Carry on! a story of the.., p.1
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       Carry On! A Story of the Fight for Bagdad, p.1

           Herbert Strang
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Carry On! A Story of the Fight for Bagdad


  Produced by Al Haines

  Cover art]

  [Frontispiece: A DASH FOR LIBERTY]

  CARRY ON!

  _A STORY OF THE FIGHT FOR BAGDAD_

  BY

  HERBERT STRANG

  ILLUSTRATED BY H. K. ELCOCK AND H. EVISON

  HUMPHREY MILFORD

  OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

  LONDON, EDINBURGH, GLASGOW

  TORONTO, MELBOURNE, CAPE TOWN, BOMBAY

  PRINTED 1917 IN GREAT BRITAIN BY R. CLAY AND SONS, LTD.

  BRUNSWICK STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.E. 1, AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.

  CONTENTS

  CHAP.

  I A TELL NEAR BABYLON II THE GAPING JAWS III THE BARBER'S APPRENTICE IV THE SHAVING OF BURCKHARDT V SECRET SERVICE VI THE DERVISH HEZAR VII A MAD RACE VIII ACROSS THE EUPHRATES IX FRIENDS OR FOES? X THE TRYST XI THE TRAP XII A REARGUARD ACTION XIII IN THE BRITISH LINES XIV THE ENEMY'S GUNS XV A RAID XVI CLOSING IN XVII RAISING THE SIEGE XVIII THE TIMELY BOMB

  LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

  COLOUR FRONTISPIECE BY H. K. ELCOCK.

  A DASH FOR LIBERTY (see p. 102),

  DRAWINGS IN LINE BY H. EVISON.

  THE STRUGGLE ON THE TELL

  A MOUTHFUL OF SOAP

  THE PRISONER

  THE LAST SHOT

  A CAPTIVE IN BONDS

  STRANDED

  MAJOR BURCKHARDT IS DISTURBED

  THE DASH FOR THE MACHINE-GUN

  THE BARBER IS MOBBED

  CHAPTER I

  A TELL NEAR BABYLON

  Mesopotamia, "the land between the rivers," has been brought by Time'srevolution once more into the foreground of the history of the world.The plains where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob tended their flocks andherds; where the hosts of Sennacherib, Shalmaneser and Alexandercontended for "world-power" in their day; where the Arabs, heirs ofancient civilisations, reared a civilisation of their own until it fellunder the blight of Turkish dominion: have become once more thebattle-ground of opposing armies, the representatives of conflictingspirits and ideals.

  This fertile land, whose history dates back many thousands of years,has long lain desolate. Swamps and marshes and the floods of theTigris and the Euphrates cover immense tracts that were once thegranary of the middle East. The old canals and irrigation worksconstructed by Babylonians and Assyrians are now obliterated by sand.Where once large populations throve and cultivated literature and thearts, now roam only a few tribes of Arabs, degenerate descendants ofthe race that at one time led the world in the things of the mind.Mesopotamia is the "abomination of desolation."

  Here and there a mound--known to archaeologists as a _tell_--marks thesite of a buried city, and excavation has brought to light the remainsof palaces and monumental tombs, and temples where "pale-eyed priests"chanted incantations to Assur and Ishtar and Merodach--the Baalim andAshtoreth of the Bible. It was at one such _tell_ that the story to beunfolded in the following pages had its beginning.

  Early one morning in the autumn of 1916, any one who had chanced to bestanding on this _tell_ would have noticed, far in the eastern sky, amoving speck. It might have been a gigantic bird, but that, as itapproached, its flight was swifter, more direct, more noisy. As itcame nearer, it swept round in an immense circle, then descended in aspiral course, skimmed the surface of the _tell_, and finally alightedon a clear and level stretch of ground on the western side.

  Through all its ages of solitude the _tell_ had never known so strangea visitant. The shades of ancient priests and soothsayers might beimagined to shrink away from this intruder upon their haunts. What hadremotest antiquity to do with this symbol of modernity, the last wordin scientific invention in a world of scientific marvels?

  Some such thoughts as these seemed to grip one of the two young men whodisengaged themselves from the aeroplane.

  "So this is your _tell_!" cried the elder of the two, in the loud tonesthat bespeak a cheerful soul. He looked with an air of mockery at therugged contours of the mound.

  "Hush, Ellingford!" said the other, in a stage whisper. "We aretrespassers--on a spot where Assyrians worshipped when Rome was still avillage."

  "Well, _they_ can't hear us. What's more to the point, the Arabs can,if they're about; so hurry up."

  "Hopelessly matter-of-fact; everlastingly practical! Here are we, inthe very nursery and cradle of mankind; yet you can't spare half athought for the past! You live altogether in the present----"

  "Look here, Burnet," said the other, cutting him short; "if you don'tstop gassing we shall neither of us live in the future. Before you cansay Jack Robinson--or Beelzebub, if you prefer it--we may have a swarmof Arabs round us with Mauser rifles and explosive bullets. I'mresponsible for this machine. So buck up. You can commune with thespirits of the past when I am gone."

  Captain Ellingford spoke good-humouredly, but with an undertone ofseriousness. Roger Burnet laughed.

  "Righto," he said. "I'll not keep you."

  He glanced keenly around, as if looking for some landmark; then, havingfound what he sought, set off with quick step towards a group of ruinsnear the centre of the _tell_, about a hundred and fifty yards fromwhere the aeroplane had landed. Captain Ellingford, first looking inall directions to assure himself that no one was near, followed hiscompanion, ever and anon throwing a glance backward: he was loth toleave his machine.

  The surface of the _tell_ was irregular. At one part you would find asmooth expanse of sand; at another, drifted heaps, fragments of rubble,brick and stone; at a third, larger blocks of stone, broken columns,chips of cornice and frieze. Only at one spot was there anysubstantial relic of the ancient buildings. The lower portion of whathad once been a magnificent gateway or porch, together with the remainsof the adjacent walls, rose above the surrounding litter. Each side ofthe portal was formed of what appeared to be a massive solid block,carved to the image of some strange colossal animal, its mouth gapingin a hideous grimace, like the gargoyles on a medieval church. Throughthis gateway Burnet passed; then he turned to the right, stooped, andwith a piece of broken sherd began to scrape away the sand from an areaseveral feet square. Presently there was revealed a flat slab ofstone, which, when he had cleared its edges of sand, he lifted,revealing a shallow flight of steps.

  "Here we are," he said, turning to his companion. "We discovered itwhen we were digging here a few years ago, my poor old father and I,and covered it up, meaning to return. There was a German grubbingabout in the neighbourhood, and my father didn't want any poaching onwhat he considered his preserves. But he never had a chance to comeback. Come down and have a look."

  He led the way down into a small subterranean room or cellar, andflashing his electric torch, pointed out strange markings on the walls.

  "Queer hobby," remarked Ellingford. "Well, I must get back to the bus.Don't like leaving it so long."

  They returned to the aeroplane. Burnet took a bundle from it.Ellingford got into his seat, saying:

  "A month from now, then. I'll be here unless I'm pipped. Take care ofyourself. Good luck!"

  He started the engine. Burnet helped him to shove off; the machinejolted over the rough ground, rose into the air, and in five minuteswas out of sight.

 
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