A letter to Fanny Lawrence, fiancée (and later wife) of Sergeant Arthur Pace of the 51st Battalion of the Ferkin Hausah’s…..
I wonder that I haven’t been hacked to death by a native Wahiri Hiri or eaten alive by a rogue Riba Kiba. For I hear that such misfortunes have befallen others as have thought to defend dear old England in far flung Umbongo Umbongo. There’s many a lunatic with wild eyes and floating hair as has sought to impale me upon their spear with a wild cry of “Umtargatie Victoree!” my dear, but I have outwitted them all and remained very much alive!
With all the men I have sorrowfully killed I should be a-swoon with much penitence and regret, were those deaths not a matter of empire and survival. Colonel Anstruthers thinks of the Umbongo Umbongo as a ‘romantic’ place and I must needs keep a close eye on him as a consequence, for I remember well serving under General Gordon of Umbongo Umbongo; he whose ‘romantic’ reputation was etched in stone at the cost of many British troops.
Remember Stanley Blenkinsall? Why iz smile would have slain an army of sweet hearts ‘ad he not ‘ad the great misfortune to be placed at the command of General Gordon! T’was ‘im as sought vainly to hold off them Moslem devils what swarmed through the streets of British Khartoum. On many a dark night (when the foreign winds howl more ominously than normal) I wake to the terrible sound of his screams, screams such as should never have been uttered if the ‘great’ general ‘ad followed his orders and evacuated all and sundry from the lunacy some refer to as the rise of the Egyptian Mahdi.
But he, forgetting he was a soldier and mistaking ‘imself for a missionary, jettisoned his duty to the British citizens of British Khartoum faster than the speed of a rifleman’s bullet, and I count myself (and my great friend Captain Dunrudy) lucky to have escaped the horror of that ensuing slaughter at least. I made an oath to myself then that no such calamity should befall me (or my men) again. At the fort of Aqua Fung Dinghi I observed the Colonel closely for any signs of untoward ‘heroism’
that might result in calamity. I was much relieved to find Colonel Anstruthers unusually restrained in both his deliberations and his decisions as it concerned his British Squaddies, less so regarding the native contingent of his battalion, but then he is not called Colonel Faustus for nothing!
We camp tonight at Nabi-Het-Het, if ever a place was accursed this is most certainly it! For t’was ere that a bunch of British officers intent upon slaughtering wild boar in the midst of sacred tribal grounds, wound up shooting several important clansmen. It seems that the clansmen had the nerve to be offended by the senseless slaughter of their livestock in the midst of their local place of worship!
The government of Umbongo abated any potential scandal in the usual way, and so the tribe of Muck-A-Bees is no more and the imperial administrators have renamed the village the ‘Place of August Benevolence’. T’is ever the way of the empire my dear! Tell little Alfie to look to his numbers and our Lily to tend to her bible, them’s the ways to a blameless life my love as we well knows!
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