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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

The Hero

The Hero.


Ah! I thought, here surely was a man who had helped to make history. His whole appearance was suggestive of heroic and tragic experiences, and instinctively stirred the cells of my imagination. The picture they made had the famous retreat from Mons as its setting, with this little man—not then so broken—stumbling back with his machine-gun to the next rise, there to sweep the oncoming hordes, until compelled to yield ground still farther. Then, at last, wounded, the rest of his crew casualties and ammunition all gone, he picks up his gun and staggers to the rear, determined it shall not fall into the enemy's hands. Yes, no doubt he was one of that gallant band, and a grateful Nation had installed him in his present congenial position, as a reward. Continuing my walk to the road's end, I turned, and coming back a different way, passed through the native market. There I saw groups of blue-clad coolies about each vendor, in every shop and up each side alley; in fact, they seemed to be every where, chattering, bargaining and filling their net-bags with purchases.

I searched in vain for the coolies' overseer, until, arriving at the intersection of two streets, I espied him dancing excitedly up and down before a huge Greek policeman; and snapping his fingers and brandishing his staff to the eminent danger of that dignitary. He was making agonised appeals for information of his strayed "lambs". Catching sight of two or three trotting up a side lane, he leaped in their direction; then, seeing a greater number steering to the right, he out-Chap-lined Chaplin as he wheeled in pursuit. Just when it seemed certain he would yard his lot, fully a hundred broke into view, and as suddenly melted into a dozen sidestreets. Exhausted and distraught, he stood for a moment, hurling expletives to the four points of the compass, then slowly crumpled up beside the footway.

I was somewhat astray in my first deductions —it was not carrying guns out of action which was responsible for the haggard looks and bent shoulders, but mustering wild and wily coolies from outlabyrinths more intricate than the densest scrub in Australia. I still think him a hero.