With Buller in Natal by G. A. Henty
Chapter XVII. A Rescue
When Chris went out with Captain Brookfield and the farmer, the lads had shaken hands with all their friends, and were standing by the side of their horses ready to mount. Jack and the two Zulus were standing a few yards behind them. Japhet had brought up the other spare horse.
"It is a nice piece of horse-flesh," the farmer said as he looked at it critically.
"Yes, it was bred by Duncan. We purchased pretty well the pick of those he brought down the country."
"That accounts for it. They are in good condition, too."
"Yes; our horses all get two feeds of mealies a day, or, when it is wet, one feed of mealies and a hot mash made of mealie flour, besides what they can pick up, for we don't draw horse rations. Now, sir, we will be off;" and he gave the word "Mount!"
The lads all in a second swung into their saddles.
"Good-bye, lads, and good luck!" Captain Brookfield said; and the men standing by broke into a hearty cheer.
There was a strong suspicion that the party were not going down to Maritzburg. It was felt that they were not the sort to throw it up before Ladysmith was relieved. And their suspicions were heightened when they saw the farmer mount and ride by the side of Chris.
"It is all gammon about their resigning, is it not, Brookfield?" one of the officers said, as they stood looking after them. "Why should they have left two of their men here with some of their traps and stores if they had not been coming back? They would naturally give them all away. Besides, I noticed that farmer come in on foot half an hour ago; there was no talk of their leaving before he arrived, and he has gone off with them on one of their horses."
Captain Brookfield smiled.
"All I know about it officially is that this morning Mr. King resigned in the name of himself and his party; and as you know, I told you when they first joined us, they did so on the explicit understanding that they should be allowed to resign when they chose, and that provision was inserted when they were sworn in."
"That is all you know officially?"
"Yes. If they are missed, and the question is asked me what has become of them, that is the answer I shall give. What else I know I must for the present keep to myself."
"I suppose we shall see them back soon?"
"Well, I consider that that is within the limits of possibility."
"I suppose that you have formed no plan yet, Mr. King?" the farmer said, when they had left the camp.
"No; my present idea is to follow the line half-way down to Frere. If we were to strike off towards the country at once, we should, of course, be noticed; so I would rather get three miles on. You say it is about seventy miles?"
"Well, allowing for a halt, we can do it in twelve hours; that would be just as it is getting dark. Of course we shall not show ourselves till they begin to attack the house. I hope we shall find your friends still holding out."
"I hope so indeed. You see, the Boers were quiet when I started, and I should hardly think that they would make an attack again after I left. They seemed to have settled down to starve us out; but it is quite possible that now I have got away they will grow nervous lest I should bring help up, and are very likely to make another attempt this evening. They would be pretty sure to succeed this time, for there are only seven of us left there; and though they could make a good fight in daylight, they would have no real chance if the Boers went at them in earnest, which they are sure to do next time. We agreed before I started that it would not do to try to defend the yard. After I left they were going to pile everything movable against the doors and windows and fight hard to keep the Boers out, and would then go upstairs and sell their lives dearly."
"How far are the Boer horses out?"
"About five hundred yards away, in a dip. We know they always keep three or four men on guard there, for we have seen them come out of the hollow sometimes."
"And the cattle, have they driven them off yet?"
"Yes; four of the Boers and twenty or thirty natives went straight on with them as soon as they had driven us into the farmhouse. I am afraid there is no use thinking of getting them back."
"It depends upon how far they have gone," Chris said. "The rains have brought the grass up, and as likely as not they may halt when they get to some good pastures and wait till the others join them. It is not likely that all that gang came from one place."
"I expect that they have been gathered up from lonely farmhouses where they have escaped the commandos, and they will want to divide their plunder between them; they don't trust each other a bit, and each would cheat his fellows of his share if he could. So I should think that what you suggest is likely enough, and that it has been arranged to wait when they come to a good place till the others arrive. But you are not thinking of rescuing them, are you?"
"If we thrash the Boers at the farm I shall certainly have a try. We did carry off two or three thousand head about two months ago from the hands of at least as large a party as this, and I don't see why we should not do it again. It was near Mount Umhlumba."
"Was it your party that did that?" the farmer exclaimed. "Why, it was the talk of the whole district, and some of the cattle belonged to a friend of mine. He told me how he had been saved from ruin. Well, sir, after that I shall feel more confident than I acknowledge I have been up to now. Captain Brookfield told me about your going into the Boer camp in disguise, and to Komati-poort, and how you surprised a party of Boers looting a farm near Dundee; but he did not mention that. In fact, he had only just finished telling me the other affairs when you came in saying that you were ready to start. Well, well, it is wonderful that a party of young gentlemen like yours should have done such things!"
They did not hurry their horses, but for the most part went at the steady canter to which the animals were most accustomed; occasionally they would walk for a bit.
At Weenan, where they crossed the Bushman river, they halted for half an hour, and for double that time after crossing the Mooi at Intembeni; then as the sun began to lose its power they went fast, until, when they reached one of the farthest spurs of Botha's Castle, the farmer said:
"When we get over the next rise we shall see the house."
Chris gave the order to dismount, and, going forward on foot, they threw themselves down when close to the crest, and crawled forward until they obtained a fair view. Sankey and Chris were again provided with glasses, having bought them on the day before starting at the sale of the effects of several officers who had fallen in a fight at Vaal Krantz, and all gazed intently for some time at the house. "Thank God they are all right so far!" Chris said to the farmer. "I can see the Boers lying all round the house, and that dark clump is their horses; so our ride has not been in vain. I suppose it is about a mile and a half from here. I don't see the gate into the yard. Which side is it?"
"That corner of the house hides it. It is on the eastern side."
"It will be quite dark in an hour; when it is so, we will move down a bit farther, then we will halt till we hear them attacking. We must not go nearer, for the moon will be up by that time. If I had known that we should have got here before dark, we need not have troubled to bring the Zulus. I intended to send them forward to see how matters stood, then they could have guided us right up to the gate. However, as they have all got guns, and can shoot, it will add to the panic our attack will create, and they will all be pleased at the chance of at last getting a shot at the Boers. They were complaining to me the other day that they were very happy in all other respects, but they were very much disappointed at not having had a fight."
The natives were indeed delighted when, on Chris rejoining them, he told them that they should take their share in the attack on the Boers. Chris and his friends all threw themselves on the ground, after sending up Jack to the crest to keep watch. But the farmer said, "I dare not lie down; if I did, I should never get up again."
He had, indeed, to be lifted off his horse when they dismounted.
"I can quite understand that," Chris said. "I feel stiff and tired myself, and you must be almost made of iron to have ridden one hundred and forty miles almost without halting."
"If anyone had told me that I could do it, I should not have believed him. Of course one is on horseback a good many hours a day. Often, after going round the farm, I start at two or three o'clock and ride into Greytown and back; but that is only a matter of some fifteen miles each way. Still, when one has got seven men's lives depending upon one, one makes a big effort."
"I tell you what, Mr. Searle. The best thing you can do is to strip and lie down. I will set the two Zulus to knead you. You will find yourself quite a new man after it."
"That is a good idea, King, and I will adopt it."
For half an hour the two men rubbed and kneaded the farmer's muscles from head to foot, exerting themselves until the perspiration streamed from them. Then one of them brought up one of the water-skins and poured the contents over him.
"That has certainly done me a world of good," the farmer said when he had dressed himself. "I don't say the stiffness has all gone, but I certainly don't feel any worse than I did when I got to your camp. I should never have thought of it myself."
"It is what is done after a Turkish bath," Chris said. "I have had them often at Johannesburg. The natives do something of the same sort. They make a little hut of boughs, and fill a hole in the middle with hot stones and pour water over them, and steam themselves, and I believe get rubbed too."
As soon as they considered it dark enough to be perfectly safe, they led their horses down until they judged that they were within half a mile of the house, then dismounted and waited. Chris had already made all arrangements. Carmichael, who was the leader for the time being of one of the sections of five, was with his party to ride straight for the Boers' horses directly the attack began. The firing at the house would act as a guide to the spot where they were placed, and he was, if possible, to attack them from behind. He was to shoot down the guards, but not to pursue them if the horses bolted on hearing the attack on the house.
"What you have to do is to stampede them," Chris said. "As soon as you have got them on the run, keep them going, and if they scatter, do you scatter too. The Boers without their horses will be at our mercy. Don't stop till you have driven them five miles away. Then you can halt till morning. As you come back, you are likely enough to hear firing, and can then ride towards it and join us. But don't get within rifle-shot of the Boers. I don't want any lives thrown away. If you hear three shots at regular intervals during the night ride towards the sound. I may want you here."
It was just ten o'clock when there was a violent outburst of fire at the farmhouse, and all sprung into their saddles.
"Now, Carmichael, do you gallop on. Get as close as you can to the horses without being observed. Go at a walk the last hundred yards or so; the horse guards are not likely to hear you, they are sure to be up on the edge of the dip watching the farm. Stay quiet till you hear our yell, and then go straight in to them. In that case you may manage without their getting a shot at you, for as likely as not they will have strolled up without their rifles."
As soon as Carmichael's little party had started, Chris moved on with the rest at a walk.
"There is no occasion to hurry," he said. "It will take the Boers some time to force their way in, and the hotter they are at work the less likely they will be to hear us." In two or three minutes he ordered them to canter. "It is of no use charging; I expect that they are all inside the yard." It was, however, at a fast pace that they rode up towards the wall. Chris blew his whistle, and the cheer of the whites and the warcry of the two Zulus burst out at the top of their voices.
"Give it to them hot, lads!" Chris shouted, for the benefit of the Boers. "Kill every man-jack of the scoundrels!" And at once nineteen rifles opened upon the dark figures clustered round the house. "Use your magazines," Chris shouted again. "Don't let a man of them get off."
Appalled by the sudden attack, ignorant of the number of their assailants, and mown down by the terrible fire, the Boers on the two sides of the house exposed to it did not think of resistance, but all who could do so made a rush round to the other sides, and, joining their companions there, clambered over the wall and made for their horses; but these had already gone. As Chris had anticipated, the four guards were watching the farmhouse, and did not hear the approach of Carmichael's party. As Chris's whistle sounded these galloped forward, and at their volley three of the Boers fell, the other fled. At once with loud shouts they charged in among the ponies, who were already kicking and plunging at the sudden sound of firearms. A minute later they were all in full flight, followed by the five lads shouting and yelling. The firing had been unnoticed by the Boers round the house, and these, when on arriving at the hollow they found their horses gone, gave vent to their alarm and rage in many strange oaths, and then scattered in flight all over the country.
"It is of no use trying to pursue," Chris said, as soon as it was found that all the Boers, save those lying dying or dead, had escaped from the yard. "We should only ruin the horses, and they have done a big day's work already."
The besieged could be heard hastily removing the barricades against the door, and in two or three minutes ran out, almost bewildered at the suddenness of their relief, when they thought that nothing remained to be done but to sell their lives dearly. A few hurried words explained the position to them, and their gratitude to Chris and his party was unbounded. Their first step was to attend to the fallen Boers. Of these there were eighteen wounded and eleven killed, and as soon as all in their power had been done for the former, and they had been carried into the house, a blazing fire was lit in one of the rooms and the party all gathered there.
"Now, Mr. King," Searle said, "you are the baas of this party; what do you think had best be done?"
"I think the first thing," Chris said, "is to post half a dozen men, three or four hundred yards away, round the house. We must not run the risk of the tables being turned on us by the Boers crawling up and surprising us; they may still be hanging about in numbers. Peters, you take Harris, Bryan, and Capper, and the two Zulus, and post them round the house. The natives' ears are much sharper than yours are, and if either of them thinks he hears anything let them crawl out in that direction and reconnoitre. When I whistle, do you come in to me, leaving the others on guard, then I will tell you what we have decided upon."
The four named at once went outside, and, calling the natives, left the yard. Jack had already filled the kettles the colonists had brought with them, and placed them over the fire.
"While the tea is getting ready," Chris said, "we had better give a good feed of mealies to all the horses. How many of yours are there left?" he asked one of the colonists.
"All the twelve we had at first were unwounded this evening, but I can't say whether any of them have been hit since. The wall was too high for bullets to touch them as long as the Boers were outside, but most likely as we were firing through the window we may have hit some of them."
"I don't suppose you did so, because I fancy that directly the Boers began fighting here the horses bunched in one corner of the yard. Well, will you feed them also, and see how many are uninjured. That is a matter of importance, for our horses will scarcely be fit for work in the morning. Do you think yours may be?"
"Yes, I think so; we have only been shut up three days, and they have had a good deal of pickings, what with the beds and what was lying about in the yard before; and a good feed now will certainly set them up. What do you propose to do?"
"Well, I want in the first place to get enough of the Boer ponies in to mount us all, and in the second to overtake and cut the Boers off if possible, and lastly to rescue the cattle. Five of our party are away after the horses, but their object was to scatter them. They were to halt about five miles away, and if they heard three rifle shots at regular intervals they were to ride towards them."
"Do you want them in here? if so, I will go out and give the signal. We have taken it by turns to sleep, so we are all fairly fresh."
"Yes, I want them in, but I specially want them to collect and drive in a score of the Boer ponies." "At daybreak we will all go," another of the farmers said, "and lend a hand."
"With this moon we ought to be able to find some of the men without waiting for daylight," Chris said. "It would be an immense thing if we could be after them before they have got too long a start."
"It would indeed. Well, we will feed our horses at once, and by the time we have had a cup of tea they will be ready to start. If we have luck, we ought not to be away more than a couple of hours."
"It would make our success pretty well a certainty if we could get the ponies by that time," Chris said.
In less than half an hour the seven farmers started. Only one of the horses had been killed, and they rode away at a rate that showed that the others were none the worse for their three days on somewhat short rations.
"Now," Chris said, after seeing them off, "we will get a couple of hours' sleep. I wish Peters and his party could do the same, but it would not do to trust to the Boers not coming back again."
All were asleep in a few minutes, but an hour later they heard a shot fired, followed by several others. They leapt to their feet, seized their rifles, and ran out into the yard. There was, however, no repetition of the firing, and a few minutes later Peters came in and reported that the Zulus had discovered a number of Boers making their way cautiously forward. Both had fired, and some shots had been returned, but the Boers had at once drawn off.
"I don't suppose we shall hear any more of them. They hoped they might catch us asleep. Now they find that we are on watch. I expect they will give up the idea and make off. It is a nuisance having been disturbed, but I am not sorry for it, for the Boers will have lost a couple of hours, and even if the horses do not come in we shall still have a chance of overtaking them. Now, Peters, you had better get forty winks; I will go out with Brown, Field, and Sankey, and relieve the three out there. I don't suppose they will come in, but they can take a nap where they are. You need not send out when the farmers come back; we shall see them."
Chris had been nearly two hours on watch when he made out in the bright moonlight a number of horses and mounted figures going towards the house. He at once woke the sleepers and called the others in, and by the time they reached the farm some thirty unmounted ponies, followed by Carmichael's party and the farmers, came up.
"We have been longer than we expected," one of the latter said as he dismounted, "but we were lucky at last in finding this lot together in a kloof. Have you seen anything of the Boers? We thought we heard a few shots."
"Yes, they came here and tried to turn the tables on us; but we had the Zulus and some of the scouts out. When they found that we were watchful they decamped. Now, Carmichael, go in with your party and get a cup of tea."
"What! are we going to start again?" Carmichael asked rather dismally; "we were only just getting off to sleep when Willesden, who was on watch, heard three shots."
"Some of us have only had an hour's sleep, Carmichael. But there is another day's work before us, and after that you may sleep for twenty- four hours if you like."
"Oh! I suppose I can do it if the others can; still, after seventy-five miles here, five miles out, and something like five miles chasing the horses, and five miles back again, I think we have done a pretty good day's work." "No doubt you have," Chris said, "a thundering good day's work; but a fellow is not worth calling a fellow if he can't manage to do two days' work at a stretch for once in a way. At any rate, the horses will be fresh, which is of much more importance than our being so; they have had three days' perfect rest. Now, while you are having your tea we will see about the other arrangements. Of course Mr. Searle will stop here; he has done double the work that we have. His friends can do as they like. Naturally we shall be glad to have them with us, but that is as they choose."
"Of course we will go with you," one of the colonists said.
"Thank you! At any rate two of you had better stop with Mr. Searle. There are the wounded Boers to look after. I see there is a waggon in the yard; I should think they had better be put in that and carried to Greytown. If we recover the cattle, we will drive them down there."
None of the farmers was willing to stay, and at last they had to decide the question by lot.
"Now," Chris said, "you gentlemen know the country a great deal better than we do, and can tell us which way they are most likely to take their cattle."
"They are sure to go north, there is no other way for them to go. If the whole party were together and mounted, they might go up through Zululand; as it is, they would not venture to do that. They will cross the Tugela, I should say, between the point where the Mooi runs into it and its junction with the Buffalo, and go up through Colsie, and then either through Helpmakaar or Lazarath."
"Well, I hope we shall catch them long before they get to the Tugela."
"I expect the cattle will be somewhere near Inadi; there is some good grazing along there, and as all the loyalists have cleared off long ago they will have no fear of being disturbed."
The saddles were transferred from their own horses to the Boer ponies, and it was finally arranged that the waggon with the wounded should not start until their return. Jack and the two Zulus were left with them, and even should another party of Boers come along the six men would be able to defend themselves till the others returned. Half an hour after the arrival of Carmichael's party they started in pursuit, and directed their course for Inadi, as it would have been useless to search for the Boers, and it was certain that these would make for the point where it had been arranged that the cattle should cross. It was some fifteen miles away, and they were confident that they would arrive there before the Boers, who, bad walkers at the best of times, and disheartened by their failure, at the loss of many of their companions and of all their horses, would not have got more than half-way by the time they started.
It was half-past two when they left, and when they approached Inadi day was breaking. They had put on their Boer hats, and knew that the men in charge of the herd would take them to be some of their own party until they were quite close. To their satisfaction they saw the herd grazing half a mile south of the village, and it was not until they were within a hundred yards of the spot where the smoke of a fire showed that the guard were posted, that they saw any movement. Then a man rose to his feet, and, looking at them earnestly, gave a shout of alarm. The others leapt up at once and ran towards their ponies; these were fifty yards away, and before they could reach them Chris and his party dashed up, rifle in hand. "Surrender," he shouted in Dutch, "or we fire! Down with your rifles!"
Seeing that resistance was useless the Boers threw down their weapons, and in a minute were tied hand and foot with the ropes from their saddles. They were then lashed to bushes at some little distance from each other, so as to prevent their rolling together and loosening each other's cords. The natives with them had at the first alarm fled at full speed, and were already out of sight. Then the whole party rode to a ridge a quarter of a mile back, dismounted at its foot, and crawled up to the crest. A mile away some fifty men could be seen wearily making their way on foot towards them.
"We have done quite enough in the way of fighting," Chris said, "and I should think that they have had more than enough; we will get them to surrender if we can. We will wait till they are within forty or fifty yards and then fire a few shots over their heads, and see what comes of it. We have good cover here, and they are in the open. They will know very well that there is not a chance of their getting away, for, as we have horses and they have none, we could defend any eminence we chose to occupy, and ride off to another if they were likely to take it. Besides, they would never be able to cross the river under our fire."
When the Boers were within eighty yards half a dozen rifles were discharged. They at once threw themselves on the ground.
"I will give them a chance of talking it over," Chris said, "then I will hail them."
A pause ensued, and the Boers could be heard talking excitedly together. When he thought that he had given them time enough to appreciate their condition, Chris shouted in Dutch:
"Hullo, Boers! We don't want to have to kill you all, which we could certainly do. You must see that you are at our mercy. If you choose to surrender you may go home; if you don't, we shall let you lie there as long as you like, and shoot you down when you get on your feet. I will give you five minutes to make up your minds."
At the end of that time one of the Boers held up his rifle with a white flag tied to it.
"That is not good enough for us," Chris shouted. "That trick has been tried too often. If you surrender, you will take off your bandoliers and belts and leave them and your rifles behind you, and come forward unarmed."
There was a shout of fury among the Boers as they found that their treacherous design had failed in success.
"I will give you another five minutes," Chris shouted; "and if you don't do as I tell you we shall open fire on you."
Before that time was up the Boers were seen to be taking off their bandoliers, and one by one they rose and came forward in a body without their rifles. Chris allowed them to come half-way, so that they could not, when they found themselves in superior force, run back to their arms again. He gave the word, and his party rose to their feet.
"Now," he said, as the Boers came up, "you will turn all your pockets inside out. I have not the least doubt that you are all taking off mementos of your visit here."
Indeed, the pockets of the prisoners were all bulging out. Sullenly the Boers obeyed the order. The collection was a miscellaneous one. They had between them the spoil of a dozen farms. Women's finery formed a large proportion of their loot, and was evidently intended for their wives at home. Besides this were spoons, forks, and cutlery, chimney ornaments, children's clothes, several purses, and packets of spare cartridges.
"That will do very nicely," Chris said, when it had been ascertained that all the plunder had been disgorged. "Now, gentlemen, you are at liberty to go, and I wish you a pleasant walk home. It is only about a hundred miles. Your friends with the cattle shall join you at once. I have no doubt that you will be able to obtain food from your countrymen as you go along. You are sure to find friends at all the villages, and some of you may get ponies at Helpmakaar."
Then, paying no attention to the curses and threats of the Boers, the party rode forward and collected the Boer guns, emptied the bandoliers and belts, and then rode back to the cattle and released the four Boers with them, and, pointing to their comrades, told them to rejoin them. Then they collected the cattle, and, driving them before them, rode off. When they had gone five miles away they halted, and the farmers undertaking to keep watch by turns, the lads, throwing themselves down, were in a few minutes fast asleep.
In four hours they were roused, and continued their course till they reached the farm. Here they rested till the next morning, then at daybreak the wounded Boers were placed in a waggon; the ammunition was divided among the farmers; and the rifles taken from the Boers, and those that belonged to the killed and wounded, amounting in all to eighty-one, were, after the charges had been carefully drawn, also placed in the waggon, Chris saying, "They would be useless to us, and they may be useful to you, for they will arm all the people in Greytown; and with eighty magazine rifles you ought to be able to beat off any parties you may meet. As the cattle are all branded you will have no difficulty in returning them to their owners; as to the Boer ponies and saddles, no doubt there are many who have lost their horses who will be glad of them."
Then, after renewed expressions of gratitude from the farmers, the party separated, the colonists going south to Greytown, while the scouts rode west by the line they had come, and late that evening arrived at Chieveley. They had intended to halt after crossing the Bushman's river at Weenan, but they heard the sound of artillery and knew that Buller was again moving forward.
Their return created quite an excitement in the camp of the Maritzburg Scouts, and innumerable questions were asked.
"We have been on a little business of our own," Chris said. "Beyond the fact that it has been successful we have nothing to say. You know how strict the orders are against scouting, and therefore I can only say that we wanted to give our horses a change of food, and have taken them three days off."
"Your horses don't look any better for the change, anyhow," one of the troopers said. "They look as if they had been worked off their legs."
"Yes, they look a little drawn, but in a couple of days they will feel the benefit of it; they were getting too fat before. Some day we may be able to tell you more about it, but just at present we feel that it is as well to keep the matter to ourselves. What has been doing here? We heard the firing; that brought us in, or we should not have been back till to-morrow."
"Nothing particular, except that we have been battering them all along the line. No move has been made yet, but the general idea is that we shall this time make a try at Hlangwane to-morrow." "I hope we shall take it," Chris said. "We shall have a good deal more trouble about it than we should have had at the attack in December, when it was virtually in our hands, whereas now it looks stronger than any point along the line."
Chris, however, was much more communicative to Captain Brookfield, who said as he entered his tent, "Well, Chris, did you get there in time?"
"Yes, sir; we caught them as they were attacking the house at ten o'clock that night. They were too busy to notice us, and we killed eleven and wounded eighteen, and stampeded their ponies. They bolted on foot, but came back in hopes of surprising us two hours later, which I need hardly say they failed to do. Then they made off for the place where the herds they had captured were waiting for them. We drove their ponies in, as our own were too much done up to go on, and intercepted the Boers close to Inadi, and made them surrender. We took their guns, ammunition, and loot from them, and let them go. There were forty-nine of them altogether, and we did not see what we were to do with them. We could not have brought them here without the whole thing being made public, and we were certainly not disposed to escort them down to Maritzburg. They will have at least a hundred miles to tramp home. We recovered all the cattle, about two thousand head. We gave them to the farmers to find their proper owners, and thirty of the Boer horses that we captured. I dare say they will pick up some more of them; for as we were in a hurry, we only drove in as many as we wanted. We have no casualties. It could hardly be called a fight, it was a sudden surprise, and they did not stop to count us."
"Bravo! bravo, Chris! And now I suppose you are going to enlist again?" "Yes, sir, if you will take us."
"Certainly I will. Fortunately Buller was at Frere until they moved on again yesterday, and nobody has missed your little camp as far as I know, so I don't think that there is any chance of questions being asked. I will swear you all in again if you will bring the others round."