Suddenly he sprang up and touched St. John on the shoulder. A great chill seemed to have passed over the world, and on the hill-tops there was a faint light. Both men looked to the east, and there, beyond the Forza hills, was the red foreglow spreading over the grey. It was dawn, and with the dawn came safety. The fires had burned low, and the vagrant morning winds were beginning to scatter the white ashes. Now was the hour for bravado, since the time for silence had gone. St. John gave the word, and it was passed like a roll-call to left and right, the farthest man shouting it along the ribs of mountain to the next watch-fire. The air had grown clear and thin, and far off the dim repetition was heard, which told of sentries at their place, and the line of posts which rimmed the frontier.
Mitchinson moistened his dry lips and filled his lungs with the cold, fresh air. “That,” he said slowly, “is the morning report of the last outpost of the Empire, and by the grace of God it’s ‘All’s well.’”
THE BLESSING OF GAD
“Gad—a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last.”
Lewis peered into the gorge and saw only a thin darkness. The high walls made pits of shade at the foot, but above there was a misty column of light which showed the spectres of rock and bush in the nullah beyond. It was all but dark, and the stars were coming out like the lights on a sea-wall, hard and cold and gleaming. Just in the throat of the pass a huge boulder had fallen and left a passage not two yards wide. Beyond there was a sharp descent of a dozen feet to the gravelled bottom which fell away in easier stages to the other watershed. Here was a place made by nature for his plans. With immense pains he rolled the biggest stones he could move to the passage, so that they were poised above the slope. He tried the great boulder, too, with his shoulders, and it seemed to quiver. In the last resort this mass of rock might be sent crashing down the incline, and by the blessing of God it should account for its man.
He brought his rifles forward to the stones, loaded them and felt the cartridges easy in his pocket. They were for the thirty-yards range; his pistol would be kept for closer quarters. He tried one after the other, cuddling the stocks to his cheek. They were all dear-loved weapons, used in deer-stalking at home and on many a wilder beat. He knew the tricks of each, and he had little pet devices laughed at by his friends. This one had clattered down fifty feet of rock in Ross-shire as the scars on the stock bore witness, and another had his initials burned in the wood, the relic of a winter’s night in a Finnish camp. A thousand old pleasant memories came back to him, the sights and scents and sounds of forgotten places, the zest of toil and escapade, the joy of food and warmth and rest. Well! he