"A FRENCHMAN'S GRATITUDE"
necessarily render the whole untenable. That the position must be forced if a determined and well-sustained attack were made, was almost a foregone conclusion; but I do not think any one anticipated the terrible disaster which befell us on that fatal day.
To return to my narrative.
We stood for some minutes gazing at the Turkish force. Their infantry was drawn up in detached bodies, each under its own banner; the horsemen, in a solid mass, formed a second line.
"Look, sir," suddenly exclaimed the staff officer; " their cavalry has separated!"
"I see, Vincent," rejoined Macleod. "The column moving off is evidently ordered to cross the lake and turn our flank."
" While those who remain will no doubt support the infantry in an attack on the village," observed Holroyd. " Shall I defend El Hamet, colonel?"
" Yes," cried Macleod, vaulting into his saddle; "to the last man!" and putting spurs to his charger, he galloped to the rear.
Having re-formed the company, we marched back to El Hamet at a quick step, and on the way were joined by two or three small parties which had been ordered to retire from the sand-hills. On reaching the village, we found that the officer and men of De Rolle's Regiment had made good use of their time: the houses had been loop-holed, windows and doors barricaded; in short, El Hamet was in a fairly defensible state.
"Come, we shall be able to hold out a long time!" exclaimed Holroyd cheerfully. Then pointing to a building of considerable size and height, he said, "Take the right section, Tom, and occupy the roof of that house. Let the men make a parapet of their knapsacks, and open fire the moment the enemy are within range. Don't throw a shot away, my lads."