« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The rain forces me to return within doors. It has lasted now many days, and makes us very uneasy about our flock. The partitions of the houses being removed that the cattle might find shelter in them, a precious discovery has been lit upon: salt in large quantities. This has been carefully gathered up, and conveyed to our storehouse, and the soldiers hope yet to light upon a good deal more.
Two native Zouaves, who are to be set at liberty in the month of January, have offered to carry dispatches for us to Blidah, for the marshal. If they succeed in their mission they are to be set free at once. The colonel is to send them off at midnight. God grant the brave fellows may reach their destination safely! They carry a letter for 'my mother; may they escape every danger! It will make her so happy to have news of me; even a word. They are full of confidence, and consider themselves already as safe and sound at Blidah, but they have to us the interest which belongs to men who devote themselves to perilous enterprises.
Since we have been at Medeah our days have been passed in organizing our encampment. Only a few insignificant shots had been exchanged with marauding Arabs at our advanced posts, till the 13th, when a general action appeared to be at hand. The heights were covered with Kabyles, led on by cavaliers. The garrison were called to arms, and a rather sharp engagement ensued. Many of our men were wounded, but the Zouaves proved, by pursuing the enemy for about a mile, that they were not to be insulted with impunity.
This episode over, our mode of life has assumed all its old monotony, and household cares, so to speak, occupy us entirely. This morning we were making oil from bullocks' feet. The way is simply this: the feet must be boiled in water, and the fat which rises to the surface skimmed off. When clarified this oil is good enough for salads and other culinary preparations, and as such it will be used for the army. We have also fabricated shot for field sports; which we were quite without. This process is also very simple. First a frame must be made to hold a common-sized playing card. This must be pierced with holes oiled on both sides, and powdered over with hydrochlorate of ammoniac. When thus prepared the melted lead should be dropped through it into a cup of water. The cup should be placed, at most, four or five inches below the frame, and when the lead is poured out the frame put into as regular an oscillating movement as possible. The lead has then to be passed through moulds of various sizes; but the degree of fusion is the essential point, to attain which the lead must be allowed to cool till it can merely scorch the card in passing through it.
Whilst we sportsmen are at work for our pleasure, the Zouaves are repairing their equipments, and even inventing some of a new sort.
The colonel had ordered sacks to be given to the men, and out of this coarse stuff and bullocks' hides, each soldier is to have a pair of gaiters made for him. A Zouave, formerly a button maker, superintends the work. Thread for the purpose is made out of old cannon wadding, and hemp, of which a good deal used in grooming the horses was found in the stables. A picture droller and more grotesque than our workshop could not be conceived. Fancy a company of old veteran Zouaves, with their long moustachios, thick beards, bronzed complexions, scarred and cicatrised faces, sewing gaily away, like so many old women. We have really a valiant body of them, good in danger, good to bear fatigue, and whom no situation, however difficult, cap embarrass. Well commanded, they will do wonders, and will, we hope, acquit themselves worthily in the new duties imposed upon them.
A deserter arrived here on the 17th; a Tripoli man, who had been carried off with a whole caravan, in the South. After many adventures he was brought to Berkani, and forced to take service among the regular troops of the Emir. This man is of great use to us in the survey we are making of the district of Nador; a country magnificently cultivated, where there are traces of very well planned watercourses. No doubt tradition has preserved among the Arabs a system of irrigation, like that which is found in Catalonia and at Roussillon. When giving many curious details respecting the engagements he had been in, this deserter confirmed the report that English officers were in the camp of Abd-el-Kader; a fact already announced by Marshal Valée. One of these officers was, on the 27th of October, at the wood of Olives. He had been escorted by a Jew from Gibraltar, had passed through Morocco, and was dressed as a civilian. The deserter saw him for two days, and he only disappeared when our division arrived in sight.
A telegraphic dispatch has just reached us, announcing the arrival at Algiers of the colours so long promised to the Zouaves. This news has come to each of us as a piece of personal good fortune, and all participate in the joy expressed by Colonel
Cavaignac, in his order of the day: “To the officers, sub-officers, and soldiers, the Colonel hastens to communicate this joyous intelligence. Some will see in it the just recompense of long and glorious services; others learn what it has cost to deserve such a recompense, and consider how much more it will cost to continue worthy of so honourable a distinction—all joining in a unanimous sentiment of energetic devotion to the glory of our arms in Africa, and to the honour of a corps whose constitution has just received the highest sanction.”
On the 23rd inst., justatnightfall, the two Zouaves started for Algiers; they are both true soldiers, one a Turk, and the other an Arab. The latter wished to set out alone. “Why so ?' he was asked. “It's my fancy; I like to succeed alone or to die alone.
But if you happen to meet with any unforeseen danger, you would encounter it more readily, and overcome it more easily, with, than without a companion.' 'As for that, I am not afraid. I know well that my destiny is marked out, and I am ready to submit to it when it pleases God. What I tell you is so true, that I will return if you like,' said he to the Colonel, and you may tell the Marshal that I will be his courier as long as he likes, only I must pass