The next instant half a dozen savages, plumed and paint daubed, armed with spears and shields, rose, it seemed to Nick, out of the ground at their feet. Taking a kneeling position, Nick fired as he saw Adams leap aside to dodge a spear-thrust, and saw the spurt of flame from his revolver.
Something grazed his cheek-bone and stung like a wasp. A thrown spear buried itself in the ground a yard beyond him, and he fired again, point blank. Peerless Percy had emptied his revolver and was lunging at a naked figure with a spear he had grabbed in the melee; and suddenly he was down. Nick fired at the last figure he could see, and leaped over his body to the side of his lieutenant.
“Dash” exclaimed Peerless Percy, sitting up and holding his thigh. “That fellah got me.” He looked around the bodies lying in the moonlight. “But we cleaned that party up all right. Ouch! What a mess. Have you got a tourniquet in your bag, my dear fellah?”
‘Bartimeus’ took us Under Sealed Orders, on a gunboat to Zululand to wipe out whole tribes of black savages and uphold the might of the Empire—this was the book most commonly handed out as Sunday School Prizes in 1955. Thus the Empire on which the sun never set spread across the pages of our atlases, appropriately coloured red.
Even a bloodthirsty eleven-year-old like me knew there was something basically wrong with this. It was guns against spears; hardly the basis for the claims of heroism and glory that the British navy claimed.