"I know Burnham," the President wrote in 1901. "He is a scout and a
hunter of courage and ability, a man totally without fear, a sure shot,
and a fighter. He is the ideal scout, and when enlisted in the military
service of any country he is bound to be of the greatest benefit."
The truth of this Burnham was soon to prove.
In 1899 he had returned to the Klondike, and in January of 1900 had been
six months in Skagway. In that same month Lord Roberts sailed for
Cape Town to take command of the army, and with him on his staff was
Burnham's former commander, Sir Frederick, now Lord, Carrington. One
night as the ship was in the Bay of Biscay, Carrington was talking of
Burnham and giving instances of his marvellous powers as a "tracker."
"He is the best scout we ever had in South Africa!" Carrington declared.
"Then why don't we get him back there?" said Roberts.
What followed is well known.
From Gibraltar a cable was sent to Skagway, offering Burnham the
position, created especially for him, of chief of scouts of the British
army in the field.
Probably never before in the history of wars has one nation paid so
pleasant a tribute to the abilities of a man of another nation.
The sequel is interesting. The cablegram reached Skagway by the steamer
_City of Seattle_. The purser left it at the post-office, and until two
hours and a half before the steamer was listed to start on her return
trip, there it lay. Then Burnham, in asking for his mail, received it.
In two hours and a half he had his family, himself, and his belongings
on board the steamer, and had started on his half-around-the-world
journey from Alaska to Cape Town.
A Skagway paper of January 5, 1900, published the day after Burnham
sailed, throws a side light on his character. After telling of his hasty
departure the day before, and of the high compliment that had been paid
to "a prominent Skagwayan," it adds: "Although Mr. Burnham has lived in
Skagway since last August, and has been North for many months, he has
Pinchot, and playing right guard on the freshman team at the University
But Burnham himself we will leave "cooling off" in the Yaqui River,
maybe, with Indians hunting for him along the banks. And we need not
worry about him. We know they will not catch him.
End of Project Gutenberg's Real Soldiers of Fortune, by Richard Harding Davis
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