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Algernon Blackwood's Shorter Supernatural Fiction (2 vols.)

Terrys Texas Rangers

The Last Crusaders

The Defeat of the U-Boats

Sup Richard Middleton

The Battle of Austerlitz

The Campaigns of Alexander

Sabre and Foil Fighting

The Fourth Leonaur Book of Ghost and Horror Stories

The Irish Legion

General Von Zieten

Armoured Cars and Aircraft

The Chinese Regiment

Texas Cavalry and the Laurel Brigade

The First Crusaders

The Lionheart and the Third Crusade

The Winnebagos

Roger Lamb and the American War of Independence

Gronow of the Guards

Plumer of Messines

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The Foreign Legion Stories: 4

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The Foreign Legion Stories: 4
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): P. C. Wren
Date Published: 2012/09
Page Count: 336
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-947-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-946-7

The collected Gestes—volume four of a four volume set

There are some works of fiction and their characters, that are familiar to practically everyone—whether they have read the books or not; King Solomon’s Mines and Alan Quatermain, The Prisoner of Zenda and Rudolf Rassendyll, The Hound of the Baskervilles with Sherlock Holmes and his faithful Doctor John Watson and The Thirty Nine Steps and Richard Hannay, to name but a few. Cinema, television, radio and even comics have all played a part in ensuring that books such as these and their central characters have become cultural icons that are forever part of the collective consciousness. There can be no doubt that the same applies to P. C. Wren’s novel Beau Geste, which features the memorable John Geste and his brothers. Wren, more than any other author, was responsible for bringing an awareness of the French Foreign Legion to the public. Having served in the Legion he knew it well, and through his popular and romantic novels, his tales of regiments of mercenaries comprised of the dregs of society, thieves, murderers and professional soldiers of fortune, it quickly captured the public imagination. So too did one of the Legion’s most infamous battlegrounds—the burning sands of colonial North Africa. Wren created a legend of the most potent kind—an image of a straggling line of tired, sweating men upon the endless dunes of the desert, all wearing the famous kepi-blanc with its familiar neck flap. These ‘heroes’ would battle their despotic officers as readily as the marauding Bedouin tribesmen and knew what it was to ‘march or die!’ It is often the case that modern readers know of the best known character or most famous work of an author but remain unaware that, at the time they first published, the public demanded more such adventures. There are, in fact, four full length novels and a number of short stories featuring the Gestes and the Foreign Legion and all have been gathered in this special four volume Leonaur collection for readers to own and enjoy.
This final volume contains Spanish Maine and four short stories: The Devil and Digby Geste, The Mule, Presentiments, & Dreams Come True.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Digby Geste slept.<br>
And was awakened later by a blood-curdling yell—a terrible scream, like that of a wounded horse. In almost one movement he was on his feet, crouching between the tombs, his rifle in his hands, his head turning swiftly from window to window at the opposite sides of the chamber—the one idea on his mind being of an Arab raid.<br>
Nothing at either window.<br>
No rifles thrust through the ten-inch aperture, between the stone sides of the high, narrow openings. No heavy blows upon the door. . . .<br>
And then he was aware that Tant de Soif was pointing with trembling hand to the window nearest to him—the one through which the moon did not shed her soft light. Bringing his rifle swiftly round, he “covered” the aperture and waited.<br>
Strange! . . . Why hadn’t the devils shot at them from both windows as they slept? And why hadn’t old Tant de Soif made one jump for his gun? Why had he screamed like a tortured woman, and why was he still lying there, trembling from head to foot? Old Tant de Soif, with his Médaille Militaire, brave as a lion?<br>
“Arabs?” whispered Digby.<br>
“No, no,” groaned the old soldier. “Oh, my God! . . . God forgive me . . . forgive me all my wickedness. . . . Oh, mon Général le bon Dieu, have mercy on an old soldier . . . première classe . . .”<br>
“What is it, you old fool?” urged Digby, breaking upon the prayer. “God helps those who help themselves. What is it, if it isn’t Arabs? A lion, or a . . . rabbit, or what?”<br>
“Hush! Don’t blaspheme,” whispered Tant de Soif, turning from the window, flinging his arms about Digby, and crushing his bearded face against the boy’s breast.<br>
There was no doubt that the old man had had a terrible fright, and, indeed, a terrible shock. He was sober enough now, and in a state of absolute, utter terror.<br>
There is nothing more infectious than panic, terror, fear—and particularly fear of the utterly unknown.<br>
Perfect love casteth out fear. So doth perfect anger—and a good deal more quickly. Digby’s anger was certainly perfect—at being awakened; at being made to jump and take cover; at being—well—frightened or at any rate threatened with fright—by this old drunkard.<br>
“What is it?” he repeated. “What did you see—or think you saw?” And his free hand was upon Tant de Soif heavily laid, though not in the way of kindness.<br>
But Tant de Soif could say nothing. His teeth were chattering with fright.<br>
It was useless to be angry with the old man. He was most obviously terrified almost to death.<br>
“What is it, old chap? What did you see?” Digby asked again, without taking his eyes from the narrow aperture, of which the base or window-sill was some three feet from the ground. “What did you see?”<br>
“The Devil himself!” whispered Tant de Soif, and, with a hollow groan, let his head fall heavily back upon the stone.<br>
“Oh—the Devil?” replied the incensed Digby. “Is that all! . . . I’ll show you something worse than the Devil if you wake me up again with your nightmares—you walking whisky-flask; you woolly-witted wine-cask; you bibulous brandy-bottle, you . . .”<br>
“Oh, God!” moaned the old soldier. “Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, Holy Virgin! Guard me this night. It was the Devil himself. The Devil has come for me—at last! . . .”<br>
“Well, he hasn’t got you yet, has he?” expostulated Digby. “And he won’t. . . . But I will. I’ll get you all right, old son, if you wake me up again.”<br>
“The Devil has come for me, and I am dying,” groaned the old soldier as he turned his face again toward the window. “We were mad to come in here. . . . It is a sepulchre. . . . This tomb is my bed, and this bed will be my tomb.”<br>
“It’ll be all that,” replied Digby, “if you don’t shut up. Go to sleep, you silly old ass. Do you think the Devil’s a fool, that he should want you in. . . .”<br>
An awful scream interrupted the speaker as the lower part of the unglazed “window” was filled by a truly appalling face. Tant de Soif again flung himself upon his comrade, effectually pinning his arms to his sides.<br>
Digby Geste was a brave man—young, strong, healthy, and devoid of nerves. He felt his blood run cold, his knees weaken, his heart pound furiously, and the cold perspiration start forth upon his skin.<br>
Not one of these symptoms would have been evoked by the sight of the most evil face of any human being, Negro or Arab, looking at him from behind a levelled gun. Rather would Digby Geste’s pulse have tingled with the joy of battle as he jerked his rifle forward, and tried to shoot ere he was shot.<br>
But this was face neither of Arab nor of Negro. . . . Nor of any human being.<br>
Tant de Soif looked again, and shrieked again—the dreadful, agonized shriek of a madman.<br>
It was not a human face. It was the face of a . . . the face of a devil. . . . The face of the Devil!<br>
Yes . . . merciful God . . . from the forehead that overhung the glowing luminescent eyes—the dreadful, shallow, bestial, devilish eyes—to the bearded chin, the face was fiendish. . . .<br>
The hideous mouth, with its great strong white teeth, opened to speak, and closed again in silence. The hideous lips twitched in a sneering smile, and the whole awful face, long, gaunt, and hairy, leered with a hellish malignity, triumphant, terrible, cruel beyond expression. <br>