Forthcoming titles

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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: 3

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The Foreign Legion Stories: 3
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Author(s): P. C. Wren
Date Published: 2012/09
Page Count: 328
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-945-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-944-3

The collected Gestes—volume three 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 third volume contains Beau Ideal and three short stories: The McSnorrt Reminiscent, Buried Treasure & If Wishes Were Horses....
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Disguised as an Arab, I might be able to approach and shout, in French, that I was one of them. Dressed as a European, I couldn’t shout to the mob that I was really an Arab in disguise—and get away with it. There wouldn’t be time to shout, for one thing.<br>
The dead man’s clothes were filthy, and they were soaked in blood. He had certainly been in bad trouble—Could he be another secret service man, like de Redon One who had fallen by the way? I should somehow feel less compunction about putting on his foul burnous, if he were—Should I put his things on over my own, or discard European clothing entirely?—I should have to look “right” about the head and feet, anyway. There wouldn’t be much point in going about with European boots and trousers sticking out at one end of a burnous and a European sun-helmet at the other.<br>
But what should I look like, if a gang came round the corner, and saw me sitting in the gutter, swapping clothes with a corpse?<br>
These thoughts flashed through my mind in the moment that I reached the body. Apparently the man had been stabbed, or run through, with a sword.<br>
He had bled very copiously, and I glanced at the trail which connected him with the gate of a compound—No, I couldn’t squat down in the open street, pull off my boots and trousers—fancy being caught without one’s boots and trousers—and change clothes with a corpse!—Or could I?—<br>
And right here the corpse fetched a deep groan and settled the question. I could not pull the clothes off a dying man—If I could do nothing to help him, I could at least leave him to die in peace.<br>
I turned and hurried away, wondering which of the five streets that entered the square was the one by which I had followed Achmet from the residency to de Beaujolais’ quarters. They all looked alike to me, and I had been too anxious about Mary to take any note of the winding route by which we had come—I found that I was following the trail left by the wounded Arab, and saw that it led into the compound of an apparently unoccupied building, and to the foot of an outside staircase that went up to the flat roof.<br>
As I halted, there was a sudden burst of nearer noise, the sound of men running as well as shouting; and, glancing over my shoulder, I saw that, two or three hundred yards from where I stood, a mob was streaming across the end of the alley down which I was looking. Any one of the running men might at any moment glance in my direction—and in a very few minutes it would be, “Good evening, St. Peter,” for mine.<br>
I dashed into the compound, up the stairs to the roof, and found myself in the presence of some half-dozen Arabs—all dead—<br>
“Dirty work at the crossroads!”<br>
The place was like a butcher’s yard, a slaughterhouse—also a perfectly private dressing-room provided with an assortment of that kind of fancy-dress of which I was in such desperate need. The garments were all filthy, more or less torn, and plentifully bloodstained; but I realized that this was all to the good, since my object was to make my way through streets swarming with the scum of the city, similarly apparelled, and many of them similarly gore-bespattered. In point of fact it was amazing good luck that I had happened upon this sinister and revolting shambles.<br>
Promptly I divested myself of my outer clothing and boots, and got to work.<br>
It was the nastiest job I have ever undertaken, and there were moments when I was tempted to resume my own clothes, take one of the Arab swords that lay about, and run amok. Still more was I tempted to scurry back to de Beaujolais’ quarters and hide—I could find the place by returning to where the dead horse lay—<br>
I suppose that if I were a strong silent man with a big chin (and a thick ear or two), I should have proceeded coolly and swiftly with my task, and should have swaggered forth from that house “every inch an Arab,” correct to the last detail.<br>
In point of fact I felt ill and shaken; I was very frightened and nervous; and I could scarcely control my trembling sweating fingers.<br>
Possibly most other ordinary people would have felt nearly as bad as I did!<br>
It was growing dark—The sky was lurid with the glare of great conflagrations—There was a ceaseless nerve-shattering mob-roar, a roar punctuated by hideous howls, rifle shots, and the crashes of volley-firing—I was in the midst of a select assembly of corpses, and their hideous faces seemed to grimace in the waning and flickering light—I had to pull them about, to get their clothes from them—their beastly blood-sodden clothes—and they resented this, and clung to their rags with devilish ingenuity—And there was viscous slimy blood upon my hands—There were knotted strings—and the knots would not come undone—and this made the owner of the garment grin and grin and grin at me, and shake his horrible head as I tugged and tugged, the perspiration streaming from me—And once stepping back, I slipped and stumbled and, in saving myself from falling, I trod upon the chest of a man lying behind me, and my weight drove the air from his lungs through his throat, and the dead uttered what seemed a loud cry—the ghastliest, the most loathsome, the most terrifying sound that I have ever heard: the dead voice of a dead man raised in loud protest against the indignity, the defilement of my treading foot—<br>
I hear that sound in nightmares to this day—<br>
From that man I took nothing, though I coveted his burnous and great curved dagger—I dared not touch him, lest his dreadful glazed eyes turn to mine, his horrible snarling mouth shout at me again, his dead hands seize me by the throat—<br>
Yes, I was certainly frightened by the time I had wrested a complete Arab outfit from those reluctant corpses, and I was certainly sick by the time I had rubbed a mud of blood and dust and dirt upon my hands and arms, my feet and legs and—it makes me shudder to think of it even now—upon my face—<br>
Having dressed, I wound a filthy cotton thing about my neck, chin, mouth, nose and ears, almost to my eyes, beneath the head-cloth I had transferred complete from its late owner’s head and shoulders to my own; picked up a knife and a sword; and fled from the horrible scene of my unspeakable labours.<br>
As I emerged from the compound, a man dashed from a side-turning into the alley in front of me, and came running swiftly in my direction. <br>