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Chapter 21 The Little Hill

  • It was a wise man who said that the biggest kind of courage was to be able t_it still. I used to feel that when we were getting shelled in the reserv_renches outside Vermelles. I felt it before we went over the parapets a_oos, but I never felt it so much as on the last two days in that cellar. _ad simply to set my teeth and take a pull on myself. Peter had gone on _razy errand which I scarcely believed could come off. There were no signs o_andy; somewhere within a hundred yards he was fighting his own battles, and _as tormented by the thought that he might get jumpy again and wrec_verything. A strange Companion brought us food, a man who spoke only Turkis_nd could tell us nothing; Hussin, I judged, was busy about the horses. If _ould only have done something to help on matters I could have scotched m_nxiety, but there was nothing to be done, nothing but wait and brood. I tel_ou I began to sympathize with the general behind the lines in a battle, th_ellow who makes the plan which others execute. Leading a charge can b_othing like so nerve-shaking a business as sitting in an easy-chair an_aiting on the news of it.
  • It was bitter cold, and we spent most of the day wrapped in our greatcoats an_uried deep in the straw. Blenkiron was a marvel. There was no light for hi_o play Patience by, but he never complained. He slept a lot of the time, an_hen he was awake talked as cheerily as if he were starting out on a holiday.
  • He had one great comfort, his dyspepsia was gone. He sang hymns constantly t_he benign Providence that had squared his duodenum.
  • My only occupation was to listen for the guns. The first day after Peter lef_hey were very quiet on the front nearest us, but in the late evening the_tarted a terrific racket. The next day they never stopped from dawn to dusk, so that it reminded me of that tremendous forty-eight hours before Loos. _ried to read into this some proof that Peter had got through, but it woul_ot work. It looked more like the opposite, for this desperate hammering mus_ean that the frontal assault was still the Russian game.
  • Two or three times I climbed on the housetop for fresh air. The day was fogg_nd damp, and I could see very little of the countryside. Transport was stil_umping southward along the road to the Palantuken, and the slow wagon-load_f wounded returning. One thing I noticed, however; there was a perpetua_oming and going between the house and the city. Motors and mounted messenger_ere constantly arriving and departing, and I concluded that Hilda von Eine_as getting ready for her part in the defence of Erzerum.
  • These ascents were all on the first day after Peter's going. The second day, when I tried the trap, I found it closed and heavily weighted. This must hav_een done by our friends, and very right, too. If the house were becoming _lace of public resort, it would never do for me to be journeying roof-ward.
  • Late on the second night Hussin reappeared. It was after supper, whe_lenkiron had gone peacefully to sleep and I was beginning to count the hour_ill the morning. I could not close an eye during these days and not much a_ight.
  • Hussin did not light a lantern. I heard his key in the lock, and then hi_ight step close to where we lay.
  • 'Are you asleep?' he said, and when I answered he sat down beside me.
  • 'The horses are found,' he said, 'and the Master bids me tell you that w_tart in the morning three hours before dawn.'
  • It was welcome news. 'Tell me what is happening,' I begged; 'we have bee_ying in this tomb for three days and heard nothing.'
  • 'The guns are busy,' he said. 'The Allemans come to this place every hour, _now not for what. Also there has been a great search for you. The searcher_ave been here, but they were sent away empty… . Sleep, my lord, for there i_ild work before us.'
  • I did not sleep much, for I was strung too high with expectation, and I envie_lenkiron his now eupeptic slumbers. But for an hour or so I dropped off, an_y old nightmare came back. Once again I was in the throat of a pass, hotl_ursued, straining for some sanctuary which I knew I must reach. But I was n_onger alone. Others were with me: how many I could not tell, for when I trie_o see their faces they dissolved in mist. Deep snow was underfoot, a grey sk_as over us, black peaks were on all sides, but ahead in the mist of the pas_as that curious castrol which I had first seen in my dream on the Erzeru_oad.
  • I saw it distinct in every detail. It rose to the left of the road through th_ass, above a hollow where great boulders stood out in the snow. Its side_ere steep, so that the snow had slipped off in patches, leaving stretches o_listening black shale. The kranz at the top did not rise sheer, but sloped a_n angle of forty-five, and on the very summit there seemed a hollow, as i_he earth within the rock-rim had been beaten by weather into a cup.
  • That is often the way with a South African castrol, and I knew it was so wit_his. We were straining for it, but the snow clogged us, and our enemies wer_ery close behind.
  • Then I was awakened by a figure at my side. 'Get ready, my lord,' it said; 'i_s the hour to ride.'
  • Like sleep-walkers we moved into the sharp air. Hussin led us out of an ol_ostern and then through a place like an orchard to the shelter of some tal_vergreen trees. There horses stood, champing quietly from their nosebags.
  • 'Good,' I thought; 'a feed of oats before a big effort.'
  • There were nine beasts for nine riders. We mounted without a word and file_hrough a grove of trees to where a broken paling marked the beginning o_ultivated land. There for the matter of twenty minutes Hussin chose to guid_s through deep, clogging snow. He wanted to avoid any sound till we were wel_eyond earshot of the house. Then we struck a by-path which presently merge_n a hard highway, running, as I judged, south-west by west. There we delaye_o longer, but galloped furiously into the dark.
  • I had got back all my exhilaration. Indeed I was intoxicated with th_ovement, and could have laughed out loud and sung. Under the black canopy o_he night perils are either forgotten or terribly alive. Mine were forgotten.
  • The darkness I galloped into led me to freedom and friends. Yes, and success, which I had not dared to hope and scarcely even to dream of.
  • Hussin rode first, with me at his side. I turned my head and saw Blenkiro_ehind me, evidently mortally unhappy about the pace we set and the mount h_at. He used to say that horse-exercise was good for his liver, but it was _entle amble and a short gallop that he liked, and not this mad helter- skelter. His thighs were too round to fit a saddle leather. We passed a fir_n a hollow, the bivouac of some Turkish unit, and all the horses shie_iolently. I knew by Blenkiron's oaths that he had lost his stirrups and wa_itting on his horse's neck.
  • Beside him rode a tall figure swathed to the eyes in wrappings, and wearin_ound his neck some kind of shawl whose ends floated behind him. Sandy, o_ourse, had no European ulster, for it was months since he had worn prope_lothes. I wanted to speak to him, but somehow I did not dare. His stillnes_orbade me. He was a wonderful fine horseman, with his firm English huntin_eat, and it was as well, for he paid no attention to his beast. His head wa_till full of unquiet thoughts.
  • Then the air around me began to smell acrid and raw, and I saw that a fog wa_inding up from the hollows.
  • 'Here's the devil's own luck,' I cried to Hussin. 'Can you guide us in _ist?'
  • 'I do not know.' He shook his head. 'I had counted on seeing the shape of th_ills.'
  • 'We've a map and compass, anyhow. But these make slow travelling. Pray God i_ifts!'
  • Presently the black vapour changed to grey, and the day broke. It was littl_omfort. The fog rolled in waves to the horses' ears, and riding at the hea_f the party I could but dimly see the next rank.
  • 'It is time to leave the road,' said Hussin, 'or we may meet inquisitiv_olk.'
  • We struck to the left, over ground which was for all the world like a Scotc_oor. There were pools of rain on it, and masses of tangled snow-lade_unipers, and long reefs of wet slaty stone. It was bad going, and the fo_ade it hopeless to steer a good course. I had out the map and the compass, and tried to fix our route so as to round the flank of a spur of the mountain_hich separated us from the valley we were aiming at.
  • 'There's a stream ahead of us,' I said to Hussin. 'Is it fordable?'
  • 'It is only a trickle,' he said, coughing. 'This accursed mist is from Eblis.'
  • But I knew long before we reached it that it was no trickle. It was a hil_tream coming down in spate, and, as I soon guessed, in a deep ravine.
  • Presently we were at its edge, one long whirl of yeasty falls and brow_apids. We could as soon get horses over it as to the topmost cliffs of th_alantuken.
  • Hussin stared at it in consternation. 'May Allah forgive my folly, for _hould have known. We must return to the highway and find a bridge. My sorrow, that I should have led my lords so ill.'
  • Back over that moor we went with my spirits badly damped. We had none too lon_ start, and Hilda von Einem would rouse heaven and earth to catch us up.
  • Hussin was forcing the pace, for his anxiety was as great as mine.
  • Before we reached the road the mist blew back and revealed a wedge of countr_ight across to the hills beyond the river. It was a clear view, every objec_tanding out wet and sharp in the light of morning. It showed the bridge wit_orsemen drawn up across it, and it showed, too, cavalry pickets moving alon_he road.
  • They saw us at the same instant. A word was passed down the road, a shril_histle blew, and the pickets put their horses at the bank and started acros_he moor.
  • 'Did I not say this mist was from Eblis?' growled Hussin, as we swung roun_nd galloped back on our tracks. 'These cursed Zaptiehs have seen us, and ou_oad is cut.'
  • I was for trying the stream at all costs, but Hussin pointed out that it woul_o us no good. The cavalry beyond the bridge was moving up the other bank.
  • 'There is a path through the hills that I know, but it must be travelled o_oot. If we can increase our lead and the mist cloaks us, there is yet _hance.'
  • It was a weary business plodding up to the skirts of the hills. We had th_ursuit behind us now, and that put an edge on every difficulty. There wer_ong banks of broken screes, I remember, where the snow slipped in wreath_rom under our feet. Great boulders had to be circumvented, and patches o_og, where the streams from the snows first made contact with the plains, mired us to our girths. Happily the mist was down again, but this, though i_indered the chase, lessened the chances of Hussin finding the path.
  • He found it nevertheless. There was the gully and the rough mule-track leadin_pwards. But there also had been a landslip, quite recent from the marks. _arge scar of raw earth had broken across the hillside, which with the sno_bove it looked like a slice cut out of an iced chocolate-cake.
  • We stared blankly for a second, till we recognized its hopelessness.
  • 'I'm trying for the crags,' I said. 'Where there once was a way another can b_ound.'
  • 'And be picked off at their leisure by these marksmen,' said Hussin grimly.
  • 'Look!'
  • The mist had opened again, and a glance behind showed me the pursuit closin_p on us. They were now less than three hundred yards off. We turned ou_orses and made off east-ward along the skirts of the cliffs.
  • Then Sandy spoke for the first time. 'I don't know how you fellows feel, bu_'m not going to be taken. There's nothing much to do except to find a plac_nd put up a fight. We can sell our lives dearly.'
  • 'That's about all,' said Blenkiron cheerfully. He had suffered such torture_n that gallop that he welcomed any kind of stationary fight.
  • 'Serve out the arms,' said Sandy.
  • The Companions all carried rifles slung across their shoulders. Hussin, from _eep saddle-bag, brought out rifles and bandoliers for the rest of us. As _aid mine across my saddle-bow I saw it was a German Mauser of the lates_attern.
  • 'It's hell-for-leather till we find a place for a stand,' said Sandy. 'Th_ame's against us this time.'
  • Once more we entered the mist, and presently found better going on a lon_tretch of even slope. Then came a rise, and on the crest of it I saw the sun.
  • Presently we dipped into bright daylight and looked down on a broad glen, wit_ road winding up it to a pass in the range. I had expected this. It was on_ay to the Palantuken pass, some miles south of the house where we had bee_odged.
  • And then, as I looked southward, I saw what I had been watching for for days.
  • A little hill split the valley, and on its top was a kranz of rocks. It wa_he castrol of my persistent dream.
  • On that I promptly took charge. 'There's our fort,' I cried. 'If we once ge_here we can hold it for a week. Sit down and ride for it.'
  • We bucketed down that hillside like men possessed, even Blenkiron sticking o_anfully among the twists and turns and slithers. Presently we were on th_oad and were racing past marching infantry and gun teams and empty wagons. _oted that most seemed to be moving downward and few going up. Hussin screame_ome words in Turkish that secured us a passage, but indeed our crazy spee_eft them staring. Out of a corner of my eye I saw that Sandy had flung of_ost of his wrappings and seemed to be all a dazzle of rich colour. But I ha_hought for nothing except the little hill, now almost fronting us across th_hallow glen.
  • No horses could breast that steep. We urged them into the hollow, and the_astily dismounted, humped the packs, and began to struggle up the side of th_astrol. It was strewn with great boulders, which gave a kind of cover tha_ery soon was needed. For, snatching a glance back, I saw that our pursuer_ere on the road above us and were getting ready to shoot.
  • At normal times we would have been easy marks, but, fortunately, wisps an_treamers of mist now clung about that hollow. The rest could fend fo_hemselves, so I stuck to Blenkiron and dragged him, wholly breathless, by th_east exposed route. Bullets spattered now and then against the rocks, and on_ang unpleasantly near my head. In this way we covered three-fourths of th_istance, and had only the bare dozen yards where the gradient eased off up t_he edge of the kranz.
  • Blenkiron got hit in the leg, our only casualty. There was nothing for it bu_o carry him, so I swung him on my shoulders, and with a bursting heart di_hat last lap. It was hottish work, and the bullets were pretty thick abou_s, but we all got safely to the kranz, and a short scramble took us over th_dge. I laid Blenkiron inside the castrol and started to prepare our defence.
  • We had little time to do it. Out of the thin fog figures were coming, crouching in cover. The place we were in was a natural redoubt, except tha_here were no loopholes or sandbags. We had to show our heads over the rim t_hoot, but the danger was lessened by the superb field of fire given by thos_ast dozen yards of glacis. I posted the men and waited, and Blenkiron, with _hite face, insisted on taking his share, announcing that he used to be hand_ith a gun.
  • I gave the order that no man was to shoot till the enemy had come out of th_ocks on to the glacis. The thing ran right round the top, and we had to watc_ll sides to prevent them getting us in flank or rear. Hussin's rifle cracke_ut presently from the back, so my precautions had not been needless.
  • We were all three fair shots, though none of us up to Peter's miraculou_tandard, and the Companions, too, made good practice. The Mauser was th_eapon I knew best, and I didn't miss much. The attackers never had a chance, for their only hope was to rush us by numbers, and, the whole party being no_bove two dozen, they were far too few. I think we killed three, for thei_odies were left lying, and wounded at least six, while the rest fell bac_owards the road. In a quarter of an hour it was all over.
  • 'They are dogs of Kurds,' I heard Hussin say fiercely. 'Only a Kurdish giaou_ould fire on the livery of the Kaaba.'
  • Then I had a good look at Sandy. He had discarded shawls and wrappings, an_tood up in the strangest costume man ever wore in battle. Somehow he ha_rocured field-boots and an old pair of riding-breeches. Above these, reachin_ell below his middle, he had a wonderful silken jibbah or ephod of a brigh_merald. I cal it silk, but it was like no silk I have ever known, s_xquisite in the mesh, with such a sheen and depth in it. Some strange patter_as woven on the breast, which in the dim light I could not trace. I'l_arrant no rarer or costlier garment was ever exposed to lead on a blea_inter hill.
  • Sandy seemed unconscious of his garb. His eye, listless no more, scanned th_ollow. 'That's only the overture,' he cried. 'The opera will soon begin. W_ust put a breastwork up in these gaps or they'll pick us off from a thousan_ards.'
  • I had meantime roughly dressed Blenkiron's wound with a linen rag which Hussi_rovided. It was from a ricochet bullet which had chipped into his left shin.
  • Then I took a hand with the others in getting up earthworks to complete th_ircuit of the defence. It was no easy job, for we wrought only with ou_nives and had to dig deep down below the snowy gravel. As we worked I too_tock of our refuge.
  • The castrol was a rough circle about ten yards in diameter, its interio_illed with boulders and loose stones, and its parapet about four feet high.
  • The mist had cleared for a considerable space, and I could see the immediat_urroundings. West, beyond the hollow, was the road we had come, where now th_emnants of the pursuit were clustered. North, the hill fell steeply to th_alley bottom, but to the south, after a dip there was a ridge which shut th_iew. East lay another fork of the stream, the chief fork I guessed, and i_as evidently followed by the main road to the pass, for I saw it crowded wit_ransport. The two roads seemed to converge somewhere farther south of m_ight.
  • I guessed we could not be very far from the front, for the noise of gun_ounded very near, both the sharp crack of the field-pieces, and the deepe_oom of the howitzers. More, I could hear the chatter of the machine-guns, _agpie note among the baying of hounds. I even saw the bursting of Russia_hells, evidently trying to reach the main road. One big fellow - an eight- inch - landed not ten yards from a convoy to the east of us, and another i_he hollow through which we had come. These were clearly ranging shots, and _ondered if the Russians had observation-posts on the heights to mark them. I_o, they might soon try a curtain, and we should be very near its edge. I_ould be an odd irony if we were the target of friendly shells.
  • 'By the Lord Harry,' I heard Sandy say, 'if we had a brace of machine-guns w_ould hold this place against a division.'
  • 'What price shells?' I asked. 'If they get a gun up they can blow us to atom_n ten minutes.'
  • 'Please God the Russians keep them too busy for that,' was his answer.
  • With anxious eyes I watched our enemies on the road. They seemed to have grow_n numbers. They were signalling, too, for a white flag fluttered. Then th_ist rolled down on us again, and our prospect was limited to ten yards o_apour.
  • 'Steady,' I cried; 'they may try to rush us at any moment. Every man keep hi_ye on the edge of the fog, and shoot at the first sign.'
  • For nearly half an hour by my watch we waited in that queer white world, ou_yes smarting with the strain of peering. The sound of the guns seemed to b_ushed, and everything grown deathly quiet. Blenkiron's squeal, as he knocke_is wounded leg against a rock, made every man start.
  • Then out of the mist there came a voice.
  • It was a woman's voice, high, penetrating, and sweet, but it spoke in n_ongue I knew. Only Sandy understood. He made a sudden movement as if t_efend himself against a blow.
  • The speaker came into clear sight on the glacis a yard or two away. Mine wa_he first face she saw.
  • 'I come to offer terms,' she said in English. 'Will you permit me to enter?'
  • I could do nothing except take off my cap and say, 'Yes, ma'am.'
  • Blenkiron, snuggled up against the parapet, was cursing furiously below hi_reath.
  • She climbed up the kranz and stepped over the edge as lightly as a deer. He_lothes were strange - spurred boots and breeches over which fell a shor_reen kirtle. A little cap skewered with a jewelled pin was on her head, and _ape of some coarse country cloth hung from her shoulders. She had roug_auntlets on her hands, and she carried for weapon a riding-whip. The fog- crystals clung to her hair, I remember, and a silvery film of fog lay on he_arments.
  • I had never before thought of her as beautiful. Strange, uncanny, wonderful, if you like, but the word beauty had too kindly and human a sound for such _ace. But as she stood with heightened colour, her eyes like stars, her pois_ike a wild bird's, I had to confess that she had her own loveliness. Sh_ight be a devil, but she was also a queen. I considered that there might b_erits in the prospect of riding by her side into Jerusalem.
  • Sandy stood rigid, his face very grave and set. She held out both hands t_im, speaking softly in Turkish. I noticed that the six Companions ha_isappeared from the castrol and were somewhere out of sight on the farthe_ide.
  • I do not know what she said, but from her tone, and above all from her eyes, _udged that she was pleading - pleading for his return, for his partnership i_er great adventure; pleading, for all I knew, for his love.
  • His expression was like a death-mask, his brows drawn tight in a little frow_nd his jaw rigid.
  • 'Madam,' he said, 'I ask you to tell your business quick and to tell it i_nglish. My friends must hear it as well as me.'
  • 'Your friends!' she cried. 'What has a prince to do with these hirelings? You_laves, perhaps, but not your friends.'
  • 'My friends,' Sandy repeated grimly. 'You must know, Madam, that I am _ritish officer.'
  • That was beyond doubt a clean staggering stroke. What she had thought of hi_rigin God knows, but she had never dreamed of this. Her eyes grew larger an_ore lustrous, her lips parted as if to speak, but her voice failed her. The_y an effort she recovered herself, and out of that strange face went all th_low of youth and ardour. It was again the unholy mask I had first known.
  • 'And these others?' she asked in a level voice.
  • 'One is a brother officer of my regiment. The other is an American friend. Bu_ll three of us are on the same errand. We came east to destroy Greenmantl_nd your devilish ambitions. You have yourself destroyed your prophets, an_ow it is your turn to fail and disappear. Make no mistake, Madam; that foll_s over. I will tear this sacred garment into a thousand pieces and scatte_hem on the wind. The people wait today for the revelation, but none wil_ome. You may kill us if you can, but we have at least crushed a lie and don_ervice to our country.'
  • I would not have taken my eyes from her face for a king's ransom. I hav_ritten that she was a queen, and of that there is no manner of doubt. She ha_he soul of a conqueror, for not a flicker of weakness or disappointmen_arred her air. Only pride and the stateliest resolution looked out of he_yes.
  • 'I said I came to offer terms. I will still offer them, though they are othe_han I thought. For the fat American, I will send him home safely to his ow_ountry. I do not make war on such as he. He is Germany's foe, not mine. You,'
  • she said, turning fiercely on me, 'I will hang before dusk.'
  • Never in my life had I been so pleased. I had got my revenge at last. Thi_oman had singled me out above the others as the object of her wrath, and _lmost loved her for it.
  • She turned to Sandy, and the fierceness went out of her face.
  • 'You seek the truth,' she said. 'So also do I, and if we use a lie it is onl_o break down a greater. You are of my household in spirit, and you alone o_ll men I have seen are fit to ride with me on my mission. Germany may fail, but I shall not fail. I offer you the greatest career that mortal has known. _ffer you a task which will need every atom of brain and sinew and courage.
  • Will you refuse that destiny?'
  • I do not know what effect this vapouring might have had in hot scented rooms, or in the languor of some rich garden; but up on that cold hill-top it was a_nsubstantial as the mist around us. It sounded not even impressive, onl_razy.
  • 'I stay with my friends,' said Sandy.
  • 'Then I will offer more. I will save your friends. They, too, shall share i_y triumph.'
  • This was too much for Blenkiron. He scrambled to his feet to speak the protes_hat had been wrung from his soul, forgot his game leg, and rolled back on th_round with a groan.
  • Then she seemed to make a last appeal. She spoke in Turkish now, and I do no_now what she said, but I judged it was the plea of a woman to her lover. Onc_ore she was the proud beauty, but there was a tremor in her pride - I ha_lmost written tenderness. To listen to her was like horrid treachery, lik_avesdropping on something pitiful. I know my cheeks grew scarlet an_lenkiron turned away his head.
  • Sandy's face did not move. He spoke in English.
  • 'You can offer me nothing that I desire,' he said. 'I am the servant of m_ountry, and her enemies are mine. I can have neither part nor lot with you.
  • That is my answer, Madam von Einem.'
  • Then her steely restraint broke. It was like a dam giving before a pent-u_ass of icy water. She tore off one of her gauntlets and hurled it in hi_ace. Implacable hate looked out of her eyes.
  • 'I have done with you,' she cried. 'You have scorned me, but you have dug you_wn grave.'
  • She leaped on the parapet and the next second was on the glacis. Once more th_ist had fled, and across the hollow I saw a field-gun in place and men aroun_t who were not Turkish. She waved her hand to them, and hastened down th_illside.
  • But at that moment I heard the whistle of a long-range Russian shell. Amon_he boulders there was the dull shock of an explosion and a mushroom of re_arth. It all passed in an instant of time: I saw the gunners on the roa_oint their hands and I heard them cry; I heard too, a kind of sob fro_lenkiron - all this before I realized myself what had happened. The nex_hing I saw was Sandy, already beyond the glacis, leaping with great bound_own the hill. They were shooting at him, but he heeded them not. For th_pace of a minute he was out of sight, and his whereabouts was shown only b_he patter of bullets.
  • Then he came back - walking quite slowly up the last slope, and he wa_arrying something in his arms. The enemy fired no more; they realized wha_ad happened.
  • He laid his burden down gently in a corner of the castrol. The cap had falle_ff, and the hair was breaking loose. The face was very white but there was n_ound or bruise on it.
  • 'She was killed at once,' I heard him saying. 'Her back was broken by a shell- fragment. Dick, we must bury her here … You see, she … she liked me. I ca_ake her no return but this.'
  • We set the Companions to guard, and with infinite slowness, using our hand_nd our knives, we made a shallow grave below the eastern parapet. When it wa_one we covered her face with the linen cloak which Sandy had worn tha_orning. He lifted the body and laid it reverently in its place.
  • 'I did not know that anything could be so light,' he said.
  • It wasn't for me to look on at that kind of scene. I went to the parapet wit_lenkiron's field-glasses and had a stare at our friends on the road. Ther_as no Turk there, and I guessed why, for it would not be easy to use the me_f Islam against the wearer of the green ephod. The enemy were German o_ustrian, and they had a field-gun. They seemed to have got it laid on ou_ort; but they were waiting. As I looked I saw behind them a massive figure _eemed to recognize. Stumm had come to see the destruction of his enemies.
  • To the east I saw another gun in the fields just below the main road. They ha_ot us on both sides, and there was no way of escape. Hilda von Einem was t_ave a noble pyre and goodly company for the dark journey.
  • Dusk was falling now, a clear bright dusk where the stars pricked through _heen of amethyst. The artillery were busy all around the horizon, and toward_he pass on the other road, where Fort Palantuken stood, there was the dus_nd smoke of a furious bombardment. It seemed to me, too, that the guns on th_ther fronts had come nearer. Deve Boyun was hidden by a spur of hill, but u_n the north, white clouds, like the streamers of evening, were hanging ove_he Euphrates glen. The whole firmament hummed and twanged like a taut strin_hat has been struck …
  • As I looked, the gun to the west fired - the gun where Stumm was. The shel_ropped ten yards to our right. A second later another fell behind us.
  • Blenkiron had dragged himself to the parapet. I don't suppose he had ever bee_helled before, but his face showed curiosity rather than fear.
  • 'Pretty poor shooting, I reckon,' he said.
  • 'On the contrary,' I said, 'they know their business. They're bracketing … '
  • The words were not out of my mouth when one fell right among us. It struck th_ar rim of the castrol, shattering the rock, but bursting mainly outside. W_ll ducked, and barring some small scratches no one was a penny the worse. _emember that much of the debris fell on Hilda von Einem's grave.
  • I pulled Blenkiron over the far parapet, and called on the rest to follow, meaning to take cover on the rough side of the hill. But as we showe_urselves shots rang out from our front, shots fired from a range of a fe_undred yards. It was easy to see what had happened. Riflemen had been sent t_old us in rear. They would not assault so long as we remained in the castrol, but they would block any attempt to find safety outside it. Stumm and his gu_ad us at their mercy.
  • We crouched below the parapet again. 'We may as well toss for it,' I said.
  • 'There's only two ways - to stay here and be shelled or try to break throug_hose fellows behind. Either's pretty unhealthy.'
  • But I knew there was no choice. With Blenkiron crippled we were pinned to th_astrol. Our numbers were up all right.