returned from escort duty last night. Where is James's company?"
"Turning out to relieve you; he'll be here in five minutes," was the reply.
"Then why not send him to El Hamet?" asked Holroyd.
"Because the general's orders are for the light company to go," answered the adjutant; "so I have no choice in the matter."
"Very considerate of the general," growled my captain; "however, 'needs must, when a certain old gentleman drives'!"
Guided by the adjutant, we marched to the spot where the ammunition column was awaiting us, and in half-an-hour we were on our way across the desert to El Hamet.
Every march comes to an end, and it was with a deep sigh of relief that we at length reached El Hamet. Holroyd at once went off to report his arrival and deliver the despatch to Colonel Macleod, while we waited his return, fondly hoping that we should be dismissed to a well-earned rest. We were, however, doomed to disappointment.
Our captain soon rejoined us, and I knew at once, by the expression of his face, that he was thoroughly put out.
"Light company," said he, in short, sharp tones, "there'll be no rest for any of us to-night. Colonel Macleod has desired me to take up a position among the sand-hills in front of El Hamet, and remain there until further orders. You can fall out for a few minutes, and make the best meal you can on what you've got in your haversacks. A ration of cooked beef, biscuit, and rum will be issued to each man shortly after daybreak."
"Faith, this is a pleasant state of affairs!" grumbled Cantillon, as we moved away from the company.