said that you were his guest? Was there not some fair young Afridi,
who held you in her chains?"

Lisle laughed.

"I can assure you that it was no feminine attractions that kept me.
There were some fifteen or twenty girls and, like everyone else,
they were very kind to me but, so far as I was able to judge, not
one of them was prettier, or I should rather say less ugly, than
the rest; although several of them had very good features, and were
doubtless considered lovely by the men. Certainly there was none
whom an Englishman would look at twice.

"Poor things, most of the work of the village is left to them. They
went out to cut grass, fed the cattle, gathered firewood, and
ground the corn; and I have no doubt that they are now all occupied
with the work of tilling the little patches of fertile ground
beyond the village.

"Besides, ladies, you must remember that I have a vivid
recollection of you all; which would, alone, have guarded me
against falling in love with any dusky maiden."

"I rather doubt your word, Mr. Bullen," the colonel's wife said;
"you were always very ready to make yourself pleasant, and do our
errands, and to make yourself generally useful and agreeable; but I
do not remember that you ever ventured upon making a compliment
before. You must have learnt the art somehow."

The lady laughed.

"I could hardly help comparing you with the women round me, but I
really had a vivid remembrance of your kindness to me."

"In future, Mr. Bullen, we shall consider you as discharged from
all duty. We have heard of other gallant deeds that you have done;
and henceforth shall regard you, with a real respect, as an officer
who has brought great credit upon the regiment. I am sure that,
henceforth, you will lose your old nickname of 'the boy,' and be
regarded as a hero."

"I hope not," Lisle said; "it has been very pleasant to be regarded
as a boy, and therefore to act as a sort of general fag to you. I
hope you will continue to regard me as so. I have always considered
it a privilege to be able to make myself useful to you, and I
should be very sorry to lose it.

"I can assure you that I still feel as a boy. I know nothing of the
world; have passed my whole time, as far back as I can remember, in
camp; and have thoroughly enjoyed my life. I suppose some day I
shall lose the feeling that I am still a boy, but I shall certainly
hold to it as long as I can."

"I suppose you had some difficulty in speaking with the natives?"
the doctor's wife said.

"At first I had but, from continually talking with them, I got to
know their language--I won't say as well as Punjabi, but certainly
very well--and I shall pass in it at the next examination."

"I wish all subalterns were like you," the colonel's wife said.
"Most of those who come out from England are puffed up with a sense
of their own importance, and I often wish that I could take them by
the shoulders, and shake them well. And what are you going to do
now?"

"I am going off to find the four men who came down with me, see if
they are comfortable, and tell them that the general will give them
the message to their chief, tomorrow."

"What will be the next thing, Mr. Bullen?"

"The next thing will be to go to the bazaar, and choose some
presents for the chief and his family."

"What do you mean to get?"

"I think a brace of revolvers, and a good store of ammunition for
the chief. As to the women I must, I suppose, get something in the
way of dress. For the other men I shall get commoner things.
Everyone has been most kind to me, and I should certainly like them
to have some remembrance of my stay.

"I suppose that there is five months' pay waiting for me in the
paymaster's chest."

"I should doubt it extremely," the colonel said. "You will get it
in time, but you will have to wait. You have been struck off the
regimental pay list, ever since you were put down as dead; and I
expect the paymaster will have to get a special authorization,
before you can draw your back pay."

"I was only joking, Colonel. My agent at Calcutta has my money in
his hands, and I have only to draw on him."

"So much the better, Bullen. It is always a nuisance getting into
debt, even when you are certain that funds will be forthcoming
which will enable you to repay what you owe. But have you enough to
carry you on till you hear from your agent?"

"Plenty, sir; I left all the money I did not care to carry about
with me in the regimental till."

"Then I expect you will find it there still. I know that nothing
has been done with it. A short time since, the paymaster was
speaking to me about it, and asking me if I knew the address of any
of your relations, or who was your agent at Calcutta. He said to
me:

"'I shall wait a bit longer. Mr. Bullen turned up quite
unexpectedly, once before and, though I fear there is not a shadow
of chance that he will do so again, I will hold the money for a
time. It is just possible that he is held as a hostage, in which
case we shall probably hear of him, when the passes are open.'"

Lisle went to the paymaster's at once and, finding that he had not
parted with the money, drew fifty pounds. He had no difficulty in
buying the revolvers and cartridges; but was so completely at a
loss as to the female garments, and the price he ought to pay, that
he went back to the cantonment and asked two of the ladies to
accompany him shopping. This they at once consented to do and, with
their aid, he laid in a stock of female garments: silk for the
chief's wife; and simpler, but good and useful materials--for the
most part of bright colour--for the other women. These were all
parcelled up in various bundles, and a looking glass inserted in
each parcel. For the men he bought bright waistbands and long
knives; and gave, in addition, a present in money to the men who
had come down with him.

It was evening before the work was finished, and he then returned
to mess with the regiment.

"I suppose you don't know yet whether you are coming back to us,
Bullen?" the major said.

"No, sir, the general did not say; but for myself, I would very
much rather join the regiment. Staff appointment sounds tempting,
but I must say that I should greatly prefer regimental work;
especially as I should be very much junior to the other officers of
the staff, and should feel myself out of place among them."

"I have no doubt that you are right, in that respect; but staff
appointments lead to promotion."

"I have no ambition for promotion, for the present, Major. I am
already five or six up among the senior lieutenants, which is quite
high enough for one of my age."

"Well, perhaps you are right. It is not a good thing for a young
officer to be pushed on too fast, and another two or three years of
regimental work will certainly do you no harm."

"I have not yet asked, Major, whether we are going up into the
Tirah again, this spring?"

"I fancy not. Already several deputations have come in from the
tribesmen, some of them bringing in the fines imposed upon them;
and all seem to say that there is a general desire among the
Afridis for peace, and that deputations from other tribes will
shortly follow them."

"I am glad to hear it, sir," Lisle said. "I think I have had quite
enough of hill fighting."

"I think we are all of the same opinion, Bullen. It is no joke
fighting an enemy hidden behind rocks, armed with Lee-Metford
rifles, and trained to shoot as well as a British marksman.

"The marching was even worse than the fighting. Passing a night on
the snow, any number of thousand feet above the sea, is worse than
either of them. No, I would rather go through a campaign against
the Russians, than have anything more to do with the Tirah; though
I must admit that, if we were to begin at once, we should not have
snow to contend with.

"I have been through several campaigns, but the last was infinitely
the hardest, and I have not the least desire to repeat it. Whether
all the tribes choose to send in and accept our terms, or not,
makes no very great difference; they have had such a sharp lesson
that it will certainly be some time before they rise again in
revolt. There may be an occasional cattle-lifting raid across the
frontier, but one can put up with that; and it would be infinitely
cheaper for Government to compensate the victims, than for us to
get an army in motion again, to punish the thieves.

"Moreover, having once taught them that we are stronger than they,
it would be a pity to weaken them still further for, if a Russian
army were to try and force its way into India, these fellows would
make it very hot for them. They are full of fight and, although
they are independent of Afghanistan, and have no particular
patriotic feeling, the thirst for plunder would bring them like
bees round an invading army.

"No, the thing has been well done, but the expense has been
enormous and the losses serious; and I trust that, at any rate as
long as we are stationed in Northern India, things will be quiet."

Next morning Lisle went, early, to headquarters. He had to wait a
little time before he could see the general. When he went in,
General Lockhart said:

"Now about yourself, Mr. Bullen. Your place has, of course, been filled
up; but I shall be glad to appoint you as extra aide-de-camp, if you
wish. Would you rather be on staff duty, or rejoin your regiment?"

"If you give me the choice, sir, I would rather rejoin the
regiment. Staff duty in war time is extremely interesting; but in
peace time, I would rather be at work with the regiment.

"You see, sir, I am very young, and much younger than any of the
staff; and I am sure that I should feel very much out of place."

"I agree with you," the general said, with a smile. "I think that
you are wise to prefer regimental duty. I have written home, giving
my account of your gallant action; telling how you were not, as
reported, killed; and recommending you, in the strongest possible
terms, for the V.C."

"I am greatly indebted to you, sir. I do not feel that I have done
anything at all out of the way, and acted only on the impulse of
the moment."

"You could not have done better, had you thought of it for an
hour," the general said; "but as I also reported your defence of
that hut, I have little doubt that you will get the well-earned
V.C."

There was great satisfaction among the officers and the regiment,
when Lisle told them of his interview with the general.

It was soon evident, from the sale of the transport animals, that
the war was over; and the regiment shortly afterwards returned to
their old quarters, at Rawal Pindi, and fell into the old routine
of drill.

In the middle of the following summer Lisle, while fielding at
cricket in a match with another regiment, suddenly staggered and
fell. The surgeon, running up from the pavilion, pronounced it as a
case of sunstroke. It was some time before he was conscious again.

"What has happened?" he asked.

"You have had a bad sunstroke," the surgeon said, "and I am going
to send you home, as soon as you are able to travel. I shall apply
for at least a year's leave for you, and I hope that, by the end of
that time, you will be perfectly fit for work again; but certainly
a period of rest, and the return to a temperate climate, is
absolutely necessary for you."

Long before this, a despatch had been received from England
bestowing the Victoria Cross upon Lisle. General Lockhart himself
came down from Peshawar and fixed it to his breast, in presence of
the whole regiment, drawn up in parade order. The outburst of
cheering from the men told unmistakably how popular he was with
them, and how they approved of the honour bestowed upon him.

The general dined at mess, and was pleased to see how popular the
young officer was with his men. He himself proposed Lisle's health,
and the latter was obliged to return thanks.

When he sat down, the general said:

"It is clear, Mr. Bullen, that you have more presence of mind, when
engaged with the enemy, than you have when surrounded with friends.
It can hardly be said that eloquence is your forte."

"No, sir," Lisle said, wiping the perspiration from his face, "I
would rather go through eleven battles, than have to make another
speech."

The application for sick leave was granted at once and, a fortnight
later, Lisle took his place in the train for Calcutta. All the
officers and their wives assembled to see him off.

"I hope," said the colonel, "you will come back in the course of a
year, thoroughly restored to health. It is all in your favour that
you have not been a drinking man; and the surgeon told me that he
is convinced that the brain has suffered no serious injury, and
that you will be on your feet again, and fit for any work, after
the twelve months' leave. But, moderate as you always are, I should
advise you to eschew altogether alcoholic liquids. Men who have
never had a touch of sunstroke can drink them with impunity but, to
a man who has had sunstroke, they are worse than poison."

"All right, Colonel! Nothing stronger than lemonade shall pass my
lips."

And so, with the good wishes of his friends, Lisle started for
Calcutta. Here he drew from his agents a sum which, he calculated,
would last him for a year at home. To his great pleasure, on
entering the train he met his friend Colonel Houghton.

"I have been thinking for some time, lad," he said, "of applying
for a year's leave; which I have earned by twelve years' service
out here. I was with the general when your application for leave
arrived, and made up my mind to go home with you. I therefore
telegraphed to Simla, and got leave at once; so I shall be able to
look after you, on the voyage."

"It is very kind of you," Lisle said. "It will be a comfort,
indeed, having a friend on board. My brain seems to be all right
now, but my memory is very shaky. However, I hope that will be all
right, too, by the time we arrive in England."

The presence of the colonel was indeed a great comfort to Lisle.
The latter looked after him as a father might have done, placed his
chair in the coolest spot to be found and, by relating to the other
passengers the service by which Lisle had won the V.C., ensured
their sympathy and kindness.

By the time the voyage was over, Lisle felt himself again. His
brain had gradually cleared, and he could again remember the events
of his life. He stayed three or four days at the hotel in London
where the colonel put up; and then went down into the country, in
response to an invitation from his aunt, which had been sent off as
soon as she received a letter from him, announcing his arrival in
England. His uncle's place was a quiet parsonage in Somersetshire,
and the rest and quiet did him an immense deal of good.

At the end of three months' stay there, he left to see something of
London and England, and travelled about for some months.

When the year was nearly up, and he was making his preparations to
return to India, he received a summons to attend at the War Office.
Wondering greatly what its purport could be, he called upon the
adjutant general.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Bullen?" the latter asked.

"Perfectly well, sir, as well as I ever felt in my life."

"We are sending a few officers to aid Colonel Willcocks in
effecting the relief of the party now besieged in Coomassie. Your
record is an excellent one and, if you are willing and able to go,
we shall be glad to include you in the number."

"I should like it very much. There is no chance, whatever, of
active service in India; and I should be glad, indeed, to be at the
front again, in different circumstances."

"Very well, Mr. Bullen, then you will sail on Tuesday next, in the
steamer that leaves Liverpool on that day. You will have the local
rank of captain, and will be in command of a company of Hausas."

Lisle had but a few preparations to make. He ordered, at once, a
khaki uniform and pith helmet, and a supply of light shirts and
underclothing. Then he ran down to Somersetshire to say goodbye to
his uncle and aunt, and arrived in Liverpool on the Monday evening.
Sleeping at the hotel at the station, he went on board the next
morning.

Here he found half a dozen other officers, also bound for the west
coast of Africa, and soon got on friendly terms with them. He was,
of course, obliged to tell how he had won the Victoria Cross; a
recital which greatly raised him in their estimation.

They had fine weather throughout the voyage; and were glad, indeed,
when the steamer anchored off Cape Coast. Although looking forward
to their arrival at Cape Coast, the officers were not in their
highest spirits. All of them had applied for service in South
Africa, where the war was now raging but, to their disappointment,
had been sent on this minor expedition. At any other time, they
would have been delighted at the opportunity of taking part in it;
but now, with a great war going on, it seemed to them a very petty
affair, indeed.

They cheered themselves, however, by the assumption that there was
sure to be hard fighting; and opportunities for distinguishing
themselves at least as great as they would meet with at the Cape,
where so vast a number of men were engaged that it would be
difficult for one officer to distinguish himself beyond others.

Until he started, Lisle had scarcely more than heard the name of
Ashanti; though he knew, of course, that two expeditions, those
under Sir Garnet Wolseley and Sir Francis Scott, had reached the
capital, the latter dethroning the king and carrying him away into
captivity. Now, however, he gathered full details of the situation,
from two officers belonging to the native troops, who had been
hurriedly ordered to cut short their leave, and go back to take
their places with the corps to which they were attached.

There was no doubt that the Ashantis were one of the most
formidable tribes in Africa. Their territory extended from the
river Prah to sixty miles north of Cape Coast. They were feared by
all their neighbours, with whom they were frequently at war--not so
much for the sake of extending their territory, as for the purpose
of obtaining great numbers of men and women for their hideous
sacrifices, at Coomassie. They were in close alliance with the
tribes at Elmina, which place we had taken over from the
Portuguese, some years before Sir Garnet Wolseley's expedition.
This occupation was bitterly opposed by the Ashantis, who felt that
it cut them off from free trade with the coast. In return, they
intercepted all trade with the coast from the tribes behind them;
and finally seized some white missionaries at their capital, and
sent a defiant message down to Cape Coast.

The result was that Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent out to take
command of an expedition and, with three white regiments, a small
Naval Brigade, and the West African Regiment, completely defeated
the Ashantis in two pitched battles, reached the capital, and burnt
it. Unfortunately, owing to the want of carriers, and the small
amount of supplies that were sent up, he was obliged to fall back
again to the coast, after occupying the capital for only three
days.

Had it been possible to leave a sufficient force there, the spirit
of the Ashantis would have been broken. This, however, could not be
done; and they gradually regained their arrogant spirit, carried
out none of their obligations and, twenty-two years later, having
quite forgotten their reverses, they resumed their raids across the
Prah.

Sir Francis Scott's expedition was therefore organized, and marched
to the capital. This time the former mistake was not committed. A
small garrison was left to overawe its inhabitants, and the king
was carried away a prisoner. The expedition had encountered no
opposition. The reason for this was never satisfactorily
ascertained, but it is probable that the Ashantis were taken by
surprise, and thought it better to wait until they had obtained
better arms. In this they were successful, for there are always
rascally traders, ready to supply the enemies of their country with
arms, on terms of immense profit.

The Ashantis were evidently kept well informed, by some of their
tribesmen settled in the coast towns, of the state of affairs in
Europe and, in the belief that England was fully occupied at the
Cape, and that no white soldiers would be sent, they again rose in
rebellion. They were ready to admit that the white soldiers were
superior to themselves, but they entertained a profound contempt
for our black troops, whom they were convinced they could defeat
without difficulty.

Certainly, the force available at Cape Coast was altogether
insufficient for the purpose; for it consisted only of a battalion
of Hausa Constabulary, and two seven-pounder guns. Sierra Leone had
a permanent garrison of one battalion of the West Indian Regiment,
and a West African Regiment recruited on the spot; but few of these
could be spared, for Sierra Leone had its own native troubles. The
garrison of Lagos was similar to that of Cape Coast; but here,
also, troubles were dreaded with their neighbours at Abeokuta.
Southern Nigeria had their own regiment; while Northern Nigeria had
the constabulary of the Royal Niger Company, and they had, at the
time, just raised two battalions and three batteries. Fortunately,
the recent dispute between the people and ourselves as to their
respective boundaries had been temporarily arranged, and a portion
of these troops could be utilized.

The two regiments were both numerically strong, each company
amounting to a hundred and fifty men. They were armed with
Martini-Metford carbines, and each company had a Vickers-Maxim gun.
The batteries were provided with powerful guns, capable of throwing
twelve-pound shells. The men were all Hausas and Yorubas, with the
exception of one company of Neupas. This contingent were supplied
with khaki, before starting; and the rest were in blue uniform,
similar to that worn by the West Indian Regiments. There was, in
addition, a small battalion of the Central African Regiment; with a
detachment of Sikhs, who also supplied non-commissioned officers.

That the men would fight well, all believed; but the forces had
been but recently organized, and it was questionable how they would
behave without a backbone of white troops. The experiment was quite
a novel one, as never before had a war been carried on, by us, with
purely native troops.

The collection of the troops was a difficult matter, and cost no
small time; especially from Northern Nigeria, which was to supply a
much larger contingent than the others. These troops were scattered
in small bodies over a large extent of country, for the most part
hundreds of miles from the coast. There was a great paucity of
officers, too; and of these, many were about to take their year's
leave home, worn out and weakened by the unhealthy climate. By
prodigious exertions, however, all were at last collected, and in
readiness to proceed to the scene of operations.

Picking up troops at several points, the steamer at last arrived
off Cape Coast; but not yet were they to land. A strong wind was
blowing, and the surf beat with such violence, on the shore, that
it was impossible even for the surf boat to come out. The officers
had nothing to do but to watch the shore. Even this was only done
under difficult circumstances, for the steamer was rolling rail
under.

The prospect, however, was not unpleasing. From a projecting point
stood the old Dutch castle, a massive-looking building. On its left
was the town, on rising ground, with whitewashed buildings; and
behind all, and in the town itself, rose palm trees, which made a
dark fringe along the coast on either hand.

"It doesn't look such a bad sort of place," one of the officers
said, "and certainly it ought to be healthy, if it were properly
drained down to the sea. Yet it is a home of fever; one night
ashore, in the bad season, is almost certain death for a white man.
I believe that not half a dozen of the white inhabitants are
hardened by repeated attacks of fever, to which at least three out
of four newcomers succumb before they have been here many months.
If this is the case, here, what must it be in the forest and swamps
behind?"

All were greatly relieved when the wind abated, on the third day,
and the surf boats were seen making their way out. The landing was
exciting work. The surf was still very heavy, and it seemed
well-nigh impossible that any boat could live through it. The
native paddlers, however, were thoroughly used to the work. They
ceased paddling when they reached the edge of the breakers, until a
wave larger than usual came up behind them. Then, with a yell, they
struck their paddles into the water, and worked for dear life.
Higher and higher rose the wave behind them, till it seemed that
they must be submerged by it. For a moment the boat stood almost
upright. Then, when it rose to the crest of the wave, the boatmen
paddled harder than ever, and they were swept forward with the
swiftness of an arrow. Another wave overtook them and, carrying
them on, dashed them high up on the beach.

The paddlers at once sprang out, and prevented the boat from being
carried out by the receding wave. Then the officers, mounting the
men's backs, were carried out; for the most part high and dry,
although in some cases they were wet to the skin.

A few yards away was the entrance to the castle. Here everything
was bustle. Troops were filing out, laden with casks and cases.
Others were squatting in the paved court, ready to receive their
burdens. All were laughing and chatting merrily. There were even
troops of young girls, of from ten to fifteen years old, who were
to carry parcels of less weight than their brothers.

Two officers were moving about, seeing that all went on regularly;
and a number of men were bringing the burdens out from the
storehouse, and ranging them in lines, ready for the women to take
up.

The district commissioner, who was in charge of the old castle,
received Lisle and his companions cordially; and invited them, when
the day's work was over, to dine with him. Rooms were placed at
their disposal.

As soon as this was done they went down to the beach, and
superintended the landing of the men and stores, which was carried
on until nightfall. Then, when the last boat load was landed, they
came up to dinner.

After a hearty meal, one of them said:

"We shall be glad, sir, if you will tell us what has been happening
here. All we know is that the fort of Coomassie is surrounded, and
that we have come up to relieve it."

"It is difficult to give you anything like an accurate account,"
the officer said, "for so many lying rumours have come down, that
one hardly knows what to believe. One day we hear that the place
has been carried by storm, and that the garrison have been
massacred. Then we are told that Sir Frederick Hodgson, with the
survivors of the garrison, has burst his way through.

"It is certain that most of our forces are unable to push their way
up, and that their posts are practically surrounded. Further, on
the 18th of April the first news that the fort was being besieged
reached Cambarga, three hundred and forty miles from Coomassie.
Three days later three British officers, and a hundred and seventy
men, with a Maxim and seven-pounder, marched under the command of
Major Morris to the station of Kintanpo. After thirteen days'
marching the force was increased to seven British officers, three
hundred and thirty soldiers, and eighty-three native levies.

"Near N'Quanta they met with opposition and, two hours later, had a
successful engagement, with only three casualties. On the 14th they
fell into an ambush, and incurred twelve casualties. For two days
after this they had more or less continuous fighting and, in
charging a stockade, Major Morris was severely wounded. Captain
Maguire then headed the charge, and succeeded in capturing the
stockade.

"No further resistance was met with, though two more stockades were
passed. This want of enterprise, on the part of the enemy, was due
to a short armistice that had been arranged with the beleaguered
garrison.

"Major Morris's force was the third reinforcement which had reached
the garrison. The first to come up was a party of Gold Coasters
from the south. This was the only contingent permitted by the
Ashantis to enter Coomassie unopposed. The next was a detachment
from Lagos, composed of two hundred and fifty men of that colony's
Hausa force, with four British officers and a doctor, under the
command of Captain Alpin. The Adansis, who occupy the country
between the Prah and the recognized Ashanti boundary, had revolted;
so that for part of the way they were unopposed but, as soon as
they reached the first village in the Ashanti country, they were
heavily attacked. After a couple of hours' fighting, however, the
advance guard took the village, at the point of the bayonet.

"Next day they reached the Ordah River. Here the enemy made a
determined stand, entrenched behind a stockade. The fight lasted
for four hours, and then the situation became critical. The Maxim
had jammed, the ammunition of the seven-pounder was exhausted, and
a great proportion of the small-arm ammunition had been expended.
Captain Cox and thirty men went into the bush, to turn the enemy's
position. When they reached a point where they took the enemy in
rear, they charged the stockade. The enemy fled, and were kept at a
run until Coomassie was reached, before dark.

"The list of casualties showed how hard had been the fighting. All
the white officers had been wounded, and there were a hundred and
thirty casualties among the two hundred and fifty British soldiers.
The garrison now consisted of seven hundred rank and file, and
about a dozen British officers; two hundred and fifty native
levies, and nearly four thousand Fanti and Hausa refugees.

"The next force to move forward was the first contingent from
Northern Nigeria, consisting of two companies under the command of
Captain Hall, with one gun. In traversing the Adansi country
Captain Hall drew up a treaty, and got the Adansi king to sign it.
Then he marched on to Bekwai, the chief town of a friendly tribe;
and took up his quarters at Esumeja, a day's march from Coomassie.
The border of Bekwai lay a short distance on one side, that of
Kokofu was half a mile to the east.

"These were an Ashanti tribe, very fierce and warlike; and the
occupation of Esumeja both kept them in check, and inspired the
loyal Bekwais with confidence. Here Captain Hall was joined by a
second contingent from Lagos, a hundred strong; and fifty men of
the Sierra Leone frontier police. The force has got no farther, but
its position on the main line of march is of vital service; as it
overawes the Kokofu, and facilitates the advance of further relief.

"That, gentlemen, is the situation, at present. So far as I know,
the garrison of Coomassie is amply sufficient to defend the fort;
but we know that they are short of ammunition, and also of supplies
to maintain the large number of people shut up there.

"I am expecting the vessel with the main Nigerian contingent
tomorrow, or next day; and I hope that this reinforcement will
enable an advance to be made."

"Thank you, sir! It is evident that we are in for some tough
fighting, and shall have all our work cut out for us."

"There can be no doubt of that," the commissioner said, gravely.
"The difficulties have been greatly increased by the erection of
these stockades, a new feature in these Ashanti wars. When the
Bekwais put themselves under our protection, instructions were
given them in stockading, so that they might resist any force that
the Ashantis might send against them and, doubtless, the latter
inspected these defences and adopted the idea. The worst of it is
that they are generally so covered, by the bush, that they are not
seen by our troops till they arrive in front of them."



Chapter 14: Forest Fighting.


Early the next morning the transport with the Nigerian troops
anchored off the town. The work of disembarkation began at once.
Five of the newly-arrived officers were appointed to the
commissariat transport service. The three others--of whom Lisle, to
his great satisfaction, was one--were appointed to the command of
companies in the Nigerian force. This distinction, the commissioner
frankly informed him, was due to his being the possessor of the
V.C.

Having nothing to do that day, Lisle strolled about the town. There
were a few European houses, the property of the natives who formed
the elite of the place; men for the most part possessing white
blood in their veins, being the descendants of British merchants
who, knowing that white women could not live in the place, had taken
Negro wives. These men were distinguished by their hair, rather than
by their more European features. Their colour was as dark as that of
other natives. Lisle learned that such light-coloured children as
were born of these mixed marriages uniformly died, but that the dark
offspring generally lived.

All the small shops in the town were kept by this class. With the
exception of the buildings belonging to them, the houses of the
town were merely mud erections, with a door and a window or two.
The roofs were flat, and composed of bamboos and other branches;
overlaid by a thick mud which, Lisle learned, not unfrequently
collapsed in the rainy season. Nothing could be done at that time
to repair them, and their inhabitants took refuge in the houses of
their friends, until the dry season permitted them to renew their
own roofs.

The women were of very superior physique to the men. The latter
considered that their only duty was to stroll about with a gun or a
spear; and the whole work of cultivating the ground, and of
carrying burdens, fell to the lot of the women. Many of these had
splendid figures, which might have been the envy of an English
belle. Their great defect is that their heels, instead of going
straight to the leg, project an inch or more behind it. From their
custom of always carrying their burdens on their heads, their
carriage is as upright as a dart. Whether the load was a heavy
barrel, or two or three bananas, Lisle noticed that they placed it
on the head; and even tiny girls carried any small article of which
they might become possessed in this manner.

Curiously enough, the men had no excuse for posing as warriors; for
the Fantis were the only cowardly race on the coast, and had
several times shown themselves worthless as fighters, when the
Ashantis made their expeditions against them.

A narrow valley ran up from the sea, in one part of the town, and
terminated in a swamp behind it. Here the refuse of the place was
thrown, and the stench in itself was sufficient to account for the
prevalence of fever. Here were the accumulations of centuries; for
the Dutch governors, who were frequently relieved, had made no
effort whatever towards draining the marsh, nor improving the
sanitary condition of the place; nor had the British governors who
followed them shown any more energy in that direction. Doubtless
the means were wanting, for the revenue of the place was
insufficient to pay for the expenses of the garrison; and so the
town which, at a very moderate expenditure, might have been
rendered comparatively healthy, remained a death trap.

As soon as the Nigerian troops had landed, Lisle reported himself
to their commander. He was at once put in charge of a company, and
began his duties. When, two days later, they marched up the
country, he felt well pleased with his command; for the men were
for the most part lithe, active fellows; very obedient to orders
and ready for any work, and evidently very proud of their position
as British soldiers. They had for the most part had very little
practice in shooting; but this was of comparatively little
consequence, as what fighting they would have to do would be in the
forests, against a hidden enemy, where individual shooting would be
next to impossible.

The Adansi had risen, three days after signing the treaty. Two
Englishmen, going from Bekwai to Kwisa, on their way were fired
upon, and the terror-stricken carriers fled. Their loads were lost,
and they themselves just succeeded in escaping to Kwisa.

Captain Slater, who was in command there, was much surprised to
hear of such hostility, so soon after the signing of the treaty;
and he started with twenty-six men to investigate the cause. He was
attacked at the same place--one soldier being killed and ten
wounded, while two were missing--and he was obliged to retire to
Kwisa. Sixty Englishmen of the Obuasi gold mines, on the western
frontier of the Adansi, sent down for arms, and were supplied
without any mishap.

Illustration: Map illustrating the Ashanti Campaign.

Colonel Wilkinson telegraphed orders to a force, which had started
two days before, to halt at Fumsu until he joined them with the
newly-arrived contingents. Colonel Willcocks now had four hundred
and fifty men, under Captain Hall, at Kwisa and Bekwai; Captain
Slater a handful of men at Kwisa; Colonel Wilkinson a company at
Fumsu; Colonel Carter the two hundred soldiers just landed on the
line of march, and three hundred men from Northern Nigeria. Nine
hundred reinforcements were known to be on their way. The force was
scattered over a hundred and forty miles, and numerically only
equal to the garrison they were going to relieve. The carriers were
utterly insufficient for the transport.

The newly-arrived troops, with Colonel Willcocks and his staff in
front, rode out of the town on the morning of the 5th of June. A
drizzling rain was falling, but this soon ceased and the sun broke
out. The road lay over low scrub-covered sand hills. It was a fair
one, with the exception of bad bits, at intervals. The first day's
march was a short one, as much time had been lost in getting the
carriers together, and loading them up.

They halted that evening at Akroful. The place afforded but little
accommodation. Five white officers slept together in one small
room. There was a storm during the night, but the sky had cleared
by the time the troops started in the morning.

They now entered a very different country. It was the belt of
forest, three hundred miles wide, which ran across the whole
country. Great as had been the heat, the day before, the gloom of
the forest was more trying to the nerves. Except where the road had
been cleared, the advance was impeded by the thick undergrowth of
bush and small trees, through which it was impossible to pass
without cutting a path with a sword. Above the bush towered the
giants of the forest--great cotton trees, thirty or forty feet in
circumference, and rising to the height of from two to three
hundred feet. Round the tops of these many birds were flitting, but
in the underbrush there was no sign or sound of life. Thorny
creepers bound the trees together.

In the small clearings, where deserted and ruined villages stood, a
few flowers were to be found. Here, also, great butterflies flew
about.

The moist air, tainted with decaying vegetation; the entire absence
of wind, or of movement among the leaves; the profound silence,
broken only by the occasional dropping of water, weighed heavily on
the spirits of the troops. Under foot the soil was converted into
mire by the recent rains; and glad, indeed, were all, when they
reached Mansu.

From this village, as had been the case at the previous halt,
numbers of the carriers deserted. In order to get on, therefore, it
was necessary to send out to the surrounding villages, to gather in
men to take their places; and at the same time a telegram was sent
down to Cape Coast, requesting the commandant there to arrest all
the men who came in, and try to punish them as deserters. It was
some satisfaction to know that they would be flogged, though this
did not obviate the inconvenience caused by their desertion.

Mansu was a pleasanter halting place than the two preceding ones.
It was surrounded by a clearing of considerable size; and contained
two bungalows, which served as quarters for the officers. The
soldiers got abundance of firewood from the forest, and the place
presented a picturesque appearance, after nightfall, with its
blazing fires and their reflection on the deep circle of foliage.

The march had been a depressing one, to the officers; but the
native troops did not seem to find it so, and chattered, sang, and
danced by their fires. Three of the officers found it difficult to
swallow their food; but Lisle and another young officer, named
Hallett, with whom he had been a special chum on board ship, made a
hearty meal and, after it was finished, set out together for a tour
round the camp, to assure themselves that everything was going on
satisfactorily.

"This must be very different from your experience in the Tirah,"
Hallett said.

"Yes; to begin with, it was generally so cold at night, even in the
valley, that we were glad of both our blankets and cloaks; while
among the passes it was bitter, indeed. Then, too, the greater
portion of the troops were white and, though they were cheerful
enough, their spirits were nothing to the merriment of these
natives. Then the camps were crowded with animals, while here there
are only these wretched carriers; and almost every night we were
saluted with bullets from the heights, and lay down in readiness to
oppose any sudden attack.

"I suppose we shall have to do the same, when we get into the
enemy's country, here. That is really the only similarity between
the two expeditions. The country, too, was mountainous and, except
in the valleys, there were few trees; while here we tramp along in
single file, through what is little better than a swamp, and only
get an occasional glimpse of the sky through the overhanging
foliage. Of course it is hot in Northern India, very hot sometimes;
but it is generally dry heat, quite different from the close, muggy
heat of the forest. However, they say that when we have once
ascended the Adansi hills, matters will be better."

"I hope so, Bullen. I found it so close today that I would gladly
have got rid of all my clothes, which were so drenched with
perspiration that I could have wrung them. We shall have other
things to think about, however, when we get across the river; for
you don't think of minor inconveniences when, at any moment, a
volley may be poured into you from the bushes."

"Yes, the idea is rather creepy; but they say that the Ashantis
always shoot high--the effect of the enormous charges they put into
their muskets--so that the harm done bears no proportion, whatever,
to the noise. I expect our Maxims will come in very useful for
clearing out the bush; and I doubt if the Ashantis will be able to
stand for a moment, against our bayonets, as they have no weapons
of the sort."

"No, but a good many of them are armed with spears, which are a
deal longer than our muskets and bayonets. They are not accustomed,
however, to work together. Each man fights for himself, and I feel
convinced that they would not stand a determined charge," Hallett
said.

"It is all very well to talk about a charge; but how are you going
to charge through the bush, where every step has to be cut?
However, I suppose our fellows can get through as well as they
can."

"It would be horrid work, Bullen, for some of these creepers are a
mass of spikes, which would pretty nearly tear a man to pieces, as
he was forcing his way past them in a hurry."

"Yes, that is not a pleasant idea; but I own that, if what they say
about the stockades they have formed is true, they will be even
more formidable than the bush; for our little guns will make no
impression upon them. They say that these are constructed with two
rows of timber, eight feet apart; the intervening space being
filled up with earth and stones so that, if they are well defended,
they ought to cost us a lot of men before we carry them."

"Well, tomorrow we shall be at Prahsu. They say it is a fine open
camp, as it was completely cleared by Wolseley's expedition. Of
course, bushes will have sprung up again but, fast as things grow
in this climate, they can hardly have attained any great height;
and we shall have no difficulty in clearing the place again. There
is a good rest house at the place, I hear, and we sha'n't be pigged
in, as we were at Akroful."

"Why should they build a better house there than at the other
stations?"

"Because, when the river is full, there is no way of getting
across; and one may have to wait there for a fortnight, before it
falls."

On the afternoon of the next day Prahsu was reached, after a march
of twenty miles. The greater part of the house was found to be
occupied by offices and stores. Fortunately, however, two or three
tents had been brought along. The troops soon ran up huts of
bamboos and palm leaves and, as there was a small native village
close by, all were soon able to sleep in shelter.

The Prah was found to be full of water. It was here about a hundred
and fifty yards wide, and circled round three sides of the
position. There was no bridge, but two old wooden pontoons were
found, relics of the last expedition; and these, with the aid of
two old native canoes, were the only means of crossing.

On the morning after their arrival a despatch, dated May 24, was
received from Captain Hall. It gave the details of his attack on
Kokofu. Some thousands of the enemy were round that place and, in
his opinion, no advance could be made to Coomassie till this force
was destroyed.

An hour or two later another runner came in, this time from Kwisa.
The despatch he brought gave details of the fighting the force at
this place had had, in trying to effect a junction with Captain
Hall.

The column advanced rapidly. In any place where the bush was
particularly thick, volleys were fired into the undergrowth by a
few men of the advance guard; for it had been found by experience
in Nigeria that, if fired upon, natives generally disclosed their
presence by replying.

They went on, unmolested, until they neared the village of
Dompoasi. The natives of this town had sworn a solemn oath, to
prevent any reinforcements from going up to Coomassie; and they had
erected a stockade, six feet high. This was built in zigzag shape,
so that a flanking fire could be kept up from it. It was about four
hundred yards long, with both ends doubled backwards, to prevent an
enemy from turning the position. In the rear was a trench, in which
they could load in perfect shelter. Seats had been prepared on the
neighbouring trees, for riflemen; and the undergrowth was left
untouched, so that there should be nothing to excite suspicion.

The stockade did not run across the road, but parallel to it, the
distance varying from twenty to thirty yards. Thus, anybody coming
along the path would notice nothing unusual, though he himself
would be easily seen by the defenders. A road had been cut, at the
back of the entrenchments, so as to give a line of retreat to the
defenders. On the northern side of the village, a similar stockade
had been constructed.

Captain Roupell--who commanded the advance--became aware, from the
numerous tracks and footprints, that the enemy must be in force in
the neighbourhood, and advanced cautiously. He did not observe the
stockade, however, so well was it hidden among the bushes. Just as
they reached the farther end of it, a tremendous fire was opened.
Captain Roupell was wounded, and many of the men also killed or
wounded.

For a moment the troops were paralysed by the hail of lead. Then
they replied with their rifles, and two Maxims and an eleven
pounder were got to work. Captain Roupell, in spite of his wound,
worked one of the Maxims, Lieutenant O'Malley the other, and
Lieutenant Edwardes the gun. Captain Roupell was again dangerously
wounded, and Lieutenant O'Malley so severely wounded that he was
forced to discontinue fire.

Lieutenant Edwardes, although he was hit early in the action, stuck
to his gun. The gun team were all lying round, either killed or
wounded, and he ran home the shells with a stick. He was, shortly
afterwards, shot in the left arm. This incapacitated him from
serving his gun; but he went and worked a Maxim, with his right
arm, till a shot in the face compelled him to have his wounds
dressed.

Colonel Carter was wounded in the head, and handed over the command
to Colonel Wilkinson, who was himself slightly wounded at the back
of the head. The men fell fast. The seven pounder and the other
Maxim were completely isolated, some distance up the path. The
existence of the stockade was only discovered as the undergrowth
was cut away by the rain of bullets.

The officer commanding D company--which had been the rear guard all
this time and, consequently, had not suffered--was in hammock with
fever, and Colour Sergeant Mackenzie was in command. At this moment
Mackenzie came up, and asked leave to charge the enemy. His
proposal was at once sanctioned, and when half of his company had
arrived they charged the stockade, other soldiers and officers near
joining them. The enemy could not stand this determined attack,
evacuated their position, and took to flight.

The force now prepared to retire, and this operation they performed
in an orderly manner. Seven European officers had been wounded, and
there were ninety casualties. Indeed, if the enemy had not fired
too high, the column might have been annihilated.

Orders were sent, to Colonel Carter, telling him to remain where he
was till reinforcements should arrive. A telegram was also sent to
Captain Hall, instructing him to despatch a company to increase the
garrison at Kwisa. In the meantime two companies of the troops on
the Prah were ordered to proceed, instantly, to the relief of
Kwisa, under the command of Captain Melliss and, to Lisle's
satisfaction, some of his company were to form part of the force.

They started at two in the afternoon, but it was four before they
got across the Prah; and they could only march ten miles that
evening, which they did through a pouring rain. An early start was
made, next morning. By eight o'clock they reached Fumsu, which was
held by a company of soldiers under Quartermaster Sergeant Thomas;
who informed them that all the troops ahead were perilously
situated, short of food and ammunition, and crippled with
casualties. He tried to dissuade them from going farther, saying:

"You are simply walking into a death trap. It is not fighting, it
is murder. I am sure you will never get there, with only a hundred
men and all these carriers."

However, orders had to be obeyed. The carriers were so limited in
number that only a few days' food could be taken to the Kwisa
garrison, if all the cartridges were to go on. A hundred extra
rounds were served out to each man, in addition to the hundred he
already had; so that there was no risk of running short, and the
carriers would be relieved of much of the weight of the reserve,
and could therefore carry up a larger amount of provisions. A hasty
meal was eaten, and then they stepped forward for the twenty miles'
march before them.

During the halt, they found out how the natives signalled. A gun
was fired from the forest, the signal was repeated farther on, and
continued to the next war camp. An estimate was given of the number
and composition of an enemy by the number of guns fired. The force
learned, afterwards, that their departure from Prahsu had been
signalled in this way to the Adansis; and only the darkness and
pouring rain, which delayed the enemy's movements, had saved the
column from attack.

When the march was continued, therefore, the greatest precautions
were taken against an ambush. A small party of twelve men marched
ahead of the advance guard, and fired occasional volleys. Where the
undergrowth was unusually thick, scouts moved abreast of them,
cutting a way with their sword bayonets. The difficulties were so
great that the column moved only three-quarters of a mile an hour.
The carriers struggled on, carrying their burdens with surprising
cheerfulness, staggering over the slippery mud, and frequently
falling. The gun carriers had the worst time of all, for the parts
into which these weapons divide are too heavy for single loads; and
have to be carried, swung on bamboo poles, by four men--but often,
at the acute bends in the path, the whole burden had to be
supported by two.

Nevertheless, the column managed to advance. The river Fum was
rising, but was still fordable, and they crossed it, with
difficulty. It was now necessary to give up scouting, and depend
entirely on the volleys of the men in front to discover ambuscades.
One or two deserted or thinly populated villages were passed. Then,
after two hours of this trying tramp, the advance guard came upon
the Fum again; but at this point its volume and width were more
than doubled. The river was rising rapidly, and there were no trees
that could be cut down, with the sword bayonets, long enough to
throw across.

At last, by good luck, at some distance farther down a native canoe
was found, caught in the branches of a fallen tree. It was a clumsy
craft, but it was better than nothing. Two native hammock boys and
two soldiers took their places in it, and set out for the other
side. When it reached the centre of the stream, however, an eddy
caught it and, in an instant, it capsized.

Captain Melliss at once plunged into the river. He was a strong
swimmer, and had gained the Royal Humane Society's medal for saving
life at sea. His strength, however, had been taxed by the climate,
and he had to call for aid. Luckily, no one was drowned. The
intense chill, caused by the sudden immersion in almost ice-cold
water; and the bites of the ants that swarmed over them, as they
made their way back through the undergrowth from the spot where the
canoe had been washed ashore, threatened an attack of fever; but
this was averted by a change of clothing, a glass of neat spirits,
and a dose of quinine.

It was now agreed that nothing could be done, and the force marched
back to Fumsu. They recrossed the river, by means of a rope
stretched from bank to bank, and arrived long after dark.

Next day it was determined to make another trial but, for a long
time, no one was able to suggest where a crossing of the swollen
river might be effected. It was clearly impossible to build a
bridge but, after much discussion, it was agreed to make a raft. It
consisted of a platform of planks, built across empty barrels; and
was lashed together by the only rope at the station. A couple of
natives took their places upon it, with long poles; but their
efforts to push against the strong currents were quite unavailing.
Then something went wrong with the rope and the raft gradually
sank, the men swimming ashore.

On examination it was found that, not only were the leaking casks
gone, but the rope that tied them together. The situation now
appeared more hopeless than before.

It was Lisle who suggested a possible way out of the difficulty. He
was wandering about the deserted native huts, when it struck him to
see what the mud walls were composed of, and how the roofs were
supported. Drawing his sword, he cut a large hole in one of the
walls and, to his surprise, discovered that they were strengthened
by lines of bamboos, which were afterwards plastered over. It
seemed to him that these bamboos, which were extremely light as
well as strong, would be very useful material for a raft, and he
communicated the idea to Captain Melliss.

"You have solved the difficulty, Captain Bullen; there is no doubt
that these will do admirably."

In a few minutes the whole of the little force, and carriers, were
occupied in pulling down the huts. The question arose, how were the
stakes to be tied together? While this matter was being discussed,
Lisle said:

"Surely we can use some of the creepers. The natives tie up bundles
with them."

The suggestion was at once adopted. Creepers were cut in the
forest, and four bundles of bamboos were tied up, with cross pieces
of the same material; so that they could be carried by four men,
like a hammock. Four of the loads were similarly tied up. The
telegraph wire was torn down from the trees, on the bank on which
they were arrested; and the nearest insulator on the opposite side
was broken by a shot, so that the wire hung down to the water in a
gentle curve, the next insulator being fastened to a tree at a
considerable distance. One end of the raft was then attached to
this wire, by a noose that worked along it; and this contrivance
enabled the swiftest streams to be triumphantly crossed, the loads
of rice, meanwhile, being kept dry. The success of the experiment
created a general feeling of relief.

On that day, an escort of fifty soldiers and some more ammunition
came in, to reinforce the little garrison at Fumsu. The full number
asked for could not be spared, as a rumour had arrived that the
enemy would endeavour to cut off the carriers, who were making
their way up from the coast.

Next morning a start was made at an early hour. Four rivers had
been crossed, and five miles of the advance had been accomplished,
without an enemy being seen; and the troops began to hope that they
would reach Kwisa without further molestation. However, in mounting
a steep rise, after crossing a river, a heavy fire was suddenly
opened on them; and they had their first experience of the nature
of the ground chosen by the enemy for an ambuscade.

The path zigzagged up the hill and, while the movements of the
troops could be seen by the natives on its crest, dense foliage
prevented the men toiling up it from obtaining even a glimpse of
the enemy. Volleys were fired both to right and left. The enemy
replied by firing volley after volley, and the shower of leaves
showed that the bullets were flying high. It was difficult for the
officers to control the extended line, and the scattered soldiers
marching among the carriers were altogether out of hand, and fired
recklessly.

At last, however, this was checked. The advance guard had suffered,
but their fire had quelled that of the enemy. A rush was therefore
made, the ambuscade carried, and the enemy put to flight.

Captain Wilson was, unfortunately, killed in the engagement. His
body was put into a hammock and taken to Fumsu, a march of
thirty-three miles. The force then returned to the Prah with the
wounded, leaving only a small garrison of fifty men, under a
British corporal.

It was a terrible march. The river had swollen, and the crossing
took hours, many of the troops and carriers not arriving until the
following day.

"Well, Bullen, how does this campaign compare with that in the
Tirah?"

"It is infinitely worse," Lisle said. "We were only once or twice
bothered by rivers, the country was open and, when the enemy
crowning the hills were turned out, we were able to go through the
passes without much opposition. We certainly often went to bed
supperless, but on the whole we did not fare badly. At least we
were generally dry and, though the cold was severe, it was not
unbearable. At any rate, it was better than marching through these
forests, in single file, with the mud often up to one's knees.
Above all, the air was fresh and dry, and we had not this close
atmosphere and this wet to struggle against.

"These fellows fight as well as the Afridis do, but are nothing
like such good shots. If they had been, we should have been
annihilated. I would rather go half a dozen times, through the
Tirah, than once through this country.

"I think it is the darkness in the woods that is most trying. We
are all bleached almost white; my uniform hangs about me loosely. I
must have lost any amount of weight."

Both of the young officers had received wounds, but these were of
so slight a nature that they had been able to keep their places.

"I wonder what the next move will be. At any rate, we shall be in
clover at Prahsu, and be able to get into condition again by the
time we make another move. Plenty of stores are sure to be lying
there, while I expect that Hall and Wilkinson will be on pretty
short commons."

"Well, I suppose it is all for the best."

One day they came upon a swollen river, which was so deep as to be
unfordable, and the column were brought to a halt. The Pioneers, on
being questioned, were of accord that it would take at least two
days to build a bridge. There was a long consultation, and it was
agreed that, unless something could be done, the column must retire
for, by the time the bridge was built, the supply of food would be
exhausted.

"If we could get a wire across," the engineer officer said, "we
certainly could build the bridge in less time than I stated."

"I will try to carry it across, sir," Lisle said. "I am a strong
swimmer, and I think I could do it."

"Yes, but the Ashantis are all on the opposite bank. You would be
picked off before you got halfway across."

"I would try after dark. Once I got the wire across and fixed,
enough men could cross, with its assistance, to clear the other
bank of the enemy."

"You would find it very hard work tugging the wire across, Bullen.
The stream would catch it and, as it is as much as you can do to
swim the current without any drawback, it would certainly carry you
down."

"Yes, sir; but if I asked for a volunteer, I should find one
without difficulty."

"Well, Mr. Bullen, if you volunteer to try, I shall, of course, be
very glad to accept the offer; especially as, if you keep tight
hold of the wire, the stream will only send you back to this bank."

As soon as it was known that Lisle was about to attempt to swim the
river, several volunteers came forward; and from these he selected
one of the Sikh soldiers, not only because he was a tall and
powerful man, but because he could give him orders in Punjabi. As
soon as night came on, the preparations were completed. A length of
wire, that would be sufficient to cross the river, was laid out on
the bank from the spot that seemed to offer most advantages for a
bridge. In this way, as they swam out the line would go with them,
and they would be swept across the river by its pull, until they
touched the bank opposite to where the other end of the line was
secured.

Lisle took off his tunic, putties, and boots; and the Sikh also
stripped himself to his loincloth, in which he placed his bayonet.
Lisle unloaded his revolver and put it into his waistband, at the
same time placing in his pocket a packet of twenty cartridges, in a
waterproof box.

"You would swim better without those things, Bullen."

"No doubt, sir; but I want to have some means of defence, when I
get across the stream. Some of the enemy may be lurking there,
now."

"Before you start I will get the Maxim to work, and sweep the
opposite bank. When you get ashore fasten the end of the wire to a
tree, and then give a shout; we will stretch it tight on this side,
and I will send a half company over, without delay. That ought to
be enough to enable you to retain your footing, until we join you."

When all was ready, Lisle fastened the end of the wire round his
body. The Sikh was to take hold a yard or two below him, and aid
him as he swam. Then they stepped into the water, and struck out.

They had swum only twenty yards, when the Sikh cried out, "I have
cramp, sahib! I can swim no longer!" and he let go his hold of the
wire.

Rapidly, Lisle thought over the position. It was very important to
get the wire across. Now that the Sikh had gone, he felt that it
would pull him under; on the other hand, the brave fellow had
volunteered to go with him, and he could not see him drown before
his eyes. He accordingly slipped the loop of the wire over his
head, and struck out with the stream.

So rapid had been the course of his thoughts that the man was still
within some fifteen yards of him. He could see him faintly
struggling and, swimming with long, steady strokes, soon overtook
him.

"Put your arm on my shoulder," he said; "I will soon get you
ashore."

The Sikh did as he was told, and Lisle turned to make for the shore
they had left. To his dismay, however, he found that the centre
current was carrying him to the opposite side. As soon as he found
this to be the case, he ceased his efforts and allowed himself to
float down. Doubtless the Ashantis would be on the watch, and any
movement in the water would catch their eyes.

He could hear their voices on the bank and, occasionally, a shot
was fired over his head. He felt sure, however, that he was still
unseen; and determined to float quietly, till the course of the
current changed, and brought him back to the side from which he
started. He felt the Sikh's grasp relaxing, and threw his arms
round the man's neck.

A quarter of an hour passed and then, to his dismay, he saw that he
was close to the bush, on the wrong side of the river. He himself
was getting rapidly weaker, and he felt that he could not support
the weight of the soldier much farther. Accordingly he grasped a
branch that overhung the river, pulled himself in to the shore, and
there lay at the edge of the mud.

When he recovered his breath, he began to calculate his chances.
The bush overhead seemed very thick, and he resolved to shelter
there for a time. Occasionally he could hear the sound of voices
close by, and was sure that the Ashantis were in force there.

His companions would, he was sure, regard him as dead when, on
pulling on the wire, they found that it was loose; and after the
failure of this attempt to establish a bridge, would probably start
on their return march, without delay. He had, therefore, only
himself to rely upon, beyond what assistance he could get from the
Sikh, when the latter regained consciousness.

He poured a little spirits into the man's mouth, and presently had
the satisfaction of seeing him move. Waiting until the movement
became more decided, he said:

"You must lie still; we are across on the Ashanti side. They don't
know we are here and, when you are able to move, we will crawl down
some little distance and hide in the bushes. We must hide in the
morning, for I am sure that I could not swim back to the other
side, and certainly you could not do so. We are in a tight place,
but I trust that we shall be able to get out of it."

"Do not encumber yourself with me," the Sikh said. "I know you have
risked your life to save me, but you must not do so again. What is
the life of a soldier to that of an officer?"

"I could not get across, even if I were alone. At any rate, I am
not going to desert you, now. Let us keep quiet for an hour, then
we shall be able to move on."

An hour passed silently, and then Lisle asked:

"How are you feeling, now?"

"I feel strong again, sahib."

"Very well then, let us crawl on."



Chapter 15: A Narrow Escape.


Keeping in the mud close to the bank, and feeling their way in the
dense growth produced by the overhanging bushes, they crawled
forward. Sometimes the water came up to the bank, and they had to
swim; but as a rule they were able to keep on the mud, which was so
deep that they sank far into it, their heads alone showing above
it. In two hours they had gone a mile, and both were thoroughly
exhausted.

"We will lie here till day breaks," Lisle said; "as soon as it is
dawn, we will choose some spot where the bushes are thickest, and
shelter there. I am in hopes, now, that we are beyond the Ashantis.
I dare say that we shall be able to get a peep through the bushes
and, if we find the coast clear, we will make our way into the
forest. There we may be able to gather something to eat, which we
shall want, tomorrow; and it will certainly be more comfortable
than this bed of mud. We must get rid of some of that before we
leave."

"It would be better to allow it to dry on you, sahib. Our white
undergarments would betray us at once, if any Ashantis came upon
us. For my part, my colour is not so very different from theirs."

"Yes, perhaps that would be better. I must rub some over my face,
as well."

"I do not care, for myself, sahib; we Sikhs are not afraid to die;
but after your goodness to me, I would do anything to save you."

"What is your name?"

"Pertab, sahib."

"Well, Pertab, I think that as we have proceeded so far, we shall
pull through, somehow. You have your bayonet, and I have my
revolver, which I will wash and load before we get out of this. We
shall be a match, then, for any three or four men we may come
across. At any rate, I shall shoot myself if I see that there is no
other way of escape. It would be a thousand times better to die,
than be taken captive and tortured to death."

"Good, sahib! I will use my bayonet, myself; but I don't think
there will be any occasion for that."

"I shall certainly die fighting. I would rather not be taken alive,
Pertab; and shall certainly fight till I am killed, or can take my
own life."

"Do you think that the troops will be marched away, sahib?"

"I feel sure that they will. They have only got provisions enough
to take them back to camp; and as, when they pull the wire in, they
will find that we have gone, they will feel quite sure that we have
been drowned.

"No; we must quite make up our minds that we have got to look after
ourselves. Fortunately, the Ashantis will not be able to cross the
river to harass them in their retreat; unless, indeed, they know of
some ford by which they can get over."

As soon as daylight began, the Sikh went down into the water and
washed the mud from himself, and Lisle cleaned and loaded his
pistol. Then they waited until it was broad daylight and, as they
heard no sounds to indicate that any Ashantis were near, Lisle
climbed up as noiselessly as he could to the bushes, and looked
cautiously round. There were none of the enemy in sight. He
therefore called to the Sikh to join him and, together, they made
their way into the forest behind.

"The first thing to ascertain," Lisle said, "is whether the enemy
are still here, and to find out for certain whether our friends
have left. If they stay where they were, we can swim the river and
join them; if they have retreated, and the Ashantis are still here,
we shall know that there is no ford. If, however, we find that the
Ashantis have gone, we shall be sure that they crossed at some
ford, and will be swarming round our men; in which case it will be
impossible for us to join them, and we must make our way as best we
can."

They kept close to the edge of the forest, the soldier occasionally
using his bayonet to cut away the thorny creepers that blocked
their course. After an hour's walking, Lisle said:

"That is the spot where the troops were, last night. I can see no
signs of them now.

"Now for the Ashantis."

They took the greatest pains to avoid making a noise, until they
stepped out opposite the point from which they had started, the
evening before. They saw no signs of the enemy.

"This is bad," Lisle said. "I can have no doubt that they have
crossed the river, somewhere, and are swarming in the forest
opposite. However, now that we know that they have gone, we can
look out for something to eat."

For three hours they wandered about, and were fortunate enough to
find a deserted village, where they gathered some bananas and
pineapples. Of these they made a hearty meal; and then, each
carrying a few bananas, they returned to the river and swam across,
finding no difficulty in doing so now that they were unencumbered
by the wire. They had not been long across before they heard the
sound of heavy firing, some two or three miles away.

"It is as I thought," Lisle said. "The Ashantis have crossed the
river, somewhere, and are now attacking the convoy. They will not,
of course, overpower it; but they will continue to follow it up
till they get near camp, and there is little chance of our being
able to rejoin them before that."

Travelling on, they more than once heard the sound of parties of
the enemy, running forward at the top of their speed. Evidently
news had been sent round, and the inhabitants of many villages now
poured in, to share in the attack upon the white men.

"It is useless for us to think of going farther, at present," Lisle
said. "They will be mustering thickly all round our force, and I
expect we shall have some stiff fighting to do, before we get back
to camp--I mean the column, of course; as for ourselves, the matter
is quite uncertain. We may be sure, however, that they won't be
making any search in the bush and, as even in the Ashanti country
you cannot go through the bush, unless you cut a path, it will be
sheer accident if they come across us. At any rate, we may as well
move slowly on, doing a little cutting only when the path seems
deserted. If we keep some forty or fifty yards from it, so as to be
able to hear any parties going along, and to make sure that they
are moving in our direction, that is all we can do.

"Of course, everything will depend upon the result of the fight
with the column. There is no doubt that they are going to be
attacked in great force; which, as far as it goes, is all the
better for us. If it were only a question of sniping by a small
body of men, the colonel would no doubt push steadily on,
contenting himself with firing occasional volleys into the bush;
but if he is attacked by so strong a body as there appears to be
round him, he will halt and give them battle. If so, we may be
pretty sure that he will send them flying into the bush; and they
won't stop running till they get back to the river. In that case,
when we have allowed them all to pass we can go boldly on, and
overtake the column at their halting place, this evening.

"If, on the other hand, our fellows make a running fight of it, the
enemy will follow them till they get near Coomassie, and we shall
have to make a big detour to get in. That we shall be able to do so
I have no doubt, but the serious part of the business is the
question of food. However, we know that the natives can find food,
and it is hard if we do not manage to get some.

"Making the necessary detour, and cutting our way a good deal
through the bush, we can calculate upon getting there in less than
four days' march. We have food enough for today, and a very little
will enable us to hold on for the next four days."

They moved slowly on. The firing increased in violence, and it was
evident that a very heavy engagement was going on. Two hours later
they heard a sound of hurrying feet in the path and, peering
through the bush, saw a crowd of the Ashantis running along, in
single file, at the top of their speed.

"Hooray! It is evident that they have got a thorough licking,"
Lisle said. "They will soon be all past. Our greatest fear will
then be that a few of the most plucky of them will rally in the
bush, when they see that none of our troops come along. Our troops
are not likely to follow them up, as they will be well content with
the victory they have evidently gained, and resume their march."

They waited for an hour and, when they were on the point of getting
up and making for the path, the Sikh said:

"Someone is coming in the bush."

In another minute, four natives came suddenly upon them; whether
they came from the force that had been routed, or were newly
arriving from some village behind, the two fugitives knew not; nor,
indeed, had they any time to consider. They threw themselves, at
once, into one of the divisions at the base of a giant cotton tree.

These divisions, of which there may be five or six round the tree,
form solid buttresses four or five inches thick, projecting twenty
or thirty feet from the front, and rising as many feet high; thus
affording the tree an immense support, when assailed by tropical
storms.

Illustration: Two of them fell before Lisle's revolver.

The natives, seeing that the two men were apparently unarmed,
rushed forward, firing their guns as they did so. Two of them fell
before Lisle's revolver. One of the natives rushed with clubbed
musket at him but, as he delivered the blow, the butt end of the
musket struck a bough overhead and flew out of the man's hand; and
Lisle, putting his revolver to his head, shot him. The other man
ran off.

Lisle had now time to look round and, to his dismay, the Sikh was
leaning against the branch of a tree.

"Are you hit?" he asked.

"Yes, sahib, a ball has broken my right leg."

"That is a bad business, indeed," Lisle said, kneeling beside him.

"It cannot be helped, sahib. Our fate is meted out to us all, and
it has come to me now. You could not drag me from here, or carry
me; it would be impossible, for I weigh far more than you do."

Lisle was silent for a moment.

"I see," he said, "that the only thing I can do is to push on to
camp, and bring out assistance. I will leave you my pistol, when I
have recharged it; so that if the native who has run away should
bring others down, you will be able to defend yourself. As,
however, you remained on your feet, he will not know that you were
wounded; and will probably suppose that we would at once push on to
join our companions. Still, it will be well for you to have the
weapon.

"Now, let me lower you down to the ground, and seat you as
comfortably as I can. I will leave these bananas by you, and my
flask of water. It is lucky, now, that I did not drink it all when
I started to cross the river.

"I suppose they will have halted at the same camp as before. It was
a long march, and we must still be ten or twelve miles away from
it, so I fear it will be dark long before I get there."

"You are very good, sahib, but I think it will be of no use."

"Oh, I hope it will! So now, give me your turban. I will wrap it
tightly round your leg, for the bleeding must be stopped. I see you
have lost a great deal of blood, already."

He bandaged the wound as well as he could, and then he said:

"I will take your sword bayonet with me. It can be of no use to you
and, if I do happen to meet a native upon the road, it may come in
very handy."

"The blessing of the Great One be upon you, sahib, and take you
safely to camp. As for myself, I think that my race is run."

"You must not think that," Lisle said, cheerily; "you must lie very
quiet, and make up your mind that, as soon as it is possible, we
shall be back here for you;" and then, without any more talk, he
made his way to the edge of the path.

There he made a long gash on the bark of a tree and, fifty yards
farther, he made two similar gashes. Then, certain that he could
find the place on his return, he went off at a trot along the path.

It was eight o'clock in the evening before he reached camp. On the
way, he had met with nothing that betokened danger; there had been
no voices in the woods. When about halfway to camp, he came across
a number of dead bodies on the path and, looking into the bush,
found many more scattered about. It was evident that the little
British force had turned upon their assailants, and had effected a
crushing defeat upon them.

He was hailed by a sentry as he approached the camp but, upon his
reply, was allowed to pass. As he came to the light of a fire,
round which the white officers were sitting, there was a general
shout of surprise and pleasure.

"Is it you or your ghost, Bullen?" the commanding officer
exclaimed, as all leapt to their feet.

"I am a very solid person, Colonel; as you will see, if you offer
me anything to eat or drink. I am pretty well exhausted now and, as
I have got another twenty-mile tramp before I sleep, you may guess
that I shall be glad of solid and liquid refreshment."

"You shall have both, my dear boy. We had all given you up for
dead. When we saw you washed down, we were afraid that you were
lost. The only hope was that the current might bring you over to
our side again, and we went two or three miles down the stream to
look for you. We hunted again still more carefully the next
morning, and it was not until the afternoon that we moved.

"We encamped only three miles from the river, hoping still that you
might come up before the morning. We started at daybreak this
morning. We were harassed from the first, but the affair became so
serious that we halted and faced about, left a handful of men to
protect the coolies and carriers; and then sent two companies out
into the bush on each side, and went at them. Fortunately they
fought pluckily, and when at last they gave way they left, I should
say, at least a third of their number behind them.

"We did not stop to count. I sent a small party at full speed along
the path, so as to keep them on the run, and then marched on here
without further molestation.

"And now, about yourself; how on earth have you managed to get in?"

"Well, sir, I can tell it in a few words. The current took us to
the opposite shore. We lay concealed under the bushes overhanging
the bank, and could hear the enemy talking behind the screen. On
the following day the voices ceased, and we made our way up to the
camp; and found, as we expected, that you had gone and, as we
guessed, the Ashantis had set off in pursuit. We went on through
the forest and, of course, heard the firing in the distance; and
saw the enemy coming along the path, terror stricken. We were
waiting for a bit, and felt sure that they had all passed; when a
party of four men came from behind upon us. I don't think they
belonged to the force you defeated. They were within twenty yards
when they saw us.

"We jumped into one of the hollows at the foot of a cotton tree.
The whole four fired at us and then, as they supposed that we were
unarmed, made a rush. I shot two of them as they came on. One of
the others aimed a blow at me, with the butt end of his gun.
Fortunately the weapon caught one of the creepers, and flew out of
his hand. My revolver had in some way stuck, but it all came right
just at the moment, and I shot him. The fourth man bolted.

"When I looked round to see what the Sikh was doing, he was leaning
against the tree, with the blood streaming from his leg; the bone
having been broken by one of their balls. Well, sir, I bandaged it
up as well as I could, and left him my revolver; so that he might
shoot himself, if there was a likelihood of his being captured. I
then set off, as hard as I could go, to fetch assistance for him."

"The troops have had a very heavy day, Bullen," the colonel said,
gravely. "How far away is it that you left the man?"

"About ten miles, I should say."

"Well, they are all willing fellows, but it is a serious thing to
ask them to start on another twenty miles' journey, within an hour
or two of getting into camp."

"I think, sir, if you will allow me to go down to where the Sikhs
are bivouacked, and I ask for volunteers to bring in their comrade,
they will stand up, to a man."

Lisle's confidence in the Sikhs was not misplaced. As soon as they
heard that a comrade, who they believed had been drowned while
trying to get the wire across the river, was lying alone and
wounded in the forest, all declared their willingness to start, at
once.

"I will take twenty," Lisle said; "that will be ample. I have just
come down the path myself, and I saw no signs, whatever, of the
enemy; still, some of them may be making their way down, to carry
off their dead. If they are, however, their astonishment at seeing
us will be so great that they will bolt at the first volley."

"Are you going back with us, sahib?"

"Yes, I must do so, or you would never find the place where he is
lying."

"We will take two stretchers," the sergeant--a splendid man;
standing, like most of his companions, well over six feet--said,
"and you shall walk as far as you are able, and then we will carry
you. When will you march, sahib?"

"I am going to get something to eat and drink first and, if you
will fall in, in half an hour I will be with you again."

"Where is Pertab wounded, sahib?"

"He is shot through the leg, three or four inches above the knee,
and the bone is broken."

"Did the man get off, sahib?"

"I can't say for certain," Lisle said, with a smile. "Four men
attacked us. They all four fired. I shot three of them with my
revolver, and the fourth bolted. Whether he was the man who really
shot your comrade, or not, I cannot say; but you see, the chances
are that he was not."

The grim faces of the Sikhs lit up with a smile.

"You paid them out, anyhow," the sergeant said. "I don't think we
are very deeply in their debt."

Lisle went back to the campfire. The best that could be found in
camp was given to him, and the colonel handed him his own whisky
flask. While he ate, he related the story in full.

"Well, it is a fine thing for you to have done," said the colonel;
"a most creditable affair. I know that you are a pretty good
marcher; but I hardly think that, after a long day's work, you can
set out for a march of nearly double the length."

"I have no fear of the march, Colonel. The Sikhs have volunteered
to carry a stretcher for me. I shall, of course, not get into it,
unless I feel that I cannot go another foot farther; but the mere
fact that it is there, and in readiness for me, will help me to
keep on. The Sikhs have done just as long a march as I have, and I
hope that I shall be able to hold on as long as they can. I should
hate to be beaten by a native."

"Ah! But these Sikhs are wonderful fellows; they seem to be made of
iron, and march along as erect and freely as they start, when even
the Hausas and Yorubas are showing signs that they are almost at
the end of their powers. I must say that I consider the Sikhs to
be, all round, the best soldiers in the world. They cannot beat
Tommy Atkins, when it comes to a charge; but in the matter of
marching, and endurance, Tommy has to take a back seat. He will
hold on till he fairly breaks down, rather than give in; but he
himself, if he has ever campaigned with the Sikhs, would be the
first to allow that they can march him off his feet.

"Have you got a spare pair of shoes in your kit, Bullen?"

"Yes."

"Then I should advise you to take those you have on, off; and put
on a fresh pair."

"I will take your advice, sir; but I really think that it would be
best to follow the custom of the native troops, and march
barefooted."

"It would not do," the colonel said, decidedly. "The soles of their
feet are like leather. You would get half a dozen thorns in your
foot, before you had gone half a mile; and would stub your toes
against every root that projected across the path. No, no; stick to
your shoes."

Lisle changed his boots, and then went across to the Sikhs; who
fell in as they saw him coming.

"You have got everything, sergeant?" he asked.

"Yes; a hundred and thirty rounds of ball cartridge, the two
stretchers, and some food and drink for our comrade."

"You have got a good supply of torches, I hope. There may be some
small risk in carrying them, but I am convinced that the Ashantis
will not venture to return, tonight, whatever they may do tomorrow.
With three torches--one at the head, one in the middle of the line,
and one in the rear--we should be able to travel through the paths
better than if we had to grope our way in the dark."

The little party at once moved off, many of the officers and men
gathering round, to wish them good luck and a safe return. Four
hours took them to the spot where Lisle had turned into the path.
For the last mile he had had three torches burning in front, so
that he should not overlook the signs he had made on the trees.

"There it is, sergeant," he said, at last, "two slashes; the other
one is on the left, fifty yards on."

They turned off when they came to this.

"Here we are, all right, Pertab!" Lisle said, as they came to the
tree.

"Allah be praised!" the man said, faintly. "I seem to have been
hearing noises in the wood, for a long time; and when I heard you
coming, I was by no means sure that it was not an illusion, like
the others."

"Here are twenty of your comrades with me, Pertab, and we shall
soon get you into camp."

"I didn't expect you till morning," the wounded man said. "I
thought that you would be far too tired to come out and, without
you, they could not have found me."

"They would have carried me, had it been necessary; but I managed
to hold on pretty well.

"Now, my men, get him upon the stretcher, and let us be off. Pour
the contents of that bottle down his throat; that will keep him up,
till we get back."

For another four or five miles, Lisle kept along but, to his
mortification, he was obliged at last to take to the stretcher. The
four Sikhs who carried it made light of his weight. Once or twice,
on the way, some dropping shots were fired at the party; but these
were speedily silenced by a volley or two from the rifles.

It was four o'clock in the morning when they re-entered camp. The
fires were already lighted and, as the party entered, the troops
received them with loud cheering; which called all the white
officers out from their shelters.

"You have done well, my fine fellows," the colonel said to the
Sikhs. "Now, get some food at once, and then lie down for three or
four hours' sleep. I shall leave two companies with you; I don't
think that, after the thrashing we gave them yesterday, the enemy
are likely to trouble us--at any rate, not before the afternoon,
and by that time you will have rejoined us."

"We can march on now, sahib."

"No, no," the colonel said; "a thirty-six-mile march, through this
bush, is a great deal more than a fair day's march for anyone; and
I am not going to see such good men knocked up, by asking too much
of them. So just go, and do as I order you. You may be sure that I
shall put the deed you have accomplished in my orders of today.

"Well, Mr. Bullen," he said, as he came to the spot where Lisle was
sitting, with his shoes and stockings off, rubbing his aching feet,
"so you could not outmarch the Sikhs?"

"No, sir, and I did not expect to do so. I went at their head all
the way there, and four or five miles back; but should have had to
give up, even if I had been told that a big fortune awaited me, if
I got in on foot. I should have had to say:

"'Well, then, somebody else may have it; I can go no farther.'"

"Well, you have done uncommonly well, anyhow; uncommonly well. I
don't suppose there are five white men in camp who could have done
so much. After this you may be sure that, if you have need of an
expedition, the Sikhs would follow you through fire and water, if
they were allowed to volunteer for the service.

"I should have been glad to recommend you for the Victoria Cross,
for your conduct right through the affair; but you have got it. But
I fear that, although you would get every credit for your doings,
the authorities would consider that it did not come under the head
of deeds for which the Victoria Cross is given."

"I am sure I have no desire for another V.C., even if two could be
given."

No attack was made on the following day, and it was evident that
the Ashantis had taken to heart the lesson that had been given
them. Two days later the column marched into the fort, and Colonel
Willcocks went out to meet it.

The colonel's reports had been sent in by a runner. As the Sikhs
came along, the colonel ordered them to halt and, as Lisle marched
up at the head of his company, he made a sign to him to come up.

"Captain Bullen," he said, "I have much pleasure in congratulating
you on the manner in which you saved the life of the Sikh soldier,
who volunteered to swim that river in flood in order to carry a
wire across; and still more for the manner in which you made what I
should say was a record march, in this country, to bring in a man
who had been wounded, in a fight with a small party of the enemy."

Then he turned to the Sikhs.

"Soldiers," he said, "I cannot praise you too heartily for having
volunteered, at the end of a long and exhausting march, to
undertake another still longer and more fatiguing, in order to
bring in a wounded comrade. It is an act of which you may be proud;
but not altogether a surprising one, for we know well that we can
depend upon the Sikhs, on all and every occasion."

Lisle had been carried into the fort. His feet were so tender and
swollen that he could not possibly walk farther, and he was
consequently taken down by the carriers, during the last two days'
march. Hallett sauntered up, as soon as he was put into a hospital
hut.

"Hillo, Bullen, so you have broken down! A nice example to set to
your Hausas, isn't it?"

"I suppose it is," Lisle laughed; "but the Hausas did not march as
far as I did."

"No? What were you doing? Scouting half a mile ahead of them, on
your own account?"

"Not exactly; I only went the width of a river, and yet, the result
of that was that I had to do an extra march of some twenty miles."

"Now you are speaking in riddles, Lisle; and if there is one thing
I hate, it is riddles. When a fellow begins to talk in that way, I
always change the subject. Why a man should try to puzzle his
brain, with such rigmarole things, is more than I can imagine."

"Well, Hallett, I really feel too tired to tell you about the
matter. I can assure you that it is no joke, being carried down
fifteen miles on a stretcher; so please go and ask somebody else,
that's a good fellow."

In a quarter of an hour Hallett returned again, put his eyeglass in
his eye, and stood for a couple of minutes without speaking,
regarding Lisle furtively.

"Oh, don't be a duffer," the latter said, "and drop that eyeglass.
You know perfectly well that you see better, without it, than with
it."

"Well, you are a rum chap, Bullen. You are always doing something
unexpected. I have been hearing how you and a Sikh started to swim
the Ordah, when it was in flood, with a wire; how you were washed
away; how you were given up for lost; how, two days later, you
returned to camp and went straight out again, with a party of
twenty Sikhs, took a little stroll for ten miles into the bush--and
of course, as much back--to carry in the Sikh soldier you had had
with you, but who had been wounded, and was unable to come with
you. I don't know why such luck as this is always falling to your
lot, while not a bit of it comes to me."

"It is pure accident, Hallett. You will get a chance, some day. I
don't know that you would be good for a thirty-mile tramp, but it
must be a consolation to you that, for the last five miles, I had
to be carried."

"It is a mercy it is so," Hallett said, in an expression of deep
thankfulness, "for there would have been no holding you, if you had
come in on your feet."



Chapter 16: The Relief Of Coomassie.


"I Certainly should not have volunteered for this work, Bullen, if
I had known what it was like. I was mad at not being able to go out
to the Cape, and as my regiment was, like yours, stationed in
India, there was no chance of getting away from there, if I had
once returned. Of course, I knew all about the expeditions of
Wolseley and Scott; but I forgot that these were carried on in the
dry season, and that we should have to campaign in the wet season,
which makes all the difference in the world. We are wet through,
from morning till night--and all night, too--and at our camping
places there is no shelter. The low-lying land is turned into deep
swamps, the little streams become great unfordable torrents, and
the ground under our feet turns into liquid mud. It is really
horrible work, especially as we get very little food and less
drink. It is not work for dogs."

"It is all very well for you to grumble, Hallett, but you know just
as well as I do that, if the offer were made to you to go home, at
once, you would treat it with scorn."

"Oh, of course I should! Still, one may be allowed to have one's
grumble and, after all, I think we are pretty sure of some stiff
fighting, which makes up for everything. I am not afraid of the
enemy a bit, but I do funk fever."

"I don't think we are likely to get fever, so long as we are on the
move; though I dare say a good many of us will go down with it,
after the work is done. We have only to think of the starving
soldiers and people, in Coomassie, to make us feel that, whatever
the difficulties and dangers may be, we must get there in time. The
great nuisance is, that we can get no news of what is doing there.
We constantly hear that the governor, with a portion if not all of
the force, has broken out, some days since; and we begin to look
out for them; and then, after a time, comes the news that there has
been no sortie whatever. It is really most annoying, and I am often
kept awake at night, even after a day's fight, thinking of the
position of the garrison."

"I don't think, if there were a hundred garrisons in danger,"
Hallett laughed, "it would affect my sleep in the slightest. I lie
down as soon as I have eaten what there is to eat, which certainly
is not likely to affect my digestion; and however rough the ground,
I am dead asleep as soon as my head touches it, and I do not open
an eye until the bugle sounds in the morning. Even then I have not
had enough sleep, and I always indulge in bad language as I put on
my belts, at the unearthly hour at which we are always called. I
don't begin to feel half awake till we have gone some miles."

"You would wake up sharp enough, Hallett, at the sound of the first
gun."

"Yes, that is all right enough; but unless that comes, there is
nothing to wake one. The close air of the forest takes out what
little starch you have in you, and I verily believe that I am very
often asleep, as we march."

"It is monotonous, Hallett, but there is always something to see
to; to keep the men from straggling, to give a little help,
sometimes, to the wretched carriers."

"You are such a desperate enthusiast, Bullen. I cannot make out how
you keep it up so well. I really envy you your good spirits."

"They are indeed a great blessing; I had plenty of occasion to make
the most of them, when I was marching in the ranks of the 32nd
Pioneers, on the way up to Chitral. Still, they came naturally
enough, there; and I am bound to acknowledge that it is hard work,
sometimes, to keep them up here."

"I think that it would really be a mercy, Bullen, if you were to
pour a bucket of water over my head, when the bugle sounds. I have
no doubt I should be furious with you, and should use the strongest
of strong language; but still, that would not hurt you."

"Except when the carriers bring up our bundles of dry clothes, we
lie down so soaked that you would scarcely feel the water poured
over you. At any rate, if you really think that it would do you
good, you had better order your servant to do it; that is to say,
if you don't think you would slay him, the first morning."

"No, I suppose I must put up with it, as best I can; but really,
sometimes I do envy the colonel's little terrier, which frisks
along all day, making excursions occasionally into the bush, to
look for rats or mongooses. He seems to be absolutely tireless, and
always ready for anything.

"Well, I shall turn in, now, and try to dream that I am on a
feather bed, and have had supper of all sorts of dainties."

"I would not do that, if I were you. It would be such a
disappointment, when you woke up."

"Well, perhaps it might be," Hallett said, despondently. "I will
try to dream that I am with you on that Chitral expedition, and am
nearly frozen to death; then possibly, on waking, I might feel
grateful that things are not so bad as I thought they were."

They spent a few pleasant days at Prahsu and, while there, received
the news that a column had started, from Tientsin, for the relief
of the Europeans collected in the various legations at Pekin, news
which created general satisfaction.

"I have no doubt they will have some stiff fighting," Hallett said,
as he and Lisle sat down to breakfast, after hearing the news. "One
thing, however, is in their favour. As they will keep by the river
all the way, they will never be short of water. The last news was
that they were collecting a large flotilla of junks, for carrying
up their provisions. Lucky beggars! Wouldn't I like to change
places with one of them! I hope all the different troops will pull
well together for, with a force of half a dozen nationalities, it
is almost certain that there will be some squabbling."

"I should hardly think that there would be any trouble, Hallett. Of
course, it was reported in the last mail that the Russians, French,
and Germans were all behaving somewhat nastily; but as the Japs
have the strongest force of all, and the Americans stick to us, I
should think that things will go on well. It would be a disgraceful
thing, indeed, if troops marching to the relief of their countrymen
could not keep the peace among themselves. Of course, there may be
fighting; but it is morally certain that the Chinese cannot stand
against us, and I imagine that, in proportion to the numbers, their
casualties will enormously exceed ours.

"Britain has her hands pretty full, at present, what with the big
war in the Transvaal, and the little one here, and another in
China. It is a good thing we thrashed the Afridis, two years ago.
If we had not, you may be sure that there would be an even more
formidable rising on our northern frontier than that we quelled.
News travels marvellously fast, in India; the Afridis always seem
to know what is going on elsewhere, and I am pretty sure that they
would be up, all over the country, if they had not had to give up
the greater portion of their rifles, and had not more than enough
to do to rebuild their houses. So we have something to be thankful
for."

"I am glad that Marchand business did not come off just at the
present time," Hallett said. "You may be sure that we should have
had a war with France; it was a mighty near thing, as it was."

"Yes; I think they would not have backed down, if we had been busy
with Boers, Chinese, and black men. They were at fever heat as it
was; and we could have done nothing, if we had had two hundred and
fifty thousand men engaged at the Cape."

"It would have made no difference," Lisle said, scornfully, "we
have plenty of soldiers at home. Every barrack was crowded with
men, as we came away; and there were a great number of the militia
and volunteers, to back them up. Above all there was our fleet
which, however much the Frenchmen value their warships, would have
knocked them into a cocked hat in no time.

"Well, I suppose it is time to go out and inspect our men."

"I suppose it is, Bullen," Hallett said despondently, as he
stretched himself. "If there were no inspections and no parade, an
officer's life would be really a pleasant one."

Lisle laughed.

"And if there were no inspections and parades there would be no
soldiers, and if there were no soldiers there would be no need for
officers."

"Well, I suppose that is so," Hallett said, as he buckled on his
sword. "Now, just look at me; do I look like an officer and a
gentleman? Nobody could tell what was the original colour of my
khaki; it is simply one mass of mud stains."

"Well, I do think you hardly look like an officer and a
gentleman--that is to say, you would hardly be taken for one at
Aldershot. Fortunately, however, there are no English ladies here
to look at you and, as the blacks don't know what an officer and a
gentleman should be, it doesn't matter in the slightest."

While at Prahsu, there was nothing to do but to speculate as to
what would be the next move. Colonel Willcocks kept his plan to
himself, for information as to our movements reached the enemy in a
most extraordinary manner.

It was a busy camp. Bamboo grass-covered sheds, for stores, were in
course of construction. The engineers were employed in making a
road, to take the stores and troops across the Prah.

Three of the wounded officers--Captain Roupell, Lieutenants
Edwardes and O'Malley--were invalided, and left for home in a
convoy with over a hundred wounded. This was necessary, owing to
the fact that there was no Roentgen apparatus in the colony, and it
was found impossible to discover and extract the slugs with which
the great proportion were wounded.

It was unknown that four hundred men of the West African Regiment,
with nearly twenty officers, and a company from Jebba were on their
way to reinforce them. Three officers were away to raise native
levies in Denkera and Akim, and there were rumours about more
troops from other parts of the world. But the one thing certain was
that some more troops were coming down from Northern Nigeria.

Colonel Burroughs arrived with a strong party, and Lisle and
Hallett prepared to go up again. No resistance was met with, as far
as Fumsu; but it was found that a foot bridge that had been thrown
across the river was washed away, and communication with the other
bank was thus cut off. To the disgust of the officers and men, they
were called out to a false alarm and, when dismissed, went back to
bed grumbling. When they rose again, the men cleaned their arms and
received their pay and rations. The latter amounted to but a pound
of rice a day, but this was subsequently increased. The officers
were little better off, for there was, of course, nothing to buy.

Two companies had gone on in advance to open the main road, find
out the ambushes and stockades, and to join Colonel Wilkinson at
Bekwai. Those who remained in camp had little to do, and were
therefore glad to spend their time on fatigue duty; the officers
building shelters for themselves, while the men erected conical
huts, until the station was covered with them.

A day or two after their arrival a letter, written in French on a
scrap of paper, was brought down. It stated that the garrison could
hold out until the 20th, a date that was already past. Supplies
were urgently wanted. It also warned the relief column that there
was a big stockade within an hour of the fort. Colonel Willcocks
sent out a messenger at once, asking that every available man
should join him; but the man never reached the coast, and no help
came from there.

Sir Frederick Hodgson had then been out of Coomassie four days, and
was making his way down to the coast through a friendly country;
with an escort of six hundred soldiers, and all his officers but
one, who had remained in the fort with a hundred men.

On the morning of the 27th Colonel Burroughs, with five hundred
men, started on his journey north. Scouts flanked the advance
guard, thereby preventing the chance of an ambuscade; but greatly
delaying the column, as they had to cut their way through the
bushes. They halted that night at Sheramasi. A detachment was left
at a village at the foot of the hills. Just as the head of the
troops arrived at the top, they were fired into from behind a
fallen tree. A sharp fight took place for nearly an hour, until the
enemy were turned out of their position, and pursued through the
bush, by a company which had moved round their flank. Kwisa was
reached after dark, when it was found that the place had been
entirely destroyed by the enemy.

Next morning they moved forward with the greatest caution, fully
expecting that there would be another terrific fight at Dompoasi.
This place, though only four miles from Kwisa, was not reached till
nightfall. Darkness set in with heavy rain, and the officers
commanding the two leading companies held a council of war, and
decided to call in the scouts--who were useless in the dusk--to
make a dash for the village, and try to rush it before preparations
could be made for its defence.

The terrible downpour of rain was all in their favour. The enemy's
scouts, who had reported the advance upon Kwisa, had given up the
idea of watching, that night; and they and the whole war camp were
at their evening meal. The noise of the rain drowned the sounds of
feet, and the troops were in the village before the enemy
entertained a suspicion of their approach.

A scene of wild confusion then ensued. The enemy rushed wildly to
and fro, while our men poured volley after volley into them.
Savages have no idea of rallying, when thus taken by surprise. Many
fell; some fled into the forest; others ran down the prepared
pathway and manned the big stockade, but the troops rushed forward,
and soon compelled them to quit it.

Half a company were sent into the bush, to follow up the flying
foe. They remained out all night, and did much execution among the
Adansis. This was the first real success gained over them.

Pickets and sentries were thrown out in a circle round the village.
At midnight, the troops got a scratch meal under the protection of
the huts. Many guns were captured, some Sniders, many cakes of
powder, and much food which was cooking over the fires when the
troops entered the village. Some of the rifles that had belonged to
the men who had fallen in the unsuccessful attack were found,
together with three thousand rounds of ammunition to fit them. All
this was accomplished without any casualties to our troops.

The next day was spent in destroying the two great stockades,
cutting down the bush round them, and blowing up the fetish tree;
as well as burying the enemy's dead, thirty in number. On the
evening of the next day, Bekwai was gained.

Colonel Burroughs determined, after this success, to get rid of the
next danger by making another attack on the entrenchments and war
camp at Kokofu and, with five hundred men and four Maxims, he
started out for that place. But the task was too heavy for him, and
the enemy were quite ready to receive our troops. They were in
great force, and fought bravely for some hours. The turning
movement which was attempted failed; and the colonel decided, at
last, to retire to Bekwai. This the troops accomplished safely,
although the enemy followed them till they reached the town.
Lieutenant Brumlie was killed, six other officers were hit
slightly; and one British non-commissioned officer and three
soldiers were killed, and seventy-two men wounded.

After this, no fighting took place until Colonel Willcocks arrived
to carry out the main object of the expedition. Convoys of stores,
however, kept pouring in incessantly and, to Lisle's delight, a
large box of provisions, which he had bought before starting from
Cape Coast, arrived.

Then Colonel Neal arrived, with the Sappers. He and his men built a
bridge across the Fum. It was twelve feet above the water, but
within thirty-six hours it was swept away.

While the troops were waiting, a runner came in and reported that
heavy firing had been heard round Coomassie. On the evening of the
30th of June, news came that Colonel Willcocks would start the next
morning. He would have but a small escort of fighting men, but a
very large number of carriers, to bring in the stores intended for
Coomassie.

Colonel Willcocks reached Fum on the night after leaving the Prah.
As the supplies were failing at Kwisa, and another post, Captain
Melliss took down a convoy to them, with twenty days' rations, and
succeeded in doing so without opposition.

Colonel Willcocks pressed on, leaving all baggage behind. The
defeat of the Dompoasis had its effect, and the little column
joined Colonel Burroughs's men unopposed. The combined force then
pushed on, until they arrived at a town under the sway of the King
of Bekwai.

Next morning they marched to Bekwai. Here it was decided to
evacuate Kwisa, for a time, and bring up the garrison that had been
left there.

The next march was laborious, and wet, as usual. The troops marched
into the little village of Amoaful, where Sir Garnet Wolseley had
fought the decisive battle of his campaign, and saw many relics of
the fight. Signal guns were heard, at various times, acquainting
the enemy of our advance. The column stayed here for three days,
which both soldiers and carriers enjoyed greatly, for the fatigues
of the march had fairly worn out even the sturdy and long-enduring
British troops.

Colonel Willcocks went forward with his staff to Esumeja, where the
three companies, of which the garrison was composed, had already
suffered sixty casualties. The Pioneers, some carriers with
hatchets, and some of the Esumeja were sent out, a hundred yards
down the road to Kokofu, to cut the bush on each side and build two
stockades. This was done to deceive the garrison, there, into the
belief that we were about to advance on the place by that road.

The ruse succeeded admirably. The general there sent information to
the commander-in-chief of the Ashanti army, and the latter at once
despatched a considerable number of men to reinforce the garrison.
Thus the resistance along the main road was greatly reduced; and
the Kokofu, standing on the defensive, did not harass the force
upon its march.

On the evening of the 11th, a starving soldier made his way down
from the fort with this message:

"Governor broke out, seventeen days ago. Garrison rapidly
diminishing by disease, can only last a few more days, on very
reduced rations."

Six star shells were fired, that night, to let the garrison know
that help was coming, but they never saw them.

At midnight, the last contingent from Northern Nigeria, the Kwisa
garrison, and an escort of two companies of the West African
contingent arrived. This brought the force up to the regulation
strength of one battalion, on its war footing. At sunset the
officers were called, and orders were given for the next day's
work.

The direction of the march was, even at that moment, a profound
secret. The column was to be kept as short as possible, and only
two carriers allowed to each officer. Only half rations were to be
issued.

At daybreak the advance sounded, and the force moved out. It
consisted of a thousand rank and file, sixty white men, seventeen
hundred carriers, six guns, and six Maxims. The rain fell in
ceaseless torrents. The road was practically an unbroken swamp, and
the fatigue and discomfort of the journey were consequently
terrible. The Ordah river was in flood, and had to be crossed on a
felled tree.

The distance to Pekki, the last Bekwai village, was fifteen miles.
It did not lie upon the main road, but that route had been chosen
because a shorter extent of hostile country would have to be
traversed, and the march thence to Coomassie would be only eleven
miles; but it took the relief force nineteen and a half hours to
get in, and the rear guard some two hours longer. Darkness fell
some hours before they reached their destination and, thence
forward, the force struggled on, each holding a man in front of
him.

Nothing broke the silence save the trickling of water from the
trees overhead, and the squelch of the mud churned up by marching
columns. At times they had to wade waist deep in water. The
exhausted carriers fell out by dozens, but their loads were picked
up and shouldered by soldiers, and not a single one was lost.

The men got what shelter they could in the huts of the village and,
in spite of wet and sleeplessness, all turned out cheerfully in the
morning. The start was made at eight o'clock, in order that the men
might recover a little from the previous day's fatigue.

The enemy's scouts were encountered almost on the outskirts of the
village and, in a short time, the advance guard neared the village
of Treda. It was a large place, with a very holy fetish tree. It
stood on the top of a slope and, long before the rear guard had
fallen out at Pekki, it was carried by a brilliant bayonet charge,
by the Yorubas and the Sierra Leone frontier police. The enemy
fought stubbornly, in the village; but were driven out with only
some half-dozen casualties on our part.

Thirty sheep were found in the village, and they were a Godsend,
indeed, to the troops. As in every other place, too, numbers of
Lee-Metfords, Martinis, and Sniders were found.

Treda was burnt by the rear guard. The Ju-ju house, which was the
scene of the native incantations, was pulled down, and the sacred
trees felled. The enemy, however, were not discouraged; but hung
upon the rear, keeping up a constant fire. Some of them proceeded
to attack the Pekki people.

Fighting went on at intervals throughout the day, and it was
decided to spend the night in a village that had been taken, after
some resistance. This place was less than halfway on the road from
Pekki to Coomassie. During the night a tropical deluge fell, and
the troops and carriers were, all the time, without shelter.

Late that evening Colonel Willcocks called the white officers
together and, for the first time, told them of the plan formed for
the advance. He said that, after marching for an hour and a half,
they would reach a strong fetish stronghold, where a fierce
resistance might be looked for; but the final battle would be
fought at the stockades, two hundred yards from the fort. He
intended to attack these without encumbrance. A halt would
therefore be called, at a spot some distance from the stockades;
which would be hastily fortified, with a zereba and a portion of
the troops. Here all the carriers and stores would be placed. Then
the fighting force would take the stockades, return for the
transport, and enter Coomassie. By this means there would be no
risk of losing the precious stores and ammunition.

So determined was Colonel Willcocks to reach the forts, at all
costs, that he gave orders that, if necessary, all soldiers killed
should be left where they fell.

At four o'clock next morning the bugle sounded and, at the first
streak of dawn, the column moved off. The march was maintained
under a heavy skirmishing fire but, to the general surprise, the
fetish town of which Colonel Willcocks had spoken was found
deserted. Night was approaching, so that the plan proposed
overnight could not be carried out. The troops, therefore, went
forward hampered by the whole of the carriers and baggage of the
column.

At four o'clock action began, at the point where the Cape Coast and
Pekki roads converged towards Coomassie. The Ashantis had taken up
a position on slightly rising ground--a position which was
favourable to the assailants, as it tended to increase the enemy's
inclination to fire high. Each of the roads was barred with massive
entrenchments, which stretched across them into the bush, and
flanked with breastworks of timber. These obstacles had been
originally intended to envelop the garrison. Consequently, the war
camps were on the British side of the stockades.

The battle began by a heavy fire, from the bush, upon both flanks
of the rear guard. The attack on the left was soon successfully
repulsed. On the other side, however, the roar of musketry never
ceased, the enemy moving along abreast of the column, protected by
a stockade expressly prepared; until they approached the main
stockade, where they joined their companions. About fifty yards
from the stockades, which were still invisible, a fresh path
diverged towards the left; and the officers commanding the scouts
were discussing what had best be done, when the enemy poured in a
terrific volley from their fortified position in front, slightly
wounding one officer and four soldiers. The rest immediately took
shelter behind a fallen tree, which was lying across the path.

Colonel Wilkinson, commanding the advance guard, ordered up the
guns. These were massed in a semicircle behind the fallen trees,
and opened fire on the unseen foe; while the Maxims poured their
bullets into the adjacent bush. The reply of the enemy was
unceasing and, for an hour and a half, the battle raged, the
distance between the combatants being only forty yards. Then
Colonel Willcocks gave the order to cease firing and, in a minute,
a strange silence succeeded the terrible din. The Ashantis, too,
stopped firing, in sheer surprise at the cessation of attack; but
soon redoubled their fusillade.

The leading companies moved up and formed in line, to the front and
rear flank. Then came the inspiring notes of the charge and, with a
cheer, the whole of the advance guard sprang forward into the bush.
The dense undergrowth checked the impetus, as the soldiers had to
cut their way with their knives but, as they did so, they
maintained their deep-toned war song. As they got more into the
open, they rushed round and clambered over the stockade; and the
enemy, unable to stand the fury of their charge, fled in panic.

As a prolonged pursuit was impossible in the bush, and as daylight
was fading, the troops were recalled at once. The first thing to be
done was to pull down the stockade along the fetish road, to enable
the transport to pass. When this was done, Colonel Willcocks
collected the troops nearest to him and moved forward, at their
head, along the broad road.

Their delight, when they emerged into the open and saw Coomassie
ahead of them, was unbounded. Keeping regular step, though each man
was yearning to press forward, they advanced steadily. The silence
weighed upon them; and a dread, lest they had arrived too late,
chilled the sense of triumph with which they had marched off. At
last, the faint notes of a distant bugle sounded the general
salute, and a wild burst of cheering greeted the sound. The bugles
returned the call with joyous notes. Then the gate opened, and
Captain Bishop, Mr. Ralph, and Dr. Hay came out, followed by such
few of the brave little garrison as still had strength to walk.

Just at this moment, a great glow was seen in the distance. The
flying enemy had fired the Basel Mission. A company therefore
started at once, at the double, to drive them off.

The relieving force had, indeed, arrived only just in time. The
means of resistance had all been exhausted, and another day would
have seen the end. The garrison had held out desperately, in the
hope that Colonel Willcocks would be able to fulfil the promise he
had sent in, that he would arrive to relieve them on the 15th of
July; and he had nobly kept his word to an hour, at the cost of an
amount of hard work, privation, hardship, and suffering such as has
fallen to the lot of but few expeditions of the kind.

The Ashanti rising was the result of long premeditation and
preparation. On the 13th of March, the governor of the Gold Coast,
accompanied by Lady Hodgson, left Accra to make a tour of
inspection. On his way up country he was received with great
friendliness at all the villages and, when he arrived at Coomassie
on the 25th, he found a large number of Ashanti kings, who turned
out in state to meet him. A triumphal arch had been erected, and a
gorgeous procession of kings and chiefs marched past. There was no
sign of a cloud in the horizon.

Several days passed quietly, and Sir Frederick Hodgson had several
meetings with the chiefs about state matters. Gradually the eyes of
the governor's followers, accustomed as they were to savage ways,
saw that all was not right; and a wire was despatched, asking for
reinforcements of two hundred men. These arrived on the 18th of
April.

Captains Armitage and Leggatt, with a small party of soldiers, went
out to the neighbouring village to bring in the golden stool. This
was regarded by the natives with considerable veneration, and was
always used as the throne of the king, as the sign of supreme
authority. When they reached the village the party were fired upon,
the two officers being wounded; and had to retire without having
accomplished their purpose.

It was clear now that rebellion was intended. The native kings were
all sounded, and several of them decided to side with us, among
them five important leaders. On the 25th the Basel Mission servants
were set upon, and several of them killed. The Ashantis then
attacked and captured the villages in which the friendly natives
and traders lived, and set fire to these and to the cantonment. The
refugees, to the number of three thousand five hundred, with two
hundred children, crowded round the fort, imploring the mission to
allow them to enter.

It was wholly beyond the capacity of the fort to accommodate a
tenth of their number. Troops were therefore ordered down from the
barracks, and formed a cordon round the fugitives. The fort gate
was closed, and a rope ladder led down one of the bastions. In this
way, only one individual could enter at a time, and the danger of a
rush was obviated.

Close round the walls, huts were erected to shelter the fugitives,
who were exposed to all the inclemency of the weather. Thus passed
some wretched days and worse nights, sleep being constantly
interrupted by alarms, due to the fact that the rebels were in
possession of all the buildings in the place, except the fort, many
of which they loopholed.

On the 29th a determined attack was made, the enemy advancing
boldly across the open, and fighting long and obstinately. Captain
Marshall, however, with his two hundred and fifty native troops and
friendly levies, taught them such a lesson that they never again
tried fighting in the open. A hundred and thirty corpses were found
and buried, and many more were carried off, while the fighting was
going on.

That evening Captain Apling came in with his little column, but
without food and with little ammunition. Aided by these troops, the
outlying official buildings were occupied; and the friendly natives
lodged in huts a little farther from the fort.

Things remained quiet until the 15th of May, when Major Morris
arrived with his force. He too was short of food and ammunition,
and famine already began to stare the beleaguered garrison in the
face. Meanwhile the enemy had been busy erecting stockades, to bar
every outlet from Coomassie. Many attempts were made to take these
entrenchments; but they always failed, as they could not be pushed
home, owing to want of ammunition; and the troops became, to some
extent, demoralized by want of success.

Although the food had been carefully husbanded, it was running
perilously low. Rations consisted of one and a half biscuits, and
five ounces of preserved meat, per day. Five ponies, brought up by
Major Morris, and a few cows kept at the Residency were killed and
eaten. A few luxuries could still be bought from the native
traders, but at prodigious prices. A spoonful of whisky cost 2
shillings, a seven-pound tin of flour 6 shillings, a box of matches
2 shillings, and a small tin of beef 2 pounds, 16 shillings.

The refugees fared much worse. They had no reserve of food, and
foraging was next to impossible. As a result, they died at the rate
of thirty and forty a day.

When only three and a half days' rations were left, it was decided
that something must be done, and a council of war was called. It
was then agreed that those who could walk should make a dash for
it; and that a garrison of three Europeans, and a hundred rank and
file, should be left behind. For these twenty-three days' rations
could be left.

Major Morris, as senior officer, was to command the sortie. The
direct road down to the Cape was barred by a great force of the
rebels, and he therefore chose the road that would lead to the
Denkera country. If that could be reached, they would be in a
friendly country. The line to be taken was kept a profound secret,
and was not revealed until ten o'clock on the evening before
starting. The force consisted of six hundred soldiers, with a
hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition a man, seven hundred
carriers, and about a thousand refugees.

There was a mist in the morning, and the garrison who were to
remain made a feint, to direct the enemy's attention to the main
road. The column was not engaged until it reached a strong
breastwork, at Potasi. This was taken after a severe fight; and
Captain Leggatt, who commanded the vanguard, was mortally wounded.
Four men were also killed, and there were nine other casualties.

A part of the stockade was pulled away, and the force moved
forward. It was constantly attacked on the way and, on one
occasion, Captain Marshall was seriously wounded in the head.
Numbers of soldiers, refugees, and carriers fell out from
exhaustion, and had to be left behind. Nearly all the carriers
threw away their loads, and the men who carried the hammocks of the
two ladies found themselves unable to support the weight.

The night was spent at Terrabum, eighteen miles from Coomassie;
some two thousand human beings being crowded into the village, in a
deluge. The soldiers were posted round the camp, in the form of a
square.

The second day was a repetition of the first--heavy rain, muddy
roads; dying soldiers, carriers, and refugees; attacks by the
enemy. Twelve miles farther were made that day.

Thus seven days were passed. Captains Marshall and Leggatt both
died. The ladies bore their trials wonderfully, as they had to
tramp with the rest, along the miry track. At last Ekwanter, in the
friendly Denkera country, was reached, and the force rested for two
days. They then set out again and, after a terrible march, in the
course of which they had to cross many swollen rivers, they
arrived, two weeks after they had left Coomassie, half starved and
worn out, on the coast.

In the meantime the three white officers, Captain Bishop of the
Gold Coast Constabulary, Assistant Inspector Ralph, Lagos
Constabulary, and Doctor Hay, medical officer, remained behind,
with a hundred and fifteen Hausas, few of whom were fit for the
task of holding the fort. After the departure of the column, the
Ashantis swarmed down on the fort, thinking that it was entirely
evacuated. They were met, however, with a heavy fire from the
Maxims, and soon withdrew.

The first duty of Captain Bishop was to tell off the men to their
posts. The soldiers who were to man the guns were ordered to sleep
beside them. The ammunition was examined, and found to amount to a
hundred and seventy rounds a man. The rations were calculated, and
divided up for the twenty-three days that they were intended to
last.

Attempts were then made to burn the native shanties, for sanitary
reasons. They were so soaked, however, with water, that all
attempts to burn them failed; till June 27th, when a short break in
the rain enabled them to be fired. When they were all burned down,
the Residency windows on the windward side were opened, for the
first time.

Sickness, unfortunately, broke out very soon; and three of the
little band died on the first day. This rate mounted higher and
higher, and at last smallpox broke out. So dismal was the prospect
that the men sank into a dull despair.

A few women traders hawked their wares outside the fort. A little
cocoa, worth a farthing, cost 15 shillings; plantains were 1 pound,
6 shillings each; and a small pineapple fetched 15 shillings. The
men received 3 shillings daily, in place of half a biscuit, when
biscuits ran short; and this ready cash was willingly bartered for
anything eatable.

Three heart-breaking weeks passed thus. Two-thirds of the troops
had been buried outside the fort, the remainder were almost too
weak to stand. When the food was all gone, it was arranged that
they should go out to forage in the darkness, each man for himself.
The three white men, each with a dose of poison, always stuck
together and, come what might, agreed not to fall alive into the
hands of the enemy.

However, on 14th July reports were brought in that firing had been
heard. The news seemed too good to be true, but an old native
officer declared that he had heard distant volleys. It was not
until four o'clock on the next day, however, that a continuous and
tremendous roar of guns convinced them that a relief column was at
hand. The three imprisoned officers opened their last comfort, a
half bottle of champagne, and drank success to their comrades.
Several of the troops died while the fighting was going on, the
excitement being too much for their weakened frames.

At last the Ashantis were seen flying in terror. Then the two
buglers blew out the general salute, time after time till, at six
o'clock, the head of the relief column came in view. The gate was
thrown open, and those of the little garrison who were able to
stand went out, to welcome their rescuers.

Five star shells were fired, to tell those left behind at Ekwanter
that the relief was accomplished. Then the outlying quarters were
occupied, and all slept with the satisfaction that their struggles
and efforts had not been in vain, and that they had succeeded in
relieving Coomassie.



Chapter 17: Stockades And War Camps.


"Well, Hallett, here we are," Lisle said the next morning, "and
thank God neither of us is touched, except perhaps by a few slugs.
Of these, however, I dare say the surgeon will rid us this morning.
It has been a big affair and, if we live to a hundred years, we are
not likely to go through such another."

"I wish you would not be so confoundedly cheerful," Hallett said,
gloomily; "we have got to go down again, and the Kokofu are to be
dealt with. We shall probably have half a dozen more battles. The
rain, too, shows no signs of giving up, and we shall have to tramp
through swamps innumerable, ford countless rivers and, I dare say,
be short of food again before we have done. As to going through
such work again, my papers will be sent in at the first hint that I
am likely to have to take part in it."

"All of which means, Hallett, that just at the present moment a
reaction has set in; and I will guarantee that, if you had a
thoroughly good breakfast, and finished it off with a pint of
champagne, you would see matters in a different light, altogether."

"Don't talk of such things," Hallett said, feebly; "it is a dream,
a mere fantasy. It doesn't seem to me, at present, a possibility
that such a meal could fall to my lot.

"Look at me, look at my wasted figure! I weighed nearly fourteen
stone, when we started; I doubt whether I weigh ten, now."

"All the better, Hallett. When I first saw you, on shore at
Liverpool, I said to myself that you were as fat as a pig.

"'He would be a fine-looking young fellow,' I said, 'if he could
get some of it off. I suppose it is good living and idleness that
has done it.'"

Hallett laughed.

"Well, perhaps I need not grumble at that; but the worst of it is
that I have always heard that, when a fellow loses on active
service, he is sure to make it up again, and perhaps a stone more,
after it is over."

"Yes, it is clear that you will have to diet, when you get home. No
more savoury dishes, no more champagne suppers; just a cut of a
joint, a few vegetables, and a ten-mile walk after."

"Don't talk of such things," Hallett said, impatiently; "rather
than live as you say, I would put up with carrying sixteen stone
about with me. What is the use of living, if you are to have no
satisfaction out of life?"

"Well, Hallett, my advice to you in that case is, make love to some
young lady, directly you reach England; and marry her in a month,
before you have begun to assume elephantine proportions. Once
hooked, you know, she cannot sue for divorce, on the ground that
you have taken her in; and she will have to put up with you,
whatever size you may attain."

"Look here, Bullen," Hallett said seriously, "I know you mean well,
but the subject is a very sore one with me. However, seriously, I
will try to keep my fat down. If I fail I fail, and shall of course
send in my papers; for I don't care to be made a butt of, by young
subalterns like yourself. The subaltern has no sense of what is
decent and what is not, and he spares no one with his attempts at
wit."

"Why, you are a subaltern yourself, Hallett!"

"I am within two of the top of the list, please to remember, and
you have still four above you, and I am therefore your superior
officer. I have put aside youthful folly, and have prepared myself
for the position of captain of a company. I make great allowances
for you. You will please to remember that you are five years my
junior, and owe me a certain share of respect."

"Which I am afraid you will never get," Lisle said, laughingly. "I
should as soon think of acting respectfully towards a Buddhist
image, simply because it is two thousand years old. However, since
the subject is so painful to you, I will try not to allude to it
again.

"Is there anything you would wish me to do, sir? I have no doubt I
shall have plenty of work to do, but I dare say I shall be able to
find time to do anything my senior officer may require."

"Get out, you young scamp," Hallett growled, "or I shall throw--"
and he looked round "--I don't see what there is to throw."

"Hallett, I am afraid that this rest is going to do you harm. I
have found you a very companionable fellow, up to now; but it is
clear that a night's rest and high living have done you more harm
than good."

So saying, with a laugh, Lisle put on his helmet and went out.

There was, as he said, much to do. Everywhere there were proofs of
the rigidness of the siege. Even in the houses in which they were
quartered, which had been occupied by the enemy, the walls were
pitted with bullets.

At eight o'clock a party of men went out, to destroy the stockades
and burn the enemy's camps. In the one in which the Ashanti
commander in chief had his headquarters were found over a thousand
huts and bamboo camp beds.

The troops now saw the method of investment for the first time. It
consisted in making large entrenchments, to barricade all the roads
and tracks. In the bush between these were similar stockades, to
complete the circle of fortifications and afford flank defences.
All these were joined by a wide path; so that, as soon as one
position was attacked, it was reinforced by those to right and
left.

The remainder of the troops and carriers were engaged in trying to
remedy the shockingly insanitary condition of the place. The staff
were employed in examining the matter of stores and provisions,
ammunition, and medical comforts; which were to be left behind for
the relieving garrison. The labourers worked in relays, as did the
rest of the soldiers.

High grass had grown almost up to the fort walls, and had to be cut
down. While this was being done, skeletons and corpses in all
states of decomposition were met with. Almost all had died of
starvation. At first the bodies of those who died had been buried,
but latterly their friends had become too weak to perform this
office; and the poor wretches had crawled a few yards into the
jungle, to die quietly. Such numbers of bodies were found that they
had, at last, to be burned in heaps. Few, indeed, of the four
thousand fugitives who had gathered round the fort, reached the
coast with the force that had fought their way out.

The doctors were busy all day with the refugees, the old garrison,
the thirty casualties from the fight of the day before, and several
white men down with fever.

The Ashantis had burnt all the cantonments of friendly natives, but
had left the old palace of Prempeh uninjured. This structure was
burnt during the day.

The order for officers to assemble was sounded in the evening, and
it was arranged that the return march was to start at four on the
following morning. The coveted post of leading the column was given
to a company of the West African Frontier Force.

They were a little sorry that they were so soon to leave the place.
The fort itself was a handsome, square stone building, with towers
at the four corners. The resident's quarters had a balcony, and
excellent rooms. There was also, of course, barrack accommodation,
store rooms, and a well. Quick-firing guns were mounted on the
circular bastions. The surrounding buildings were bungalows, with
broad verandahs; and the force would have been well pleased to
remain for a few days, and enjoy the comforts provided for them.

The force to be left was under the command of Major Eden; and consisted
of three officers, one doctor, three British non-commissioned officers,
a hundred and fifty men of the West African Frontier Force, and a few
Gold Coast Constabulary gunners; with fifty-four days' rations, and a
plentiful supply of ammunition.

The column was a terribly long one, owing to the enormous number of
invalids, wounded, women, and children. They halted for the night
at the village halfway to Pekki. The villages on the road were all
burnt down, to prevent opposition next time we passed; and all
crops were destroyed. This work the soldiers quite enjoyed.
Continued explosions occurred during the burning of the huts,
showing how large an amount of ammunition the natives possessed.

Next night they arrived at Pekki. The king had prepared a market,
so that the starving force got a more substantial supper than
usual. Here the column was to divide. Colonel Willcocks was to go
straight through to Bekwai; while the second portion, with the
wounded and cripples, was to take two days.

They halted at Bekwai for two or three days, to give rest to the
soldiers; a large proportion of whom were suffering from coughs,
sore throats, and fever, the result of their hardships. Two
thousand carriers were sent to fetch up more stores.

Preparations were then made for an attack on Kokofu, which was a
serious menace to the troops going up or down. The column for this
purpose, which was under General Moreland, consisted of six
companies, which were to be brought up to eight. With three of the
larger guns and two seven-pounders, they started for Esumeja on the
22nd. The force was a compact one, the only carriers allowed being
one to each white man, to take up some food and a blanket. Major
Melliss commanded the advance.

They marched rapidly, as it was all important to take the enemy by
surprise. Some distance short of Kokofu, they stopped for
breakfast. Then the officers were assembled and, when the plan of
attack had been formed, the column moved cautiously on.

The place was only a mile away, so that an attack was momentarily
expected. The troops entered a deserted village, and there halted.
A few sentries were thrown out, and the colonel held a short
council of war with Major Melliss and two of his other officers.
After some discussion, it was decided that a Hausa company should
go on, and rush the stockade with the bayonet, without firing. If
they carried it, they were to proceed along the river bank beyond,
and so place themselves as to cover the advance of the guns.

The scouts were called in; and the Hausa company set off, in fours,
along the path. When they had marched a hundred yards, the little
band that formed the advance signalled that they made out something
ahead and, when they rounded the next sharp turn of the road they
saw, not thirty yards away, a great six-foot stockade, extending
far into the bush on either side. It lay halfway down a gentle
slope, a situation which favoured the assailants for, naturally,
the hill would increase the impetus of the charge.

The order was sent down in a whisper, "Stockade ahead, prepare to
charge."

The men kept together as closely as possible. The buglers rang out
the charge and, with a shout, the Hausas rushed at the stockade. In
an instant the white leaders scaled the timbers, and the men
followed at their heels.

To their astonishment, the place was empty. The surprise was
complete. It was clear that the enemy had no information, whatever,
of their approach; and the guard from the stockade had gone to
feed, with their companions, in the war camp.

The bugle had told them what was coming and, with a roar, thousands
of black figures dashed up towards the stockade. There was nothing
for it but to charge and, with fixed bayonets, the Hausas dashed
forward, regardless of the heavy fire with which they were met.

Enormously as they outnumbered their assailants, the sight of the
glittering bayonets and the cheers of the Hausas were too much for
the enemy. Those in front, after a few more shots, turned and fled;
the Hausas following in hot pursuit. The river turned out to be of
no depth; and it had not, as reported, a parapet for defending the
passage. Hard as the Hausas tried to overtake the enemy, the
Ashantis, being fleeter of foot, kept ahead but, though the
shouting and running were beginning to tell on the pursuers, still
they held on.

The path gradually became firmer; and suddenly, when they turned a
corner, there was Kokofu in front of them. From almost every house,
running for their lives, were naked Ashantis. The sight restored
the men's strength; and they redoubled their efforts, with the
result that they killed some thirty of the enemy.

The pursuit was maintained until they reached the other end of the
town. Then the company was halted. The officers had difficulty in
restraining their men, who implored them to press on in pursuit;
but a general permission to do so could not be given. No one knew
whether the main column had followed them; and it was possible,
too, that the Ashantis might rally and return. Half the company,
however, were permitted to continue the pursuit, and to keep the
Ashantis on the run.

With shouts of delight, the men darted off in the darkness. In a
short time they were recalled, and the company then marched back to
the centre of the town. Here they found that the main body had come
in. Two companies had been sent out, right and left into the bush,
to keep down sniping fire, and hurry the enemy's retreat. Pickets
and sentries had been thrown out round the town. Soldiers were
eating the food that the enemy had cooked. Piles of loot were being
dragged out of the houses; among which were quantities of loaded
guns, rifles, and powder barrels. The native soldiers were almost
mad with delight; and were dancing, singing, and carrying each
other shoulder high, shouting songs of triumph.

But short time could be allowed for rejoicing. The various company
calls were sounded and, when the men were gathered, the town was
methodically razed, and a collection of over two hundred guns were
burnt.

The troops, however, had reason for their joy. The Kokofu army of
some six thousand men, who had repulsed two previous attacks, were
a mass of fugitives. In the course of one week, the Ashantis had
suffered two crushing defeats in their strongest positions.

As soon as the work was done, the force set out on their return
march. Their appearance differed widely from that of the men who
had silently, and in good order, advanced. Scarcely a man, white or
black, was not loaded with some token of the victory. All were
laughing, or talking, or singing victorious songs.

A halt was made, to destroy the stockade and the war camp. The
former was found to be extremely strong and, had it been manned by
the enemy, the work of capturing it would have been very serious,
indeed.

When they arrived at Esumeja, the garrison there could scarcely
believe that the success had been so complete, and so sudden.
Bekwai was reached as twilight was beginning, and here the whole of
the garrison, with Colonel Willcocks at its head, was drawn up to
receive them. The men were heartily cheered; and the Hausa company,
which had done such splendid service, were halted and congratulated
by Colonel Willcocks. Then after three cheers the force, which had
been on foot for sixteen hours, was dismissed, and returned to its
quarters.

"Well, Hallett, how do you feel?"

"Better," Hallett said. "I felt tired enough, after the march there
but, somehow, I forgot all about it directly the fight began.
Everyone was so delighted and cheery that, really, I came in quite
fresh."

"I knew it would be so," Lisle said. "It has been a glorious day
and, if you had come in moping, I should have given you up as
hopeless."

"And I give you up as hopeless, the other way," Hallett replied.
"You always seem brimming over with fun; even when, as far as I can
see, there is nothing to be funny about."

"Well, it really has been a glorious victory; and I only wish we
had both been with the Hausa company who first attacked. They
really won the game off their own bat, for we had nothing to do but
to pick up the spoil.

"There was not much worth carrying away, but I am glad of some
little memento of the fight. I got the chief's stool. I don't quite
know what I am going to do with it, yet; but I shall try to get my
servant to carry it along; and it will come in handy, to sit down
upon, when we encamp in a swamp.

"What did you manage to get?"

"I picked up a small rifle, a very pretty weapon. Do you know, I
quite approve of the regulation, in South Africa, that officers
should carry rifles instead of swords. I have never been able to
understand why we should drag about swords, which are of no use
whatever while, with rifles, we could at least pot some of the
enemy; instead of standing, looking like fools, while the men are
doing all the work."

"I agree with you, there. In the Tirah campaign I, several times,
got hold of the rifles of fallen men, and did a little shooting on
my own account. Officers would all make themselves good shots, if
they knew that shooting would be of some value; and even three
officers, with a weak company, could do really valuable service. I
certainly found it so, when I was with the Punjabis. Of course, I
was not an officer; but I was a really good shot with a rifle, and
succeeded in potting several Pathan chiefs."

"I suppose," Hallett said, mournfully, "that about the time when I
leave the army as a general, common sense will prevail; and the
sword will be done away with, except on state occasions."

"It is very good of you to look so far ahead, Hallett. It shows
that you have abandoned the idea of leaving the army, even if you
again put on flesh.

"I rather wonder that you should modestly confine yourself to
retiring as a general. Why not strive for the position of a field
marshal, who has the possibility of becoming commander in chief? It
may be, old fellow that, if you shake yourself together, you may
yet attain these dignities. You were always very jovial, on board
ship; and I trust that, when we get out of this horrible country,
you will regain your normal spirits."

"I am not so sure that I shall get out of the country; for I often
feel disposed to brain you, when you won't let me alone; and I fear
that, one of these days, I may give way to the impulse."

"You would have to catch me, first," Lisle laughed; "and as I
believe that I could run three feet to your one, your chance of
carrying out so diabolical an impulse would be very small.

"But here is the boy with our supper, which we have fairly earned,
and to which I shall certainly do justice.

"What have you got, boy?"

"Half a tin of preserved meat, sah, done up with curry."

"Let us eat, with thankfulness.

"How much more curry have we got, boy?"

"Three bottles, sah."

"Thank goodness!" said Hallett, "that will last for some time; for
really, tinned beef by itself, when a man is exhausted, is
difficult to get down. I really think that we should address a
round robin to the P.M.O., begging him to order additional medical
comforts, every night."

"You are belying yourself, Hallett. You have taken things very well
as they came, whatever they might be; save for a little grumbling,
which does no harm to anyone and, I acknowledge, amuses me very
much."

"I have no expectation or design," Hallett grumbled, "but it seems
to amuse you. However, I suppose I must put up with it, till the
end."

"I am afraid you will have to do so, Hallett. It is good for you,
and stirs you up; and I shall risk that onslaught you spoke of, as
we go down to the coast again."

"When will that be, Lisle?"

"I have not the smallest idea. I should imagine that we shall stay,
and give these fellows thrashing after thrashing, until we have
completely knocked the fight out of them. That won't be done in a
day or two. Probably those we have defeated will gather again, in
the course of a day or two; and we shall have to give them several
lickings, before we dispose of them altogether."

The news of the victory at Kokofu spread fast, and the Denkeras
poured in to join the native levies. There was now a pause, while
preparations were made for a systematic punitive campaign. Captain
Wright was sent down to Euarsi, where three thousand Denkera levies
had been collected; and superintended the cutting down of the crops
in the Adansi country, to the south and west. The Akim levies were
to act similarly, in flank, under the command of Captains Willcocks
and Benson; while a third body of levies, under Major Cramer,
guarded the upper district. A company was sent to Kwisa to guard
the main road, which was now reopened for traffic.

Convoys went up and down along the entire route, bringing up
supplies of all sorts; but those going north of Fumsu still
required strong escorts. Large parties went out foraging, almost
daily, to villages and farms for miles round. These bodies were
compact fighting forces, and took out considerable numbers of
unladen carriers.

When a village was found the troops surrounded it, while the
carriers searched it for hidden stores. Then they would march away
to other villages, until every carrier had a load; when the force
would return, and store the results of the raid.

The remnants of the reconcentrating Ashanti army were reported to
be somewhere in the bush, east of Dompoasi. It was necessary to
clear them out before the Adansi country could be subdued, and the
line of communication be at all safe. Consequently a flying
column--of four hundred of the West African Field Force, one large
and one small gun of the West Indian Rifles, to be joined by the
Kwisa company--was despatched, under the command of Major Beddoes,
against the enemy. They had to strike out into the bush by almost
unknown roads, and great difficulties were encountered.
Fortunately, however, they captured a prisoner, who consented to
lead them to the enemy's camp, on condition that his life would be
spared.

Three days later, an advance was made on the camp. The column had
hardly started when they were attacked. The enemy held a strong
series of fortified positions; but these were captured, one after
another.

A couple of miles farther, they again met with opposition. The
enemy, this time, occupied the bank of a stream. The Maxims at once
opened fire on them, and did such great execution that the Ashantis
rapidly became demoralized, and fled. Close to the rear of this
spot was found a newly-constructed stockade, some three hundred
yards in length; but the fugitives continued their flight without
stopping to man it.

When they advanced a little farther, the force was severely
attacked on all sides. The enemy pushed up to within a few yards of
our men. Once they even attempted to rush the seven pounder; but
were repulsed by the heavy volleys of the West Indian Rifles, who
were serving it. Lieutenant Phillips and Lieutenant Swabey were
severely wounded, and two other officers slightly so. The Adansis
made another desperate attempt to cover their camp, and they were
not finally driven back until nearly dusk.

It was found that the rebels had discovered the advance of Major
Cramer's levies while they were still a day's journey away. They
were, therefore, not only anxious to repulse our force, so that
they could fall upon the other one; but were fighting a splendid
rear action, so as to cover the retreat of their women, children,
and property, which had been gathered there under the belief that
the existence of the camp was unknown to us.

Meanwhile, at Bekwai, the list of sick and invalids steadily
increased; and every convoy that went down to the coast was
accompanied by a number of white and black victims to the climate.
The kits of the men who died realized enormous prices. A box that
contained three cakes of soap fetched 27 shillings, and a box of
twenty-five cheroots 2 pounds, 2 shillings.

On the 31st of July a runner arrived, from Pekki, stating that the
town was going to be attacked in force, the next evening, as a
punishment for the assistance it had rendered the white men. Major
Melliss was accordingly ordered to proceed thither the following
morning with two guns, a Hausa company with a Maxim, and a column
of carriers. They were to remain there a day, and put the place in
a state of defence; and then they would be joined by a force under
Colonel Burroughs, which was to complete the relief of Coomassie,
by doubling its garrison and supply of stores.

The little party started, and tramped along the intervening fifteen
miles much more comfortably than usual; as the rains had
temporarily ceased, and the track had been greatly improved by the
kings of Bekwai and Pekki. There was great difficulty in crossing
the bridge over the Ordah river, but the guns were at last taken
over safely, and they arrived at Pekki at half-past four in the
afternoon.

They were received with delight by the villagers, who had been in a
state of terrible fear. The war chief put his house at the disposal
of the officers. Fortunately, no attack was made by the Ashantis.
Hasty fortifications were erected, and a rough bamboo barracks
built for the force. Here, for the first time since the beginning
of the campaign, the Hausas received a small issue of meat, and
their delight was unbounded.

Some scouts, who had been sent out in the neighbourhood of the
town, brought in a wounded Hausa who had been left behind in the
governor's retreat and, for six weeks, had managed to hide himself
in the bush, and live upon roots that he found at night.

On the afternoon of the 4th of August, Colonel Burroughs and his
force arrived; bringing with him a fresh half battalion of the
Central African Regiment, with two large guns and two seven-pounders.
This raised the total strength to seven hundred and fifty. It was
decided that it would be necessary to proceed without delay to
Coomassie; for no signals had been received from the fort, for two
successive Sundays, and there was a rumour that the Ashantis had
again attacked it. The column therefore moved forward, next day.

The garrison, when they arrived, was to be brought up to three
hundred soldiers and ten white men; the stockades round Coomassie
were to be destroyed; and then the relief column were to fight
their way down the main road, which had been hitherto closed for
all traffic.

At first the column met with no opposition but, when they reached
Treda, the people of that place fired heavily upon them. After
driving these off the force proceeded, but were soon met by an
Ashanti force. They attacked only the transport and hospital, and
their tactics were clever. They had formed a series of ambushes,
connected by a broad path. The head of the column was allowed to
pass, unattacked; then the carriers were fired into heavily and,
when the tail of the column passed, they ran along the path to the
next ambush and renewed their tactics.

Their plan, however, was soon discovered and, in order to checkmate
it, a gun was placed in the path, crammed with case shot, the
infantry were got ready to fire in volleys, and a Maxim ranged for
rapid fire. Presently the enemy were seen, hurrying along to occupy
the next ambush; and the big gun poured its contents into their
midst, while the troops fired well-directed volleys at them and,
when they fled in confusion down the path, the Maxim swept numbers
of them away. The attacks immediately ceased, and the column
proceeded on its way; rejoicing that, for once, they had beaten the
Ashantis at their own game.

They arrived at the fort at six o'clock in the evening; and found
that, although the garrison had been harassed by sniping, no
serious attack had been made upon them. It was known that there
were still four stockades occupied by the Ashantis; and it was
decided that two columns, each three hundred strong, should sally
out the next morning, and each carry two of the fortifications. The
companies under Lisle and Hallett formed part of the force under
Major Melliss, which was to destroy the stockade on the Bantama
road; while the other, under Major Cobbe, was to attack that near
the Kimtampo road. After this had been done, arrangements were to
be made for the attack on the other two stockades.

The start was made at ten o'clock. At first everything went well.
The Basel Mission House was passed and, as they marched on without
seeing any signs of life, it was believed that no opposition would
be met with. They advanced, however, with great caution. Suddenly,
news was sent back from the advance guard that the village of
Bantama had been sighted, just ahead; and that the enemy were
running out from it. The force advanced, and found the fires in the
village still burning. At the other end the track through it
divided; but the defiance signal, a large vulture lying
spread-eagle fashion, showed the line the fugitives had pursued.
This was followed and, in a short time, a stockade was seen at the
foot of a slope, some eighty yards away.

How far it extended into the bush on either side, there was no
means of knowing; nor could it be ascertained whether it was
defended, for no signs of life were visible. The carriers were
ordered to bring up the Maxim but, before they could get the parts
of the gun off their heads, a deafening volley flashed out from the
stockade. Several of the carriers fell, wounded by the slugs, and
the rest fled.

The little weapon, however, was soon put together, and opened fire.
But rifle bullets were useless against a six-foot tree trunk. The
enemy, moreover, were firing on our flank, and it was thought that
they might be working round to attack the rear. An effort was
therefore made to cut a path through the bush, under the impression
that it was not so thick inside. The jungle grass, however,
prevented this from being carried out, and the heavy gun was
therefore ordered up.

When it began to play upon the fort, as far as could be determined,
the enemy's fire grew momentarily heavier. Then it was seen that a
number of men were firing from a high tree, in the rear of the
stockade. Colour Sergeant Foster turned a Maxim upon it. He was
severely wounded on the left shoulder, but he said nothing about
it, and poured such a shower of lead into the tree that it was, at
once, deserted by the enemy.

The din was deafening. Every white man belonging to the leading
company had been hit, and the ground near the gun and Maxim was
strewn with the dead and dying.

Major Melliss gave the word:

"Mass the buglers, form up left company, and both charge!"

The buglers stood up, waiting for the word to blow. One of them was
instantly wounded but, though the blood was streaming down his
face, he stuck to his work. The word "Sound the way!" was given,
and the Hausas sprang wildly forward and dashed down the slope,
Major Melliss at their head.

Contrary to custom, the Ashantis were not terrified at the sight of
the bayonets and, through their loopholes, kept up a heavy fire.
The assailants, however, soon reached the stockade. Two white men
scrambled up the timbers, which were slippery with blood; and
jumped down, eight feet, on the other side, where they were soon
joined by numbers of their men. The enemy, however, stood their
ground bravely, and there was a fierce hand-to-hand fight. But the
bayonet did its work; and the enemy, who were getting more and more
outnumbered, at last turned and fled, hotly pursued by the victors.

A turn in the path revealed the war camp. It was an enormous one,
but already the last of its garrison were disappearing in the
forest, taking any path that afforded a chance of safety. The
assembly sounded, and the pursuit was abandoned; as another company
came forward, at a steady double, with orders to proceed up the
road to the next village. This they were to burn, and then return
to the war camp.

The work of destroying the war camp at once began. The troops lined
its outskirts, while the carriers cut down and burnt the huts. Then
a party set to work to pull down the stockades, which turned out to
be nearly three hundred yards long, and crescent shaped--a fact
that explained why we had suffered so severely from crossfire.

At last, sheets of flame showed that the work was accomplished, and
the company that had gone on in advance returned, and reported the
destruction of the village behind. The little force then gathered,
and proceeded to Bantama, a sacred village at which human
sacrifices had been perpetrated, for centuries. This place was
razed to the ground.

On the left, the sound of continuous firing told that Major Cobbe
was still heavily engaged. There was, however, no means of moving
through the bush to his assistance. The force therefore returned to
the fort.

It was late before the firing ceased, and Major Cobbe's column came
in, with the wounded on hammocks and stretchers. The first two
signal shots had slightly wounded Major Cobbe and a white colour
sergeant. After a prolonged fight, the former had finally turned
the right of the enemy's position, with two companies of the
Central African Regiment; but lost heavily, owing to the thick
grass and slow progress.

Meanwhile the West African company had engaged a stockade similar
to the one we had rushed, but horseshoe in form. Thus our men had
been almost completely surrounded by a circle of fire. When,
however, the flanking movement had at last been completed, the
enemy were charged simultaneously from the front and flank,
whereupon they broke and fled. The large war camp behind had been
looted and burnt, and the stockade pulled down. The guns had failed
to penetrate this, and the defenders were only driven out at the
point of the bayonet, after a fight of two hours' duration.

The loss had been heavy. Half a dozen white officers were wounded,
and seventeen Sikhs had been killed or wounded, out of a total of
fifty who had gone into action. The total casualties mounted up to
seventy.



Chapter 18: A Night Surprise.


With the exception of replenishing the supplies of ammunition,
cleaning rifles, and burying the dead, nothing further was done
that afternoon. In the evening a consultation was held, in the
fort, among the principal officers. The situation was a difficult
one. An immense amount of ammunition had been expended, and it was
decided that it was out of the question to draw upon the supplies
that had been sent up for the garrison. There were still two
strongly-entrenched positions, and strong opposition was
anticipated to the clearing of the main road. Every round would,
therefore, be required for this work. This seemed to preclude the
idea of taking the other two stockades.

The choice therefore remained of making the assault upon these, and
then returning through Pekki; or of leaving them and going back by
the main road, the route laid down in their instructions. Neither
of these plans was satisfactory, for each left half the programme
undone.

It was suggested that a night attack might be attempted. In that
case, not a shot must be fired, and the attack must be made by the
bayonet alone. The moon rose early, and it was almost high at eight
o'clock.

Of course, it was extremely risky to venture upon such a plan, with
superstitious black troops. The object of assault, however, could
be located the next day, and the danger of losing their way would
thereby be reduced to a minimum. Further, it was decided that no
dependence, whatever, be placed on any native guide. Finally, it
would be eminently undesirable to leave Coomassie again in a state
of siege.

It was clear that only one of the stockades could be carried in
this manner, as the other would be placed on its guard. It was
therefore decided that the one on the Accra-Coomassie road was the
most suitable; first because it joined the main road to Cape Coast,
and secondly because the capture of the stockade would isolate the
remaining one on the Ejesu road, which the Ashantis would probably
abandon, as both the adjacent camps had fallen into our hands.

As the result of this decision Captain Loch was sent out, at twelve
o'clock on the following day, to reconnoitre the position. His men,
by creeping through the tall grass and clambering among the tall
trees, succeeded in reaching a large cotton tree within seventy
yards of the enemy's entrenchment. Climbing this, they obtained a
good view of the enemy's stockade and camp behind it.

At that moment a roar of voices was heard, and hostile scouts
poured out from the camp. The object of the expedition, however,
had been attained; and the soldiers retired rapidly, without
casualties.

At five in the afternoon the officers assembled at Colonel
Burroughs's quarters. Here the details of the work were explained
to them. They were to fall in at eight o'clock, and deliver the
attack between nine and ten. The Maxims were to follow in rear of
the infantry, and no other guns were to be taken.

Only five hundred men were selected to go. Captain Loch's company
were to take the lead, as a reward for the scouting they had done
in the morning. Major Melliss' company was to follow. The companies
in the rear were to move to the flanks, when the stockade had been
taken, so as to guard against an attack from the other war camp.

An early meal was taken, and then the officers sallied out for a
last inspection of the company; which was, by this time, assembling
outside the fort gate. Silently the troops fell into their allotted
position. Then the word was passed down the line that all was
ready. The officers gave their final orders to the men--no smoking,
no talking, no noise, no firing, bayonet only. As if nothing
unusual was occurring, the bugle from the fort sounded the last
post.

At the start the pace was for some time good but, after passing
Prempeh's palace, the road became a tortuous track and, at every
yard, the tall grass became thicker and, here and there, a fallen
tree lay across the path. The dead silence that prevailed rendered
every one nervous. At last they came in sight of the great cotton
tree. Here all halted, and crouched down.

Two leading companies formed up and were awaiting orders when,
suddenly, two signal guns were fired and, instantly, the line of
timbers was lit up by a glare of fire, and a crashing volley of
slugs was poured in. Lieutenant Greer, who was in front of the
column, fell, seriously wounded. Then, with a shout of rage that
almost drowned the order, "Charge!" they leapt to their feet and
dashed forward.

Nothing could stop the impetuous charge and, when they reached the
stockade, they scaled it and poured headlong over it. In front of
them was the war camp, through which ran a road, now crowded with
the panic-stricken defenders. As the enemy ran from their huts,
they were cut down in numbers with swords and bayonets. The din was
tremendous; yells, shouts, and groans rent the air. The path was
strewn with corpses.

The headlong race continued. Three villages had been passed, but
there was a fort behind. This also was carried. Then there was a
halt, on account of the exhaustion caused by the speed with which
all had run. There was no fear that the panic-stricken foe would
rally; but there was the possibility of a counter attack, by the
Ashantis from the war camp to the left; for it was not known that
the panic had spread to these, also, and that they too had fled in
disorder, never to return.

The four camps were burnt, one after another; the stockades pulled
down; and the force, still half mad with the excitement of the
fight, marched back to the fort. The number of casualties was very
small. Hardly one, indeed, had taken place, except those caused by
the first volley of the enemy.

In one of the houses they entered, a child was found asleep. It had
been left behind, and had not been aroused by the noise. Terrified
as it awoke, it clung to a white man for protection, and was taken
by him to a place of safety.

The force reached camp at eleven o'clock, having accomplished their
work with a success altogether beyond expectation. At eight o'clock
next morning, the column paraded for its march down. All the
wounded who were unfit for duty were left in the fort.

Not long after the start, the scouts sighted another stockade. The
troops formed up for the attack; but they found, to their surprise,
that it was deserted. Both the stockade and the war camp behind
were destroyed, without opposition.

Pressing forward they passed entrenchment after entrenchment, but
all were deserted. River after river was forded, breast high, but
no enemy was met with; although some of the entrenchments were
exceedingly formidable, and could not have been carried without
very heavy loss.

The scouts captured a young girl, from whom valuable information
was obtained. She had been sent out, like many of the other women,
to get supplies for the army at Ejesu, where the queen mother was.
It appeared that the queen had been greatly upset by the night
attack, and the capture of all the entrenchments; and had collected
all her chiefs to decide what had best be done, now that the siege
of Coomassie had been raised. Then it was understood why the
advance had not been opposed. But for this council, we should have
found every stockade occupied in force.

The expedition pushed on, and arrived at Bekwai without having to
fire a shot. The garrison there was formed up to receive and cheer
them and, what was still more appreciated, a ration of fresh meat
and another round of medical comforts were served out.

"Well, Bullen," Hallett said, the next morning, "here we are again.
I wonder how long we shall get to rest our wearied bodies."

"For my part," said Lisle, "I sha'n't be sorry when we are afoot
again. It has been hard work, and there has been some tough
fighting; but anything is better than being stuck in one of these
dreary towns. Fortunately we have both escaped bullets, and have
merely had a slight peppering of slugs and, as we have both been
put down in the reports as slightly wounded, on three occasions, we
may feel grateful, as it always does a fellow good to be mentioned
in the casualty list; and it should help you to attain that
position we spoke of, the other day, of commander-in-chief."

"I renounce that dream utterly, and aspire to nothing higher than
colonel. It must really be an awful bore to be commander-in-chief.
Fancy having to go down to your office every morning, and go into
all sorts of questions, and settle all sorts of business. No, I
think that, when I get to be a colonel, my aspirations will be
satisfied."

"I don't know that I should care even about being a colonel,
Hallett. Long before I get to that rank, I am sure that I should
have had quite enough of fighting to last for a lifetime, and would
be quite content to settle down in some little place at home."

"And marry, of course. A fellow like you would be sure to be able
to pick up a wife with money. My thoughts don't incline that way. I
look forward to the Rag as the conclusion of my career. There you
meet fellows you know, lie against each other about past campaigns,
eat capital dinners, and have your rub of whist, regularly, of an
evening."

"But, my dear Hallett, think how you would fatten out under such a
regime!"

"Oh, hang the fat, Bullen; it would not matter one way or another,
when you haven't got to do yourself up in uniform, and make
tremendous marches, and so on. I should not want to walk, at all; I
should have chambers somewhere close to the club, and could always
charter a hansom, when I wanted to go anywhere. Besides, fat is
eminently respectable, in an elderly man."

Lisle laughed merrily.

"My dear Hallett, it is useless to look forward so far into the
future. Let us content ourselves with the evils of today. In spite
of your grumbling, you know that you like the life and, if the
bullets do but spare you, I have no doubt that you will be just as
energetic a soldier as you have shown yourself in this campaign;
although I must admit that you have sometimes taken it out in
grumbling."

"Well, it is very difficult to be energetic in this country. I
think I could be enthusiastic, in anything like a decent climate,
but this takes all the spirit out of one.

"I think I could have struggled over the snow in the Tirah, as you
did. I can conceive myself wearing the D.S.O. in European war. But
how can a man keep his pecker up when he is wet through all day,
continually fording rivers, and exposed all the time to a pelting
rain and, worse than all, seeing his friends going down one after
another with this beastly fever, and feeling sure that his own turn
will come next?

"I should not mind so much if we always had a dry hut to sleep in,
but as often as not we have to sleep on the drenched ground in the
open and, consequently, get up in the morning more tired than when
we lie down. I have no doubt that, after all this is over, I shall
become a cripple from rheumatism, or be laid up with some other
disorder."

"I don't suppose you will do anything of the sort, Hallett. Of
course this fever is very trying but, although men are being
constantly sent down to the coast, the number who die from it is
not great. Only some six or seven have succumbed. I expect myself
that we shall both return to our regiments in the pink of
condition, with our medals on our breasts, and proud of the fact
that we have gone through one of the most perilous expeditions ever
achieved by British troops; and the more wonderful that, except for
a handful of English officers and non-commissioned officers, it has
been carried through successfully by a purely native army.

"I don't think we quite recognize, at present, what a big affair it
has been. We have marched through almost impenetrable bush; we have
suppressed a rebellion over a great extent of country, admirably
adapted for the mode of warfare of our enemies; and we have smashed
up an army of well-armed natives, in numbers ranging from six, to
ten to one against us."

"Yes, yes, I know all that; and I don't say that it has not been a
well-managed business; and I dare say I shall look back on it with
pleasure, some day, when I have forgotten all the miseries we have
suffered. Besides, though I do grumble, I hope we are not going to
stick here long. I could do with a week of eating and drinking--that
would be the outside. It is wretched enough tramping through swamps,
but I think I should prefer that to a prolonged stay in this hole."

"For once I agree with you thoroughly, Hallett. It is bad enough to
march in West Africa, but it is worse to sit still. It is only when
you try to do that, that you find how much you are pulled down; and
the longer you sit still, the less disposed you are to get up;
whereas, on the march, you are so full of the idea that you may be
ambushed, at any moment, that you have no time to think of your
fatigues."

"Yes, there is no doubt of that, Bullen; so I mean to spend all the
time I have to spare here on my back; and sleep, if I can,
continuously."

"Don't flatter yourself that you will be allowed to do that. You
may be sure that they will find ample work for lazy hands to do.
Now it is time to buckle on our swords, and go out and inspect our
fellows. I can see that they are mustering already."

"I wish those white non-commissioned officers would not be so
disgustingly punctual," Hallett grumbled. "They are splendid when
it comes to fighting, but they never seem to know that there is a
time for work and a time for play--or, at any rate, they never let
others play."

"They are splendid fellows," Lisle said. "I really do not know what
we should have done without them. There would be no talking of
lying down and going to sleep, if they were not there to look after
the men."

"I don't think it would make any difference to you," Hallett said,
"for it seems to me that you are always looking after your men."

"So are you, Hallett. You are just as keen about getting your
company into order as I am, only you always try to look bored over
it. It is a stupid plan, old man, for I don't think that you get
the kudos that you deserve."

"My dear Bullen, you may argue forever, but if you think that you
can transform me into a bustling, hustling fellow like yourself, I
can tell you that you are mistaken. I know that I do what I have to
do, and perhaps may not do it badly, but I don't go beyond that.

"When they say 'Do this,' I do it; when they don't say so, I don't
do it; and I fancy it comes to about the same thing, in the end."

"I suppose it does," Lisle laughed, as they issued from their hut.

"These poor fellows look as if they wanted a rest more than we do,
don't they?"

"They look horribly thin," Hallett said.

"Yes, it is well that the blacks have such good spirits, and are
always ready to chatter and laugh when the day's work is over--that
is, if it has not been an exceptionally hard one.

"Well, though I don't care about staying long here, myself, I do
hope they will give the poor fellows time to get into condition
again, before starting. I fear, however, that there is very little
chance of that."

This, indeed, turned out to be the case. Two days later,
reinforcements arrived from the coast, to increase the total
strength available for punitive expeditions. Two strong parties
then started, under Colonel Haverstock and Colonel Wilkinson. They
were to travel by different routes, and to join hands in the
neighbourhood of the sacred fetish lake, where large numbers of
Ashantis and Kokofu were reported to have assembled. The Hausa
companies did not accompany them, the columns being largely
composed of the newly-arrived troops--who were, of course, eager to
take their share of the fighting.

Lisle and Hallett did a little grumbling, but they really felt that
they required a longer period of rest, and they could not help
congratulating themselves when the columns returned, ten days
after, without having exchanged more than a shot or two with the
enemy.

They found that the country round the lake was thickly inhabited.
Many of the villages had been burnt and, in all cases, the sacred
trees had been cut down. It was quite clear that the spirit of the
enemy was greatly broken, and that the end was approaching.

"We must certainly congratulate ourselves upon having a comfortable
time of it, here," Lisle said, "instead of a ten days' tramp,
without any great result. We can manage to keep ourselves dry in
this hut, now that our men have covered it thickly with palm
leaves; whereas they have had to sleep in the open, pretty nearly
every night."

"It was good for them," Hallett said; "the fellows looked
altogether too spick and span, when they marched in. It is just as
well that they should get a little experience of the work we have
been doing, for months. I saw them, as they marched in, look with
astonishment at the state of our men's garments--or rather, I may
say, their rags. They would have grown haughty, if they had not had
a sample of the work; and their uniforms looked very different,
when they came back, from what they were when they marched away.
There is nothing like a fortnight's roughing it in the bush to take
a man, whether white or black, a peg or two down in his own
estimation.

"I was amused, the first day they arrived, when I saw their faces
at the sight of their rations. It was quite a picture. Thank
goodness we have had nothing to grumble about, in that way, since
we got our box from the coast. Chocolate for breakfast, brandy and
water at dinner, preserved meat, are quite a different thing from
the stuff they manage to give us--two or three ounces of meat,
about once a week. Those boxes of biscuits, too, have been
invaluable. The ration biscuits were for the most part wet through,
and there wasn't a wholesome crunch in a dozen of them. We have
certainly improved a lot in appearance, during the last fortnight;
and I believe that it is due to the feeding, more than the rest."

"It is due, no doubt, to both," Lisle said; "but certainly the
feeding has had a good deal to do with it."

"Those tins of soup," said Hallett, "have been really splendid. I
believe I have gained seven or eight pounds in weight, in spite of
this sweltering heat."

"You have certainly filled out a bit. I was rather thinking of
asking you to hand over all the soups to me, so that you should not
gain weight so fast."

"That would have been a modest request, indeed, Bullen!"

"It was a case of true friendship," Lisle laughed. "I know how you
have appreciated your loss of flesh."

"You be blowed!" Hallett said. "If they would run to half a dozen
tins a day, I can tell you I would take them, whatever the
consequences."

"Well, really, I do think, Hallett, those few cases have saved us
from fever. I felt so utterly washed out, when we arrived here,
that I began to think I was in for a bad attack."

"Same here, Bullen. I fought against the feeling because I dreaded
that hospital tent and, still more, being carried down country."

"Yes; we certainly did a clever thing, when we bought up everything
we could, that day we were in Cape Coast. Our servants, too, have
turned out most satisfactory. Poor beggars! though the weather has
been so bad, there has scarcely been a night when they have not
managed to make a little fire, and boil water either to mix with
our tot of rum, or to make a cup of tea."

"Yes, they have turned out uncommonly well. We must certainly make
them a handsome present, when this is all over. It was awfully
lucky we brought up a good supply of tea with us, and condensed
milk. I am certain that the hot drink, at night, did wonders in the
way of keeping off fevers."

"That is so, Lisle; there is nothing that will keep the wet out, or
at least prevent it from doing harm, like a cup of hot tea with the
allowance of rum in it. I am sure I don't know what we should have
done, without it. That tea and milk were all that we could bring,
especially as our carriers were cut down to one man, each."

"That was your idea, Lisle, and I agree that it has been the saving
of us. I was rather in favour of bringing spirits, myself; but I
quite admit, now, that it would have been a great mistake. Besides,
half a dozen pounds of tea does not weigh more than a couple of
bottles of spirits; which would have been gone in four or five
days, while the tea has held out for months. I never was much of a
tea drinker before. It is all very well to take a cup at an
afternoon tea fight, but that was about the extent of my indulgence
in the beverage. In future I shall become what is called a votary,
and shall cut down my spirits to the narrowest limit."

"That would be running to the opposite extreme, Hallett. Too much
tea is just as bad as too much spirits."

"Ah! Well, I can breakfast with coffee or cocoa. The next time I go
on the march, I shall take two or three pounds of cocoa in my box.
Many a time I have longed for a cup, when we have started at three
o'clock in the morning, and have felt that it would be well worth a
guinea a cup. Now I shall have the satisfaction of always starting
with a good warm drink, which is as good for hunger as thirst. I
have often wondered how I could have been fool enough not to bring
a supply with me."

"Yes, it would have been very comforting," Lisle agreed; "we shall
know better, another time."

"I trust that there will never be another time like this for me. I
shall be ready to volunteer for service in any part of the world,
bar Western Africa. They say that the troops at the Cape are going
through a hard time, but I am convinced that it is child's play in
comparison with our work here. Why, they have hours, and indeed
days, sometimes, without rain. Just think of that, my dear fellow!
Just think of it! And when the rain does fall, it soon sinks into
the sandy soil and, if they lie down at night, they only get wet on
one side, and have waterproof sheets to lie on. Just think of that!
And yet, they actually consider that they are going through
hardships!

"They say, too, that the commissariat arrangements are splendid.
They get meat rations every day--every day, mind you--and I hear
they even get jam. It is enough to fill one with envy. I remember I
was always fond of jam, as a boy. I can tell you that, when I get
back to civilization, one of my first cries will be for jam. Fancy
jam spread thickly on new bread!

"And men who have all these luxuries think that they are roughing
it! Certainly human ingratitude is appalling!"

Lisle laughed.

"But you must remember that there are compensations. We get a fight
every two or three days, while they have often to tramp two or
three hundred miles, without catching sight of an enemy at all."

"There is certainly something in that," Hallett said. "I must admit
that that is a great consolation; and it is satisfactory, too, that
when we do fight we are fired at principally with slugs; which we
both know from experience are not pleasant customers, but at any
rate are a great improvement upon rifle bullets, pom poms, and
shells of all sizes.

"Yes, I don't even grudge them the jam, when I think how awful it
must be to be kept, for months, at some miserable little station on
the railway, guarding the roads. We get restless here at the end of
three or four days, but fancy spending months at it!"

"Besides, Hallett, in such places they get their rations regularly,
and have nothing to do but to eat and get fat. If you were living
under such conditions, you would be something awful at the end of
six months of it."

"There is a great deal in that," Hallett said, thoughtfully. "Yes;
I don't know that, after all, the gains and advantages are not with
us; and indeed, if we had our time to go over again, we could make
ourselves fairly comfortable.

"In the first place, I should purchase a large ground sheet, which
I might use as a tent. I would have a smaller one to lie upon, and
the biggest mackintosh that money could buy. Then, as you say, with
a good supply of tea and chocolate, I could make myself extremely
happy.

"I cannot think why the authorities did not point out the necessity
for these things, before we started. They must have known it was
going to rain like old boots, all the time. I don't mean, of
course, the authorities at Cape Coast, because I don't suppose any
of these things could have been picked up there; but we should have
been told, when we got our orders, that such things were essential.
Really, the stupidity and thoughtlessness of the War Office are
beyond belief."

"I should advise you to draw up a memorial to them, pointing out
their want of thought and care; and suggesting that, in every room,
there should be a printed reminder that mackintoshes and ground
sheets are essential, in a campaign in Western Africa in the wet
season."

"Yes, and cocoa and tea," Hallett said, with a laugh. "I should
like to hear the remarks of the War Office, when my communication
was read. It would flutter the dove cot, and the very next steamer
would bring out an intimation that Lieutenant John Hallett's
services were no longer required."

"No doubt that would be the case, Hallett; but think what an
inestimable service you would have done, in campaigning out here!"

"That is all very well, Bullen, but I should recommend you to try
your eloquence upon someone else. Perhaps you might find someone of
a more self-sacrificing nature who would take the matter in hand."

"Perhaps I might, but I rather fancy that I should not. The only
man who could do it is Willcocks. After the victories he has won,
even the War Office could hardly have the face to retire him from
the service for making such a suggestion. Besides, the public would
never stand it; and he is just the sort of fellow to carry out the
idea, if he took to it."

"I agree with you, Bullen, as in the end I almost always do, and
should suggest most strongly that you lay the matter before him. No
doubt, if he applied, the War Office would send out a hundred
waterproofs and two hundred ground sheets, for the use of the
officers, by the next ship sailing from England."

"I might do it," Lisle laughed, "if it were not that the rainy
season will be at an end before the things arrive here."

"That is a very good excuse, Bullen; but I hope that, at any rate,
you will carry out your idea before the next wet season
begins--that is, if we are kept on here, as a punishment for our
sins."

At this moment one of the non-commissioned officers came in with a
letter, and Hallett opened it.

"Oh dear," he said, in a tone of deepest disgust, "we are off
again!"

"Thank goodness!" Lisle said. "You know we were just agreeing that
we have had enough of this place."

"I often say foolish things," Hallett said, "and must not be taken
too literally. Here is an end to our meat rations, and to all our
other little luxuries. Besides, I have been getting my tunic
washed, and it will certainly take three or four days to dry in
this steaming atmosphere."

"Well, my dear fellow, you can put it on wet, for it is certain to
be wet before we have gone a quarter of an hour. My tunic has gone,
too, but at any rate they will both look more respectable for the
washing.

"Well, I suppose we had better go across to headquarters and find
out what the route is, and who are going."

As they went out, they saw the return of the Central African
Regiment. They had been more fortunate than the other regiments,
having captured and razed Djarchi. They had taken the enemy by
surprise, and run them right through the town, with only a single
casualty. They had ascertained that the enemy had been commanded by
the brother of the Ashanti commander-in-chief, and that he had been
killed in the fight.

A very large amount of spoil had been captured, the first haul of
any importance that had been made during the campaign. Among the
loot were the king of the Kokofu's iron boxes, containing much
official correspondence; union jacks, elephant tails, and other
symbols of royalty, together with gold ornaments, gold dust, and
two hundred pounds of English money; numbers of brass-nailed,
vellum-backed chairs, part of the Ashanti chief's regalia; robes,
guns, ammunition, drums, and horns, and also sheep and poultry.

A company was at once despatched to the Sacred Lake, to join Major
Cramer's levies, which had been told off to act as locusts and eat
up the country. Colonel Wilson was ordered to go to Accra, to
reorganize and recruit the remnant of the Gold Coast Force; so
that, when the campaign was over, they could again take over the
military control of the colony. It was also decided that Bekwai
could no longer be occupied, and that all the stores there should
be removed to Esumeja, as the whole main road up to Coomassie would
shortly be open.

At last all was in readiness for the general and final advance. All
the Adansi country to the south, and Kokofu to the east had been
conquered, and the roads cleared. The next step was to clear
Northern Ashanti; neglecting altogether, for the present, the
parties of the enemy between the southern boundaries of Ashanti
territory and their capital.

It was therefore decided to move the whole of the headquarters
staff and the advance base to Coomassie, Esumeja being selected as
the point, between it and Kwisa, to be held in force. The general
plan was to send up all the stores, carriers, and troops via Pekki,
as had been done on both previous occasions. This would reduce the
chance of attack and loss to a minimum while, simultaneously, a
fighting column with the smallest possible transport would follow
the road through Kokofu and take Ejesu, which was the residence of
the queen mother, and the headquarters of the remnant of the
Ashanti army.

The general opinion was that it would be the last fight of the
year. Colonel Brake, who was the last arrival, having had no chance
of a fight hitherto, was selected for the command. The whole force
was to advance, and five thousand carriers were required to effect
the movement.

There was general joy when it was known that Bekwai was to be
evacuated. It was a dull, dirty place, surrounded by dense, dark
forests, and was in a terribly insanitary state. Europeans were
rapidly losing their strength, and an epidemic of smallpox was
raging among the natives, of whom a dozen or more died daily.

On the 28th of August Colonel Burroughs left Bekwai, with seven
hundred and fifty men, and three thousand carriers taking
ammunition and baggage. The column was fully two miles long. They
had an extremely heavy march, and did not arrive at their
destination till night. The carriers returned to Bekwai the next
day, so as to be ready to march out at daylight, on the 30th, with
the second column.

The troops at Pekki being in enforced idleness, half of them
marched out to attack the enemy's war camp, which had for so long
threatened Pekki. The place was found to be evacuated, and it and
the bush camps on the way were all burnt.

The second column had now well started. The downfall of rain
continued without intermission, and the roads became worse than
ever. The day after the first column left Pekki, Colonel Brake
started with eight hundred men and two guns.

The news came in that the king of Akim had been asked, by a number
of the Kokofu, to intercede on their behalf for peace; and a
messenger with a flag of truce came in from the Djarchi district.
The appearance of the messenger was singular. He was completely
clad in white, even his skin being painted that colour, and he
carried an enormous white flag. He was well received, but was sent
back with a message that the chiefs must come in themselves.

On the 30th Colonel Willcocks arrived and, the next day, the whole
force started in fighting formation for Coomassie, where they
arrived after twelve hours' march. The distance was only twelve
miles, so the condition of the roads may be well imagined by the
time the column took to traverse them.



Chapter 19: Lost In The Forest.


On the way up, Lisle met with a very unpleasant adventure. He and
Hallett had been sent out, with a small party of men, to enter the
bush and drive out any of the enemy who might be lurking, for the
purpose of attacking the carriers and rear guard. They went some
distance into the bush but, though they came upon tracks that had
recently been cut, they saw none of the enemy. Some men were
planted on each of these paths; and the two officers, who had
followed one a little distance farther into the bush, were on the
point of turning, when they heard men cutting their way through the
undergrowth behind them.

"Hide, Hallett!" Lisle exclaimed, "they must be enemies."

Illustration: They saw a strong party of the enemy crossing the
road.

As noiselessly as they could they took refuge in the thick bush
and, a minute later, saw a strong party of the enemy crossing the
road that they had just passed along. There were several hundred of
them. Some thirty or forty halted on the path. The others continued
to cut a track through and, in five minutes, a scattered fire was
opened, showing that they had come in contact with the troops. The
fire was kept up for some time, and then died away; whether because
the troops had retired, or because the natives had turned off and
taken some other line, they could not be sure. Later they heard
very heavy firing abreast of them, and guessed that the Ashantis
had followed some other path, and come down on the convoy.

Peering through the bushes, from time to time, they found that
those who had halted on the path were still there, probably in
waiting for some chief or other who was to take command of them.

"We are in a nice mess, Bullen," said Hallett. "By the sound the
convoy is still moving on, so how we are to rejoin them, I don't
know."

"Yes, we are certainly in a hole and, if these fellows stop here
till night, I see no chance of our being able to move. The
slightest rustle in the bushes would bring them down upon us, in no
time. The firing is getting more and more distant every moment and,
no doubt, a big body of the enemy have engaged our fellows.

"I have been in a good many tight places, but I think this is the
worst of them. Our only course, so far as I can see, is to wait
till nightfall; and then, if these fellows still stick here, get
into the path again, and follow it up till we come to some path
going the other way. Then it will be a pure question of luck
whether we hit upon the enemy, or not. If we do, of course we must
fight till the last, keeping the last shot in our revolvers for
ourselves. I have no intention of falling into their hands alive,
and going through terrible tortures before I am put to death."

"That really seems to be the only thing to be done, Bullen.
However, we must hope for the best."

When night fell, a fire was lit by the party on the path.

"The beggars evidently mean to stay here," Lisle said, "and even if
they moved away we should be no better off for, as the column will
be ten miles away by now, we should really have no chance of
regaining it."

When night fell they crept out of the bush, taking the greatest
care not to make any noise, for the natives were but thirty yards
away. They crawled along for forty or fifty yards and then, a turn
in the path hiding them from sight, they rose to their feet and
pushed on.

They found, however, that it was no easy matter to make headway. It
was pitch dark, owing to the canopy of leaves, and they had to feel
their way at every step. The path, moreover, was constantly turning
and twisting. After travelling for upwards of two hours, they came
to a point where two paths met and, without knowing, they took the
one that led off to the left. This they followed for some hours,
and then lay down to rest. They awoke at daybreak.

"I wonder where we have got to," Hallett said.

"I am afraid somehow we have gone wrong," Lisle exclaimed, after
looking round, "and the light seems to be coming from the wrong
quarter, altogether. We must have turned off from the main path
without knowing it, and tramped a long distance in the wrong
direction."

"I believe you are right, Bullen. What on earth are we to do now?
Retrace our steps, or push on and chance it?"

"We have the choice of two evils, Hallett, but I think it would be
better to go on than to turn back. In the first place, however, we
must search for something to eat. We crossed several little streams
on our way, so I don't think we are likely to be hard up for water;
but food we must have. The natives are always able to find food in
the forest and, if we cannot do that, we may come upon some
deserted village, and get some bananas. We might even steal some,
at night, from a village that is not deserted. At any rate, it is
useless to stay here."

They set out at once, moving cautiously, and stopping frequently to
listen for the soft trail of naked feet. They came at last to the
spot where they had left the other track. Here they held another
council, and decided that there was too much risk in turning on to
the main path again; as that was sure to be occupied by the enemy,
who would be burying their dead, or examining any loot that they
had captured from the carriers. After proceeding two or three
miles, they came upon another path on the right.

"This path," said Lisle, "will take us in the proper direction."

"I doubt if we shall ever get there," Hallett said. "I am feeling
as hungry as a rat, already; and we have seen nothing to put
between our lips since we started out, yesterday morning."

"It is a little rough," Lisle said cheerfully, "but we must hit
upon a village, presently."

"I should not mind, if the path went on straight," Hallett said,
"but it zigzags so much that we can never feel certain that we are
going in the right direction."

"Well, you see," said Lisle, "we have passed two tracks to the
left, since we struck into this road. I cannot help thinking that
these must lead to villages, and that the one we are following is a
sort of connecting link between them. I vote that we stop at the
next one we come to."

"All right, old man! It seems to me that it will make no great
difference which way we go. Indeed, so far as I can make out, by
the glimpses we get of the sun, the path has turned a great deal,
and is now going right back to that from which it started."

"I am afraid you are right, Hallett. However, there is one thing
certain. The Ashantis don't cut paths through their forests without
some reason, and I should not be surprised if we come to some large
village, not far ahead."

After walking for another half hour, they found the bush getting
thinner, and they could soon see light ahead. They went very
cautiously now and, at last, stood at the end of a large clearing,
in which stood an Ashanti village.

"Thank God there is something to eat ahead!" said Hallett. "There
are lots of bananas growing round the village and, when it gets
dark, we will get two big bunches. That should last us some time."

Utterly exhausted, they both lay down just inside the bush. Many
villagers were moving about and, twice, native runners came in. The
afternoon passed very slowly; but at length the sun set, and
darkness fell quickly. They waited a couple of hours, to allow the
village to get comparatively quiet; then they crept forward, and
cut two great bunches of bananas from the first tree they came to
and, returning to the forest, sat down and ate a hearty meal.

"I feel very much better," Hallett said, when he had finished.
"Now, let us talk over what we had better do next."

"I should say we had better keep along by the edge of the bush, and
see if we can strike some other path. It would be useless to go
back by this one, as it would simply take us to the place we
started from."

Hallett readily agreed to this suggestion, and the two officers
started and gradually worked round the village. Presently they
struck another path. Turning up this they again pushed forward,
each carrying his bunch of bananas. After walking two hours, they
lay down. The darkness was so dense that their rate of progress was
extremely slow.

In the morning they went on again but, after walking for some
hours, they came suddenly upon four of the enemy. As soon as these
saw them, they rushed on them with a yell, firing their guns as
they did so. Both were struck with slugs; and Lisle was knocked
down, but quickly jumped to his feet again, revolver in hand. The
Ashantis charged with their spears, but the revolver bullets were
too much for them and, one by one, they dropped, the last man being
shot just as he reached them. Two were only wounded, but Lisle shot
them both.

"It would never do," he said, "for any of them to get to a village,
and bring all its occupants upon us. We are neither of us fit to do
much running, and the beggars would be sure to overtake us."

"It is horrid," Hallett said, "though I admit that it is
necessary."

For four days they wandered on. The path never seemed to run
straight. Though they found a plentiful supply of bananas, their
strength was gradually failing.

On the fourth day they came upon a sheet, doubtless a portion of
some officer's baggage that had been looted. Hallett, who was
walking fast, passed it contemptuously. Lisle, however, picked it
up and wound it round his body.

"We can lay it over us, Hallett, at night. It will at least help to
keep the damp off us."

"We sha'n't want it long," Hallett said; "I think the game is
almost up."

"Not a bit of it," Lisle said, cheerfully. "In spite of the turns
and twistings we have made, I think we cannot be far from
Coomassie, now. I thought I heard the sound of guns this morning,
and it could have been from nowhere else."

Late that afternoon they came suddenly upon a great war camp and,
at once, sat down in the bushes.

"What is to be done now?" Hallett said. "We cannot go back again.
We are neither of us fit to walk a couple of miles."

Lisle sat for some minutes without answering him, and then said
suddenly:

"I have an idea. I will cut down a sapling, seven or eight feet
long; and fasten the sheet to it, so as to make a flag of truce.
Then we will walk boldly into the village, and summon it to
surrender. It is a bold stroke, but it may succeed. We know that
most of them are getting tired of the war. We can give out that we
have lost our way in the bush and, if the fellows take it kindly,
well and good; but if not, we shall have our revolvers, and shall,
of course, use them on ourselves."

"I am game to carry it out, Bullen. Your idea is a splendid one.
Anyhow, it is our last chance. I really don't think I could go a
mile farther. We know enough of their language to make ourselves
understood."

"Yes. What with our servants, the Hausas, and the carriers, we have
both picked up a good deal of the language."

With renewed spirits they cut down a sapling, stripped it of all
its leaves and branches and, fastening the sheet to it, walked
straight down towards the camp. There was an immediate stir in the
camp. Many of the Ashantis ran for their arms but, when they saw
that the two officers were alone, they calmed down. Presently two
chiefs advanced, followed by some twenty warriors.

"Now, Bullen, muster up your knowledge of the language, and address
them. Lay it on pretty thick."

"Chiefs," Lisle said, "we are come to you from the governor of
Coomassie. He says that it must be clear to you, now, that you
cannot stand against the white man; and that you will only bring
ruin upon yourselves, and your country, by further resistance. They
have therefore sent us to say that, if you will surrender, a small
fine only shall be imposed upon you; and that your soldiers may
retire to their villages, after having laid down their arms. While
you are talking about this, we shall be glad if you will give us
some provisions; for we have lost our way in the bush, coming here,
and need food."

"If you follow me into the village," one of the chiefs said,
"provisions shall be served to you, while we talk over what you
say. We shall be glad of peace; for we see that, however strongly
we make our stockades, your soldiers always take them. Our men are
beginning to long to return to their people, for they have fought
many times, and already have begun to complain. Do you guarantee
our safety, if we return with you to your fort?"

"I can promise that," Lisle said. "We respect brave men, and are
anxious that there should be an end to this fighting. When it is
over, you will again live under the protection of our government,
and the past will be forgotten. You attacked us without reason, and
have suffered heavily for it. This is the third time that we have
had to come up, and we hope that it will never be necessary to do
so, again. We recognize each other's valour; we have each made
sacrifices; and we hope that, when this war is over, we shall live
together in peace. Had we only been armed as you are, the fortunes
of war might have gone differently; but we have rifles and guns,
and these must always give us victory, in the long run."

"We will talk it over," the chief said. "While we do so, you shall
have food."

So saying, he turned and led the way to a house in the village,
where food and native spirit were set before them.

"Your dodge has succeeded admirably," Hallett said, as they were
waiting for the meal. "I think they will surrender."

"I hope they will," Lisle said; "but at any rate, I think they will
treat us as coming in under a flag of truce; and will perhaps send
an escort with us back to the camp. However, they are preparing a
meal for us and, if the worst comes to the worst, it is much better
to die full than fasting."

In a quarter of an hour two women entered; one carrying a bowl with
four chickens, and a quantity of rice; the other a large jug of
water, and a smaller one of native spirit. Not a word was spoken,
while the meal was being eaten. At the end, nothing but bones
remained of the four chickens.

"Thank God for a good dinner!" Hallett said, after the meal was
over. "I feel, at present, at peace with all men; and I can safely
recommend the chiefs, when they arrive at Coomassie, as being
first-rate fellows; while I am sure that the chief will be greatly
pleased that we have secured the submission of their tribe. It will
be a big feather in our caps. When I came in here, I thought I
could not go another mile to save my life; now I feel perfectly
game for a seven or eight mile march to Coomassie."

At this moment, they noticed that there was a great hubbub in the
camp. Half an hour later, the chiefs entered.

"We accept the terms you bring," one of them said, "and will go
with you on condition that, if the terms are not as you say, we
shall be allowed to return here, unmolested."

"That I can promise you," Lisle said. "We have not come here
without reason, and the terms we offer are those that you can
accept without dishonour. I can assure you of as good treatment as
you have given us; and permission to leave the fort, and return to
your people, if you are dissatisfied with the terms."

A quarter of an hour later the party--consisting of the two chiefs,
ten armed followers, and the two officers--set out. The camp was,
they learned, about six miles from Coomassie. After a march of
three hours, they emerged from the forest into the cleared space
round the fort. When they reached the outlying sentries they were
challenged, but a word from Lisle sufficed to pass them on.

As they approached the fort a number of soldiers gathered round
them and, when they neared the entrance, Colonel Willcocks himself
came out.

"You remain here with the chiefs, Bullen. I will go on, and explain
matters to the chief."

Lisle nodded, and Hallett hurried forward, while the others halted.

"Why, Mr. Hallett," Colonel Willcocks said, "we had given you up
for dead; you and Mr. Bullen, whom I see over there. Whatever have
you been doing now?"

Hallett gave a brief account of their adventure.

"You will probably be annoyed at us for acting as your messengers
but, as we have induced the two leaders of the large war camp to
come in, I trust that we shall be forgiven. We have promised them
permission for their force to return, unmolested, to their
villages; and I may say, from the formidable stockades they have
made there, this result could not have been achieved, otherwise,
without very heavy loss.

"I wish to say that the idea was entirely Bullen's. It seemed to be
the only chance of getting through; for we were both utterly
exhausted, when we reached the village."

"I think you have done extremely well, Hallett. I was about to send
a force to capture that camp; and I am glad, indeed, of being
relieved of the necessity of doing so. It means, perhaps, the
saving of a couple of hundred lives. Besides, we should probably
not have caught quarter of them; and the rest would have taken to
the bush, and continued to give us trouble.

"Tell me exactly what the terms are, upon which they are willing to
surrender."

"Simply the lives and freedom of the chiefs; and permission to
their men to retire, unmolested, to their villages."

"Those are exactly the terms I have offered to some of their
chiefs, who had sent in to ask for terms. Now, I will speak to them
myself."

He accordingly walked forward, with Hallett, to where the chiefs
were standing.

"I am glad, indeed, chiefs," he said, "that you have decided to
take no further part in the war. You will stay here with us, until
I hear that your camp is broken up; and you will then be at liberty
to return to your own grounds. I thank you for receiving my
messengers so kindly; as a reward for which I shall, when you
leave, present you each with five hundred dollars. Henceforth, I
trust that you will always remain on good terms with us, do all you
can to aid us by sending in carriers, and will accept our rule
frankly and truly.

"Now, I will ask you to come into the fort; where you will be
treated as guests, until I hear of the dispersal of your camps."

The chiefs were much gratified by their reception; and sent off the
escort, at once, to order the camp to be abandoned and burnt, and
the stockades to be pulled down. Then they followed Colonel
Willcocks into the fort, where a room was assigned to them, and
everything done for their comfort.

As soon as the governor had retired with them, the other officers
flocked down round Hallett and Lisle, to learn their adventures.
Both were warmly congratulated upon their safe return; and Lisle
came in for a large share of their congratulations when, in spite
of his protestations, Hallett insisted on giving him the largest
share of credit for the manner in which he had suggested the
scheme, and had unquestionably been the means of saving their
lives.

"Hallett had everything to do with it, except that," he said; "and
that was only an accidental idea. We mutually helped each other,
during those long days of tramping; and it was most fortunate for
me that he was with me for, had I been alone, I don't think I
should have had the strength of mind or body to hold on, when the
prospect seemed altogether hopeless."

As they went down to the lines of their company, they were
surrounded by the delighted blacks; who continued to cheer so
heartily that it was some time before they could get an opportunity
to tell what had taken place. Cheers again broke out, when the
stories were finished. The men insisted on shaking their hands, and
then started a war dance to show their satisfaction.

Then both retired to a shelter erected for them and, lying down,
slept for some hours. When they awoke they ate a hearty meal; after
which they agreed that, in a day or two, they would be fit for duty
again.

"I shall mention your conduct in my despatches," the colonel said,
next day. "You have not only saved your own lives; but have
rendered very important service, in inducing those two chiefs and
their followers to submit. From the information that we have been
able to get, their camp was very strongly fortified, and could only
have been taken after hard fighting; and even then, as has happened
on all previous occasions, the main body would have escaped,
rallied again a short distance away, and given us all the trouble
of dispersing them, once more. As it is, I have no doubt that the
influence of their chiefs will keep them quiet and, indeed,
scattered as they will be among their villages, it will be
difficult to persuade them to take up arms again.

"On second thoughts, I allowed them to leave this morning, with a
column that was starting to collect the arms of the garrison. They
seemed quite in earnest; and will, I have no doubt, succeed in
inducing their men to part with their arms, without a squabble."

The detachment, indeed, returned in the evening. The success of
their mission had been complete; and the natives had handed over
their arms, and started off with their chiefs into the forests,
after burning the camp and razing the stockades. They all seemed
highly pleased that they should not be called upon for more
fighting, and had individually taken an oath that they would never
again fight the white men.

Several other flags of truce came in, and many chiefs surrendered.
The Queen Mother, the most important of the leaders, tendered her
submission. Colonel Willcocks gave her four days in which to prove
the truth of her submission by coming in, in person. Shortly,
however, before the truce expired, she sent in an impudent message
that she would fight till the end.

Some of the chiefs who had been foremost in their opposition, and
who had personally taken part in the torture and death of those who
fell into their hands, were tried by court martial; and either shot
or hanged, it being necessary to prove to the natives that even
their greatest chiefs were not spared, and that certain punishment
would be dealt out to those who had taken part in the murder of
soldiers, or carriers, who had fallen into their hands.

The greatest tragedy of this campaign became known, on the 8th of
September, through a letter from a native clerk who was with the
Akim levies, which were commanded by Captains Willcox and Benson.
These levies had worked up on our right flank, as we advanced from
the south, in the same way as the Denkeras had done on the west.
They were as cowardly, and as terrified of the Ashantis, as all the
other neighbouring races. In fact, the only work they were fit for
was living in deserted villages, or cutting crops and eating up the
produce.

Three thousand of these levies were ordered to cooperate with
Colonel Brake's column. They were met by the Ashantis, and bolted
as soon as the latter opened fire; and Captain Benson, deserted by
his cowardly followers, fell. In a letter he had sent home, a few
days before his death, he expressed in the strongest terms his
opinion of the men under his command, saying:

"If it comes to a real show, after all, Heaven help us!
Three-quarters of my protective army are arrant cowards, all
undisciplined, and quite impossible to hold."

The native levies cannot be compared with the disciplined troops.
They were simply a motley mob, armed with stray guns, arms, and
powder, and their pay is what they can loot; whereas the African
private's drill and duties are identical with those of the British
private. His orders are given to him in English, and his knowledge
of our language is probably superior to that of most Indian or
Egyptian soldiers; while the British soldiers in West Africa are
rarely able to understand the language of their men.

A column had started, at once, to Captain Willcox's assistance.
They returned, however, in ten days, having been unable to come up
to him, as he had retired fifty miles farther to the east. They had
no fighting, the enemy having gone north; but they ascertained that
all the country immediately to the south was free from rebels and
desirous of peace. The spot where Captain Benson's action had been
fought was strewn with dead bodies, baggage, and rifles; evidence
of the disordered flight. It seemed that the levies bolted, as soon
as they were fired on. Then, with a few trained volunteers, the
white men hastily entrenched themselves; and held out till late in
the afternoon when, their ammunition having run short, they were
compelled to retire, which they did fighting. It was during the
retreat that Captain Benson was shot.

Another column came in on the following day, after five days'
reconnaissance. It had gone by the same road by which the governor
had broken out, on the 23rd of June. The road was entirely
deserted, the villages destroyed, and the crops burnt. They made no
attempt to search the bush but, on the path, they found
ninety-eight headless skeletons; a painful testimony of the number
of soldiers and carriers who had died of privation, and hardship,
during the retreat.

Information now came in that, to the north, the most reckless of
the Ashantis had again concentrated, and were determined to make
another stand. On the 16th there was a big review of the seventeen
hundred troops and the nine guns of the garrison. The heavy guns
were exercised on a stockade, similar to those of the enemy.
Hitherto they had not been altogether successful; as it was found
that, owing to the large bursting charge, the range had to be
estimated at double its real distance. Six shots smashed a
barricade which was six feet high by six feet thick.

Friendly chiefs, who were invited to witness the experiment, were
profoundly impressed; and there can be no doubt that the feat was
reported to the enemy in the field, for they raised no stockade in
the future, and reverted to their old plan of bush fighting.

The heavy and continuous rains were now rapidly bringing on
sickness, and the officers were attacked in forms that were quite
novel to them.

"I don't know what is the matter with me," Lisle said, one morning,
"but I am swollen all round the neck. I once had mumps, when I was
a little boy and, if it were not so ridiculous, I should declare
that I had got them again."

Hallett burst into a fit of laughter.

"I expect you are going to have all your old illnesses
again--scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, and the rest. We
must see that the hut is fitted up for you, with something as much
like a bed as possible, and a fire for making a posset, or whatever
they give you."

"It is all very well for you to laugh, Hallett, but look at my
neck."

"Well, it is swollen," Hallett agreed; "and I expect that you have
caught a cold, when we were wandering about in the bush. Seriously,
I should advise you to put a piece of warm flannel round your neck,
or else go across and consult the doctor."

"I think I will do so, Hallett. It hurts a good deal, I can tell
you and, as you see, I can hardly drink my tea."

After breakfast was over, he went to the tent of the principal
doctor.

"I have come, sir," he said, "to ask you about my neck."

"You don't say so, Bullen! Why, yours is the third case I have seen
this morning! Let me look at it.

"Yes, the symptoms are just the same as in the others. If this were
England, I should say that an epidemic of mumps has broken out; but
of course it cannot be that.

"Well, I have sent the other two into hospital, and you had better
go there, too. Is it painful?"

"It is rather painful, and I can hardly swallow at all."

"Well, when I come across to the hospital, I will put you in with
the others. I certainly cannot make out what it is, nor why it came
on so suddenly. The only thing I can put it down to is the constant
rains that we have been having, though I really don't see why wet
weather should have that effect. I should advise you to keep on hot
poultices."

In the evening another patient came in, and Lisle burst out
laughing, when he saw that it was Hallett.

"Oh, you have come to the nursery, have you? I hope you have made
up your mind to go through scarlet fever, or measles, Hallett?"

"Don't chaff. It is no laughing matter."

"No? I thought you took it quite in that light, this morning. Well,
you see we have all got poultices on; and the orderly will make one
for you, at once. My face is bigger than it was this morning, and
what it is going to come to, I cannot imagine. Although the doctor
said, frankly, that he did not understand it; he seemed to think
that there was nothing very serious about it."

The next day the swelling had abated and, two days later, both of
them were discharged from the hospital; to their great delight, for
they heard that a column was just going to start, and that their
companies were included in it.

On the following day the column started. It was nearly a thousand
strong, with guns, and rations for twenty-eight days. This force
was to penetrate into the northwestern country. The enemy here had
sent an impudent message that they would not surrender; and that,
if they were attacked, they intended to revert to their former
tactics, and direct all their efforts to shooting down the officers
and, when these were disposed of, they would have little difficulty
in dealing with the native troops.

On the second day, when twenty-five miles from Coomassie, the enemy
were met with in force; and it was found that the message they had
sent was true, for there was no stockade, and the enemy resorted
entirely to sniping. They were commanded by Kofia, one of the most
turbulent and determined of their chiefs. The attack did not come
as a surprise for, the day before, a number of Ashantis had been
found in a village which was rushed. The active allies now searched
the woods thoroughly, and succeeded in ascertaining the spot where
the enemy had their war camp. They had been careful that the
Ashantis had no notion of our approach, and a number of them were
shot down by the Maxims and rifles.

The enemy, who held a strong position on the hilltop, rushed down
and attacked our front and flank. Their number was estimated at
four thousand. Three companies on each side entered the bush, and
soon succeeded in pressing the enemy into a path; where they were
fiercely charged by the West African Field Force, under Major
Melliss. That officer was wounded; and Captain Stevenson, who was
close to him, was shot in the chest.

For a moment the soldiers wavered but, almost immediately, dashed
on again to avenge the loss of their officers. The charge was very
effective. Those of the enemy who gradually assembled were
bayoneted, and the rest fled.

Captain Stevenson's death was greatly regretted. He and Captain
Wright, of another company, had asked for leave to accompany the
force. As the one had no better claim than the other, Colonel
Willcocks suggested that they should toss for it. They did so, and
Captain Stevenson won; but what he deemed his good fortune cost him
his life.

After the fight was over, there was a short pause to reorganize the
force; and an advance was made to a village, three miles ahead, the
intention being to attack the next morning. That evening, however,
a flag came in, with an offer to surrender. Word was sent back that
the offer would be accepted, if made unconditionally; and at seven
o'clock in the evening a chief, a large number of men, four hundred
guns, and some sheep arrived. They said that Kofia was holding a
village, farther on; and would again give fight there. The force
returned with them to Coomassie.

The next day, some scouts brought in the news that the enemy had
again concentrated, and their numbers had been raised to four
thousand by their junction with another fighting tribe. Kofia was
in command, and a big war camp had been established some twelve
miles away on the Berekum road. Berekum itself, which was a hundred
and forty miles to the north, was reported to be invested, and had
asked for help but, as so large an Ashanti force was near at hand,
no men could be spared for the purpose.

A column twelve hundred strong, with five guns, and every available
man in the garrison who could carry a gun, moved out early on the
29th, to give battle. It was followed by a supply column, and the
bulk of the carriers.

Nine miles were accomplished without any opposition. Then a small
Adansi outpost retired on their approach. The commandant decided to
halt, for the night, at a deserted village. It was a miserable
place. The huts had all been burnt by the rebels; so that the
troops had to sleep in the open, in a steady downpour of rain. The
Europeans tried to get rest in some hastily-constructed shelters,
but a perfect tornado of wind was blowing, and swept the ground on
which they were built.

Next day the troops marched, in their drenched clothes, through a
heavy rain. Between seven and eight, however, this ceased and,
almost at the same moment, a tremendous fire burst out upon them.
The advance guard and support at once became engaged, but the enemy
clung with such determination to their position, and contested
every foot of the ground so stoutly, that two companies of
reinforcements had to be called up.

Two companies were sent out into the bush, and eventually succeeded
in getting partly behind the enemy, and forcing them to retreat.
More troops were sent out on the left; and a company was instructed
to move through the bush, on an extended line. In this way the
enemy were driven out of the jungle, and forced to retire slowly up
the hill.

Then the main column started, led by Major Melliss and headed by
the Sikhs. The enemy, however, did not fly; and Major Melliss
dashed into the thick of them, with the few men he could collect.
An Ashanti fired at him, at close quarters; but a native soldier
ran the man through. As they struggled on the ground, another
Ashanti fired at Major Melliss, hitting him in the foot. He was
practically unarmed, as he could use neither his sword nor his
revolver; and would have been killed, had not another officer come
up and shot the wounded Ashanti.

As the head of the column reached the spot, a heavy fire was
directed upon the enemy, who were soon in headlong flight. The
village in the rear of the position was taken, at the point of the
bayonet. One hundred and fifty of their dead were found, lying on
the battlefield; and it was learned, from prisoners, that over five
hundred had been wounded.

The defeat was a crushing one. Several of their most determined
chiefs were found among the dead. So hopelessly demoralized were
the enemy that they never rallied again.

The victory had been achieved with very small loss, owing to the
excellence of Colonel Willcocks' force. The casualties consisted
only of two officers severely, and two slightly wounded; and
twenty-six rank and file killed and wounded.

When the wounded had been dressed, and the scattered units
collected, an advance was made to the next village; where the
wearied troops slept, as it was still doubtful whether the rebels
might not rally. Major Cobbe was sent on, next morning, with eight
hundred men. He was to go as far as he could, but to return the
next evening.

The march was a very trying one, the weather terrible. After going
four miles they reached the bank of an unfordable river, some forty
yards wide. The Pioneers, although they had no technical equipment,
succeeded in making a rough bridge by the afternoon; and Major
Cobbe decided to push on to Kofia. At ten o'clock they reached this
place and, to the general relief, it was found to be deserted. The
troops, therefore, marched in and turned into the huts, amid a
howling tornado.

The return journey, next day, was even worse. The tracks, in many
parts, were now covered with between two and three feet of water.
The bridge, though submerged, had fortunately not been carried
away; and the troops were able to cross, and march into camp the
same evening, having carried out their orders without encountering
the smallest opposition.



Chapter 20: At Home.


It was now found necessary to give the worn-out troops a long rest.
They had been on constant service, for months; the stream of
invalids that had been sent down to the coast daily increased, and
the sick list had already reached an appalling length. The want of
fresh rations was very much felt, and any large combination of
troops not only caused great discomfort, but engendered various
diseases, smallpox among them. In addition to this, as the black
soldiers always go barefooted, their feet had got into a deplorable
state.

The halt, however, had a good effect; and there was general
satisfaction that it was unlikely that they would be called upon to
make further efforts, as no news came of fresh gatherings of the
enemy.

Colonel Willcocks now saw that the time was come to issue a
proclamation promising, henceforward, to spare the lives of all
rebels that surrendered. This was done, with the result that large
numbers of the enemy came in. Almost all of them declared that they
would have surrendered, long ago, had they not feared to do so.

On October 6th, the Commandant and British Resident held a state
levee. It was attended by all the friendly and submitted kings.
These vied with each other in their pomp; they were dressed in
gorgeous robes and carried their state umbrellas, while their
attendants danced round them, beating drums and blowing horns.
After the palaver was over, target practice took place, with the
guns. Canvas dummies were riddled with bullets by the Maxims; and
stockades, specially constructed for the purpose, were demolished
by the big guns. The natives retired, greatly impressed.

Two days later, Colonel Willcocks got up a rifle meeting for a cup;
and he himself took his place among the competitors.

Five days later, news came that a fresh force of the enemy had
gathered. Two columns were sent out--one of seven hundred and the
other of five hundred men--but, though they traversed a wide
stretch of country, they had no fighting. They received, however,
the submission of a number of chiefs and villages.

The new commander of the Ashanti force was captured, tried, and
hanged. The queen also was caught and, on the 24th of April, a
telegram was sent home with the words:

"The campaign is at an end."

There can be no doubt that this expedition will lead to great
results. The natives of Ashanti and the surrounding tribes have
received a lesson that will not be forgotten for a great number of
years and, long before that time, it may be hoped that civilization
will have made such strides there that there will be no more chance
of trouble. They have been taught that they are absolutely unable
to stand against the white man; that neither distance, the
thickness of their forests, stockades, nor weather can check the
progress of British troops; and that resistance can only draw down
upon them terrible loss, and the destruction of their villages and
crops.

They had received no such lessons in the previous expeditions. That
of Governor Sir Charles M'Carthy had been entirely defeated, and
the governor himself killed. Another expedition, in 1867, met with
a total failure. Sir Garnet Wolseley, in 1873, marched to Coomassie
but, though he burnt the place, he had at once to fall back to the
coast. In 1895 Sir Francis Scott led an expedition which, for some
reason or other, met with no resistance.

Now Ashanti had been swept from end to end, and fire and sword had
destroyed the major part of the villages. Garrisons were to be
left, at Coomassie, strong enough to put down any local risings;
and the natives had been taught that, small as our army might be in
their country, it could at any time be largely augmented, at very
short notice. Most of all, they had learned that, even without the
assistance of white soldiers, the native troops--whom they had
hitherto despised--were their superiors in every respect.

The completion of the railway to Coomassie has enabled troops to be
sent up from the coast, in a few hours, to the heart of the
country; and the numerous companies formed to work the gold mines
will, in themselves, prove a great check to trouble as, no doubt,
the miners will, in future, be well armed.

Colonel Willcocks left the headquarters staff a few days after the
despatch of his telegram. He rode through a two-mile avenue of
troops and friendly natives and, on arriving at Cape Coast, had a
magnificent reception. Major C. Burroughs remained in command of
Coomassie, with a strong garrison.

A few days later, the rest of the force moved down to the coast.
Lisle and Hallett were carried down in hammocks, for both were
completely worn out by the hardships of the campaign and, as there
was no limit to the numbers of carriers that could be obtained,
they gladly acquiesced in the decision of the medical officer that
they ought to be carried. Both, indeed, had the seeds of fever in
their system and, when they arrived at Cape Coast, were laid up
with a sharp attack. As a result they were, like the great portion
of the officers who had gone through the campaign, invalided home.

A day after his arrival in London, Lisle was visited by his friend
Colonel Houghton, at whose house he had spent most of his leave
when he was last in England.

"I saw your name in the paper, yesterday, as among the returned
invalids; and thought that I should find you in the hotel where you
stayed before."

"I wrote yesterday afternoon to you, sir."

"Ah! Of course, I have not got that letter. And now, how are you?"

"I am a little shaky, sir, but the voyage has done wonders for me.
I have no doubt that I shall soon be myself, again."

"You have not seen the last gazette, I suppose?"

"No, sir."

"Well, there was a list of promotions, and I am happy to say that
you have got the D.S.O. for your services. I dare say you know that
you succeeded to your company, just six months ago?"

"No, I did not know that. I knew that I stood high among the
lieutenants, and expected to get it before long; but I am proud,
indeed, of the D.S.O."

"To have won the V.C. and the D.S.O. is to attain the two greatest
distinctions a soldier can wear.

"Now, you had better come down with me to my place in the country;
the air of London is not the best, for a man who has been suffering
from African fever."

"I certainly want bracing air, and I shall be only too glad to go
home with you; for I feel it is more my home than any other in
England."

As soon as Lisle began to recover a little, Colonel Houghton
introduced him to his neighbours, who made a good deal of the young
soldier. Five years had elapsed, since he had started with the
Pioneers for Chitral, and he was twenty-one.

Soon after he went to the colonel's, he was speaking to him of his
friend and constant companion in the late campaign; and the colonel
at once invited Hallett down. Hallett accepted the invitation, and
soon joined them. He had pretty well recovered, and the campaign
had knocked all his little laziness and selfishness out of him. He
also had received the D.S.O.

"I am sure, Colonel Houghton," he said one day, "that I owe a
tremendous lot to Lisle. He was always cheerful, and his unmerciful
chaffing kept me alive. I am quite sure I should never have got
through that time, when we were lost in the forest, if it hadn't
been for him. I was a confirmed grumbler, too; but he never let me
indulge my discontent. Altogether you have no idea, Colonel
Houghton, how much he did for me."

"Well, you know, Captain Hallett, how much he did for me."

"No, sir," Hallett said, in surprise; "he has often spoken to me of
you, and of your kindness to him; but he did not tell me about
anything he had done for you."

"Well, he saved my life at the risk of his own. If he has not told
you the story, I will."

And he related the manner in which Lisle had won his V.C.

"Why did you not tell me about it, Bullen? It was a splendid thing
to do. You did tell me, I remember, how you got the V.C. by helping
to get an officer out of the grasp of the Afridis, but you gave no
details."

"There was nothing to tell about it, Hallett. I only did what I am
sure you would have done, in my case."

"I am by no means sure of that," Hallett said. "I am always slow in
making up my mind about anything; and should never have thought of
putting a wounded officer on my horse, and sending him off, while I
remained to be cut to pieces. I hope I should have stood by him,
and been cut down with him; but I am certain that I should not have
thought of the other thing, with the Afridis rushing down upon me,
only thirty yards away.

"You ought to have let me know about it. You did bully me a great
deal, you know; and though it was all for my good, still I think I
should have put up with it better, if I had known that you had done
such a thing as that."

"I think you put up with it very well, Hallett. Chaffing you, and
getting you sometimes into a rage--which was pretended, rather than
real--did me a lot of good. I am sure I should have given in,
several times, had you not acted as a sort of tonic; and had I not
been sure that it did you as much good as it did me."

A month after Hallett's arrival, the colonel said, one morning:

"Good morning, Lisle! I am going out with the hounds, tomorrow.
They meet near here. As you are not great riders, I won't press you
to go with me but, at least, you will ride with me to the meet. It
is sure to be a good gathering, and you will probably meet some
nice girls; who will, no doubt, have much greater attractions, for
young fellows like you, than a gallop round the country."

"They have no particular attraction for me, sir," Lisle laughed.
"It will be time enough for that, in another eight or ten years. It
is more in Hallett's line."

"But we shall be chaffed, if we don't ride after the hounds,
Colonel," Hallett said.

"Not at all," the colonel replied, "you have a first-rate excuse.
You are only just recovering from fever. That would get you no end
of commiseration and pity."

"In that case," Lisle said, "I think I should prefer staying at
home. I don't feel that I need the least pity, and don't want to
get it on false pretences."

"It won't be false pretences," the colonel said. "I have taken care
that all the ladies I shall introduce you to should know what you
did for me, and how you did it."

"I am sorry to hear it, Colonel. It is really hateful, being
regarded as a man who has done something, especially at my age.
However, I shall leave Hallett to bear the brunt of it. I know that
he is on the lookout for a wife."

"I don't think you know anything of the sort, Lisle. It will be
time for that when I get my majority."

"Ah! That is all very well, Hallett; I know you took a good
half-hour dressing your hair, previous to that dinner party last
week."

"It has to be brushed. It was nearly all cut off, when we were in
Cape Coast, and one doesn't want to go out looking like a fretful
porcupine."

So, laughing and joking, they started the next morning. There was,
as the colonel had predicted, a large meet. Many ladies came on
horseback, and others in carriages. The two young officers were
soon engaged, chatting and laughing, with the latter.

"Do you mean to say that you are not going to ride, Captain
Bullen?" one of the ladies on horseback said.

"In the first place, Miss Merton, I am an infantry officer and,
except for a few weeks when I was on the staff of Colonel Lockhart,
I have never done any riding. In the second place, I am forbidden
to take horse exercise, at present. Moreover, although no doubt you
will despise me for the confession, I dislike altogether the idea
of a hundred men on horseback, and forty or fifty dogs, all chasing
one unfortunate animal."

"But the unfortunate animal is a poacher of the worst kind."

"Very well, then, I should shoot him, as a poacher. Why should a
hundred horsemen engage in hunting the poor brute down? Bad
horseman as I am, I should not mind taking part in a cavalry
charge; but hunting is not at all to my taste."

"You like shooting, Captain Bullen?"

"I like shooting, when there is something to be shot; in the first
place, a dangerous animal, and in the second, an animal that is
able to show fight. I have several times taken part in tiger hunts,
and felt myself justified in doing so, because the animals had made
themselves a scourge to unarmed villagers."

"I am afraid that you are a sort of Don Quixote," the girl laughed.

"Not quite that, Miss Merton; though I own I admire the good
knight, greatly. We are going to move off, now, to the covert that
has to be drawn; and I know I shall shock you, when I say that I
sincerely hope that nothing will be found there."

The whole party then moved off, and the hounds were put into a
covert. Five minutes later, a whimper was heard. It soon spread
into a chorus, and then a fox dashed out from the opposite side;
followed, in a couple of minutes, by the whole pack.

"Well, that is fun, is it not, Captain Bullen?" said a girl, to
whom he was talking, in one of the carriages.

"It is a pretty sight," he said, "and if the fox always got away, I
should like it. As it is, I say honestly that I don't."

The meet now broke up, and the carriages dispersed. Hallett and
Lisle accepted an invitation to lunch with the ladies to whom they
were talking. Two hours later, Lisle was on the point of leaving,
when a groom rode up at full speed.

"Is Captain Bullen here?" he asked.

With a presentiment of evil, Lisle went out.

"The colonel has had a bad accident, sir. He was brought in, half
an hour ago, by the servants. I understand that he asked for you;
and three of us at once rode off, in different directions, to find
you."

Lisle called Hallett and, in five minutes, they were mounted and
dashed off. As they entered the house, they were met by the
surgeon.

"Is he badly hurt'?" Lisle asked, anxiously.

"I fear that he is hurt to death, Captain Bullen. His horse slipped
as it was taking a fence, and fell on the top of him. He has
suffered severe internal injuries, and I greatly fear that there is
not the least hope for him."

"Is he conscious?" Lisle asked, with deep emotion.

"Yes, he is conscious, and I believe he understands that his case
is hopeless. He has asked for you, several times, since he was
brought in; so you had better go to him, at once."

With a sinking heart, Lisle went upstairs. The colonel was lying on
his bed.

"I am glad you have come in time, my dear boy," he said faintly, as
Lisle entered. "I am afraid that I am done for, and it is a
consolation for me to know that I have no near relatives who will
regret my loss. I have had a good time of it, altogether; and would
rather that, as I was not to die on the battlefield, death should
come as it has. It is far better than if it came gradually.

"Sit by me, lad, till the end comes. I am sure it will not be long.
I am suffering terribly, and the sooner it comes, the better."

The ashy gray of the colonel's face sufficed to tell Lisle that the
end was, indeed, near at hand. The colonel only spoke two or three
times and, at ten o'clock at night, passed away painlessly.

Upon Lisle devolved the sad work of arranging his funeral. He wrote
to the colonel's lawyer, asking him to come down. Hallett had left
the house at once, though Lisle earnestly begged him to stay till
the funeral was over. The lawyer arrived on the morning of the
funeral.

"I have taken upon myself, sir," Lisle said, "to make all the
arrangements for the funeral, seeing that there was no one else to
do it."

"You were the most proper person to do so," the lawyer said,
gravely, "as you will see when the will is read, on our return from
the grave."

When all was over, Lisle asked two or three of the colonel's most
intimate friends to be present at the reading of the will. It was a
very short one. The colonel made bequests to several military
charities; and then appointed his adopted son, Lisle Bullen,
Lieutenant in His Majesty's Rutlandshire regiment, the sole heir to
all his property.

This came almost as a surprise to Lisle. The colonel had indeed
told him that he had adopted him, and he was prepared to learn that
he had left him a legacy; but he had no idea that he would be left
sole heir.

"I congratulate you, sir," the lawyer said, when he folded up the
paper. "Colonel Houghton stated to me, fully, his reasons for
making such a disposition of his property and, as he had no near
relations, I was able to approve of it heartily. I may say that he
has left nearly sixteen thousand pounds. The other small legacies
will take about a thousand, and you will therefore have some
fifteen thousand pounds, which is all invested in first-rate
securities."

"I feel my good fortune, sir," Lisle said quietly, "but I would
that it had not come to me for many years, and not in such a
manner."

The meeting soon after broke up, and Lisle went up to town and
joined Hallett at the hotel they both used.

"Well, I congratulate you heartily," Hallett said, when he heard
the contents of the will. "It is a good windfall, but not a bit
more than you deserve."

"I would rather not have had it," Lisle said, sorrowfully. "I owe
much to the colonel, who has for the past three years given me an
allowance of two hundred pounds a year; and I would far rather have
gone on with that, than come into a fortune in this manner."

"I can understand that," Hallett said; "the colonel was a
first-rate old fellow, and his death will be an immense loss to
you. Still, but for you it would have come three years ago and,
after all, it is better to be killed hunting than to be shot to
pieces by savages.

"Well, it will bring you in six or seven hundred pounds a year, a
sum not to be despised. It will enable you to leave the army, if
you like; though I should advise you to stick to it. Here are you a
captain at twenty-one, a V. C. and D. S. O. man, with a big career
before you and, no doubt, you will get a brevet majority before
long."

"I have certainly not the least idea of leaving the army. I was
born in it, and hope to remain in it as long as I can do good
work."

"What are you going to do now?"

"I shall go down there again, in a fortnight or so."

"Would you be disposed to take me with you?"

"Certainly I shall, if you will go. I had not thought of asking
you, because everything must go on quietly there, for a time; but
really I should prize your company very much."

"Well, the fact is," Hallett said, rather shamefacedly, "I am
rather smitten with Miss Merton, and I have some hopes that she is
a little taken with me. I heard that she has money but, although
that is satisfactory, I would take her, if she would have me,
without a penny. You know I have three hundred pounds a year of my
own; which is quite enough, with my pay, to enable us to get on
comfortably. Still, I won't say that, if she has as much more, we
could not do things better."

Lisle laughed.

"I thought you were not a marrying man, Hallett! In fact, you have
more than once told me so."

"Well, I didn't think I was," Hallett admitted, "but you see,
circumstances alter cases."

"They do, Hallett, and your case seems to be a bad one. However,
old man, I wish you luck. She is an exceedingly nice girl and, if I
were ten years older, I might have been smitten myself; and then,
you know, your chance would have been nowhere."

"I quite feel that," Hallett said; "a V.C. is a thing no girl can
stand against.

"If you will take me, I will go down with you and stay a little
time, and then try my luck."

"That you certainly shall do. I can hardly do anything in the way
of festivities, at present; but there is no reason why you should
not enter into anything that is going on."

So they went down together. Ten days later, all the families round
came to pay visits of condolence; and to each Lisle said that,
although he himself could not think of going out, at present, his
friend Hallett, who had come to stay with him for a month, would be
glad to join in any quiet festivity. So Hallett was frequently
invited out, Lisle accompanying him only to the very quietest of
dinners.

One evening Hallett returned in the highest glee.

"Congratulate me, my dear fellow," he said. "Miss Merton has
accepted me and, after she had done so, I had the inevitable talk
with her father. He told me, frankly, that he had hoped that his
daughter would make a better match. I of course agreed with him,
heartily; but he went on to say that, after all, our happiness was
the first consideration, and that he felt sure that it would be
secured by her marriage with me. He said that he should allow her
four hundred pounds a year, during his and her mother's lifetime.
At their death there would be a small addition to her allowance,
but naturally the bulk of his property would go to her brother. Of
course, I expressed myself as infinitely grateful. I said that he
had not enquired about my income, but that I had three hundred
pounds a year, in addition to my pay; and should probably, some
day, come into more. He expressed himself as content and, as I had
expected, asked me whether I intended to leave the army. I said
that that was a matter for his daughter to decide; but that, for my
part, I should certainly prefer to remain in the service, for I
really did not see what I should do with myself, if I left it. I
said that I had been very fortunate in having, to some small
extent, distinguished myself; but that if, after some experience of
India, she did not care for the life, I would promise to retire."

"'I think you are right,' he said. 'It is a bad thing for a young
man of seven or eight and twenty to be without employment. Your
income would be insufficient to enable you to live, with comfort,
as a country gentleman; and you would naturally find time lie heavy
upon your hands, if you had nothing to do.'

"He was good enough to say that he thought his daughter's happiness
would be safe in my hands and, as she would be able to have every
luxury in India, he thought that the arrangement would be a very
satisfactory one. It is awfully good of him, of course, for she
could have made an infinitely better match."

"You have, of course, not settled anything about the date,
Hallett?"

"No; I expect we shall settle about that when I see her, tomorrow.
Of course, it must be pretty early, as we had letters, yesterday,
to go up to town to be examined by the board; and we have both
picked up so much that, I fancy, we shall be ordered back to our
regiments pretty sharply. You see, every man is wanted at present
and, as we both had a year's leave before we went out to West
Africa, it is not unnatural that they should send us off again, as
soon as they can. I dare say, however, they will give us a couple
of months; and I suppose we shall want a month for our honeymoon,
in which case we ought to be spliced in a month's time; if she can
get ready in that time, which of course she can do, if she hurries
up the milliners and other people."

"I have no doubt she could, in the circumstances," Lisle laughed.
"Well, old man, I do congratulate you most heartily. She certainly
is a very charming young woman. I expect I shall not get leave
again, till the regiment comes back; which will be another five
years yet, and perhaps two or three years longer, if there is any
action going on anywhere. I can tell you I am not so hot about
fighting as I used to be. The Tirah was sharp, but it was nothing
to West Africa, which was enough to cure one of any desire to take
part in fighting.

"If we are going to have a fight with Russia, I certainly should
like to take part in that. That would be a tremendous affair, and I
fancy that our Indian soldiers will give a good account of
themselves. If it is to be, I do hope it will come before I leave
the army. I am certainly in no hurry to do so."

"You would be a fool, if you were," Hallett said. "Thanks to your
luck in getting a commission at sixteen, and to the loss of so many
officers in the Tirah, you are now a captain at twenty-one,
certainly the youngest captain in the service. Of course, if there
is no war, you can't expect to continue going up at that pace; but
you certainly ought to be a major at thirty, if not before. You may
command a regiment within five or six years later, and be a
brigadier soon after that, for you will have that by seniority. Of
course, if you marry you will have to consider your wife's wishes;
but she is not likely to object to your staying on, if you get to
be a major, for a major's wife is by no means an unimportant item
in a regiment."

"Ah! Well, we needn't think about that," Lisle laughed, "especially
as, if there is war with Russia before we come home, a good many of
us will certainly stay out permanently. Well, old man, I do
congratulate you, most heartily."

Miss Merton, after some demur, agreed that it would be just
possible for her to be ready at the end of a month. Three days
later the two friends went up to town and, after undergoing a
medical examination, were told that they must rejoin their
regiments in a couple of months. As both regiments were in India,
they decided to return in the same ship.

"I am not sorry that we are off," Lisle said, when they met on the
deck of the P. and O. steamer. "I was getting desperately tired of
doing nothing and, after you had gone off with your wife, on the
afternoon of the marriage, I began to feel desperately lonely. Of
course, I have always been accustomed to have a lot of friends
round me; and I began to feel a longing to be with the regiment
again and, if we had not agreed to go out together, I think I
should have taken the next steamer."

Six weeks later Lisle rejoined his regiment, where he was heartily
welcomed.

"Now you are a brevet major, Mr. Bullen, I am afraid that you will
cease to be useful to us all; for of course we cannot be sending an
officer of that exalted rank about to do our messages. However,
several nice boys have joined, while you have been away."

"I shall always be happy to be employed," Lisle laughed, "and I
dare say I am no older than many of the subalterns."

"I suppose you have had hard times?"

"Very hard. I thought that the Tirah business was about as hard as
one would have to go through, in the course of one's soldiering;
but I was greatly deceived. When I say that for six months I hardly
ever had dry clothes on, and that I waded something like a hundred
rivers, you may guess what it was like.

"And we had our full share of fighting, too. I was very fortunate
in only getting hit three or four times, with slugs; but as we were
for the most part fighting against men hidden in the bush, it was
unsatisfactory work, though we always did lick them in the end. I
can assure you that I do not wish for any more service of that
kind.

"Have the tribes been quiet since I went away?"

"Quiet, as far as we were concerned. Of course, there have been a
few trifling risings along the frontier but, as a whole, even the
Zakka-Khels have been quiet. I don't think there will be any
trouble, on a large scale, for some time to come."

"Then there is a prospect of a quiet time; that is to say, if the
Russians will keep quiet."

"That is a very strong 'if,' Major Bullen; but I think that, if
there is trouble, it will be in China."

"In that case, no doubt a good many regiments will be sent from
here. I hope that it will be our good fortune to be among them."

"Well, in that case," the colonel said, with a laugh, "you will
have to restrain your ardour, and give a chance to other men. You
have got the V.C. and the D.S.O., which ought to satisfy you; to
say nothing of having got your company, and brevet majority, at the
age of twenty-one. You must be content with that, otherwise the
regiment will rise against you."

"That would be very unpleasant," Lisle said, with a laugh. "I will
try to suppress my zeal. I can assure you that I am perfectly
conscious of the incongruity of being in such a position, at my
age."

At present Lisle is with his regiment, and the prospect of a war
with Russia is no nearer than it was.





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