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´╗┐Title: For Fortune and Glory - A Story of the Soudan War
Author: Hough, Lewis
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.

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For Fortune and Glory
A Story of the Soudan War

By Lewis Hough
________________________________________________________________________
We were a little nervous to know how Lewis Hough got on writing a book
with such a very different setting to his masterly "Doctor Jolliffe's
Boys."  In fact the story opens in a boarding school (the British Public
School) called Harton.  This is probably meant to be a word based on
"Eton" and another school that has an annual cricket match with Eton,
called "Harrow".  In fact there is plenty of internal evidence that it
really is Eton, with the dropping of local slang terms only in use at
that school.

Before I knew the story I was also nervous about the title.  What could
Fortune possibly have to do with the Soudan War?  What actually happened
was that a certain Will had been stolen by a former employe, an
Egyptian, of a Dublin solicitor, together with a previous version of the
Will. This had resulted in a family losing all their money, since the
father had been a Partner in an Eastern Bank that foundered in the
events leading up to the Soudan War.

Eventually the two Wills are tracked down, and justice done as regards
the estate.

But all this is a parallel story to the description of events in the
Soudan War.  This is well worth reading for its own sake, especially in
this day and age, when certain events seem about to repeat themselves.
NH
________________________________________________________________________

FOR FORTUNE AND GLORY
A STORY OF THE SOUDAN WAR

BY LEWIS HOUGH
A STORY OF THE SOUDAN WAR.



CHAPTER ONE.

A MYSTERIOUS RELATIVE.

It is nice to go home, even from Harton, though we may be leaving all
our sports behind us.  It used to be specially nice in winter; but you
young fellows are made so comfortable at school nowadays that you miss
one great luxury of return to the domestic hearth.  Why, they tell me
that the school-rooms at Harton are _warmed_!  And I know that the
Senate House at Cambridge is when men are in for their winter
examinations, so it is probable that the younger race is equally
pampered; and if the present Hartonians' teeth chatter at six o'clock
lesson, consciousness of unprepared lessons is the cause, not cold.

But you have harder head-work and fewer holidays than we had, so you are
welcome to your warm school-rooms.  I am not sure that you have the best
of it: at any rate, we will cry quits.

But the superior material comforts of home are but a small matter in the
pleasure of going there after all.  It is the affections centred in it
which cause it to fill the first place in our hearts, "be it never so
humble."

Harry Forsyth was fond of Harton; fond of football, which was in full
swing; fond of his two chums, Strachan and Kavanagh.  He rather liked
his studies than otherwise, and, indeed, took a real pleasure in some
classical authors--Homer and Horace, for example--as any lad who has
turned sixteen who has brains, and is not absolutely idle, is likely to
do.  He was strong, active, popular; he had passed from the purgatorial
state of fag to the elysium of fagger.  But still his blood seemed
turned to champagne, and his muscles to watch-springs, when the cab,
which carried him and his portmanteau, passed through the gate into the
drive which curved up to the door of Holly Lodge.  For Holly Lodge
contained his mother and Trix, and the thought of meeting either of them
after an absence of a school-term set his heart bounding, and his pulse
throbbing, in a way he would not have owned to his best friends for the
choice of bats in the best maker's shop.  He loved his father also, but
he did not know so much of him.  He was a merchant, and his business had
necessitated his living very much abroad, while Cairo did not suit his
wife's health.  His visits to England were for some years but
occasional, and did not always coincide with Harry's holidays.  Two
years previously, indeed, he had wound up his affairs, and settled
permanently at home; but he was still a busy man--a director of the
Great Transit Bank, and interested in other things, which took him up to
London every day.  He was also fond of club-life and public dinners;
and, though he was affectionate with his wife and children, too much of
their society rather bored him.

When she heard the cab-wheels crunching the gravel, Beatrice Forsyth ran
out without a hat, and Harry seeing her, opened the door and "quitted
the vehicle while yet in motion," as the railway notices have it,
whereby he nearly came a cropper, but recovered his balance, and was
immediately fitted with a live necklace.  Beatrice was a slight, fair,
blue-eyed, curly-haired girl of fifteen; so light and springy that her
brother carried her, without an effort, to the hall steps, where, being
set down, she sprang into the cab and began collecting the smaller
packages, rug, umbrella, and other articles, inside it, while Harry
hugged his mother in the hall.

"Your father will be home by four," said Mrs Forsyth, when the first
greetings and inquiries as to health were over.

"And Haroun Alraschid has taken possession of his study," added Trix,
with a sort of awe.

"Haroun, how much?" asked Harry.

"Don't be absurd, Trix!" said Mrs Forsyth.  "It is only your uncle,
Ralph Burke."

"Burke, that was your name, mother; this uncle was your brother then?"

"Of course, Harry.  Have you never heard me speak of your uncle Ralph?"

"Now you mention it, yes, mother.  But I had a sort of idea that he was
dead."

"So we thought him for some time," said Mrs Forsyth, "for he left the
Indian Civil Service, in which he had a good appointment, and
disappeared for years.  He met with disappointments, and had a
sunstroke, and went to live with wild men in the desert, and, I believe,
has taken up with some strange religious notions.  In fact, I fear that
he is not quite right in his head.  But he talks sensibly about things
too, and seems to wish to be kind.  We were very fond of one another
when we were children, and he seems to remember it in spite of all he
has gone through."

"I am frightened to death at him," said Trix.  "I know he has a large
cupboard at home with the heads of all the wives he has decapitated
hanging up in a row by the back hair!"

"I wonder at your talking so foolishly, Beatrice.  You must not be
prejudiced by what she says, Harry.  Except your uncle in Ireland, he
has no other relatives, and he may be very well off; and he is quite
harmless."

"You know that you were afraid of him yourself, mamma, when he first
came."

"A little, perhaps, because I did not recognise him, and thought him
dead.  And then, you know, I fear he is not quite orthodox.  But go and
see him, Harry, and never mind what any one says."

"All right, mother; you have made me a bit curious, I confess," said
Harry, leaving the room.

The garden in front of Holly Lodge was formal--just a carriage-drive,
and a bit of shrubbery, and a grass-plat with prim beds on it, which had
various flower eruptions at different periods of the year.  First
snowdrops, aconites, and crocuses, then tulips, then geraniums.  The
real garden was at the back, and the study looked out upon it.  Not upon
the lawn, where bowls, or lawn-tennis, or other disturbing proceedings
might be going on; no, from the oriel window, which alone lighted the
room, one saw a fountain, a statue, rose-bushes, and a catalpa tree,
enclosed in a fringe of foliage, syringa, lilac, laurel, chestnut, high
and thick enough to make it as private and quiet as any man with a
speech to prepare, or sums to do, might require.  Harry went along a
passage, turned to the left up five steps, passed through a green-baize
swing door, and knocked at that of the study.

A deep musical voice, which seemed, however, to come from a strange
distance, told him to "come in," and on opening the door, he found that
he had to push aside a curtain hanging over it, and which had dulled the
sound of the voice.  Smoke wreaths floated about the apartment, bearing
an aromatic odour quite different from ordinary tobacco, and a curious
gurgling sound, like that of water on the boil, only intermittent, came
from the direction of the broad low sofa, which had been brought from
the drawing-room, and was placed between the fire and the window.  Close
to this was a small table with writing materials, a note-book, and a
pile of letters ready for the post, upon it.

On the sofa reclined a man dressed in a black frock-coat, buttoned, and
dark trousers, the only Oriental thing about him being the red cap with
a silk tassel which he wore on his head.  But smokers often have a fancy
for wearing the fez, so there was nothing peculiar in that.  And yet
there was something different from other people about him.  Most men
lounging on a sofa are ungainly and awkward-looking, while the attitude
of this one was easy and graceful, and the motion of his hand, with
which he indicated the chair on which he wished his nephew to be seated,
was courteous and yet commanding.

His complexion was sallow, and appeared the darker from the contrast
afforded by the silvery whiteness of his long beard, moustache, and
thick bushy eyebrows, from the deep cavities beneath which his dark eyes
seemed literally to flash.  His nose was aquiline, his cheek-bones
prominent.  His hands were small, but strong and nervous, with little
flesh upon them, and the fingers were long and shapely.

When Harry was seated he resettled himself on the sofa, and, keeping his
eyes fixed on the lad, placed the amber mouth-piece of a long spiral
tube connected with a narghile which was smouldering on the floor to his
lips, and the gurgling sound was once more produced.  But to Harry's
astonishment, no cloud issued from his uncle's mouth; like a law-abiding
factory chimney, he appeared to consume his own smoke.  Then,
deliberately removing the amber tube which he held in his hand, he
said--

"And you are my sister's son?  I like your looks, and my heart yearns
towards you.  Pity that she did not wed with one of her own land, so
that you might not have had the blood of the accursed race in your
veins.  But it was the will of the All-Powerful, and what can we avail
against fate?"

What these words meant Harry could not imagine.  Were not his parents of
the same land and race?  His mother was Irish and his father English,
and he had no more idea of Irish, Scotch, Welsh, or English being of
different races than of the inhabitants of Surrey and Essex being so.
They were all Englishmen he had always thought.  His bewilderment was by
no means diminished when, after this speech, and without again putting
the stem of his narghile near his mouth, his uncle raised his head and
poured out a volume of smoke, which it would have taken the united
efforts of a couple of Germans about five minutes to produce.  He was
quite veiled by the cloud, through which the gleam of his eyes seemed to
Harry to have an almost supernatural effect.

"You are nearly seventeen years of age, and will soon be leaving
school," he resumed.  "What are they going to do with you then?"

"I have not quite made up my mind what profession I should like," said
Harry, somewhat hesitatingly.  "I am fond of drawing, and like being out
of doors, and so I have thought at times of getting articled to a civil
engineer."

"Ay, ay; to aid the march of civilisation, as the cant phrase goes; to
bring nations closer together, that they may cut one another's throats
when they meet.  To make machines do the work by which men earn their
living, and so first drive them into cities, and then starve them.  Or,
perhaps, you will be a lawyer, and learn how to darken language into
obscure terms, by which a simple, honest man may be made to sell his
birthright without knowing what he is doing.  Or a doctor, fighting
madly against the decree of the Omnipotent, daring to try to stem the
flowing tide of death.  If your eyes were but opened, how gladly would
you cast off the trammels of an effete society, and follow me to a land
where a man can breathe freely.  I will give you a horse fleet as the
wind, and a sword that would split a hair or sever an iron bar, boy!"

"I have thought I should like the army, too, sir," said bewildered
Harry, trying vainly to understand, and catching at the sword and horse
as something tangible.

"The army!  To be a European soldier!  A living machine--the slave of
slaves!  To fight without a cause, even without an object!  To waste
your blood in the conquest of a country and the ruin and slaughter of
its inhabitants, and then to leave it!  Madmen!  Ye kill and are killed
for nothing; not even plunder."

He drew several long inhalations, repeating the conjuring trick of
swallowing the smoke and emitting it several seconds afterwards, for
quite ten minutes before he spoke again.

"But the ties of home and kindred are strong," he continued in a calmer
tone.  "Your mother, your sister, will draw you back from the nobler
lot.  I know what the love of family is; I, who have returned to this
seething cauldron of misery, vice, disease, and degradation which fools
call civilisation, and take a pride in, in order to see my sister once
more.  Partly for that at least.  And you are her son, and you have the
stamp of the Burke upon your face.  Hark you, boy!  In the time of
Cromwell, not two hundred and fifty years ago, your direct ancestor was
a powerful Irish chief, with large domains and many brave men to follow
him to battle.  When the English came with the cold-blooded,
preconceived scheme of pacifying Ireland once and for all by the
wholesale massacre of the inhabitants, our grandsire was overpowered by
numbers, betrayed, surprised, and driven to his last refuge, a castle
but little capable of defence.  He was surrounded; his wife and children
were with him, all young, one an infant at the breast; and there were
other women, helpless and homeless, who had sought shelter within the
walls.  Therefore, resistance being quite hopeless, our chief offered to
surrender.  But the English leader replied, `Give no quarter; they are
wild beasts, not men.  Burn up the wasps' nest, maggots and all!'  They
did it; faggots were piled round the building and set on fire, and those
who attempted to escape were received on the English spears and tossed
back into the flames.  The eldest son was away with a detachment at the
time, and so escaped the fate which would otherwise have annihilated our
race.  But his estates were stolen from him and conferred on the
murderers, whose descendants hold them to the present day.  Have the
Burkes best reason to love the English or to hate them?"

Harry Forsyth was a practical youth, who took things as he found them,
and he could not even understand how anybody's feelings, much less their
actions, should be affected by anything which happened in the days of
Oliver Cromwell.  He might just as well refuse a penny to an Italian
organ-grinder, because Julius Caesar ill-treated the ancient Britons.
Besides, he was half a Forsyth, and the Forsyths were probably all
English.  For all he knew, some old Forsyth might have had a hand in
burning up the Burkes.  He did not offer any such suggestion, however,
but sat somewhat awe-stricken, wondering what this strange uncle would
say or do next.

He relapsed into thought, and for some time the silence was only broken
by the bubbling of the water in the narghile.  When at last he spoke
again, it was in a calmer tone of voice, and with eyes withdrawn from
his nephew's face.

"Serve not the English Government, civil or military," he said.  "Or, if
you do, confine yourself to your allotted task.  That which is exactly
due for the pay you receive, do for honour and honesty's sake.  But do
no more; show no zeal: above all, trust not to any sense of justice for
reward of any work done in excess of the bargain.  Incur no
responsibility, or you will be made a cat's-paw of.

"Listen.  At the time of the Crimean War a young man in the Indian
service had a severe illness which obliged him to return to England on
furlough.  At one of the stations where his ship touched a number of
women and children and invalids belonging to a regiment which had gone
on to the seat of war were taken on board, and he, according to previous
arrangement, was placed in charge of them.

"It came on to blow hard in the Gulf of Lyons, and the old transport
strained so that she sprang a leak, which put her fires out.  Later on
her masts went, and after beating about for several wretched days, she
went ashore on a desolate part of the coast of Spain.  The officers and
crew of the ship behaved well enough, and though many of them, including
the captain and chief mate, were lost, nearly all the passengers were
safely landed.  But though rescued from the sea, there seemed to be
every prospect of their perishing from exposure and famine.  With great
difficulty the officer in charge managed to find some rude shelter and
insufficient food for immediate succour, and then, making his way to the
nearest town, he applied to the authorities, and being a linguist who
included something of the language in which Don Quixote was written
amongst his acquisitions, he obtained clothes, food, and a sum of money
for present necessities, with the promise of a vessel to transfer the
unfortunates to Gibraltar.

"Of course he had lost everything when the ship went to pieces, and he
could only get this aid by signing bills and making himself personally
responsible.  True, he was engaging himself for more than he could
perform, but he could neither desert these people who were entrusted to
his care, nor stand idly by to see them perish.  And he never doubted
but that the authorities at home would take the responsibility off his
hands.  They refused to do so, or rather, worse than that, they drove
him about from pillar to post, one official directing him to a second,
the second to a third, the third to the first again.  And they made him
fill up forms, and returned them as incorrect, and broke his heart with
subterfuges.

"In the meantime he had to meet the claims, and was impoverished.  Then,
excited by this infamous treatment, he forced his way into a great man's
presence, and was violent, and the consequence of his violence was that
he lost his Indian appointment.  It was well for him that he did so; but
his story will none the less show you what a country England is to
serve."

Again there was a long period of stillness, broken only by the hubble-
bubble.  Gradually the smoker raised his eyes in the direction of his
nephew, but Harry saw that he was looking _beyond_ him, not at him.  And
this gaze became so steadfast and eager that he turned his head to see
what attracted it, almost expecting to see a face on the other side of
the window.

There was nothing, but still the intense look remained, and it made
Harry feel as if cold water was running down his back.  His uncle spoke
at length, low and slowly at first, more energetically as he went on.

"I see it; the crescent rises; the sordid hordes of the West fall in
ruin around.  The squalid denizens of cities find the fiendish devices
of destruction to which they trust for putting the weak over the strong
fail them.  Man to man they have to stand, and they fall like corn
before the scythe."

He dropped his pipe tube, and slowly rose to his feet, still gazing
fixedly at nothing in particular in the same uncanny manner, and
bringing his right-hand round towards his left hip, as if ready to grasp
a sword-hilt.

"One prophet," he continued, "was raised up for the destruction of
idolatry, and wherever he appeared the false gods vanished.  There were
those who worshipped the True God, but received not his Prophet, and
with them Islam has for centuries waged equal war, for their time was
not yet come, and the mission of Mohammed was not for them.  But the
years of probation have expired, and the nations of the West remain in
wilful darkness.  They receive not the commandments of the Prophet; they
drink fermented liquor, they eat the unclean beast, their worship of
gold and science has become a real idolatry.  Another prophet has arisen
for their destruction, and Asia and Africa shall, ere another generation
has come and gone, be swept clean of the Infidel.  Swept clean!  Swept
clean!  With the scimitar for a besom!"

He remained with his eyes fixed and his lips parted, and Harry did not
quite know what to do next.  But he summoned courage to rise and say
that he hoped his father would have come home by now and as he had not
seen him yet, he thought he would go.

Filial affection might surely be taken as a valid excuse for withdrawal.
And yet, having had no experience of the etiquette due to prophets when
the orgy of vaticination is upon them, he was not quite comfortable on
the question of being scathed.  There was no need for fear; Sheikh
Burrachee was too rapt to heed his presence or absence.  He heard not
his voice, and knew not when he crossed the room and closed the door
softly behind him.  He found Trix in the hall looking out for him.

"Well?" she cried.

"Oh, my prophetic uncle!" ejaculated Harry.

"That is a mis-quotation."

"It is not a quotation at all; it is an exclamation, and a very natural
one under the circumstances."

"Has he been telling your fortune?" asked Beatrice, her large eyes
expanding with the interest which is begotten of mystery.

"Not exactly," replied Harry; "except that he hinted something about the
propriety of my choosing the profession of a Bedouin, and, I suppose,
making a fortune by robbing caravans.  But he told the misfortunes of
other people with a vengeance.  The Mohammedans are going to turn the
Christians out of Asia and Africa everywhere."

"Good gracious, Harry!  Why, papa's a director of the Great Transit
Bank, and all our money is in it, and it does all its business in the
East."

"By Jove!  Let us hope the prophet _doesn't know_, then.  But, upon my
word, he looked like seeing into futurity.  At least, I could not make
out what else he was looking at."

"Poor man, he had a sunstroke when he was quite young in India, and has
led a queer life amongst savages ever since.  But papa has come home and
been asking for you.  You will find him in the drawing-room."

Harry thought his father thinner and older than when he had last seen
him, and asked how he was in a more earnest and meaning manner than is
customary in the conventional "How do you do?"

"Do I look altered?" asked Mr Forsyth, quickly.

"Oh, no, father, only a little pale; tired-looking, you know," said
Harry, rather hesitatingly, in spite of the effort made to speak
carelessly.

"I have not been quite the thing, and have seen a physician about it.
Only a little weakness about the heart, which affects the circulation.
But do not mention it to your mother or sister; women are so easily
frightened, and their serious faces would make me imagine myself
seriously ill.  Well, how did you get on with your uncle?  You see he
has turned me out of my private den."

"Is he at all--a little--that is, a trifle cracked, father?"

"A good deal, I should say.  And yet he is a very clever man, and
sensible enough at times, and upon some subjects.  He was most useful to
me out in Egypt on several occasions when we happened to meet.  A great
traveller and a wonderful linguist."

"Was he badly treated by Government?  He told me a story in the third
person, but I expect that he referred to himself all the time," said
Harry.

"Well," replied Mr Forsyth, "it is difficult to tell all the rights of
the story.  Ever since he had an illness in India, as a very young man,
he has been subject to delusions.  No doubt he behaved well on the
occasion of a certain shipwreck--if that is what you allude to--and
incurred heavy expense, which ought to have been made up to him.  But I
doubt if he went the right way to work, and suspect that his failure was
due very much to impatience and wrong-headedness, and the mixing up of
political questions with his personal claims.  He wrote a book, which
made some noise, and caused him to lose his appointment.  Then he came
to me in Egypt, and was very useful.

"I should have liked him for a partner, but he went off to discover the
source of the Nile.  He thought he had succeeded, and after a
disappearance of some years came back triumphant.  But he had followed
the Blue Nile instead of the real branch, and the discoveries of Speke,
Grant, Livingstone, and Stanley were terribly bitter to him--drove him
quite mad, I think.  Since then he has identified himself with the Arab
race, and seems to hate all Europeans, except his sister and her family.
With me he has never quarrelled, and I think remembers that I offered
him a home and employment when his career was cut short.  What he is in
England for now I do not know.  Perhaps only to see your mother once
more, but I suspect there is something else.

"He writes many letters, and makes a point of posting them himself.  I
fear that he takes opium, or some drug of that kind, and altogether,
though it is inhospitable perhaps to say so, it will be a relief when he
is gone, and that will not be many days now."

After leaving his uncle in such a rapt state, it was curious to Harry to
see him walk into the drawing-room before dinner in correct evening
costume, and not wearing his fez.  He was somewhat taciturn, ate very
little, and drank nothing but water, but his manners were those of a
perfect gentleman.  After dinner he retired, and they saw no more of him
that evening.

Harry Forsyth had several other interviews with his uncle, who showed
more fondness for his company than he had for that of any other member
of the family, but who kept a greater guard over himself, and was more
reticent than he had been on the occasion of his first interview.  He
spoke of Eastern climes, war, sport, and scenery, with enthusiasm
indeed, but rationally, and Harry grew interested, and liked to hear
him, though he never got over the feeling that there was something
uncanny about him.

One night, after dinner, when a fortnight of Harry's holidays had
elapsed, the uncle, on retiring, asked his nephew to come and see him in
the study at eleven on the following morning, and Harry, punctually
complying, found him seated on a chair before the large table with three
packets before him.

"Sit down, my lad," he said, and the deep musical tones of his voice had
an affectionate sadness in them.

"I am going back to my own land to-morrow, and shall never leave it
again.  But we shall meet, for such is the will of the All-Powerful,
unless the inward voice deceives me, as it has never hitherto done.  You
will, or let us say you _may_, need my aid.  You will learn where and
how to find the Sheikh Burrachee--which is my real name--from Yusuff,
the sword dealer, in the armourers' bazaar, at Cairo.  But you will more
certainly do so by applying to the head Dervish at the mosques of
Suakim, Berber, or Khartoum.  At the last town, indeed, you will have no
difficulty in learning where I am, and being conducted to me; and,
indeed, in any considerable place above the second cataract of the Nile,
you will probably learn at the mosque how and where to obtain the
required direction, even if they cannot give it you themselves.  If
there is hesitation, show the holy man this ring, and it will be removed
at once.  Should you meet with hindrance in your journey from any desert
tribe, ask to be led to the chief, and give him this parchment.  He may
not be an ally to help you, but he may, and if not, he will probably not
hinder you.  Lastly, take these three stones, and see that you keep them
securely in a safe place, and that no one knows that you possess them.
They are sapphires of some value I exact no promise, but I bid you not
to part with these for any purpose but that of coming to me.  For that,
sell them.  Should you hear of my death, or should ten years elapse
without your coming to me, they are yours to do what you like with.
Lest you should forget any part of my directions, I have written them on
a paper which is at the bottom of the box containing the sapphires.
Come."

Harry rose and stood by his side.  His uncle fitted the ring on his
fore-finger, put the morocco box containing the sapphires, and the thin
silver case, like a lady's large-sized card-case, that protected the
written document, into his breast pocket, and then rising himself,
rested his two hands on the lad's shoulders, and gazed long and
earnestly into his face.

Then turning his eyes upwards, he muttered a prayer in Arabic, after
which he gently drew him to the door, and, releasing him, opened it, and
said, "Farewell."



CHAPTER TWO.

MR. RICHARD BURKE VISITS HIS LAWYER.

Mrs Forsyth had another brother, named Richard, living in Ireland.
When Ralph Burke--the Sheikh Burrachee of to-day--was in trouble, and
lost his Indian appointment, he went to his brother, whom he had not met
since boyhood, and who welcomed him at first cordially.  But Ralph,
possessed by the one idea of injury received from the Government,
engaged in seditious plots, and nearly involved his host in serious
trouble.  The brothers quarrelled about it, and Ralph left in anger, and
never afterwards mentioned his brother's name.

Probably he did not know at present whether he was dead or alive.  But
alive he was, though in failing health.  He was the eldest of the
family, ten years senior to Ralph, and seventeen to his sister, Mrs
Forsyth.  In spite of Ralph's story about Oliver Cromwell, the elder
brother had some land, though whether it was part of the original
estates, or had been acquired since, I know not.  He had no tenants, but
farmed himself, and was therefore not shot at.  The farming consisted
principally, however, in breeding horses, in which he was very
successful.

It was not that he realised such large profits, or grew rich rapidly,
but he always made more than he spent in the course of the year, and
invested the balance judiciously.  And in twenty years hundreds grow to
thousands in that way.

Rather late in life Mr Burke had married a widow with a son, an only
child.  He lost her early, and, having no children of his own, attached
himself to her boy for her sake, and made a will leaving him sole heir
to his property, after a legacy had been paid to his sister, Mrs
Forsyth, and a provision of 200 pounds a year made for Reginald
Kavanagh, an orphan cousin for whom Richard Burke had stood godfather,
and was now educating at his own expense, the boy spending all his
holidays with him in Ireland, and becoming a greater favourite with him
as time went on.

For his step-son, Stephen Philipson, had disappointed him grievously,
developing idle, dissipated, and extravagant habits as he grew into
manhood.  Mr Burke bore with him for some years, hoping that he would
sow his wild oats and reform.  But instead of this, he became worse and
worse, till at last it was evident that he would make the worst possible
use of any money which came to him.

And then Mr Burke had an accident in the hunting field, and, while he
lay between life and death, his step-son behaved and spoke in a
heartless and ungrateful manner, which was reported to him on his
unexpected recovery; and in his indignation he determined to take a step
which he had for some time contemplated.  For, though he was able to get
about again, he felt that he had received injuries which would bring him
to the grave before very long, and that he would never be the man he had
been.  And, indeed, when pressed, his doctor did not deny that he had
reason for his conclusion.

So as soon as he was strong enough to get about, he wrote to secure a
room at the hotel he used in Dublin, and took the train to that city.
And the next day called upon his solicitor, Mr Burrows, of the firm of
Burrows and Fagan.

Mr Burrows, a sleek little man, particular about his dress, and as
proud of his small hands and feet as a cat is of her fur, was waiting
for him in his private room.

"I am going to alter my will," said Mr Burke.

"Exactly," said the lawyer, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, which
intimated that he was not at all surprised.

"I have drawn up a rough copy of what I want put into legal terms; it is
very short and simple; we can get it done to-day, can we not?"

"Certainly, I expect so.  Let me see what you wish," replied Mr
Burrows, taking the sheet of note-paper.

Now, do not skip, reader, if you please.  If you do you will either have
to turn back again from a more interesting chapter, or you will fail to
follow the thread of my story.  I promise not to bore you with legal
terms; only read straight on, as Mr Burrows did.

"I revoke my former will.  I now leave to two trustees as much money as
will yield 240 pounds a year to be paid monthly to Stephen Philipson,
the son of my late wife by a former husband.  My land to be sold, and
that, with the rest of my property, to be equally divided between my
sister, Mary Forsyth, or her heirs, and Reginald Kavanagh."

"Not long, certainly, as you have put it," said Mr Burrows, with a
smile.  "But here is land to be sold, and other descriptions of property
to be entered correctly.  Can you not give us till the day after to-
morrow?  If not, I will send the will to you, and you can sign it, and
get it witnessed at home."

"No, no; I had sooner remain in Dublin, and get the thing off my mind at
once.  The day after to-morrow, then, at this time."

"It will be all ready by then."

As he passed through the outer office, the head clerk came from his
desk, smiling and bowing obsequiously.  He was a young man of dark
complexion, and black hair, worn rather long.

"Ah, Daireh, how do you do?" said Mr Burke with a nod, but not offering
to shake hands, as the other evidently expected.

Daireh was an Egyptian _protege_ of Mr Forsyth, who had employed him as
a boy-clerk, brought him to England with him, and placed him in a
lawyer's office.  He was clever, sharp, and a most useful servant; and,
entering the employ of Messrs Burrows and Fagan, had ingratiated himself
with both of them, so that he was trusted to an extraordinary degree.
He professed great gratitude to Mr Burke, as the brother-in-law of his
benefactor, and as having spoken for him when he was seeking his present
engagement.  But Mr Burke did not like the look of him.  He was
prejudiced, however, against all foreigners, especially Greeks and
Egyptians, so that his dislike did not go for much.  But certainly an
acute physiognomist would have said that Daireh looked sly.

Mr Burke had friends to call on, and business to transact, so the delay
did not really matter to him; and he called at the lawyer's office again
at the appointed time, Daireh, bowing obsequiously as usual, ushering
him into Mr Burrows' private room.

"Well, we have put your good English into what you profanely call legal
jargon," said that gentleman.

"Just listen, and try to understand your own directions while I read
them over."

It was all plain enough, and short enough, in spite of Mr Burrows'
little joke, and then Mr Burke put his mouth to a speaking-tube, and
called Daireh to come and witness the document.  Then there was some
signing, and the new will was consigned to the tin box bearing the name
of Richard Burke, Esquire, upon it.

"Better destroy the old one," said he.

"Certainly," replied Mr Burrows.  "Throw it behind the fire, Daireh."

Then Daireh did a curious thing.  He took another parchment, exactly
like the old will, out of his breast coat pocket, and managed,
unperceived, to exchange it for the document; so that the object which
Mr Burke and the lawyer watched curling, blazing, sputtering, till it
was consumed, was not the old will at all, but a spoilt skin of some
other matter, and the old will was lying snugly in Daireh's pocket.

What motive could he have?  What earthly use could this old will be,
when one of more recent date lay in that tin box?  Daireh could not have
answered the question.  He kept it on the off-chance of being able to
make something out of it.  He was a thorough rogue, though not found out
yet, and he knew that Stephen Philipson, who had just been disinherited,
was both rogue and fool.

So he carried off the now valueless document, which would not eat or
drink, he reckoned, and might be put to some purpose some day.

Mr Burke returned home and wrote to his sister, and to Stephen
Philipson, telling them what he had done.  He did not write about it to
Reginald Kavanagh, not thinking it necessary to take from him any
inducement to exert himself, for though he was a good-enough lad in most
respects, he certainly was not studious.  He was also accused by his
schoolfellows of what they called "putting on a good deal of swagger," a
weakness not likely to be improved by the knowledge of his godfather's
kind intentions towards him.

So that altogether Mr Richard Burke was, perhaps, judicious.



CHAPTER THREE.

FROM GAY TO GRAVE.

Tea was a comfortable meal at Harton in the winter half of the year,
when the boys had fires in their rooms, at least, for social fellows who
clubbed together.  Not but what it is cosy to linger over the meal with
a book in your hand, or propped up, as you sit alone at the corner of
the table, half turned to the hearth.

But Forsyth, Strachan, and Kavanagh liked to mess together, and
Strachan's room being the largest of the three, they selected that to
have their breakfast and tea in.  All their cups, saucers, and so on,
were kept in a cupboard in that room, but toasting or such other light
cookery as their fags performed for them was done in their respective
apartments, for the avoidance of overcrowding and dispute amongst the
operators.  Also, when bloaters, sprats, or sausages were in question,
it was well not to feed in the room in which the smell of preparation
was most powerful.

Though the half was drawing to its close, the evening board was
bountifully spread; for Forsyth's birthday had come off two days before,
and brought with it a token from home--a wicker token which the Lord
Mayor himself would not have despised.  There was a ham, succulent and
tender; a tongue, fresh, not tinned, boiled, not stewed, of most
eloquent silence; a packet of sausages, a jar of marmalade, and, most
delicious of all, some potted shrimps.  Harry knew, but did not tell,
that every one of those shrimps had been stripped of its shell by the
hands of Trix, who plumed herself, with unquestionable justice, upon her
shrimp-potting.  Unfathomable is the depth of female devotion; fancy any
one being able to skin a shrimp, prawn, or walnut, and not eat it!  The
shrimps, the sausages, were gone, the tongue was silent for ever, but
the ham and the marmalade remained.

The three friends were the oldest boys in the house, and almost in the
school.  Two of them, Strachan and Kavanagh, were to leave at the end of
the half, and Forsyth was to do so after the next.

"Where's Kavanagh?" said the latter, coming into the room and sitting
down by the fire.

"At his tutor's," said Strachan; "he is bound to be in directly.  Let
the tea brew a bit longer."

"It's uncommonly cold this evening; going to snow, I think.  I hate snow
in February; there is no chance of real frost for skating, and it spoils
the football.  Oh, here's Kavanagh."

The youth named strolled deliberately in at the moment, sat down at the
table, and began to shave off a slice of ham.

"Has the cold wind made you hungry, or has the effort to understand that
chorus in Euripides exhausted you?"

"I never try to understand what I firmly believe to have no meaning
whatever," drawled Kavanagh; "and I am never hungry.  I consider it bad
form to be hungry; it shows that a fellow does not eat often enough.
Now the distinguishing mark of a gentleman is that he has too many meals
a day ever to feel hungry."

"I see; then you are only carving the ham for us."

"That does not exactly follow.  Never jump to conclusions.  A fire may
not actually require coals, yet you may put some on to keep it going; so
it is with a gentleman's stomach.  You may take ham to appease hunger,
or you may take it to prevent the obtrusion of that vulgar sensation.
Not that I object to helping you fellows.  The carving of ham is an art,
a fourpenny piece representing the maximum of thickness which the lean
should obtain.  With a carving-knife and fork this ideal is not too easy
of attainment, but with these small blunt tools it requires a first-rate
workman to approach it.  Now this slice, which I sacrifice on the altar
of friendship, is, I regret to say, fully as thick as a shilling."

At this moment a little boy, Kavanagh's fag, came into the room bearing
a muffin on a toasting-fork.

"Devereux!" said Kavanagh, severely, "do you know what Louis the
Fourteenth of France said when his carriage drew up, as he stepped
outside his front door?"

"No."

"He said, `I almost had to wait!'  Now I, too, say to you that my tea is
poured out, my ham cut, and I almost had to wait.  Not quite, happily
not quite, or the consequences to you would have been--terrible!"

The little boy did not look very frightened, in spite of the tone in
which the last word was uttered.  Kavanagh had never been known wilfully
to hurt anything weaker than himself in his life.  As he was tall and
strong, this is saying a great deal.

The two other fags grinned; one of them filled up the tea-pot, and then
Strachan said "Go!" and all three lower boys vanished in a twinkling to
prepare their own teas.

"We shall not have many more teas together," said Forsyth.

"No, but we may dinners," replied Strachan.

"Suppose we all get into the same regiment."

"The job is to get into any regiment at all," said Kavanagh.  "There is
that abominable examination to be got over.  Awfully clever and hard
reading fellows get beaten in it every time, I can tell you."

"Well, but I believe it is easier through the Militia than direct into
Sandhurst, is it not?  And that is the way you and I are going to try.
At any rate, then we can go into the same Militia regiment, and that
will give us two trainings, besides preliminary drills, and so forth, to
have some fun together.  And Forsyth must come in too."

"I have not quite made up my mind to go into the army, or rather to try
for it, at all yet," said Forsyth.  "It seems such a waste of time to
sap for it, and then be sold after all.  I can never do half so well as
I fairly ought in an examination, because I take so long to remember
things I know quite well, even if I have plenty of time to think them
out.  I can learn, but I can't cram, so I fear I should never be in it."

"Oh, have a shy, man; it is only going in for something else if you
fail.  And there is no life like the army if you succeed."

"If we fail, we fail.  `But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
and we'll not fail,'" quoted Kavanagh.

"Well, it is very tempting; perhaps I shall try," said Forsyth.

"Look here, then," said Strachan, "there are two vacancies amongst the
sub-lieutenants in the fourth battalion of the Blankshire, and my father
is a friend of the Colonel.  I am to have one, and I have no doubt you,
Kavanagh, will get the other.  There is almost sure to be another
vacancy before the next training, and if there is, don't you think your
friends would let you leave Harton at once, and take it?  Then you could
serve one training this year, and another next year, and be ready to go
in for the Competitive at the same time that we do."

"Thanks, old fellow," said Forsyth.  "I will talk it over with my people
when I go home at Easter, and will let you know as quickly as I can."

"That is settled then.  Oh, we won't say good-bye yet awhile."

"It is a strange thing," said Kavanagh, who, having finished his tea,
had tilted his chair so that his back leaned against the wall, while his
feet rested on another chair, less for the comfort of the position, than
to afford him an opportunity of admiring his well-cut trousers, his
striped socks, and his dandy shoes; "it is a strange thing that there
should only be one career fit for a fellow to follow, and that it should
be impossible for a fellow to get into it."

"It sounds rather like a sweeping assertion that, doesn't it?" observed
Strachan, who was helping himself to marmalade.

"That is because you do not grasp the meaning which I attach to the word
_fellow_.  I do not allude to the ordinary mortal, who might be a
lawyer, or a parson, or a painter, or fiddler, or anything, and who
might get any number of marks in an examination.  I mean by fellows, the
higher order of beings, who are only worth consideration; I do not
define them, because that is impossible; you must know, or you mustn't
know, according to your belonging to them or not.  Anyhow, there they
are, and everything and everybody else is only of value so far as he,
she, or it is conducive to their comfort and well-being.  For them the
army is the only fit profession, and only a few of them can get enough
marks to enter it."

"Am I one of these extra superfines?" asked Strachan.

"You may be, perhaps, if you don't eat too much marmalade."

"Come, you are pretty fond of jam yourself, Kavanagh," cried Forsyth.

"Well, yes; we all have our little weaknesses."

"That reminds me," said Strachan, turning round and poking the fire.
"Our school career is drawing to a close, and I have never made my
confession.  I committed a crime last November which I have never owned,
which no one suspects, but which weighs, whenever I think of it, on my
conscience."

"Unburden," said Kavanagh.

"Well, then, you may remember that the weather was very mild up to the
seventh of the month."

"Don't; but grant it.  Go ahead."

"On the eighth of November it grew suddenly colder, and I got out my
winter things, and in the afternoon I changed.  Having done so, I put my
pencil in the right-hand waistcoat pocket.  There was something round
and hard there--a lozenge?  No, a shilling, which had remained there
ever since I changed my winter clothes in the spring.  Now at that time
we were reduced to anchovy paste for breakfast, and our bare rations for
tea.  Money was spent, tick was scarce, stores were exhausted.  Faithful
to a friendship which has all things in common.  I went out to Dell's
and bought a pot of apricot jam for tea, the time for which had arrived.
As ill-luck would have it, both you fellows were detained at something
or another--French, I rather think.  I had to go to my tutor myself at
seven, so I could not wait, and began my tea alone.  Well, the jam was
good, very good, hanged good; I never ate such jam!  Had I had quite a
third of it?  Not quite, perhaps; I gave myself the benefit of the
doubt.  But, then, the gap looked awful.  Happy thought!  I would turn
it out into a saucer, and you might take it for a sixpenny pot.  After
all, not expecting any, you would be pleased with that.  But it looked
rather more than a sixpenny pot, so I had a bit more to reduce.  And
then--you would not come, and you knew nothing about it.  Why make two
bites of a cherry?  I finished it, threw the pot out of window, and held
my tongue.  But oh!  Next day, when Kavanagh received his weekly
allowance, and laid it out in treacle and sprats for the public good, I
did indeed feel guilty."

"But you ate the sprats and treacle all the same, I expect."

"I did.  I would not shirk my punishment, and flinch from the coals of
fire which were heaped on my head.  I even enjoyed them.  But my
conscience has been very sore, and feels better now than it has done for
a long time."

"You have not got absolution yet," said Forsyth.

"Not by long chalks," cried Kavanagh.  "Jam!  And apricot of all jams.
If you really want to wipe out the crime you must make restitution."

"Gladly; but would not that be difficult?"

"Not at all; you can do it in kind.  At compound interest three pots
will clear you, I should say; or, if it don't run to that, say two."

"Two will do," echoed Forsyth.  "Who's that at the door?"

"It's me," said a youth--dressed in a chocolate coat with brass
buttons--entering the room.

"Oh, happy Josiah!" exclaimed Kavanagh; "careless of rules, and allowing
your nominative and accusative cases to wander about at their own sweet
will; what pangs would be yours at mid-day to-morrow if you were a
scholar instead of a page, and said `_Hominem sum_,' or uttered any
other equivalent to your late remark!  Shades of Valpy and Arnold--`It's
me!'"

"Mr Wheeler wants to see you at once," said Josiah, not listening to
the criticism on his grammar, and addressing Forsyth.

"My tutor wants to see me?  What on earth about, I wonder?"

Obviously, the best way to satisfy his curiosity on this head was to go
at once, and this he did.

Mr Wheeler sat at the paper-laden desk in his private study, under the
brilliant light of a lamp with a green glass shade over it.  There was
no other light in the room, which was consequently in shadow, while the
tutor was in a flood of illumination.

"Sit down, Forsyth," he said.  "I am sorry to say I have bad news for
you from home."

"My mother!"

"No, no, my boy; bad enough, but not so bad as that.  There are money
losses.  Your father was connected with a bank, and it has been
unfortunate.  It seems that it was a great shock to him, and he was not
in very good health.  You may have known that?"

"Yes, sir, yes.  I noticed that he looked ill when I went home at
Christmas."

"To be sure--yes.  Then you will not be surprised at this sudden blow
having affected him very seriously?"

Harry could not take it all in at once; he had to sit silent awhile, and
let the meaning of his tutor's words sink in.  At length he asked--"Is
he dead?"  And the sound of his own voice uttering the word made him
give a sob.

"No," said Mr Wheeler; "he is very ill, and insensible, but living, and
while there is life there is hope, you know.  People often recover from
fits, and this seems to be an attack of that nature.  But it is as well
that you should go home at once.  Put a few things together, and you
will catch the 8:30 train.  A fly and your travelling money shall be
ready by the time you are."

"Thank you, sir," said Harry, and went back to his Dame's House in a
dazed state.  Strachan and Kavanagh heard him come upstairs, and as he
went straight to his own room they followed him.

"Well, have you got the medal for alcaics?" asked Strachan, for they had
concluded that that was the news his tutor had for him.  But seeing his
friend's face he stopped short.

"Something the matter, old fellow, I am afraid," he said.  "Bad news
from home?"

"Yes," said Harry, in a voice he just kept from faltering.  "I must go
home to-night; my father is ill."

"I am awfully sorry," said Strachan, uncomfortably, wanting to do
something to aid or cheer his friend, and unable to think what.
Kavanagh made no remark, but, seeing at a glance how the land lay, took
a candle to the box-room, caught up a travelling bag belonging to
Forsyth, and brought it down to him just as he was going to call Josiah
to find it for him.

It was not long before he got some things into it, and was ready to
start.  A grip of the hand from each of his friends and he was gone.

What a bad time he had during that short journey; feverishly impatient,
and yet dreading to get to the end of it.  It was an express train, and
he got to London in an hour, and was just in time for another on the
short line to his home.  So he reached Holly Lodge by eleven.  Before he
could ring the door opened.  Trix was listening for the wheels, and ran
to let him in.  She had been crying, but was very quiet.

"He is alive, but cannot see or hear," she said.  "Come."

His mother was there, and two doctors, who looked very grave.  One soon
left, but the other, who was the regular medical attendant and a friend,
remained, not, as he plainly said, that he could do anything for the
sick man, who was dying.  And in the course of the night he passed away
without regaining consciousness.

But there is no good in dwelling upon that, or on the gloom of the next
few weeks.  Poor Mr Forsyth had a heart disease, and when the Great
Transit Bank came to final smash, the agitation killed him then and
there.

For he was quite ruined.  It was not only the money he had invested in
the bank which was gone, but, as a large shareholder, he was responsible
for the enormous sums due to those who had dealt with the bank.

Harry thought at first that they were penniless, and wondered almost in
despair how he should be able to support his mother and sister.  For he
had learned no trade, he was not a skilled artisan, and mere manual
labour and clerk-work are, he knew, very poorly paid.

But when Mrs Forsyth had recovered sufficiently from the first shock of
her grief to grapple with the cares of every-day life, she showed him
that it was not so bad as he had feared.

"There is my five thousand pounds," she said--"my very own, which I had
before marriage, and which is secured to me.  Two hundred and fifty
pounds a year I get from it, and it has always been a little pocket-
money which I had, without going to your dear father for every penny.
And now we must manage to live upon it."

Of course they had to go into a very small house, and could not take the
whole of that.  And Harry did not go back to Harton, but began to try at
once for immediate employment which might bring some little grist to the
mill.  And he was more fortunate than young fellows generally are when
starting on that heart-breaking search, for he had something to go upon.
He went straight to the London representative of the Egyptian house of
business with which his father had been connected, told his story, and
asked for employment.

"But your father was bought out fully, and you have no claim on us, you
know," said the merchant.

"I make no claim, sir," replied Harry; "I ask a favour.  I don't know
why you should employ me more than anybody else, but still I thought the
connection might interest you.  My father had a hand in establishing the
business, and I had a hope that that might weigh with you, if you have
found it a good one."

"Well, you have had a hard trial, and it is to your credit that you want
to go to work at once instead of sitting down in despair.  The worst of
it is that you have been educated at Harton, and can know nothing of
what is useful in an office.  What sort of hand do you write?"

"A shocking bad one, I fear, but any one can read it.  And I am not so
very bad at figures.  And I am ready to learn.  Won't you give me a
chance, and pay me nothing till I am useful?"

"There is one thing, at any rate, you have learned at Harton," said the
other, with a smile, "and that is to speak up boldly, and to speak out
plainly.  I was a friend of your poor father's, and shall be glad to
help you, since you are reasonable and see matters in their right light.
But you must not expect much."

So Harry was taken into the office as a clerk just for a month on trial.
And he showed so much zeal and intelligence that he was taken into
regular employment at the end of it, and received a five-pound note for
his work during the time of probation.  And the joy and triumph with
which he brought home this, the first money he had ever earned, to his
mother and sister in the evening, cheered them all up in a manner to
which they had been strangers since ruin and death had fallen upon the
household.

Many castles did they build in the air that evening, but they were not
extravagant, their highest present ambition being to have the whole
cottage, which was but eight-roomed, to themselves, and to keep two
maids instead of one.  And this, if Harry's salary rose to a hundred and
fifty, they thought they might manage.  Of course it was a dreary life
for him after what he had been accustomed to, but he made the best of
it, and really interested himself in Egyptian trade, till he became a
connoisseur in gum.  His principal recreation was shooting at the
Wimbledon butts on Saturday afternoons, he having joined a volunteer
corps for that purpose.  He had done so at Harton, and was the best shot
there.  He now had to compete with the best in the world, but he had a
marvellous eye, and up to three hundred yards could hold his own with
anybody.  At any rate he won enough in prizes to pay all his expenses,
and a little over.

Even when their resources looked lowest, he never thought of selling the
sapphires his mysterious uncle had given him.  He did not look upon them
as his own till the ten years were up, or to be used for any purpose but
that of going to find him.  They, together with the silver case
containing the parchment and the ring, were locked up in his old-
fashioned, brass-bound desk which he kept in his bedroom.  Nobody, not
even Trix, knew anything about them.

That was the one secret the brother and sister did not share.  Beatrice
was disrespectful to her Mohammedan relative, and always called him
Uncle Renegade till Harry read Byron's "Siege of Corinth" aloud one
evening.  After that she called him Uncle Alp.

But Harry Forsyth was destined to go to Egypt without needing his uncle.
He became more and more trusted by the firm which employed him, and at
last it was determined to send him out to the house at Cairo on
important business.  His absence was a desolation for Mrs Forsyth and
Beatrice; but it meant money for one thing, and, what was far more
important in the mother's estimation, it was a change for Harry from the
gloomy monotony of a London office.  As for the future she was under no
concern.  She knew of Richard Burke's will, and that her children at all
events would be comfortably provided for by it, though she herself might
not outlive her elder brother.

Harry, as he was actually going to the country to which his uncle had
prophesied he would, took to wearing his ring, and carried the silver
case in an inner waistcoat pocket.  The sapphires he left in his desk.



CHAPTER FOUR.

"WAYS THAT ARE DARK AND TRICKS THAT ARE VAIN."

While the Forsyth family was passing through its time of trial there had
been other chops and changes going on in the lives of those with whom
their fortunes were more or less connected.  Mr Richard Burke had still
further declined in health, and could not be expected to last long; but
what was unexpected by those who knew them both was that he outlived his
legal adviser, Mr Burrows, who was attacked with pleurisy, which
carried him off soon after he had made Mr Richard Burke's last will.

His son came into his place, but he was a mild and not very intelligent
young man, not long out of his articles, and very dependent upon Daireh,
who knew all the details of his father's clients' business, and was so
deferential and obsequious, that he made him think very often that he
had originated the course of conduct which the wily Egyptian had
suggested.  As for the other partner, Fagan, he confined himself
entirely, as he always had done, to the criminal and political part of
the business.

Daireh was a bachelor, living in lodgings, and might have saved money to
a reasonable extent in a modest way.  But he was anything but modest in
his desire for wealth, and the law would have given a very ugly name to
some of the transactions by which he sought to acquire it if they had
but come to light.

One February afternoon he left the office rather earlier than usual, and
after a hurried dinner repaired to his lodgings, where he mixed himself
a strong glass of whisky.  Then he took a flask of glass and leather
with a metal cup fitting to the bottom, and, unlocking a bureau, took
out of a drawer a small phial.

He listened; went to the door--opened it, and looked out on the
staircase; shut it again, locked it, and returned to the bureau.  His
hand shook so that he took another pull at his grog, and then uncorking
the phial he poured the contents into the flask, filled it up with
whisky, screwed the top on, and put it into his pocket.

Then he went out once more, and bent his steps to a railway station,
where he took a ticket to a small country place about an hour's ride
from Dublin.  It was growing dark when he arrived, but there was a moon,
and the sky was fairly clear from clouds.

He walked for a mile along the road, and then turned off by a path which
crossed a moor, and pursued this until he came within sight of a small
disused quarry, from which all the valuable stone had been long ago
carried.

As Daireh approached the place he clapped his hands three times, and a
man came out of the shadow into the moonlight.

"Stebbings, is that you?" said Daireh.

"Yes, it is," replied the other, sulkily.  "No thanks to you for having
to skulk like a fox.  As I told you in my letter, the police are after
me, and if I cannot get out of the country I'm done."

"What made you come to Ireland, then?  It would have been just as easy
to have shipped abroad."

"Because I wanted to see you, for I couldn't trust you to send me a
farthing."

"How was it?  You must have managed very badly."

"The numbers of those bonds were known, though you were so sure they
could not be, and they are advertised, and traced to having passed
through my hands.  That is certain to bring it out that I passed the
forged cheque, too.  Bad management yourself!  However, there's no good
in blaming one another.  Have you got the two hundred?"

"It is a large sum; but still, if it will get you out of your scrape, I
will make the sacrifice.  Only--"

"Get _me_ out of my scrape!  If I am taken, my fine fellow, you will be
taken too."

"Why, what good would it do you to pull me in with you?" asked Daireh.

"You know precious well.  If all the facts came out I should get about
two years, and you fourteen at least.  You actually took the bonds; you
forged the cheque.  I was only your tool, employed to cash the things."

"And am I to have you sucking me like a leech all my life?" cried Daireh
in a shrill voice, stamping his foot.

"That is as it may be; you must take your chance of that.  Perhaps you
had sooner I gave myself up and told the whole story.  I am not sure
that it would not be the best thing for me to do."

"That is nonsense.  Here is the money.  You know how to get to South
America, you said."

"Ay, I know.  If the police have not tracked me here; and I think I have
given them the slip," said Stebbings, counting the notes before putting
them away.  "Now the sooner you are off the better."

"It is a chilly night," said Daireh, producing his flask, "and I am
going to have a sup of whisky.  Will you have a drop?"

"Don't mind if I do," replied Stebbings.

And the Egyptian filled the metal cup and handed it to him.

"Here's better luck," he said, taking a mouthful.

Then suddenly he spat it out again.

"No, hang me, if I will trust you!" he cried.  "And there is a queer
taste about it, too!"

"What nonsense!" said Daireh, forcing a laugh.  "It is good whisky, very
good; I had a glass just before I left.  Well, good-night, for all your
bad suspicions."

And Daireh walked quickly away in the direction of the road which led to
the station.  When he was well hidden from the quarry he poured away the
rest of what was in the flask.

"If he had but swallowed it," he muttered fiercely between his teeth, "I
should have been two hundred pounds richer, and safe!"

When he went to the office in the morning, one of the under clerks told
him that Mr Burke was dead, and Mr Burrows was wanted to go over as
soon as he could.

"All right," said Daireh, "I will tell him when he comes.  Where are
those papers about the Ballyhoonish Estates?  In his private room, I
think."

He passed in, and without hesitation took out a pass key which unlocked
a drawer where all the keys of the deed boxes were.  Selecting that
belonging to the Burke box, he opened it; took out the will, put it in
his pocket; locked, and replaced the box; put the keys back in the
drawer, and locked _that_, and walked out with the documents he had
spoken of under his arm.  It had not taken him more than three minutes
to do the whole thing.

His plan was this.  He had now both wills in his possession.  He did not
exactly know where Stephen Philipson was to be found, but he was sure to
turn up now, and he would make terms with him for destroying the second
will and producing the first, which was in his favour.  But he would not
destroy the second will, but keep it to extort more money out of him
with it.  Also, if Philipson were to die--and his habits were such that
he was not likely to be long lived--he would find out Mary Forsyth or
Reginald Kavanagh, the persons interested, and see what they would give
for the document, the loss of which had disinherited them.

When Mr Burrows came in and received the news of Mr Burke's death, his
first idea was to open the deed box bearing his name, to see if there
was a will there.  Finding none, he called Daireh, and asked him if he
knew of any such document.  Yes, Daireh said, he did; he had witnessed
one not so many months ago.  He fancied Mr Burke had taken it away with
him, but he was not sure.  It might be well to look in the deed box.
Mr Burrows had already done that?  Ah, then, no doubt Mr Burke _had_
taken it.  Had made another since, very likely; he believed Mr Burke
was constantly altering his mind about the disposal of his property.
But no doubt Mr Burrows would find a will among the papers at the
house.

But Mr Burrows didn't, and Daireh, as he went home that evening, bought
a large piece of oil silk, in which he afterwards wrapped each of the
two wills separately.  Then he spent a considerable portion of the
evening in making two large pockets inside a new waistcoat, one on each
side, between the lining and the cloth, and each of these was to contain
a will.

Stephen Philipson heard of his step-father's death, and soon appeared at
the office to know if the old man had really been as good, or bad, as
his word, and cut him off with a mere allowance.  He asked to see
Daireh, with whom he had had a good many transactions.

"That was a real will, was it?" he asked.

"Real enough.  I witnessed it."

"But it cannot be found, I hear."

"Oh, it will turn up at the funeral, never fear."

"I wish it might not."

"Why?"

"Because then, by the old will, I should come in for the lot."

"But if the old will is not forthcoming, or the new one, or any other,
the property devolves to the heir-at-law, Ralph Burke, and you will not
even get your allowance."

Philipson, whose nervous system was considerably shattered, was so
affected by this consideration, that Daireh thought it better to revive
him with a dram of hope.

"If I can see you privately, without fear of interruption, I may be able
to give you a useful hint," he said.  "The funeral takes place on
Saturday, and if nothing is heard of a will then I will meet you next
day.  Where are you staying?"

Philipson gave his present address and left, thinking to himself as he
walked up the street--

"I wonder what bit of roguery that scoundrel is up to now?  If he has
got anything good for me I shall have to pay rarely for it.  Well, I am
in too bad a way to care much for that; but he shall not bring me within
the reach of the law.  I have no fancy for going to jail, where there's
no liquor to be got--not likely.  None of that, Mr Nigger.  If he will
take the risk I will pay the piper, and that is a fair enough division,
I think.  But I wonder what his little game is!"

But Daireh never made that Sunday call on Philipson.  For on Saturday
evening he heard a cry in the streets--"Important Arrest!  Great Bond
Robbery!  Scandalous Disclosures!"

He invested a penny in the evening paper, and carried it up to his room.

His fears were verified.  It was Stebbings who had been arrested.  He
had thought much about what he would do in such a case, and kept his
wits about him.  Of course, the "Scandalous Disclosures" heading was
premature--inserted, indeed, to give a fillip to the sale of the paper.
But the disclosures would certainly come very soon, and there was no
time to be lost.

He destroyed a good many letters and papers; stowed all his money, and
documents which meant money, about his person; packed a small valise
which he could carry in his hand, and started for the station.  He
crossed the Channel that night, and got to Liverpool early on the
following morning.  He knew--so carefully had he laid his plans--that
there was a trading vessel, with accommodation for two or three
passengers, which was advertised to start from the port of Liverpool for
Trieste that afternoon, and he would be unusually unlucky if he could
not get a passage in her.  He found, indeed, no difficulty about that,
and might go on board at once if he liked.

Before he did so, however, he had a good meal on shore, and wrote a
letter to Mr Burrows regretting that he was forced to absent himself,
without leave, from the office.  And then, his imagination warming as he
sat pen in hand, he told how his poor father, a stranger, speaking
little English, had arrived in London, and been there seized with a
serious illness; that he had not received the news till the night
before, and had started at once to see that his aged parent received
proper attention.

When the letter was finished, he went to the railway station and found a
guard, whom he asked whether he was going to London that night.  The
guard said he was.

"Then I wish you would do me a favour," said Daireh.  "A lady--a friend
of mine--wants to send a valentine to a man in Ireland, and is anxious
to mystify him.  She has got me to direct it, and would like it to have
the London post-mark.  Will you drop it in for her?"

He tendered the letter and a shilling, which the guard took with a grin
and an "All right, sir," and the foxy Egyptian walked back to the quay,
having done his best to put the police on a wrong scent when the
revelations of Stebbings should set them trying to track him.  At the
same time he felt that he was taking needless trouble, making assurance
doubly sure; for, once at home in Alexandria, for which place he was
bound, he would be safe enough.  Or, if there were any fear, he had only
to go up the Nile to Berber, where he had relatives, and what detective
dare follow him there, or dare touch him even if he did?

A more anxious consideration was--how to make any profit out of the
wills which he had stolen.  To treat for their restitution, or even for
that of the last and true one, would be a very ticklish operation
indeed.  I think it is really the worst part about rogues that they are
so utterly selfish, and regardless of the misery they inflict upon other
people, even when they cannot benefit themselves by it.  If Daireh had
had an ounce of good nature in his composition, he would have torn up
the old will and sent back the new one, now there was so poor a chance
of his making money out of his scheme.

But that idea never even occurred to him.  I am glad to say, however,
that he had a bad voyage, and suffered much from sea-sickness.



CHAPTER FIVE.

IN PASSING.

The fierce sun was declining towards the west, and it was becoming
possible to breathe and move about with a little more comfort on board
the somewhat cumbrous vessel, fitted with huge lateen sails, which went
swinging down the Nile between the lofty black rocks near Samneh.  I say
_fitted_ with the sails, not borne along by them, for the stream just
there took all the carrying power upon itself, rushing along its
narrowed channel like a mill race.

High above rose a hill, on the top of which was a temple, entire, with a
balcony round it, heedless of the lapse of ages.  There is some little
difference between the ancient and modern ideas of substantial building.

They had no ninety-nine year leases in the time of the Pharaohs; if
there were such things at all, nine thousand would probably be nearer
the mark.

Harry Forsyth sat on the deck admiring the different points as they went
by, and delighting in the glorious pace at which they were going; a
great contrast to their sluggish progress earlier in the day, when the
river was broad, placid, and leisurely, and there was hardly a breath of
wind stirring to urge them on.

He had been entrusted with a trading expedition as far as Dongola,
carrying merchandise and exchanging it for gum, and ostrich and marabout
feathers.  He had been allowed a little venture on his own account, and
had embarked it all in the latter article of commerce--marabout
feathers--and had been rather lucky in his bargain.  On returning to
Cairo he expected to go back to England, and that made him none the less
glad to be spinning along so quickly.

"I wish we could go like this all the way, Hassib," he said to the
Nubian sitting by him; "we should soon get home then, eh?"

"We shall go faster than this when we come to the cataract," said
Hassib, with a grin; for there was a joke here.  Harry on the way up had
not shown any liking for the cataracts.  In fact, had preferred, under
pretence of shooting doves, to walk round while the operation of towing
the vessel up took place.

He and Hassib conversed in a queer lingo, for Harry was trying his
hardest to learn Arabic, but had to eke it out at present with a good
many English and French words.  Hassib had a smattering of both those
languages, and after a little practice they got on glibly enough.

But I am sure you will pardon my translating the palaver between this
supercargo and the reis or captain of the boat.  The reis was the proper
companion for Harry, being a respectable fellow, and wearing some
clothes.  Harry himself was dressed in a linen suit of European cut,
with a tarboosh or red cap on his head, with a turban twisted round it.
Not elegant, but sovereign against sunstroke they told him.

"I wish I could get a crocodile," he said.  "Every day we get lower down
the river there is less chance."

"Plenty of them yet.  There is an island near where we stop to-night
where there are always many crocodiles."

"And do you think that I shall get one?"

Hassib thought a bit over this, and then replied gravely--

"If it is the will of Allah that you should get a crocodile, you will
get a crocodile.  If it is not the will of Allah that you should get a
crocodile, you will not get a crocodile."

There was no gainsaying this.  Mohammedan races are fond of propounding
truisms with an air of having evolved a new idea out of their unassisted
brains, and that is why people often think them so very wise.

"You see," said Harry, after bowing his head in assent to the last
proposition, "I promised my mother a crocodile, and it seems so absurd
to go up the Nile and not be able to get one.  Then they are all white,
and I expected them to be black."

"White men call the devil and crocodiles black; black men call them
white," replied Hassib, who was a wag.  "You now see which is right."

"Good again; that is one for me!" laughed Harry.  "But I should really
like to get one if I could."

"And the English think the crocodile such a pretty ornament!" said
Hassib.  "It is a strange taste."

And then Harry thought for the first time where on earth would they put
the crocodile if they got it.  But that was a future consideration.

"Shall we shoot the cataract to-night?" he asked, presently.

"No," said Hassib, "there will not be light enough.  We shall anchor for
the night soon, and start at daybreak."

The river soon grew broader and calmer, and in half an hour they came to
the place where they were to remain, and cast anchor.

Harry went ashore with his rifle, in hopes of a shot at the amphibious
creatures, and his fishing tackle to keep him in patience while he was
waiting for it.  Hassib accompanied him to point out the place he had
mentioned where the monsters were wont to lie.

For some time he got neither a shot nor a bite; but presently there came
a tremendous tug at his line.  The fish tugged, and Harry tugged, and
the line being strong enough to hold a whale nearly, it seemed to be a
question whether Harry pulled the fish out, or the fish pulled Harry in.
In fact it was a regular tug of war.

Harry was the victor, and his opponent came to bank with a bound and
flop.

"By jove!  I have got a crocodile after all!" cried Harry, jumping back,
as a hideous thing four feet long, and having the same number of legs,
and a tail, seemed making towards him.  The reis, laughing in a manner
most contrary to our notions of the staid impassive Arab, began
hammering the creature with a stick, until it lay quiet enough.

"What is it?" asked the captor, approaching cautiously.

"A big lizard," replied Hassib, "so your learned white men say;
`alligator lizard' I heard one call it.  But it is really a thing that
comes out of an addled crocodile's egg."

Harry looked up quickly, but the reis was perfectly grave.  And on such
occasions he always pretended to believe, whether he did or no.  Hassib
was quite confident of the correctness of his information, and how could
it be disproved, or, for that matter, why should it be?

The sun was now very low on the horizon, and would soon take its sand-
bath.  Hassib laid his hand on Forsyth's arm and ducked behind a mound
on the edge of the bank.  Harry did the same.

"One, two, five, seven," counted Hassib.  Harry peeped, and saw that
mystic number of grey crocodiles lying on the island where he had been
looking for them.

The nearest was about two hundred yards off.  By stalking him along the
bank, as he was not quite opposite, he got perhaps thirty yards nearer.
As has been said, he was a really first-rate rifle-shot, and the
prospects of that crocodile could not be considered rosy.

Scales are hard, but so are conical bullets.  Harry took a steady aim at
what he had been taught to consider the most vulnerable part get-at-
able, and pulled.  Crack!  Smack!  He heard the ball tell as plainly as
if it were on an iron target.  But the absurd crocodile acted as all the
others he had shot at had done: he rolled over into the water and
disappeared, and the other six kept him company.

"He is killed!  Oh, he is killed!" cried the reis, much excited.  "He
will float soon, you will see.  When they are shot dead their bodies
soon float."

Whether this creature was an exception, or was not shot dead, or was
carried down to the cataract before he got to the floating stage, and so
came up where no one wanted him, cannot be said.  But they saw him no
more, and he was numbered among the partridges who have gone away to
die, and the rabbits that were hit so hard, but crept away into holes!

Going back to where the boat lay they found another lying near her,
which had been dragged up the last bit of the cataract and brought up so
far since their arrival, while the crew had gone ashore and lit a fire,
round which they were gathered.

Forsyth and Hassib went up to them for news, but there was not much.
Alexandria was being rebuilt after the bombardment; Arabi's insurrection
was quite over, and Mohammed Tewfik Pasha firmly established.  The
English soldiers were leaving, and the country would soon be quit of
them entirely.

"Not it," said one of the new-comers, who seemed to be a passenger.
Certainly not a sailor, for his hands were delicate, and he lacked
manliness when compared with the others of the party.  "The English will
not be so easy to get rid of, make sure of that."

And one of the others said to Hassib, alluding to the speaker--

"You knew his father; this is Daireh."

"And I knew him as a boy," said Hassib.

"It is years since I left," said Daireh.

Here Reouf the pilot joined the group, and he, too, was a friend of the
family, and was made known.

Harry Forsyth, seeing that old acquaintances had met after an absence,
kept in the background, and lit his pipe.  He listened indeed, but
simply to try what words of Arabic, in which the conversation was being
held, he could pick up, not from any interest or curiosity which he felt
in the subject of their talk.

"Quite a boy when you went to England," said Reouf; "and yet I think I
can recognise you.  Do you remember you went in my diabeheeh from Berber
home to Alexandria?"

"Have you been to Berber lately?  Are my people there well?"

"I was there less than a year ago, and all was well with them.  You are
journeying there now?" said Reouf.

"I am," replied Daireh.  "I returned from the land of exile to visit my
home, hoping to share my hard-earned gains with my own people, when what
did I find?  Ruins in the place of my home, my family dispersed, my
father slain by the English."

"Not so," said Hassib.  "I heard of the misfortune; but it was by the
hand of Arabi's soldiers that he fell; not that of the English.  Arabi's
soldiers, or plunderers who called themselves such.  The English sailors
caught them red-handed, and hung them up for it then and there."

"May their graves be defiled, whoever they were," said Daireh.  "I have
no friends now except at Berber."

Harry made out a good deal of this, and his heart bled for the Egyptian,
coming back as he thought to a home, to find nothing but desolation, and
to be driven out again from his native land.  For there is nothing in
common between the Egyptian and the Nubian but religion.  The former
race affects to despise the latter, and the latter really despises the
former.  And with reason.

So when he rose to go back to his diabeheeh (Nile boat), he bade him
good-night in English, and expressed regret for the grievous
disappointment and sorrow he had experienced.  And Daireh said of course
it was a great affliction, but he hoped to make a new home in the
Soudan.  And so they parted, courteously enough.

The diabeheeh Daireh was travelling by had sustained some injury from a
sharp rock during the process of being hauled up the cataract, and the
crew were going to remain where they were for the purpose of repairs.
So when a sudden red flush burst on the eastern horizon, and spread and
deepened till it seemed as if a large city was on fire, and Hassib,
recognising this as the dawn, began kicking his lazy sailors into
wakefulness, the down-stream boat was the only one which made
preparations for a start.

By the time the anchor was up and the sails hoisted, however, there was
some movement on board the other diabeheeh, and parting greetings were
exchanged.  Harry Forsyth, seeing the man who had excited his compassion
the night before on deck, waved his hand to him and shouted good-bye!
And the other returned the salutation.  And the local pilot for the
second cataract took the helm, and the vessel entered the boiling
waters, and was whirled in apparent helplessness, though really guided
with great skill amidst innumerable rocks, any one of which would have
crushed her like an egg-shell.

And Harry, in the excitement and anxiety of the passage, forgot all
about the casual traveller from whom he had just parted.  Little did he
dream that that man carried in his breast the document upon which his
fortune depended, and the obtaining of which would establish his mother
and sister in comfort, besides changing all the future prospects of his
old friend Kavanagh.  And Daireh, had he but known that the Englishman
he had just parted from was Harry Forsyth, what a lucky opportunity he
would have esteemed it for making a bargain, and securing at least some
profit out of what threatened to be the barren crime he had committed.

For though it was not to be expected that the poor clerk and agent
should have command of sufficient funds to pay even the more moderate
ransom which he was now prepared to accept, he had formed all his plans
for eventually securing it.  Something of course would have to be
trusted to the pledged word of the man with whom he treated, but though
he had no scruples about breaking his word, or his oath, indeed, for
that matter, himself, he knew well that other people had, and had before
traded, not without success, on what he considered a foolish weakness.

But the chance was gone both for the robber and the robbed.  They had
met, and not known it, and now their paths diverged more widely every
minute.

Is there any truth in the notion of people having presentiments?
Whether or no, certainly Forsyth had none, for he was only too eager to
get back to Cairo.  And the boat went well, though not fast enough for
his impatience, making a quick trip of it.

His employers were well satisfied with the result of their venture, and
Harry himself made as much as he expected out of his marabout feathers.

Shortly afterwards, as had been arranged, he sailed for England, and had
a warm greeting from his mother and Trix, though he did not bring the
promised crocodile.

And then he learned that his uncle, Richard Burke, was dead, and that
his will had mysteriously disappeared, as well as the confidential clerk
of the Dublin solicitors who had charge of it, who was therefore
supposed to have taken it.

"We would not write to you about it," said Mrs Forsyth, "because you
were on your way home, and the will might have been found in the
interim.  But it hasn't."



CHAPTER SIX.

IN FARNHAM PARK.

Church parade was over, and quiet reigned in the camp of the Fourth
Battalion Blankshire Regiment, which was undergoing its annual training
at Aldershot.

A young man in civilian clothes sat at breakfast in the officers' mess-
tent.  He was a visitor and guest, who had no obligation to early
rising, so he lay snug till the band, marching the Church of Englanders
off at nine o'clock, roused him and then performed a leisurely toilet.

And now he, the subaltern of the day, and the officer who was to take
the Roman Catholics, had the tent to themselves.  The former was some
distance off, the latter sat next to him.

"I came only just in time for mess yesterday, so we had no opportunity
for a private chat," said the one in plain clothes.  "But I have a lot
to say to you."

"Well, look here," replied the other, "my parade is at eleven; the dress
bugle has just gone for it.  I shall be back by half-past twelve.  Then
we will have lunch and go for a walk, you, I, and Strachan, if you
like."

"I should like it very much, though how you can expect me to eat lunch
after such a breakfast as this at such a late hour, I cannot imagine."

"Oh, the air here is wonderful for the appetite.  Not like London and
Egypt, which seem to be your haunts."

"And the unaccountable disappearance of this will of uncle Richard's,
Kavanagh, has it put you in a very big hole?"

"Not just yet.  The dear old man felt himself failing, and thought he
might forget me as weeks went on.  So, instead of sending a quarterly
cheque, he paid my allowance for the whole year into the agent's hands.
So kind and thoughtful of him, was it not?  But for the future, of
course, it will be rather awkward for me if the will does not turn up.
I go in directly after the training for the Competitive Examination, and
so does Strachan.  We have both passed the Preliminary, and shall have
served our two trainings.  Well, if I pass, it will be hard enough to
live on my pay, but I must get into the Indian or Gold Coast Services,
and try it that way.  If I don't succeed, why then I have no idea what
to do next.  At least, I have an idea, but there is no need to think it
out till the necessity comes."

"What do you think of your chance?"

"Well, my coach thinks it doubtful.  He has known fellows get their
commissions who were worse up than I am, and he has known fellows fail
who were better up than I am.  It depends on the lot of competitors, and
also on their quality, and a little bit on luck.  There is a good bit of
luck in having the questions you have crammed set, you know."

"I can imagine there must be.  And how about Strachan?"

"Well, if he has not got a good bit in hand, I am not in it, that's all.
He could give me a hundred marks and a beating.  However, I fancy that
he must be safe.  But there is the Fall-in; I must be off."

As Kavanagh left the tent Strachan came into it.

"Well, old fellow, and how did you sleep?" he asked.

"Not badly," said Forsyth.  "I fancy?  Should have been still at it but
for that big drum of yours."

"Hush!  It is lucky the Colonel is not here.  Never speak of the big
drum in that irreverent tone to him, I pray.  It would well-nigh give
him a fit.  The big drum is his fetish, though he nearly smashed it
himself last year."

"How was that?"

"We were out on the Queen's Birthday, and had to fire a _feu de joie_.
Rattle up the front rank, rattle down the rear rank, three times, you
know.  The horses hate it, and the chief had a young one who did not
like ordinary firing very well, though he had got him in hand for that.
But the roll was too much for the gee's nerves; he went wild with
terror, bolted slap through the band, and finally reared up till he
rolled over.  It looked as if the Colonel was under him, and those who
went to help thought him smashed.  But he got up, and said, with a face
of intense anxiety--

"`Is the big drum safe?'  But, I say, how jolly it is to meet you again,
old fellow.  Don't you remember that last evening at Harton, we said we
were sure to meet, we three; and here we are, you see.  But, I say, this
is a bad story for Kavanagh about this will being missing, is it not?
Bad for you, too, though.  Your mother was in it, was she not?"

"Yes; but as the testator's sister she will come in for something,
probably, anyhow.  True, it is mostly land, and I believe an uncle
abroad will inherit that.  But I don't know the legal rights of the
matter yet quite.  Anyhow, she has something of her own, and I have
learned how to get work and earn my bread by it.  So all round it is
worse for Kavanagh.  What is his chance of passing?"

"Not very good, I fear," said Strachan.  "I don't feel safe, and I have
read more than he has.  And he is such a good fellow!  He was awfully
sorry about Mr Burke's death, but made no trouble whatever of the
missing will.  That is, of course, he thought the prospect of being
penniless a great bore, but he never got into low spirits, or worried
others about it.  And with his tastes and ideas, too!"

"Yes," said Harry; "fellows at Harton used to think him a tremendous
swell.  And those who did not know him were apt to take a prejudice
against him.  `Lady Kavanagh' some called him, you remember.  But we
must have a long talk, we three, for my time is short; I must go back
to-morrow.  Kavanagh proposed a walk after lunch."

"Certainly, if you like.  We generally walk over to Farnham on a fine
Sunday afternoon: where the bishop's palace is."

"I know.  I have often heard of Farnham, and should like to see it,"
said Harry.  And others coming in, the conversation became general.

Then lunch time arrived, and was on the table very punctually, though
Harry did not want anything.  But with the majority, who had breakfasted
before eight, it was different.  Kavanagh came in ready dressed for the
walk, and expressed impatience at Strachan being still in uniform.

"I have got to pay my company," explained Strachan; "but I shall do it
directly the dinners are over, and then it won't take me five minutes to
change."  And he was as good as his word, for by a quarter to two he was
ready to start.

It was a fine afternoon and a pretty walk; round the end of the Long
Valley by Cocked Hat Wood, skirting the steeple-chase course; through
shady lanes to the wild furze-clad common land; up the sides of the hill
range, where the old Roman encampments can still be clearly traced.

"This one looks precious modern," said Harry, doubtfully.

"Oh, the engineers may have been digging about a bit.  And this
certainly is a modern shelter trench.  There are battles fought here,
you know, whenever the generals are too lazy to go as far as the Fox
Hills," said Strachan, irreverently.

"But look at the view.  Over there to the left, where you see the queer-
shaped black wood, is Sir Walter Scott's novel--what's his name: the
first one and the least interesting; at least, I could never get through
it."

"Waverley," said Kavanagh.  "Don't expose your ignorance and want of
taste, Strachan.  You could not see the abbey if we went there, Forsyth,
or else I should have proposed it.  But the grass is not cut yet, and
till it is no one may go to the ruins.  That is Farnham Park below us.
Yonder is the Hog's Back."

A pretty road led them down to the park paling, which they skirted till
they came to a ladder stile, which they crossed into the park, close to
the solid old-world walls and towers of the bishop's castle.

"What splendid trees!" cried Harry, as the three old friends settled
themselves comfortably under one of them.  "I don't know when I have
seen such beeches."

"Very condescending of you to admire anything in England, such a
traveller as you have been," said Strachan.  "And you have been to
Egypt?  I envy you; I have always longed to see Egypt."

"There are more unlikely things than that when you are in the Line.
Things are not settled there yet."

"Why, Arabi's insurrection is completely quelled, and he is a prisoner.
And the Government will have nothing to do with the Soudan business,
they say."

"Who is _they_?  One set of _theys_ say so, and another set of _theys_
say we can't help having to do with it, let the Quakers say what they
will.  For my part, I hope all will be quiet," said Forsyth.

"Quiet!" cried Strachan.  "Why, if there is no war there will be fewer
vacancies, and I am less likely to get my commission in the Line!"

"Modest youth!  So you want some tens of thousands of fellow-creatures
to be slaughtered, palms and fruit-trees to be destroyed, and a whole
country made desolate and miserable for years, and millions upon
millions of pounds drained from the British tax-payer, in order that you
may get your commission with a little less trouble!  You remind me of
the reasonable prayer in the poem--

  "`Oh, gods!  Annihilate both Time and Space
  To make two lovers happy.'"

"Oh, bother!  I don't look so deep into things as that," said Strachan;
"I can't declare a war, and I would not take the responsibility if I
could; but if it comes and does me good, I can't help liking it.  It is
like winning a wager--I am sorry the other chap should lose, but I am
consoled by the reflection that I win."

"Exactly," said Harry; "and I strongly expect that I should lose by any
disturbance in the Soudan, and that Kavanagh would too.  It is a long
story; but you are such an old friend that it won't bore you, Strachan,
though it does not concern you personally.  You both know all about the
will and its mysterious disappearance, so I need not recapitulate that.
Well, I have been to Ireland and seen the lawyers--Burrows and Fagan.  I
could not make much of Burrows, who is a duffer; but Fagan has his wits
about.  He had never had to do with that branch of the business, but now
the credit of the firm was at stake he busied himself in making
searching and pertinent inquiry.  A sharpish boy-clerk was certain that
the will was left at the office, and kept in the Burke deed box in the
late Mr Burrows' time; and, when closely pressed and questioned, the
present Burrows recalled having seen it there since he came into the
partnership.  Then the question arose--Who could profit by its
disappearance?  The answer was, if a former will were in existence,
Philipson--my uncle's son-in-law, who was his original heir--would.  But
the old will is not forthcoming either, and Philipson is done both ways,
for he neither gets the property left him by the first will, nor the
allowance secured to him by the second.  Indeed, he is barely existing
on small sums advanced him by a speculative solicitor on the chance of
one of the wills turning up.  I saw a lot of Philipson: such a jolly
nose--like a big red truffle.  He said he was certain the late head
clerk--a chap of Egyptian or Arab extraction, named Daireh--had got the
will, or wills, having abstracted them after my uncle's death, because
he had hinted at being able to tell him how to find them, and had
appointed the Sunday to meet him, but had failed to keep tryst, and had
disappeared.  All this had to be wormed out of Philipson, who spoke very
reluctantly at first.  And I suspect he is as big a rascal as the other,
and was in a plot with him to destroy will Number 2, and prove will
Number 1, only the other would not trust him, but wanted money down.
The reason he did not keep his appointment is evident, for the police
wanted him for forgery about a fortnight later, and of course he had
found out that he was discovered, and made tracks at once without
waiting to come to terms with Philipson.  The police have tried to track
him everywhere without hitting on a ghost of a clue beyond London, from
which place a letter was sent to his employers.  But I know the
direction in which to look for him."

"You do?" cried Kavanagh, much interested.

"Yes.  The ugly beggar was vain, and liked being photographed, so there
were lots of his likenesses extant.  I was certain I knew the face from
the first, and I soon was able to associate it with that of a fellow I
passed on the Nile just above the Second Cataract.  He was going up, and
I was coming down, and I did not see very much of him; but I would swear
to his ugly face anywhere."

"And you heard where he was going?" asked Strachan.

"Yes, to Berber.  And I know natives who know him, so I have a good
chance of tracking him; and if he don't produce the will he shall eat
stick."

"Let him eat a little stick, as you poetically call it, even if he
_does_ produce the will.  I think a hundred on his feet, or any suitable
portion of his person, might have a good moral influence upon him," said
Kavanagh.  "Oh, to have the handling of the bamboo!"

"We have got to catch the beggar first," said Harry.

"And are you going after him really?" said Kavanagh.

"Or are you only chaffing?  It seems a wild goose chase."

"Yes, I am going," said Harry; "and I think better of our chances than
you seem to do.  In the first place, I have picked up a smattering of
Arabic, and that is a help; and then I have friends who can give me
recommendations to the Egyptian authorities in any town which is held
for the Khedive on the Upper Nile, and I am pretty confident I can make
them help me."

"But suppose this fellow has not got the will, or has destroyed it, or
has hidden it somewhere, and won't tell?"

"That would be hard lines for you, Kavanagh, and I hope better things.
But even in that case it would not follow that my journey would be
useless to myself.  I have got a crazy uncle, a brother of uncle
Richard, who is heir-at-law if a will is not forthcoming.  He has turned
Mohammedan, and lives like an Arab, and I believe has considerable
authority amongst them.  He was in England the last Christmas we were at
Harton, and I saw him in the holidays, and he gave me directions how to
find him if ever I wanted, for he took a fancy to me, and wanted me to
go and live as he does.  With all his eccentricity, he has a strong love
for his sister--that is my mother, you know--and if he could be told
that his brother was dead, and that he had made a will in his sister's
favour which had been stolen, by which means he had become heir to the
Irish property, I am convinced he would try to do something to set
matters straight.  Anyhow, it is worth trying."

"Rather!" said Kavanagh.  "And if the country is in insurrection, and
barred against Egyptians and European travellers, your relative's pass
may enable you to get at Master Cream--Butter--what's his name?"

"Daireh."

"Ah, yes; I knew it had something to do with a dairy--to get at him,
after all."

"By Jove, what an enterprising chap you are, Forsyth!" cried Strachan.
"You deserve to succeed, I am sure."

"He does; and I heartily hope he will, for if he does not find the will,
I shall have to forego all the comforts of life, at least, all I know
of, for I daresay I shall find others.  Now periwinkles may be a
comfort, but what I shudder at is the idea of dirty linen.  Not to have
a clean shirt every day!  It is quite too awful to think of.  I am sure
I wish you speedy and complete success, and that you may eat salt with
the Arabs, and put some on Daireh's tail.  That is how the Nubians catch
their prisoners, Strachan."

"And when do you start?" asked Strachan, a great deal too much
interested to listen to Kavanagh's nonsense.

"On Wednesday," replied Harry, "that is why I cannot stop to-morrow to
benefit by your hospitality.  I must go in the morning pretty early."

  "I'm off to Berber early in the morning,
  I'm off to Berber, a little while to stay,"

chanted the incorrigible Kavanagh, getting on to his feet.  "Catchee
Dairy, or no catchee Dairy, Forsyth has got to see the old town of
Farnham, and walk home by road, and get there comfortably for dinner.
So come on.  I am sure Forsyth must want to rest his tongue a bit and
give his eyes a turn."

They left the park, and went down into the town by the steps beneath the
palace; and so through the broad street with the restored houses, the
bank and others, the inhabitants of which ought to wear coifs and
pinners, knickerbockers and doublets, and where tall black hats should
be unknown; then into the main street, past the Workhouse, which has a
letter-box soliciting books and newspapers for the amusement of the
paupers, and so back to camp.

Each of the three recalled that Sunday walk often and often in after
years, with a pleasure which those who have formed school friendships,
and met those they had "conned" with after several, yet not too many,
years' absence, will understand.  They talked no more of Forsyth's
adventurous journey, or the imminent examination lowering over Strachan
and Kavanagh.  No, the future was banished from their thoughts, which
were full of the past.  Their talk, indeed, on the way home, would have
been a terrible infliction upon an outsider, had one been of the
company.

"I say, do you remember Baum major?"

"Rather."

"Don't you remember when he thought he was sent up for good, and he
wasn't, and his face when he found out that old Williams had smelt his
jacket of tobacco smoke?"

"I remember!"

And then a roar of laughter, the joke being only known to the three, but
needing no further elucidation for them.  For every period of every
public school has its jokes, which are no jokes to any human being
unconnected with that time and place, but to those who are so connected
are a subject of life-long enjoyment.

When they got back to camp each felt that one of the happiest days of
his life was drawing to a close.  At mess that evening the Adjutant
announced that the Commander-in-Chief was coming down next morning, and
there would be a Field Day on the Fox Hills.  They were to be brigaded
at half-past five, so the "Fall-in" would be at five.

"We are sure to be back about one," said Strachan to Harry later in the
evening.  "You can wait till then, and have lunch."

"No, thank you," said Harry; "I have a lot to do before I start, and
cannot spare another day.  Besides, it would not be fair to my mother.
I should have gone off early in the morning anyhow; not so early,
indeed, as you march, but by nine; so it makes no difference in my
plans, you see."

"Well, we shall breakfast at four; there is no need for you to disturb
yourself then.  Get up at your own time, and order what you like, you
know."

"Thanks, you may trust me," said Harry.  "But I shall see you off."
Those overnight resolutions do not always find fulfilment in the
morning.  But when the companies were told off and equalised, and only
waiting for the Adjutant to call out the markers and form the parade,
Harry Forsyth emerged from the spare tent kept for guests, and went to
the reverse flank to give his two old chums a final hand-grip.  Then the
Colonel appeared and mounted his horse, and they had to fall in.  And
the band struck up, and the battalion trickled away, till the rear
company was clear of the ground, and Harry found himself alone.

"Poor old Kavanagh!" he murmured.  "Strachan does not matter half so
much.  If he gets spun he has two more chances; and if he fails to get
into the Line, then his friends have money and interest to start him in
something else.  But Kavanagh can't stop on in the Militia, or pay a
tutor another six months, and it is neck or nothing with him.  If I find
the will it will put him square; but what is he to do till then?"

Ruminating in this way, Harry returned to his tent and lay down again
for a couple of hours.  Then he tubbed and dressed, and had a
comfortable breakfast all by himself; for he was too experienced a
traveller by this to let melancholy partings spoil his appetite.

He was in town by eleven, getting what was wanted to complete his modest
outfit, and at the Sheen cottage with his mother and sister in time for
their early dinner.

They were a thoroughly happy trio, for whatever interested one of them
became at once equally interesting to the others, and so Harry could
have his talk out about the friends he had just parted from without fear
of boring any one.

It was a great sorrow to Mrs Forsyth that her son should be going back
to Egypt so soon.  She had hoped that the anxiety she had suffered
during his former absence was at an end, at least, for some considerable
time.

"If his constitution were but settled," she said, "I should not so much
mind; but he is not quite nineteen yet."

And Beatrice tried to be cheerful, and make light of it, but she was
sorely disappointed also.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

A VERY LONG PAPER-CHASE.

It was not without very careful consideration that Harry Forsyth had
determined to sacrifice his immediate salary, if not his prospects of
success in the commercial line for ever, in order to track Daireh, and
obtain the abstracted will.

On learning the whole story on his return to England, he had indeed at
once thought that that was the best thing to be done, but had not been
hasty in settling to do it.

His first act was to go to Dublin; his next to tell the whole story to
Mr Williams, the head of the house which employed him in London, and he
somewhat reluctantly fell in with his views, his hesitation arising
principally from Harry's youth.

"You are very young," he said, "but you have proved that you have a head
on your shoulders; and if your mother and sister have enough to support
them, and you possess funds for the journey, I cannot dissuade you from
the attempt.  If you fail, come back to us, and we will see if we cannot
give you employment again.  And even if you succeed you had better not
lead an idle life, and need not sever all connection with us.  At any
rate, I will do what I can by letters of introduction to aid you."

Harry thanked Mr Williams heartily, and that gentleman was better than
his word, for, besides the letters, he gave him charge of some goods
which had to be sent out to Cairo, by which he not only got a free
passage, but salary up to the date of his arrival out.

Under the circumstances, and considering the object of his present visit
to Egypt, Harry had no hesitation in selling the amethysts given to him
by his uncle Ralph, or the Sheikh Burrachee.  For he fully intended to
seek him, if he could not find Daireh, a matter which he felt to be
extremely problematical.  Without the sale of these jewels he could not
attempt the rescue of the will at all.  He was surprised at their value,
for he got more for them than he expected, and it seemed a great risk to
have left them in the secret drawer of his desk all this time.  You may
be sure he did not forget the signet-ring and the thin silver case,
these being taken with him as before.

The trip to Cairo was uneventful, and he passed the time in improving
his Arabic, by the aid of a grammar, dictionary, and Koran.  As soon as
he had delivered his cargo, and called upon the member of the firm who
resided out there, who was as kind and cordial as Mr Williams, he
started up the Nile.

The traveller who does that, proposing to do more than visit a pyramid
or two, requires a good deal of patience; and so would a reader if the
ordinary routine of travel were to be recorded.  Suffice it then to say
that Harry voyaged up the Nile to Korosko, and there joined a caravan
across the desert to Abu Hamed, from which place he got passage again on
board a diabeheeh, which carried him to Berber.

With what excitement he beheld the white houses, the minarets, the palm-
trees, grow nearer and nearer!  Within those walls, as he hoped, Daireh
was living.  If so, and he could find him, and get the will, the object
of his journey would be accomplished.

For he had laid his plans.  Armed with a letter he had got for the
Governor, he would find no difficulty in having his man seized
unexpectedly before he would have time to make away with the document,
and there was little doubt means would be found to make him give it up.

Confidence, which had fluctuated, revived at the sight of the place, and
when at length he was landed, Harry walked through the bazaars,
expecting every man he met to be the one he was in search of.  After
many disappointments he recognised himself for an idiot, and calmed
down.

How should he set to work in a methodical manner?--that was the point.
The letter to the Pasha denounced Daireh as a criminal, and therefore if
he employed his officers to make search for him the fact might get
about, and Daireh, hearing of it, might hide, escape, or at any rate get
rid of all incriminatory documents.  It was more prudent, perhaps, to
pretend to have business with him, and make inquiry in the bazaars.

The one advantage of the tedium of his journey was that Harry had
acquired much more fluency by constant practice in speaking the
language.  The dress he had selected was not one to attract attention;
he had modelled it on that of a Greek merchant who was continually
trading with the interior.  He wore full pantaloons, a loose sort of
jacket, with a shawl bound round the waist, and his head was protected
by a tarboosh, with a turban wrapped round it.

But though his clothes did not look European, the pistol stuck in his
shawl belt was of the best, strongest, and most hard-hitting type.  Old-
fashioned, indeed, so far that it was not breech-loading; for he had
considered that if he lost his cartridges, or spent them, his weapon
would become a useless lump of iron, whereas percussion caps, powder,
and lead, are procurable almost everywhere.

He went to the stall of a man who sold filigree work, and at his
invitation squatted down and had a pipe and a cup of coffee, while he
asked the price of several things.  That was very well, but when he
began to inquire about the object of his search, the shopkeeper lost all
interest in the conversation.

He tried a money-changer with better success; he knew Daireh, but had
not seen him for months.  More he could not say.  After many more
failures Harry turned into a coffee-house, to sit down and rest, and
have a glass of sherbet and enjoy a smoke.

While resting in the comparative cool portico where he was served, a
barber came and offered his services, and Harry, suddenly remembering
how the barber in the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments" always knew
everybody, thought he would try his luck with him.

"I have come all the way from Cairo," he said, in reply to a bit of
characteristic curiosity, "and my business is with one Daireh, who
should reside here; for the last time our house transacted business with
him he was here."

"He was here but six moons back.  And he came from the land of the
English to his cousin, who lived here.  If you have dealings with
Daireh, I know your business,"--and here the barber looked inexpressibly
cunning--"Gordon Pasha spoilt that trade; but since he has gone there is
good profit to be made.  And what are the pagans fit for but slaves,
sons of pigs that they are?  But they tell me there will be fine times
when the Mahdi rules.  Not that I know, but while I shave heads the
tongues wag and I listen.  It is nothing to me.  Mahdi or Khedive, what
do I care!  All want to be shaved."

"To be sure," said Harry; "the wise man has the same opinion as his
customer.  And where has the family moved to?"

"They moved to Khartoum when trade grew better, and you will find them
there if Allah wills."

How long he would have gone on talking it is impossible to conjecture,
had it not been that a customer entered his stall, which was on the
opposite side of the street, and he shuffled off to attend to him, for
which Harry, who had got all the information he required, was by no
means sorry.

His one great desire now was to get away.  To be so close, to find the
form of the hare almost warm, and yet to be just too late, was very
trying to his patience.  It was all very well to say to himself that he
had only two hundred miles farther to go; and after travelling more than
a thousand from Cairo, let alone the journey out from England, what were
two hundred miles?  But the answer he made himself was that two hundred
miles was a great distance, and there was the sixth cataract.  He had
forced himself to be cool--mentally, of course, bodily coolness was
quite out of the question--all the way along, with looking upon Berber
as the end of his voyage.  And here he had to go on another two hundred
miles, and up another tedious cataract.  It was very disheartening.

However, there was no help for it; so he went at once down to the quay,
and began inquiries about boats going up.  Luck here turned in his
favour, for there was one starting next day, and he engaged a passage by
it.  And what was still more fortunate, the next day was Friday, and so
there was not any likelihood of the delay which is so charming to the
Nubian sailor mind.  For Friday is their lucky day, and they would not
miss the chance of commencing any undertaking upon it on any account.
Now we account Friday an unlucky day (or used to do so).  So either we
or the Soudanese must be utterly wrong--radically wrong.  Which is it, I
wonder?

The dreary business commenced again on the morrow.  A fair breeze, and
sailing; a foul one or a calm, and rowing; running on banks, and pushing
off; getting nearly wrecked half a dozen times in the rapids, and
escaping.  And so they progressed until at length the mighty river
divided into two streams, that to the left the Blue Nile, that to the
right the White, and the real Nile, and they found at the junction the
city of Khartoum, dazzling in the glare of the sunshine, with the
governor's house and the mosque rising above the flat roofs.

Opposite the city, and on the west side of the Nile, there were a number
of tents visible, and Harry asked the reis what place that was.

"That is Um Durma, where the camp is," he replied.

"And what is the camp for?  It seems a very large one."

"Yes, O traveller, it is large!  Seven thousand foot soldiers, a
thousand of them that fight on horseback; many cannon, many camels to
carry powder, shot, provisions, water; thousands of those who fight not
themselves, but load and lead the baggage camels, sell things to the
soldiers, and live upon the camp.  In all a large encampment, and must
cost the Khedive much money."

"Who commands the force, and what is it collected for?" asked Harry.

"Hicks Pasha commands it; he is an Englishman, and his principal
officers are also English; the men are Egyptians and Bashi-Bazooks."

The reis paused.  He was a Soudanese; and a smile played over his face
as he added, "They are going to do wonderful things; to take El Obeid
back again, to destroy the Soudan army, take the Mahdi, and carry him to
Cairo in a cage, I believe.  Oh!  But they are great warriors, and the
Mahdi's days are numbered."

"Is El Obeid in the Mahdi's hands, then?" asked Harry; for the last time
he had heard news of that part of the country it had been still held by
the Egyptians; and Mahomet Achmet, or the Mahdi, as he professed himself
to be, had been repulsed with such heavy loss when he attacked it as to
oblige him to sheer off, this being his first defeat.  But he had
returned in the January of that year, and taken the place after a
fortnight's siege.

"Yes," said the sarcastic reis; "he holds it just for the present, till
the warriors of Hicks Pasha find it convenient to walk across and take
it from him."

After the disappointment at Berber, Harry did not feel the same
confidence in finding his man that he had previously done.  He began to
be disheartened, and to think luck was against him; and to settle the
matter quickly was a more important matter than ever it had been.  If El
Obeid was taken by the Mahdi, the insurrection of the Soudanese against
the Egyptian yoke must be a very serious thing, and the country would be
in a disturbed state for a long time, so that the Nile route would be
closed against travellers, and passage across the desert to the sea
would be equally difficult.  If then he caught his man and recovered the
will, he would not be able to get out of the country with it.

He had little doubt that Sheikh Burrachee's signet-ring and the
parchment in the silver case, would, properly used, find him safe
conduct to his uncle, if living; but the getting back again he suspected
would be much more difficult, for his fanatical relative would probably
want to keep him when he had got him.

But as Khartoum was a so much larger and more important town than
Berber, so much greater difficulty was there in tracing an individual;
and perseveringly and assiduously as Harry pursued his investigations,
he could learn nothing.  Most of those of whom he made inquiries were
probably as ignorant as they professed to be; but there were some who,
at the name of Daireh, looked at the inquirer with a quick suspicious
glance.  One of these replied with a verse out of the Koran, another
with a proverb, a third said he never meddled with other people's
affairs, and walked quickly away.

After three days of fruitless inquiry, Harry was obliged to have
recourse to the plan which he wished to avoid as long as he could--that
of applying to the authorities.

So he inquired for the house of Slatin Bey, to whom he had a letter of
introduction, and went to deliver his credentials.

Experience in transacting business on his former journey up the country
had taught him how to expedite his reception, and a judicious
application of baksheesh caused him to be introduced to the great man
without too great delay.

Slatin Bey read the letter, and received him courteously, motioning him
to a seat on the divan, and ordering him a chibouque to smoke, and
coffee.

Harry knew that the great man must not be bustled, so he sucked at his
long pipe with apparent complacency and indifference to all external
matters, and said that he was an Englishman, who had come from London to
bask in the sunshine of the Bey's presence.

"England is a great country, and London is a great town--twice as large
as Cairo.  I am honoured," said the Bey.  "And you need no interpreter?
That is pleasant."

"I speak but badly, but I can understand and reply," said Harry.

"It is well," said the Bey; "and if you have a message for the Governor
it is best delivered without an interpreter."

"I have no message; neither, though a merchant, have I come to trade,"
said Harry, when after a few observations on fleets, armies, and Mr
Gladstone--in which the Bey evidently tried to pump him--he thought he
saw an opening.  "My business is a private one.  A man named Daireh, a
native of Alexandria, went to England as a boy, and was brought up to be
a lawyer.  He has fled with documents, for the want of which I cannot
obtain property which is mine by right, and I have traced him to
Khartoum; and I request your Highness's omnipotent aid to find him, and
induce him to make restitution of what is valueless to him, but of great
importance to me."

The Bey smoked a little while in silence, and then said--

"If these documents are of no use to him, why has he taken them?"

"He took them to extort money for their recovery," replied Harry.  "But
he had committed other crimes which obliged him to fly the country in a
hurry, and before he had time to make profit of the papers."

Another long pause of silent smoking, and the Bey observed--

"It is a difficult matter, and he will be hard to find."

Harry was prepared for objections, and had learned the best arguments
for their removal.  He placed a purse containing the sum which his
friends in Cairo had estimated sufficient on the divan, and said--

"I know that legal expenses are great in all countries, and it is only
just that I should bear the charge."

The Bey bowed and clapped his hands.

"Send Abdullah here," he said to the attendant who appeared.

Abdullah came in; an old man, with an ink horn and other writing
materials, worn in a case stuck into his girdle instead of weapons, who
prostrated himself, and was questioned.  He remembered the name of
Daireh, and knew there was something wrong about him.  But he must
consult his books and examine certain sbirri, or policemen.

So Harry had to go away, with the promise that he should have fuller
information next day.  He did not for a moment expect to be satisfied so
quickly as that, nor was he; but still he was infinitely more lucky than
most people who have to deal with Turkish or Egyptian authorities, for
at a third meeting, and with a little more baksheesh to subordinates, he
got at the facts; and very disappointing they were.

When the Egyptian army, now under the command of Hicks Pasha, was being
gathered to the camp of Um Durma, where it was at present situated,
Daireh had been very energetic in trying for contracts to supply the
troops with various requisites, and had ingratiated himself with many of
the Egyptian officers, so he came and went freely past the sentries at
all hours, always having the password.  One of the English officers,
however, chanced to see him one day in company which aroused his
suspicions, and he had him watched, and shortly afterwards a couple of
spies were taken, from the papers found on whom, as well as from the
confessions they were induced to make--not, I fear, by arguments which
would be approved of in more civilised lands--it became evident that
Daireh was in communication with the enemy, and had kept him posted as
to the number of the troops, their organisation, and their probable
movements.  Orders were immediately issued for the arrest of the
traitor, who, however, had disappeared, having doubtless taken refuge
with the Mahdi.

This news was a terrible blow to Harry.  He had tracked the man all
these thousands of miles, and here, just as he had his hand upon him, he
had slipped away again, and was now farther off than ever.

There seemed to be but one chance left--to employ the signet-ring, to
apply to the principal dervish of Khartoum, and seek out his uncle
Ralph, the Sheikh Burrachee.  He was most likely with the Mahdi, or else
with Osman Digna out Red Sea way; and, in the former case, he would help
him to recover what he wanted from Daireh, who was pretty certainly with
the False Prophet.  But it was extremely distasteful to him to have
recourse to such an expedient.  His uncle was a renegade, and if England
espoused the cause of the Khedive, which, after the experience of
interference with Arabi's revolt, it was very likely that she would do,
he would be in arms against his country.

It was certain that he would not desert the man, Mahomet Achmet, whom
his cracked brain accepted as a prophet from Heaven, for any patriotic
consideration, for he was a wrong-headed Irishman as well as a fanatic,
and a man with a grievance to boot, and would glory in drawing his sword
against England.  And if he joined him and sought his aid, Harry Forsyth
might find himself in the awkward fix of acquiescing, if not taking
part, in war against his countrymen, or of losing his head.  And he had
a sort of foolish weakness for his head, which fitted very comfortably
on his shoulders, and did not want transferring to any other pedestal.
And then, suppose, after all, the Sheikh Burrachee were serving with
Osman Digna on the other side of the Soudan!  He would be farther off
his object than ever after he joined him.

He revolved all this in his mind as he walked moodily through the
bazaar, where the products of all countries were displayed, not
excepting the merchandise of Manchester and Birmingham, when he heard
voices in loud altercation, and, looking up, he saw a group of men whose
gestures showed them to be strangely excited about something.

An Arab, who stalked along, his hand on the hilt of his sword, and
scowling on the bystanders, seemed to be the object of this commotion.

"Stop him!"  "Seize him!"  "The spy!"  "The rebel!" were the cries: but
the Arab passed on like a lion through a crowd of wolves.

Then an Egyptian soldier, bolder than the rest, seized him by the sword-
arm, and in a second half a dozen were upon him.  But in the next he had
shaken himself free, and his bright blade flashed in the sunlight, and
down went the first aggressor on the causeway, which was flooded with a
crimson stream.

Pistols were pulled out, carbines unslung, as the motley crowd rushed to
the spot.  Pop, pop, pop; at least half a dozen shots were fired.  One
bullet whizzed unpleasantly close to Harry's nose, another smashed in
amongst the bottles of an apothecary's stall, from which an assortment
of odours arose, attar of rose and asafoetida being the most prominent.
What billets all the other bullets found I know not, but one severed the
Arab's spine, and avenged the Egyptian.

By the time Harry got up to this latter, he saw that a man in European
clothing was by his side, kneeling on one knee, and trying to check the
flow of blood which pumped out of a wound in his neck.

"Is there a human being here who is not a jabbering idiot?" he cried in
English.  "Keep back, you fools, and let the man have a chance to
breathe."

"Can I be of any use?" asked Harry, pushing to him.

"That's right, come on," said the surgeon, as he evidently was.  "Lay
hold of this forceps, and hold tight--that's it--while I cut down a bit
and tie it lower down.  No good, I fear; there are too many vessels
severed.  By George, how sharp those fellows keep their tools!"

He was right; it _was_ no good.  In five minutes the Egyptian soldier
died under his hands.  Upon which he rose up and walked on to where the
Arab lay, to see if anything could be done for him; but he had hardly
moved since the shot struck him.

"A bad business," said the doctor to Harry, who had followed him.  "We
have not got many soldiers in our force brave enough to lay hold of an
Arab, and can ill afford to lose one of them in a stupid affair like
this."

"Are they such cowards?" asked Harry.  "But I say," he added, as he
looked in the other's face, "is not your name Howard?"

"Yes, it is."

"Don't you remember Forsyth at Harton--your fag?"

"Remember little Forsyth!  Of course I do.  But you don't mean to say--
by George!  Now I look at you I see a sort of a likeness.  But I should
never have known you."

"I expect not.  When you left I was thirteen, and I have altered a good
bit since then.  But you were eighteen or thereabouts, and have not
changed so much."

"That's it; though I have had plenty to change me, too.  But how do you
come to be here, and in that toggery?"

"Well, it is rather a long story," said Harry, "and I would sooner tell
it sitting down somewhere out of the sun.  What are you doing here--in
private practice?"

"That is a long story, too," cried Howard, laughing; "and I would also
sooner tell it sitting out of the sun.  Come to Yussuff's, where we can
wash this mess from our hands, and get anything we want."

Yussuff's was not far.  It was a convenient establishment, where you
could get a meal, or a bottle of wine, or even beer, if you would pay
for it, or simply take a chibouque or narghile, and a cup of coffee or a
sherbet.

"Try the lemonade; they make it first-rate here," said Howard; and Harry
took his advice, and swallowed a big glassful of nectar, which no iced
champagne he had ever drunk could beat.  And then they washed their
hands and rested on a comfortable divan while they interchanged
confidences.

Howard had been a bit wild, perhaps, before he passed the College of
Surgeons, and did not see any opening afterwards; he had no money or
professional interest.  So he had gone into the Turkish service, and,
thinking himself ill-treated, had passed into that of the Khedive, and
had lately volunteered to accompany Hicks Pasha's expedition.

"I have made a regular hash of it, as usual," he said; "for my great
wish is to study gun-shot wounds, and for that purpose I should have
taken service with the Mahdi; for almost all our fellows are hurt with
spears or swords, while all their wounded are shot.  But now tell me
what extraordinary chance has brought you out here."

Harry told his story, leaving out, however, all that part about his
uncle, the Tipperary Sheikh, who was now in all probability in the ranks
of the enemy Hicks Pasha's force was about to attack.

When he had done, Howard said--

"I remember that fellow Daireh; he would have had a short shrift if we
had caught him!  It was unlucky, though, that he was found out before
you came; he could not have done us much more harm, and the finding him
here would have done you a great deal of good.  By George!  You are a
nasty fellow to have for an enemy, Forsyth!  What a sticker you are--a
regular sleuth-hound.  Fancy following your enemy to the very end of the
world!  Such a little innocent chap as I remember you, too.  I don't
think I bullied you much, did I?  By George, I should have thought twice
about offending you if I had known what a Red Indian I had to deal
with!"

"I did think you rather a beast sometimes," said Harry, laughing; "and I
took it out of the next generation, when I had a fag in my turn.  But
there is no revenge or vice in my present journey; it is simply to get
my money.  I had been a good bit of the way already on other people's
business, and that put me up to coming on my own.  Do you remember
Kavanagh?"

"Very slightly; he was a little fellow--Brown's fag."

"He is not a little fellow now!" said Harry, laughing.  "I should say he
would weigh down the pair of us."

"And you can talk the lingo!" said Howard, admiringly.  "It is very few
words that I have been able to pick up.  But what are you going to do
now?"

"That is just what I was wondering when that row took place, and sent
all my ideas and reflections spinning.  I must sleep on it."

"Look here," said Howard, presently.  "The chances are that that fellow
Daireh has gone to the Mahdi's head-quarters, which are at El Obeid.
Now we are going to El Obeid; therefore come with us there."

"A capital idea!" cried Harry, hope dawning once more in his breast.
"There will be a chance of catching the fellow, after all, that way.
But how can it be managed?  Will Hicks Pasha be bothered with me?"

"He does not want any useless mouths, it is true," said Howard; "but I
expect that he will be able to make some use of you.  An Englishman who
has shown sufficient energy to make his way out to Khartoum, and who can
understand and speak Arabic, and that at an age when his sisters and
their she friends would call him `a nice boy,' and patronisingly teach
him the newest waltz steps, is sure to be available in some capacity,
especially for a leader with the resources of our chief.  At any rate
there is no harm in trying, and if you come with me I will introduce
you.  You need not tell him your story, you know, unless he asks you for
it, because it is rather long, and he is very busy.  Later, over a
bivouac fire, it may interest and amuse him.  Just say who you are, what
you can do, and offer your services, and I do not doubt you will find
yourself a man in authority over a certain number of Egyptians."

"What sort of soldiers do these Egyptians make?  They did not do much
good against us under Arabi."

"No; and we have a lot who ran away at Tel-el-Kebir here.  They are no
good.  The Egyptian rule has been a curse to the Soudan, and the
Egyptian troops are the greatest curs that ever tempted a brave but
unarmed people to throw off the yoke.  But suppose we go to the camp."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

KAVANAGH'S CHOICE.

Captain Strachan was an old naval officer, who lived in a rather retired
spot on the borders of Somersetshire and Devonshire.  His house had a
verandah round it, and one warm afternoon he was sitting at a table
under this, spectacles on nose, tying artificial flies.  A young son of
twelve sat by him rapt, holding feathers and silk, which latter he had
previously drawn through a kid glove containing cobbler's wax, and
wondering whether he should ever attain to the paternal skill in this
manufacture.

Mrs Strachan and two of her girls were round another wicker-work table
a little farther off, indulging in afternoon tea, their books and
needlework put down for the minute.  Presently the sound of a horse's
hoofs was heard upon the gravel beyond the garden hedge, and Mary, the
eldest girl, jumped from her low basket chair, exclaiming--

"Here he comes!"

Everybody looked up, expectant; even Captain Strachan laid down his
work--and those who have ever endeavoured to manufacture an artificial
fly know what _that_ means--as our old friend, Tom Strachan, walked up
the path towards the group.  As he did not look very pleased, his mother
concluded the worst, and said--

"Never mind, Tom, if you _have_ failed; very few succeed the first time,
and you have two more chances."

For Tom had been in for the competitive examination, and had now ridden
over to Barnstaple to forestall the country postman and learn his fate.

"But I have not failed, mother," said Tom; "indeed, I am pretty high up
in the list--better than I expected."

"Well done, my boy!" cried Captain Strachan.  "Not that I had any fear
for you, because I saw you reading steadily at home when there was no
pressure put upon you.  And those were the fellows who always passed in
my days.  But I am glad it is safe, all the same, and we will have a
bottle of that old Ferrier-Jouet for dinner on the strength of it.  But
I say, Tom, you look as grave as a marine at a Court-Martial.  No wonder
your mother thought you had scored a blank."

"Well, the fact is, my friend Kavanagh has not had my luck.  It is
awfully hard lines, for he has only missed it by twenty marks.  It is a
bad job."

"Aye, it is a pity," said Captain Strachan.  Reginald Kavanagh was a
general favourite in the family, with whom he had twice been to stay in
the holidays.  "A pity for him and a pity for the service.  He was cut
out for a soldier if ever a lad was.  Well, I hope he will study hard
now, and succeed next time."

"That is the worst of it," said Tom.  "He has no second chance, for he
has no money to live upon till the time comes.  I told you about that
will which has been stolen or lost; that was the only thing he had to
depend upon, and he has got to earn his bread."

There was a general murmur of regret.  Mrs Strachan particularly pitied
him for having no mother to console him, though her husband thought that
this was a redeeming feature in the case.  If he had to bear her
disappointment as well as his own it would be a great deal worse, he
said, and no young fellow of spirit wants to be pitied.

"Besides," he added, "there is this to be thought of.  Suppose he had
succeeded, he would not have been in a very pleasant position.  A
subaltern trying to live upon his pay is placed about as uncomfortably
as a lad can be.  For my part, I am not sure that I would not sooner be
a full private, if I must take to soldiering at all."

"But your other friend, Forsyth, who went out to Egypt to find the man
who was supposed to have the will--has nothing been heard from him?"
asked Mary.

"Nothing to help," replied Tom.  "There has been one letter from him,
and he was as hopeful as ever; but he had only got as far as Cairo.  Of
course, if he succeeds Kavanagh will be right enough, but what is he to
do in the meantime?  He has no relative to go to, you see."

"We would have him here for a spell if it were likely to do him any
good," said Captain Strachan.

"Thank you, father.  It will be kind to ask him, but I know he won't
come.  He has never been sanguine about Forsyth's recovering the will,
and I know had made up his mind to face the situation if he failed in
this.  He would feel that coming here would only make it more difficult
afterwards.  He expected to be spun, and I have no doubt has fixed his
plans."

Although his friend's failure damped Tom Strachan's pleasure in his own
success, it could not entirely quench it, and the family party soon grew
more cheery.

Of course the publication of the list was a terrible facer for Kavanagh,
and when he saw the certainty of his failure his heart thumped hard and
his brain reeled for half a minute.  But when the mist cleared from his
eyes he drew a long breath, shook himself, and lit a cigar.  He did not
bother himself with "ifs."  _If_ he had read this subject a little more,
and that a little less, he would have got so many more marks.  _If_
those questions he had particularly crammed in such a subject had been
set.  _If_ there had been three more vacancies, etcetera.  Neither did
he regret his former want of application, which he had done his very
utmost to remedy the last year.  Nor did he give way to a passion of
vexation about the missing will, or repine at Fate.  "What's the use?"
he said to himself when these thoughts recurred to him; and he smothered
them as he walked towards his room--this was in the chambers of a
brother militia officer who played at being a barrister and lived in the
Temple.  As he was a sportsman and an Alpine climber, he did not live
very much in London, and finding that his subaltern, Kavanagh, was going
to lodge in the capital for the sake of reading with a crammer, and
having a spare bedroom which he did not want, and was thinking of
letting off if he found a friend whose coming in and out would not bore
him, to take it, he proposed that the lad should do so.  If he liked to
pay him 20 pounds a year he might; if not, it did not matter.  For he
had taken a great fancy to Kavanagh, who, indeed, was a general
favourite.  When Royce, the owner of the chambers, was away, Kavanagh
had the sole use of the sitting-room as well as of the bedroom; and when
he was in town it was much the same thing.  They breakfasted together,
but Royce spent most of the day at his club.

He was in London now, and Kavanagh wished he was not, for he did not
want consolation, advice, or offer of help.  He knew that he had to work
out this business for himself, and the less said the better.  Royce was
not in now, that was one consolation.  Kavanagh went up to his room, and
began overhauling his clothes.  He selected an old pair of corduroy
trousers which he had used for shooting, with a coat and waistcoat which
had been worn with them, and a pair of boots bought in the country
ready-made, on an occasion when he had been obliged, by an accident to
his wardrobe, to supply himself in a hurry.  A much-worn check shirt,
with collar attached, and a black silk handkerchief, with a pair of
worsted socks, completed the lot of clothes which he laid upon the bed,
and for which he then changed what things he had on.  These he packed up
with all his other clothes in several portmanteaus and carpet bags.  He
next placed his tall hat away in its box, and, having completed these
arrangements, put on a wideawake, went out, and called a four-wheeler.
Then he went upstairs again, and returned with a tin uniform-case on one
shoulder and a portmanteau in his hand.  It took him three trips to
bring all his goods down and stow them on and in the cab.  When at last
he had accomplished it, he was stopped as he drove off by one of the
officials, who said--

"Halloa, my man, where are you off to with Mr Kavanagh's luggage?"

"I am Mr Kavanagh," he replied.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the man, touching his hat, as he
recognised him.

It was not very far that he took the cab, only across to Holywell
Street, where he stopped at an old clothes shop, and dismissed the
astonished cabby, after having carried all the luggage inside, a young
man with a hooked nose helping him quite as a matter of course.

"Now, then," said Kavanagh, "what are you going to give me for all these
things, clothes, uniform, portmanteaus, cases, and all.  Of course they
will go dirt cheap, but don't overdo it, or I shall call a cab and go on
to the next establishment.  I don't mind the trouble of packing up
again."

"Theresh no one in the street gives so good a prish as me," said the
man, turning over the different articles, and beginning to depreciate
them.  There was no sale for uniforms; those shirts were thin in the
back; that coat was too big for most customers, and so forth.  Kavanagh
cut him short--

"I don't want to know all that; come to the point, and say what you will
give for the lot."

"What do you ask?" counter-responded the Jew.

"Twenty pounds; and that's an alarming sacrifice."

"Twenty pounds!  Did any one ever hear the like!  Twenty pounds for old
clothes!"

"Why, you would sell the portmanteaus and tin cases alone for ten, and
that overcoat for three."

"You think so, my tear young man?  Tear, tear, how little you know of
the trade!  I'll give you five pounds for the lot, and then I doubt if I
shall make any profit," and the dealer looked determined.

"Say ten pounds, and it's a bargain," said Kavanagh.

"No, I say five, and I mean five.  Take it, or leave it."

"Well, to have done with all bother, we will make it seven pounds,"
cried Kavanagh, who was amused with his first attempt at making a deal
of the kind.

The Jew compressed his lips and shook his head.

"Very good, then," said Kavanagh, dragging one of the portmanteaus
towards him, and beginning to pack it.  "I will try my luck over the way
there.  I see it is so close a cab will not be necessary; I can carry
the things across.  Sorry to have troubled you."

"Here, stop a bit," said the Jew.  "Say six pounds, and that is a more
generous offer than you will get anywhere else."

Kavanagh went on with his packing.

"Well, six ten, and that will swallow up all my profit, I fear, but I'll
risk it for once.  Well, come, seven pounds then, since you must have
it."

So Kavanagh left goods and chattels, which had cost about seventy
pounds, behind him, and walked out with a tenth part of that sum in
cash.

Then he went down the Strand till he came to a pawnbroker's, where he
disposed of the rings, studs, and pins which he possessed, thus adding a
further ten pounds to his capital.

His next visit was to a watchmaker's, where he was known, though the
owner of it did not recognise him at first in his shabby clothes.

"You see I have come down in the world, Mr Balance," said Kavanagh.

Mr Balance put on what he meant for a grave and sympathetic face.

"To wear a gold watch and chain would be absurd in my altered
circumstances.  Are you willing to change them for a stout silver one
which will keep as good time, and pay me something for the difference?"

"Certainly I will, Mr Kavanagh; but, dear me, sir, pardon my asking;
your guardian, Mr Burke, was such an old customer.  I hope sir, there
has been no unpleasantness between you."

"None whatever; only he has died, poor man, and his will, in which I
know that I was well treated, cannot be found.  So you see I must not
indulge in gold watches."

"Dear me!" said the old man, to whom Kavanagh had gone for his first
watch when quite a little boy, and upon whom he had called whenever he
was in town since; to get the second handsome gold hunter now in
question; to have it cleaned; to buy some little knick-knack, or merely
for a chat.  "Dear me; I do hope all will come right; I am _sure_ all
will come right."

"I hope you are a true prophet," said Kavanagh, cheerily.  "But now, how
about this silver watch?"

He chose a good strong one, with a chain to match, and handed over the
gold, Mr Balance giving him twenty-five pounds besides.

"I say!  This is too much!" cried Kavanagh.  "It only cost forty pounds
when new."

"And is worth thirty-five now," said the watchmaker.  "I shall make a
good profit out of the bargain, I assure you."

Kavanagh pocketed his new watch, held out his hand, which the old man
grasped, across the counter, and walked away murmuring, "Good old chap!"

It was still early in the afternoon, so to complete all his business at
once he walked back to the chambers, took his sword, which he had not
parted with, packed it up in brown paper, and directed it to Tom
Strachan.  Then he wrote this letter:--

  "Dear Tom,--When I joined the Militia I hoped that it was a stepping-
  stone to the Line, so I would not have a tailor's sword, but indulged
  in the expensive luxury of a good one.  Accept it, old fellow, with
  all sorts of congratulations and good wishes.  `The property of a
  gentleman, having no further use for it,' eh?  I must poke my way to
  fame with a bayonet, if I am to get there, instead of carving it with
  a sword.  Thank your people for their kindness to me.--Yours,
  etcetera."

"By-the-by," he soliloquised, when he had stuck and directed this
epistle, "I have not sent in the resignation of my commission yet."  And
he took half a sheet of foolscap and wrote out the formal notice to the
Adjutant of the 4th Blankshire at once.  Then he said, "There is nothing
else, I think, but to post the letters and send the sword off by rail;
and then go in for new experiences."

It was a good bit of a new experience for him to carry a parcel through
the streets of London, and book it himself, but in his present costume
he did not mind doing it one bit.  Indeed, he felt quite light-hearted;
knowing the worst was much better than the anxiety of the past few
weeks.  And then there was another matter.  Having been used to a good
allowance, and possessing naturally somewhat fastidious tastes, he had
not been very economical, though, as he hated the idea of debt, and
would rather have blacked shoes for a livelihood than have imposed on
his generous godfather and guardian, he had not fallen into actually
extravagant habits.

When Mr Burke died, and the will was not forthcoming, and he was thus
placed face to face with actual impending poverty, Kavanagh had the
sense, the manliness, and the honesty, to do violence to his tastes and
feelings, by guarding against all unnecessary expenditure.  But to a
free-handed and generous disposition this is a very hard task; and when
the end came, and he cast up his accounts, he found to his dismay that
he owed more than the balance of his allowance, the last sum paid to
him, would cover.

It was not much, and would not have been pressed for, but Kavanagh,
though rather weak about his personal appearance, had a pound of manly
pride to an ounce of girlish vanity, and would sooner have gone in rags
than owed money to a tailor.  The money he had obtained that afternoon
would entirely clear him from every liability, and leave him with a few
pounds in his pocket; and this relief made him quite light-hearted, in
spite of the final tumble of his house of cards.

The question was--where to dine.  He knew lots of restaurants and chop-
houses, but even in the most humble of the latter, where the floor was
saw-dusted, his present costume would excite remark.  He had from
boyhood been particular about his dress, and his collars and waistcoats
had incited some of his friends to call him a dandy, so his scruples may
have been exaggerated.

At last he saw several better-class artisans go into an eating-house in
Oxford Street, and following them he did very well.  The table-cloth was
stained with brown circles from the porter pots, and was otherwise
dirty; the forks were pewter, and there were no napkins; but the meat
was as good as you would get anywhere, so were the vegetables, the beer
also; and the cost was about half that of the most homely chop-houses he
had hitherto patronised.

His dinner done, it was about the time when the theatres were opening,
so he went to the gallery door of one of the principal of them, and
after waiting a little while, amongst the good-humoured crowd, he surged
upstairs with them--many stairs they were, and steep--and got a good
place close to the chandelier.  The warmth and light from it were rather
too obtrusive, but did not prevent his taking an interest in the
performance, which was shared by his neighbours in the most intense and
hearty fashion.  The women sobbed at the pathetic parts, while the men
set their teeth and turned white when the villain temporarily got the
best of it, and both sexes roared with delight over the comic scenes.
Likewise, all sucked oranges; therefore Kavanagh purchased and sucked an
orange, and ingratiated himself with his female neighbours by politely
offering them that fruit!

And between the acts, when the young men in the stalls, in their white
ties, and white kid gloves, and nicely parted hair, stood up and
languidly surveyed the house through their opera-glasses, Kavanagh had a
sardonic amusement in the recollection as he thought that a fortnight
before he had sat in that fourth stall in the third row, in evening
dress, with a gardenia in his button-hole, and had similarly inspected
the inferior beings around him.  Froggy Barton occupied that seat to-
night.  Kavanagh took a squeeze at his orange, and thought he could hit
Froggy with the skin.  But of course he refrained from trying.  Only he
did look so sleek!  "What much wiser people we are than the swells!"
Kavanagh thought.  "We enjoy ourselves without being ashamed of it, and
we endure crowding and semi-suffocation without getting ill-tempered!"

But he soon had enough of it, in spite of his philosophy, and after the
second fall of the curtain was glad to get into the fresh air.

When he reached the Temple he found Royce expecting him, and directly he
entered he got up and shook him by the hand.

"I did not see the list till six," he said, "and then I came to chambers
in hopes of finding you, and getting you to come out somewhere.  You
have not been moping, I hope."

"Moping!  Not a bit of it," replied Kavanagh.  "I am not going to cry `I
take a licking!' because Fortune has caught me a couple of facers
without a return.  I have been to the theatre, and enjoyed myself
vastly, I assure you."

"To the theatre!  You; in that dress!" exclaimed Royce.

"Oh, I went to the gallery.  I have accepted the situation."

"Come and sit down and light a pipe," said Royce.  "I won't bore you
with unavailing regrets.  Tell me what you are going to do, and if I can
help you at all."

"Thank you; I have thought it probable I should fail, and have debated
with myself deliberately what course is best to adopt.  I have come to a
conclusion, and no one can help me.  My first thought was that if I
failed to be an officer I would be a private, and the more I have
thought it over the more convinced I have become that that would suit me
better than anything else.  I have never learned a trade, so I could not
be a skilled artisan, and a soldier's life would suit me better than
that of an ordinary day labourer, whose work requires no head-piece.  As
for spending my days in an office, a warehouse, or a shop, it would be
like going to prison for me.  In short, I am going to enlist, and have
also determined on the branch of the service which is to reap the
benefit."

"Cavalry, I suppose; Lancers, Dragoons, or Hussars?"

"Neither.  I fixed on that arm at first; the uniform attracted me; the
sword is a noble weapon; and to ride is pleasanter than to walk.  But
these advantages are more than counterbalanced by the lot of
accoutrements a horse soldier has to clean, and the fact that at the end
of a day's march he has to attend to his horse before he can look after
himself."

"A great many gentlemen's sons go into the Artillery."

"I have settled upon the Infantry, and intend to-morrow morning to offer
my invaluable services to the Foot Guards.  You look surprised."

"Well, yes," said Royce.  "To tell the truth I fancied that you would be
anxious to get to India; there is more chance, you know, of promotion
that way."

"I have thought out that.  But, to tell the truth, unless there were a
prospect of active service I should prefer to remain in England, for
this sole reason.  I do not give up all hope of that will turning up,
and if it should, I want to be in the way of getting early information,
and looking after my interests."

Royce sat in silent thought for a little while, and then said--

"I see what you mean, and upon my word I do not know how to advise you
better."

And after a little more chat they went to bed.

Next morning, when Kavanagh was dressed, he turned to his bath with a
sad conviction that his morning ablutions must in future be of a much
less satisfactory nature, and he sighed, for this went more home to him
than almost anything.  "Ta, ta, tub!" he said, as he closed the door.

He found Royce already in the sitting-room making the tea, and they
breakfasted together.

When the meal was over, Kavanagh rose and said--

"By-the-by, there is my gun; it is a full-choke, and a remarkably good
killer if one only holds it straight.  It was a present, and I did not
like to sell it.  Will you have it as a memorial from a fellow to whom
you have been uncommonly kind?  Good-bye, and thank you for all."

"Good-bye," said Royce, in a voice which he had a difficulty to keep
steady.  "I hope luck will turn for you soon; but I feel sure it will.
And if you have forgotten anything, or I can do anything for you, mind
you come to me, or write if I am out of town.  Good-bye again."

Kavanagh wrung his old captain's hand and hurried down-stairs, leaving
him with a ball in his throat and moisture very near his eyes.

"Thank goodness that is over!" he murmured, as he left the Temple.  "Now
for the barracks."

Instead of offering himself to one of the outside recruiters, he went
straight to the Orderly Room, and told a sergeant waiting outside that
he wished to join.  So he was brought before the Adjutant almost at
once.  He stood six feet in his stockings, and measured forty-one inches
round the chest, so there was no difficulty about his acceptance.  They
jumped at him like a trout at a May fly.

He gave his real name, Reginald Kavanagh.  "If I were ashamed of what I
am doing, I would not do it," he reasoned.  And besides, he wished to be
traced with the greatest possible ease should the missing will be found.

Of course the life at first was extremely hard, and the companionship of
some of his comrades very distasteful to him, but he took care not to
show it.  And others were as good fellows as ever stepped, and with them
he made friends.

The fact of his knowing his drill thoroughly made matters easier for
him, and he soon learned how to clean his arms and accoutrements, make
his bed, and so forth.  And by dint of unhesitating obedience to orders,
even when foolish, and never answering or arguing with superiors, he got
a good name without subserviency.



CHAPTER NINE.

THE ARMY OF HICKS PASHA.

It may have seemed to you that Harry Forsyth took the death of the
Egyptian soldier rather callously, seeing that he was not used to such
scenes, and that he ought to have been a little more impressed.  But you
see he had resided in Egypt, and been some way up the Nile before; and
in hot countries people not only live a good deal, but die a good deal,
in the open air, so that he had seen human bodies; and more than once,
in the course of his journeys, he had come upon one such lying much as
you will see that of a dog on the mud of a tidal river at home at low
water.

It is astonishing how soon we grow hardened to such spectacles.  And
then, unless he has become exceptionally cosmopolitan, a Briton finds it
very difficult to reckon an African, or even an Asiatic, as _quite_ a
human being.  Of course he knows that he is so, just as much as himself.
He knows, and perhaps vehemently asserts, if necessary, that even the
lowest type of negro is a man and a brother, and not a connecting link
between man and monkey.  But he cannot _manage_ to feel that he is of
the same value as a European, or to look upon his corpse with a similar
awe.

In the early days of the Australian colonies, an officer in a Scottish
regiment quartered out in that hemisphere caught a native robbing his
garden, chased him with a club, and hit him harder than he intended, so
that the man fell down and never got up again, for which the officer was
sorry, though held justified.  About that time bad news from home
oppressed his spirits to such an extent that his soldier-servant, who
was much attached to him, and was allowed considerable freedom of speech
in consequence of his value and fidelity, thought fit to remonstrate.
He attributed his master's lowness of spirits entirely to his brooding
over the accident, and said one morning when he had brushed the clothes
and brought the shaving-water--

"I ask your pardon, meejor; but it's sair to see you take on so aboot
the likes of that heathen body.  A great traveller I was conversing with
last night, and a respectable and trustworthy man, sir, told me that
there's thousands and thousands of them up the country."

He thought that his master was fretting over the wanton destruction of a
rare specimen, a sort of dodo!

Howard and Forsyth left Khartoum and strolled towards the plain where
the Egyptian army lay.  A town of tents, well pitched indeed, and
dressed in parallel lines, and kept fairly clean--the English officers,
though they had had all their work cut out, had at length taught the
Egyptians that--but wanting in all those little embellishments which
distinguish an English or French encampment, especially if it is at all
permanent.  No little flags to mark the companies; no extemporised
miniature gardens; no neat frames to hang recently-cleaned accoutrements
on.  The sentries mooned up and down, carrying their rifles as if they
were troublesome, heavy things, they longed to threw down, that they
might put their hands in their pockets.

In one block of tents, however, which they passed through there was a
great difference.

The sentry stood to his front and shouldered arms, as he saw Howard
approach, smartly and with alacrity.  The men were cleaning their arms
as if they took pride in the task, not like paupers picking oakum;
others were laughing loudly, or playing like schoolboys, and Harry
noticed they were all black.

"These niggers look much finer fellows than the rest," he observed.

"I should think they were!" replied Howard.  "These are Nubians, and I
wish we had more of them.  They hate the Arabs, too, and that is another
good thing."

"What a lot of camels!" exclaimed Harry, as, passing over the top of a
little hill, they came in sight of lines and lines of those ships of the
desert, lying down, kneeling, standing; "and how strong they smell.  One
might fancy oneself in a menagerie."

"Yes; Hercules himself could not have kept that quarter clean; the
Augean stables were nothing to it.  But look at these fellows we are
coming to now.  You seem to be a bit of a military critic; what do you
think of them, and how do you like their mounts?"

They were now passing a small camp on the further side of the mound they
had crossed.  Three rows of tents, and aligned with each on the reverse
flank a line of horses picketed--small, almost ponies, thin in the
flank, wiry, but extremely rough.  There had been no pains taken in
grooming them evidently.  As for the men loafing or swaggering about,
those who were fully dressed were so stuck all over with arms--pistols,
swords, daggers--that one wondered if they were suddenly attacked what
weapon they would have recourse to first, and if they would make up
their minds in time.

"I am no critic at all," said Harry, laughing, "though every Englishman
thinks he is a judge of horseflesh, and I fancy those might possess
endurance, if not up to much weight.  As for the men, they seem to fancy
themselves more than the Egyptians; but a more villainous, blood-
thirsty, thievish-looking set of scoundrels, it has never been my luck
to see herded together."

"You are not far out," said Howard, laughing.  "I should not like one of
them to come across me if I were wounded and helpless, and had anything
worth stealing about me, let me be friend or foe.  But they are useful
for scouting, and there are only three hundred of them.  They are called
Bashi-Bazooks, you know."

"Yes," said Harry; "from _Bash_, a head; _da_, without; _zook_, brains.
So called, as the `Old Skekarry' said, because they live on their wits:
_lucus a non lucendo_."

"My dear fellow," remonstrated Howard, "have I come all this way from
conventional England to the wilds of Africa to hear once more that
dreadful quotation?  Go on; give us _Sic vos non vobis_, and follow it
up with _Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis_, or any other little
House-of-Commons delicacy; only don't say _et nos_, as some of the
senators, who cannot, alas!  Be flogged for it, often do."

Harry apologised, and they now approached the English officers'
quarters, the Egyptian flag marking that of the General commanding the
expedition.

"Wait here a little," said Howard; "I will see if the chief is
disengaged and able to see you," and he entered the tent.

Harry sat down on a rude lounging chair he found just outside under the
shade of a palm-tree, and tried to reflect, not with any great success.
He was thoroughly bewildered with the events of the morning, following
the variations of hope and despondency produced by the near approach to
the object of his journey, and then finding it elude him, which had
occurred twice in the last few weeks.  Without knowing it, he was
becoming a practical fatalist, inclined to do what seemed best at the
moment, and let things slide, forming no plans for a future which was so
very uncertain.  Not a bad state of mind this for a hot country, where
worry of mind is especially trying.  Perhaps that is why Asiatics
encourage it so much.

It was not long before Howard came to the tent door and beckoned Harry
in.  On entering, he saw the General seated at a table covered with
writing materials, finishing a despatch for which an orderly was
waiting.  He was dressed in a sort of loose tunic, with pantaloons and
riding-boots, and the sword which trailed by the side of his chair was
straight.  A pith helmet stood on the table before him, and altogether
he looked like an Englishman, and not at all like a Pasha, as from the
name Harry somewhat absurdly expected.

Presently Hicks Pasha looked up, and Harry at once recognised one who is
born for command.  There was no mistaking the bright eye, which seemed
to look _into_ the man it rested upon; the firm and manly features, the
_will_ expressed in the strong nervous hand.  But it is in vain to
attempt to explain this, which at the same time everybody can
understand.  The school-boy with his master, the soldier with his
officer--every subordinate knows instinctively if it is of any use
"trying it on."  Not that he looked like one who would be harsh or
tyrannical.  On the contrary, his face was lit up by a courteous smile
as Howard introduced his newly-found friend.

"Glad to see you," said the General, offering his hand.  "The country is
in a disturbed state for travellers, and I fear that you will hardly get
out of it without some risk.  The river is still open to Berber, and you
might get across from there to Suakim.  But I cannot promise to help you
much."

"It is not my object to get out of the country at present," said Harry;
"quite the reverse.  I thought that perhaps you might be able to make
use of me in some way, and wished to volunteer my services.  I can make
myself understood in Arabic, if that is any use."

"Well, we have an interpreter," replied Hicks Pasha.  "If you had served
we might be glad of you, but you are too young for that."

"I learned my drill as a volunteer," said Harry, "and I have been
successful at Wimbledon as a shot."

"Well, but I cannot put you in the ranks with natives," said the
General, laughing, "and I cannot take you about as a sort of animated
machine-gun.  Can you ride?"

"Yes," replied Harry, who indeed had a very fair seat on horseback.

"I might make use of you then to gallop for me, or to go out with the
scouts, as you speak Arabic.  Well, we will attach you as a volunteer
cadet to a company _pro tem_, at all events.  An Englishman is always
useful to control the fire in action.  But you must understand I do not
guarantee you any pay; we will put you on rations, and if your
commission is made out and confirmed I will do my best to obtain arrears
for you; but you must take your chance of all that."

Harry said that he quite understood, and only asked to be allowed to
accompany the expedition to El Obeid in any capacity.  And then the
interview was over, and Harry left the tent, feeling quite as grateful
as he had expressed himself, and glad also to serve under such a chief.

It is curious how little things turn our minds in one direction or the
opposite.  Twenty-four hours before, Harry Forsyth had no sympathy
whatever with the Turks and Egyptians, while he thought the wild tribes
of the Soudan fine fellows, and worthy of the independence they sought
to establish.  Indeed, he had seen too much of the shameless corruption
and cruel extortion of Egyptian officials to feel differently.

And now, because he wanted to get to El Obeid on the chance of catching
Daireh, and because English officers of position and experience
commanded an Egyptian army, and the General of it had a "presence" which
inspired him with confidence and respect, he was ready to take up arms
in defence of a cause which had nothing, so far as he knew, to recommend
it, except that a certain amount of civilisation, the wearing of
trousers and petticoats, banking, railways, and steam navigation were on
one side, and a very primitive mode of life with nudity, or getting on
to it, on the other.  True, that there is the question of the slave
trade, and that iniquitous business is kept up entirely by the Arabs,
but that very important matter had no weight at that time with Harry,
who merely knew that the slaves he had met were almost as free and much
better off than the Fellaheen or peasantry of Egypt.

"You must now come and make the acquaintance of my particular chief,"
said Howard, as they left.  "You must know that I am an irregular
volunteer like yourself; at least, my appointment as surgeon requires
confirmation."

And so they went to the medical quarters, and Harry was introduced to
the head of that department, who took a professional view of the advent
of the new-comer, and observing that he was very young for the work
before him, asked if he was acclimatised.

But when he learned that he had got through the hot season without any
serious illness, he concluded that he had as good a chance of standing
the campaign as any one.  That same evening, Harry made acquaintance
with the other English officers, to the company of one of whom he was
next day posted in orders.  And then came the matter of getting uniform,
a horse, and a sword, which was accomplished at once, without much
difficulty in the shops of Khartoum; and he found himself once more
Europeanised.

There was no time for delay, as the expedition was to set out in a few
days.  The seniors received Harry kindly and cordially enough, but they
were extremely hard-worked, every man having to do the duty of ten.
They were full of high spirits and confidence, however, sure of
defeating the Mahdi, recapturing El Obeid, and conducting the campaign
to a satisfactory conclusion, and the men caught a great deal of their
spirit.

The mass of them had fought under Arabi at Tel-el-Kebir, and had there
conceived a great idea of the prowess of their conquerors.  English
officers they imagined could not be defeated, and led by them they felt
certain of victory.  They were also much inspirited by the martial music
with which the air was always filled.  The bugle bands were really good,
and some of the native airs lively and harmonious, but the constant
beating of their tam-tams would have been somewhat trying to a nervous
person, to whom quiet was the first condition of happiness.

Plenty was found for Harry to do, and as he showed zeal, alacrity, and
intelligence, he soon became a favourite.  "Send the young 'un" was
often the decision come to when a matter requiring promptitude and
gumption, and which the seniors could not well leave work in hand to
attend to, had to be done.  The great ambition of a subaltern in any
capacity, civil or military, should be that his superior may learn to
trust him; and Harry Forsyth succeeded in that.

He was happier now than he had been for a long time, for he was too much
occupied with his new duties to worry about Daireh and the missing will.
And if a shadow of melancholy came over him, it was when he thought of
the cottage at Sheen, and the anxiety his mother and sister would be in
on his behalf.  He wrote a long letter home, giving an account of all
his proceedings and his present occupation, and sent it off the day
before the march across the desert commenced.

At length the camp was struck, and the army was on the march--7,000
infantry, 120 cuirassiers, 300 Bashi-Bazooks, and 30 guns with rocket
battery.  There were some 1,000 camp followers, and 6,000 camels and
horses.  At first the route of this seemingly never-ending cavalcade lay
along the Nile bank.

Then it was committed to the desert.  One hundred and eighty miles of
trackless, parched waste lay between them and El Obeid.  The first few
days had indeed been weary work; the ground was full of broad, deep
cracks, for it had been under water when the Nile rose, and on the river
receding the fierce sun had had this effect upon the mud.  Mimosa shrub
also grew thickly in parts; and it was important that the men should not
straggle, for that was the opportunity the Arabs were on the look-out
for, and so many fearful disasters had already occurred from this very
cause.  For the soldiers, if the fierce children of the desert rushed
upon them unexpectedly when they were in loose formation, were as
helpless as sheep, though, when in a compact body, and under the
immediate eyes of their English officers, they could fight steadily
enough, as was proved at the battle of Marabia in the spring of that
same year, when they inflicted very severe losses upon the Arabs, whom
they totally defeated at little cost to themselves.

But though the march had been toilsome, the river was near at hand, and
the worst enemy of the desert, _thirst_, was not to be dreaded.  But now
they were to leave the Nile behind them, and depend for their water
supply entirely on the wells, which were understood to be at certain
places on the line of march, though these were often found to be at much
greater distances than had been represented.

The progress was very slow, for they had to march in square--the leading
battalion in line, the rear also in line, the right and left faces
moving in fours, or in column, according to circumstances.  In the
centre were the camels and other baggage animals, with the two things
which were as necessary to existence as air to breathe--ammunition and
water.

When, through inequality of ground or any other cause, the lines bulged,
or the columns were broken, it was necessary to halt till all closed up
again, and this of course delayed the march very much.  Ten miles a day
were the utmost they could accomplish without running most unjustifiable
risk.  The irregular cavalry now proved of extreme value; preceding the
army, scattered out in front and on each flank, they were bound to come
upon any ambushed enemy in time to gallop back and warn the main body,
who would then be able to close up, and present a front on every side,
which the enemy would find no opening to break in at.

On the fourth day, as the troops were passing over a plain of sand which
stretched away to the horizon all round, without a shrub to break the
monotony, only here and there a block of rock, or the skeleton of a
camel, showing where some wretched overtried animal had sunk under the
too great presumption upon his wonderful powers of endurance, the scouts
gave notice of Arab approach, and a figure could be seen coming over the
summit of a sand-hill, thus proving that the ground, though apparently
flat, was undulating.

Field-glasses were turned towards the object, which could then be
recognised as a man mounted on a camel, and the distance beyond him was
eagerly scanned for the host of which he was assumed at first to be the
precursor.  But no one else appeared; he was quite alone, and he came
directly towards the troops.

As he was well mounted, and they were moving to meet him, it was not
long before he was quite close, and then it could be seen that he was
dressed in robe and turban, with a shawl round his waist, and that these
garments, as well as his face, were stained with blood.  And he leaned
forward on his camel, as if well-nigh exhausted with wounds and fatigue.

When the officer out with the scouts met and accosted him, he demanded
to be led to the chief, and when he was accordingly brought before the
General, he said--

"I am the Sheikh Moussa.  Neither I nor any of my tribe have
acknowledged the Mahdi, whom we hold to be a False Prophet and impostor.
Whereupon he sent a body of troops to attack the village where seven
families of us dwelt.  They came at the rising of the moon, and set fire
to our huts, but we flew to arms, and thrice drove them back, slaying
two for one.  But they were ten to one, and at each onset we were fewer
and more weary.  At last the fight turned to mere slaughter.  I sought
my dromedary and fled, in hopes of vengeance.  They have slain my wife,
my children, my slaves; there is a blood feud between the Mahdi and me.
Then I remembered that the Turks led by Englishmen were at Khartoum,
preparing for an attack upon my enemy, and I said, I will seek the
English Turk, the Hicks Pasha, and I will say, `I would be avenged upon
my enemy, but I am alone, and what can one arm do?  I have a sharp
sword, I have a far-killing gun, I have a blood feud with your enemy.
Let me fight in your ranks.'  I rode part of a night, and a day, and a
second night; I had only filled my water-bottle once.  It ran dry; my
wounds grew stiff.  I said, `I shall never reach Khartoum, I shall die
unavenged.  It is Allah's will; praise to Allah, and the One Prophet,
for whom I am.'  When lo!  The English-led Turk army has risen up and
gone forth to meet me.  It is Fate."

He had a drink of water given to him, and then the General asked him if
he knew El Obeid well.

"Every street, every corner of the ramparts," he replied.  "Did I not
take part in the defence when the Mahdi--may his grave be defiled!--was
driven from them with slaughter?"

"You may ride with us," said the General.  "Look to his cuts, Howard,"
he added, seeing him close by, with a sponge and a bandage already in
his hand.

It was a sparing drop of water that was used, and that was presently
drunk with avidity, defiled as it was.  Howard declared the cuts to be
mere flesh wounds of no consequence.

"I am the most unlucky fellow that ever was!" he exclaimed; "I never do
get any gun-shot wounds, hardly."

The Sheikh Moussa certainly proved an acquisition that day, for he took
them a route diverging somewhat from that which they had been following,
and so cutting off some three miles of their journey to the wells where
they were to halt till the moon was up.  And three miles when the water
is running low are a matter of tremendous import to the traveller in the
desert.  After that the General often sent for the Sheikh Moussa to ride
with him on the march; and he questioned him, and compared his answers
with the maps and plans he had.  And the more he was tested the more
genuine did the man appear.  The tribe, too, to which he claimed to
belong was known to be friendly, and not as yet overawed into owning
allegiance to the Mahdi.

And so the square dragged slowly on from well to well through the long
scorching mornings and the bright moonlight nights, and was swallowed up
in the desert.



CHAPTER TEN.

SENT OUT SCOUTING.

It is one of the first principles of warfare that an army should always
keep up communication with what is called its _base_, that is, the safe
place from which food, ammunition, stores of all kinds, and fresh men to
supply the place of those who fall, can be sent to it, and to which the
sick and wounded may be returned.  But as there is no universal rule in
anything, and people have often to do what they can, rather than what
they know to be best, it so happens that columns have sometimes to be
launched into an enemy's country without any communication with seaport,
town, or friendly frontier, so that they are entirely self-dependent,
with no resources beyond what they have at hand, and liable to be
attacked on all sides.

This is termed being "in the air," and is a very great risk, which is
only voluntarily incurred for the sake of gaining some equally great
advantage.  In civilised warfare failure under such circumstances means
surrender; in expeditions against barbarians it involves utter
destruction.

Hicks Pasha's little army was now thus isolated, and, after several
days' march across the desert, matters began to wear a very serious
aspect.  As has been said, ten miles a day were the utmost that could be
accomplished, and the distance between the places where water could be
obtained increased as they advanced.

Water was carried by camels in tanks with galvanised linings, which kept
it fresh, and free from the nauseous taste which it gets from the skins
in which travellers generally have to keep it.  It is true that there is
an earthenware water-bottle, which is in much request, and the
inhabitants of a town on the Nile earn their livelihood by manufacturing
them.  But the porousness of the clay, which keeps the contents so
deliciously cool, makes them very brittle.

In these tanks sufficient water could be carried for twenty-four hours,
which meant at the present rate of marching but ten miles.  There came
an occasion when, at the end of the first day's halt from the last well,
an order was given to put men and horses on a half ration of the
precious fluid.  Considering that the full ration was very insufficient,
this caused much suffering, especially as, there being no moon, night
marches were out of the question, and the parched troops had to toil
through the sand in the mornings and evenings, though they were forced
to rest and get what shelter they could in the hottest part of the day.

That night Harry was roused from a dream of plunging in the river at
Harton, which, however, refused to cool or wet him, but seemed to turn
to hot sand at his touch, by a shot and then a volley, a little in their
front.  He started to his feet and found Howard standing beside him.

"Some stupid mistake of a sentry, very likely," said he.  But presently
the outposts came running in with three of their number missing, and two
others with slight spear wounds, and reported an attack of the enemy.
The force stood to its arms at once, and as it bivouacked in square, in
the order in which it marched, every man was in his place without delay
or confusion, and there was no danger of surprise, and some of the men
would keep firing uselessly into darkness, and it gave their officers
some trouble to stop them.  This was done, however, and the waste of
ammunition was left to the Arabs, who kept up a dropping fire till dawn,
wounding a poor camel by chance, but unable to do much damage by
starlight from the distance at which they kept.

"No gun-shot wounds for you at present," said Harry, when he rejoined
the surgeon.

"I don't want any," replied Howard.  "I could not attend to a poor
fellow after treating him, in any satisfactory way, on the march, and
without water.  Do you know, I am tempted to drink the contents of my
medicine bottles."

"Then you _must_ be thirsty, poor fellow.  But, I say, do you call this
being under fire?  There!  Something struck the ground which I fancy
must have been a bullet."

"Yes; they are making very long shots, but as some of them get into our
neighbourhood, I suppose one may be said to be so.  Why?"

"Only because I have never been under fire before, and I expected to be
in a funk."

"There is time enough; I daresay you will get a satisfactory test of
your nerves before long.  But courage is a comparative thing, depending
very much upon circumstances.  I, for example, am a non-combatant, and
though I have little dread of infectious diseases, which many heroes
would shrink from risking contact with, I hold all lethal weapons in
strong dislike.  And yet, if there were a barrel of beer in front,
though it were guarded by the best shots in Boer land, I would have a
fight for it."

"I should think you would!" cried Harry.  "Beer!  How can you be so
cruel as to mention the word?"

But though the Arab fusillade was almost innocuous, it harassed the
troops, keeping them on the alert all night.  And when, with the first
streaks of dawn, the dreary march began, all traces of the foe had
disappeared.  All the morning dragged along, till fatigue and the heat
of the sun compelled the mid-day halt.  Then forward again till dark;
and no wells reached!  Hardly a drop of water left for each man!
Several had dropped and died in the course of that day's march, and
several horses.  The bugle bands, which had been so cheery in the start,
were silent now; the poor fellows were too parched to blow their
instruments.  Even the tam-tams were silent.  Not that either would have
been prudent, for though, doubtless, they were never lost sight of by
the enemy's scouts, there was no advantage in publishing their
whereabouts.

Harry was on outpost duty that night, and when the firing was renewed,
which happened soon after dark (though no enemy had been sighted all
day), he, not being hard pressed, would not withdraw his men.  The stars
were very bright, and objects were distinguishable at about thirty yards
distance; perhaps further by Harry, who was particularly clear of
vision, that being the reason, possibly, of his fine shooting.  The
Arabs got closer to the rocks, amongst which the outpost was situated,
with sentries at intervals connecting it with the square.  Harry felt
savage with thirst, fatigue, and this aggravating annoyance, and was
strongly tempted to try and make an example.  He took a rifle from one
of his men, and began stalking carefully in the direction of the
flashes; not directly towards them, of course, which would have been
trying to meet the bullets, but on the flank.

Crouching down under a sand ridge, he got pretty close, crawled a little
nearer on his hands and knees, and peered forwards.  There was a flash
and a report quite near to him, and then Harry could plainly distinguish
the man kneeling up, withdrawing the old cartridge from his Remington.
He levelled his rifle, but could not see the fore-sight, so as to align
it with the object.  For a moment he was nonplussed, but suddenly
remembered having read of a dodge for night shooting, and resolved to
try it.

He had in his pocket a small box of matches, and, taking one of these,
he broke the end off and rubbed in on the fore-sight very gently,
careful not to let it explode, and succeeded in making the little
projection so luminous that he could align it with the back-sight and
the Arab's body.  Then he pulled the trigger, and saw the dark figure
leap forward and fall prone.  Saw it, indeed, but only in a fraction of
a second, for he stole back to the sand ridge, slipping in another
cartridge as he went.

There he lay still a minute, listening and peering.  Presently a tall
figure, which looked gigantic in the dim light, bounded close to him,
with a gun in his left hand, and a spear in his right.  He had evidently
made a rush in the direction of the flash, and now stood, looking right
and left for the man who had fired.  Harry almost touched him as he
pressed the trigger, and the savage lay at his very feet.  "I'll have
his spoils any way," thought he; so he picked up the spear and
Remington, and got back to his men as fast as he could.  The Arab
scouts, bothered by these two shots, were probably uncertain about the
movements of the troops, and thought they had shifted their ground since
they had marked them down, and possibly had flanking parties who might
surround them.  For they withdrew to a distance, fired a few shots in
the direction where Harry _had been_, which was quite away from the main
body, and the outpost too, and then gave no more trouble for that night.

In the course of the next day the water gave out entirely, and there was
not a drop in the army beyond what some few far-seeing, self-denying
men, had hoarded in their gourds.

Harry had not been one of these, and when the mid-day halt came he
thought he was dying, and fell down in the glare of the sun, senseless.
When he returned to life he found himself under the scanty shade of a
mimosa tree, supported by the strong arm of a man whose sun-burned face
and flowing beard, the loose robe which he wore, and the silk scarf
which surrounded his tarboosh, with the pistol and dagger thrust into a
shawl round his waist, seemed to betoken a native of the country; but
the kindly eyes were those of an Englishman, as were the murmured words,
"Poor lad!  Poor lad!" which fell on his ear.  His brow was deliciously
cool, and his throat less parched; and he recognised that it was the man
whose wonderful journey to Merv had so enthralled him when he read of it
who had now spared the water, which was life, to damp his brow and give
him respite; and he was certain that it was Mr O'Donovan, the newspaper
correspondent, now accompanying the army of Hicks Pasha, who had saved
his life.

Howard, who came up at the moment, was almost awe-struck at the
sacrifice.

"I have known one man allow his veins to be drained to supply the life-
blood which might be infused into the veins of his friend; but what was
that to sparing water _now_!" he said.

The patience and discipline of the men during this trying time were
admirable; there was no grumbling, no repining against their leaders;
and just fancy how the sturdy Briton would have growled!

The officers did their best to cheer them up, assuring them that they
were certain to reach the wells that afternoon, and always bearing an
air of confidence in the future before them.  But when they were alone
together, and looked into each other's eyes, it was evident that they
thought they were in a very desperate position.

However, let them reach and carry El Obeid without too great delay, and
all would yet be right.  Their assurance to the men concerning the wells
was verified; and when they approached the mud-holes which bore that
name, discipline for once broke down.  First the Bashi-Bazooks urged
their fainting steeds to a gallop; then the infantry broke from their
ranks and hurried forward; and had the enemy come down in force at that
moment, they would have had an easy prey.  But, oh horror!  The puddles
were choked with the putrefying bodies of men, horses, and camels, who,
wounded in a recent fight near the spot, had crawled hither to drink,
and die.

Thirst, however, overcame disgust; the contaminating carcases were
dragged away, and many plunged their faces in the filthy pools.  Others
had the self-control to dig or scrape holes for themselves, and wait
till a purer water had percolated into them, when they slowly satisfied
themselves and their faithful horses, and then managed to collect a
supply for the next march.

Wonderful was the effect of the water, when at last a sufficiency for
all had trickled out.  The musicians found their instruments, and played
once more; the outposts stepped off to their stations with alacrity; and
all felt as if El Obeid had already fallen.

But several days' more terrible marching, with insufficient water, and
many a death from sheer hardships, fatigue, or sunstroke, were to elapse
before they neared the fortress.  At last, however, the time came when,
on starting at dawn, the guide assured the General that he should see
the sun set behind its walls.  After four hours' march one of the senior
officers called Harry.

"You and your nag look pretty fit," he said; "that comes of being a
light weight.  Is your water-bottle full?"

"Yes," replied Harry; "I have not touched it since we left the last
wells."

"That is right; I want you to take six men out scouting.  You see that
rocky hill, with trees, out to the north?"

"Yes."

"The General wants to know if the enemy are behind there in any force.
Go cautiously; and if you see no one, pass through the wood, and have a
look on the other side of the hill; you can see from here that it cannot
be very extensive on the top.  But if you find Arabs in the cover, try
to draw them; and if you succeed, and they are in force, come back at
once.  But should they keep in cover, so that you cannot tell whether
there are half a dozen or a considerable body, skirt round the hill, and
see if there is any sign of a camp, or a large body of the enemy
concealed by it.  Be cautious, so as not to get cut off.  I have
selected six of the best mounted Bashi-Bazooks, in case you have to make
a bolt for it.  Of course, you see the importance of knowing what we
have in our rear before attacking the place."

"All right, sir," said Harry; and in another minute he was trotting
across the plain, followed by his six picturesque, irregular horsemen.

Of course he did not go fast, as it was most important to reserve the
powers of the animal that carried him for the emergency of having to
gallop for his life, which it was not at all improbable that he would be
called upon to do; but half an hour's steady trot, the ground being
fairly free from obstacles, and not so yielding as usual, brought the
party to the foot of the hill.

Harry ordered his men to extend, and they threaded their way among the
rocks in a line, working cautiously up towards the belt of trees.  When
they were within a hundred yards, however, a couple of shots were fired
from the cover, and the bullets came pattering against the rocks.

Harry had impressed upon the men beforehand what to do in such a case:
to retire slowly, halting to return the fire at intervals; and they did
it pretty fairly, though not quite so steadily as could be wished.  And
when they were down on the level plain, a couple of them showed a
decided inclination to try the mettle of their steeds in a race in the
direction of the column, but Harry managed to stop them; and,
withdrawing a little, the party dismounted, and fired a few ineffective
shots at the Arabs, who were mounted, and came down towards them.

There were but eight in the party, and Harry could see no more behind
them, so he concluded that it was clearly his duty to skirt the hill and
see what was on the other side.  Besides, seven to eight was not such
prodigious odds as to justify bolting without a bit of a fight, he
thought.

So he got his men together, and, drawing his sword, told them he meant
to charge the moment the Arabs were at the bottom of the hill, so as to
overthrow them by the impetus before they could get any pace on, and
trotting quietly on with this object, he got within thirty paces, and
then, cramming his spurs in, went at them as they got clear of the
declivity.  And he showed good judgment, in spite of his inexperience;
for he bowled one enemy over with the force of the shock, and a Bashi-
Bazook on his right served another the same, and got a slice at him as
he rolled over, which made the number of combatants level.

But, unfortunately, the other Bashi-Bazooks did not charge home, but
swerved, wheeled, withdrew a little, and began firing wildly.  Harry was
engaged in single combat with another Arab, who could have given him any
number of points in sword-play, and presently made a drawing cut at him
which would infallibly have taken off his head, had not his horse at
that very quarter of a second suddenly fallen, shot dead by one of his
own men.

Seeing their officer down, the Bashi-Bazooks fairly turned and galloped
as hard as they could go, the Arabs who were otherwise disengaged racing
after them--five pursuing six; for the man who had been ridden down had
got a broken thigh, the second was killed, and the third was now
dismounting in order to polish off Harry comfortably as he lay on the
ground.

But our friend, though he was pinned down by the body of his horse,
which lay on his left leg, was not hurt, and his right arm was free.  He
drew his revolver, and when the Arab stood over him he shot him in the
breast.  The man fell--but not dead--across Harry, with whom he
grappled, seeking to clutch him with the left hand by the throat and
sabre him with the right.  But Harry caught his right wrist, and a
struggle took place, in which each strained every muscle.

In his efforts, Harry got his leg from under the dead horse, the sand
being loose; but as he did so his enemy got his sword-arm free and cut
him over the head--not with much force, for he was weak and in a cramped
position, but sufficiently to inflict a nasty wound.  It was an expiring
effort; he fell over helpless, the blood gushing from his mouth, and
Harry had no need to give him another barrel, which he was prepared to
do, but rose to his feet to survey the scene of conflict.  The Bashi-
Bazooks and their pursuers could be seen in the distance, still going at
a great pace.  The horses of the broken-legged and the two dead Arabs
were careering about; his own head-dress had fallen off, which was a
serious affair, though the afternoon was waning.

But before putting it on he bound his head with a strip of cotton torn
off the garment of the Arab at his feet, for the cut on the scalp was
bleeding freely.  Then, feeling very thirsty, he took the man's water-
bottle, but it was empty.  So, picking up his sword, he moved over to
the other dead Arab and tried his, and with better success; there was a
refreshing draught in it, which Harry was thus able to benefit by
without infringing on his own supply.  Then he considered that he must
get out of sight somewhere before the Arabs returned, which they were
sure to do, to look after their missing friends.  He had now no horse,
and to make his way on foot across the open plain by daylight was to
ensure being seen by the returning horsemen and cut off.

The best place to hide in would surely be the wood, where he felt
certain that there were no more Arabs, or they would have come out to
join in the chevy.  He would lie there till nightfall, and then
endeavour to make his way to the column, though he did not feel like
taking a long walk just at present.

As he was going up the hill, however, he saw the Arab with the broken
leg lying helpless.  The string which held his water-bottle had broken,
and the gourd lay beyond his reach.  The man glared like a wild beast
when Harry picked it up, and clutched at his waist-band, but there was
no weapon in it.

"Don't fear me," said Harry in Arabic, holding out the gourd, which the
other snatched viciously; "I am an Englishman, and the English never hit
a foe when he is down, unless he is very obstinate and unreasonable, and
insists on biting or kicking."

But the wounded man made no reply.  It is to be feared that he only
thought either that the speaker was a great liar, or else that his
countrymen were great fools.  It was evident that, so far from being
touched, he would be the first to betray the secret of Harry's hiding-
place to his returning friends if he knew it.  So as Harry did not like
to shoot him through the head, or draw his sword across his throat, he
made a detour as if going across the desert, and did not commence the
ascent until he was out of the other's sight.  It was not very steep or
very high, but Harry had some difficulty in getting up it.  He felt very
weak, giddy, and queer, and had hardly got to the wood, and sunk down
under the shade of trees behind a big black boulder, than he lost
consciousness, for he had bled more than he knew for, and it was that
which turned him faint.

How long he lay without consciousness he did not know; and I daresay
that you have noticed in story-books that people never _do_ know.
Indeed, it would take a very methodical person to look at his watch just
as he was going off in a swoon, and refer to it again as he came to.
Harry Forsyth certainly never looked at his watch, but he snatched his
water-bottle, for one effect of loss of blood is to cause intense
thirst.  A quantity of liquid being taken out of the body.  Nature seems
to point out in this way that the loss should be supplied; you know she
is said to abhor a vacuum.  If he had had all his senses about him, he
would merely have taken a sup and held it in his mouth some time before
swallowing it; but he was half dazed, and did not know where he was, and
he yielded to the instinct of thirst and took a long, deep draught.  For
the present it was the best thing he could have done, for the effect was
that he sank into a sound restoring sleep, which must have lasted many
hours, for when he woke again the night was far advanced, and there were
streaks of dawn in the east, and it was quite two hours to sunset when
he had begun his nap.  The wound in his head smarted, but otherwise he
felt stronger and more refreshed, only hungry.  He had crammed some
biscuits into his kharkee jacket the day before, and these he ate,
washing them down with what remained in the water-bottle, which he
emptied without much compunction, as he reckoned that he would easily
strike the trail of the column and come up with it in a short time.

They had reckoned before he left that it was three hours' march at the
longest to the wells within sight of El Obeid, where they were to halt
for the night, and he thought that he surely ought to be able to walk,
alone and unencumbered, at least as fast again as the square moved, and
he had little fear of not being in time for the attack.  The place could
hardly be carried by a _coup de main_; they would have to breach the
walls with artillery first.  Of course he might be cut off on his road;
that was a risk which could not be helped or avoided.

Directly he could see his way, he retraced his steps down the hill, and
went round the base to the side where he had had the skirmish; but he
did not look to see whether the dead Arabs had been buried by their
comrades, or to inquire after the welfare of his friend, the enemy with
the broken leg.  No, he stole along that part as quietly as he could.

The orange, purple, violet, old gold flashes shone wider and higher, but
the only way in which Harry heeded them was by keeping the point, at
which it was evident from the intensity of glory that the sun would
rise, at his back, for he knew that El Obeid lay due west of his present
position.  It was true that he had a compass attached to his watch
chain, but for some unknown cause the thing had struck work a fortnight
back, and now the black half, which ought always to have turned to the
north, perversely remained where you choose to place it.  But, after
all, the sun in the morning and evening, and the polar star at night,
will put you somewhere in the right direction, _when you can see them_.

As for hitting off the exact track by which he had come on leaving the
column, he could no more do that than on the sea, for there were no
marks to guide the eye, and the surface of the plain was the same as
water.  One dead camel's skeleton is uncommonly like another, and they
lay about in various directions, showing that caravans converged to or
diverged from El Obeid by different routes.  When the sun burst forth
with all that inconceivable grandeur which drives artists who visit the
country to despair, and causes untravelled gazers on their pictures to
accuse them of exaggeration, when their efforts have as a fact fallen
far short of the reality, Harry's eyes scanned the horizon in every
direction for an enemy, but he was alone on the sandy expanse.

No!  What were those black figures moving along the side of yonder dune?
His hand went to the butt of his revolver as he saw them.  But he was
presently reassured; they were only vultures and eagles over-gorged by
the fruits of war; the only beings besides wolves and hyaenas, who pluck
them.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

A GLIMPSE AT A TRAGEDY.

As the power of the sun increased, Harry Forsyth found that his renewed
strength was but partial, and though considerable compared to his
weakness before that long sleep, was by no means up to his powers
twenty-four hours previously, before he got that cut down through his
scalp and lost all that blood.  And soon the thirst began; but thirst
was his familiar now, and he had learned to bear it as we do what is
constantly recurring and inevitable.

But as time passed on the thought would intrude upon his mind.  Was he
going in the right direction?  El Obeid, indeed, must lie to the west,
if the guides were to be depended upon, but would not the General
diverge very likely on approaching the place?  It could not be told
beforehand from what side he would find it best to attack it, and Harry
might be going quite away from his friends.  Still, if he once caught a
glimpse of the town, he should feel fresh confidence, for then he would
certainly get round to the army, somehow, and in time for the attack.
But this last consideration was not so important a matter with him as it
had been some hours before.  He did not feel particularly keen after
fighting just now.  A beefsteak and a pot of porter, and then to turn
into a comfortable bed, with a lump of ice on the top of his head, would
have formed his programme of perfect bliss.  And yet, if his friends
were in the thick of it, he would like to be there, and take his share
in what was going, too.

Pshaw!  He must not get nervous, he said to himself.  Unless the guides
were treacherous, he must sight the minarets of El Obeid soon _Unless
the guides were treacherous_!  Was there a chance of that?  Experience
showed that there was always.  And that professed friendly sheikh, who
had come in with his scratches and told such a plausible tale, was he to
be trusted?

Hark!  What was that?  Dropping shots away to his right front.  Again,
others; and now a volley; more single shots, increasing to a continuous
roll of musketry.

"They are at it, and I am not there!"  Harry cried aloud, as, forgetting
fatigue, weakness, even thirst, he pressed forward in the direction of
the firing.  What surprised him most was that he heard no report of the
Krupp guns, no whish of rockets, no continuous grinding of machine-guns.
Why did they not use their artillery?

Half an hour brought him to rocks, herbage, and palm-trees, and here
were empty preserved meat cans and other _debris_, showing that the
force had bivouacked there the night before.  And here, too, deep down
in a rocky dell, he found a well of clear, bright, sweet, cool water!
He flung himself down, plunged his face in the delicious liquid, and
sucked in large draughts of the life-inspiring elixir.  When he could
drink no more he filled his water-bottle, and then, removing his pith
helmet, he unbound the bandage which he had tied over his head.  It had
of course stuck, and the attempt to remove it was painful, but by
wetting it freely he got it off, and then bathed his head and face,
saturated his pocket handkerchief, and tied that on as a fresh bandage.

Then, much refreshed, he again hastened forwards, guided by the sound of
the still continued firing.  The character of the country was now
completely changed.  It became hilly, and the hills were precipitous and
covered with inky black rocks, which lay so thickly about that it seemed
as if a shower of enormous aerolites had fallen there.

Harry threaded his way amongst these, some way up a ravine, which wound
to the right.  The firing now seemed quite close; indeed, he could see
smoke floating up to the dear sky.  But surely El Obeid could not be
there, in the middle of a mountain pass, commanded on all sides by
higher ground!  The army must surely have been attacked on the march.

He turned a corner, from which the valley ran for some distance
straight, and came suddenly on volumes of smoke, pierced by incessant
flashes of fire, not a thousand yards in his front, while every now and
then a spent bullet came pattering against the rock behind which he
crouched, trying to make out whether those nearest him were friends or
foes.

Firing was also going on from the higher ground to right and left, and
one or two of these points were visible from Harry's present position.
He had no field-glass, but he carried a small pocket telescope of great
power, and adjusting this, and holding it steadily with some difficulty
against the rock side, for the field of vision was very small, and his
hand shook with excitement, he made out that the men holding these were
certainly Arabs.

And presently some wounded men of those engaged in the valley to his
front falling to the rear, and coming within five hundred yards of him,
and clear of the smoke, he perceived that they were Arabs too.  And then
the fearful truth broke upon him.  The spent bullets which fell towards
him came from his friends.  The army had been enticed into the defile,
round which the Mahdi's troops were posted.  When it was hopelessly
entangled, a body of Arabs, which had lain in ambush for the purpose,
had closed in upon their rear to cut off retreat, and these were the men
now in front of him.

Though he felt convinced that this must be the state of the case, Harry
did not give up all hope that the Egyptians might fight their way
through, though with severe loss, to the other end of the defile, and to
ascertain this he went back, and then began mounting the higher ground,
trying to work round to the front of the position.  This he had to do
very cautiously, to avoid falling in with groups of Arabs, whom he was
perpetually sighting.  Indeed, to get near the edge of the rocks
commanding the defile without being observed was impossible, but by
making a wide detour he kept clear of them.  And thus, after the lapse
of some hours, and with occasional difficult climbing, he reached a
lofty point, from which he could distinguish the sides of the ravine
held by the Arabs and the pall of smoke which covered the doomed square,
fighting like a lion at bay, surrounded by the hunters.

For eagerly as he searched with his telescope in every direction he
could perceive no line of advance or retreat; every point appeared to be
barred by the enemy.  There seemed to him only one hope; if General
Hicks could hold on till nightfall, perhaps he might push through
backwards or forwards under cover of the darkness.

So the hours passed, and the fusillade did not cease; only slackened at
times to burst out again, till the sun sank down in all his glory, and
the heavenly splendour of the after-glow bathed the sky, just as if all
on earth was peace, goodwill, and happiness, and men had ceased to
strain all the powers and talents which the God of Mercy has bestowed
upon them for their mutual benefit to one another's destruction; then
sudden darkness, and silence broken only at long intervals by a fitful
splutter of musketry.

Harry had marked a little cave, where two boulders leaned together, and
into this he now crept, for the air was cold.  Here he lay, thinking
with agony of his friends below there.  How many were now living, and
what chance had they of getting clear if they had survived thus far?

And his own position, was that any better?  Nay, they indeed would die
fighting, but he would either probably perish of want, or be barbarously
murdered in cold blood.  He still wore his uncle the sheikh's ring on
his finger, and carried the silver case containing the parchment in his
breast, but since he had thrown in his lot with the Egyptian army, his
faith in those talismans had become weakened.  Why, he did not know; it
was an illogical feeling, for, of course, the circumstances had not
altered.  Probably it was because it is impossible to trust to two
diametrically opposite sources of aid at the same time.

Then his thoughts wandered to home, and his mother and sister, and their
terrible anxiety at his long silence, and how they would not know
whether or not to mourn him as dead.  And then he dropped asleep.

He woke at dawn, wondering how he could have slept when his comrades
were in such sore straits.  Had they got away?  In answer to his
thought, the firing recommenced as before, and in the same quarter,
answering "No!"

All day long the noise of battle lasted, and Harry watched in vain for a
change in the situation.

At one period a body of Arabs came up and crossed the mountain from his
rear, and he only just had time to conceal himself in his rocky hole to
escape observation.

But they pushed on, and went down into the fight; doubtless carrying
ammunition.  How Harry got through that long day he could not remember.
He made his water-bottle last, but he had no food beyond one biscuit.
But anxiety for some time prevented his feeling hungry.  There seemed no
change in the situation, except that the volume of fire diminished
perceptibly; and the cloud of smoke becoming thinner, he could, from one
point, just distinguish something of the square.  It was still existing,
then, and might, perhaps, cut through that night, though it had failed
to do so on the preceding.

When darkness fell, Harry crept back to his hole, and again he slept.
But he awoke before dawn, roused by the cravings of hunger.  It was of
no use to stop where he was, and at the first glimpse of daylight he
commenced his descent towards the plain, not by the way he had come, but
on the opposite side, in the direction he calculated the remains of the
army must take if they succeeded in pushing through.

At the foot of the hill, in a rocky, barren-looking dell, not at all the
place where you would expect to find it, he chanced upon a spring; and
after drinking and replenishing his gourd, he sat down to try and
collect his thoughts.

And as he sat there he saw a solitary figure coming towards the spot.
It was a camel, with an Arab on his back.  Harry concealed himself
behind a boulder and watched.  The poor beast could hardly move, and, in
spite of all urging, presently fell.  The rider took certain articles
from the saddle, and came to the spring, where he sat down, after
drinking; and, pulling out a lump of bread, began to make his breakfast.
The sight made Harry feel ravenous; he was determined that he would
have a share of that bread.  He would probably have been justified in
potting him with his pistol, which he might easily have done, for he was
almost certainly a hostile Arab with despatches.  But he might belong to
a friendly tribe, and if he were an enemy, Harry could not murder him
like that.

He had a Remington rifle, so Harry must pounce upon him, or he would not
have a chance.  He did it rather cleverly, and the meal of the Arab was
suddenly interrupted by finding the muzzle of a revolver within a yard
of his head, while, at the same time, his rifle, which rested against a
rock beside him, was thrown to some distance.

"Throw away your sword and pistol, or I will shoot," said Harry.  "But
do that, and share your bread with me, and I will not hurt you."

"My hygeen is dead; I am weary and wounded; and the chance is yours,"
said the Arab.  "What have I to do but to submit?  It is fate," drawing
his highly ornamented and damascened pistols from his waist-band, for he
was a considerably dressed Arab, this one.  These he laid aside; then he
took out his sheathed scimitar, but appeared to hesitate.

"How do I know," he said, "that you will not kill me when I am
completely disarmed?"

"Why should I?" replied Harry.  "Could I not have shot you from behind
the rock?"

"Fool you were, not to!" cried the Arab with the bound of a wild beast,
springing up, flashing the blade out, and uttering the taunt, which in
his own idiom was but a couple of words, simultaneously.

So quick and sudden was the movement that it might well have deceived
the eye and paralysed the nerve.  But the very start made Harry press
the trigger with his fore-finger.  Even so, and only a yard off, he was
as likely to have fired over his shoulder as to have hit him.  But he
did not.  The point of the scimitar just left the scabbard as the owner
of it went down on his back motionless as a wax figure.

Harry was perfectly bewildered; he was not conscious of having fired;
yet, there lay the Arab, with his face blackened with the powder, and a
small hole in the forehead just between the eyes.

I hope you will not think the worse of Harry Forsyth for what he did
next.  War makes the feelings very callous, for the time being, at all
events, with regard to certain things.  Besides, Harry had had nothing
but biscuits to eat for one hundred and seventy-two hours, about, and
not many of them.  He pounced upon the bread and devoured it.  What to
do next?

The conviction had now forced itself upon him that there was no hope for
the Egyptian army, but that it was doomed to certain destruction.  There
was no possibility of surrender; it was war to the knife, for the Arabs
neither took nor gave quarter.  And thus his mind reverted to the object
of his throwing in his lot with that body, which he had in a great
measure lost sight of in the company of Howard and the excitement of a
totally new life.  But, after all, he had not come out to Egypt and the
Soudan to fight but to discover Daireh and, if possible, gain possession
of the will.

The only chance for him to accomplish this now was obviously through
finding his uncle, the Sheikh Burrachee, and to do this he must follow
the course he had pointed out: find a dervish or fakir, and show the
ring and parchment.  Of course the efficacy of these might all be the
delusion of a crazy brain, but he must take his chance of that.  It was
certain, however, that he would never get the chance of a hearing in his
present costume.  The helmet, the uniform kharkee jacket, would insure
his being shot or cut down by the first follower of the Mahdi who saw
him.  They must be discarded, and the dead Arab lying hard by would
supply him with a disguise.  For, instead of going nearly naked, like so
many of them, this man had a smart turban and a long garment, which came
a good bit below the knees, bound round his waist with a sort of shawl
of gay colours.

So, after having taken his life and his breakfast, Harry now proceeded
to despoil him of his clothes.

There was a fair supply of cartridges in a bag which the ill-fated Arab
had worn over his shoulder, so Harry took that and the rifle, and
presently he came out of the glen in complete Arab costume, his European
clothes being made into a bundle and shoved under a rock.  The only
article of dress he had retained was a light linen waistcoat, in which
were pockets containing the silver case with the parchment, his watch,
and his money.  The dead man's pistols, though ornamental, had flint
locks and were heavy, so he left them, but the scimitar he stuck,
together with his own revolver, in the waist-shawl, and the rifle he
slung over his shoulder.

Then he went to the hygeen, or camel, hoping that water might revive it,
but the poor beast was past that--its eyes were already glazing.

All this time the roll of musketry in the distant ravine still
continued, and with a heavy heart he turned from the spot, and went out
into the wilderness.

His idea was boldly to accost the first living being he met, and ask the
way to El Obeid, intending to represent himself as a merchant whose
caravan had been attacked and robbed by Nubian blacks.  He knew that he
would be recognised as a European by his speech, and probably arrested
as a spy, but then would be the time to test the efficacy of his uncle's
talisman.  It might be inefficacious, or he might perish in the desert
before he met any one, but he did not give up all hope of a better fate.
His being sent out on that scouting expedition, wounded, and so
prevented from rejoining the ill-fated column, was so extraordinary that
he felt that his hour was not yet come.  For it almost seemed to him as
if a miracle had been performed in his behalf.

He had not gone a hundred yards before he noticed several black specks
in the distant sky.  Nearer and larger they came, till he could
distinguish two eagles and five vultures hovering lower and lower, till
at length they settled down in the dell by the spring which he had just
left.  And he shuddered.  How soon he might lie, helpless and dying, and
watching these loathsome birds of prey swooping towards him!

His idea was to keep bearing to the west, which was the direction in
which he knew that El Obeid lay, unless indeed he had passed to one side
of it, which he did not think probable, or he should most likely have
seen it from the mountain-top.  Any other high ground he came to he
would ascend, so as to get as wide a view as possible.  And so he
tramped on towards the declining sun till it sank; then he lay down in
the solitude and darkness, and fatigue gave him sleep.

When dawn awoke him he was beyond the sound of the firing, or else it
had ceased.  And though he knew well enough that this was no good sign,
the silence was less harrowing.  He resumed his weary march till the sun
reached its full power.  There were some stunted bushes a little out of
his track, and he made for them, hoping to find water.  In this he was
disappointed; so taking a sparing pull at his water-bottle, he crawled
under one of them, seeking its shade.  There was a slight rustle, and a
snake rose on its tail, and darted at him with its forked tongue, but,
just missing him, glided away.

Harry then looked more carefully, but there was no other, and he rested.
Another escape!  Did he, then, bear a charmed life?  After about an
hour, he grew restless.  The sand in that part lay in high ridges or
dunes, some of them at least a hundred feet high, and he hoped that on
surmounting the next beyond him he would come in sight of the town, or
at least of some oasis, with water and human habitations, and with each
recurring disappointment he became only the more eager to reach the
sand-hill beyond.  But he was becoming very faint, and the wound in his
head throbbed to agony.  He was at last so "_beat_" that he was on the
point of letting himself sink down on the sand to struggle no more, when
suddenly there, straight before him, lay the object of his desires!
Surely not a mile off, but say a mile and a half, rose towers,
fortifications, minarets, palm-trees, and, most grateful sight, all this
was reflected in a broad clear sheet of water.

"El Obeid!" he cried aloud, forgetting everything else in the joy of the
moment.

He had never heard that it was on a lake, and thus his wildest
expectations were surpassed.

No need now to torture himself by refraining from his water-bottle.  He
seized and drained it, and then falling on his knees he thanked Heaven
for this deliverance.  For though, when considered calmly at a distance,
he had recognised the perils which would attend his adventure in
entering the place, which was now the head-quarters of the Mahdi and his
fanatics, they seemed as nothing compared with the immediate prospect of
perishing of want and thirst, alone, in the desert.  Rising to his feet
again he hurried onwards, but the place was much farther off than it had
first seemed, for when he had gone on for a full twenty minutes, with
speed inspired by hope, he seemed to be no whit nearer.

On again, plunging through the loose sand, reeling, staggering.  A
little more effort; he must be nearing it, though it did not seem so;
another ten minutes, say, and he would be able to plunge into that
delicious water!  And so he fought on, when suddenly all vanished.

He rubbed his eyes and looked again.  Had sudden blindness fallen upon
him?  No, he could see the sand-hills as plainly as possible.  But the
city, the fortifications, the minarets, the water, which were so
distinct a minute ago, where were they?  All turned to sand?  That could
not be.  He was giddy, and must have altered his course without knowing
it.

He looked all round him, bewildered.  Sand, sand, sand, and nothing
else.  Then the truth flashed across his memory: the mirage!  Towers and
water were as unreal as the magician's money in the "Arabian Nights'
Entertainments," which turned to paper in the drawer where it was.  For
the first time Harry was stricken with utter despair; without water,
without food, alone in the trackless desert, exposed to a fierce sun, he
fell, and lay motionless for awhile.  Then up and on blindly, in what
direction he knew not.  His tongue swelled; his throat seemed choked and
breathing was difficult.

Soon he lost consciousness of everything but a sense of distress and
pain; and after awhile even that left him, and he fell senseless.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

ABDUL ACHMET.

A body of twenty Arab warriors mounted on camels was crossing the
desert, and as they rode in Indian file, and from ten to twenty paces
apart, the string was a long one.  Probably they did not belong to a
tribe that had taken part in any of the numerous routs, assaults on
strong places, and massacres, which had supplied so large a portion of
the Mahdi's troops with modern arms of precision, for those of them who
carried guns had those long-barrelled, short-stocked weapons, which are
familiar to us in pictures, and which are so admirable from an artistic,
and so worthless from the Wimbledonian, point of view.  But the majority
carried spears instead of guns, and they were all armed with swords and
pistols.

Whatever the actual number of days and hours which elapse between the
dates of an Arab's birth and death, his life seems a short one reckoned
by sensations and incidents, for he spends so very large a proportion of
it in sitting on the hump of a camel as it toils across a country of
maddening sameness.  The distances he has to travel are so vast, and his
means of progression so limited!

Perhaps that is the reason why, when he does come across an occasion of
excitement, he is so terribly in earnest.  He is months and months
without the chance of an emotion, accumulating explosive forces all the
while; and when he at last goes off, he does it like dynamite.

And yet, perhaps, the child of the desert, if he visited our shores,
might point to a ploughboy plodding up and down, with one foot in the
furrow, from dawn till dusk, and ask if _his_ task were lively.  Or,
still more forcibly, he might take us into an office in a dingy city
street where copying clerks sat at their monotonous work, and put it to
us how many minutes in the week we supposed _they_ lived.

But still, though it might be difficult to deny that he had reason on
his side, there is a certain dreariness about the endless sandy plains
which renders it difficult to imagine it possible for a human being to
spend his days in traversing them without going mad.

But these present travellers did not seem to mind it.  Some of them
solaced themselves with the chibouque, as they sat with the comfort
which can only be acquired after years of practice on the humps of their
camels; the others, though silent and quiescent, did not look bored.

Presently the one in front was attracted by an object a little out of
his path, and turned to examine it more closely.  Then he spoke to his
hygeen, which knelt down, whereupon he dismounted, and went up to the
figure of a man lying on the sand.  There had been a great deal of
fighting and carnage, beyond the ordinary blood-feuds between the
different tribes, going on for some months in the country, and the
bodies of men were as commonly found as those of camels used to be.  So
it may seem surprising that the Arab should have taken the trouble to
dismount for such a trifle.

But this body was dressed, and had weapons--was worth despoiling, in
fact.  This particular child of the desert was not more greedy than
others; he was a man in some authority, and rich according to his own
ideas and those of his people.  But still, one does not like to see
articles of value unappropriated, and one might as well have them as any
one else.  Such sentiments might animate you or me, let alone a
gentleman who had been brought up to regard all human beings who did not
belong to his own particular set much as we look upon beavers, foxes,
hares, grouse, pheasants, as creatures that are provided by Providence
for our sport or profit.

The body lay on its breast with the arms stretched out; the head a
little turned, so that the right cheek lay on the sand.  And when the
Arab bent over it, it did not look, he thought, quite dead.  Well, if he
were not, a man with such a good gun as that ought to be when a better
man wants it.  But still, it has been shrewdly observed that there is a
deal that is human about human nature.  The Arab might not improbably be
in the same position some day, and would he not then require aid
himself?  And then the Koran enjoined true believers to succour the
distressed who fell fainting in the desert; and this was an educated
man, who read his Koran; and a religious man, according to his lights,
who obeyed its precepts when he happened to remember them, and
temptation to the contrary was not too strong.  If he had known that the
property before him belonged to a pig who did not believe the Prophet,
it might have been different; but he could not tell that, and he turned
Harry Forsyth over to give him a drink of water.

As he did so he saw the ring on his finger, and his humane intention
vacillated.  He had a fancy for a ring like that.  Never mind; he would
compromise matters, he thought--take the ring, rifle, and cartridges
first, and give him a drink afterwards.  But when he took the hand for
the purpose of drawing the ring off it, and saw the stone close, he
started back with the exclamation, "Allah is great!" and let the hand
drop.

"He bears the signet!" he said to his followers; "and he lives.  We must
not leave him.  We must take him on to El Obeid."

"The Fakir's Oasis is close at hand," said another; "let us bear him
there.  The holy man will know best what to do with him, and the shorter
the journey the better for his life."

"You speak the words of wisdom, Meouf," said the leader; "let us lift
him on to your camel; it has the easiest pace."

A cynic might imagine that Meouf knew this, and that his claims to being
a good Samaritan were affected by the fact that he would have the
trouble of carrying the helpless man, and his wish to do so for as short
a distance as possible.  But we won't be cynics, and we'll give him all
the credit for his forethought which we can.

The Fakir's Oasis was less than an hour's ride off for a good camel.
Harry, when some water was poured down his throat, showed decided signs
of life, though not regaining consciousness.  He was lifted on the
camel, and carried forward, his property being scrupulously respected
with one exception.  The leader of the party considered that, as he was
an invalid, and therefore, for the time being, a non-combatant, he could
have no immediate use for a Remington rifle, or the cartridges belonging
to it, and these he therefore made free to borrow for an indefinite
period.  It was a small fee for him to pay, after all, for his life.

The oasis they were taking him to was one not known to European
travellers, and indeed but few native merchants were aware of its
existence, for it was out of the usual caravan routes to El Obeid, from
which place it was not more than two hours' journey distant.  It was a
little patch of fertility in the midst of a plain of undulating sand,
and appeared a hundred-fold more luxuriant from the contrast.  There was
actual herbage on which some goats were feeding; a small patch was even
under cultivation, and corn grown there.  Fine acacias lent a grateful
shade, but not equal to that afforded by a splendid fig-tree which
overhung a deep cool well.

The oasis received its name from its having long been the residence of a
fakir who was accounted a sort of prophet, and commanded great
reverence.  His successor, Abdul Achmet, who now lived there, was also
in high esteem among the followers of the Mahdi, to whose cause he had
given his adherence.

There were three houses, all inhabited by priests or dervishes, of whom
Abdul was the chief, and a small mosque, all built of sun-dried bricks,
which, retaining the look of clay, are habitually termed by European
travellers _mud_.  But this gives rather a false impression, as a mud
hut properly consists of wattles with mud plastered all over them, which
is a different thing from one regularly built, though the bricks are
sun-dried instead of being baked in a kiln.  What is the use of having a
tropical sun if you do not make it do some fire-work for you beyond
nearly roasting you to death?

Abdul Achmet received the party, several of whom he knew, under the
shade of his fig-tree.  Harry Forsyth was carefully handed down from the
camel and laid before the dervish, and the signet-ring was shown to him.
Whereupon he said that it was quite right to bring him on to him, and
that he would take care of him; and he had him carried into his house
and attended to.

The travellers watered themselves and their camels, and were then
treated to dates, pipes, and coffee.  They rested thus in the oasis, and
benefited, it is to be hoped, by the companionship of their clerical
entertainers, till the hottest part of the day was passed, and then,
once more mounting their camels, went on their way to El Obeid--an easy
march for the evening.

Days passed before Harry Forsyth was conscious of anything; then for
weeks he had no sense of life but pain and weariness, with intervals of
blissful rest.  He had no doctor but the first lady who ever practised--
Dame Nature, who sometimes, strange to say, pulls her patients through
almost as well as if she had a diploma.  But he was well nursed, and
there is a great deal in that.

At length there came a time when he knew that people moved about and
talked, and that he took food and was very weak; but he did not know
where he was, nor cared.  He had visions, and half knew they were
visions; sometimes these were rather pleasant but more often very much
the other way.  What was the matter with him?  As no medical man
diagnosed his case, it is impossible to say, though that he was for some
time in a high state of fever we may safely assume.  He had gone through
a good deal, and had had a cut through the scalp of his head right down
to the skull.  At last he woke one day after a long sleep and recognised
his nurse, whom he took to be a demon--a very nice, amiable one, with
gleaming white teeth, who grinned from ear to ear with pleasure to see
him better.

At last it dawned upon him that it was absurd to suppose an evil spirit
would sit there fanning the flies away, or would put cooling drinks to
his lips; and he jumped abruptly to the opposite conclusion, that there
were such things as black angels, and this was one of them.  Though
perhaps nearer the mark, he was not quite right yet, for his kind and
careful nurse was but a negress--a slave from the interior.  Black,
white, or brown, women are always more patient and tender when anything
is really the matter than men, bless them!

It was rather a shame to have called her Fatima, because that leads one
to expect rather prettier lips and a fairer complexion; not that this
incongruity ever struck Harry, even when he came to know it, which was
not for some time yet.  For by that time he had come to associate his
nurse's homely features with all that was pleasant and solacing.

He did not know where he was, nor had he any clear perception of past
events.  He had been very uncomfortable, and there was a dim impression
upon his mind of past misfortunes, but he had no care or curiosity with
regard to past or future; he was at ease for the present, and that was
all that he felt signified.

One day when he opened his eyes after a doze, expecting to see Fatima,
he found in her usual place a tall man, with a long white beard, and
shaggy white eyebrows, which contrasted curiously with his dark skin,
giving him something of an unearthly appearance.

"Oh, long-expected one," he said, when he saw that Harry noticed him,
"to whom Allah hath at length restored some degree of understanding,
know that you are welcome and among friends.  This writing found upon
you tells me that you are he of whom the Sheikh Burrachee has often
spoken, the Feringhee destined to bring his benighted and hitherto
accursed race to the acceptance of the true faith.  The sheikh is beyond
Om Delgal, far away up the Bahr el Abiad, amongst the heathen whom the
All-bountiful One has given to the True Believer for bondsmen.  But he
will return when the Mahdi--his name be revered--shall need his
services.  Then shall you join him with renewed health and strength.  In
the meantime, I, a humble servant of Allah and his Prophet, and one
whose eyes have been opened to the divine mission of the Mahdi, which
the Turks--may their tongues swell--are slow to receive, even I will
expound to you the mysteries of the only True Faith, and from this day
forth consider my house, and what poor goods I may possess, as your
own."

Harry Forsyth quite followed this speech, and knew that the Sheikh
Burrachee alluded to was a relative whom he had seen at some time, and
was to rejoin.  For anything recalled to him by words he remembered at
the time, though it passed from his brain the moment afterwards, neither
pleasing him nor distressing him.  His mind was like a lake, and ideas
suggested in any way resembled clouds passing rapidly above it,
reflected for a minute on the surface, and then gone.  It was rather a
curious thing that what Arabic he had picked up had not passed from him;
on the contrary, it sounded more familiar to him than it had done
before.  Probably that was because of his surroundings at the time of
recovering consciousness, and of Arabic being the first sound which fell
on his ears.

He replied coherently enough to his fakir host, though his voice was
very feeble.  He thanked him for his present hospitality, and for the
care he had taken of him during his illness, and he expressed the
pleasure it would give him to see the Sheikh Burrachee when he came back
from the Equator.

And then Fatima brought him food, which he turned to like a baby to its
bottle.

From that day Abdul Achmet paid him constant and long visits, reading
long passages from the Koran, and expounding to him that, as Mahomet had
been sent to convert idolaters, and had accomplished his task, so now
the Mahdi had been appointed to teach the truth to Europeans and other
civilised races.  The means to be employed were the same in both cases,
and were simple, consisting merely of the extermination of all who would
not be convinced.

"The great and indeed only object is the overthrow of infidelity," he
explained; "and if all infidels are killed there will no longer be such
a thing."

"QED," replied Harry Forsyth, in a tone of assent which pleased the
fakir mightily.

"QED" was not intelligible to him, but it sounded very well indeed, he
thought.

Sometimes Harry listened to these long tirades, and sometimes he did
not, the latter reception of them being very much more frequent than the
former.  But he looked politely attentive, and that was sufficient.  He
was the best listener when Abdul Achmet entered into personal details
concerning his heroes, in which he occasionally indulged; as when he
told how the Mahdi was brought up as a carpenter at Dongola; how he
first came to know of his mission; of the holy men who had taken up his
cause; and of his residence and education amongst them.  And then he
described his miraculous success, and what a boon even in the present
life the spread of his authority would be.  In proof of which he
recounted the extortions and cruelties of the Turks, and how the
taxation of the Soudanese was so excessive as to ruin the country
itself, while the bribes exacted by the officials who were appointed to
rule the country made it impossible to obtain justice.  He also waxed
very indignant over the unnatural folly and wickedness of those Powers
who sought to interfere with the slave trade, which he looked upon as a
perquisite provided by Providence for the Arab race.  Indeed the fakir
showed himself to be a man of some thought and shrewdness, and some
people to hear him speak might have fancied that secular interests, such
as improving their condition in life by throwing off a burdensome yoke,
and maintaining the considerable profits which they derived from
imposing such yokes on other people, who happened to be black and to
have thick lips, and woolly hair, had something to do with the aptitude
shown by the Soudanese to accept the new religion.  But Abdul Achmet was
an honest fanatic, and neither intended to insinuate this nor thought
it.

On the whole, Harry much preferred to hear his black nurse Fatima talk.
She told him about her childhood, when she remembered playing about
among trees and in long grass with other little darkies; and their
fright when they heard the lions roar; and how once, when she had
wandered away alone, she saw two fiery eyes glaring at her from a bush,
and ran home, expecting to be pounced upon and eaten all the way.  And
she described her parents' hut, with a low entrance, into which the
family had to crawl on their hands and knees.  Then, while she was still
quite little, her tribe declared war against another tribe, and all the
young men went out to battle, and were defeated, and fled back to their
village to make a last stand in defence of their wives and children.
And she described a night attack, and the horrors of a massacre, the
burning of the huts, and the carrying off of the younger women, the
youths, and children; how they were sold to Arab merchants, and
underwent a fearful desert march; and how she cried for her mother at
first, but was bought by a man who treated her kindly, and was happy,
and forgot her native language and habits.  All this she told in a
simple, artless way, and when she found that it amused her invalid she
repeated it again and again.  But his interest did not flag for the
repetition.  He was like a little child who has a favourite story, and
cries, "Again!" when told it, preferring it to risking a new one, which
might not prove so good.

And time flew by, and Harry Forsyth remained in this state of semi-
imbecility, free from anxiety about his mother and sister at home,
forgetful of all but his animal comforts and the superficial interest he
felt in such prattle as this.  His bodily health improved before his
mental activity; perhaps it was owing to the freedom from worry
consequent upon this lethargic state of mind that he was able to pick up
some strength.

But he became able to move about and help himself, and wander out to the
fig-tree over the well, which the delighted Fatima thought extremely
clever of him.

One day, as he sat in his favourite spot, thinking of nothing in
particular, a body of horsemen rode up to the oasis, and the leader of
it dismounting came up to him, and held out his hand English fashion,
though he spoke in Arabic.

"Harry," he said, using the English accent for the name, however, "you
remember me?"

Harry looked at him in a troubled way, and pressed his hand on his
forehead.

"I told you that you would come to me, for the inward voice, which never
errs, declared it to me," he went on.  "Struggle as you might, you could
not avert your destiny.  Our family is called to do a great work.  I
have commenced it, and it will be yours to complete it.  I am growing
old, but I can still strike a blow for the cause.  May Allah grant me to
die when my right arm is powerless: to die on the field of battle, in
the moment of victory, with my face to the foe!  Yes, you are clearly
destined to lead the hosts of Islam.  Have you not come out to me alone,
leaving home and friends?  Have you not traversed the desert without
guide, still alone; and though struck down by an unknown hand, have we
not met?  Have you not miraculously learned the language of the country
to which destiny called you?  Were you not brought when found, to all
appearance dead, to the fakir, Abdul Achmet, the one man of all others I
would have directed you to?  And the blind fools of Europe would call
this chance, as they do everything which they cannot attribute to their
own forethought or cunning."

"Yes, I know you," said Harry, at length; "you are my uncle Ralph, the
Sheikh Burrachee.  But I think I have been ill, and everything is like a
dream to me.  Were there not a signet-ring, and a paper in a silver
case, and jewels of value which you gave me?"

At that instant Abdul Achmet came out of the mosque, and the Sheikh
Burrachee advanced to meet him, leaving Harry more bewildered and
disturbed in mind than he had been since he was brought to the oasis;
and that night he had a relapse of fever.  It did not prove serious,
however, and when it passed away his mind was clearer than before,
though he still seemed like one in a dream, and the past events of his
life appeared to him as having happened to some one else.

On the morning after his arrival the Sheikh Burrachee left, but some
weeks afterwards he returned with an escort and an easy-paced hygeen to
take Harry away with him.  He took the announcement of the journey with
the placid indifference which now characterised him, only at the moment
of starting he showed reluctance to part from his black nurse, Fatima.
But whether the sheikh bought her, or only borrowed her, it was arranged
that she should go too, and Harry was perfectly reconciled.  The
hygeen's motions were wonderfully smooth for a camel, and the journey
was made easy to him; but still it was trying in his weak state and
after so long a confinement.

But it did not last long, and then they reached a town of flat-roofed
houses, and entered a spacious courtyard with a portico round it,
through which were the living-rooms.  There were soldiers here and there
under this portico, some of them wearing the turban, but the majority
having a skull-cap of blue and white on their heads, and a sentry over
the gate had one of them too.  Those who wore the bernouse, and most of
them did, had similar blue and white patches sewn on different parts of
it.  These were the Mahdi's colours; I don't know why, for he was never
a Third Trinity man, and had no right to their blazer.  Like his
impudence!  It is true that the colours were generally in dice, not
regularly striped.  Some of the soldiers did not show the colours, but
that was because they had nothing to put them on unless they painted
their bodies.  Passing through a large room with a divan round it, and
pushing aside a curtain at the farther end, you came upon another and
smaller court, which was a garden with a fountain in the middle, well
filled with date and other palms.  There was a portico round this too,
and this was destined to be the place where Harry Forsyth was to pass
the greater part of his life for some time, for it was the dwelling or
private part of his uncle's establishment.

Crazy renegade as he was, the Sheikh Burrachee had some old ideas of
comfort which the wild life he had led had not dissipated, and being a
rich man for the country where he was and the people he had adopted, he
could indulge any little fancies he had; and he had made his house both
handsome and comfortable.

According to the simple ideas of the natives, indeed, he was possessed
of enormous wealth, and this reputation went some way towards the
superstitious regard in which he was held.  This was the place which
Harry now entered, and reposing on a divan, low, with soft cushions on
it, and close to the portico, he looked upon the green leaves and
listened to the trickle of the fountain, while Fatima brought him a
glass of delicious lemonade, squeezed from the fresh-plucked fruit; and
the fatigues of the journey were forgotten, and he fell into a long and
refreshing sleep.  His curiosity, however, had not been one whit
aroused; he took everything as a matter of course.  Perhaps he was a
character in the "Arabian Nights," and not Harry Forsyth at all--who
could tell?--all seemed so strange and unreal.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.

Gradually Harry Forsyth came back to real life, as it were.  First of
all he had an uneasy feeling that something was wrong, but he wanted a
word or an event to strike the key-note of his memory.  His uncle never
spoke of home matters; he was kind, and even affectionate, but was much
away.  He would come out into the large courtyard in the early morning,
mount the horse which was held ready for him with an activity worthy of
a much younger man, and scour off at a gallop with a troop of his wild
retainers racing behind him.  He might come back that evening, or not
for a week.

And when he was at home he was very busy, seeing different people, who
came and went in a great hurry, and writing despatches, which mounted
orderlies, or what answered for such, were always in waiting to carry.
And when they were together he talked of the wild life of the desert; of
the sport to be had further up in the Black Country, but never of
England.

He spoke Arabic always, even when they were alone, and never lapsed into
his native tongue.  Yet his face and the tone of his voice disturbed
Harry, causing him to make an effort to get his mind clear.

At length, one morning he awoke with a distinct remembrance of his
mother and sister, and the knowledge that he was far away from them in a
foreign land, and had not had any communication with them for a long
time.  And he felt a strong desire to relieve their anxiety, and let
them know he was alive, and also to have news of them.  But he could not
remember what he had come to this part of the world for.

He knew that he had wanted to trace his uncle; but why?  He had come out
to Egypt in the service of a firm of merchants, and the name of the head
of it was Williams; he was confident so far.  But had he not returned
home since then?  And why had he sought out his uncle?  Surely not on
business connected with the firm, and certainly not because he had
turned Mohammedan and wanted to live like an ostrich.

A little longer, and his connection with Hicks Pasha's force, and the
disastrous termination of that expedition, came clearly back to him; and
with it the necessity of keeping silent about the matter, for he now
wanted to get away to a civilised place like Cairo, at all events, if
not to England.  For though he did not know that the British Government
had taken up the Egyptian quarrel, and that war had actually been waged
between them and the Soudanese in the neighbourhood of the Red Sea, he
knew that an officer of the late expedition would be looked upon with
suspicion, if not treated as an open enemy.

Neither was he sure how his uncle would bear the disappointment if he
found out that he had been in the ranks of his enemies--the Egyptians.
Though he need not have worried himself about that, for the Sheikh
Burrachee would only have thought it the method which Destiny had taken
to bring him to him.

As Forsyth's mind grew sounder his body kept pace with it, and he was
able at last to mount a horse and take short rides; and it amused him to
saunter about the bazaar occasionally, though it was not a very
extensive or grand one; indeed, the poet who wrote "Man wants but little
here below," would have been pleased to see how completely an Arab, as a
rule, verifies his theory.

One day he, (Harry, not the poet) was puzzled by some round balls of a
frothy appearance, which he could not make out; could it possibly be
soap?  What sale could there be for such an article?  The shopman might
just as well have offered straps and stay-laces to the population around
him.  But it did not smell like soap, either; indeed, the odour was
extremely unpleasant.

"That is not an object worthy of your attention," said the owner of the
shop, who sat on a cushion in the midst of his goods.  "I have a
preparation for the hair which is infallible for restoring it if it
falls off from age or sickness, for example, and which is as agreeable
to the nose as beneficial to the scalp.  Those balls of mutton fat are
only fit for the poor who can afford no better."

"Oh, it is for the hair, then," observed Harry; "and what makes it look
all frothy like that?"

"It is prepared by chewing, and women are employed for the purpose; they
cheat me sometimes, and swallow a portion.  But deign to come up, oh
illustrious one, and partake of a cup of coffee or a glass of sherbet
and a chibouque, and allow me the unparalleled and illustrious honour of
showing you my poor goods."

Harry consented, not that he wanted to purchase anything, but because
something about the man's face struck him as familiar, and he was
anxious to remember where and under what circumstances he had seen him
before.

"I have here a French pistol, a revolver with six chambers, which I can
offer your Excellency almost for nothing, with ammunition to match.  It
is a weapon which will save your life a hundred times by its accuracy
and the rapidity of its fire; and what says the wise man?  `Life is
sweet, even to the bravest.'"  And all the time he was talking, Harry
Forsyth kept thinking, "Where have I seen him?  What circumstance does
his face recall?"

As he left the shop his eye fell on a bale of goods yet unopened, and on
it he read the name *Daireh*!

It acted like a match on a gas-jet.  He had come out to seek the will,
and Daireh was the man who had abstracted it!

And as he walked home, he remembered everything which had been a puzzle
to him.  Being still weak, he now grew as much excited as before he had
been apathetic, and had his uncle been at home he would have gone to him
with the whole story at once.  But the sheikh was away, superintending
the drill of certain European ruffians in the Mahdi's service who were
to man some Krupp guns taken from the Egyptians, and Harry had a forced
respite in which to collect his ideas and frame them in the manner best
calculated to gain his uncle's attention and assistance.

And now his anxiety about those at home who had no doubt long mourned
him as dead grew more poignant, and remembering his uncle's affection
for his sister, he regretted not having confided in him and begged him
to get a letter conveyed to some point sufficiently civilised to have a
post.  He tried to find out from Fatima how long he had been laid up at
the fakir's residence, and at first she was puzzled.  But at last she
gave him a clue.

"The Nile had risen and gone back," she said, "when you were brought to
us as dead.  It rose again, and fell again, and now it will soon rise
once more."

Two years!  Was it possible?  Nearly two years!  And he wondered whether
his people had gone into mourning for him, or if they still hoped on.
He next made inquiries about Daireh, setting Fatima to gossip for him
and tell him the result.  He seemed to bear a shockingly bad character,
and to be very unpopular.  The fact was that he was a money-lender, and
his extortions caused him to be hated.

Harry was glad of this, since it promised to make his task easier.

The Sheikh Burrachee returned, and was rejoiced to find his nephew so
much improved in health.

Harry took the first opportunity of opening his budget.

"Do you mind my speaking to you in English?" he said.  "I have got to
say things which I should find it difficult to explain in a foreign
language, which I have very imperfectly picked up, and which may not
have idioms answering to the English."

"I do not love the English tongue," said the sheikh, using it, however.
"But what things do you allude to?"

"Family matters, affecting my mother and all of us--you, perhaps."

"When I last went to England," said the sheikh, "I took a final farewell
of all relatives, and of everything belonging to the country from which
I shook off the dust on my feet, you only excepted, for I saw that you,
too, were called out of the seething hotbed of corruption, which is
called civilisation, to the natural life of man.  Why disturb the ashes
of the buried past?"

"I love my mother," replied Harry; "and you, her brother, once loved her
too."

His uncle bowed his head.  "True," he said; "speak on."

"And besides," added Harry, "justice is justice all the world over, and
crime should not prosper.  Richard Burke, your brother, died at his home
in Ireland.  He had made two wills, one leaving the bulk of his fortune
to his step-son, Stephen Philipson, and another, and later one, made on
the occasion of Philipson turning out badly, leaving him a modest
allowance, and bequeathing the bulk of his fortune between his sister
and Reginald Kavanagh.  This will, which would make my mother and
Beatrice comfortable, as they have been brought up to esteem comfort,
was not to be found; neither was the other.  A dishonest clerk, forced
to fly the country because a forgery he had committed must soon be
discovered, stole them both out of the lawyer's office where he was
employed, for the purpose of levying a sum for giving them to one or the
other of the parties interested.  But the police were too close on his
traces, and he had to fly without a chance of making use of either
document.  He was an Egyptian, and went home; but not feeling safe at
Alexandria or Cairo, and having connections in the Soudan, he came to
this country.  If both wills are destroyed, part of the property comes
to you."

"And the cause has need of funds!" exclaimed the sheikh.  "But how shall
we find this dog?"

"I saw him the other day in the bazaar; his name is Daireh."

"Daireh, the money-lender, against whom I have had so many complaints,
but who always manages to have the law on his side?"

"The very same."

The Sheikh Burrachee clapped his hands; an attendant came.  "Bring
hither Daireh, the Egyptian usurer," said the sheikh; "and keep him
guarded in the outer court."

The Arab inclined his head and departed without a word.

It may seem to you that Harry Forsyth had recovered his wits very
rapidly, and this, indeed, was the case.  Up to a certain point his
progress had been very slow, but that once passed he had come to himself
almost at a bound.  But as for his clear statement to his uncle, that he
had prepared beforehand with great care, writing it out and learning it
by heart, feeling that it was necessary to be as concise as possible.

A thoughtful expression came over the Sheikh Burrachee's face, quite
different from the wild faraway look which now ordinarily characterised
it.

"And so Richard is dead," he murmured to himself; "and Mary has known
poverty in a land where there is no kindness for the poor; where all is
hard and cold, and people can no longer love or even hate.  And this
fellow has robbed her.  By my beard he shall smart for it!"

When the sheikh swore by his beard the matter was serious, and if Daireh
had heard him he would not have walked along between the guards who
arrested him with so impudent an air.  He had so often been had up, and
had got the best of his accusers, that he felt quite safe.  For he knew
well the customs which had the force of laws in the country, and took
care not to violate them, though straining every point to his advantage.
And the Sheikh Burrachee was just, and however much he might sympathise
with the complainant, would not allow his judgment to be affected by his
feelings.

It was indeed a rough-and-ready justice, not always consistent, and such
as would not meet entire approval from any civilised persons; he went on
the principle that when he could not do what he would, he did what he
could, to set things straight according to his judgment and the evidence
before him, adopting the habits of the people with whom he had
identified himself, who had not the horror of physical pain--for
others--or the employment of it to elicit truth, which we have.

He rose from the divan by the garden where he had been sitting with
Harry, and, beckoning to the latter to follow him, proceeded to the
outer and larger hall, where he took his seat, with his nephew at his
side.  And hardly had he done so when Daireh was brought in.  He
salaamed with a confident air, which expressed, "Who will find me
tripping?  It would take a clever fellow to do that.  They are willing
enough to agree to my terms when they want to borrow, but when I claim
my own, there is all this bother and outcry, and I am dragged before the
sheikh forsooth!"

But he looked more serious when the Sheikh Burrachee said to him--

"Daireh, where are the two wills you stole from Burrows and Fagan, the
Dublin lawyers, when you ran away from their employ?"

Surely such an incongruous question was never put in an Arab town in the
heart of Africa by a sheikh dressed in bernouse and turban, with a
jewel-hilted yataghan at his side, sitting cross-legged on a cushion.
No wonder Daireh was flabbergasted; such a thunderbolt out of a clear
sky has seldom fallen upon any man.

"Your Mightiness is mistaken," he stammered.  "I have lived, earning an
honest livelihood as a poor merchant, at Khartoum and Berber, Alexandria
and Cairo.  But what is Dublin?  I know it not."

"Is that your photograph?" asked Harry Forsyth, suddenly, in English.

"No!" replied Daireh, startled into answering in the same language; and
the moment he did so he could have bitten his tongue out for vexation.

The sheikh took the likeness in his hand; it was unmistakable.

"Here is your portrait, and it was taken in Dublin, for it bears that
name upon it.  Also you know English," he said.

"I learned that language at Alexandria," replied Daireh, more firmly now
he had collected his wits; "and I had a brother very like me who went
beyond the seas, and may have lived in the place you speak of, for I
never heard of him again."

"You speak the words of Sheytan, the father of lies," said the sheikh
sternly; "where are the stolen documents?"

"I never heard of them, your Justice; and I know not what you mean,"
replied Daireh, striving, but with indifferent success, not to tremble.

"Hassan!" called the sheikh, and a tall, stalwart black stepped forward,
with a courbash in his hand.  "Twenty lashes to refresh his memory."

"Mercy, great sheikh; oh, favourite of Allah, have mercy, and listen to
me!" cried the wretch; but without heeding his cries four men seized him
and flung him on the ground face downwards.  Two held his legs, one his
arms, and a third put a knee on his back between the shoulder-blades to
keep him in position.  It was all done in a twinkling.

Then Hassan stepped up, courbash in hand, and measured his distance.
The courbash is a fearful whip made of hippopotamus' hide, a stroke from
which is felt by a bullock as painfully as a cut from an ordinary whip
is by a horse.

It whistled through the air, and came down upon the naked flesh of the
victim, who screamed with the pain as if he would break a blood-vessel.
The wild men in the hall gathered round, their eyes sparkling and their
teeth gleaming with enjoyment and laughter.  It was good fun to them to
see any one flogged, but a money-lender and extortioner, that the
punishment should fall upon such an one, was indeed a treat!  And Daireh
too was particularly disliked.  Then the currish way in which he took
his licking added to the sport.  The little civilisation they had was
very superficial, and did not go nearly deep enough to repress the
instinct of cruelty.

Another and another lash, and the fellow's howls, yells, and cries for
pity were hardly human, but seemed rather those of some powerful spirit
in pain.  Harry felt quite faint and sick, and looked down so as not to
see what was going on.  But he could not close his ears, unfortunately,
and he counted the strokes, longing for them to be over.  He feared
being mastered by his feelings, and pleading for the wretch, so
displaying a compassion which would be considered by the Arabs as a most
despicable weakness, and it was part of his plan now to gain their
respect, and appear to enter into his uncle's plans.

No, it served the rascal right; let him have that, and more too.  Only
he had rather not be present.  Eighteen, nineteen, twenty.  The screams
subsided into a whimpering and wailing, and when Harry looked up he saw
Daireh on his feet again, his eyes bloodshot, and his features convulsed
with pain and terror.

"Where are the wills you stole?" asked the Sheikh Burrachee,
unconcernedly, as if nothing had occurred since he last put the
question.

"They are at my house, your Mightiness; send some one with me, and I
will give them up."

"I rejoice that your memory has returned; it is one of the choicest
gifts of Allah," said the sheikh.  "Go with him and get the papers, and
bring them back with the prisoner."

"A bad speculation from the first!" reflected Daireh, as he was escorted
through the streets, his woe-begone appearance and gingerly gait
exciting much mirth and mockery amongst the juvenile population.  "I
wish I had left the accursed wills alone.  And what son of Sheytan is
this who has traced them, and had my likeness in his pocket?  A
detective?  No; no English policeman would win upon this mad fool of a
sheikh--may the vultures tear his heart out while he is still alive--to
treat him like a son.  He must be one of the parties interested in the
last will.  What wretched luck that I did not meet him in a fair way,
and make a proper agreement with him!  But it is too late for that now.
If I could only be revenged upon him, upon all of them--sheikh,
torturer, mocking demons, and all!  Ugh, how sore I am!  If it were but
all over!  But I fear they may torment me further.  I had almost sooner
they took my head off at once rather than put me to more of that agony.
But no; I hope they won't do that either.  There is a remedy for every
evil but death."  With these reflections, fears, and impotent rages
tormenting him, Daireh reached his house, and from a box, which
contained what he had of most value, produced the required documents
which had cost Harry Forsyth so much anxiety, toil, and suffering to
come at.  He was strongly tempted to destroy them, and so glean some
little vengeance; but the certainty of perishing in fearful pain if he
did so deterred him, and when he was brought back, he delivered them to
the sheikh, wrapped in the oilskin in which he had carried them about
him until he had a fixed residence where he could deposit them in
tolerable security.

"Are these the right wills?" asked the Sheikh Burrachee, handing them to
Harry.

"I think so," replied the latter, as he looked them over and examined
the signatures; "indeed, I feel certain that they are."

"Then," said the sheikh, "since after all it was but infidels, and not
true believers, that this rascal robbed, the justice of the case will
perhaps be met by fifty lashes of the courbash, those he has already
received being allowed to count.  Dog!" he added, indignantly, as
Daireh, flinging himself on the ground, wallowed, gasping and crying for
mercy, "tempt me not, if you are wise, to treat you according to your
deserts, but know that you are treated with extreme leniency."

And so saying he rose and withdrew to the inner garden court, whither
his nephew gladly followed him, and here they refreshed themselves with
pipes and coffee.

But the screams of the miserable felon told with what energy Hassan was
performing his duty, and Harry thought the punishment would never be
over.  If it seemed long to him, you may be certain Daireh thought it an
age, and indeed he believed that mortal endurance had reached the acme
of suffering, and that one more stroke must drive the soul from the
body, some time before the last had cut into his palpitating flesh.

But it takes a good deal to kill, and when all was over he was alive,
though unable to stand, and when spurned from the courtyard into the
street, managed to crawl and drag himself home, where he obtained the
draught of water, the want of which had been his chief torment since the
stripes ended.

"And now we have recovered the will, uncle, how are we to send it to my
mother?" asked Harry when the distracting cries extracted by the
courbash had ceased.  "The old one I will destroy, as should have been
done before.  The money will add to her comfort, but news that I am
alive and with you will make her happier still."

This last was a skilful touch, and, I fear, Harry was becoming a bit of
a cheat.  For, though tidings of her son's own safety would undoubtedly
be the best news Mrs Forsyth could receive, the fact that he was
domiciled with her crazy brother would as certainly not add to her
satisfaction.

"Keep it safely for the present," said the sheikh, after smoking some
time in thoughtful deliberation; "we shall find a method of transmitting
it.  Great events will occur soon.  The authority of the Mahdi being
established in the Soudan, we shall sweep Egypt like the simoom, and
Cairo and Alexandria once in our hands, we shall find no difficulty in
communicating with Europe.  Or, perhaps, it may be done more quickly by
Suakim, should the forces of the Mahdi's lieutenant, Osman Digna,
recover from their check," he added, musing and thinking aloud rather
than addressing his nephew.

Harry longed to ask what check, but it was part of his newly-formed
system not to ask questions or show curiosity, but yield himself
passively to the course of events, and watch his opportunity.  For the
same reason he would not propose taking the will home himself, feeling
certain that so obvious a course would be suggested by his uncle himself
if he could feel it was practicable.  But it was evident what he was
driving at now; as his nephew picked up health and strength he began
asking him about his connection with the volunteers, and whether he had
paid attention to the theory as well as the practice of shooting.

And though Harry pretended not to understand, and parried the questions
as well as he could, he saw very well that he wanted him to take an
active part in the training of Soudanese soldiers in the use of the
Remington rifles which had fallen into their hands.

For never in the history of war had a nation been armed so completely by
its enemies.  The Egyptians sent out armies with weapons of precision
and improved artillery, and they fortified towns, where they massed vast
stores of ammunition, suited to both rifles and guns.  The soldiers of
the Mahdi rushed upon their feeble foes with sword and spear, totally
annihilated army after army, and collected the rifles.  Then they took
the towns and possessed themselves of the cartridges.  Napoleon the
Great used to say that war should support war; but this was going a step
further, and making war supply the means of waging war.  The only
drawback was this, that the more elaborate the weapons which you put
into a soldier's hands, the more skill he requires to use them
effectively; and this skill can only be acquired by proper training.

But the Mahdi had never taken the precaution to send any officers to
Hythe, and amongst the miraculous powers which he was said by some of
his followers to possess, that of creating ready-made musketry
instructors was apparently not included.  The consequence was that his
men were extremely bad shots, and wasted their ammunition in an almost
incredible manner.  What mischief they were enabled to do, especially
with the artillery, was principally owing to the lessons they received
from European scoundrels who had been forced to fly from their own
countries by their crimes, or reckless adventurers who did not care for
cause, nationality, or anything else, so long as they were where
fighting and a chance of plunder was going on--men who would have made
most excellent mediaeval heroes, and would have had a good chance of
living in song and story had they not been born a few centuries too
late.

Amongst all these the Sheikh Burrachee was an exception.  He was a
genuine crack-brained enthusiast, sane and even shrewd enough in many
things, but quite crazy upon certain points.  Convinced, to begin with,
that it was the duty of every Irishman to hate the English, he had
imaginary private wrongs of his own to avenge.  On the top of all that,
he had become a thorough Mohammedan in his sympathetic feelings and
habits, and quite sincere in his adoption of the cause of the Mahdi.
The appearance of England in the field, which would have caused many to
hesitate, was a spur to his enthusiasm, since it offered him an
opportunity of having it out with the foes of his predilection.

Harry Forsyth had no idea whatever that England had engaged in
hostilities in the Soudan.  When he last had any information, she was
firmly determined to do nothing of the kind, but to let the Egyptian
Government get out of the difficulty in the best way they could.
Indeed, it was the last thing he would have guessed.  But still he knew
well enough that English interests were firmly bound up in Egyptian,
since any disturbance of the Government at Cairo might endanger the
route to India, and therefore that to assist in any way the enemies of
Egypt was to act indirectly against his own country; and he was
determined to be of no use, even if he made believe to espouse the cause
which his uncle had made his own.  And this he suspected more and more
he would have to do, if he was to get an opportunity of leaving the
country.

His uncle had hinted at an impending advance upon Egypt; if he could
join that, and once reach the Nile, surely he would find some
opportunity of slipping down the river, and joining the Egyptian troops,
who would receive a relic of Hicks Pasha's army with open arms.  Then he
would get to Cairo, and find friends to assist him to reach England with
the will in his pocket.

He did not fear that the Arabs would be able to penetrate far into Egypt
proper, for there were probably some English troops still at Cairo, and
more would be sent there on the first intimation of danger.  The will,
by-the-by, had now taken the place which the parchment given to him by
his uncle had formerly held, and he seldom laid it aside, not knowing
what might happen from day to day.

His health, meantime, became re-established, and he grew rapidly
stronger, while his mind was perfectly clear now.  At times, indeed, he
had violent neuralgic headaches, but these recurred less and less
frequently, and he had every prospect of soon losing all ill effects of
that wound in his head.

But the stronger and better he became, the more restless he grew.  The
only amusement he had to pass the time in was riding.  He had always
been very fond of horses, and now he had a good choice, and as the two
he had fancied most had not been often backed, they took some riding;
and that was exercise and amusement both.  But the bits and the saddles
were not to his fancy: the former too severe; the latter heavy, with
high peaks before and behind.  But one cannot have everything, and he
was grateful to be able once more to sit a horse and enjoy a gallop at
all.  And to watch the wild cavalry at their exercises on a broad plain
outside the town was a pretty sight, though it seemed to him that their
performances were too much of the circus order.

"Can the English dragoons or hussars do anything like that?" the Sheikh
Burrachee asked him one day, when they were together watching a body of
horsemen who were supposed to be skirmishing.

They pulled up their horses to a dead halt from a gallop with their
cruel bits; went, not over the head, as it seemed they must, but under
the body of the animal; fired a shot from that position, and remounted
anyhow--one by the neck, another over the tail; a third ran alongside
his horse for some way, using him as cover, and then vaulted on his back
without checking the pace.

Harry was bound to confess that, to the best of his belief, no British
regiment, light or heavy, could rival such equestrian gymnastics.

"No," said the sheikh; "they learn to stick on while the horse keeps his
footing, but these cannot be thrown; for should the horse fall, even, he
jumps at once to the ground."

"But surely he must reach it head or shoulder first sometimes," objected
Harry.

"No," replied his uncle; "he turns a somersault and alights on his feet.
The European is as far behind the Asiatic in horsemanship as in
everything else which is manly and not demoniac.  The use of the sword,
for example.  The dragoon has a straight weapon, with which he is taught
to cut or thrust.  If he does the former, and the blow is not parried,
he may knock his opponent down, but he seldom inflicts a dangerous
wound.  If he gives point, he may kill his man indeed, but his weapon
will often become so entangled that he is for some time unable to free
it, and he remains defenceless against another attack.  But with his
curved blade of temper, which will not shiver and which takes a razor's
edge, the warrior of the East neither strikes nor gives point, but
presents the half-moon-shaped sword at his opponent, holding it still if
galloping, pushing it forward if motionless, and will so slice off limb
or head, or cut deep into the body, without useless expenditure of
strength, or the chance of losing even the momentary control of his
weapon.  I have seen an Arab meet an enemy in full career, and slice his
head clean off in this way, with hardly a perceptible movement of the
arm."

Having no knowledge on this subject, Harry assented without any mental
reserve; but concerning the military utility of acrobatic equestrian
performances, or of their being available at all in the hunting field,
he entertained the very gravest doubt.  But they were good fun to watch,
for all that, and one, that of vaulting into the saddle while the horse
was in motion, he practised, and to a certain extent caught the knack.
He also went in for throwing the spear, which the natives could do for
ten yards or so with great force and accuracy; and though he did not
make very good practice, it proved an excellent exercise for his muscles
after his long confinement.

The Sheikh Burrachee was delighted to see how his nephew took to these
martial exercises, and at last he put the question to him point-blank,
whether he would not assist in teaching some of the men the use of the
Remington rifles they had captured.

Harry, having thought over the best course to pursue in such a
contingency, consented with apparent alacrity, but said that he hoped
his shortcomings would be excused.  His uncle, not knowing how much that
hope covered, replied that he must not take the Kor Dofan for Wimbledon,
and the most elementary instruction would be esteemed extremely
scientific.

So the very next day Harry found himself with a squad of five hundred
men to instruct.

"Delightful task, to rear the tender root--to teach five hundred Arabs
how to shoot!" he said to himself, when the lot were handed over to him.
There was one consolation: do what he would, his instructions to so
large a number, without assistance, could not avail much: but he wanted
to do nothing at all.

His uncle was not present; he had no one to check him, able to judge
whether his instruction was good or bad.  So he stuck some stones up for
butts, at about twelve hundred yards, and set them all firing at them.
He judged that by this he would in the first place accustom them to
firing at a comparatively innocuous distance; and in the second, that
they would waste a good deal of ammunition.

  "His honour rooted in dishonour stood;
  And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true,"

in the words of Tennyson's famous conundrum.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

TRINKITAT.

The _Alligator_ troopship came tearing along the Red Sea, sending the
spray flying from her bows, and churning up the historical water with
her screw, just as if it were ordinary commonplace sea-water, without
any sacred, classical, or poetical associations!  The men gathered on
the forecastle and the officers on the poop were alike gazing hard at a
town of brilliant whiteness, which became more distinct every minute.

"And that is Suakim," said one of the group of officers.  "It looks very
clean at a distance.  What is it made of, doctor?"

Doctor MacBean was a middle-aged man who liked the society of young ones
because he had one little weakness: he was very fond of holding forth,
and young men were more inclined to listen patiently to him than older
ones.  He was a naturalist, a sportsman, and had been a great traveller.
There are men who go through Greece, as they would through Surrey,
gleaning nothing; but the doctor was not one of them.  If he were only a
day in a place he learned all about it, and what he learned he
remembered.  So that to be in his company was to have an encyclopaedia
conveniently at hand, from which you could learn what you wanted to know
without the trouble of turning over the leaves.  For the rest, such a
_boy_ past forty there never was--ready for anything for sport or fun,
even to a spice of practical joking; and with all this a grave Scottish
face which imposed upon those who had not found him out.  But in matters
of information he was trustworthy, his passion for fact overcoming his
love of mystification.

"Suakim is built of madrepore," he replied to the above question; "very
curious.  Houses and mosques all of the same materials as these reefs we
are now coming to."

"Madrepore--why, that is a sort of coral--isn't it?"

"Yes, it is coral."

"That's queer though.  My shirt-studs are made of coral; fancy a town
built of shirt-studs!"

"Shirt-studs are quite a secondary use of the article; the principal
being to help babies cut their teeth.  Have you got your coral still,
Green?"

Green was a very young subaltern, who had not been to a public school,
and was somewhat easily imposed upon.

"No," he said; "at least not here.  It is somewhere at home, I believe."

"That is right; you will want it when you come to cut your wisdom teeth.
You know, I suppose, that you cannot get your company until you have
done that?"

"I knew I had to pass an examination," said Green, not convinced that
this information was quite _bona fide_.

"Of course, but this is in addition to that.  When a vacancy occurs, you
send in your certificate of having passed in tactics, and then you are
ordered to go to the Veterinary College, and there they look in your
mouth."

"But I am not a _horse_!" exclaimed Green.

"No, but the rule applies to other animals," said his tormentor,
gravely.

"I know you are chaffing me," said Green, and indeed the roars of
laughter were alone sufficient to show him that.

"But all the same, it is curious that a town should be built of child's
corals."

"That is why it has been selected as a good station for infantry," said
a young fellow amidst a chorus of groans.

"I tell you what it is, Tom," said one of the captains; "I will not have
you in my company if you do that again.  The man who would make a bad
pun and a hackneyed pun in such beautiful scenery as this, would--I
don't know what enormity he would _not_ commit.  Come late on parade,
very likely."

"Oh, no!" said Tom Strachan, for the lieutenant was no other then our
old friend, "I hope I know better than to infringe on the privileges of
my superior officers."

A general grin showed that Strachan had scored there; for Fitzgerald,
his captain, was noted for slipping into his place just in time to avoid
reprimand, and no sooner.  But he could not make any reply without
fitting the cap; so he grinned too.

"Is Suakim an island?" he asked.

"Not now," replied MacBean.  "When I was last here it was, but since
that Gordon has had a causeway made to the mainland.  There, you can see
it now," he added, as the vessel steamed through a gap in the outer
coral reef.

"I wonder whether these passages in the reef were made by cutting the
coral out to build the town," said another.

"No," replied the doctor.  "Their origin is rather curious.  Sometimes,
in the wet season, torrents rush down from the mountains to the sea, and
the fresh water kills the polypus which makes the coral, and so stops
the formation of it just there, and makes an opening.  This theory is
confirmed by the fact that all such passages through the reefs are
immediately opposite valleys."

"The town looks like a large fortification; I suppose the dwelling-
houses are behind the walls."

"No, those are the houses; and what look from here like loopholes are
the windows.  The place is worth looking over, though you won't have
much time for that, I expect, nor yet for boating amongst the curious
coral caves, or looking at the queer creatures which serve for fish and
haunt them, until you have chawed up the Hadendowas and got Osman Digna
in a cage."

"Not then, I hope," said one of the seniors of the group.  "I hope they
will send us across to Berber, when Osman's forces are swept from the
path."

"I doubt if they will," replied the doctor, shaking his head.  "It will
be frightfully hot in a couple of months."

"It is the only way to save Gordon."

"I fear you are right, but I hope not.  But here is a boat coming off to
us."

It was a man-of-war's boat dashing along with the smart, lively stroke
which can never be mistaken.  It was alongside presently, and almost the
moment it touched, the naval officer they had seen in the stern sheets
stood on the quarter-deck; a harlequin could not have done it more
quickly.

"It is a mistake your coming in here, sir," he said to the commanding
officer; "you are to go to Trinkitat."

So the chance of closely investigating a coral town, and seeing how
closely or otherwise it resembled a similar sort of colony in an
extravaganza, was lost for the present for the First Battalion of the
Blankshire, who growled.  And yet, oh fortunate ones!  If they but knew
it, they gained two more comfortable meals, and one comfortable night's
lodging, by having to go on.

For they did not anchor in Trinkitat harbour till it was too late to
land that night.  The delay caused a last rise to be taken out of poor
Green, or rather a final allusion to a long-standing one.  When the
battalion got its route for the Soudan, the lad was as keen to see
active service as any one of them, and it was a severe shock to him when
one of the most mischievous of his brother officers pretended to
discover that one of his legs was crooked, which would incapacitate him,
he feared, from marching across the desert.

"You would knock up in an hour's march, and have to be carried, you
know," said the tormentor; "it would never do."

"I am sure my legs seem to me all right," urged poor Green.

"Well, of course, I may be quite in error," candidly admitted the other.
"We will ask a doctor."

So Doctor MacBean was called in, and he made an examination of the
accused limb.

"Dear, dear!" he said, "however were you passed for the army?  The
_scarsal bone_ of the _fons ilium_ is all out of drawing."

"But you won't tell, doctor?" pleaded poor Green; "it does not
inconvenience me in the least, I assure you."

"Not now, perhaps," said the doctor, nodding his head; "but after a long
march in sand, it might be serious.  I am very sorry, but I must do my
duty."

But, being much entreated, the doctor was persuaded to try what an
invention of his own, which he spoke diffidently of, would do.  So
Green's leg was done up in splints for twenty-four hours, and then
plaistered up.  And after a bit the doctor saw so much improvement that
he agreed to say nothing about it, and so Green sailed with the rest.

"How is your _fons ilium_, Green?" he was asked that evening in the
saloon.

"Hush!" he whispered, anxiously; "the colonel will hear you!  I am all
right.  I'll walk you ten miles through the deepest sand we meet with
for a sovereign."

"Thank you; no amount of sovereigns would tempt me to accept the
responsibility of putting your scarsal bone to so severe a test.  But I
am glad it is so much stronger; very glad.  I would not have the
regiment miss the aid of your stalwart arm on any consideration.  Never
shall I forget the way you delivered that Number 3 cut which caught
Mercer such a hot one the other day, when you were playing singlestick
on the deck.  I say, by-the-by, have you had your sword sharpened?"

"Yes!" replied Green, with enthusiasm.  "It has a good butcher's-knife
edge upon it; so the corporal said, who ground it for me.  It is quite
as sharp as my pocket-knife."

"I am not quite so soft as they take me for," he added, confidentially,
to Strachan presently.

"Of course you are not, my dear fellow," said Tom.  "I doubt if it would
be possible."

"Now that MacBean, the doctor, you know: did you hear what he said about
the fresh water coming down from the hills in the rainy season, and
making gaps in the coral because fresh water killed the insects that
make the coral?"

"Yes, I heard him," said Strachan, wondering what fault Green could find
with what seemed to him a very lucid explanation.

"As if I was going to swallow that!" said the other.  "The rainy season,
indeed!  Why, every one knows that rain never falls in Egypt."

"But, my dear fellow, this isn't Egypt for one thing, and it rains
sometimes everywhere, I expect," said Tom, who was somewhat tired of
imposing on the innocence of Green, who was a very willing and good-
tempered lad.  "Do you know you remind me of a very old story of a
sailor-lad who returned home to his grandmother after a cruise in these
very waters.  It may be familiar to you."

"I don't remember it," said Green.

"Well, it is really so apt that I will tell it."

"`What did you see that was curious, Jack?' asked the old woman.  `Well,
granny, there were flying fish; they came right out of the water and
flew on the deck, and we picked them up on it.'  The old woman laughed
and shook her head.  `What else, Jack?'  `Why, I wish you could see the
sea at night in them parts, granny; where the ship disturbs the water it
all sparkles, and you can see her track a long way, like a regular road
of fire.'  `Ha, ha!  Go it, Jack.  What else?'  Jack's budget of fact
was exhausted for the moment, so he had to take refuge in fiction.
`Well, when we were in the Red Sea, you know, we hauled up the anchor,
and we found a carriage-wheel on one of the flukes.  A queer old wheel
it was.  And the chaplain, he looked at it and found the maker's name,
which was that of Pharaoh's coach-builder.  So he said there was no
doubt it belonged to his army, when he followed the Israelites after
they had gone out of Egypt.'  `Ah, now you are telling me what is worth
listening to!' cried the old woman.  `We know that Pharaoh's host was
drowned in the Red Sea, and that they had a many chariots.  It is like
enough you should fish one of the wheels up.  But to try to stuff your
poor old granny that fish can fly, and water take fire!  For shame, you
limb!'"

Green was a bit thoughtful, and puzzled over the application of this
fable; but Strachan having to hurry off on duty, he could not question
him further.

Every one was on deck by daybreak next morning, and the bustle of the
day commenced.  The _Alligator_ was rather a late arrival, and the shore
was already white with tents, large and small, circular and square, the
camp being protected by an earthwork and a trench, which came down to
the sea on each side, entirely enclosing it on that of the land, while
on the other it was protected by the harbour and its gunboats.

But there was not much time for gaping; launches and boats of various
kinds were alongside presently, and the work of disembarkation
commenced.  It did not take long, for a number of little piers had been
made, rude enough, but answering their purpose, and several boats could
land their passengers at them at once.  Then there was an officer ready
to show them where to get their tents, and it was not long before the
First Blankshire had added several streets to the canvas town.

They had hardly done that, however, and were still telling off men for
the various regimental duties, when they were called upon to find a
large fatigue party for the public service.  And now, if any men felt
the cramping effects of life in a small compass on board ship, they had
plenty of opportunity for stretching their limbs and getting their
muscles into full play.

The sailors, for the most part, brought the cargoes ashore, and the way
they worked was marvellous.  They bundled bales and boxes into the boats
as if the ship were on fire and they had only a few minutes to save them
in; they rowed them to the strand as if they were racing in a regatta,
and they got them out on the jetties before dockyard hands at home would
have quite made up their minds what bale they should begin with.

And they laughed and chaffed, and seemed to think it the best fun out.
Such energy was infectious, and "Tommy Atkins," without coat or braces,
and with his shirt sleeves rolled up above his elbows, tried to emulate
"Jack."  Some of the goods they had to pile up on the shore; some to
carry to the commissariat stores; and some, again, to the ordnance
department.  If free perspiration was the best thing for health and
vigour, they were going the right way to work to obtain those blessings.

There was a lad in Fitzgerald's company, that in which Strachan was
lieutenant, upon whom these new duties fell very hard.  His name was
James Gubbins, and he enlisted because he found it hard to obtain any
other employment.  And no wonder, for never was there such an awkward
mortal.  He broke the hearts of corporals and sergeants, and the
officers of his company would fain have got rid of him.  But he was
perfectly able-bodied, and the surgeon was bound to pass him.  Neither
would the colonel help them; the man was well conducted, healthy, and
tried his best.  "He would make a good soldier in time," he said.
Perhaps so, but the process was tedious.  One lad, who joined as a
recruit a month after Gubbins, learned his drill, went to his duty, was
made a lance-corporal, and had the drilling of the squad in which
Gubbins was still toiling at the rudiments.

He got perfect in the manual exercise, and was dismissed from recruit
drill at last however, and even learned to shoot, after he had once
taken in the part of the back-sight of his rifle which was to be aligned
with the fore-sight, haziness about which nearly caused several bad
accidents, as his bullets went wandering dangerously near the butts to
the right and left of that where he was supposed to be firing.

By the time he passed muster he was indeed a valuable soldier, if the
value of a thing depends upon the trouble taken to manufacture it.  And
now poor Gubbins had more to learn!  It may seem very easy to turn a
crank, to pump, to shoulder a box, to help carry a bale, or to push at a
capstan bar, and this certainly is not skilled labour.  Yet there is a
way of doing each of these things in a painful, laborious, knuckle-
cutting, shoulder-bruising, toe-smashing manner, and a comparatively
easy and comfortable one.

And James Gubbins invariably did the worst for himself possible.  I do
wish that a special artist had seen him trying to help sling a mule on
one occasion, and endeavouring to take a similar animal to the place
appointed on shore for it on another.  Words can do no justice to those
scenes.

Another adventure, however, I will try to describe.  A naval officer
engaged in transport came up to Tom Strachan, who was in charge of half
his company on fatigue duty, and said--

"Look here, do you see that steamer with a green funnel?  Well, there
are stores on board, for your regiment mostly.  A whole lot of shells
have to be landed this afternoon, and all my men are at work at that.  I
wish you would take that lighter, and let your fellows go off to the
steamer and unload it.  We should bring you the stores, as a rule, for
you to carry up from the jetty, only we are short-handed."

"All right," said Tom.

The lighter was propelled by large oars, or sweeps, and James Gubbins
found there was yet another trial for him in this weary world--that of
endeavouring to row with one of these things.  But he was so clumsy, and
impeded the others to such an extent, that they pushed him on one side
and told him to keep quiet.

When they got alongside, a rope was thrown up and caught by a sailor on
deck, and Strachan went up a rope ladder to see exactly what had to be
done.  The stores were as yet in the hold, and the first job would be to
hoist them out of it; so the lighter would not be wanted alongside for
some time.  The sailors let it drop astern, and then made it fast.

"Now then, men, you are wanted on deck; look alive!" cried Strachan.

The sergeant in the lighter looked puzzled how to get on board for a
moment; but seeing a grin on a sailor's face, and at the same time
observing a rope hanging from the taffrail close to him, he seized,
pulled at it, and finding it firm at the top end, swarmed up it
presently.  It was not far to go, or a difficult operation, so the
others followed.

Then they manned the crane, by which a chain with a big hook to it was
lowered into the hold, as if to fish for something.  And a bale having
been caught, it was wound up, slewed round, and deposited on the deck.

When this had been going on a little time Strachan called out--

"Where's Gubbins?"

"Gubbins, sir," said the sergeant; "is he not here?  No, he is not.
Where can he have got to?  Gubbins!"

He went aft and looked into the lighter; there was no one there, and he
was turning away again, when he heard a voice in tremulous accents
crying--

"Help!  Help!  Do pull me up, some one, or send a boat.  He will have
me--I know he will!  He will jump presently; and if he doesn't, I can't
hold on much longer.  Help!  Oh, lor!  Help!"

There was James Gubbins clinging to the rope by which the others had
come on board.  He had waited till the last, and then attempted to
follow.  There were two knots in the rope, one near the bottom, the
other some five feet higher, and by grasping it above the top one with
his hands, and above the lower one with his ankles, he managed not to
fall into the water.  For the lighter had floated clear of him.  As for
swarming up the rope without the aid of knots, he might as well have
tried to dance on the tight rope.

Now to fall in the water would of itself have been a serious thing to
poor Gubbins, who, of course, could not swim; but to add to his terror
there was a shark, plainly visible, his back fin indeed now and then
rising out of the water, swimming round and round, opening his mouth,
but by no means shutting his eyes, to see what luck would send him.  And
good rations and regular meals, with something a day to spend in beer,
had agreed with James, who had not been accustomed before enlisting to
eat meat every day.  He was plump, and enough to make any shark's mouth
water.

The sergeant called for assistance, and Gubbins was hauled up.  He got a
good many bumps against the side before he was safely landed on the
deck, but he stuck to his rope like a limpet, and came bundling on board
at last.

And then, when he felt himself out of the reach of those cruel jaws
which had threatened him for a time, which seemed to him long enough, he
nearly fainted.

After this experience, if James Gubbins ever learned to swim, it would
have to be after his return to England, for nothing could persuade him
to go into the waters of the Red Sea.  And so he missed the principal
pleasure which hard-worked "Tommy Atkins" enjoyed at that period.  For
when the work of the day was over, bathing parade was the great feature
of the evening, and the margin of the strand was crowded with soldiers,
swimming, wading, diving, splashing, playing every imaginable game in
the water, for, however tired they might be, the refreshing plunge gave
them fresh life and vigour.

And, by-the-by, why is the British soldier called "Tommy Atkins?"  I
believe that there are plenty of people who use the term and don't know.
The nickname arose simply from the fact that every company has a
ledger, in which each man's accounts are kept.  So much pay and
allowance on the credit side, so much for deductions on the debit, with
the balance.  The officer commanding the company signs to the one, the
soldier himself to the other.  On the first page of this book there is a
form filled in, for the guidance of any new pay sergeant who may have to
make out the accounts, and in this the fancy name of the supposed
soldier is printed in the place where he has to sign, and this fancy
name is "Thomas Atkins."  But upon the point of who was the first person
to generalise the name, and how it came about that his little joke was
taken up and came into common use, history is dumb.

This is a digression, and I suppose, according to the ideas of some
people, I ought to ask you to pardon it, for I observe that that is a
common plan upon such occasions.  But I do nothing of the kind.  If I
thought it needed pardon I should not have made it; and you ought to be
glad to improve your mind with a little bit of useful information.  But
you knew it all before?  Well, how could I tell _that_, I should like to
know.

Whether the sharks were good old-fashioned Mohammedans, who would not
bite on the side of the Mahdi, or whether the number of British soldiers
in the water together, and the noise they made, overawed them, they did
not attempt any supper in that direction, and the men enjoyed their bath
with impunity.

The work went on day after day for some time, always at high pressure,
and the men got into rare good training for marching or any other kind
of work.  And they had plenty of water to drink, for the steamers in the
harbour were perpetually at work condensing the salt-water, which turns
it, as you probably know, into fresh.  Pipes then conveyed it on shore,
where it was received in tanks and barrels.  And the want of natural
springs, and the consequent necessity of having recourse to an
artificial supply, were not without advantage.

For the only water which can be got for troops when campaigning is very
often polluted, and the men get dysentery from drinking it, whereas this
was necessarily quite pure.  And probably owing to this cause there was
wonderfully little sickness.  A terrified horse gave trouble in the
landing him one day, and Tom Strachan, who was with the fatigue party
which had to do it, lent his personal assistance, and with success, but
he grew warm over the job.

As he was wiping the perspiration from his forehead Major Elmfoot rode
up.

"Well, Strachan," he said, "how do you like this work?  Do you want it
over that you may begin fighting the Arabs?"

"Well, yes, sir," replied Tom.  "A little of it goes a good way, and we
have had more than a little.  Still, we should not get on well without
grub or cartridges, should we, sir?"

"No, my lad, you are right there; and I am glad to see you are a
philosopher."

"Am I that, sir?  Well, it is no use grumbling, but I am glad it is
pretty nearly over."

"Pretty nearly over, you think it, do you?" said the major, drily.
"Then the stores are to walk up to Fort Baker by themselves, I suppose."

"Have we got to--," began Tom, in dismay.

"Yes, we have," replied Major Elmfoot to his unfinished query; "and you
are to knock off this job and start off on the other one at once."

It was a peculiarity of the major's to preface an order in that way--
that is, to prepare you for something quite different, and then take you
aback.  If you were just going to dinner, and he had a duty for you
which would cause you to defer that meal, he would begin by asking if
you were hungry.  He did not mean to be aggravating; it was only a way
he had; but it was rather trying sometimes.

Fort Baker was about three miles from Trinkitat harbour; it was erected
by Baker Pasha on the second of the month which was now drawing to a
close, that is the February of 1884, when he was in command of the
Egyptian army which was cut to pieces by the Arabs on the fifth.  There
is no fresh water nearer that part of the coast than the wells at El
Teb, eight miles off; so every drop of the precious liquid for the use
of the troops had to be first condensed at Trinkitat, and then carried
in tanks of galvanised iron on camel or mule back to the fort.  Three
miles do not sound like a long distance, and on good ground are not very
far.  But the greater part of this track lay through marshes, and for a
mile it was very bad indeed.  But all were in good spirits, for it
transpired that this was the last of that sort of work the two companies
of the Blankshire employed in it were to have for the present.  They
were to take their arms and accoutrements with them and remain at Fort
Baker till the rest of the battalion joined them.  But it was hard work
to get the unfortunate baggage animals along.

"I say, sergeant, what am I to do with this campbel now?" asked a
soldier, alluding not to a clansman of the famous Highland chief, but to
a ship of the desert which had sunk down in the mud, making the most
horrible noises imaginable, and seemed likely to be swallowed up after a
bit.

"The Johnny who understands him won't do nothing; may I lick him?"

"No, no," said the sergeant, glancing towards his captain, and with a
frown at the man which was half a wink, intimating that if it could be
done quietly and unofficially a little gentle persuasion used towards
the Egyptian driver might expedite matters.

"What's up?" asked the captain, turning back.

"A camel that's down, sir," replied the sergeant.

Tom Strachan put the case in the form of an old nursery jingle, which he
murmured for the benefit of another subaltern, Williams, who was by his
side at the moment.

"Captain, captain slang sergeant; sergeant won't swear at private;
private won't kick Egyptian; Egyptian won't stir up camel; camel won't
get out of that; and C Company won't reach Fort Baker to-night."

The captain was equal to the occasion, however.

"Look here, you know," he said to the native driver; "if you don't make
that camel go on with that load, you and your two mates will have to
carry it yourselves, don't you know."

Whether the "Johnnies," as Private Smith called them, understood all
this is perhaps doubtful, as their English was peculiar, but the tone
and gesture which accompanied the words were very intelligible, and the
Egyptian began to unload the poor bogged beast with great alacrity.

The soldiers, seeing his purpose, helped him, leaving the two other
included natives to go on with other camels, and soon the goods carried
by the fallen one were conveyed to a sounder place.  The wallowing
animal being beaten and prodded, emerged from the mud uttering unearthly
cries, and was then reloaded, still objecting loudly, and on he went
again.

There was no difficulty in catching the others up; other mules and
camels in front were in a similar plight.  These were also unloaded, and
then the men pulled and pushed and heaved them out, first taking off
their shoes and stockings, and rolling their trousers up as far as they
could.

One man, finding that even so he got those garments sorely bemired, so
deep was the slush, took them off altogether; others followed his
example, hanging their trousers round their necks.  But no one need have
been shocked, their limbs were by no means bare, but decently clothed in
long clay stockings.

"I say, Tom," said Williams to Strachan, "fancy the regiment turning out
like that for Commanding Officers' parade at Aldershot!"

James Gubbins managed to distinguish himself as usual, for he let a
floundering mule knock him over and roll upon him.  Having to help the
animal out, he seized one of his hind legs and hauled at it, with this
result--

"Look at Gubbins!" cried one of his comrades; "blest if he hasn't been
taking a cast of hisself in clay.  Going to have a marble statty, old
man?"

"You ought to have a photo taken to send home to your sweetheart, Jim."

"Pity it's the end of February, and not the beginning; what a lovely
valentine he would make, surely."

"It's easy to laugh at a chap," spluttered Gubbins, "but this stuff
tastes awful; and however shall I clean myself for inspection?"

"Never mind, old chap, you'll be confined to barracks, and then them
Johnnies with the spears can't get at you."

"If any chap had a drop of rum instead of jaw to give a chap with his
mouth full of filth, there would be more sense in it," said the victim;
and it was one of the wisest remarks he had made for a long time.  Some
good Samaritan _had_, and administered it, and Gubbins was consoled.

"You have made these Egyptians work," said Tom to his captain.

"Yes, I flatter myself I know how to treat those fellows."

"Oh!" cried Tom.

"What's the matter?" asked Fitzgerald.

"Nothing; only if a poor sub had done it!"

"Done what?"

"Well, you know, it was one of the jokes which were tabooed by general
consent."

"Get out!"

But it must be owned that though he meant nothing so atrocious as Tom
Strachan implied, the captain did pronounce _fellow_ like Fellah!

The fort was reached at last, and never a mule or camel left on the way.
There were some salt-water puddles at the end of the worst part of it,
and in these the men contrived to wash the mud off their limbs before
resuming their nether garments.  Ward the quartermaster was there before
them; and he had a rough tent in which to receive the officers of the
two companies, and he treated them to ginger-beer and tea.  Ward was an
old campaigner, who had seen no end of service--been frozen in the
Crimea, broiled in India, devoured by stinging insects on the Gold
Coast.  Strachan liked to listen to his yarns, and was in consequence
rather a favourite of his.  And if you are going on a campaign, it is
not half a bad thing to be on good terms with a doctor, a quartermaster,
or any other staff officer.  They always have a bite or a drop of
something should you happen to come across them when nobody else has.

"You didn't expect this kind of work when you thought, as a boy, how you
would like to go into the army, eh?" he asked him.

"No," said Tom, laughing; "they don't enter into these little details in
books.  It's mostly feasting and fighting, with other fellows getting
killed, that a school-boy looks forward to."

"Ah, the fighting is the best of it; there is something to keep you
going in that.  Give me the chap that will stand hunger, thirst,
fatigue, want of sleep, and fever, and be as jolly as a sand-boy all the
time.  That's the sort for a soldier."

"But all that would be no good if he would not stand up when the pinch
came."

"Of course not; but a fairly bred one--I mean English, German, French,
Italian, Dutch--is bound to stand if he is properly trained and led.  If
he is rightly drilled it does not occur to him to run away unless his
comrades do; and then, after a bit, he gets excited.  Then, as to
generals; I don't say that it's an easy thing to fight an army well, but
it is easier than to feed it.  I tell you all the real art of war lies
in little details that no one ever talks about."

"Then you are not a hero worshipper, Ward?"

"Not I, I have seen too much.  I take no credit from men who get
mentioned in despatches, win the Victoria Cross, and so forth; but there
is a lot of luck in it.  Heaps of men deserve these prizes just as much
as those who get them.  Indeed, the most deserving of all get killed out
of hand, and make no claim.  You see, one man does a thing with a
flourish, which attracts notice, and is popular, and gets watched; and
another is quiet and retiring, and afraid that if he pushes himself he
may not prove as valuable an article as he has led people to expect; and
a smart or plucky thing which gives promotion, or the Victoria Cross, to
the first, merely elicits a `well done, old fellow!' from his mates for
the second."

"And that's worth risking a good bit for!" cried Green, with his eyes
sparkling, and a heightened colour.

"Hark to Green!  Good lad!  By Jove, he's right!"  Green blushed.

"Why are you like King Duncan's blood on Lady Macbeth's hand, Edwards?"
asked Tom Strachan of the last speaker.

"I can never guess riddles," said Edwards.  "Give it up."

"Because you have made the Green one red," said Strachan.

"_You_ will never miss the Victoria Cross for want of cheek, at any
rate," said Fitzgerald.

"I am glad of that," replied Tom, "as I have my plan for it.  I mean to
stick behind you the first time you go to do anything heroic, and if you
get killed I shall hope to get the credit of your action."

"So you want me to be knocked on the head, do you, you young villain?"

"Not at all, sir; no one can say I would rather have your room than your
company."

"What _are_ the boys coming to?" cried Fitzgerald.  "When I was a sub, I
no more dared to speak to my captain like that than to--to walk off
parade without permission," he added, after pausing to think what was
the highest possible stretch of mortal impudence.

"Perhaps your captain had not your appreciation of wit," replied Tom.

"Wit, indeed!  You call your bad puns wit, do you?"

Next day the rest of the troops marched in from Trinkitat, and
bivouacked outside the fort.  They had made a fair start, and commenced
the campaign now, and the novelty of eating their evening meal in the
open, by the light of a bonfire, had a charm for some of the young ones.
The officers' mess of the First Blankshire was held round an oval
trench.  A coat thrown on the earth dug out of it served for a seat; the
feet were placed in it, and the pewter plate with food on it was held on
the knees.  This is infinitely more comfortable than feeding in a
cramped position on the ground.

Though they knew all about it before, it seemed strange to the
inexperienced to lie down at night in the open, like animals, instead of
going to bed, but some were so tired that, not being on duty, they
rolled themselves up in the coats they had been sitting on, and courted
a nap directly they had done feeding.

Those who did so, however, were presently aroused by a tremendous
cheering, which made them jump up, and run to see what had happened.  It
was the arrival of the Sixty-fifth, who had been stopped on their return
from India, and sent to Trinkitat instead of England.  They had only
landed that afternoon, and had marched on at once.  It was not long,
however, before the challenge of the sentries, and the snores of
sleepers alone broke the silence of the little host, lying stretched in
slumber under the faint light of the new moon.  Their sleep was
disturbed by showers of rain, which interfered with all but the very
sound, and even these were fairly roused at last by a regular drencher,
the water coming down tropical fashion, in bucketfuls.

"Halloa, Green!" said Strachan, to that young hero, whom he found
standing in astonishment, drenched, but not dismayed.  "Do you believe
that it rains sometimes in the Soudan, now?"

"I do," replied Green, solemnly.  "Books talk nonsense."

"I wish it was time to start," said Edwards, joining them.  "It seems so
absurd to stand here saturated, with no possibility of resting oneself,
when one might be getting on."

"It is more than half-past four, and reveille is to sound at five.
Let's try and light the fire again; there's a bit smouldering, in spite
of the rain."

This was Strachan's suggestion, and voted a good one; and they had just
succeeded in raising a blaze, when a bugle started the most romantic,
melancholy, musical call in the whole category.  I mean in itself, and
not for its associations; and yet when one thinks how many thousands of
brave men have been roused by it to go to death, it is not free from
these.  Number one only got about three notes start, when a second
began, and presently the whole air was full of plaintive sound.

Then flickers of fire shone out, and coffee was boiled, and the men got
their breakfasts.  Then, after a while, the Fall-in sounded, and the
different corps and detachments stood to their arms.  The commanding
officer of the First Blankshire went round the ranks, and spoke to the
men here and there.  He did not remark on the mud which still clove to
James Gubbins, but he stopped opposite Green.

"Why, what is the matter, Green; where and how are you hurt?" he asked.

"I, sir?" said Green, in astonishment; "I believe I am all right."

"Why, you are bleeding like a pig!"  And so he was, from his right ear.

"I must have cut it with my sword, sir, carrying it carelessly.  I
forgot that I had had it sharpened."

"Well, it can't be very bad, if you did not know it," said the colonel,
laughing as he rode on.  The bleeding stopped presently, but not before
it had made Green's kharkee sleeve and his sword, down which there had
been a trickle, look exceedingly warlike.

"He has fleshed his maiden blade!" said Tom Strachan.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

EL TEB.

The force started on the march about eight o'clock.  It moved in square,
with camels, mules, baggage, ammunition in the centre.  Also inside were
the surgeons and ambulance, and some troops ready to strengthen any weak
part in the course of action; there were guns, either machine-guns, (as
guns which fire bullets through individual barrels by turning a handle--
various improvements upon the mitrailleuse--are called) or Krupp guns,
at the corners, manned either by sailors or artillerymen.

The square was not a square in the sense of Euclid, because two sides of
it were longer than the other two.  One of the longest faces led, the
men being in line.  The other formed the rear face, and moved also in
line, turned to the right-about; but when halted and fronted it would
face to the rear.  The side faces marched, the right side "fours left,"
the left side "fours right," so that when halted and fronted they too
would face outwards.

The officer in command, General Graham, had two men who knew the ground
well, Baker and Burnaby, to point out the best route to avoid obstacles
which would break the formation, and so they moved over a flat expanse
of sand, with now and then a hill overgrown with low bushes.  Not far
from the line of march these sand-hills were larger and more numerous,
and the bushes thicker, and amongst and beyond these parties of the
enemy were hovering; to guard the infantry against a sudden attack from
these, a squadron of light cavalry were spread out half a mile ahead,
covering the flanks.

"I ask your pardon, sir," said a sergeant to Strachan, as they tramped
through the sand, "but do you happen to know what we are going to fight
about?  Not that it matters, only it gives an interest like to the
business."

"Oh, yes, sergeant," said Tom.  "We are going to relieve Tokar."

"So I thought, sir.  But then, you see, Tokar, they say, has fallen."

"I believe it has," replied Tom; "but that was the original idea.  And
if we are a bit late, why then we must show them how we would have
relieved it if it had not been taken.  The Arabs had no right to be in
such a hurry.  You remember the sham fights we used to have at
Aldershot?  Neither side was to commence manoeuvring before a certain
hour, when a gun fired.  Well, these Arabs have not played fair, but
stolen a march upon us before the proper time.  But that is no reason
why we should go home after all this trouble and preparation without a
fight."

"Of course not, sir!"

"Well, then, they have got the wells at El Teb, and have raised
fortifications to defend them, I believe, and our job to-day is to get
them out of that.  Then we go on to Tokar, and we shall see if they make
another fight there."

"Thank you, sir," said the sergeant; "I understand quite enough now."

A puff of smoke from the bushes; another; twenty.  But no bullets came,
the enemy firing from too long a distance.  It was like a peaceable
field day with blank cartridge burning.

Trinkitat harbour was in full view, and an energetic ship there, seeing
the Arabs' position thus indicated, tried to throw shells amongst them.
But they, too, were out of range.  Only, as shells when properly
constructed burst somewhere, and these were sent over the heads of
friends, their exploding short was dangerous, and after two or three
attempts the experiment was dropped.

The main body of the cavalry followed in rear of the square, and to the
left of it, in three lines.

"Look at those birds!" said Green to Tom, coming up to him to draw his
attention.  "What lots of them!  They look like vultures surely, some of
them."

"And they are vultures, too.  What carrion have they got there I wonder.
Faugh!  One can smell it from here."

"Look at General Baker, what a stern expression he has got," said
Fitzgerald, letting his subaltern come up to him.  "What a scene those
birds and this stench must recall for him!"

"Ah, to be sure!" said Tom.  "This was the line of the flight of his
Egyptian army a month ago, when they let the Arabs massacre them without
even attempting to resist.  Well, we won't do that if we can help it,
will we, Green?  We will strike a blow, even if we cut off our noses as
well as our ears."

"There, there, don't chaff him, Strachan; you are too bad.  And look to
your half-company.  Close up, there!"

The enemy kept up their innocuous out-of-distance popping, principally
at the advance cavalry.  The square was halted two or three times for a
minute's rest, which the men dragging the guns must have particularly
wanted, considering the loose nature of the soil.  Then on again, after
between two and three hours' march.

Tom Strachan could see huts, and what looked like a fort with guns;
earthworks also in another part, with flags stuck upon them.  Also, of
all earthly things in such a spot, an old boiler, such as you may see in
some Thames-side yard, where old vessels are broken up and worn-out
machinery accumulates.

Here the cavalry skirmishers, having done their work, retired to their
main body.  Another halt, almost within rifle-shot of the position, and
the men flung themselves carelessly down on the sand.  Major Elmfoot was
examining the defences through his field-glass.

"That thing looks like an old boiler, major," said Fitzgerald.

"And it _is_ an old boiler," replied the other.  "I was hearing about it
the other day; there was a sugar-mill here once; that ruined building
was part of it."

"Ten-shun!"

The men sprang to their feet all together.  The enemy were close, and
there would be serious work in a minute.  A flash and a puff of smoke
from the earthworks, a singing in the air, another flash and report
close by, and the fragments of a shell were flying about their ears.
Two more bursting right over, and a man here and there dropped.

Then the rifle-fire opened in earnest, and those who had never yet heard
it learned what the sound of a bullet was like.  More men were hit,
collapsed, and were picked up by the ambulance.

Still the square pressed steadily on, the men stepping jauntily as if
marching past.  Green said to himself with joy--

"I am under fire, really under fire!  And I am not half so frightened as
I thought I should be."

"Mayn't I give them one back, sir?" a man asked him.

"Not yet; presently," he replied.

He had hardly spoken before the words, "Halt!  Lie down!" were passed,
and return fire was opened, both from guns and rifles, overpowering and
almost silencing that of the enemy.

"Advance!"  Up the men jumped again, and pressed forward towards the
works.

The ground was broken by lumps of rock, bushes, and holes, which made
temporary breaks in the ranks as the men had to give way to pass on
either side of them, and then run up into their places again.  Behind
every rock and bush, crouched in every pit or hollow, were Arabs, who
seized the opportunity to dash amongst the men, getting into the very
ranks, and striking with their spears and sharp swords right and left,
and on equal terms.

For the rifle, considered as a firearm, was of no use at such very close
quarters; the bayonet at the end of it, or the butt, was all that could
be used.  The bayonet exercise is often spoken of as a bit of gymnastics
rather than of practical value; but smartness in the delivery of a
thrust was just everything now.  In civilised warfare it may be that
bayonets are seldom crossed, but when you have to deal with a barbarian
foe, who places his trust in cold steel, the case is different.  For the
first thrust perhaps the bayonet has the advantage, for the weight of
the rifle behind it sends it very quick and true, and difficult to
parry.  But the point once turned or avoided, the spear gets the pull,
as, by drawing back the hand which holds it, the point can be withdrawn
to the shoulder, and launched, without a chance of parrying, at any
unguarded spot.

True, that the English soldier can also shorten arms, but it takes both
hands to do that, and in the meantime the whole body is exposed; while
the Arab shortens his spear with the right-hand alone, and the left arm,
with a round shield of hippopotamus hide upon it, can be used to put
aside the bayonet thrust.  Unless wounded to death, they fight on when
they have fallen, clutching at their enemies' legs, stabbing while they
can hold a weapon.

Such struggling as this caused the advance of the square to be very
slow, for those portions of the front line which had no obstacles to
enable the enemy to get amongst them had to wait while the men engaged
in these single combats despatched their foes and were ready to advance
again.  Not that they wasted their time, for they had plenty of shooting
to do to clear their own immediate front.

Nor was this the only cause of delay; the rear line of the square was
also subject to rushes of the enemy, who lay in ambush till it had
passed, and then dashed upon it.  To meet the attack it must halt and
face about, and the rest of the square must halt too, or a gap would be
opened through which the determined foe would rush.  Then, again, the
flanks, or side faces of the square, were also attacked.  These had to
turn towards the front when the square advanced, not in file, or two
deep, as they stood, because men moving like that must always straggle
out too much, but in fours.  Thus, on each forward movement, the right
side of the square formed fours left, the left side of it fours right.
But in this way the men would have their sides towards the surrounding
enemy, and would be helpless.  So when attacked they had to halt and
front, thus becoming a line two deep again, facing their foes.  But this
required another general halt till the enemy were killed or driven back.

It is difficult to explain all this without using technical terms, but I
think you will understand how absolutely necessary it was to move
steadily, with the men forming the four sides of this square standing
shoulder to shoulder, and leaving no openings.

If the forces opposed were about equal, no such square as this, which
moves with such cumbersome difficulty, would be thought of; but when a
mere handful of men have to encounter countless hordes, it is employed
to avoid being attacked in front and rear and flanks at the same time,
and to protect the wounded, the water, and the spare ammunition.  But
let the overpowering masses of the enemy once break into the centre, all
advantage is gone, and the small body is worse off than it would be
advancing in any other way, because the four sides would be attacked in
front and rear, cut off from each other, and deprived of mutual support.
The ammunition would be seized, and the wounded in the ambulances
massacred, while the soldiers would just have to fight back to back
while their strength lasted.

To prevent a partial irruption resulting in such a catastrophe, spare
troops moved inside the square to oppose a second line, ready to repel
any Arabs who broke in, and so aid their comrades to regain their
formation.

The guns were at the corners of the square.  While there was a clear
space in front of them, and they were well served, nothing alive could
approach.  But suppose a hillock close in front, or a pit, full of
Arabs, into which they could not fire, just under their muzzles, and
they would become weak places, where the enemy could surge in without
being met by the bristling bayonets, and so stab the soldiers on the
right and left of the angle in their backs, increasing the gap, through
which their friends might penetrate.  And the enemy saw this plainly
enough, and planned dodges to aid their rushes upon these corners.

There was one good thing for the British troops that day: a nice breeze
swept the smoke away, and they could see their enemies' movements, and
so stall off many a rush with their fire before it came to close
conflict.  If a thick pall of smoke had combined with the broken ground
to cover the attacks of the Arabs, the losses would most likely have
been heavier, and the battle more protracted.

Tom Strachan had acquired an accomplishment which promised to be useful
before the day was over.  He and others were practising with their new
revolvers one day on the grounds near the rifle butts, where they were
quartered, when the colonel rode by, and stopped to look on.

"I tell you what you should do," he said to them, "you should practise
with the left hand.  I have learned to shoot as well with my left hand
as my right, and I believe it saved my life in India during the Mutiny.
It leaves the sword-arm free to ward off a cut or thrust if there are
more than one at you, or you fail to shoot your man dead."

All tried it, but Strachan at least persevered, and it came quite
natural to him after a while to use his left hand for that purpose.  Not
only that, but the determination to conquer the awkwardness he felt at
first made him practise pistol shooting much more than he would
otherwise have done, and he became a first-rate shot.

The weapon, however, lay in its leather case at present; he had enough
to do to look after his men, and to catch and repeat the word of command
amidst the din, without thinking of personal combat.  He, like Green,
had got an edge put on his sword.  It was Kavanagh's present, and during
the lull preceding the attack, he had thought of his old friend,
wondered where he was, and regretted that they were not side by side
that day.  He and Harry Forsyth--what fun it would have been!  But when
the firing once commenced, he had no thought but of what he was about.

"Fire low, men!  Steady!  Don't shoot wildly.  Harris, cover your man,
just as if he were a target at home."

"Close up, there; never mind Roberts, the ambulance will look to him.
Good man, Gubbins!  That's your sort; can't well miss 'em at ten yards.
Aim at the waist-cloth.  Cease firing!  Advance; _fours left_ there!
Close up."

Orders could not always be heard in the din; it was necessary to watch
the front of the square, and move on or halt as it did, unless a
particular rush at a certain point compelled those at it to take the
initiative, and then others had to conform to it.

When the square got close to the right end of the curved earthwork, the
troops nearest to it charged at it with a cheer, leaving a big gap in
the ranks they left.  Had they succeeded in carrying the place with the
rush, this would not have mattered; but it could not be done.  Tap a
bee-hive smartly with your stick on a mild May day, and see the
inhabitants swarm out at you, and you may form some idea of how the
Hadendowas flew over the parapet at their assailants.  Every one of them
fixed his eye on an enemy, and went straight at him.  Every soldier
found himself with two or three opponents, and, instead of pressing on
into the earthwork, had enough to do to hold his ground.

The cool, brave man, who made sure of getting rid of one with a steady
shot a few yards off, and then plied his bayonet till he got a moment's
pause to re-load, came off well; the flurried soldier, who was not quite
sure whether to stand or retire, who missed or only wounded his man, and
then stood strictly on the defensive, was most likely overpowered and
speared.

The greater the daring the greater was the safety, and _vice versa_.
But brave or timid, the men who had rushed out of the ranks to attack
were borne back by the sheer weight of numbers.  The Soudanese, however,
never got through the gap that was left.  The Marines inside the square
promptly presented themselves as a second barrier, till the attackers,
retiring in good order, fell back into their places again.

But there was some hard fighting at the point for a minute or two.  Good
old-fashioned cut and thrust, hammer and tongs, like cutting out a ship.
Tom Strachan found himself, he did not know how, with the hilt of his
sword right up against a Soudanese breast-bone, the weapon having passed
right through the man's body.  But there was no expression of pain in
the dying face so close to his own, only hate and defiance.  He was
killed, not conquered.

Before he could disencumber himself from the body another Hadendowa
rushed at him with uplifted spear.  Tom levelled his pistol at him, and
pressed the trigger; but the weapon did not explode.  He had already
fired all the barrels.

Another second and the spear-head would have been buried in his throat,
but suddenly the Arab's arm dropped, nearly severed by a cut from Green,
which caught him between wrist and elbow.  The wounded man caught his
spear with the left hand, and strove to stab, but before he had time he
got the point in his throat, and that stopped him.

At this time Private Gubbins had a narrow escape.  He fired at an Arab,
about twenty yards off, and hit him hard, but he came on at him all the
same, trying to spear him.  Gubbins thrust at him with his bayonet, but
perhaps rather timidly; anyhow he missed his body, though he wounded him
again in the shoulder, and with that, and parrying, knocked the spear
out of his hand.  Whereupon the Soudanese caught hold of the bayonet and
tried to unfix it.  He could not manage that, and a tug of war
commenced, in which Gubbins, being the weaker and less active, was
pulled bodily out of the ranks, and would have been made mincemeat of
had not some one shot the Arab through the head, while his rear rank man
pulled him back.  He owned afterwards that he was fairly scared.

"Thought that 'ere cannibal couldn't die!" he said, "Fust I shot him,
and then I bayoneted him, and he only snarled like a wild cat.  Fancy a
chap pulling like that with one hole in his stomach and another in his
shoulder!  'Taint reasonable."

They fought like that, many of them.

When the momentary confusion was over, and the square again compact,
Strachan found an opportunity of slipping fresh cartridges into his
revolver; the work in prospect did not look like being suited to an
empty pistol.  He had hardly done it before they were under the parapet
of the earthwork.

Here there was a pause; the Arabs, not dashing out, the British, after
their late experience, apparently not quite knowing whether they ought
to break the square formation by dashing in.  Not to mention that the
Arabs were ticklish gentlemen to tumble over a bank into the middle of!

During this pause a stalwart, almost gigantic figure was seen walking up
the slope with a double-barrelled fowling-piece in his hand.  Coming to
the parapet he brought the gun to his shoulder, fired right and left,
and calmly opening the breech, replaced the two empty cartridges with
two fresh ones, just as if he were standing during a battue, shooting
pheasants and not Soudanese.

"Look at Burnaby!" cried some one, and hundreds were looking at him,
expecting that at last he must fall, this dauntless traveller, keen
observer, and born soldier, who courted peril as other men court safety;
who spurned luxury and loved hardship; who seemed to treat the king of
terrors as a playfellow.

Again he gave the enemy in the earthwork, and within a few yards of him,
both barrels, and retreated a few steps down to re-load.

The Soudanese followed to the top of the parapet, but the moment one of
them showed his head above it he was shot by the soldiers close below.

Directly he had got fresh cartridges in, Colonel Burnaby stepped back to
his old place, and added another brace to his bag.  But this combat
between one man and a host would never take the fort, and the foremost
line did not stand long at gaze, but ran up and clambered over the
artificial bank, which was about four feet high, pouring a volley into
the defenders as they did so.  And now single combats again commenced,
and the interior of the earthwork resembled an ancient arena.

The theoretical duty of an officer in action was suspended, for he had
to fight physically and practically like the men, the only difference
lying in the arms he wielded.

His sword was no longer a baton of office, but a weapon to cut and
thrust with, and the better its temper and the keener its edge, the
greater friend was it to him that day.  Not always did it prove true.

Captain Wilson, RN, cut down an Arab who was about to kill a soldier,
and his blade shivered to the hilt, leaving him without a weapon to ward
off a cut which wounded him, though happily not severely, in the head.

Captain Littledale, of the York and Lancaster Regiment, also bent his
sword over one of the Soudanese in the fort, and would have lost his
life had not two of his company come to his rescue.  Some of the men's
weapons proved equally rotten.

"Look here, sergeant," said a fine broad-shouldered young fellow, whose
face was like a sweep's with powder and dust, and whose clothes were
bespattered with what Tennyson delicately calls "drops of onset," as he
showed his bayonet twisted like a corkscrew, with the point bent over
into a hook.

"Why, what have you been using it for, Sullivan?" asked the sergeant,
taking it into his hand.

"Only prodding Johnnies, and not above three of them.  It wouldn't go
into the last, and I had to polish him off with the butt end.  Might
have smashed the stock, for their heads is uncommon hard."

"It's a deal too bad," said the sergeant.  "I'll show it to the captain,
and he will report it.  Take Brown's rifle and bayonet, he will never
want it again, poor fellow."

And indeed poor Brown was lying at the foot of the parapet with a spear
completely through his body, his first and last battle ended.  The
spears and swords of the savages did not break or bend, or lose their
edge over the first bone they touched, like the weapons of their
civilised opponents.

Fitzgerald came up, and the sergeant showed him the twisted bayonet.  He
was not easily put out, but the sight was too much even for his placid
temper.

"Keep it, sergeant, keep it.  We will see if we cannot get it stuck up
in Saint James's Park with the trophies of captured guns, that the
British public may see the weapons soldiers are sent out to fight with.
The man who is responsible for this, and the fellow who forged it, ought
to be shot."

"_Forged_ is a good word," said Major Elmfoot.  "To pass off stuff like
that for good steel is rank forgery, and a worse crime than making bad
money, for here men's lives are sacrificed by it."

"I wish we had some of 'em here!" murmured one of the men.

"Aye, and the triangles rigged up," said another, "I should like to lay
on the first dozen myself."

And so say all of us.

This conversation took place after the earthwork was cleared of the
enemy--at least of the living enemy, for the whole interior was crowded
with their dead--and while the sailors and artillerymen were turning the
two Krupp guns found in it upon the retiring foe and the ruins of the
old sugar-mill to which the Soudanese still clung.  And the troops had a
little rest while the leaders determined the direction of the next
attack.  And the water-bottles you may be sure were mostly drained, for
the men's throats were like lime-kilns.

An officer standing on the highest part of the parapet beckoned to
Strachan, who doubled up and joined the group assembled there.

"Look," said the friend who had called him, pointing to the right, "the
cavalry are going to have their turn."  Sure enough, there were the
three lines of cavalry, advancing at a walk towards the dense hordes of
Soudanese who covered the plain, some retiring slowly and reluctantly,
but the majority still holding their ground.

As they drew nearer the Hussars broke into a trot, and then, when quite
close, they were loosed, and swept down on the foe at full gallop, a
simoon of glittering steel.  Surely the grandest sight the modern world
can afford; the last remnant of chivalry.  For ever since the invention
of fire-arms the infantry officer's place in battle has necessarily been
in rear of his men; but the cavalry officer still rides in front, yards
in front.  He believes that his men are behind him, but he sees them
not.  Alone he plunges into the enemy's ranks, and the first shock of
the encounter is his.  He is a knight without his grandsire's defensive
armour, and exposed to rifle bullets and bursting shells, which the old
paladin knew not.

"Oh, to be with them!" cried Tom in his excitement, uttering what was in
the hearts of all the group, as with eager eyes, parted lips, and breath
coming short, they saw the line swallowed up in the sea of Arabs.  A
minute's confusion, with nothing distinguishable but the flash of
weapons, and they re-appeared _beyond_ the masses through whom they cut
their way, prostrate figures marking their track, and were now serrying
their ranks, disordered in the fierce passage.

But the spectators could watch no more, for the shells failed to
dislodge the Arabs from the ruined mill, and it was impossible to
advance and leave any such indomitable fanatics, who cared not for
numbers and despised death, so long as they could wreak their wrath upon
an infidel, in their rear; and the immediate business was to turn them
out of that lair.

There were about a couple of hundred sheltered by the ruin and the old
boiler; and for some distance round about the ground was regularly
honey-combed with rifle-pits, each of which contained an Arab, crouching
down, spear in hand, only desiring to kill an enemy and die.

It was said before that they swarmed out of the fort earlier in the day
like bees when their hive is tapped.  Like bees, too, when angered, they
only sought to sting, though they knew that the act of stinging was
their own destruction.  As a soldier came to the edge of an apparently
empty hole in the ground, a man would spring out upon him and transfix
him before he had time to offer resistance.  Not that this succeeded
often.

The men soon learned to approach these rifle-pits with their muzzles
lowered, finger on trigger, the point of the bayonet over the opening
before they came up to it.  Then, if the Arab made his spring, he was
transfixed; if he kept crouching, waiting for the other to pass, he was
shot.  A large number of the holes became the graves they looked like
before the boiler was reached.

Here the massacre was horrible, for at that point the state of things
was reversed, and the Soudanese were few in number, while the English
were the many.  And it was a revolting thing to have to shoot down and
stab this handful of heroes.

But it could not be helped; they would not fly, and they would not
surrender; and to endeavour to spare one of them was to insure your own
death or that of a friend.  It was even necessary to slay the slain, for
they would sham and lie still, to spring up when the English had passed
and stab one in the back; then stand with extended arms to be shot, with
a smile of triumph and joy, secure of Paradise since he had sent a
double-dyed infidel, a disbeliever, both in Mahomet and the Mahdi, to
his doom.

The old sugar-mill and the ground about it being at length cleared, the
victorious square advanced upon the wells.  The whole body of Arabs were
now in retreat, dismayed at last by the terrible slaughter amongst their
best and bravest; for the reckless heroism which is described, though
there were so many hundreds of examples of it, as to entitle it to be
fairly considered as characteristic of the race, could not, of course,
be universal, or they would be absolutely invincible, except by
extermination.

They were brave, every man and boy of them, but the vast majority were
not mad fanatics; and, indeed, a certain number of the tribes engaged
did not believe in the Mahdi at all, but joined him partly because he
was the strongest, and partly because they hated the Turks--and to them
Turks and Egyptians were all one--and their oppressive corrupt
government, and the Mahdi had thrown it off.

But they were not prepared to commit actual suicide, and did not want to
go to Mahomet's Paradise just yet.  So, after a certain number were
killed without gaining any advantage, they grew disheartened, and
retired.  And then the machine-guns sent their continuous streams of
bullets tearing through the dense masses, and volleys from the Martini-
Henrys ran the death list up still higher, and the retreat became
flight.

They marched steadily on.  At the wells the Arab sheiks strove hard to
rally their warriors, charging alone, and, in some instances,
weaponless, to shame their men into following them.  But it was no use.
"Tommy Atkins" was not flurried or excited now, success had made him
firm and confident, and there was no wild firing.  Every shot was aimed
as steadily as if the charging Arab were an inanimate target and whoever
came within that zone of fire was swept into eternity.

This was an expiring effort, and when two companies of the Gordon
Highlanders had carried the last earthwork, with three guns and a
machine-gun in it, the enemy made no further resistance, but left their
camp, the huts containing the spoils of Baker Pasha's army--cut to
pieces by them a month ago--and the wells in the conquerors' possession.

A well is a grand name for a hole in the mud, but the water was fresh
and plentiful, and there were ten of them.  It is difficult to keep the
bands of discipline very tight when men are flushed with victory, wild
with thirst, and water is before them.  So, perhaps, there was a little
crowding which defeated its own object, causing needless delay in
obtaining the coveted water for all.  But order was soon restored, and
every one served.

"Shall we go on to Tokar to-night, do you think?"  Tom Strachan asked
his captain.

"I hope not," replied Fitzgerald; "I want something to eat, don't you?
Glory is all very well, but one cannot dine off it.  Besides, it is
absurd to cram too much of it into one day.  If four hours' fighting,
part of which was as severe as Association football playing, is not
enough for one day, I should like to know what General Graham would
have."

The general was not unreasonable, or he thought it better to hold the
wells.  At any rate, the troops remained in the position lately held by
the enemy, strengthening it in parts, after the men had had a rest, and
bivouacking there for the night.  Provisions came up from Fort Baker,
and the officers of the First Blankshire had a good mess--tinned beef,
chicken and ham, sardines, and other delicacies, with biscuit and tea,
with just a taste of rum apiece to top up with.

A really useful invention is that of preserving fresh meat in tins.  The
man who found that out, and he who discovered chloroform, ought to go up
to the head of the Inventors' Class, in my humble opinion.  I hope they
made their fortunes.  You may despise tinned food at home, when you can
get fresh-killed meat and poultry not so overcooked.  But go a long
voyage, or even on a yachting tour, travel in wild countries for
exploration, or to shoot big game, and then say.

And when they lit their pipes and lay round the bivouac fire, talking
over the events of the day, what a time that was!  The First Blankshire
had not come off scathless as regarded men or officers.  There was a
captain lying yonder with his cloak over his face who would never hear
the cheery bugle call again; a lieutenant was in the ambulance tent with
a bullet in his leg, forcing himself to bear the pain without moaning.
And of those present, several bore gashes which would have been thought
nasty at home, though after being dressed by the surgeon they were
accounted scratches of no signification, beyond a certain smarting and
throbbing.  Green had a bandage under his chin, and going up on each
side till his helmet covered it.

"No," he said, when asked if it was binding his self-inflicted cut of
the morning; "it's the other ear.  Curiously enough, a bit of a shell or
a bullet, or something, has taken the lobe off; and as it would not stop
bleeding, and the flies were troublesome when I took off my helmet,
which hurt, I asked a doctor to look at it, and he put this thing on to
keep the lint in its place."

"You will never be able to wear earrings, if they come into fashion for
men, my poor Green," said Strachan.  "But what is the row with your
hand, Edwards?  I did not see it was bound up in a handkerchief before."

"Ah, it's nothing; only a bite."

"A bite!"

"Yes.  There was a poor little Arab chap, such a game little boy, with a
small spear made for him, fighting like a bantam till a bullet broke his
leg and knocked him over.  He lay in the first earthwork, and I tried to
give him a drink, but the little rat darted up at me and bit my hand."

"Have you had it cauterised?  I do believe these savages are mad," said
the major.  "And what became of the varmint?"

"I don't know; we had to move on just then."

"That is the worst part of these Arabs, letting their children go into
the ranks so soon.  I hate to see babies made into little men and women.
If they must fight, let them punch one another's heads with their
fists."

"I suppose, major, that as these Arabs are always fighting with one
another, if there is no one else, it becomes a necessary branch of
education."

"Well, at any rate," said Jones, who was learned in dogs--their training
and management--and who, indeed, was known as Doggy Jones, "they need
not `enter' them to the British soldier.  There are plenty of Egyptians
for them to worry till they have come to their full growth."

"That is a curious thing about General Baker," said the colonel to Major
Elmfoot.

"Yes, indeed, it is."

"Was he hit, sir?" asked Dudley.  "I heard something of it."

"Yes, by a splinter of a shell in the face, just as we came under fire."

"But I saw him after that."

"Oh, yes; he got the wound dressed, and remounted, knowing how useful he
could be, knowing the ground.  But it is a nasty wound for all that,
MacBean says.  The strange thing is that he should have passed unscathed
through the hordes a month ago, when his troops fled and left him
unprotected, and the chances against him looked a hundred to one, and
get hit to-day; the odds were a hundred to one the other way."

"The most curious case of that sort was Sir Charles Napier," said the
major.  "He was one of the most unlucky men that ever lived in the way
of getting hit.  In every great battle in which he took part during the
Peninsular War he was severely wounded.  But at Meeanee and Dubba, where
he was in command, and almost everything depended upon him, and where,
too, he exposed himself in a manner which made the Sindhees think he had
a charmed life, he did not get a scratch."

"I wonder whether those Indian fellows fought as hard as these Arabs?"
observed Green.

"Not much difference, I should say," said the major.  "They flung
themselves on the bayonets, and, if not mortally wounded, seized the
muzzles and pressed them to their bodies with the left hand, to get one
cut at their enemy and die.  I don't quite see how _that_ could be
beaten in the way of game fighting, though these fellows equal it.  I
saw one do much the same thing to-day."

"And did Sir Charles Napier fight them in square, sir?" asked Green, who
was of an inquiring mind on professional subjects.

"No, he met them in line, and his men had no breech-loaders in those
days; not even percussion caps; only the old brown bess with a flint and
steel lock, and a good bayonet on the end of her."

"But perhaps the odds were not so great."

"Quite, by all accounts.  It is true that the Indians fought with swords
and shields, and, after firing their matchlocks, charged home with those
weapons.  A swordsman requires space for the swing of his arm, so,
however more numerous they may be, they must fight in looser order than
soldiers armed with the bayonet, and therefore, at the actual point of
meeting, each individual swordsman finds at least two antagonists
opposed to him in the front rank alone.  Now these Arabs, fighting
principally with spears, can very often come in a much denser mass.  I
only give that idea for what it is worth.  I think it may make a good
deal of difference.  The nature of the ground, also, would alter the
condition of the contest.  But, at any rate, I do not quite see how we
should be safe against getting taken in the rear in any other than the
square formation."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

TOUCH AND GO!

Tired men cannot go on talking all night, even about the events of an
exciting day, and one by one our friends rolled themselves up in their
coats and went off to sleep.  And how the unfortunates on sentry-go
envied them!  That was an infliction which Tantalus escaped, but it
might well compare with those which have caused his name to be embodied
in our language.

To feel that the lives of a number of other people as well as your own
depend on your keeping extremely wide awake, when you are dead beat and
have to fight against the strongest possible inclination to doze even as
you walk about, is really no light trial of fortitude, though it is not
reckoned amongst the hardships of campaigning.  But if you are within
sight of your sleeping comrades, and within hearing of their snores, it
becomes doubly exasperating, and might really sour the temper if it were
not for the consolatory reflection that another time _you_ will be the
happy sleeper, and one of the present performers on the nose will be
listening to your efforts to play upon that organ.

It has been whispered that evil men when on sentry have been known to
feel a grim delight in an alarm which has dissipated the slumber of
their comfortable comrades, but we may surely hope that this is
slanderous.  However that may be, the slumbers of those who were not
kept awake by the pain of wounds or by duty the night after El Teb were
not disturbed, and next day the main body, after a guard had been left
at the wells, went on to Tokar.

"Do you think they will fight?" asked Green of one of his seniors during
a short halt.

"Sure to," replied the other.  "You saw for yourself what determined
demons they are, and it is not likely that they will give up a place
they have only just taken without striking a blow for it."

"Do you think they will fight?" asked Tom Strachan of another, not in
the hearing of the first oracle, who had moved away.

"Not they!" responded the second.  "After such a licking as they got
yesterday all the fight will be taken out of them."

"Which shall we believe, Green?" said Tom presently.

"It is very puzzling," replied the inquiring mind.  "Suppose we wait and
see before we make up our minds."

"A Daniel come to judgment!" exclaimed Strachan.  "A second Daniel!  We
_will_ wait."

"Hulloa!  There's Charley Halton!" as a smart young cavalry officer
cantered past with a message, having delivered which he came to exchange
greetings with his friends.

One of the most enviable of mortals was Halton, a lad who might be the
model for either painter or poet in search of an ideal hero.  Handsome,
strong, active, acquiring proficiency in all games and athletic
exercises almost instinctively, a horseman with the hands of a Chaloner,
and the seat of a Land, endowed with a bright intelligence which seized
the common sense of things, and comprehended the meaning of an order as
well as its literal injunctions, and a happy disposition which made a
trouble of nothing, he was a general favourite wherever he went.  He was
attached as a galloper--or bearer of orders--to the General's staff,
but, being employed to take a message the day before to his own
regiment, he charged with them, and the officers of the Blankshire who
knew him, and witnessed the charge from a distance, were anxious to know
for certain what had occurred, the reports which had reached them being
too contradictory for reliance.

"Well, Charley, did you eat them all yesterday?"

"Not quite; we have left a few for you.  Eat them, by Jove!  They were
near eating us."

"Why, you seemed to go through them grandly."

"Yes, but it was like going through water, which closes on you as you
go.  The beggars lay flat, or crouched in holes, and cut at the horses
as they passed, to hamstring or maim them; and good-bye to the poor
fellow whose horse fell!  We ought to have had lances, and it would have
been a very different tale.  But the troopers' swords could not reach
the beggars, who are as lithe as monkeys.  If they had run it would have
been easy to get a cut at them; so it would if they had stood up.  But
they were as cool as cucumbers, and dodged just at the right moment.  Of
course some were not quite so spry as others, and got cut down; it was a
case of the survival of the fittest.  What acrobats they would be in
time if this game lasted long enough!

"But it was like a nightmare.  You know when you have a dream that you
are trying to kill something which won't die; some beast of the eel
persuasion.  We went through them, cutting all we knew; re-formed; came
back, doing ditto; through them a third time; and _then_ there was no
satisfaction worth calling such.  The fellows were broken up indeed, and
a good lot were sabred, but not so many as there ought to have been
after undergoing one cutting up, let alone three.  And the scattered
individuals still showed fight.  And we lost awfully; no wonder, for I
will tell you what I saw.

"A man rode at an Arab who fired and missed him, and then seized his
spear, with the apparent intention of meeting him as an infantry soldier
should, according to Cocker.  But when the horse was two yards from him
he fell flat as a harlequin.  The trooper leant over on the off side as
low as he could and cut at the beggar, but could not reach him, and the
moment he was past, the Arab jumped up and thrust his spear through him
from behind.  I never saw anything done so quickly in all my life; it
was like magic.

"There was a clever old soldier who was not to be done that way; when he
saw he could not get at his Arab, he slipped off his horse before you
could say `knife,' parried his spear-thrust, ran him through the body,
and was up again like a shot.  But it was heart-breaking business
altogether; you should have seen the horses afterwards, cut about
awfully, poor things; and we lost heavily in men too.  The Colonel has
had the dead Arabs' spears collected, and armed his regiment with them;
and if they get another chance, you will see much more satisfactory
business, I expect.  But I must be off."

And off accordingly he went, his horse seeming pleased and proud to
carry and obey him.  And on went the brigade also towards Tokar.

Oracle number two proved the correct one; the enemy made no stand at the
place, but streamed away at their approach, while the inhabitants came
out to greet them with every demonstration of joy and gratitude.

Interpreters were few, and apt to be absorbed by senior officers, but it
was gathered afterwards that the Tokarites were denouncing the Mahdi as
a false prophet and heretic, whose soldiers had despoiled them of their
goods, and only spared their lives on condition of their believing in
him, and this condition they had thought it best to pretend to comply
with, though their consciences rebuked them sorely for the pretended
apostacy.

But though our friends of the First Blankshire could not understand all
this, whatever officers of other corps may have done, the pantomime of
the men, women, and children was unmistakable, and was only intended to
express the most enthusiastic delight.

"I shall never make it out," said Green.  "Have we relieved the place
after all, then?"

"Cannot say; we shall find out, perhaps in general orders."

"Catch a newspaper correspondent; he will tell you all about it."

"At any rate, the gratitude of the poor people is quite touching."

"Not quite, thank goodness!" cried Fitzgerald; "at any rate so far as I
am concerned; though a horrid old woman who cannot have washed for
years, and who tainted the air with the rancid fat in her hair for yards
round, tried to kiss me.  But I dodged round the major's horse, and left
her to him.  In my humble opinion, we want the square formation quite as
much to meet our native friends as our enemies."

Major Elmfoot got away from his demonstrative female, and rode up to the
group.

"They seem very fond of us, sir," said Stacy.

"Yes," responded the major.  "I wonder whether they went through the
same performance when the Mahdi's army arrived."

"But they showed fight, and he took the place by storm, did he not,
sir?"

"I really do not know; a spy said so.  But the place does not look
knocked about at all, and the people seem very jolly.  I should not be
surprised if the whole thing were a farce, and Tokar had not been
besieged or taken at all."

"Then you do not think they are genuine in their welcome, sir?"

"I do not say that; these people have shops of a sort, I believe, and a
customer is a customer all the world over."

The troops bivouacked outside Tokar, where nothing further occurred of
any interest, and shortly afterwards they tramped back to the wells at
El Teb, and so to Trinkitat, where they were re-embarked as quickly as
might be, and steamed round to Suakim, which now became the base of
operations.

And soon Trinkitat was entirely abandoned, and since no natives lived
there (how could they when they had no fresh water?) the place ceased to
be a place at all in any rational sense of the word.

You may have heard the old explanation of how a cannon is made: "you
take a hole, and pour a lot of melted iron round it."  Well, Trinkitat
was a hole, and the English store-houses tents, soldiers, horses, camels
were poured round it, and when they were withdrawn, nothing but the hole
remained.  But Suakim was a considerable place, built of coral too, and
very interesting in its way to some people.  And what was of more
consequence, there were many good wells close by, from which water could
be obtained all the year round.

Suakim itself, as has been explained before, is built on an island, but
the British camp was on the mainland, within the circuit of earthworks
which protected the town and harbour.  It was on the eighth of March
that the First Blankshire were landed at this camp.  The look of the
houses in the town disappointed some of them now they were closer.

"They don't look like coral at all," said Tom Strachan.  "If I had not
been told I should have thought they were the ordinary sun-dried brick
affairs whitewashed."

"I vote we have a regular inspection of them on the first opportunity,"
said Edwards, "and settle the matter once for all."

"It would be kind to posterity," replied Tom.

"If you have so much time to spare, which I very much doubt," said
MacBean, "you will employ it better in visiting a very pretty place and
a curious.  There is just a gap in the earthworks which protects Suakim,
a regular breach as one may say, which has to be defended by two strong
works, which the sailors have given the names of ships to--Euryalus and
Carysfoot they call them.  And why is the gap left?  And why are the two
forts made to defend it instead of filling it up?  Just because the
rains, which some don't believe in, make a torrent in the proper season,
and this is the watercourse, and everything which barred its passage
would be swept into the sea."

"I recant and apologise," said Green.  "The rain quite convinced me of
its existence at Baker's Fort, I promise you.  But you know you sold me
so often that I hardly knew what to believe."

"I never practise upon anybody's credulity in matters of that sort,"
said the doctor.  "If a young man likes to believe that the moon is made
of green cheese, I may let him; but atmospheric and scientific facts are
above being trifled with.  Well, if you go through this gap, which is
barely a mile off, you will find a very pretty place--the wells, and
sycamore trees, and dates.  Just the place to spend a happy day.  And if
you take a bottle or two of champagne, and a _pate de foie gras_, I
shall not mind if I make one of the party, and show you the objects of
interest."

But such a pic-nic was not destined to come off, nor was there even any
opportunity given for testing the coral theory, for there was plenty of
work to be done at the moment, and on the eleventh the intending
pleasure-seekers started for Baker's zereba at six o'clock in the
evening.

Baker Pasha's Egyptians, though they had not proved much good at
fighting, and had paid the penalty of their cowardice by undergoing a
massacre which made the world thrill with horror, were very useful to
the avenging force which followed so quickly on their traces.  The fort
they had constructed near Trinkitat had done much to help the rapid and
successful advance upon Tokar; and now the zereba they had made eight
miles out from Suakim, and in the direction in which Osman Digna lay
with his whole army, made a good first halting-place for the English
troops.  A zereba, it should be mentioned, is an enclosed space
surrounded by thorn-covered bushes cut down and packed round it, with
old packing-cases, or anything else which will afford cover to those
inside.  This one was particularly strong, being further protected by a
mound of earth all round it.

When the force, which was the same as before, with the addition of two
hundred Marines, and a mule battery of four nine-pounders, had gone some
little way, night fell, but not darkness, for a bright moon lent them
her rays.  Not such a moon as we are accustomed to in these latitudes,
but a large brilliant orb, by whose light small print might be easily
read.

"You have got the best of it," said MacBean, who rode up first to one
friend amongst the officers and then to another, detailing information
which he managed to pick up, he himself best knew how; but it was, as a
rule, exceptionally correct.  "The Highlanders, who marched out to the
zereba yesterday in the heat, suffered awfully.  There were five cases
of sunstroke, and lots of other men had a narrow squeak of being bowled
over too."

"I can easily imagine it," replied Major Elmfoot, "for it was hot enough
in camp."

"It is not exactly what you would call bracing to-night, even," said
Fitzgerald.

And, indeed, the air was very close, and the march over the loose sand
fatiguing.  But the men stepped out merrily, and joke and song lightened
the way.  There was an improvisatore in the Blankshire, whose comrades
considered him a wonderful genius, though, as a matter of fact, his
extempore effusions only consisted of taking some well-known song, and
altering certain words or lines to suit a particular occasion.

But this was far more successful than original composition would have
been, because it was so readily understood and caught up; and the man
was really shrewd, and often hit on something appropriate.

He now trolled out in a clear, ringing voice, with every word distinct,
a new version of "The Poacher":--

  "When I was bound apprentice in a village of Blanksheer,
  I served my master truly for close upon a year;
  But now I serves her Majesty, as you shall quickly hear,
  For 'tis my delight of a shiny night, in the season of the year."

And then the chorus broke out far and wide:--

  "For 'tis my delight of a shiny night, in the season of the year."

And the lads laughed at the aptness of the "shiny night," for that was
evident to the dullest capacity.  Thus encouraged, he tried a second
verse:--

  "As the soldiers and the sailors was a marching to his lair,
  Old Digna he was watching us, for him we didn't care;
  For the bayonet beats the spear when he rushes on our square,
  And 'tis my delight by day or night to beat the Johnnies fair."

Towards the end of the eight miles march indeed there was less singing
and laughing, for throats were dry and legs weary.  What, in eight miles
and at night-time?  Well, the next time you are staying at a sea side
place, where there is plenty of sand, you try walking along it, not
where it is firm, but higher up from the sea, where you sink over your
ankles at every step; if you can borrow a rifle and a hundred rounds of
ball cartridge and carry that too, you will be able to form a still more
just opinion; but, even without that, I invite you to consider how many
more miles of it you want when you have gone four.  But if they were
tired and thirsty they were full of spirit, and it would only have
required the sight of an enemy to make them as lively as crickets again.

It was midnight when they arrived, and they bivouacked outside the
zereba in the square formation, every man lying down in the place he
would occupy if the force were attacked, so that if the alarm sounded,
he had only to snatch up his rifle and rise to his feet, and he was
ready for anything.

But they were not disturbed, and rested till noon on the 12th, when
dinner was eaten, and after it, at 1 p.m., they started once more to
find the foe.  As you draw cover after cover to find a fox, so in the
desert you try watering-places when you are seeking game of any kind,
quadruped or biped.  And thus information was obtained that Osman Digna
had a camp where all his forces were massed at Tamai, a valley well
supplied with the precious fluid, nine miles from the zereba.

Once more was theory knocked over by experience.  If there is one thing
upon which most people feel quite confident about with regard to Egypt
and the surrounding country, it is that the atmosphere is always
perfectly clear, so that objects are only hidden from the eye by
intervening high ground or the curve of the earth.  For, as you probably
know, anything on a (so called) level surface like the sea may be
visible if the atmosphere allows it for ten miles, to a man on the same
plane the shore say; but beyond that distance it gets so far round the
globe we inhabit as to be hidden.  Of course the taller it is the longer
the top of it can be seen, as you will often perceive a ship's top masts
after the hull and lower spars have vanished.

Or, on the other hand, the higher the ground you stand on the further
round the earth's curve you can see; so that a man living on the top of
a high mountain has a longer day than one on a flat, since the sun rises
earlier and sets later for him.

But it was neither high ground nor the dip of the horizon which bounded
the view of those quitting the zereba, but a thick, grey, British haze,
which swallowed up everything a thousand yards in front, and out of
which the Arab hosts might pour at any moment.  The order of advance was
different on this occasion, two squares instead of one being formed, the
right under General Buller, and the left being commanded by General
Davis.  The guns were dragged with ropes by men of the Naval Brigade--a
tug of war with a vengeance.  The haze being so thick would have made it
difficult to go straight for the enemy's position had the information
been as uncertain as was sometimes the case, but happily it had been
ascertained that if they took a south-west course they could not go far
wrong, and the compass came to their aid.

The cavalry marched in rear of the square, with the exception of the
scouts, who with the Mounted Infantry explored the ground in front,
preventing the possibility of a surprise.  Tramp, tramp, mile after
mile, hour after hour, plodded the two brigades, with many a halt to
enable the man-drawn guns to keep with them.  But tedium and fatigue
were thought nothing of.  The man who would consider a five-mile walk
without an object a frightful infliction would think nothing of ten with
a gun in his hand, and the chance of game getting up every minute.  It
is the same with all sports.  How far across country could you run alone
for the mere sake of exercise?  And how far in a paper-chase, with the
hare to run down and other hounds to compete with?  Think how this
stimulating excitement must be intensified when there is an enemy in
front of you certain to fight well, and make you do all you know to beat
him.  After awhile the haze grew thinner, and a range of hills loomed
through it in the distance.

As the atmosphere grew clearer these became distinct, and were seen to
be low, while a higher range rose above them beyond.  On towards the
higher ground slowly moved the two brigades, with a total front of from
400 to 500 yards, the scouts spread in a cloud before them, and these
were now amongst the spurs of the lower hills.

Presently a couple of them came galloping back with the report that
these were clear of the enemy, who were massed further behind, and were
watching the English advance.  And then a group of mounted infantry were
seen returning at a slower pace.

"Look!" cried Strachan, whose eyes were remarkably good; "they have
caught some natives."

And sure enough the troopers could presently be distinguished, coming on
in a semi-circle, driving before them a group of men who were unarmed,
and declared themselves friendly, or at least no adherents of the Mahdi,
Osman Digna, or any votaries of the new Mohammedan heresy.  This might
be true, but the officer with the scouts thought the general had better
decide so knotty a point, and so they were thus brought before him,
travelling perhaps a little quicker than they were accustomed to, but
otherwise uninjured.

"That's the way to run fellows in!" cried Tom, enthusiastically.  "A
fellow, you see, is bound to go straight when he has several rifles
pointed at his head in cold blood.  There goes the interpreter.  I wish
the colonel would just go up and hear what it is about, because he would
tell the major, and the major would tell the captains loud enough for us
poor subs to hear, perhaps."

"The colonel knows his duty," said Fitzgerald, "and does not intrude
upon the general unless he is sent for."

"I know he doesn't, but I wish he did," replied Tom.  "However, we shall
get it all out of old MacBean."

And sure enough, soon after the captured natives had been pumped dry and
dismissed, the doctor rode up.

"No fighting for you, my boys," he said.  "The Arabs won't meet you this
time, I expect, and you have had your walk for nothing.  I expect that
they see that the sun will lick us single-handed, and they need not take
the trouble."

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, at El Teb, you know, they kept their women and boys with them,
and these carried hatchets to kill our wounded with after the fight."

"That's their notion of surgery," said Tom, in a very audible aside.

"It goes more directly to its result than ours."

"Wait till you come under my hands, you young monkey!  You will sing a
different song then."

"I have no doubt you will hurt me more than Mrs Arab would, doctor; but
then you would cure me, you know, and she wouldn't."

"Never mind that cheeky boy, MacBean," said Fitzgerald.  "Why won't they
fight now?"

"Because they have sent all their women and boys away, and that, the
friendly natives say, is a sure sign."

"Curious; it is just the other way on with other savage people, who send
their families off when they _do_ mean to fight."

"But the Arabs are only half savages; and besides they are quite unlike
other people.  Why, their lucky day is Friday, and their unlucky day
Wednesday."

"Yes," said Tom Strachan, "and Robinson Crusoe called his savage Friday,
and these fellows calls their Prophet Tuesday."

"Tuesday!  What _do_ you mean?" asked Major Elmfoot.

"Mardi is the French for Tuesday, is it not, sir?"

"Strachan, you are really too bad, to make such execrable puns in the
middle of the desert."

"That is it, sir?  I thought even my poor flowers of speech might be
welcome in such a barren waste!"

Soon after this the colonel was called up to the brigadier, and when he
returned he communicated what he had been told to his officers.  The low
hills being found clear of the enemy, it was intended to occupy them at
once, and then if possible to advance upon the camp and the wells, and
carry that position before nightfall.  But this depended on what
daylight they had, for rather than risk being overtaken by darkness in
an unfavourable position, it was determined to form a zereba and wait
for the advance till next day.

"It is just four o'clock," said Strachan, looking at his watch as he
returned to his company; "and surely there must be a fair chance of
carrying the wells before sunset, for I see a lot of the enemy on the
hills beyond.  Therefore I shall risk a drink," and he put his water-
bottle to his lips accordingly.

"Hurrah!  So will I," said Green.

"I have been fighting down the feeling of thirst for the last two hours.
Do you know," he added, after a refreshing and yet a tantalising
irrigation of the mouth and throat, "I have been haunted by a sort of
waking dream while plodding on in silence this afternoon.  There was an
old man who used to bring fruit and ginger-beer to the cricket-field at
my school, and he has kept rising up in my memory so vividly that I
could see every wrinkle in his face, and the strings which kept down the
corks of his brown stone bottles as vividly as if they were before me."

"I wish they were!" cried Tom.  "By Jove, what a trade the man might
drive if he could be transported here just now."

"Oh!  And I have often scorned that nectarial fluid," groaned Edwards,
"or only considered it as a tolerable ingredient of shandy--"

"Silence!" cried Strachan.

"Don't utter that word, or I shall simply go mad.  It is quite bad
enough of the exasperating Green to allude to the homely pop, though one
bore with it in consideration of the tender reminiscences of his
childhood; but human endurance has its limits."

Those who reckoned on carrying the wells that night were over sanguine;
when the rising ground was reached the progress of the guns was very
slow; indeed, it was wonderful how the sailors managed to drag them on
at all.

The atmosphere had now for some time become perfectly clear; and when
the infantry had surmounted the first hill they saw the broad valley of
Tamai, and on the hills bounding it on the further side, corresponding
with the somewhat lower range, where they stood, the enemy's lines were
plainly discernible.

There were multitudes on foot, and others mounted, some on camels, some
on horseback.  The brigades halted, and the scouts pushed to the front,
to unmask the enemy's position.

"Do you think we shall get on to-night, sir?" asked Major Elmfoot of the
colonel.

"Not a chance of it," replied the chief.  "But let the men lie still and
have a good rest before they begin making the zereba."

So they did; even the youngest and most curious had learned by this time
to husband their strength and snatch forty winks whenever they got a
chance.

"They are at it!" cried Edwards presently, as crack! crack! was heard in
front; and then a couple of volleys, followed by more single shots and
more volleys again, and then, when the work seemed getting really hot,
sudden silence.  Some object had been obtained, but what it was exactly
regimental officers could not know till they read all about it in the
papers afterwards.  However, the question of advancing that evening,
which had before been answered practically, was now settled officially
in the negative, and the order to make the zereba was issued.  Mimosa
and cactus trees, many of them seven feet high, grew thickly around, so
there was no lack of material.

A position was chosen, protected on one side by a sand-hill, which made
a natural rampart, and then parties were sent out to cut and bring in
the cactus and mimosa bushes, and these were arranged round the space
marked out, forming a prickly barrier.  And at the same time the ground
was cleared of cover where an enemy might lie concealed for from fifty
to a hundred yards in every direction, and that was space sufficient to
stop any number of Arabs rushing across it with steady rifle-fire.  And
it soon became evident that this was no mean advantage, for heads were
seen popping above the nearest bushes, on the borders of the zone which
had been cleared, and it was evident that directly the scouts were
withdrawn the Arabs had followed up to the English position, and were
now prowling and prying around it.

As the wells could not be taken that night, and the horses could not do
without water, the cavalry retraced their steps, and rode back to
Baker's zereba, the point from which they had started in the morning.
When they were gone the enemy entirely surrounded the zereba, which was
like a ship in the midst of angry waves, hungry for her destruction.
While daylight lasted the men inside watched Osman Digna's seemingly
innumerable soldiers dodging about, and when night fell the knowledge
that they were there unseen, and might attack on all sides at any
moment, was really calculated to try the nerves.  For there is nothing
more unpleasant than the idea of any one pouncing upon you suddenly in
the dark.  But the nerves of our friends were getting pretty well
seasoned by this time.  Only Green, who was very frank, observed to
Strachan that it seemed very lonely now the cavalry had gone.  Mr Tom,
to tell the truth, had the same feeling of isolation, and even his high
spirits were rather damped.

"I will tell you what is lonely if you like," he said plaintively, "and
that is my last meal: it wants a companion very much indeed, and I could
find plenty of room for it, and for a gallon or two of water besides."

"Yes, indeed," replied Green; "if one had a good square meal well
moistened, one would feel, I think, that even the enemy were a sort of
company."

But food and water had run very short, and some of the men were faint.
The colonel made them a little speech; he was not an orator, but what he
said was generally practical.

His remarks on the present occasion were to the following effect--

"We are short of rations, both liquid and solid, men; but you have
plenty of cartridges, and the wells are but a mile and a half off, so
that we only want daylight to get as much water as we please."

They got a supply sooner than was expected, however, for at half-past
nine there was a bustle, and the sentries challenged; and, after a brief
parley, a string of camels was admitted into the zereba, with water and
other necessaries on their backs.  Major Cholmondeley Turner had brought
them over from Baker's zereba, and got them safely in clear of the
Arabs.  He belonged to the Egyptian Carrier Corps, and you may imagine
how he was cheered.

The men lay down in lines two deep, leaving a space of twelve feet
between the front rank and the hedge of the zereba.  They wore their
great coats and slept with their rifles in their hands, the officers
being in rear.  In the twelve foot space which was left the sentries
patrolled, and there was no need to ingress the necessity of vigilance
upon them; the known vicinity of the enemy put them sufficiently on the
_qui vive_.

All, however, was quiet till an hour after midnight, when the sleepers
were awakened by a tremendous fusillade, and a storm of bullets came
rushing over the zereba.  But as the men were lying down, or crouching
under the hedge, only a few unfortunate animals were struck by the
leaden shower.

To show, however, what absurd things men will do in a panic, an Egyptian
camel driver jumped, in his fright, over the prickly hedge, and ran
along it _outside_, exposed to the enemy's bullets.  These failed to
strike him, but an English sentry inside naturally took him for an Arab
trying to force an entrance, and shot him dead.  The firing was still
kept up by the enemy, and as some of the shots came lower, being sent
through the hedges, the bivouac fires had to be put out, as their light
evidently guided the Soudanese in their aim.  The night was cold, and
this was felt all the more after the heat of the day.  And the men lay
shivering, unable to sleep, and wishing for day.

As Strachan lay thus, wrapping himself round as closely as he could in
his great coat, he heard a thud just in front of him, and the man lying
there gave a gasp and straightened his limbs.  Strachan rose and went to
him, asking--

"Are you hit, my lad?"  But there was no answer; he was quite dead.

This, however, was the only fatal effect of some four or five hours'
incessant firing, for the Arabs kept it up for the remainder of the
night.

At six o'clock the sun rose, and the enemy no longer had it all their
own way.  A nine-pounder was run up to the zereba hedge, and pointed in
the direction from which the fusillade was hottest, and on another side
a Gardner was brought to bear on a bit of cover where the Arabs
clustered thickly.  Ere the sun was quite above the horizon the loud
sharp report of the former cheered the hearts of those who had been so
hemmed in and pestered, and a second or so after there was a second bang
as the avenging shell burst right among the bushes a thousand yards off.
At the same time the ger-r-er of the machine-gun told that its handle
was turning, and its deadly missiles tearing through the light cover.
The effect was immediate; the enemy cleared off like midges from a puff
of tobacco smoke, and retired across the valley to their own lines.

At eight o'clock the troops issued from the zereba and advanced, as
before, in two squares in _echelon_, as it is called, which means that
one was in advance of the other, but not directly in front of it.  If it
were, and the force were attacked, you will easily see that the rear
side of the leading square and the front side of the following square
could not fire at anything between them without injuring one another.
Or if they were on a level, side by side, it would be the same thing,
the faces opposite could not use their rifles without firing into each
other.  But with one square a little in rear this danger is avoided, and
each can support the other.  Take a pencil and paper and draw two
squares upon it if you do not see what I mean.  Masses of the enemy
could be seen crowning the hills in front and to the right, dark masses
on the sides, distinct figures on the sky-line.

The route lay across dry water-courses, which were inconvenient for the
square formation, the ranks being necessarily broken in descending and
ascending the sides, so causing little delays while the men closed into
their places again when clear.  But they pressed steadily on, the Second
Brigade leading.  If the sun rose at six, why did not the troops march
before eight?  You may ask.  Because the cavalry had to return from
Baker's zereba, where they had gone the night before, you may remember,
to water their horses.  These now came to the front and spread out
skirmishing.  They were soon engaged with the enemy, and the firing grew
very hot, forcing the skirmishers to retire, while the Arab masses
pressed on.  The leading square now came to the edge of a large _nullah_
or dry river-bed, sixty feet deep and two hundred yards wide, thickly
strewn with boulders, and having larger masses of rock rising from its
depth.

This nullah was full of Arabs, crowds of whom swarmed up also to the
further bank, and from these a heavy fire was poured upon the square,
the other sides of which were also assailed.  The First Blankshire was
in this brigade, but not on the side next the nullah, and the men were
firing rather wildly.  For the first time since he joined Tom Strachan
saw his captain, Fitzgerald, in a rage.

"You confounded idiots!" he yelled to his men, "what's the use of firing
at them a mile off!  What are you shooting at, Smith--a balloon?  You
are no use at all, Strachan; why don't you make your section reserve
their fire?  Steady, men, steady!"

All the other officers were making similar efforts, but for a time it
was no good.  Bodies of Arabs kept sweeping round some seven hundred
yards off, watching their chance for a dash, and the men would keep
firing at them, and, what was worse, hurriedly, without a cool aim.
Indeed a good aim was not to be had, for they were only dimly seen
through the smoke.  And it was this probably which bothered the men; the
ground in front was rough, and might conceal enemies close to them;
there were swarms in all directions, and they fired at those they got a
glimpse of.

Neither was the distance anything like out of range, only recent
experience had shown that it required very severe concentration of fire
at the closest quarters to make any impression on these brave Soudanese,
and the losses which can be inflicted at seven hundred yards are slight
comparatively, especially if the aim is not very cool and deliberate.

"Cease firing!" at last shouted a superior officer, and the word being
promptly echoed by all, and enforced by actually grasping the shoulders
of the most excited and flurried men, it slackened at length, and there
seemed to be a good prospect of the unsteadiness calming down; and after
all, this burst of wild firing had only lasted about three minutes.  The
atmosphere, however, was heavy; there was not a breath of air stirring,
and the smoke hung in so thick a pall overhead, that it was impossible
to see what was going on.

"Steady!" cried our friend Tom, who really had not deserved his
captain's reproach, for he had been struggling all he knew to restrain
his men's fire, only they got out of hand with him as with everybody
else for a minute.

"Wait till the smoke clears, unless they come out of it a yard from your
muzzles.  Not a shot at present, or ever without a steady aim."

"That's right," shouted Major Elmfoot; "stick to that, Strachan.  No
more wild shooting, men.  Ah!"

There is an infinite variety of expression in the various tones of the
human voice, and that simple "_All_!" conveyed more than I can give you
any idea of.  There was surprise in it and dismay, but not a suspicion
of panic; on the contrary, determination was clearly expressed.  The
accent of the exclamation indeed was so striking that Strachan turned as
sharply as if he had been struck, and at the further corner of the
square he saw white teeth, gleaming eyes, tangled black locks, dark
naked forms, and glittering spearheads, and--_British soldiers recoiling
before them_!

As the major uttered his cry, he crammed his spurs into his horse's
sides, and with one bound was among them, cutting and pointing like a
trooper, and Tom found himself close to him, though whether he moved or
the seething, struggling mass came upon him where he stood he did not
quite know.  One thing he felt sure of, that the situation was just as
critical as it possibly could be.  Careless, light-hearted lad as he
was, he could not lead the life and pass through the scenes of the last
few days without becoming familiar with the thought that every hour
might very likely prove his last.

But that conviction, which would have been so terrible in cold blood,
gave him little concern now; it was the feeling of _being beaten_ which
was such mental agony.  What was his life, what was the life of any man,
of a million of men, compared with defeat?  At that moment he would have
flung himself into the fire to secure victory for his side.  I do not
wish to make him out an exceptional hero, and he was not a fellow to
brag, but it is certain that at that crisis he felt no fear whatever, no
more than when having got hold of the ball in a football match at
Harton, he had thought:

"I must have it between the goal posts, if I die for it!"

It has been explained before how he had attained a rare proficiency with
his weapons; he had not fired his pistol yet, and he was as clear-headed
and firm in nerve as man could be.  While the chambers of his revolver
were loaded he was in little danger from spearmen in front of him, for
he parried the thrust with his sword, and shot the assailant _through
the head_, and even an Arab is knocked out of time by that.  But against
a thrust in the side or the back no skill or coolness could defend him.
And presently he was so jammed up by retreating soldiers that he could
not use his arms, and then he was quite powerless for self-help.

It happened, by the best accounts, in this fashion.  Covered by the
dense smoke, the Arabs swarmed out of the nullah upon the face of the
square on the edge of it.  The foremost flung themselves on the
bayonets; those behind pressing them on to them, the soldiers could not
draw their weapons out, and found themselves hampered with dying foes,
whose breast-bones were jammed against the muzzles of their rifles.  If
they drew back to release their weapons, the enemy took instantaneous
advantage of the space yielded.  When they strove to stand firm they
were pushed bodily back by the dense mass surging upon them since the
Soudanese in rear could push on with perfect impunity wherever the
bayonets were sheathed in the bodies of the front rank.  The sailors who
manned the machine-guns at one corner were driven back by main force
with the rest, but made a desperate effort to keep back the savages,
while certain parts without which the guns were useless could be
removed.  They succeeded, but at the cost of many lives, and then back
they had to go, leaving the guns, now happily harmless, in the enemy's
hands.

The confusion was frightful, the front face of the square being driven
back upon the rear, and the sides jammed up with them.  And then the
whole tangled mass was forced slowly back, fighting its hardest.  For
there was no turning tail; the retreating soldiers kept their faces to
the foe, and where they had their arms free delivered thrust for thrust.
Marines and Highlanders fought back to back, and fought like bull-dogs.
So did the Arabs for that matter; they lay tumbled over in hundreds,
but others came on over their bodies.  Seventy English were killed in a
few minutes.  Fighting thus the Second Brigade, now no longer a square,
was pushed back nearly half a mile.

But now the charging Arabs came under the fire of the First Brigade, the
square on the right, up to which the enemy had not been able to
penetrate.  This was so well directed and murderous as to check the rear
masses of the Arabs, and the Second Brigade having only those in
immediate contact to deal with, and relieved from the tremendous
pressure, soon got on terms with their enemy again, shook them off, and
recovered their lost formation.

The battle was restored; the retreat turned into an advance.

The Arabs, now driven back in turn, retired some distance and opened
fire, which was not very effective.  Indeed, in spite of it, the re-
formed square, when it had recovered some hundred yards of its lost
ground, was halted for a quarter of an hour for the purpose of serving
out fresh ammunition, the men being exhorted not to waste it as they had
done before.  Desirous of retrieving their former error in this respect,
they were as steady as veterans now, and advancing in line, firing
deliberately and with careful aim, they cleared the ground in front, and
fought back to the brink of the nullah where the enemy had broken their
ranks, and re-captured the guns, the First Brigade moving up at the same
time on their right.  Savage with the idea that they had been forced to
retire and leave their guns, though it was principally the sheer weight
of numbers that had done it, and burning with revenge, the men set their
teeth and went down into the nullah, clearing all before them.  The
Arabs defended every bush, every rock, every boulder; but there was no
wild firing now, at thirty, twenty, ten paces, and even closer; every
bullet had its billet, and the valley was cleared of the living, though
every point which afforded cover, and had been tenaciously held by Osman
Digna's soldiers, had its groups of corpses behind it.

Officers were intoxicated with delight at the way their men behaved
after their early discouragement.

"That's the way!"

"Let them have it!"

"Give it 'em hot, boys!"

"Good man, O'Grady; there's another for you!"

"That's your sort; never pull trigger till you can blow him to
smithereens."

The advance of the line was not rapid, but it left nothing living behind
it.  Then the First Brigade under Redvers Buller went into and across
the nullah, making for the second ridge held by the enemy some half mile
off, still keeping the square formation.  It was well that the distance
to be traversed was so short, for it was now getting on for ten o'clock,
and the power of the sun was intense.  The ground, too, was covered with
sharp rocks of red granite, and these had become so hot as to burn the
feet.  But what do brave men feel in the delirium of battle?  When close
to the foe a volley rang out, and then from every parched throat
"Hurrah!"  "Hurrah!"  "Hurrah!" burst forth, as with levelled bayonets
they rushed upon the broken ranks before them, and the ridge was
carried.

There was a second beyond it, where the Arabs still lingered, and for
that again they went.  But the enemy, the fight at last taken out of
them, made but a feeble stand, and it was carried at the first onset.
But what was that firing in their rear?  Had a body of Soudanese lain
concealed somewhere?  Or had their dead come to life again?  Neither.

One of the Gardner guns had been overturned into the limber containing
its ammunition, and set fire to.  This kept burning, hissing, and firing
shots like a gigantic and malevolent cracker for a long time.  But the
Blue Jackets recovered the gun.  When the victorious troops crowned the
last ridge, the valley of Tamai lay below them, and there was spread the
camp of Osman Digna, the object of their march, the prize for which they
had been fighting.  The enemy made no further attempt to defend it; they
had proved to their cost that the Mahdi's assurance that the infidel
guns would "spit water" was a lie.

They were disheartened, beaten at all points, and hundreds of their best
and bravest lay in heaps on the hills and in the valleys to feed the
vultures and the jackals.  It was no retreat such as they often made,
stalking slowly and sullenly from the field where they had been foiled,
but a disorderly flight, a rout.

The camp was left to the conquerors, with two standards, all their
ammunition, tents, stores, and the spoils of former victories, and
before noon the English, without fear of molestation, were slaking their
thirst at the wells.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

A SEARCH.

"May I go back to look for Strachan, sir, if you please?"

"Yes, Green," replied the colonel, "but take a file of men with you.  I
think there are none of these fellows left about, but some of the
wounded may prove dangerous.  Where did you last see him?"

"In the _melee_, sir, when the square was forced to retire.  He was all
right then."

"And did no one see him after that?"

"No one that I can hear of, sir."

"Ah, poor lad!  Well, we must hope he will turn up alive.  A good
officer."

"Well, has the colonel given you leave to go?" asked Fitzgerald.  "I
knew he would, but Stacy did not care to take the responsibility, for
fear anything should happen to you.  You had better take a file of men
of my company; they knew him best.  I wish I could go, but I have too
much to do.  Of course, you will take a stretcher from the ambulance; it
will be probably useful for some other fellow, if not for poor Tom."

Directly Green had turned from Fitzgerald, a sergeant brought a man up
to him.

"James Gubbins wishes to speak to you, sir," he said, saluting.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Gubbins when called upon to unfold his
wishes, "but I heerd say as you was a-going back over them hills to look
for Mr Strachan, sir."

"Yes, Gubbins, what then?" asked Green.

"Well, sir, might I ask to go too?  He was very kind to me, and I was in
his ker--ker--company, sir;" and the man's voice faltered.

"Yes, Gubbins," replied Green, who appreciated perhaps more than others
the sentiment which animated the poor fellow, for he himself had been a
bit of a butt at first, and had been very grateful for Tom Strachan's
friendship.  "I am to take two men of Captain Fitzgerald's company, and
you shall be one of them."

"Thank you kindly, sir."

"And pick another to go with him, will you, sergeant?  A fellow with his
wits about him, you know."

He did not add "to make up for poor Gubbins's deficiency in that
respect," but that was what he meant, and so the sergeant understood
him.

"Let me see," he said, on rejoining his company; "his servant would be
the best man.  Dodd!  Has any one seen Dodd?"

"He was killed, sergeant, just when the gun was taken."

"Ah, yes, so he was.  Who to send?  No, Sims, my lad; it would not do to
have both idiots."

"I saw Mr Strachan last, from all I can make out," said another man;
"send me, sergeant."

"Ah, yes, Davis, you will do.  Where was it though?"

"It was in the nullah, sergeant.  One of the Johnnies got past my
bayonet, and tried to wrestle, but I got my rifle at the port, and
pushed it forward into his face, damaging the sights a little and
knocking him down.  And at that moment another of them jumped on my
shoulders from a rock above, sending me sprawling on top of the chap I
had just floored.  I wriggled round and saw t'other with his spear up a
couple of feet over my neck, when he tumbled over, and there was Mr
Strachan, with his sword well into the Johnny's stomach.  I jumped up,
and had no time to thank him, or see where he went.  We was too busy."

"All right, you go at once with Gubbins to Mr Green; he is speaking to
the major, yonder.  And hark! both of you.  If you see an Arab lying
like dead, with a weapon of any sort in his hand, run your bayonet
through him first, and ask him if he is alive afterwards, for we have
lost too many men as it is, and the duties will come heavy.  Right-about
turn; quick march!"

"Well, good luck go with you," Major Elmfoot was saying, as Green
started.  "But I fear that he must be dead, or the ambulance would have
found him and brought him in."

"I wish they would not talk like that," thought Green, as he went off,
followed by his two men.  "Everybody speaks of poor Tom in the past
tense, from the colonel to Gubbins.  I won't believe that he is dead
till I see it; as for the ambulance, they have had plenty of work, and
might easily miss him, if he is senseless, and unable to call out."

He went round to the Field Hospital, where the surgeons were busy at
work, and applied for a stretcher.  But he was told it was unnecessary
to take one, there were several about the fatal spot where the hard
fighting had taken place, and two others which had just brought in their
blood-stained burdens were going back presently.

So the three went on their way unencumbered.

It was perfectly calm and still; the sun was getting low in the west,
but its rays, though not so scorching as at mid-day, were sickening, and
productive of extreme lassitude.  On the first low range of hills they
crossed the bodies were not numerous, and down in the valley at the foot
of them they only came upon one group.  A knot of Arabs retreating to
their last position had evidently been overtaken by a shell bursting in
their midst, and their fearfully mangled bodies showed what modern
science can effect when applied in earnest to the work of war.  On the
next ridge the Soudanese dead lay thicker; lying dotted about singly
where the Martini-Henry bullets had stopped them, or strewed in rows
like the corn sheaves where the reaping machine has passed, as the
Gatling guns, sweeping slowly from right to left, and pouring missiles
with the regularity and continuous stream of a fire-engine, had mowed
their ranks.

"I say, Gubbins," said Davis, "we fought fairly well to-day I reckon;
but do you think we should have stood against such a fire as that?"

"Well, I don't know," replied Gubbins.  "If there had been any cover
near I, for one, should have felt uncommon inclined to make for it.  I
can't abide them shells and machine-guns."

"No, it seems like fighting against lightning and thunderbolts, don't
it?" said Davis.

But as this was an idea which required some cogitation and digesting
before it could become assimilated in the Gubbins' mind, it remained
without reply.

As they approached the edge of the nullah the harvest of Soudanese lay
thicker and thicker, and when they got down into the dry bed of the
watercourse, they had to pick their way in places to avoid treading on
the corpses.

And here, for the first time, English dead lay intermingled with the
Arab.  There was peace between them now.

"Look carefully here," said Green, turning over a kharkee-clad body
which lay on its face as he spoke: it was not his friend.

"Ah, would yer!" cried Davis, presently; and there was a gasp and a cry,
which might be rage or pain, as he thrust his bayonet into an Arab who,
though his legs were shattered, made a cut at him with his sword as he
passed.  And Davis was as tender-hearted a man as ever stepped; liked
playing with children; petted dogs, cats, and birds; and would risk his
own life to save that of another, though a perfect stranger.  He had
proved it, and had the right to wear the medal of the Royal Humane
Society on his right breast.  But circumstances are too strong for all
of us.

The search was long and ineffective.

"You are certain it was in the nullah that Mr Strachan killed the Arab
who was on the top of you?"  Green asked Davis.

"Certain, sir; and that rock I showed you was the one the Johnny jumped
off, I am pretty sure; though there's such a many of them, and they are
so like, I wouldn't swear."

"And you had not leisure to look very particularly.  But still, though
you saw him here, he may have gone back for some of his men, for in
dodging the enemy round stones and bushes they got scattered a bit.  We
had better go over the ground where we were so hard at it."

So they clambered up the further bank of the nullah, and stood again on
the ground over which they had advanced, been driven back, and advanced
again in the morning.  Here the Soudanese lay in hundreds, piled up in
places in heaps, three or even four deep, one on the top of another.
And here too the English dead were terribly thick.  But the ambulance
had been at work for some hours, and all who had life in them were
removed, while many of the dead had been withdrawn from the mingled
heaps, and laid decently side by side, and apart.

Green saw that this acre of the Aceldama had been, or was being,
thoroughly explored, and he returned to the nullah, where the three
continued their search, examining now the outlying crevices and bushes,
where individual men, stricken to death, had crawled away; or the
pursuing English, observing skulking foes, had spread to clear them out,
and prevent being fired upon from the rear after they had passed; and
searching in this manner they got separated.

Where could poor Tom Strachan have got to?  The sun was sinking fast,
there would not be much more daylight, and if he were not found soon he
might be left without help all night.  For Green would not think of him
as dead, and no more for that matter did Gubbins, though Davis had given
up all hope long ago.  But he did not say so.

Walking up the nullah a bit to the right, Green came to the foot of a
huge mass of black rock about twelve feet high, and he thought that from
the top of that he might get a more extended view of the bed of the
nullah, and perhaps discern some hollow which had not yet been explored.
The climbing was not difficult, and he soon sprang up.  There were
smaller boulders on the little plateau, and a mimosa bush, and an
English officer lying on his back, with his arms extended, and his sword
attached to his right wrist.

Green ran to his side; it was the object of his search--Tom Strachan.

"Dead!" he cried.  "Poor old Tom; dead after all!"

He knelt down and took his left arm up in order to get nearer to his
body, to feel if there was warmth in it.

The arm was limp, not stiff; the fingers had been cut by some sharp
weapon, and when stirred, blood dropped from them.  These signs gave
Green fresh hope, and loosening the kharkee, he thrust his hand into his
breast.  Certainly there was warmth!

He raised the body a little, propping the shoulders against a stone, and
taking out a flask he had brought for the purpose, he poured a little
brandy into the mouth.  It was swallowed.  He gave him more, and
presently he moved his lips and eyelids.

His first fear over, Green examined him more closely, and found that his
clothes were saturated with blood from a broad wound, no doubt a spear-
thrust, in the right side.  Surgeons were not far, and immediate
assistance might be everything, so he rose and went to the edge of the
rock to call Davis or Gubbins, who must be within reach of his voice.

Shouting their names, he passed close to the mimosa bush, from the cover
of which a man, with tangled locks and glaring eyes, and naked, but for
a waist-cloth, sprang out upon him like a wild cat.

He had lost or broken his weapons, but he clasped the young officer in
his arms, and bore him to the ground, and then, searching for his throat
with his hands, sought to throttle him, while Green, keeping his chin
down to his chest, and dragging at his hands, strove to prevent his
design.

The movement was so sudden that he never suspected the Arab's presence
till he was on him.  The savage wrenched his left arm free; Green upon
this got his right-hand down, and managed to clutch his revolver; and
just as his enemy's fingers forced their way under his chin to his
throat, he put the muzzle to his head and pulled the trigger.

His helmet having fallen off in the struggle, his own hair was singed by
the explosion, but he was free; the Arab rolled away from him, his head
shattered--a gruesome spectacle.

Just as Green got to his feet again, his two men appeared on the rock.
They had heard him call, and the voice had guided them in that
direction; and while they were hesitating the pistol-shot told them
exactly where their officer was.

"He is up here, and alive," said Green.  "Run, one of you--you, Davis--
to the place where we saw the doctors and stretchers, and tell them.
Take good note of this spot, that you may not miss it.  But I don't
think they are a thousand yards off."

"I shall know it, sir," said Davis, and he disappeared over the side of
the rock.

Green was now once more by Strachan's side, and with Gubbins' help got
him into a more comfortable position.  The spear-head which had wounded
him, with a couple of feet of the shaft, lay close by, as if he had
pulled it out before losing consciousness.  The rest of the shaft also
lay near, half cut through, half broken, close to the edge of the rock,
and underneath that spot, at the foot of the crag, was the body of an
Arab--head amongst the large stones, feet and legs uppermost--resting on
the steep side.

Probably it was the man who had speared Strachan, his weapon, previously
hacked nearly through, breaking with the thrust.  And one of the
soldiers storming the rock had shot him as he was making off.  As for
the disarmed man who had attacked Green, he had probably taken refuge up
there after the tide of battle had swept past, intending to escape at
nightfall, but the sight of a foe so close was too tempting for his
prudence.

All this, however, is only conjecture; the certain fact was that poor
Tom Strachan had a wide wound in the side, and that Green dared not move
him much, because it made the life-stream well out afresh.  There was
nothing for it but to wait till medical aid arrived.

It is surprising what trivial ideas and memories, such as tags of old
songs, or anecdotes more or less appropriate to the occasion, will run
in our heads when we are anxious about anything, and are forced to
remain in inactivity.  All the time certain lines of Sir Walter Scott
would worry Green, as he knelt there by his friend:

  "That spear wound has our master sped;
  And see the deep cut on his head.
  Good-night to Marmion."

Over and over and over again rang the lines, till Strachan himself
dissipated them by moving his hand and murmuring.  It was evident that
what he wanted was water, and so Green put his gourd to his mouth, and
after a refreshing draught, consciousness returned to the wounded man's
eyes.

Then Green gently disengaged the sword-knot from his wrist, and,
unbuckling his belt, returned the weapon to its scabbard, not without
having to wipe it first.

Strachan made a movement of his hand again towards it, evidently knowing
that something was taken from him.  But Green showed him the sword, and
said, "It is all right, I am only wiping it for you;" and the other was
placid again immediately, and closed his eyes.

It was not long before the surgeon came, and they got Strachan's kharkee
jacket off, and bandaged him up.

"He has lost a lot of blood," said the surgeon, "and that is why he
fainted, probably."

"Will it kill him?"

"Not necessarily at all.  It is a nice clean wound, and all depends upon
how far it has penetrated.  Of course, a man cannot have a sharp
instrument thrust into his body without some danger to the vital organs.
The pressing matter, however, is how to lower him from this.  I have
got a stretcher at the bottom all right, but the sides of this rock are
pretty steep for a badly wounded man to get down."

"Yes," said Green.

"But I have examined carefully all round it, and this is the best
place."

And he indicated a corner where there were ledges which formed steps;
and here they carried Tom Strachan, and lowered him as gently and
carefully as might be.

They could not avoid a jolt or two, which elicited a moan; but it was
not far to the bottom, and there was the stretcher.  Just as they had
managed to get him settled the sun sank, and it was amidst the usual
display of orange, crimson, and purple fireworks that they picked their
way amongst the corpses which strewed the nullah.  It was another job to
carry their burden up the steep sides of this, but they managed it
before darkness settled down on the battle-field.

At the other side, however, they were soon forced to halt, and wait for
the rising of the moon.  She was up, but had not appeared over the hills
yet, and the ground where they were was in such deep shadow that the
bearers could not go a dozen yards without stumbling either over a dead
body or the inequalities of the surface.  It was a weird thing to wait
there in the gloom in the midst of those who had been so full of life
and vigour in the morning, and were now as motionless, senseless, as the
boulders amongst which they were scattered.

While waiting thus, they fancied they saw several dark figures gliding
by them, and Green held his revolver ready, thinking that live Arabs
were still prowling around, or taking advantage of the darkness to
escape from the nooks where they had lain concealed.  Presently,
however, the moon topped the higher ground, and he saw one of these
moving forms more distinctly, and perceived that it was a four-footed
animal, not a biped.  Probably they were beasts of prey stealing to the
scene of carnage.  It takes a good deal of the gilt off glory that the
foulest beasts and birds should fake heroes for carrion.  And yet, after
all, this is a superficial way of looking at it, for it is the qualities
of the mind--courage, endurance, patriotism, loyalty, fidelity to
comrades--which make the hero, and the soul is beyond the reach of
vulture or jackal.  As for the mere body without it, it is of no more
value than an empty champagne bottle.  When there was light enough they
went on again, and in due time reached the ambulance.  And Green, having
seen his friend made as comfortable as was possible under the
circumstances, returned to the bivouac of the regiment, where everybody
was glad to hear that Tom Strachan was found alive, and that there was a
good chance for him, for his good humour and high spirits had made him a
general favourite.

"Do you know, Green, you have done a very fine thing?" said the colonel.
"If you had not found Strachan this evening he would have been dead in
all probability before morning.  And you found him very cleverly."

And Green felt as good all over at this praise as if he had been
mentioned in despatches.

The battle of Tamai was the end of the campaign.  Some folk said the
troops should have taken advantage of the rout and dispersion of Osman
Digna's tribes to march across to Berber on the Nile, and then Khartoum
would have been relieved without any further fuss.  Other people, who
had equally good means of judging, scorned this idea, and were certain
that had such a thing been attempted every man of the expedition would
have perished.

If the latter people were right, the authorities acted wisely; if the
former had reason on their side, they acted foolishly.  But as to which
is which, it would be very rash for any one who does not know all the
ins and outs, and has not the evidence which influenced those who had to
decide, before him, to give an opinion.  Anyhow, the expedition returned
to Suakim, and the majority of the troops sailed away for different
places.  And Osman Digna had time to gather fresh fanatics together, and
the Soudanese recovered from the shock to their superstition and
conviction of invincibility which the hecatombs of slaughter had given
them, and were soon ready to fight again.

And Tom Strachan was not so very badly hurt, but was soon able to be
taken home to England to be nursed, and rejoined his regiment in six
months.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

AGAINST THE STREAM.

A swift broad river, with the water broken into foaming wavelets by
rocks which were everywhere showing their vicious heads above the
surface; a string of nuggars, or half-decked boats, fifteen feet broad,
forty-five feet long, flat-bottomed, each with a thick rope attached to
the bows, and a string of men on the bank towing it under a hot sun.

Perhaps you have yourself towed a skiff on the Thames, when the current
was so strong that the progress made with the oars was unsatisfactory.
Well, if you have, you _don't_ know one bit what this was like.  In the
first place, the Thames, even by Monkey Island, is still water compared
to the Nile between Surras and Dal, a sixty-mile stretch.  Then your
skiff did not carry six tons of beef, bacon, biscuit, and other stores.
It may also be safely asserted that the towing-path you walked on was
not composed of sharp pointed rocks.

Those were the conditions under which certain picked British soldiers,
one of whom was an old friend of ours, lost sight of for a considerable
time, were dragging their nuggar up a series of cataracts.  Towing
always looks to me an absurd business, much as if a man were to carry a
horse about, and call it going for a ride.

"Are you growling or singing, Tarrant?" asked Kavanagh of the man behind
him on the string.

"Not singing, you may take your davy," growled the man addressed.

"I fancied not, though there is a certain likeness in your way of doing
both which made me ask.  I suppose you are growling then--what about?"

"What about, indeed!" grunted Tarrant.  "D'ye suppose I 'listed as a
soldier or a barge horse?"

"Don't know; never saw your attestation papers."

"Why, it was as a soldier then.  I should have thought twice if I had
known I was to be put to this sort of work."

"Really!  Why, when we were rowing, you did not like that, and said you
would sooner be doing any work on your legs."

"But I didn't mean this; why, I have cut two pairs of boots to pieces
against these here sharp rocks since we began it."

"Ay," said Kavanagh, "but you had already worn-out some of your garments
at the other game, so it was only considerate to give the feet a
chance."

"Well, it's a pity them that likes it should not have the doing of it,"
said the judicious Tarrant.

"Well, you know, you could not pull an oar, and you _can_ pull a rope,"
said Grady, "so you are a trifle more useful now than you were before;
and begorra you had need."

"I could pull a rope if it were over the bough of a tree, and the other
end round your neck," snarled Tarrant.

"Oh, the murdering villain!" cried Grady.  "And would ye be after
hanging a poor boy who never harmed ye in all his life?"

"Well, keep a civil tongue in your head."

"Sure, and it's myself that has kissed the Blarney stone, and can do
that same.  And if you had such a thing as a bottle of whisky or a pound
of tobacco about you, I would make you believe you were a pleasant
companion, and pretty to look at besides.  But what's the use of telling
lies when there's nothing to be got by it?"

"Suppose you were to pull a bit harder and talk a bit less," said
Corporal Adams.

"And I will, corporal dear," replied Grady.  "But sure I thought we was
marching at ease."

It may be well to explain that when troops get the word _March at
ease_!--which is generally given directly they step off, when they are
not drilling or manoeuvring, but simply on the route--they are allowed
to carry their arms as they please, open the ranks, though without
losing their places or straggling, smoke their pipes, and chat or sing
if they like.

At the word of command--_Attention_!  They close up, slope their arms
properly, put away their pipes, and tramp on in perfect silence.

But marching at ease was such a singularly inappropriate expression for
men who were dragging a heavy nuggar up a cataract under a blazing sun
that there was a general laugh, and even Tarrant relaxed into a grin.  A
general laugh, I say, not a universal one, for Macintosh, who was
plodding along behind Grady, preserved his gravity.

"I don't say that silence is incumberous," explained Corporal Adams,
who, since he had got his stripes, had taken to using rather fine
language, "but too much talking don't go with hauling."

"Ho, ho, ho!" chuckled Macintosh, and the corporal began to think he had
said something funny.  But no; Macintosh had trodden on an unusually
sharp flint, and that presented Grady's idea of what marching at ease
was in a ridiculous form to his mind.  So when the pang was over he was
tickled.

"Eh, but Grady's a poor daft creature to call this marching at ease; ho,
ho!"

A particularly stiff bit came just now.  The rope strained as if it
would snap; the bows of the nuggar were buried in foam, and the men
hauling were forced to take the corporal's hint, and keep their breath
for other purposes than conversation.

When they had got over the worst, however, the boat got jammed on a
rock, and the work of getting her off devolved on the crew on board of
her, unless she were so fast as to require the aid of the others, who
for the present got a much-required rest.

"A set of duffers, those chaps," said the sergeant in charge of the
party, a young fellow named Barton, of good parentage, and Kavanagh's
particular friend off duty.  "A regular Nile reis, with his crew of four
natives, would never have stuck the nuggar _there_."

"I wish we had them Canadian vogajaws, sergeant," said Corporal Adams.

"Ay, they are first-rate," replied the sergeant.

"A good many boats have them, haven't they?"

"Oh, yes!  Most I suppose, or we should not get on at all.  But we have
not had the luck to get them for our craft.  There are only a few of
these who know how to work a boat up rapids at all, and I fancy they are
only apprentices at it.  As for the others, one of them owned to me that
he had never been on any river before the Nile but the Thames at Putney,
and his idea of a rapid was the tide rushing under the bridge."

"But sure, sergeant, he can sing `Row, brothers, row,' iligantly, he
can," said Grady.

"Ay, but he can't do it," replied the sergeant.  "He ought to be in the
water now.  There's Captain Reece overboard and shoving; I must try and
get to him.  Stand by the rope, men, and haul away like blazes when she
shifts."

What with poling, and shoving, and pulling at the rope, the nuggar was
floated once more at last, and on they went again, and by-and-by the
river widened, and the current was not so strong, and so long as they
kept the rope pretty taut the boat came along without any very great
exertion.

"Have a pipe out of my baccy-box, just to show there's no malice?" said
Grady to Tarrant.

"Thankee, I will," replied Tarrant, "for mine is so wet it won't burn.
I went up to my neck in shoving off the first time we stuck, before we
took to towing."

"Eh, but that was a chance for the crocodiles!" cried Macintosh.  "I saw
ye go souse under, Tarrant, and thought one of them had got ye by the
leg.  Ye might have grumbled a bit then, and folks would have said you
had reason."

"It is all very fine," said Tarrant, "and if you chaps are pleased, you
are welcome; but I don't call this riding on a camel.  I had as soon
have stopped with my own regiment, amongst sensible and pleasant lads,
and taken my chance, as have volunteered to join this corps, if I had
known I was to march all the same, and lug a beast of a boat after me
too.  I expected to have a camel to ride on."

"Thank you for putting me in mind that I'm mounted," said Grady; "I had
almost forgotten it."

"Make your minds easy," said Sergeant Barton.  "You will have plenty of
camel riding in a day or two, quite as much as you like perhaps."

"And I hope it will be before I have worn-out my third pair of boots,"
said Macintosh.  "Eh, but this is a grievous waste of shoe-leather."

"I had sooner wear that out than my own skin," said Kavanagh.

"I'm not that sure," replied Macintosh.  "The skin grows again, and the
shoe-leather doesn't."

The sergeant laughed.

"Well, I think I may promise you that you will have no more of this work
after to-morrow," he said.  "You will get your camels at Wady Haifa."
Barton had been specially instructed in camel drill, and selected for
his proficiency to assist in training the corps to which Kavanagh
belonged.

His story was a very simple one; he was not one of the plucked, who,
failing to get their commissions, join the ranks rather than not serve
at all, for it was most likely that he would have succeeded in any
competitive examination, being a clever and industrious youth, who was
doing well at Oxford when his father lost all his money, having shares
in a bank which suddenly failed, and left him responsible to the extent
of every penny he possessed.  The undergraduate had been accustomed to a
handsome allowance, and owed bills which he was now unable to pay.  This
he could not help, but being an honourable man he would not incur a
farthing more, but took his name off the boards at once, divided his
caution money, and what was obtained by the sale of his horse, the
furniture of his rooms, and whatever else he possessed, amongst his
creditors, and enlisted.  Having once chosen his profession, he went at
it with prodigious zeal, and lost no opportunity of attending any school
of instruction which was open to him.  When he had once acquired his
drill, he was soon made corporal, then sergeant.  He distinguished
himself at Hythe; he learnt signalling both with flags and flashes.  And
when useful men were wanted for the formation of Camel Corps, and the
battalions in Egypt searched for them, he was one of the first pitched
upon to learn and then to instruct.  For, when people talk of the super-
human intelligence of German officers and soldiers, and speak of ours as
a set of dunder-headed idiots, you need not quite take all they say for
absolute fact.  I think if you took the adjutants, sergeant-majors, and
musketry instructors of the British army, you would find it hard to pick
out an equal number of men in any country, even Germany itself, to beat
them for intelligence, common sense, and promptitude.

"There will be a new drill to learn!" growled Tarrant.

"Oh, that won't be much," said Kavanagh.  "Lots of old words of command
would do over again, I should say.  For instance, `Shouldare--oop!' only
it would be the camel's shoulder which has to be mounted."

"Now, that's mighty clever," said Grady.  "Will you tell me something,
Kavanagh, you that's a real scholar now--can a man be two things at the
same time?"

"Of course he can; he can be an Irishman and a barge horse, you see."

"Ah, then a Mounted Infantry man can be a trooper and a foot soldier all
at once.  And a camel rider, would you call him a horse soldier, now?"

"No, Pat, I could not afford it.  I'm an Irishman as well as yourself,
and dull people would think it was a blunder."

"That's a true word," said Grady.  "And have you not noticed now, when
folks laugh at an Irishman, he is mostly quite right if they had the
understanding?  Now you have observed, and heard, what a bad country
Egypt is for the eyes.  Sure they give us green goggles, or we should
get the--what do you call it, Mr Corporal, sir, if you plaze?"

"The hop-fallimy," replied Corporal Adams, proud of being appealed to.

"Thank you; the hop-family, what with the sun, and the sand, and the
flies.  And if you get the hop-family you are likely to go blind, and
that is a bad thing.  Is it not curious that the great river of a
country that is so bad for the eyes should have cataracts itself in it?
Now that would sound foolish to many people, but you, who are an
Irishman, see the bearings of it, don't you now?"

"But," observed Macintosh, "a cataract in the eye is a skin, or
something growing over it, and a cataract in the river is a kind of
waterfall.  They are not the same sort of thing at all."

"And is that so?  To be sure, now, what a stupid mistake then I made.
And did you ever undergo the operation, now, Macintosh?"

"Well, beyond vaccination and the lugging out of a broken tooth, I don't
call to mind that I have been in the surgeon's hands; and if ye want to
know the truth, I don't care if I never am.  Eh, but that tooth now, it
took a tug!"

"I thought you had never had it done," said Grady.  "It's a pity, sure.
And what do you say makes a cataract in the Nile?"

"Surely you have seen enough of them for yersel'.  It's a rapid where
the water comes down a steep part with great vehemence.  But what
operation are ye talking of?  I expect ye mean some sauce or other."

"Sure, no; it's only that which they say a Scotchman must have done
before a joke can be got into his head.  But I don't belave it at all;
folks are such liars!" said Grady.

"I would have ye to know," said Macintosh, when the others had stopped
laughing, "that a Scotchman is not deficient in wut, but he can't see it
in mere nonsense."

All this talk was not spoken right off the reel, as it reads, but at
intervals, during pauses in the harder part of the work, and rests.  And
it was lucky they could keep their spirits up; there is health and
vigour in that:

  "The merry heart goes all the day;
  The heavy tires in a mile--a!"

Shakespeare is always right.

But the sergeant was better than his word, and that was their last
afternoon of rowing or towing, for they reached the place where the
camels were collected that evening before sun-down.  On the very next
day the new drill commenced, for there was not an hour to be lost.

The last days of 1884 had arrived, and Khartoum still held out.  The
chances of reaching that place and rescuing Gordon were always present
to every mind; that was the one goal to which all efforts were tending.
But there was no good in for ever talking about it; on the contrary, it
was more healthy to divert the thoughts, if possible, in other
directions.  A fall from a horse is unpleasant, and risky to the bones,
but a tumble off a camel is worse, because it is more dangerous to fall
ten feet than five.  The first step was a difficulty--to mount the
creature at all, that is.  It looks easy enough, for it lies down for
you.  Apparently all you have to do is to throw one leg over and settle
yourself in the saddle.  But the camel has a habit of springing up like
a Jack-in-the-box just as your ankle is on a level with his back, and
away you go flying.  Experienced travellers, who have camel drivers and
attendants, make one of them stand on the creature's fore legs to keep
them down while they settle themselves; but troopers had no such
luxuries provided for them, and had to look after their animals
themselves, and it took several trials and severe rolls on the sand
before some of them managed to mount at all.  There the camel lay, quiet
and tame and lazy, to all appearance as a cat dozing before the fire.
But the moment the foot was over his back he resembled the same cat when
she sees a mouse, and away you went.  Taught by experience, you spring
into the saddle with a vault.  Up goes the camel on the first two joints
of his forelegs with a jerk which sends the small of your back against
the hinder pommel so violently that you think the spine broken.  Before
you have time to decide this important question in your mind, the hind
legs go up with an equally spasmodic movement, and you hit the front
pommel hard with your stomach.

Surely now you are settled; not a bit of it.  The beast jumps from his
knees to his feet with a third spring, and your back gets another severe
blow from the hind pommel.  After these three pommellings you are
mounted.  But when you want to get off, and your camel lies down for
you, you get it all over again; only your stomach gets the hits one and
three, and your back the middle one.  Opinions differ as to which is the
most pleasant, but after several repetitions of it you feel as if you
had been down in the middle of a scrimmage at football, and both sides
had taken you for the object to be kicked at.  The ordinary traveller,
when once on his camel, would stop there some hours; and again, when he
got off, would remain off till it was time to renew his journey, and so
he would not get so much of it.  But a soldier learning camel drill must
go on till he is perfect.

After mounting, dismounting, and re-mounting a certain number of times,
the troopers learned to anticipate the camel jerks, and avoid the high
pommels which rose in front and rear of the saddles, or rather to use
them as aids instead of encumbrances.  But it took a good deal of
practice, and some were longer about falling into it than others.  But
they were not always at drill, though they had so much of it.

Some went in for fishing, and hooks and lines had been provided by the
authorities for that purpose.  But the sport was very poor, little being
caught, and after trying it once or twice Kavanagh preferred to sit
under the tree or in an arbour and smoke his pipe either alone or with a
companion--Sergeant Barton for choice, but he was not always available.
When that was the case the honest Grady would sometimes join him, and
though he would rather have been left to his own thoughts, it was not in
his nature to show a want of cordiality towards a good fellow who made
advances to him.  From the day of his enlistment Reginald Kavanagh had
frankly accepted the situation, and had been careful above all things to
avoid giving himself any airs of superiority.

"This is a mighty pretty spot you have fixed on, any way," said Grady,
stretching himself under the grateful shade of a palm-tree, "and reminds
me of Oireland entirely!"

"It is rather like Merrion Square," said Kavanagh, gravely; "or that
perhaps combined with the Phoenix Park, with a touch of the Lakes of
Killarney."

"Sure, now, you are making fun of a poor boy!  Look at that bird now!
Isn't he an illigant bird that?  There's a many of them about, and they
are the best looking I have seen at all in Egypt."

"Do they remind you of Ireland, too?" asked Kavanagh.

"Well, now, you are too hard on me."

"Not a bit of it, it is only natural that they should, for they are
called Paddy birds."

"And is that a fact now?"

"Certainly it is.  Sergeant Barton told me, and he has been some time in
Egypt, and knows most of the birds and animals," replied Kavanagh.

"Well, now, it is only natural that the loveliest bird in the country
should be called Paddy.  Are not the finest men and the prettiest girls
at all Irishmen?  They call us every bad name there is, but they can't
do without us.  Why, the general is an Irishman, and the Goughs and
Napiers are Irishmen, and the Duke of Wellington was an Irishman."

"And Grady and Kavanagh, the best men that ever rode on camels--or who
will be when they can sit them--are Irishmen," cried Kavanagh, laughing,
and Grady chuckled too.

"But, now, there's a thing I want to ask you, since you are larned about
animals.  You may not have thought it, for I am no scholar, but when I
was a gossoon I went to school," said Grady presently, "and they had
pictures of bastes hung about the walls, and the queerest baste of all
to my fancy, barring the elephant, was the camel.  I remember purty well
what they told me from the mouth, though I was bad at the reading and
the sums and that; and the master he said that a camel with one hump was
meant for carrying things, water and potatoes and other necessities, and
that was why he had only one, to make more room, and have something to
tie them on by.  And he said there was another camel with two humps, and
he was created for riding, and was called a dromedary, and when ye rode
him, ye sat at your ease between the two humps, which made a soft
saddle, just like an arm-chair ye straddled on, only without arms.  And
ye could go fast and easy for a week, with provisions all round ye, and
the dromedary he only wanted to eat and drink once a week.  Now, have
the dromedaries died out, do ye think?  Or are they more expensive, and
is the War Office that mane it won't afford them, but trates Christians
like baggage?"

"They were out of it altogether at your school, Grady," said Kavanagh.
"A dromedary is only a better bred camel; it is like a hack or hunter,
and a cart-horse, you know; the dromedary answering to the former.  But
both are camels, just the same as both the others are horses, and one
hump unluckily is all either of them possess."

"But I saw the pictures of them," said Grady, with a puzzled look.

"I wish that the pictures had been painted from real animals, and not
from the artist's fancy," repeated Kavanagh.  "It was a general idea, I
know--I had it myself--that there were two-humped camels, mighty
pleasant to ride.  But I believe it is all a mistake."

"The one-humped beggar is not easy to ride, any how!" said Grady.

"No, that I vow he isn't!" cried Kavanagh.  "Some of the camels trained
to trot, and called hygeens, are a bit easier, I believe.  The Arabs say
that they can drink a cup of coffee on their backs without spilling it
while they are going at speed."

"We have not got any of them in our troop," said Grady.  "Well, we will
get a bit of a holiday, plaze the pigs, the day after to-morrow, and not
before I want it, for one.  For what with them saddle peaks, and the
rolls on the sand I have got, I don't know whether my inwards or my
outwards are the sorest.  But the show is beginning; and, faith, it's
worth coming all the way to Egypt to see the sun set."

This was one of the things which made Kavanagh like Grady's company; he
had a real innate love of the beauties of Nature, which you would rarely
find in an Englishman of the same class.  Together they watched the
glories of the transformation scene shifting before them.  Low on the
horizon the deepest crimson changing and blending as it rose into
violet; higher up the blue of the sapphire and the green of the emerald;
and when these colours were the most intense, the two rose, and turned
back to camp slowly and reluctantly, still gazing in silence.  For now
the after-glow succeeded; first the sky was a most brilliant orange,
such a tint as would cause the painter who could at all approach it to
be accused of the most absurd exaggeration by those who had not seen the
real colour, while those who had would esteem it far too faint.  This
changed to an equally brilliant rose colour; and then, in a few seconds,
suddenly, as if "Lights out" had been sounded in the zenith, darkness!

"It is like going to church," said Grady.

"Yes," replied Kavanagh; "that makes one feel God great and man little,
doesn't it?"

"Aye!"

They were barely a quarter of an hour from camp, and the fires guided
them; for hot as it was in the daytime the nights were chilly, and a
bonfire in the open acceptable.  They found their mates gathered round
the largest in great excitement.

"Here, you chaps," was the cry which assailed them when they made their
appearance, "can either of you make a plum-pudding?"

"Of course," replied Kavanagh.  "There's nothing easier if you only have
the materials."

"Well, the materials have just come; how do you work them up?"

"Why, make them into a pudding and boil it, of course."

"Any idiot knows that; but how do you make them into a pudding?  If we
spoil one, you know, we shan't have any opportunity of trying a second
time, so none of your experiments."

"That's serious!"

"I should think it was!"

"Well, you take the flour and put it in a basin, and moisten it with
water; and you put in your plums and raisins and citron, and beat up
half a dozen eggs and put them in too, and three glasses of brandy, and
anything else that's good you have got, and you knead it all up for a
good bit, and put it in a cloth, and tie it up tight with a piece of
string, and boil it as long as you can; all to-night and to-morrow and
to-morrow night, and so right up to dinnertime."

"It sounds pretty right," said the first speaker, doubtfully; "but how
do you know?  Did you ever make one?"

"Why, I cannot say that exactly, but I have seen many made, and helped
to stir them."

"Lately?"

"Not so very, when I was a boy."

"It would be a sinful waste to put sperrits into a pudding," observed
Macintosh.  "It would all boil away, and no one be a bit the better."

"No fear!  Good liquor's too scarce for that," cried another.

"Brandy is a great improvement, when you have it, for all that,"
maintained Kavanagh.

But though this part of his recipe sounded to all like the dissolving of
Cleopatra's pearls in her drink for wilful waste, the other items of it
confirmed the previous opinion of the chief cook of the troop, and the
precious ingredients were entrusted to his care.  When they were well
mixed, an unforeseen difficulty arose about a bag to boil it in; but
that was met by the sacrifice of a haversack, and at last it was
consigned to the gipsy kettle which was to bring it to perfection.  If
it were literally true that a watched pot never boils, this would have
had a poor chance, for when off drill or duty next day every man ran to
have a look at it; but the proverb happily fell through, and it bubbled
away famously.  Christmas-day dawned, and would have been hot in England
for July.

It is a curious experience the first Christmas spent away from home in a
warm climate, such a contrast to all early associations.  There were
decorations of palm-branches, and instead of holly cactus, which
represented it well for prickliness.  And there was church parade; and
afterwards came dinner of tinned roast beef, fish which some of the
persevering had caught in the Nile, and an ostrich _egg_, which a
friendly native had brought in, and which proved fresh.  And the
pudding!

It was an anxious moment when the string was cut, and the remains of the
ancient haversack were opened, and every one was relieved when the
object of interest did _not_ fall to crumbs as some feared, but remained
firm and intact till cut.  Was it good?  Well, the proof of the pudding
is in the eating, and there was not a crumb or a plum left when the
party rose.  Then a delightful afternoon of idleness and complete rest,
which took the ache out of many a poor fellow's bones, and talk of
friends in England, and reminiscences of home.  And some lucky ones got
letters which succeeded in reaching them the right day, and got away
alone to read them; while others kept the link by writing.  Rather
melancholy, but pleasant all the same, for the element of hope kept all
sweet.  And at night a huge bonfire was lit; it was cold of nights, and
officers and men gathered round it for a sing-song.  And there was a
platform of barrels and planks on which various performances, fiddling,
a hornpipe, recitations, nigger melodies, took place, the highest in
command enjoying themselves as heartily as the humblest.  And there was
a tot of rum, not enough to hurt the weakest head indeed, but still a
taste, for every one to drink to absent friends, and a rousing chorus or
two, and sound sleep closing a day of thorough enjoyment.  For to
_taste_ a holiday you must have a long spell of real hard work.

By this time the men were more at home with their queer steeds, and
mounting and dismounting was no longer a painful and even perilous
performance.  The camels also had become accustomed to the drill, and
learned to know what was expected of them.  All animals work better and
pick up ideas quicker in company.  Sometimes, indeed, one would drop
suddenly on his knees without rhyme or reason that any one could guess
at, and send his rider flying over his head if he were not looking out
sharply; but such instances of eccentric conduct were rare, and grew
still less frequent as the bipeds and quadrupeds got to know one another
better.

A move was now made to Korti, higher up the Nile, a good deal nearer the
fourth cataract than the third in fact.  But this journey was made on
camel back instead of by boat.  Now, travelling by boat is not
unpleasant when the boat takes you, but when you have to take the boat
it is quite a different matter, and riding, even on a camel, is far
preferable.  And those long days on camel back, near the Nile all the
way, and consequently with no stint of water, were about the most
pleasant experiences Kavanagh and his companions had.

"Well, Tarrant, I hope you are happy now," said a trooper one day, as
the column was on the march.

"Happy!  With tinned meat and no beer, and more flies in the open in the
middle of winter than you get over a stable at home in August!  I know I
wish I was back in Windsor barracks."

"Never mind, old boy; if you were there you would wish you were here."

"And a jolly idiot I should be."

"Don't fret about that same," interposed Grady, who was riding near.
"It's your misfortune, not your fault.  Faith, we wud all be clever if
we could; but sure, I thought ye would be aisy in your mind now that you
had got your camel."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

ACROSS THE LOOP.

Korti was the pleasantest place Kavanagh had been to yet.  It was
healthy, there were plenty of trees to give shade, forage was easily got
for the camels, and fresh provisions for the men, for the villages about
seemed more prosperous than usual, and the inhabitants more friendly.
Here the camel drill was polished up and brought to perfection.  They
worked in this way.  You must know that though the soldiers rode camels
on the march, they were not intended to fight on their backs, except
perhaps incidentally when they were out scouting.

So their object when in immediate contact with the enemy was to get rid
of their camels for the time being, but so that they might find them
again and remount at the shortest possible notice.  The battalion being
in column--that is, suppose a double row of men on camels, forming a
front and rear rank, and some way behind them another double row, and
then a third, and then a fourth; that forms what is meant by a column--
well, then, the battalion, as I say, being in column, the word of
command, signifying what formation the men are to take after they have
dismounted, is given, followed by the words, "Close order!"  Upon this
the rear rank of the leading line jambs up to the front rank, which
halts at the word.  All the rear rows break into a trot and jamb up to
the front in turn.

When all are close and compact, the camels are told to lie down; the men
dismount, and tie up their animals' legs, so that they cannot rise, with
the head rope.  The men who have to run out and mark the places where
the others are to form when ready, get their camels knee-lashed for them
by the two men whose duty it is to remain with the animals of their
company.

By the time the beasts are in a square, helpless mass, the markers are
"covered" (or got into their proper places according to the order
accurately) by an officer, and the men form on them at once.  After a
good deal of drill this was done very quickly, as such things are when
each man knows exactly what to do and how to do it, since it is
confusion and uncertainty which cause delay.  When the battalion had to
move away and manoeuvre at some little distance from the camels, one
company was always to be left to defend them.

The pleasant time at Korti was soon over, and they started across the
desert for Shendy.  If you will look at the map you will see that from
Korti (which you will find in the neighbourhood of Old Dongola, Ambukoi,
Merawi, places written large) the Nile stretches to the north for a
hundred miles and more as far as Abu Hamed, when it makes a bend
completely round, and goes south all the rest of its course.  So that by
cutting across the desert from Korti to Shendy, or rather Matammeh,
which is on the nearer bank of the river, an enormous distance is cut
off.

And since time was of the utmost importance, if Khartoum and Gordon were
to be rescued, a force under General Stewart was to take the short cut,
while the rest followed the tedious windings of the Nile, actually
turning their backs for a precious hundred miles on the way they wanted
to go.  It was provoking, but it could not be helped; water carriage was
absolutely necessary for the existence of the expedition.

Those who were to go with General Stewart's force were in high spirits,
and the others envied them exceedingly, for they were going straight at
the throat of the enemy, and would probably relieve Khartoum, disperse
the Arab hordes, finish the campaign; who knew?  They might even bring
the Mahdi back in a cage, perhaps, before those following the river
would have a chance of distinguishing themselves.  They need not have
distressed themselves; there would be plenty of hard fighting for all.

You might as well know how our friend Reginald Kavanagh was dressed when
he mounted his camel for the desert ride.  Picture him then in a loose
red flannel tunic, corduroy knee-breeches, serge leggings, white pith
helmet with a puggaree round it.  Over his shoulder he wore a bandolier
belt with sockets for fifty cartridges, and a rifle pocket, in which the
butt of the rifle was secured.  The bandolier made him look something
like a mediaeval musketeer; or might have reminded an admirer of Dumas'
wonderful story--and who is not?--of Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and
Aramis.

The Naval Brigade was also mounted on camels, and it was great fun to
see them start.  The camel has been called the ship of the desert, but
that was by a poet, who thought rightly enough that he said a pretty
thing, but who did not mean it literally.  Jack did.

"How this craft does roll!" cried one.

"Hard a port, Bill, or you'll foul me."

"What d'ye come across my bows for, then?"

"Can't help it; this here won't answer the helm.  Port, will you!"

"Port it is."

"Mind, messmate, your camel's going to founder, I think."

But the warning came too late; the beast dropped on its knees, and Jack
went flying over his hideous head.

Love of adventure and excitement is one thing, patient endurance is
another.  You want to combine the two to get good soldiers, and
Englishmen hitherto have done pretty well.  So did these, only after a
certain number of hours' march they were less jocular and more vicious.
When they got to the first wells, where they expected to have a rest,
being by that time pretty well baked, the supply of water was found to
be so scarce that they had to push on at once; but they did it for the
most part in silence.

"Well, Tarrant," said Kavanagh, when they had been plodding on for some
two hours in dead silence, "have you not got a growl for us?"

"No, I haven't," replied the champion grumbler.  "I did get a drink at
Hasheen, but this poor brute I am riding didn't, so I leave the growling
to him."

"Sure it ought to be put in the _Gazette_" cried Grady, waking up.
"First grumbler, Tarrant's camel, _vice_ Tarrant, contented."

"I never said I was contented," replied Tarrant.

"Only it is a consolation to know there's some one worse off than
yourself."

"Meaning the camels?"

"Aye, and not only them.  Don't you remember that 19th Hussar chap who
came up the last halt?  There was a go!"

"What do you mean?"

"Didn't you hear?  Why, he belonged to Captain Fanshawe's troop, who
went skirmishing about, and caught a sheikh, called Abu Zoolah.  Well,
he said that a while ago the Mudir of Dongola had offered a thousand
dollars for his head, and now it isn't worth the price of a pint.  Just
think what a chance to nearly get, and miss!  There's a lot of beer in a
thousand dollars."

"Sure, yes, that's hard lines," observed Grady.  "What fun it would be
to go out shooting, and get a thousand dollars for every man you
bagged."

"Aye, that would make a man hold straight, if anything would," said
Macintosh.  And there were a few spurts of talk like that, but mostly
they plodded on in silence.

It took close upon three days to reach Gakdul Wells, and during all that
time the camels were not watered, the supply at intermediate wells being
barely sufficient for the men.  But when they got to Gakdul there was
abundance of the life-restoring element for all, beasts and men, thanks
to the Royal Engineers and their pumps.  For the place was as wild and
romantic as you can imagine, the wells being hidden away in deep caverns
with precipitous sides, in the midst of frowning and rugged rocks.  The
sailors, with their contempt of heights, and entire freedom from
giddiness, swung themselves down into the most horrible abysses, if only
they had a rope made fast at top, without a moment's hesitation, fixing
pipes by which the precious fluid was pumped up and conveyed to the
troops.

It was a treat to see the camels drink when at last they got the chance;
they sucked the water up with a loud noise, and you could trace it
flowing down their necks in waves.  Four days is the longest period they
can go without a supply.  There are people in India and elsewhere who
believe that when they die their souls go into the bodies of animals,
and Kavanagh's acquaintance with his camel enabled him to understand
this odd notion, for when he looked in its eyes for some time he almost
expected it to speak.  It was an unsatisfactory beast in some respects,
for it would not be petted in any way, and it was impossible to make
friends with it.  Try to pet it, and it growled; persist, and it tried
to bite him.  I have known a dog of much the same disposition, but then
he made one or two exceptions, and showed as much exaggerated fondness
for them as made up for his general want of amiability.

But the camel was consistent, and steadily refused to form the slightest
attachment to anything human.  You remember the genii in the "Arabian
Nights Entertainments" who were forced to serve powerful magicians, but
who hated them and longed to tear them in pieces all the time, and did
so, too, if the omission of some necessary incantation gave them the
power.  Well, the camel seemed like one of these subjugated spirits, an
excellent servant, but a most unwilling one, and resenting the power to
which, forced by inevitable destiny, he yielded implicit obedience.
Evidently he was a fatalist, like the people he lived amongst.

When he was being loaded for the journey he moaned and howled as if he
were being beaten to death, and whenever a start was made, the outcry of
hundreds of the creatures remonstrating at once was something perfectly
unparalleled in the way of horrid and dismal noises.

"Sure," said Grady on the first occasion, "I have often heard spake of a
howling wilderness, but I never knew what it meant before at all.  But I
see now; it's the camel that does the howling."

But once started he seemed to make up his mind to the inevitable.  While
he was uncertain what Fate had in store for him he groaned and lamented,
but once he knew the worst he thought it was no use bothering, and
proceeded on his way in apparent content.

Indeed, that seemed to be his one aim and object, to be always going
straight on to some place a long way off and never arriving, like the
Wandering Jew.  As for his appearance, you have probably often seen a
camel in the Zoological Gardens or a wild beast show, and know his
weird, shapeless, uncanny look, with the beard on his upper lip, and the
hard natural pads on all parts of him which touch the ground when he
subsides for loading or unloading; his chest, knees, and so on.  An
experienced man has described his motion when he trots in this
way:--"Put a horse into a cart without springs, in the cart put a
rickety table; on the table place a music-stool screwed up as high as it
will go.  Now seat yourself on the music-stool and gallop over a
ploughed field, and you will have a very correct notion of the sensation
of riding a trotting camel."  But with practice the motion is much
easier, and with so many hours in the day in the saddle the troops had
plenty of practice.

The position at Gakdul was naturally strong, and with the aid of art was
made perfectly impregnable, forming a place to fall back upon in case of
need.  The camels, it has been explained, utterly declined all friendly
advances, but the affections of the company Kavanagh belonged to were
not on that account destined to grow utterly rusty for want of use,
since a dog had attached himself in every sense of the word to it.
Where the dog came from and to whom he belonged originally were matters
as mysterious as his breed, which seemed to partake of several
varieties, amongst which the native sheep dog was the most perceptible.

But his virtues were manifold.  He joined on that day of the march when
the towing commenced, and posted himself, as no one did it for him, and
he was enlisted under the name of _Hump_, not because of any personal
deformity, but after the distinguishing characteristic of the camel.
When the battalion took to riding, and, though still following the
course of the Nile, often lost sight of it for some hours, either
because the track was better or to cut off a corner, Hump carried his
own water-bottle, ingeniously constructed for him by a man named Thomas
Dobbs, out of an old preserved meat tin covered with a bit of felt, to
prevent its becoming too hot; and this was fastened round his neck.
When a halt was called, and he wanted a drink, he went up to one of the
men, who would take off the cover and pour a little out for him.  This
was all very well while the river was near, but when they were about to
strike across the desert, where water would be scarce, and he would
hardly be able to carry enough for his own wants, it was determined to
leave him behind, and he was made over to a man who promised to, take
charge of him, and who was to remain on the Nile.

But in the bivouac at Gakdul, Dobbs awoke with a start under the
impression that a snake was gliding over his face, and sitting up found
that it was Hump licking him, the empty water-bottle still round his
neck.

It now seemed hopeless to get rid of him, so they let him take his
chance; to live if he could manage to supply himself, and to be shot
should his sufferings from thirst prove too great.  Poor Hump!  The most
thoughtful feared that he had a poor chance of reaching a good old age.
And yet he developed a wonderful talent for finding water in unexpected
places, which was useful to himself and others.  Sometimes when men
would turn away in disappointment from a mud-hole which was indicated by
a native guide as a well, but which proved to be dry, Hump would sniff
out some place near, and scratch, and six inches or so below the surface
water would begin to ooze and trickle.

On January 16th, 1885, at noon, the column on the march was roused from
the lethargy induced by monotonous riding hour after hour under a warm
sun by distant firing.

"By Jabers!" cried Grady.  "There's an inimy somewheres after all.  I
began to think Mr Mahdi had packed up his things--it's a mighty small
portmanteau most of them require--and gone out of the country entirely,
with all his people."

"Make your mind quite easy, Grady," said Sergeant Barton, who was riding
near.  "The Arabs won't baulk you, if you want something to remind you
of Donnybrook."

"It isn't for myself, Mr Sergeant, sir, that I care.  I am a peaceable
man, and would sooner get what I want quietly.  It's my friend Tarrant
here who is spoiling for a fight, and to see him pining away before me
very eyes, just for want of a little divarshion with his rifle, makes me
feel quite low."

"Here come the scouts back!" cried Kavanagh, and sure enough the Hussars
were seen riding in.  For some time all was suspense and conjecture
amongst our friends; but after awhile the news circulated from the staff
to the regimental officers, from the officers to the sergeants, from the
sergeants to the men, that the enemy were in position at the Wells of
Abu Klea, twenty-three miles from Matammeh, the place on the Nile they
were working for.  Where was Abu Klea?  Straight to their front was a
ridge of fantastically-shaped rocks, and there the enemy was in
position.

A little nearer square was formed, and in that formation the force
advanced to the foot of the ridge, and was there halted.  Then, after
awhile, orders were issued to form a zereba for the night, and it was
soon made, the materials being plentiful and close at hand, and the
camels and stores were placed within it.

"Men for picket!" cried a sergeant, and Kavanagh, who had been warned
for the duty, stepped forward and fell in with the others, and presently
they were marched off and posted on one of the hills commanding the
zereba.

The officer in command took careful note of the position and posted his
sentries, taking care to be in communication with the pickets on his
right and left, and the zereba in his rear.  The sentries were double,
that is, there were two men on each post, and were changed every hour.

An hour's sentry-go may seem to you but a short spell, but if you had a
swarm of agile sharp-sighted savages prowling about you all the time,
and knew that your own life and those of others who depended on you
would be sacrificed if your vigilance flagged, perhaps you would find it
long enough.

It was ten o'clock when Kavanagh was roused to go on; Dobbs was his
companion, and Corporal Adams posted them.

"You are to challenge any one approximating this post," he said; "and if
they say `friend' or `rounds' you must stop them and make them give the
countersign.  If they can't you must run them in, and if they won't be
run in you must run them through with your bayonet; if they won't be run
through you must wait and see if there's many of them, and if there is
you must shoot.  But you mustn't alarm the camp without reason, mind
you."

And with these somewhat conflicting "must's" and "must not's" he left
them in the gloom.  The position was as uncomfortable a one as Kavanagh
had ever been in.  His imagination peopled the night around him with
supple forms ready to leap upon him from behind every time he turned in
walking his beat.  I won't say that either he or Thomas Dobbs was
frightened, for that would be a slur on a soldier, and one or the other
might have me up for it; but they did not half like it.  They had been
on about twenty minutes when Kavanagh thought he saw something move by a
rock a little in front of him, and the next time he met Dobbs, as they
both patrolled to the same spot and turned, he whispered his suspicions
to him, and he went with him a few paces back along his beat and gazed
in the direction, but could distinguish nothing.  Kavanagh did not know
whether to challenge or not, but thought it best to wait and watch;
perhaps he might have been mistaken.

Presently he heard Dobbs cry, "Who goes there?" in a decidedly startled
voice, and he brought his own rifle down to the charge.  But immediately
afterwards Dobbs said--

"What!  Is it you, Hump, old boy, come to do a bit of sentry-go?  By
jingo, you made me jump!"

And no wonder; in such a ticklish situation, to have something jump upon
you in the dark, when all your nerves are on the stretch, must be very
startling.

Five minutes passed, and there again by the rock Kavanagh was certain he
saw a figure move this time, and he, in his turn, called--

"Who goes there?" again bringing down his bayonet.

There was no reply, and he waited, uncertain what to do next, when Hump
suddenly dashed forward with a low, angry growl; and presently
exclamations were heard in an unknown tongue indeed, but which, from the
accent, did not appear to be blessings.

"Good dog, Hump; shake him, boy!" cried Dobbs; but the animal was
evidently doing his best in that direction without encouragement.

But the man, who could not have been a dozen yards off, shook himself
free somehow, and Hump retired growling, from which Kavanagh felt
convinced there were more than one or two Arabs near.  Presently he made
out three objects against the sky-line, and thought he ought to delay no
longer, so he fired at them.

Whether he hit anything he could not, of course, tell; but in reply to
his shot there were at least twenty flashes of fire in his front, and
the bullets came buzzing about the ears of Kavanagh and Dobbs like a
swarm of hornets, though neither was touched.

The picket turned out, and, as the Arabs were some of them quite close
to them, the sentries retired upon it.  The enemy kept on firing for
about five minutes, then ceased; and the sentries were advanced again,
but somewhat closer in than before, since, but for the dog, these two
would have been cut off.

They were relieved presently; but there were two other alarms in the
night, and the troops in the zereba did not get a very sound rest,
having thus to stand to their arms three times.

The morning at length dawned, and a sharp fire was maintained for some
time from the hills, the pickets being withdrawn into the zereba.  Then
the enemy advanced in two long lines, with banners flying, five thousand
of them, an imposing spectacle, and the English soldiers grasped their
weapons, thinking that the struggle had come at last.  But not yet was
it to be.  The enemy declined to push the attack home, but halted at a
distance, keeping up a galling fire.  So, as men began to drop, and the
day was slipping on, General Stewart determined at ten o'clock to take
the initiative.

The camels and other encumbrances were left in the zereba with a guard,
and the square advanced, working round the left of the enemy's position.
The Arabs retreated, and some of our young soldiers began to anticipate
an easy victory.  But the enemy showed that they too could manoeuvre;
suddenly wheeling to the left, they came down like an avalanche on the
rear of the square, bearing back the men composing it, and breaking in
at one of the corners.

Why detail the scene?  It was very much the same as that which occurred
the year before at Tamai, on the Red Sea side, to the Second Brigade,
and which was described while we were following the fortunes of Tom
Strachan.  The hand-to-hand fighting was desperate, the slaughter
terrible, and the enemy was finally beaten back.  No matter; a step was
taken, though deep in blood, towards the great object--the relief of
Khartoum, and the rescue of Gordon, and hope beat high in every breast.

Next day, January the nineteenth, General Stewart left his wounded at
the wells of Abu Klea, which had been won, and pushed forward for
Matammeh at three in the afternoon.  No resistance was met with, no sign
of the enemy perceived all night, and when the day dawned a thread of
silver shone in the south-east, and a hundred voices broke out
simultaneously in a chorus of--

"The Nile!"

Yes, there was the river, and as the light grew stronger the town of
Matammeh could be distinguished.  At the same time the tam-tams were
heard beating, and the enemy appeared swarming over the hills which
intervened between the British army and the river.

Another zereba was constructed, for the men were exhausted with fatigue
and want of food, and it was not thought wise to give battle until they
were refreshed, for it is ill fighting on an empty stomach.  So
breakfast was got ready, the troops of the Mahdi gathering round the
while, like the masses of a thunder-cloud.

Presently it burst forth, with rifle flashes for lightning, and a deadly
leaden hail.  Vainly the men piled up camel furniture, barrels, sacks,
sand-bags, for protection; the bullets came amongst them in a storm, and
they fell in all directions.  And then a rumour ran through all the
ranks which spread, not dismay, indeed, nor consternation, but a stern
tightening of the heart-strings and bracing of the muscles, with a
desire to shoot straight and strike home.  The general was hit!  Yes,
the noble Stewart was down!

Sir Charles Wilson now took command.  A redoubt was constructed by the
Royal Engineers on the right of the zereba, and manned by fifty-five
Life Guardsmen and Scots Greys under Lord Cochrane, and by this means
the enemy's fire was somewhat held in check.

At length the longed-for opportunity for vengeance came; the square left
the zereba and advanced upon the foe.  Straight it went for the sandy
ridge held by the enemy, who came charging down with their accustomed
reckless courage.

But this time they did not get up to the square.  The ground was too
open, the zone of fire too unimpeded, the shooting too steady.  Down
they went in hecatombs.  At one hundred yards their pace was checked,
those behind embarrassed by the heaps of dead and dying blocking their
path.  Still they struggled on to get to close quarters with the
English, but at thirty yards the withering volleys were too deadly even
for their supernatural bravery, and they broke and fled.  Steadily
advanced the English troops over the ridge of sand, firing carefully
while the fugitives were within range; then down to the Nile at Gubat,
near Matammeh, victorious indeed, but having paid a high price for
victory.

"If them Arabs takes to shooting straight, and won't come on any more,
it strikes me we shall be in a hole," said Thomas Dobbs to Grady.

"True for you, me boy," replied the Irishman.

"Or at any rate we shall not be able to go about in square for them to
get all round and blaze away into the brown of us."  And there were some
of higher rank who began to entertain the same misgivings.

To resist a rush, the square was excellent, but for a long-continued
fire without coming to close quarters it was impossible.  Many of the
more sanguine, however, hoped that the tremendous losses the Arabs had
sustained would dishearten them--that they would awake to the fact that
the Mahdi was by no means invincible, and had deceived them.

As for Gordon, had they not had a message from him?  "All right; could
hold out for years."

Their chivalrous dash across the desert, and the hard fighting against
enormous odds, the loss of valuable men, and the fall of their general,
were not fruitless then, since the object of the expedition would be
attained.

"Sure we will all get a bar with _Khartoum_ on it under a medal!" said
Grady.

"Medals!  Bars!  Yah!" cried Tarrant.

"I'd sooner have tuppence a day extra for beer."

"We've got naither the medal nor the bar nor Khartoum yet, d'ye ken?"
said Macintosh.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

BIR-HUMP.

"And when will we be after attacking Matammeh?" asked Grady, as he sat
over the bivouac fire.

"Precious soon, I should think; we can't get on to Khartoum till it's
taken," said Kavanagh.

"And for why not?" asked Grady again.

"Eh, man!" exclaimed Macintosh, "ye would na go past it and leave all
these thousands of heathens in our rear, would ye?  With an army at
Khartoum in front, and the army here in our rear, we should be between
two fires, don't ye see?  Never a mouthful of grub or a cartridge could
get to us, and we should be peppered on all sides at once."

"We might as well risk it and get it over," said Tarrant.

"We get nothing fit to eat as it is."

"I call that stupid, talking like that!" cried Dobbs.  "I know the
rations are a deal better than ever I expected; capital, I call them."

"So they are," said Macintosh; "but if Tarrant had sheep's-head, haggis,
and whusky itsel' for dinner, he would na be contented."

"Every man to his taste," growled Tarrant; "and if a chap likes tinned
meat he's welcome.  I prefer good beef and mutton, fresh-killed, with
plenty of potatoes and white bread."

"And a little tripe and onions, or a swatebread after it, with pudding
and lashings of sherry wine, I'll be bound," said Grady.

"Get along wid ye, it's Lord Mayor of London ye ought to be.  Why, man,
it's fighting and not ating ye've come out here for."

"Well, I got plenty of that between Abu Klea and this, anyway," replied
Tarrant.  "A bullet went through my water-bottle early on the
eighteenth, and I was without a drop for hours.  I believe I have worse
luck than anybody."

"Worse luck than anybody, you ungrateful beggar!" cried Smith.

"And how about Richardson, your rear rank man, who got the same bullet
which spoilt your bottle into his body, and died in pain that evening?
I suppose you would rather _his_ water-bottle had been hit and _your_
inwards!"

Tarrant busied himself in stuffing and lighting his pipe, and made no
reply.

"Well, for my part, I hope we shall have a cut in at Matammeh to-
morrow," said Kavanagh, "so as to get on up the river at once."

"Aye, I hope we may," echoed half a dozen voices in chorus.

"Gordon and the poor chaps with him must be pretty well sick of waiting
to be relieved, hemmed in all the time by those blood-thirsty savages."

"Eh, but it must have been bad last March, when our people won the
victory at Tamai, and they thought at Khartoum that they were coming
across to them," said Macintosh.

"And then to hear they had gone awa again, and left them without a bit
of help but themselves."

"Sure, won't they be glad when they hear our guns!" cried Grady.  "And
won't they come out and tackle the naygurs that have been bothering them
on the one side, while we pitch into them on the other!  We'll double
them up and destroy them entoirely."

"I doubt if we go at Matammeh before we get reinforcements," said
Macintosh.

"And what will we want with reinforcements?" asked Grady; "haven't we
bate the inimy into fiddle-strings already?"

"Yes, if they only knew it," said Kavanagh.

"But they seem to take a lot of persuading before they own themselves
beaten."

"They do, the poor ignorant creatures," said Grady, reflectively.  "And
we can't kill the lot of 'em, which is what they seem to want; they are
too many."

"If there _is_ a big fight in a day or two we shan't be in it," said
Corporal Adams, who had come up in time to hear the end of the
conversation.

"The orders are out, and our company has got to go ten miles off to-
morrow."

"Only our company, corporal?"

"That's all detailed in orders."

"And does it say what for?"

"It does not; rikkernottering most like.  But you will hear them read
presently."

That was done, and Corporal Adams was quite correct.  This particular
company was ordered to take a certain amount of ammunition both for
mouth and rifle, and march out in a certain specified direction.  If
they found water they were to make a zereba, or otherwise entrench
themselves and remain until further orders; if not, they were to return
at once.  There was a little disappointment amongst both officers and
men of the company.

"We will be out of all the fun entirely," said Grady.  "They will catch
the Mahdi, relieve Khartoum, rescue Gordon, and have all their names in
the newspapers--and we will have nothing to say to it at all, at all."

"Don't you believe it," said Kavanagh.  "The general would not send a
rifle away if he were going to attack.  He has heard something, or knows
something we can't guess at, and means waiting for more troops to come
up, you may depend.  And our expedition has something to do, I should
not wonder, with covering the flank of the reinforcements.  We shall be
called in, no fear, before the big battle is fought."

But even with those who thought differently the matter did not weigh
very heavily.  They had already fallen into the true campaigning frame
of mind which takes things as they come--good quarters and bad; fighting
and resting; outpost duty or guarding stores, even wounds and death--
very philosophically.

As the company was to start some time before daybreak, the men wisely
left off discussing matters, and went to sleep.  Then came their rising
while it was still night, and the raking together of the embers of the
bivouac fire, and breakfasting; then the saddling and lading of camels,
amid the dismal lamentations of those grievance-mongering animals; then
the start in darkness, and the mind adapting itself to the lethargic
monotony of the tramp.  Every one was chilly; every one was a trifle
sullen at not being in bed; no one was inclined to talk.

The silence was only broken by the _swish_, _swish_, _swish_ of the
camels' feet through the sand, the most ghostlike and uncanny of sounds;
so slight, so continuous, so wide-spread.  To meet a train of camels in
the dark would be enough to convert any unbeliever in supernatural
phenomena, I mean if he did not know anything about it.

When the sun rose every man seemed to wake up and feel new life in him,
and they began to talk, just as the dicky birds tune up for a song on
the like occasion.  Yet the scene was desolate and dreary enough for
Dante or Gustave Dore.

After some hours' march they passed this barren land and approached the
foot of a hill where the mimosa was plentiful again, and other shrubs
were seen, with herbage, scant indeed, but good for camels, who will
browse upon what would hardly tempt a donkey.  Here a halt was called,
and while the men dismounted and lay down, the three officers who were
with the company explored the spot.  There were two mud-holes which
supplied water, and had a couple of palms near them, pretty well in the
open, and a third spring a hundred yards from the others, larger and
deeper, and apparently yielding a better supply than both the others put
together, but so near a patch of rocks and thick mimosas which would
afford dangerous cover to an enemy, should any be in the neighbourhood,
that it would never do to camp close by it.

So when the colour-sergeant was called out presently, he learned that it
had been determined to form the zereba so as to include the two smaller
water holes and the palm-trees, and the ground was marked out
accordingly.  Then all set to work to cut down mimosa bushes, and make a
hedge of them all round, a gap, just admitting of one camel to pass at a
time, being left on the side nearest the outside well, but not at the
corner, and this gap was marked by a short hedge inside facing it.  It
was determined to use this outside well while they had the place to
themselves, and reserve those within the zereba in case of an attack.

The space enclosed was as limited as was consistent with convenience to
render it more capable of defence, and the hedge was breast high, so
that the men could fire over it without their aim being in any way
impeded.  Shrubs beyond those required to form the zereba were cut down
and stored for firewood, so as to remove all cover where Arabs might
conceal themselves as far as possible.

Most of this work was done before dinner, and the men had two hours'
rest.  After that tapes were brought out and the lines of a trench
marked off, six feet from the hedge all round, and when that was done
the men began to dig it out, five feet wide, one foot and a foot and a
half deep, throwing the soil out on the hedge side, flattening it down
and making it as firm as they could, so that if exposed to heavy fire
the men might find protection, since the prickly walls, though difficult
for men to struggle through, would not stop bullets.  And so a good
day's work ended, and the night sentries were posted between the trench
and the hedge.

There was no alarm that night.  The next morning the camels were taken
outside the zereba and watered at the large well, from which also a
supply was drawn for the company; and it sufficed for all, evidently a
valuable spring.  That day the trench was completed, deepened a little,
but not much, as it would not do for the defenders to be too low behind
the hedge, and a small watch-tower commenced in the centre of the
square.  Some quaint, distorted trees were found at a little distance,
and from one of these enough timber was got for the erection
contemplated.  There was a flat rock which formed a foundation for it,
and a rustic-looking affair, something like a summer-house, was raised
some twelve feet from the rock it stood on, which was already six feet
from the level plain.  From this elevation an extensive view could be
obtained.

On the third day a balcony was made round the top of the watch-tower,
the sides of which were composed of logs, which it was reckoned would be
bulletproof.  A few good marksmen might, without being exposed, do
considerable execution from this.  It also had a roof fixed over it, and
the look-out man had thus a protection from the sun.  The saddles, with
all cases and packages, were arranged to form an inner court of the
zereba, within which were the camels, and when they were lying down they
were very well protected.  Hump, who of course had followed his company,
took great interest in all these proceedings, and when the men were at
work he stood with his head on one side watching them critically, and
from the expression of his face, and the vibration of his tail, it was
gathered that on the whole he approved.  Captain Reece, who commanded
the company, did not, as a matter of fact, much expect an attack, but he
thought it only right to be prepared in case one were made, and being a
man of an ingenious turn of mind, who, when a boy at Harton, was known
as the "Dodger," he felt a special delight in constructing devices.  On
being ordered off on his present duty, he had gone to a friend in the
Royal Engineers and begged a good bit of gun-cotton, carried for
blasting purposes, and with this he proposed to make a mine, an electric
battery and a coil of wire forming part of his baggage.  There was a
group of boulders two hundred yards off, which was certain to be taken
advantage of by an enemy, since it formed a perfectly safe redoubt from
which to fire on the zereba, or to shelter a group forming the forlorn
hope of an attack.  This Reece fixed upon as the most favourable spot
for his mine, and here the gun-cotton was placed in the position he
deemed most adapted for a favourable explosion, and connected by a wire,
which there was no great delay or difficulty in concealing in the sandy
soil with the zereba, and so with the electric battery.

"It's a sight of trouble we have taken to resave the inimy, and it will
be mighty onpolite of him if he doesn't come at all," said Grady.

"I don't believe there's any Arabs about these parts," said Macintosh;
"they air all together at Matammeh, or else before Khartoum."

"You think yourself very clever, no doubt," said Corporal Adams,
indignantly.  "But do you suppose that the captain would have taken all
this trouble without good information?"

"Nay, but with all due respect to the captain, and the colonel, and the
general, and yersel', too, corporal," said Macintosh, "the reports they
have acted upon are native reports, and they may be good, and they may
be bad, they may be honest, and they _may_ want to get detachments sent
aboot to weaken the force at Gubat."

"Well, I think you are very presumpterous," said the corporal, "very
presumpterous indeed, to suppose your superior officers can be took in
by a lot of Johnnies that you can see through.  They may attack us or
they may not, seeing how ready we are for them; but they are
somewhere's, you may take a haveadavy."

As everybody is generally somewhere, it was difficult to contradict this
statement.  Besides it is imprudent for a private to contradict a
corporal, who has many ways of making himself disagreeable or the
reverse.  So the prudent Scot acquiesced.

"Well, I am a paceable boy meself, and hate fighting," said Grady.

"But still it seems a pity to make such iligant fortifications and not
to thry them.  Is there not sinse in that, now, Kavanagh?"

"I don't know about sense, but there's a lot of human nature in it,"
replied Kavanagh.  "I know I learned to box when I was a lad, and was
never happy until I had a turn up to try my skill without the gloves.
And a jolly good licking I got for my pains."

"To be sure!" cried Grady.  "And if ye get a new knife ye want to cut
something with it, or a new gun ye must be after shooting with it; and
so on with anything at all.  And now we have got the fortifications one
is a thrifle curious to know if the Johnnies could get into them."

I don't know whether many of the company wanted to be attacked, or,
indeed, if any did, but certainly there was a restlessness about them.
They listened all day for firing in the direction of Matammeh, some
lying down with their ears to the ground to hear the farther.  But all
was still as the desert only can be, and the great battle which was
expected had certainly not yet begun.  But expectation of a fight
excites men, and if at a distance they itch to be in it, this feeling
even actuating men who fail to show any particular heroism when the
pinch comes.

However, wishing or not wishing to be attacked could make no difference;
the Arabs were not likely to consult their feelings on the subject.
There was no alarm that night, and all but the men on duty slept soundly
by the bivouac fires.  In the course of the next morning the camels were
to be taken to the outside well to be watered, and a few impediments
which blocked the gap being removed they began to move out.  The leader
had gone twenty paces, and three others were following, when Grant, one
of the lieutenants who was in the gallery of the look-out with a field-
glass, shouted, "Halt!  Come back!"

The man with the leading camel looked round to see if the order applied
to him, and saw the lieutenant beckoning to him.  "Come back at once!"
he repeated.  The four camels went to the right-about not a bit too
soon; for a puff of smoke spurted up from a mimosa bush beyond, and the
vicious whiz of a bullet hinted to the leader of the camel nearest to it
that it would be better for him not to stop to wind up his watch or pare
his nails before he got under shelter.

Pop, pop, pop, pop!  A camel is a big mark, and it was clever to miss
the lot.  One indeed had a lock of hair chipped off him, as if the
marksman were an artist who wanted a painting brush; but that was the
nearest approach to a casualty.

The other bullets went high over everything, save one or two, which
struck the sand and sent little stones flying about in a dangerous
manner.  But they came in contact with nothing vulnerable, and the four
were back in the enclosure presently.

Macintosh, Cleary, and two other men, the crack shots of the company,
were ordered up into the balcony to try if they could show the attacking
party that they could make a better use of their weapons than they
could.  Captain Reece was now up there, and the bullets were whizzing
about and thudding into the logs in a nerve-shaking manner.

"Crouch down, men, till they are a bit tired of wasting their
cartridges," said the captain, standing erect himself, however; "you
could not get a fair shot yet for the smoke."

When they had done so, he sat on a block of wood himself, and was then
protected by the balcony.  The two lieutenants and the non-commissioned
officers were below cautioning the men, who were now in position all
round the zereba, against firing until ordered.

It was a picked corps, and they were perfectly in hand, so that not one
single shot was fired during this first storm.  And a storm it was; the
air seemed perfectly alive with the rush of bullets, all aimed high.
Whether it did not occur to the Arabs that the bushes of the enclosure
were not impervious, or the watch-tower offered a more tempting mark, or
the Remington rifle stocks did not suit their arms and shoulders, and
came up high I don't know, but certainly all the bullets which hit
anything struck the wooden erection and the rock it stood upon.
Splinters of wood and chips of stone were flying in all directions, but
nothing was wounded which minded it, not a man or a camel or Hump, who
thought the whole affair got up for his amusement, and barked with
delight at the noise.

The leaden shower raged for about five minutes, died down to a
sputtering, and ceased.  Every man grasped his weapon and peered over
the hedge, expecting a rush.  But the enemy seemed to want to know
whether they had annihilated everything with their fusillade, and kept
close in cover.  Slowly the smoke lifted, and rolled above their
positions.

"Now there is a chance for you, Macintosh," said the captain; "above
that bush, do you see?  About three hundred yards."

Macintosh took a steady aim and pulled.

The man he aimed at staggered, and came down in a sitting position,
seizing his right leg, which was broken, with both hands.

"An outer!" cried Captain Reece, who had his field-glass directed on the
spot.

"A miss," he said presently, as another man fired at an Arab darting
from a distant to a nearer bit of cover.

"Don't shoot at them running."

An Arab was taking careful note of the zereba from the rocks two hundred
yards off, his head and shoulders only being exposed.  Cleary rested his
rifle on the top of the balcony, pulled the stock firmly to his
shoulder, got a fine sight on his mark, and pressed the trigger.  A
flash!  A crack!

"A bull for you, Cleary!" exclaimed the captain.  "You have nailed him
through the head."

The enemy were now more cautious, and not more than half a dozen shots
were got in the next hour, but most of them told.  During that time the
Arabs indulged in no more continued storms of fire; only Captain Reece
drew occasional volleys, mostly from a considerable distance, as he
stood fully exposed, reconnoitring the position.

He did not do this recklessly or out of bravado, but simply because it
was of the utmost importance to gain some idea of their numbers, which
he put at about five or six hundred; not more in the immediate
neighbourhood.  It was an uncomfortable position, being cramped up
there, imprisoned in so small a space, but not a dangerous one.  The
enemy kept up a dropping fire, which had no effect beyond wasting their
cartridges, though after nightfall it was annoying in two ways; the
English had to bivouac in the cold, for they could not light fires, and
their sleep was disturbed by constant alerts.  In the morning there was
a lull, not a shot being fired for some hours.  The marksmen went up to
the balcony, but, seeing no chance of a shot, were withdrawn, and only
the look-out man left there.  There was some idea that the enemy might
have gone away, and no one would have been sorry; for the wells inside
the zereba were very inefficient, the water being soon exhausted, and a
tedious waiting entailed before the wells filled again.  Already the men
had to be put on an allowance, and in that country, where the throat is
always parched, any stint of water is the greatest possible privation.

But just as it was in contemplation to send out an exploring party,
numbers of them were sighted again amongst the more distant bushes, and
it did not go out.  Dinner time arrived, and the meal was served out.
Before the men had quite finished two sentries fired shots, and all
sprang to their arms, which were handy; for every man ate, drank, slept
with his rifle close to him, as it was impossible to tell at what moment
he might require it.

In half a minute every man was at the hedge with a cartridge in his
rifle, and that was not too soon, for the Arabs came at a fast run on
two sides simultaneously, and even lapped round and threatened a third.

"Steady, now!  Don't shoot till you have your man covered.  There's no
hurry.  The nearer they are the better!" cried the officers, and
sergeants and corporals seconded them well.  Yet the commands were not
necessary, so cool and steady were the men.  It was as if they had been
waiting so long for a chance, that they were afraid of wasting it now
they had got it.  Nothing could be more deliberate than the way they
aimed.

"Why did you not fire then, Macintosh?"  Sergeant Barton happened to
ask; "you had a fair chance," the Arab being about forty yards off, and
the Scotsman "drawing a bead" on him.

"I was trying to get two in a line," said the economist; and presently
he succeeded.  Being protected by the hedge naturally made the men
cooler, and able to afford to reserve their fire.

If any Arabs were shot so far off as a hundred yards it was as much as
it was, and then only because the marksman felt he was "on."  Indeed,
with far inferior defenders the position would have been impregnable;
held by such men as these, to attack it was suicide.  It is hardly an
exaggeration to say that every shot told; and if several hit one man, on
the other hand some single bolts struck two men, and that helped to
bring up the average.  For a good ten minutes the plucky fanatics
persevered, thirsting like tigers for the blood of their foes; and the
carnage was fearful.  They had no artillery to shake the defence with
before attacking, and the fire was uniform as well as deadly.

"Give it 'em hot, boys!"  "That's your sort!"  "Bravo, old Waterproof!"
this last cheer being for Macintosh, who shot a chief who was leading on
his tribesmen, brandishing a huge two-handed sword.

"Camels for ever!"  "Faugh-a-ballah!"  "Ha!  Ha!"  "Hurrah!  Hurrah!
Hurra-a-ah!" and the cheers were heard for miles across the barren
waste, disturbing the beasts and birds of prey on the sites of
neighbouring battle-fields from their unholy repast, as the Arabs drew
off to their cover in confusion, leaving the whole ground between it and
the zereba strewed with their dead and dying.  As they pressed back more
fell, the soldiers firing at longer distances now the prospect of many
more immediate chances was small.  The champion marksmen ran for the
balcony again, and the last victims dropped to their rifles.  And soon
was apparent the astonishing vitality of the Arab race.  The wounded,
who were not mortally stricken, were seen crawling and dragging
themselves to cover in all directions.  Had they but got the order, how
delighted would the soldiers have been to quit the zereba, and dash upon
the disordered foe; and that Captain Reece burned to give that order you
may be perfectly certain.  But that would have been contrary to the
tenor of his instructions; and, besides, might, after all, have turned
victory into disaster, for the Arabs probably had received
reinforcements before the attack, and the little band of Englishmen
might find themselves smothered with numbers in the bush.

There was no more sign of the enemy that day; they lay close in cover,
watching.  During the night they stole out and removed many of their
dead, which those in the zereba were glad of, for the numbers threatened
presently to poison the air.  The next day water began to grow very
scarce indeed, and two men with a corporal were permitted to leave the
zereba and approach the well, to try if they could get a supply without
molestation, so quiet and hidden were the enemy.  But they had hardly
got half-way before a storm of fire was poured upon them, and they had
to run back as hard as they could go, one dropping--the first casualty.
The corporal and the other man, who was no other than Grady, stopped,
picked him up, and carried him in, the bullets cutting the ground up in
puffs of dust all around.  But they were not hit, and got their comrade
inside amidst cheers from all who were watching them.

Poor Hump seemed likely to come off badly, for however great a pet you
may make of an animal, when it comes to a question whether you or he are
to go thirsty, the animal is apt to come off second best.  And the
camels, who reverse the recipe of "little and often," and require "much
and seldom," must fill the reservoirs, as they call their stomachs, at
certain intervals, or die.  And if they died the company would probably
die too.  Poor Hump!  Every consideration was against his getting a
drink.  He whined, and looked very plaintive, with his tongue hanging
out.  He scratched and scratched, but the water was exhausted, and only
trickled into the legitimate holes by driblets.  Everybody was very
sorry for him, but still more sorry for himself.

So Hump took the matter into his own hands--I was going to say, but he
had not got any.  I mean that he fell back on his own resources, and he
simply ran across to the outside well, drank his fill, and ran back
again.  It never occurred to the Arabs to take the trouble to shoot at a
dog, so he was quite unmolested.  After he had made two journeys a
bright idea came into the head of Thomas Dobbs.  The next time Hump
prepared to start on a watering expedition, he took off the lid of his
water-bottle, which was suspended round his neck, so when the dog
plunged his nose to lap, the tin went into the water and got filled; and
though some of it got spilled as he trotted back, enough remained to wet
the ingenious Dobbs's whistle.  And he improved upon this; he cut a
round piece of wood, filling the can so loosely as to lie at the bottom
when it was empty, and floating to the surface when full, but prevented
from tumbling out by the edges of the top of the tin being bent in a
bit.  This prevented most of the spilling, and every excursion Hump made
he brought back the best part of a pint.  And a pint of water, look you,
was worth a good deal more than a pint of champagne in England.

Two more days passed; the Arabs burst out now and then into a spurt of
volley firing, but would not attempt another attack.  They probably knew
the nature of the wells, and trusted to thirst to fight for them.

The little party in the zereba kept a sharp look-out for rescue, you may
depend, for their position was growing more and more critical every
hour.  To the south was the spring, with a few trees, and the thick
mimosa bush beyond.  On the east were more mimosas and rocky ground in
which the enemy could find cover to within five hundred yards at the
furthest part; up to two hundred at one point.  But on the northern and
western sides the country was quite open, and the view was only bounded
by sand-hills a good mile off.  And it was from one of these directions
that they expected help would come.

So when dust was noticed, amidst which an occasional glitter flashed, on
the western horizon, eyes began to sparkle and hearts to beat high, as
those of shipwrecked men in an open boat when a sail comes in sight.  No
doubt it was a party sent to relieve them--cavalry, by the pace they
came, for the cloud of dust rolled rapidly nearer.  In five minutes it
was within a thousand yards, and then out of it burst a single horseman,
riding straight for the zereba, and the enemy, running from their cover
on the southern side, strove to intercept him with their fire as he
passed, while presently some twenty Arab horsemen became visible, racing
after the fugitive, the foremost about twenty yards from his heels.
_Bang_! _bang_! _bang_!  From the Arabs, who had run out, and were
somewhat too far for the zereba fire.  But the hunted man came on
untouched.

It is not easy, even for good shots, to hit flying with ball, and the
Arabs were not good shots, but the exact reverse.  Nearer now, with his
horse well in hand, not seeking to increase his distance, glancing back
to judge how far off his pursuers were.  The footmen of the enemy,
provoked at not being able to stop him, ran out in his course too close
to the English, and two of them were presently down on the sand.  Others
not heeding sought to cut him off, and the English could not fire
without risk to him also, as they were straight in his direction.

Whipping out his sword, which had hitherto been sheathed, he flourished
it in salutation of his friends, and rode straight at a couple of Arabs
in his path, loosening his rein, and digging with his spurs as he did
so.  He knocked one down with his horse's shoulder, and put aside the
spear of the other, as he passed, and without waiting to cut at him,
went straight at the zereba hedge.  The horse, though covered with foam,
had a good bit left in him yet, and rose at it nobly, without an attempt
to refuse, and landed safely on the inside.  His pursuers came within
ten yards.  There was a spurt of fire, and four saddles were empty.

The Arab horsemen wheeled round, and the broadsides of the horses
presented too fair a mark.  Half a dozen of the poor animals were
brought down by the bullets, and before they could get away the riders
too were slain.  Neither did those who in the excitement of the moment
had run out from their cover entirely escape; several deliberate shots
were aimed at them, and several fresh corpses dotted the plain.

"The curse of Cromwell on them!" cried Grady; "the more you shoot the
more there are!"

And it really looked like it.  It was a similar phenomenon to that of
the wasps in August, when, if you kill one, three come to his funeral.
The man who had occasioned this commotion was carried by his horse
safely over the zereba hedge, as has been said.  Directly he landed he
found himself on the edge of the trench, and this, too, the animal
cleverly got over.

The rider at once dismounted, and saw Captain Reece before him.

"Rather an unceremonious way of coming into a gentleman's parlour," he
said; "but I don't think I have done any damage."

"Not a bit; and no matter if you had," said Reece.  "We cannot show you
much hospitality, I fear, for we are short of everything."

"By Jove!" exclaimed the new-comer, "I beg your pardon if I am wrong,
but is not your name Reece?"

"Yes."

"You do not remember me?"

"Well, I am sure you will pardon me; I cannot call to mind exactly where
I have had the pleasure of meeting you.  Was it at the Rag?  No, no;
surely at Simla, was it not?"

"Not exactly," said the new arrival.

"Don't you remember a little idiot who was your fag at Harton, and used
to boil your eggs hard and burn your toast, for which you very properly
corrected him?"

"What, Strachan!" cried Captain Reece.  "Impossible!  You can't be Tom
Strachan!"

"As sure as you are Dodger Reece.  I should not have dared to call you
that to your face then, though."

"Well, but, you know, I should never have recognised you."

"I daresay not; I was twelve years old when you left Harton, and I have
altered a bit since, no doubt.  You were seventeen, and have not changed
so much."

"I am very glad to see you, anyhow," said Reece, "and we will have a
good chat presently.  Just now I must not lose my opportunity; the rocks
seem pretty crowded.  The beggars are blazing away from every crevice
about them."

Strachan wisely asked no questions, but watched and followed.  The Arabs
had evidently gathered in considerable numbers about the pile of
boulders among which the gun-cotton mine was buried.  Reece had
forbidden any one to molest them from the balcony, not wishing to drive
them away.  He now went to his battery, attached the wires, brought two
ends together, and the ground shook.  There was a roar and a rattle;
blocks of stone, arms, heads, legs went flying into the air, and a whole
posse of Arabs were seen scuttling away into the mimosa bushes.

"What is bred in the bone," said Strachan to himself.

"He is a Dodger still!"

The men got some more shots at their enemies in the confusion caused by
the explosion.  It was a useful measure, this, however; for six men with
water-cans, and six with rifles, who were waiting close to the gap,
rushed out to the well the moment they heard the explosion, and in the
confusion into which the enemy were thrown by an event which seemed to
them supernatural, in the dust and in the smoke they accomplished their
task of filling the cans and retiring without being observed, much less
attacked.

It was not until they were safely back in the zereba that the Arabs
began firing harmless volleys, in evident anger at having been out-
manoeuvred.  The water gained was not so much in quantity, but was a
great boon nevertheless, for it had been absolutely necessary to water
the camels, and that had absorbed every drop of their own springs for
the last twelve hours, and was very insufficient for the poor animals
then.  Strachan loosened his horse's girths and rubbed him down with a
palm-leaf or two, doing what he could for him after his gallant efforts.
It was pitiful to hear him whinny as he smelt the water in the
distance, and not to be able to get him any.  But perhaps a little could
be spared from what trickled out by-and-by.

Presently Captain Reece came back to his visitor.

"Well, now I have time to ask, how on earth did you come to choose this
desert for a steeple-chase course, and our little zereba for a goal?" he
asked.

"I am acting on the staff," said Strachan; "only galloping, you know.
And I was sent out to find you if I could, and tell you to make for
Shebacat, and, if you could, to get on to Abu Klea at once.  If I found
any of the enemy out in this direction, and could not get on, I was to
return at once, and a force was to be sent to relieve you; but it was
important to avoid this if possible, I was given to understand.
However, I had no chance of returning, for the first glimpse I got of
the enemy consisted of a small body of mounted Arabs, who cut off my
retreat, and chased me all the way here."

"We are not to make back to Gubat, then?" asked Reece in surprise.

"No," said Strachan.

"Matammeh has not been carried?"

"Not yet; I suppose it may be soon; everybody seems to expect it.  But I
don't see the use now."

"Why not?"

"Well," said Strachan, "one hates to be the bearer of bad news, but it
must come.  The expedition has been too late: Khartoum has fallen."

The two other officers had come up and heard this, and their faces
showed the blank dismay which had fallen upon their hearts, as the words
fell upon their ears.

Khartoum fallen!  Why, then, what were they fighting for?  What was to
happen next?  All seemed chaos.

"And Gordon?" was the first question which rose to all lips.

"There is no certain news, yet," said Strachan; "but the rumours of his
death are only too probable.  He was not the sort of man to be taken
alive, I think, was he?"

"No, no!"

"But when did you hear this?" asked Reece.

"Only last night," replied Strachan.  "Gordon's four steamers arrived
while you were at Abu Kru, the camp at Gubat, I think?"

"Yes, and two of them, the _Bordein_ and _Telh-howeiya_, had started
with Sir Charles Wilson up the river.  That was on the 24th of January."

"Exactly.  Well, it seems when they got to Khartoum they found it in the
hands of the Mahdi, and it was with the greatest difficulty they got
away, having to run the gauntlet of several batteries and a tremendous
fusillade.  Both steamers were wrecked coming down, and Sir Charles
Wilson, with the crews and the Royal Sussex men who went with him, is on
an island watched by the enemy, who have got guns posted, waiting to be
brought off.  Stuart Wortley came down in a small boat with the news
last night."

"I could go straight to Shebacat; but for Abu Klea I am not so certain,"
said Reece.

"I can guide you as straight as a die," replied Strachan.

"Indeed, from Shebacat you cannot miss the track."

Captain Reece then said he had some immediate business to look to, and
retired to the watch-tower, partly to have another look round, but
principally to get away alone for a bit to think.  It was clear to him
that he must get away as soon as possible, but yet leaving would cause
him to incur responsibility, which he hated.  He was a brave man enough
where personal danger was concerned, but to have to decide upon a matter
where grave interests were at stake threw him into a cold sweat.  Let a
superior officer be in command, and he was as jolly as possible under
any circumstances; supposing he got killed, and all got killed, it had
nothing to do with him--that was the commanding officer's look-out; and
he obeyed him cheerfully, reserving the right to criticise him freely
afterwards, supposing he were alive to do so.

But here he himself had to take a decided step; he was commanding
officer, and Strachan had brought him no definite orders.  Suppose they
were intercepted, and cut to pieces.  The blame would fall on him.  Why
did he quit the zereba?  Suppose he delayed, and a force had to be sent
to his rescue, and it were proved afterwards that he could have saved
the small main body all that risk and trouble, and very likely loss, if
he had shown a little more enterprise.  Or suppose that the enemy, now a
small body, assembled in force, cut off his retreat, now open, prevented
all rescue, and cut them to pieces.  In any case he would be blamed.  He
dreaded the second alternative most, because then he would be alive and
ashamed.  Still it made his ears burn to think what would be said of
him, even after he could not hear or know, if he failed.

The more he thought about it, however, the more he saw that the first
risk was the best to incur, and he finally determined to march that
night and stand the racket.  He examined the enemy's position once more
carefully through his field-glass, and could only make out a few camels
and a couple of horses.  Indeed, they could not have watered any large
number, especially as they had to do so entirely by night, the well
being under the fire of the zereba all the daytime.  And from men on
foot they had nothing to fear, let them get the shortest of starts.
There was the cavalry which had hunted Strachan, but they were but a
handful.  And the route to Shebacat was open desert, so far as the eye
could reach from the balcony, with but few mimosas or black rocks.

When he had quite settled his plans he felt easier, and returned to the
others.  The two juniors had shown Strachan what little hospitality was
in their power, including an iron tea-cupful of muddy water for himself
and a pint for his horse, who asked for more, poor fellow!  With all the
earnestness of Oliver Twist in the workhouse.

"Are you Strachan of the Blankshire?" asked Grant.

"Yes," said Strachan.

"Were you not wounded at Tamai last spring?"

"Yes, I was; but I soon got all right."

"Is not Edwards in your battalion?"

"Yes, he is; do you know him?"

"Very well; we were at Sandhurst together."

And this discovery of a common friend made these two feel like comrades
at once.

"Well, Strachan," said Reece, coming up, "are you ready to pilot us to-
night?"

"Perfectly ready, sir," replied Strachan.

"Well, then, we will be off directly after sun-down.  Since Khartoum has
fallen, the troops before it will be set free, and the country perhaps
will be flooded with them.  This may be our best chance."

"Certainly."

The three officers of camelry had to prepare their men for the start,
and see that they got the saddles and other packages, which had been
piled together to make an inner defence, separated and placed in proper
position for instant adjustment.

Tom Strachan, left alone, wandered off to the watch-tower, to have a
look at it and mount to the balcony.  On his way across he met a
soldier, who advanced his rifle and brought his right-hand smartly
across in salute, whom he recognised.

"Kavanagh!" he cried.

"Yes, sir, here I am," replied Kavanagh.  "No, please don't shake hands
now or here," he added, hurriedly.  "I do not want to be recognised at
all.  My captain has not remembered being with me at Harton, I am glad
to say."

"I have your sword still," said Strachan.

"Yes, and did good work with it at Tamai," replied Kavanagh.

"I am glad of that."

"It is a good one, indeed," said Strachan; "but I don't know that I have
done anything wonderful with it!"

"Oh, yes, I read about it in the papers.  You were mentioned in
despatches."

"They were very kind, because I was wounded.  Have you heard anything of
the missing will, or Harry Forsyth?"

"Not a word; but I hope for better times still," he replied.

"So do I, Reginald, with all my heart.  You have found life as a private
soldier a severe trial, I fear."

"Not out here, campaigning," replied Kavanagh.  "At home it was
certainly trying at first.  But the sergeant is waiting for me."

And he saluted again and passed on, leaving his old chum very serious
and meditative, which was not by any means his accustomed state of mind.

Presently Hump came up to make friends, and, when Strachan met Grant
again he learned the story of the dog and his excursions to the well,
and how Thomas Dobbs had made him fetch water.

"You were saying you did not know the name of this place," cried
Strachan, laughing; "you should call it after him.  _Bir_ is the Arabic
I believe for a well; you should name it _Bir-Hump_."

The suggestion was repeated, adopted, and spread, and the entire company
always alluded to the place as _Bir-Hump_ from that hour forward.

The day waned; the camels were saddled and loaded as quietly as might
be, Strachan tightened the girths of his horse, and when the sun had set
and the after-glow faded into darkness, all mounted, and the camels, led
by Strachan, defiled out of the zereba like a string of ghosts.

Every man had his rifle in his hand, ready to sell his life as dearly as
he could; but the Arabs did not issue from their cover, and they sped on
at a sharp trot unmolested, Strachan keeping a correct course by a
compass he had, with an ingenious phosphorescent contrivance, by which
he could distinguish the north point.  When an hour had elapsed they all
began to breathe more freely, for it is uncanny work expecting to be
attacked every minute in the dark.  But still strict silence was
maintained.

During the long night tramp, with no jingling of accoutrements, beat of
hoofs, light laugh, or homely talk to break the stillness, nothing but
the light _brushing_ sound, more like the whisper of sound than sound
itself, caused by the movement of the camels' feet over the sand, the
minds of the most thoughtless could not avoid reflection, and probably
there was not one of all that company who did not think of Gordon.  And
of him there was not a little to think.  The long waiting, month after
month; never disheartened or beaten; trying every device, every
stratagem, to keep the foes which environed him at bay; maintaining well
even _his_ reputation; anxious not for himself but for others, ready to
sacrifice self indeed at any moment, cheerfully, for the sake of those
whom he had undertaken to rescue; struggling on against fanatic courage
without, and weakness, frailty, half-heartedness within; seeing the
hearts of those in whom he was forced to trust grow fainter and fainter
by degrees, in spite of his constant struggles against the effects of
hope deferred upon them.

And then, when the reward was just within his reach--not personal
honours, for which he cared so little, but what to him was the dearest
object, the rescue of those whom he had undertaken to save if possible--
to lose all by treachery, the treason of those he had trusted and
forgiven.

"Trust makes troth," says the proverb, and Gordon had proved the truth
of it again and again.

But it failed him; the endurance of some who had long wavered was now
quite worn-out, and so he was killed, and all his heroic work nullified,
all those who had depended on his efforts for safety being destroyed
with him.  It was a perfectly maddening thought that the ship should
founder thus in the entrance of the harbour; that after so many tedious
marches, thirst-sufferings, struggles against the forces of nature,
desperate battles, and wide-spread misery and wretchedness, they should
be just a couple of days too late.

So little would have done it.  A week's earlier start, a little more
energy in some clerk, tailor, bootmaker, shipwright--who knows?

The mind seems forced in such a case to try and fix blame upon somebody.
There was no redeeming feature for the most persevering maker of the
best of things to turn to Experience gained?  There was no use in it,
for Gordons do not crop up every century.

His example?  The lesson of it was spoiled, since his devotion resulted
in failure, and he died in the bitterness of feeling that his efforts
had not been appreciated, and that he had been but lukewarmly supported.

We do not mean to imply that this was so.  History must judge of that.
We know only partial facts, and our judgment must also necessarily be
affected by our feelings.  But it is to be feared that it seemed so to
him.

The moon rose, and gloomy thoughts were lightened.  There was no enemy
in sight, and talk began to circulate amongst the men.  Captain Reece,
for his part, was inclined to forget everything else in his delight at
having given the enemy the slip.  To have carried out his orders, and
sustained such an attack with the loss of but one man wounded, and he
doing well, was a legitimate source of satisfaction.  It is true that he
was not out of the wood yet; the Arabs who had chased Strachan might
belong to a large body that had seized Shebacat.

This proved not to be the case, however, and a halt was called at the
wells there.  First the men were supplied, and Strachan's horse had a
good satisfactory drink, and then the camels got an instalment of water.
Then they mounted again, and pushed on to Abu Klea, where they arrived
at sunrise, and Reece reported himself to the officer in command with a
feeling of intense relief.  He had got well out of it, at any rate, and
Tom Strachan also had accomplished his mission satisfactorily; and next
day he returned to head-quarters, not, however, without having seized
the opportunity of a short unnoticed interview with his old chum
Kavanagh before he started.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

THE CONVOY.

Kavanagh and his friends had no long rest at Abu Klea; they were soon
off again across the Desert, making for the Nile.  It was not a cheerful
duty they were performing, for they were convoying a body of sick and
wounded to Korti, and that was rather too close a connection with the
wrong side of the theatre of war.  I expect that hospital nurses take
quite a different view of a campaign from that entertained by high-
spirited subalterns.  And this present business was worse than the
scenes in a hospital.  Do what you will to lighten his sufferings, the
transport of a wounded man must always be a painful operation.

These were being conveyed on camels.  You have seen the seats in which
little children often ride on ponies, one on each side, with a board for
the feet to rest on.  There were similar affairs on camels' backs, with
two wounded men sitting back to back.  Others, whose hurts were more
serious, or of a nature which prevented their sitting up, were slung in
a species of litter.

But, in despite of depressing influences, the escort were lightening the
journey with chat and jest, when they were called to seriousness by the
word--

"Attention!"

Silence fell upon the escort, and every man was in his proper place in a
second.  Arabs had been seen in the mimosa bushes to the right of the
convoy, and it was impossible to keep quite clear of them, though, of
course, the object of such a party is to avoid collision with the enemy
as much as possible.

Half a dozen puffs of smoke spurted out of the cover, and as many
bullets came singing overhead.  The convoy did not halt, but moved
steadily on, some of the escort dismounting, while the others led their
camels.  When the men on foot got a chance they halted and fired, and
then doubled on again, and as they shot a very great deal better than
their enemies, they made them chary of exposing themselves, and so held
their fire in check.  As the convoy came abreast of the position,
however, the volleys broke out afresh, and the skirmishers spread, some
in front, others in rear of it, to draw the fire on themselves, and away
from the sick and wounded men.  But not with entire success, for it
seemed to be the object of the ambushed Arabs to annoy these with their
fire rather than to fight the escort.  There was a poor fellow named
Binks, whose right-hand had been shattered and amputated, riding
sideways on a camel, balanced by another invalid whose head had come in
contact with a fragment of a shell, and was bandaged up.  Binks had been
despondent about himself from the first, not caring very much whether he
lived or died, now that he was so mutilated, for how was he to get his
living without a right-hand?  He asked.  It was in vain that Kavanagh
assured him that he could do very well in the Corps of Commissionaires;
he had not been very steady in the early part of his soldiering career,
and his name had several entries against it in the Regimental
Defaulters' Book, which he was convinced would tell fatally against his
chances.

Suddenly he flung up his left arm, the right being in a sling, and gave
a deep gasp, collapsing in his seat, and falling up against his
companion.  All his doubts and difficulties about the future were
solved, poor fellow!  For he was shot through the heart.  Presently a
camel was wounded, and sank down, groaning pitifully, if pity could have
been spared for it, but most of that was absorbed by the soldier,
suffering grievously from dysentery, whom he carried, and who was now
thrown violently to the ground.  A halt was necessary while he was
otherwise accommodated, and the covering party pushed close up to the
shrubby ground, taking advantage of the mimosas in their turn, and
inflicting some loss on the enemy, who seemed now to have quite altered
their former tactics, and to prefer distant to close quarters.  When the
convoy moved on again they closed upon it once more, ready to run up to
it at the first signs of a rush upon it.  The Soudanese, however, made
none; on the contrary, they seemed to find the marksmanship of the
escort too accurate for their taste, for they drew off to a distance
where the bush was thicker, but so far that the fire they maintained was
a mere waste of ammunition.

"Where's Grady?" cried a man.  "Why don't he come and take his camel?"

"Grady!" called the corporal.

"Grady!" called the sergeant; but even _his_ superior authority evoked
no answer.

The officer in command again halted the convoy.

"He may be only wounded; we must not leave him," he said.

"Who saw him last?"

"I can find the place exactly, sir," said Kavanagh, "because of a bit of
rock among the scrub which marked the place, and he was making towards
it."

"Is it far?"

"No, not five hundred yards; it was just before we ran in."

"Then double out and look for him.  Go with him, another of you, and
Corporal Adams."

But just as this start was being made Grady appeared, shoving before him
a man dressed in bernouse and cap, bearing the Mahdi's colours of blue
and white, whom he grasped by the scruff of the neck, and, when he
showed unwillingness to advance, expedited his movements with a bump
from his knee.  What had happened was this.  While skirmishing he had
caught sight of a pair of human heels protruding from a bush which grew
on the side of a rock, and he came to the conclusion that there probably
were legs attached to those heels, and a body in continuation.  So he
made a detour, and crept up very softly from behind till he was within
reach of those heels, which he promptly seized--or rather the ankles
above them--and drew out a wriggling Arab with a rifle in his hand,
which he could not get a chance of using against the person who was
drawing him.

Flattering himself that he was entirely concealed, he thought he had got
a beautiful place for a pot-shot when the skirmishers had passed, and
the convoy came abreast of him.  And so indeed he had, and with the
barrel of his Remington in the natural rest formed by a fork in the
boughs of a tree, he had a first-rate chance of bagging something.  But
he reckoned without his extremities; had he been a foot shorter, or the
scrub a foot deeper, he would have remained unnoticed.

"Come out, you spalpeen, and drop that gun, will ye?" cried Grady, and
both directions were obeyed, involuntarily enough; for, as he spoke, the
butt of the rifle was brought with such a jerk against the stem of a
mimosa, that the owner lost his grip of it, and the same jerk landed him
clear of the bush.

"Be quiet, my jewel, till I pick up your shooting-iron," said Grady, who
wanted to take back the rifle as a prize and a trophy, but feared that
his nimble captive would escape him while he reached for it.

So he knelt on the Arab's back, he lying on his face, and taking a piece
of twine out of his pocket, he tied his elbows together.  Then he
reached out and got the rifle, and slung it over his shoulder.

"And will ye plaze to get up?" he said.  "You must excuse me if I am a
thrifle rough, but it's owing to the resistance ye make;" and as Grady,
a very powerful man, was the stronger, his captive found himself on his
feet and emerging into the open, without any volition of his own.

"Sure, and it's in mighty good luck ye should estame yourself, to fall
into the hands of a tender-hearted boy like meself, who lets the dirty
life stop in your haythen carcase.  By all the laws of your warfare, I
am bound to put my bayonet into your stomach instead of making ye a
prisoner, just as if ye were a respectable sodger, who gave and took
quarter like a Christian.  Get along wid ye!  Ye are as bad to drive as
a pig, and not a hundredth part the value of him, nor such good company
either.  Get on, I say, or they'll be thinking you've took me, and not
that I've took you.  Ye've got to go before the captain, and tell him
what he chooses to ask you, so where's the use of struggling, making us
both so uncomfortable this warm day?  It's proud ye should be to have
spache with a real gentleman and a British officer, ye poor haythen
vagabond!"

It may be observed that the last sentence was uttered in the possible,
though not the certain and obvious hearing of the officer alluded to.

"Why, Grady, what have you been up to?" was the question which greeted
him.

"Sure and I've made an important capture; look at the clothes of him!
How do you know that it is not the Mahdi himself?"

Here the officer commanding the detachment rode up.

"Well done, Grady," he said; "we were wanting a prisoner, and may get
some valuable information out of this one.  A very neat thing indeed; I
shall remember it."

Grady saluted, and went to his camel.

The prisoner had his arms freed, and was given another camel, as he
seemed quiet and philosophical, and had a couple of friendly natives for
companions to pump him.  And the convoy went on its slow and painful
journey.

Assured by the other Arabs that no harm would be done him, the captured
man became cheerful and communicative.  Of course there are different
sorts of Arabs, as there are of English or Frenchmen, and this one was a
philosopher who saw no particular merit in struggling against the
inevitable, and was inclined to make himself as comfortable as
circumstances permitted.  Indeed, he and his captor would have found
much in common if they had passed a social evening together, and been
able to hold converse; though for that it would have been necessary
either for Grady to learn Arabic, or for the native to learn English,
and neither might have thought it worth the trouble.

He belonged to a tribe which had not been very keen about espousing the
Mahdi's cause.  They were old-fashioned in their ideas, and did not like
newfangled notions.  Besides, this might be an impostor.  Mahomet was
good enough for them, and they wanted no other prophet.  Then they had
profitable business relations with the Egyptians, and had no desire to
break off communication with them.  And they also saw that something was
to be made out of the English, especially if they established themselves
at Khartoum and opened up a trade with the black tribes towards the
Equator.  So they were inclined to join us, and throw in their lot with
ours.  But one day a proclamation was issued which filled them with
dismay.  The English, to reconcile the inhabitants of the Soudan to
their presence, announced that they only desired to rescue General
Gordon and his garrison at Khartoum, and then they would retire from the
Soudan.

But that meant that this particular tribe, and any others who supported
the English, would presently be left alone to stand the brunt of the
Mahdi's power; and the Mahdi's motto was not "Rescue and retire," but
"Annihilate and stop!"  If they had been strong enough to stand alone it
would have been different, but without the English alliance they were
powerless to resist the False Prophet.

Therefore the only course for them seemed to be to join him, and so
escape the vengeance which would otherwise overtake them.  And since
they had hesitated and therefore incurred suspicion, it was advisable,
they thought, to show the greater zeal, and they in many instances
adopted the Mahdi's uniform, as the present prisoner had done.  But they
did not thoroughly believe in him; they were not at any rate fanatical
in his cause, and were not likely to impale themselves on bayonets to
encourage the others, as his more earnest adherents thought it a
privilege to do.  At the same time they were Mohammedans, and to kill an
unbeliever must be always a meritorious action in their eyes.  So it was
a pleasure to them to pepper the Christians a bit, when occasion
offered, not to mention that any sort of a fight was attractive to such
a warlike race.  But still there was no venom in their hostility; we
were enemies, of course, but enemies who might any day become friends;
and Grady's prisoner did not think it necessarily behoved him to sulk,
refuse food, commit suicide, or, which was much the same thing, attempt
to escape.  So he was soon chatting freely with the natives, of whom
there were a good many, for the camels conveying the invalids were led
and tended by them.  It stands to reason that all he said about his own
tribe and others, and the number of the Mahdi's followers, and the
distribution of his forces, could not be accepted as implicitly correct.
For, in the first place, he most likely had no accurate knowledge on
many of these and similar points; and in the next place, if he had, he
might more than possibly wish to mislead, rather than afford useful
information.

But after a certain amount of practice an officer with a head on his
shoulders learns how to sift the reports gathered from spies, deserters,
prisoners, and peasants, and to get a few grains of valuable fact out of
bushels of chaff.  So the chief interpreter went to work, and translated
much useless and some practical talk.

The most interesting account he had to give could not be called useful,
however, because it referred to past events, and these were already
fully reported; but the present party had not heard them.  It was
concerning the death of Colonel Stewart, the only English companion
Gordon had for so long, and of which the man professed to have been a
witness in the October of 1884.  The following was the Arab's account,
transcribed from the note-book of Sergeant Barton, who could take things
down in shorthand, when men spoke slowly and deliberately, or with the
delay, as in the present instance, of an interpreter:--

"When Gordon Pasha knew that there was no hope, and that Khartoum must
fall, because, though he could hold his own against the enemy without,
treason in the heart of the place was a thing against which he was
powerless, and he knew, though no one else may have done so, that he was
betrayed, he sent off Colonel Stewart in a steamer for a pretended
purpose which imposed upon him, his real object being to save his friend
by getting him out of the way when the attack, which he expected from
day to day, came.

"Nothing would have made Colonel Stewart leave Khartoum if he had
suspected this, but he did not, and he set out in the firm conviction
that his going would really be useful.  So say those that should know.
What is certain is that he went, and that his steamer struck on a rock
in the Wad Gamr country, for I myself have seen it.  I was with the
Sheikh Omar at Berti at the time.  Sheikh Omar had a nephew Sulieman Wad
Gamr, a very bitter enemy of the Turk, and of any one who supported the
Turk, but a man with a double face, who promised most and smiled the
sweetest, when he had the dagger concealed in his sleeve.

"Colonel Stewart did not like the look of him when he came to offer his
services, but Hassan Bey, who was with the Englishman, thought that
Sulieman was to be trusted, and so a conference was held, and Sulieman
undertook to find camels to take all the shipwrecked travellers on to
Merawi if he could.  Afterwards he came and said that he knew of camels,
but the people who owned them were afraid that they would be taken from
them by force, and if those who came to conclude the bargain had arms in
their hands, there was no chance of any camels being brought forward,
but if those who were to bargain for them were unarmed, it was very
certain that as many as were necessary might be got.  And when, seeing
no other way than to trust Sulieman, Colonel Stewart agreed to this, he
was directed to go at a certain hour to the house of one Fakreitman, who
was blind, but to be sure to take no weapons, neither he nor any of the
party.  They went to Fakreitman, the blind man's house, accordingly, and
Sulieman met them there with the men that he had instructed to carry out
his secret, and others who were not entrusted.  I was in the courtyard
with others serving under the Sheikh Omar, and we wondered where the
camels were, for we saw none in the neighbourhood, and yet the
bargaining was going on.  Then suddenly, at a signal from Sulieman Wad
Gamr, the appointed men attacked Colonel Stewart and his companions, and
there was such a scuffle as is possible when there are sharp swords and
daggers on one side and no weapons at all on the other.

"Colonel Stewart and others were soon put to death.  Hassan Bey seized
the owner of the house, the blind man, Fakreitman, and held him before
him as a shield, and so got clear of the house with only a slight wound.
We outside might have dispatched him, but we had no orders, and did not
interfere.  And so he got clear, and letting the blind man go, escaped."

Such was the prisoner's account, and there was no reason to doubt the
general tenor of it, though of course the details were not to be
implicitly relied upon.

The man was asked why, since he seemed to bear no particular grudge
against the English, he took such pains to establish himself in a good
position for a sure shot at the convoy.  It was not a wise question.
The Arab laughed, and asked if the English had any particular enmity to
the Soudanese.

"No," was the reply.  "On the contrary, we wish to be friends with
them."

"And yet," said the prisoner, "you have killed twenty thousand of us in
the last few moons.  When we fight we mean to kill; and when we hunt we
mean to kill.  Are you not the same?"

There was no denying this; war is of necessity a game for two to play
at, or else it would be sheer murder.

He was questioned about Gordon's death, but, though he was willing
enough to talk on the subject, his information was at third or fourth
hand, and did not profess to be personal, like the other account.

"Ah!  That was a man, Gordon Pasha!" he said.  "If He had declared
himself a prophet, or the great sheikh of the Soudan, the Mahdi would
have lost all his followers but a few slave hunters, and all would have
gathered under Gordon's standard.  He was just, and when he said a thing
every one knew that it was true.  The Turks were never just; they took
bribes, and they sought by word and deed to deceive.  But Gordon Pasha
was the wisest and the most just ruler that ever came into the country,
and he feared nothing except to offend Allah.  The highest and the
lowest were the same to him, and it was a pity to kill him.  There will
never be such another."

"Why, then, was he murdered?"

"The Mahdi knew that he was a rival, and must overthrow him if he could,
or else lose his power himself.  And he was betrayed by those who had
sinned against him, and been forgiven, but did not believe in the
forgiveness.  And besides that, the Mahdi offered them money from the
first, and when you got so near Khartoum he increased this to a large
sum.  But all this would not have availed if men had known that Gordon
was going to remain as their sheikh; but where was the use of joining a
sheikh who was leaving to-morrow against another who was sure to stop?"

He was a shrewd fellow, this prisoner of Grady's, and knew how to trim
his sails to the prevailing wind.  The marches of the convoy were slow,
as the patients could not bear the jolt of a camel's trot; and the old
medical direction, "When taken to be well shaken," would have been death
to most of them, so the halts were fixed at various intermediate wells,
where zerebas had been formed and held till the last load had passed,
when the detachment performing that duty likewise retired.  The body of
Binks was carried on to the bivouac for that night, and decently buried
there.

On the following morning the captured Arab was nowhere to be seen, and
it was at first feared that he had escaped in the night.  But he was
soon discovered, the cause of his disappearance being that he had
discarded his Mahdi uniform, which was now a little bundle about the
size of a cocoa-nut, hanging from a projection of a camel's harness.
Such clothing as he wore fitted well, nature herself having measured him
for it; and since he was still a young man, there were no wrinkles in
it.  You know how difficult it is to recognise a fellow if you come upon
him down a back-water bathing, and will understand why the prisoner was
missed at first.  He came up presently and offered to take service, and
tend a camel.  It appeared to him that he had to go along with the party
anyhow, and might as well improve the shining hour and earn a little
money.

Earlier in the march one of the natives in charge of camels had been
killed by one of the scattered volleys which every now and then harassed
them on their journey, and two others had taken the opportunity of
deserting, so that the new volunteer's services were gladly accepted.
And there was the little bundle, ready to be shaken out and put on again
should the fortune of war land him to-morrow amongst the adherents of
the Mahdi.  Quite a man of the world, this Arab.

In the course of his long talk with the interpreter the day before,
Kavanagh, who was riding at his side, rifle in hand, having been made
responsible for his safe custody, heard a name repeated several times
which struck him as familiar, and which he yet could not associate with
anything in particular.  _Burrachee_!  Whereon earth had he ever heard
the word Burrachee?  He had dreamt it, or fancied it, or was thinking of
that word which expresses the taste given to wine by the skin in which
it is stored in some places.  And he tried to drive it from his head.
But that night he was for guard, and while doing his tour of sentry it
flashed upon him in a second.

Burrachee, the Sheikh Burrachee; that was the name of the Mohammedan
uncle of Harry Forsyth, who lived amongst the Arabs of the Soudan, and
to whom Harry meant to have recourse in finding the portentous will, the
absence of which was the cause that he, Reginald Kavanagh, was tramping
up and down a narrow path under the stars, with a chance of being shot
or sprung upon every minute, instead of being snugly tucked up between
the sheets, snoring to the nightingales.

His mind was easier for having remembered the association with the name,
but his curiosity was excited to know whether there was any connection
between that and the same word used by the Arab, and he took an early
opportunity on the march next day to ask Sergeant Barton to get him the
loan of the interpreter for a bit.  For the interpreter was a person of
consequence, in his own estimation at least, and not to be lightly
appropriated by privates.

But tact can do a great deal, and by approaching the question in a
judicious manner, his services were secured, and he blandly expressed
his readiness to put any questions to the ex-prisoner which Kavanagh
might desire, and to translate the answers.

This was the result in one language.  To give the Arabic and then the
English would involve mere repetition, so I am sure that you will excuse
that.  Besides I could not do it.

_Question_.  "Do you know the Sheikh Burrachee?"

_Answer_.  "Yes, everybody knows the Sheikh Burrachee."

_Question_.  "Is he not a foreigner to the Soudan?"

_Answer_.  "It is said so.  He is rich, wise, learned, and he is a True
Believer.  But his features are not those of the Turk or of the Arab."

_Question_.  "Do you know whether a man of his race, much younger, has
joined him lately?"

_Answer_.  "Truly, yes, I have heard something of such an event.  Some
say his son, others a man made by magic by the sheikh, who is a great
magician, and can make ghosts come and go as he commands."

_Question_.  "Did you ever hear of any--(Kavanagh was regularly bothered
to know how to ask after a legal document like a will, and the
interpreter could not help him; at last he hit on the word Firman) of
any Firman the young man was seeking for?"

_Answer_.  "No, I have never seen either of them; I speak from hearsay,
and know nothing more than I have told you."

There was nothing more to be got out of Grady's captive.

But still, to know that Forsyth had reached his uncle was something.
And the probability was that he was living, for if he had been dead the
news would very likely have reached this gossiping Arab.

"I told you about the missing will in which I have an interest,"
Kavanagh said to Sergeant Barton, when all that could had been got out
of the Arab.

"Yes; and Daireh the Egyptian led your friend, who undertook to trace
it, a pretty dance out here, and all over the Soudan."

"Yes; well I expect that he has traced him, for it seems he is living
with this Sheikh Burrachee, as he calls himself, who is as mad as a
hatter, and he would not do that without a very strong reason."

"Then the man who may be the Irish sheikh's son, or may be merely a
magical illusion, and vanish or turn into a cat some fine morning, is
your friend, I suppose?" said Barton.

"Sure to be," replied Kavanagh; "though whether he has found Daireh yet
is another question, and if, having found him, he has also got the will
is still more problematical."

"It would be hard lines if, after all that risk and trouble and running
his man to earth, he should find the will destroyed or lost after all,"
said Barton.  "I cannot believe in such ill-luck!"

"No more should I three months ago," said Kavanagh; "but after getting
to Khartoum just three days too late I am prepared for anything.  What
is the journey undertaken by Forsyth compared to the expedition fitted
out, the persevering struggle against the forces of Nature, and the
opposition of hosts of desperate foes for the purpose of rescuing
Gordon?  And that all that should fail seemed too bad to be possible.
Yet so it was.  I shall always be prepared for the worst for the rest of
my life."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

SWORD VERSUS BAYONET.

After the skirmish which was fatal to poor Binks, and in which Grady
effected his clever capture, the convoy had not been annoyed, save now
and then by a distant shot which fell short; but in the afternoon of the
day that Kavanagh got his information about Harry Forsyth, such as it
was, out of the man Grady had taken prisoner, bullets fell closer again.

They had entered a wide valley, and there was water on the south side of
it, near the black rocks.  No zereba was formed here, possibly because
troops could not be spared to guard it, or the spot was considered too
near the next wells, or there was good reason to know that there was no
force of the enemy of any consequence in the neighbourhood.  Whether it
was the cause or not, this latter fact was probably the case, but there
were individual sharp-shooters about who were inclined to make
themselves a nuisance.

Perched high up among fantastic blocks of stone, which would have
tempted an artist to draw out his sketch-book, they got excellent shots
at the party below them, and as there was no chance of a return, they
being entirely concealed, and their presence merely indicated by the
little puffs of white smoke which spurted out here and there, there was
nothing to disturb their aim.  For nothing spoils a rifleman's shooting
like being exposed to accurate fire himself; which was probably the
reason why duellists, who could perform wonders in the shooting gallery,
used so often to miss each other at twelve paces in the days of single
combat, when George the Fourth was Regent.

The range, however, was a long one, and the fire _plunging_, or
perpendicular.  Now horizontal fire has this characteristic, that if a
bullet misses one object it goes straight on and may strike another; or
it may pass through a fleshy substance which does not offer too great
resistance, and strike another beyond.  But a plunging fire, if it
misses the object aimed at, goes into the ground and is harmless.

And so it happened that no mischief was done for some time, though
several bullets came thudding down in the midst of men and camels.  At
length, with the fatality which seemed throughout this campaign to
attend upon non-combatants, a shot struck a poor Egyptian camel driver
on the neck, passing through his spine, and shortly afterwards a surgeon
was wounded in the foot.

There did not seem to be more than two or three riflemen firing at them,
but they were far above the average in marksmanship, and more dangerous,
at a distance, than a score of ordinary soldiers of the Mahdi.  Six men,
of whom Kavanagh was one, were told off to dislodge them; not more,
because they would certainly retire before a strong body, and return,
when they withdrew from the pursuit, to their former positions and
practice.  Indeed, the officer who went with the six thought that number
too numerous to show, and advanced in front with a file only, while the
others had orders to creep up on the flanks, concealing themselves
entirely, if possible.

Those in front got fired at several times as they scaled the rocks, but
to hit a small object shifting behind cover was far beyond the Arabs'
skill yet, though they _had_ made a vast improvement, and the risk of
advancing upon them in this way was not great.  And when the two men had
got within a couple of hundred yards of the nearest Arab's lurking-
place, the officer called to them to halt, keep under cover, and fire if
they got a chance, or even if they didn't, his object being to keep them
amused while the flankers gained higher ground, and obtained fair shots
at them.

But one of those in front was Macintosh, for whom the wilful waste of a
bullet was almost an impossibility, frugality and marksmanship combining
to render the task painful to his feelings.  He prided himself on his
shooting, and did not like even to appear to make a miss.  Not able to
catch a glimpse of a foe where he was, he crept thirty yards higher, to
a nice flat stone just breast high, which commanded a much wider view.
But still he could see nothing to shoot at; so he exposed himself,
standing fairly up.  _Pat_!  Came a ball against a rock five yards on
his right; it would not do for Wimbledon that.

"Eh!  They must practise a wee bit afore they challenge the Scottish
team!" murmured Macintosh, as he dropped on one knee behind the stone
over which he held his Martini-Henry at the ready, his eye being fixed
on the spot the shot came from.

The Arab probably thought that he had dropped his man, for he raised his
head and shoulders above the cover to look.  That was the opportunity
Macintosh was waiting for.  He had him covered in a moment, his rifle
was as steady and motionless as if it grew out of the rock itself.  His
finger pressed the trigger, and the Arab he aimed at fell forwards, his
arms hanging over the rocky parapet, the Remington falling from his
hands.

When they examined his body afterwards, it was found that the bullet had
struck him in the exact centre of the forehead.

"I am sorry for the puir mon, but it was an unco' good shot!" was the
complacent remark of Macintosh, as he contemplated his handiwork.  But
that was later on.  At the time he fired he remained still, as ordered,
looking out for another chance.

The other man had taken what he was told more literally, and fired once
or twice at spots from which flashes had issued, without a hope of
hitting anything but stones, and uncertain, indeed, whether the Arab who
had last fired was still there or had shifted his quarters.  And shots
were fired back, principally at the officer, who showed his head as he
peered about, trying to see how his men were getting on.

Meantime, the files on the flanks were climbing cunningly, Kavanagh
being one of the two men on the right, until they got rather above the
level of the Arabs in ambush, and a man on the left got the first shot.
The Arab was lying down, peering to his front, and afforded a steady
aim, not fifty yards off.  It was almost impossible to miss him, unless
the marksman were flurried, and the soldier was as cool as if on parade,
and hit him in the back, between the shoulder-blades: that made two.

The last report showing they were enfiladed, three other Arabs bolted
from their hiding-places, and made for the higher ground.  Bang!  Bang!
Bang!  Went the rifles from below and each side: there they were still,
active as monkeys, darting between and over the fantastic boulders;
bang!  Bang!  As they re-appeared, without effect.  Then five rifles
exploding together, like a volley, as a retreating Arab paused, and
turned to fire a shot back; and this time the bullets found a billet,
for he sank down in a heap.  The other two got away, in spite of the
leaden invitations to stop sent after them.

Directly the first flanking shot was heard, the officer in front cried
"Forward!" to the two men with him, Macintosh and the other, and all
three pushed up amongst the rocks.  As they worked up higher, the
surface of the mountain side became so rugged that they could not keep
sight of each other, and hunt about in a satisfactory manner at the same
time.  While firing was going on, indeed, they had a guide as to the
direction of their friends, but when that ceased, they were somewhat
more scattered and isolated than prudence dictated.  But prudence is apt
to be forgotten in the excitement of a hunt, and a manhunt is the most
thrilling of all chases.  They searched about, with bayonets fixed, and
fingers on trigger-guards, expecting an antagonist behind each new rock.

Kavanagh, making for a point where he last saw the end of a bernouse
vanishing, wandered further than the others, perhaps, and came suddenly
on a hole in the side of the rock.  Not a natural fissure, but evidently
a man-made doorway; oval, with carved pillars at the sides, and an
inscription over the door.  Kavanagh's first impulse was to go in, his
second one not to.  Why, there might be an army inside!  But by the time
the risk occurred to him he was through the portals, and he was afraid
of turning, not knowing what was behind him.  So he took a pace to his
rear, still looking into the interior, and holding his rifle at the
ready.

It was by no means dark inside, though coming out of the intense glare
it seemed so at the first moment.  But light came in from openings high
up, showing a chamber which would _not_ contain an army, but was of
handsome dimensions for all that, and empty.  Empty to all appearance,
so far as human beings were concerned that is, but inhabited by stone
heroes of the past.  There they sat, solemn and gigantic, heedless of
the lapse of ages, staring into the future with blind eyes.

The walls and the bases of the statues were covered with hieroglyphics,
which would no doubt have told all about them to officials of the
British Museum not present.

What a long time it must have taken to write a letter when you had to
draw a dog to express a dog, a man when you meant a man, and so forth.
It would be rather amusing reading, though, so far as some of my
friends, who are not good artists, are concerned.  And yours?  If a
fellow could draw a little bit, however, one might spend nine or ten
hours after breakfast very pleasantly in deciphering his correspondence;
though it must have been annoying, if one wanted some such matter as a
pyramid in a hurry, to have to draw a stag and a knight for "Dear Sir,"
an eye for "I," and so forth throughout the piece.  And when ingenious
innovators took prominent curves and angles of these drawings to express
the things, and so invented hieroglyphics, no doubt busy men with a
large correspondence found advantage in it!

Kavanagh had little time for these reflections, for he had hardly made a
rapid inspection of this curious old temple, burying-place, or whatever
it was, before he heard a shot in the distance outside, and running to
the entrance he saw an Arab, who had doubtless been unearthed on another
side and bolted here, pausing a hundred yards off to have a return shot
at the man probably who had fired at him, and the report of whose rifle
had disturbed Kavanagh's day-dream.  Of course he did not know that an
enemy was up there, or he would not have stopped for his shot.

As he was getting his sight to bear on some one below, Kavanagh was
doing the same for him, and just as he was going to pull he got a
violent shock on the hip, which disconcerted his aim; and perhaps that
was lucky for Macintosh, whom he had got nicely at the end of his fore-
sight Kavanagh had hardly fired, however, and had not time to open the
breach and put another cartridge into his rifle, before he heard a noise
in the cavern-temple behind him, and, turning sharply, saw a figure with
a sword in the right-hand and a shield on the left arm, literally
bounding towards him.

The Arab must have been concealed behind one of the figures, or in a
recess which had escaped the explorer's notice, and, not possessing
fire-arms himself, had not chosen to attack while his enemy's rifle was
certain to be loaded; but directly he heard him fire he seized his
opportunity with the promptitude of a really good soldier, and went for
him before he could re-load.

Kavanagh brought his weapon down to the charge and waited for him, and
now a really interesting set-to began, and it was a pity there was no
one to witness it.  The Arab, a fanatic fakir, approached with his
shield well advanced, and his sword, which a man might have shaved with,
in his strong right-hand, watching for an opening.  He made a cut;
Kavanagh turned it with his bayonet and re-posted.  The thrust was
parried by the shield, but the force of it made the Arab stagger back.

Kavanagh followed, feinted low, and when the shield went down delivered
the point over the top of it, just touching his opponent's chest, who
saved his life by jumping back with a slight wound.  Kavanagh followed
further into the cavern.  Each now knew that the other was not to be
trifled with, and they circled round, eyes glaring into eyes, trying to
draw on an attack, the statues around looking straight before them,
heedless witnesses of the conflict.  Kavanagh feinted again, but the
Arab was not to be caught by the same trick a second time, and instead
of warding the thrust seized that moment to make a dash and a cut, and
his sword bit deeply into the other's side, cutting through bandolier
and kharkee into the flesh.

Kavanagh, wounded, but not disabled, at the same moment dashed his
rifle, held across, into his opponent's face, and as he staggered back
darted his bayonet at him over the shield, piercing his shoulder.  Yet
he could still swing his right arm, still wield his razor-edged weapon.

And still they faced each other, bleeding freely.  Kavanagh had this in
his mind fixedly, that if he thrust the point of his bayonet through the
shield, and so got it entangled, he was done, for his active opponent
would step within distance, and cut him down in a moment.  As if to
force him to risk this, the Arab suddenly crouched down, and covering
himself well with his shield, made a spring at him, cutting at his left
arm.  Kavanagh jumped back and saved his wrist, but it was so near a
thing that the edge of the sword touched his hand, severing the little
finger, which fell on the ground, and making a deep cut in the rifle
stock.  Unaware of the mutilation, Kavanagh re-posted, darting out his
weapon over the shield with his right-hand, and piercing his enemy
through the neck.

But even for such a wound as that the brave Soudanese would not be
denied, but forced his way to close quarters, and cut his enemy over the
side of the head; a blow which would have been instantly fatal had it
been delivered with his accustomed force, but the wound through the
shoulder took the strength out of it, and loss of blood and the shock of
the throat wound helped to weaken him; indeed, his sword dropped from
his hand with the effort.  Kavanagh, almost blind with the blood which
deluged his face, shortened arms and sought to transfix his assailant,
who, however, managed to seize the muzzle of the rifle and close, and a
species of rough-and-tumble conflict ensued for about half a minute,
each striving to throw the other, and both as weak as babies.

Kavanagh, however, had most strength left, for though both were losing
much blood, that which ebbed from the Arab drained more important veins,
and the wound in his throat especially was terrible.  His grasp relaxed,
his eyes lost the light of fanaticism and the joy of combat, and grew
filmy and expressionless, and he fell heavily at the foot of a gigantic,
blubber-lipped statue.

Kavanagh caught up his rifle and turned the bayonet downwards, but there
was no fight left in his foe, and in spite of the customs of this
barbarous war he could not thrust.  So he left the Arab lying there, and
staggered to the portal, where he was forced to lean against a pillar,
so giddy and faint was he.  He had enough strength and wits left,
however, to slip a cartridge into his rifle and fire it off, as a guide
to his friends where to find him; and it was as well he did so, as they
were searching for him close by, and might not have hit upon the
entrance to the cave-temple for some time, so curiously was it masked by
the rocks.  The report, however, directed them right, and just as
Kavanagh was slipping from the pillar to the ground, he heard a voice
say--

"Here he is, sir!" and saw comrades close, though their voices sounded
somehow a long way off.

"My eye, you have had a good bout, mate;" one said to him, "but where is
the other fellow?"

"In there," replied Kavanagh, faintly; "don't kill him, he's a good
'un."

"Dinna kill him, indeed!" said Macintosh, presently, as he bent over the
body of the Arab and took his scarf for bandages.  "There's nae much
need for any one to do that!"

Kavanagh's wounds were rudely bound up, just to check the bleeding for
the present, and the officer having some spirits in a flask gave him a
drain, and asked him if he thought he could walk down to camp.  Being
somewhat revived, he said he could, and set out, supported by a couple
of men, one on each side.  It was a slow progress, but the distance was
not great, and he managed to get down all right, and then a surgeon
dressed his wounds for him.

"The bandolier and a tobacco-pipe in the pocket of your kharkee jacket
have done you a good turn, my lad," he said; "for the body cut has gone
right through them, and might have been fatal but for that resistance.
It is pretty deep as it is, but you will be all right; and your other
hurts are not serious, only sword cuts.  But your little finger will not
grow again, you know."

The wounds might not be serious in a surgeon's estimation, but they were
very painful, and to feel so weak and helpless was depressing to the
spirits.  The attack, however, had been successful, and the handful of
sharp-shooters killed or effectually dispersed, for no more shots were
fired at the convoy either that evening, during the night, or on the
following morning, when it got under weigh again.  So he had the
pleasure of reflecting that his discomforts were not altogether incurred
in vain.  The most provoking thing he found was to be told that he was
so very lucky only to be slashed all over with sword cuts, and not to
have any bullet wounds.  What he had got ached and smarted and throbbed
to an extent calculated to try the patience of Job, and what was the use
of endeavouring to persuade him that he was one of the favourites of
fortune?  He succeeded to the seat on a camel vacated by the ill-fated
Binks, and every jolt hurt his side; the head and hand wounds were not
much affected by the motion, but every violent jerk caused the other to
gape and bleed, and the dressing had to be renewed at every halt where
water was obtainable.  But the comrade who rode alongside and
congratulated him on not having any gun-shot wounds meant well, and he
restrained his impatience.  Only when Grady, whom he credited with more
sense, went on the same tack, he said, "Thank you, Paddy; did you ever
see a codfish crimped?"

"No, sure, but I have seen a salmon."

"Alive?"

"In course; it's no use doing it after he's dead."

"And did you congratulate him?"

"Indeed, I did not, and it was a cruel thing I thought it," said Grady.
"Ah, and sure I see what you are after!  And it is like a crimped fish
ye are with the deep slashes, and only those would think light of them
who have not got them.  But you will soon be all right again after the
clane cuts, while a poke or a bullet-hole is a long time haling if it
does not kill ye entirely.  That is what the boys mane."

It was after a couple of days that Kavanagh was able to hold this
conversation.  Before that he was incapacitated for talking not only by
weakness, but also because the cut on the side of his head had reached
his cheek, and slicing through it nicked the tongue.

Taking food and drink was therefore quite painful enough just at first
without talking.  But it was surprising how quickly this part began to
heal.  He could not smoke yet, however, and that resource for whiling
away some of the long hours failed him.

"It was a regular duel ye had with the haythen in his temple, and ye won
it fair and square, anyhow, without shooting," said Grady.  "The other
was as dead as Julius Sayser when the boys saw him, for I was not to the
fore myself, having had my little tour the day before."

"I remember," said Kavanagh.  "And how is your prisoner getting on?  He
has not slipped away yet, has he?"

"Sorra a bit of it, he seems quite plazed to be living with dacent
people for a change.  He tould the interpreter that it was a mighty
great friend of the Mahdi's ye killed; a man some people reckoned very
holy--a _faker_ he called him.  At least, a man like that lived up by
that cavern ye discovered."

"I don't know who he was," said Kavanagh, "but I wish he had recovered.
He was a game one that, to fight as he did after he got his death-
wound."

Sergeant Barton, who came up just then, heard this last remark, and
said, smiling--

"That is true enough, but his opponent must have a good bit of pluck,
too, it seems to me."

"Not so much as you think," replied Kavanagh, meditatively.  "I do not
say it out of mock modesty, but it is a simple fact that fear of that
sharp edge made me strain all my faculties to keep it at a distance.
But I was horribly afraid of it all the same."

"Well, I suppose that the other was afraid of your bayonet point, if you
come to that."

"I don't believe it; he did not mind it more than a pin, if he could
only kill me at the same time."

Here an officer came up and asked Kavanagh how he was; adding, "I have
good news for you.  We shall reach Korti to-day, and then you will be
more comfortable."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

IN THE RANKS OF THE ENEMY.

Harry Forsyth had put off the evil day as long as he could, but at
length he found himself forced to turn an apparent traitor to his Queen
and country, or else to give up the object of his journey when his
trials, dangers, and sufferings had been crowned with success, and
probably to lose his life into the bargain.

The detachment in which the Sheikh Burrachee held a command came to a
precipitous rocky mountain overlooking the Nile, and here they were to
stop the English advance.  No position could have been more judiciously
chosen: the rocks looked down on a narrow gorge of the river still more
straightened by an island named Dulka, which it was determined to
garrison strongly with riflemen, and there was debate as to who should
undertake this duty.  Harry hoped that it would be the tribe with which
his uncle had become associated, and of which he himself was now
supposed to be a member, because he thought it would be hardly difficult
to slip away down the stream somehow, by swimming if no other means were
to be had, and so join the English before they attacked, and avoid even
the appearance of being a partaker of his uncle's crimes.  But this
chance was denied to him, and others went to the island, while the
Sheikh Burrachee and his men were posted in the steepest part, the very
citadel of this natural fortress.

To escape from there before the assault was obviously impossible.  Up to
that time Harry had taken it for granted in his own mind that his
countrymen would carry any position they chose, with more or less loss,
and pass on, but he now began to fear that this one was really
impregnable.  Parts of it were difficult to climb if unopposed, but with
an enemy with a rifle in his hand behind every crag and boulder, it
looked simply impossible for any living thing to make the ascent.  Now
for the first time Harry Forsyth became an active hypocrite, for he had
only been a passive one up to this.  He busied himself about to select a
good commanding spot in which to ensconce himself with his rifle with an
energy which delighted his uncle extremely.  And so much was thought of
his shooting that he was sure not to be interfered with.

"Not a man of them can ever pass the Rackabit el Gamel by water, and
they can as soon take these rocks as scale the heavens.  Here the
freedom of the Soudan will be worked out; the authority of the Mahdi
established!" exclaimed the sheikh.  Rackabit el Gamel, or the Camel's
Neck, is the name of the gorge by Dulka Island.

When the sun rose on the tenth of February, eighteen hundred and eighty-
five, Harry Forsyth, from his lofty position on the heights of Kirbekan,
strained his eyes in the direction from which the British force was
expected to come.  Nothing yet; yes, those red ants, as they seem in the
far distance, what are they?  And there were larger black ants in rear
of them.

And now in the clearer light grey ants aligned with the red.  The red
ants, had he known it, were the Black Watch, going into action in their
red coats and kilts; the grey were the men of the South Staffordshire
Regiment; the large black ants in rear were the guns.  He did not know
these details, but he recognised English troops, not seen now for a long
time by him, and his heart beat high with excitement and hope.  Now was
his chance of escape.  Unless he were killed during the assault, or
taken prisoner and shot before he had time to explain himself, he would
surely be able to get away in the confusion of fight.  Even if the
English were repulsed, he could feign pursuit and so come up with them.

Suddenly he saw both red and grey masses scatter out from their centres,
as they broke into extended order, and at the same time what he could
now distinguish as cavalry swept round to the right.  It was a beautiful
sight.  While he was gazing at it his uncle passed him in a state of
great enthusiasm.

He waved a rifle with his right-hand, and a banner, with texts from the
Koran inscribed upon it, with his left, and cried, "They come!  They
come!  The Lord hath delivered them into our hands at last!"  And it was
with difficulty that he could restrain himself from forfeiting the
advantages of the strong position, and rushing down to meet the
advancing troops at once.

He had not long to restrain his impatience; the red and the grey lines
swept into the base, and were among the boulders in a trice.  Then the
whole mountain side seemed to burst forth into flame and smoke, and from
his commanding position Harry could see that here and there an advancing
figure stopped, and came on no more, but dotted the ground with a
scarlet or brown patch.

The scene would have resembled a holiday sham fight but for those
figures which lay motionless, taking no further part, so orderly and
regular was the advance.  Presently the combat entered on a new phase.
Unchecked by the storm of fire which had broken out upon them, the
Highlanders and South Staffordshire pressed steadily on amongst the
rocks; when there was room they squeezed between them; when this could
not be done they swarmed over them; still they pressed steadily on.
Steadily, indeed, but slowly.  Behind each rock there was an Arab, and
when a soldier wriggled round it or swarmed over it, he found himself
engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict, in which, however, the bayonet
generally proved victorious over sword or spear.  It was most
magnificent fighting; each individual man had to force his independent
way in the face of a deadly fire from hidden foes, at whose covers he
went straight.  If he were hit there was an end of his course; but, if
he stood up, into the hiding-place where his foe lay concealed, he was
bound to go; and then, if he killed his man, as he mostly did, forwards
and upwards at another.  There was no sense of support afforded by the
touch of comrades, and the being an item of a serried mass, as in the
case of the majority of the battles of the Soudan, fought in square
formation.  Then there might be unsteady or pusillanimous soldiers,
whose faults were hidden by their firmer comrades, from whose presence
and example they gained confidence; but at Kirbekan every soldier fought
on his own account, as it were, and failure in courage or dash in any
individual would have been at once perceptible.  But there was no such
failure, and the Black Watch and South Staffordshire fought as British
soldiers fought in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, at Alma, and at Inkerman.

Higher and higher they came, and the Arabs began to grow uncontrollably
excited.  The Sheikh Burrachee came to the post occupied by Harry, who
immediately let loose his rifle at a fine rock near which there was
nobody.  But he might have spared himself the trouble; his uncle never
noticed him; he only came there because the spot afforded the best view
of a portion of the English advance.

"It is impossible!" he cried; "and yet there they are.  Has Sheytan
given them charmed lives?" and he charged down, waving his banner, and
calling on his tribesmen to follow him and extirpate the infidels.

Harry saw him falter on the brow of a crag, stretch his arms wide, drop
weapon and banner, and fall backwards.  Forgetting everything else at
the sight, he ran down to him and raised his head.

He was quite dead.

"Poor Uncle Ralph!  You were kind to me, and you loved my dear mother.
Would that you had met with a better fate!" he said, as he turned away,
and looked about for the means of escape.

There was no reason for further delay; the Arabs had too much to do to
look after themselves to notice him; and his uncle was dead!

Round the side of the rock he crept, keeping well under shelter, till he
found a side where no fight was raging, and here he clambered cautiously
down into the plain, and made for that part of the Nile where he had
seen the English pontoons and boats.

After about an hour's cautious approach, he came near enough to hail the
nearest sentry.

"I am an English prisoner, released by your attack!" he cried; and after
his report of himself had been carefully heard by an officer, he was
received with welcome and eagerly questioned as to what he knew about
the progress of the fight.

"Most of the points had been carried when I made my escape," Harry said;
"but I fear the loss has been very heavy."

Heavy indeed it proved when the full news came in!  Colonel Eyre,
commanding the South Staffordshire, fell at the head of his regiment at
the first onset; Colonel Green was killed at the hottest moment of the
struggle; and shortly afterwards General Earle, the commander of the
expedition himself, was shot dead from a stubbornly-defended building.

Harry told his story, was examined, cross-examined, re-examined; for all
he had to say was most interesting, and very different from the meagre
and often contradictory reports to be gleaned from natives.  He told
them of the force in Dulka Island.  But they knew of that, and heeded it
not, finding no difficulty in shelling the Arabs there out of it without
an attack.

The only thing he was reticent about was the story of his uncle.  Poor,
crack-brained visionary, he had gone to his account now, and what need
was there to recount his treasonable vagaries?

An old Harton boy is almost sure to find some mutual acquaintance in any
group of English officers he may fall in with in any part of the world,
and when at the evening meal he was chatting with his hospitable
entertainers, Strachan's name happened to be mentioned.

"What, Tom Strachan, of the Blankshire?" he cried.

"That's the man!"

"Is his regiment in the Soudan?"

"No, but _he_ is.  He is an active card, and volunteered to act on the
staff, and has done a good bit of galloping business.  I think he is
working in the Transport now, at least he was when we heard last from
Korti."

From this and all else he could gather Korti was the place Harry now had
to try and make for, and he was soon once more on his travels down the
river.

We will not follow his footsteps, since he met with no adventures to be
compared at all with those he had gone through.  And very glad he was of
it, for the one thing he now dreaded most was delay.

He had not long been at Korti before he saw the very old friend he had
been asking after, and soon got an opportunity of speaking to him, busy
as he seemed to be.

"Don't you know me?" he asked.

"Know you!  Of course I do, just as if you were my brother; but just now
I forget whether it is tinned meats or bullocks.  By Jove!  Is it
possible!  Harry Forsyth!  And how are you, old fellow?  One would think
Korti was the centre of the world, for every fellow comes here.  I say,
who was to know you dressed up like that?  Well, and what are you up to?
Have you found that will yet?"

"Yes."

"Nonsense!  And _got_ it?"

"Yes."

"You must tell me all about that.  I was just going to get something to
eat; come along and share it.  You have fallen upon the right boy for
grub, I can tell you; I am in the provisioning department just for the
moment, and there is no order against looking after number one."

"And you found your uncle who had turned wild man?" observed Tom
Strachan, as the two filled and lit their pipes after a capital repast.

"Yes, poor fellow!" answered Harry.  "Without him I don't suppose I
should have got the will."

"And where did you run your Egyptian clerk to earth?"

"At El Obeid, and we got it out of him with the kourbash."

"Of course; you know the cynical saying here.  As Nature provides an
antidote growing in the same district with every poison, all we have to
do is to learn how to seek it.  So when the Egyptian was placed on the
Nile the hippopotamus was created to provide whips to rule him with.
But you must tell your story at greater length to-morrow morning to a
friend of mine who is lying wounded here, waiting for a chance to be
transported to Cairo.  For I have a lot of things to see to; reports to
make out--you would never believe; and must run away presently."

Next morning Harry Forsyth called on Strachan at the time and place
appointed, and was taken by him to the hospital which had been
established near the banks of the river.  They found the friend of
Strachan's they proposed to visit lying on a bamboo couch under an
awning, over which again spread a palm-tree.  There was a pleasant view
of the river and the country, and altogether it was as cheery a spot as
could have been selected.

There was a visitor already with the invalid: a soldier who was standing
near, his head leaning on his rifle.

"I tell ye what it is," he was saying; "I'll say nothing about flesh
wounds and bullet wounds since it worries ye, but ye have the best luck
of it to be wounded at all, in my thinking.  Won't ye be getting out of
this baste of a country at once, and shan't we poor beggars what's whole
and sound have to stop here and stew, and be ate up with the flies
entirely?  I tell ye so long as ye aint crippled it's the best chance to
be a bit hurt, and get away, now there's no more fighting to be done.
And they say there will perhaps be some real fun going on in India, out
Afghanistan way, against the Rooshians; and we will be left here with
the flies and crocodiles.  But here's the officer coming.  I'll come and
see you again, when I'm off duty."

And Grady stepped briskly away, making the sling of his rifle _tell_
with a smart salute, as he passed Strachan.  And then Harry Forsyth
stepped up to the couch, and found himself looking on the drawn and
pain-worn features of Reginald Kavanagh.

"I flatter myself that I have managed that with considerable dramatic
talent," said Tom Strachan, as he stood looking at the two, holding each
other's hands in silence, and looking into each other's eyes.

"Yes," said Harry Forsyth, answering the question in the other's look;
"I have found it, and it is here in my breast, all perfectly right."

"Yes, he has found it," echoed Strachan.  "Where there's a will there's
a way, and the way in this instance was the kourbash.  I hope the fellow
got it hot, Harry."

"Pretty fairly; I think Kavanagh would have been satisfied, though he
has been disappointed in his desire to wield the lash himself.  Don't
you remember?"

"Well, all you have got to do now," said Strachan to Kavanagh, "is to
get back to England as quick as they will take you, purchase your
discharge, and enjoy your _otium cum dignitate_."

"Thank you, sir; if you will kindly say a word for me it will help,"
replied Kavanagh.

The little word _sir_ struck with strange harshness on Harry Forsyth's
ears.  But, of course, Kavanagh was but a full private, and Strachan was
an officer, if he came to think and realise it.  He had been about to
say:

"Here we three chums have met at last, ever so many miles up the Nile,
and I shall believe in presentiments as long as I live;" but he did not
like, after that word _sir_, to class his two old friends in the same
category; it might make an awkwardness, he felt.

"I do not like the idea of quitting the service altogether," said
Kavanagh.

"If we have this war with Russia they talk about, and I get well in
time, and can qualify, I wonder if I shall have a chance of getting a
commission.  Surely it will not be so difficult as it was when I tried
before, and I nearly qualified.  I wonder whether my service in the
ranks would be allowed to count in any way."

"It very well might," said Strachan; "for there are all sorts of chances
going when good men are really wanted.  If not, you must go back into
the old Militia Battalion of the Blankshire, as I mean to do when I am
shelved; and then we shall get a chance of airing our medals, if they
give us any, for one month in the year at any rate."

"And what are your wounds, Kavanagh?" asked Harry presently.

"Sword cuts; one in the body is troublesome, but is getting better since
I got away from camel back, though sometimes I feel down-hearted,
progress is so slow."

"Oh, you must not give way to that sort of feeling," said Forsyth.
"Why, I lay senseless for months and months from a cut on the head; how
long I have no idea yet; I shall have to puzzle it out some day, but at
present it is logarithms over again to think of it.  I should certainly
have died if it had not been for my dear old black nurse, Fatima, the
loss of whom is the only thing I shall regret in leaving this part of
the world.  And if ever I come back, it will be to hunt her out and buy
her."

"Fatima!  Come, now for a touch of romance, Harry!" cried Strachan,
laughing.

"Black as your Sunday hat in London; blubber lips, hair like coarse
wool; feet like canoes, and the best heart in the world, and--there she
is!"

It was true enough; Fatima was searching about, looking for Harry
Forsyth, just like a dear, faithful old dog.  Ever since the episode of
the letter she had thought he wanted to go to his own people, and sought
how to aid him; after the fight at Kirbekan she lost him, and made her
way down to Korti, as the best place, so far as she could learn, to gain
tidings of any Englishman.  The delight she expressed on thus
unexpectedly seeing him again was touching to a degree.

"You will have some one else to nurse now, Fatima," said Harry in
Arabic, pointing to Kavanagh.

"Your brother is my master; I will cure him!" she said, nodding
cheerfully to Kavanagh, and showing her white teeth.

"I am afraid Fatima would want to be nurse and doctor all in one, as she
was with me," said Harry, "and that would hardly agree with discipline.
But you might do worse than that, I can tell you.  Meantime, what am I
to do with her, I wonder?  Part from her willingly I never will.  I tell
you, Kavanagh, you would never have had a chance of your money, if I had
not fallen into her hands, after I fell for dead in the wilderness; for
I should never have pulled through but for her.  How astonished my dear
old mother and sister will be when I bring them a black servant!  But
she will soon learn their ways."

"You are my good genius, Forsyth," said Kavanagh; "and if you will call
on the Principal Medical Officer, and other great authorities, I have no
doubt you will be able to help me to get away the quicker."

"I should like to go home with you," said Forsyth, "and will if I can.
Let us once get to Cairo, and I can raise any necessary money on the
strength of this," and he tapped the will on his chest.

"Would it be too great a presumption to ask to see this portentous
document?" asked Strachan.  "I own to feeling some curiosity about it."

"Not at all."  And he unwound it from its wrappings and produced it.

"And because a rascal clerk ran away with that bit of parchment,
Kavanagh had to enlist as a private, and you had to go wandering over
the world for years, leaving your mother and sister in poverty and
anxiety!" said Tom Strachan, meditatively.  "People are always talking
about red tape in the army; surely there is still more of it in the
law."

"Oh, yes, naturally one would expect that."

"Ah, well, I hope he got it hot; I _do_ hope he got it hot!  I will
introduce you to all the people who can help you, Harry, but I must be
off just now."

Forsyth got every assistance from the authorities to take his wounded
friend away.  And his old connection with Mr Williams and the English
firm at Cairo stood him in good stead; so that he reached Cairo, and
embarked for England with Fatima and her patient sooner than he had
expected.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

AT SHEEN.

The severity of the May of 1885 had at last abated, and the arrows on
the vanes proved that they had not got fixed by rust, as many suspected,
in a north-easterly direction, by turning to the south and west, so that
those inhabitants of Great Britain who had not succumbed to pneumonia
were able to let their fires out, open their windows, and enjoy out-of-
door games with impunity.

Mrs Forsyth and Beatrice now reaped the benefit of their work in the
garden, for the tulips, the various _arias_ and _otises_ made the
borders resplendent, while the delicious scent of the wallflowers was
almost oppressive.  The May blossom was full out on the hedge which
bounded the little domain, and the apple-trees in that part devoted to
fruit and vegetables were one mass of pink and white.

Though still at Sheen, the Forsyths were not in their original cottage.
When their fortunes changed for the better, Mrs Forsyth had moved into
a larger villa, with a verandah round it, and modest stabling, and a
nice lawn.  And on this lawn white chalk lines were drawn, and a net
fixed, on one side of which Beatrice Forsyth, racquet in hand, was
employed in affording exercise for her brother Harry, who was on the
other.  He took the large court to her small court, and as she had a
special talent for placing the balls, she made him run about rarely.
The original layer out of that garden, who flourished before lawn-tennis
was invented, had perpetrated a prophetic pun by planting a service tree
on one side of the ground, and under this sat Mrs Forsyth before a
garden table which had wools and work-box on it, for she could not bear
to sit idle.  Not far from her, and still under the shade of the service
tree, was a lounging chair or couch of cane and wicker-work of the most
comfortable description, with arms so broad and flat that you could
lodge books and papers upon them, and the right arm had a circular
hollow to hold a tumbler.

In this chair reclined a good-looking young man, whose pale and delicate
features and thin hands told of recent illness, and together with a
crimson scar across his face gave him that appearance which ladies call
interesting, the effect being heightened by the shawls and rugs which
were strewn about him.  Rice paper and a packet of Egyptian tobacco lay
on one of the arms of his couch, but it was only between the games that
he occasionally twiddled up a cigarette, so conscientiously did he
attend to his duties as umpire.

"Vantage out," said Harry, who was serving.  Beatrice returned the ball
high, and very far back-indeed, and immediately cried--

"I think it was just in!"

"I think _not_," said Harry, grinning.  "How was it, umpire?"

"Line ball!" said Kavanagh, who from his position could not possibly
have seen.

"Game and set!" cried Trix, delighted, though as a matter of fact the
ball had fallen a foot beyond the base line, and they both came to the
tree for a rest.

"I hope you will be able to play yourself soon," said Harry Forsyth.

"I could play now," replied Kavanagh; "my side does not hurt me a bit
whatever I do.  It is only weakness that stops me, and I feel stronger
every morning."

"Then we shall have a four set without recourse to neighbours when Mary
Strachan arrives," said Beatrice.

"Mary Strachan!  Is she coming?" cried Kavanagh.

"Yes; mamma asked her, and she is to arrive early next week."

"That _will_ be jolly!  We only want Tom too."

"I don't despair of seeing _him_ before the autumn," said Harry.  "I
heard from him yesterday, and he thought he should come home when the
Guards did.  And if we kiss and make it up with the various folks we are
at loggerheads with, I don't think there will be much more fighting for
you military parties to do."

"Who do you mean?" asked Kavanagh.  "I am not a military person.  I have
got my discharge, sir, and might pass the commander-in-chief himself
without saluting.  Not that I would though, God bless him."

"Is it not time that you had your jelly and glass of port wine?"
observed Mrs Forsyth.

"Not quite," said Harry; "Fatima would not let him miss it by a minute.
I believe she sits watching the clock, now she has learned what the
figures mean, and why the hands go round."

"That is right; speak up for your slave," said Beatrice.  "Any
imputation upon her punctuality might depreciate her market value."

"I would not sell her for her weight in gold, and that must be something
towards settling the National Debt," said Harry.  "She nursed me back
into life, I know."

"I can never repay her," murmured Mrs Forsyth.

At that moment the object of conversation appeared with a tray in her
hand, and a broad smile on her honest black face.  She was robed in
white, with a red shawl and a yellow handkerchief round her head.  They
had tried to put her into a print gown and a mob cap, but she looked so
queer and was so uncomfortable that they let her choose her own costume.
Nursing was certainly her strong point, and she tended Kavanagh as
carefully as if he had been a baby.  Only she always thought it cold,
and wanted to smother him with wraps.

It was no use resisting, so he had to put them away quietly when her
back was turned.

"I shall have apoplexy if I am convalescent long," said Kavanagh,
swallowing the last spoonful of his jelly.  "I am eating and drinking
good things the whole day long."

"But think of the privations you have to make up for," said Mrs
Forsyth.

"Oh, mother, what a dear you are!" cried Harry.  "Now I know why we have
asparagus every day for dinner!  _Apropos_ of dinner, who do you think
is coming to feed with us this evening, Kavanagh?"

"Invalids are excused guessing," said Kavanagh.

"Your old militia captain, Royce.  He has got his majority now, by-the-
by, and he is set upon having you back into the regiment."

Royce was punctual; and I propose to you a novelty in story endings.
Let the curtain fall upon our friends as they are going in to dinner.

THE END.





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