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swish of a blow aimed towards her that barely missed her. Then she was by the bed, feeling over it; it was empty.
She had some moments of rest; everyone was still, save for harsh breathing. But she dared not stand long, lest their eyes too should adapt themselves to the dark. It was evident that nobody had firearms; there was that much to be thankful for. She gathered herself for an attack, a rush at the enemy with an active hat-pin, when something touched her foot. She bent, swiftly alert for war, but arrested the pin on its way. It was a hand from under the bed ; her protégé had taken refuge there, She took his wrist and pulled; he whimpered, and there was a grunt from the middle of the room at the sound, but he came crawling. She dared not whisper, for those others were moving already, but with her cool, firm hand on his wrist she sank down on all-fours and drew him on towards the door. It was impossible to make no noise, but at any rate their noise was disconcerting; the robbers could not guess what it betokened. Each of them had his stab, a tingling, unaccountable wound, a hurt to daunt a man, and they were separately each standing guard over his own life.
They encountered one half-way across the room. He felt them near him, and sent a smashing blow with a knife into the empty air. Miss Gregory, always with that considered and careful swiftness that was so like deliberation, reared to her knees, her left hand still holding the youth's wrist, and lunged. Another yell
, and the man, leaping back, fouled a comrade, who stabbed and sprang away. They heard the man fall and move upon the floor like a dying fish, with sounds of choking. Then the door was before them, and, crawling still, with infinite pains to be noiseless, they passed through it. From within the room the choking noises followed them till they gained the open air.
The tortuous alley received them like a refuge; they fled along it with lightened hearts, taking all turnings that might baffle a chase, till at last Miss Gregory smelt acacias and they issued again into the little square. To Miss Gregory it was almost amazing that the cafés should still be lighted, their tables thronged, the music insistent. While history had raced for her the world had stood still. She stood and looked across at the lights thoughtfully. The youth at her side coughed. The least I can do,' he
I suggested inanely, is ask you to ’ave a cup of coffee, ma’am.'
Miss Gregory turned on him sharply.
"And then ?' she asked. After the coffee, what then ?'
He shuffled his feet uneasily. 'Well, ma’am,' he said ; this hole in my back is more’n a bit painful. So I thought I'd get along to the hotel an' have a lie down.'
She looked at him thoughtfully. Her head was bare, and the night breeze from the sea whipped a strand of grey hair across her brow. She brushed it away a little wearily.
'Unless there's anything more I can do for you,' suggested the young man smoothly.
Anything more he could do for her! She smiled, considering him. The events of the night had not ruffled him; his blond face was still mild, insignificant, plebeian. Of such men slaves are made; their part is to obey orders, to be without responsibility, to be guided, governed and protected by their betters. Miss Gregory, sister of a Major-General, friend of Colonial Governors, aunt of a Member of Parliament, author of 'The Saharan Solitudes,' and woman of the world, saw that she had served her purpose; her work was done.
Thank you,' she said ; 'there is nothing more. You had better go to bed at once.'
There was a broken fountain in the middle of the square, overgrown with sickly lichen, and round it ran a stone bench. The acacias sheltered it, and a dribble of water from the conduit sounded always, fitting itself to one's thoughts in a murmuring cadence. Here Miss Gregory disposed herself, and here the dawn found her, a little dishevelled, and looking rather old with the chill of that bleak hour before the sun rises. But her grey head was erect, her broad back straight, and the regard of her eyes serene and untroubled always. She was waiting for the hour when the Consul would be accessible ; he was the son of her dearest friend.
' And I must not forget,' she told herself—'I really must not forget to attend to that hotel man.'
The Subaltern had strolled into the club, after a distressingly hot game of tennis, to have a drink, when he was informed by many people, most of whom spoke at one and the same time, that great things were toward, and that the brigade was to be mobilised and moved off to the front. Already had come news from the north that there had been fighting in the Mohmand country, that General Willcocks had inflicted a defeat on the tribesmen, and the general impression was that 'the show would fizzle out.' The news just received, however (Friday, April 24), put a different complexion on affairs, and there was nothing in the way of warfare, from a general rising all along the frontier to an Afghan war backed by a great northern Power, which was not advanced as a reason for the mobilisation of the brigade. So the Subaltern drank to the success of the regiment and the confusion of the enemy, and wended his way thoughtfully back to his quarters to prepare for the inevitable 'pack-up.'
It was eleven o'clock on the following Sunday morning, that hour which by the custom of the Briton all the world over is peculiarly consecrated to quiet and meditation, yet the Divisional Office at Rawalpindi hummed like a hive of bees.
Lancer orderlies trotted in and out of the gates ; gorgeous chuprassies wandered helplessly about with chits (letters) for unknown sahibs; the sahibs for their part threw themselves off their bicycles or ponies, entered one of the many doors of the building, and hurried out again with important-looking official envelopes in their hands—everyone had an air of bustle and importance. The Subaltern, up from his station to collect field service stores for his regiment, entered the Supply and Transport Office. Now, if
Note.—The above account is taken from a diary kept on the recent NorthWest Frontier expedition against the Mohmands during the month of May 1903. It is hoped that even the short period covered will give some idea of the mise-esscène of one of our little wars.'
there is one branch of an army which has to work harder than another on declaration of war, it is the ‘S. and T.' The two long rooms were filled with clerks, babus hurried up and down with large files, and a telegraph machine clicked monotonously in each corner. The Subaltern approached an officer in authority.
'Good-morning, sir. I've come about the rations, &c., for my regiment. They've sent you the indents.'
The officer looked up.
'Just one minute, please. Babu, telegraph form there. Tell those people at Hasan Abdal that they'll have to wait, that's all. Say we'll send them the camels to-morrow morning. And-er-Smith!'
Telephone down to the Supply Depot and tell them to have those stores for the M.B. ready; they pass through to-day, or to-morrow morning early.'
'Your stores ? They'll tell you about 'em in Section C. Babu, show this officer Section C, will you ?'
Followed wanderings and searchings by the Subaltern, until he was informed that thirty carts had been put at his disposal by the Transport, and that the Supply had his stores ready whenever he chose to take them.
Whereupon the Subaltern issued out into the Mall, chartered a tonga, and until evening strove with Station Stores and Divisional Supply Depots, with babus who wanted innumerable signatures and quoted innumerable regulations, with the drivers of thirty mule carts, with the stuffy atmospheres of many mobilisation stores, with the heat (it was hot for an Indian April) and dust, with the principalities and powers of the railway station, who objected to stores being dumped down on their platform, and with much weariness of the flesh.
His stores safely placed with a guard over them, the Subaltern had leisure to observe the course of events. The station, like the Divisional Office, was in the throes of mobilisation. At one platform a mule corps was being entrained, and at another a camel corps, &c. Officers in uniform were waiting about, detailing the latest rumour from the front while waiting for their trains, or endeavouring to extract information from the station-master. For in war those who manage the trains are chief among those who know. Commanding officers may call heaven and earth to witness that their regiments must move on the morrow, adjutants
and Staff officers may look mysterious and let drop judicious hints, war correspondents may have their notebooks filled with a précis received from the General himself, but unless you have the requisite trains nothing happens. One must therefore be very polite the station-master; and the Subaltern went in quest of him. Of course the station-master was not in his office. Where is he? It is to be presumed that he is, like a good captain of a ship, always on the bridge and seldom in his cabin.
The Subaltern, having crossed many rails, climbed over not a few trucks, and escaped two shunting engines which did their best to run him down, caught the potentate at an obscure platform, where he was superintending, with winged words, the entraining of half a hundred squealing, obstreperous mules, when the followng conversation ensued :
SUBALTERN. Good-afternoon. My regiment, the —th, is coming through to-morrow morning, isn't it? I want to know, as I've got to hand over some stores to them.
STATION-MASTER (suspiciously; evidently the Subaltern is by no means the first searcher after knowledge). Good-afternoon, sir. Your regiment can't come through here to-morrow, because there won't be a train for it.
SUBALTERN. Ah, that's curious. I got a wire from them to say that they were.
STATION-MASTER. Well, unless they walk, I don't see how they are going to do it. I don't suppose that they'll be through for a couple of days more. Oh, by the way, sir, you've put your stores on the platform underneath one of my shelters ; I thought you were going to put them under those trees I showed you.
SUBALTERN. Well, if it rained, you see, the trees would not be much protection for them, so I thought it would be the same to you if I put them under shelter.
STATION-MASTER. Well, I'm afraid it isn't, sir; I shall most likely want it for some of my own goods. I'm afraid I shall have to ask you to remove them.
SUBALTERN (blandly). Very sorry, but all my carts have gone away.
Before the Subaltern left the station he amused himself by watching the manœuvres of a corps who were entraining their camels. Most of the great, ungainly brutes had been got into their trucks, where they sat, their legs tucked under them and their heads poking superciliously over the side, with the most ridiculous