Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chapter 67: Egypt, a Ghost and The Soudan

Date: May 11, 1903
Location: Portsmouth Harbour
Situation: Departing Britain Aboard Ajax

See Previous Chapter 66 here:


Pettygree: "On 11 May 1903 Mary, Anna {my wife's lady's maid} and I departed Portsmouth for Egypt. Officially I was ordered to assume command there and investigate a Dervish dust up in the eastern Soudan near Port Suakin. This legerdemain was what newspapers, most in government and the world believed. Very few knew otherwise."

Pettygree: "Of those who did know, one man had direct orders from King Edward VII and Prime Minister Mr. Balfour to safeguard us until we left Britain. Only the most singular government official was entrusted to inquire if I  would consider the mission. Mycroft Holmes in turn relied upon his brother Sherlock and the latter's particular friend, Dr. Watson to protect us until sailing."

"The real mission was to secretly return to India to recover the Northwest Frontier and more captured by the Guru's revived Thugee Army."

Pettygree: "Meanwhile, we would go on an Egyptian grand tour, attend to the muddle near Suakin and later secretly board a fast gunboat for Bombay. If everything worked to plan, the Tugs would know nothing until I was on the sub-continent en-route to engage them and the Guru - again."

May 19, 1903 -- {Forenoon}

Pettygree: "Our voyage traversed 3,470 nautical miles averaging twenty knots. It lasted eight days accounting for a brief call at Gibraltar. On the morning of May 19, 1903, Ajax lay offshore of a small inlet east of Alexandria in The Nile Delta."

Captain Cavanaugh: "Yes General, we will put your party ashore at the Inlet of El Shab."

Pettygree: "Off to port there?"

Cavanaugh: "Aye. We'll come about for a small dock shown on the chart. Close inland lies the archaeological ruins you wanted to show Mrs. Pettygree. Per arrangements, guides, tents, food and camels should be there already --- I daresay with mystical Egyptian charms.

Pettygree: "I'll have time then to change into riding clothes before we dock. Tongues will wag when superstitious locals from Alexandria to Khartoum wonder at an apparition materializing to haunt them."

Pettygree: "Ajax ghosted along inshore."

Pettygree: "We soon boarded ships of the desert for the short ride inland." 

Pettygree: "Mary was stunning in her ensemble. Anna too, was a picture in blue."

Pettygree: "A shore party from Ajax guarded our exit from the beach." 

Pettygree: "It was amusing pondering myself wearing garments and the countenance of General Chinese Gordon, killed in 1885 at Khartoum. It was my hope this ruse de l'guerre would discomfort and alarm insurgents in The Soudan. Would worried hundreds or thousands scurry back to their habitations fearing an old nemesis had returned from the dead? I hoped so. It seemed apropos here in Egypt. At the least it might buy us time. Confusion to the enemy, you know!"

Pettygree: "Mary, Anna, look. Ruins are visible from here. Do you see? And...."

Pettygree: "Our campsite for the next few days is just ahead too."

Mary: "It looks as if they are ready to serve luncheon."

Anna: "It does my lady."

Pettygree: "We rode toward camp betwixt small ancient ruins. In the distance...."

Pettygree: "Loomed something larger; a columned structure encumbered by foliage."

Mary: "And look beside the river General - another curiosity and more visible."

Pettygree: "Quite so. However, we should press on into camp dear. I promise that structure will be our first investigation if you prefer."

May 19, 1903 -- {Early Afternoon}
2/10th Hussars Ride In

Pettygree: "Old Frontier friends from the 10th Hussars happened to be returning from India to Britain for rotation and rest when the situation in The Soudan worsened. A much reduced 2/10th Hussars were offloaded in Alexandria as reinforcements. Naturally I ordered them to join me in The Delta."

Trooper Corey: "Well Trooper Ham. No White Cliffs of Dover for us."

Trooper Ham: "Aye. --- Duty calls us again me brave cavalier. No glorious pints an' no lovely barmaids back home at The Arms."

Corey: "Oh too true! Here we are back in the saddle scout'n ahead of the rest of the squadron, where we should be --- mind --- to keep all the lads behind us safe. They count on us y'know."

Ham: "Natur'ly. --- Say what's that beastie up ahead?"

Ham: "Peculiar ain't it?"

Corey: "It's got the head of a man with a do dad on 'is head and the body of an animal."

Ham: "I remember. It's called ahhh --- sphincter."

Corey: "No! Sphinx. SPHINX --- you ignoramus."

Ham: "Sez you!"

Corey: "Well, --- we'd better ride into the General's camp now."

Ham: "Looks like a party. Smell that food!"

Ham: "Troopers Ham and Corey, 2/10th Hussars report'n as ordered General. The squadron is just behind us. Captain Sachs presents 'is compliments sir."

Pettygree: "Welcome lads. It's mighty good seeing you again." 

Corey: "Us too General. I thought we'd never serve with you again an' here we are."

Pettygree: "Tether your mounts and come back. The cook will give you the best eats here abouts."

Pettygree: "The cook laid out a prodigious table. Mary and I momentarily declined to sit because...."

Pettygree: "Captain Sachs arrived with a report given to him at Alexandria."

Sachs: "General, the report, three weeks old now, reviews  events in The Soudan. Our forces are listed as well. Though some Dervishes have complaints and have rearmed themselves in roving bands demonstrating near Port Suakin, all seems well enough --- considering. "

Pettygree: "Very well. Most of this can await our pleasure at table first Captain. Please join us."

May 19, 1903 -- {Mid Afternoon}
The Ruins

Mary: "Shall we go to that ruin along the river now dear?

Pettygree: "Yes. Let's go."

Pettygree: "I don't think we should go inside Mary. Tumbling stones, you see."

Mary: "The guide told me these are Ptolemaic structures. Cleopatra herself, Julius Caesar or Mark Antony surely walked these steps almost two thousand years ago. We must too!"

Mary: "It doesn't look ready to crumble in the next instant. Well?"

 Pettygree: "Alright dear. In we go."

Pettygree: "The first ruins taught us to wear sturdier clothing. Later when visiting the miniature Sphinx, we were appropriately dressed. She of course looked stunning and resolute."

 Trooper Ham: "Mrs. Pettygree, mam. Have a care in there."

Mary: "Thank you trooper. The General is inside --- says it is safe."

Ham: "Very good mam. Corey an' I will stand guard outside."

Pettygree: "Whilst investigating the interior of the little Sphinx, Ham and Corey alerted us to a trio of riders coming in."

Corey: "One's an officer General. The other must be 'is batman and there's a lady too."

Mary: "Two were old comrades of my husbands from service on the Northwest Frontier; Colonel Lawford and his batman Nazim of the 9th Bengal Lancers. The other was the Colonel's wife, the Russian Countess Alexandra Elaina Volkanskaya. I had heard they were married in St. Petersburg last year."

Alexandra: "I am very pleased to meet you Mrs. Pettygree.

Mary: "I am honoured Countess. The General has spoken of you and about your expedition to Alexandrapour. I am very glad you escaped and are now enjoying married life. How is it you are here, if I may inquire?"

Alexandra: "Da. We are on our honeymoon. Upon arrival two days ago in Alexandria, my husband paid a duty call upon the local commander. That officer was in earnest to send vital news just received to your husband. We are carrying that news."

Mary: "Oh?"

Alexandra: "The Colonel Lawford is telling your husband about it now. I regret to say, the British Army in The Soudan has been defeated, Port Suakin was lost and the army has retreated to Khartoum."


1) Many of our friends are back as you've just read. Thank you for your patience. 

2) Many thanks to my friend Chuck L. for loaning his striking ancient ruins. You can find them in pet store fish departments as he did. He with pard Todd B. also loaned an astonishing array of tropical plants also from pet stores. Todd's are mostly along the river. Herb Gundt of HG Walls made the large and magnificent deciduous trees.

3) Gunboat Ajax is a Houston model from The Virtual Armchair General.

4)  My friend John P. beautifully painted the Perry Miniatures British sailors and 10th Hussars. Hinterland Miniatures made the lovely ladies on camels. Pulp Miniatures created Mary with the lantern as well as the character I named Mycroft Holmes. Pard Greg Horne supplied the artistically rendered Foundry bobbies.

5) The Ptolemies copied and erected ancient Egyptian structures near Alexandria. Inspired by this, some of them have been placed in our story.

6) At this point I beg your forbearance to sound an ALARM. General Pettygree has been vexed by an indefatigable spammer. He does not know how many. Since June 2013, he ordered me to read and rapidly approve all your comments before posting them. There will only be a short delay; hours or a half day at the most. 

7) Therefore kind readers, please do avail yourselves to post a welcome back to the General in the comment section below. He is curious to know your thoughts on any relevant topic.