Page images
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

slender youth, and carried himself buoyantly. He wore a Donegal tweed suit of modish pretensions, pale-green socks, stout brown brogues, and a sham-velour Homburg hat. The green socks and whitey grey tweed provided two out of the three colours of the Sinn Fein spectroscope, and I expected that an orange tie would complete the trinity; but his tie was of a revolutionary red, and went appropriately with the handsome bush of close-curling coppercoloured hair which billowed out at the back of his head under the Homburg hat, and suggested Bolshevism and anarchism and all the isms pertaining to revolt. His face was good-looking, darkeyed, clean - shaven, well


He turned in at the gate leading to "Mosey" Doyle's cottage, and I was informed that he was Mosey's grandson. The former had been a friend of mine in days of yore, and I had resolved to pay him a visit to renew old acquaintance, and also to renew a pair of shoes; for Mosey had a cure of soles, and I knew his skill in sol

ing and heeling. I took the shoes to him on Monday morning. He was at his bench in the little old dim room wherein he had plied his cobbling for more than half a century. His greeting was as cordial as man could make it. He paid me florid compliments on my looks, and declared it was growin' younger I was, every day!

It was at this point that my friend the Rebel entered. He strolled in apparently in the enjoyment of leisure. He still wore the Homburg hat, whieh he did not trouble to remove. His grandfather introduced him with a slightly timorous manner. I fancied I caught a shade of anxiety in Mosey's wrinkled, bronze-coloured face, but the youth responded to my greeting with politeness, just tinged, perhaps, with faint superciliousness.

This interchange of amenities over, I unwrapped the paper round my shoes and showed them to Mosey. He examined them critically, remarking en passant that the price of leather would frighten the heart out of ye! However, in the end he stated a price, and promised to have the "little shoes" (Mosey invariably added this adjective to every lady's boots or shoes) ready in a couple of days.

I was on the point of departure when my old friend's

grandson suddenly made a
wild snatch at the shoes. He
peered into their interior with
savage intensity, then with
unaccountable violence flung
them from him as if they had
stung him.

"Made in England!" he
hissed at his grandfather.

I looked at him blankly and
then at Mosey. The latter
refused to look at me, but he
took up the paper, wrapped
it round the shoes
the shoes again,
and handed the parcel back
to me.

"What-what is it?" I ex-
claimed helplessly. The old
man made dramatic passes
with his hands.

"'Tis not me," he said magnificently, "that'll lay a hand to a boot or a shoe made in England till Ireland is free."

A wild desire to laugh seized me, but knowing the Irish peasant I crushed it. But I looked from Mosey to my Rebel, and he looked at me, and blatant swank-no other word expresses it-irradiated him from head to foot. Again I wanted to laugh, and this time I did. I turned to Mosey. "Well, good-bye, Mosey," I said; "I'm sorry you can't oblige me, but I'm really not in any pressing need of the shoes; they can wait till I get back to London, though I'd rather you did them. They wouldn't be the first you've soled for me."

He muttered something inaudible, and I went out of the little dark dirty room into the glowing sunshine, with the shoes under my arm and confused wonder in my mind.

Later in the day, I was coming back from the river through the woods when whom should I see approaching but Mosey. I made to pass him by, but he stopped me.

"Whist!" he said mysteriously. "I'm huntin' you this hour back; what I'm wishing to tell you is this: leave the shoes ready and I'll come up for them this evening, and I'll do them for ye betther than new, and," he winked, "sure the divil a ha-porth he'll ever know about it."

"Mosey," I said, feeling an acute spasm of mirth, "are you a Sinn Feiner?"

"Ah, God love ye, no, I'm not, but," he lowered his voice, "the way it is now, ye have to humour them if ye want to get yer life in these days."

He had laid one beny, bigveined hand on my arm and was gazing at me with a strange, deprecating, affectionate expression quivering over his face.

"In that case," I observed, "I think you're very foolish to "

He interrupted me quickly. "I give ye me worrd an' there's millions more like me in Ireland this day.”

"Well," I protested, "if I were you I'd see that young grandson of yours further before I humoured him,"

He looked distressed.

"Ye would not," he said pleadingly; "sure him and the whole of them is up in an element, and that's God's truth; 'tis too much they know and too much larnin' that's put into them, and they

don't know what to be at next; but if I was to thwart him, the Lord knows what he'd go and do; and what would I do if I was to see him hanging by the neck on a tree as many a one before him hung out there "-he pointed-"on Gibbet Hill?"

I was silent from sheer helplessness.

"But ye'll give me the little shoes now; sure it'd go to me heart to deny ye anything."

"Very good, Mosey, I will. But if he finds out, don't blame me."

"The divil a taste he'll find out. Sure and how would he. I'll keep them hid tight and do them when he's out with the letters."

[ocr errors]

Letters," I I ejaculated; "what letters?" "The post, to be sure." "Post! Is he a postman?" "Bedad he is, letter-carrier for the district, and he only eighteen; but he's a grand scholar, glory be to God! what I never was. It's the fine life they have now-bicycles and motor-cars, and never soil their hands. And for pay, oh! there's nothing like the Governmint money after all. With rises to-day and rises to-morrow and the war bonus on the top of all, God bless us and save us! if I'd had the Governmint

pay in me day it's the quare forchune I'd be leavin' behind me."

I could feel my mouth fall open foolishly.

"Then I suppose he delivers English letters," I said stupidly.

"Oh, faith he does, English and Irish and every letter that's in it," he replied blandly. "He's a smart boy, mind ye !" "He is," I agreed.

"But," his voice and his eyes grew eager, "ye'll give me the little shoes; sure he'll never know a word about it."

"Yes," I said, "you shall have them."

He beamed upon me as if I were making him a present of them.

Walking through the village the following day, a searlet bicycle fled past me with the Rebel on it. The bright buttons of ignoble servitude glinted in the sunshine on his blue coat, and the copper curls were more ebullient and anarchical than ever, bursting out under the small old-fashioned kép with which the British Government covers the heads of its postal servants. He was whistling as he went.

A couple of days later the shoes reappeared in my bedroom beautifully re-soled. Well, well!




yet completely hidden by the cloud-pack which floated in the air 500 feet below. The ground immediately underneath was obscured only at intervals, but rarely could we see objects outside a radius of half a mile. Ten minutes after leaving Beho Beho we passed over an extraordinary lake. There was no sign of vegetation on or near its banks, which seemed to be encrusted with some white saline substance, and wisps of steam were rising from its surface. We discovered later that it was a hot soda lake.

THE Germans were busily although our objective was as engaged in getting all their stores south of south of the Rufiji river, over which, at a place called Kibambawe they had built a bridge. An aerial reconnaissance had been carried out over Kibambawe from Morogoro by Van der Spuy and Hewitt (one of the "heavies"), and they had gleaned some valuable information. At the very moment of their arrival there, hundreds of German porters were engaged in towing a big lighter up the stream, and with the machine flying at about 400 feet Hewitt had thrown them into utter consternation by means of his Browning pistol. For some reason or other our aeroplanes were not fitted with Lewis guns, a great disadvantage I always thought.

The Staff was now desirous of having another reconnaissance over this place, and at the first opportunity I was sent out with Albu as pilot. Flying first of all to the Dathumi position we struck the Rufiji road, and followed this to its junction with the Kissaki road near to a large military camp called Beho


There was very little of interest here and we wasted no time. Keeping within sight of the main road, we had no difficulty in finding the way,

At last we sighted the river, gleaming like silver through a gap in the clouds, and I began to feel deliriously happy. After all, there was something very wonderful about being able to fly miles and miles ahead of our forces, looking on things of tremendous military importance, gazing as it were into the very soul of the enemy. The aeroplane is the X-Rays of modern warfare, and on its skilful use depends the diagnosis of the enemy's plans and intentions. It was almost ludicrous to think that a couple of lads like ourselves, to whom soldiering was merely an accident of the war, should be able to see sights and make reports over which grey-haired and battle- scarred generals would ponder.

It was not long before we saw the bridge, or rather the bridges of Kibambawe. There were two, connected by a sandy island lying in mid-stream. There were groups of large stone huts on either side of the river, and a line of trenches ran along the southern bank. There was little sign of movement, and to all appearances the place was unoccupied. But the Germans by this time had learnt what to expect when they heard the drone of our engine in the sky, and the first thing they did in any camp was to prepare strong dugouts, to which they retired at the sign of approaching danger. The niggers, on the other hand, were left to shift for themselves and were told to hide in the bush. The water of the Rufiji was crystal olear, and the shoals and rooks of the riverbed were revealed with remarkable detail.

In order to make a sketch we dived down underneath the cloud-pack, but the air was so bumpy that we had to climb back immediately, and I had to take advantage of the gaps in the cloud to complete my drawing of the bridge, trenches, and camp. Hardly had I finished when the engine commenced to miss and vibrate in a most alarming manner. There are occasions when the pleasures of flight fade like the dew at sunrise. As an observer, one's sole interest in life is immediately concentrated on the ground, searching for a landing place, and in East Afrios one never found such things. The whole of the country between the Rufiji

[ocr errors]

and the Mgeta too, was wild, waterless, and uninhabited, and the prospect of a forced landing was not an agreeable one. Still the engine sounded by no means hopeless, although that beastly vibration grated horribly on one's nervous system. Naturally the pilot had turned homewards at the first sign of trouble, but we seemed to be erawling along at a snail's-pace. It always feels like that with a failing engine over the enemy's lines-just as though you were trailing a sheet-anchor behind.

Many long hours seemed to pass before the Tulo aerodrome hove in sight, and when we finally switched off to land, our respective sighs sounded loud above the whistle of the wires and struts.

A couple of days later I returned from a successful shoot to find that in my absence half the camp had been burnt down. My own grass hut and everything inside it, including more than a hundred films, my diaries for the last four years, my cameras, field-glasses, shot-gun, and all my kit, were completely destroyed. It was a stunning blow, and above all things I wept for my diaries and films. I was simply left with what I had on-boots, socks, slacks, shirt, and helmet.

The shock of it all brought on a nervous breakdown, and a day or two later I was ordered to take a month's rest at the Convalescent Home in Zanzibar.

On the third day following my disastrous fire at Tulo I arrived at Morogoro, where I

« PreviousContinue »