Chapter Six of the Lost Diaries
Chapter 6: Hell hath no Fury...
And as the Queen (of the Nile) rounded the hills we caught sight of the French fort. The Arabs had begun their assault on the fort. From the distance we could see the French flag still flying upon the ramparts - we were not too late!
The Arabs swarmed around the fort, coming on even as the French fire cut their ranks down, and soon placed ladders upon the ramparts and were scaling them like so many ants. On a ridge to the east they had a German gun, with which they kept up a constant shelling on the French Maxim gun in the tower (*Here Captain Arjun was mistaken, for the Maxim was only produced in 1884. Yet it was unlikely that he would have mistaken the machineguns currently in use with the British army then for a Maxim. It is probable that this was an experimental form of machinegun which is now lost to us.)
Then Dr Jones, that mad American! took flight in the French pedal-plane and made straight for the walls. Captain Cavor ordered full steam on the Queen as we sped towards the gates, gunning down the Arabs in our path with the Gatling. Faster still was Dr Jones in the flyer, and as he neared the wall he leapt off, landing just outside the northern wall, which he then proceeded to scale with the aid of his bull-whip.
Once upon the ramparts, I later learnt from Commandant Domine (the commander of the fort), he made a proposal to the Frenchman that surely saved us all that day: he promised he would let neither the British nor the French have the location of the Mines except that they agree to share it, if they would let his father go. Commandant Domine, who must have known the desperate situation he was in, agreed.
Yet as we neared the fort, a strange form appeared in the distance. It was the shape of a long-legged spider, except that it was made of steel and stood at least 30 feet off the ground. It flew no ensign, and at first my heart was dismayed, thinking that it was an infernal Arab contraption. But then it started shooting at the Arabs with the twin Gatlings mounted upon it head! Then behind the giant spider came men, and the distinctive spike upon the picklehaube of the Germans could be discerned. The plot thickens!
By now we were at the gates, and from within the Queen Captain Chard hailed Commandant Domine, and the two agreed that they would bring Professor Jones away first, out of harmís way, while we would help defend the fort against the enemies. So Captain Cavor skillfully manoeuvred the Queen with her stern against the gate (thus securing both the gate and the rear of the Queen, which was her weakest aspect) and our men disembarked and went straight for the Arabs, who had now gained the walls. An Arab chieftain now leapt off the ramparts and fell upon Dr Jones, and a melee ensued. We moved to aid Dr Jones but then the gigantic spider peered over the ramparts and started shooting at the pair.
But they were saved by the arrival of a French armoured car, whose gun struck the spider upon the legs and crippled it. As Dr Jones dispatched the Arab chieftain Captain Chard swiftly grabbed him and dragged him into the safety of the Queen. By now the Arabs were scattered, and the Germans, having lost sight of their quarry and their monstrous vehicle crippled, quit the field as swiftly as they had come on.