On the following morning, shortly after dawn, Jeekie awoke his master.
“Come here, Major,” he said in a solemn voice, “I got something pretty show you,” and he led him to the foot of an old willow tree, adding, “now up you go, Major, and look.”
So Alan went up and from the topmost fork of that tree saw a sight at which his blood turned cold. For there, not five miles behind them, on either side of the river bank, the light gleaming on their spears, marched two endless columns of men, who from their head-dresses he took to be Asiki. For a minute he looked, then descended the tree and approaching the others, asked what was to be done.
“Hook, scoot, bolt, leg it!” exclaimed Jeekie emphatically; then he licked his finger, held it up to the wind and added, “but first fire reeds and make it hot for Bonsa crowd.”
This was a good suggestion and one on which they acted without delay. Taking red embers, they blew them into a flame and lit torches, which they applied to the reeds over a width of several hundred yards. The strong northward wind soon did the rest; indeed with a quarter of an hour a vast sheet of flame twenty or thirty feet in height was rushing towards the Asiki columns. Then they began their advance along the river bank, running at a steady trot, for here the ground was open.
All that day they ran, pausing at intervals to get their breath, and at night rested because they must. When the light came upon the following morning they looked back from a little hill and saw the outposts of the Asiki advancing not a mile behind. Doubtless some of the army had been burned, but the rest, guessing their route, had forced a way through the reeds and cut across country. So they began to run again harder than before, and kept their lead during the morning. But when afternoon came the Asika gained on them. Now they were breasting a long rise, the river running in the cleft beneath, and Jeekie, who seemed to be absolutely untiring, held Alan by the hand, Fahni following close behind. Two of their men had fallen down and been abandoned, and the rest straggled.
“No go, Jeekie,” gasped Alan, “they will catch us at the top of the hill.”
“Never say die, Major, never say die,” puffed Jeekie, “they get blown too and who know what other side of hill?”
Somehow they struggled to the crest and behold! there beneath them was a great army of men.
“Ogula!” yelled Jeekie, “Ogula! Just what I tell you, Major, who know what other side of any hill.”
A MEETING IN THE FOREST
In five minutes more Alan and Jeekie were among the Ogula, who, having recognized their chief while he was yet some way off, greeted him with rapturous cheers and the clapping of hands. Then as there was no time for explanation, they retreated across a little stream which ran down the valley, four thousand or more of them, and prepared for battle. That evening, however, there was no fighting, for when the first of the Asiki reached the top of the rise and saw that the fugitives had escaped to the enemy, who were in strength, they halted and finally retired.