Puslapio vaizdai

to leave their posts and join the scrub.
the party round the wells.
Evidently they thought an at-
tack most unlikely, and, more-
over, the need for water for
themselves and their horses was
becoming a pressing one.

Mackintosh had arranged that Rand should send a messenger for orders at 10 A.M., by which time he hoped to be in a position to estimate their chances of a successful attack. But as he watched the rapid progress of the clearing operations, he began to fear that he had miscalculated the time, and that the Arabs would have reached water before Rand's messenger could return with his instructions. Soon, however, he saw that his fears were groundless. At first it had been a simple matter to dig away the soft yielding sand; but as the excavated holes became deeper, the Arabs found that it tended to slide back again as fast as they could throw it out. They realised that to reach the actual wells they would have to clear broad craters, such as had existed before they were filled in by Rand's men. This was a task of some magnitude, but thirst drove them on; either they must dig, or they must return waterless across the burning sand-dunes, and there could be no doubt as to which alternative was the more acceptable.

The hours dragged on, and the heat among the ithil bushes was growing intolerable, when at last Rand's messenger was seen carefully crawling through

Mackintosh wrote


a hasty note: "I think a sudden attack stands a good chance of success; the look-out hourly becoming slacker. Try to arrive about midday. The Arabs will have reached water by the afternoon," and appended a rough sketch of the positions at which Zambur still had a few watchmen posted.

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Two more hours to be got through somehow ! Mackintosh, hot and cramped, felt all the sympathy of a fellowsufferer for the toiling Arabs below. His orderly was already asleep, and he felt himself strongly tempted to follow suit. Cautiously he moved into a more wideawake position, and reached for his rifle, for through the bushes he had caught sight of an Arab slowly making his way towards their hiding place. The orderly, awakened by the movement, stretched out a hand and pulled down the rifle ; his keener eyes had recognised one of the Levies. Rand had sent a second messenger, in case of any accident to the first-a piece of forethought which was afterwards found to have been fully justified, for the first man never returned. He was found dead only a few hundred yards from Mackintosh's coign of vantage, and as no wound could be found they could only conIclude that he had been bitten by one of the small poisonous snakes sometimes found in that region.

A duplicate note written and despatched, Mackintosh settled

black water-skins, now nearly empty, flapped ludicrously as the horses galloped forward.

down once more to his vigil. effect of grotesqueness, the Suddenly he heard a joyful shout, and saw Zambur's men crowding excitedly round the wells. Had they found water already? Apparently it was only one of the masonry wellheads which they had reached, but none the less the end of their task was drawing uncomfortably near, from Mackintosh's point of view. He began to fear that Rand would attack, not an enemy weary, dispirited, almost exhausted, but one refreshed and alert, and many times outnumbering his own force. Encouraged by their find, the men fell to work again with renewed energy, while the last of the watchers, as though eager for their share of the longed-for water, or convinced that no attack from Ajil was to be feared after so long an interval, left their posts to join the diggers.

All at once the hot still air was rent by fearsome yells. Mackintosh sprang from his hiding-place, to see Rand's cavalry charging across the open ground which separated the two areas of growing corn. In spite of himself he could not restrain his laughter, for it was surely the maddest charge ever led by a British officer. give the impression of greater numbers, Rand had spread out his men in one long straggling line; some of the less skilful horsemen had already fallen from their saddles, and their scared mounts, with tails well up, were leading the van; while to add to the general


For Zambur's startled tribesmen one glance at the khaki tunics was enough. With a scared cry of "The English, the English!" they dashed for their horses. But in the eager search for water on their arrival at Abu Saba' many of these had been left untethered, and now, terrified by the yells of Rand's men, were already galloping away. Most of the weary men tamely surrendered, and Rand soon found that he had three times as many prisoners as the total number of his own force; these were quickly disarmed and put under a strong guard, while some of the Levies rode forward to see that the scattered fleeing remnant did not reform and attempt a counter-attack.

Towards sunset, however, the victory became a more complete one than even Rand's most sanguine hopes had led them to expect. In twos and threes and small parties the fugitives returned to give themselves up, unable to face the long waterless journey across the sand-dunes. They were all unarmed, having, so they said, dropped their rifles in their hasty flight.

When Mackintosh learned that among the Arabs who had SO surrendered was Zambur himself, he sought out Rand, and told him to despatch the shaikh at once under a strong guard to the Mudir of Tarif.


Yes, I know your men have had about enough," he said, seeing Rand's objection on the tip of his tongue. "But it is absolutely essential that Zambur should be got away at once. I'll tell you why later."

Early next morning a distant band of horsemen was seen by the sentries, who gave the alarm; but it proved to be nothing worse than Shaikh Ajil and his men, returning in the hope of harassing the enemy. Their delight knew no bounds on hearing that Zambur and more than half his gom had been captured, practically without casualties. Ajil, once freed from the responsibility of his women - folk and possessions, was a very different man: he was now anxious to try conclusions with his enemy, though admitting that the chances of a further attack were very remote, since the alliance between Zambur and Mohammad was probably not so strong as to send the latter out in support of his defeated and captured ally. Even if Mohammad decided on a raid, it would take him some days to collect fighting men to replace those sent out on the first expedition; and Ajil proposed making use of those few days of grace to harvest the grain sown by Zambur's tribe.

Mackintosh, however, had a better plan, which was received with

delighted appreciation when he unfolded it to the old shaikh, and with rueful assent by the spokesman of the prisoners, who had been called in

to the conference. It was not until midday that the Adviser was at leisure to give Rand his promised explanation.

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As long as Zambur was here we were in very real danger," he said. "We had many more prisoners than we could guard properly, and, moreover, those tales of dropped rifles were all bunkum-you can bet what you like that they were all buried close by, so that they should not have to be given up to us. If Zambur had rallied his party in the night and managed to unearth them, as was possibly his intention in surrendering, he could easily have turned the tables on us, outnumbered as we were. Luckily he didn't have the chance." Mackintosh paused to light his pipe.


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Then, of course, there are political considerations,' he went on. "That is why I sent Zambur to Tarif instead of to headquarters, and why I don't want to take back three hundred prisoners. They are all, strictly speaking, Persian subjects, and awkward questions might be asked. I might even be accused of embroiling England in a war with Persia! No, for the present at any rate, we must keep our little exploit quiet. But we have got what we wanted out of it. I've had a talk with Mackenzie, the spokesman of our prisoners


Mackenzie!" exclaimed Rand. "Surely that redbearded old ruffian isn't descended from a countryman of yours? "

"Not he," laughed Mackin- came men with seven-pronged tosh. "I asked him about that. It appears that his father once possessed a Mackenzie rifle, of which he was so proud that he named his son after it! But to continue. He and his men are to reap and winnow all the grain sown by their fellow-tribesmen in Ajil's land, and when it is once safely carted away by Ajil, they and their shaikh will be free to return home."

Though it meant giving up his prisoners, Rand could not but assent to the poetic justice of Mackintosh's scheme. The work of harvesting began at once, and went on with surprising swiftness, for Zambur's men were eager to complete the task which was to be the price of their release. They cut down the wheat and barley with curved knives, and carried it on their heads to the threshingfloors, open spaces of hard earth in which donkeys, cows, and horses provided by Ajil walked round and round in circles, treading out the grain. Then

mirwahs, primitive pitchforks of smoothly polished wood, with which they tossed the corn lightly in the air, so that the grain fell to earth while the chaff was carried away by the wind. Finally, the piles of winnowed corn were poured into great sacks, and borne away by the long string of camels which came and went between Abu Saba' and the place of safety in which Ajil was garnering the precious harvest.

"Verily I and my people have reaped the reward of waiting," said the old man as the two British officers bade him farewell. "But, by Allah and your head, we were set a hard task when your Honour ordered us to stay our hands from driving out the tribesmen of Zambur."

"Is not haste from the devil?" quoted Mackintosh.

"Ay, and patience from Allah-may He be praised and exalted!" piously concluded Shaikh Ajil.



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

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finding ourselves not otherwise in request, Jock and I strolled over to see what was happening, and found in progress


what I believe was the first polo match in England. was between the 9th Lancers and one of the Household Cavalry regiments, and formed a society function of the first water. I think the numbers were six a side, and the ponies about 13 hands high. The ground was as rough as artillery wheels and galloping horses could make it, for it was the drill-ground of all the batteries in Woolwich, so the game was a different one from that of the present day. Among the spectators was the exEmperor Napoleon III., from Chislehurst, looking pale and ill. It was, I think, his last public appearance.

Shirres and I belonged to a batch of about fifty young men who had passed the entrance examination some two months previously. The majority of our companions, who turned up at the same time, and with whom we soon became intimately acquainted, were from all the chief public schools of England, though a few, like Shirres and myself, hailed from similar schools in Scotland and Ireland. We were collectively alluded to, officially, as "the

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