The men came, saluted, and waited in silence. Thwaite sat down at a table and pulled a sheaf of telegraph forms to pieces. First he wired to Ladcock at Gilgit, beseeching reinforcements. From Bardur to the south there is only one choice of ways—by Yasin and Yagistan to the Indus Valley, or by Gilgit and South Kashmir. Once beyond Gilgit there was small hope of checking an advance, but in case the shorter way to the Indus by the Astor Valley was tried there might be hope of a delay. So he besought Ladcock to post men on the Mazeno Pass if the time was given him. Then he sent a like message to Yasin, though on the high passes and the unsettled country there was small chance of the wires remaining uncut. A force in Yasin might take on the flank any invasion from Afghanistan and in any case command the Chitral district. Then came a series of frantic wires at random—to Rawal Pindi, to the Punjabi centres, to South Kashmir. He had small confidence in these messages. If the local risings were serious, as he believed them to be, they would be too late, and in any case they were beyond the country where strategical points were of advantage against an invader. There remained the stations on the Indus Valley railway, which must be the earliest point of attack. The terminus at Boonji was held by a certain Jackson, a wise man who inspired terror in a mixed force of irregulars, Afridis, Pathans, Punjabis, Swats, and a dozen other varieties of tribesmen. To him he sent the most lengthy and urgent messages, for he held the key of a great telegraphic system with which he might awake Abbotabad and the Punjab. Then, perspiring with heat and anxiety, he gave the bundle into the hands of his English servant, and told off an officer and twenty men to hold the telegraph office. A blue light was to be lit in the window if the native town should prove troublesome and reinforcements be needed.
Soon the force of the garrison was assembled in the yard, all but a few who had been sent on messages to the more isolated houses of the English residents. Thwaite addressed them briefly: “Men, there’s the devil’s own sweet row up the north, and it’s moving down to us. This very night we may have to fight. And, remember, it’s not the old game with the hillmen, but an army of white men, servants of the Tsar, come to fight the servants of the Empress. Therefore, it is your duty to kill them all like locusts, else they will swallow up you and your cattle and your wives and your children, and, speaking generally, the whole bally show. We may be killed, but if we keep them back even for a little God will bless us. So be steady at your posts.”
The garrison was soon dispersed, the guns in readiness, pointing up the valley. It was ten o’clock by Thwaite’s watch ere the last click of the loaders told that Bardur was awaiting an enemy. The town behind was in an uproar, men clamouring at the gates, and seeking passports to flee to the south. Chinese and Turcoman traders from Leh and Lhassa, Yarkand and Bokhara, with scared faces, were getting their goods together and invoking their mysterious gods. Logan, who had returned from Gilgit that very day, rode breathless into the yard, clamouring for Thwaite. He received the tale in half a dozen sentences, whistled, and turned to go, for he had his own work to do. One question he asked: