An old tradition lives with the aid of an old weapon and a Britisher of yeoman breed
THE GENERAL began this thing. He said he had a literary curiosity I ought to read and he lent me Roger Ascham’s “Toxophilus,” an intriguing technical treatise on shooting with the longbow, written in Elizabethan English.
It is intriguing, all right! To read “Toxophilus” with understanding means that one drops everything and takes up the bow. I read “Toxophilus” and dropped the love of my life, which was yachting. I sold my yacht and bought a bow and arrows. And 1 passed on Roger’s insidious work to the Colonel, who is a plus-two golfer. And the Colonel resigned from his golf club and sold his golf clubs and now counts every second lost which is not employed in loosing a shaft from his bow.
So you see.
I admit, grudgingly, that the General has some small claim to be the man who reintroduced the bow to Eendham. If he had not lent me that copy of “Toxophilus” I should not have got me a bow. I make that generous concession; but I hasten to add that it was I who sjxxl the first shaft to be loosed from a bow in this village since the day some fool introduced guns and powder. I did shoot the first arrow. And this is important, because 1 maintain and can prove that, if archery had not been revived in this village of Eendham, the British Empire would lx* smaller today than it is.
I shot my first arrow at a haystack. The range was threescore paces, and 1 missed the haystack and lost my arrow in the long grass. I shot eleven more arrows at the haystack and hit it ten times.
I was amazed. I was proud. Also I was enchanted. The music of the bow and the lovely flight of the hissing arrows. The grace. The beauty. It moved me as though 1 heard some splendid song. It did my business for me. I realized then that all my life, up to the moment I loosed my first arrow, had been completely wasted.
The Colonel called in after lunch. He said: “I was
reading old Ascham last night, and this morning I remem-
bered Agnes’ grandfather was an archer and she inherited all his old junk. So I jxtked about in the attics, and sure enough, his stuff was there! There were four bows, and bracers, quivers, bowstrings and finger tabs—all sorts of stuff. You never saw such luck! And dozens of arrows. Some of ’em are broken and the feathers moth-eaten, but 1 found a few that were sound. And what d’you think? I strung a Ixnv and braced it, all according to Ascham’s instructions—although I'm not sure what he means by a ffstmele, are you? Anyhow, I put a deck chair on the law n at fifty paces, and let drive. And you never saw anything like it! That arrow went miles. Simply miles! Right over the stables and into the cucumber frames. Saxton saw it. 1 le was working on the cucumbers, and the arrow smashed a frame, and he thought a shell had burst. Anyway, I paced it out and it’s over two hundred yards. Think of it ! With practice I'm certain I could shoot an arrow a darned sight farther than I can hit a golf ball. And you know, I actually hit that deck chair at the fifth shot. I did. I hit it. The arrow kmxked it endways and went clean through. I’ve been shooting all the morning and I tell you archery’s the goods. Golf's a fool to it. I m going to take this thing up seriously, and that's why I’ve come to see you. We’ve got to form a club and hire a field and buy some targets. I’ve shot that deck chair to rags. Pretty g<x>d shootin’—for a beginner, what?”
“I'm not too bad myself,” said I. and I told him how I had mutilated that haystack. I said : “A club’s a good idea. What shall we call ourselves? The Fendham Archers?”
“Fendham Bowmen sounds better.” opined the Colonel.
“If you two want a purely descriptive title.” remarked Herself, “what about the Fendham Boasters?”
IT WILL interest future historians to learn that the Fendham Archers first set up their targets in Fendham Home Park. It was an ideal site, sheltered from all winds by the General's giant beeches, while his many nimble rabbits kept the grass cut beautifully close. The Colonel
sited the targets and measured the ranges, because he is a colonel of Royal Engineers, and the control of theodolites and surveying chains is not my forte. But I, as the only other member of our club at that time, did venture to make a protest against placing the targets so close to the public footpath.
I said. “This is a public right of way, Colonel. The whole village uses it.”
The Colonel said, “I know; but if we want to spread the light and get people interested, we’ve got to let ’em see us shoot.”
I said, “Yes. But supposin ; we shoot somebody?” And the Colonel said, “Oh, that’s all right. I’ve looked up the point. There’s a statute of Henry VIII, or somebody, which has never been repealed. It's still law, and it says if an archer shouts ‘Fast’ three times and then shoots a bystander, it's the bystander’s fault. Now everything’s ready, so let's start. I propose we celebrate the inaugural meet of the Fendham Archers by all members present shooting a York Round.”
A York Round consists of shooting six dozen arrows at 100 yards, four dozen at eighty yards, and two dozen at sixty, and the “bogey” score for the whole round is somewhere in the neighborhood of 400. At 100 yards the Colonel hit the target twice. He fluked a central “gold,” which scores nine, and an outside “white,” which scores one. I did not score anything, but I did hit a target leg and break an arrow. At eighty yards the Colonel achieved three hits and scored eleven. But I lost my form completely and missed even the target legs. At sixty yards, though, I came into my own and shot so magnificently that the Colonel got rattled and scored a duck. I only missed eighteen times and scored a grand total of twenty-two. I am proud to think that my name, accordingly, goes down to fame as the Fendham Archers’ first champion.
When I got home I boasted of my prowess. Said Herself, “You funny old thing, playing at bows and arrows at your age.”
The Colonel’s wife was even more brutal to him. She said, “Bows and arrows! You must be getting into your dotage. If you persist in playing such a childish game, you’ll have the whole village laughing at you.”
Mrs. Colonel was right, too. The whole village did laugh. The small girls sneered, the small boys jeered, and their elders took no pains to conceal their opinion that the Colonel and I were a couple of childish old fools.
“I overheard Saxton opine,” said the Colonel, “that you and I will start playing marbles next, or peg-tops.”
“And I hear the doctor’s considered opinion is,” said I, “that, though archery may once have been a fashionable pastime for ladies, in these days it is inconsistent with the dignity of a gentleman and a sportsman to play at bows and arrows. It can't be expected, of course, that a writing fellow from London, like me, should know any better; but one would think that a gentleman holding His Majesty’s commission—and so on. In fact, we’re a couple of doddering idiots, Colonel. It’s funny.”
“It beats me,” replied the Colonel. “Why hang it all, archery’s the most ancient sport in the world and it ought to be the most honored—especially in England. And it certainly is the fnost interesting and fascinating thing I’ve ever tried my hand at. Dash my eyes! It’s far harder to loose a straight arrow than it is to hit a straight drive. Yet they make you think you’re a national figure if you’re a plus-two golfer. But if you loose a straight arrow they call you a decrepit old fool.”
“Not so decrepit,” I said. “D’you know what work you do when you shoot a Double York Round? I’ve been working it out. You lift six tons and walk over five miles.” “Good,” said the Colonel. “Let’s totter up to the park and lift three tons before lunch.”
AT THE end of a month’s practice the Fendham Archers had learned a number of things about bows and arrows and the human mind. This sailor, for instance, has always believed that, of all things fashioned by the brains
and hands of man, a sailing vessel is the thing which man has most nearly succeeded in endowing with life. All ships have strongly marked individualities; all seamen know ships with wills of their own and with good or evil tempers. And I have known ships that could talk. But when this sailor became an archer, he discovered to his great surprise that a ship is merely a dull, inanimate lump of stuff when compared with a self-yew longbow. Yes; ships may talk, but my longbow can sing !
The yew bow whose friendship I am privileged to possess was created by a master of the bowyers’ art a long time before I was born. It is a Stradivarius of a bow. It is a long bow and a strong bow of character, with a highly develoj>ed artistic temperament. If it feels sympathetic toward you and you handle it with understanding, it will shoot as straight as any rifle and cast an arrow twelvescore yards and more. But if you try to shoot with it when it is out of temper, or if your personality is distasteful to it, look out ! It is bad enough if it merely turns sulky and refuses to put forth its strength ; but if it is really out of sorts, as like as not,' when you loose its quivering string, it will tear the skin off your forearm.
The Colonel began with a light, lancewood bow and practiced sedulously until he mastered it. At the end of two weeks he scored fifty-six with a dozen arrows at sixty yards, which is goodish shooting. Joe Noble saw him do it.
Joe is the Bad Man of our village. He toils not, neither does he spin. He poaches. The General says Joe makes his living out of his pheasants. Joe was also, on one occasion, a thief. The occasion was his demobilization, when he stole an Army rifle. He has shown me the rifle. It had forty-two notches cut in its stock, and Joe explained them by stating, “I ahvays could hit what I aimed at, since I was a little boy throwing stones. So they made me a Corpse sniper an’ I plugs forty-two Jerries, poor chaps. This big nock was a Fritz brass hat at 300 yards. SÍ) I reckoned I'd earned the old piece, and I took her apart and smuggled her home down my trousers. Yers.”
Joe was watching from the footpath when the Colone, made his fine score. I said. “You ought to try your hand at this, Joe. I should think a tow’s just the weapon for your trade. It's silent.”
Joe had been looking rather scornful, but the idea struck him and his face changed. "By gum !” said he. “So it is an’ all.”
We gave him the Colonel's tow and showed him how to stand and draw. We did not tell him how to loose, because, before we could do so, Joe loosed of his own accord. And his loose was so smooth and clean that his arrow sped over the target and landed a hundred yards beyond.
“Oh, lovely!” he murmured, with a faraway look in his eyes. “Lemme see. It ought to be easy. The point of the arrow’s a foresight, but all you’ve got for a backsight’s the string. Line ’em up and you’ve got your direction. But how d’you get your elevation? You can’t see how much the butt of the arrow’s below your eye. But, hold on! You can feel that. Yers. Here! Gimme another arrow.”
Joe’s second arrow was absolutely straight, but just short of the target. “Oh, lovely !” said he again. “Beautiful.” His eyes shone and he took deep breaths. “Here,” he cried. “Another arrow, quick!”
I gave him one. quick, because there was an inspired look on Joe's face just then which impressed me. I know now, I was looking at a natural-torn marksman discovering he was a natural-torn archer and becoming intoxicated with delight. And, at the time, I thought it might be beer, heaven forgive me !
Joe’s third shaft pierced the inner red. And after that he went on hitting the target until the light went.
Let it go on record that Joseph Noble was the third member to join the Fendham Archers. The Colonel pro|X)sed and I seconded him, and he was elected unanimously.
The next day the Fendham Archers were engrossed in a Hereford Round when the General appeared. He said. “Hello! What are you doing here, Joe Noble? I said you fellows were welcome to shoot in the park, but I didn't realize I was giving the freedom of the place to a demnition poacher, what?”
It was an awkward situation. The General is a benevolent autocrat. But he is an autocrat. And his pheasants are the apple of his eye.
Said the Colonel, “Dash it all. General, don’t turn Joe off. He’s a crack shot.”
“I know it,” said the General. “He’s sudden death—to sitters, in moonlight—with a sawed-off gun and a reduced charge. Humph.”
“lie was pretty deadly with a rifle, too-—once,” I interjected tentatively.
“Joe’s a phenomenon,” said the Colonel. “Its extraordinary. He seems to be a natural archer. Hanged if I can understand it, but he can’t miss. It’s like putting a brassie into the hands of somebody who’s never heard of golf, and watching him hit screamer after screamer plumb down the fairway.” Continued on page 26
Continued from page 15 Starts on page l4
“It's uncanny, but it’s true.” I said. "Joe’s a potential Champion of England, or I’ll eat my hat.”
“Show him what you can do, Joe,” said the Colonel. “Shoot an end at eighty yards.”
Joe loosed three arrows and hit the target thrice.
“By Jove! That looks easy.” said the General. “Let me try a shot.”
Joe nocked an arrow on the string and handed over his bow to the General. The General is a powerful man and he drew and loosed entirely by the light of nature. And the arrow glinted once in the sun, high above the tops of the surrounding beeches, and vanished.
“Good Gad!” exclaimed the General. “That felt wonderful. I didn’t know' I could make it go so far, so easily. Here! Give me another arrow.”
“The range is only eighty yards,” said Joe. “You sighted that last one for about 300. And you mustn’t throw up your bow arm like that, either. And whatever you do, don*i pull your loose. It’s just the same as the trigger of a rifle. You’ve got to squeeze, not jerk. Only, with a bow, you ««-squeeze, like. Here! I’ll show you.’’
When the Colonel and I left in the twilight, Joe was still showing the General. And next morning we got to the butts to find the General there already, impatiently waiting.
I SEEM to remember it was about this period that there came a change in the atmosphere of our village. The air. for one thing, became thick with homemade arrows loosed from homemade bows by wanton boys. And I ceased to observe the curious phenomenon of a sudden drop in temperature which had previously marked the passage of an archer along our village street. The change may have been in some part due to the fact that two such farfamed sportsmen as Joe Noble and the General had actually abandoned their guns for the bow. But there were other factors.
There is a mysterious something about archery which you sense as soon as your first well-loosed arrow flies to the mark. It is a feeling which no other sport can give. It is well to remark, here, that archery is no mere game, invented by man to amuse himself with. The bow is not a sporting tool, like a golf club. The bow is a weapon —the weapon which first gave man his ' mastery over the beasts. A club may be a : weapon too; but when all a man had in his hand was a club, he had to run and hide or j climb a tree whenever he heard the sabretooth tiger roar. But when man invented j the bow, he increased the strength of his arm ten times and the reach of his arm a hundred times—and then it was the tiger’s turn to run and hide. Thanks to the bow, man ceased to be mere hunted vermin. Thanks to the bow, he stood up on his two feet and stuck his chest out and felt himself, for the first time, lord of all creation. And now, when you loose an arrow, you seem to be doing something you ought to be doing, something which it gives you great pleasure to do. And I can only suppose this feeling is due to the fact that some of the pride inherited from a prehistoric archer ancestor comes through from your subconscious memory and makes you feel good.
This is the only way I can account for the unique pleasure one derives from ! shooting with the bow. But this theory : may seem far-fetched, so let me deal with cold facts and official figures. Fendham contains thirty-two males between the ages of sixteen and sixty. Of these, thirty either sneered or laughed heartily when the Colonel and I formed the Fendham Archery Club. That was eighteen months I ago. There are now thirty keen archers in
Fendham, and there would be thirty-two if Ephraim Beard had not lost both hands while on a walking tour in 1916 in the Somme Valley and if our padre was not a victim of gout.
WHEN the Young General flew home on leave from Central Africa and found the Old General shooting arrows in the home paddock, he said, “Well I’ll be hanged ! This is funny, dad.”
The Old General said, “Shush! Never talk to an archer when he’s shooting.” He loosed his arrow and hit the target with a thud. “Two o’clock, red.” he observed. “Not so bad at 100 yards. I advise you to try and shoot like that before you laugh at archery, Robert.”
“Sorry, dad,” the Young General replied. “But it’s funny. For the last three years I’ve been wearing myself thin, striving to root out, eradicate, and totally abolish the bow and arrow from my province, and I come home to the ancestral acres for a well-earned rest and change and I find you—you—shooting arrows all over the park. It is funny.”
“What are you trying to abolish the bow for?”
“Because it’s a menace,” replied the Young General. “It’s such a serious menace that, if I can’t abolish it, I think we’ll have to clear out of the province, for good.”
“D’you mean abandon it!” exclaimed the Old General. “Are you joking, Robert? Hang it all, it’s a Protectorate. We can’t run away.”
“We can back out, though,” answered the Young General. “The Word has gone forth from Whitehall. I’ve had my warning. Law and order must be maintained, at all costs. But not if it’s going to cost any money, as the place isn’t worth spending money on, so I am informed. Seems a bit contradictory to me, but They’re quite pleased with their dictum. So it all boils down to this. If I can’t persuade old Umchaka to make his men stop shooting poisoned arrows at strangers, at sight, then we, being the strangers, will withdraw, leaving Umchaka to stew in his own juice. Which is precisely what Umchaka wants, so it looks as though your son would soon be out of a job, sir.”
The Old General snorted. “What form of persuasion are you going to employ? Machine guns?”
The Young General answered “No” with great decision. “The force at my disposal.” said he, “is a Liverpool-Irish subaltern with a Vickers gun, and fifty Nubians who can drill like the Guards but can’t shoot for toffee. The country’s all solid bush and the average range of visibility is ten yards. And if I took my little lot in there with intent to rub Umchaka’s nose in it, we’d all get stuck full of arrows and swell up slowly and die. You never see Umchaka’s bowmen, dad, and they shoot awful straight at short ranges. Machine guns only make them laugh. No. Diplomacy’s the word. I’ll have to diddle the old boy—somehow. ’ ’
The Colonel turned up just then with a piece of news which interested us far more than the Young General’s provincial chatter. The Colonel said, “By Jove! I’ve just been shooting a Single York with Joe Noble and he actually scored four hundred and eighty-two. You never saw such shooting.”
The Old General said, “Phew! Well done. Joe. Why, that’s championship form. If he can keep that up through a Double York . . . Let’s see. Twice two are four. Twice eight . . . Gad! It's almost a thousand ! Well done, Joe.”
I said, “If they don’t look out, the Champion of England is going to be a Fendham Archer. I vote we pass round the hat and enter Joe for the English Cham-
pionship Meeting and let him put the Fendham Archers on the map.”
We did enter Joe Noble for the National Championship Archery Meeting. Joe, at practice, was shooting as straight as Cupid himself, and it seemed as certain as anything can be that he would shed everlasting glory on the Fendham Archers by making himself Champion of England.
Alas for our dreams! Fate had other things in store for Joe. Two weeks before the National Meeting the Young General’s leave expired, and he, confound him, shanghaied our potential champion. Said the Young General, “I’m sorry, you fellows. I haven’t said anything so far, because I didn’t know if I could wangle it. But I need Joe. I’ve asked him to come out to Africa with me, and he’s willing and we sail next week.”
We protested violently; but the Young General only grinned. Said the Colonel. “I know you think archery’s a joke, Bob. You’ve been pulling our legs about it ever since you got home. But you know very well how keen we are to see Joe win the championship; and then, at almost the last moment, you spring this on us. If it’s your idea of a joke, I don’t think much of your taste.”
I said, “What d’you think you’re doing, Robert? You don’t suppose you’re doing Joe a good turn, getting him a job, do you?
I know Joe, and I tell you he doesn’t want a job. He’s all right, but it isn’t in him to stick to any regular work. He’s not that kind of man. He’s quite happy as he is, doing odd jobs when he feels like it and poaching for fun. If you try to pin a man like Joe down to regular hours and discipline, he’ll fail you. I expect he’s dazzled at the thought of going to Africa; but I warn you, when he gets there and the novelty wears off, he’ll go to pieces. Y'ou may think you’re doing him a good turn, but you’re really doing him a bad one. Y'ou’re robbing him of his chance to be Champion of England. Laugh, if you like, Robert; but, if Joe were champion, it would give him a sense of responsibility and ballast that he’s never had yet, and it might be the making of him.”
But the Young General continued to grin. So I gave him up.
I do not know what the Old General said to his son; but I know what he said to Joe. He offered Joe the position of head gamekeeper, and Joe turned him down, flat. Said Joe, “No, no, General. I’ve signed up with the Young General; and what would you think of a man who did your son dirty and went back on him?”
The Old General apologized to Joe. He apologized to the Young General too. He said, “I’ve been trying to steal Joe Noble away from you. Robert, behind your back.
I tried bribery and corruption, and Joe, very properly, rebuked me. He’s all right. You’ve got a good man there, my son. But I’d like to know what you think you’re going to do with him.”
But the Young General is not the sort to scatter information, unless he wants to. “Joe’s down on the strength as my personal attendant,” he said. “But that’s eyewash, dad. I’ve got a real job of work for Joe.”
IT IS the custom of the Fendham Archers to meet on Saturday afternoons and hold a competition. The ladies shoot a National Round and the men a Single York. At five o’clock we are all quite ready for our tea, which we take in the Hall at a long table, over which Mrs. General hospitably presides. It was during our tea, some months after the Young General and Joe Noble had vanished into Africa, that the Old General arose, with some papers in his hand, and spoke as follows: “Brother Archers—I am going to read you a letter which has just come from my son, Robert, in Africa. It contains some news which, I know, will interest you. He says . . . Hum, where is it? Here we are. ’You will remember I told you our position in the province was, to say the least, precarious. We are called a British Protectorate, but I was beginning to wonder what that meant. Umchaka and his people
were quite able to protect themselves from anyone, including us, thanks to their ability to dart like snakes through the thick bush which covers the whole country. They fought like snakes, too. If a white man ventured into the bush, the odds were he never came out again. He would see nothing, but he would hear a hiss and feel an arrow strike. Then he’d swell up and turn black and die. So we didn’t go into the bush much.
“ ‘I think I told you, when I was in London, the Voices from on High gave me The Straight Tip. They announced that unless your son made this land safe for democracy, chop, chop, they proposed to pack up and quit. They gave me a free hand to do what I liked—so long as I spent no money and used no force. I was relieved to hear they were sound on the no-force notion, for I’d been living in dread of some ass talking about punitive expeditions. You will understand that, in this practically impenetrable bush-swamp country, even a mechanized division with tanks and aircraft could effect nothing against invisible bowmen, except its own extinction.
“ ‘That, briefly, was the problem I had j to wrestle with when I was home on leave.
I didn’t solve it, but I did get an idea. It seemed a pretty pathetic idea, but as it was all the idea I had, I played it for all it was worth.
“ ‘The province is bigger than Wales and much more mountainous, and the whole area is solid with forest. Solid is quite the right word. I call it my province, but it really belongs to Umchaka, who holds the whole place and the lives of everybody in it in the hollow of his hands. And do not imagine Umchaka is a black, ignorant savage. He is light brown, for one thing, and a gentleman and sportsman and a friend of mine. And he has twice my brains. Fortunately, his knowledge and experience are limited by his environment.
He knows all there is to know about his country and his people, but he does not know much else. Which is where I have j the bulge on him.
“ ‘To get down to business. Two months j ago I arranged a big indaba with Umchaka, and gave him my ultimatum. I said I was j tired of his people killing my people, and if he did not stop them, I would have to do it for him. Umchaka laughed and said what I knew he would say. He said, in ' effect, he wasn’t afraid of anything I could do, because, for fighting in the bush, one of his men with a bow and arrows was worth | a hundred of mine with guns. So I took ! him aback by saying I knew all that just as ! well as he did, which was the reason I was not going to fight him with men who used guns, but with archers who could shoot farther and straighter than his own men could.
“ That made Umchaka smile politely. I repeat, there are no flies on the downy old bird. He judged I was bluffing, and said if I had such mighty archers he w'ould like to see some. Which was just what I’d been waiting for. I’d got Joe Noble fully primed, of course, and we’d carefully rehearsed the whole show. We’d rigged up a scarecrow to look as much like Umchaka as we knew how, and we stuck it up in front of the old chief, and Joe stood off at j eighty yards and shot a dozen arrow's clean through it. Joe, good man, never missed once.
“ That made Umchaka sit up, I can tell you. He’d believed that no white man could handle what his experience had shown him to be the king of w-eapons, the bow. Yet here was a white man shooting straighter and farther than he’d ever seen anyone shoot before. His men, you see, shoot only at very short ranges. They can hit a small bird at ten yards, but thirty yards is about their effective limit. So the sight of Joe plugging arrow after arrow into a man-sized target at the impossible range of eighty yards, and never missing, made the old man’s eyes stick right out. And when Joe stood off at the simply miraculous range of 100 yards and hit with five arrows out of six, Umchaka took a tug at
j his hair with both hands and cried “Wow,” i which being interpreted means, “It’s a I miracle, and even then I don’t believe it.”
“ ‘Your son then seized the opportunity he had so cleverly created ! I told Umchaka he’d be wise to decide to make his men behave, in future, unless he wanted me to do the job for him and send for an army of archers who could all shoot like Joe.
j T TMCHAKA sat there after that and j took thought for a good hour. I felt very pleased with myself and my artful diplomacy. I judged I’d got the old boy where I wanted him. So it was a blow when the wily old devil arose at last and called my bluff completely. He said he wasn’t afraid of anything my army of archers could do. My men might shoot very straight, but what was the good of that when they would never catch a glimpse of their enemies? And my men might shoot very far, but no man could shoot far in the forest. He had me there, and he knew it. My big idea had failed.
“ ‘Then Umchaka began to boast about what his men could do; how they could creep up unseen and shoot my men full of j holes. And all the rest of it. It was all j painfully true, particularly his mimed I description of a white man trying to move j silently through the forest and making enough noise about it to scare every living creature within miles. It made me blush. And it made Joe Noble angry.
“ ‘Joe said, “Ho ! If he thinks that’s how all white men go about it, I’ll show the old beggar different. I haven’t been poaching all my life and sniping Jerries for three years for nothing.”
“ ‘Joe then actually begged me to let him take on Umchaka at his own game. What Joe proposed was a sort of duel, with him and one of Umchaka’s men let loose in the bush to stalk each other with their bows and arrows. I put my foot down on that, of course; I didn’t want to see Joe shot with a poisoned arrow. I didn’t think he had a chance against a native in his native bush, and I dare not risk letting an Englishman be publicly put to shame by a native. But Joe persisted. He said we’d been put to shame already. He assured me I need not worry about his ability to move invisibly through cover, because he’d stalked to within touching distance of foxes before then, and he backed a Fendham fox to smell and see and hear quicker and farther than any man, black, brown, or white. And he said he was ready to use blunt arrows if the other fellow used clean ones.
“ 'Umchaka butted in then. He wanted to know what all the talk was about, and I foolishly told him. He jumped at the notion of a stalking match. He thought it a very sporting idea. And before I knew what had happened, he’d picked his man, and all hands were ready and waiting to see the fun.
“ ‘I hope you will realize I couldn’t back out then. Umchaka’s champion was ready, and I couldn’t refuse to let Joe face him. It would have done in our prestige for good. And Joe was so confoundedly confident. And Umchaka gave me his word that his man would use new, clean, unbarbed arrows, and I knew I could trust Umchaka’s word. So I agreed.
“ ‘The show took place in the clearing which surrounds headquarters, where the trees for a hundred yards or so have been cut down, and we burn off the bush there, of course, from time to time, to give a clear field of fire. But you know how quickly things grow in this climate, and the grass and stuff was about knee-high everywhere. This gave cover for the duellists and also gave the spectators a chance to see the fun. There were plenty of spectators, dad. All Umchaka’s men were there—thousands of them, and they climbed the trees all round the clearing to get a grandstand view. It was like Twickenham at an England v. Scotland
match, only the noise of the cheering when the champions took the field was very different. My Liverpool-Irishman and his fifty Nubians did their best for Joe. but the sound of them was drowned out by the other side’s war cry, which is a horrid sort of howling which makes your back hair stand on end.
“ ‘Joe and his opponent stood at opposite sides of the clearing about 200 yards apart. They had their bows and three arrows each and nothing else. I fired my rifle into the air, and at the signal both men slipped into the grass and disappeared. They vanished absolutely. I was looking through my glasses, but I couldn’t see a blade of grass stir. Then gradually the cries and shoutings died away and it got very still. I couldn’t see anything or hear anything; nothing at all for as long as two hours. You may think this was rather dull and boring, but I tell you that that absolute quiet and stillness was the most exciting thing I’ve ever been through. It was rummy.
CUDDENLY I saw Joe’s head sticking ^ up out of a little bush. I was absolutely astounded, because that bush was only some thirty yards away from me, and I couldn’t believe Joe had got there without me or anyone else seeing him. But there he was, and I only stopped myself just in time from shouting out a warning that he was showing himself. And then, with my glasses, I saw it wasn’t Joe’s head behind that bush at all. It was only Joe’s hat. The old, old trick, dad. But it worked. And I imagine it worked because Joe’s opponent had never worn a hat in his life. The man rose up from a clump of grass that I could have sworn wouldn’t have hidden a cat. He was twenty yards off me. no more; but I never saw him till he moved. He loosed two arrows at Joe’s hat and hit it twice. And then he gave a grunt and doubled up, because Joe had let drive at him from a flank with his fifty pound bow, and the blunt and heavy arrow took the man full in the tummy. Joe’s second arrow bounced off his skull. Then he got up and bolted, and Joe’s third shaft scored a bull’s-eye on his stern. It was beautiful stalking and grand shooting. Joe had scored three hits to nil and won hands down. And Umchaka and all his warriors had seen it happen. They’d seen a w'hite man beat their champion at his own game. It was splendid ; better than anything I could have hoped for.
“ ‘Then the thing happened. Joe stood up, grinning, and I was walking to him to congratulate him, when I heard a bow twang behind me and an arrow whizzed past my head. It missed Joe by inches. And it w'as a barbed and poisoned arrow.
I have said Umchaka was a gentleman and that I could trust his word. He said, while his warriors seized the man who had shot at Joe, that this thing had blackened his honor. He said he would promise that never again as long as he lived would a white man be shot by his people. Then he stood up—and took steps to ensure that his promise should be carried out. One thing he did was to make a great pile of all the bows and arrows of his men and set fire to the lot. The erring warrior was driven from the tribe.
“ ‘So today there is peace in this land. And tomorrow, if I can do my part, there will be contentment and prosperity.
“ T am very anxious that you should tell the Fendham Archers all about this thing. They were angry with me for taking Joe away and depriving him of his chance of making himself Champion of England. But, nevertheless, Joe got his chance. And he took it. We have commemorated it by hacking out on the face of a great rock at the scene of the duel :
Rifleman and Archer.
In Truth and Deed
A CHAMPION OF ENGLAND.’”