Cantillon and the officer at El Hamet—a young ensign of De Rolle's, Schmidt by name—that they must be prepared for any emergency. On regaining the piquet, I found that several more djerms had dropped down the Nile, and were lying off the little wharf. Holroyd had therefore sent a written report to Colonel Macleod, calling his attention to the gravity of the situation and requesting instructions.
Corporal Jones was again the messenger, and his face was a study when he returned, and reported that the only answer vouchsafed by the colonel was "Very well." "You told him that I awaited instructions?" said Holroyd, looking very incensed.
"I did, sir; but the colonel only said 'Very well'; not another word, good, bad, or indifferent, your honour."
"Tom, this is too grave a contingency to be trifled with," said my captain, taking me aside; "and as Macleod has sent me no orders, I must act on my own responsibility. I fear that our force is so scattered that it would be a dangerous matter to bring it together again; knowing this, Macleod is probably unwilling to try the experiment, and so has contented himself with sending a report to General Stewart of the enemy's proximity. But," he continued, "I am not going to run the risk of being cut off in such an exposed position as this, and therefore I shall warn the officer at El Hamet to put the village into as good a state of defence as time will allow, and we will cover him while so employed. We shall then have something like a post to fall back on, if driven in; for we ought to be able to make a very fair fight of it in the village. Give me a leaf out of your note-book, Tom I suppose that young fellow understands English?"
"He speaks it fairly well," I answered, handing him a pencil and a piece of paper.
Holroyd wrote his note and despatched it to the village; then we once more took our station with the