Never tell me again that I am not at heart an antiquarian. Talking of drag-ropes our own, it seems, has this moment knocked a man overboard from one of the small magnetic propellers that swarm in ocean below us a boat of about six thousand tons, and, from all accounts, shamefully crowded. These diminutive barques should be prohibited from carrying more than a definite number of passengers.
"One," from the front row. "Two," from the back. "Three," from the front. The tale was duly told in voices which ran up and down the scale, tenor alternating with baritone. "Without drag-ropes prepare to advance!" shouted the sergeant.
Some field-pieces were next sent on shore, and likewise a number of sailors with drag-ropes to work them, as we had no horses with us, and up to this time no artillery. The country was rather favourable for the sailors, being very level and mostly green pasture, so that they kept along pretty easily, seeming just in their glory, all this being new work to them.
We passed one team with two horses down; at another point an 18-pdr. had slipped into a shell-hole, and the air rang with staccato shouts of "Heave!" while two lines of men strained on the drag-ropes. We reached a damp valley that lay west of a stretch of tree-stumps and scrubby undergrowth remnants of what was a thick leafy wood before the hurricane bombardments of July 1916.
To make an ordinary practicable road across that stream would require two or three day's work of several hundred men. It seemed a clear case for the free use of drag-ropes to let the wagons down into the stream on the near side, and haul them up the opposite bank.
Ponds were dragged, wells were plumbed, telegrams were despatched down the lines of railways and to the nearest seaport town-twelve hundred miles away; but Imray was not at the end of the drag-ropes nor the telegraph wires. He was gone, and his place knew him no more.
The sailors then picked up the drag-ropes and romped in with this most effective six-pounder at full speed, as if they were having the greatest fun of their lives. Wolfe was standing next to the Louisbourg Grenadiers, who, this time, were determined not to begin before they were told.
After nightfall this brigade and the batteries retired a short distance and took up a position commanding the road, in a deep wadi where the guns had to be man-handled into place, after which the waggons and limbers were let down the sides of the wadi by means of drag-ropes, and the horses scrambled down as best they could.
Frantically the gunners strove to get them out, some harnessing themselves to the drag-ropes and others shoving on the wheels; but every effort was to no purpose, and meanwhile horses and men were being shot down on all hands by the advancing Turks, whose cries of "Allah! Allah!" could now be plainly heard.
There were neither roads nor yet the means to make them. There were no horses, oxen, mules, or any other means of transport, except the brawny men themselves, who literally buckled to with anchor-cable drag-ropes a hundred pair of straining men for each great, lumbering gun. Over the sand they went at a romp.