King Solomon's Mines HTML version
Slowly, and without the slightest appearance of haste or excitement, the three columns
crept on. When within about five hundred yards of us, the main or centre column halted
at the root of a tongue of open plain which ran up into the hill, to give time to the other
divisions to circumvent our position, which was shaped more or less in the form of a
horse-shoe, with its two points facing towards the town of Loo. The object of this
manoeuvre was that the threefold assault should be delivered simultaneously.
"Oh, for a gatling!" groaned Good, as he contemplated the serried phalanxes beneath us.
"I would clear that plain in twenty minutes."
"We have not got one, so it is no use yearning for it; but suppose you try a shot,
Quatermain," said Sir Henry. "See how near you can go to that tall fellow who appears to
be in command. Two to one you miss him, and an even sovereign, to be honestly paid if
ever we get out of this, that you don't drop the bullet within five yards."
This piqued me, so, loading the express with solid ball, I waited till my friend walked
some ten yards out from his force, in order to get a better view of our position,
accompanied only by an orderly; then, lying down and resting the express on a rock, I
covered him. The rifle, like all expresses, was only sighted to three hundred and fifty
yards, so to allow for the drop in trajectory I took him half-way down the neck, which
ought, I calculated, to find him in the chest. He stood quite still and gave me every
opportunity, but whether it was the excitement or the wind, or the fact of the man being a
long shot, I don't know, but this was what happened. Getting dead on, as I thought, a fine
sight, I pressed, and when the puff of smoke had cleared away, to my disgust, I saw my
man standing there unharmed, whilst his orderly, who was at least three paces to the left,
was stretched upon the ground apparently dead. Turning swiftly, the officer I had aimed
at began to run towards his men in evident alarm.
"Bravo, Quatermain!" sang out Good; "you've frightened him."
This made me very angry, for, if possible to avoid it, I hate to miss in public. When a
man is master of only one art he likes to keep up his reputation in that art. Moved quite
out of myself at my failure, I did a rash thing. Rapidly covering the general as he ran, I let
drive with the second barrel. Instantly the poor man threw up his arms, and fell forward
on to his face. This time I had made no mistake; and--I say it as a proof of how little we
think of others when our own safety, pride, or reputation is in question--I was brute
enough to feel delighted at the sight.
The regiments who had seen the feat cheered wildly at this exhibition of the white man's
magic, which they took as an omen of success, while the force the general had belonged
to--which, indeed, as we ascertained afterwards, he had commanded--fell back in
confusion. Sir Henry and Good now took up their rifles and began to fire, the latter
industriously "browning" the dense mass before him with another Winchester repeater,
and I also had another shot or two, with the result, so far as we could judge, that we put
some six or eight men hors de combat before they were out of range.
Just as we stopped firing there came an ominous roar from our far right, then a similar
roar rose on our left. The two other divisions were engaging us.