[Turn Nine Begins]
Caporal Chien, leading his Tirailleurs Sénégalais, did not like what he saw. Even after the pounding his men had given this new Pygmy squad, they had faced him with determination and even a little fatalism. Now these fantômes, these ghosts, forestalled his own reaction by lifting their blow pipes and shooting a hail of poisoned darts at his men.
Fortunately there were no hits. In reply, almost as if by unanimous assent and without any need for orders, Chien's tirailleurs returned fire with their rifles. Contemptuously they watched as they caused three cannibals to fall.
The tirailleurs were congratulating themselves on their good shooting, fully expecting the beleaguered Natives to run away, when they were rudely shot at again by blow guns! This time their aim was better and two of Chien's men -- Samsung and Sanyo -- clutched convulsively at the feathers protruding from their faces.
Chien saw the fear well up in the other mens' eyes, and knew he would be unable to stop their retreat, just as he had been unable a few hours prior. The tall Blacks were inherently frightened of their shorted, more vicious, cousins. They fell back, carrying their wounded, totally unready for further fighting.
Meanwhile Sergent Cur, leading squad 'A' of la légion étrangère next to the original position of the tirailleurs, was now aware of the new threat. Having dealt with the Natives near the shrine to his satisfaction, he pivoted his men to face les fantômes.
Peering carefully through the thick underbrush, he gave the order to shoot. The brightly plumed jungle birds flapped away in terror at the smoke and the noise, but Cur thought he saw one man drop.
The Natives' reaction surprised the veteran soldier. It appeared as if the Pygmies wanted to fire their blow guns at Cur and his men before they realized they were out of range. Grudgingly they fell back, in good order, but only a short distance.
Cur decided l'indigènes were still in his range, and had his men fire accordingly. The intervening jungle foliage did not prevent him from seeing another body fall.
If the grizzled soldier was surprised before, he was doubly so this time. Apparently having taken fire twice and been unable to reply was too much for these strange warriors. It was obvious they wished desperately to shoot their blow pipes yet were too far away...so they advanced directly at Cur's squad!
Cur's troopers were so shocked and unsettled at this brazen turn of events that their own shooing was ineffectual. The Pygmies simply hunkered down in the thicker parts of the jungle, completely unaffected by the White Man's boom sticks.
Several dozen yards away, through the sound-deadening jungle, Lieutenant Frye, leading squad 'B' of la légion étrangère was overwhelming confident the battle was almost over. After his disastrous first outing a few weeks previously -- when he had received the nom de guerre of Frightened Frye -- and the way this mission had begun with the death of the beloved Capitaine Woolfe, Frye had begun to think that only death in battle would restore his honor. But if he could win through in spite of all the setbacks it would surely do much in the eyes of the men. Perhaps he would be known as Famous Frye instead!
The only enemy between the French and their objective was a single, worn-down squad of Natives, skulking in the cover around their ludicrous shrine, and another squad threatening his right flank. True, there was gunfire to his left, but no doubt Cur and Chien -- leading two full squads of hardened soldiers -- could handle the situation.
To protect his right flank, Frye ordered his legionnaires to fire upon the Natives attempting to hide there. Their shots missed, but had the desired effect of frightening them off; they vanished into the far jungle, unable to move any more.
Satisfied with that result, Frye formed his men into an open formation and advanced towards the religious totem. After a suitable distance he re-formed them into a supported firing line.
Calling over his shoulder, he had the Infanterie des Marines perform the same actions, advancing and standing shoulder to shoulder with their tougher (and braver) cousins.
With another shout and a wave, he brought up the Native Bearers as fast as they could go.
Turning back to his front, Lt Frye was surprised to see l'indigènes who had been frightened and hiding at their shrine, come menacingly towards him! Their sudden appearance unnerved him, and his lack of composure affected his troops: the Marines' morale broke down completely, with caporal Cabot doing his best to keep them in control; the legionnaires of 'B' shifted their feet uneasily but were otherwise unfazed.
Slightly behind the firing line, Seejee and Sawjaw -- the two tirailleurs leading the Native Bearers -- used their own initiative to shoot at those menacing Natives to the front. Taking careful aim, the tirailleurs earned their name as riflemen by both shooting down the Brown Shield leader! The Native warriors hugged the cover more closely than ever.
For the moment, it seemed to Lt Frye, the battle was still and the jungle was quiet. No indigènes moved anywhere that he could see or hear. Knowing he would not be able to get good shooting from the shaken marines, and not wanting to waste valuable ammunition, and furthermore being very impressed by Seejee and Sawjaw's shooting, Frye called to them to fire again.
Twice more they took careful aim, but their targets had made themselves even smaller than normal and they scored no hits. The Natives simply hid and shivered in fear.
Back on the left flank, Cpl Chien was tending to his wounded men. After gently removing the barbed darts and cleaning the wounds, he was saddened when only Samsung recovered. Glaring downrange at the enemy squad who had caused Sanyo's agonizing death, he thought he could make out three of the monstres fantomatiques rejoining their brothers! What did it take to kill these bâtards?
His anger likewise affected his men, and their fear was replaced with a strong desire to squash their shorter cousins! "La mort aux miniatures!"
The constant barrage of shots from Seejee and Sawjaw not only kept the heads of the Natives down, it also tremendously buoyed the spirits of the marines; they began to think that perhaps they would not all die here in the God forsaken jungle after all.
If the marines were lifted up, then the other Natives to the front and on the right flank were even further demoralized. Both retreated away from the taunting Frenchmen: the ones to the fore, leaderless, retreating back toward their shrine;
the ones to the right melting into the depths of the jungle, finally and completely routed!
While Sgt Cur and Cpl Chien warily eyed their foe, Lt Frye all but shouted for joy as his path ahead was cleared. Famous Frye was not out of the question after all!
[Turn Nine Ends]