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The Green Flag and Other Tales

The Three Correspondents
There was only the one little feathery clump of dom palms in all that great wilderness of
black rocks and orange sand. It stood high on the bank, and below it the brown Nile
swirled swiftly towards the Ambigole Cataract, fitting a little frill of foam round each of
the boulders which studded its surface. Above, out of a naked blue sky, the sun was
beating down upon the sand, and up again from the sand under the brims of the pith-hats
of the horsemen with the scorching glare of a blast-furnace. It had risen so high that the
shadows of the horses were no larger than themselves.
"Whew!" cried Mortimer, mopping his forehead, "you'd pay five shillings for this at the
hummums."
"Precisely," said Scott. "But you are not asked to ride twenty miles in a Turkish bath with
a field-glass and a revolver, and a water-bottle and a whole Christmas-treeful of things
dangling from you. The hot-house at Kew is excellent as a conservatory, but not adapted
for exhibitions upon the horizontal bar. I vote for a camp in the palm-grove and a halt
until evening."
Mortimer rose on his stirrups and looked hard to the southward. Everywhere were the
same black burned rocks and deep orange sand. At one spot only an intermittent line
appeared to have been cut through the rugged spurs which ran down to the river. It was
the bed of the old railway, long destroyed by the Arabs, but now in process of
reconstruction by the advancing Egyptians. There was no other sign of man's handiwork
in all that desolate scene.
"It's palm trees or nothing," said Scott.
"Well, I suppose we must; and yet I grudge every hour until we catch the force up. What
_would_ our editors say if we were late for the action?"
"My dear chap, an old bird like you doesn't need to be told that no sane modern general
would ever attack until the Press is up."
"You don't mean that?" said young Anerley. "I thought we were looked upon as an
unmitigated nuisance."
"'Newspaper correspondents and travelling gentlemen, and all that tribe of useless
drones'--being an extract from Lord Wolseley's 'Soldier's Pocket-Book,'" cried Scott. "We
know all about _that_, Anerley;" and he winked behind his blue spectacles. "If there was
going to be a battle we should very soon have an escort of cavalry to hurry us up. I've
been in fifteen, and I never saw one where they had not arranged for a reporter's table."
"That's very well; but the enemy may be less considerate," said Mortimer.
 
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